Archive for April, 2011

The origin of the name Easter is probably the morning star; the east star. In Revelation 22:16, Jesus calls himself “…the bright and morning star.” The Greek word for “star” in that verse, is “Aster.” A kindred word, “Stauros,” is the Greek word for cross.

Jesus is the promise of a brighter day. Some people claim that day is already here, but 1st. Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see through a glass, darkly…” Jesus is the light of the world, but even so, those who believe are yet seeing through dark shades. Then, there are those who promise enlightenment to the world as Lucifer did, but are only a “will of the wisp,” leading others deeper into darkness.

So, who is enlightened, and who is yet in the darkness? That argument will continue until the full light of day. “Eos,” is a Greek word for dawn. Romans 1:21-25 says that when mankind knew God, they didn’t honor him as God, but changed the truth into myths. In Greek Mythology, the name Eos is also given to the “goddess” of the dawn. Over the centuries, Eos became Eostre, or Eastre, but it still means dawn. There are several ancient words for dawn, east, and the spring and summer seasons that are spelled similarly. Queen Esther of the Bible was probably given that name by her Babylonian captors in honor of the “goddess Ishtar.”

The name for an ancient Pagan festival may be from the same origin as the word Easter, but that really doesn’t mean much. You can find or create multiple meanings for each day of the week, every week, every month, and every year, but God created time itself. If the world were to last long enough, people of the future could someday argue that Christians created Easter from the Earth Day celebrations. No matter what it’s called, Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies embodied in the sacrifice of Passover.

The first chapter of Genesis is the oldest recorded history in existence, though it can be argued that our copies aren’t the oldest. God created the heavens and the earth. He created man; male and female. According to Genesis 1:14, one of the reasons God created the stars is for “signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years.” I don’t believe Christians should just hide somewhere because it’s this day or that, because God has given us every day.

There are dark nights yet to come for the world, and for each of us. In the dark nights I’ve gone through since I accepted Jesus, he’s continued to give me hope for the dawn. Christians have a wonderful future, whether we can feel it right now or not. Jesus is recorded as saying one more thing after the morning star verse; Revelation 22:20, “Surely I come quickly.”

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I sacrifice a little of my time to write this sort of thing, but it’s for something I believe in. Some people, both religious and non-religious, wish I wouldn’t bother. Here is law number one regarding sacrifice; it will be meaningless to some people, and worse than worthless to others. People want what they want, not necessarily what you can give, and they want it the way they want it. Sometimes that’s fair, but usually it isn’t.

Over the period of my life, I’ve spent a good bit of time studying. That was mostly for myself at first, because I wanted to find the truth. Now I study mostly for the sake of other people, for they’re not convinced simply because I am. That’s understandable also. Here’s another law; only God will understand how much you’ve put into something. You may begin to see why it’s called sacrifice.

Here’s another thing; my time and my money (what little there is), also belong to my family, so sacrifice costs those who love you also. That makes sacrifice even harder. How much did Mary suffer when Jesus was crucified? How much did God the Father suffer?

This world runs on sacrifice, without even thinking about it. After Noah’s flood, God began to allow the eating of meat (though it was being eaten before that anyway). I don’t like to use a phrase such as “God allows.” God always has choices, but it isn’t as if there’s always a good choice versus a bad one. Neither is there always an easy choice among the lot of them. There is another law; someone will always be forced to sacrifice something because of us. Everything God does is for the greatest possible good of humanity.

Many people would also have starved if they had not been able to hunt animals. In a manner of speaking, mankind killed every living creature when Adam and Eve ate of the “Ets Daath.” Those are the Hebrew words for the Tree of Knowledge (ref. my Blog Page,”the Tree of Knowledge). Mankind “eats death,” and everything dies because of it (ref. When the Sparrow Falls, in my June 2010 archives).

If the animals did not die along with us, scientists would take them apart piece by piece to find out why. More primitive scientists would have simply eaten the living pieces to see if that would affect their lifespan. By the way, the tree of “Knowledge” is the tree of “Science” (scientia), in the Latin language (ref. part one of “Death” in my Dec. 2010 archives). The spell check recognizes “daath” as “death,” but apparently Adam and Even didn’t.

In the book of Genesis, Able sacrificed a lamb because of sin. It was an acknowledgement that the sin of mankind kills the innocent, and that Jesus, the lamb of God, would have to die for the world. Cain, in his angry unwillingness to accept that sin was so serious, took the life of his brother Able instead. Suddenly, sin looked very serious. There is another law; sometimes others sacrifice us, not for the good of humanity, as countries sometimes sacrifice their soldiers, but out of pride, or anger, as governments do at other times (there’s a long list of reasons).

Governing entities, whether civil or religious, are made up of people, and people aren’t always rational or kind. Pontius Pilate didn’t really want to order Jesus to be crucified, but the political need to appease certain people, and his fear of Caesar, outweighed his sense of justice. Jesus sacrificed himself for the good of humanity, but humanity sacrificed Jesus in ignorance, unconcern, and hatred.

