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For the Love of the World


The importance of understanding one's self, one's being, and the Grace of God


Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books in the Bible. I'll tell you many of the reasons, but if there was any single story I could tell you that has me understand its importance, it would have to be a story of my mother and stepfather.

My stepfather, George, had a long-standing reputation for being an alcoholic, sometimes argumentative, sometimes violent and dangerous. He was, among other things, a logger, and had arms that must have been 16-18 inches around, claimed to have been a sparring partner at one time for Ken Norton or Larry Holmes... Everyone knew he was truly the nicest person you'd want to know, he had a reputation for that too... unless he was drinking. This was all going on in my teen years.

We lived in a small house on 34th Avenue in Santa Cruz at this one point in about 1970 or so. It was just about 6 blocks from Pleasure Point, a popular surfing and body-surfing spot in the area that I loved to go down to and watch the surfers and play in the surf.

Alot of tough things happened since they met... alot of drinking, intense arguing, lots of money lost, family disengaging to avoid him. I was glad that I early on realized that none of it had to do with me, and so I never personalized it, and I always kept faith the my truth and God's promise that there is a time for every purpose was true, and I always believed that what I experienced was something God wanted me to know for whatever He was going to have me do someday.

So, I just dealt with it and observed it, and did a pretty good job of making sure I wasn't there at the moment when he snapped and chose the object of his anger for that evening. And then, did what I could to do divert his attention to happier thoughts or interests that would quell his hostility, or redirect it.

They'd gotten to the point where their arguments had them get out a loaded .22 caliber rifle a few times, point it at each other and threaten each other. They'd be screaming and yelling, and then I'd see one of them go toward the closet and I knew what that meant, and they'd get out the gun, and I'd get my sister to  exit the house out onto the street and down the block until the yelling subsided or the gun went off.

We tried a couple of times to get the neighbors to call the police, but they didn't want to get involved. So, we'd just wait on the street until it seemed safe to go back inside.

What's this got to do with Ecclesiastes? I'll tell you.

If there was anything I knew about these two people, my mother and my step father, it was that they loved each other. I would have testified to that any day of the week. We had a great life when they weren't drinking, especially him. But we really did, we had a life, otherwise, that I wouldn't trade with anyone.

Inside of him was an incredible family man.  He was a man with 6 kids of his own, the youngest of whom was fathered by his own father - he caught his wife and father in bed together, and then George stayed with his wife and they had the youngest daughter. They stayed married for about 4 years until George caught his wife in bed with her future husband, fathering her 7th child soon after.

He had a tough life. He had a lot of anger in him. He really loved his children, and wanted to be with them more than anything in the world. And whether it was that, a bad habit of drinking that went awry, maybe a childhood where his father would beat him if his brothers didn't do their chores, or that he had to quit school to work to support the family when he was young....

Who knows at any moment what would drive him, them over the edge that allowed them to be so desperate about being understood and listened to and comforted... not to mention being given credit for being of value as a person, as a father and and a man in a world where technology was quickly taking away his usefulness in lumbering, dairying and more blue collar jobs.

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God Michael McDonald - Soul Speak - 09 - Enemy Within

And in that desperate search for compassion and comfort their rage and passions drove them to say things and do things you just had to know they didn't mean, and if they had ever shot each other, you just had to know they would have instantly regretted shooting the other, but more, realized the last thing actually wanted to do was hurt one another.

If they didn't care so much in the first place, they wouldn't have been arguing. But in those moments of pent up anger and the survivalism of wanting their needs taken care of before considering the needs of any other, they did horrible things to each other. And then, afterward, they'd somehow need to forgive it or just ignore it, and in the long run, it just led to worse and worse arguments.

I always said I couldn't condone their actions, but I understood them.

Ecclesiastes: Everything is vanity. It has an interesting relationship to the the phrase "to thine own self be true".

I think Ecclesiastes is like an elongated and maybe parallel description of the Golden Rule.

It's one of those books whose messages, guidelines and inquiries always yields positive results in every facet and every moment of your life and the world, in you and through you. And it most certainly strengthens the Grace of God working in and through you.

I've said from time to time that before my father died, for me, life was like "Leave it to Beaver", but after he died, it was hell at times... especially in the night time.

