A BORN-AGAIN BELIEVER

“FOR THE GREATER GOOD”: A CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVE

I was raised to be fiercely independent. That’s not always been to my benefit, since I have, at times, used my independence unwisely. But on the strait and narrow, being fiercely independent is the best way to proceed. In fact, I would say it’s the only way to proceed.

Jesus was also fiercely independent. That’s not to say he wasn’t 100% reliant on God; that’s only to say that he wasn’t reliant on people. You can’t rely on people the way you can rely on God. You can partially and occasionally rely on people for things that are not that important, and only when God gives you the go-ahead to rely on them, but otherwise, it’s best to remain fiercely independent when it comes to humans, though fully dependent when it comes to God.

I wasn’t raised to question, but I learned to do that, anyway, as a natural extension of my independence. One thing God encourages from his children is questioning. Because his law and his will are perfect, God has no problem explaining either of them to those who ask in sincerity. He enjoys sharing his wisdom. That’s why he inspired so many people through the ages to write and preserve his Word in scripture. Being fiercely independent and a fierce questioner makes me highly attuned to sniffing out BS, and boy, is there a lot to sniff out these days.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent baited and then trapped Eve by deceiving her about what was “good”. Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was, according to the serpent, “good”, not only because the fruit was good to look at, but because it would increase Eve’s knowledge to the point where she would become like a “god”. That God had expressly warned Eve not to eat that particular fruit (on pain of death) was dismissed by the serpent as a minor detail that could easily be side-stepped and should be side-stepped, since God, with his selfish prohibition, was obviously keeping Eve from being the best she could be.

The devil is superb at inverting God’s Truth. In fact, it’s what he was created and equipped to do. He is the tempter, and his temptations will always lure you into what is ultimately bad for you, though he dresses it up as something good.

Case in point is the annoyingly grating and now unfortunately omnipresent phrase “for the greater good”, lifted straight from the communist propaganda playbook. It’s as hollow as it is grating, which is probably why it’s become the latest rallying cry for the superficially virtuous and openly evil alike.

There’s no such thing as a “greater good”. It’s a fictional construct that has no basis in reality. Even from a logical standpoint, it’s nonsense: wouldn’t a “greater good” just simply be a “better”? Jesus tells us that no-one is good but God, and no-one can be better than God, so there’s no such thing as a greater good. It is a nonsensical phrase.

Collectivist societies, like cults, thrive on guilting their adherents into sacrificing whatever may be to their own benefit in order to allegedly benefit others. Only, the others never actually benefit, either, because they, too, are being guilted into sacrificing, more or less for the same reason. In a society that aims to do all “for the greater good”, none of those sacrificing for this hollow and inane directive ever benefit. It’s what is known in more profane company as a “circle jerk”.

Here’s a classic Canadian example of “for the greater good” in action. A sidewalk is shoveled just wide enough for one person to walk on it. On either side are three-foot-high slushy, dirty snowbanks, pocked with dog pee and poop. Along come two people, from opposite directions. They have no problems walking along the sidewalk when they don’t have to be in the same place at the same time, but as they approach each other, they face a dilemma: They both can’t walk on the shoveled portion of the sidewalk together in order to pass each other. So what do they do? How can they resolve this seeming impasse?

I have witnessed this countless times, so what I write here is a true example of “for the greater good” as it plays out in reality in Canada – instead of negotiating that one person will remain on the sidewalk while the other climbs up on the snowbank, BOTH CLIMB UP ON THE SNOWBANK, getting their shoes or boots full of slushy snow in the process and their clothing and hands soiled with the dirty snow. Meanwhile, the disputed portion of the sidewalk remains completely clear and untrodden by either party. This is what “for the greater good” looks like in reality: a clear sidewalk flanked by two miserable humans with dirty hands and cold wet feet, slip-sliding up and down a poopy snowbank.

