Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Barak vs. Barack

In a Letter to the Editor at WorldNetDaily.com is written:

The Bible has a character named "Barak" in the Book of Judges, Chapter 4, who holds a national leadership position. But because he vacillated, he lost his glory to a woman. Is that book timeless, or what?

Early in his campaign (military), you're led to believe he's going to lose it to one woman – Deborah – but in the end he loses it to another – Jael.

Earlier in Barack's campaign, many thought he was going to lose his glory to Hillary, but now it looks like he's going to lose it to Sarah.

Mike VanOuse

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Biblical Reference to the Oracle at Delphi

You may have heard of the Oracle at Delphi. Delphi was the ancient worship site of the god Apollo, and was the headquarters for a prophetess, the Oracle, of Apollo. This Oracle, in Greek, had the title "Pythia" (from the serpent Python, slain by Apollo on that site).

Acts 16:16 reports, as per Young's Literal Translation:
And it came to pass in our going on to prayer, a certain maid, having a spirit of Python, did meet us, who brought much employment to her masters by soothsaying....
So apparently this girl had the same spirit of divination that inspired the Oracle at Delphi.

Paul shortly exorcised the spirit out of her in the name of Yeshua the Messiah.

It seems to me that Acts 16 testifies that there have been real demon-inspired prophecies at various times and places in history. It's not all just "mumbo-jumbo".

Scary.

Aesop's Fables in the Bible

About five-hundred and fifty years before Yeshua was born, Aesop collected and/or created many fables, one of which was "The Fisherman and His Pipe":
There was once a fisherman who saw some fish in the sea and played on his pipe, expecting them to come out onto the land. When his hopes proved false, he took a net and used it instead, and in this way he was able to haul in a huge catch of fish. As the fish were all leaping about, the fisherman remarked, 'I say, enough of your dancing, since you refused to dance when I played my pipe for you before!'
Aesop lived for a while in the court of King Croesus of Lydia (modern-day Turkey, more or less), which under Croesus, beginning about 650 B.C., became arguably the richest and most powerful nation at that time. Within about ten years though, Croesus started becoming nervous about the growing power of the Medo-Persian empire to his East (under Cyrus, whom we read about in the Tanakh in 2 Chronicles and Ezra). So he went to the Oracles at Delphi to ask if he should attack the Medes, and the Oracles answered that if he did, he would destroy a great empire. So Croesus attacked Cyrus, and thus unwittingly began the destruction, not of Cyrus' great empire, but that of his own.
When Cyrus fought back against Croesus, he requested
of his own great empire.

When Cyrus fought back against Croesus, he requested help from the peoples neighboring Croesus, but they refused to help him. Cyrus defeated Croesus, but taking him alive, grew to respect the man.

Almost certainly, in their intimate king-to-former-king discussions, Croesus must have told Cyrus the fable he had learned from Aesop.

It wasn't long before the neighboring peoples who had refused to help Cyrus in his campaign against Croesus appealed to Cyrus to leave them alone, but his answer was that of the fisherman in Aesop's fable.
Cyrus listened attentively to their proposals, and answered them by a fable. "There was a certain piper," he said, "who was walking one day by the seaside, when he espied some fish; so he began to pipe to them, imagining they would come out to him upon the land. But as he found at last that his hope was vain, he took a net, and enclosing a great draught of fishes, drew them ashore. The fish then began to leap and dance; but the piper said, 'Cease your dancing now, as you did not choose to come and dance when I piped to you.'" Cyrus gave this answer to the Ionians and Aeolians, because, when he urged them by his messengers to revolt from Croesus, they refused; but now, when his work was done, they came to offer their allegiance. It was in anger, therefore, that he made them this reply.
- http://www.greektexts.com/library/Herodotus/Clio/eng/348.html
Nearly six hundred years later Yeshua makes reference to this same fable, having probably learned it as a child:
To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
"We played the flute for you,
and you did not dance...."
Luke 7:31-32
Jesus is warning us to dance while the music is still playing.

