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feast: Spiritual Fine Tuning



Given 11-Oct-14; Sermon #FT14-05; 71 minutes

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David Maas, cuing in on Paul's declaration of a debt he owed to Greek and Barbarian, to both the Hebraistic Jewish world view and the Hellenistic world view, observing that God has chosen to canonize the Scripture in both Hebrew and Greek, contends that these major two dominant forces in western culture were meant to be symbiotic partners, like husband and wife, each representing only a partial, incomplete aspect of God's character. As maturing Christians, called to judge in God's coming Kingdom, we are called to lay aside the childlike tendency to over-correct, violently and impulsively moving from one ditch to the other. As the mirisms in Ecclesiastes 3 and the comparison examples in Ecclesiastes 7 were meant to be contraries rather than contradictories, we must metaphorically go beyond the simple on-off switch and canoe paddle, devices that served us well when we were first called. But as we mature, we must adopt the steering wheel and the rheostat mechanism, allowing degrees of brightness and intensity, allowing for variables of time, place, and circumstance, which are different for each of us. The only time a jagged spike is desirable is when the line on the electrocardiogram goes flat and we are compelled to use a defibrillator to shock it into activity. In our trials and our spiritual gifts, one size does not fit all, and our overcoming skills, our ability to judge, and especially our ability to grow spiritually and bear fruit should reflect these variables. Whether we are talking about diabetic blood sugar spikes or the spike of malfunctioning heartbeat on an electro-cardiogram, or most importantly, the metaphorical spikes in our spiritual journey, we must seek God's spiritual pace maker (Hebrews 8:10) a balance mechanism for regulating these dangerous fluctuations.

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Romans 1:14-16 I feel under obligation both to Greeks and to Barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish. So, for my part, I eagerly preach the gospel to you also who live in Rome. For I do not feel ashamed of the gospel, for it brings the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The apostle Paul, having been immersed in both Hebrew and Hellenic culture, expresses a feeling of indebtedness he has to both cultures, as well as to Barbarians, the learned and unlearned. Let us go forward to Galatians 3:27

Galatians 3:27-28 For all of you who received baptism into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There exists neither Jew nor Greek, there exists neither slave nor free man, there exists neither male nor female; for you have all become one in Christ Jesus.

In Ephesians 2:14, we see that finally a contentious barrier had been permanently broken down, when former Greeks and Jews are united in the commonwealth of Israel. Almighty God, in His wisdom, has chosen to use both the Hebrew culture and the Greek culture to canonize His Scripture, and has evidently determined that we have something to learn from both worldviews to understand fully His plan of salvation.

I learned recently from the works of Ivan Panin (carried on by Chuck Missler who came up with the heptatic structure of the Bible) that Hebrew and Greek are the only languages in which the letters and the numbers are merged. So this is the only language where there could be a numerical pattern. This heptatic structure shows that the number 7-7-7-7 appears as a watermark in both the Hebrew and the Greek. It does not work when we put the Koran through the same process. It does not work when we put the apocryphal books of the Catholic Bible into there.

We could perhaps characterize the apostle Paul as the most educated and the most cosmopolitan of Christ’s apostles. He was not only schooled in both the Hebraistic and the Hellenistic cultures, but He was also a Roman citizen who knew how to exercise those civil privileges whenever it became needed. One could almost come to the conclusion that Saul-Paul of Tarsus was, on one hand, seemingly a very conflicted man and yet totally at peace with his lot—as it says in Philippians 4:12, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of having enough and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

The nature of Paul’s sense of debt or obligation to both the Hebrew worldview and the Hellenistic Greek worldview has never been adequately explained in the standard Bible commentaries. I fear Protestant commentators have somewhat oversimplified the nature of his debt to the Greeks/barbarians/and Jews glossing it over with the statement, “Paul felt a massive obligation to preach Christ to everybody— Greek, Jew, barbarian, learned, unlearned,” which was certainly a major contributory factor, but that explanation somehow misses the mark in explaining Paul’s core intent.

Commentaries contributed by the Hebrews Roots movement are not much more of a help. As a matter of fact, they have complicated the issue by deliberately disparaging aspects of the Hellenistic contribution, even calling into question their right to draft a Greek New Testament, claiming adamantly that the New Testament is a Hebrew document and should not have been written in Greek, totally ignoring that it was God’s doing that Christ’s Gospel of the Kingdom of God, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Revelation of Christ to John all be recorded in Greek. Paradoxically, it is by harmonizing these seemingly contradictory Hebrew and Greek outlooks that we are provided keys to understanding how the middle wall of partition will be permanently destroyed.

