Index

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Focused On Our Purpose

To the Corinthians, Paul wrote: “"The way I am running is not aimlessly; the way I am aiming my blows is so as not to be striking the air." (1 Corinthians 9:26, other translations) This is a good reminder to all who feel compelled to preach the Word of God.

True faith was never meant to be a battle of wit and words. To those who accept God's Word as Truth, it is a real beacon to guide them to safe shores. To those that reject it, they remain adrift in tumultuous waters. Our efforts to save those who are "at sea," is to encourage them to let us help them. But what of those that adamantly argue things are not the way we claim? Spending time arguing or debating with them is time wasted that could be more productively spent on those ready and willing to be rescued. But what of the arguers that "keep getting in our face"? They seem to fall into three categories.

The first are those whose only intent is to disrupt and distract. The second are those who honestly feel we are the ones who need saving. (These baffle me because they honestly feel they have something better when it is obvious they don't.) The final group that comes to mind is one that just needs more gentle but firm convincing.

In some ways and to some extent, I fell into both the first and third groups when I first encountered the Witnesses. Now, looking back, I am glad I found a patient and insightful man that saw past my argumentative and arrogant demeanor. When I adamantly would assert that the scripture he was teaching didn't mean what he claimed, he'd ask me what I felt it meant. Then he would patiently reason with me. After a while, rather than offer his thoughts first, he'd have me read a passage and then ask what it meant to me. I was surprised how often I said exactly what the scripture intended. Then, when he would reference the JW material, I had no recourse but to agree it was right. (On occasions when I wasn't correct, he would have me read a few more scriptures and then ask me to tie them altogether.) But he never ever argued with me. If I became obstinate, he would kindly ask me to think about it, pray and research. There were so many fine qualities of this man that I need to remind myself of and strive to imitate.

But for the purpose of this article, I have two points to make. First, debating is fruitless and frustrating. Free Will allows others to have a viewpoint that differs from ours. Second, it’s not our place to judge the intent or motives of others. God is judge of all. Our obligation is to fulfill the preaching commission Jesus gave us. Yes, there are times when we need to use "the sword" to overturn wrong teachings, but that is not license to be unkind. What we are destroying are falsehoods, not people.

What Color Is This?

Perhaps you remember the controversy around the “what color is this dress?” internet post. Each camp claimed their perception of the dress was the correct one and could not understand how others did not see what they saw. The same can be said for anything that one group of people insist is right, while another (just as adamantly) claims differently. 

The truth of the matter with the dress is seeing it in natural light, in “real life” (so to speak). However, with regards the matter of faith and religion, the final truth of the matter will only be inarguably clear when God Himself steps in and “separates the sheep from the goats.” (In my personal opinion, the truth of those who are real Christians ought to be apparent by, as Jesus himself put it, “their fruits.” But it seems in todays’ world, Satan has managed to becloud and distort the view of people so badly, that they are truly blind in a spiritual sense.)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Treated As Fools

In the last few years, I’ve encountered the following treatment twice so far. At first, I found it confusing and could not understand why the person was acting the way they were. The second time it happened, again I felt very uncomfortable. In fact, it has taken about 2 months of reflecting on the experiences for me to make sense of them. What is this treatment? It is one of mock sympathy. In both cases, the men treated me as if they felt sorry for me -- that I was some poor deceived sap that didn’t have the mental capacity to reach a correct decision on my own. They attacked the teachings and methods of Jehovah’s Witnesses as if because of my low mental state (the assumption of those feigning pity, not the actual facts), I had been deceived by the crafty ways of the organization. I have to wonder if this is something their churches and religions are teaching them, to wit: “The people who come to your door are just simple-minded common folk who don’t have the ability of critical thinking. Pity them, feel sorry for them.”

I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised by this treatment. Paul wrote “For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth, but God chose the foolish things of the world to put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world to put the strong things to shame; and God chose the insignificant things of the world and the things looked down on, the things that are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, so that no one might boast in the sight of God. But it is due to him that you are in union with Christ Jesus, who has become to us wisdom from God, also righteousness and sanctification and release by ransom, so that it may be just as it is written: ‘The one who boasts, let him boast in Jehovah.’” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31) Yes, those who arrogantly think they are so much better than Christians who are, in their mind, “foolish” and not “wise,” react to us in the way I described in the first paragraph.

Really, we are in very good company. Even Jesus was belittled as being nothing more than a carpenter’s son and from Galilee (not a prophetically significant town). Also, Paul, who is credited with writing most of the letters and by far the greater part of the content of the Greek Scriptures; who was educated at the feet of Gamaliel; and whose advancements were at the forefront of his peers, after becoming a follower of the Christ was belittled as being nothing more than a “chatterer.” So if the son of God, and a very intelligent man like Paul can endure belittlement, surely we can also.

