HERE – NOW – OUR DESTINY! Part 2 – What?

1Corinthians: 3: 8-10: “The one who plants and the one who waters have the same purpose, and each will be rewarded for their own work. We are God’s workers, working together…Using the gifts God gave me, I laid the foundation of that house…Others are building on it, but everyone should be careful how they build on it.”

PlantWatering_Foundation
So, what does God have planned for us? When dealing with this question I’ll say it up front: I AM NOT trying to out-think GOD…repeat: I AM NOT trying to out-think God! That would be the height of presumption, arrogance and blasphemy. What I’m hoping to do is just to provide focus for all of us as to why we’re here…and here NOW.
Hopefully, what I can provide is some comfort in the security of knowing that GOD IS IN CONTROL—and beyond any doubt–HE IS!

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(Pix above)  Beyond any doubt, God is in control.

We know our starting point (see Part 1) is to humbly serve others any way we can.
Romans:13:8-11: “…always owe love to each other, because the person who loves others has obeyed all the law….All these commands are really one rule: Love thy neighbor as thyself…Do this because we live in an important time…” .
Once we’ve progressed past our starting point God begins to let us know our direction.
Romans: 12:2: “Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you…”
Once we get a feeling of what God wants us to do (keep in mind we can each receive more than one gift) we can move to the “now” part of our destiny.
But what is there about “now” that makes it so special? That’s easy to answer if we start with a macro-view of civilization. The development of Western Civilization has been highlighted by several clusters of years marked by a certain predominance of thought and achievement such as the Renaissance, the Reformation, Age of Reason, Age of Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution, and that’s to name a few. It’s also interesting to note that the one period of time where nothing happened to advance mankind is also given its own distinction: the Dark Ages.
DarkAges
The “dark Ages” also given its own distinction.
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Currently, we are in the Information Age- particularly: the Digital Age. With the refinements to computers & their ability to transmit data, we’ve gone from incredibly fast transmission to immediate transmission! With the development of social media–we can communicate with ANYONE in the world–immediately! Add to this the video capabilities of smart-phones and you have something truly remarkable–everyone can be their own media outlet–sending on the spot coverage of ANY event EVERYWHERE in the world–IMMEDIATELY!
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Communication, anywhere, anytime, in this high tech digital age.
I’m sure we can think of recent examples of how these capabilities sent images of important events worldwide. But now a new question surfaces: can this new communicative capability help expand the event it’s covering ? In his fascinating book, “Egypt Unsch@ckled”. Denis Campbell (@ UKProgressive) asks that very question: “The debate that still rages is whether or not this revolution was a continuation of that same spirit( extreme Nationalism?) or a technological marvel driven by Twitter, Face- book & other social media tools. The answer is…‘yes’ to both.”
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Social media can effect change quickly, as demonstrated by Denis Campbell’s book, “Egypt Unshackled”

The power of the social media has been evidenced recently when PIPA and SOPA legislation was stopped in literally a few days! It seems as if the true power of social media is in its infancy. No one can doubt the fact that they have become a force for change that must be reckoned with? Recently, Twitter announced that its user list had grown to 500-million . Just think of that–500-MILLION people across the world are linked to communicate at any time–IMMEDIATELY!
So where does that leave us? I think it’s safe to say that God has us here…NOW…to COMMUNICATE! This brings us to the next question–communicate WHAT? Again, let’s go to the book that answers every question. Romans:16:17-19: “…I ask you to look out for those who cause people to be against each other and who upset other people’s faith. They are against the true teaching you learned, so stay away from them. Such people are not serving our lord Jesus Christ but are only doing what pleases themselves. They use fancy talk and fine words to fool the minds of those who do not know about evil….But I want you to be wise in what is good and innocent in what is evil.”
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Also, in Mark:8:38: “The people who live now are living in a sinful and evil time. If people are ashamed of me and my teaching, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes with his father’s glory and with the Holy Angels.”