Bar Songs in the Bible

I can't be certain, but I believe the Bible quotes an ancient bar song:

15 On that day Tyre will be forgotten for 70 years—the life span of one king. At the end of 70 years, what the song [says] about the prostitute will happen to Tyre:

16 Pick up [your] harp,
stroll through the city,
prostitute forgotten [by men].
Play skillfully,
sing many a song,
and you will be thought of again.

-- Isaiah 23:16 (HCSB) --

Evolutionists Are Making it Look Bad for the Real Scientists

In the article End of the Neanderthal Myth it is pointed out that after decades of indoctrinating school kids into thinking Neanderthals were less evolved ancestors of humans, the experts have been forced by the evidence to admit that Neanderthals were just as human as we are today. The article then goes on to say:
Let this fact melt into the folds of your cerebrum: the Darwinians were wrong again for 150 years! – just like they have been wrong about the origin of life, the fossil record, and the genetic code. What major discovery did not hit them like a complete surprise? (the DNA code, the complexity of the cell, Mendel’s laws, the Cambrian explosion, living fossils, “convergent evolution” everywhere, to name a few examples). What prediction did they make that has not been falsified? (e.g., molecular phylogeny, ease of self-assembly of molecules into a cell, unlimited genetic variation, evolution of the horse, life on Mars, and much more – read the back issues). Their scientific theory is all vaporware and futureware. Their scientific method is just-so storytelling (02/22/2008). Their list of scientific accomplishments is a list of failures and deflated hype – a growing midden of discarded ideas, piling up and stinking to high heaven. Their scientific legacy is a ghastly record of intolerance, arrogance, destructive doctrines and crimes against humanity. How can real scientists stand being associated with these incorrigible miscreants? (miscreant, n., adj.: depraved, behaving badly, scoundrel, reprobate.) What have they done for you lately, you true scientists out there? They are destroying your good reputation.

Take Darwin and evolution and the Victorian myth of progress out of the 19th century, and what might have happened? Creationists would have looked at the robust skeletons dug up from the field of Christian hymnwriter Joachim Neander (see 10/26/2001), and interpreted them as fully human without a blink. Creationist historians would have fit them into Biblical history after Babel, looking into the Table of Nations for clues. Creationist geneticists would have recognized the propensity for exaggeration of features with inbreeding of family groups. Creationist anatomists (like Jack Cuozzo) would theorize that the skeletons represented long-lived humans, just like the Bible said existed around the time of the Flood. Creationist geologists would have not been misled by myths about humans evolving from apes over millions of years, and so would have felt no pressure to fit these humans into a long, stretched-out timeline. Creationist anthropologists would not have called it “startling” to find them using the same hunting and subsistence strategies as other tribes at Gibraltar. Who would have been more correct? Who would have felt more comfortable with the evidence? The fate of the evolutionist is to be constantly startled by facts that don’t fit their plot line.

"Heroes" in Real Life

From http://creationsafaris.com/crev200809.htm#20080924a
Got stem cells? Scientists have found a source of multipotent stem cells right on the cell walls of blood vessels. Science Daily reported that these adult stem cells apparently have the “unlimited potential to differentiate into human tissues such as bone, cartilage and muscle.” Advances in regenerative medicine are within sight with this discovery. One researcher described what may be soon be possible: “These cells can be extracted easily and painlessly from convenient sources such as fat tissue, dental pulp, umbilical cord and placental tissue, then grown in culture to large numbers and, possibly, re-injected into the patient to heal a broken bone, a failing joint or an injured muscle.” The ingredients have been right inside you all along.
Some of us techs at work tend to have lunch together at the office, and lately we've been watching the TV series "Heroes". In this show, one of the main characters, Claire, has the ability to instantly heal from almost any wound. The show's characters/narrator/storyline attribute this to Darwinian evolution, via a mutation in her genetic makeup that has essentially evolved her into the next plane of human evolution.

