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I have written an e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which is free to anyone. To download that book, in several formats, go here.
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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Sunspots 459

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:

The Arts: Wired has posted a series of stunning photos of the African Savannah, and the creatures that live there.

Buzzfeed reports, with photos and videos, on the amazing art collection of the U. S. Army.

Computing: Gizmo's Freeware discusses some tips and tricks related to four very useful free programs, namely VLC Media Player, Paint.net, Notepad + +, and the NoScript Extension for Firefox.

Humor: (sort of) The Huffington Post tells us more than we knew about differences between redheaded people and the rest of us.

Politics: A fine column by George F. Will, a conservative's conservative, on what the Republicans should really be doing about immigration.

A sobering piece, with thoughts for and against, on whether prisoners who committed serious crimes as children should be granted parole, from Al Jazeera.

(sort of) From Reuters: What French healthcare is like. (Patient-centered, not much waiting, not so many trips to an office, specialists talk to each other, inexpensive.)


Image source (public domain)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 24

Seven: Is prophecy easy to understand?

You already know the correct answer to that statement. It isn’t. And Christians don’t agree on the meaning of many prophecies. However, God has shown, over and over, that He is able to communicate what is necessary to people, in Bible times and since then. Even though prophecy seems obscure, if it’s important that we understand it, God can show us. But it is also true that not everyone who thinks she understands a prophecy knows the correct interpretation. There are many unfortunate examples of wrong interpretations and predictions, such as the one by Harold Camping and his followers, that the world would come to an end on May 21, 2011, based on Camping’s interpretation of the Bible. It didn’t, and there were several obvious flaws in Camping’s interpretation. Also, he was presumptuous, since Jesus said:

Matthew 24:36 But no one knows of that day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Camping has acknowledged that he erred in making this definite prediction. [Note - Camping passed away recently.]

Prophecies relating to the early life of Christ

The New Testament, especially the book of Matthew, which was apparently written with a Jewish audience in mind, frequently reminds us of Old Testament prophecies about Christ, and how they were fulfilled by Christ. I’m going to present and discuss the first four of these, to illustrate why Christians should be cautious about interpreting prophecy.

The first fulfilled prophecy about Christ, in the New Testament, is this:
Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child,
    and shall bring forth a son.
They shall call his name Immanuel”;
    which is, being interpreted, “God with us.”

This is a quotation from Isaiah 7:14. However, here are additional verses from that chapter:

Isaiah 7:10 Yahweh spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign of Yahweh your God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt Yahweh.”
13 He said, “Listen now, house of David. Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat butter and honey when he knows to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child knows to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land whose two kings you abhor shall be forsaken. 17 Yahweh will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria. 18 It will happen in that day that Yahweh will whistle for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.

Matthew says that Isaiah 7:14 was a fulfilled prophecy about the birth of Christ, so it must have been. But it would have taken extraordinary wisdom to find such a prophecy in Isaiah’s original proclamation, which seems to be a prophecy about God’s judgment on the kingdom of Ahaz. There are other difficulties. Did Jesus ever have to learn to refuse evil? Was there a child born in Ahaz’s time, who also fulfilled this prophecy? (My NIV study bible suggests that a betrothed wife of Isaiah may have been referred to.) It is unlikely that Ahaz, or even Isaiah, would have taken Isaiah 7:14 to be a prophecy about the coming of Christ. Matthew, and you and I, can see that it was, but that’s in hindsight.

An interesting sidelight about this prophecy is that some scholars have translated the Hebrew word from Isaiah, which the WEB has rendered as “virgin,” as “young woman.” This includes a recent translation, the New American Bible, Revised Edition, which has the approval of the U. S. Catholic Bishops. The Bishops, of course, are not changing their belief that Mary was a virgin when Christ was conceived, but are convinced that the Hebrew word did not have to mean “virgin.”

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. God willing, the next post in this series will continue a discussion of this topic, prophecy. Thanks for reading.


