Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Big Mixup

Many are working to be saved. Kind of like a baby working to be born. The baby could not work if he or she were not already born. But many people work at salvation, hoping they will make it.

A friend had a bulletin board in his religious goods store. It had a statement by the then Pope saying he was not certain of his own salvation. A humble baby not certain he had been born.

Isn't it wonderful that God has given us the figure of birth to help us understand our lives in Christ? I know the objections to these statements; if people believe they're already born again, they will not try to be better. This is like a child saying I don't need to go to school, I'm already born. Being born is the very reason we need to learn. Unborn need not apply.

If I try to enumerate the stages of life, please tell me when our will takes effect. First there is impregnation. Then there is gestation. Then there is birth. Do any of these involve our will?

Later as we mature, we learn to love and trust our parents and try to please them, or at least obey them. Is this not the course of Christian life?

If this is true, then human will is not part of the story of our early life. How fortunate someone made the early steps for us. Now that we are born we may strive to learn and improve. But first we were born.

Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:13

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Has Jesus Retired?

In short, what is Jesus doing now? I wonder how many children are put off by the image of a carpenter's son who lived two thousand years ago? Awful to say, but many do not see any connection between Him and themselves. Some are thinking of suicide, some illicit sex. What can Jesus do for them, right now?

Oh, they are told about His good example. Be like Him. Keep perfecting yourself. You might make it into heaven yet. This image is like Jesus as a Jewish Buddah.

There is another way. It is that right now, the devil accuses you, drags you down, even unto death. But Jesus is your defence. No one knows you better, even if you don't know Him. He is working for you. Yes, He is preparing a place for you, so you can live with Him forever.

Blueprints of the millennial temple are available. Some brave architects have drawn them up from Ezekiel 30 through 38. Exact measurements are given, even where the priests will hang their coats. This will all be done some day.

But right now Jesus is preparing a place for you and me. It is a work in progress. That wonderful mansion, not salvation, is what we are working for. Jesus defends us against Satan's attacks, He prepares a place for us, and He is doing it right now.

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7:25

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

We Have a Wonderful Preacher!

Oh, do you? Is he entertaining, with lots of funny stories to tell? Does he pound the pulpit in his desire to emphasize how horrible hell is? Does he stand tall and have silvery hair? So elegant!

I have heard all these descriptions. But I am not impressed until I know more. I want to know if your wonderful preacher is a way for you to get in your obligation or duty to be "religious"one time a week, maybe on Wednesday evening too?

You see, I really don't care about your preacher until I know about you. In short, what has he really done for you? Not even if he has helped unclog your overflowing drain or fix your car.

I want to know, has he equipped you to face death? Has he shown you a sure path to salvation, not by being so good that you deserve it on your wonderful goodness, but by the mercy of Christ? Has your preacher shown you his love of the Bible so well that you want to love it too?

Has he taught you the simple ways to know the basic truths of the Word, or does he hand out little tidbits each week, to string you along, until its time to watch football? Do people even remember what he said last week" (But it was so good.) Or are his inspirational messages soon forgotten? Does he string you along with little crumbs just to keep his job?

I have known both kinds of preachers. I have known men whose messages sank in so deeply I will never forget them. I have known preachers who tried to equip you so well that they almost make themselves unnecessary. So you may wake in the middle of the night and thank God for them, because you can make it on your own.

Preachers, open up the word. Don't show us how clever you are, or how many books you have read. Point us to Christ through His Word, simply. So people will not say, "We have a wonderful preacher," but "We have a wonderful Savior."

I don't care about your wonderful preacher. I want to know what he has made of you.

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Jewel of the Bible - Romans Chapter Eight

It begins with "no condemnation and ends with "no separation". Many believers have discovered this precious truth and expressed it in these terms. There is only comfort here, and reassurance.

Once I prayed at the opening of a class for God's blessing on this group of saints. Later, an old man said he was afraid he was not a saint. I tried to tell him that all who believe in Jesus are saints.

Maybe his confusion came from the two definitions of the word "saint". To millions, it means an exceptional person of heroic virtue and to whom miracles are attested. To others, it is a person that Jesus has saved through faith in Him and His shed blood. Jesus gets ALL the credit.

Now I would like to reveal two things about myself that eliminate me from the first definition: I feel angry, about two failures.

I see that people, children often, are neglected and ignored. I was in a church when a little boy ran down a hall crying out, "Nobody listens to me!" That is a sad example of what I mean.

Also, churches do not inform people of how blessed they are. They have careless, sloppy theology, and even that is often not shared.

