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An Angry versus a Loving God?

Belief-in-an-Angry-God

When folks tell me that the God of the TANAK (Old Testament) and New Testament are different; one being vengeful and angry, the other loving and full of grace, I have to shake my head.  They just don’t get it and my reading this morning shows clear proof that they are one and the same.  Man’s fall and resultant expulsion from the Garden some may claim are clear indications of how vengeful God was ‘back then.’  They may say that didn’t God put that tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the Garden after all; why should God be surprised when man disobeyed the command not to eat of its’ fruit?

 

That Eve was deceived by the Accuser is clearly laid out in Scripture (Gen. 3:1-6); what is often overlooked is how Adam was present during this temptation and let it happen.  True, Eve was not there when God commanded Adam not to eat of this particular tree (think of it, in a world full of ‘yes,’ the only one ‘no’ and they blew it!).  Surely Adam instructed his wife of this single ‘no,’ but the Accuser is crafty and deceived Eve, so she took of its’ fruit and ate it.  Then, Scripture tells us (Gen. 3:6), “…she took of the fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”  The innocence and joy of the Garden were gone in an instant, and they hid from each other and tried to hide from God.  No longer unashamed (Gen. 2:25); with rebellion and sin, shame entered creation.

 

God enters the Garden looking for Adam, calling to him as a father to a wayward son.  What follows (Gen. 3:10-13) is the first example of the blame game; fingers pointing outward without any confession of their own sin.  This continues to this day and will do so until the end of this fallen world.  Their attempt at covering their own shame (sewing fig leaves together to cover their nakedness) was ludicrous, just as any attempt on our part to pay for our own failures falls far short.  God sacrifices creatures to provide for them proper covering (would an angry and vengeful God do this?), but then does something many don’t understand. He expels them from the Garden, never to return (Gen. 3:23,24)!

 

Just so, some would claim, this demonstrates his vengeful nature.  But really it truly demonstrates the grace God shows throughout His-story.  The triune God speaks a very real concern, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil.  Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever…” (Gen. 3:22)  Adam and Eve (and all their progeny) were cursed with eventual death rather than living forever in a Garden of bliss.  This is the peak of grace; imagine if they had remained in the Garden and had eaten of the fruit that would give them everlasting life.  Shame, fear, doubt; all the ‘fruit’ of the fall would remain forever.  Death for the human race is a gracious gift from a loving God that ends a life of suffering and temptation, allowing them to enter into an eternity of everlasting joy.

 

Again, this so-called ‘angry, vengeful God of the Old Testament demonstrates further grace by providing a path, a Way to that true life.  By the sacrifice of the animals that provided them with clothing, God showed them that blood was required.  This would lead to the sacrificial system laid down in Exodus and Leviticus, but all points to that Son whose heel would be bruised, but who would forever crush the power and threat of the Accuser.  About two thousand years ago, an itinerant preacher and miracle worker was arrested and endured several mock trials (in violation of the Torah).  He would then be handed over to a lily-livered Roman official who would condemn him to be crucified, even knowing he was innocent.  That was that they all thought.

 

But God…

 

 

Jesus is risen; just as he said!  He has left this planet but will return.  The madness and evil that seem to run rampant over the Earth leave us with little hope.  By God’s grace, the story is not over.  When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), it was not a piteous cry of defeat, but a shout of victory!  The debt had been paid; the Way was now open to all who believe to receive true life forever.

 

 

 

 

 

golgotha_by_v_k_sSee the source image

Whose Fool Are You?

See the source image

Really?

 

You expect me to believe that a man who had been brutally tortured, nailed to two pieces of wood, either suffocated or bled to death and then had a Roman spear jammed into his chest to ensure he was dead, that this same guy is alive?

 

Really?

 

You’re telling me that this same person when taken down from the cross was boneless without any sign of life, then laid in a borrowed tomb that was sealed and protected by Roman soldiers, that this same person is gone from the tomb?  You’re telling me that he is alive?

 

Really?

 

What kind of fool would believe that kind of nonsense?!?

 

Just because you have a bunch of his spineless followers (they did bail on him, right?), that they were suddenly bold proclaimers of this fella being alive and well; you want me to believe them as well?

