Murray and Carol 1976

Murray's Blog 2020

Occasional reflections on the Journey...

January 22, 2020

What do Old Testament scholarship and Near-Death Experiences have in common?

What can we know with certainty? Some will say, nothing, but that's not true. We may not know every detail but we can be certain of foundational truths.

In reflecting on Psalm 78:9 today I wondered whether the verse referred to Ephraim's retreat in battle or to their retreat from God's covenant. An internet search reveals details of scholars' debate regarding the Old Testament but little on which to build. In recent decades scholarship is taking place in silos of what seems minutia without consensus, even publicly acknowledging a descent into name-calling unworthy of |the art (link, page 212f). This may result from the frustration of having to accept limits to knowledge to be gained from archaeology interpreted different ways and variants based on presuppositions about dating textual sources. As one author put it, if we were as skeptical of everyone in society as we scholars are of one another's work, we would be unable to exist as a society.
Perhaps those of us who study the content of the Old Testament rather than questions of which verse was written by whom are better off. We can then ask, "What is the message of the OT as a whole, in its current form?" Few would deny the core message is included in Psalm 79: "Trust Yahweh, the creator of the universe and saviour of those who take refuge in him." The more important question is then, What is our response to the only one and true living God and how do we live it out?
This is a more fruitful approach preparing us for the question of trust and allegiance to his Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is fascinating to me also that while many parts of history may be difficult to reconstruct to the level of detail desired by scholars, there is an interesting new approach to the future of our relationship with the LORD and his Christ (Rev. 11:15). This flows from the ability to interview thousands who testify to ‘near death experiences' (NDE), testimonies which bring increasing clarity to reality beyond this life. Like interviewing multiple witnesses to a car accident or other tragedy, the composite picture brings events to greater clarity and certainty. One good place to start, if you've not read in the area, is John Burke, Imagine Heaven (Thomas Nelson).
This approach enables us to interview living witnesses rather than reject the witness of OT saints who have gone before. The fact is, these ever-clearer views of heaven, paradise and hell gained by interviews with those having NDEs confirm the images and testimony of scripture. This also makes "keeping the main thing the main thing"  far easier.
The goal of determining the "main thing" is of great value and applies both to study of the Bible and to conclusions drawn from interviews with those who have seen the future reality of heaven and hell. In each case we can debate and choose to get lost in details to avoid coming to a conclusion in this life or focus on main themes and live faithfully into them and Him who has revealed them to us.

 It brings me joy also to affirm these main themes of Biblical testimony and NDEs are the same: trust in the LORD and his Messiah and give utter allegiance to Him in this life and the next.

April 17, 2020

The ever current Charles Wesley

Charles Wesley was a "high" churchman in the Anglican communion, his brother John a "low" churchman traveling broadly to bring the Gospel to the common person at the time far from Christ. They didn't agree on ecclesiology but teamed to bring a renewal to England often credited with saving the land from the desolations of the French Revolution. I often reflect on Charles hymns in my "quiet time" with the Lord. Charles is estimated to have written 6500 hymns, many now lost to all but those who seek them out. (More on Charles Wesley's life here.)


Why do I value them? Here is a simple example of truth and challenge never out of date:



Charles Wesley

Lord, in the strength of grace,

with a glad heart and true,

myself, my residue of days,

I consecrate to you.


Your ransomed servant, I

restore to you your own;

and from this moment, live or die

to serve my God alone.


April 26, 2020 (with later additions)

Weighing in on COVID-19 - and concerns more to the point...

Does anyone need one more opinion on Covid-19? I recognize the overload of medical and political opinion but I will wade in nevertheless.

No one doubts that COVID is highly infectious or that it can, especially in combination with underlying health threats (diabetes, heart issues, obesity) kill, especially the elderly. A couple months in I expressed the view that

1.) social distancing slows but doesn't change the spread of COVID, it only affects how rapidly it happens. Sweden, which didn't social distance, and the rest of Europe which did, are having similar outcomes in terms of deaths-per-million.

