Pages

Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Publishing Industry is Broken



The publishing industry is broken.  The traditional mode of publishing is not serving anyone very well; not the authors, the agents, the publishers, or the readers.  The problem started with the advent of the word processor.  Once upon a time, it took a lot of hard physical work to produce a novel.  Typing was laborious, messy, fraught with mistakes that were difficult to correct, and if you didn't quite like the way something sounded, you had to completely write it over.  This tremendous expenditure of labor worked as a filter to self-limit all but the most dedicated authors from getting a manuscript ready to present to an agent.

Consequently, agents had the time to invest in selecting the authors they wanted to represent.  If an agent saw a promising voice, they had the time to work with that person, mentor them and help them bring their craft up to commercial standards.

Today, word processors give anyone with a keyboard the ability to turn out copious amounts of verbal trash with relatively little effort.  Agents are being buried under mountains of unreadable garbage. Agents find that screening queries and proposals is a full time job, if they spend even five minutes on each query.  The competition to get the attention of an agent is fierce, and it's a very subjective field.  Get your query read when the agent is in a bad mood, before they've had their coffee, or on a Monday when their in box is clogged from the weekend, and your query will join the majority in the round file without the consideration you no doubt feel it deserves.

Then, add in the electronic publishing phenomenon.  With as many as fifty million electronic readers in the market, the paper publishers are feeling the hit.  Publishing a physical book edition is a gamble.  The production run has to reflect the expected sales, yet be big enough to recover the non-recurring expense of typesetting and show a profit.  A publisher's worst nightmare is printing books that sit on the shelves and don't sell.  Predicting the market has become more difficult because e-readers are a game-changer.  While one can easily predict the number of potential readers who will buy a book, it's more difficult to say which ones will buy the physical copy.

This makes publishers very risk-averse, and they're less inclined to take a chance on a book that isn't a guaranteed hit.  They analyze what's selling, and attempt to reproduce the secret sauce ad nauseum.  That's why you're very unlikely to get noticed today unless you're writing teenage vampire stories.  If your story doesn't fit the industry's idea of what's hot, your not going to get published.  Originality and creativity has no place in the risk averse world of the modern publisher.

This puts more pressure on the agents, who're trying to pimp your books to prospective publishers.  Used to be an agent would work with a promising author, develop them and guide them onto the career path.  Now, the author has to practically come to the agent with a print-ready manuscript, as well as a marketing plan, to even be considered.  Authors are looking at this, and asking themselves, "What exactly is it I'm paying you for, anyway?"

The market rules.  And the market for books is there to connect the writers with the readers.  Publishers facilitated this for generations.  Agents facilitated connecting authors with publishers.  But the magic has always been the dynamic between the author and the reader.  The others were piggybacking off this relationship.  But Amazon threw the traditional publishing industry on its ear when it began giving authors the tools they needed to reach out directly from their writing studios and touch the readers.  First it was through e-books.  Now, Amazon has teamed up with CreateSpace to give a print-on-demand option that's within the market rate for the book industry.  An author only need to give CreateSpace a print-ready pdf file that meets CreateSpace's criteria, and when an order is placed the book is printed, bound, and shipped the same day right out of Amazon's warehouses. 

Once self-publishing was considered vanity publishing, and the result was as atrocious as one would expect.  But as more traditional publishers come under more competitive pressure from independent authors, they become more and more a closed avenue to publication, forcing more and more authors to seek self-publishing. The industry has responded with editors, artists and SEO/marketing specialists to aid the author to getting his book in the hands of the people who want to read it.  The trail around the traditional publishing industry has become a four-lane highway, with everyone sweeping the Author's way free of obstacles, because if the Author cannot find readers for his book, nobody profits.

An interesting thing has been happening as the traditional publishing industry loses relevance.  Old paradigms are reasserting themselves.  In the 19th century, before the publishing industry became so ossified, it was quite common for a book to be published as a serial in some sort of journal.  Almost all of Jules Verne's novel were published this way, and people then discussed the latest and next installments of their favorite serial as we would discuss the latest episode of House today.  The publishing industry has been returning to this model again, with short installments of a story appearing regularly for a modest price – often less than a dollar – on Amazon.com.

