Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Does History Repeat Itself?

There is an old saying that history repeats itself. If we don't learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it. Until I researched for this article, I was unaware that there are people that actually occupy their time trying to figure out whether or not the perception of history repeating itself is true. There is even a website to debate whether or not history repeats itself:

For the sake of this discussion, I am not speaking of some spooky Deja vu, nor of specific events happening again, whether here or in some supposed parallel universe. I am speaking of a pattern of action and reaction that, with some reliability, can be anticipated/expected. For example, in its simplest form, if a parent anywhere in the world leaves a desirable treat out in the open, tells the child not to touch it until dinner, then leaves the child unattended....chances are that child will repeat a well-known pattern (history) of "sneaking" a taste, a bite, or even gorging.

In more complicated cases such as those who try to find similarities in national and world history, it is not the details of the events themselves that are important. Rather it is the somewhat predictable (imperfect) human character. Especially now (post World Trade Center attack) the whole world is on heightened alert that repeats of tactics used by terrorists can occur, indeed, will occur. (In these case, world security forces are indeed analyzing not only human types and personalities, but the details of how attacks are orchestrated and carried out.)

"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience." This quote is attributed to George Bernard Shaw. Whether intended as tongue-in-cheek humor or a serious note, there is one observation I’d like to make about this: It is not that man is incapable of learning, it is that he arrogantly refuses to learn. One reason that I have observed for this arrogance is that each generation thinks it is smarter than its predecessors.

In particular, as a person who enjoys discussing Bible topics with others, I notice that people discount the Bible as an irrelevant, ancient writings, produced by superstitious people. Yet they will not even give the Bible a chance. They will not look into it to see what life-experiences it contains that can aid them. They both ignorantly and arrogantly reject the idea of getting to know the book because they are modern, they are enlightened with secular education, they have issues that they think just are not covered in the Bible. What they don't know is that God covers sufficient events in the Bible to cover all principles of living that we will ever experience regardless of what generation they occur in. It IS very relevant to our modern day.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Borg-ified Body

(I revisited this article on 4/6/2017 and discovered some links are dead so I removed them. Others I updated.)

We are just a few days away from year 2015 and I thought it would be a good time to time-capsule (mental snapshot) where we stand with becoming Borg. Here are the personal accessories to which the word “smart” has been applied:

Smart Glasses (and competitor: Smart Telepathy)

Not really a "smart" device category per se, but honorable mention because it falls into the category of mechanizing (Borg-ifying) our body: Three cheers (albeit hesitant) for thought-control devices and “brain augmentation” (brain-to-computer interfaces).

I think that pretty much covers the whole body. Did I leave anything out?

Note: In designating “personal accessories,” I am excluding the appliance industry which includes smart refrigerators, smart ovens, smart washer and dryers, and more. Additionally, I am not including smart TVs. I also didn't include "older" technologies such as so-called bionic body parts -- knees, legs, arms, etc.

(As far as forming a Borg collective, we've already done that through social media.)

Resistance is futile! You will be assimilated.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Types of Christians

I met a man today that wouldn't agree to even a 30-second presentation I had prepared about the Bible. “No thanks, I’m set.” What I wanted to tell him is “Really?! That is amazing because I don’t even feel I am ‘set.’ Challenging myself every day to work on my imperfections, to remember to pray daily, to work hard at loving my neighbor, all of that is a challenge as an imperfect human.” But then he interrupted me again and said “If I got any closer to God, I’d have to die and be in heaven.” He explained that he goes to church and tries to be good. I finally got one point in. I wanted to choose my words carefully to see if he’d take the bait. I said: “Actually, there is at least one more step you can take before that extreme.” He looked at me puzzled. (I thought to myself “Good! I got his attention.”) I waited a moment to see if he’d interrupt me again. He didn't. So I continued “Years ago I concluded for myself that instead of merely going to church and listening to what someone else tells me God says, I needed to try reading the Bible on my own.” He admitted he hadn't done that. Like myself, he was retired from secular work so I encouraged him to sit down every day for only 10 to 15 minutes and start reading the Bible. He agreed it was a good idea.

After several hours, I sat and reflected on the experience. I thought of all the types of people I encountered in my lifetime. Here are the major categories:

Foxhole Christian: Those who, when faced with extreme circumstances, cry out to a God they may never have even believed in. (Compare Luke 12:16-21)

Armchair Christian: Those who love philosophy and expound on their intellectual viewpoints and engage in philosophical debates with others. It is more a game of mental chess, perhaps even playful banter, than a committed viewpoint. The end result is not to determine a course of action, but rather to see who can play the best game (of words).

