Saturday, April 30, 2005

Jawbones Agape

Out of the several hundred million spermatozoa entering the female reproductive tract, under the right circumstances only one is enabled to penetrate the secondary oocyte. The processes preceding fertilization are extremely complex. It requires approximately ten hours to complete the chemical processes necessary for the spermatozoon to become capable to enter the oocyte. This same process weakens the membrane around the acrosome of the sperm cell. As the male cell contacts the corona radiata of the female cell the enzymes released by the deteriorating acrosome ‘eats’ through the outer layer of the egg as well as the underlying glycoprotein layer, the zona pellucida, allowing the spermatozoon to enter the oocyte. The oocyte then undergoes a change that causes its outer layers to block entry of other spermatozoa. The male undergoes more changes in conjunction with the female changes to make way for the two haploids to combine into one diploid cell, the zygote. The single celled zygote has the full genetic complement. He or she now begins intricate physical developmental stages.

Visible, microscopic changes begin in about a day and a half. The single cell cleaves into two. After two days there are four cells, then after three days there are sixteen ‘blastomeres’. Shortly afterwards, the individual is termed a morula. At this point its total size is the same as the original zygote. The morula develops into a blastocyst. After six days the blastocyst implants into the uterine endometrium. Surprisingly the embryo’s antigens do not cause attack and rejection by the mother’s antibodies.

The embryo develops three germ layers that each eventually become the different systems and organs that we recognize in human anatomy. Neither the baby nor the mother participates in the completion of these processes.

After the birth of the child, growth and other kinds of developments occur naturally without human assistance. Food, medicine, and other cares are done, but they only provide an environment for development.

As far as the child is able to understand, the whole universe revolves around him. Hunger, elimination mush, or other discomforts elicit a demand for action. ‘Hop to it, my servants!’

Hopefully after a period of time the child must learn that the universe and all that it contains do not bow to his wishes. What a disappointing shock. Needs are still taken care of at another’s expense, but his desires are regularly subject to frustration.

As growth continues, intellectual and cultural education is given by the hand and at the expense of others. The child learns to use technology produced by others and is dependent on others for a multitude of life’s benefits.

His physiological processes also continue without his direction. His heart pumps, he breathes, his cells undergo all metabolic mechanisms without his conscious effort.

In spite of all these facts, man continues to hold and increase in faith that he is the ‘captain of his own soul, the master of his own fate’. In conjunction, many even metamorphose into the ‘captain of other souls, the master of other fates’. ‘I shall be as God, choosing what is good and what is evil.’

“There is no greater fool than he that says, ‘There is no God,’ unless it be the one who says he does not know whether there is one or not.”– Bismarck

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Corrupt Jawbones

It has been written, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely." As exhilaratingly heady as this may make its champions feel, it makes a common fundamental mistake. In modernist/post-modernist thought, this sentiment misleads from its presuppositions. It assumes that the environment is the corruptor of the man; in this case, an environment of power corrupts.

With this, the statement can be used as a double-edged sword. Those determined to be corrupted can be blugeoned from a philosophical/political standpoint, while allies stand upon their inherent birthright of righteousness. Also, of great political benefit, is the assertion that the wise and uncorrupted can defend the 'weak-minded' inferiors that are constantly under threat from corrupted powers that be. A further corollary is that there exist those who are above the evil allures of environmental influences and can direct society into their utopian promised land.

The egregious error committed here is denial that power is only a conduit from which pre-existing corruption can manifest. Mankind is born corrupt and brings that into all his dealings.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5, NIV)
But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man's testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man. (John 2:24-25, NIV)

Our nation's founders did not attempt to limit power because it corrupts. They knew that corrupt man abused power. The Constitution and Bill of Rights were meant to limit federal power and within itself to provide a check-and-balance system to protect freedom further.

Despite his massive popularity, George Washington refused a third term as president. He refused the temptation to coalesce power in his own hands because he knew, in his humility, that he could not be trusted with it. Unfortunately, none too few since have had this same humility of understanding.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Recycled Jawbones

There's nothing new under the sun.