Yes, Romans chapter eight is the jewel of the Bible. Let's tell people about it, and pay attention to their response. Maybe they don't believe it applies to them. Help them to understand that it does. The truth of the Bible is more precious than any jewel.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Tightrope to Heaven?

Elizabeth worked in a weaving shop. She was quiet and competent in every way. When she learned that my wife and I were going to visit the holy land, she said she had a request. Could we find out what an object on the temple site was? It was a shelf or mantle that was free standing. She had a photo of it.

Not much later we stood at the site with Tony, our Arab Christian guide. We were able to ask him the question that concerned Elizabeth. He said that Moslems believe that this is a platform for God's scale . Some day he will weigh the deeds of his people on it. If their good deeds outweigh the bad, they be counted worthy to go to heaven.

Years before, the same idea was expressed by my sister. As we were driven to a cemetery after a funeral, someone asked if the dead person would go to heaven. My sister, nine years older than me, answered, "If they have done more good things than bad, they will go to heaven."

Many have this belief, and it has been incorporated even into our literature. Ever read The Razor's Edge? The same idea is in the title--a person walking the thinnest possible line. He carries a load of his deeds. If his evil deeds upset his balance he falls into the pit of hell. That idea alone should guarantee a person does more good than bad.

In theology this is called "auto soteriology"--self saving. In an effort to justify people, and make them earn their salvation, there are many clever ideas.

As my sister approached the end of her life, she feared she would go to hell. She said she wanted to join a church to prevent it. I had bought her a Bible. It lay on a table. I picked it up and read a little to her. She said, "That is so comforting, what you are reading." Yes it is, the Bible is a book of salvation, from Genesis to Revelation.

My family, product of a large denomination, were horribly misinformed about the grace of God. I had to learn it on my own. I tried to share the Good News with them.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Free From Hell, Oh Happy Condition!

My mother was in the hospital. She woke up one night, in the dark and hearing someone scream in pain. For one moment she thought she had died and gone to hell. The person screaming was taken care of. Lights were on. She was relieved of her fears.

Now this is such a touchy subject. People may call me a heretic. For years I have striven with the doctrine of hell. Some people are hag-ridden by it. I am not. I know Christians are sealed by the Holy Spirit and cannot be lost. But I wish very much to have as perfect an understanding of God's Word as I can. I also want to share it with all who will listen.

I am not "going liberal", or departing from the faith once delivered. Rather, I am learning to be as Biblical as I can be. In this effort I have wrestled with scriptures that warn of eternal agony in flames for the damned. I wonder how many are repelled by this doctrine?

Revelation speaks of people being tormented for ever and ever. It is a horrible passage and seemingly unbreakable. It can however be misinterpreted, and I believe it has been.

I now feel the truth is rarely known concerning hell. Not because of my emotions or wishful thinking, but by a deeper understanding of the Word itself. A ray of light hit me as I looked at Isaiah 66. Angels behold people consumed by flames. But the people are dead! Could this be true of the passage in Revelation?

In my searches I have found a startling fact. "Hell" is nowhere in the original Hebrew or Greek texts. It has been inserted by translators, as was Easter in Acts 12:4, when Luke plainly wrote "passover." I stand in awe of the King James Bible. It has been my favorite translation and still is. But though I believe the original texts are inerrant, I do not believe any translation is perfect.

I found a source that lays this out better than I am able, complete with a chart showing the places where texts that say "sheol" for instance, which is the grave, have "hell" substituted. 54 times the King James uses hell. Hell is nowhere in the Bible under any name. It is as simple as that.

The wicked dead are destroyed, never to live again. Their punishment is eternal. They will never wake up to live again. I say this in full knowledge that I will some day stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ to give account for my words.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jumping Over a Fence That Was Not There

My father lived in a house with a screened in porch. Except one end was not screened. It had a wire fence where vines grew. Each morning the two family dogs were let out onto the porch. Later he would come out and unlatch the door and do his chores.The dogs were eager to get out and run around. They learned to jump over the little wire fence with the vines.

Eventually the little fence rusted and was taken down. The next morning the dogs were let out and proceeded to jump over the fence that was no longer there. Eventually they learned they didn't need to jump. The fence was gone.

Many of us live as if we still had to jump over a fence that is not there. We were brought up to obey laws that have no bearing on us. Is it too much to say that these people are in bondage?

My mother-in-law tried to keep the law of Moses. A fanatic told her she must, or lose her salvation. The covenant my mother-in-law tried to keep ended two thousand years ago and was made for Israel.

Jesus fulfilled the law and set us free. People of every nation are under this new covenant, free from its restrictions and practices. Animals do not have to be sacrificed because Jesus was. How I wish we all could live under the freedom we have, in clothing, and food, and special days.

The fence is gone.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Naive Literalist

I didn't start out as one, that is sure. My god was science. It must be right. If there was a conflict between The Bible and science, I let science "win."

I had a pastor who felt that way too. He believed that the six days of creation were indefinite periods of time. Maybe each day could be billions of years. When asked about it he tried to reconcile the Bible with geology. He had to appease science, he felt.

Little by little he was losing his zeal. I told him how great Calvin's Institutes were, that they could not be refuted. He said that now he was not sure. He was running low on oil for his lamp. He offered to pay me for ideas to preach about. Maybe I should have taken his offer? I am not running out of ideas yet. The Bible is so wonderful. I am just running out of time.

He warned young Bible teachers in his church that they could become "constipated with knowledge". Some people giggled at the words. At the same meeting, he told us he had asked for a sabbatical so he could get his doctorate. He did not see the implication. Knowledge is good for me, but bad for you, lowly "layity."

Later, he quit the ministry to "fight pornography". I wonder how that worked out? I have never heard a man with the gift of being a preacher, who turned his back on it.

I met a truly great hydrologist. He authored textbooks on it. He wrote The Genesis Flood, which helped me so much. Although the man was a fundamentalist--a licensed Baptist preacher--he said that all the geological strata were deposited in a matter of hours, not in great periods of time. Coal is not being made anywhere. It was created in a one time event--the flood. Leaves of the trees that make up coal can be seen in the coal, unwilted.

He said he once was an "indefinite periods of time " believer. Now he was a naive literalist. I am happy to say that I am one too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Girl Who Cried

...and his name shall be called wonderful, counsellor... Isaiah 9:6

The pastor admitted that his interpretation of this passage could be wrong. But he said, What if there were no comma in the text? So he would say "wonderful counsellor." God listens to us. We can confide in him.

A girl sat with her mother, listening to every word the preacher spoke. He told of a lady who found her daughter's diary open to a certain page. She had written an unspoken letter to her mother.

"Mom, I know how you work so hard in the kitchen, sometimes hours, to make us fancy meals, and I do appreciate it. But I desperately need to talk to you. If you would just sit down with me. I wouldn't care if we just had toast and tea, instead of a big meal. If only we could just talk."

The lady and her daughter sat off to my left. I glanced their way for some reason. The girl, about sixteen, was crying. Tears ran down her cheeks. She made no attempt to wipe them away. The sermon had hit home. I hope the mother understood. It would have been so good if they had that tea and toast, and the talk the girl so needed.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We're Free!

To experienced Bible readers, I'm getting in late. You know this already. In case anyone has been the victim of those who teach otherwise, I am writing this. Even in case your own thoughts condemn you. Now I know that freedom can be misused. Again I don't need to say what Paul has said so well. But in case any Christian feels captive to those who would condemn them, I dedicate this piece.

As I was attempting rehab from my stroke, I heard constant admonishments, most of them quite valid. But for hours each day, I heard what I was doing wrong. I even lay in bed wrong! "Straighten up." Finally a young therapist saw my attempt to stand up straight as I struggled with a walker. "Thank you!"she said with very welcome enthusiasm. I kissed her hand when we parted. She even thanked me then.

Just as I celebrated my freedom from the therapy that caged my personality and body, I celebrate the freedom in Christ which we all have been granted. Let me say it once more, we are free, made so by Jesus. Even Paul's warning not to misuse our freedom proves we have it. If a man's wife tells him not to run over her flowerbeds with his new lawnmower it shows he has a lawnmower.

Many would tell us we are teetering on the edge of hell if we violate one of their rules. If their noses were as long as their lists of "no's" they would look like Pinoccio after he told a lie.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Was John the Baptist in the Church?

For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist: but he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he. Luke 7:28

I have seen this statement diagrammed and done so myself. If he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John, then John is not in the kingdom. Sounds shocking to many, but it should not. John was born of woman, Christians are born of God.

Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: Colossians 1:13

So we were translated. That's how we made it. It seems so positional. I certainly do not feel greater than John the Baptist, but Luke says even the least in the kingdom is greater than he. This is the doing of God, beyond understanding, but true none the less.

