Saturday, February 15, 2020

Laws, Lepers, and Love

 Leviticus 13:18-44 and 45-46 


Verses 18 to 44 simply describe other possible scenarios that may have been leprosy and needed diagnosis. These included skin boils (vs. 18-23); burned skin (vs. 24-28); head or beard infections (vs. 29-37); bright skin spots (vs. 38-39); and baldness (vs. 40-44). All these could possibly be leprosy infection. Then the last two verses of the passage (vs. 45-46) give a general comment as follows:

“As for the leper who has the infection, his clothes shall be torn, and the hair of his head shall be uncovered, and he shall cover his mustache and cry, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ He shall remain unclean all the days during which he has the infection; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp.”

Thoughts on the Passage
Currently, as I write this, the world is dealing with Coronavirus 19 and thousands of people are living their lives behind masks thinking they can avoid catching it. Millions of others are in quarantine in China where the whole thing broke out. It has the power of ruining nations as well as the global economy.  I find solace in the fact that I know my God is fully aware of the situation, He’s in control, and this is neither a surprise nor a snag for His plan for mankind.  We press on.
The images portrayed in the last two verses of the passage above certainly reminded me of the reality we face today with Covid-19 as the virus is referred to.
But what was God saying in these two verses? More importantly what can we glean from the passage for today?
Clearly, for the Jews of the O.T. and for Jews of Jesus’ days, leprosy was a big thing. We can read what was expected of them in the days of Moses in the passage above. However, in the first century A.D., David Guzik says the Jews and their rabbis went much further. He writes:
“Many Jews thought two things about a leper: You are the walking dead and you deserve this because this is the punishment of God against you. Jewish custom said that you should not even greet a leper, and you had to stay six feet away from a leper. One Rabbi bragged that we would not even buy an egg on a street where he saw a leper, and another boasted that he threw rocks at lepers to keep them far from him. Rabbis didn’t even allow a leper to wash his face.”
It sounds like the inhumanity of the clergy was alive and well in those days as it often is today.  But as Christians, we are not to stuck there. We don’t have to stick with the laws put in place for the Jews to keep them from being eliminated by sickness or a plague after they left Egypt.  Nor can we rely on what rabbis proposed in the days of Christ.  No, instead we must look at Jesus himself as the role model in how we treat those with such infirmities.  Guzik continues:
“But Jesus was different. He loved lepers; He touched them and healed them when they had no hope at all (Matthew 8:1-4 and Luke 17:11-19).”
Here’s the good news, at least for North Americans, according to Guzik:
“Because of modern drugs and treatments, leprosy is almost unknown in the western world – the United States’ only two leper colonies have been shut down. But worldwide there are some 15 million lepers, almost all of them in third-world nations.”
For an excellent more recent update than Guzik’s on leprosy (and yes there are still two places you can find some lepers in the U.S.), take a few moments to check out this clip: Leprosy Update 2016.
The lesson for us? While you and I may not be able to heal lepers unless the Holy Spirit wants us to, we still have a responsibility to behave like our Lord did towards them.  Think Mother Teresa.

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Friday, February 07, 2020

A Birds’ Eye View of Iceland

Puffins Encounter Fire & Ice: The Puffin Explorers Series Book III

Author and Photographer: Ra Anderson
Publisher: My Favorite Books Publishing Company, Kingston, GA, 2019


In book one of the series, our two young puffling friends (Arni and Birta) were just about to set out to sea when they stopped to help two baby lambs. In book two, Arni’s parents are anxious that their little puffin will make it out to sea by night fall for his life’s journey. Still not sure of their puffling’s whereabouts, his parents continue their search in this final volume, book III, of the series.
Arni and his friend Birta continue to explore while at the same time trying to find two lost sheep and help them get back home.  Meanwhile Arni’s parents fly all over Iceland to find Arni – all before night fall when all pufflings must head out to sea.  And this time for their longest journey.
For all four puffins, author and photographer Ra Anderson, with the help of an Icelandic ‘Faery’ is able to provide her young and older readers yet more of a most beautiful travelogue of Iceland. The flights of the puffins take us through beautiful and famous lagoons, beaches, glaciers, volcanoes, and much more.  At the turn of every page, Anderson not only provides us with some of her own beautiful photography, but also facts about the origin, history, and current status of all the sights we visit together.
Did Arni and Birta find the two lambs they were trying to help? If not, what happened to them? And did the two young pufflings get to sea in time? You’ll need to find out for yourself.
In the meantime, you’ll learn some very interesting things about the Old Norse language and the Vikings that spoke it. You’ll find out where the title of Book III came from. You’ll discover some differences and similarities between puffins and penguins. You’ll learn about the 606 different species of moss that grow as large mats on lava rocks and could be as much as 18 inches thick. You’ll also learn why you never hear about the Icelandic earthquakes. You’ll visit one of the 120 lighthouses in the country and learn how many are still in operation. And much more.
Like the two previous volumes, this one too is highly recommended for young inquisitive minds that have a passion for animals, birds, and nature. As an adult, I too didn’t want to miss this last in the series to see how things worked out for Arni and Birta. And I wasn’t disappointed.
One more thing -- when I go to Iceland, I will do all I can to get a taste of their famous “Hot Springs Bread” or Rúgbrauõ. What is that you say?  The puffins found out. Get the book.
Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, February 07, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Tuesday, February 04, 2020