 

Really?

 

Yeah, yeah; they were willing to suffer horrific deaths themselves just for believing in him, but that isn’t any kind of proof that he is alive, is it?  You really expect me to believe that?

 

Really?

 

Yeah, I heard how one of the most prolific persecutors of his disciples suddenly began telling others that this guy Jesus is alive, that he is a King?  That Saul turned from a successful career as one of the ruling council in Jerusalem to walk the then known world proclaiming this nonsense; is that proof of anything other than one man’s delusion?

 

Come on, really?  What kind of fool do you take me for anyway?

 

Who would be foolish enough to believe such nonsense!?!

 

Whose fool do you take me for?

 

Really?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Endless Day

despair

Have you ever had a day that seemed to drag on and on?  One that you wished would end, but were terrified of what would happen, what would change when it did?  Have you ever just wanted to curl up in a ball and, as the old country song put it, “Make the World Go Away?”

 

By now all of the apostles and the women who had followed Jesus would have gathered together in that same room where the Passover had been celebrated.  No celebration now, only a mind-numbing emptiness as they struggled to understand the inexplicable.

 

How could he die?

 

Was this all there was after all those years of ministry and learning?  The promise of what seemed a heralding of a new kingdom was now ashes and dust.  How were they to go on?  When would the same religious zealots who had taken their beloved teacher come for them?

 

Fear, darkness, hopelessness…

 

We look back on these huddled, shivering men and women in the light of what we know from Scripture and just shake our heads.  Where is there faith?  How could they have missed the warnings Jesus gave them, but also the promise of his resurrection?

 

Are we then so very different?

 

Whenever tragedy strikes our family when things don’t go according to what we thought they should, do we keep our eyes focused on God’s promises that are all yes and Amen in Messiah?

 

Life, this life we live will be filled with days similar to that one Saturday.

 

Hopelessness, despair, grief will flood our souls and leave us bereft of any joy.  We far too often are ignorant of how God is working as he was on that Saturday; we close our eyes to his possible and cling to our impossible.  We embrace our misery as if a friend when our true friend stands waiting with arms open wide.

 

It’s Saturday, but Sunday is coming…

Maundy Thursday

golgotha_by_v_k_s

 

A dark day when evil ran amok, and the disciples’ perceptions of what Messiah ought to be ended in a horrific night of betrayal, violence, and terror

 

His plan was NOT their plan

 

All hope is gone after a seemingly never-ending night filled with the mockery of three trials in which gave vent to the religious hatred against their friend

 

Now, as the light of day began filtering into the city, hearts and hopes remained dark as many huddled together in the upper room fearing that the religious leaders would come for them next

 

Some followed his agonizing path to Golgotha

 

Horror as the one they thought was the Messiah hung on a Roman cross, so disfigured as to be hardly recognizable as human, bleeding, dying

 

Darkness filled the land, covering the Earth

 

An end to hopes and dreams

 

But God

 

 

 

Aloha to my Facebook Ohana

theleansubmariner

I did three shortened tours in the Navy in Hawaii and had some of my greatest and worst life experiences while I was there. One word that comes to mind when I think of Hawaii and the subject of this post is Ohana.

From Wikipedia: “Part of Hawaiian culture, ʻ ohana means family (in an extended sense of the term, including blood-related, adoptive or intentional).The concept emphasizes that families are bound together and members must cooperate and remember one another.”

This is for my Facebook Ohana.

Some things are harder to do than others. I quit smoking many years ago when I finally got past the excuse of “I just like the way it feels to smoke” and realized it was cutting my life short. At my age, I also know that I no longer have the ability to eat and drink anything I want since there are obvious negative…

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Acceptance and Rejection

Decline

Recently I agreed to an interview with Alex Guarino to tell ‘my story’ after she heard some of it at an event at Foxes Boxes in Wilmington.  I agreed in the hopes to ‘put a face’  on how so many with felony backgrounds do struggle to find work.  Additionally, I’d hoped to use this platform as a chance to share my testimony of how God’s grace had brought me from darkness to light.  While the portions of the interview left much out (and stated that I’d  been drafted and sent to Vietnam, something I’d joined the Navy and volunteered for submarines to avoid), it was heartening to hear so many positive things from many that had not realized before that my background included a criminal record.

