Monday, November 30, 2009


I have heard that Christians were originally called "people of the way." So, I Googled to see what information I could get to confirm this. You would be amazed at the number of sites which Google referenced. There were over 350,000,000! Needless to say, I didn't feel inclined to take advantage of the vast resources available! I looked at about 150 sites and found some rather disturbing material. One site sounds like it is written by folks who had access to a computer in the asylum. It apparently is some New Age Guru's idea of a celestial religion, and uses several biblical terms to support the lunacy. I would say it was unbelievable, but believe it or not, it has a following.

The reason why I felt inclined to delve into the subject was from something said in The Shack. Jesus is talking to Mack and says that He did not come to start a religion. He came to establish a relationship between Himself and His creation. The term "Christian" is used three times in the New Testament: Acts 11:26; 26:28; and 1 Peter 4:16. There are nine chapters and several years of the history of the early church which occurred before someone in Antioch first called disciples of Jesus "Christians." Apparently it caught on, because Luke and Peter refer to believers as Christians. Today's definition of the term means "a follower of Jesus Christ." Many pastors have taught that believers in Christ were called "people of the way" because Jesus is The Way, and His followers lived their lives like He did. But it would seem to me that the Bible would use the term more if it were so. Instead, followers of Christ were mostly called "believers," disciples," and "children (of God)."

Christianity is a religion. But God doesn't want or need more religions; there are multitudes of them. What He wants is people who recognize that He loves them, and who love Him in return. If one loves God, every effort will be made to please Him, to conform to His character, do good, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. Religion produces rules; relationship produces a way of life lived in harmony with the will of God. We know what pleases Him and what angers Him. If we love Him, we will show it in our lives and in the way we live.

So, whether we call ourselves "Christians," "believers," "disciples," "followers," etc., what really matters is that we love God, and serve Him by loving our fellow man. The term "Christian" has become virtually hated by non-Christians because of what they see as hypocrisy. What they think they see is people breaking the rules of a religion; what they are actually seeing is people who do not resemble Christ. The name doesn't matter. We can call ourselves any of several reasonable titles, but it is what others call us that counts. Hopefully, those living lives dedicated to loving and serving will be seen as Christ-like after the Rose of Sharon. God bless.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


Every year, there are several occasions which are "obligatory" when it comes to gathering family together. Holidays such as Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are always mandatory, as are birthdays of children under the age of twelve. Since our family is expanding at a cosmic pace, the list of required attendances does as well. What I don't understand, is why the women in the family look forward to such events, when they spend an enormous amount of energy planning, preparing, and presenting such extravagant feasts. They work themselves to exhaustion and then worry about how things turned out wrong, people who are inconsiderate, and the damage done to the property that they spent hours cleaning for the event. I heard one person respond to "How was your Thanksgiving?" with "It's over!" It is almost like child-birth. The agony of nine months is forgotten after the arrival, and it seems plans are in the works for a brother or sister. Women have a great mechanism for forgetting the bad, and being excited about doing it all over again. Amazing!

Venues that are too small, or too valuable to risk potential damage to furniture, carpeting, etc. always seem to be considered for the ordeal. Between people who show up late, people who show up with surprise guests, and people who show up with nothing, a man would declare that there would be no more such events. Women, on the other hand, merely discuss the atrocities with frustration in their voices, and then discuss the next time on the calendar for a repeat performance. And, God forbid that a man suggest reducing the size of the gatherings, buying gifts for children under eighteen only, or having the family reserve a room at Golden Corral or some other inexpensive venue. Why not let others cook, clean up, and be able to leave when you want? That way, it doesn't matter who comes late, who brings nothing, or who acts like a jerk: you can just leave!

The older we get, the more traditions seem to be nostalgic high spots in our memory. Perhaps it is early dementia, but to me, it does seem pretty silly to subject ourselves to repeated abuse. I prefer a small gathering of less than twelve, repeated on non-successive days such as Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. That way, you only have to dread one of the occasions and can enjoy the other two. I don't think I will suggest this, though, because I learned a long time ago that what a man thinks about such things doesn't matter regardless of logic and practicallity. Just be quiet, attend, be polite, and don't make a pig of yourself. Trust me; there is definitely more peace between gatherings that way. God bless and hang in there guys, Jesus is coming back soon, and He will choose how to celebrate properly. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Friday, November 27, 2009


Most of us, when thinking of a cult, immediately think of the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Mormons, Armstrongism, etc. But according to Walter Martin, "an expert on cults," we are pretty much thinking that cults are small groups that are almost totally different from the rest Christianity. However, Martin, in The Kingdom of the Cults, defines a cult as "any religious group which differs significantly in one or more respects as to belief or practice from those religious groups which are regarded as the normative expressions of religion in our total culture." By this definition, every denomination is a cult. Baptists differ in one or more ways from most, if not all other denominations, in that they believe in the eternal security of a believer. The Church of Christ differ in focusing upon baptism as required for one to be saved. Catholics believe in infant baptism, the life-long virginity of Mary, and a host of other doctrines. Each denomination has its uniqueness and that is why they formed a separate group. Why then do we not think of main-line denominations as cults?

It cannot be determined by the number of adherents, for if that were the case, Nazarenes, Plymouth Brethren, and even independent congregations would be considered cults. Martin adds that cults are "group(s) of people gathered about a specific person or person's mis-interpretation of the Bible." This, too, is vague because all denominations believe that all other denominations mis-interpret the Bible. And, every one of them had a person who started it. Martin Luther was the source of the Lutheran Church, for example. The person may not be known to us today, but somewhere in the past, a church was founded on the unique teachings of an individual.