So if you fancy yourself a writer, and have a story, forget about the traditional publishers.  Get a good editor, get a good cover artist, and use the tools available to reach out and contact your readers yourself!

Look for my first book, The Tears of Jihad, available on Amazon in mid-December 2013.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Economics for Occupiers Part 10: Regulation in a Free Market



The issue of regulations and their place in society and the market is a contentious one.  On one end of the spectrum is a moribund bureaucracy whose sole product is an impenetrable maze of regulations stifles economic activity by making it nearly impossible to do anything without violating some regulation. In this environment regulations are created to shape social policy or promote certain interests or groups for reasons that can often seem capricious or misguided.  While no one will overtly endorse such a regulatory environment, this is the de facto result of the average liberal mindset, which assumes that people need government to protect them from themselves.

At the other end of the spectrum is a completely laissez faire regulatory environment, where no regulations encumber the market, and a wild west, let-the-buyer-beware attitude dominates.  This is the extreme that many free market capitalists endorse.  In this mindset, the government has no role in the market, and any regulation is seen as intrusive and antithetical to the purity of laissez faire free market capitalism. Such purists become outraged to the point of incoherence at any suggestion that some activities should be regulated.

Neither one of these extremes is rational or realistic.  We should remember the basic credo of free market Capitalism: individuals should be free to engage in commerce at mutually agreed upon rates of exchange, without coercion or misrepresentation.  We need to look at the implications of two parts of this definition.  Mutually agreed upon rates and misrepresentation.  The assumption of a perfectly functioning free market is that all parties have perfect knowledge of what is being exchanged, as well as how the rest of the market valuates the items being exchanged.

Read more about this in chapter 13 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on Amazon.com.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Economics for Occupiers Part 9: Taxes and Reaganomics



In this discussion, we're going to examine how tax policy influences the economy, revisit Reaganomics and shed a little sanity on the liberal conventional wisdom about trickle-down economics.

Since America feels that it would be a conflict of interest for the government to compete with the private sector in most areas, the government's source of revenue is taxes. There are also government fees, but those are generally designed to pay for services rendered and don’t typically yield a surplus. Punitive fines are  another source of income, but that is minor and unreliable for budgeting purposes.

Taxation in a free market is the agreed upon demand that society places on the productivity of the individual, to be used for the common good. The ultimate goal of government tax policy is to raise the maximum amount of revenue without overly disrupting commerce and the electorate. A simple economic model postulates a fixed gross production, and tax revenues are merely a percentage of that production. If we boundary check this model, a zero percent tax rate yields no revenue for the government, while a 100% tax rate disrupts all commerce and leaves nothing for the population to consume. The solution in this model is to hold as high a tax rate as possible and still leave some for the plebes to survive on.

You cannot redistribute wealth. History shows that you can only redistribute poverty.

Read more about this in chapter 12 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on Amazon.com.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Economics for Occupiers Part 8 - Keynesian Economics

In Part 2 we looked at the basic concept of money. To examine the convoluted theories posed by John Maynard Keynes, we have to have a better understanding of money and the banking system. There are three forms of money: intrinsic, promissory and accounting. Intrinsic money, as we have seen, is money that has value by its very nature, like coins made of rare metals. Promissory money is basically a coupon which can (theoretically) be redeemed for something of real value by the issuing authority – i.e. a bank. Accounting money is money you have on deposit at a financial institution. It basically doesn't exist except as a mark on a ledger or a blip in a computer, but it represents a demand that you can make on that financial institution at any time – or in some cases, subject to specific rules you agreed to at the time of deposit, like a retirement account or certificate of deposit.

