Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Credulous Thinking - Science and Truth At Odds

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

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

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

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

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

Previous blog article from 2010

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Hebrews 11:6 Without Faith It Is Impossible

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

True, Everlasting Happiness

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

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

Saturday, November 7, 2015

John 4:24 Neither location nor ceremony important

Quoting Jesus: “God is a Spirit, and those worshipping him must worship with spirit and truth.” The circumstances surrounding that statement involved a Samaritan woman that Jesus engaged in a conversation. She raised one of the differences between her beliefs and those of Israelites. Jesus’ response involved two key points recorded in the 21st and 24th verses. (Other translations) In verse 21 Jesus indicates that the location is not important to true worship. In verse 24 he indicates that sincerity, obedience, and understanding the true essence of a personal relationship with our Creator are the key elements to true worship in a manner that God approves.

Focus more closely now on verse 24 and consider: How does a person worship "in spirit"? According to the actual Greek text, the word "pneumati" (as used in verse 24) can have two meanings. The first is a personage (God, the demons, spirit beings). The second is a dominate disposition (meek, haughty, etc.). A current-day example might be when someone says: “You have a very kind spirit.”

In context of the scripture, to worship God "in spirit" would be to demonstrate the qualities of a true Christian such as recorded at
Galatians 5:22,23. (Note that none of the things listed in Galatians have to do with ceremony, ritual, or formalistic worship.) In contrast, the religious leaders in Jesus day were more concerned with outward appearance than with sincere devotion.

So how then do we worship "in truth"? With ceremonial and ritualistic forms of worship stripped away, what is left is realizing that the only truth is found in God's own word. For those living today, that "truth" can only be found in the Bible. So-called "truth" beyond that is not what God has sanctioned, no matter how good it sounds. Why is that significant? Because the Bible itself says that God’s word is all a true Christian needs to serve God properly.

Related articles:
What Does God Really Want From Us?
True Righteousness - Romans 14:17

Monday, November 2, 2015

True Righteousness - Romans 14:17

In the 14th chapter of Romans, Paul discusses both religious ceremonial practices and the mundane of whether certain foods might be considered inappropriate (because they had been previously used in pagan sacrifices before arriving at the public meat market.) One interesting point is made in verse 17, “For the Kingdom of God does not mean eating and drinking, but means righteousness and peace and joy with holy spirit.(Other translations)

If we get the full impact of what Paul is saying, if we can extrapolate the principle that is being conveyed, we should come to the conclusion that any ritual, religious or otherwise, is not what is important. What earns us points with God is "righteousness." Thus, if you take all the motions that are common today, whether it be the way a person walks, the way they perform certain gestures, the officious-sounding words they use, or any other such thing, it all amounts to nothing in the sight of God. True righteousness is a condition of the symbolic heart and a mental resolve to obey God and love fellow man. (The Christian ministry is part of our loving our neighbor.)

Does God Discipline Non-Believers?

So I have considered if God tests us and if God punishes us through natural disasters. However the idea of God disciplining humanity in general is a bit different. In today's society, for anyone other than the parents to administer “discipline” in the form of punishing their own children is frowned upon. School authorities are delegated a certain degree of authority in that regard but physically touching the child is condemned.

The Bible uses the word discipline to encompass not only correction and chastisement, but also for gentle instruction. It is applied to actions God takes towards believers, not to those who are non-believers. This can be better understood when we realize that, in the Bible sense, discipline and disciple are related words. God's teaching and direction are intended to make us faithful followers (aka disciples) and therefore "disciplined" in the ways of righteousness. This is a teaching method that is usually gentle but sometimes much stronger. Perhaps the closest to this concept is that of an “academic discipline.” Obviously, non-believers reject any such discipline – teaching, molding, correction or otherwise.

