Meditational Musings from the Mind of Milo


Band of Brothers

Although I never fought in a war or even served in the military, I've seen the strong bond that comrades-in-arms have for each other in shows like Band of Brothers, movies like Saving Private Ryan, books I've read, and veterans I've encountered. Their devotion to each other and willingness to sacrifice for one another is as strong as can be found in any human relationship, including marriage.

This has given me insight into why God asks His people to suffer for His cause. Serving God puts us into the middle of a cosmic battle:

No different from any other war, this epic conflict comes with casualties. Throughout the centuries Christians have been imprisoned, tortured, and killed for their faith. Others have lost family, their livelihood, and everything they own. All Christians who are persecuted for their faith comprise a Band of Brothers and Sisters with a common bond forged in the face of adversity:

Moreover, this Band of Brothers and Sisters includes the Lord Himself:

Just as veterans who have fought side by side in earthly wars have cemented a special bond lasting the rest of their lives, so will the brotherhood of Christ that endures trials and tribulations for the good cause of God's work on Earth enjoy a unique kinship for all eternity:

We believers who are blessed to live in a land where we are free to exercise our faith are also fighting against a world system that opposes God, and we stand with the holy warriors on the front lines of the battle for this planet:


Lombardi Was Right. Winning IS the Only Thing.

I hate losing. Losing stinks. It's never good when the Packers lose, especially to the hated Vikings or Bears. In politics, I can't stand seeing my side lose an election. Maybe the only time I tolerate losing is at the craps table as a price for entertainment. Nah, I hate losing there, too. Winning is best.

Although Vince Lombardi may have said, "Winning isn't everything. It's the only thing," the sentiment is absolutely right when it comes to God executing His plan. Unlike the Packers, elections, or craps where the prospect of winning is always in doubt, God guarantees victory:

The Bible says it's a done deal. We win! I love winning. It's the ONLY thing. Through the blood of Christ, we have victory over sin, victory over death, and victory over the power of the devil!


God's Dress Code

In our sin we stand naked before God, as Adam and Eve found themselves after they disobeyed Him:

Our attempts to hide our sin with good deeds aren't acceptable to a holy God, just as He found Adam and Eve's clothing of themselves to be inadequate, so He dressed them Himself:

This was indeed the first sacrifice, for some animal had to be skinned, and foreshadowed the death of God's Son, Jesus the Christ, as the final recompense for sin:

Simply put, we can't save ourselves through our own effort, which the Bible again describes as clothing ourselves:

I recently heard a preacher say that the previous verse refers to a menstrual cloth. Before we think we can earn our way to heaven, let's remember that any good we do on our own behalf is just as disgusting to God as a used tampon. We need to put on God's clothing instead, which is the righteousness provided from the Christ's work:

The Wedding Supper of the Lamb is the grand party of all parties when the Christ gathers His people together with Him in eternity. He referenced this momentous event when He instituted the sacrament of Holy Communion:

Everyone there must be clothed in His righteousness:

For only His righteousness can cover sin:


Imago Deo

Imago Deo is Latin for "image of God". God created us in His image:

What does being created in God's image mean? Does God have arms and legs, and a head? No, at least not before the incarnation of the Christ. It means each of us has a personality, powers of reason, the ability to love, emotions, desires, and a will. Just like God does.

It also includes being male and female. Don't get me wrong. I'm no heretic who thinks the Bible, the creeds, and our hymns need to be rewritten to be gender neutral. God is our heavenly Father and is referenced by male pronouns, and the Christ walked this planet as a man, but I believe Genesis is saying that God has apportioned His attributes to men and women in varying degrees.

The Lord is a warrior. He provides. Stereotypical male traits. He's also relational and a nurturer, things that women tend to be better at than men.

I see in this the mystery and wonder of marriage, and why God hates adultery and divorce:

The union of man and woman brings together the attributes of God that He has apportioned between them, including His ability to create, resulting in wonder, the creation of more humans.


All In!

