Friday, December 6, 2013

The Unseen Exists

Occasionally, not often lately, I meet a person whose argument against belief in God is, “I only believe in what I can see.” I seriously doubt they give much thought to that claim. I give them more credit than to accept that they really believe that. Why?

Most people today have carbon monoxide alarms in their homes. Why? Because we humans cannot see, smell or taste it AND carbon monoxide has killed people. Another danger: If it weren't for the power companies putting a foul scent in natural gas, that also could easily be another killer, right in a person’s home. We cannot see it and in its natural state it is odorless and tasteless. This news article covers other naturally occurring, common things that we humans have no sense of and yet they can be fatal. (For those readers prone to discount Fox News, at least accept that this article documents well-known dangers that are easily verified.)

But the point of my article here is that claiming to believe only in what one sees ignores common sense and common knowledge. So now that we’ve established that we can confidently and intelligently believe in things we cannot see or sense at all, the next step is to ask what is the real reason people do not believe in God? When people really start to seriously ponder the question, they may come up with items such as:

1.    Evolution has disproven God.
2.    Religion and the clergy have acted so corruptly.
3.    This modern world’s ethics and moral standards are so poor—if there were a God, he should have acted to clean it up by now.

If you are sincerely searching for answers to such questions, consider the following linked articles:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Purple Triangle Video

I personally have never met (in person or on video) anyone that lived through (as a war prisoner) the Nazi regime. I've read stories and seen narrated short videos, but never actually heard an interview with someone.

The video below is an actual interview with Simone Arnold, a woman who was 12 years old at the time of Nazi occupation of Eastern France.

If you read the write-up underneath the Youtube site, there is much more information on this. It was produced with the help of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute founded by Steven Spielburg. A copy of the video is also on a private site.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Was Jesus Crucified?

Most I meet would, without hesitation, answer an emphatic “yes.” Back in 2010, a graduate of the Swedish university Goteburgs wrote his thesis on his research analyzing what “writings in antiquity” revealed about the subject. It was a 400-page thesis and is no longer available in whole.

In essence, his research concluded that there is no specific evidence that a cross-beam was used in Roman punishment around the period that Jesus lived on earth. He further concludes that the closest, most accurate English rendering of the Greek term “stauros” is a device used to suspend something or someone. This conclusion is interesting because it has been a long-held belief of Jehovah’s Witnesses that Jesus died, not on a cross (cross-beam), but on a pole.

Here are some links regarding the original articles:

(The above links were emailed to me in November 2013, hence the delay in sharing this.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Faith: More Than Mere Confidence

I used to say that a synonym for faith is confidence. Although correct, that comparison falls far short of the way the Bible uses the term “faith.” Taking a look at Hebrews chapter 11, it is evident that faith is more than strong conviction or confidence in God. It is confidence demonstrated through determined and loyal action. Especially in the face of adversity we can demonstrate such an outstanding quality. Like tempered glass or tempering metal (which makes them stronger), the Bible refers to endurance and the “tested quality” of our faith as producing a mature, morally strong Christian who is “sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” –James 1:2-4

See also: Consider It All Joy

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Convenient Time

Luke 4:13, “So the Devil, having finished all the temptation, departed from him until another convenient time.” (Also translated "opportune time")

What was “convenient” about that particular time to tempt Jesus? Verse 2 of the same chapter indicates that Jesus was (understandably) hungry. Satan, knowing this, made the very first temptation that of selfishly using the powers Jesus had in order to miraculously make instant food for himself. Although he was hungry, Jesus demonstrated mental alertness and moral resolve.

Scripture does not mention that Satan found any other convenient time to make a direct challenge to Jesus. But that one episode helps me to see that Satan looks for “convenient” times in all of our lives as well. That made me ponder the question, “What convenient times come up in people’s lives that the opportunist Satan would try to take advantage of to weaken our resolve, discourage us, or make us act contrary to the direction given us in God’s Word, the Bible?”

Here are some I thought of, perhaps you can think of others: In the three tests Satan put Jesus through, Satan saw an opportunity in …

1) Perceived physical weakness (the need for food and to maintain our health). With our imperfections, sometimes our health issues can extend into emotional and mental stresses. We can begin to doubt that anyone cares for us (including God), that we are worth anything, that there is anything worth living for. All of those are our imperfect "heart" talking, but Satan can take note of the "opportunity" by making things appear more gloomy than they really are.

2) Self-worth (our desire for prominence or even to be valued more than scripture indicates we should expect).  Satan tried to draw this out of Jesus in all three tests.  In suggesting he turn stones into food, he suggested Jesus has the right to use his powers to feed himself. In suggesting he accept all the kingdoms of the world, Satan fed on the human desire for greatness. In suggesting Jesus fool-heartedly throw himself off a high place, Satan wanted Jesus to misuse his relationship with his Father to protect against stupid actions.

