Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Weight of Evidence, Numbers, and History

In some discussions I’ve been in, I frequently hear of the “weight of evidence,” “the weight of numbers,” and “the weight of history.” Admittedly I have used these reasoning points myself. But it is also necessary (for believers) to weigh what God says/directs on a matter. I bring this up because of those who challenge points of reason I write about. For example, evolutionists would argue that their weight of evidence is much stronger than a believer’s. A Trinitarian would argue their weight of numbers (in adherents) is much greater than the “measly” numbers of those who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. In a recent discussion, I cited the account in the book of Acts where, amongst the toddler-stage early congregation of Christians, there was a large dispute regarding circumcision.

The issue came up shortly after Peter was directed to Cornelius in Acts 10. Peter himself had to be given an illustration (a vision) by God before he could accept what God was directing him to do (vss 9-16). But afterwards he arrived at the conclusion that God wanted him to reach (vss. 34, 35). But the icing on the cake, so to speak, was what happened in verse 44. God’s holy spirit was given to those uncircumcised new converts. With that weight of God’s approval (weight of evidence from God), Peter rightly concluded that those people should be baptized as believers. (vss. 47, 48) But that was not the end of the matter. When Peter returned to “the brothers” he probably expected to be warmly greeted. Instead, chapter 11 starts out with severe criticism being leveled at Peter for taking an action they thought was wrong. Verse 2 reads: “So when Peter came up to Jerusalem, the supporters of circumcision began to criticize him.” Perhaps they knew how impetuous Peter could be. But after Peter recounts the events and evidence of God’s approval, Acts 11:18 states: “When they heard these things, they stopped objecting, and they glorified God, saying: 'So, then, God has also granted to people of the nations repentance leading to life.'” But that also was not the end of the matter. In chapter 15 some hardliners show up and cause a scene. Verses one and two reveal how their stand caused at least Paul and Barnabas to have to leave the ministry of the word in order to handle this interruption. You can read the situation and the conclusion that was reached here. (As the commercial says, “But wait, there’s more!” even after this we find in Paul’s writings that he continued having to defend the decision to accept uncircumcised men of the nations. Here are two such instances.)

So we know what proponents of this new teaching had for their reasoning point – strong evidence of God’s direction and God’s approval. But what of the proponents of circumcision? Perhaps they argued that circumcision was a directive given to Abraham, which preceded the Mosaic Law. They could have reasoned: “Therefore, since it preceded the Law, it is obvious what God wants of his people.” They may have also argued for the health benefits; for the sheer number of Jews compared to Christians; for the “custom” that had been practiced for centuries; for the Israelites being God’s chosen people thus excluding non-Jews. But their strongest argument was probably God’s past direction (historical evidence).

So who was right? Knowing how to this very day the Jews view Jesus as the greatest apostate to have ever lived and deceived so many, it appears that even this argument from the first century is still argued today. Then when you realize that in spite of direction from the apostles and God’s approval of the uncircumcised that even today in Catholicism and other major denominations of Christendom circumcision is still practiced, it appears the proponents of circumcision may have won. But at the start of the paragraph, I didn’t ask “who won?” I asked “who was right?” One problem people seem to have is that God does change how he deals with mankind. This in no way negates the truthful claim in scriptures that God doesn’t change. The fact is, the context is different. So in the case “who was right?” comes down to who is listening to God’s current direction. In the first century, God demonstrated who he considered to be right by richly blessing the newly founded Christian congregation. In contrast, just before Jesus was put to death, he stated of the Jewish system of worship “your house is abandoned to you.

Back then, the early Christian group, being new, was much smaller than Judaism. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are much smaller than the sum of “mainstream Christianity.” Does the weight of numbers mean anything to God? From the foregoing, obviously not. Back then, the centuries of the practice of circumcision outweighed this “new teaching” that circumcision was not necessary. In our time, in my personal experience, I’ve had people argue that Jehovah’s Witnesses are a relatively new religion whereas theirs have been around for centuries. Did centuries of time matter to God when he changed from approving Israelites to approving Christianity? Again, no. And even then, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not claim to be teaching something new, they claim to be restoring what scripture originally taught. How can we tell who is listening to God’s direction? Today, churches of mainstream Christianity seem to be veering away from teaching the Bible and instead feature social issues in a modern world, or they just sing their way through their services; or they merely read the Bible with little or no application and understanding. How can I make such broad claims? Because I’ve been in my ministry for over 40 years and met people from other religions. I’ve actually asked them to describe for me a typical session at their church. None have mentioned the way Jehovah’s Witnesses run their meetings. When I describe how our meetings are educational sessions, they react as if such would be boring. They really don’t want to learn.

So the weight of evidence, the weight of numbers, and the weight of history are all fine and good as long as they take a backseat to the weight of God’s current direction and evident approval.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Racism and Nominal Christians

I performed a few searches on the web for various iterations of religions that practice racism, either passively or actively. Here are two such results: Search 1, Search 2. From what we’ve all witnessed in the news, it appears that for the most part, and mostly because of governmental sanctions not religious beliefs, religions at very least tolerate racism amongst their adherents if it is passive, unspoken. The teaching seems to be (for most nominal Christian churches), “It is okay to be racist in your heart and mind as long as you don’t act on or vocalize it.” Even to this very day, segregation by race in certain churches is practiced.

