Empathy Coupled With Introspection Powers Success and Salvation

Golden Ruler, Golden Rule & Golden Life

Aurelius Bust from Colorado.edu site

 

By Al Gray

Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor from 161 to 180 AD. “He was the last of the “Five Good Emperors”, and is also considered one of the most important Stoic philosophers.” This man was supremely well-educated by the best Greek and Roman tutors of his day. “Marcus Aurelius’ Stoic tome Meditations…. is still revered as a literary monument to a philosophy of service and duty, describing how to find and preserve equanimity in the midst of conflict by following nature as a source of guidance and inspiration.”

The Catholic Encyclopedia presents a mixed explanation of the life of this pagan ruler, yet includes this account.

During the war with the Quadi in 174 there took place the famous incident of the Thundering Legion which has been a cause of frequent controversy. The Roman army was surrounded by enemies with no chance of escape, when a storm burst. The rain poured down in refreshing showers on the Romans, while the enemy were scattered with lightning and hail. The parched and famishing Romans received the saving drops first on their faces and parched throats, and afterwards in their helmets and shields, to refresh their horses. Marcus obtained a glorious victory as a result of this extraordinary event, and his enemies were hopelessly overthrown.

That such an event did really happen is attested by both pagan and Christian writers. The former attribute the occurrence either to magic or to the prayers of the emperor … The Christian writers attributed the fact to the prayers of the Christians who were in the army and soon there grew up a legend to the effect that in consequence of this miracle the emperor put a stop to the persecution of the Christians…..

Marcus Aurelius was one of the best men of heathen antiquity. (T)he judicious Montesquieu says that….we cannot read the life of this emperor without a softening feeling of emotion. Niebuhr calls him the noblest character of his time, and M. Martha, the historian of the Roman moralists, says that in Marcus Aurelius “the philosophy of Heathendom grows less proud, draws nearer to a Christianity which it ignored or which it despised, and is ready to fling itself into the arms of the Unknown God.”

The Bible upholds a number of foreign rulers to have moral qualities, including some who worshiped the Lord at times. It does not preclude us from considering words of wisdom from other sources. In this sense Marcus authored many very fine, uplifting, inspiring, and wise quotes including this powerful key to success –

“Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people’s actions, and see what they would be at, as often as it is practicable; and to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.”

Before expounding upon this concept, let’s consider our Bible Verse of the week as it appears Matthew 7, verse 12 of the King James Version.

12Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.

These stunningly elegant words sum up the very essence of civil societies of all types, indeed of civilization itself. The concept is found in nearly all cultures for it sums up our fair expectations of how we want, expect, and demand others to treat us. Indeed, even in the most totalitarian of states there is reverence for this golden rule, for wholesale abandonment of it risks revolution. Some years ago this writer read of an elderly woman in China with a long term lease in the middle of exploding development, on account of whom a major office and retail complex was being delayed simply because the woman refused to move from her home. The story seemed odd, until one considers just how powerful the golden rule is.

“Do unto others” goes to the very heart of how we relate to each other as people living in harmony and peace. The concept is redundant in the Constitution of the United States and our precious Bill of Rights, with the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of first the 5th and, later, the 14th Amendments having stood resolute in protection of property rights since the Constitution was ratified.

Recently there been appreciable erosion, not just in our most priceless rights, but the underlying moral code of the golden rule. We stand near the abyss and will certainly topple over if we don’t recover the commandment found in Matthew 7:12.

The golden rule was expanded upon by the words of the golden ruler Marcus Aurelius referenced above. The technique is one of supreme, sublime power. The greatest attorneys practice the first half. “Let it be your constant method to look into the design of people’s actions, and see what they would be at” In other words you get an advantage by placing ones’ self in another’s position, determining his motivations, and predicting his actions. Wise people of all professions, faiths, and organizations use this strategy to excel. Empathy is a powerful tool used to approach the second commandment of “Love thy neighbor as thy self.” It is also a way to lower resistance in an erstwhile adversary.

The second part of the Marcus Aurelius quote is the admonishment “to make this custom the more significant, practice it first upon yourself.” The first part is extremely difficult to master by most people and they simply refuse to make the effort. Their thoughts, desires and motivations are too powerful to temporarily shove aside to gain empathy for another, be it for advantage or be it out of Christian love. Adding the second requirement of introspection of one’s own thoughts, desires, and motivations is an unimaginable, unattainable, and nearly impossible practice to even folks skilled in applying the empathetic first instruction.