So, among our tasks, we MUST communicate the teachings–the GOOD NEWS– of Jesus Christ! The following passage should clarify what we OPPOSE:

Matthew:23:3-14;27: ”the teachers tell you to do things–but they don’t do them. They are unwilling to help those who struggle under the weight of their rules. They do good things so that others will see them. They love to have the most important seats at the feasts. They love to be greeted with respect in public. They are hypocrites! They take away widows’ houses…then say long prayers so that people will notice them…They give to God 1/10th of all they earn, but they don’t obey the really important teachings of the law–justice, mercy & loyalty!….People see them and think they’re good–but on the inside, they are full of hypocrisy and evil!”.
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“….they don’t see the really important teachings…like justice, mercy & loyalty…

Where does this leave us politically? Well, all I can say is that the Bible can be used for all sides of Congressional, and Presidential, debates. You’ve heard ultra Right-wingers quote the Bible for their ends. Naturally, the Progressives also have some very good arguments. But instead of clarifying issues, quoting the Bible has only added to intolerance and anger. So, maybe the best thing to do is forget our “labels” and concentrate on the  message.
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“We must try to forget labels…”
Before I continue, I want to clarify that I am NOT saying that we are here because God wants us to buy a smart-phone and go on Face-book and Twitter. What I‘m emphasizing is the confluence of our presence and our abilities- PLUS the type of TOOLS God has helped mankind to develop. Given current events, in this country & others, these tools must be utilized totally! The reason: We must spread the “Good News” of the only candidate that matters–Jesus. Plus, we must also spread the message of God’s love and of his many gifts to all  people!
The way I see it, our job isn’t to do the “converting” – – just the “convincing”. Let’s just do what we can to get people to try reading the Bible, or attending service, or praying…something that puts them in a position where God (Jesus) does the converting. After all, who can do that job better than Him? What I’m attempting to do NOW(see my “Homepage”), is not converting–but hopefully convincing you (& others) to take at least one avenue–the Bible.
If there has ever been a challenge to Christ’s Gospels and teachings–it’s here–NOW. Well…we are also HERE–NOW- so…as a popular  TV commentator says each time he begins his show, “Let’s Get To Work!”
VoteSmart
Vote smart—vote for Jesus!

Let’s fulfill our destiny! But remember, before you get too tense–RELAX–GOD IS IN CONTROL! As long as we do everything we can using the gifts and abilities he has given to us–trust in the fact–HE WILL PROVIDE!

I will go in the strength of the Lord God; I will make mention of your righteousness–of yours only!” Psalm:71:16

Aside

HERE – NOW – OUR DESTINY! Part 1 – Why?
by Bill Byrnes
Illustrator–Rich Gowran

“ I am your creator. You were in my care even before you were born.”
Isaiah:44:2

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“You were in my care even before you were born”

How many times have we heard: “You only go round once…!” and then told that being the case we should buy such and such product? Well, yes, we have only this one life–but it’s meant for much more than mere consumptions.
I’m sure we have wondered “why are we here?”. What helps to answer this question is to actually expand it: “Why are we here–NOW?
why are we here question
Why are we here – NOW?

Ephesians 2:10: “God made us to do good works, which he PLANNED in ADVANCE for us to live our lives doing.”

Think of all the different peoples and cultures throughout the history of the world; why weren’t we born into their life and times? And even in today’s world, why are we who we are at this very moment? Because God chose the time, the place, and the tasks for us–that’s why! He has even chosen our “gifts”, or abilities that we are to use. We might not know what our special abilities are–but make no mistake about it–ALL believers have them! 1Corinthians:12:4-7: “There are different kinds of gifts but they are all from the Holy Spirit. There are different ways to serve but the same Lord to serve. And there are different ways that God works thru people but the same God works in ALL of us in everything we do. Something from the Holy Spirit can be seen in each person.”
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“Something from the Holy Spirit can be seen in each person.’

The starting point for all of us is found in Mark:9:35: “…whoever wants to be the most important must be last of all and servant to all.” Also in Matthew:18: 1-4: His followers asked ‘Who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?’ Jesus called a little child to him and stood the child before his followers and said, ‘I tell you the truth, you must change and become like little children. Otherwise you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven. There, the greatest person is the one who makes himself humble like this child.’”.
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“There, the greatest person is the one who makes himself humble like this child.’”.

So now we know where to begin. Let’s review the facts: 1) We have only one life; 2)God has planned out good works for each and every one of us .This includes special tasks for which he has given us special gifts. Some of us will have large tasks & receive large gifts–others not as much. But what we have is ours–assigned by God! We all have the same starting point–using humility like that of a child we must serve everyone we can in any way we can. The only limits being ones of morality and of the 2nd greatest commandment(do unto others as you would have them do unto you). 3) God also planned for us to be alive–NOW–to do the good works planned for us.
Next—Part 2: What ?

Aside

Don’t Lose Your Salt!

Matthew: 5:13 You are the salt of the earth…
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You are the salt of the earth…

Whenever we hear this quote we think about Jesus comforting the average, day-to-day worker and that’s a good thing! But I’m certain there’s more to it than that. Salt does have a unique place in history. It’s been a significant factor in the development of civilization. It was used to flavor, preserve and purify, and, was also used as medicine.
Some interesting facts about salt:
* Neolithic settlements were discovered near salt springs;
* In ancient Greece salt was exchanged for slaves– giving rise to the phrase-“not worth their salt …”;
* Hippocrates, father of modern medicine, encouraged all healers to use salt water for healing various ailments;
* the earliest treatise on pharmacology, composed in China in approximately 2,700 B.C. discussed over 40 kinds of salt;
* Early Mideast traders found the value of salt EQUAL to the value of gold–ounce per ounce;
*the book of Leviticus called for salt to be added to all burnt animal sacrifices(2:13).

The history of salt offers many more interesting facts. But, with this expanded view of salt’s value- we can see much deeper meaning in this quote from the book of Matthew.
It sounds like Jesus was telling his disciples( & all Christians) how valuable they really were! Also, it’s easy to see the metaphor of being the “preservative” for mankind, protecting it from “rotting away” from all forms of sinful behavior. Follow this into the application of the “purification” of society–the striving for total absence of sin; unattainable, yes,(Romans:3:23) but why not set the bar high? Finally, salt gives a fulfilling, satisfying flavor to food. When we strive to become more Christ-like, thru our love of God, our life takes on an indescribable flavor–a flavor generated by love, and giving to others. We experience that feeling generated by the tranquility and security of knowing that our “father” is there for us now and–FOREVER!
But, there is also a warning. Let’s look at the rest of this quote: “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its salty taste, it cannot be made salty again. It is good for nothing, except to be thrown out and walked on.” What is Jesus saying?—When you talk the talk you HAD BETTER walk the walk! How many times have you observed very “pious”, holy, people caught up in scandalous behavior? We can all think of some names here, but, that’s not necessary. What’s important is that the respectability & influence of these people is gone. They have lost their “salt”–and will never recover it!  When we’re caught contradicting ourselves–flip-flopping–we lose credibility. We lose the “flavor” thru which we gained respectability for both us & our viewpoints!
As all of us move forward throughout our lives, something we must remember as we try to advance Christian causes is to remain CONSISTENT! We cannot fall into the trap of compromising what we believe in for any gains, whether temporary or perceived. Any compromises we make will take the “flavor” out of any  of our good, “Christ-like”,  actions . Jesus  experienced the extreme measure of not compromising(either his teachings or his mission) thru crucifixion. But, in a metaphoric sense, us and our causes will verbally be “crucified”  if we give in and start “flip-flopping” on our values and beliefs.
Remember this: however tough it gets–above all–DON’T LOSE YOUR SALT!

The Homecoming

Aside

THE HOMECOMING
Somewhere in Northeastern Egypt–3A.D.– Reporter:  Bill Byrnes

It was more than overcast skies that made this day different from the others. The young father knew that because of the dreams he had over the last couple of days. These dreams, were identical to ones he had a few years ago. At that time, just  after the birth of his young son, they told him to quickly leave Bethlehem and go to Egypt. Now, these dreams told him it was safe to return to the “homeland”.

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Joseph returns home from Egypt with his wife Mary and son Jesus.

His wife finished getting their 3-yr old son ready while he finished packing their mule. After helping her onto her mount, Joseph held his young son. As he cuddled the boy, amidst the subsequent giggling, he said, “Son, today your journey begins–and, as all of us know–it’s a journey that the entire world will watch. Let us return home–it’s safe there for you now!”

Matthew: 2:21: “And he arose, took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.”

Death of King Herod

For what shall it profit a man if he should gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what should a man give in exchange for his own soul?Mark:8:36-37.

BRUTAL MONARCH SUFFERS “EXCRUTIATING DEATH!”
Jericho, Judea, 3 A.D. (4 B.C.) Reporter: Bill Byrnes

Despite, recent, last-minute attempts by King Herod the Great to find cures at the springs at Callirrhoe, at the North end of the Dead Sea, it was learned that he succumbed to his long standing illnesses, yesterday. He was sixty-nine.

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Brutal monarch, King Herod The Great

Part of this attempt was moving him on a stretcher from his winter home in Jericho to this hot-springs area. His body will be returned to Jericho for final preparations. Sources close to Herod’s survivors say that from there, his funeral procession will proceed to the Herodium, outside, Nazareth, where he’ll be buried.
During his thirty-seven year reign, Herod’s tremendous military and civic achievements were surpassed only by his brutality. Whereas ruthlessness is a common trait of rulers in this era, Herod brought it to new levels. His many victims included his favorite wife, Mariamne and her mother! Anyone even rumored to have “designs” on the throne was “fair-game”. This included three of his own sons and his young brother-in-law, Aristobulous. In fact, Herod died only five days after ordering the death of another son, Antipater. It’s no wonder that Caesar Augustus once commented: “I would rather be Herod’s pig than one of his sons!”
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Caesar Augustus

These are but a few of a long list of Herod’s victims, however, he’ll certainly be immortalized for his “slaughter of the innocents” in Bethlehem. This occurred three years ago. At that time, Herod gave audience to three travelers– Magi– seeking the birthplace of the Messiah, the long awaited King of the Jews. After the Magi ignored his request that they return thru Jerusalem, to inform him of the whereabouts of the new king, he went “crazy” with rage. He ordered members of his army to proceed to the small village and kill every male child two years old and younger. There was never any official count taken–no one wanted that task! However based on the usual population of Bethlehem, this amounted to approximately 20 newborn males. Despite this extreme action, no reports have ever been heard of any “Messiah”, either escaping or perishing. In fact, nothing has been heard of since. ”
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King Herod ordering the “Slaughter of the Innocents”

Sources within the Temple say that despite the fact that Herod’s illness started just before the slaughter, its increasing intensity must be God’s punishment for the horrible slayings he perpetrated. These illnesses started with light fever, followed by inflammation wherever he was touched. Soon, came “heavy” itching requiring constant scratching. Herod developed extremely painful ulceration of his bowels and intestinal area. During the final stages of his illness, he developed dropsy, as the liver became enlarged and his abdominal area filled with fluid. His scrotum became enormously distended and his entire pubic-area developed gangrene with subsequent infestation by maggots. His physicians agreed that the last three to five years of Herod’s life were incredibly painful.
It is rumored that surviving sons Archelaus, Antipas and Phillip will each rule over parts of the kingdom to be designated by Roman authority. After their father’s funeral, they’ll proceed to Rome for dispensation of an agreement. This is despite the fact that Herod named Archelaus as sole surviving king just before his death.

Reporter’s Note: See previous article–”The Homecoming”

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