How different this is from what the Bible quite plainly states. To wit, all humans are God’s children. I would point to the reprehensibility of public figures, but we need to face the fact they most truly are not religious, even if they do “go to church.” So we need to examine how the typical church-goer is taught and how they react. For that, there are also news articles about how so-called godly people have been vicious in their attacks (either in word or deed) on those of different races.

So is there a religion that teaches its adherents to live in true brotherly peace? Worldwide Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for such. If you know of another, on a global scale, I’d invite you to tell me in the comments.

Monday, December 26, 2016

My 300th Post

It took nearly 2 years to reach another 100 posts (From January 2015 to today, Dec.26, 2016). I’ve noticed my health has affected everything I do including trying to keep my mind active through writing posts. In 2016, I just barely past half the posts I made in the prior year.

So in the last 100 posts, here are the additions:
89        Scripture Commentaries
2          Articles on Writing and Speaking
5          Articles on Technology
1          Miscellaneous articles
3          Unlisted

I wish I remembered what unlisted articles I posted.

Currently the totals of all categories are:
227     Scripture Commentaries
19        Articles on Writing and Speaking
31        Articles on Technology
13        Miscellaneous articles
10        Unlisted

This year I created the “About” page. I should have done that back in 2010, but it took me a while to even think what I wanted to say.

Readership: Over 2016 I’ve gained a few more readers that have come forward expressing appreciation for my essays. One odd realization I made this year is that there have been numerous readers from Russia. One friend jokingly commented I’m probably being tracked by government agents as a religious subversive. I laughed. Another odd thing: The article I wrote about using Magic Jack as a fax is still highly sought. That article is now nearly five years old. I’m sure there are more recent experiences with that. I no longer use Magic Jack at all.

Technology: As I mentioned in a few articles, I am completely disappointed in Samsung. I don’t plan on buying anything from them ever again. We recently bought a flat panel TV and I made sure NOT to even look at Samsung. The S7-Edge I ended up with is a mess but I can’t prove it to my carrier because the issues are not reproducible. I still use the Asus ZenWatch2 and love it. My HP Envy laptop that I bought 2 years ago just last week had a seized hinge. I still need to get that fixed but I’ve put a lot on hold because of my failing health. I bought a cheap, no-name Bluetooth headset because of all the trips to the doctor I’ve been making. I love it. It interfaces with Google to add all the enhanced Google voice controls.

Future Plans: None. I’ve been relying on news articles and current events to provide fodder for my articles. Infrequently now, I come across a particular phrasing in scripture that sets off my curiosity. Based on what my oncologist is telling me, unless I become quite prolific in writing, I seriously doubt I will make another 100 posts.


Sunday, December 25, 2016

Our Hope Made Sure

Ever since Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of the Heavens, ever since John received the vision of the heavenly Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, Christians have been waiting for, as Jesus told us to pray, ‘your kingdom come, your will take place, on earth as it already* is in heaven. ‘ (Matthew 6:10, other translations) In the year 2033, it will be 2,000 years since Jesus returned to heaven. With all that time passing, some may be getting discouraged and wondering “when!” will the promise come.

This week’s Bible reading (week ending December 25, 2016) was Isaiah chapters 11 through 16. (For decades now, all congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses have been assigned a weekly Bible reading that finishes the whole Bible in about 2 years.) A phrase in Isaiah 15:1 stuck out in my mind. It speaks of the “silencing of Moab.” Although there are other prophecies of national condemnation, this one stuck out because it truly is “silenced” out of existence. For example, ask yourself: “Who was Moab? Where was the land of Moab?” Do you know?

The people of Moab were descendants of Lot, nephew of Abraham. But where did they live? Where was the land of Moab? After opening this link, open the “Alternate presentation” to see the map. On the map, look at the lower right corner of the Salt Sea. The section in blue is Moab. (More here.) Now look at a present-day map of the same area. Do you see even a vague mention of Moab? Indeed, it has been silenced. In fact, an open search on Google for “Moab” yields only the area in Utah. Yet Israel still exists. Egypt still exists. True to God’s Word, Moab is forgotten.

But what does that have to do with us? Coming back to the introduction, the promise is still pending, it has not lost its vibrancy. Just as Moab was forgotten, after spending centuries in God’s Kingdom, we will have completely forgotten about all the divisive national boundaries that exist today. We may be hard pressed to recall what the initials USA meant. Russia will no longer be in our vocabulary. Why? Because “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah” causing all men to live in unity as children of God and not as some national or ethnic designator. Yes, through fulfilled prophecies, we have our hope made “more sure.”

Footnote: Yes, I readily admit to adding the word “already.” It was done to emphasize that God already completely rules heaven without any need for divisive governments.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Gold Teeth Charlatans

When I first heard of this sham about 30 years ago, I was left speechless that anyone would believe such nonsense. Apparently these charlatans are still active today, preying on those whose knowledge of scripture is minimal at best. I am speaking of the so-called miracle of instant gold teeth.

As you can see by this list, this deception is still alive and well. On one video that I watched, I read the comments section. Some proponents were using the reasoning that “God can do anything” to explain this sham. My reply was something along the line: It is true that God can do anything. So why wouldn’t he restore the teeth to their natural state? When Jesus worked healings, he didn’t miraculously provide prosthetics, he restore health to its natural state. Eyesight was returned to natural eyesight, not miracle contacts, not bionic eyes; limbs were restored to natural function, not manmade prosthetics; hearing was restored to natural state, not a miraculous hearing aid. God has NEVER used anything less than restoration to natural state. So this is nothing more than sham. It is not from God.

I do need to make one clarification on my statement that “It is true that God can do anything.” While God CAN do anything he sets his mind to, study of scripture makes it plain that at times “CAN DO” and “WILL DO” are two different things. God “can” stop babies from dying. God “can” stop senseless deaths. God “can” restore many losses. But yet, babies and children still die, innocent people still die, and many heartbreaking things still happen on earth. Why doesn’t God step in? There are scriptural reasons. There will be a time when all these devastating situations will be reversed, but it is not by the efforts of charlatans. It will be God’s direct intervention.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Reluctant Prodigal Son

The story of the prodigal son is certainly a heartwarming one of a son determined to return to his family even if he only was allowed to be a slave, and about father that would have nothing less than his son fully restored as a family member. But what other scenarios could have played out in the son’s mind and heart? Consider:

After feeling profound remorse, a young man determinedly heads home. His family sorely missed him. But once he got there, he stayed outside. Food was given him and he was grateful. But despite all the encouragement to come into the home, he wouldn't.

The family wondered if the son just felt too unworthy. If so, they yearned to assure him as a repentant family member, they really want him back. Or maybe the dear son felt he has to be perfect before his Father could accept him. The Father himself certainly does not feel that way. (Isaiah 44:22; 48:18) Another feeling might be that he wants to work out issues before coming back. But how much better it would be to let the family encourage his progressive improvements. Remaining outside won't promote any good. The son remains cold; the parents don’t have their son truly back; the family continues to miss the young man. The only one that is happy about the situation is the crotchety old man down the street that hates all his neighbors and gleefully taunts the young man: “Go ahead you fool, stay out in the cold. I hope you die there!”

Then again, perhaps the son was worried he'd “blow it big time" again and that was something he didn't want to face. Not just because of his own emotions, but he really didn't want to disappoint the family. In that case, he just needs to recall that we all sin and fall short repeatedly. Prov. 24:16; Romans 3:23. Yes, it is embarrassing to fall, but it is the mark of an adult when we stand up again, accepting that we have fallen, learn from it, and move on.

If I could reach out to that young man, I'd beg to tell him: Remaining outside in the dark, cold and rain is senseless. Come into the house. Then you can receive the encouragement of the whole family in your efforts to live an honorable life. We all need each other. “Going it alone" is exhausting and discouraging.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Misogyny Not Promoted in Bible

With the disgusting boastings of a candidate that purportedly promoted misogynic ideology (debated by supporters), it dawned on me that some people feel even the Bible promotes such an attitude. (The term misogyny and its conjugations have been loosely applied to negative perception of woman. The word itself defines “hatred of woman” and does not address objectifying them or other such things.) While this charge against the Bible is based on ignorant and misinformed understandings, it still is worth examining at least one scripture that seems to have some people confused.

Revelation 14:4 speaks of faithful, heaven-bound Christians as being undefiled by women. (Other translations) The notion that being with a woman is “defiling” offends some peoples sensitivities. Taken on the surface, it is understandable. But as with all scriptures, plucking a single verse out of the Bible without taking into account the whole Bible is unfair to God, who believers are convinced is the true author of the Bible.

So let’s cover some key points. Genesis indicated that God made both man and woman and that a woman would be a complement (a completing) of man. This mutual complement was to be so bonding that they should consider themselves not two separate people, but “one flesh.” Adam and Eve were specifically instructed to have sexual relations. Throughout the whole Bible, specific women are mentioned by name as being “godly.” (Rather than go into lengthy discussion of the good light in which scripture casts women, see this 2014 article, “What Is the Role of Women in Jehovah’s Purpose?”) So neither women nor sex are evil.

What then about Rev.14:4? Barnes’ Notes (scroll down to find) indicates the context intends immoral relations with women. The “Insight On Scriptures,” vol.2 further adds that the defilement would also be on figurative moral, spiritual, social, and doctrinal levels. Especially so, would those of Christ’s bride remove themselves from Babylon, The Great Harlot.” That symbolic “woman” is disgusting in extreme!

So no, God doesn’t promote hatred of women in the Bible. Those who have interpreted that way are greatly misinformed. Fortunate for us, God is not thin-skinned. Once we come to realize our mistaken ideas and change for the better, we can still become God’s friend.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Matthew 7:13,14 Narrow Gate, Wide Road

In the gospel of Matthew Jesus spoke of a narrow gate, cramped road as opposed to a broad and spacious road. In what sense is the gate narrow or the road broad and spacious? Is it moral, doctrinal, lifestyle, or something else? Could it be a contrast of “fruits of spirit vs fruitage of the flesh”? One thing is for sure, love would identify true followers.

