Sunday, January 8, 2012

START! Bible Study: Matthew 7

It has been a while since I have done one of these. I have been a bit busy with life and work. Let’s get back to it though.

 

Matthew 7

1 “Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. 3 And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.
6 “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.

While I do think most of the bible is outdated and nonsense, there are some good things to come from it. That is not to say that we need it to know these things, just saying it is not all bad advice. Don’t judge people unless you want to be judged as well. That is a good rule to follow. Take a look at yourself before correcting somebody else, also a good rule to follow.

As for not giving holy things to dogs or casting pearls at swine, I am trying to read meaning in it, but I see none (at least none of significance to me). I don’t think it really fits either. It does not seem to relate to the passages before or after it. That seems very odd to me.
7 “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

Here is some scripture that hits home for me. When I read “seek, and you will find” all I can think is “That is bullshit!” Near the end of my first marriage my wife left and took my daughter with her. I was not the atheist then that I am now and in that dark time I lay alone in my bed and asked with complete sincerity in my heart “Are you there god?”, but of course I never received an answer. (Please do not try to tell me “God did answer, but I did not know how to see it” I think an omnipotent, omniscient being would know how to answer somebody in a way they would understand.) I came to the realization that I had to figure out my own problems and find my own forms of comfort and healing. So when I read “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find” I can’t see this as anything more than a lie.

I agree with and practice treating others how I would like to be treated, but this is common sense. Unfortunately a good amount of people who claim to believe this book forget that lesson unless you agree with them.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.

The narrow gate and the wide gate. This is talking about how the easy way may not be the right way. I can agree with that, but life does not always have to be difficult, so I do not agree with the metaphor of the gates. Verse 15 is very true, but the problem is all prophets are false and they prey upon people. Figs do no grow on thistles and grapes do not grow on thornbushes, but berries do and they are picked. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit? This is not true, I have seen a bad apple next to a good apple on a tree. A bad tree can be healed and a good tree can become infected with something. These are things that people did not know about two millennia ago, so I will give them a pass on this bad example.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

This makes me think of Pascal’s Wager, which basically says there is more to gain from believing in god than not. It has been proposed to me many times and all I can ever think is “I am pretty sure an omniscient god is going to know if my feelings were true.” I wonder how many people out there who claim to be Christian are only doing so because they think it is a safer bet to believe. Sorry folks, according to this you are not going to make it.

24 “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: 25 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.
26 “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: 27 and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

28 And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, 29 for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

The metaphors that Jesus uses are very basic, but the people were astonished by his teachings. Not astonished because of what he said, but because he said them with authority. Can you imagine anything like that in this day and age? At a glance it comes off more as a tyrant saying obey me or else.

 

Summary: Don’t judge each other, you get what you ask for, do things the hard way, be true in your faith, and do what you are told.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

START! Bible Study: Matthew 6

Last time in Matthew: Jesus told us who is blessed, told us that the old laws will remain in effect and then proceeded to tell us new rules to the old laws.

Matthew 6

 1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 3 But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.

This bit of scripture first covers how to go about your good deeds, which is to do it like a ninja. You need to be so sneaky about it that you don’t even know that you are doing a good deed. If anybody knows about your charitable deeds you will not be rewarded by god, but only by your fellow man. If you make your good deeds a secret though god will reward you openly.

I guess this is why we never see churches rewarded openly by god. Doesn’t making a charity public automatically make the charities creator and therefore the good deeds seen by men? I would say that most Christian organizations fail at following this rule because most of them have charities for the needy. I wonder if there is a church out there that has charity ninjas, that might be kinda cool and scary at the same time.

5 “And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. 7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

8 “Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. 9 In this manner, therefore, pray:
      Our Father in heaven,
      Hallowed be Your name.
       10 Your kingdom come.
      Your will be done
      On earth as it is in heaven.
       11 Give us this day our daily bread.
       12 And forgive us our debts,
      As we forgive our debtors.
       13 And do not lead us into temptation,
      But deliver us from the evil one.
      For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

Well lookie here! Don’t be like the hypocrites praying out in the open for the world to see. I guess folks like Rick Perry and even the author of this beginners bible Greg Laurie missed this memo. You should pray to your father in the “secret place” where he will secretly see you and then you will be rewarded openly. I am starting to think god may be a spy with all this secrecy. When you do pray do not use “vain repetitions” instead use the lord’s prayer over and over. I wonder if thousands of people being asked to pray for the same thing say, helping the economy, would be considered “vain repetition”? Strike two Rick.

All you need is the prayer above, because god already knows what you need. So praying for something is really a useless task because god already knows about it. Just worship him some more with a prayer glorifying him. This god sure does have an ego.
14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Well here is a positive message. Forgive others. But wait, there is a catch, if you don’t forgive others, god is not going to forgive you. Now am I only supposed to forgive men who have trespassed against me, or just any schmo off the street? Who am I to forgive everybody? Let’s assume that it is people who have trespassed against me. This gives me the impression that god views all “trespasses” as equal. This does not seem fair or just. What if all I did was cut him off while driving, but he slaughtered my family? I think I would have a bit of a hard time forgiving that.

16 “Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. 17 But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.

Don’t let people know when you are fasting like those damn hypocrites, again, do it like a ninja. I wonder if this rule applied to Jesus. He fasted for 40 days when he was in the wild, but he must have told somebody about it, because it was written about earlier. Maybe he gets a pass since his dad is the big man…he is the big man….he made the rule….how does that trinity thing make sense again?

19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Don’t have any material possessions that you treasure here on earth, because they can be destroyed or stolen. Instead, put your treasures in heaven, because bugs can’t get to them and neither can thieves. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” I actually agree with this part. My friends and family are what I consider my treasure, and my heart is very much in that.

Now if this passage is saying not to have material possessions that you treasure, I wonder why there are so many multimillionaire evangelists. Maybe they don’t treasure their wealth, but they sure do seem to live it up off the money of their followers.

22 “The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

The lamp of the body is the eye? Well this is just nonsense. This is where the saying “The eyes are the window to the soul” comes from. How would one have a good eye or a bad eye? Does this mean that blind people are full of darkness because their eyes are bad? That seems a bit unfair. While a person’s eyes can show emotion they cannot always reveal a person true nature. This passage is then ended with more nonsense, if light is darkness? That is on par with saying up is down and left is right.

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

Ah there is a little bit of the O.T. god, your master. This passage is saying that there is no middle ground on who your god is. I wonder how all of the polytheistic religions do it. I choose to serve no master, I would rather be free than be a slave to anything.

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Well this bunch of scripture is just a heaping pile of rubbish. It starts off by telling you not to worry about your life, what you will eat, drink, or wear. Life is more than food and the body more than clothing, but without these things one would likely die. Sure, birds do not farm, but they do migrate for food or some go into a temporary type of hibernation called torpor to make it through the winter. What can one accomplish through worry? Well, if you make a plan for the things you are worried about you can accomplish much. Why worry about clothing? It protects you from the elements, that is why. Apparently grass wears clothes that god provides to it…right. But if you have faith god will clothe you.

So don’t worry about anything, instead just have a big old heaping amount of faith. If you seek the kingdom of god he will provide you with everything that you need. Don’t worry about your future, there are much more important matters to worry about now. People, please do not believe this book. Plan for your future. If you worry about what is to come you can make a plan for what is to come.

 

Summary: God wants you to be a ninja, he does everything in secret like a spy, and don’t worry about your life.

Friday, July 29, 2011

START! Bible Study: Matthew 5

Last time in the N.T. Jesus convinced a bunch of people to start following him and then healed everybody.