Pew Warmer Christian: Those who go to church once a week to have their consciences appeased. They go, they listen and sing, they leave. “That’s it for God for this week, honey.”

Active-Authentic Christian: These regularly read their Bibles and make efforts to apply the Bible’s principles in their lives. They realize that Jesus was not about sitting in a church and then doing nothing with the experience to help others. Rather, they make efforts to speak with others about the Bible because of the seriousness of its message. These are the rarest and most authentically Christ-like individuals. They are humble and readily admit they are both imperfect and do not know everything. They realize that God gave each individual free will and a conscience. With that realization, they accept that people can choose not to believe as they do. God is the judge, not us.

Extremists: These are very opinionated and condemnatory of those not agreeing with them. They may resort to verbal, or at times even physical, abuse of those not bending to their viewpoints. In the days of the early Christians, they were the persecuted, not the persecutors. The Bible makes it quite clear that true Christians are not physical warriors.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Is Christmas Christian?

There is the ideal of Christmas (loving neighbors and families caring for one another), and then there is the reality. The reality of the season is what gives atheists and non-Christians the fuel they need to discredit those who participate.

Within the last week (third week of Dec.2014), an article of road rage where a woman with a SUV rammed and ran a Honda off the road was arrested. Road rage is nothing new, but if “the season” were truly motivating people toward kindness, you’d think it not be something we’d be reading about.

But even more shocking was the “cute” article of letters written by children to Santa. One girl wrote a message that included a drawing of a pony. For decades I've seen such letters. They are usually filled with promises to be good and pleas for fulfillment. Not this girl. She wrote: “You better bring my pony this year or there will be consequences!” Whoa! Is that a threat? Then, there was the little boy that was even bolder: “I've got three words for you, Santa: ‘I Hate You!’” He then explained, “You never bring me what I ask for.” (I read both these on my phone, but when I went back to find them, I couldn't remember which news reader I was using. I searched for an hour but to no avail.)

Forget the rude and disrespectful attitude. How about the feeling of entitlement –the demanding from a complete stranger something just because they want it? How about the completely selfish viewpoint. While children in foreign countries would be happy with just playing with a box or sticks, these kids DEMAND more. Is this holiday breeding love and generosity or is it breeding selfish, self-absorbed brats. I take you back to the woman at the outset to answer that question.

There is a saying associated with Christmas that goes: “Jesus is the reason for the season.” Ask most people “why” Jesus is the reason and, if they can come up with any reason at all, it is usually that “it is because Jesus was born on December 25th.” Problem is, scholars in most all religions have proven that is not true. The reason “Jesus is the reason for the season” is because “Church forefathers” (aka Catholic Church), in their attempt to appease pagan worshipers of the sun, told them that the birth of the sun (winter solstice) could become the birth of the “son of God.” From there, other peoples fabricated and embellished all these stories we now have about Saint Nic. As to what month Jesus was actually born in—we don’t even know that much with any certainty. Most feel it was in autumn.

I could go on to enumerate all the negative side effects of this celebration, but the news has done a wonderful job of that already. On the positive side, it is a real relief to people when they discover what a huge lie Christmas is. Instead, like myself, millions have learned what true Christianity is and what it is based on. Jesus himself said there is more happiness in giving than in receiving. Coupled with that are the fruitages of true Christian living. These are daily traits, not just once a year for a few weeks.

In short, as a Christian who truly respects Jesus, I have concluded that the celebration known as Christmas is an insult to Jesus. (More information)

Monday, December 22, 2014

Jesus Is Our Savior

Infrequently I hear people say that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not Christian. Since that is a lie or at very least a misconception, I work hard to explain the facts and truth of the matter. Normally, I end up going into a lengthily explanation. For decades I’ve struggled to find a brief explanation. I think I finally hit on it….

We believe what Acts 4:12 says about Jesus: “There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must get saved.” Indeed, Jesus is the designated savior of sinful mankind, which includes all humans. But now focus on the part that says “has been given.” Who did the giving of Jesus’ name? The answer is found at John 12:49 where we read that “the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment about what to say and what to speak.” Yes, the one Jesus taught us to pray to at Matthew 6:9 with the words “Our Father in the heavens,” God himself, is the one that pointed to Jesus in prophecies as being the Messiah.

Does God, “our Father” have a name? At Psalms 83:18 we read: “May people know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Other translations) Yes, the Father’s name is Jehovah and that is why we primarily call ourselves Jehovah’s Witnesses—because the Father, Jehovah, is the one that Jesus himself directed that we should pray to and worship.

In short, then, Jesus is God's means for saving mankind from sin and death. He is God's spokesman (John 1:1, "the Word"), and, as the "son of God," is second in command.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Productive Activity

Jehovah has always been an active personage. These actions are productive and act in the interests of good for everyone. To be like Jesus, a “son” of God, we need to imitate both our Creator and Jesus. For those claiming that they are active, either playing games, reading, or sports, none of those things benefit others nor can they claim to be productive. That is, there is no end benefit or product that helps anyone, possibly including even themselves. For those that claim they are providing a living for their family, while admirable, if they are not also promoting God’s interest in saving lives and advancing his Kingdom, how can they claim to be doing the work assigned to us by none other than Jesus himself. Indeed, what kind of a "son" is someone that doesn't do what his father tells him to do?

Above is my reflection on this article.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hemingwrite vs Other Options

The Great Human-Experience novel! (Forget "the Great American" novel--I aspire to much higher goals.) Every time I read an article about writing or writers, I get a hankering for “putting pen to paper.” But those days of using such writing tools are actually long gone for me. I keep challenging myself to become more and more “digital” and living my life in the cloud. (Heaven knows my head has been in the clouds most my life!) Most of what I write is with a computer. I no longer own a desktop PC, I am completely mobile with a laptop, tablet and phablet.

Just today (12/12/2014) I was reading about a new device whose market focus is writers. It is called the Hemingwrite and is currently being crowd-funded. My knee-jerk first impression was that it is so 1990’s retro--looking very much like other LCD small displays with nearly full-sized keyboards. (The latter can be had for under $100 on Amazon, while the Hemingwrite is reportedly going to cost between $400 to $500.)

The Hemingwrite promotes itself by claiming it is a “distraction free” writing tool. OK, I guess if you are an obsessive compulsive that needs to check your email, social feeds and texts every few seconds, that might be a benefit. But won’t you have your phone right alongside you anyway? Those wanting to work distraction-free on computers can easily do so by turning off wifi or closing the email agent (thus preventing emails) and muting or turning off their phone (a blood-curdling scream is heard in the reverberating distance). That is a much cheaper solution than buying yet another device to lug around. And speaking about “lugging,” the Hemingwrite is not a lightweight! It weighs 4 pounds, which is heavier than some laptops and decidedly heavier than all tablets today.

But coming back to how I “write”  these days: Lately, the idea of “writing” with a keyboard seems like a contradiction in terms and completely unnatural. Real writing is done with pen (pencil) and paper. And so I’ve come full circle. Instead of using a keyboard, I’ve recently discovered it is much more natural to use Smart Note (the “paper”) and a Samsung 12" Galaxy Note Pro with stylus. (In fact, this article was written using those items and subsequently exported and polished inside Google Docs.)

I already mentioned that the Hemingwrite weighs 4 pounds and will cost upwards of $500. Compare that to the Samsung Galaxy Note Pro 12.2 which is $800 but weighs only 1.7 pounds. (Alternately, the Samsung Note 10.1 weighs only 597 grams and costs as little as $300.) Both run Android and have a great stylus, a much clearer and larger screen, promote natural handwriting that is converted immediately to typewritten text, plus numerous other bells and whistles. Using the aforementioned Smart Note, that text can be exported to PDF, uploaded to the cloud, or copied directly to any text editing app even an SMS texting app. Adding pages, inserting, deleting, and editing text is easy using the app’s “natural” gestures.

Really, my stylus-based solution is much more cost effective and productive than the Hemingwrite. But what if you absolutely want, no indeed, demand a keyboard?  Then your options are even less expensive yet more powerful. Chromebook laptops are as cheap as $200 on Amazon and can create offline and online documents . Once you are online, the offline docs are backed up to Google Drive. Don’t like Chromebook? No problem. How about a nice inexpensive Windows-based system also within the $200 to $300 range. Most of those have at very least Notepad or Wordpad. Beyond that, free programs such as Apache OpenOffice can be installed.

In short, I feel Hemingwrite is a step backwards, an unnecessary and archaic device adding more weight to carry around. Its predecessors had their heyday. Today’s solutions are cheaper, lighter, and more robust.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

MyScript Smart Note (Android App)

When I first acquired my Samsung Note2, I thought I would be able to take handwritten notes on it in full screen like a tablet. Turns out that the best it could do was use sticky-note-sized area to write notes that were not transferable to editable text. Alternately, using the Samsung keyboard with the SPen I could write on a space at the bottom of the screen and it would immediately convert it to typewritten text within the text input area of several apps. For example, within an email, there are fields for recipient, subject, and body of an email. Within each of those text areas, depending on which was the current selection, when I start writing at the bottom of the screen (the area reserved for the Samsung keyboard), it would immediately convert what I wrote to typewritten text.

Lastly, there is an option, but only within some apps, that opens up a scripting window and permits several lines of text to be handwritten. This is a feature only found on the Samsung Note devices. But its implementation is limited and again the screen area is very small. So I bought myself the Samsung Note Pro 12.2 thinking that it would provide a larger input area. Yes and no. The area is only slightly larger and the ink size is correspondingly larger so that it is a “wash,” (no benefit). What I wanted was a full-screen entry area akin to a typical sheet of paper.

Enter MyScript Smart Note. I had seen iterations of this app on the Play Store for years but disregarded it because I thought I already had the functionality that it was bringing to the table. Turns out I was wrong. It brings exactly what I’ve been missing--full screen editing. One benefit for non-Samsung Note users is that the app is useful to them as well.Although using a finger as a stylus is possible, if you don’t already have one, I’d recommend getting a stylus if you want to use this app.

Besides full screen input, MyScript Smart Note provides very intuitive editing motions for inserting, joining and deleting text. If you buy the full version (under $3) you can add pages, add workbooks and more. Although the videos the company provides show many of the editing functions, it is more geared as a marketing video than a tutorial. In the right top of the app’s screen is a three-dot icon. Tap that and then tap help to get the full in-app tutorial with detailed explanations.

To be clear, MyScript Smart Note does not becoming another keyboard usable in other apps. It provides a full screen input area within itself. The text can later be copied and pasted into any other app. The document itself can also be exported to PDF. There are other features such as drawing and inserting pictures that I didn’t cover here.

As an ending note, my first app from this company was its calculator. With it, the user can hand write any formula and it is not only converted to typed text but it formula is resolved to whatever the result would be. For example, if you write “2 + 2” and wait just a moment, the app will display “2 + 2 = 4.” I find this much more intuitive and easier than using a 10-key calculator and I actually have known how to touch-type (without looking) on a 10-key since my teens. (My father was an accountant and taught me.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Public Speaking vs Acting

Below is a speech that I delivered numerous times in Toastmasters. Its intent is to encourage and motivate new members to embrace with positive anticipation the prospects of public speaking.


By show of hands, how many of us do not get nervous when we speak in public?  (Anticipate that no one will raise their hand). So now that we've established that nervousness is common, we can ask “How do we get from cramps to composure?”

Really, it boils down to mindset.  Think about it: Does confidence and poise come from the food we eat? No, nervous people eat the same food as those displaying confidence.  Well, how about from the clothes we wear? Well, the activist college student in jeans is just as confident as the Board of Directors are in their 3-piece suits.  So it can’t be that. Really then, that brings us back to mindset.

So what can we do to affect our mindset? We will discuss three things, our viewpoint of our audience, our viewpoint of ourselves and our viewpoint of making mistakes and accepting critiques.

Speaking With Your Friends

So what I’d like you to do is this: First, forget this concept of speaking to an audience.  We’re going to take one step back from that.  Instead, imagine the most comfortable setting you can in a group of people.  What would that be for you?  Is it a party, a small gathering for a meal, friends on a camping trip around a campfire?   Lets say we’re at a campfire right now. Imagine we are under the starry sky. Can you hear the crickets? They’re all around.  What I enjoy about campfires is roasting marshmallows. Look here’s the crackling fire in the middle of the room. Here’s my trusty twig. (Marshmallow catches fire, blow it out and eat it.) Boy that sure brings back memories.

Now, imagine yourself relating, sharing with your friends and fellow campers something you take great pleasure and joy in: fishing, mountain climbing, dirt biking, skiing, whatever you really like talking about and doing.

You can not make a mistake telling of those things because they come from your heart.  In fact, you know what happens in that setting if you do make a mistake? You’ll immediately say, “Oh, no wait, that’s not what happened. Here’s how it went.” And you’ll all laugh and carry on like it was no big deal.  When in front of the club (or formal speech setting) imagine yourself speaking to them in that most friendly setting instead.  Then the fears will be reduced because you are speaking from the heart to friends that want to hear you, instead of from the head to a club in a formal setting.  Yes, enjoy the SHARING process, and the speaking/teaching process will come naturally.  Really, a good teacher is one who knows how to share and makes learning fun.  But what of us who are quiet even among friends? Well, you may have to start out by acting.  Herein is the viewpoint of self.


“TO BE; or, not to be.” 
Have you ever thought you’d like to be an actor?  Well, every time we get up here, we have a chance to act.  Though we may be scared out of our wits, we can act confident.  Though we may feel sheepish, we can act like a lion. 

Really, we are all actors.  We all act (conduct ourselves) the way that has come to feel natural to us.  So as speakers, we are challenged just like actors to carry ourselves in a way that for the present seems unnatural.

In movies, I think a villain is the best example of this.  If we leave the theater hating the guts of the actor that played the bad guy, that actor deserves an award.  The same with us, when we get up here, no one needs to know that we have butterflies.  Before we leave this “stage,” we will have them convinced that we have been doing this for years. 

Passionate actors do two important things.  First, they study their role.  If modeled after a real-life person, they study their model. We likewise can study those we admire as model speakers.  Second, they practice.  Some actors have been known to practice their roles to an extreme, trying to become that person during every waking hour, even off camera.  We likewise can practice confidence and poise in our daily life, business dealings and in meeting new friends who never need to know how we were before we took on this act of confidence. In fact, that would be a great exercise for shy ones--with each new person you meet, ACT like the friendly, sincerely outgoing, person you want to be. Since they have never met you before, they'll never know you were any different. In time, the act will become part of your real personality.

Mistakes & Critiques

“But what if I make a mistake.” 
Don't you find that the more you worry about making mistakes the more you actually tend to make them, and the less joy have in speaking?  To handle the nervousness caused by fear of making a mistake, we need to reverse the 'more worry, less joy' syndrome.  This means being filled with joy and desisting from all self-defeating fears. Don't concentrate on the possibility of erring.  Concentrate on the material you researched and diligently prepared.  Concentrate on enjoying the sharing process. When you do make a mistake, and we all do, move on past it. Don’t try to dwell there while continuing you speech. That’s like trying to keep one foot firmly planted in one place while expecting the other foot to take you down a path.  Its physically impossible. The same goes for our mind. It can’t stay fussing over a mistake and keep focused on the progress of your train of thought. Just move on--just like you do when sharing a story around a campfire.

Your choice of words and the manner in which you present them, whether in private conversations or in public speeches will always be critiqued and that is actually good.  Proverbs 27:17 indicates: "By iron, iron itself is sharpened.  So one man sharpens the face of another."  Sometimes that sharpening can cut, but if we take this in a good-natured fashion, it can heal into a scar of a uniquely strong character.  Don't be afraid of the critiques.  Instead, look forward to it like shoes look forward to a good polishing -- it can only help you look better the next time. Again, we are all here because we chose to be.  Since we want to be here, lets enjoy every facet of the experience including the brief, silly little embarrassments called mistakes.


Let’s wrap this all up now and review the three major points: Talk WITH your audience as if you are sharing with a group of friends.  Since you are already acting to begin with, choose to ACT CONFIDENT, composed and experienced.  And finally, CONCENTRATE ON THE ENJOYMENT of your presentation instead of the possibility of making mistakes or wondering what your audience thinks of you.

I've heard some suggest that you imagine your audience naked. I've heard others say to imagine yourself as being a giant in a room of tiny people. Both those conceptualizations demean your audience. They are neither better nor worse than you. They are your peers that have come to hear you. That is why I recommend the campfire scenario because it encourages viewing the audience as supportive and compassionate friends.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Asus ZenWatch

It has been a while since I've written about something other than scripture commentary. I came across a product that really excites me....

Geeks don’t have to necessarily be nerds. I know several people who, although they love technical toys (the main qualification for being a geek), they are not necessarily disheveled, socially awkward people (the typical definition of a nerd). In my lifetime, I’ve got to admit I have been called both a nerd and a geek. I finally learned social skills, so I don’t get called nerd anymore.

But it seems now-a-days, being a geek is actually a good thing. Others come up to you looking for advice about consumer electronics and software. Most recently, I’ve had a few ask me about smart watches. I’ve told them that those devices still seem to be in their infancy. I didn’t like the bulkiness of the watches, their function and software seemed awkward to navigate, and the displays left a lot to be desired.

But all that changed (for me) recently with Asus’ introduction of the ZenWatch. I’ve watched a number of videos on the product using Youtube. It is stylish enough that I can see it crossing the boundary of “for geeks only” into the much vaster audience of mainstream consumer products. That the watch is thin is mostly what appeals to me. It is just a tad thicker than my current watch, the Skagen Titanium Multifunction 809XLTBN. One reason I am thinking of leaving the Skagen behind is because the dials have gotten too small for my aging eyes to decipher. I wanted a day and date watch but I can no longer read those indicators. (Another reason is that when a month has less than 31 days, you manually have to correct the date. If you cross the IDL, then you have other things to adjust as well.)

The ZenWatch, on the other hand, seems very easy to read and has a number of optional clock faces to choose from. Since it is a digital electronic, the time, day, date, etc are all automatically adjusted. The added benefits of syncing to my smartphone (Samsung Galaxy Note3) make the ZenWatch even more desirable. Admittedly, it runs Android Wear the same as other brands do and has other hardware features similar to the competition. I have no problem with using this software. It is still maturing but I can live with that. 

Why not choose a Samsung smartwatch seeing as I’m using a Samsung phone? Good question. The answer is that I don’t like any of their designs. All their watches are fat (thick). Then there is the whole thing about them threatening to use Tizen as their OS. (Thanks Samsung, but no thanks. I have a laptop on Windows, a phone on Android, and I don’t want yet another OS on another device.)

As of this writing, (Nov.20, 2014) I am only able to find the ZenWatch on Google Play and at Best Buy

(Before the 2014 watch releases, the industry reminded me of small children--cute, maybe a bit pudgy and socially awkward, but lovable because they're young. The ZenWatch and maybe one or two others remind me of teenage years--while losing the "baby fat" and gaining more experience, they are still not truly adults. In the coming years, I expect that smartwatches will enter their young adulthood (20-somethings to 30's) and, just like their analog ancestors, divide into two camps of round and square faces. With further miniaturization, I anticipate the casing can and will take any form the maker wants and not have to worry about the constraints of technology. For those that prefer slim, trim forms with robust innards (muscle machines), that will be possible. For those that prefer more ornate casings, they will be able to have that too.)

Update: 11/22/2014: I went to my local Best Buy, intent on purchasing the ZenWatch. They don't have any. The closest store (with a stock of just one) is 3 hours away. Asus really needs to get its act together. This is ridiculous. They knew their own release date probably well in advance of the announcement. Yet they have no appreciable stock of the item.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Colossians 2:8 Taken As Spoil

I had always thought that the word "spoil" as used in the KJV meant that we would become like spoiled food--unusable. The KJV phrased the first part of verse 8 as: "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy...." But other translations render this as "take captive." That is when it dawned on me that this is the other meaning of spoil. This is more serious than becoming like spoiled food and worse than being taken as prisoner. Being taken as spoil indicates the reward of a pillager. Since pillaging is associated "especially with wartime efforts" (per the dictionary), that increases the gravity of the loss. Now, what has been taken captive, what has been taken as spoil, is not only our own loss of faith, but also refers to a loss that God and the congregation endure--losing a beloved fellow believer. The main pillager is Satan. He considers captive ones a war trophy and he doesn't hide the fact. In fact, he is boastful and arrogant, taunting Jehovah "Look what I got."

But how can philosophy take a person captive? During wartime, it has been documented that enemy propaganda was used to discourage POWs and others that were behind enemy lines. The propaganda was designed both to promote defection from the opposing side and to crush the hope that some had in their country's ability to liberate them. Likewise, Satan's philosophies are designed to promote defection from serving Jehovah and crush our hope that there really is a God that cares for mankind and wants to save us from Satan's dominion.

Yes, we are in a war and cannot afford to lose any of our dear friends. We each need to be on the lookout for the other's welfare, especially while on this battlefield.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Adam and Eve: Justifiable Disobedience?

A young man about 12 years old really impressed me with a question that had him baffled. It demonstrated what a deep thinker he is. He asked, "If Adam and Eve were perfect, wouldn't their perfect sense of justice prevent them from disobeying their Creator?"

Going to the source material is always the best solution in these matters . Genesis 3:4-5 explains why justice got skewed in Eve's mind. She was told by “the serpent” that God had been unjust by preventing her from reaching her full potential. The serpent (a guise of Satan) had Eve so cunningly and thoroughly deceived that she may have even thought to herself that even if she asked God whether the charges are true or not, she wouldn't be able to trust the answer. In her mind, God's truthfulness and justice were in question. Therefore, being disloyal to a God that wasn't truthful to her was no longer an issue. In other words, since God was unjust in preventing her from achieving her potential, then she didn't feel she owed justice and loyalty to God.

Compounding the issue, after Eve ate the fruit she didn’t die on the spot, so when she gave it Adam, she may have said (although there is no record of it in scripture), “Hey, I ate it and I’m still alive.” Sadly, she was blatantly lied to by Satan and then she allowed personal (selfish) desire to enter the picture.After their eviction from paradise, they were treated just as a parent who rejects a wayward child, “You are dead to me.” Indeed, Jehovah God treated them both as dead, never again speaking to Adam like he did in the garden.

In reality, there were things Eve could have done to verify any doubt she had. But the account is quite plain as to what the real reason was for her disobedience: Eve “saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something desirable to the eyes, yes, the tree was pleasing to look at. So she began taking of its fruit and eating it.” (Genesis 3:6)

Friday, October 31, 2014


With every printed ad, attractive people (some say “sexy” people) promote everything from trash bags to the latest electronic gear. Underwear ads are getting obscenely revealing. (Back in the 1960s when I was a teen, my father took me to work with him. His boss, the owner, had Playboy centerfolds plastered all over the walls of his office. Those centerfolds were considerably more modest than today’s underwear ads are.)

With increasing frequency, TV shows are promoting the “gay” lifestyle as normal and mainstream. (I for the life of me can’t figure out why, with increasing frequency, even within cooking competition shows such as Chopped, the one thing competitors feel compelled to reveal about themselves is that they are homosexual. You never hear heterosexuals make their sexual orientation their main achievement to feature about their lives. In fact, in that gays say they "were born that way," indicates it was not an achievement at all. However, the reason is more than accidental. It is because of the agenda of the LGBT lobbyists. But I digress.)

Comedians today think sex jokes are the only jokes worth repeating. Personally, I have heard people laugh much louder and heartily at old “I Love Lucy” and Carol Burnett TV episodes. Music videos are becoming so risque that it is sickening. Video games now have ratings on them due to “adult content.”

My Point
Maybe 10 or more years ago I would have concluded that it is “nearly impossible to avoid seeing and hearing these things.” However, today I would remove the word “nearly.” It now IS impossible to avoid those things. With all the onslaught of immoral propaganda, the ease of finding such on the internet (even when you aren’t even looking for it!) can raise curiosity for those who have not built up their spiritual armor. Still, scriptures encourage true Christians to brace up their minds (determined conviction) to remain UN-curious.

To be clear: The only action I recommend is one of self-defensive "bracing our minds" to reject any of this world's loose immoral behavior. I am not advocating taking an offensive stance toward those that live those lifestyles. While Christians judge the conduct as unacceptable and falling very short of what God approves, it is God who judges individuals.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Once Saved Always Saved

Those promoting the idea of “once saved, always saved” (OSAS) claim very strongly that the belief is firmly rooted in Scripture. Based on the passages used by one such group, here is an examination of their claims:

John 3:15-18. The phrase the OSAS fixate on is that merely believing in Jesus is sufficient. You only need to declare Jesus as Lord in your heart, they claim. The apostle Paul made a similar declaration at Acts 16:31 to a prison guard that was awestruck by the circumstances surrounding Paul’s miraculous release from prison. But what is involved in believing in Jesus? Commenting on this, the publisher’s foreword to the 1965 edition of the Amplified Bible wrote: 
“Webster defines it: ‘to place credence…apart from personal knowledge; to expect or hope…to be more or less firmly persuaded of the truth of anything, to think or suppose.’” The Foreword then continued: “In this sense, most people believe in Christ—that He lived; that He was a perfect Man Who sincerely believed Himself to be the Son of God, and that He died … to save sinners. But this is by no means the meaning of the Greek word which twenty-two New Testament versions out of twenty-four consulted render ‘believe.’ They do so because there is no one English word that adequately conveys the intended meaning. Actually, the Greek word used here for believe is ‘pisteuo.’ It means ‘to adhere to, cleave to; to trust, to have faith in; to rely on.’ Consequently, the words, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ…’ really mean to have an absolute personal reliance upon the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
Yes, believing, as taught in the Bible is much deeper than most realize. It goes beyond a mere mental acknowledgement of Christ, it reaches deeper than the emotional outbursts that some make. It is an informed decision of commitment and dedication. Really, examining the context of scripture it is easy to see that is so. For example, Acts 16:32 states that Paul went on to relate “the word of the Lord” or, as some translations render it (more accurately) “the word of Jehovah.” In other words, there was more that Paul related to that man than is detailed in Acts 16. (Paul was not known for brevity.) Really, reflect on the bulk of writing in the Greek scriptures (aka New Testament)—If merely believing was all that was necessary, why would there be so much written (four gospels, a detailed record of post–resurrection activity known as the Book of Acts, 21 letters on Christian belief and conduct and one far-reaching prophetic book known as Revelation)? Obviously, God wanted us to know much more than who Jesus was and what he did for us.

