Friday, January 27, 2017

Road Trips

Road trips can be so invigorating, so full of discovery, and at times stressful. But even with unexpected and sometimes unwelcomed stress, I think most of us would agree that “the unexpected” actually heightened our memory and, in retrospect became key to the unique experience of a particular trip. In my mind, road trips are multi-day adventures. My most memorable road trip was one I took by myself. I planned for it to be 7 or 8 days long, but due to weakened health I cut it down to 5 days. The main intent was a photo excursion. I came back with over 2,000 photos that took me weeks to go through and pick my favorites.

Even though the main intent was photography, in retrospect, I realized that the whole experience of being in different surroundings, traveling, having time to think without others around me, and all the little choices I made contributed to the whole trip. For instance, one constant annoyance was trying to outwit the fog – to be in areas where the fog wasn’t. That resulted in drastic changes to my original itinerary. Originally I planned for just one progressive trip up the coast into Oregon (from California), and then back again. However, checking the weather app on my phone (and actually going outside), I realized I needed to make adjustments. That meant having to make multiple back and forth trips between points in California and points in Oregon. But wait, there’s more! Both California and Oregon had their respective road crews doing repairs. This brought traffic to a stop for up to 30 minutes at a time. So now, useless waiting was interrupting my travels. Surprisingly, finding gas stations wasn’t as hard as I expected and at one point one station happened to be next store to an auto parts store. I had somehow lost a lug nut while driving and happily, the store had just what I needed. Finding inexpensive (but not shoddy) accommodations was also a little bit of a challenge. Having a smart phone made it easier than in decades past when I took my young family on trips.

Having to take time out of photography to physically check out the motels was actually a nice diversion. And, as I always do, I made notes on the places I found, even ones I didn’t stay in, in case I was able to make the trip again someday. (Sadly, that “someday” never came.) But all these disappointments were offset by the personal challenges I made for myself in photography. For example, I wanted to catch some shots, maybe even a video, of elk bucking each other. I did indeed find such and it has been a highlight in my memory to this day. Then there was the challenge of doing night shots. I have a Canon 7D (released in 2009) that does fairly well, but still “noise” is common to all digital sensors. So I decided to make an HDR image series and have one of them be a totally black picture taken quickly. This was used to overlay the other images to reduce the noise. Another personal challenge was to create several panoramas. One particular image I’m very pleased with was a combination of 32 shots. It was taken on the old highway (1), down the center of the road, with huge trees on both sides. I wanted to capture all that glory so I did 4-tiers of 8 pictures each.

But I really didn’t intend to get into such depth of this trip. I merely wanted to illustrate that most memorable trips are ones that go beyond our planned itineraries. The reason I mention that, is a comment a friend made recently that the journey of our life is like a long road trip. There will be super memorable experiences along with unexpected disappointments. As long as God is in our lives, as long as our singularly most important goal is serving God, all the other twists and turns our lives can take actually turn out to make us the unique person we are. Although at the time we may bellyache about certain unexpected situations, in the years to come, if they didn’t break us emotionally, they actually made us much stronger. I find that to be very true in my life. I’ve had four major upsets in my life, but I refused to allow them to break me. Yes, they were discouraging, and yes, even making me bitterly angry at times, but when I finally “got over myself” (my pride), I grew from it. Today, there are some that come to me, knowing what I’ve been through, asking for help in dealing with their own situation. Really, all they are looking for is the encouragement that they too can cope. And it dawns on me that if I hadn’t gone through my personal trials, I’d have nothing of substance to offer these friends.

So I wholeheartedly encourage not allowing yourself to be crushed when bad things happen. They are all part of the road trip of your life. Although heartbreaking now, in years, maybe even decades to come, those experiences will become an invaluable source of character building for you and perhaps even encouragement for others. Just as I never lost focus on my goal of enjoying photography in spite of setbacks, a loyal servant of God can and should keep their focus on maintaining a good relationship with their “heavenly Father.”

Sunday, January 22, 2017

It Will NOT Be Late!

When I recently reviewed Habakkuk, I must admit I was a little embarrassed that I have privately expressed the same feeling of despaired outcry. I am referring to chapter 1, verses 2 and 3. Like no time in the past, I have felt that things have gotten so bad that if God doesn’t act soon, there won’t be anything left of this planet to act on.

Yes, I’m well aware of Paul’s words to Timothy that “in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” How critical would they get? In verses 2 through 4 he elaborates: “Men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” But just how critical, or to what extent, corruption would be allowed is what surprises me. In retrospect, I guess my expectations for this were that the “underbelly” of society would be that way, but not “respectable society.” However, one point that should have given me a better clue is verse five: That those displaying the traits mentioned in vss.2-4 would be “having an appearance of godliness but proving false to its power.” In other words, a facade of godly respectability but completely hypocritical.