Saturday, February 22, 2014

What the Bible says about politics

This post attempts to collect everything the Bible says, that can establish principles for Christian political behavior, mostly by ordinary citizens, but also by elected leaders, or those aspiring to office. It does not attempt to deal with particular issues, such as gun rights, global climate change, government debt, immigration, foreign policy, health care, abortion or homosexuality, as important as they, and other issues, might be. Instead, it attempts to point to  Biblical principles that apply to political behavior. The links, above, are to reasonably thorough posts on two of these issues.

Here are some Biblical principles that should apply to political behavior: Respecting others, and having compassion for them
Matthew 7:12 Therefore whatever you desire for men to do to you, you shall also do to them; for this is the law and the prophets.

This statement, by Christ, in His Sermon on the Mount, is usually called the Golden Rule. It is the guide for all interactions with others, including those who may disagree with us politically. From outside, at least, it seems that there has not been a lot of this, from either side of the aisle, in Washington lately. That's not the only place that it's been lacking! It would seem that we should listen to others, and try to see the merits of what they are saying, and, if we disagree, do so respectfully and in a non-confrontational manner.

This commandment not only enjoins us to respect our equals, but tells us that we should be compassionate toward others who are not as well off as we currently are. That compassion should include appropriate government action.

Respecting authority
Ecclesiastes 10:20 Don’t curse the king, no, not in your thoughts;
and don’t curse the rich in your bedroom:
for a bird of the sky may carry your voice,
and that which has wings may tell the matter.
(All quotations from the World English Bible, public domain.)


Exodus 22:28 You shall not blaspheme God, nor curse a ruler of your people.

Titus 3:1 Remind them to be in subjection to rulers and to authorities

Taxes
Matthew 22:15 Then the Pharisees went and took counsel how they might entrap him in his talk. 16 They sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are honest, and teach the way of God in truth, no matter whom you teach, for you aren’t partial to anyone. 17 Tell us therefore, what do you think? Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, “Why do you test me, you hypocrites? 19  Show me the tax money.”
They brought to him a denarius.
20 He asked them, “Whose is this image and inscription?”
21 They said to him, “Caesar’s.”
Then he said to them, “Give therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”


2 Chronicles 10:1 Rehoboam went to Shechem; for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of king Solomon), Jeroboam returned out of Egypt. 3 They sent and called him; and Jeroboam and all Israel came, and they spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make the grievous service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, lighter, and we will serve you.”
5 He said to them, “Come again to me after three days.”
So the people departed. 6 King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, saying, “What counsel do you give me about how to answer these people?”
7 They spoke to him, saying, “If you are kind to these people, please them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”
8 But he abandoned the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 He said to them, “What counsel do you give, that we may give an answer to these people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Make the yoke that your father put on us lighter?’”
10 The young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall tell the people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but make it lighter on us;’ thus you shall say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 Now whereas my father burdened you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.’”
12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king asked, saying, “Come to me again the third day.” 13 The king answered them roughly; and king Rehoboam abandoned the counsel of the old men, 14 and spoke to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.”
15 So the king didn’t listen to the people; for it was brought about by God, that Yahweh might establish his word, which he spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 16 When all Israel saw that the king didn’t listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, “What portion have we in David? We don’t have an inheritance in the son of Jesse! Every man to your tents, Israel! Now see to your own house, David.” So all Israel departed to their tents.
17 But as for the children of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18 Then king Rehoboam sent Hadoram, who was over the men subject to forced labor; and the children of Israel stoned him to death with stones. King Rehoboam hurried to get himself up to his chariot, to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel rebelled against David’s house to this day. 


Because of the statement by Jesus in Matthew 22, and the similar statement by Paul, in Romans 13, below, it seems that Christians generally should pay taxes assessed by the government. The burden discussed in 2 Chronicles 10 seems to have been taxes and also servitude. Based on this case, it seems that there may be times when Christians should speak up against burdensome taxes. It is doubtful that the amount of taxes expected from people and businesses in the US is as much as the burdens Rehoboam would have put on the Israelites. Those with the power to levy taxes need to be careful that those taxes are as fair as possible, and are not a crushing burden, based on this story.