While we thank God for our material blessings, should we not thank Him for the wonderful position we will be in, in the world to come, however lowly our situations are now?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

My Baptist Brothers

My door bell rang while I was napping. I shook off the sleep to see two young ladies at my door. I thought they were Jehovah's Witnesses at first. Turns out they were from a local Baptist church, and good representatives they were. They asked me if I knew my fate if I died--was I saved, and I assured them I was.

They gave me a card showing a picture of their church, the pastor, and his wife. The pastor had a big grin. He looked like a very good salesman type. His wife had a patient, pious expression. Giotto might have painted her.

I would like to attend a church with such people. Most of my Bible books are written by Baptists. I like Baptists. I love their zeal. So why don't I join?

I fear that once they knew about me and my supposed heretical beliefs, THEY would reject me. Can I love someone and object to some of their practices and beliefs? Yes, I have been doing it a long time.

May I address those I love so much? My dear Baptist friends; please do not tell me you are the original church. You came into being after Luther. Nothing wrong with that, but to say you are not protestants is not right. You split away from other Protestants over the issue of re-baptizing those who were baptized as infants, or were not immersed.

Please do not tell me that John the Baptist was a Baptist. He was a great prophet, but not a member of a church. The church came into being at Pentecost. Please do not say that only your church is valid. People in many denominations are Christians as well as you are. Please do not say you believe something because your pastor says it is true. Cite the scriptures. Think for yourselves.

You would not want me if you knew me. I know some of you believe in election and predestination, but can you abide one who believes in infants being baptized, as I was? Could you tolerate a "soul sleeper" as you would call me? What if I do not share your devotion to a hell where people go after death, and later they are judged?

Please listen to others and do not assume that only you know all the truth. Yes, shocking as it is, you could learn from Catholics once in awhile, though I am not one. If I do not join you, I am saving you from disappointment. Your smiles would disappear if you knew me, a lonely fundamentalist. I wish you only the best, but cannot join you.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Tree That Had Free Will

And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. Mark 11:14

And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. Mark 11:20

This is a very strange story. Mark tells us it was not the time of figs, but Jesus was hungry and found none. Can we fault the tree? Yet Jesus cursed it and it died. If we were to apply this to human beings, many would say that those who used their free will to resist the call of God, deserve to die. It is up to us to make the right decision.

Now it is obvious that a plant has no will of its own. Could this be why we have the fig tree as our example? And what if our so called free will is not the determining factor in our lack of salvation? What if, as the Bible says, it is God's will that is supreme? Such a shocking statement! Our will does not determine our destination, but God's will does.

I was not asked if I wished to be born, yet I was. I wasn't even consulted. There is so much in the Bible about birth. In order to be saved we must be born again. We all know that. This is a terrible blow to the ego. Am I not better than those who did not choose God? What a monstrous statement. God waiting for me to use my free will to choose Him or not.

We resist the very idea: Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who has resisted his will? (Romans 9:19)

The whole of Romans chapter nine argues the point--God is in charge, not us. Some hate this doctrine. It takes self out of the equation. Poor little fig tree. It didn't have a chance. But then God made it in the first place.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I Was Held Back

I don't mean in school, I mean held back by a force I did not understand. Long ago I was handsome. I thought I was a Romeo. I had a Juliette. We were making hot love. It is appropriate , since it was just after fire had been invented. She asked me to have sex with her. It should have been me that asked her. But I did not hesitate. Another me spoke, "That's for my wife." I saw her sink. She could not argue. It cooled her off. Me too.

I knew a young man whose car was hit with a firecracker. The muffler was torn open. He chased the evil doer and caught him. He drew his fist back to hit the young man. He was so angry. He told me that something held his arm back. He did not strike a blow. He let the firecracker thrower go. He told me he did not understand this force, but since he had become a Christian, he felt it was the Holy Spirit.

In our early years I believe God's Spirit is at work. We are not good, but He is. Augustine tells about the influence of the Spirit in his early life. God is so patient. The potter is working with the clay to make something of the lump it once was.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

My Dream Children

Charles Lamb would understand. He had dream children of his own. Our English teacher read his essay to us, and the toughest guy in class got tears in his eyes.

A lady I knew had a fight with her ex-husband. She was very petite, but she fought him off. "I didn't know how strong I was," she told me. She was afraid he would return. She had a basement door which was not secure. Would I put a chain on it? It was a simple job, drill a few holes, and mount a sturdy chain. She was relieved when I showed it to her.

Somehow I told her of my simple interests. I had just seen some foreign postage stamps of different types of dogs. Her daughter heard this. "Could you bring me some?" I told her I sure would and went on my way.

