Mischief

They Kill Us for Their Sport

Shakespeare shows us in The Tragedy of Julius Caesar that sometimes the nobility of the human heart can only be eclipsed by its depravity. We are creatures caught between two worlds – good and bad. Our proclivity bears to the latter when we perceive we are threatened, whether our threats are realistic or not. In this play, Brutus, blinded by his own moral superiority, fails to recognize his complicity in the murder of his friend, Caesar and insists that his treachery is necessary because of his love for his country.

If then there be that friend demand
why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer:
–Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved any in this assembly, any dear friend of
Caesar’s, to him I say, that Brutus’ love to Caesar
was no less than his (Act 1, Sc. 2).

I am almost reluctant to say I see this schizophrenic disposition (but it is obvious) taken toward Meghan in the British press – a fascination with her beauty, sophistication, and accomplishment; yet a veiled disdain for her “otherness.” To put it more bluntly, some staunch defenders of the purity of the British Crown consider it treasonous that Harry would marry an American actress, of “low” status, and of mixed race. The latter is most scandalous to them because the bloodline of British royalty will be indelibly tarnished. With true English decorum the well-heeled aristocracy and mainstream press will not blatantly malign her as less reputable tabloids do; however, they employ more insidious ways of reminding the public that she is an outsider. (Perhaps they temper their criticism of her out of respect for the Queen or out of fondness for young Harry whose grief-stricken face they cannot forget, walking behind the casket of his mother).

Their motive is to highlight every innocuous misstep, re-hash and include each faux pas as a seemingly harmless footnote, together, with mention of her undeniable achievements. For example, less has been written about Meghan’s appearance at charity events than about her alleged rudeness that caused Kate to cry in front of royal staff. Her plan to move to Frogmore House, and other things that occurred as sheer coincidence, were used as fodder to insinuate that Meghan is an overbearing square peg in the round hole of the royal family.

Mark Antony says it well to himself after riling up the Roman citizenry against Brutus and his co-conspirators at Caesar’s funeral with his cunningly executed rhetoric, “Now let it work. Mischief thou art afoot. Take what course thou wilt!” (Act 3, Sc, 2). What better way to tarnish the duchess than by lacing her accomplishments with both vinegar and honey?

The Meghan Markle post-modern fairy tale story is a captivating one and no group understands more than the press how a “good” story sells. Therefore, the media, (at least, the mainstream}, will still proceed with some caution in their reports about the duchess. Moreover, Meghan brings a lot to the royal table that can be used as an asset to the monarchy: her ethnicity, intelligence, world experience, and personal charm. Like Kate, Meghan financially bolsters the fashion and other related industries because what they wear matters.  Several U.K. financial institutions predicted in 2018 that the wedding of Harry and Meghan would bring substantial gains to the British economy of about 1.05 billion pounds, and although I cannot quote exact gains from the event, it has been reported that many businesses benefitted from this joyous occasion. It has been mentioned that she was the most googled actress of 2016 and continues to be one of the most googled people in the world.  Take it from any angle and there are substantial themes for any journalist to explore when they talk about Meghan: race, colonialism, feminism, humanitarianism, the film industry, divorce, fashion, the evolution of the British monarchy, and of course – revisiting Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s tumultuous relationship.

Despite the ambivalent fascination the British have for Meghan Markle, and their stealthy smear campaign against her, the public tirades of her family against her and their penchant to write tell-all books about her are the most pernicious. Everyone knows that the hearts feel more deeply the wound inflicted on us by a relative than that of a stranger. Samantha Markle has been the most implacable detractor of the Duchess than any other person, relative or stranger, since the announcement of her engagement to Harry. However, Thomas Markle seems just as persistent talking out of both sides of their mouth about Meghan.

