Friday, May 30, 2014

Blog Format to Change in Unpredictable Ways Soon

I have dabbled and discovered that "dynamic view" is not just a template design for a blog, but it's got different coding that allows you to alter how it shows up, on the fly, in a bunch of different ways. I'm not nearly so 'savvy' or picture-oriented as to need a template that makes my blog show up like a twitter feed or pinterest page. As it turns out, having 'dynamic view' might be the reason that I've had trouble with page breaks and with making post limits per page. As you may notice, every post will show up on one single page, if you keep scrolling down far enough.


I'm going to experiment with different templates soon until I find one that lets me utilize page jumps, so that it'll be easier to scroll the blog. And hopefully I'll finally be able to put up a sidebar.


Stay tuned!


~ Rak Chazak

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Text Treatise: What God Taught Me About the Innate Sinfulness of Man Through My Experience of Being Cyber-Bullied At College

A follow-up of sorts to Pride, Lies and Murder

I don’t mean anything mystical by the title. God didn’t audibly speak to me and I didn’t see a hundred shooting starts immediately after thanking God for the wisdom I gained from my [traumatic] time as an internet pariah whom it was fair game to slander, harass and attack in a variety of ways, for the crime challenging other ‘academics’’ consensus views of what could be discussed and what couldn’t. The lesson is something I learned through reflection and study of Scripture, subsequent to personal experience that knocked any and all tendency to believe that “people are generally good” right out of my head. And it’s instruction from above simply in the sense that all truth is authored by God, and He is sovereignly in control of all circumstances that occur. He could have prevented what happened in a number of different ways, but He didn’t. In yet another series of texts to Hank the Homosexual, I explain why.

This began as a response to a question from Hank as to what my full name was.

**     **     **     **     ** 
I’m nervous about telling people that because of my college experience. It could be not-necessarily you, or not-necessarily the person you mention me to, but the person they ‘let slip’ some seemingly innocuous information (e.g. I work at [place]) to, who knows or is friends with one of my sworn enemies from that college, and funnels that information to them, to be used against me. Next thing you know, the store is flooded with customer complaints alleging that I made racial slurs, homophobic remarks, etc etc toward/in front of guests, and even if the GM knows it’s bogus, it will raise suspicion over why people would be so motivated to come after me, and I may be less likely to get that stellar work reference from my managers, much less rise in the [ranks] while I remain in employment there. I’ve had to really think hard after what could be innocent yet harmful information. I’ve resolved that people knowing things that DEFINE me are hardly embarrassing or shameful, but information that IDENTIFIES me puts me at risk of character assassination.

It’s not intuitive for me to think that way. And that’s how I got hurt in the first place. If my name was not attached to my posts on my university forum, I couldn’t have been targeted for mobbing. Based on my experience I’m a firm believer in the right to be anonymous. For a debate that is contextualized by the individuals involved in it, in private, it is not right for antagonists to take one of the private names of the individuals involved, and publicly shame them by making accusations that cannot be defended against. Truth is, most of the world isn’t Christian. And that’s how people are. Truth doesn’t matter, so the way to win an argument isn’t through reason, it’s through demoralizing your foe so they stop telling you the truth, or through tarnishing their name so no one else listens to them. I was young and na├»ve in my 20s-22s. Now I am no longer, but the damage is done. Was it because of something I said? Or was it because of how others chose to behave in response? I refuse to accept the blame for any damage to my reputation.
[Hank responded that I didn’t deserve to be treated cruelly etc]

I have two ways of approaching that. One is, that I absolutely don’t deserve better, because what I deserve from God is nothing but the blackest hell for what I’ve done to scorn Him, and continue to do. Two, is that I absolutely don’t deserve this from other people, because they are on the exact same plane as me. Unlike God, who is utterly perfect and has every right to deal calamity after calamity on our heads for our evilness, no human has the right to usurp the role of Judge of another and to proceed to Punish them for their perceived sins. What the Cross shows us is that any time a Christian is punished by another person with human wrath, whether the punisher is Christian or not, they are denying that their punishment was already dealt with—that Jesus took ALL their punishment for sin; not just eternal but any and all punishment. [note: this is adapted from bonus material on the The Biggest Question DVD] For any human to inflict suffering on another as a rationalized retribution and “what they deserve” in the minds of the inflictor is nothing more than a sin that denies the very heart of the Christian faith—the Cross.

