Saturday, November 4, 2017

Reaching the Forgotten

I wrote last week about a new project God seems to be pushing me into. I thought this week I'd post the rough development plan I've started developing this week. I like this project because it allows individuals to develop their own personal ministry performing a valuable service for the church - finding lost church members and shut-ins and bringing them home to church.  Here's the layout of the project. If you'd like to help, check out our donation page at Fundly. We can use startup seed money to help us get the paperwork filed.


Going Home Ministries – Transportation for Shut-ins & Kids

Demographics
  • 89% of Americans say they believe in God
  • 51% of Americans say they attend church
  • 25% more Americans have become more active in religious services recently
  • Pew survey cites business, inconvenience, habit, work and other reasons for lack of church attendance.
  • Pew didn't ask whether or not transportation to church was an issue
  • A big factor for elderly church members is inability to get to church. As many as 1 in 4 seniors are no longer able to drive.
Background:

Back in the 70s my church got itself a new pastor. Ron Halvorsen, a former Brooklyn gang-banger, was an unlikely choice for pastor of a large university Texas Adventist church. To say he shook up the church is an understatement. One of the things he did that upset the old guard of the church was to buy and borrow 9 old school buses. Pastor Ron discovered we had a huge shut-in population in the surrounding county. He set up a volunteer phone line to find where all these folks lived, they developed bus routes and began picking up seniors who couldn't drive themselves to church. Then they discovered that they had lots of parents who wanted their kids to go to church services so we started picking those kids up. One of the things that happened was that we filled buses with children and seniors who thoroughly enjoyed each other's company.

Within a few months we had 3000 people coming to church services (in a town of 2500) and had to divide the services into two separate services and were looking at adding a third. We set up a youth service on Wednesday night opposite prayer meeting and pretty soon we had 900 people coming to prayer meeting (up from 46 people just a few months earlier. We discovered that a huge number of those new members simply had transportation problems. Even with the kids, the bus service allowed parents to send their kids off to prayer meeting and gave them a few precious moments to themselves before they drove to prayer meeting where they could enjoy the services in peace and meet their kids back at home. It's little wonder prayer meeting became so popular.

In doing transportation advocacy in East Texas we discovered that one of the reasons our rural transit system didn't run on Sunday was that they didn't think anyone wanted to go anywhere on Sunday and certainly not to church. I did a transportation survey in the region and “ride to church” was just behind “ride to the doctor”, which is #1, as a reason that people without transportation needed a ride.

We'd like to see churches filled up again. That's what this initiative is about. We are looking to create a transportation resource to see that no one who wants to go to church has to miss services because they can't get there. Churches that have tried bus ministries have found that the need is more vast than they had any idea. With the massive baby boomer generation retiring and dealing with the effects of aging, huge numbers of our church members are finding themselves unable to get to church in any kind of regular way.

We can do bus ministries individually, but it makes more sense for us put our resource together and help each other. If church buses and individual volunteers can find a way to coordinate their efforts we should be able to get people without transportation to church and other faith-based activities. We believe that technology can help make church bus and transportation ministries more effective. Back home in Texas we did the same thing with social services for churches by creating a church social services agency that shared resources and was supported by most of the local churches. It helped us avoid duplication of services and helped us be more effective at providing help to people who needed it. It is our intent to do the same thing for transportation needs like going to church, prayer meeting, church food banks and other faith-based activities not covered by local charities and government services.

The Parable of the Wedding Guests tells of a king who invited guests to a wedding. After many refused to come, the king takes action to fill the wedding hall.

So those servants went out into the highways and gathered together all whom they found, both bad and good. And the wedding hall was filled with guests.”
(Matthew 22: 7-10)

There is a time to gather God’s children together. It seems to me that it’s about time we do a better job of doing that given the state of the world and the shortness of time.

Mission Statement

Our Mission is to build a network of transportation resources to transportation-challenged believers and searchers to church and other faith-based activities.

Vision Statement

Our Vision is of a flexible, expanding network of volunteers providing transportation for seniors, shut-ins, children and low income families to faith-based and church-sponsored activities.

Philosophy

We believe that as Christians we should embrace all Christians and seekers after truth and that we should work together across denominational lines to get those in need to their church homes. We are the servants of the King, sent out into the villages and the byways to gather all who may wish to come into the wedding feast. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, neither black nor white, nor Baptist nor Catholic, nor Adventist nor Lutheran, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Strategy:

Step 1 – Setup Nonprofit Organization to manage and coordinate the organization
Step 2 – Develop website for signing up volunteers, drivers and riders with expandability potential for duplicating in other cities
Step 3 – Develop relationships with churches, volunteers and Christians with transportation issues and create mechanisms for connecting
Step 4 – Pilot the program for one year.
Step 5 – Expand to other communities

Tentative Startup Budget:
  1. Website design and hosting............................................................$ 5,000.00
  2. Legal costs & accounting...............................................................$ 2,000.00
  3. Staffing costs (part time project director – 12 months).................$12,000.00
  4. Grant writing costs.........................................................................$ 1,000.00
Total.........................................................................................................$20,000.00

