Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Mark 1:40-43 And a leper came to him, begging him, and saying to him, “If you desire to, you can purify me.” Angered, (Jesus) stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I desire, be pure!” And immediately the leper left him, and he was purified. And growling at him, (Jesus) immediately cast him away, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priests, and offer your purification what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Instead, (the former leper) went out and began to talk about it, and to spread the news, with the result that (Jesus) was not longer able to enter into a town openly, but stayed outside in deserted places.

This passage in Mark is more correctly translated with the word angered, but some translations do choose a more obscure translation of “with compassion” as they do not feel “angered” fits Jesus’ nature. Considering the fact that the people did not feel that they could go to the priests, following the laws of Moses, and that they needed to instead go to Jesus, likely angered Jesus. It was not so much the leper, as the situation. And, after instructing the man not to tell anyone, he told everyone, which caused Jesus issues, further confirms that Jesus had a right to be angry. When someone does not do his job, or follow the rules, to the point where another needs to step in, the system breaks down! This may seem like a minor point, as the priests likely did not believe they were neglectful or unapproachable, and the man likely thought he was helping everyone out by telling them where to go to be healed, but it caused a major change in Jesus’ ability to minister to the people.

Application for today: Think about: How often do you skirt your responsibilities, thinking someone else will handle it?

Example: One of the places I see this happening is in the raising of children, particularly in their education. We can use an example I observed of my granddaughters. One was homeschooled and the other was online in public school. My son was sitting in between them. The homeschooled child was learning to write a letter, while the public-school child was getting yet another lecture about basic behavior, including instructions on how to speak nicely to our friends. (She was not the source of the problem fortunately! Similar instructions are also repeated in every college class that uses a discussion format unfortunately….)

What I see today is that both teachers and parents are often not receptive to communication making them effectively unapproachable. Additionally, parents are often not checking homework, or correcting behavior, and/or making excuses for their child’s performance and they assume that the teacher should be responsible for much more than is reasonable. If the teacher has to teach any child in the class basic behavior that should have been taught at home, then there is not much time left for math and English! (There are teachers who are less than stellar. I understand. That is a problem that needs to be brought to the administration and not the scenario we are discussing here….)

Thiessen, Matthew. Jesus and the Forces of Death: The Gospels’ Portrayal of Ritual Impurity Within First-century Judaism. Baker Academic, 2020.

The Exodus: Leaving Slavery

The Israelites who left Egypt for the Promised Land had only ever known a life of slavery. Exodus is an account that instructs us how to leave that life. Everyone has something that holds them back from achieving everything God has available for them in this life. Think about your goals and dreams, and about how you can bring about godly changes in your situation as well.

1. First, sit down and create a list of the things which hold you back.

These things typically fall into the category of “stinking thinking,” which includes thinking that any other life is impossible, or someone else has the power to keep it from you. There may be obstacles, but many times the will to change and the willingness to do the hard work will lead to success. The Egyptians knew that the Israelites had grown too numerous and that they would be unable to keep them as slaves if they chose to rebel, so they put things into place to keep them down, including killing off their male children. The Israelites were so used to slavery, that even the order of the death of their children did not inspire them to revolt. “Stinking thinking” often makes us believe that things are hopeless, when they are not. The Egyptians knew that the Israelites had power and did everything they could to keep them from realizing how much power they had.

The other category that often holds people back is “habit and/or lack of knowledge.” Scripture often states that God’s people suffer due to a lack of knowledge. Many times we too are stuck in routines that are counterproductive or merely do not have the knowledge of how to do things in a more productive manner. For example, many of us are successful but busy, and cannot imagine having to do more, so we turn down many opportunities we might enjoy, that may even lead to more success. There are people however that own and operate large businesses, and/or multiple businesses and accomplish much more than we do each day. The difference? They know how to use their resources, which includes hiring other people. Sometimes we just need to know how to do things in a different way, and we will be able to accomplish so much more! The Israelites did not know how to live independently, and relied on the Egyptians for their food. God provided their basic needs in the desert, but not the extras they felt they were entitled to. The Israelites did not look for solutions, nor did they ask for what they wanted appropriately; they merely complained, which angered God. Sometimes it is our lack of knowledge regarding how to approach a situation appropriately, even to the point of not knowing where the resources are and how to access them that holds us back. Asking for help, and searching for answers is always better than giving up.

2. Now, think of the things that you wrote down on the list and figure out what your personal “idols” are. An idol is anything that you put in place of God, which would include anything that you give power in your life to hold you back from everything God made you to be. These would include fear of upsetting people, thinking that God made you less than others so even with hard work and dedication you will fail, and thinking that you past determines your future. The Israelites were slaves. They had no training in living on their own, and no reason to believe they could go someplace and run their own nation successfully, especially during a time when nations frequently fought and the loser became the other nation’s slaves. The fear that they could end up in a worse situation than the one that they left was based on a very real possibility! So, the first thing God did was to prove that He was more powerful than any Egyptian god or other thing that the slaves were taught to fear/ idolize in the land they grew up in. Look at your list objectively, and see whether, or not, the things you believe are holding you back are really as powerful as you believe. Find others like you who have succeeded and research how they did it. Chances are the things you believe are holding you back are not insurmountable, though there may be hard work involved in the overcoming. The hard work helps us grow and teaches us resilience, and at times can be very satisfying, so do not fear it!

3. The Israelites then had to cross the Red Sea. They had to take action. They collected their belongings and moved! They also had to trust that the path through the sea would not collapse and drown them as they traveled on it. What actions do you need to take to reach your goals? What things are you worried about “collapsing” or “drowning” you as you pursue a better life? Can you trust God to help you through? Even though it was difficult in the desert, the Israelites were sustained, and while their complaining and lack of faith prevented them from entering the land, their children made it into the land. Even if we do not perform perfectly, our attempts set up our children for a brighter future as well!

4. Not going back to your old ways. God gave the Israelites new laws. In the process of receiving a new way to live, the Israelites decided to go back to some of their old ways and worship the golden calves. Going back to former habits often results in losing progress and may put you back where you started. What habits can you absolutely not return to if you wish to stay on a successful path? Make a list and refer back to it when you are tempted to go back to your old, comfortable, ways. Some habits do not look so bad from your perspective, but a person who is further along the path you wish to take may tell you not to do such and such a thing. Listen to them. Sometimes we do not see that we are sabotaging our own goals because we have not gotten to a place where we completely understand what it takes to succeed.

5. The Israelites doubted and complained- a lot. The path to success requires hard work and sacrifice. Anyone who has made it big will tell you about the difficult time they had getting there. The rewards at the end of the journey are good, but you do have to put in some work, and it will not always be pleasant. Doubting you will succeed and/or complaining will only keep you in the “hard work” phase longer and make you miserable while you are there! With the right attitude, even the hardest work phase can be enjoyable as you feel a sense of accomplishment with each successive step. Break up your task into smaller goals so it is easier to see your progress and celebrate each victory you achieve! The Israelites won a lot of smaller wars before they entered the Promised Land. Figure out what “wars” you face and tackle them with wisdom!

Remember, the Promised Land you seek may not be financial. It may be a health goal, or a want for a more peaceful life. Ask for help from someone who has been there and done that if you are able. They often have wisdom that will help you avoid mistakes as well. You may have to give up things to move forward. This is not always bad, as the benefits will be worth it! Too often we stay in “slavery,” knowing that there is an aspect of our life that is not good, but unable to believe it could ever be better. Don’t let yourself remain enslaved when the Promised Land awaits!

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One, Episode One: Encounter at Farpoint Station

               There is SO much in the episode to unpack regarding how we are to treat others! I will attempt to pick the overriding themes, but if you find something I did not cover, please feel free to go down that rabbit trail instead! This study is meant to help us explore our own morality and how well we are abiding by what we say we believe. If you or your group finds something else that you are excited to discuss, then chances are that topic has more relevance for you at this time. That does not mean that this week’s curriculum was a waste. It still created the opportunity to explore, and that is all it is meant to do! You may come back to it or move on, as you wish.

