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Life Arts    H4'ed 3/25/17

A Letter from Paul to Timothy this Eastertide 2017

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In this newest work from Apostle Paul to Timothy, the former Saul writes: "The parents and their kids focused willy-nilly on scriptures from all over the nearly 70 books of the Old and New Testament but quickly lost sight of the words and example of Jesus Christ. (Yet, they continue to call themselves Christians, which should mean to be a follower of Jesus Christ.)

Dear Timothy,I recently returned from remote corners of the world where I had met with families whom I had known for many years. I had watched them raise their children and saw that, like I had done for decades before I met Christ on the road to Damascus, they had coached their children to memorize scriptures, etc. (I had been astounded by how much they seemed to acquire from the Old and New Testaments. These parents had tried to raise their children to follow the Way and support the organized fellowships that promote missions and evangelism.)

Alas, these same parents are now asking us to pray for their children who have grown up powerful in this world--i.e. some work at some of the world's largest and most powerful banks or lobbying groups--only to abandon their faiths and the beliefs of their parents and community. Some parents and evangelists asked me, "How could this happen? How could they abandon all that God has given us?"

The obvious thing is that these families had long ago forgotten their first love. That is Jesus. They focused on scriptures from all over the nearly 70 books of the Old and New Testament but lost sight of the words and example of Jesus Christ. (Yet, they continue to call themselves Christians, which should mean a follower of Jesus Christ.)

"Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will send you out" to nations to make disciples; i.e., that means that the calling for each of us so-called followers of Christ was (or is) to teach others to be like Christ in word and deed. The message I had shared with them long ago focuses on the importance discipling and following Christ's two clear commandments in thought, word, and action.

Long before I even met him, Jesus had said unto his disciples, "You should love the Lord God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like this unto it, You should love your neighbors as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." In short, Jesus should be the focus. Yet, the focus for too many generations has been instead on the Church (a word I never once used in my early writings to the followers of the Way) and on not on so-called CHRISTIANITY; i.e., as too many so-called Christians claim today.On the other hand, I must admit that even the earliest disciples, like Peter and John who were blessed to travel with Jesus for 3 years, had had trouble internalizing what it meant to follow Christ. During that time (or prior to Christ's resurrection), were those disciples acting humble and following the Way? No, even up till the night before his crucifixion, Jesus' disciples would not permit themselves to be humble enough--and they were often verbose; i.e., bragging about who was most loved or who was most important.

Being a follower of Christ means a lifelong commitment to Jesus' Way. It is not easy to make a lifelong commitment to the Way, which involves teaching and learning and training all of one's life. Following Christ is a lifelong commitment to discipling and being discipled by other followers. In this one must be humble and acting constantly as a servant to others. One must be doing this in love and not with any regrets. Following Christ is not about being hyper-focused on laws and traditions of their forefathers, either. One needs only to look at Jesus' sermons on the hills around Judea and Sidon to understand that Jesus' program was about setting up a Kingdom that would ask his followers to turn the priorities of this world upside down; i.e., if they were all to listen, learn and transform as he called them all to do. Jesus' message is about love.

After the disaster in the Garden of Eden, God could have simply thrown in the towel. He could have, like a potter, destroyed the product and created a new pot. God did not do that. He sent Jesus to share a better view of what God is about: Love and Mercy. This was his plan for humanity. I asked the concerned families of so many lost children: "Who have you been following? Jesus or Obama? Jesus or Donald Trump? Jesus or Duterte? Jesus or Marx? Jesus or Franklin Graham? Jesus or Jerry Falwell?" Solemnly, I asked again, "Who are your leaders? What are they following? Are your children following Jesus or a football team? Are you trying to become Christ or Christiano Ronaldo? Are you fighting to become Christ-like or to become Beyonce or Bruce Lee? Do you think Jesus Christ was simply just another Superstar in your compartmentalized lives and faiths?"

