GROWTH AS A CHRISTIAN: THE SURVIVAL PRINCIPAL - Part 5

Conscience programming by the physical path my life takes when I relate my life experience as an allegory of my spiritual walk on my path for God, JUST LIKE YOU (Eccl. 8:5, 1Cor. 2:14-16 & 12:10 and Heb. 5:14 keyword: discern) if you permit the Holy Spirit to let you spiritually see.

(Jer. 6:16) There is a path called the old path. First, I'd like to discuss glaciers. Science says glaciers carved these mountains where I live, the KY part of the Appalachian mountain range. Science says the glaciers traveled from north to south. It would stand to reason all the valleys would be from north to south if that were the case. BUT:

The valleys here lay in every direction a compass can point on its 360 degree circumference. North of Eastern Kentucky the land is flat. Why didn't the glaciers carve some valleys and leave hills there? The coal seams here are from a few inches thick to 14 feet thick. If the glaciers cut the valleys why isn't there some coal residue where the glaciers stopped or where the mountains end? Coal residue, either in lumps or ground fine is black and it would show up someplace south of here on the surface or in excavations.

Water runs from high place to low place. We have rivers and streams that run east to west, west to east, north to south, south to north and every other direction too. They say glaciers carved out the valleys SO why don't the water strictly run from north to south or south to north? If glaciers cut the valleys, when the glaciers stopped and started retreating back north because of warming why wasn't there piles of rock left in the valleys that formed natural mountain valley reservoirs in at least a few places AND some residue of them in all places?

Don't forget that a lot of scientific investigation is funded by tax payer paid, government issued grant money and foundation grant money that gives the donor a tax break. It isn't politically correct to mention God the Creator, so they don't! God is a Gentleman. He don't stay where He isn't wanted.

American government, society and even some organizations calling themselves churches are causing God to leave America. Then when a disaster strikes lots of people run around screaming, shaking their fists at the sky and shouting; "Where's God? If He's so good why isn't He helping us?" My conscience programmed; "Don't let anybody educate or legislate God out of my heart."

I believe God created these mountains and all the rest of it too. SO: (Josh. 24:15) Just like Joshua said; "---choose you this day whom ye will serve;---but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord---" has been the subject of millions of Christian sermons; (Jer. 6:16 again) There is a path called the old path, Jeremiah's words have also been the subject of millions of Christian sermons: "blood washed, born again, baptized, Bible believing, Holy Spirit led, working for God" is the heart of the old path sermons. That's what started me on my path for God.

I have a physical path I physically walk in the hills. It is an ancient path traveled by animals since time began. When I describe it please consider the allegory between walking my physical path for my physical health TO: walking my spiritual path with God for my spiritual health. I pray and hope this article helps program your conscience to be spiritually aware concerning your Christian walk on your spiritual path as you walk your physical path through your life. I will include scripture numbers that point out the spiritual aspects of the physical events.

I can't sing and I wouldn't insult anyone's intelligence by saying I can. Sometimes in church I feel like I'll burst if I don't sing. BUT: Well, you folks who can't sing know how it is. It shocks me that anyone with a beautiful voice would leave gospel to go into any other kind of music. Sometimes, in my walk, snippets of beautiful gospel songs ring through my musically hobbled soul and it is good.

(Matt.10:21) Sometimes my family and friends grumble because I walk my path; "Its too hot or its too cold, you're 69 years old, you'll have a heart attack! You'll fall and break a hip!" I grumble back; (Eccl. 12:6-7) "Everything has to die. What better place than on my path? (Psa. 116:15) The Lord will take care of it." Bears live here and once in a while there is (1Pet. 5:8) a mountain lion sighting. (Psa. 22:20, Acts 20:29 & Song 2:15) There are, upon occasion, packs of feral dogs that are dangerous. Those dogs, coyotes and foxes sometimes have rabies, (Matt. 17:20, Heb. 3:12 & 4:11 keyword: unbelief) a deadly disease.

(Gen. 3:1, Psa. 140:3 & Rev. 12:9) This is rattlesnake and copperhead country, (Jude 1-4 esp. V.4 keywords: ungodly men crept in meaning into the church) snakes with deadly poison in their mouths. SO: (Jer. 6:23) With this array of bad things against me (Luke 11:21 & Eph. 6:17) I go armed in case I encounter something that tries to hurt me or kill me.

(Heb. 13:5-6) The Lord is always with me but (1Tim. 6:12) I also have to fight BECAUSE it's my path and I have to be (Heb. 5:14) aware of my surroundings to keep my path. (1Cor. 10:9-12 esp. V.10) My conscience programmed: the destroyer (the devil) can destroy me at his pleasure except that Jesus defends me and keeps me.