3) Moral. (When people think of morals, they usually think of truth verse lies, sexual misconduct, murder and such things. Yet all of the temptations Satan gave Jesus were also moral. Arrogantly trusting in our own ability, the desire to be “someone” important, the desire for wealth, the desire for the adrenalin rush that excitement and sporting activities that could result in physical harm are all moral issues.)

4) Personal understanding of scripture and life. When Satan quoted from Psalm 91:11,12, he misapplied it as an excuse to engage in life-threatening action. (Luke 4:9-11). He does the same thing to us. For example, when we read at 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "If anyone does not want to work, neither let him eat." and further we read 1 Timothy 1:8 "Certainly if anyone does not provide for those who are his own, and especially for those who are members of his household, he has disowned the faith and is worse than a person without faith," we might wrongly conclude that employment is more important that our relationship with Jehovah and hence become irregular in our Bible reading, our meeting attendance and our ministry. When we think that way, we are forgetting Jesus’ response to the first temptation Satan threw his way. Jesus said “Man must not live on bread alone.” That was a quote from Deuteronomy 8:3 which continues to say we must live not only on food but more importantly on God’s Word. In other words, our obedience to God’s direction is more important than what we perceive to be a necessity. In short, if a personal understanding of something we read in scripture results in taking us away from service to our God, jeopardizes our loyalty to God or anything that can put us at odds with God, the opportunist Satan has made good use of the situation and conveniently hurt us spiritually.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Justice-A Weighty Issue

Speaking of God and his dealings with mankind, Proverbs 16:11 says: “The just indicator and scales belong to Jehovah; all the stone weights of the bag are his work.” (Other versions) Yes, both the scales and marker (the "just indicator") and every stone in God's bag is just, fair and right in his dealings with mankind. Likewise, we ought to have a “complete stone-weight” in our dealings with others. (Proverbs 11:1. Other versions)

Understanding what this meant was common to adults back when Proverbs was written. But today, most people only encounter scales in grocery stores and hospitals. In stores, they are either electronic (built into most register scanners) or in bulk and produce departments. Essentially, the stones were probably the predecessors of weights we use on some scales. I don’t know what form of checks-and-balances were used to verify a valid stone-weight back then. Perhaps there was one stone held as the “standard” and merchants brought their stones to try to match against that standard as close as possible. (There were other means of deceptive weighing besides using incorrectly weighted stones. This article merely considers stones because of the scriptural reference.)

Overall, the main concept being conveyed is fairness in our dealings with others. Impartiality and truthfulness are necessary in our treatment of others in order to receive God’s approval.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sly Wolves

It never ceases to amaze me how those I meet are so quick to condemn my faith but have nothing to offer in place of it. Oh sure, they’d probably love if I came and joined their church, but based on the way they treat me, I’m certainly not attracted to that. Would you want to associate with a religion that right from the get-go does nothing but tells you what a loser you are? Me neither. Recently I was told I’d been deceived. I responded that for there to be deception, there would have to be motive. Money isn't the motive because we follow Jesus’ directive regarding our preaching work, “you received free, give free.” We don't charge people for our literature. We don't pass collection baskets. We don't require a tithe. (Matthew 10:8) He defended the right of other religions to require tithing. (I later learned he is a pastor at his church.)

During all our discussions, both in person and through email, he continually tried to find fault with Jehovah’s Witnesses and nit-picked everything I said. At one point during an in-person meeting, he showed me a Greek-language Bible that was amalgamated using numerous fragments (not an uncommon practice). He had learned to read Greek, so he could directly translate it to English. It was very impressive. But he tried to make a point about the punctuation it used compared to the punctuation in the New World Translation. He pointed to his Greek-language Bible as an authority showing the real punctuation. I politely listened and nodded, but I knew he was not telling the truth. When I got home I found three websites that have nothing to do with Jehovah’s Witnesses—all of which confirmed what I vaguely remembered—Greek did not have any punctuation. So the use of punctuation by all translators and original-language renderers is subjective and, to some degree, a form of interpretation. When I pointed this out to him, he didn't like that. I guess he thought I would swallow his lie hook, line and sinker.

At first I thought he sincerely wanted my responses to his challenges. I even acknowledged that he brought up some very good questions that deserve an honest answer. But when I attempted to respond, I discovered his real intentions. He wasn’t interested in anything that might exonerate us. He was fully convinced we are wrong. His only purpose was to raise sufficient doubt in my mind so I'd stop serving the one true God. 