RE-THINKING FOREIGN AID FOR AFRICA

By Sylvanus Ayenyi, M.D.


The author of RESCUE THYSELF: Change In Sub-Saharan Africa Must Come From Within has recently given a speech that all of us who support Foreign Aid to African need to hear. He believes foreign raid should be discontinued until certain conditions are met. Most interesting.




Please share your views with me here, by commenting.




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Sunday, February 02, 2020

Even Birds Can Get Distracted in Iceland

Puffins Off the Beaten Path: The Puffin Explorers Series Book II

Author and Photographer: Ra Anderson
Publisher: My Favorite Books Publishing Company, Kingston, GA, 2019


In book one of the series, our two young puffling friends (Arni and Birta) were just about to set out to sea when they stopped to help two baby lambs. That meant they were lost from Arni’s parents who desperately wanted to find them and make sure they began their life-changing voyage before it was too late.
In their exhausting flight across Iceland in search of the young puffins, Arni’s parents themselves stop to explore the things they see and the people and animals they encounter, not to mention, taking time to help others who (namely, lambs) are lost.
But the journey of these two adult puffins gives the author a chance to share with us so much about Iceland’s origin, history, and her present treasures and beauty. To that, Ra Anderson, a professional photographer, adds her own pictures. These are beautiful in their own right and would make any national tourism board proud.
Anderson makes no bones about one of her other purposes – to help young and old realize the importance of taking care of our world and every single creature in it.
While many may think the book is intended for children and while it is well-suited and totally appropriate for them, I can’t help but think that adults reading the book with or to their children will be enticed to visit Iceland and enjoy its beauty – both natural and cultural. I know I’ve added it to my bucket list because of this series.
And about those pufflings? Well, Ra Anderson has one more chance in Book III, entitled Puffins Encounter Fire & Iceto find them for her readers. But with a title like that could there be trouble ahead. Stay tuned for my review of the final book in the series coming out soon.
Highly recommended for young inquisitive minds that have a passion for animals, birds, and nature. And also, for adults, like myself, who find a unique type of travelogue most interesting.

n  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, February 02, 2019, www.accordconsulting.com

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Saturday, February 01, 2020

Jesus Didn’t Die For You To ‘Be King'

The Missing Link: Your Journey with Peter from Self Power to Holy Spirit Power Author: Sam Hunter
Publisher: High Bridge Books, Houston, Texas, 2019


