Thursday, January 7, 2016

Daniel, Advent and the Second Christmas


After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.  When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.  “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied...

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.  He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.  On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route...

When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.


I can write a Christmas blog post after December 25th if I want to because in the Russian Orthodox church, today IS Christmas.  Perhaps Santa had the church spread out the celebration so as to have more time to go down chimneys.

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Magi, a.k.a. "Wise men."  Most folks in the church know very little about these guys except for what they see on nativity scenes...which are almost always dead wrong.

We get the idea that there were only three of them because of the three gifts that they brought.  We make the mistake of thinking they showed up on christmas day, too.

So who were they?

Most scholars believe that these folks were Zoroastrian scholars from the Persian empire.  They studied astrology and the stars. (That was what passed for science back in the day.) Whatever it was that they read in the sky, told them that a prophecy had been fulfilled in the neighboring empire. (That would be Rome, their enemy.) So off they went.

Odds are that there were quite a few of them, along with their body guards and all the servants guiding the camel train.  So, most likely a sizable caravan.  Also, it would appear that they didn't get to where they needed to get for about two years.  Hence Herod having all of the boys two and under in Bethlehem killed.

Put yourself in Herod's shoes.  You're the laky king of a hostile, occupying power, who bought yourself into that position.  A bunch of the leading scholars from a hostile empire located roughly 50 miles away show up at your palace asking you, the king, where the real king was just born.  Solution?  Killing spree.

BTW: This event was never recorded by other historians at the time.  Only Matthew makes mention of it.  Not to fret, Herod was such a murderous, paranoid creep that it probably wasn't worth the mention.  After all, he's the guy that had his own, very popular nephew, strangled upon his death so that people would actually mourn.

Also, Bethlehem was a tiny town, so probably not all that many murders occurred...thankfully.

Makes you wonder what family reunions were like at the Herods.

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So what does any of this have to do with the Prophet Daniel?

Well, Daniel lived sometime in the 500s BC.  He must have been a child of some privilege because as a part of the exiles taken into captivity, he and his friends were put into the service of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon.

BTW: Many scholars date the book of Daniel at a much later date, i.e. the mid-200s to 100s BC.  I personally don't have a problem with the idea that there was editing done to the Old Testament before it was finally compiled into the version that Jesus used. (He didn't have a problem with it, since it was his spirit that was behind any editing.) However, the bulk of of Daniel certainly seems to me to be from his own hand.  Other wise it just doesn't seem to make any sense.


The book of Daniel itself is split in half.  The first half records Daniel's life from exile through his service to the various kings and emperors.  The second half is a record of the prophetic visions that he had.

I'm usually more interested in the first half of the book.  One practical reason is that the second half with all of the prophecies can really confuse me.  I've seen crazy preachers like John Hagee and other Dispensationalists come up with all manner of goofy pronouncements based on their interpretations.

However, the main reason I like the first half is that you get to see the change in Daniel's outlook and character, and if you read between the lines, you might actually see something else, too.


When Daniel and his friends are first pressed into service for the Babylonians, he was a teenager...probably a young one.  He and his friends didn't want to pollute themselves with the particular foods that were served in the court.  Daniel shows his diplomatic skills by making a deal with his trainer to eat something else.  Clever kid.

Then the arrogant dim-wit, King Nebuchadnezzar, has a freaky dream.  He tells his advisors to interpret it or die.  They reply, "What the king asks is too difficult.  No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among men." (Dan. 2:11) This makes Nebu so mad that he intended to kill all of his "Wise men." (Think of Nebu as the Ted Cruz of his time.  If he doesn't get what he wants, when he wants it, he shuts down the government.)

Daniel catches whiff of this and intervenes.  The bible describes Daniel using "wisdom and tact."  He asks Nebu for time, then he and his friends pray to the "God of Heaven."  And here's where it starts to get really interesting...


You see, back in the day, gods were localized.  They really didn't leave their territory, unless they got their followers to conquer some new place.  That was one of the reasons for doing ethnic cleansing, wether you were Babylonian, Assyrian, what ever.  You pulled the original inhabitants out, brought them somewhere else, and there went their tiny, little god.  Poof!

However...

"El-Elyon"

"Most High, Above All, God of gods"

The God of the bible is not your typical god.  You know the Beach Boys' song, "I get around?"  Well, so does this God.


My favorite example of this is from the prophet Ezekiel.  In the very opening chapter, the God of the bible rolls into Babylon, the gods Nabu, Marduk, Ishtar, Anu and bunch of other's home turf, in his massive Merkeva/Chariot.  It must have been a totally pimped-out ride, because when the bible describes the wheels it says, "Their rims were high and awesome, and all four rims were full of eyes all around." (Ez.1:18)

Gods weren't supposed to do that.  They were suppose to stay put unless they were out conquering.  Yet here comes YHWH, in his tricked out ride, cruising down the Babylonian strip.  This causes Ezekiel to go into apoplectic seizures of joy, practically soiling himself.  God then commands Zeke to do all manner of performance art, some involving human poo, and give the exiles all sorts of revelations.  It's something else.

Anyway, if you're paying attention you might notice an evolution in the understanding of the God of the bible.  Most of the ancient Hebrews were Polytheists.  They believed in a lot of gods.  We know this because worshipping other gods is what got them into trouble.  Most of the time, they simply thought their God was the best one.

But now this God is breaking into the territory of other gods.

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Back to Daniel and Nebu's dream...

So Daniel gets an answer from the "God of Heaven," and goes off to see Nebu.  He tells him, "No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries..." (Dan. 2:37) And then proceeds to tell Nebu what his dream meant.

King Nebu's reaction is interesting.  He got off his throne and fell prostrate before Daniel.  He told Daniel that his god must be El-Elyon, the King of all Gods.  He then ends up putting Daniel and his friends in key positions of power throughout the empire. (Dan. 2:46-49)

Yes, the story of the fiery furnace comes next.  So it's clear that Nebu didn't learn his lesson completely.  But don't fret.  It's a comin'.

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Did you catch it?  Did you notice a change in the perception and understanding of the God of the Hebrews?

Remember, gods didn't wander off into the territory of other gods.  The God of Abraham, Issac & Jacob did and does.  He's different.  And even the pagans began to notice it.

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Throughout the book of Daniel we can see the God of the bible intervening at key moments to the amazement of the pagans.  The result is the Hebrew God being referred to over and over by the pagans as El-Elyon.  They were still polytheists, but they had come to understand that one God towered over all the others.

Probably a good idea to get his followers on your side.

Daniel and his friends are given more and more power and responsibility in Nebu's kingdom.  To the extent that you see a change in the relationship between the king and Daniel.

