For "Sunday Scripture":
The Calendar Used by the Earliest Gentile Christians
"The following quote from a book by Dr. Troy Martin, professor of Religious Studies at Chicago's Saint Xavier University, on Paul's letter to the Colossians provides an effective rebuttal to the common but false argument that Paul taught Christian gentiles not to observe the sacred days that were used by the Jews.
Only by avoiding time-keeping altogether or by adhering to the Jewish calendar [could] the Pauline communities escape idolatrous alternatives. Other time-keeping systems name the days and the months after pagan deities and mark out the seasons by pagan rites.
"In contrast, the Jews distinguish the seasons by festivals that obviously have no pagan connotations. They recognize the months by new moons and name these months using agricultural terms. They designate the week by Sabbaths, and beginning from the Sabbath, they number, instead of name, the days of the week one through six. The only options available to Paul and his communities are Jewish, pagan or no time-keeping system at all, and the evidence indicates they opt for the former.
"The references to time in Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians exclusively reflect the adoption of a Jewish calendar. Even in a place like Corinth, Paul speaks of the first day from Sabbath (. . . 1 Cor 16:2 Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. See All...), not the days of the sun. He builds an elaborate argument based upon the festivals of passover and unleavened bread (1 Cor 5:6-8 See All...) to exhort the Corinthians, 'Let us keep the festival' (1 Cor 5:8 Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. See All...).
"Although the temporal references in Paul's letters are sparse, 1 Corinthians provides strong evidence for the Pauline adoption of the Jewish religious calendar. In addition to 1 Corinthians, the portrait of Paul and Christian communities in the book of Acts demonstrates that the Christians adhered to the Jewish calendar" ( By Philosophy and Empty Deceit: Colossians as Response to a Cynic Critique, 1996, pp. 125-127). From: http://www.ucg.org/booklet/new-covenant-does-it-abolish-gods-law/peace-and-unity-christ/calendar-used-earliest-gentile-/
"What I Learned in Jail"
Teaching art to prisoners has been enlightening to me.
"I have been working for the Department of Corrective Services for over three years now teaching art as a casual, part-time teacher. It is not like teaching workshops or in a school. Prisoners are not children. Nor do they play by the rules -- unless they like you, or are particularly interested in the course you are teaching.
Jail is a way of life for many inmates. That, and drugs. You wonder why. It's not a great life. Yet one habitual offender told me, "Jail is not so bad, miss. You get a decent feed and you get to meet the brothers again." Another told me he couldn't cope on the outside, so he robbed a bank to get back in. "I just threw the money about," he said, "and people were grabbing it all around me. I'm glad to be back."
The system isn't corrective. The recidivism rate is very high. Those who do rehabilitate have a strong desire to change their life focus, widen their perspectives, use their opportunities and run with it. It's not easy, but they win in the end and I salute them.
Others, on the other hand, learn how to manipulate the system, seeking out the corruptible in order to satisfy their own agendas and solving problems according to their own rules -- the same rules that got them into jail in the first place. They don't care who it hurts. These individuals are notorious for self-justification (even to the extent of believing their own lies) and they have awesome egos.
The rest keep their heads down and try not to be noticed. If they're lucky, they get through without too many bashings. The jail culture is like a violent village. Many inmates are related. Most keep to their ethnic group if it's large enough. Everyone keeps up-to-date on crime reports and is well aware of what's happening -- even in other jails.
If I think about the crimes my students have committed, I find it difficult to relate to them. I've found it's better to just accept them as they are when I'm with them. There will be a day when they will repent and be redeemed to a relationship with God. I learned many years ago that, in terms of eternity, this life is less than a breath.
Wasted lives are in direct contrast to the hope and joy for the future God gives us in the Bible and through His Holy Days, which remind us that God's plan for humanity is indeed all inclusive. (See "Many Paths to God?" in this issue.)
What I am learning
Somebody asked me what I was learning in jail. After I had thought about it a bit, I realized I'm learning not to be complacent with my life, but to use it as fully and wisely as I can, while fighting my shortcomings.
In jail, life seems somehow more intense, like being in a war or someplace where you need to be very alert and able to recognize instantly what is good, and what is evil. Quite often the education process surprises me and I think that God is teaching me wisdom. (Naiveté may have its charms, but it's not particularly prudent.)
