"Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority ... the Constitution was made to guard against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters." - Noah Webster

"There is no worse tyranny than forcing a man to pay for what he does not want just because you think it would be good for him."
-- Robert A. Heinlein

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lesson About Food

This is post number six in the series called Why I Am Not A Christian.

Let’s take a look at the food issue and how easy it is for Christians to misinterpret and misunderstand Scripture.

The Christian argument for being able to eat unclean animals such as swine, shellfish, rabbit, etc. comes mostly from two passages of Scripture: Mark 7:19 and Acts 10:9-16.  I’m going to deal with the Acts passage first.

“And on the next day, as they were on their way, and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; and he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” And again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” And this happened three times; and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.  (Acts 10:9-16)

If all you had to go on, was that passage alone, what might you think the meaning was?  The problem is, that’s what most Christians do.  They don’t consider the text that come before it, and they certainly don’t consider the even more important explanation that comes later on.  Furthermore, they don’t pick up on the subtle details that a Jewish reader sees from knowing the history and the culture.

If you back up to the beginning of the chapter you find that the whole story begins with the Roman Centurion named Cornelius.  A devout believer who was so genuine, even his whole household were believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  It seems he even kept the Hebrew prayer schedule, because we are told that it was at about the ninth hour of the day that he was visited by an angel. The text tells us he prayed to God “continually” (NASB) which would indicate keeping the three traditional prayer times that coincided with the sacrifices in the Temple and based on Psalm 55:17.  Apparently Cornelius took all of his Torah and traditional learning from his adopted religion seriously.

So, at the Ma’areev (evening) prayer time, an angel shows up to declare to him that his true belief and sincerity was about to be rewarded.  If he would send for Peter in Joppa, he would come and explain how Cornelius could know the long awaited Messiah and become a full fledged member of the Kingdom of God  and not just a “righteous gentile” standing on the outside looking in.  Cornelius would have been painfully familiar with the fact that none of his Jewish friends from the synagogue could come to his house for fear of becoming ritually unclean.

Perhaps you remember the event from Luke 7, when another centurion had a beloved servant who was dying, and he sent word to Yeshua to request healing. This centurion also knew that Jews, and especially a righteous Rabbi as this miracle worker could not defile himself by entering the home of a gentile.  The idea that gentiles and their homes were considered “unclean” was as natural and common in that day as oil lamps.

Now that the event has been properly prefaced, let’s move on to the rest of the explanation.

Does the text tell us that Peter ran downstairs and proclaimed to his hosts that he was ready for a pork chop or that they could throw another shrimp on the barbee?  No.  In fact, we are told that he was still mightily perplexed at the meaning of the vision.  Knowing the nature of God, having been one of the chosen disciples of the Master, he couldn’t see how it was possible that this was really about eating trief (unclean animals). Peter was fully aware that Scripture says that in the last days, those who would face God’s wrath would include those “who eat swine’s flesh, detestable things, and mice, shall come to an end altogether, declares the Lord.” (Isaiah 66:17)

Then, Cornelius’ men show up while Peter is still pondering the meaning of the vision.  The Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) tells Peter to go with them without misgivings.

It is after Peter gets to Cornelius’ house and hears his story that it all becomes clear to him.  Since it is obvious that God has come into the home of the righteous gentile, how could he be unclean?  This Torah observant Roman was being shown to Peter as someone acceptable to God, not to be considered unclean anymore in the traditional way. The only thing left to be done for this centurion and his household to become part of the family of God was to be baptized as the Torah commands and the Master confirmed. (Matthew 28:19-20)

As to the passage in Mark 7, there is no consensus among Greek scholars for translating what appears in parentheses as “Thus, he declared all foods clean,”  And in fact, most Greek scholars argue that it can not be translated correctly to mean that.  But more importantly, the argument arose not over the food that was being eaten, but the ceremonial washing of the hands.

To press the point even further, the words that Yeshua used tell us unequivocally that He was talking about profaning and defiling, not making something “unclean” as in food.  The Greek verb koinoo does not mean “make unclean.” It means “to profane, defile.”  The Hebrew equivalent term would be “pasul” which is very different from the term for creatures forbidden for eating, which is “treife” (or trayf).

I don’t mean to be overly scholarly here, but it is important to understand this.  The Greek Septuagint Bible was the Hebrew Scriptures translated into Koine Greek more than a hundred years before Messiah was walking the earth.  While the Gospel of Mark may have been translated into Greek very soon after the events recorded, the style of Mark indicates that it was originally in the Hebrew.  The Greek of Mark makes it very clear that Yeshua chose words to make the point to the Pharisees that they were missing the greater point about defilement, and since we can’t get a clear translation on the Greek of Mark 7:19, it makes much more sense hermeneutically to obey the rule that the preponderance of other Scripture dictates how we are to interpret this passage.

It also doesn’t surprise me that we have this additional problem in Mark, since the earliest extant manuscripts do not have any of the verses from Mark 16:9 to the end of the book, and those verses have become the genesis of some rather bizarre practices in some churches.

Even if we took the verse in Mark 7:19 at face value, we would have to stop and consider the fact that it uses the word “food.”  Why is this important?  Let me use an example.  If you told me you were hungry, and I said, “Great, let’s go get some cow patties and some road apples,”  you’d think I was nuts.  You’d tell me you had food in mind.  We would never consider putting something in our mouths that came from the rear end of a cow or horse.  We would never consider that “food.”   To a Torah observant Jew, the idea of eating pork or shellfish or any of the other things forbidden by the Torah would roughly be the equivalent of eating excrement.  I know this idea is unthinkable to Emeril Lagasse and people who love his cuisine, but , “Oh well!”     Think again.  Yeshua was arguing with Pharisees about hand washing (natalyit yad’ayim) not about the particular food.

The bottom line here is that Christians have no good Scriptural basis for justifying the eating of creatures forbidden by Torah.  But even more importantly this lesson teaches us even more about properly interpreting and understanding Scripture.  It’s one thing to say we believe.  It’s quite another to be a disciple.

The next essay is going to talk about Administration and Law and what the writer of Hebrews was trying to explain.  Click on the essay title to go there.

At What Cost?

Today, after enjoying a most pleasant Shabbat  -- made much more so by the visit of Twyla's parents -- I spent this Yom Rishon planting early season veggies. The cold weather stuff: cabbage, broccoli, head lettuce, romaine, Brussel sprouts, buttercrunch.

Then I carefully planted two apple trees on strategic places on the farm.

I will somehow drag my body out of bed come 4 or 5.  I think about the person I am going to draw some remuneration from and wonder:  "Is this really worth it?"

Gasoline has jumped to $4.50 a gallon in California.  It will get just about that high here in a few weeks.

Would my time and energy be better spent just working on making this farm more productive, or should I hope that enough people begin to discover that socialism is about to kill this country and will pull back enough for us to recover?

Should Atlas just Shrug?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I'm Exhausted

I want my readers to know that I appreciate you and that I am very sorry for the lack of posting.

This new job is creating a lot of stress in my life.  But I am trying to gain some money to turn into hard assets that will help us make it through hard times.

I'm exhausted.  I don't mind working hard for what I have. I love the free market. I love the idea of being able to provide a good or service that people are willing to pay for, totally of their own volition.

Life is hard.

Who is John Galt?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Getting My Goat

I had some great success today in various things that I won't bore you with.

I brought home Lil Bit.

It's the little things in life that make us laugh and get us through to another day.

I had to hold eight other little kid goats while the vet seared their horn buds so they wouldn't grow horns.  I hated every moment of it.  The smell of burnt flesh and hair.  The screams of little goat kids that I was holding in my hands to keep them from struggling while this happened.  It is amazing how you let them go and in 15 seconds they act like nothing ever happened to them.  That's the kind of thing that proves to me that the Creator is a God of awesome mercy.  If you don't raise goats, shut up.  We do it because if the goats were to get their horns caught in something, anything, they will just stay there and die.  They are really that stupid and weak.  They were created to be domestic animals.

So I have a little baby goat who was rejected by her mother.  When I got to the barn this morning and she heard my voice she started baaaaaaaaing to break my heart.  It was like hearing your own child crying out, "Daddy, daddy, daddy!!!!"  The on site hand told me she was rambunctious all weekend.  I wish I had brought her home.

So, yes.  That is a baby goat in an adult incontinence diaper with masking tape, being fed from a bottle by the lovely Twyla.

I think I very much like being so out of the ordinary that people will visit here and find themselves laughing for a while.

I'm exhausted and I have so much to do this week.  The only easy day was yesterday.

Big Conference In Acts

This is post five in the series:  Why I Am Not A Christian   You can find it in the February archive.

Returning to the fifteenth chapter of Acts, we see that the debate which arose from the “party of circumcision” created enough stir among the new believers at Antioch, they determined to send Paul and Barnabas back to Jerusalem to confer with Peter, the other Apostles, and the elders in order to get a ruling on the issue.  I infer from verse two that Paul was already against the circumcision thing, but in humility agreed to go back to Jerusalem and submit to the judgment of the senior Apostles.  This would prove to be more confirmation to Peter as to the meaning of what happened to him back in Chapter 10, and reiterated by James during this conference.

Here you have a major meeting over this issue with all of the most senior elders, the Apostles, and the great learned Rabbi Paul who had been a summa cum laude Torah scholar under Gamaliel.  The apostles, and perhaps dozens of the disciples gathered there, had lived with the Master and heard Him expound on all of the Tanakh.  In my mind a question arises: If Yeshua had given them the idea that following Torah was no longer required, or even a major concern, why did they have to debate and reason out what to do?

Then comes the solution, and it is a solution that Christians just gloss over without thinking carefully about what was decided at that major tribunal.  Please note that nobody stood up and said, “Hey, come on!  This is a moot point since the Law got nailed to the cross with our savior.”  I couldn't find those words in the text.  What did happen is that James stood up and essentially said that, based on what had happened with Peter at Cornelius’ house and what had been happening with Paul and Barnabas, the Holy Spirit was telling them to accept the Goyim just as they were.  However, the gentiles needed some direction since this Judaism thing was so new and strange to them, and it wasn’t right to start loading them down with an overwhelming burden of new rules to follow, so let’s just give them four important, but simple rules to follow, and they can start learning the rest at their local synagogue where the Torah is taught every Sabbath.

Yep.  It’s right there in Acts 15:19-21.  “Therefore it is my judgment that we do not trouble those who are turning to God from among the Gentiles, but that we write to them that they abstain from things contaminated by idols and from fornication and from what is strangled and from blood. For Moses from ancient generations has in every city those who preach him, since he is read in the synagogues every Sabbath.”

Please notice that James is making reasonable assumptions here.  It was assumed that gentile converts would begin learning Torah, as gentile converts had for centuries.  James further assumes that it is perfectly reasonable to demand at least four things that can be observed immediately by the new converts and note that three of them are not in the Ten Commandments.  Note that James assumes that the new converts are going to be attending the local synagogue on the Sabbath.

In order for the importance of what James said to penetrate the “Christianized” mind, one needs to be familiar with Jewish history and understanding.  Since the Children of Israel left Egypt, it was understood that their purpose as stated in the Torah was to be a light (teacher) to the nations.  Israel’s mission as given by God was to be a priesthood that interceded for the nations and to show the example of how a people were supposed to live.  Ergo, when people of other nations saw that example and how blessed it was to follow Torah, they could become proselytes and be grafted in.

However, prior to the Messiah and the gift of the Holy Spirit, the procedure was for a gentile to study and begin living the life of Torah observance, and once the elders around him could see that he was serious about his commitment, he could then be circumcised and then after healing from that, he would undergo mikvah (baptism), immersing three times (without anyone touching him, in a pool of running water) and this was viewed as the old self dying and being washed away and the new man who rose up out of the water was considered fully Jewish, not to be treated any differently than one who came from generations that could be traced to Abraham.

But go back to what James said that became the majority opinion of the court. They didn’t throw out all of Torah for the gentiles.  All of those Apostles and disciples present had all heard the Master say plainly that they were to go and baptize all men, teaching them everything He had taught them.  James was expressing what the rest of them all understood. Perhaps up to that point, it was assumed that when the Master said to baptize, just like it had always been done, that the circumcision was also done.  But here, the Holy Spirit was revealing something new.  The things that the gentiles can start to do immediately, they can do.  As they attend the local synagogue, they will begin to learn and observe Torah with the help of the Jewish believers.

There is another important lesson here as well.  Note that even as with the Centurion Cornelius, gentiles having received the Holy Spirit, -- pay attention -- still needed to learn what to do.  You don’t get saved and suddenly have understanding about how to live a righteous life.  Peter, Paul and James wrote plenty in the New Testament to this effect.  Did you know that Martin Luther went so overboard on his "justification by faith" view, that he advocated to strike the book of James from the New Testament?  James made it clear that the way to know whether or not someone had true faith was to observe his actions.  Anyone can talk a good game, but as James knew, the Master had said, "By their fruit you will know them."

The only thing that changed with regard to Torah observance in Acts 15, was the idea that salvation depended on circumcision.  And that is not to say that circumcision was done away with.  Otherwise, how do you explain Paul circumcising Timothy? Paul never said that circumcision is wrong now and should never be done.  What he fought against was the idea that you could be saved by following a procedure and elevating such observance above the saving work of the Messiah.  I’m sure that as new gentile believers entered the Torah community and had children, eight-day-old boys were being circumcised on a regular basis, and men who wanted to be able to enter the Temple proper got circumcised and let their beards and payess grow out and put on tzitzit.  Sincere believers, so grateful for their salvation, desire to obey the Creator who shows them such love and mercy.  Following Torah is not a burden, but a blessing.

To a modern, western, Christianized mind, it may indeed seem like a burden.  Many people bristle at having to learn anything new.  It is just so damned easy to throw words around, such as, “We’re under grace and not the Law.”  Even though what Paul was saying in context is: “We have been forgiven and will not have to suffer the penalty of the Law.”  Big difference.

Christians like to say that we only have two rules: Love God and love our neighbor.  But when you start probing to see what that really means it begins to look like a shoddy faƧade that disguises the fact that we want to do our own thing and not be held to a visible, measurable standard.  This is why James wrote his epistle in the New Testament.  This is why the un-churched look at Christians and scream “hypocrites!”  They may not exactly know how to articulate it, but they instinctively know that there’s something badly wrong about a rubber yardstick.

We’ve only looked at two examples from Acts.  There is still more to come.  To get to the next essay, click on Lesson About Food.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Getting The Big Picture

The following is another installment on my big essay on Why I'm Not A Christian.  You need to have already read the other installments that follow; Making A Case, and Not Wanting To Know, as well as the five part series Knowing God.

To say that there is a lot of confusion over how to determine correct doctrine among the churches is a gross understatement.  I know I will be repeating myself on certain points as I go along, because as I’ve discovered over the years, some things just have to be pounded on repeatedly before they begin to sink in.  I think Mark Twain made the point that some people can learn simply by reading, and some people can learn by watching other people make mistakes, but there are some people who just have to urinate on the electric fence for themselves.

I mentioned in the last post that something extremely lacking in the churches is a comprehensive, methodical look at the nature of God.  Because God created man in His own image and likeness, we can infer some things about God from things we observe in our own thoughts and feelings, with the explicit caveat that we need God’s revealed Word to guide us to the correct conclusions about our observations.  This may seem like it is off topic to a degree, but all of these factors contribute to getting the right conclusions.  Once again, the key to getting the correct understanding is to take the Bible as a whole.  The truly crazy thing, and I DO mean crazy, is that we have churches who behave as though there is one religion in the “Old Testament” and then Jesus came and gave us a whole new, “New Testament” religion.  This is schizophrenic.  This is cognitive dissonance.  In plain street language, it’s just plain crap.

Please don’t go off and quote isolated passages from Romans or Galatians. I’ve been there, done that.  I’ve had to listen to it over and over again, as if the person quoting it to me thought that I’ve never read it before.  But then when I ask: What did Paul mean then, when he also said, “Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law.”

There is a clear, didactic statement from the Rabbi.  He makes the statement right there at Romans 3:31 after essentially explaining to a mostly gentile audience that a) man is created with a conscience which he purposely suppresses in favor of doing what he wants, b) that God gave the law to show man how far from righteousness he strays, c) that apart from relationship with God, man can never hope to come close to living up to the standard of the Torah, which is what real faith is all about, d) essentially, God in His mercy forgives us so we can come back into relationship with Him and follow Torah with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, thus establishing that the Law (Torah) is righteous and good.

If you simply lift selected verses out of Paul’s letter to the Romans, it is very easy to make it seem like Paul is advocating the idea that the Torah serves no purpose in a believer’s life. But this position would be totally inconsistent with not only all the other things that  Paul wrote, but his very public example as well.

How did the church succumb to the idea that Torah doesn’t apply to those who follow Christ?  They misunderstood an argument that arose over the singular practice of circumcision and what it stood for.  The church then extrapolated that argument, stretching it to absurd dimensions to cover the rest of Scripture.  Here we will deal with how it happened.  Let’s go back to the beginning and walk this thing out logically to figure out how it went so wrong.

For a couple of thousand years, Jews had a unique identity as the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (a.k.a. Israel).  The first covenant and the sign of the covenant that set apart Abraham and his progeny was that of circumcision.  It is important to stop here and note that God established the covenant that He would fulfill with Abraham and his descendents long before He introduced circumcision.  Let that sink in.  God presented the gospel message to Abraham in Genesis 15 and when Abraham believed the message, God declared him justified.  Circumcision did not happen until Ishmael was 13 and a couple of years before Isaac was born (Genesis 17).  It seems as though God did it this way to prove that circumcision was to be understood as a sign of obedience and was never to be confused as either a prerequisite or a condition of salvation.  After Paul’s Damascus road experience, he understood this as well.

Fast forward to Luke’s historical account of the Acts of the Apostles, and chapter 15.  At this point, one has to keep in mind that the body of believers had been growing for a while among the exclusively Jewish people of the area, based on the message of the Prophet John and the Rabbi Yeshua who preached repentance, or a turning back to Torah life. Read again, Matthew 5:17-19.  “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets . . .”  In Acts 15 we are told that some men came from Judea and began teaching that without circumcision, salvation was not possible.  It is also very important to note at this point that at least ten or more years have passed since Yeshua ascended into heaven after his death and resurrection.  Think about that for a moment.  How many little Jewish boys had been born among the believers in Jerusalem and surrounding areas in that time?  Do you think for one minute that those Jewish believers stopped fulfilling all the same requirements of Torah for the redemption of the first born sons, just as Mary and Joseph had?  That would be an assumption made from not only silence, but ignorance.  Furthermore, a new believer who came from the gentiles and wanted to be able to worship in the Temple area proper and not be excluded to the court of the gentiles would be required to undergo circumcision for full conversion to Judaism. You might be saved and a member of the body of believers, but the Law was still in effect regarding who could enter the physical location of the Temple that was reserved for the circumcised.

Paul had nothing against those who wanted to be circumcised for the purpose of being identified as being of Jewish heritage.  This is why he circumcised Timothy (Acts 16:3)  What Paul was fighting against was the idea that one had to be circumcised to be saved.  Pay careful attention to this.  The issue was not the circumcision itself, but rather what value you placed upon it.  What Paul was fighting against was the idea that you could become righteous in standing by observing rituals.  Do we then ignore the Law that tells us to obey the rituals?  No.  We obey the Law because we want to be obedient to the One who created us and showed us mercy and love.  We don’t follow the Law in order to be saved, we follow the Law because we are saved.

In order to get into the mindset of the first century believers, you need to understand what they understood from history and the Torah.  Not all of those who fled from Egypt were exclusively of the family line of Abraham.  Some of the Egyptians themselves, along with tribes from other regions saw the miracles that God brought down upon Egypt and they decided to go with the winning side.  The multitude that stood at Mount Sinai and agreed to receive the Torah and obey it, were from many different ancestors since the time of Noah. Many different languages were spoken at that time.  Egypt was the greatest empire on earth at the time of Moses, and they had many imported slaves; not just the Hebrews who had come to them during the famine while Joseph was alive.

Those who fled Egypt with the Children of Israel, stood at Mount Sinai and agreed to become a part of this new family or nation.  They became grafted in as followers of God.  The door was open to anyone who voluntarily agreed to live according to Torah.  There were those who were willing to sell themselves into indentured servitude (yes, slavery, but nothing like it is portrayed today) in order to be a part of this way of life and be under the blessings of God.

It was in this well-known history that the first century believers could understand the idea that those who wished to be followers of Messiah could be grafted in as believers in the same God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  But the gift of the Holy Spirit indwelling a believer superseded the need for circumcision as the sign of the covenant.  This was the whole purpose of the events that unfolded in Acts chapter ten.  Cornelius was already a Torah observant gentile who merely lacked circumcision to be recognized as a full Jew.  According to Torah, once a proselyte was circumcised and baptized he was as fully Jewish as one born to Jewish parents.

Before I go on with more evidence from the Scriptures, I suppose the main point you should get from all of the evidence I’ve presented so far is this:

Yeshua did not come to create a new religion out of whole cloth.  He came to reveal more understanding about what was already in the Torah and Prophets and Writings (Psalms and Proverbs, etc.)  Meditate on Luke 16:17:  “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law (Torah) to fail.”

You can get to the next essay by clicking on: Big Conference in Acts.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

I'm sitting here with a baby goat on my lap as I type.  I've got a full day ahead.  I wish I had a little more time right now for posting, but it may have to wait a day or two.

For now, here are a couple of pics of the new kid.  You can see how much smaller she is compared to the white goat and a full grown female.  Having been rejected by her mother in favor of her twin sisters, she is destined to become a premier petting goat with all this exclusive human contact.

We now have nine baby goats at the farm.

Twyla & The Runt

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Recovery Mode

Just in case I don't post anything between now and Monday night; the reason is that I spent all day to day cutting and storing wood for the stove because I may not get a chance to do it the rest of the week and we have guests coming in at the end of the week.

I'm pretty exhausted and don't know if I'll have the energy tonight to post anything.  I very much want to keep going with the series I just started.

B'rakhot Adonai, v'yom sh'ni tov.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Secular Prophetess

If you don't know about Ayn Rand, she escaped the Soviet Union in the 1950s or so, I think.  She grew up experiencing communism in all its horror.  She wrote several novels.  If you want something very short and to the point, read Anthem.  But her big masterpiece is Atlas Shrugged.  I know most people who need to be confronted with the truth contained in that fictional setting are not likely to pick up a 1,000 page tome.

Thank goodness, some folks have finally made the movie, well, the first movie.  Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.  The parallels to what is going on today in real life with what Rand wrote in that novel are amazing.  I don't know if real, die-hard lefties will comprehend how destructive their ideas are by watching this movie, but maybe some of the self-described moderates will get something out of it.  If this movie, and those that follow are faithful to the message of the book, it should be very entertaining and educational.  I'm glad to see from the trailer below that they aren't relying on any well known stars, which might detract from the message.

Rand's big drawback was her atheism.  Her belief in humanism was a bit over the top. But that does not take away from her spot-on description of how the ideals of the left inevitably lead to enslavement of humanity.  She basically took Orwell's Animal Farm and gave it a fully fleshed out venue in the real world.  If you can, take the time to read the book.  I hope the movie causes people to want to do that.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I'm Kidding?

In came the farm hands with a newborn kid goat, that they would have counted as dead except for the fact that it kept gasping every few seconds for air.  It was cold. The farm hands acted as if they just needed the final word to bury the poor thing.  The owner of the farm told them to go get some milk and let's see what we could do.

It didn't look good.  The heartbeat was faint and somewhere around sixty per minute. Normal for a full grown man. Near death for a mammal of three pounds. It looked comatose.  The body felt cold to the touch in a room that was 50 degrees.  I held this little kid next to the propane room heater and kept massaging it and praying that God would keep him alive.  I had to gently massage his throat to get him to swallow small amounts of milk.

There were other things that had to be done and it seemed like an exercise in futility to try to work to keep this little kid alive.  But he kept fighting.  He had a gaping wound on his rear leg more than a half of an inch.  One of the workers thought it might be because large rats that he'd seen might have attacked the kid early  on.

I managed to get home just as the sun was disappearing behind the mountains, ready to celebrate a special Shabbat with our new little friend.

I will post more on this in the morning.

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, little Chestnut got weaker through the night and would not take the milk that I had brought from the farm.  Twyla kept vigil from about 03:00.  We had him on a heating pad and did all we could, but it just wasn't meant to be.  He died shortly after 05:00.  Life is a fragile thing.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not Wanting To Know

This is the third installment that started with Why I Am Not A Christian.  Part Two is Making A Case.  If you haven't read Knowing God, Parts 1 - 5 this probably won't make enough sense to you.

Something I’ve never heard preached from a pulpit, or taught in a Sunday School class, is a lesson on the nature of God.  I once got a small taste of a lesson tucked in a teaching by the late Dr. Walter Martin.  It came up because you can often run into people who get their kicks by trying to come up with nonsensical, stupid questions to trip up believers.  If I had the power to enforce a rule in Christendom, it would be that new believers are not allowed to attempt evangelizing on their own unless they can pass a test on how to deal with most of these objections.  I know that it’s not practical and will never happen, but this goes along with why the Church has so many things wrong today.  I want to start building my case by starting with the nature of God, but I think I need to explain this problem first.

It is easy to see why a non-believer looks at the vast array of denominations; Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, etc. and thinks, “Those stupid Christians can’t agree on anything.”  Who can blame him?  Then you look at the cults of Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, etc., and if you really know some basics about the Bible you wonder how did those people get so screwed up?  The extremes to come out of these outliers are people like Jim Jones of the Guyana massacre, and David Koresh of Waco, Texas.

All of these denominations, even though some of them are so mainstream and ineffectual in society, have one common thread.  They lack a proper hermeneutic.  This is a fancy word for the logical, methodical way of interpreting Scripture. In a nutshell, it’s the proper method for determining what the Author meant to say so that you thoroughly understand it.  It is sorely lacking in just about all the churches I’ve ever been in.  I readily admit that humans are imperfect, and the imperfection of all human institutions are multiplied by the interaction of humans.  But I also have to ask, “How long would Microsoft last if only a few of its employees could agree on how the software is supposed to work?”  How long would you last at your job if you ignored the instructions and just made up procedures?  Not only some that didn’t have anything to do with your job, but some that actually contradicted the mission of your employer?

How did denominations like the Seventh Day Adventists create bizarre offshoots like William Russell who created the Jehovah’s Witnesses and David Koresh?    How do you get a Fred Phelps spewing his vile, hateful garbage and casting a pall upon all who claim allegiance to Christ?  How did we end up with Christmas, which no God-fearing Christians in America would have considered celebrating prior to the 19th century?  How did Christians come to calling Sunday the Sabbath instead of the seventh day as it had been since Adam and Eve? No hermeneutic and virtually no discipleship.

How many times has it happened to you, where you had to explain to someone, “Not only is that not what I meant, that’s not even what I said!”  I sometimes wonder if God just has a recording in heaven that just plays that sound bite over and over.

America is filled with unaccountable, independent churches.  Baptists can be very big on this concept.  In such a church, you can just raise your hand and tell the congregation that you feel led by the Holy Spirit to start a ministry and preach the gospel, shortly after having become a convert.  Chances are, everyone will be enamored with your gusto and zeal and will encourage you.  It is unlikely that the elders will take you aside and thoroughly question you to find out how much you know. To see if you actually understand correct doctrine and are ready to take on the schemes of the enemy.  The reasons the elders don’t do that is because not only are they unconcerned about what error you might fall into and then pass on, but they don’t know the answers either.  Remember what I said about my story when it came to searching for answers. (See: Knowing God) Most church leaders ignore Paul’s instructions on ordaining leaders in the congregations.  It is important to note that the only reason Paul had to write these instructions to the churches in the gentile areas, was because it was simply understood and a way of life for the Jewish believers who had been practicing Torah for centuries.  

The Jehovah’s Witnesses began because William Russell took the basics from Ellen B. White and the Seventh Day Adventists, but decided that he alone knew better how to interpret the Bible and set the standards for doctrine.  David Koresh did basically the same thing but was far less concerned with decorum.  In both cases, their followers succumbed to the cult of personality and the gift of charisma.

Why am I spending so much time and space on this background?  So as to contrast it with the Master Himself.  Let’s carefully consider the facts.  Based on Scripture, Yeshua was clearly of miraculous conception and the Spirit of God was upon him from that time on.  The event of his being in the Temple asking questions, most likely following His Bar-Mitzvah coinciding with Passover, demonstrates that He knew His identity even then. See Luke 2:41-52.  Why did he wait until age thirty to begin his ministry, keeping His identity as Messiah a secret?  The timing of fulfillment of the prophecy in Daniel is not a sufficient answer.  

