Archive for the ‘history’ Category

God and the Earthquakes

March 1, 2010

Yesterday our pastor asked if we were “clapping for God”.  In other words, were we worshipful, appreciative, and grateful to God.  My first thought was all the questions people would ask about the recent earthquakes.  If we clap for God’s goodness and His beautiful creation, what can we say about the earthquakes?

Earthquakes can mean at least three things.  First, what if God is not completely good, at least as far as we can see?  Second, what if God is not all powerful?  Third, what if there is an evil power which God, for whatever reason, allows to exist?

Jesus taught there was indeed an evil power, in fact, an evil being.  He taught this evil  had definite limits put upon it; this evil  would eventually be defeated,  and we would be personally victorious over the evil power through the greater power of God.  Jesus taught that God is all good and all powerful, but lets evil live among the good, because there are purposes being worked which benefit the good.  Read his parable about the weeds and the wheat for a very profound picture of great eternal truth.

The end of the story has already been revealed.  God wins.  The outcome is already determined.  Yet, like being in the middle part of a three-part trilogy, we don’t yet see exactly how the end is all going to be accomplished.  Yet today, even living in the choke hold of the evil one, this earth still shows more than just a glimpse of the original beauty and power of the creator.  We can certainly worship God for what we do see in creation, even if it has been spoiled by the evil enemy, called Satan.

The climax of the story already occurred.  It happened 2000 years ago on a hill called Calvary where the price to be paid for restoration was paid by God Himself.  The price to redeem the universe from evil was determined in the counsels of the heavenlies, and the second person of the divinity stepped forward to pay it.  He became a human named Jesus and died the most horrendous death anyone can imagine, all for love.  I imagine the shock and surprise of  Satan, who never thought Jesus would go through with it to the death, and never thought God would love His world so much.

The verdict has been announced.  Satan is a defeated enemy.  But, we are still in that middle book of the trilogy, and the implementing of the verdict is still being carried out.  Even after the judicial imposition of a fine, an award or a sentence, the verdict must be carried out.  That is still happening in our universe.   The completion of the story, and the victory are in the third book of the trilogy.  Its been written, and God knows what is in it, for He is the author.  It is yet to be published for humankind.

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Is the Bible Believable?

December 2, 2009

Its a miracle the ancient scriptures were preserved so well and faithfully.  No other culture has such a vast collection of its ancient literature.  To think that Jesus read these scriptures is amazing and even more astounding is the fact Jews everywhere read these same scriptures today, two thousand years later.  Jesus gave credence to the Old Testament.  He quoted from nearly every book of it.  When He spoke about it, He spoke with authority.  Those were His Father’s words, God’s truth.  Since Jesus proved his own credibility through his miracles, his Resurrection from the dead and final ascension into the heavens, we can accept His assessment of the veracity of Old Testament scripture.

The Fox is in charge of the Henhouse

February 24, 2009

During the great depression a lot of legislation was created which provided government oversight for banks, Wall street, the insurance industry, employee benefits etc.  It provided balance.  Government was watching the capitalist system and preventing excesses from ruining the economy.  However, no one was watching the government, whether it was over interfering, or not doing its job at all.  Rather than make the government into a better watchdog,  Mr. Obama now seems to want the government to just take over all these things outright.  This little old grandma is wondering, who will provide oversight of the government to prevent its excesses from ruining the economy?  Its just growing into a huge, bungling behemoth. Instead of a watchdog protecting the henhouse from the fox, we just put the fox in charge of the henhouse, and there is no longer anyone able to be in charge of the fox.

Getting Sick in Europe

February 11, 2009

One wonderful thing about getting older is I get to write about history that I actually saw and experienced.  As I look at our country, the United States, rushing in certain directions, I am both amazed and amused to find such ignorance of lessons already learned.

In the rush to “universal healthcare”, including the new federal electronic surveillance of medical records, we are truly seeing “change” of a magnitude Americans have never before experienced.  I know where we are going, both as a national economy and as a nationalized health system.  Within a few years we will be where Britain was in the 1980s.  I actually lived in Britain in the 1980s, and while I could quote lots of statistics, they are available other places online.  Because I lived it, I can tell you stories of what the reality looked like.

My first experience was touring the local hospital on a public information day.  We toured the Obstetrics unit, and as the ward sister (nurse) enthusiastically spoke of mothers being able to labor on the floor if they wished, I looked at the floor.  It looked as if it had not been mopped in weeks.  It was literally muddy.  Next came the emergency room.  It wasn’t full, with an overflowing waiting room, which I found interesting.  Later on I would learn why it was so relatively quiet.

