Lay Aside Your Own Electronic Toy In Order To Help Your Child or Grandchild Avoid Becoming an Electronic Junky

He sits slouched against the sofa, entranced by the action occurring on the screen of the hand-held electronic device.  Occasionally, he will pop the screen with a thumb or slide a finger along the surface to scroll for more choices.  He can sit and do this for hours.

As for you, you are enjoying the quiet stillness.  It’s a break from the noise and chaos which you’ve experienced over the past few days. You silently express thanks for this wondrous, spellbinding device.  Its magic is providing you time to get some of your work done, or to do some of your own social media surfing. You’d like for things to stay this calm all the time.  But you know they can’t.

Why?

Because there is no way that mindlessly staring at an electronic screen for hours on end can be good for anyone.  Not someone your own age.  Not someone his parent’s age.  And it definitely can’t be good for your 8-year-old grandson. Common sense tells you this fact. It doesn’t take a scientific study to prove the dangers of becoming an electronic junky or video zombie. In fact, you are battling your own junky-like tendencies.

But, oh, it is so peaceful and quiet.

You know that to tell him to put away the device means encouraging him to release all that pent-up energy.  It will come forth in the form of running, jumping, throwing, hitting, or kicking.  The objects utilized may be balls, cards, solo cups, toy cars, or furniture.  He will do his best to restrain himself and to play within the bounds which you have set, but to do so will prove nearly impossible.

You know that it is up to you as the adult to help him channel the energy in a proper direction.  You will try to help play in the house, but after a couple of near catastrophes, you know that he will need to be sent outside.

It’s hot out there.  There are no other boys around with which to play.  His personality does not allow him to play by himself for a very long period of time.  So you know that you will have to be his playmate.

But it’s hot out there. And he will not want to simply stand to play catch.  He will want to move.  He’ll want to kick the ball. He’ll want to perform trick throws and catches. He’ll want to hit a ball as far as he can.

So before you tell him to put away the device, you spend quite a bit of time trying to think of activities which will require less energy output; fishing, building a bird house, shooting his BB gun.  These activities work well, but they don’t last very long; an hour, 2 hours, maybe three; and then it’s back to the drawing board.

The next few hours sure would be easier on you if you didn’t care whether or not that little boy turned into a video zombie.

But you do care, because his mind and life are too valuable to be sacrificed to such trivial pursuits.

So you set aside your own electronic toy, and invitingly utter, “Let’s go play ball.”

At least that’s what I hope you do on a regular basis.  For your young son’s or grandson’s sake, as well as for your own sake.

“28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. 29 He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. 30 Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; 31 but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:28-31 ESV

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Letting Grandchildren Choose The Road Less Traveled Is Tough On A Grandpa

One of the great blessings of being a parent of adult children is their making you a grandparent. Another great blessing is being privileged to play a major role in the grandchildren’s upbringing due to their living nearby.

A grandpa wants to be there to protect them and provide for their every need. I’ve often said concerning our youngest granddaughter, “She may get hurt; and she inevitably will get hurt; but it’s not going to happen on Pa’s watch.”  So, I follow her everywhere she goes. If she grunts and points, the indicated item is placed within reach.

Deep down, I know I can never keep my assertion. I know that my hovering does more harm than good because it hinders her coordination and skill development.  I know that granting her every grunted whelm will slow her vocabulary development.  But isn’t that what grandpas are for?

Grandchildren are so special.  But like the children we raised when we were but youths ourselves, they must grow physically, mentally, socially, emotionally, and spiritually. (Luke 2:52). To do that, they must eventually make their own decisions.  They must also learn to live with the consequences of those decisions. They must learn to express themselves so that they can communicate their joy or sorrow for making those decisions.

The above picture shows my granddaughter wandering off on her own. As she started walking away from me down the gravel road, I couldn’t help but think of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken.  Especially, the last three lines.

“Two roads diverged in the wood, and I-
 I took the one less traveled by,
   And that has made all the difference.”

 

Letting her grow up is going to be difficult. But as she and all our grandchildren travel life’s inevitable roadway, I hope they take the road less traveled.  I hope that they are leaders and not followers.  I hope that they accept life’s challenges with courage and determination.  I hope that whatever their chosen vocation, they elect to serve with compassion and kindness.