Samantha appears to be very jealous of her younger sister and takes a cheap shot at her every time she gets a chance. If she doesn’t get an opportunity, she creates one. She has not let up with throwing digs at Meghan since she did not receive an invite to the Royal Wedding on May 19, 2018. Up to this point in time, Meghan hasn’t said anything negative about her sister; and although her half-sister who berates the duchess, it is her half-sister who insists that Meghan should “eat more chocolate” to “sweeten her disposition” for the New Year. And since it seems to be a trait on the white side of the Markle family “to wash their dirty linen in public,” Samantha is also poised to publish a tell-all book about Meghan that she’s been working on since the announcement of the royal engagement. It never seems to end with the dirt both daughter and dad are cooking against their own whom they claim they love while blaming the true victim for their betrayal. The ironic twist in the Markle drama is that the black side of Meghan’s family tree “straight outta Compton” has yet to speak with any reporter or tabloid about anything- good or bad. Doria Ragland, Meghan’s mother has conducted herself with unexpected grace and poise and remains a source of support for her daughter.

Thomas Sr. vehemently defends Meghan against allegations that she had offended Kate; yet, in the same breath, he challenges Harry’s manhood, admonished him to “Man up” and accused him of arrogance. However, between his rantings against his son-in-law and feigned concern, Thomas Markle paints himself as a victim of his daughter’s rise to fame and that implies that “[Harry and Meghan] have opened the door for a million people to criticize him and his family.” He claims that he does not understand why his daughter is avoiding him and he is totally ignorant about dealing with the press.

It is true that he is not fully experienced in dealing with news-hungry reporters, but he is perfectly aware that the denigrating remarks he makes about his son-in-law and his lambasting of the royal family are very hurtful and damaging to Meghan’s reputation. Even his so-called defense of her does not seem genuine considering his remark on Good Morning Britain that, “[Meghan] has always been a very controlling person and that’s part of her nature. But she has never been rude…She has always been in charge, that’s her nature.”

It’s simplistic to think that by describing Meghan “as a very controlling person,” that her Markle Sr. is just a delusional old man who is pining to reconnect with his daughter and does not know that he is perpetuating the stereotype that has been portrayed of her the tabloids as a difficult social climber. One thing is for certain – he is no fool. He has been a television lighting director and director of photography in Hollywood for many years and worked on very successful T.V. shows like General Hospital and Married with Children. He received the Day Time Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in Design Achievement for A Daytime Drama series in 1982 and in 1975, a Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement for Individual Excellence in lighting design for the television program Made in Chicago. He was also nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lighting Direction in 1986. That he is playing a game seems more credible since he clearly states that “If they ever want to speak to me, maybe I’ll quiet down a little bit. But in the meantime, I’m not going to become a monk in a monastery and take a vow of silence.” Seems to me that he is playing a cat and mouse game with Meghan: Say enough nice things to appease her but leave room to excoriate her if she does not comply with his wishes. He is also trying to goad Prince Harry into losing his cool in order to discredit him.

I surmise Meghan figured out a good while ago that her half-sister was never really on her side, but that her father would also impale her on the staves of the world’s tabloids, regardless of his claims of self -defense, would be shocking to her. There are several reports that he has been a great father to her, including her own. He has also said he has contact with Doria Ragland and they are on amicable terms. The question is, “Why hasn’t he learned something from her playbook and hush if all he wants is to communicate with his daughter? The answer may be that he is being coached!

After all that Samantha has done to her sister in the press, it is clear why Meghan did not extend a wedding invitation to her because there is no smoke without fire. Who can blame her for running far away from people who sell her to the wolves? Didn’t her half-brother Tom write a letter to Harry which was released by In Touch on May 2, 2018 to  discourage Harry from marrying her and later asked for forgiveness because he wanted to attend her wedding,  “As more time passes to your royal wedding, it became very clear that this is the biggest mistake in royal wedding history, Meghan Markle is obviously not the right woman for you.” He also added that she is a “jaded, shallow, conceited woman that will make a joke of you and the royal family heritage.”  I am fully aware that Meghan is not a saint, but she deserves the right to have happiness even if it means distancing herself from toxic family members.

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The actions of her father and half-siblings again are painfully reminiscent of Gloucester in Shakespeare’s King Lear, “As flies to wanton boys, so are we to the gods; they kill us for their sport” (Act 4, Sc. 1) and are cruel moves that could destroy the marriage of two young people in love and the life of an unborn child. Harry has had to live with the pain of his parents’ turbulent marriage and divorce and then grow up during his adolescent years trying to cope with Diana’s death under the unrelenting glare of the spotlight. He has not made a secret of the fact that he has had to seek mental counseling and he is still healing from his experiences.

Although he and his wife have remained silent through this senseless character assassination of Meghan, we know the pressure is too much, especially in a fledgling marriage and a baby on the way. The paparazzi will continue to do what they do, but when family members out-do them in their pursuit to destroy their own for cheap publicity, it’s treason and no one should laugh.

We must pray for Prince Harry and his wife to have the wisdom to know how to deal with the Duchess’s family; and also to pray that her relatives will recognize that what they are doing is a cruel joke and it will bring pain to all parties.

The believer can learn a lesson from the situation regarding the Duchess of Sussex that has been discussed above that even the people who ought to be closest to you can turn against you and they are sometimes the most implacable enemies. Neither can we trust ourselves because we are prone to succumb to acts that are not pleasing to God. We are reminded of that in the old hymn, “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus!” as it reminds us, “that “the arms of flesh will fail [us] [we] dare not trust [our] own.

Stand up, stand up for Jesus,
Stand in his strength alone;
The arm of flesh will fail you,
Ye dare not trust your own.
Put on the gospel armor (George Duffield Jr. 1858).

That is why we must be clothed in the whole armor of God to withstand the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11) every day as we go through life. We cannot put our faith in people because human admiration is fickle and shifting. The same person who praises you today will curse you tomorrow. The forces of darkness use sinners to carry out his purpose of slander against Christ’s followers, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).

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A Question of Fertility

 

Christmas makes me slow down and reflect on many things. One of the things I am thinking about is the #Me Too movement and its implications. I also noticed that Michelle Obama seems to be in the news a lot these days and I found out that her two lovely daughters became a reality through in vitro fertilization.  Her revelation gave me the inspiration to address the subject of fertility and Christmas. Weird combination – however, there’s a connection.

Since I am still basking in the after-glow of the Yuletide season, I am clearly reminded that a woman is at its center because of her faith and obedience to the will of God. As a matter of fact, she is only eclipsed by the gift that she bore.  This gift has been made available to everyone, including me. It was prepared for me before I was born. Each of my parents was also presented with this priceless gift. However, they could never accept this gift on my behalf nor bequeath theirs to me. Although they told me about its existence and many other reliable folks corroborated their story,

I failed to accept this great offer until twenty-seven years ago. I have been using it ever since and I’m still thinking to myself why I was so foolish not to have claimed it earlier. The donor had it gift-wrapped over two thousand years ago and continues to re-gift it to every person on earth. Funny thing though – it never wears out and no one who accepts it has ever complained because it brings them unspeakable peace and joy.

Mary was that virgin girl who housed God’s greatest gift to mankind in her womb, Jesus Christ, who died to save us all from our sins. One day an angel appeared to her and told her she was highly regarded because she would give birth to the Savior of the world who would save all mankind from their sins. Knowing that she had not yet consummated her betrothal to Joseph, she wondered how it would be possible. The angel assured her that the Holy Ghost would come upon her and she would conceive the holy child. She thought little about her reputation and the consequences of this phenomenon but yielded herself to be used for the purpose of God. It was scandalous: to say that it wasn’t easy for her, her family, and her fiancée is an understatement. Not only had Mary committed adultery from the perspective of the Jewish community: she had committed blasphemy against Yahweh. Therefore, according to Judaic Law, she must be stoned. It did not happen because her report was true.

In 21st century terms, it would have been a #Me Too debacle!

In our “sensitive” society, the tabloids would tend to be kinder to an “exploited” young virgin, who in their view, may have been abused and brainwashed by a member of the clergy. It wouldn’t be far-fetched because it is true that young women and men have been abused at the hands of so-called holy men. Some would have presented her story as the hallucinations of a deranged teenager or the fabrication of a sophisticated young woman used to excuse her infidelity. Other more pragmatic media forums and readers may pass it off as another person seeking notoriety without admitting having used assisted reproductive technology to conceive.

Regardless of the incredulity of people today and during Mary’s day, the truth is Jesus was born to her and he was not the biological son of any human male. It is a fact that for conception to occur, a male sperm and a female ovum must combine, as is the case in gestational surrogacy and in vitro fertilization.  Christ was conceived only through divine intervention and no assisted reproductive technology can replicate what the Holy Ghost did on the day Gabriel made the annunciation to Mary and God took on flesh:

 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God (Luke 1:29-35 NIV).

Even before Mary was ever thought of, the lives of two women intertwined to hold significance for the coming of Jesus.  These two women were Sarah and Hagar. Sarah was the wife of Abraham the Jewish patriarch, and because she remained barren for most of her adult life, encouraged her husband to sleep with her Egyptian maidservant Hagar to produce an heir for him. She would become one of the first known surrogate mothers. According to the prevailing law of Hagar’s day, she would have been the biological, but not the legal mother of Abraham’s son – that role would have been given to Sarah.

It was also legal for Sarah to give permission for her husband to sleep with Hagar without the latter’s consent. The #Me Too saga thickened because Hagar was impregnated by Abraham and bore him a son called Ishmael. Therefore, Hagar became the wife of Abraham, though she did not share the same privileges as Sarah. Hagar would learn that despite her inferior status in Abraham’s household, she was no less important than Sarah in receiving God’s grace and advancing his purpose.

The key to God’s actions toward man is how he continues to advance his plan even in the most chaotic moments of our lives. Hagar is a reminder that he takes notice and controls situations. When Hagar found out that she was pregnant with her master’s child and her mistress was still barren, she started to ridicule her. Of course, her behavior offended Sarah and she punished her maidservant. Consequently, Hagar fled to the wilderness and God saw her distress. God called her and informed her that the child she was carrying would be blessed and become the father of a great nation. Furthermore, God told her that her son would also be a man of violence. Hagar was so shocked that God had noticed her that she coined a name for him:

13 She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen[c] the One who sees me.” 14 That is why the well was called Beer Lahai Roi[d]; it is still there, between Kadesh and Bered (Luke 16: 13-14, NIV).

Hagar submitted to her mistress and gave birth to Ishmael. He became Abraham’s heir and was loved by his father. However, he was not the heir God had promised Abraham and he would not be Christ’s ancestor. God showed that he was a God of his word that after thirteen years after Ishmael was born, he opened the womb of Sarah in her old age and gave her a son. Her son Isaac ousted Ishmael as the favored heir. Ishmael and Hagar were eventually permanently cast out from Abraham’s household after Sarai noticed the young boy mocking Isaac.  God did not forget his promise to Hagar and blessed her son. He became the ancestor of twelve sons: the nomadic Arab nations are his descendants and occupy a substantial part of the Middle East today.

With Hagar gone from the household, the rivalry between Abraham’s sons and wives was over and Abraham was able to concentrate on God’s plan to prepare a chosen people in whom all the peoples of the earth would be blessed.  Isaac would later father Jacob whose twelve sons were the progenitors of the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus was a descendant of the Judas, Jacob’s fourth son. Note that God did not approve of Abram’s seeking an heir outside of Sarai although he blessed the two sons of this Jewish patriarch. Both women were victims of their circumstances: Why wouldn’t a childless woman not use the law in her favor to produce an heir for her husband and lift the shame of childlessness off her? And, how could a slave woman refuse to subject her body to give pleasure to her master for the purpose of providing an heir for him and his mistress? None of these women had the choices that women have today due to the amazing research that has been done in assisted reproductive technology – and not mention the progress in women’s rights.

Today’s woman, for those who can afford it, has access to in vitro fertilization and can use her own egg and the sperm of her spouse to be fertilized outside her body and developed in her womb. She can also opt for gestational surrogacy: where another woman’s womb is used as a repository for her embryo. In these two named examples and other forms of fertility options, sexual intercourse is bypassed. Kim Kardashian took advantage of this opportunity to add a third child to her family and will be expecting a fourth son by a new surrogate!

Take note that the issue of female reproduction has been at the forefront of Israel’s development as a nation starting with God’s call of Abram away from his people, and his promise to him that he would bless him and make of him a great nation (Genesis12:1-3). It has cropped up several times in Christ’s family tree: with Abraham and Sarah; Isaac and Rebekah (Gen.25); Tamar and Judah (Gen. 38); and Rachael, Leah, and Jacob (Gen. 30 -33).

The seed of the woman, a concept introduced in Genesis 3:15, hints at the Incarnation of Christ that would happen through a woman. It is a theme that runs through the Old and New Testaments because Jesus, the seed of Mary has “bruised the head of the serpent” by the redemptive work he did on the cross.  It has deeper eschatological meaning because Christians are looking forward to the day of Christ’s return when Satan will be totally defeated.

Mary is different from all the other women mentioned here not because of her infertility, but for the incredible conception of Jesus. It is controversial because it is inexplicable and will remain so because it is the work of the Supreme God. He has used, “- the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:28-30, NIV).

To speak about fertility is also to speak about producing and multiplication. When God created Adam, he could have created Eve in the same way at the same time. However, he cast the man in a deep sleep and took a rib from his body to create Eve. He wanted them to be equals and to live in harmony. Moreover, he wanted human beings to “be fruitful and multiply” through the institution of marriage between a man and a woman.

Being fruitful and multiplying is a concept that God does not limit to procreation.  Jesus tells us in John that God wants us to bear much fruit in our spiritual walk (John 15:8) and in Matthew 28: 19-20, he commands his disciples to go and preach the gospel so that converts would be added to the kingdom of God.

19 Go [a]therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” [b]Amen.

The kingdom of God is fertile and dynamic; anything that does not bear fruit, he prunes and discards (John 15:1-6, NKJV).

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A Friend in Need…

Acquaintances are nice people and they say the kindest things. They try not ruffle any feathers by saying the wrong things: they are often on their P’s and Q’s. They sometimes give a helping hand when a family member dies or someone gives birth, but don’t expect them to stick with you when your troubles persist, or calamity strikes.

That is why I have several acquaintances and few friends. True friends may not always be around, but they are there when you call them. They stay with you when the path is rough, and they are there even when you don’t solicit their help.  Friends will listen to your crazy talk and tell you the truth. They never abandon you in times of trouble and so the maxim holds true that a friend in need is a friend indeed.

Many dear friends will satisfy a need for food or money if they have the means to do so. However, how many will tell us the truth when we are about to or make wrong decisions; and when we do things that are contrary to God’s word? Friendship that is predicated on lying is a sham. If your friends require you to cover up their wrongs or vice versa to maintain a relationship, you share a broken alliance that is not a friendship. You best encourage and support a friend by influencing them to do right.

Jesus showed his love for us through His death on the cross. He came to earth and put on human flesh, yet He never shared in our sins. That is why He could die for us because He was sinless. In the same way, we can love our friends and not condone or become an accessory to their sin. Unfortunately, today we are seeing more and more Christians support and even participate in ungodly acts done by friends to keep a relationship. In many cases, the party that they are protecting have no loyalty to them and view them as pawns to be used for their purpose.

The most glaring is in the political arena. Christian people become allied with political parties and charismatic leaders and end up losing their identities crusading for causes that are misaligned to Christian principles. They forfeit righteousness and vehemently justify wrongdoing when their political ally is the perpetrator; and they denounce it when the “other” commits the wrong. Essentially, they reject Jesus Christ for mere mortals who have no power and are prone to fail them.  Psalm 62: 9, NIV reminds me how foolish we are when we lose our way by being caught up with people of influence:

Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath

In the same Psalm the writer notes that “power belongs to God” and with Him is “unfailing love” (v.11). What profit is there then in rejecting someone who gave up His life for you while you were helpless and blessed you with friendship when you did not deserve it for others who are unscrupulous? Jesus said this for us to understand that He is our true friend:

My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. (John 15:12-15, NIV).

God expects us to cultivate friendships and He commands us to love one another. However, He does not want any ideology, thing, or person to trump Him.  He must have preeminence in our lives. He is always our friend in need and our friend in deed.

Jesus is my faithful friend-En-IMG-49

NO VOICE

 

I can hear the deafening silence and it’s unbearable. Where is the man who will stand in the gap and declare the word of God without fear or favor? America is in spiritual turmoil: those who recognize it are afraid to say it; and others who are aware are unwilling to admit this fact, because they fear will share the responsibility to do something to bring about positive change. Others see it but couldn’t care less; and then there are those who have no clue that we are rotting from within.

The state of spiritual degradation that we are facing today did not happen overnight. It happened slowly as Christians grew fat sitting on their couches, listening to flamboyant televangelists who stroke both their egos and their fears. They started abandoning churches where less charismatic preachers stuck to the unadulterated word of God and feasted on “air-brushed” homilies that are devoid of expressions about the wages of sin, hell, and allusions to hell. These glossy sermons are professionally packaged – reminds one of a beautifully wrapped Christmas present that holds nothing but a worthless bauble, when opened.

It’s not only on television that we see such chicanery.  Once God-fearing churches are now adopting tactics to appeal to the world that are moving further and further away from the Bible. The most glaring example is in the music that is dished up to suit the perceived palates of mostly the young and the restless who are searching for authenticity, and the church cannot give it to them because the church is too busy serving up what they have left in the world.

News Flash! When the world comes to church, they expect to have a church experience. Nobody pays money to go an authentic French restaurant and expect to be served a blend of something French. If the food is a mixture of other cuisines, then it should be clearly stated – no surprises.  God’s word must not be tampered with because it has its own power to accomplish its purpose. It needs no special effects to be effective. The reason some Christians want to dress it up is because they don’t believe what they say they believe. They have a “form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof: [and]from such [the Bible tells us to] turn away” (II Timothy 3:5). God can achieve his purpose without the feeble attempts of human intervention:

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12 KJV).

The church can be people friendly without compromising its basic principles that are built on the foundation of Christ Jesus. We can use various teaching strategies and the advantages of living in a technological to enrich the conveying of the gospel. Even Jesus used parables to make His messages clear to His audience. However, our intention should not be to mask or minimize the scriptures to draw or entertain a crowd. The whole purpose of the word of God is to bring positive change in the lives of people and not to placate them.

If we abandon the word of God, we have abandoned God and all the other things we do in His name are meaningless. The word allows God to speak through us – without it we have no voice. Our congregants and hearers can only develop a case of spiritual ennui when they listen to us that can only be cured by the very Word that we have rejected. Let’s find our voices again in the Word of God and watch what happens!

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The Cost of Discipleship

Salvation has a price. It cost God the Father the life of His only begotten Son! He was the One who required that cost because he valued the only creatures on earth that He made with His own hands and into whom He blew His precious breath. Christ’s incarnation cost Mary her reputation, and for Joseph, the apparent cost was deferred gratification in the consummation of his marriage and perhaps ridicule for being a cuckolded husband.

The whole purpose of Christ’s dying on the cross was to fulfill the desire of His Father to make sure once and for all that all men would have the opportunity and the right to eternal life through acceptance of salvation. Through His obedience, He left His royal home in heaven, divested himself temporarily of immortality, took on human flesh, and paid the cost for human sin by dying on a rugged cross (Philippians 2:6-8). He humbled himself as a babe in the womb of a young virgin and was born into a poor family and raised by a carpenter in a village where few people would care to settle.

To say that he did not grow up in the lap of luxury is an understatement. His earthly father died early, as was customary, since he was the eldest male sibling of His mother’s children, had to help to support the family. The Gospels of Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56 point to his vocation as a carpenter and state the names of his brothers: his sisters are also mentioned, but not named. Even after his ascension, Jesus is still paying the cost for mankind’s redemption, having gone to prepare a place for us so that we can be with Him eternally (John 14:1-3). He also continually “[watches] over [His own] word, [making sure] it is fulfilled” (Jeremiah 1:12 NIV) and He is “at the right hand of God, who is making intercession for us” (Romans 8:34 NIV). Moreover, Jesus goes over and above, although He is more than capable of keeping us, by sending the Holy Ghost to be our Resident Protector and Comforter Extraordinaire:

 “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them”(John 14:16:21 NIV).

 

 

He also knew that not everyone would receive this gift readily, therefore, he instructed His disciples before He ascended into heaven that they should:

 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:

2Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Matthew 28:19-20).

He also revealed to them that:

[they would] receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:8).

 

Considering that “God commended his love toward us for us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8), we should have no doubt that he takes soul winning and discipleship seriously. He has showed us the pattern in the Bible while He worked with His disciples during the course of His earthly ministry. Some of His followers were tough, stubborn, weak, fearful, impulsive and with passions like some of us, but Jesus prayed for them and taught them the word in ways that would help them understand kingdom living and building. He chided them when necessary, saw to it that they rested, showed concern for their daily needs and often encouraged them.

He did it all, so we would understand the cost of discipleship is not cheap because man’s life is worth a whole lot to God. We must be willing to try to invest in others what God has invested in us (although we will never reach His mark). As we have freely received, we must freely give without any complaining. I learned a lesson about going the extra mile to see others saved and live a sanctified life in the book of Mark. In Mark II:3-12 (NIV), some friends of a paralyzed man demonstrate exceptional love for him by using unconventional means to get him to Jesus so that he could receive healing. They tried to press through an extremely large crowd with his bed without success. Realizing that it was almost impossible to get through to the Master, they:

 … made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (vv.4-5).

Think about what the men did for the sick man. Although the distance that they travelled to bring the paralytic to where Jesus was, we can glean from the story that they either had to carry or transport him and his litter on a beast of burden. On reaching the site they had to try to push their way through, and after gouging a hole in someone’s roof, they had to pay the owner to cover the cost for repairs -and not to mention the coordinated effort and care to lower him to the floor without causing further damage to his body.

No wonder when Jesus saw their faith, He was moved to forgive the man’s sins and heal his disease. The passage did not mention the man’s faith to diminish the importance of personal faith, but to teach us that we who know about the power of God to cleanse us from unrighteousness should persevere in telling others about Jesus, praying for their salvation, and letting our light shine so that they will come to repentance.

God has not given us a choice in the matter of evangelism and discipleship. WE MUST WORK WHILE IT IS DAY. If the men who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus had not worked while they had daylight to get through the roof, he would not have been healed. We must also seize every opportunity to labor for souls because “the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous availeth much” (James 5:16). Our heavenly Father takes note when we intercede for loved ones, coworkers, bosses, students, teachers, enemies and all our neighbors. He is pleased when we stay in the trenches with the fledgling believer and we strengthen our fellow Christians when they are weak.