For those of you that have read Lloyd C. Douglas’s 1948 epic historical novel called The Big Fisherman, this book will bring back memories. However, while Douglas’s book was more novel than history, Sam Hunter’s is more history than novel. In The Missing Link, Hunter takes poetic license in how he delivers scriptural texts – when, who, in what order, etc., but sticks very closely to words uttered by Jesus and the various apostles in the New Testament. With those passages, he takes the opportunity to let his main character, the Apostle Peter, share some personal (Hunter’s) views on key issues facing Christians and the Body of Christ today. I’ll let you discover them for yourself. But as a teaser, let me just ask you, “Where is the Biblical support for (local) church membership?”
The book is indeed an account of a journey or should I say two journeys.
The first and obvious one is Peter’s journey of life with Christ (what he learned and what he did not learn while Jesus was with the Disciples) as well his account of facing life without Christ after His ascension. It was at that time that he tried to understand what Jesus had meant when he uttered the words, “And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” This first journey goes on to explain how that happened and what it meant to him, and to other followers of Jesus. Peter, now an old man in the story, provides a description that is historical in nature – all this had already happened.
The second and slightly less obvious, but still very intentional journey, is a portrayal of a potential or future journey – your journey and my journey of having the Holy Spirit live within us and allowing us to exhibit His Power.  Some readers may already be on that journey and they will easily identify with what Peter shared about his journey. To others, it may be all brand-new thinking.
In the book’s prologue, again writing as Peter, Hunter makes several keys observations, but his main one (attributed to Pastor Jack R. Taylor) is this: The Holy Spirit “is, in fact, the only God left on earth.” If that doesn’t get you wanting to read the book, nothing will.
Hunter does a masterful job of developing a character that is like so many of us – we want to be in charge of our lives; we think we’re pretty good; we’re often in a hurry; and we get things done. And then he shows us, through “king Peter” that being like that does not work if our desire is to be Holy Spirit filled.
The majority of the book’s background is the account of the New Testament book of Acts which Hunter (through Peter) says we’ve misnamed it ‘the Acts of the Apostles’. Peter says a much better name would be ‘the Acts of the Holy Spirit’ and Hunter shows us why.
The author focuses on Christ’s instruction to His disciples to “wait” and tells us what we are to wait for.
In part two of his book, Hunter describes how seeking and receiving the Holy Spirit is not for the faint of heart. In essence, when the Spirit comes to dwell in you, the Enemy strikes back. In effect, he shows us that we have two choices when that happens. We can either react in fear or respond in faith. With great detail he describes for us what that looks like. This section of the book would not be complete without an account of Jesus’ challenge to Peter and to us – “Who do you say that I am?” With whatever answer we give, Hunter (through Peter) moves us on to a section of handling tribulation, suffering, even ‘flogging’ in Peter’s case and ‘stoning’ in Stephen’s case.
The third and final part of the book is an account of the conversion of the persecutor of Christians (Saul) to being one of the greatest proponents of Christ (the Apostle Paul), and Peter’s relationship with him. It is a fascinating section that gives us an interesting perspective on Paul’s early life after his conversion. The weight of his past acts is, to say the least, a heavy burden for him.  Together, Peter and Paul and others learn about each of the Spirit’s Fruits.
And readers won’t want to miss Hunter’s treatise on the difference between ‘aphiemi’ forgiveness and ‘charizomai’ forgiveness.  That alone is worth the price of the book.
If you, like many of us, are stuck in your spiritual life, and your relationship with God is not growing, this book will move you to the next step – no matter where you are in your journey.  It is easy reading, but full of practical suggestions that could have a great impact.
Highly recommended. Very different from the other (at least 17 by my count) books out there with the identical or basically the same title. 

n  Ken B. Godevenos, President, Accord Resolutions Services Inc., Toronto, Ontario, Feb. 1, 2020, www.accordconsulting.com

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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

When It Comes to Being Declared Ceremonially Clean, the Rules Have Changed and I'm Glad

Clean or Unclean? It’s the Priest’s Call.
Leviticus 13:9-17 
“When the infection of leprosy is on a man, then he shall be brought to the priest.10 The priest shall then look, and if there is a white swelling in the skin, and it has turned the hair white, and there is quick raw flesh in the swelling, 11 it is a chronic leprosy on the skin of his body, and the priest shall pronounce him unclean; he shall not isolate him, for he is unclean. 12 If the leprosy breaks out farther on the skin, and the leprosy covers all the skin of him who has the infection from his head even to his feet, as far as the priest can see, 13 then the priest shall look, and behold, if the leprosy has covered all his body, he shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; it has all turned white and he is clean. 14 But whenever raw flesh appears on him, he shall be unclean. 15 The priest shall look at the raw flesh, and he shall pronounce him unclean; the raw flesh is unclean, it is leprosy. 16 Or if the raw flesh turns again and is changed to white, then he shall come to the priest,17 and the priest shall look at him, and behold, if the infection has turned to white, then the priest shall pronounce clean him who has the infection; he is clean.

Thoughts on the Passage
In this part of Leviticus 13, we see that the fate of someone infected with leprosy depends on two things. First, the progress of the infection on his/her body and second, the accurate and fair diagnosis of the Priest doing the inspection. It is thus one is deemed to be “clean” or “unclean”.  You don’t isolate an ‘unclean’ person. Isolation is for remedial purposes and there’s no chance a chronic leper will heal.
There is an interesting twist in verse 12, however.  Here the indication is that if the leprosy is deemed to have covered the entire body, the infected person is to be cleaned, while the skin remains white, and he is deemed ceremoniously ‘clean’.
Verse 14 describes the serious physical situation of the appearance of “raw flesh” in which case the individual is definitely unclean and a leper.  Verse 16 offers the opportunity for such raw flesh to change color and become white, thus after further examination by the priest, the individual may be pronounced ‘clean’.
What strikes me in this passage is, as mentioned above, one’s “ceremonial cleanliness” for the Israelites in the wilderness depended on the condition of one’s skin and/or the judgement of the Priest examining them. And that decision had an incredible impact on how that individual would live the rest of his/her life.
But thank God that today we know that only the blood of Jesus Christ and His grace and mercy can make as ‘ceremonially’ and ‘spiritually’ clean. The condition or color of our skin does not matter one iota.  Neither does what a local priest or pastor or anyone else may think of us.

