Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Fasting and Regaining Sight of Imperatives

(guest article authored by Jimmie Parr)

Have you ever misplaced something, sought all around for it, and perhaps have even asked someone else to help you to find the misplaced item?  And then you find the item in your hand.  In the case of a pair of glasses, you find them on your forehead.  When you asked another person to help you to find the wayward item, you may have opened yourself up to embarrassment, because that person may have pointed out to you the “lost” spectacles above your brow, or the ink pen in your hand.  Or, as happened to me recently, I “lost” the keys to my vehicle.  I went to a neighbor’s to borrow a wire coat hanger, so that I could break into my own vehicle.  The neighbor came with me to watch the show.  When we got back to my vehicle, he saw my keys on the hood of the vehicle.  I’d put them there, because I’d “lost” something else, and was emptying my pockets, to try to find whatever else it was that had “sprouted legs.”
How many solutions to problems are at our fingertips?
More and more Americans are seeing that the U.S. is in deep trouble.  Are there solutions to our problems?  Do we need to audit the Federal Reserve Bank?  Do we need to cause Walmart to cease to exist, as it currently is?  Do all Americans need to be armed?  Do all Americans need to be disarmed?
Long ago, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem by Roman armies in A.D. 69, historian Flavius Josephus wrote, “Now if any one consider these things (events surrounding the fall of Jerusalem), he will find that God takes care of mankind, and by all ways possible foreshows to our race what is for their preservation; but that men perish by those miseries which they madly and voluntarily bring upon themselves” (Wars of the Jews, Book VI, Chapter 5, section 4).  What Josephus wrote is parallel to what Amos wrote:  “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).
Long ago, the Creator sent one of his servants—Jonah—to the city of Nineveh.  The Creator planned to bring Nineveh to nothing, but He, through Jonah, warned the Ninevites, as Amos declares that the Creator does, before He acts.  The Creator warns of impending disaster, and tells how to head off that disaster, as Josephus expressed that he believed that the Creator does (gives warnings before allowing disaster).  Concerning the story of Nineveh, I have more to convey, because I believe that, in the book of Jonah, there is a lesson for us, today.  That lesson would lead us toward knowing whether to ban Walmart, whether to abolish the Federal Reserve System, and into countless other remedies of problems.
Can You Let Go of Everything Blocking View of Reality?
I can’t help thinking of a joke.  A guy who is standing at the edge of a cliff slips off the edge.  He grabs a branch of a bush at the edge of the cliff.  Hanging from the branch, he looks up and yells, “Is anyone up there?!?  Please help me!!”
Looking up, the guy sees a dark cloud, and hears a thunderclap.  He hears a voice:  “I can help you.”
“W-who are y-you?” asks the man in peril.
“I am God,” replies the voice.
“How can you help me?”
“Let go of the branch,” the voice answers.
“What???  Let go of the branch?”
Pondering his situation, the man yells, “Is anyone else up there?”
Do you ever, in retrospect, wonder whether you ever stumbled over the truth, but, because it was seemed so foreign or unpopular, you picked yourself up, brushed yourself off, and hurried along on your way?  Could you ever re-trace your steps, and find that truth (or that chunk of truth) over which you had stumbled remains where it was, when it tripped you?  Could you even have truth in your hand, or perched on your forehead, and not even realize that it's there?  You're frantically seeking truth, and you're holding the key, and you ask someone else to help you to find the key.
Recently, I wrote about my opinion that the desire to conform can prevent us from seeing or recognizing truth.  A desire to keep up with the rushing sheep surrounding us; to keep one's nose as close as possible to the rumps of the sheep charging ahead, can block one’s view of the truth that there is a cliff over which, one-by-one, each member of the entire herd is hurtling.  As I wrote in the above-linked article, in a car dealership, a service writer’s opinion that I could not use knowledge of chemistry to solve a problem with an automobile helped to block his ability to see that, without wrenches or sale of new auto parts, I had, with knowledge of chemistry, already solved that problem with a customer’s vehicle.  The fact that the customer was satisfied didn't matter.  He viewed truth as being in his way of conformity, so, before he stumbled over truth, he turned and ran in the other direction.  In that way, he kept himself in conformity with the remainder of the herd of “conventional,” “in-the-box” mechanics.
Miracle (n.)—the Process of Reversing Entropy
What is the truth about so-called “miracles?  Many of us have heard a Bible story of a person, having been dead four days, brought back to life.  Have there ever been such miracles?  If so, will such miracles ever occur again?  Can life be wrenched from the jaws of certain, imminent death, or actual death?