The power of the combined technique is stunning. When a person does both parts of this instruction set, it combines empathy with introspection. You not only see the world through the eyes of others, but you analyze your own situation through theirs. It makes your arguments compelling, even overwhelming, for you not only are predictive of their words and deeds, you are predicting how they will address your own! If there is faulty logic, bias, dislike, hatred, or some other negative force in your position, you can objectively identify it and eliminate it before making a crucial error or misjudgment. If the other has the superior argument or position, one can adapt to it or adopt it before his position is established.

This is a path to peace. Wouldn’t it be great if world leaders would practice this? Most wars would be avoided!

If there is one technique that marries a holy commandment to friendships, continuous harmony, and even personal advantage it has to be this one. It is training in this life for eternity. It is of overwhelming power independent of faith.

Marcus Aurelius was a pagan, yet even a pagan emperor knew the magic of the golden rule. The words of Matthew 7:12 ring through the ages in law, as the verse stated, but this golden ruler recommended practicing a more stringent, demanding, and disciplined version of it as one pursues a golden life in every sense of those words.

Can you live the commandment of the golden rule?

Can you take it to a more demanding, higher level of empathy and tempered introspection?

The rewards on earth and in heaven are worth trying. You don’t have to be an emperor or prophet to gain your reward.

You just have to overcome yourself.

-AG

Originally posted at City Stink. net

 

American Man-Gods Intentionally Foul, Bringing Woe

A Lawless Nation Reformed
Sunday, July 15, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray

This week the long-awaited and much-dreaded Freeh Report came out on the horrible child molestation cases at Penn State University, with particular emphasis on the enormous cover-up on the part of the coaching staff, athletic department, and administration. The guilt was universal. It was deep. It was inexcusable. It was disturbing.


It was American hero worship perfected. Coach Joe Paterno was revered across the land. Lauded and praised without limit and without cease. Paterno became a god among men.


It should not have taken these revelations to put the lie to the notion that any man is a god. There is one God and HE is about to render judgement on us all.


America is collapsing before our eyes.


The Rule of Law is DEAD.


The elites are utterly corrupt and they strengthen their grip on the good and honest folks every day.


There is nothing new under the sun and we find guidance readily in the Bible in Habakkuk 1.


The [a] oracle which Habakkuk the prophet saw.

How long, O Lord, will I call for help,

And You will not hear?

I cry out to You, “Violence!”

Yet You do not save.

Why do You make me see iniquity,

And cause me to look on wickedness?

Yes, destruction and violence are before me;

Strife exists and contention arises.

Therefore the law is ignored

And justice is never upheld.

For the wicked surround the righteous;

Therefore justice comes out perverted.

“ Look among the nations! Observe!

Be astonished! Wonder!

Because I am doing something in your days—

You would not believe if you were told.


Yes, the law is ignored. It is ignored in Washington, DC. The law is disregarded under the Gold Dome in Atlanta. The law is antithesis to the government of Augusta, Georgia.


Justice is never upheld. Justice comes out perverted. This political season the burgeoning Liberty Movement succeeded in bringing forth the votes to carry many state and local conventions, yet they were denied victory by unethical, blunt naked power plays. In finance, a Federal Reserve primary dealer – a bank empowered to buy and sell US Debt as a government agent – stole $1.5 billion from customer accounts, an action met with no arrests. Last week Peregrine Financial Group was alleged to have done the same thing to the tune of $200 million. This month has also seen Liborgate, a global interest rate scandal that victimized billions of people, implicate the central banks of England and the US Federal Reserve. Justice is never upheld.


The wicked surround the righteous. Look at the Penn State mess. Those who notified authorities saw no investigation, only greater accolades heaped on the perpetrators. Who would believe their words against the man-gods of national champion football staff? Here in Georgia, the legislature is designated the most corrupt in the USA, this in a “Bible Belt” state replete with prayer breakfasts and notions of the “religious right.” We are horribly gone wrong at the hands of these people.  God will not be mocked. In Augusta, we see a government adrift, one that has only functioned over the last 4 years by wave of deceit, duplicity, and horse trading of largesse bestowed on the connected of the two warring factions.  This is happening in the face of a Greatest Depression. The parasites have multiplied and grow more aggressive in their demands for appeasement.

Something has to give and it will.


