April 11, 2009 Comments Off
The byline for this psalm is “a psalm, a song for the Sabbath day”. It’s yet another mention (among countless in the Bible) of the Sabbath’s importance, and I’m not referring to the false Sabbath of Sunday, which many obstinate and misguided churches are lobbying for, but the true Sabbath, Saturday, which was sanctified by God from the creation of the Earth.
As a photographer, I couldn’t agree more with verse 5: “How great are your works, O LORD, how profound your thoughts!” The more time I spend in nature, seeking natural beauty, and the more I examine that beauty, the more I realize how great God’s work truly is, and how beautiful He made this Earth before we spoiled it. As for the second part of this verse, I don’t know if we’ll ever know how profound God’s thoughts can be. We are too limited to realize how He thinks, how much He loves us, and how He cares for us.
The rest of the psalm is eschatological, and includes clear references to the destruction of the wicked, and to everlasting life with God, in heaven and here on the renewed Earth:
“Though the wicked spring up like grass and all evildoers flourish, they will be forever destroyed.” (verse 7)
“For surely Your enemies, O LORD, surely Your enemies will perish; all evildoers will be scattered.” (verse 9)
“The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (verses 12-14)
Verse 15 echoes the promises made in Daniel and the Revelation, that all will realize God’s perfect nature and goodness, and will proclaim it aloud, saying: “The LORD is upright; He is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.”
Not all of the promises made in this psalm are prophetic. Some are for the present. Verses 10 and 11 say:
“You have exalted my horn like that of a wild ox; fine oils have been poured upon me. My eyes have seen the defeat of my adversaries; my ears have heard the rout of my wicked foes.”
My Bible’s footnotes indicate the term “horn” refers here to one’s strength. The original Hebrew version is likely even clearer on that meaning. It’s encouraging and inspiring to see that God sometimes blesses His faithful ones during their lifetimes, not just in heaven. He chooses the time and method, but when He pours out His blessings over them, there is no mistaking His hand. I can attest to this myself, and I’m sure many others can. When we’re in the direst of circumstances and things cannot possibly be solved by human means, He works something out miraculously and we are delivered in a way we could not have imagined if we hadn’t seen it.
Praise be to God!
March 28, 2009 § 2 Comments
Some of the most beautiful promises of reassurance I know of are contained within this psalm:
“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” (Psalm 91:7)
“For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” (Psalm 91:11,12)
“I will rescue him; I will protect him.” (Psalm 91:14)
Aren’t those promises amazing? I don’t know about you, but shivers run down my spine when I read them. To think, God will personally command His angels to protect me completely, no matter what the circumstances! All that He asks in return is:
- Make Him my dwelling place (Psalm 91:9)
- Love Him (Psalm 91:14)
- Acknowledge His name (Psalm 91:14)
That’s not too much to ask, is it? Of course, the key is to dwell in the Lord, as verse 9 says. How does one do that though? It’s got to be a symbolic statement, one that likely refers to keeping our minds on God, all day, every day, and inviting Him into our lives. It’s a natural extension of that second thing we must do in order to qualify for His full protection, which is to love Him, as verse 14 above says. Or, as another Christian puts it, to dwell in the Lord is to keep His word in our minds all day — to study the Bible carefully and to meditate upon it. Once we love Him and dwell in Him, it’s only natural that we acknowledge His name, or that we speak about Him to others, and give Him credit for all the blessings He bestows upon us.
The wonderful thing about God is that He loves us so much He’ll protect us even when we don’t love Him. He’ll bless us even when we curse Him. He is truly amazing. I’ve heard stories of people who were atheists or pagans, and yet God protected them in terribly dangerous situations. What do you think happened afterwards? Many became Christians. They began to believe in Him, to love Him, and to acknowledge His name publicly. They realized He exists, and He watches out for all His children, even though He may not always answer our prayers the way we expect. Yet if only we could see His angels at our side when in dire circumstances, we would know He never fails to deliver on His promises.
He doesn’t falter. Only we do, and that’s the hard part to accept, isn’t it? The Bible is full of God’s promises, and yet we have a hard time believing them, because we either don’t think He, who created the entire Universe, has the power to help us, or because we think He slighted us in the past when we prayed for something and didn’t get it. But that’s our pride that stands in the way, isn’t it? We can’t seem to be able to swallow it down and to accept the fact that God did what was ultimately best for us, even if it wasn’t the outcome we expected. Let’s face it, sometimes, when those arrows come our way, as verse 7 says above, we may be among the ones that fall, not among the ones that are left standing. Don’t ask me why — only God knows that. The thing to do is to put it in His hands and let Him figure things out. Let the chips fall where they may, knowing He is in control.
I think that’s the hardest lesson to learn.
February 14, 2009 Comments Off
Here is a short passage from Isaiah 46, verses 6 and 7:
“Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Though one cries out to it, it does not answer; it cannot save him from his troubles.”
Notice the ridiculousness of the situation: a human being will create an object out of inanimate metals, set it on a pedestal in their home, and start praying to it — what’s worse, they’ll expect results.
Some may read this and say it’s no longer relevant. It’s what the ancient people did. But let’s look around the world and we’ll soon find out that this is still practiced. In some religions, people won’t bother to carve out gods from metals or stone. They’ll pray directly to stones. Or they’ll pray to the trees, or to nature itself. Then there are those religions that still pray to statues that depict human or animal likenesses, and they’re dominant in some parts of the world.
What’s worse, the practice of praying to graven images or statues isn’t limited to pagan religions. It happens right under our noses in the Western world. All you need to is to enter a Catholic, Orthodox, Episcopal or Anglican church, and you’ll see statues of Jesus Christ or Mary, or the apostles, or of some saint or other, to whom the people pray and cry. They light candles to them and lay flowers at their feet, hoping in earnest for an answer when God clearly forbids it.
These people have forgotten the Ten Commandments, haven’t they? Here’s what God Himself wrote on the tablets of stone He gave to Moses:
“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.” (Deuteronomy 5:7-9)
When one looks at these things through the lens of God’s Word, the matter becomes very simple: you shall not do it. When human reason enter the equation, we hear excuses like “But this is only a likeness that reminds us of God. We are really praying to God, and this helps us imagine Him.” The list goes on and on.
Problem is, God won’t listen to these excuses when it comes time for the final judgment. He won’t care what you intended to do. He clearly forbids the worship of statues and graven images, and all who call themselves believers in God should obey His wishes.
January 22, 2009 § 9 Comments
I have always been pro-choice. As a Christian, I can’t see it any other way. It’s about free will, and it’s about tolerance. Those two notions are clearly set out in the Bible, and if you’re a Christian who tries to love your fellow human beings, as the Bible says you should do, then you should also be pro-choice.
This is why I love this video I found on YouTube. A young man went to a group of pro-lifers who were demonstrating on the streets and asked each of them this question:
“If abortion were illegal, what should be done with the women who have illegal abortions?”
It’s a simple question, but one which gets back to the principles of compassion and tolerance so entrenched in the Bible. Watch them struggle to come to grips with what sort of punishment these women should receive, and you’ll see they can’t answer.
I’m glad someone had the courage to go out there and ask this question, because people who try to impose their religious beliefs on others are not doing God’s will. The pain that women suffer through after aborting is greater than any sort of pointless legal action that could be taken against them. They have pangs of remorse and go through bouts of depression for years or even decades. It’s not something I’d wish on anybody, but I strongly believe that they should have the option to do this if they feel it is necessary.
[via Unreasonable Faith]
November 15, 2008 § 1 Comment
During this past presidential election, I saw, beyond any doubt, how the right has managed to marry their cause to religion, and how they continually played that angle for the past couple of years. Churches and religious organizations told their members, in no uncertain terms, that they should vote for so-and-so because they’re Republican, and they’re going to stand up for “what’s right”.
It didn’t, and it doesn’t, seem to matter that’s what’s being put forth as “what’s right” isn’t necessarily what the Bible says is right. No, as long as you can marry a candidate to the church, you can rally the troops and call for jihad against the infidel that dares to go against your cause. It doesn’t even matter if that choice candidate of yours is far from being a real Christian. As long as they secure the endorsement of the right, church members are bullied into voting for them.
This is due, in part, to the two-party system that dominates US politics. When your choice for a candidate boils down to A or B, it’s incumbent upon A and B to polarize you and make your choice easier. Moderates are not what this two-party system wants. It wants frothing leftists or rightists that can be counted on for full support. Other countries where governance is shared among multiple parties tend to be more centrist, more moderate. Election winners have to build coalitions, otherwise they get nothing done. Here in the US, extreme views seem to be par for the course, and are encouraged from pulpits everywhere, particularly in the Bible Belt states.
Another reason for this governmental fallacy is the desire to bring religious views to bear upon political/public policy, when in fact the two should be kept completely separate. Sure, be a Christian in your private life. Go to church, pray to God, read your Bible, but don’t make the mistake of wanting others to do the same. Don’t force people to believe what you believe. Don’t legislate your beliefs. Civic matters should be kept completely separate from religious matters. That’s the principle of separation of church and state at work.
As a citizen of the US, I think there should be equal rights for homosexuals and they should be allowed to marry one another if they so choose. That’s because I choose to keep my beliefs to myself, and I realize that from a civic point of view, everyone is entitled to the same rights as citizens of the same country. One of the most important principles of our Christian faith is that of free will, which says everyone is entitled to choose whether to serve God or not. Unfortunately, others don’t feel the same way, and want to legislate their religion, not realizing that is one very slippery slope toward persecution and injustice on a grand scale.
Those of you who think all this has somehow gone away just because Obama won the election are in for a surprise. The past couple of years has been a warm-up exercise. There is some nasty stuff afoot, stuff that will do away with some of our most basic religious freedoms. Misguided churches are gearing up everywhere in order to polarize their members and begin what I would call a campaign of religious oppression against anyone that does not agree with they way they see life and government.
One of the things that this misguided religious right plans to get passed is a Sunday Law, under the guise of a “National Day of Rest”. This is not a new concept, but this time, its execution will be enforced more severely. The concept has been bubbling up in discussions lately, and unfortunately, no solid proof (other than opinion from groups and organizations) has emerged that something is in the works, but I, along with others, believe there are things going on that are laying the groundwork for it. You can choose to believe me or not on this one, and if I’m wrong, I’ll eat my crow, but I don’t think I am — time will tell for sure.
In the past, Blue Laws were passed to force people to worship on Sundays, and thankfully, they were repealed. Now, a whole groundswell of support is building up from Protestants and Catholics alike. What will make this attack on our collective religious freedoms more effective is they’re working together, thanks to the decades-old ecumenical movement, which I wish did not exist. Various reasons will be offered in its support, such as the economy, the environment, our societal morals, lifestyle choices, etc.
This is a small sample of sources I dug up this afternoon:
- Pope and Christian Coalition met to discuss the Sunday Law and other topics
- Some Democrats are calling for a National Day of Rest
- Christian Coalition proposes National Day of Rest
- Catholic church urges National Day of Rest (this is something that Pope John Paul said numerous times, and his successor wants to see it come to fruition)
This small sample of articles is by no means representative. I invite you to search for the terms “Sunday Law” and “National Day of Rest” on your search engine of choice and see what comes up. Or, you could do nothing but wait and see. I don’t think you’ll have to wait for long.
A few months ago, a certain number of closed-door meetings were held between high-ranking members of Protestant and Catholic churches when the Pope visited the US. No one can say what went on during those meetings, but given that both sides of the table want to see a “National Day of Rest”, it’s not impractical to assume that it was one of the items discussed there.
I for one was shocked when I heard President Bush exclaim that he “saw God in [the Pope's] eyes”. Wasn’t he supposed to be Protestant? Has he forgotten that countless people died, by sword, torture, or burning, in order to win the right to worship God apart from the Catholic Church? That’s not something you forget, unless you have a different agenda.
Some may say we shouldn’t worry about Bush, because he’s a lame-duck president. To that, I say this so-called “lame duck” is signing bill after bill while he still can, while he’s still in office. Also, let’s not forget all the stuff he did during his two terms in office. Will he try to sign some sort of National Day of Rest legislation into law before he leaves the White House on 1/20/09? I don’t know, but it is possible. Even if Bush doesn’t sign such legislation, that’s not to say it won’t happen. We have a good combination of economic, societal and religious factors that are creating a situation where a Sunday Law can pass, especially one couched in such nice terms as a “National Day of Rest”…
What bothers me in all this is that somehow forcing people to worship on Sunday is supposed to make everything better. Why? How? It’s ridiculous when you think about it.
Never mind that the Bible, when you study it, says quite clearly that Sabbath is the proper day of worship. Never mind that the Bible talks about religious tolerance. Never mind that other religions worship on the Sabbath or on Friday. Never mind that forcing people to worship the way you want them to worship never works out. Never mind that God doesn’t force people to believe in Him, but He gives them free will to choose what to do with their lives. Never mind that the US is a country whose very foundations were built on the precepts of religious freedom. No, somehow legislating a day or worship will make everything better. And of course, Sunday is picked because it is the day when most people in this part of the world go to church (or would go to church, if they did go to church) even though it is not the Biblical day of worship.
In effect, when that law gets passed, and it will get passed in the near future, because the Bible prophesies that it will get passed, what will have happened is that government will have effectively entered into an unholy marriage with religion. It means a return to the days of religious persecution that have haunted our collective histories as countries of this world. Sure, the National Day of Rest sounds good, but make no mistake about it, it is, at its core, as evil as the Inquisition. It is the start of religion once more dictating how governments will behave.
Don’t believe me? Read up on Bible prophecy and make up your own mind. I recommend the following resources:
September 5, 2008 § 1 Comment
That sounds like a strong statement to make, doesn’t it? Fortunately, I have the Bible to back me up on this. Here’s a search for the word “religion” in the NIV. And here’s a search for the word “faith“, also in the NIV. There are 6 instances where the word “religion” is mentioned, and 422 instances where the word “faith” is mentioned.
Let’s look at those six verses where religion is talked about:
- Jeremiah 6:1 The verse itself is not relevant, but the chapter heading is. It says “False Religion Worthless”.
- Acts 12:19 “Instead, they had some points of dispute with him about their own religion and about a dead man named Jesus who Paul claimed was alive.” Here Festus, the Roman ruler over the region, discusses Paul’s case with King Agrippa. Paul, if you remember, was about to be killed by the Jews because he strayed away from the religion, when the Roman soldiers intervened. Paul was then put in prison for his safety, to await a hearing by Festus and later King Agrippa.
- Acts 26:5 “They have known me for a long time and can testify, if they are willing, that according to the strictest sect of our religion, I lived as a Pharisee.” Here Paul defends himself before King Agrippa.
- 1 Timothy 5:4 “But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.”
- James 1:26 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.”
- James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Religion is not something that God cares about. If it were, we’d see a lot more verses about it in the Bible. Religion is a man-made concept, introduced as a differentiator, or, if you prefer, a discriminator. Certainly, if you look at history, you’ll see how the term has been used through the ages, and it seems it’s always used to polarize, differentiate or discriminate. Organized religion always seems bent on influencing or controlling governments in one way or another.
Instead, we see that “faith” is something God cares about. “Church” is another concept that is important, but it is only introduced in the New Testament and mentioned 112 times. Most of all, God cares about “people“. There are 2221 instances of that word found in the Bible.
Why am I writing this post? James 1:27 is a verse that stuck to me when I read it. There it is, spelled out in black and white. The only religion that God accepts is to look after orphans and widows, and to keep from being polluted by the world.
Any time some religion or other claims to have some exclusive benefit over another, or worse, claims that they’re in the right and others aren’t, beware! That’s not Biblical, that’s not Godly, and it’s certainly not something you should be involved in, unless you want to get further away from God.
Want to do the right thing? Care about your faith, and care about people. That’s what’s important. That’s what’s Godly. That’s also what’s right, thank God!
August 23, 2008 Comments Off
Hebrews 11:1 has one of the best definitions of faith in the Bible. Of all the English Bible translations (and I’ve looked at that verse in all 22 of them), the NIV (New International Version) says it best:
“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” [reference]
Not even my favorite translation, the NJB (New Jerusalem Bible) comes close to capturing the heart of that definition. (You can read the NJB version here.) It’s surprising how many translators missed the boat when it came to the meaning of this verse, and the meaning of this very important idea. Who knows, given that these translations were written at different times in history, perhaps the language used in them made more sense to their contemporaries than it does to me or you.
We English speakers are very fortunate. We have over twenty translations of the Bible that we can look through and compare verses in order to arrive at the best understanding of a certain passage or concept. And online tools like the Bible Gateway make it incredibly easy to do this.
Other people are not so fortunate. If you look at other languages, you’ll see they have only a few translations, and some only one. They’re left at the mercy of that single translator or group of translators when it comes to understanding the Bible. As well intentioned as that one person or persons might have been, it is impossible to translate every verse correctly in a single translation, particularly when that translation draws upon not the original, but a secondary source.
And yet faith, this powerful, but hard-to-define concept, which I can only find clearly explained in a single version of the Bible (out of over 20) is so hard to find in action in English-speaking countries — the very countries that have the incredible benefit of so many translations and so much learning to illuminate the meaning of the Bible to them.
Should you go to a country where the translations are scarce or even non-existent, you’ll find that faith is abundant there. You see it on the faces of simple people and in their behavior. They understand it implicitly and put it into practice. Back here, it’s not fashionable to have faith or to talk about it — unless one is a politician and is stumping for public office, in which case we all know (or should know) that they’re lying.
Why is that? How can we so readily throw away the privilege of so much understanding and not apply it in our lives? I’m reminded of the following verse from Luke 12:48:
“From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”
That’s a sobering thought.