However, even estranged imperfect humanity is God's creation (offspring of Adam), not just believers. God does not desire anyone to be destroyed but wants them to gain everlasting life. Both the proclamation Jonah was sent to deliver to Nineveh and the public preaching done by Christians today demonstrates that God does at very least provide warning so that those that heed the warning might live. Just as parents are known to warn a disobedient child as a form of discipline, in that sense God likewise disciplines before taking the next step. If those not obedient to God turn around from their godless ways (as in the case of Jonah’s Nineveh), God is merciful. If however, they reject even the warning, it will turn out badly for them, just as in the days of Noah.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Neural Nets and Intelligent Design

Watch this video:

What I find interesting from a “believer’s” point of view are the following comments:

“Neural Nets ... allow the computer to operate a little bit like your brain operates… The elements of a neural net aren’t exactly like a neuron, they are much less complicated and there are far fewer of them.” - Calum Chase (at 19 seconds thru 35 seconds)

“The sort of things that go on in nature are often ... they are quite profound.” - Doug Orr (starting at 42 seconds)

These two quotes, one from an AI author and the other from a software engineer working at SwiftKey, help us to see that believing we are the result of random freaks of natural selection is much harder for a reasoning, logical, intelligent mind to accept than is the conviction that a higher power (God) made us. In fact, even if humans ever do manage to make a machine that matches the ability of the human brain, all it will demonstrate is that much higher intelligence than mankind currently, collectively possesses was necessary to compose such a design and device. Even after they make that device, they will need to shrink it down to fit into a human skull in order to match what humans now, and have for centuries, possessed. (When you consider all the “great” scientific minds working on AI today and yet they barely touch the complexity of what evolutionists ascribe to mindless, undirected changes, it is really baffling that those same scientists can claim, with a straight face, that mindless evolution did what they still cannot do.)

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Human Consciousness - What Is It?

Reading a medical dictionary’s definition of human consciousness, I had to ask myself with each bullet item what it was about that definition that was different from what animals have. In some cases I was forced to concede that animals have, to some degree or another, the characteristics cited in the definition. After contemplating the definitions, I tried to find something that really demonstrated that human consciousness was unique amongst life on earth.

First (not necessarily foremost), human consciousness is the unique ability to anticipate events and consequences and to plan our lives. The phrase "subjective awareness" (as used in the dictionary definition cited above) perhaps best defines the separation between humans and other life forms on earth. We have the ability to decide what is important and discard the less important whereas, in general, animals tend to react to any stimuli regardless of its importance. We understand and can differentiate between perceived, real, and non- threat. (There is no single authoritative definition of "subjective awareness." One college article said it is "what a person chooses to believe." If true, this also demonstrates the separation between human and beast. Animals do not "choose [what] to believe," rather they react to sensory inputs.)

Human consciousness is also what defines our ability to reason, hypothesize, imagine potential and create. Whether that creation be furniture or art, it is something that doesn't exist naturally. Some may argue that such is not creation, however I am not using the term in the same sense that the Bible speaks of God's creating things. However, it was by our use of cognitive reasoning, ability to see potential, and then to use skills through both individual and collective experience that gives us the ability to both "create" and expand on that for improvements.

Finally, for those who believe in God, human consciousness is the ability to grasp the unseen -- namely that intelligence superior to ours is what made us. Granted, atheists and agnostics are humans the same as believers are humans and their rejection of a creator does not lessen their humanity. However, with animals the concept of superiority stops with the visible. They have no consciousness of a God, gods, or whatever. They do not worship, they do not try to contemplate and understand the cosmos, nor even their own existence. However, mankind, even some atheists, have never stopped looking for a reason and understanding of why we are here.

In short then, human ability to anticipate, to plan (individually and collectively), to imagine; to improve our lot; and to worship are all unique features of human consciousness.

But now comes the big question -- where did this awareness, this cognition come from? The answer to that is not something atheists can adequately answer with any degree of satisfaction. To brush it off as a quirk of evolution demonstrates an air of arrogance like a professor that really doesn’t know the answer so he makes something up and then emphatically claim that his position is correct because of his education. However, those believing in God, especially those accepting the Bible, readily appreciate the value of knowing that humans were made in God’s image. Part of that “image” is the cognitive powers that no other creation (except angels) is mentioned as having (nor has any other earthly creature demonstrated). (Obviously the word “image” here cannot mean the compositional characteristics. God is a spirit being. Today, with our knowledge of science, we might more readily describe him as an intelligent energy life-force of some sort. Man, on the other hand is physical. So we must look to other characteristics, such as those already mentioned, in order to make sense of what the Bible is teaching.)