We know what's right, yet we delight in our sin. We want to have it both ways, looking for a minimum standard to please God, and living the rest of our lives however we want. God thinks otherwise. He wants us to offer everything we have to His service:

In the Texas poker games on ESPN, the time comes when a player shoves all the stacks of chips he has left into the pot. All in! God wants us go all in:

Let's submit everything to God. Let's make Him master of our finances. Let's surrender to His plan for our lives. Let's spend time with Him. Let's draw on His power to give up unholy pleasures.

Afterall, the Lord God Almighty has done no less for us. He went all in when He intervened in human history in the form of the Christ. The Holy One held back nothing, getting down and dirty in the muck and mire of our sin:

As Jesus, God experienced the suffering we have brought upon ourselves besides the usual toil of our lives, being hungry and tired, and such. Surely we can trust Him to supply our needs and meet the desires He has put into our hearts, and ultimately to grant us eternal life, for that's the ultimate bet, our eternal destiny, so let's go all in. The stakes are well worth it.


Super Body

Note the recurring terminology in the following verses:

What do first fruits and firstborn mean? Does it mean that the Christ was the first to rise from the dead? Trick question! Jesus had already raised the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:35-41), the widow's son (Luke 7:11-15), and Lazarus (John 11:38-44). There were even resurrections at the moment He died (Matthew 27:52-53).

Jesus is different. His resurrected body is the first one that never gets sick and will never die. Not like Lazarus and the others who had their old bodies and just died again. Moreover, Jesus could appear in a locked room (John 20:19), vanish from sight (Luke 24:31), and float into the sky like a spirit (Luke 24:51 and Acts 1:9), although He was corporeal because He could eat (Luke 24:42). He has a Super Body, and someday we each get one!

Hindus believe in reincarnation. So do Christians, but just once. According to Ephesians 4:5, there's one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. There's also one reincarnation, i.e. the resurrection with a glorified super body.


God-Think

Would we rather think like God or think like our world system? Of course, we fancy ourselves as thinking like God, but in reality we don't:

The Scripture is full of examples:

Even after the Christ's resurrection, His disciples thought He had come merely to kick Roman butt:

God's thinking doesn't make sense to human reasoning:

Instead, the foolishness of the world system runs as rampant as ever in our politically correct age:

  • Time Magazine ran a feature article that men and women actually are different. This was news?
  • Carbon, the building block of life, is a pollutant. Our breath is a greenhouse gas!
  • In fact, hard-core environmentalists believe the Earth would be better off without us, and some think animals have the same rights as humans. God's Word says we're the crown jewel of the creation (Psalm 8:5, Hebrews 2:6) and have been given stewardship over the Earth (Genesis 1:28-30, Psalm 8:5-8, Hebrews 2:7-8). Truthfully, nature is no mother that nurtures us, rather it means to kill us! We have a mandate from God to tame our world so we can survive.
  • Cromwell's English Revolution. French Revolution. Communism. Our socialist regimes rejecting God have never failed to bring economic ruin and mass death, but we still believe in a man-made utopia.
  • For most of history, women were held inferior to men, but our society has swung the pendulum the other way. Men and fathers are ridiculed as clueless buffoons on situation comedies. Husbands gain favor with self-deprecating humor about their wives being the "boss", always right, and the "better half". God says both men and women were created in His image, and are to treat each other as such.
  • Homosexuality is normal, i.e. natural? Not according to Romans 1:26-27, and not according to nature itself, which is all about procreation.
  • All religions lead to the same place. It doesn't matter what we believe, just that we believe in something. Everyone determines their own god. Utter nonsense!

We're all born with such a mindset. God offers us His Holy Spirit so we no longer have to conform to the pattern of this world, but can be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2a).


Bragging Rights

Nobody likes a braggart. The NFL players who are so full of themselves with their end zone celebrations have caused a backlash so their behavior is penalized. Worse yet are the self-righteous. Jesus didn't approve of their attitude either:

The same disdain is held in our day for certain "religious" evangelists. The same applies to our secular religious faithful:

However, in light of this, there's actually a time when bragging is good and proper:

My God is the best God there is, and so I brag. He's creator and master of the universe, yet He has infinite love and mercy for me. His works are mighty. He even died for me because I'm special and important to Him. He created me for a purpose. He approves of me and delights in me. I'm His child and heir to an eternal inheritance. These are things worth bragging about.