Note that taxes to Caesar were being paid by the Israelites of Christ's time, an occupied nation, to their occupiers. The Romans put Christ to death, and fed Christians to the lions.

Respecting authority and taxes
Romans 13:1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those who exist are ordained by God. 2 Therefore he who resists the authority, withstands the ordinance of God; and those who withstand will receive to themselves judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to the good work, but to the evil. Do you desire to have no fear of the authority? Do that which is good, and you will have praise from the same, 4 for he is a servant of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid, for he doesn’t bear the sword in vain; for he is a servant of God, an avenger for wrath to him who does evil. 5 Therefore you need to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For this reason you also pay taxes, for they are servants of God’s service, attending continually on this very thing. 7 Therefore give everyone what you owe: if you owe taxes, pay taxes; if customs, then customs; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

Respecting authority and obeying the law
2 Peter 2:13 Therefore subject yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether to the king, as supreme; 14 or to governors, as sent by him for vengeance on evildoers and for praise to those who do well. 15 For this is the will of God, that by well-doing you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God.
17 Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.


We (including me) have problems with that last clause. We, as a culture, have problems with honoring anyone at all. Our humor, all too often, doesnt affirm anyone or anything, but does the opposite. The second President Bush was mocked for his sometimes tortured syntax, the way he walked, and for his pronunciation of certain words. I confess that I did some of that, and I shouldnt have. Cartoons of President Obama (and the Presidents before him), often have been designed to do the opposite of honor, and, at times, I fear, Christians have delightedly passed these on through e-mail and social media.

The principle of honoring those in authority seems to go beyond the President, and extend to other elected officials, and various public servants, such as the police, teachers, and people who work in the Department of Motor Vehicles. I personally think it should also extend to candidates for office.

Does this mean that we must support all the policies and actions of such people? No. But we should disagree, if we must, in a respectful manner. Heres a case of Paul disagreeing, by asserting his rights:

Acts 16:35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the sergeants, saying, “Let those men go.”
36 The jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go; now therefore come out, and go in peace.”
37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, without a trial, men who are Romans, and have cast us into prison! Do they now release us secretly? No, most certainly, but let them come themselves and bring us out!”
38 The sergeants reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Romans, 39 and they came and begged them. When they had brought them out, they asked them to depart from the city
.


And a similar case:
Acts 22:24 the commanding officer commanded him to be brought into the barracks, ordering him to be examined by scourging, that he might know for what crime they shouted against him like that. 25 When they had tied him up with thongs, Paul asked the centurion who stood by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and not found guilty?”

Praying for those in authority
1 Timothy 2:1 I exhort therefore, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and givings of thanks, be made for all men: 2 for kings and all who are in high places; that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who desires all people to be saved and come to full knowledge of the truth

The Roman Emperor, at the time Paul wrote this, was Nero. It is true that much, or all, of the reason for praying for rulers, in this passage, seems to be so that Christians can live in peace, but it's also true that we should pray that rulers (and others) will come to belief in Christ as savior. It seems to me that prayer for wisdom for those in authority is also important, and should be part of our prayer life, although the Bible doesnt seem to explicitly say that.

Ezra 6:8 Moreover I make a decree what you shall do for these elders of the Jews for the building of this house of God: that of the king’s goods, even of the tribute beyond the River, expenses must be given with all diligence to these men, that they not be hindered. 9 That which they have need of, including young bulls, rams, and lambs, for burnt offerings to the God of heaven; also wheat, salt, wine, and oil, according to the word of the priests who are at Jerusalem, let it be given them day by day without fail; 10 that they may offer sacrifices of pleasant aroma to the God of heaven, and pray for the life of the king, and of his sons.

