Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Field Mice And The Lion

The field mice were becoming agitated. They sensed something in the air. They began announcing it to everyone – A Fire! A Fire! One of the mice ran up to the lion, “Your highness, there is a fire coming!”

“What!” roared the lion, “who dares disturb my kingdom with such disruptive talk?!” With that, he ate the mouse. Then the lion began noticing an approaching, rising dust. It was a stampede – the animals were fleeing! Another envoy of mice arrived. “Your majesty, there is a fire coming!”

This time the lion growled and snarled: “Why are you mice causing disruption in my kingdom? Such talk is nothing less than extremist activity! You are insurgents fomenting rebellion!"

The mice begged for understanding. They had no desire to rebel against the lion. Although at times he could be harsh, he did help to “keep the peace.” Still, the lion would hear nothing of it. They were guilty as he charged them. He swooped with a wide heavy paw to capture and eat as many of them as possible, but they quickly scattered into their ground holes.

Just so is the plight of Jehovah’s Witnesses every time a lion-like authority attempts to sanction their activity. Jehovah’s Witnesses are peaceable people. They do not engage in riots or anti-political activities. They live peaceably. They do indeed try to warn everyone that the “fire of Jehovah” will devour this world’s systems. But that is no reason for political entities to worry. At the same time, Jehovah’s Witnesses instruct their adherents to “live peaceably” and to “have honor for the king” (aka ruling authority). The only time they decline is when the rulers make decisions that would nullify God’s direction.

Since the governments think our beliefs are hogwash anyway, I am somewhat baffled why they feel so threatened by us – to the governments, there is no fire. I have to keep asking myself what possible harm could come from allowing us to go about our preaching activity. Then it dawns on me, knowing that we refuse any participation in war efforts, perhaps they are afraid that if more people respond to our message it will mean a weaker army. So far, that is the only conclusion I am able to reach – but history itself quickly dispels this notion. Really, we are mere meek field mice who smell a fire. We are no threat. The stampeding insurgents and terrorists fighting against various governments today (of which we are no part) are a much greater threat than anything we could or would do. In fact, those listening to us have changed their lives and stopped their revolutionary ways.

Larger Audience Than I Thought

Except to send links to friends and occasionally include a link in some other online discussion I’m having, I don’t advertise my blog at all. I currently have 9 people that are “followers,” but most of those I don’t even know since they joined anonymously. I’ve had about 5 people send me emails or comment on my blog. I had no problem being a little fish in a big pond. So recently I was reviewing my stats and was VERY surprised that there are a lot of viewers of my blog all over the world. I was most surprised with Russia and Ukraine. The image below contains “page views” for the past 30 days by country.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Vehement Hatred is Usually Narrow Minded

Have you ever noticed that in order to truly hate someone, you must convince yourself that they have absolutely no redeeming value at all? There have been people, even in recent history, that are so debased, so wicked, so evil, that it takes no effort to hate that person. I won’t single out any one person here; that is not my intent. However, people of that caliber are (thankfully) rare. For the greater majority of us, we make friends and (sadly at times, due to being imperfect humans) enemies in our life. Our enemies are those that refuse to see any good in us even when others do.

One person that absolutely doesn’t deserve to be hated is God. Yet, some atheists do. (Other atheists have no feelings good or bad about the subject of God.) In order to form this hatred, they look for scripture passages that would put God in a bad light. So they find scriptures about God destroying bad people; they find passages where God allowed slavery; and make other citations that seem to give credibility to their hatred of God. In order to justify this hatred, these atheists flatly refuse to view things in context or look at nearby passages that give intent, showing that God is not the heinous person they paint him to be. But then, again, that is exactly how hatred works – in order to fester a hatred, you have to convince yourself that the object of your hatred is evil through and through, no matter how unreasonable such a conviction is.

I’ve learned that some who react to God so vehemently, refuse to change. I wish they would change, but again, free will allows for this. What bothers more, though, is that they influence others who have little knowledge of scripture and convince them, infect them, with the same dark hatred. Then without any true or deep understanding of the issue, those latter ones become spiritually famished -- without real cause.

Recently I read an article, and once again I decided not to link to it because of its one-sided, God-hating bias. In it the author felt that knowing about slavery in the Bible would make even god-loving Christians, god-haters. Apparently, this man assumes that most people really do not read their Bible. (Actually, there may be more truth in that than many are willing to admit.) However, I have read the Bible – every word, from cover to cover, multiple times. I have read several different Bible translations and versions. From my personal search, I can guarantee you that such god-hating viewpoints are not honest, not complete. God is not the cruel person that some atheists make him out to be. As for the issues of God’s judgments against wicked individuals or his allowance of slavery in the time of Israel as a nation reported on in the Hebrew/Aramaic (“Old Testament”) scriptures, there are reasonable answers to those issues.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

A Second Look at Ecclesiastes 11:4-6

Pictorial Language Series

In one of my Pictorial Language Series articles, I mentioned that Eccl.11:4 was essentially talking about procrastination. Recently I was reading a second view that expanded the commentary to include verses 5 and 6 as well. Taking those together gave a different viewpoint. Rather than talking about procrastination, the verses discuss trying to second-guess matters. While this is different than what I suggested, that verse 4 can be used to discourage procrastination is not lost.