Which was why when I was 19 I threw myself a birthday party, even though it wasn't my birthday. To me, my little secret  was that it was my day when I declared to myself that some of the "programming" I had gotten from my childhood was just plain wrong or inappropriate, and I was declaring it void, as well as declaring it my "first day" as a new person, having sifted through my introspections about who I am and want to be as a person, how I could be that person to other people and in the things I did.

It was like, when my father was alive, I was given a good example, not necessarily perfect but a good example of what a good person and citizen and father would be like. And then I was shown the opposite, in many ways, though a great number of things that George taught me about life and love and the world are valuable to me.

So you could say, I was given an example, and a choice, about the kinds of people I could be in life, and that it was up to me to choose anything I wanted.  Of course, I couldn't have done that without having made some decisions about how I wanted to live life and be like.

I certainly adopted and conformed to a number of "normal" social standards and behaviors. I really was never a rebel or a non-conformist, except to the extent that I did everything I could, when I was remembering to, to make sure whatever I did, I didn't allow other people to sway me into doing things I considered wrong.

It's interesting for me to notice that in some ways, I didn't do a very good job of that in terms of a few times I went astray and did things that didn't harm anyone else, but if known, would not make me look like a particularly moral person... not like they were so bad or different, but just because in being honest with myself, I didn't think it was morally right when I did them, even if they were legal.

I realized early on, though, leading up to that "birthday" party, that part of the part of me and my values that I wanted to keep, strengthen, improve and be proud and content with myself about in order to provide evidence to myself of my belief that I am a good person throughout my life had to do with my being "for people".

What I mean by that is wanting to always be available as someone people knew as a person they could talk to in confidence and with discretion, listening and assisting them in healing an emotional scar or resolving a situation, and especially not by telling them how to run their lives and give them advice that doesn't fit their style of being, but by really listening and getting down to the essence of what was troubling them, and saying something that I thought would stick in their minds, and cause them to realize things that would improve their lives.

I always wanted to be a Good Samaritan, and I was always observing human nature because I found it fascinating how people responded to stimuli of all kinds, expressed their emotions and all... how societies and cultures were bound together and divided.... and it allowed me to be able to gently influence things at times, in certain circles, to let's say, get things back on path, to make people see their commonality and to find ways to make things work for everyone.

And if I was to be a leader, I wanted to be sure that I didn't begin something I didn't intend to see through to an end, like a social cause or political campaign, because people depend on you to follow through on promises, and if you're a key person and walk away from leading an important cause or issue, the organization created, formally or not, suffers in terms of continuity, and the important cause is harmed.

And I think, one of the other most important things to me was excellence. Providing quality and conscientiousness in everything I do. It's about integrity.

Not like I'm perfect, but being honest with myself that I've provided the best I could deliver, as a merchant, as a person, as a minister... as a friend, a companion, a healer. And never taking shortcuts in important matters - most particularly in matters that impact the lives and beings and spirits of other people. Whether in terms of money, food, empowerment, equality or justice... or communicating with someone about a sensitive matter.

And to always be someone people can turn to, even with the worst of news, to never blame the messenger, and always be willing to hear explanations that are not just rationalizations for obviously errant behavior. And for people to come to know that that is a truth they can count on.

I love this song for expressing that sentiment, because it is so much more than a love song about a man yearning to meet a soulmate and expressing promises of unconditional love and understanding and acceptance of another being.

If we say, reasonably, that this song is about one person or a couple, consider the "holographic effect" - relating in such a way - what would it be like on a global and universal basis? What would the world be like then?

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God Michael Tomlinson - Run This Way Forever - 07 - By a Friend

Maybe that song IS one of many accurate representations of life in the Kingdom of God. If you never had reason to lie, it would mean there would be an assumption that intent was always good.

What would life like that be like? I think it's true that every one of us is this man, this person and being and spirit, calling out to others, telling them what heaven would be like to them, hoping others who feel the same way will follow. Will join in such a community. A community not easily established in a world where we must be wary at all times, protecting our interests, knowing it has become normal and expected for others to "lie" in one way or another to convince you of things that benefit them. Buyer beware.

Personally, I'd rather not have a world where I'm told I need to be suspicious when I'm actually not a suspicious person, and when I don't want that kind of attitude to permeate my being and train me to be cynical. To lose faith that there is good in the world and people of integrity and people you can trust and count on as friends. So, in reality, there is a balance in this world that must be maintained.

