You Can Tune A Piano But…

This Friday, the world celebrates Good Friday, which of course commemorates the day that Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross on the hill called Golgotha, shed His blood and died to pay the price for all the sins of the world…a one-time ransom payment that was deemed acceptable and “payment in full” by God the Father to acquire the forgiveness we all need to restore us to a right relationship with Him, and to set us free from the deadly stranglehold God’s enemy, Satan, has on us all…due to the fall of man that began in the Garden of Eden roughly six thousand years ago and has condemned human beings to suffer and die ever since. Yes its true…sin has grave consequences.

And what name has been given to this process of reconciliation between sinful mankind and a loving redemptive God who sent His own Son to become the sacrificial lamb (which is why John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”) for all the other children of God who had fallen under the curse of sin, following an act of disobedience by the first two people on Earth? Atonement.

The word “atonement” can be traced back to the Old Testament Jewish “Feast of Atonement,” which was the day set aside, once a year, for the High Priest to go into the Holy of Holies and make the “atoning sacrifice” for the sins of the people of Israel, as commanded by God. Today, the Jews refer to this feast day as Yom Kippur. The ceremony involved two goats being brought before the priest. One goat would be chosen as the one to be sacrificed, a foreshadowing of the Messiah (Jesus) who was to come and pay the price to set the people free. The second goat was called the “azazel goat,” and it was set free and chased outside of the camp (and in latter years, sometimes it was chased off a cliff).

It all provides us with a vivid picture of this process of atonement, whereby sin is transferred from one person (who was once guilty, but by the process is cleansed and forgiven)…to the One who was provided as “the sacrifice” to stand in the place of the guilty party and take the punishment meant for them. Thank you, Lord!!

Oh, and as a side note, some point to the two goats as a prophecy that was fulfilled when Pontius Pilate brought out two “so-called” criminals, Jesus and Barabbas, and stood them before the crowd and asked which one should be set free, and which one should be put to death. The crowd, as we know, chose Jesus to be the one who would die and Barabbas to be the one who was free to go. Pretty incredible, right?

Now, of course, those are the spiritual correlations that symbolically connect what we celebrate as Good Friday to the Feast of Atonement and the merciful process of transferring the sins of many to One who was sinless, but willing to take the punishment due the guilty parties. I, myself, have always been uncomfortable with referring to the day our Lord and Savior was put to death as “good anything,” but I understand it refers to the fact that through that selfless act, we are made clean…and that is a wonderful thing, indeed. But is there another picture we can paint that can help us to better understand “the result” of this process of redemption and just how important it really is? Yes, I think there is.

Since I have been a musician for over fifty years, one who started out playing accordion at age seven, then later abandoned the squeezebox for piano and organ, and later, also guitar and bass…my eyes were opened a bit more to this process recently, when I looked into the meaning and origins of the word “atonement,” and found out that it basically means “in tune” or “in harmony with.” WOW….OK….now that is something I can sink my teeth into.

It turns out that the word “atonement” comes from the joining of the word “at,” and the word “on” (or “one”)….so it could be said that the word atonement is a process by which we are made “at one,” or “brought back into harmony” with our loving Father in Heaven.

Doesn’t that make your heart happy to hear? We can say, with confidence, that by His death and the shedding of His precious blood, our Lord and Savior…Jesus Christ…we are brought back into harmony with God and, once again, made “One with Him.” For me, as one who has sat down many times and began to play a piano that was badly in need of a tuning, it makes a world of difference. And for those of you who have gone to hear a band or orchestra play, and although they may have been very talented, they neglected to properly “tune up” before they began playing, you will likely enthusiastically concur. It taints the performance, even a very good one (get it…we can do plenty of good things…but if we have not been “atoned” or “brought back into harmony” with Him…the good performance is wasted).

Now, you may be aware of this, or maybe not, but there was an album by the classic rock band REO Speedwagon called, “You Can Tune A Piano, But You Can’t Tune A Fish” (I loved that album…they were very good!!). So here is a question…are you a piano? Or are you a fish? I can almost hear you thinking, “What in the world does he mean by that? But, bear with me.

A piano (or a guitar) has strings that, by design, have the ability to be tuned. Those who invented these instruments realized that they sound beautiful when tuned and played properly. But, they also realized that the strings have a natural tendency to stretch or fall “out of tune.” So they come with the ability to “atone” (we say “tune”) the strings to bring them back into harmony with each other. Good thinking on part of the designer, I’d say. A fish…on the other hand…does not come with such an ability. No, not even a tuna fish…ba..dum..dum.

If you believe in God, you believe that all human beings (believers and unbelievers alike) were made by a super-intelligent designer, who knew from the inception of His plan that we humans would be given “free will” and thereby likely to fall “out of harmony” with Him. So He needed to provide a mechanism, a process, by which these precious instruments (His children) could be restored to a proper state of tonality….and have our “sour notes” made beautiful…once again.

It is my belief, or maybe I should say observation, that there are two kinds of people in the world…those who seem to have an internal mechanism or ability that allows them to somehow see or understand that they are “out of tune” with the One who made them and are able to learn that there is a process by which their Maker allows them to be “atoned” ( or put back “in tune”). I will call them the pianos. And then, there are those who do not seem to have that ability and many of them, sadly never will. I will call them the fish.

And isn’t it interesting that when Jesus called His disciples, He said He was going to make them “fishers of men”….and giving them the ability to lead people into a process by which they are turned from “fish” into “pianos.” How amazing is that? In Christ, we (like those first disciples) have been given the power of the Holy Spirit by which we can help those who could not see their way to atonement….to finally see the light. HALLELUJAH!!!