Topic One: Problematic Authority

In this episode there are three men who are in positions of significant authority.

Q, who is an example of someone with too much power and who believes he had an absolute authority.

Picard, who is an example of good authority, but also illuminates the problems within even the best systems, such as not being able to show any weakness or faults (here, it is his difficulty in dealing with children) and the loneliness of the position (as the conversation with Dr. Crusher and her son, Wesley, show that he is seen as a ‘pain,’ and someone people are afraid of, while Dr. Crusher points out that many in his position are lonely, and that Wesley’s father, who knew the captain prior to his having as much power, liked him very much).

Groppler Zorn is an example of a leader without much power, who, when an opportunity arises, takes advantage of someone weaker than him to rise in power. (Zorn, Gorn, Morn- there seems to be a naming theme here in the Star Trek franchise!) He justifies it by stating that the creature needed his help and he helped it, implying that the creature owes him or should be grateful and repay him. Picard points out that Zorn did the bare minimum, and in essence, used his ‘help’ to enslave the creature. The theme of enslavement is also repeated when Q brings up a past where humanity enslaved their military through the use of addictive drugs. The use of addiction in minority communities has been an accusation many have made against our government as well. (You may goggle this if you are unaware of this line of reasoning.)

It is Q’s power that we are most exposed to in this episode, so there are many examples of the type of behaviors that can occur when a person is given too much power. So, let us look at this more carefully.

Flaw One: A Double Standard: “I can do it, but you can’t”

There are excuses given to justify why it is okay for Q to do it, while he recognizes that it was bad when humanity did essentially the same things. He claims their faults make them a savage child race, but since he has power over them, the same obviously does not apply to him. A few of the examples of this are him accusing the humans of slaughtering millions, yet being quick to freeze Lt Torres, even though she posed no real threat considering his abilities, as well as the killing of the guard who lost to Lt Yar. Q accuses Picard of doing nothing when the Bandi city is being attacked, yet Q also did nothing, and does nothing when Picard begs him to save his people in the tunnels as well.

Flaw Two: Intimidation

Q attempts to intimidate the humans as he allows the guard to fire into the air and the ground at the trial and freezes people at will. His great power, which in this case he cannot help having, is also intimidating, and he uses it to intimidate, rather than attempting to communicate on a more even playing field. It is clear that if you upset Q, there will be severe consequences.

Flaw Three: Micromanaging

Q arrives in the middle of the test are attempts to get Captain Picard to speed things up. Picard tells Q that if he wants to judge them based on who they are now, he must allow them to do things their way.

The Bible gives us examples of both good and bad leadership. Since this episode shows us what a bad leader looks like, let us look more closely at Abraham, a good leader.

Abraham takes care of those who are under his care, empowering them. He raises his nephew, Lot. Since they moved to new land, there is no inheritance for Lot in this new land. As Lot is a member of his tribe, Abraham could keep everything for himself, yet he allots a portion for Lot, and trains him to manage it. Lot’s share equals his own. When Lot’s people begin to have disagreements with Abraham’s people, he allows Lot to have his choice of where to settle as they separate. He is truly meek- strong, but not using one’s strength unless needed.

Abraham also honors his wife Sarah. When the three angels visit, he helps with the meal. Sarah is barren, yet he continues to honor her as his only wife. He also listens to her ideas, and her decisions are honored, sometimes, as in the case of Ishmael’s banishment, against what he wishes to have happen.

Abraham is also strong, able to defeat 5 kings when he rescues Lot, yet he lives in tents at peace with the cities around him.

Questions:

1. What leadership flaws have you experienced? How did you handle them? Captain Picard gives us some examples of how a good leader stood up to over-reaching authority, but in reality, Picard’s methods do not always work, as Q ‘type’ leadership is very authoritative and powerful and you are relying on the ‘goodness’ of the leader when you appeal to their sense of morality by attempting to reason with them. This means that Q is not as bad as he could be, but he still not great…. Remember, Gandhi successfully appealed to the British Empire, but his methods did not have the same effect when dealing with Germany and their allies. It is much easier to be a ‘good’ leader when the balance of power between you and the person you are dealing with is not as vast as it is here.

2. What flaws in leadership are you prone to? Some of us like being in authority and have a tendency to tell people what to do without first listening and taking into account their needs, desires, feelings etc. Others of us have a tendency, like Zorn, to see a promising situation and pounce on it, taking advantage of the underdog, and justifying it. Honestly discuss which issues you are prone to and problem solve how you can avoid giving in to your more problematic behaviors in the future.

3. Are there people who are being ‘helped’ in a way that ultimately keeps them from a certain level of achieving, even though the help is needed? Are there better ways to help, and how can you improve how the help is given? Remember, because the people are used to a certain way of being ‘helped,’ they have likely bought into whatever half-truths have been told to them, and, like every other human, will likely resist change, this may not be an easy process. What problems within the community that is being ‘helped,’ also need to be overcome before a better system can be adopted? Are you part of a community where the ‘help’ is actually as much of a problem, as it is a cure? If small steps are needed, what are those steps, and how can you make sure those small steps are not used to take further advantage of this population? Can this occur on an individual basis? (Think about codependent relationships, and why they seem good, but are in reality bad.) Does everyone who ‘helps’ in a way that results in further dependence mean to oppress people, or is it occasionally an unintended consequence of good intentions? Are you in, or have you been in, a codependent relationship, and if so, how do you change so that a healthier relationship evolves? Look at this situation from both sides, the person who needs the help, and the person who is giving help.

Topic Two: Interacting With People Who Are Different From Yourself

This episode introduces us to the crew of the Star Trek Enterprise. In introducing us to the various crewmembers, we are shown each crewman’s uniqueness, and given a situation where another crewmember responds to these unique characteristics.

Counselor Troi is an empath. She senses what others feel. Her abilities are respected, and her need to close her mind when it becomes too much is respected, though when she is needed, her abilities are respectfully requested, while acknowledging that it will be difficult for her. Many people with empathic tendencies need their downtime. The crew’s treatment of Counselor Troi is a good example to follow, understanding that some personalities need some alone time to recover from their social interactions.

Commander Data is an android. There are things about the human experience that he struggles to understand, and he does not always say things in the most complimentary way, but when he explains what he means, it becomes obvious that his statement was just a statement of fact and not meant as a put down. He is socially awkward, but the crew understands his thinking process is different from theirs, and respects his differences, helping him understand with compassion when able.

Geordi LaForge and his visor is another topic of conversation. He has a ‘disability’ which has disadvantages, such as constant pain, but he chooses the pain and need for a visor over being “normal” due to the advantages it confers. Many people with disabilities choose different methods of managing their environment based on the plusses and minuses inherent in each method. Some of these adaptations may be seen as ‘odd’ by others. It is important to listen to the person’s reasoning, and actually attempt to understand why they have chosen the methods they have found to be most advantageous instead of forcing them to accommodate to change so that others are more comfortable. Dr. Crusher does a great job demonstrating this in her interactions with a patient whom she would initially love to ‘fix.’

Warf and Lt Yar are both great examples of people whose sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive and they are more likely to fight than flee. Lt Yar’s tendencies are due to a childhood in an abusive/ neglectful environment. Warf’s inclinations are due to growing up with a cultural identity that values confrontation. Captain Picard deals with their reactive nature through logic, and they listen, understand and change their behavior based on acknowledging through reason that Captain Picard does have a better plan, even though it goes against what their backgrounds have trained them to do.

Dr. Crusher has a traumatic past which involves Captain Picard. The Captain assumes, wrongly, that she would want a transfer due to this past. She explains, and Picard understands and respects her wishes to remain under his command, stating that he will work on building a relationship with her.

Captain Picard is awkward with children. He realizes that as a captain, he has an image to maintain and this fault may compromise the image he is trying to project. He asks Commander Riker for help, and instead of shaming him, or explaining that he ‘just needs to do this,’ Riker understands and offers to help. When Picard fumbles his interactions with Wesley, he apologizes and seeks to do better.

