Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Sabres are being Unsheathed!

This week the world was treated to one of those rare moments in the history of mankind that moves us all towards an "apocalyptic" conclusion, not necessarily end. Wednesday, Mahmood Ahmadinejad, the ultraconservative new president of Iran, demanded that the Jewish state be "wiped off the map." He repeated that call yesterday during Iran's countrywide protests which he himself joined. I won't bore you with a political (or otherwise) analysis of the statement. Suffice it to say that when, in this day and age of so-called tolerance, acceptance, globalization, etc., we have one nation's ruler boldly announcing the desired destruction of another nation with which it is not officially at war, the only thing we can say is "baby, we haven't come a long way!"

What I do want to share with you though, is the response I received to the news from two individuals of very different generations -- mind you, both of them having been steeped to a certain extent in the Christian faith. A young person in their twenty's had this to say: "Bring them (Iran) on -- they will lose big time. Israel has not lost a war since it became a nation." Right or wrong in their facts, this young person sees Israel as having behind it (regardless of whether or not it deserves it) the support of God as, after all, they are "His chosen people".

An individual in their 90th year had this to say: "The problem is that when and if Iran takes on Israel, it won't end up being just the two of them -- it will involve all the middle east and many more, including the United States and other big players. Clearly, a move towards the battle of Armageddon and the end of world as we know it. It sounds like it is all panning out just like God has planned it and as Scripture describes it. Do we really want it to happen? Probably not, but do we want to, or can we, stop it? Absolutely not."

Here's my point. While the world reacts to Ahmadinejad's comments or so-called threat with condemnation and outrage, others are seeing it as just another step in what is ultimately going to take place. Canada's Prime Minister, in his continuous inability to say anything meaningful, said, "It's absolutely incredible. That kind of lack of respect, intolerance, anti-Semitism, this is the 21st century and that statement is just out of an era that is long past and never should have occurred." Mr. Martin you just don't get it! [He has called on Canada's top diplomat in Iran to issue a formal reprimand. Pu-lee-ease! As if the Iranians really care.]

When it comes to world events and just how close we are to midnight on the Doomsday Clock, I've come to the conclusion that there are two groups of people in the world: Group A: those that live their lives oblivious to all of this, either intentionally or by circumstances; and Group B: those that are fully aware of it, either intentionally or by circumstances again. Both of these groups break down into two further subgroups: Subgroup I: those that know God is in control, are secure in His salvation through Christ, and leave the driving and details to Him; and of course Subgroup II: those who either ignore what is going on because they can't handle it and survive, or they are fully aware of it and can't sleep at night.

I'm in Group B, Subgroup I. You may want to consider which group you are in.

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Friday, July 08, 2005

Genesis 1:29

Genesis 1:29: Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you;

God ordained our diet. As Creator, He knew what was good for us. We did not have to go into the skies or into the waters to get our food, for the product of the land was what we were to eat. At this point, there is no mention of eating meat or fish and yet we know that later these did become part of the diet God ordained.[1] Perhaps God created us originally with the intention of being “vegetarian”.
[1] Genesis 9:3 After the flood, God gave us all things alive as our food.

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Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Today's Items: Bisexuality & Deep Impact NOT

This morning I woke up to two interesting items worth pointing out. The first has to do with a new study by researchers in Chicago and Toronto that found, contrary to what liberals would have you believe, that males at least were not created as bisexuals but clearly have either a heterosexual (majority) or homosexaul (small minority) orientation. What is interesting about this (the first study involving actual physiological measures as compared to self-reports) is that it goes smack in the face of what Sigmund Freud, Dr. Alfred Kinsey and millions of self-described bisexuals (1.7 % of men) would have us believe. Freud had concluded that humans are naturally bisexual. No, they're not says the study. And in case you missed it, scrpture agrees telling us God created us "male" and "female"! Kinsey supported Freud's position in 1940.

The other story had to do with NASA's spacecraft "Deep Impact" crashing intentionally into a comet. What impressed me about this story was some of the statistics invovled -- statistics that the average person may not easily be able to grasp. For example, the impactor hit the comet at 37,000 kilometers per hour. Wow, how fast is that? Well to help us think about it a little more easily, we can add the fact that the spacecraft travelled 133 million kilometers (wow, how far is that?) from the earth over a six month journey. Now, that's helpful. And the force with which the two (craft and comet) impacted was equal to five tons of dynamite exploding (now that's something I come across everyday).

So what did they find? Well, for starters they were wrong about the shape of the comet. It isn't a pickle-like structure but more like a potato, a muffin, or a loaf of bread -- lumpy and pocked. Trapped gas and debris spewed from the comet's inside. Scientists estimate the cloud of dust make take weeks to disappear from the scene for a clearer view. They also believe that the comet has trapped ice inside which may be carrying the ingredients of the solar system's origin. They state as fact that a giant cloud of gas and dust collapsed to create Earth's solar system about 4.5 billion years ago, and comets were formed from the leftover building blocks.

Implications: I marvel at the amount of money, time, and resources we spend trying to figure things out when millions in our world live in poverty, hunger, and disease. I'm not against such research mind you, but it makes me wonder how much further we would be if we also took into account some of the sacred writings we have available to us -- like the Bible; and, rather than assume it is myth, be guided by it for our research.

I'm also amazed at how 'small' we here on this planet really are and how magnificent the heavens are. Yet in all our research, we have found no actual hard-fact evidence of any intelligent life. We are indeed unique and special. The Bible addresses both the magnitude of the heavens and the uniqueness of earth and its inhabitants. Maybe we should take a look at that and what it implies. If God exists (and I believe he does), then why earth, why us?