So maybe on this Friday, as we ponder the “gift of reconciliation” that we have received through the Lord’s selfless sacrifice at Calvary, we can lift up a song of thanksgiving and praise and sing it full-voiced, knowing that we have been “atoned” and put back in harmony…brought “in tune” with our merciful Maker. Have no fear…no matter what your voice sounds like to the human ear….it will be sweet music to His.

OH HAPPY DAY….WHEN JESUS WASHED OUR SINS AWAY!!!

BOB PALUMBO

(author of “Unlocking Creation,” “The Red Letter Parables, and “God’s Nature and the End of the Age”…..available exclusively through Amazon)

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Colour My World…Lord

Those of you who know me (or are familiar with my work), you know that I am a lifelong musician and songwriter…one who was greatly inspired by seeing “The Beatles” perform on The Ed Sullivan Show (yes, I am that old). I had recently started taking accordion lessons (at age 7), and so this was also the time that I realized (thanks to the Fab Four) that continuing to play the accordion was probably not a good idea….it just was not as cool as the drums or guitar, unless of course you were Weird Al Yankovic. He is pretty cool..I have to admit!!

Over the next few years, I started gradually moving to the organ (The Dave Clark Five’s lead singer played one…he was cool), then piano and added in guitar and bass, as well. To this day, I still play bass (or sometimes keyboard) on the contemporary worship team at our local church. I believe music was a gift of God, and I love “giving back to Him” by using it.

One of the other bands that I was influenced by, in my formative musical years, was the band “Chicago.” And of course, one of their most popular songs was called “Colour My World.”. It also just so happens to be one I sang regularly in almost every band I played with….so yeah…I’m familiar with it (LOL). But, I hear ya, “OK, enough about the name of this blog post…Bob. What in the world are you talking about, anyway?”

In my first book, “Unlocking Creation,” I took sixteen aspects of God’s creation and looked to see if the Lord had chosen to weave into the fabric of those “created things,” spiritual truths for us to discover…from which we could learn more about who He is. It was a study into “the divine nature of God” that used various created things (such as light vs. darkness, hot vs. cold, male vs. female, faith vs fear…etc.) as the blueprint.

But there was one aspect of creation that I did not cover in the book (maybe I should add it in..for the 2nd edition). That is the beauty of “color” (or “colour”…as Chicago preferred to spell it. FYI, “color” is the American English spelling….the rest of the English-speaking world prefers “colour”). And after hearing Rabbi Jonathan talk about his spiritual takeaway for why God created color, I said, “Hey, that should have been in the book!!.”

So, let’s start with an explanation of physical color. Why do our eyes see one thing as blue, another red, and yet another…white? It has to do with wavelengths of light, and which ones are absorbed by certain items and which ones are reflected back. Confused? I was too….so here is a good explanation from the website Pantone.com:

[The surface of the apple is reflecting the wavelengths we see as red and absorbing all the rest. An object appears white when it reflects all wavelengths…and black when it absorbs them all…By varying the amount of red, green and blue light, all of the colors in the visible spectrum can be produced.” (Courtesy of Pantone.com)]

[Since it is December 2nd, you knew I would toss something “Christmas-ee” in here…lol]

Ok, I will try to elaborate a little bit on the color “thingy” for clarity sake. The light that arrives here on Earth, from the sun, is made up of various wavelengths, and our eyes were designed by the Creator to interpret the various wavelengths as different colors. So, certain wavelengths are perceived by our eyes and brains as the three primary colors, red, blue and yellow. And various combinations of these three wavelengths result in varying degrees of color….and those possibilities are endless.

Hey, I remember when the Crayola 64 box came out. The idea of 64 colors blew my little mind. Now, computer displays are said to be able to show over 16 million colors…and our eyes can perceive the slight differences between all of those shades and minor variations. WOW-UH!!!

But…surprise, surprise…what I want to get to is the spiritual correlations of this beautiful aspect of the things created by the hand of the Lord God Almighty for our pleasure. He indeed, as the Bible says, is “the Giver of good things to His children.”

The first thing I want to talk about is this idea of absorbing light or reflecting it. I take that to mean that those wavelengths of light that are absorbed, or taken in (much like when we eat and drink…which is absorbed into our bodies and used for energy), they are consumed and used up (or at least not reflected back). So, as with the apple mentioned above, all the wavelengths were absorbed into the apple, except the wavelength that reflects as red (or yellow…if it is golden delicious…my fave).

And that leads me to my next point…what did we read regarding black and white? For our eyes to see the color black, all of the wavelengths are absorbed…none are reflected. Hmm..that does not sound good. But wait, when we see the color white, it is because the object is reflecting all of the wavelengths and absorbing none of them. Are you starting to see a spiritual connection yet? I am.

What color is associated with evil? Black, of course. We often hear of evil as being portrayed as darkness, right? And what color is often associated with righteousness? Why, white, obviously. Jesus comes back on a white horse. His beard is white. The redeemed are dressed in white robes…etc…etc. So, it seems there might be a connection between what we choose to absorb or take in and use for ourselves and that which we choose to give back. Wasn’t the rich man told to “Go and sell all you have?” It is a well-known spiritual principle, “It is better to give (or reflect) than receive” (or absorb).

Have you ever noticed that white cars seem to “hide the dirt” (as in covering sin), while black cars are said to “show the dirt” (as in remaining in sin), more readily. Both cars may be just as dirty, but the black one just looks dirtier. I am chuckling to myself, here, as I am typing these words because I drive a black car. Maybe if I had read this post first, I would have chosen differently!!

Anyway, the point I am trying to “drive home”…is that the Bible teaches that Jesus is “the light of the world.”. Much like the Sun provides light to Planet Earth…the Son of God shines His light on those who live on this “third rock from the Sun.” Just as all the wavelengths of light that light up our days come from one light source, spiritually speaking, all the various aspects of light we receive from our Lord also come from one source…God.