Wealth is anything of intrinsic value: food, property, manufactured goods, livestock, etc. Promissory and accounting money represents wealth. It’s a demand on the wealth of someone else, and can be exchanged for wealth with anyone else who agrees to the value of the promissory note. Even accounting money can be so exchanged – anyone using a credit card is not exchanging tangible money for products, they are ordering an accounting transfer from one account to another.

At issue is how to balance the amount of money in an economy with the wealth that it represents.

Read more about this in chapter 11 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on Amazon.com.


Revelations or Seizures?

Excellent short article by Guest Blogger Alba D'Veritas:

Muhammad was asked what it's like to receive revelation.  His description is very interesting:

Sahih Bukhari

Volume 1, Book 1, Number 2:
Narrated 'Aisha:
(the mother of the faithful believers) Al-Harith bin Hisham asked Allah's Apostle "O Allah's Apostle! How is the Divine Inspiration revealed to you?" Allah's Apostle replied, "Sometimes it is (revealed) like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes ' off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says." 'Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired Divinely on a very cold day and noticed the Sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over).
Ringing, voices and sweating?  Look at these symptoms from epilepsyfoundation.org about Simple Partial Seizures:

"Simple partial seizures in these areas can produce odd sensations such as a sense of a breeze on the skin; unusual hissing, buzzing or ringing sounds; voices that are not really there;"

"Episodes of sudden sweating, flushing, becoming pale or having the sensation of goosebumps are also possible."

More strange reactions by Muhammad:

Sahih Bukhari
Volume 5, Book 58, Number 170:
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
When the Ka'ba was rebuilt, the Prophet and 'Abbas went to carry stones. 'Abbas said to the Prophet "(Take off and) put your waist sheet over your neck so that the stones may not hurt you." (But as soon as he took off his waist sheet) he fell unconscious on the ground with both his eyes towards the sky. When he came to his senses, he said, "My waist sheet! My waist sheet!" Then he tied his waist sheet (round his waist).
Another 'revelation'?

Sahih Muslim
Book 026, Number 5395:
A'isha reported that Sauda (Allah he pleated with her) went out (in the fields) in order to answer the call of nature even after the time when veil had been prescribed for women. She had been a bulky lady, significant in height amongst the women, and she could not conceal herself from him who had known her. 'Umar b. Khattab saw her and said: Sauda, by Allah, you cannot conceal from us. Therefore, be careful when you go out. She ('A'isha) said: She turned back. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) was at that time in my house having his evening meal and there was a bone in his hand. She (Sauda) cline and said: Allah's Messenger. I went out and 'Umar said to me so and so. She ('A'isha) reported: There came the revelation to him and then it was over; the bone was then in his hand and he had not thrown it and he said:" Permission has been granted to you that you may go out for your needs."

Another description shows that Muhammad had was in distress with these 'divine' experiences:

Volume 1, Book 1, Number 4:
Narrated Said bin Jubair:
Ibn 'Abbas in the explanation of the Statement of Allah. 'Move not your tongue concerning (the Quran) to make haste therewith." (75.16) Said "Allah's Apostle used to bear the revelation with great trouble and used to move his lips (quickly) with the Inspiration." Ibn 'Abbas moved his lips saying, "I am moving my lips in front of you as Allah's Apostle used to move his."...

There are other ahadith and Islamic writings on this subject.  Muhammad's biography tells of him having suicidal thoughts - he was going to throw himself off a mountain.  Clearly he had problems - very well documented problems. Epilepsy may have been one of them.  It's not funny, but it's also not prophetic.

People of the Book



Excellent short article by Guest Blogger Alba D'Veritas:


The People of the Book is an Islamic phrase used for Jews and Christians.  Islam teaches that Moses and Jesus were given books by allah, the Torah (Tawraat) and Gospel (Injeel).

Muslims will try to use the phrase as if it is a good thing, a compliment even.  Well - IT'S NOT!


Quran (9:29) - "Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued." 