The "Rest" of the Christmas Story

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased." (Luke 2:8-14)

I've wondered why the angels only appeared to some shepherds. This is only conjecture, but I like to imagine the behind-the-scenes part of this story as follows:

For centuries, the Lord God has predicted by His prophets the sending of His deliverer to the planet Earth, and the angels in heaven are buzzing with excitement that a grand moment in human history is about to begin. Who is this deliverer? The rumors are flying in the heavenly places. The Lord God Almighty intends to appear on the Earth Himself! He has become that little baby in Bethlehem.

The heavenly host cannot restrain their enthusiasm. What an incredible wonder! How favored are humans, sinners though they are, that the Most High is willing to stop at nothing to restore them. They surround the throne and beg the Father, "We must go down there and proclaim the marvelous news to the human race, please, please, please!"

The Father is reluctant. The Christ is on a stealth mission in enemy territory to be carried out in utmost humility.

"Please, please, please!" They beg. "Your plan is transcendant, beyond anything we could have ever imagined, we cannot hold ourselves back. We must proclaim Your mighty deed!"

The Father knows they only desire to serve and worship Him as they were created to do, so He tells them, "See those lonely shepherds outside the town? You may go tell them the good news."

So with great gusto, the angelic throng descends on the shepherds' fields to make their announcement and sing praises to Almighty God, which I like to think is the rest of the story.


How God Will Decide When to End the World

There are plenty of crackpots holding signs, and charlatans claiming they know when the Christ is returning, even though Jesus Himself didn't know, but only God the Father (Matthew 24:36). Even so, the Bible provides a good idea how God will select the date, whatever it is, by telling us about His competing objectives:

On the one hand, God is merciful and full of grace, and wants to allow enough time for as many as possible to find salvation. On the other hand, He's listening to the pleas of His people for deliverance from an all too often horrible persecution. God is asking His people to suffer so that others may be saved, but at some point the situation will become so bad that God will decide He must rescue His own. Then time's up:

My software engineer mind thinks of God's timetable this way:

saving = saving the lost
delivering = delivering His people
while (saving > delivering)
tarry
end while
trumpet call (Second Coming)

OR

saving = saving the lost
delivering = delivering His people
repeat
tarry
until (delivering > saving)
trumpet call (Second Coming)

Let's Raze Hell

Some decades ago a hit song by Trooper named Raise A Little Hell advocated making a ruckus to protest injustice. Rather than "raising" hell, perhaps our efforts can be more effective by "razing" hell. The Christ made some fascinating statements on the subject:

The strong man is the devil, our enemy who prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (I Peter 4:8). Jesus invites us to pray for him to be restrained so the lost can be freed from his deceptions and have a chance to come to know the one true God:

The lost are the possessions the devil claims for his own, but the Christ has made His own claim sealed by His blood sacrifice. The devil has robbed us of so much joy and peace, it's time to plunder him in return! God can use us to rescue the lost and de-populate hell!

St. Paul wrote about razing hell:

The devil's lies are strongholds that need to come crashing down like Sauron's tower in the epic Lord of the Rings movie The Return of the King.

God has equipped us for spiritual battle to victory:

We're God's holy warriors. Time to raze hell! Pick a battlecry:

Jesus is Lord and Christ, and He's taking over this planet!

Jesus is victor!

To live is Christ and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21b)

We live for the Christ! We die for the Christ!


God Wants Us to Commit Suicide

He does, in a manner of speaking. The New Testament exhorts us again and again to put to death the desires of our sinful nature because the Holy Spirit has empowered us to become a new person. We cannot change by sheer force of will. We need our hearts cleansed by the living water of the Spirit, and our minds renewed and transformed to think like God; conforming to the likeness of the Christ. A word to the depressed; put your self-loathing to good use and allow the living God to change you!


Reverse the Curse

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

This third verse from the Christmas hymn, Joy to the World, refers to God's curse against mankind after Adam and Eve sinned:

The curse of sin also adversely affected the whole creation:

There's a law of entropy in the universe that keeps it winding down and leads to death. It's like God has withdrawn some of His sustaining power, which is actually an act of mercy because who in their right mind wants this imperfect world and the pain in our lives to last?