In this message this morning, I would like to make the case, using abundant scriptural examples, that by harmonizing the supposedly contradictory strains of Hebraistic (Jewish) and Hellenistic (Greek) thought processes extant in the Old and New Testaments, we will understand how these mindsets are not contradictory, but actually symbiotic and complementary and may provide an insight as to how harmonize Hebraistic and Hellenistic viewpoints to fine-tune our spirituality, getting rid of the dangerous spikes in our overcoming process and replacing them with harmonious rhythmic sine waves.

As Augustine of Hippo once said, "The New Testament is in the Old Testament concealed; the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.”

In my sermon on August 16, 2014, I introduced to you a concept called “disinterestedness” or self-reflexively thinking about our thinking, a concept introduced by Victorian poet turned philosopher and social critic, Matthew Arnold, an individual who called for a tranquil time out from all the turbulent religious, political, economic, and social conflicts erupting during the Victorian era. One landmark piece written by Arnold in his volume “Culture and Anarchy” was a chapter on Hebraism and Hellenism, the two dominant forces in Western culture. The chapter is quite lengthy, so we will only look at a few selected passages which seem to serve as the core of his insight:

Hebraism and Hellenism—between these two points of influence move our world. At one time it feels more powerfully the attraction of one of them, at another time of the other; and it ought to be, though it never is, evenly and happily balanced between them.

The final aim of both Hellenism and Hebraism, as of all great spiritual disciplines, is no doubt the same: man's perfection or salvation.

Still, they pursue this aim by very different courses. The uppermost idea with Hellenism is to see things as they really are; the uppermost idea with Hebraism is conduct and obedience. Nothing can do away with this ineffaceable difference; the Greek quarrel with the body and its desires is, that they hinder right thinking, the Hebrew quarrel with them is, that they hinder right acting. "He that keepeth the law, happy is he;"

But, while Hebraism seizes upon certain plain, capital intimations of the universal order, and rivets itself, one may say, with unequalled grandeur of earnestness and intensity on the study and observance of them, the bent of Hellenism is to follow, with flexible activity, the whole play of the universal order, to be apprehensive of missing any part of it, of sacrificing one part to another, to slip away from resting in this or that intimation of it, however capital. An unclouded clearness of mind, an unimpeded play of thought, is what this bent drives at. The governing idea of Hellenism is spontaneity of consciousness; that of Hebraism, strictness of conscience.

Expanding on Arnold’s basic dichotomy of Hebraism, I have constructed the following chart elaborating on the difference between these two world views:

Hebraism Hellenism
Strictness Spontaneity
Rigidity Flexibility
Caution of old age Curiosity of children
Wise adults Innocence of children
Decisiveness Tentativeness
Dogmatism Provisional
Strength only Softness only
Masculinity Femininity (9 muses)
Steel Velvet
Not looking to right or left Desire to explore the unknown
Protect time honored Teachability—learn something new
Up-tight Relaxed
Analysis Synthesis
Left brain Right brain
Convergent thinking Divergent thinking

Throughout history, discord and friction have brought about polarization of these two forces which were intended to be symbiotic, just as male and female, partial, incomplete aspects of God’s image were intended to be symbiotic and mutually nurturing rather than adversarial or competitive.

God has revealed through His Creation a very orderly and systematic process. Consider God’s proclamation to Noah in Genesis 8 as the flood began to subside:

Genesis 8:22 "While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."

In all the symphonies, from Brahms to Rachmaninoff, there is an allegro-sonata form meaning alternating fast and slow, loud and soft. God has created rhythmic, predictable cycles operating according to predictable natural laws. Emerson in his essay “The American Scholar” describes these processes as “that great principle of undulation in nature that shows itself in the inspiring or expiring of the breath; in desire and satiety; in the ebb and flow of the sea; in day and night; in heat and cold; and yet more deeply ingrained in every atom and fluid is known to us under the name of polarity.”

The merisms which Solomon described in Ecclesiastes 3 further illustrate the cyclical, recurring, programmed, and sequential aspects of nature.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-11 An appointed time exists for everything. And a time exists for every event under heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what we have planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to keep silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace. What profit does a worker have from that in which he toils? I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves. He has made everything appropriate in its time He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end.

In John Ritenbaugh’s sermons on August 23, 2014 and September 13, 2014, when he analyzed the “this is better than that” observations, he cautioned us that these pronouncements were not to be regarded as absolute opposites, but must be understood in the context of building character and spiritual wisdom, and that to an unconverted person, these guidelines would have very little meaning and utility.

Hebrews 5:12-14 For though by this time you ought to serve as teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk has not familiarized himself to the word of righteousness, for he resembles an infant. But solid food we reserve for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.

Please also make a mental note that Paul [or the writer of Hebrews] was not condemning milk and stating that mature people should never consume milk, but he is stating that there is a time and a place for certain developmental tasks to occur in our lives—but in order to develop spiritually, we need to be tested and fully stretched in our abilities. The tests get more difficult and demanding as we move through the rigorous sanctification process.

