Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Matthew 8:10 Complete Confidence, Nothing Like It!

When a Gentile army officer came to Jesus asking for him to heal his servant, Jesus responded that he would handle the matter when he got to that town. The army officer told Jesus he didn't need to be there personally, just give the word and the army officer knew it would happen. As basis for this confidence that Jesus’ mere word would be enough, the army officer reasoned that he also (the officer) is a man with authority and when he gives a command, he knows his subordinates will do what he wants without his having to be there and make sure it gets done.

When Jesus heard the officer’s conviction about Jesus’ ability and authority, he was so impressed he commented to everyone around that he had never seen this level of conviction even among those that should have had it, the nation of Israel. Why should Israel have had that confidence, both individually and as a group, a nation? It was due to the history of faithfulness that Jesus’ Father had unfailingly demonstrated in the past. Yet even those who felt Jesus was indeed the Messiah demonstrated failings in confidence. In contrast, the officer did not have all this history behind him. He may have heard from word of mouth about the actions of the God of Israel, but it was not his frame of reference.

Today, with the weight of evidence and so great a cloud of witnesses, we should at minimum have the confidence that the officer expressed—Jesus (and by extension, his Father Jehovah) need only give the word and it will be done. God wants to reward loyal ones.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Psalms 119:165 Love God in What Sense?

Psalms 119:165 reads: “Abundant peace belongs to those who love your law….”

Question: In what sense should we love God’s law? Jerome K. Jerome is credited with the quib: “I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours.” Is that the sense “those” should love God’s law? Is it merely as an observer, casually taking it all in? Do we love God’s law like we love watching an interesting movie, watching the waves on the beach?

In case anyone would actually feel that way, James 1:22 indicates that merely hearing or observing is NOT enough. We must ACT. Yes, loving God’s law means that we are obeying God’s law. Just looking at the Bible on our tables does not give us “abundant peace.” We must read and apply it.

Deut.4:7 Incomparable God and People

Every now and then (occasionally) I hear historians remark that the Israelite's laws were really borrowed and adapted from other older “peoples” (national groups). They claim that the Israelites were nothing special and their laws were nothing new. I have always been at a loss for a reply because, admittedly, I am not a historian nor do I really know history beyond what I learned in school, see in the news, experienced in life, and in reading the Bible.

Well, it turns out that reading the Bible is what finally gave me a reply. At Deuteronomy 4:7 God reasons with the newly formed nation of (now ancient) Israel: “For what great nation has gods as near to it as Jehovah our God is to us whenever we call on him?” Ah, match and set, bingo, checkmate! While the God of the Israelites and then the early Christians, and now the God who has preserved his Word (The Bible), is still well-known through those writings, where are the gods of those nations that historians claim were just as good? I’m waiting…....

Those gods are gone, along with the nations. If those other nations were so good, why are they not around today. Tell me, which "great nation has righteous regulations and judicial decisions like this entire Law that I am putting before you today?" Genesis 4:8 The answer is “as plain as the nose on your face,” there are none. Neither their gods nor their nation, nor their laws have survived. Ancient Egypt? Gone. Ancient Babylon? Gone. Their gods, their laws, and their people--all of them--gone! In stark contrast, evidence of Israel’s history is well-preserved. Their peoples (ancestors) can be traced back. Their God has proven true.

Genesis.6:6 God Regrets Making Mankind

The word “regret,” as used in the Bible, has caused some people to be confused and perplexed because of what it seems to imply. I’ve already written an article on the use of that word at Exodus 32:14.

On my first attempt to read the Bible from cover to cover, before I decided to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses (around 44 years ago), I encountered a passage that shocked me. I remember circling the passage in red ink and scribbling across the margin “What’s This!?”

The passage is Genesis 6:6, which says: “Jehovah regretted that he had made men on the earth, and his heart was saddened.” I was appalled at the idea that God would regret he did anything because in my mind he is perfect and incapable of making mistakes and therefore incapable of feeling regret. At the time, the only Bible version I had was the New World Translation (NWT) (the 1953-1960 edition). I was sure it was just the Jehovah’s Witness Bible that said that. Surely no “real” Bible would have that.

Well, I was wrong. All the Bibles have it. The NWT 2013 edition has a footnote on the word “regretted” found at Genesis 6:6 that clarifies that God was “grieved.” In commentary on the verse, Jehovah’s Witnesses say that the grieving was such that God would now have to take drastic action to remove rebellious mankind from off the earth. That is in complete agreement with the other translations (linked above) that give that sense to the scripture.