Before God gave the curse, He first cursed the serpent, i.e. Satan, thereby giving His first promise for our salvation:

Jesus, the Christ, was Eve's offspring who conquered Satan through His suffering and temporary death, and gives us the hope of restoration as in the aforementioned Romans 8 and reiterated in other passages:

For a small inkling of the wonder the future beholds, imagine what even this temporal world would be like without sin. No war and no terrorism. All the money spent on the military could be put to better use, and traveling would be a whole lot easier. No airport security, and since nations would no longer need to protect themselves, all borders would be open. So much time would be saved! When I traveled to Colombia, I thought about how I wouldn't have to stand in line at customs in a sinless world. No need for a passport, either.

There wouldn't be any crime; murder, rape, assault, theft, fraud, and the list goes on. We would no longer need to fear walking certain streets, or bother locking doors and windows, and say bye to the law enforcement apparatus; no police, no courts, and no jails and prisons. More money saved, and with no more lying and cheating, we wouldn't have to install anti-virus software on our computers, need passwords, or worry about identity theft.

We would no longer ruin our health with our foibles, and our better behavior would cause fewer accidents. Think how much maiming and killing wouldn't happen without drunk drivers. Add to that, the end of physical harm from wars and crime, and our insurance premiums would plummet along with our need for the medical profession. We would also have better mental health because we wouldn't have to worry about family strife, getting robbed, or war. No more, or very little, divorce and broken families. Therapists would be out of business.

The government wouldn't have much left to do, and so not much for taxes! Especially since we wouldn't have leaders who are more interested in expanding their own wealth and grabbing more power at our expense. Nobody would be trying to make a quick fortune with a lawsuit, and so the civil courts would become about as extinct as the criminal judiciary. Almost no lawyers!

Considering all the industries and professions that would shrink or cease to exist, wouldn't there be massive unemployment? Actually, since we wouldn't be wasting so many resources on the result of our sin, I think we would have ample funding, and certainly more time to pursue our dreams and interests, to create and invent, and to explore God's awesome universe.

Yes, Utopia, but we're so hopelessly corrupted that we'll never be able to bring it about on our own. We need the coming of the Prince of Peace to fully reverse the curse. When the Christ returns, His blessings indeed will flow as far as the curse is found, to the point of abolishing sickness and death forever! Then there will be no hospitals, no hospices, no health care clinics, no nursing homes, and no drug rehabilation centers. No doctors, paramedics, and nurses. No pharmaceuticals nor pharmacists. No funeral homes and undertakers. Glory to God!


God's Side

I'm amused when sports teams, or even contestants on television game shows, ask God to favor them for victory as if He cares who wins. God cares about people, saving the lost, and bringing glory to His name. Sure, let's ask Him for strength and the ability to give a best performance with dignity and class, but let's save the asking for victory to the winning that counts; victory over sin, victory over death, and victory over the power of the devil.

It's the same for more important matters than games, i.e. things on a geopolitical scale. It's absurd for a political party or a nation fighting a war to claim God's on its side. God IS a side! Rather than asking if God's on our side, let's ask ourselves if we're on His side, like Abraham Lincoln did when he said, "My concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side."


Grow Up!

An important transition in life happens when children become adults. Ideally, they develop a mature relationship based on mutual respect and even become friends with their parents. The time of correction and training is supposed to pass. The same holds true for God's relationship with us as His children. For this reason, Jesus announced a more mature relationship with His disciples at the Last Supper:

God doesn't want us to remain spiritual babies:

Instead, God wants us to grow up! St. Paul wrote:

As we grow in our Christian faith, we stake a claim to our inheritance:


In Crowd

Like it or not, those on the inside have an advantage. Politicians make deals in back rooms. Corporate executives put each other on their Boards of Directors. Every social structure down to grade school, probably, has an "in" crowd. The rest are "out" and know it.

That's not how things work in God's system. He makes His people insiders:

Not only do we as God's people get insider information, our Savior gets us access to the top!

We even have powerful and influential players acting on our behalf:

Considering how we have all this going for us, how can we not say we have it made?