I’m glad I was raised to be fiercely independent and encouraged by God to question everything. I do not believe in “for the greater good”; I believe in optimal outcome for all parties involved, like God does. Based on optimal outcome for all parties involved, this is how you negotiate a single-lane sidewalk flanked by snowbanks: When you see someone else coming from the other direction, you don’t wait until you meet up and then scramble onto the filthy snow to get past each other; you courteously stand and wait at whatever shoveled driveway or street corner is positioned before the impasse point. One person stands and waits, and the other walks through the narrow passage until both of you are at the driveway or street corner, which is broad enough for you to easily pass by each other.

Again – you change your strategy to benefit both of you; you don’t wait to be forced (or allow yourself to be forced) to do something that you know in your gut is to your detriment. You change your strategy, and in so doing, everyone benefits, with a benefit that is clearly perceived by all parties involved.

There is no such thing as “for the greater good”. It’s just a nonsensical pie-in-the-sky slogan brought to you by the same serpent that hoodwinked Eve.

Please don’t fall for it.

Be fiercely independent and question everything, like Jesus.

PRAYING FOR DOWN UNDER

I’m Canadian, but I was born-again in Australia, so anything Aussie-related piques my interest. I was notified this morning of an upcoming world-wide protest in support of Australia. The notice was in the form of a video that featured a hodgepodge of Australian-themed images (kangaroos, Sydney street scenes, the outback, etc.), culminating in some recent footage of protesters being attacked by police.

The woman narrating the video appears at the end of it, prominently sporting a cross around her neck. Her appeal for help is to the world in general, not to Christians.

My first question would be: Why would a Christian appeal to the world in general for help? Why wouldn’t she go to God or to other Christians?

My second question would be: Why is this Christian getting involved in the affairs of the world? Does she not know that when she fights against and protests the world, she is fighting against and protesting the roll-out of God’s justice?

In other words, she’s fighting against God.

There are two reasons for the manifestation of evil in the world: One is that it’s the reward for wrong choices, whether individually or collectively; and the other is that it’s a test of some sort that God is permitting. Either way, fighting against it is fighting against God.

When evil increasingly manifests in the world, our job as born-again believers is to increase our manifestation of good. You don’t fight evil with evil; you fight it with good.

Australia is under a heavy burden right now, as are all former Christian nations. Whether that burden is a test or a reward, is not for me to say. Either way, the response of Australia’s Christians should be the same: to choose the good, to be kind, to be generous, to love their enemies, and to PRAY. That’s how you weaken the hold of evil over you and mitigate its damage – by doing good. You don’t weaken the hold of evil over you and mitigate its damage by protesting. You only have to look at recent videos to see that even so-called peaceful protests are places of dissent, chaos, aggression and confrontation, not peace.

The worse the world gets, the better we born-agains need to get. The more draconian the mandates and restrictions become, the more generous and forgiving we need to be. Our response to evil should never be in kind (that is, an eye for an eye), but with kindness. Our appeals for help should not be to the world, but to God.

If you choose to protest the ways of the world through civil action, that’s your choice. But be warned: by protesting in that way, you’ll only make things worse.

THE GOD-GIVEN INVIOLABLE RIGHT TO CHOOSE THE WRONG

There’s a general expectation of Christians that they should do everything they can to help people. Much of this expectation comes from Christians themselves and takes the form of charity work, volunteerism, and counseling.

But is this scriptural?

God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from falling prey to the serpent in the garden. He warned them not to eat from the tree of good and evil, and promised them that if they did, they would die, but otherwise he let them be. He respected their free-will right to choose, even if they chose self-condemnation.

Jesus also didn’t interfere with people’s free will choices. Most famously, he permitted Judas Iscariot to make the choice to betray him, a choice that would end in Judas’s eternal damnation. Jesus didn’t try to stop him; he let Judas make his own choice and suffer the consequences of it.

Unfortunately, many Christians don’t follow Biblical precedent when it comes to respecting other people’s free will. Instead, they try to force people to choose what they want them to choose. I am as guilty of this as anyone else, wanting people to choose God because I know from personal experience the rewards that come from choosing God. But even God doesn’t force people to choose him. He gives us free will, tells us right and wrong – even writes it on our hearts – lets us know the rewards for choosing right or wrong, and then lets us be. He lets us make our own choices, even if those choices lead to our death.

