“Be Not Afraid, Only Believe” (Mark 5:36)

UFO Sighting, St. Croix, Virgin Islands, 1941. Courtesy Flikr Commons.

When I was a young boy, I saw a UFO. As I’ve shared my story over the years, few have believed me. I’m grateful to those who have been open to the possibility that I didn’t make my story up. I know what I saw. It was real. It wasn’t my imagination.

Maybe this experience is why I tend to be a believer and not a skeptic. Maybe this is why I believe anything is possible.

As I recall, it was in the late summer or early fall. I was a young boy, 5 or 6 years old. One afternoon, I was playing football—or the comical grade school version of it—with three or four friends in a neighbor’s huge backyard. I don’t know who caught sight of it first, but gasps and shouts got everyone’s attention focused on a rather unusual sight that suddenly appeared in the sky.

Across the street and hovering a few hundred feet above another neighbor’s house was what most people at that time would call a flying saucer. I could see it between a pair of Lombardy poplars. I remember the place where I was standing and I could take you to the exact spot today.

The craft hung in the sky as if it were observing us. It was a luminous gray color. The bottom of it was wider than the top. The edges were soft and rounded and it seemed to be spinning and wobbling slightly. Below the craft was a small round protrusion with rotating lights of various soft colors—orange, red, green and perhaps a sort of purple.

I don’t think any of us were afraid. I personally don’t remember feeling any fear. We yelled and pointed at it and ran as a group in its direction. After being visible for 10 to 20 seconds, as I was running, it was obscured for a moment behind one of those poplars and it disappeared in an instant, as if a window to another dimension opened up and swallowed it whole.

I have a vague recollection of telling my parents what had happened later that night. I recall my father smiling and dismissing my story as only my imagination. A bit ashamed, I kept the story to myself for many years.

Recently I retold the story to a close friend, one who was there with me that afternoon. He confirmed that he saw the same UFO and remembered many of the details exactly as I have shared them with you.

So why do I tell this story to you, to further embarrass myself? No, I’m not worried about that at all. Am I trying to convince you to believe me? No, not that either. I’m just telling you about an experience I had. You can believe or disbelieve me. That’s up to you.

The truth is the truth, whether we believe it or not. It’s nothing to be afraid of, but I fear our understanding of the truth can trip us up at times. I’ve been tripped up many times, for sure. And I’ve tripped up others. For that I am sincerely and deeply sorry.

We can believe whatever we want to believe. It’s our choice. No one can make that choice for us. No one can talk us into believing anything without our permission and nobody should.

I have always been a believer. I have believed that Jesus was the Savior of the world from the time I was a small boy. It always gave me a warm glow just to think about Him. It still does, but that warm glow has turned into a bonfire of belief.

When you believe something, true or not, you often find confirming evidence because of something called confirmation bias, which can be misleading. The more conscious we can be of our bias, the better. Less tripping up that way.

To some, believing in UFOs or alien beings or Bigfoot or other cryptids may seem contrary to traditional Christian beliefs. Some find it hard to wedge such things in to a preconceived reality.

Here’s how I look at it: Can you prove beyond a reasonable doubt that UFOs do not exist? You can’t. On the other hand, can I prove to you that they do exist? I can’t. But the reality of my experience has proved it to me. I’ll just leave it at that.

I’m the only one accountable for my beliefs and choices. Yes, I’ve been sideswiped many times by other people’s choices as I’m sure you have. Others can influence us, but you and I alone can choose what to accept, believe, and how to live.

You choose to believe what you believe usually based on your experience; I choose likewise. My experience in faith, politics, career, and family is so different from yours that I can’t see the world like you do and you can’t see my world, either. But I trust you and I don’t want to disrespect what you have experienced or believe. I honor you. We are living in different worlds, so to speak, and I refuse to judge the world you live in.

I am not out—er, I am no longer out—to try to convince anyone about anything. I may share my feelings, beliefs, far out stories, or invite you to consider something new, but I won’t try to “get you” to believe me. Not anymore. Nuh uh.

You’re a sovereign being. You have freedom of choice. I don’t know of a weightier eternal principle than agency, the freedom to choose and believe as you will.

Freedom of choice, however, is not freedom from law, whether we are aware of those laws or not. If you walk off the edge of a cliff, for instance, the law of gravity will remind you, perhaps one last time, that you are not in charge of the results of your final choice.

Angels or wrecking ball incoming. Our choice.

I’ve suffered from bait-and-switch offers. I’m sure you have too. But the results of those choices, harmless or harmful, have shaped my beliefs and, sometimes after multiple failures, have sharpened them to be more accurate perceptions of reality and more helpful to me and others.

What you believe and what you don’t believe makes all the difference. It’s all on you, ultimately. And I choose to love you, no matter what you choose to believe or do.

Second Coming: Grievous Wolves among You

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. If we are discerning, we can see the same breed of wolf lurking among us today that Paul saw in the early church, that is, wolves in sheep’s clothing, tearing apart the flock. He once warned the early saints of Ephesus:

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous [vicious, savage, fierce] wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:28–30; emphasis added.)