As Ronny Graham has said, “We may get out of high school; we may get out of college; but we never get out of the sanctification process that God is putting us through until He has perfected us in His image.”

I Corinthians 13:11-12 When I lived as a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have become fully known.

We must make a mental note that Paul is not calling adult behavior good and child behavior bad—that would have set him at variance with Jesus Christ in Matthew 18:3 in which He said that unless we become like little children, we will never become members of His Kingdom. Again, like the previous dichotomy between milk and meat, Paul did not label adult behavior good and child behavior bad.

We have to move beyond thinking exclusively in terms of either-or polarities or opposites. The late S. I. Hayakawa, in his text Language in Thought and Action, advocated that we move beyond the simple canoe paddle to the steering wheel, learning to adjust by degrees rather than one side to the other side lurches.

One characteristic of childlike thinking which we definitely do not want to carry into adulthood is the tendency to make rash, impulsive, drastic, either-or, and extreme opposite reactions. I remember an incident back in 1976 when my two oldest sons Mike and Eric would go hiking with me in the East Texas woods. I believe I have used this example before in a previous message. At one time, they were poking along 20 or so feet behind me. I said emphatically, “Boys, please try to keep up with Dad.” In the next half minute, they charged ahead, marching in forced step, this time 20 feet ahead of me.

I remember another incident in Miss Bratland’s 5th grade class back in 1954. (Her surname, incidentally was Norwegian, and had nothing to do with her clientele.) At one point, Miss Bratland reprimanded my friend John Woestehoff for talking, saying very sternly, “John, I don’t want to hear you talking any more for the rest of the day.” Later when she asked John a question about the lesson, John replied by singing, “Miss Bratland, I have turned over a new leaf, and I will not be talking anymore; I will be singing from now on.”

If you recall, Peter fell into the childish either-or trap on the evening of Passover:

John 13:5-9 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. Then He came to Simon Peter. And Peter said to Him, "Lord, are You washing my feet?" Jesus answered and said to him, "What I am doing you do not understand now, but you will know after this." Peter said to Him, "You shall never wash my feet!" Jesus answered him, "If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me." Simon Peter said to Him, "Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!"

Over-correction is a behavior often demonstrated by children or any novice in any activity from playing the piano, to launching a bowling ball, to driving a race car.

Over-correction has sometimes led us into making grammatical mistakes. When the second grade teacher reprimands us for saying, “Me and my brother went into town,” insisting that we say “My brother and I went into town,” we might make an error in over-correction by saying “between you and I” which is an error because the pronoun following the preposition between should be in the objective case—“between you and me” is correct.

Over-correcting can be extremely dangerous, as every motorcyclist knows who has tried to negotiate black ice, or every motorist who has ever hydroplaned can attest to.

When we teach our children to ride a bicycle, we parents often serve as our children’s auxiliary training wheels, running along behind them, holding on the back of the rider’s seat, compensating for their frequent over-correction, as they wildly turn the handlebars left/right/left/right in a rather shaky attempt to ride a straight line. I suspect that God has done that a lot for His children, nudging us when we get too far off course.

When we are first called, our developmental tasks are primarily confined to making 180 degree turns in the opposite direction from which we have been traveling. As we begin our spiritual journey, we instinctively do the 180 degrees about face turns in the opposite direction. After all, “repent” denotes a complete turning away from sin, changing our minds which ultimately results in a change of action or behavior from carnal minded to spiritual minded.

The developmental tasks for those whom God has called are initially choosing one thing and assiduously avoiding the other—glomming on to the seventh day Sabbath, moving away from Sunday or any other day not sanctified by Almighty God, observing dietary distinctions choosing the clean meats and avoiding the unclean meats, keeping God’s Holy Law, embracing doing good and refraining from doing evil. As we contemplate the blessing and cursing chapters found

in both Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, we find a set of stark polar opposites set before us with God warning us.

Deuteronomy 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,

Consequently, we do start out our spiritual journey making clear-cut either or choices. I believe these choices are what the late Herbert W. Armstrong referred to as what constitutes the trunk of the tree—actually the choice to partake of the tree of life or the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. There is no negotiating these clear cut choices.