Can we in our human experience understand, even in a limited sense, the feeling that God had? Consider this (admittedly weak but still applicable in principle) comparative illustration: A family gets a dog that turns out to be a danger to their neighbors. It has already attacked one small child, and the postal carrier reported it to the police and animal control. Now, the family really loves the dog and it is wonderful around family members. But that doesn't change the fact that it is a danger to the community at-large. The family knows they must get rid of the animal, and that translates to the dog being “put down.” Even though they love their pet, they may “regret” that they ever got the dog and are understandably grieved. But they readily recognize that the dog is a definite danger. They really are not left with any choice; the dog sealed its own fate.

Although we humans are not mere dogs, the incorrigible attitude and conduct of the people was so bad that Genesis 6:5 says: “Consequently, Jehovah saw that man’s wickedness was great on the earth and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only bad all the time.” There was, however, one man and his family whose moral standard of living was higher than those around them. Jehovah determined to keep that family safe through the punishing destruction so as to have a means of preserving human life.

So, God did not make a mistake that he regretted. Rather, he was grieve that the evil inclination of man was so bad that they were a threat to themselves and he was left with no alternative than to exterminate man with the exception of Noah and his family. Sadly, as we look around today, the earth is filled with so much violence, within the family, within communities, within the world political scene, that “just as in the days of Noah, so the presence of the Son of Man will be.” Just as I cited Peter’s words earlier, that God doesn't “want” to destroy, nevertheless, it is only fair that those that want to obey God can do so without constant interference from godless people. The good deserve to be rewarded, which means the removal of the wicked. It is sad that it has to come to that, but the incorrigible leave God no alternative.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Adoption, Why Needed?

At times, parents have become so appalled over the actions of a child, especially when that child goes completely against everything the parent stands for and has taught the child, that the parent rejects the child, in effect saying, “You are no longer my child. You are dead to me.” The chasm can be so great that the parent refuses to speak to the child at all or even acknowledge the child’s existence.

Before his disobedience,  Adam was told that the day he ate of the fruit, he would die. Yet, according to Bible history, Adam lived on 930 years. Some have pointed to a possible solution for this seeming discrepancy. As personal reflection, it dawned on me that Jehovah is never again recorded as speaking to Adam. So just as the parent in the above illustration treated his child as dead, perhaps in a similar vein Jehovah treated Adam as dead. (His allowance of Adam and Eve’s life and reproduction, ensured God could carry out the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 as well as settle the issues that Satan raised.)

Thankfully, as deeply as Jehovah was hurt by the rebellion in Eden and even though he never spoke to Adam again, he (Jehovah) was still open to working a solution that Adam’s descendents could come back to his family. In fact, Paul spoke of the solution as working out (on an individual basis) being “adopted” as sons.

Indeed, Paul went on to speak about a time at the end of the millennial reign when Jesus hands over the kingdom to his Father after both having eliminated all opposers and hindrances and unifying all intelligent creation. At that point, those loyal ones on earth will join in adoption as sons just as those who were taken to heaven had earlier been adopted.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Worship, What Is It?

I was speaking recently with a man who gave the impression he had disdain for the term “worship.” From the context of the conversation, I concluded he felt that way because to him worship was little more than formalized rituals that have no relevance to today. Although that seems to be the major application in most religions today, it is NOT consistent with the etymology (or, original definition).

So I checked a few dictionaries, both in-print and online, and discovered that the word is rooted in the terms “worthiness” and “acknowledgement of worth.” With regards “worthiness,” the sources pointed to the Old English (British) use of “your worship” in reference to people of station and high esteem. In this case, the word is used as a noun, but to me actually seems closer to a descriptive adjective.

In the case of being used as a verb (an action word), “acknowledgement of worth” is very close to what true worship, the worship promoted in the Bible by Christ, is all about. (Yes, I readily admit that under the Mosaic Law, there were numerous ritual-based instructions. They served a purpose, however they are not the focus of this article. My focus is the instructions Jesus left his followers. Those instructions define what true worship means for Christians.)

So how does a Christian make an “acknowledgement of worth” regarding God, regarding the Bible, regarding everything Jesus taught? I have talked about these things before. (See links at end of article.) The point I want to make in this article is that worship is NOT ceremonialism, rituals, customs, or even memorized prayers. First, regarding our own lives, we demonstrate respect for God by living within the moral and social guidelines mentioned in the Bible. A true Christian should also studiously read the Bible. Regarding the love we have for God and fellow humans, we use our “whole strength” by freely, willingly sharing what we’ve learned with others. So essentially, we intelligently use our resources in practical and tangible ways, not in frivolous rituals. We honor God both by word of mouth (promoting his ways as beneficial) and by our personal obedience. Those things demonstrate "worth" that others can appreciate and understand.

