Tuesday, March 29, 2005

"The Great Satan"

“For countries who hold to a strict religious code of conduct for {their} citizens … the filth that passes for American entertainment is extremely disgusting. This is true even to many Americans. This single fact alone is why many of the Muslim clerics call America, “The Great Satan.”

Dean & Susan Wheelock
Hebrew Roots
July/August/September 2001

Guides to biblical reference books

Surveys describing and evaluating available books help one know "where to look" for the best in Biblical helps.

The most comprehensive survey of recent biblical reference books is:

Commentary & Reference Survey: a comprehensive guide to Biblical and theological resources by John Glynn, 2003 by Kregel Publications. It is complete, concise and the single most useful such reference. It attempts to note the theological stance of each author and highlights what he considers to be higher quality references. Some he tagged as "liberal/critical" -- such as Wenham on Leviticus -- well, I didn't notice it.

Also recent is Old Testament Commentary Survey, third edition, by Tremper Longman III, published by Baker Academic and InterVarsity Press, 2003. A paragraph about each book. I personally appreciate the added perspective. The 1995 second edition includes more analysis of a wider range of reference books related to the O.T, such as atlases, whereas the newer one limits itself to commentaries.

New Testament Commentary Survey, fifth edition, by D. A. Carson, published by Baker Academic and InterVarsity Press, 2001. Erudite analysis. Information conveyed in long paragraphs.

The authors of these references seem to be aware that their keenest readers may be looking for the best in conservative [i.e. Scripture-honoring] scholarship.

I also happen to have a 1981 second edition of John Goldingay's Old Testament Commentary Survey ... useful for those, like myself, who often buy books used.

With any of these references it is important to read the author's explanation of how it was designed to be used. Typically much information is encapsulated in abbreviations, et cetera.

-- Jeffrey Caldwell

Monday, March 28, 2005

Bless those who curse you!

The concluding words of Peter's sermon at the Gate Beautiful help us understand what God considers blessing for those running afoul of the Judge: "When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways." (Acts 3:26).

Christ’s command: "bless those who curse you" (Luke 6:28) is truly not onerous. In such a case "May God bless you" is a prayer -- a prayer God commands -- for the persecutor to "see the Light" and turn away from his or her evil ways. Anyone "cursing" you -- perhaps by hurling false accusations -- hates you [at least at that moment and in that instance] and is not interested in receiving anything good at your hand, nor in believing that anything good could come from you. Often such hatred directed towards a Christian comes from one who supposes he or she "is doing God” – or at least the truth – “a favor!" In a person with any conscience, there may be an internal struggle over refusing -- or considering contemptible -- the message "God bless you"! It "makes people think" and nothing, in such a case, is more helpful that they might see the Light. I've seen good results, so I commend our Master's command to all: "bless those who curse you"! In obeying the command, you serve as God’s messenger! Anyone who chooses to refuse God's blessing from you, which God commanded you to give them, whether they realize it or not, displays an "in your face" attitude towards the rightful Ruler and Judge! God is freer to deal “fairly” with a rebel who has the temerity to be contemptuous to His face, as it were (Matthew 25:40).

As for myself, longing to be loved, it is natural for me to truly desire that one cursing me should come to "see the Light" and repent. I find it easier yet to imagine that repentance is the outcome our Father desires, and all heaven with Him. To "bless those who curse you" is actually, rightly understood, a "light yoke" and even a pleasant duty. In my experience "it makes people think" in a constructive way. And if they refuse to respond constructively, then the "heavy burden" they intend to lay upon you in cursing you – is laid upon them! Haters are perplexed if not vexed by the unexpected response. They "give up" overt attacks, concluding, I suppose, that the one "blessing" them is too perverse to influence in the manner intended by their "curses"! In such a case the Way gives his servant relief, even if cessation of attack is not as gratifying as an enemy's repentance. After a little while, if unable to get it out of their minds, they may repent.

So, it is wise and right and fair and constructive to "bless those who curse you"! Thereby one sees the Holy One "guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones" (Proverbs 2:8). Carefully keeping this command brings about fulfillment of the promise: "I will be an enemy to your enemies and will oppose those who oppose you." (Exodus 23:22). This "light yoke" perfectly illustrates the principle: "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5).

If somehow you misapply this command, blessing a person you think “curses” you but actually rebukes you in the name of YHVH, little harm done. If the one who seems to curse you is really working for God, the blessing is hardly wasted!

This command is also helpful, for us here far below, to be mindful that blessing is the end our heavenly Father really wants for everyone, no matter how far from the right way they may have strayed!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Health -- and holiness

"Health" is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, third edition, as follows:
1.The overall condition of an organism at a given time. 2. Soundness, especially of body or mind; freedom from disease or abnormality. 3. A condition of optimal well-being: concerned about the ecological health of the area. 4. A wish for someone’s good health often expressed as a toast. [Middle English helthe, from Old English haelth. See kailo- in Appendix.]
kailo- is the Indo-European root for “health” and other words. Looking into the roots of words is extremely edifying. God, originally, gave language, and insight may be derived from root words.
kailo-. Important derivatives are whole, wholesome, health, heal, holy, and hallow.
These are the important words from the same root – look at the company that “health” keeps!
kailo-. Whole, uninjured, of good omen. 1.a. HALE, WHOLE, from Old English hal, hale, whole; b. WHOLESOME, from Old English *halsum (>Middle English holsum), wholesome; c. (HAIL); WASSAIL, from Old Norse heill, healthy; a, b, and c all from Germanic *hailaz. 2. HEALTH, from Old English haelth, from Germanic *hailitho. 3. HEAL, from Old English haelan, to heal, from Germanic *hailjan. 4.a. HOLY, from Old English halig, holy, sacred b. HALLOW, from Old English halgian, to consecrate, bless, from Germanic derivative verb *hailagon. Both a and b from Germanic *hailagaz. [Pokorny kai-lo 520].
John, Christ's apostle, says:
“Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” (3 John 2, NIV).
Holiness, wholesomeness and health are very closely related words. They all have to do with being perfectly – optimally – sound and whole! This word study lends credence to the belief that one should eat “whole” foods for health – rather than fractionated or highly altered foods, such as white sugar and white flour and partially hydrogenated fats.

Recent scientific research confirms that whole natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and wine have many health-enhancing and protecting qualities that industrially “refined” foods lack.
“If everyone ate at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, that alone would reduce cancer incidence by as much as 20 percent,” says Melanie Polk, director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research. (Newsweek, Winter 2001, Special Edition, Health for Life, page 45).
Newsweek summarizes the findings of a 25-year study of 120,000 nurses by Harvard Medical School researchers in What the Nurses Know:
Eat Right. This one is trickier than it sounds. “The type of fat is more important than the quantity of fat,” says Manson. “There are good fats and there are bad fats.” Many “low fat” processed snacks (and most brands of margarine) are oozing with artery-clogging transsaturated fats, also known as “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.” The nurse’s study exposed their previously unsuspected role as the deadliest form of dietary fat. Stick with natural snacks such as nuts and fruits. And remember that overdosing on sugar can be as bad as too much fat.”
Manson is one of the four main co-authors of Healthy Women, Healthy Lives, the book they wrote. Partially hydrogenated fats, produced by industrial processing, are unnatural, and unlike whole natural fats, have no nutritional value other than calories. Their “shelf life” is very long, and they're good carriers for flavors and colors, which explains their popularity with food processors. But for your health they are much worse than lard!
Macular degeneration “is the leading cause of blindness in those over 65. It’s devastating and irreversible. But you can help prevent it by packing your diet with a compound called lutein, which is found in dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach and collard greens. Lutein works in two ways. As an antioxidant, it absorbs the free radicals that damage the rods and cones in the macula, the supersensitive center of the retina. As a yellow pigment, it also absorbs energetic blue light before it can injure the rods and cones. “Lutein functions as internal sunglasses,” says Billy Hammond, professor of vision science at the University of Georgia.

Lutein also helps reduce the incidence of cataracts, which arise from a lifetime of free-radical damage to the lens of the eye. The Nurses’ Health Study from Harvard found that those who dined regularly on two especially lutein-rich foods – spinach and kale – had up to 40 percent fewer cataract surgeries. Those who eat the most foods rich in vitamin C also reduce their risks, according to a new study from Tufts.” (Newsweek, page 46).
Your parents really have your best interests at heart when they enjoin you to “eat your spinach”!