Friday, January 22, 2016

Logic of Science and Wisdom of Bible

At times I view the wisdom of the Bible like a wise, gentle, and loving father's guidance to his children. He doesn't always feel compelled to explain "why" he says what he does. Really, appreciative children ought to know that the guidance and decisions the father makes are for their own good. That this is true is seen when the logic of various sciences support the wisdom of our Heavenly Father's words in the Bible. For example, recently I highlighted a video by a psychologist that spoke of the virtues and benefits of living happy instead of seeing happiness as a series of goals. This immediately reminded me of Philippians 4:8,9. Truly, keeping a positive frame of mind does wonders for our health and our relationships.

But, to point, Paul’s words in the above citation, which believers accept as God’s words through a human, make no attempt at explaining why. Instead the passage comes across as if it is a loving father urging his children to strive for a positive mental attitude and disposition. Now, detractors might say it all sounds nice and rosy, but such an attitude isn't practical in today's world. However, the science of psychology helps us understand why such admonition is beneficial. There are other examples such as found in medical and health sciences about cleanliness but in order to keep this article short and simple, I’ll end here.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Happiness - A Journey Not a Destination

It has been a long time since I’ve written about a non-scriptural subject. In fact, in reviewing my over 250 posts, only 21% of them have been on other subjects. Due to recent conversations with a gent who feels unfulfilled and frustrated in life and finding a TED video that I hoped would encourage him, I felt it was time to capture something that I sense many more people could benefit from.

I have had thoughts like the following floating around in my consciousness for a while but I was never able to word them as beautifully as I felt the man in the following video did. His name is Shawn Achor and he is a research psychologist with a fantastic idea regarding pleasure vs. happiness, joy, positivity and mindfulness. Here is the link to his presentation. In addition, although he does repeat himself in this discussion group at Google, he does have some “fresh material” and there are other insights that you’ll enjoy.

I originally found the TED video while reading an article on The title is: How to Make Your Mind Happy: 5 Secrets to Mindfulness. The article is full of links to other excellent articles including the aforementioned TED video. Taking all of the foregoing together, it brings me back to the title of my article. True happiness is indeed a journey through life, it is not a goal or destination. It reminds me of something I heard years ago -- in any actual trip we take, at least half of the joy is getting there. Indeed, if we view only the goal as being the joy, then we will tend to view the journey as a necessary evil when in fact it can be part of the experience that is very memorable. Perhaps you remember as a child the games that our parents would engage us in such as counting all the out-of-state license plates on cars, or getting truck drivers to honk their horns, or any other myriads of things to keep our minds engaged and active.

The same goes with our journey through life. Too many people live for a goal only to experience disappointment or having to set a new goal and never experiencing the joy of the ride. But this is covered excellently by Shawn. Please see the videos.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dealing With Death of Loved One

I have written about dealing with the death of loved one before. Just one more brief observation:

It is not my intent to discourage grieving. It is a very natural reaction. However, it can also be a bit self-destructive in that it becomes a spiraling downward emotion. The realization that there is nothing we can do to bring back the one we miss can lead to despair.

In my own experience, I have discovered that the following helps to calm my heart: In prayer to God, thank him for wonderful joy of having had that person in your life. In that prayer, recall specific traits about that person that encouraged you, that gave you joy, that made you laugh, that made you feel warm inside. Thank God for the all the time you had with that person, whether it was just a short time or a few decades. Finally, thank God for the hope of the resurrection -- the hope that you will see that person again someday when God’s Kingdom finally takes over the earth again.

After my having done the above, I experience a contentment and gratitude to God for the hope he has set before us.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Can We Earn Salvation?

I received a comment on a blog article I wrote in December 2014 titled Jesus Is Our Savior. That article was intended to address the false claims that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian. The commenter however, wanted me to go in a slightly different direction. The moment he mentioned the “mechanics of human salvation,” I knew he was pointing to an old argument that some perceive as our not recognizing the value of God’s mercy and grace in salvation. But rather than put words in his mouth, I baited him to explain. Based on his reply, I actually commended him that he wasn’t just trying to start an argument but seemed sincerely concerned based both on his understanding of scripture and his perception of our beliefs.

In his comment, the poster cited Ephesians 2:8,9, which plainly states that our actions cannot merit or guarantee salvation. Romans 6:23 was cited as a supporting scripture. Both make it plain that what is given to us is a free gift. I (we, Jehovah’s Witnesses) completely agree. However, that is not the complete picture. Just because it is a free gift doesn’t mean we shouldn’t act appreciatively and obediently. But really, the point the commenter was making was based on a misunderstanding that Jehovah’s Witnesses somehow believe we must earn our way into God’s favor through various works. So hopefully, the following will clarify our stand.