But now let’s take a look at the other two verses:

5 Just as you do not know how the spirit operates in the bones of the child inside a pregnant woman, so you do not know the work of the true God, who does all things.

Verse 5 helps the reader appreciate that no one knows how a growing child in the womb will turn out. (True, today we have all sorts of medical science, but such did not exist back in the days of King Solomon. And even today, there are things that medical science cannot predict with 100% accuracy.) The latter part of verse 5 helps us to appreciate that since, even with physical matters that we can see and yet we cannot absolutely know the outcome, even more so with the intangible interventions of God in human affairs. Our confidence in God should be unwavering, our loyalty to him unfaltering.

6 Sow your seed in the morning and do not let your hand rest until the evening; for you do not know which will have success, whether this one or that one, or whether they will both do well.

Verse 6 cinches the idea of not second-guessing matters. We should make every effort to follow every avenue of opportunity God puts before us and then wait to see what is blessed and what is not. So our worrying about the winds of change or our being consumed over the clouds of doubt will not benefit us. Trying to second-guess if God will bless an effort or not is not beneficial. Since we “do not know the work of the true God,” we need only concern ourselves that we “do not let our hand rest until evening.” The old saying “strike while the iron is hot” may be applicable here.

Business Insider Discredits Itself

I read an article last December (2016) that confused me. It appeared on the Business Insider website. What I found confusing is that Business Insider, as noted on its “About” page, “is a fast-growing business site with deep financial, media, tech, and other industry verticals.” So why, then, would it feature an article and video by Joe Avella discrediting the Bible? From where does its expertise in this matter come? Since when does a publication named Business Insider have anything to do with religious matters? Unless the subject is how the clergy are bilking the congregation or how the clergy scandalous mismanage donations for their own personal profit, it seems completely out of place that a business-focused publication would run a commentary on the Bible's authenticity.

I wrote Mr. Avella, but he never responded. Just for the record, the article and accompanying video play into general misconceptions whose only intent is to discredit the Bible. Contrary to those claims is much more authoritative research helping readers to appreciate the rich value that the Bible brings.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Tomb of Jesus

Over the years of our marriage, my wife occasionally enjoyed driving by the former house of her grandparents (now deceased) because she spent a great deal of her youth there. Nowadays, given traffic and population growth, driving there is a time-consuming trip. I recently brought up the residence on Google Earth (Google Maps). She was fascinated that she could view all angles of the home, even overhead. Although I’m not the sort to make a regular journey to my past, recently while digging through my legal papers I found my birth certificate. I immediately brought up my parent's former address at the time of my birth (apparently now demolished). I also searched for the office of the obstetrician that my mother used during her pregnancy -- that office surprisingly still exists!

Strolls down memory lane, visiting someplace we were personally connected to, is one thing. Making tourist pilgrimages to the supposed burial sites of Jesus is another. Yes, you read me correctly, “sites,” (plural). From a historical, archeological curiosity point of view, I imagine that, given the chance, I would want to visit at least one of these places. But not because of its connection with Jesus, rather, more because it would reveal the lifestyles and customs of an ancient civilization. After leaving the Catholic Church and making an earnest study of the Bible, I learned the truth of the statement that we should “walk by (live by) faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7) What kindled this recent interest was reading a news article about the structural weakness of one of the supposed burial sites. A great deal of attention and interest in this tomb has been on the rise. Question is, should Christians really be so absorbed with this?

From what I gather, these sites have been elevated to places of worship, nearly, if not fully, becoming objects of idolatry. Again, for me, merely to view it as a historical sample of burial places is fine. But to make it into a religious experience just doesn’t jive with scripture. Why do I say this?

  1. Again, we walk by faith, not sight. Seeing a tomb that may or may not have been Jesus burial place is not going to make us appreciate him anymore. Reading scripture does that much better.
  2. Fixating on objects (whether person or place) is not something God wants.
    1. I am reminded of Jude 9. Satan was arguing with Michael about Moses body. Although no details are provided, might it have been that Satan wanted to make Moses’ body something to be worshiped?
    2. Just this week I was reading how the Israelites in Jeremiah’s day were using both “The Law” and the Temple as a good luck charm, thinking those things automatically provided protection and God’s approval. The Israelites were self-deceived.
  3. The Bible account of Jesus’ burial makes it quite clear that after Jesus was resurrected, the body was nowhere to be found. It is vastly more important that Jesus was resurrected and living today. Giving worshipful attention to an unproven burial site almost seems sick. I mean, think of it -- if you had buried a relative mistakenly thinking he was dead and subsequently discovered he was buried alive, after retrieving him, would you really be visiting his grave site? That is the last thing I’d want to think of doing. It would give me shivers just considering it. Instead, every day I’d be celebrating that I have my loved one back with me. Similarly, Jesus IS alive. His murder at the hands of Jewish religious leaders and the Romans, although prophetically necessary, was still an atrocity. Why focus on the negative when we have the living positive?
  4. Jesus gave very specific instructions on commemorating his death and those instructions did not include visiting his gravesite.
  5. There is not even one scripture suggesting that any of the followers of Jesus ever returned to the burial site after Jesus’ resurrection had been proven to them.