One (non-Witness) commentary essentially said the narrow gate was moral self restraint while the broad and spacious road was amoralistic, even immoral and self indulgent. All the other non-Witness (non Jehovah’s Witnesses) commentaries pretty much held to the same idea.

But Jesus spoke of more than morality. He spoke of the those who appear very religious and worked hard performing impressive signs. Yet Jesus rejected them. Were these only individuals or were they even possibly religious leaders, religions as a form of worship?

Stop and think a moment. Did Jesus condemn the sinners as much as he condemned the religious leaders? Of the religious leaders, Jesus said: "Beware the leaven of the Pharisees" and “You are from your father the devil.” But regarding the sinners, tax collectors (despised for being traitors in their allegiance to Rome), and even prostitutes Jesus said: The sinners are going in ahead of the religious leaders into God’s Kingdom (because they both repented AND truly performed righteous acts.) (Humility is also a vital requirement as shown in the account of the sinner who stood at the back of the synagogue. Luke 18:13)

All non-Witness commentaries focused on the individual character, not the religion. One reason for doing this is to advance the "all religions are good and are just different paths to God" idea. For commentators to suggest that a religion(s) may be wrong would cause them to alienate vast segments of people and confuse even more people.

Thankfully, Jesus wasn't hypocritically cautious like that. He openly condemned the superficial religion that God's own people had become, even telling them that their "house" (way of worship) had been abandoned to them. But coming back to the “all religions are just separate paths leading to God” idea, stop and think about what Jesus was saying not only here in Matthew 7, but throughout his short 3.5-year ministry on earth. He came to demonstrate that he alone was the path leading to God. Peter learned that lesson for he boldly declared that only through Jesus could people acceptably, properly approach God. So that immediately eliminates all religions that do not accept Jesus. Yes, this may be a very hard pill to swallow, but it drives home the point that God does not accept every form of worship so we, therefore, should make sure what we are doing is acceptable to God. (I do not discount the fact that there are very nice people in non-Christian religions. I've met many people from India and the Middle East who are far kinder and more sincere than most nominal Christians from my homeland. But that is not the point. The point is who is pleasing God the way HE WANTS to be pleased?)

But perhaps you will reason in your heart, “Well, yes, non-Christian religions are unacceptable. But all Christians religions are trying to follow the Bible and Jesus.” If you feel that way, you need to once again review Jesus words at Matthew 7:21-23. So yes, whole religions can and are directly condemned by God. Which ones? Instead of answering that list (which is now very long), it is much easier to answer which one IS approved. Verse 21 indicates that only those doing the will of the Father are approved. Verses 24-26 shows that the religion (and individuals in it) must really apply themselves to living the life outlined by Jesus.

Real diamond vs fake or costume jewelry. Real gold vs Fool's Gold. Rare masterpieces vs deceptive reproductions. When these are evaluated, the latter are shown to be worthless. Who evaluates worship and religion? It is not we humans.  We don't get to tell God, “This is all you are getting from me, so deal with it.” The worship supposedly goes to God, so he gets to decide whether he accepts it or not. According to his own word (the Bible), he didn't accept most of what is out there. So this is not a case of joining a church because it makes you feel comfortable or it agrees with your viewpoints. Instead, a person truly interested in learning about and “doing the will of the Father” will need to carefully search that they are doing it God’s way.

More on the subject:
·         Do All Roads Lead to God?
·         Matthew 7:21

Friday, December 9, 2016

Romans 14:8 Live as Belonging to Jehovah

Romans 14:8, “For if we live, we live to Jehovah, and if we die, we die to Jehovah. So both if we live and if we die, we belong to Jehovah.” (Other translations)

Years ago, there was a song “Sixteen Tons.” It was first sang by Tennessee Ernie Ford and years later sang by others including Johnny Cash. Johnny’s video version (linked) demonstrates how thankless a job it was to be working the coal mines. In the lyrics is a line “St. Peter don’t you call me ‘cause I can’t go, I owe my soul to the company store.” In those days, the company owned practically the whole town. The workers became indebted to the company having to turn around and spend their income by putting it back into the company’s pockets. No wonder the sentiment was that the company owned them.

But are God and Christ that harsh of taskmasters? No. Jesus indicated that those listening to him would find that the load of responsibility was surprisingly light. However, full commitment is part of the “deal.” We cannot be wishy washy. But whose perspective is Romans 14:7 accentuating? Is it our commitment or is it God’s unfailing loyalty to those who are committed? In some ways, both! Everything we do should be with the constant mental reminder that what we do reflects on our God, his Son, and the brotherhood of believers. In that sense, we “live to” Jehovah. (Some translations say we “live FOR” Jehovah, which, for some English-speaking individuals might be more in line of how they are used to such a phrase being crafted.) Likewise, dying fearlessly faithful to God, in full confidence of his promise of the resurrection, proves we “die to” Jehovah. And this is the reason for tying in Sixteen Tons. Non-religious people understand the commitment that some may feel to an employer, however harsh and self-serving that employer may be. But such a commitment to God they balk at. They don’t seem to see that being committed to God comes with considerably more benefits.