One might think that perhaps mainline Christianity has a "list of doctrines" that all accept as fundamental to be considered approved as an authentic church. But whose list would be acceptable? Which doctrines are essential for admission to the "club?" We certainly cannot use the government's definition because it recognizes non-Christian faiths as authentic, and Christianity does not consider other religions as cults; they are simply "lost." No, cults have got to be related to belief in Jesus Christ in some fashion in order to be considered such. So, where is the line drawn, and by whom is it drawn?

May I suggest that we simplify things by using the test provided in the Bible. In Romans 10:9-10 states, "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." Verse thirteen goes on to say, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Verse seventeen says. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." To sum it all up, when one believes in his or her heart what the Bible (the Word of God) teaches concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, and His resurrection, calls on Him by name, and confesses to others He is Lord, they are a Christian.

It sounds so simple, doesn't it. The problem comes when believers in Christ separate themselves over other "stuff." It was the Lord's will that believers be united, not separated. He says four times in His prayer recorded in John Seventeen that unity pleases God and witnesses to unbelievers (verses 11, 21, 22, and 23). No wonder it is difficult to win souls in America!

Finally, I would like to suggest that persons evaluate just what is their main focus of conversation with the lost. Do you concentrate your message to the world on the Lord Jesus Christ? Or, do you speak more on your particular denomination, founder, or unique doctrines? God forbid, do you waste the opportunity by putting down other beliefs? I believe each person needs to be honest and decide for themselves whether or not they are "cultic" in their faith. Spreading church doctrine is not sharing the Lord Jesus Christ. Let the Holy Spirit lead those who choose to follow Jesus to the place He wants them to serve. Quit trying to make Baptists, Methodists, Catholics, Lutherans, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc. and God will place them in His body where He chooses. I believe that there are born-again believers in each, and if they are obedient and submissive to God's Spirit, His will and work will be done to His glory.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Matthew says it this way: "And they were offended in Him. But Jesus said unto them 'A prophet is not without honor, save (except) in his own country, and in his own house.'" Mark also quotes Jesus in his gospel (6:4). I understand why my family fails to honor my teaching from God's Word; they have excellent memories of all the times I have failed to live a Christlike life. I do a little better in my local church, but since I have a Baptist background, they are a little leery of me. Our church is an independent fellowship and nearly all those attending are from other church backgrounds. I don't know for sure, but I suspect that there are only a small minority of former Baptist there. The first time I was asked to speak during a service, I was cautioned by the former pastor to avoid the subject of Eternal Security of the Believer. While I do hold that belief tenaciously, I do not discuss it unless someone asks me about my beliefs. Even then, I proceed with caution. It, like many other doctrines, are important but not so important that it should break fellowship between believers.

While I have several years of formal theological training, most of what I know I have learned through the study of God's Word. Fortunately, my understanding matches the pastor's on everything, as far as I know. He has told me that he has the utmost confidence in my teaching, and has ask me to teach nine week courses on Bible Prophecy on several occasions. I have prepared a large loose leaf notebook providing over one hundred pages on the Rapture, the Tribulation, and the Millennium, which I give those attending my classes. While I have been encouraged by the response of those taking my class, I have been less than pleased with a few critics from denominations that are determined to go through the Tribulation, no matter what the Word says. It is not so much that they differ, but how they express it.

I guess my biggest disappointment though, is the fact that my family refuses to even consider reading the materials, and for the most part, seems to delight in flaunting their independence. I wish I could say that I know which of them are a born again believers in Christ, and which are simply church folk. But I can't because we all know that not everyone who says to Christ, "Lord, Lord..." is actually a child of God. The idea of "by their fruit, ye shall know them" has often been quoted, but as I have found during my many years as a Christian, it only works on the extreme days of the one producing it. When they are living for the Lord, one would say they are saved; when they are living in the flesh, one would be very suspect of their faith. In other words, it just does not work. I think I will just trust the Lord to sort us out. He will get it right.

Pastor Brian and I have had many discussions about many things, but we especially enjoy discussing the future of the church. In Revelation, chapters two and three, there is a list of churches which have often been compared to the periods in church history. Each church has been typical of the time for which it represents. For instance, the church at Ephesus represents the beginning church under the apostles, and so on. Many believe the church at Philadelphia represents the 1700-1900's when missionary zeal was at its zenith. The promise Christ makes to that church is that it will not go through the Tribulation. The last church listed is at Laodicea, and is known for its luke-warm faith. Christ has a very different promise that is more like a warning for them.

Pastor and I believe that both Philadelphia and Laodicea are representative of the church today. There are millions upon millions of folks who believe that Jesus died for them, but they have never committed their lives to Him, or allowed Him to rule in their lives. The are professing to be Christians. Then, there are those who have surrendered to His Lordship in gratitude for what He has, and still is doing for them. These are the possessors of a relationship with Him. The possessors, we believe, are the ones known as the Philadelphians. The professors are obviously Laodiceans. When the Rapture of the church takes place, true believers will be taken up to meet the Lord. Some time after, the Antichrist will begin the seven year period known as the Tribulation. Those who were professors of faith will suddenly discover a large number of their Christian friends are gone. They will face severe trials and for most, death. Some will be saved during this time, because Revelations speaks of the martyrs for the faith in 7:14.

