Sunday, January 28, 2007

Your Wife Died? God May Have Done That On Purpose.

On 8 November 2004 I wrote to a friend:
I only have one chapter left to read in the book of Ezekiel, thankfully! It's a book that is so, well, meaningless, to me. But like other portions of the Bible that are similarly hard-to-understand-or-read-through, I just plod through, hoping that one of these times something will make sense.
So, apparently it takes me about two and a quarter years to read through the Bible, as I'm now back in the middle of Ezekiel again.

The book has a slightly different flavor this time around, just as I expected.

In last night's reading I came across a stunner.

Throughout the whole book YHWH has been telling Ezekiel to do this or that as a symbolic representation of the upcoming judgment on Jerusalem. Over and over again we hear warnings such as this from chapter 24:
The blood from murders
has stained the whole city;
Blood runs bold on the street stones,
with no one bothering to wash it off—
Blood out in the open to public view
to provoke my wrath,
to trigger my vengeance.

Therefore, this is what YHWH, the Master, says: "Doom to the city of murder!
I, too, will pile on the wood.
Stack the wood high,
light the match,...."

"Your encrusted filth is your filthy sex. I wanted to clean you up, but you wouldn't let me. I'll make no more attempts at cleaning you up until my anger quiets down. I, YHWH, have said it, and I'll do it. I'm not holding back. I've run out of compassion. I'm not changing my mind. You're getting exactly what's coming to you. Decree of YHWH, the Master."
And then we have this, where God speaks to Ezekiel:
YHWH's Message came to me: "Son of man, I'm about to take from you the delight of your life—a real blow, I know. But, please, no tears. Keep your grief to yourself. No public mourning. Get dressed as usual and go about your work—none of the usual funeral rituals."

I preached to the people in the morning. That evening my wife died. The next morning I did as I'd been told.

The people came to me, saying, "Tell us why you're acting like this. What does it mean, anyway?"

So I told them, "YHWH's Word came to me, saying, 'Tell the family of Israel, This is what YHWH, the Master, says: I will desecrate my Sanctuary, your proud impregnable fort, the delight of your life, your heart's desire. The children you left behind will be killed.

"'Then you'll do exactly as I've done. You'll perform none of the usual funeral rituals. You'll get dressed as usual and go about your work. No tears. But your sins will eat away at you from within and you'll groan among yourselves. Ezekiel will be your example. The way he did it is the way you'll do it.

"'When this happens you'll recognize that I am YHWH, the Master.'"

"And you, son of man: The day I take away the people's refuge, their great joy, the delight of their life, what they've most longed for, along with all their children—on that very day a survivor will arrive and tell you what happened to the city. You'll break your silence and start talking again, talking to the survivor. Again, you'll be an example for them. And they'll recognize that I am YHWH."

Preventing two cows from living the Great Bovine Dream, and sending them to their death in a sacrifice, in order to be an object lesson for thousands of years is one thing (I Samuel 6), but this taking of a man's loved wife as on object lesson seems incredibly harsh.

And yet it's somehow comforting also. It means that God is in control, not just "nature". And although a part of me rebels at a God that would be so "cruel", another part of me rises up in praise to a God who is Holy, and that part believes that the Potter has the right to do with the clay whatever He wishes, and that the appearance of unrighteousness or unfairness in such a situation is just an appearance based on the limited and mostly-blind viewpoint of us fallen humans.

And then I wonder about the paradise that Mrs. Ezekiel found herself in, and that believing-part of me realizes she was benefited from the transaction.

Then I wonder if Ezekiel had that same comfort of knowing she was in Paradise and that neither she nor he would miss out on any joy, that it was merely being postponed for something better, or if his sense of "Why me?!" was greater than his faith in God's goodness.

Just ... Wow.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Unity in Diversity?

The phrase "Unity in Diversity" is popular amongst "Christendom", referring to the idea that although the many different groups of "Christians" are divided on a multitude of doctrinal and practical issues, we are, at core, united on a basic faith in Jesus.

On the other end of the spectrum are those who point out the New Testament insistence on unity and being of one mind and not having any divisions amongst us, such as 1 Corinthians 1:10ff:
I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
It would seem safe to say that Paul would be appalled that today there are "Baptist Christians" and "Methodist Christians" and "Presbyterian Christians" and on and on.

It seems to me that the idea of "Unity in Diversity" is a cop-out; people claiming to follow Christ are too lazy to work out the differences so that unity would take precedence over diversity.