And that is where the “other perspective” comes in; the one where the scripture could be taken as God’s faithfulness to us. One assurance we have is that what we do as loyal servants is not in vain. It is not worthless ending in meaningless death as evolutionists and atheists would have people believe. As “proof” of this, Paul cites Jesus’ own resurrection. He reasons, that we as believers are most to be pitied (for being so foolish) IF Jesus hadn’t been resurrected. But then Paul concludes: “Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep in death.” Yes, he considers us as being “his” from a protective, fatherly perspective. He fully accepts to carry out his “end of the bargain” by resurrecting his servants. So we can be assured we truly do “die to Jehovah.” He will set a time and remember us.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Marriage - Why Wait?

I was reading an interesting article about fanaticism. In particular, paragraph five made an interesting point: “Crucially, males’ frontal lobes don’t fully mature until their late 20s, whereas those of women mature earlier.” I found this very interesting because about two decades ago I had read that one reason so many young marriages fail is that both partners were immature emotionally, intellectually, and even physically. But it didn’t substantiate its claim. I was 21 when I married and my wife was 19. I thought I was mature. I thought I reasoned on important matters correctly. Maybe I did. But after about five years of marriage my wife said to me that I wasn’t the same man she married. Instead of disagreeing, I responded, “I know, I grew up.”

Indeed, even if a young man shows himself responsible, according to the above he is still shaping attitudes, values and viewpoints. Not necessarily a bad thing. But it could confuse a young woman who notices character changes (however slight) in “the man she thought she married.”

So just what do the frontal lobes involve in our behavior? According to, “The frontal lobes are involved in motor function, problem solving, spontaneity, memory, language, initiation, judgement, impulse control, and social and sexual behavior.” Knowing that, one has to wonder why any young person in their right mind would ever marry before they are done maturing (around age 30). In my case, this information about the frontal lobes was unknown to me. No one ever told me to wait to get married or explained this beyond merely cautioning that I might be “too young” even at 21. In the case of those today who have this information, they probably are driven by the hormones that make people wanting to live honorable lives get married instead of just fooling around. Sadly, as the youths mature, they find themselves changing so much that they indeed are not the same mate they married. (I think one important note to highlight here is that the brain, including the frontal lobes, are physical entities. No matter if we act mature, the frontal lobes are scientifically proven to be immature before a certain time. Just as external features of the human mature in certain periods of life (puberty), likewise internal features of our bodies mature in their span of time. Some earlier, some later depending on the individual and heredity.)

Now, I am no one to tell anyone that they should wait until they are in their late 20’s or early 30’s before marrying. Nor is that the intent of this blog article. It is merely to accentuate at least one practical reason it may be wise to wait – you’ll save yourself a whole lot of hurt and you will have had time to formulate what you really want in a lifelong partner besides good looks and sex.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Were Our Ancestors Dummies?

Just in my short six decades of life, I’ve notice that every generation “coming of age” thinks their parent’s generation were not as intelligent, comparative dummies, simpletons, or worse. When I reflect back and look at several of my peers, they were alcoholics, marijuana smokers, LSD users and more. I would suppose that if they had children, it would be expected that their children would think less of them. The peers engaging in that conduct burnt out their brains before they even became adults. What is odd, is that they saw their parents drinking excessively, saw the effects and condemned their parents for that action, yet they themselves went and did the same thing. Those that kept their heads clear went on to bring us into the “space age” and the “computer age.”

But that made me wonder: Down through the ages, what were the major substance/chemical addictions. For example, what was “big” in World War I? What about WWII? What about Vietnam? (It does seem that the stresses of war were major vehicles for proliferating drugs. I could be wrong.) While researching that, I first came across a (short) list of common addictions today. I was surprised that the “long” list is sooooo much longer! First, the top 5 in order:

  1. Heroin
  2. Alcohol
  3. Cocaine
  4. Barbiturates
  5. Nicotine

Granted, the last one is not as mind-altering as the other four. By this I mean, people can still “function” for the duration of their life, some even for a “normal” lifetime, before dying. And it is not always the nicotine (via lung, throat and bladder cancer) that took them. But did you notice that marijuana is NOT on the top five list? That surprised me too. Here is the rest of the “short” list in no particular order:

  • Marijuana
  • Morphine
  • Methamphetamines
  • Opiates

But which were popular per generation? First, lets look at how long these have been around.

Heroin: According to this article, opium poppy has been in use for thousands of years. Drug trafficking of this item was noted as far back as the early 1900’s.

Alcohol: It is common knowledge that alcohol in various forms (earliest was fermented fruit) has been around nearly as long as man himself. (Noah is spoken of as becoming intoxicated.) Abuse of this has been wrecking family units for hundreds of years.

Cocaine: Although chewed in its natural form (in coca leaves) by South American indigenous peoples, its refinement seems to have also risen about the 1500’s. (See Nicotine)

Barbiturates: According to this article, “Barbituric acid was first synthesized November 27, 1864, by German chemist Adolf von Baeyer.”

Nicotine: According to this article, tobacco was first introduced in Europe in 1559. After WWII it was used as an insecticide. So it's been in wide use for nearly 500 years. It’s health dangers are well-chronicled in the linked article.

In short then, to answer my own question, all the above were around decades, even centuries, before modern warfare and most likely each saw its use depending on availability. The only one I researched from the rest of the list was marijuana. In my recollection, it seemed to have gained popularity during the 1960’s which was my teenage years. I’ve never really given it thought so I was surprised to learn that cannabis goes back to the third millennium before Jesus. I never knowingly used it. I remember two events in my teens. The first was my asking “what’s it like?” Their response was something to the effect of a euphoric feeling, being “spaced out” and others. I told them I wouldn’t want to do that because every time I had surgery for degenerative muscle disease, as I was “put under,” I had that feeling, fought it and hated it. The second event was when I was 18. I went to visit some friends at a party. Someone offered me a cookie. There were cookies and food “all over the place” so it seemed an innocent enough offer. It wasn’t that good (compared to my mother’s baking). I took one bite and threw it out. I was later asked what I thought of it. Turns out it was made with marijuana. I was furious that someone would do that to me but it had no effect on me.

I have always been one that treasured my ability to think and reason. My childhood muscular disease made me appreciate whatever health I had. I’ve made every effort to protect that. Even with alcoholic beverages, I’ve always drank in moderation, not to the point of getting drunk. However, with all the stresses of life today, and the ease with which substances are available, couple that with people feeling a need to “escape,” it doesn’t surprise me that all the items mentioned above and much more are used by people today.

My whole point about the drugs was that it was a form of escape from the harsh realities of life. Perhaps some who actually engaged in drugs did not really have a lot of stress and were just thrill seekers. But from what I hear from common people just trying to make a living, the stresses of the job, the stresses of the commute, the stresses of interpersonal relationships with their mate and children, all these things are what cause people to escape reality.

But drugs are not the only forms of escape. I have observed over the decades that many use television. They plant themselves in front of the “boob tube” and are so completely bored and not mentally stimulated that they fall asleep in front of it. It doesn’t inspire them, it doesn’t motivate them, it doesn’t better their life. Then there are those that use music as an escape. In today’s world, with smartphones loaded up with MP3 files that could play endlessly, and earbuds or headphones that provide “great stereophonic reproduction,” these individuals crank up the sound so loud, it is impossible for them to think about anything, which is exactly what they want. Finally, there are the “gamers.” They come home from work so burnt out and tired, they immediately dive into their alternate worlds. All of these escapes make them less engaged with others and with reality. They learn nothing that will make their lives better able to cope with reality and possibly even make a joy to live in the present.

So speaking to the current, upcoming adults of this world: Do you see your parents as ones who are tuned out and zoned out? What about yourselves? Are you already beginning to repeat their mistakes and poor choices in life? Yes, you may hate school, but is that because you don’t see the practical usefulness of the classes? If so, then set a goal for yourself to learn something that you can use in life later. If nothing else, school has taught you how to read and write (I hope!). Use that to setup your own learning schedule. The internet and the local library can provide you tools to make living in the present a rewarding experience. In short, don’t waste your life with useless things such as drugs, TV, excessive gaming or music. Fill it the rewards of learning something to make you the person you want to be – independent, intelligent, and truly happy.

Coming back to the “were prior generations less intelligent” question, I’d have to say no. The electronics age may be something that many older people today don’t understand, but that doesn’t negate the fact that it was indeed their generation of scientists that invented the technologies we use today. Most people are not aware of this, but computational devices have been around since the early 1800’s. Furthermore, computational sciences have been around at very least since the time of ancient Egypt. Architecture is another avenue of interest. Who hasn’t marveled at the pyramids of Egypt? But it doesn’t stop there. I once read of a huge stone door that was so perfectly balanced that a child could open it. Here’s that article. So it is not that one generation is smarter, it is that we keep building on what our forefathers have learned and passed down.

It is very sad that so many children down through the ages have grown up with little direction or good example. But are those children now perpetuating the same poor standards, excusing themselves and angrily blaming their parents for their situation? In many cases, yes. But I’ve had the honor to meet some who would not accept defeat or bad circumstances to define who they are and who they can become. I have not turned out to be anyone famous and I am FAR from perfect, but with my head held high, I can say that I didn’t give in to the brain-destroying ways of this world. I hope others can rise above the churning waves of social pressures to become someone they themselves can be proud of.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Hate What Is Bad

After writing about the growing divisive hatred in this world in my “Brotherhood of Mankind” article, it dawned on me that a good follow-up article would be to consider what the Bible teaches about hatred and separation from wickedness.