2.) the impact on society, given millions of people get it, is similar to that of a bad flu season: with few expectations the same compromised people who die of flu die of COVID-19.

3) Our overreaction doesn't stop people with compromised health from dying (now or during the next flu season) but keeps people who need to go to the hospital from doing so, decimates the economy (especially in developing nations where the poor don't have the luxury of lockdown), not to mention the unintended consequences of increased domestic abuse, suicide, mental heath issues.

4.) While erring on the side of caution made sense 3 months ago, on sober reflection using the best data we have, it doesn't make sense now. All we are doing is playing into the hands of those who like authority to use it more stringently next time.

Six months in it is becoming increasingly clear the challenge isn't in fact as much medical as it is political. I'm not American but appreciate an succinct analysis of it's government's handling of the challenge:

Sadly, the use and abuse of political power is wider and actually began earlier. In January 2020 globalist leaders met in Davos, Switzerland recognizing an opportunity. Remnant TV lays out the implications:

There is more to say. There are implications that are medical, political and economic. There are implications for mental health and spiritual and family life. Please shift over to Covid19.

August 16, 2020

Religion - what's that all about?

There is debate about whether the Good News of Jesus Christ is simply "one more religion" or if the revelation of God-in-Christ is unique.

There are some who claim all religions are the same.

A helpful place to begin may be the term itself. Richard Rohr suggests:

"...religion, as the very word religio indicates, is the task of putting our divided realities back together: human and divine, male and female, heaven and earth, sin and salvation, mistake and glory." (Everything Belongs p.136)

Humans have long sought to understand the universe, spiritual and physical as one. Thinkers in various religious streams agree humanity if broken and have tried also to bring about a restoration.

Science and philosophy and politics have also sought to understand and mend what seems broken.

The interesting and critical thing however is that it is not the broken (us) who can fix themselves but God, who became broken on the cross to restore us. In this the Gospel of Jesus Christ is unique. It is God-in-Christ who puts us back together again. It is not our concerted efforts as suggested by teachers in other religions.

Yes, even in the divisions of Covid. No, it is not a man-made religion. No, it is not the UN. It is the gift and grace of the cross, of Jesus risen and coming again.

September 5, 2020

Labels Need Definition

It's interesting to me how different media outlets use political labels. I notice one outlet typically uses two labels: "center-left" or "far-right" when speaking of a group or position. It seems to me, as I observe political movements and engage in conversation with a range of people, there must be more categories than two. Here is my sense of the political categories which flow out of one's worldview:

Far Left/Marxist - Willing to consider use of violence to achieve ends or condone or depend those who do.

Left/Progressive - urgent for change, not really able to give serious consideration to other views and generally not able or willing to accept the people who hold them. Unwilling to use violence to achieve ends.

Classic Liberal - broad minded and generally open to change, even eager to move forward. Able and willing to listen, dialogue and accept people of other categories even if not accepting all their views.

Classic Conservative - recognizes that change is constant but wants to preserve/conserve the best of the past rather than assuming everything will or most change. Able and willing to listen, dialogue and accept people of other categories even if not accepting all their views.

Right - wants to go back to a place in history that no longer exists and are generally not good listeners and not generally able to accept people of other categories or their views. Unwilling to use violence to achieve goals.

Far-Right - want to go back in history and willing to consider use of violence to achieve goals or condone or depend those who do.

I'm still in process thinking this through but here's my

Model of Political Value Clusters

Political Orientation

Ultimate Reality

Relation to Monotheist Religion

Value of the Individual

Freedom of the Individual


No belief in afterlife or accountability to God

No influence by religious values

Low to no value of human life/rights. (State is infinitely precious.)

No freedom of speech, thought, assembly and religion.


Low belief in afterlife and accountability to God

Very low influence by religious values

Moderate value of human life/rights

Limited freedom of speech, thought, assembly and religion.