But as we mature spiritually, we see that not all the decisions we have in life are clear cut. General Semanticists insists that in nature there exist a relatively few real contradictories such as dead/alive, outside/inside, on/off, but almost an infinitude of contraries such as wise/stupid, beautiful/ugly, fast/slow, exciting/boring. The vast majority of our decisions are about gray area matters, or the “this is better than that,” such as the comparisons made by Solomon in Ecclesiastes 7 and the cyclical merisms in Ecclesiastes 2. As maturing Christians, for making these decisions, we have to go beyond the either-or paddle or either-or on-off switch and advance to a rheostat or thermostatic yaw control, requiring the installation of God’s Holy Spirit into our minds, enabling us to calculate in degrees—how much/ when/ under what circumstances. Please do not misconstrue or characterize this as situation ethics; it is the application of God’s Holy Spirit to move us forward in smooth rhythmic sine waves rather than jolted by dangerous side to side spikes.

Whether we are talking about diabetic blood sugar spikes or the spike of malfunctioning heart valves, we must seek a balance mechanism for regulating these dangerous fluctuations.

If we have diabetic or arthritic symptoms, we have become entrapped in a web of physiological imbalances, hormonal, digestive, and other bodily malfunctions.

The only time a spike is desirable is when the line on the electrocardiogram goes flat and we are compelled to use a defibrillator to shock it into activity.

Sometimes physicians install pacemakers to slow down a dangerous arrhythmic heart palpitation, converting the heartbeat from dangerous spikes to smooth deliberative sine-waves.

These extreme measures to control by a defibrillator or implanted pacemaker the steady beat of the heart are somewhat analogous to a technique used by the California Highway Patrol to bring rapid freeway traffic under control to remove a dangerous piece of debris out of the highway.

I noticed this technique for the first time last spring when I was driving over to Glendale. A California Highway Patrol vehicle suddenly passed me and then started weaving wildly back and forth across the lanes of traffic. At first, I wondered if a prisoner had not broken loose and subdued the officer, trying to make his get-away. Presently, all lanes of traffic eventually slowed down to a snail’s pace.

Then I noticed a mattress that had evidently fallen out of a truck blocking one of the lanes. James Beaubelle informed me that the Highway Patrol has been using this method for quite a long time. It is called a Round Robin procedure. When I googled “Round Robin California Highway Patrol,” I came up with this explanation:

TRAFFIC BREAK

Every day on California freeways there are objects which wind up in the lanes of traffic. These obstacles can include such things as Christmas trees, mattresses, construction equipment, lawn trimmings, clothes, garbage, furniture and vehicles which have become disabled, wound up facing the wrong way on the shoulders, or involved in collisions. Removing this blockage from the roads is part of the normal routine of the California Highway Patrol.

On most freeways in major metropolitan areas, a sufficiently long "natural break" is very rare. In these cases, Officers will create their own "traffic break." With one Officer standing by at the scene of the obstacle, another Officer will get on the freeway at a point before the scene of the problem. The Officer in the car, or the motorcycle, will turn on their emergency lights. Sometimes, they will even activate the vehicle s siren. They will then start moving in the direction of the obstruction. The Officer will start to zigzag back and forth across all lanes of traffic until they have the attention of all of the vehicles behind them. This zigzagging motion is intended to keep all vehicles behind the CHP vehicle. When the Officer is convinced that all of the vehicles have seen the patrol car, they will slow down. This slowing down will create a gap between the vehicles traveling behind the CHP vehicle, and those traveling at normal speeds in front of the patrol car.

Normally, the Officer creating the break will then use the radio to give the Officer at the scene of the problem a description of the last car traveling at regular speeds. When the last car goes by, the Officer at the scene will then either run out into the lanes to remove the item, they will push the disabled vehicle out of the way, or they will instruct the driver of a vehicle facing the wrong way that it is safe to make a U-turn, and get on their way.

Almighty God had to perform a Round Robin procedure on the despondent Elijah back in I Kings 19:11-12, getting his attention by a powerful wind breaking the rocks, and then an earthquake, and then a fire so he could calmly address him face to face in a still small voice.

Richard explained to us on his sermon on July 19, 2014, “Seeking God in the Mundane,” that Elijah desperately needed to learn (as some of us have had to also learn or still have to learn) that God was and is in charge of the relationship, not the other way around.

The apostle Paul in I Corinthians had to perform a Round Robin procedure, explaining to the Corinthians the legitimate and illegitimate practices of tolerance, feeling it necessary to disfellowship or excommunicate a man who had engaged in statutory incest. The congregation predictably over-corrected and Paul was forced to perform another Round Robin in II Corinthians 2:6-8.

II Corinthians 2:6-8 Sufficient for such a one do we regard this punishment which the majority inflicted, so that on the contrary you should rather forgive and comfort him, otherwise such a one might succumb to excessive sorrow. Wherefore I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.

Over the years, God has had to perform numerous Round Robin procedures to prevent our institution from colliding into heretical debris on our spiritual path. Back in 1967, for example, Roderick Meredith was dispatched to the Minneapolis congregation to warn people not to jump to rash conclusions made by a number of overzealous individuals in our congregation about the imminent climax of the age, a miscalculation based upon misconceptions about the booklet “1975 in Prophecy.”