Timeline

Milestone 1: First Month
  1. Setup nonprofit corporation and recruit board of directors
  2. Create request for proposal for website design
  3. Choose web designer and map the site
  4. Setup accounting and bank accounts
  5. Research potential grant funding
Milestone 2: Second Month
  1. First board meeting
  2. Map website and begin site design and coding
  3. Visit local churches for help organizing inter-denominational transportation resources
  4. Create policies and procedures manual for organization
  5. Create methodology for expanding into new cities/counties
  6. Begin organizing technical advisory group
Milestone 3: Third Month
  1. Begin field testing website
  2. Continue recruiting churches as supporters for the project
  3. Develop advertising/marketing strategy for recruiting riders and volunteers
  4. Continue grant writing & extended budget development
  5. Meeting with advisory group
Milestone 4: Fourth Month
  1. Complete Policies and Procedures
  2. Complete field testing website and begin data collection
  3. Deploy advertising and marketing
  4. Launch website
  5. Identify transportation resources
  6. Continue grant writing & budget development
Milestone 5: Fifth Month
  1. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  2. Prepare to launch initial services
  3. Meet with advisory group/revise development plan
  4. Continue data collection/promote services
  5. Second quarterly board meeting
Milestone 6: Sixth Month
  1. Ramp up to full operations
  2. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  3. Continue marketing/grant development
  4. Continue working out the website bugs
  5. Meet with advisory group to evaluate progress
Milestone 7: Seventh Month
  1. Third quarterly board meeting
  2. Continue testing website, policies and procedures
  3. Continue marketing/grant development
  4. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  5. Expand resources and area served
Milestone 8: Eighth month
  1. Meet with advisory group to evaluate progress
  2. Continue testing website, policies and procedures
  3. Continue marketing/grant development
  4. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  5. Expand resources and area served
Milestone 9: Ninth Month
  1. Continue testing website, policies and procedures
  2. Continue marketing/grant development
  3. Continue recruiting volunteer drivers/church partners
  4. Expand resources and areas served
  5. Implement grant-funded programs
Notes:

When I was back in Texas, I did transportation advocacy for a time. One in five East Texans don't have reliable access to transportation. I helped lead an effort to improve funding for our region's rural transit system. I was appointed to the Department of Transportation's Public Transportation Advisory Committee by the Governor that rewrote the funding formula. I testified before the legislature's transportation committee and led a bipartisan coalition to make the funding formula for transit fair.

When my wife and I moved to the Pacific Northwest, we inadvertently lost our own transportation. Suddenly, instead of being advocates for seniors, low income families and people with disabilities who need transportation, my wife and I became the people who use public transportation. I learned all sorts of thing about public transit from the consumer side. With no transportation of your own to fall back on, you learn fast.
I used to hear folks, especially seniors, at our public comment meetings, complain because they could go everywhere, to doctors, to appointments with social services, and to shopping and even recreation, but there was nothing that runs to church services, which for many had been the most important thing in their lives. The transit services were either too expensive or not running during these times. Many providers claimed there was just no need for it.

After losing our own transportation, my wife and I soon found ourselves unable to attend church. The bus routes don't serve the areas around most churches as they tend to be built on less commercial property and off the main bus lines. Paratransit services either don't run to our churches or simply shut down at church times. As the baby boomer population retires, it's only going to become more of a challenge for churches to retain their older members as they lose our ability to drive or even to afford to drive.

And boomers have more savings, they bring their grandkids with them, they nag their children about coming to church. Because we are bleeding members from our congregations, in part, because of lack of a car, busy schedules, illness and loss of driving skills.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Shut-Ins: The Lost Tribe of Adventists



 When we do surveys asking what religion people are, we find that there are usually a lot more people who say they are Adventist than there are who come to church each Sabbath. Mostly we assume that's because people just don't want to come to church because they're too busy or someone's offended them or (my favorite) "I like to worship out in nature." 

I think there's another reason for the miscount. I think a lot of Adventists don't come to church anymore because they've gotten too old. I know because it's happened to me. Through a series of unfortunate events, my wife and I became isolated from our church and the church forgot we'd ever been there. 

For one reason and another, seniors are much more likely to find themselves without transportation and therefore, without a way to get themselves to church. In East Texas, my old stomping grounds, we did a survey that showed that one in five East Texans didn't have a reliable way to get to town to go to the doctor or get groceries. Many are virtual prisoners in their own homes. The other missing group is children. They don't drive cars. They are totally dependent on older people to drive them around.

These church members are too often forgotten by their own churches. I found that out when my wife and I moved up here to Washington State. We found a nice little church and, though my wife wasn't able to attend regularly, I started to. Unfortunately about a year later, I lost my ride and next thing I knew, we'd disappeared from my church's radar screen. I got a ride about two years later and everyone was surprised to see me. Most thought I'd gone back to Texas.

I've seen what happens when a church goes looking for its lost older members. Pastor extraordinaire, Ron Halvorsen Sr. breezed into my home town of Keene, Texas and began actively looking for lost members. He somehow managed to find something like 9 school buses, find drivers for them and create a maintenance and fuel fund.  We had about 800 coming to church (it's an SDA college town) and about 40 coming to prayer meeting in the youth chapel every week. Pastor Ron went out looking for children and old people and sent buses out into the surrounding counting collecting those who had been missing services.

The board balked at the cost of manning the buses, the liability issues and even the playing of guitars onboard during the rides.  But Pastor Ron, with the enthusiastic support of the congregation ignored the good old boys who thought they ran the church, and before we realized what was happening we had better than 2000 people in two and three daily services and 900 people at PRAYER MEETING! Can you imagine that?

We started youth prayer meetings for the kids, run by the kids and aimed at the kids. Kids came, often accompanied by parents and grandparents. The bus singalongs got more than a little rowdy and it wasn't just the youngsters. If you think Grandma has forgotten how to do "If You're Happy and You Know It" You've got another thing coming. It was a truly joyful noise unto the Lord.