So, for those who believe the church will go through the Tribulation, they are right. For those who believe that born again believers will be taken up in the Rapture to meet the Lord, they too are right. Where one stands on this does not determine whether or not they are saved. What it does do, however, is determine whether one has total peace in the comfort this teaching provides. In I Thessalonians 4:13-18, Paul teaches that believers will be taken up to be with the Lord. He begins this section by saying that he doesn't want them to be ignorant of God's promise, and he ends it by saying that this teaching brings comfort to those who will trust what he is saying. I wish my family had the peace that God's promise provides concerning the future; I wish every believer did as well. I pray that everyone who reads this will commit his or her life to Christ and be totally confident that He will be back very soon. Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus!

Monday, November 23, 2009


Christians are very aware that Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, sacrificed Himself for us on the cross. Jews are aware that Jehovah required sacrifices from those claiming to be the children of Abraham. The Bible even teaches that the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb was a picture of the sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus. But have you ever thought of sacrifice as descriptive of the very nature of God?

There was a time (before time actually started "in the beginning") that God was all that existed. We know that He created angels, and that He exists as the Trinity in a place called the third heaven. But when He existed before time, there was really only one heaven: His presence. There was no sun, nor was there a need for one because God is Light and there is no darkness in Him. Are you trying to picture what it was like? I hope you are better able to do so than I am.

When He decided to create the universe and all that is in it, God had to sacrifice by making a place that was not His heaven. It is almost as if He was sub-dividing reality. He had to make a void in order to have a place for His material creation. So He limited Himself. How do I know this? He had to create darkness. Without darkness, there would be no need for Him to say, "Let there be light." On day one, God created light. Logic tells us that before this act, He had to create a place where there was no light: darkness.

This is consistent with days two and three of creation, as well, in that He made a space called the firmament between the waters above and below it. This space, we will discover, is the first heaven where the birds fly, or our atmosphere. He then made space in the waters below for dry land. Notice the pattern. He makes a place on days one, two, and three for what He will create on days four, five, and six. The universe (or the second heaven) of day one houses the Sun, Moon, and the Stars (also!) of day four. The firmament of day two provides for the birds of day five, and the waters below provide a place for the creatures of the seas. The land of day three is the home of everything that lives on dry land. Man was also created on day six, but we have demonstrated that we can live in all created places: under water, on land, in the atmosphere, and outside it in space. To simplify things, we will say that creation is the sacrifice made by God, the Father.

We all know the sacrifice of God, the Son. He limited Himself, becoming human and for the exact same motive that the Father make His: love! He loved us! Before we were created, He knew what our sin would cost Him, and yet He did His part in creating all that is. He submitted Himself to the Father.

The Holy Spirit, also playing a part in creation, has limited Himself in two ways. First, He does the will of the Father and the Son (not a hard task for One Who is like minded). And second, He limits Himself to work within the free will of man. He doesn't force man to act in God's desired way in circumstances, but He allows man to choose.

So, this Thanksgiving, I would like to suggest that we thank God for making room for us, and become more like Him. Let us make room for others in our lives. We need to sacrifice "our space" to allow others in. We need to make room for others to be more expressive of their free will and be less insistent on demanding ours. I am very thankful for my Mentor, Teacher, Example, Counselor, Savior, and Father's love for all of creation. I can't wait until I am able to love like that! One day, soon I hope, I will be like Him. God bless you all.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The word "animals" is such a broad term. It brings a variety of images to one's mind. To those who fear some sort of animal, it brings immediate apprehension. To those who make a living selling livestock, it brings a sense of security and worry at the same time; security in that they produce income, and worry due to the constant chance of disease and the fluctuation of the market. If one lives in a jungle village, animals are both food, and foe. But to most Americans, "animal" means companionship. Americans spend more money on pets than most of the families of the world have for survival. Americans are truly a rich people.That being said, I also believe that a family's pet is of a value for many reasons. Children learn to make their pet's needs a priority, taking the time to feed, walk, groom, and play with them. Responsibility is ofter first taught this way.

Children are not the only ones who enjoy the companionship of a pet. The older I get, and believe me, I am getting old, the more joy I get from a faithful friend. Who else meets me at the door with great excitement and love. Regardless of what kind of day I have, being greeted with love always makes it better. We recently lost our friend, and my wife was devastated. Angel, our miniature poodle that slept on a pillow above my wife's head, passed away. She had been unhealthy for several years, and yet when her death came, we found out we weren't nearly as ready as we had thought. Fortunately we still have Buddy and Pippy, but Angel was special. We will miss her.

Animals have a special place in the heart of God as well. If He wasn't creating a special creature to swallow a rebellious prophet, He was using a donkey to talk his master out of cursing his own people for profit. Noah was instructed to take two of every kind of animal on the ark, and even had him take seven pairs of those used in sacrifices. This sounds contradictory, but when one thinks of the honor of dying for God, it is perhaps the ultimate in one's existence. We need only to think of Jesus, God's Son. The disciples were also willing, and to them, it was a privilege. We have no doubt that God loved Jesus, or that He loved His disciples, and yet we look back at animal sacrifice as barbaric. Most of humanity sees "animal sacrifice" as a good thing when devouring the Thanksgiving main course! Vegetarians excluded, of course. Apparently they are not aware that the Creator of the Universe ate the Passover Lamb.