(The Bible teaches that God’s four main attributes are love, justice, wisdom and power. These also are demonstrated by mankind. While animals may to some degree demonstrate power it is not only power as in strength that the Bible is speaking of. Also, animals do care for their young and herd, however, the love humans express is usually considered a higher degree of cognition.)

It is my personal feelings that the very reason science cannot agree on how to correctly and accurately define consciousness is that it rejects the very foundation that we are made in God’s image. Without that ground-floor belief, nothing else makes sense. There really is no reason, evolutionary or otherwise, for man to have this ability apart from it being an endowment by a loving creator.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Leviticus 5 Testifying to an Event

Leviticus 5:1 reads: “If someone sins because he has heard a public call to testify and he is a witness or has seen or learned about it and he does not report it, then he will answer for his error.”

I have always understood this to mean that if a person observes wrongdoing, he is under obligation to report it. However, after reading the revised translation above along with the footnote to this scripture, I realized it could also mean the need to come to the defense of an innocent person.

Although the judicial arrangement back in ancient Israel was different than our modern means of carrying out justice, the principle is still the same. As lawyers are ramping up to make & present their case (on both sides, plaintiff and defendant), they will typically interview anyone that has any knowledge of the events that lead to the court case. Back in ancient Israel, it was up to each community member to willingly and readily come forward both with information that may prove innocence or guilt. What Lev.5:1 is legislating is that anyone holding back knowledge is guilty especially before God. Typically the phrase “he will answer for his error” meant the death penalty if such a person withheld pertinent knowledge or evidence. We might think that such a penalty was extreme, but even in today’s courts, withholding evidence is akin to perjury and in some cases is punishable by a prison sentence.

So both in ancient and modern history, withholding what we know about a critical matter can end up affecting our own freedom. It is not a small matter. Whether it is something that can exonerate or condemn a person, if we have information pertinent to the case and the charges, we need to report it.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Should Beliefs Be Kept Private?

Recently a celebrity of Jewish background made a statement about her beliefs that the online community decided to stick their uninvited noses into. A few stated that religion and faith are a personal, private matter that shouldn't be made public. The celebrity quite rightly observed that as a public figure, her whole life was public and under constant, sometimes unwelcome, scrutiny.

For those who believe in the Bible, is it really so that we should keep our faith to ourselves? Is it really true that public declaration of belief is wrong? No, indeed! Actually both of those questions can and are answered by the Bible itself. But before considering that, there is a principle that Jesus mentioned at Matthew 6:21. It reads: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” In my short lifetime (60+ years), I have observed that to be true about the things we choose to talk about. Someone who loves sports will readily use that as a conversation piece in public. Someone skilled in music or some artform will readily talk about those things in public. Since we all talk about the things that are important and meaningful in our lives, why in the world would talking about something as vitally important as our relationship with our Creator be considered taboo?

Then, when we consider that even homosexuality is openly discussed and even legalized in not only the USA but other countries, an intelligent person has legitimate cause for pause when they are told that talking about morals and matters of faith are wrong. “Immorality is okay, but morality is not” is essentially what is being said by those that try to squelch expressions of faith. For all the twisted excuses that people have in invoking “freedom of speech,” our faith is one specific area that is actually intended in the constitution of the USA. No, that doesn’t give radical believers the right to shove their morals in other people’s faces, but calmly sharing faith cannot and should not be compared to those extremists.

Merely silently believing in God is as worthless as knowing that natural disasters happen but never making any preparation for them. In both cases, our beliefs don’t do us or anyone else any good. The writer James makes a sobering point when he says that demons believe in God, but that belief will not save them -- in fact, they know it means their destruction. Still, some want to put God in a box (aka, “church”) and keep him there out of their lives.

Anyone claiming expressions of faith and belief in God should be kept private, has not read Jesus’ words at Matthew 28:19,20. Just as anyone is granted freedom of speech for any number of topics in public, I require others to respect my right of freedom of speech to talk about God and Bible. If you choose not to listen, you don’t have to. But don’t tell others they can’t or shouldn’t share what has meaning in their lives.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Talking Animals -- Believable?

I came across someone the other day who claimed that talking snakes and donkeys in the Bible proves how absurd it is to believe in the Bible. That person is not alone. Unfortunately for all those that feel that way, they are sadly mistaken and/or misinformed.