One of the obvious things about jail, particularly with inmates, is the criminality of wasted lives. In Scripture "waste" is translated from several Hebrew words that mean, literally: desolation, spoiling, destruction (Zephaniah 1:15 That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness,See All...;
Isaiah 59:7 Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood: their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; wasting and destruction are in their paths.See All...), vanity, futility and ruin (Genesis 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.See All...;
Isaiah 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else. See All...).
A wasted life
Tim (not his real name) is an example of a wasted life. He is one of my students. One day he came to class early and while we waited for the others, he said, "Do you know what I did for my 46-cents-per-hour today? I folded cardboard cartons!" He shook his head and I watched his eyes fill with tears. The previous week he'd cleaned hair out of reconditioned shavers and depilatory tools destined for resale as "specials." "I actually hid behind a carton and cried," he continued. "We should be building house parts for poor people -- or growing hardwood seedlings for plantations to save logging rainforests, or vegetables for soup kitchens!" He put his face in his hands and raged.
Tim was studying for a degree when he was arrested for a murder he'd committed 10 years earlier. The jury had wept for him and asked for clemency, but the judge, horrified at the killing of a pedophile by such a savage boy, declared that an example must be made. Tim's appeal looks promising, but who can restore his lost innocence or the years he has wasted in jail or the destruction of so much of his potential?
There are too many wasted lives, too much potential destroyed by, at times, outright ignorance, but mostly by outright sin. In this world the loss seems permanent, but God has other plans. There is a world to come and a time of redemption described in the prophecies of the Bible.
My experience in jail has made me very aware that I must not resist God's guidance in favor of justifying my own way. I have to ask myself, Am I using the resources God gives me, or wasting or abusing them? No Christian can afford to squander energies, talents, gifts of the Spirit or time that ought to be spent in prayer or study or fasting or any other offerings dedicated to God.
Prison makes me very aware that Jesus exhorted us to work while it is day (John 9:4 I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work.See All...).
Do harvesters waste the last hours of daylight? No, they work their hardest as the day ends. The night has not yet come for us, and we need to keep working on ourselves and to be a light to this dying world! If we waste our opportunity to work now, how shall we be judged for our reward when Christ returns? What opportunities will we have let go by where we could have benefited others (Luke 19:11-27 See All...)?
Let us work with all that we've been given to use, wasting nothing, so that when we stand before Christ we will be invited to take part in God's great plan for humanity by helping to restore others to God's way of life. It's something to look forward to!" Article by Mavis Stucci From: http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/what-i-learned-jail/
"Buddy, Can You Spare a Dime Bag?"
"Consider this cautionary tale to avoid helping a drug addict feed his habit.
Christians are a tenderhearted, compassionate lot. God tells us over and over again in His Word that we ought to be kind, gentle and generous. But we're also supposed to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves" (Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.See All...). It is very easy to mean to do well but to actually do harm.
Our hearts go out to people who are suffering and we want to help. But we must be cautious in how and when we try to help. I've found that you could give money to a beggar and go away feeling satisfied, when your attempt to help has only lined a drug dealer's pocket. Or you could be humiliated by a predator who doesn't want a meal, but who will do a professional job of raking your heart over hot coals to extract money from you for his next drug fix.
Over the years I've come to realize that I just can't give cash to people who are likely to be substance abusers. Someone who is yearning for that next drink or fix isn't going to waste good money on food. Whatever I give will only extend the suffering of that person and give him or her another excuse to not seek help.
I found I couldn't even safely give anything that could be exchanged for cash. I gave a drunk a heavy coat one cold winter day, and the next time I saw him, he was wrapped in the same inadequate windbreaker, shivering. When I asked him what happened to the coat, he just looked away and sobbed. He had sold it. He admitted that when you've got to have a drink, you'll do things that don't make sense -- like sell the coat off your back on a cold night. So I gave him a coat too shabby to be worth selling. In spite of encouragement to get help, he never did. The police found his body some months later.
One day last summer I was on my way into the supermarket when I was approached by a man who told a sob story about just having driven his family to this state from 1,000 miles away. Now he was out of money and his children hadn't eaten today. I told him I would be glad to sit down and have a hamburger with him and his two boys. Then he produced the other five children and his wife. I started to be a little suspicious. I kept telling him that there would be no money in it for him. The burgers were what I was offering and that was all. But he kept plying me with urgent pleadings for money.
