Fear, Faith and Foreboding; a Pandemic

Where does one begin in light of the current worldwide pandemic of this little virus COVID-19?  I, like many of you, am holed up in our condo, partly out of caution of the unknown and partly because there are few places left to go.  As I write this, all schools in my city are closed indefinitely; Major casinos are closing their doors tonight at midnight.  Gyms, bars, many restaurants are dark and gatherings of more than 50 are discouraged.  We are in a time unprecedented for most of us.  Store shelves are empty and fights are shown on video over a package of everyday toilet paper. Last night my grocery store had armed police force at the entrance. Many workers have been laid off suddenly and without notice.  Every industry sector shows signs of an uncertain future and stocks are plummeting after the Feds dropped the prime interest rate to zero!  We are living in a strange time and fear has gripped a nation with a strangle hold reminiscent of an old sleeper hold by a brutal professional wrestler.  The panic is more pandemic than the virus.

I am no expert in this or any other topic on which I write.  Many of my readers don’t always agree with my words, which is ok.  These are just my observations and contributions, as I face the same uncertainty we all do.  Fear and overreactions are nothing new, even if the causes of those fears are.  And fear strikes the hearts of even the most faithful people.  I am reminded of an old song our band performed back in the 70’s by both Dolly Parton and Don Francisco, called He’s Alive. The very first verse paints a picture of sheer terror:

The gates and doors were barred and all the windows fastened down                                        I spent the night in sleeplessness and rose at every sound                                                           Half in hopeless sorrow, half in fear the day                                                                                    Would find the soldiers breaking through to drag us all away

This is a description of the fear experienced by, of all people, the eleven remaining disciples of Jesus.  Some of them had just witnessed the horrible death by crucifixion of Christ and reported back to the brothers who had gathered in hiding.  Fear left them feeling orphaned.  Think about it for a moment.  These eleven men had ministered with Jesus for three years.  They did life together, sitting under his direct and intimate teachings, witnessing first-hand his miracles, from water to wine to life from death.  Moreover, they had performed similar miracles themselves by the authority Christ had imparted to them in their ministry missions.  We read in awe the words of Christ when he says “I am the Life”, “I and my Father are one”, “if you have seen me you have seen the father”.  But these men had heard with their own ears these words coming from the lips of the Messiah.  No one on earth knew Jesus more intimately than his own disciples.  And yet when the shepherd was struck, the flock panicked. And even when Peter and John ran into the empty tomb, they had forgotten the words of the Master when he said he would rise again from the dead and they returned to their hideout and to their fears.  It was only after Jesus appeared to them in the flesh that they remembered His words and believed once again.  If the disciples of the Savior upon whom the foundations of the early church were laid struggled with fear and doubt, it is no small wonder that fear and panic are so rampant today, even within the body of Christ.

I get it, this is new and unfamiliar territory.  Pensions and retirement funds are losing value daily; parents forced to decide whether to work or stay home with their children because of school closures; the faithful torn between attending local churches or being responsible and bowing instead to science and health experts.  And what makes these situations even worse is the divisions caused when one group condemns another over their chosen response to this new outbreak.  And yet from a merely scientific and medically proven research, the stress and anxiety caused by fear has more of an impact and deadly potential on the body through elevated blood pressure and coronary stress than the bug itself, and could potentially kill more when said and done than any virus.

It is vital in times of uncertainty when we are tempted to react emotionally that we rather respond with what we know to be true.  God’s Word has never let me down even in the darkest of times. The words “fear not” or “don’t be afraid” are listed 365 times throughout scripture, a true sign God wanted us to be reminded daily of his faithfulness.

John 14, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled and don’t be afraid”

Joshua 1, “Be strong and courageous, and not afraid”

Matthew 6, “Don’t worry about tomorrow”

Psalm 23, “I will fear no evil for you are with me”

Psalm 34, “I sought the Lord and he delivered me from my fears”

1 Peter 5, “Lay your fears on Him because He cares for you”

2 Timothy 1, “We are not given a spirit of fear but of power”

Isaiah 41, “Don’t fear, I am with you, don’t be dismayed for I am (still) your God.  I will strengthen you and hold you up with my strong, mighty and righteous right hand”

Romans 8, “If our God is for us, who can possibly come against us”

God imparts to all who ask, a measure of wisdom and discretion to be used in such matters.  We don’t test God or go against sound and conventional wisdom.  We don’t smoke because we know it can lead to respiratory illness or death; we don’t eat fried foods everyday because science has shown us what fats do to our heart and arteries; we adhere to the medical advice given by experts.  But in these cases our decisions and responses must be dictated by sound advice and precautions, not fear.  Fear is often a liar.  Fear says you can’t accomplish something, faith says I can do all things through Christ; fear says the medical prognosis is bad, faith says I am the Lord who can heal you; fear says the situation is hopeless but faith says all things are possible through Christ; fear says isolate and hide out but faith says let your light shine to a darkened world who needs to see your hope in Christ.