I researched one other issue he raised that he said gave indisputable proof that Jesus is God Almighty. It all centered on the Greek word “proskuneo” which, when rendered in English, can be translatedworship, obeisance,” or even “prostrate.” It comes from two root Greek words meaning “towards to kiss.” His faulty argument was that since Jesus permitted others to do this toward him, he was accepting worship, therefore proving he was God. The problem with that thinking is that he was using a very narrow definition of the word. When I found an occurrence of that word where Jesus used it in an illustration about a man begging for mercy from another man, that blew his whole argument out of the water. Although I’ll be the first to admit I am not a Greek scholar by any means, I do own some well-respected reference works that made this an easy discovery. Maybe he thought I’d be too lazy or dumb to research this. He boasted about his degree from his studies. The fact is, the message in the Bible was never intended to be intellectualized. God and his son, Jesus, both worked with common folk, down to earth folk. True religion, true faith, was and is a matter of a personal relationship with God, something anyone with average intelligence can grasp. The message in the Bible was to average people that could understand simple concepts. (Downloadable PDF with more extensive analysis)

Still, I was happy for this experience. I even thanked the man and I meant it with all sincerity. He helped me once again reaffirm my faith and see how others so slyly try to twist scriptures for their own benefit.

Here are the links to the three websites regarding Greek and punctuation:

On this next link, notice the 7th paragraph, the one under the heading: "Strong's Hebrew/Greek Dictionary.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Take Pleasure In Weaknesses

2 Corinthians 12:10 (NWT) Therefore I take pleasure in weaknesses, in insults, in cases of need, in persecutions and difficulties, for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am powerful. (Other versions)

At times we may feel apprehensive or inadequate in our ministry, especially when we are challenged to defend our beliefs by people we meet. Still, Peter encourages us to "sanctify the Christ as Lord in your hearts, always ready to make a defense before everyone that demands of you a reason for the hope in you, but doing so together with a mild temper and deep respect." (1 Peter 3:15) (Other versions)

So, coming back to Paul’s words, what we can learn is to not be afraid to be "weak".  In other words, be willing to put ourselves in an uncomfortable situation so that the spirit of God can be our power and not our own learning and abilities. The fact is that the best potential new believers come from those that were adamantly opposed because these tend to research more diligently. For example, Paul himself was a persecutor of the early congregation of Christians. So don't shy away from challenges. You may actually have found yourself a new future brother (or sister) in the faith.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

What Is Our Motive

While out speaking to people about the Bible, I met a man that sincerely believed I had been misled by the teachings of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society. What impressed me about this man was his mild spirit, respectful conversational style and willingness to allow me to explain. Most that I meet that feel we are deceived resort to insults, take an arrogant “I’m better than you” stance, and refuse to allow me to make any defense. They just want to tell me what a loser I am, while elevating their viewpoints.

I traded email addresses with that man because I sensed a sincere and kind disposition. In fact, he stated what I normally require of anyone that wants to talk—it must be a two-way conversation and it must be respectful. In my first email, I commended him for his wonderful personality. I mentioned that it reminded me of Paul’s counsel to Timothy in his second letter to Timothy, chapter 2, verse 24. Essentially, we need to be peaceable, even under the most disagreeable situations.

I am recounting here the points I made regarding why I believe it is untrue that we are deceived followers and expanding on that.

In order for there to be deception, there must be a motive to do so. From the viewpoint of agnostics and atheists, the motive of many (if not most) religions is financial gain. So let’s take a look at that first.

Unlike other religions, all our activities (both local and global) are supported by unsolicited voluntary donations. There is NEVER a collection basket passed at ANY of our services. If you scroll down to the “Fast Facts” section on the “About” page from the site, you will see that we are active in more than 230 “lands.” Yet whether it be a prosperous or deprived land, we freely share the good news both in the public outreach (our “ministry”) and at our meeting places. The only time in the 42 years that I've been one of Jehovah's Witnesses that I have ever heard anything about money is under two specific conditions: 1) The accounts report that is read monthly, and 2) a talk about once a year on how donations can be made and what they are used for. At one time I was the person in charge of collecting and depositing the donations, so I know firsthand how donations are managed.

Another thing that impressed me is that we do not have paid clergy. We call all male believers “brother” and female believers “sister” regardless of what responsibilities they have in the congregation. How do those that have been assigned as teachers make a living? The same way that everyone else does in the congregation—they hold down a secular job. (There are some in the congregation that I am in that are retirees drawing a pension.) But the main point is that absolutely none are paid for the services they render the congregation from congregation donations.