Today the news is rife with politicians, police, and corporate leaders all guilty of wanton immoral and unethical behavior. The Bible tells of an instance when a sounder of swine rushes off the edge of a cliff. Today, it seems the masses of mankind are following the swine right off the edge of social structure. The very fiber of society is collapsing like soap bubbles in a bubble bath. Indeed, today like never before in recent history, self-willed and self-serving people full of hatred, anger, and arrogance, seem to have the upper hand. More than any other time in my life I feel as did Habakkuk, pleading with God, wondering, “How much longer will this be tolerated before you act?” But apparently I’m not alone in amongst my contemporaries. Revelation 6:10 mentions the same strong sympathies when it asks how long or “Until when?!”

Adding to this feeling, I have noted it is not only believers that are concerned, but even those without faith are worried for the survival of humanity and this planet. In times past, those not making the Bible part of their life have always retorted that “the government will work things out, there is no worry.” But not so today. A growing number of people are truly frightened that this whole world is on the edge of destruction.

While we believers do not share that hopeless outcome, still we are left begging God to act soon. Just as in times past, even when all seemed totally lost, God did indeed work things out for the benefit of his loyal ones. So this remains my confidence, “God is not slow respecting his promise,” but he is patient because he wants as many as possible to come in line with his solution for saving mankind. So just as God promised Habakkuk, “For the vision is yet for its appointed time, and it is rushing toward its end, and it will not lie. Even if it should delay, keep in expectation of it! For it will without fail come true. It will not be late!” (2:3) So while believers today may have started to feel things have “delayed,” we should all take courage that without fail “it will NOT be late.”

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Fake News Seems To Be Popular

The Bible, which advances itself as the true and honest word of God, has been ridiculed and derided by science for years as being folklore and fairytales. Conversely, the movie “The Matrix,” which has never purported itself to be anything more than SciFi is now being proposed BY SCIENTISTS as a basis for explaining the reality we live in!!!

Sort of reminds of the scriptures that cite individuals who prefer falsehood to truth.

(Sideline: I wish I knew what has "gotten into me" to write so many blog articles. This month and last, I wrote more articles than I did in the prior 5 months combined. I had even privately written someone after my 8th article this month, that I sensed things would be dropping off because of my health. But now, here is my 13th article and, even though I don't have anything planned, just as none of the 13 this month have been planned, I sense that I'm not even done yet. It usually takes me a month or more to mull around ideas, but I've been cranking them out at nearly one every other day this month. My mind seems to be racing. I'm having sleepless nights or, if I do actually fall asleep, I'll awaken around 2AM and start scribbling notes on my whiteboard--basically doing a mind dump so I try to put my brain at rest.)

Governmental Rules vs Mercy

For this article, I was searching the internet for how a new government is formed. Although I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, this link covered the basics. Two essentials are first defining who the rulers are and second, what the rules are. When a people or national group is conquered, typically the old government is ousted and a new one is installed. But what I want to feature is the matter of the rules that are made. These rules become “the law.” Sometimes the law-makers are very short-sighted and make decisions that later come back to bite them, either because they were too rigid or because they were to loosely defined. Typically most “respectable” rulers agree that murder, theft, and other things are wrong. Also, normally, one does not expect there to be a lot of “mercy” built into the law. It is left up to the judges to decide the gravity of each infraction. Agreed so far?

Please note that I mentioned two perspectives of law. The first is the cold fact that “this is the law.” The second is individual, circumstantial application of the law. For example, we all agree that stealing is wrong. But what if it is done by a single mother who steals food, not for herself, but to feed her infant. Most people I know would have mercy on that woman, especially if it is established that she truly had no honest means to acquire the food (such as money). However, there is probably some likelihood that such a person would still have to appear in court. Now, courts are manned by judges that are imperfect people too. Some tend to view the law very sternly and show no mercy whatsoever. Others, have learned that being a truly wise judge calls for compassionate consideration of the circumstances. The law may not have compassion and mercy built into it, but the judge should have the wisdom to know when to apply such mercy.

So what is the point? I want to set the groundwork for insight into what some have called the harsh Mosaic Law, e.g. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” Actually, the Mosaic Law was NOT as harsh as some have accused it of being. Specifically, Jehovah God was not merciless as some have accused him of being. As some of you know, I have a schedule for reading the whole Bible in one year. I am currently in the book of Exodus, having just finished chapters 21-24. You will notice that the context of the Mosaic Law was the installment of a new government. The “leaders” had already been designated (Jehovah, Moses, the chieftains). Next were the laws. Open this link, click the symbol just before chapter 1, and scroll down to “20” (which is a chapter summary). You will see mention of the 10 commandments. Then, as you continue to scroll down for the summaries of chapters 21 through 23, note that the first line for each is “judicial decisions.” This was the formation of the Mosaic Law with all its rules. Again, going back to my illustration, would you really expect that the official laws would build into them a lot of leeway, or would you expect it to be very defined as to what was right and wrong?

Indeed, from a judicial viewpoint, “eye for eye and tooth for tooth” is what we would expect for a fair system. But what if you were on a construction site with a fellow worker, turned while carrying a plank and accidentally smacked him in the face, knocking out a tooth? Did the Mosaic Law make any consideration for accidents? Yes, it did. So contrary to those that find fault with God and his laws, God is completely fair. But this is not the end of the matter.

