Tag Archive: christ


Our works (what we think, do, and say) nourish us or poison us. And since we share our works, our daily bread, we nourish or poison others. We are born again, and enter the kingdom of heaven, when we accept responsibility for this disparity, and acknowledge the cause of it: doubt.

If we doubt for reasons of growth, love, compassion, and positive change, then it nourishes us. If we doubt because of cynicism, fear, or hatred (which is the absence of love), then it poisons us.

Doubt influences us to spring forward, or fall back. As always, we must be mindful, not only of what we’re doing, but our reasons for doing it.

“…The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field.”-Matthew 13:24.

Jesus loved parables about farming and fishing, because the people listening to him farmed and fished. We learn best by imagining his lessons in terms of how we live.

For me, the universal poison (the devil) is the dark side of doubt.

This is one of those few parables that Jesus interpreted for us. Unlike last time, let us look at both parable and interpretation together.

“…He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man.”-Matthew 13:37.

Jesus most always referred to himself in the 3rd person, as the “Son of man.” There are many reasons for this, and we will get to it in a later essay. For now, note that he didn’t say I, and that Son of man refers to the Hebrew word Messiah (which means “anointed one”), the Greek word for which is Christ.

Since we aren’t ready to declare what Jesus meant by Son of man, we must limit what we glean from these opening lines.

So far we have two objects: The Son of man and the good seed.

“But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.”-Matthew 13:25.

Tares are a kind of weed, or ryegrass, that looks like wheat in its early stages. The farmer can’t distinguish them, until the tares grow ears. Their seeds are poisonous. (Another interesting note, the Romans outlawed sowing tares in an enemy’s field.)

“The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one.”-Matthew 13:38.

The Son of man plants the seeds that are the children of the kingdom of heaven, people who have been born again, through love for all.

“As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love.”-John 15:9.

As God loves Jesus, just so does Jesus love us, and, by his example, in that same way, we should love each other: This is God’s will.

The “wicked one” plants poisonous seeds.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus specifies a unique quality to God’s children.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”-Matthew 5:9.

Jesus came so that we might have peace, not only with each other, but within ourselves. The people whose works bring this peace are the good seed, the children of the kingdom.

He also spoke specifically about the children of the wicked one, who do not bring peace.

“…It is impossible but that offences will come: but woe unto him, through whom they come!”-Luke 17:1

Life without tribulation is impossible because of the children of the wicked one.

A word of caution: Do not assume that we are talking about different people. As discussed last time, redemption proves that no one person is evil all the time, but always has capacity for good; and sin proves that no one is good all the time, either.

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil….”-Mark 7:21.

Evil is not out there, independent of us; it comes from us: We make evil by doubting love. Yet, we are the children of God, not because of what’s out there, but because of our peacemaking, as we spread the love that God feels for Jesus, and Jesus expresses to us.

“.…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”-Luke 17:21.

At the crossroads of every decision, we choose to doubt, or to have faith in love.

“But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.”-Matthew 13:26.

This is the fruit, the results, of our selfish, antagonistic works. Through everything that we think, do, and say, we grow the wheat that nourishes us and others, or the tares that poison everyone’s faith in love.

Remember, the tares look just like the wheat, until they bear fruit. Consciously, we may not know, or acknowledge, that we thought or acted in a nourishing or poisonous way.

Whatever else it is, sin is psychological.

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”-Proverbs 11:17.

We act tough for others, even convincing ourselves that we don’t care.

“.…but God knoweth your hearts….”-Luke 16:15.

And when the tares spring up, when we poison our own flesh, even though we hide our hearts from everyone, including ourselves, God knows.

“.…for they say, The LORD seeth us not; the LORD hath forsaken the earth.”-Ezekiel 8:12.

People have been saying that since the Jews’ Babylonian captivity, and we believe it today, even if only occasionally. But God is everywhere, ubiquitous in space and time-which means God is an immortal spirit.

“…and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”-John 4:24.

The truth is true, whether we admit it or not, believe it or not, deny it or not. Deep down, we know that God sees us, because we see ourselves; we know what we think, do, and say. We know the difference between nourishment and poison.

When we accept that we can’t lie to ourselves, without suffering mysterious ailments, turns of fortune, brought about by our own duplicity, and the poisoning of our own minds, then we are born again.

“So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares? / He said unto them, An enemy hath done this….”–Matthew 13:27, 28.

At last we get to the fourth player in this drama.

“The enemy that sowed them is the devil….”-Matthew 13:39.

We’ve talked about the devil some, in past essays. “Satan” is the Greek and Hebrew word for “adversary” or “enemy.” The same word means the same thing in the two languages in which the Bible was originally written.

Let that sink in.

I don’t pretend to know the immortal goings-on of Heaven and Hell. I don’t even know the whole truth about our limited, mortal existence. Assume humility, not pride, and the truth (or what we can know of it) reveals itself.

Like the Son of man, whose meaning we can’t entirely understand, Satan defies absolute qualification; and, as with the good seed, which, by definition, none of us can attain completely, the Tares are not individual people, but parts of us: Tares symbolize our weaknesses; the wheat, our strengths.

So whatever else the Son of man and Satan might be, Son of God and Fallen Angel, respectively, they stand for our faith in love and our doubting of love.

“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.”-John 8:44.

We lie when we doubt truth. Jesus is the truth: love, mercy, compassion, forgiveness, humility. We murder all of these within ourselves and others, when we don’t live truthfully. Sin denies love; God is love; and God is everything: So when we don’t love, which is the unification of all that Jesus stands for, we sin.

“…Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.”-Mark 7:9.

We want to do things our way. My pride assures me that I am in control of my life. What matters is that I increase my power, that I celebrate what I desire, and others can look out for themselves. The fact that love is a greater way, a life larger than my own, makes it my enemy, my adversary, my satan.

This is pride, and pride is a lie.

Lies and truth fight an eternal war within us.

“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.”-Revelation 12:7.

Heaven is within us, Jesus said. And evil infects us not from without, but from within. Lying, being cruel to others, so that we get what we want, and, by necessity, deny others what they want, seems to be the easiest way. And it would be, except the Tares poison us, as we grow them.

“There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked.”-Isaiah 48:22.

We ruin the very happiness we seek, falling into the trap we set for others, when we doubt that love saves us all. We think to look after our own interests, but poison our own lives. The only way to look our for ourselves is to love others.

This altruism is the only way to accomplish what we set out to do, by being selfish.

“.…The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? / But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.”–Matthew 13:28, 29.

Since we don’t know enough to accurately judge anyone or anything, we are unable to separate good from evil. If we try, we might remove what (in time) turns out to be good. This is the reason for humility, and allowing God’s will to be done.

My favorite example of this truth comes from the story of Joseph, owner of the coat of many colors, and one of the 12 patriarchs that became the 12 tribes of Israel.

Jealous of him, because Jacob gave Joseph the coat, and angry with him for his dream interpretations, that foretold their obedience and subordination to this younger brother, the other brothers stole his coat, ripped it up, threw Joseph into a pit, and conspired to sell him into slavery.

But when Joseph was a slave in Egypt, he was the only one who could interpret Pharaoh’s dream, without being told the details of the dream. And his interpretation warned that famine was coming, that Egypt should prepare by storing food. Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of this distribution, making the Hebrew slave his second in command.

So, when the famine hit Jacob, and Joseph’s brothers, and they heard that Pharaoh had food, they went to Egypt and found Joseph. Now, he could have thrown his hateful brothers into prison, or had them killed, or denied them food. What they did to him was exceedingly wicked.

Here is what Joseph said to them:

“But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”-Genesis 50:20.

He welcomed them (after messing with their heads a little), gave them food, and reunited with Jacob. He did this because, unlike his brothers, he had the faith to not judge what is good, and what is evil. God meant for their wicked acts to save many people.

“…did not he that made that which is without make that which is within also?”-Luke 11:40.

We just don’t know what will come. Being totally ignorant, stumbling in the darkness of lust and selfish desires, by trying to put right what we think is wrong, we might make wrong what would have later turned out to be right.

Faith in love means having the patience to let God’s will be done. This faith, as we’ve said, is the Son of man, and the good seeds result from his (and our) love. Doubt is “the wicked one,” and the tares result from his lies, which are needed to support our doubt.

“Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them together in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.”-Matthew 13:30.

Good and evil exist together. God made everything and exists as everything. Good comes from evil; and evil, from good. I think Solomon said it best:

“The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”-Proverbs 16:4.

Jesus gave us two new terms here: harvest and reapers.

We are not the reapers, who separate good from evil. Since both of these exist within us, and God made both, and God is both, then we cannot divide what God put together, what is within us: our souls, our kingdom. We cannot divide God.

“And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.”-Mark 3:34.

If we rid ourselves of all doubt, then we lose the good, as well as the bad. There is worthwhile doubt, and worthless doubt: fruitful and fruitless, nourishment and poison.

While we wait for God’s will to be done, we must also act as angels: the Greek word for “messenger.” As Jesus loves us, we must love others. To do nothing means to love no one, which is the same as hate.

The 12 apostles didn’t just listen to Jesus, nodding their heads in listless acquiescence. Jesus sent them out to preach, and act, and share love.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”-Matthew 10:16.

This is really hard and frightening. We wait for God’s will, and yet we act according to Jesus’ teachings; we tell no one, and yet we spread the word. We cannot do this, unless we are mindful of God, thinking always of what we learned from Jesus: faith, patience, love, forgiveness, mercy, compassion.

To paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the hardest part of obeying God is that we must disobey ourselves. So we make our will to become God’s will. We accomplish this by following what we learn from Jesus. In that way, the impossible becomes possible, the finite becomes infinite, and the one becomes all.

“Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”-Malachi 3:18.

In his messianic prophecy, Malachi points us to beginning of the conclusion. We serve God when we have faith in love, which is the good seed, which Jesus plants, which grows into the wheat that we use to bake our bread, which we feed to others.

We do not serve God when we doubt love, which is the poisonous seed, which our adversarial nature plants, which grows into the tares that ruin our bread, which we feed to others, and, thereby, ruin them.

Now, let us look at the two new terms.

“…the harvest is the end of the world; and the angels are the reapers.”-Matthew 13:39.

So, the good and bad seed grow together, until the end of the world, at which time the angels separate them. The “end of the world” is also our third unknowable term.

“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”-Mark 13:32.

By his own admission, even Jesus doesn’t know the entirety of what the Jews called “the day of the Lord.”

“The great day of the LORD is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the LORD: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.”-Zephaniah 1:14.

Peter addressed one of the reasons for why these three terms (Son of man, Satan, and the end of the world) are unknowable.

“Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.”-2 Peter 1:20.

So don’t believe anyone who tells you that they know what prophecy means. Only God knows.

The Lakota Indians called God (what is sacred, divine, the Great Spirit) “Wakan Tanka.” This translates into English as “the Great Mystery.” Some things are unknowable to us. We study and interpret them, not to know, but to learn humility while pondering the infinite.

This is why I tend to interpret by transposing these immortal goings-on into understandable, mortal ideas. Much is lost by doing it that way. But, by speaking in earthly terms, we at least have a chance of being right; we cover our bases.

“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?”-John 3:12.

That said, I see “the end of the world” as necessarily preceding the newly recreated world, what the Revelation called “New Jerusalem.” The Old passes away, to make room for the New; one decreases, so that the other increases. This creation uses the remains, the energy of what was destroyed. And so, God destroys the Old to make the New.

This describes being born again. The end of the world is the end of our old life. New Jerusalem is our new life. Things get worse and worse, the plagues mount, the moon turns to blood, the trumpets sound. To humble ourselves, to bend our knees to God, we must be driven to our knees.

Therefore, Judgment Day, the day of the Lord, is when we fail our most important test one too many times. Everything falls apart; the center cannot hold. So we learn that we are not islands unto ourselves, but a part of God, an ingredient of the universe: necessary, but no smaller or larger than anything else.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”-John 14:20.

We sift through the good and bad, when God tests us, when we admit failure, and learn the truth, by which we are reborn.

Are we then the angels?

Not at first. And not entirely, even when we are at our best. But, yes, in this parable, we sit in judgment on ourselves: We are angels, and we are not angels. Recall this curious statement, one of many for which the Jews wanted to stone Jesus.

“I and my Father are one.”-John 10:30.

To explain this to his would-be murderers, who took him literally, and therefore charged him with blasphemy, Jesus referred to one of the Psalms of David.

“I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.”-Psalm 82:6.

What he tried to tell them was that they were gods, angels (God’s messengers) when they served God. When we remove the plank from our eye, we can see clearly to remove the mote from our brother’s eye. The humility and honesty required to remove our plank, and their mote, comes from the truth of love.

“As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of the world. / The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity.”-Matthew 13:40, 41.

When we doubt love, we do iniquity (which is wicked, immoral behavior). This sparks the chain reaction that leads to the end of the world.

“And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.”-Matthew 24:12.

When we share love, and don’t receive love in return, our hearts grow cold; we stop sharing love, out of self-preservation. But if we don’t share love, then we hate, and poison ourselves, which poisons others, making their hearts grow cold. And so on.

Remember, when we share love, we are sheep among wolves: harmless, in that we don’t return their hate, and wise, in that we know they will hate us.

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you.”-John 15:18.

Therefore, we must mindfully start God’s chain reaction, by loving those who hate us, by blessing those who curse us, and praying for those who use and persecute us. This is God’s will, and, by following it, we are God’s children, angels of love.

To be able to do this impossible thing, we must be humbled to the point of self-obliteration, and allow our will to become God’s will, our life to become God’s life, our hate to become the love that God has for Jesus, and Jesus has for us.

When this happens, we throw our Tares into the furnace. When we encounter iniquity, which we know will be there, so it’s not a surprise, our hearts radiate warmth, growing warmer all the time. It is with this flame that we burn the Tares.

“And [the angels] shall cast [iniquity] into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.”-Matthew 13:42.

As stated in previous essays, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, whatever else it may be, refers to the fear and anxiety we feel on Judgment Day. It is no small thing to lose our lives, even if it means saving our lives.

We leap with faith, and fall in doubt.

With faith, Peter walked on water. When he doubted, he sank. But, even then, he called to Jesus, he returned to faith, and, as Jesus said to everyone he miraculously healed:

“.…thy faith hath saved thee.”–Luke 18:42.

When Jesus knew he had to sacrifice his life on the cross, even though it meant saving all of us, he prayed in Gethsemane:

“…My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death…./ …O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”-Matthew 26:38, 39.

We want to save our lives, but we lose our lives, if we seek to save ourselves. This goes against our every instinct. We doubt even unto death. But then, we return to faith, and if we truly want to save our lives, we surrender to God’s will.

We must know everything to save our lives, which is impossible. Only everything knows everything. So we turn our will over to God, and act in the name of love, and then…a miracle!

“Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.”-Matthew 13:43.

This is what becomes of the conflict between the wheat and tares. The seemingly eternal war is really a passing thing, a vapor, a shadow. If we grasp the vapor, we come up empty handed. All we really have to hold onto is each other.

This is the truth. Everything else we tell ourselves is a lie. So if we hate, dismiss, ignore, poison our only hope, our single refuge, then we doubt the Son of man, grow from the wicked one’s ruinous seed, and destroy not only ourselves, but each other: a chain reaction that brings about the end of the world.

But we must do this. We will end the world. New stars are created with the remains of dead stars. The only remaining question is this: Will we learn before it’s too late?

“He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”-Micah 6:8.

While many of us are stubborn and slow, some do learn. They do justly, show mercy, walk humbly regardless of how others treat them. They are the wise, harmless sheep, the good seed, God’s children, peacemakers among wolves: With love, they nourish everyone.

In the uproar and hopelessness of the great and terrible day of the Lord, they comfort the lost sheep, teach love by example, and not by ultimatum. They show us how “the end” evanesces like a shadow, that hate is but a prelude to love. When the sun goes dark, and the stars fall, and the moon turns to blood, they stand firmly in love.

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(This one is a little long. For a speedy reading, start with part 1, part 2, and part 3. Peace be with you.)

Every day God tests us, and offers us the chance to be born again: If we fail, and yet repent, we get another test; if we pass, yet sin again, we get another test; if we pass, and stay true to Jesus’ teachings, then we gain access to more difficult tests-with every one of these, we are born again.

When we succeed, we enter the Promised Land. And with every success, we conquer another city, another weakness. When we fail, we wander in the wilderness, until we pass…over the Jordan river, into a land flowing with milk and honey.

Before we pass over, and see Heaven as Jesus described it, we must pause and acknowledge God’s glory: For Moses failed that test, and the Lord refused him access. We must learn from Moses, then we move forward.

“And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.”-John 8:29.

We are reborn, with a new purpose and perspective, when we seek to please God. But how can we know His will?

He placed the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the center of Eden (Genesis 3:3), where Adam and Eve couldn’t miss it. He made all creatures (Genesis 1:25), and so He made the serpent. He knows the future (Isaiah 45:11), and, therefore, knew they ate the fruit. Why punish them when He made them and their desires (Exodus 14:17)?

The Old Testament confronts us, again and again, with God’s inexplicable will.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.”-Isaiah 55:8.

To understand, we must accept that we’re unable to understand.

Humility is paramount. Remember Moses and the burning bush.

“And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.”-Exodus 3:5.

If we insist, persist in our self-important ways, then we fail to acknowledge everyone else: Life becomes (and has become) a pointless, endless battle of wills, wherein we insist that others believe as we do. Many paths exist to the right answer, but there is only one answer.

Love is the answer, and love is God’s will.

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”-John 13:35.

When we fail to receive and share love, then we sin: Party A shows love; party B chooses whether or not to acknowledge it. Round and round. Forever. In the Old Testament, the children of Israel failed in both receiving and sharing God’s will; taking this as an allegory, we are the Israelites. What happened to them is now happening to us.

“Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; / Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it.”-Numbers 14:22, 23.

Glorify God: Acknowledge His will, praise His love. When someone says, I love you, we say, I love you too. When we see the Lord’s glory, and witness miracles, when we’re saved from slavery to sin, deafness to mercy, or blindness to suffering, be thankful.

Ten lepers approached Jesus, and begged to be healed.

“And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. / And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God.”-Luke 17:14, 15.

Only one of the cured, the saved acknowledged the miracle, thanking God.

Whatever happens, it is love: God’s will, a miracle. We misunderstand what miracles are. We misunderstand everything when we live by our own will. We think of miracles as being out of the ordinary, which is true, to an extent; they are beyond our capabilities.

“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”-Luke 1:37.

His ways are not our ways. But if we start with love, and stay mindful of how to share and receive it, and understand that we do not understand, then our blind eyes see.

“And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”-John 3:19

We don’t want to be healed, because healing requires work, and admitting we were wrong. We’d rather follow our own limited understanding, even if that means wandering in the wilderness, never reaching the Promised Land of milk and honey. This is our pride, which is a lie; humility is true wisdom.

“Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”-Isaiah 5:20.

Pride blinds us and leads us astray. We are so turned around, and lost in the wilderness, we can no longer find our way. Like the Pharisees in the Gospels, we fail to recognize our savior.

“He came unto his own, and his own received him not.”-John 1:11.

The answers we get depend on the questions we ask.

“Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? / Jesus saith unto him, I am the way….”-John 14:5, 6.

When we fail the tests, and lose our sense of direction, we lose hope, which happened to the children of Israel.

“Moreover thou hast not brought us into a land that floweth with milk and honey, or given us inheritance of fields and vineyards…. // And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? It is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.”-Numbers 16:14; 20:5.

Patience isn’t waiting; it’s how we act while we wait.

“In your patience possess ye your souls.”-Luke 21:19.

Patience is our faith in God, ourselves, and each other. Patience is our greatest test, because only when we suffer from fatigue and frustration do we see ourselves at our worst; and our best can only be known when we’re at our worst.

After they failed ten times, and God punished them by making them wander for 40 years, the Israelites failed again. Instead of correcting their weak points, as we do in school, they refused to study, and failed again.

We only get so many do-overs. Our tests are meant to prepare us for a greater trial: This is God’s mercy, and promise to not give us more than we can handle. But when we meet our ultimate test unprepared, because we didn’t study after flunking each daily quiz, the result is catastrophic. God doesn’t punish us so much as we punish ourselves. Jesus doesn’t condemn us, rather, we condemn ourselves.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”-John 3:17.

One ultimate trial leads to another, and another. If we fail to understand arithmetic, then we can’t do algebra. And if we don’t understand multiplication, then we can’t do trigonometry. Without algebra and trigonometry, we’re unable to understand calculus. Eventually, we flunk out of the math program.

Such a catastrophe came upon Moses and the Israelites.

“But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in the wilderness.”-Numbers 14:32.

They failed too many times, pushed God too far. Failures multiply, just as successes do.