If you're a Christian, if you're a moral person, what is it that keeps you on track, what keeps you focused on the things that are important to you, and what guides you to believe you are doing the right thing and making the right choices, based on the decisions you've made about the kind of person you want to be and say you are?

Long ago, I'd say it was my brief introduction to Christianity when I was young, and then a personal philosophy resulting from experiences I had or witnessed that made me decide to make conscious decisions that required discipline to honor those decisions, and to remember why I chose the values and principles I did.

These days, in a great number of ways, it's the book of Ecclesiastes.

When I first read it, I saw it as a guide to ministers, an inquiry about how to remain humble in the eyes of God, always mindful that it is His power and His grace working in and through you that provides you the "position" in life to lead and to be entrusted with power in His work, having faith in you to be ever mindful of your promises, and the need for surrender to His will and guidance, and being willing to set aside the "self", the person who might not be willing to say or do what was needed to be done because it might not be popular or typical.

But, that knowing the willingness to be obedient to Him would bring real results in the world and for the Kingdom of God that would provide proof that what God asks you to do will reap good fruits, benefits to people and the planet, and be worth doing.

And then, having the humility to know that it is not important that the world acknowledge your efforts or struggles, but that you are content that you and God know the truth, and that is enough. That the work you were called to do, that you love to do for whatever reasons, is worth more to you spiritually, it makes you feel better, than any money or worldly rewards that you could receive.

Isn't it great when you help a crying child, and they look up at you with the biggest smile? It's like that. And then. sometimes, for whatever their reasons are, at least for a while, they treat you like their favorite person in the world. And you know, when you take a few moments to "think too much", you consider how maybe one day, giving that child help will cause that child the example to give someone else help in a way that could change the world... even in a  micro-cosmic way.

And yet, you may not have helped that child if you were worried that doing so might get your clothing dirty.

You might then be one of those people who would witness a beating on the street and do nothing about it because you don't want to get involved, can't afford the time, or even are concerned that harm will come to you. And just how do you really determine the value or priorities of your life and world?

I'm not accusing anyone of anything. I'm trying, once again, to exemplify a rippling or holographic effect of how every action, every thought, every word impacts at least one other "thing" in the world that impacts another and another...

If you worked for a politician who you knew was taking money in less than ethical or legal ways, would you report them to appropriate authorities? And if not, would you still consider yourself a moral person? Why or why not? Is remaining silent in the face of obvious disregard for the responsibilities of office a good thing now? When did it become alright? And what is the cost to the world for doing so, and what is the cost to you personally? What if it came out? Does getting away with it make it alright?

How would the world be if the corruption came to an end?

Do you see what I'm getting at. And yet, the evil people who are doing the "bad" things won't stop because whatever power they have has put them in the position of controlling and therefore being above real justice.

Why? Vanity. Self-interest. Considering their own desires and needs before those they promised to serve and place themselves as their highest priority in all considerations and legislation.

For ministers, much the same would be true. The church headquarters has its own agenda and ideologies you must respect and then adhere to. People in individual churches have their own opinions and hierarchical politics. And ministers or leaders who - especially in today's world - have to "position themselves" tactfully in order to please enough people to retain popularity and therefore control. And so, then they should ask themselves, is there something important I think I should be saying or doing but don't because I think it might be unpopular or I might lose my job?

Just something to think about.

Again, I'm really not accusing anyone of anything. And let's face it, in this society that has become primarily purposed toward earning money in order to buy things, as a source of evidence of our importance and social value as human beings, not to mention surviving, it's a valid consideration. But not when it causes you to violate the principles you choose and actually believe in.

That would have us discussing apostasy, which I wanted to mention because it is the next chapter, and it begins with vanity as discussed in Ecclesiastes.

What does vanity mean? It actually means a number of dictionary definitions.

Of course, we always think of vanity as being about being conscious of how we look, and our level of vanity being measured by the outward appearance of things in our lives, the people we associate with and the things we say in public to fit in and seem superior to others.

In today's world, the media and politicians have taught us the valor of being able to do bad things and then act like nothing has happened, or tell us what they'd rather have us think other than the truth. It's even vanity, but considered to be normal behavior, that ahs us find ways to rationalize and justify things we're embarrassed to admit. And, so long as you supposedly win a verbal argument in a given time - with lies or truth or semantics - you're considered the winner, like there is a requirement to take sides, and for someone to win.