If God cares for every sparrow that falls to the ground, Jesus said that He certainly cared for human beings more. Remember, birds and fish were created on day five, and land animals were created on day six. Isn't it ironic that Man was also created on day six? No Darwin, this does not prove evolution. Quite the contrary, it shows us (if we will only trust His Word) that dinosaurs, monkeys, and man were all created the same day. Fossil footprints of both man and dinosaur in the same stone clearly prove that both lived at the same time. Go to for ample evidence that the Bible is true.

God not only loves animals, His Son used animals to describe Himself. In His book (Revelation 5:5,6), He reveals that He is the Lamb of God, and the Lion of the tribe of Judah. John the Baptist call Him the Lamb Who takes away the sins of the world in John 1:29,36. The Holy Spirit is represented as a Dove at the baptism of Jesus in John 1:32. If a man was writing the Bible, he would probably not use timid animals such as a lamb or a dove to describe Almighty God. This is just one more proof that God inspired the writing of His book.

Yes, we will miss Angel, but in our hearts, we know that she is with her creator, just as we will be one day. Notice we know we will be with Him. My favorite Bible verse is I John 3:2, which says, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that, when He shall appear, we will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is." Psalm 17:15 says, "As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake with Thy likeness." We trust in Christ. We believe He told the truth. We know the future, because we know the One Who holds the future: the Lord Jesus Christ!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


This verse has fascinated me for many years. Coming from a background of "King James Version only." I had always believed that the singular "heaven" of this verse was correct. I still do. After Bible College and Seminary, I was able to "use" the original languages (Hebrew and Greek), but I was confused because the word translated "heaven" is actually from the Hebrew shamayim which is plural. The KJV translates it in several ways, and my observation of these is that the translators were governed by using the context of the word. It makes sense for the word to be translated "heaven" in the first verse, IF one interprets the first verse as being part of the creative work accomplished on the first day. After all, the heaven or atmosphere (the space between the the waters called the firmament, the waters being the clouds and the oceans) was created on the second day. Just a side note here. There are three places called heaven in the Scriptures (2 Corinthians 12:2): the dwelling place of God, the universe beyond the earth, and the atmosphere where birds fly (created on day five).

If, on the other hand, the first verse is interpreted as an introductory statement of the creative work of God as a whole, then it could reasonably be translated "heavens." This interpretation also makes sense. That would mean that the creative work of the first day would be verses three through five. But, what do we do with verse two? Many respected theologians suggest that there is a gap between verse one and two. I won't go into a detailed explanation of what they believe occurred during this gap, but basically, they believe that God created a perfect, complete, inhabited world and that God destroyed it because it was contaminated by Satan being cast to the earth after his fall. This has been used to explain the fact that the earth was "without form and void" making it imperfect. It also is used to explain why there are dinosaur fossils which scientific experts claim are millions of years old.

My answer to this is that God, in verse one, created the materials He would use to mold and shape into the world as we know it. In verse one, the heaven is the space where God would put the sun, moon, and stars on day four. Notice that the Bibles says "the stars also." Regardless of differing languages, the fact that the stars are in addition to the sun, would challenge the "the known fact that the sun is a star. By now, I am sure that those reading this have written me off as a nut. All I ask is that the reader give serious thought to my understanding of the Word of God.. If, after sincerely evaluating my thoughts you come to the conclusion that I am wrong, so be it. I have been wrong many times; just ask my wife.

The reason I cannot accept the Gap Theory, is because the Bible clearly states that death was the result of Adam's sin. Romans 5:12 states, "Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." If there was a previous creation and death occurred, then Romans is wrong; the Bible is never wrong! Nothing died prior to Adam's sin, including the dinosaurs. For a non-evolutionary explanation of creation, I recommend going to Answers In Genesis at There, you will find all the information you need to understand the earth is not millions of years old. It explains dinosaur and any other kind of fossils. By the way, if the earth was without form and void, it had to be without fossils. Void means empty. God bless you as you study His Word.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Do You Believe?

Yesterday's blog was entitled "Salvation is by Works" and I am truly disappointed that no one has commented on it. What I thought was stimulating and even provocative, has apparently been as awe-inspiring as most sermons which lead to empty alters. But, I will not be discouraged. I will press on to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and let the Holy Spirit choose upon whom to use it.

The Bible is very difficult to understand, at least it is to me. The Trinity, the death of the Eternal Christ, the fact that God existed in what would appear to be nothingness from the human perspective (after all, He said. "In the beginning...." Where was He before the beginning? He called David a man after His own heart, and yet he was an adulterous murderer. Fossils tell us something completely different from the Bible, and yet I believe the Bible. Strange, huh!

I guess the most difficult thing I have learned from the Bible is that God loves me. None of you reading this (if anyone is) knows what a despicable, hateful, evil person I have been, and probably will continue to be until He takes me home. I don't even like me! Why, "in heaven's name" (ironic use of the phrase, don't you think?) would a righteous, all-knowing, all-powerful, holy, and just God even allow me to exist, let alone love me? I guess the simple answer is that He is God, and God is love. He can't help Himself!

Romans 5:8 says, "But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." He didn't wait until we straightened up, or repented, or anything else. He simply loved us. The old favorite of all verses, John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." He not only tells us He loves us, but He put His "money where His mouth is" in that He gave His most prized and valuable possession for us.

Some might ask, "Do you suppose that He took a look at His creation and finding it broken, tried to fix it?" It is a good question. But God did not react to circumstances by putting a bandaid or duct tape on it. In fact, He didn't react at all. He knew what would happen if He created humanity, what it would cost Him, and He created us anyway. Ephesians !:4 says, "According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love." Amazingly, He had already written our names in a book before He created this world (Revelation 13:8). He is an awesome God!

So, while I cannot understand all that the Bible teaches, I do believe what I do understand. He loves me.
And since God is no respecter of persons, I figure if He can love me, He can love anybody, even you! He does you know, All He asks is that we believe Him. What follows in response from us will be for us to love Him back. It is impossible not to if you really believe.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Salvation is by Works

There are so many religions in the world, it is hard to imagine that they would all have something in common. But they do. Every single one presents a list of things one is to do in order to please God. Of course, the list varies radically from the mundane to the miraculous. Some religions believe that "sainthood" is only applied to those who have worked a miracle during their religious lifetime. Some believe that to die fighting for their religion automatically produces eternal life. Others see the need to die to the fleshly desires daily in order to be pious and holy. Still others believe that helping the homeless, nursing the sick, and feeding the hungry is all it takes. The variety is nearly endless as is eternity. But, they are all wrong!

I admit that I am narrow minded, opinionated, and maybe even a little argumentative. I admit that my way is right, much to the consternation of the "political correctness police." I certainly sound arrogant, and for that I make no apologies. After all, if one truly believes that they have a relationship with the Creator of the universe, why wouldn't he or she believe everyone who disagrees is wrong. To the atheist, everyone who believes anything at all is wrong, but the world does not condemn that attitude, even though it is exactly the same thing. There is a great deal of tolerance for everyone except for those, like me, who know they are right. But doesn't everyone believe his or her religion is right? If not, why adhere to it?

I am a child of God. I have been forgiven my sins. I am being made into the likeness of Jesus Christ. I believe the Bible is the only true revelation of God's plan for His creation. Someone might suggest that many different religions/denominations believe the Bible, and my response would be that if they disagree with me, they are only believing selected parts of the Bible. Oh, the arrogance! I am almost embarrassing myself; my conditioning by society makes me shudder at what certainly must appear as pride. But is it pride that accepts God's word found in the Bible as truth? I didn't write it. For the most part, I don't understand it. And yet, I know beyond a reasonable doubt that it is entirely true. There was a time that I hated people like me. There was a time that I thought the Bible was myth and that God was a crutch. I was an atheist.

On January 31st, 1971, all that changed. I was miraculously given the faith to believe in God because the Spirit of God convinced me that Jesus was my Lord and Savior. It was a gift. I didn't do anything! There it was: faith. My wife and the base chaplain both though I had lost my mind. After all, when I went to bed Saturday night, I didn't believe God existed, and the following morning, all I could talk about was the peace I had and tremendous hunger I had to discover everything I possibly could about the Lord. Ephesians 2:8 says that I became saved by grace (the unmerited favor of God). It says that my salvation did not result in my doing anything, but that I was given the gift of faith (the ability to believe). Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages (compensation, entitled payment for work performed) of sin is death, but that the gift of God is eternal life. Ephesians 2:9 says that salvation is not of works, because then I could brag about what I had done. I guess God knows us pretty well.

But wait! Didn't the title of this entry say that salvation is by works? Yes it did. Is it contradictory? You would certainly think so, especially if you had never experience God "calling for you to come to Him." As the world would see this, they would say, "See, Christians are preaching out of both sides of their mouth. They don't even know what they believe." To the natural man, Christians are fools. Up to this point, I am sure that even Christians reading this see me as a heretic, or at best, mentally challenged. I would!

Hear me out. There is a work that is required for salvation. However, the work is accomplished for us by the gift of faith from God. John 6:28-29 says, "Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent." Notice the play on words? The work of God could mean that it is the requirement necessary for everlasting life, or it could be the result of God's action in the salvation of the soul. If God draws us to Himself through the death of His Son, if He gives us the faith to believe, if He grants us a new birth, the work is His! He has done the work of saving us. There is no pride in accepting a gift. There is no boasting in acknowledging His love for us. In fact, the one thing that makes God greater than us is that He knows our every thought and action, yet He loves us! I believe the unbelievable! He loves us!

Saturday, November 14, 2009


I just finished watching a movie called So...Help Me God, and it reminded me of myself years ago when I had begun questioning God's existence. I had been raised to attend the nearest church to home so that my parents didn't have to get up and drive me to church. I believe I attended a church in every town where we lived during my childhood. My father was a salesman and he was transferred many times in the first sixteen years of existence. When I turned eighteen, my aunt, who I was told was my god-mother, informed me that I was a Catholic. It was certainly news to me! It seems that Dad had divorced my mother and could no longer practice Catholicism. Curiosity took me to the base chaplain, and I enrolled in classes to learn about being a Catholic. It wasn't that much of a difference from the assortment of churches I had attended, so I "signed up." After being a devote church member for eight years, I witnessed very un-Christlike behavior of our parish priest, and decided that religion was, not only pretty much the same everywhere, it was as Marx would say, "the opiate of the people." I learned from college philosophy class that man's concept of reality was generally flawed, and decided to reject all forms of religion.

Nearly two years passed when out of the blue, I received a letter from an adulterous, drug using, know-it-all rock musician who had be my neighbor in California when I was stationed in San Diego. I hadn't heard from him since we moved, so receiving a letter was quite a shock. It seems that during the three years since I lived next door to him, he has found God. His letter was filled with scripture references, and as an atheist, it disappointed me that he had sold out. I wrote and told him, insincerely of course, that I was happy for him. Within days, he sent me another letter, but this time, he enclosed a pocket New Testament. I remember throwing it across the room. I wrote him a nasty letter about "cramming his religion down my throat" and told him not to write anymore. He didn't.

I was now stationed with the Blue Angels in Pensacola, and periodically, I had to answer the phone at night. It was a Saturday, and after studying American History for about five hours, I took a break and looked for some light reading, preferably port, but even a newspaper would do. Believe it or not, someone had "sterilized" the place and there was nothing, not even an aircraft repair manual to read. I decided to take out my Science book, and when I opened my briefcase, there was that little New Testament. For the life of me, I do not know how it got there. I picked it up, kind of laughing to myself, and opened it at random to see what the fuss was all about. I had never read the Bible, so you can imagine my surprise and the beauty of the writing. I had a great fondness for Shakespeare, but for a book to be fifteen hundred years older and to be far more beautiful was a shock. I read one chapter, and could not get its message out of my mind. The next morning (Sunday), I was telling my wife about the awesome passage I had read. She was stunned that I would read it, let alone discuss it with her. The kids turned on the TV before going to the kitchen for some cereal, and although it was on a church program, I was so engrossed in telling my wife about what I had read, that I ignored it. Just as I finished, the guy on TV said that the pastor would come with the morning message. When he said, "Good Morning, my message today is on Matthew Chapter twenty-five," I shot up out of my seat is disbelief. It was the same passage I had read the night before. It was the only passage I had ever read! He had my attention! After three hours of watching TV preachers present Jesus as the Son of God Who died to pay for my sins, I knew in my heart that it was the truth. I gave my life to Christ right then and there. After thirty-eight years, Bible College, Seminary, and serving as a pastor of a small church, I can say without hesitation that God found me.

This brings me to my point. The gentleman in the movie never found God though he certainly made a sincere effort in trying to find Him. I guess the problem is, God cannot be found. No man has ever seen Him (John 1:18; I John 4:12). The only way to find Him is to have Him draw us to Himself (John 14:6). He does that by giving us faith (faith is a gift - Ephesians 2:8). When we believe in Jesus Christ, we become the children of God. He takes up residence in us through the Holy Spirit. It is true that I have little knowledge of God the Father, Jesus said that "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father (John 14:29), and we are told in Colossians 1:15-19, that He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God. When the Spirit of God tugs at your heart to place your trust in Christ, surrender, and you will immediately know that you are trusting in the truth. After all, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life; He wants way more than you could ever want Him. And, I think the cross is proof of just how much He loves us.


Friday, November 13, 2009


Human nature being what it is, often leads persons to take a short cuts. It could be they are short of time and need to expedite the achieving of a task. They could also be an emergency of some sort. But chances are, the real reason is that they are either looking for an easy way. We tend to be lazy, unwilling to commit any more effort than absolutely necessary to get somewhere or to accomplish some goal. More and more of our nation's youth are opting for the GED test rather than staying in school. Its easier and it is quicker, or so they think. Most of those taking this route are met with the reality that learning takes time.

Have you ever looked at a map to find the shortest route to get someplace? Whether it is to save time or to save gas, the short route always appeals to us. However, the reason MapQuest and other similar services give you the best way is, of course, because it is the best way. Shortcuts almost always involve taking roads that are narrower, rougher, and most often, more dangerous. Anyone who has driven the side road of America knows that the Interstate Highway System is faster, safer, and saves ware and tare on the car. I have seen shortcuts taken in old Westerns where the herd was taken over a mountain range to save time, avoid rustlers, or because the ramrod thought he was smarter than the other guy. He loses stock, peace of mind, and the good graces of his ranglers. Leaders might want to remember that trying the difficult was one too many times reduces their following.

There are several examples in the Bible where folks tried the "easy way." Take Adam and Eve, for instance. The Devil knew that given enough time, they would learn the difference between good and evil, but he also knew there was a shortcut. Basically, he told them their source of information was wrong and for them to trust him. He "suggested" that they take a shortcut by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It must have sounded good to them, because the risked death to do it. Although they didn't die physically the moment they ate, they did die spiritually then, and physically later. The Devil is good at what he does: evil.

Satan tried to convince Jesus that He could gain control of all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would only worship him. Notice Jesus didn't challenge the Devil's ownership. After all, Adam traded the control of the world for a piece of fruit. We are told that Satan is the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4), so he wasn't offering Jesus something that was not his to give. But Jesus did know what the Scriptures said about worship: only God is to receive worship. He also knew that one day, all the kingdoms of the world would be His. He will return to this fallen world and claim it for His own. He didn't choose the easy way, avoiding the cross to offer salvation to whosoever would trust in Him, but kept His focus on the will of His Father to the end. Thanks be to God!

So the next time you feel like cutting in line, getting rich via the lottery, or trying to travel "as the crow flies," remember there always consequences. Carry your child to full-term whenever possible. Stick it out in the marriage you are struggling in; trust me, eventually you will see that the easy way out had a much higher cost than learning to live together according to God's will (He hates divorce because if separates what He has joined together). Shortcuts are extremely dangerous; take with caution.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veterans Day

I think it is great that our country, for the most part, supports our military. It hasn't always been the case. I spent the entire Vietnam War in the Navy, and the response to the troops was disgraceful. People who avoided service by deceptive means or with "a trip to Canada" were respected: go figure. Recently, the Vietnam War Traveling Wall was in our little town and the response was amazing. More than five thousand signed the visitor's log, coming from twenty states and countries such as Cuba, Venezuela, and Australia. For those unfamiliar with this Memorial, it is a half size replica of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C. It contains 58,261 names of the men and women who gave their lives in an effort to stop Communism's advance into South Vietnam. The first to die was in 1959. Apparently we had advisers there much longer than the public was told. The last to die was in 1975. The Vietnam War (it was never declared a war) lasted for Americans seventeen years! While I am sure that the history books will tell you otherwise, the "war" lasted nearly as long as the rest of our wars put together. I served from 1959 until retiring in 1978, so I had the "opportunity" to see how our military was treated.

I noticed that when President Bush was in office, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were very unpopular with the public. However, instead of spitting on our troops and calling them baby killers, the public "supported the troops" while placing all their wrath on the Commander-in-Chief. Now, we have a new President and from what I can gather from the media, he can do no wrong. And yet, there are signs that his rhetoric is just that: rhetoric. In February, Congress approved the sending of seventeen thousand troops in addition to those already in country. They have yet to arrive. President Obama is still evaluating the situation. He had declared that he would bring the troops home within a year of his taking office, but they are still there. In fact, by redirecting his attention to Afghanistan, he has jeopardized our troops in Iraq. I guess decision making is much harder in the oval office, than as a community organizer in Chicago. Now, he is considering sending thirty thousand more troops to Afghanistan, while making no mention of how he will get our troops out of Iraq. This reminds me of a newspaper headline during the Vietnam War that said Johnson was bringing twenty-five thousand troops home, and no one noticed that he had authorized the sending of forty-five thousand the very same day. Such hypocrisy. My observation is that ever since the Korean War, our Presidents have run the military based upon political polls. I will say this for George W. Bush; he wasn't afraid to take an unpopular stand and he had the guts to stick with his decision!

God is not a Republican, nor is He a Democrat, but He is pleased with politicians who put the well-being of their citizens above political gain. He would have us all do good, love mercy, and walk humbly before Him in serving America. In fact, He is not an American either, and He would have us look out for His children who live in every nation on this planet. When He said to allow the children to come to Him, America, as we know it, did not exist. Bottom line: political decisions should take into consideration what is best for the world as a whole. Helping the helpless, defending the defenseless, feeding the hungry, and freeing the captives are just of few of things our politicians should consider basic to decision making. Whatever our President does, it should match what he said to get elected. And that is not easy to do!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Upon What Did Jesus Say He Would Build His Church

I heard an interesting sermon yesterday. I was watching Walnut Street Baptist Church, and a preacher with the first name "Skip" (no relation haha) was speaking on, among other passages, Matthew 16:13-20. Jesus asked His disciples "Whom do men say that I, the Son of man am?" After answering Him with John the Baptist, Elias, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets, He asks His disciples, "But whom say ye that I am?" It is obvious that He expected a different, and hopefully, a correct answer. As usual, Peter boldly proclaims Him to be "the Christ, the Son of the living God!" And, unlike most of what Peter says in the Gospels, this time he nails it.
This is where all Christians agree. Peter was right. No problem. Jesus goes on to say that Peter spoke as the Father directed (v. 17). Still no problem. Christians know that God directs Christians to say and do His will. He inspires us. In fact, II Timothy 3:16 states that "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God...." Inspiration, in this sense, means "God breathed." So, God supernaturally gave Peter the answer (one might note that when man speaks using his own intellect, he is almost always wrong - ask his wife; but when inspired by the Spirit of God, he is never wrong). It is interesting that the Spirit is described as being like the wind (John 3:8) and the Greek word translated "Spirit" is pneuma which is translated in the Bible (KJV) as "life" (1), "ghost" (2), "spirit" (151), and Spirit (137).
Now comes the area of disagreement among Believers, and especially "scholars." Jesus calls Peter (Petros - "a stone") and says "upon this (Petra - rock I will build My Church...." Catholics believe that Peter is the foundation of the Church. But there is a great difference between a stone and a rock. One can be thrown, while the other can crush you. In the story of the wise man building his house upon the rock, one knows that it isn't a stone one could throw. It is a boulder. Jesus told His disciples that Peter had the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and that he would decided who got in and who didn't. If we check the Book of Acts, Peter is present when the Jews (ch. 2), when the Samaritans (ch. 8), and the Gentiles (ch. 10) are accepted as part of the Church. This did not make Peter the foundation, but merely the gate-keeper. Jesus had said that the Gospel would be preached in "Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the world (ch. 1). But the foundation of the Church is not Peter (note how he us used of Satan only seven verses after his confession of the identity of Jesus).
Protestants, not wanting to believe that a man could be the foundation, say it is Peter's faith. That faith in Christ is the foundation of the Church. But, there was faith in the Messiah (Christ) long before He came as Immanuel, yet the Church didn't begin until the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-47).
So, if it is not Peter, and it is not Faith, what is the foundation of the Church? It is clearly presented in I Corinthians 3:11. Jesus Christ is the foundation. But, why didn't Jesus merely say that He was the foundation? He could have saved us centuries of debating over it. Perhaps it isn't as simple as it being Him. Perhaps there is another piece to the puzzle. What if it is the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church. After all, Peter didn't know apart from God's revealing it. Maybe it is the work of the Holy Spirit giving faith (Ephesians 2:8). Maybe it is the Word of God (inspired and written), His revelation of Jesus as the Christ. Peter believed God and declared Jesus as God's Son. The Bible declares Jesus as God's Son. The Spirit gives us faith to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Three witnesses. Still confused? The bottom line is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life in obedience for us. When we acknowledge Him through faith, we become part of the Body of Christ - His Church. God said it, I believe it, and that settles it, at least for me. I hope and pray it is true of all who read this.

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Since Christianity is the direct result of Israel's promises of a Messiah, and the Jews honor the Sabbath, I feel very comfortable resting on Saturday. In addition, since I am a Christian who worships the Messiah promised to the Jews, and since Christians honored the first day of the week, I feel just as comfortable resting on Sunday. Now if I can only find five more "related religions" that honor Monday - Friday, I will certainly consider resting everyday. After all, I am retired; don't I have the right to rest?! God bless you.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I am deeply saddened by the tragedy at Fort Hood, Texas. Not only did a man trained to help military returnees from war for PTSD, he added to their trauma. We are told that he was terrified about being deployed to the front, but it could not have been a fear of death. For the Muslim, dying in battle is thought to be an immediate pass into the presence of Allah. Perhaps the reason is more likely his objection to fighting fellow Muslims. While it is easy to understand that kind of thinking, he certainly had other options. He could have declared himself a conscientious objector, but that would be very difficult sense he was a non-combatant, being a military chaplain. He could have retired, or asked to be discharged. He could have admitted his cognitive dissonance and asked for psychiatric help. There are probably many other ways of dealing with his problem, but the bottom line is, he chose to side with the enemy and kill Americans.
The news media will continue to cover this story as they do most stories. We will be given all the facts about the man's childhood, troubled past, and anything else that will explain why he did this terrible deed. They will show quotes of Muslim clerics telling us that he does not represent Islam, and that Muslims are a people of peace and love. God forbid that anyone would speak publicly about a trend, a pattern, and a documented history of terror worldwide that are nearly one hundred percent the work of Muslim terrorists. While the President will continue to make statements that the Muslims are a peaceful people, and that the terrorists are a small minority of radical fundamentalists, the number of terrorist cell groups in the United States grows more embolden by our unwillingness to face reality. The Quran (Koran) declares that all non-Muslims are infadels and should be killed whenever and wherever possible. The Bible, on the other hand, tells Christians to love their enemies, to pray for them, and to do good to all men, especially to those of the household of God. Maybe that is why our military is ever so careful about targeting only military sites. Maybe that is why we rebuild the countries of our enemies, often while we are still fighting. Germany and Japan are prime examples of our willingness to go over and above to help with recovery.
Admittedly, many terrible things have been the result of "so called Christianity," such as slavery, the crusades, and conquests of territories controlled by native peoples. There is no defense for what was done to Africans, Native Americans (North, Central, and South Americans), or to immigrants because they are unable to speak our language. However, true Christians oppose actions that are un-Christlike. It is difficult to imagine Jesus owning slaves, stealing lands, or any action that treats others in an unloving manner. And, we all know (sarcasim) that everyone who says they are a Christian lives to be Christlike.
Which brings me to my point in writing this. Just as not all who claim to be Christians are Christians, not all who claim to be Muslims are Muslims. One has to decide based upon the individuals fruit, as to what kind of Christian or Muslim they are. The silence of the majority of Muslims allows the minority to control others by fear. And an example of the result of the silence of the majority of Christians allows the sin of abortion to exist in America. It appears that most Christians are such in name only; they are more interested in the "American Way" and being politically correct, than in doing what Jesus would do. I want to challenge Muslims and Christians alike to choose to follow what God (you fill in the blank) would have them to do concerning their neighbors. If this is not your wish, or you think it is impossible or too difficult to even try, then quit claiming to be a believer and declare yourself religionless. At least that way, true Muslims and true Christians will not be bunched together with the majority that both religions call hypocrites!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I have been reading The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. After Bible College, Seminary, An Emmaus Walk, and thirty-eight years as a Christian, I am amazed at how shallow my relationship with the Lord has been. The book is a novel, and should in no way be taken as truth, in the sense that the Bible is truth. It is similar to Pilgrim's Progress as it attempts to describe the challenges of mere mortals understanding an eternal, and uncomprehensible God. And as we know from the Bible, His ways are beyond our ways. Young describes the main character as a man who is angry with a God Who would allow his six year old daughter to be kidnapped and killed. In a sense, the book is a theodicy (a defense of an all-powerful, all-knowing God Who fails to prevent evil in the world). Young presents Mack as a man suffering from severe depression, and he is invited by God to meet Him at the shack where evidence of his daughters death was found. He spends three days with God, Who appears to him in very unusual forms. I say forms (pl.) because the Trinity is at the shack when he gets there. Because of his childhood of unbelievable abuse from his father, and because his view to anyone called "father" is repulsive to him, God appears to him as a woman. A black woman. This takes him by complete surprise, because he had always imagined God as being an old white man with a long white beard. I guess She killed two stereotypes with one shot. God spends three days loving him. God doesn't scold him or defend a lack of action, but merely loves Mack. So many of my preconceived ideas about God were challenged, so much so, that I began to wonder if I ever really understood God at all. The one thing that kept me from seeing myself as a total spiritual failure, was that the description of God's character was "recognizable" to me. I understood more clearly that I don't have a clue what the Creator of the Universe is like. My entire concept of God is what I know from the life of Jesus Christ, "the expressed image of the Father." To be sure, that is enough! I believe that Young's book, however, is purely a revelation of God's grace so that I could be challenged to seek a deeper understanding and walk with YHVH, the I Am of the Bible. Remember, don't let the book's presentation of God be accepted as reality; it is a novel, and is meant to make you hunger for the real God of the Bible.