Monday, August 7, 2017

A Loving God's-Eye View of the Ten Commandments

One of the reasons God said, "Have no other gods
before me." Gods like Molech weren't very nice gods.
Too often we think of "commandments" as harsh and arbitrary orders. In all of history, the only time God has actually spoken to mankind was to deliver ten of those commandments to the children of Israel. These commandments have been recorded in Scripture and have heavily influenced jurisprudence throughout the Christian world.

And yet, in Scripture we find God portrayed as the very embodiment of love. So how do we reconcile a loving God who also barks commandments that brook no nonsense.  Thou shalt not steal, lie, murder or be greedy are pretty straightforward commands. There isn't a lot of wiggle room. They are so blunt, in fact, that some denominations of Christendom (who shall remain nameless) have had to revise the ten commandments by deleting one altogether and revising two others so that one doesn't say what it used to say and the other becomes two separate commandments to fill in the hole where they took out the one about graven images. Left as it is in the original Hebrew text, however, those church practices are clearly not permissible.

Let's take them one by one and examine how such a command might also be an expression of love by a God who wants only the best for his children.
  1. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me." -  Human beings are always searching for God whether they know it or not. Some have described it as having a "God-shaped hole" in our very being. We search for God in all the wrong places at first - in our selves, in powerful leaders, in science, and in nature, all with unsatisfying results. We search for God all our lives until we allow him to find us. The first commandment is just God encouraging us to skip all that fruitless searching and come straight to the only God who can fill that empty place in our hearts.
  2. "You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments." -  I've always believed that a human being is not really a complete human being until he or she has become a parent. When we were tossed from the Garden of Eden, God began immediately to teach us. Our first homework assignment was to "be fruitful and multiply." Remember, God was angry when He said it. I'm not sure you can fully understand why a loving God will be a jealous God unless you have experienced the terrors of being a parent. Who among us parents hasn't issued some form of this commandment to our own children. "If all your friends jumped off a cliff, would you just jump right off with them?" God, like any good parent, doesn't want to see his children do that which is harmful and let me tell you, idolatry is almost inevitably vicious and cruel. That gentle Mother Goddess all the New-Agers maunder on about, wasn't so gentle back in the day. She demanded rivers of blood to make the crops grow or the rains to come. At the time the Israelites took over Canaan, some 23,000 children were placed in the fires as a sacrifice to Molech EVERY SINGLE YEAR. We tell our children not to play with fire lest they get burned. That's what the second commandment is all about. God doesn't want his children playing with stray dogs or the sadistic little boy who lives down the street and tortures squirrels for fun.
  3. “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."  - As a parent have you ever told your child to "Watch your mouth when you speak to me!" Why do you as a loving parent demand that your child respect you?  It's because you know that if you do not require respect, your child will soon not listen to your teaching and follow after other teachers who probably won't have his best interests at heart. If you are a shepherd, you carry a staff and have a dog with you because unless the sheep respect your authority, they may wander off and get eaten by a bear. The third commandment is for our safety. 
  4. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." - The Sabbath command basically says, take a day off every week and spend it with me. Do you have a family night with your children?  Why do you make them go through the torture of spending time with Mom and Dad? It's because you wish to maintain a lifelong relationship with your kids and to spend quality time with them when you are NOT punishing them for misbehavior, making them do their chores and getting ready to go to school. Well, God wants to spend quality time with His children and like many a human parent, he has to make it non-negotiable or the kids won't do it. And like many a parent, God has to 'splain why he chose the day and time he did or the kids start shifting family night around so nobody can schedule the rest of their week around family night and pretty soon everybody's off water-skiing or watching a football game or anything besides getting together with their parents. 
  5. “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." -  Remember that God told us to have children for a reason. Parents are a child's earliest peek at what the character of God is like. He wants us to respect our parents who created us in the same way He wants us all to respect He who created the world and all that is therein. In this way, all our lives we are taught to respect our creators, both human and divine. And the family unit is by far the most effective nurturing and training organization for children ever conceived. God wants you to go to a good school. Mom and Dad, however flawed they might be, are the best we've got.  
  6. “You shall not murder." - This one is kind of obvious. God does not give any man the arbitrary right to kill other people. Otherwise the world would descend to chaos. Even atheists recognize this rule as a good thing. It's not like God is trying to spoil your fun, although if you're Vlad the Impaler, you might see it that way. 
  7. “You shall not commit adultery." - Let's go back to God's first lesson study - "Be fruitful and multiply."  Adam and Eve blew the first educational opportunity they had so God set up an alternative educational system. It's said that if you really want to learn a subject, teach it. I can tell you that this is true. Our first parents likely learned a lot from their kids. They had successes and failures, tragedies and triumphs. The prohibition on adultery goes back to a reflection of the "Have no other gods before me." If the family unit was to follow the divine model, the faithfulness has to be a key element. If you begin to be unfaithful to your spouse, who is with you every day and whom you can see, then you are all the more likely to be unfaithful to your God, whom you cannot see either. God's not spoiling your fun. He's preserving your character and helping you understand the nature of the relationship you must have with God that Jesus later said, was the way to gain eternal life.
  8. “You shall not steal." - This one's easy to understand, especially if you've raised children. Stealing leads to chaos. Property rights are an essential key to a functioning society. Everywhere the Marxist idea of all property belonging to the workers has been tried, the infrastructure breaks down. If it belongs to everyone, nobody wants to bother to maintain it. Why mow your law if it's not your lawn and anybody who wants to can dig holes in it if they want to? We parents love our kids, but we don't let them steal from one another. 
  9. “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor." - As a parent, we have all admonished our children not to lie. And why not? Society would collapse if people weren't basically honest. We have plenty of trouble as it is with people lying, even in court. That's why we punish them for perjury. If we didn't society would soon become unmanageable. Besides it's not nice!
  10. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” - Here's another one where God assumes the parent role and has to explain just what he means. Don't be greedy isn't terribly specific and greedy people automatically begin looking for loopholes in any law, because greed is THE way to achieve power and control over others. And the lust for power my friends was the original sin - wanting to be gods ourselves; a job for which we are ill-suited. The tenth commandment is often the most overlooked and probably the most violated one, even more so than adultery, which sin also includes elements of both #7 and #10. One can almost see God standing there tapping his foot going, "No you can't covet his car. I know I said donkey, but the principle still applies. And no not his power tools either."  The point is God wants us to be satisfied with what we've got. He doesn't mind if we acquire things, just so those things aren't acquired at the expense of others. That includes our children and family too. We loving parents deny ourselves all sorts of thing in order to provide for our children. This is how God purges the tendency toward greed from us. Some of us, sadly, don't learn the lesson.
So God gave every single commandment out of love. Not one is from some egomaniacal demand by God that we bow down and worship and make sacrifices. God gets no pleasure from the blood of sacrifices or from our sore knees in church. While we might kneel or give generously to the church, but we do so because we recognize that we have a loving God and wish to be more like him. Our hearts are opened to the needs of others and like God, we desire to give to others, to relieve suffering and to bring comfort to those in pain or in want.