I know, because me and my guitar were on those buses. Every Adventist Church, particularly in North America and Europe needs to go through their membership lists and find out who is missing. Once they find who and where those folk are, they need to go get them. A big yellow school bus is great for that. If some of your seniors have mobility issues, I can show you how to address that with a portable ramp you can run up to the rear exit door.

And you don't have to limit the use of the church bus to shut-in transportation to Sabbath services. If the kids are having a program at your school, go pick up folk and pack the audience with appreciative fans. If you've got a food bank in your church, USE IT!  Every month about social security check time, run around and pick up your non-driving or physically impaired members and take them to Walmart, the mall or to your church food bank. Organize trips to the park or to church recreational activities. If you hear about a free clinic going on in your city, get out the buses and go get people. Jesus said, "Go ye therefore into all the world..." If you can't be globe-hopping, you should at least explore the corner of your world. Besides those big buses running around town on Sabbath with the name of your church on it are a powerful witness, not to mention advertisement, for your local congregation.


It can be good for your church budget too. Seniors control the majority of the wealth in this country, but they don't donate to causes they don't participate in in some way. Make them active participants in the life of your church and you will see more money coming into the church coffers if that's what you're worried about.

Actually, if running a couple of buses to pick up non-attending members will, perhaps, minister to what St. Paul called "the widows and the orphans", then let nothing stand in your way. It's time we "come rejoicing" before the Lord and get to bringing in those lonely and isolated sheaves still standing out in the field with no way to get home. Gleaning the fields for left behind fruit is an ancient tradition with God's people.

© 2017 by Tom King



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Pathfinders: How to Effectively Praise





      “Fathers, provoke not your children, lest they be discouraged.” Colossians 3:21

The modern world embraces self-esteem as the end-all/be-all of child-rearing goals. Convinced that poor self-esteem is the cause behind our children's rebellion and misbehavior, a generation of parents have poured praise on their children and have succeeded in producing a crop of what many observers have called "precious snowflakes" - spoiled bratty kids who expect the world to heap approval on them as a right rather than something one earns.

As youth leaders, we have a solemn responsibility to guide children toward responsible adulthood. We are called to walk the narrow line between lifting up children's spirits and indulging their worst impulses.  So do we do that by giving everyone a participation trophy and eliminating any recognition of hard work and effort so some kids don't feel inferior and have their self-esteem damaged?

I used to work with emotionally disturbed, mentally ill and abused kids. Many of them were seriously damaged. Most had virtually no self-confidence or self-esteem. My primary job there as a recreation therapist, a vocational counselor and equestrian therapist was to help build up the ability of children whose spirits had been crushed. These kids were like abused animals, lashing out at everything and everyone that got close to them.

It was at this time I found a wonderful book by a psychologist named "Haim Ginott" called "Between Teacher and Child".  He also wrote a companion book for parents called "Between Parent and Child." The new version was updated by his daughter and I haven't read it, but his earlier book was really a departure from the loosey-goosey and ultimately disastrous child-rearing philosophy of Dr. Spock.  Ginott talks about how to:
  • Discipline without threats, bribes, sarcasm, and punishment
  • Criticize without demeaning, praise without judging, and express anger without hurting
  • Acknowledge rather than argue with children's feelings, perceptions, and opinions
  • Respond so that children will learn to trust and develop self-confidence
One of Ginott's most powerful techniques for engaging children is a simple principle for praising a child effectively. Too often we think we can praise kids by telling them things like "You are a great musician" when they bang out a song on the piano. We hang their crayon artwork on the fridge and proclaim, "You are a great artist!"  We praise a good grade on a test by telling them they are "...so smart!"  And we do surprising damage to our children by doing so.

How? When we label children great artists and students and musicians, we judge them, something even Scripture tells us we are told not to do. The exhortation, "Judge not that ye be judged" doesn't just apply to negative judgment. "Praise, done lazily by applying labels, is ineffective at best and damaging at worst. You don't full kids. If you tell a child he is a good boy, he knows better. He knows you are a liar because he knows what ungood things he sometimes does.

A teacher once decided she was going to change her unruly class's behavior by building their self-esteem.  She walked into her classroom and started her class by telling her kids she knew it was going to be a "great day" because all the children in her classroom were all "good boys and girls". The classroom erupted. It was the worst day she'd had in her career.

So why would that happen? It's because when we lazily label a child a good something or other, we tell the child we expect that they will always be good at whatever it is we are praising them for. Many times, children will try to prove you are wrong. Then they don't always have to meet the perfect standards you evidently expect of them.  God showed us that with the children of Israel who thought they'd show God they were good enough to please Him.

When we praise children (and adults for that matter), says Ginott, we should avoid labels and instead tell the child what you like about what they have done. Even better, tell them how what they have done pleases you. Kids want to please grownups. The secret is to give them praise so that they know how to please you. They don't know. Targeted praise like this is like catnip to tabby cat. Once children know what gets them your approval, they will repeat this behavior over and over.

Let me tell you a true story that illustrates the power of targeted praise. This is one of the first times I tried Ginott's targeted praise technique. I worked with emotionally disturbed children who were really messed up. Most had concurrent diagnoses of mental illness, abuse, neglect and developmental disability. We were experimenting with an art therapy program. We later hired an artist to run it, but at first I did the art classes.


There was this one little girl who had a history of abuse and neglect. She didn't trust anyone and had difficulty bonding with adults in particular. During her first art therapy class, she was fascinated with the marker pens. She worked at her table for quite a while. I saw her jump up after a while and come to me with her paper in her hand. She presented me with a picture that was light blue on the top half and dark blue on the bottom half.