(Matt. 13:22) Weeds and thorny bushes and briars grow up in my path and once or twice a year I carry a weed eater back there to mow them down so they don't choke up my path and take it away from me. (Matt. 16:26) It is a constant work to remove clutter and debris that fall from the trees into my path and hinder my physical walk just like the desire for gain must be removed before it can hinder my spiritual walk with God.

We live in the extreme head of a little holler (hillbilly slang: a mountain valley, the hollow between two mountain ridges) My path starts just outside the drive thru gate and goes uphill. (Matt. 24:13) I know it's a hard walk and I know I'll hurt but the reward is worth the toil. The vertical contour of the hills is a very steep place followed by a more gentle slope of varying degrees we call a "flat" that leads uphill to the next "steep" as we call them.

There are four steeps and three flats in my climb to the top of the little ridge in the first leg of my walk and those steeps are leg busters, especially when the legs are old and skinny. Well into the second steep my legs are burning from my toil and they feel like they're full of hot water. I'm breathing too hard for my nostrils to carry the load and my mouth flops open. (Phil. 3:12-14 keywords: press and prize) If I stop to rest that makes it two walks, not one, so I press on. If I make it, the prize is that I've made it.

(John 14:22-26) There is some kind of physical driver in me. I don't say it with pride or shame, it just is, that's all I know. It puts me in mind of a time in boot camp. The DI's had decided my platoon needed to be punished for some infraction or other.

(Eph. 4:14-15, 1Pet. 2:2 & 2Pet. 3:18 keyword: grow) It isn't hard to find a reason to punish when you have eighty teenage idiots, with shaved heads, milling around, terrified, fumbling, not knowing their left foot from their right and trying to hide in plain sight. They fondly called us scumbags when they weren't filled with a towering rage that forced them to call us other names because of our ineptness.

(Prov. 22:24-25 keyword: furious) They were normally coldly furious but could reach a towering rage over something as simple as the movement of an eyeball. We wore wrinkled, ill fitting, utilities (Marine Corps green type dungarees).

(1Cor. 5:12 keyword: appearance) They told us we hadn't earned the right to use starch or pressing irons on our utilities, nor to have them tailored either. We carried rifles, cartridge belts, canteens and I can't remember if we had soft covers or helmets. We wore scruffy boots, they wore shined shoes. Scumbags didn't rate shoe polish either, just greasy, foul smelling saddle soap.

The DI's wore their famous Smokey Bear covers (hats), class A uniforms and (Prov. 22:15) carried their little, swagger-stick batons they efficiently applied to give personal instruction. (John 7:2 keyword: appearance) Always, they looked like General Eisenhower on a good day and we looked like Sad Sack on a bad day! (Prov. 18:24 keyword: friendly) I never did see a DI with "Ike's" pleasant expression though.

Anyway, (1Cor. 9:24-25 & Heb. 12:1-2) they marched us, their "herd" of scumbags, out into the sand and told us they were going to run us to death to punish us. It started with a junior DI, Cpl. Blanco, running beside us and calling cadence. Around and around and around the huge sand pit. (Matt. 7:13-14) Lots of recruits were dropping out. My mouth was open and my chest was heaving but it didn't feel like any air was coming in. The first DI quit, leaned over, hands on knees, gasping for air.

Without missing a step another junior DI, Sgt. Nagy, took over. There weren't many of us recruits left either. The driver, my wife calls my physical driver stupid and stubborn, kicked in and (Luke 9:23-24) I decided I would die in the sand before I'd quit. When the second DI finally called a halt to our run only three of us were left.

I had tunnel vision with grey all around, it was like looking through a tube. I was drenched with sweat, gasping and sucking for air as hard as I could but pure fire was all I could breathe in. I was in a world of hurt, limp as badly wilted lettuce and I was trembling. I was about to die BUT I'd made my stand AND I hadn't quit.

That's the way I feel about Jesus. I've heard a lot of talk about seeing a family member or other loved one when getting to heaven but, as for me, I hope and pray I am permitted and privileged to crawl on my belly up to Jesus and kiss His feet and thank Him through my gushing tears because without Him, THE DRIVER, I couldn't have started my spiritual walk and without Him I can't finish it either.