I just realized I neglected a very important component to this discussion and that is Greek original words used to convey "worship" in the days of Jesus. Bowing down to, or making other demonstrative gestures were common in acknowledgement of humble submission to another. The various Greek words used in the Bible all convey nuances of humble submission. So again, worship is not ritual.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Romans 10:13 Salvation From God and His Son

I was preparing some notes I had gathered to write an article on differences I observed the Mormon religion had with the Bible. I had come across some indisputable evidence demonstrating the fallacies of their beliefs (or so I thought). But then I reflected that I had never been a Mormon so, unlike observations I have made about my former Catholic faith, I really could not speak with any experience or authority on the matter. I also remembered that I have a dear relative that is Mormon that I respect as an intelligent person and I knew she also taught the religion to children in her faith. So I determined to write her asking help in understanding her acceptance of points I felt no rational person could ever believe.

Besides respect for my relative, there is another underlying reason I have for contacting her--I know that things found on the internet can be misstated, misunderstood, taken out of context, and even intentionally twisted. I know i would not appreciate someone misrepresenting my faith (although that happens frequently), so inspite of being imperfect like everyone else, I do make every honest effort to understand something before writing about it on my blog. (I am still refining that article.)

“Driving home” (accentuating) the above point, the author of the same material I read on Mormon beliefs also commented on Jehovah’s Witnesses. (No surprise there. In fact, this fellow gives the impression that he is the only person who understands life correctly. Everyone else is demonic and associate with the Masons.) After spewing his cursory, shallow reasoning, he culminated with a point he felt completely discredited the New World Translation (NWT).

In 2013, the NWT underwent a substantial revision (PDF, Web online verison). Although it was already a modern-English Bible translation, changes in phrasing to make it easier to read were deemed necessary. This is nothing unusual, it is a trend amongst most translators today to render the Bible thought-for-thought, instead of literally word-for-word. These rendering methods are actually hotly contended. While the old camp insisted that word-for-word was the best and most loyal way to translate, the newer camp was readily able to cite instances where such thinking would completely (and inaccurately) change the intended meaning. Especially with certain idioms common to the original languages of the Bible, this is a big problem.

But I digress. He cited our rendering of Romans 10:13. (Other translations here.) The problem he had with our rendering is that the context shows that prior to verse 13, Paul was obviously talking about Jesus Christ. Yes, indeed. The thing this man so conveniently (or perhaps ignorantly) passed over was the quote marks in verse 13. Paul was quoting from the Hebrew writings, specifically from a passage in Joel, chapter 2, verse 32. Joel lived and wrote before Jesus came to earth, so when he wrote what most translations render as “LORD,” what he actually wrote in the Hebrew language was the Tetragrammaton (YHWH), which happens to be what many modern translations actually render as God’s name (Yahweh or Jehovah).

So does this prove then that Paul was making Jesus and Jehovah out to be the same person in one? No. Most claiming Christianity can readily recite Acts 4:12, essentially stating that God provided no other name by which we may get saved. Picture a father and son (which coincidentally is the relationship that the Bible says Jehovah, the Father, and Jesus, the Son, share--not twins, not brothers). Say a father and son are out fishing when the waters start to become very choppy and they hear cries for help in the distance. They go to the rescue. The father ties a lifeline to the son’s waist, throws him in the water and the son, in turn, uses floatation devices tied to himself to give to those in need that are struggling in the water. Finally, the father pulls everyone back to the boat.

Question: Who saved the endangered people, the son or the father? If you answer “both,” that would be the most accurately correct answer. It is the same case with what was done to save mankind from sin. If God had not provided Jesus, it would have been as much use as the father in the boat letting go of the rope holding his son--no one would have won. The father would have lost his son, the son would have lost his life and the lives of everyone holding onto the lifelines that were thrown to them. That essentially is the effect of a false prophet--someone who cannot lead us back to the Father because the father has not approved him.

In agreement with Peter’s words at Acts 4:12 (and elsewhere in scripture), Paul cited our need to rely on Jesus, then, quoting from Joel, demonstrated that Jehovah is where “the buck stops” when it comes to salvation.