I was stumped as to how to praise the little girl. You don't use empty praise like "You're a great artist." (I'd just finished Dr. Ginott's book so I knew that kids don't fall for that). So I told her, "Hmmm. It's a shade of light blue and on the bottom it's a darker blue. I like those colors."

She immediately jumped to my aid. "That's the sky," she said pointing to the light blue, "And that's the water," she explained proudly.

"Oh," I sighed, relieved to know what the painting was about, "You have done a seascape." The little girl lit up like a Christmas tree and dashed off to do another picture. The next picture was the same blue on blue with a little green pyramid shaped thing in the boundary between the two blue spaces.

"An island!" I said, hopefully. She gave me a big grin and dashed off again. The next one had a little house on it. The one after that had a palm tree. Then the house gained a chimney, then the sky gained a cloud and the sun. Every time I mentioned the new addition, it remained in the next picture. If I forgot to mention the new addition - the bird she added or a window on the house, it got left out the next thing. The little girl is now 40 years old and lists me as her Father on Facebook.

Another of my helpers had a similar, but opposite experience with an young autistic boy in the class. The boy struggled to make a very detailed and actually quite stunning picture. When he showed it to his counselor, the counselor went for the easy praise. "You're a really wonderful artist, Chris," he said holding up the picture for everyone to see. Horrified, Christ snatched the picture back, crumpled it into a ball and threw away the evidence. He refused to do any more pictures. That one picture was evidence that he was a "great artist" and Chris knew that he wasn't always able to do work that was that good. So he shied away from even trying lest his counselor find out he wasn't a "wonderful" artist. 

You may not always see an immediate reaction from your kids when you use empty praise like that. Emotionally disturbed kids react much more quickly and demonstrably than normal kids do. Tell a regular kid that he or she is a great baseball player or a brilliant mathematician and they may smile at the praise, but they soon figure out you're blowing them off with the easy compliment.

Empty praise tells a child nothing about what pleases you. If he cleans his room and you tell him he's a "good boy", it says nothing about what he did right.  Try these techniques when you praise and you'll tell the child what he or she is doing that pleases you. Remember the child want to please you. When you give only empty praise and the only time you are specific is when he is doing something wrong, the the only thing the child learns is how to disappoint you. Try this:
  1. Find specific things that the child does that please you.
  2. Tell the child how what he or she has done pleases you.
  3. Tell the child how what he or she has done helps you.
  4. Show the child you appreciate what he or she has done.
  5. Avoid telling the child what you think he or she is. 
  6.  


When you are working with your Pathfinders, remember to keep your eyes open. Know what they are doing, especially when they don't think you are watching. When you let them know specifically what they did and why it was a good thing,  and what it meant to you, it's a very powerful thing. It lets the child know how to get your approval.  Most of the reason we get into trouble with kids is we aren't very good about telling them in detail what we want from them.  Oh, we're very good at telling them what they do wrong, which may be why they repeat that sort of behavior more frequently than they do the kind of behavior we want.

Instead of "Good job!" tell a kid "Wow, this floor really shines!" (if the floor really does shine). Show them something that they did well, let them know it pleases you, and they will repeat it. Don't tell a kid, "You're a great helper!"  Instead tell them, "Thanks, that really helped me get done with my work." The child then understands why you are pleased with them. You made it personal. 

If you're on a camping trip, pick out a group that did a good job pitching their tent. Walk around it, looking at the tent pegs, the tent poles and how they stowed their gear. Comment on everything they did right. Mention if the pegs are driven in at the proper angle, if the poles are set squarely and secured, or if the inside of the tent looks neat. Before you know it other kids will ask you to look at their tents too. Make the same kinds of observations with all of your kids and pretty soon you'll have a crackerjack tent pitching crew as they compete to draw your praise for their work. And each time you praise a specific thing, you teach them what they did right. The others will watch and learn.

This way you don't have to teach by criticizing. You teach by praising. I've seen too many Pathfinder "leaders" who thought they were drill sergeants and who treated the kids as if they were a part of some kind of a paramilitary organization. The point of summer camp and Pathfinders is to teach kids practical and social skills by having fun. Robert Rider, president of the Oklahoma Conference taught me that you can save more young souls by showing kindness, by paying attention and by remembering what your job is, than you can by by barking orders.

I took those lessons with me to my later work as a teacher, as a recreation therapist with emotionally disturbed and mentally ill children, and as a community organizer working with bipartisan groups to help people in need. Our jobs as youth and Pathfinder leaders is to lead, not drive. We show kids the way, with kindness, humor and clear signals. We mark the trail for our young people to follow. We let natural consequences teach for us when they stray and we welcome them back when they return to us, even if they are a little battered for having gone off track.

God says that he will be our children's teacher (Isa. 54:13). Our job is to go before them and show by example what mere words can never teach.  Jesus said let your words be well chosen. He didn't lecture. He told stories and let his listeners draw their conclusions. We all learn like children for most of our lives. Children want to know what to do that will please us. Let's show them by telling them we notice when they do the right thing.

© 2017 by Tom King

   

Friday, October 13, 2017

Youth Ministry: Backyard Ball Field Marker

Homemade line marker.
Acts 17:26 says - From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.

Boundaries are important, especially in working with kids. Kids need boundaries. If their boundaries are not clearly marked, they will push those boundaries until you absolute define what those boundaries are. This need for boundaries extends to children's play.

