Wednesday, February 26, 2014

That Should Not Happen

No matter where you look today, seemingly honorable organizations are getting their names smeared with dirt due to the conduct of some individuals. These people’s actions are so vile, so despicable, so disgusting that most people are appalled it happened at all. Indeed some actions are absolutely wrong and show a lack of moral fiber in an individual. But is it always true that people that do evil things are completely void of morality, worthy of death, unrecoverable? I’ve heard some cite statistics as a reason to pigeon-hole anyone found guilty of certain crimes. While not excusing or minimizing wrongdoing, consider the following:

How should the following case be handled? A political and military leader who claims to be a devote person commits adultery with the wife of one of his own enlisted men and then conspires to kill that man so he can have his wife? How would you view that man? How would you view his religion? Got your answer? Now read the following.

There are two well-known and extremely bad situations (sins) that King David got himself into. The first was committing adultery with the wife of another man then, when he discovers the woman is pregnant, calls the man back from action and tries to get him to have sex with his own wife so it would look like the man, and not David, is the father. But that fails so then David conspires to kill the woman’s husband so he could marry her. That is recounted here: 2 Samuel 11:1-27; 2 Samuel 12:1-13. The other incident is when David insisted on getting a census of the people even though he was advised not to. As a result of that act, thousands lost their life—but David continued living. (2 Samuel 24:10-15)

In both instances, there is no record of people concluding that God didn’t really exist or that (at the time) the faith of the descendants of Jacob (Israel) was wrong or that the worship instituted by God through Moses was not the true religion.  In fact, going a step further, if anyone back then had make that conclusion, they would have been flatly and sadly wrong—to their own determent. People knew Jehovah, the God of Israel, was real and his nation and worship was the only one sanctioned by God.

The fact is, everyone is imperfect and every religion has nothing but imperfect people in it. So should we be surprised when we become personally aware of some shocking wrongdoing? Should we start wondering if “this is really the true faith”? It depends on how that matter is handled by those in authority. If the wrongdoing is covered up and brushed under the rug and the perpetrator is allowed to continue in their position (such as the notoriety Catholic priest pedophiles have gotten), then that is definite cause for concern. However, if the person is disciplined and removed from their position, that is what one would expect from a people, a religion, truly serving God. (Although some may lose privileges for a very long period of time, true repentance, demonstrated over a period of time, is blessed by God. In time, some of those may be restored to privileges. Yet, even if the privileges are restored, it is absolutely advisable that whatever the situation was—that person avoid even the appearance of being in that situation.)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Just A Job?

Before I begin, I want you to know that I am not downgrading those that are sanitary engineers. It is a vital service to all communities. Without them, all our towns would be unlivable.

There are people that just view their jobs as something they have to do. They don’t necessarily like what they do and that is understandable.  Take for example “sanitary engineers” (trash collectors). The money, from what I hear, is very good, but the work is extremely hard, the hours can drain the life right out of you, and, when asked what you do for a living, there really isn’t much prestige in saying you’re a trash collector. The fact is, people need more than mere monetary rewards to feel good, proud and engaged about their jobs.

Even though I can’t say I've ever had the privilege of being one of the following (except for a very small period of about 4 or 5 months), on the flipside, are those that do have jobs that are mentally challenging and emotionally rewarding. These folks actually love to go to work and wake up feeling energized and eager to go to their job. And the jobs these have don’t have to be prestigious jobs either. I've met those performing volunteer services that absolutely love what they do.

So what is the point that I’m making? This: Just as with those that view their job as something they “have to do” as opposed to those that love what they do, there is a stark difference between those “having an appearance of godliness but proving false to its power” and those that really make serving God a way of life. 

Today, unlike the multitudes that merely "have their own religion" but refuse to discuss it, there is a worldwide brotherhood that considers their faith more than “just a job.” They are glad, in spite of opposition they receive from the people they attempt to talk to, that they are serving the one true God in the method out lined in the Bible. To them, the Word of God truly is alive and it invigorates and enriches their lives.

Addendum: Just this past week, while volunteering my time to reach people at their homes and share in kindly discussion about the Bible, a man came to the door and declared, "Oh! We are serious Christians here." I replied, "Good! Then you must enjoy talking about the Bible." He snapped back, "NO!" and slammed the door. (I'm still trying to figure out what a "serious" Christian is. However, a real Christian is well aware of the commission they have directly from Jesus.)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Are Angels Gods?

Ok, so once again I am going to use resources outside of the Watchtower so that no one can accuse me of stacking the cards in my favor. Let’s start with a simple concept, the word elohim, which is one of a few Hebrew words for "god," without reference to a specific person. But, as you can see in that linked reference, it really is not that simple. It states that just in the New American Standard Bible (NASB) alone, it has been rendered: divine (1), divine being (1), exceedingly (1), God (2326), god (45), God's (14), goddess (2), godly (1), gods (204), great (2), judges (3), mighty (2), rulers (1), shrine (1). (The parenthetical numbers are number of occurrences for each rendering.) So what, who cares?

Remember: Elohim means "god" or "gods." It never means angels -- or does it!? Even though there is a separate Hebrew word for angel, "malakh," (Ref#2) take note of Psalms 8:5, as rendered by the same reference. It shows that angels are called elohim. Now that may not seem like a big deal but here’s the real eye-opener: Once again, using this very same reference, look at this list of a number of Bible versions that struggle to correctly render Psalms 8:5. They cannot decide if the verse is talking about being made lower than God or lower than angels. Why? Because, as I already mentioned, the Hebrew word appearing there is elohim (god). Most people just cannot accept or grasp that the Bible refers to angels as "gods." (If the translators that had rendered it “God” had only done their research, they would have noted that Paul quoted from this verse at Hebrews 2:7. And surprisingly, in that verse, each of the versions get it right -- ”angels.” So even though Psalms 8:5 is speaking of angels, it calls them gods.)

But is that my only point--some boring discussion on ancient Hebrew? No, it is not. I have to wonder why translators are intentionally smoke-screening their readers, numbing their perceptive powers so that they (the readers) would completely miss the point that elohim does not only refer to Almighty God (God Jehovah) alone. Angels are called “gods” because of their powerful existence as spirit creatures when compared to “mere mortals.” If those translations that had rendered "elohim" in Ps.8:5 as "God" had instead used "gods," they would have been sticking to the correct Hebrew rendering and could have easily inserted a footnote explaining the issue. (By the way, the New World Translation contextually rendered this as "godlike ones," which helps the reader appreciate the nature of those beings in that they are spirits.)

Now for the grand finale: Since angels are called “elohim,” should it surprise anyone that Jesus is also called a Mighty God (el gibbowr), without intending that he is the one-and-only Almighty God (El Shaddai)? Indeed, the term elohim (god) is applied in the Bible to others in a relative sense. But, just as Paul acknowledged: For all those that may be called gods, whether in a relative sense or idols & false gods, when all is said and done there is only one that is preeminently the Most High God (the Father) and one Lord, Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 8:5,6)

For a more in-depth discussion of this, see this article. (Yes, I snuck in one article from the Watchtower -- but only after making my point without it.)

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Where Is This Promised Presence?

Those saying, “where is this promised presence” are mostly those who do little to nothing in the service of God. Something they completely forget (or ignore) is a forceful illustration that Jesus gave about a man who gave no attention to spiritual things but focused only on material things. This man unexpectedly dies, having never made a good name for himself with God. 

What of those who used to be servants of God but lost faith? If they are now balking “where is this promised presence” (even under their breath) and figure that the worst that can happen is that they will be resurrected as those under judgement, they need to reconsider. These need to reflect on Peter’s sobering thought at 2 Peter 2:21: “It would have been better for them not to have accurately known the path of righteousness than after knowing it to turn away from the holy commandment they had received. (context here) Truly, God is not to be mocked. Whatever a person is sowing (even in regards his relationship with God) is exactly what he will reap.

In the finality of things, when the end comes is inconsequential. What is important is what we do with our lives now.

Philippines 2:6-7 Revisited

I received a rebuttal to my post on Philippians 2:6,7. The person said I was correct that the lesson was one of humility but then my reasoning derailed beyond that. He claimed that Jesus, as God, did indeed make himself lesser than himself in that he went from being God (in heaven), to being human. He asserted this is exactly what Paul meant when he wrote that Jesus "took on a slave's form..." 

So let's consider that possibility. If Jesus, as God, left heaven, then that would mean he indeed was God on earth. So then, to whom was Jesus praying to in Luke 22:39-42, and why would he say “not my will, but yours” if indeed both the Father & Jesus were God? Wouldn't it be impossible for them to have separate “wills”? (See also John 6:38) Additionally, when Jesus said he does nothing of his own originality, then whose original example was he using? (John 14:10) Although I can cite many more, here is just one more thought: When the resurrected Jesus told Mary that he had yet to ascend to his God and Father, how could that be, seeing as he was God? (John 20:17) Clearly, none of these other scriptures would make any sense given the viewpoint of my objector.

Note: Another interesting point about John 14:10 (linked above), is how other versions render it. If we want to take Jesus’ words literally in this passage, then we’d have to believe that the Father was actually inside Jesus. So again, if the Father was inside Jesus, then why would Jesus raise his eyes and pray heaven-ward? In fact, why would he pray at all, seeing as he was/is God? Clearly the trinity teaching and/or the equality of the Father and Son teaching is not logical, not scriptural and certainly not something the early Christians believed.