Observe! I am doing something in your days. Yes, the Lord is doing something. In the day of Habakkuk, it was the Chaldeans who swept out the corrupt. Tomorrow it will be the kids in the Liberty movement. The corrupt are old and weak. The lovers of Liberty are youthful and principled. They might have been overcome this time by deceit and strong-arm thuggishness, but the next time they will be stronger, more numerous, and more experienced. The judiciary may be co-opted by the forces of deceit, but judges and politicians have to live in society. Facts and truth forcefully presented will make even a judge fear to take the side of wrong. We are not there yet, but that day will come.


There is an awakening across America. Woe be unto the deceivers. Their power is built upon lies and lies disintegrate in the face of truth. The ugly truth may terminate Penn State football. It should, just as it should sweep out nearly every politician in the land.

We are not there yet. The corrupt are still in power.  They still control vast portions of the media, nationally and locally. They can still destroy the reformers. The Paterno-god was not the only fake deity. Locally we have more than our share.


The awakening  is happening. The awakening will not be denied. Sooner than most can understand, forces will align and the evil will be swept away.


The prophet complains to God of the violence done by the abuse of the sword of justice among his own people and the hardships thereby put upon many good people (v. 1-4). II. God by him foretells the punishment of that abuse of power by the sword of war, and the desolations which the army of the Chaldeans should make upon them (v. 5-11). III. Then the prophet complains of that too, and is grieved that the Chaldeans prevail so far (v. 12-17), so that he scarcely knows which is more to be lamented, the sin or the punishment of it, for in both many harmless good people are very great sufferers. It is well that there is a day of judgment, and a future state, before us, in which it shall be eternally well with all the righteous, and with them only, and ill with all the wicked, and them only; so the present seeming disorders of Providence shall be set to rights, and there will remain no matter of complaint whatsoever.


Tomorrow will be bright in America, but for now some of us must gird for battle like modern day Chaldeans on a mission from God. In verse 6, the Lord says “behold, I am Andrew Jackson’s Farewell Address.  The unabridged version, distributed as a pamphlet, stands as a clear warning and prophesy. In it “Old Hickory” wrote:
 You will yet find there is a constant effort to induce the General Government to go beyond the limits of its taxing power and to impose unnecessary burdens upon the people. Many powerful interests are continually at work to procure heavy duties on commerce and to swell the revenue beyond the real necessities of the public service…. They succeeded in obtaining a tariff …. extravagant schemes of internal improvement were got up in various quarters to squander the money …  But, rely upon it, the design to collect an extravagant revenue and to burden you with taxes beyond the economical wants of the Government is not yet abandoned. …efforts will be made to seduce and mislead the citizens of the several States by holding out to them the deceitful prospect of benefits to be derived from a surplus revenue collected by the General Government and annually divided among the States….Do not allow yourselves, my fellow-citizens, to be misled on this subject. … It is, moreover, a system of injustice, and if persisted in will inevitably lead to corruption, and must end in ruin.
Don’t these words paint a hauntingly familiar picture in this election season when we are asked to vote ourselves a new tax for transportation improvement? There is nothing new under the sun when it comes to predatory government, is there?
Christians live with a dilemma in evaluating such things, for in Matthew 22:15-22 we find the duties of paying taxes in the context of perplexing instructions:
Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. 16 And they *sent their disciples to Him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any. 17 Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” 18 But Jesus perceived their malice, and said, “Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites?19 Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. 20 And He *said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” 21 They *said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He *said to them, “ Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” 22 And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.
What was ‘money’ then and now was whatever was branded as legal tender granted the privilege of being accepted in payment of the government’s taxes. The denarius coin was stamped with Caesar’s image, so Jesus responded simply “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s (legal tender money); and to God the things that are God’s (ourselves and wealth that stands beyond legal tender money).
When government strains the limits of the consent of the governed and the sheer mathematics of debt, the things it demands as “money” become debased. Indeed, the fall of Rome came when the denarius became so debased by the government’s own abuse, that other “things” assumed one of the two essential attributes of money – that of a Store of Value.  When some other “things” become stores of value – be they gold, silver, produce, grain, oil, or fertilizer – then they command more and more of the government’s legal tender required as units of exchange.  At some point the valuables assume both store-of-value and unit-of-exchange functions because the government’s money has gone worthless. Then governments get very hostile to the people.
Indeed, at the time of the Fall of Rome, it was said that the Roman farmers were so infuriated by the government’s raids of the stored value represented by their granaries, that they invited and implored that the barbarians’ invade to relieve them of tyranny from Rome.
We are at the same point here in our “modernity.” Our money is debased, so government is increasing its demands upon us – now wanting to tax our previously taxed savings when we spend them – and will continue to do this until the people rise up and put a stop to it.
Giving the government its due has to be limited to what the government needs to serve us, as Andrew Jackson intoned. As it moves beyond that, it gets into the realm of what is ours and interferes with our ability to give the Lord that which is his – support of church, charities, and our fellow men, women and children in need. Worst of all it grows its demands so as to enslave man and to deny him the time to devote to the Lord and to others.
Let’s spend no more time on that conundrum. Men halt the advancement of government power at some point, if there be patriots still drawing breath (there are). Let us turn to rendering to God that which is His.
What is His?
We are His along with everything that we have and are able to store value into. We are charged to tithe, so as to support the church in its service to the broader community and that must be a central aspect of Christian life and practice.
Matthew 10, Verse 28 makes it clear for us:

28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in [a] hell.

Pretty simple, isn’t it? We should be fearless toward government and fearful of God. We must love the Lord, not government. Government is just another Pharisee, trying to trip you up. Be not deceived. Look beyond their power to harm. Look to heaven. All else is false pretense.

Come thou Fount of Every Blessing and that isn’t the latest Caesar or his government.

AG

Sunday Sermon: Grab an Oar and Give all You’ve Got

A ‘Mitey’ Big Present

The Return of “Giving it Your All”
Originally posted on CityStink
Sunday, June 3, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
This writer’s favorite painting is “Washington Crossing the Delaware,” an 1851 work by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. Yes, historians and assorted wags sniff that it is not historically accurate, because the famous river crossing happened in the night, but the art of it is that it conveys the sheer power of pain and sacrifice that gave rise to our wonderful nation. It also sets one to pondering about the future and whether we the people of America in this year of 2012 remotely have the dedication to give it all to God or country.
Focus on the men manning the paddles and oars in the boat, not the general or the officers. These brave lads came from a populace divided on even whether the Revolution was a good idea, much as our folks are divided today on government. They were not likely to win fame or fortune, yet there they were, giving the liberty movement their very lives. That same winter it was said Washington’s army could be tracked by the bloody footprints these patriot warriors left in the snow. They gave it all.
Jesus gave it all. He expects us to do that too. He watches from Heaven in observation of our actions, much as he sat one day observing people paying the Treasury.
41 And He sat down opposite the treasury, and began observing how the people were putting money into the treasury; and many rich people were putting in large sums. 42 A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which amount to a cent. 43 Calling His disciples to Him, He said to them,
 “Truly I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the contributors to the treasury; 44 for they all put in out of their [e]surplus, but she, out of her poverty, put in all she owned, all she had to live on.”
The sequencing of this story is curious as it is immediately before an accounting of the last days found in Mark 13, especially verses 9 through 13.
“But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. 10 The gospel must first be preached to all the nations. 11 When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13  You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved.
Religion and politics are the realms where men and women of faith in God and country have been making the ultimate sacrifice since the days of Genesis. The widow didn’t know where her next meal was coming from. She might have been facing starvation. She certainly increased her deprivation in contributing her last cent. The patriots in Washington’s boat suffered starvation, freezing temperatures, frostbite, and isolation from home and loved ones. They risked death in camp, in battle, and as traitors had they lost.
Today in this America people are fat, contented, and lazy. Few are the patriots. Few are those who give up everything to follow Jesus. City and suburban life foists neighborhoods where no one knows their neighbors, because very few feel a sense of community or a compelling reason to be part of a community. This writer has had the good fortune to migrate to country life. Here things are much different. Folks in this relatively poor county pitch in to help their neighbors. It isn’t all that uncommon to get the feeling that they will give you the clothes off of their back. People still GIVE without any expectation of anything received in return. The contrast between living and working in Chicago, Winston-Salem, or Savannah is quite amazing. One sees HOPE in rural America that our people still have it within themselves to sacrifice for the greater good.
When times become tough, faith and the willingness to sacrifice it all may be all a man or woman has left. Everyone doing it will keep society from something very dark indeed. One day, in which we all will rejoice, I believe everybody in the land will see this as a necessity for life itself.
Try not to count on the end times or predict them. Practice sacrifice for others. It is a ‘mitey’ fine thing.
Remember Washington’s frozen troops. They were not standing tall in the boat. They were throwing body and soul into the oars. The widow gave her last mite. Will you do the same?***
AG