The Christian celebration of  “Easter” probably arose from symbolism between “the rising sun,” and “the Rising Son.” Sometimes it seems like the Church celebrates Easter, while forgetting that Jesus is the lamb of the “Passover.” I think our focus should be on his sacrifice, and the blood he shed for us. Those are the things he told us to remember (Luke 22:19-20). He knew we wouldn’t be as likely to forget the resurrection.

The resurrection was a glorious event, and it is proof that he is who he claims to be, but for him, that was a walk in the park. He may even have been doing a little gardening on the morning of his resurrection, because Mary Magdalene mistook him for the caretaker. His hard work was done on the cross, and that’s the only way he could change our hearts (ref. “the Foolishness of God,” in April 2010 archives).

I understand the tendency to want to celebrate his victory over death, and to forget the pain, but Jesus said to remember. Sometimes it almost seems like the church is ashamed of the blood of Jesus. That is another rule; sacrifice is not a pretty sight, yet human beings live by the sacrifice of others. Jesus sacrificed himself, in order to draw us to himself, and to give us everlasting life.

It isn’t as hard as it may seem to believe him, and to believe in him. His broken body is the antidote to the “Ets Daath,” so take and “eat,” and “drink” from the cup of the “New Covenant in his blood.” We only need to open our hearts to him. Our part in this is not such a terrible sacrifice as our minds try to tell us.

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Who’s to blame for all this? Genesis 1:31 says that everything God created was very good. Ecclesiastes 7:29 says, “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions.” In other words, God designed us right, but we’ve changed, and nature has changed because of us.

According to the Bible, God should not be blamed for designing us with intelligence and freewill. We are to blame for our contest of wills with God, and with each other. We are ultimately responsible for every evil upon our planet, including natural disasters. When we’ve said, “Hands off” to God, and we’ve nailed his hands to a cross, who’s to blame when God takes his hands away?

It is in light of those facts that we need to look at verses such as Isaiah 45:7; “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” Many Christians interpret this verse as proof that God is pulling all the strings, but God doesn’t treat people like puppets. People who believe that sort of thing often treat others that way though.

Atheists love that interpretation also, because it doesn’t make sense that a loving God would create us, give us forbidden fruit causing us to sin, and then punish us forever when we could have done no differently. No, that doesn’t make sense, and that’s not what that verse is saying. Jeremiah 29:11 says that God’s thoughts toward us are “thoughts of peace, and not of evil,” to give us what we hope for in the end.

God always wants the very best for us, but he doesn’t always get what he wants. So what is Isaiah 45:7 saying? The Bible teaches us that “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” Scientifically, darkness is simply the absence of light. Darkness is wherever the light is not, and so it is with evil.

The Hebrew Old Testament word “Ra,” is usually translated “evil.” Late in history, the addition of vowel symbols to Hebrew writing altered the spelling of “Ra” to “Rea,” forming a new written word to accommodate the alternate meanings “noise,” or “crash of thunder.” I think those meanings should be considered when interpreting Isaiah 45:7, especially since noise and commotion are opposites of peace, just as darkness is opposite of light. Vine’s Expository Dictionary says of this verse, “…Moral evil is not intended in this context, but rather the antithesis of shalom (peace).”

I have said before that the interaction of our freewill with that of God is something like a chess game (yet it’s no game). The moves that we make influence those of God, and vice-versa. Many verses of the Bible quote God as saying things such as, “If you will…then I will…but if you will not, then I will not…” You see God wants us to win, so he even tells many of the moves he is going to make. Just as he wrestled with Jacob, so he struggles to save every one of us.

God considered our souls to be worth giving his own life for, and that is what he did. The relationships between our will and the will of God are very intricate, but whatever God does is done to accomplish the greatest possible good for mankind.

Isaiah 45:8 lets us know what God wants. “Rain down, you heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness; let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together. I, the Lord, have created it.” Let it be.

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Are we lost in the wilderness of knowledge where we can’t see the forest for the trees? There’s a blindness in the mind of this world, and to a great degree it is because of the knowledge that we think we have. Every generation tosses away some of the “knowledge” of earlier generations because it is found to be in error; but some of the true is always thrown out with the false, and new errors find their way into our thinking.

Questioning the Bible has always been popular. and there are always people who want to toss it out. I’m not talking about honest questions such as you would ask if you were really looking for an answer. I mean questions that are intentionally designed to mislead. The first record that we have of that sort of question is in Genesis 3:1-5. The modern serpent has changed, “Has God said you shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” to, “Has God said anything at all?”

From the first sentence until the last, the Bible has been disputed more than any other book. God only knows how many books have been written to argue against some facet of it. Have you ever considered whether those books have had a negative effect on your opinion of the Bible? What the Bible actually says, and what some people think it says, are two different things.

