35 Words To Live By

Begrudge no man his success if he harms you not. His reward will be buried with him when he dies.

Thank God for your gift — salvation — for you will carry it with you through eternity.

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Inoculation Day

As Inauguration Day unfolds and we face a possible future of vile evil from our government leaders, the occasion should usher in Inoculation Day for believers in Jesus the Messiah.

That is, we need to inoculate ourselves against the anti-Christian bigotry, anti-Semitism, pro-abortion, anti-family, pro-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and laws and regulations about to befall America.

The 1st and 2nd Amendments will be under assault worse than ever and we could all list myriad other actions that will test our spiritual and physical lives.

And yet God offers us a free vaccine—an inoculation—against this avalanche of dread: His Word and our faith. Combine the two (and we must) and immerse ourselves in Scripture (and we must) and we will be able to overcome the next few months and years.

Forget the Word and relinquish our faith and we will surely perish.

The book of Nahum prophesied what was to happen to Israel and what I think we in America can expect soon and very soon. For God was an angry God then and we can anticipate America’s actions in 2021 to incite the same response. Portions to Nahum 2 and 3 tell the story:

“The one who scatters has come against you…

“Woe to the bloody city, completely full of lies and pillage…

“They stumble over the dead bodies! All because of the many harlotries of the harlot…

“ ‘Behold, I am against you,’ declares the Lord of hosts, “and I will lift up your skirts over your face and show the nations your nakedness and the kingdoms your disgrace…

“I will throw filth on you and make you vile and set you up as a spectacle.” The body of Christ must be prepared for this and we can because we overcome the enemy by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. Nahum does encourage God’s people with a sentence we should all hold dear: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and He knows those who take refuge in

Thank you, Veterans!

For every military veteran of every conflict, war and time of peace: Thank you for your service, for putting your life, your health, your hopes and dreams at peril for this country and your countrymen.

Our debt can never be repaid in full and our thankfulness can never be spoken to the degree it measures up to your sacrifice.

May you be blessed this day and every day going forward. God bless you. God bless you. God bless you!

Do Your Homework!

The old charge from our Moms — “Do your homework!” — is especially essential today.

Why?

Simple. We’re living in a Post-Truth World. And it appears no holds are barred, no constraints used, no “wash-your-mouth-out-with-soap” reprimands.

People are empowered to make up their own truths, to tweet and meme and Snapchat and Instagram their fabrications out as if they were fact, without repercussions; to vlog outright and outrageous assertions; to spew venom on Facebook and even in radio and television ads.

And this 2020 political season proves it, going both ways.

√ Maine’s junior Congressman, one of very few Democrats who twice voted to dethrone Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and who voted against two of the three impeachment charges, is labeled as being Pelosi’s “puppet.” (Really?)

√ Maine’s senior Republican Senator Susan Collins, whose immediate family includes several elderly, is charged with wanting to destroy Medicare coverage for senior citizens. (Yeah, right!)

√ The President, known as Orange Man Bad, urged people to drink Clorox. (Believe this and you are truly a dope.)

By all appearances America has returned to the days of Yellow Journalism when newspaperman William Randolph Heart was able to even foment the Spanish-American War with lies and innuendo.

(“You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war,” Hearst wrote Frederic Remington when the famed illustrator told him all was quiet in Cuba and could he return home?)

And now, when the denizens of Twitter and Facebook have the power, without restriction (because it’s their business, right?) to completely shut down a news report on October 13 exposing the corruption of the presidential candidate they support… when YouTube can lawfully (again, because it’s a private business) cancel a video proclaiming an opinion with which YouTube luminaries disagree… when social-media “cancel culturists” can attack, shame and destroy an innocent person’s character… when 88-93 percent (depending on the survey) of the national media self-identify as liberal or progressive, what is a person to do to discover the unblemished truth?

In matters of theology, the answer is easy: Consult the Bible.

(Few may agree with me that after God and godliness, little else should matter, that politics should not be the be-all, end-all of our lives, that God is in control no matter what we think at any moment.)

But, what about other matters?

First, if possible, go to the original source. The Magna Carta, the U.S. Constitution, Uncle Lee’s letter home from the war front in Italy, whatever the source might be.

If the original source is unavailable go to the chronologically next-closest source. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Stephen Langton, who drafted the Magna Carta. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Thomas Paine and John Adams penned a lot about what this. Are Uncle Lee or Aunt Ruth still alive, or their personal journals available?

In today’s world, so much information is at our fingertips on the internet. For instance, we can watch a video of what the President actually said about Clorox.