Wesley Crusher is a high IQ teen who does not completely understand proper social interactions when interacting with those in authority as his excitement overrides his ability to bow to authority as most adults and commanding officers expect. His mother does a great job both instructing her son and advocating for him at the same time.

Commander Riker is an ambitious person who has forsaken a relationship with Counselor Troi to pursue his career. He is tested by Picard and told to manually dock the battle bridge with the saucer section, which can be done automatically. Instead of arguing, he agrees, and does well. He is also accused by Dr. Crusher of creating drama to impress his captain. He does not become offended, but instead is patient, standing his ground and allowing Dr. Crusher to further observe and adjust her own conclusions. He is ambitious, but he knows how to properly handle challenges. He does not take them personally, nor does he become defensive.

In the Bible we see Jonathan’s son, Mephiboseth, who is crippled. King David, at a time when leadership is expected to be able to defend their holdings, and crippled people are often left begging on mats in the city, makes sure Mephiboseth has his backing and is able to maintain what his father has left him.

Questions:

1. All of us have flaws. What are your flaws? How do you handle them? Are you too hard on yourself, or do you make excuses instead of finding solutions? How can you handle your imperfections in a healthier manner?

2. Go through the list of personalities we are introduced to through the characters in Star Trek. You can add others I have not listed if you wish. Think of people in your life who are similar to these characters. How do you treat them? Are you understanding, or do you reply with quick, seemingly easy ‘solutions’ that assume the person who is living differently than you could be ‘fixed’ if they only listened to your brilliant advice? How are you at listening to others, striving to understand why they have made the decisions they have made, and do you give them the benefit of believing they are probably smart enough to have thought of whatever solution you could have come up with in very little time and that there is a good reason they are not following what you believe to be obvious and good advice? (This is a major complaint of people with disabilities by the way…)

3. There are people is every environment who are ‘punished’ by the group for being different. The people we are speaking of in this section are people whose differences do not affect their job, but just make others uncomfortable at times, either due to their disability or because they are ‘odd’ socially or in some other way. In life many ‘good’ people ignore these individuals, and while they are not mean, they avoid the person in such a way that the person feels excluded and unloved by the group. The person eventually leaves, or perhaps becomes depressed/ suicidal, even though their work is occasionally superior to what others are doing and they are not purposely hurtful to others. Like David, do you support these people, seeking to make sure that what is due to them is protected? Do you seek to understand this person, and ensure they have a place in the group that they are comfortable with, understanding that some people do not want extensive social interaction as well?

Topic Three: Handling Your Enemies

The creature who becomes Farpoint station is hurt. He (she?) uses subtle, passive methods to get the attention of the crew of the Enterprise, such as changing things to meet their expressed wishes. Likely the creature is trying to avoid punishment, while still accomplishing its goal. The methods work, and the creature is rescued.

The creature’s mate arrives and attacks the Bindi settlement, killing people, in an attempt to free its mate. As soon as the situation is resolved, and the mate is free, the creatures leave without further retaliation.

The crew of the Enterprise help the wounded creature by supplying it with all the energy it needs. (The Bindi have been giving it only enough to survive, keeping it weak and reliant on them for life.) Revived, the creature can now free itself. The deal with the Federation however, is not completely rescinded in light of what the Bindi did. Instead, the terms are that they must build the station themselves if they are to have a deal with the Federation.

In the Bible we are given a variety of commands regarding our enemies. There are times when armies are formed and the enemy is killed. There are other times however, when extreme mercy, not characteristic of the time, is shown, and forgiveness, not revenge is expected. God states that ‘vengeance’ is for Him alone to meet out. This indicates that the punishments in the Bible are for self-defense or a part of the justice system of the time. (Remember, there were no jails or ways to put people in prison for life, so the punishments may seem harsh to us today, but may have been necessary in a small town with no method of protecting its people from repeat offenders.)

Topic One: Vengeance

1. In this episode the Bindi are not punished for enslaving the creature by its mate. Once its mate is free, the creatures leave, happy to be reunited, even though both have the power to do much harm. The Federation too, only insists that the next station be built by the Bindi themselves. There is little retribution for what the Bindi have done, though in the course of freeing its mate, settlements are destroyed and people die. Was the destruction of the settlement punishment enough? Or, should there have been additional ‘sanctions’ etc to ensure that this never happens again? Think about whether, or not, the Bindi seem to have learned from this experience.

2. How do we determine when a punishment has been adequate and the need for further punishment has passed? Think of a time when someone wronged you. How did you react? Were you too passive, giving them permission to repeat the offense? Or, were you vengeful, going too far and perhaps being unjust/ cruel? Do you hold long term grudges and are there still people in your life that are receiving negativity from you for things that have long since passed? Is passive-aggressive behavior ever okay, or should consequences be straight forward.

3. When should mercy be shown? In the Bible we are instructed to turn the other cheek to a mild offense, go the extra mile when someone asks for a favor, even if we find it oppressive (such as carrying the pack of a Roman soldier while we are a conquered people) or giving someone who steals our coat, our shirt as well. We are also instructed to bless those who persecute us. When is it time for justice in our society, and when should mercy be shown? Think of a time you were grateful for the mercy of another. How did that affect your life? Was it positive, or would punishment have motivated you more towards a better life?

 (FYI: The purpose of carrying the Roman soldier’s pack was so the soldier would have his hands free to defend the travelers if they were attacked. There was a limit to how far a soldier could make an individual carry the pack before it had to be given to another. The Romans saw this as practical and merciful. The Jewish people saw it as just another act of oppression, and often refused to do it, putting the soldier in an uncomfortable position as he could either ignore the refusal, showing that he had no real authority and perhaps be left with his hands full when he was needed to defend the people or, he could arrest the person who refused, leaving the group undefended while he took care of the matter. Punishments for soldiers who failed at their jobs were harsh, and the Romans were proud of maintaining ‘safe’ roads, so the soldier was also looking at possible consequences to himself if he were judged to have made the wrong decision. Bonus question: Are there times in our society when a ‘merciful’ act (something meant for good) is seen in a negative light by the people who are supposedly being ‘helped?’)

4. Think about your parenting. (If you are not a parent, either think about this hypothetically, or apply it to a situation where you do have authority over others.) How do you determine when to punish, how much to punish, when the punishment is over, and when to show mercy?

Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season One: Episode Two: The Naked Now

The Enterprise has been sent to investigate odd messages that are being sent from a research vessel investigating a star that is transitioning from a Red Giant to a White Dwarf star. The messages are sexually inappropriate, with indications of party-like behavior in the background. An emergency hatch is blown and when the Enterprise arrives there is no sign of life aboard the research vessel. An away team is sent, and finds evidence of a wild party…..

Topic One: Wanting to Be Different

Throughout the Next Generation series we will observe Data wishing to be more human. Here we see Geordi, who has never expressed significant discontent with his vision, wanting to see like others, even though he admits that others’ sight is less precise than his own. For very high IQ individuals, wanting to be able to socialize more ‘normally’ is often wished for, even though their high IQ is the problem and undoubtably has many benefits.

We also see Lt Yar wishing to be more like Counselor Troi, wearing pretty clothes and complicated hairstyles. When Troi indicates that this type of behavior is not for her, Lt Yar storms off to find help elsewhere.

In the Bible, Saul, who is king, is rebuked when he performs sacrifices instead of Samuel, who is late. This is not the role of a king in this instance. Although he has a ‘good excuse,’ the person who is to do it is running late, he has overstepped his authority, and tried to become everything, instead of what he has been called to be.

Questions:

1. When in life is trying to change good, leading you to expand your abilities and knowledge? And, when is it a sign that you are wrongly discontent with who you are, and struggling to fit into a mold you were never made for?

