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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Repairing Santa

    Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I am a notorious non-decorator at Christmas time. Almost all the neighbors around me put up respectable house decorations each year. I, however, usually contribute nothing to the outdoor Christmas-themed decor; it’s just not my thing. I keep promising myself to at least find a decent holiday wreath for the front door, but the Christmases come and go and still no wreathe. Until this year, that is. 

    I found a couple of small Santa Claus wreathes at a clearance sale last year, along with the usual gift-wrapping supplies I pick up. So when I found the wreathes again last week, I realized, “HEY! I can put one of these on the front door!” My neighbors will finally believe that I’m not a total Scrooge when it comes to celebrating the Christmas holidays.”  My reputation was saved!

    Last night, however, I opened my front door to a disturbing sight. Lying at the threshold were two tiny arms and an assortment of tiny pine cones. Even that ball of fluff thingy from the end of Santa’s cap was lying among the carnage. “Oh, no!” I gasped. “A wild critter has attacked my Santa Claus wreathe!”  I thought about that scenario for a minute, and realized that a marauding raccoon or a squirrel was probably not the reason my wreathe-Santa was now armless. I have a glass storm door in place, so the wreathe had plenty of protection from wildlife. Not from the sun, however.  The exposure of my house assures plenty of afternoon sun bearing down on the front door. Even in December, the door handle can heat up hot enough to force you to turn it gingerly. Apparently, it can also melt the glue holding on fabric Santa arms and decorative pine cones to a wreathe.

    I left the armless Santa wreathe on the door overnight, but brought him in this morning for repairs; he graced my door for two whole days.  Both Santa and my Scrooge reputation are in desperate need of a glue gun!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dear Sally - Where Do I Start...! (5 of 7)

 I have been corresponding with a Florida inmate who happens be a Mormon. I starting posting excerpts from my letters with "Dear Sally (Pt. 1)" and it has turned into a temporary obsession of sorts. If you need a bit of an education on Mormon belief, you might find these posts helpful.

Dear Sally:  
     I kept your remarks on the Mormonism article to follow up on. If we both were on the same page about what is the final authority - the Bible or the Book or Mormon - it would be easier to have a conversation. But we aren’t. I simply cannot accept that the BofM is more reliable than the Bible.  If the BofM it has any ring of truth to it, it is only because of what has been directly borrowed from the Bible. 

     There is no virtue in criticizing someone’s belief just for the sake of an argument. If you were raised in a Mormon family, it is only natural that you would have been brought up to believe in the teachings of Joseph Smith.  They are, to Mormons at least, “true doctrine.” I also see that a doctrinal debate between two persons of opposing viewpoints is usually pretty futile. That’s because although our “lingo” is very similar (Mormons even call themselves the Church of Jesus Christ of LDS), Christian and Mormon doctrines don’t agree AT ALL on who God is and consequently who Jesus Christ is, for that matter. I do acknowledge, however, that there are many Mormons who sincerely love Jesus Christ. It is tragic to me how badly Joseph Smith has muddied the waters for his followers who truly want to serve the Lord.

     I am doing some reading on and and the more I read the more incredulous I become. Joseph Smith claims to have restored the true faith. Yet even a limited examination of his teaching when compared to the Bible reveals not a restored faith, but an entirely new belief system based on a heavy amount of proof-texting from the Bible and his own very fertile imagination.  

    His “plan of salvation” begins with a belief in a pre-mortal existence, that “Heavenly Father” (referred to by me as Mormon-God) had spirit-children with a god-mother, and that everyone’s life began in heaven with God. Mormon-God, that is. Then Mormon-God thinks to himself, “Hmmm...these spirit-kids of mine are not making any spiritual progress up here at all in heaven with me. What they need is some experience. I know! I’ll give ‘em all bodies, starting with Adam and Eve, and I’ll even erase the memories of their pre-mortal lives.  By the time they get through living an earthly life, they’ll have had enough experience with sin, suffering, heartache, and death to really improve a lot!” The following actually appears at

“If they hadn’t eaten the forbidden fruit, they would have lived like that forever and never had children. Mankind never would have been born or the world populated.”

Apparently, Eve’s good looks and God’s instruction to Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:27-28) wasn’t nearly enough. Succumbing to temptation and sin was also a requirement, according to Joseph Smith. goes on about Adam and Eve:

“They became mortal—just as we are—subject to sin, disease, all types of suffering, and ultimately death. But it wasn’t all bad because they could now feel great joy. ‘Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.’ (2 Nephi 2:25)”

Wow. What a plan - Adam and Eve fell so I could have joy! Zippity doo DAH! There is so much wrong here, I don't know where to start.

To be continued...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Oh, Them Golden Plates!

I've been corresponding with a prison inmate who happens to be a Mormon. So I've spent time investigating some of the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Some of my findings turn into blog posts, and here's the latest one.

    Anyone considering the claims of Mormonism needs to take a careful look at the account of the gold plates that were supposedly translated into the Book of Mormon. This book is the founding document on which the entire religion rests. Mormons believe the BofM and their other principle books of doctrine to be more reliable than the Bible.

    Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, purported to have a number of visions in his youth that ultimately led to the formation of his new religion. One of them concerned the discovery of gold plates on the Hill Cumorah (near Palmyra, NY) that when translated contained the Book of Mormon. Here is his account, in part, of that vision:

“While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than noonday, when immediately a Personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor."

"He had on a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness..."

"He called me by name and said unto me that he was a messenger of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do..."

 "He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent...”

    According to Smith, he was not permitted to dig up the gold plates immediately. He claimed to have received other messages over the next three years from this same “personage,” including instructions about the treasure he would find buried, and also about the woman he would marry.  Smith, who was from western New York, dated Emma Hale of Pennsylvania against her father’s wishes.   After returning to New York in the fall of 1826, he again visited the Hill Cumorah (known locally now as Mormon Hill) and was told he could go ahead and dig up the gold plates, as long as he “brot with him the right person.” That turned out to be Emma Hale, of course. So back to Pennsylvania he went, where he proposed to Emma. They promptly eloped without the consent of her parents. Smith would have been 21 years old at the time of that “revelation.”

    Back in New York, the Smiths proceeded to dig up the plates one night in the early autumn of 1827. One night, as in “the better to fool you, my dear,” in my opinion. Amazingly, Joseph also dug up a special pair of eye glasses by which he was able to read the inscriptions on the plates. He called these eye glasses the Urim and Thummim, which should not be confused with the biblical Urim and Thummim. (See Exodus 28:30) 

    Biographers report that a great deal of the Smith’s early marriage revolved around getting the plates translated. Even with the special glasses and then later a small divining stone, the work of translation was a tedious affair. Smith was a poor writer, so Emma often sat for hours writing the messages Joseph dictated to her “with his face buried in his hat, which had the stone in it.”  Who performs serious translation work with their face covered by a hat, for Pete’s sake? I think he buried his face in it to to hide how hard he was laughing to himself over the con job he was pulling off!  Fawn Brodie writes, “Perhaps in the beginning Joseph never intended his stories of the golden plates to be taken so seriously, but once the masquerade had begun, there was no point at which he could call a halt. Since his own family believed him (with the possible exception of his cynical younger brother William), why should not the whole world?” (Brodie, No Man Knows My History, 40).

    Although Emma was with her husband the night he dug up the gold plates (or whatever he previously buried in secret) Emma would relate that she never actually laid eyes on them. Even after they were brought back to their home she “never felt at liberty to look at them.” Really? What normal woman is not going to at least take a peak at a mysterious set of gold plates stored in her home? That just doesn’t seem likely, to me. Not only that, these plates were treated rather casually by Joseph Smith in light of their supernatural origin. According to Emma, “they lay in a box under our bed for months” and sometimes were kept on a living room table “wrapped in a small linen table cloth,” which she had to move each time she dusted the table. Try and imagine Moses’ wife moving the Ten Commandments around so she can straighten up the tent, and you see the absurdity here!

    Joseph even lent his only copy of the initial translation to a friend and benefactor, Martin Harris, who proceeded to lose it. So poor ol’ Joseph had to start his translation all over again, only this time the angel Moroni explained “he was not to re-translate the same material but use a second account to avoid being trapped by inconsistencies.”  Right. This is clearly how Joseph Smith covered his backside about coming up with a different version of his translation, since he probably couldn’t remember what he fabricated the first time around.

    Predictably, Joseph Smith’s closest associates (Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, aka the Three Witnesses) began to press him for the privilege of actually seeing the fabulous gold plates for themselves.  What’s a false prophet to do? Smith actually needed confirming witnesses to corroborate his story, so he conveniently received a new revelation for them:

 “You shall testify that you have seen them, even as my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., has seen them, for it is by my power that he has seen them, and it is because he had faith.”

Needless to say, Smith never showed them any plates.  The testimony of the Three Witnesses became that while they were “in the woods,” the usual location for early Mormon visions, the plates were shown to them “by the power of God and not of man.” Also that “an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon.”   (This is rather like the spiel given to adventurers who travel to Ethiopia in hopes of seeing the Ark of the Covenant. They pay their money only to be told by its custodians, “if you’re suppose to see it,  you’ll see it.”)  I can imagine what probably went through the minds of these three men. They were all told by their prophet buddy that God was about to privilege them with a supernatural vision of the plates and they were expected to testify to it. Who among them was ever going to admit to the others, “I don’t see a dang thing!” A certain fairy tale comes to mind. Altogether now:  “The Emperor has no clothes!”

     So whatever became of these famous gold plates? Surely something so important to “the restored Gospel” would be safely secured as proof to Joseph Smith’s critics. Not surprisingly, they are nowhere to be found. The official Mormon position is that some time after the Three Witnesses claimed to have also seen them, Joseph Smith returned the plates to the custody of the angel Baloney... uh, Moroni. 

     The ruse is pretty obvious. Joseph Smith's gold plates only existed in his very fertile imagination. 

Source: Another Gospel, © 1989 Ruth A. Tucker, Academie Books (Zondervan).

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Post-Iron Bowl Worship Service

     Leading worship was a tough assignment for me last Sunday. In addition to the early service which I normally lead, I also had the main service. Our pastor and staff worship leader left town for the holidays and only “the remnant” remained to carry on. Leading the second service is, for me, a lot like being a substitute teacher - it has it challenges. This week had more challenges than usual, however.  Not only was it the Sunday after Thanksgiving Day - that American holiday typically given to eating way too much of everything in sight - it was also the day after the state’s much anticipated annual Iron Bowl. The Iron Bowl, in case you don’t know, is the name given to one of the best and longest rivalries in college football between the University of Alabama and my alma mater, Auburn University.

    Unless you’re living in another galaxy, you’ve probably heard by now about the Auburn Tigers’ astonishing 34-28 victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide in what was truly one of most amazing finishes to a football game every witnessed.  I estimate that the last play of that nail-biter has been re-broadcast on some type of media about a gazillion times since Saturday night.  Auburn’s Chris Davis returned Alabama’s missed field goal attempt for 109 yards to win the game in literally the last second. 

Watch here: Auburn's Chris Davis returns 109 yards for the win

Thus the 2013 Iron Bowl has been duly chronicled in Auburn football history as one of the greatest moments ever for Auburn fans everywhere. War Eagle! But it also goes down as one of the toughest losses ever for Alabama fans, and in a state that practically worships at the altar of college football, what happens on a Saturday in late November can put a real damper on Sunday’s worship service.

    “Awww, Christians don’t let footballs games affect their praise, do they?” The heck they don’t! And the more emotional investment we put in the game’s outcome, the more difference it seems to make.  I observed this phenomena first-hand some years ago as a worship leader for a campus ministry based at the University of Michigan. On the Sundays following a win for the Wolverines, the praise arose easily and enthusiastically. Our congregation, which consisted mostly of college students and young professionals, needed little exhortation to “make a joyful noise.”  The Sunday after a loss, however, was another story.  Our folks had worn themselves out whooping and hollering for the maize and blue, and the “agony of defeat” had exhausted their energy. They just didn’t have much “oomph” left the next day for their sacrifice of praise.