On the other hand, honest people sometimes have honest differences of understandings.

It is this "other hand" that Paul seems to tacitly recognize in his letter to the Galatians, when he recognizes the denomination of "Jewish Christians" and the denomination of "Gentile Christians", and particularly the "circumcision group" at Antioch (2:12).

These groups were divided on doctrinal issues no less than many of the doctrinal issues today.

Although Paul prefers that Christians be united, he admits that sometimes there are divisions, and these divisions do not in any way make one group less Christian than the other group.

Still, the aim should be for unity, not Unity in Diversity. Unity in Diversity is merely Plan B.

Why Did God Enact Bad Laws?

In a previous post, I pointed out how God said he enacted bad, impossible-to-follow laws because the Israelites kept rebuffing his righteousness. Here again is his conclusion from Ezekiel 20:25:
I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by.
By chance ("providence"?!), I just read much of the book of Galatians, and found a rather interesting corroboration of this.

In the first three chapters Paul is arguing with the Gentile Christians of Galatia that they are doing wrong to start following Jewish laws as part of their Christianity. He says that righteousness did not come from following the Law of Moses, but from believing in God. He quotes Genesis 15:6 which says that Abram believed God about becoming the father of innumerable descendants, resulting in that belief being credited to Abram as righteousness. Paul's point is that the righteousness of God does not come from obedience to the Law of Moses, but rather from faith. Here's the actual passage:

Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. -- Gal. 3:6-9
Paul continues, quoting from Deuteronomy 27:26 and Habakkuk. 2:4:
All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." -- Gal. 3:10-11
Paul was fully aware that no one could abide by all the little rules and regulations of the Law of Moses, and thus was cursed with having to try, and cursed by knowing he was failing at it, and cursed because he failed at it. But Jesus took that curse, making us free.
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." -- Gal. 3:13
Paul goes on to say that the Law of Moses didn't even exist until another 430 years had passed, and even then, the "new" agreement did not undo the "old" agreement:
What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. -- Gal. 3:17-18
And here's the corroboration with Ezekiel:

What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. -- Gal. 3:19
In summary, Abram and his descendants were credited with righteousness because they had faith. However, because some did not have faith unto obedience, the Law of Moses was enacted 430 years later. And as Ezekiel reports, YHWH ...
... also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by.
And wrapping this up, Paul says:
Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. -- Gal. 3:23ff
Thus we have no responsibility to that Law of Moses, which was a curse for all who tried to follow it.
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. -- Gal. 5:1

Bible Masters, Help!

I've been hunting online for scholarly opinions on the significance, if any, of the following from 1 Corinthians 16:22-24:
If anyone does not love the Lord—a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you.
My love to all of you in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The word "love" in the first sentence is the Greek "phileo", but in the third sentence, it's "agape".

Question 1: Why do none of the commentators even mention this fact?

Question 2: Obviously, Paul had different shades of meaning, or he would not have used two different words. What do those shades of meaning translate into when brought over into English?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

God Enacted Bad Laws

You may remember how in the early years of the church, when Gentiles first started becoming Christians, the first Christians, being Jews, for the most part believed that the new Gentile Christians must also convert to Judaism (essentially). A big church conference was convened, and the apostle Peter argued against requiring the Gentile Christians to follow Jewish laws.
... why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the [Gentile] disciples a yoke that neither we [Jews] nor our fathers have been able to bear? -- Acts 15:7ff
It seems clear that the Jews of Peter's day realized that the Law of Moses was an onerous law, impossible to observe completely.

Tonight, while reading from Ezekiel, I was struck to learn that God intentionally gave them a set of bad laws. The whole of chapter 20 is basically God reiterating how he'd extend his loving arm toward Israel, and Israel kept rebuffing God's advances, slapping him in the face. After so many rejections, God's response?
I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by. -- Ez. 20:25
Wow. What a concept. Centuries of living under an unworkable system because they wouldn't do right.

And by "they", I wonder if I mean "we".

And by "we", I wonder if I mean "I".

Monday, January 22, 2007

God's Intent

It was a new thought to me, when I read this passage in Ephesians 3:10:
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms....
Near as I can tell from this, God is using the church to show off his glory, not to humans, but to heavenly beings. Kind of similar to how God bragged to Satan about Job.


Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Call to the Called Out

As many people know, the word for "church" in the original Greek of the Bible's New Testament is "ekklesia". The word means "a gathering of the ones called out". The web page at has some very interesting things to say about this:
The word 'church' in the New Testament is translated from the Greek word 'ekklesia' which comes from two words 'ek' meaning 'out' and 'kaleo' meaning to 'call.'
In classical Greek "ekklesia" meant "an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly."
When the Greek city states found their governments had become too corrupt and oppressive, they would call for an ekklesia, an assembly outside the civil authority of the city. If enough people came out and refused to be under the civil authority, that government would collapse.
The ekklesia of Jesus Christ was founded and established by Jesus Christ almost 2000 years ago. It was a government established by Jesus the Christ, Yahshua, the anointed King and appointed to look after His Kingdom. Jesus was recognized by the existing civil government, Pontius Pilate. Jesus and His ekklesia, the called out, were persecuted by the apostate church of that day, the usurping authority of the remnant of Israel. He was killed and rose again and is living upon His throne.

Liddell and Scott define ekklesia as "an assembly of citizens summoned by the crier, the legislative assembly." [R. Scott, and H.G. Liddell, A Greek-English Lexicon, p. 206.] Thayer's lexicon says, "an assembly of the people convened at the public place of council for the purpose of deliberating" [J. H. Thayer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 196]. Trench gives the meaning as "the lawful assembly in a free Greek city of all those possessed of the rights of citizenship, for the transaction of public affairs" [R.C. Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament, 7th ed., pp. 1-2]. Seyffert's dictionary states, "The assembly of the people, which in Greek cities had the power of final decision in public affairs" [Oskar Seyffert, A Dictionary of Classical Antiquities, pp. 202-203].From "fully after the LORD" by Steve Flinchum

Christians have been "called out" of their existing governmental structures to form a new government. This government is "not of this world" (John 18:36) and we therefore do not defend it or grow it with guns and bombs --
For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) -- 2 Cor 10:3-4

Here's the crux of this post: Jesus established one Kingdom, one called-out group. But since the early days of the church, humans have had a tendency to splinter off into sub-groups. What many Christians may not realize is that this tendency is strongly condemned by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:20ff:

I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ."
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?
Jesus himself prayed just before his arrest that his followers "be brought to complete unity" so that the world would know that God had sent Jesus and has loved the followers even as God has loved Jesus -- John 17:23.

But Paul also recognized that there would be differences among believers, regardless of the goal of unity:
No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval. -- 1 Cor. 11:19
He also recognizes that there will be differences over details, with some folks believing the details are very significant while others don't make a big deal of it at all (see 1 Corinthians 8).

And now here's the call I'm making to the called-out ones: We're not going to overcome our divisions overnight, but we can make a start by simply hearing the call to "come out" of any kingdom not established by Jesus, and recognizing that any organization that does not bear a Biblical name is not part of the Kingdom of Jesus.

If you're a "Baptist", drop that name. The New Testament church was never referred to in the Bible as a "Baptist church".

If you're a "Methodist", drop that name.

If you're a "Lutheran", drop that name.

Same for any other name that is not Biblical.

I'm not calling you (at least today) to leave that organization, but to simply drop that name in favor of a Biblical name.

Some of the Biblical names for the church are:

* church - Acts 2:37, 12:5, 14:27, 15:4
* church of Christ - Romans 16:16
* church of God - Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 10:32
* church of the living God - 1 Timothy 3:15
* general assembly and church of the firstborn - Hebrews 12:23
* church of Jesus - Matthew 16:18
* House of God - 1 Timothy 3:15
* Kingdom of God's Dear Son - Colossians 1:13
* Kingdom of God - Colossians 4:11
* Kingdom of Christ and of God - Ephesians 5:5
* Body in Christ - Romans 12:5
* Body of Christ - 1 Corinthians 12:27
* Saints and Faithful Brethren - Colossians 1:2
* church of Gentiles - Romans 16:4
* Fellow Citizens with the Saints - Ephesians 2:19
* Household of God - Ephesians 2:19
* church of the Saints - 1 Corinthians 14:33
* Temple of God - 1 Corinthians 3:16
* Them Sanctified by Faith - Acts 26:32
* The Called Ones - Jude 1:1
* The Ones Preserved in Jesus Christ - Jude 1:1

In other words, stop being a "Baptist Christian" or a "Methodist Christian" or an "Episcopalian Christian"; just be a "Christian".