What (they and) we really want, of course, is for our children to follow Christ Jesus. Recall how Joshua told the Israelites long ago, "As for me and my House, I will follow the Lord."--and he did that. Joshua's, Joseph's, and Jesus's follow-through in faith and deed is clearly what was missing in these families and their cultures over so many generations. Meanwhile, the entire planet is now looking in vain for good leaders--which we seem to be missing in almost every location.

"Who are you choosing as your leaders?" I asked these families. The World leaders we see today are weak and either try to manufacture consent through propaganda or simply stick their finger in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. Instead of following Christ's words and examples, our leaders end up following the 1% of the wealthiest or most powerful peoples on the planet. In turn, most politicians are well-financed by the same so-called leaders. We need at least to have leaders, like David or Soloman, who turned to God to ask for wisdom. Instead, we have leaders crowing to have wisdom from well-financed think-tanks, well-financed lobbying groups, or well-financed so-called Christian groups. That is, many leaders only go to the most powerful for wisdom. Others go to college and think they will get wisdom to build new kingdoms, too. These are simply dead ends. Jesus's kingdom was never to be built by the wisdom of this world. All over the world today --not just in the USA, Syria or Russia--families are not following the Lord. There are ever-growing numbers of kids growing up in divorced or broken families in every single country on the globe. Even presidents, whom they elect, have been divorced many times. (They don't even know how to treat their spouses, let alone those whom they do not like or don't have an interest in.)

In short, Jesus's Way has not been dominating most homes around the world as it should be. The same goes for homes of so-called Hindu families, so-called Buddhist households, so-called Muslim families and tribes, so-called agnostic households, or even the homes of terrorist-supporting families. In short, wisdom doesn't come automatically from organized religions, nor from political experts, nor from mind-controlling organizations, like those who hack other organizations (or nations) or who control the flow of our media. There are too many people who have brains but they have no sense. Because of this situation, all the nations and kingdoms of this world are almost always in constant trouble these days. Worse, there is a moral void across both the richest and poorest neighborhoods around the planet. Their lifestyles show it. Their leaders show it as do the other superstars whom they follow or show their clamor for. (This is what too many parents like those I met on my recent journeys have not been able to internalize. This is why their children are abandoning most of what they taught their children to believe over many decades.)

In other words, so-called Christians have been horribly and negatively influenced by the leaders of the kingdoms of this world. Society and families have ignored wisdom and are buying into sinking ships of civilization. Now, I turn momentarily to our Muslim neighbors here in Palmyra: "We can't rely on ISIS leadership either. They, too, have come to set up a kingdom, but it's a morally bankrupt Kingdom." Likewise, neighboring Israelites (and her USA supporters of Israel, like CBN) have done the same in recent elections. Believing that they are setting up a new Kingdom to God on Earth, the Israeli fanatics have trampled on all that Jesus has called them to do; i.e., if they are ever really to become part of Yahweh's Kingdom some day. As well, the followers of the Graham families and the confused followers of Zion today absolutely must repent and return to the Way and to the Love and Mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ instead of trying to force the hand of God as they have been planning to do for far too long; i.e., after reading too many end-of-time books on prophesies, instead of reading the words of Jesus in the Bible over-and-over again.

Everywhere, the wisdom of the political and religious worlds of Earth have revealed time-and-again one failed kingdom after another history is filled with these failed kingdoms. Along with the destruction of such kingdoms, we have observed countless episodes man-made ecological destruction of every resources on this very planet Earth. This ecological destruction has been evident through wars, over-grazing, pollution and man-directed-erosion. Palmyra, for example, has been witness to this for ages--but especially so in recent years. In determining not to destroy the Earth after Adam and Eve sent humanity off into disaster long ago, God has until now continued to let humanity to be in charge of taking care of this planet. Will he continue to leave this in the hands of humans if man does not soon show much more humility, mercy, and love to his neighbors across this planet?In addition, across the world, we have even observed that many so-called Christian institutions, like Christian-founded colleges and universities (or even hospitals), move away from any sense of Christianity by charging too much of their students and wasting too much money. (Worse, through their teachings and actions, many who desired knowledge or mercy from such institutions have been sent away disappointed.) One cannot simply consume Gods' words in the form of the Old and New Testaments while clearly ignoring the calls to action, love, mercy, and doing. In God's call to love and forgive your neighbor as yourself, we must struggle till the end of time. There is no limit to following these directives of Christ's message to use Earthlings. Tribes, nations, families and individuals must humble themselves and say as Joshua did so long ago, "Not my will but thine will be done, Lord."

