Where did you dig up that name, “Aedistamen”, anyway?

Good question! Where does such a name come from? I suppose the same place that Narnia came from or Quidditch, or Silmarillion, or Tokay. “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare said. Most names in reality have some sort of provenance: Native American, Anglo-Saxon, Semitic, Celtic etc. Fantasy worlds are different. Aedistamen came from the same black hole that Dune came from, and has no other provenance except that it rhymes with Tutenkhamen!  Amen, to that! (to read more, just click on the link and go to the HHP Blog) http://myhelpinghandspress.blogspot.ca/2015/08/readers-have-been-asking-tony-hilling.html#.Vc9lXPlViko

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The Holiness of God

In the book that I recently have published, “The Voice of Aedistamen”, there is a character in the story called, “the Ghaedish-Mor”. This name may sound a little weird and wacky to our generation. In fact, you may say that I take a kind of perverted, Celtic delight in producing guttural words that no one else can pronounce (at least those who are half ways familiar with the tongue of Shakespeare). The name derives from the combination of a Semitic word, “kadosh” meaning holy, and a Gaelic word, “Mor”, meaning, great or large. The appellation then describes the God of the enslaved people as the Holy One, or the Holy-Great One. Clearly, there is biblical reference here to the God  that Isaiah calls, “the Holy One of Israel”.

Lately, I have felt drawn to the book of the Bible that we call, “Leviticus”. It’s a book that describes in great detail the regulations for the worship of the Holy One of Israel, and for that reason can seem very dry to our culture that tends to be long on freedoms but short on accountability. However, if we look a little deeper into the foundations of this book we see God reminding His people that He is a Holy God and that their lives must reflect that Holiness. In chapter 19:2 of the book, God says: “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord Your God, am Holy.” Later, in the fifth book of Moses, Deuteronomy 32:51 & 52, Moses is reprimanded by God and is refused entry into the Promised Land, “…This is because …you broke faith with Me in the presence of the Israelites …because you did not uphold my Holiness among the Israelites. Therefore, you will see the land only from a distance; you will not enter the land I am giving to the people of Israel.” This may seem very harsh to us today, after all that Moses went through to bring the Chosen People out of Egypt and to the very shores of the Jordan. You might think that God was unfair in treating him so. But this event described in Numbers 20: 9-11, clearly shows Moses questioning God rather than trusting in Him; undermining God’s holiness rather than upholding it. There is a lesson here for all of us believers and especially those who are in leadership over Christian communities: we must, by our lives, hold up before the world the Holiness of God. This is quintessentially expressed in the Cross and Resurrection of God’s Only Son, Jesus Christ. Nothing else will avail; “no power of hell nor scheme of man.” Only the Holiness of God can save us.

I have sensed in my own life a call to hold up God’s Holiness today. Therefore, this is a major theme in “The Voice of Aedistamen”, where the God of the enslaved people, the Ma’apone, begin to turn back to Him as they seek freedom. I have also written some songs that reflect this motif. One of them is entitled, “That Towering Cross”, a meditation on a play by the same title by an influential young writer, Andrew Kooman. I believe this a call for all Christians today, to hold up once more the Holiness of God in our communities, using whatever gifts God has given us to do this. Will you join me in this quest? There will be cost to this; it will almost definitely put us “in harm’s way”. But we will have the peace of knowing that our confession of Christ has been empowered in action; that the faith expressed in our words has been visible in a changed life.

I THOUGHT THE WORLD WAS BLEAK UNTIL…

Have you ever started reading a book, enjoyed it, but had to put it down? A few summers ago, I started to read the celebrated “Game of Thrones”, by J. R.R. Martin. I was in Vernon, British Columbia on holiday and managed to read about 250 pages or so before I just set it down. It was an interesting read, the characters came alive, and I was dying to find out more about the plot. But it was just too dark…for a holiday in Vernon anyway. I’m fairly familiar with mediaeval English history, and Martin seemed to use this epoch as a model for his fantasy novel. The story is like a replay of the Wars of the Roses between the rival houses of Lancaster and York; but with one difference. Imagine such a time without any of the moderating influences of the Christian faith, and you have “The Game of Thrones.” It’s a novel about a fallen world with fallen heroes and villains where there is no possibility of redemption. Why? Because the Redeemer is absent. Perhaps in this work, Martin has hinted at our own postmodern, uber-existentialist generation where he proposes that every last deity has died and the landscape reveals an unyielding, unforgiving blackness.