2. What pressures in life cause us to be discontent with ourselves? When are these ‘good’ pressures, which cause us to better ourselves? When are they negative pressures, pushing us to conform in ways that are not proper? How can we correct situations in which the pressure to conform is inappropriate and hurtful to an individual? (Think about how to deal with these pressures ourselves as well as how to help another who is experiencing these pressures in many situations including work, social settings and on social media.)

Topic Two: Knowledge Versus Maturity: Do We Need Both?

So, since he is intoxicated by the contagion, this episode is not entirely sympathetic to Wesley’s plight, but his issues are very real and do not end when the effects of the intoxicant wears off. Wesley bemoans the fact that he has full knowledge of everything to do with the bridge, yet he is not allowed to be on the bridge. He is bright, but still a child, and he has not gone through all of the training, exams, and experiences required to be part of the bridge crew.

In the Bible we see Solomon, a king, ask and receive wisdom from God. He still makes mistakes even though his wisdom is great, and writes a book, Ecclesiastes, telling us the pitfalls of many of the not so great behaviors he has engaged in, such as accumulating women and chasing wealth.

In the past, professions such as doctor or lawyer could be learned through self-study and/or apprenticeships. Tests were eventually available to certify that someone had enough experience to practice in these fields. Now, specific schooling is a must for professions such as these in order to practice legally in the fields.

Questions:

1.  How much does experience, age and maturity matter? Would you want to be treated by a brilliant, but teen-aged surgeon? A teen electrician? Would you hire a ten-year old but very mature babysitter? Years ago, a woman with Down’s Syndrome became a kindergarten teacher. Concerns were raised, not about whether or not she could do her daily job, which she was obviously good at, but whether she could handle emergency situations that sometimes arise. We also train pastors and psychologists through college degree programs, but would you really be comfortable in your 40s or 50s having someone in their mid-twenties counseling you on marital issues or parenting (though they might be able to tell you what your older children are thinking!)? What types of jobs or responsibilities require an advanced level of critical thinking, and how can we assess for it?

2. There are times in life when we feel overly qualified for a position and the world around us does not agree. What type of self-examination can we do to see our faults and correct either a misperception we are conveying, or a very real flaw that is holding us back? Obviously, Wesley is young, which in this society typically excludes one from the type of responsibilities he wishes for. How can he prove that he is the exception to a societal norm? How can you work to avoid or change misperceptions of your abilities as well?

3. Wesley does well, changing the tractor beam into a repulsor beam and using it to save the Enterprise despite being affected by the intoxicant. Picard reluctantly gives him credit, saying he ‘may have given us a few seconds.’ When Riker points out that Wesley deserves a mention in the logs, Picard seeks to include Wesley’s teacher in the log as well, still not fully convinced that Wesley deserves credit and diluting his accomplishments. Wesley’s mother, Dr Crusher, does a good job advocating for Wesley when the bridge crew expresses confusion over his accomplishments by firmly stating, ‘Yes, Wesley.’ There is a bias here, especially for Captain Picard who has difficulty interacting with children. There are reasons for this bias, as typically children do not perform to the level that Wesley has. How do we ensure we are not being biased against someone who seems to achieve when we do not think such behavior is possible from someone like them- say a child from a home known to be troubled, who does not behave poorly and excels in school? What safeguards need to be in place to ensure we are not wrong when giving responsibility to a person whom we have reason to believe does not have the traditional background that typically prepares one for what we are entrusting the person with? You will need to pick some examples specific to your situations for this discussion, as this is too vast and vague a topic to discuss in general terms. Some examples may be hiring a person who would be in a position to steal from you, who is from an area with a high incidence of criminal activity. How can we advocate for the person if we believe them to be treated unfairly, how can we make sure we are not making assumptions ourselves that are not true for this individual and how can we be careful and ensure we are not being conned by someone who knows how to present themselves as something other than what they are?

4. What behaviors do people use to diminish and negate the accomplishments of people that they do not believe deserve them, even when the person has obviously done a superior job? Here, we see Captain Picard use watered-down language such as ‘may’ instead of ‘did’ and ‘a few seconds’ instead of saying ‘the seconds we needed’ to describe Wesley’s accomplishments. He also seeks to include Wesley’s science teacher in the log, when credit is given, indicating that Wesley may have been given help, when he obviously was not. What behaviors have you experienced and seen that have diluted or stolen credit from people who deserved it? How can you counter these tactics without looking self-serving or problematic? How can you help others who are struggling with authority that refuses to acknowledge their contributions, or worse, steals their ideas? When have you used these tactics yourself? Why, and what can you do to ensure you are not being unfair to others in the future?

Topic Three: Ploys and Tactics

Data is sent to retrieve Lt Yar. She wishes to be romantic, something Data is programmed for, but not inclined to pursue. She uses logic, and asks him if the captain specified when the order was to be carried out. Data states that he is sure the captain meant now. She then explains the situation of her past and why she longs for gentleness, joy and love. Data seemingly weighs her needs against the captain’s order, which did not include a specific timetable, and decides her needs are currently more important than immediate compliance.

Wesley too uses ploys to trick officers into leaving the bridge, and tricks Captain Picard into telling him what to do (use the tractor beam on the research vessel) in order to gain control of the bridge and feel like he is part of the crew.

In the Bible we see many ploys including a prophet tricked into eating when God told him not to, by a false prophet who stated God gave him an overriding instruction, satan telling Adam and Eve that the fruit would be good for them, and a king being lulled in to complacency by supposed friendly rulers who shows them all of the treasures of his kingdom, which they return later to take by force.

Questions:

1. What are some ploys you have fallen victim to? How could you have avoided believing the person/ company? Are there ploys that are impossible to avoid? How can we, as a society, work to decrease the number of scams and keep the more naïve in our society safe?

2. What are the factors that make us easy to deceive? How can we teach people to be wary, without creating a culture of undue skepticism and fear? One thing I have noticed is that many ploys are aimed at a vulnerable population such as the elderly, tourists or new immigrants etc. Why are these populations vulnerable and how can we work to protect them in a real way- not just through legislation? Why does legislation not always work?

3. When have you used ploys? Are they always bad? Think about trying to set up a meeting with a person you are interested in romantically or wish to make a business connection with, etc. One of our friends, in high school, asked a girl to a party at his house. She was the only person he invited and when she arrived, he pretended other were invited but unfortunately no one else showed up, making him an object of pity as well, which could have backfired… They are now married. This was obviously wrong, and he wonders why his father-in-law to be gave him a long lecture when he asked for his future wife’s hand, when he later merely welcomed the other sons-in-law to be into the family…. There are of course ploys that are less problematic, and he was a gentleman despite his subterfuge that night, and they are still happily married years later, with many children, and daughters whom he would likely not want someone like his former self to be dating! So, while this example is obviously not the best behavior, the ploy was acknowledged and forgiven. When are ploys inherently evil, and when are subtle ruses forgivable?

So, This Is Christmas….

What Actually Happened, What May Have Happened and What We Think Might Have Happened

A Long Time Ago In A Manger Far, Far Away…..

A man named Joseph and a woman named Mary were engaged. They were not wealthy. We know this as a fact as they gave two young doves, or pigeons as a sacrifice at the Temple when Jesus was presented. This was the alternate sacrifice for the poor, who could not afford a lamb. (Lev 12: 8, 24) We are later told that Joseph is a carpenter, but the word we translate as carpenter is a broad term, which may be ship builder (which would explain why Jesus’ disciples tended to be people who had boats), handyman, or actual carpenter, as we typically see portrayed. Regardless, he was a man who did manual labor, and not in an elite position in society.

The couple was engaged, but the marriage had not been consummated. As per tradition, the paperwork had been signed, and it was a time for Joseph to prepare a home for his family. When this was complete, the couple would officially wed and the marriage would be consumated. There would be a celebration, and the couple would begin their lives in their new home.