A Round Robin slow-down took place in 1973, when it was determined that there were some contexts when God’s Holy Days could occur on what we feared as the venerable day of the sun. Consequently, we now keep Pentecost on a Sunday and we will be having services here tomorrow on a Sunday.

A Round Robin slow-down procedure took place regularly on the World Tomorrow program and the Plain Truth when Herbert W. Armstrong strongly defended God’s law, crying out, “The law is holy; the law is spiritual,” steering us away the prevailing traffic glomming onto the fast lane of grace without works and salvation by faith alone.

As novices in the faith, many of us vehemently contested and vilified the Protestant obsession with grace, contemptuously calling it cheap grace. Over-correcting caused many of us to over-emphasize law and dangerously de-emphasis grace altogether.

Through reo-static course corrections made by various splinter groups in the greater church of God, following the break-apart of our previous fellowship, the balance is becoming gradually restored and placed in a more mature perspective.

Another Round Robin procedure was used by the church leaders to steer us around the debris of Semiramis worship and the winter solstice masquerading as the birth of Christ, so much so that many of our ministers (thankfully, not all of them) were terrified at ever reading the nativity message in Luke 2.

The World Tomorrow program and the Plain Truth conducted a full scale Round Robin procedure, attempting to steer mainline “Christendom” Catholics and Protestants away from Astarte/Easter observance. The unintended consequence was that we heavily emphasized the death of Jesus Christ but felt reluctant to discuss the events of His resurrection and ascension for fear of appearing to keep Easter.

My friend Dave Havir has attempted to make a rheostat course correction by having a Bible study focusing on the events and significance of the Resurrection, held annually in the middle of the days of unleavened bread. Sadly, in the little town of Big Sandy, he has unfortunately received some negative criticism from other “well-meaning” but ignorant church of God splinter groups, accusing him of veering into heresy. The term “heresy” does not scare me. A heresy is a course correction that has gone too far, and if one sticks in that ditch too far, it is heresy. But when we repent and turn around and go back to sanity, it is no longer heresy.

Over the years, our fellowship has conducted some Round Robin procedures, steering us away from Mary-olatry and the worship of Mary and the worship of saints. Some of us have overcorrected and have not given either Mary or Joseph a proper place of honor. Thankfully, we have had some responsible rheostatic course corrections on this matter in our fellowship, the most recent having come from Ted Bowling, who in his sermonette on July 26, 2014, “The Unsung Hero,” focused upon the heroic, faithful characteristics of the stepfather of our Savior.

Herbert W. Armstrong felt compelled to use a Round Robin procedure in a sermon back on July 1, 1978 in which he warned of a virulent strain of intellectual leavening which was gripping the college and the church—a time he warned the church had gotten off the track. The stream of traffic was slowed down considerably and proper course corrections were initiated. In the wake of his somber correction, some over-zealous members veered predictably to the exact opposite direction, bringing in an equally virulent strain of anti-intellectualism, which is every bit as debilitating and deadly as the leavening of intellectualism. For example, one of my Ambassador students, in the spring of 1978, after I had assigned him an oral report, brazenly threw his textbook into the wastebasket, proclaiming “This is the kind of intellectual vanity that Mr. Armstrong warned us about.”

One man in the former Glendale congregation tried to inform me about how classical music was written by demon-possessed composers. As a matter of fact, he stated one former Ambassador College faculty member had actually declared that Beethoven’s 5th Symphony was inspired by demons, with the opening notes, “Let me come in; I am your fate.” There is one problem with that. Ludwig van Beethoven was German, so he would have had to get the demons to sing, they would have to say, “Lassen Sie mich kommen in; Ich bin dein Schicksal. That is an old foolish wives tale. Beethoven was going deaf at that time and he was very concerned about his fate of being deaf. That is a mnemonic, so people realize that is the fate symphony.

Another music faculty member showed me a Master’s Thesis written at AC, warning against the demonic influence of symphonic music, evidently several years before Mr. Armstrong had the Ambassador Auditorium constructed, and invited leading orchestras from all over the world, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Concertgebouw orchestra of Amsterdam, the Minnesota orchestra, regularly performing the works of Beethoven, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky. At one point, the movie music composer Miklos Rozsa even debuted one of his orchestral works, performed by the Ambassador Chorale.

One of my acquaintances at Ambassador refused to listen to the works of Tchaikovsky because “You could just hear the effeminacy oozing out of it, as in the “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.” I responded to him with a story told by one of my colleagues in general semantics, Dr. Sanford Berman, in which he described a conversation he had with a woman, who said emphatically, I’m never going on a date with Roger again; he knows too many dirty songs. Dr. Berman asked, “Well, does he sing them to you.” “No,” she says, but he does hum them.”

