Friday, February 27, 2015

Divisive Arrogance

Jude, starting at verse 8 thru the end, is speaking of those who slyly speak against others who are obviously approved by God and their direction and decisions that are obviously being blessed.

Instead of cooperatively supporting those approved by God, like Cain they assault their brothers, even if only verbally, and then when the damage is done, take an aloof attitude, in effect arrogantly stating "am I my brother's keeper?"

Like Balaam, whom Jude said was looking for a reward, such men seek authority and recognition in the congregation as a selfish reward to be grasped, at the risk and expense of wholesome unity and spirituality of everyone affected.

Like Korah, who challenged Moses' rightful leadership, those who promote their own ways as better and oppose direction given by those whom God is blessing, demonstrate that they are actually working against God Himself. Indeed they are "despising authority." (vS8) It would be a different situation if these turned apostate and went off to form their group. Instead, they seek to subvert the congregation by remaining in it.

In all these cases, those who act like that would have done themselves a favor if they had only conducted themselves like Jesus who, verse 9, left the matter in God's hands. Yet in that instance Jesus would have been 100% correct in setting Satan straight. In contrast, none of our brothers are Satan, so how much more careful we need to be when we feel some indignation over a perceived wrong. Regardless of how wrong or right our view is, arrogance, stubbornness, and insulting words are not the answer. 

Now this is not to say that we cannot express our honest viewpoint just not in arrogance or at the expense of our brother's dignity. Nor should it be something that we talk around to others, spreading dissension in the congregation. If we truly have a problem with a person, we should first approach them alone. But to spread negative talk is exactly what Jude referred to as "rocks under the water" (vs.12). Such rocks in the ocean could completely tear a ship apart. We don't want our words, attitudes, or actions to tear the congregation apart.

Although in context verse 12 was talking about prideful divisive forces in the congregation, in grander application this would apply to anything that could tear apart a congregation, especially cunning and premeditated motives. 

To reduce The effect our imperfect speech can have on others, remember the carpenters saying:  "measure twice, cut once." Indeed, think carefully and then measure out your words slowly. Address the issue, but cut short before insulting your brother or becoming a divisive, corrosive agent in the congregation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Raking Fire To Our Chest

In the broadest scope of the illustration mentioned at Proverbs 6:27, 28, this is talking about desires and choices we make that can be harmful to our moral and spiritual nature. This is especially so in reference to subjecting our minds and hearts to sexual enticements.

What is the fire we rake in when we start thinking sexual thoughts? Paul answers that by stating it is the fire of being “inflamed with passion.” The "burning of the garment" is the damaged relationship with our Creator, now having damaged our "adornment" as a clean person. (Now before I continue, I want to be frank in acknowledging that many people feel morals and self-control are old and out-dated notions. If you are one of those, there is no need to read further. This was written for those that recognize the value of morals.) So how does a person become “inflamed with passion”?

Most young men work this out by resorting to masturbation. Many young men even resort to fornication. For those who aspire to higher standards and want to please God, how does a person quelch these flames of passion? To have a flame, you need oxygen, fuel and heat. In symbolic terms, the oxygen and fuel are closely related. They both constitute whatever it is that feeds our passion. But for the sake of splitting it out, lets say the fuel is like material. So the fuel is what we subject and expose our senses to--the media, either in printed or digital form. The air that hits that material is our imagination. Finally, the heat is the arousal of passion in us. Put all those together and you have a person that is “raking fire to his chest.”

So how does one break the cycle? Just as in the fire triangle, one or more of the elements must be removed--before the flame ignites. For those that want to heed the Bible’s counsel to “deaden” immoral sexual desires, we first need to gain wisdom that only God can give us. This will help us appreciate that anytime we see anything that can fuel our passion, we turn our eyes and ears away from it. Next, we don’t allow our imagination “to go there.” We learn to control our minds and hearts. Reducing those first two elements will greatly help to reduce the natural heat that is inborn in all of us. Not the be forgotten is the power of prayer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Not Perfect Yet

Back in October 2013 I posted an illustration about planting a garden. I recounted it as best as I could remember it. After reflection I realized it needed some refining. Speaking in literal terms, regardless of what you intentionally plant in a garden, weeds will grow. It is just a fact of life. That is why gardening requires more than just planting. It requires maintenance and regular attention.

