Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Attack of the Killer Snow Dog

It was the first snow of 2006, and when I hunkered closer to the ground to snap a picture of 'Reo, he thought that meant I wanted him to jump into my arms. Just as I snapped, he left the ground, and it turned out to look like a vicious attack.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

God's Social Justice Scheme

Much of my life I've heard, particularly from non-believers, that the God of the Old Testament is angry and jealous and vengeful and cruel, whereas the God of the New Testament is merciful and loving and forgiving.

Of course, most believers, myself included, find that to be an inaccurate claim.

This time 'round of reading the Old Testament (and I'm really beginning to not like that phrase to refer to that section of the Bible) I have been stunned to realize just how much of God's emphasis in it is on social justice. This snippet from Isaiah 58 is a great example:

The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won't get your prayers off the ground.

This is the kind of fast day I'm after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.

What I'm interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.

The Ethiopian Eunuch

You may remember the story of the Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts chapter 8.

In the very earliest days of the church, Philip, the evangelist, met with an eunuch who had traveled to Jerusalem to worship. The eunuch was heading back to Ethiopia, Africa, reading from the book of Isaiah. He must have been self-consciously aware that as an eunuch he was not "good enough" to serve as a priest (Leviticus 21:20). He also probably felt pretty much like a societal outcast anyway because of the stigma attached to being an eunuch. But the eunuch wasn't thinking of these things at the time he was reading from Isaiah, as the passage he was reading was this passage:
He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before the shearer is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
In his humiliation he was deprived of justice.
Who can speak of his descendants?
For his life was taken from the earth.
According to Acts,
Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.
What I discovered last night, is that if they read just three more chapters from this passage in Isaiah 53, the eunuch would have found this little gem in chapter 56:
Do what's right and do it in the right way,
For salvation is just around the corner,


Make sure no outsider who now follows God
ever has occasion to say, 'God put me in second-class.
I don't really belong.'
And make sure no physically mutilated person
is ever made to think, 'I'm damaged goods.
I don't really belong.'

for God says:

"To the mutilated who keep my Sabbaths
and choose what delights me
and keep a firm grip on my covenant,
I'll provide them an honored place
in my family and within my city,
even more honored than that of sons and daughters.
I'll confer permanent honors on them
that will never be revoked."

Here comes Philip saying, "that time is at hand; no need for you to worry anymore about being an eunuch. You are just as acceptable to God as any uber-priest, because of what Jesus has done."

No wonder the eunuch "went on his way rejoicing".

A Message to Jews

To my fellow sons and daughters of Adam, chosen by God:

Take note of your holy scripture, from these snippets starting in Isaiah 48 (The Message):
And now listen to this, family of Jacob,
you who are called by the name Israel:
God is talking to you.
you who use God's name to back up your promises
and pray to the God of Israel?
But do you mean it?
Do you live like it?
And He wants you to live as a God-fearer, not just act like one.
I know you're a bunch of hardheads,
obstinate and flint-faced,
So I got a running start and began telling you
what was going on before it even happened.
He wants you to be able to see His work in the world, so He's telling you beforehand what it will look like.
This isn't a variation on the same old thing.
This is new, brand-new,
something you'd never guess or dream up.
And it's unique.
You've never been good listeners to me.
You have a history of ignoring me,
But He still expects you to miss the significance of it.
Get out of Babylon! Run from the Babylonians!
Shout the news. Broadcast it.
Let the world know, the whole world.
Tell them, "God redeemed his dear servant Jacob!"
First off, He's going to get you out of Babylonian Captivity, which He has already done.
God put me to work from the day I was born.
The moment I entered the world he named me.
He gave me speech that would cut and penetrate.
He kept his hand on me to protect me.
He made me his straight arrow
and hid me in his quiver.
He said to me, "You're my dear servant,
Israel, through whom I'll shine."
Next, He's going to use you as a mirror of His glory.
this God who took me in hand
from the moment of birth to be his servant,
To bring Jacob back home to him,
to set a reunion for Israel—
And He will raise up a specific Servant to bring you back to His good graces.

But, here's the new thing He mentioned earlier:
He says, "But that's not a big enough job for my servant—
just to recover the tribes of Jacob,
merely to round up the strays of Israel.
I'm setting you up as a light for the nations
so that my salvation becomes global!"
Wow. God's Servant will not merely save you; he'll save the Goyim also!
But Zion said, "I don't get it. God has left me.
My Master has forgotten I even exist."
But when it happens, you still won't "get it".
But even if mothers forget,
I'd never forget you—never.
Look, I've written your names on the backs of my hands.
The walls you're rebuilding are never out of my sight.
But God remains faithful to you.
Listen to me, all you who are serious about right living and committed to seeking God.
Ponder the rock from which you were cut,
the quarry from which you were dug.
Yes, ponder Abraham, your father,
and Sarah, who bore you.
Think of it! One solitary man when I called him,
but once I blessed him, he multiplied.
Likewise I, God, will comfort Zion,
comfort all her mounds of ruins.
Abraham was but one man, but from him came an entire nation.