And yes, just as there are things that try to block the light of the Sun from reaching the earth (like clouds..or eclipses…for instance)….there are also forces at work that try to block out the light of the Lord from reaching our hearts.

But in the end, I am not surprised to say (having been a Christian now for almost forty years)…what matters is not how much light reaches us, but how much of the light we taken in (or consume for ourselves) and how much we are willing to reflect (or give back for the benefit of those around us).

If we keep it all to ourselves and ignore the ones with needs in our lives, the reflection others will see from us will be very dark (not good).

If we gave it all away (as the rich man was told to do), what others around us would see would be bright white (very good).

Now, I know that very few of us (if any) are likely to give everything they have away. I certainly have not gone to that extreme. And, of course, we are not just talking about money or possessions. I believe it relates to time and energy spent, as well. But here is the question:

Where, on the color scale, are you?

Are you one who absorbs most (or all) of the light of God that has shined down upon you? And yes, I believe His light shines on the believers and unbelievers alike…and again, it is what they do with it that matters.

Or are you one who enjoys “giving back out of your abundance?” One who is likely to take what God blesses you with, take what you need, and give back (reflect) what you can to make a difference in the world around you. In His famous “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus spoke these words:

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” [Matthew 5:14-16 NKJV]

I would say that is something to think about. For we all know…”You can’t take it with you.” The words of the Lord seem to indicate that whatever light we “reflect back” (or allow to be seen by others) not only benefits those in need, but glorify God, as well. Apparently, that does not happen when we absorb it all or keep it to ourselves.

So, can we look at the wonders of light and it’s many beautiful colors and conclude that, in a way, God may have been teaching us that “it is better to give than receive?”

I know that Rabbi Jonathan Cahn thinks so, and I tend to agree with him.

I just find it amusing that the Creator of the universe, long before you or I (or anyone else) arrived on the scene…made His use of color in all of His creations to be similar to those old “spaghetti westerns,” where the bad guys usually wore a black hat and had names like “Black Bart”….while the good guy who saves the day usually wore the white hat.

And they say God doesn’t have a sense of humor….yeah right.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL!!!

BOB PALUMBO

(author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”. and the soon-to-be-released “God’s Nature and the End Of The Age”)

Why Me, Lord…Why Me?

I am sure most of us have heard the story of “Jonah and the Whale”…it is one of the most often told stories in the Bible…especially to children in Sunday School, along with David and Goliath and Daniel and the Lion’s Den. But, there is a lot more to this book than just a man spending three days in the belly of a great fish…then being vomited up and surviving. God had bigger plans for him.

Let’s recap his story. First, he ran in the opposite direction when God called him to go to Nineveh. And yes, he nearly drowned and was swallowed by a whale. Then, he repented and prayed to God for mercy. He was vomited out upon the beach. Then, finally, he obeyed God and went and prophesied to Nineveh…and they heard the word of the Lord and repented……and God relented..and did not punish them.

In the final little chapter of Jonah, Chapter Four, after all that he had been through, and even after God was merciful towards him, heard his prayer and spared his life…the prophet seems to be “showing his human-ness” once again.

And here is our potential hero, Jonah….but he is not happy. He seems to be saying, “Lord you called me and caused me to endure all of this…to bring a word of judgement to this rebellious and wicked people. And I reluctantly did as you asked…but I did it…and almost died numerous times during the process. And you just change your mind and let them off the hook? What’s up with that? If you were not going to punish them…you did not need me to put my life in danger by taking your message to them. I feel like it was all for nothing, Lord. I feel like it was a big waste of time!!”

But I think that Jonah (in his selfishness) is forgetting one thing….the people of Nineveh repented of their wickedness…..only because of his sacrifices and his message. It would not have happened without him going and doing what the Father intended him to do.

Isn’t that what Christ did for us. Remember at one point, Jesus asked the Father, “If it is possible, take this cup of suffering from me.” But the Father did not.

Without the Lord’s sacrifices on our behalf…and without the message of repentance…and redemption that our Father in Heaven called on His Son, Jesus, to bring to us…their would have been no forgiveness. God would have been unable to relent…towards us!!

Let that one sink in for awhile.

God could have redeemed us (and Nineveh) without the messenger and the sacrifices the messenger made to bring redemption. But He chose not to…He preferred the participation of the messenger.

And He prefers our participation, as well…He can redeem the world without our help.

But He chooses not to.

Jonah 4:1-11 CSB

Jonah was greatly displeased and became furious. He prayed to the Lord: “Please, Lord , isn’t this what I thought while I was still in my own country? That’s why I fled toward Tarshish in the first place. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and one who relents from sending disaster. And now, Lord, take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” The Lord asked, “Is it right for you to be angry?” 

Jonah left the city and found a place east of it. He made himself a shelter there and sat in its shade to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God appointed a plant, and it grew over Jonah to provide shade for his head to rescue him from his trouble. Jonah was greatly pleased with the plant. When dawn came the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the plant, and it withered. As the sun was rising, God appointed a scorching east wind. The sun beat down on Jonah’s head so much that he almost fainted, and he wanted to die. He said, “It’s better for me to die than to live.” 

Then God asked Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?” “Yes, it’s right!” he replied. “I’m angry enough to die!” So the Lord said, “You cared about the plant, which you did not labor over and did not grow. It appeared in a night and perished in a night. But may I not care about the great city of Nineveh, which has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot distinguish between their right and their left, as well as many animals?”

Lights, Camera, Distractions

As I am sitting here, today, my mind has wandered down one of those rabbit holes I seem to visit every so often. And lucky you…you get to read about it (as if there is nothing better to do). My lovely wife, Lauri Lee, has said many times that she would hate to have my mind. She says it would drive her nuts to feel the need to dig so deep on so many subjects that will likely bear no relevance to the life we are living today. LOL…gotta love her!! She says she much prefers a mind that is relatively quiet and does not get worked up over much of anything…to which I respond….BORING!!