In other words, social ostracism on the basis that “I deserve it” is double jeopardy and is a sin against God. I say this with particular irony aimed at one person who did the most early on to make me a pariah; a self-absorbed Orthodox “Christian” male of about the same age. He has alternately justified his behavior, and refusal to remove his thread(s) attacking me, on the basis that:

A Well-Rounded Blog

I’ve looked at my blog as a whole on occasion and contemplated the subject matter of my posts over a longer period. What I’ve written on a running basis has touched on politics and current events, but it hasn’t been introduced as a ‘breaking news, you saw it here first’ format, nor have I focused very much on talking about myself personally, or singular topics like relationships, work, college, ‘religion,’ etc. It’s neat how I’ve managed to give most subjects of relevance to my life a fair shake, not harping too singlemindedly on one thing to the exclusion of others. That is an encouraging sign that I’m succeeding in my goal for the blog, as I laid out in my first post: that I wasn’t going to write about one particular theme, but that I was going to write from one particular perspective—namely, my own, the only one I can know fully, after all. This way, I can spontaneously choose to talk about whatever happens to spur my creative interest at any given moment. More to a practical point, by not locking myself in to a theme related to current events, my blogging doesn’t go off the rails when I’m away for too long to write about major news topics of relevance. I can ignore them if I’m late to the draw, and let online writers who actually really do a good job of covering breaking news handle it. If I write about it at all, it should be to reflect on it, not just to repeat what others have said. That would make it boring. And that’s not how people work in real life, after all. I read a short article by David Brooks that came in my mother’s Reader’s Digest subscription (originally posted in the NYT), where the final paragraph stood out to me. I think he might be glossing over a few subjects and inflating the importance of others, but I think he has the right sense, and so I’ll offer an excerpted transcript of his view as my send-off to finish up this post.

“I figure that unless you are in the business of politics, covering it or columnizing about it, politics should take up maybe a tenth corner of a good citizen’s mind. The rest should be philosophy, friendship, romance, family, culture, and fun. I wish our talk-show culture reflected that balance and that the emotional register around politics were more in keeping with its low but steady nature.” ~ David Brooks


~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Texting Treatise: Pride, Lies and Murder

I sent the following to Hank the Homosexual (altered name), after it became apparent that he was receptive to at least reading lengthy theological pontifications from me, about a month or so ago. For background on how I met Hank the Homosexual, see this blog post: http://singlechristian1.blogspot.com/2014/03/ive-finally-arrived.html

Text Treatise: Pride, Lies and Murder

There is a passage that starts, “these six things the Lord hates, yea, seven are an abomination to Him,” and it singles out 7 particular sins. While I could get the interpretation off on 2-ish of them, I can easily understand the rest, which are basically pride, lies and murder. There is no mention of sexual sins of any kind in the list, nor is there a mention of gluttony, greed, jealousy or anger. In short, there’s a list of sins God hates in particular but they aren’t = “the 7 deadly sins,” which though they are sins, are not the worst. That list is actually an invention of the first Pope.

To wit, all sins are equally sinful, in the sense that all result in separation from God and merit His righteous judgment. But 3 x infinity is still infinity, and God does hate some sins more than others, which is further justified by the passage (I forget the location) that says that there are degrees of punishment in hell.

Justifying that not all sins are equally evil is Jesus Himself, who said to Pilate, “he who delivered Me over to you has the greater sin.” Seems pretty clear cut.

Why these more than others?

Why should God hate pride, lies and murder more than other sins? I think it’s of interest to note that these sins strike at God’s character more than others. Pride is literally having a higher opinion of yourself than you ought and thereby a lower opinion of God than you ought. Pride is a lack of acknowledgement of how great God is. If a person understands God’s greatness, they can’t logically believe that they deserve anythng from Him, so thinking that you deserve what you don’t is basically saying that God owes you something, and that He is subservient to you and that you can require Him to obey you. How offensive this must be to a holy God, since it’s so obviously offensive even to us, if someone behaved that way toward us without warrant.

Lies.

Then you get to lies, which attack God’s character as being Truth—not just truthful, but Truth itself and the source and foundation for all truth. Further there’s the fact that lies deceive people and by the very nature of causing them to make wrong decisions, hurt people. Lies are fundamentally tied to murder because lies that prevent a person from repenting and seeking Christ lead people to damnation. Lies are also connected to pride because it’s pride that fuels lies. If you think you’re above or beyond the rules, you can do what you want with impunity. Since pride is itself a lie (I am greater than I am, God owes me life and happiness etc), it’s clear why pride leads to more lies. It’s a snowball effect. Once you lie, you have to keep telling more lies to protect your central lie. The only alternative is telling the truth, which would require giving up your pride. See how it hangs together?

Murder.