I include many occurrences in the category of miracles.  In my opinion, the “mass transit,” by blood hemoglobin, of oxygen molecules to cells which need oxygen, and the return, by those same blood cells, of carbon dioxide from individual cells back to the atmosphere, is a miracle, or a series of miracles.  Respiration flies in the face of what I understand about the law of entropy, which states that everything tends to become increasingly random and disorderly.  (Forgive my possible omission, due to an attempt to be brief, of key aspects of the second law of thermodynamics.)  A mountain which has been thrust up from the Earth's crust is slowly hammered by the sun's heat, by rain dissolving soluble portions, by water in cracks freezing and breaking one piece in two.  Eventually, particles which once constituted a mountain are spread all along a river bottom and out to sea; not to mention wind-borne particles from that mountain, which are spread “everywhere.”  Eroded particles do not coalesce to form mountains.  An explosion at an automobile assembly plant does not result in pieces falling together as assembled automobiles.  Mountains break and wear into pieces.  Exploded buildings result in disorder—entropy.  In my view, the fact that life even exists screams that Someone is making it happen.  The existence of life is a miracle.  Each living organism is a miracle.  Life and entropy seem to be on opposite sides of the battlefield, in some ways, although living things depend on entropy, in order to garner nutrients.  Plant roots cannot take up boulders through their root hairs.  Supposedly, plant roots secrete substances which dissolve mineralsPlant roots also depend on help from fungi which live symbiotically on roots.  Humans chew food.  Chewing food changes the orderly structure of a chicken wing into the disorder of a chewed-up slurry mixed with saliva—in order to help our stomachs with the task of chemical breakdown (more entropy) of that mass, in order that the nutrients in it can be made available for our individual cells in our bodies.  So the end result of the entropy involving masticating and digesting food is the transfer of selected minerals from one form of life to another—a building process, though much of the bulk of food which we eat goes (or should go, if we didn't flush it down toilets), in a state of relative entropy, back to the ground.
In short, I do not limit my definition of the word, miracle, to include only incidents such as walking on water, or the sudden healing of an incurable disease.  Yes, I believe that miracles (supernatural interventions—interventions by the Creator) occur, because I believe that a long series of miracles occur with each living organism, to bring that organism from “lifeless” rock and soil to its existence as a causative agent, whether with its roots, or with its earth-moving equipment, of a new type of change of our environment.
If I take soil with a high percentage of clay, mix that soil with water, and add a source of sodium ions, I make the water murky, and it remains murky, because sodium disperses the clay particles, many of which are tiny enough to remain suspended in the water.  If I add Epsom salts to that cloudy, muddy water, the water clarifies.  An observing child may believe that, with Epsom salts, I performed a miracle.  Similarly, if I were to see a leper suddenly healed, I would consider it a miracle.  But the One who is ultimately responsible for that healing may view the healing of a leper as I would view the use of magnesium sulphate to cause the clay suspended in water to flocculate and settle out of suspension.  The Creator may view the sudden healing of a leper as most people tend to view respiration, if those people don't think about what a miracle, as at least a temporary defeat of entropy, respiration in a life form truly is.
[In the physical universe, to build a perpetual motion machine is impossible.  Is the granting of eternal life an individual's ultimate victory against the effects of the law of entropy—the second law of thermodynamics—(I Corinthians 15:54-56)?]
When you think of a miracle which the Creator would perform, do you think of an accompanying light show, and/or an earthquake, or (thanks to Hollywood) stirring orchestral music?  Do you think of a scene from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments?  Think about this.  When the Israelites saw the Red Sea part, were they more concerned with the “FX” (“special effects”—the light show, the background orchestra, the shaking ground), or were they more concerned with “gittin’ outta Dodge”—escaping the clutches of Pharaoh and his pursuing charioteers?  Don’t be so certain about their response, or your response, in a similar situation.  Think about what happened with Naaman, who, centuries ago, was the leader of the army of Syria.