The point is, when we examine music disinterestedly, we find that it is usually not the music itself that offends, but what we have come to associate with it. My 10th grade choir teacher used an analogy concerning evaluating music which I have always remembered. He said, “If you go to a restaurant, and you are not sure about the quality of food, order an egg. If an egg is rotten, you will know it instantly; it will stink. But, if you order a steak, hamburger, or poultry, or fish, it is easier to conceal spoiled meat with seasonings.”

Likewise, it is easier to conceal literary deficits in poetry or prose than it is to conceal musical deficits, a medium which mirrors the feelings or emotions more accurately than any art form. British novelist Joseph Conrad called music the art of arts.

The Feast of Tabernacles depicts a time we will serve as kings, priests, and judges in the wonderful World Tomorrow. We must learn to advance beyond the simple either-or, binary on-off decisions that characterize our initial steps at conversion and learn to judge in fine degrees, realizing that between pure black and pure white, there are 40,000 shades of gray observable to the human eye.

A major perennial lesson we have been rehearsing every Feast of Unleavened Bread is that there is a lot more involved in overcoming than to get rid of something negative (or getting rid of the leavening of sin). John Ritenbaugh pointed out in his sermon, “Don’t Stand Still: Growth and the Feast of Unleavened Bread,” given on April 2, 1994, that it is not enough to get rid of something negative (that is, getting rid of the leavening of sin); if we do not positively practice righteousness (symbolized by eating unleavened bread), we leave ourselves in a perilous position, as illustrated by Christ’s example in Luke 11:24-26 of the man who had the unclean spirit cast out of him, but failed to take the necessary steps to fill the vacuum with righteous living.

Nature abhors a vacuum. We cannot make Christianity work by emphasizing what we cannot do. John pointed out back on September 13, 2014, in the “Ecclesiastes Resumed” sermon, that the fig tree that Jesus cursed had not produced an ounce of bad fruit; it just had not produced any good fruit. It had beautiful foliage, but no fruit. We cannot afford to stand still. Joseph Tkach liked to quote General Patton, “I do not want any messages saying ‘I’m holding my position.’ We’re not holding a [delete] thing. Our plan of operation is to advance and keep on advancing.’”

Building godly character consists of more than holding our position or refraining from engaging in some specific identified undesirable behavior.

Mark Twain once wrote a novel, The Man Who Corrupted Hadleyburg, in which he contended that artificial honesty was weak as water when real temptation comes. We cannot brag about any virtue in something we have never been tested in. One person’s major strength may be another person’s greatest weakness and vice versa. Nobody who has been called is living a charmed life with no trials and tests. Believe me, you would not want my trials. And I am sure I would not want any of your trials. It is bad enough to read about them in the church prayer requests. That is a major reason Paul warns us in II Corinthians 10:12

II Corinthians 10:12 For we do not have the boldness to class or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they have no understanding.

In trials and tests, as well as in the administration of spiritual gifts “One size does not fit all.” We are all called by God for different interdependent purposes or functions, designed to serve God and one another.

Consequently, in addition to the on-off switch and the canoe paddle, we need to have installed within our mind a kind of rheostat control switch (harmonizing Hebraistic and Hellenistic view points) examining contexts and making fine distinctions dependent upon time, place, and circumstance.

As I mentioned in the Yiddish Proverb last year, Shpilt tsu di shoh iz kain zind nito, which means if done at the right time, it is no sin. Conversely, some behaviors we would classify as self-evidently righteous may be sin if done at the wrong time and the wrong place.

Back in 1979, there was a man in the Duluth congregation who raised bees and kept the brethren supplied with honey. At one time, he said to me, “I may not know much about the Bible, but I do know it says—eat honey for it is good.” If we apply the on-off switch, we can agree with this premise, but if we apply the rheostat principle of how much and when, we run into problems. For those of us battling diabetic propensities, eating honey can raise havoc with the blood levels and lead to a premature death sentence.

The Book of Proverbs and the other wisdom literature of the Bible (Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) provide rheostat controls to adjust the how much and when factors. Let us look at a few examples regarding honey:

Proverbs 24:13-14 My son, eat honey, for it tastes good, Yes, the honey from the comb tastes sweet; Know that wisdom seems sweet for your soul; If you find it, you will have a future, and your hope will not expire.

We see that honey is good in both a physical sense and as a metaphor for wisdom. In Orthodox Jewish families, the father actually places a drop of honey on the pages of the Tanakh, with the desire that the youngster will begin to associate wisdom with sweetness.

Psalm 119:103 How sweet Your words taste to me! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

However, when we scroll to another context, we see a caution. Take a look at Proverbs 25:16.