 

But foremost, I hope they will do all these things because they will have chosen to follow the most important less-traveled pathway. The one described by Jesus.

 

“13 Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matthew 7:13-14) ESV

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Understanding the Relationship of the Background to the Primary Subject Matter Can Often Be the Key to Appreciating the Beauty of the Whole Painting

Our 10-year-old granddaughter sketched the drawing on the left of the picture located above.  When I first saw it, my wife asked if I recognized the homestead.  I mentally tried to identify the fence, the house, and the hillside, but came up with nothing. My wife then told me that it was a sketch of the painting printed on the drink coaster sitting by my computer.

I looked at the coaster (located on the right in the photo above), but I still didn’t see the homestead.  I saw flowers and apples, and I thought, “That’s not what our granddaughter used as a model.”  But then I looked deeper, and I saw the landscape in the background of the print.

Our granddaughter had chosen to bypass the beautiful flowers and delicious looking apples which standout at the forefront of the print.  She chose to highlight its backdrop; that which was intended to be an accessory for the focal points.

Why did she do so?

Did the landscape provide more of a challenge for her skills? Or did she choose it because it was easier for her to draw? Does she have more of an interest in landscapes than still-life? Does she have a unique ability for noticing and focusing upon the background of the scenes around her, more so than the elements at the forefront of the scenes?

I didn’t ask her because I doubt that she understands for sure why she chose to highlight the accessory rather than the intended subject. I just hope that she continues to do so because it is a trait that we all need to develop, especially when we deal with people.

We need the ability to look beyond the superficial façade which others readily display; whether the disguise be attractive or repulsive.  We need to be able to see the true beauty that lies deep within them. Or in some cases, we need to be able to see the turmoil that troubles them.

When we possess that skill, then we will come nearer being able to love them and to help others see their complete picture as well.

Understanding the relationship of the background to the primary subject matter can often be the key to appreciating the beauty of the whole painting.

“36 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and took his place at the table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.” 41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven–for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 7:36-48) ESV

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It’s Hard to See a Person as a Person until You Have Met Them in Person.

Ever since my childhood, I’ve seen the pictures of thousands of people in other countries. The photographs of these people have been projected onto a screen at the front of the auditorium of our church building. In giving reports about their works, various missionaries have named many of the people in the photographs. They have given personal information about them, telling family ties or descriptions of how the individuals came to know Christ. By doing this, the missionaries have tried to help us to identify with and appreciate the people which we could only know through those slides projected on a screen. They wanted us to view the populace of a foreign land as being individual human beings, each having an eternal soul that is lost without the Savior.

But each time the presentation was completed, to me, those people in the photographs were just someone, somewhere in a distant land.  The foreign names which the missionaries called out went straight through my mind without even scratching the surface.  The personal information was stored in file 13 of my mind and carried out with all the other information which I found useless.

But then I began to personally visit some of those lands.  And I began to meet some of those people. I shook their hands and reciprocated their hugs. I looked them in the eyes.

And I could finally feel the love and concern that the missionaries had been trying to instill through all of those reports.  I could love the “foreigner” as a brother or sister.  I could value the stranger as a fellow human being in desperate need of a savior.

It’s hard to see a person as a person until you’ve met them in person.  But once you have felt their skin against yours, or you’ve allowed them to look deeply into your eyes, there’s no getting that person out of your mind.

“14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. 16 For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. 17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18) ESV

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The Day I Walked Out On A Woman Who Would Not Have Walked Out On Me

Granny lived in the old house across the road for about 35 years.  She moved there when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  She loved the simple life and would give away everything she had if she thought it would help someone.

Granny loved to help.  If dishes needed to be done, she did them.  If a garden needed to be weeded, she weeded it. If a little boy needed tutoring with homework, she tutored him. If a little girl needed snacks for a gaggle of friends, she spread the peanut butter and poured the Kool-Aid.

A multitude of memories and stories exist about this woman.  She was courageous enough to stomp a rattlesnake to death, physically strong enough to survive two major heart attacks and still garden and care for others, and spiritually strong enough to survive the loss of two husbands and to rear five well grounded children.

But there came a day when her strength began to fail; and her memory began to fail, and her courage began to waver. About a year before she died, Granny developed Alzheimer’s.  She did not want to go to a nursing home.  Her children did not want her to go.  So she continued to live in the little house across the road.

