The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!







Sunday, April 29, 2012

Z is for ZERESH


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]


Did you read the book of Esther the other day when we had V is for VASHTI?  I started out to update my info about Vashti and Esther, but got carried away and read the whole story again.  It is really quite incredible!  By the way; this book explains the beginning of Purim, which is the holiday still remembered today whereby Jewish people celebrate the defeat of Haman.


Speaking of Haman, his career might not have gone so far (75' up) if it were not for his sweet little bride, ZERESH!  She joined with Haman's friends in trying to console his miserable pride, by suggesting that he have his enemy Mordecai (the secret Uncle to Queen Esther) impaled on a pole, so that he, Haman, could have an undistracted good time at the next day's banquet with the King and Queen!  What a dear!


Then later, in her last words to her stricken husband, after her first suggestion had failed miserably (and was about to backfire interminably), ZERESH had the temerity to tell him this bad news:  “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” 
Esther 6:13b

She must have had a good insurance policy in place, she was so flip about his doom.  But the next thing ZERESH knew, within a few hours I believe, Haman was on top of the 75' pole he had erected outside his house for Mordecai.  ('On top of', as in, 'impaled on'.)  I have a feeling that she stood there with her hands on her hips and yelled up at him; "I told you so"!




I hope you go read the fascinating book of Esther right now!  (Trivia: Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not mention God!)


And THANK YOU for stopping by this month during the A to Z Challenge, to see some of the 'weird words from the Word of God'!



Y is for YESHUA


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

YESHUA is a special name, but maybe not very special.  Have you ever run into someone with the name Jesus?  Probably a Latino boy or man, and he pronounces it, naturally, according to the rules of the Spanish language so it would be like this.  We don't use that name (too often) in America, I think, out of respect for the name of our Savior, Jesus.  I also think that in Latin countries, they use that name freely, out of respect for the name of their Savior Jesús

Different cultures think about things differently (there's a new concept eh?), and that's a wonderful thing.

My understanding is that the name 'Jesus' as it was given to Mary's baby was pronounced in the Hebrew as Yeshua and means 'God saves'.  This was a very common name in Israel 2000 years ago.  It was Joshua, as we pronounce it, who took over leading the Israelites after Moses died, and it was Joshua who "fought the battle of Jericho," as the song goes (although there was not too much of a fight when the walls fell down miraculously).  And since he was one of the early heroes of the nation, and with its hopeful meaning for a people expecting a Messiah, the name YESHUA was all the rage!

So the apostles never called Him Jesus; the Pharisees never called Him Jesus, and even His mother never called Him Jesus.  When the story was told in Greek, which has its own rules and limitations, the 'Y' became an 'I' and the 's' was added to the end (as all good Greek masculine names must have) so the Savior was called "Iesous" and when transliterated into English, the 'I' became a 'J' and there you have....JESUS.

After all the confusion and translating and cultural complications, it must be clear that the pronunciation of the name is not what matters.  But who was this man?   GOD SAVES!




I Am the Stranger



            A home invader is usually a stranger right?  
                  In this case, the stranger is me!  

video






All day the female cardinal flew out of these bushes each time I walked by.  I was hoping to catch her in flight right away, but instead I found the nest, just like that!  THEN she flew away.






The two youn'uns thought I was bringing them worms, but you can see they quickly figured that I was not worth the gargantuan effort it must take to open those humongous beaks.







Saturday, April 28, 2012

X is for XERXES


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]



If you read V is for VASHTI, then you have already heard of VASHTI'S husband, King XERXES of Persia.  A brief summary of the time and place:  God warned Israel that if they continued to ignore His ways, He would have to discipline the nation by sending them into captivity.  Sure enough, Babylon occupied Jerusalem and took all the people back home.  This is where the story of Daniel comes in.  He was a young man who showed so much promise that he was trained to be an adviser in King Nebuchadnezzar's court, along with three other guys who would spend some time in the fiery furnace later on, when they refused to worship a 90' statue of the King.

Daniel survived Nebu's reign, interpreting important dreams for the King, as their meanings were revealed to Daniel by God.  Daniel was still there when Neb's Grandson was king, and when he abused the articles confiscated  from Jerusalem's temple, King Belshazzar saw the famed "writing on the wall" which Daniel then interpreted for him.  He was slain "that very night" when the Medes and Persians broke into the castle and took over the Kingdom.

Now Daniel served King Darius the Mede, but Darius was tricked by jealous advisers and forced to throw Daniel into "the lion's den".  God rescued him and the lions got the bad guys.  Xerxes succeeded Darius after he died of natural causes while away to fight Egypt.  It seems Daniel never met Xerxes, but Esther, the Jewish orphan under the care of Mordecai in the capital city of Susa, became the chosen queen of King Xerxes.

I love how the Bible stories we have all heard about fit into the ancient history of these kingdoms.  There is no natural inherent reason to doubt the accuracy or credibility of the stories, unless one comes to them with the predetermined position that nothing miraculous is possible (Of course those people must not believe in the miracle of life forming out of nothing, and then 'evolving' upward against every known law such as bio-genesis and thermodynamics).

No historical or geographical reference in the Bible has ever been found to be inaccurate or false.  Every time archaeologists have claimed that the Bible talks about some civilization that never existed, new discoveries have revealed that it was the academics that were wrong.  History has informed us amazingly about many names and dates and places regarding the ancient world, but the Old Testament has filled in some of the fascinating details about some major people and events that 'history' never heard of!










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W is for WORSHIP


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]


Of all the spirits, entities, persons, aliens (aliens?), statues, rocks and Hollywood stars in the universe, there is only ONE worthy of true WORSHIP: Sorry Oprah, that would be GOD.  WORSHIP is the act of paying proper homage to the One True God.  We give all we have to Him, for we have nothing that did not come from Him.  He rescued every bit of us from a righteous judgment, so He deserves every bit of us.

Famed martyred missionary Jim Eliot said; "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose."  We should give all.

If you are not deliberately WORSHIPING God, then you are probably inadvertently WORSHIPING something, or someone else.  Think about it for a minute, and if you're like me, your tendency is to spend most of your time and energy honoring, supplicating and giving all to...yourself!

Do we not cringe when we witness our kids ignoring others, dismissing we, the devoted sacrificial parents, and standing in front of the mirror?  I rest my case.

videoOr what about the guy who videos himself practicing with the WORSHIP band?  Ugh.

V is for VASHTI


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]



The story of Esther, the undercover Jewess beauty who became Queen of Persia, as told in the Bible book of the same name, is incredible!  The twists and turns of this true account of the heroine Esther, her brave Uncle Mordecai and the evil Haman could only happen in real life.  And it all starts with VASHTI.  VASHTI was King Xerxes Queen until she refused to come into his banquet hall so he could show her off.  You will get a kick out of how her disobedience got her deposed from the throne because all of Xerxes advisers warned that her rebellion was a terrible example for the women across the kingdom!

[ Of course they were right, but I'll save that speech for when we get to the letter MS and I'll do "MS is for Mike's Suicide!"   He hee.  Good thing women can't read between brackets, eh guys?! ]

That's all we know about VASHTI, except that with the exception of Esther, she was the most beautiful woman around.  As a man, I don't know what to think about such a woman who stands out among the rest.    Well, I know what I think, but what does SHE think about being so gorgeous?

At first, one might think it's purely a wonderful thing to be so lovely.  Everyone loves a beauty queen right?  Or is that the very problem?   The negatives must be burdensome.  With piggish men staring, jealous women glaring, and all the while never daring to be seen under anything but the best light.  Such a woman must feel a lot of pressure to match her character and attitude to her skin deep, though only genetically controlled features.   And then, being human, she must readily fall short.  A VASHTI or an Esther must be aware that she had nothing to do with the raw beauty she lives in, and struggles with how to respond to appearance based compliments.  Personally she needs to be considered for her talents and interests, and given allowance for her flaws and weaknesses, but that perfect face and figure regularly intimidate the simple minded [ men ] and distract women who might otherwise become good friends.

So what do you think ladies?  Was anybody more relieved than VASHTI when she was deposed?






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U is for USURY


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

From Leviticus 25
35 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and are unable to support themselves among you, help them as you would a foreigner and stranger, so they can continue to live among you. 36 Do not take interest or any profit from them, but fear your God, so that they may continue to live among you. 37 You must not lend them money at interest or sell them food at a profit. 38 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.

Can you imagine living in an economy that would abide by these rules?  When this was given to the newly formed people of Israel, after their deliverance from slavery in Egypt, they were forbidden to charge any interest, any USURY, at all to their poor countrymen.  Verse 37 even forbids making a profit when selling them food!  Why? So that these poor would not get frustrated and move away.  In God's economy, things other than what we value, rise in importance.

This rule was followed, for a while.  But like most of God's commands and instructions for good societal living, this one too began to be neglected.  Ultimately the term USURY came to mean 'exorbitant' interest, so regular interest could be charged, because that was not USURY any more, which was forbidden.  Are we not too clever for our own good?

Did you know that it was King Henry VIII, in 1545, who first legalized the charging of interest?  Me neither, but according to Wikipedia, this one act produced "a pivotal change in the English-speaking world".

If only....

If only we people had listened, did listen, would listen, to what God has to say about living.  How do we ever think to judge whether HE knows how we should best live?

But if you like this post, send me 68% of whatever is in your pocket right now!

T is for THOMAS


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]


There are a lot of interesting T words in the introduction list aren't there?  Quite a few provocative themes that I could address.  So I have chosen THOMAS.  Call me chicken if you want to, but you know better than that.  I'll stick my neck out and take a stab at any topic generally.  But today you can call me 'lazy' if you must; I am so far behind on the A to Z challenge that here I am going to take a break.

But that's not to say I have nothing to say about THOMAS THE SCIENTIST!  What?  Did you think I was going to say THOMAS THE DOUBTER?  Well, I kind of did.  A good scientist doesn't believe anything (regarding his science, that is) unless it has been proven to him, or he has proven it himself.  THOMAS was simply like that.

Do you know the story I'm referring to?  After Jesus was crucified and buried, 10 of His remaining disciples were hanging out (hiding!) in the upper room, mourning, and trying to figure out what to do.  They had heard some rumors already that Jesus had risen, but were too shocked to believe it, or embrace the idea.  Suddenly Jesus appeared in the room, even though the door was locked!   Jesus showed them his pierced hands and side, and the 10 men were thrilled to see Him alive.  When they later told THOMAS about the visit, he did not believe it.  Thinking like an intellectual, and probably referring to what he had been told about the supposed visit, he said (in John 20:25b) “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”  I imagine that his emphasis was on the word " I ", because " they " had been given the chance to do just that.  I doubt (ooops; now I'm Michael the doubter!) they even wanted to probe Jesus' wounds for proof, but they had the advantage of a shared group experience: the encouragement that others were obviously seeing the same thing.

One week later, we are told, as the story continues in John 20, that Jesus came again when THOMAS was there and challenged THOMAS specifically to feel the wounds, and to "stop doubting and believe".

Poor old THOMAS should not be put down for doubting the mental stability of his buds (even the two who were probably his brothers, Mathew and James, one of which may have been a twin brother (THOMAS means 'twin')), but Jesus was perhaps a bit tough on THOMAS in the story.  Yes, we should be careful of what we believe in the natural world.  There must be evidence, if not absolute proof, behind the things we are told; and yet there are some things, some super-natural things, like a resurrected Jesus, that are just as real as blood and bone, and we would be fools to waste too much time doubting what we might know to be true.

THOMAS did believe, and made the powerful declaration his fellows had neglected:  Standing in that room, and without inspecting the wounds, THOMAS called Jesus "My Lord and my God."  Never to miss a teaching moment, Jesus made an important point.  Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”












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S is for SIN


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]


YAY!  I don't have to type resurrection a million times for this post!  Typing resurrection, and repeatedly trying to remember if it requires two 's's, or two 'r's gets ridiculously redundant; typing resurrection does.

Of course, SIN (which is wonderfully easy to type) is directly related to re....that r word (I just refuse to write resurrection again today!).  It was SIN, way back in the day, that set God on His mission of re...demption (gotcha!) in the first place.  Which included Jesus' sacrifice on the cross.  But what if Jesus had not been willing to demean Himself, and to even die, for a bunch of SINNERS like us?

Consider this verse from Paul's letter to the Philippian church, about the mindset of Christ:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death —
even death on a cross!              
Philippians 2:6-8

But what is SIN?
I think it's more complicated than its simple spelling suggests.