Here's a handy little device for making soccer fields, baseball, football and even grass tennis courts in your backyard or your church school playground for the kids. Let me just say this. A lot of people dismiss going to the trouble of marking a ball field for kids games. I think they are mistaken.

The first thing God did when he was ready to build a nation out of the rabble that came out of Egypt was to write down the rules and build a temple. The temple was the playing field on which the Hebrew people worked out their salvation with fear and trembling. The boundaries and layout of the temple was the field upon which the Children of Israel played out the plan of salvation.

I'm here to tell you that marking out the boundaries of a playing field and putting on a striped referee's shirt makes a difference in how the kids approach obeying the rules. The lines define the boundaries of the game. With lines the arguments over whether the ball or a runner were out of bounds are vastly reduced.

I worked with emotionally disturbed kids and found that my taking the time to mark out the lines on our playing fields changed the attitude of children who played on them. The well-marked boundaries not only helped make games easier to officiate, they also made the kids feel like our games were real games and that they had been admitted to a special place as privileged participants. The boundaries said, "You are important enough for us to have taken the time to make the playing field look professional.

I've been a Pathfinder leader, a recreation therapist, a PE teacher and youth leader working with a wide array of kids. I'm here to tell you. Mark your ball fields. It makes a difference.

You can buy field markers or make your own. The link below is to my article on building a simple homemade line marker.

http://howdyyadewit.blogspot.com/2011/02/make-your-backyard-ball-field-look.html#.WeGQHjtdpeM

© 2017 by Tom King

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Devil's Labelmaker



I struggled with the subject for this week's blog. This week Annual Council was busily debating whether or not to make Adventist church officers sign a loyalty oath promising to obey the 790 page General Conference Working Policy. The documentation was not provided until the actual meeting to hold a vote on the issue began. No one had a chance to look at the documents in advance before the meeting. Fortunately, the delegates put off the decision, sending it back to committee for another year.

In reading about the ongoing church debate, I've heard all kind of labels for various factions that supposedly are at war over this issue. I've discovered that I don't fit into any one of these discreet groups. I have beliefs I share with some persons and some beliefs that I don't share with the exact same persons. I'm still an Adventist church member. Labels can be divisive. Labels are also a great way to sow disunity.

I've discovered that some ministers and other church figures I respect are considered part of groups with which I have differences of opinion. I'm not sure I wanted to know that. Some of the articles bunched people like HMS Richards Sr. in with people like Robert Brimsmead and Desmond Ford. Adventist historians seem to have taken a real beating in terms of being dismissed from their positions over the year. That's a technique that political movements use to forward their movement - deleting or obscuring history that conflicts with the political narrative. George Orwell talked about it in his book "1984". For some reason whenever those in authority feel challenged, they want to make sure that the historians who document it are on their side.

It's not an accident that Adventist historian George Knight is in the spotlight right now. As I watch the debates, read the stories and academic papers and watch the videos, I see moving in the background something very sinister. I've always been good at stepping back and seeing the flaws in the background against which the action in the foreground takes place.

There's something sinister in the background that's been there a long time. It's a snake in a tree. It's whispering, "Just a little more power and you can make things perfect."  It's the basic theme of "You can be like gods."  It's happening in politics. It's happening in our church. It's everywhere - the flip side of the Great Controversy.  The opposite of His Grace will save you and set you free. We have the snake selling the opposite message - Your knowledge will allow you to make the world what you want it to be. It's the old narrative.

With church people it's the idea that you have to believe just the right thing. If you can just get your theology, your behavior right, or have some special knowledge or practice that you perform and you can make sure that God has to let you into heaven, then there's no need to rely on God's mercy and Grace.

In the political realm it's if you just have the right political system, then you can create heaven on Earth - no need for God. All you have to do is get the laws right and get the right human leaders in place, you can create a human God-free utopia.

When Satan starts using these kinds of techniques, watch for a concentration of power. Power is what Satan craves. It always goes back to power and the need to have it. That's what the Great Controversy was all about in the first place. Lucifer had a better system than God. 

It's important that we reject the labels the Prince of Darkness sees to tag us with.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Camping Genius: Picking the Perfect Kayak Paddle



Kayaks are rapidly overtaking canoes as the primary hand-propelled watercraft in use on the lakes and rivers of North America. They are the sports cars of the paddling world. If you do take up kayaking, you'll need a good double-bladed paddle, unless, of course, you're like me and prefer a single bladed paddle. Hey, I'm old and I like my comfort.

But if you want to master kayaking, put some thought and effort into finding just the right paddle. I have thoughtfully provided you with a thorough article on types of kayak paddles, proper lengths, balance and blade types. I even provide you with tips on how to tweak your paddle to meet your needs. Nobody tells you about the cold water that will drip down the paddle shaft and pool up in your lap when you're using a double bladed paddle and one end goes way up in the air. I explain about drip rings in the article.

Also, if you're going on a long trip, you'll want to know about feathering. Click on the link below to visit my other website and check out the straight poop on double-bladed paddles.

http://howdyyadewit.blogspot.com/2010/06/pick-perfect-kayak-blade.html#.Wc9QpsaE1eM

© 2017 by Tom King



Saturday, September 23, 2017

Camping Genius: Pickup Canoe/Kayak Carrier

Actual pickup canoe rack built by a reader
from the plans in the blog.
This project is a handy multi-purpose rack for carrying canoes, kayaks, and even four-wheelers. The original idea came after a struggle getting six Pathfinder canoes to the river for a trip down the Trinity. It's actually simpler to cartop a canoe than to carry it in a pickup. In a truck it's either set up to catch the maximum amount of wind or sticking so far out the back that passing policemen look at you askance and may even pull you over.

