5 – Strength in the Fight

Victory implies a struggle.

When God promises victory, He doesn’t mean it will be easy. Call it what you will—immaturity, youth, ignorance, superstition, unrealistically imposed expectation… assumption—presuming that any victory comes easy is a miscalculation.

Don’t set out on life thinking that “everything’s gonna’ be rosy” now that you have a… whatever—new job, club membership, acceptance letter, contract, romance, plane ticket… Jesus…

The concept of “strength in the midst” is one of those countless Biblical enigmas. Heaven’s view seems upside down compared to ours—it seems that way, anyhow. The idea that God will give us strength, then march us right into the pit of Hell doesn’t fit any of our fairyland, utopian, presumptive ideals.

Yet, on a practical level—which Heaven is best at—it makes sense. Why would God give us strength if it weren’t to invade Hell’s occupation of Earth? Think about it, we complain about why God doesn’t get rid of evil, God gives us the power to defeat evil, God marches us to the place of evil, and we still can’t connect the dots? No wonder Jesus compared us to sheep.

The underlying “conflict” slumbering deep within our psyche is that we aren’t that valuable. When one presumes that one is not important enough to make a difference, being given both challenges and the tools to overcome seems like a punishment rather than a path to—well, a path to victory.

Victory comes from strength in the fight. The notions that we will either always have an oppressive opponent while mostly losing or else we will be “on top” of every situation are part of our tendency to follow our own auto-created human morals.

Always consider victory through troubles exploited.

We don’t know where the storm comes from. The Devil might bring the storm, we might have created it ourselves, or the storm just might be God Himself descending in fire and smoke.

In any case, God brings the storm to us, then He gives us the strength to stand. Whatever clouds cover the sky, the sun always shines and once they pass we will be stronger—not despite the storm, but because we stood through it.

Deuteronomy 20:4, John 16:33, James 1:2-4

6 – Holistic Transformation

The Bible’s power is not in casual reading—though casual reading won’t hurt any. We could all use more casual time so beneficially spent. But, if you want the Bible’s power in your life, you must allow it to transform your thinking—from cognition to unconscious heart inclination.

Only in reprogramming the core and whole of one’s worldview with the Bible can there be any test of the Bible’s legitimacy.

Many self-important “experts” pick and choose which ideas from the Bible they wish to adopt, as well as the degree to which they adopt them. It can’t work. When they prove themselves to be hypocrites, this only proves the Bible’s legitimacy all the more: The Bible only helps when we ingest it all-in, without stops, without preconditions, and without expectations. Half gets you zero.

Even one’s expectations of what the Bible will do must come from the Bible, not our own made-up superimposition.

The concept of being “holistic” applies. Once we pick and choose, we’re no longer obeying the Bible and our failed results can’t be owed to the Bible. You’re welcome to test and sample, but there are no promises except that the Bible doesn’t work until you dive in head first.

When any Biblical teaching takes root in our core being, our own friends may not even recognize us. The world will tell us we are wrong. We will face unexpected challenges and unwarranted enemies—seemingly for no reason. People will even say, “You must be doing something to irritate them, people don’t just treat you this way for no reason.” It’s called jealousy, though what specifically they are jealous of may never be known.

The Bible will re-rout your thinking, newly, every day you read it. Things will make more sense. You will develop new questions. The “code” of life on Earth won’t seem such a mystery, then again you will see mysteries you never knew existed before. Things will bother you that other people can’t see and won’t believe exist. You’ll be happy about things just the same.

In some cases people might persecute you. Better, you will make friends you never dreamed of—or who never dreamed of befriending you.

Proverbs 23:26, Matthew 10:34-39, Romans 6:17, James 4:8

14 – Value of Conscience

God created us with a conscience. The conscience connects one’s soul in the Eternal dimension to one’s body in the physical cosmos we know as the universe. Martin Luther pleaded “conscience” when he left the Catholic Church. Having a conscience is part of what it means to be a sentient creation, the very Image of God.

Every conscience has some guidelines that cannot change, yet some rules that must be trained. Some people have a physical, chemical, or mental condition that causes their consciences not to work. Some researchers have argued that people with such tendencies can be trained by helping them to connect choices, actions, and consequences. Ultimately, people who grow up seemingly without a conscience have had that link of action and consequence interrupted.

Children must learn that good and bad choices have good and bad consequences. Parents must allow those natural and fair consequences to have their day. If a youth makes plans that parents often interrupt or makes good decisions rarely rewarded, that youth may start deceiving or manipulating friends at school, alienating classmates, and no one might ever figure out why. By disconnecting the justice between action and consequence, the parents have, in effect, numbed the youth’s conscience. Chaotic homes create killers.