Another accusation that some make against the Bible is how completely different Jesus was in handling matters. Yet he made it quite plain that he did not come to do away with the law, but came to fulfill it. While reading about the “judicial decisions” in the book of Exodus, it dawned on me that making laws and the wisdom to know how far to enforce them are two different things. That to me is the difference between what we read in Exodus and what Jesus said. Truly, by preaching mercy, he wasn’t advocating removal of the law. He was helping us appreciate that cold, heartless application of the law was never what God intended.

Over the years I have repeatedly encountered those who claim that “the God of the old testament and the God of the new testament were two different individuals. I have repeatedly provided them a list of both mercy and firmness in both “testaments.” They are quickly silenced.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Miracles Getting Easier to Believe

I was talking to a person who feels the Bible’s miracles are little more than fairytales. In context of the conversation, I was trying to help the man appreciate that God could easily and quickly remove all evil. As an example, I cited the account of the overnight death of 185,000 Assyrians. He immediately balked.

So I tried to reason with him that today there are bacteria such as anthrax, viruses such as Ebola, and even chemical warfare that could do that. The bible doesn't say how the angel accomplished his slaughter of the evil Assyrians, it merely, without details, said that in one night it took only one angel to accomplish the victory. (Other possibilities: Dust Storm, Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers suggests it may have been "some form of epidemic disease, dysentery or the plague, or even atmospheric conditions, such as the thunderstorm implied in Isaiah 29:6.")

I saw a medical emergency reality show that recounted the treatment of a cowboy who came into ER in a near catatonic state and whose vital signs were quickly deteriorating. After a while, one of the attending physicians noticed his assisting nurses seemed confused and had slurred speech. In time it was determined that the cowboy had been in a field that had just been crop dusted with insecticide. When the medical staff touched his clothing, they also started to succumb to the effects.

In the so-called “dark ages,” it was thought that diseases were caused by many things such as punishment from God, demon attack and witchcraft practices. Today, we know better. All of the above illustrates that while we may not always understand the exact mechanisms used to accomplish miracles, that doesn’t mean they were unscientific. It only means we have not yet developed enough understanding to explain those miracles.

(Ok, admit it, I know what you’re thinking: “Wait a moment, isn’t the “dark ages’” fear of widespread death exactly what the Bible attributes to God in the case you cite?” Yes and no. What made the Bible account different is that God foretold what he would do. Whereas, with epidemic and pandemic diseases, there was no prophecy of such. Instead, as later discovered, it was due to poor hygiene, food and water contamination, and more. Although there are eccentric preachers out there even in our time that attribute earthquakes, floods, and other natural disasters as being God’s punishment, their claims are completely false and not based on scripture. Jesus gave two examples indicating that if God punished all evil people on an ongoing basis, no one would be around anymore. Instead, these instances are merely “time and unexpected events that overtake all of us.”)

See expanded and newer article here.

Renew the Love You Had At First

I have come across critics of our meetings that claim our meetings are boring. I have never felt that way. I always immediately counter that they are educational but then ask why they think our meetings are boring. Typically, they are used to more emotionalism (entertainment, singing, outbursts of “praise Jesus,” and more). I don’t know where these others are getting their precedent for formulating their worship; we get ours from scripture.  Starting with the Israelites in the time of Moses, Deuteronomy 6:6-7 reads: "And these words that I am commanding you today must prove to be on your heart; and you must inculcate them in your son and speak of them when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road and when you lie down and when you get up." Then, with the start of the early Christian congregations, the book of Acts records the right attitude of believers at Acts 17:11, which indicates that it is noble-minded to examine the scriptures and make sure of our conviction and beliefs. (See also Nehemiah 8:8)

But I have noticed even among some believers that keeping the zeal of participation and attentive reflection going can be a challenge. Preparing for all meetings, even reflecting on how I would teach the material helped me keep focused. But even beyond that, after a few years in serving Jehovah, and developing good study habits, I realized that I knew the subjects discussed at the meetings so well, that I became mentally lazy in listening. It is said that the mind can wonder on any subject because it can process things much faster than the spoken word. Now, I’ve always taken notes – it helps to keep my mind focused. But that got distracting after a while. The fact was, it took me years to test various note-taking methods and find one that worked for me. I wanted something that was both mentally engaging and succinct enough to capture the ideas.

For the first decade or so I couldn’t find such a method, so I decided to take a different type of note. One thing I did was to take notes, not on the actual material, but on the speaker's illustrations and development of his reasoning points. I started keeping a notebook of illustrations and reasoning points. Now I had a purpose in keeping notes – to better my own speaking and presentation skills. To this day, I still do this. In fact, some of the illustrations have been immortalized in my illustration blog.

After about a decade of attending meetings, I finally developed a note-taking form that encourages progressive note-taking by capturing the main point, the main supporting scripture, and reasoning or illustration. At the end of the form, I’d write some brief notes on lessons learned. This challenging form actually made listening fun again.