The family did their best to provide someone to stay with Granny 24/7. Sometimes it was a family member.  Sometimes it was a hired caregiver.  But somebody was usually there with her every minute of the day.

As the disease progressed, so did Granny’s fears. I suppose she comprehended that she was losing her ability to care for herself and becoming disabled in any capacity frightens even the most courageous.

One morning, as I was completing my morning milking and feeding chores, I heard Granny yelling my name.  She was standing on her front porch.  As I crossed the road to see what she needed, she went back into the house.  I found her curled up in her bed.  She said that there was no one there, (The night caregiver had gone home, and it was going to be about an hour before one of the family members could arrive.), and that she felt sick (a ploy she was learning to use to for manipulation purposes).  She asked if I could stay with her till someone arrived.

I knew the sick part was a ploy, but she looked so feeble and helpless laying curled in the fetal position in her bed.  She was really just asking for help because she was afraid to be alone. I thought about staying.

But I had chores to do; bottle calves to feed; hay to put out; the milkers to wash and the barn to clean; plus some unique farming activities that I had planned.  In my mind, all this had to be done by a certain time.  I could not be late.

So I told Granny that I would keep an eye on her and that I would not leave the farm until I knew someone had arrived to stay with her.  I told her that if I completed my chores before anyone arrived, I would come sit with her until everything worked out.

And I left her curled up in the bed.

Everything did work out that day. The family member arrived as planned. Granny was not sick. And I got my work done.

But you know, I can’t remember any details about  the things that were so pressing that day.  I know that I did finish my work on time, but that had no bearing whatsoever on the success or failure of the farm.

What I do remember is that I walked out on a frightened little old woman whom I loved; a woman who would not have walked out on me.

Each time that particular memory flashes through my mind, I wish that I had taken the time to sit with my Granny for that hour.  It may not have changed anything about her health or her life, but it would have changed several hundred moments of mine.

Time cannot be relived.  Use it wisely while it is yours to use.  You will thank yourself many times over.

“15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:15-16) ESV

“12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:12-14)ESV

 

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A True Appraisal of Property Cannot Be Influenced by Family History or Sentimental Journeys. But Sometimes Family History and Sentimental Journeys are the Only Appreciable Value of a Property.

Jesse Stuart’s short story, “This Farm for Sale”, tells the tale of a tired old farmer who decides to unload his acreage and move his family to town. The landowner hires a real estate broker to advertise his homestead in the local paper.  The agent visits the farm and then publishes a beautiful description of the land.  He details the warmth and nostalgic feel of the house, the history and usefulness of the barn, the life-giving beauty of the creek that winds through the bottom land, and the bountiful resources found in the farm’s orchard and berry thickets.

The story concludes with the old farmer reading the outsider’s glowing appraisal of his farm, and his deciding that it would be foolish to sell such a valuable treasure.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve thought quite a bit about that story.  I’ve thought about how sometimes outsiders can see a value in a specific aspect of our life which we ourselves cannot realize.  Perhaps we have become so determined in a decision that we cannot truly assess the situation.

But notice that I said sometimes.

Sometimes, it’s just the opposite.  Sometimes an outsider’s sole purpose is to give an objective appraisal of the actual value of one of our possessions. To do his job, he cannot be concerned about family history or walking down sentimental pathways.  He is simply concerned with facts, and the current condition of the object.  Not what was or what may be in the future, but what is.

Several years ago, as a part of the process of obtaining a refinance loan, I had to hire a certified appraiser to assess the farm.

The appraiser noted the following on his assessment (paraphrased): “Located on the farm are a small house, an old tobacco barn, and a small operational dairy facility.  Due to their size, age, and condition, and due to the current farm economy, none of these permanent structures adds to the value of the farm.”

This young man did his job professionally and accurately. His job was to determine a value for a piece of property based upon expert opinions and the opinions expressed by community members through their recent bidding and purchasing of similar pieces of property. He was correct in saying, the house, tobacco barn, and dairy barn would appear useless to most buyers in our community.

However, value, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

The house was built for my grandparents (on my mom’s side) shortly after they married.  It was the place where a young love and family began to blossom.  My Granny (on my Dad’s side) lived in the house for 35+ years beginning with my early childhood.  Memories of her stories, habits, eccentricities, love, and care abound in that house.  Many a night was spent sitting at her feet and listening to her read “This Farm for Sale” and other short stories.