 

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Forward to Redemption in a Generational Crisis

Horns of Despair to Horns of Jericho

Originally posted on CityStink
Wednesday May, 27 2012
Augusta, GA
ByAl Gray
 The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
In 1997 William Strauss and Neil Howe authored a book entitled The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Next Rendezvous with Destiny‘.
This provocative book posits “Just after the millennium, America will enter a new era that will culminate with a crisis comparable to the American Revolution, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and World War II. The survival of the nation will almost certainly be at stake.  Strauss and Howe base this vision on a provocative theory of American history as a series of recurring 80- to 100-year cycles. Each cycle has four “turnings”-a High, an Awakening,  an Unraveling, and a Crisis. “ The authors located America in 1997 “as midway through an Unraveling, roughly a decade away from the next Crisis (or Fourth Turning). ” Since the growing, morphing financial, economic, political and moral crisis we are now in started in 2007, the authors look prophetic as to timing.
Others have cited that alternating generations go through enormous crises, because the generation that went through the last crisis must die out, erasing the memory of it, leaving the next generation to fall into the next crisis. The citation of 20 year turnings and being in the Crisis stage brought to mind our story of the day. It comes from the story of  Moses’ spies found in Numbers 13 and 14.
13 Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying,
“ Send out for yourself men so that they may spy out the land of Canaan, which I am going to give to the sons of Israel; you shall send a man from each of their fathers’ tribes, every one a leader among them.”
So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran at the command of the Lord, all of them men who were heads of the sons of Israel….
25 When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, 26 they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. 27 Thus they told him, and said,
“We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.28 Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large…”
14 Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. All the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the whole congregation said to them:
“Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 
So they said to one another,
“Let us appoint a leader and return to Egypt……”