Surely the Creator had a design for us! He does, and he saw to it that we could discover it if we really wanted to. We would do well to investigate some of his communications to us.

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Inter-relationship of Prison and Medical Records

Okay, first here are the 'facts' as reported by the media earlier this week, based on a new report in the New England Journal of Medicine:

  • Medical records for prisoners at the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo Bay are being tapped to design more effective interrogation techniques
  • Doctors, nurses and medics caring for prisoners there are required to provide health information to military and CIA interrogators
  • Since 2003, psychiatrists and psychologists (at Guantanamo) have been part of a strategy that employs extreme stress, combined with behaviour-shaping rewards, to extract intelligence from resistant captives; that contradicts Pentagon statements that there is a separation between intelligence-gathering and patient care -- William Winkenwerder, U.S. assistant secretary of defence for health affairs, said in a memo made public in May that Guantanamo prisoners' medical records are considered private — as are American citizens'
  • Such tactics are considered torture by authorities
  • U.S. military medical personnel have been told to volunteer to interrogators information they believe may be valuable
  • The report's authors are Dr. Gregg Bloche, a physician and a law professor at Georgetown University in Washington, and Jonathan Marks, a London lawyer who is currently a fellow in bioethics at Georgetown's law centre
  • Guantanamo veterans are ordered not to discuss what goes on there, making it difficult to know how military intelligence personnel have used medical information for interrogation
  • A previously unreported U.S. Southern Command policy statement dated Aug. 6, 2002, instructs health-care providers that communications from "enemy persons under U.S. control" at Guantanamo "are not confidential and are not subject to the assertion of privileges" by detainees. It also tells medical personnel they should "convey any information concerning ... the accomplishment of a military or national security mission ... obtained from detainees in the course of treatment to non-medical military or other U.S. personnel who have an apparent need to know the information."
  • The only limit on the policy is that caregivers cannot themselves act as interrogators
Secondly, here's some reaction:

  • Peter Singer, director of the University of Toronto's Joint Centre for Bioethics says this crosses an ethical line; "Physicians are there for the benefit of patients and if they are seen to be there for some other purpose, it really blurs what they're doing."
  • Amnesty International Canada said the report gives serious pause to anyone who is following what happens at Guantanamo, reinforcing the call for a full, independent commission of inquiry into the detentions" including a determination of any rules being violated.
  • On Tuesday, the Bush administration rejected a proposal to create an independent commission to investigate abuses of detainees at Guantanamo Bay since already 10 major investigations into allegations of abuse found the system was working well.
  • Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture in Toronto, wasn't surprised by the journal report, saying that "A superpower that is considered a leader in many ways is losing its moral authority now, completely."
  • The New England Journal of Medicine is the second respected journal to criticize U.S. interrogation techniques, after the British medical journal.

Finally some Observations and Implications:

  • I believe there are times when prison officials should know the critical medical conditions of their charges, not to better interrogate or torture them with, but to make sure that any form of discipline or penalty will not further worsen their acute or critical medical condition. One can only take this perspective of course if one chooses to be humane with respect to prisoners and life in general.
  • The Bush administration repeatedly rejects calls for an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the matter. One could argue he has done his bit and does not want more money and resources spent on this. Others could argue he is afraid of what the commission would find.
  • There seems to be a disconnect between what the Pentagon says and what the report believes is the case. There seems to also be a disconnect between what the U.S. Southern Command and the Pentagon have said on this topic historically.
  • In today's world such inconsistencies should not exist and each difference of perspective should be fully explainable. When this is not the case, either we have a situation where one of the perspectives is wrong or a situation where one of the proponents of a particular view is being dishonest. The telling of lies is normally a practice employed to cover up wrong-doing.
  • It wasn't too many decades ago that the ordinary citizen could trust perhaps his minister or priest, his doctor, his lawyer to act in his best interests, his teacher, and his representative in government. It seems now each and every one of those, and in some cases, even his family, have fallen by the wayside and cannot be trusted. We are, as common men and women, almost alone.
  • Distrust is alive and well.

As we see this growth of distrust about us in our communities, our towns, cities, nations, we have two choices. We can either do what we have often seen others do in this regard -- "if you can't beat them (or change them), join them" -- or we can make a firm decision to be different. We can decide to be totally honest. We can decide to be men and women of our word. We can decide that we don't need a dozen lawyers to protect us in every agreement that we make. We can decide to let a handshake be all the covenant required between the parties that we need.

Yes, sometimes we will get burned and there will be consequences. But, for the most part, we will gain benefits beyond our expectations. Just read, Jon M. Huntsman's Winners Never Cheat, Wharton School Publishing. Better still, read the manual from the one that created man in the first place. In the Bible (Matthew 5:37), He clearly recommends that we let our yes mean yes and our no mean no. That's not too hard, is it? And it just may be the modelling our next generation needs.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2005

World's First Legal Humanist Wedding

CNN reported yesterday that an Edinburgh, Scotland couple has been granted permission to hold the first legal humanist wedding at the local zoo. A most fitting place, I would contend.

The Registrar General for Scotland agreed existing rules, which only allow local registrars or authorized religious representatives to carry out legal weddings, were discriminatory. The couple said neither were religious and they didn't want to be hypocritical by getting married in a church. Okay, so don't get married in a church. But no, the couple wanted "something more meaningful" than just a "legal, civil ceremony".

What's the thinking behind all this? Humanists believe that people can lead good, moral lives without the need for religion or superstition. Well, perhaps so -- if all you're counting is being "moral towards each other". But one synonym of the word 'moral' according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is one who is 'righteous' and that in turn is defined as being guiltless or blameless before God, as well as the world.

