I’ll Take That Texas

Texas Longhorn

I always enjoyed my visits to Texas because of how friendly everyone was. Everyone smiles, says hello, and is very polite.

Then I moved here, started a computer support business from nothing, and relearned that people everywhere can be rude, conniving, and generally unpleasant.

This morning on my way into town I noticed a stray cow–a big Texas longhorn–that was standing on the shoulder of the highway with cars passing by at 70 to 80 mph. Sensing disaster not too far in the future, I grabbed my phone to call the police. Before I could flip the phone open, I remembered Deuteronomy 22:1-4.

(1) You shall not see your brother’s ox or his sheep go astray and hide yourself from them. You shall surely bring them again to your brother. (2) And if your brother is not near you, or if you do not know him [i.e. do not know to whom the animal belongs], then you shall bring it into your own house, and it shall be with you until your brother seeks after it, and you shall give it back to him again. (3) In the same way you shall do with his ass. And so shall you do with his clothing. And with any lost thing of your brother’s, which he has lost and you have found, you shall do the same. You may not hide yourself. (4) You shall not see your brother’s ass or his ox fall down by the way, and hide yourself from them. You shall surely help him to lift it up again.

It’s not the police’s job to return lost animals. It’s mine.

I could see where the cow had broken through the fence, so I knew which ranch it was. I drove through the gate and kept driving until I found a house. The rancher, Dan, was awake, of course, but wasn’t exactly expecting company and spilled coffee all over the floor when I knocked. I told him about the cow and asked if he needed help. Dan accepted the offer, and we drove around to the highway in his truck.

When we arrived back at the break, a patrol car was there and officer Brad was attempting to keep ole Bessie away from the road. The three of us together successfully chased her back across the fence. (Have you ever seen a cow jump!?) After introductions and a suitable few minutes of small talk, the policeman left the scene of the crime, and the rancher asked me to stand there and make sure the cow didn’t jump the fence again while he retrieved the materials to repair that section.

Longhorns are big, sturdy animals, and although they might seem like the bison’s retarded cousin, this one was no stranger to scheming. She stood there for at least five minutes staring me down, inching closer to the fence, as if daring me to stop her. And really, if she decided to jump, what was I going to do? Those horns are sharp, and they’re attached to a whole lot of steak. The fence was weighed down with years worth of vine growth, and when I climbed on top of the pile and put my hands on my hips, she finally backed down and walked away.

Dan arrived a few minutes later with a fence panel and a roll of barbed wire, and we got to closing the gap. Just then a man named Scotty, driving a large, black F250, pulls over and asks if we need help. It turns out he’s a vice president at a local bank and knows who to call to get some workers. He said he could have someone there in thirty minutes, but Dan told him we’d have it done by then. (It actually took a little over an hour more to clear out the underbrush enough to get the new panel in, but who’s counting?) Then another car pulls over. An elderly woman wearing pink and carrying an umbrella asked Scotty if he was having car trouble. She started a bit when she spotted Dan and I over in the weeds. Seeing that everything was under control, she wished everyone a good day and both she and Scotty went about their respective businesses.

When everything was done, Dan’s arms were bleeding from a dozen small wounds caused by thorns and barbs, but he invited me to join him for lunch anyway. He introduced me to his dogs and herd of donkeys at the house, then he cleaned up before we went out for cheeseburgers. (He wanted steak, probably just as a gesture of goodwill toward Bessie the bullheaded cow, but his favorite steakhouse wasn’t open.) We chatted about the ranching and computer businesses over lunch, and Dan told me I should be sure to visit Scotty at his office. “He’s a good man to know around here.” He said the locals can be a very tight-knit community, and Scotty knows everybody. He also told me about how well they all look out for each other.

When I first decided to find that cow’s owner, I was a little irritated at the animal for disrupting my schedule, but I’m glad she did. It was a good morning, even if I did have to change my clothes and take another shower. Brad and Dan and Scotty and the unknown Good Samaritan lady restored my faith in Texas. There are two worlds here just like everywhere else. There’s the world of McDonalds and Walmart where people don’t know each other and don’t want to. Then there’s the world of communities and neighbors looking out for each other.

I’ll take that second Texas. China probably owns the other one anyway.

Fear Is Contageous

Deuteronomy 31:1-8  And Moses went and spake these words unto all Israel.  And he said unto them, I am an hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in: also the LORD hath said unto me, Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. The LORD thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath said. And the LORD shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he destroyed. And the LORD shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you. Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it. And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.

Moses told the entire nation of Israel not to fear, to know that God would be fighting with them. Then he took Joshua aside and told him the same thing.