This is true also In an illustrative way. We plant a seed or root stock when we start to really apply what we learn from the Bible. Initially, we may work the ground of our hearts and minds to get them ready to accept the seed of truth. That is to say, we make a commitment to learn about God and His word, The Bible. Then the seed starts to grow as both we ourselves and others begin to recognize that God’s Word is having a real, observable effect on us. It has affected change for the better in us. But just as an initial planting requires watering, we also need to constantly water ourselves by daily reading the Bible. The area of the new planting also requires weeding to prevent the new plant from being choked out. Just like that literal plant, we continue to be surrounded by evil that can choke our spiritual aspirations. There is also our imperfect human nature that tugs at our desires. It is then no wonder that Paul wrote “Not that I have already received it or am already made perfect, but I am pressing on to see if I may also lay hold on that for which Christ Jesus selected me.” Phil.3:12

Yes, we are far from perfect after our initial acceptance of God in our lives. We need to both nourish ourselves spiritually and “keep working out [y]our own salvation with fear and trembling.”

So to restate the illustration:
If you plant a rose, you will get a rose, along with some weeds that you will constantly have to pull.

If you plant weeds, you will never get a rose, just weeds.

If you plant nothing, you still get weeds because in the absence of positive effort to improve your spiritual life, you will still end up with disapproval from God and Jesus.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Calling Inventors -- Car Phone Mounts

I'm breaking my trend of scripture commentary to cite a frustrating issue with phone mounts for cars. If you are a school looking to invent in order to fund yourselves, a home hobbiest that knows how to fabricate without it looking ugly, or a designer looking to make a name for yourself, please read....

All of the solutions available on the net (I checked page after page on Amazon) have various drawbacks. One of the biggest being poor quality materials that easily break. I have also noted from my own (negative) experiences in buying these things that regardless of whether it attaches to the car with sticky silicon, adhesive, suction cups, or anything else, within less than one hour the device loses its grip. Sunlight, heat, stresses on dash from turning, all of those are suspect as culprits as well as bad and cheap product design.

At the other end, where the phone attaches, is another whole problem. Sudden stops, starts, turns, etc., all affect whatever design I've tried. The phone either drops out of its hold or goes flying somewhere in the car.

Besides cheap plastic, here are other issues I’ve noted: Making anything out of black-colored floppy silicon is a VERY BAD idea. Making the part that grips the phone loop over to the front of the phone could potentially cause stress marks on the front glass.

Add my personal experience to a multitude of bad reviews on Amazon for just about every product-solution for phone mounts and what you have is a huge opportunity to make something worthwhile and make money. I wish I had the tools, knowledge, and resources to do it myself.

Ideas On Solutions
Solution must have sufficient counter-weight to lay on dashboard without sliding or raising up when attaching phone or from force of turns, stops and acceleration. (Perhaps attaching the holder to a universal dashboard mat (cover) would be one idea.)

Telescoping so that you can bring it into touchscreen finger reach without awkward stretching

Height adjustable from above the horizontal plane of where the device sits to below that plane.

The telescoping arm should be able to pan from side to side.

Final joint is a ball joint allowing angle adjustments and full rotation.

All joints should lock in place and, especially for the phone, have a quick-release.

The materials used should be strong enough that the weight of the phone does not cause the whole unit to sag over time. (I have experiences where the phone was set at a comfortable position but everything from the potholes in the road to heat from the sun affected the unit and the phone sagged so that I couldn't see it without raising it up.)

By the way: In California windshield mounts are illegal. Not sure what other states have laws affecting the design. The design should also not affect full & clear forward visibility nor block the rear-view mirror.