The tobacco barn was built by my grandfather in the 1940’s. No, it would not hold a crop of tobacco now. But the ground it stands on holds the blood, sweat, and tears of several generations of family members who learned the meaning of cooperation, perseverance, and communication.

The milk barn was built by Daddy and Mama in 1976.  At the time of the appraisal, that small dairy operation had and was providing a basic living for three generations. Through the years, it has provided the groundwork for Christian character to be instilled within all who have worked, played, visited, and written their names on the back wall.

Neither an appraiser, nor a buyer can appreciate the history of the three buildings.  Truth be known, the next generation of Waddells will never fully be able to grasp the buildings’ importance in the shaping of that generation’s character and integrity.  Only those who have sat at the feet of a loving grandmother as she read “A Penny’s Worth of Character” by Jessie Stuart; only those who have listened to their parents, aunts and uncles, and other close friends laugh and enjoy each other’s company as they passed sticks of tobacco from one to the other while sweat poured from their skin; only those who have trekked to the barn in the dark in order to milk cows or feed calves before heading to school, can really understand why size, age, and condition are not always a true indicator of value.

As I said, I have been thinking quite a bit lately about that fictional story and that factual real estate appraisal.

I am selling a portion of the family farm; the section on which the small house sits.  Although the house is still structurally sound, and although it is filled with fond memories, in the eyes of the typical buyer, the house adds little or no value to the land.  It is outdated and unsafe for the average American family with all its electrical and plumbing needs.

But I am not selling the land to an average American family.  I am selling it to an Amish couple.  And they will find value in the house; for they do not have the need for plumbing or electricity.

It saddens me to see that portion of our heritage leave the family.  I have no doubt that all of us will grieve when it changes hands. But I am glad to know that someone else will be able use the land to begin filling their own treasure chest with valuable memories.

1 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. 
2 It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep. 
3 Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. 
4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. 
5 Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate. (Psalm 127:1-5)ESV

 

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It Was Almost as Painful as Pulling a Tooth!

Last Saturday night, I spent the entire night nursing a painful tooth.  Over the past 6 months, an occasional dull ache would shoot through the tooth when a piece of food would get caught the wrong way, but the discomfort was usually momentary.  This time, a small grain of cornmeal sent the tooth over the edge, and I spent all night swishing cool water around my mouth, trying to ease the pain.

On Sunday, a cousin recommended the use of clove oil as a home remedy to relieve the discomfort.  My wife located a local essential oils dealer and bought a bottle of the extract. She diluted the clove oil with coconut oil. A topical application of the solution worked wonders. I hoped that the oil would ease the pain long enough for the tooth to quit hurting on its own, but deep down, I knew that it was just a relief and not a cure. On Monday morning, I could tell that the problem still existed and that I would need to make an emergency trip to the dentist.

The dentist examined my tooth and determined that either the nerve was dying or the enamel had cracked. The two options of treatment were either a root canal -which would save the tooth, but may or may not ease the pain – or extraction.  I opted for extraction.

In the past, due to my dentist’s caring techniques and my mouth’s positive reaction to Novocain, an extraction has been a relatively painless procedure.  But this time was different.

Three rounds of shots finally numbed both the inside and outside of my gums, but the tooth was still just as sensitive as it was at the beginning.  A fourth round of strategically placed injections proved futile.  The dentist then implemented the last option available.  He drilled away the inside of the tooth until he reached the nerve.  He injected the painkiller directly into that nerve.  That’s when my feet came off the chair a couple of times. But the procedure worked.  The tooth deadened, and the molar was removed. I am now pain free.

“If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29,30) ESV

These words are the words of Jesus.  With them, he illustrates the seriousness of sin and the importance of ridding ourselves of sin. He doesn’t mince words. His analogy is a symbolic illustration, but it is pointed.  He describes a situation where something very important to a person (his right eye or right hand) has begun to cause him to sin.  He symbolically insists that a painful removal of that portion of the body is preferred above eternal condemnation.

Occasionally in our lives, we will discover that something precious to us has become a source of sin for us.  It may be a family tradition, a hobby, a possession, a relationship, or one of any number of things.  That which has become sin may not have been such at the beginning.  It may actually have been beneficial.  But due to an increasing obsession, a consuming infatuation, or an obstinate insistence on continuing in a hindering tradition, the object of our love has become sin to us.  And according to Jesus, we must be willing to remove it.

But we don’t like that mandate.

We really want to treat the sin like I treated my tooth. We search for home remedies to help us ease the pain of guilt and remorse.  When we realize that those therapies are only providing temporary relief, we go to trained professionals for advice.  We hope that the professionals will tell us that we can keep the object in our life.  Some do so.  They try to help us keep the sinful practice in our life by teaching us ways of becoming numb to the guilt and shame. And though these therapies may provide a degree of temporary relief, the source of the pain remains.

As with my tooth, so it is with sin. The cure was extraction. The procedure proved to be painful, but well worth it.

Jesus taught that removing sin from our lives will be painful, but the eternal results are worth far more than the momentary discomfort.

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Singing to Praise Our Creator When We Are Young May Be The Key To Remembering Him When We Are Old

Each month, when we conduct a devotional at the local nursing home, one of my favorite things to do is to watch the residents as they sing. None of them have a hymnal in front of them, but they can still remember every word of the songs. Even those who struggle to carry on a conversation can still mouth the words of those beautiful hymns which were impressed upon their memories during the earlier parts of their lives.

Several years ago, we had a close friend and christian sister who developed Alzheimer’s. Her loving husband did not want her to be placed in a nursing home, so he cared for her at their home. Before she died, she got to a point that she did not know who or where she was. She no longer knew her husband.

Each Sunday morning, the man would dress his wife, apply her makeup, and then bring her with him to church. They had faithfully attended church together for 60 or more years. During those last few weeks, the lady sat in stony silence, unable to even acknowledge the greetings of others.

But when the singing began, the silence ended. This precious lady had long been known for her beautiful alto voice. Through singing, the beloved sister praised her creator until the end.

I read an article today about why we worship God through singing. The author masterfully pointed up several biblical reasons as to why God wants us to sing. But personally, I believe that there is at least one more besides those he enumerated.

If we praise God regularly and often in song while our minds are young and impressionable, then we will remember him when our minds become old and forgetful. There may come a time when we cannot remember our own name, but through singing we may always remember His.

17 I will give to the LORD the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the LORD, the Most High.” (Psalm 7:17) ESV

4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.” (Psalm 30:4) KJV

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Simplicity Is the Average Person’s Best Friend

“I have read the conditions of the above contract and I accept and agree to all the stipulations therein.”

This statement is generally found at the bottom of the page of a contract or permission form.  The agent with whom we are transacting will summarize the content of the contract and then dutifully encourage us to read the entire document before we sign it.

But what do we usually do? Jump to the line at the bottom, check the “I accept” box, and then scribble our name on the provided line.

Why do we do this?  Because most of the time, deciphering the complexity of the document requires a well trained lawyer.  We may begin reading it, but by the end of the first paragraph we have become so confused that we reason, “Thousands of other people have signed it.  It must not contain anything too outrageous.  It must be completely legal, otherwise a legitimate company would not be allowed to make you sign it.  I’ll just take my chances.”

Those seeking authority over other people regularly use complexity and confusion to manipulate the ones over which they hope to exercise power. They use complex and confusing language to coax their audience into voluntarily surrendering more of themselves than they normally would do. In other words, the more complicated an authority figure can draft and legislate a process or contract, the more confused the average person becomes in trying to follow the rules of the contract. Thus the more likely the average person will simply say, “I don’t understand any of this. Just tell me what I owe you and I will pay it; just tell me what I need to do, and I will do it. You must be trustworthy, otherwise you would not be in a position to ask me to accept your offer. So, here is my signature. I trust you not to abuse me.”

This is especially true when the authoritative figure continually hides his own self-serving agenda by saying, “I’m here only to serve you. I work for you. Everything I’m doing is to help you better yourself.”

This principle can be observed in government, business, finance, medicine, science, education, sales . . .and in religion.

Simplicity is the average person’s best friend, but it is the enemy of those who desire to authoritatively manipulate others.

We need to remember that God intended for all mankind to be able to understand and accept the gospel of Jesus.  When a church’s interpretation and explanation of the Bible becomes so complex that only a select few are capable of understanding and explaining it, then chances are the interpretation is bogus.

3 But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) NKJV

8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) ESV

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