Final note: The author of the video I am referring to concluded that as much as Jehovah’s Witnesses try to prove that there is no trinity, our rendering of Romans 10:13 demonstrates Jehovah and Jesus are the same person. I had to chuckle at that statement. First, because I just demonstrated that it was his misunderstanding (intentional or not) that was confused, not us. Second, because he adamantly claimed (without substantiation) that the weight of scripture proves Jesus is God. The truth is, the weight of scripture demonstrates that Jesus taught he was subject to God, and therefore not equal to Jehovah God.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Humility--A Hard Lesson To Learn

Joseph’s brothers viewed his relating his dreams as boastful and divisive. The Bible really doesn't address just why Joseph felt compelled to relate those stories to his brothers. While it turned out that they were definitely messages from God, Joseph could have saved himself the grief of alienating his brothers by keeping it to himself until the facts of the matter came to light. One (of many) possible reasons that Joseph related those dreams was that, as the second-youngest, he may have felt unimportant and tried to use his favored position with his father to irritate his brothers.

The brothers correctly interpreted the dreams and that is what angered them more than anything—that their younger brother would actually rule over them. So Joseph reaped the wrath of his brothers. During Joseph’s travel to Egypt with the caravan, during the servitude to Potiphar, having to face the false accusation of Potiphar's wife, being in a prison cell, all of those experiences humbled and matured Joseph. When Joseph finally was taken to Pharaoh to interpret two dreams, Joseph humbly gave all credit to God. Even if his relating the dreams to his brothers had been nothing more naive inexperience in life and interpersonal relationships, by the time he got out of prison, he realized that he himself is not important. It was God and his purpose for man that was important.

Whether Joseph at first suffered from a bloated sense of self-worth or not, we can certainly apply the lesson to ourselves in our dealings with others. Even those who do have privileges of service to God should never use those to boast about themselves or raise their opinion above others. Jehovah can indeed accomplish his will with or without us. He would much rather be inclusive and have us with him, but when we demonstrate arrogance, we can be assured God will give us the training we need.

Guilty Conscience

When Joseph’s brothers were faced with having to leave Simeon behind while they returned to their father (with the first-round of food), they immediately concluded they were being punished by God because of having mercilessly sold their brother Joseph into slavery. Then, years later, after their father had died, the brothers once again feared retaliation. However, this time it was the anger of their own brother (Joseph) that they feared. In both instances, the brothers’ collective consciences were pierced and pained with guilt.

In the latter case, Joseph mercifully and kindly reassured his brothers they had nothing to worry about. He had truly forgiven them. Although Joseph at first tested his brothers to see if they had gotten control of their jealousy, once he was satisfied, he was able to let it go. (Judah spoke for the brothers, explaining that if Benjamin was prevented from returning to his father, the brothers were concerned that the news would kill their father. They thus demonstrated move love for their father’s welfare than their own jealous acceptance of their father. Jacob had a favorite son and they accepted it. That was no longer important—what was important was that they get Benjamin home safe.)

If the brothers had learned that point before they jealously sold Joseph into slavery, all the pain of conscience they suffered would never have been experienced. It really drives home the point of how we respond to the way we perceive how others treat (or don’t treat) us. Getting angry is not only counterproductive but can yield years of pain and guilt. This is true not only in our relationship with others but even more so with our relationship with God. Due to the misrepresentation by many clergy that God is to blame for loss of life, people become embittered against God himself when he is not the responsible party at all!

In our relationship with others, the Bible has counsel that is both reasonable and wise. If we apply that in our lives, we will save ourselves from heart-wrenching regrets.

Once we mature and “get some smarts,” we usually end up regretting not only how we treated others but how we could have ever doubted a loving creator. It is heartwarming to know that just like Joseph (but on a much broader scale), Jehovah is willing to forgive those that are truly remorseful and demonstrate a changed heart.

Love Extinguishes the Fuse

There are so many lessons that can be drawn from the account of Joseph's life. To keep each article short, I have decided that the best way to address those lessons is to break them up into a series of articles. I have already considered one incident in his life life--that of not allowing bad experiences to sour us on life and on our viewpoint of others.

Sibling rivalry and jealousy: In Genesis chapter 45, Joseph reveals to his brothers his true identity--that he is in fact their flesh and blood, the brother that they said was dead. He then directs them to go and bring his father Jacob to him. In verse 24 his parting words to them were: "Do not become upset with one another on the way." Why would he say that?

One possible reason is that he may have anticipated that the brothers would start blaming each other for what happened to Joseph and then start arguing how they were going to explain this whole thing to their father. Finger-pointing, scape-goating and blame-shifting could all come into play. In fact, Joseph’s earlier words at Genesis 45:5 definitely point to that being a concern of Joseph’s.

