Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Matthew 5:6 Hungry Thirsty For What?

According to the King James Version of the Bible, Jesus is quoted at Matthew 5:6 as saying: “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.” Most other translations read pretty much the same. The NWT changes only one significant word, “blessed” to “happy.” (Other translations) Also, “after” is modernized to “for righteousness.” This raised a few questions in my mind. First, how does a person hunger and thirst for righteousness? Next whose righteousness should people crave? Finally, how do we get “filled”?

Then I came across the rendering given in the Good News Bible (Today’s English Version): “Happy are those whose greatest desire is to do what God requires; God will satisfy them fully!” Indeed, hungering and thirsting may at first seem like two different things, but really, they are both a single desire to be nourish. And just like a person who is VERY hungry, is someone who craves to serve God with every fiber of his (or her) being. They are singularly consumed with the drive, it is the “greatest” desire in their life. And just what is that righteousness?

The Amplified version elaborates that it is “uprightness and right standing with God.” Yes, it is to do God’s will, to please him by loyal devotion. So this is not self righteousness or the righteousness of some other human. Our lofty goal is to imitate our heavenly Father. Finally, how do we get filled with this righteousness? At John 6:35 Jesus promised that we would be more than adequately fed in a spiritual sense. By reading the Bible daily, by contemplating how it is practical and applicable to our own life, if we demonstrate a diligence for those things, God will amply reward us with truly knowing Him as a friend, by providing for our needs, and by comforting us through His Word. (Those who claim they’ve read (past tense) the Bible “once,” do not understand that absolutely nothing we read once is comprehended 100%. Even technical manuals that I’ve read before, I usually find a gem I had glossed over before. The Bible is full of wisdom that takes time to be absorbed. Progressively reading a little bit every day is what will benefit each of us.)

Matthew 5:3 Appreciating Our Need For God

Matthew 5:3 in the New World Translation (2013) reads: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need, since the Kingdom of the heavens belongs to them.” (Other translations) As noted in the link for other translations, they render being “conscious of spiritual need” as being “poor in spirit.” The Amplified renders that as those who are humble, rating themselves as insignificant. All of them conclude that because of this condition, they can claim the Kingdom of heavens as their own.

But is it really as simple as that? Would Jesus really be so superficial as to say that all we have to do is be poor in spirit, just to be aware of spiritual need but take no proactive action to handle that need? If you are thirsty or hungry, your body makes you very aware of that need. If all you do is give it a passing acknowledgement, does that take care of the need? No, it does not. What would a person who is aware of any “need” do? They would act on it. What would a person do that realizes their inborn spiritual need? Just like physical food and drink, they would seek to be nourished. Hence we can call to mind the action Jesus recommended: “Be my follower.” What is involved in being a follower of Jesus? In one word, obedience. Yes, obedience and attentiveness to direction are needed.

The word conscious is defined as being "aware of and responding to one's surroundings," “being fully aware or sensitive to something; having the mental faculties fully active; deliberate and intentional.” If we are fully aware, sensitive to, and responding to our “poor spirit” or “spiritual need,” we will seek out and fully perform (deliberately and intentionally) the will of God. Then indeed, we can be confident that we will be rewarded with the Kingdom of the heavens. So this is not something that we can merely passively acknowledge and then go on our merry way.

So then, putting Matthew 5:3 in context with the rest of Jesus’ words and in terms that we 21st century folks can appreciate: Happy are those who realize and act upon their need for meaningful relationship with their God and his designated King, Jesus Christ. Those who are fully committed and unreservedly obedient can rest assured the Kingdom of heavens is theirs.

Monday, March 30, 2015

John 6:15 Kingship Declined

I and a young man were discussing various facets of Jesus’ life and ministry. Without actually mentioning John 6:15, he alluded to it and asked “Why didn't Jesus accept the kingship? He could have had a much broader influence on people. When they saw the type of king he would have and could have been, they would have flocked to him.”