Remember, God placed his power in Moses’ staff.

“And thou shalt take this rod in thine hand, wherewith thou shalt do signs.”-Exodus 4:17.

With that staff, Moses used God’s power to turn Egypt’s water into blood, part the Red Sea, and so on.

With the Israelites once again complaining, demanding water, even after God sentenced them to 40 years in the wilderness of Sinai (that is, Sin), Moses took his ultimate, final test; all others led to this one. Everything he saw, heard, and accomplished came down to one decisive moment.

And he failed.

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, / Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.”-Numbers 20:7, 8.

There is no nourishment in the valley of the shadow of death, except love.

“I am that bread of life.”-John 6:48.

Jesus is the living water, the miracle manna, the pillar of fire guiding us at night, and the cloud leading us by day.

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.”-Exodus 13:21.

Believing Jesus is the bread of life is not enough. Anyone can believe anything, or claim they do.

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”-Matthew 15:8.

I know, at the end of Mark, we’re told….

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”-Mark 16:16.

But Mark’s gospel is the only one to end with such a simplified summary of Jesus. In the others, Jesus tells his apostles, and us, to do as He did, to share and teach what He taught.

“…freely ye have received, freely give.”-Matthew 10:8.

So we can’t stop with Mark. After all, what does it mean to believe? How are we saved? By what means are we damned? If we follow our own interpretation, if we make up our own minds as to the definitions of these crucial concepts, then, even in our supposed piety, we’ve sinned-because we’ve followed our will, not God’s.

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? / And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”-Matthew 7:22, 23.

Jesus warns us here about our beliefs: They mean nothing without love in our hearts, and the actions to share our love.

“And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.”-Luke 8:21.

.This is how Moses failed his final test, and why God refused him access to the Promised Land. He failed in his actions. His pride conquered his humility.

The greatest of us fail to do God’s will, which is to love one another: Adam, who was the son of God (Luke 3:38) followed his own will, and Eve’s; King David sent a good, honest man on a suicide mission, killing him, to satisfy David’s adulterous lust for that man’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3, 15, 24); Sampson betrayed his Nazarite oath (Numbers 6:2-21; Judges 13:4, 5; 16:17); and Jacob, whom God renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28), tricked his brother (Genesis 25:33) and father (Genesis 27:19); Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. We don’t think too highly of Judas, of course, but he was one of the twelve.

Everything is God’s will; accept that, and, thereby, answer all your questions.

“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.”-Luke 12:2.

Solomon was born of the illicit union between David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:24). Solomon’s forbidden affair and marriage (Dueteronomy 7:1, 3) with an Ammorite Princess, Naamah, produced their son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21).

“And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, none shall open.”-Isaiah 22:22.

Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, descended from Rehoboam (Matthew 1:7, 16). So if David and Solomon had not defied God’s will, then we would be without Jesus. If Jacob had not been so sneaky, crafty, and full of deceit, then we would be without the twelve tribes of Israel, and, again, without Jesus.

How can the ultimate good come from lies, murder, and adultery? All we can do is look to the Bible.

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”-Isaiah 45:7.

God is so much more than all of us, throughout all time, have ever dreamed.

“…he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”-Matthew 5:45.

God created evil: We can’t blame it on “the Devil.” What’s more, God loves evil people, and good people.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”-John 10:10.

Jesus came for all of us, but especially for the lost sheep. His love for us is God’s love, which exists for all: the whole world.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”-John 3:16.

Nevertheless, Judgment Day comes. We judge and condemn ourselves by our actions, that is, whether or not we share and acknowledge love.

What follows is Moses’ Judgment Day.

“And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? / And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.”-Numbers 20:10, 11.

Did you catch it? Did you see Moses’ mistake? Read it again.

Moses sinned by what he did and said. Why?

He made a joke; that’s all. He never did anything wrong. He angered God a little, at the beginning, by the burning bush.

Like Jonah, Moses didn’t want to accept his calling.

What if you heard a voice from a burning bush, which wasn’t consumed by the flame, telling you to rescue an entire nation from (at the time) the greatest military power on earth? He kept saying, I can’t do it; it won’t work; I can’t even talk right.

“And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well….”-Exodus 4:14.

But, afterwards, he did every crazy thing God wanted him to do.

God loved Moses.

“And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”-Exodus 33:11.

Face to face! No other prophet could claim such a thing. Moses is the ultimate hero of the Jews and the Old Testament. So what went wrong?

“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”-Numbers 20:12.

Did you catch it? Did you understand what God said, and what Moses did wrong?

The truth is very simple, once we accept it. And acceptance is essential to being born again, because, with it, we love what we don’t understand.

Acceptance comes from humility, without which we’d be unable to enter the Promised Land, and follow God’s will by loving one another.

Remember the ten lepers.

Why do we say, I love you too, when someone says they love us?

Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart, and plague Egypt?

“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”-Exodus 9:16.

Why did Jesus wait two days, after hearing that Lazarus was sick and dying? Indeed, Jesus waited until Lazarus died, before saving him. Why?

“…This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”-John 11:4

And why did Jesus come at all?

“…If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”-John 14:23.

He came to teach us to accept and share love, to praise God, and acknowledge that His will was done, which is Bible shorthand for us sharing love.

Having love in our hearts means nothing, if we don’t share it. Believing in Jesus means nothing, if we don’t follow his teachings. Saying, Thy will be done, means very little if we don’t also stop and see His miracles, accept His will, and understand it is good.

“.…and God saw that it was good.”-Genesis 1:10.

We acknowledge God’s will by doing God’s will. And we do God’s will by loving every one and every thing.

Therefore, if we hate each other, or we’re indifferent, unmoved by suffering, then we aren’t returning the love that God gives freely.

If we take credit for what God did, which was Moses’ big mistake, then we have not only failed to acknowledge the Lord, but have failed to witness and minister that supreme love to others.

The Father gave this work to His Son.

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”-John 17:4.

Like the children of Israel, Jesus’ story is an allegory for our lives.

“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.”-Exodus 4:22.

If the Israelites are an allegory for us, and Jesus is our model, our example of how to live with and love one another….

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”-John 13:15.

…Then we are God’s firstborn. Or, perhaps, rather, He loves us that much. And what is God, but everything, the entire universe? When everything says they love us, how do we respond? I love you, too.

This response is praise, glorification, acceptance, and humility, in knowing that the vast, mind-bogglingly huge universe loves us; and all It requires is that we don’t praise ourselves, but return love to It, by sharing love with everything.

Like the Pharisee (in Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the Publican), Moses praised himself, and Aaron-who was also denied entrance into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:24). Since Jesus, Moses, and the Israelites are all meant to be our examples, the work that the Father gave the Son is the work that Jesus gives to us.

Every day God tests us with more work to do. He does this out of love, to prepare us, strengthen us for our greater trials. Think of them as “pop quizzes.”

“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”-Luke 12:40.

Our best is only as good as our worst. Fatigue and frustration often accompany Judgment Day. And at such times, we are at our worst. When we are tired, we tend to be more honest, even brutally so. Our defenses collapse, our well-meaning intentions vanish, and what’s left is not what we wish to be, or what we’re supposed to be, but what we truly are.

Not a pretty picture. But Jesus loves the truth. I am the truth, He said. God loves us for who we are. He loves the thief and the murderer, the publican, prostitutes, Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, Buddhists, black, brown, yellow, white, and so on: everything.

He loves us when we are born again, and when we’re not ready. Perhaps, the reason why we’re unable to understand God’s will is because we can’t comprehend, or act on, such all-embracing love.

“ Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”-Matthew 5:48.

Jesus said we could understand such love, eventually. But it takes a lot of work. We possess a natural, instinctual love. If we refuse to work on it, if we ignore it, then the “talent” remains in its infant stage.

“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”-Matthew 13:12.

But if we use that talent, it grows.

So here is the challenge, the key to the door, the narrow path that leads to Paradise, being born again, the Kingdom of Heaven:

When God says, I love you: Stop, feel that love all the way down to your soul; know that love sometimes plagues us, like with Pharaoh in Egypt, but it is still love, which is the greatest gift-because we receive love by sharing it. So stop, and say, I love you, too.

And sing along with King David:

“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”-Psalm 40:8.

We must learn from our mistakes, accept our sin, even if it means we never get to pass over the Jordan. Learn from Moses:

“I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.”-Deuteronomy 3:25.

The best of us sin; and our greatest repent. Repentance is the key that opens the door.

“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.”-John 10:7.

God forgave Moses, and granted his last request. He led Moses to the top of a mountain.

“And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.”-Deuteronomy 34:4.

Old, frail, exhausted, traumatized, on the line between wilderness and paradise, Moses gazed at what he’d given his life for, so that others could be born again.

What did he see?

He saw a mustard seed grow into a huge tree, in which everyone, all the birds of the air, nested and made their abodes.

He saw leaven, which no one else could see, ferment and work its way through dough: invisible, inexorable.

He saw hidden treasure in an abandoned field, and a man who sold everything he owned, to buy the field and gain the treasure.

He saw the largest, most luxurious pearl, shining, gleaming, a sun unto itself, and a man who sold everything he owned, to buy that pearl.

He saw a massive wheat field, with weeds intermingled, attempting to choke the life out of the wheat; and the harvesters separated the wheat from the chaff, tossing the weeds into the furnace.

He saw a great net, pulled through the waters, through the milk and honey, gathering good fish and bad fish; the fishermen kept the useful, and threw the useless back into the deep, the wilderness of waters.

He saw a great feast, to which everyone who’d been invited, refused to attend. And so the poor were brought in, the maimed, the sinners, publicans, prostitutes, murderers, all who hungered and thirsted after righteousness, but whom, to the human eye, were lost and hopeless.

He saw the owner of a vineyard leave his garden to workers, sending messengers to collect what was owed; and the workers stoned one, tossed another off a cliff; and then the owner sent his son, but the workers crucified him, seeking to gain the inheritance for themselves.

He saw “…the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”-Mark 13:26.

He saw the Kingdom of Heaven. And so will you. Amen.

(This is the third part of a larger essay. Here’s part 1, part 2, or the complete version.)

Acceptance comes from humility, without which we’d be unable to enter the Promised Land, and follow God’s will by loving one another.

Remember the ten lepers.

Why do we say, I love you too, when someone says they love us?

Why did God harden Pharaoh’s heart, and plague Egypt?

“And in very deed for this cause have I raised thee up, for to shew in thee my power; and that my name may be declared throughout all the earth.”-Exodus 9:16.