When original sources are not available, research a variety of news gatherers and figure out which ones are trustworthy. Don’t just read the sources you know you’re going to agree with.

Just as “if something sounds too good to be true, it usually isn’t,” so also “if something sounds too stupid to be true, it usually isn’t.” And the truth lies somewhere in between. (Well, except when Mr. Biden said he was going to defeat Joe Biden and that he was running for the Senate.)

To repeat my point: Do your homework!

Another Headline Ripped from “Torn Asunder”

Another headline was ripped from my novel, Torn Asunder, last weekend and this one is more unsettling than any of the others — by far.

The United Arab Emirates unveiled plans for an interfaith complex in Abu Dhabi that will unite a church, a synagogue and a mosque.

Looking at a photograph of an architect’s rendering in the news story — at https://www.foxnews.com/faith-values/uae-plans-interfaith-complex-abrahamic-family-house — I was astounded at the resemblance to the Church Universal that appears as the headquarters in Torn Asunder.

The announcement of the Abrahamic Family House follows Pope Francis’ February visit when the pope and the grand imam of al-Azhar, Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, signed a declaration to form an interfaith council called The Higher Committee of Human Fraternity.

This lofty Higher Committee had its inaugural meeting at the Vatican earlier this month and met again in New York City Saturday, Aug. 15.

Combine this with the Trump Administration’s historic Abrahamic Accord peace agreement, which appears to be the missing link the Vatican needed to launch the Abrahamic Faiths Initiative.

Keep in mind the Muslim faith declares “God has no Son and Mohammed is His prophet.”

Keep in mind Mohammed said, “The Last Hour will not come until the Muslims fight against the Jews and the Muslims kill them to the extent that the Jews will hide behind a rock or a tree and the rock or the tree will say: O’ Muslim, the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him…”

It seems difficult to reconcile these sentiments with Christianity and the Jewish faith.

A truncated version of my reporters’ interview with His Excellence Howard Alphonse Bliss, general secretary of the Church Universal in his headquarters (in a building much like that one they’re building in UAE), goes like this:

Reporter: “Why create Church Universal in the first place?”

Bliss: “Centuries of disharmony…. Enough is enough. A major barrier among religions is for each to think, ‘I am right.’ This is an old trick of Satan that we first read about in the Garden of Eden. And killing each other in the name of God and ‘what we think is right’ is absurd. I’m sure God would have none of it. And we found that there were a number of us—from all religions—who felt the same way. Peace is a universal word, a universal concept, and, we think, the basis for a universal religion.”

Reporter: “How do you get around the fact that these various religions have, for millennia, worshipped very different gods?”

Bliss: “Whatever gods they have worshipped are enshrouded in myths, fairy tales and stories written by men and, thus, with man’s errors. We feel we can’t truly know God, or the gods if there are more than one, because of our limited minds as compared to the great Mind that created the universe. And if we can’t know Him, how can we define Him? It’s best, we feel, to simply agree on the concept. There is a God, or gods, and He or they want peace for mankind.”

Reporter: “How do you marry that concept with the Allah of the Muslims ordering the destruction of people of all other religions unless they relent and worship him?”

Bliss: “I don’t have to reconcile it. I don’t have to reconcile anything any of the religions lays claim to. Truly, I don’t care to debate any point of any religion. My belief—and, yes, my life—are based solely on the idea of peaceful co-existence. A loving God would want nothing less.”

Reporter: “What of the remark by Jesus that ‘no one could get to the Father except through him’?”

Bliss: “As I said, I care not to debate any particular scripture of any particular religion. What we have created here is a universal religion, one that all mankind can believe in and follow without any of the trappings of the existing belief systems.”

Reporter: “I’m reminded of the old saying, ‘If you stand for nothing you will fall for anything. How do you expect Christians and Jews to turn away from the teachings they believe came from the mouth of God—or Muslims, Hindus and others who believe in their gods—when the leaders of Church Universal are mere men?”

Bliss: “Mere men, but, we believe, ordained and anointed by God to the task at hand. But, to your point, we believe in unity of cause even if there is not total unity in faith. Unity in cause is central to our duty as the Church Universal. And, again, that cause is peace. Ask any Christian if they want peace. Ask any Muslim.”

Reporter:  “The Muslim might answer ‘yes’ with their lips while firing a bullet into a Jew with the rifle in their hand. Isn’t this ‘cause of unity’ too simple for such complex theological, and political, disagreements?”