My Lampstand

I have a lampstand (Revelation 1:12-13, 20). It's my calling, my mission, my anointing, my purpose, the assignment God has given me to do. The flame of the Holy Spirit burns on top of my lampstand:

  • You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on its lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

A warning:

  • For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame. (Hebrews 6:4-6)

This could mean losing God's call and anointing, like happened to King Saul, although salvation might still be available (I Corinthians 3:11-15), but without the satisfaction of fighting the good fight or running the race (II Timothy 4:7), having achieved great things building God's kingdom and receiving rewards to lay at the feet of Jesus, Lord and Christ (I Corinthians 9:24-25). Think of a pastor or evangelist who has scuttled his ministry with marital infidelity or other moral failure. He has relegated himself to God's bench, deprived of his ministry, his lampstand. There's consequence for compromise:

  • Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place -- unless you repent. (Revelation 2:5)

Lord God, may my lampstand never be removed. I would rather die than lose my lampstand. Thank You for giving me a lampstand. I'm humbled You've given me one.


Did Jesus Know What He Was Doing?

The devil hates our living guts. He's infuriated that we have God's favor and does everything he can to keep us away from God. The key to our relationship with God is Jesus, the Christ, His identity as the second person in the triune Godhead, and His mission of incarnation, coming to us as a man to sacrifice Himself so God's justice may be satisfied as we're forgiven for rebelling against God; and so the devil always aims to distort, obscure, and refute this truth, and the more subtle the better.

A prime example is Jesus Christ Superstar, which made its first appearance during the Woodstock era as a rock opera and then a Broadway musical. Although many Christians took it as an affirmation of their faith by the popular culture, the lyrics written by Tim Rice portray Jesus as a man with delusions of grandeur who didn't really know what was happening to him:

  • Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ. Who are you? What have you sacrificed? Jesus Christ Superstar. Do you think you're what they say you are?
  • He's just a man, he's just a man. (Mary Magdalene)
  • He's just misguided - thinks he's important. (Pontius Pilate)

Granted, the characters are expressing the limited knowledge of people in the Bible, which clearly says even the disciples didn't have much of a clue what was happening, but Superstar also depicts Jesus as clueless during His trial in the Garden of Gethemane:

  • Why should I die? Can you show me now that I would not be killed in vain? Show me just a little of your omnipresent brain. Show me there's a reason for your wanting me to die. You're far too keen on where and how and not so hot on why.

On the contrary, the Bible says that not only did Jesus precisely know His mission so that He repeatedly predicted it in advance, but it had been planned before the creation of the world and Jesus wouldn't have been killed unless He allowed it:

Jesus was hardly a man not in control of the situation. He knew what He was doing. Later, before Pontius Pilate, he didn't speak of His kingdom in the wishy-washy manner shown in Superstar:

Rather, He had a better concept of His kingdom than anyone:

Finally, Jesus Christ Superstar leaves Jesus in the tomb, ending with a piece titled, John 19:42. It doesn't acknowledge His resurrection, leaving out a critical part of the story, a part the devil wants none of us to believe.


No Conditions

There's a spiritual truth in my second favorite movie of all time, El Cid.

The story of El Cid is the national epic of Spain, about Rodrigo Diaz who lived in the 11th century. He's played in the movie by the great Charleton Heston.

The Cid is a loyal vassal of his king, Alfonso, who doesn't appreciate his sense of justice and refuses to assist the Cid's conquest of Valencia. When the Cid takes the city, his men implore him to take the crown for himself, but he refuses and sends it to King Alfonso. The messenger offers it to the king, "The crown of Valencia!"

The king is troubled. Why would the Cid, whom he has wronged, do this? He reaches tentatively for the crown. "The crown of Valencia? The Cid sends this to me?" Then he pulls back, wanting to know the catch. "What are his conditions?"

The messenger responds, "There are no conditions!"

God says the same thing to us. He tells us there are no conditions for His love, and we have difficulty believing it. Surely, we think, that we must do something to earn His love. The truth is, we can't. The truth is that God demonstated His love for us by sending His Son, the Lord Jesus, to die in our place to pay the penalty for our rebellion. All we have to do is accept that. There are no conditions!


All Creation Sings

All creation praises its Creator, the God of Music. Each atom vibrates at its own frequency, and vibration is music.


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