I commended the young man for having such an intelligent question. It is not often I hear people give that much thought to scripture. Regarding the “influence” Jesus could have had, I asked him to consider: “If Jesus had accepted that position, would people be responding to Jesus because of the message he brought or because they might be in fear of his position as king?” He immediately saw the potential of being wrongly influenced by position. There is also the matter of free will. If Jesus had accepted rulership on earth obviously his rulership would require loyalty. People would no longer feel free to decide to accept him. But there are a few other points that his question hits on.

Both the books of Mark and Luke mention a time when Jesus was expelling demons from people. Both the accounts mention something very odd -- that Jesus would not allow the demons to identify him (Jesus) as the Messiah. Why? First, he didn’t need the testimony from traitors to his Father, but just as important, he wanted the people to believe based on their own observations and faith and not something as ominous as spirit voices.

In another instance, Jesus healed a man but strictly informed him not to tell anyone who had healed him. Again, why? In this case, “people were coming at him from all sides” because they wanted the physical benefits he offered, not because of the message of the Kingdom, which was his main focus.

Yet another point (I suppose there are several others that could be cited, but these are the ones that come readily to mind), is that Jesus himself already knew that his rulership would not be administered from earth. Although in context Jesus was speaking about the “source” as not being from Satan, it bears noting that Jesus knew his rulership would be administered from heaven.

Reviewing then, Jesus' rule would not be from earth and he wanted people to accept him for the message he brought, not the position he held or the selfish benefits people could enjoy. Although the Bible does indeed promise rewards for loyalty, no real and lasting relationship (even between one or more humans) can be based on such selfish motives.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Main Topics

For years I have heard that all scripture discussions lead back to Jehovah and His sovereignty. I wondered if that was merely a general truism or if it could be tangibly illustrated with a flow-chart styled graph. My first challenge was to figure out what the main branches would be. As I contemplated this, it dawned on me that rulership (sovereignty) is always a hotly debated issue regardless of who that ruler is. Issues over policy, taxes, character and much more are heard expressed with near religious fervor. In all cases, it comes down to proponents (supporters) and opponents (those against) any particular ruler and his viewpoints, ways, and administration.

So who are the main proponents and opponents of Jehovah and his rulership. I went through multiple drafts but finally came up with two main proponents and one main opponent. The proponents are Jesus and God’s own word, the Bible. The main opponent, a vicious adversary, is Satan the Devil. From there, I asked myself: “By what means do Jesus and the Bible carry out their support of God? Likewise, by what means, methods, and agencies does Satan carry out his opposition?”

I have not added anything significant to the chart in about one year, so I am relatively certain that I have a solid study aid. If I make any changes they will be minor ones and I am committed to posting them as I complete them. You can download the chart here:

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Romans 12:11 Aglow With The Spirit.

Pictorial Language Series

Romans 12:11 “Be industrious, not lazy. Be aglow with the spirit. Slave for Jehovah.” Other translations

I was intrigued by an observation made in the 2013 New World Translation in an appendix on page 1719. There it said that the Greek word used for “aglow” was “boiling.”

Depending on which Bible verse is being referenced with regards “zeal,” those recognized as respected Bible commentators (see note below) have proposed two different interpretations of "spirit." First is the power that God gives us to accomplish his will. In this respect, we give Him all credit for the small part we play in accomplishing his will. Second, "the spirit" could be the spirit we demonstrate, our outward prominent demeanor characterized by heartfelt appreciation for God's love.

So which is it in Romans 12:11? As always, taking into account the context helps to solve the issue. Notice verses 9 through 15. In the context of those verses, Paul addresses cognitive, decision-based actions and attitudes. Our predominant character is, in effect, “aglow” with appreciation for God. But what does being “aglow,” showing “zeal,” being “enthusiastic,” or any of the other words used in the linked “other translations” shown above have to do with the Greek word “boiling”? That to me was the intriguing part of the question. Surely the translators must have stumbled on something that would help them understand “boiling” as “enthusiasm, zeal, fervor.”

The closest I came to an explanation is the following quote: “literally "boiling" with interest or desire.” Perhaps young, expressive children are the best at illustrating this emotion. They come up to us ready to burst inside with all the amazing things they experienced that day. Just like a boiling pot that may start bubbling over the sides of container, these children are bubbling over with gleeful expressions about their day. Additionally, In American English we have a few phrases that begin with the words "bubbling over." There is "bubbling over with excitement; bubbling over with enthusiasm; and bubbling over with joy."