It's a modest start toward unity in the Kingdom of God, but it is a start.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Linux and Flash 9

Arg! Adobe just came out with version 9 of their Flash player for Linux. I installed it on a couple of my Debian GNU/Linux boxes and found that it is still unreliable for me. I had been using the beta version of 9, and reported this problem to one of the Flash developers. I hoped the problem would get fixed, but nope.

The problem is that while playing a Flash stream, such as a video from YouTube, the playback will often just quit at random spots in the playback. There's no way to get the playback started up again except to reload the page and start from scratch. This gets mighty painful on longer videos.

I can tell I'd like the version 9 player better than the version 7 player, if it worked! As it is, I've written a script allowing me to quickly switch between the two versions. I use 9 for most things, but switch to 7 when playing a longer video and suffering from this problem.

Bummer. Maybe the next version will work.

BTW, I never really have liked Flash. It's always felt "klunky" to me, even on Windows and Macintosh. It's just that so many web developers seem to be enamored of it that you miss out on a lot of content if you don't have it.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cells have a Zip Code

Scientists reported in an article in [the Public Library of Science] that cells have the equivalent of a Zip-code built in to their DNA that codes their location in the body. Skin cell DNA from 47 locations on a subject were compared. Three locations on the DNA were found to correspond to the location of the cell in the body, specifying whether it came from the upper or lower torso, near to or far from the center of the body, and near to or far from the surface of the body.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Truth 2

For all of my adult life I've been interested in the Creation-Evolution controversy, and have had a love and respect for science and Truth.

In recent years, I've been disillusioned by the loudest voices in the "Scientific Community", as it has become apparent to me that they are no longer interested in Truth, but rather in maintaining their Doctrine which they equate with Truth.

I also saw a little bit of that at church last night too, which saddened me.

(And in light of recent events in my personal life, I have to add the disclaimer that as much as I think I love the Truth, I now know that in my deepest core I'm blind to my own self-deceitfulness. But no matter the darkness lurking in my deepest parts that deceives me, on the surface where I do my conscious thinking, I want to have the goal of pursuing Truth.)


An interesting statement made by Rob Bell in his book "Velvet Elvis":
Truth always leads to more . . . truth. Because truth is insight into God and God is infinite and God has no boundaries or edges. So truth always has layers and depth and texture.
Earlier in the book Rob had pointed out that his book ...
has shape and volume and weight and all the stuff that makes it a thing.

It has thingness.

The book has edges and boundaries that define it as a finite thing. It is a book and nothing else.
He then contrasted that with God who is a "being with no edges or boundaries or limits. God has no thingness because there is no end to God."

I believe I've always thought of heaven/paradise as a place where we'd finally get all our questions answered. But if Rob is correct that God has no boundaries, then there can never be an end to knowledge, and we can always learn a bit more. As Rob says, truth will lead to more . . . truth.

Wow. Fascinating.

You Can't See God, but You Can See Where He's Been

There's a passage in the book of Exodus in which Moses wants to see God's glory, and God agrees to pass by Moses while shielding Moses' eyes with his hand. God then says, "I will remove my hand and you will see my back."

Rob Bell, in his book "Velvet Elvis", says:
The ancient rabbis had all sorts of things to say about this passage, but one of the most fascinating things they picked up on is the part about God's back. They argued that in the original Hebrew language, the word back should be understood as a euphemism for "where I just was".

It is as if God is saying, "The best you're going to do, the most you are capable of, is seeing where I ... just ... was."

That's the closest you are going to get.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cain the Murderer; Lamech the Defender?

My cousin has suggested a different way of looking at Lamech.

You probably recall the story of Cain and Abel, how Cain, out of anger, rose up and killed his brother, thus providing our first recorded instance of murder (Genesis chapter 4). Cain was given a sign and promised that if anyone should kill him in retaliation, he will be avenged seven times over.

A few generations later, a descendant of Cain's, Lamech, is recorded as killing someone also.
Lamech said to his wives,
"Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.

If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times."

I've always thought of Lamech as the typical bad-guy outlaw in Westerns, running rough-shod over other folks, and having a cocky "I run this town" attitude.

My cousin suggested otherwise; perhaps Lamech killed in self-defense, and he was merely saying, "A young man attacked me, and I killed him. If Cain is avenged seven-fold for murder, I should be avenged seventy-seven fold for self-defense."

Interesting thought.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Hydroplate Theory Revisited, a Short Video

I blogged earlier about the Hydroplate Theory. Here's a short (five mins?) video of an animated explanation of the Hydroplate Theory of Noah's Flood: