More on Steps To Salvation

STSCoverWEBAs I mentioned in my last post, we’re getting ever so close to publication of Shlomo Attia’s breakthrough novel. And from the beginning of the process which began nearly four years ago, he warned me that writing this book and promoting his concepts might create controversy among my friends and acquaintances. He was right. I’m already finding that the logo alone is enough to turn off some readers even before they’ve checked out his blog, read his story and absorbed his synopsis. The man is a believer in individual liberty, in limiting the size and scope of government, and in empowering all people to work at fulfilling jobs to enable them to earn plenty of money to support themselves and their families.

He also believes that the God of Abraham, the God of Jacob, the God of Ishmael and the God of Jesus is the God of All. So far, so good. But there’s more. He also believes in reincarnation. And he believes that hell is not a fiery punishment reserved for bad people when they die: he believes hell is life on earth. And therein lies the rub with most traditionally religious people of all faiths and denominations.

In my daily life I regularly encounter Catholics and Christians who seem to believe that if you’re not onboard with their religious beliefs, you cannot possibly be a constitutional conservative. Which I find both perplexing and wrong – not to mention alienating and destructive. I have many friends on social media and real life who are not practicing Christians yet believe strongly in limited government, individual liberty, religious freedom, peace through strength and generally speaking, the principles outlined in the United States Constitution. Some are “New Age-y” types; others are Atheists. Are we to kick them out of the Tea Party movement because they don’t share the same religious beliefs?

To that end, even within the Christian denomination I’m sick of the in-fighting: Evangelicals attacking Catholics for “worshipping” Mary, the Mother of Jesus (they revere and respect her, but the “worship” falsehood lives on), Catholics attacking Protestants, and each denomination claiming they’re right and everyone else is wrong, wrong, wrong. Hey, each group has an absolute right to their beliefs and ensuing opinions based on those beliefs. But that’s my point: we should all be united in the effort to preserve every individual’s right to worship as they see fit — even if that form of worship conflicts with your own.

As long as a person’s religious beliefs do NOT compel them to engage in human sacrifice; mutilate genitalia; hijack airplanes filled with innocent passengers and crew for the purpose of crashing them into the ground or ocean in the name of Allah; rape; pillage or otherwise harm another human being’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; I really don’t care what they do. It’s about freedom. It’s about having the free will to worship (or not) as you please, WITHOUT the government forcing you to violate your religious beliefs. If the faithful person in question is completely WRONG in his beliefs and practices, I suppose God will sort that out with him or her at the end of their life, anyway.

Isn’t individual liberty something we should encourage all Americans to support? So why are so many purposely creating dissension in the ranks over religion?

I never thought I’d ever be one of those people who decries man-made religion. But after spending several years researching and writing Steps To Salvation, I’ve had an epiphany of sorts. Study the history of money. Study the history of the Vatican in 15th and 16th centuries. Study what really prompted the Protestant Reformation (hint: indulgences, a sickening practice of extorting money from the well-meaning faithful to spring the soul of their loved one from purgatory). It’s been an enlightening road, to put it mildly.

At the same time it’s not my goal to force anyone to believe what I believe. But that is exactly my point: let’s all support each other’s right to follow our faith, free of government interference. You may not agree with someone else’s denomination of Christianity. Fine. Is it really necessary to attack them over it on Facebook and Twitter when all of our liberties are under fire and we need every single liberty-loving American in the fight?

The symbol of The One God Religion in the novel, Steps To Salvation.

The symbol of The One God Religion in the novel, Steps To Salvation.

Alienating others by chastising them over their religious beliefs is not doing our cause any good. On the contrary, it’s creating a lot of unnecessary drama when we should all be united in the cause of restoring and reserving the United States Constitution.

Getting back to Steps To Salvation, Shlomo’s vision of the future is a world in which all countries operate as constitutional republics, allowing people to live in freedom, create businesses without the boot of big government on their necks, raise their children to be responsible and respectful, and understand that there is One God for all. Hence, his concept of The One God Religion. In his fictional, future world of the novel most people willingly choose to become members of The One God Religion, which creates peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world. Key word: willingly. I suggested that we had to make it clear that those who made the shift did so out of free will, but that there are still people in Salvation Time who opted to keep their traditional denomination (whether Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical, etc). There are others who don’t worship at all. Once again, it’s all about freedom and personal responsibility.

Ultimately, the book is a vehicle for Shlomo’s practical solutions for vital industries like energy, education, food and medicine, and his reform ideas for the justice and prison system. He’s a Tea Party kind of guy, which is how I met him in the first place. His philosophy is sound. That’s why I really hope the traditionally religious won’t throw the baby out with the bath water simply because they don’t like his spiritual beliefs — beliefs that evolved not only from a lifetime of questioning his own traditional Jewish upbringing in Tel Aviv, but also a clinical death that prompted his soul’s visit to heaven back in 2003.

This week we’re making final edits. With the entire book cover completed (thank you, Kia Heavey!), it won’t be long until it’s online and available for purchase. Stay tuned!


Easter Sunday: He is Risen!


RisenJesusFrom the Word Among Us:

He saw and believed. (John 20:8)

Alleluia! Christ is risen! Father, we exult in your glory! We rejoice, turning our thoughts to the One who lives, who is seated at your right hand above every power and authority and dominion.

He’s alive! Mary’s thoughts spun at the empty tomb: Jesus is missing! What happened? Who took his body? But we fix our eyes on the living Christ. Our thoughts don’t have to spin fruitlessly, hopelessly grasping at “reasonable” explanations. Because Jesus lives, we have hope. We are a new creation. We can look at life through new eyes, think with life-giving thoughts, and speak words of wisdom and understanding. Because he lives, we have peace. The unknown doesn’t have to shake us. God is for us, and nothing can separate us from his love.

He’s alive! Peter’s thoughts, perhaps, churned in regret: “I failed him. I said I would die for him, but I ran away. Now he’s gone.” But there is now no condemnation. Jesus has reconciled us to himself. We are seated with him at God’s right hand. Because he is alive, we are free from the law of sin and death. We are forgiven. Period. Jesus’ blood has cleansed us, and because he lives eternally, this cleansing is powerful. Though our lives are hidden in Christ now, one day we will appear with him in glory.

He’s alive! John saw the same empty tomb—and believed. He might not have understood fully, but still he believed. He recalled Jesus’ promises, and seeing the evidence of the empty tomb, he trusted them more than his own thoughts.

He’s alive! What about you? Jesus’ promise of life that never ends, a life full of grace and glory, freedom and endless joy. Though for a time (like Lent) we endure want and difficulties, we still fix our eyes on what is above, knowing what the empty tomb really points to. Christ is risen, and in him we now share in the promise of eternal life!

“Jesus, you’re alive! In you I live and move and have my being! Alleluia!”

Acts 10:34, 37-43; Psalm 118:1-2, 16-17, 22-23; Colossians 3:1-4

For more meditations and reflections for group discussion, bookmark the Word Among Us.

Have a Blessed Easter!


Good Friday Meditation



From The Word Among Us:

Into your hands I commend my spirit. (Psalm 31:6)

It’s Good Friday, the very day for which Jesus was born into the world. His whole life, everything he ever said or did, had been leading up to this day. Every miracle, every sermon, every word of forgiveness or challenge—none of them makes sense apart from the cross. And today, we are invited to join millions of people all over the world in gazing upon the Lamb who was slain for our sin.

So let’s follow Pilate’s words and “behold the man” (John 19:5). Come and behold the Christ in his humanity. Recall his humble beginnings as a newborn in a manger. Wonder at his hidden years as he grew in stature and grace.

Come and behold the One on whom the Holy Spirit rested as a dove. See him in his humility, trust, and surrender to his Father as he walked with God each and every day. Behold the One who prayed, “Into your hands I commend my spirit” (Psalm 31:6). See how this prayer, which he breathed with his dying breath, was but the full expression of a lifetime of yielding to his Father.

Come and behold the One who said, “I thirst” (John 19:28). Gaze upon the One who experienced hunger, thirst, and pain, both physically and spiritually. He came not to be served but to serve. He washed his friends’ feet. He dined with sinners and touched lepers. He poured out his life day after day for his people. And now here he is, crucified, betrayed, and abandoned. He is nailed to a cross, and he is still pouring out his life.

“Behold, your king!” (John 19:14). Before his pierced and bloodstained feet, we bow our knees, anticipating the day when every person will kneel before him. Look upon this ravaged rabbi, and see here your eternal King, the One through whom all things were created. See your high priest seated in heaven, even now constantly interceding for you, just as he did on the cross.

Behold Jesus. The sky blackens. The earth shakes. The rocks rend. His body lies still for now. His majesty is emptied but for a season. Here is your King.

“Jesus, into your hands I commend my spirit.”

Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Psalm 31:2, 6, 12-13, 15-17, 25; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9


Lenten Meditation: Ask, Seek, Trust


LentWow, is today’s Lenten Meditation from The Word Among Us perfect for me or what? The life of a freelance writer/author/social media marketer has always been my chosen path from the time I was old enough to talk (ok, the technologically advanced social media part came much later) — the God-given purpose I knew was uniquely mine, though I spent many, many years doing the “practical”, “corporate” and “acceptable” thing, partly to make others happy and partly because I liked the security. During this past week, I’ve dealt with some well-meaning, but misguided naysayers who believe that ghostwriting a book is something a person does “part-time”, while working full-time somewhere else.

Funny, I tried that before and it didn’t work. The project stalled for the simple reason that it requires full-time attention. And the fact that the client approached me after two years, adamant that I was the only person who could properly bring his vision to life, proves my point. Thus, I find myself being paid to write a book full-time, which still allows me to pick up a social media or freelance project here and there.

God works in mysterious ways if we just learn to trust Him:

Ask … seek … knock. (Matthew 7:7)

Christopher Columbus. Ferdinand Magellan. Vasco Da Gama. These men are considered some of history’s greatest explorers. But what enabled them to cross vast oceans at great risk just to reach their goal? Mostly it was their determination to succeed no matter what. It also took a lot of trust. They had to trust in their ships, in their navigational instruments and charts, and ultimately, in God.

This is the kind of attitude that Jesus is asking us to have in prayer. For there’s a certain level of tenacity implied in the advice he gives us today: ask, seek, and knock. Jesus is telling us that not only should we request things of God, we should actively seek him out for these things. In fact, he invites us to knock right on his front door! He tells us to be persistent as well. We can’t give up just because we don’t see tangible results right away. We need to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking.

This means that trust has to be at the heart of our prayer—trust based on knowing how much the Lord cares for us. It’s a trust in his promise: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it” (John 14:14). It’s a trust based on the fact that our Father loves us so much that he sent his only Son to die a sinner’s death for us. It’s the trust that tells us that our God will never abandon us. He is our Father, not just our Maker, and he doesn’t hand out snakes to his children!

In prayer today, take a cue from the great explorers. You may have been seeking something for a long time—perhaps a job or healing from an illness. Don’t give up! Your persistence will pay off as you draw closer to God—and as he draws closer to you. So give your worries to him. Even if he doesn’t answer your prayer the way you had hoped, he will answer in the way that is best for you. The only thing he can’t do is ask for you—that part is up to you!

“Lord, teach me to pray with persistence and with faith in your love and care. Help me to trust that you are always with me—no matter what the challenge may be.”

Esther C:12, 14-16, 23-25; Psalm 138:1-3, 7-8

Emphasis mine, as trust is something I have to develop and nurture daily.

Funny that this meditation also alludes to Christopher Columbus and other great explorers. A family friend once told me I have the “Christopher Columbus” gene, due to my desire and willingness to seek out new professional adventures, people and places to live. The paradox, of course, is that at the same time I am very family-oriented, which adds to the bittersweetness of it all. So I am still learning to trust in God as this prayer urges, and to keep abiding by His guidance. Perhaps the naysayers exist to reinforce the bond of trust between God and the individual. No one ever promised an obstacle-free path and sometimes those obstacles arise in the form of loving people who are so focused on their own God-given purpose that they cannot understand why someone else’s differs so dramatically from their own. Particularly if that someone else is a close family member or friend.

Is there something in your life you feel called to do, yet are under pressure from those around you to make a different choice? Take today’s meditation to heart, talk to God daily and follow His purpose for your own unique life.

P.S. Quite ironically, today’s #Writestream Chat with author John D. Gresham will revolve around the topic: “How to Make a Living as a Freelance Writer.” Join us at 11 a.m. Eastern!


Lenten Meditation: The Sign of Jonah


From The Word Among Us:

No sign will be given … except the sign of Jonah. (Luke 11:29)


Public figures tend to speak candidly in smaller, private gatherings of firm supporters. But when they are in front of larger groups, they paint with broader brushstrokes and use crowd-pleasing language. Not so with Jesus! Upon seeing a crowd swelling, he decided to challenge his audience. They were looking for a supernatural sign, but he invited them to repentance and conversion instead.

Clearly, Jesus was very generous with miracles. Over the course of his public ministry, he healed countless people, drove out demons, even brought the dead back to life. But he didn’t perform these wonders to satisfy people’s curiosity. He did it to reveal his Father’s love and power—and he did it in response to their faith. In today’s Gospel, however, Jesus could tell that the people in this crowd were in greater need of having their hearts opened, not in witnessing yet another marvel.

So Jesus told them about the citizens of Nineveh, who repented when Jonah called them to put away their sin and turn to the Lord. Even though the Ninevites were Gentiles, and even though Jonah was a reluctant prophet, the people accepted his word and offered a very impressive display of public repentance. By recalling this Old Testament story, Jesus made it clear that the most powerful “sign” he could give was not a spectacular miracle but the sign of repentance and transformed lives.

Jesus is speaking the same message to us today, and sometimes he speaks it very directly and pointedly. Don’t shy away when he does! Instead, let it move you to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Come to confession so that he can shine his light on whatever darkness is lurking in your heart. Open your heart to him, trusting that he loves you too much to let you remain in a rut. His call to repentance is not a rebuke but an invitation to companionship. It’s an invitation to a new life. You don’t really need another sign, do you? Confess your sins. Embrace his mercy. As you do, you will find more than enough signs of his presence.

“Jesus, make me into a sign that will bring people to you. I want to embrace your mercy so that other people may see you and believe.”

Jonah 3:1-10; Psalm 51:3-4, 12-13, 18-19

Reading this meditation, the first thing that came to mind was the similarities between Nineveh and our American culture/society today. How much more quickly could this nation be restored to greatness if each and every individual experienced their own call to self-examination and repentance? To set a higher standard for themselves, pursue their own God-given purpose and fight for our religious freedom and individual liberty?

Of course, we’re all blessed with free will, thus we can only control our own behavior — not that of others. However, setting a good example is the best way to encourage and influence the people around us to start their own self-introspection and spiritual renewal. Lent is a perfect time to make a concerted effort to put God at the center of our lives, acknowledge our sins and strive to do better, confident in Jesus’ love and mercy.

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