And then you get to murder, which is offensive to God because man is made in His image—therefore a murder is literally an attack on God’s image. It’s as if by killing a person, you are vicariously attempting to symbolically kill God. There’s also the sense in which a person’s death deprives God of that which He deserves (not to say that God’s impotent—this is in the context of Him sovereignly allowing events to come to pass through personal choices). Whereas a person is prideful by thinking he deserves what he does not, God actually does deserve everything, so the refusal to submit in faith to Christ and the act of murder are both essentially the wrongful refusal to allow God to be given that which is due Him. Hence how murder is also fundamentally a lie. God deserves a man’s life’s work in life and a man’s life in death, but to cut his life short on earth or to send him to hell by killing him before he’s repented and thereby depriving God of his soul in death, the lie is the prideful assertion, implicitly, that God does not deserve what belongs to Him. As you can see, this is outrageously offensive, all these things. They are unfair denials and refusals of the truth.

And it’s essentially then to wrongfully treat God, treat Him unfairly. To act unjustly toward the just Judge of the universe. See how backwards it is? SO in short, Pride and Lies and Murder are among the most hated sins of God because of how directly they attack Him and how Offensive they are to His character.

Wrap-up

Sex before marriage, homosexuality, pedophilia, rape, pornography, sex with multiple people, cheating etc are all sexual sins that are very offensive to God, too, and I didn’t name all (oh no. That list is nearly endless). But they are less direct in their perversion of truth (though they still symbolize/represent lies about God) and less direct in their assault on God’s character (though still they attack it). It is fundamentally, I think, sins of an intellectual sort, the kind that make people consciously choose damnation over reconciliation, that are the worst of them all. I think that’s the distinction.


~ Rak Chazak

Owl City Allegory: Interpretation of Meteor Shower

My take: a blatant praise song sung publicly on stage during Adam's Ocean Eyes tour.

Adam recently posted the following on his Tumblr blog:
I see that the lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me. No wonder my heart is glad, and my tongue shouts his praises! My body rests in hope. For you will not leave my soul among the dead or allow your Holy One to rot in the grave. You have shown me the way of life, and you will fill me with the joy of your presence. (Acts 2:25-28)

I recognized a similarity between this passage and two lines in one of his shortest (lyrically speaking) songs.

I can finally see
that you're right there beside me.
I am not my own
for I have been made new.
Please don't let me go.
I desperately need you.

These are the only lines to the song, with the last 4 being repeated once. The song is titled Meteor Shower
 
There isn't much in the way of imagery in this song, so a line by line interpretation wouldn't be very effective. I think the song as a whole seems to be, pretty clearly, a unidirectional conversation between the singer and God. What sold it to me, though, was seeing him point up at the sky, emphatically, as he sang it when I saw him in concert. [Here's an example in a video upload--right at the very end] Body language spoke louder than words at that moment.

Quickly:
  • Why can he finally see? Because he wasn't certain he could before. Doubt or myopia prevented him from seeing the obvious. A possible reference to Adam's dead-end jobs prior to his discographic success.
  • The 'right there beside me' seems to be a reference to the verses I posted above, whether they influenced the song or not.
  • That he is not his own echoes 1 Corinthians 6: 19-20.
  • That he has been made new echoes 2 Corinthians 5:17
  • The final two lines seem more of a sincere emotional plea, rather than a theological statement. God won't let anyone go who belongs to Him (John 6:37), so it would be better to take "please don't let me go" as not referring to salvation in particular. It's a recognition of Adam's dependence on God for every thing. Hardly "me-focused," and better than the average CCM song just by virtue of that alone.
 
Agree with the analysis?

~ Rak Chazak

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Talking As If Someone Is Listening In. Be Mindful of the Unknown Audience

I got a link to the newest CMI articles in my inbox and clicked on an article by Warwick Armstrong. The link is below:

http://creation.com/who-is-listening

It described a discussion between Armie (I'm arbitrarily shortening his name for the convenience, it's not meant to be silly) and someone he's known for years called Peter. He's exhausted the arguments of logic and science and Scripture already, and any new debate with this man would undoubtedly be repeating old information. But he went along with it anyway, and as it turned out, Peter wasn't the target audience, but God providentially placed two people nearby who heard the conversation and joined in, eagerly receiving what they heard.

On Armie's bio page, he says,
 “Perhaps I won’t change the minds of those who are vocally and doggedly clinging to wrong beliefs. But I know I have encouraged numerous believers and have changed the thinking of some on the sidelines.”
This immediately clicked for me. There's a reason I clicked on the link in the first place. A big part of my early witnessing endeavors has been not in person (there were times for that, too, at college, and I appreciated the opportunity to engage with people one-on-one), but instead it was in the form of immensely emotionally exhausting internet-forum fights on a site hosted by my university. In short order, it was clear that despite all of the powerful proofs I had levied to demolish my opponents' arguments, they refused, irrationally, to acknowledge the truth of what I told them about the Bible. Since logic was not on their side, they attacked me personally. There's a popular Thomas Jefferson quote that goes, "resort is had to ridicule only when reason and facts are against us." Indeed. Over a period of roughly two years, there were semi-private, semi-public controversial debates held on this forum that were seen by, it's anyone's guess, several dozen to several thousand people.