26 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

 27 “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who are grumbling against Me? I have heard the complaints of the sons of Israel, which they are making against Me. 28 Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will surely do to you; 29  your corpses will fall in this wilderness, even all your numbered men, according to your complete number from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against Me. 30 Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31  Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. 32  But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition. 35 I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.’”
36  As for the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who returned and made all the congregation grumble against him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land, 37 even those men who brought out the very bad report of the land died by a plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive out of those men who went to spy out the land.
The power of resistance to change that we visited in last week’s message was clearly at work with the Israelites. Like Simon Peter, they treated the miracles that the Lord had wrought for them and before them as yesterday’s news. They rushed to compare the relative security of lives in bondage in Egypt- even their lives wandering in wilderness = to the dangers of confrontation and war necessary to take the Promised Land. The promises of milk, honey, and bounteous harvests were a venture into the unknown setting off internal conflicts that were more easily resolved in seeking return to the past.
Relative to The Fourth Turning cycle theory, Moses’ people broke the bonds of slavery to leave Eqypt at the middle of an Unraveling stage. Their memories of security, albeit security in bondage, conflicted with what should have been excitement over the future and taking ACTION to secure it. Strauss and Howe sayEventually, cynical alienation hardens into a brooding pessimism. During a High, obliging individuals serve a purposeful society, and even bad people get harnessed to socially constructive tasks; during an Unraveling, an obliging society serves purposeful individuals, and even good people find it hard to connect with their community.  The approaching specter of public disaster ultimately elicits a mix of paralysis and apathy that would have been unthinkable half a saeculum earlier.  People can now feel, but collectively can no longer do.”
By declaring that no one under the age of 20 would enter the Promised Land, the Lord was using the demographics of aging to eliminate the generation that fled Egypt with their sinful disdain of faith in Him wrapped fitfully in cognitive dissonance or resistance to change.  This was the Crisis stage. The people were dependent upon the Lord and would do nothing to help themselves. Concurrently with killing off the generation of failures, the Lord used the forty years in the wilderness to allow the second half of the Crisis stage to prepare the people to work for their final deliverance into the Promised Land.
 As the 4th Turning continues: ”A CRISIS arises in response to sudden threats that previously would have been ignored or deferred, but which are now perceived as dire.  Great worldly perils boil off the clutter and complexity of life, leaving behind one simple imperative: The society must prevail.  This requires a solid public consensus, aggressive institutions, and personal sacrifice….. Eventually, the mood transforms into one of exhaustion, relief, and optimism.  Buoyed by a new-born faith in the group and in authority, leaders plan, people hope, and a society yearns for good and simple things.” At the end of the 40 years in the wilderness the Tribes of Israel were at the stage to embrace their free will, not to reject the Lord’s plans for them, but to embrace them.
This writer believes firmly that we are between the Unraveling and Crisis. The great Baby Boom generation knows only prosperity learned in its awakening and continued by self-deceptive, massive debt creation to maintain the unsustainable for the last 30 years, a period during which GDP growth only exceeded debt creation for about one quarter.  We are probably 4 years into the Crisis state, so the next decade will see the denouement of the Boomer generation as leaders. The young folks will disavow the debt we have run up to maintain the delusion – that is a mathematical certainty. We went into 2007 and 2008 with average savings of $58,000 outside of our homes. Now many of our homes are underwater by that much. Predictably, most boomers will rage in denial, but they will not change. Look around. Observe. You won’t need to read the Bible or the Fourth Turning to see this if you truly open your eyes.
When one tries to warn Baby Boomers, the nonbelievers ignore him and the believers invariably say “The Lord is returning soon. I will depend on that!” Yes, he will return as promised and it might be in this Crisis cycle, but isn’t it sinful and presumptuous to pretend to know His timing when He told us we cannot?
How many will be the Joshua’s and Caleb’s of the Boomer generation and embrace what lies ahead, seize opportunity, and become beacons of knowledge and leadership of the young folks? This story, indeed all of human history,  says that it will be a small minority.  What awaits is a period on High, summarized this way:  ”A HIGH brings a renaissance to community life.  With the new civic order in place, people want to put the Crisis behind them and feel content about what they have collectively achieved.” For the people of Israel, made strong by 40 years in the wilderness, the high meant crossing the Jordan and seizing their destiny. For Caleb and Joshua, it meant that their sacrifice and courage in standing with full faith in the Lord’s promises were rewarded. They prevailed until the walls of Jericho fell to the sound of their horns.
Lord, give us, the wayward Boomers, the strength and faith of Joshua and Caleb. We didn’t deserve the fake prosperity we laid claim to. It is time to make amends. It is time to lead, even though our weary minds and bodies will resist. Most of us won’t make it, but those who do won’t have to cross Jordan alone.
AG

Fishing The Right Side

 