To reiterate scriptures used in that article, indeed the direction to those claiming to be Christians, is to view all humans as brothers from the same living God. So what does the Bible teach about hatred? Back in the days that Jesus walked the earth, the Jewish religious leaders of the time had veered considerably off the path of God’s direction. They were teaching strict separation from non-Jews and even instructing the common folks to actually hate foreigners and strangers. Jesus countered such divisive teaching and instructed those who would follow him with the admonition to “love your enemy” and pray for him/them. Another object lesson Jesus gave was his willingness to talk to the Samaritan woman at the well. But what initial direction did Jehovah give the Israelite people that became so extremist in application? At Deut.7:22-26 God is essentially telling his people to desire nothing about the people they were about to conquer. Like a father that wants to protect his child from evil influences and have his child grow up to be a responsible and respectable adult, God strictly warned his “child” (the nation of Israel) not to envy the bullies, the drug dealers, the morally corrupt influences at school and in the neighborhood (the national groups around them). But this wasn’t intended to be applied to those that accepted Jehovah is the true God and the nation of Israel was his people. This, again, was demonstrated in God’s allowing the Gibeonites to live and become servants to Israel AND by his allowing Rahab and her family to live because of the faith she demonstrated in saving the lives of the Israelite spies. There were other instances where a wanton destruction was not sanctioned. Instead “terms of peace” were outlined that, if agreed to, would have spared the lives of Israel’s national enemies.

Today, Christians are guided by principals of love and peace. So is there anything they should hate? Although part of Hebrew/Aramaic scriptures, Psalms says godly people should hate “what is bad.” Notice, it is not who is bad, but what. How does this work out in practice? Those acting contrary to Christian ideals are kindly helped to adjust their ways and thinking but, for our own protection, we hate the action, not the person. In fact, hating our “brother” (fellow human and especially those related to us in faith) condemns us as being hypocrites.

Bottom line then, we are to hate (completely reject, loathe as if it were a food that is disgusting to us) anything that breaks the Bible principles of love and respect for all humans. So again, turning my attention back to the Brotherhood of Mankind essay, the actions, ideas, and divisive emotions promoted by supremacists and others is very hated by God himself. They misrepresent the intent of the Word the Bible and thus slander him by promoting hatred. It is not at all what the Bible promotes.

More on the subject of hate.

Brotherhood of Mankind

"And he made out of one man every nation of men to dwell on the entire surface of the earth." (Acts 17:26) The Bible does NOT promote segregationist ideas. However, a disturbing trend seems to be in the works and it is worldwide. Instead of wholesomely accepting that all humans are related and equal, extremists, segregationists, and elitists all want to sell the divisive idea that a particular race, ethnicity, or nation is better than another. From my 60-plus years in life, I’ve observed that no race has the “corner on the market" of intelligence or on evil conduct. Every race has even perpetrated obscene cruelties against its own people.

Recently, the Catholic Church apologized for its part in the genocide that took place in Rwanda in the 1990’s. I very much remember this because it became well-known that, in contrast to the perpetrators of that slaughter, Jehovah’s Witnesses protected their fellow believers even when doing so threatened their own lives. Even today, Jehovah’s Witnesses are not segregated by color, race, or age. Worldwide we are taught to view all mankind as God’s creation. In the local Kingdom Hall that I attend, we have a healthy mix of Caucasians, Hispanics, Blacks, as well as people from Asia and India. With heartfelt honesty we refer to each other as brothers and sisters. No congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses are segregated.

But this is not the case with other religions. Even here in the United States of America, segregated congregations of white Baptists and black Baptists (and other religions) still exist. Then there is the alarming rise of Nazism, KKK, and other white supremacy adherents. They misapply a scripture wherein God commanded the Jews to keep themselves separate from the nations. Either ignorantly or blatantly they disregard the fact that in at least two instances, God allowed another group to join the nation. The first that comes to mind were the Gibeonites. The second, is Rahab. In her case, even though not of Abrahamic descent, she was privileged to come into the lineage leading up the Jesus Christ. Another fact they disregard about that scripture they use is that the admonition was written to Jews, NOT to white supremacists (or any other self-elevated group).

Have you become disillusioned by the hypocrisy in religion and politics today? If you are a person looking for a fellowship of Christians that truly believes AND APPLIES the Bible’s teaching of inclusionary brotherhood, you need look no further than Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Text-to-Speech as Rudimentary Proofreader

In general, most people are challenged to read things they’ve written and not see their own mistakes. Part of this is because in our mind, we “see” what we think we said, but not what we actually wrote. It is usually the little errors like “the the” or thinking we wrote a word when it is not actually there. I am guilty of all these little errors, especially now being challenged with failing health. I’ve read articles by professional writers that advocate writing your final draft, sticking in a drawer until the following day, and then reading it to ensure it is error free. Others recommend sharing your written work with a trusted friend so they can proofread it. These are both viable and reliable methods, but neither of them work for me. The first one doesn’t work because of my failing memory. I can write an article, file it away, and promptly forget I even wrote it. (I only discover it when I check my “unpublished” folder days later.) The latter choice also doesn’t work because I am retired and trying to find a friend that doesn’t already have a busy life of their own and can make time for me just doesn’t work.

So I have a third solution. After going through spell- and grammar-checking in MS-Word, I copy the whole text into a text-to-speech app offered free by Microsoft. (This only works on Windows-based systems, so I do this on my laptop.) Microsoft doesn’t attach a fancy name to this, it is merely SAPI5 TTSAPP. As I listen to what I wrote, I am easily able to capture the missed or double words. I also listen for sentence structure and general thought organization.