The number of people directly affected is unknown, but those who were displeased with knowing that [intelligent conservative Christians] existed talked to others, and so many more people knew my name but without any understanding of who I was, only that I was moderately infamous because of the ongoing attempts at character assassination by my self-appointed enemies.

What was very encouraging were the few moments over that long time period when someone who had never commented before made a post in support of my position, or defending me against personal attacks, or calling out the indecent behavior of those others. They would reveal that they had read the threads off and on but without commenting. In internet language, these are called "lurkers." These people were my real audience. And an even amount of people posted public support or emailed me a private encouragement. That was enough to show me that they were "out there," and that I was having more of an impact beyond the few individuals who were constantly rearing their heads to attack me on any and every issue of discussion.

That's the lesson of evangelism both in public and on the internet--which is also public. You might only ever interact with people who are against you and can never be swayed by reason. But it's the silent majority who reads or listens but doesn't publicly take a side that you're really trying to reach.

Think about Jesus and the Pharisees. Sure, he was criticizing them. But for whose benefit? Not the Pharisees. The crowd. And through the memories of the Gospel writers, for the benefit of all of us believers who would read the written record later.

Keep spreading the truth. The people you're reaching are likely the ones you'll never know you reached, this side of heaven. This is one area where we walk by faith and not by sight. We know that we're having an impact for the Kingdom in our obedience, even if we can't see what the immediate effect of our works are.

I've found myself choosing my words differently when I've talked with someone in public and noticed that someone could be overhearing. Consider that your real listeners may not be the people who are talking back. Be mindful of the silent "lurkers."

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Compare the Uncertain to the Certain: Alleged Visits to Heaven Mock the Seriousness With Which Actual Biblical Visions Describe God, Angels, Etc.

It's fun when I realize that an idea I had, or very nearly had, shows up in other's writings, be it from blogs, pastors, or long-dead theologians, to name a few. Clearly, nothing I wrote influenced them. But I can't recall having read the particular production of theirs before, so it seems rather that our thoughts were trending down a common path, to individually arrive at a common conclusion.

That's one of the things that encourages me in my faith: that other believers invariably arrive at the same beliefs over time. The similarities are in many cases extremely specific, and it is awe-inspiring to recognize that it can't be by chance, but because we are mentally led along by the same Influence, namely, the Illumination provided to each saint by the Holy Spirit. It just makes me happy. It's hard to express it any other way. It's like this:


http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/success-kid-i-hate-sandcastles
What am I talking about?

I had noticed, with all of the descriptions of the recent "I went to heaven, came back, and had silly things to say about it from which I made a lot of money off of gullible people" claims, that they seemed to share a characteristic between themselves (irreverence) which they did not share with actual Biblical tales of heavenly visions.

The Bible is in the public domain, so I'll post those passages below. But I'll recommend you read in its entirety, Elizabeth Prata's excellent blog article comparing the Prophets and Apostles who did see heavenly visions with the [hucksters] of the modern-day "heaven tourism" craze.

Please read it for a vivid comparison between the two.

I won't just repost what she's writing, so as to be totally unoriginal, but I think the Biblical witness bears being emphasized:
JOHN the APOSTLE
 "Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead." (Revelation 1:12-17)

ISAIAH the PROPHET
"And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!" (Isaiah 6:4-5)

DANIEL the PROPHET
"When I, Daniel, had seen the vision, I sought to understand it. And behold, there stood before me one having the appearance of a man. And I heard a man’s voice between the banks of the Ulai, and it called, “Gabriel, make this man understand the vision.” So he came near where I stood. And when he came, I was frightened and fell on my face." (Daniel 8:15-17)

A RANDOM GUY Paul the Apostle mentions as an aside in one of his letters
"and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter." (2 Corinthians 12:4).

EZEKIEL the PROPHET
"In the thirtieth year, in the fourth month, on the fifth day of the month, as I was among the exiles by the Chebar canal, the heavens were opened, and I saw visions of God. ... Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking." (Ezekiel 1:1, 28)

PETER when Jesus was transfigured
"He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified." (Matthew 17:5-6)
 
Do you notice a theme? Fell at his feet as if dead. Woe is me. Frightened and fell on my face. Fell on my face. Fell on their faces.

Falling on one's face as if dead, unconscious, or reeling in terror from the recognition of one's sinfulness in front of holy God is not something you'll see characterizing the contemporary "I went to heaven and it was nice" book-writing fad.

Rather than quote it, I'll just compare the list, summarizing what Elizabeth points out so well.
  • John saw a vision, and it was so overpowering that it knocked him flat on the floor
  • Isaiah saw a vision, and reacted with terrifying clarity over his sinfulness before God
  • Daniel saw a vision of the angel Gabriel, and it scared him so hard it knocked him to the ground
  • There have been visions that were NOT repeated, indicating that we don't need to know the details of anybody else's visions of heaven, even if they are real! Much less if they are hoaxes.
  • Ezekiel saw a vision, and it was so overpowering that it knocked him flat on the floor
  • Peter saw Jesus transfigured, and it terrified him so hard it knocked him to the ground
 Compare:
  • Colton Burpo, at 3, claims he went to heaven, sat on Jesus' lap and petted his rainbow horse(??!)
  • Kim Walker Smith claims she interviewed Jesus about "how much He loves her"
  • Jesse Duplantis claims he went to heaven, and Jesus asked him "do you like this place?"
  • Don Piper claims he went to heaven, and before seeing Jesus met his very own "celestial welcoming committee," consisting of people he recognized such as teachers, etc.
The Biblical witnesses put the emphasis on God. The contemporary false witnesses put all the emphasis on themselves. The Biblical witnesses are invariably terrified. The contemporary false witnesses pay lip service to being nervous but invariably go on to describe how comforting, or fun, etc etc it allegedly was.

And most of all, none of the Biblical witnesses claim to have GONE TO heaven. Because nobody goes to heaven and comes back! Yet nearly every modern book-seller (what they primarily are, to be as fair as possible) describes how they claim to have actually gone to heaven.

Here is Elizabeth Prata's link, once more: http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2014/05/have-you-been-to-heaven-lately.html . Please view it for even more information.

A final consideration: if no one actually goes to heaven when they're in a Near Death Experience, then these are the possible alternative explanations.
  1. They saw something explainable by natural phenomena. They misinterpreted this hallucination or other mental impression incorrectly as a vision.
  2. They did not see anything when 'dead,' and what they remember is nothing that occurred when they were brain-dead but something that they dreamed or hallucinated just before becoming brain-dead or just after coming out of that state, but before waking up.
  3. They saw nothing whatsoever, dream or otherwise, and were influenced by later events or by parents asking leading questions, to believe that they experienced something they did not.
  4. They totally made it up, completely. It's a hoax, through and through, to exploit people for money.
  5. If none of the above are true, then since they did not actually die, because they would not then have come back, then their soul was presumably separate from the body. Where then was it? None of us know. But it would still have been "here" as opposed to heaven, no? And Satan is described as "the god of this world" (2 Corinthians 4:4), meaning that the physical realm is his playing field. So a person's soul is absent from the body for a period of time, and vulnerable to whatever impressions might be given to it from other spiritual beings in the earthly realm? In other words, if a person did not hallucinate and did not fabricate their story, the only other conclusion is that their visions are true in that they are actually visions. But their content is unreliable, because the visions are demonically inspired. 
No matter how you look at it, it's unreasonable to take any of these claims seriously as actual trustworthy information on heaven or hell. Period. There are no logically available options in which it is reliable information.

CS Lewis described the Lord, Liar, Lunatic argument as a logical proof of the deity of Christ, since the only other alternatives are ones that no rational person will accept anyway. In these "heaven tourism" books and movies, the only options for what they might be are as follows: Artifacts of the Brain, Hoaxes by the Individual, or Demonic Visions. Either they didn't see anything, or what they saw was from something less than heavenly in origin. We know this for a fact because:
 
Hebrews 9:27 "It is appointed unto man once to die, and after this to face judgment."

You don't come back from heaven once you go. You just don't. No matter how you slice it, modern-day "visions of heaven" can be anything but. So stay away.

~ Rak Chazak

Short Thought from Wretched's May Newsletter (Excerpt)

Moral Majority no more

Put a fork in the culture wars.  We lost.

Perhaps this is a good time for the church to reconsider her marching orders.  Instead of focusing on forcing people to behave a certain way, maybe we should be endeavoring to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19).

God is not interested in mere morality, He is interested in souls.  This is not a morality battle, this is a war for the souls of men and the glory of God.

Let us not waste our defeat.  Let us not keep fighting the same losing battle.  Let us not endeavor to make the world a better place for people to go to hell from.


***************

I think this is more helpful outside of a specific context, since there are many different things its wisdom can be applied to. Hence why I'll leave it like this.

Wretched's biggest help to me in my sanctification has been the [continually drilled into my head, in a good way of course] strong and repeated emphasis on preaching the Gospel over any other sort of response to an issue. We might have a tendency to want to a) educate people, b) pass laws, c) organize politically, d) file suit, etc etc.

But these are not the most important, nor most ultimately helpful courses of action. And the only one with any eternal benefit is the preaching of the Gospel. So therefore, it should be paramount.

~ Rak Chazak

Short Personal Life Update

I am back to taking long walks at night again. The weather is uncomfortable in the middle of the day, but fantastic in the evening. It's high time to begin a daily running program again. I recall that between 9th and 10th grade, I jogged 20 minutes up and down our lanes (we lived on what was once a farm, so the drive to the house was over 100 yards), a couple of times a week. Beginning in the summer after 10th grade, I was able to make the commitment to running every single day, which led to a natural increase in distance and improvement in speed. By the summer after 11th grade (2007), I could easily run 2 miles; that hardly felt like a workout, so a typical run would be 4 miles. I kept track for my curiosity's sake, and figured out that a good pace was 6:20-6:40 minutes per mile. If I was having a bad day and ran slower than 8mins/mile, the short stride hurt my knees, so I would reason that I had to be faster than that, or just give up. In short order I got up to where I was ready to take on 8-mile daily runs, but there simply wasn't enough time in the day to do that, during the schoolyear, so I backed off. After the end of Cross Country that fall, I slacked off (I can only ever run outside and in shorts and a t shirt, and the cold weather of winter made it miserable), and haven't been able to "get back" since.

Other than that consideration, I'm trying to balance not having internet at home with obligations requiring the use of the internet, such as printing out various financial information required for applications of various sorts, and the ubiquitous necessity to spend time career-searching.

I am thankful to God for the experience of being in a low-wage situation for the past 9 months, so that I could have the opportunity to balance my finances without the sensation of having any 'extra cash.' When I move on to make more in different positions, wherever I go from here, I'm undoubtedly going to carry with me my mentality about what food is worth buying, for example, and how driving routes affect gas usage. Having everything you feel like having without having to balance your income and expenses is no blessing in terms of inclining you to be responsible and thrifty. Far better to begin poor, whether you remain poor or become rich, than to go in the other direction. At least that's how I feel about it.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Accidental Evidence to Question Marijuana Proliferation

I say 'proliferation' because what's in view here is not whether or not marijuana is criminalized, decriminalized, or legalized. It's whether or not it is, and whether or not its growth increases. 

Mother Jones is a liberal news website. Consider that these statistics are taken from there, in an article that criticizes marijuana, ironically, for being super bad for the environment. It's a classic case of leftist political causes (climate change, drug legalization) clashing with each other.

Credit: The following images are from Mother Jones.
More information at the link, but these three are what interested me. As a Christian, I believe humanity in general but believers in particular are stewards of the environment. This doesn't mean we prioritize the preservation of land or animals or forests to the exclusion of people, but it means that in our ongoing project to use the world we live in for the best benefit of humanity, we shouldn't be careless or irresponsible in doing so. We shouldn't make a mess, and we shouldn't be wasteful with resources.

Is drug legalization really so important of an issue that the marijuana grown in CA should take 1/3 of the water that a large city uses? Considering that various regions of CA have problems with drought, severely impacting other crops such as wineries, it may very well become a public policy issue of deciding which intoxicant is more important to consumers and the economy.

The electricity usage for marijuana plants (which need a lot of light) is extremely high, though indoor grows may be partly a "thing" because it's been hitherto illegal to grow it outdoors, so perhaps this problem would decrease. Nevertheless, CA has in various cities (LA, I think) instituted "rolling blackouts" where they have to shut off power to different locations at certain times of day, so that they can't use air conditioners in summer heat, for example, for the simple reason that their electric grid can't produce enough power to match the consumption. Again, could this have been solved by people being responsible and not sucking power to grow illegal plants?

My mind reels imagining what problems could have been prevented in the first place if people were responsible enough to not think "me first" and seek to get high, or profit from people wanting to get high, over being a civic minded individual.

Just a different angle to an already existing issue. For your consideration.

~ Rak Chazak

Of Dogwoods and Figs

                In researching Biblical “errors” for investigation during ‘Phase I’ of my personal research in 2010, I came across many which alleged not an internal contradiction in the text, but supposed examples of the Bible revealing the ignorance of the writers (and thus, implying that an all-knowing God could not have been the ultimate author, since one would expect such a being to be acquainted with scientific facts).  These basically amount to a sneering and presumptuous “look how stupid Moses/Elijah/Jesus was, I’m so much smarter, so clearly Christianity is for dumb people who don’t know any better.”

                One of these examples was a small passage in Mark 11:12-14,20-21 that seemed to show, quite embarrassingly, that Jesus appeared to expect a fig tree to have fruit out of season, and (irrationally?) cursed it so it withered, upon finding no fruit. This is a favorite among pseudo-intellectual atheists who have spent any amount of time reading up on “Bible contradictions” on websites such as the unscholarly Evilbible or Skeptic’s Annotated Bible websites, which really only exist to give uneducated unbelievers a sense of feeling educated about the topic.
12 Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.”And His disciples heard it.
20 Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. 21 And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.”
                Jesus, supposedly God and Creator, is too ignorant to know basic points of Arboreal Biology, so the story goes. His expectation that it bear fruit out of season shows Him to be dumb enough, but then for Him to curse it, He demonstrates a childishly poor temper. Or did the masterful, scholastic, enlightened minds of those who reject the Bible happen to miss something important? Did they fail to look closely at the subject before making their conclusion?

                Yes, indeed. And it has to do with the fact that the fig tree had leaves.
                This spring was the first one that I’ve spent in my hometown in 5 years, so I’ve been uniquely exposed to the different timetables for foliage and blossoming of various trees and bushes around my yard and town, compared to previous years. What I noticed, most interestingly to me, was that a particular tree flowered immediately, before it had any leaves at all. Having just planted some small saplings from the Arbor Day foundation, the complimentary tree guide would identify these as the White Flowering Dogwood variety (to my best knowledge). As it turns out, Dogwoods – a very hardy tree that grows quickly, early in the season, and can make do with varying degrees of sunlight, thus making them a common sight on the edges of forests – flower first, before they leave (grow leaves).

                As anybody who paid attention in high school biology class ought to know, flowers are associated with fruit. Much like a chicken that never comes in contact with a rooster will still lay eggs, but the eggs won’t hatch new chickens, in like manner a tree whose flowers are not pollinated by insects or birds will sometimes bear fruit (sometimes not, I think, but I can’t remember for certain), but if you planted these fruits, they wouldn’t produce a new tree because they’re missing a crucial ingredient. At any rate, I immediately made the connection flower—fruit and then when the leaves came in later on the dogwoods, I was minded to recall the fig tree passage.

                When I had studied this for my personal edification back in March-May 2010, the answer I remember getting that was the most satisfying was that fig trees bud and produce fruit before they turn out leaves. So it didn’t matter that it was not the season for producing fruit, the fact that the fig tree in the Mark passage was producing leaves showed that it wasn’t even going to produce fruit when the season finally rolled around. Jesus, keenly aware of that, cursed the fig tree as a symbolic gesture, to give us a lesson by way of demonstration.
                To investigate what that could be, consider this parable from Luke 13:6-9  
 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’”
                The best way I’ve heard this explained is that the master and the gardener are God. The owner of the vineyard is the Father and the gardener is the Son, and so here you have a picture of Jesus’ role as our Intercessor, intervening before God’s wrath and extending us ill-deserved mercy—in the passage, it even shows Jesus not as a passive watchman but as someone intimately involved with working on us to hopefully get us to produce fruit. And what does the fruit symbolize?

                For that, there are several excellent New Testament passages explaining it:
 43 “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. ~ Luke 6:43-45
Then he said to the multitudes that came out to be baptized by him [John the Baptist], “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits in keeping with  repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” ~ Luke 3:7-9
                Fruit is the visible evidence of saving faith, in a Christian. If someone does not display evidence of being saved, how can you know they are saved? In much the same way, if the fig tree does not have fruit, even though it has leaves, it may as well be dead, even though it appears to be alive, because it isn’t doing anything but “taking up space” where a fruit-bearing tree could be planted. Take this all together: if a tree never bears fruit, it’s as good as dead and will be ‘cut down and thrown into the fire.’ If a person never bears fruit, they’re not a Christian, and if they die in that state they will also end up in the fire. This cursed-fig-tree passage is a parable in itself, though never introduced as one, because it symbolizes the relationship between works, faith and final destination. A fig tree that doesn’t have fruit isn’t necessarily dead—it could just be out of season, but if it never ever ever produces fruit, then it’s a worthless tree. Likewise, from a human perspective, if someone appears to have faith, in that they express that they do, but you never see any evidence for it, you have good reason to be doubtful. This is not told to us for the purpose of condemning others. Rather, this passage, like the fruit passage in Galatians 5:22-23, serve the purpose of giving us a method by which to be encouraged that our faith is real—namely, if we see that we demonstrate “works/fruit in keeping with repentance”. And similarly, if we see that we or another person are not producing fruit, we can lovingly bring this up to try to encourage one another to move in a direction of holiness. The worst case scenario is that you find that someone you thought was a believer was in fact not saved—but in that case, it’s better to know, so you can help bring them to faith by preaching and teaching, rather than thinking they’re fine all the while that they’re floundering outside the camp.

