30 November 2014

Choose Your Programming Wisely

Many are the programmed media choices available to the westernized world.  My favorite choices on teevee are animal documentaries and non-fictional and non-dramatized accounts of past events.  My favorite choices on the radio are jazz, classical and most rhythmic music without lyrics.  When I do watch or listen to the 'news,' it is mostly to see what the latest cultural instigation is.  The news is typically the latest 'new' atrocity happening either domestically or internationally, or the latest celebrity debutante airing her or his depravity as if they've achieved a new height of social classification.  The information within the news, television, radio and popular film seems to always have a particular recipe in the manner it is told.  It is all about framing.  It is the manner in which a story is told which depicts the desired perception.  ( please read a bit about framing at the link )

I see also lots of the negative news being broadcast and shared via social media.  One needs to ask themselves: what are you filling their mind, heart and conscience with when reading and forwarding such things.  There is a way to mention these things and have solutions ready to be talked about instead of simply forwarding them and venting, which I've done enough of.  

When I was studying mass communications at the university, I realized what a mighty and deceptive sword was being wielded in media programming.  The opinions and the manner in which fiction and non-fiction is fed to the world takes great responsibility.  Hatred can be fostered.  Peace can be reasoned.  Fear can be administered.  Unity can be beckoned.  Strife can be programmed.  But what is seen in the news is usually negative.  What gets the attention of many movie goers is sex, explosions, gun play and car chases.  Most pop music is layered with lyrics full of sensuality, one-night stands and treating women like objects and furthering the boasting of male conquest.  The failure is that there is a great lack of responsibility in media broadcasting.  Most of this type of broadcasting is focused on maximizing profits rather than putting out something edifying which nurtures the spirit of mankind. 

In today's news programming, the type of flavor you receive in the conditioned recipe depends on the agenda behind the source.  You can read some of these examples here, here and here.  Some say conspiracy theory while others say conspiracy fact.  Read these for yourself and consider why some information makes the news and some items do not or any given news item is only mentioned in a particular way.  As in real life and scientific experiments, what is at one time a mere theory can become a fact. 

Choose Your Programming Wisely.  

This reality brings me to this point; you have choices to make in consuming media.  You have the choice to jump in and try to figure it all out.  You can, as I once did, keep up with some specific distractions.  I used to think I could get to the bottom of an issue, hoping I would be able to enlighten my friends and relatives.  I thought this was a noble purpose.  Within this good intention, I found that I had been wrong at times.  I had sometimes believed something that was made up or partly false.

Folks make things up all the time to bring attention onto some obscure things, with no easily found facts to back up the claims.  If you must look into things, remember to look for citations and resources ( footnotes ) at the bottom of any given entry / article.  If they don't exist or the citations are another opinion blog, most likely it is slanted or framed.  This isn't always the case, but it is a starting point into reality apart from fiction.

Some things are made up portray someone, a group or a topic in an unfavorable light, with suspicion or distrust.  This is the aim of politics.  I realized I had been misled at times in following opinion aside from fact.  And if opinion happens to be true, we are dealing with people after all and who doesn't make mistakes?  Looking to the core issue would bring solutions, like making sure someone in a very responsible position being able to be removed / fired through the proper channels instead of hiding behind impunity and immunity from consequences. 

These are some ways today's media, including news, radio and film, is used.   This is sometimes by design, other times by accident because the producers and directors have an agenda in their subconscious or are ignorant of the facts themselves.  It is very tempting to keep track of the sins / crimes / shortcomings of others, and for some this is their actual vocation.  But what does this develop within someone unless they are going to do something positive about it?  Listening to, following and arguing about what the news tells you to argue ( framing ) sometimes ends up being another discussion at the water cooler... and this means the aim of the program director worked.

The media and social media is a gigantic virtual water cooler.  It can be consumed and forwarded responsibly. 

Choose pure clean water over drinking the Kool-Aid.

Choose Your Programming Wisely.  

29 November 2014

You Control Media Consumer Choices

Unless you have set your life on a course to replace the issues, what are you doing reading and following the nonsense on television and radio?  I don't mean join the groups with problems to change them from the inside out, this is usually impossible and a recipe of losing yourself within that group needing reform.  How about starting a group that does the goodly opposite to answer the bad the other group is doing?

I used to think that keeping track of evil and the evil doers was doing myself and mankind a great service.  What I was really doing was sapping out my faith and hope... in God, in myself and in humanity... and forwarding this faithlessness and hopelessness onto others.  The exact opposite of what I really wanted to do.  I realized I was drowning myself with misery because misery is what keeps nations and peoples subdued.  I was taking their pill willingly. 

We all have a battle within in us to do what is right as opposed to the desire to do what is wrong, so there is no need to magnify and forward the wrong others are doing.  The answer is to forward the good... and make better choices than the bad examples you've noticed.

One way to start is to choose to unplug from the machine which distracts, instigates and divides the people.  What would happen to your mind, your heart and your conscience if you were to cut off that television news, that radio and the other forms of media that suspend your thoughts?  What would happen if you did this for 24 hours?  Or 48 hours?  How about taking a day-by-day challenge and starting with one day / 24 hours?  Assess your thought patterns.  Assess what your mind gravitates to when you have not fed it emotional music, mind-bending 'bad' news and instigating talk radio ( or whatever is your poison of choice ) for at least 24 hours. 

Choose your programming wisely. 

28 November 2014

The Message: GO - SPEL the Beans

To "spill the beans" means: to give away a secret or a surprise, to tell people secret information.

Gospel / noun / ˈɡäspəl /  Old English gōdspel, from gōd ‘good’ + spel ‘news, a story’, translating ecclesiastical Latin bona annuntiatio or bonus nuntius, used to gloss ecclesiastical Latin evangelium, from Greek euangelion ‘good news’ (see evangel); after the vowel was shortened in Old English, the first syllable was mistaken for god ‘God.’

- the teaching or revelation of Christ

- a thing that is absolutely true

- a set of principles or beliefs

In the message of the Gospel, there exists the hope for life after death because some One had come back from the dead in plain view of many.  This is the good news; the hope that there is life after death!

In the message of the Gospel, faith in the unseen is both explained and exemplified in the person of Yeshua.  This is the good news; God has been revealed!

In the message of the Gospel, there is a lifestyle unseen and only observed by following Christ.  This is the good news; seeing the hidden things of life through the eyes of God!

In the message of the Gospel, love is described in the most unusual way.  This is the good news; love your enemies, for God is protecting the faithful with His angels.

In the message of the Gospel, peace is the pursuit despite the incivility of others.  This is the good news; be at peace everyone, allowing God to be sovereign and be the judge.

In the message of the Gospel, religion is buried along with things that don't lead to righteousness.  This is the message; there is a freedom in Christ that isn't sinful that the religious do not understand.

In the message of the Gospel, there is no pride in family names, heritage or titles.  This is the message; whoever wants to be greatest must become the servant of all others.

Have you realized the Gospel is spread by your lifestyle, your actions, your words and your thoughts?  We live in a spiritual age.  We live in a time where the things which are invisible are greater than the things that are material... and the darkness does not understand.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

- John 1: 5

27 November 2014

ThanksGiving; Giving Thanks; Thanks For-Giving

Today is the day the country, who has inspired a worldwide dream, celebrates with eating turkey and an assortment of sides.  For me growing up, my particular brand of food on this day was the traditional turkey along with black beans and rice, fried plantains and other Cuban food staples. 

What is today's day of celebration about?  Is it for an abundance of food and provisions?  Is it being the example that most of the world imitates?  Is it the dream of independence and the ideals that are broadcast overseas via movies, television and music programming?  This day means different things to different people.  For most it is following in-step with a tradition of eating too much and meeting with family you haven't seen / spoken to all year.  For some it is waiting for the next day to buy things. 

Let's have fun with a play on words, shall we?