When it comes to marriage, no matter what major religion one adheres to, marriage is an act that involves God. A Humanist marriage without God is not a fully 'moral' act. So go ahead, Karen Watts and Martin Reijins, get married as you like, and best wishes. I sure wish I could have prayed for God's blessings on your married life, but then again you don't expect that, preferring to go it alone!

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Saturday, June 18, 2005

Genesis 1:28

Genesis 1:28: And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

Humans are the second creation that God blessed and talked to (fish and fowl being the first as recorded in vs. 22). In fact, God gave us parallel, but more extensive, instructions to those He gave the fish and the fowl. He told us to reproduce, to fill the earth in so doing, to subdue it as the New American Standard puts it, and to rule over all the animals on it, as well as the fish in the waters and the fowl in the sky.

This is God’s first instruction to humankind -- be fruitful, subdue the earth, and rule the creatures I have created prior to you. What a life God intended for us originally! Who would not want that? For whom would that not be enough? If you are like me, you are probably saying right now, “I’d take that.” Maybe, in hindsight, seeing what a mess we have made of things through the generations, we would take it.

Be fruitful. God knew that for us to be fruitful would require physical sexual activity between man and woman. He also knew that based on His design, such activity would need not always result in reproduction. Finally, He designed our bodies in such a way that sexual activity was to be pleasurable for the man and the woman engaged in it. The pleasure component that He built into the process was not only physical, but also mental, and spiritual. It was an activity intended to please the “whole” person. And it does, when performed in the monogamous relationship of husband and wife as God intended.
So when God said, “be fruitful,” He was giving us both pleasure and purpose. His plan was that this earth (not the waters, not the sky, not other planets) but this earth be filled with the offspring of His prized creation, all created in His own image.

Subdue the earth. A look at two meanings of the word ‘subdue’ in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary[1] provides us with key insights into this part of the instruction. First, to subdue something means to bring it under control especially by exertion of the will. God did not create us as robots, but as entities with a will. He intended that we use that will, that we make an effort, and that we apply our full faculties, to “subduing the earth”. Our actions with respect to subduing the earth would result in something that would satisfy our will. But that will was originally intended to be in sync with the Creator. Another meaning of the word ‘subdue’ further supports this idea. To subdue something means to bring it under cultivation. We were to work on and with the earth to help it achieve its original purpose of meeting our needs.

Rule. He gave us responsibility, an assignment to occupy us. Something that would challenge us and at the same time something that we would find rewarding. The task had meaning. We could see the need, the value, and the result.

While we may learn from later scripture that humankind was created primarily to glorify God, the Creator did not instruct us so at the time of Creation. He did not need to. Our very intricate design and our very specific tasks, if done in accordance with the instructions of the Almighty, these in themselves would be glorifying to God. When His creation carries out the purpose for which it was created, God is glorified. What does it take to carry out the purpose for which one is created? Only one thing – obedience. If we want to glorify God, we only need to obey. Simply carry out the instructions that God gave us. As capable as we are to handle the most complex thoughts and issues in life, it only requires the simple act of obedience to fulfill the reason for which we were made.

At a meeting of leaders, Kirbyjon Caldwell[2], once said that there are “two great moments in one’s life. The first is when you were born. The second is when you know why you were born.” God made us collectively to glorify Him and we do that first by just obeying. In our act of obedience to His general instructions to all mankind – be fruitful, subdue the earth, and rule on My behalf -- God reveals His specific and unique calling to each of us and in that moment, we know exactly why we were created. At that point, the second greatest moment in our life will have occurred.
[1] Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary, 2002, Merriam-Webster.
[2] Kirbyjon Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, near Houston, Texas at the 2002 Willow Creek Association Leadership Conference.

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Friday, June 17, 2005

Are Children Used As Human Sacrifices

I could not believe one of my paper's headlines today. I also warn against the possibility that this story may be as the article noted -- only allegations -- since the authors of the survey involved indicated they could not test whether they were true. The real issue is that we are even dealing with this kind of stuff in 2005, in the West!

The Toronto Star reported that Police in London have heard testimony suggesting African children are being smuggled into Britain for use as human sacrifices, according to the BBC yesterday, citing a leaked copy of a police study. What century are we in? What hemispere is England in?

According to the report, rituals and witchcraft were being practised in London churches popular with some members of African origin. Reportedly, the study found that children were being trafficked into Britain for human sacrifice, or for men with HIV who believed they would be cured by having sex with a youngster. Who's minding the blooming store?

Is this world dark or what? Where have we gone wrong in a nation like England, perhaps even in countries in North America, where this kind of thing could be alleged or true? What happened to our Judaic-Christian values, or even for those that aren't into Judaism or Christiantiy, just plain descent principles that respect human life, especially that of children? How could this happen under our very nose?

I think some of us have dropped the ball big-time. I think Christians, Jews, and others who adhere to such principles have, with respect to sharing their values, cloistered themselves sufficiently from their neighbors, have watered down their principles, and have forgotten their roots for the sake of making a living, minding their own business, pursuing careers and other forms of temporary success or pleasure. Many of us have an attitude that seems to be saying, "I'm okay Jack, who cares what others are doing?" Until, of course, what others are doing hits someone close to us, or even our home.

How often have we heard neighbors say, after a mass murderer or child molester has been caught say, "He stuck pretty much to himself; he was quiet; and we never talked much." Well, maybe if we had talked more, maybe, just maybe, he would not have had the need to do what he was doing, or maybe, just maybe, we would have gotten some hints as to what he was doing, and could have reported our concerns to the autorities.

