Thursday, May 23, 2013

I Hate Mondays

Montagmorgen by Hans Baluschek

A Sabbath rest is good for me,
But builds on my complacency,
So at precisely _:30
I curse that dumb alarm.
I hate Mondays.

At work my eyes – they droop and drop
Or if they look, they’re seeing not
My brain is full of nothing hot
My mind means me great harm.
I hate Mondays.

The work I have does not get done.
My lunch is cold, and everyone
Seems ill at ease. We have no fun.
The day – it has no charm.
I hate Mondays.

I walk home drenched in summer pour
Thinking I can take no more
But then you meet me at the door
Affectionately warm.
I suppose they aren’t that bad.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Do I Need God?

Confession Time. I am addicted to reading things that Ray Comfort writes. I'm not completely sure why. Perhaps it's like not being able to look away when you see a car crash. Or maybe I just enjoy being frustrated at his inanity because it makes me feel intellectually or morally superior. Not a good thing, I know, but that's why I called it Confession Time.

Recently I came upon his Facebook page. I wonder if he chooses his content based not upon its merit but based upon how much it will rile up his readers. He sure knows how to kick a hornets' nest.

Lately he has been urging anyone who reads his stuff to go to a site that basically runs you through his Good Person Test. Of course I went there, and now I feel like commenting on it. The stuff from the GPT is italicized, and my comments are not.

To find out if you need God, you must ask yourself some very important questions.
Are you a good person... by God's standards?
And if so... are you good enough to go to heaven?
Here is a quick test you can take
to find the answers...

I think they're missing a few fairly important questions here, such as "What is a god?" and "Is there a god?" and "If so, which god is it?" But for the sake of the argument here, let's go with "It's complicated, but basically a god is an intelligent being that made everything" and "Yes" and "Yahweh." On to the test.


This test is designed to answer 2 questions:
Are you a good person according to God's standards?
And if so, are you good enough to go to heaven?

1. Have you ever told a lie?
YES, I have told at least one lie in my life.
NO, I have never told a lie in my life.

I have definitely told more than one lie in my life, and often without feeling the slitest bit of remorse at the moment of the lie, but then being wracked with guilt, even years later. So I of course answered YES.

2. Have you given money to charity?
YES, I have given money to charity.
NO, I have never given money to charity.

I answered YES.

3. Have you gone to church regularly?
YES, I have gone to church regularly.
NO, I have not gone to church regularly.

I like how the question was "have you gone" and not "do you go." Since at one point in my life I did go regularly, I answered YES.

4. Have you ever stolen anything (no matter how small)?
YES, I have stolen at least once in my life.
NO, I have never stolen anything in my life.

I wonder why they felt the need to clarify here. As if I would answer negatively because I feel that objects under a certain size don't count? I answered YES.

5. Have you ever used "God," "Jesus," or "Christ," as a curse word?
(Example: "Oh my G-d!")
YES, I have used God's name in vain at least once in my life.
NO, I have never, even once, used God's name in vain.

I don't think their example is using "God" as a curse word. That's an exclamation of surprise, not a curse. Using "God" to curse would be more akin to saying "God damn you." And then their answers aren't about using these words as curse words, they are about using God's name in vain. Even if you think the two are the same thing, shouldn't you at least clarify that? And why? This whole question seemed a little off to me. But I imagine there has been instances in my life where I used these words as curse words. And as far as I'm concerned, any use of these words is in vain! So I answered YES.

6. Have you made it a practice to read the Bible regularly?
YES, I read the Bible regularly.
NO, I do not read the Bible regularly.

Why yes, I have. And yes I do. YES.

7. Have you ever looked at someone and had lustful thoughts?
YES, I have lusted at least once in my life.
NO, I have never lusted in my life.

YES I have.

8. Have you ever broken the first Commandment?
(The first of the Ten Commandments is,"You shall have no other gods before Me." That means that we should love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.)
YES, I have broken the first commandment.
NO, I have not broken the first commandment.

You know, some of these other questions are about some of the other ten. Why did you bring the Commandments into this one but not the others? And here I answered my first NO. I have never worshiped another god besides Yahweh. (And Jesus, whom I believed to be Yahweh incarnate, so...)


Just a moment...

NOTE: Our computers do NOT record your score, so

I wonder if anyone has printed this out and stuck it in their records drawer along with their taxes and dry-cleaner bills and stuff.


NOTE: Some questions are scored as a group, and others are
scored separately. The questions may appear out of numerical order.

1. Have you ever told a lie?
The Ninth of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not lie." Telling just one lie, according to God's standards, makes you a "liar." In Revelation 21:8, God says, "...all liars, shall have their part in the lake of fire..."

I wonder what version they're using? All the ones I'm familiar with say something like, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."
But more importantly, where do they get the idea that telling one lie makes you a liar, according to God? Seriously, where does it say in Scripture that even one lie makes a person a liar? Let's say I've only ever told one lie in my life, and that was when I was seven. In what world am I a liar now? I have three children. All of them, at one point or another, have been liars. But they often tell the truth. Truthers, if you will. Can a person be both a liar and a truther? I don't think so. Normal English-speakers reserve the term "liar" for a person when they are lying. If someone lies constantly, they may be called a habitual liar. But only in this context have I ever heard of calling someone a liar constantly just because they happen to have told a lie before.

7. Have you ever looked at someone and had lustful thoughts?
The Seventh of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not commit adultery." If you've ever looked at another person with lustful thoughts, according to God's standards, that makes you an "adulterer." Jesus said, "You have heard it said, You shall not commit adultery: But I say to you, that whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:28) In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, God says that no adulterers "...shall inherit the kingdom of God."

You know, I don't think my answers matter much on this test. I have a feeling I could have answered NO and still have gotten the same "score." In fact, I just tried the test without answering any of the questions, and I got the same score! I feel deceived...
Regarding lying, I think a liar is someone who is actively and presently involved in deception. I feel the same way about adultery: an adulterer is someone who is actively and presently involved in adultery. I know a guy who had an affair back in his twenties. He is now in his sixties. Doesn't it seem a little unjust to continue to call him an adulterer? Obviously his mistake has affected the rest of his life. But he and his wife reconciled and as far as I can tell, they are happily married today. Must he continue to wear a scarlet letter?

5. Have you ever used "God," "Jesus," or "Christ," as a curse word? (Example: "Oh my G-d!")
The Third of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not take the name of the Lord in vain." If you've every used the name "God," "Jesus," or "Christ" as a curse word, what you've done is take the name of the God who gave you life, and you've used it as if it were a "four-letter" filth word to express disgust. That offense is called "blasphemy," and according to God's standards, you are a "blasphemer." In Leviticus 24:16 , God says, "he that blasphemes the name of the LORD, shall surely be put to death..."

My problems with the traditional Evangelical interpretation of the Third Commandment date back to my days as a believer.
First problem: His name isn't God, anymore than mine is Mister. He may have many names, but God is not one of them. Neither is Lord. I mean, sheesh, if those are names, why not Carpenter? You could call him Carpenter of carpenters. Israelite of Israelites. Galilean of ... and so forth.
Second problem: I don't think this is what the author of Exodus had in mind when forbidding the taking of the Lord's name in vain. What is communicated in this commandment is that an oath taken in the name of Yahweh is a serious oath indeed and must be followed through. Otherwise, you would have taken both the oath and the name of Yahweh in vain. With this in minde, the Third Commandment becomes as obsolete for Christians as the Fourth - no longer bound to any one day of rest (Colossians 2:16), no longer worrying about taking God's name in vain (James 5:12).

4. Have you ever stolen anything (no matter how small)?
The Eighth of the Ten Commandments is "You shall not steal." Stealing just one thing (regardless of it's size or monetary value), according to God's standards, makes you a "thief." In 1 Corinthians 6:10, God says, "No thieves... ...shall inherit the kingdom of God."

No. No it does not. If the last time you stole something was when you were eight, you are not a thief, any more than you are a philanthropist if the last time you gave to charity was when you were twelve. COME ON!

8. Have you ever broken the first Commandment?
The First of the Ten Commandments is "You shall have no other gods before me." That means that we should love God with all of our heart, mind, soul and strength. The Bible tells us that no one has kept this commandment (see Psalm 14:2-3) -- if you said you had, you have also broken the 9th Commandment by lying.

This is so incoherent. I have at times (including now) not loved Yahweh with all of my being. But I have never worshiped any other god. Never. Not worshiping one god should not be equated with worshiping any other. The verse quoted says, "The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one." This verse has nothing to do with the worship of other gods ahead of Yahweh. If the quiz-makers want people to take this seriously, they should do take better care not to jump to conclusions like this.

2. Have you given money to charity?
3. Have you gone to church regularly?
6. Have you made it a practice to read the Bible regularly?
Giving money to charity, going to church, and reading the Bible are all good activities--but none of them impress God. The Bible says, "and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away." (Isaiah 64:6) That means, all our "righteous acts" -- these "good deeds" that questions 2, 3 and 6 asked about -- can never make up for the fact that we've broken God's Holy Commandments. Think of it this way. If a person was guilty of a serious crime... such as murder... but he gave money to charity, does that make up for his crime? No. The person's crime hasn't been paid for because he gave money to charity. This "good deed" will mean nothing to the judge when he passes sentence. The murder must still be punished.

I agree with this part. Amazing.

This test showed you how you stand up when judged by just five of God's Ten Commandments. So, if God judges you by that standard would you be innocent or guilty of breaking His Commandments?

I've pointed out the inconsistencies in this quiz, but, if God were to judge me with this standard, then YES, I would be guilty.

CORRECT: You would be guilty.

Do you think you would go to Heaven or Hell?

I put NO. I'm not sure why. A god that would judge people by such a ridiculous (and I have to say, Unbiblical) standard must be joking. Ha ha, made you sweat there, hey? Yeah, I don't send anyone to hell. That would be evil.



While it may seem that God's goodness will cause Him to overlook your sins, the opposite is actually true. Perhaps the following illustration will add some clarity: Imagine you're standing before a judge, guilty of multiple crimes. The judge is about to pass sentence when he asks, "Do you have anything to say for yourself?" You stand up, look the judge in the eye and say, "Yes Your Honor, I believe that you're a good man... and because you're good, you will let me go." The judge will probably say something like, "Well, you're right about one thing... I am a good man. And it's because I'm good that I'm going to see that you are punished for your crimes." The very thing you are counting on to save you on the Day of Judgment -- namely God's goodness -- is going to be the very thing that will see to it that justice is done. Because God is so good He will make sure that every murderer, rapist and thief receives justice... but He won't stop there. He will also make sure every liar, blasphemer, and adulterer is punished. While this is something that is extremely tragic and far from God's ultimate desire for any person, the Bible is clear that the place of punishment for those who do not turn from their sins is Hell.

Punishment for crimes is one thing. An eternity of torture is going a little overboard, wouldn't you say?

Does the fact that you're headed for Hell concern you?

Nope. I'm thoroughly unconcerned. I'm as scared of Hell as you are of Hades. or Jahannam. or Tartarus. or Anaon.

It should concern you.


Would you sell one of your eyes for a million dollars? How about both eyes for ten million? No one in their right mind would! Your eyes are precious to you... but they are only a "window" for your soul. Your soul (your inner being, your life, your personality) looks out through those eyes. Consider how precious your eyes are... then realize that Jesus said that Hell is so horrible that you would be better off tearing out your own eyes than ending up there for all eternity (Mark 9:43-48).

Perhaps you feel safe because you don't believe in Hell. This can be likened to standing in the middle of a busy highway and shouting, "I don't believe in trucks!" Your belief or disbelief in trucks will not change reality. The same applies in this situation. Your disbelief in Hell will not cause it to cease to exist. God has given us HIS WORD on the existence and purpose of Hell... LOOK HERE to see what God says in the Bible about Hell.

Perhaps you feel safe because you don't believe in Jahannam. See where I'm going with this? Obviously reality exists regardless of my beliefs and yours. But that is no reason to believe in everything. That's called being gullible.

The Bible Describes Hell

There are three words translated “Hell” in Scripture:
Gehenna (Greek): The place of punishment (Matthew 5:22,29; 10:28; and James 3:6)
Hades (Greek): The abode of the dead (Matthew 11:23; 16:18; Luke 16:23; Acts 2:27)
Sheol (Hebrew): The grave (Psalm 9:17; 16:10)

There are those who accept that Hell is a place of punishment, but believe that the punishment is to be annihilated—to cease conscious existence. They can’t conceive that the punishment of the wicked will be conscious and eternal. If they are correct, then a man like Adolph Hitler, who was responsible for the deaths of millions, is being “punished” merely with eternal sleep. His fate is simply to return to the non-existent state he was in before he was born, where he doesn’t even know that he is being punished.

However, Scripture paints a different story. The rich man who found himself in Hell (Luke 16:19-31) was conscious. He was able to feel pain, to thirst, and to experience remorse. He wasn’t asleep in the grave; he was in a place of “torment.” If Hell is a place of knowing nothing or a reference to the grave into which we go at death, Jesus’ statements about Hell make no sense. He said that if your hand, foot, or eye causes you to sin, it would be better to remove it than to “go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: where their worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:43-48).

The Bible refers to the fate of the unsaved with such fearful words as the following:

“Shame and everlasting contempt” (Daniel 12:2)
“Everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46)
“Weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 24:51)
“Fire unquenchable” (Luke 3:17)
“Indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish” (Romans 2:8,9)
“Everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9)
“Eternal fire...the blackness of darkness for ever” (Jude 7,13)
Revelation 14:10,11 tells us the final, eternal destiny of the sinner: “He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone...the smoke of their torment ascended up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night."

We do not enjoy speaking in detail about the torments of Hell. It is, however, a real place and God in his love and mercy does not want you to go there.

If God does not want me to go there, then he should tell me himself, instead of using a fellow human. I am exercising the same skepticism I'd expect my daughter to if my son went up to her and said, "Dad wants you to give me all your money." Just as I'd expect her to come to me and confirm that my son was lying, I've asked Yahweh to confirm whether what humans have written down in Scripture was worth paying attention to. He has yet to get back to me on this, so I'm sorry, I can't believe you about this Hell thing for the time being.

Do you know what God did so that you wouldn't have to spend eternity in Hell?

Once again, this is a human telling me about what God did. If this is important, I'd like for God to tell me him/herself, please.

What God did...

Think of it this way... Imagine you're in a courtroom again, you're guilty of many serious crimes. The judge says, "It's a fine of $500,000, or prison." You don't have anywhere near that amount of money, so the bailiff begins to walk you out of the courtroom when someone you don't even know appears. He runs up to the judge with a check and says, "I've paid the fine for you." Now that the fine has been paid, the law no longer has any hold on you. You're free -- because of the gift you were given.

Nice work. Turn the sentence into a fine. If I got a speeding ticket for $130, and someone paid it for me, that would be nice, and I'm sure the courts wouldn't ask where the money came from. But if I were sentenced to prison, they would have a huge problem with anyone serving my sentence for me. I don't think I need to ask you whether Hell is a fine or a sentence.

This is what God did for you by sending Jesus to die on the cross in your place. So that you wouldn't have to go to Hell, God sent his only Son, Jesus, to die on the cross -- suffering the punishment that justice demands. Then He rose from the grave, forever defeating death! The Bible tells us, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) If you will repent of your sins and put your trust in Jesus, God says he will forgive all your sins and grant you the gift of everlasting life. Just like the court case we just talked about, if you repent (that means to confess and forsake your sins) and put your trust in Jesus, then you will not have to suffer God's justice in Hell because the payment for your crimes was made by Jesus on the cross.

And so Jesus received my sentence... no wait, he didn't go to Hell. He had a really bad weekend to spare me from an eternity of torture. And this somehow appeased God's sense of justice? That seems inconsistent to me. If God says that my crimes are great enough to warrant an eternity of torture, shouldn't Jesus be in Hell right now?

If you're not sure what to pray, read Psalm 51, and make it a model for your prayer. The words are not "magical," what God cares about is the attitude of your heart. When you pray, it should sound something like this, "Dear God, I repent of all my sins, such as (name them). I put my trust in Jesus Christ as Lord (to say Jesus is your Lord means you are now making Jesus the master over your life) and Savior. Forgive me and grant me your gift of everlasting life. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen."

I like the part about naming them. That would be one long prayer...

Now read your Bible daily, and obey what you read. God will never let you down.

God, if he's there, sure has let me down. And as I've been reading my way through the Psalms, it seems he's let others down before, as well. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" No answer.

What should you read? We suggest that you start in the book named "John," and then read the one named "Romans." Whatever you decide to read, make sure you read every day.

We now suggest that you read "Save Yourself Some Pain" which contains 10 very important steps for new and growing Christians.

Please also listen to Hell's Best Kept Secret which is a free online message that will give Biblical direction to your Christian life.

And that's the end of it.
I am underwhelmed.
And sad all over again at the thought of the people in my life who believe pretty much everything Ray does.
I'm going to a funeral this weekend. I may shed a tear. But I do not weep as those who have no hope. Oh, they think they do. But their hope is false. They claim to have truth. But they remain blind.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Short Thought on Death and Purpose

In this prison, sad and dark, my only consolation, my only hope, my only purpose are the prisoners sitting next to me. In the event that their light is extinguished before my own, my purpose then becomes seeking others.

Pinpoints of light wink on, wink off, mattering only to those in the radius of their luminescence. If you find this state of affairs depressing, I am sorry; but that is the way things are.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The God Hypothesis

Valerie Tarico does a pretty good job, I think, at explaining why the God Hypothesis is not needed. This is the last video in an 8 part series, and they are all intriguing, but you don't need to watch them to appreciate what she is saying here. For some reason I couldn't embed the video, so you'll have to follow the link.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Oblivious To Bad Words

[content note: offensive language]

I saw a link to an opinion piece by Ruben Navarrette at in which he decries the use of the w-word. What? There's a w-word now? I am so behind! and so I clicked on it to find out what it was. After the first few lines, though, my desire to be aware of offensiveness was momentarily thwarted when he stated that he would not be writing the word out because it is so offensive. Instead he wrote out the first half and censored the last with hyphens. I had to search the comment section for someone who was brave enough (offensive enough?) to write the whole word out.

This self-imposed censorship made me think of Louis C.K., who gets angry when people refer to any vulgarity or slur as "the [insert letter here]-word," because it immediately puts the actual word into his head, letting the speaker off the hook for taking responsibility for their language. (You can watch his rant here, if you like, but first know that he is far mor liberal with his language than I plan on being in this post.) A friend of mine once made a similar case for the use of words like "gosh" and "darn" as a stand-in for "god" and "damn," saying that these are likewise abdicating personal responsibility. I suppose he has a point.

And that reminded me of my first exposure to the biggest, baddest vulgarity of them all (or at least it used to be - it may have since been eclipsed by others).

I was in the fourth grade, and had either never heard this particular word or, as the title of this post and my genetic legacy as seen in a particular child of mine seem to suggest, had heard it but was simply oblivious to it.

One morning, I arrived to find a group of third and fourth graders huddled around Matthew, gazing at him in stunned silence.

"What's going on?" I asked Kelly.

She pulled me aside, a look of awe on her face, and whispered, "Matthew said the f-word."

I, a fourth grade student not yet laden with that adolescent quality which seeks to appear more knowledgeable and worldly than one is, asked her what this f-word was.

She, slightly startled, spelled it out for me, again in a whisper. "F, U, C, K."


And pretty soon I had my own congregation of quiet students, staring, shocked that I would have the audacity to utter a word of such power. But I wasn't trying to be audacious. I was simply demonstrating to Kelly that I was literate.

Aw, fourth-grade Mark. How fond I am of you.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Times I Got Mugged, Part 2

I spent fourteen years of my childhood living in Bogotá, Colombia. And during this time, there were several instances of attempted mugging, only one of which was successful - the first.

I think that this first attempt was the only successful one because it was the only one in which the muggers just took what they wanted without any sort of request accompanied by threats of violence. They just took it. There's a lesson to be learned here for would-be muggers - asking for the cash will get you nowhere. You need to just take it and run. I do not endorse this lifestyle, by the way.

But I get ahead of myself. Later, once-and-if I've shared all of my mugging stories with you, you can let me know if you have a better explanation for why the first one succeeded where the rest failed.

The second attempt to take what was mine happened about a block or two from the location of the first. You'd think I'd want to stay away from these places, but they were also a block or two from where I lived, and a guy needs to walk home every now and then.

So it was dark outside, and I was on my way home, from the mall or youth group or both, along the sidewalk of a busy avenue with a tree lined median. I was by myself, and it was a bit cold out, so my pace was brisk. Not brisk enough, I guess, because I soon became aware that another pedestrian was slowly catching up to me. I picked up the pace a little, but so did he, and he was soon speed-walking right next to me. I bet we looked hilarious to anyone who could see us. He was carrying a folder or a purse or a man-bag in front of him. I may have been shouldering a back-pack. Have I ever mentioned how spotty my memory is?

"Do you have any money?" or "What have you got in that back-pack?" he may have asked.

It's not important what his question was, because my answer, whatever it was, did not please him at all. Or maybe we had a short exchange and that didn't please him, because at some point his words were along the lines of, "Do you know what I have in this folder/purse/man-bag? A knife! You don't want me cut you, do you?" I do remember the threat of being cut.

I'm fairly certain that I didn't answer him. "Yes" would have been a silly and untruthful thing to say. And "No" would have been, somehow, negotiating with a terrorist.

I sped up slightly, not so that he would think I was trying to out-speed-walk him, but in a manner that would demonstrate how nervous I was. Then, suddenly, I stopped, ran a few yards back, and then, seeing a hole in oncoming traffic, darted across the street and onto the median.

You may think that my judgment is as spotty as my memory. You are probably right.

I turned and saw he had not been able to find an additional hole through which to pursue me. I yelled at him, and here's the part I'm ashamed to type, but, in the interests of getting as much as I remember out there: "¡Colombiano estúpido!"

I stayed on the median and jogged in the direction of home, after noticing him turn around and begin walking back the way he had come. And that was that.

When I got home, my family and future brother-in-law were waiting for me. Maybe it was taco night. I told them the story. They were horrified and then laughed at my awkward rebuke of a would-be mugger.

Carlos, if you read this, do you remember any additional details?