“Eh…objection, Your Honour?” I say, as I tentatively rise up (as John Mortimer would put it) ‘on my hind legs.’ And I thought Aedistamen was dark! Mr. Martin has outdone me in bleakness. You see, I have this naïve penchant for happy endings. I am such a wuss! I have to find the good somehow. “The Voice of Aedistamen” has slavery, betrayal, infant sacrifice, battles where innocents are slaughtered, fallen heroes and villains too. It even boasts a mythical beast that has a taste for human flesh. But it has something more: the Ghaedesh-Mor: the Holy One of the Bladowrete, the God of Aedistamen.

I know, it’s all that God-stuff again. As one lawyer friend said to me, “Why don’t you just grow up, Tony, and accept that there’s nothing.” I guess it’s because I believe that there’s something, or Someone. And I just had to put Him in Aedistamen as the main Character. And what’s with all this butch stuff anyway? We pop out of the womb helpless, squalling and squawking, and we exit stage left, still dependent on our care-givers, with more questions than answers.  Yeah, “homo sapiens” is really tough. Right!  Anyway, rant over with, I’m determined to finish “Game of Thrones.”

So I suppose it all depends on your worldview.  Mine is biblical. And, like most readers, I took a sneak peek to the end of the Instruction Manual. And guess what! There’s a happy ending! So if you pick my book up, please don’t put it down. Unless it’s to go grab the Haagen Daz!

Tony Hilling is a retired pastor, lawyer and writer. He was born in Glasgow, Scotland and now makes his home in Western Canada. “The Voice of Aedistamen” is his first novel. You can reach him at:

https://twitter.com/TonyHilling

https://www.facebook.com/tony.hilling

https://plus.google.com/u/0/

Understanding the Times

A Reflection on Romans 13:11-12

When I was at school as a boy in England, there were two teaching brothers who, though unrelated, had the same Christian and family name. To us, they were both Brother Michael. But in every other aspect they were completely unalike. One was short, chunky, extrovert and taught us French; the other was tall, cadaverous, painfully solemn and introverted, and taught us Physics. These wonderful young men worked in a Catholic school run by a religious teaching order. Part of the discipline of piety at the time was to have a healthy appreciation for the fact that we are all mortal. So every month, the school would have the “happy death” exercise, which involved cleaning up our work space, tidying our rooms, doing special prayer liturgies and generally putting our affairs in order. At these times, the brothers would also go for long walks in the beautiful English countryside. On one occasion the cadaverous Brother Michael was out for his “happy death” walk accompanied by the other brothers, all looking quite crow-like in their black suits, ties and black Trilby hats. A farmer in the neighbouring field, who happened to be a good protestant, saw them pass by and asked, “What are you lads up to then?”

“We’re on our “happy death” walk,” explained Brother Michael.

“Happy what?”

“DEATH WALK!”

I suppose this seems very morbid to those of Reformed or Protestant heritage, or at least conjures up images of The Munsters and The Addams Family!  But believe it or not, I think there’s something to learn from this. Let’s begin by referring to Romans 13:11-14 which reads: “…Do (all) this, understanding the times, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep, for our salvation is nearer now than when we (first) believed. The night is far spent, and the day draws near. Let us put off the deeds of darkness and clothe ourselves in the weapons of light…” Paul was challenging the believers in Rome to “wake up and smell the coffee”, as we would say today. He wanted to leave them with the clear teaching that one day Jesus would return to judge the earth and that they should be ready for that “day”. You see, Paul understood that it is so easy for human beings to get wrapped up in this world and forget that we have a destiny in eternity. But more than that he wanted the believers to, “understand the times” they were living in. One day, those times would end. He told them that Jesus’ coming was closer than when they first believed.

If this were true of Paul’s day, then how much more is it valid today? I don’t want to don the prophet of doom status, but as I look at our world there are some very disquieting signs. In Europe and Asia, we see cynical, even ruthless leaders in influential countries that could tip the balance towards a global war. Technology has brought many advances towards our civilization, but it has also made us more efficient in killing each other. Combined with this, I see a lawlessness particularly in the West and a hatred for those that bear the name of Jesus, which makes me wonder that if we are not in the “end times”, we are at least drawing close. In Matthew 24:32-33, Jesus exhorts us to learn from the fig tree. “When its branch has already become tender and puts out its leaves, you know summer is close, so also when you see these things know that He is near, at the very door.” Wars, rumours of wars, lawlessness and lack of love are among the signs of the times mentioned earlier in Matthew 24.