That's just the way it is. It's my path and I've got to walk it but I'm sure Jesus, the Master of my path, (Heb. 13:5-6) has a steady hand always there to help me, even when I die. (Luke 11:23) My conscience programmed: MAKE A STAND. (Psa. 55:22) My conscience programmed: I don't have the courage to die for the cause of Christ unless I have the Driver (Jesus) there to sustain me with His love, tender pity, grace, mercy, beauty and strengthening.

"In the midst of tribulations, stand by me; When the hosts of hell assail, And my strength begins to fail, Thou who never lost a battle, Stand by me."

(Psa. 41:7 & 2Cor. 2:11) My path has briars along it that sometimes fall over and dangle. If I don't see one it can snare me, slash me and make me bleed. Those wounding things like pride, stubborn, anger, lust, ignorance, speaking before thinking; have you got any of those snares in your personality? (2Tim. 2:26) Wild grapevines sometimes seem to come from nowhere, snare me and trip me up if I'm not careful, (James 3:4-10 keyword: tongue) I have one in my mouth. You do to, don't you?

(Prov. 24:30-32 keyword: nettles) We have a weed that grows here we call the stinging nettle. It grows in the dark, damp places (Luke 22:15) like Satan, the devil, grows in the dark, damp places of a soul. In a place or two the nettles grow close to my path. If my hand inadvertently touches one as I pass by it stings, burns and tingles for a long time. (Psa. 10:2-4 & 36:1-4) That's the way mean, hateful, cruel, judgmental words spoken to me hurt my soul, especially by those closest to me, my family. I'll bet you're the same way?

(Psa. 36:12) There are ticks, mosquitoes, chiggers and etc.; blood suckers all that seek to feed off me, weaken me and torment me. Crooked businessmen, crooked financial businesses, being cheated, the feeling the government is strangling the Church, me and all that America has stood for weaken and torment us both, don't they? Conscience programmed: the devil has helpers in many forms.

NOTE: Our property line joins the property line of a state park at the top of the ridge behind our house. The state park is in the valley on the other side and has a several miles long lake that blocks a large stream named Paint Creek. Among the many attractions is a working representation of an eighteen hundreds and very early nineteen hundreds farm with the original buildings and small flocks of sheep, goats and etc. It is named The Mountain Homeplace. END OF NOTE.

(Acts 10:22 keyword: warned) I was walking up the slope of the first flat, almost ready to start climbing the second steep when a warning chill raced over me as I became aware of an oppressive silence, danger! Maybe it was the Vietnam experience instinct, MAYBE IT WAS GOD, I don't know.

Colors were brighter, my footsteps sounded louder, my vision was more acute as I swept around me with my eyes. My breathing was slower and deeper and I was tuned in. Adrenaline response! My heart beat with big, slow thumps. (1Tim. 6:12 keyword: fight & Eph. 6:10-18 esp. V.11 keyword: devil and V.12 keyword: wrestle: defined: a struggle, a fight) I slowed, walked softer, drew my pistol and kept slowly walking uphill. (Matt. 7:15 & Acts 20:29-30 keyword in both: wolves) With a crash and wicked, guttural snarling five feral dogs attacked me out of a thicket about twenty feet uphill from me.

I never thought about aiming or shooting, automatic response, Marine Corps training and hunting. The leader, about half a length in front of the others, and I had eye contact. He had to know I was human! His eyes were hot, feral, savage, glowing and I was dimly aware of the gun sight on his chest.

When the bullet hit him in the chest his front legs immediately collapsed, his chin hit the leaves, his powerful back legs kept driving his body toward me, he was snapping his long white fangs, we still had eye contact but his eyes were dying and his snarls had turned to wet gurgles. I quickly stepped aside then one step uphill to let him skid by me so he couldn't bite me.

Even while moving I was lining up my next shot, those two quick steps right and uphill caused the next one to try to veer in his chosen line of attack toward me and I shot him through the ribcage just behind his front legs before he could. The other three vanished like smoke in the wind. As I walked on up my path, thumbing two rounds into my pistol magazine, (2Cor. 11:14-15 & Eph. 6:17) I wondered what they would have left of me had I not been armed? Would they have actually killed me? From my yard I've heard children running, playing, laughing and talking up there in the forest, what if it had been one of them?

(1Cor. 12:2) I suppose some of the animal rights people will hate me for doing what I did but that's alright, (Psa. 25:19) I've been hated by meaner and tougher people than them. While they are hating me they can also hate the two game wardens who killed the other three dogs the next week. (Rom. 8:36) The dogs had killed some sheep at The Mountain Homeplace farm and eaten the udders (milk bags) of the ewes (mother sheep). It didn't matter, (Luke 10:3) their lambs would never be hungry for their mothers' milk again, not with the way the dogs had torn the lambs' throats out as they killed them.