I believe He did so out of respect for the traditions of the elders.  Do not be bamboozled into thinking that all traditions were held in contempt by Yeshua, but only those that were used to negate Torah.  He didn’t start His ministry until age 30 because he would have seen as an arrogant upstart otherwise.  A Jewish boy was expected to memorize Torah by the age of 13 and his Bar Mitzvah into adulthood.  There was no concept of adolescence in most of history.  From that point, a young man is expected to keep his mouth shut and keep learning by listening to the debates of all the men over age 30.  Only after all of this intense, thorough, and yet informal “schooling,” and having reached the age of 30, he could start offering his opinion on the Tanakh as being authoritative, and yet opinions were almost always given “in the name of” (authority) of a much greater sage. 

Back to my original issue about understanding the nature of God.  This is important because it would seem that most of Christianity seems to endorse the idea that God changed everything when Messiah came.  Where is the evidence for this?  Most all of the Torah and the Prophets is about giving us a picture of who the Messiah is and what he would do.  In both His first advent and then His second, in which the misunderstandings of the roles of Meshiach ben Yosef and Meshiach ben David has served to prevent most of the Jews from accepting the one Christianity calls Jesus of Nazareth.

When you think of Scripture as the autobiography of God and see the amazing supernatural evidence to that effect, you have to take seriously that He means what He says and He is careful about choosing the words.  Yeshua even made a point about the tense of the words when questioned by the Pharisees.  Also it should be logical that an omnipotent God can see to it that most of His word gets passed down through the ages accurately (see: Knowing God, Part 5).

My point is to ask the logical question, “Would the God of the Bible give mankind His Torah, His instruction book, repeat over and over that these instructions and commandments were forever and everlasting, and then send His Son to say, “Hey everybody, all that stuff that Daddy told Moses?  Y’all can just ignore that stuff now.”  As I’ve already shown, Yeshua didn’t say that.  In fact, He said just the opposite.

To say that the God of the Bible would have one system of rules for one set of people and then another almost non-existent set of rules, or rather just two completely indefinable rules for some other people, would mean that He is a capricious god like what the Romans and Greeks believed in. I can’t seem to come up with any other word for that kind of thinking other than blasphemy.  If that seems to harsh, maybe you can suggest another idea?  And please don’t think I’m just trying to be mean.  If this is the first time you are being challenged to think about this, I’m sure it’s uncomfortable.  Let me assure you that God does not hold us accountable for what we don’t know, or for being deceived and unaware of the deception.  However, once you’ve been confronted with the facts and you still insist on going your merry way, you’ll have to discuss it with your Creator.

I was at a church where a woman interjected herself while I was answering a question about Torah, saying that we didn’t need to worry about Torah, to which I asked her how she dealt with Matthew 5:17-19, quoting it to her, but before I could finish, she said, “I’m not going to listen to that, and I’m not going to read it.”  Even after all the encounters I’ve had over the years, I was still a bit stunned.  

The next installment is "Getting The Big Picture."

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A Different Farm

I've taken on another job.  There is a place nearby that specializes in organic farming and I thought it would be nice to both lend my expertise in some areas, while learning in other areas.

I spent part of the morning looking at paperwork regarding organic certification and the records trying to make sense of all the bureaucratic gobbldygook guanofication that results from government interference.  What have I gotten myself into?  I shall not think about that as a big picture.  I will muddle through and try to enjoy the experience.

The most enjoyable experience today was seeing two little baby goats, born just two days ago. Three had been born on the same morning, but one got smothered to death by the mother.  Sad, but it happens.

These goats were all friendly.  The mother of the two you see in the picture is an almost all black goat named Hannah.  She was there to greet us at the door.  I had the most fun with a smaller female who came up to me while I was talking to the keeper and she planted her two front hooves in my hip as if to say, "Hey, pay attention to me!"  She was a really affectionate goat.

She wanted to suck on my fingers and loved having her neck scratched.  I had the presence of mind to turn the camera around and get a shot of her. The other five females in the pen are all pregnant as well.  In the second picture you can just make out the wire fence that separates the males on the left side of the barn.

The guy on the left here is the busy sire.  Not a bad looking billy goat.

According to a farmhand who's been there for nine months, the 7 females there combined produce about a gallon of milk a day.  Neither Twyla nor I are much into drinking milk, but we like cheese and some of the things you make with milk, so we still think about how nice it would be to have goats.

I have so much more I could say, but I'm exhausted, and I spent way too much of my day feeling like I was freezing to death.  I can't wait for spring.

Shalom, Y'all

Making A Case

This is the next installment on "Why I Am Not A Christian"

Early in my studying and teaching of apologetics, I was very awestruck at the amount and quality of evidence that demonstrates that the Bible is a supernatural book.  If you want more background on this, see my post, Knowing God: Part 1. The discovery of such evidence ended up making me angry.  Not at the evidence, but at the suppression of it.

Oh, it wasn’t suppressed deliberately by the church.  This was a suppression of apathy.  It is not isolated to the church, either.  This suppression is what has resulted in liberal, or reformed Judaism.  In fact, I would include all the sects of Judaism short of the Haredi, or what is known as the Ultra-orthodox Jews, and then apologetics as it is known in Christendom doesn’t really apply to them because to such orthodox types, they feel no need whatsoever to engage in apologetics.  They are as connected to Abraham and Moses as you are to your grandpa.  History is not some abstract thing that bores the snot out of college kids and seems utterly disconnected to anything meaningful in their lives.  To orthodox Jews, history is just as solid and real as the stones that make up the Western wall of the Temple Mount.

One might be asking, “If the evidence for the Bible is so strong, why don’t we hear more about it?  Why don’t Christians and Jews defend it?  Many people are not going to like the answer.  The secret to this problem is hidden in plain sight.  The perfect example of this is Joel Osteen’s church. In case you don’t follow him, Joel Osteen is the guru of positive thinking disguised as a Christian church. Years ago, I listened to five or six sermons on TV and understood why he could fill an arena.  His message had nothing to do with discipleship, dying to oneself, living for eternity instead of this world.  I have a very hard time thinking that Christians in Darfur would recognize his gospel, let alone try to live by it.

The natural inclination of the human species is self gratification.  We want what we want.  Because of that, we believe what we want to believe.  It takes courage and a willingness to suffer a lot of discomfort to question one’s self.  To ask, “Is this really true?  How do I know this is true?”    Name any “sin” that you can think of; something that you, personally, think is a sin.  How does it begin.  It starts because you desire something.  It grows closer to becoming reality as you dwell on it and then think of ways to justify it. As you think about it more and more, your thought patterns will center more and more on why you deserve to do that thing, and less and less about how it might hurt someone else.

This is how a man like Charles Darwin could grow up in a family in 19th century England, when most of the country and the modern world believed in the God of the Bible and His Word, and end up writing to convince others on the theory of evolution.  He was seeking ways to eliminate God from his life.  With each new discovery of fact in science, his theories become more and more ridiculous and untenable, but the people who continue to push them, have the same motivation he did. It can best be summed up by the grandson of Thomas H. Huxley, “Darwin’s Bulldog,” and the author of Brave New World:

“I had motive for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in pure metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves. … For myself, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.”  -- Aldous Huxley

There you have it.  I still believe that apologetics is the handmaiden of evangelism; that true believers should answer the objections, on all levels, to the skeptics of the Bible.  We have nothing to be afraid of, and the evidence is on our side.  But I have no illusions that you can convince someone of the truth intellectually when they have personal and emotional reasons to fight it at all costs.  Being a member of a church can be no more demanding than being a member of Rotary or the Elks club. Recognizing that the Bible is the inerrant Word of the Creator of the Universe demands radical re-ordering and prioritizing of one’s life.

This relates to even the most dedicated Christians in a different way, but in just as dramatic a way nonetheless.  It can be extremely shocking and uncomfortable to suddenly realize that many things you had been raised to believe were just wrong.  You’d been told things as if they were just fact, based on nothing more than tradition.  You had never really checked into it yourself, because, after all, that’s the job of the pastor or priest.  You don’t have time for that.  He’s the one with the seminary degree.  What does a pastor do all week, anyway?  He’s got all that time to sit in his office and research all this stuff. Right?

Therefore, it is no wonder that when Christians start asking me why I follow Torah, they would accuse me of being like the “Judaizers” that Paul wrote about in his letter to the Galatians.  They put me in the same camp as someone who believes in legalistic adherence to the Law as the means to salvation.  In short, they don’t understand Paul’s argument, because for centuries, the clergy has taken selected verses out of the context of everything that Paul wrote and created a false doctrine.  This is why Peter wrote regarding Paul’s teaching in his letters, “ . . . as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”  (2 Peter 3:16)

I can prove from the Scriptures that Paul never made the case that we no longer have to follow Torah and that this is in keeping with what the Messiah taught.  I will demonstrate that what Paul was teaching was that you cannot expect adherence to the Torah to save you.  Paul was indeed teaching that to make adherence to Torah a condition for salvation was to do violence to the finished work of the Messiah.  But this in no way invalidates the fact that all the apostles and the other disciples of Messiah kept and continued to teach the keeping of all the Torah in accordance with the Master’s words in Matthew 5:17-19 and Luke 16:17 “But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law (Torah) to fail.”

In the next installment, we will do something that seldom gets done in the church.  We are going to look at the entire Bible as a coherent whole.  If the Bible really is the Word of an omnipotent and omniscient Creator, it shouldn’t contradict itself, and I’m convinced that it does not.  Where I’ve heard contradictions about the Bible, they’ve come from the ideas and doctrines of men.

We are going to go step by step to logically and systematically examine the question of whether or not Yeshua ben Yosef, this Jesus from Nazareth, came to start a whole new religion, or whether he was simply fulfilling and continuing an existing revelation about the nature of God and His Kingdom.  We are going to do something that is almost unheard of in the Christian world; we are going to let the text speak for itself.

You can click here to go to the next installment:  Not Wanting To Know.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Why I Am Not A Christian

I became a Christian in the autumn of 1985, had a “born again” kind of experience, but was completely a babe in the woods when it came to this new belief system.  This in spite of the fact that I was in America surrounded by Churches.  This would prove to be the problem.

Truly appreciating real science, I questioned everything.  I especially questioned my new found belief system and had doubts that nearly caused me to abandon it altogether.  But there was the breakthrough, when I found out that God does not fear our toughest inquisitions. Neither of His Word nor His creation.

Before going on, I feel the need to address the various types of readers who might stray here and need some sort of introduction.

If you are a non-believer in the God of the Hebrew Bible, but you have an open mind and simply want to understand why there is so much division among those who claim to be Christian, what follows will likely seem like incredible minutia that will be difficult to wade through. I fully understand that a major reason many people don’t want anything to do with the Bible is because of the people who call themselves Christians. If you are a practicing Jew, it must seem very odd the way the Christians do violence to the Tanakh (Old Testament) in the name of Jesus and then wonder why you don’t accept Him as Messiah.  If you are an atheist who “knows” that there is no God and that all religion is false, you will find what follows to be silly or boring, so why waste your time?  Admittedly, this topic is actually for those who claim to believe in Jesus Christ, but sadly do not truly believe His Word, except where it seems to agree with what they want to believe.

For over twenty years, I studied and taught on Biblical apologetics.  That means that I defended the truth of the Bible, revealing the volumes of evidence that demonstrate that the earth and the universe, and real science do not contradict the Bible, but on the contrary, they confirm it.  I was sharing with others the evidence that showed that the Bible could not have been “authored” by mere men.  That through prophecy and other miraculous evidence, the Bible had to have been dictated by an intelligent being far beyond our understanding.

In order for most of what I have to say to make sense and be of the most benefit, you would have to be someone who believes that the Bible in it’s original manuscripts is fully inspired by God.  By that I mean that He actually dictated the words to those who initially penned it.  My apologetics work shows up in other posts and there will be more to come as needed.  That’s not the subject of this post.  Here we proceed from the idea that God Himself wrote the Bible.
The modern western version of Christianity is full of traditions and beliefs based on assumptions, isolated texts, and traditions that crept in over the centuries. Some denominations actually operate on the idea that anything prior to Jesus can now be ignored and have no bearing on being a Christian.  This is bizarre considering a couple of things.

Christians love to cite the words of a certain Rabbi named Paul.  Paul said in his second letter to Timothy (2 Tim. 3:16): “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living; . . .”   At the time Paul wrote that, the New Testament as we know it had not been canonized as Scripture.  So, what was Paul referring to?  The Tanakh.  What Christians today call the Old Testament.  This English name does not do it justice and gives the wrong impression, so I will not use it from here on out.  The “Old” Testament is not antiquated or out of date.  It still contains prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled (subjects for future posts).  From here I will refer to that section of Scripture as the Tanakh.  TaNaK is kind of an acronym for Torah, Neva’im, and Ketuvim.  Meaning the “Law” the Prophets and the Writings.

If you claim to follow Christ, then it would make sense to note that Jesus based everything He said and did on the Tanakh.  Here is what he said in Luke 24:25-27, after he had been resurrected: “. . . ‘Foolish people! So unwilling to put your trust in everything the prophets spoke! Didn’t the Messiah have to die like this before entering his glory?” Then starting with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them the things that can be found throughout the Scriptures concerning himself.”

Stop and consider the full import of this verse.  He was chastising his own followers for not taking seriously all of what the Tanakh had to say about his first coming to earth and the prophecies He had to fulfill. Pay close attention to the phrasing. “Starting with Moses” means he was citing Torah, the first five books of the Bible.  “The Prophets” means every book from Isaiah to Malachi.  How can one reconcile the idea that Jesus came to free us from being concerned with what the Tanakh has to teach in light of that verse?  Now add the quote from Paul that I cited above.

If you are familiar with many study Bibles, you can see that they put little notes in the New Testament to show you where to locate the references are in the Tanakh to what the Gospel or epistle writer is citing. If you have such a Bible, take some time to note how much of what is written in the New Testament is simply quoting from the Tanakh with the understanding that the reader is supposed to be fully knowledgeable about all of what the Tanakh says.

If it isn’t quite enough for you that Jesus (Yeshua ben Yosef) pretty much always cited the Tanakh for His authority on answering questions, how about if we look at His statements which are very direct about the Tanakh.