I just don't understand why people think that the application of Grace makes the ten commandments go away, as though Grace makes it okay to lie, cheat, steal, screw around and be greedy, or, more often, skip the Sabbath and use God's name as a curse word.  Grace gives us the will to do good. And what is good?  See the above commandments. That's what good looks like.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Mental Illness and the Soul

And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, 
and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; 
and man became a living soul.  - Genesis 2:7 KJV

Seventh-day Adventists have a unique perspective among Christians as to what constitutes a soul. Much of it comes from the first few chapters of Genesis. One is a truth. The other is a lie which many modern Christians do not count as a lie.  

In the passage above, the author of Genesis recounts the creation of Adam. In the beginning, the first man was mere dirt on the ground. God formed the dirt into a body suitable for becoming alive. It was heart and brain and bone and muscle, but it was not a soul. Next, God breathed the breath of life into the man of clay which He had made and it became a living soul. 

Notice. God did not call Adam's pre-existing soul down out of heaven to inhabit this body He had made. Creating a soul required the pre-existence of a suitable body and the breath of life - the spark that causes you to breathe and walk and talk and without which, apparently there is no soul. Solomon put it this way in Ecclesiastes 9:5 -
  • For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten.

God then tells his newly created pair to stay away from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil for in the day you eat of it, you shall surely die. Almost immediately, the serpent shows up and starts working on an "alternative" theology.  His first statement is a lie. Thou shalt not surely die. If you can't die, then you are a god goes the reasoning. Ever since, Lucifer has steadily populated the world with religions which teach that man's soul is immortal and that we shall not surely die. This first lie has spawned other horrors, like the teaching of eternal torment in an ever-burning hell, which, while useful for terrifying the masses into paying for new cathedrals and Sunday school buildings, has probably driven out more Christians than it has brought into the church.

So what has that to do with mental illness?  Just this. For centuries, the Christian world has had some notable difficulty with mental illness in people, especially church members. We see mental illness, not as a hazard of living, like measles or smallpox, but as a judgment from God. We expect demons to plague the outer world beyond the church doors, but not to afflict those who confess Christ. It is little wonder we distance ourselves from the mentally ill. If the soul is separate from the body and magically inhabits the body, flying off somewhere on its own when the body dies, then if the person is insane, it is a flaw that the soul allows to flourish, since the soul is separate from the body. Either that or a demon has pushed out the person's soul. Where one's soul goes when that happens is something we don't like to think about too much. It confuses us.

But according to scripture we possess a body, mind, and spirit and that it apparently requires all three to make a soul. Therefore, if the body dies, if the spirit (Hebrew "breath") ceases, then the soul dies. It may be, as Paul declares, transplanted into a new perfect body at Christ's coming when the dead are raised incorruptible.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. - I Corinthians 15:53  In the meantime, though, a dead body equals a dead soul asleep. Remember what Jesus said about Lazarus. "He sleeps."  He then clarified his statement by saying, "Lazarus is dead." When he raised him, Jesus didn't jerk Lazarus's immortal soul down out of heaven to stick it back in a dark evil-smelling tomb. That would have been cruel. Lazarus' mortal soul was sleeping.

Immortality must be "put on". It's not built in. And if the sequence in the above passage from Paul is any indication, then we need new incorruptible bodies if we are to be given immortality. It makes sense that it be in that order - first the perfect vessel, then the soul to be integrated with it. It also makes sense that if there were some flaw in the body, particularly in the brain, our thinking apparatus, then the soul might be in some way damaged as well.  If you remember how Jesus handled insane people, he first cast out the demons that "inhabited" the poor soul and then he healed the mind so that the demons might have no place to return to. In other words, Christ repaired the machinery and then begin to fix the software.

God is a merciful God.
For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. - Psalm 103:14 ESV. God promises to wipe away all trace of tears and sin. I suspect, knowing the limitations faced by a person with mental illness, that God will take that into account when he reconstructs that soul for eternity. It is difficult if we have a magical understanding of the soul as a thing separate form the body and mind. Even Adventists, who ought to know better, have a problem with blaming the mentally ill person for his or her illness. There has long been a stigma among church people against seeking psychiatric or psychological help for mental illness. I can understand why. If the soul is a disembodied "other", then how could the infirmities of the body cause the soul to sin? It's that mystical separateness of the soul from the body that lurks behind that stigma. We would hardly condemn a person who was severely injured in an accident for crying out in pain, but when a mentally ill person does it, we cringe and too often blame that person for the outcry.

And lets face it, mentally ill people sin all the time. Something is wrong with the hardware of their brains. They hear voices that are not there, feel emotions that have no root cause, and think garbled, often frightening thoughts that seem to come from nowhere. The way they experience this world is truly horrific. They see, hear, and feel demons. Can God heal and save these poor souls. Of course He can. He remembers that we are dust.  It is not our business to judge these folk. It is our business to attempt to heal their infirmities as best we can. It is our business to comfort them as much as we can. It is our business to lift them up in prayer to the One who can heal and save them.