Proverbs 25:16, 27 Have you found honey? Eat only what you need, that you not have it in excess and vomit it. It is not good to eat much honey; so for men to seek glory, their own glory, causes suffering {and} is not glory.

Proverbs 27:7 He who is satiated [with sensual pleasures] loathes {and} treads underfoot a honeycomb, but to the hungry soul everything is sweet.

Let us take a look at another major area where we need a rheostat rather than an on-off switch, steering wheel rather than a paddle, harmonizing Hebraistic and Hellenistic outlooks.

Proverbs 13:24 He who spares his rod [of discipline] hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines diligently {and} punishes him early.

Richard wrote a couple of articles; one said you can spank your kids, it is okay, and the other said, don’t provoke your kids to wrath. Well, are they not polar opposites? No, they are measures on a continuum, not either-or.

Proverbs 19:18 Discipline your son while there is hope, but do not [indulge your angry resentments by undue chastisements and] set yourself to his ruin.

Proverbs 23:13-14 Withhold not discipline from the child; for if you strike {and} punish him with the [reedlike] rod, he will not die. You shall whip him with the rod and deliver his life from Sheol (Hades, the place of the dead).

Back in 1966, Garner Ted Armstrong initiated a Round Robin procedure to counteract what he termed a veritable landslide of juvenile crime, writing a booklet called the “Plain Truth about Child Rearing.” The Minneapolis Spokesman Club, ready to eagerly and zealously assist with the course correction, started to manufacture wooden paddles in all sizes. Both the men’s and women’s restrooms in the Minneapolis Labor Temple resounded with the rhythmical sound of human spanking machines.

Corporal punishment has a definite place, but even advocates of spanking suggest that the hand of the spanker ought to feel some empathetic pain. The rod, the paddle, the belt, and the switch do not have sensory receptors to gauge the exact level of pain.

Over-correction practiced by some overzealous individuals led to some residual resentment which some veteran church members still express to this day. One overzealous man in the Minneapolis congregation reprimanded his son in front of me, barking “You say, ‘Yes, sir’ to Mr. Maas and smile when you say it.” The young man with a pasty smile looked at me and said, “Yes, sir.” In retrospect, it did not exactly turn the hearts of the sons to the fathers and the hearts of the fathers to the sons. Some of us have reaped a bitter harvest by using the on-off switch and the paddle rather than a rheostat or steering wheel, which would harmonize otherwise Hebraistic and Hellenistic elements.

Consider the apostle Paul’s warning in Ephesians 6:4:

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not irritate {and} provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training {and} discipline and the counsel {and} admonition of the Lord.

The extreme practices of child rearing consist of leniency on one end and harshness on the other. Generally, in child rearing, fathers have the tendency to be overly harsh—and mothers have the tendency to be overly-protective, but father does not always know best and mother does not always know best. Male and female represent only partial, woefully incomplete aspects of God’s character, personality, intended to balance out the deficits of one another, and not to dominate over the other. Guys, it would be pretty horrible if there were only males on this planet. The ladies really make this place a paradise. We are talking about two points along a continuum needing a rheostat adjustment, harmonizing the partially correct aspects of the dogmatic and unyielding Hebraistic mindset and the provisional and explorative Hellenistic mindset. We cannot throw the baby out with the bathwater.

This brought to mind something. Leroy Neff once was leading songs at the Feast and there was a young man who kind of played the piano like I do. And Leroy said, “Now the whole name of the piano is pianoforte which means soft-loud, and Roger knows how to play the forte.” This brought home to me when I first got here and we were getting ready for special music. I was accompanying Melissa Chandler, and Mark Schindler said to me, “With due respect, you are overpowering the soloist.” And then Melissa said to me, “You are going to have to play more feminine-like.”

We must remember that for every piece of advice we receive or give, there is always an ‘up-to-a-point’ qualifier we must add.

The sensation of pleasure and fun, at least under the sun, as we live our physical lives is not an absolute. Proverbs 14:13 teaches us that even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.

The late Bishop Fulton J Sheen in his 1954 “Life is Worth Living” television program mentions that a great many activities that start out pleasurable that end up painful and tortuous—such as tickling the bottom of the feet, which could bring about mental and physical anguish. Many of us have found it initially pleasurable to scratch a pesky itch—that is, until we break the skin and cause an infection.

I recall many occasions when my Grandma Maas used to say when children started to get too silly and too noisy—nach lachen kommt weinen—after laughing comes crying. Her prophetic aphorisms generally came true.

We have been given many admonitions from the pulpit to esteem others more than the self, which indeed is a cardinal teaching of Christianity. Some may feel compelled to over-correct and think we have to loathe or hate ourselves. Our Savior said in Matthew 22:39 that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. It would follow that if we loathe ourselves or have super low self-esteem, we will also have super-low esteem for our neighbors and not love them at all.