Matthew’s gospel contains what is known as the “Sermon on the Mount” comprised of chapters 5, 6, and 7. The setting is important because Messiah was teaching before a very large audience, making it clear to as many as possible  what he was all about.  In that sermon we find this statement (Matt. 5:17-19): “Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah (Law) or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete (fulfill) Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yod (smallest Hebrew letter) or a stroke will pass from the Torah -- not until everything that must happen has happened. So whoever disobeys the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But whoever obeys them and so teaches will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.”

That is a clear and didactic statement.  It’s not a parable. It’s not alluding to anything else. Because the Messiah knows the future as well as He knows the past, He wanted to get it on record in the clearest possible terms, what His disciples should understand about the Tanakh.  In order for Him to be the Messiah, he couldn’t possibly be a violator of Torah.  He was speaking to an audience almost exclusively of Torah observant Jews, who once a year, every year, heard it read in their synagogues, the following (Deuteronomy 13:1-6) “Everything I am commanding you, you are to take care to do. Do not add to it or subtract from it.  If a prophet or someone who gets messages while dreaming arises among you and he gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder comes about as he predicted when he said, ’Let’s follow other gods, which you have not known; and let us serve them,’ you are not to listen to what that prophet or dreamer says. For Adonai your God is testing you, in order to find out whether you really do love Adonai your God with all your heart and being.  You are to follow Adonai your God, fear him, obey his commandments, listen to what he says, serve him and cling to him; and that prophet or dreamer is to be put to death; because he urged rebellion against Adonai your God, . . .”

For those of you who don’t know, there is this cyclical reading of the Torah every year in synagogues all over the world. Each Sabbath in the synagogue, going back to the time of Moses, the faithful people would gather to hear a lesson, a Parashah section of the Torah read aloud.  The Torah was divided into sections so that in a year’s time the five books of Moses would be read through.  Besides that, in truly Torah observant communities, boys were expected to have memorized the Torah by the time of their Bar Mitzvah at 12 or 13.

There was no football, basketball, or soccer. No television, X-box, Wii, or any other of the myriad of distractions we have in the world today. Life was agrarian. You either farmed or fished or made things for those who did. People who tried to be faithful to Torah (not just Jews) held to the teaching of Deuteronomy 6, which contains the “Sh’mah,” the most well-known and often repeated pieces of Scripture known to all Jews around the world. Also, the verses immediately following that:   “These words, which I command you today, are to be on your heart, and you are to teach them carefully to your children, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-7)

From the time a child was weaned, boys spent the day with daddy, learning the family business and learning and discussing Torah. Girls did the same with the mother.  There were no government schools.  If a boy began showing promise as a Torah scholar, the family rejoiced, because there was no greater honor in a Jewish community. Torah scholarship was so revered that those recognized as being exceptional at it were excused from some or even much of the labor and other family members compensated the work load.  Everything centered around Torah, and the rest of the Holy Books.

This is the community that Yeshua son of Joseph was born into.  When you read in Luke that Mary (Miriam) and Joseph (Yosef) were righteous, it means that they obeyed the Torah. Because life was all about the Scriptures and heritage and family, they knew that they were of the line of David and that Messiah was due to come from their line, even before the angel showed up to announce it.

It can be hard for us, in this modern technological world, to grasp that towns were tiny, and everybody knew everybody.  Nazareth might have had several hundred families; maybe a thousand families tops.  They were nearly all related going back many generations.  When you weren’t talking about making your living or discussing Torah or the Roman occupation, you talked about family. Everybody knew who Yeshua was.  There are songs and jokes about living in small towns.  There are no secrets, even when you try to hide things. But a Torah observant community is even far more open.  Why is all of this important?

If Yeshua had not been a faithful adherent to Torah, the claims of His disciples and the gospels could have easily been refuted and He would have been proven to be like the other false Messiahs that had come before.  Had he said anything to indicate that He was going to do away with Torah, the community would have rightly stoned Him to death as a false prophet leading a rebellion against God Almighty.

People who have been “churched” in their beliefs via catechism or Protestantism don’t have the same idea of “sinless” as expressed in the Bible.  Torah is the standard for what is and is not sin.  Most Christians in the modern world have some amorphous, liquid, shape-shifting ideas about what is and isn’t sinful.  Somewhere along the line, people took this verse from Matthew 22:40 and twisted it out of shape:
“On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” (NASB)  It is fitting that I quote my friend Rabbi Michael Bugg: “A real, kosher Torah scroll is the Word of God written on lambskin, impaled on two shafts of wood (the rollers) which are called the Aytz Chaim (Tree of Life), . . .” (footnote a)  Yeshua was making the point with the Torah teachers that the two commandments were like the most important parts of a tree.  The commandment to love Adonai with all the mind, soul, and strength is like the root, the foundation.  The root is needed to support the trunk which is the second commandment. Without those two parts, a tree cannot produce any fruit.

In the case of the Pharisees and scribes, they were always concerned with the fruit, the visible, tangible stuff that everybody wanted from the tree.  They had lost sight of the very thing, the most important thing that provided for that fruit.
Today Christianity seems to have an almost opposite problem.  The church wants to have a stump in the ground that produces nothing of value and pretend that it has everything.  Is it any wonder that the unsaved world looks at the vast majority of churches and says, “Where’s the fruit?”  Torah is the God-given standard by which we can know that we are in the right relationship with Him and with our neighbor.

This is just the beginning of explaining why I don't use the label "Christian" and instead call myself Messianic.

The next installment in this series is Making A Case.

Note a: see “When The Stars Fall” by Rabbi Michael Bugg, page 226.

Friday, February 4, 2011

More on Moderate Danger

Remember when I wrote "Moderate Danger?"  I was making the point that those who choose to believe themselves moderates or centrists are not good for anybody, and are, in fact, the very enablers who make it possible for us to accelerate toward hell.  They are terribly smug in their self-righteous opinion that they are "reasonable" in their approach because they stay away from anything that might be viewed as extreme by any of the other sides.  They think themselves thoughtful, when what they are really doing is avoiding any real thought whatsoever.

I then ran across this wonderful paragraph today over at One Cosmos:

One thinks of the impressionable and emptyheaded "independent voters" who decide our elections and usher in a nightmarish future that none of them intended. But because of their spiritual and intellectual passivity, they open the way for political actors with very bad intentions indeed. For Dante, these are souls Who mourn the lack of intellect's true light.

This guy is a wealth of great insight and clever prose.

Best Statement #2 for 2011

Found this at the deep-thinking blog called One Cosmos:

Marxism is rooted in the myopic fallacy that things were getting worse for the average worker, when the reality was that, for the first time in 10,000 years, they were actually getting dramatically better. 
In this regard, Marx was not just economically illiterate, but appallingly ahistorical, a malady that continues to afflict the left to this day. The free market will eventually solve most problems that leftist policies will only perpetuate or aggravate, which means that the left is the very disease it attempts to cure. In order to carry this off, the leftist relies upon people being riveted to the ahistorical moment, so they may implement a radical solution to redeem the future. But the former never works and the latter never arrives. 

Update:  Bonus paragraph from the previous day's posting where Bob gives one definition of those who believe in the religion of being "progressive."