I returned for one more little task. I forget now what it was. Her daughter appeared from the other room. "Did you bring me the stamps?" she asked. I reached inside my jacket pocket and gave her an envelope of them.

She gave a little sigh of relief--more happy to be remembered than to get the stamps, I thought. Anyone who could forget her would be nuts. I thought of her divorced father.

She had a younger brother. Her mother spoke of him. "He's trying to put up an antenna," she said. I looked in on him to see him struggling with a kitchen knife, trying to pare back the wire's insulation. He was nervous as we talked, like he was unworthy of attention. After all he had been deserted by his father.

I returned on some pretense of helping, but really to see the kids. "I have some suprizes for you", I told them. "They're in my car trunk." I held up the key, thinking they would like to receive the bags.

One package was a new stamp album, with stamp hinges and some tongs. The other was a little metal tool box. Inside it was a soldering iron, some solder, and an adjustable wire stripper.

The antenna project had been abandoned. The wire was still there. I gave a little demonstration. "Start with a hole on the stripper a little larger than the wire. Then work your way down. And be careful which way you pull it. I slugged myself once when the insulation let go." I demonstrated, and for the first time saw a faint smile.

His sister was looking at the contents of her bag--a new stamp album, still sealed in cellophane. We opened it and laid it flat. "You may prefer animals stamps," I told her. "There are lots of stamps with animals." I had included a pack of the more common stamps, a little of everything.

Using the tongs, we spread out the stamps. I told her we never touch our stamps. "I like commemoratives, like the first Arbor Day." I licked a delicate hinge and pressed it on the album and the stamp. "They kind of stick up, but when you close the album they lie flat."

The evening approached. The mother wanted to know if she should set a place for me. I declined and excused myself. "As for the things I brought, would you keep them for me?" I asked. "I don't have much room and it would be better if you kept them."

The little lady married a psychologist. I am told the whole family is doing fine. The kids have a father now. I wish they were mine.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


Dimeo was in the Army with me. He didn't want to be. He was a Guardsman, in for six months active duty. He used to sing:

"Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way.
I'll be home for Christmas, because I'm RFA."
(Reserve Forces Act.)

One day he got his separation notice. He carried it around like a trophy. He held it up, saying, "Look at that wonderful word, sep-ah-ray-shun. I love it! I'm getting outta here."

I feel that way about the whole world, to tell the truth. I too am "getting outta here". Until that wonderful day I have the power to separate myself ( I wish others would join me) from fear of death, and, as much as possible, the hopeless sorrow of this world. And until that day I can also separate from the practices I do not believe in.

I can't expect others to join me. I will not try to "reform" them. We have chosen different ways of living, and I bear them no ill will. My desire to act as a Pharisee is absent. Wow, people actually have the right to live as they wish, without opposition from me. Romans 14 frees them and me.

Until that separation day, I plan to be working on myself. Then a group of us will depart. I wonder if Dimeo will be in that company, free at last?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Killing Me Softly

This was a big hit by Roberta Flack and I think rightly so, describing a listener's reaction to a song. I never thought it applied to me, but in a way it really does. I went from religion to Christ as a 17 year old. I was so unhappy with myself and the world. Then one night I confessed my rebellion. He was right and I was so wrong. It felt so good to give in.

My English teacher asked me to stay after class. I was puzzled. Had I done something wrong? He burst out, "What has happened to you? You are suddenly so worldly." At the time "other worldly" would have been more appropriate, as lost in poetry, day dreams, whatever. I couldn't explain it, but my teacher picked up on it. I think he meant tolerant.

I was watching some dancers on tv. It was about a theme I cared nothing about. A little while before I might have looked the other way, or even left the room. But now I saw how hard and carefully they worked. I felt sympathy for them. I thought of how many rehearsals they must have had. I remember saying, "They are so good." It was as if someone else had said it. I was changing.

I never talk about the Holy Spirit. You could say I am a Word person, not a Spirit person, if that makes any sense.

But God, the Holy Spirit, was slaying the old me. Simple as that. He did it ,oh so slowly, you would think nothing at all was happening. Like a plant that grows very slow. Some people burst forth like fireworks, fast and as bright. I guess each person has their own way and rate.

Thank you, Lord, for being so patient with me. Molasses in January has been faster than me. Was that a snail that just passed me by?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Monga, or Hunger Months

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: Amos 8:11

In Bangladesh, there is flooding that prevents the raising of food for many people. It lasts about six months, and many die. A wise person thought of the ancient Inca practice of floating gardens. People were told, gather big sticks, make rafts, put smaller sticks on them, then straw, then soil. You can garden during the flood season and live.