No wonder conflicts are so hard to resolve, given a social environment that teaches you to win above all else, no matter what it takes. And regardless of the facts. Style over substance.

What does it take, as an individual. as a citizen, as a Christian or a s a moral citizen, to put an end to that kind of social behavior and pattern? When will you refuse to participate in such behavior?  And, are you actually behaving in a manner that would teach your children the way people would act in a world you would actually choose to live in and have  them grow up in? There are real choices available for you to make.

Do women really believe they have to spend all that money on makeup and hair and nails and whatever else in order to be attractive to men? The unfortunate answer is probably yes, anymore. We see all these TV shows and judgmental reports about people, telling us we're in certain socio-economic classes, and people start to believe it and act like it's true until it actually becomes true. I saw a woman on TV last night selling erectile dysfunction tablets, saying: Men, no matter what women tell you to be nice, size does matter, and most women are disappointed... She really said that.

We tell lies about social and political events and crimes and then act like the lies are true. A minister like Jeremiah Wright speaks the truth about criminal acts - truths that aren't popular - and now many places that invited him to speak cancel because they get threats of violence.

Universal Church of the Kingdom of God Kenny Loggins - Why Do People Lie

In one way, you can understand why they would protect their congregations from danger, but at what point will people - will churches and ministers and religions claiming to stand for truth and the spirit and example of Christ Jesus, allow themselves to be deprived of the truth, deprived of justice and rights and the end of suffering and the Kingdom of God because they don't want to risk being held responsible for doing the right thing, by speaking truth to power.

They don't want to be accused of doing the right thing. Of telling the truth.

Because they can justify not being the leaders and citizens we think of them as. Commanders of the Watchtower. Because there are legitimate concerns that must be dealt with. And they don't want to deal with them. And apparently, their rights and freedoms aren't worth enough to refuse to give in to the evil people who don't truth to be known.

Or, they haven't kept watch, and don't realize their rights and freedoms are at risk as much as they are.

When Dick Cheney was directly asked about his feelings about having point blank lied about the dangers of Iraq that convinced Americans to support war, he said "So what?" His real answer was, "What are you going to do about it?"

We send people to war and die because we say there are things worth fighting for. I'm not suggesting that anyone should take up arms - but I am saying that if it's worth sending young people to die to defend liberty, justice, Democracy and more on foreign soil, then shouldn't we be just as willing to do the same thing on our own soil? Shouldn't we be willing to at least stand up for rights and truth?

Or will we all simply believe, act upon and create a world where everyone really is "on their own"? Will be build a new world order based on the idea, as Jimmy Carter described it, citizens in service to the state, instead of a country in service to its citizens? I find it interesting that Guns 'N Roses put out an album called Chinese Democracy, given that Carter said his opinion of a more effectively run state that lead him to this conclusion was exemplified by China.

How has vanity prevented you from doing "the right thing"?

And, if all the times you have allowed vanity to prevent you from doing the right thing, if you had done the right thing instead, what difference would it have made? I'm talking about things that affect other people. For some people I know, it could have made a whole, new world almost overnight. For others, another day of life.   And still others, who did not receive the benefit of candor, another day of suffering.

The vanity of arrogance and power - I've never known anyone who wasn't affected by it in someway, and many times, pride is earned through hard work and persistence and sacrifice.

But there's a great deal of difference between self-absorbed and self-serving arrogance, and healthy confidence. And I'd like to think that you could understand why maybe we should start thinking of that kind of pride as actually being contentment in our accomplishments, that it served a purpose and was worth doing, regardless of the cost, or financial or personal benefit.

Doing the right thing even if it isn't the best thing for yourself.

It's not about being a martyr or sacrificing yourself for other people and causes. It's about being content with yourself that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do, especially when it impacts other people. To thine own self be true. It's about being honest with yourself that you have actually done everything you know how to do the best you know how to do whatever you believe you need to do, and if you're not willing to do that, then why do it?

Let me ask you this, and I think I'll have actually made my point.

Let's stipulate that America has responsibilities, special responsibilities to the world because we believe that in some way, God has anointed us as the righteous power with the moral highground, chosen to cause liberty and reflect the values of Christianity in the world.