Again, this is anything but progressiveism; it is pure romanticism, which is always backward looking -- and not just backward looking, but backward to an idealized past that never existed to begin with. It is pure projection of present existential pain, and escapism into the past. No one is more conservative than a progressive. It's just that what they want to conserve is childhood and all of its privileges, e.g., irresponsibility, dependency, entitlement, rebellion against the grown-ups, polymorphous perversity, weak boundaries, etc.  [emphasis mine]
Todah Rabbah, Robert Godwin!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Best Statement #1 for 2011

Via the comment section from House of Eratosthenes:

“The Left is more than ruthless, they are evil. They seek to rule, not by persuasion or honest debate, but by any means necessary. They revel in slander, character assassination and violence. They are steeped in hatred for all who oppose them. They seek to create and hold a monopoly on news media and editorial opinion; they support voter fraud and stolen elections; they prosecute political opponents on trumped-up charges in kangaroo courts. They have raised “the politics of personal destruction” to a high art form. Fairness, civility and common decency are unknown to them. I do not see the American Left as fellow citizens, I see them as sworn enemies for whom I feel little or no commonality or fraternity.
The Left has, however, finally convinced me of the truth of one of their key precepts: Politics is war by other means. They proved that in their orgy of hate and slander following the Arizona shootings. I shall not forget again.”
I’m fresh out of mercy."

That's right.

Proof Positive

Yesterday I posted about making a choice about what kind of society you want to live in.  There is no easy choice because life is a struggle no matter what you do, and choosing the path that's best for you means lots of careful thought and learning to discern between what is real and what is fiction.

Helping to prove my point about how intellectually lazy people can be, I found this post at Bayou Renaissance Man.

Now stop and ask yourself how much more of a delusion you can create if you have a lot more people and a lot more resources to use for your propaganda.  Add to this the factors of complexity of subject matter.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Thoughtful Question

Col. Bunny over at Eternity Road asked the question at the end of a thoughtful piece.

"If life with the ridiculous, laughable, pathetic God of creation is so horrific and unbearable, what do you think it’s going to be like without God?"

 It is most interesting to me because he says he is not a Christian.  It is sad to me that over my life I have noticed that some of the most moral people I've met have refused to take on any religious label, and most often would make the point of saying that they weren't a Christian.  And here I am today, after a long time of wearing that label, now no longer able to, but for completely different reasons. I'm unable to wear that label because of the vast majority of people who wear it, but for whom it means little or nothing, and the resultant damage they do to it.  Perhaps I should one day post only on why I am not a "Christian."  I am a Messianic believer; a follower of "the way," as recorded in Luke's book of Acts.

In the developed world, we have so bought into scientism and materialism. Yes, scientism, not science. What used to be scientific endeavor has eroded into finding or making up data to support political agendas, rather than seeking the truth. The squashing of intelligent design theory and the global warming hoax have proved that in spades.  The modern world is so full of people who are so thoroughly confused about real science and the scientific method, that they simply accept anything the media tells them about "news" from the world of science.  Most people simply read or hear, "Scientists said . . ." or "Study revealed . . ." and they just buy it all, lock, stock, and barrel.  Then months or years later when it is revealed that the data was misinterpreted or the methods were sloppy or the conclusions incoherent and wrong, nobody pays attention.

In keeping with Col. Bunny's question, it is interesting to note that even many of the philosophers who doubted God's existence or denied it outright, at least thought about the consequences of their ideas. They reasoned that man is a wild beast and needs to be ruled by his superiors of the same species, and that using the concept of "God" is a good way to keep the herd in line.  I wish I still had all my files with the quote from one 19th century philosopher who said that if people didn't believe in a God, the elites would need to invent one to keep the people in line.   In the times of monarchs with absolute authority, this was known as "divine right," and was useful for keeping the people cowed. Philosophers all the way back to Plato have understood that people had to have some kind of belief in a cosmic being with ultimate authority or society would break down into anarchy. Of course, past tyrants would have salivated at the modern technology we have today that could make it possible to watch and threaten the masses into near complete submission.

Many who have dislike or outright hatred of Christianity love to ask, "What about the crusades?"  Young skulls full of state propaganda from government schools are convinced that "religion" is the cause of all the world's ills. Pay no attention to the fact that it was Nazi socialism, Lenin and Stalin's communism, Mao, Pol Pot, and others who adhered to a doctrine that specifically and militantly prohibited the God of the Bible from having any part in the ordering of their societies, and executed, -- not just killed in war -- murdered upwards of 50 million people combined.  I'd like to resurrect some of those people and ask them if they would prefer living under a king who believed he would eventually have to stand before the judgment of a righteous God, or if they thought the concept of living under the Ten Commandments was just too much of a burden.

The Hitlers and the Maos and those who would be our "progressive" leaders can't tolerate any fundamental, true belief in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Why?  To believe in the God of the Bible would lead to radical ideas about man being endowed by his Creator with certain unalienable rights.  People might start believing that man is not meant to be a slave to the state in order to serve the good of the masses. You true believers in the God of the Bible are a hindrance to our well-ordered society.

Life is hard. This is true for but a few buckets in the ocean of humanity. There is no system of human government which can change that fact. Not one. Whether you choose to work for material wealth like an Edison or a Ford, a Rockefeller or a Gates; or you decide to live on the streets and beg for your sustenance, life is a struggle. In a free society, men get to choose which struggle makes them happiest. In a totalitarian state, unless you are willing to lie, cheat, and murder, you will be told what struggle you will endure.

The founders of the United States may have disagreed on many doctrines of various denominations of Christianity, but they all agreed on the basics of morality as expressed in the Judeo-Christian Bible.  People like Bill Maher and others can make all the baseless claims they want to about the founders not being Christians.  A few exceptions do not alter the history as recorded in the deliberations in Congress or the federalist papers or in the personal correspondence of those founders. And I dare you to walk through Washington, D.C. and point to the words and pictures carved into the buildings and tell me that the founders didn't care about the influence of the Bible on government in the affirmative. The fact is that the overwhelming majority of the founders were indeed men of the Bible.  Dr. Benjamin Rush, signatory to the Declaration of Independence said that if the Bible ever got replaced as the basic primer for education in America, we eventually would not be able to build jails fast enough. How prophetic.  John Adams, the second president, said, "We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Something Col. Bunny alludes to but does not state specifically is that nature abhors a vacuum.  We are all going to live by somebody's set of values.  There is no such thing as a valueless society.  Muslims, and yes, I mean ALL muslims, adhere to the doctrine of their prophet Muhammed, and they can all claim various levels of adherence to the dictates of this Imam or that Imam, but when push comes to shove, and the powerful clerics who exercise the real muscle and  issue the fatwahs and direct how Sh'ria law is to be obeyed, the rest of the so-called "moderate" muslims will fall in line.  Muslims do not believe in "live and let live."  They believe that all the world is destined to be under Islam; under "submission," which is what Islam actually means.  If you are not prepared to fight to keep this ostensibly Judeo-Christian society from being overrun by muslim jihadis, then welcome to dhimmitude under an Islamic caliphate.

So, which system do you want to live under?  If you think Islam is the way to go, you can convert and move to a country which already has Sh'ria in place.  If you like the fully socialized Utopian dream, Cuba, North Korea, or Venezuela awaits you.  But how about doing the rest of us a favor and leave us alone.