A SIN is usually something done.  It is a verb; either an overt action accomplished, or (as Jesus taught in Mathew 5:28 when He said:  "But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart."), a covert thought merely had.  God had Moses list 10 do's and don'ts for the people of Israel, so they could see a physical depiction of which human actions God wanted them to practice and/or avoid practicing.  Later we were told that the 'law' is really written on every heart.  There was no need for stone tablets.  Our consciences do us the favor of bringing the needed conviction.

However, we do need the accountability.  The Commandments were inscribed into rock therefore, because the highlight of a SINFUL heart (like mine) is that its corruption works to overthrow the bad news inflicted by the conscience!  See here how Paul struggled:
Romans 7:21-25
 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;  but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.


(We need submit to the transforming work of God, to change such a nature.)

I hasten to add that SIN is more than a list of actions and attitudes to either take or avoid.  SIN is also, in my mind (pardon the pun), a kind of entity.  The real thing that God hates is not an action, like stealing, but the separation caused by the stealing.  SIN is the fruit of SINNING.  It is a worldview that displaces God with self aggrandizement.  It is the necessity for a place called hell.  One who chooses his own authority over God's can not ever (would not ever want to) abide in God's home, but requires a place of its own to flourish in the resulting rot.  Not so much as a torturous punishment, but as a natural consequence of trying to live opposite of God.  How could there be two sets of good?  All good is with God (and His realm) so only 'no good', exists without Him.

SIN is not something cute that can be laughed at and minimized, but a monster that wedges in between the Creator and the creature, separating the two from enjoying any fellowship forever.  

Bad news first?  SIN infinitely distances you and me from God.
Good news?  On the cross, Jesus Christ was 'forsaken' (ultimately separated) by the Father, in our place!

We can be saved from all the SIN in our lives; its actions, attitudes, and results, and be reconciled to God.
Romans 6:23
For the wages of SIN is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.


R is for RESURRECTION


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

Three weeks ago tomorrow, we Christians celebrated the RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ.  Perhaps the word is not so 'weird', and the day has been renamed Easter (which has as its root, the Saxon goddess Eostre, who was offered sacrifice around the same time Passover was celebrated by the Jews, which was going on the same weekend Jesus died and was RESURRECTED), but I suggest we simplify our holidays by naming them for what we are holidaying about: in this case, RESURRECTION SUNDAY.

Anyway...I suspect that most people today are too 'educated' and 'scientific' to believe that Jesus ever did actually rise from the dead.    OK.  But may I suggest that you should then be ready to give up belief in just about every other ancient figure and event you've ever heard about.

The historical evidence, first for the existence of Jesus, then for the main events of his life, death AND RESURRETION is at least as substantial as it is for any other person we typically accept without question.  If a report is given you about Julius Caesar, a contemporary of Jesus Christ, do you even wonder about its credibility?  For example; our knowledge of Caesar comes largely from Plutarch, who was born shortly after Caesar died.  His history is obviously second hand.  Three of the Gospels were written by men who literally walked with Jesus, yet their testimony is doubted.  Why?  That's the real question.

Like the overwhelming geological evidence for a worldwide flood on this planet is denied, and as the parsimonious evidence for a sudden recent creation is ignored, the legal and historical support documenting Jesus' RESURRECTION is also resisted and denied, ultimately I believe, for personal reasons.

Everything written these days has critiques and rebuttals written against it now, and they can be found on the internet.  I have looked over some of the responses given to this book that I will recommend, and have found the complaints to be weak and vain.  I hope you will look for Lee Strobel's The Case For Christ, consider his reasoned conclusion about evidence for the RESURRECTION (Strobel was the Chicago Tribune's lead legal correspondent, and an atheist), and find the personal salvation won for YOU through the real and meaningful RESURRECTION of Jesus Christ.




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Q is for QUEEN OF HEAVEN


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

Did you know that the moon was referred to by the Assyrians as the QUEEN OF HEAVEN?  Me neither.
It's one thing for an 'unchosen' people to consider mere creatures of nature like the sun and the moon; or deaf, dumb and mute objects like carved stone or chunks of wood as if they were gods.  But here Jeremiah points out (as God's prophet) that even the enlightened of Israel were deliberately choosing idolatry in his time.

Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?  The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the QUEEN OF HEAVEN. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger.  But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?  Jeremiah 7:17-19

At least they made it a family activity!  I appreciate that God very clearly points out here, that His commandments are not simply arbitrary tools that He might use to make us 'provoke' Him!  Violating His instructions harms US!  Your children don't like your rules do they?  But name one rule that you ever instigated for YOUR own good, and not theirs.


Here Job demonstrates the caution needed to avoid our easy tendency toward simple idol worship.

if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendor,
 so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a kiss of homage,
 then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.
 Job 31:26-28

But here I've copied the beautiful Psalm 8, where David demonstrates a good response to our wonder at God's creative work in nature.

Psalm 8
For the director of music. According to gittith. A psalm of David.

1 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

You have set your glory
in the heavens.
2 Through the praise of children and infants
you have established a stronghold against your enemies,
to silence the foe and the avenger.
3 When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,

4 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them?


5 You have made them a little lower than the angels
and crowned them with glory and honor.
6 You made them rulers over the works of your hands;
you put everything under their feet:
7 all flocks and herds,
and the animals of the wild,
8 the birds in the sky,
and the fish in the sea,
all that swim the paths of the seas.

9 Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

(emphasis added)
More emphasis?  I've always liked verse 2, and thought of it every time, years ago, when my 'children and infants' praised God through their innocent voicings!  Now my Grandchildren do the same thing!





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P is for PENTATEUCH


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

"P is for WHAT?"  Well I hope it's a strange word to you.  Otherwise, PENTATEUCH would not fit into my list of 'weird words'!  While PENTATEUCH is not found anywhere in the Bible, THE PENTATEUCH may be said to be the foundation of the Bible.  Penta, as in pentagram, pentagon, etc., means five, and teuch means book, or volume so The PENTATEUCH is the collection of the first five books of the Bible.

But why are the first five so collected?  These books, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy have always been referred to, in other historical Bible books, as "The book of the law of Moses."  For several reasons, it is understood that these five books which give us the prehistory of man, the beginnings of...everything (!) and the early history of "God's chosen people" (including the very choosing), were written by Moses himself.