With my current health condition I would be considered at risk if I were to contract COVID-19, so I will be taking the necessary precautions to avoid exposure whenever possible.  And to be honest, like the disciples, I am concerned with what may be next, how much worse things could get, what impact this will have on my family and friends.  But I will not be driven by fear or guided by panic.  If this is an extended visit to the valley, I will enjoy the shade and quiet time.  But fear will not be welcomed here.  Love, faith and fear are strange bed fellows; love casts out all fear.  Over the next few weeks I would highly encourage you to turn off FOX, CNN, and all other news outlets who profit highly off sensationalism driven by fear, and pick up a good book or take a hike instead.  Use this time to reconnect with friends and family and look for ways where you can be a positive influence on a world who doesn’t need us hiding in fear right now.  God bless you and your families now and as we pass through this fire, remembering that there’s another in the fire with us and we will not be burned!  Peace.

 

 

 

Where is This Jesus I Keep Hearing About?

It is now 2020.  I’m 58 years old.  I was raised in the church and have heard all my life that Jesus is coming back soon.  When is “soon”?  Prophets, preachers, televangelists have been proclaiming a glorious day of the return of Christ for well over two thousand years now, but nothing has changed, everyday the same.  The world spins, the days pass, life as we know it continues on as it has from the beginning of time.  What gives?

This line of questioning is nothing new.  Naysayers even in the days of the early church offered up the same sentiments as many today.  Peter addressed this in his second letter, Chapter 3.  It reads:

“In the last days, mockers are going to have a heyday.  Reducing everything to the level of their puny feelings, they’ll mock “So what’s happened to the promise of his coming?  Our ancestors are dead and buried, and everything’s going on just as it has from the very first day of creation.  Nothing’s changed” (Message)

Two thousand plus years later and we are still asking pretty much the same question.  Where is He?  Has He forgotten about us?  Is it real? From the book of Daniel to Jesus’ words in Matthew 24 to John’s visions in Revelation, we are told to watch for certain signs of the end of days.  Many of these signs have taken place or are taking place.  Earthquakes in diverse locations, never-ending wars, famines, false teachers, false doctrines, families turning on each other, a complete decay of our moral compass, the elimination of all things God oriented-it’s all around us every day and has been for decades.  As believers, it can become an easy trap to ask the same questions, even if you don’t dare verbalize them, is Jesus really coming back and if so, how close are we?

I want to be very careful in how I state this so as not to be confused; as followers of Christ our blessed hope is eternal life with Him upon his eventual return to take us to that place being prepared for us.  However, our daily lives should not be lived entirely for the sake of that return, as in living to survive.  We are promised a life of abundance while we are waiting.  There is much benefit in awakening every day just to enjoy what we have been blessed with and to be ready and willing to be an encouragement and extension of our hope to others, while we are here on this big planet.  We are given His peace, His joy, His strength, so that our lives can be lived to the fullest while we await a day that may or may not come in our earthly lifetime.  And while it is sometimes easy to look at all the strife in the world or even in our own lives and hope that Jesus returns soon to take us all away, it is not the way we are compelled to live.

Peter continues on in his letter with words of encouragement:

“With God, one day is as good as a thousand years, a thousand years as a day.  God isn’t late with His promise as some measure lateness.  He is restraining Himself on account of you, holding back the end because He doesn’t want anyone to be lost.  He’s giving everyone space and time to change”.

In his final words in the letter Peter exhorts us to be found “living at your best in purity and peace”. Scoffers will continue to scoff, the intellects will continue to ridicule the faithful for believing in fairy tales.  That’s ok, we were told it would be this way.  Scripture tells us that in the end, all will be forced to acknowledge the reality of Christ.  In Matthew 24 we are told that when the Son of man appears in the skies, and the whole world will see him at once, unbelievers will mourn and lament at the realization that it wasn’t a hoax after all.  His coming will usher in an acute knowledge of His deity, even to those who had not previously believed.  It will be the first hell. I can’t imagine the horror of suddenly knowing I was wrong and it’s too late.