Today, if there is more than one child in a family, sibling strife is probably very common. On a more expansive scope, within the congregations we typically refer to fellow believers as “brothers and sisters” in the faith. This is in keeping with the scriptural precedent. And true to form, even these spiritual relatives can test our patience and love just as blood relatives can. As we make our “way” through life, Joseph’s advice  "Do not become upset with one another on the way," holds just as true today. Since we are all imperfect, it is expected that we will have disagreements with one another. We may thoughtlessly say things we later regret. We may innocently do things that others interpret negatively. Through it all, we should strive to “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely.” (Colossians 3:13) Indeed, because we already know each and every one of us are imperfect, Peter’s words raise the bar on us--it goes beyond merely “putting up with one another.” Instead, we should “have intense love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” In this regard, Joseph’s treatment toward his brothers is a living lesson.

Monday, January 12, 2015

My 200th Post

I was looking over my posts and noted the article I wrote marking my 100th post on August 6, 2013. This article, about 17 months later, marks my 200th post (yes, 2014 was my most prolific writing year). So what is the breakdown of major subjects this time?

138     Scripture Commentaries
17        Articles on Writing and Speaking
26        Articles on Technology
12        Miscellaneous articles
6          Unlisted

That totals 199 posts, not counting this one. The 6 unlisted were articles such as this one capturing things only I would be interested in. (Also, subsequent to my 100th post, I started a separate blog capturing illustrations I've used throughout my life to teach various concepts. There are presently 55 of those.)

In reflection, I am actually amazed that I wrote 80 articles in 2014. That is 25 more than I wrote in 2013 and, to date, the highest number for any one year since I started writing in the latter part of 2010. Part of that amazement is that last year was my worst health year. It was in February of that year that my leukemia white cell count went haywire and, starting in March, I went through five months of chemotherapy. But it wasn't until April that I wrote my first article about my treatments. Those that personally know me have been asking how I am doing—I’m actually surprised how well I am doing. During June and July of last year, the last two months of chemo, I was so weak that just trying to engage in my public ministry was limited to 1 hour each month. However, when I tallied the amount of time I spent speaking to people in December, I surprised myself that I was able to put in 25 hours in spite of still being in the recovery mode.

I have not kept up with the statistics of my blog’s viewers. I just checked and as of today, January 12, 2015 at 1PM Pacific, I have a total of 25,216 page views since the beginning of time (Dec.2010). The most-visited article is the one I wrote on the Magic Jack device. At present, I have 4 people that have joined my blog, two more than when I wrote my 100th post. Of those, three of them I know personally and the fourth I have no idea who he (or she) is. Just yesterday, I received my first comment in many months—again from someone I do not know, commending me for my articles. (Again, this blog is more a personal exercise to keep my mind active and my writing skills sharp than it is to impress anyone.)

The last paragraph in my 100th-post article mentioned future plans. This time I actually do have some articles in the works. As my regular readers know, every year I set myself a goal to read the Bible completely within one year. At present, I am nearing the end of Genesis and am working on a series of articles examining the events surrounding Joseph, the son of Jacob (Israel). Specifically, I am writing about the life-lessons we all can gain from those events. I've looked at many other blog writers’ sites and noted they lasted maybe at the most one year. So, for being an man in his 60’s and dealing with severe health issues, I am actually very pleased with my accomplishments here.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Unreserved Commitment Is Primary

In past few weeks I've spoken to a number of newly associated ones within our local congregation that have expressed reluctance to getting baptized until they conquer all their bad habits. While that is a very noble goal, it is also unrealistic. All humans are imperfect and are going to continue falling short of God’s standard. Recently, I asked a person that had this feeling of unworthiness: “Was the apostle Peter baptized when he denied Jesus three times before Jesus was put to death?” That person thought a moment and then confidently replied, “Yes, he was!”

Indeed, Peter was baptized. And his heartfelt devotion to Jesus was seen in his words recorded at Mark 14:29. But, when faced with the stress of the situation, he buckled. This demonstrates that even a strongly committed person can act wrongly. What is important is to ask yourself, “Am I completely, unreservedly convinced this is the true faith and that I am totally committed to doing my very best to please God?” If the answer to that self-examination is “yes,” then that person should be baptized.

Still, some feel their understanding needs to be much deeper, but this is not so. Some fellow believers have expressed appreciation for my being “such an intelligent man” when it comes to practical explanation of scripture. To this I always immediately respond: “Intelligence is not what matters to our God. What does matter is obedience to his moral standards, his social standards, and whole-hearted commitment to the assigned work.”

Positive Attitude Although Discouraged Genesis 40:23

Genesis 40:23 “However, the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph; he kept forgetting him.”