Originally posted on CityStink
Sunday, May 20, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
The morning in late May had turned sultry early on the Florida fresh water sea. Panfishermen from across the Southeast descend on Lake George hoping to catch giant bluegills and shellcrackers on enormous beds during the magical few days in May that see the fish in a feeding frenzy. Alas, on this day your humble scribe was sitting in a boat on calm, listless waters surrounded by 60 other boats. Burgeoning heat had the cattle on the distant shore inching toward the water to join those who had braved alligators to go wading.
The fishermen were mostly bored as none were catching fish. Everyone was using standard rods and reels loaded with 10 pound test line. Switching to an ultralight rod, I decided to rework a shell ridge that had been fruitless for the last hour. The fish started biting. The catch began to pile up. The other 59 boats circled, getting closer, but nobody else was catching anything.  Eventually, about time the catch limit was reached, there were boats on top of the shell ridge, with one only 12 feet away, so casting was no longer possible!
On another boat far away in time and space, casting again in “fished-out” waters made for a similar bounty. The story is found in Luke 5:4-10
When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon,
“Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.
Simon answered and said,
“ Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but [a]I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 
When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ [b]feet, saying,
“Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 
For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were [c]James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon,
“Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.”
This fishing trip happened at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. From that point on, Simon Peter witnessed a wondrous array of miracles, healings, parables, and teaching the way to salvation and eternal life. Mankind being as sinful as it is, none of these things mattered when tough times came near the end, when politicians, zealots, and even masses of people turned against Jesus. Ponder the words of Simon Peter “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
Let’s ponder that statement a minute. Simon Peter was acknowledging that his ways were the sinful ways of the world. He would follow Jesus every step of the way through His ministry, yet he remained captive to his position in society to the very end. Today this phenomenon is known as cognitive dissonance which is defined as anxiety that results from simultaneously holding contradictory or otherwise incompatible attitudes, beliefs, or the like.
Human nature being as it is, the person with cognitive dissonance typically reverts or seeks that which is familiar, socially acceptable, and less uncomfortable at moments of stress. Today it is often seen in our responses to the current, ongoing financial and economic collapse – a total certainty – which is generally wishing it away, while refusing to take action to save ourselves. We want our cushy, old lives back. Indeed, in Greece there have been bank runs in recent weeks to the tune of $500 million, inexplicably delayed two whole yearsafter the first bond defaults signaled to the people there that their deposits were not safe. Examples of calamitous delays in reacting to negative events appear throughout human history. The cognitive dissonance that gripped Peter was so powerful that he denied Jesus three times before people Peter perceived to be hostile to Jesus.
69  Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said,
“You too were with Jesus the Galilean.”
70 But he denied it before them all, saying,
“I do not know what you are talking about.”
71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were there,
“This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath,
“I do not know the man.”
73 A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter,
“Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk [a]gives you away.”
74 Then he began to curse and swear,
“I do not know the man!”
And immediately a rooster crowed.
75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said,
“ Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
That is how powerful cognitive dissonance is. Peter had witnessed miracles by Jesus, yet the apparent inability of Jesus to save himself from arrest and persecution cast enough doubt that Peter’s weak human self readily defaulted to disavowing Jesus!
Only the resurrection and seeing the living Jesus broke the hold of evil human society and politics on Peter. The transformation came during another fishing trip.
After these things Jesus [a] manifested Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and He manifestedHimself in this way. Simon Peter, and Thomas called [b]Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together.
Simon Peter *said to them,
“I am going fishing.”
They said to him,
“We will also come with you.”
They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing.
But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus *said to them,
“Children, you do not have [c]any fish, do you?”
They answered Him,
“No.” 6
 And He said to them,
“ Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.”
So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.  Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved *said to Peter,
“It is the Lord.”
So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea. But the other disciples came in the little boat, for they were not far from the land, but about [d]one hundred yards away, dragging the net full of fish…..
So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus *said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you [f] love Me more than these?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I [g]love You.” He *said to him, “Tend My lambs.”
 16 He said to him again a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you [h]love Me?” He *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I [i]love You.” He *said to him, “ Shepherd My sheep.” 17 
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you [j]love Me?”
Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time,
“Do you [k]love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I [l]love You.”
Jesus said to him,
“Tend My sheep.”
18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go.” 19 Now this He said, signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He *said to him,
“Follow Me!”
Peter followed Jesus. He overcame his cognitive dissonance in the most complete way possible by embracing death to gain salvation through faith in a resurrected Jesus Christ.
That day in balmy Florida when this fisherman cast aside the ways of the entire fleet to embrace an unlikely technique that produced a bountiful catch wasn’t just like Peter in that one respect. It was also fishing on the right side of the boat.  If we go through life relying on the crowd and defaulting to our weak tendency for conformity, we will go home empty handed and hungry. It is only by breaking the bonds of sin, even embracing social disdain, ostracism and punishment to the point of death,  in embracing Jesus that we can ascend to eternal life.
These are transformative times, times in which those who are prepared for the worse must step forward to preserve the best.
There is only one side on which to be – the RIGHT side. We cannot afford to let denial keep us from it. Christ put it simply.
“Follow me!”