The people of the book get to pay jizya to stay alive and keep their faith.  They don't have to convert or die, as the idolaters, polytheists, atheists, agnostics and all other non-Muslims have to do.  Sounds ok, right?  WRONG!  Jews and Christians have to pay "protection money" in order to keep their faith, but who do we pay to?  Muslims.  And who do we need protection from?  Muslims!  Well, that's a pretty good racket, isn't it?  Wouldn't it be better for the "people of the book" if Muslims just left us alone?!  No, they can't do that.  They have to fight until all religion is for allah.  By being subjugated, the people of the book are now less than Muslims and admit that Islam is best.  It's submission - what Islam is truly all about.  People of the book can live as long as they become dhimmis, a lesser class of people in Islam.  Discrimination, hatred and intolerance are built into Islam.

According to Tafsir Ibn Kathir, on Quran 9:29:

Paying Jizyah is a Sign of Kufr and Disgrace

Allah said,
﴿حَتَّى يُعْطُواْ الْجِزْيَةَ﴾
(until they pay the Jizyah), if they do not choose to embrace Islam,
﴿عَن يَدٍ﴾
(with willing submission), in defeat and subservience,
﴿وَهُمْ صَـغِرُونَ﴾
(and feel themselves subdued.), disgraced, humiliated and belittled. Therefore, Muslims are not allowed to honor the people of Dhimmah or elevate them above Muslims, for they are miserable, disgraced and humiliated. Muslim recorded from Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet said,
«لَا تَبْدَءُوا الْيَهُودَ وَالنَّصَارَى بِالسَّلَامِ، وَإِذَا لَقِيتُمْ أَحَدَهُمْ فِي طَرِيقٍ فَاضْطَرُّوهُ إِلَى أَضْيَقِه»
(Do not initiate the Salam to the Jews and Christians, and if you meet any of them in a road, force them to its narrowest alley.)

http://www.islam-universe.com/tafsir/

Don't be fooled by Muslims.  The "People of the Book" are not friends with Muslims, not equal to Muslims and will be killed or converted if they don't pay the jizya, protection money.

Qur'an (5:51) - "O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Why did God Allow the Crucifixion?

A common Muslim criticism is that God would never have allowed His son to die on a cross. If Jesus was so powerful, why did he allow himself to be killed? Muslims, going all the way back to Muhammad, see the crucifixion as a defeat, and they refuse to believe that their god could be defeated. This lack of understanding translated to the Quran in verse 4:157:

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain.


This verse and the ideology behind it, which defecates on the very foundation of Christian belief, demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of the multiple layers of meaning of the crucifixion. To understand the profound implications of the crucifixion, you need to go back to the Old Testament, and forward to the Acts of the Apostles, and examine the culture, history and subsequent events around the crucifixion..

The Abrahamic Covenant
One big misconception about the Genesis account is that God turned his face away from Adam and Eve and punished them by banishing them from Eden for disobeying Him. A careful reading of the account indicates this is not the case. Adam and Eve turned away from God, hiding themselves from His presence in their shame. Like any good father, God was irate, but did not punish them, except to make them accountable to the consequences of their disobedience. One of those consequences was that they had to leave Eden. Ever since this time, God has been calling His children back, trying to tell them that they shouldn’t turn away from Him in shame, thinking their sins have made them unworthy of His grace.

Abraham demonstrated his love for God by sacrificing his valuable possessions to God. For Abraham, this was the prize rams of his flock, for his wealth was measured by the size of his herds. For his love and devotion, God blessed him. When Abraham’s beloved wife bore Isaac, The Lord demanded that Abraham sacrifice Isaac, as a further demonstration that nothing, not even his most beloved son, was more important that his love for God. Abraham reluctantly made the preparations, and God, knowing Abraham’s heart, stayed his hand at the last moment before cutting Isaac’s throat. For God knew Abraham’s heart, and for God, the intent was as good as the deed.

Jesus is the final ingredient in God’s plan for a righteous people. Once the Law had been inscribed in the hearts of the Jews, and leavened with Greek philosophy to get them to think about the law and not just obey it, Jesus came to fulfill it. He caused it to coalesce as a whole so that the faithful would live the law and live in God’s way without even necessarily knowing what the law was, because it was written in their hearts by their faith.