This link to my Howdyadewit weblog shows you a way to make a simple rack that will fit in your pickup, carry a canoe or a kayak level and leave room below for all the life jackets, paddles, coolers and camping gear you want to take with you.

Best thing is when you're done with it, you can take it out of the bed of the pickup, set it on concrete blocks to protect the wood from the damp ground and voila'. You've got a canoe rack you can store your canoes on in the backyard. Just slop a little Thompson's Water Seal ™ on it every year or so and the thing will last as long as you do.

Check it out at this web address:  http://howdyyadewit.blogspot.com/2011/03/easy-homemade-canoe-kayak-ladder-and.html#.Wcbp1dFrxN0

Now all you need is half a dozen canoes and three pickups (you can make it wide enough to carry two canoes side by side or 4 kayaks nested.

© 2017 by Tom 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Arminius vs. Calvin - The Golden Path

Jacobus Arminius vs. John Calvin

On Facebook of all places I ran into a deep discussion of Arminianism vs. Calvinism (free will vs. election).
Admittedly I'm an Arminian in that I believe free will is essential to salvation. Without free will, our passage through the vale of tears that is this Earth is little more than God's version of an ant farm. I don't believe God is arbitrary choosing one and tossing aside another for no reason. While I do believe God sticks his finger into human history at key junctures and stirs the pot for his own purposes, I also believe that He knows how to stir the pot so that all comes out according to His will and to our ultimate good. The Arminian perspective posits that my own choice in the matter is neither forced by God's foreknowledge, nor is my free will subverted by God's design for my life. God's foreknowledge doesn't mean that God's arbitrarily force His will on us.

I believe that sometimes in every life, God brings every person to a single moment of clarity and from that point the person must choose his path. It may be a roller coaster getting where God intends for them to go. It may be a rough ride after that decision is made, but at some point I believe every man is given that Joshua choice. "Choose you this day who you will serve." The greatest sinner and the finest saint, I believe, all reach that point at some time in their lives. It may be at a quiet moment such as CS Lewis describes in Screwtape letters wher a man is reading a book in his study and his life is changed forever. Or this moment may happen during some great upheaval on the battlefield of life. But I do believe we all reach it. What we choose is entirely in our hands. Our choice of the Golden Path to heaven is our gift to God. He provides the rest.

The Adventist Encyclopedia states:

  • The capacity with which the Creator endowed human beings enables them to make choices as to whether to obey or to disobey God, to be subject to moral law or not to be subject to it. This endowment precludes the use of force on God’s part to effect a change in human beings. God seeks to draw people to Him, but leaves each person free to decide for himself or herself whether or not to respond. If people choose to ally themselves with God, His will becomes omnipotent in their lives and nothing can keep them from following God’s plan. Calvinism and Arminianism propose two greatly differing views regarding free will. These views reach far back into church history.
ARMINIANISM comes from the teaching of Dutch theologian Jacob Arminius (1560-1609). The fundamental principle in Arminianism is that predestination as preached by John Calvin and other preachers of the Protestant reformation is incorrect. Arminius believed in the freedom of the human will. The Arminian argument holds that:
  1.  Man is able to to choose whether or not to cooperate with God’s Spirit and be regenerated or to resist God’s grace and perish. Arminius preached that man does not have to be regenerated by the Spirit before he can believe.
  2. Faith is man’s act and precedes the new birth through the spirit. Faith is the sinner’s gift to God; it is man’s contribution to salvation.
  3. God chooses certain individuals "unto salvation before the foundation of the world" because He foresaw that they would respond to His call. God says Arminius selects only those He knows will freely choose to believe the Gospel. In other words, election to salvation is determined by what we will do. If we are not going to choose, we won't be elected.
  4. Everyone will not be saved.  Christ’s redeeming work made it possible for everyone to be saved but did not actually secure the salvation of anyone. We must choose to receive it.
  5. We can resist the Holy Spirit. The Spirit calls everyone, but since man is free, he can successfully resist that call. Without faith the Spirit cannot bestow the new birth on anyone. Man's will limits the Spirit's ability to carry out Christ’s saving work in the human soul.
  6. Those who believe and are truly saved can lose their salvation. Adventists believe this. Some Arminian theologians do not.
Calvinists hold a more grim view. The deny that we have free will at all. Full bore Calvinists believe:
  1. Faith is not something man contributes to salvation according to Calvinists. We are, in their view, so depraved we cannot choose God’s gift of salvation. Faith in the Calvinist view is God’s gift to the sinner. The sinner brings nothing at all to the relationship. 
  2. God’s only chooses certain individuals to be saved. It's not based on whether or not God foresaw the person accepting his Grace. Calvinists believe God chooses particular sinners for His own reasons and human faith and repentance has nothing to do with it. God gives these things to whoever he chooses and denies it to whoever he chooses to deny it to.
  3. Christ died to save only the elect and his death actually secured salvation for them. His sacrifice was not for anyone who wasn't chosen. Apparently if you aren't on the list, you are going straight to hell whatever you do.
  4. The call of the Holy Spirit is, Calvinists believe, irresistable. In addition to the outward general call to salvation (which is made to everyone who hears the Gospel), the Holy Spirit extends to the elect a special inward call that inevitably brings them to salvation. In other words if the Spirit calls you, you have no choice in the matter.
  5. All who are chosen by God, say the Calvinists, are redeemed by Christ, and given faith by the Spirit are eternally saved. Basically, once saved, always saved.
Adventists came out of a largely Arminian Wesleyan background and interpret Scripture from the principle that man does have free will and that God does not want robots with no will of their own, but wants sons and daughters who choose to love Him. Many of the Calvinists accuse those who believe in free will of heresy. Arminians point out that if the Calvinist view is absolutely true then accusations by the agnostic community that God is arbitrary and cruel are hard to answer. Some of us, according to Calvin were created by God to be destroyed and since most believe in an immortal soul and an ever-burning hell, that makes God a pretty horrible deity. It makes Him sadistic, as though he were breeding puppies and choosing out half or more of them to be tortured, set on fire and brutalized forever without mercy.