An angel appears to Mary and reveals that she will conceive, though she is a virgin, and that her son will be the Son of God. To confirm that this is true, the angel reveals that her elderly, barren, relative, Elizabeth, is now in her sixth month of pregnancy, which is also a miracle. Elizabeth is the mother of John the Baptist. (Luke 1)

As was a custom of the time, Mary is sent off to stay with Elizabeth, to learn what childbirth entails. Elizabeth is the wife of a highly respected high priest, whose pregnancy was foretold at the Temple, when her husband was given the duty of entering the Holy of Holies to commune with God. This was a time when the nation longed for a word from the Lord, and the word was that Elizabeth would bear a child. This high priest’s wife, who is now considered blessed by God in the same manner as the matriarchs Sarah, Rebekah and Rachel would be beyond reproach, and a woman, likely young, who had conceived out of wedlock would soon arrive at her home to be part of this birth…. Elizabeth greets Mary wonderfully, stating that the child in her womb bore testimony to the importance of the child Mary is pregnancy with. There is no shame, only welcome from this expectant mother, whose reputation could have suffered through her association with her cousin. (Luke 1) (Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband and high priest, will later be killed between the altar and the Temple while performing his duties. It is speculated that their son, John the Baptist, was also on Herod’s list of babies to be killed, as the prophecy of his birth indicated he would be a great man, and thus a potential threat to the king. Zechariah may have hidden Elizabeth and his son with the Essenes in the desert, which would explain John’s dress and spartan lifestyle as well as his affinity for baptism and desert preaching. It would also explain why John and Jesus did not know each other well. Mt 23: 35)

Joseph, a good man, did not seek to turn Mary over to the authorities, but instead sought to divorce her quietly, likely to allow her to wed the father of her baby, without shame or punishment. An angel comes to his in a dream and assures him that Mary has conceived by the Holy Spirit as she has said, and that he is to wed her. (Matthew 1)

What Joseph and Mary do next is a bit odd. Typically, if you were going to marry a pregnant woman, you would do so quickly to avoid scandal, and, although people would know the baby came a bit early, they would overlook the fact, and allow everyone to save face, assuming the marriage was merely consummated by the couple a little earlier than it was supposed to be, which likely happened at times…. Mary and Joseph however do not officially wed until after Jesus is born, letting everyone know that Joseph is not the father of her baby. Why would they do this? The only reason that makes sense is that they did not want anyone to doubt that this was God’s son, even though the disgrace would follow them, and their child, throughout their lifetimes. Jesus will later be referred to as the ‘son of Mary,’ a title which is not commonly used and likely indicates that others know that he is not Joseph’s biological child. (Mark 6: 3)

Just to complicate matters, a census is called. Now the Roman order for everyone to go to their households was likely not meant as the Jewish people interpreted it. For the Romans, their household was the house they lived in most days, and they were to remain in one place during the census so they would only be counted once. For the Jewish people, this was an order to return to their ancestral land to be counted as part of their tribe, like other censuses in the Bible. Both Joseph and Mary were of the tribe of Judah, and descendants of king David. Their ancestral land was in Bethlehem, a small town. Unfortunately, kings tend to have lots of wives and lots of children, and by this time the number of people who also called Bethlehem ‘home’ was significant. By the time the pregnant Mary arrived, there were no rooms to be found.

There is some controversy over where exactly Mary and Joseph ended up. Some claim it was an actual manger with animals. This may be true as Mary would be seen as unclean and needed a place away from others. Others say it was more of a cave, where animals were sheltered. Other say it was a room in the house where animals would be allowed in during times of cold weather. Regardless of where it was, it was not ideal.

There is also debate as to the timing of Jesus’ birth. At the time death days, to remember a dead loved one, were more likely to be celebrated than birth days, and the exact date of Jesus’ birth is not recorded in scripture. It is very likely that the date is not December 25th, as it is now celebrated. Many speculate the birth was in the spring, using John the Baptist’s birth as a timetable, since we are given a few clues as to when that birth may have occurred, but there are still many assumptions made with that method, such as how far along Mary was, and that Elizabeth conceived very close to the time the prophecy was given. Another speculation is that Jesus was born during the time of the Feast of Booths (aka Feast of Tabernacles, or Sukkot). This would fulfil the meaning of the feast, which is God dwelling with the Israelites. This would not be a full, but a partial fulfillment of this prophecy, as the fall feasts are yet to be fulfilled, and Jesus did not remain on earth with us. I like this thought, but there is no firm evidence for it either.

When Jesus is presented at the Temple, there are two known prophets, Anna and Simeon, a man and a woman who further support Mary and Joseph’s claims regarding the baby. (This is also ‘proof’ that God was not silent as some claim during the time between the Old and the New Testament, as there were known prophets hanging out, whose function is giving messages from God. God was not ‘silent,’ but merely did not give messages that required preserving for generations to come.)

Some of the first visitors to greet Jesus were shepherds, who told by angels that the baby has been born. During this time, the sheep for Passover were kept in the fields between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. The shepherds would witness each lamb’s birth and certify that the lambs born were without blemish, and suitable to the Passover sacrifice. As Jesus is the Passover lamb, it is fitting that these shepherds may be the ones who were also present to visit him shortly after his birth.

Interestingly, there is no mention of Mary or Joseph’s families visiting or helping with the birth, or at any time afterward. As ALL of their extended families would be crammed into little Bethlehem, and the people telling them that there was no room for a pregnant mother were also likely related to them, there is a very real possibility that the couple were treated as outsiders, and the birth ignored, so for anyone dealing with less than ideal relationships at Christmas time, there is evidence that Jesus, Mary and Joseph may have endured similar issues as well…. God/ Jesus being rejected by those who should love Him will be a repeated theme throughout the New Testament.  

The next visitors were three kings, or wisemen, from the east. These men knew of prophecies which are not recorded in the Bible and were looking for the promised king. Likely these are descendants, or future disciples, of the three young men (Abednego, Shadrach and Meshack) and Daniel, who did not return to Israel, but stayed with the Babylonians, then Persians and ruled in the regions under the authority of Daniel. They would have studied scripture, as well as any writings Daniel left behind. This included a sign, or star, that foretold the timing of a promised king. Unfortunately, they alerted Herod, a crazy despot who had already killed a few of his children for fear they would take his throne, of the baby’s presence. Their visit likely occurred sometime after the birth. It is celebrated by some Christians on January 6th. For some, this is the day that presents are given, as it is the day that Jesus received his gifts as well. In New Mexico we put out luminarias (farolitas) to light the way, so the three wisemen can find the baby Jesus.

An angel then speaks to Joseph about the dangers to his family in a dream. (As if he and Mary have not already been through enough…) This affirms Joseph’s position as father, even though he is not the biological dad, and says a lot about how God views the man who raises a child who is not his own flesh and blood. The family flees to Egypt, repeating the history of Israel through their actions. God will again speak to Joseph in a dream, letting him know it is safe to return to Israel. This is not ‘proof’ that God speaks to the husband only regarding the family, as some have said, as Samson’s mother, Rebekah and other women who were married to godly men have also heard from God regarding their children as well. (Judges 13, Gen 25:23, 21: 12) When they return, they will settle in Nazareth, a small town where Jesus will grow up. Nazareth means branch and is an obscure fulfillment of yet another prophecy. (Matthew 2: 13, 19)

I hope you enjoyed a few extra tidbits about Christmas!

Have a very Merry Christmas!

Chanukah/ Hanukah/ Hannukah

Happy Chanukah/Hanukah/Hanukkah!

If you are Christian, like I am, you probably do not have much experience celebrating Hanukah. Here are a few tips and facts to get you started!

1. Why are there many spellings for Chanukah? Hebrew has an alphabet that different than the English alphabet so the word is ‘transliterated’ meaning that it is spelled out phonetically. Different people decided on different spellings and in this case, all of them became acceptable, likely because Jewish people tend to live in large groups in order to worship together, so there were already many people using each spelling…..

2. Chanukah is mentioned in the Bible as being celebrated by Jesus. It is called the Feast of Dedication and is mentioned in John 10:22.