Indeed, the book of Genesis does mention that a snake did talk to Eve. But it was because it was being manipulated as a ventriloquist does a dummy. Who was the ventriloquist in this instance? Revelation 12:9 reveals that is is/was Satan the devil. What about the instance of the talking donkey? Numbers 22:26-31 reveals that Jehovah (or an angelic representative) was the ventriloquist in this instance.So in both instances, the animals were being controlled by intelligence unseen to the human eye.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let's consider WHY these events happened and are recorded. In neither account was the point that animals can talk.

In the Eden account, the context tells the reader that God had set up an extremely simple means for humankind to prove their loyalty to God. It was as simple as a parent putting the cookie jar in easy reach of their child and then telling the child “do not touch this.” How much does the child love, respect and obey their parent? That is the test. In the case of the parent, eventually they will reward their child with a cookie. In the case of Adam and Eve, would God after some undisclosed time see their faithfulness and finally remove the restriction? We’ll never know because they went for the “cookie jar” (the forbidden fruit) very quickly. Satan implied that God was unfair and restrictive. Eve bought that idea hook, line and sinker. Why Satan chose a snake and not some other creature isn’t revealed and isn’t important. No matter what creature he chose, the same conversation would have played out. The important part of the account is that Jehovah God revealed to mankind why sin and imperfection are part of our lives no matter how hard we try to do what is right. The account, along with other scriptures, also reveals God’s means of fixing the situation.

But what of the case of the talking donkey? The context of the passage (linked above) shows that Balaam, enticed by riches, was on his way to utter a curse against the nation of Israel. His rewarder, Balak, was a ruler in opposition to Israel and wanted their demise. Balak believed that just Balaam’s spoke words had the power to destroy Israel. So once again, obedience to God and respect for his ways was being put to the test. Once again, the unseen spirit realm became involved in dramatically illustrating how God feels about obedience. The donkey was used because of the situation. It could have been a horse, it could have been a camel (other animals commonly mentioned in scripture as human carriers), it could have been any animal. Balaam was riding a donkey, hence God used the circumstances.

As a sideline: While researching this topic, I came across a web article claiming that God has a special hatred for snakes. That idea is so utterly absurd, I wasn’t even going to mention it. But then it occurred to me that even in Genesis we learn that ALL God’s creation was viewed as good. Obviously, this would include all animals, even snakes.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Delayed Answers to Prayers

In my experience, one important reason why Jehovah may not immediately answer a prayer is based on Proverbs 27:11. If Jehovah were to answer us immediately, we would never have a chance to prove ourselves wise in waiting and trusting in our God. Also, how could God give a reply to Satan's slander that we only serve him out of selfish interest if he did indeed immediately satisfy our every prayer. Instead, just by our mere patiently waiting, we both prove our loyal love for God and prove Satan a liar.

Beyond the above, consider these parent/child comparisons:

Timing: A child sees a new toy and wants it NOW! However, unknown to the child, the parent has already bought the toy for the child and is planning on giving it to him as a gift a little later. As much as the child may complain and even accuse the parent of not loving them, the complete opposite is true. Likewise, Jehovah in his wisdom knows when it is best to answer a prayer.

Training: A child loves sports. The parent watches from the sidelines as the child fumbles through the experience. The parent wants to come to the rescue of the child but realizes it is good training in learning to endure difficult situations. It also builds confidence and character. Likewise, the training we receive through endurance is mentioned in scripture.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Raising Children and Pets

Recently my wife and I had to put down a beloved pet that had been in our family for over 13 years. I recounted my memories of her character in a 14-page document, complete with pictures I’d taken over the years. The pet was my wife’s dog so I presented the document to her as a gift two days after having to put the dog down.

Writing this document reminded me that there are those who take exception to comparing pets to children. I have both raised children and owned pets. So my perspective is based on experience and not lofty idealism. Both children and pets have similar behavioral challenges that need to be met. Both look to you for approval and rewards. Yes, it is true that children will grow to an age where you can finally reason with them. However, if the parent hasn’t taken the time over the years to consistently teach the child how to reason correctly, the supposed asset (of the ability to reason) becomes a huge liability when the child is disobedient and rebels. 