It's time to get to know our neighbors. For their sakes and for ours. Whatever happened to the belief that John Donne had when he wrote "No man is an island, No man stands alone; Each man's joy is joy to me, Each man's grief is my own. We need one another, So I will defend Each man as my brother, Each man as my friend."

Were the children that this report is concerned about not worthy of our defense? I think they were.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Failure of Law

This week the world was treated to the outcome of the celebrity trial of Michael Jackson, accused of performing lewd acts on a minor and nine other charges, plus several lower charges. After months of hearings, and seven days of deliberation, the jury found the accused 'not guilty' on every single count. Many of us had predicted this very outcome. Here are some of the things that astounded me about this whole thing.

America was enthralled with this trial, with the most vocal being those in support of the accused. Other countries weren't far behind. The media covered it extensively, perhaps too much so. Witness after witness changed their mind about their testimony. Clearly hush money was involved. Clearly the accuser's family played a role that involved initial gain. The case was as unusual as Jackson himself. But here's the bottom line for me:

A middle-age man admits readily to inviting and having young boys sleep with him in his bed overnight and in some cases, does the same with one or more boys for a long period of time, repeatedly. One psychiatrist said no matter how you slice the cake -- that is a relationship, and furthermore, in the eyes and mind of an average individual, it is a sexual relationship. Since the boy is a minor, it is an illegal relationship.

If we accept that, what more needed to be proved? Jackson admitted to it in his own testimony. What are we protecting here? Set aside the fact that he is a rich celebrity for a moment. Are we really saying that older men can invite young men to their beds, sleep with them, and not have it count as wrong or illegal? I think we are.

I think we're also saying it is okay for parents to gain advantages by agreeing to let older men have their children sleep with them. But as importantly, we're also saying that the legal system has been rendered incapable of putting a stop to such activity.

And this latter point applies to other issues as well -- issues of ethics in business and government; the right of individuals to worship freely and publicly the "God" that America is supposed to believe in; and so on.

America and the world is in a fine mess. It's government would do well to turn its attention to its legal system and start relying more heavily on what is right and what is wrong from a common folks perspective, from a moral and spiritual perspective, and from a perspective that will make the country strong again. Mr. Bush, clean up America's legal system as fast as you can.

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Friday, June 10, 2005

Genesis 1:27

Genesis 1:27: And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

While verse 26 says “Our image”, verse 27 has God creating man in “His” own image and creating us both “male and female”. Why the switch from “Our” to “His”? One possibility is that the “image” of both God and that of Jesus Christ is for all intent and purpose the same. Another possibility is that “Our” and “His” are meant to be interchangeable since God the Father and at least God the Son are one and the same. At this point in scripture, both possibilities exist and we should leave ourselves open to both. In addition, one is not exclusive of the other.

This is the first verse in the Bible in which the idea of gender is introduced. Interestingly enough, while there is implication of reproduction for plant life (vs. 12) and fish and fowl (vs. 22), no mention of male and female is made. Modern science has determined, however, that for the majority of plant life, as well as the birds and the creatures of the sea, an equivalent to gender exists. In this present verse, the scripture specifically states that He made us male and female. To me that implies at least two things.

First, it suggests that for humankind, gender is a much more significant matter than it is for plants, birds, or fish. As we were created, our gender, was intended to have associated with it a much more specific or unique set of characteristics and/or responsibilities. This concept did not preclude equality between the genders as generations up to more recent modern times assumed.

Second, it suggests that the “image” of God really has nothing to do with gender since both male and female were made in His image. Nor does it imply that God is ‘bi-gender’ or ‘genderless’ since for all intent and purpose we are not bi-gender, but rather male or female. For to suggest that it does imply His bi-gender ness or His genderless ness, we would have to suggest that as either males or females, we were not created in His “image” – something that clearly scripture says we are. We can draw no inferences from this verse as to the gender of God.

Why then do we tend to use the masculine gender to depict God? Besides the obvious that the original Hebrew text was written utilizing the masculine articles for God, I am satisfied with one other fundamental argument – Jesus Christ Himself referred to God in the New Testament as “my Father”!

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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

U.S. Survey of Mental Illness Alarming

According to today's news, a quarter of all Americans met the criteria for having a mental illness within the past year, and fully 25 per cent of those had a "serious" disorder that significantly disrupted their ability to function every day, says the largest and most detailed survey of America's mental health.

While the trend indicates the percentages involved seem to have flattened, what is more alarming is the fact that less than 50% get the needed treatment. Futhermore, when they do seek and get treatment, it is often a decade too late, during which other related problems have developed, rendering the treatment usually ineffective.

Worse still is that half of those diagnosed with mental illness had symptoms by age 14, and three-quarters of them by age 24.

The study says inattention to early signs, inadequate health insurance and the lingering stigma around mental illness all contribute to the failings. Those may be the causes of poor results in curing the illness, but I believe we do a great injustice in not addressing the root causes for the illness in the first place.

Yes, I'll grant you some mental illness is due to one's 'physical chemistry'. But much of it is also due to one's sense of not being loved, not having a purpose in life, not feeling adequate or beautiful. Some of it is due to underdeveloped spirituality in one's life. Some has to do with the pressure of life, especially when alone. Some has to do with guilt. Some has to do with the breakdown of the family. Still some is due to the use of drugs for non-medical purposes, and sometimes even for medical purposes.

We cannot stop all mental illness, but we can do a lot better than we are doing if we are serious enough to get back to the basics in terms of what the Creator's priorities for us were -- our relationship with Him, our relationship with our family, those in our place of worship, and our calling in service to mankind. You can be sure that individuals and families that have committed themselves to these priorities somehow will not have lower mental illness statistics then the general population. But then again, we'll never know because it isn't politically correct or advantageous for governments to study this from this perspective.