That Jesus requires more than mere belief is seen in the illustration recorded at Matthew 25:14-30. In this illustration, before leaving on a trip, a master gave three servants some money to manage. The first and second understood what they were supposed to do -- to carry on business and increase the master’s financial portfolio. The last decided to just bury it in the ground. Now all three recognized that they were responsible to the master, however the last felt it was sufficient to merely return what the master had given him. The master didn’t agree. In fact, he referred to that last man as worthless and had him forcibly removed from the master’s home.

The other two servants were rewarded for their industriousness. But now does that mean that they did something extraordinary or does it mean they did what they knew was required of them? Even though the master was generous in this illustration, did he HAVE to be such? In another illustration Jesus gave, he answered that question. At Luke 17:7-10 we read that our humble attitude should be that we were merely doing what we should have done in the first place. What is it that Christians should be doing, even today?

Besides the requirements of the two greatest commandments recorded at Matthew 22:37-39, and besides the moral and social requirements set out in these passages, what else is needed of a Christian? (I do not intend to imply that there are not other key scriptures discussing Christian living. These are just a small sample.) Really, what are the valuable “talents” (from Jesus’ illustration in Matthew 25) that he expects us to increase? Again, Jesus himself answers that question. Yes, the requirement that a Christian share the message, knowing that it literally means people’s lives, is a weighty privilege and honor. Should anyone become “big headed” over this? If we truly perceive ourselves as slaves of God and Christ, that cannot happen. Truly, we’ve done exactly as our Christian dedication required of us. But that also doesn’t mean that Jehovah and Jesus are so unthankful that they wouldn’t reward us. In fact, that is exactly what Hebrews 6:10 assures us -- that we will be rewarded. This is in complete agreement with the opening illustration I quoted at Matthew 25.

So, can a Christian “earn” salvation? No. However, merely believing and keeping it to one’s self (effectively burying it) is also wrong. Instead we humbly see what we do as cooperatively working with God’s Will.

Here is some of the reply I made to the poster in the aforementioned article:
You are right that we cannot earn salvation. However, if you understand that to mean all one needs to do is sit back and do nothing, I'd refer you to Jesus' words at Matthew 22:37-29 and these words found at James1:12, 22, 27; 2:14-17. Just as James' words in chapter 2 accentuate, there is NO relationship where words are sufficient. Action is required to demonstrate true commitment. (Try 40+ years of marriage like I have and tell me that just saying "I love you" is all your wife wants. LOL)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Credulous Thinking - Science and Truth At Odds

Well, it’s that time of year again when the atheists, evolutionists, and Bible haters come out of the woodwork again. (Ad from 2010) They are always there, but when the wormwood gets cold and frozen, they come out and try to bask in the sunlight of the season. Their source of heat – hate. Spreading joy and permitting others to have their fun just seems like something they love to spoil. Like stepping on a slug and slipping, they love to slime the public with their message of so-called enlightenment. They are not content in being atheists, they demand that others accept their godless ways as well. Apparently freedom of belief and freedom of choice are foreign to them. I really wonder why they don’t just move to a country that completely and thoroughly supports their beliefs. They’d be so much happier.

Still, these so-called enlightened ones make the claim that they shove “truth” in people’s faces because believers do so out of credulity, not fact. According to the dictionary, credulity is a state of willingness to believe in one or many people or things in the absence of reasonable proof or knowledge. Credulity is not simply a belief in something that may be false. The subject of the belief may even be correct, but a credulous person will believe it without good evidence.

Does science ever suffer from this? Oh yes, definitely, and not just occasionally. One of the most laughable instances comes from the world of food science. I’ve noticed for decades how science just cannot make up it's mind. Eggs are bad, then eggs are good. Coffee is bad, then coffee is good. Bacon is bad and, and, and……. the jury is still out on that one. But the one that embarrassed the whole community was the junk science on chocolate as a weight-loss diet. Not only was the “science” behind it bad, it was an intentional lie to prove a point.

But some may argue that such would never happen in research related to evolution. Sadly, even that assumption is credulous. Well, how about modern stem cell research? Oh dear, another big “whoops” for the science community. I could/would cite more, but I think I’ve made the point – science is not without its own false teachings, faked research, and more.

But let me be clear here. I am not defending those who celebrate Christmas. I know it is untrue that Jesus was born in December. That has been thoroughly documented and disseminated for many, many years. Even religious literature knows that. Even the Catholic religion knows that AND they were the initial propagators of this false teaching. Do any of those claiming Christianity (as a religious organization) actually respect that knowledge by not becoming involved? Yes, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate Christmas. My point is that science needs to clean their own house first before they smugly take the white-glove to the furniture of others. There is a saying that “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” These so-called “enlightened” ones need to contemplate that.