We may have another hundred blood moons or whatever other various signs some look to as true indications of the timing before this eminent return takes place.  But whether we are here to witness it from earth’s perspective, or are with Christ when He comes back because we left this life earlier, we will see that day as it happens.  It’s real, it’s promised and it will be glorious when it finally occurs.  Be watchful but live today.

New Year-the Old, the New and the Unchanged

It’s hard to believe how quickly this year has past as we prepare to say goodbye to 2019 and usher in 2020.  It may or may not be the last day of the decade but it is certainly the last day of the 2010’s.  We can enjoy many things that did not exist in 2010.  GPS is now a common app on most phones with a female voice telling you how to get from point A to point B.  And if you don’t care to drive, we now have pick-up services by Uber and Lyft.  Social media has grown up to include a feature where callers can see each other on Facetime.  Tesla developed a driverless car while major auto manufacturers introduced auto-self parking for those who are parallel parking challenged.  There is now a doorbell that allows you to see on your phone who is ringing your bell even if you aren’t at home. And how about that refrigerator that allows you to see what’s inside without opening the door!  Going on a trip but want some privacy that you can’t get in a hotel, rent a house with Airbnb. There are so many more advances in the world of medicine, science and technology to begin to list.

However, not all changes since 2010 have been positive.  Today more than any time I can recall America has become a more divided country.  It seems we’ve taken a step backward in race relations and tolerance.  We’ve fallen for the ploys of Washington to become hotly divided politically with no room for middle ground thinking.  Social media has brought many old friends together after years of separation but ended just as many long-time friendships of those who hold different ideals-The simple push of an Unfriend button eradicates years of friendship.  The recent vaping trends are already proving to be anything but a healthy alternative to smoking while the legalization of recreational marijuana, perhaps long overdue, along with CBD oils which I myself take, has no less left the country with a green haze that is becoming inescapable.

In any era there will always be good and bad, even at personal levels.  You may have lost that good paying job but ended up with one more enjoyable and less stressful.  Some may have been diagnosed with diseases that if not caught, might have been fatal.  Many may have suffered the pain of long-term relationships ending only to discover new love and second chances.  Each period of time brings with it contrasting emotions.  As recorded in Ecclesiastes, there is a “time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance”.

So for good or bad, change is inevitable.  But, for those who believe in Christ, there is a hope and a faith in things unseen that we are told will never change!  We have the assurance that God remains in charge of the Universe and is directly involved with the every day affairs of our lives! Yes, it’s a matter of faith and choosing to believe in something unexplainable and yet it is an anchor that holds true whatever years it is.  Consider the following passages from the Bible that serve to remind us of this truth;

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”, Hebrews 13:8

“The grass may wither and the flowers fade, but the Word of God stands forever”, Isaiah 40:8

“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, to all generations”, Psalm 33:11

“Even when we are faithless, He remains faithful-he can’t deny himself”, 2 Timothy 15:29

“I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end:”, Revelation 22:13

As we enter into anew year and season, there is a profound comfort in knowing the more some things may change, there is an eternal consistency and familiarity in knowing and relying on God and his numerous promises to help us navigate the unknown future, because “from everlasting to everlasting” He is God and He is eternally good!

Thank you for reading Papswords these past many years.  I wish you all a safe, fulfilled and blessed 2020!

The Lost Tradition of Caroling

When it comes to Christmas I am very much a traditionalist; I love everything and anything that takes me back to precious memories of simpler times before the Yule tide season became a commercialized profit center for which annual retail budgets are formulated.  Don’t take me wrong, I appreciate many of today’s attempts to recreate something reminiscent of Christmases past, but for me, you can keep your modern TV specials and recycled Hallmark movies and give me Rudolph, Frosty and Andy Williams Holiday specials.  Perhaps my middle age is showing.

One of my favorite holiday traditions is that of Christmas caroling.  I recall in my younger years going out with the youth group and caroling for others, or going to events just to watch and listen to other carolers.  I have fond memories of Christmas Eve services that were less professional production and simple children in homemade costumes recreating the nativity followed by a heartfelt carol sing of all the timeless songs going back hundreds of years.  I even performed once in a Madrigal dinner and may or may not have been seen caroling in medieval tights!  Sadly, the tradition of caroling at Christmas seems to be fading away, and in certain places, banned altogether.  It is for me, a tradition that can’t be replaced by more current popular trends.