I made friends with an elderly neighbor.  She had cataracts, and could barely get around.  I decided to help her with her grocery shopping.  Turns out she was on a two year waiting list for cataract surgery.  Once her cataracts became “ripe”,she went on the list.  Trouble is, she was quite blind before her name came up.  After her first cataract surgery was complete, she waited another two years to have the second eye done.  She eventually found a lump in her breast.  She was put on a list to see a surgeon and waited several months for an appointment.  She eventually had a radical mastectomy, but died of her cancer shortly afterward.  I will never know whether seeing the surgeon earlier would have made a difference, but the attitude of her caregivers was she was elderly and had a good life, so what.

I lived across from a children’s playground.  One day a child fell out of the equipment and obviously had a broken arm.  She was in shock and vomiting from the pain.  I convinced her mother to take her to the local emergency room, where they waited all night without being seen.  In the morning they were scolded for coming, and told to go to their g.p. (general practitioner).   Having lived in America, I thought it was unconscionable to let a child suffer in pain that long unattended, but this was how it was done.

A friend was in a motor vehicle accident and it was thought he had a fractured cervical vertebra.  They kept him on a gurney, and put on a cervical collar, but he was unattended for 24 hours–just lying in the hall, not being treated.  After 24 hours with no fluids, no food, and in pain, he convulsed and eventually died.

Another friend, in his 50s, had a heart attack and died in that same emergency room.  He had never had blood pressure medication or statins, although that kind of medication was already standard in t he U.S.  I actually heard a physician say it was a waste to give such medication just to prolong life a couple of years and have a person become senile instead of just dying.

So, look out when the government becomes your doctor.  You had better have good genes, good luck and good knowledge of whatever alternative care you can find for yourself. 

Britain now has a two-tiered health system.  The national health service couldn’t take care of everybody, so working people finally had the option of a system similar to Blue Cross/Blue Shield, and many are now using it.  Remember that the “Hilary Healthcare Plan” wasn’t going to give us that option.  A “single payer system” doesn’t have any other options.

Prayer for an Unstable Time

January 19, 2009

Lord Jesus, as I look at all the evil, violence, instability and uncertainty in the world, help me remember these things.

ALL AUTHORITY on earth and in heaven has been given to You, and You will give it to no one, nor will you let anyone steal it.  You have pre-determined the outcome of everything, and it all works for good for those who love you.  You know everything and no one can trick you nor sneak anything past you.  You never sleep

You will bring everything to a conclusion that satisfies your justice, love and mercy.  You will never leave loose threads hanging at the end of any story.

You are LOVE, and we all need to meditate on what that means in all its fullness.  You care intimately, even for the sparrow.  You know every hair on our heads and every cell in our bodies.

We have nothing to fear.  You hold us in the palm of your hands.  What a perfect place to be!

Prayer for Barak Obama

January 19, 2009

With the historic inauguration of Barak Obama only hours away, Lord I pray that you will truly bless him.  He says he is a Christian, yet I never saw a word asking  prayer for him on the transition website.  He may not be used to asking for prayer for himself, and so I hope he gets a lot of prayer anyway from other people who recognize how much he needs it.

Leading this government and this people is a tall order, and most presidents have approached the job with humility.  We are in a world of trouble, more than most of the citizens realize.  Looking at the transition website, one would get the idea that the American people expect government to be their god and take care of absolutely everything in their lives.  They look to government and president Obama as their savior.  But he is not god or savior, he is an elected human being.  Help him God.  Give him wisdom even if he doesn’t have the wisdom to ask you for help.  Guide him.  Give him Your dreams and visions as you did to the leaders of old.  As he hits the rough patches, and he surely will, give him the insight to realize he needs to replace self-confidence with God confidence.  Thats not a lack of optimism, its optimism based on the right source for it.  The smartest men in the world have some incredible blind spots when they don’t allow You to search and know them, and don’t ask You to guide and protect them.  Help him to know You, Your power, Your concern and Your absolute reliability.  Protect him from those who would harm him or his family.  Protect him from temptation to do things from cowardly, selfish or less than noble motives.  Raise him to greatness, but let it be the true greatness of one who has let You be their helper, advisor and protector.  And, God bless this nation, Lord.  Do what is best for us, even if we go through some hard times to become refined into the high quality people you created us to be.  If we hit some hard bumps, don’t let us break.  As we are tested by fire, burn off all that is base, selfish, and foolish and bring out the finest in us all.  Please remember the prayers of those who planted the first crosses on this soil.  Let us be a nation who makes You smile.