Thanksgiving.  This is what today is called.  ( read the historical account at the link )

Thanks + Giving.  Giving thanks.  This evening, some folks actually discuss what they are thankful / grateful for.  Some, however, simply dig in and start stuffing their face like that turkey has been stuffed.  I remember suggesting at one Thanksgiving dinner years ago for everyone to share what they are thankful for.  It was great to hear.  Some repeated what others said while some came up with some heartfelt and original things to be grateful for.  I didn't learn to do this from my family, speaking about heartfelt things out loud at the dinner table; it was taught to me at the 'church' I was attending at the time.  I am grateful for those lessons of the heart.  I am also grateful for my family and what they did teach me and the love that was always there.

Giving + Thanks.  Today some folks are making phone calls to family and friends and thanking them.  Maybe it is to the boss who gave you the chance when their better judgment said not to hire you... but they did... and you have done good so far.  Some calls are to a relative or a friend who helped you out this year when you were in a jam.  They didn't have to, but they did... and you were helped out in a major way.  Some calls are to relatives who are too far away and not able to make the trip to break bread with you.  Some calls are to thank grandma for her love, good cooking and warm hugs.  Some calls are to thank grandpa for being solid as a rock when others lost their heads.  Some calls are to your sister or brother for still acting like a sister and a brother despite your differences.  Some calls are to children who have grown up and are on their own; thanking them for turning out to be people you are proud to call your children.

Thanks + [ For ] + Giving.  Today, you could be grateful for the gift of giving.  Yes, some people are thankful for having the ability to give to others.  They have more than enough and are able to give to those who have much of nothing.  This is what the story about today is all about!  As the story goes, the first God-fearing group of pilgrims landed on the east coast of this land.  It was the gratitude these particular immigrants felt in finding a new land free from religious persecution and tribute to tyrannical kings.  It was the gratitude the Pilgrims felt when they broke bread with a tribe of natives for three days and enjoyed a peaceful time of celebration.  They were welcomed, although they were strangers, "undocumented" immigrants and from a different background than the native-born.   

For me personally, I can't help but see all things through how God has done things.  I look at and I'm grateful for forgiveness ( For-Giving ) Today.  It was through Yeshua that the evidence of forgiveness was poured out onto those who believe.  And it is this gratitude for His grace which brings people together, even from different backgrounds.  The natives didn't know 'who' Christ Yeshua was, but they did believe in a Great Spirit, Father and Creator of all things. 

We could learn a lot from those Pilgrims.  We could learn a lot from those natives who broke bread with the Pilgrims.  We could learn a lot from the past so we can not repeat the mistakes.  We can also realize, though two peoples or many peoples be from different backgrounds, they in fact are of the same tribe: God's children. 

Thank God Today and every Day for all that you have... and for what He has done. 

Praise His Holy Name!

26 November 2014

A Law To Themselves

All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.  For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.  ( Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.  They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them. )  This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Yeshua Christ, as my gospel declares.

- Romans 2: 12-16

I think this passage reveals one of the most amazing mysteries for the believer.  This passage ( and the context of this chapter and other places ) seems to speak for those who, throughout the ages, have not known God's law ( those far and away from any knowledge of the law revealed to Moses ).  It also speaks to those who have yet to hear the Gospel.  And, if I dare say, speaks to those who have yet to encounter a real Christian living out the message of the Gospel, despite running into religious people.  We can read in the depictions of history that many people have gone in search of God, in search of what is good and in search of what is true.  God didn't abandon those outside of what would eventually be termed "the Jews" but had a plan for them as well.  He still has a plan for those who have yet to see a real Christ-like person and hear the Gospel of love, hope and faith.

I am very glad all will be judged through Yeshua Christ, for He was humble, loving, forgiving, understanding and the very definition of love.  He was the example of how a man can be righteous.  Imagine being judged by any other person, past or present.  Imagine being judged by a man who murdered others and justified it!  Imagine being judged by someone who can't stand the sight of you or deems you beneath him because you don't come from the same pedigree as them.  Imagine being judged according to your name or your skin color.  Imagine being judged by an imperfect and biased man.  Yeshua Christ is no such person.  All others were mere men, having sin attributed to them.  Yeshua Christ was no such person.

Let us look at what was said in times before the law:

God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah.  I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her.  I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old?  Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?”  And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.  I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.   And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers.  He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation.  But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.”

- Genesis 17: 15-21

The establishment of the covenant with Isaac didn't mean exclusion from the blessings of God for all other peoples.  Nor did this covenant mean automatic condemnation or darkness for all those not descended from Isaac.  God blessed Ishmael and his descendents, making them into a great nation.

How has God viewed all people throughout the ages?

I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.

- Jeremiah 17: 10

God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”  To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

- Romans 2: 6-8

Those who are descendents of Jacob / Israel, Ishmael and from other peoples have been granted the opportunity to know the righteousness that only comes by faith, not so much by religious adherence or heredity, but by believing the message of the Gospel.

But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify.  This righteousness is given through faith in Yeshua Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Yeshua.

- Romans 3: 21-24

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

- Genesis 15: 6

God's timing is and has always been precise in allowing certain things to happen, even the timing and exact places the Gospel of the risen Christ spread over the centuries.  His graceful hand has never been absent from any single person who has ever lived.  It is quite amazing what the Eternal Holy One has done and continues to do!

May His Holy Name be praised forevermore!

25 November 2014

We Are All Works In Progress

It is very interesting what one sees when walking.  I have traveled down the same paths in a car and haven't noticed half of what I do when I'm walking those same paths.  I don't think anyone can really get to know the city they live in, the neighborhood they reside in and the people who are your neighbors unless they walk around.  There is a disconnect when traveling in a metal box ( car ).  Sure, not everyone feels safe walking the streets / neighborhoods they can drive a car through, but there's a part of humanity that may be missed when not taking a closer look on foot.  There is a part of yourself that you may be neglecting, considering we are all one.

One may not appreciate what they have or where they live unless they travel through other neighborhoods.  The opposite could also be said and be true.  One may not realize what they don't have or where they don't live unless they travel through other neighborhoods. 

This morning I walked a few miles north and west from where I currently call home.  It was very interesting what I saw.  I saw people giving away free clothes.  I saw the houses and the property lots get smaller.  I saw the maintenance of properties diminish.  The wear and tear of time, sun, wind and rain being evident on houses and apartments alike.  I saw friendly people.  I saw people who were afraid to make eye contact.  I saw graffiti on the floor and on walls.  I also saw beautiful murals untouched by vandalism and speaking many things though being still and unchanging.

In seeing the things I saw, one could describe them as good and not so good.  But reflecting on what I did see, I was able to make a mental and spiritual thought about them.  I was able to pray.  I was able to pray for people and things I saw and heard. 

The highlight of the morning was speaking to a woman who was helping me close a business transaction.  I forgot how we got on the topic but I mentioned being married and she also said she was married as well.  I began to speak of all the wonderful things of married life.  When she asked how my wife and I met, here began an hour's worth of gratitude to God for maneuvering myself and my wife into becoming one.  The woman was very grateful to hear my good news and my gratitude. 

What really touched my heart was when she expressed how she wished to have a husband who prayed with her.  She says she's noticed her husband change for the better over the years regarding her faith.  She also lamented at how she yearned to be treated as I shared the manner in which I treat my wife.  I was sure to encourage her that we are all works in progress and shared certain passages of Scripture which speak to the faithful wife who has an unbelieving husband... and how God here too works His love and grace.  I asked her to stay faithful to God and her husband so her husband may soon be overcome with the love that God has for both of them and be grateful for the grace God has had for him all this time.

24 November 2014

Yeshua / Isa / Jesus Explained

It takes faith to 'see' what is unseen and to understand what is hidden.  The person who believes what God says has not only their heart but also their mind opened to what is spiritual within, besides and beyond the material.  This is what frustrates many scholars and 'geniuses' who look into these things but don't believe it to begin with. 