My Determination

No matter how unworthy and undeserving of God's mercy I feel, God deserves my continued attempts at loyalty. My life on earth isn't about what I do or don't deserve, it is about what God deserves, and I want to give him what he deserves--the very best I have to give. I have come to appreciate that my relying on my own “understanding” of how worthless I am is actually a lack of trust in Jehovah’s care and mercy. So regardless of how many times I fail and fall, I am determined to get back up and keep trying. Even if I feel I deserve nothing but death, nonetheless Jehovah deserves my every attempt, however feeble, to be grateful for everything I have. Even when I feel I do not deserve anything from God, even when my own heart condemns me, I promise Jehovah that I will continue trying and not give up. Just having come to know Jehovah as the loving person that he is; just having come to understand his word, the Bible; just having a glimmer of what the New System is like through the worldwide brotherhood of the congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses is reward enough for me. I will continue to rejoice and find comfort in the fact that I serve “the happy God,” the God whom John saidIS [the very embodiment of] love,” the God that is more caring, more merciful than I can ever comprehend.

Note: After speaking with a dear friend who is likewise going through feelings of worthlessness, I was reminded about the above note I wrote myself a while back. After talking with that friend, I realized I am not alone. I share this in the hopes that others will find comfort in my personal reflection.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

I was reflecting on Proverbs 27:11. Although written by Solomon, in a spiritually elevated way, we can think of this as God speaking to each one of us. Looking at it from that angle, God urges us to show wisdom in our actions and thoughts so that he can make a reply to the one who taunts God. Who taunts God? The account of Job answers that question – It is Satan that taunts God with the false accusation that humans only serve God for selfish benefit and would be disloyal the moment things didn't go their way.

Carrying that idea one step further, I can just see that every time we sin, Satan is right there to accuse us before God: “See, see, what did I tell you? This person isn’t a true and loyal servant of yours. They gave into their selfish sinful desire. What kind of servant is that? They aren't loyal. You are just fooling yourself if you think any human really cares.” There have been times when I feel so bad for something I’ve done that I actually pray to God, “Just let me die now. I don’t want to defame your name any longer and I can’t stand the idea of Satan using me as a reason to verbally assault you.”

Paul, in writing under inspiration from God, mentioned how hopeless we can feel and how frustrated we can get with ourselves. We all want to do what is right, but our imperfect ways mess up so badly. Paul’s conclusion was not that he had to rely on his own ability to conquer sin, but rather that he had to rely on God’s mercy. What then about the times when we feel so discouraged over our own shortcomings? At Romans 12:21, Paul wrote: “Do not let yourself be conquered by the evil, but keep conquering the evil with the good.” Although in context he was talking about those who persecute us, this is also a good scripture to keep in mind when we feel like we are not worthy of serving God or for him to love us. In this case, the "evil" is our own imperfect desires that could conquer us by making us feel unworthy to serve God. Instead of allowing those negative feelings to conquer us, conquer the evil with good --- that is, with acts of godly devotion, always striving for loyalty.

Tell Jehovah: "No matter how unworthy I feel, I will never stop striving to serve you faithfully." Do not give up nor give out.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Spurious Verses

You are in a court of law and making accusations against your opponent. The judge demands that you present your evidence. You respond, “Well, actually, the evidence is that he didn't do it, but you can believe me because I believe he did commit the crime.” The judge belts out a hearty laugh and says, “Now wait a moment. You just said there is no evidence and in fact the only evidence is that your opponent did NOT commit the crime!? Why in the world would I believe anything you say beyond that?”

You can see how absurd such a scenario would be. Yet that is exactly what some so-called Bible authorities and Bible publishers do. The following is a direct quote from “[The earliest manuscripts and many other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53—8:11. A few manuscripts include these verses, wholly or in part, after John 7:36, John 21:25, Luke 21:38 or Luke 24:53.]” And yet, they (the New International Version and numerous other translations) go right ahead and actually put those verses in their Bibles. Essentially what they are doing by including the text from John 7:31 through 8:11, is claiming that it was the writings of John, that it is part of his gospel, while at the same time saying the evidence speaks against it. When challenged, they have to admit that "the earliest manuscripts" do not contain those verses. And not only that but "other ancient witnesses" seem to discredit the charge that John wrote those.

In contrast, Jehovah’s Witnesses not only recognize but then act on that knowledge and do not include those verses in their Bible. You are welcome to believe what you want, that is what free will is all about. However, I will side with the ones who act in accord with what they know to be true. Excluding those spurious verses is the most honorable thing to do.