There is no clear origins as to the history of caroling, although there are several theories. Some will say Christians hijacked the tradition from Pagans and their Winter Solstice celebration.  Some date songs about the birth of Christ back to the 4th century while others credit Saint Francis of Assisi of incorporating them into his liturgies.  Some link carols to the holiday practice of wassailing, when poorer people sang for food and were given hot wassail, a thick spiced drink to keep them warm.  whatever the case, carols have traditionally been songs of joyful worship sung in churches and public places  reflecting on a very Holy Night that started it all.

Carols were penned during a time most of us could never understand.  There was a certain purity and a level of depth from which all spiritual songs flowed that has never been replicated. These Christian standards were relished every bit as our National Anthem, perhaps more so.  The very first carol dates back to 129 A.D although little else is known about it or how it sounded.  But the ones most of us are more familiar with came from the 1700s and 1800s.  O Holy Night was written in 1847 and was the very first song ever played over radio waves. Silent Night was written in German in 1818. The carol we know as O Come All Ye Faithful was composed in 1861. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem was written in 1871. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear goes back to 1874.Away in a manger, 1837. One of the older classics, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen goes way back to 1760! So you can see that when we sing these songs, we are singing the same joyful worship songs that were sung by our great-great grandparents, a timeless tradition that is becoming extinct.

There is a time and a season for everything.  However, the intensity of Heaven coming down to Earth some two thousand years ago being portrayed through timeless lyrics and melodies still moves me in 2019.  I live and write from Las Vegas, NV, the capitol of high energy entertainment and top rank productions.  But when it comes to Christmas, give me a gathering of faithful believers holding lit candles and singing off key to a piano-that’s a tradition that will live forever in my past and my fondest recollections. Merry Christmas.

In Everything (not for everything) Give Thanks

Many people are already in Christmas mode anticipating another joyous celebration with friends and family and checking their grocery and shopping lists twice.  It seems each year with the nature of competitive retail marketing, Christmas seems to start earlier than the previous year.  In the hustle to be first, a very timeless and traditional holiday gets overshadowed, the day of Thanksgiving.  A week before Thanksgiving actually arrives, what few items you can find to decorate the family gathering are already marked down to 50% or more as they take up precious shelf space from more profitable Christmas items.  In a world driven by profit, tradition is often sacrificed.

Nonetheless, Thanksgiving is upon us, and it truly remains a time to pause and reflect on those things for which we should be ever grateful that we may overlook throughout the year.  I know personally, I have much to be thankful for this year.  I’m thankful for victory over cancer, I’m grateful for new love in the form of a heaven-sent angel, I’m thankful for the many adventures we’ve taken in a few short months.  I’ve seen more of the country this year than in 57 previous years!  I’m thankful for healthy kids and grandchildren.  I’m thankful for Unfollow options!  I could go on and on.

As is the case each year many will approach this season with anything but a spirit of thanksgiving.  It’s hard to have a grateful heart if you are a single parent raising your children and working two jobs just to get by.  It’s hard to be thankful in a job where your patience may be tested on a daily basis.  It’s hard to give thanks for that medical report that came back and caught you off guard.  It’s difficult to be grateful for a relationship that is not what you were expecting.  It will be hard to give thanks this year for those who will find empty chairs at the table once filled by their now departed loved ones.  We live in a world full of challenging situations where it is so easy to focus on the situations at hand and completely lose perspective on the balance of an otherwise beautiful life.  I know because I was once guilty as well.