Previous blog article from 2010

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hebrews 11:6 Without Faith It Is Impossible

Quoting Hebrews 11:6: “Moreover, without faith it is impossible to please God well, for whoever approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.”

So question: Why is it impossible to please God without faith? Probably the most obvious would be that if you don’t have faith in God, you wouldn’t even try to please him in the first place. This situation reminded me of a 20/20 TV show segment I watched recently about an American soldier who lost track of his twin children for over 40 years. (Part 1, Part 2) His greatest fear was that his children would have concluded that he abandoned them. Indeed, that was what they thought. In truth, he ran against one legal battle after another trying to reconnect.

The reason this story drives home the truth of Hebrews 11:6 is that the children had lost faith, hope, belief that their father cared. There was no relationship. In fact, the son was surprised that his father was even still alive. So the logical conclusion would be: “Why bother, my father doesn’t care and likely is dead.” Likewise, today some feel that “God is dead” and/or that he doesn’t care. With such feelings, obviously even those that might want to know God if he existed, are left with no desire to check out the truth of the matter.

But Paul was writing to believers which puts a bit of a different spin on that matter. Lack of faith, even momentary, displays a lack of appreciation, a lack of trust and confidence, for all that God has done and has demonstrated himself to be. We humans are indeed “weak” in a spiritual sense. We constantly need to be fortified, encouraged. Jesus was known of citing this issue when addressing even his closest followers with the words “you of little faith.”

Consider how this might happen to one who claims to believe in God. All mankind, both believers and non-believers, have the same challenges and issues in life. We are all imperfect. So large upsets and unexpected circumstances can momentarily knock us down (in a spiritual sense). In a literal sense, when we fall down, our first inclination is to get right back on our feet, look around, and hope no one saw. But in a spiritual sense, for some odd reason, we don’t react the same way. After getting knocked down or stumbling over an obstacle, some react by just lying there on the ground.

The Bible therefore reminds believers to get back up. I read recently that falling is not the measure of “a man.” It is what he does after the fall that truly demonstrates manly (adult) qualities IF he makes every immediate effort to stand up again.

But there is yet one more thing to remember. When a parent is teaching a child to ride a two-wheel bike, the child needs confidence not only in their own ability, which the parent constantly encourages, but also that the parent is there to rescue them if something happens. The parent may not be able to stop a fall, but they WILL rescue their child – bandaging the wounds, consoling the child. The same is true of God. He may not stop a spiritual fall, but he has assured us through examples in scripture that should be enough that we never lose faith. Coming back to the child on the bike, what if, even with all the love the parent gives the child, the child still acts like the parent doesn’t really love them or claims he doesn’t trust the parent. Obviously that would both disappoint and frustrate the parent. In that context then, “without faith it is impossible to please God well.” We can disappoint and hurt him. But Paul’s words at Hebrews 11:6 weren’t intended to be discouraging. Reading all of chapter 11 and the beginning of chapter 12, we see that he is trying to motivate his readers to appreciation that God does exist, does care, and can and will help us.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

True, Everlasting Happiness

Being happy is somewhat like chasing rainbows and butterflies in our dreams. We spend a lot of effort going after it, but even if for a fleeting moment we catch happiness, the realities of life shake us, shock us, to wakefulness. Some chase the arts thinking it gives them happiness. Indeed, the beauty of various art forms can be very calming and happy. But when tragedy strikes, art offers no answers. (Think of war-torn countries whose bomb-laden environment makes even the landscape look like a nightmare.) Some chase wealth and financial security thinking it will give them the greatest happiness. But so many have been very disappointed. For others happiness is always contingent on some future event, “I’ll be happy when….” That attitude truly is chasing rainbows.

Is there a real happiness than cannot be ruined by deterioration or stolen from us? Is there a happiness that cannot be spoiled by a “bad day”? Yes, there is. 
  • First, initial happiness comes from learning about and really knowing God. This includes understanding the “big picture” of God’s purpose for his creation.
  • Second, from understanding one’s own place and purpose in God's arrangement
  • Third, experiencing first-hand the cooperative brotherhood supporting each other in love
  • Fourth, from the satisfaction of doing our best to meet up to the honor of being called God's friend – a daily challenge.
  • Then, like icing on a cake, joy & happiness will be compounded when the Kingdom of God comes into full swing; when all ungodly people are no longer around trying to subvert & destroy our unity.
Now, I am not talking about emotionalism. Nor do I mean credulity masquerading as faith. Just as tangible as a relationship with another human can be, such a real relationship can exist with our creator.