In all these, the phrase "bubbling over" is actually a reference to a cooking pot that is boiling and therefore bubbling or spilling over the sides of the pot. Although there is no proof the phrase actually came from zeo, the Greek word for boil, its interesting that it is used the same way in the Bible as we do in modern speech. With that in mind, we can now ask, “What did Paul mean?”

In answer, like the small children and the common phrase "bubbling over" previously mentioned, true Christians ought to find their faith so invigorating that others seeing our contagious, infectious joyful spirit, would be obliged to react as they would to a boiling pot--taking action either in a positive or negative way, but not passively.

Note about Bible commentators: Although it is readily known that I completely respect the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society for its explanation of scripture, for the sake of this article I was actually referring to more general authorities such as the ones commenting on Romans 12:11 on this link.

Watchtower References:
Issue: 12/15/2010

Friday, March 20, 2015

1Kings 20:11 Girding On Armor

Pictorial Language Series

1 Kings 20:11 “The one who puts on his armor should not boast about himself like one who takes it off.” (Other translations)

War was imminent. The boastful and arrogant king of Syria (Benhadad) made unreasonable demands on King Ahab of Israel. At first, Ahab was willing to comply with the initial demands in order to keep the peace. However, when Behadad mistook Ahab’s compliance as weakness, Benhadad upped the ante and made demands that would bring financial ruin the Israelites. When Ahab declined to comply with the second demands, Behadad sent a messenger back to Ahab and bragged that he would level the Israelite city and leave it a burnt-up heap of ashes.

In response, Ahab sent Benhadad’s messenger back with the message shown above in verse 11. What in the world did he mean by that? When I first read this some 40+ years ago, I must admit that I had no clue. But as I regularly do, I wrote the passage down in a binder and filed it away until I could do more research.

In 1976 Thomas Nelson Publishers (Nashville, NY) released the “Good News Bible, Today’s English Version” When I read the passage there, a light immediately came on. “Of course!” I declared. “That seems so simple now. Why didn’t I see it before?” See what? Stop and think to yourself, “When does a warrior gird (or, “put on”) armament and when does he take it off?" Timing and circumstance are everything in this case. If you reasoned inside yourself, “Well, a warrior puts on his gear before a battle and, only if he lives to tell about it, does it take it off after a battle,” you are 100% correct.

And so it is that the Good News bible rendered that reply as: “A real soldier does his bragging after a battle, not before it.” Yes, Benhadad wasn't entitled to claim any victory until he actually engaged the Israelites and proved victorious. Curious how it turned out? Admittedly, Israel was greatly outnumbered. Benhadad had brought along 32 other kings and their armies. (There is nothing like stacking the cards in one’s own favor.) So you might be surprised to read the actual results: 1 Kings 20:21. How was this possible? Ahab had a card of his own up his sleeve -- Jehovah his God.

It is a very good lesson for all believers today. In the face of insurmountable odds, having God on our side is all we need.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 Wind and Clouds

Pictorial Language Series

Ecclesiastes 11:4 reads: “The one who watches the wind will not sow seed, and the one who looks at the clouds will not reap.” (NWT 2013) (Other translations) What is the point about the wind and clouds? Consider the situation: You are a farmer and you make constant comments about the wind. One time it is too windy: "Well, all my seed will get blown everywhere. What good is that?" The next time it is not windy enough, "There isn't enough to scatter my seed evenly. It will end up in clumps. I can't have that." The fact is, there just doesn't seem to be any perfect condition for you.The same goes with the clouds: "Well, it is starting to cloud up. It might rain. I can't harvest in the rain."

So what is the point? If you said the point is finding excuses and procrastinating, you would be 100% correct. When we are hesitant (or just plain do not want to do something) we tend to find any plausible (or even ridiculously silly) reason for delaying action.“

When the matter we are delaying could have a long range effect on our life (such as dealing with crops to feed ourselves), the result can be more than a minor inconvenience, it could be catastrophic! To avoid the possibility of suffering due to procrastination, the Bible encourages us to be determined,  industrious and diligent so that regardless of whether the returns on our investment of time, effort, and resources are small or great, we will have "something" to show for our efforts. In addition, even if things turn out poorly,  just the clear conscience of knowing we made every effort is better than doing nothing.