    I don’t fault anyone for this tendency, by the way. We Christian sports lovers are, after all, just as human as any other fans.  We all tend to crash and burn emotionally in the aftermath of a defeat or loss of any kind, and especially if we’re immature spiritually and/or emotionally.  As we grow in Christ, we learn how to separate our emotional ups and downs from our service of worship more readily.  As a worship leader I’ve had to learn to recognize where people are as a congregation, emotionally speaking. Hopefully I have the wisdom these days to help people stir themselves spiritually but not to “pump the praise” beyond authenticity.  You simply can’t take people where they don’t want to go. So sometimes you exhort and and other times you abort, because if it ain’t flowing, it just ain’t flowing!

    So what happened in our local house of worship last Sunday?  Mostly we worshiped genuinely, I think, though there did seem to be that “too much food and football” cloud hovering about. I’m sure it helped that I didn’t wear orange and blue, nor open the service with “Well, praise the Lord and War Eagle! In fact, I didn’t say a word about Auburn’s win, because you never know who is going to take offense at even good-natured kidding over an Iron Bowl loss in these here parts!
     It’s probably a good thing our pastor is from Ohio.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Dear Sally - A Critical Difference (7 of 7)

 Continued from the previous post, "Man With the Sketchy Plan."

Dear Sally:
    I see a critical difference - in Mormonism, a man was exalted to become a god. Supposedly, that god had a son called Jesus, who became our savior. But Christian faith has always taught that God humbled Himself to become a man. We know that Man as Jesus Christ, and that’s whom we trust as our Savior and follow as our Lord.

    The Jesus of the Bible is God Himself, in human form. He was conceived in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit in a miracle known in Christian tradition as the Incarnation.  None of us comprehend it, but all of us marvel at the thought that a holy God would humble Himself to become one of us and thereby qualify to become our Redeemer. The Bible calls Him Immanuel - “God with us:”

From Matthew 1:
18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly. 20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

The prophet referred to by Matthew’s Gospel is the prophet Isaiah, whose book is found in the Old Testament:

14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Is. 7:14)

So Jesus is the Son of God, fully God and truly human. He is God’s “only begotten Son,” meaning unique in essence. There will never be another son like God the Son because....drum roll please.... THE SON IS GOD!

     Why is that an important distinction? Because the Son of God was, unlike the rest of us, the only One who ever pre-existed with and as God - if Joseph Smith had actually had a visitation from God as he claims, he would have seen ONE person, not two. The Jesus of the Bible was completely without sin, and therefore uniquely qualified to offer His life on the Cross for our sins.  That is why John the Baptist said of Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”  It was the shedding of Jesus’ blood on the Cross that atones for our sins, something which anyone may appropriate by genuine repentance and faith. I realize that Mormons believe in the atoning work of Jesus Christ, but he cannot be the same Jesus that Christians follow, if he was “begotten” of an exalted man! A savior who came from a man who claims to be God is not the biblical Savior.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Dear Sally - The Man With the Sketchy Plan (6 of 7)

 Continued from the previous post, "Where Do I Start...!"

Dear Sally:
We could wrangle over the differences between Christianity and Mormonism for a long, long time - there’s a lot of them. The point that really matters, however, boils down to this one:  Joseph Smith taught his followers that Jesus was a son of God, just as anybody else (including angels) is a son of God. They do point out, however, that they believe Jesus is “the literal, only begotten son in the flesh.” Since Smith taught that “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man,” that can only mean one thing: Mormon-God (aka “Elohim”) had physical, sexual relations with Mary. Mormon-Jesus is “only begotten” because apparently that’s the only son Mormon-God produced that way. That would make Mormon-God an adulterer, by the way, since he is supposedly already has a spirit-wife in heaven.  If LDS teaching is “true doctrine,” as you claim it is, then the Jesus of the Book of Mormon is clearly not the Jesus of the Bible - he’s the product of an alien abduction!
    This heretical teaching is directly contrary to the Bible which states that the Holy Spirit would overshadow Mary: 

35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.  (Luke 1:35)

Jesus Christ was not conceived by a physical union!  Mormon doctrine reduces Jesus to being just a son of God (“HF”), like Brigham Young or Donnie Osmond or even Satan, whom Mormons maintain is the spirit-brother of Mormon-Jesus.  Again, here’s how Joseph Smith stated his “revelation:”

“God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!!! . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see,” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).

God used to be a man on another planet, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 613-614; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333).

So it would appear that Mormon-God (“HF”) was once a man on some other planet who managed to reach an exalted state that qualified him to be god (an exalted man) of planet earth. Right. Where do I even begin to untangle this rat's nest of error! Actually, blasphemy would be a good place to start because for a man - "exalted" or not - to take for himself the titles reserved for the God of the Bible is to blaspheme

    The way I see it, if Mormon-God was once a man, “as we are now,” then he is under the same curse of sin that Adam and Eve came under when they sinned in the Garden of Eden. That means Mormon-God is a sinner and incapable of doing anything at all to help me spiritually.  Yet Joseph Smith would have me believe that Mormon-God reached some type of “exalted state” to become a god and rule his own planet, which I assume is our earth.  Somehow Mormon-God pulled himself up by his bootstraps to overcome his sinful state and redeem himself, since he’s a god and all.  Or maybe Mormon-Jesus died for the sins of “Heavenly Father” since, as Smith claims, “he was once a man as we are now?” Maybe Mormon-Jesus has been engaging in interplanetary travel and was crucified for sins on each planet, including HF’s old planet. Maybe Mormon-God was from a planet with no sin problem. That would have put him on the fast-track to "exaltation," no question! And now in his “exalted man/god-ness” Mormon-God (HF) is supposed to be able to help me.  How? And to do what - work, work, work toward god-ness of my own?  How utterly exhausting, not to mention impossible!

    So just how did Mormon-God became “an exalted man,” anyway?  And if somehow reaching an “exalted state” is the pinnacle of Mormon-God’s plan of salvation, what does that mean for the folks who don't quite cut the mustard?  What if you die before you get married or before accumulating enough merit to reach an “exalted state?” Will you be assigned to parking cars or waiting on tables on some other spiritually successful Mormon’s planet?  And just how are you supposed to know when your “exalted state” is secured? Joseph Smith’s “plan of salvation” seems awfully sketchy to me.

To be continued...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Dear Sally - "I Ain't Got No Body:" Pre-mortal Existence (4 of 7)

An excerpt from my pen-pal correspondence with a prison inmate, who happens to be Mormon. LDS stands for Latter Day Saints. This is a continuation from the previous post.

LDS references (at from the Bible regarding Pre-mortal Existence:

1.  When God laid the foundations of the earth, all the sons of God shouted for joy: Job 38:4–7

Here's the context:

 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
5 Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
6 To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,
7 When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

God is actually rebuking Job: “OK wise-guy, if you know so much, then where were you when I created the earth you’re living on?  The obvious answer is, Job didn’t exist yet. So this verse is has been taken out of context by Joseph Smith.

The reference to “sons of God” is widely understood by Jews and Christians to mean the angels in heaven who, being created beings themselves, were present with God at the Creation.  Genesis 6 even recounts how the “sons of God” co-habited with the “daughters of men.”  Again, these “sons of God” are not disembodied human spirits, but are fallen (in this case) angelic beings.

2. The spirit shall return unto God who gave it: Ecclesiastes 12:7

Here's the context:
6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Yes, God is the creator of the human spirit. Upon death, our bodies return to the earth without our spirits - they go home to God, because, as believers, we belong to Him and heaven is where He is. The spirits of those who have trusted in Jesus Christ to redeem them from the power and penalty of sin will go home to the Father, for “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).  I don’t see how LDS can use this text as the basis of a pre-mortal existence, however.

In heaven, we will not be disembodied spirits floating around on a cloud.  We will have glorified bodies just like our Lord Jesus.  Bodies are pretty special to God - when Jesus came to earth the first time, through the womb of Mary, He came in a BODY.  Christians believe in the resurrection of the physical body, which will have been glorified, as is Christ’s physical body.  That is a component of our ultimate victory over death. (I Cor. 15:52-54)

3. Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee: Jeremiah 1:5

Here's the context:
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you;
I ordained you a prophet to the nations.

God is speaking to the ministry He had determined for the young prophet, even before Jeremiah was born. God is not bound by time or space. But we are - no body, no existence.  Jeremiah would never have fulfilled his purpose without a BODY, and neither will you nor I. 

4. We are all his offspring:  Acts 17:28; 

Look at the entire verse:
28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’

It was actually the pagan Greek poets who said, “for we are also His offspring.”  This verse is from Paul’s sermon to the idol-worshiping Greeks. He quoted their poets because in every person there is the awareness that we exist because God created us.  It is not, however, a supporting text that we had a pre-mortal existence.  You can read the entire sermon in Acts 17:22-32.  Verse 26 is revealing:

 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,

5. God chose us before the foundation of the world:  Eph. 1:3–4; 

Here's the context:

 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

True. We are chosen before the foundation of the world, but we are chosen IN HIM, that is, in Christ.  CHRIST is the point of this verse, not pre-mortal existence!  Again, God is not bound by time or space; He is omniscient (all-knowing). He has foreknowledge of everything and everyone. There is simply no support for a pre-mortal existence in this verse. 

6.  We are to be in subjection to the Father of spirits: Hebrews 12:9

Look at the context:
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”
7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? 8 But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?

The context is, we should give God our heavenly Father at least the same obedience we gave our human fathers. A person who is not obedient is not a “son,” be they male or female. This is yet another example of proof-texting in support of pre-mortal existence.

7. The Devil and his angels were cast out:  Rev. 12:9; 

Here's the context:
And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. 

First of all....YEAH BABY!  HALLELUJAH!  Now back to the discussion.

People are not fallen angels (fallen, yes, but as humankind, not as angelic beings). They were never cast out of heaven as spirits. So how is this verse a support for the pre-mortal existence of humans? 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Dear Sally - About that Joseph Smith Guy...(3 of 7)

 An excerpt from my letter to an incarcerated pen-pal, modified for this post.

Dear Sally,  

    Thank you for the “rebuttal” on the “What Mormons Teach” article. I think I have ten years worth of correspondence from your LDS materials. I realized, by the way, that the article would probably be offensive. I didn’t send it for the purpose of offending you, but sometimes offenses can’t be helped.  (Can you accept that I care enough about you to speak about it? ) I think that Mormons will always have this challenge of being offended because Joseph Smith himself seems to have assured continual offenses to Mormon sensibilities right from the start of his new religion.  His testimony states that he:

    “retired to the woods...on a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty.” His purpose was to “inquire of the Lord... which of all the sects was right.” He “kneeled down” and “was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame” him. “Thick darkness gathered around” and then a “pillar of light” appeared over his head “above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon” him. It was then that he saw “two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description.” One of the “personages” then called him “by name and said, pointing to the other - This is My Beloved Son, Hear Him!” (source: Another Gospel, © 1989 Ruth A. Tucker, Academie Books, Zondervan.)

At any rate, when he asked the question on his mind, “which of all the sects was right” and “which should I join?”  The answer came back, “they were all wrong.”  Interesting. His own father and grandfather used to say the same thing quite frequently, being both opposed and disdainful of “organized religion,” according to his biographers.  I imagine Joseph Smith heard “they’re all wrong” a lot as he grew up.  It’s really too bad Dale Carnegie wasn’t around yet - young Joseph could have used one of those classes in “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  I’m pretty sure that announcing, “Hey!  Jesus himself told me that you guys got it all wrong!” is not exactly the best way to win people to your spiritual viewpoint.

Since you quoted from Psalm 139 in regard to the Mormon doctrine of pre-mortal existence, I thought I would investigate. So here is what that Bible says:

Psalm 139:13-16 NKJV
13 For You formed my inward parts;
You covered me in my mother’s womb.
 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
 Marvelous are Your works,
 And that my soul knows very well. 
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
 When I was made in secret,
 And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
 16 Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
 And in Your book they all were written,
 The days fashioned for me, When as yet there were none of them.