Interestingly, these books range in the mind of the average Christian Bible student, from the most fascinating dramatic stories, to the most mundane and boring list of facts and figures.  Can you imagine sitting down in your favorite chair, with your most comforting beverage set at your side, to read a book called NUMBERS?  (Even the modern TV show became a repetitive bore!)

But GENESIS, first telling us (most unscientifically, but historically) about the main events in the creation of the universe, the oh-so-relevant 'fall' and the earth-shattering flood, then goes on to inform us about the early famous and foiblesome.  Did you know where the first 'orchestra' came from?  And who the first 'blacksmith' was?  (From the step-brothers, Jubal and Tubal, if you must know; Genesis 5:21,22).  And who was the first 'drunk'?  Noah! Genesis 9

The heroes of Israel were people like you.  Imperfect.  Ok, so they were people like you...AND me.  But do you know which famous historical figure never had a weakness pointed out in the Bible?  Even though his amazing story fills the final 14 chapters of Genesis (!), his record is unblemished by the typical unfaithful decisions the rest of the patriarchs, and most of us, did make.

Maybe it's intimidating to think about reading the whole Bible, and maybe the whole PENTATEUCH is hard to wade through, but if you haven't read GENESIS, or it's been a while, let me recommend you read it today!  Here is a great resource to help you do just that.







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Saturday, April 21, 2012

O is for OMEGA


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]



“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”  
Revelation 1:8

OMEGA is simply the name of the last letter in the Greek alphabet.  Alpha, is A, and OMEGA is equivalent to our Z.  Here in the opening of John's 'revelation from Jesus Christ', Jesus claims that He is the first and the last, the beginning and the end, the start and the finish, of all things.  We find out at various points in the Bible that it was Jesus who did the creating of Genesis, the first book of the Bible which tells us about the 'beginnings' we could not have witnessed for ourselves.

And here in the final inspired book of the Bible; an intriguing and mysterious, mostly prophetic, description of last things is given.  But right off the bat we are comforted with the insight that the Jesus we know and love as our personal Savior will be right there at the end.  Before He ascended bodily Jesus promised never to 'leave us or forsake us'.  He keeps His promises.  


The philosopher in me then wants to understand what it suggests that there is an 'OMEGA', or end.  If we are to live an eternal life, how could there ever be an 'end'?  My answer is that He is referring to the triumphal end of what I might call the 'Grand Interruption'.  

God created everything in 6 days, rested on the seventh, setting up Adam and Eve in the garden where He Himself walked with them 'in the cool of the day'.  But then came the interruption to God's good plan.  Eve and Adam chose to believe in their own human judgement, instead of in God's faultless word.  That day, after they had eaten the 'forbidden fruit', God introduced His plan to sacrifice Himself to redeem mankind.  In chapter 3, as God put a curse on the serpent for its part in tempting the young couple, He described how Jesus would retake the dominion which Adam gave to Satan: 

"...And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
   
Genesis 3:15

The entire Bible then tells the story (His-story) of how God worked through the ages to prepare man to recognize his need, and to let us prove to ourselves that we could not keep any law perfectly.  Galatians 4:4 tells us... 

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law
In the end, after these few thousand years of God again entrusting His work to man (this time, that of sharing His Good News around the world, instead of simply subduing the earth), the GI (Grand Interruption) will have run its course.  Once again God will walk freely with all those who individually accept  the invitation. From the OMEGA chapter (the last chapter) of the last book; Revelation 22:3-5, we see that...

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Man's debt of sin was paid by Christ.  From the cross, Jesus declared the end of man's bondage when He said  "It is Finished"!  Perhaps those ultimate days of eternity, when our fellowship with Him is restored and implemented without any strain of sin, will be dated and known not as BC or AD, but PI,  for Post Interruption!

N is for NATIVITY


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

NATIVITY is not necessarily a Bible word, but if someone uses the word, they are probably referring to the NATIVITY of Jesus Christ.  That is, the place, condition and circumstances of His birth.  And of course, His, according to this definition, was the most singular NATIVITY ever recorded!  Yes, I believe His mother Mary was indeed a virgin before Jesus was born.  When Mary asked, the angel explained:

 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.
 Luke 1:34,35

Can I explain the 'how' of such a miracle?  Of course not.  If I could 'explain' it, it wouldn't be much of a meaningful, supernatural, NATIVITY after all.  Theologically, I do understand that if our 'savior' was just another man, the combining of seed and egg like the rest of us are, even his later death on the cross would not amount to anything very saving.  A real 'lamb of God' must be absolutely spotless (read: sinless) for His sacrifice to be sufficient for taking our rightful place in death.  And only God Himself, though made incarnate as man himself, could stand the sinless test.

The word NATIVITY does not even appear in the NIV (New International Version) Bible.  And even when it was used in the old English King James Version, the term was used in its generic sense, referring to the physical births of various Old Testament folks, or metaphorically to the 'birth' of Israel and other nations.

I like our common usage at Christmas, when we dwell on the miraculous and intriguing circumstances of our savior's birth.  I'm kind of a sentimentalist. But beyond the angel's message to the shepherds, and the later visit from the eastern Magi, and little drummer boys and cattle lowing, there are the mundane and difficult factors to contemplate.

Traveling by donkey when Mary was 9 months pregnant?  Giving birth in a crappy (literally) stable?  Joseph had to find work for a while in this strange place to somehow pay their expenses.  Then suddenly they had to pack whatever they had and run out of town to Egypt in the middle of the night, just before soldiers came through killing all the boys that a stupid soldier might guess is under two years old!  Such a mixed bag of delights and dreads!

It would be hard to fit the whole story in that cute little creche we bring out at Christmastime, but such was the actual nature of the most noteworthy NATIVITY ever.  A beautiful revelation of God's grace and love, yes, but also a vision of the terrible consequence and sober reality of the wages of sin.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for MARTYR


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]


"Ewww! What an ugly word!"  Yeah, well.  There are a lot of ugly words in the Bible.  Sacrifice for example. Animal lovers like me cringe at the thought of all of those sheep and goats, all unblemished specimens, being slaughtered and then burnt for the supposed sake of a bunch of filthy rag sinners.  I say 'supposed' because the redeeming effect was really an illusion; it only 'worked' for a limited time, because it was only a gruesome shadow of the real grisly sacrifice that would have to be laid down one day by God incarnate.  But I digress.