3. So, what is Hanukkah?

Hanukkah is a celebration of a miracle. Some focus on the miracle of the oil lasting 8 days so the priests could continue cleaning the Temple while new oil was being purified in order to be used in the Temple menorah. Others focus on the fact that a small people group, the Jews, defeated a very large, impressive army and took back their land. Both are miraculous and deserve recognition!

So, allow me to tell you the story of Chanukah (my favorite spelling by the way!).

After Alexander the Great died, the lands he conquered were split into 4, then 5 kingdoms which were ruled by his generals. Israel was in an odd position as reportedly Alexander and his army showed up, the priests showed Alexander that he was prophesied in their writings, he left thinking that they had surrendered and the Jewish people thought he was leaving them alone. Later, Israel would pay a tribute to nearby kings, but that was not the same as being conquered, but it was something, and everyone was semi-content. (A thousand historians just pulled their hair and screamed over this over-simplification….)

So, a crazy king named Antiochus Epiphanius wants to conquer everything and be like Alexander. His name means God on earth, just to give you an idea of his brand of crazy, and he does want people to worship him. His kingdom is north of Israel and to get to the ‘everything’ he wishes to conquer he must go through Israel. He forces the high priests to sacrifice pigs, desecrating (ruining) the altar at the Temple, and then everything in the Temple (which is why it needs to be cleaned) and then continues into the countryside. There he is met by a group of priests, who pretend to go along with him, then attack his men and lead a successful rebellion. These are the Maccabees and their nickname is Strong Hammer. The older priest, the father of the family who leads the revolt, is in his 80s and dies soon after, and his son, Judah, who also fought, becomes a leader. This family will become priest-kings in the inter-testimonial time when this occurs, until Rome takes control. (Chanukah occurs in the time between the Old and the New Testament. It always bothers me when people imply God was not involved with His people during this period. Just because nothing was recorded in the Bible, does not mean God was silent, and Chanukah is proof of that! -Also, there was a female queen of Israel during this time, Salome Alexandra, who has an interesting story….)

The priests immediately began working to clean the Temple but found only one jar of purified oil. The Temple has no windows, but has a seven branched menorah, and gold-plated walls which reflect its light. Without the menorah, they would be cleaning in the dark…. It takes eight days to purify the oil, but they were in a hurry, so they started working, getting as much done as they could before the oil they had ran out. The oil lasted the entire 8 days, when it should have lasted only one, until the new oil was ready, so their work was not interrupted. The Hanukkiah (an eight branched menorah) has one more branch than the Temple Menorah and represents the eight days the oil lasted. It is lit from right to left (the way Hebrew is read) by the candle that is either in the middle or off to the side on some modern Hanukkiah. This is the servant candle, and is left lit as well. The candles for the Hanukkiah are made to burn for one hour, and the Hanukkiah is to be set in a window for all to see.

4. So, how do we celebrate?

There are many ways to celebrate, so feel free to use the internet for more ideas. Since we also celebrate Christmas, we do not get together for all 8 days, and do not give gifts at this time. Most years we meet as a large group just once during this time. We eat challah (sweet, braided bread), have a meal, play the dreidel game, light the menorah (hanukkiah), tell the story of Chanukah and give out chocolate coins (gelt). Sometimes we incorporate other treats typical to the Jewish culture. There are many ways to celebrate, so look up ideas on the internet- there are many- and make the celebration your own!

5. The next question you will have is- Why is the dreidel game so boring?!?!?

This game is actually purposefully boring, and it was a brilliant plan. During times of occupation, teaching the torah was often prohibited. The Jewish people would ignore this rule and teach it anyways. To hide their gatherings, they would play the dreidel game. It was so boring no non-Jewish person would want to play for long. It was also easy to pick up and put down the game when others came, so that no one looked too suspicious, and then go back to studying. There are references in historical texts of pagan writers complaining about the Jewish people always playing that infernal game! Little did they know…. My children when they were young, and now my grandchildren do enjoy the game however boring it may be. The adults breathe a sigh of relief however when they are finally out. Typically, we play for small pieces of candy, but small coins or other things may be used. Interestingly the Jewish people at this time believed that learning should be rewarded since following the Word of God resulted in blessings in your life, so they often rewarded the children for learning with honeyed candies. Living out at least portions of history helps children understand and retain what they learn. I hope this helps you feel more comfortable adding something extra into your holiday time. You can also use it as a teaching tool out of season, if the holidays are already too overwhelming! Sukkot (the feast of booths/ tabernacles), Passover and Purim (especially Purim, where you get to dress up!) are also fun to celebrate as a family as well. Look for my posts regarding those holidays as well.

This is an excerpt from my latest Bible Study: An Unofficial Star Trek: The Original Series Bible Study. It is currently available through Lulu.com only…. I hope you enjoy it!

Star Trek: The Original Series: Season One

This study requires you to watch the episode. While I will describe it in enough detail for you to get by, it will ultimately be better if you watch the episode first. Warning: Higher definition TVs and advancements in technology make a few scenes a bit more cheesy…

Season 1, Episode One: The Man Trap

Topic One: Women in Society: 

This episode is interestingly titled “The Man Trap.” While the creature represents a woman, who is the love interest of Professor Crater, Dr. McCoy and Crewman Darnell, it is not the romantic entanglement that is the issue…. While Star Trek did advance the position of woman, there are still a few stereotypes left over from the time the series was made that are included in this episode. Among them are: Professor Crater discussing his love for isolation, but Nancy’s need for socialization with the phrase, “but for a woman, you understand of course,” implying that women have a higher degree of social need than men. Uhura then states to Spock, “But I am an illogical woman who has become too much a part of that communications counsel.” While this is said in jest, it does reflect the thoughts of the time. Janice Rand is harassed by crewman in the hall, and one crewman states, “How would you like to have her as your personal yeoman?” which would be considered inappropriate in a workplace today. Star Trek shows how society’s views of women have changed over the years, and that even a show that fought for women’s rights still held onto some negative patterns, considering them to be so normal that they would exist in the more perfect future as well. 

Discuss God’s role for women and how women are to be treated. Here are some more obscure verses for you to consider. 

Hosea 4:13-14 (NIV) … Therefore your daughters turn to prostitution and your daughters-in-law to adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they turn to prostitution, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery, because the men themselves consort with harlots and sacrifice with shrine prostitutes- a people without understanding will come to ruin! These verses imply that punishment for prostitution and adultery is not always warranted if the circumstances of the woman’s life are somehow pushing her into it. Discuss how you judge differing situations a woman might find herself in and examine whether extenuating circumstances may be in place that would call for mercy rather than strict justice.  2 Timothy 3: 5-6 (NIV) …holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power, avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. These verses talk about a man who uses his position and preys upon women who are naïve and in a position to be inclined to trust a man who appears worthy, but is not. Discuss what these men look like today, and how to protect women who would be susceptible to their ploys from them both in the church and the workplace. This can be in the form of educating and uplifting the women, as well as how to deal with the men when this behavior is suspected or confirmed. Think about what actions you can take in the situation, with the power you have, and not just from the standpoint of what society should do. 

Topic Two: The Rights of the Individual: 

Another issue discussed in this episode is whether, or not, it is right to force someone to do something for their own safety. Professor Crater wishes to stay on the planet even though there is obviously something killing the crewmen (notice that the trend of redshirted actors dying has not yet begun!). He also does not wish to have a physical from Dr. McCoy, and especially does not want Nancy to have a physical, for obvious reasons, yet Dr. McCoy insists. This would be considered battery if a medical professional performed a procedure on a person who refused in the civilian world, but not in the military, where there are different rules. As an archeologist, the professor has obviously agreed to some terms in order to stay on the planet. When quarantine orders are issued on the Enterprise, all personnel seemingly comply without question. There are also instances in the Bible when the people of God are told to stay in their houses while a plague is present. (Exodus 9:19-20) The question here is: When is it Biblical to force people to do what is right, and when is it a question of free will, even if you know the person will be hurt by their choice? Today we may keep a person confined against their will if they may harm themselves or others (a psychiatric hold) or if they have committed a crime (jail). We typically do not force a medical procedure onto an unwilling person, even if it will mean their death, but we have, as I type, enacted and enforced quarantine laws for the COVID 19 pandemic. There is a pastor in Florida who was arrested for continuing to hold large church services despite the quarantine. When does the safety of one, or the many, make it necessary to deny an individual the right to not comply? 