I maintain that if we abandon the mentally ill to the consequences of their illness, as often happens in Christian congregations, then we are no better than those who would murder inconvenient unborn babies, euthanize troublesome old people or refuse care for sick poor people. 

Mentally ill people scare us. I get that. No one wants to face the horrors of Alzheimer's or bipolar, schizophrenia or autism. The idea that it could happen to us, is an idea no one wants to entertain. We prefer to think of our souls as magic things, separate from our vulnerable bodies. The truth is, however, that we are our bodies whole and entire. When you put the breath of life into a body, a wondrous thing happens - a soul is created.  It may be a very simple soul with only simple understanding of the world around it as in that of an infant or a person with developmental disabilities. It may be a complex soul in an elderly person with a clear eye and sharp mind and decades of experience and education behind him. 

Yet for all its amazing possibilities, a soul is still hedged about by the limitations of the complicated organic mechanism within which it is contained. In my own case, I face certain limitations due to my lifelong struggle with attention deficit disorder. I have been and still am learning to make allowances for those limitations. I cannot do some things in the same way others do. Others who have mental disorders may have to take medications or perform certain adaptive behaviors in order to function as effectively as their bodies allow them to. Even those with physical disabilities, face an impact upon their minds and consequently upon their souls as a result of their disability. Those disabilities and illnesses even impact the loved ones and families of those who are disabled. It's how it is. How we deal with the challenges posed by "how it is", is the real issue.

This world, I believe, is a crucible which God uses to purify and shape souls for eternity. In this life God leads us where He would have us go. He gives us trials and blessings designed to shape us for immortality. In the end, at  the last trumpet, He will lift our souls - the persons imprinted upon the machinery of our minds and bodies - and place them in perfect vessels, where, through the ages of eternity, they may, beginning where they are with all the imperfections polished off, grow and become the incredible array of perfect, yet distinct and individual human souls that God wishes to scatter throughout the universe as a blessing to his creation everywhere.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Knight Takes a Stand

Retired SDA historian, George Knight is on the hot seat.
some of the Adventist Book Centers have even considered removing his books from their shelves as a result of remarks he made at a recent "Unity Conference" in London where division leaders gathered to discuss the ramifications of recent moves to consolidate power by the GC and threats to close certain troublesome divisions who were not properly submitting to the authority of the GC administration. Knight
asked how the Seventh-day Adventist Church went from disdaining church organization in its earliest days to becoming one of the most highly organized churches in Christian history. And HE SAID IT OUT LOUD!

It was an interesting meeting to say the least. Knight's talk title was
“Catholic or Adventist: The Ongoing Struggle Over Authority + 9.5 Theses.” George is safely retired so I suppose he felt he was in a position to say such things. That he did so casts in sharp relief the trouble brewing between Silver Springs and the world church. The Spectrum article is worth reading as is the text of Knight's talk which is linked therein.

I've had similar concerns about church leadership since the 2010 GC. After that there was a spate of calls for unity and sermons on unity. Why was the church in 2010 suddenly needing to be reminded that we should be united? George Knight seems to have spoken about something unpleasant and did so out loud. The GC may not be able to forgive him.

GC President Ted Wilson's father, Neal, was unhappy at being removed from office in 1990 (witnesses say he threw a fit out in the hall). Four years before Wilson, in a letter to the Unions and Conferences had made it clear that he considered the General Conference was the “highest authority in the church”. This went against the decentralization of church authority that had happened in 1902. After he "retired", he was part of, if not leader of, a group who seemed intent on overthrowing the next president and offered himself as replacement when they were successful. Since then there has been a controversy bubbling around Wilson ever since. There was even a public prayer I heard one pastor give at the 2010 GC where he said, not everybody was happy with or agreed with what they had done, but called for God to bring us together in unity. It's not an exact quote but it was the gist of it. I heard rumors that a group had worked behind the scenes to get Ted, son of Neal, nominated to the presidency. Since then there has been a steady stream of articles and sermons and pleas for unity in our SDA magazines. The San Antonio GC was even more divisive and the ordination of women vote seemed to be more of a power grab than a theological issue. After all two Bible conferences sponsored by the GC had failed to find women's ordination against scriptural authority. What the measure voted on in San Antonio actually did was pull back authority from the Division to the GC - authority that had been transferred to them in 1903 at a GC that Ellen White said that angels had walked the aisles during that decision. She warned, if you remember that the GC administrators should not exercise what she called "kingly powers".

I've watched with dismay as my church has leaned suspiciously toward Babylon in the political maneuvering behind the scenes that took place. I loved Elder Folkenberg and Jan Paulsen as GC presidents but both continued the process of gathering authority to the GC administration. Within these centralizing forces we find the Wilsons supporting the centralizing authority, but jockeying for the place at the top of the administration.  I remember after the 2010 GC, when Ted Wilson was elected, we almost immediately began to hear sermons that my pastor appeared uncomfortable giving in which the chains of authority were discussed and exhortations to members that they should obey pastors, and then conference presidents and division presidents etc. up the chain of authority. Then the editor of the Review wrote an editorial, talking about marginalizing independent ministries on the heels of Amazing Facts being kicked out of Florida Conference, and a Texas Conf. President banning a former (and very good in my opinion) Texas Conf. President from Texas pulpits with a mass email, well something seems wrong. And at its core, the dispute seems to be not about Biblical truth, but about church authority.

Hamlet said the believed something was rotten in the state of Denmark. While not exactly rotten, something feels wrong in my beloved church and that feeling is coming from above. I hate to say it, and nothing will drive me from this church. I am a loyal Adventist always, but Christ is my authority. Him I obey. With every human being, however, it's conditional by a long shot.

I think our church is under a stealthy attack from within. I think Satan would try to convince us to conform to the world more in order to bring in new members. That's where the Roman church went wrong and we should beware. Some change is good. Some not so good. We are students of the whole Bible. I've been studying scripture for my entire 45 years as a Christian. When you spend that much time with the Word you train your internal radar to sense if something is wrong. "If we do these things in the green wood," says Shakespeare, "What will happen in the dry?" When we face an external assault, can we survive if we are crumbling at the core?