Our world is filled with corruption, lavishness, and greed. Greed has become normal--and such greed-glorifying leaders have been the model for too many families. This is why on my last journey, I told my friends, "Jesus doesn't abuse his subjects. We [You] are the ones who abuse and too often in the name of Christ." With all humanity, we must repent and follow a different way--Christ's Way. As well, I asked them, "Are you concerned about where following Christ might lead you? I tell you that friendship with the world means hostility towards God. Don't project the world's image onto our God and make others who wish to follow Christ worse off than you!"

In the 2016 election and even in 2017, Franklyn Graham and other so-called Christian leaders or friends of power have been projecting the world's system onto God. In November 2016, they encouraged nearly 80% of their voting followers in the USA to vote for Donald Trump and the Republican extremists. They were playing a worldly or Machiavellian game that ignores the fact that God desires fairness and justice for the masses. (Recall how God heard the masses of slaves in Egypt in the time of Moses. He has the same position for those at the bottom of society today.) Over the past decades, had these same so-called Christian leaders spoken with the Love of Jesus both these leaders' homeland and the World as-we-observe-it would, of course, have been a more lovely and a more loving place. Instead, there has been a continuous search for enemies and a hell-knell striving towards creating end-times situations in our present. Failing non-hateful leadership in our world, too many peoples have been hurting and too have become more confused about leadership than ever before. I tell you, "Hatefulness is a weed that grows in a garden and kills off too many other plants--our fellow human beings who have been dreaming for a more just Kingdom. In other words, in all our homelands and across the planet, people have been moaning for redemption, but all they see and hear from so-called-church-leaders been hate and hateful neglect (or hateful actions).

In short, the Dark Kingdom is there--and it is here surrounding our cloud of great witnesses who seek to follow the Lord and the Way of His Kingdom. Dark powers and man-built principalities are everywhere. Others evil principalities and organizations grow every day. There is constant competition for power in such a kingdom. Self-interest demands more self-interest and love does not shine. Too many leaders of Christian organizations and so-called Christian families have ensured themselves a long tenure in power at the expense of love and expense of Christ's messages and commands. (These people seem only interested in manipulating global empires and wish to claim "I believe in God" but they are really simply building false and hateful kingdoms that gut Christ's radical love from their actions and deeds.) Jesus told us in court before Pilate long ago, "My Kingdom is not of this world." Real Children or Disciples of Christ will not look like the superstars or leaders of this world. They will discern if their parents are really following the Red Letters of Jesus in the New Testament or whether they are reinstituting the laws of the Old Testament--or even something much much worse. The world focuses on doing things to win God's merit. That is not the message of Christ. You do not have to fight a Crusade to be on God's side. Instead, people like you, Timothy, are called to follow Christ and to pick up your Cross of Love and Mercy. You will be humble. You will not seek to use power-plays to take over. You will depend on the Lord. You will love your neighbor as yourself--and Jesus tells us exactly who our neighbors are.Jesus in the New Testament outlined how serving and helping others was the Way of Leadership (as well as the Way of Fathers).

Timothy, the bottom line is that people don't make heaven on earth--not ever. Following Christ's example and his message will, however, shine the light towards heaven; i.e., from where Jesus came (whereas, hate and the Dark Kingdom's ways cannot do so.) I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. Remember my chains. Grace be with you.

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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