When the US Secret Service was established in 1865, one-third to one-half of all US currency was counterfeit. By 2001, less than .01% of all currency was fake. Still, .01% of the $600 billion in circulation at that time amounts to $60 million.
To stem the prevalence of counterfeit money, the Department of Treasury has taken great measures. All new bills printed after 2003 contain color-shifting ink, a watermark, a security strip, and microprinting. Yesterday, Canada, announced their shift to plastic money beginning next year. Australia has already made the switch.
Obviously, good counterfeiters can literally make a lot of money…making a lot of money.
So how do experts discern the real from the fake—when they don’t have hi-tech equipment at their disposal?
They memorize the intricacies of the real thing. By becoming intimately acquainted with real currency, they can quickly identify a counterfeit.
Please join me as we delve deeper into the real thing.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Numbers 6:1-21. Although we won’t look into his life until May, Samson is the most well-known Nazirite in Scripture—a flawed and tragic hero who struggled living up to his vows. Nazirite vows normally lasted a limited amount of time.
The Hebrew words used in verses 3 and 4 refer only to grape products, which lead many scholars to believe that the issue for Nazirites wasn’t intoxication but consuming grapes, which were used in the fertility cults of the surrounding nations.
Regarding the role of hair in Nazirite vows, the Bible Background Commentary explains “in ancient thinking hair (along with blood) was one of the main representatives of a person’s life essence.”
Scholars also note that the Nazirite vow exhibited three marks that represented popular religious practices God sought to eliminate: fertility (grape products), sympathetic magic (hair), and the cult of the dead (corpse contamination).
Numbers 6:22-27. The blessing in this passage isn’t a thoughtless cliché of empty words. It’s the desire for:
- God’s blessing and protection (“The Lord bless you and keep you”)
- God’s presence and pleasure (“the Lord make his face shine upon you”)
- God’s grace (“and be gracious to you”)
- God’s attention (“the Lord turn his face toward you”); and
- God’s peace (“and give you peace”)
Notice that “Lord” appears three times, which may symbolize the Trinity.
Mark 12:38-40. Last week while working on this blog, I ran across a reputable Bible commentary which described Jesus as the “gentle controversialist.” I laughed out loud. What a “politically correct” distortion of Jesus. Had Jesus avoided offending the religious leaders—which he didn’t do in this passage—he would have never been crucified.
And since we’re on the subject, who did Jesus save for his most vehement criticisms? Not the pagan Romans. Not the nonpracticing Jews. He saved his criticism for the religious leaders, obviously because they were leading Israel astray.
Although I’m an ardent advocate for unity in the body of Christ, I do believe there’s a place for calling out Christian leaders who stray outside the orthodox tent of historic Christianity. We’ll explore this further in The Word Made Fresh.
Mark 12:41-44. Who are the true rich in God’s eyes? Not the ones who give a little out of their wealth, but the ones who give generously out of their poverty.
Psalm 49. Skimming through this psalm, it seems fairly bleak. But verse 13 is the pivotal verse: “This is the fate of those who trust in themselves.” When we place our hope in ourselves, our hope is dependent upon us. Because we’re mortal, our hopes will die.
This psalm gives perspective. It reminds us that the mortality rate is still 100%. Death is the undeniable equalizer.
I need to spend more time meditating on verses 16-17: “Do not be overawed when a man grows rich, when the splendor of his house increases; for he will take nothing with him when he dies, his splendor will not descend with him.”
Despite the many times I’ve heard people say this, all too often, wealth and fame impress me.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
The disciples were so much like us. In Mark 13:1-13, they asked Jesus to tell them the specifics about the end of the age. They wanted some inside information from the Messiah. But notice that Jesus limits his answers to generalities. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains” (verse 8). Just the beginning. We’re still experiencing the beginning of birth pains.
So what does this passage tell us about how we should prepare? Jesus said, “Watch out that no one deceives you” (verse 5).
No one else can do this for you. Your pastor can’t. A talking head on television telling you what to believe shouldn’t. Not even your spouse.
“I’m not a theologian,” people say. I’ve actually used that excuse as well.
But all of us are theologians—some are just better than others. Actually, some people are pretty poor theologians.
There’s really only one way to minimize the risk of being deceived: spend time knowing the real thing. Regularly indulge yourself in the word of God (which you’re doing by participating in our Bible Conversation blog). And then spend time meditating and mulling over the word with the word made flesh. Jesus.
Like an expert “counterfeit inspector”, get to know the real thing so well that you can easily discern a fake. It’s important–Jesus said so.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- How would you rate yourself as a “counterfeit inspector”?
- Read Psalm 49 slowly. What speaks to you in this psalm?
- Do you agree that western society avoids the subject death? Why or why not? What role should the inevitability of death play in our everyday lives?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.