A conscience can be damaged or trained. Germany exterminated two million Jews, all in good conscience; Holocaust deniers claim the number was “only” a few thousand, likewise in good conscience. Many people in developing countries lie to their governments all the time, even Christians, since government laws contradict themselves as do government inspectors; they can’t survive and not lie. Some Asians feel overwhelming guilt for stabbing chopsticks into a bowl of rice—stabbed food is for the dead, after all.

Sunday morning culture has its own conscience modifications, which is one reason “church-goers” often struggle with the “real world”—their consciences can be unusual and not necessarily “Biblical”.

Every conscience must be taken captive to the Bible. No conscience is infallible. Train and retrain your conscience, tend to it diligently, never ignore it. Conscientious feelings governed by higher morals will safeguard your path and could prevent your becoming the CEO who accidentally ends up drowning in massive scandal.

Acts 23:1, Romans 8:33-34, Colossians 2:16-19, 1 Timothy 3:8-9; 4:1-4, Hebrews 10:22, 1 John 3:19-4:6

16 – What Is ‘Godliness’?

Godliness, etymologically speaking, means living like there is a god above.

To be “godly” means that one is not the greatest power in one’s life. It means that one is not a spiritual orphan, but has a greater, can-handle-all Master watching over, teaching, correcting, punishing, loving, rewarding, funding, preparing, training, enjoying, cheering, catching, and seeing in all that one does.

This Master is not imagined by mere Human creativity, as Blaise Pascal said, “God created man in His own image and man returned the favor.” This Master is higher, above all adversaries and threats, able to save and help and rear from birth to death throughout life on Earth.

People who live without consciously knowing about such a greater Master behave, in spiritual terms, as if they were raised by wolves. They lack self-control in some matters, but not others. They often pontificate as if their “wonderful ideas about God” are an attempt to receive epistemological validation for the first time. They conflict inside, are unsure of their theological direction, and thus lack some—not all—necessary qualities of a leader. Their followers, likewise, will in some ways behave as if they too were raised by wolves—including Christian children.

We emulate and behave and think according to who and what we believe our “god” to be. We often get our view of God from the adults in our lives. If a parent is godless, we may struggle to believe in any God at all.

Anything can be a “god”, including verbal abuse, drugs, money, calendars, indecision, education, philosophy, theology, nature, entertainment, one’s own ego, and especially Sunday morning.

One who truly believes in the God who first said, “Let there be light,” will often and intentionally bring light, hope, guidance, and encouragement to others. To be godly in “Biblical” terms is to know the need for lifelong study and, firstly, every human’s need for forgiveness and redemption, primarily redemption for oneself and thereby secondarily redeeming others.

The God of the Bible is mighty, to be always trusted and never tested. Knowing that brings strength to the heart, both the confidence of being loved and having fear of nothing else. The Bible calls this adoption.

Genesis 4:26, John 1:12-13, Romans 8:14-17, 2 Peter 1:5-9

20 – Jesus’ Morals Are Practical

Morals were meant to be beneficial. When God gave the first commands to Moses, they were intended as a kind of treasure map guiding us to bounty and plenty. If you go back and look at the rules of Moses’ law, you will find many of them to be practical and beneficial. The priestly sacrifices had a concrete spiritual function as well, but that’s a discussion for another time. All moral rules—from the Bible, that is—are practical and sensible.

Cold and boring religious ruts trap people into useless routine. Once we lose touch with the practical value of morals, we begin thinking of them as silly hoops to jump through, as if God is testing whether we will comply with arbitrary requirements and, if we do, then He will interrupt the natural flow of life and “reward” us. This may be the thinking of people who wish to redefine laws of physics for people under their control, but God’s moral laws are different.

God created the universe. He defined laws of physics. He invented biology. Also, He invented and implemented principles of “sowing and reaping”, whether in agriculture or “good luck” returning to those who are gracious and diligent. Since God designed those ideas and wove them into the fabric of our reality, He knows how they work better than anyone else. This is yet one more reason why a useful moral code can only come from above. But, it also explains what morals are: practical measures to navigate the cosmos.

Loving your neighbor just as yourself should seem sensible. Don’t bear false witness against the innocent, don’t covet, don’t murder, “eye for an eye”, and all Deuteronomy taught safety to a society with neither morals nor soap. When Joshua received Moses’ Law, God told him that obeying it would cause Israel to prosper and thrive—dah!

Most everyone agrees that moral are supposed to somehow benefit people who obey them, but it is a well-kept secret in Churchianity that Biblical rules are practical and sensible. We don’t always see the practicality because we are always learning, but it is still there. Impractical “religious morals” are man-made; Heavenly morals just make sense.

Exodus 20:16-17, Deuteronomy 4:1, Psalm 119:32, 105, Proverbs 6:16-20, Matthew 12:1-8, Mark 12:29-31