Finally, (with regards to financials) is the matter of the donations from the public. My personal experience is that I give away about a dozen or so magazines every month without even asking for a donation. (We are encouraged to ask for such, but I’ve never felt comfortable doing so.) In 42 years I’ve been a Witness, I think the donations from the public I've received, all of which I pass on to the congregation donation box, have amounted to less than $50.  But the literature is just one aspect. Not to be forgotten or overlooked is that we have to pay from our own funds for the gas and other incidentals in bringing this message to people. While we live in the communities we serve, those like myself that are active in the ministry 3 to 4 times a week find gas costs adding up. So nobody is in this for the money.

But money is not the only motive for religions to have a following. Some just like the “head trip” of being able to control people. Is that something the Watchtower is interested in? If you read websites written by dissenters, they would have you believe that is true. Some would have you believe supporters are nothing but mindless robots spreading the message. I’m not exactly sure what motivates such slander but it is a completely false charge. Yes, the Watchtower does publish articles that are intended to help its adherents grow in godly qualities. What religion do you know that doesn’t try to direct the flock? Jesus worked hard to teach the truth to others. The first-century Christians (the writers of the Greek scriptures or, as some call it, the “New Testament”) wrote extensively about Christian beliefs and how to live. For those that think giving guidance and counsel are bad things, I can only ask what other honorable purpose a religion could possibly have. If power and prestige were motivating factors within our faith, you’d expect to see men of prominence bill-boarding their names all over the place. Yet that is not the case. While many Bible translators and publishers of religious material have no problem in putting their names all over the materials, the writers of our publication readily give credit to God who is the source of the real message of hope.

So money and riches are not a motive. Neither is power and prestige. When people I’ve met run out of all other excuses, they usually go with, “Oh, you guys are just servants of the devil. You’re only desire is to mislead. You don’t care about anything else.” I’m usually left flabbergasted, and speechless. But even if I could respond, before I can respond, I usually get the door slammed in my face. That charge is so completely unfounded that it demonstrates they are merely mimicking something they’ve heard before. They make no attempt to substantiate the claim, they just puppet it. Jesus said “by their fruits you will recognize” who is really serving God and who is not. So what are the fruits of Jehovah’s Witnesses? We are the only global religion that lives by Jesus’ words not to engage in war. We are the only global religion that practices on a global scale giving freely of the Bible’s message to all we meet. I might be mistaken about this one, but I think we are the only religion that globally recognizes what medical science has said for years—that smoking is bad. We teach that a loyal servant of God cannot be defiling his body with this habit. We teach moderation in lifestyle, devotion to God by reading and adhering to the Bible. We teach tolerance and understanding. I could go on listing many other features, all of which are admirable qualities. No, we are not perfect individuals. We readily admit we are imperfect. But individually and collectively we comprise a fellowship that is a real joy to be a part of.
Index of Blog Articles

Thursday, August 8, 2013

French Press: Making Coffee With the French Press

Most product instructions I read today are poorly written and do not address the whole process but merely the technical operations. Recently I bought a French Press and was dismayed with the poorly written instructions, so I wrote my own....

The French Press, like the crude camping method of merely boiling beans in a pan, relies on course-ground beans in order to extract the oils and aromatics from the beans. The difference with the French Press is that the strainer is, effectively, built into the device. However, it cannot and does not filter out small sediment which is a natural by-product. The filter will also become un-usably  plugged if anything less than course-ground coffee is used. This means you cannot use coffee beans that have been ground for a drip system and especially not an espresso machine.

Things You Will Need
The French Press
Microwaveable Coffee cup
1 tablespoon measuring spoon
Course-ground coffee

The following instructions assume you are making coffee for one mug. The 34-ounce Bodum French Press I am using is capable of making two mug’s worth of coffee at a time.

·         Fill your coffee mug with water and microwave to just below boiling point. (About 2-1/2 minutes)
·         While the water is being heated, if you are using whole beans, grind them coarsely, using one tablespoon of beans per mug of coffee.
·         Remove the strainer/lid combination from the Press.
·         Empty the ground beans into the French Press.
·         When the water is heated, pour it into the French Press and stir gently preferably with a wooden spoon. WARNING: Using a metal spoon may crack and break the fragile glass of the Press.
·         Insert the strainer/lid into the Press. GENTLY and SLOWLY press down. WARNING: Do not use fast or excessive pressure. This will cause the heated water to jet out of the top of the Press.
·         With the strainer still lowered, pour your coffee into your coffee mug.
·         Add whatever you normally do to your coffee such as sweetener and milk. (Note: Adding cold dairy to the coffee may make it lukewarm. To fix, merely microwave for about 30 seconds.)

Clean Up
·         Remove the strainer/lid from the Press. Brush off the bulk of the sediment from the strainer into the trash, then rinse.
·         Add water to the carafe of the Press and swish the beans and then dump down the toilet. Wash the carafe in the sink taking care not to crack it.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My 100th Post

After posting the article about the cross, I noticed the counter (on the admin screen of the blog) indicated I had posted 99 articles. So this makes number 100 and I thought it would be a good time for some reflection. The first two articles (in December of 2010) were commentaries on scripture and beliefs of atheists. The next 3 articles covered smartphones, a health topic and inter-personal relationships. At the time, I really hadn't decided any particular focus for this blog. Now, after nearly 3 years, I've tended to gravitate toward scriptural commentary because I find it so mentally invigorating. Here’s the stats:

63 articles regarding scripture and religious topics
20 articles regarding science and technology
12 articles regarding miscellaneous subjects
5 articles that are not listed on my index list.

There seems to be at least 50 some-odd people following this blog (according the admin pages) although I only have two members as of August 2013. But I didn't start this to amass a readership. My whole drive was to keep up my writing skills and hopefully be of help to some that are really looking to make sense of God and the Bible. I've strived to use both common sense and reasonableness in my thought development. The closest thing I’ve gotten to a compliment on this blog is that I present interesting “stories.” Well, at least they’re not boring, (or maybe the commenter was just being kind with the word “interesting”). Personal friends that have read selected articles have indicated they were well-written and I truly do appreciate those expressions of appreciation.

So what is next? If you notice the chronological sidebar on the right, I've not set any regularity of a posting schedule. At present, I do not have any research projects planned and the articles based on my experiences are only written after I contemplate how to present it in an interesting way. Except for the young man at the bagel shop, which happened in mid July 2013, nothing notable has happened since then.

Is The Cross Something To Be Reverenced?

As I was walking out of a bagel shop with a friend, we were greeted by a young man who was sitting at an outside table of the shop. He asked us if we were with a church-group. I made a quick observation about his attire. He had a cross on a necklace around his neck, cross earrings and other religious emblems. His demeanor was arrogant and assaultive in trying to raise himself up as being better than us because he was not part of “organized religion.” I've heard this weak argument before. It demonstrates no understanding of what the Bible identifies as Christianity. Christianity is and was always an organized effort by fellow believers to spread the message as recounted in detail in the book of Acts.

But rather than take up that discussion, I thought I’d try to get him to think on a very basic level. So I challenged him: “If someone were to murder a relative of yours with a gun, would you take that gun, put it on a chain and wear it around your neck, or would you be repulsed by it?”

The young man knew exactly what I was referring to and then went on to say that if a person doesn’t reverence the cross, that person is not truly Christian. In response, I asked, “What is more important, that Jesus died for our sins or the method and instrument of his unjust execution?” The man completely avoided the question and started throwing insults at me. I could tell he was not going to be a reasonable individual so I left.

Two things I will commend the young man for, first, he had conviction and second, he was not afraid to discuss it. So many I meet today claim to believe in God and attend some religious functions, but they have no desire to discuss something so vital for our life—salvation by belief in the ransom.

It has been weeks since that encounter and it took a long while for me to reflect on it. I’m still not sure what I would or could have done differently. Admittedly, I tend to get defensive and take an adamant stance when others start verbally assaulting me. I try to always call to mind God’s direction that a true Christian should always be peaceable, even when under adverse conditions. However, just for the record, I wanted to document the facts about the cross.

A Wikipedia article makes this observation: “During the first two centuries of Christianity, the cross may have been rare in Christian iconography, as it depicts a purposely painful and gruesome method of public execution and Christians were reluctant to use it.” Another article indicates that the cross came into use around the third century. Finally, a third article I found on the web identifies the cross as being of pagan (not Christian) origin. You, the reader, should note that I took care to NOT use any literature written by Jehovah’s Witnesses in the above references. The reason was to show that this is not merely some doctrine that we (Jehovah’s Witnesses) made up. But it was after diligent search that we came to same conclusion as the articles cited above. However, now that the facts have been corroborated, here is what we officially believe.

But lets come back to the second question I posed to the young man, “What is more important, that Jesus died for our sins or the means of his death?” Although prophecy did indicate that Jesus would die by the standard Roman means of being put on a pole, a stake, the vastly more important fact is not how he died but why he died. In fact, the majority of the Christian scriptures accentuates the WHY of the matter, not the HOW. And as far as HOW he died, making a religious symbol of it should be as offensive to us as it was to the first-century Christians.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The Bible, Fact Or Fiction?

Recently an anonymous commenter wrote that the whole set of my articles were nicely written “stories.” He (or maybe she) went on to explain that just as in the movie “Life of Pi” (the commenter misspelled it “pie”), it all depends on what the audience wants to believe. The commenter thus implied that truth is whatever one chooses to believe. I’ve already written an article addressing the relativity of “truth,” so herein I wanted to address the accusation that the Bible merely contains unprovable stories. One thing that separates fact from fiction is that facts can be proven.

Archeology has several times come to the defense of the Bible. People, places and events have been corroborated. With this proof alone, reasoning people can easily see that the Bible is more akin to a history book than it is a child’s fable.

Scientists have also come forward in favor of the Bible. For instance consider this personal experience of a  man whose study is neurophysiology. Raised an atheist, it was his own studies that convinced him the Bible was more than meets the eye. Also, here are two articles from biochemists, one a man the other a woman, who started out as atheist but changed by reason of their field of study. Yet another article is about a designer of robots that gained an appreciation that God truly exists.

The brochure “Was Life Created” may be of interest to some of you.

Other real-life experiences from the sciences and medical fields:
Nuclear Physicist (Apr.2004 Awake article)
Orthopedic Surgeon (Aug.2013 Awake article)
Kidney researcher (Sept.2013 Awake article)

Consider It All Joy

After the initial greeting to his audience, James, the writer of a small letter that follows Paul’s letter to “the Hebrews,” says the following: “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you meet with various trials.” It may sound like an odd piece of advice, but for the first century Christians, it was a running theme and their modus operandi. For example, one of the first beatings the apostles faced was at the hands of the religious leaders that were trying to intimidate them into submission. One might think that such a severe treatment would be a “real downer” for them. But instead, they were actually honored to stand up for Jesus and rejoiced over it.

But James cites another reason to be joyful. In verse 3 he says that successfully meeting trials adds endurance to our personal repertoire of Christian maturity.  But it is one thing to have lived through a trial, it is another thing to come out spiritually unscathed. Hence, in verse 4, James advises that we need to learn from the trial so that we emerge “complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.” That is easier said than done, especially when the trial we are experiencing seems to drag on without letup. Discouragement can easily set in, followed by doubts, wondering if any of this has any purpose—does God really see it and care?

James may have anticipated that feeling and so he continues in verses 5-8: “So, if any one of YOU is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him. But let him keep on asking in faith, not doubting at all, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about. In fact, let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from Jehovah; he is an indecisive man, unsteady in all his ways.”

What is the “wisdom” that we may be lacking? Jesus spoke of this in his “Sermon on the Mount.” He reasoned with his audience that “not one of them [sparrows] will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge… Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.”

Peter states it succinctly: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; while you throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.”  (1 Peter 5:6, 7)

Yes, wisdom should tell us that God does care. But like a child squirming because it doesn’t want to get a medical shot (injection), sometimes we may get pouty and fight against the trial. Admittedly, I have personally felt a situation that I’ve been enduring for nearly 2 decades “is hopeless.” I’ve even felt as Job did: ‘Just let me die and bring me back when things are better.’ (Job 14:13) Really, no one in their right mind would desire to go through what I’ve been through—especially as hopeless as the situation seems to be.

But that was the whole reason for my writing this article—to remind myself that giving into feelings of hopelessness betrays a lack of faith. That is definitely not how I want my God to know me. I want to have full confidence in Him and demonstrate it by standing firm in the faith.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Survival Of The Fittest

I’ve been reflecting on a comment a friend made recently regarding evolutionist beliefs. Although I did come close to hitting on the same point in another post, what this friend said was profound (at least it seemed so to me).

If you do not believe that God is the maker of all things, that “it is he that has made us, and not we ourselves” (via evolution or any other means), then consider the following. Part of the evolution doctrine is the so-called “natural selection” (aka “survival of the fittest”). Many evolutionists that I’ve spoken to claim that this dictates that the strongest, most domineering should be what survives. Such a belief would treat moral integrity as a weakness. So let me ask you, if you believe that survival of the fittest should be devoid of anything dealing with moral code, do you think that

      1.       Laws that place people in prisons should be abolished because we are just acting like the animal we are?
      2.       Society should just save money and allow injured and ill ones to just die? (After all, they are the weak ones, aren't they?)
      3.       Science should cease spending millions (if not billions) on disease prevention? (Also, there are known potentials for strains of viruses that are lethal to man, not to mention genetically engineered chemicals and substances. If these viruses wipe out segments of human population, isn't that just survival of the fittest--the brainless viruses being the fittest and mankind being the weak?)

When such thinking is taken all the way down the road, the folly of it is demonstrated. I've heard evolutionists say that chaos and violence have been in nature and human society since day one and it is change that drives evolution. If so, why try to stop violence? The fact is most of the laws governing social structure are not based on science and logic but rather on moral codes—our perception of right and wrong. By evolutionist thinking, human sense of morality is attempting to establish order in the chaos. Oh no! We're fighting against our own further evolution! (Obviously, such reasoning is designed to show the absurdity of superficial evolutionist thinking.)