I share this because it dawned on me that this app is not common knowledge. I have mentioned it to a couple other bloggers that had never heard of it. Feel free to click on the link in the paragraph above and download the free app. Just one small caution: If you write articles with links in them (as I do), if you paste that into this app, the links will expand and include the URL (http://www.......) which can be very annoying and break your concentration. To overcome this, I first copy the whole text into Notepad (which strips out all the URL info), and then copy the text in Notepad into the text reader.

Addendum: It appears Microsoft now includes this app as a piece of much larger apps. It is no longer available as a stand-alone app. I searched and found one highly-rated app called eSpeak. It is also free but I have no experience with it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Babylon The Great – Who or What Is She?

As with other subjects in the Bible, picking a single scripture and using it as a foundation for formulating a belief can be and usually is misleading and na├»ve at best. I’ve even had a reader of this blog charge me with such an accusation. However, in that particular case it wasn’t that I couldn’t support it with numerous other scriptures, it was that I was making a passing comment, connecting other thoughts together. It wasn’t the crux of my argument.

So before even getting into Babylon the Great (BtG), I thought it worthwhile to consider puzzle pieces throughout the Hebrew scriptures. Specifically: How does the use of figurative prostitution in the Hebrew scriptures help a Bible reader identify BtG in its real form? To answer that, I am going to examine three ways the disobedient Israelites (in one case divided into the southern and northern kingdoms) acted as a prostitute. Those three ways were literally, politically/militarily, and religiously.

LITERALLY: 1 Kings 14:24. This passage mentions male prostitutes being employed in the land of Judah. Female prostitutes were also there. What made this even more disgusting was that they were part of temple worship. Sex perversion was done under the guise of worship.

POLITICALLY: Exodus 23:31-33; Deuteronomy 7:3; Ezra 9:1,2. The foregoing three scriptures demonstrate the prohibition against intermarriage and, In Ezra, how miserably the nation failed to obey. In case you have any doubt that God considered this as adulterous prostitution, consider the symbols God used in portraying the northern and southern kingdoms to two prostitutes named Oholah and Oholibah. (Although these instances mention specifically intermarriage as the issue, back in those times, and even today, marriage between nations is seen as a means of forging political alliances, thus protecting each other’s sovereignties.)

RELIGIOUSLY: 1 Chron.5:25; Deut.7:4; Ezekiel 16:26,28. Besides seeking political and military assistance from foreign nations, the nation of Israel also took up the worship of foreign gods. Sadly, even wise King Solomon sinned very greatly in this regard.

With the above as a consistently demonstrable backdrop, we learn that God’s people can act in ways that God considers to be more than mere unfaithfulness. How about Christianity? On point here, is probably James 4:4. However, so that I’m not charged with finding a needle of thought in a haystack of scripture, look at all these references. (See also this subheading, “How could one become guilty of spiritual adultery?”)

Now, finally, we get into the book of Revelation. (Some I meet still wrongly call this the book of Revelations. It is one revelation containing many visions.) In Jesus’ opening remarks to various congregations, he cited two instances of spiritual adultery. For the most part, the congregations were keeping themselves clean, but there were individuals that were corrupting clean and pure worship.

Babylon The Great

Drunken sexual trysts with the Beast. Sits on many waters and has a kingdom that is worldwide, even over “all the kings of the earth.” Obscene wealth. Seen drinking the blood of “holy ones” and those who witnessed about Jesus.

A wiki article I read indicated that both the Mormons (LDS) and the Seventh Day Adventists identify the Catholic Church as BtG. Although extremely reprehensible, the Catholic Church is a mere component of a much larger religious entity. In short, just as the wiki article mentioned, Jehovah’s Witnesses consider BtG to be “the world empire of false religion.” Let me explain.

Rev.17:10 is pivotal to our understanding. It mentions the succession of kings. These were not concurrent rulerships. They were successive. It is our understanding that these kings date back way before Christ was on earth and hence way before the Catholic Church or any claimed Christian organization. (See these three references: Reference 1, Reference 2, Reference 3)

Indeed, down through time, not only false Christianity, not only wayward Israel, but all forms of pagan worship have persecuted those who wanted to remain loyal to God. However, seeing as BtG is seen as specifically drinking the “blood of the witnesses of Jesus,” indeed the Jews that persecuted converts to Christianity in the first century, along with (since the middle ages) the aggressively cruel treatment of anyone standing up to the Catholic Church’s compromised pagan influences, and indeed in our modern times “mainstream religion” persecuting Jehovah’s Witnesses, clearly identifies false Christianity as holding a prominent place in fulfilling the prophecy of Babylon the Great. This doesn’t reduce the guilt that other non-Christian belief systems hold. Truly, as scripture proves, we are all descendants from one man. And even after the flood, the survivors of Noah and his three sons were united in serving the one true God. Their ancestors unfortunately did not hold to that.

Jesus is quoted as saying: “That is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations; for looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, nor do they get the sense of it.” (Matthew 13:13) I have personally noticed the use of illustrations throughout the Bible, so just as Jesus mentioned, he imitates his Father in this regard too. Why didn’t God just come out and say “this means that”? Again, just as Jesus said, these “truths” are something reserved for those who truly demonstrate appreciation for what God has to say. Those not respecting even the rules and principles shown in scripture, are not going to show any interest in the finer things God’s Word has to offer.