Though Naaman had many accomplishments under his belt, he was a leper.  The first few verses of II Kings 5 tell the story of how Naaman found out about Elisha, who was a prophet of YHVH, or YHWH—the Creator.  Naaman went to Elisha, so that Elisha could perform a miracle, and rid the former of his leprosy.  After Naaman arrived, Elisha did not even go out to meet Naaman, though Naaman was a “great” and noted man.  Elisha sent a messenger out to Naaman.  The messenger told Naaman to wash himself seven times in the Jordan River, in order to be rid of his leprosy.  Naaman was furious.  He wanted a performance.  He wanted a show.  He wanted to see “the man” (Elisha); not a messenger of Elisha’s, and he wanted special effects.  Naaman said that he knew of Syrian rivers which were better than the Jordan River, and, in great fury, he left.  But one of Naaman’s servants wisely said, “Hey, pal…if Elisha had told you to do some huge feat to get rid of the leprosy, wouldn’t you have done it?  Did you want to get rid of the leprosy, or did you just want a light show to post on YouTube?  Why don’t you just try to do the simple thing that he said to do?”  (Excuse my paraphrase.)  Naaman decided to listen to his adviser, and washed himself in the Jordan River.  After Naaman did what he was told to do, his leprosy vanished, and his skin became like that of a young boy.  There was no lightning.  There was no earthquake.  There was not even a hint of violin music.  Neither was there any more leprosy.  It was a “no-frills” miracle.
Elijah the prophet got a visit from the Creator.  Preceding His visit, there was a whirlwind.  And then there was an earthquake.  After that, there was a fire.  But the Creator was in neither the earthquake, nor the whirlwind, nor the fire, though He could have chosen to be in the whirlwind, as He was, when he spoke to Job (Job 38:1), who probably needed such, to get his attention.  The Creator didn't put on a huge show for Elijah, and Elijah wisely knew that his Creator was neither in the earthquake nor in the whirlwind (though lawyers now like to call earthquakes and tornadoes “acts of God”).  To Elijah, the Creator spoke in a still, soft voice (I Kings 19:12).
If a miracle were to be performed for your benefit, would you “look a gift horse in the mouth,” as did Naaman?  Would you seek after the FX?  Would you put form over substance, as Naaman almost did, until he was shaken back into reasoned thinking?
Naaman had stumbled upon the truth—the truth that he could be rid of leprosy.  However, because he had a wrong impression of truth (because his impression of the occurrence of a miracle conformed to what he’d always heard about miracles), he almost brushed himself off, and hurried back on his way, after his having stumbled upon truth.  In his opinion, truth was sparkling, and glowing, and its arrival is heralded with inspiring orchestral strains.  Fortunately, after beginning to hurry back on his way away from truth over which he'd stumbled, he was able to re-trace his steps, and find the substance which he had sought.
Concerning our food supply, we have confounded form with substance, as Naaman temporarily did.  We deem the “show” (long ears of corn; full bushel baskets) more important than is the nutrient content of each grain of corn.  As a result, our food does not contain the nutrient content which it once contained.  We fill our bellies, but our individual cells make cries for nutrition, before they begin to fall before the horde of diseases, which flee in the presence of proper nutrient content.  The truth is perched on our brows; not on our noses, where the truth needs to be, so that we can see.  The truth is right there, but we can't find it.
“But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it” (Deuteronomy 30:14; Romans 10:8).
Jonah, Fasting, and Repentance
Many of us have heard of Jonah, the prophet sent to Nineveh to warn the people of Nineveh that they, as a society, were about to be destroyed (Jonah 1:1, 2; 3:1-4).  Unfortunately, the incident which most people remember is Jonah having been swallowed by a “whale” (great fish).  They know little or nothing about why the Creator sent a great fish to get Jonah turned around from his own will.
During Jonah’s day, Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian EmpireJonah was an Israelite.  Assyria and Israel (“the northern kingdom,” as opposed to the Kingdom of Judah) were frequently at odds with each other.  According to Isaiah, the Creator used Assyria as a “rod,” with which to “spank” Israel.
I have some questions concerning whether ancient civilizations can be traced to modern nations.  Does the Creator, to this day, have “Assyria” ready to “spank” Israel, again?  If so, where is Assyria, today?  Where is Israel?  Will the Creator use Assyria as a rod, once again, to “spank” Israel?  If Israel and the Jewish people are one and the same, why does the Bible make reference to Israel, in alliance with Syria, being at war with Jerusalem and the Jews (II Kings 16:6, 7), if the only Israelites who have ever existed are Jews?  Why does the Bible make reference to a coming time when Judah (the Jews) and Ephraim will be made one, if they have always been one and the same?  Few wish to argue whether Jews are Israelites.  (I am aware of the arguments that Ashkenazim are not truly Jews; are not descendants of Abraham.)  But are there other Israelites?  Are (true) Jews merely from one tribe (Judah) of Israel?  Who were (are?) the “Lost Ten Tribes?”