 

Then on Monday, March 26th, I was advised that my services as a volunteer on the Battleship North Carolina were no longer required, especially if it was in any aspect of my work involving interaction with the public.  Kim Sincox, who’d been the person that I interacted with most as a volunteer, was the person who delivered the message, telling me that it wasn’t anything personal…

 

Even before I was released from prison, I had begun to realize that my hopes for meaningful work would be an adventure.  As I filled out one application after another for work release, I quickly discovered that my naivete’ about finding work of any kind had not prepared me for the rigors of this search.  I assumed that as I had nearly completed the court-ordered sentence placed upon me (thereby fulfilling my ‘debt’ to society) and had even earned an Associates of Science degree in computers while in prison, that I would find work in IT or related field fairly quickly.

 

After my release, this search continued; by the time I’d all but given up I had applied for over 800 different positions in varying companies (including both the ones applied for while seeking work in prison and after).  Finally, in desperation for income, when I reached the age of 62 I  filed for my Social Security even though with my time in prison I would only receive just over $600.00 per month.  I had begun volunteering with different agencies in the Triangle (where we lived at the time) but continued to seek employment to no avail.

 

We relocated to the Wilmington area in hopes that an agency here would hire me (one of their supervisors had expressed an interest in me when I met her for a position assisting those coming out of prison in finding work).  Once we were in Wilmington, I followed their website daily waiting for the position to be posted.  When it did appear, I submitted my application with resume and appropriate documents and waited while checking the site at least twice a day.  After a month the position was no longer listed, having been filled without even a phone call from them.  It seemed the combination of my age and my felony would prove insurmountable barriers to meaningful employment, but was thankful to find other avenues in which to volunteer in the community.  Such activity took much of the sting of rejection at not finding work, giving me a sense of fulfillment and purpose; at least until Monday.

 

I’ve been reminded that many feel that having a felony is an embarrassment to their organization and would distance themselves from involvement with me (at least where it comes to being in the public eye).  Thankfully I’ve also been shown how others continue to value my efforts on their organization’s part and welcome my continued volunteering with them.  What is most important is knowing that nothing of what has happened can cause my King to reject me.  His grace is beyond my understanding, but the one thing that is immutable in my life.  That rock is a foundation that I can build upon and will continue to do so for whatever remains of my life.  Whether as a volunteer or in some paid position, my desire to serve the community remains unchanged.

A Prophesy From Nearly a Hundred Years Ago is Just as True Today

theleansubmariner

Everywhere you look these days, people are reacting to the senseless deaths of innocent people and wondering how we can stop the killing.

I think its a fair question. But I think we are not examining the root causes of what seems to be an increase in evil actions. Society has become very sophisticated since the days when the Europeans and others came to the shores of America. The vast country that lay before them was already inhabited, albeit with people who were not as organized and ready to repel the invaders. The resulting turmoil between natives and invaders was exacerbated by the conflict between the “Old Countries” that sought to take advantage of the new lands for their own purposes.

At one point, the invaders became the nation we are today.

The old ways of kings and queens were rejected and a representative form of government emerged. Laws were…

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Floating Drydocks: A Noteworthy Innovation That Changed the Course of Two Wars

A fascinating look at an often overlooked part of naval history. Little glory in their work, but without this kind of support, the battles in distant waters during WW II would have had a very different outcome. BZ, Mister Mac.

theleansubmariner

Floating Drydocks had been around for a long time before World War 2. But the scope of naval warfare during World War 2 and the Cold War that would follow would test the Navy’s ability to maintain vessels in faraway locations. This is part on of the story of docks like USS Los Alamos (AFDB 7) which serviced the Polaris and Poseidon Missile submarines of the Cold War.

Looking back on the years since the LA was placed out of commission, its easy to forget that for over thirty years she served on the front lines of a different kind of conflict. But it was a need identified and filled many years before that which made her ability to fill this new role possible. This is the story of the Floating Drydocks of World War II.