First, Bliss listed those who signed onto the United Religions Initiative in 1996— including Mother Theresa, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Episcopal Bishop Edwin Swing, the Dalai Lama, the Sankaracharya of Kancheepuram, and Islam’s Grand Mufti in Cairo—then continued:

“The same God who made the hands of a Jew, made the feet of a Christian, the eyes of a Hindu, the heart of a Muslim, and the brain of a Buddhist. The Bible even says that, in God, there is no male or female, Jew or Gentile. We in Church Universal believe we are all brothers and sisters in God, created by the same Father (or fathers, or even father and mother, if you prefer).”

Reporter: “How on earth can you have a religion, Church Universal, without a specific theology?”

Bliss: “I do have a personal theology that guides my own life. But Church Universal is just that: universal. We can’t take sides and nit-pick about the particulars, or the semantics, of any single religion. Because of that, though I may have a personal belief on all sorts of topics, I won’t get involved in debates on any of them.

“But I want to emphasize that religious tolerance is not religious indifference. Tolerance values the right of another person to hold beliefs that you think are wrong. We are, above all else, tolerant.”

That sums up the fictional interview. Sounds like reality where “tolerance outweighs truth.” That’s the case, both in Torn Asunder and among those “higher minds” in the Higher Committee.

Kick-started by the Abrahamic Accord peace agreement, the Abrahamic Family House, set to be completed on 2022, is the first initiative by the Higher Committee.

God forbid whatever their next plans might be.

By the way, to score a copy of Torn Asunder or any of my other books, skip on over to Amazon.com and search for Mark Alan Leslie.

 

 

My ‘High Places’

“Though the fig tree should not blossom and there be no fruit on the vines,

Though the yield of the olive should fail and the fields produce no food,

Though the flock should be cut off from the fold and there be no cattle in the stalls,

Yet will I exult in the Lord, I will rejoice in the God of my salvation.

The Lord God is my strength and He has made y feet like hinds’ feet,

And makes me walk on my high places.” (Habakkuk 3:17-19 (emphasis mine)

 

Why “my” high places — not “His”?

Each of us has a path God established for us. You have “high places.” I have mine.

Our challenges, our successes — those summits we strive to reach — are individual to each of us.

Regardless of the evil all around us today — the enemy without and within — despite despair in the world, we are to rejoice in God and His ultimate victory.

Yes, we are to know and beware all this and yet “give thanks” that His hand is almighty, His power limitless, and His plan for each believer “perfect,” our “high place” established.

God told Habakkuk that He had raised up the Chaldeans, an evil force. He also raised up Nebuchadnezzar at another time to come against Israel who had abandoned Him.

He said, “Wicked men trust themselves alone but the righteous man trusts in Me and lives.” — Hab. 2:4 (emphasis mine)

Note “men” outnumber “man.” More are wicked than righteous. History is repeating itself before our eyes.

And yet “Though the fig tree should not blossom…”

Take courage and “exult the Lord.”

 

Independence — A Great Word

“Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (emancipation from bondage, freedom).” — II Cor. 3:17

Independence!

… From England

… From Satan

… From the temptations of my flesh

 

Independence to choose, for God has willed us free choice, independence to do right or wrong, take the narrow path to His kingdom, or the wide highway to hell.

Independence to believe the Word’s truth, or the enemy’s many, many lies.

Independence to follow He who is the way, the truth and the life through whom alone we have access to the Father, or believe the enemy of our soul who comes to steal, kill and destroy.

Independence: to choose, to believe, to follow.

Independence. A great word.

It’s a word “born” at the cross. For without Christ’s sacrifice on that cross, true independence would be impossible to grasp.

Happy Independence Day!

 

Finding the Truth

“Feelings, Nothing More than Feelings…”

The old 1960s song by Morris Albert had it partially right. Yes, feelings are basic to us as human beings, yet those same moods and emotions are fluid, changeable. And do not equal Truth!

I fear for my former profession, journalism, whose writers and editors today often operate on some absurd notion that feelings equal facts. The news is loaded with so much distortion, misdirection, editorialization and chicanery that we’re left searching for Truth.

In the search for Truth, look at it as a ladder. Each rung of the ladder is on firmer ground (less changeable) than the next. At the top of which is the Truth.

God equipped us with:

  • Feelings and Emotions on the lower rung.
  • Next, our Senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell on the next rung up.
  • Next, Intellect.

All of these “equip-ings” are meant to lead us to and connect us with Truth, with Him.

 

One of the big problems today is people living totally by feelings. So much so that they believe feelings equal truth, that they are one in the same.

No, they don’t and they aren’t.

Feelings are so fluid they can change by the moment: I’m singing a love song until the driver in front of me cuts me off at the light; I love my job until my boss tosses a faulty work order at me; a person is thrilled with their health until the World Health Organization tells them they could die next week, and then fear terrorizes them.

Yes, feelings are the most fluid.

 

Next up the ladder are our senses. But these senses, too, are fluid. The second-most fluid, if you will. Have you noticed how food tastes different, less intense and delicious, as you age? That your sight is less clear, your hearing dulled? So, our senses lead us higher up the ladder, closer to Truth But not close enough.

 

Intellect is the next rung. With our brainpower we pursue education and enlightenment. Wisdom! The problem here is that once educated we think we know the Truth. But that, too, is fluid.

The simplest of things we think we know are found incorrect. Great scientists once declared the world was flat, that the earth was the center of the universe, that the other planets revolved around the little orb. Climatologists in the 1960s warned we were entering a new Ice Age, then decades later declared Global Warming was threatening the world, then the enemy became Climate Change because, well, the climate does indeed change and their other “facts” were proven wrong. Health experts told us coffee was good for us; then it was bad for us; and now it good for us. Yes? No?

 

So, feelings (though flawed,) plus senses (though fading), plus intellect (though incomplete) all take us higher in our search, closer to the Truth.

That final step? That essential connection?

You must be Born Again.

In that great chapter, John 3, of the New Testament, Jesus’ told Nicodemus — a highly educated, well-to-do Jewish teacher —he had been born of the flesh and now needed to be born of the Spirit.

That is, have a personal encounter with Jesus — the one God sent to save the world, to die for our sins. Jesus — the Way the Truth and the Life.

It’s a simple step. Devastating to your enemies but glorious to your future.

Then and only then will you reach the top of that ladder.

 

 

We Lost the Sweetest of Dogs

We lost Abby today.

Having just turned 13, she lived a good long life for a collie and I’m sure that since God has lions and lambs and horses in heaven, His landscape up there is loaded with dogs as well.

Abby’s beauty rivaled that of Lassie and, with a rough like that of a male, when the wind blew her hair you’d swear that she was even more breath-taking. The stronger the wind, the more her splendor. Magnificent.

And yet her spirit was even more lovely.

Some people sport that bumper stick “I believe in dog.”

Well, if dog is God spelled backwards all the more power to them. For like the very best of dogs, Abby possessed all the characteristics God wants of us but we so often fail in delivering

Uncompromising love tops the list.

Add to that loyal, affectionate, forgiving, trustworthy, devoted, dependable,  dedicated. Her Auntie Lyn called her “a calming presence.” Whatever is good in a dog, Abby had it in spades and every other suit in the deck.

The one attribute I wish she’d left in the crib was stubbornness. But with all her delightful traits, hey…

Abby lavished love not only on us mortals but on her other four-legged companions, always stepping in the middle of a brewing conflict, like a referee but better.

When she reached maturity she graced our property as our extraordinary “lawn ornament.” She’d go outdoors, lay down and pose—like the male lions you see in the movies. So majestic and seeming to know it.

She’d lay there, her head high if there was a breeze, and watch her younger brother and sister play and woof-woof at them and at passers-by with a cheery voice that became a low-decibel urging.

So, now with bittersweet memories we look forward being reunited.

Fear Versus Faith

You Are What You Eat

“For God did not give you a spirit of fear, but power, love and a sound and orderly mind (and sound judgment).” II Timothy 1:7 (Amplified)

“Do not let your heart by troubled, or let it be fearful.” — John 14:27b

The Bible says fear is directly linked to irrational behavior (unsound judgment). An example would be the helter-skelter, mindless closing down of an entire state (Maine), destroying people’s lives and livelihoods when 53 are dead out of 1,326,000.

Worldview people are controlled by fear, slaves to distress and panic — and unsound judgment.

Godview people overcome fear with faith and sound judgment.

Matthew 17:20 tells us that faith the size of a mustard seed can defeat a mountainous attack — even and especially an attack of fear.

What we’re witnessing was foretold in Luke 21:25-27 when Jesus said, “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

“Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with  power and great glory.”

The solution?

Verse 28: “But when these things begin [not later] to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near.”

Shrink away into our isolated caves? Wait to act?

No and No.

Lift up your heads!

Redemption is near!

Kick out the fear!

Boost your faith!

Be alert to the signs!

I repeat: Worldview people are controlled by fear, slaves to distress and panic — and unsound judgment.

Godview people overcome fear with faith and sound judgment.

You are what you eat. Stop feasting on the 24/7 COVID-19 news of the day. Eat the words of Jesus and be filled full with faith.