I hope the church can work it out. I am kind of rooting for the divisions on this one, though. I think Ted and company overstepped on the ordination issue and it feels like power is being shifted in the wrong direction at this stage of the game. As the church begins to face opposition from the one world church movement, it will become imperative that we shift power and decision making farther afield. A church in which power and decision-making is scattered across the world as the creation of Divisions was intended to do, is harder to kill than one where power is strongly centralized where the head can be lopped off and the whole organization killed in one fell swoop.

We should be planning for the final stages of the work and be drawing more on local energies, skills, ideas and strengths to spread the world to every kindred, tongue and people.  As I've said too many times to count, the church is not a museum for saints, it's a hospital for sinners. If you don't see sin in the church it's because you ain't lookin'. The best we can do is try to use Biblical principles to heal the rifts that arise within the fabric of the church. Power does not corrupt absolutely, but it certainly attracts the corruptible. And to those for whom power is attractive, the temptation to exercise it can be overwhelming. That's why I believe in keeping centralized power away from our leadership and spread it about. Return the power to the people as much as possible and let the "leadership" serve rather than command.

This is just my opinion. I am no prophet nor do I pretend to be one. As a simple Christian man, I serve Christ in any case. The Christian church has a short hierarchy or should have. Our shepherds serve the flock, not the other way round. At least that's how Jesus explained it to me.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Camping Genius: The Pathfinder Bug-Out Bag

I've written before about the Bug-Out Bag and the Get-Home Bag. Each has a slightly different purpose. The Bug-Out Bag or the GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) bag is something you keep in your home or car or in both places in case of a disaster like the fall of the Wormwood Asteroid or the beginning of one of the more disastrous of the seven last plagues. The Get-Home bag is for your car and designed so that if your car breaks down, you'll have what you need to get home.

The Pathfinder Bug-Out Bag is for a slightly different, more Pathfinderish  purpose. It could also be called the "Let's Go Camping All of a Sudden" Bag.  It's something each or your Pathfinders could make that would allow them to grab the bag, jump into a car and go camping for the weekend and survive nicely. Here how to do it:

Shelter Materials:
  • Duffel bag or backpack (either one works, but the backpack is easier to carry, though some duffels come with shoulder straps). Everything goes into or attaches to this bag.
  • One-man tent (standard survival tent or inflatable tent or light tarp) and tarp to spread below the tent. This is meant for emergencies and shouldn't be unpacked if the troop has tents for everybody. An alternate emergency shelter can be a net hammock (rolls into a ball) and a tarp for overhead shelter. The hammock gets you off the ground the tarp shelters you from the wind and you wrap in the sleeping bag and fleece or mylar blanket (below).
  • Simple flat folded air mattress (be sure it's in a puncture-resistant package in an end pocket or somewhere safe).
  • Mylar blanket or small fleece blanket
  • Light sleeping bag
Navigation Tools:
  • Compass
  • Cell phone with GPS app, charger and extra battery
  • Pocket knife (Swiss Army style or multi-tool)
  • Buck knife (suitable for lopping off small branches)
  • Hatchet (for firewood)
  • Stainless steel water bottle or canteen (Empty - fill before leaving)
  • Mess kit
Emergency and Survival Items:
  • Water purification tablets or Life Straw (for emergencies)
  • Poncho with hood for bad weather
  • Signal mirror
  • Stack of 4 bandanas (for multiple purposes including bandaging and cleaning and neck-warming)
  • Watch cap that pulls down over your ears for warmth
  • Neosporin, band-aids, or small first-aid kit in a box.
  • Steel survival flashlight and extra batteries
  • Duct tape
  • 50 ft. Paracord
  • 4 bungee cords 
  • Collapsible hiking pole (optional)
  • Benadryl tablets
  • Aspirin tablets
  • New lighter or waterproof matches, flint and steel kit
  • 2 Pencils and small notebook
  • Toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, washcloth, small towel
  • Toilet paper (1000 sheet roll) and small folding shovel
  • Brush or comb
  • Shampoo or soap
Clothes and Protective Gear
  • Gloves - leather
  • T-shirt
  • 2 pr. underwear
  • Sweatpants
  • 2 pr. warm socks
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Crush hat (brim all the way around - packs flat)
Reference Material:
  • Survival manual
  • Pocket Bible

  1.  Pack everything into sections within the backpack or  duffel. Stuff you'll use a lot can go in pockets on the outside. Stuff you don't need so often can go in the bottom of the pack or duffel.
  2. Put the water bottle where you can get at it to fill the bottle easily. Put first-aid stuff and emergency gear in side pockets or compartments, so that you can get to it quickly. 
  3. Don't pack your cell phone. Leave a space for it and for food (below) at the top of the bag inside. Larger stuff like sleeping bags and tent packs can be strapped to the outside of the bag. Store them with your bag ready to strap on with straps or bungee cords and go.
  4. Print up a list of things you can grab from the cabinet and place it in the top of the bag where the food goes. You can even set a special box in your cabinet with emergency go-camping supplies.  Rotate everything every month or so to keep everything fresh. 
Food and Last Minute Stuff to Add:

Here are some commonly available foods you might already have in your cabinet that can go along on an instant campout.
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Can of vege-links or vege-sausage links
  • Small jar of peanut butter
  • Bottle of honey
  • Instant chocolate milk mix
  • Powdered juice mix 
  • Pancake mix in individual plastic bags or pouches
  • Oil in small plastic bottle
  • Salt packets or small camp shaker bottle
  • Granola/energy bars
  • Box multi-grain crackers
  • Fruit packed in fruit juice
  • Ramen noodles or cup noodle soups
  • Box mac n' cheese or pasta dish
  • Potatoes, carrots, ears of corn, box of cherry tomatoes 
  • Aluminum foil

Master Guide Notes:

These are a few ideas for food for a quick two to three day campout. Anything you can boil in your mess kit and mix up or fry up or roast on a stick can be tossed in a bag and zipped up in the bag to take along. I'd grab my banjo to take along too and the cell phone and the extra battery I keep on hand. You should turn off you cell phone as soon as you no longer need it and remove the battery to keep it from discharging. That way if you get in trouble, you can put the batteries in and have plenty of power for getting a signal out if you need to.

