Two Miles Instead of One
Sabbath Day Sermon: Saturday 28 October 2000
Brethren and sisters, Sukkot is over, we have dismantled our booth of branches, the last of the autumnal holy days is over. For the first time we are beginning to feel the chill of winter as we brace ourselves for the shorter days, and the longer cold nights ahead. If you are anything like me, you begin to get the urge to snuggle up to a warm fire place and, in a way, hibernate through the winter. I must admit, I am no fan of winter, though here in Scandinavia where the winter season dominates all the others by virtue of our being so far north, Norwegians and Swedes have learned to make the best of it. Our one consolation here is that we do at least live in the sunniest part of Scandinavia, as the beautiful weather we had yesterday attests.
In the old days, before the discovery of oil, electricity and gas, and the advent of central heating, everything depended on the humble fire place and making sure enough wood had been gathered during the summer months. By the time winter came it would largely be too late to gather firewood and if you had not stocked up your barn with wood you faced freezing to death. In spite of the revolution in domestic heating we now enjoy, people out here in the countryside still gather and prepare wood as they always have done. Centuries of experience have taught the people how to dry and store the wood during the winter.
It is hard for us to imagine or believe that a little over a century ago felling trees and chopping up firewood was done only with a view surviving in a harsh climate. Newspaper was not available to ordinary folk and so large amounts of easily ignitable brushwood had to be collected and carefully dried to make sure plenty of tinder was available.
For those of you who have seen Aslaug and Gunnar at work this summer you will know how much hard work is involved in preparing firewood. They have been working almost non-stop since the spring to fill their barn with just enough wood for this winter. And when you consider that Gunnar had the use of a motorised saw, and how in the past everything was done with the axe and hand-saw, you can understand how much backbreaking hard work it must have been. The ancient Scandinavians were large, muscular people, and no wonder considering what they had to do to survive. But even in England, where some of us come from, winters used to be much harsher than they are now and people were no less likely to freeze, the main difference being that farming was so much easier for us.
Hardship. It's almost an obsolete word here in the rich West, isn't it? The day of hard manual labour is receding fast as machines take over more and more of our work. Because life has become so much easier, we have become a lazier and a less healthy people. Hard manual labour frankly does not appeal to people anymore. The belief is that technology will do it all for us and make life so much easier. The trouble is, what we have gained on the roundabout we have lost on the swing and, arguably, much that is essential in the building up of a sound Christian character too. With the increase in technological excellence has come selfishness, hedonism, and the disintegration of family life. We have come increasingly under the control of the state, more and more of our freedoms have become eroded, until we have become a new class of slave. Slavery has never ended in Europe and America, it has only changed its face.
I read a rather alarming article in the newspaper the other day called, Every Move You Make, Every Breath You Take...they'll be watching you, taken from the well-known pop song by Sting. The leader says:
"In the digital age, Big Brother has grown into an entire Big Brotherhood, keeping track of all aspects of our lives". It then indicates four ways in which are already being spied on today:
"JUNK MAIL: Much of the information collected when you purchase products using a credit card or a supermarket loyalty card (like a Konsum- or ICA-kort) ends up being used by direct marketing companies who target new products and services at your home address."
Through these cards food shops and, ultimately, governments, get to know your every taste - your eating habits, hobbies, tastes, preferences, passions, indeed, almost everything about you.
"MOBILES: The new generation of mobile phones will have devices installed which will give the exact location of the phone. Police have new powers to use these devices to trace the whereabouts of anybody without needing a warrant."
This means that so long as you have a mobile phone on you and its switched on, you can be found, no matter where you are. And no doubt there is technology that will allow the government to do the same even if you turn it off, so long as the battery isn't flat Or maybe even that won't mater.
"CCTV. Everywhere you go Big Brother is watching you. CCTV cameras proliferated in the 1990's and it is difficult to escape their gaze. On a journey from the high street to your office, every few minutes you are being filmed."
They're mostly in the cities today but doubtless they'll spread to the towns as well. Some of you here may have seen an Australian children's TV program called The Girl From Tomorrow where people are monitored by robot cameras flying through the air. Though this is still fiction, it will most certainly become a reality in tomorrow's world.
"COMPUTER: Your boss and MI5 can access your mails. Millions of people have unwittingly downloaded programs that secretly snoop inside their PC's, gaining access to personal data and spying on the web sites they visit" (The Observer, 30 July 2000, p.21)
Now I don't know if this alarms you, but it bothers me a great deal. Without anybody really noticing it, we are losing more and more of our privacy. The house of the future will be completely linked to central city computers which will monitor every electrical appliance in it, reporting malfunctions, and possibly even you. Already when you go on the Internet to visit web sites your machine downloads a little program called a "cookie" without your knowing it, enabling the web site you visit to look around your machine. I regularly delete cookies. Worse than this, the American CIA has, it is claimed, linked with software and processor manufacturers to insert programs in your CPU so that the police or any other government agency can spy on you, see which web sites you have been visiting, read your e-mail, and read anything on your computer, so long as you are on-line
So you see, technology, whilst bringing many benefits, is also now being used to set up a police state without most knowing about it or even caring about it. I am sure you've heard of the devices now available which allow you to listen to people's conversations in a house by simply picking up vibrations on window panes. Spy satellites are able to see you inside your home using powerful infrared - you're not even private in your own bathroom.
If you are alarmed by this, I am glad, because we need to be. The trouble with the march of technology is that there isn't really much you can do to stop it. For every new benefit, there's a parallel abuse. Nuclear energy has given us nuclear weapons, and the freedom of surf on the net has enabled people we don't know to spy on our private life. You would be surprised at the gadgetry that now exists. Fears that microchips are going to one day be planted in us are now fully justified with dogs and prisoners on probation having chips implanted under their skin so that they can be traced. Whilst unconscious on an operating table in a hospital almost anything could be inserted into you without your knowing about it.
Those with prophetic vision see all too clearly where all this is leading to: a slave state of world-wide proportions. The Bible predicts it will happen and even talks about those who receive the mark of the beast on their foreheads or hands - the very places where government scientists are planning to put biochips in people. There is even a secret report proposing that all new born babies have these chips implanted as a matter of routine. After one generation everybody would have them. These chips would not only be used to locate us, and control the money we spend, but also have the power to manipulate our behaviour - to change our thinking. It is the first step in the creation of the android, part man and part machine, which would become an automaton. Such technology in the hands of a dictator would spell the end of freedom as we know it.
It is for this reason that so many Christians like ourselves have abandoned the cities and taken to the countryside where the presence of Big Brother is not so great. And it is for this reason that I believe we will eventually do away with our mobile phones and Internet connections because these will simply allow wicked governments to invade our privacy and take control over us. The Bible warns of a terrible world-wide dictatorship to come and we see already how in the fabulous change in technology this can take actually place. Gone are the primitive ideas of 40 years ago when Christians thought the mark of the beast would just be a simple bar code tattooed on our skin with its 666 dividing lines - today we see to our horror how we are to be monitored from inside our bodies by tiny transmitters. This is one reason I am unlikely to go back to educating people in the use of computers - the more I saw of this potential abuse of technology, the more I saw that I was passively collaborating in the construction of the very apparatus that will enable the Antichrist to oppress a whole world.
If we are to escape this terrible New World with its undoubted technological abuse we are going to have to return to a simpler lifestyle. We are warned quite clearly in the Bible that once the Antichrist has his technology in place, it will be impossible for anyone to buy or sell if they don't have the mark, be it biochip or some even more advanced technological device of the future. The Bible tells us that those who refuse to receive this device will be beheaded.
To return to a simpler lifestyle means relearning the skills of bygone generations. Their skills will be essential for our survival. Knowing how to work the land and become self-sufficient in food. Knowing how to cut trees down and prepare firewood each year. Skills in carpentry, metallurgy, and the like. Learning to make do with little, conserving materials and not wasting. How, for example, would you make a nappy (diaper) for a small child in sub-arctic conditions? Do you know how to store perishable food for the winter? We have already had our first sad experience with apples this year! What about health? How good is our First Aid? Do we know anything about herbal medicines? All these, and many other, questions present themselves to us.
Though some of you started life as country folk and know the ways of the land, most of us were born and bred in the cities. We often feel like fish out of water here in the country. It is ironic that city people despise country folk and yet it is the city people who are going to suffer the most. The country folk will have the last laugh. Or will they? Farms are very much under government control here - standard size and large farms are forced to sell their produce to the state - they can't do what they like with it. The only people who have any measure of freedom are those with small land holdings and produce just enough for themselves.
We have a long, long way to go. We need people with the skills we lack. We must learn quickly from them. We will continue to use the cities so long as we are free to do so, but once the mark of the beast is in place, then we are on our own. And we know that it will be for seven long, lonely years. But we must also remember that after the great destruction that ends the Antichrist's reign and Christ returns, the world will be desolated. We shall not all go back to the cities. Most of them will have been destroyed by war, plague and social upheaval. We shall be returning, at least for the first generation or so, to an agricultural way of life. If any of you young ones witness the return of the Lord, and there's a mighty big chance you will, then you've got to get into preparation for what is to come. It is not just a seven-year holdout period we are talking about, but several generations afterwards too. If you want some idea of what life after the Tribulation is going to be like, just go and see the film Planet of the Apes and you'll see (minus the intelligent apes, of course!).
To prepare for this return to an agrarian way of life, we have to train ourselves up in body and soul. We have become weak and flabby through our indulgent living. We have got to learn to go two miles instead of the usual one.
Yah'shua (Jesus) said: "If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles" (Mt. 5:42, NIV). The Greek word for "force" here is derived from the Persian meaning "press into service" and is used at the end of Luke's Gospel where the Romans pressed Simon into service to carry Christ's heavy cross. What is important about Yah'shua's (Jesus's) saying is not whether we are forced to do something against our will, not whether we want to do something that is our natural duty, but the fact that a Christian is always willing to serve gladly. Throughout the New Testament the Saviour teaches that we are to give without thought of reward, work harder than what is expected of us, serve happily even someone who is a tyrant , and to generally learn to forget ourselves and the cravings of the carnal nature. We are not to rebel. Paul even taught that a Christian slave should serve his master even more eagerly than before, trying to please him. It is one of the signs of someone who is born of the Holy Spirit that he desires always to please those whose authority he is under, whether he likes him or not, and to do more than is required of him. It is an indication that we have forgotten 'self' and its greedy appetites and are following a much higher ethical and moral standard.
The death of Christ on the cross was not done to please Christ - He did not enjoy what He did. How could anybody possibly enjoy wading in the scum and filth of men's sins and paying the price for them? Yet Yah'shua (Jesus) did this because He was impelled by a higher power - that was, He was moved to improve the lot of mankind whose future would otherwise be eternal destruction. As disciples of Christ, our primary goal ought always to be the improvement of the welfare of others before our own by bringing them the message of salvation and then setting the kind of example that Christ demanded of His followers.
Yah'shua's teaching was revolutionary. Instead of an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, which was the lower degree of morality expected of those who lived only on the level of justice, He expected those who followed Him to advance to the next and final rung of perfection based on grace and love. To do this, He taught, required a death of selfish interest by putting self in the No.2 position and others in No.1. "If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other too" (Mt.5:39). Surprise and shock the carnal man - show him that you are not driven by the mere animal instinct of self-preservation and "rights" but that you operate on a much higher level of morality which seeks to bless those who despitefully use you. By doing what is contrary to human nature you reveal God's hidden love - and manifest it for all to see. "If someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well" (v.40).
Now Yah'shua isn't saying that you should go down to town, find a thief, wait for him to seal your coat and offer him your jacket as well. He is showing in His incredible statements that in order to reveal love and, indeed, to find it in yourself, you have got to do what may seem rather crazy things. Not things that break God's holy laws, of course, but things that show how much more love means to you than any supposed "rights". "Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you" (v.42). Again, that does not mean that you should find people who want to borrow from you and give them everything you have so that your family starves - it means that in certain, special situations an unexpected action on your part that goes contrary to the instinct of self-preservation will reveal to the shocked person the love of God. For God Himself did something unexpected and contrary to the carnal law of self-preservation by sending His Son, Yah'shua (Jesus) to die on a cross for our sins.
Christ wants us to live lives of self-sacrifice not only out of gratitude to Him for what he has done for us but also so that we can discover and enjoy the love that caused Christ to do this for us in the first place. Thus if your parent, pastor, teacher, husband, or someone else in authority asks you to do something that is not contrary to the Law of Yahweh, go one mile further. Pleasantly surprise him and yourself. Enjoy the revealed love as your selfish nature is stripped away in the moment of giving. And even better, go the extra mile without even being asked. Do you have a duty at home or at work? Go beyond that one mile. Are you worried about your "rights" being trampled on? Forget your rights - there aren't any in the Christian Gospel. Love impels us to duty and sacrifice, but selfishness to "rights". Thus I love the motto on the old Swedish Gustav Adolf VI 1-crown coins: "Plikten framför allt - Duty before everything else".
We must, in any case, get off our backsides and get to work if we are to get out of this infernal world system and learn to be self-sufficient. We won't be able to do it over night, but with good will, two-milers, and a desire to bless and prepare our children and their children for the terrible times to come, we will make it. Are you a one-miler? Today I'm challenging you to become a two-miler and go beyond what you have been giving, if that is humanly possible. And may the Lord bless you as you do this, as I know He will. Amen.
This page was created on 16 February 2001
Last updated on 16 February 2001
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