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Monday, June 06, 2005

Slavery Is Alive; The Military Scream

I woke up this morning to two items of interest. The first was a CBC report on the fact that slavery is alive and well and living in many third world countries around the world, not the least of which is Niger. In that country, organizations trying to fight slavery, report at least 40,000 men, women, and children are still bought and sold to ‘masters’ like cattle.

There were reports of misuse, threatening of castration, and even young girls being sold to rich men who come looking for ‘brides’. The favored ones would attract the price the ‘master’ put on them. In addition, sources reported that many in slavery are simply taught to just feel this is the way the world is supposed to be and that even in heaven, they will need to obey their ‘master’. How warped can you get?

If ever there was a cause that rings a bell, this is it. We either need a modern-day Abraham Lincoln, or an epidemic “change in heart”.

The second item came in a report from the Toronto Star that tells us that military science has got still another new weapon to disperse protesters. After tear gas and the rubber bullets, the Israeli army has launched the “Scream” – sound pulses that create nausea and dizziness. It is completely clean with no lethal effects. In fact, no lasting effects unless someone is exposed to it for hours and hours.

The Scream was launched last Friday afternoon near the West Bank village of Bil’in at protesters continuing their daily opposition to Israel’s controversial security barrier. [Coincidentally, this was on the eve of the major anniversary of the Tiananmen Square event.] Witnesses report a minute-long blast of sound emanating from an Israeli military vehicle. Within seconds, protestors, loose their balance and fall to their knees. Later people reported their brains ached and their stomachs turned.

I don’t know about you, but as I thought about both these items further – I became sick and disgusted at the world we live in. The root cause of both slavery and protests is ‘sin’ – whether it’s man inhumanity to man as in the case of slavery, or a government governing outside of God’s priorities and principles for life. [I didn’t say without God’s blessing – as I’m sure many would jump back arguing, “But these folks feel they have God on their side!” God would have to attest to that himself – all I know is that many who think God is on their side, when they have not heeded his instructions in Scriptures, are in for a big surprise!]

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Saturday, June 04, 2005

Genesis 1:26

Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

This is a verse packed with incredible information. Every phrase adds so much to the body of knowledge for Bible students.

First, we note that God said “Let Us”. In the initial acts of creation (verses 1-25) God often uttered the word “Let” as He indicated what He was about to do – create light (vs. 3), water (vs. 6), land (vs. 9), plant life (vs. 11), the sun, stars, and moon (vs. 14), fish and birds (vs. 20), and animals (vs. 24). Only when it came to the creation of man did God say “Let Us”. God does not strike me as one who would use the “royal plural” when speaking. When He says “Let Us” I believe He was ‘conversing’ with one or more other spiritual entities, one of which later Scripture clarifies as being Jesus Christ.

However, here in verse 24 of the first chapter of Genesis, we are struck by the idea the creation of man was worthy of discussion between at least God the Father and God the Son. Man was indeed to be something unique, something special, something above all other creatures created to date. Here was a project that although He could have accomplished by the simple utterance of His will; He chose to incorporate a more personal involvement of Himself and those with Him. There was good reason for that.

Up to now, everything that God made reflected His “goodness” and “perfection” – incredible assets in themselves. However, in His creation of man, the very essence of Who God Is was built into the creation called ‘man’. He and those with Him created us in Their Image. I can only assume from what I know of the English language, believing this account to be the inspired Word of God, and the words it contains that, in fact, the end product of God’s creation of ‘man’ are viewed by God and His Son as having similar “likeness” to Them. Because Scripture uses the words “image” and “likeness”, accompanied by the modern usage of those words, there is a strong tendency for us to want to introduce the word “appearance” here. Since we hold the principle of ‘scripture answers scripture’ we must refrain from so doing unless we limit our concept of appearance to that of ‘spiritual appearance’ for clearly we are told that “God is Spirit; and those who worship Him must worship in Spirit and truth.”[1]

If we accept the fact that God created us in His Image, then we can safely assume that we retained certain aspects of that Image. These include, but are not limited to, creativity; self-determination; self-awareness; acceptance of ‘natural’ theology; and reasoning. Even to this very early point in the text, God had already exercised or demonstrated these characteristics of His Image. That is how He made us – creative, with free will, knowing ourselves, believing in something beyond us, and with the ability to think. All the ingredients for carrying out His purpose for mankind.

God also had a special intent for humankind. He purposed that we have authority over almost all of His creation to that point. Included were the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the cattle, all the earth, and all creeping things on the earth. Absent from the list were light, water, sun, stars, and moon. Since we accept God’s perfection, we must accept that this list of what we could have dominion over is precise and that God was perfectly aware of what He omitted. When man attempts to gain ‘rule’ over the heavens and space, the sun, stars, and moon, and even the oceans themselves, there is no guarantee that God would sit back and say “go ahead, increase your realm of authority over that which I have given you.” While we may have access to these aspects of His creation, we cannot expect to conquer them for ourselves. To this point in Scripture we must accept the fact that they are His and His alone.

Secondly, this ‘ruling’ that He entrusted us with, we must view as a delegation of authority from Him to us. It is not rightfully ours. The creations He entrusts us with are His.[2] This implies that we are responsible for ruling over them with care as He Himself rules over us. While they are all there for our good, we are not to use any of them unwisely and without regard for their on-going existence as a particular species. At the same time, when it comes to choices of survival (food, safety, shelter, etc.) between them and human beings, this authority over animals, fish, and fowl, points to the need for decisions in favor of the latter. Furthermore, I believe it is logical to take the position that the Christian who sometimes ignores worship, relationships, and serving others because of his/her responsibilities or affection for an animal over which he/she has dominion, may in fact be missing the intention of this delegated responsibility.