If I told you I could provide you with documentation that proves a certain country was guilty of crimes against humanity for things the Nazis were put to death for - things like medical experimentation on people without their knowledge through their personal physicians who keep the secrets like the implantation of tracking devices in newborn babies without their parents knowledge... things like that...

If you knew about that, would you be willing to send troops into that country to liberate the people? Would you want the United States to at least TRY to do something? Would you approve of using economic sanctions against them to force them to respect human rights? Would you at least have the opinion that they are bad people?

See, I'm assuming you could pick one of those answers and say it works for you, even if it isn't exactly what you might think or do. That's an example of you settling for options given to you, not choosing how you'd like things to be.

Here's the bad news in that quasi-trick question: The nation I'm talking about, although it isn't the only one doing this sort of thing, but is a leader in promoting this sort of thing, is the United States.

Read this. It's a statement from former astronaut, then Senator John Glenn, delivered on the floor of the Senate, quoted from the Congressional Record during the Clinton Administration:

Jan 22, 1997

The PRESIDING OFFICER. The bill will be received and appropriately referred.

Mr. GLENN. Madam President, if I approached any Senator here and I said,

‘‘You did not know it, but the last time they went to the doctor or went to the hospital, your wife or your husband or your daughter or your son became the subject of a medical experiment that they were not even told about. They were given medicine, they were given pills, they were given radiation, they were given something and were not even told about this, were not even informed about it, yet they are under some experimental research that might possibly do them harm—maybe some good will come out of it, but maybe it will do them harm also—but they do not know about it,’’ people would laugh at that and say that is ridiculous.

That cannot possibly happen in this country. Yet, that very situation is what this piece of legislation is supposed to address. I have been in public life and have served this country for many years.

Frankly, I do not think too many things that I see surprise me anymore about our laws and about Government. Three years ago, though, I began to learn about a gap in our legal system that does truly concern me. In 1993 the Governmental Affairs Committee began to investigate the cold war radiation experiments. These experiments are one of the unfortunate legacies of the cold war, when our Government sponsored experiments involving radiation on our own citizens without their consent. They did not even know the experiments were being run on them. It was without their consent.

One of the most infamous of these experiments took place in my own State of Ohio, when scores of patients at the University of Cincinnati were subjected to large doses of radiation during experimental treatments, without their consent, without their informed consent. During the course of this investigation, I began to ask the question, what protections are in place to prevent such abuses from happening again? What law prohibits experimenting on people without their informed consent?

What I found, when I looked into it, is there is no law on the books requiring that informed consent be obtained. More important, I believe there is a need for such a law, as there continue to be cases where this basic right—I do view it as a basic right—is abused. As I started out, I would like to put this on a personal level for everyone of my colleagues. You just think about your own family, your own son, your own daughter, or grandchildren who might be, the next time they go to a doctor, the subject of some medical experiment that they are not even told about. I do not think there can be many things more un-American than that.

John Glenn left us quite a legacy in this piece of evidence about the criminal activities of the United States Government, let alone under the administration of a man and a political party we believed was the standard bearer of rights in this country. And it's incredible when you do more research and discover that even worse crimes are being committed that I don't mention because I don't think you're prepared to believe it yet.

Of course we don't want to believe that our government would close Gitmo like a gesture of the end of torture, serving as an ample subterfuge and icon that torture and evil treatment has ended now, all the while knowing it continues covertly to harm innocent Americans on American soil with the knowledge and approval of the government.

Knowing there are plenty of people in power who know it's going on, and who either know it and agree with the practices, or know and don't want to make waves, and so they acquiesce, they go along to get along, which makes them accomplices to crimes.

I'm telling you, one way or another, it's all vanity. You could say it's money, it's power, it's insanity but no matter how you look at it it's vanity.

The kind of vanity, evil and destructive vanity, the kind when people become "too big for their britches", when they lose sight of the objectives they so believed in when they began their path, when they turn their backs on their principles even just for a moment to gain politically, thinking it will turn out better later on when they are part of the "leadership" clique...

It's that kind of vanity that has us, even at work, let other things slide that are theoretically not your responsibility and for the business to fail or lose money.

But if you were really working as part of a team, not seeking to advance because of other peoples failures, committed to delivering an excellent product or result and then doing your job and whatever else you could do to help cause the success and achievement of the goal....

That could be as a company, a politician, a servant of God, an Angel...