The same could be said for humility (Martin talked about humble bragging); if we over-correct for an unhealthy prideful condition, we end up in the opposite ditch of obsequious fawning, caricatured by Charles Dickens in the character Uriah Heep in David Copperfield or the character Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

For any of us who contemplate making a show of humility, the fourth Prime Minister of Israel Golda Meier gives the following advice: "Don't be so humble; you are not that great."

We have all heard cautions given in sermons and sermonettes over the last several years to be careful of the media and especially the Internet because it is saturated with the philosophy and evil mindset of Satan’s world. I myself have sounded the alarm about this danger several times, creating a kind of Round Robin slow down, alerting us about the lures of the world and coming out of Babylon. But it is possible to overcorrect on that matter and miss the mark on that altogether. The Internet, sadly, has a ton of pornography, foolishness, and evil influences. But the Internet has vast treasures of knowledge that are compatible with God’s truth, and if used properly could help us develop quality spiritual fruit. As Dr. Hoeh once said, “To guard the door of your mind does not mean to shut it and not open it. It means to examine all information before you let it in.”

Several years ago, the late President Lyndon Baines Johnson was asked by a reporter:

Reporter: Mr. President, what do you like to read?

LBJ: I read biographies and histories.

Reporter: What about novels and plays?

LBJ: Mister if it isn’t true, I don’t want anything to do with it.

Thankfully, this was not the attitude of the apostle Paul, who was a connoisseur of the arts, in the Hellenic culture, conversing with Greek philosophers on Mars Hill in Acts 17 and actually appropriating the lines of Playwright Meander in I Corinthians 15:33 "Evil communications corrupt good manners.”

As I told you in my sermon on August 16, 2014, Julie and I have disconnected our TV from commercial TV, but we have continued to use You-tube. This past year, we have seen more symphonic music, watched more ballets and operas, and have seen more classical plays than at any time in the past 40 years. My late father, an avid concert goer, who always took a miniature score with him whenever he attended a concert, would have been pleasantly overwhelmed to see the infinite variety available now for free: college level classes in quantum physics, literature, and practically any other field are available for free. There is no reason we should stop our education—ever.

The Bible, God’s Holy Word, is indeed the foundation of all knowledge—God expects us to dutifully build on this foundation—much of the building materials will come from the literature, music, and art from this world’s cultures. Deuteronomy 12:30 warns against idolatry. But much of the Gentile culture that does not involve idolatry and pagan rites may have great value for us. We should never become self-satisfied that we have nothing more to learn from anyone else—even a heathen, pagan, worldly culture.

Yes, we are advised to come out of the sins of Babylon, but we are also admonished to develop our spiritual skills which include enriching our minds, learning art, music, language, and science, just as Daniel, Shadrech, Meshach, and Abednego continued to do in the midst of Babylon.

The Feast of Tabernacles is normally an occasion we expect people to go home sick because they have overdone it with too much eating and drinking, too much staying up late, burning the candle at both ends to have an action packed Feast. On the other hand, those who proudly proclaim that they obeyed all of God’s health laws and did not over-indulge in anything may have been in fact guilty of under-indulgence in fellowship and serving others with their encouragement and empathy. ‘Yes sir, I got my full regimen of sleep, got my prayer and Bible Study in, ate only organic food and whole wheat ice cream, assiduously avoided all people with coughs and snively noses, and got my daily exercise in the gym.” I’d say that guy missed the point too.

Whatever our lot in life, we either over-indulged in one thing and under-indulged in other things. It is now high time as maturing Christians to attempt to get closer to our spiritual mark. The Hellenistic word for “sin” is hamartia or “missing the mark.” To hit the mark we need a rheostat or a steering wheel (harmonizing both Hebraistic and Hellenistic principles), not an off-on switch or a paddle, exalting or elevating one viewpoint or the other. We stand a greater chance of missing mark with a simple paddle than with a steering wheel or a yaw control. We stand a better chance of missing the mark with a bow and arrow or a rifle than with a laser gun.

All of us—and there ain’t no exceptions—as I tell my students, when the preacher cusses and the English teacher uses bad grammar the lesson is mighty important—all of us need more practice in fine-tuning our rheostats, harmonizing Hebraistic and Hellenistic viewpoints, yielding to the marvelous fine tuning of an implanted spiritual pacemaker into our hearts, namely God’s Holy Spirit, a procedure described in my favorite verse in the entire Bible, Hebrews 8:10, also quoted in 10:16; and Jeremiah.

Hebrews 8:10-12 “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will rule as their God, and they shall become My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone His brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will have mercy for their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

DFM/jjm/



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