A MARTYR, in the legal sense, is a witness.  One who has seen something or other and comes forth to testify as to the truth of what he has observed.  In the 'ugly' sense (but which is of utmost beauty) our use of the word MARTYR carries a much more specified meaning.  Yes, he or she is still a witness, but realizes he or she will suffer death for testifying in favor of his real knowledge of the Savior.  He is warned that death will follow the naming of Christ as his Lord, but does so anyway!

A true MARTYR can not help herself.  A believer is either  committed to following Christ completely or is not, but the MARTYR makes her position clear and beyond doubt only when her faith is challenged to this utmost degree.  Many of us might stand and proudly declare we would die for Christ, but we in America don't really know, yet.  Around the world right now, many who profess to be Christians are being persecuted, and martyred every day.  Those who pay attention say that persecution has been on the rise and is now, more widespread than ever.

Here in Acts 22:20 (the only time the word is used in the Bible), Paul is confessing his part in the murder of Stephen, the very first MARTYR.

And when the blood of your martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him. 

Paul (then known as Saul) was probably glad to serve the actual stone throwers so the fine clothes he was wearing, as a 'Pharisee of Pharisees', would not be blood spattered.  But I can almost hear the cry in his broken voice as he remembers hearing Stephen's dying prayer described in Acts 7:  Stephen followed Jesus' example of forgiving even from the cross, and he set his own example for generations of MARTYRS to come when he fell on his knees and said: “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”




I highly recommend reading Acts 7, the story of Stephen's short but amazing life as a new believer.

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for LAMB OF GOD

[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

Maybe Jesus was just a really really clever fellow who grew up to play the best prank ever!  He was well read enough in the scriptures to know what the Messiah would be like, and decided to try and manually fulfill all the prophecies written about that long sought-after hero.  (open this link to kind of follow along)

His first trick was to plot out that he would be born to a virgin, and then that it would happen in Bethlehem, but also that he would be 'from' Nazareth, and come 'out of Egypt'!  Of course he contrived to be a descendant of David, and managed to arrange for the slaughter of his two year old contemporaries in Bethlehem while he escaped to Egypt (taking his parents with him of course).

Some of the arrangements were easy.  He could teach with parables. He could just hire someone to let him ride into town on their donkey, and get his cousin John the baptist to go before him calling for repentance, and calling Jesus THE LAMB OF GOD.  It got a little tricky when, at the same time he tried to prove he was the Messiah, he had to get the religious leader to reject him and the general population to ignore him.  But some of the prophecies were very tricky to meet indeed!  He had to pull off some very convincing miracles of healing people and raising them from the dead, for example.

And then there's the end game.  Somehow he got Judas to betray him for exactly 30 pieces of silver, then have him throw the money back, and get the Sanhedrin to buy the Potter's field with the money.  He fixed it so that his friends would deny him, force himself to stand quiet at one of his 'trials', have his beard plucked out, be beaten, be nailed through his hands and feet, have vinegar offered on a hyssop branch, and unlike every other crucified person, he would not have any bones broken but have his side pierced instead.  He probably even suggested to the Roman assassination team, from the cross, that they divide his clothes and gamble for his robe.

Finally, even though he was fully dead, he got himself buried in a rich man's tomb.  Oh yeah.  And just to complete the ruse...HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD!

Jesus took the place of all those sheep and goats and oxen that were sacrificed over the many centuries to atone for the sin of God's chosen people.  They had to go through that awful ritual year after year, to get a sense of how God views the import of our fallen state.  But Jesus, 'in the fullness of time', came to become the ultimate and final sacrificial LAMB.  He went through the same ritual, for you, but from the other side of the knife.

John 1:29
The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for KISS


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

I found 46 references in the Bible to verses that use the word KISS.  I did not make a very careful count of their uses, but it seems that a large percentage of the time the KISS is misused.  In these cases it is either offered to an idol, or as a distraction to some foul-play, or as a sign of betrayal.

The very first KISS mentioned comes in Genesis when the blind old Isaac is about to give his blessing to Jacob who is masquerading as Esau, just to steal the blessing.  Jake is wearing Esau's clothes so he will actually smell like his twin brother when he comes in close to Isaac for the blessing.  No, the patriarchs were not chosen for their high characters.  They were just the coincidental descendants of Abraham who was just chosen.

Interestingly, most 'kisses' refer to men kissing other men or women kissing other women.  Some are sincere kisses of familial affection or brotherly love, or given as part of a blessing.  Joab was the first to use a KISS so cynically that while he pretended to give Amasa a KISS of greeting, instead plunged his dagger in and Amasa's intestines spilled out.

In Job 31:26-38 we find an important reminder of how careful we should be in even 'throwing' a KISS!

 if I have regarded the sun in its radiance
or the moon moving in splendor,
 so that my heart was secretly enticed
and my hand offered them a KISS of homage,
 then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high.


I truly enjoy the moon and thinking about its phases and effects on the earth etc, but must be careful to remember that it is only another of God's 'creatures'; something made and put in place for a purpose.

This one from Psalm 85:10 teaches us something about the compatibility required for an appropriate KISS.
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. 

The first time a man and woman KISS in the Bible is in an evil setting, when an adulteress grabs a guy in the street to seduce him.  Proverbs 7:13-18

13 She took hold of him and kissed him
and with a brazen face she said:
 14 “Today I fulfilled my vows,
and I have food from my fellowship offering at home.
15 So I came out to meet you;
I looked for you and have found you!
16 I have covered my bed
with colored linens from Egypt.
17 I have perfumed my bed
with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
18 Come, let’s drink deeply of love till morning;
let’s enjoy ourselves with love! 

But the Song of Songs describes a very intimate, often erotic (if you can interpret the poetry!), relationship between a man and his wife, who are deeply in love.  In the very first verse she is longing to be KISSED by her lover.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth— for your love is more delightful than wine. 

The New Testament references to KISS are divided into one of two subjects.  Many are referring to Judas using this special act so callously, as a signal to Jesus' captors.
Luke 22:48
but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” 
Here Jesus was not trying to 'find out', but was using the question to convict Judas of his unimaginable guilt.  It worked.

The rest of the NT KISS verses are calling the church into simple loving platonic fellowship, as in 1 Peter , the last time Kiss appears in the Bible.
1 Peter 5:14
Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ. 