Finally, sometime around the year 2000, I read about a type of visual relationships note-taking method called mind mapping. I love it because at the end of the discourse, I can immediately see how all the points are related to whatever the subject/theme was.

With all the above, my motive has always been to continually renew the love I had at first. If you haven’t yet clicked on the above links and are interested in the note-taking methods I mentioned, the links will take you to copies of those forms and methods.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

No Fence Sitting

(This is an adjunct, an addendum to the Who Are “Worldly People”? article I posted yesterday.)

Eldridge Cleaver is attributed the quote: “If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.” Truthfully, that is only a paraphrase. What he actually said was: “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you're going to be part of the problem.” While researching the material for this article, I noted that at least one person observed Eldridge’s quote had some similarities to “Whoever is not on my side is against me.” (Matthew 12:30)

Jesus’ words highlight the fact that there is no “riding the fence” (of indecision) when it comes to aligning ourselves with the solution that God himself provides. In this regard, Eldridge was right that “there is no more neutrality in the world.” But how do we know we are on the right side? Some may say that it is merely “believing on the Lord Jesus.” But as I have often noted, Jesus words at Matthew 7:21-23 make it pointedly clear that more than mere belief in Jesus is required, more than “exorcisms, prophesying, and powerful works" are required. It is also noteworthy that only one interpretation of Jesus words can be correct. Either he is “the son of God” (as Jehovah’s Witnesses believe), or he is “God the Son” (a phrase found no where in the Bible) as the majority of other Christian religions believe.

Hence this brings me back to the discussion on who really are “worldly” people. Since there is no fence sitting, since there is only one name given by God, since only those “doing the will of my Father” are considered Christ’s disciples, since there can only be one right viewpoint of who Jesus is, for us the answer is very clear. We wholeheartedly believe we have found the one and only truth. As harsh as that sounds, that puts everyone else on the outside as “part of the problem.” But shouldn’t everyone’s conviction be that strong? I mean, if you feel that “it really doesn’t matter what religion a person belongs to,” then in reality, you really don’t believe in religion at all.

While this official black and white stance of the Bible and of Jehovah’s Witnesses may seem arbitrarily dogmatic, in practice, just like Jesus, we do not treat others as being below us. We try to help everyone who is searching for answers and spiritual aid in this world. Also, as I mentioned, I don’t use the phrase “worldly people” even in my private conversations with fellow believers. I make every effort to demonstrate love to all people. In contrast, I have to cite my observations of those opposed to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their strong stand against us, usually with only words of condemnation and no positive direction, demonstrate that they only want to find fault, not to help. That is why I do not feel even the slightest bit apologetic for our beliefs. I realized (it took a long while) that I have just as much right to my strong beliefs and opinions as do those opposing me. While I typically encourage conversation (up to the point that it is obvious neither side will budge), many of those I try to speak to about scripture either want to insult us, get into a shouting match or just refuse to even have a calm conversation of any sort.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Who Are “Worldly People”?

Associating with those not of our faith can potentially cause challenges, even compromises to our faith and morals. Articles appearing in the WBTS publications have highlighted the extreme cases where doing so can have devastating effects on a person. (For example, here are three such articles: w13 2/15 24; jr 59-60; w09 2/15 20) Especially in possible romantic attractions, things can go wrong – even if all that goes wrong is that a person’s moral resolve is impacted. But don’t mistake “even” to be a minimizing of the danger. After all, jeopardizing our relationship with our Creator is no small matter. First, we do in fact damage that relationship. Second, we give Satan a cause to “taunt” God because of our disobedience. Third, if we have any conscience at all, it is most likely now beating us.

Yet even non-romantic association can be dangerous. Perhaps workmates want to go out for a drink after work. Everyone is of legal age and so are you. So you don’t see any concern there. However, are those workmates moderate or heavy drinkers? Are they known to get into brawls? Is their language full of expletives (TV “bleep” words)? If you don’t know, maybe you need to get to know your work associates’ attitudes towards leisure activities a little better before agreeing. Also, if such relaxing becomes frequent, we who are Jehovah’s Witnesses need to ask if it is impacting our spiritual activity.

It is not always easy to see potential pitfalls and so the direction we as Jehovah’s Witnesses receive is merely: "Don’t." Don’t do it because number one, our own heart can deceive us; and number two, the person we are considering association with may not have the same high standards as we do, no matter how religious they claim to be. By illustration: Why try to see how close you can come to a fire without getting burned? Indeed, the official publications of Jehovah’s Witnesses all seem to apply the term “worldly” in an all-encompassing manner to include anyone who is not one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Understandably, those who are not of our faith definitely chafe at the idea of being considered less than upright. But even individual members of Jehovah’s Witnesses can be questionable association, and the publications have also warned about those things. So the advice is not intended to make us self-righteous, but to protect us and make our lives less complicated.