But what does it mean to understand the times? Does it mean an intellectual chasing after sensational news like some super spiritual paparazzi? Clearly not! Paul’s exhortation to the Romans was to “Do this…” meaning continuing in love of God and of one’s neighbour. He also urged his listeners to follow through on their commitment to Jesus and resist temptations to immorality, strife and carousing; that we should put aside the deeds of darkness and live as if the day was upon us; in brief to put on Jesus Christ and make no plans for our sinful nature. It’s a question of being ready for His return. No one knows the hour or the minute of His arrival.

Understanding the times means to be ready for His coming in glory!

Submission to Authority – Romans 13:1-2

Many years ago in the U.K., I spent time training to be a monk. In order to live that discipline, you had to take three vows or sacred promises: poverty, chastity and obedience. A little word of explanation is needed here because the terms by themselves don’t translate easily into everyday English. ‘Poverty’ means evangelical poverty or having no attachment to worldly goods, but sharing everything in common as envisioned by Acts 2:44. The second, chastity, means foregoing marriage and family for the sake of the Kingdom of God, as the Lord Jesus explains in Matthew 19:12. Now these two promises are radical enough, but the third was considered the most difficult of all three: obedience. This signified the voluntary surrender of one’s own freedom to another human being who was just as flawed and broken as you were. Though the word used was obedience, a better expression would have been submission, as shown in Romans 13:1. Obedience can be understood as external compliance, whereas submission speaks more to an attitude of the heart.

I’m sure that there would be many opinions out there about monks and their “monkish” ways, but there is at least one insight in all of this: older Christianity had few illusions about the capacity of the human heart to brook any authority but its own. The monks realized that there was no greater tyranny than the bondage to our own will. So they made it a rule that those who profess to stand under the cross of Christ, must be prepared to walk in wholesome submission to authority.

Western monasticism has its origins in the Rule of St. Benedict in 7th century Italy. Since those days and the advent of reformed Christianity, human beings continue to struggle with authority. Indeed, I have noticed a growing lawlessness in the way that we moderns view the world around us. Paul’s admonition in Romans 13:1-2 was never more relevant than today: “Every soul is to be in submission to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except by God, and those which exist, are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority, has opposed the decree of God. And those who have opposed it will receive judgment upon themselves.” Paul wrote this to a group of Jewish and Christian believers living under the harsh and brutal dominion of ancient Rome. Some of the emperors, like Claudius, exhibited a lesser form of sternness and cruelty. Others, like Caligula and Nero seemed like demonized sociopaths. Yet nowhere do we read about Paul or any of the New Testament writers advocating open rebellion.

Now this raises some interesting questions about rebellions and revolutions throughout history of the western world, particularly those against harsh, repressive and unjust regimes. I’m sure the American colonists of the 1780’s thought they were well justified in revolting against Great Britain, likewise the Irish in the 1920’s. Similarly, the French would staunchly defend their revolution against the rule of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Though I would not classify myself as an historian, I have noticed that one revolution does seem to spawn others or resultant disorders. For example, “…three score and ten years” after the American War of Independence came the Civil War, still to date America’s bloodiest conflict. Ireland also endured a bloody civil war after its secession from Britain, and France experienced much disorder in the 1800’s. Compare this with countries where there has been a mutually agreed transfer of authority from one to the other, as in Canada and Australia. Both countries have enjoyed peaceful times subsequent to their respective independence.

Where does this leave us? Perhaps with at least some caution when we explore the option of resisting authority, just or otherwise. There is one additional consideration. Satan is the archetypal rebel. Isaiah 14:13-15, has been quoted and interpreted as a record of his revolt against God: “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! …You who have weakened the nations! But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God…I will make myself like the Most High’. Nevertheless you will be thrust down to Sheol…” Satan loves to “weaken the nations” by inciting human beings to act like him; to be rebels, resisting authority, and ultimately opposing God. Paul, on the other hand, exhorts us to be subject to authority. No doubt he was thinking of his Master and ours who endured false accusation, unjust condemnation and a cruel death, all the while in complete submission to His Father.

By way of conclusion, this of course does not mean some false humility or obsequiousness in the face of injustice. John the Baptist, Jesus, Stephen and Paul were all very outspoken against wrongful lifestyles in leadership, both secular and religious. Their courage eventually cost them their lives. Though they and other Christian leaders were vocal in criticising authorities of the day, they could never be fairly accused of being rebels. And this is the core of the matter: the distinction between a rebel and a prophet. A rebel will always assert his own will; a prophet must submit his own will to God’s.

The Renewed Mind: A Reflection on Romans 12:2

“…And do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed in the renewing of your mind, in order to prove what the will of God is, what is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

A little while ago, I was challenged by an acquaintance to grow my universe. And so, I have been far more involved in social media over the past four months or so than I have ever been. It doesn’t take you long in your forays on the media to realize that there are well-meaning people out there that have very different perspectives and lifestyles than your own. Now, differences and variety are some of the things that make life interesting and even enriching. We live in a pluralistic society; differences are to be expected. But some differences spring from radically opposing worldviews. For example, one of the Watergate conspirators was quoted saying:

“I have found within myself all I need and all I ever shall need. I am a man

of great faith, but my faith is in George Gordon Liddy. I have never failed

me.”[i]

A well-known movie and theatre personality, Shirley Maclaine, has some memorable quotes to her name, one of which was:

“I don’t need anyone to rectify my existence. The most profound relationship we will ever have is the one with ourselves.”[ii]

I think it fair to say that Shirley Maclaine’s worldview is much the same as Gordon Liddy’s: one that is focussed on the self.  Paul the Apostle’s worldview was a biblical one and quite different. Romans 12 is a new section of the letter that begins to list some of the ways that Christians respond to God’s great mercy in sending us His Son as our Saviour. As noted above, Paul urges believers to refuse to be conformed to this age, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds.  Earlier at chapter 1:28, Paul had written that because of idolatry God had handed human beings over to a “depraved mind”. This is a significant impediment. Whether thoughts from such a mind would lead to happiness is arguable. From a Christian perspective, whether such thoughts would lead to total destruction is incontestable.  To be clear, any mind that is focussed on anger, violence, hatred, greed, selfishness, malice, or illicit sexuality is by definition depraved and is a result of the fall of human beings. Jesus Christ, the Only Son of God came in the flesh to die for sinful human beings and give them the opportunity to be saved and to think with renewed minds; with the mind of Christ.

Dr Caroline Leaf, a scientist and Christian believer has written a book entitled, “Switch on Your Brain.” She explains that a few decades ago, scientists thought the brain to be a “fixed and hardwired machine.”[iii]Thus, any damage to the brain through events including accident, stroke, trauma, depression was seen as largely irreversible. [iv]However, Romans 12:2 deeply impressed her and she continued her research of the brain in the light of this scripture, ultimately finding that the mind can alter the brain even in the face of the most “…challenging neurological situations.”[v] She asserts that as our minds direct our thought processes, we can “…wire out toxic patterns of thinking and replace them with healthy thoughts.”[vi] Modern science is in effect proving the word of God.

The mind is the crossroads where the spirit and the body meet. It is also where Satan’s main attack against a person takes place. If he can control the thought life, he has access to the body and the spirit. Francis Frangipane[vii] noted that Jesus was crucified at the place of the skull, and to be effective in spiritual warfare we must understand that conflict with Satan takes place firstly in the battleground of the mind. He continues,

“For the territory of the uncrucified thought life is the beachhead of satanic

assault in our lives. To defeat the devil, we must be renewed in the spirit of our minds.”[viii]

However, defeating the devil in our minds has an important consequence in the world beyond our minds. Bill Johnson is pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California. He and his congregation have shown that the normal Christian life is one where there are signs and wonders[ix]. This comes from a renewed mind that aligns itself with the Risen Lord Jesus. If our minds are aligned with His, we will do the works that He did, and more. We will prove the will of God on earth. Many Christians live with unrenewed minds[x] that witness lives with little fruit. We need to repent of this. Bill Johnson states that this is not about whether we go to heaven or not, but about “how much of heaven”[xi] we want in our lives right now.  Folks, we need to turn to Jesus, and change our minds!

