Jesus told Nicodemus, "I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe (understand); how then will you believe (understand) if I speak of heavenly things?"(Jn.3: 12). Nicodemus was not just an ordinary person. His name stood for "a conqueror of people" and was known to Jews, Greeks and Romans. In addition he was a teacher of the Jewish law and a member of the elite or Pharisees. His party was similar to our Republicans, and his opposition the Sadducees was similar to our Democrats. The nation that once was the most unique on earth under Moses, Joshua and the Kings David and Salomon, was in the hands of Herod an Idumean and the Romans. Heaven no longer had a role in Judaism. Jesus had come to change it back and Nicodemus did not understand or believe that it was possible. How do we relate to Nicodemus and his religious and political world?
Jesus told Peter: "I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will lead you where you do not want to go" (Jn.21: 18).
World War II had deprived me of a basic education. I immigrated to Canada and met with a serious and life-long injury that necessitated a further education. Only one such place was available in Canada where an adult could go and study to qualify for college or university. It was The Christian Training Institute (CTI) in Edmonton Alberta, founded and managed by E.P. Wahl. He was a phenomenal man and his vision has been lost to us.
I was asked, "Is being smart the same as being wise?" Christians need to be "clever as serpents and harmless as doves"(Mt.10: 16). One of King David's choir members wrote these words, "See how your enemies plot, how your foes rear their heads. With cunning they conspire against your people; they plot against those you love" (Ps.83: 2-3). Job's friend, without being unaware, described the reason for deceitful craftiness. "Your sin promotes your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you" (Job 15: 5-6).
During our troubling times, we have another resurgence of a departure for heaven. Among Evangelical Christians it shall be similar to the ascension of Jesus. It is the belief that humans in some bodily form can ascend to heaven. Many Christians in North America place their trust in Paul who predicted the removal of Jesus' followers from the earth before the hour of chaos strikes the world (I Thes.4: 13-18). Paul, himself, did not see that day neither did we during the devastation in World War II. According to Jesus, his followers shall face worse times than we did before He shall intervene (Mt.24). With the future in doubt and evil on the rise, it is not surprising that there is renewed interest in the ascension.
Being human, we are all prone to be misguided. Salomon knew it when he wrote: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but the end leads to death" (Prov.14: 12). This is election time and we hear the charge "They are stealing our democracy." We should ask immediately, "Who is making the charge and what do they mean by 'our democracy?'" Where do these political bosses get the idea that it is their democracy when we never had one? By the way, there is none in the world. We are not even a "Constitutional Republic" any longer. In fact, we are governed by a political handful of individuals that have complete sway over us. Again and again, these individuals get us to vote for their candidates that protect their interests and not the people's. They are skillfully showing us that what they are doing is right for us, when it is not. They are not making the sacrifices, we are. Our youth is dying among strangers. We are all indebted to some financial institution. We are losing our homes. We are forced into expensive health programs. We are losing jobs to other countries. We borrow money to pay taxes. We cannot pray in public and when we complain, we are labeled as "bigots" and "racists." Where is our freedom?
It has been some time since I visited a Senior Departure Center. These are the places named differently; nevertheless, they are places where we seniors make our last earthly abode. Recently, my wife's sister's husband departed and we went to comfort the bereaved widow. It was a rather mixed feeling of melancholy and gladness. My wife's sister lives in a comfortable facility; yet, I had this eerie feeling of being on a train headed for "Never Land." I felt depressed and not prepared to take this final ride. I was thankful that I had more time to prepare myself for that last trip into the other world.
The other day, I heard a Christian clergy on the tube getting his people ready for a sudden and unexpected trip to heaven just prior to some terrible event. Earlier, politicians were expounding that their programs would create a utopian environment. Another group of politicians were bemoaning the fact that this nation was loosing her freedom and pre-eminence in the world. In the midst of what was, what is and what could be a commentator identified himself as a realist. He was a breath of fresh air. He reminded the others that one could not change a huge system like one changes clothes. Such massive changes without collateral end in catastrophic consequences. What has become of good and sound realism?
I wonder whether we are taking to heart the concept of demoralization. It is a technique used by powerful minorities and politicians to gain the advantage over the majority and their opponents. Small pieces of pie are generously handed out among the crowds that cause both, acceptance or rejection by confusion. In most instances people with good intentions get hung up on issues that disrupt unity. Particularly, a News Media can become obsessed with policies that hide the opposition's goals. I recall how I was lead to vote for a third party candidate that unseated a good man. Fortunately, his successor had the insight to change for the good and this nation prospered. That no longer is the case. Our present head of the Union has set forth enough diversity to demoralize several Unions. The voices that are warning us are no longer heard.