The Little Girl and the Wolf, book illustration, 1845. (Wikimedia Commons.)

He also spoke of certain characters arising to speak perverse—distorted, twisted—things, seeking to draw away followers after them. The times and technology have changed, but people have not.

The goal of this post is to help free someone, anyone, from the jaws of such wolves in the last days, from those who would lead us away from Jesus Christ.

How can we discern between a true follower of the living Christ and someone who has hidden, dark motives? How can we know when someone is telling us the truth or is not telling the truth? We can know them by their fruits, as Jesus warned.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:15–20.)

I have struggled to discern this dichotomy since my teens. After trial and error, I’ve come up with a chart of “fruits.” Here it is. The characteristics on the left are positive while the ones on the right are the opposite, negative characteristic. An honest, reliable person will show more traits from the left column and a dishonest, unreliable person will hover over the right. None of us will fit perfectly in either column, but it can help us pick up on trustworthy trends.

Are they . . . ?Or are they . . . ?
BelievingUnbelieving, cynical
BuilderWrecker
CalmAgitated
CaringDismissive
CivilProfane
ComplimentaryCritical
ConfidentAggressive, arrogant
Cool-headedBullying
CuriousApathetic
DignifyingHumiliating, degrading
DiligentIdle
ForgivingUnforgiving
EncouragingDiscouraging
GratefulResentful
HonoringShaming, discrediting
HumbleProud, superior
KindCruel
ListeningBelligerent
MeekSelf-congratulating, pompous
ModestImmodest, showing off
No regard for personal gainCovetous, greedy, taking personal gain
OpenDefensive
PatientImpatient or exasperated
Personally responsibleEntitled
Positive biasNegative bias
PraisingMocking
ProactiveCompetitive
RepentantUnrepentant, self-justifying
RespectfulAbusive, insulting, threatening
ReverentIrreverent
Self-restrainedViolent
SensitiveTactless, insensitive
TolerantIntolerant
TrustingSuspicious
UnpretentiousOstentatious
UpliftingBelittling
Well-manneredRude

It’s tricky business. People just don’t fit easily in one column or the other. A wolf may not demonstrate all the characteristics on the right, but he or she will show many of them. We all tend to show up on both sides. I’m talking about spotting trends and tendencies, not putting people in boxes.

This isn’t virtue signaling. I’m not pretending to fit 100 percent in the left column. I am just saying I’ve come to know the difference.

I have met and discerned some wolves over the years. They didn’t know they were wolves, but they were. Some have led people away from the Church, unwittingly or knowingly. Some are in prison.

Earlier, I’ve called anti-Mormon literature, so called, scornograpghy. I believe it is just as damaging as pornography. Does pornography contain elements of beauty? Perhaps it does. But it’s sinister purpose is to pervert human relationships, to conquer, addict, and enslave men and women to be preoccupied with a distorted view of sex. Does scornography contain elements of truth? Perhaps it does. But it’s sinister purpose is to pervert and twist the truth to make something to appear other than it is, to seduce, conquer, and enslave your emotions so that hatred, spite, fear, and unbelief fester where love once flourished.

So stop fooling yourselves! Evil companions will corrupt good morals and character. (1 Corinthians 15:33, TPT.)

Please don’t mistake my intent. Good people make mistakes, sometimes big ones. Good people commit crimes. Every human being is a disappointment, to themselves and others. It’s the nature of mortality. I make it a personal rule to not drink in other people’s vices, to allow the bad behavior of any person, living or dead, to diminish my connection with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. I also choose to not judge anyone. Judging another is an arrogant gambit. Assuming that we know enough to judge another is a shallow, conceited act.

Think about it . . .

  • Adam and Eve did something they were forbidden to do, but mankind is on the planet because of it.
  • Noah built an ark and saved a generation, but later he got drunk and lost his clothes in the process.
  • Moses led Israel through the Red Sea, but later gave himself a little too much credit.
  • David slew Goliath but was later slew himself with lust. But he repented and stayed faithful for the remainder of his life.
  • Judas, one of the twelve apostles, turned out to be a thief and betrayed his Master for 30 pieces of silver. He hung himself the next day.
  • Peter denied knowing Christ, but went on to boldly testify of Him and die a martyr’s death.
  • Paul hauled early Christians to prison, some to their deaths, but his New Testament letters have converted millions to Christ.

Blah blah blah. So what? Just because someone does something bad, or something I can’t understand, doesn’t erase the immeasurable good they have done or may do. Our mistakes, our sins, don’t define us. The healing power of Jesus Christ defines us.

Since I was a small child, I have never let other people form my views and opinions for me. Not my parents. Not my friends. Not my closest intimates. I was a subversive kid.

But I do not trust scorners or their writings or their videos, no matter how clever and sophisticated or convincing they are. I have learned, through research and experience, that I cannot trust what they say. I’m not going to buy what they are selling or drink their poison. I sincerely try to listen intently to the voice of the Lord and try my best to trust, understand, and follow that voice.

I am a sinner, but first and foremost, I am a believer. I always have been a believer, in God and in His word. I hope I never stop believing—or trying to move myself into the left column. I have a good ways to go. But at least I know this: “From such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5).