How discouraging it must have been for Joseph to have gone through so much rejection and seemingly forgotten and abandoned. (His own brothers sold him into slavery; his first boss in Egypt believed the slanderous lie of the boss’ cunning wife; and now the one man that may been able to help Joseph get out of prison had thanklessly “forgotten” to follow through for Joseph’s sake.) I can see how he could have easily reasoned in his heart, “What a complete ingrate the chief cupbearer is. I gave him encouragement through a good interpretation from Jehovah of his dream and it came true. But the moment he gets out, he completely forgets me.” There is no record of Joseph becoming embittered like that. But Jehovah had not forgotten nor given up on Joseph. What Joseph did not know, could not have possibly known, is that Jehovah was saving him for a particular time.

In our own lives, trials may seem to linger and meander throughout our life. I know from personal experience how easy it is to become discouraged feeling that nobody cares, nobody is loyal. The example of Joseph is one I can appreciate--he continued doing good and putting his life completely in Jehovah’s hands. He had unwavering trust that Jehovah cared for him so he kept a positive attitude and worked for the unselfish benefit of others. He was making a “good name” for himself even if nobody else seemed to care or notice. At the very least, he could sleep easy at night knowing his conscious was clear.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Samsung Galaxy Note5 Observations

I just finished watching my umpteenth speculative video on what the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note5 might look like. None of these concepts are at all imaginative or truly creative. Not even one takes into consideration the reports (1) (2) of a factory specifically built to create truly bendable phones. Nor has any of them run with the idea proposed in the concept video that Samsung themselves put out at CES 2013.

Personally, if Samsung’s upcoming phones are not truly bendable, I will think seriously about changing to HTC or LG if they manage to release a bendable phone. Given that Samsung's financial report for end of 2014 indicated a 60% drop in profits, if they don't see that as a HUGE warning sign that they need to do something wild and creative this year, they may as well board up the windows.

Genesis 22:14 Provided in God's Mountain

Genesis 22:14 “And Abraham named that place Jehovah-jireh. This is why it is still said today: 'In the mountain of Jehovah it will be provided.'”

That which was originally provided to Abraham was a ram in place of sacrificing his only son (from his wife Sarah). This whole experience was a test on Abraham's unconditional love and obedience to his God. But focus on the latter part of the verse, "in the mountain of Jehovah it will be provided." Some Bible translations fix this as the later location of Jerusalem. Some research works and maps agree. Specifically, the Bible fixes this as the site of Solomon’s temple. Later, it would be prophetically written that ‘the mountain of … God will be raised above all others and people will stream to it.

The phrase (in both Isaiah and Micah) “in the final days” refers to the period just before what Daniel spoke of in chapter 2, verse 44. Yes, just before God removes earthly governments and sets up his own direct rulership (through Jesus), people would indeed be streaming to God’s holy mountain. But is that a physical location?

Jesus, in talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, answered that question by stating that true worship would not be limited to a specific location, but it would be a unity of belief, a unity of “spirit and truth.” Unity and truth are not something shared amongst all the religions claiming to be Christian. The very reason so many factions of purportedly Christian religions exist is because they disagree on one or more beliefs. That fact should make it evident to Bible readers that the “one faith” can only refer to exactly that--one religion, one religious faith.

So what religious group do you know of that is globally united in spirit and truth? If you cannot think of any, then you have never actually associated with Jehovah’s Witnesses BECAUSE they are the only one that are unreservedly convinced they are such a group. This is one of the main reasons they engage in their public ministry--they KNOW they have found “the truth.” In fact, the most adamant about this conviction usually comes from those that have converted from other religions.

Coming back to the saying “In the mountain of Jehovah it will be provided.” In a spiritual sense this is true of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The “mountain” of spirit and truth has reached such proportions that people all over the globe are streaming streaming to it. Just as Abraham was provided with what was needed to worship God correctly, we are provided all the tools we need to completely and properly worship God. The “it” that is provided includes all the benefits that this worldwide brotherhood offers: Comfort from the scriptures, support from the congregations, valuable education, and much more. After more than 40 years of service to my God Jehovah, in cooperation with the global brotherhood, I can readily claim that “it” has indeed been provided in the mountain of Jehovah.

Note: Visit and click in the upper right corner to see a list of all the languages (700 as of this writing) we reach today. We do this because we are convinced that everyone indiscriminately deserves to hear the good new. How many languages does your religion employ in reaching the masses of people?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Earth--Will God Destroy It?

Genesis 8:21, 22: And Jehovah began to smell a pleasing aroma. So Jehovah said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground on man’s account, for the inclination of the heart of man is bad from his youth up; and never again will I strike down every living thing as I have done. 22 From now on, the earth will never cease to have seed-sowing and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, and day and night.”