A covenant is a contract, and a contract contains details of performance between the two parties. It also contains some demonstration of the commitment of the parties to honor the contract. Abraham was ready to demonstrate his commitment with his knife at the throat of Isaac. To truly demonstrate His commitment, God needed to make an equally challenging sacrifice. And as the dominant partner in the covenant, who could step in to stay God’s hand at His sacrifice?

Jesus was crucified and died as God’s sacrifice to the Abrahamic covenant, to show that nothing – no sin – is greater than His love for us, and that we should return to Him with open and penitent hearts and seek His forgiveness so that we may walk in His way forever.

The Temple mount is traditionally the spot where Abraham is to have sacrificed Isaac, but there is no record of this in the Bible. The Temple mount was built on the site of Ornan the Jebusite’s threshing floor, as recorded in 1 Chronicles 21. Abraham, going to Mount Moriah for the sacrifice, would have picked a higher promontory, the highest he could find. We know that Christ was crucified on Golgotha, a limestone promontory outside the northwest wall of the city. It’s very possible, in a poetic closing of the circle so common to God, that Jesus was crucified on the very spot that Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac.

The Passover Sacrifice and the Sin Offering
In keeping with the Abrahamic tradition of offering that which is most valuable to demonstrate one’s love for the Lord, the offering of an animal – preferably an animal of some value – evolved into a sacrament of penance for the absolution of sin. If one sinned, the sacrifice of something of value demonstrated one’s penitence and shame at the sin. Levitical law dealt with this extensively. The value of the animal was often associated to the severity of the sin.

If Jesus Christ is the Son of God, he is the most valuable human that ever walked the earth. In his crucifixion, we see an example of a sin offering beyond value. This sacrifice that God has made for us shows that His love for us is so great that He will even pay our penance for us – a debt that we can never repay. If we understand that sin is that which causes us to separate ourselves from God to hide our shame, we see through the sacrifice of the cross that we need not, that God will accept us back if we only ask.


 In an incredible literary foreshadowing, God prepared another symbol of the crucifixion when He instructed Moses on how to prepare the people for the angel of death to visit Egypt. The people of God were instructed to sacrifice a year old male lamb, and the blood of the lamb was to be applied to the door posts and lintels of their dwellings, to notify the angel of death to pass over those homes.


It’s no coincidence that Jesus was crucified on the day before the beginning of the Passover feast, which is the traditional day that the paschal lamb is to be sacrificed in remembrance of the Lord leading the people out of bondage. Through Christ’s blood, we who have accepted his salvation are marked as his followers, members of his flock.

Contrasting the image of Christ as the Paschal lamb is the image of the Good Shepherd. This is a literary juxtaposition made real by God, who is the ultimate author of the universe. Such literary devices may be lost on people with no foundation in literature, who insist on literalism instead of appreciating the push and pull, yin and yang nature of a well-told story. Nothing can enhance Jesus’ own words on this metaphor:

“I am the good shepherd; and I know My own, and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.”

-John 10:11

Taken in context of the rest of the passage, it’s clear that Jesus lays down His life in order that His faithful may enter His door to new pastures.

Jesus Explains
Jesus referred to his crucifixion many times, both directly and in parable. Throughout Israel’s history, Prophets had been sent to bring Israel back to the ways of God when it had strayed. As in the parable of the vine-growers, God sent His son to call them home one last time. The son suffered the same fate as in the parable:

And He began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard, and put a wall around it, and dug a vat under the wine press, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. And at the harvest time he sent a slave to the vine-growers, in order to receive some of the produce of the vineyard from the vine-growers. And they took him, and beat him, and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent them another slave, and they wounded him in the head, and treated him shamefully. 5 “And he sent another, and that one they killed; and so with many others, beating some, and killing others. He had one more to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those vine-growers said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!’ And they took him, and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the vine-growers, and will give the vineyard to others.”
Mark 12:1-9

Jesus gave a glimpse of the reason for his crucifixion, indicating that his church would bear fruit only if he died to give it life:

And Jesus answered them, saying,
“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
-John 12:23-24

The Resurrection
The birthday of the Christian Church is Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in the temple. But Christians are an Easter people, a people of the resurrection. Easter is celebrated according to the Jewish calendar, on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. We know that Jesus was crucified on the day before the Sabbath that began the week-long Passover festival. We know the resurrection was on the morning after the Sabbath. We know that Passover is celebrated according to the Jewish lunar calendar on the full moon of the first month, which is connected to the vernal equinox.

Jesus was a brilliant teacher, never giving the answers to his student, but delivering his lessons in such a way that they could figure the answers out by drawing inescapable conclusions from what he taught. He also demonstrated who he was by great signs. The sick were healed, the blind made to see, the lame walked, demons were cast out, the dead were brought to life. He commanded the very elements, and even nature bowed to His command. But none of this was unique, great prophets had done such things in the past, albeit never quite on the scale that Jesus did. But Jesus did something no prophet has ever done. He died, publicly and unquestionably, was laid to rest in a tomb, which was sealed and placed under guard, and then rose again, restored to life.

That Jesus died is without question. Some skeptics have posed the “swoon theory,” postulating that Christ just lost consciousness, or had slipped into a coma, and never actually died. This is without merit. The Roman soldiers who executed him were professionals and quite capable of telling when a man was dead or not. The mode of death in crucifixion is asphyxiation. When hanging by the arms, the diaphragm is paralyzed. To draw a breath, the victim must raise himself up. If the victim’s feet aren’t secured, death comes quickly, as the victim quickly becomes exhausted. If the victim’s feet are fixed, it may take as much as three days to expire, as the legs can be used to push the victim high enough to release the diaphragm. This is why, when it came time to remove the three from the cross, the soldiers broke the legs of the two thieves, causing death to come quickly. But Jesus had already been beaten nearly to death and had lost a lot of blood, and had died. A lance point into the side, piercing the pericardial sac confirmed this. Had Jesus merely swooned, he would have lost consciousness and hung limp, unable to raise for breath. Death would have occurred in about 10 minutes from that time. He could not have possibly survived a swoon.


The Foundation of the Church

Christianity would have never taken root without the resurrection. Israel is a land of prophets and holy men, both real and self-proclaimed. Throughout history one of the tasks of the Jewish courts was to vet claims of prophets. Cults abounded as people flocked from one holy man to another. They would rise up, but as soon as a self-proclaimed prophet was discredited or died, they would just as quickly evaporate.


Many people considered Jesus a great prophet of his day. Tales of his miracles were told throughout the land, and even the gentiles were impressed. Greeks, Romans, Canaanites and Samaritans are recorded as being witnesses to His works. But when he was seized and tried in a kangaroo court whose legal basis was suspicious at best, most people shrugged their shoulders and forgot about it. Jesus had directly preached to thousands of people in his day, but in our era of TV and instant communication, we don’t appreciate that even as popular as he was, most people in Israel had done little more than hear His name and some rumors, and relatively few could even identify him on sight.

His closest disciples were devoted to him. In the heat of passion, Peter offered his very life for Jesus. But faced with an amorphous bureaucratic  juggernaut and cut off from their leader, the eleven remaining disciples despaired. They fled the scene when he was captured, and after he’d been crucified, they locked themselves in, fearful that the Sanhedrin’s guards would seek to arrest them next. These were normal, common men, fishermen, down-to-earth men who worked with their hands, not given to heroics. They were afraid.

Had this been the end of Jesus, that’s where it would have ended. These men would have drifted back to their homes and their work, kept their mouths shut, and told their grandchildren tales about a great rabbi they once followed. The Jesus cult would have evaporated like so many others before them.

So what happened? What took place to convince these men beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus Christ was Lord? They were so utterly convinced of this that to deny it would be to deny that the sky was blue. They left their families and homes for a greater calling, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to all men. All of them save one found a violent martyr’s death, and they died praising Jesus. Not one of them ever so much as considered denying what they knew to be true. What could have happened to make such a profound impression on these men?

The Gospels are clear. Jesus Christ conquered death and rose on the third day, and walked among them, ate with them, spoke with them, and was seen by thousands.


The Identity of Jesus
Jesus was never the sort of teacher to state a fact as a simple declarative. He was very much a thinking man’s teacher. He would present a lesson and allow his pupils to draw conclusions based on his lesson, and praise them when they got it right. He never identified himself as Rabbi, Priest, Prophet, Messiah or God. The understanding of his disciples of who he was slowly grew as they learned from him. The Resurrection was the clincher to convince them and make them understand that they weren’t dealing with a man, but with God Himself.

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” 

John 20:27-29

The Muslim Claim:
With Quran 4:157, Muhammad casually sweeps aside 600 years of Christian belief, and the very foundation upon which Christianity is based. Muhammad was never taught any of the theology of the resurrection, and lacked the perspective of Jewish tradition in which to understand the implications. He simply could not accept that God would so abase Himself to be killed like a slave.

But wait, if it wasn’t Christ crucified, who was it? The Apocryphal and proven forged Gospel of Barnabas suggests it was Judas. Apparently some sort of magical geas was cast that made people think that it was Judas and not Jesus on the cross.

But this makes little sense. If it had been Judas or anybody else, wouldn’t they have been proclaiming their innocence, and telling anyone who would listen that they had the wrong man? There is no record of this. Wouldn’t a falsely condemned man be cursing everyone in sight for the horrendous injustice being perpetrated? What did the man on the cross say?

And one of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.”
-Luke 23:39-43

When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
-John 19:26

Are these the sort of things that an impostor would have said? How could Jesus’ mother misidentify him? You can fool a lot of people, but you will never fool a mother.

There is no doubt but that the man on the cross was Jesus. There is no doubt that he died on that cross. And there is no doubt that he rose again on the third day. We have briefly examined some of the many meanings of this action on the part of God’s Word made flesh and blood. There are many more that have yet to be explored, for God’s style is circular and concentric. Whenever you think you have discovered a meaning to God’s plan or actions, you have only opened a door to more than was concealed.


Saturday, July 6, 2013

Economics for Occupiers Pt. 7: Communism

A resonating theme among members of the occupy movement is sympathy for the idea of communism. Living as I do in the Pacific Northwest, I have frequent occasion to encounter such people and recently was taken aback by a person outright stating that they are a die-hard communist. It baffles me how anyone could be sympathetic to such a thoroughly discredited economic system in this day and age. The only explanation I can come up with for this bizarre way of thinking is that these people were indoctrinated by liberal parents and professors and have never been exposed to the history or considered the very real implications of what they propose. Despite all the evidence to the contrary and the cost of millions of lives to this failed economic experiment, modern communists are convinced that communism will work, that previous attempts just didn't do it right. The frightening thing about these people is that they’re each convinced that they have the secret sauce that will make communism work, if they’re only allowed the chance to try.

Read more about this in chapter 8 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on Amazon.com.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Economics for Occupiers Pt. 6: A Brief History of Capitalism.

Many of the modern occupy movement’s criticisms of capitalism are echoes of those leveled against the free market from the earliest days of industrialization. Critics of capitalism point at the failures of the free market in the early 20th century and the abuses that occurred then, and thus conclude that capitalism is inherently flawed and that the free market doesn’t work. Once that conclusion is accepted, it opens the door for governmental controls designed to limit or strangle the free market, and eventually leads to a command-driven economy and tyranny.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that it presumes the early industrial era was an honest example of free-market capitalism, and that lessons learned there would translate to any free market. This is simply not so.

Read more about this in chapter 7 of Economic for Occupiers, now available on Amazon.com.