Many applied this advice. They made floating gardens and raised their food. Some waded to the garden beds. Others poled boats to them. They not only fed themselves, but had extra food to sell in the market place. The Monga, or time of hunger was over for them. They passed from death to life.

Isn't it wonderful that a practice from another culture and many years in the past, saved lives? Don't you love how well these people listened and embraced the advice that saved them? Now that I am old, I have turned away from people who will not hear the wonderful Word of God. I have no desire to witness to those who refuse to hear.

Wise people learned to build the floating gardens. They didn't need any pleading. Those who were hungry listened to life saving truth.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sedum People

I admire how God, as an author, pays so much attention to His minor characters.
C.S. Lewis

I just ordered some sedums, Rupestro, and Golden Ogon. Can't wait till they arrive. Some of the sedums are overlooked, kind of like some people. I didn't order the real small ones, that grow maybe 10 inches per year, sideways. Sounds like my progress.

We had a tall Hackberry in our yard. It was the tallest tree in my village. Far away, I could see it above the other trees. I was so proud of it. My father raised tall dahlias, above his head. They were beautiful. He loved big sunflowers too.

He would smile at my mother's plantings. She would make the soil very fine, then sprinkle tiny seeds on top of the soil. She would press on them lightly with her delicate hands. "They'll come up like the hair on a dog's back." She was right.

I like big flowers too, like tall cannas. But sometimes I want to enter the world of little plants. I admire people who make tiny gardens, sometimes in a bottle or even a clear light bulb.

I feel sorry for little plants. They get overlooked, sometimes trampled on--again like a lot of people. But they have a way of staying alive, even thriving in spite of the abuse. Many of them survive heat and drought, even thrive on it. Their little leaves store water for the tough times.

It would be nice to imitate these little plants. I have the smallness part conquered.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The House of Mourning

The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.. Ecclesiastes 7:4

Was there any man who knew the grace of God better than David? yet he tells us he made his bed to swim in tears. So many believe Christians should always smile. I do not understand such reasoning. Life itself teaches us otherwise.

Some examples. Did Paul go around with a grin? Are the great men in the Bible laughing people? Was not our Lord Himself a man of sorrows?

Yet we have before us laughing preachers and laughing congregations. Who are they emulating, and who are they fooling? Rejoice. I do. We all should. But in the midst of tears.

McGee tells of a young preacher who was a sensation. Yet an older man was not impressed. The young preacher's son died. The older man said, "Now I can hear him." The young preacher was now mature. He had learned wisdom. He could offer comfort to his flock from his experience with sorrow.

We are immersed in a laughing country, especially where I moved to. People tend to laugh all the time. Many think they are comedians. Have they yet to learn?

If sorrow is a gauge of wisdom, I must be getting wise. I wish there was another way to measure it.

Friday, January 11, 2013

He Didn't Have a Chance

He was 29 going on 30. His hair was thinning. He worked as a second shift security guard for very little pay. No hope for the future. Everyone knew it. A young man in an old man's pre-retirement job. He couldn't make it with the chicks. He asked a young woman who worked there to go out with him. She turned him down.

He and his brother had a real estate scheme. They were really "leveraged out" he told me. But if the boom continued he would make it big. It never did. He was sure the big one was coming. It was right around the corner. Something would rescue him from his lowly estate.

He began to have doubts. He was reluctant to say so, but things looked grim. His old car made smoke. He lifted the trunk lid to find a remedy. There were a selection of remedies--Stop Leak, for his leaky radiator, and oil additives of all kinds.

He liked to drive fast. The police nailed him. He had no car insurance. He could barely pay the traffic fine. The car insurance was too much for him, but he had to have it.

He dreamed of a fancy car, but his old one had to last. He really had no plans for the future. Instead he hoped for the big break that never came.

And yet, he has a wonderful future, greater than he or anyone can see now. The big one is coming. I found out about his faith. He had believed that study of any kind was evil. Using your brain was relying on the flesh, he told me. I convinced him otherwise. We prayed together. His faith was very plain to see.

His big break is coming. But from a source we do not always talk about. He won't need a car some day as he flies to his window as a dove.

Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows? Isaiah 60:8

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Long House

That is what these imaginary people called their crude meeting hut. They had seen their nation divided, ripped apart by dissention. Jobs were gone. It was necessary to flee, to live as the Indians did long ago. Diversions were gone too. No television, even radio was gone. There were no sports, a real tragedy for many.