By the way, I am using the terms “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” as espoused by the majority of those claiming to adhere to those tenets. In actuality, those terms were not intended to be used that way, as explained by this Wikipedia article.

But some might challenge me: “Wait a minute! Are you claiming that you don’t believe violence has always been around? What about our very own sun? It is a demonstration of violent explosions.” While current science holds that the material universe was the result of massive and even multiple explosions, there is also beauty, uniformity and control. Although the scale is much smaller, think of a controlled explosion we call the internal combustion engine. Intelligence, not random evolution, is the maker of that engine. Likewise, such control can be witnessed in the physical universe. Paul used a similar line of reason regarding the building of houses. Today both brute force and power tools are used, including hammers and pneumatic nail drivers, both of which emit loud “bangs” when used. But it is all a controlled use of energy. Some phases of house construction may seem to be in disarray but to the intelligent minds that are making it, they know it will all come together into the house they envisioned.  Truly, as Paul further reasoned, it is inexcusable to make any other conclusion but that God made (likewise through the use of controlled energy) the physical universe. Just because the magnitude of that power is immense (from our small & limited perspective) does not mean it is not under control.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

What Exactly Is The "Good News"?

The Bible speaks of the "good news." What is that good news? In Acts 10:34-43, Peter covers several facets of that message that have amazed many down through the centuries.

First, in verse 34, Peter mentions something that is truly good news for everyone regardless of nationality or ethnicity. He says that God is impartial, that God doesn't care what nation we are from. To become accepted by him, our motives and conduct are what he looks at.

Next, in verse 36, he relates something that anyone who has ever dealt with injustice from governments should be absolutely elated over, namely, that Jesus' rulership is even over and above all earthly governments, being "Lord of all others." (this is not an ineffectual rulership. In time, Jesus will act to remove human rulership and bring relief and benefits to all his earthly subjects.)

In verse 39 he relates something that may at first seem like a huge disappointment--Jesus was put to death by devious lies from the Jewish religious leaders and carried out by Roman rule. But in verse 40, there is yet more, almost unbelievable, good news--God brought Jesus back to life. As proof of this good news, Peter indicates in verse 41 that there were many eye witnesses of the risen Christ. Backing up the numerous eye witnesses, Peter mentions in verse 43 that a number of Hebrew writers (prophets) points to Jesus and the impact he would have on those accepting and rejecting the message.

Finally, in verses 42, Peter mentions that this is not a hidden message or one that people would have to travel great distances to hear. Instead, Jesus "ordered" that those who had knowledge of the resurrected, empowered Christ should spread the message near and far.

So although the "good news" is multi-faceted (just as a diamond has many facets depending on its cut), it is still one single diamond--Jehovah, through his written word (The Bible), points to Jesus as the solution to mankind's problems. Or, as Peter put it in Acts 4:12, "God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved." (New Living Translation, copyright 2007)

Granted, this is not good news for the governments of this world that oppress mankind. This also is not good news to any that insist on creating their own set of rules, their own standards and measure of what is right and wrong—those that reject the Bible’s clear and simple moral code. But to those that are sincerely and humbly looking for what God wants of them and willing to follow what is outlined in the Bible, the promise of rule by God is very appealing and is the greatest news they have ever heard.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Them’s Fightin’ Words!

Those who remember old western TV shows and theater movies are well-acquainted with the title of this article. Christians also put up a battle, but it is “not against flesh and blood,” but against Satan’s spiritual darkness whether it be in the form of false religious teaching, outright atheism, or national-political fervor—all of which is included in Paul’s words at Ephesians 6:12. (Again, I emphasize that although the above three are physical manifestations of Satan’s “darkness,” Christians are not to literally fight or engage in physical altercations/confrontations with them. This is confirmed by 2 Timothy 2:24.)

A Christian’s battle is two-fold: First, to protect one’s self. Second, to fearlessly declare God’s Kingdom to any and all who will listen and, hopefully, help others take a stand for truth and righteousness. Paul makes these points clear in the words that follow what he wrote in Ephesians 6:12….

(Ephesians 6:14-18) Stand firm, therefore, with YOUR loins girded about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and with YOUR feet shod with the equipment of the good news of peace. 16 Above all things, take up the large shield of faith, with which YOU will be able to quench all the wicked one’s burning missiles. 17 Also, accept the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, that is, God’s word, 18 while with every form of prayer and supplication YOU carry on prayer on every occasion in spirit. And to that end keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones….