Jesus is indeed alive in heaven. Keep reading and reflecting on scripture; discern what the will of God is. Read more on how to commemorate Christ's sacrifice for us.

This article is along the same vein: Is The Cross Something To Be Reverenced?

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Surgeon's Quest for Clarity

Have you ever been around a campfire with friends? It is pitch-black outside, a moonless sky covers you. Around the fire and your friends, you feel safe and you accept (perhaps timidly) that you are surrounded by the ominous darkness. You go to stand at the edge of the fire’s light and strain to peer into the darkness, trying to see something, anything. But you cannot make out anything at all. Your group arrived at night so you have yet to see the surroundings in the light of day. This is the experience Paul Kalanithi was having when trying to understand what lies in the darkness of death.

Some of us have an unquenchable thirst to understand, to know. Dr. Paul Kalanithi, an accomplished neurosurgeon and neuroscientist, was of that sort. Where some, perhaps many, physicians emotionally distance themselves from a patient that is near death, Paul made it a primary goal to come to know the patients in his care. He wanted to know the person beyond the charts. Although there can be huge emotional backlashes for subjecting one’s self to this, Paul bravely engaged his patients and, in so doing, engaged and stared down death itself. I call this brave because Paul recounts a friend and colleague of his that, after losing a patient, committed suicide. It can really be that traumatic on a physician. Even in difficult cases where the patient lives but the surgery took a ghastly number of hours, the exhaustion is not only a physical but psychological drain as well. On this, Paul wrote: "Before operating on a patient's brain, I realized I must first understand his mind: his identity, his values, what makes his life worth living, and what devastation makes it reasonable to let that life end. The cost of my dedication to succeed was high, and the ineluctable failures brought me nearly unbearable guilt. Those burdens are what make medicine holy and wholly impossible: in taking up another's cross, one must sometimes get crushed by the weight." (P.53)


Chris, a young man I met at his parent's mom/pop coffee shop, has noble aspirations of becoming a cardiologist. On a recent visit to the shop, Chris showed me a book he was reading and highly recommended. "When Breath Becomes Air," by Paul Kalanithi. Before I explain why we even discussed this book, I need to back up a bit. When I first met Chris he was thinking that maybe a career as a heart surgeon would be good. But over time he changed his mind. He explained that he is more a "people person," and wants to build relationships with patients. Surgeons typically don't do that. After getting about half way through the book, I sent a text to Chris: "Knowing how you want to deal with the human, compassionate side of life, instead of the nuts and bolts side of surgery, I can see that this book was the right choice for you." So my knowledge of Chris' professional goals coupled with his knowledge of my failing health and struggles with cancer are the reasons we shared in the interest of this book.


The "human tragedy" of sickness and "accidents," is something doctors are constantly subjected to. The tragedies in Paul’s life were that he didn't even make it to age 40; didn’t get to see his baby daughter grow; didn’t get to achieve other goals he surely would have achieved had he lived longer than 37 years. Some of the more profound reflections he writes of are his search to understand the point at which the brain becomes the mind and, what the meaning, purpose, and point of life is. Paul wrote that in his college admissions essay, he "argued that happiness was not the point of life." He never does state what his final conclusion was on this matter. The closest he comes is when he says, "A word meant something only between people, and life’s meaning, its virtue, had something to do with the depth of the relationships we form." In saying this, he seems to have a foggy realization that being happy has its benefits. However, he summizes the real meaning in life is to embrace all the challenges, good and bad, and face them bravely with lion-like resolve -- with family and friends.

However, in the issue of life’s meaning, it really struck me that, whether he knew it or not, Paul was looking to understand God, the greater, intangible consciousness in mankind’s collective existence, and who we are as individuals. Beyond the biological, understanding death as a human experience seemed to elude him. Especially with his own mortality staring him in the face, he wrote he saw nothing but "a blank, a harsh, vacant, gleaming white desert, as if a sandstorm had erased all trace of familiarity." To further the despair of the situation, "The sun was setting." (P.65) Later in the book, Paul wrote: "Where did biology, morality, literature, and philosophy intersect?" On page 53 he wrote: "I still felt literature provided the best account of the life of the mind, while neuroscience laid down the more elegant rules of the brain."

At another point in the book he wrote: "I had started in this career, in part, to pursue death: to grasp it, uncloak it, and see it eye-to-eye, unblinking. Neurosurgery attracted me as much for its intertwining of brain and consciousness as for the intertwining of life and death. I had thought that a life spent in the space between the two would grant me not merely a stage for compassionate action but an elevation of my own being: getting as far away from petty materialism, from self-important trivia, getting right there, to the heart of the matter, to truly life-and-death decisions and struggles...surely a kind of transcendence would be found there?" This was the reason for my introduction about the campfire and staring off into the unknowable darkness.