Why did Jesus wait two days, after hearing that Lazarus was sick and dying? Indeed, Jesus waited until Lazarus died, before saving him. Why?

“…This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby.”-John 11:4

And why did Jesus come at all?

“…If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”-John 14:23.

He came to teach us to accept and share love, to praise God, and acknowledge that His will was done, which is Bible shorthand for us sharing love.

Having love in our hearts means nothing, if we don’t share it. Believing in Jesus means nothing, if we don’t follow his teachings. Saying, Thy will be done, means very little if we don’t also stop and see His miracles, accept His will, and understand it is good.

“.…and God saw that it was good.”-Genesis 1:10.

We acknowledge God’s will by doing God’s will. And we do God’s will by loving every one and every thing.

Therefore, if we hate each other, or we’re indifferent, unmoved by suffering, then we aren’t returning the love that God gives freely.

If we take credit for what God did, which was Moses’ big mistake, then we have not only failed to acknowledge the Lord, but have failed to witness and minister that supreme love to others.

The Father gave this work to His Son.

“I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”-John 17:4.

Like the children of Israel, Jesus’ story is an allegory for our lives.

“And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn.”-Exodus 4:22.

If the Israelites are an allegory for us, and Jesus is our model, our example of how to live with and love one another….

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”-John 13:15.

…Then we are God’s firstborn. Or, perhaps, rather, He loves us that much. And what is God, but everything, the entire universe? When everything says they love us, how do we respond? I love you, too.

This response is praise, glorification, acceptance, and humility, in knowing that the vast, mind-bogglingly huge universe loves us; and all It requires is that we don’t praise ourselves, but return love to It, by sharing love with everything.

Like the Pharisee (in Jesus’ parable about the Pharisee and the Publican), Moses praised himself, and Aaron-who was also denied entrance into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:24). Since Jesus, Moses, and the Israelites are all meant to be our examples, the work that the Father gave the Son is the work that Jesus gives to us.

Every day God tests us with more work to do. He does this out of love, to prepare us, strengthen us for our greater trials. Think of them as “pop quizzes.”

“Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.”-Luke 12:40.

Our best is only as good as our worst. Fatigue and frustration often accompany Judgment Day. And at such times, we are at our worst. When we are tired, we tend to be more honest, even brutally so. Our defenses collapse, our well-meaning intentions vanish, and what’s left is not what we wish to be, or what we’re supposed to be, but what we truly are.

Not a pretty picture. But Jesus loves the truth. I am the truth, He said. God loves us for who we are. He loves the thief and the murderer, the publican, prostitutes, Catholics, Protestants, Atheists, Buddhists, black, brown, yellow, white, and so on: everything.

He loves us when we are born again, and when we’re not ready. Perhaps, the reason why we’re unable to understand God’s will is because we can’t comprehend, or act on, such all-embracing love.

“ Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”-Matthew 5:48.

Jesus said we could understand such love, eventually. But it takes a lot of work. We possess a natural, instinctual love. If we refuse to work on it, if we ignore it, then the “talent” remains in its infant stage.

“For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”-Matthew 13:12.

But if we use that talent, it grows.

So here is the challenge, the key to the door, the narrow path that leads to Paradise, being born again, the Kingdom of Heaven:

When God says, I love you: Stop, feel that love all the way down to your soul; know that love sometimes plagues us, like with Pharaoh in Egypt, but it is still love, which is the greatest gift-because we receive love by sharing it. So stop, and say, I love you, too.

And sing along with King David:

“I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.”-Psalm 40:8.

We must learn from our mistakes, accept our sin, even if it means we never get to pass over the Jordan. Learn from Moses:

“I pray thee, let me go over, and see the good land that is beyond Jordan, that goodly mountain, and Lebanon.”-Deuteronomy 3:25.

The best of us sin; and our greatest repent. Repentance is the key that opens the door.

“Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.”-John 10:7.

God forgave Moses, and granted his last request. He led Moses to the top of a mountain.

“And the LORD said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither.”-Deuteronomy 34:4.

Old, frail, exhausted, traumatized, on the line between wilderness and paradise, Moses gazed at what he’d given his life for, so that others could be born again.

What did he see?

He saw a mustard seed grow into a huge tree, in which everyone, all the birds of the air, nested and made their abodes.

He saw leaven, which no one else could see, ferment and work its way through dough: invisible, inexorable.

He saw hidden treasure in an abandoned field, and a man who sold everything he owned, to buy the field and gain the treasure.

He saw the largest, most luxurious pearl, shining, gleaming, a sun unto itself, and a man who sold everything he owned, to buy that pearl.

He saw a massive wheat field, with weeds intermingled, attempting to choke the life out of the wheat; and the harvesters separated the wheat from the chaff, tossing the weeds into the furnace.

He saw a great net, pulled through the waters, through the milk and honey, gathering good fish and bad fish; the fishermen kept the useful, and threw the useless back into the deep, the wilderness of waters.

He saw a great feast, to which everyone who’d been invited, refused to attend. And so the poor were brought in, the maimed, the sinners, publicans, prostitutes, murderers, all who hungered and thirsted after righteousness, but whom, to the human eye, were lost and hopeless.

He saw the owner of a vineyard leave his garden to workers, sending messengers to collect what was owed; and the workers stoned one, tossed another off a cliff; and then the owner sent his son, but the workers crucified him, seeking to gain the inheritance for themselves.

He saw “…the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.”-Mark 13:26.

He saw the Kingdom of Heaven. And so will you. Amen.

(This is the second part of a larger essay. If you missed part 1 go here. Or if you want the complete version, go here.)

“And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, / Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.”-Numbers 20:7, 8.

There is no nourishment in the valley of the shadow of death, except love.

“I am that bread of life.”-John 6:48.

Jesus is the living water, the miracle manna, the pillar of fire guiding us at night, and the cloud leading us by day.

“And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night.”-Exodus 13:21.

Believing Jesus is the bread of life is not enough. Anyone can believe anything, or claim they do.

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.”-Matthew 15:8.

I know, at the end of Mark, we’re told….

“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”-Mark 16:16.

But Mark’s gospel is the only one to end with such a simplified summary of Jesus. In the others, Jesus tells his apostles, and us, to do as He did, to share and teach what He taught.

“…freely ye have received, freely give.”-Matthew 10:8.

So we can’t stop with Mark. After all, what does it mean to believe? How are we saved? By what means are we damned? If we follow our own interpretation, if we make up our own minds as to the definitions of these crucial concepts, then, even in our supposed piety, we’ve sinned-because we’ve followed our will, not God’s.

“Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? / And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”-Matthew 7:22, 23.

Jesus warns us here about our beliefs: They mean nothing without love in our hearts, and the actions to share our love.

“And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.”-Luke 8:21.

.This is how Moses failed his final test, and why God refused him access to the Promised Land. He failed in his actions. His pride conquered his humility.

The greatest of us fail to do God’s will, which is to love one another: Adam, who was the son of God (Luke 3:38) followed his own will, and Eve’s; King David sent a good, honest man on a suicide mission, killing him, to satisfy David’s adulterous lust for that man’s wife, Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3, 15, 24); Sampson betrayed his Nazarite oath (Numbers 6:2-21; Judges 13:4, 5; 16:17); and Jacob, whom God renamed Israel (Genesis 32:28), tricked his brother (Genesis 25:33) and father (Genesis 27:19); Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss. We don’t think too highly of Judas, of course, but he was one of the twelve.

Everything is God’s will; accept that, and, thereby, answer all your questions.

“For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.”-Luke 12:2.

Solomon was born of the illicit union between David and Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:24). Solomon’s forbidden affair and marriage (Dueteronomy 7:1, 3) with an Ammorite Princess, Naamah, produced their son, Rehoboam (1 Kings 14:21).

“And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder; so he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, none shall open.”-Isaiah 22:22.

Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, descended from Rehoboam (Matthew 1:7, 16). So if David and Solomon had not defied God’s will, then we would be without Jesus. If Jacob had not been so sneaky, crafty, and full of deceit, then we would be without the twelve tribes of Israel, and, again, without Jesus.

How can the ultimate good come from lies, murder, and adultery? All we can do is look to the Bible.

“I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”-Isaiah 45:7.

God is so much more than all of us, throughout all time, have ever dreamed.

“…he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”-Matthew 5:45.

God created evil: We can’t blame it on “the Devil.” What’s more, God loves evil people, and good people.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.”-John 10:10.

Jesus came for all of us, but especially for the lost sheep. His love for us is God’s love, which exists for all: the whole world.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”-John 3:16.

Nevertheless, Judgment Day comes. We judge and condemn ourselves by our actions, that is, whether or not we share and acknowledge love.

What follows is Moses’ Judgment Day.

“And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock? / And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.”-Numbers 20:10, 11.

Did you catch it? Did you see Moses’ mistake? Read it again.

Moses sinned by what he did and said. Why?

He made a joke; that’s all. He never did anything wrong. He angered God a little, at the beginning, by the burning bush.

Like Jonah, Moses didn’t want to accept his calling.

What if you heard a voice from a burning bush, which wasn’t consumed by the flame, telling you to rescue an entire nation from (at the time) the greatest military power on earth? He kept saying, I can’t do it; it won’t work; I can’t even talk right.

“And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and he said, Is not Aaron the Levite thy brother? I know that he can speak well….”-Exodus 4:14.

But, afterwards, he did every crazy thing God wanted him to do.

God loved Moses.

“And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”-Exodus 33:11.

Face to face! No other prophet could claim such a thing. Moses is the ultimate hero of the Jews and the Old Testament. So what went wrong?

“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.”-Numbers 20:12.

Did you catch it? Did you understand what God said, and what Moses did wrong?

The truth is very simple, once we accept it. And acceptance is essential to being born again, because, with it, we love what we don’t understand.

(To be continued in part 3.)

Nativity

In my ongoing study of what born again means, and how to achieve it, we look now at the event, itself.

It begins with a sign.

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”-Isaiah 7:14.

Pronounced im-maw-noo-ale’, this Hebrew name means “with us is God.” In my mindfulness essays, I outlined several methods to help us stay with God; this is the first step to being born again: Stay in the moment, and see beauty and love everywhere, in everyone.

When we do this, a miracle happens, something as improbable as a virgin birth.

The sign shows us the way, how we’ve been going in the wrong direction; it shows us the truth, that are our own will is insufficient to overcome the world. It’s up to us to recognize God’s hand, offering to pull us out of the mess we’ve made of our lives.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”-Isaiah 9:6.

For thousands of years, prophets reiterated the promise of what we could be. We don’t have to hate each other, compete with each other, like street gangs fighting for our little piece of turf.

Admitting we were wrong is the hardest thing; it takes a miracle to even entertain the thought. Because, if we repent, then we have to leave the familiar, and pass through the wilderness, to a promised land that we might never see.

“Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”-Genesis 12:1.

We each have our own covenant with God. Our own personal Promised Land requires our own personal journey. When it comes to being born again, our pilgrimage happens whether we want it to, or not. What matters is how we choose to interpret the journey.

Will we see the land as beautiful, and accept with love the people we meet? Or will we be bitter, full of hate and doubt?

The journey begins with events of the everyday world.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”-Luke 2:1.

At this point, Mary and Joseph had both received their signs. Their baby was coming; a new life was imminent. But this new life would still be in this world. Love is not a single island, but all the world.

“…Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”-Matthew 22:21.

In order for a new dawn to come, the New Jerusalem prophesied in the Revelation, we must be reborn. This means interacting with people who receive our newborn love with hatred and enmity.

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”-Matthew 10:16.

From Nazareth to Bethlehem is a long journey. The roads are dangerous: robbers, storms, desert heat, and a very pregnant wife to protect. You’ll be safer if you travel by caravan.

Though there are some who resist your loving kindness, there are others whose lives will be changed, because you changed yours.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, / Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.”-Matthew 2:1, 2.

There are as many interpretations as there are people. Since only God knows everything, then, as far as we know, everyone is right; and no one is wrong. It is all God’s will. The Wise Men celebrated when they saw a new star, knowing that it meant a new, different kind of King. For Herod, that same star led him to murder children.

“When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”-Matthew 2:3.

Envy exacts a terrible cost, not only for the jealous person, but for everyone around them. All of Jerusalem was troubled, because Herod was worried and envious of anyone who might usurp his power. We seek power for comfort and security. But, then, to lose power means to surrender our comfort and security.

“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal.”-Matthew 6:19.

Nothing comes the way we think it will: not comfort, love, power, treasures, or the Messiah. True power doesn’t need to boast. It comes naturally, with great humility, in a way that few can foresee.

“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”-Micah 5:2.

The last step of one journey is the first of another. And the first steps are always the most difficult, like giving birth, or being reborn.

“And [Mary] brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”-Luke 2:7.

Since we’re told about the inn, we can assume that it was the only one. Bethlehem was a small town; so there was only one inn. Caesar’s census brought back everyone who was born there: a family reunion, of sorts. Even before his birth, Jesus was rejected–not by hatred, like Herod, but by indifference. That is our true adversary. Who can turn away a person in need, a pregnant woman? This wasn’t done out of unkindness; there simply weren’t any rooms left.

I just work here!

A manger is a food trough, out of which cattle and horses eat. Here, Jesus was identified with food, life-sustaining nourishment.

“Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”-John 4:34.

As we are born again, we must remember that, whether we want to or not, we minister to others by example. Our faith, kindness, and mercy becomes their food. We are what we eat. Everyone who is fed from this manger, must turn around and feed others.

We influence people whether we’re conscious of it or not. Without being mindful, we can cause great damage to the lives around us. When we are seen as being thoughtless and cruel, then others reside themselves to being likewise.

However, if we bring light and kindness to a people who have become indifferent, a miracle occurs.

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. / And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.”-Luke 2:8, 9.

Kindness is the glory of the Lord. Love might be too strong a word for us, too nebulous a concept, too much to ask. We think of love as being only for our family, significant others, pets, favorite foods or colors. But kindness allows us to keep a safe distance, not too intimate; it is a good beginning, a way to test the waters.

Certain examples aside (like David and Moses), shepherds weren’t thought of too highly. Orthodoxy considered them unclean. They were the lowlifes of their day: poor, dirty, uneducated.

While God is for everyone, we must remember that Jesus was a working-class carpenter, born in a manger with the animals; and the first people to witness him were filthy, smelly shepherds.

“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.”-John 10:11.

The shepherds among us spend their lives caring for others: being kind, watchful, and helpful. When we are born again, we become shepherds, following Jesus’ example. Even, or especially, in the darkest times, we watch over the flock.

We must never turn our eyes from their suffering, even if we can’t abate it. If we cease to be aware of suffering, if we succumb to the depreciation of humanity-due to our flooding of the market-then we are on our way to indifference, to evil.

“And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”-Luke 2:10.

Most every other English translation says that the great joy will be only to those whom God favors. Many people want to think of God as their property, that they hold the keys to the kingdom. But that is the Pharisee’s path.

“But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.”-Matthew 23:13.

To enter the kingdom of heaven, to be born again, means being kind to everyone: regardless of race, gender, economic or educational standing. Jesus loved sinners; his love healed them. Thus, he entered heaven, and allowed others to enter as well.

Heaven is a state of mind, a way of living.

“For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him.”-Luke 20:38.

Heaven is not some afterlife from which a person can ban you because they judged you to be a sinner. That is the Pharisee’s way, not God’s way. God is for all people. The great joy, the good news, the gospel is that we can all participate in this love and kindness.

“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”-John 3:17.

Jesus came to save the whole world, all of us.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. / And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”-Luke 2:11, 12.

Bethlehem was David’s hometown. Joseph was David’s descendant. I like to think of their whole line, from Abraham through David, all those patriarchs and heroes, as preparation for Joseph. Jesus’ earthly father accepted Mary’s mysterious, suspicious, unorthodox pregnancy; protected her and baby Jesus, to and from Bethlehem, and taught Jesus…what? Just imagine.

Jesus was not the son of David; Joseph was. But through his earthly father, Jesus received the teachings and lessons passed down from they whom interacted with God.

“And when [the wise men] were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”-Matthew 2:11.

It’s the first Christmas morning: time for presents! From my childhood, and on through ‘til today, Christmas eve and morning have always been magical. If we concentrate, we can feel God’s presence.

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. / And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.”-Luke 2:15, 16.

Whatever frenzied anxiety the holidays bring, when the stores close, it’s too late for haste. What’s done is done. And when we can no longer worry, a miracle happens: We are at peace. With peace comes faith-faith that we have enough food, enough presents, plenty of whatever we need.

When we are living on faith, then all the energy that is normally spent worrying is free for whatever is at hand: family. Thus, the absence of fear makes way for the presence of love. This is the meaning of Christmas, the lesson we all need to learn, if we are to be reborn.

“These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”-John 16:33.

We’re so focused on God and the devil, Heaven and Hell, angels and talking snakes, believing this and not believing that, that we miss the message. As the Wise Men brought Jesus presents, the wise writers of the Bible gift us with the truth of human suffering.

Our focus on hate, jealousy, judgments, and our time spent covering up lies, pretending to be in control, when we’re one of billions of small, fragile creatures…zaps our energy, to the point that we can’t think straight.

“But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. / There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”-Isaiah 57:20, 21.

There is only one way to overcome the world.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”-John 14:6.

And it’s not through the one-upmanship of constant competition, which brings, at most, a temporary victory. There’s always a bigger fish. No, the answer is to love one another: be kind, patient, merciful. We think that we can’t, but that’s only because our energy is tied up in pointless hatred and vengeance.

We can’t overcome the world: It’s as if we’re unarmed, and trying to stand alone against an army. We can’t win that way; we’ll only make things worse.

Still, we’re dumb enough to think, I will win, because I am the King.

“…[Herod] was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under….”-Matthew 2:16.

Herod’s fear and hatred, and the slaughter of the innocents: It was all for nothing. Before the soldiers arrived, the Wise Men and Shepherds had left, and Joseph had taken his family to safety.

Where hatred is stagnation, loving kindness is growth. And as roots burst through concrete, as tectonic plates thrust up mountains, and rain drops carve rocks, so does love grow: slowly, inexorably, like the birth of a child. We can’t stop the kingdom of heaven; it is coming.

No, heaven is already here. Like Jesus, we have already been born again, from heaven to earth, and back to heaven; we just have to see it, and accept it.

We are lowly shepherds, hypocritical Pharisees, hopeful husbands and wives, and simple animals who bear witness to the greatest birth of all: your rebirth.

Mindfulness of God: Prayer

The techniques in these mindfulness essays keep God close at hand. Through prayer, we stay aware of God’s omnipresence, forgive as soon as we’re offended, and bless everyone and everything, thereby connecting to those around us, making it harder to hate and easier to love; and we humble ourselves, every moment, before the grandeur of life.

(For full discussions on all these topics, please refer to the other Mindfulness essays in the table of contents.)

The latest technique I’ve been practicing involves prayer. Like all mindfulness exercises, it is simple. Before getting into it, I want to talk about prayer.

First, to whom are we praying? God, of course. But who or what is God? No one knows for sure.

“All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.”—Matthew 11:27.

Still, we can approximate a working definition, so we’ll at least have some starting point for building a relationship with God. This is also a great introductory mindfulness exercise.

From the opening line of the Lord’s Prayer, we see that God is in Heaven.

“…When ye pray, say, Our Father which art in heaven…. “—Luke 11:2.

And Jesus said that Heaven is within each and every one of us.

“…for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”—Luke 17:21.

If Heaven is within, then God is within each and every one of us. Further, God made everything.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”—John 1:3.

And so God exists not only within the people, but within, and as, everything.

As you go through your day, stop as often as you can, and note whatever you see, hear, touch, taste, and smell; all of it is God. This is the definition of infinity. Because, keep in mind, there are many more things in the universe than what’s in front of you. God is all of that too.

Look at your fingers. That’s God. The color of them is God. The sound of you snapping your fingers, their smell, texture, length, width, and so on, all of it is God.

The basic definition that I use in all of these essays is this:

“He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.”—1 John 4:8.

Since God is love, then that’s why we need to love every one and every thing.

“…Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—Matthew 25:40.

That’s because all of it is God. And since Heaven, and therefore God, is within you, by loving everything, you are doing good for, and loving, yourself. This understanding is the revelation, the a-ha! moment that destroys your world of sin, throws your demons into hell—which is the absence of Heaven, of God—and, therefore throws your demons away from you, causing you to be reborn.

“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”—Revelation 21:21.

The new Jerusalem written of in the Revelation is a new you, a life without the lingering of sin. We extirpate sin by forgiving others, as well as ourselves. And we forgive through prayer.

We must not forget to forgive ourselves. This is crucial.

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”—Matthew 6:12.

God will forgive us, but only if we forgive first. So when I am the trespasser, then God will forgive me only after I have forgiven myself. If I don’t, the sin stays with me, the guilt remains. And when Judgment Day comes, God will judge me. Since God is within me, then I will actually be judging myself.

“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”—John 5:22.

God has given judgment over to Jesus. And while this is a fine point, Jesus is the word, and the word is God.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”—John 1:1.

Jesus is also the light.

“[John the Baptist] came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.”—John 1:7.

And the light was made by God.

“And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.”—Genesis 1:3.

And Jesus is his commandment.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”—John 13:34.

Love cannot exist without forgiveness. Since God is love, then Jesus (God’s only begotten son) is forgiveness.

“For God so loved the world that He gave the only begotten Son, so that everyone believing in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life. / For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”—John 3:16-17.

Before Judgment Day comes, then, we need to forgive everyone, which is to say, love everyone—including, especially, ourselves.

This is my new mindfulness exercise: Through prayer, I forgive myself when I sin. I also forgive myself for everything in the past, that I haven’t forgiven myself for yet. That, too, I do through prayer.

This requires introspection. While in prayer, look deeply. Remember. Go through the book of your life. Be honest with yourself.

“And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”—Revelation 20:12.

I know my sins. They’ve held me down, imprisoned me long enough! I’ve done my time, paid my debt. So have you. It’s time for parole, a new life.

Stay aware. Keep God with you, through prayer, so you’ll see your sins as they happen. Then forgive yourself.

I developed a little equation that helps me to know when I’ve practiced forgiveness: Understanding + Acceptance = Forgiveness.

To forgive someone, even ourselves, we have to understand (or empathize with) them. Why did they sin? Was it a matter of survival? We are all liable to do anything if we are desperate enough. Survival doesn’t need to be taken literally, as life or death, but as their way of life—the loss of which can be just as scary as death.

Did they sin out of pride? What all have you done to maintain your pride?

“Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.”—Proverbs 16:18.

Pride is a basic weakness. We all experience it. We all sin. Stay mindful through prayer.

“…He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”—John 8:7.

Keep God with you, so you will be less likely to slip into hypocritical, self-righteous indignation.

“Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou thyself beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”—Luke 6:42.

If you walk, then you can’t (or shouldn’t) blame others for walking. We all walk differently, so we shouldn’t blame others for keeping their own pace.

Did they sin just to be mean? This is probably the hardest one. Sometimes we’re mean just to be hateful. Face it. Understand that anger builds like steam in a kettle. If we don’t deliberately, purposefully, release the pressure, then it will escape on its own, with or without our consent.

We must remain aware, through prayer, of our sins, and forgive ourselves so that our debts don’t pile up.

God exists in all of us, individually and as a whole. Therefore, we are tethered to each other—sharing breath, time, space, dreams, desires, and a need to be respected and accepted for who we are. We are all a manifestation of God, a particular expression that is unique in the universe.

Understand this, and you will be reborn.

Acceptance is the second term in the forgiveness equation. For it, we need another equation: Love + Humility = Acceptance.

“And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.”—Matthew 23:12.

We must humble ourselves before God. The sea is so vast, powerful, and beyond understanding; and my boat is so small.

“For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.”—Ecclesiastes 5:7.

When the Bible tells us to fear God, what it means is that we should respect and humble ourselves—as we do when we‘re afraid—before the awesome, unfathomable universe, and the one true God that/who/whom is even greater than the universe.

As your eyes and ears are a part of you, we are all parts of the universe: aspects, archetypal traits of God. Though every one of us is a vicarious substitute for God, a way for the universe to know itself—or, at least, a part of itself—we are not, actually, God.

In Eden, the first temptation is the desire to be God.

“For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.”—Genesis 3:5.

This temptation caused the fall of humanity, the expulsion from paradise. Don’t underestimate our will to power. The shame caused by our weaknesses—our inability to conquer, or even stand before the overwhelming universal hurricane—provokes an ironic, unrealistic perspective: that we are in control.

We’re not. Face it. Accept it, through humble prayer. You and I are not the captains of our small boats. Even if we are, the frothing, towering waves take us where they take us, which is often nowhere near our planned destination.

Be mindful, throughout your day, of what becomes of your plans—of how many times you must alter, adjust, and reconfigure them, in your desire to maintain your chosen course. The sea takes your tiny boat where it wills. You are the observer, chronicler, subject, and worshiper, not the captain.

I once asked my grandfather, the now-deceased Southern Baptist preacher, whose Bible I use to research these essays, what the Bible said about determinism and fatalism. Are we in control, or are we not?

He told me to imagine a big circle. This is God’s will. Then imagine a smaller circle inside of the larger one. This is your will.

Be mindful, through prayer, of this difference, and the similarity. Your will is God’s will, since God made everything, and exists within everything. But, at the same time, it is your will.

Did God really think that Adam and Eve wouldn’t eat the apple? Of course not. God made the apple and serpent, as well as Adam and Eve. God made the apple appear succulent and desirable. God made desire, invented temptation, and our weakness to the will of power.

“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”—Genesis 3:6.

Eve chose to eat it. Adam chose it as well. Therefore, we choose to suffer by living apart from God. We prefer the slums of Earth to the rich, verdant garden of Heaven. But since that is our choice, then we can choose, instead, to be reborn. Through prayer and mindfulness of God, we can be like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, Joshua, Jesus, Peter, and St. John the divine (author of the Revelation). We can leave the homes of our fathers, and make the pilgrimage to the promised land.

“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee.”—Genesis 12:1.

We must be humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything. We must be mindful enough to accept that we are off course: full of anger, hatred, and doubt, and the delusion that we are God, instead of a small, but necessary part of God.

Once we understand our position in this vast ocean, then we can follow the stars to the port of our Heavenly Father, and be reborn.

Comforter

In the past two essays, I studied the Gospels to answer this question: How do I become a good minister and friend? In “Tell No One” I learned to focus on comfort rather than conversion; I tell no one the particulars of my faith, my personal covenant with God (the Father), because I need to focus on their faith, not mine. And in “Spread the Word” I learned to be a shepherd one moment, and sheep the next, just as Jesus (the Son of man) was.

The one missing piece of the Trinity is the Holy Ghost. It’s first mentioned in the opening verses of Matthew.

“…[Mary] was found with child of the Holy Ghost. //…for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.”—Matthew 1:18, 20.

Childbirth is the first clue to understanding this concept in the Gospels.

“…[John the Baptist] shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.”—Luke 1:15.

It links parent and child, Father and Son, completes them. This is the purpose of the Holy Ghost as well: thesis, antithesis, synthesis.

“At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you.”—John 14:20.

There is a bond between father and son. They are connected by a love that goes all the way down to their blood. This connection is the synthesis. Father and Son would exist apart, if not for the Holy Ghost. It equates them, joins them. Without their bond, they are just two people. But with it, any two people can love each other as much.

Of Jesus, John the Baptist said, “…he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire.”—Matthew 3:11.

An important thing to keep in mind is that Jesus is an example.

“For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”—John 13:15.

Since he baptized with the Holy Ghost, we do too.

“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”—Matthew 28:19.

Baptism represents a friendship going to a new level. No longer just acquaintances, we grow closer, brought together by faith and compassion. But we also baptize with fire. We take the friendship to yet another level, at which we could become enemies.

All it takes is a heated moment, a fiery discussion, and eating from the one apple tree that we shouldn’t.

“Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. / And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come.”—Matthew 12:31-32.

This is the one unforgivable sin, according to Jesus: blasphemy against the Holy Ghost. Otherwise, the Gospels teach absolute forgiveness.

When Peter asked how many times he should forgive his neighbor, and suggested maybe seven times, Jesus answered, “…I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.”—Matthew 18:22.

Toward the end of the Last Supper, John’s gospel has a “deleted scene” that’s not in any of the other books. Judas had just left. Everyone felt betrayed, and Peter was worried that he would deny his faith before morning. To calm everyone, Jesus told them about the Comforter.

“But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”—John 14:26.

The Comforter is the Holy Ghost. So everything we’ve learned so far applies now to him. He will bring a bond as strong as family. Further, he will be the connection that we call love and friendship.

When a heated exchange erupts between two friends, they should remember why they care for each other. Everything Jesus taught by example will be applied when the Comforter comes.

“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.”—John 15:26.

Since John referred to the Comforter in the masculine, I will too. It’s important to note that the Holy Ghost didn’t have a gender before this. What was divine has become human. The connection he offers is personified through us. When we approach an argument with love, we become the Comforter. The same love that Jesus has for us, we share with each other.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”—John 14:34.

That’s how we testify. When our ministry or friendship is interrupted by us crossing the line, committing that one unforgivable sin, we should remember why we love each other; our bond is sacred, holy. But, to do so, we both have to accept the truth.

“And I pray the Father and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; / Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. / I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you.”—John 14:16-18.

I don’t always see the truth, though I always think I do. But sometimes I can’t, because I’m blinded by anger, jealousy, pride, or any number of sins. But the truth is always with me. I just have to accept it, so that it dwells within me.

The problem is that it takes two to tango, always. When there’s a disagreement, there are two people fighting and in need of comfort. To get past the baptism of fire, we both need to see the truth.

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”—John 14:6.

If God is love, then Jesus is forgiveness. And since we should follow his example, as he forgave all sins, then so should we—even the unforgivable one.

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”—John 16:7.

He calmed the apostles at the Last Supper by telling them that he had to die, so that we can forgive each other. With his example, we know that it’s possible. We can overcome our sins, if we love and forgive our neighbors as if they were our family, because they are.

“For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.”—Matthew 12:50.

However, to deny that forgiveness, as Peter denied his faith in times of hardship, is to blaspheme against the Holy Ghost.

“But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation.”—Mark 3:29.

If we don’t allow ourselves to forgive someone, no matter what they’ve done, then we will have that on our conscience. We may justify it as a reaction to their blasphemy, but we each choose what we do, how we react. It’s our responsibility. By not forgiving, we risk tainting our souls forever.

Friendship and ministry begin with a miracle, as two people come together in this world of sin. After performing his miracles, Jesus told those he healed that they should tell no one. The miracle was that the blind could see (and the deaf could hear) the truth.

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.”—Luke 4:18.

That was his purpose, as he stated it there in Nazareth: to be an example to us for how we can use the Holy Ghost to survive the fire.

Perhaps the Bible isn’t meant to be a rule book. Rather, it tells us that we will mess up, and, when we do, here’s how we can fix things.

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. / He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you.”—John 16:13-14.

Remember, the Spirit of truth is another name for the Comforter, who is also the Holy Ghost. Within one Trinity is another.

Jesus often referred to the importance of not speaking of himself.

“He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.”—John 7:18.

This is another way of saying tell no one. It’s a warning as to what can cause disagreements. A sin is unforgivable because the person was thinking only of themselves. In a relationship, there are, of course, two people; one cannot be ignored in favor of the other, since both are one.

“If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. / But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”—John 10:37-38.

Father and Son are one. We are one: the synthesis of opposites. We hurt ourselves when we speak only of ourselves. We blaspheme against the miracle that brought us together.

It is at that moment that the Comforter comes. He is the peacemaker within, the better angel of our nature.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”—Matthew 5:9.

He reveals the truth, which is this: All of us are part of the same whole. When you add everything together—all the rocks, vegetation, people, animals, earth, and sky—every component becomes crucial, no matter how small. Ministers and friends are those who speak with this truth.

“…If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; / And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”—John 8:31-32.

When we speak the truth, it’s because we hear the Holy Ghost. During an argument with my friend, if I listen to the Comforter that dwells within me, then I will speak not with my words, but his.

“But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.”—Mark 13:11.

Our relationship can survive the fire. Faith allows me to see a better tomorrow, a prophecy of how the friendship can be saved. But it won’t happen through my will alone. I’ve already messed things up. Only through a combined will can we hope to survive Judgment Day.

This is how we glorify God.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”—John 1:3.

God is all things, the sum, thesis, antithesis, and synthesis, the alpha and omega. So when I let go of my selfishness, and if I let myself hear the Comforter, and speak with the words he gives me, I am doing God’s will.

At that moment, I receive his wisdom, since mine obviously wasn’t cutting it.

“…With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”—Matthew 19:26.

Since the miracle of us coming together as friends (to minister to each other) was possible, so is another miracle: the saving of our friendship during crisis. But the only way to reach the kingdom of heaven within is for us both to accept the will of that which is without.

This is the third thing I’ve learned about ministry and friendship: We reach heaven together or not at all.

Talitha Cumi Part Two

I know how hard it is to have faith in others. If someone hurt me once, chances are they’ll do it again. I can forgive them, but then I need to have faith that they won’t repeat their mistake. Believing in another person gets progressively more difficult, since there are always new ways to be thoughtless and cruel. These add up and are multiplied by however many people we know. The process is made infinitely more complicated when we consider forgiving and believing in people we don’t know personally: for example, random strangers who test me regularly on the highway.

This is why we have the Bible and the gospels in particular: In order to coexist, we need to have faith in people who can’t help but sin, including ourselves. Such belief is impossible or, at the very least, improbable, because we know that every one of us can be thoughtless.

“And [Jesus] said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”—Luke 18:27.

To be more precise, the unlikely is made more likely with the Bible’s lessons. When we pray or meditate on doing what’s right, then our hearts are in the right place.

Think back to Noah, and the reason God flooded the world.

“And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thought of his heart was only evil continually.”—Genesis 6:5.

If their evil hearts destroyed the world, then maybe our good hearts can save it.

Faith in yourself and others becomes possible through prayer and meditation on Jesus’ lessons. Where the Pharisees and the people of Nazareth showed their lack of faith by rejecting him, the way to be healed through faith is by acceptance—not just of Jesus, but that life is often out of our control. Such times are usually when we’re required to make a stand, declare ourselves as shepherds of the weak, or the beasts who prey on them.

What makes the gospels fun to read is that there’s so much action, drama, and movement. There are high stakes in the lives of these simple people. For example, sandwiched between Jesus casting the demons out of Legion, and being rejected by the people of Nazareth are two back-to-back tales of astonishing faith.

After seeing Legion healed, the locals were scared of Jesus, and insisted that he leave. So back across the Sea of Galilee he went, where a crowd was waiting for him. While one group rejected him, another accepted him so much that they waited on the shore for his return. Among them was Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue.

Keep in mind, this happened after the Pharisees declared Jesus a dangerous man, wanted dead or alive (mostly dead).

“And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”—Mark 3:6.

Though many of the other priests wanted to kill Jesus, Jairus went to him for help.

“…and when [Jairus] saw [Jesus], he fell at his feet, / And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.”—Mark 5:22-23.

It’s a pity that my ability to perform a leap of faith often coincides with the adrenaline rush of a hopeless situation—if only I could make such leaps when it wasn’t a matter of life or death.

Still, the faith that Jairus showed was remarkable. It wasn’t just that his fellow rulers of the synagogue disliked Jesus; they wanted to kill him. He was a criminal who had blasphemed and broken God’s law of keeping the Sabbath holy. Jairus had so much faith in a stranger that he was willing to put his position and reputation in jeopardy.

“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue.”—John 12:42.

To accept what your peers reject is, indeed, a strong faith.

“And Jesus went with [Jairus]; and much people followed him, and thronged him.”—Mark 5:24.

I’ve often wondered why he was followed by these large crowds. To show up and listen to him speak was one thing; following him from town to town, waiting for hours or days on the shore for him to return was something else. Most of them wanted to be healed, or had someone with them who needed to be healed. And since we are all in need of rejuvenation, the comings and goings of his followers made for a constant multitude. Plus there was this:

“And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all.”—Luke 6:19.

Some people make me feel a certain way: anxious or safe, for example. Jesus’ presence made his followers feel virtuous. I think we should consider how we make others feel. What is your presence like?

“And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years, / And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, / When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. / For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.”—Mark 5:25-28.

There is no better medicine than being around the right person. Their belief in me encourages my faith in them, which reaffirms the faith I have in myself. On the other hand, being around the wrong sort of person, one who doesn’t believe in me, makes me doubt myself. While doubt can be necessary, since it forces us to meditate on the state of our faith, if doubt comes at the wrong time, when we’re living on faith, coasting on fumes, it can be devastating.

Just as I need people of strong faith in my life, I need to be there for others too.

“…freely ye have received, freely give.”—Matthew 10:8.

My attitude, appearance, the way I look someone in the eye, i.e., my presence contributes to others’ faith in me; so do my actions and sharing what’s really in my heart.

What is your presence like to others? How do you make people feel?

“And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.”—Mark 5:29.

That’s what it’s like for me when I’m around a good person. My bleeding stops. My wounds are healed. The plague of the world’s doubt is healed by people who believe in you. It doesn’t take much: just being near enough to touch.

“And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? / And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?”—Mark 5:30-31.

I love this exchange. It began with mystical overtones: virtue going out of Jesus, as if virtue was his power, the fuel for his miracles. He seemed confused, as if not knowing who’d been healed by touching him. The disciples, as usual, didn’t understand what he was talking about. And there were lots and lots of people everywhere: singing, laughing, pushing, walking, running, hugging, praying for a miracle.

The woman “had an issue of blood twelve years,” and Jairus’ daughter was twelve-years old. I can’t help but think of the twelve tribes of Israel. If the people would come to Jesus, that is, meditate on his lessons and practice them regularly, then they/we could be brought back to life, cured of the plague of fear and doubt.

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!”—Luke 13:34.

You can’t help some people. There are some of us who are lost in ourselves. If I was lost in Alberta, then a Canadian could help me. If I was lost in Calculus, then a math teacher could help me. But I’m lost in myself. Any help from the outside, like prophets, if you follow, will be removed. Coming from outside of me, they don’t know the territory, and would only get lost themselves. But if I am lost, then I can’t really help myself either. The only answer is faith.

“And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. / But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.”—Mark 5:32-33.

When someone helps us, we should acknowledge it, if not by thanking them, then by paying it forward. The woman could’ve just walked away. She got what she came for. This was her moment. Would she turn her back, like the Pharisees? No. She took a stand for what’s right by dropping to her knees, humbling herself. She recognized that a miracle had taken place.

The miracle is faith in others; with it we can do what would otherwise be impossible. Without it we’re lost. We need to believe in ourselves and others, because there’s so much we don’t know, about each other, the future, what’s best or worst for us.

“And [Jesus] said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.”—Mark 5:34.

Since we know nothing of how things will work out, whether left is better than right, faith makes us whole because, with it, we accept the unknown. No longer plagued by fear and doubt, we can see the world as it is, see people as they are, and finally know our place.

Meanwhile, one of Jairus’ servants came with bad news.

“While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?”—Mark 5:35.

Jairus was willing to go behind the priests’ backs for his daughter, sacrifice his life for hers. Faith requires a sacrifice too. We have to let go of our fear and doubt.

Even when something is bad for me, I can grow accustomed to it, to the point of needing it because it’s part of my understanding of the world. But that is when I have to make a choice, take a stand.

What is my life about: fear or faith?

“As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.”—Mark 5:36.

It was an apocalyptic moment for Jairus. His daughter was dead. He was willing to sacrifice his life for hers, but would he sacrifice his fear?

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding, / In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”—Proverbs 3:5-6.

Acceptance is the most difficult choice to make. But when apocalypse comes for you, there’s no pleading, rearranging, or planning what you’ll say or do. We behave according to what’s in our hearts.

“And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.”—Mark 5:37.

This is the first mentioning in these essays of those whom I like to call “The Big 3.” Peter and the two brothers, James and John, got to witness some amazing stuff that no one else did. I’ll do a full analysis on this later. Just keep in mind that what happened next was not meant for everyone to witness, only a select few.

“And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. / And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? The damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.”—Mark 5:38-39.

We cannot be afraid while showing faith; the two are mutually exclusive. This was shown and stated many times in the gospels: when Peter tried to walk on water, when the disciples were caught in the storm at sea. They were afraid when they should’ve had faith.

When your life rages as a perfect storm and you have no choice but to try the impossible, like walking on water, you will succeed if you have faith in yourself and others.

“…as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”—Joshua 1:5.

Of course, like Peter, we’re going to sink. It’s inevitable. The gospels taught that lesson repeatedly. The Big 3 fell asleep while they were supposed to be guarding Jesus in Gethsemane; the priests and his own townspeople wanted to kill him; and those who were in Jairus’ house, mourning the death of the little girl, laughed at Jesus when he told them she was just sleeping.

Maybe we can’t fight this, and have to accept that fear is a kneejerk reaction, completely out of our control. However, we can pray for faith and meditate on it, so that when we are fearful, we’ll recognize that we are “of little faith.” Then, instead of continuing to sink, we will arise, stand up for what’s right, and release our doubts—as Jesus released the demons from Legion.

“And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. / And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment. ”—Mark 5:41-42.