First, huts were built, very pitiful really. Some were almost as bad as the home of John the Baptist. Their diet was limited in the same way. The only feasting for them now was on the books that remained.How desperate they were. They caught fish and crawdads, and some grew food.

The old ways were gone, only to be replaced by the even older ways. Men felt a need for a meeting place. Many did not know that people, long ago, did the very same thing. All survivors could meet in the big hut that was built. Bent poles were covered with leaves, and bundles of grass, a crude thatching. Previously solitary souls would find their way to the long house,listening to the conversations, and even joining in.

Bibles had been salvaged in The Great Ruin, and those who had never read them, now began to. Commentaries were not salvaged, but some Bibles had wonderful ones in them. Real study slowly developed. They found their ancient counterparts in Hebrews chapter eleven. Now they did not feel so alone. Others had lived just as they were now living. There was time to read now. God had left them with very little but His Word.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

How Sweet It Is!

How Sweet are thy words, unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way.
Psalm 119:103, 104

I saw a film long ago of a father who taught this lesson literally. His son was still too young to read. He watched as his father took down the Bible from a shelf, opened it, and poured honey on the page. He had his son lick it off. Next time, he thought, the Bible was opened for him, the sweetness would be remembered.

Some of us read from the Bible to our children. On my birthday, long ago I was given a book of Bible stories by an aunt. She knew how to give good gifts. The book had wonderful pictures, which I still remember. Adam and Eve stood out, as did Noah. What a wonderful story that is. I understand that people around the world have similar tales of a flood. Even unbelievers know it.

Through this story book I learned to love the old testament. It was a short journey from a picture book to the text of the Bible, though I had no one to guide me. My parents were too busy with church work to read with me. I remember the pictures, though I looked at them in solitude. How nice it would be if we started with picture books, looking at them with our children, and explaining what they meant.

The aunt who gave me this wonderful book is dead now. She was an atheist, but she knew how to give good gifts. How ironic that an unbelieving lady gave me a book on the Bible which I still remember. While my Christian parents were too busy with church meetings to read with me.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

He Changed the Water Into Grape Juice?

For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. Acts 2:15

What an odd way to defend those at Pentecost! It could have been said they were all Baptists and never drank wine. But the defense was the hour of the day, between 8 and 9 in the morning. It was too early for anyone to be drunk. In truth they were filled with the Holy Spirit on that day.

My Baptist friends--and I love them--say that the wine that all Jews drank was unfermented grape juice. Strong drink is alcoholic wine. Imagine a man saying, "Honey, will you go out to the refrigerator and bring me a glass of Welch's grape juice?" I don't think so.

A way of interpreting was revealed to me long ago. It is to substitute the words you interpret for the words in the Bible. If this was done sample passages would read:

And be not drunk with (grape juice) wherein is excess, but be filled with the Spirit. Eph. 5:18.

Or, in selecting a bishop, Not given to (grape juice) , no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; I Timothy 3:3.

Festus could be such a good bishop, but he is given to grape juice. Doesn't work does it? Grape juice doesn't make you drunk, wine does.

At the first miracle recorded of Jesus, he turns water into wine (John 2:6-10). My grape juice friends say "It was not alcoholic. It didn't have time to ferment". But the water did have time to turn into grape juice? It was a miracle, time was not involved.

Relax, my non drinking friends. If you do not wish to drink alcohol, do not. I respect that. But do not try to change what the Bible says. He changed the water into wine.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Mongoloid's Faith

That is what we called them, in those days, these special people, before Downe's syndrome came in. My sister's youngest child was one of these. Her I.Q. was measured at around 50. Every effort was made to expand her world. She played a violin, wrote letters in cursive.

But her faith was her most remarkable quality. When she was little and Christmas approached, she asked her mother for a toy car to take to Sunday school. They were going to make a crash, she said. My sister looked into it and found they were making something, but it was a creche, a manger scene.

One night a terrible storm rose up. Lightning and thunder woke every one. My sister went to her room, afraid the storm had made her afraid. She found her standing in her bed, arms out stretched. "Be still," she said,"be still." She was emulating Jesus as he calmed the sea of Galilee.

Someone gave me a beautiful picture of the marriage supper of the Lamb. A table, still unoccupied, set with shining plates and dishes. "What we drink?" she asked earnestly. What should I have said to her? I told her "Royal Crown cola." "Oh," she said, she was satisfied.

She is in a retirement home now, along with her father. My sister's girl called her to see how she was. "What are you doing?" she asked. "Reading my Bible," she replied. "Romans, chapter twelve."

