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This is the first of a series of articles which come out of the experience of an artist whose work is in conflict with the dominant culture. Most of my paintings are of allegorical figures often inspired by the Renaissance and Romantic periods. Much of the great art of the past reflected, despite the Fall, humanity was still created in the image of God and therefore has great worth. But contemporary culture hardly reflects this exalted view of humanity, rather the subtext seems more like B.F. Skinner’s “To man qua man we readily say good riddance”. This diminished view of humanity runs through fine art as well as popular culture. It is most apparent in the culture’s morbid preoccupation with horror, the symbols of death certainly don’t reflect a reverence for life. I seem to be alone in recognizing the significance of these disturbing symbols in contemporary culture.

Christian ought to be interested in symbols since Jesus often used symbols in his teachings. For example, the Parable of the Sower uses the symbolism of seeds falling on different kinds of ground, some ground hinders the growth of seeds while other ground can nurture growth. The different kinds of ground can be interpreted as different cultural environments people live in. Some environments can nurture the spirit while others extinguish it. Unfortunately, it seems today, most seeds fall into what Max Weber called the Iron Cage.

On October 9, we celebrated Columbus Day in America.  Well, most of us did.

The Los Angeles City Council voted recently to eliminate Columbus Day from the city calendar because Christopher Columbus mistreated Native Americans.  It saddened me to think that we may one day have a country with no holidays.  I asked myself, “What is the purpose of a holiday anyway?”  My answer—to remember a significant person or event so that we can never forget the extraordinary distinction and always maintain a heart of gratitude for it.

If we are only going to celebrate holidays that honor righteous men and women, then all holidays celebrating particular persons will eventually be voted out—goodbye to honoring the birthdays of Martin Luther King Jr and George Washington.  Easter and Christmas celebrate a perfect man, Jesus, but His name alone offends too many people.

Labor Day offends lazy people, Halloween celebrates pagan gods and Thanksgiving includes the same Native Americans mistreated by Columbus.  At first, the celebration of our nation’s independence looks to remain on the list, but if you consider that the freedom we celebrate required bloodshed and death, then no way.  Those who are offended by killing will vote to eliminate Veterans Day and Memorial Day too.  Perhaps only New Year’s Day will survive, but eventually, the anti-firearms people may also become anti-fireworks people.  There you have it...a country with no holidays.

Don't despair, my friends…just be patient.  The Kingdom of Jesus is coming…the same one mentioned in the Lord’s Prayer…“Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) where every day will be worthy of celebration, especially the day Jesus defeats Satan (Rev 20:10).

As Jesus looked forward in time to the closing days of time before the Rapture of the Church, He prophesied of a global atmosphere of angry emotions that would erupt: “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another”, Matthew 24:10.

The unrest around the world can be seen in microcosm in our own country – our nation is seriously divided politically and ideologically so much so that our disagreements have turned to violence. Cars have been burned, business storefront windows smashed, people injured and police attacked. Our political atmosphere has grown so poisoned that some think it’s actually acceptable to shoot political leaders, e.g. the June shooting of House Majority Whip leader Steve Scalise. More recently, a state congresswoman called for the assassination of the President! Political differences have now degenerated into a new level of personal hatred on display as we see in marches, late night TV hosts, cable news, newspapers, Hollywood and Broadway. The degree of hatred has risen to the point of a new art form branded as “assassination porn”, as demonstrated by the recent disgusting display of the mock up bloodied head of the President of the U.S. being held up “Isis-like” by a female comedian and a Shakespeare in the Park (Central Park, NYC) play in which actors viciously slash and stab a look-alike President Trump – Blood sprays everywhere. But the worst part of these examples is how Hollywood personalities are coming to the defense of the “severed head” stunts as “art” and the reaction to the mock assassination of the President on a stage in New York City – the audience “cheered wildly” as the President was butchered before their eyes. The unintended consequences of unrestrained anger give permission to people like the “fervent opponent of President Trump” who gunned down Congressman Scalise to take their hate to a violent end. All the while, millions of partisan citizens either cheer or jeer at these hate inspired events depending on their politics. It appears to me our nation is being driven by the sins of anger, bitterness, and hate, each of which if given enough fuel and enough fanning leads to violence. These are dangerous times for America! “But every man is

“But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, (desires) and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:14-15.

The antidote for hate is love: Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”, John 15:12.

If it's true that the antidote for hate is love then the only love strong enough to displace and erase the level of hate today is the love of God – the culture may have given folks permission to hate, but Jesus has given us a commandment to love!

Violence and destruction are breaking out across the nation. None is more disturbing than at college campuses (U. C. Berkeley, Univ. Vermont).

As we see this stuff rolling out on T.V. screens we wonder…what's happening? But we are cautioned in Ecclesiastes 1:9 to remember: "...there is no new thing under the sun." These things have happened throughout history. There are two words which travel throughout scripture to shed some light and perspective on these times: murmuring and rioting, defined as:

  • Murmuring: grumbling spoken in low tones, indignant complaining, expressions of indignant displeasure.
  • Rioting: to cause to stand - dissension, insurrection, sedition, uproar, rebellion.

What begins as murmuring, history demonstrates, often culminates in rioting!

The children of Israel had not gone far from Egypt for forty days before they began murmuring, which eventuated in the death of thousands. Speaking to Israel Paul writes this: 1 Corinthians 10:10 "Neither murmur ye, as some of them... (Ex 16.2) "and the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness” ... also murmured and were destroyed (Num 14:37) of the destroyer (Ex 12:23).

Studying the books of Exodus and Numbers a definite pattern emerges, murmuring (complaining), if it is continually practiced, ends up in open rebellion.

Paul warns the believer against taking the first step that can lead to broken relationships--trouble in family and church. In the church, murmuring (gripping, gossiping) can lead to splits in the church and insurrection in the nation.

What starts out as an attitude problem progresses to silent resentment, an irritable disposition, low key complaining, secret meetings with other murmurers ending in expressions of resentment. Eventually, those resentments are voiced loudly, angrily, publicly and finally…acting out in violence.

Paul writes the believer must deal with "irritants" in a different way (Phil 2:14, 15, 16a): "Do all things without murmurings and disputings (arguing): That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke (stain), in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life..."

Our country is at a dangerous crossroad--divided, resentful and angry. We are just a few steps away from death and destruction. This is an opportunity for the church to be light and life and love and peace - the church must be the genuine, authentic representatives of Christ - we must let our light shine. There is no other hope, no other way than Christ Jesus, to end violence in our streets!

We have all heard that we should store up treasures in heaven and that it is better to give than to receive. If you are a church-goer in America, the concept of giving is well-known to you. Our nation is a very generous nation and we are a very generous people. It is not uncommon for us, in the United States, to send money to far-away places to help strangers who have been struck by natural disasters or national tragedies. But how much should we give? To whom? And how often? These are more difficult questions with which we all wrestle.

Although the Bible has a lot to say about money management, most preachers shy away from the topic. It is rare to hear a sermon on tithing or giving because the pastors are afraid to turn off parishioners who might perceive this teaching as meant to squeeze more money out of their pockets. Those who think tithing is an important part of stewardship wrestle with questions such as whether to tithe on the gross or on the net? Recently, I read “God and Money”, published by Rose Publishing. The authors conclude that tithing is not required of us because we live under grace; but their rationale will surprise you. It sure surprised me. I have come to think that this concept of grace has been taken to the extreme and has resulted in people becoming cheap and stingy with their money; inoculating them against the genuine needs around them, as if all that is required is that you give cheerfully, not generously.

I enjoyed that the authors of this book delved into old testament history to show us how the ancient patriarchs practiced their giving, as well as into the new testament to tell us what Jesus and Paul had to say about it. One important fact revealed by the authors is that the tithe ended up not just being 10% of their income, but actually amounted to about 23 %.There were three kinds of tithes that were required: the Levitical tithe, given every year for the support of the temple; the Festival tithe which was used to ensure each Israelite could participate in the Feast of Tabernacles; and the Charity tithe which was 10% given in years 3 and 6 (budgeted annually at 3%) of Israel’s’ yearly social cycle for the benefit of the orphans, widows and foreigners.

Although I have been familiar with the concept of living within your means and trying to live debt-free through ministries like Dave Ramsey’s, this book expanded my vision of good stewardship and the privilege God has given us to live with an open hand and not a closed fist. The authors helped me to understand that the concept of stewardship goes beyond how much to give of our God-given time, talent, and treasure. They enlarged my vision to think in terms of how much to keep, to think about giving away the rest; the importance of discerning true need and of investing in worthy causes that will honor God. It also means that we are responsible to GOD for ensuring we earn our living honestly, distribute and manage the resources He has entrusted to us FOR HIS purpose. Ensuring that our spending, saving, and giving should be well-planned and intentional is also part of honoring and worshipping our God.

Acknowledging that EVERYTHING we have belongs to God, frees us to GIVE generously. The plan outlined in this book makes it simple to put these principles into practice. Take your after-tax income and put it into three buckets: 1) spending (for your family’s current needs); 2) savings (investing in the future), and 3) serving (investing in eternity).

Every Christian should read this book as part of their spiritual growth. The authors have graciously provided a free copy of the God and Money Study Guide and a list of over 2000 bible verses dealing with money on their website for anyone interested in gaining in-depth knowledge of this material. These resources are intended for individual or small group study. I challenge you to get a copy of this book and a copy of the study guide. Expand your vision and share it with friends!

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