America in its Adolesence

July 29, 2008

Sometime ago I had written a post about America, as a nation, behaving in much the same way as an individual behaves in adolesence.  Lately, I’ve been reading some relatively recent commentary on American history and learned I’m in good company.  A number of historians are looking at civilizations having life stages similar to that of human beings.  They go through the “new” period where growth encompasses everything, a time of adolescent identity seeking, a season of healthy maturity and then a decline.  There are some exceptions, notably China and India which are some very old cultures undergoing a resurgence, but are they truly the same culture they were or  are witnessing the birth of new cultures in those geographic locations?

America is experiencing the following symptoms of adolesence: it is self-absorbed, it lives in the present, it is hedonistic, and it is still seeking its cultural identity.

America is self-absorbed.  One only has to look at the space given to world news in our media.  To get coverage of world news having any depth or breadth, one has to go to foreign sources.  To the average American, the world is all about us.  America lives in the present.  One has only to look at the national debt to see we have yet to develop an adult view of financial reality.  We want everything now, but we don’t want to pay for it.  We’re hedonistic in that we want the right to do as we please regardless of our own good or the good of society.  And we are still seeking our cultural identity.  We have tried one ideal after the other and haven’t yet synthesized the set of ideals we will live for.  Our latest ideal is “tolerance” which is really a very passive one and is directly linked to the hedonism we’re also involved with.  When any critical thinking is rejected as intolerant you see the adolescent rejection of boundaries.

What will happen?  With individual adolescents, either a slow exposure to reality pushes or a significant emotional event catapults the individual into adulthood.  We’ve had some exposure to reality–terrorism, the weak dollar causing inflation, a long tedious struggle in Iraq, and the housing bust.  We’re being pushed.  God forbid the nation also has a significant emotional event.

Accurate Accounts of Jesus Life

May 6, 2008

Some time ago I mentioned in a post that one could learn of Jesus through reading the original four accounts of his life, death and resurrection.  I had a sarcastic comment asking if I had read original papyri.  What I meant were the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.  Recently a lot of attention has been paid to the “other gospels”, such as the gospel of Thomas, the gospel of Judas, etc.  These aren’t the original accounts.  The proponents of including these “other” gospels in one’s picture of Jesus, may or may not realize they paint a very different picture of Jesus than the accounts written by his friends and contemporaries.  Like any other religion, Christianity had unusual sects and splinter groups.  Groups who misunderstood the message were even more common in those early days because of the difficulty of travel and communication.  This makes the spread of the original writings all the more extraordinary.  Today we have more than 10,000 manuscripts or fragments of the original New Testament writings dated within a century or so of the time of Jesus.  This is more than we have for any other writings of the time, or even later!  The writings spread all over the Roman empire—all the places where churches were founded.  What else is amazing—the copies all essentially agree, and they agree with the gospels and epistles we have today, despite 1900 years and numerous translations.  In contrast, the “other” gospel accounts exist in one or two copies, and were found with Gnostic writings.  Gnostics developed their philosophy in the century following Jesus, and they tried to spiritualize everything—explain Jesus appearance and his miracles, including his resurrection as spiritual experiences.  They were in many ways like unbelievers today, they didn’t want to believe what the four original gospels said occurred.

 

The Gospel of Thomas was found in Egypt, written in Coptic.  What is interesting about that is Thomas is believed to have gone to India—indeed there are monuments to Thomas in India.  Orthodox Rabbis (who hardly have a dog in the fight where Christian scriptures are concerned) have stated the writers of the so-called “Gnostic” gospels have no understanding of first century Jewish thought, as the apostles would.

 

I would venture this, where the Christian canon of scripture is concerned.  Rather than “stifle truth”, the 4th century church leaders, solemnized a list of books that had been widely accepted as valid for many years.  Their other criteria  was the necessity of apostolic authorship or apostolic authority.  The book must have been widely disseminated and accepted by most of the churches.  There was, as there is today, much writing that has little to commend it.  If one were writing the history of the twentieth century, how much credibility should they give to the National Enquirer or the Weekly World News?  Indeed, how much credibility should they give to stories that circulated on the internet.  What if I, today, decided to write a fictional Civil War diary?  I might have some political or philosophical point to make, or I might just be interested in telling a good story, never mind the facts.  Should my “Civil War Diary” have the credibility of one written by someone who was there?  My own book would be found out by my lack of proper language use for the time, and my misunderstanding of the time.  Some of the Gnostic writings fall into this category, but all “other” gospels and epistles were written without any connection to the actual apostles and that inner circle.

 

So, the “original” accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by people who were contemporaries of Jesus, who were in partnership with the apostles if not apostles themselves, and we have so many fragments, manuscripts and references to these writings in other manuscripts from the era, we can find them trustworthy as history, or else be skeptical of all history.

 

Nonni