We need to back away from forcing people to do what we believe is in their best interest. We need to respect EVERYONE’S God-given right to free will choice, no matter how difficult it may be. Wanting to protect people from themselves is not a godly impulse, even though it’s been dressed up as such. It’s not virtuous; it’s controlling, and bordering on tyrannical.

Parents, obviously, need to guide their children until the children are old enough to know right from wrong and make their own choices. The parents can then continue to remind the children of the rewards of right and wrong choices, but at some point, even parents have to back away and let their children mess up, if that’s what they choose.

This is not an easy lesson. If God didn’t stop Adam and Eve from choosing death, and Jesus didn’t stop Judas Iscariot from the same, then who are we to force our opinions on those who not only don’t share them, but also don’t want to hear about them?

Our individual free will is the only thing we own free and clear. Everything else is on loan from God. Each of us will stand alone before God on Judgement Day and will have to account for what we did with our free will (in much the same way as the people in the parable who were given talents had to account for how many more they made from the original one), and that account will form the basis of our judgement. We dare not interfere with other people’s free will, any more than they dare interfere with ours. If God doesn’t interfere with people’s free will and Jesus doesn’t either, then neither should we. Our concern, each of us, should be for our own free will only. Let others, of their own volition, choose Heaven or the lake of fire; warn them, remind them, but don’t force their hand, even if you believe you’re “saving” them from themselves.

As God has told us many times in scripture, starting with Adam and Eve:

“I set before you life and death: Choose life.”

THE NORMALIZATION OF SIN

One of the best ways to get an eye-roll out of an unbeliever these days is to mention the word “sin”.

The devil and his hordes have been working overtime to make the concept of sin seem old-fashioned and laughable.

They’ve almost succeeded.

I don’t need to list all the ways they’ve done it. You already know. Popular culture has been the main vehicle, along with the infiltration of mainstream churches not only to pervert the Gospel message, but to corrupt the existing ministers and/or install their own corrupt ministers.

The fall of Christendom through sin didn’t happen overnight; it happened over the course of centuries. The Middle East fell hundreds of years ago, but in Western culture, the fall has been more recent.

How does sin become normalized? Spiritual sickness is presented as a good thing, as something that should be accepted, even admired. It’s presented as courageous, as a core truth that Christianity has cruelly suppressed. Spiritual sickness is rebranded as freedom.

As born-again believers, we know that true freedom can only be found in whole-hearted submission to God. But in the new normal of sin, submission to God is equated to slavery. You can’t be free and a slave at the same time, so obviously you need to free yourself from God. The fastest way to do that is to throw off everything that is condoned by him.

Where once there was marriage, there are now multiple “partners”. Where once there were children born of marriage, there are now children born of single mothers or aborted by them. Where once elders were honored and cared for, the elderly are now warehoused in state institutions to be drugged and chemically slaughtered.

Meanwhile, those who should be institutionalized are not only let roam free, they are given the reins of power.

Sin didn’t go away because we stopped believing in it. It grew and spread and deepened and solidified and gained a stronghold over us until everywhere we looked there was only sin (only we couldn’t even legally call it sin anymore… we had to whisper the word and slink off to the darkest corners of the web to search for those few souls who still knew that sin not only existed but had become Lord over former Christendom…).

The normalization of sin wasn’t imposed on Christendom. It was presented as a temptation. No-one can be forced to sin or to accept sin as normal. It’s a decision of the will.

Sin is always a choice that is made knowing it’s wrong but choosing it anyway, trying to justify it with what appear to be reasoned excuses. These usually come dressed up in terms like “social justice” and “equity” and “modern” and “progressive” and “victim”. Eve had no grounds for blaming the serpent for deceiving her, other than that she permitted herself to be deceived.

She permitted herself to be deceived.

When you accept sin as the norm, you are permitting yourself to be deceived, just as Eve permitted herself to be deceived. And like Eve, you will suffer exile from all that is good and holy while you wallow in that which is rancid and evil until it coats you and penetrates you and is absorbed so deeply into your being that you can no longer tell the difference between you and sin because there is no difference.