J is for JUBILEE


[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]


Is JUBILEE such a strange word?  We might use it here once in a while to describe a great celebration.  Perhaps the wedding of a famous couple, or a national athletic victory or inauguration, but even there the word seems old fashioned and too out of date.

In the Old Testament book of Leviticus, the word JUBILEE is given and used by God to describe a very specific, semi-centennial event called The Year of JUBILEE.

As one part of God's many directives to His people Israel, He mandated that every 50 years, the Year of JUBILEE would be entered into with a great blast of trumpets, and the year would be enjoyed by all, as many proscribed actions were taken:

First, the land was all to lie fallow.  Only those crops which grew spontaneously, without any sowing or cultivating, were to be eaten.  When asked, God reassured the people that He would make sure the previous year had enough abundance to carry them through the entire JUBILEE year!  Essentially, He promised  an automatic, regularly scheduled, miracle crop.  (By the way, this guarantee was made every 6th year, because every 7th year the land was to be 'rested' in Israel)

Second, all land sold outside the family of its original owner was to be deeded back to the selling family at no cost, during the year of JUBILEE!  This meant that the price someone would pay for a field, or for a house in an unwalled town (which was considered as open country) was determined by the number of years before the next Y of J, because it was actually more of a rental agreement, or as a purchase of just so many years worth of crops.

Third, any person who had indentured himself as a 'slave' as a way of paying a debt, would be freed when that special year came around.  I imagine that few debts were paid this way in the few years before the Y of J; who would accept such a deal just then?

Finally, all debts were considered paid in full during the Year of Jubilee!



Here is a list of the social benefits that God probably had in mind when He instituted this whole, previously unheard of, system.  (And this from that mean and bloodthirsty God we are supposed to know in the Old Testament!?)

From the Biblegateway.com 

The advantages of this institution were manifold. "1. It would prevent the accumulation of land on the part of a few to the detriment of the community at large. 2. It would render it impossible for any one to be born to absolute poverty, since every one had his hereditary land. 3. It would preclude those inequalities which are produced by extremes of riches and poverty, and which make one man domineer over another. 4. It would utterly do away with slavery. 5. It would afford a fresh opportunity to those who were reduced by adverse circumstances to begin again their career of industry in the patrimony which they had temporarily forfeited. 6. It would periodically rectify the disorders which crept into the state in the course of time, preclude the division of the people into nobles and plebeians, and preserve the theocracy inviolate."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for I, IDOL

I am sure that very few of us have a carved statue of a weird looking Raven/Octopus/Leopard that we bow down to regularly and reverently.  But that doesn't mean we are not guilty of IDOL worship.  An idol can be any noun; a person, a place or a thing, or maybe even a verb!  An activity in life that has become an addiction.  I won't mention Facebook surfing, or blogging...or maybe I will.

But no, an IDOL does not have to be some kind of sacred object before it is referred to by the fourth commandment, which is found in Exodus 20.

“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me,  but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

The point here is at the end of the second line.  Our God is "a jealous God."  Not like when your neighbors are jealous of your new car, but like when your wife or husband is jealous of your attention if you spend it on someone less deserving (read: ANYONE).  God wants us to share His love with the world, but hates to see us squandering that love on anything, or any one, who makes a mockery of that good gift.

What is the best way I can waste God's love?  Which IDOL am I most likely to adore with great devotion; paying close attention and expressing the utmost concern over every little detail?  Well there may not be an "I" in TEAM, but "I" stands at the front of every IDOL.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Written By My Granddaughter Lily!

i love you  grandpa Mike

H is for HOLY!

[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

Today's post is the one I have been long waiting for!  No, not because this is the day I would end the first sentence, a preposition with.  I have an even greater reason.  The word HOLY is probably the one most people hear in regards to churchy things more than any other of the 'weird words'.  We sing about how God is HOLY and we strive to become HOLY and when we Christians dare to opine about someone's bad judgement or obviously anti-social behavior we are accused of being 'HOLIER than thou'.  Interesting that the same people who use this red herring subject changer which supposes that only the A number one, top dog HOLY person can observe and declaim sin, are the same ones who deny God (GOD, EVEN!) the authority to speak to such matters.

Let's look at the famous hymn, that most of us are probably familiar with.  But first, here is the verse from Isaiah chapter one that probably inspired the hymn's theme.


In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphim, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. 3 And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty;
the whole earth is full of his glory.”


OTHER OTHER OTHER

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy, merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!

Holy, holy, holy! All the saints adore Thee,
Casting down their golden crowns around the glassy sea;
Cherubim and seraphim falling down before Thee,
Who was, and is, and evermore shall be.

Holy, holy, holy! though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in power, in love, and purity.

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons, blessèd Trinity!


All well and good, but if we don't really know what HOLY means then it just becomes an adjective for God that simply circles us back to the same image or sense of God that we had in the first place.   Like if I told you that my shoes were bisglock.  Every time I see you I would say do you like my bisglock shoes?  And you would learn to say "They sure are bisglock shoes!"   And then if someone asked you about my shoes, you could only say "Mike's shoes?  They are certainly bisglock."  The two words would become absolutely associated but you still don't know if bisglock means too tight or poorly polished, or ragged and rugged or always untied, or made in Bisglo by Bisglobians!  It's time to clarify.  Don't sing the above song again, until you can make at least a mental habit of substituting OTHER wherever you sing HOLY!

Yes, our God is not like anyone you know.  He is OTHER!  Consider this overwhelmingly good news about God from Numbers 23:19 

God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?


God is NOT like you and me!  He is OTHER!

Saying God is HOLY is still a great idea.  But let it carry its real meaning when you do.  After all, who would want a God who was like one of us (and who would want one of us who is not like God?)?  We need and long for the higher standard that only an OTHER mighty God can speak to, and act on;  An OTHER God who does promise, and does fulfill!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for GLORY

[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

I am glad nobody asked for a particular 'G' word!  GLORY is one of the first 'weird words' from the Bible that I wanted to write about when I discovered its base meaning.