Moderate-to-low belief in afterlife and accountability to God

Low influence by religious values

Moderate value of human life/rights

High value to freedom of speech, thought, assembly and religion.


High belief in afterlife and accountability to God

Highly influenced by religious values

High value of human life/rights

High value to freedom of speech, thought, assembly and religion.


High belief in afterlife and accountability to God

Highly influenced by religious values

High value of human life/rights

High value to freedom of speech, thought, assembly and religion.

Far Right

High belief in afterlife and accountability to God

Highly influenced by religious values

High value of human life/rights. (Individual infinitely precious.)

High value to freedom of speech, thought, assembly and religion.


Political Orientation

Size/Power of Government

Role of Constitution, Rule of Law and Judiciary

Ultimate Responsibility for the individual

Core Intention (sometimes unstated)


Unlimited government

("the bigger the government, the smaller the citizen")

Rule by party fiat. Party leader changes constitution at will. Judiciary serves

Individual exists to serve the state

I'm going into a different future and will take you with me.


High government control.

Constitution viewed as ‘living' (changing) document. Primarily rule of judiciary.

Society serves the individuals society values.

I'm going into a different future and you are coming too.


Large role for government.


Society primarily responsible for care of individuals.

I'd like to see change for the better


Small role for government.

Judiciary supports constitution. Rule of law.

Nuclear family primarily responsible for care of individuals.

As society changes, I'd like not to lose the best of the past


Very small government control.

Judiciary supports constitution. Rule of law.

Nuclear family primarily responsible for care of individuals.

I very much want change back to traditional values and practices.

Far Right

Highly limited government role.("the larger the citizen, the smaller the government")

Constitutional government, Judiciary ensures constitution is upheld.

Individual primarily responsible for care of self

I'm going to take as many of us as possible back to traditional values and practices.

Please let me know your thoughts, critiques or suggested refinements.

October 18, 2020

Order and Freedom

"No human society has ever been able to maintain both order and freedom...apart from the moral precepts of the Christian religion. Should our Republic every forget this fundamental precept of governance, we will then be surely doomed." - John Jay, first US Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (1789)

This reflection has given me pause. Many nations have been able to maintain order with a heavy hand. Few nations have offered liberty without a drift to lawlessness. The west, as those nations built on a Biblical ethnic have come to be known, have for this reason become the most desired destination of migrants from around the world. USSR-style Marxism maintained order at the cost of over 100,000,000 lives. Only the values of Christendom were stronger than death, outlasted communism's brutality and provided the fuel for the human spirit which brought it down. Jeff Fountain recently gathered stories of this vital history in a downloadable collection titled: A Spiritual Uprising. Chinese-style Marxism has maintained order at a similar cost of 100,000,000 lives and is currently advancing a war which is not primarily military but, following the tradition of Sun Tzu's The Art of War, uses all other means at it's disposal, though force remains a thinly veiled threat always. Imprimis recently printed Brian T. Kennedy's Facing Up to the China Threat which outlines the Chinese Communist Party strategy evident world-wide. Read it here.

November 3, 2020

Making the Best of our Political Limitations

How did Jesus influence public policy?
Jesus did not seek opportunities for confrontation but spoke of the Kingdom of God as leaven permeating the hearts of ordinary people. The Israel of Jesus's day was occupied territory under Roman rule. His political position, as of Paul and the church for 300 years, were not directly stated. To do so was akin to European resistors saying to Nazi boots, "do as we say, please." Rather, Jesus and the early church spoke of and modeled the Kingdom of God, confident love and righteousness, mercy and grace would impact culture over time.

How do Christians speak truth to power today?

We do not live in a totalitarian regime and are given limited input to political policies. In fact, such input is our responsibility in the country where we have the privilege of voting. I do not vote however based on the physical attractiveness, personality, gender, speaking ability, winsome style of the candidate etc. Rather, I vote on the principles and policies of the party. I evaluate this party platform by two criteria: What is the degree of alignment with principles and values of the Kingdom of God as expressed in Christ and the worldview of the Bible. This criteria is based on the conviction that nations and their rulers are rightly under God, they do not dictate to God. The most likely outcome of the principles and policies of the party in the short term and in the long term towards what Catholic social philosophy calls the "common good" as revealed by God in the Scriptures.

After the election, what is the best use of our energies?

Even in democracies voters have little if any power after the election. For this reason, the best use of our time and energies turns from seeking to influence others on how to vote to doing practical good. As I've grown older, I find talk less fruitful and practical expressions of love in action more fruitful. Talk changes very few minds. Practical love changes many lives for the better. Jesus has changed more minds and hearts for good than any other person in history. This is one of the reasons I choose to use my energies to encourage people to read the New Testament and follow with their whole hearts the Messiah revealed on its pages. Becoming fully devoted disciples tend to shift energies from talk to practical virtue in the 3D world of broken people. Investing limited time and energy in the local common good seems to me to be the best use of these resources between elections. The month before the next election is ample time to reengage the process of seeking to sway the voter next door. Then it is again time to return available energies to daily loving service of those around us.

November 8, 2020

Can we Talk?

The forces against the engagement of persons and ideas

All of us are overloaded with ideas and social media posts. We can't keep up. Many of us are, in addition, threatened by ideas we don't like or understand. (To make communication and relationships more difficult, the media is filled with charges and counter-charges, or more accurately, trial and judgement in-absentia.) At the most practical level, we don't have time to process and evaluate the rapid flow of ideas, spin and judgments flowing over us like a river.

So as a defense against the inundation, many ideas are rapidly pigeon-holed so we can leave them be. The process, mentally or verbally is to say of a claim, innovation, or idea "That's ridiculous..." (alternatively, "that's racist, homophobic, a conspiracy theory, leftist, bigoted, catholic, evangelical, religious, feminist, green, banned by social media censors, evaluated by my favorite self-proclaimed fact-checker" or, fill in the blank) "so I don't need to think about that anymore."

The dismissal could of course be more specific - "that's anti-vax or anti-mask or pro-life or right-wing or left-wing..." but the effect is the same. We remain unengaged with an idea which challenges the fabric of our thinking. As such we are separated from those for whom the idea is important, relationships affected or broken, judgments made and the hatred we all claim to hate, gains a foothold.

How can we talk?

How then can we talk in a way that leads to understanding of heart (not only head) with those we're tempted to pigeon-hole and dismiss as an unworthy freight car shunted to a rail siding and left as if non-existent?

1. Give worth to a person even if you are not (yet) prepared to give worth to the idea or value the person espouses. Decide to separate the person from their idea recognizing that you too are a person made in the image of God and in process.

2. Determine to engage with the reason for the person's emotional attachment to the idea, as much as the idea itself.

The necessity of small: The most meaningful conversations take place between two people. (When larger groups attempt meaningful conversation, the result is often unsatisfying. Some in the group don't feel heard, many rabbit-trails are followed to nowhere, the experience ends up being more of a venting of ideas and emotions than anything approaching in-depth analysis. For these reasons I often prefer to let two people talk (hoping the rest will listen for 15 minutes or more) so a line of reasoning can be followed to a point of understanding or even agreement.

Agree on the topic: In my experience, there is immense value in narrowing the topic to be discussed before going too far, even defining key terms, so that we're discussing the same thing. It takes time but worth doing so we don't frustrate each other by talking "by each other" rather than "with each other." No conversation can talk about everything, so its helpful to narrow the topic to a manageable size in hopes of fruitfulness. For instance, "American politics" may be too broad but the question "Are the mechanisms in place to prevent voter fraud adequate?" could yield understanding and agreement.

A shared input: To discuss a topic of consequence, I believe it valuable for each person to offer an article, podcast or video as input. This is valuable to counter the algorithms of social media. When two (or more) people have a shared experience of reasoning, evidence or historical background (by means of a talk, article or documentary which is considered substantive by the other person) it's far easier to understand why a person holds the view and the emotions he or she has attached to the heart of the matter.

Evaluate evidence: Avoid generalities. Rather, discuss specific values underlying an idea and specific evidence for or against the possibility that the idea is true. (Yes, I believe reality exists and in it objective truth, despite the discomfort which may come from acknowledging that we and our ideas too must also be evaluated in the light of it.)

Stay focused: In evaluating the evidence for the position the other person offers, hold yourself accountable (and if need be, allow the other person to hold you accountable) to respond to the point made by the other person. Go back-and-forth about that point until it has actually been examined from all sides before going on to your point. Then expect the same respect in a discussion of your point.

Seek agreement: Does the other person have a point? Acknowledge learning as it takes place. Agree where you can. Aim to understand as well as to be understood.

Choose carefully, set aside the time: In my experience meaningful conversations take time. Sometimes hours. We cannot engage with everyone about everything. (Avoid the temptation to resort to social media to satisfy that urge!) Rather, invest. Choose a family member, friend or associate you don't understand but value, and make an appointment to talk. The first conversation may involve laying the groundwork: our motivation and hopes for engaging, agreement on a manageable topic, a shared input from outside our own echo chamber, and how we will engage in the conversation respectfully. Then, meet again to go deeper based on your agreements. Meet two or three times if needed. Hold on to the conviction that you are both created in the image of God and that God has good purposes for each of your lives and for your relationship towards that good.

Pray: Whatever your relationship with God, pray with the other person before and after each conversation. This isn't "motherhood and apple pie." If you are willing to acknowledge your need for help from heaven to love or understand, to be open to hear and learn from another, to find truth or move closer to the God who is truth, pray with the person with whom you are in dialogue. Yes, God still does miracles. Even in us.

November 17, 2020

Moral Education and Limited Government

Warren Buffet has wisely observed he looks for three things when he hires staff: intelligence, competence and character. However, he points out, character is most important. If character is lacking, intelligence and competence alone have the potential to "bury you." What is true of an employee is true of management and of other forms of leadership. When it comes to government, the issue of character is foundational.

In this secular culture is not neutral. In fact, a secular worldview (the foundation of marxism) not only has no basis for building character but no basis for positive values or for determining which values are positive.

For this reason also secular education provides no aid. As Candler pointed out "Education without a strong Christian influence will lead to a population of an educated elite with no moral foundation. A person unable to distinguish between right and wrong has as little value to their community as those who can neither read nor write." This is why Christians form home schooling groups, press for more education options, virtue education, charter schools and Christian schools.

Returning to Buffet's observation and experience, the loss of this insight is also why Christians have lost Ivy League schools, most initially formed as centers of Christian training, to secularism. The value of Christian morality born of the new birth in Christ was placed second to the intelligence, competence or ambition of a proposed professor, board member or other institutional leader. As the process was repeated in search of a"world class faculty" more and more smart and ambitious people were added in priority over men and woman of Christian character born of the Gospel. The tipping point came when those who held to the Gospel lost the freedom to speak of the Gospel or to teach the truth of the Gospel. The work of secularism was complete.

Let me turn to a related question: why does secular society grow government larger, ever larger? When a new problem arises, the proposed solution in secular government is to add to the budget, form a new department and raise taxes. But when moral foundations of society are eliminated with secular education, the problems produced by a citizenry in which character runs second or third to competence will continue to grow. So government grows, the legal profession grows, more secular education is proposed without producing character.

It has been pointed out that since the Ten Commandments and the Lord's Prayer were prohibited by secularism in 1963 crime and social problems and the size and cost of government have grown, and 1000s of new laws were written to counter the loss of character produced by abandoning the Ten Commandments and Lord's Prayer. In addition there are more lawyers, courts and overcrowded prisons.

How could overlooking the foundations of character by abandoning religious education have produced so much change so quickly?

What is the way forward by going back - not abandoning the value of competence and intelligence - but returning to the moral and spiritual foundations of character to enhance the value of competence and intelligence in the service of society?