I've done a couple of these cook-your-own-food-or-starve campouts, where the kids had to cook their own food. I had one young man, to my surprise, tell me he wasn't going to cook his own food - that was work for women. I repossessed his extensive candy bar supply and gave him some dried foods that had to be heated with water for him to prepare. He refused and stubbornly went hungry. He complained to his mother when he got home and unwisely included the bit about cooking being "women's work". I wish I could have been a fly on the wall for that motherly intervention. 

The kids had a great time building their little fires and cooking over them - each their own meals. Some were really creative. Several of the kids divided and shared, one carrying sandwich makings and the other carrying the bread in an uncrushable plastic box. I had them plan in pairs or threes where they wanted a larger group. Since they were all cooking for themselves it was a great break for the Moms, some of whom came along anyway. The grownups came up with some really cool stuff with aluminum foil, potatoes, carrots, vegeburger and camp fire coals.  Others roasted ears of corn. The kids learned a lot having to cook for themselves. The adults let them sample their food and showed them how to do the cooking. One ingenious kid whose Dad had done this before packed a can of biscuits with a freezer pack and next morning roasted biscuits on a stick. This kind of campout creates many teachable moments you can capture. The more stuff you can let the kids do for themselves on a campout, the better.

It might take your Pathfinders an entire year or more to put this whole thing together, but half the fun is collecting the contents of the bag. It's a project they can take home and work on in their own time and when they are done, it belongs to them forever.

© 2017 by Tom King

Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Response to Calls for the Church to Expand Our Limited Views of Sexuality

I apologize in advance for the length of this post, but I thought I'd go ahead and get it over with
. It has been suggested that it is time for the church to expand our "limited views of sexuality." This idea was greeted enthusiastically by a train of commenters who added things like "...
it appears that so many see the Bible as some kind of rule book" or "They do not have a compelling reason to brand homosexuality a sin."  They call a re-examination of our views on gender, a "search for authenticity."

 The issue is about authenticity for certain. The term "authenticity" is being used as a whip to bring those who disagree with certain progressive notions into line. If we don't accept the "settled science" that there are 32 different "genders" to choose from based upon how one feels, we are apparently inauthentic (which is bad in case you missed the memo). The "science" has huge holes in the argument in favor of multiple genders. What little there is in the way of research is sparse and fragmented. Actually, my own viewpoint on sexuality has some 7000 years of authenticity behind it, so I'm comfortable in claiming to be authentic even though I'm not a "progressive".

Bill Nye the pseudo-science guy just did a show with a woman who says she makes her vagina speak. Bill and the talking vagina tell his audience that there are more than just two genders, in fact claiming gender exists on a spectrum. They even do a song and dance number about it, if you can imagine.  Nye, who has a BA in mechanical engineering and a failed career as a standup comic behind his claim to be a scientist, said flatly that it is "settled science" that gender exists on a spectrum. Unfortunately, for Bill's credibility, there's no such "settled science" and other than a few stray scientists' opinions, not much has been done on this politically driven scientific question.

To give you an idea of how political this type of "science" is, once in a TV interview, Nye suggested "science deniers" be imprisoned as "war criminals". My own field is psychology. In the 80s I watched psychology bow to political pressure and declare homosexuality normal, removing the diagnoses from the DSM-IIIR. I watched the powers that be shut down almost ANY research into the causes of gender displacement and especially into the treatment of gender identity problems. The quickest way to end your career back then was to do research and publish results showing either a genetic or psychological cause. The APA sent a memo out to all therapists that they were not to offer gender reassignment therapy of any sort and threatened their licenses. 

Meanwhile, the gay community celebrated their new unquestionable freedom with a decade-long orgy.  Meanwhile one of their number had sex with an ape of some sort or with someone who had and caught something bad. He flew it back to the states and passed it around the bath houses all over the country (he was an airline steward).  AIDS took hold, sweeping through first the gay, then bi-sexual communities with devastating consequences. Then, of course the disease broke free into the main population. The common denominator for infections was unprotected sex out of marriage. The new moral standard for sexual conduct apparently came with a death toll. Anything goes was the sexual standard and sure enough, it went and with tragic results.

Everybody (if you listen to the sexual propagandists) now wants to gauge gender by "feelings". Having studied the human brain, one thing I do know. Obi-wan Kenobi was wrong to tell Luke to trust his feelings. The only time you can trust your feelings is when you have trained your feelings to do what you want them to do. Almost all "feelings" of the sort the LGBTQ community are talking about are feelings generated by persistent training of the brain stem and limbic system by the forebrain (the part we think with). Feelings are pretty much an automatic reaction we get when we have thought about something enough times to lay down a shortcut between our perceptions and our emotions, triggering emotional responses without you having to think about it.

This ability to bypass thinking allows us to learn and retain everything from swinging a baseball bat to feeling love when we see our mother or spouse to jumping high in the air when we spot a snake at our feet. Such trained emotional responses mean we don't have to think about whether or not we love our child, for instance. We train our minds to feel that love in the months before that child is born or adopted. Or we have trained ourselves to love any child, or puppy or whatever prior to out encounter with them because we've previously thought about children or puppies and decided repeatedly that we are fond of them. In the same way, we have to have a bad encounter or some cognitive lessons from our parents before we recognize that a snake might be a bad thing. If you've ever had your little boy scare you to death by running after some interesting reptile without fear you know what I mean. They have to learn to run way from snakes.