[1] John 4:24
[2] Psalms 8:6-8: Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

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Friday, June 03, 2005

Remember the Cold War? It's starting again in Space!

Russia yesterday threatened to retaliate if any country puts weapons in space. Their defense minister also said Moscow won't negotiate controls over tactical nuclear arms with countries that deploy them abroad (as the U.S. has done in Europe). Russia claims it has always been against the "militarization of space". The U.S. is reviewing their plans for space and while they claim militarization is not in the cards, they stated that U.S. satellites must be protected against emerging threats. In 2002, China and Russia proposed a new ban on weapons, but the U.S. did not see the need for it, saying the 1967 Outer Space Treaty was still in place.

So, the sabres are rattling once again. It seems that leaders can't be leaders without being or appearing to be 'aggressive'. The two big players are still the same -- U.S. and Russia. China has now entered the picture as a third big player and North Korea is trying to squeeze into the act. Politics and war (cold or otherwise) make for strange bedfellows and as one looks at the big picture, one can easily become fearful of where the 'balance of power' really lies and how far the blanket of peace can really spread before it is torn into pieces.

Those of us living outside the boundaries of the big players watch helplessly as our own countries, by their own politics and actions, take sides. And the big players are watching. When the odds are fully in their favor, you can bet the risk of real war will escalate if not materialize. If you consider yourself a westerner, you may have noticed we're not winning this campaign these days. From a human perspective, peace can only be maintained as long as the balance of power is maintained. Shift it too far one way or another and the minute-hand of the doomsday clock gets a hairline's distance from its final resting place.

On the otherhand, maybe it's all about inner peace with one's Creator. And that, we have a great chance in achieving. I've found it not in religion, but in a relationship, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Check Him out!

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Thursday, June 02, 2005

First the French, Now the Dutch -- is the EU doomed?

In the last few days both France and the Netherlands have rejected the proposed constitution of the European Union. To get a stronger clout in world affairs and economics, many nations of Europe have attempted to come together as a single voice. But they needed a constitution under which to operate and that constitution in turn had to be accepted by the various nation states. Some had agreed to let their people vote on its acceptability. The response by the French and the Dutch was a strong "non". The stage now shifts to Brussels, where heads of states will meet for a crisis summit June 16 to decide whether to officially bury a constitution that was 10 years in the making. My, my -- back to the drawing boards. Perhaps world leaders should consult another source when trying to organize on a world-wide level....

"He makes the nations great, then destroys them; He enlarges the nations, then leads them away." (Job 12:23)

"The nations have sunk down in the pit which they have made; In the net which they hid, their own foot has been caught." (Psalms 9:15)

"Put them in fear, O Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men." (Psalms 9:20)

"For the kingdom is the Lord's, And He rules over the nations." (Psalms 22:28)

"The Lord nullifies thee counsel of the nations; He frustrates the plans of the peoples." (Psalms 33:10)

"All the nations are as nothing before Him, They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless." (Isaiah 40:17)

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Deep Throat Identified after 33 Years

Who says Washington can't keep secrets? After 33 years, W. Mark Felt, the number two official at the FBI in the early 1970s, identified himself as the secret source who famously led two Washington Post reporters on a trail that brought down U.S. president Richard Nixon in the Watergate scandal, a sordid chapter in American political history.

If you were like me, you lived all these years wondering as to who Deep Throat was. In light of all the political scandals around the world these days, you probably wished that he was some senior political opponent or even an insider from Nixon's own party. But now that we know it was only an FBI agent as senior as he might have been -- well, heck, wasn't he just doing his job!

People are wild about wanting in on a secret until something becomes public and then usually it is not a big deal. As I write this piece, I wonder about other secrets: things the government never tells us; things the doctor holds back; things our children keep from us; the dark secrets of relatives, friends, and neighbors; and our very own personal secrets. We live in, believe it or not, a 'secret' society. Yet some secrets are necessary and we accept them as such; others are carried with hurt to our graves. How we deal with the different kinds of secrets in our lives is really an art that we each develop -- some better than others.

I'd rather live in a world where there were no secrets at all. But then again, that's so unrealistic in this world. There is, however, at least one person I know now with whom I have no secrets at all, and one time I await with wild anticipation when there will be no secrets.

In my relationship with Jesus Christ, I have no secrets. He and God his father know everything there is to know about me. They created me and have the master codebook on me. They know exactly how I operate, think, feel, etc. at all times. In addition, in their message to the world through Scriptures, I know there is coming a day when we too will know what they had in mind for mankind. At that time, their believers will finally live in a truly 'secret-free' world. And in it, there will be no need for us to have secrets from each other.

Some secrets last a few minutes as I'm finding out with my very young grandchildren; others last 33 years or more as in the case of Deep Throat. The secrets of the Ages are in the hands of the Almighty but a time will come when they too will be revealed.