Topic Three: Animal Rights: 

The salt creature is the last of its kind. It killed Nancy, yet Professor Crater felt sympathy for the creature and has kept it alive. His arguments are that the creature is not dangerous if it is fed, it is an intelligent creature, and it needs love. Captain Kirk accuses Professor Crater of keeping the creature alive, not because it is wrong to kill it, but because the creature provides the professor with a wife/harem/idol/slave. It is implied that this is not a proper companion, but an aberrant relationship. (This can be added to the previous discussion, re: what should and should not be considered appropriate in a relationship.) In this case, the salt creature is being compared to extinct species on earth. Kirk argues that the creature is different than the buffalo because it is killing people, and in the end, it kills the professor as well, implying Kirk is right. The creature is ultimately killed when it attempts to kill Captain Kirk and there is seemingly no other choice for Dr. McCoy to make. In the end, Kirk states that he was “thinking about the Buffalo,” indicating that he might not be sure they made the right choice, or that there was some regret regarding their need to kill the creature. (Since it could likely not reproduce as the last of its kind (assuming sexual reproduction), the end of the species was probably inevitable at some point…) 

When is it right to kill an animal, and when is it not, and who gets to decide?

When is it the owner’s decision, and when does society get to set the rules? When does the local society make the rules, or can the international community enforce their standards on another country? 

Here are some animal rights verses for further discussion: 

The welfare of animals is important, even if they are your enemy’s animal. 

Exodus 23: 4-5 If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey wandering away, you shall surely return him. If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying helpless under its load, you shall refrain from leaving it to him, you shall surely release it with him. 

Animals are not to be overworked and deserve a day of rest as well. 

Exodus 23: 12 Six days you are to do work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from your labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest…

Do not deprive an animal. Allow him to eat the crops he is helping to bring in. 

Deuteronomy 25:4 You shall not muzzle an ox while he is threshing. 

You shall not put an animal in an uncomfortable situation where they might get hurt. 

Deuteronomy 22: 10 You shall not plow with an ox and a donkey together. 

God punishes people who are cruel to animals. 

Genesis 49: 6-7 …And in their self-will they lamed oxen. Cursed be their anger, for it is fierce, and their wrath for it is cruel. I will disperse them in Jacob and scatter them in Israel. (NIV)

Topic Four: Civil Rights:

Lt. Uhura is on the bridge in a position of authority. This was a big deal at this time as the civil rights movement was coming to a head. Nichelle Nichols was treated poorly by ‘fans’ and almost quit. Martin Luther King Jr spoke with her and encouraged her to stay on the show, stating that Star Trek was one of the only shows he allowed his children to watch, as it was one of the few shows depicting an African American as a regular person, and not in a traditionally black role. Nichelle stayed and became a very beloved character in Star Trek fandom. 

Many Christians at this time believed that slavery and/or racial segregation was Biblical and cherry-picked verses from the Bible to prove their point. Examine your beliefs. Are there any times you have considered a person to be ‘less than’ and not fit for a certain position? Make sure your criteria is actually Biblical. Some things may disqualify a person for a position, such as it is not wise put an unrepentant thief in charge of the money. (Though ironically Jesus did put Judas in charge of the money bag even though He knew Judas was stealing from it… John 12: 6) God has put many imperfect people into high positions. Discuss the Biblical leaders you are aware of in scripture, and think about why God chose them (David, Paul, Peter), and why others were disqualified from service (Saul, the rich young ruler, some of the pharisees). Often the factors we think of as important are not the criteria God uses. 

Things you may wish to google: Nichelle Nichols’ interview discussing her meeting with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (It brought tears to my eyes, so you may want to grab the tissues!) 

Women in church positions is also a current ‘hot topic.’ Discuss your views on women in ministry and their place in society. CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) has resources which may aid your discussion. I also have a book entitled Living Biblically: Women in the Bible that you may find helpful. 

Biblical references: There is also a reference to God in this episode, when McCoy says, “Lord, forgive me,” as he is put in the difficult position of killing the salt creature. While some maintain that Star Trek promotes humanistic and atheistic beliefs, you will find many references to God in the episodes by Gene Rodenberry. I will attempt to note them as they occur.

Whew! Pat yourself on the back! Episode one was packed with difficult topics, but hopefully you got through this relatively unscathed with a deeper understanding of why you believe as you do…

Adam and Eve: Ruining the Earth for Future Generations

               The biggest question here is why Adam gets all the blame. Eve ate the fruit first, but we are told that it was Adam, and not Eve, who brought sin into the world. Eve’s actions were not without punishment, but Adam gets the brunt of the blame. Why? Thankfully, scripture has an answer for this. Eve was deceived. (2 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:14) but Adam sinned with full knowledge of what he was doing. What does this tell us? Eve: It is important to have all the information before making an important decision or things could go very wrong. It is also important, especially when making a decision that will have a great impact, that you check back with the source of your information. (They did walk nightly in the garden with God…) Adam: Knowing something is wrong and doing it anyways often has grave consequences. (Pun intended!) Being ‘prudent,’ which is also recommended in scripture, and checking things out before you ‘bite’ is always a good idea. Following the under-informed/deceived/well-meaning but not fully correct, no matter how much you think you love them or wish to please them, when you know they are wrong, is also a very bad idea…

               There are many pressures in life to do as Adam and Eve did, and sometimes we fall victim to the same scenario. There are many, many pressures to conform in our society today, especially when the person placing the pressure on you believes themselves to be right, and further, believes you to be a ‘bad person’ if you do not agree. Some days we are Eve, thinking something will work out okay and being horribly wrong. And, some days we are Adam, not wanting to disappoint our loved ones, even though we know this is a bad idea. Both are problematic, and here, the consequences are disastrous. But it is a good lesson in both avoiding deception when able, and not following along when you know something is wrong, which in our society today, is usually is due to our tendency to want to please others and avoid a confrontation. And just to place a little less judgement on Adam, Eve was the only other human he had to interact with, and if she was mad at him, well, his life was really not going to be very pleasant!

Image 9

Hi Again!
So I have been watching the responses to Dana Coverstone’s dreams and I am seeing two main problems.
One: The call to arm ourselves and stockpile food.
This in and of itself is not bad. It is good to be prepared. BUT, to be more godly we need to be thinking about protecting and feeding our neighbors as well. Only providing for oneself is a bit limited and selfish. We may need to ban together in our communities and this will involve co-operation from all who are involved.
Two: The call to prayer.
This again is a good thing. We should pray. BUT only a few of us are called to be just prayer warriors who spend hours in their prayer closets praying fervently. If this is your calling, please do not neglect it. I have seen this portion of the body of Christ do mighty things. BUT most of us are called to DO as well. The book of James tells us that faith without works is dead. If you are called to DO, then this is not the time to be timid and neglect that calling. Be bold and courageous because things are getting heated and we need to calm them down!
Again I am going to remind you to do everything in love. We all know we have people amongst us that either like to belittle others or merely do not know how bad they sound when they say things. We really need to stop others from fanning the flames, even if the people are well-intentioned and do not realize what they are doing. This is also not the time for us to be putting down other’s ministries or other types of infighting that we commonly do. We need to come together and help our country heal.
Further, when this is over, there are places in our country where people do not have access to clean water. I know we have people in our Christian community who have experience putting wells and other sustainable water sources into other countries. Let’s look at Flint, Michigan and the Navajo nation in NM/AZ and figure out how to cut through the red tape and get water to people in our country as well!
This prophecy should empower us to do what is right and good and cause us to come together in unity and love. When times are tough we don’t run and hide, we stand and help. Let us be the body that Christ has called us to be and help our nation get through this time with love and compassion, caring for everyone we can!