One website promoting OSAS claimed that Hebrews 6:4-6 supports the OSAS belief. I could not help but chuckle when I read the heading from the link they provided to that scripture because the heading plainly says “Warning Against Apostasy.” They actually went out of their way to completely convolute the plain teaching that salvation CAN be lost for those disowning their belief. Instead, they try to make the scripture sound as if it is saying it is impossible for someone to renounce their faith. Is that so? Is there any example in scripture that would demonstrate that one way or the other? 

Yes, there are at least three. The first is the case of Ananias and his wife Sopphria. Their devious action resulted in direct condemnation and their immediate death from the very hand of God. Next is the case of Dimas. At first, Paul gives this man a compliment, referring to him as a “fellow worker.” But later sadly observes that Dimas left off serving God because he preferred what the world alienated from God had to offer. The third example is found at 1 Timothy 1:18-20. There, Paul cites two former believers that disregarded their conscience and, as a result, suffered "shipwreck of their faith." (See also 2 Timothy 1:15; 2:15-18)

Really, those claiming that it is impossible to become "unsaved" are arguing against logic—why? Because God gave mankind free will. To say that once we become believers, we forfeit free will is simply not true. Think about Adam and Eve. Before they sinned, they were perfect yet they expressed their free will, lost their lives and will never live again. Are those purporting OSAS saying that we imperfect offspring of Adam are not allowed to have free will after we accept Jesus? The two accounts cited prove that is untrue.

One more thought about Acts 16:31. As noted in this link, the greater number of translations all use the phrase "will be" (not "are"). "Will be" denotes future tense, not present tense. Indeed, this is in full agreement with the first scripture listed below at Matthew 24:13. So considering one's self to be saved at the moment of belief or baptism is not in line with what scripture states.

What other scriptural evidence is there that OSAS is wrong? Consider this list:
Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus indicates that merely claiming to be his follower is not enough. Give this scripture serious thought. If the ones mentioned here were truly expending themselves in doing acts that Jesus himself did (prophesying in Jesus' name, expelling demons, and other powerful works) and yet Jesus rejected them, how can one who merely claims to be saved expect Jesus' approval?

Matthew 24:13 Jesus pointedly states “he that endures the end is one that will be saved.” Now ask yourself. If we are "saved" upon becoming believers, then why would Jesus say we wouldn't be saved until "the end"? (Supporting this, Romans 8:17,23 Paul indicates that suffering for the sake of the Christ and leaving behind our mortal bodies (death) must take place before we are truly adopted (saved) as sons.)

Romans 10:9,10; Hebrews 10:35-39; 1 John 2:4. These three passages, taken together, help us appreciate that “exercising” faith through active obedience and proclamation of our convictions, is what saves. Faith is much more than a mere belief. Just claiming to know that God is real does not get his approval.  (See also James 2:19)

Romans 11:20-22 Just as the nation of Israel was lopped off the main tree (losing their approved state with God and hence reaping not a reward to everlasting life) so those becoming individual believers could be cut off if they proved disloyal/unworthy.

Galatians 4:11 Why would Paul fear for those in Galatia if they were saved for all time? Obviously, they must not yet be saved eternally, otherwise Paul would not have been concerned.

Galatians 6:7-9 “Mocking” God by expecting that he will tolerate any conduct on our part is merely self deception. Paul concludes that whatever a man is sowing is what he will reap. Yes, action ("sowing") is what is looked for, not merely saying we believe and then doing whatever we want.

Philippians 3:12-14 If Paul believed in once-saved-always-saved, he would not have written these words.

Hebrews 10:26,27 Paul makes it very clear that willful disobedience means losing the benefit of Christ’s sacrifice.

Hebrews 12:7-11 Herein Paul explains that if we are without discipline we are illegitimate children of God. (Some OSAS proponents claim that after accepting Jesus, they can commit whatever sin they want and God will overlook it. Paul helps us understand that not even human parents would put up with such conduct, how much less would God who time and again has demonstrated he will not tolerate flagrant disobedience.)

2 Peter 2:20-22 Here, Peter makes it quite plain that those not remaining active and firm in the faith have a worse outcome than those who had never known.

Jude 3. Jude writes that he felt urged to write fellow Christians to put up a hard fight. Why would he write that if merely initially believing was all that was required? Evidently, constant and consistent effort is needed.

Revelation 2:2-5 Here, Jesus counseled a congregation that at first was very zealous but then got complacent that if they didn't repent of this complacency they would have their lampstand removed, in other words, they would be rejected. (See also Revelation 3:16)