On page 74 Paul has a personal realization that helped him see the difference between medical (biological) prognosis (of the brain) and the potential for future hopes, aspirations, plans (of the mind). It is as if he finally realized that for all his medical training, beyond the biological, his background fell woefully short of addressing giving the mind (psyche) of the patient a sense they could still live a meaningful life -- that “who you were” before the incident (whether disease or injury), will still be “who you are” after recovery. In his own battle with cancer, treatment, therapy and more, as he made any and every small gain, he came to a point where he declared that when meeting with Emma, his doctor, “I felt like myself, like a self. Outside her office, I no longer knew who I was. Because I wasn’t working, I didn’t feel like myself, a neurosurgeon, a scientist—a young man, relatively speaking, with a bright future spread before him. Debilitated, at home, I feared I wasn’t much of a husband for Lucy.”


Paul was an unpretentious, “true heart” of a person. His quest for clarity in the meaning of life and death is the stuff of fairytales but brought into the real world; with real people; on a real journey. I admire his honesty, humility, kindness, and naked truth of his coping with cancer. I would not detract from that one bit. I wish I could have had the honor to have known him personally.

But I do have some observations of my own. Apart from acknowledging a creator, life makes no sense. Evolution cannot and will never answer why we are here. It's dismal reply that there is no reason for our existence is unacceptable to thinking people. Order in the creation is not just our imagination. Once we accept that, we can then begin to accept why we are here. But we need to get past "why are we here?,” and more accurately ask “why did God put us here?”

Paul did strike a vital note in observing that caring for each other is crucial to life having meaning. But like an arrow that fell just slightly below a bullseye, he missed the more important puzzle piece of how we come into a relationship with our creator. It is not so much having a religion that does this, as building a relationship and favorable reputation with our Creator. Paul did have a religion, but I didn’t get the sense that it answered the questions he had. Starting around page 88, Paul talks about God and religion: “During my sojourn in ironclad atheism, the primary arsenal leveled against Christianity had been its failure on empirical grounds. Surely enlightened reason offered a more coherent cosmos. Surely Occam’s razor cut the faithful free from blind faith. There is no proof of God; therefore, it is unreasonable to believe in God.”

My response to this is that there is less evidence of mythological creatures that supposedly roam the earth (Bigfoot, Loch Ness, and more). The “evidence” that believers claim to have found are usually fakes that have fooled even scientists. Yet the lack of real evidence hasn’t stopped the proliferation of speculation and publications. But speaking to God’s existence, the Bible states: “Of course, every house is constructed by someone, but the one who constructed all things is God.” (Hebrews 3:4) Not only are his creative works evidence that “God was here,” but also archaeology proves that both the people and places mentioned in the Bible existed.

Paul’s conviction in God comes across as perplexed and conflicted at best. While he appreciates that it is shortsighted to merely accept what we can see, believing in what we cannot see is very subjective. One insight Paul does have is not one I would have readily seen: “To make science the arbiter of metaphysics is to banish not only God from the world but also love, hate, meaning – to consider a world that is self-evidently not the world we live in…. If you believe that science provides no basis for God, then you are almost obligated to conclude that science provides no basis for meaning and, therefore, life itself doesn’t have any” [meaning]. He then goes on to conclude that Occam’s argument (“There is no proof of God; therefore, it is unreasonable to believe in God.”) was not so much a statement that God doesn’t exist, as it was that using scientific methods is useless to that end. (It would be akin to using a common stopwatch to measure the speed of light.)

As for Paul's frustrated attempt to understand death, I'm not quite clear where he felt the lack. I'm not sure even Paul was clear on the lack. He seemed to accept the inevitability. He understood the medical reasons and biological processes. Maybe coping and counseling, both as a patient and a physician puzzled him -- what comfort can possibly be more than mere wishful words? There again, only by including God & his promises in the equation can any of this make sense. Knowing his design & intent can offer real solace.

Coming back to my opening illustration: We all are born into a world surrounded by the darkness of the unknown -- perhaps the greatest of which is “What lays beyond death?” The light at the campfire is the vibrant life around us. At various times in our life, we find ourselves staring just beyond the light when either we or someone we know is facing a life-threatening situation. We yearn to have something to share, but like Paul’s father and others, are left “blank” mentally – staring into the dark unknown and only having a feeble hope that “we will conquer this together,” while knowing that the reality is potentially very grim. More than just the darkness of death is the spiritual darkness that exists in this world that leaves mankind with a gnawing sense of confusion as to what lays ahead. Waiting until daylight to venture beyond the campground is the same as the bright hope that we can only find in the light of the Bible to see beyond the darkness of the human condition of imperfection and death.