In 1440, a man named Johannes Gutenberg invented something called the printing press. And in 1455, he used it to print the Gutenberg Bible (otherwise known as “the 42-line Bible”). Now that may not seem terribly significant, to most people, but I have heard many Christian scholars and historians say that the invention of the printing press was, by far, the most significant event in history, regarding the spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world at-large. And I believe that is, quite likely, an understatement. Over the next couple of centuries, there was an explosion of new translations in various languages and they were being sent out, all around the world, as fast as they could print them. The fruit produced from those seeds of faith…I suspect is more than we can even imagine.

The ability to mass-produce Bibles led to incalculable changes in the way people interacted with each other (some good..some bad) in nations all over the globe. Some have even said that without the printing press, the American Revolution may never have happened (at least at that time). Without the widespread availability of Bibles in English, there may not have been the backlash against the Church of England which led to so many people picking up their lives and moving to this newly discovered land, in hopes of finding a place to raise their families in a way that allowed them to worship God as they saw fit, not as the throne of England insisted. The ripples in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, caused by Gutenberg’s press in Germany, had travelled all the way across it, to this brand new world, and there was no looking back. Everything had changed.

Now for the rabbit hole, glad you stuck around. The first photgraphic image was taken by a man named Joseph Nicephore Niepce around 1814. In 1827, a man named Sir Charles Wheatstone first used the word, “microphone,” to describe the stethoscope, but the first real microphone was invented in 1876, in conjunction with the development of the telephone. The first “moving picture” was made by Thomas Edison in 1889…and the first feature-length motion picture with sound was made in 1927. It was called “The Jazz Singer” (Neil Diamond starred in a remake of this movie not too long ago). I guess it would be hard to imagine a movie about a singer without sound, right?

So, I mentioned all of that to say that only over the last hundred years or so, have we seen the technological advancements of photography, video and sound recording effect our world in countless ways. And as is usually the case, not always in a positive way.

Oh sure, there have been the great developments like movies, radio, television, stage productions and the like. I can hardly imagine what my life would have been like without the advent of recorded music, which has been a huge inspiration to me with people like Elvis, The Beatles and so many others. And of course, now we have the Internet and cell phones and social media apps like Facebook, a Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat. I am guessing you are beginning to see where I am going with this.

I was born in June of 1954, smack-dab in the middle of what is called the years of the “baby boomers,” which was from around 1945 (right at the end of WWII) to around 1965 (during Viet Nam). My parents’ generation became known as “The Greatest Generation,” having come out of the Great Depression, lived through Pearl Harbor and then became the ones who fought for freedom against the Germans and the Japanese, at the same time. Plus, the American Dream became a reality for more people than ever before, during those days, as well. My generation, on the other hand, became known as “The Me Generation.” And I am not so sure they meant that in a good way. Just sayin’.

I am wondering, how much of what caused us to become “The Me Generation” can be directly attributed to the accelerated use of things like cameras and microphones. Now, I am not saying cameras and microphones are evil, let’s not go there. As we see with so many other things, it is not the device that’s bad, but how people end up using them. That is the problem. Let’s take a quick look at how these devices became larger and larger parts of our daily lives and how quickly they began to change who we are…as a society.

First, as I mentioned earlier, there was the arrival of things like radio, TV and movies. These are basically good things, of course. I love a good movie or TV show…and radio played a huge role in my early years. It is largely why I play music to this very day. For me it all started with the car radio, in the late 50s and early 60s, and once The Beatles landed on the Ed Sullivan Show, my world had changed forever. With the help of radio, TV cameras and microphones…look how four boys with guitars from Liverpool England changed everything from hairstyles, to the clothes we wore and even what we wore on our feet (not to mention their impact on the social and moral issues of the day). And of course, millions of young men on both sides of the ocean couldn’t wait to get their hands on a guitar or a set of drums (around that time, I had just started accordion lessons…guess I missed the memo…accordions were no longer cool…lol). Those ripples of change had become a tsunami.

But that was only the tip of the iceberg. Cameras had started changing, many years before that, the way we thought about ourselves and our families. There were wedding pictures, baby pictures, newspaper pictures, even popular cards featuring pictures of our famous sports stars. We were finding more and more ways to memorialize not only ourselves, but those we idolized, as well. The boys wanted to be like Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jim Brown, Muhammed Ali, or Rocky Marciano (and a couple of decades later, many wanted to be like John Lennon, Mick Jagger or Chuck Berry, too). And the girls, they were being baited to think they had to look like Marilyn Monroe or Annette Funicello, if they wanted to be popular with the boys. Needless to say, cameras and microphones were changing social standards, even to the point of who our young people wanted to be like someday. And that led to a whole host of other problems, of course.

But still there were even deeper and darker effects from these technological advances. In the 50s, there was the arrival of “girly magazines” like Playboy, which were fairly tame in the beginning (by today’s standards of what is decent or acceptable). Now we have become quite comfortable with the slogan, “Sex Sells,” and trust me, there is no shortage of buyers. A study was done in 2015, that found out that revenues from the sale of pornography, just in the US alone totaled more than the revenues of the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the NHL and NASCAR combined. Just let that sink in for a minute. And, of course, pornography (along with other things like alcoholism and drug use) is pointed to as a major factor in the rise in divorce rates and single-parent homes, too. And we know the domino effect that has resulted from those staggering statistics…not good.