                The fig tree (human being) that doesn’t produce fruit (evidence of conversion) will eventually be destroyed. But thankfully Jesus, the master gardener, is a patient man, willing to wait many seasons, pruning here, adding fertilizer there, working hard to make the tree produce that all-important fruit. He’s a patient God. But now is the time to lay hold on salvation, before His patience runs out.

                If Jesus had come to the Americas, He might well have used the Dogwood as an illustration. As it is, now I hope you have a deeper appreciation for why figs figure (ha-ha) so much in His parables.

~ Rak Chazak

Thursday, May 1, 2014

What Encourages Me

The fourth phase of my online study in Christendom introduced me to theological discernment. Learning how to tell the difference between right and almost-right, as C H Spurgeon put it, became my endeavor after I had absorbed and incorporated the really meaty Reformed theological doctrines, complete with their nuances. I understand in the abstract. Now has come the testing, to see whether I can pinpoint the problems with modern false teachings. I'm not confident in my own capacity to do so, yet, and so at present my preferred media substrate of choice is blogs and analyses of current events from older, more well-trained and astute Christians.
Lemme explain that "fourth phase" reference really quick: When I came out of my crisis in Spring 2010, I encountered Answers in Genesis and read a lot of stuff that made sense. But I realized that the one big thing they took for granted in every article was that the Bible is inerrant. Nothing wrong with that, but I realized that before I continued learning, I had to justify this presupposition for myself. Phase I therefore concerned investigating claims against the Bible's reliability and resolving them. Phase II concerned investigating Biblical Creation and discovering the exciting truth that the straightforward reading of Scripture is confirmed by all avenues of rigorous scientific study. Phase III covered study of other religious alternatives and thus debunking them, and moving deeper into my understanding of Christian doctrines through the use of GotQuestions' topical subjects; this was also when I began to listen a lot to On the Box with Ray Comfort and the guys at Living Waters. I also became introduced to Wretched through a video addressing the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism. Fast forward to today, and while I check in to see what news has transpired on AiG and CMI's websites, my main diet concerns Elizabeth Prata's digest of current events at The End Time (she's a prolific blogger) and Wretched Radio programs. So I've passed through Salvation, Education, and Reformation, and am now busy taking what I can get from trusted Christian sources for my further Sanctification. I can't express my full appreciation of the discernment I've been able to receive from them.
Today I turn over to AiG, a ministry that focuses very singularly on subjects relating to an orthodox ("Young-Earth") theology of origins, and the very foundational early portions of the Bible. Incidentally, very much is relevant to it, because of how relevant origins are to salvation. The Gospel is rooted in the history in Genesis, CEO Ken Ham often says.

Therefore there was not much surprise, but rather, relief, to see Ken doing what he does so well: blowing the trumpet, metaphorically, as a watchdog against theological compromise, warning the Church of new influences in the culture that would undermine Christianity.

Ken's personal blog post: http://blogs.answersingenesis.org/blogs/ken-ham/2014/04/28/genesis-and-god-and-the-gay-christian/ 
A 'front-page' analysis on AiG's website of the book: www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2014/04/28/vines-unbiblical-case-same-sex-marriage
Al Mohler's article (referenced in the above link): http://www.albertmohler.com/2014/04/22/god-the-gospel-and-the-gay-challenge-a-response-to-matthew-vines/

While I was offline, a new book got published by a homosexual person who claims to be Christian, and his intent is to persuade anyone he can to believe that same sex marriage is Biblically supported and that same sex relationships are not sinful.

There's far too much that goes on for me to be able to keep tabs on all by myself. So I'm very happy that there are ever-present watchdogs out there, shouldering the responsibility of warning people of things that corrupt, and educating them with things that edify.

It gives me relief. I'm not God, and it's both outside of my power and my responsibility to keep track of ALL that transpires. Knowing from seeing that there are men and women out there being alert when I can not, and telling the truth when and where I can not, it gives me a great, resounding relief, and is a boon to my trust in God, because it gives me yet further confidence in the faith that I have. The object of faith (God) is not lacking, but the subject (me) can be weak, in his ignorance. If something (something good!) gives you encouragement in your faith, that's great, latch on to it and use it to propel you along.

That's what I'll be doing.

~ Rak Chazak