Back to Jonah, and his being sent to Nineveh to warn the Ninevites that their wickedness was so great that they were about to be destroyed, again, think about the backdrop.  Assyria had been used, again and again, to “paddle” Israel.  Why would Jonah have any interest in going to Nineveh, and warning them that they were about to be destroyed?  Try to put yourself back 50 years, during the “Cold War.”  Imagine being sent to warn Moscow that they were so wicked that they were about to be destroyed.  Or, if you happen to be from another country, imagine being sent to a country which is your enemy, and warning them that they are about to be destroyed.  Realize, as Jonah did, that the Creator’s mercy “endureth for ever” (136th Psalm).  Jonah understood that the Creator warns in order to save lives (Ezekiel 18:23; John 14:17; Luke 9:54-56; II Peter 3:9).  Jonah knew the reason that he was sent to Nineveh.  That reason was not to “rub it in their faces;” simply to tell the Ninevites that they were “finished,” and that they had no chance.  Knowing the merciful nature of the Creator, Jonah knew that there was a chance that Nineveh would turn from their ways, and that, if they turned from their ways, the Creator would turn from His plan to destroy Nineveh.  Jonah loved his country.  Carnally, he wanted to see that Assyria was no longer around to be the “rod” in the hand of the Creator.  When the Creator told Jonah to go to Nineveh to warn them, Jonah went in the opposite direction.
“Many are called; few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14).  If I understand this correctly, Jonah was not merely called to preach to Nineveh.  He was chosen to preach to Nineveh.  Perhaps people who are “called” can run away.  People who are chosen are “drafted.”  Jonah started to bolt; he wasn’t allowed to continue to run.
Did the Ninevites laugh at a “foreigner,” from a rival nation, as that foreigner told them that their fall was imminent (40 days from the time that he began preaching)?  Did they drop a net on Jonah, and accuse him of being seditionist?  They began fasting.
Can you, as an American, having a Russian come here, and preach to us that our fall is imminent, and having Americans begin to fast, because they believed the “Ruskie?”  Didn’t we have a Russian come here and tell us about some of our problemsDid we listen to Aleksandr SolzhenitsynHere’s some more warning, from another Russian—Stanislav Mishin.  How will you react?
Charlie Daniels cut a record in the early 1980s.  His tune (“In America”) declared that America “may have stumbled, but she ain’t never fell.  And if the Russians don’t believe that, they can all go straight to hell.”  At that time, I was a student in a university.  In Iran, 52 Americans were being held hostage by Iranian revolutionaries.  As it turned out, those hostages were held a total of 444 days, until the day of the inauguration of Ronald Reagan as president.  I wrote a letter to the editor of the school newspaper, and said that Charlie Daniels’ song stirred too much pride, and not enough sorrow.  I stated that pride precedes destruction.  I cited reasons to suspect that the U.S. was beginning to fall.  That letter generated some hate mail.  In condemnation of my letter, one person wrote, “Even if the U.S. is in decline, we should do all that we can to enjoy ourselves, while there is still time to do so.  Charlie Daniels did us a favor.  He gave us a boost.”
Upon hearing, from Jonah, that their city’s collapse was imminent, the Ninevites did not reply with, “We should have fun during the next 40 days, while we can.”  They did not seek a phony “boost” from musicians.  They didn’t immerse themselves in the NFL and tailgate parties.  As stated, the Ninevites fasted.  The animals fasted.  Even the king of Nineveh fasted.  And, perhaps for the only time in history, a large group of people listened to a prophet sent from the Creator, and the merciful Creator turned away from His plan to see that Nineveh was overthrown (Jonah 3:5-10).  Assyria remained as a power, and, soon after Jonah preached to Nineveh, Assyria conquered Israel, and its capital, Samaria (I Kings 17:6).
Again, think about the Bible calling the city of Samaria the capital of Israel.  Wasn’t Jerusalem the capital of ancient Israel?  Jerusalem was the capital of Israel during the reigns of David and Solomon, but not after Jeroboam stirred ten of the twelve tribes to break the alliance with the tribe of Judah.  At the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign, Israel pulled away from Rehoboam’s rule, and Rehoboam became the king of Judah.  Jeroboam was chosen to be the king of Israel (“the northern kingdom”).