 After thoughts:

In the Epilogue, his wife mentions his humor -- she didn’t feel the book conveyed that side of him very well. However, the book does mention one instance: My fellow resident Jeff and I worked traumas together. When he called me down to trauma bay because of a concurrent head injury, we were always in sync. He assesses the abdomen, then asks for my prognosis on a patient's cognitive function. "Well, he could still be a senator," I once replied, "but only from a small state." Jeff laughed, and from that moment on, state population became our barometer for head injury severity. "Is he a Wyoming or a California?" Jeff would ask, try to determine how intensive his care plan should be. (P.46)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Jeremiah 10:23 Directing Our Own Step

Jeremiah 10:23 states, "I well know, O Jehovah, that man’s way does not belong to him. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step." That made me wonder, “Has mankind even taken a single step forward since creation?”

For instance, in paradise, Adam and Eve had perfect health. Since leaving the Garden of Eden, they, and all their descendants have faced sickness and death. Even in our modern world with medical science, we still have not even come near the life expectancies mentioned in the first several chapters of Genesis. (As rapidly as the social and political scene is changing, folks having lived a mere 60 years are so stressed about the violence and lack of morality, they don’t even want to live.) Another prophecy yet to be fulfilled is that, under God’s coming Kingdom, no one will say “I am sick.

In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve, prior to their disobedience, were ruled by a loving Creator. Since leaving Eden, man has dominated man to his own detriment. (Eccl.8:9)

In Eden, there was plenty of food. Yes, there were only two people, but the earth continues in the ability to feed all mankind. It is selfish human mismanagement of the earth’s resources that has caused needless suffering. Yes severe weather can cause problems, but there have been documented cases of donated food being left to rot on the docks because of the ruling power’s unwillingness or inability to distribute it. Under God’s Kingdom, scripture still promises there will be plenty of food.

Speaking of the weather, Jesus demonstrated his ability to control adverse weather and protect his loyal ones. God obviously did that in Eden. What human today can make such a boast?

Indeed, it seems that leaving paradise has done nothing but made us take not just one or two, or 10 steps back, but 1,000 or more steps back. We have not even come close to catching up to where we started off (human condition) back in Eden. But coming back to Jeremiah's statement, we can ask, "Can we, apart from God, expect to ever reach where we started from?" The answer is no because it "doesn't belong to man ... to direct his step."

Idol Worship From Heaven?

Speaking of the idols the nations worshiped, God tried to reason with wayward Israel in Jeremiah 10:8, 9 say, "They are all unreasoning and stupid. Instruction from a tree is an utter delusion. Silver plates are imported from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz, The work of a craftsman, of the hands of a metalworker. Their clothing is blue thread and purple wool. They are all made by skilled workers." With God "calling a spade a spade," one would have to wonder how idol worshippers could possibly justify such stupidity in their minds. Acts 19:35 enlightens us -- they claim that heaven itself provided the image. (Context here.) The context, of course, makes it very evident that those making the images knew it was nothing more than a money-making venture.

When I read the phrase “the great goddess Artemis,” (vs. 27) I had to wonder if this wasn’t the Catholic Church’s origins of Mary worship. This might explain the visions of Mary such as the famous “Lady of Fatima.” The Catholics have deified Mary, praying to her, essentially putting her in the place of Jesus as an intercessor to God. Regardless of the origin, the position the Catholic Church has allowed its adherents to give to Mary amounts to idolatry.

Jeremiah - A Prophet With Backbone

Way before Jesus came to earth and uttered his famous rejection of the Jews, there were pronouncements (denunciations) against faithless Israel that happened repeatedly throughout their history. Jeremiah was commissioned by Jehovah to speak "the word of Jehovah" to the wayward Israelites. Here is just a few examples:

Jer.7:3, 4 This is what Jehovah of armies, the God of Israel, says: Reform your ways and your actions, and I will allow you to keep residing in this place. Do not put your trust in deceptive words and say, ‘This is the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah, the temple of Jehovah!’

Jer.8:5 Why is this people, Jerusalem, unfaithful with an enduring unfaithfulness? They hold fast to deception; they refuse to turn back.

Jer.8:8 How can you say: “We are wise, and we have the law of Jehovah”? For in fact, the lying stylus of the scribes has been used only for falsehood.

Jer.9:26 "all the nations are uncircumcised, and all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart.”

In verse 3, we discover that this was not merely Jeremiah’s words of disapproval, it was the God of Israel severely reproving Israel’s false, self-comforting, rationalizations. It was clear from the above that the Israelites were using both the Temple and the Law as talismans, or good-luck charms. They felt that by having the Temple and the Law, they could do no wrong, nor would God do anything but bless them. In Jer.7:4, Jehovah point-blank tells the Jews that they are only deceiving themselves by claiming the Temple means automatic approval and protection. The collective sin and refusal to change demonstrated who they really were. As far as Jehovah was concerned, "all the house of Israel are uncircumcised in heart." That is, they were spiritually unclean, which was just as objectionable as being physically unclean, which means they had no advantage over the other “nations” they so sneeringly degraded.

Today, in our era, the “Oral Law” seems to have supplanted the “Written Law” so much so, that Jeremiah 8:8 is still true, “the lying stylus of the scribes has been used only for falsehood” in claiming God’s approval.