In my 40 years in the mental health business and as a therapist, I found upon drilling down that my gender-identity confused kids all had experienced some kind of traumatic reset of their "feelings" about gender during their early childhood. Some may have had a genetic predisposition that nudged them one way or the other. Others had been molested or abused, but inevitably, something had gone wrong that interfered with their normal sexual development. There was a study done once (quite a cruel one to my way of thinking) where they attempted to influence gender selection in toddlers by swapping their toys. Boys got Barbie dolls and such and girls got building blocks. What they learned from this is that building blocks are useful in building houses for play families and for making tables for tea parties and that if you grab her by the legs, bend Barbie at the waist and pull off her head and arms, she makes a pretty serviceable gun. Gender, it seems, at least in genetically normal kids, is pretty well fixed.

The Bible has some pretty specific things to say about homosexuality, enough to indicate to me that it is not a good thing to encourage. We live in a society raised on "If it feels good do it!" The fact that some gay people are being persecuted isn't a Christian issue. Hey, I'm sorry the Russians are persecuting gay people, but Russian government persecutes everybody. They are also threatening to shut down my church which has nothing to do with the persecution of homosexuals and such. Russia just doesn't like anyone who doesn't toe the government line. Even some of the Christian churches are pretty much government run.

The LGBTQ folk are confusing government persecution with religious persecution. Christ
nowhere encouraged us to treat people other than the way we want to be treated. I know of no Christian church denomination which officially condones persecution of gay people. There may be some outliers in the community, but it's not universal as the LGBQT advocates would have you believe. I notice they picked on Christians in Russia to identify as persecutors. There is far worse persecution happening in the Middle-East where gay folk get thrown off buildings, stoned, beheaded, and burned alive. But in Syria and Palestine, the persecution can't be blamed on Christians, so it doesn't fit the progressive agenda to reduce the influence of Christianity, which ultimately is what all this is about.

I get accused of having conversations in my head when I bring up the concurrent gender identity crisis and the progressive political agenda around it.  The conversation is not in my head, though, it is out in the public square. As a mental health professional, I listened for most of my career as the LGBTQ community shouted down suggestions that the gender displacement was genetic AND that the gender identity was entirely choice.  These explanations were used interchangeably depending on which best met the objections. What they seemed to want was for everyone to shut up about it and let them get on with whatever they were doing and approve of it. I worked a brief time in school as a cab driver. I cannot tell you how many eager teenaged boys I picked up at the downtown Ft. Worth bus station and carried to an Eastside gay bar where they were met by gay men who paid their fare. Predators every one.  I watched kids we treated for gender identity issues who, when they turned 18, had pretty well come to terms with the abuse behind it and even joined a local church. I vividly remember when one young man, who had been serially molested by 3 uncles, turned 18, his caseworker picked him up and took him home. Looking in his record she saw that he had at one time exhibited homosexual behavior and took him straight down and signed him up with a local gay activist group. Their idea of "helping" him was to take him to a gay bar and get him some experience. The kid called us and was in really a bad way by the time they got through with him. They weren't about helping this kid at all. They were about increasing their own opportunities for gay sex by recruiting confused youth.

I've had several friends in the church who were gay or at least had those feelings to deal with. With God's help, they did not practice gay sex. That I can accept. People struggling with sin do not make me uncomfortable. They do not demand I approve of their sin. 

In the interest of fairness, I did once check out the website of a gay Adventist church in California. What brought me up short was that in their online church bulletin, they listed the best local bars for hooking up with gay and lesbian partners. Can you imagine if a mainline SDA church put up a list of singles bars in the church bulletin? The LGBTQ community doesn't appear to be looking for a dialogue. They are looking for everyone to submit to a line of reasoning that doesn't make sense to us and which demands that we all bring our feelings into submission to a kind of absolute truth about gender that they can't even describe in a way that makes logical sense.

Here's the deal; Scripture says "Male and female created He them." It does NOT say, "Male and female, Gay and Lesbian, Bi-sexual and trans-gender, trans-species and trans-racial, created He them."  Had Moses listed all of the (so far) 32 species of gender identity the LGBQTLSMFT community has so far championed.  there should be an entire chapter of Genesis on what sorts of genders God created and how to choose one. Let's look at science then, if Moses is not to be believed. Scientifically, there are two brands of gender determined by DNA. One is boys and the other is girls. There occasionally occur aberrations where there is an extra gender chromosome present in a person's DNA, but such folk tend to go one way or another. Only if you're born with both sets of genitalia, do you get a choice and even then it's better to go with the chromosomes if you want to be healthy.

The point is that SEX ISN'T EVERYTHING. That is utter heresy in the modern world, but there are plenty of Christian folk who have lived long and productive lives without ever "dipping their wicks". Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness, never had sex. So apparently you won't die if you don't screw something sometime in your life AND it's not required to fulfill all righteousness. Forgive my bluntness, but there it is. There's not a better example than Jesus of righteous behavior. Some LGBTQ apologists have suggested that Jesus was, in fact, gay. If so, that's just another sin he resisted during his life and only supports my point that feelings aren't everything. Like Jesus, we go on principle.

We must not attempt to twist the natural world or the Scriptures into some shape that suits our feelings. The best we can do is emulate the pattern for behavior that we are given in the Word to the best of our ability with the help of Almighty God. We should be submitting to God's will, not the will of a highly organized group of sexual deviants. And you are going to have to give me a valid reason as to why God should create or blind evolutionary chance should pump out a bunch of gay people I have to stick by my judgment that gay six isn't right. You might make a case that Gaea gave us gay people in order to reduce the world's over-crowding by loading it with people who don't reproduce, but then the LGB etc. folk don't want to do that. Myself, I will continue to believe that other than the two basic genders, there are no others that are natural or useful except possibly to relieve a shortage of interior decorators and choreographers.  Barring genetic mutation (which seldom works out well for the mutant) I shall stick to the two identified genders and will avoid any sexual experimentation with numbers or genders as being what Scripture describes as "sin".

I love all my brothers and sisters including those who are gay and lesbian, bipolar, ADHD, schizophrenic, kleptomaniac, and have every other kind of mental disorder, dysfunction and trauma-induced psychological issue. I would never hurt one deliberately. In fact, I made a career of helping those kinds of people. I accept my homosexual friends with all their emotional and psychological struggles in the same way I would accept a brother or sister who struggles with gossip, anger or a lust for power. We are all sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God. The church is a hospital for sinners.