As believers in Christ we are encouraged to embrace life with an attitude of thanksgiving. But many have been made to feel guilty because of poor teaching or a misunderstanding of those verses calling us to be grateful.  A popular passage found in 1 Thessalonians 5 reads:

“Rejoice always, and pray continually.  Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. “

That tiny overlooked preposition, “in”, makes all the difference when considering this verse.  Some may have inserted “for” here, which is inaccurate and not the intended meaning.  Consider these examples.  There was no way I was thankful “for” cancer.  But I was thankful “in” that I knew God was in control and I would be learning to rely on his strength, not mine.  You may not be grateful “for” losing that job, but you can be thankful “in” the process of knowing God will provide you anew one.  You may not be thankful “for” a failed relationship, but you can rest “in” the knowledge that God sees your brokenness and is already lining up something new for you.  Paul and Silas were most likely not thankful “for” being chained in the lower prison with wet floors and desert creatures, but “in” their situation, they praised God.  Job, poor guy, was not thankful “for” his great losses and suffering, but “in” the midst of the absolute worst loss and pain imaginable, he is quoted as saying, “even if God takes my life, I will praise him”.  That is the essence of this and similar passages encouraging us to be grateful in less than ideal circumstances, knowing that God is doing a greater work in us than we may realize if we focus only on the pain.

That being said, there are still an infinite number of things in life to be thankful “for”. Be grateful to wake up in a warm home with a stocked kitchen pantry and a choice of clothing.  Be thankful to just wake up to a new day!  Be grateful for that demanding job that pays your living expenses.  Be thankful for aches and pains of a body that still has mobility.  Be thankful for that less than perfect church where you can still worship freely each week.  Let your grateful heart show through in your social circles.  Stay away from social media bandwagons overflowing with chronic complainers about all that is wrong in our country or churches.  They will cause you to lose focus on things more certain and meaningful than current trends or affairs.  There really is something to be said of those whose positivity outshines their current situations because they are deliberate in focusing on the good, not the bad or the ugly.  Have a blessed and grateful Thanksgiving!

 

 

My Weakness; His Strength

My sincere apologies to my followers for the length of time from my last post in August.  I needed to take some time off to deal with a little curve ball called cancer thrown my way unexpectedly.  I am grateful to report that through modern medical technology, more love from friends and family than I deserve, and a host of prayers sent on my behalf, I am cancer free and on the mend.  It has been quite the journey.

I learned, or was at least reminded of some things through the process that proved invaluable to me, and I wanted to share them with you.  First I learned that disease does not discriminate. You can be doing everything right and get that dreaded medical report or you can be doing everything harmful and live forever.  We have no vote on who suffers certain diseases or who escapes them.  God alone knows in advance who will become sick, and I’m convinced He always has a purpose for who he allows to go through these dark journeys, and He equips them well beforehand.

I learned that when you are going through illness, there is nothing on earth as important as your circle of support.  They are there to hold your hand, to lift you up, to help keep your spirit positive, to simply be that source of strength when you may be at your weakest.  God knew I was about to encounter this journey and He loaned me one of His angels to be at my side before, through and after the walk through the valley of shadows.  She spent the night with me in the hospital, kept me strong and positive, would not allow me to entertain the negative what-ifs that are commonly associated with illness.  She and my son were at my side from beginning through recovery. She was also the prize that awaited me that kept me moving forward and I could not have gone down this path with the success I had without her and my family.

I was reminded that I serve and follow a Bigger-than God!  He proved himself to be bigger than cancer, bigger than the initial diagnosis and so far, bigger than the anticipated recovery time for the radical procedure I had.  What was said to take up to one year to achieve I have achieved in a matter of weeks!  My God is bigger than cancer!  There is nothing impossible with God.  As the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament, His strength in made perfect in my weakness.  God and faith are just my crutch, you’re damn straight!  He tells us numerous times that he wants us to lean on Him, to put our full weight on Him and to trust Him for anything, to test Him if you will and see just how great He can show off for us!

I learned already that He uses our success over trials to help others who may be about to embark on the same or similar journeys.  Just this week I was called on by an old school friend who was just diagnosed with the same cancer, and I was able to briefly share my experience with his wife so that they would know this isn’t a death sentence, just a hurdle.  I have some unsightly scars remaining from my ordeal, but those scars testify to my survival and are a sign of hope to anyone on the same journey, and an opening to share of God’s grace and goodness.

I am so humbled and grateful for this journey.  No, I would never have chosen it on my own, and I would never wish it on anyone else.  But God works all things out for our good and for His purpose.  If I’m to be an instrument by example of going through the fire and coming out unharmed, then I am among all men blessed!  There are always positives in any situation if you look for them.  Here’s an example; while some will be scrambling for that perfect Halloween costume in a couple weeks, I will simply take off my shirt!  No fake scars or glued-on wounds for this boy; no, mine are real!

God bless you all.

Is the 1 as Important as the 99?