See this update: A Second Look at Ecclesiastes 11:4-6

Pictorial Series Intro

When I first started studying the Bible (over 40 years ago), I thought that most of the pictorial language would be found in passages from Psalms, Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. While it is true that they have their fair share of such, I’m beginning to realize that a great deal of the way the ancients communicated was in “figures of speech” (or, picture-words) even in common daily interactions. Unfortunately as simple and understandable as such speech ought to be, the meaning is lost in ambiguity for most modern-day readers. With that I decided to start a series featuring the pictorials and their meaning. This series will be grouped in the Index under the heading “Pictorial Language of the Bible.”

Side note: The word "idiom" can also be used to describe what I am referring to as pictorial language. Just for the record, the American language uses idioms very frequently. Imagine having to translate "The president's healthcare bill is a real hot potato" into some other language and convey the intended meaning? The correct way would be to say that "The president's healthcare bill is a hotly debated issue." But if you were a foreigner seeing the original sentence and knowing nothing about American culture, it would be a huge challenge to first understand what was written, and then try to convey not only the correct idea, but somehow preserve the artistic imagery and whimsical feeling of the original writer. Such are the challenges for Bible translators.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Jeremiah 23:25-27 Forgetting God's Name

“I have heard the prophets who are prophesying lies in my name say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the heart of the prophets, to prophesy lies? They are prophets of the deceit of their own heart. They intend to make my people forget my name by the dreams they relate to one another, just as their fathers forgot my name because of Baal.” - Jeremiah 23:25-27

The focus is vs 27. Through Christendom's translations of the Bible, and their wrong conclusions about knowing and using God's name, Jehovah, they do indeed "intend to make my people forget my name by the dreams they relate." In this case, even the modern day Israelites and Jews are guilty by degrading their Bible translations first to "Lord" and then to "the name." But they are not the only reprehensible ones. Because Christendom claims to be "My [God’s] people" they are also worthy of God’s adverse judgment. Such nominal Christians not only remove all occurrences of the Tetragrammaton, but even say that such is not really God's name at all. Their claims, like so many ancient "dreamers," have obscured God from reader’s sight as being someone who is personally interested in mankind.

The clergy of Christendom will say that "it really doesn't matter what God's name is because there is only one true God." So let me ask you, just because there is only one you in this whole world, does that mean I can just call you "hey you!"? Likely, you'd correct me and tell me to show you respect by calling you by your name. And if i were to respond to you, "What does it matter, there is only one you in this world?" you would likely go through a whole range of negative feelings and think I was stupid, arrogant, and rude.

In the "world" we live today, there are numerous other gods that are worshiped. When I was young, about 6 decades ago, there weren't so many Eastern Indians in this country (USA). But today, there are a considerable number. They bring with them their numerous gods. So they can completely appreciate the absolute need to differentiate who is being spoken of. True, those of Jewish and Christian beliefs do not recognize those deities, but that doesn't change the need to honor God by calling him by his unique name, Jehovah (or Yahweh).

But it is not merely knowing a name that matters. It is also knowing what the name means to us. People back in Jeremiah’s day were not merely forgetting who God was but also what he meant to them. Likewise today, both Christendom and those claiming to be the descendants of Abraham (some of the Jewish faith prefer being called Hebrew or Israelite, so I’m hoping to capture all possibilities by referring to their main ancestor) have replaced the Bible with the doctrines, practices, customs, and ritualisms of men. To many and for many decades, knowing God has nothing to do with knowing the book that originally introduced God to mankind. Sadly such ones do not realize they are not learning what God says but rather what men say through their philosophies.

Ecclesiastes 7:2,4 The House of Mourning

At times I come across a viewpoint that is so odd to me that it catches me off-guard and leaves me momentarily speechless. This happened again when someone felt that the God of the Bible was emotionally unstable and grossly contradicted himself. In every case I can think of that is similar to this one, it is usually a superficial reading of the passages coupled with a complete misunderstanding of the context and intent that leads people to wrong conclusions about God.

