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"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up."

Arthur Koestler 

Friday
Apr222011

Flee From Babylon?

A friend on a private forum asked me if I thought he should flee. He was not serious, but I thought it worth a look. The passage he had in mind is in Rev 18:

(Warning to Escape Babylon’s Judgment) 

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “‘Come out of her, my people,’  so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes.”

Does this mean that one should sell everything, move to a remote area, and wait for the apocalypse? Some say yes. While the answer for me is no, there is some historical information that favors a yes.

Jesus said this in Mat 24:

15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again.”

And this in Luke 21:

20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city.”

Historically this was fulfilled in the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. Suddenly the Romans armies surrounded the city, trapping everyone, Christian and non-Christian alike, in the city. Just as suddenly, they left. The revolutionary Zealots rejoiced, for God had delivered them! Christians had a different opinion. They left immediately and journeyed to Pella across the Jordan River.  Jesus' command not to take possessions was good advice because of the political situation.  In addition to the need for haste, it would have been viewed as "unpatriotic" to leave Jerusalem at the height of her victory and God-ordained deliverance. So loading up a wagon would have been dangerous. Instead, Jesus was advising haste and secrecy. Most Christians obeyed and left quickly. Very soon the Roman armies returned, Jerusalem was put under siege, and the people inside the city starved—some even ate their own children. This echoes Rev 6:

5 When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6 Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!”

When the city fell, any survivors were enslaved. The number of slaves was so large that the price of slaves dropped to bargain levels for years.

One should not interpret this the way one church did in the early 1970s. They were absolutely convinced that they too would flee to Jordan. Not flee from the troubled Judea, but flee from America to Jordan. They never explained why Jordan would allow 144,000 people to suddenly arrive there, although the leader of the church had many meetings with various dignitaries in the Middle East. Nor did they explain the logistics. One prominent minister suggested that DC-9s would be used.  A fleet of these had all been recently grounded because of metal fatigue which had resulted in 9-inch cracks in the wings. He suggested that the church could buy the fleet at rock-bottom prices, and God would provide 10-inch angels to make the planes safe. The same kind of foolishness is advocated by some religious leaders today. Flee from the wrath to come!

In my next blog post I will explain why I did the exact opposite of what these pundits recommend, and moved from rural Missouri to a community 3 hours from Los Angeles

Tuesday
Apr122011

Food Storage?

From Mises.org:

The May 30, 1918, New York Times carried the headline, "Navy Man Indicted for Food Hoarding." It reported on a man who had invested his wife's inheritance in a year's food for storage; and so they were held on a $3,000 bail each. The food was confiscated.

There is quite a lot of buzz in certain circles about food storing. The example from the Mises article shows some of the dangers. If you decide the buzz is correct and you buy food it would be best not to tell anyone. What no one knows you have no one can take. 

I think that having some food stored is a good idea for three reasons. First, it is a good investment in this current food inflationary environment. Food is going up in cost rapidly. Secondly, in this economy one can never be certain about your employment. Imagine how pleased you would be with a few months of food in your pantry if you or your wife are laid off. Another reason is the risk of natural disasters. While no one seems to be starving in Japan, those with some food stored did well. This assumes that their house was not destroyed by the quake or the flood of the tsunami. A Christian can also share with their neighbors. Unless society deteriorates to resemble a bad post-Apocalypse movie, having food for yourself and food to share seems like a good idea. If society does get that bad, you will die; and the food will be stolen. 

But there is no reason to buy the pre-made "survival" food. I just recently threw out all the food my mom purchased for the supposed Y2K "crisis." Some of it we did use, for example we added the soup mix to the pot whenever we made soup. But all the MRE packages we threw out. These pre-made emergency meals are not something you would ever eat unless you had to. 

You should store what you eat, and eat what you store. Let's say your family eats green bean cassole once a month. Then you should gradually have 12 cans of green beans, 6 cans of cream of mushroom soup (we use cream of chicken), and 6 cans of the onion topping. You would gradually buy more when these items were on sale, and build up your pantry. Having a well-stocked pantry is smart, having boxes of expensive survival food in your garage is not. 

 

Positive Dennis

Tuesday
Mar292011

Offering Incense to Caesar

Ancient Christians in the first century had a problem. In order to be a resident (not even a citizen) in good standing one had to acknowledge that the emperor was supreme. The procedure was to go before a magistrate and burn incense to the "genius" of Caesar. From the modern perspective it really does not seem to be a big deal. Caesar, after all, was the legitimate ruler. According to Rom 13, Caesar was the servant of God. What could be wrong in acknowledging that fact? After all, we must give to Caesar the things of Caesar. Isn't that what Jesus taught? 

But even though the financial benefits were significant, and the punishment for disobedience dire, Christians in the first century felt that they could not pledge allegiance to the representation of Caesar in front of the magistrate. The temptation to conform was intense. 

This issue is under discussion in Revelation 2:

 12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

Pergamum was one of the cities in Asia minor that had a temple dedicated to Caesar. While it is not certain that Antipas' death was related to this issue due to a lack of information, with a Ceasarian temple in Pergamum, it is logical. Refusal to acknowledge Caesar in this way was the primary cause of persecution in the first century.

We do have the details of one martyrdom over this issue:

Polycarp  8:2 And he was met by Herod the captain of police and his father Nicetes, who also removed him to their carriage and tried to prevail upon him, seating themselves by his side and saying, 'Why what harm is there in saying, Caesar is Lord, and offering incense', with more to this effect, 'and saving thyself?' But he at first gave them no answer. When however they persisted, he said, 'I am not going to do what ye counsel me.'

Looking at this from the modern perspective, why not offer the incense? Surely God does not want Polycarp to die over such a seemingly trivial thing? Polycarp did not look at it that way. 

Polycarp 9:2 When then he was brought before him, the proconsul enquired whether he were the man. And on his confessing that he was, he tried to persuade him to a denial saying, 'Have respect to thine age,' and other things in accordance therewith, as it is their wont to say; 'Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the atheists.' Then Polycarp with solemn countenance looked upon the whole multitude of lawless heathen that were in the stadium, and waved his hand to them; and groaning and looking up to heaven he said, 'Away with the atheists.'

The reason Christians were considered atheists was they refused to acknowledge and pledge allegiance to the State. 

Polycarp 9:3 But when the magistrate pressed him hard and said, 'Swear the oath, and I will release thee; revile the Christ,' Polycarp said, 'Fourscore and six years have I been His servant, and He hath done me no wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King who saved me?'

So Polycarp was burned alive.  

Is this just an interesting historical incident, or is there something we can learn from it? Have we Christians today become so involved with the State that we are doing the modern equivalent of offering incense to Caesar? A delicate juggling act may be required to be in the world, yet not be of the world. While it is very difficult to know where one should draw the line, this is an issue that deserves a closer look. 

 

 

Monday
Mar282011

Do the Best You Can

I was reading though the Didache recently. The Didache (Greek for "teaching") was written about 75 to 120 AD and gave mostly good advice on many issues. It shows one very early trend that has haunted the church over the years, Anti-Semitism. It is mild in the Didache, but it does exist.  Some of their issues are difficult for us to relate to. Meat sacrificed to idols is an example. Most meat purchased at the market would have been offered to idols. Paul was discussing these issues in Romans 14. Many had become defacto vegetarians so they would not eat such meat.  Romans 14:

1Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters. 2 One person’s faith allows them to eat anything, but another, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables. 3 The one who eats everything must not treat with contempt the one who does not, and the one who does not eat everything must not judge the one who does, for God has accepted them. 4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

The important thing is not to condemn those who decide differently from you. The Didache makes this mistake and condemns the Jews because they fast on different days than the Christians do! This is hard for us modern Christians to relate to as the only place we fast is on the freeway.  But with regard to eating meat sacrificed to idols, the Didache has it right. No doubt Paul has influenced them here. 

Chapter 6. See that no one causes you to err from this way of the Teaching, since apart from God it teaches you. For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly careful; for it is the service of dead gods.

In other words, do the best you can.  This is one of my goals for this blog, to do the best I can. I think that this principle also applies to the material on this blog. Jesus told his disciples to be in the world, but not to be of the world. The advice of the Didache is good. Do the best you can.

Sunday
Mar272011

Bon Voyage

Surely we do not need another podcast or blog? Maybe not, but there is a problem. God's people, God's frozen people, seem to be unable to obey Rev 18: 

4 Then I heard another voice from heaven say: “‘Come out of her, my people,’ so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; 5 for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. 6 Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Pour her a double portion from her own cup. 7 Give her as much torment and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself.  In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit enthroned as queen. I am not a widow; I will never mourn.’ 8 Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine.  She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.

It seems to me that some Christians, maybe to one degree or another all Christians, are dwelling in that evil city of Babylon the Great. God has many people there. This blog and podcast is dedicated to those people as they make the lifelong journey away from that city and toward another and better city. Bon voyage. 

Positive Dennis

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