Reading Note – Esther 3

  • Mordecai was a brave guy. He even disobeyed the King’s command because he considered it immoral. He did this despite peer pressure and the threat of Haman’s anger. (3:3)
  • Haman was not satisfied with destroying Mordecai. He just had to kill all the Jews because one of them would not bow to him. Was something wrong with the guy or what? (v 6)
  • The king seemed to take the life of his subject lightly. He didn’t ask for much clarification when Haman said he wanted to destroy an entire group of people. He just took Haman at his word and concluded that the Jews were dangerous (v 8 – 11)

Summer Lessons On Spirituality

It’s been a long summer, and exhausting too. But I learned a lot. I got a taste for Christian Fantasy and read book after book. One thing stuck in my mind at the end of it all. It’s something that’s so easy to forget. We’re not just physical beings – we’re spiritual ones too. 

It’s a very important fact. We tend to forget it because we are so focused on the physical. We’ve learned to think of things we can’t see as myths. We might admit the existence of God, but it’s the fashion to deny everything else. Maybe demons and angels exist, but we don’t think they affect our lives. Mediums and Palm Readers don’t work and Witches don’t exist. I’m not saying that they do, mind you, but it is worth it to remember that there’s a whole other dimension that our physical eyes do not register. Otherwise we go through each day seeing only part of reality.

The Spiritual Man

The spiritual man needs sustenance, just like the physical one. The spiritual man goes through life each day. He has needs and potential. He can get sick. He sees and knows things that his physical counterpart does not. We’re different from Angels in that our physical nature dulls our experience of the spiritual. We’re practically blind to it. For that reason, the sustenance that meets our spiritual needs seems unnecessary. We know when our physical bodies hunger for food, but discerning a similar hunger in our spirits is hard. Perhaps it’s an effect of the fall, or perhaps it’s a feature of our unique hybrid nature. 

In the absence of other means, let us take our cue from Jesus. Let us continually keep in touch with God. Let that be our food, praying without ceasing. Let us remember that although we can’t see him, we have a cunning and powerful enemy and he comes at us from a dimension we have such little knowledge of. It is said that those who worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth. The Holy Spirit who lives in us can be our teacher in these things, but I don’t think it works if we ignore him.

Reading Note – Ezra – The Power of God

My mom likes to say that the hearts of kings and princes are in God’s hand. That’s what I cameaway with after reading Ezra. I was bowled away by the statement of Cyrus, the king of Persia,

The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah… And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem…  And all who were about them aided them with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, with beasts, and with costly wares, besides all that was freely offered.  Cyrus the king also brought out the vessels of the house of the Lord that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from Jerusalem and placed in the house of his gods. Cyrus king of Persia brought these out in the charge of Mithredath the treasurer, who counted them out to Sheshbazzar the prince of Judah. And this was the number of them: 30 basins of gold, 1,000 basins of silver, 29 censers, 10 30 bowls of gold, 410 bowls of silver, and 1,000 other vessels; 11 all the vessels of gold and of silver were 5,400. – Ezra 1:2, 4.

After the Israelites had spent years in exile, God was able to convince a foreign king to send them home, and give them everything they need to rebuild his temple. He did not forget them, or hold their past sins against them. He kept his promise and forgave them. Not only that, he had Cyrus convinced that he was only ruler of such a large area because of the Hebrew God. That is power. He did this not once, but thrice. During the reign of Darius, when the rebuilding of the temple was opposed, Darius sent out a letter saying,

And whatever is needed—bulls, rams, or sheep for burnt offerings to the God of heaven, wheat, salt, wine, or oil, as the priests at Jerusalem require—let that be given to them day by day without fail, 10 that they may offer pleasing sacrifices to the God of heaven and pray for the life of the king and his sons. 11 Also I make a decree that if anyone alters this edict, a beam shall be pulled out of his house, and he shall be impaled on it, and his house shall be made a dunghill. 12 May the God who has caused his name to dwell there overthrow any king or people who shall put out a hand to alter this, or to destroy this house of God that is in Jerusalem. I Darius make a decree; let it be done with all diligence – Ezra 6:10 – 12

He did it the third time during the reign of Artaxerxes (Ezra 7). God’s mercy, kindness, love, and power was on display during that time. He wasn’t leading them with pillars of fire or parting seas, but he was with them. In the same way he provides for his people today.

Ezra’s Response to Intermarriage

In keeping with my tradition of blaming all wrongdoing in the Bible on the people rather than God, I must express outrage at Ezra’s handling of this particular event. God had commanded the people not to marry foreigners to prevent those foreigners from bringing foreign gods and leading the people astray. However, some Israelites had done that during the exile. Ezra’s solution was to send away the foreign women and their children. The people had already sinned. In ending those marriages he showed disregard for the institution of marriage and put those women in a bad place. He deprived the children of their fathers. How is that a good solution? It seems more that he missed the point of the command and neglected to show mercy. He would have done better to ensure that the foreigners were converted and put in measures to ensure that the law was followed. The crime had already been committed.