When it gets to that point on the societal level, sin has been normalized.

We are at that point.

We can’t come back from this, as a society. There is no coming back from sickness that has progressed this far. Not from this sickness. The only cure is that which was applied to Sodom and Gomorrah, or to Noah’s age.

But, you say, God can heal every sickness, no matter how seemingly hopeless.

Yes, he can, but only when the sick cry out for help.

I hear no such collective cry from former Christendom. Curses I hear, but cries for help are few and far between and growing fewer by the day. Individuals can come back from end-stage spiritual sickness – I am living proof – but not whole cultures, unless, like Nineveh, they all repent in sackcloth and ashes.

Repent is another one of those words that, like sin, brings on the eye-rolls.

The genius of the sin temptation is to rebrand sin as a virtue, so that anyone who tries to help the sinner find his way back to God is labeled as evil.

It’s all upside-down and backwards, former Christendom today, though this should not be surprising to us, considering that the world’s chief aim and accomplishment is the normalization of sin.

THE LINE THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN CROSSED

It must have been frustrating for Jesus at times, during his ministry years, to want to reach out to so many people, but to be hindered by restrictions of time and space and logistics. We face the same barriers today, making ministry work just as frustrating for us at times as it was for Jesus.

Well, the frustration level is about to go exponential.

I read today on an online forum in Nova Scotia that people who want to attend a Bible study in churches in the province have to show “proof of vaccination” (POV), as a Bible study is considered a “non-essential activity”. I don’t even know where to start to get angry about this, but I’m even angrier at those churches that are going along with it. BY THEIR FRUITS SHALL YE KNOW THEM. They might as well just go ahead and demand that all Bible study attendees pay 30 pieces of silver to hear God’s Word, since that’s the spirit they’ve invoked.

The spirit of betrayal.

If there ever was a time to get out of mainstream churchianity, that time is now. Imagine Jesus telling the lepers that they can’t come to hear him until they’re healed, or the prostitutes that they can’t come to hear him until they’re chaste, or the addicts that they can’t come to hear him until they’re clean and sober. Of course you can’t imagine it, because Jesus would never say that and never did say that. On the contrary, he welcomed everyone who wanted to learn God’s Word, and no restrictions were put on them at all, at any time, for any reason.

We are supposed to be doing the same, if we are truly followers of Jesus. No restrictions should be put on anyone who wants to learn God’s Word. Every church that goes along with the POV order is a Judas church. There’s no other way to describe them.

When churches were shut down during “lockdowns” over the past few years or subject to restrictions on the number of people who could attend, some churches rebelled against the orders and continued to hold services as they saw fit. I did not support them in their rebellion, as there were workarounds those churches could have resorted to, such as holding smaller but more frequent services, or simply going underground to an alternate location. I did not agree with or support their protests.

However, having to show POV to hear and study God’s Word with a teacher is something completely different. A locked door or reduced capacity can be worked around with some God-inspired and God-supported effort, but demanding that people undergo a highly controversial and experimental series of injections in order to learn God’s Word in person from a teacher – that is so far beyond what is acceptable, I don’t know, as I said before, where to start being angry, but angry I am. And if I’m angry, it’s because God is angry. He’s not angry at the state that is imposing these restrictions. The state is just being the state. Jesus tells us that Satan is at the helm of every state, and we know that Satan’s sole purpose is to tempt and sway people away from God. God isn’t angry at at the state; he’s angry at those who claim to speak on his behalf, but are imposing barriers to his Word that for some are insurmountable.

Jesus didn’t hold services; he held Bible studies. That’s what he did when he was teaching in the synagogues or in the temple or wherever he taught – he was holding a Bible study. And whoever wanted to attend, could attend, with zero restrictions. The cost was free, no donations were collected, and certainly no health restrictions were imposed. All that was required was that you wanted to be there.

The churches in Nova Scotia and wherever else POV is being demanded as a prerequisite for attending Bible study need to do some major soul-searching. Imposing POV to learn God’s Word is the line that should never have been crossed. There should NEVER be any restrictions put on anyone who wants to learn God’s Word the way Jesus taught it.

Services can be dispensed with; they’re just basically weekly shows that are mounted in order to get money from attendees. But Bible study goes to the heart of what Jesus did during his ministry years. Jesus was “Rabboni” – TEACHER. That’s what we’re supposed to be. That’s what all who claim to speak God’s Word are supposed to be: TEACHERS.

Nothing should ever come between God’s Word and those who want to learn it.

SHAME ON EVERY CHURCH THAT IS DEMANDING POV.

AVALANCHE

There is a trend developing in alternative media and online forums, with certain “influencers” claiming that they’re finally fed up with the restrictions and aren’t going to take it anymore. What they’re trying to do with their public show of frustration is to rally the troops, with the ultimate aim of getting a large-scale organized resistance movement going.

As a born-again believer, you need to be very careful about becoming involved in any kind of resistance movement other than the one you were grandfathered into when you were born-again. I’m not going to get into a discussion here about whether or not I believe some of these influencers may or may not be controlled opposition. I’m only interested in what they’re trying to do, which is to tempt their audience to show their hand (that is, to identify themselves) and to react openly and violently against the ptb, first with words and then with actions.

Now is not the time for heroics. I had a vision a few days ago of an avalanche moving down a mountainside in slow-motion. The avalanche was moving slowly, but it was massive and unstoppable. As it inched down the mountain, it swallowed everything in its path, including people who were standing in front of it shaking their fists.

Off to the side of the mountain, just out of reach of the avalanche, a few people were standing and watching. They weren’t doing anything, these people, other than for watching the avalanche descend. They weren’t shaking their fists or trying to stop it; they were just standing and watching.

The avalanche is coming, whether we want it to or not. No-one can stop it. It has been put into motion, and no-one can stop it, any more than the flood could be stopped in Noah’s day or the rain of fire and brimstone could be stopped in Lot’s. There is no praying or fasting this avalanche away. This is not a Nineveh event, where everything will go back to normal if everyone would just repent in sackcloth and ashes. This avalanche cannot and will not be stopped.

Knowing that, if you choose to stand in front of it shaking your fists, thinking you’re somehow a hero to do so, you’ll get swallowed up by it, just like everyone else in its path.

We need to be like the people in the vision who were standing off to the side as the avalanche descended. We need to be aware of what’s going on, but not to be part of it. We need to let it happen, like Noah let the flood happen and Lot let the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah happen. This is entirely in God’s hands. We need to get out of the way and let God take care of business.

The time for spiritual heroism will come, but it isn’t now.

If you step out now, you’ll join the ranks of Barabbas and Judas Iscariot, who also believed they were fighting the ptb and were heroes.

Me, I’ll continue to stand with Jesus, off to the side of the mountain, and let God’s will be done.

THIS LAND IS MY LAND

I recently moved to a property in rural Nova Scotia that used to be a farm, with a river running through it and a woodlot out back. To either side of me there’s nothing but thick forest. Even if I used a megaphone to call out, my nearest neighbour would only hear me if the wind were blowing in the right direction.

The expansiveness and remoteness of the land is exciting and soothing at the same time. Deer come right up to my window and stare in at me while I’m working. It used to be a much larger farm that got cut back to 22 acres, and that’s what I sit on now – 22 acres of rolling fields, hedged in to the east and west by thousands of acres of forest.

I mention all this because, in the eyes of the world, I don’t legally own this land.  I’m renting the property from someone who just purchased it and likely holds a mortgage on it. But even if that person bought it outright and owes nothing on it, taxes still need to be paid to make good on the ownership. If the taxes don’t get paid, the land and everything on it is eventually forfeited to the state.

The land could also be wrested from the person through expropriation – that is, the state could take it all, paying the person only the assessed or “fair market” value of the land and chattels. This happens more often than the general public realizes. Under a state of emergency, expropriation can take place within 24 hours, and Nova Scotia is currently under a state of emergency due to the ‘pandemic’.

So while the new owner holds title to the land and everything on it, the state could end that ownership by sundown today. Does that mean the state owns the land?

