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The Oldest Books in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible

As anyone with even a cursory familiarity with the Judeo-Christian Bible knows, that book is composed of a collection of writings which were...

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost!

The title of this post was borrowed from a poem by my favorite author, J.R.R. Tolkien. The poem is about how appearances can sometimes be deceptive. It underscores how we frequently fail to properly evaluate the worth of other people - that our perception of our neighbor is often flawed.

We see someone who questions old standards and norms as straying from THE truth. We see those who have stopped attending our church or believing the way that we believe as fallen. However, as the title of this post indicates, that is not always the case.

Maybe that's why Jesus Christ said that his followers shouldn't be judging each other? After all, don't those restless seekers sometimes stumble upon great discoveries that end up enriching the lives of all of us? Doesn't God sometimes "exalt him that is low and abase him that is high?" What did Jesus mean when he said that "many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first?"

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Put those queers to death!

An anonymous commentator over at Banned by HWA posted the following opinion the other day (13 June 2019):

"It's as if you're suggesting that because the Christian sermon upholds the Biblical laws re the death penalty for homosexuals that the sermon giver and the views espoused should be viewed as "extremist" and "fanatical" and by implication "wrong" and "evil."
According to whom? An atheist? A secularist? An anti-Christian? Well that's only to be expected.
All belief systems or ideologies have a standard (or law) that outlines what is right and what is wrong and will discriminate accordingly between those who follow what is right who will be rewarded and those who follow what is wrong who will be punished (whether Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Secularism, Communism, etc).
More so the fact is the death penalty has been applied for all manner of "crimes" throughout history depending on whatever the "law" is that is upheld in accordance with whatever belief system or ideology existent at the time and place of question.
So why would it be "extreme" or "wrong" for a Christian who believes in the Biblical laws upholding the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and the death penalty for LGTBism and wants such laws to be in force where he lives when it's no different to adherents of other belief systems and ideologies advocating the same wherever they live." (original spelling and structure maintained)

It is hard to believe that such views still find expression and acceptance among some "Christians." Such views are characterized as extremist, fanatical, wrong and evil because they do not represent the views of a majority of Christians, Jews, Muslims, Secular Humanists or Atheists in the Western World. Moreover, those who actually believe that LGTB folks should be put to death by the state based on Biblical principles have some serious inconsistencies in logic to address.

As all sinning (or breaking God's laws) incurs the death penalty, why does this particular behavior justify special treatment? Are these people advocating that Sabbath breakers and insubordinate children be executed? If not, why - the Bible does? And, other than the nation of Israel, where in the Bible does it say that the secular authority is responsible for enforcing the punishments which God has prescribed for breaking "His" laws? Isn't that what the Pharisees and Sadducees did with Jesus Christ when they went before their Roman overlords? Doesn't the Bible clearly delineate different responsibilities for the individual Christian and corporate Church vs the secular state? Is Caesar responsible for collecting offerings and taxes? Does Scripture assign a role for Caesar in Church governance or the disposition and enforcement of Church doctrine? Doesn't the state designate its own laws and penalties relative to public morality? Are the state's laws and procedures relative to things like marriage, divorce and child rearing consistent with Scriptural/Christian teachings in those areas?

No, this commentator (and all who share his/her views) is clearly out there! Most of us can't even imagine a world where folks are put to death for various moral infractions. Indeed, for most of us, such a prospect sounds down right scary!    

Friday, June 7, 2019

What does it mean to EVANGELIZE?

If you Google the term "evangelize," you will see it defined in a variety of ways by a number of different sources. Here are a few of those official definitions: To "convert or seek to convert (someone) to Christianity...preach the Christian gospel," "preach any ideology to those who have not yet been converted to it...be enthusiastic about something, and to attempt to share that enthusiasm with others; to promote" -Wiktionary, "talk about how good you think something is" -Cambridge Dictionary, "promulgate or promote something enthusiastically" -The Free Dictionary, etc.

Hence, although we normally associate the term with religious activities, we can readily see how it could be applied to a whole host of activities in other spheres. Atheists, capitalists, communists, political parties and business leaders are quite capable of evangelizing those who do not belong to their ranks.

In the sense that this blog enthusiastically promotes the notion of having a more expansive view of God, I suppose one could even say that Miller Jones is evangelizing! Nevertheless, it should also be apparent to those who are familiar with my posts that I have not formed my own church, group or organization. In other words, I'm definitely NOT seeking to have anyone join a church. Likewise, I've never sought a personal following or attempted to derive any personal benefit from my activities. Moreover, the way that I question things should make it plain that I haven't sought to promote a particular answer/ideology. And, finally, I'm not very interested in having others adopt my point of view - I'm much more interested in provoking thought and tolerance for the thinking of others.  

Saturday, June 1, 2019

A SABBATH FOR ALL CHRISTIANS

We find the first mention of the Sabbath in the second chapter of Genesis, the book of beginnings. After recounting how God created everything in six days in the first chapter, we read: "Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made." -Genesis 2:1-3, KJV, emphasis mine

In reading these verses, we immediately notice that the Sabbath is inextricably linked to the cessation of God's work and the act of resting. Likewise, we find that this notion is further reinforced when God introduces the Sabbath to the Israelites in the sixteenth chapter of Exodus. After giving them manna to eat, we read there: "And he [Moses] said unto them, This is that which the Lord hath said, To morrow is the rest of the holy sabbath unto the Lord: bake that which ye will bake to day, and seethe that ye will seethe; and that which remaineth over lay up for you to be kept until the morning. And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein. And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none. And it came to pass, that there went out some of the people on the seventh day for to gather, and they found none. And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws? See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day. So the people rested on the seventh day." -Exodus 16:23-30, KJV, emphasis mine

Then, when God gave Moses the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, we find again that element of ending work and resting. We read there: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." - Exodus 20:8-11, KJV, emphasis mine

Indeed, this notion of resting from one's work on the Sabbath is apparent throughout the writings of the Old Testament. But did this notion carry over to the New Testament? Is there any application of this principle for Christians?

We know that the earliest Christian churches were entirely Jewish, and that they continued to observe the Jewish Sabbath. However, as Christianity began to spread to Gentile populations who didn't have any personal knowledge of the Sabbath or any tradition of observing it, the relevance of the Sabbath declined rapidly as Jewish Christians became a minority within the church. And this is the situation that was taken up by the anonymous author of the epistle to the Hebrews.

After admonishing his audience to "consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus" (Hebrews 3:1, KJV), the author instructs them to take a look at the experience of the Hebrews as they approached the Promised land (same chapter). He admonishes them not to follow their example of disbelief and stubbornness and reminds them that God did not permit that generation to enter into his rest (same chapter). In other words, the author is invoking the old notion of resting from work.

In the following chapter, the author summarizes the concept for his Christian audience and hearkens back to something that Jesus Christ had said during his earthly ministry. We read there: "Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. For he spake in a certain place of the seventh day on this wise, And God did rest the seventh day from all his works. And in this place again, If they shall enter into my rest. Seeing therefore it remaineth that some must enter therein, and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief: Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time; as it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts. For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." - Hebrews 4:1-11, KJV, emphasis mine

In the gospel according to Matthew, we read that Christ issued an invitation to the weary sea of humanity that stood before him. He said: "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." -Matthew 11:28-30, KJV, emphasis mine

This then is the notion of the Sabbath that is still relevant to all Christians: We must stop doing our own works and rest in Christ - We must lay down our own burdens and replace them with his featherlight mantle - We must cease to rely on our own understanding and learn of him!