Stand up for what you believe in. Declare your side of the fence: fear or faith, dying or living. Choose now, before life makes you choose, so that you can meditate and consider all the factors. If you wait, and your apocalypse comes like a thief in the night, then there’s no telling what you will choose.

The Pharisees and Jesus’ townspeople had waited their whole lives for their Messiah, their perfect moment. And when it did come, they had spent so much of their time and filled up so much of their hearts with doubt and mistrust. Whatever you spend your time doing, whatever you invest your passion into, that’s who you are.

We have to choose whether or not we’ll accept that. Because, in the end, it’s all about our choices: Sometimes we get overwhelmed by all the bells and whistles, the distractions of life, especially during a personal apocalypse. These distractions form a perfect storm, impairing our judgment right at the moment when the thief comes.

So pray with gladness and appreciation. Thank the world for every blessing, no matter how small. Unlike the people who died in the great flood, fill your heart with love continually. So that, when your time comes, your reaction will be no different than what it normally is.

“Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. / This is the first and greatest commandment. / And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”—Matthew 23:37-39.

To love God is to love everything and everyone. One is like unto the other.

“…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”—Matthew 25:40.

To love everyone and everything is to love God. You can tell if you have this love because there will be gladness in your heart. You will radiate virtue. If, instead, your presence causes doubt and discord, accept that you will have to get rid of your fear by choosing to accept that you are the miracle, your faith, your trust: With these you hold the key to not only your salvation, but others’ as well.

Meditate, pray, and be ready.

“…for the time is at hand.”—Revelation 1:3.

The Unforgiving Servant

What is your greatest success? Be honest and think about this for a moment.

I once worked for a group of retirement homes in south Florida. One day a social worker called and told me about a quadruple amputee, an elderly woman with no family and very little money; the staff at that woman’s facility were so poorly paid, and thought so little of her for not paying them more, that they abused her, mocking her by dropping her in the shower. She had nowhere to go, not enough money, and only that social worker and me to do anything about it. I turned over my cases, and focused on hers.

Somehow, I found a home that would accept her, one that I’d visited and trusted. She was moved by the end of the day. I still weep for joy when I think of her, and how a simple person can do so small a thing as a day’s work, and yet make such a huge difference in someone else’s life.

What is your greatest failure? Be honest.

I have a hard time with intimacy—not just romantically, but being close with anyone. I tend to push others away. There are lots of reasons; I’ve always had reasons for why I behaved badly. But when I take away those excuses, and look at the bad thing I did, the sin I committed, it is still a sin.

By choosing one success and one failure, think of them as your summary, symbolic events that are prime examples of all your good and bad deeds.

“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants.”—Matthew 18:23.

In this parable, I see each of us as the king. The servants are our actions. Though it’s more common to take the king to be God, remember that God is everywhere, existing within the souls of all that He has made.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”—John 1:3.

“Neither shall they say, Lo here! Or, lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”—Luke 17:21.

In this parable, we sit in judgment on ourselves.

“And when [the king] had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.”—Matthew 18:24.

Judgment day! Though I’d like to delay paying taxes, the time comes when they’re due. Likewise, I can deny my inner guilt for behaving badly, but only for a limited time. If I don’t forgive myself, and the person whom I felt did me wrong, then that guilt builds.

“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.”—Revelation 16:15.

The more often we take inventory of our lives, through prayer and meditation, the more accurate we’ll be when we make the ultimate judgment: the one on ourselves.

“But forasmuch as he had not to pay, [the king] commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.”—Matthew 18:25.

I am my own worst critic. Sometimes I can be brutal. Since the servant couldn’t pay, the king’s initial response was to banish not only the servant, but his family too.

“And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.”—Genesis 6:7.

Repentance is necessary for forgiveness. When it comes to forgiving ourselves, we must be made vulnerable to our worst critic, hoping for mercy and compassion.

“The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. / Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.”—Matthew 18:26-27.

We are always at the mercy of ourselves. Like the Good Samaritan, and the father of the Prodigal Son, feeling compassion is our first step to showing mercy, which leads to forgiveness. But when we have to show mercy to ourselves, the struggle between good and evil becomes internal, where part of you will always lose. This complicates things.

“But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow-servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hand on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest.”—Matthew 18:28.

Remember, in this meditation, we are the king. We sit in judgment on our actions, symbolized by the servant. When the servant was forgiven, he then committed a sin right away.

“Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? / Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, until seventy times seven.”—Matthew 18:21-22.

Those verses precede this parable. To have a clean soul, and a healthy mind, we must not only forgive others, we must forgive ourselves, no matter how often it takes.

“And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. / And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.”—Matthew 18:29-30.

In these studies of morality, I thought I’d learned the lessons, only to fail again and again. It’s hard to forgive every sin. I can’t help but get impatient with myself. I beat myself up, and would throw myself into prison if I could.

“Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; / Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellowservant, even as I had pity on thee?”—Matthew 18:32-33.

This was a soul that had just been forgiven. It had been shown mercy. How many more times should this soul be forgiven, since it can’t learn a simple lesson?

…until seventy times seven.

If you are good enough to be forgiven once, then that worth does not change. No matter what bad thing I’ve done, I did my part in making that woman’s life better in a new retirement home. Likewise, no matter what good thing I’ve done, a sin is still a sin. Neither is more important than the other; both count when it comes to Judgment Day.

“And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.”—Matthew 18:34.

If we don’t forgive ourselves, then we will be tormented. Whether or not there’s an actual lake of fire, our teeth will be gnashing from guilt. Repentance is how we pay for our sins.

“So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”—Matthew 18:35.

Every one: That’s a lot. Remember, this is what the kingdom of heaven is like. Heaven is forgiving every sin. Bring in your servants, take account of all you’ve done, through meditation and prayer, and then repent and forgive every single sin. And then you’ll know what the kingdom of heaven is like.

I think forgiving ourselves is just as important as forgiving each other. As a thought exercise, we could replace all of the Bible’s lessons about forgiving others, with forgiving ourselves. I bet it would hold up.

Repentance requires the truth. Be honest with yourself.

“…for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.”—Matthew 6:8.

And you know what is in your heart, the good and the bad; respect them both, and learn from them. By practicing this type of meditation, maybe we won’t be too hasty on Judgment Day, our own personal apocalypse; maybe we won’t judge ourselves or others too harshly.

We must have faith in ourselves, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness for ourselves.

“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.”—Matthew 6:12.

This is the kingdom of God that is within us all. The state of heaven is forgiveness.

Good Samaritan

“And [the Prodigal Son] arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him.”—Luke 15:20.

Without the father’s compassion, that story would’ve had a very different ending—if he’d felt as the elder son did, for example, who was angry and held a grudge against his brother.

Compassion and mercy lead a dual existence for me, just like forgiveness. On the one hand, they should be automatic, involuntary. We all make mistakes because we know not what we do. But we also know exactly what we’re doing when we sin. We just can’t help it.

If it makes it any easier, think of us as children who never grow up.

While compassion and mercy should be automatic, we make the choice.

“But [the lawyer] willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbor? / And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.”—Luke 10:29-30.

People were always trying to cause trouble at Jesus’ get-togethers. This time it was a lawyer. He wasn’t trying to make Jesus look bad, exactly; rather, he attempted to make himself look good by fencing words with his host.

Like all the rest, this aspect of Jesus’ story was a parable, itself; it showed us how to deal with those people who try to trip you, or use you to further their own ends. The solution: be gracious, turn the other cheek, and confuse (but enlighten) them with a story.

With all the talk of love thy neighbor as thyself, the lawyer wanted a definition for “neighbor.” The story began with a Jewish man making a long, dangerous trip—like walking through a war zone, but the soldiers were bandits.

“And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.”—Luke 10:31.

The priest didn’t want to get involved. I can’t say that I blame him. When you help someone else, you make yourself vulnerable, because you’re (essentially) giving them some of your energy. The priest would’ve been literally vulnerable, as the bandits could be watching; or maybe the man wasn’t really hurt, just faking it, and his partner was waiting behind a rock.

“And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.”—Luke 10:32.

While we all know what a priest is, the term Levite deserves an explanation.

“And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee.… / And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle….”—Numbers 18:2-3.

Bottom line: the Levites were a tribe of Israel. They were in charge of the places of worship, where the priests gave their sermons. These were holy men, allies of the mugged traveler. They practiced mercy and compassion every day. They might’ve felt compassion for the injured man, but they chose to not show mercy.

I sometimes wonder if the Pharisees got a “bum rap.” After everything the Israelites went through during the Old Testament, they finally stopped questioning God, and obeyed His laws to the letter. I can’t fault them for remaining true to their beliefs, when Jesus came along with his new teachings.

“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”—Matthew 23:23.

Like the Rich Young Lord, and the lawyer, priest, and Levite from this story, the Pharisees were insincere; they obeyed the letter of the law, but not the spirit. They must’ve been really jealous too. They gave their lives to God, and then some hippy punk strolled into town, claiming to be the Messiah.

“And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him. / And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God.”—Luke 16:14-15.

The priest and the Levite followed all of God’s laws, but they were unwilling to make themselves vulnerable, to give all they had to the poor, those in need of mercy—where “all they had” was, in this case, risking their lives.

“But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, / And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.”—Luke 10:33-34.

The same possible, hidden bandits were in the Samaritan’s mind too, I’d wager. He had to choose, just like the priest and Levite. Further, Jews and Samaritans didn’t get along. Of their relationship, the Bible said this:

“…Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.”—John 4:9.

If we’re unwilling to make the choice, if we decide to remain neutral and not get involved, the outcome still occurs. Had it not been for the Samaritan, the traveler would’ve died; and the priest and Levite would be responsible.

We can’t be responsible for the whole world. But we are responsible for what lies in the realm of our experience. Though we think of helping others as making ourselves vulnerable, remember that mercy has a dual existence:

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”—Proverbs 11:17.

Helping others is the best way to help yourself. You’ll feel great! Life will be so much more beautiful when you’ve helped someone who couldn’t help themselves.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”—I Corinthians 10:13.

We are all potential shepherds, angels to those in need. We are each other’s Plan B, last hope, and hidden Ace. While seemingly complicated, the choice is simple: look after yourself, don’t get involved, and you’ll never feel connected; or be a Good Samaritan—Let go of petty differences, take responsibility for the moment you are in, and not only save someone else, but yourself too.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.”—Titus 3:5.

Mercy saves us, if we choose to allow it.

“Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves? / And he said, He that showed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.”—Luke 10:36-37.