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Sunday, May 29, 2005

Genesis 1:23-25

Genesis 1:24-25: Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures after their kind: cattle and creeping things and beasts of the earth after their kind”; and it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth after their kind, and the cattle after their kind, and every thing that creeps on the ground after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

Interestingly, we do not have a record of God speaking directly to the animals at this point. However, we have other scripture that clearly provides records of an animal speaking to God’s ultimate creation, man.[1] This further demonstrates the greater essence of animals over birds and fish. The implication of this is that one can logically ask the question, “How much greater?” In the range of creation from air, water, plant life, birds and fish, to humankind – where exactly do animals fall? Are they closer to birds and fish or to man? And how close are birds and fish to plant life? Which of these categories beside humankind have souls? Students of the Bible cannot determine guaranteed answers to these questions from Scripture to this point.
[1] Numbers 22:28-30

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Saturday, May 28, 2005

Genesis 1:22-23

Genesis 1:22-23: And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

Two things strike me about the content of this verse and its placement in the creation process. First, that God dealt with the birds of the air and the creatures of the sea separately from the rest of the animal kingdom (see following verses). That points to the more complex creation of the earth’s animals. God created them after the birds and the inhabitants of the waters but before humankind. If one takes the position that God’s most complex creation is in fact man, than one could take the position that somehow land animals are more complex in their being than birds and fish of the sea.
The fact that God spoke directly to them as indicated in this verse – something He did not do for plant life – further supports this premise. God knew they would somehow be able to identify with His instructions to them to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ or else why would He utter such direct instructions. For plant life, however, He had provided no such direction but rather created them in such a way that reproduction would be automatic.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Genesis 1:20-21

Genesis 1:20-21: Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse of the heavens.” And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that moves, with which the waters swarmed after their kind, and every winged bird after its kind; and God saw that it was good.

God continues His creation work filling the earth with creatures, the air with birds, and the water with fish. Lambs, bovine, and other animals will provide sustenance to humankind later. Fish will do likewise and even the birds of the air. However, descendants of these early-created creatures will play many other significant roles in history. The lamb becomes the symbol of sacrifice to God. The dove becomes the symbol of peace and covenant with God. The fish becomes not only a vehicle used in miracles by God but also the very ‘code picture’ for indicating one’s allegiance to the Son of God throughout history.[1]
[1] Many use the outline of a fish or “ichthys” as a symbol today to indicate their faith as Christians. We believe that early Christians used this secretly to communicate with each other as to who was a follower of Christ or to mark a secret location as to where a house worship meeting might occur.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Genesis 1:13-19

Genesis 1:13-19: And there was evening and there was morning, a third day. Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night; He made the stars also. And God placed them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, and to govern the day and the night, and to separate the light from the darkness; and God saw that it was good. And there was evening and there was morning, a fourth day.

It was not until the third ‘day’ with its own evening and morning, that God actually fixed some incredible ‘lights’ in the expanse – yet more preparation for His most prized creation still to come. Now, once He created humankind, it could see the difference between day and night. Man could tell one ‘day’ was over and another day begun. He could tell what the next day was going to be like by watching these “lights” in the heavenly expanse. He could tell as he counted days that a new season was coming and the natural elements would change, time after time, year after year. Man could arrange his life around those lights. He was a most thoughtful Creator.

Later on, when humankind goes awry, that same Creator produced yet another Light and had Him “fixed” on a cross, allowing all of humankind to not only arrange their life around Him, but to actually have the ability to go on living forever because of Him.

Almost all would agree that the “greater” light is clearly the sun and the majority would agree that the “lesser” light is the earth’s moon. If so, then we face another startling concept. While I do not know about what else God has created, I do know that these incredible masterpieces were all in preparation for you and me. He created them to facilitate our existence in His world. The entire Bible focuses on His love affair with us. It relates His unmatchable actions on our behalf.

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Monday, May 16, 2005

Genesis 1:11,12

Genesis1:11,12: Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good.

This is the first instance of God showing His care and love for His creation. He established reproduction in the plant kingdom and saw to it that it was self-propagating. Each type of vegetation or plant produced seeds for its own kind. These seeds would become plants that in turn produced seed and the cyclical process in the plant world was well in place. As originally intended, God’s design of the plant world was such that it would go on eternally. What the plants yielded and what the trees bore would soon have other uses for what was later to become His most beloved act of creation – mankind. In the meantime, our God was preparing the most suitable environment for us.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Genesis 1:9,10

Genesis 1:9,10: Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

God looked at His handiwork and declared it good. This otherwise simple concept is laden with meaning and implication. To begin with, this is the Almighty God and Creator that is involved in the ‘doing’ or the ‘making’. Secondly, it is He that is doing the ‘looking’. He alone can judge one’s work, and only He can judge His own work. Thirdly, since this ‘handiwork’ is the creation of a perfect God, there is no option but for it to be perfect. No matter what God sets Himself to accomplish, tangible or intangible, it, by definition, will be perfect. Finally, God declares His work “good” or perfect. Whether it be His work at creation, throughout history, or today in your life and mine, God’s work is His own and it is perfect. We can rest assured in that. What remains is for us to recognize it as such just like He does.

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Genesis 1:9,10

Genesis 1:9,10: Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. And God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good.

God looked at His handiwork and declared it good. This otherwise simple concept is laden with meaning and implication. To begin with, this is the Almighty God and Creator that is involved in the ‘doing’ or the ‘making’. Secondly, it is He that is doing the ‘looking’. He alone can judge one’s work, and only He can judge His own work. Thirdly, since this ‘handiwork’ is the creation of a perfect God, there is no option but for it to be perfect. No matter what God sets Himself to accomplish, tangible or intangible, it, by definition, will be perfect. Finally, God declares His work “good” or perfect. Whether it be His work at creation, throughout history, or today in your life and mine, God’s work is His own and it is perfect. We can rest assured in that. What remains is for us to recognize it as such just like He does.