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Tuesday, January 14, 2020

What The Mosaic Law's Test for Leprosy Was All About

Examination of People and Garments
Leviticus 13
A Test for Leprosy
Leviticus 13:1- 8
Then the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “When a man has on the skin of his body a swelling or a scab or a bright spot, and it becomes an infection of leprosy on the skin of his body, then he shall be brought to Aaron the priest or to one of his sons the priests. The priest shall look at the mark on the skin of the body, and if the hair in the infection has turned white and the infection appears to be deeper than the skin of his body, it is an infection of leprosy; when the priest has looked at him, he shall pronounce him unclean. But if the bright spot is white on the skin of his body, and it does not appear to be deeper than the skin, and the hair on it has not turned white, then the priest shall isolate him who has the infection for seven days. The priest shall look at him on the seventh day, and if in his eyes the infection has not changed and the infection has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall isolate him for seven more days. The priest shall look at him again on the seventh day, and if the infection has faded and the mark has not spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him clean; it is only a scab. And he shall wash his clothes and be clean.
“But if the scab spreads farther on the skin after he has shown himself to the priest for his cleansing, he shall appear again to the priest. The priest shall look, and if the scab has spread on the skin, then the priest shall pronounce him unclean; it is leprosy.
Thoughts on the Passage
Leprosy was a terrible thing to strike a person or a family for the Israelites in the dessert. And, in the absence of medics, it was the priests that were in charge of determining that it was leprosy, and if it wasn’t when the person who was afflicted could be deemed clean again. What is important to note is that this illness, in a practical sense, was identified with being ‘unclean’.
Chuck Smith says, “God wanted them to be very careful to, number one, if it was leprosy, to isolate them from the people to keep this disease from spreading. And so, it was a quarantine kind of thing. But secondly, the careful examination so that no one would be isolated who was not truly a leper. So, God wanted them to be careful in both directions. Make sure it's leprosy so that in case it is leprosy, the person can be isolated from the community so that the disease would not spread. But secondly, make sure if it isn't, that this person doesn't have this isolation from the community itself.
I often feel that today we deal with the same dilemmas in other parts of life – sending children to school when they are sick because both parents have to work; or letting accused individuals go on one's own recognizance without posting bail because the ‘judge’ deems him/her to not be a danger to society; or whether a pit bull is a pit bull and it doesn’t matter that one particular dog of that kind has not killed a child yet.
Clearly, the priests, with these limited instructions from God as to what to look for, had a very difficult decision to make in each case.  The ramifications of error for the individual, the family, and the whole camp were severe.
David Guzik says, “The methodology in this passage erred on the side of safety. If a person could not be pronounced ‘clean’ with certainty, they were then isolated until they could be pronounced clean.” He maintains judgments “were made more with the idea of protecting the community from the outbreak of disease than with the idea of the rights of the individual.”
Of course, we do the opposite today in most cases – Charters of Rights or equivalents in many countries give the individual total say in what happens to him/her in many situations and what he/her can do, even if there is solid evidence that the likelihood of harming others exists.
Guzik also quotes Harrison who says, “The Hebrew priest-physicians appear to have been the first in the ancient world to isolate persons suspected of infectious or contagious diseases.” The reason for this was that smallpox, measles, and scarlet fever might start out with a skin condition considered to be leprosy – and the person would be isolated for the necessary time until the condition cleared up. God once again put this quarantine in place to prevent the spread of these diseases among His people.
Robert Jamieson says that the fact that the test for leprosy was incorporated in the Mosaic laws indicates leprosy was becoming rampant in the camp and that it happened soon after they left Egypt indicating that country where it was endemic was the source. He believes this was not hereditary with the Israelites, but rather that they got it from intercourse with the Egyptians and from the unfavorable circumstances of their condition in the house of bondage. Jamieson gives us the most “Dr. Luke-like treatment” to leprosy of all the commentators I turned to and you can read more of his comments here Jamison on Leprosy and Leviticus 13.
Matthew Henry takes a little different approach to leprosy. He sees it more as ‘uncleanliness’ rather than an illness. His argument is that the law involved priests not physicians (although I am not convinced they had any doctors traveling with them), thus indicating it had to do with being spiritually clean. He argues that Christ cleansed lepers, rather than heal them. Are we quibbling over words here?
He goes on to say we need to note it was a plague inflicted immediately by the hand of God, and not by natural causes as other diseases – thus requiring management by divine law, not medicine. He goes on to say, the leprosies of Miriam, Gehazi, and King Uzziah were all as a result of the punishments for particular sins.
He goes on to give more rationale for his thinking. Those interested should refer to Henry on Leprosy and Leviticus 13.
I think we got a lot more out of this passage than I originally thought we would.  Stay tuned as we what happens to those that were in fact pronounced to be lepers and thus were ‘unclean’.

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