Don’t give up on an unbeliever! Don’t abandon your Christian brother or sister who has slipped. Keep digging until there’s an opening to Jesus. If the cost was little or nothing, we would lose sight of how much God loves us. Salvation is not cheap because souls are valuable to God. It will cost us to care but it is worth every bit of sacrifice to walk with another on their Christian journey.

 

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Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech in the United States is the right of individuals, groups, and communities to express their opinions without fear of reprisals, censorship, sanctions, or any form of retaliation.  It is part of the over-arching freedom of expression that includes the reception, production and dissemination of ideas and information through various media forms.

The United States is not alone in supporting freedom of expression: it has affirmation in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) document that was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 that consists of 30 articles recognizing an individual’s right in a free society. Article 19 of the UDHR reads: “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.

The article was later amended for clarification in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and asserts that the exercise of the free expression is not absolute. Too often, people tend to believe that their right to free speech cannot be challenged in court.  It can be and should be challenged; albeit, the burden of proof is laid heavily on the plaintiff because offensive expression is not necessarily harmful.

 

Free expression may be limited by the intent of the originator to do or incite others to do harm. Some examples of harmful expressions and limitations of speech are libel, slander, obscenity, and divulging classified information and information that may be potentially harmful to public security. Limitation on the latter two examples are important for the protection and security of not only individuals, but for the nation.

 

America stands out among democratic nations as the model for civil liberties and free expression, and it would be a shame if she does the opposite. She cannot lose face by curtailing one of the most cherished rights of her people: yet, she must know when to stop the barrage of apparently innocuous information that may ultimately have dire consequences for the very populace whose freedom of expression she seeks to protect.

 

Who can leash the appetites of a people who have gorged themselves on so much information that many have lost their ability to discriminate between bad and good? America is a world power for many things, but it is no secret that she is dominating the 21st century because she controls how information is distributed in the world. Power names like Facebook, Google, IBM, and Microsoft are as American as apple pie: few places on the planet have escaped their presence – if there are any. Neither can one fail to mention the ubiquitous McDonalds and Coca-Cola who indirectly appeal to their clientele through various media forms while lining their pockets overseas.

 

In the same breath, American music and film industries surpass all that have been mentioned about other industries because these two forms have influence on various groups in any country on earth. Some people in many countries outside of the United States know more about Michael Jackson and Beyonce than what they know about celebrities in their own countries! They listen to their songs and they are affected by what comes from the mouths of these stars and the images in their videos. I was shocked to learn after visiting my native country of Jamaica two years ago, that my relatives were watching more American channels on television than I did here in the United States.

That fact means that American information sells!

 

Therefore, anybody who disseminate information to the public about the government or anything about national security, regardless of how harmless it appears, should think twice about it. Millions of people on this planet are fans of American culture, but there are many on this planet who despise the perceived values of this great country and will use what we publicize for our demise. In this violent political climate that we are living in, tempers flare, impetuous words are spoken, and revenge is sweet. However, there is a price that all will pay when the dust settles.

 

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Life Begins With God

There should be no confusion about when life begins. It begins with God . When He created Adam he formed all men, because He placed in him the seed from which all human beings would originate. God saw each of us as if we were already born. In Jeremiah I:6 (NIV) He informs the prophet:

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

He also carefully placed His stamp on every man in the loins of Adam – a stamp that replicates itself from generation to generation. David utters these words in Psalm 139 to remind us that God envisioned us before conception:

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. (v. 13-16).

Therefore, activity that occurs in the womb is only the continuation of who we are.because we will be what God has fashioned us to be when we receive our glorified bodies. Though death will mar our bodies, our existence will not end. On the other hand,  a baby conceived in the womb is not non-existent because it has not yet been born.

If you think that a fetus has no awareness – think again! Babies are very sentient from the womb and God imparts knowledge to them even there as the psalmist David reminds us:

Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb;
you taught me wisdom in that secret place (Psalm 51:5-6, NIV).