It does, as long as the state doesn’t lose it in a war or by annexation. If, for instance, the US invaded from the south or Russia from the north or China from the west, the property would become the victor’s.

So here’s what we have so far: I, as the tenant, don’t own the land; the person who ‘owns’ it doesn’t own the land (as she could lose it through non-payment of taxes or expropriation); and the state itself doesn’t own the land, since the state could lose it through war.

So who actually does own the land? Does anyone own it?

God, of course, owns the land. He owns everything in creation, including this 22-acre former farm and everything on it. As his daughter, I am his inheritor. Inheritor’s rights mean that I own everything that God owns, which is everything in creation.

So who owns this land?

I do. On a spiritual level, I own it because God owns it. All of God’s children – his inheritors – co-own all of creation with God. Jesus is the first among us to claim his inheritance, and we now share it with him.

So this land is my land. That land is also my land. As far as the eye can see – up to and including and beyond the farthest star – it’s all mine. But it’s also all yours, if you’re a born-again follower of Jesus, because being a born-again follower of Jesus makes you a child of God, and therefore God’s inheritor.

In which case, all of creation is your inheritance as much as all of creation is my inheritance.

So I guess, on a spiritual level, you and I both own the land I currently sit on.

Jesus said that those who purposely die to this world to follow him will get houses and land aplenty in this life, and in the world to come, eternal life.

So who owns this land?

God, and all his children.

Verily I say unto you, there is no man that has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s,

But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Mark 1:29-30

But big proviso here – just because we own all of creation together doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t follow the laws of the world while we’re still in human form. God put the world under the authority of Satan and gave him laws to institute – including laws of land ownership – so we’re duty-bound to adhere to those laws for the rest of our time on Earth.

Remember when Jesus was coming back to his house in Capernaum, and a state official requested tribute money from him and the disciples? Jesus asked Peter:

What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shallt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.

Matthew 17:24-27

From scripture, we know that everything that is God’s is ours, which is everything in creation. But Jesus – the Messiah himself – scrupulously adhered to the laws of the land by paying tribute, even though he openly stated that, on the spiritual level, he did not owe it. When these conflicts occur between what is ours by spiritual inheritance and what the world demands of us by local and state laws, God will always intervene to provide for us. And when God provides, he does so miraculously, as we see by the gold coin in the fish’s mouth.

If you’re genuinely a follower of Jesus, you know exactly what I mean when I say that God will intervene and provide for his children miraculously, because you live those miracles every day.

That, too, is an inheritance of God’s children.

PEEKABOO!

Jesus wasn’t a fan of grandstanding. He had nothing good to say about the ostentatious show of religiosity that characterized most of the religious establishment, or what he called the hypocrites.

Jesus was clear that when you pray, you pray in private to God, not in public for show. Ditto for giving charity and donations, which were to be done anonymously, expecting nothing in return – not even a thank-you or a tax receipt. If we give charity and donations for the thanks or the tax receipts, that’s all we’ll get. That will be our reward. But if we do them secretly so that only God sees us, God will give us our reward.

Everything we do and say (and think) is known to God. We cannot hide anything from him. It’s impossible to hide from God. If you think you’ve ‘gotten away’ with something, it just means that God’s giving you the time and space to repent. If you don’t repent, you’ll get what’s coming to you. No-one escapes God’s justice.

The measure of your faith and your character can easily be determined by what you do when no-one sees you. When I say “no-one”, I mean no human. God sees you, whether you accept he does or not.

Paul says we should do everything as if unto God. If that’s our default – to do everything as if unto God – then we’ll always choose what’s right and do everything to the best of our ability. Sadly, I don’t think that’s the default for many people. I know it was for Jesus, and I’m pretty sure it was for Paul, but is it for you?

God sees everything we do, hears everything we say, and knows everything we think. Jesus says that everything we do, say, and think will form the basis of our judgement. When figure skaters prepare for a competition, they practice in their training gear, which is any clothing they find comfortable and functional. But when it’s time to compete, they wear special clothing and make-up, and they fix their hair in a special style. Then they go out before the judges and spectators and perform their routine, the same routine they’ve performed hundreds of time during training before an empty arena and in comfortable clothes. They have only one chance to get the routine right when they’re before the judges. No matter how brilliantly they skate during training, it counts for nothing at the competition. All that matters at the competition is how well they skate before the judges.