One reason that I keep hammering the fact that the Bible refers to a Kingdom of Judah and a Kingdom of Israel is that I believe that some of us may not grasp our ancestry.  If that is so, we may fail to understand our past, and we also may be oblivious to our immediate future.  And perhaps some of that understanding could come by fasting, as understanding came to the Ninevites as a result of a collective fast.
Earlier, I mused about whether getting rid of “The Fed,” or getting rid of Walmart, might help the U.S.  But I believe that, before doing anything else, the neophyte who is just beginning to discover that the U.S. may be “too far gone” needs to fast, just as the Ninevites fasted.
I should not give up on the U.S. (which, I believe, contains part of Israel, as you may, by now, have guessed), just as Paul wrote that he longed for the salvation of Israel (Romans 9:1-5).  And, as Paul believed that “all of Israel shall be saved” (Romans 11:26), I believe that the U.S. (and France, and Ireland, and other nations of Israel) will come out of what I believe is about to occur—Jacob’s trouble (Jeremiah 30:7; Matthew 24:22).  But my suspicion is that, until it is “too late” to save the U.S. as it now is, people in the U.S. will not react to sanity as did the Ninevites to Jonah’s message.  The reasons that I suspect that are 1) my observation that, in history, societies, with what seems the lone exception of the example of Nineveh’s reaction to Jonah, do not heed warnings of disaster due to moral decay, and 2) my observation of our reaction to what Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn told to our people.
When I hear people discussing how to save the U.S., I often hear that we should “End the Fed.”  And I agree that we should end the Federal Reserve System, as Andrew Jackson mustered all in his power to defeat the renewal of the charter of the 2nd Bank of the United States—the “Fed” of his day.  But, with a moral climate in shambles, ending the Fed will create a vacuum which some system as bad or worse will fill.
Very soon after the war, General Douglas MacArthur delivered a speech in which he said the following.
“Men since the beginning of time have sought peace.... Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. We have had our last chance. If we do not now devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door. The problem basically is theological and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, literature and all material and cultural development of the past two thousand years. It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”
It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.  Abolishing the “Fed” will not be enough.  Stopping Walmart will not suffice.  Stopping Walmart without a nationwide spiritual renewal will result in a vacuum which something as bad or worse will occupy.
As I said, I suspect that the U.S. will not, collectively, fast, as did the inhabitants of Nineveh.  The “land of the free” will lose what little free press is left, along with the remainder of the Bill of Rights, including arms, along with the right to bear them.  And, if you are in another country, don’t kid yourself.  Know that the fall of the U.S. will affect you adversely.  But you, individually, can wake up whatever portions of your mind are asleep.
It is true that, when we pray, “(May) Thy Kingdom come,” we are praying for the end of the government of the United States, as we know that government; as it has ever existed, historically.  Further, we are praying for the end of all human governments, as they exist, or have ever existed.  Though the courageous Founding Fathers of the united States moved us toward liberty, they did not bring us liberty.  And anyone understanding the world as it is has at least begun to come to realize that.  I am not criticizing the Founding Fathers.  They created a government which brought us closer to how things will be when the Kingdom comes than any other government since the government which the Creator brought to Israel, which government was never fully implemented (Judges 1:21-35).  The reason that the Son of the Creator is returning is because no one else could bring the “restitution of all things” (Acts 3:21).
Jeremiah suffered greatly, because he told the truth about his nation, Judah.  His own people forced him to spent time in a filthy dungeon which some scholars say was also a cesspool.  But, after the fall of Judah, he was free to go where he wished.  Sadly, Isaiah did not fare so well.  According to Jewish tradition, King Manasseh saw to it that Isaiah was cut in half with a sawBoth Jeremiah and Isaiah saw death.  But they will have their places in a “better resurrection” (Hebrews 11:35).  That is the ultimate value of fasting often (II Corinthians 11:27).  Fasting helps us to challenge the true worth of the flesh, and adulation of it.  Fasting helps to teach us, “The flesh profiteth nothing” (John 6:63).
If you don’t have the courage to fast, as did the Ninevites, Jacob’s Trouble will push you toward “lying wonders.”  Will you, with your physical life in the balance, then be able to refrain from believing them?
The word is nigh unto thee” (Deut. 30:14).  The key which you seek is in your hand.  Your glasses which you thought that you lost are on your forehead.  Though not easy to perform, the solutions to our problems can be found.  “This kind (of unclean spirit) goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:21).

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