Leviticus is pretty specific about whether or not homosexual behavior is a sin. Notice I did NOT say homosexual "feelings".  Someone called the Scriptural prohibition "flimsy" evidence, but it seemed pretty solid to me. I will, therefore, not change my beliefs about the issue of whether sexual behavior outside of marriage in any form is a sin or not. It's a sin. My church and I are entitled to believe that so long as we don't go round stoning gay people. Just because we've grown past that sort of thing, doesn't mean the sin is any less a sin.

 My worldview is simple on that point. I won't be bullied into changing my belief in order to somehow magically stop the Russians from persecuting homosexuals. Oh, those naughty Russians and those intolerant Christians!  Always it's Christians the progressives demand must water down their beliefs and accept ever more and more sinful behavior as "normal".

It's not just happening around sexual and gender issues in our culture. Christians are being marginalized, ridiculed and downright persecuted unless they adopt the new blended culture in which all beliefs are equally valid, except, of course, for the Christian ones they disagree with. As then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said, "...
deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed." She was talking about abortion, but normalization of alternative sexual identity is also clearly part of the political agenda the left ascribes to. And I, for one, refuse to change my religious belief on either of those points.

Who could be behind such a thing as that here in the last days of Earth's history? Makes you wonder doesn't it? Who could it be? Now who could it be?

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Politics and Religion: Is There a Right Side for Christians

20th century Christian author GK Chesterton

Put not your trust in princes. 
Wise words and yet we so seldom keep our skepticism intact when some smooth-tongued demagogue advances ideas we find attractive.  Recently my church has become more divided along political lines.  A recent article in Adventist Today remarked on how divided Adventists were on the issue of famed SDA neurosurgeon Ben Carson's 2016 candidacy for president and appeared to support efforts by Democrat progressives to "keep an eye on Carson."

Oddly enough the same folk who chided me for vocally supporting Carson, telling me Adventists were not supposed to get involved in politics, are posting one political article after another criticizing the new president and his policies and his cabinet picks - even though one of those picks was one of our own. I do not understand this in any other way than to assume that many of our magazine writers and a significant number of our influential SDA administrators and members have declared for the progressive left. If they have not, their writing and commentary certainly makes it sound that way.

So I don't get it. I sat in the same classes, the same Sabbath schools and heard the same sermons and attended the same evangelistic meetings. How does one get from all of that to progressivism?  Let me try and make my point with a little Q&A here.  Dividing the political spectrum into progressive left and conservative right, please tell me which side supports the following political goals. Remember, when I talk about the conservative right that does not mean TV evangelicals, most of whom lean to the left in their core beliefs. Okay, here we go:


Select conservative or liberal (progressive) as the political movement most likely to endorse the following policies:

1.  A single unified world government "with teeth" as proposed by Pope Benedict to be organized by church leaders, trade unions, industrial organizations and international political parties.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

2.  A United Religions organization similar to the United Nations with the Pope as the logical head of the organization as proposed by Shimon Perez last year.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

3. Signing a declaration ending the Protestant Reformation, resolution of all differences and reunification of the Christian Church under Roman Catholic leadership as proposed by Pope Francis.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

4. Government in which individuals draw their rights from and serve the collective state rather than the state drawing its power from and serving the individual citizens as outlined in the US Constitution.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

5. The utilization of fear of climate change, fear of big corporations, fear of not having healthcare, and fear of religion as the ultimate cause of all wars as a tool to rewrite the Constitution and impose a socialist state.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

6.  Abolition of religion from all participation in the public square as proposed by the Freedom from Religion Coalition.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

7. Increased regulation and government power to monitor suspect groups in opposition to the government and creation of a standing domestic army to be used to control the citizenry in the event of riots, civil disobedience or sedition as proposed by former President Obama.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

8. Abolition of the Second Amendment and complete disarming of the citizenry.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

9. The lobbying for and institution of Sunday closing laws as proposed by Pope Paul II and already enacted in European nations like Germany with full support of trade unions and progressive groups.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

10. The deliberate collapsing of the US economy by overloading the welfare system in order to nationalize industry and gain control of economic organizations as outlined by Obama advisor Francis Fox Piven and Richard Cloward in their 1966 paper "The Weight of the Poor: A Strategy to End Poverty".
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

11. The use of techniques like unrestricted abortion and euthanasia of the elderly, disabled and sick to clean up the population of nonproductive members.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

12. Control of the content of the curricula of local school districts by the federal government.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

13. Free government day care for working mothers. Free government education at all levels.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

14.  The end of personal ownership of land and property by individuals.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

15. Guaranteed jobs, housing, food and utilities, funded by the government.
                 -  Conservative or Progressive

16. A cashless society in which the government controls whether you buy or sell (as one pundit put it, "It would virtually end crime because there would be no money to steal."

                 -  Conservative or Progressive


Ask yourself, if any of this creeps you out. If it doesn't, you must have slept through those evangelistic meetings, sermons, Bible classes and Sabbath schools. I know it looks like I rigged the quiz and I kinda did. Every single one of those proposed political goals I drew from a card-carrying progressive liberal. That doesn't mean Republicans won't participate in these kinds of shenanigans. Both parties are capable of serious corruption. It's just that, before you assume uncritically that liberalism is what Jesus would do, you might want to re-examine that notion a little more closely.

Just saying,

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, April 8, 2017

A Response to "Appetizers and Affairs" in Spectrum

Courtney Ray, a female SDA pastor joined liberal feminists everywhere in piling up a mountain upon the molehill that was Mike Pence's declaration that he didn't do lunch or dinner meetings alone with female colleagues. In an article entitled "Appatizers and Affairs" in Spectrum Magazine, Pastor Ray complains that "This type of thinking impedes women’s ability for upward mobility."  She further warns of dire consequences. asking, "What if by some blessing from God unforeseen event, Donald Trump doesn't complete his entire term?"