God’s judgement is nothing like that. God doesn’t judge us on our costume and make-up and performance under pressure. Jesus says that we’re accountable for EVERYTHING we do and say, not just what we do and say when others see us and hear us, or when we’re all dressed up in our Sunday best and on our best behavior, sitting in a pew.

I think that for many, this thought is incomprehensible. They can’t accept that God can see and hear everything, so they live as if God can’t. When they think no-one is looking (or at least no-one of importance), they do whatever is expedient for them at the time, even if involves breaking commandments.

This is the true measure of who we are – what we do when no-one sees us. Jesus didn’t accuse the religious powers-that-be of being hypocrites for what they did in public, but for what they did behind closed doors. God saw them, heard them, and read their thoughts, and that information was made known to Jesus, who then delivered the damning verdict of hypocrisy.

We do not want to end up where hypocrites end up – in the lake of fire. We should instead want to do everything as if unto God, to pray in secret and give charity in secret. We should want to choose what’s right and to do everything to the best of our ability, knowing that our every move is being watched and recorded. We should want to do everything precisely as Jesus says we should, veering neither to the left nor to the right, but keeping straight on the path.

It can be sobering to acknowledge that God knows everything about us, but acknowledge it we must. It is by far the most direct way for us to do the right thing in every circumstance, whether we’re seen by others or not. We are judged on everything we do, but God pays special attention to what we do when we think no-one sees us.

So what do you do?

THE LONGEST LONG TERM

I used to help people write applications for academic positions. One of the requirements was for the applicants to explain their future research and career plans. The request was usually broken down into 5- and 10-year plans, with 10 years being considered “long term”.

As born-agains, our long term is forever, and the position we’re applying for is to be “like angels”, as Jesus described.

When you make plans and decisions based on a term that lasts forever, those plans and decisions are completely different than when you make them based on 5 or 10 years, or even a lifetime.

Let’s have an example. You’ve had some business and personal dealings with someone who is less than honest and who has maligned you to others to cover the dishonesty. You’ve considered outing this person as a warning to others, but you know that Jesus’ directive is to love your enemies and to pray for those who treat you badly. Giving bad press to someone isn’t loving them or praying for them.

From a short-term perspective, you might consider confronting this person about what he’s done and try to extract an apology or some kind of promise that it won’t be done again.

From a longer-term perspective, you might consider warning your colleagues about this person so that they don’t end up with the same issues as you.

But from an infinite perspective (that is, from God’s perspective), your job isn’t to correct this person or to warn others about him; Jesus said that you’re simply to love him, bless him, and pray for him.

I can tell you from personal experience that it takes some habit-building to get to the point where you no longer try to correct, extract an apology from, or trash-talk someone who’s done you wrong. But as you’re forming the habit, you can see and feel the difference it makes in your life. When you choose confrontation, there is no peace or rest. There is just an unease that doesn’t go away. When you choose to trash-talk, there is an even greater sense of unease that also doesn’t go away. There is no resolution to conflict by trying to correct or malign someone. You have to love that person through prayer and blessings and let God take it from there.

I just went through a scenario where I had solid grounds (in the eyes of the world) for complaining and demanding restitution. But after I’d cooled my heels a bit, I decided instead to go with Jesus’ way, and I bought a gift for the person and gave him good reviews for his business. The unease that had plagued me for a few days when I was contemplating how I should deal with the problem immediately fell away, and I also stopped thinking about him. What he did was done and could not be undone, but it could be forgotten and no longer spoken of. He certainly knew what he had done to me, so my gift and praises must have been a head-scratcher for him, to say the least.

I am not his judge. Those who do wrong purposely do it because they’re in some kind of emotional pain and are lashing out. Christians are typical targets. My gift and gesture of good will was either a balm to his soul or was heaping coals on him, but either outcome is no concern to me. He’s in God’s hands. When I think of him now, I wish him well in my heart. There is no longer a sense of unease or outrage.