That would be my idea of putting one's self aside for a greater purpose. Letting down the guards generated by vanity just long enough for more important things to take precedence over your pride and self-esteem. Like praying, letting your mind be silent and setting your "self" aside so that you can hear what God is saying to you. By listening to those you previously considered to be beneath you. By trying to really understand what's at the core of the difference between you and someone you think you don't like, or who doesn't like you.

Be willing to believe that what you think is true, your preconceived notions, media images, political hopes and dreams for leadership and government.. be willing to always re-check whether whether what you think is true is actually true. Do that for a week or so about a few subjects you have an opinion about. The world will change for yourself and every other life you touch.

We live in a time of deception upon deception upon deception. And you'll be amazed to discover, as I did, how many things are not the way it seems. And you won't like the way they really are.

I like to receive gifts. But I have to tell you, there are few gifts that make me laugh in glee more than seeing the rippling effect of something I do or say when it takes hold and turns into "reality" in the world around me, and benefits people's lives.  Especially because it's so easy to do. And especially when the integrity of the intent of my "little nudges" is respected in the way they are used.

It's like when God gives humanity the technology of Psychotronics, which could provide a great number of medical benefits that would be considered true miracles, and instead of providing the relief of suffering with it, they keep it quiet and militarize it and covertly use it for evil.

That's true vanity to an extreme, the vanity for want of power, where lives are cheap and expendable in pursuit of greater power and control.

It's hard to separate politics from matters of religion, of Christianity... notice I didn't say government.  I said politics. And I don't just mean the politics of government.

And if you're wondering, what I want you to do, I'll grant you, I've spent hours and hours wondering what I could advise citizens, faithful and ministers, to do about it and the truth of the matter is in the the way, the truth and the light.. the truth.. that's the only thing that will make the difference.

Believing that if we live in the time of deception upon deception upon deception that you consider that you've been deceived, just a many are waking up to the fact that their religions have been hijacked and the people being promoted and appearing in the media and on TV don't really represent the majority of people who call themselves Christians. Like politicians, they're the closest thing to it.

So my actual advice would be to consider the reasons for the original establishment of churches, as a place to offer protection for sects to gather and, at least unto themselves, worship as they chose, gather and commune as they chose, and inside the confines of their walls, be able to inform one another of events and politics and laws that endangered them and their freedom to worship. The church was a central focal point of providing protection from tyranny, at least in terms of providing comfort and support as possible.

Think about this. In many ways, the people who would have us believe that our purpose in life emanates from our ability and willingness to fit into a conformed, incorporated society in order to survive in this world as it is as opposed to learning to live and love in a balanced way, not focusing on the idea that human value and success and happiness is based upon job status and earnings. Quality of life is about living life well and enjoying its fruits, not exploiting them and collecting them at the expense of others.

In another way, as society has evolved and our world has become more money and peer oriented, unions have replaced churches in many ways. It might take you a while to realize that, but think about it. How many ways has "the way the world is" caused you to decide that God's old rules didn't apply anymore... be honest about that with yourself.

I'm feeling more than a little silly these days because here I am, saying I knew my whole life that in some way or another I figured I'd end up being a minister, and I've seriously been wondering for months, if not for years, why I never wanted to go to churches, and of course I could always make a case for my reasons and I have a right to my reasons, but the truth is for whatever reasons, I assumed that I would be judged and not fit in with churches, and maybe it was or wasn't because of experiences with churches or Christians, the fact is when you get right down to it, it was because of vanity.

My vanity for wanting to make a difference in such a place, and feeling like I would be given the opportunity because I don't look the type or do all the things or believe all the same things they believe, and I don't like to join things I don't believe in, even with fun, nice people, and it's vanity because I really would like to be acknowledged for what I do for people sometimes.

It's vanity, and judgmentalism and stereotypes. Blaming other people. That's the part that's hard but that I like, is taking on the idea that even when you're right about what gives you the reasons for what you feel, there's something you can look at and always see something about the way you view it and think about it and act about it could be improved somehow.

I wrote a letter to the government of Israel about the invasion of Gaza, and quoted these scriptures.

Leviticus 26:40: If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers, with their trespass which they trespassed against me, and that they have also walked contrary unto me;

41: And that I also have walked contrary unto them....

The beauty of that is like, there are always two sides to every story...