So Many Baptist Religions!

I read an article by a Baptist who claimed that Baptists alone have the truth. His reasoning was odd, but more than mere reasoning, his basis seemed completely unclear. The first question that came up in my mind was “which Baptist” religion is he talking about? There is Northern Baptist (not something many hear about), Southern Baptist (seemingly predominant), Primitive Baptist, Reformed Baptist, “Regular” Baptist (heaven knows that irregular Baptists are probably cranky and need a laxative), and the list goes on and on. What is the origin of the Baptist church? According to this wiki article, it dates back to the 1600’s. However, Baptists contest that and claim they date back to the time of Christ.

One thing that struck me in reading the history was how the Black community, wanting an identity unique from the white community, basically started their own organization(s) of the Baptist religion. Other major divisions followed as social changes took place. In contrast, the Bible says: “Now I urge you, brothers, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you should all speak in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you may be completely united in the same mind and in the same line of thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10) Today, among Jehovah’s Witnesses, you will find that many congregations throughout the world have a mix of whatever nationalities and ethnicities exist in the country. Here in the USA, in California where I live, the congregations are a mix of Caucasians, Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Eastern Indians, just to name a few. We are one brotherhood, united in one belief.

Catholic Church in Decline - Statistics

I didn’t think I’d actually live to see the day that Catholicism was on the decline. It seems not only are the parishioners (sheep) leaving the drove (and leaving in droves), but even the shepherds are dwindling. What is surprising is that this is coming from the religion’s own research, not some antagonist with an agenda. Apparently things have gotten so dire, that the National Catholic Reporter titled an article, “Now is the time for priests to marry.” (I wonder if the Catholic Pope will suddenly have some “revelation” from God telling him that priests marrying is okay?)

How bad has the situation become? In the above-linked article was a link to a statistical website named “CARA” or “Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate.” Those categorized as priests in 1965 amounted to 58,632. In 2016 (51 years later) that number is now 37,192 or a mere 63 percent of 1960’s quantity. Although the report also says there has been a substantial increase (nearly 30 million, for a total of 67 million) in the “Catholic population,” the number of “former Catholic adults” has also continually, dramatically increased to the point that number shown is 30.1 million people. What about those who are “graduate-level seminarians”? In 1965 they were 8,325. In 2016 that number was less than half at 3,520.

Again, before you get ready to rip my head off, please note that these statistics are coming directly from Catholic organizations. What will they do? I can see the Pope having quite a quandary over this because of the implications of financial costs. Perhaps he will decide that priests can marry, but must be sterilized. After all, if they start producing families, think of the financial burden that will put on the church’s wealth.

The Bible speaks of apostates that would introduce an idea that people are forbidden to marry. To me, this very much applies to the celibacy requirements of Catholic priesthood. The church has ignored this scripture in the past. It will be interesting to see what develops. In the meantime, with falling numbers, I am reminded of Isaiah 65:13-14, which reads:

Therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord Jehovah says:
“Look! My servants will eat, but you will go hungry.
Look! My servants will drink, but you will go thirsty.
Look! My servants will rejoice, but you will suffer shame.
Look! My servants will shout joyfully because of the good condition of the heart,
But you will cry out because of the pain of heart
And you will wail because of a broken spirit.

Other articles about the Catholic religion:
As recently as 23 years ago, its participation in the genocide of a people. (see also)

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Earth A Testing Ground?

Is the earth just a testing ground for humans? That is what one man who calls himself a pastor would have us believe.

I am not going to post the links to the source article, only because it is riddled with pop-up ads and at least one virus that attempts to convince you your computer has a virus and then get you to call an 800 number for tech support. (Don't worry, the notice is a fake and the so-called help desk will actually put a virus on your computer to hold it hostage until you fork over money. This well-known scam has been around for at least a decade. Helpful note if this ever happens to you: That notice will lock the browser screen so you cannot do anything. Press Ctrl-Alt-Del together and then open the Task Manager. Use the Task Manager to kill the browser instance.)

That said, as near as I can tell, Rick Warren from Saddleback Church poses the questions, "Have you ever wondered why God didn't just take you to Heaven when He created you? Why did He put you on Earth? You're only here for 100 years at the most, and you're going to live for eternity in Heaven or Hell. Why didn't God just take everybody to Heaven?" His conclusion is that we need to learn "God's 'giant lesson in love' so we can be ready for heaven." Yet another overly simplistic answer to a question that glosses over (doesn't even attempt to raise) the next logical question. To me, that question would be, "Wait a minute, he didn’t make the angels go through a test before putting them directly in heaven, why is God being unfair to us?” Or how about this question, “The angels didn’t have to contend with being imperfect, why do I have to prove something as an imperfect man that is sinful in nature?” That also is completely unfair.