Yeshua ( called Isa in the Quran and Jesus in some English bibles, which is a name derived from a Greek translation of the Hebrew name Yeshua ) is the main theme and focus of the Gospel and letters in what is called the New Testament.  Depending on who you ask, the Old Testament is filled with references, inferences and predictions about Yeshua though not naming Yeshua directly.  

It takes faith ( believing the Word of God ) to see and understand these things, but once you do, it is quite amazing the world that God opens up for you.

Yeshua / Isa / Jesus / Word / Spirit of God is mentioned in the Quran arguably more than any other person or prophet.  This is quite remarkable. 

Here is a paragraph of what I would call the most accurate view and definition of Yeshua.  This description of the Mystery answers many of the questions within the three major religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  The person who wrote this did such a great job I won't bother changing or writing something myself:
Making use of the New Testament's distinguishing between Jesus, Son of Man - being the physical human Jesus - and Christ, Son of God - being The Holy Spirit of God residing in the body of Jesus - The Holy Spirit, being immortal and immaterial, is not subject to crucifixion, for it can never die, nor can it be touched by the earthly nails of the crucifixion, for it is a being of pure spirit.  Thus while the spirit of Christ avoided crucifixion by ascending unto God, the body that was Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, thereby bringing the Old Testament to final fulfillment.  Thus Qur'anic passages on the death of Jesus affirm that while the Pharisees intended to destroy The Son of God completely, they, in fact, succeeded only in killing The Son of Man, being his nasut (material being).  Meanwhile, The Son of God, being his lahut (spiritual being) remained alive and undying - because it is The Holy Spirit. - Louis Massignon  source
Further research can be done from the other citations at the link above.  That particular paragraph was written by Louis Massignon and is found in the Encyclopedia of Islam. 

Peace be with you who seek, may you find.

21 November 2014

Let The Strongest Man Win

There is a particular coffee shop I like to go to downtown.  The other day as I'm turning the corner to walk in the door, I notice there are no chairs or tables outside.  The windows have been covered up from the inside.  It was closed.  I wondered if they were doing some kind of remodeling.  So I reluctantly cross the street to go to the huge corporate coffee shop we all recognize too well.  After speaking to other customers that have also come across the street, I learn that the lease had expired.  The landowner now wanted $8,000 a month.  The previous lease was for $4,000 a month.  Nice job.

I am in downtown to meet a good friend for our weekly communion.  We sit down, sometimes get something to eat, and talk about our lives.  We talk about married life and how better to lead and love our wives.  We also talk about our struggles, our aspirations, our walk with God and talk about His mysteries.  I look forward to this time with my friend / brother every week.

After my time with him, I look for a table near an electrical outlet to get online and get some work done.  I ask to share a table with a gentleman who I earlier heard talking politics with someone.  This topic always grabs my attention.  So I sit there quietly and get to typing on my computer.  This man and another man are talking about how everyone who was going to the coffee shop across the street are now funneling into this one.  My mind begins a journey of thought.  I mention quietly that the rent was doubled.  This sparked a good hour long conversation about money, politics and religion... the three main topics of this blog.

My new friend and I journeyed through most of the phrasing and framing spoken on the mainstream media.  I pointed out to him that much of what he says is exactly what is said on teevee and radio.  It is difficult, for me included, to look past what is told to us as 'news.'  It is very difficult to look at the world in any other way.  It is called programming for a reason.

After some time talking about world powers and how one man always wants to dominate another, he says "Jesus said 'let the leaders of both nations battle it out and let the strongest man win...'"  Say WHAT?  I asked where exactly in the Gospel does it say that?  He didn't know but he said he was sure that Jesus had said this.  I had to tell him that in over 20 years of reading the Gospel I have yet to come across those words or that notion.  Perhaps he was speaking about the parable about a king with 10,000 men going to war against a king with 20,000 men and that the king with less should ask for terms of peace.  The 'let the strongest man win' is something quite unfamiliar to be understood from this parable and the Gospel in general.  But I did remember somewhere where this notion was played out.

I asked him if he knew the story of Cain and Abel.  He knew it and he pretty much spelled it out to me.  I asked him if he realized that Cain was most likely stronger than his brother.  He was older.  I mentioned that Abel's blood seeped into the ground.  This means that it was brutal, most likely not just a choking death.  It was a fight / attack that eventually cut the skin which made his blood pour out into the earth.  I pointed out that they were both giving portions of their work's effort to the Lord, but Abel gave his best while Cain didn't give his best.  I mentioned some real world analogies.  Prior to anything bad happening, the Lord Himself spoke to Cain and asked him "if you do what is right, will you not be accepted?" 

It came down to doing the right thing.  It comes down to doing the right thing Today.

Cain heard from the God of all creation what the solution was.  Yet Cain allowed himself to become embittered due to his own lack of effort.  He became jealous when he had no right to.  All he had to do was to also give his best to God, just as his younger brother had done.  But he didn't choose to do this. 

He made a choice which has forever been repeated by men who think their might, their strength, their ego and their boasting is good enough to be a winner.  But, to you who 'see,' you know very well these are the losers.  Although these types swallow up the entire world, killing all who are in their way of quest, they only fill themselves with things which are worthless in God's sight. 

The landowner who doubled the rent most likely has their eyes on their personal financial interests.  They may be ignorant or immune to the reality on the street.  They may care less about what other people go through... and that is their choice.  What they have done is further empower an already over ambitious business model.  They caused the laying off of several committed employees.  They removed the business of a small business owner.  They disturbed the meeting place of many happy and loyal customers.  They brought another turn over on that downtown street that experiences vacancies and business turn over like a blighted ghost town. 

The strongest man wins again... while those who make up society and support the strength of the strongest go about searching for means and meaning again.  The strongest man won while they are still considered the loser.

20 November 2014

Who Is Ahmad, the Advocate, the Counselor?

One needs to see the message for what it is speaking.  One needs to read what is said aside from the opinions of men and their description of what the message is saying.  Why go after opinions when the message can clearly be seen and read for oneself? 

You can disregard my opinions and my words herein and simply look after what is messaged. 

The Lord said to me: “What they say is good.  I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put My words in his Mouth.  He will tell them everything I command Him.  I Myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to My words that the Prophet speaks in My Name.

- Deuteronomy 18: 17-19

From where / whom will the 'Prophet' be from?

In what Name will this 'Prophet' speak the words of God?

There is a Name.

Then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the Name of Yeshua Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.  Yeshua is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’  Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other Name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

- Acts 4: 10-12

I have come in My Father’s Name, and you do not accept Me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him.  How can you believe since you accept glory from one another but do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?  But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set.  If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.

- John 5:43-46

Here, Yeshua is proclaiming to come in "My Father's Name."  Here he also mentions Moses wrote about Him.  Further in John 10 and 14, where you can read for yourself, Yeshua asks the disbelievers to at least believe the works, despite failing to believe in Him.  One could consider why those of His day and thereafter would believe He was a Prophet but nothing else.  To those who believed the works they saw with their own eyes, Yeshua could have very well been considered the Prophet Moses prophesied about.  To those who further believed what Yeshua spoke, they were led to faith, believing He was the Messiah and everything else He proclaimed to be.

What else did Yeshua speak of?

Let us read what was written down six centuries later in Arabia.

And [ mention, O Muhammad ], when Moses said to his people, "O my people, why do you harm me while you certainly know that I am the messenger of Allah to you?"  And when they deviated, Allah caused their hearts to deviate.  And Allah does not guide the defiantly disobedient people.  And [ mention ] when Yeshua, the son of Mary, said, "O children of Israel, indeed I am the Messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before Me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a Messenger to come after Me, whose name is Ahmad [ which means 'highly praised' / 'one who constantly thanks God' ]."  But when He came to them with clear evidences, they said, "This is obvious magic."  And who is more unjust than one who invents about Allah untruth while he is being invited to Islam [ submission to God ].  And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.  They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it.

- Surat Aş-Şaf 5-8

This is a very telling testimonial which can easily be misunderstood.