I was an evolutionist, and an atheist when I first began to read the Bible. On a good day, sometimes I would call myself an agnostic. As a young person, I read a lot of books that disputed the Bible in one way or another. Some of them were books on science, and some science fiction. Some of them presented various views of history, and religion. I read the Quran, and other books written by people who thought they were setting the record straight.

Like so many others, I began studying the Bible for flaws to use as ammunition against Christians, as if Christianity was the number one thing to resist. I did meet a few Christians from time to time who didn’t act the way the books portrayed them. Some of them seemed like decent people. I just thought they were deceiving themselves. I also realized very early that Atheism censored Christianity by every means possible, and yet complained at the same time of censorship by Christians. I thought censorship of Christians was justifiable because of all the Atheists accused them of.

The attack against the Bible today, making use of the power of modern media, is far greater than it was then. It’s a funny thing though, that all of the attacks on the Bible never actually disprove anything about it. Sometimes, some misinterpretation of it has shown to be incorrect, but that’s not a bad thing. All that is proved in such cases is that religionists, whether they are Christian or not, have sometimes been as ignorant as some scientists.

I’m not using the word “ignorant” as a put down here, but in the proper sense that sometimes people just don’t know any better. People are affected by the popular science and beliefs of their day, even if a lot of that “science” is actually alchemy. The worst thing about all of this is people live out their lives in total confusion, and die rejecting Jesus. They cannot see “The Book” because of all the other books.

If I had not seen through the mist of confusion when I did, I don’t know that I could have made it now. It would have taken a greater miracle now. From early childhood, we are immersed in misunderstanding and deception. We are given the wrong interpretation of things, and taught to conform to whatever the prevailing ideologies are at the moment. Our brains are programmed to function in a certain way, and it’s very difficult to change our ways of thinking. We are literally lost in thought.

Understanding begins at the cross of Jesus. We must “come again as a little child,” a “child” of Jesus, trusting him instead of our own experimental learning processes (Proverbs 3:5,6). There is no other escape from the maze of information, and misinformation that we’ve lost ourselves in.

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Even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies upon the heart. The same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament. Those aren’t the words of an atheist or agnostic; they are the words of Paul the Apostle in 2nd Corinthians 3:14-15. Verse 16 says the veil can only be taken away by turning to Jesus. We must look at the life and death of Jesus if we really want to understand the Bible. We can read the words, and we can certainly learn many things from them, but we won’t understand the primary message if we won’t trust Jesus.

2nd Peter 3:15-16 says that Paul wrote some things that are hard to understand, and could be twisted as well as the other scriptures. So, the Bible acknowledges that things written within it can be taken the wrong way. Should God not have spoken for fear of being misunderstood? He knew he would be misinterpreted. Romans 3:11 says there is no one who understands. Should God not have used symbolism and poetic imagery simply because we would get it all twisted up? If he let our misinterpretations stop him from speaking, then he would get nothing said.

Sometimes people would rather twist things up than to try to understand. How many differing interpretations of the Constitution of the U.S. are there? Highly educated judges read different things in the same few words, so our reason for reading something, and our points of view become factors. If we read the Bible with an open mind, still there are things we can misunderstand. If something doesn’t seem right to you, then it probably isn’t, and there’s some misunderstanding somewhere. The best thing to do is to treat such things as an obstacle on a path, go around it, and read on.

The Bible isn’t a book that is best read as we normally would from start to finish. It is a collection of several books brought together under one cover. The individual books were most likely written over a span of about four thousand years, and are not all in chronological order. Some establish a time-line and order, and others go back to give us a little more detail about something. You find the same sort of thing when several people who’ve known a particular person, write separately about that person. You’ll find some of the same information multiple times, and some things included that others missed. You’ll sometimes find a chapter within an individual book that goes back into detail on something previously mentioned.

While some lesson can be gleaned from everything within the Bible, not all the information is meant for everyone, and not all the books will interest everyone. If something doesn’t interest you, skip it, and file it away for later. There are many rewards that can come from reading the Bible. The words within it can lead you to eternal life. 2nd Timothy 3:15-16 says that very thing. The words within it lead us to Jesus, because that’s what it’s really all about. For instance, the long genealogies branch off again and again, but they end with Jesus. They are there to lead someone to Jesus.

To someone new to the Bible, I would recommend reading a few chapters of Genesis, especially the first three, and then turn to Luke or John in the New Testament. The New Testament sheds light on many Old Testament writings. If you take these things into account when studying the Bible, practically all problems that critics raise disappear right away. The few that remain will someday dissolve in light of new discoveries. Until then, there are a few things that God asks us to trust him on. When we look at Jesus on the cross, we know we can trust him. The Bible is more than simply a collection of scriptures (writings); it is the Script, containing the overview of the age of man from beginning to end. To see where the world is headed, we must have an understanding of the Bible.

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