In chapter 4, Nebu has another freaky dream.  This time Daniel reacts out of genuine concern for the king.  He is no longer simply a servant.  Daniel is his friend.  Daniel has to tell the king that his arrogance is going to cost him his sanity for years to come, and he doesn't want to.  He warns the king to repent.  He actually cares about him.

Unfortunately, the king didn't listen.  A year later he's walking on the roof of his palace thinking he's all that and a bag of chips.  El-Elyon speaks to him to tell him that he's taking him to the wood shed for a painful chat.  The next thing you know, King Nebu is eating grass and thinking that he is a cow of some sort.  Apparently this lasted for roughly seven years.

Seven years?


Who ran the kingdom for those seven years?  Who was in charge.  Why didn't his rivals simply kill the crazy king and take his place?

I may be reading more into the story than is warranted, but I have a theory.

Daniel.  Daniel was the caretaker.  Everyone in the administration knew about Daniel and his connection to the unusual and frighteningly powerful God, El-Elyon.  Do want to go up against a guy like that?  I think that Daniel protected the king while he was insane, and kind of kept the shop running.  When the time was up and Nebuchadnezzar repented, Daniel gave him his keys back.

Let's not forget, Nebu had all of this story recorded and proclaimed throughout his empire.  He was a guy who knew how to repent...



"At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored.  Then I praised the Most High (El-Elyon); I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation.  All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing.  He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.  No one can hold back his hand or say to him: "What have you done?" 

At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom.  My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.  Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just.  And those who walk in pride he is able to humble." (Dan. 4:34-37)


I am convinced that I will see Nebuchadnezzar in heaven.

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Nebuchadnezzar dies and his son takes the throne.  His son is a snotty, trust-fund baby.  He gets his own freaky vision from El-Elyon.  However, this one happens at a banquet, and all the guests see it too.  Long story short, Daniel gets called in again.  It is hinted that this new king hadn't paid much attention to Daniel or his "King God."  To late.

What I find interesting is Daniel's interaction with the king, and in front of all the nobility, no less.  Then Daniel answered the king, "You may keep your gifts for yourself and give your rewards to someone else.  Never the less, I will read the writing for the king and tell him what it means." (Dan 5:17) A modern translation might be something along the lines of, "Oh great king, go get bent!"

Daniel must have been 40ish by this point.  He had seen all sorts of revelations from God by this time.  His absolute confidence in this God is unshakeable.  He wasn't the least bit afraid to give the king some extremely bad news in front of everyone.  What could this king who, "had been weighed on the scales and found wanting," possibly do to him? (Dan. 5:27)

You know the end of that story, too.  The Babylonian empire is conquered by the Persian Empire.  Daniel becomes a trusted advisor to King Darius.

But you also know the story that comes next.  Daniel has a reputation.  He is scrupulously honest and trusted by the king.  So some jealous rivals trick the king into an edict that gets Daniel in trouble.  Daniel gets tossed into the lions den as a death sentence.

I love the reaction of the king.  He realizes he was tricked, and doesn't want to sentence his friend Daniel to this fate.

BTW: The Medes and Persians had an unusual legal system.  If the king signed something into law, he could never repeal it.  If he did, he, himself, would be killed.

The king stays up all night worrying.  The next morning, he runs to the lions den and says something interesting; "Daniel, servant of the Living God/El-Elyon, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions? (Dan. 6:20)

I also find it interesting that there is no record of Daniel offering a word in his own defense up to this point.  It isn't until after the the king returns that Daniel states the obvious, that he is trustworthy and loyal.  It is after this that Darius himself issues a royal proclamation throughout his empire praising El-Elyon.

I believe that I will see Darius in heaven.

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The Magi and Christmas.

What does any of this have to do with them?



The ancient Hebrews were polytheists.  Not all of them, but most of them.  They went into exile and began to understand that their God wasn't like the other gods.  The pagans around them began to understand that also.  The pagans referred to the God of the Hebrews as the King of all Gods.  By the time the Jews left exile roughly 70 years later, they were staunch monotheists.  They understood that there is only one God...and they really were supposed to be his people.  He loved them.


Daniel and his friends.  They ended up carrying a great deal of influence in the Babylonian and Persian courts.  They were advisors, consultants and "Wise Men." Odds are that Daniel told plenty of people about his visions, including the "Wise Men" that he worked with.  Certainly Ezekiel's crazy visions and performance art caught people's attention.  Some of these visions spoke of a coming Messiah...

a King...

of the Jews.


I've never put much stock in modern astrology.  Mostly seems beyond silly to me.  But back then, things were different.  Who knows?  If El-Elyon seems to relish cruising down the strip of some other god's capital city in his funky hot-rod causing a scene, then if he wants to use stars and planets to communicate his Gospel, who am I to tell him not to?


Daniel.  Somewhere in the middle of 500 BC having adventures, getting visions.  Sometime around 5 BC, pagan Magi show up in Jerusalem asking about a king from a long ago prophecy.

I believe I will see the Magi in heaven.



That El-Elyon, he gets around.

Merry Christmas!


Peace

Joe



Thursday, November 26, 2015

To Renounce...a Crack Pot.

"My father was always very adamant about one thing - if you can't trust the Book of Genesis as literal history, then you can't trust the rest of the Bible.  After all, every single doctrine of biblical theology is founded in the history of genesis 1-11.  My father had not developed his thinking in this area as much as we have today at Answers in Genesis, but he clearly understood that if Adam wasn't created from dust, and that if he didn't fall into sin as Genesis states, then the gospel message of the New Testament can't be true either."
Ken Ham (2008) Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World.



“I don’t think that there’s any conflict at all between science today and the scriptures. I think that we have misinterpreted the Scriptures many times and we’ve tried to make the Scriptures say things they weren’t meant to say, I think that we have made a mistake by thinking the Bible is a scientific book. The Bible is not a book of science. The Bible is a book of Redemption, and of course I accept the Creation story. I believe that God did create the universe. I believe that God created man, and whether it came by an evolutionary process and at a certain point He took this person or being and made him a living soul or not, does not change the fact that God did create man. … whichever way God did it makes no difference as to what man is and man’s relationship to God.”  



Billy Graham, Personal Thoughts of a Public Man, 1997. pp. 72-74



The picture at the top of this post is of the entrance to Bethel Theological Seminary in Arden Hills, Minnesota.  I attended both Bethel College (Now, Bethel University) and Bethel Seminary. (I never got ordained.) Both schools are solidly evangelical with traditional, orthodox views on scripture and the main issues in christendom.