Matthew 5

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
       3 “ Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
       4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
       5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
       6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
       7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
       8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
       9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
       10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

 11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Jesus sees that he has many followers now and goes up on a mountain to preach to them. Let’s just assume that it was a hilltop not a mountain, unless he had an awesome sound system to amplify his words down a mountain. He began to preach about the blessed and what they shall receive for the type of people they are. The poor in spirit have the kingdom of heaven? I thought you had to be spiritually strong.

Those who mourn shall be comforted? I have a big problem with this one. If I am told that I will see my loved ones in heaven that is a lie? Sure it comforts some and gives them hope and when they die there will be no afterlife for them to find that they were lied to. I think it is better to know the truth and truly cope with circumstances where one would mourn.

The meek shall inherit the earth. This one just makes no sense at all. A meek person is quiet, gentle and submissive. That seems like the perfect person to preach to. They will believe what they are told and not argue against it. Why would they inherit the earth? Why wouldn’t they go to heaven? Many Christians are meek.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, shall be filled. I think that they will be filled with what they want to hear. If one wants to be righteous and they are told that they are they will begin to believe it. If they are told that doing or believing something will make them righteous they will do it because they want to be righteous.

The merciful shall receive mercy. Well this is just a blatant lie. I am sure that at least one of the Christians who was beheaded by radicals in the last 10 years was a merciful person. I wonder if they felt they were receiving mercy as their head was lopped off.

The pure in heart shall see god. I think the most pure of heart are probably children. You would think that if this were true every kid would be talking about god. Maybe that is where imaginary friends come from.

Peacemakers shall be called sons of god. Well this is just a contradiction in itself. I am in the military, so I would fall under the role of peacemaker. I am also an atheist. I am no son of god and I doubt many would call me a son of god.

Those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake have the kingdom of heaven. This is another contradiction in itself. Homosexuals are persecuted on a regular basis behind the guise of righteousness. I guess this one only applies to followers.

Blessed are those that obey and do what they are told.

13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

The salt metaphor has never made any sense to me. I have heard sermons trying to say it was about our diets and how we need it to survive, but that seems silly to me. I guess I am not smart enough to figure this one out.

The light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden? Well that is not true at all. If the city is also surrounded by trees on the hill it could easily be concealed. That is another metaphor that falls flat. Don’t cover a light, but put it where it can best provide light. Duh! Let your light shine so man can see your good deeds. If god is always watching, why would others need to see your good works?

17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.

Here is a very important set of scripture that I want to point out. This is saying that all the laws set forth previously shall remain in effect until “heaven and earth pass away”. I can only assume that Jesus is referring to the laws set forth in the old testament. Many of these laws include putting people to death for very small and insignificant things. If these laws are to remain in effect until the end of heaven and earth, why do so many Christians break or ignore many of them.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.

So if you commit murder you will be in danger of judgment. That seems fair and reasonable. If you get angry at your fellow man without cause you will be in danger of judgment. That does not seem right. Even if there is no cause for anger, judgment seems a bit harsh just for being angry with someone. If you call somebody “raca” you are in danger of council, but call them a fool and you are in danger of hell fire. Calling somebody raca is a way of calling somebody worthless. How is calling them a fool worse than calling them worthless? I have been called stupid by many Christians, but I guess they were not thinking about this passage when they said it.

If you bring a gift to the alter and remember that your brother is mad at you about something leave your gift, go fix things between the two of you and then bring your gift. How you are going to leave your gift twice? You left the gift at the altar to go work things out with your brother. I think this may have been translated poorly.

Agree with your adversary quickly. I think not. If you are right and your adversary is wrong, would you agree with them to get out of trouble or stand your ground with the truth. This just seems like a cowards way out of getting into trouble.

You will stay in prison until you pay the last penny. I guess that is why Jesus bailed on John when he was put in prison. Why was John put in prison again? Oh yeah, it never said why.

27 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell.

So by simply looking at a woman and finding her sexually attractive I have committed adultery with her. If your right eye causes you to sin remove it. Who looks at something with just one eye? It is better to send you eye to hell instead of your whole body. I guess if you masturbate and then cut off the hand you used, you are safe too. How would removing a body part save you from hell. This is just rubbish.
31 “Furthermore it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.