The reason I have underlined the action-words is to drive home the actions being emphasized. Take note that they are all defensive and not offensive. When I started this article, I was particularly intrigued with what Paul said about the “helmet of salvation.” I wondered why it was rendered “accept the helmet” and not “put on” or some such phrase. I checked the rendering of multiple other translations. While at least one did translated it as “put on,” the majority used the word “take.” Upon scrolling down in the list, I found a commentary by “Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary” that pretty much said what I expected to find. That is, “take, receive, and accept” are all legitimate forms of the original Greek word that Paul used. But what was the significance of “accepting” the helmet? I figured there had to be some gem of insight that is easily overlooked.

Then I started reflecting on what I knew of the people of that time—especially those Jews (Israelites) that were contemporaries of Paul. For many of those, it was a challenge to accept Jesus as their salvation because they had become steeped in tradition and Jewish Law. Accepting Jesus in the minds of the leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes) was tantamount to heresy, apostasy. For those “of the nations,” it may have been foreign to their ideologies to entrust salvation to anyone but themselves. There are even cultures today that are repulsed by the idea of belief in and trust in a savior. So now Paul’s words make perfect sense in that social climate—he was admonishing those in Ephesus to humbly accept the provision that God had made for mankind’s salvation. “Accepting” for the Jews meant having to put aside their trust in working out their own salvation through sacrifices and other acts prescribed by the Mosaic Law. They had to realize that nothing they personally could do would ever amount to salvation. However, after accepting the ransom sacrifice of Christ as the basis for their hope of salvation, they could now perform works befitting repentance and acceptance of Christian responsibility. Even in this modern world, some find wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle or motorcycle to be bothersome. They feel self-confident that they are strong enough to withstand whatever can happen. This drives home even more so how humility and following direction are important when it comes to accepting the helmet of salvation.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Why Be Happy?

At 1 Timothy 1:11, Paul mentions that the good news he was entrusted with is from the “happy God.” It occurred to me: Since God is happy, who am I to be any less. If my disposition is somber or rigid or gruff, does that convince others that I believe I serve the happy God? If my attitude and disposition reflect constant negativity, is that dignifying and extolling the happy God I worship? Does my dealings with others make them feel comforted or condemned; delighted or discouraged; endeared or estranged?

Really, when Jehovah inspired Paul to write “Be aglow with the spirit. ... Rejoice in the hope,” what makes my personal situation so important that I allow negativity to overshadow me? (Romans 12:11,12) Is that really the way I want to be known? Or, do I want to be known as a happy, encouraging, forgiving and supportive friend?

Ok, so you’ve had family and friends turn against you--so what!? You feel misunderstood, so what!? Jehovah had many, many angels turn against him, slander him and try to impede his purposes. And as far as things not turning out the way I wanted, once again, think of Jehovah--Instead of the earth being filled with a harmonious family, currently those worshiping him are a small minority. The vast majority either do not know Him or refuse to serve him. Instead of the earth being a gem of a paradise, mankind has filled it with all sorts of pollution  Yet none of that makes Jehovah bitter, negative, or sullen. He is “the happy God!” In time, he will correct not only all the things that sadden him, but he will also “wipe every tear from YOUR eyes.” (Rev.21:4)

So what do you do in the meantime? “Always rejoice in the Lord. Once more I will say, Rejoice!”  - Philippians 4:4

How Is Jesus the "Bread From Heaven"?

In the gospel of John, chapter 6, Jesus spoke of himself as the bread from heaven. A while back I wrote an article specifically addressing how Jesus’ words have been misinterpreted to promote an odd form of cannibalism. Recently I was remembering yet another passage, this time in the gospel of Matthew. Understanding this passage would aid those who believe God and his son (Jesus) are reasonable and intelligent beings, to see that they used illustrations to evaluate our ability to reason, draw conclusions, and act intelligently.

At Matthew 16:11,12 we read: “How is it you do not discern that I did not talk to you about loaves? But watch out for the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Then they grasped that he said to watch out, not for the leaven of the loaves, but for the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” In this illustration, Jesus draws a comparison between the teaching of the religious leaders and leaven. That is, the fermenting (corrupting) influence of their teachings. From this, reasonable and reasoning people should be able to conclude, without a lot of mental labor, that when Jesus spoke of himself as the bread from heaven, he meant that his teachings were really “the truth,” the real, pure, unadulterated, uncorrupted teachings of and from the Father.

How can teachings be compared to food and water? Jesus himself spoke of doing his Father’s work as nourishment for him. It gave Jesus such satisfaction to help others that he personally felt invigorated just as if he had eating a meal or drank refreshing water. Those that really study, apply and share what they know of scripture can likewise enjoy this satisfying feeling of having worked hard to serve God faithfully.