I have a tendency to view what goes on in the church today through the lens of those schools, particularly Bethel Sem.  Whatever the issue might be, I will ask myself if it would fly with my old professors at Bethel.  That's my bias.  I admit it.  But I do so because of the respect & admiration that those godly men...and a few women professors, earned from me through their scholarship, dignity, diligence and wisdom.

I loved going to school there.  I loved the learning environment.  I loved being able to pick the brains of those teachers.  They took the bible extremely seriously, and taught me to do the same.  Some of my non-christian friends say I take the bible to seriously.  So be it.  I love the bible.

More on Bethel later...

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The following is an portion from a blog post of a former professor of mine from Bethel College, Roger Olson.  He doesn't remember me, but I certainly remember him.  He never let his students be lazy on an intellectual level.

He was writing about attending a conference where the speaker was to be Alister McGrath.  He was also bemoaning the lack of intellectual rigor among the church in America.  You can read the entire piece here, if you like.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/11/an-evangelical-superstar-scholar-alister-mcgrath/?ref_widget=related&ref_blog=rogereolson&ref_post=thanksgiving-thoughts


"One of the great sadnesses of my life is that “evangelical” and even “Christian” have become words often associated with ignorance, anti-intellectualism, intolerance, obscurantism, fundamentalism, aggressive right-wing politics. McGrath has done so much to undermine, even explode, those stereotypes and caricatures, and yet he remains largely unknown even among evangelical Christians because his books, many of them popularly written, are not best-sellers in the popular “Christian bookstores” that instead devote entire endcaps and special displays to, for example, “Duck Dynasty.”


Personally, I do not blame Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchins or other promoters of “the new atheism” for anything except misrepresenting Christian theism (which I think they have done in some of their writings and speeches). The decline of evangelical Christian intellectual life is evangelical Christians’ own fault. We, especially in America, have done it to ourselves. On the popular level “in the pews” and on the pastoral level “in the pulpits,” too often, Christianity has been presented and believed in as a “Don’t confuse me with the facts; my mind is already made up” fideistic obscurantism. (I actually heard an evangelical Baptist pastor use that line in a sermon as an example of what a Christian should say to an atheist!)"


For more on Alister McGrath, click the following links...
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alister_McGrath
Or
http://alistermcgrath.weebly.com/

What happened?!?!?!

For centuries, Christians were the leading thinkers and philosophers in the western world.  The foundations of modern science were laid down by people of faith.  Now?  Now I walk into the only "Christian" bookstore chain in the Twin Cities, Lifeway, and I'm surrounded by this...



To be sure, there are some good books by guys like Francis Chan, John Piper and others.  But you can't escape the fact that there are reams & reams of intellectual candy & "milk" covering the shelves. (I think I even saw a "Duck Dynasty" version of the bible the last time I was in there.) Plenty of Amish romance novels and works designed to give you the biblical magic spells to fix your life and to force God to fart his blessings all over you, line the shelves.

When I go in there, I'll ask if they carry the latest works by Peter Enns, John Walton, McGrath, and so on, the answer is almost universally "No, but we can order it for you."

If a "Christian" bookstore won't carry and push works by genius level scholars, I don't want to give them my business.  I tend to go to Barnes & Noble, where they often actually have the books on their shelves.

BTW: While this post may sound angry, it's not meant that way.  But this has been building up in me for a long time now.  I simply need to vent a little.

I've just grown so frustrated at the laziness in the intellect of modern American evangelicalism.  Unless we are content to preach to the choir, we will never be able to speak to the greater culture at large if we settle for catch phrases and simple minded theology.


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MEANING: Where does it come from when you read any given text?

How many times have you walked out of Menard's or Target with a new home appliance, gotten home and read the instructions and said to yourself, "Wow, these are some really cool song lyrics."?  Or maybe you said of the instruction manual, "This is some really interesting history."

Odds are, you haven't done that.  Why?  Because it's an instruction manual, not song lyrics or a history text.

Meaning...


Traditionally, there have been three main ways of defining what a text means.

The Legal Option: Meaning comes from the letter of the law.  No more, no less.

Ephesians 5:18 says, "Do not get drunk on strong wine, which leads to debauchery.  Instead, be filled with the Spirit." Well, it's mighty convenient that Paul didn't mention anything about whiskey & schnapps.  So bottoms up!

The Personal Option: In other words, "What does it mean to you?"  Obviously, this leaves the door wide open for any interpretation no matter how ridiculous.  Back in the day, Charles Manson thought the Beatle's song "Helter Skelter" was telling him to start a race war in America.  That's what it meant to him.  If you choose this option, then his interpretation is perfectly legit.

The Context Option: Anyone who has gone to Bethel Seminary in the last few decades has probably had this option beaten into their heads until it felt like a tumor.  And there is good reason for this.  The meaning of any given text, be it sacred or secular, can only be understood in context.  In other words, what did the writer intend to be understood by the person/persons he is writing to!!!!!!

This IS the only proper way to understand a text.

The only way to do that is to show the text enough respect to respect it in it's linguistic and cultural context.  It simply isn't good enough to know what a word means in english.  Every translation of the bible is also an interpretation.  You must do your best to understand the text in it's original context.  If you do not do that you will get it wrong...every single time!



This picture is of the Rev. Chuck Baldwin.  Chuck is a Crack Pot. Chuck does not like to use the bible in context.  He prefers to cherry pick his verses to make the bible say what he wants.  And what he wants is rather interesting...

Luke, chapter 22, tells the story of Jesus from the moment Judas agrees to betray him, all the way up his arrest and being brought before Pilot.  In the middle of this portion, right before Jesus takes his disciples to the Mount of Olives, he tells them that they are about to cut & run like a bunch of little girls after he gets arrested.

Verse 36 is interesting, He said to them, "But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don't have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one..." To Chuck, this means that Christians must own AR-15s and other assault weapons incase we need to overthrow the Federal Government.

How do I know this?  Because I lost a friend over it.  I still have the 6 page screed that he wrote me on how Chuck's interpretation of this verse is the correct one.  This is what happens when you refuse to read the bible in context.



This a picture of Reverend Kenneth Copeland.  Ken is a Crack Pot.  Ken does not like to use the bible in context.  He prefers to cherry pick his verses to make the bible say what he wants.  And what he wants is your money.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jer. 29:13

This passage, along with the entire prophecy, was written by Jeremiah to the Jews in exile in Babylon.  God was telling his people that he hadn't given up on them.  He was telling them to settle in to their punishment in a foreign land and to start having lives again.  It was not written to people in 18th century Japan or 20th century Canada.  It was addressing the very specific issues of exiled Judah over 2,500 years ago.

However, Ken thinks it was written to him and his devotees.  You will often hear him say things along the lines of, "God wants to prosper you...with RICHES!"  If you send Ken your money, God will be forced to make you win the lottery.  Ken's god is easy to manipulate.  If you use the right biblical incantations, "Name & Claim" them, God will have no choice but to grant your wishes.

This is what happens when you refuse to read the bible in context.

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This is a picture of Ken Ham.  Like Chuck Baldwin & Kenneth Copeland, Mr. Ham is very passionate about his beliefs.  Like the others, he has thoroughly spelled out his beliefs.  Like the others, he follows Jesus. (Hey, until Jesus tells me otherwise, if someone claims to be a Believer, I just take them at their word despite what I might think about their positions on issues.)

Mr. Ham is also a "Young Earth Creationist." (YEC) He is extremely popular among a subset of American Evangelicalism.  In fact, he is probably the most popular YEC ever known.

It should be noted that popularity does not necessarily mean you are right.  If that were the case, Joel Osteen would be the Protestant Pope.

Here are some links for more resources on Mr. Ham...
https://answersingenesis.org/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Ham

Remember what I said early on in this post about me filtering everything through the lens of Bethel?  To my knowledge, Mr. Ham has never been asked or allowed to teach a course or speak at either the college or seminary. (I could be wrong about that.) Why?

To be fair, one of his employees, Dr. Gary Parker did speak at a Bethel University chapel service back in 2012 when both were in town and speaking at Grace Church of Eden Prairie.  But Ken?  Nope.

A quick aside: Ken spoke about "Race" at Grace church.  I agreed with him that racism is evil.  I believe it to be evil because all humans bare God's image.  Ken believes it's wrong because we are all related to each other since we're all the spawn of incest. (You can understand why I might find that disturbing.  Especially when I'm having dinner at my folk's place.) You'll have to look that up yourself.  I'll be posting more links than ever before on this thing.

So anyway...
Why?

Mr. Ham is very, very insistent that his understanding of early Genesis is the correct one.  He makes no bones about it.  Any other interpretation is false.  Anyone, and I do mean anyone, who teaches something other than his take is referred to as a "Compromiser" (At best.) or "False Teacher." (At worst.) Those are his words, folks.  Not mine.  He is so certain of his view that he has built a multimillion dollar, largely tax-free, ministry out of it.  Like I said, he is very popular.

However, this also means that people who are Old Earth Creationists, Intelligent Designers, and certainly Evolutionary Creationists, are all wrong and are therefor compromisers & false teachers.  THIS means that C.S. Lewis, Lee Strobel and even Billy Graham are all false teachers & compromisers.

For more on Lee Strobel, click below...
http://www.leestrobel.com/

Now I happen to like Lee Strobel a lot, even though he can't speak without using his hands.  I like C.S. Lewis and Billy Graham even more.  Personally, I think referring Billy Graham as one who compromises the gospel to be a bit much.  But I could be wrong...

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This past summer, I was driving out to the cabin.  Geek that I am, I had MPR on to listen to whatever.  As it turns out, the program was about the mining industry in N.E. Minnesota.  They had two mining scientists on.  One of them mentioned that the rock strata that they were currently working on was approximately 2.5 million years old.

Oddly enough, the next thought that popped into my head was about a YECky trying to get a job as a scientist up there.  If he/she walked in there and said something along the lines of "Oh, no, no.  Your science data and equipment are all wrong.  Those rocks are only a few thousand years old." What would be their chances of getting a job there?

The Evangelical Disconnect: Many American Christians say one thing but do another.  This is not an overt form of hypocrisy.  I think it's more an internal defense mechanism.  I call it the "Evangelical Disconnect." The following person is an excellent example of it.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/02/12/science/12geologist.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Marcus  Ross is a YEC Paleontologist.  He got his degree from the University of Rhode Island on various marine reptiles that vanished 65 million years ago.  He now teaches at Liberty University.  He says that the earth has only been around for a few thousand years.  How does he reconcile these two beliefs?

He doesn't.  He does the evangelical disconnect.  He says that teaching paleontology & science requires one paradigm, while his faith requires a different one.  The evangelical disconnect is a defense mechanism designed to protect people from actually having to think thoroughly through their beliefs.

FACT! Every single time you fill up your gas tank, you are denying a young earth.  The technology that is used to find fossil fuels to be pumped is based on the science that the earth is really, really, really old.  The same for the car you are driving to put the gas in.

FACT! Every single time you use your cell phone, you deny that the universe is young.  The science that NASA and other space agencies use to put satellites up in space for your cell phone is based on the truth that the universe itself is billions of years old. (I could also point out that scientists can actually measure light speed in a laboratory.  They know that light has been cruising for more than a few thousand years from those distant stars.)

FACT! Modern medical science, specifically genomic work, is largely based on evolutionary biology.  For the record, I don't know if evolution is true, but I hope it is.  I have friends with cancer.  I'm hoping that the newest medical discoveries based on this science can help them out.  If this fact disturbs you, you could always find a nice shaman or witch doctor to help you with your birth defects.

FACT! Not even 1%...not even 1% of the world's paleontologists, biologists, astronomers, astrophysicists, geologists, archeologists, and so on, agree with the pseudo-science of YEC scientists.  They may not like this fact, but they know it to be true.  If that's your set up, you have a problem.


However, science isn't really what I'm interested in.
I'm more interested in the bible.

____________________


If someone came to my church and claimed to be the expert on Matthew's Gospel, I would like to know of his credentials.  Like I said, I take the bible very seriously.  If you're going to make a claim that your the guy, I want to know how you got your expertise.

Me: "So, you have a background in biblical Greek?"
You: "No."
Me: "Okay, what about 1st century Judaism & culture?"
You: "No."
Me: "Umm, okay, what about the Roman Empire and it's history in the middle east?"
You: "No, I don't have a background in any of that.  But I know the english translation really well."
Me: "C-YA!"

Here is a link to the staff of Ken Ham's Answers in Genesis ministry.  Click the link and see if you can spot the experts in biblical Hebrew, Ancient Near-East history and culture or any type of biblical exegesis.
https://answersingenesis.org/answers/books/new-answers-book-2/contributors/
That's right.  There are none.

The only one closest enough to qualify remotely is Dr. Terry Mortenson, who has a delightful attack on one of my old professors from Bethel Seminary, Millard Erickson.
https://answersingenesis.org/blogs/terry-mortenson/2014/05/14/millard-erickson-failing-to-do-his-homework-on-creation/

Millard Erickson is one of the titans of American evangelical scholarship.  His works on systematic theology are standard readings at most seminaries and are considered to be some of the greatest works of 20th century theology.  It was a privilege for for me to study under the feet of this master.  To have this intellectual light-weight, dunce go after him doesn't make me angry, it makes me laugh.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Millard_Erickson


I don't worry much about Ken Ham's "Scientists."  Both non-christian & Believer scientists tend to not give them a thought.  However, I do concern myself with his use of the bible.