(Matt. 13:39) The dogs were sleeping off their repast in the weedy, brushy border between a weed field and the timber when the game wardens shot them. (Jer. 10:8-9 esp. V.9 keyword: blue) The two rather large dogs I had killed had an odd blue color tinting their coats. That news blazed through the county and when I heard about it I went and talked to one of the game wardens. In the conversation I described the dogs I had killed. He was shocked and said their three had the same coloration.

(Matt. 13:38-39) The game warden figured it was a female that some idiot had set out at the Park. She was made of a strong heritage and had gone feral by existing as do the coyotes here and had produced four offspring and they made an efficient pack that could take down larger prey. It's my path and I have the right to defend myself. (Luke 11:21-22) Conscience programmed: a disarmed citizenry is a group of helpless individuals waiting to be victimized by predators, individuals, or by their government.

Read the July 16, 2012 story in Newsweek Magazine "Champagne Flows While Syria Burns" and imagine what would happen if 60 million unarmed Americans, the approximate number of Christians in America, marched peacefully on Washington to physically and without harm remove the government. "We're peacefully taking over this mess. We have the Constitution, we have our leaders picked out and we're starting over!" Do you think the jails would fill up and if the people kept coming do you think the police would finally be ordered to use deadly force?

If people kept gently, peacefully coming do you think the military would be called out? If people kept coming do you think the killing would begin? If the unarmed people refused to stay their purpose and kept coming to physically, without harm remove the government do you think the killing would increase? OR:

Do you think the American Government would meekly vacate all their offices, give up their positions of power and wealth and quietly leave Washington? Do you think an "American Syria" is possible OR impossible? WHY? Have you noticed, on the news that the Syrian rebels are begging for arms from any source? Conflicted conscience programming about firearm ownership: You decide, it's your conscience!

More conflicted conscience programming by scripture: #1) (Luke 11:21-22) Jesus said; "When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: But when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils."

THEN: #2) (Rom. 12:17-21) "Recompense (give back) to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good."

#3) (Matt. 5:38-39) JESUS SAID; "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek turn to him the other also." My conscience programmed that: #1) & #2), I can defend myself but I can't start trouble nor can I take revenge on someone. #3) I'll take all the abuse I can before I fight back.

No use to call the police in this imaginary event. They always arrive after the crime is over, gather the evidence and try to catch the perp. Only their presence prevents crime and criminals do their "work" when the police aren't around. Don't get me wrong, I deeply respect and depend on the police; that thin line of gallant men is all that stands between America and anarchy. If I see one in trouble I'll sure stop and help him, anytime, anyplace.

The imaginary event: Your wife has come home from work after dark, you hear her scream, you grab your pistol, just in case, and run outside. A man is in the very act of raping your wife right there in your driveway and he has a pistol lying beside them. Her eyes beg for help as her face turns purple while he chokes her! Do you run up beside them and try to talk him into quitting what he is doing to YOUR wife? OR: Do you get down on your knees beside them and pray for both of them? OR:

Do you witness to him with great kindness and humility about his need for salvation as he continues to rape her? OR: Do you point your pistol at him and tell him to stop? Suppose he won't, what then? You are disturbing his pleasure, suppose he grabs his pistol. His pistol is swinging up and his mean eyes tell you he's going to blow a big, wet, soupy, bloody hole through you, what would you do?

It's your wife! Wife, you imagine the same thing, except someone is in the process of murdering your husband. What would you do? It's easy to get all gooey in church on Sunday morning and say you love everybody. BUT: What choice would you make? Do you believe in having a choice? Conflicted conscience programming: What would you do?

"Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved; How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed. Thru many dangers, toils and snares I have already come; 'Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home."

The second leg of my path begins when I turn due east, starting uphill, from where the east to west ridge ends. At first it's steep and rough. Over there on the left of my path is some house debris from the terrible storm, the tornado that raged through this area. Nothing could stand in its path as it tore, ripped, mangled, destroyed and killed.

Sure, after it was over, we all pitched in and helped, especially the churches, hospitals and emergency personnel. BUT how can you replace the mementos of your life lived? Your home is you, your personality, your values, your beliefs, YOU; your sense of "my place" has been shattered. That reminds me of the you YOUTUBE segment that went viral.

Over at the tiny town of West Liberty, KY a few miles north of us; the storm bore down on them with its whirling, malignant, violent fury. In the video she looked to be a middle-aged woman, stocky and defiant, making her stand in her yard, she faced the dark, horrible funnel (Job 1:19) the devil had sent to destroy her and her's.