There is no mention here of a heavenly pre-existence for the psalmist; the references are to being formed in the womb, a very earthly process. 

Christians believe Jesus Christ was pre-existent, but not human beings. Some Christian churches have a doctrinal position on it and some don’t. Is there a problem with believing in a pre-mortal existence? Perhaps not (it's not clear to me why Joseph Smith made such a big deal out of it). But it sure leads to some strange doctrinal positions by the LDS - like the reason we ended up on earth with bodies was to accomplish the growth we couldn’t attain to as disembodied spirits in heaven. This is something apparently required by the LDS for “exalted god-ness.” More on that later.  Evidently, Joseph Smith was great at proof-texting, but terrible as a Bible scholar.

Next installment:
LDS references
(from from the Bible supposedly supporting Pre-mortal Existence.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dear Sally... (2 of 7)

Picks up where Part 1 left off:

8.  “The fact that there is no reference to a mother in heaven either in the Bible, Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants, is not sufficient proof that no such thing as a mother did not exist there” (Answers to Gospel Questions, Joseph Smith, Jr., p. 143).

Sally, Jesus always referred to God as “the Father.” There is no separate god-mother in heaven. God Himself knows how to bring forth life and how to nurture His children. One of His names is El-Shaddai, which means “many-breasted, or all sufficient One.”

9. Jesus was the “Firstborn” of the Sovereign’s offsprings. Lucifer, his brother, was the second born in the morning of pre-existence, and the rest of human beings followed in this pre-mortal existence. “We are all the spiritual children of heavenly parents.” (Eternal Marriage Student Manual, p. 259).

Again, Satan is not equal to Jesus in any way. He is NOT the spirit brother of Jesus Christ. The only heavenly parents any of us have is God the Father. Although, I will say that anyone’s parents who died as believers in Christ are certainly in heaven now.

10. “The child to be born to Mary was begotten by Elohim (God).”

Specifically, the Holy Spirit:

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 1:18 NIV)

11. This is called “celestial Sireship.” (The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, p. 23)

12. The Church teaches there is an after life when righteous spirits carry the message of salvation to wicked spirits in hell and co-mingle. At this point those wicked spirits can repent and be freed. (Preparation for Exaltation, p. 36).

Sally, there is no chance for repentance in hell, nor will there be any “co-mingling” of the righteous and the wicked in hell. Jesus told the story of a rich man who died and ended up in hell. He begged for Abraham to send the poor beggar Lazarus to him to comfort him in hell, but God would not allow it:

22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side.     The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked     up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’ (Luke 16:19-31)

13. The Church teaches the Father in heaven was once a man as we are now, capable of physical death. He progressed through stages to reach the stage of “exaltation of godhood.” Humans have the power to reach godhood. When we become gods we will have jurisdiction over worlds that will be peopled by our offsprings. (Achieving a Celestial Marriage, p. 132).

Sally, the Bible does not teach that. Again, God the Father is not a man. He is not a created being. In the miracle of Incarnation, God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus, the Son of God, and as a man did experience physical death for the purpose of our salvation. And He was raised from the dead so that we, too, might have resurrection life.

Since God has always been God, He never progressed through any stages to reach “exaltation of godhood.” And men will never become gods. Men and women who follow Christ in this life will, however, reign with Christ for 1,000 years when He comes again, and for eternity. That is is great hope of redemption - what was lost to Adam and Eve in the garden has been redeemed by Jesus Christ, and He will make all things new!  Does this involve getting your own planet? I can’t say. But it absolutely refers to taking dominion once again over a restored earth, the place God put mankind to begin with.

14. The Church holds that “Jesus Christ was married at Cana of Galilee, that Mary, Martha, and others were his wives, and that he begat children” (Orson Hyde (apostle) The Judgments of God on the United States, (March 15, 1855) in Journal of Discourses, p. 210).

Sally, the Bible does not teach that Jesus was ever married on earth. He attended a wedding at Cana, but it wasn’t His own. And He never begat children. There are Gnostic gospels (false) that have taught that for centuries, but it is a complete falsehood.  Christ will marry His Bride, the Church, at the culmination of history, at His 2nd appearing.

 6 Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:  “Hallelujah!
 For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
 7 Let us rejoice and be glad
 and give him glory!
 For the wedding of the Lamb has come,
 and his bride has made herself ready.
 8 Fine linen, bright and clean,
 was given her to wear.  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)  (Revelation 19:6-8 NIV)

15. Joseph Smith, Jr. taught The Book of Mormon is more reliable than the Bible, (History of the Church, p. 4:461). It advocates that if it had not been for Joseph Smith and the restoration, there would be no salvation. There is no salvation outside the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, (Mormon Doctrine, p.670).

Sally, this is just a ridiculous statement and a chief reason that Christians reject Mormonism. The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the sole author of our salvation. 

 12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12 NIV)

So you see, Sally, “Joseph Smith” cannot offer anyone salvation; only Jesus Christ can do that. He has not “restored”any truth at all. To the contrary, he has perverted it.

16.  Mormonism teaches persons can be baptized for the dead. This is required for the persons ultimate salvation. If it is man’s part in salvation that means that what Jesus did on the cross is incomplete and has to be completed by man, and is completed by baptism. Again I say that indicates what Jesus did on the cross was incomplete. The Bible teaches contrary to that. Salvation is by the blood of Jesus not the water of man.

"Bottom line: they believe Jesus is the son of God, but they do not believe Jesus is God the Son. They believe Jesus was 'a' son of God just as they conceive all human beings to be."

Dr. Nelson is Pastor Emeritus, Roswell Street Baptist Church · Former Pastor, Oak Park Baptist Church New Orleans, Louisiana. You can find Dr. Price’s complete article here: 

Dear Sally... (1 of 7)

     I’ve been corresponding with a incarcerated woman for almost a year now. She read one of my books compliments of the prison library, found my address, and wrote to me. She asked if I might be willing to write back, and I said I would. So we’ve been trading letters since last fall. When I hear from Sally (not her real name) I usually get an update on her latest round of legal filings, her frustrations and troubles with other prisoners and staffers, and her hopes for the future. She would like to write a book one day about her experiences. I hope she does. If only half of what she says is true, her experience with the State of Florida’s justice system would make a great script for one of those Lifetime Channel movies.