Israel is but one nation, but from her comes an entire world of salvation.
Pay attention, my people.
Listen to me, nations.
Revelation flows from me.
My decisions light up the world.
My deliverance arrives on the run,
my salvation right on time.
I'll bring justice to the peoples.
Even faraway islands will look to me
and take hope in my saving power.
Again, God's salvation is not for the Jews only, but also for the Gentiles. And it will come through his Servant:
Just watch my servant blossom!
Exalted, tall, head and shoulders above the crowd!
But he didn't begin that way.
At first everyone was appalled.
He didn't even look human—
a ruined face, disfigured past recognition.
Nations all over the world will be in awe, taken aback,
kings shocked into silence when they see him.
For what was unheard of they'll see with their own eyes,
what was unthinkable they'll have right before them."
You've been watching for a Servant who is tall and exalted; you've failed to watch for one that has a ruined face and is disfigured. And what happens will be unthinkable (which should be a warning that you'll resist believing in it).
Who would have thought God's saving power would look like this?
God's salvation won't be what you expect.

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
that God was punishing him for his own failures.

You won't recognize God's Servant, because he won't look like what you expect. And when God's Servant suffers, you'll think it's his own fault.

But it was our sins that did that to him,
that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
on him, on him.

But this Servant will function as an atoning sacrifice. I daresay few modern Jews today understand this aspect of the Messiah, since burnt sacrifices seem to be more of an historical oddity than a modern reality (but I'm speaking as a Gentile here; I may not know what I'm talking about).

He was beaten, he was tortured,
but he didn't say a word.
Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
and like a sheep being sheared,
he took it all in silence.
Justice miscarried, and he was led off—
and did anyone really know what was happening?
He died without a thought for his own welfare,
beaten bloody for the sins of my people.
They buried him with the wicked,
threw him in a grave with a rich man,
Even though he'd never hurt a soul
or said one word that wasn't true.

Still, it's what God had in mind all along,
to crush him with pain.
The plan was that he give himself as an offering for sin
so that he'd see life come from it—life, life, and more life.
And God's plan will deeply prosper through him.

This suffering servant will die. He'll be buried. But yet ....

Out of that terrible travail of soul,
he'll see that it's worth it and be glad he did it.
Through what he experienced, my righteous one, my servant,
will make many "righteous ones,"
as he himself carries the burden of their sins.
Therefore I'll reward him extravagantly—
the best of everything, the highest honors—
Because he looked death in the face and didn't flinch,
because he embraced the company of the lowest.
He took on his own shoulders the sin of the many,
he took up the cause of all the black sheep.

This sacrifice will result in a great salvation, and the dead servant will see it.

This sounds to me very much like something new, like something unexpected.

Question: Have you ever been taught that your Messiah would be un-recognized and die a horrible death? Because if not, your teaching has not been scriptural, according to Isaiah.

Have you ever considered the possibility that you've been taught wrong about the Messiah, and therefore may have missed him?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Jehovah? Yahweh? LORD? What?!

In the comments to a previous post, I mentioned that the term "Jehovah" is a man-made term and we have no business using it. I was directed to an article that convinced me to retract that claim, at least temporarily, until further evidence swayed me one way or the other. The following is my (slightly edited) reply to that exchange.

Well, I've done further research, and my conclusion is that "Jehovah" is indeed a man-made term.

The clinching evidence is that the Tetragrammaton is not always marked in the Hebrew text with the vowels for "Lord". When it is in conjunction with the actual word "Lord", the Tetragrammaton is marked with the vowels for "God", so that the audio reader would render the phrase "Lord God" rather than "Lord Lord". If the Name was truly "Jehovah", the reader could simply read the text as written, "Lord Jehovah", and there would be no need to use the vowel markings for "God".

An interesting side note is that I had a dialog with a Jewish scholar who assured me that "Jehovah" is not the correct term. He claimed that a few of the Jewish elite, himself included, such as the members of the Sanhedrin, know the actual pronunciation of the Name, but are forbidden from revealing it to the world at large. (Yeah, whatever.) He also assured me that "Yahweh" was not the correct pronunciation either.

In talking to him I found it fascinating that I have more respect for his written scriptures than he does, as he has more respect for the interpretation of those scriptures as given by the Oral Law, as delivered by the Sanhedrin, regardless of all the warnings in the Torah against adding to or taking from the written word. His only substantial argument was to appeal to something Jesus said (ironic, ain't it, as he's no Jesus-follower?). He pointed out that Jesus said in Matt 23:2 that because the "Sanhedrin" sits in the Seat of Moses we should obey them. But it seems pretty clear to me from the context that whatever Jesus meant by this statement, he did not mean for us to elevate the traditions of the Sanhedrin over the written word of God.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Efficacy of Prayer?

Today was a half-day at work, being as everyone was allowed off the afternoon to begin the Thanksgiving Holidays.

I hate being sick on Holidays! If I'm gonna be sick, why must it be on a day I already have off? Arg!