The blurb above seems to indicate this to be (more or less) a real possibility.

I do not attribute the capability to a mutation which has crept into our bodies over millions of years, but rather to a design built into us by our Creator. It may be that before the Fall, we had automatic regeneration capabilities (much like some lizards can regenerate their tails, etc), and that after the Fall we mutated that ability out of ourselves, with the effect becoming even more pronounced in the centuries after the Flood when the rate of such harmful mutations may have increased with massive changes in our environment resulting from that Flood.

So far, we've seen lots of evidence of "downward evolutionary" changes (AIDs, anyone?), but we've seen very scattered and questionable (if any, bona fide,) "upward evolutionary" changes. The mass media, such as "Heroes", tries to indoctrinate us with the idea that evolution is an upward process ("we're improving"), but I think the evidence better supports the idea that evolution (so-called) is a downward process ("we're degrading"). It's only our knowledge/technology that has allowed us in recent decades to recoup some of what we've lost over the millenia.

I'm excited by the idea that God has designed us with the ability to regenerate our health, and that even though the mechanism may have become broken, there's still enough pieces left intact that we might can jury-rig the mechanism to make our lives better. Praise Yah!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

If You Love Me, You Will Keep My Commandments

John 14:15 (NKJV):
If you love Me, keep My commandments.
All my life I have understood this passage to mean that we love Jesus by keeping his commandments.

But I now believe that's in reverse-order.

If we love Jesus, obedience will naturally follow.

There was a woman who had two suitors. She wanted to go see a certain chick-flick on Friday night. One suitor wanted to take her to the movies, but preferred that they see a guy-film instead, but reluctantly conceded to take her to the chick-flick. The other suitor, although enjoying guy-films much better than chick-flicks, never even thought of the possibility of seeing a different film, because his desire was to make the woman happy, and he anxiously jumped at the chance to take the lady to see her chick-flick.

Both men "kept her commandments", but which one loved her?

So it is with our relationship to Jesus.

We've focused too much on "keeping the commands" and too little on having affection for the Master.

Do we love our ability to "prove our love for the Master", or do we love our Master? If the latter, then why so much emphasis on keeping the commands and so little emphasis on having affection for the command-giver?

I think it's because we've defined "love" to be "agape", which seeks the good of the other person regardless of how we feel - rather than as "desire", which seeks the good of the other person because of how we feel.

Maybe we need to learn to feel.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Stupid Is ...

I have a new friend on Facebook, and I found her comment about the new Facebook quite amusing, enough so to share:
I think the "new facebook" is stupider than stupidity filled with stupid cream, and smothered in stupid sauce.
If only I could articulate my feelings and thoughts as well ....

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

When Will Jesus Return?

I love this comment in a Letter to the Editor over at World Net Daily:

Regarding your story and DVD offer: "Want to know day of Jesus' return to Earth?" – when the apostles asked Jesus the actual day of his return, He replied, "Even the Son of Man does not know the day. You'll have to check with a media evangelist."

Art Wojtowicz

Sunday, September 14, 2008

First-Century Denominations

I read an article recently that made the following statement:
Division was condemned, and denominations did not exist in the time of the apostles.
The first clause of that statement is correct. For example, in 1 Corinthians 1:10, the apostle Paul wrote:
Now I urge you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, that there be no divisions among you, and that you be united with the same understanding and the same conviction.
But the second clause is incorrect.

As you may recall from previous posts, such as this one, and this one, the church was originally completely Jewish, and those Jews still kept the Mosaic Law. You can see this pretty clearly in Acts 15:5 which says:
But some of the believers from the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "It is necessary to circumcise them and to command them to keep the law of Moses!"
Likewise Acts 21:20ff which says:
When they heard it, they glorified God and said, "You see, brother [Paul], how many thousands of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the law. But they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to abandon Moses, by telling them not to circumcise their children or to walk in our customs. So what is to be done? They will certainly hear that you've come. Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have obligated themselves with a vow. Take these men, purify yourself along with them, and pay for them to get their heads shaved. Then everyone will know that what they were told about you amounts to nothing, but that you yourself are also careful about observing the law.