____________________

Consider this for a moment.

Ken clearly doesn't start from a position of science.  That's painfully obvious.  However, he doesn't start from the bible, either.  He starts from his father.  Scroll back up to the top and read his quote about his dad.  Daddy done gave him a choice.  Either the earliest portions of Genesis are literal history and science, or the Gospel of Jesus is a lie.

That's a pretty heavy load to put on a kid.

I've seen the result of that kind of choice before.  God forbid your kids weaned on thoughts like that go off to Bethel, Northwestern or Trinity and take an astronomy class.  They will soon know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the universe is billions of years old.  Now they have a choice to make, even though they are attending a christian school.

I've seen them walk away.
All because of a false choice made by folks who refuse to read the bible in context.

____________________


I have never met a professor of the Old Testament or Biblical Hebrew who was a YECky.  I'm sure there are some, but I've simply never run across them.  There certainly weren't any at either of Bethel's schools.

There was no consensus as to what was actually going on in the earliest parts of Genesis.  However, there was absolute, uniform agreement that you must never view ANYTHING in the bible, let alone the creation stories, from the perspective of a 20th/21st century American.  You cannot read science into a text that had no knowledge, view or interest in that.  That would be like expecting this ancient document to comment on phones and automobiles.

If you actually respect the bible enough to read it in context...especially linguistically, you will easily conclude that this is not a journalistic account of a scientific occurrence.  I remember asking my Hebrew professor about the first creation story/poetry.  He said, "Joe, it's about the WHO, not the HOW," with a big grin on his face.

In fact, if you take a moment to read the Genesis One account, you might notice that it never, ever says how God created anything.  What it does insist on, and rightly so, is that YHWH is the creator of ALL, not Zeus, Odin, Marduke or Ba'al.

Anyone who knows biblical Hebrew can tell you that the first creation story isn't even a story. (Not in a traditional sense, anyway.) It's POETRY!  Traditional Chiastic Hebrew poetry to be exact.  Are you supposed to read poetry like a history text...or maybe like an instruction manual from Menard's or Target?  NO!

You had better read the bible in context, or you will always get it wrong.  You read poetry as poetry, epistles as letters, prophecy as prophecy, and wisdom literature as exactly that, and so on.  You do not take a document, written as a poetic narrative to an ancient people that addresses their concerns & questions, and read ideas about 20th century, western science into it.

The irony is that Mr. Ham insists that we read the bible literally, but then does the exact opposite.  He is no different from guys like Chuck Baldwin or Kenneth Copeland in that he doesn't take it literally/in context.  Instead, he reads into it what he wants, just like they do.  The result is that they ALL get it wrong...every single time.

 I will not, and cannot respect a self-styled expert who won't even make the effort to at least try and do some rigorous study of the bible on it's own terms, not their agenda.  I want my scholarship to come from actual scholars.  I insist on it.



I am so tired...so tired of having to open with an apology after people find out I'm a Believer.  Even one of my own bosses at work was stunned when he found out I was a Christian, but didn't think that Adam & Eve rode vegetarian dinosaurs in Eden.  "We're not all like that," is a phrase I've had to repeat more often than I care to think about.


Like I said near the top.  I know this post sounds a little angry, but it wasn't meant to be that way.  I just needed to vent and get some stuff off my chest.

I guess I'll just end with this question; Is Ken Ham a Crack Pot?  I dunno.  You decide...the next time you're filling up your gas tank or using your cell phone.

Peace

Joe



________________________________________

I guess I couldn't end everything that easily.  Along with Alister McGrath, I would like to introduce you to a fellow named John Polkinghorne.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Polkinghorne


John is an interesting fellow.  Other than being one of the world's most renowned scientists & theoretical physicists, he is also an Anglican priest, theologian and was knighted by the Queen.  He is a voracious defender of orthodox christianity and can think other, lesser men, under the table.

This video below is of a lecture he gave answering the question of whether or not modern, legitimate science and christianity are compatible. Needless to say, he thinks they match perfectly.

Give it a watch.



And finally, food for thought...specifically desert.

How should a Believer view science and the bible?  Do they contradict each other?  If you watched the video above, you would know that Dr. Polkinghorne doesn't think they do.

Far too often, people both Believer & unbeliever, often treat science and religion like a pie.  They divvy up the pieces of the pie according to what they discover about the known world.

Science can explain how the moon's gravitational pull acts upon the ocean's tides.  "Okay, we'll give that one to science." Science cannot explain how to cure male-pattern baldness, or why girls always go to the toilet in pairs. "Okay, we'll give that to the magic of a diety."

The problem is that if you fall into this false, intellectual trap, then as science begins to explain more & more, this god just gets smaller & smaller.

So let us switch deserts and move to a more biblical view of science and the sacred...


A better biblical perspective is like this cake.  The inside dough is the realm of the physical.  It can be weighed & measured by science, and is the purview of scientists.  The outside frosting that covers the cake entirely is the realm of the spiritual/metaphysical.  It is the purview of philosophers & theologians.

The world of science cannot comment on the metaphysical realm, because it has no method of measuring or weighing this realm.  It simply isn't set up to do so.

When a scientist comments that a new discovery in science proves that God doesn't exist or is unnecessary, they are being foolish.  That discipline can make no comments on the spiritual.  And honest scientists will readily admit that.


The world of the bible during the time of the ancient Hebrews cared very little for how God/YHWH went about his business.  What ever existed, God/YHWH made it...period, end of story.

The ancients assumed that what ever was happening, God was intimately involved in it.  This is one of the reasons you wont find many references to the word "Miracle" in the Old Testament like you do in the New Testament.  The thinking was that you couldn't miraculously intervene in what you were already doing, and God was doing it all.

It would be as if you were out mowing the lawn, and all of a sudden you stop and say, "Hey, I think I'll mow the lawn."

A biblical perspective requires us to understand that God's sovereign, creative & sustaining will is constantly at work and never ceases.  "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Don't be afraid..." (Luke 12:7) Whatever science discovers is simply & only how God goes about his business.  After all, since he is, in fact, the creator, then he is also the creator of the rules of science to see how he gets it done.

THAT is what the bible teaches.


"We have the right to believe whatever we want, 
but not everything we believe is right."
Dr. Ravi Zacharias.



So have a piece of cake and chill out.  Put a scoop of ice cream on God's science while you're at it.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fear & Loathing in Immigration (And of Refugees)



When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. 
Leviticus 19:33-34


He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 
Deuteronomy 10:18-19


Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 
Ezekiel 16:49


"So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,” says the Lord Almighty. 
Malachi 3:5

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." 
Matthew 25:25-36



<--- b=""> St. Paul, circa 1978/79.

My family moved to Minnesota in 1978.  The picture to the left is what St. Paul looked like when we first got here.  As you can see, back then our state capital didn't even have color to it.  Everything was black, white or gray.

In fact, at that time only the old Met stadium and airport had indoor plumbing.  You can imagine the waiting lines...



<--- b=""> St. Paul, just 2 months ago.

As you can see, now the capital city has color...and indoor plumbing is in roughly 81% of all buildings.

Rumor has it that sometime within the new year, we will get this new device called a "Wireless Receiver" to replace Semaphore and Aldis Lamps as the means for communicating over long distances.


____________________

Shortly after my family moved to Minnesota, the Vietnamese "Boat People" crisis exploded.  The communists were purging Vietnam of all the ethnic Chinese.  Needless to say, plenty of Vietnamese took the chance to get out, too.  So, tens of thousands of people took to the ocean in leaky boats to get away from the less-than gentle hand of communism.

Jimmy Carter was President at the time.  His faith compelled him to do something. (Not to mention the fact that the U.S. owed these folks big time) So America began to take in scores of S.E. Asians.  In Minnesota, Al Quie was Governor.  He has a very strong faith.  He thought Minnesota's infrastructure was solid enough to handle a few, so he invited tens of thousands to come from a hot and humid climate to resettle in the frozen tundra.

One of the smartest moves we've ever made!!!


The new folks who got off the boats were largely peasants.  They didn't speak the language.  Some had never used electricity before.  As any immigrant group before them, they caught plenty of grief from the children of previous immigrants who had forgotten their own history.

One of the more amusing stories I heard, came from a pastor in St. Paul who worked with the new refugees.  Apparently, many of the dogs and cats in the neighborhoods where the new folks settled began to disappear.  How could you say "No" to lunch when it walks right up to you while wagging it's tail?


Today, these folks have fully integrated into Minnesota life.  St. Paul has one of the largest communities of Hmong in the country.  They have a massive sports event every summer in Como Park.  Really good quality S.E. Asian restaurants are everywhere.  In particular, University Ave. in St. Paul is completely changed from when we first moved here.  It used to be mostly industrial bland & gray.  Today, it is vibrant, trendy with awesome places to eat.

And it's mostly due to these peasant refugees.
peasants...

____________________


What if I told you that there was another groups of tens of thousands of refugees that wanted to come here?  What if I told you that these folks were not peasants, but instead were mostly the best & brightest of their countries...people highly skilled and educated?  Would you be interested in having them move into your area with all of their skills?

There's one catch.  
They are mostly Arab, and almost entirely Muslim.

____________________


"Hi ------, everyone is entitled to their opinions (free speech), but the ignorance of people who speak about the refugees is wrong. I suspect those that support this misguided policy have never been to the Middle East. Never saw women beat, children molested. They will kill all that is not Muslim. Those refugees are a ticket to spread terror and if they die the Muslim Clerics don't care. These people are animals and until they clean up themselves they should be banned from all countries. Syria is in a civil war between three factions. Let them sort out their own mess. They all have one thing in common they want The US destroyed. If there are "good muslim" countries why do they support all the terrorist factions?"

The above statement was sent to a friend of mine via Facebook this morning.  I could go into a detailed critique of it and explain the fallacies, ignorance and even arrogance demonstrated in it, but I wont bother.  Instead, I will leave it to you.  Simply tweak the wording a bit.  Substitute the word "Muslim" for "Irish, Chinese, Catholic, Italian, etc.", and have some fun on your own.  It's pretty much the story that has been told about immigrants and refugees in this country since we began.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Know_Nothing

(Oh, for the record, I actually HAVE lived in the MIddle East.)


I could point out that Minnesota is one of the largest recruitment areas for ISIS among our Somali community.  These are the children of refugees, not refugees themselves.  I could point out that we have one of the largest Somali populations in the country...and there has never been a terrorist attack.

I could point out that the guy who owns the station where I buy my gas is a Lebanese Shiite, and that one of the kids who works for him is a Muslim who pays on the local high school team.  Other than not embracing the "Joy of Bacon," they're pretty much no different than I.  I could also point out that neither of them have tried to blow up my car. (Not yet, anyway.)

I could also point out that the oldest mosque in the U.S. was built in, of all places, North Dakota.
http://www.voanews.com/content/a-13-2005-10-20-voa14/293702.html

Furthermore, I could go on to point out that the largest perpetrators of terrorism in the U.S. have been white people, usually acting in the name of some warped version of christianity.

I could point out all of that.  But I'm not going to bother.  
You could argue for days & days on this subject.  

Instead, I would like to offer what I consider to be a "Jesus View" on this topic.

____________________


"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come."
Matt. 24:14

At the moment, it's rather difficult to talk about Jesus in the Islamic world.  You tend to get killed if you do.  Not that this has stopped Jesus in any way.  I've heard story after story of him visiting people in dreams, etc. (Look some of that up yourself.) A Believer should never assume that God needs you in any way, shape or form to get his job done.

So let's say that you are God.  You're thinking to yourself, "Hmm, I really want these people over there to get to know the real me.  But they tend to get killed by the other folks there if they do.  Oh, I have an idea...I'll bring them over to this other country where they can hear about the real me and not get murdered."


Make no mistake folks, I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is the only hope for fallen humanity.  "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts. 4:12) All other faiths are false paths.

But that gives me no right to belittle or disrespect Muslims, Buddhists or anyone else.  Instead, it gives me the responsibility of being Jesus to them.  That is the mission of the church.  We are to be his hands and feet.


Over 10 years ago when I was on the couch trying to heal from a breakdown, the therapist told me of his vision of a harvest for Jesus' kingdom right here in Minnesota in the Somali community.  "We can't send Jesus' followers over there, so God's bringing them over here to us."  I think he's absolutely right.  Now I am hearing pastor after pastor saying the same thing.  God is at work in all of the horror of this world.

God is using the tragedy of man-caused suffering to act.  He is desiring a response from the church.  He is bringing a lost group of people into a place where they can hear about his grace in safety...assuming that his followers there respond positively.  Will we?

It hurts me to my core when I hear people acting in the name of Jesus, and then trying to shut the door on muslim refugees.  Even Franklin Graham has lost any respect I had for him for the way he talks about Muslims.

Are we that afraid of terrorism in the U.S. that we will say "No" to them?  More people in this country have been killed by drunk drivers every-single-year than have be killed by terrorists in the past 30!  In my opinion, the biggest issue for christians in America is our desire to live in fear, and our lack of actual trust in the resurrected Christ.

Sometimes I despair over the church in America.  We have allowed ourselves to be so co-opted by the culture that we let ourselves think like Americans first...and maybe a little like Jesus down the road.

What I want to say to the church in America is this; Jesus is the visible image of the one, true God.  He never misses, he always wins...and believe it or not, he has your back.  He wants you to join him in what he is already doing.  He wants you by his side so that you can see his glory and share in his joy.  He says that he loves you, and that there is nothing to fear.  He really and truly knows what he's doing.

Dear American Christian.  
There is this guy named Jesus.  
You should get to know him.


I hope that the U.S. allows in tens of thousands, if not more, from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan.  I hope many of them will move to Minnesota.  Jesus will have his harvest from the Muslim world.  I want to be there to see it.


Peace

Joe



Friday, November 13, 2015

SON-shine Superman




But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.
Gal. 5:23 & 23

"You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to the whole house.  In the same way, let your light shine before all men, that they may see your good works and praise your Father in heaven."
Matt. 5:14-16

"People wont always remember what you said to them, but they will always remember the way you made them feel."
Maya Angelou

"What to do?  Sweetheart, you'll find that mediocre people do exceptional things all the time."
OK Go, "What to do."



Tuesdays used to be a "Mommy Date" for me.  On Tuesdays I would pick up my Mom and we would go to lunch, and then do some shopping where ever.  A year or so ago, mom and I were having lunch at Don Pablo's.  I had never seen our waitress before, so I figured she was new.  She had an amazing ability to muff-up every single order that we had.

She began by forgetting to bring my extra-hot hot sauce.  She then brought me a diet coke, instead of a regular one.  This went on & on, until when she brought the meal she frowned and said, "I probably botched this one, too." (As matter, she DID!)

Just a quick aside; while diet coke tastes like liquid onions to me, I could think of worse things to happen.  When a store or restaurant doesn't have what I'm looking for, I consider it an opportunity to have an adventure by trying something new.  I tend not to think that I am now oppressed, living in North Korea, or that the teller, server, whomever, woke up that morning with every intention of spoiling my life.

So anyway, the waitress could have done better.  Mom asks me what we should do.  We could have legitimately complained in a very diplomatic way without making it personal.  However, I told mom, "Let's leave an extra large tip."  So we did.

On the way out the door, I head over to the waitress.  I patted her on the shoulder and said, "You know, everyone deserves a Mulligan now & then." She then proceeded to cry and tell me that her grandmother had just died, and that she had been at the wake the day before.

Like I said, 
my life could be worse.

____________________


Recently, I've been trying to develop a new habit.  Some days are more successful than others.  At any rate, I've been trying to give compliments to 2-3 people every day. (Bonus points if they are strangers.)

Why?

Well, for starters, it's simply a nice habit to get in to.

That having been said, I'm also of the opinion that it is something Jesus would do.  I simply can't picture him having the type of ministry he did if he was a dour stick-in-the-mud.  While I can't prove it emphatically, I am also inclined to believe he had a riotous sense of humor. (Again, for the same reason.)

I'm highly competitive in some odd ways.  For ages now, when I am out shopping or eating, I like to try and make the person serving me laugh.  It's Win-Win.  They laugh and feel good for a bit.  I win because I made them laugh.  So three cheers and a tiger for me!!!

However, there is a selfish reason for this; you seriously get A LOT better service if you do this. (If you're really good at it, you might even get free stuff like I do at times.)  Yet there is also a positive reason; you never, ever know what kind of day this person has had.  The way you treat them could make or break their day.  Maybe circumstances and the cosmos have pooped on their head in the past few hours.  Now you just made them smile and life...

Another aside; I was a waiter back in college.  From time to time, we would get some real "Swine" as customers.  You really & truly do NOT want to be a jerk to the person who is handling your food.  Unless, of course, you desire all manner of "Special/Secret" seasonings added to your meal without your knowledge.

For the record, I never, ever did that.  But I did see it done.  One of the more interesting ones I saw was a waiter who used those old school credit cards forms to order 30 sets of ginsu steak knives for a customer who was snotty and left a crappy tip.

Jesus never said to go out and witness, or go out and act like salt & light.  He simply said "You ARE." It's all grace, folks.  Jesus declares it to be.  So don't turn it on & off like a switch.  Be what Jesus says you already are.  Just be.


You often do not know the story of the person's day who is working around you.  Even less so, the people you come across in other settings.  Are there serious jerks out there that you are forced to deal with?  Sure.  When it comes to those people, I like to think of one of my co-workers philosophies.  He says, "I don't let them bug me, because I'm not the one that has to go home knowing that I'm an asshole, let alone the people that live with them." (Pardon my French.)


____________________


Think about the times when you have been down in the dumps and someone has said something that perked you up.  Think about the times when you might have been in a pretty good mood, and then someone said something that shot you out of the sky.

Which kind of "Someone" do you wish to be?


Christians have access to super-natural spiritual gifts.  But there is also the whole process of "Sanctification," where the Spirit keeps chipping away at you, shaping you into the likeness of Jesus.  Even so, there is still you.  How you choose to interact and treat others can not only make or break a person's day, it also says a great deal about you and the type of god you truly serve.

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.  
This sums up the Law and the Prophets."
Matt. 7:12


That's not bad advice coming from someone like Jesus.

So don't forget, the next time you ask yourself what to do.  Sweetheart, mediocre people do exceptional things all the time...



Peace
Joe






And an added bonus...





Thursday, August 6, 2015

God & Gardens


Then Elohim said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule"... Elohim blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over..."
Gen. 1:26 & 28

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.  When YHWH/Elohim made the earth and the heavens - and no shrub of the field had yet appeared on the earth and no plant of the field had yet sprung up, for YHWH/Elohim had not sent rain on the earth and there was no man to work the ground...
Gen. 2:4-5


That weird looking plant to the left is an "Ebony/Rose" tomato plant.  It sits outside my townhouse in a planter that is supposed to have flowers like all the others.  However, my neighbors were nice enough to let me do something different with it.  In that pot, along with 2 tomato plants are chives and hot peppers.

I also have a clove of garlic in there.  Not so much to actually grow a full head of garlic, though.  Mostly to keep any meandering deer at bay.  They don't like the smell. (Which, thankfully, humans can't detect.)

I had never seen an Ebony/rose tomato before.  I saw some seedlings at my store and decided to give them a try.  They start out green, slowly turn black, and then get a faint hint of red on the bottom.  They are somewhere in size to a large cherry tomato or a small Roma.  They have a nice, sweet flavor to them.

I also have 2 "Illegal" gardens out back.  Illegal in the sense that that area is a common yard for all owners.  No one has complained yet.  They attract butterflies and humming birds.

_____________________


I grew up in Sacramento, CA.  The yards there are very small by Minnesota standards.  My folks took our backyard and turned it into the Garden of Eden.  They essentially put a giant "U" in the middle.  Inside the "U" was the grass.  Outside the "U" was the garden.  We had a grapevine, a grapefruit bush (Yuk!), a lemon bush, a plum tree, two orange trees (One bloomed in the summer, the other in the winter), a strawberry bush, and tons of tomato plants.

We don't get them here, but there was some kind of green worm/caterpillar that liked to eat tomato leafs in Cali.  I thought they were nasty, little monsters as a little kid.  My dad used to chase me around the backyard with them when he could find them.  I'm certain it left irreparable damage to my psyche.

When I was a kid, I didn't like those gardens.  I hated weeding them.  Too much work for a 10yr old.  Now that I am older, I LOVE gardens.  Come January, I start planting seeds in peat pucks and begin the process with my singular grow lamp.

I built two gardens at my folk's place, both roughly 6x6.  One contains a massive Raspberry bush.  the other contains tomatoes, radishes, hot peppers and rhubarb.  We also have planters elsewhere.  Dad said that this year, we have over 30 tomato plants going.  That's a lot of BLTs!


____________________

 Recently I finished "The Lost World of Genesis One."  I burned through it in 2 days.  I thought it was absolutely brilliant.  I am now half-way through "The Lost World of Adam and Eve."  It's taking a bit longer, but is just as brilliant.

The writer is Dr. John Walton, formerly of Moody, now at Wheaton College.  He goes deep into the cultural context of these ancient stories and really works over the Hebrew words.  It makes me regret that I lost the ability to read biblical Hebrew, because it is just so fascinating.

There is soooooooo much going on in the Old Testament, and it is so easy for us "Moderns" to miss.
When you let go of the Americanized world view that so much of the American

church has and actually read scripture in it's cultural context, you can really plunge deep in to the Bible.  If you allow yourself to look at it through the eyes of the ancients, it absolutely explodes with deep beauty.

Needless to say, guys like Ken Ham hate him and calls him a false teacher.  I can completely understand Ken's perspective, though.  Nothing good can happen when you use actual scholarship.  I mean, if you actually bother to respect the bible enough to read it in context, then you can't force it to say what you want.  And if you can't force, cherry pick and twist scripture in to saying what you want, how will you get any money for Ark project???


Shame on mean, old John Walton and his expertise in ancient hebrew and biblical culture!!!

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"Bara"= to create, cause to function, etc.

The main argument that Walton makes in his first book is that the story in Genesis 1 is NOT a story of material origins, but instead a story of functional origins.  It's the story of God ordering a sacred place, a cosmic temple, for him to dwell in.


Americans are very materialistic.  So it's only natural for us to thing of creation in terms of making something.  But that's not what was important to the ancient Hebrews.  They viewed function as being the primary issue.  If they held an object in their hand, they could obviously tell that it was a material object, but that wasn't what was relevant to them.  "What's this thing supposed to do?" is what they would want to know.  Purpose and function was of primacy.

I rather like that idea.  Maybe we enlightened westerners should start asking that question.  We hold dear to the idea of acquiring more and more.  And it's usually junk we don't need


True Story: My last year of teaching, I had an advisory class once a week.  In it, I had a 15/16yr old boy who desperately wanted to be "Cool."  So one day, he comes into class wearing a Grill.  I'm not talking about the thing you cook burgers on.  This is a mouth insert...like a retainer.  However, these will be encrusted with gold and jewelry.  I guess it gives you street cred in lieu of actually being able to read at your grade level.

I asked him if he could eat with it in?  "No."  Could you chew anything?  "No."  Could you kiss?  "No."  I noticed that he had to take it out so as to speak.  So I asked him if there was really anything "Functional" that he could do with it?  "No.  It just looks cool." (I resisted the temptation to ask if he was certain about that.) I then asked him how much he paid for that grill.  "$350."


You see why I gravitate towards the ancient Hebrew's concept of what is important...


So anyhoooo, to the ancients what mattered was purpose and function.  Think of it this way; you buy a house from the previous owner.  OK, so the "House" exists...but it's NOT your "Home," yet.  Your "home" does not yet exist.  SO, you begin to move furniture into it.  You assign various rooms with names that declare their purpose.  "Billy's bedroom," "Den/Study," "Dinning room," Family room," "Secret gun closet behind hidden door to hide weapons in case of either Zombie apocalypse or to thwart the creeping socialism of the Federal government."

You get the idea.  It may have existed as a house, but it doesn't become your home until you assign the names and functions to it.  What's the last thing you do?  You move yourself into it to take up running the place.  Ta da!!!!!  Now you know what God did on the 7th day.  By "Resting," he ceased giving functions to his cosmic temple and moved himself in to get on with running the show.


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Last post, I touched on what it means to be made in the "Image of God."  I went pretty broad with it's implications.  However, if I want to be specific and stay within the context of Genesis, then I have to stick with the immediate implications.  Genesis 1 gives specific "Functions" to humans.  I wont go deep into detail on the meanings of the words "Subdue" and "Rule over," but essentially ALL humans are called to be God's representatives/co-regents on this earth.  That's our task.  That's our function and purpose.

You can see how the second creation story in Genesis 2 piggy-backs on that idea.  The story says that God held off on making plants until he made a human to do stuff with them.

"and there was no man to work the ground..."

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So where am I going with this?

What is it about human beings that we are all so deeply tied to the beauty of the created world?  Why do so many people find it therapeutic to take a walk in the woods or a park, to plant flowers, to make things grow?  I find it fascinating that many prisons use gardening as a form of rehabilitation for convicts.

And even if a person isn't necessarily into plants, they still have a desire to create and be creative.  For some people it's music, for others it's painting, writing, art, cooking, etc.  For some people, their creative abilities might be working on cars, writing computer code, building houses.  We have a desire to be creative, and I've seen more than enough examples of people popping bolts, or going bitter, when they don't find outlets for that desire/urge.

Awhile back at work, we got a nice, new food processor.  Our boss brought it in and set it on a work table.  My friend Jordan looked at it and I actually watched his eyes get bigger.  I thought I might need to get him a bib because I was concerned that he was going to start drooling.  He is very serious about his his food skills.

Why is it that humans are so hard-wired to have this desire?  It's deep in our collective bones.  Where does this desire come from?


I think you already know the answer.



And odds are, as you've been reading this, you've been asking yourself about your own desires to be creative.  :)  I hope you find it, harness it and be what YHWH/Elohim calls you to be.  I'm gonna go pick some tomatoes.

Peace.

Joe


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