God does not allow a fearful man to fight in his army because fear is contagious. If one man runs, the man next to him might run as well. And if the fear a soldier on the line is dangerous, how much more is the fear of a general? If Joshua showed fear after hearing God’s promises, it would sweep through the ranks like wind.

Fortunately, faith is also contagious. It is doubly important that leaders lead in faith and not in fear. If he stands strong, his men will stand strong. If he runs, then his men will run.

Fear not, neither be dismayed. Do what is right, and God will take care of the consequences. He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.

A Time for War

Numbers 33:55 – But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.

Ecclesiastes 3:1,8 – To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven….A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

God is loving, longsuffering, and merciful even while He hates, takes vengeance, and executes justice.

Most of the time, the best course is to live and let live, to forgive and make peace. Every now and then, however, making nice just makes you a victim.

Feminism and Islam Are Partners in the War on Western Civilization

Feminism and Islam are natural partners in the destruction of Western Civilization.
Feminism and Islam are natural partners in the destruction of Western Civilization.

Numbers 16:5
…even him whom he hath chosen…
God constructed the world to function in a certain manner. Like any complex machine, Creation’s functionality degrades as its components cease to function according to design. The extent of the dysfunction can be difficult to measure. For example, an automobile without brakes might travel along an uncrowded highway without incident. The driver only realizes his trouble when it becomes necessary to slow or stop. So it is with family structure, church organization, and civil government. As Western nations become more and more feminized, they are beginning to come apart at the seams.

As backwards as the Muslim nations appear, they have a very distinct advantage in that feminism has not taken a significant hold within their borders or cultures. As these two civilizations clash, the conclusion appears to be foregone. The superior technology and wealth of Europe and North America enable them to win many battles even as their borders are flooded with Muslims and other immigrants who have no interest in adapting themselves to the existing cultures. Instead they bring their own culture with them and destroy Western Civilization by forfeiture.

Our politicians say that we are fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here. Anyone with eyes to see can tell that they have no need to fight us anywhere. Until we excise the cancer of feminism from within our own people, we will go on committing cultural suicide.

The military adventures of the Bush-Clinton-Obama cabal are the death throws of a very broken machine and the Muslims need only bide their time to win.

A Late Tashlikh

Tashlikh is supposed to be done on Rosh Hashanah, but I think Yom Kippur is really a much better time for it. The idea is that you take stones that represent your sins, and you throw them into the sea or whatever body of water you can find, preferably water that is moving toward the sea. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement, and while we can do little things to make our wrongs right, only God can really make them go away.

He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.

Like Egypt’s chariots and like the army of locusts before them. Beyond reach, beyond memory.

I have two stones on my desk, and I have written something on each of them. Maybe they won’t seem like much to you. However, to me they represent the two sins which have dominated my life over the past year. On one stone I have written, “Jonah,” and on the other, “Pharaoh.”

Jonah ran from his calling. While I haven’t been running from mine, I haven’t exactly embraced it either. I have some writing to do, and I have neglected it all this year.

Pharaoh raged against God. I allowed anger and hatred to set the tempo and the terms for this past year. I made some difficult and harsh decisions. I made the right decisions–I don’t think there was any way to avoid it–but I could have done it with more grace and civility.

So now I’m going to go throw my good buddies, Jonah and Pharaoh, into the pond a few blocks away. Then I’m going to try to set some past wrongs aside and concentrate on turning some very unpopular thoughts into electronic bits.

Heaven and Earth Hear and Speak

Deu 32:1-3 [Moses sang,] “Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. My doctrine shall drop as the rain; my speech shall drop down as the dew, as the small rain on the tender plant, and as the showers on the grass; because I will proclaim the name of Yahweh, ascribe greatness to our God.”

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the expanse proclaims His handiwork.

Luk 19:37-40 And when He had come near, even now at the descent of the Mount of Olives, all the multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works which they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King coming in the name of the Lord! Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest!” And some of the Pharisees from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.” And He answered and said to them, “I tell you that if these should be silent, the stones would cry out.”

(MKJV, more or less.)

God speaks first to the leaders. If they don’t listen, he speaks directly to the people. If the people don’t listen, God speaks to the whole creation, and it always responds. God wants to have a relationship with his creation through us, but he does not need to work through us. To God we are a luxury, something he goes out of his way to enjoy. He relates to us only because he so chooses.

God will have a relationship with his creation with or without us. His Word will always be proclaimed by someone or something and will always be heard. No objection, no legislation, no denial can ever change that. The question is, will we hear? Will we speak?