...

Then the next day, Paul [followed their advice].
Notice that we have Jewish Christians who are "zealous for the law" and are upset that Paul might be teaching the Jews living outside Judea that they don't have to follow the law, but that they're mistaken: Paul is not teaching this, and in fact, Paul himself keeps the law. It's hard for us to accept this, believing that keeping the Law is inconsistent with being a Christian, but there it is in the inspired black-and-white of the text.

Notice also that these Law-keeping Jews don't object to the Gentile believers not keeping the Law, but they are adamant that the Jewish believers should continue keeping the Law. (Later on, Paul makes it clear that keeping the Law is a non-issue; what's important is that one does not seek to be justified by keeping the Law.)

So the inspired record makes it clear that there were two "denominations" of Christianity in the first century during the lifetimes of the apostles: a Jewish, Law-keeping "denomination", and a Gentile, non-Law-keeping "denomination".

Call them "splinter-groups", "sects", "branches" or whatever other term you wish to use, but the fact remains, there were at least two denominations in the first-century church.

That does not justify the modern-day multiplicity of denominations we see in our world; as mentioned, the New Testament does indeed condemn division.

However, if we interpret Paul's condemnation of division to mean that there should be no differences in our outward forms, then Paul was condemning himself and the leaders of the church in Jerusalem and the compromise made by the Jerusalem church as recorded in Acts 15. Perhaps instead we should interpret Paul's condemnation of division to mean that we should learn to get along with each other even if some of our outward forms differ, like the Jewish and Gentile Christians got along even though one group kept the Torah and the other did not.

Of course the question is then raised, "Where do we draw the line?"

The historical answer since the early days of the Restoration Movement has been, "In essentials unity, in opinions liberty, and in all things love."

Now if we could just agree on what are "the essentials" and what are "the opinions". But that's a whole 'nuther issue.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Principles

If you refuse to take a stand for your principles, then what you have are not principles at all.

Warning: Violent Subject Matter

When speaking of the approaching judgment on Jerusalem (primarily, at least), Jesus said in Matt. 24:19:
Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days!
I've always thought this warning was due to the difficulty of travel, especially in a time of approaching war. And I'm sure that's true. But there may also be a hint of even darker judgment. I noticed as I was reading 2 Kings 15. Verse 16 says:
At that time, [starting] from Tirzah, Menahem attacked Tiphsah, all who were in it, and its territory. Because they wouldn't surrender, he attacked [it and] ripped open all the pregnant women.
Reading that phrase reminded me of Jesus' warning in Matt. 24, and I recalled seeing that phrase elsewhere in my Tanakh ("Old Testament") reading. Doing a quick google on the phrase, I learned that it's more common in the Tanakh than I had thought, and in history in general, with the cruel barbarism of the ancient Assyrians getting special mention. One site noted that the phrase as used in the Tanakh was somewhat formulaic, indicating that this phrase might have been used as a code phrase for barbaric cruelty in general. Bashing small children against rocks was also common during these violent attacks.

My googling also found a recent example, in which Muslims in 2004 slaughtered 600 Christians, burning and mutilating them, and ripping open pregnant women.

It just struck me that since Jesus was intimately familiar with the Tanahk, these barbaric practices may have been a nuance in his meaning when he gave the above-mentioned warning. We (or at least "I") tend to read this "Day of Judgment" passage rather academically, without absorbing the horror inherent in it; this suggestion of violence against pregnant women highlights to me more of the flavor of the passage that I suspect Jesus intended to deliver.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Restoring WHICH New Testament Church?

In my last post, I talked about restoring the first century church. Someone reminded me that this goal is short-sighted, because first you have to figure out which first-century church you plan to restore:

- the Jewish, Mosaic-Law-keeping church of the early years;

- the mixed Jewish/Gentile church of the middle of the century;

- or the Gentile church of the later part of the century.