(Mark 4:36-42 esp. V.37 keyword: storm--->a whirlwind & Matt. 14:24-32 esp. V.30 keyword; boisterous--->powerful) As the furious whirlwind came toward her she stood unafraid, she raised her arms, clenched her fists, shouted in a loud, clear, ringing voice and called on Jesus and she spoke in an unknown tongue too, part of the time, as she prayed. The horrid funnel rose back up into the sky, passed over her and her's and came back down on the other side of her house. She stomped back into her house to gather what she thought she'd need to help the casualties from the storm.

Say it out loud! "When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me, When the storms of life are raging, Stand by me; When the world is tossing me Like a ship upon the sea, Thou who rulest wind and water, Stand by me."

I won't mention conscience programming in the next twenty paragraphs because you will easily see that it was. After that steep place, where the storm debris lays, the ridge top that runs east flattens out to a gentle rise that leads to the last vertical climb before reaching the pinnacle of the mountain. In my walk up that gentle rise I have time to catch my breath and my old, skinny legs get a break too. My path borders government land in this section.

Up ahead lays the huge oak tree, at least 3' through, that fell across the fence from the government side and the huge top with saw log size limbs firmly blocks my path but when I got up closer I saw the beginnings of a clever little animal path that skirted it. It was just a little difficulty that God easily solved. I always grin a bit there. (Acts 12:21-24) If Caesar, his henchmen, his arena, and his Roman legions couldn't stop Christianity, my government can't either!

I see lots of wildlife on my path especially on this long gentle slope because hunting is never allowed on the adjoining government land. There are poachers though because I've seen their hidden tree stands and hidden deer feeders to lure deer into their bow sights. A crossbow is a deadly, silent weapon. Nothing is safe from poachers. Thinking about poachers: you see them all the time. "Come on and go to my church, get away from that old, stuffy, fundamentalist, antiquated, entire Bible believing Church you attend."

"We've got a new age, liberal, contemporary society understanding congregation that believes in love and understanding, (1Tim. 6:20-21) science, (Eph. 2:2-3 & 11 keyword: past) history and (Col. 2:8) philosophy prove a lot of the Bible wrong (Jude 4-11 & 18-19) so we'll do it our own easy believism way. We'll change the world and ourselves by ourselves by doing good works, welcoming everybody and loving. We've got a do it yourself religion and we accept everybody so come on and join our organization, 'er church!" Check the Unitarian Universalist church on the internet.

Going on up the gentle grade, thinking about some of those folks in the above paragraph, I feel deep sympathy for them. I had never heard about the Unitarian Universalist Church until I saw one while on a road trip in 2011. I came home and read several articles about it. One was by a 38 year old, lesbian, hard as nails, snow plow driver who had found peace in that church and it really touched my heart. But their literature never mentioned Jesus; it made me wonder. BUT: like her, I too know how it is to have that outcast feeling.

I sadly remember the day I got a call from my Pastor in 1991. It was another bad day in a string of bad days. It seemed like I couldn't do anything right around the house. My wife and I would wind up in furious arguments. You don't live like that and not sin. SO: I sinned! After they were over I couldn't even figure out what had happened or how they started. Yes, I knew that sometimes people will "pick fights" so they can justify what they are doing and my wife had an ongoing drug problem for the last 10 or 12 years.

I wondered if she had a boyfriend. My job was 36 miles away and I worked long hours in high voltage sub-stations. Our oldest son had been killed in a car wreck and the other two were in school. She was foot loose and fancy free everyday to do whatever she wanted to do. It was a soul sick time for me because, without a shred of evidence, you just know. I'd think about it and get that dreadful sinking sensation. In his call my Pastor said; "Come down here Jimmie. I need to show you something."

His wife gave me a sick, worried look as he sat me down at his kitchen table. He laid a folded up piece of paper on the table; "I found this where your wife dropped it while she was singing with the choir." and he and his wife went into the living room. It was a very explicit "love note" to a member of the congregation! It was like someone had hit me in the chest with a powerful fist. The numbness started there and went tingling to the ends of my fingers and toes.

I was frozen, like a small animal in the road caught in the headlights of an onrushing car, I couldn't move. I was cold, numb, couldn't feel my face, shock I guess. I don't know how much time went by until Pastor came back alone and sat down. "Maybe there's some kind of mistake, maybe" "She's been right in the rack with him Son, read it again!" I couldn't. "Me and my wife counseled her for three months over this and finally she told me to stick her note right up my a-- and tell you or not tell you, that she didn't care what I done!" Well, that sounded like her when she got mad. I don't remember what else was said.

I found myself driving back home wondering why Pastor had talked so harshly and why he seemed to relish what had happened. After that I never did feel as close to him as I once had. I decided to not tell my wife I had the note. A few weeks later she left and filed for divorce. Weeks went by and she came back home three times but left again. It was a miserable, miserable time. I wanted us to stay together as a family because the boys were despondent over their brother and desperately needed us, we needed to be in Church and we needed God's healing. The divorce became final.

I told the Pastor I was going to start dating. He advised me not to. "Why?" (1Tim. 3:2 & 12 and Titus 1:5-6) "You've got a living wife son; you can't have another one." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I decided to set a trap. A few weeks later; "Well, my wife has decided to come back home and live with me." She hadn't, I was lying. "Well, well, well, that's good news son. You can get re-married and everything will be fine." We're not going to get re-married, we're going to live together." "You can't do that!" "Why." "'Because you're not married." "Pastor, You're going to have to make up your mind whether she's my wife or not!"

That really opened a can of worms and I kept dating various women. The rumors of my "affairs" flew thick and fast BUT I'd like to say for the record that I witnessed to all of them, went to their churches with some of them and one of the lost ones got saved while we were dating and I helped baptize her in a church in another county. That's where I went to church; in surrounding counties, I was a wanderer. BECAUSE:

My brother and sister Christians wouldn't speak to me. I have seen them see me coming and cross the street to avoid speaking, ditto the aisles in stores. Nobody ever came to me and said; I know this has to be killing you my brother. I love you and I'm praying for you." NOT ONE! I finally met a Christian lady, we fell in love and got married a couple of years later. That really tore it with my church. My credentials were revoked, I was kicked out of my church and out of my conference of churches. Like I said; I know what its like to be an outcast.

In a four year or so period son had been killed, my wife divorced me, I had lost my house, I had been fired from two jobs, at the end of it I'd gotten married to someone else on the strength of (Matt. 19:3-9 esp. V.9 keywords: except it be for fornication) and gotten kicked out of church. Looking back on it I'd had some tough lessons in humility. It was a hard fall. You can read about it in much more detail in the article Judging: The Authority Principal: Part 2 in this commentary.

Going on up my path I can't help but shake my head ruefully in huge disgust at myself. What goes around comes around. I deserved everything that had happened to me. Back before God saved me, my first wife and I had been married a few months, (Prov. 23:29-33) I was drunk one night (Prov. 6:24:29, 23:27-28 & 30:18-20) and had an opportunity to have sex with a pretty woman and I did it. Residual Marine Corps attitude. Stupid, stupid, stupid!

One time. Only one, I never went back because I hated myself for my betrayal. My wife suspected it and asked about it, several times, a whole bunch of times over the years. Like a craven cur I lied gallantly every time; "I wouldn't do that to you Baby, I love you."

A few years after that God saved me. (Num. 32:23 keywords: be sure your sin will find you out & 1Tim. 5:24 keyword: beforehand) The night of the day I was baptized we were lying in bed. We'd said our goodnight prayer with the boys and I was basking in the wonder and joy of being a new Christian. She spoke real low; "Well did you?" "Did I what?" "Did you have sex with ----?" It was like I was electrocuted. My first instinct was to lie. I'd already betrayed her, I couldn't betray Jesus. Could I?

I have never wanted to lie so badly in my life. I couldn't start out my Christian walk with a big, smooth faced lie. Could I? I don't know how much time passed, it was endless. I took a deep breath; "Yes, yes I did!" She rolled over on her side, with her back to me, in a fetal position and started sobbing desperately, pitifully, wounded unto death.

All the screaming, cursing, or anything else she could have done could never have punished me like that did. I hated myself with a deep, burning hatred. Her little bowed, forlorn back, I touched her shoulder with my fingers but it was like touching a rock, she was alone in her awful misery, that I had caused.

The next day, week, month, months I caught it with both barrels from her shotgun mouth. Recriminations, vitriolic anger, ugly names, both barrels; "You'll regret this every day for the rest of your life!" It gradually died down as life went on, as we reared our children and lived our lives. I did and do regret what I did, I am sorry I hurt her in that awful way.

There is nothing she could have possibly said that could have surpassed the self loathing, hatred and anger I felt toward myself. I have never forgotten that tiny, helpless, hopeless, fetal position, humped up against the pain. (2Cor. 5:21 & Col. 2:14) I'm so thoroughly, eternally grateful Jesus, my dear Lord, did not sin and I'm so sorry He had to carry my awful sins to the cross.