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Sunday, May 08, 2005

Genesis 1:8

Genesis 1:8: And God called the expanse heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

God has clearly established cycles and order in His universe very early in His communication to man. God is not averse to repetition whether it is in terms of days He created, prayers we offer, or service we undertake. Throughout history, His instructions have been “do so and so X times…” Often He allows and desires His children to serve Him and others in the same job or task day after day, month after month, and year after year. Scripture itself is often repetitive. The melodious sound of repeated words uttered in piety, humility and sincere adoration and thanksgiving are not cacophony in God’s ears. I know of some dear elderly saints who still have trouble with the choruses of repeated phrases that many of us sing in our worship services these days. Yet as I read even the very beginning of Holy Scripture, I see the foundation for which I believe that such singing is in fact an offering of worship to the Creator.

In verse 8, while the Bible talks of “evening” and “morning” as being a second day, there is no mention yet of how this ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ were recognizable for it is not until verse 13 and following that He installed “lights” in the heavenly expanse. Yet God saw His work as completed in ‘day’ units. While mankind had not been created as of yet, even if it had, without lights, it likely could not see what God saw for He sees what we often cannot. What a thought to keep in mind when we are dealing with life’s perplexing difficulties.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Genesis 1:6,7

Genesis 1:6,7: Then God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.” And God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so.

Here is something that distinguishes God from man. God said, “Let there be…”, then “God made...”, and finally “and it was so.” And that process can be applied to anything that God chooses to do. He says it, does it, and it’s so. His results are guaranteed, with never a failure. That’s the God that we can relate to.

But His approach is also intended as a model for us, subject to things that are within our control. In the New Testament, Matthew 5:37 says, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no;’ and anything beyond these is of evil.” We are to deliver what we say we will and not doing so is “of evil”. God’s intention for us is to ‘keep our word’.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Genesis 1:4,5

Genesis 1:4,5: And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. And God called the light day, and the darkness He called night. And there was evening and there was morning, one day.

God as creator of all has the right to “name” things He creates. In the ancient world around the time Genesis was written, oftentimes the action of ‘naming’ something implied ownership. How fitting for a God that creates, to also name His creation thus identifying it as His very own. As a believer, I have to be astounded at the power of God to create, own (this world was not a commissioned piece of artwork) and enjoy His creation.

Furthermore, God specializes in the creation of entities which when joined together become more than the sum of each. Light is one thing and darkness is another, but when combined into a paired sequence, light followed by darkness becomes a whole “day” and ultimately the means by which we measure the dimension of time. Even from the time He had only created two things, light and darkness, God had intended that all His creation work in synchronization with each other to achieve the intended masterpiece. Every plant, every animal, every fish, every fowl, every person is part of that.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Genesis 1:3

Genesis 1:3: Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Everything that I can see in the natural world is as a result of “light” and my God simply spoke the command and this “light” appeared. There were no negotiations involved. There was no indication of difficulty or barriers that had to be overcome. He simply talked “light” into existence. The immensity of that kind of power often escapes us unless we focus on it intentionally. We can best capture it the next time we find ourselves delighting in some beautiful landscape like the Grand Canyon, or a field of poppies swaying in the sunlit wind. Or as we watch a beautiful animal run in the meadow or a hummingbird dartfrom flower to flower. It is then we need to stop and reflect on the God that not only created all of the objects of our visual delight but also the very milieu by which we can see them – light itself.

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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Genesis 1:2

Genesis 1:2: And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.

In Genesis 1:1 we are informed that God always was and that he created things. Now in verse two, we are informed that God either is a ‘spirit’ or has a spirit. But since in the New Testament, we read in John chapter 4, verse 24, that God is Spirit, we must go with the former choice.[1] The God we worship is in fact a “spirit”.

From the beginning, it has been God’s nature, as the New International Version says, to ‘hover’ over the waters, which at the time of verse 2 described the entire earth. The God that I believe in who was in the beginning and who created the heaven(s) and the earth, also walks upon the earth He created. He did so at the time of creation and there is nothing to indicate that He doesn’t do so now. God didn’t just create and abandon. He created and walked therein.

So, my God is not only infinite in His existence, He is a creator who is present in spirit-form.
[1] Whenever there appears a choice in the Scriptures or for that matter an apparent contradiction, I have always tried to apply the principle of ‘scripture answers scripture’. So, while by using the phrase “spirit of God”, Genesis 1:2 appears to allow the option that God has a spirit as well as just being one, John 4:24 eliminates that possibility.

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Number Crunching and Ministry

There has always been some disagreement among those in various Ministries, especially Christians, as to whether or not we should be worrying about numbers, and numerical growth, etc. I, for one, value numbers. I see it as a measure of 'how we're doing' or 'are we on track'?

I also believe that 'numbers' do not represent the total picture. I value qualitative measures as well. My difficulty is with those that only look at the latter, with no regard whatsoever for quantification. In fact, nothing irks me more than when they say "God doesn't care about numbers."

Well, I finally found someone who agrees. Ed Young of Fellowship Church in Dallas. Here is what an October 2003 article in VISION magazine said: 'Although many church leaders may not like to talk about it, Ed says that it's really all about the "numbers". He asks, "How did the shepherd know there were only 99 sheep in the sheepfold if he didn't count them?"'

Because people vote with their feet and their wallets, it's imporant to evaluate your church's effectiveness by asking the following questions and knowing answers to them:
  1. How many people chose to show up?
  2. Are we growing?
  3. Are lives being changed and can you hear the difference when you listen?
  4. How many people are involved in ministry?
  5. Are people giving?
  6. How many people are involved in small groups?
  7. Are people being baptized?
  8. How many people are going to the newcomers class or the discipleship class?

If you don't care about numbers, and you don't worry about the answers to these questions, then you'll never know what needs to be done in order to do it, and you'll never reach your potential as part of the body of Christ.

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