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.