    When I write to Sally, it’s usually about ordinary things, and hopefully something she is actually interested in hearing about. If I have an interesting newsletter or some really good jokes, I send them along, too, always being careful to limit my pages to the restricted amount. I try to include an encouraging Scripture or two in my letters, also. And I never staple or paper-clip anything together when I mail a letter to Sally. It is harder to get things into prison than you might think -  I had an envelope returned to me once because of the metal clasp attached to it. Apparently, inmates can do extraordinary things with tiny metal envelope clasps.  

    I discovered early on that Sally is committed to her faith, drawing what encouragement she can from her Mormon church while she serves her time. She even sacrificed a good bit of postage to send me copy of an LDS magazine. It’s impressive to receive a gift of any kind from someone with so little. 

    Since Mormonism is quite different theologically from traditional Christianity, I wondered how I might respond. While searching out ideas on the internet, I found a very respectfully written blog article from a retired Baptist preacher, Dr. Nelson L. Price. I copied Dr. Nelson’s article to send along to my pen-pal, and included some notes of my own.  Then I thought perhaps the readers of my own blog might appreciate a having a little knowledge of what Mormon doctrine teaches. So here follows a few items from Dr. Price’s research and article, along with my commentary to Sally, which appears in italics:

"Members of the Church say they believe Jesus Christ is the Firstborn of God the Father. By that, what do they mean?"

1. They believe “We are sons and daughters of God, and we lived in a pre-mortal existence as His spirit children” (Doctrine and Covenants and Church History, [hereafter noted as “D&C”], p. 106).

Sally, the Bible teaches that God created man on the sixth day of creation. There was no pre-mortal existence:  

27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 2:27)
2. “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man, and sits enthroned in yonder heavens!!! . . . We have imagined that God was God from all eternity. I will refute that idea and take away the veil, so that you may see,” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 345).
God used to be a man on another planet, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 321; Joseph Smith, Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 613-614; Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, vol. 2, p. 345; Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, vol. 7, p. 333).

Sally, the Bible teaches that God the Father (YHWH) is not a man:

19 God is not human, that he should lie,
 not a human being, that he should change his mind.
    Does he speak and then not act?
 Does he promise and not fulfill? (Nu. 23:19 NIV)

It also teaches that Jesus, THE Son of God was fully human - the incarnation of God Himself, in human flesh: 

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. (Matt. 1:18 NIV)

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (I John 1:14 NIV)

3. God the Father had a Father, (Joseph Smith, History of the Church, vol. 6, p. 476; Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 19; Milton Hunter, First Council of the Seventy, Gospel through the Ages, p. 104-105).

Sally, the Bible does not teach that. God has always been and will always be. There was no one before Him, for He is the beginning and source of all good things. God as Father is not “begotten” of anyone. Jesus the Son is begotten of the Father, that is, Jesus is God’s unique Son. Through the new birth that Jesus offers, people become sons and daughters of God:

 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (I John 1:35-36 NIV)

29 If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him. (I John 2:29 NIV)

3 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. (I John 3:1-3 NIV)

4. There is a mother god, (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 443). God is married to his goddess wife and has spirit children, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 516).

Again, the Bible does not teach that. The children of God are quite human, because we all descended from Adam and Eve, who are God’s creation. Adam received God’s breath of life (spirit) only after he had a body.  Man never existed as merely a spirit prior to receiving a body.

5. The first spirit to be born in heaven was Jesus, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 129). Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163; Gospel Through the Ages, p. 15). “Therefore we know that both the Father and the Son are in form and stature perfect men; each of them possesses a tangible body . . . of flesh and bones,” (Articles of Faith, by James Talmage, p. 38).

6. The Devil was born as a spirit after Jesus “in the morning of pre-existence,” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 192). Jesus and Satan are spirit brothers and we were all born as siblings in heaven to them both, (Mormon Doctrine, p. 163).

Sally:  Satan, which means “adversary,” was a created angelic being once known as Lucifer. Jesus the Son is part of the Godhead and is not a spirit brother to a fallen angelic creature! It is blasphemy to give Satan the same stature as Jesus Christ.

7. A plan of salvation was needed for the people of earth so Jesus offered a plan to the Father and Satan offered a plan to the Father. Jesus’ plan was accepted. In effect the Devil wanted to be the Savior of all Mankind and to “deny men their agency in order to dethrone God,” (Mormon Doctrine, p. 193; Journal of Discourses, vol. 6, p. 8).

Sally:  Satan was the reason a plan of salvation was needed in the first place. He tempted Eve in the garden, she and Adam sinned, and it all went downhill from there. The idea that God would entertain a plan of salvation from the devil is just ridiculous! Satan is a thief, a liar, a deceiver, and a destroyer. This is what Jesus had to say about it:

10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10 NIV)

(continued in part 2)

Dr. Nelson is Pastor Emeritus, Roswell Street Baptist Church · Former Pastor, Oak Park Baptist Church New Orleans, Louisiana. You can find Dr. Price’s complete article here:

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Monk Was Right - It's A Jungle Out There!

    One of my all-time favorite television programs is “Monk.” Adrian Monk, the character played by actor Tony Shalhoub, is a brilliant police detective who has been sidelined from the San Francisco Police Department over the issue of his obsessive-compulsive disorder. His psychiatric problems developed in the wake of the tragic loss of his beloved wife, Trudy. His whole world disintegrated with her death, and now he copes by trying to keep everything around him as clean and orderly as possible. Beyond possible, actually, which makes for some pretty hilarious antics as he consults on puzzling crimes for the SFPD.
    Monk is very gifted as a crime-solver, but he is also a major hypochondriac and almost completely self-absorbed. He requires a full-time assistant to help him safely engage the contaminated and disorderly world around him. One of her main jobs is to keep him supplied with sanitary wipes because, as that great Randy Newman theme song declares, “it’s a jungle out there!”

Newman sings,
    People think I'm crazy, 'cause I worry all the time
    If you paid attention, you'd be worried too.
    You better pay attention or this world we love so much
    Might just kill you

Monk theme song, "It's A Jungle Out There"  

    Truthfully, I think Mr. Monk may be on to something, OCD or not.  I’ve suspected for some time now that I really could no longer eat with the same reckless disregard for nutritional content and calories that I did when I was younger. So I started reading up on nutrition and healthy eating. I also found lots of interesting lectures and documentaries to watch on Youtube.  And you know what? Mr. Monk was right - it’s a jungle out there!

    Did you know, for example, that modern wheat is the crack cocaine of food?  According to Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly, we’re not eating the same wheat our grandparents did. Today’s version of wheat - which is found in practically all processed foods now - is actually an appetite stimulant. Two slices of whole wheat bread, like the ones in your low-fat turkey sandwich, will raise your blood sugar higher than a Snickers bar. A SNICKERS BAR, FOR PETE’S SAKE!  Come on! Like me, you’ve been eating whole wheat bread trying to be healthy.  Only it turns out that this so-called “healthy whole wheat” is not so good for you.  In fact, it’s probably the reason you’ve been packing on the pounds, no matter how much you exercise and pay attention to your diet. 

    Dr. Davis, a cardiologist, advised his diabetic-prone patients to try eliminating wheat from their diet. Those who complied began to report significant weight loss of 20 and 30 pounds or more in the first few months. Patients experienced plenty of other health benefits, too. Symptoms of acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome disappeared. Energy and focus improved. They slept better. Skin rashes cleared up. Rheumatoid arthritis pain improved. Asthma improved or disappeared entirely.  His diabetic patients became non-diabetics primarily by eliminating a “healthy food,” namely wheat, from their diet.

    Well, if we can't trust the wheat, at least we can count on clean drinking water, right? Most American cities add fluoride to the public drinking water because it’s supposed to prevent tooth decay.  However, according to research done by Dr. Russell Blaylock, a board certified neurosurgeon and wellness advocate, the early evidence did not show that adding fluoride to drinking water made any difference. In 1945, social engineers selected two Michigan test cities, Grand Rapids and Muskegon, to promote the idea of fluoridating the public’s drinking water. Grand Rapids got the fluoridation, Muskegon did not. Even before the testing was completed, it was gleefully announced that the amount of dental cavities in Grand Rapids had dropped 30 to 60%.  What they didn’t bother to tell anyone, however, was that the results were similar in Muskegon, which did not get the fluoridated water.  The decrease in cavities should have been attributed to the improved diet being enjoyed throughout the world at that time, not to water fluoridation. In fact, later testing has shown that fluoride is more likely to weaken dental enamel than to harden it. Not to mention that it accumulates in the body as a toxin.  You know, like arsenic.

    What we know today about about fluoridating water, per Dr. Blaylock, is that it increases the cancer risk. His estimate is that cancer rates are up by 10% since we started fluoridating water. Yet, incredibly, U.S. policy makers and governing bodies continue to insist that the public’s water must be fluoridated. Why? So our corpses won’t have any cavities? 

Fluoride’s Deadly Secret  

    Cancer treatment options are yet another mine field to be navigated by too many of us
. If you should develop cancer, God forbid, you will only be advised in the United States about surgery, radiation and chemotherapy - and two of the three are carcinogenic, i.e. “cancer causing,” therapies. Does that seem to any one like the best approach?  Cancer research fund raisers are all based on the appeal that if we pump enough money into research, scientists will eventually find a drug that will cure cancer once and for all. That would be outstanding, to be sure. Yet documented cancer cures have been available for over seventy-five years. If you don’t believe me, read about people like Dr. Max Gerson, who was healing terminal cancer and other diseases in Germany prior to Hitler’s rise to power and World War II. There’s Dr. Tullio Simoncini, an Italian oncologist who more recently observed that all cancer seems to originate from fungii (candida albicans). He had great success in the 1980s treating cancer by introducing a solution of inexpensive sodium bicarbonate (aka “baking soda”) directly into the area of a cancerous tumor.  When he presented his findings, however, they were ignored by the Italian medical establishment. They even disbarred Dr. Simoncini from practicing medicine at that time, and he was practically laughed out of Italy. Why? For using “a therapy that hadn’t been approved by the authorities.” I bet he cured cancer on the sabbath, too.

Read about Dr. Simoncini’s work

    Unfortunately, at least for drug companies, these inexpensive, natural cancer treatments can’t be patented and sold for huge profits. Let’s face it, treating cancer is a huge business. Where is any incentive, then, for conventional medical practitioners caught up in the machinations of the cancer industry to acknowledge and further develop the pioneering work of successful cancer healers? I’m afraid there is much more zeal in the corporate world to protect financial interests than there is to actually cure cancer.

Watch the documentary, "Cancer: The Forbidden Cures" 

     What a fine mess we're in! Our wheat is addictive, our water is poisonous, and accepted cancer treatments are cancer causing.  Just how is the average person supposed to navigate the treacherous path to a healthy lifestyle, given all the obstacles? Well, if you’re trying to lose weight, try losing the wheat. If you want safe drinking water, write your congressman - and switch to carrot juice. Pray that you and your loved ones never develop a life-threatening cancer.  And do your level best to take good care of your earth suit, because Monk was right the whole time -  it IS a jungle out there!

Lynn DeShazo

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dust Flies When You're Having Fun

   I’m remodeling my kitchen. Well, it would be more accurate to say that I’m having my kitchen remodeled, meaning someone else is doing the heavy lifting. I am, however, doing plenty of work myself in the midst of the work being done. My task list includes:

Stuff Assessment - Do I really need to keep all the stuff that I just moved out of the kitchen and family room? I mean, when is the last time I actually used the Tupperware orange rind scorer, and why am I hanging onto that Coca Cola bottle with the Chinese writing?  It is kinda cool though.  

Dust Duty - Workmen come, do their work, and create a lot of dust in the process. Workmen leave at the end of the day, but the dust remains. I do my best to keep other rooms closed off while the crew is here, but the dust goes pretty much everywhere in the house. So when the last worker heads out, my shift begins. I sweep up a bit, vacuum, and otherwise trying to keep the chaos corralled as much as possible because I don’t leave at the end of the day.

Stress Management -   I’m not into stress eating yet, but there are two bags of potato chips on standby. On a more healthful note, my friends and family have given me dining privileges in their homes or the pleasure of their company out somewhere. What a blessing it is to break bread in calmer, cleaner surroundings.  

Comptroller - A comptroller is the person who keeps tabs on income and expenditures for a business. I’ve got a great handle on the outgo part of this remodel, let me tell you. This American is doing her part to stimulate the local economy. It’s the income I’m a little concerned about. I may have to give serious thought to the “Kitchen Remodel Tour.”

    Despite all the dust, aggravation and expense that goes along with a house remodeling project, I truly love it. I don’t enjoy living in the midst of it so much, but I love watching the transformation as vision becomes reality. I find it very soul-satisfying to see the old and worn become new and beautiful again. Surely my personal sense of enjoyment must be a small reflection of the nature of God the Creator within me, His created one.  The Lord Jesus was a builder by trade while He walked among us, you know. I imagine He enjoys a good remodeling project, especially one that makes a worn and sin-weary life new again through the miracle of the new birth. And then there’s those ongoing sanctification “updates” the Holy Spirit oversees in the lives of believers. We are His workmanship in more ways than one (see Ephesians 2:10).

    Proverbs 14:4 says, “Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.” Where there’s a good work going on, you can count on some dust being raised.  After all, dust flies when you’re having fun.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Methane Rising

Welcome to January - that hopeful month in which untold numbers across the nation make resolutions to put off their bad habits and take up good ones. We’re only two weeks or so into the new year and already a plethora of ads for gyms memberships and weight loss programs have flooded everyone’s mailboxes - both e-mail and “snail mail” versions. The turning over of a new year also marks the time when many evangelical Christians will begin a 21-day spiritual exercise known as the “Daniel fast.” Thousands of normally indiscriminate diners will purposely give up their usual devil-may-care dietary fare for all the vegetables, fruit, legumes and water they can stand. It’s all for the purpose of drawing closer to God in prayer - with the added perk of dropping some unwanted pounds.

    “So who is this Daniel guy and why is there a fast named after him?” you ask. If you’ve read much of the Old Testament you’re not asking that question at all. But in case you haven’t, here goes.  Daniel was a young Jewish man who had the misfortune of being carried off into exile when the Babylonians invaded Israel around 605 BC. However, the Lord gave Daniel much favor in the eyes of his captors and he soon found himself selected to receive training to be in the personal service of King Nebuchadnezzar. So were three of his Hebrew buddies. They even got new Babylonian names: Belteshazzar, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego - or, as the late comic Richard Pryor used to say, “A Bad Negro.” But I digress.

    As trainees for imperial service, Daniel and his friends were privileged with a meal plan from the king’s own commissary. This presented the young men with a serious dilemma, however, as the food wasn’t exactly kosher. The Bible describes the king’s food as “choice,” which sounds to me like it wasn’t very heart-healthy, either. More to the point, the meat had been sacrificed to the gods of the Babylonians. What’s a good Hebrew to do? In Daniel’s case, he made a very wise appeal to the man responsible for his training.  “Sir, I’m a little concerned about the royal food and wine the king has so graciously provided us, so I’d like to propose a test. How about letting us Hebrews eat only vegetables and drink only water for the next ten days? If we don’t look healthier than these other guys in our recruiting class, we’ll eat the king’s food from then on. Otherwise, we’d like permission to “keep kosher” while we’re here in Babylonia. What do you say?”  Amazingly, Daniel’s appeal was granted and the test was on. While the rest of the trainees chowed down on Baby-lonia-back ribs, Chaldean cheese fries and all the king’s vino they could drink, it was only veggies galore and water for the God Squad. Sure enough, at the end of the ten days, Daniel and his friends looked much healthier than their peers. That’s because they actually were healthier.

    You see, Daniel and company were used to eating lots of vegetables and whole grains back in Israel.  Oh, and lamb, of course. The point is, they were accustomed to ingesting lots of roughage; most Americans are not. Why, there’s probably more fiber in the cardboard box that our overly-processed food comes in than in our actual food. A typical American “Daniel-faster” is introduced to much more fiber in his daily meals than he’s probably eaten over the previous 11 months put together. This presents a dilemma of the kind the ancients rarely faced; I like to refer to it as “methane rising.” This could be the title of one of those battle action video games, now that I think about it. After a few days of eating more beans, peas, and cruciferous vegetables in one sitting than they’ve see in a year, people are blowing up all over the place.

    Gastronomic difficulties aside, the story of Daniel’s attempt to remain faithful to God in the midst of Babylon is how eating lots of fruits and vegetables, otherwise known as “food,” became associated with fasting in the contemporary American church. I’ve explained the grocery list for a Daniel fast, but where does the 21-day period come from?  Well, that’s also found in the Book of Daniel, chapter 10 verse 1-4:

    “In the third year of Cyrus king of Persia, a revelation was given to Daniel (who was called Belteshazzar). Its message was true and it concerned a great war.  The understanding of the message came to him in a vision. ‘At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips; and I used no lotions at all until the three weeks were over.’” (NIV Bible)

Daniel was now much older and had survived multiple adminis-trations. He was so burdened by the nature of God’s revelation to him, that he began to pray with unusual fervency, even for him.  He returned to the spartan fare of his youth and didn’t bother much about his external appearance. His focus was to humble himself and pray until God answered him on behalf of the destiny of the Jews.  It took 21 days, but finally the answer came. The Book of Daniel chapters 10, 11 and 12  record one of the most stunning revelations of prophecy ever given to a servant of God. Daniel’s willingness to fast and pray with focus and determination brought the break- through he needed.

    I’ve poked a little fun at the way I and my fellow believers carry out the “Daniel fast,” but the reality is that fasting, even a partial fast such as the one taken from Daniel’s example, is a powerful spiritual discipline when accompanied by prayer. Sometimes the only way to get the answers you need from heaven is to fast earthly things as you pray.