His perception is based on the false belief that all good people go to heaven. As I’ve reasoned here before, that is not only unscriptural but doesn’t make sense. So why did God put mankind on earth? The claim that God did so to test us actually slanders God because it assumes he expected Adam and Eve to sin and had already planned to punish them. There is nothing in scripture that indicates that. He made earth with all its creatures because he enjoys making things, is an artist, loves diversity, and so much more. He had already made the angels in heaven. Making the physical universe was another expression of his love. Making intelligent mankind to be managers and caretakers of the earth was a demonstration of God’s wisdom of order. Far from being a temporary testing ground, this was (and still is) to be our permanent home. “But wait,” you protest, “the Bible does mention some going to heaven – what about those?” Click on the first link in this paragraph to get the answer.

One thing that I didn’t mention in the main article above was that Mr. Warren’s website was linked from (Caution: Numerous pop-up ads) On that latter website was an ad asking “Want to become an ordained minister today!?” Then welcoming people to click and join. I wonder how many writers for christiantoday are these armchair preachers that have absolutely no depth or breadth of knowledge in scripture. Really, the biggest drive for both sites seems to be generating money. Even if you don’t want to buy or join anything, they will gladly take your “donation.” Reminds me of the money changers in Jesus’ day. How often have you ever seen me even allude to asking or wanting money from my audience? Answer: Never! Why? Jesus told his true followers: “You received free, give free.” (Matthew 10:8)

Addendum: I just noticed something in Rick's first question, "...why God didn't just take you to Heaven when He created you?" Does he think that God creates each of us individually? This one completely floored me. Again, if heaven were the intended destination, why have a production plant on earth making physical beings? Just skip earth altogether and make them angels. Much less work. LOL

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A Theologian Claims Jesus born in a House

Ian Paul argues that Jesus was not born in a stable. He states that most likely Mary gave birth in an upper room of a private home. He makes several seemingly logical arguments to that end – from Greek etymology to customs of the people back then.

Question: How many women do you know on the verge of childbirth that can climb stairs to an upper room? Another question. If they were in an upper room, how would the shepherds find them (vs.16)? Would the shepherds really be entering private homes, going up and down stairs, searching for this child in the middle of the night?

Verse 7 quite plainly says that the reason Joseph and Mary found themselves in a less than ideal situation because they couldn’t find a customary “lodging place.” If they were in a private home, that would seem to be a very typical “lodging place.” Ian also seems to forget that this was the time of registration, mandated by the Romans. So Bethlehem would have been bursting at the seams with travelers, thus accentuating the dire housing situation. Finally, Ian makes a point about the Greek word the English translate as “inn.” Well, here is the Greek word translated as “manger.”

Although Jehovah’s Witnesses have long held that much of the common folklore surrounding Jesus’ birth are indeed just stories, including the supposed month of December, the point of where Jesus was actually born and observed by the shepherds may be a bit more of a debatable subject. However, the Bible account definitely accentuates the idea that what Joseph and Mary found was less than optimal.

Church Ranks Hemorrhaging

I made an unsubstantiated, off-the-cuff, observation that the way other religions seem to engage their audience is through emotionalism (entertainment, singing, outbursts of “praise Jesus,” and more). Why, some 3 years later (now 2017), an article posted in December of 2014 is considered current, I don’t know. But the following did appear in the current feed in Flipboard under Apologists. It was an amalgamation of quotes compiled by Greg West. It was a few quotes from Nancy Pearcey that caught my attention for this new entry in my blog articles.

“Instead of addressing teens’ questions, most church youth groups focus on fun and food.  The goal seems to be to create emotional attachment using loud music, silly skits, slapstick games -- and pizza.  But the force of sheer emotional experience will not equip teens to address the ideas they will encounter when they leave home and face the world on their own.

“The only way teens become truly ‘prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks’ (1 Pet. 3:15) is by wrestling personally with the questions.”

But what is the effect that “fun and food” is having on the youth? The first quote in Mr. West’s list is from Brett Kunkle. Mr. Kunkle wrote: “The hemorrhaging of youth from our churches won’t stop until we get intentional about solving the problem.  On the university campus, secular college professors are very intentional about indoctrinating your kids.” Was Mr. Kunkle exaggerating by using the phrase “hemorrhaging of youth from our churches”? I don’t think he was.

So, even though I hadn’t previously cited evidence of my claim, there you have it, from a woman acknowledged by her peers as a scholar and by a man who is a noted “apologist.”

By comparison, the meetings of Jehovah’s Witnesses are designed to be first of all educational. Second, engaging for all age groups. To address the individual needs of growing youth, parents are encouraged to study with their own children on an individual basis. But just as “it takes a village to raise a child,” members within the congregation willingly and readily befriend the youth to help reinforce the training the children are receiving. There are several active examples in the congregation I’m in at present. However, so as not to embarrass anyone, I’ll mention my own daughters (gone and married for some time now). Both were taken “under wing” by sisters in the congregation we were in at the time. My wife and I saw the wisdom in this because it helped our children to see that the things we were teaching them were reasonable. We expected that our children would open up to these fellow believers and we were glad when they did. In all this, we make every effort to apply the wise admonition from God himself, “These words that I am commanding you today must be on your heart, and you must inculcate them in your sons 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.” (Deut. 6:6, 7)

Friday, March 17, 2017

Glib Trinitarian

It seems those belonging to Christendom’s ranks can’t get past the basics. If they aren’t talking about the trinity, eternal damnation, durability of the human soul, they’re moaning over the empty pews in their churches and the general apathy of their parishioners.