When the burgers arrived, his wife tried to return them to get the money. I told the fast food restaurant supervisor not to give them a refund or exchange, and then made a quick exit. They made a scene and were hustled off by some security guards. Evidently they were well known by the local merchants and someone had called the security guards. I went home humiliated and hurting, but wiser. I had meant well, but all I had accomplished was to annoy the local merchants. But now I was more aware of urban predators.
The situation is not hopeless. There are safe and effective ways to help those in need. You can make a difference. The first thing to do is to ask our Heavenly Father to intervene in that person's life. Another thing you can do is to contribute to an aid organization whose effectiveness is known. A single handout may make you feel good, but it does not really help those who are facing long-term problems and addictions. Find out about the shelters and aid agencies in your area and point those in need to the appropriate one. For many problems, it takes day-to-day interaction over a long period of time to really help those who can be reached -- and that can really best be done by those who have the time and the training.
Please don't let these stories scare you off from giving, but hopefully after reading this and the accompanying article, your aid can be given wisely and effectively." Article by Jay Turner From: http://www.ucg.org/christian-living/buddy-can-you-spare-dime-bag/
On This Day:
Congress establishes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Mar 11, 1779:
"On this day in 1779, Congress establishes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to help plan, design and prepare environmental and structural facilities for the U.S. Army. Made up of civilian workers, members of the Continental Army and French officers, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers played an essential role in the critical Revolutionary War battles at Bunker Hill, Saratoga and Yorktown.
Today, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers is made up of more than 35,000 civilian and enlisted men and women. In recent years, the Corps has worked on rebuilding projects in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the reconstruction of the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina."
First cases reported in deadly influenza epidemic, Mar 11, 1918:
"Just before breakfast on the morning of March 11, Private Albert Gitchell of the U.S. Army reports to the hospital at Fort Riley, Kansas, complaining of the cold-like symptoms of sore throat, fever and headache. By noon, over 100 of his fellow soldiers had reported similar symptoms, marking what are believed to be the first cases in the historic influenza epidemic of 1918. The flu would eventually kill 675,000 Americans and more than 20 million people (some believe the total may be closer to 40 million) around the world, proving to be a far deadlier force than even the First World War.
Paul McCartney knighted, Mar 11, 1997:
"On this day in 1997, Paul McCartney, a former member of the most successful rock band in history, The Beatles, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II for his "services to music." The 54-year-old lad from Liverpool became Sir Paul in a centuries-old ceremony of pomp and solemnity at Buckingham Palace in central London. Fans waited outside in a scene reminiscent of Beatlemania of the 1960s. Crowds screamed as McCartney swept through the gates in his chauffeur-driven limousine and he answered with a thumbs-up."
Silence marks a year since Japanese quake
"People along Japan's tsunami-battered northeast coast and elsewhere across the country have observed a moment of silence on Sunday to mark the exact time a massive earthquake struck the nation a year ago.
The magnitude-9.0 quake on March 11, 2011, triggered a terrifying tsunami that devastated the northeastern coast, killing just over 19,000 people and unleashing a nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant.
At 2.46 pm local time on Sunday (1646 AEDT) in the coastal town of Rikuzentakata, a siren sounded and a Buddhist priest in a purple robe rang a huge bell at a damaged temple overlooking a barren area where houses once stood.
At the same time in Tokyo's National Theater, Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda stood in silence with hundreds of other people at a memorial service."
The program on WGN TV this morning was: Angels Among Us.
After talking to my daughter for ages on our usual Saturday morning call, and taking a leisurely bubble bath and washing my hair, I got an email from a lady in Utah. She now had one of the dogs I rescued six years ago, and wanted to know his rescue story. She also has a retirement home for aged and infirm Shi Tzus and Lhasas Apsos. The LoneStar Rescue in Houston had taken the dog, who she adores, all the way to Utah! It is so good to hear about the ones you rescue, it makes it all worthwhile.
Jay wanted to go to church, so I picked him up after I had walked Misty around here. On the way we stopped at the RV store north of us, and picked up the parts to connect the cargo trailer's water filler to the water tank.
We enjoyed a very good message and the fellowship of the friendly people there. It is a small congregation at the meetings, which makes it more personal so you feel like you know everybody. Their message is on the internet and on a live phone hook-up, so I don't know the size of the whole congregation.
It was rainy again, most of the day.