That makes me think about the time, back down the hill, when I passed a bunch of honeysuckle vines. I bumped them with my shoulder but paid no attention and went on. Suddenly a piece of fire fell on my back, then another. "The catching away of the church and I've missed it!" I looked toward the sky; "Fire is falling from the sky and I've missed the rapture!" (Deut. 7:20) Then a big bald faced hornet whizzed by my head. Stupid, stupid me, I took time to look back.

I'd bumped their nest when I brushed the vines and, like some tiny, angry, violent, insect cavalry they were coming for me. I ran like a scalded hound. I got away but I partially tore the meniscus tendon in my knee and had to wear a brace for about three months. Those hornet stings remind of what I think of myself.

Perhaps my fornication at the beginning of our marriage sowed the seed for our divorce years later, only God knows. That divorce was a backsliding time in my life, I had partially torn the spiritual meniscus tendon in my walk with God and I was crippled for a while. Like I said above; "It was a hard fall."

Lots of times I see grey and fox squirrels on this slow gentle rise part of my path I walk with God. They are beautiful creatures. They chatter incessantly and twitch their bushy tails. They never say anything, just aimless chatter among themselves about themselves.

Always twitching their beautiful tails, somewhat hiding but always taking a peek at me, tempting, daring, then racing away with lithe, muscular, acrobatics; just like the woman with whom I committed the atrocious infidelity that got me into so much trouble, a moment of the desires of the flesh that had such dreadful consequences; what could my life have been if I hadn't done what I did with her? I can only shake my head in sickness and wonder. I am astonished and completely grateful God loves a thing like me.

(Rom. 7:18-24) It's a comfort that Paul had such a wretched time overcoming the desires of his body but he made it. (Matt. 26:69-75) It's a comfort that Peter failed so terribly but he made it. (Heb. 4:12-16 esp. V.16) "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." I am very ashamed of my sins, pride, failures, stupidity and stubbornness but, through the love, grace, mercy and longsuffering of beautiful, beautiful, beautiful Jesus I can make it too.

I've heard a lot of people say they want to see this one or that one when they get to heaven. If an unprofitable, unworthy thing like me is allowed, all I want to do is crawl up to HIM on my belly like a craven dog, touch HIS feet, cover them with kisses and sob "thank YOU, thank YOU twenty billion times or more. If I'm not allowed to do that I'll be happy to stand back in the crowd and love HIM with my heart and my eyes.

I walk along a while just thinking about wonderful Jesus but something draws my attention. Over there is a deer; they snort, and snort, and snort, dance with their pretty, delicate, twinkling feet then flee with great, bounding leaps from high spot to high spot.

They remind me of snorting drugs, ingesting drugs and drinking drugs. Alcohol has a chemical composition just like "dry" drugs. A person snorts, and snorts, and snorts like a drunkard sitting in the gutter, looking at the hands of his broken watch, stinking, ragged clothes, drooling, bleary eyed, waiting for the next fix while all of his tomorrows dance away with great, bounding leaps, of from "high to high" on the pretty, twinkling feet of time.

That reminds me of Glenn, my sons' high school friend, well, no, we had known him since he was a first grader. Those first tentative steps up the school bus steps, afraid, looking for a friend. He and my sons became friends. AND: Glenn became a high school athlete, a wrestler, wiry, muscular, strong; he'd placed high in the state. Lots of potential, bright, literate, college scholarship, escape from the poverty of his family.

BUT: Glenn started taking drugs after he graduated high school and that's what he did for a few short years. THEN: And there he sat, ragged, dirty, unkempt, on the front porch of an old house, in a rocking chair, in the morning sun, blond hair curling his face like some sweet angel, but his face was prematurely lined with wrinkles with dark bags under his eyes.

His face was stamped with that horrid blue/grey of death I've seen too many times in Vietnam, pink froth had bubbled out his nose, his dirty shirt was stained with vomit and his once beautiful with life brown eyes stared with blank, uncomprehending sightlessness into some future only he knew.

Glenn was dead, overdose. It could have been me because when we came out of the field the American military was "Johnny on the spot" with beer and whiskey; "Here drink this, it'll make the pain go away, it'll make you feel better, you can laugh and make crude remarks, tell dirty jokes, you can forget your cruelty, you can forget the body bags, you can sleep."

But the brain is a recorder, you never forget and you bring alcohol and memories home with you. Only through the love of Jesus the Christ (Messiah), the Son of God, was I able to escape the false hope of alcohol, just another drug.

Over there, beside that log is a wood rat. They are different than the grey Norway rats. They and their cousins, the wood mice and chipmunks, are beautiful with their brown sparkling fur, white bellies and cheeky manner. But still, never forget, they are rodents; gnawing, gnawing and gnawing. They remind me of those who use the constitution to gnaw away at the freedom of religion amendment.

They use the freedom of free speech to tell the church people they don't have the freedom of free speech; "Don't pray in front of me, take that cross down, it's offensive. It's a hate crime because it hurts my feelings. Who is that Jesus dude that dares to tell me I'm wrong? (John 8: 31-32) Don't tell me I need the true freedom that Jesus brought; the freedom from sin through His blood."

(Rev. 12:9) Never forget that rodents are the prey of the serpent. Once during my part-time work as a taxidermist I mounted a rattlesnake. There were two lumps in it and when I cut it open there were two half grown grey squirrels in it, partially digested. I thought about that and if the devil, that serpent, has swallowed you, you have become part of him because when you are digested (nourishment for him) you are part of his strength.

Taxidermy work reminds me of Bryan. Bryan is my friend. He graduated with my brother so that makes Bryan about 16 years younger than me. Bryan has a magnetic personality, a wonderful sense of humor, he can tell funny stories and hunting and fishing stories for weeks. I know because one winter we spent a whole lot of days together. Bryan is a big feller, 6'2", 212 lbs., a super athlete in high school, football, basketball and baseball, a scholarship to UK but it didn't work out.

You already know the story, the shame of high school athletics, teachers passed Bryan in all subjects and lots of times he was off on a hunting or fishing trip at testing time but he passed the tests. "I was a big shot two time all-American Jim." A rueful grin; "You don't give a failing grade to a star athlete. I didn't know I had been robbed and had robbed myself.

I got down to UK 'n everywhere I looked was an all-American and I didn't have the education to handle the scholastics." Bryan lasted one semester, came home and went to work in the coal mines. Bryan had been married and divorced while he was in his teens. Later on, after he'd worked a while, he married again and they were doing real well.

In the early eighties the mines were shut down, we were both off work and Bryan wanted me to teach him to do taxidermy. Every time I mounted something I'd call Bryan, he'd come across the hill to watch and learn. I witnessed to him every day. He seemed to enjoy it. Later on that summer God saved Bryan. A couple of years later Bryan felt "the call" to preach; "Sorry Pal, you can't preach in our denomination. You've got two living wives!"

Bryan talked to me about it. "Jim, I thought when I got saved I got to start out on a sin clean slate with nothin' against me." I went and got my Bible. Its the only authority! (1Chron. 21:1-15) I read Bryan the story. (V.7) David sinned, (V.9-12) God sent Gad, David's seer (prophet), with a message.

(V.11-12) You've got a punishment coming but you've got a choice of any one out of these three and that one will befall Israel, #1) Three years of famine, #2) three months to be destroyed before thine enemies, #3) "OR else three days the sword of the Lord, even the pestilence, in the land, and the angel of the Lord destroying throughout all the coasts of Israel."

David answered; "let me fall now into the hand of the Lord; for very great are his mercies: but let me not fall into the hand of man." (V.14) Seventy thousand men died. BUT: (V.15) Of course God was merciful and stopped the slaughter early. (Matt. 7:1-5) "Judge not, that ye be not judged." and the rest of it is about beholding the mote in thy brother's eye, but not considering the beam in your own eye. (John 7:21-24) (V.24) "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment."

We sat in silence for a while. "Jim, I reckon God is merciful and man isn't." "I reckon." I was Bryan's sounding board while he thought. "Jim, somebody's gonna fall under judgment over this, aren't they?" "I reckon. Have you considered going to another denomination that don't believe like ours?" "Buddy, I can't."

"Think about this a minute. If you were the only Christian who ever witnessed to a person what would you bring on him if he refused to get saved and died that way?" He thought about it a while; "Judgment." "Who would get judged if you refused to go witness to him?" "I would." "Who would get judged if I locked you up and wouldn't let you go?" "You would."

"Bryan, don't answer this, just think about it. You say you are called to preach and I've got to accept that because God isn't telling me any different. BUT: If there is any relief in your heart that you can stay where you are and not preach and not get in trouble with the Lord for not preaching you are using this denomination for your excuse to avoid the suffering that comes with preaching and you'll be judged for disobedience.

AND: If God makes you stay in this denomination and they refuse to let you preach who's going to be judged for what you could have accomplished for the Lord?" I saw Bryan a few days ago. He's still in our denomination and he still hasn't preached.

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