Metaphor: Life as an MMO

Have you ever played an MMO? It stands for “massively multiplayer online” and usually refers to online role-playing games where many people simultaneously access and interact with the game world and with each other. Many of these aren’t very conducive to spiritual thinking because most are based on the standard setup of a role-playing game as one where the user fights opponents to increase in power. Some are more peaceful, being puzzle-based or story-based, and some don’t have any fighting at all. But the concept of a simulated multi-user world can actually be used to explore some spiritual concepts.

The inspiration for this topic began with Matthew 10:30, which says, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Most commonly this verse is understood as God knowing how many hairs you have on your head in total at any given time, and that is certainly very likely. But what if it also implies that each hair is given a number? The difference is between having a single number as an aggregate count, versus having a listing of each hair individually. Are we splitting hairs yet? Continue reading

Passages: The Heart of Truth

Let’s take a closer look at the bolded words in 1 Tim 2:7: Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, [and] lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

There’s an oddity of the translation here because the Greek word behind both “truth” and “verity” is the same: aletheia. But the English appears to be making a distinction between truth itself and the quality of being true, or between absolute and relative truth. What is the difference in the original that might have prompted the difference in the translation, and what could it mean? After all, according to Strong’s dictionary, the original Greek aletheia carries both meanings of objective and subjective truth. With a direct comparison between the two by proximity, we can learn something about the difference through this verse.

The Greek inflects the first instance as a direct object of the verb, and inflects the second instance only with an iota subscript as the object of the preposition. But the inflections change the value of the word in the text. The original uninflected word has a value of 64 = 2 to the power of 6.  The direct object inflection adds a nu (corresponding to nun, with a value of 50) for a total of 114 = 6 x 19. The prepositional object inflection adds the iota subscript (corresponding to yod, with a value of 10) for a total of 74 = 2 x 37.

The values 19 and 37 are linked geometrically through the shape of the six-pointed star with a hexagonal core having a side of 3. There’s a graphic of this shape with a description of the relationship on the Bible Wheel page for the value of 19. It also shows that the numbers are connected through the Hebrew word for “heart”: lev, which has 37 for the regular letter value sum and 19 as the ordinal letter value sum.

Note also that 37 is the diagonal projection of a cube of size 4, which represents 64. A perpendicular projection would produce a square of size 4, but a diagonal projection of a cube is what’s left when the next smaller cube is removed, leaving the outer shell – in other words, when the heart of the cube is removed. So 37 = 64 – 27.

The number 114 is also associated with the concept of being gracious and with the name Gamaliel, who was Paul’s teacher in the law as a Pharisee. Oddly enough, it can be arranged in the shape of six hexagrams of 19 points each in a ring around an empty six-pointed star that corresponds exactly to the shape of one representing 37.

The number 74 is also associated with the Hebrew verb for “to learn” (lamad). Because 37 can be arranged as both a six-pointed star and as a hexagram (the first non-trivial number capable of this), 74, as twice 37, represents this relative mutability. Both numbers are associated with words for knowledge, as well.

So what is the heart of truth? There are various aspects of truth, from the completely banal truth of what you ate for breakfast today, to historical truth of who was the first leader of a country, to current verifiable truth of who is the current leader of a country, to personal truth of how one feels about something, to important truth of how to interact with people peacefully, to spiritual and absolute truths of who and what God is. In an absolute sense, the heart of truth is how much of God’s word it contains. As John 17:17 says, “thy [God’s] word is truth.” In a personal or relative sense, the heart of truth is how much of ourselves it contains, how honest and open we are being with our own heart.

So the truth that Paul mentions in “the truth in Christ” has the numerical implications of the absolute truths of the grace and law of God, which can really only be revealed by God. On the other hand, the truth behind the phrase “in faith and verity” has the numerical implications of the relative truth and honesty of one’s own heart. Paul could speak of both of these aspects of truth, because he taught the absolute truths of God to the Gentiles who would listen, and he gave his whole self and heart to the calling of God as a preacher, apostle, and teacher, not holding anything back.