Ecclesiastes 7:2,4 says that being in the “house of mourning” is better than rejoicing. How can that be seeing as we serve the "happy God"? Besides that, elsewhere the Bible tells us to always rejoice. How is sad better than happy?

In this particular case, comparing Ecc.7 with the other scriptures is like comparing apples to oranges. Although apples and oranges are both fruits, they are very different. Similarly, although both are scriptural ideas in the Bible, the intent of both are totally different points.

Take for example 1 Thessalonians 5:16-19. The context makes it very clear that we should rejoice in relationship to our faith, our hope, and comfort from God, Christ, and, by extension, the Bible.

But since the verse about the “house of mourning” is found in Ecclesiastes, let’s stay in that book and compare it to Ecc.3:12,13. In this latter passage, the writer concludes that God indeed wants man to rejoice by seeing the good outcome of all his hard work because it is a gift from God. Now, when we get a gift from someone we love and that loves us, we tend to take very good care of it because we don’t want the giver to conclude we are unappreciative. What would you say is the right way to demonstrate appreciation for a gift God gives us? Would it be through unbridled, drunken parties? Or, in appreciation of our life and relationship with God, something a little less extreme and dangerous to our health? In all things then, we need to remember how our Father Jehovah would feel if we treated our own life cheaply.

So now lets examine Ecclesiastes 7. The point it is making is appreciating the final “eventuality” and uncertainties of our present short  life. Those who are always partying pay no attention to their accountability before God. They may vaguely acknowledge there is a God, but do not feel compelled to live their lives in accord with that knowledge. Living only for the present, they are ill equipped to deal with trials and never used the death of someone they knew as an object lesson.

However, those who take time to reflect on the frailness of life (going to “the house of mourning”), come to appreciate the value of developing a close relationship with their heavenly Father. This relationship causes a person to rejoice in a wholesome way that recognizes God is the source of life and will be the source of any future life we have. These ones not only enjoy (in moderation) the pleasures being human have to offer, but also rejoice in the hope that if/when they die, they are assured of being resurrected back to life--a life that is considerably better than what we now have.

In short then, Ecclesiastes 7 speaks of those who never give time or thought to more serious matters that would affect their relationship with their creator. In contrast, the other scriptures cited rightly encourage us to be happy because of our God caring for us and the confidence we have that he appreciates the time and energy we give to our relationship with him.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Micah Chapter 6 verse 8

Walk Humbly (or Modestly) with your God (Micah 6:8)

Of the more than one-dozen Bible versions listed here, the greater number of them render the instruction in the latter part of the verse as telling us to walk humbly with God. The Douay-Rheims Bible (the first English-language Catholic Bible) used an interesting word instead of humbly. It used “solicitous,” which carries some interesting nuances in meaning. Depending on application, it can mean "manifesting deep interest" or being "meticulously careful" and "full of desire." When applied to our walking with God, all those things should be true. Our walking "with" God (or on HIS path) means that we would manifest a deep interest in what pleases God; we would be meticulously careful to stay on the path he wants and we would be full of desire to absorb whatever he tells us as we walk with him and wanting to please him.

Along with being humble is being modest. And so it is that the New World Translation (2013 edition) renders those words in Micah as “to walk modestly with your God.” The Watchtower of November 1, 2012, on page 22, made the following observation: ““To be modest in walking with your God.” In the Bible, the phrase “to walk” means “to follow a certain course of action.” We walk with God by following the life course he has outlined in the Bible. We need “to be modest” in pursuing such a course. How so? When we are modest before God, we realistically evaluate our position before him and recognize our limitations. Therefore, “to walk modestly with” means to have a realistic view of what he requires and of what we can give.”

The thrust of the whole article was to comfortingly demonstrate that Jehovah is not unreasonably harsh and demanding. He knows our weaknesses and our strengths. He wants us to do our best. But coming back to the use of the word “modest.” Many I talk to view modesty as dealing with moral and sexual behavior, dress and grooming. Indeed those ideas are part of being modest. But there is more. True godly modesty affects the way we treat others. How is this modest? Because we give way to the instruction that God gives us instead of acting on imperfect traits to be less than loving to others. Modesty and humility also affect the way we view ourselves. It affects our whole life.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Proverbs 30:12 Idealism vs Realism

Proverbs 30:12 doesn't mince words when it comes to describing every upcoming generation’s viewpoint that they are better than the one preceding it. Although the phrasing seems to indicate it refers to a single unspecified generation, really, time has shown that every generation feels that way about themselves.

For example, if you are now an adult, do you remember thinking to yourself (or maybe even angrily shouting it at your parents) “I will NEVER act like my parents do”? If you were complaining about how strict they were, likely when you became a parent, you realized what a protection some strictness has to actually keep your child safe, healthy and alive. If you were observing some imperfect vice of one of your parents, perhaps you didn't fall into it. Good for you. For me, such a thing occurred when I told myself I would never smoke. Sure enough I never did, but I did have other bad habits that could be just as self-destructive.

Teens and young adults have been observed as being very idealistic. I was such in my youth and with every successive generation I seen teens come with very opinionated viewpoints, blaming everyone but themselves for their place and plight in life. Although it is absolutely true that their parents are far from perfect, they fail to realize the same is true about their own lives. What does it take to acquire a kinder and more realistic viewpoint toward others?

I have seen this happen as young people begin to pair off, get married, and start having and raising a family. It is not long before their own children begin to show them just how imperfect they are as parents. For me, this happened after my firstborn got around age 3. As that child started asking questions, I soon realized that I didn't know as much as I thought I did. It was around that time that I called my parents and thanked them for my upbringing and even apologized for being such a opinionated, narrow-minded, self-righteous jerk. I’m not alone. I’ve seen this happen to others down through the decades. As each generation passes through their teen years, into young adulthood, and then become parents, they also go through these various stages.

Chances are that if you yourself now have children, even if they've never vocalized it to you, they have probably made observations about the things you do that they feel strongly about, enough to say to themselves “I will never do that!”

Is there any way to break this feature of the so-called “circle of life”? On an individual basis yes. It is said that the greatest lesson history teaches us is that we don’t learn from history. Although we might know facts about the past, unless we reflect on the lessons those facts teach us, we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over. That is why I say that only on an individual basis can this circle be broken. It depends on each individual to learn from the past and lessons it teaches us today. This is one of the main benefits of accurately learning what the Bible teaches because unlike secular history, the Bible helps its readers reason on social and moral lessons learned from our forefathers. For starters, is the scripture cited at the beginning. We need to realize that everyone is imperfect including we ourselves.

If you are still a youth living at home, let me kindly recommend to you that instead of becoming embittered against your parents or other adults, be aware that everyone is imperfect. Jesus himself, although perfect, continued obedient to imperfect adults (Joseph, his adoptive human father, and Mary his mother). As an adult, his focus was on proving himself loyal to his heavenly father. Although he surely could have complained about his imperfect human relatives, such is not even mentioned in the Bible. So likewise, learn to do your best and to be kind to others. Be as forgiving to others as you are so ready to overlook and sweep under the carpet your own faults.

(I know that some religions teach that Mary was perfect, however there is absolutely no scriptural evidence of that. The Catholics try to extrapolate that such had to be true, reasoning that since Jesus was perfect, Mary would have had to be perfect in order to carry him. But then that reasoning would have to be carried backwards through every generation, which immediately demonstrates how wrong such reasoning is.)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Context Determines Inflection

I was listening to a young, relatively new, speaker who was assigned to read a conversation that occurred in history. Such an exercise can have multiple goals and challenges. His diction was “spot on.” His rate was pleasant to the ear. His volume was also just right and he used the mic competently. He read with understanding but his voice could have had a bit more life it in. However, it was not something I would have counseled him on. Yet, the person delivering the critique also caught it and, based on his comments, he felt stronger than I did.

Sometimes I feel that besides competency we also need to take into account the age and experience (not only experience as a speaker, but also life experience as a whole). After the critique was done, I stopped and thought about what exercise might teach a new student the value of modulation, inflection, intonation, and maybe even prosody.

I came up with a simple one. Consider these three words: “I see you.” To appreciate the point I am making, consider how you would say those three words in the following circumstances.