But is it reasonable to think that all non-Witness associates are evil and going to ruin us spiritually? I don’t think so. Considering the foregoing, I want to now share something I told a person who was hurt by the way we use the word “worldly.” He is a married man, a father of several children, deeply religious, and pretty much a wholesome person. I said: “In my personal estimation, a ‘worldly’ person would be one whose moral compass and rudder are broken as they drift in the tumultuous waters of degraded lifestyles.” I then told him I would never insult him by calling him “worldly.” In fact, we would never intentionally insult anyone.

So why do we use such a broad brushstroke in defining those who are not Jehovah’s Witnesses? Back in the first century, there was a designation of those who were “Jews” in contrast to those who were “Gentiles.” Jesus himself used the phrase “a man (or men) of the nations.” It was not intended as an insult but in context, it usually wasn’t a flattering or positive picture such terms painted in the minds of early Christians. Today, among Jehovah’s Witnesses, that seems to be the way the term “worldly” is used. Although it is not intended to be an insult or hurtful, in retrospect, I can see how some might take it that way so I avoid using it all together. To me, those not Jehovah’s Witnesses are “associates” and in very rare cases, I may even consider them true friends. That doesn’t mean I regularly seek their association, it is just that I recognize them for their sincere and kind ways.

Many individuals in our faith have non-Witness relatives. We visit them, love them to some degree or another (each family dynamic is different), and we hope the best for them. Most of us would not label our own relatives as “worldly,” especially in a derogatory sense. But we know our relatives better than we know strangers, so we know how to handle them if things get uncomfortable. (In my own case, my mother condemned my conversion from Catholic to JW. When I married, she said I wasn’t really married because I didn’t marry in the Catholic Church or by a Catholic priest. Then, when my first child was born, she had the gall to tell me the child was illegitimate. After that incident I swore I would never talk to her again. I didn’t want to subject my children to her cruelty. I don’t know if she thought she held some influence over me that she could affect my decision. If so, she found out very quickly she was wrong.)

At age 65, I still respect the guidance we receive regarding non-JW associates. And while I am neither arrogant to think nothing can adversely affect me nor sloppy with my personal application of the advice, I’ve learned to what extend my association with non-JW individuals can go without it affecting my spirituality. I have a former business associate that I converse with occasionally. He and I have photography in common. We both are in our sixties, both worked for the same department, both raised a similar-sized family, both have a similar personalities. I don’t feel threatened by anything he does and I am authentically happy to hear from him. At a local mom/pop coffee shop I frequent, I’ve gotten to know the husband and wife owners. My wife and I enjoy chatting with them when we visit. They always come around the customer side of the counter and give us both a hug. They know my wife and I are JWs. I’ve had scriptural conversations with their adult son who also works there. One scripture I keep close in mind is the famous John 3:16 along with Matthew 22:39 and Acts 10:28 (see footnote). I ask myself, “If I don’t show genuine kindly love to my neighbors (e.g. “worldly people”), how will they ever be drawn to appreciating my beliefs?”

Actually, when the man I was conversing with mentioned that he knows I’d never consider him a friend because I’m taught he is worldly, I had to stop and think for a moment. I haven’t used that term in years. It is actually a conscious decision to avoid using it. I would much rather look for the good in people. If, after a number of observations, I realize a particular person is crude or abrasive in manner and speech, I would definitely discontinue association or at very least attempt to limit my interactions with such a person. But just because someone is not yet my spiritual brother is no reason for me to be rude, aloof, or self-righteous.

Regarding Acts 10:28. Contextually, Peter was talking about not judging others as being unworthy of the Good News merely due to ethnicity. However, even the attitude of viewing non-Witnesses as “defiled or unclean” is the point I am making. To disparagingly refer to someone as “worldly” is not at all considerate, or kind in a Christian manner.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Medical “Science”?

I really don’t know whether to laugh, cry, scream, or something else. Although I had written about what was really in my chemo treatment two years ago, I hadn’t had a cohesive realization about the whole of my treatments in the last few years. I am amazed that “treatment” is somewhat an oxymoron.

Chemotherapy: First of all, I’ve come to realize that the term “chemotherapy” is an all-encompassing word referring to all sorts of chemical treatments to attack a condition. They “kill” in order to encourage one’s own immune system to respond with rebuilding. Mine was essentially mustard gas. When you realize it for what it is, removing any euphemism like “therapy,” medical science’s “solution” is pretty barbaric. (Sure, it is diluted, but still. Using a chemical warfare agent from WWI and WWII is shocking.)

Bladder Cancer and BCG treatment: I looked up BCG. Essentially it is live tuberculosis virus that is injected into the bladder via a catheter up the urethra. The linked article states that BCG is used to fight tuberculosis. It neglects to state that BCG itself IS the tuberculosis virus! The nurse that administered the treatment had to wear full splash-back protection including full face mask because the virus was so dangerous. And the actual purpose of the virus was only to “encourage” my own immune system to respond with killer antibodies. While there, they also attack the cancer. I asked why my own immune system doesn’t just send the antibodies without the “encouragement” of BCG. The answer was that cancer cells mask themselves so well, that they appear as normal cells usually. But when the immune system responds with a hefty and hearty dose to kill the TB virus, it usually also attacks the cancer cells. (It didn’t work in my case because of my inability to “hold” the fluid in my bladder for the recommended 2 hours. Typically, 45 minutes was all I could do.)

Blood thinner: A while back it was determined I have a massive blood clot. Medical science treats that with blood thinners. What really are blood thinners? How about rat poisoning!? Yep, you heard me right. Obviously, this is diluted so it doesn’t actually cause human patients to bleed to death. There is no direct way to dissolve a blood clot, at least not from what I was told. Instead, they thin the blood until the clot somehow (hopefully) dissolves itself. In the meantime, a person can expect easy bruising. (Have you ever seen an old person with skin that looks like a war zone of bruises?) A while back, I went to urinate and was shocked I was actually peeing blood. It stopped the same day it started, but that has never happened to me except following bladder surgery.

So yeah, my personal experience with modern medical science is that they try to make a controlled kill in order to make you (hopefully) better. In God’s Kingdom, I will look forward to the time when the “leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations.” (Rev.22:1,2) Yes, true and real “healing” as opposed to what “modern” science offers today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Assuming Approval

Sometimes what Jehovah says and does comes across as harsh, unyielding. This can be readily illustrated in the case of Uzzah. For what seemed to be a good deed, namely preventing the Ark from toppling over, he was immediately executed by God. Some may have reasoned that dismissal from his Levitical appointment would have sufficed. Even King David was said to be angered against Jehovah for this punishment against Uzzah. The one principle the Bible reminds us is that God is ultimately righteous in everything he does. Nothing he does is unjust. This article helps us to understand that even more clearly. Collaborating that, is this article from

Perhaps this may also have been a case of wrong expectations that God would approve. Korah was a warning example of that type of thinking. He felt Moses was misusing the authority God had given him and stood up against Moses declaring ‘enough of you! The whole assembly of God is holy, not just you!’ Did Korah think he could do a better job? Even if that were so, he learned the hard way that when God has set up a means of handling a matter, revolting or even chafing at such is a direct rebellion against God’s decision. Moses wasn’t perfect. Perfection wasn’t a requirement. But Moses did closely listen and follow the directions God gave. (As a sideline, Moses didn’t feel superior. In fact, at one point he stated that he wished everyone had his power and authority.)

Another case of not following direction, which Jehovah viewed as blatant disregard, not for Moses, but for God himself, was the case of what happened when the 12 spies came back from their expedition. Except for Joshua and Caleb, the other 10 men all gave a bad report, which disheartened the nation, making them afraid to take possession of the land Jehovah promised them. (See Numbers chapters 13 & 14.) Once the people heard that their refusal to trust in God resulted in a condemnation of wandering for 40 years, they immediately changed their tune and, then once again in disobedience, refused to listen and tried to go up to war. Here are the devastating consequences.

Why do I cite these cases? Some have contended that “all religions (especially those claiming to be Christian) are approved by God.” With that claim, they find fault with me because I disagree. One of the key scriptures here is Matthew 7:21-23. The individuals mentioned there seemed shocked that they were rejected. What they did in “prophesying, expelling demons, and performing many powerful works,” all to Christ’s credit, are exactly what Jesus himself did. Yet he did not approve -- expressly because they did not do what they were directed to do. They didn't follow direction. 

I would hope that most would agree with me that today’s fake miracle workers, the insatiably money-hungry evangelists, and others who have little but selfish motives would absolutely fit in this category. But what of others who, just as supposedly sincere as the ones mentioned by Jesus in Matthew 7, likewise feel they are serving God. Indeed, no one, including me, is in any position to take God’s place as judge. He and his son, Jesus, are capable of reading the hearts that we mere humans cannot. I personally can only go on what I read and understand in the Bible. The Bible teaches there is only one God, Jehovah. The Bible teaches permanent destruction of wicked, not an eternal torment. There is more than ample evidence in scripture that Jesus is the Son of God, not God the Son, not God-in-flesh on earth, not half man, half God. I believe these things so wholeheartedly that I am convinced those who don’t, no matter how sincere they are, have deceived themselves; and like Uzzah, Korah, and those others who decide for themselves what and how much they will do for God, will suffer the consequences. 

Before anyone condemns me, I’d ask you -- Do you have such strong faith in your beliefs that you are thoroughly convinced of them and want to take strong issue with me? If so, then you are essentially doing the same thing I am doing -- being thoroughly convinced and sharing your beliefs with others. But unlike those that find fault with me and want to silence me, I respect that God gave us free will. I have no problem with people defending their beliefs in a respectful, calm manner. (Please note that I will not treat those who disagree with me with disrespect. Although I am completely, resolutely convinced I have found the one and only truth, I am not the judge of anyone.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Jehovah is One Jehovah

A while back I was curious how the Jewish scholars interpreted the word “us” in Genesis 1:26. Interestingly, after reading a few websites, they believe it is the angels. (2nd reference) However, Christendom, which supports the Trinity doctrine, believes God was talking to the other two members of the Trinity. (I guess it is kind of cruel, but since, according to Trinity beliefs, there are not three gods, but only one, then the logical conclusion was that God was talking to himself.)