Ladies, pay attention here. A man can divorce a woman as long as he give her a divorce certificate. Ladies, if you want a divorce, well, that is not covered, so you can’t ask for one. Men can divorce you and remarry as long as they don’t marry a woman who was previously divorced. You ladies however, you have committed adultery the second a man divorces you (sluts!), unless you were cheating on him. To top that off ladies, you cannot remarry, because then you would be making a man commit adultery and we can’t have that now.

With all the misogyny throughout the bible I have never understood why a woman would follow its teachings.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’ 34 But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 nor by the earth, for it is His footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you swear by your head, because you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No.’ For whatever is more than these is from the evil one.

The old ones say don’t swear falsely. Jesus says don’t swear at all. I think he is trying to tell us to say what we mean and mean what we say. Otherwise it came from the evil one. So any Christian that has ever said “I swear to god” was not following Jesus’ teachings, it was the devil talking.
38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

Don’t resist an evil person? If they slap your right cheek give him the left? This is nonsense! If you are too weak to stand up for yourself at least get the hell out of there. Why would you resist evil, but not an evil person? That just seems stupid.

If somebody wants to sue you and take your tunic give it to them? Not a chance. If somebody needs it more than you sure, but why would you give it to somebody just because they wanted it and then give them a little extra too?

Give to those who ask and those who want to borrow. Again, if the person asking is not truly in need of what they are asking for I am not going to give it. I would not give money to a wealthy person just because they asked for it. I would not let a stranger borrow something because I would not know if I could trust that they would return it.
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

I can speak from personal experience that many Christians ignore these passages. From the way I have been treated by many of them I can only assume that the see me as an enemy, but have cursed me. Jesus says that god makes his sun rise on the good and evil. Well god does not make the sun rise, technically the sun is not rising, the earth is turning.

If you love those who you love, what reward do you get? Well in most cases you get loved back. If you greet your brethren you may be doing more than others, some do not greet anyone. The fact that tax collectors do the same thing makes no difference to me, I am not sure why it makes such a difference to Jesus.

If you do these things you will be perfect just like god. God is far from perfect so that is a very empty promise.

 

Summary: Jesus tells us who are blessed, tells us that the old laws will remain in effect and then tells us new rules to the old laws.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

START! Bible Study: Matthew 1-3

Matthew 1

 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham:
2 Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, and Jacob begot Judah and his brothers. 3 Judah begot Perez and Zerah by Tamar, Perez begot Hezron, and Hezron begot Ram. 4 Ram begot Amminadab, Amminadab begot Nahshon, and Nahshon begot Salmon. 5 Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, 6 and Jesse begot David the king.
   David the king begot Solomon by her who had been the wife of Uriah. 7 Solomon begot Rehoboam, Rehoboam begot Abijah, and Abijah begot Asa. 8 Asa begot Jehoshaphat, Jehoshaphat begot Joram, and Joram begot Uzziah. 9 Uzziah begot Jotham, Jotham begot Ahaz, and Ahaz begot Hezekiah. 10 Hezekiah begot Manasseh, Manasseh begot Amon, and Amon begot Josiah. 11 Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.
12 And after they were brought to Babylon, Jeconiah begot Shealtiel, and Shealtiel begot Zerubbabel. 13 Zerubbabel begot Abiud, Abiud begot Eliakim, and Eliakim begot Azor. 14 Azor begot Zadok, Zadok begot Achim, and Achim begot Eliud. 15 Eliud begot Eleazar, Eleazar begot Matthan, and Matthan begot Jacob. 16 And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.
17 So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, from David until the captivity in Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the captivity in Babylon until the Christ are fourteen generations.

After 28 generations this brings us to Joseph, who is not the father of Jesus. According to this Jesus was born of a virgin, so unless Mary came from the same family tree, how would this genealogy lead Jesus to be, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Why would Joseph’s genealogy have anything to do with Jesus if he is not the father?

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.”

Mary and Joseph tie the knot and then Mary happens to be knocked up already. He did not want to make a public example of her by putting her to death (Deut 22:20-21). Instead he hid her away to avoid the shame of wedding somebody who was not pure and maybe to save her life. While keeping her hidden an angel came to Joseph in a dream and explained the situation. Well, what happens to people who listen to the voices in their heads in this day and age? Maybe Joseph’s psyche snapped while trying to cope with the fact that his new bride had already laid with another man. Maybe he convinced himself of this visit to cope with his mental anguish.

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.”
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

So Joseph has a dream with a visit from an angel and this clarifies for him that Mary had not been with another man. Scientifically we know this could not have been the case. There are possibilities that she was inseminated by means other than penetration, but I find it hard to believe that that could have been the case.

Let’s recap on chapter one. We have Joseph’s family tree, which really has not a thing to do with Jesus. Joseph and Mary got hitched, only for Joseph to find out that she was already knocked up. An angel came along to Joseph in a dream though and cleared things up for him, it is gods baby.

Matthew 2

 1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
       6‘ But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
      Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
      For out of you shall come a Ruler
       Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

Jesus was born and some wise men saw a star, among the billions of other stars (without light pollution, the skies must have looked amazing back then) and knew that the king of the Jews had been born. Where did this star go that was so distinguishable from the rest of the billions of stars in the sky. Word must spread fast, because not only was Herod worried about the birth of this child, but all Jerusalem. So the king is worried because he does not want to lose his crown, but why would all Jerusalem be worried with him?

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.”
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

Herod called the wise men to him to determine when the star appeared. Again this must have been one unique star to have stood out among all the others. Again, this star that was so distinguishable among all others, where did it go? So Herod sent the wise men to go to this spot under the star in the east and come back when they have found the child. I am not an astronomer, but I have been under the stars enough to know that I have never seen a star above a single home. So the wise men show up, give some presents to baby Jesus (we all know babies love gold and things that smell good), and then divinely get a message that Herod is up to something and they should go elsewhere. I wonder if maybe it was just intuition on the wise men’s part. Maybe when Herod sent them looking for the child he said something like “Go find this baby. After you find him come back and tell me where….mwahahahahahahahahaa”

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
14 When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”

The wise men leave and right away and angel shows up in another of Josephs dreams saying Herod is going to kill Jesus and they need to pack up and go to Egypt. Joseph again, not questioning his sanity after being talked to by angels, wakes his family and tells them they have to pack and go to Egypt. They would remain there until the death of Herod therefore fulfilling what a prophet said would happen. This seems like a perfect example of one of the self-fulfilling prophecies in the bible.

16 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
       18“ A voice was heard in Ramah,
      Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
      Rachel weeping for her children,
      Refusing to be comforted,
      Because they are no more.”

So, Herod got upset because the wise men called him out on his bad intentions. Instead of sending his troops out after the wise men who deceived him he slaughtered every male child that was two or younger. What kind of king slaughters innocent children? How did these people not revolt? Couldn’t the wise men have spared the lives of all these kids by telling Herod that the Christ child had fled to somewhere unknown to them?

19 Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” 21 Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Herod is dead now and sure as can be an angel comes to Joseph in a dream again, this time telling him to pack his family up again to move to Israel. So they head back to where the angel said to go, but Herod’s son Archelaus is in charge now so god warns Joseph in another dream to go to Galilee. Why didn’t the angel in the first dream tell him that in the first place? So they end up in Nazareth therefore fulfilling another prophecy.

So lots of self-fulfilling prophecies; a prophet said this and now this has happened. Anyway, Herod is dead and Jesus and family are now in Galilee.

Matthew 3

 1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
      “ The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
      ‘ Prepare the way of the LORD;
      Make His paths straight.’”

I immediately picture John as one of the crazies that you see on the streets with a sign saying “The end is nigh.” If he was alive today he would likely be ignored by most people. Look at the way Harold Camping was ostracized by the Christians who did not believe his preaching. Any time I asked Christians I know about him I would be told “he is not a real Christian.” I wonder if people said the same thing about John back then.

4 Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him 6 and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, 9 and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. 10 And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

So Jerusalem, Judea and the whole region around the Jordan got baptized by somebody ate bugs and wore camel hair. He goes on to tell the Pharisees and Sadducees that they are “brood of vipers”. Good to see that religious intolerance is nothing new. He then warns that while he baptizes by water the one to follow him will baptize you with the holy spirit and fire. I was baptized when I was young and I am glad that it was not with fire.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 And John tried to prevent Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and are You coming to me?”
15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him.
16 When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him. 17 And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

So John is baptizing people and Jesus shows up and says “I got next.” John protests at first because this is who he has been waiting to be baptized by, but then says ok and does it because Jesus asks really nice. John dunks Jesus and when he pops out of the water the heavens open up and god comes out to say “Hey everybody, this is my boy Jesus and he makes me proud.” You would think that if god could come down speak to all of Jerusalem, Judea and all the region around the Jordan, he could stop by again and say here I am. You would also think that such an event would have been pretty well documented instead of just in the bible.

Chapters 1-3 summary: Jesus was born, had to go hide and then came back and got baptized…and a lot of stuff happened just as the prophets in this book said they would.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

START! Bible Study: Introduction

Welcome to my first entry covering my journey through START! The Bible For New Believers: New Testament. I will be blogging my thoughts on the book as I read through it. This will not be my first time reading the “good book” and I don’t think my thoughts on it are really going to be changed. This book has been essentially written as a “how to” manual. The author Greg Laurie has included his own notes to guide a new believer through the book.

Let’s go over the table of contents:

-          The Plan of Salvation

-          Secrets to Spiritual Success

-          Preface

-          New Testament (all 27 books NKJV)

-          Essentials// What every Christian needs to know about god and Jesus

Today I am going to cover the introduction portions of this book. So let’s start with The Plan of Salvation.

The Plan of Salvation: This is covered in only three pages, but was written to introduce the reader to the idea that we all have a chance at salvation. The first couple paragraphs go over the idea that we can all have second chances at life through salvation. I see flaws in the author’s logic right off the bat though, one of his questions is “Can you really go from being cynical and hard to having faith and love?” This seems like a rather audacious question to ask. Is this the view that the author really has of everybody who does not share his faith?

The book then goes on to talk about sin and how Jesus died for our sins. I had trouble with one of the first things that the author says about sin, “We are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.” This statement could be changed around a million ways and still not be true. I have always had trouble trying to grasp the guilt that the faithful seem to carry with them. Greg doesn’t seem to be able to believe that we are all inherently good and he even says so. Sure, there are bad people in this world, but for the most part we are all good.

Laurie then goes on to talk about how we can have instant salvation. He provides a prayer that you can say, and mean it, and be a brand new Christian. “Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner. Thank you for dying for me on the cross and paying the price for every sin I have ever committed. I turn from that sin now and ask you to come into my life as my savior, lord and friend. Thank you for hearing this prayer. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.” Let’s analyze this prayer for a moment. “I know that I am a sinner” There goes that whole guilt thing again. I don’t think that I was born a sinner, and I will not feel guilty simply for existing. “Thank you for dying for me on the cross and paying the price for every sin I have ever committed.” If Jesus died for my sins, why do I need to keep asking forgiveness for them? Apart from that, I was not even a twinkle in the eye of my ancient ancestors, so what sins did I commit 2,000 years ago? “I turn from that sin” If I don’t even know what I am asking forgiveness for, what meaning does it really have?

Do I need salvation? No. Am I cynical and hard? Sometimes, but I am also happy, loving and grateful for the short bit of time I have to exist. The world is not as black and white as Mr. Laurie seems to paint it. Let’s see what’s up next.