  • Mother playing peek-a-boo with baby
  • Avatar (movie) endearment  expression
  • Kids playing hide & go seek
  • An air traffic controller trying to guide a pilot landing a disabled plane.

Clearly, the context dictates how we will say those words. Usually, when reading passages that quote other people, we need to try to see ourselves in their situation and then determine how best to convey not only the message but the emotion behind it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

God Can "Make Our Eyes Shine"

Have you ever visited a person that is going through difficult circumstances? Maybe you were expecting that it was going to be a depressing visit because you already knew how serious their situation was. But instead, you were amazed and even personally encouraged when you discovered what a positive attitude that person had in spite of the difficulties. What can make a person have such a positive attitude? Appreciation and trust in their Creator is one reason.

Ps.107:20 "He would send his word and heal them and rescue them from the pits they were trapped in." (Although in context "his word" was that they should be released from physical captivity, it is also true that through God's instruction they were extracted from the pits of spiritual darkness--like a prison hole.) So in the case of personal challenges, emotional and psychological “downers,” life-changing major events such as death of a loved one or losing employment, God “sends out his word” in that it is readily available throughout the earth and reading the Bible can fortify us to withstand anything life throws at us because we know God cares for us.

In the next two citations, note the use of the phrase "make [or making] our eyes shine." Experiencing a release from oppressive or even discouraging circumstances of any sort definitely lifts our spirits (making our eyes go from dim depression to shining with hope).

Ezra 9:8 "But now for a brief moment, favor has come from Jehovah our God letting a remnant escape and by giving us a secure position in his holy place, to make our eyes shine, O our God, and to revive us a little in our slavery."

Ps.19:8 "The orders from Jehovah are righteous, causing the heart to rejoice; The commandment of Jehovah is clean, making the eyes shine.”

The above passage from Psalm 19 can be true even DURING whatever challenge we face. Attention to God's written word can have a profound effect on our countenance (our demeanor, attitude, emotions). However, strong faith doesn't come overnight. It is something, like exercise, that we must build up beforehand--so that when we need to flex that muscle, it responds and protects us.

God's Hand Not Too Short

We humans tend to sell God short. We underestimate his ability to provide, his ability to help and save, even his interest in our lives. This lack of confidence even dates back to Bible times, even with those considered to be loyal and faithful men such as Moses, Isaiah and Jeremiah.

One instance of outstanding faith was that the three men (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) whom a king threatened with execution by being thrown into a burning furnace. Most people would accept that anything thrown into a hot fire will be instantly consumed, especially human flesh. So these three men’s response showed a depth of confidence that most would deem credulity. Yet, God did indeed save them. They were able to “walk about” in the fire, completely unharmed.

Underscoring the need to have ultimate confidence in God, Paul wrote that there is absolutely nothing that can stop or interfere with whatever God’s intentions are for a specific situation as well his general purpose for mankind and earth.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Revelation 20:10 Satan and Hell

There are those that believe hell (or hades) is a torturous place for evil people. Several so-called Christian religions have taught this, including the Catholic Church of which I used to be a member. Even to this day, there are depictions that I have seen and descriptions I have heard that demonstrate a complete lack of knowledge about this matter.

For example, three common misconceptions I hear frequently are that the devil is the one doing the tormenting and he has resided there longer than anyone else. The devil himself is not affected by the flame of hell. With only one scripture, I can dispel all three spurious beliefs! Revelation 20:10 says: “And the Devil who was misleading them was hurled into the lake of fire and sulfur, where both the wild beast and the false prophet already were; and they will be tormented* day and night forever and ever.”

In case you think: “That is just your version of the Bible,” you can read other translations here. So now that the “translation” issue is settled, consider these points:

The “wild beast” and the “false prophet” are said to already be in hell before Satan was thrown there.

Satan is also being “tormented” in hell.

There is no mention of Satan himself torturing others. (You will not find any scripture that supports such an idea.)

As for what hell really is, that is not the intent of this post, however, you might be interested in this article.

Is this news to you? Start reading the Bible yourself to see what it really says so you can stop believing the lies you have been and are being told.