This brings me to another comparison--that of discipline. Many parents I see today do not understand what real discipline is. It is NOT the switch (a whip made from a branch) or the belt. That doesn’t teach anything except “might makes right.” Jesus is perfect example of the correct method of discipline. And what makes it even more astonishing is that he applied it grown men (his disciples who were forever arguing who was the greatest among them). In watching “The Dog Whisperer,” I realized that I had allowed corporal punishment to dictate my reaction to bad pet conduct. He (Cesar Millan) recommended much gentler treatment to which the animals actually responded to favorably.

The same is true of how we raise children. Harsh physical punishment rarely has long-range positive effects. It may stop the bad conduct at the moment, but the anger, resentment and negative feelings will continue until they explode sometime later. While it takes more effort and time, steadily, consistently reasoning with the child has much greater and long-term benefits.

So to me, those are the similarities of raising children and having pets.

(Yes, I am aware that the Hebrew/Aramaic scriptures in the Bible talk about severe corporal punishment meted out by parents on their children. However, Christ taught us a much better way.)

Friday, June 12, 2015

True Beauty

The Bible refers to the bloom of youth which, generally speaking, starts around puberty and extends until the mid 20's. (The Bible indicates a male is an adult at age 30.) Indeed, even after puberty a person's youthful appearance and proportions are evident through their 20's and some even into then early 30's. Pro. 19:11 speaks of the beauty of "a man" (an adult) and that has to do with his character.

Pro. 31: 30 likewise contrasts a woman’s fleeting physical beauty to the everlasting beauty of character and moral integrity. Pro. 16:31 speaks of the beauty of old age-righteousness. In all those references from Proverbs it is clear that what makes a person truly beautiful both in the sight God and man, is their character, not their physical attributes.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that physically beautiful people can have ugly personalities. This proves that what gives us each our individual beauty is our hearts and minds. So to be drawn to physical beauty or sexual appeal can be disappointing in the long run. But being drawn to a person because of the beauty of character--this is enduring, endearing and dependable.

Joel 2:13 Rip Apart Heart

Pictorial Language Series

Joel 2:13 Rip apart your hearts, and not your garments, And return to Jehovah your God,

Back when Joel was alive, a contemporary way of demonstrating grief was was to rip the front of the garment apart. what God is counselling is to make more than an outward appearance of grief. Instead it should be a sincere heartfelt grief that leads to repentance and earnest concerted effort to please God through obedience.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Waiting For Deliverance Psalm 42:5

Psalm 42:5 “Why am I in despair? Why is this turmoil within me? Wait for God, For I will yet praise him as my Grand Savior.”

There were a couple points that stood out to me in the above verse. The first was “wait for God.” The second was that David felt confident he would yet praise God as his “Grand Savior.” But then as I reflected on the whole verse, it dawned on me that the whole verse can be helpful to anyone going through any type of trial. So lets start from the beginning:

“Why am I in despair? Why is this turmoil within me?” As we go through challenges, it is easy to become anxious. But as a servant of God, we need to take stock of our situation. Indeed, just why are we upset? Have we lost confidence in the love of our Creator? What exactly are we disconcerted about? Likely putting the situation into perspective will help us not to stress.

“Wait for God.” When we wait for anyone or anything, we are in anticipation of change. If we have stopped waiting, then gloom and despair can overshadow us.If we have stopped waiting on God, then we’ve abandoned ourselves to the current negative situation. The only thing we are waiting for is death. I’ve come to understand how unrelenting pain associated with declining health can actually make a person want to die, wish to die, and yes, even pray to die. Living in pain, not having any quality of life is no life at all. The next step, death, seems inevitable anyway, so why not just let it come sooner than later? But how much more positive is it when choose to “wait on God”?

For a few months during and after my chemotherapy (for leukemia), I could see no light “at the end of the tunnel.” I was so weak, in a constant mental fog, housebound, could no longer drive, and constantly feeling sick. But then, 6 months after the treatment, I began to build strength and stamina. I was once again able to leave the house and drive short distances. I was able to share in the public ministry. Then in May I discovered, quite by accident, that I had bladder cancer. The surgery to scrape the inner lining of the bladder to remove the cancer was more painful than anything I’ve experienced in the last 20 years or so (when my gall bladder calcified and died). And now, another problem that had shown up years ago and once again reared it ugly head and added to the pain I’m already facing from the surgery--the outer part of my right thigh started tingling and then went completely numb. Well, now it has gone back to sharp stabbing pains, tingling throughout my upper and lower right leg. Every step is excruciatingly painful. Really death is preferable.

But then I was struck by the words in Psalm 42:5, to “wait on God.” Waiting on him for what? David concludes he wants to praise God not only for being his God, but just as importantly, as being his Grand Savior. Yes, losing hope is a dismal way to live out the remainder of our lives. Instead, wait to see what God will do for you. Expect him to care and demonstrate that care. This is a much more positive viewpoint to have.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Shallow Research

Perhaps it is that I'm getting older and more cynical or perhaps it is just that I happen to read two articles back to back that made me mistrust the conclusions of the latter. The first article was titled "I Fooled Millions Into Thinking Chocolate Helps Weight Loss. Here's How." In it, the researcher detailed how he conducted a "junk science" research and then distributed it to the gullible diet and health journals around the world who, in turn, disseminated it to the masses of diet-conscious readers.

Immediately following that, I read the article Millennials Are The Least Religious Generation Yet, And Here's The Surprising Reason Why. The whole time I was reading it, it sounded like such a "Shallow Hal" sort of article (looking only at the superficial features of the data), that I could not get past the right-wing conclusions. (It is worth noting that the first article mentioned the Huffington Post carried the faked chocolate report and this latter article on Religion was published by the Huffington Post.) At one point the article quotes a Dr Jean Twenge as stating "We found that religious involvement was low when individualism was high," she said in the email. "Individualism is a cultural system that places more emphasis on the self and less on social rules. Individualism can conflict with religion, especially as religion usually involves following certain rules and being part of a group."

Now I appreciate that the themed-subject of the article was religion, but that is no excuse to ignore the obvious implications of such a statement. There is another large "cultural system" called social order (government). Is this same group of upcoming adults also not civic minded? I know I'll be criticized for asking this, but how many steps away is individualism (aka me-ism) from anarchy? But I digress.

My point is to demonstrate how shallow I feel the conclusions are that were reached by the article. The fact is that individualism has been strong since the so-called hippie movement of the 1960's (my teen years) and journalists have heralded the impending death of religion for decades. That didn't stop those who were searching from finding faith nor will it stop the current generation from doing the same. I actually think that individualistic attitudes may be an asset because it helps today's youth to break the chain of "if this religion was good enough for my parents, then it is good enough for me." This was true not only for me but for my younger three siblings. none of us stayed with our parent's religion. All of us chose different paths.I hope today's youth are willing to put aside ritual, ceremony, and emotion-based religions and search for the practical guidance that The Bible offers. (Hint: If you start to become associated with a religion that doesn’t feature the practical value of the Bible, you haven’t found the true one.)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Secular and Academic Impromptu Speech Development

Theme: Determine what point you want to drive home—this is your theme. Write it down--it will be like a beacon on a lighthouse guiding you through your speech development.

Main Stepping Stones: Determine what facts or viewpoints support the theme. Try to write down at least 3 facts/viewpoints. Leave space between each fact/viewpoint. (Most impromptu speeches are typically 2 to 5 minutes. If the one you are called upon to deliver is longer, you may need more facts.)

Supporting Material: Under each fact/viewpoint, use at least two or more of the following:
  • Supporting argument
  • Authoritative quote(s)
  • Reasoning points
  • Illustration
  • Humorous aside

Order & Transition: After you have all that in front of you, order your points by relevance and impact by putting large numbers alongside the main points. This will be your ad-hoc outline & speech order. Quickly think of how you can transition from one fact to the next.

Do not expect to have a word-for-word memorized speech when you get up to speak. Instead, envision a garden path with each main fact being a section of that garden and the supporting points being the various flowers in each section. The exercise of impromptu speaking is designed to teach you to think on your feet. Use your quick outline to keep you on your path.