Advanced Base Sectional Dock Number 3

“The fleet of floating drydocks built by the…

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Homecoming… its a harder journey than you think without brothers

Mister Mac once again does an exemplary job of giving others a glimpse of the world we shared as part of the family of submariners.

theleansubmariner

When you get to a certain point in your life you start taking stock of what mattered.

The first seventeen or eighteen years of most people’s lives are the foundations for much of who they become. If you grew up in Middle America, your understanding of relationships, education, and spirituality are all forged from those basic foundations. I will admit that I truly struggled with all three of these in those early years. By the time I was seventeen, I had shown remarkably little interest or aptitude in any of the categories.

Perhaps because I was so much like him, my relationship with my Dad was tortured if nothing else. As I got older he got less well informed and my defiance ended at least once in a physical altercation (which I lost). As a middle kid, I never really fit into any of my brothers or sisters circles so…

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Humiliation

Humiliation.

Not a very popular idea in this me-first world we live in and definitely not something for a prideful, arrogant man to experience willingly.  To have such a man debased and set aside by those who had followed and respected him was a blow that would crush his spirit.  Further, to not be able to find any meaningful work after over 450 attempts.  Oh, from the title you expected this would be about Saul of Tarsus, sorry but it is my own tale by which I by no means compare myself to my brother Paul, simply that it reflects how God does often work.

Being incarcerated seemed to me to be the ultimate in humiliation.  While rightly convicted, the idea of throwing away a career as a paramedic and nurse to spend the rest of my life (a very real possibility), becoming a plaything of those employed by the prison system was a rude awakening.  My first case manager warned me that there were two types of guards and officials in the so-called Department of Correction; those who knew I was in prison as punishment and those who believed I was in prison to be punished.  Sadly, he told me, the latter were in the vast majority, and they loved their job!  That was to be my experience for the next 23 years, 7 months and 25 days.

I did make a profession of faith and surrender to Christ within 3 weeks of arriving at Central Prison; my growth as a disciple was haphazard at best as I continued throughout my stay in prison to deny my guilt.  My fear was if I ‘fessed up’ my family and wife would abandon me as I had plead not-guilty and cost my family a significant amount of money.  This was something I wrestled with for the entire time I was in prison and for years afterward.  That refusal to ‘come clean’ kept me from much of what God would have done for me; “I” was still primary and on the throne of my heart as reflected in some of my behavior after coming to Christ.  Time and again I had people tell me that my story reminded them of Joseph (Genesis 30 and following) for my being imprisoned unjustly.  After a time, I actually began to believe this, and when reading Acts 9 and studying it, I began to feel that this was my time of humiliation.

Finally, the day came when I was released.  I had attended the Chapel Hill Bible Church for some time after getting out of the Navy, but my main reason was for the ‘target rich environment’ with all the coeds.  The pastor, James Abrahamson, sought to mentor me but much of what he shared with me went in one ear and out the other.  Seeds were planted that would come to fruition once I was in prison (well, at least my journey in Christ did begin even if somewhat haphazardly at the time.  I reconnected with Jim while in minimum custody and decided to start attending there even though Jim was no longer pastor.  When I learned why and how Jim did not attempt to ameliorate the circumstances of his fall, it stil did not move me to be honest with anyone about my guilt.

Jay Thomas is the pastor there and was a wonderful expositional teacher of Scripture.  I really felt this was where God wanted me and so my wife and I became members.  Sometime later, while Jay was teaching through the Gospel of John, he said something that pricked my heart about my continuing disavowal of my guilt.  After the service I spoke with him briefly, asking for a time in the coming week when we could meet.  At the same time, I knew that I had to speak with Jim Abrahamson as well, but most of all with Kathy.  I feared that she would be so angry with my lying over the years, that she would toss me out.  When we got home, we sat together in the living room of our home, and I confessed to her what I’d done.  She did not want to believe it at first; that was difficult as how do you tell someone you love deeply that you have lied to them for over 28 years?