The worship of the sons of Israel (Judaism) has always been monotheistic. To them, as Deut.6:4 states, “Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” The “Matthew Henry Commentary” at the bottom of this page starts out correctly stating: “Jehovah our God is the only living and true God; he only is God, and he is but One God.” But then, in the very next sentence, it quickly derails by bringing in the trinity with some very questionable reasoning (unsubstantiated reasoning) that “The three-fold mention of the Divine names, and the plural number of the word translated God, seem plainly to intimate a Trinity of persons, even in this express declaration of the unity of the Godhead.” There is absolutely no such implied reference in this scripture. Consider for just a moment: The passage in Deuteronomy is so simple in structure, it cannot possibly be misunderstood. It doesn’t ambiguously state “God our God is one God.” The surviving Hebrew manuscripts actually contain the Tetragrammaton (four-letters) which are the name of God, the Anglicized form of which is Jehovah (but if you insist on Yahweh, I’m good with that.). The passage reads “Jehovah our God, is one Jehovah.” Since Jehovah is mentioned by name as the exclusive God and that he is singularly the only God, the only intelligent conclusion is to take the scripture at its word. There is only one Jehovah, not some split personality disorder of three in one. Throughout all Jewish records there is no indication they ever thought of God as a trinity. (Both Judaism and Jehovah’s Witnesses agree there is no trinity.)

So how did we come to such a situation where the Jews believe, even to this day, in a single entity as God but most “Christian” writers want to read something else into every scripture that may even remotely ambiguously mention a different idea? The foundation of the first century Christians was based on Jewish believers at first (before opening the invitation to Samaritans and Gentiles). These believed Jesus was the son of God, not God the Son. In fact, it seems enough of a shocking idea that Jesus called himself God’s son. Imagine how repulsive it would have been if he said he was actually God! He never did. (In the surrounding verses, Jesus reasons with the hateful Jews about the term “god.” Note that while there is only one ultimate sovereign, Jehovah, as Jesus himself highlighted, even Jehovah called “gods” those who were judges in Israel. This was not a new teaching, nor was it suggestive of there being multiple gods.) (See top paragraph in this Auxiliary information.)

So did the early Christian’s beliefs change sometime after the congregations began to be formed? No. The early Christian writers, such as Paul, even stated that there was only one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus. To finalize the belief even into our own distant future, Paul acknowledged that after everything has been brought under subjection, then Jesus would turn the kingdom back to his father so “that God may be all things to everyone.” If Jesus were already God, this would be impossible in any way, shape, or form. (For all the dancing around John 1:1 and John 20:28 that those advancing the Trinity make, there is no denying that John’s conclusion is irrefutable: “These have been written down that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God. (John 20:31)

(It is interesting that the “2nd reference” mentioned in the first paragraph acknowledges the same beliefs about the Bible’s teachings of the substance and future of mankind in Judaism as do Jehovah’s Witnesses. Even the belief of future resurrection is shared by both religions. The resurrection performed by God through the prophet Elijah is part of the Hebrew Canon -- see verses 17 through 24. Although the modern Jewish leaders do not seem to teach it and even advance the idea of reincarnation.)

Friday, January 6, 2017

Isaiah 28: Warm Blanket or Cold Straight Jacket

In Isaiah 28:11-13, there are three “voices” (persons) talking. The first is that of Isaiah. The second is that of Jehovah (as quoted by Isaiah), and the last is that of disobedient, wayward Israel (also as quoted by Isaiah). Each “voice” has a separate inflection because of the context. Isaiah’s narrator voice (speaking for himself) is sharp and pointed. He is understandably upset because those whom he is delivering the message to are not mere commoners, they are the leaders. Jehovah’s voice is a calm, comforting, reassuring one. This is because Isaiah is quoting a previous statement of Jehovah when he was at peace with Israel. Finally, the third voice, that of the disobedient national representatives, is a complaining, bitter one. Compounding it, is that fact that Isaiah is mocking the words of the disobedient ones. We might imagine a frustrated parent mockingly quoting their complaining children to their very face: “I don’t want pick up my toys, I don’t want to do my homework, I don’t want to….”

Looking at this passage as a whole, we see a contrast. Jehovah views the rules and lifestyle that he’s given the nation as a spiritual “resting place,” one of “refreshment.” It is sort of like he is wrapping them in a cozy, warm blanket straight out of the drier. However, Israel is acting like a child with an attitude (a bad one). Instead of seeing a warm blanket, they perceive it as a cold straight-jacket that restrains them from moving around like they want. (How many parents can recount when they told their child to put on a warm jacket before going outside, but the child complained because it restricted their mobility.) The Israelite’s perception was unwarranted and selfish. Decades later, when asked, Jesus said that the whole law and the messages delivered by the prophets can be summed up by two commands: 1) Love Jehovah sincerely, wholly. 2) Love our fellow humans as we do ourselves. Rightly, the apostle John concluded in his first letter (1 John 5:3) that “this is what the love of God means, that we observe his commandments; and yet his commandments are not burdensome.”