Other Thoughts
Especially in regards impromptu speaking, one thing instructors in speech classes are looking for, although they won't tell you so, is your ability to ad-lib fluently. Being able to throw in humor that helps drive home a point is actually the mark of an accomplished speaker. For example: "Some people say that animals go to heaven too. Well, my dog went to heaven but couldn't find a tree to mark. It was hell for him."

Another approach helps add time and coherency to your speech: First tell them what you are going to talk about (introduction), then tell them what you have to say (body), then tell them what you told them (review and conclusion). This helps a speaker reuse the same material but in a completely acceptable way.

If you are a student of the Bible (as I am) engaging in secular or academic speech (as I did in Toastmasters), there is nothing wrong with citing a scripture. Perhaps a proverb, principle, or Bible story with a lesson (parable) that relates to the subject. If you frame it in the context of yet another opinion, no one can fault you for using the Bible because it is just as valid a source as is any other authority. If you decide to incorporate a scripture, make sure to highlight it’s practical application and reasonable value.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Make Learning Fun (The Secret)

Learning can be fun but unless you know one of the main secrets, it will usually be boring. Here is one secret: To make learning fun, you need a personal reason for wanting to learn. For example, when you learn a video game, your personal reason is to beat and master the game. If the game is something you play with others, then your personal reason to learn the game might also be so you can enjoy the company of your friends. When learning about any hobby, besides having fun, you also want to try something new in your life. 

Learning the Bible helps us get to know Jehovah and hopefully to live in the new system. But how do we make learning the Bible fun? Again, you need a PERSONAL reason to want to learn. To do that, when you read about any subject, first ask yourself these questions:

1. What things don't I understand about this subject?
2. What questions have never been answered for me about this subject?" 
3. Why is the subject important?
4. How can my knowledge of this make my life better?

Write down those personal questions and any others that come to your mind. That will give you a real purpose and goal to study that subject. Then, as you read the material, see if it answers your questions. If you do find answers to your questions, write those answers down. If some of your questions still were not answered, then during the discussion with your teacher, ask him your questions.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Reasons Why People Do Not Serve God

Over the years, I have met many people that offer their reasons (excuses) for not believing in God or learning what the Bible says. One such excuse is that the Bible was written by imperfect men, therefore how could we trust it. Others try to blame God for doing or not doing something they feel should have been handled differently. Then there are those that blame God for the actions of others. I suppose the list could go on and on, but those are ones I frequently encounter. All these are typically “reasons” that people parrot without really checking out the facts.

The Bible also provides reasons for people not believing. These are the real reasons behind the excuses.
Some think they are smarter than God and that the Bible is just plain stupid, or foolishness
1 Corinthians 1:26, 27, “For you see his calling of you, brothers, that there are not many wise in a fleshly way, not many powerful, not many of noble birth, but God chose the foolish things of the world to put the wise men to shame; and God chose the weak things of the world to put the strong things to shame;”

Psalm 10:4 In his haughtiness, the wicked man makes no investigation; All his thoughts are: “There is no God.”

Some are just too busy pursing their selfish lifestyles and find that serving God puts a crimp in their lifestyle
Luke 12:15-21, Then [Jesus] said to them: “Keep your eyes open and guard against every sort of greed, because even when a person has an abundance, his life does not result from the things he possesses.” With that he told them an illustration, saying: “The land of a rich man produced well. So he began reasoning within himself, ‘What should I do now that I have nowhere to gather my crops?’ Then he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my storehouses and build bigger ones, and there I will gather all my grain and all my goods, and I will say to myself: “You have many good things stored up for many years; take it easy, eat, drink, enjoy yourself.”’ But God said to him, ‘Unreasonable one, this night they are demanding your life from you. Who, then, is to have the things you stored up?’ So it goes with the man who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Some are just too lazy to really search out the facts
Acts 17:11 Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they accepted the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (In this case, the “noble-minded” showed real interest in understanding what God wanted of them.)

Some look for and make excuses
Matthew 8:21 Then another of the disciples said to him: “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” (If a relative had truly recently died, what was that man doing tracking Jesus? Clearly, when faced with a decision of commitment, some people will invent any excuse.)

There are other reasons, but these are very common. Again, they are: 
  • Arrogance
  • Selfish Life Pursuits
  • Laziness
  • Making Excuses
Here is an index to a series of articles for those willing to give God and the Bible a preliminary consideration.