Sorry, Calvin et al. I don't buy it. God is love. Love doesn't bully people into returning love. Love does not torture those who spurn love's reaching out. Love honors our choices. We are the sons and daughters of God. As parents we cannot imagine selecting one of our children and setting him or her on fire, just because we need the heat.

The first command God gave us when he ushered our parents out of Eden was to, "Go forth, be fruitful and multiply." It was a homework assignment; one designed to teach us about the nature of our Heavenly Father. No decent parent is arbitrary. We love every child and want nothing more than for our children to voluntarily love us. If we could plug a machine into our child's spine that would force him to love, honor and obey us, how many of us would do that. Only socio-pathic parents could do such a thing.

So why does anyone think God could be that evil?  I can't figure it out, myself.

© 2017 by Tom King

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Socialists to the Left of Me, Nazis to the Right – Here I Am.


Stuck in the middle with you all!*

You need not express a political opinion in an SDA gathering very often before you will be approached by some seriously concerned Adventist who tells you that Adventists should not be involved in politics. I am an Adventist and conservative political activist working with abused and emotionally disturbed kids, seniors, the homeless, people with disabilities, and low income families. As a community organizer I helped organize local initiatives on healthcare, transportation, and homelessness. My left-leaning SDA friends think I should spontaneously combust because, as everyone knows, conservatives don't care about people. And we're racists, so they can't explain all those black kids I run around with in my work.

I've worked for more than four decades in the nonprofit sector and as a teacher. I've helped start 5 nonprofit organizations and schools working with mentally and physically abused kids, special needs kids, low income families, people with disabilities, seniors and the homeless. My fellow SDAs aren't sure how to take me. I make them nervous, plunging into public advocacy around issues like transportation, homelessness, health care and politics. I became a conservative because I saw how the Democrat-controlled system in my home state was more about power than about helping the people it was supposed to serve. The causes I took up were about solving problems, not ideology. During my time as practising community organizer. I was in the public eye, as an activist, not as an SDA, though I never hid my religion from anyone. Some of the brethren in my church, however, were concerned that I might tie the Adventist gospel to my work among the Gentiles and Hottentots. As a fund-raiser, I raised millions for people with disabilities, the homeless, battered women, special needs kids and hungry folk. In the meantime, I ran the Pathfinder Club, was a Sabbath School teacher and did youth work at my church. Most of my church friends were supportive.

Because I'm a conservative, I am often charged with racism. There's not a racist bone in my body. I just think the government is too big and intrusive. I live in one of those regions that have "region conferences" for our black brethren. White people attend those churches all the time. The so-called white conferences have black and Hispanic officers and pastors and the East Texas church I attended had as many brown and black-skinned minority members as white folks. Nobody seems to notice skin color or minds at all when Hispanics, blacks or Filipinos take the podium. As to the black conferences, those are something of an anachronism – left over from Jim Crow days when SDAs didn't want their churches burned down in the Democrat South. The new Pastor is Samoan. Everybody loves him.

I asked a black pastor once whether we should abolish the black conferences and mix them altogether. He emphatically said no! The region conferences he explained were about the black culture and preserving a style of worship that many white folk could be uncomfortable with. I can see his point and don't feel the need to force my black brethren to sit in dull white churches and listen to homilies on stewardship. I can understand why they don't want to lose control over their churches and their cultural style, as my friend explained it. Am I racist for not wanting to force my black brothers and sisters to do something they don't want to do in the name of "optics"? The Texas (white) conference is anything but white. We have Hispanic churches where the preaching is in Spanish and the worship style is their own. The Texas Conference president is Hispanic. My beloved Tyler Church has a large contingent of people of Filipino heritage who are fun to hang with and who adopted me as one of their own. The guys wear these wonderful loose island-style shirts with no ties to church. I'm fine with that. In fact, I want to know where they get them so I can wear them too.

Race doesn't come into my church. I grew up in an SDA college town and we had kids from every corner of the globe coming there to go to school, thanks to the recruiting policies of the least racist man I've ever known - Leroy Leiske.  I stood with my black brothers and sisters during the civil rights marches because it was the right thing to do. Elder Leiske recruited students without any consideration of skin color. I and my fellow students, cheered when Leroy Leiske began recruiting black students to Southwestern Union College. We in "terribly racist Texas", in fact, embraced Leiske after one of the Southern conferences ousted him for his race-blind policies as conference president there.

As a conservative I have my own level of discomfort with my church's anemic response to the "issues of the day". To me, it seems we are beginning to lean leftward at the top of what has, unfortunately, become the most authoritarian Protestant church hierarchy in the world (with one more administrative level between member and world leader than the papacy). I grew up with SDAs being afraid of rock-ribbed Baptists and believing that those sorts of conservative Christians would be the source of the much-feared "Sunday Closing Law". When I look at the events going on in the world today, however, I don't find Baptists pressing for Sunday laws. I find the papacy building a relationship with charismatics, TV evangelicals, high church Protestants, and progressive socialists. I find the pope telling Catholics to press their governments to create Sunday laws. They have succeeded too. In Germany you can be arrested and fined for washing your car or mowing your lawn on Sunday. The German trade unions helped the Catholics get that one passed.