With regularity, God just cracks me up. Often He does so with personal pranks-- situations of the genre of a dropped dollar bill being blown just out of reach as I attempt to pick it up or, when grumbling to myself about some unrelated circumstance, as I open a door, it hits my foot and I whack my forehead into its corner while trying to enter the portal. Incidents like that would anger me at an earlier point in my life, but now cause me to laugh as I pull a mock shake-of-the-fist toward God while rubbing my forehead. (He just did it again! It took me 13 tries to spell 'while' correctly.) I had feared that as I became more faithful in life's little irritants that He would give me bigger ones to help train me. He just smiles and reminds me that after 46 years of bachelorhood, he allowed me to marry. Oh, yeah, I have some distance to go on that one. (He who finds a wife finds what is good, He who finds a wife finds what is good, He who finds a wife finds the backside of the desert, huh?)

It is more rare, however, that I laugh unto incontinence while reading Scripture. Ezekiel? I guess that I have never read the whole NIV. For years I read King James, now the New American Standard. Presently, I'm reading through the English Standard. A verse in Ezekiel 23 caught my attention as it appeared to be describing something unusual. Comparisons to the NAS and KJV weren't quite so direct so it never dawned on me before. But the NIV... As a portion of the listed transgressions of Oholibah (Jerusalem) for which they were overrun by Nebachadnezzar... "There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." Ezekiel 23:20 (NIV) I thought I was going to die! Preview blurbs for many modern TV shows and movies. (Desperate Housewives comes to mind, although I've only seen commercials for it and the Monday Night Football intro. So please forgive me if I have mischaracterized it.) I will never look at an Enzyte commercial in quite the same way again, either. (And, no, I will not rename my blog, 'Genitals of an Ass'!)

There is NOTHING NEW under the sun. Therefore, as both Oholibah and the modern housewives may be desperate, they could never be termed 'disparate'.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Jawbones Set Like Flint

In 1621, the English settlers in the Plymouth Colony held an observation of Thanksgiving. Awesome.

"A few quotations will throw more light upon the spirit of these pious adventurers than all we can say of them. Nathaniel Morton, the historian of the first years of the settlement, thus opens his subject:

"Gentle Reader, - I have for some length of time looked upon it as a duty incumbent, especially on the immediate successors of those that have had so large experience of those many memorable and signal demonstrations of God's goodness, viz., the first beginners of this Plantation in New England, to commit to writing his gracious dispensations on that behalf; having so many inducements thereunto, not onely otherwise but so plentifully in the Sacred Scriptures: that so, what we have seen, and what our fathers have told us (Psalm lxxviii. 3, 4), we may not hide from our children, showing to the generations to come the praises of the Lord; that especially the seed of Abraham his servant, and the children of Jacob his chosen (Psalm cv. 5, 6), may remember his marvellous works in the beginning and progress of the planting of New England, his wonders and the judgments of his mouth; how that God brought a vine into this wilderness; that he cast out the heathen, and planted it; that he made room for it and caused it to take deep root; and it filled the land (Psalm lxxx, 8, 9). And not onely so, but also that he hath guided his people by his strength to his holy habitation and planted them in the mountain of his inheritance in respect of precious Gospel enjoyments: and that as especially God may have the glory of all unto whom it is most due; so also some rays of glory may reach the names of those blessed Saints that were the main instruments and the beginning of this happy enterprise."

It is impossible to read this opening paragraph without an involuntary feeling of religious awe; it breathes the very savor of Gospel antiquity. The sincerity of the author heightens his power of language. The band which to his eyes was a mere party of adventurers gone forth to seek their fortune beyond seas appears to the reader as the germ of a great nation wafted by Providence to a predestined shore.

The author thus continues his narrative of the departure of the first pilgrims:

"So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years; but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. xi. 16), and therein quieted their spirits... But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loth to depart, their Reverend Pastor falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with most fervent prayers unto the Lord and his blessing; and then, with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them."

The emigrants were about 150 in number, including the women and the children. Their object was to plant a colony on the shores of the Hudson; but after having been driven about for some time in the Atlantic Ocean, they were forced to land on that arid coast of New England which is now the site of the town of Plymouth.

"But before we pass on," continues our historian, "let the reader with me make a pause and seriously consider this poor people's present condition, the more to be raised up to admiration of God's goodness towards them in their preservation: for being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectation, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns to repair unto to seek for succour: and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts. Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts, and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weather-beaten face, and the whole country full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew; if they looked behind them, there was the mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.""
(Democracy In America, Volume 1, de Tocqueville, Alexis, New York: The Colonial Press, 1899, Chapter II - Origin Of The Anglo-Americans, And Its Importance In Relation To Their Future Condition)

Before disembarking from the Mayflower, 41 of the Pilgrims wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact:

"In the name of God. Amen. We, whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread Sovereign Lord King James, etc., etc., Having undertaken for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian Faith, and the honour of our King and country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the northern parts of Virginia; Do by these presents solemnly and mutually, in the presence of God and one another, covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil body politick, for our better ordering and preservation, and furtherance of the ends aforesaid: and by virtue hereof do enact, constitute and frame such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and officers, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the Colony: unto which we promise all due submission and obedience," etc. (United States History 1600-1987, Immigration and Naturalization Service U.S. Department of Justice, 1987, I - Discovery And Colonization)

"The Pilgrims, fleeing from religious persecution in Europe, set sail for North America on their ship the Mayflower in 1620 using Captain Smith's 'A Description of New England' as a guide. Later that year they established a colony at Plymouth and set up a democratic government in accordance with the terms of the "Mayflower Compact," which was an agreement binding all to conform to the will of the majority. During the first harsh winter at Plymouth, more than half of the Pilgrim Colonists died, but in spite the weather and other hardships, including Indian attacks, the settlement soon began to prosper. A friendly local tribe known as the Wampanoag Indians were very helpful to the new settlers, teaching them special techniques for effectively farming the land and preparing for the long cold winters. These good relations resulted in the first Thanksgiving in 1621." (America: Past And Present, Divine, Robert A.; Breen, T.H.; Fredrickson, George M.; Williams, R. Hal, HarperCollins College Publishers, Inc., 1995, Chapter 2 - Competing Visions: English Colonization In The Seventeenth Century)

To sum up, the Pilgrims left their homes in England under persecution. They endured a lay-over in Leyden, Holland, for 11 years before crossing the Atlantic in setting out for The New World. (I've been on replicas of ships built in that era and can barely imagine spending months crowded on one while crossing an ocean.) They were blown off course and anchored at what was to become Plymouth, Massachussetts. They disembarked into an unknown wilderness with extremely harsh winters while having few survival skills. Long before the onset of the trip they sought the will of God, prayed for His blessing, and praised His goodness and continued to do so throughout. During the first winter half of them slowly suffered and died; wives, husbands, children, and friends. As the following winter approached, what did they do? They celebrated in Thanksgiving.

I suspect that these Pilgrims had more than just a 'mental, intellectual assent' to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had indeed lived the exhortation of the Apostle Paul in Romans 12:2-- "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Friday, April 08, 2005

Out of the Jawbones of Ovines

"Sheep are basically timid animals who tend to graze in flocks and are almost totally lacking in protection from predators." ('Sheep', Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2003)

Here is a politically correct statement made by the Encyclopaedia Britannica concerning the Ovine genus. Perhaps the writer feared accusations of being a 'speciesist' by the good professor Peter Singer or others of his ilk. Nevertheless, the meaning is still clear-- sheep are stupid and helpless.

"When he [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Matthew 9:36, NIV)

Jesus has struck a serious blow to the self-esteem movement. Yet His statements are not said with malice, but as an assertion of fact. Within the sphere of the created universe, seen as well as unseen, Mankind's wisdom and abilities are far from topping the All-Star list. Furthermore, in comparison to the omniscience and omnipotence of God, sheep are an apt description, if not an overestimation of man's power and ability. In this knowledge, Israel's King David referred to himself both as a worm and a dead dog.

"I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17)

A little child, like the sheep, is weak and dependent. Again, there is no place here for heightened self-esteem. Such esteem is properly reserved for God and His purposes.

To exacerbate matters, since Adam's sin, the sheep naturally flee from the protective shepherd, and the little child fights his introduction to Jesus in a way resembling the expectation of a vaccination or a session beneath the dentist's high pitched drill. They have not gotten any more intelligent nor have they the experience or strength to better thrive in the world, but somehow they 'know' better. It paints the picture of a bratty child throwing a tantrum in a grocery store or a 13 year old projecting his superior wisdom in rebellion against his parents and their rules while, at the same time, having his entire lifestyle subsidized by them.

In effect, Man is that pouty, red-faced, akimbo adolescent standing in rebellion before the Creator of the universe exclaiming, "My ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts are higher than your thoughts!" Of course, at the same time, every atom of his being as well as his 'breath of life' is dependent upon God's sustaining power. This is the unadulterated wisdom of a sheep. “God, you must change to suit me. You must follow the flock, become relevant, be hip, be cool.”

The impudent, acne-laden adolescent is having much of his way in our society. His tantrums, immature assertions, and post-modern ‘logical’ blather have been received with overly respectful reverence. Much of the ill-prepared church has succumbed to the modern allure of the odd amalgam of relativism, evolutionary naturalism, misdefined diversity, and selective tolerance.

As the unchanging, but supposedly prescientific Word of God is supplanted by modern philosophical and psychological ideas and methods in the daily life of the church, the Bible’s authority is usurped by a faddish ‘spirit of the age’. The sheep stray.

There are but two shepherds. Matthew and Luke render accounts of the display of the differences between their essences:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
Jesus answered, "It is written: `Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.' "
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written:
" `He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.' "
Jesus answered him, "It is also written: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.' "
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'
" (Matthew 4:1-10, NIV)

The Devil creates modern physical, philosophical, and psychological suppositions of needs and desires while warping the Scripture to attract and drive his flock for his purposes.

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NIV)

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NIV)

The Good Shepherd, Jesus, on the other hand, accurately handles the Scripture (as well as fulfilling it) and attracts and leads his flock for his purposes.

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, NIV)

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28, NIV)

Bob Dylan sang, “You’ve got to serve somebody. It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord...” Being fleeced by Satan may ‘feel’ good for a time, you inexorably are driven to a barbecue

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)

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13, NIV)

I am on the narrow road, not by my own discovery, wisdom, or strength. I do not deserve to be there. Jesus came and found me, took me through the narrow gate, and continually carries me along the narrow road.

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
(Psalm 23, NIV)


Friday, April 01, 2005

Itching Jawbones

Often in conversations with folks, one may hear the interjected phrase, ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ The content of the subject might be starving villagers in Africa, a serial killer sentenced to recline on ‘Ol’ Sparky’, or a friend experiencing marital or financial difficulties. Most certainly, in these cases, the phrase is legitimately apt. However, I strongly suspect that this ‘spiritually’ descriptive phrase is greatly misunderstood.

I have never heard anyone proclaim in a discussion of Michael Jordan, Bill Gates, George Washington, Thomas Edison, Britney Spears, or Julia Roberts, ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ It would be equally apt. A young woman, bedridden by Multiple Sclerosis, peers out of her window on a beautiful spring day and watches a family frolic in the nearby park. ‘There, but by the grace of God, go I.’ She understands the grace of God.

The Apostle Paul:

Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” (2 Cor. 11:24-28, NIV)

But by the grace of God I am what I am,...” (1 Cor. 15:10a, NIV)

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:11-13, NIV)

Peter, along with other Apostles in Jerusalem:

They called the apostles in and had them flogged. Then they ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5: 40b-41, NIV)

God’s grace, His love, and His righteousness do not conform to fit the zeitgeist of our post-modern, relative culture. Even much of the modern American church has been influenced by these half-truths.

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage--with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2TI 4:1-4, NIV)