I've written more on this here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Restoring the New Testament Church

I recently heard a speaker make the point that the Church of Christ does not seek to be a denomination, doing its own thing, but rather seeks to restore the first century church.

My mental process responded, "Uh, yeah, right; that's not the case here," because I was thinking about how very different we are from the first-century church.

We have our own buildings - Acts 2:46; 9:2; 19:8-10; 1 Cor. 1:11; 16:19; 18:26; Col. 4:15; etc

We never kneel to pray - Luke 22:41; Acts 20:36; 21:5; Eph. 3:14; etc

We never raise our hands in prayer - 1 Kings 8:22; Neh. 8:6; Ps. 28:2; 63:4; 134:2; Luke 24:50; 1 Tim. 2:8; etc

We never look up toward heaven when we pray - Ps. 123:1; John 17:1

We never lie prostrate in prayer - Neh. 8:6; Matt. 26:39

We don't meet daily - Acts 2:46

We don't live more-or-less communistically (okay, that idea seems to have faded pretty rapidly after the first couple of decades) - Acts 2:44; 4:32-37

We don't have an emphasis on using our funds to help the poor but rather on our "spiritual work" (which usually translates into paying the preacher and paying for building materials -- nothing wrong with these things; I'm just noting the emphasis) - Rom. 12:13; 1 Cor. 16:1-2ff; 2 Cor. 8:2-4, 13-15; 2 Cor. 9:9-12; Eph. 4:28; 1 Tim. 6:17-19; Heb. 13:16; James 2:15-16; 5:1-5; 1 John 3:11,16-17; 3 John 1:5-8

We quench any idea of God's Spirit being active in Today's world; we thus not only fail to "eagerly desire spiritual gifts", but condemn such pursuit - 1 Cor. 14:1,5a,39; 1 Thess. 5:19

We have no idea of the Jewishness of our roots.

We've broken the Lord's Supper out of the Love Feast and have left the Love Feast behind (granted, because it was abused, but still...) - Mark 14:22ff; 1 Cor. 11:20ff; Jude 1:12

I'm sure there are lots of ways in which we've failed to restore New Testament Christianity, plenty of which I am still blind to, I'm sure, but what bothers me is that most of our brotherhood seems to believe we've been successful in our restoration efforts and now just need to maintain what we've accomplished rather than pushing on. What bothers me most is the criticism leveled at those who seek to implement some of these first-century ways of doing things, because they don't fit what we've already determined to be the "correct" way of doing things.

Many people now fight tooth-and-nail to defend the church they knew in the 1950s, having subconsciously equated it to the first-century church. I believe they're focusing on the wrong century.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

One Size Does Not Fit All

His favorite topics are all about God and Creation.... His eyes light up and he gets this smile that curls at the corners of his lips, and suddenly, like a little kid, the tiredness melts away and he becomes ageless and hardly able to contain himself. But at the same time, Mack is not very religious. He seems to have a love/hate relationship with Religion, and maybe even with the God that he suspects is brooding, distant, and aloof. ... [H]e is not too comfortable [at church].

Mack has been married to Nan for just more than thirty-three mostly happy years. He says she saved his life and paid a high price to do it. ... Common sense comes so naturally to Nan that she can't even see it for the gift it is.

...

While Mack's relationship with God is wide, Nan's is deep.
Foreward to "The Shack", William P. Young.

Once again, I'm struck that relationships with God do not necessarily have to look exactly like the relationship I have with God.

Monday, September 01, 2008

HALT!

A member of an Al-Anon group shared the following with me recently, and I believe it might have value as a self-diagnostic on occasion, to help Christians live up to the ideal of treating the other person as we would like to be treated.

HALT!
Are you:
Hungry?
Angry?
Lonely?
Tired?

If "yes" to even one of these questions, be aware that you may respond inappropriately to another child of God. Stop and Think!