And with the advent of television (especially the 24/7 behemoth we have come to know as “cable news,” we have become a nation that is hugely impacted by “sound bytes.” No one seems to care about hearing the whole story any more…just a “juicy headline” (usually made even juicier than the story, itself, to grab more ratings or clicks…to increase profit) is more than enough to form an opinion. Nowadays, there are even media outlets that specialize in publicizing salacious stories that do not even have to be based on  actual events. Why let the real facts get in the way of a great story that SELLS??  I’m sure you have heard of members of the paparazzi getting paid millions for a compromising photo of a celebrity or a politician “caught red-handed.” It has been said that the paparazzi played a part in the crash that killed Princess Diana. Yes, all of this fanaticism and hunger for “the dirt” has not only gotten out-of-hand, it has become downright dangerous (especially for the victims of these types of attacks). 

Remember the slogan, “Sticks and stones may break your bones, but words will never hurt you?” Well, that certainly has gone the way of the Edsel and the hoola-hoop. Nowadays, words (even if they are not true), once publicized, can ruin your life. And those who create these types of stories or photos, they are not the least bit concerned about the damage they well cause (rightly or wrongly). It is all about getting that big “payday.” And those of us who feed on such things only make it worse.

So, okay Bob, where are you going with all this talk about cameras and microphones…and the effects they have on the crazy world we live in? I’m glad you asked.

Those of us who seek God and embrace the teachings of the Bible are comfortable with the belief that God designed us with the innate ability and desire to “glorify God,” while it is the primary focus of God’s enemy, Satan, to get mankind to replace the desire to “glorify God” with the desire to put ourselves first and leave God with “the leftovers,” if anything at all. 

And if we look back at the story of Cain and Abel, the sons of Adam and Eve, we see that Cain became jealous of Abel. Why, you ask? They both brought an offering to God, but He was pleased with Abel’s gift because he brought the first fruits of his harvest. Cain had brought his “leftovers” to God, and that led to the world’s first murder when he killed his own brother. So, no, this is not really a new problem. But, it is certainly one that growing at an alarming rate. 

Truth be told, it was prophesied almost two thousand years ago that this would not only be a problem that would grow exponentially in the final stages of man’s time on Earth, the Apostle Paul told us that this would be a major indicator that the time of Christ’s return:

“But know this: Hard times will come in the last days. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, proud, demeaning, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, without love for what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God…” [2 Timothy 3:1-4 CSB]

Sound familiar?  “Lovers of self…without self-control…without love for what is good…conceited…lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” My goodness, it sounds like Paul might have been watching the MTV Awards or the Golden Globes. Or he could have just spent an hour or so…scrolling through Instagram? Do folks really want to see what I had for lunch today…or the 89th picture I have posted of my dog? (Ok, I do post pictures of our mini-goldendoodle, Shiloh…but she is special…just sayin’) I think you get my drift…we have become a society of very self-absorbed people…and I believe Satan is much happier with this development than God is. Although, as I said in a blog post a few weeks ago, God is not surprised.

In conclusion, then, do I believe that the rise in popularity of the use of cameras and microphones is to blame for the downfall of morality and decency in our world? Of course not. Many things can be used for good and for evil. It depends on the intentions in the heart of the people that use them. And those of us who view and hear what others produce with those cameras and microphones need to be more aware of the dangers…and be careful not to blindly swallow the poison. The effects on you, your family, and those around you can be disastrous.

Maybe it would be a good idea to keep in mind a few more words from the Apostle Paul (maybe even put these up on the fridge):

“Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves.” [Romans 14:22]

BOB PALUMBO

(Author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

Are You Disappointed?

As we look around the world we live in, nowadays, it sure seems to me that if the world is filled with anything (besides air and water..of course), I believe disappointment would probably be near the top of the list for many people. We often hear statements like, “No one said life was fair” or “What did you expect…a medal?”  There certainly is no shortage of things to remind us that what we hope, and dream, and wish for…for ourselves and others…will likely not materialize. The downside of “high hopes” is just a farther fall, some might tell you, when things don’t work out as planned.

With that in mind, I would like to ask six questions, some of which you may have already asked yourself, at some point in your life.

1) Are you disappointed with your job or career?

When you were, let’s say, fifteen or sixteen years old, what did you want to do with your life? Did you want to be a famous surgeon, an astronaut, an actress, rich like Steve Jobs, the quarterback who would finally turn the Browns around…or like me…become the next Billy Joel or Paul McCartney? Not many of us dreamed of working at the steel mill for forty years or being a “stay-at-home mom”with four kids under the age of ten, right? Not that those are bad things, of course. They are just not the type of things that dreams are made of.

2) Are you disappointed with your friends?

Have you ever gone through a tough period in your life, and looked around and found that the only other person to be seen anywhere, was the person staring back at you in the mirror?  What is up with that? How many people, ones you call “friends,” did you help out when they were hurting? Are you wrong to think that what you have done for others should come back to you, when it’s your turn in the barrel?

3) Are you disappointed with your marriage?

Oh boy, look at all the hands going up on this one. That’s good. It makes me feel better to know that I am not alone (for whatever that’s worth….lol). Remember those famous words, “for richer, for poorer…in sickness and in health…through good times and the bad…until death do you part, so help you God?” How many of us can actually say that we believe our spouses have made good on those promises to “love us just as much, no matter what?” Ooh, not as many hands went up that time…oops. I once heard a comedian say, “Marriage is the only institution that is not considered successful until one of the participants dies.” Funny (or sad…depending on how you look at it)…but true. Marriage is tough…y’all. Just sayin’…marriage is real tough. If you are married and have honestly never been disappointed by your spouse…you are a uniquely blessed individual. Be thankful, my friend. You should be very thankful. That does not happen often.

4) Are you disappointed with your kids?