There is a popular worship song sung in many churches today about the overwhelming, never ending, reckless love of God, that he would leave the ninety-nine to search for the one, based on an example Jesus uses in Matthew 18.  From that story, is very easy to draw a correlation to grieving the loss of the one.  According to another passage in 2nd. Peter, it’s not God’s plan that any person should perish, mortally or eternally.

This has been yet another violent week of senseless homicides.  Three more mass shootings, bringing the year-to-date total of such shootings to nearly 250, depending on your definition of “mass”.  And as is usually the case after senseless and unexplainable tragedies like this, social media begins to buzz about all the culprits, bad guns, bad video games, bad drugs, bad parenting, etc., etc..  Gun control advocates bang the drum for tighter gun laws while gun owners defend their rights to possess anti-aircraft weaponry.  Left-wing vs. right wing, race against race, all claiming a stake at the expense of the yet-to-be-buried victims.  It is an unfortunate scene that plays out continually with no solution, just a lot of divisional blame.

These mass shooting victims are given much publicity, perhaps rightly so.  Seems like in each case we are given the names of all involved, their photos so we can put a face with a name, and even their background stories.  I know this to be true as I reside in Las Vegas and I visited the numerous memorials after the mass shooting here on 1 October that claimed 58 lives at a music festival. Anytime multiple deaths occur in a violent or tragic act,  media is quick to cover the story and sensationalize it for ratings or for certain social or political agendas.  But what about the everyday homicides that go largely unreported nationally whose names and images are never shown?  Are they any less important because they died alone and not with many?

In 2018 there were in the U.S. approximate 40,000 deaths due to guns.  Nearly two thirds were victims of suicide while about 15,000 were victims of homicide.  A drug deal gone bad, a home invasion, a road rage incident.  The same year about 350 people were victims of mass shootings, defined as three or  more victims of one incident.   For that year mass murder victims represented only a little over 2% of all murder victims by gunfire.  The more recent shootings are being described as Hate crimes.  But in essence, aren’t all murders considered hate crimes?  Why else would a person be so compelled to snuff out the life of another for any reason other than hate?  I’m quite certain that my assessment will be misinterpreted unfairly, but each and every victim of violence is a mother or a father, a spouse, a child, a relative who leaves behind a grieving family whose hearts have been ripped out by senseless cowardice, hate and evil.  It matters little whether they lost their loved ones in a lone act or a mass shooting.  The pain is the same, the loss is immeasurable and the tears, though not seen on a national platform are just as real.

Jesus gave us a glimpse into his humanity as he stood at the grave of his good friend Lazarus.  In the shortest recorded verse in the Bible, we are told Jesus Wept.  He knew that through his Father he had the power of life and death in his hands and at his command, and he delayed his visit just so he could put that power on display when he raised Lazarus from days of death.  And yet he wept.  It is recorded that many were there at the grave mourning, including his friends Mary and Martha.  Jesus saw their tears and was deeply moved with sorrow and compassion for them.  In my days working for a mortuary in Indiana I can tell you that when you are with people who are grieving, it is very easy to feel moved yourself, even though you never knew their loved one, simply because you can feel their pain.  Jesus, in his humanity, must have felt the same.  If then, we believe that he never changes, surely he is just as moved at the death of a sole teen in Chicago as he is with the 23 in in a Walmart.  In our bickering, our blame throwing and our side-taking after such events, we must not lose sight of that fact.  Surely God mourns the one as much as he does the ninety-nine.

We live in a world where hate exists.  It can’t be denied or ignored.  Whether that hate is motivated by race or theology or ideology or social status, innocent bystanders on all sides are going to be lumped into subgroups, being deemed guilty by association, having their individual uniqueness totally disregarded.  There is a heavy spirit of unrest in our country as factions always present before, become more agitated and aggressive.  It is in these times that we in the faith must be careful not to get caught up in this era of hate, but instead put into practice love, peace, and inclusiveness.  If the body of Christ becomes divided or splintered over differences to the point that individual character is no longer considered or defended, then the great falling away described in scripture will be a much easier tack for the dark spiritual forces playing us like grand puppeteers.  We must cut the strings of hate that control us and allow God’s love, hope and peace to be forefront in our lives, our communities and yes, even our churches.  Don’t get so caught up arguing over 2% and totally disregard the 98% unmentioned but who bring the same tears to our Heavenly Father.  It’s not his will that even one should die.