And then, setting aside whoever or whatever you think I am, but honoring that I had a vision when I was a child that convinced me that God had something special in mind for me, and I never questioned that or my faith in God.

So then. I would challenge Christians and ministers to inquire as to what it is about the presentation of churches, or Christians, that would have someone like me, the possibility of Christ and God in the Flesh in your world, feel so certain that I would be rejected by Christians?

Why would anyone have that sort of feeling toward a religion honoring the life and example of Jesus and the incredible forgiveness and love of God appear as judgmental, unforgiving and unwelcoming as that?

It doesn't matter if it's true or not.

Frankly, I don't want to belabor that in this setting, but I have a great number of ideas and, frankly, ways of my own that I believe will alleviate many of those barriers.  And I don't want to be telling Christians or people of any  faith that they've done something wrong because they haven't.

It has more to do with the inquiry that would have Jesus remind us that His purpose, His reason for being was not to save those who have been saved, but to save those who had not, explaining why He would dine and "hang out" with non-Christians.

It is, however, time we change gears from "holding the church, the body of Christ together" until the end times, and the anti-Christ are defeated. It will be a time of opening our minds to include and understand one another in more intimate ways than we thought possible between people and cultures and religions, so that we discover that we all have so much in common.

It's not about giving up beliefs. It's about understanding that there is more available. More understanding in every way that will answer questions that were answered long ago but ignored by those who deceive you now.

And it will be my prayer that our vanity, as individuals, as nations, and as a family of His children, will not prevent us from seeing the truth of this world, and the truth and blessings of His world.

There is one other form of vanity I want to discuss, because it is a sort of introduction to apostasy, and is also what I believe is one of the most disturbing forms of using God's name in vain.

When you work for a company, you represent that company, and your conduct is part of how that company is evaluated. If you drive a truck with the name of a company on it and drive rudely, you do harm to the company that gives you a job.

When people display an agape emblem, do you realize you are identifying yourself as a testament to the kind of person and conduct representing God and the example of Christ?

When you are in a business, and identify yourself a a business run by Christians, do you feel any greater obligation to provide fair trade and quality products, with the integrity to stand behind your work and products as God would have you do in "a perfect world"? Because, if you're a Christian who would want people to know that's the sort of world you stand for and the kind of high ethics you live by, under the banner of God, then you need to accept that responsibility.

And I'm sorry to have to bring this up, and I'm not saying it's always like this, but  frankly, if I see a business advertising their religiousness, I avoid them. I expect more of them in terms of service and quality and integrity. I hope this won't always be true and maybe that this hasn't been your experience, but it has been mine.

And then I resent them using God for the purpose of using God to attract business. Now I know that's part of using God's name in vain.

Please remember, what you do with your life and how you behave and represent yourself is between you and God. When you put God on display like that, it is for your benefit, not God's, and it is using His name in vain. You should be honest about the way you use your relationship and the image of God to glorify yourself for vanity of one sort or another, and then, please, stop doing it. And regardless of what you may tell someone in the world, God knows the truth. Don't be afraid of that.

Just understand it. And then, maybe even for vanity's sake, consider how you would look if other people knew that truth.

No matter what context you put it in, there's something no one can deny, and that is the fact that vanity influences everything we do. The counterbalance for our consciousness is most certainly the Golden Rule, although the Golden Rule is much more than that.

For me, I just have to think Ecclesiastes anymore to bring myself back down to earth and to be able to regain the focus I have on the vision of the world to come. It keeps me honest. It keeps me focused on what's important.

And it reminds me that giving is receiving, and that receiving is about contentment with what is available. Not settling for what is offered. But seeing what is, and nurturing and causing it to be all that it can be, like a father to a child, or patiently enjoying the pleasure that comes of planting seeds and watering the roots, exposing it to the light of day and seeing its beauty as the flower comes to full bloom.

It's not about rules or requirements or expectations and judgmentalism and righteousness, it's about empowerment. And you don't even have to be a Christian to understand that or benefit from the wisdom of Ecclesiastes.

That's the possibility provided by Ecclesiastes in applying and living the Golden Rule, and in causing the full establishment of the Kingdom of God.

I hope I am always able to look at my life and the world and discover even more new ways that this is true.

And be willing to do so in the face of one of the most difficult frailties of human nature to overcome, because of the fear of being unloved.

But never forget that God has faith in YOU.

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