When you love and bless rather than curse and avenge, you are making decisions and plans based on the longest of long terms, which is forever. You can live your life thinking short term, long term, or lifetime, but the decisions you’ll make based on those relatively short perspectives might not be the same as those you’ll make when you’re thinking in terms of forever.

I don’t want anything to get in my way of making it to Heaven. I don’t want to appear before God and Jesus on Judgement Day with them pointing out to me that I should have forgiven when I had the chance. I don’t want them to shake their heads at me sadly and tell me I knew better, but it’s too late now.

So I put my pride aside and I bless.

I put my pride aside and I pray.

I put my pride aside, even as people are calling me a sucker – I put my pride aside and buy a gift and give a good review. I can feel God’s Spirit working through me powerfully when I do that, and for me, that is a far greater rush and reward than “getting even” could ever be.

I’m not making decisions based on short term or long term. I’m not even making them based on a lifetime. I’m making them based on what’s right for all eternity, rather than what’s expedient or what appears to benefit me right now.

I hope that you’ll also make decisions and plans based on forever.

TAKING SPIRITUAL STOCK

Most companies that deal in material goods take stock once or twice year. Taking stock just means finding out what you have, what you’ve sold, what you need, and what you’ve lost through shrinkage (which is a polite word for theft or damage).

Spiritually, we should also be taking stock as born-again believers, only we should be doing it a lot more than once or twice a year. We should actually be doing it at least once a week. Sabbaths are a perfect day for taking spiritual stock.

But how can you take stock of something that is by nature spiritual?

By asking questions of yourself and of God.

Here are some sample questions:

  1. How is my relationship with God?
  2. How is my relationship with Jesus?
  3. How is my relationship with my neighbours (that is, everyone else)? (Be honest, now!)
  4. Am I holding any unforgiveness in my heart? (Definitely be honest here.)
  5. Am I blaming someone for something that’s gone wrong in my life? (Ditto above.)
  6. If someone did something to me that I don’t like, am I cursing them or blessing them?
  7. Am I reading the Bible every day?
  8. Am I applying what I read to my life?
  9. Am I putting God first in everything, and loving him with all my heart, soul, mind and strength?
  10. Am I teaching the Gospel, either by example or through actual lessons?

There are many other questions you can ask yourself when you’re taking stock. That’s just a selection of some of the ones that I find helpful and at times quite sobering. They can be like a shepherd’s staff that taps at you sharply to keep you from wandering farther off the path. We all need that. It’s good for us and keeps us honest with ourselves and with God. A sharp little tap at the right place at the right time is a whole lot better than getting run over by a spiritual Mac truck when you least expect it and least need it.

I took stock today using questions 1 to 10 above, and in case you’re interested, here are my answers:

  1. Great.
  2. Great.
  3. Not bad, but could be better. As my Grade 2 teacher once wrote on my report card under the category Plays well with others. – “NEEDS IMPROVEMENT.” (lol)
  4. I was, but I’m not now.
  5. I was, but I’m not now.
  6. I was cursing them, now I’m blessing and thanking them from the bottom of my heart.
  7. Yes.
  8. Yes.
  9. Yes, with bells on! I LOVE MY DAD!
  10. Yes, but I could always do more.

How did you do with your spiritual stock-taking?

One of the hardest lessons (and one that can make even saints squirm) is accepting that God allows people to come into our lives who do nasty things, either to us or to others. He allows them to come into our lives so that we can learn to love even the unlovable, and to pray for them and bless them. Jesus talks about how easy it is to love those who love us and that even hypocrites can do that. We’re called to love those who hate us, who are mean-spirited to us, or who are blissfully unaware that something they’re doing is driving us crazy.

Loving those who despise us or who simply get on our nerves can’t be done without a conscious effort on our part. It also and more importantly requires God’s help, and we need purposely to ask him for that. Taking spiritual stock once a week is a good reminder not only of who we need to forgive and bless, but that we need to forgive and bless: “Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.”

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

John 13:35