Let me be the first to say, regarding this one, that I believe in a number of ways (not all, of course), I was a disappointment to my parents, especially my Dad. What I mean by that is…I probably did not turn out to be the person he (or they) thought I would be. Oh, my parents loved me. I have no doubts about that. And I believe they were quite happy with the person I ultimately became…as a husband, a father and an all-around good guy (for the most part). But I know there were times when they said, “Oh no…what are you thinking? Why do you want to do that? You are going to regret this someday, you probably have not thought this through. There is a good chance this is not going to end well for you.” C’mon now, you know what I am talking about. And to be honest, as a parent of four kids that I love very much, I have had those same thoughts about some of their decisions. So yes, there were times when I felt disappointment regarding my children. I admit it.

5) Are you disappointed with your church?

I hear you saying, “Disappointed with my church? That doesn’t even sound right. Isn’t that where we are supposed to go to find help in getting over our disappointments? And now, are you suggesting that sometimes it only leads to more disappointment?” Umm…call me crazy. Yes, in fact I am, sorry to say. There is an old saying, “Where human beings are present, disappointment is not far away.” Yessir, it is probably sitting right next to you in the pew on Sunday? “Why am I always the one who shows up for these outreach programs? What about Fred? I don’t think I have seen him show up to help one time. But, he sure is here on Sunday morning, acting the part.” Then of course, there is this one, “There goes the Pastor again…talking about money and the importance of tithing. We get it, already. It’s important. I don’t come to church on Sunday to be hounded for donations…but it seems we talk about that more than anything else. It just gets old, sorry to say.”  You have heard the complaints, I’m sure (you should hear what the pastor says about you, when you are not around…lol).

6) Are you disappointed with your life?

And finally, the 500 lb. gorilla in the room. Are you disappointed with who you are, with the person you have become? Oh sure, “Life happens while you were busy making other plans.” True that. I know all about it. My life did not turn out anything like I expected it to. But maybe that is a good thing. I remember a conversation I had with my son once. He is a teacher and has a Master’s Degree…he’s a bright young man. We were talking about the music business and I was telling him how many times my hopes and dreams of becoming a succesful singer/songwriter were crushed by people who did not see how talented I was (yeah, that was it, sure). He said, “You know, Dad. Maybe it all worked out for the best. Look where you are today. You have a happy marriage, four kids, eight grandkids, you are retired now with a little money in the bank (maybe not a lot…but enough). Maybe God just had a different plan for your life. If you had been succesful in music, your life would have been completely different and maybe not for the better.” Smart kid…my son!!!

I remember hearing one time, many years ago, “Disappointment is what happens when our expectations fail to meet up with the results.” Ah, well isn’t that interesting?  Maybe it is my expectations that are to blame here. Were they justified in the first place? 

Did I have good reason to think that I would be rich and famous someday? Was my music really that good…and all the professionals just kept missing it?

Did I truly expect others to run to my side when I ran into hard times? They all have lives of their own and their own problems to deal with. Was I right to expect them to drop whatever they were doing to come and fight my battles? Silly boy!!

Was it realistic for me to expect my wife (or any spouse) to love unconditionally, no matter what life put in front of us? We are both human, afterall. BTW…have I done that for her? Wait…don’t answer that. I probably already know your response.

And, as I have said already, in some ways I did not live up to my parents expectations and there were times that my kids did not live up to mine. Surprise…surprise.

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Without oxen, a stable stays clean.” [Proverbs 14:4] Translation, where work is being done…things can get a bit messy. And I think that correlates nicely to the church, as well. There is no such thing as a perfect church, or perfect people (at least until Jesus comes back and sets up His Kingdom).  We are bound to be disappointed if we expect our churches to be perfect. I would say that is a great example of “unrealistic expectations.”

How about good ol’ you? “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the biggest disappointment of all?” It always comes back around, doesn’t it. You point your finger and there are three more pointing back at yourself. The truth is, though, if you fix your hopes on a person or a group of people (present company included), it is reasonable to expect to be disappointed.

The real problem lies in finding someone worthy of our high expectations, someone who not only makes promises, but has proven over many generations to be One who keeps His promises. Not sure who I am talking about? I will give you a hint…He is not a human.

King David knew it was a bad idea to expect one person to live up to the expectations of another one. After all, he disappointed many people, himself. But this is what he wrote on the subject:

In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed. [Psalm 22:4-5 NASB]

The Apostle Paul talked about how our struggles lead to a form of “hope that does not disappoint.” I would say he knew a little about tribulations that lead to hope. He didn’t just talk about it. He lived it.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. [Romans 5:3-5 NASB]

And again, the Apostle Paul wrapping up the subject quite nicely by putting this beautiful little bow on it….short but sweet.

For the Scripture says, “ Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” [Romans 10:11 NASB]

Then David’s son, King Solomon, told us all how we can overcome this problem of disappointment:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him; And He will make your paths straight. [Proverbs 3:5-6 NASB]

So, we have received a prescription for victory over disappointment….one that seems to be consistent in the both the Old Testament and the New Testament.

1) Believe in God   

2) Place your hopes upon Him

3) Trust in the Lord with all your heart

He alone is worthy…and if you truly place your trust in Him….you will never be disappointed.

I believe that with all my heart.
BOB PALUMBO

(Author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”)

God Is Not Surprised!!

          God is not surprised by what is happening in the world around us today. No, God is not surprised by anything. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He had no beginning….and He will have no end. Everything that has happened on Planet Earth, He knew before it happened. He not only knew about each happening, ahead of time, He also knows what caused them to happen…and He was also quite aware of the “domino effect” that every event would cause, as well as the responses they would produce (from those who were involved) before there was a single response. Yet God Almighty was not surprised by any of it.                                              

          He was not surprised that the serpent deceived Eve or that she and Adam would disobey Him and eat of the forbidden fruit. He was not even surprised when their son, Cain, killed their other son, Abel. But, He most certainly knew it was only the beginning of sorrows. Sin begets more sin. Hate produces more hate. Violence brings more violence. Lying leads to more lies. And suffering seems to only cause more suffering. As we saw in the days of Noah, once the doors of disobedience and rebellion were opened, wickedness came in like a flood. The world became so overrun by evil, God had to send a real flood to wipe it off the face of the Earth. Yet the Lord was not surprised, even though it pained Him greatly to do so, I believe.