https://www.bitchute.com/video/1CO1UThG1PjE/

My thoughts on Dana Coverstone’s prophetic dreams…
His dreams are entirely probable in this volatile environment.
So what does this mean for us as Christians?
A prophecy about the future in the Bible serves a few different purposes. The main purposes include a warning of what is to come and a reassurance that God is in charge (since He knew what was to come and told His people about it). Some prophecy does not have to come true. If the people repent, and change their ways, the things foretold do not have to come to pass. (Jer 26: 19, Jonah 3:10, Rev 2:5) At other times, greater or lesser fulfillment of a prophecy is seen depending on the people’s response. (Dan 9:18) So while the prophecy is fulfilled, it may not be as severe as it could have been if the people ignored the warning. At other times the prophecy is inevitable, and God is preparing his people so they understand what is to come and are prepared for it. This occurs when Jeremiah prophecies about the coming events that will result in Jerusalem being captured and the people dispersed. At other times a prophecy is fulfilled at separate times. The first fulfillment is a mild, or lesser fulfillment, while a later fulfilment is more severe, or significant. (Is 7:14, Mt 1:23)
I believe this prophecy is a warning. If the Christians do not stand up, our nation is in trouble.
So what do we do?
We behave meekly- we are strong and immovable, but always respectful and gracious to those who do not agree even if they are not nice to us. If we behave like jerks and idiots, our cause is lost. Do not defend a side just because it is your side, instead do what is right and compassionate no matter what. No sinner repented when the pharisees looked down on them and excluded others. Be like Jesus, not the religiously arrogant ‘sons of vipers’ and ‘white-washed tombs’ of His time.
We stand firmly against lawlessness and hate (wherever it occurs). We protect people’s rights, including their right to support themselves and feed their families. We support other’s rights to worship and for free speech- for everyone. Jesus did not silence the pharisees and leaders of his time, he debated them and showed them the flaws in their arguments with sincerity. He was a guest in their homes. While there is a time to clean the Temple, there are more examples in both the gospels and the letters of reaching people through reason and love.
We right wrongs. When you hear about someone being treated poorly and have checked to make sure the story is true, make sure they are treated well, especially if they were treated poorly by someone calling themselves a Christian! And stand up and say something when people are being mean. Don’t be afraid to speak up, but gently and with love. Many people do not know that they are being cruel. Educate instead of going for the jugular. A win is when someone learns to do better, not when you eviscerate your opponent!
We stop the fear mongering. God has instructed us not to fear and to be strong and courageous many, many times in the Bible. We need to counteract the media and some politicians’ message of fear and replace it with reassurance that although times are tough, we will get through this together- and mean it! Help your neighbors and encourage others to do the same. Redirect the people who would take advantage of others as well, as this will impede real help and cause others to stop helping when they would be otherwise willing. Ensure your help is real and encourage the people who are receiving it to pay it forward when they can.
We are also not stupid about it. COVID is real. We need to protect our most vulnerable, but, unless our scientists are closer to a vaccine and/or cure than I am aware of, that means herd immunity so the elderly and weak can get out of their homes without fear. Trying to keep the young and healthy from getting the disease is unfortunately just going to keep it around longer and increase the risk that the old and weak will become infected. The quarantine is not the answer for the healthy, but for those at risk. What we need to do is to work with health providers and public officials to come up with an actual common-sense plan for our area that keeps fatalities low. We need to stop the fear mongering, as well as the ‘no one is going to tell me what to do’ and get on the same page so our people are as protected as possible, our children are educated and safe and our economy does not collapse. Every church has people in healthcare in it. Get them together and then push for what is best for your area. Make sure your data is accurate and your plan flexible in case you are wrong, so plans can quickly change. In short- be the leaders God called you to be!

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I have been asked where I get my news from, since I seem to have access to information that others do not. People want me to give them one website, but the truth is that there really isn’t one, so here’s what I do….

Using Face Book:
1. Search for news from other countries. Type in the country name followed by the word news. For example, type into the search bar Japan news. Look at the pages that come up and decide which ones you want to see on your feed, then move onto a different country. By using this method you will see news from many different perspectives. Will it be biased? Sure. But having more than one perspective presented to you will help you figure out what is actually going on!

2. Search for newsfeeds from the embassies. Type in the country name then the word embassy. You may even find a FB page by the ambassador. This will give you yet another perspective of what is happening globally.

3. For local news, follow your elected officials’ FB page. Whether you like them or not, it is helpful to know what they are up to!

4. For national news, find newspaper pages from other states. Try small towns as well as the big cities. Right now Western NY is really upset over Governor Cuomo’s order that ventilators may be removed from upstate NY to help in NYC. This is a perspective you will not here from news sources only based in NYC!

5. Also follow government leaders’ pages from other states, as well as from other nations. Almost everyone has an FB page, and since there are so many English speakers in the world, many countries that do not speak English still invest in a social media page for their leaders that is in English.

6. Follow pages regarding topics you are interested in from leaders in the field. Choose ones that seem objective and not only ones that agree with your position. It is important to hear the other side’s argument if you are going to make an informed decision. For example, during the COVID 19 pandemic you may want to follow the World Health Organization, the CDC, the AMA, some research labs who are working on the issues, as well as news sources from major and local hospitals. There are also pages by doctors who discuss current events in medicine such as ZDoggMD (aka Doc Vader) and Kevin MD. If you are employed in a certain field, there are also pages dedicated to it. If you are interested in conservation, the zoos and other organizations have FB pages. There are also pages dedicated to hobbies and other special interests.

7. Look at the titles of the shared pages you come across that you find interesting and like the page they come from to broaden your perspective even further. This is how you find the more obscure pages, which often have great, but local, information. I have more knowledge of Russia and New Zealand than I ever thought I would because of the pages I found interesting!

8. If you meet friends from other countries, follow them on FB as well. You can always ask what they think about international news, and they will typically post things about their country as well.

9. Feel free to unlike a page. Many of the news sources I began with were either fluff or so filled with propaganda they were useless. This is okay. I got rid of those and found others along the way.

10. Share with friends so they know what is going on as well. Be discriminating, not everything needs to be shared, but when it is good and interesting, share away. I do this better face to face than on FB, as I do not enjoy FB wars when someone does not agree with something and feels the need to become emotional about it, so you will have to determine the level you are comfortable sharing as well.

11. There are also translated novels from other countries as well as music with English subtitles etc. on the internet. A great way to learn about another culture is to immerse yourself in its entertainment. Right now my children have me reading translated Chinese novels, which are pretty good!

12. If you do not want your face book page overrun with news, but would like to do this, set up a second page just for this. That way you will still see all of your friends’ posts and be able to switch over to news any time you would like. You can use the same method on Twitter, but Twitter has changed and is prioritizing more popular posts as well as showing more and more suggested posts, which is keeping the more obscure things I like to look at from being easily viewed…. (In the research world, PubMed is using a similar algorithm. My pet peeve is that we are homogenizing what people see, so that everyone will think we are all on the same page, when actually many are not!)

Hopefully this will help you have a more balanced view of the world, and will keep the media more accountable. When the Boston Bombing occurred, I had people from Boston who were there posting, and knew things before our local media aired them, including people giving away their coats and water to the racers who could not make it to the finish line and people turning off their wifi passwords so everyone could get messages to loved ones, which made me proud to be an American. When Ukraine went through their civil war, average people were posting, and others were sharing, until the government turned off their internet. There is also the cutest video of President Trump’s granddaughter singing in Mandarin for the Chinese president, whom she calls ‘grandfather.’ While we may not have the best relationship with China, little Arabella has its president wrapped around her little finger, and the Chinese internet has nicknamed her the goodwill ambassador! And we all need some cute, wholesome news every once in a while….

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