But what does GLORY mean to you?  Think of the common way it is used.  This verse describing part of the nativity scene comes to my mind:

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified..Luke 2:9

And it is verses like these, I think, that create for us the wrong impression of what GLORY means.  It does not mean light, if I may be so bold.  Watch anything that Hollywood puts out regarding the religious, particularly portraying angels, or visions of passing through a long tunnel, or of God on His throne etc, and there will be plenty of bright lights.  And sometimes in the Bible, something with GLORY will be depicted as being bright and shiny, but that is really just a coincidence.  If Jesus could make bread out of stones (not that He would, but He certainly could have), then certainly making something shiny is not very taxing on God's power, and would not say very much about His...WEIGHT!

Yes, GLORY means WEIGHT!

No, I am not saying that God is like Buddha; large and rotund, but God is HEAVY (dude)!  (Remember in Back to the Future, when Marty kept saying "That's heavy Doc!", Doc Brown eventually asked him why everything is so 'heavy' in the future?)

Let's think about the DEPTH of this word's connotations.  God is IMPORTANT and VITAL and MEANINGFUL and PRESENT.  God is SOBER and IMPRESSIVE and VOLUMINOUS.  His reality is WEIGHTY, like a Supreme Court decision.  His acts are FINAL, like the sudden end of the playoff season.  His love and mercy are INFINITE and PERFECT, like the endless series of sunrise and sunset.

I found 285 uses of the word GLORY on the Biblegateway resource I use for all things Biblical.  Click the link and you will see a huge variety of applications, but then substitute the word 'weight' in a few and you will sense the real power of the word.

Here are a few examples.

Joshua 7:19
Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the LORD, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”

Achan was accused (rightly) of stealing from the plunder of Jericho, and had hidden the goods in his tent.  Joshua is challenging him to give God the RIGHTFUL RESPECT that His WEIGHT deserves.

1 Peter 1:24
For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, 

People don't weigh much.  Compared to God, our 'glory' is like withering grass and we should know that.

Revelation 5:13
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

But Jesus Christ, standing by God's throne after all He went through for our salvation is HEAVY DUTY.  He doesn't get praise, honor, power and...shiny light!  He deserves praise, honor, power and TONS of IMPORT, for what He has done for you and for me!

Friday, April 6, 2012

F is for FALL

[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

Or should I say FELL?  Either way, past or present, this is our reality.  The Bible says we live in a 'FALLEN' world.  Yes it's generally good to put a positive spin on the other side of the face of the coin and fill the glass on the other hand half full...or something like that.  But even a look at only one statistic settles the matter.  The death rate among humans is 100%.  The only reason our bodies die is that they are ruined by the FALL.

Given this true state of things, I am actually thankful that we do die! In my 50s now and starting to notice my joints more and more often, and fully realizing that I can not do everything I want to do as well or as often as I used to, it is more apparent that this downhill slide will only continue.  I would not want to stay on this deepening trail for any more than another 50 years at the most!

But beyond that decline, I have noticed that the attitude and the character a person settles into in their early years hardly ever changes for the better, but generally gets worse!  A profane young man becomes an absolute (and unaware) foul mouthed nightmare.  An early smoker seldom overcomes the addiction but readily becomes a chain smoker.  Being immersed young in pornography ends grossly with that dirty old man in the home who all the nurses despise and avoid.  And the angry complainer finally just will not quit 'bitchin' because she can never recognize any good thing even right in her lap.  What little habit might you have now, that if it grows over time will become a monster?

One of the tenets of the Gospel is that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."  And this is the hinge point where most people turn away from the salvation offered by God ANYWAY.  It is this resistance to acknowledging the personal sinfulness which is part and parcel of that long ago FALL of man, that keeps people on the downhill spiral.

Without admitting the truth, usually by ascribing to some form of humanity-acclaiming philosophy based on other unproven humanity-excusing concepts, there is no redemptive hope.  Look at your newspaper or listen to the news, and tell me that we who were indeed made in God's image and still show vestiges of His nature, are not more bad than good; that, without His intervention, we are not more likely to keep digging ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole.

Around the world, there is always one more form of desperate trouble after another growing and threatening and reaching into your world.  But it really started with you and me anyway.  We individuals are the FALLEN, and individually, we must repent before God.  Paul tells us in Romans 12 that God has provided a way of escape!

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Humble Service in the Body of Christ 3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment  (2,3)

E is for EVANGELICAL

[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

I think everyone should get 2 points every time they use a 5 syllable word!  E-VAN-GEL-I-CAL.  And make that 5 points if you know what the word means.

This word is not in the Bible, but the noun this adjective describes is found in its pages.  An EVANGELICAL Christian is a Christian doing the work of an evangelist, and this seemingly modern newsy type word is used several times to label various workers in the early Church.

In Ephesians 4:11,12 Paul tells us...
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,  to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.

This list differentiates between a few of the key component members of the Church.

An apostle was well defined and limited to a small number of people because one of the factors demanded that the person "had seen the Lord".
A prophet is someone who speaks for God.  The idea that a prophet always foretells the future is mistaken.  If a person speaks exactly what God wants him to say, he is a prophet whether there is a predictive element or not.  However, if a 'prophet' does speak of future events, he must prove to be absolutely 100% accurate to be recognized as speaking for God.  A man who claimed to be a prophet, but failed this test was to be stoned.  (This test tended to limit the number of those who might want to play around pretending.)
A pastor is kind of the CEO of a group of believers.  He is called to serve the flock and protect it is as a shepherd does his sheep.  Usually a pastor is also the teacher, but not always.
A teacher in the church, like a prophet, carries a heavy responsibility.  His job is to 'interpret' the scriptures, much like the duties of a professional guide in a museum or a national forest who is called an interpreter.  But the hired data handler in a museum does not work under such a threat as the one Jesus gave in Luke 17:1-3, 

Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come. 2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. 3 So watch yourselves.

Should I get to the word of the day now, or keep piling on these bonus words that I could be using later in the month?  Oh well.

An EVANGELIST is a 'publisher of glad tidings'!  He has no official place in the Church.  No singular qualifications, no calling (other than the Great Commission from Mathew 28 that we read under D is for Disciple), and no heavy warnings hanging over his head (until he dares to teach!).
When you inform your friends of a great pizza place, it might be said that you are acting like an EVANGELIST, so please do not resent the approach of someone who wants to share with you, some very glad insight that he has discovered about the forgiveness of his sin, or a newborn eternal hope, or a life changing spring of joy!  These things are even BETTER than PIZZA!