Secrets to Spiritual Success: This is the longest portion of the introduction to this bible. It covers methods and guidelines to follow to guarantee success in your spiritual life. Again I had problems with Laurie’s out look right from the start of this portion. He writes; “Just as in a race all runners get on their line and take off when the starter pistol fires, so we must begin the most important race we will ever run-the spiritual race. Our objective is also to win.” Does this guy really view life as a competition? Maybe this is why we have 38,000 denominations of Christianity, they are all in different positions for the race to god.

In a following paragraph he says “”I’ve tried Christianity.” I have heard some individuals say, “but it didn’t work for me.” Please know this: Christianity is not a product that works for some and not for others.” Yes it is. That is exactly what it is, otherwise we would all be Christians and I would still believe in their god. What an elitist thing to say. That is basically saying our product is not defective, it must have been the user. This is soon followed up by this “It comes down to personal choice. If you want to succeed in the Christian life – if you go for it – then you can and will succeed.” What a load of bollocks. If you want to obey then you will succeed, but if you want to think for yourself, this may not be the way to go.

Greg continues on to give five secrets to spiritual success. I am going to summarize these as best I can and cover some more of the spots where I think his logic is flawed. Step 1: Read the bible. Seems simple enough until he goes on to say things like “The bible is god’s very word to us.” I find it very hard to view the bible as the word of god when it was so clearly written by man. I will go into these contradictions as I read through the actual bible portion of this book. He also said something that just made me laugh; “The bible is for people who feel some sense of desperation about where they are in life…It is for people who don’t want to be controlled any longer by their passions, who don’t want to be constant victims of circumstance, and who want to improve their relationships.” I have had more than enough times of desperation, but reading the bible has never helped me out of them. Controlled by passion? I have many passions, but I am not controlled by any of them. Victim of circumstance? That is something that cannot be controlled. Improve relationships? My deepest relationship is with my wife who is a fellow atheist. We do not need the bible to bring us closer.

“The bible reveals who we really are, deep inside – and that may be one reason why some people don’t like to read it.” The more I read the bible the happier I am knowing there is no god. So in a sense, it did play a part in revealing who I am deep inside, not the only thing that helped me realize who I am, but a part. Laurie says things like “The bible is the truth” and “the bible is god’s infallible word”. Why then are there contradictions with it’s texts? We will get to those as we go through the scriptures. So step 1 is to read the bible, and we know it is true because it says it is.

Step 2: Pray. I never really thought about prayer until I stopped praying. Once I started thinking about it and what god is supposed to be, I realized how useless prayer is. This falls along the lines of free will as well. Look at it this way, if god is omniscient then it already knows the outcome of everything, past, present and future. Since it knows the outcome of everything, then it knows the decisions and the outcomes of the decisions that I will make. If the outcomes are known, then that must mean that they are pre-determined to happen, even if I have no knowledge of the outcome. So if everything already has a preset path, then the free will that I think I have is only an illusion. This goes the same for prayer. If god already knows what you are going to pray for and whether your prayer is going to be answered then the act is not going to effect the outcome.

Greg’s views on prayer also bring other arguments to the table as well. He says “Consider a simple guideline to keep in mind when you are waiting for your prayers to be answered: If the request is wrong, god says “no”; If the timing is wrong, god says “slow”; If you are wrong, god says “grow”; But if the request is right, the timing is right and you are right, god says “go!””. I am sure if this mantra was told to the parents of a kidnap victim they would question what was wrong with the timing or the request to bring their child home safe. This kind of thinking only seems to apply when things go right or when the situation is not very serious. I am sure many of the people in Mother Teresa’s homes were praying with all their heart for better conditions, but they were forced to live in squalor because Teresa thought that suffering brought them closer to god.

Instead of questioning the validity of prayer when prayers go unanswered, the faithful just seem to pray harder. This seems like faulty logic to me. If a method to do something is not working you would not continue to try the method and expect a different outcome. People need to evaluate their situation and make informed decisions and formulate a plan of action.