Some of Christendom's religions are at odds with what is written in Genesis 8:21,22. Namely that the earth will never cease. Why? Because they misinterpret Peter's words in his second letter about earth and heaven passing away (2 Peter 3:8-13). But some may argue that its only one scripture against another. One person prefers what God promised in Genesis and the other person feels the severe message in Peter’s letter takes precedence. After all, what Peter wrote is about 2,000 years more recent than Genesis.

However, the supporting scriptural proof for the promise in Genesis is repeated in various other scriptures whereas the idea of this planet being destroyed is not. For example, read these selected verses from Psalms and Ecclesiastes. Adding to that is the reasoning God used through his prophet Isaiah in chapter 45--essentially that God didn't create earth merely for nothing. What is the “something,” then that God wants for earth and loyal inhabitants? Revelation (the last book of the Bible) covers that in these words. Yes, going back to God’s original purpose for the earth when he placed Adam and Eve on it, it is to have loyal mankind living peacefully, eternally on it. His intent for earth has never changed nor can it be thwarted.

But this begs the question: What IS the intent of Peter’s words? If we focus first on verse nine, we notice that God does NOT desire to destroy. He wants to preserve. What good would that do if he plans on just turning around and destroying the earth? Some might answer that the resolution lies in the hope of going to heaven. Yet if we want to understand that passage literally, then “the heavens” are also being destroyed. Which heavens? Just our atmosphere? Such reasoning leaves much to conjecture. But then some will say, “Well, verse 13 does in fact say that God will create and new heavens and new earth.”

This is where reasonableness comes in. Stop for a moment and think: “What sin did our planet, the earth commit? What disobedience is the heavens guilty of?” It is not the physical earth, nor our atmosphere and definitely not the universe that is guilty of any wrongdoing. It is incorrigible mankind ruled over by Satan and demons that have flagrantly disobeyed God. Speaking of those authorities both in spirit realm and in the world’s government as “heavens” and the tumultuous elements of mankind as the earth, that is what Peter was referring to. This is confirmed in the scriptures I’ve already cited above. Likewise, the new earth and heavens are obedient mankind under God’s Kingdom rule, which would be specific fulfillment of Matthew 6:10.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Catholic Prayer Extorts Saint Joseph

This past weekend a man was sharing with me an excerpt from a news article written about a Catholic woman selling her home in Black Hawk, which is a very upscale community to live in that is east of Danville and north of San Ramon (California). It chronicled a practice that I had never heard of when I was Catholic. Besides finding the practice laughable, I was also dumbfounded that anyone would believe in, let alone actually act on, such a practice.

What I am referring to is a well-documented prayer that Catholics are told to make to ensure selling their homes speedily.

Here are three links as proof:

And in this article, the supposed history of this practice is discussed. So what is this practice and why am I so appalled by it? Essentially, the Catholic home seller acquires a small statue of Joseph (the step-father of Jesus) and sticks it upside-down in the ground facing the For Sale sign. Then the seller says a prayer that is essentially extortion—I’ll dig you up when you get the house sold for me—and make sure it sells quickly.

Besides the outright extortion, this is wrong on so many other levels. For starters, let’s assume that St. (Saint) Joseph is in heaven and looking down. He sees someone take a plastic figurine of him, stick it in the ground head first, then pray “I’ll dig you up when you sell the house.” If I were Joseph, I’d be incensed at the extortion attempt. I’d also be laughing heartily knowing that a piece of plastic in the ground has no effect on me. To “put the fear of God in them,” I’d probably remove the plastic figure and place it on their dinner table with a note: “How would you like it if I stuck you in the ground upside-down?”

Now consider the instruction that the figurine must not only be buried head first, but also with the body facing the For Sale sign. Really?! Come on now, you can’t be serious. Do you mean to tell me that Joseph (up in heaven) cannot see the sign unless the plastic figurine is facing it? Does he only see through the statue? Logic and simple reasoning show how utterly ridiculous this is.

According to some websites on this practice, it is claimed this extortion actually works. How would one, how could one possibly measure such a thing? If it did work, does that mean that St. Joseph was afraid of having a plastic statue of himself in the ground? If I were in heaven and someone stuck a statue of me in the ground I would find it laughable to think that such a thing could or would have any effect on me personally. If I didn't put it on the seller’s table, I’d say to myself, “I am not doing anything for such a rude, thoughtless person. Let that plastic statue rot for all I care.”

But amazingly, some continue to be duped by this practice. It is no wonder that God, the Bible, faith, and yes, even life itself, were so confusing to me when I was Catholic. After making an intelligent research of the Bible and leaving the unscriptural, amoral practices of my former religion behind, everything started making so much sense that I felt as if I were having my eyes opened for the first time. Now, when I hear things like the practice mentioned above, I shake my head and wonder how otherwise reasonable people could actually believe things of this sort.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Christ's Better Resurrection

In a recent discussion, the question was asked: How is Jesus Christ’s resurrection “better” than any that preceded it?