Note the crossed out bit. She wants us to know that she believes that the death of the President of the United States would be the act of a beneficent God. It was at that point that Ms. Ray lost me and lost my respect. There is a definite growing segment of our church that holds "progressive" beliefs and sides completely with Democrats. These are the folk who believe that conservative Baptists will one day rise up and pass Sunday laws and send SDAs to jails. They completely ignore prophecies that state quite clearly that there will be a world church and world government with the power to compel people to obey its precepts. Neither of those things are supported by conservative Baptists.

I'm one of those evil conservatives and I beg to differ. The type of government I support would be small, with limited authority over anyone's individual freedom and religious liberty would be held sacrosanct. I don't support the idea, recently proposed by some religious leaders that we should have a United Religions, a sort of shadow United Nations with the pope as its natural leader. Progressives and Democrats do. I know. I've heard them. I know Catholics that are frightened by that idea given that a recent papal bull stated that we need a world government with teeth, organized by industrialists, international political parties, trade unions and church leaders.

Now that scares me.  Mike Pence making sure he's not alone with a woman in a restaurant so some news photographer can whip up a scandal, doesn't generate any fear in me at all. I think it's very wise for a man and a political figure to be careful about such things. One merely has to add a third person to the meeting and everything's hunky dory. Pence is being respectful to his wife by not exposing himself to potential attacks by the very people that are attacking him for his innocuous declaration of faithfulness to his wife.

While I as a private citizen might meet in a restaurant with a female colleague, were I, say a pastor or politician, I probably wouldn't without including, not a chaperone to make sure I control my hormones, but a witness in case someone chooses to turn an innocent meeting into a public scandal for their own purposes. I know of a conference president who lost his job because he accompanied a married woman on a flight to an East Coast clinic where her husband was undergoing cancer treatment. He was headed that way anyway and she was thoroughly traumatized. He did the Christian thing and opponents in the conference used the incident to imply he did something illicit. Just the hint of scandal wrecked his career.

My wife trusts me implicitly and I would never violate that trust. But I do avoid compromising situations as far as possible, even though it's highly unlikely that anyone in the media would ever bother to impugn my character over who I was seen with in public. This is not true for the vice-president.

Pastor Ray's very position as a pastor is ironically threatened by recent moves toward increased authoritarianism on the part of the General Conference administration, which now holds the power to decide whether or not she can work as a paid SDA pastor thanks to the women's ordination vote at the San Antonio GC. That decision is to the SDA church what Obamacare was to the United States - a transfer of power away from the local and state governments and from individuals (conference, unions and local congregations) to the federal authorities in Washington DC (the General Conference at Silver Springs).  It's ironic that I, a small government conservative, support Pastor Ray's ability to be a pastor and yet feel so strongly am at odds with her over her attitude toward Mike Pence. Pence is doing nothing more than being respectful of the reputation of women colleagues and of his own reputation in a world where nasty individuals would attack him with the slightest provocation should they think they could use some innocent lunch meeting to bring Mr. Pence down. Unfortunately, Pence's belief in smaller less powerful government is opposed to the progressive idea/myth of a big kindly government that makes everyone safe and well fed. This puts him in a camp Ms. Ray obviously finds in opposition to her own political views.

Mrs. Ray should logically support the principles Pence stands for in decreasing the authority of Washington over local affairs when the vote at GC rejected that very principle and took power from Unions, conferences and congregations to ordain whoever they feel God has called to ministry in their churches. Big government and big church have consistently led to disastrous results throughout history. There's evidence that God practically had to burn down Battle Creek in order to dislodge an increasingly powerful GC administration which Sister White herself criticized for exercising "kingly authority" as she called it. Ray doesn't seem to make that principled connection, however, steadfastly defending the media and liberal slant.

Ray further opines:

  • If he (Mike Pence) runs in 2020, he's already excluded the possibility of any female running mates. The POTUS and VP spend lots of unsupervised time together. So obviously, a female Vice President for a hypothetical President Pence would be categorically out of the question regardless of qualifications. Men who think like this inadvertently (and sometimes intentionally) block women's upward mobility because of their insecurities.
Ray is wrong, of course. The president and VP are never alone. There are secret service everywhere to protect them.  If Pence were to need a private meeting with a female colleague or world leader, he'd have no problem at all because he'd have secret service with him who could vouch for his behavior. Unlike progressive icon, Bill Clinton, he wouldn't have to invoke secrecy to shut up his Secret Service detail. They could talk all they wanted to and could bear witness under oath that nothing hinky happened.

Pence obviously spoke as a husband and father. None of the straw man arguments offered by Pastor Ray hold up under scrutiny. I am certain Sister White would have approved of the Vice-President's policy. She often counseled ministers and SDA men to avoid the appearance of evil. We live in an evil world let's face it. We're coming down to the end of it now. We as Christians do not advocate creating a human utopia here on this Earth that would allow us to throw off caution in favor of some feminist ideal of how things ought to be. In a sinful world. We must instead tread carefully. In the new Earth we can run around with whoever we want, have lunch with anyone anywhere and not have to worry about appearance of evil. It just won't come up. I applaud Vice President Pence. Given Trump's history of corruption, it's nice to see a little principle in the administrations. We might like to be able to have an innocent meeting with a friend of the opposite sex without consequences and we could were we in the New Earth and sin were a distant memory.

Here on the old Earth, not so much.
Sadly we shall always have to worry about appearances till we go home. The devil our adversary walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Therefore, women can't run around dressed provocatively. Men can't have long meetings alone with women (or vice versa). Scripture says we are not even allowed to provoke our children to wrath. Paul says we shouldn't exercise our freedom to eat what we want if it might cause a weaker brother to stumble. 

While I sympathize with Ms. Ray's desire to remove stumbling blocks to women's "upward mobility", we shouldn't just cut loose from all proprieties, no matter how antiquated they might seem if we then pay the cost in damage to our reputations and our influence for good.  That applies equally to pastors and politicians.

© 2017 by Tom King