The world could certainly use more publishers of glad tidings, no?  Maybe I should change my blog title to MILLERPUBLISHESGLADTIDINGS!?  Naa.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

WORDLESS WEDNESDAY: What Does a Non-Rolling Stone Gather?




D is for DISCIPLE!

[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

DISCIPLE may only be a 'weird word' to you if you try to pronounce it as it is written; dis-kippel, or disc-i-plea.  The word is used fairly often in our national discussions about the various leaders we honor with our followership.  (My spell check is balking at that last word.  Maybe that's why we have discipleship in our vocabulary.)  Anybody that a group of folks respect and would choose to emulate can call that group his disciples.  Louis Farrakhan has disciples and Leanord Nimoy has disciples and Richard Petty has disciples.  It seems everyone has disciples except me!  I do have a nice group of followers, but I guess they know enough to keep it at that.

Interestingly, Jesus Christ never told His followers (His disciples, I should say) to go out and make everyone a Christian!  That word simply means 'Christ one' and is not a very definitive, meaningful term.  (I often joke with my non churchgoing Christian friend when he tells me about something he's doing on a Sunday morning, that "Oh yeah, I'M a Christian, so I'll be in church.."  As if going to church makes one a Christian the same way going to McDonalds makes one a hamburger!  Oh, I guess it does, in the same way.)

Antioch, a city in Turkey (which my son lived in for two weeks last year!) is famous for this little bit of Bible trivia:
Acts 11:26
and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

I have always thought that was pretty cool, but I've long been into nicknames.  I took this passage to mean that the group there at Antioch had a meeting and a discussion to go over a list of possible titles some committee had recommended, and then voted and finally settled on "Christian".  It turns out that the term was given, nay, thrown, at them by outsiders as a pejorative!  As in; "Look, there go them Christ-ones to church, instead of going to McDonalds with us!

The Christians called themselves a host of more positive and heartening names including;  "brethren," "the faithful," "elect," "saints," and "believers."  Jesus may have used some of these words to refer to his devoted followers once in a while, but in the end He never said to go and make 'saints' out of anybody.  He didn't demand that much from the likes of His apostles.  He didn't call for us to be 'believers' because that is way too little.  In fact, James said that even the demons 'believe, and shudder!'. (James 2:19)  There is a title more realistic than our pridefully claiming to be perfectly 'faithful', and better than simply being 'brethren'.  Jesus wants all of us, well all of us who have ever lived in a nation, to be His DISCIPLES!  In His last words before He was ascended back into heaven...

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.  (Mathew 28)

He wants people everywhere to study His ways, to adopt His kind of love for God and man, to sacrifice all for the sake of others; in short, to enjoy a life spanning relationship with Him and the satisfaction of practicing His DISCIPLINES.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

C is For Confession

[My contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.]


CONFESSION may not seem like a very strange word.  We hear it every day on any one of a multitude of cop shows; 

     "Did you get a CONFESSION out of that perp yet?"  says good cop.

     "Not yet, but we will after we get some coffee." promises bad cop.

But in Bible verses like 1John 1:9 we see one of its derivatives, exhibiting its most common meaning.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

IF we simply admit... that we are undoubtedly enslaved... by a complete sinfulness, THEN God does all that needs to be done.  This is a both a great challenge (for we don't want to admit anything!), and a great promise.  God demands no good works from us, except the 'good (and passive) work' of CONFESSION!

There is another important meaning of the word CONFESSION that bears discussing.
It also means to testify to a conviction as Paul uses it in his second letter to the Corinthians here; 

Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your CONFESSION of the gospel of Christ  (9:13)  

and as he wrote to Timothy here;

Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good CONFESSION in the presence of many witnesses. (1 Timothy 6:12)

Remarkably, the 'good' CONFESSION that Paul here attributes to Tim, was modeled by Jesus Himself when He was on trial.

In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good CONFESSION... (1 Timothy 6:13)

They both made the same good CONFESSION:  Timothy confessed, or proclaimed, of his faith in Christ as the truth bearer, and Jesus confessed, or declared, that He IS the truth!

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.  (John 18)

Read through the end of this dialogue with Pilate to see an absolutely fascinating picture of one who saw the truth plainly, but was too politically mortgaged to make the good CONFESSION we all need to make.

Monday, April 2, 2012

B is for BLASPHEMY!

[This is the MILLERWRITES contribution to the 2012 Blogging A to Z April Challenge  Here is my INTRODUCTION to this particular series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically aligned weird words I will comment on this month.  THANK YOU for stopping by!]

While it is true that saying almost anything contemptuous or irreverent about God fits into the first dictionary definition of BLASPHEMY, I prefer the harder, more specific, and easier to pin down second definition:  Claiming to be God.  Satan was kicked out of heaven after he sought to be treated equally with God.  His pride led him to crave the same honor which only God deserves.  Over time many others have suffered under similarly grand delusions and claimed to be God.  Jesus even warned that many would come claiming to be the Messiah, and we have seen that prophesy fulfilled even in our day.

If anyone was ever outright guilty of BLASPHEMY, it was Jesus Christ!  Here we see that in each of the Gospels, Jesus' claim to BE God was recognized by the religious leaders of the time, as BLASPHEMY.


Matthew 26:65
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.

Mark 14:64
“You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.

Luke 5:21
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

John 10:33
“We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”


(Quotes taken from Biblegateway.com)

And to think that some argue Jesus was just a good man!  No, because a good man would not claim to be God.  Others suggest that Jesus must then have been somewhat insane to make such a claim, as we discern in most of our modern BLASPHEMOUS messiahs; but the recorded words of wisdom and super-human references Jesus revealed to us were not capable of anyone but the ultra sane!

The word BLASPHEMY is thrown about more readily than it should be today.  Yes, there are some who go so far as to claim to be God, and we easily recognize that....they are not, but we should be careful.  In the first dictionary sense, a regular day to day BLASPHEMER who simply refers to all things Godly in a contemptuous manner may actually be crossing the line and "claiming to be God" because he has set his opinion of God above God's opinion of him.

As far as Jesus being 'guilty' of BLASPHEMY goes; the definition should be tweaked a bit.  A BLASPHEMER is someone claiming to be God, unless he actually IS God.  In that case, we should allow Him to make His truth claim freely, and worship Him.


By the way; here is my introduction to this series, and an opportunity for you to influence which alphabetically  aligned weird words I comment on this month.