The answer is three-part:
  1. Christ’s resurrection was permanent, non-ending
  2. His resurrection was to an elevated position of rulership
  3. His resurrection was as a spirit person

Understanding God Calms Our Hearts

Before you read the second paragraph, please note that I am not saying that those associated with true Christianity don’t themselves have emotional and psychological issues. Of these, most are converts to true Christianity and still have a great deal of baggage they are carrying around. Still others may actually have biological and other issues that require them to be on medication. However, for the most part, true Christianity does indeed transform and emotionally heal those applying the Bible’s counsel. I have seen even those with severe mental and emotional issues slowly growing into strong and determined people. So now for my observation:

How does true Christianity affect the lives of those who live by Bible standards? Serving God elevates, dignifies, and gives us real purpose in life. We live with the long-term focus of everlasting life and aspire to elevate ourselves to honorable conduct and to please our God. This is in contrast to those that abandon themselves to hopeless hedonistic pleasures. While they may appear to be carefree and having fun, in truth they seem incapable of facing the realities of life. They are afraid to be bored or to even have a quiet moment to themselves because they have to face their personal fears. Those that can no longer run from their own confusion, disappointments, and fears find themselves on psychiatrists’ couches.

Prayers for Peace Unanswered

Most (non-radical) people I meet today, those who are family oriented, community-minded, and have a sense of social fairness and decency would readily welcome world peace. No doubt, many today pray for it. In fact, there have even been official religiously backed events collectively begging God to bring peace on earth. It seems a noble enough desire and request, why hasn't it come?

This topic is actually much deeper than most would imagine. For the sake of brevity, I will touch only on two major components.

First, God Jehovah will bring peace. Jesus himself taught us to pray to “our Father,” and ask for his “kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus taught us the notion of God’s Kingdom taking over earth’s affairs nearly 2,000 years ago. He would not have done so if it were a mere rose-colored-glasses dream. It is sure to come and scripture has time-and-again confirmed and reassured that hope. Since that is God’s way of bringing peace, what about repairing and reforming the world’s governments today?

Jesus also spoke about this world’s governments but not in positive light. First he spoke of an over-arching ruler that controls all this world’s man-made systems. Who is that person? It is the same one that offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world—none other than Satan himself. In time, just as the prophecy in Daniel foretold, God’s kingdom will destroy (not reform) earthly governments and replace it with the rulership Jesus Christ told us to pray for—God’s Kingdom. (This belief is not license for disobedience to civil authorities. The Bible indicates God allows these for our protection and a semblance of social order. However, their authority is relative to God’s authority.)

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Filthy Rich But Spiritually Poor

I knew I had an immeasurable treasure in my faith, but last night that I came to even a greater appreciation of it. My wife and I were channel surfing, looking for something worth watching. After determining that there wasn't anything intelligible to view, I handed the remote to my wife. She started watching “The Filthy Rich Guide….” 

At first I had no interest, I went to the computer and started working on a couple ideas I’ve been developing. But then I heard something that caught my attention. It was a psychologist analyzing the psyche of rich people--why they spend so wastefully. His observation is that in reality, they are bored. He cites a statement by one of the billionaires he analyzed that said exactly that--he is bored. He has made more money than he can spend in a lifetime, he has traveled and enjoyed the finest of everything, so he needs thrills to stimulate his thought and adrenaline. 

I cannot imagine being bored. I have so much to do--and yet my funds are considerably more limited and my health restricts me even more. My situation compared to theirs would be akin to Morgan Freeman’s role as the mechanic compared to Jack Nicolson's role as the billionaire in the movie The Bucket List. But two big differences between me and those billionaires is: 1) I have a life-rudder known as faith, whereas they seem to act rudderless (based on my observations from the show). Except to be driven to riches, fame, and fun, there is nothing that guides them and they have no idea how to find that guidance. 2) I have a quest for knowledge and the desire to share that with others, whereas they prefer fun and self-indulgence instead of modest, gracious, and generous living--aiding those less fortunate. Although they may contribute funds to various good-will agencies, they personally are not involved. If they were, they might not live so frivolously.  

I continue to be thankful for the wonderful knowledge I've come to have. I am thankful to Jehovah for the brain he gave me and the heart-desire to protect my knowledge and my relationship with Him. Would I accept money if it were offered, yes, but not in place of the wealth I have in the things I've already mentioned. Peace, contentment, calmness of heart--those things money will never buy.