(Note that I didn't even address the claim that our organization uses tactics that are twisted. That claim is so completely absurd, it is laughable. I immediately recall how even to this day the Jewish religion's official position on the person of Jesus Christ is that he was absolutely the biggest Jewish apostate of all times and his effect on the world has been despicable. So it is no surprise that the Christian group known as Jehovah's Witnesses would be treated the same way.)


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Do Not Take For Granted

I’ve covered the subject of “believe on the Lord Jesus” as being a crutch people use to excuse their lack of real commitment. In that article, I provided a number of scriptural proofs that true dedication and faith go much deeper and the requirements from God’s own word, the Bible, make this very clear. But one scripture I didn’t consider is 2 Corinthians 6:1 (other versions). It reads: “Working together with him, we also urge you not to accept the undeserved kindness of God and miss its purpose.” The logical question would be, “If all a person has to do is believe, how in the world could they miss “its [God’s kindness] purpose”? Quite apparently, more is needed.

Let’s dwell a moment on the phrase “its purpose.” Whose or what purpose? Again, God’s undeserved kindness. So what is the purpose of God’s undeserved kindness? In the preceding chapter, Paul wrote at 2 Cor. 5:19, “God was by means of Christ reconciling a world to himself, not counting their offenses against them, and he entrusted to us the message of the reconciliation.” Yes, God wants us to be reconciled with him. But just maybe you are focusing on the action from God that he is “not counting their offenses against them” and therefore that excuses anything you do. If so, Jude 4 will disarm that idea. It reads: “certain men have slipped in among you … they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conduct and who prove false to our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

In Hebrews 3:12-16, Paul makes a case that those whom God saved out of bondage in Egypt turned around an incurred God’s anger because of their disobedience. This point is made in more detail in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians at 1 Cor. 10:1-11. In these examples of disloyal conduct, we readily see that merely believing is not enough. Surely those delivered out of Egypt believed. Surely those crossing through the Red Sea on dried ground could not argue with their own senses. Yet believing and obeying were two different things for them. The moment things did not go as they wanted, instead of trusting in God to help them, they murmured, complained and demanded to go back to Egypt.

Today, “going back to Egypt” may be a symbolic journey some take in their hearts and minds by choosing to live selfishly rather than truly obeying God’s direction.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Soul, Can It Die?

Claim: The “passages [below] describe the immaterial soul existing separately from the fleshly tent of the body.”

Matthew 10:28  “And do not become fearful of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

2 Corinthians 5:1-10 “For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, should be torn down, we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens. 2 For in this house we do indeed groan, earnestly desiring to put on the one for us from heaven, 3 so that when we do put it on, we will not be found naked. 4 In fact, we who are in this tent groan, being weighed down, because we do not want to put this one off, but we want to put the other on, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who prepared us for this very thing is God, who gave us the spirit as a token of what is to come. 6 So we are always of good courage and know that while we have our home in the body, we are absent from the Lord, 7 for we are walking by faith, not by sight. 8 But we are of good courage and would prefer to be absent from the body and to make our home with the Lord. 9 So whether at home with him or absent from him, we make it our aim to be acceptable to him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of the Christ, so that each one may be repaid according to the things he has practiced while in the body, whether good or bad.”

2 Pet 1:13-15 But I consider it right, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you with reminders, 14 knowing as I do that my tabernacle is soon to be removed, just as also our Lord Jesus Christ made clear to me. 15 I will always do my utmost so that after my departure, you may be able to recall these things for yourselves.

Examination:
 In the passage in Matthew 10, Jesus was talking about loyalty – our loyalty to God and his only begotten son, Jesus Christ. For us to fear those that can terminate our human life, but not our potential for resurrection, we are shortsighted forfeeling that way. If a person wants to cite this scripture as evidence of a soul that doesn’t die, they need to pay very close attention to the whole scripture. The latter part makes it quite evident that there is one we should fear that can destroy not only our present life but the prospects of any future life. (See Luke 12:4,5 for a different perspective on this scripture. Additionally, Psalm 118:6 and Hebrews 13:6 help us to understand what Jesus meant.)

The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (edited by C. Brown, 1978, Vol. 3, p. 304) states: “Matt. 10:28 teaches not the potential immortality of the soul but the irreversibility of divine judgment on the unrepentant.” Also, Bauer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (revised by F. W. Gingrich and F. Danker, 1979, p. 95) gives the meaning “eternal death” with reference to the Greek phrase in Matthew 10:28 translated “destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.” Thus, being consigned to Gehenna refers to utter destruction from which no resurrection is possible.

Indeed, God himself is the One we need to be in fear of displeasing because he can and will “destroy” (not preserve in a burning hell) both soul and body. But why would Jesus make such a separation? The answer is a wonderful segue into the second and third scriptures that were cited, 2 Corinthians 5 and 2 Peter 1:13-15

Paul, in writing the Corinthians his second letter, states that “we are to have a building from God, a house not made with hands, everlasting in the heavens” and that we are “earnestly desiring to put on the one [house] for us from heaven.” There is no mention of an eternal “soul” in this passage. It mentions that heaven-bound Christians would put on a completely new “house” (body, a spiritual one). Paul's whole argument is replacing one type of life (human) with another type of life (spirit being). 

In the same exact vein of reasoning, Peter speaks of the “tabernacle” (again, our body) that would be removed. Interestingly, he doesn’t even mention anything about “soul” (in any context). However, the assumption is that he is planning on joining Jesus in heaven. Why would he conclude such a thing? Because Jesus himself promised it. But if the new body is completely different, in what way can God preserve "the soul"?

Let’s examine this subject of “soul” a bit closer. The Hebrew/Aramaic scriptures (aka “Old Testament”) have a great deal to say about it.

Starting right in Genesis, we learn that God formed man from the ground and then breathed (not a disembodied “soul”) but life into the body. In fact, the actual verse of Adam's creation says not that God gave Adam a soul, but that Adam became a living soul. Then, as a firm warning to man, Jehovah God told Adam that disobedience would result in complete and total non-existence. There was no threat of burning in hellfire forever. Adam would simply cease to exist.

Most who believe in an immortal soul, do not believe animals have (or, more accurately, “are”) a soul. Yet the scriptures teach differently.

Although I could continue on with numerous scriptures to disprove the eternal soul idea, I offer up these two plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face passages from Ezekiel that makes it quite plain that human souls can be destroyed. Ezekiel 18:4,20

But we are not the only ones to recognize that the soul is not some non-physical part of our existence. Note the following:

The New Catholic Encyclopedia says: “Nepes [ne╩╣phesh] is a term of far greater extension than our ‘soul,’ signifying life (Ex 21.23; Dt 19.21) and its various vital manifestations: breathing (Gn 35.18; Jb 41.13[21]), blood [Gn 9.4; Dt 12.23; Ps 140(141).8], desire (2 Sm 3.21; Prv 23.2). The soul in the O[ld] T[estament] means not a part of man, but the whole man—man as a living being. Similarly, in the N[ew] T[estament] it signifies human life: the life of an individual, conscious subject (Mt 2.20;6.25; Lk 12.22-23; 14.26; Jn 10.11, 15, 17; 13.37).”—1967, Vol. XIII, p. 467.
The Roman Catholic translation, The New American Bible, in its “Glossary of Biblical Theology Terms” (pp. 27, 28), says: “In the New Testament, to ‘save one’s soul’ (Mk 8:35) does not mean to save some ‘spiritual’ part of man, as opposed to his ‘body’ (in the Platonic sense) but the whole person with emphasis on the fact that the person is living, desiring, loving and willing, etc., in addition to being concrete and physical.”—Edition published by P. J. Kenedy & Sons, New York, 1970.



Conclusion: The claim cited at the beginning is false and based on a very superficial reading of scripture. Once again, when taking all the facts regarding a subject, it is easy to see the truth. In this case, there is no “soul” in us that lives forever. We ourselves are “souls,” that is, living creatures with physical bodies, the memory of which (our appearance and personality) God can resurrect to once again become “a living soul.” Beyond the mere body, who we are as a person, the essence of everything that makes each of us individually "me," the life as a person, regardless of the body, is the way scripture uses the term "soul."

Monday, August 8, 2016

Earthquakes-Updated

It has been 4 years since I updated the article I wrote in 2012 regarding the increase in earthquakes in the times we are living. It took me a while to find the correct query page from the USGS website. It is here.

2011 was a highpoint in the past 6 years (2010 to 2015). Here are the counts for each year and then an average of those years. Again, the downloaded criteria was: Global earthquakes registering 6.0 and greater. So the counts below do not include earthquakes at 5.9 or less. (I also eliminated from the data all nuclear explosions, rock bursts, and anything else other than type “earthquake.”)

Year
Total
2010
175
2011
207
2012
133
2013
142
2014
155
2015
146
6 yr avg
159.67

After 2011, the averages drop to 144 per year (2012-2015). This made me wonder how each half-decade I had previously documented, faired by itself. I was surprised to find that since my first extract back in 2012, the USGS had retroactively added data even farther back than the original year of 1972. I went back to 1960:

5-Yr Period
Average
1960
1964
136.4
1965
1969
134.6
1970
1974
128.6
1975
1979
95.2
1980
1984
107
1985
1989
144.8
1990
1994
154.6
1995
1999
151.2
2000
2004
150.2
2005
2009
168.2
2010
2014
162.4


Again, since 1990, the averages have been significantly larger than the preceding periods.

In the charts below, the same periods of time as shown above are charted, but for a more finite set of data. Seems that since 1985 the numbers have increased.

7.0 and Greater
8.0 and Greater
5-Yr Period
Average
5-Yr Period
Average
1960
1964
63.6
1960
1964
51.8
1965
1969
68.2
1965
1969
59.6
1970
1974
67
1970
1974
54.4
1975
1979
45.4
1975
1979
37.2
1980
1984
54.6
1980
1984
46.6
1985
1989
72.4
1985
1989
60.8
1990
1994
76.2
1990
1994
65.8
1995
1999
79.2
1995
1999
66.6
2000
2004
81
2000
2004
70.2
2005
2009
85.6
2005
2009
74
2010
2014
69
2010
2014
54.4


Monday, August 1, 2016

Valuable Restoration

There have been times in the past, not recently, that someone expressed the knee-jerk sentiment that God put us on earth and then abandoned us to fend for ourselves. In the past I’ve tried to reason with such ones that no inventor ever puts years of energy, expenses and dedication into an invention only to turn his back on it. I then try to help them appreciate that even science has proven the literal 6 24-hour creative days that some fundamentalists claim is wrong. While the creative days shown in Genesis 1 could easily document tens of thousands of years, the amount of time that the earth was formless and desolate (Other versions: Gen.1:2), is unspecified. But to be clear this wasn't a child's messy finger painting that was easily discarded. It was and is an intentional effort that took time.

But now we are talking only of the last creative work on the 6th day. Genesis seems to refer to it in terms that are nothing short of the crowning glory of Jehovah’s work. Prior to putting man on earth, besides just making the untamed wilds of the planet, Jehovah prepared a pleasant surrounding. For a while, Genesis remarks that God would talk to Adam at a particular time of day. Genesis also cites that before Eve came on the scene, Adam had time to name the animals. (It is noteworthy that the actual mention of God speaking with Adam didn’t occur until after Adam’s sin. But the verse does say that Adam recognized Jehovah’s voice, so it was not a first-time occurrence.) Again, point being that God took time to prepare a garden for Adam, to get to know Adam and let Himself be known by Adam.

All the above is to prove the point that at no time and in no way was it ever God’s intent to leave us to our devices. He fondly cared for and continues to care for us. So what about the damaged relationship? I recently read an article that I thought was something that happened within the past year, but when I went back to search for the article it turned out to be an event that appeared in the New York Times in 1988. It was a story about a Leonardo da Vinci painting that had been shot by a madman. (In case the NYT removes the article, a Backup is stored here.)

Now if we stop to think about it, there were at least two options: 1) Leave the damaged piece as is (for fear of further damaging the delicate art piece). 2) Take painstaking efforts to restore the painting as close to the original as possible. The choice made was the latter. (There could also have been a sentiment of, "Oh, who needs this one painting? There are others,” but no such sentiment was even voiced.) If you read the article, you'll see the extensive and meticulous lengths they went through for this painting. No effort was to be spared in restoring it to its original beauty.

Now, what of we humans? Just how valuable and precious are we to our creator? The Bible leaves no doubt when it states: “By this the love of God was revealed in our case, that God sent his only-begotten Son into the world so that we might gain life through him.” (1 John 4:9; John 3:16) So he didn't choose another angel, not even a Cherub. He didn't choose a human already living and then say, if this one stays loyal (unlike Adam his ancestor), then I will forgive mankind. No, he sent someone so precious in his eyes that the Bible says it was God's only-begotten son. Now, critics have tried to dismiss the idea that Jesus truly was a son, but that's another discussion. We believe what the Bible plainly states. We don't try to rationalize it because of some false preconceived idea that Jesus is God and therefore cannot be God's son. Actually such an idea implies the Bible is a liar.

But there is another point in the illustration here: Those restoring the painting wanted not something better than the original, they wanted the original, nothing more, nothing less. Now, since God’s original purpose for the earth was to have it filled with human life, why would he change his purpose because we were “shot” (with sin and imperfection)? Rather, as I’ve argued many times in my blog, he would restore things back the way they were before. Again, God doesn’t need more angels in heaven. He has uncountable billions of them. Taking us out of the environment he designed for us does nothing for him and nothing for us. Some may argue that they would be “closer to God,” but that really is a small-minded physical reference that has no scriptural basis. Those who truly come to know their God, don’t need a physical location to love him and feel a real bond. (Acts 17:27; James 4:8) But still some will pout, “Well, I want to be in heaven with God.” Sorry, but serving God has never been about what we selfishly want. We accept whatever assignment and placement we are given.

For myself, the relationship I’ve developed with God has helped me appreciate he truly is the God of all comfort. Now as my own life comes to an end, I am looking forward (if he allows) to being resurrected to life right here back on earth. I am very content in seeing all creation reunited.