The Myth of Religion

I  just read a review of the book The Myth of Religious Violence by William Cavanaugh. The book eloquently puts into words the reason I have decided to delete the word ‘religion’ from my vocabulary. To be explicit, the use of the word is arbitrary, deceptive and offensive. It is ambiguous in its definition. The word isn’t something with a definition to which you can then put examples. It is something to which examples are put without definition because defining it is problematic. Try to produce a definition of religion that works without problems and you’ll meet with little success. Merriam Webster defines it as “an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods”. This definition is fine as long as you have a working definition of ‘god’, but it means that Buddhism, which is non-theistic, is not a religion. This is certainly not the way ‘religion’ is used in public. A cursory study of Buddhism would reveal that it is definitely a religion as the word is commonly used. This is also a problem with the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of religion as “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods”. Defining a religions using practices rather than beliefs results in a definition that makes Capitalism, Communism, and Patriotism religions.

Given the arbitrary nature of religious classification then, making statements about the nature of religion smacks of dishonesty and encourages deception. What does it mean to say that religion causes violence when ‘nonreligious’ ideologies like Communism and Imperialism are equally guilty? Why should Christianity be banned from the public sphere when Capitalism is not? Why should ‘religious’ people be forced to keep their beliefs to themselves when every other ideology enjoys expression in public life and government? It is unjustified marginalization masquerading as reasoned demands. A word so badly defined it useful mostly for oppressing those on its wrong side. So, to hell with the notion of “separation of church and state”.

You can see that I’m quite passionate about this topic. I never respond well to being hurt or unjustly marginalized whether it’s by being forbidden from building churches or being told not express my beliefs in public. If other people can promote policies based on their philosophical views, I should be able to.

Lessons From David and Bathsheba

1. The seductiveness of sin.

Even David, the man after God’s heart could fall to such a level. Perhaps anyone is capable of adultery if they’re lonely enough. Perhaps David was lonely even with so many wives, but who would have thought he was capable of murder? This is the same David who would not kill Saul in self-defense, despite Saul’s treachery and God’s promise to make David king. That ought to show us that anyone is capable of falling. David wasn’t  bad person – to use the common understanding of the word. He bore no ill will towards Uriah. He probably wasn’t even being selfish. In one moment of stupidity he had condemned Bathsheba to death, and it fell to him to save her. When Uriah refused to partake in the solution, David probably felt his only other option was to marry Bathsheba. He probably told himself that he wasn’t responsible for Uriah’s death. He just helped it along. People die in battle all the time. Uriah might have died anyway.

Sin draws us in with promises of hope and never delivers. Whatever David hoped to get from his adultery with Bathsheba, it wasn’t worth the consequences. Killing Uriah was to cover their sin, but all it did was make matters worse. Then there was that moment when Uriah was dead, Bathsheba was remarried, and it all looked like it would be OK. Only, it wasn’t.

2. The Inevitability of Discovery

If David had confessed his sin and begged forgiveness when Bathsheba turned up pregnant, his sentence might have been lighter. He certainly would not have been guilty of murder. But he tried to hide it. Hiding your sin seems like a rational response when you don’t want to be judged by others, but we can’t hide from God. It can be comforting to know that we are always in his presence, but we fear his reaction to our sins. But no matter how scared we are, the best response is to go to him immediately and get it sorted out. You can’t hide from God. If you try, he might punish you immediately, or he might wait until your sins can no longer be ignored. Trying to hide doesn’t work, and in no way lessens your punishment.

3. God’s Graciousness

It’s scary facing God, but I take comfort from the fact that he probably won’t strike me with lightning. Treat it like going to the dentist – or taking a shower for some of you. Stop dreading it and just get it over with. You’ll feel a lot better. He doesn’t want to punish us. He went to great lengths to not have to punish us. When we refuse to confess and make use of the forgiveness he offers us, we mock his sacrifice. But don’t waste your time. Forgiveness is for those who actually repent. If you sin with the belief that God will forgive you when you pray, remember: sincere repentance includes the desire to never repeat the wrong act. It also requires regret for the past action and the desire to right those wrongs.

God has forgiven a great many things – child sacrifice, murder, theft. Chances are, you’re nowhere near as dirty as the other people he’s forgiven.

4. God’s Justice

Paul famously said, “Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. whatever a man sows he will reap”. At least, I think it was Paul. (God forgave David in that he was allowed to live). But he exacted a heavy penalty. In sinning you hurt yourself and you can’t always count on him to prevent the negative consequences.

Reading Note – 2 Chronicles 19 – 24

  • 2 Kings 12:2 says that Jehoash did the right thing all the days of his life because Jehoiada the priest instructed him, but 2 Chronicles 24:2 says that Jehoash did the right thing all the days of Jehoiada’s life. After the priest’s death, Jehoash allowed the worship of idols. He also killed Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada. 2 Kings does not mention that. It simply refers the writer to the Chronicles. This is a recurring thing. Kings treats the kings of Judah leniently, saying only that they were good/evil. On the other hand, Chronicles says that they were mostly good, but they did some bad thing during their lives. The effect is that Kings makes a lot of the kings of Judah seem good, while Chronicles suggests that there were no kings who sought God with all their hearts. There were just varying degrees of faithlessness. Kings seems to treat the matter too simply, while Chronicles goes into more detail. That is probably why the writer of Kings keeps referring the reader to Chronicles.

Zombie apocalypse strikes World Cup

Tracy:

Because this is hilarious.

Originally posted on Scholars and Rogues | Progressive Culture:

Suarez bites again. And it isn’t funny. No, seriously, it’s not. Stop laughing!

Serial biter Luis Suarez of Uruguay took a hunk out of Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini’s shoulder in today’s 1-0 win over the Azzurri.

With FIFA certain to review the incident, it appears that Suarez may have bitten off more than he can chew.

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