Just before leaving work to go home, I started wondering if that uneasy feeling in my gut was a portent of something worse. As I drove home, I actually thought about praying to God that I don't get sick, but I didn't want to treat God like Santa Claus, so I intentionally did not.

By the time I got home, I was not feeling well at all. I went straight to bed, and slept fitfully for a couple of hours, then spent the next six hours in very much pain. I was absolutely miserable. But Jesus went through much worse; what's a bit of discomfort in light of his sufferings?

But finally, I broke down and started crying out to Jesus and to YHWH for pain relief. I cried out and whimpered and begged and cried. All day long, the problem in my gut had just settled mid-range, and would go neither up nor down. I had no sensation of nausea or bathroom needs; I just had some blockage in my gut that was near intolerable. Within about ten minutes of my crying out to Jesus, all of a sudden I needed a vomit bucket. I hate vomiting, mostly 'cause it takes thirty minutes of nasty feeling to get the process started, and then there's the burning throat and nose, and the bad taste, etc. But this time, the need came on suddenly, and within two minutes I was hurling, Baby, yeah! And it was relatively easy, quick, and no burn or bad taste!

A couple of minutes after that, I felt so much better. I'm not well, but I feel so much better. I have to give credit to Jesus / YHWH for my relief; I was miserable for hours until I prayed, and then shortly after starting to pray, God granted me much relief.

So often, prayer seems to not work for me, but this event helps to re-emphasize that Jesus does hear and act on our prayers.

I want to use this venue to publicly praise Jesus and give him credit for my improvement. Thank you, Jesus! Thank you YHWH! Thank you Spirit!

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Fruit of the Spirit

A wise friend of mine wrote in regard to Gal. 5:22-23:
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”.

This is a description of a Christian’s character. This is not about Sunday and Wednesday. This is about how we behave and respond and think every day. At home, at work, at the grocery store, even in traffic.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

This Appeals to Me Greatly

For some time now I've been pulled toward the idea of switching careers, to take up the study of the inner workings of microbiology. I'm fascinated by the machinery, by the incredible design of the workings in living cells. This article points up the fact that so much of modern-day "science" is wasted on trying to prove we're just random accidents of nature, when with a re-focusing of our efforts, we could be harnessing sophisticated designs already in existence for solving world hunger and poverty. If you're at all interested, take a quick look-see:

I'm Trying to Build a House, but the City Regs Keep Getting in the Way

Solomon puts it in an interesting way, according to the New American Standard Bible:
Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
But it is swept away by injustice.
Prov. 13:23

Friday, November 17, 2006

Textorize Me

I plugged the address of this picture

from this blog into this web page:

and got this result, made from text:


The Basics of Life

The answer's simple:
Live right,
speak the truth,
despise exploitation,
refuse bribes,
reject violence,
avoid evil amusements.
This is how you raise your standard of living!
A safe and stable way to live.
A nourishing, satisfying way to live.

Isaiah 33:15-16 "The Message"

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Giving Thanks at Meals

You know how it's common practice to give thanks before a meal? I found it interesting that Deuteronomy 8:10 indicates that the thanks should be after the meal:
When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise YHWH your God for the good land he has given you.

Ever noticed how often someone is asked to give thanks for a meal, and they pray about everything under the sun, and never actually get around to thanking God for the meal?


Ever noticed how it's common courtesy to say "thank you" to someone who holds open the door for you, but it would be bordering on insanity to stand there and thank the door-holder for being a good citizen and holding a job to support his family and refraining from theft and telling him how nicely dressed he is and how you'd like it if everyone were as courteous as he and would it be possible for him to hold open the door for the little old lady coming down the street, and and and. This is kind of the way I view giving thanks for a meal. Why can't we just say, "Thanks, God, for this meal; we appreciate it", instead of turning it into a long-winded cover-all-the-bases prayer?

Just some thoughts....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain

It's not exactly the Lord's name, and I don't reckon I'd actually say it's "in vain", but my mind can't help but be drawn to the concept when I listen to some prayers.

This past Sunday, I counted the number of "Father"s in two different prayers, as in "Dear Father ... blah blah blah, and, Father, yada yada yada...".

One prayer had twenty-one "Father"s, and the other had twenty.

If I'm in a three-minute conversation with a friend, I most assuredly don't say that friend's name twenty times. To do so would seem, well, mocking, or something. Definitely odd.

So why do it when we pray?

Just curious. Comments are welcome.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Eula Myrtle (McElroy) West

30 Jan 1903 -- 4 Nov 2006

Born in Godley, Johnson County, Texas (USA) on 30 January 1903, to Jefferson Davis McElroy and Marnevia Delilah ("Minerva Della") Gilliland McElroy.

Married William Earl West 27 December 1921 in Cleburne, Johnson County, Texas.

James Ray West (deceased, Tennessee).
Oleta (West) Jackson (Abilene, Taylor County, Texas).
Emmet Aldon West (Abilene, Taylor County, Texas).
Roger Lynn West (Richland Hills, Tarrant County, Texas)

Died at age 103, 4 Nov 2006, in Richland Hills, Tarrant County, Texas.