Not all prayer is to ask for something. It is also to have a conversation and relationship with god. I have been told by more than one Christian that if I ask, god will answer. To this I say yeah right. Before I was an atheist, when I still believed in that big imaginary friend in the sky I asked with all my heart “Are you there god?” I have yet to receive an answer. Please don’t try to tell me that god did answer and I was not listening. If there was an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent being I am pretty sure it would have been able to answer in a way that I understood.

Step 3: Go to church. I am not going to say much about this step. If you want validation that you are making the right choices, you should be around others that will tell you that you are. Church once created a sense of community, but it is no longer needed for that. We have so many ways to connect with other people now. “Being in a fellowship with other believers is proof that you are a child of god.” How is that proof of anything? Creating bonds with your fellow human beings is a good thing for sure. When we work together we can accomplish amazing things. This does not, however, prove or give validity to the existence of a higher power.

Step 4: Give. This is the step that I have the least problems with. Giving to help your fellow man (or woman) is a noble cause that I can stand beside. I look at major televangelists and see the lavish lifestyles that they are living off of their followers and wonder why they do not see it. Giving is a good thing, but know who you are giving to. Be sure that your money is going to the people who need it, not turning the evangelist who is asking for it into a millionaire. I look at somebody like Harold Camping who took in over $100 million from his followers and was living a more than comfortable life (up until that stroke). Many of these people gave their life savings just on faith. Laurie says “To be a successful Christian means that god will be in control in every area of your life.” What use does an omnipotent being have for money? None, it is a man made thing to swindle people out of what they have earned.

Step 5: Spread the word. I am not sure how many times I have been told “Stop shoving your atheist opinions down my throat.” Well kiss my ass you big hypocrites. Or is it ok for Christians to spread their beliefs around the world because the bible tells them to? Greg says that “No one is exempt.” from spreading the word. To that I say I will not stop either, and don’t ask me to keep my beliefs to myself if you will not do the same.

Some of Laurie’s thoughts on why people need to spread the word “Why doesn’t god just poke his face out  of the heavens and say, “Believe in me now!”? Why does he want to use flawed people like us? I don’t really know; I just know he does. The primary way god has chosen to reach people is through people.” When Christians preach to me I try my best to consider what they say. I evaluate what I am told and then respond in turn. More often than not I do not receive the same consideration. Faith seems to blind many from considering any opinions outside of it. Why doesn’t god poke it’s head out? Maybe because it is not there and the idea was created by flawed people.

So if you practice these steps you will be spiritually successful. I guess it works as long as you do not question anything about it.

Laurie has added a few more helps that are inserted throughout the scriptures. These notes come in one of four formats: Grow entries, revealing key disciplines of the Christian life; Know articles, exposing the core beliefs of the Christian; Live messages, focusing on various aspects of salvation; and Learn notes, providing mini-commentaries on key passages for spiritual growth. All the direction you need to be told how to live.

So far this is what I expected. Laurie is a true salesman, but that only works if you are looking to buy. If you are looking from an outside perspective you can see the flaws and problems with the product. And isn’t that what religion really is, just another product that somebody is trying to sell you?

My next entry of this journey will be the start of the New Testament. I think I will post the entirety of the chapters and place my thoughts in between. I have seen other bloggers like Atheist Bible Study and A Skeptics Journey Through the Bible go over the chapters in this format and I like the way it works.

Join me next time when I start reading Matthew.

Monday, July 11, 2011

START! Bible Study

I have been putting this off for far to long now and I think it is time I begin.

I have started to read START! The Bible for New Believers New Testament. This book was sent to my by a relative who is worried about my spiritual well-being. I plan to go through the entirety of the book blogging along the way. I am currently reading through the introduction portion with a highlighter in hand. Hopefully I will have an entry up covering the introductory chapters within a day. From there we start with Matthew and go through to Revelation.

This is not my first time reading the bible, but it is the first time I am going to write about my findings. I hope that you will join me on this journey.