The whole world is wondering after the beast these days and it's not the Baptists or other conservative churches that are doing it. The folk who are trying to organize the "United Religions", a sort of United Nations for religions proposed by Israel's Shimon Peres, are not conservative Christians. They are high church Protestants (Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, Anglicans, etc.) and liberal "television-based" churches.And yet, my positions on the constitution, free speech, second amendment rights, small government and freedom of religious expression seem to make a disturbing number of my SDA brethren uncomfortable. I really don't understand. Are we not studying Daniel and the Revelation anymore in our schools and churches.

I am not nearly as disturbed by conservative Christians as I am by progressives. The forces of "progressivism" are far better organized and supported and are doing very well at marginalizing conservatives by lumping us all in with extremist alt-right white supremacists. They own the media for the most part and control the political narrative.

As an Adventist, who has spent 50 years studying scripture, the sheer dominance of the political left worldwide sends up all sorts of flares for me. The preachers back during my youth used to try to frighten us into the pews with terror stories about not being "ready" for the time of trouble. SDA evangelists, unlike their Baptist counterparts, didn't have hell fire as a useful tool for that sort of fear-mongering, so they used the time of trouble instead. I actually studied prophecy as a result. The great “righteousness by faith” message of the late 60s early 70s was an awakening for me.

But I still remember the scary end-times stories. Today, as I watch the news and see the rise of Babylon before my very eyes, I cannot help but see who the players are who "wonder after the Beast". It's a little unrealistic for my church to tell us all about the frightening prophetic events to come and then ask us to passively sit by and not resist when we see it coming.

Keeping quiet and not making waves is NOT the example we see in Scripture. Eleven of the 12 apostles died at the hands of angry governments. The only one who died a natural death was imprisoned and boiled in oil before he did die of old age. Jeremiah was murdered by the government. Elijah ran off into the wilderness to escape the government he criticized and had to be fed by crows from God. Elisha was surrounded by an army that was unhappy with his prophesies. John the Baptist was beheaded for criticizing the king. Jesus, Himself, was crucified by politicians and priests because he was upsetting the political balance of the times.

I find it difficult to believe that so many of my fellow Adventists and even church leaders advocate a policy of appeasement, if not a practice of actually embracing the agenda of the very folk who booed at the mention of the name of God at their most recent national convention. We seem to want to not offend those who stand ready to join a global government "with teeth" (Pope Benedict's words in his call for global government). Luther's Protest is over according to Pope Frances. It's time that we come home to the Catholic church. He often affirms Pope Benedict's call to organize a world government. Want to know who the pope has suggested organize that government? World political and religious leaders, economic organizations (like the the WTO, ITO and IMF), trade unions, and international political parties. When Shimon Peres proposed the creation of the United Religions organization, guess who he asked to head it up (as the logical choice)? If you guessed the pope, you are at least not in denial. Is anyone's hair standing up yet?

So, I am a problematic Adventist. I don't remain quiet. I call myself a conservative because I belong to no political party. None of them suit my beliefs. Every one of them contains a small poison pill within their ideology. I see my role, rather, as a watchman on the wall and as I look out over the world from my perch in the Adventist tower, I see dark masses of evil men approaching. We are called to sound the alarm. The trouble is, too many of the watchmen are not looking outward, but looking inward and picking fights among ourselves over unimportant issues and drawing our attention away from the gathering darkness outside our lovely walls.

We should be throwing open our gates and shouting a warning to the world to come in and join us as the forces of evil approach. Sadly, we seem to be more interested in shooting our own people off the walls. We ban Doug Batchelor from speaking in Florida because he's “too controversial”. The editor of The Review talks about marginalizing independent ministries in an editorial. The GC administration manipulates data at the General Conference to influence a vote which shifts power away from the Union Conferences and back to the central authority in direct opposition to the 1903 GC. That conference, attended by Ellen White, created the union conferences as a buffer between the local conferences and the GC. Sr. White said that angels walked the aisles of the conference where that was done. She pointed out that the GC leadership should not exercise “kingly power” over the brethren.

There are two forces at work in this world - one which centralizes power in the hands of humans in an attempt to create a human utopia free of God as much as possible. The other is a system in which individuals serve God, not the state and which believes we should take care of our own business without the need to enslave others through excessive law and regulation.

As we see prophecy being played out on the six o'clock news, should we be sneaking around pretending we do not object to the horrific things being done, while those doing them cry "Peace, Peace!". The Bible is filled with preachers, prophets and political activists. It doesn't always work out well for them. They often die singularly ugly deaths. Governments are notoriously touchy about being criticized. Not many kings took kindly to being upbraided by some upstart holy man. We should expect nothing less than to be persecuted, jailed and silenced for our trouble.

And the genius of Satan's plan is that he has both extremes of the political and religious fence working against each other. for the same ends. As an old 60s era rock song once proclaimed, “Satan, Satan is my name. Confusion is my game.

© 2017 by Tom King

* I had to change the name of the photo because blogger.com rejected my use of the "N-word". NO NOT THAT ONE.  The word Nazi in a photo apparently gets you rejected. As the Wicked Witch of the West so eloquently put it, "What a world. What a world!"

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