Sermon Snippets: Psalm 1 and the Water of Life

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly…” So begins the first Psalm, which is another very reasonable place to begin memorizing portions of Scripture. So many psalms are made into hymns and other songs anyway that there are undoubtedly verses that are within most people’s minds already, just as there are many common figures of speech that are originally from scripture.

This psalm well illustrates several major themes that permeate scripture, particularly the collected Writings of Wisdom (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc). A comparison between the righteous and the ungodly is easy to see, various aspects of which can be seen much later in some of the parables in the Gospels.

Continue reading

1 Timothy and the Ten Commandments

In the process of memorizing 1 Timothy 1: 9-10, I discovered interesting parallels with the Ten Commandments that not only helped me memorize the verses a little faster, but gave me an interesting reversal of what the commandments mean: the negative side, or what not to do. These verses give a list of eleven types of people the law is meant for, marked by the word “for,” that almost exactly correspond to the order of the first nine commandments. While the tenth seems not to specifically be represented, its influence will be seen later. However, two commandments each have two of the types of people, which serves as a form of emphasis.

The first four items are more generic terms for lawbreakers, while the rest are more specific. This parallels the split between the first four commandments being related to God Himself, while the other six are more specific actions against neighbors. Several of the phrases illustrate the most serious type of transgression that could be made against that commandment, although of course, any violation is sin, no matter how large or small.

Continue reading

Scripture: Kings and the law

In the days of the Israelite monarchy, each king was supposed to make a copy of the law, the Torah, by his own hand so that he would have it to study from all his life. Probably many or most of the kings did not actually do this, considering how few of God’s laws they actually kept, but there is no doubt that the truly righteous and God-fearing kings like David and Hezekiah did do this, and benefited tremendously. The actual requirement in Scripture for this procedure can be found in Deuteronomy 17:18-20.

There are four reasons given as to why this is a good idea for kings, and they all come from reading the Scriptures that he has written out for himself. Continue reading

Sermon Snippets: Humility is the foundation of teachability

God’s people know that the Scriptures are truth and that much can be learned from them. But without humility, which allows us to recognize that we do need to learn, we won’t be teachable. The classic passage on this idea is Proverbs 3:34: “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.” Both James and Peter quote this proverb in their letters to the congregations, although they use the phrasing, “God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.”

Before learning anything new, must we not always recognize that there is something that we do not know and must learn from someone else? Learning from God is the same way, only more so. If we desire to learn from Scripture, we must first be humble enough to accept the need to learn and also to change ourselves as a result of what we learn. If we learn something and do not use it, what good has it done us? We are accountable for what we know.

A real-life comparison came to mind when I was reading these passages. Being teachable enough to learn God’s way of life is similar to being able to learn the skills to fulfill a job well. Graduating from high school or college gives a student some skills and knowledge, but the primary purpose is for the student to be able to continue to learn whatever is necessary to do well at the job he takes. In a similar way, being a child of God is like a job with skills that must be learned in order to do well. Humility is a vital part of the learning process for either case.

(“Sermon Snippets” will be a (hopefully) weekly way for me to condense and share what I have learned from the week’s sermon.)

The foundation of Scripture as truth

2 Timothy 3:16: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”

I thought I would start with this passage, since the basis of Scripture as truth is pretty much foundational to everything else. It is important to establish that first, before looking at anything else, because if Scripture is just the writings of men, then there is no reason to trust it if it doesn’t seem to make sense.

But this passage from Timothy shows clearly that Scripture is given by God for our edification. The “inspiration of God” is literally “God-breathed” which reflects the spirit and power of God working through these words to bring us truth. From Scripture we can then learn everything else we need to know about God and his plan for mankind. It may not be obvious all at once, but the more we study, the more we learn and the more we are able to learn.

More can be said about studying Scripture, of course, but here I just want to emphasize the point that it should be the source and highest authority for truth for God’s people because it was essentially written by God (and who knows more about creation than God does?). Regardless of which prophet or apostle wrote which parts, there are over five hundred verses that literally say, “God said…” There are over a thousand more that use other titles or phrases to refer to God saying something. And there are countless verses that are indicated in one way or another as God’s words without having it explicitly stated.

If you consider yourself one of God’s children, why not find out what he has to say?