This is part of an edict of Darius, who was not an Israelite. He asked for prayer for himself and his sons. We should do the same for those in authority over us, and their families.

The government has a responsibility to the poor and oppressed
Psalm 72:1 God, give the king your justice;
your righteousness to the royal son.
2 He will judge your people with righteousness,
and your poor with justice.
12 For he will deliver the needy when he cries;
the poor, who has no helper.
13 He will have pity on the poor and needy.
He will save the souls of the needy.
14 He will redeem their soul from oppression and violence.
Their blood will be precious in his sight. 


The World English Bible attributes this to both David and Solomon. In either case, they were the government, and whichever of them wrote it recognized the responsibility of the king toward the poor.

The Jewish Law made provisions for the poor. Exodus 21 specified that, unless a slave chose to remain one, any Hebrew so poor as to have become a slave was to be freed after six years. Leviticus 14 said that a poor person was not required to make as large an offering as someone who is well off, in some circumstances. Leviticus 25 required that, if a family became so poor that they have to sell their fields, those properties were to be returned to the family in the Year of Jubilee.

Those in authority should not take bribes
Exodus 18:21 Moreover you shall provide out of all the people able men which fear God: men of truth, hating unjust gain; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.

This was advice to Moses from his father-in-law. The ESV renders hating unjust gain as hate a bribe. Apparently there were, then, as now, those who expected favors in judgment because they paid for them, but then, as now, people of integrity who judge -- or write or vote for legislation -- on the merits, not because of a campaign contribution or a trip to a resort. We need more of these, and we can’t always tell who is like that, and who isn’t.

Politicians should, at least usually, be honest.
Like the rest of us, politicians should not intentionally deceive so that they may advantage themselves. This means that political advertisements should not deliberately confuse the record of opponents. It means that politicians should not make promises that they dont mean to keep. It means that, when a politician, in office or aspiring to one, discovers that something she said is not true, or something they said would happen isn’t going to, they should say so, and apologize. Recently, President Obama had to backtrack on his statements that people could keep the insurance that they already had, under the provisions of the Affordable Care Act. He should have apologized, and did. I don’t know if he deliberately deceived us in saying that in the first place, or if it was an honest mistake, because he didn’t realize what would happen.

Much deceit during political campaigns, especially in attack ads in various media, is supposedly not under the control of the person it is designed to benefit, but produced by some political action committee. Whether the candidate knew about it, or not, such deceit is wrong. Candidates should not knowingly deceive, or allow their supporters to do so.

There may possibly be times, such as when delicate negotiations with another country are going on, or when agents of the US are operating under cover, where deceit, at least temporary, by a person in authority is appropriate. But most deceit by elected officials, and by people running for office, or their supporters, is not of this type, even if supposedly in the interest of national security. It’s just plain wrong. I have recently posted on lying, deceit and the like, based, I hope, on what the Bible has to say about these matters. It includes a few cases where God seems to have approved of deceit.

Thanks for reading.

Thanks for reading. Have I left anything out?

Friday, February 21, 2014

What Christians should pray for in our private prayers, according to Philip Yancey


The graphic above is also a link to my Flickr photostream, where it is available in larger sizes.

In his excellent book, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006. See here for the book's web site.) Philip Yancey has a chapter on "What to Pray For." In it, he discusses these appropriate subjects for prayer:
Heart Desire
Yancey writes: "What is the point of prayer if not to express our heart's desire, especially when it matches what we know to be God's will on earth?" Of course, many of my prayers, and probably many of yours, are for things about which we do not know God's will for certain.
Peace, or Trust
Here Yancey is not speaking of world peace, but of praying for peace, because we believe that the matter we are praying about, whatever it may be, is in God's good hands.
Faith, or Trust
Yancey describes a special kind of faith, which he calls fidelity - "a hang-on-by-the-fingernails faith against all odds, no matter the cost."
Complaint, or Lament
Many prayers in the Bible are complaints to God, such as the book of Lamentations, a good many of the Psalms, and the complaints of Mary and Martha about the death of Lazarus. We think that God should have acted, and He doesn't seem to have done so.
God's presence Yancey believes that we should pray that the Holy Spirit would live through us. We must act that way, too!
Compassion
The author describes his own prayers for AIDS victims in Africa as an example. He says that he prays for health-care workers, and for philanthropic and governmental activity aimed at helping AIDS victims, and prevention.
Grace
No one deserves God's grace, but we should pray for it for ourselves, because God gives it to us, and no one deserves it. Paul prayed for grace for the new churches, in his letters.
Preparations
By this, Yancey means praying that we may be prepared for death, of ourselves, or of those we care for. He isn't talking about praying that we will go to heaven. He is telling me that I should pray that I will have a Christ-like attitude toward those around me as I begin to suffer from whatever it is that will end my life, and that I will manifest a Christ-like attitude toward anyone in that state, for example with dementia, if it becomes my responsibility to care for them.
Gratitude
Probably no one is as grateful to God as much as she should be, or grateful for all the things she should be. We take so much for granted -- air, beauty, water, the ability to listen and look, for example.

A great deal more could be said about each of these topics, and Yancey has said quite a bit about each of them.

Yancey writes: "At its best, my prayer does not seek to manipulate God into doing my will -- quite the opposite. Prayer enters the pool of God's own love and widens outward."

I have previously posted on what the New Testament church prayed for. There's almost no overlap with Yancey's discussion, in part because he is writing about personal prayer. I have also posted on the ACTS scheme of praying.

I originally posted this a few days ago, saying that I expected to modify the post in the near future, adding a graphic, and more explanation. I have added the graphic, and re-worked the post, on February 26, 2014. Thanks for reading, and looking!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Christians may not be nearly as divided on origins as we usually hear that they are

Christianity Today has published a report on a poll, which asked some in-depth questions about the beliefs of Christians on origins. (Not just, for example, "do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve?" But "How strongly do you believe this?" "How important is this belief?")

The results indicate that Christians aren't nearly as polarized as we seem to be. I hope that's true.

The title "Rethinking the Origins Debate," might lead a reader to think that it's about the recent Bill Nye/Ken Ham debate. The article doesn't mention that debate.

Thanks for reading. See the report.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sunspots 458

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:


Computing: You aren't the only Gmail user to have complaints about the way the service handles Contacts, according to Wired.

Gizmo's Freeware has found a free .PDF to Word file converter.

Politics (and economics): Three reports from National Public Radio:
It really does pay to go to college, in spite of high tuition and fees.

On how much waitresses (and waiters) who get tips get paid, or should get paid. It's complicated.

On the costs of alleviating global climate change.

Science: Wired tells us that crocodiles and alligators can climb trees rather well.

Wired also shows us a beautiful photo of a nearby galaxy.



Image source (public domain)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Three types of grain offerings

Leviticus 2:1 “‘When anyone offers an offering of a meal offering to Yahweh, his offering shall be of fine flour. He shall pour oil on it, and put frankincense on it.
4 “‘When you offer an offering of a meal offering baked in the oven, it shall be unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, or unleavened wafers anointed with oil.
14 “‘If you offer a meal offering of first fruits to Yahweh, you shall offer for the meal offering of your first fruits grain in the ear parched with fire, bruised grain of the fresh ear. (World English Bible, public domain)

There were three types of meal (or grain) offerings specified in Leviticus 2. One was of recently harvested grain, presumably wheat (corn did not grow in the Old World at that time). One was of flour, ground up grain. One was of baked goods, flour with oil added to it. (The King James version of the Bible uses "meat" in Leviticus 2, but meat, in the culture in which the KJV was translated, meant "food, of any kind.")

Note that, for two of these, it was not "if you offer," but "when you offer." This wasn't a choice. Why the third type was optional, I don't know.

Leviticus 2 includes some other requirements, which aren't quoted above. No yeast was to be added to the grain. No honey was to be added to the grain. All grain offerings were to have salt added to them. I don't know why God specified these requirements, but God is God, and no doubt He had his reasons, which, perhaps, were obvious to people living in the culture of that time.

Why three types of offerings? Again, I don't know. But, it occurs to me, these might be taken as symbolic of the Christian life. We need to offer ourselves to Christ as Lord when we first come to belief -- first fruits. We need to continue doing so as we become more mature in the Christian life -- ground into fine flour. And we need to continue serving Christ until the end -- baked in the oven, mixed with oil, ready to eat.

There is a discussion of the grain offerings here. It's a pretty good discussion, with some speculation, about the significance of the grain offerings, for the Israelites and for us. (Unfortunately, the author confuses "principal" and "principle.") One thing that the article said struck me. That was that Moses gave these commands to the people in the desert, where wheat would have been hard to come by. Manna, on the other hand, would have been easy to come by, but there was no requirement of a manna offering. See also the Jamieson, Fausset and Brown commentary on Exodus 2. Both these sources offer opinions on why honey and yeast (leaven) were prohibited, and why salt was required. Leviticus 6 has a section on the grain offerings, but it doesn't add much to Leviticus 2.

Remember that Christ used a story about wheat as a parable of winning others to the Kingdom.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 23

[Continued discussion of this topic from the previous post in the series.]


Hate speech?

Opposition to marriage between homosexual partners is coming to be called “hate speech.” It shouldn’t be hate speech, whatever it’s called. We should not hate homosexuals, gossips, or axe murderers. We should hate the things they do, and wish that they would stop, but it is possible to love them, anyway. Ask any parent if it isn’t possible to love the person, but not love all of their actions! Christ didn’t approve of the way Zacchaeus used his position as a tax collector to cheat people, but He loved Zacchaeus:

Luke 19:1 He entered and was passing through Jericho. 2 There was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. 3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, and couldn’t because of the crowd, because he was short. 4 He ran on ahead, and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” 6 He hurried, came down, and received him joyfully. 7 When they saw it, they all murmured, saying, “He has gone in to lodge with a man who is a sinner.”
8 Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

Of course, it is possible that statements about homosexuals are founded on hate, whether expressed or not. Some of the motivation behind attempts to label homosexuals as particularly sinful may be due to prejudice, or even hate. That’s not the Christian way.

In the beginning of this chapter, I said that homosexual sexual activity is sinful. That wasn’t hate speech. It was a fact, based on what the Bible says. If I say that stealing cars for a living is sinful, that’s not hate speech. It’s a fact, based on the Ten Commandments. Opposition to marriage between homosexuals, or to homosexual sexual activity, isn’t hate speech, morally, unless it is said, or written, with hateful motives, no matter what is or isn’t politically correct.

The Westboro Baptist Church says, on its web site, that “God hates fags.” There’s no doubt of their attitude -- their URL is www.godhatesfags.com. That’s hate speech. God doesn’t hate fags, any more than He hates people who make statements like that. Both need repentance and redemption.

Saying homosexual activity is sinful doesn’t need to, and shouldn’t mean that the person who made it hates homosexuals. But it may be a different matter under the law. The Wikipedia article on hate speech says this:

In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, nationality, religion, race, sexual orientation, . . . or other characteristic

Any Christian (or anyone else) should be able to say that sexual activity between homosexuals is sinful, in a loving manner, without it being labeled hate speech, no matter what the laws about hate speech, or sex, may say. If saying such means that a person can be charged with a crime, well, so be it. Believers who were doing what God wanted them to have been imprisoned for all sorts of “crimes” in the past, and, if Christ tarries, will be in the future. Christian behavior may require us to carefully state our convictions, in a Christ-like manner, even if there is danger of being punished for doing so.


The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. God willing, the next excerpt will begin a new topic.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Sunspots 457

Things I have recently spotted that may be of interest to someone else:
Christianity: I confess -- I was YouTube surfing, looking for a good HD version of Beethoven's "Hallelujah Chorus," from his only oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives. I found one, with chorus and instruments, done at a wedding, no less! Why? I have no idea. Perhaps the couple were in the choir of that church.
A sermon, entitled "Should I Turn Off the Respirator."

A blog post, on the most common heresy within the US church.
Computing: (sort of) Wired complains about the user interface of Netflix, Amazon Prime, Roku, Apple TV, etc., claiming that old-fashioned channel surfing is more user-friendly.
Humor: Wired reports on some inventions that haven't been invented, but ought to be.
Science: Wired reports on a study with musicians and dyslexia. Apparently dyslexia is cause as much, or more, by a memory problem as by a perception problem.


Image source (public domain)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

One reaction to the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate

This post summarizes the Ken Ham Bill Nye debate well, and brings out some important points.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Does the Bible really say that? Excerpt from my book, 22

[Continuing a discussion of homosexuality, in relation to the Bible.]



Occasionally someone will say that homosexuality is “the greatest threat to marriage,” or something like that. Really? Not making and keeping marriage vows is the greatest threat to marriage. This is true, whether we mean the greatest threat to individual marriages, or the greatest threat to marriage as an institution. Marriage, in present-day North America, needs commitment, by both partners, and it needs a partnership with God, to truly succeed. There would be significant marriage problems even if homosexuality didn’t exist. All too many marriages have failed, and will fail, and all too many of these failures are failures of heterosexual believing couples. God help us!

Homosexual marriage?

Some Christians believe that it is their duty to prevent homosexual “marriage” from becoming legal, or to work to make it illegal in places where it has been declared to be legal. Perhaps God has, indeed, called them to do this. But other Christians feel led to try to lead homosexuals to repentance and a loving relationship with a Christian congregation, and that seems to have been the approach of the New Testament Church. Being militant about homosexual “marriage” most likely makes it difficult or impossible to carry out the New Testament approach.

Should a church be required to hold a marriage ceremony for a homosexual couple? No. Churches should not be required to marry anyone. Various churches, and pastors, will refuse to marry couples, for several reasons. As indicated above [in another section of the book -- see here], it is not clear that marriage should even be a church function, although, for many people, it is now.

Should homosexual partners be allowed to receive certain legal benefits? At least some of them. I personally believe that a hospital should allow visitation privileges to long-time homosexual partners. Receiving this, and other, legal benefits is not the same as marriage, and legal marriage should not be the same as Christian marriage. A Christian can be in favor of some legal benefits for homosexual partners, but still believe that homosexual activity is sinful, marriage between homosexuals is wrong, and that practicing homosexuals should not be received as church members, or ordained as pastors.

The above is an excerpt from my recently published e-book, Does the Bible Really Say That?, which may be obtained free of charge, or purchased from Amazon for $0.99, which is the lowest price Amazon lets an author set. Scripture quotations are from the World English Bible, which is in the public domain.

The previous post in this series is here. God willing, the next excerpt will continue  discussion of this topic.

Friday, February 07, 2014

Worship is for us to do, to please God - how to make a cherub



Exodus 26:1 Moreover you shall make the tabernacle with ten curtains; of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, with cherubim. The work of the skillful workman you shall make them. 2 The length of each curtain shall be twenty-eight cubits,* and the width of each curtain four cubits: all the curtains shall have one measure. 3 Five curtains shall be coupled together to one another; and the other five curtains shall be coupled to one another. (World English Bible, public domain)
*A cubit was about 18 inches/46 cm, according to a text note.

There are a lot more instructions on how to make the Tabernacle, its furnishings, and the priest's garments, in considerable detail, in Exodus 25-28.God thought then, and now, that worship is important. But note that, even though many of the dimensions and materials are specified, there is no instruction in how to make the cherubim (angels). There was room for artistic initiative on the part of the workers. Worship depends on us, too.