Do you see what I see?

What does the name / word Ahmad mean?

Ahmad, Ahmed or Ahmet are the principal transliterations of an Arabic given name, Arabic: أحمد‎ ʾaḥmad.  The name comes from the Arabic triconsonantal root of Ḥ-M-D, meaning "highly praised," which in turn implies "one who constantly thanks God."

It is interesting to note that the name Muhammad wasn't written in place of the name Ahmad.  It is also interesting to note that the name Muhammad is also derived from the root H-M-D.  The manner in which both of these names are written is distinct.  As we have seen with many names throughout history, they carry a meaning within them.  I would like to point out what the name Ahmad means: "highly praised / one who constantly thanks God."

Is it possible the Ahmad in Surat Aş-Şaf is this Ahmad?

Take a moment and see the attributes and terms that both the testimony in this particular passage in the Quran uses when speaking about Yeshua.  Do you see any significant similarities with the terms from the Gospel?

When Yeshua spoke again to the people, He said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

- John 8: 12

If you love Me, keep My commands.  And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to help you and be with you forever - the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Before long, the world will not see Me anymore, but you will see Me.  Because I live, you also will live.  On that day you will realize that I am in My Father, and you are in Me, and I am in you.  Whoever has My commands and keeps them is the one who loves Me.  The one who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love them and show Myself to them. 

- John 14: 15-21

We can see the meaning of the name Ahmad mentioned in Surat Aş-Şaf could very well be what Yeshua prophesied in John 14.

Is the one called Highly Praised, also the one called the Advocate and also called the Counselor that Yeshua promised? 

Or did this "Ahmad" arrive six centuries later as the man Muhammad outside the lineage of Israel? 

Are mortal men to be highly praised?

It says this about the certain "Prophet" which Moses prophesied about:

The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites.  You must listen to him.

- Deuteronomy 18: 15

If the message of Christ was love, peace, forgiveness and submission to God in all aspects of life ( even to the point of death, not resisting an evil man ), which "Ahmad" do you suppose was the one Yeshua promised to send His faithful?

A comparison could be done between the first century efforts of the disciples of Yeshua after Yeshua went up to heaven and the first century efforts of the disciples of Muhammad after Muhammad was laid to rest in his tomb.

The following is the depiction of what Yeshua's disciples experienced days after they witnessed Yeshua being taken up to heaven:

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken.  Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language?  Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome ( both Jews and converts to Judaism ); Cretans and Arabs - we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine.”

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say.  These people are not drunk, as you suppose.  It’s only nine in the morning!  No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out My Spirit on all people.  Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.  Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy.  I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke.  The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord.  And everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.’

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Yeshua of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through Him, as you yourselves know.  This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross.  But God raised Him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him.

David said about Him:

“‘I saw the Lord always before me.  Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.  Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest in hope, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not let your Holy One see decay.  You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your Presence.’

“Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.  But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that He would place one of his descendants on his throne.  Seeing what was to come, he spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, that He was not abandoned to the realm of the dead, nor did His body see decay.  God has raised this Yeshua to life, and we are all witnesses of it.  Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. 

- Acts 2: 2-33

Here's the specific promise again and reality of how the one coming after Yeshua would be:

The Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him.  But you know Him, for He lives with you and will be in you.

- John 14: 17

Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Yeshua be cursed,” and no one can say, “Yeshua is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.

- 1 Corinthians 12: 3

For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill His good purpose.

- Philippians 2: 13

Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord.

- Psalm 150: 6

Praise the Lord in thought!

Praise the Lord in word!  

Praise the Lord in deed!

Praise His Holy Name!

19 November 2014

The Basic Income

The other day I'm riding the train and I overhear a woman telling someone how much her husband gets monthly for being on disability.  $780 [ $390 every 15 days ].  She mentions how wonderful this place is; that it takes care of the old and also the young [ children ].  She's in her late 50's or mid 60's.  Some time later I am in a McDonald's waiting to meet someone and I overhear one of the employees talking about how much she makes a month.  $1,000 [ $250 per week before taxes ].  She's a teenager.  She was also talking about how she dropped her iPhone in the toilet earlier and was surprised it still worked.

My mind begins a journey of thought.  I remember a lecture I heard recently with the idea every single person in the country receiving a basic income.  Every single person.  So folks already working or owning income producing assets will also receive this basic income.  I've heard the arguments that simply giving people money would kill the incentive for them to work.  I've heard the arguments that welfare doesn't work.

I've seen people encouraged when receiving money.  After receiving money, some are grateful enough to pay it back, pay it forward or do good things with that money.  I've also seen people only taking and taking, not realizing that we all have a role, a responsibility and a consideration towards one another.  All people and situations exist for a reason and for a purpose.  Sometimes the reason is so others can learn life lessons.  Sometimes the purpose is to test a response.

I've seen welfare work for women whose husbands abandoned them and their children.  I've seen these same women looking for work to get away from the stigma of being on welfare.  Almost gone are the days that men work and women stay home raising children.  Some women desire to work while some women desire their work to be their family.

I've seen people falling back on the safety net of welfare and bouncing back, never having to use welfare again.  They were grateful this system existed when relatives and friends were either unable or unwilling to help in their time of need. 

I've also seen generational welfare recipients or families who do not desire to leave the system; practical experts in gaming the system for every assistance there is.  There is a reason why the world has developed as it has.  There is also a reason why these systems exist in the first place.  Every person and every situation exists for a reason.  We have living examples of how to be and how not to be, but we cannot really explain whey people do as they do. 

Can one explain why the millionaire works tirelessly having amassed a fortune and rarely taking time out to enjoy their wealth?  Can one explain why some people have chosen not to participate in the economy and don't care to lift a finger for themselves?

Every single person has choices to make. 

There are stories of people who were once homeless and became multimillionaires.  There are also stories of multimillionaires that became homeless.  There are stories of people who desire to live life and not be found in either extreme.

It is an issue of morale, character and ethics any way you look at things.  These attributes cannot be inserted into people, they have to be taught or sought after.  Any amount of money thrown at someone doesn't always change their heart for the better.  I have seen the removal of money change people, some for the better and others for the worse.

So what if everyone were to receive a basic income?  What if this would replace the systems which can be gamed?  What would really happen?

I suppose the buying and selling would increase.  I suppose the economic system would be stimulated.  If economic systems would be stimulated then corporations and small businesses alike would realize an increase in revenue.  I wonder if overall productivity would increase since money is being returned directly to people instead of being funneled through bureaucratic offices.  Quite a few government jobs may be closed.

The homeless who have temporarily lost themselves may now have money enough to eat, to clothe themselves and maybe enough to find a roof over their heads.  Instead of having to be out on the street, they can have time to think, to read and to ponder what they'd like to do with the gift of life they have.  Life isn't just about that brutal mantra 'get to work.'  Some folks are very content with little, having just enough to have food in their stomachs periodically.  It is the appetite to consume that is marketed to all which may be an issue.

Those who already have jobs, will they simply quit?  How about those who make several times more than the basic income rate?  Will they simply quit and scratch out a living on a lesser income?  Wouldn't folks with a healthy income actually spend the extra funds on a vacation or on consumer items?  Some, however, would take the extra income ( as they've been doing already ) and put it towards investments, savings, etc.

Some things I've done personally when I had more money; I was able to make time for myself and for others.  I was able to spend more time with relatives and friends.  I was able to read more.  I was able to learn.  I was able to think.  I was able to lower actual 'working hours' and turn them into more productive hours.  But not in productivity as an economist would define that term.  When 'productivity' is rated by labor output, you are rating people like you would a workhorse or a piece of machinery.  That is inhumane.

I became more productive as a human being when I realized life wasn't all about chasing material possessions / consuming what others said was worthwhile. 

Perhaps there is a fear that some have in providing sustenance for others.  Perhaps they fear losing desperate people willing to work for desperate wages.  Perhaps the game would dissolve right before their eyes.  Which game you may ask?  The game of monkey see monkey do.  The game that the poor play in trying to be like the rich, buying the things the rich buy and looking like the rich.  The game of consumerism which makes the stock market players millionaires and impoverishes the already destitute.

A basic income isn't going to make millionaires out of today's welfare recipients, nor is it going to make welfare recipients out of today's millionaires... but this is the fear of treating others like human beings.  The fear of seeing your reflection when you look at another person who has less than you.

18 November 2014

History Tellers Telling Stories

In my readings and research of secular and church history, it is easy to follow the manner in which history is written by others.  Sometimes an objectionable point of view is difficult to find.  Most of history highlights the negative things mankind has done to one another.  I am starting to see that I cannot view these developments as 'for the better' or 'for the worse.'  I have to read between the lines of what history's authors write.  For many of the Egyptian kings for example, only the triumphs and positive highlights are recorded, never the disastrous failures or defeats in battle.  I have to carefully recognize the priorities of historical authors and their bias.  I have to also see the bias any particular culture puts out.  I have to rather see the telling of history through the eyes of God, not my own physical eyes.  I have to 'see' through the perspective that all things happen for a reason, that all things are according to His will and reality that He knows what He is doing.  I have to look for what is not seen.  I have to look for the bigger picture that transcends time and place.

We need to see history through the eyes of faith.

Some of the developments I see are largely misunderstood Today.  Regarding church history, we see how the departure of purely scriptural living ( previously living by the letter - legalism - of the Mosaic law of Judaism ) mutated into a secular lifestyle ( the freedom of living by faith in Christ ).  This belief became a lifestyle and permeated the many cultures and peoples of the world.  A byproduct of this lifestyle was yet another religion built by men.  Does this mean things have gone wrong or the truth has been lost?  Some religious people would argue this point.  I used to believe this point too.  However, I have come to find out, as with many things I heard and believed from others, I was absolutely wrong.  Most dissensions are rooted in faithlessness, doubt and controversy.  Love is almost always lacking when no two people agree.  It was the lack of love which has given rise to the divisions among all those who claim to call on Yeshua as their Lord.  It is this same lack of love which has given rise to all the several divisions in the religions of the world.

The focus of the Way Yeshua exemplified is to focus on others, not self.  This Way says to love everyone, despite their shortcomings.  This Way says to forgive everyone regardless if they do or do not apologize for wronging you.  This Way says to serve all others, putting them before you in every way.  This Way is not a religion.  For two centuries many have attempted to form a religion after these three basic examples of the Way... and have failed miserably, turning faith into cults and control systems.  This Way is one of personal choice, according to Who is speaking to your conscience.  The Way cannot be administered or made legalistic... well, maybe one could try, but then you would simply have an organization with rule after rule telling you 'how' to be righteous... while this righteousness is by faith and faith alone.

Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

- Genesis 15: 6

This is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.”  The words “it was credited to him” were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness - for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.  He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

- Romans 4: 22-25

16 November 2014

The Proof In The Pudding

The internet is full of riddles, mysteries and things which are not easily believed, or are too easily believed.  Some things on the internet are absolute nonsense while some things don't have to be believed because they have no direct impact on your life, regardless if they they are in fact true.

Seeming endless are the things others would like you to believe as true.  In no order of importance or whether I believe these things to be true or not, we have talk of aliens, talk of Bigfoot, talk of reptilian people, talk of miracles, talk of prophets, talk of what someone said or didn't say... there is talk of many things.  One man's truth is another man's deception.  One man's belief is another man's lie.  One man's honest testimony is another man's blatant hoax.

Truth / noun / tro͞oTH / Old English trīewth, trēowth ‘faithfulness, constancy

- the quality or state of being true.

- that which is true or in accordance with fact or reality.

- a fact or belief that is accepted as true

What is in accordance with fact these days?  Other than the fact that the majority of us have to do something in order to put food on the table and meet a demand every month, what else is in accordance with fact?  We have to eat in order to survive, that's an undeniable fact.  The fact that we breathe is another undeniable fact.  Without breath we will cease to exist.  The fact that some folks still can't get along with one another no matter what happens is a sad fact.  Another fact is that all we know eventually comes to an end; a party, a favorite movie, a vacation, a tasty meal and life of every single one of us.

What are some things which is a belief that is accepted as true?  This is where reality can get tricky for some folks.  Some people believe that aliens exist and accept this belief as true.  Some do so because they once saw something while most others believe what others have said or shown to them.  Same things goes with Bigfoot; some say they saw something while others believe the stories of what others saw.   

Some of the things you choose to believe or choose not to believe won't make that much of a difference in your life either way, I don't think.  The same could be said about the many things which people argue over regarding their existence or not.  Politics is a realm which for some is all too clear considering 'what is going on.'  While for others, they only see what is told them and believe what is said to them.  For some few, they see all too easily the lies.  For these few, they can see what politics is really about and see precisely how people are treated and divided. 

But what are some things which are arguably very important to not only 'know' but also to believe?

Depending on your point of view, your spiritual leaning or your religion, you have a set of beliefs you may now be thinking about.  The belief in a God means hope for many when things go bad.  The belief in God brings comfort to those who face difficulty and difficult situations.  For the few and fortunate who actually have first-hand experience with God, whether it was hearing Him speak, or seeing a miracle or some other amazing something, the hope and comfort goes beyond a warm feeling.  For those who have seen, heard and have experienced, their reality isn't so much 'looking' for signs anymore or seeking proofs; now their life is more about forwarding what God is all about and helping others see what they've personally learned.

For the people who may never be satisfied with hard evidence of God ( an ocean opening up before their eyes or a miraculous healing ), He has made His existence and Way quite clear for the world to see.... but folks choose to ignore the obvious as too simple a proof.  Some folks rather believe what others have told them to believe ( or disbelieve ).

Every place, every culture and every society has its religion, its lifestyle and its methods.  We should use these realities to teach us to be grateful for what we hold in our hearts regarding what we hold as true.  The reality among other peoples and cultures of the world is this; it is a crime to believe something contrary to what is decided as true and what you are demanded to believe.  When looking at the world from this perspective, it is good that we live in a secular society where your inner thoughts are not dictated to you for fear of death.

For me personally; why do I believe in the risen Christ?  Why do I believe He died and rose to life again on the third day?  Do I believe this simply because a book I read tells me this story?  Where is my proof?

I actually have thousands of proofs which anyone can read for themselves.  It is the thousands of believers who were murdered because of their belief in the risen Christ in the first three centuries of this common era.  The initial 'proofs' began with the deaths of those nearest to Yeshua.  It is difficult to deny what you saw happen before your very eyes, and those who walked with Him saw with their own eyes Yeshua walking again in the flesh and ultimately going up into the clouds.  This is something that doesn't quickly leave one's memory nor is something that would have little impact in one's life.

Actually, wouldn't one's life be forever changed from that moment forward?

Have you ever seen something that was difficult to explain or challenging to comprehend?

Those who witnessed Yeshua alive after being murdered forwarded their experience to those they came across... and many of these were murdered themselves for their words.  Those who heard and witnessed the hope and faith in those who went to their death without issue, seem to have also been bitten by the bug of faith!  And so went the procession of martyrs both famous and obscured for three centuries.  For three hundred years thousands upon thousands of believers were murdered for their faith in the risen Christ.

We can see this evidence that the believer Today doesn't need to see a miracle in order to believe.  The believer doesn't have to understand the mysterious ways of God in order to believe.  The believer does not have to understand all that has happened for the last two thousands years in order to accept as true the Gospel of faith and hope in the risen Christ.  And why is this?  The accounts of the multitudes who went to their death for their faith is written in secular history books the world over.

This we can also see God had purposed, for it is difficult to deny and hide the evidence of a cultural revolution of love and sacrifice as was exemplified in the down trodden of the Roman empire for those three centuries after Christ.  It is quite amazing to see this love revolution as it permeated the pagan culture of the Roman Empire and change its people from the inside out! 

One can easily deny and doubt what one didn't see happen for oneself, but to argue against what is well documented from both believing and non-believing scholars is choosing to live in denial of these facts.

However, you can choose to deny what is written in secular history.  But why treat what is fact as if it was fiction?  Why turn your attention to what other deniers come up with in trying to deny the reality? 

15 November 2014

A Prayer

Bless all who I see and all who see me, may they all be within your grace.

May I praise Your Holy Name with every thought, every word and every action that comes from me. 

May Your Name be praised by your creation forevermore. 

Direct my eyes in what I should and should not see.

Direct my words in speaking the truth in love; to stay silent when tempted to do otherwise.

Direct my heart in the Way you will it to go, not as I would suppose, but as you would have it go. 

Help me relinquish my entire being to You, Holy Father, so you may be glorified and praised.

May the world know and understand that we are all brothers and sisters; we are all Your children.

May the world be brought to unity, in peace, according to your love and according to your Way.

14 November 2014

Larry & John, Two Distinct Freemen

The other day I'm standing at a street corner near where I live.  I am looking at two men across the street from each other.  This is a rare moment where I happen to catch a glimpse of both of them at the same time.  One man is a millionaire.  The other man lives in his van.  One gentleman stands on the porch of one of his current projects; he buys and sells residential houses.  The other gentleman stands in front of his van with a bag full of recyclable things; he collects plastic bottles and aluminum cans from nearby garbage bins and lives in his van.  I've befriended both men since moving into the neighborhood.  They both like beer.  The man with the van usually has his van parked across the street from the house the other man is flipping.  I don't think they've met one another. 

As I'm about to turn the corner and head somewhere to grab a bite to eat and get some work done online, I stand in awe at the view of both of them.  I wonder about the different thoughts that may be going through their hearts and minds.  I also wonder about the similar thoughts that may be going through their hearts and minds.  It is this moment which inspires me to write what I am now describing.

I've noticed when walking in almost any downtown city that one can see millionaires ( those who seem to have it all ) sharing the same sidewalk space with the homeless ( those without a penny to their name ).  I notice how distinct paths occupy the same small spaces.  Although the exterior appearance may divide them, I wonder what is really going on inside.  I've written in blogs past that any working person is most likely 2 to 20 weeks from becoming homeless.  The timing would depend on several factors, most likely their debt load and their savings.  If they were lose their job or if some life challenge were to occur, down the hole they go.  This reality also goes for those who earn over a million dollars a year, for quite a few of them spend just as much.  When taking a closer look at things and considering these two gentlemen, I wonder if the man living in the van is debt free.  I wonder what his monthly financial demand is.  I can only imagine what the millionaire's monthly bills must be like.

I then wonder to myself: which, if any, of these two gentlemen are 'free?'

Free could mean many things; free from worry, free from economic challenges, free from a guilty conscience, free from moral trappings, etc.

Let's look at the economic sense of being free.  For some this type of 'free' ( freedom ) means they are not economically enslaved by the world or subject to someone else directly.  They may have their own business or they are their own boss.  Both of these men are their boss of their own business.  Yet I see the millionaire guy working very hard in managing the laborers who work for him.  I see him doing a lot of work on the investment house himself ( aside from all the work of buying and selling houses; the office work, the mental work in negotiations, dealing with people's characters and such ).  I also see the man with the van crushing plastic bottles almost the entire day.  I find him at the laundromat searching for recyclable items.  Both of these gentlemen work.  Both of these men most likely break a sweat working and yet they are the boss of their business.

So I must ask: are these two men free in the economic sense?  Or is only one of them free?

Perhaps being 'free' is only a state of mind.  Perhaps being 'free' is possible but only to a certain degree.  I've noticed those who act or believe themselves to be free sometimes running the risk of being very irresponsible.  These free[dom] chasers are sometimes destructive, not only with their own lives but also of those around them.  Hasn't the pursuit to be 'free' from the likes of these toppled monarchies and empires?  When royal kings or imperial emperors have used their selfish pursuit to be 'free,' haven't they also fallen into tyranny, into incest and into exercising too much 'sovereign' power over others?  Didn't their free[dom] come at a cost to others?  Seems like they actually became slaves to their vices.  In reading the history of the world's kings and the worlds rulers, these also made disastrous decisions which hurt and enslaved the many in order to provide the idea of being 'free' for the few.  And some of those who looked to these 'free' and powerful people for leadership also fell into the decadence.  States, nations and peoples have fallen fast and hard due to the repetitive nature of humanity's nearsighted ambitions.

To the people who desire to be free to accept or reject others according to their skin color, place of origin, language, religion, are they not excluding and shunning others according to their prejudices?

To the people who desire to be left alone to be 'free' to make money at whatever means they can, haven't they literally enslaved others, destroyed economies and broke the trust among the common people?  Haven't these who demand to be 'free' actually polluted the world with waste and the byproducts of the things they sell?

What is the responsible work in the pursuit to be 'free?' 

Responsibility.  Example.  Leadership.  Dignity.  Honor.  Integrity.  Honesty.  Love.  Peace.  Unity.

These are a few of the works and labors of the truly free.

I see these two men but I cannot determine if either of them are truly free.

I have experienced the two extremes they represent and found myself not free at either end.  

13 November 2014

A Catholic Muslim

Let us look at some terms and find out what they really mean aside from the manner in which they are currently used. 

Catholic / adjective / ˈkaTH(ə)lik /  late Middle English ( sense 2 of the adjective ): from Old French catholique or late Latin catholicus, from Greek katholikos ‘universal,’ from kata ‘with respect to’ + holos ‘whole.’

1. ( especially of a person's tastes ) including a wide variety of things; all-embracing 

2. of the Roman Catholic faith
    a) of or including all Christians
    b) of or relating to the historic doctrine and practice of the Western Church   

I think we are very familiar with the second sense definition of the term catholic.  I would like to bring attention to the first definition and also to the first sub definition (a) under the second definition.  Some synonyms ( terms meaning the same thing ) are: universal, diverse, wide, broad, eclectic just to name a few.  It is the broader definition I want to bring to your attention, not so much the manner the word has been used to classify and distinguish people ( what divides and separates ) for centuries.

Muslim / noun / məzləm,ˈmo͝ozləm /

1. a follower of the religion of Islam 

We see the term "Muslim" is simply one who follows the religion of Islam... so what is Islam?

Islam / noun / isˈläm,izˈläm /

from Arabic 'islām ‘submission,’ from 'aslamasubmit ( to God ).’

The term Muslim refers to the religion that developed from the 8th century.  Yet, the term Muslim is previously derived from the term Islam, taken from the term "aslama" which literally means "submits to God."  

How many are those throughout the world who live out what this term defines, aside from what they would call their specific religion?  

How many are the terms which define any particular belief / faith / religion / point of view which defines people actually submitting themselves to God?  

By the pure definition of the term, I am a Muslim, for I submit to God.  Yet we know this word evokes a certain emotion and certain ideas in those who follow the religion called by the same name.  This word also evokes a certain emotion and certain ideas in those who see that term as something to be feared.  Instead of getting into the reasons to fear or not fear or the reasons to promote or not promote this or any such religion ( man's method of explaining the unexplainable ), let us realize and follow what the term actually means, shall we?

Much the same can be said about the term catholic.  Didn't Christ start something that was to embrace all peoples from all walks of life?  Isn't Yeshua's message of love universal and for all people in all times and in all places?  Whether you align yourself with the term Protestant, Catholic, Methodist, Eastern Orthodox, etc.. or simply as a disciple of Christ, are you not part of the universal congregation which is only seen in the Spirit?  None of us can accurately point out 'who' is righteous or who has the Spirit in them, because the kingdom of God is within and among us.  

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Yeshua replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”

- Luke 17: 20-21

None of us knows the heart of any other person, so we cannot accurately judge who they are nor who they will be tomorrow, yet religions and their divisive techniques lead us to make such incorrect judgments.  When looking at the term 'catholic' through its original meaning, I am also part of that universal / catholic church, because God's love permeates the religions of men and their imagined differences.  

By pure definition of these two words, I am a Muslim that is part of the Catholic ( universal ) church!  A Catholic Muslim!  I submit my will to the God of all creation while opening my heart to all people of the world, just as Yeshua has called me and you to do!

Let us see terms for what their original meanings were and let us not allow words separate us, as they so easily do today.  Otherwise, you may find yourself hating and battling against your brother / sister and opposing and fearing those you were sent to love. 

We see that men put forth many demands onto other men in order for them to be called by a certain term, as if a man can qualify another man in terms of faith and things unknown.  The faith it takes to submit to God, to believe in His Way and follow that Way isn't a qualification earned at a university... nor can the things of faith, grace and the heart be measured by men.  Instead of only following what men have to say about words and allowing ourselves to be divided by the words of men, why not go to the actual source to find out what was inspired and revealed by God?

While Yeshua was still talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to Him.  Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”  

He replied to him, “Who is My mother, and who are my brothers?”  Pointing to his disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers.  For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

- Matthew 12:46-50 

During the days of Yeshua's life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the One who could save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverent submission.

- Hebrews 5:7

We see Christ Yeshua was the very example of submission to God... and His message is one that is to embrace all people the world over.   

12 November 2014

Revolution of Peace & Action

I keep an open eye and ear when I am traveling on foot.  I am sometimes surprised, sometimes amazed and sometimes shocked by what I see and hear... and by what I sometimes smell.

The other day while I was waiting for the train to arrive, I met a gentleman who asked me about my hat.  I was wearing my Cuba baseball hat.  It was a gift from my grandfather, the patriarch to my relatives of the previous generation.  The man asked if I was Cuban.  I responded in the affirmative without getting into a journey of words and what they really mean according to their definition, I didn't feel like being obnoxious for some reason.  He then says he once dated a Cuban woman.  He adds that she was beautiful and at the same time crazy.  I asked him if she would ever talk about politics, and he confirmed she would all the time.  I said that a lot of trouble happened and most people were never the same... while they blame all the wrong people most of the time.  We then began a very cordial conversation about politics, food, relationships and so on.

I was very encouraged to find out he grows certain fruits and vegetables on the little bit of space he has outside and around his house.  He was telling me how several others in the neighborhood grow different fruits and vegetables and how they all trade amongst themselves.  I had mentioned how people can trade things they do or grow and not have to use paper money, but his sharing what his neighbors do came as a surprise.  It seems that folks are getting a clue and I'm so grateful for this; the sprouts of the peaceful revolution are showing.

Several days later I overhear a conversation between two men as I sat in a diner.  I can't help but overhear what other people are saying when I am at a table for one.  One of the men, about my age, is miserably sharing how he wished he had his own place and his own car.  He says this would be enough to make him happy.  I can't help but reflect about the material things I think will make me happy.  He says he wishes he didn't have to work and then says he has no choice.  He also shares how he looks forward to going to the race track in hopes of winning some money.  He mentions how he needs to be more disciplined with his money.  He knows the answer to his dilemma, but I wonder if he will act on the solution.  The other gentleman, a bit older, says he should be grateful for what he does have; his health, a place to sleep and a job... but also mentions his own desire to make it to the track and try his luck as well.  These men both know the solution to their dilemma of managing themselves in this time of material wants despite their sobering needs.

In case you haven't noticed, there is a revolution going on.  It is quite subtle.  It isn't easily noticeable.  It has been going on for quite some time.  Yet, this revolution isn't one which sheds blood, for that has already happened.  Neither is this revolution one where more laws are written or more restrictions will be placed upon others.  At the same time, this revolution isn't one where laws will be discounted and ignored. 

We are in the midst of a revolution of the heart ( first and foremost ), then of the mind, then of the body.  For it is in your heart where you realize what is and what isn't, it is in your mind you make the decisions to pursue what is and ignore what is not... and it is with your body you act.

Act in the Way of love... and put your hand to the plow. 

11 November 2014

The Mystery; The Appearance

Appear / verb / əˈpir / ( Latin "apparere," from "ad" meaning toward, and "parere" meaning to come into view )

1. come into sight; become visible or noticeable.

It is written in Genesis that mankind has been made in His image and in His likeness ( the image and likeness of God ). 

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.

- Genesis 1:26-27

It is interesting the play on words with the plural and the singular in reference to God.  Think again of the characteristics of God and how He manifested Himself in various ways and had created angels prior to creating man.  Remember also what is mentioned in Part II.  Here is the testimony of how the Name was given, by whom and for what purpose:

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Yeshua.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David, and He will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; His kingdom will never end.”

- Luke 1:30-33

The Name Yeshua means "God's salvation" in Aramaic, the common language of the time of Christ.  The people of Israel at the time of Christ were waiting and expecting a Messiah, an Anointed, a Savior, a Redeemer, etc. ( many titles ).  They were waiting for such a sign or the culmination of the promises from centuries ago.  Here we read about an encounter shortly after the birth of Yeshua:

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout.  He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him.  It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah.  Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts.  When the parents brought in the child Yeshua to do for Him what the custom of the Law required, Simeon took Him in his arms and praised God, saying:

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your Salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.”

- Luke 2:25-32

The following continues with the vision Daniel shares and also continues with what is spoken of in Genesis:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 

- John 1:1-5

This is the testimony, given by one named John the Baptist from the tribe of Levi:

The next day John saw Yeshua coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!  This is the One I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because He was before me.’  I myself did not know Him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that He might be revealed to Israel.”  Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him.  And I myself did not know Him, but the One who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’  I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.”

- John 1:29-34

John, called the Baptist, testified further about Yeshua being the promised Messiah:

To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of Him.’  The bride belongs to the bridegroom.  The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for Him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice.  That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.”

- John 3:27-30

The message that the Messiah had come fell upon the ears of all who lived in the vicinity of Judea, but not all believed nor did all understood what the Messiah had to endure:

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at Him: “Aren’t you the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!”  But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence?  We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he said, “Yeshua, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Yeshua answered him, “Truly I tell you, Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Yeshua called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit My Spirit.”  When He had said this, He breathed His last.  The centurion, seeing what had happened, praised God and said, “Surely this was a righteous man.”  When all the people who had gathered to witness this sight saw what took place, they beat their breasts and went away.  But all those who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

- Luke 23:39-49

Most of Yeshua's disciples didn't understand what had to happen and were dismayed when they saw Yeshua die before their eyes.  Yet, what had been predicted centuries before had not become clear to them until He explained what it all meant:

After His suffering, He presented Himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that He was alive.  He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

- Act 1:3

It was then that this passage made sense and was understood by those who were destined to believe - when David speaks about himself and some One else:

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful One see decay.

- Psalm 16:9-10

What is the conclusion of the manifestation of God having appeared?

Yeshua performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book.  But these are written that you may believe that Yeshua is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.

- John 20:30-31

I write these things to you who believe in the Name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

- 1 John 5:13

Praise His Holy Name; our Lord, our God, our Redeemer, the Way, the Truth, the Life!

10 November 2014

It's The Beard

A recent morning I am walking to another favorite place to eat, to get on the internet and get some work done.  It's a Salvadorean place that also cooks Mexican and Honduran meals.  I usually sit by the window, plug into the power outlet at the wall and enjoy some pupusas.  As I am approaching the restaurant, a gentleman on a bicycle says hello as he passes me by.  I say hello back.  He then shouts out something and when I turn around, I see he has stopped fifty feet away and waves his hand for me to come near.  I hesitate, but then I go ahead walking with a smile.

As I approach, he asks if we've met before and if he knows me from somewhere.  I said it is possible.  I also say I don't particularly recognize him.  He says his name is Rajiq.  I tell him my name and we shake hands.  He asks if I live nearby.  I say I do.  He is looking me up and down.  I am wearing my usual sandals, khaki colored cargo shorts, a white thermal long-sleeved-shirt one or two sizes too big ( a hand-me-down from a friend ) and my glasses.  My black computer case is hanging from my left hand.

He then asks me if I'm Muslim.  I shaved my beard a couple of months ago and I've been letting it grow ever since.  He has a short beard, more similar to a long goatee and is wearing a short beanie on his head with clothes I cannot recall now, but something similar to urban street wear.  I consider the question and begin the response by defining what that term actually means.

Muslim / adjective / from Arabic muslim "one who submits" ( to the faith ), from root of aslama "he resigned."

I explain that by definition, everyone who believes in God and submits their will to God's will is by definition a Muslim.  I further explained that although this is the definition of the word, the mindset is quite different between those who follow the religious definition of that word and the mindset is also different for those who adhere to other terms, such as the term Christian.  I said the division is similar to when one classifies himself as either a Democrat or a Republican; conflicting views.

I told him that God sees Rajiq, He sees Ed and doesn't really see people according to the titles or terms people make for themselves.  God sees our hearts.

To answer his question honestly according to the popular definition, I said I am not what would be religiously defined as Muslim, but according to the spirit of what that word really means, I am a Muslim much like the many who submit themselves humbly to the will of the Holy Father; Abraham, Moses, Yeshua, etc.

I could tell he was just about done with what I had to say when he holds out his hand to depart while looking in another direction.  I bid him to have a good day and he likewise responds.  Whatever reason was his for stopping me and speaking with me, surely my response and message to him with that final question was reason enough for me to explain the purpose of us having crossed paths.

09 November 2014

Message to Muslims Part III: The Faith

Peace be with you dear brothers and sisters who are seeking the One and Only Creator of us all.  May our opinions be second or made last, far behind the truth which is messaged in His Word, by His Spirit, which shows His Way and leads to life in paradise.

If you have yet to read the preceding messages to Muslims, please read part one and part two.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

- Proverbs 19:21

( a summary of some points )

- men have many plans in their heart
- the Lord's purpose always prevails

O ye who believe! if ye fear Allah, He will grant you a criterion ( to judge between right and wrong ), remove from you ( all ) evil ( that may afflict ) you, and forgive you: for Allah is the Lord of grace unbounded.  Remember how the Unbelievers plotted against thee, to keep thee in bonds, or slay thee, or get thee out ( of thy home ).  They plot and plan, and Allah too plans; but the best of planners is Allah.

- Surat Al-Anfal 29-30

( a summary of some points )

- believers are granted the ability to judge between right and wrong
- unbelievers plot against believers, bond believers, slay believers and remove believers from homes
- unbelievers plot and plan but Allah / God is the best of planners

Does a man's opinion win over Allah's / God's will?  Haven't we already seen throughout history how the Brotherhood of believers has been divided according to the pride, arrogance and opinions of men?  Haven't men plotted things in their hearts and divided believers?  We see division in both Christianity and Islam.  We see both Christians and Muslims being led astray to fight one another and break the Brotherhood Allah / God has demanded from us.

What is the Way spoken to us today and in times past?

In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.  Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds; Most Gracious, Most Merciful; Master of the Day of Judgment.  Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.  Show us the straight Way, The Way of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy Grace, those whose ( portion ) is not wrath, and who go not astray.

- Al-Fatihah

( a summary of some points )

- Allah / God is to be praised
- there is a straight Way
- Allah / God bestows Grace upon believers

Has the straight Way changed over time?  Hasn't Allah / God always rewarded those who obeyed His message, believed His signs and followed His Way?  Only covenants and their purposes have changed, but God's Way has not changed ( the Way of righteousness ).

"Verily Allah is My Lord; and your Lord, wherefore worship Him; this is the straight path.'  Then when 'Isa perceived in them infidelity, He said: "who will be My helpers unto Allah?" The disciples said; "we are helpers of Allah; we believe in Allah and bear Thou witness that verily we are Muslims.  Our Lord! we believe in that which Thou hast sent down, and, follow the Apostle; write us up wherefore with the witnesses."  And they plotted, and Allah plotted, and Allah is the Best of plotters.

Recall what time Allah said: "O 'Isa! verily I shall make Thee die, and am lifting Thee to Myself and am purifying Thee from those who disbelieve, and shall place those who follow Thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection; thereafter unto Me shall be the return of you all, then I shall judge between you of that wherein ye were wont to differ.  Then as for those who disbelieved I shall torment them with a severe torment in the world and the Hereafter, nor shall have they any helpers."

And as for those who believed and worked righteous works, He shall repay them their hires in full, and Allah loveth not the wrong-doers.  This which we recite unto thee is of the signs and of the wise admonition.

- Surat Ali Imran 51-58

( a summary of some points )

- Yeshua showed a straight Way
- unbelievers planned but Allah's plans always win
- Allah caused Yeshua to die and lifted Yeshua to Himself
- those who follow Yeshua / Isa placed above those who reject faith
- those who have faith have their return to Allah / God
- Allah will judge between those who dispute
- those who reject faith will be punished in this world and the Hereafter and will have no helper
- those who believe and work righteousness will be rewarded by Allah in full

Let us see what the message from the Gospel; the light and guidance for both Israel and those who are not Israel.  While you read, ask yourself what is it that Allah / God is asking you to have faith in:

Therefore Yeshua said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them.  I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture.  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.  The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.  So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

“I am the good shepherd; I know My sheep and My sheep know Me - just as the Father knows Me and I know the Father - and I lay down My life for the sheep.  I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.  They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.  The reason My Father loves Me is that I lay down My life - only to take it up again.  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord.  I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again.  This command I received from My Father.”  The Jews who heard these words were again divided.  Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad.  Why listen to him?”  But others said, “These are not the sayings of a man possessed by a demon.  Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

Then came the Festival of Dedication at Jerusalem.  It was winter, and Yeshua was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade.  The Jews who were there gathered around Him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense?  If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Yeshua answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.  The works I do in My Father’s Name testify about Me, but you do not believe because you are not My sheep.  My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of My Father’s hand.  I and the Father are One.”

Again His Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone Him, but Yeshua said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father.  For which of these do you stone Me?”

“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

Yeshua answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’?  If He called them ‘gods,’ to whom the Word of God came - and Scripture cannot be set aside - what about the One whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world?  Why then do you accuse Me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’?  Do not believe Me unless I do the works of My Father.  But if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”

- John 10:7-38

( a summary of some points )

- Yeshua / Isa is the gate and the good shepherd
- all who enter through the gate ( Yeshua / Isa ) will be saved
- the thief comes to steal, destroy and kill
- Yeshua / Isa lays His life down for the believers
- the sheep ( believers ) know Yeshua / Isa like Yeshua / Isa knows the Father
- there are other sheep not of the sheep pen ( those not of the tribes of Israel )
- Yeshua / Isa lays down His life and takes it up again
- the Jews blasphemed against Yeshua / Isa, calling Him demon-possessed
- Yeshua / Isa said no one can remove the sheep from His Father's hand and His hand
- Yeshua / Isa said He gives eternal life to those who follow Him and they will never perish
- Yeshua / Isa declares He and the Father are One; He is in the Father and the Father is in Him
- Yeshua / Isa asks His hearers to at least believe the works to at least understand

What is the faith the Jews at the time of Yeshua / Isa were called to believe?  Has this changed for those not of the tribe of Israel?  We can see that Yeshua / Isa calls sheep from both the tribe of Israel and from another flock, and they both shall be one.  Isn't this speaking to the Brotherhood and unity Allah / God desires us to have?

Peace be with you who desire to follow the faith. 

Peace be with you who continue to search. 

Peace be with you who may not understand, may the Holy One grant you what is necessary for you to believe!