          When God took Moses up on the mountain of the Lord to give him the Law by which His people should live, He was not surprised that the people got impatient and had Aaron, the priest, make for them a golden calf so that they would have something to worship while they waited for Moses to return. I can almost hear God say, “Seriously? I deliver you from Egypt and that wicked Pharoah. I part the Red Sea and allow you to pass through it on dry land, then I swallow up your pursuers with it’s mighty waters, and you cannot be content and wait for Moses to come down from the mountain? Well, I guess I should not be surprised. You folks have been grumbling and complaining the entire time.” The Bible says God is “longsuffering in His love towards us.” And we can look no further than His beloved Israel to see evidence of that. Hallelujah!!

           And He was not surprised when Nebuchadnezzar, of Babylon, came and took the Jews into captivity for seventy years, trampled down God’s temple and left the city of Jerusalem in utter ruins. No, God was not surprised, but He was saddened that the Jews were so rebellious and so unwilling to repent, that just as with the flood in Noah’s day, He had to bring judgement upon them at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. And seventy years later, He raised up another king, as He promised He would, to defeat Nebuchadnezzar and secure the release of God’s people when their time of judgement was over. This was also not a surprise to God, or His people, because although God may allow us to suffer for a season, He is always redemptive at heart and He always keeps His promises. Thank you, Lord!!

          God was most certainly not surprised when the religious and political leaders of the days when Jesus Christ walked upon the earth, turned against this “upstart troublemaker” who was calling them “hypocrites” and getting the people all riled up. Afterall, He was causing them problems and threatening their livelihood. So, no, it was not a surprise when the Father saw them kill His Son when He had not committed a single sin. In fact, God the Father fully expected it….it was actually the reason the Father sent His Son to Earth, as hard as that might be to grasp. But, we must remember that God’s ways are higher than ours. He is able to do, because of the perfectness of His love, what needs to be done for a greater good even if it causes Him personal grief or pain. With us humans, ummm, not so much. All too often we opt to inflict hardship on others to spare ourselves.

           That is why He is God and we are not. And so it was, with the sending of His only-begotten Son, Jesus, to die on the Cross at Calvary. Once again, God was not surprised that things had deteriorated to the point where such drastic measures needed to be taken. But, that does not mean it did not hurt Him deeply. Of course it did…and I suspect the pain was greater than anything we, here on Earth, have experienced. Yet, he pushed through the pain and accomplished the ultimate goal…breaking the curse of sin and death for all of mankind, once and for all time, and providing forgiveness for whomever would seek it.

            And honestly, we should not be surprised by that either. The Apostle John wrote, “God is love”…not “has love,” or “sends His love”….He “is love.” It is the very fabric of who God is. He is gracious, merciful and most of all…always redemptive down to the very core of His being.  And it should be noted, pure love like that is not surprised when loved ones fall short of loving equally in return. He was fully aware from the beginning that we would fall short, which is why He also had a plan of redemption in place…from before the world was formed.

           So, with all of that in mind, if we come to grips with how perfect His love for this world is (and for those of us who have lived in it and suffered the consequences of sin and death), it should be quite clear that God is not surprised by anything that is happening in the world today. Let’s read a passage from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 24, the words of our Lord Jesus…not long before He was arrested and crucified two thousand years ago:

“You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet…For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places…Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved…For at that time there will be great distress, the kind that hasn’t taken place from the beginning of the world until now and never will again…Immediately after the distress of those days, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not shed its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. Then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the peoples of the earth will mourn; and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” [Matt. 24:6-7,11-13,21,29-30]

And then, quite interestingly, Jesus points us back to the days of Noah and tells us that right before He returns, it will be just like that again…exceedingly evil and with much suffering. And you guessed it, He did not sound all that surprised either:

 “As the days of Noah were, so the coming of the Son of Man will be. 38 For in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah boarded the ark. They didn’t know until the flood came and swept them all away. This is the way the coming of the Son of Man will be.” [Matt. 24:37-39]

Sin has consequences. Evil bears fruit, just as righteousness does. This is nothing new, as Solomon once wrote, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The world is full of hardship, no doubt…wars, murder, theft, slander, malice, hate, lust, adultery and sorcery (and these are just the more intentional varieties). The world is also full of the more unintentional types of hardships..volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods (which strangely enough the world calls “Acts of God”…well at least they give Him credit for something…UGGHH) and then there are the more personal types such as sickness and disease…cancer and the like. All of these forms of hardships cause us to hurt and agonize, and many times it causes the ones we love to leave this world much to soon. 

But, wait, if God is not surprised by any of this, why would He stand back and allow these things to happen, if in fact He has the power to stop them? Great question…and one that has been asked for centuries, without getting a really good answer (at least one that makes us feel better, I might add). Well now, I certainly do not feel qualified to be the one to suitably answer one of life’s greatest questions. So, let me try to wrap this up with two portions of Scripture, one from Paul and the second one from Peter. I’d say they are much more qualified to do so, wouldn’t you?

And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy that he prepared beforehand for glory…” [Romans 9:22-23]

Paul is saying that God is able to show His wrath by pouring it out upon those who disobey Him and cause such hardships, and He very much wants to. But, at the same time, there are others to whom He wants to show mercy (and let’s be honest…without the hardships, there would be no opportunities for God to display His wondrous mercies, or for His people to participate in the spreading of His love through our simple acts of kindness). Afterall, for love to be victorious, there must be something to be victorious over, right? It reminds me a little bit of the words from a classic Garth Brooks song, “I could have missed the pain, but I would have had to miss…the Dance.” Surely, all of our lives have been touched by disappointment and sorrow. But, haven’t all the moments of pleasure, happiness and joy made it all worth it? I would say, “Absolutely, yes!!”