The Life Choice

The Lamp vs. Lamp Post Conundrum

Originally posted on CityStink
May, 13 20012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
William Shakespeare described a conundrum very succinctly with the words “To be or not to be, that is the question.”  Life is full of conundrums and they grow even more prolific in troubled times such as these. Some are hardly trifling matters, with dangers and even death hanging in the balance. The greatest of these challenges are of an existential nature in this life and the next, even extending to the way one passes from this life to eternity.
Our Bible passages for today are found in Luke 11:33-54 of the New American Standard Bible.
33 “ No one, after lighting a lamp, puts it away in a cellar nor under a basket, but on the lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 The eye is the lamp of your body; when your eye is clear, your whole body also is full of light; but when it is bad, your body also is full of darkness. 35 Then watch out that the light in you is not darkness.36 If therefore your whole body is full of light, with no dark part in it, it will be wholly illumined, as when the lamp illumines you with its rays.”
Woes upon the Pharisees
37 Now when He had spoken, a Pharisee *asked Him to have lunch with him; and He went in, and reclined at the table.38 When the Pharisee saw it, he was surprised that He had not first ceremonially washed before the meal. 39 But the Lord said to him,
“Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the platter; but inside of you, you are full of robbery and wickedness. 40 You foolish ones, did not He who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give that which is within as charity, and then all things are clean for you.”
42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. 44 Woe to you! For you are like concealed tombs, and the people who walk over them are unaware of it.”
45 One of the lawyers said to Him in reply,
“Teacher, when You say this, You insult us too.” 
46 But He said,
 “Woe to you lawyers as well! For you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens with one of your fingers. 47 Woe to you! For you build the tombs of the prophets, and it was your fathers who killed them. 48 So you are witnesses and approve the deeds of your fathers; because it was they who killed them, and you build their tombs. 49 For this reason also the wisdom of God said, ‘ I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, 50 so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, 51 from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.’52 Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge; you yourselves did not enter, and you hindered those who were entering.”
In Hamlet, Shakespeare continued: “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them.”  This day, in the year of our Lord 2012, finds us at such a juncture.  The physical world seems in rebellion against the people, with some saying that the disasters are the fruits of mankind. The financial and economic worlds stand on the verge of collapse on the backs of monumental folly, theft, greed and fraud.  The political world is a morass of corruption. The spiritual world sees epic waves of immorality unchallenged by churches more attuned to these other worlds than in doing the work of Christ. What man or woman can stand against these things? Isn’t it a lot easier and more comfortable to stay on the sidelines? The trouble with this is that one is, in so doing, hiding his lamp – making it go dark by accepting evil and even engaging it as a friend.
Jesus expanded on his parable by calling out the deeds of the religious zealots of his day, saying they paid heed to religious doctrine alone, while ignoring the hurting of the people.
Even more fitting to our day is the admonition you love the chief seats in the synagogues and the respectful greetings in the market places. Indeed, our financial and political system stands on the brink of an apocalypse because fraudsters and incompetents still hold their positions after their grandiose looting. Worst is that most of them remain among the ranks of the respected despite epic failure.
The death of the American middle class and descent into the impoverished class is touched upon in these words you weigh men down with burdens hard to bear, while you yourselves will not even touch the burdens”  The actions of the global financiers are straight from the recipe recommended by the great Communist, V.I. Lenin, who wrote “The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation.”  Every time the system nears a state of correcting itself, our leaders use dishonest accounting, currency debasement, and ability of the government to spend unlimited amounts of “money” to keep the deception going a little longer. Using inflation perpetuates their positions of power in the markets. Governments have tried this during and since biblical times with the same result for centuries – the currency collapses, leaving the people destitute.
You have taken away the key of knowledge. This charge may be the most damning of all relative to current events. The very folks who are charged with informing the people of the dangers – the media, the ministers, the accountants, and law enforcement – are actively engaged in selling the soothing notion that all is normal. A veritable wall of censorship exists whereby failed establishment economists, consultants, and educators have kept their positions despite being demonstrably wrong and even deceptive. Ministers are as captive to expectations of a cushy modern life as any other people and are loathe criticizing perceived benefactors in banking or government. Accountants have even gone so far as to destroy their franchise to promote accounting “rules” to cover up outright looting. Law enforcement has ignored criminal offenses in the hundreds of thousands to the point that the rule of law is virtually dead.
Finally Jesus lays out the real conundrum for those who know his Word, the realities of the world about them, the tremendous forces about to become manifest, and the power of evil. I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute.”History has shown that those who are brave enough to show the way, to throw off the shackles of entrenched power, and to become shining lamps to the world instead are highly likely to be hung from lamp posts instead. Therein lies the power of the conundrum evident in Hamlet and in Luke 11:33 – the choice is a life considered so precious that one should seek to extend it at all costs versus a glorious life likely to end abruptly consequent to one’s principled actions.
With respect to our doomed financial system, the phrase “extend and pretend” is often used to describe the overwhelming human response. Its power over humans cannot be better demonstrated than by Jesus’ own plea at the prospect of his pain-racked body being nailed to the cross: “let this cup pass from Me.”
The Lord knows what is at stake for those called to his ministry and those called to serve mankind in troubled times like those of today. May He grant those of us with the duty He has prescribed the sort of determination and resolve in words from the birth of our republic.
Give me Liberty or give me Death!
The light of those who choose both Him and the blessings of liberty will become blazing beacons in a brighter future.
To be or not to be, that is the question.

AG