Because He Said So

Deu 28:1-2 – And it will be, if you shall listen carefully to the voice of Yahweh your God, to observe and to do all His commandments which I command you today, Yahweh your God will set you on high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come on you and overtake you, if you will listen to the voice of Yahweh your God….Deu 28:58-59 If you will not observe to do all the words of this Law that are written in this book, that you may fear this glorious and fearful name, Yahweh Elohim, then Yahweh will make your plagues remarkable, and the plagues of your seed great and persistent plagues; with evil and long-lasting sicknesses….Deu 29:1 These are the words of the covenant which Yahweh commanded Moses to make with the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which He made with them in Horeb….Deu 29:9-11 Therefore, keep the words of this covenant and do them, so that you may act wisely in all that you do. You stand today, all of you, before Yahweh your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, all the men of Israel, your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in your camp, from the cutter of your wood to the drawer of your water…

Deu 29:14 – Nor do I make this covenant and this oath with you only, but with him who stands here with us today before Yahweh our God, and also with him that is not here with us today.

MKJV

The Law of God applies to all men in all times who would please him by their lives: civil, religious, military, and familial leaders; men, women, and children; foreign laborers; everyone near and far, and more; all who have left the world to be called by God’s name. Once we have come out of the world (aka Egypt) to serve him, he expects us to follow his rules.

We do not obey for salvation from the final death, because Israel was saved from death in Egypt by the blood of the Passover lamb and baptized by their passage through the Red Sea before ever receiving this Covenant. Their faith in God’s promise saved them, not circumcision or observance of the Sabbath. He wants us to obey his rules, because they are his rules. Although the Law was given for our own prosperity, it is not optional. How can we call him Lord and then act as if his commands are merely helpful suggestions?

Sept 6, 2007, update: Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to Yahweh our God, but the revealed things belong to us and to our sons forever, so that we may do all the words of this Law.” Among the “secret things” are many whys. Why should we worship this way and not that way? Why does it matter if a pig doesn’t chew its cud or if a rabbit doesn’t have split hooves? What difference does it make if the ashes are of a red heifer or of a Holstein? We can speculate about the things God hasn’t told us, but when push comes to shove, what matters is obedience. If we really have faith in God, we will obey his Word, especially when we don’t understand it.

Sept 10, 2007, update: I’ve heard two interpretations of “secret things.”

  1. Deep mysteries that are irrelevant to us, are beyond our comprehension, or that might harm us if revealed. The revealed things are those which we can sense or examine.
  2. Secret sins–victimless crimes–that God deals with privately so long as they are not flaunted. The revealed things are those which are made public and have identifiably direct victims, such as murder, theft, and adultery.

In this post I dealt with the first interpretation, but I think they are probably both correct in different contexts.

About Christmas…

Is Christmas, along with all of its traditions, pagan?Deuteronomy 12:29-32:

When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations before you, where you go to possess them, and you take their place and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you do not become snared by following them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not ask about their gods, saying, How did these nations serve their gods, that I too may do likewise? You shall not do so to the LORD your God. For every abomination to the LORD, which He hates, they have done to their gods; even their sons and their daughters they have burned in the fire to their gods. All the things I command you, be careful to do it. You shall not add to it, nor take away from it.

(See also Deuteronomy 18:9-14.)

Regarding Christmas, there are good things and bad things, but the most important consideration for me is what pleases God. In Deuteronomy 12:29-32, God said not to learn how the former pagans used to worship their gods and then do the same for him. He told us how he is to be worshiped, and we are forbidden from adding to it or taking away from it.

Christmas is to holidays as English is to languages. They are cultural borgs, assimilating everything they touch. Some Christmas traditions are clearly biblical, while others are clearly pagan, and some are more difficult to pin down. Google the words “pagan” and “Christmas,” and you are sure to find plethora of sites declaring everything about Christmas to be purely pagan and evil. You will also find sites claiming that everything about Christmas is purely inspired by God with not a speck of yellow to mar the pristine snowy landscape. Who’s right?

I am no expert on the subject. In fact, I haven’t even read a single book on it. I’ve read a lot of articles, listened to speeches, and sat in on debates, though. So, for whatever it’s worth, I’m going to give you my thoughts on it.

December 25th

From what I’ve read, December 25th was decided on as the birthdate of Yeshua relatively early on in Church history. Unfortunately, it was still decided at least a century after the fact, and it was decided by Greeks and Romans who wouldn’t necessarily understand all the nuances of the Jewish Gospel writers. Matthew, Mark, and John were all native Jews, and Luke was a proselyte at a fairly young age.

There are some people who seriously believe that Yeshua was actually born on December 25th, but they are a minority. Most believe he was actually born on some other date, either in the late spring or early fall. Competing modern traditions point to the pagan holidays of Saturnalia and the many other winter solstice celebrations to explain how December 25th earned the title.

One tradition says that most of the cultures encompassed by the Roman Empire had some kind of winter solstice celebration, which generally fell very close to December 25th. That tradition is undoubtedly correct on that point, but it goes further. It says that Roman Christians didn’t want to appear to Jewish, so instead of celebrating a new holiday at a different time of year, they melded the new ideas into their existing celebrations. In that way, they would be celebrating Christmas at the same time everyone else was celebrating Saturnalia, and they wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. This sounds like a reasonable explanation, but as far as I can tell, it is only speculation. The solstice celebrations were certainly real, but I have never heard of any solid evidence that this was the motivation for selecting this date for Christmas.

A competing tradition says that the Roman Empire instituted the formal holiday of Saturnalia in order to compete with the growing popularity of the Christian holiday. I have at least heard of some documentary evidence that Saturnalia was not officially recognized by the Emperor until after Christians had already adopted the 25th for Christmas. Of course, that doesn’t mean that Saturnalia had not already been celebrated unofficially, so it doesn’t disprove the previous argument.

Another argument against December 25th is the fact of shepherds tending their flocks in the hills at night. I have heard it argued that no shepherd in Judea would have been tending flocks outdoors at night on December 25th. The shepherds supposedly drove their flocks into barns or warmer climes, I’m not sure which. This sounds like something invented by people with no actual knowledge of sheep or shepherding.

The counter argument is that it rarely gets below freezing in that region even in December, and that shepherds routinely tend their flocks under those conditions. I have no way of knowing which is right. I know that in modern times the temperature does occasionally fall below freezing, but that it averages something closer to forty degrees Fahrenheit, but climates can change dramatically over two thousand years. Maybe it was ten degrees every night or maybe it was sixty. I have never seen any documentation of either claim.

There is also the faint possibility that December 25th was chosen because it is possible that Yeshua was conceived sometime near Hanukkah, which is celebrated beginning on Kislev 25 and is always within a few weeks of December 25th. Kislev, being a month on a foreign calendar, was changed to December and the day came to be celebrated as a birthdate instead of as a conception date. More speculation.

Absent proof of one hypothesis or the other, I’m not going to raise a stink about it. If everyone wants to celebrate Yeshua’s birth on December 25th, then I’m OK with that.

Christmas Trees

Every report I have heard says that Christmas trees were adopted from a Germanic solstice tradition. One such report said that some Germanic tribes would bring a tree inside their house as some sort of talisman against the symbolic death of the shortest day of the year. The living tree within their home helped preserve their own lives and ensured another prosperous year. I have no clue if that is correct.

Also consider the prophecy of Jeremiah 10:2-5:

So says the LORD, Do not learn the way of the nations, and do not be terrified at the signs of the heavens; for the nations are terrified at them. For the customs of the people are vain; for one cuts a tree out of the forest with the axe, the work of the hands of the workman. They adorn it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and hammers, so that it will not wobble. They are like a rounded post, and they cannot speak. They must surely be lifted, because they cannot walk. Do not be afraid of them; for they cannot do evil nor good, for it is not in them.

I doubt that Jeremiah was thinking of Christmas trees when he copied these words from God, but the parallel is too striking to ignore. The pagans are terrified of the signs of the heavens, signs like the winter solstice, in response to which they cut a tree out of the forest, bring it back to their house, and decorate it. Perhaps Jeremiah had never heard of the German people or their Yuletide traditions. Perhaps he thought he was only writing about carved idols inlaid with gold and silver.

But then again, perhaps God had a wider perspective than Jeremiah.

It seems obvious that, despite many efforts to apply Christian meaning to the Christmas tree, it is not of biblical origin. It was almost certainly adopted from some pagan religious rite. However harmless it might seem, I can’t see any way that it does not violate God’s command to not adopt pagan religious practices. Justifying it by saying we are doing it in his honor adds insult to injury. Does it help the adulteress’ case to claim she was thinking of her husband at the time?

Yule

The Twelve Days of Christmas, Yule logs, Yule Tide, and Yule everything else is unquestionably pagan. There is nothing biblical about it, and claiming otherwise is pointless.

Candles

I suspect the tradition of candles placed in the windows was adopted from Hanukkah, in which an 8 or 9 candle menorah is lit and placed where it can be seen through the house’s windows. While this tradition is not included in the Scriptures of the canon, it is not done in honor of any pagan gods. It is done solely in honor of a miracle that God performed in fulfillment of prophecies in Daniel and in preparation for greater fulfillments to come. I say light ’em up.

Gift Giving

One tradition says that gift giving was adopted from Saturnalia. Another says that it was instituted in honor of the gifts brought to Yeshua by the magi. Either one seems like speculation to me. I have never seen evidence either way.

Mistletoe

Wherever the mistletoe tradition came from, it wasn’t from the Bible or anything else surrounding the birth of Yeshua. I’m not sure if it has anything to do with a pagan religious practice either. It might be a superstition related to fertility, but not necessarily a fertility rite performed as part of any kind of worship. It could be something akin to Jacob’s striped sticks or Rachel’s mandrake.

Red and Green

Once again, I have never heard of documentation for claims of pagan origins for the colors red and green. On the other hand, I can’t imagine how it might be derived from Scripture. I suspect it is a harmless tradition based on one of the most hopeful denizens of winter: evergreen hollies.

Lest anyone think I might be turning into the Grinch, I am not interested in making anyone else conform to my opinions on Christmas. There will be no Christmas trees or Yule logs in my house, but you need to make your own decisions about it. I am not going to complain about nativity scenes or Christmas trees on public property, and I am not going to tell you you’re going to hell for your cheese log. These are just some rambling thoughts relevant to the day. They might even be wrong. As always, I reserve the right to change my mind.

Have fun. Enjoy yourself. But consider giving your traditions a little more thought as to whether or not they please God. He is, after all, the reason for this and all other seasons. Is he not?

Add your thoughts if you want. I might disagree, but I’ll try not to call you any bad names. 😉

Lamech’s Two Wives

There is not a single extraneous character recorded in the Torah (Matthew 5:18). Every word is written for a purpose, and there is nothing wasted. This is one reason why the names of wives are rarely mentioned: not because women were considered unimportant, but because their names were not significant to the point being made. So when the names of Lamech’s wives are given without further information about them in Genesis 5:19, we should immediately ask why.

As a descendant of Cain and a probable murderer, Lamech is often used to argue that God does not approve of polygamy. “See? The first recorded polygamist was also a murderer and of the line of Cain. It must be wrong!” This kind of reasoning is based on the Law of First Mention, which is a theological land mine all on its own (see here), but apart from that, they are ignoring some important details in the story.

Lamech’s wives names can be translated roughly as “ornament” and “shadow.” Ornamentation is a symbol of wealth and shadow is often used in scripture to symbolize a powerful patronage. Could Lamech’s wives symbolize wealth and power as mulitple wives often do? Perhaps one father-in-law brought him great wealth, and the other was a king or warlord. Lamech’s declaration that he would be avenged seventy-seven times was a declaration of independence from God and immunity to the vengeance of men. He believed his access to wealth and power provided him with greater protection than God.

The point of Lamech’s story is not to highlight the evils of polygamy, but rather the evils of pride and the abuse of power.

Even As Christ?

Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the Word, that He might present it to Himself as the glorious church, without spot or wrinkle or any such things, but that it should be holy and without blemish.”

A husband is to love his wife, being willing to give up his life if necessary to allow her to become more “holy and without blemish.” What if she doesn’t want to become unblemished? What if she wants him to give up his life so that she can be more comfortable or more “appreciated?”

Although the answer can be found in Paul’s writings, we have something better. In Revelation 2 and 3 Yeshua told us exactly what he would do in such a case:

Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and will remove your lampstand out of its place unless you repent….

Repent! But if not I will come to you quickly, and will fight with them by the sword of My mouth….

But I have a few things against you because you allow that woman Jezebel to teach, she saying herself to be a prophetess, and to cause My servants to go astray, and to commit fornication, and to eat idol-sacrifices. And I gave her time that she might repent of her fornication, and she did not repent. Behold, I am throwing her into a bed, and those who commit adultery* with her into great affliction, unless they repent of their deeds….I will give to every one of you according to your works….

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth….

That doesn’t sound like the eternal, all-enduring love I’ve always heard preached in our churches. God is patient and forgiving, but only to a point, and only with those who are truly repentant.

*Adultery? Then the woman is married, but to whom? I say she was married to Yeshua. In Biblical usage, adultery can only be committed between a married woman and a man who is not her husband. Those who commit adultery “with” her are not the male perpetrator, but co-adulteresses with Jezebel. Yeshua would not be so harsh with her if he was not claiming the place of her husband. Therefore, this Jezebel was an accepted member of his corporate bride, and Yeshua is threatening to divorce her with all her co-conspirators.