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9]

Have you ever thought, “What if God would have decided to intervene, sounded the last trumpet and shouted ‘Game Over’ two hundred years ago, before the Civil War, World War  I, World War II, Korea, Viet Nam, Roe vs Wade and 911?  Would you and I be here today? What if God knew you (as Jeremiah wrote) before you were even formed in your mother’s womb…and what if He already knew you were to become one of those “objects of mercy” Paul wrote about…one of the ones whose name is written in the Book of Life? You would have been denied that opportunity. You would have been denied the chance at life on Earth, and the chance to know God intimately or reject Him (we all still have that chance…by the way). Think about it…the Apostle Paul said the Lord is “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” That means, ultimately, He desires that no one will be be excluded when He sets up His eternal Kingdom. Yes, through Jesus Christ, an invitation has been sent to every man, woman and child who has ever lived. But it does require a response. It is up to us to either accept or reject the invitation.

The point is..God is still at work. Things have yet to fully run their course and who knows how much time we have left (speaking of each of us as individuals…and the world as a whole, too). But know this, as well, He always keeps His promises. When Jesus said, “I am going to prepare a place for you…and if I go…I will come again to receive you to Myself,” you can count on it. He did…and He will.

Rest assured, my friends, God is not suprised by anything that has happened. Not now. Not ever.

And neither should we be surprised that in the end…for those who put their trust in Him, it will all be worth it…and then some.  In that…I have no doubt!!

BOB PALUMBO

Author of “Unlocking Creation” and “The Red Letter Parables”

       

        

What About Bob? (my story)

On Saturday, June 12th, 1954, Robert Daniel Palumbo was born to Robert and Edna Palumbo in Cleveland. Ohio, the first of three children and, as it turned out, the only boy. In March of 1960, the family moved to Parma Heights, Ohio (a suburb of Cleveland) and they stayed there long enough for all three kids to graduate from Valley Forge High School. Bob graduated in 1972, having eked out a solid B average and played numerous sports. He also made his first mark as a musician during his high school years with a rock band, Summit, where he became good friends with the drummer, George Loper, who would play a major role in Bob’s life a few short years later.

Bob first got his chance to pursue music at age 7, when a door-to-door salesman stopped by and got Bob to sign up for accordion lessons. It was 1961, and being from an Italian family, accordion seemed like a good choice. However, only a couple of years later in early 1964, when The Beatles landed in America, Bob was already beginning to feel the nudge to drop “the squeezebox” in favor of the guitar. A few years later, he talked his father into letting him trade in his accordion for an acoustic guitar. But, he still played organ and piano, primarily, thanks to The Dave Clark Five, who’s lead singer played the organ and gave Bob some hope that playing the keyboards could still be cool.

On January 13th, 1978 (yes…a Friday), as Bob was playing with his lounge band at a place called the Brown Derby “Luv Pub,” a young lady named Lauri Lee Martin wandered into the bar….and into his life…and they were married five months later on June 9th.  Over the next ten years, or so, they ended up with four children, three daughters and the youngest child being a son. They both decided their “quiver was full,” as they say, at that point. That has now led to eight grandchildren, as well.

On November 5th, 1979, just one day following the beginning of the Iran Hostage Crisis, Bob’s old friend, George Loper, showed up at his house in response to a classified ad in the paper selling some musical equipment. Bob had not seen George in about seven years, so they had a lot to talk about, the most surprising was that George had become a pastor of a church on the east side of Cleveland. Well, that led to Bob asking George a lot of questions that he had been pondering about God, Jesus, the Bible and of course, “Why are we here, in the first place?” Before the night ended, Bob and Lauri had accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior and from that point on, their lives would never be the same. And oh, by the way, Bob and George (as well as their wives, Lauri and Lisa) are still great friends today.

Over the next three decades, they attended various churches and grew in knowledge and faith…and in their relationship with the Lord. Bob continued to play music, primarily with the worship teams at those churches, and he still was writing and recording music. But now, most of it was Christian music. During the 90’s, Bob did try his hand at becoming a songwriter for the newer, more modern country artists. And although he did eventually record and release a country CD in 1997, his music never really grabbed much attention in Nashville. But that did not stop Bob from writing and recording his own music (which he still does to this day), now with over 200 hundred songs written and recorded (mostly by himself, although a few songs were recorded by other artists…again without great success).

In August of 2012, both his Mom and Dad passed away from illnesses just 48 hours apart. Needless to say, that caused Bob to dig even deeper into the Bible, looking for answers and solace…and his relationship with Christ grew even more.

In 2015, as a favor to the Men’s Group at his church, Bob agreed to host a Facebook Group and start a daily Bible study, taking one chapter a day and making some casual observations on each. This seemed to kindle the desire to do more writing, and in October of 2016, Bob released his first full-length book entitled, “Unlocking Creation.”  He followed that up by starting a weekly blog (also called “Unlocking Creation”) and then in 2017; he released his second book, “The Red Letter Parables,” which is a 40-day devotional study of the Parables of Jesus.

He is currently working on his third book, which will be his view of the End Times and how things may unfold, just prior to the return of Christ. Bob admits this book has been the most challenging to write, by far. But, he is hopeful it will be his best book yet. We’ll keep you posted as to when that one will be available.

Bob often quotes one of his favorite Bible verses, which says, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” [Colossians 3:17 NASB]

And that, sort of, has become his motto…and how he tries to lead his life every day. Whatever God puts in front of him to do, he tries to do it the best he can, with the gracious help of the One who made him.