Well, by God’s grace she did believe me and did not toss me out the front door.  During this time I began experiencing many symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress but did not make the connection with those same symptoms from after I got out of the Navy.  Even before getting out of prison, I had applied to multiple places for employment.  I’d earned an Associate’s degree in Computer Information Technology and was hoping that would at least get me in the door.  It did not; the one interview I had with an IT firm in the Triangle lasted well over an hour.  At the conclusion, I asked the interviewer what the next step would be.  He kind of laughed and then said he had no intention of hiring me, that my resume intrigued him and he just wanted to speak with me.

450+ applications using a variety of online and other services led to nothing more than the sound of crickets.  No one seemed to want to hire an ex-felon, even those companies that specialized in such gave me a pass.  It was humiliating to me not to be able to find work other than with Measurement, Inc., a company that had hired me as a reader while I was on work release.  The work there was definitely seasonal and not really enough to be a real help in making me feel as though I was ‘head of the household.’  Yeah, that pride thing was still working.  Once I passed the age of 62, a friend suggested I check what I could get from them if I ‘retired’ compared if I waited until 65 or 70.  Due to the time in prison, there was really no difference, so at the end of that month, I filed for Social Security.  That paltry sum I began to receive did help, combined with the episodic checks from Measurement, Inc., but still left me wondering if that was all I could expect.

It hurt me (still pride, but also something else) because my lack of income would force Kathy to continue working longer than she’d hoped.  I tried other ventures (Real Estate Broker was a flop as the NC Real Estate Commission refused to license me as a broker) but continued with my $600.00 or so a month.  The anger and frustration that I often took out on Kathy (or inanimate objects in our house) fueled more and more suicidal ideations.  I just wanted the suffering to end; both mine and the pain I was causing Kathy.  My attempts were often interrupted by a phone call or other such (one time as I stood on the Brewer Road overpass a Durham County Deputy just happening to roll by).

Sitting in this man’s car and talking about life, especially for those who have come out of prison, combined with a speaker at a conference I attended as a USO-NC volunteer, opened my eyes to the fact that I had PTS.  To say that the VA hospital was less than helpful would be putting it mildly, but with the help of Senator Burr’s office, I finally was not only diagnosed with PTS but given a disability rating that enabled me to receive over $1,000.00 every month.  Still, it wasn’t work and sitting at home everyday (when not volunteering somewhere) just made me feel all the more worthless.

In October of 2016, I attended the annual meeting of an organization affiliated with Our Children’s Place (I’d been a board member since my release from prison).  During a meeting with their board before the annual meeting, one of their management persons told me that while they did not have a position for me at that time, they would in the Spring.  Others of the board of OCP who overheard our conversation were elated; for the first time since being indicted in 1987, I had hope of meaningful work.  Kathy was elated, and since we had rented a place in town through Airbnb, we started looking for a place to live and a home church.  That search brought us to Windsor Park and, more importantly, to the Bridge Church on Market Street in Wilmington.  We moved in January 2017 to a rental from VRBO until our house in Windsor Park was completed (end of July 2017).

I checked the website of this company everyday (sometimes more often) and was elated when I saw the position listed.  Within an hour I had transmitted my cover letter, resume and other material requested; then I waited…and waited…and waited.  Later that month, the position was no longer on the website; apparently, they had filled it without even calling me in for an interview!

Humiliation.

It seemed that no one was interested in hiring me; despite our hopes, we were back to ‘normal’ with me the house-husband and Kathy working.  I was REALLY frustrated and angry but was at the point in my walk with the Christ that despair and depression did not happen…much.  Then this past week it was as if cotton wool had been taken off my eyes (nothing to do with my new Rx of glasses); if all I could do was serve others through my volunteer activities, then that is what I would do.  Today I was reminded by an old friend (Chuck Swindoll, Insight for Living) of something A. W. Tozer wrote some time ago that has been true in my life over and over.

 

“It is doubtful whether God can bless a man greatly unless He has hurt him deeply.”

 

Amazingly, as a result of this past week, I am content with being a professional volunteer with both the USO-NC (Jacksonville Center) and the Battleship North Carolina.  There are some things I do to contribute to The Bridge Church; these activities (along with cooking for my beloved) are enough.