I’ve been monitoring a subject division (and subdivisions) of Theology within Flipboard. The specific feed I was viewing today is “The Geeky Pastor” (aka, Tim Challies). In it, he links to an article titled “Is Jesus God?” The actual author of the article is Silverio Gonzalez. Mr. Gonzalez finishes his one-paragraph introduction, cheerfully claiming: “So, here are five ways Scripture shows that Jesus is God—a distinct person of the Trinity.”

(Both the Scripture citation and the “claim” are from Mr. Gonzalez. The “focus” and “counter” are my thoughts.)

Scripture: Col.1:19
Claim: “Jesus shares the same attributes as God.”
Focus: “fullness”
Counter: Matthew 27:46. If, as the author of this article claims, Jesus is himself God, then how could Jesus “abandon” himself? Yes, indeed, Jesus is glowingly, majestically, spoken of in the prophetic words of Isaiah as: “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Additionally, when Gabriel (the angel) appeared to Mary (at the time, the future mother of Jesus), he also said that Jesus would "rule as King over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end to his Kingdom." (Luke 1:31-33). However, as my blog articles have explained, being designated a “Mighty God” doesn’t mean he is the Almighty God. Additionally, just as a son can be the “spitting image” of his father, so Jesus (in a spiritual sense) imitated his Father so accurately, that he could say, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” (John 14:9) However, that he did NOT mean he was the same person, Jesus also said, “I cannot do a single thing of my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is righteous because I seek, not my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30) Yes, Jesus does “share attributes” but then mankind is also “made in God’s image” and share in God’s attributes (to some limited degree as imperfect beings) of justice, indiscriminate love, mercy, righteousness, faithfulness, and wisdom.

Scripture: John 1:1-3
Claim: “Jesus shares in the creating [sic] work of God.” (The claim should have been "Jesus shares in the creative work of God.")
Focus: Jesus intrinsically and inextricably attached to the creative works.
Counter: The claimant disproves his own words by using the phrase “shares in.” A person cannot “share in” something that he alone is doing. Either Jesus is a discrete entity or he is not. We believe he is a discrete entity, subservient to the Father, God Almighty. We agree that Jesus did indeed work with the Father (Jehovah) in creating all other things. That doesn’t make him “THE” God. 

Scripture: Eph. 1:7–10
Claim: Jesus shares in the saving work of God
Focus: “redemption in his (Jesus’) blood.”
Counter: Acts 4:12. If Jesus hadn’t been named by God (“given under heaven”) he would have been like any other rope not secured at the other end. Read this illustration about a father and son who save people in sinking boat. Another illustration: In this real-life and well-publicized event, a capsule was lowered into a shaft to rescue trapped miners. Question, although it was the capsule that actually saved the miners, who was thanked for the rescue? It was the topside workers that diligently labored to plan and execute a rescue mission. If the rescuers hadn’t been at the other end of the cable lifting the capsule, the capsule itself would have been useless. It is the same with Jesus acting as our savior. God made the provision. Jesus’ faithful sacrifice saved us, and then he “appeared before God in our behalf.” (Hebrews 9:24)

Scripture: Matt. 28:16–18
Claim: Jesus receives worship due to God alone.
Focus: disciples did obeisance (NWT), bowed down (NWT, World English, Young's Literal), worshipped (several), did homage (Darby), adored (Douay-Rheims), prostrated themselves (Weymouth).
Counter: Notice the analysis of the Greek word used above. While “worship” seems a bit strong for something that literally translates “kiss,” given the custom of the people at the time, I understand why many translators decided on the word “worship.” However, more accurately, “adore, bow down, and prostrate” seem the right word choices. The disciples were Jews. They knew the truth in Jesus’ words to Satan (Matthew 4:10), "Go away, Satan! For it is written: 'It is Jehovah your God you must worship, and it is to him alone you must render sacred service.'" (See Deut.6:13,10:20, this article on “obeisance.”)

Claim: "Jesus shares the names of God."
Focus: The term "Alpha and Omega."
Counter: It is a common mistake that people make, confusing who is speaking in this verse. As the NWT and other translations make quite clear, it was Jehovah, the Father, speaking. Not Jesus.

Jesus is indeed our savior. God Jehovah made several prophecies about him in the Hebrew Scriptures (Reference 1, Reference 2). Jesus is absolutely the “Son of God,” but not “God, the Son.” We “bend our knee to him” in total subjection.

(Before posting this article, I tried to research who Mr. Silverio Gonzalez is. I stumbled across another article he wrote, where once again, he glosses over scriptures in a feeble attempt to prove the Trinity. He really strikes me as very glib. On this page, he is the third contributing writer listed.)

Other Trinity and Jesus identity articles: