Thursday, March 27, 2014

Interesting Light

Make what you write interesting:

Headlights, flashlights, light bulbs, they all have one thing in common—they all give out light. Nothing particularly interesting to look at. Just light.  Rainbows, prisms, water mist also have something in common—they take white light and make it interesting to look at.

Just giving the facts without making it interesting is just like the bulbs of light.  But add intrigue, add humor, add suspense and you've captivated your audience with a rainbow of ideas.  Do you have trouble determining how to do that? Consider the current TV programs on both the Discovery channel and History channel. Especially if you've ever watched the history channel didn't you find yourself thinking, “Man, I wish history were told to me in such an interesting way when I was in school.”  Try watching some of those episodes. Note also how true-life murder mystery shows like Cold Case Files, Cops and Dominic Dunn’s Privilege and Power tell compelling stories that would have probably been passed up in the newspaper. They work because they appeal to the “human experience,” emotions and motivations that, even if our personal values differ, we can understand.

Try this exercise. Pick up a stone or rock. Describe it but do not say merely “it is a rock.” Look at it all the way around. Describe its weight, the feel of its surface, how fragile is it? What color is it? Next, examine the rock in a different light. Hold it above you, in front of you, and below the horizon of your sight. Finally, find one or two specific characteristics of the rock and describe them. Now, fabricate a story about the rock--how did it get to where you found it? What was its journey? Was it a "pet rock" that got lost? How many civilizations has it seen? 

With the above exercise, you will begin to see the value of character development. In a figurative sense, stand next to person you are writing about. Talk to them. Imagine how they would respond to you, their surroundingsand events in their live.

In all the animations listed below, what impressed me besides the graphics was the character development, plot/story-line and the simple, basic "truths" common to humans. As a human I could relate to the characters.

Over the Hedge
A group of brush animals comes out of hibernation only to discover that their foraging area has been all but decimated by a large new housing tract. There is insufficient area to find enough precious nuts, roots and bark to prepare for their needs in the next hibernation cycle. Along comes a raccoon with a hidden, personal agenda. (He had tried to steal a slumbering bear's stash and the bear caught him. The bear "promised" him if he (the raccoon) didn't replace all the stolen goods by a certain date, the bear would kill the raccoon.) Now, the raccoon is under pressure and, under the guise of showing the foraging animals how good human food can be, proceeds to endanger and alienate all of them. The raccoon soon learns what it means to belong to a "family" and becomes a real help.

Open Season
A pet bear is quite content to be "kept" by its owner, a female Forest Ranger. That is, until he meets a free-spirited buck who entices him to leave home for some wild romping in a candy store. Both the bear and the dear end up being sedated and lifted by helicopter to a remote forest area. The bear wants to go home but the buck wants freedom. The bear keeps rejecting the bucks ideas about how grand forest living is and just keeps going home. However, just when he seems closest to finding his goal, he realizes that where he belongs is indeed in the forest.

Toy Story
Jealous rivalry rages between an old toy and a new one. They finally become partners willing to share the affections of their owner, but only after the newer toy comes to his own personal revelation that he is not the real Buz Lightyear, but a mere toy.

Monsters, Inc.
Although a monster takes pride in his work and is top performer, he sees his job as just something he does, without realizing the dire consequences it has on children. However a toddler adopts him because she thinks he is a cuddly pet. Since being touched by a child or any article of clothing means needing to be decontaminated and quarantined, he is horror-struck when he discovers this small girl clinging to his back. Eventually he takes a liking to her and nicknames her "Boo." Now he has to protect her from the #2 goal-driven coworker who wants to torture the child in order to extract screams, which is how they power their city. After much pathos, he gets Boo safely back home.

A final thought: In the game of charades, participants attempt to describe something without words. They use exaggerated gestures and other clues. Play this game with yourself or even someone else when developing a part of your story that seems to lack depth, breadth or other tangible characteristics that your audience can relate to.


Story Sketching

This is probably an adjunct to storyboards. In much the same way as an artist creates a pencil sketch of a scene to capture some general layout and then, using his paints to capture details, add fullness and unique character, in the same way writers can capture story sketches and came back later to fill in the details.

Here are the sketches: 

Write down as many as you can immediately think of:

  • Facial characteristics (cut on face, smile, beaming eyes, uni-brow, hair color)
  • Body characteristics (walk with limp, hunch-backed, )
  • Personality traits (speech accent or lisp/stutter, fluid speaker, bubbly, sullen/gloomy)
  • Good things that happen
  • Sad, discouraging things that happen
  • Tramatic things that happen
  • Enlightenments, Personal Growths

Make a list of the characters in the story. (You will come back later and write in some of their physical and personality traits. This may even develop during the writing of the story.)

How will you tell you the story? How will you reveal the characters? Besides acting as the narrator and saying that John was this, that or the other, you could also allow the audience (reader) to come to that conclusion by allowing the reader to observe how John reacts given a certain circumstance and setting. How do the characters interact with one another? How do they react to stimulae, both good and bad?

What are the consequences, outcomes, etc.? What are the events in character(s)' life (lives)? What is their "journey" through the storyline?

On a piece of paper, draw a line across the page. This is your timeline. Mark the events across the timeline. The timeline may only be an hour, a day, or may be longer like a week, month, year or decades.  Will your timeline span more than one book?

You have several vehicles open to you to reveal each characters traits. You can do it in the first person, wherein the character themself says "I like that" or, "this is my opinion." You can do it the 2nd person by having the narrator explain traits, "Her eyes always glazed over when..." Or you could have flashbacks, daydreams and such reveal things about a person. You can even do it in the 3rd person, so to speak, by having another character in the story speak about the first character, "Jane leaned over to Jim and whispered in a strained voice, 'I think our son is in love with Christine.'"

Deeper Look at the “Seven Questions”

Many have seen this list before. I expanded it to help me in my writing endeavors.

·         Creature
·         Person
·         Organization

·         Object
·         Reactive Action (What did you do next?)
·         Situation (What state was your mind in?) (What situation contributed to this?)
·         Preference, opinion (How would you like to see the data formatted?)
·         Relationships (What is the relationship of the columns of data?*)
·         Results expected

·         Location, Place
·         Perspective (Where are you coming from?) (more encompassing than Opinion)

·         Timing
·         Circumstance, Occasion
·         Opportunity
·         Appropriateness

·         Purpose
·         Importance (Impact)
·         Functionality
·         Desirability & Beneficial (Why would you want such a thing?)

·         Action:
o   Future: How will we do this? 
o   Present: How are you coming on that project?
o   Past: How was this done?
·         Affects / is useful to me

How Much
·         Quantitative

·         Qualitative

When a famous director was asked what was important to him, he said: “Three things: Location, Location, Location.”
  • Location 1: The “Set”
  • Location 2: Position of actors, props on the set.
  • Location 3:Position of camera relative to focal point.
Likewise, we can consider relative perspectives.

Sub-Index: Inspiration For Writers

A partial reproduction of the Main Index is shown below. This is presented as a quick reference for all writer/speaker articles appearing in my blog.

Inspiration For Writers
Whiteboards Homemade

The Main Elements

The Goal:
What goal or goals do you have for your story or speech? What are you main attractions (features, ideas) and various waypoints (other smaller points) you want to visit? Knowing these three beacons will help keep you focused. Writing them down will help you like a GPS, map and compass.
The Conclusion:
Depending on the type of piece you are writing, you may or may not be able to know exactly what conclusion will reveal itself. If it is a research paper, you may already know what you want your audience to conclude. In such cases, the Goal and the Conclusion are pretty much synonymous. If this is a story being told, you'll want to lead your audience to a "resolution." This doesn't need to be "happily ever after," but unless you are planning a sequel, leaving loose ends will only frustrate your audience. For other types of writing, especially speeches, I've heard it said "Tell them what you are going to say (the intro), then tell them (the body), finally tell them what you said (conclusion)." Truly, "repetition is the mother of retention." Finally, if this is some sort of "proof," (term paper or whatever), you will want the conclusion to cover a "lessons learned," which may actually be a good final chapter for a written piece of this nature. It helps your instructor see that you did or didn't actually get the point(s).
The Body:
The greater majority (body) of any journey is filled with the mundane--but that is not necessarily bad. Think about it: If the whole journey were filled with memorable high points, you'd be exhausted by the end of it. We may not want to admit it, but we are actually hoping that the trip goes without constant highs and lows. We want a steady, progressive trip that is punctuated by memorable moments. Take for example a plane flight. If each and every moment were filled with stimulating events, you'd want off of that plane pronto! What you are hoping for is a safe, uneventful journey. Maybe you'll meet some interesting character, maybe you'll watch a movie, maybe you'll see a beautiful sunset through the window. But getting your elbow whacked by the attendant's food cart, getting some kid screaming and crying the whole flight, experiencing constant turbulence, or have some crazy person try to cause problems, that's just not something any of us would want. The whole purpose of a journey is to provide cohesive, coherent passage of time and have us ready to expect and accept what will happen in various stages of the journey. We actually design ease and comfort into our journey, especially the older we get.
In my opinion, that should pretty much be the objective of the body of a written piece or speech. It moves the audience along a path of reason without jolting them with constant turbulence of unexpected ideas. While it doesn't need to be humdrum, it also doesn't need to be indulgently filled with gratuitous graphics or purposeless, in-your-face action. (While the younger audience may enjoy this as much as a wild ride at the amusement park, as we mature, I  have noticed we much prefer something that stimulates our minds and hearts, instead of only our eyes and adrenalin.)
Perhaps another "journey" is a treasure hunt, the first and simplest being an Easter Egg hunt. If a child found an egg with each and every step they took, very quickly the excitement of finding eggs would turn into boredom. And after their basket was quickly brimming over, they would feel it was all over way too soon. There really was no enjoyment of "discovery" in the journey. To enjoy discovery, you need periods where there is no discovery--where you are instead searching, pondering, evaluating. Those periods of searching, while mundane, make the journey of the garden search an interesting, fulfilling and rewarding experience. Real treasure hunters love recounting not only the "find," but also the struggles, the disappointments, the long periods of fruitless hard work. To the audience, it adds appreciation for the value of the find. (How interesting would it be if all we were told is, "I walked up and picked it up."? We naturally want to hear more details. Think back on times when someone you know has said, "Tell me all about it and don't leave anything out!" That is because they want to go through and relive with you not only the experience, but everything that lead up to it.)
So goes the body of a written document. It pieces the timeline of memorable events together by providing the scenic backdrop. It develops/reveals/explains the characters, and the story line. All of this provides the audience a sense of a fulfilling journey. Finally, after the audience has experienced the whole body of your thought, you need to remember that you were leading them to some point. Ensure that what you write in your body will end there.
The Introduction:
As always, I consider the introduction as the last step. It just seems to make the most sense to me. After you've written everything else (the goal, conclusion and body), you need to reflect on a way to introduce this journey to your audience so that they want to take the journey themselves. Whether this in the form of an author’s Foreword, or comprises the first few chapters, you need to set the scene.
This article is part of a series. Please scroll through the Index to "Inspiration For Writers."


So do I really use these methods? Absolutely. In writing this series I wrote the intro with no particular end in mind. I had a number of ideas and I just wanted to catch as much of it as possible. In such cases, polishing is usually needed. (A first draft should never be your finished piece but in reality, all too often, time constraints, other obligations, and yes, even mere laziness make this happen.)
After that, I immediately saw the multiple waypoints I wanted to visit, so I wrote those down as something to be elaborated on later.Each of those became beacons shining in my mind. So rather than the waypoints being "endings," they instead were goals, main attractions to be visited. I could have used a mindmap to quickly identify all the activities (discussion points) at each waypoint, but I didn't.
For this series, the compass and GPS came into play during the subsequent refinements to the first draft. (I basically threw mud on a wall to see what stuck, and then smoothed it out to make it an even spread.) Finally, reflecting back on allowing for an alternate ending, that indeed happened in this series. Originally I intended to end with the hiker's compass. But as I concluded that section, I realized that adding this section would help you to appreciate that rigid rules only restrict your creative journey. Like an artist, learn to express yourself freely but use the known rules of paint blends and application methods to demonstrate command of the art.
Our Canvass -- Their Hearts
We writers have a wonderful canvass we paint on. We actually have three different canvasses: the ear, the mind and the heart of our audience (listeners and readers). If what a speaker or writer says catches a listener's ear, it may become intriguing to the listener's mind. If the mind mulls it around and finds something useful the listener can incorporate into his own life, it then reaches the listener's heart. When it reaches the heart of your audience, it will become a living Mona Lisa in their life.
This article is part of a series. Please scroll through the Index to "Inspiration For Writers."

Hiker's Compass

Besides a compass, many modern hikers may use a GPS device specifically designed to show terrain. Bottom line, the hiker is trying to get his bearings and set a course. A writer needs to get his bearings and course 1) at the outset of his journey, 2) any time he needs to make course correction (he got too far off-subject), or 3) he is just plain lost (not knowing how to proceed). But what are his compass and GPS tools?
Reflect, Review, Project: At the outset of his journey he needs to reflect on the general direction he wants to take--his goal(s) and waypoints. It is a good idea to write down a synopsis of the project--and perhap, in retrospect, this is really what I intended by recommending knowing the ending of your project in my original Smart Writers article. When he gets too far off course, he will want to review his synopsis and revise his heading (direction). When he gets lost or discovers an expected path, he will use all three tools. He should reflect on what he wanted to accomplish initially, review what had already been accomplished, make whatever course changes will help him to the next step (changing up the ending of a chapter so that it better leads into the next; adding another chapter, etc.), and then briefly project (outline) what his next path will be.
This article is part of a series. Please scroll through the Index to "Inspiration For Writers."

Multiple Waypoints

So you have a story you want to tell, whether verbally or in written form. Likely there will be several points of interest you want to highlight. Organizationally, multiple waypoints may take on the form of multiple chapters. Psychologically, the characters and events in your story may also be various waypoints. For example, say you are writing an autobiography. Every person that stepped in and out of your life can be a waypoint to visit in that story. Likewise, every memorable event, big and small, can be waypoints you want to recount. But merely saying, “I did this, and then I did that, and then…” would bore your audience to sleep. The human experience includes emotions, colors, surroundings, lessons learned and so much more.
Once you identify your waypoints, I recommend using sticky notes and a large, wall that will allow you to examine not only the waypoints, but everything related to it--how you felt about it, what you experienced, who you experienced it with, what you gained or lost in the experience.
What if you are tasked to create some term paper? (Yes, I know, boooooring! But it doesn't have to be that way.) Here is where mind maps may be useful (and make the journey invigorating and rewarding). In the center will be the assigned topic. Nearest the center, surrounding the assignment, will be all the main supporting points (major attractions and/or waypoints) you want to develop. If the instructor provided his own set of sub-points he wanted included, fine. Put those as closest around the main and then build your presentation off of those. Using this method will keep the development of your paper concise, focused, and centered. If you have a smartphone (or even a digital camera), take intermittent snapshots of your wall and put them as files on your computer. When you finally get to the point of writing your paper, you’ll have the mind map as ready-reference. (Especially if you are in a dorm environment, you’ll want to do this before stepping out. You know how guys will mess with your head and your sticky notes!)
As previously mentioned, the waypoints will become your beacons, keeping your development on course. They are not necessarily “endings” (as I originally indicated in my Smart Writers article), rather they are major points of interest to be elaborated.

(Contextually, I flop back and forth using the terms major attractions and waypoints. Sometimes I intend them to mean the same thing, sometimes I intend waypoints to refer to minor stops along the journey of what you are writing--things you want & need to include, but not necessarily your main points of interest.)
This article is part of a series. Please scroll through the Index to "Inspiration For Writers."

Adventurous--No Particular Destination

This happened to me when I was a newly licensed teen driver. I just got on the freeway and took off in a direction I’d never been before. Two hours later, it was around 11pm, I had no idea where I was, and my car was running on fumes. This was decades before cell phones were common. Somehow, I found a police station in some small, heaven-only-knows town and called my dad. I was completely off any map that he had available (and he had several Thomas Brothers map books). The police were kind enough to tell me the general direction but offered no help in getting gas. I was very anxious, but finally made it home around 1am.
Just as some adventurous person might decide to just jump in the car and start driving, At times writers may work on various parts of their written pieces that way. “Inspiration” strikes them and they just start writing. Some have even described it as the piece taking on a “life of its own,” where the writer feels as if they are merely along for the ride, an observer. I understand how this happens, I too have started writing short stories this way. The problem is that many of those stories ended in up in the trash because I soon faltered when I worked myself into a corner, felt the creative juices try up, or just lost interest and didn't know how to proceed.
Then again those that are actually writing "stories" may have no idea where they actually want to end it. Saying “My story will end when I kill of the bad guy,” may be the initial goal. But as you continue writing you realize there is so much more of this story to tell. Maybe you want to do a flashback, examining why the bad guy was the way he was--but first you want to kill him off. I've seen some TV shows that use this method to captivate their audience--First they relate an event, then they backtrack and explain how everything built up to that event. I've modeled speeches after this method and the audience afterwards expressed great appreciation for it.

I've also seen inexperienced high school and college students become so overwhelmed with the data they've collected, that instead of trying to organize it first, they make a blind stab at shoving it all into a "package" and call it "done."
But I would never suggest that a writer disregard his/her creative juices. Go ahead and write to your heart’s content. If, as I previously mentioned, everything just flows out of your brain, through your pen and onto your paper (or from brain to computer keyboard) and you actually finish the whole trip that way--bravo! My hat is off to you. You are a rare breed and an accomplished traveler that knows how to get around on the landscape of your story. On the other hand, IF you do get lost for what should follow, try the methods recommended in this series--for example, the Hiker's Compass.
This article is part of a series. Please scroll through the Index to "Inspiration For Writers."

Different Strokes For Different Folks

Let's start off by pointing out an obvious hole in the Smart Writers article: It was a generalization, an over simplification that “starting your project by first knowing your ending point and using that as a beacon to navigate to,” would be the panacea for all writer’s block and aid the writer in succinctly conveying their message. The fact is, if we truly wanted to draw on a journey as our metaphor, we need to more closely examine that metaphor. Let's do that.
On a long journey (which speeches and written pieces can feel like to the author), having multiple waypoints is very normal. A driver needs to refuel, both himself & his vehicle. A driver may need to rest, whether it be at a roadside rest stop for a brief refresh, or a motel for the evening. Vacationers may also want to include various sight seeing locations and may indeed have multiple vacation spots in mind. In all these cases it is not merely driving to a single destination. Each of these stops would also be something that would be planned in advance.
Another very real scenario is the person who just jumps in his car having no particular destination in mind--they are just going to drive wherever their heart takes them. This can be exciting, refreshing, liberating, and mentally/visually stimulating. It can also be dangerous, especially for the inexperienced. They may end up "in the middle of nowhere," having no indication of where they are or how to get back to civilization. (I’ve “been there, done that.”)
This happens to writers when they find they've worked themselves into a corner and are unsure how to get out. In this scenario perhaps a hiker is a better metaphor. The reason is what an experienced hiker carries--this is our clue how to get out of our dilemma. They carry a compass. So where roads and other markers fail a hiker, the compass provides some guidance. Say for example the hiker is in the woods near the western shore. Obviously they must be east of the ocean because if they were west, they would be standing on the ocean. So the hiker would set his general course westward until he reached the ocean. From there, the coastal roads can be followed. (I am in California where highway 1 pretty much runs the length of the state.) The subsequent installments to this series will explain how literal journeys mentioned above can be applied to writing.

This article is part of a series. Please scroll through the Index to "Inspiration For Writers."

Basis For Further Reflection

In concluding my original Smart Writers article, I mentioned that it itself was only an overview, an introduction to something that needed to be expanded. I said that a closer examination of developing the conclusion, then the body, and finally the introduction would be something I would work on later. However, after reflecting on it for the past several months, I decided to take a different avenue before looking at those pieces. At the end of that article, I linked to another blog article I wrote that examines storyboarding. There is yet another discipline that can be a tool in quickly fleshing out a subject, whether it be a speech or a report or a novel--mind mapping. Mind mapping is to a bullet-point list what a plotted course on a map is to written directions. The advantage in both cases is that the former provides instant visualization of the relationships to the main subject.

Recently, Google Docs (“Drive”) added a new plug-in feature that allows its users to expand the functionality of docs. The plug-in that immediately caught my eye was MindMeister--an app that turns a bulleted list into a mind map. (To get the free add-on, open a word document in Google Docs; click on “Add-ons” from the menu bar; then choose “Get add-ons….” Type “mind” in the search box and hit Enter, then select and proceed with the install.)
But I have already gotten way ahead of myself. First, I need to state that my Smart Writers article needs some refining. I knew that when I posted it but I also knew it was still a good article. This was confirmed when I received a note from a graduate student expressing appreciation & stating he wished he had read the article before he found himself struggling through all the papers he had to write. There have also been a couple other appreciative expressions from business people.
To keep this expanded discussion in mentally-digestible, bite-sized pieces, I decided to make this article into a series. In that way you, the reader, can have a sense of accomplishment & closure in completing each segment & have an instant mental bookmark as to where to pick up next.

This article is part of a series. Please scroll through the Index to "Inspiration For Writers."

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

How Is Satan God of This World?

Both Jesus and Paul (an educated man and author of several letters to early Christians) spoke of someone other than our Creator, our Father--Jehovah, as being “the ruler of the world” and the “god of this system of things.” In speaking to disbelieving leaders of his nation, Jesus identified this one as being the Devil.

For some, this is a very hard concept to wrap their minds around. Did God (Jehovah) give up on mankind? Did he give up his authority, rulership or interest over the earth and mankind? The answer is no. God still very much considers the earth as his creation, his possession, and his dominion. How then, can anyone but Jehovah be “the ruler of the world”? The answer lies in understanding that the aforementioned scriptures define “world” and “system of things” as referring to the masses alienated from God because of their own choice to reject not only his rulership, but his direction and guidance regarding what is proper both in our relationship with him and with others.

Jesus identified Satan the Devil as being a father to anyone who is disobedient in a manner like Satan. Although in context Jesus was talking to religious leaders who were blatant liars and having a murderous heart, he made a very sobering claim that affects all people--He said that if we are not actively supporting his interests, he considers it the same as working against his interests. Satan is god to all such ones because, like himself, they follow a course of choosing an independent course in life--in complete disregard of the fact that they owe their very lives to their creator. How can we individually ensure we are not among those type of people? That is beyond the scope of this article. In the meantime, here is more information explaining how Jehovah has not given up his authority over the earth and mankind.

Mosaic Law-Why?

Why did Jehovah institute a formal worship (the Mosaic Law) of himself after Israel exited Egypt? When God put Adam on earth, obedience was all that was asked. Although the details of the conversations in the Garden are not recounted, they seem to be more of a father/son relationship. Then, when Jesus came to earth, he boiled down the formalistic worship into a mere two concise details recorded at Matthew 22:36-40. So why the formal, ritual-filled worship?

One possible explanation may be that the post-exilic Israelites had been deeply influenced by religious practices that existed in Egypt. Animal and sex worship had become common practice. To remove that mindset and merely have a simple father-son relationship with the creator would have left a void that many would have been inclined to fill with pagan worship rituals. So Jehovah gave them a precisely defined practice that would not only answer the question of what God considered acceptable but also provide insight into the prophecies leading to the greater fulfillment (Christ's sacrificial death and the restoration of earth into God's son-ship). Also not to be forgotten is that Jehovah wanted to make sure the Israelites never forgot how he saved them from the clutches of Egypt. (Exodus 13:14-16; 31:13)

But if God never really wanted ritual, why are there passages indicating that even the angels engage in a sort of ritual worship? Although the angels are pictured in some scriptures as "worshipping" and calling out ‘holy is Jehovah,’ those visions were given to mankind to help us appreciate the total devotion and uncompromising loyalty those angels have toward God. Taking the scriptures as a whole, the overwhelming evidence is that God would much prefer to have a close, endearing relationship with us as his children rather than a distant and cold, authoritarian relationship. God is not so self-centered in that he enjoys having his creation call out random praises to him just because he is God.

So rather than the angels mindlessly engaging in formalistic rituals, what is closer to reality is what some accounts help us appreciate about the natural expressions we humans have made and can make. For example the spontaneous expression of praise to God after the Egyptian pursuers were destroyed in the Red Sea while all Israel stood delivered and unharmed in the far shoreline. (Exodus 15:1-21) Or the prophetic account in Revelation 7:9,10 where those delivered through Armageddon are praising God. Likewise, even the angels are awestruck with Jehovah's creative abilities as shown at Job 38:7 (and surrounding verses). Yes, our amazement over Jehovah's power, coupled with his qualities of love (as from a father), wisdom, and uncompromisingly fair justice, are rightly to be acknowledged just as an artist's work is appreciated by others. (Psalms 8:3,4)

So the Mosiac Law helped to organize and standardize a form of worship that would demonstrate what spiritual purity entailed as well as act as a tutor leading to the Christ. However, once it accomplished its purpose, and after it was fulfilled by Christ’s better covenant, we are helped to appreciate the beautiful way God cleverly, gently, and gradually educated mankind to the point of maturity. Someday, we will finally arrive back at the point that Adam started with.

Monday, March 3, 2014

What Is Entailed in "Believing On (or In) The Lord Jesus"?

Are you one that holds to the conclusion that merely believing in Jesus is enough? If so, how do understand the following words found in the Bible: “You believe that there is one God, do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder.” (James 2:19) Yes, more than mere mental acknowledgement of the Father's (and, in this case, Jesus') existence is needed. Still, you may want to cling to the one verse that says “believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” (Acts 16:31). Or perhaps you remember the famous one at John 3:16 which states: “everyone who believes in him will ... have eternal life.”

Although God is very merciful, he is also very astute (having or showing an ability to accurately assess situations or people). He knows the difference between those who have made a real effort to know and obey him and his son as opposed to “foxhole converts” and others that think merely “believing” is some sort of lucky charm or amulet that will protect them from any adverse judgment.

Why then do scriptures such as John 3:16 and Acts 16:31 merely indicate that believing is the summation of our responsibility? That is where research comes in. If you read the original Greek words that were used, you soon come to realize that there is so much deeper meaning in that word than our English language can render in a single word. (So why not use more than one word? The reason has to do with a long-held belief by translators that using more than “exact” wording would mean they were “adding to” the meaning. In actuality, they were withholding from the meaning and thus misleading readers into over-simplistic and wrong conclusions.)

More often now, translators are beginning to realize the importance of conveying the correct meaning by including the intent of the words used. Although there are still issues due to preconceived ideas, the efforts are helping people to finally understand the scriptures in their common, modern language.

Bottom line for this discussion, as noted by the quote from James, much more is needed than mere acknowledgment of God’s existence or even just going to a church once a week. We each are responsible for our own relationship with God. We cannot delegate it to a preacher, minister or priest. 

More information here.