[i] Sermon Illustrations, “Self-Sufficiency”, quoted in The Christian Century, 9-28-77, p. 836.

[ii] Brainy Quote, Authors, “Relationship, Anyone, Ourselves,”

[iii] Dr. Caroline Leaf, Switch on Your Brain, (Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2013) p.19

[iv] Ibid. p.20

[v] Ibid.

[vi] Ibid.

[vii] Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, (Arrow Publications, Cedar Rapids, IA, 1989) p. 9

[viii] Ibid.

[ix] Bill Johnson, The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind, (Destiny Image Publishers, Inc, Shippensburg, PA, 2005) pp. 29-36.

[x] Ibid. p. 43

[xi] Ibid p. 45

FORGIVING LIKE GOD & BELIEVING

One of the national newspapers recently posted some photos of a woman having a meltdown because she missed her travel connection. Apparently, it was a memorable event. I guess a person has to be careful these days of how he/she reacts. You never know who is listening to your call or taking a photo of your behaviour. Our privacy is decreasing daily as big brother watches us for a weak moment. The social media devil prowls around like a silent snake seeking someone to shame. Years ago it was just the “paparazzi” that celebrities had to worry about. Nowadays, everyone has to worry about everyone else carrying their smart phones. Where is the sense in all of this that the weakness of one mirrors the weakness of us all? King David was right when he said, “Please let me fall into the hands of the Lord, for His mercies are very great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.” (1Chronicles 21:13). Have we become so merciless and unforgiving?

In 2 Timothy 3:2-5, Paul speaks of the last days and gives us a list of faults that will be evident, among which we find “…unloving, unforgiving slanderers…” But of course, he expected far different from those who claim to believe, both then and now.

“Do not return evil for evil to anyone. Try to do what is good in the sight of all. If at all possible, as far as it depends on you, be at peace with all persons. Never take revenge, Beloved…but if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil by good.” (Romans 12:17-21).

Paul’s whole basis for this was that he had been forgiven himself. He had been God’s enemy: a blasphemer and murderer. But God had forgiven him. Paul had been shown grace. By its nature, grace is undeserved. It is the same with us. Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us that there is no one on earth who always does good and never sins. All of us have fallen short (Romans 3:23).  So we also have deserved God’s justice and punishment. But He has shown us grace and forgiveness. However, God expects that we show the same grace and forgiveness to others.

And connected with this, folks: don’t judge others! Have we become Mr or Mrs Perfect all of a sudden? If we judge others, is this not exactly what we are saying: my behaviour is absolutely perfect, so I can pass judgment on you! Matthew 7:1 commands, “Do not judge so that you may not BE judged!” (emphasis mine). In case you are wondering, there is a threat there. Jesus is saying that if we judge others, we too will be judged. Yet when we look at the behaviour in our world, Christian or non-Christian, the governing principle seems to be: do whatever, but don’t get caught doing it! Who knows, maybe having cameras all over the place might be a good thing if they really changed our behaviour; but they don’t. As far as I know there is no camera built yet that can take a picture of your thoughts. At least, not on earth; and believe me, that’s where most of the wrongs are done. But there’s a camera in heaven and it has everything in it: thoughts, words, actions. How do you feel about that one? And there will be a judgment, but it won’t be done by us.

Have I scared you yet? Well, you should be. But you can rest easy. Someone took all of those wrong thoughts, words and actions on His own shoulders. It has all been paid for, folks. The greatest book that was ever written tells us so. And yet incredibly, many people are still too proud or too afraid to accept it. An Arab chief tells the story[i] of a spy who was captured and sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. As was his curious custom, the general offered the spy a choice between the firing squad or walking through a big, black door leading to the unknown. It looked very forbidding and the spy chose the firing squad. The general remarked to his aide that the convicted criminals always chose the known to the unknown. “What’s behind the black door?” asked the aide. “Freedom,” said the general, “but I have known only a few brave enough to take that door.”[ii]

Are you brave enough to believe? Just walk through the Door!

[i] Don McCullough, “The Unknown” 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories For Preachers, Teachers and Writers, Edward K. Rowell, Editor, ( BakerBooks, Grand Rapids, Michigan) p. 280.

[ii] Ibid. p. 281

Inspirational