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Protecting the Family Name

Someone I met claimed, as I understood it, that God does not need us to perform good works because he already knows what is in our heart. That was the essence of the position, but it went deeper. Personally, I chafed at the idea. How can God see what is in our hearts if we do nothing. Action is what demonstrates who we truly are, what we really believe. Recently, I commented on Proverbs 27:11 as foundational for my conviction. The one proving to be a real son to his father would naturally want to act in a way that doesn’t discredit the family name, his father, or his own reputation.

The principle would extend to the “spiritual” level (the ultimate principled level of obedience to God) in that believers would identify with being considered God’s “sons.” So they would understand the scripture as speaking to them. I personally view that scripture that way. God is telling me to ponder / consider my course in life, my life choices, my actions, my thoughts, in a way that demonstrates wisdom (insight into effects, consequences, etc.). This is truly because it is a matter of protecting the family name. Just as a slanderer may level wild charges at a family member, Satan the devil does the same. It is Satan who “taunts” God. How? He claims that God is hiding something from mankind – man’s ability to “be like God, knowing good and bad.” Then, on the other side, he taunts God that mankind is in reality nothing more than selfish beings that are only loyal to God because he bribes them. So it is up to each individual to prove, through actions, that they are defending the name of their father and family.

But Proverbs 27:11 is not the only scripture that conveys action as a mandatory requirement for those truly loyal to God. Consider for a moment: Would a person who is kind, generous, patient, empathetic, be a person who is a Christian? Could be. But it could also describe an atheistic philanthropist. So what differentiates Christians from an atheistic philanthropist? Jesus commanded real Christians to “preach the word” of God. The apostle Paul showed how we should all consider this a personal commission. Further, in Paul’s letter to Timothy, he exhorted Timothy to be at the preaching work “urgently.” Also, there is Paul’s account of faithful pre-Christian individuals at Hebrews chapters 11 and 12 – how they took ACTION. In chapter 12 Paul concludes what Christians should do with this knowledge. In verse one he urges: “let us run with endurance….” Undeniably, demonstrating action is required. Then, there is the whole book of Acts that recounts numerous “acts” (actions) on the part of early Christians. Clearly, true worship, both pre-Christian and Christian, requires action. Any arguments to the contrary are merely efforts to confuse a very clear, consistent (throughout scripture), and easy to understand directive.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Shake Rattle and Roll

This may (or not) be the last post regarding earthquakes. (I'm surprised I made it to 2017, so let's see if I can make the doctors a liar again. LOL)

Total for 2 years
8.0 - 8.1          =          1
7.0 - 7.9          =          34
6.0 - 6.9          =          256
5.0 - 5.9          =          2934

8.0 - 8.1          =          0
7.0 - 7.9          =          16
6.0 - 6.9          =          129
5.0 - 5.9          =          1522

8.0 - 8.1          =          1
7.0 - 7.9          =          18
6.0 - 6.9          =          127
5.0 - 5.9          =          1412

Criteria Used:
  • Earthquakes only
  • 5.0 to 9.0
  • Global
  • Range of dates as shown above

Encouraged or Emboldened

Yesterday, congregations around the world all discussed the article “Keep On Encouraging One Another Each Day.” It was a wonderful article discussing how, in a world so full of critics and negativity and so void of positive reinforcement, we can and should imitate Jesus Christ’s wonderful example of encouraging each other. Even after he caught the 12 disciples repeatedly arguing about who was greatest among them, instead of becoming short-tempered and critical, he found mild illustrations to get the point across. The article also acknowledged that many people today were raised in a family environment that was also very critical so that when they become adults, they also do not know how to commend and offer positive reinforcement.

Although several in the congregation mentioned that Satan is a major critic both of God and humans, it dawned on me that he and certain nefarious human characters can “encourage” wrong action. For example, Satan “encouraged” (and emboldened) Eve to disobey and eat fruit from the tree she was pointedly told not to avoid. Similarly, peer pressure can “encourage” youth to engage in things that are wrong and dangerous.

So how do we differentiate between good and bad encouragement? Before answering that, what makes something “wrong”? Is a certain thing wrong because of social norms? Not ultimately, because that is just other people talking and norms vary from culture to culture and even era to era. Well then is it wrong because the Bible says so? Perhaps, however some may argue that the Bible is just a rule book. So what really makes something wrong? The answer is that it hurts our God's feelings and the feelings of others. Now we are at the root of the matter. Our relationship with God is contingent on making his heart glad. Proverbs 27:11

So then, good, positive encouragement would promote healthy wholesome living and obedience to God’s direction. It would also consider the feelings of others. (Some have argued that God already knows how we act and feel and therefore do not need to do anything. The scripture cited in the third paragraph debunks such a notion.) In contrast, the “encouragement” to do wrong is actually emboldening us to disobey God.