Geniuses stride the earth and do not believe in God. But this little girl, grown old, has the Faith.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Teacher Is Not a Dictator

Those who are illiterate must dictate.
- A motto someone gave me

It should be obvious that for someone to dictate to you is wrong. It would make them a despot or a pharisee.

I was touring the home of Gene Stratton Porter in Rome City, Indiana, with my sister and brother in law. Our guide took us to a big fireplace made with stones from around the world, sent to the author by her many fans. "One of them looks just like a dog's head," said the guide. "Can you find it?"

While I was searching, my sister found it and pointed it out. "There it is," she said. It looked like a German Shepherd.

To me, that is what a teacher should do--point things out. A teacher should reveal things to people that they understand, not try to talk down to them. A servant should not be so haughty. If those studying do not see something, the teacher has failed.

My sister did not send the stone, she revealed it. The dog stone had been there all along . It had been there long before we visited, but my sister is the one who revealed it.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

How Do You Want Your Eggs?

What follows is imaginary.

Amy was waiting on tables. It was breakfast time, her feet were sore already. Her little boy had a fever. A neighbor was watching him. She needed to call and see how he was. Her customer couldn't make up his mind. He looked out the window as if for help in deciding. It was a partly cloudy day, the sun would come out, then disappear again.

He guessed he would have eggs, scrambled like his mind. He had considered them sunny side up. But didn't Freud say that represented a desire for his mother's bosom? Jung said it was an archetype representing mankind's need for nurture. He needed to look into it some more before he could make up his troubled mind.

Meanwhile Amy waited, pad and pencil in hand, watching his pinched face, making a monumental decision.

I talked with a wealthy man about his Bible teaching. He had no gift for it, not even a desire, but the church needed a teacher so he volunteered. "I run into a passage I don't understand so I look it up in a commentary. Just to be sure I look at another commentary and it completely disagrees with the first one, and I'm back where I started."

I used to laugh at such people who did not have the patience to work with scripture and get to know it. Now I don't laugh, I feel sorry for them. There are liberals who take pride in never declaring that they know anything for sure. They seem to feel superior to those who know. They have read 5,000 books and they are more confused than ever. Instead of reading the Word, they read books about the Word, or philosophy.

I found that many of these people try to lift themselves above others by endless learning. They always seem to need more data, but they are not sure. Others are afraid to commit and be proven wrong. I have known such people.

Let's go back and rescue our waitress.

Amy's customer had a bright and sunny disposition. It was like the day's weather, clear and sunny. "I'd like two eggs over easy, two sausage patties, and hash browns. Black coffee." He smiled as he passed the menu back.

"If a few more people could order so quickly," Amy thought, "I'll have time to check on my son. It sure is a pleasure to work with people who are sure of things."

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Same Lump of Clay

When in the market place one dusk of day,
I saw the potter thumping his wet clay.
And with its all but obliterated tongue, it murmured,
"Gently brother, gently, pray."
- Omar Khayyam

Some people are better than others. If they were clay, they would be bone china. I tend more towards earthernware. This extends to salvation apparently. Some people, though dead in sins and trespasses, make a decision for Christ. Then they are born again. It's amazing what some dead people can do!

But what if we were all clay? Would we decide what kind of pot we would want to be? Guess that would entirely be up to the potter? Don't you love the Bible passages that describe Almighty God as a potter? It's one of those concepts that is so plain and understandable.

I know it is referred to in the Old Testament, but I would like to quote Paul. Here are his words:

Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump, to make one vessel unto honour, and another to dishonour? Romans 9:21

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jews to Egypt Again

And the Lord shall bring thee into Egypt again with ships, by the way whereof I spake unto thee, Thou shalt see it no more again: and there you shall be sold unto your enemies for bondmen and bondwomen, and no man shall buy you. Deuteronomy 29:68

A friend sent me a news item about Jews being asked to go to Egypt to make room in Israel for Palestinians. I thought of this verse. Whether or not this news item is important I can't say.

People may object at my lack of outrage for the very thought that Jews should be asked or even expelled from their promised land. But God did this very thing in the book of Daniel, for instance. The Jews were not promised uninterrupted occupancy of their land. That is, God would dispel them even though the land was theirs. They would return to the land after their "time out" was over.

I am supported in this view by some wonderful Jews. They are called Torah Jews. Their stand is that Jews should stay out of the land of Israel until Messiah comes. He will lead them back to Israel. Meanwhile Jews should support the countries where they live.

I am in no way a modern Zionist. It is the province of many who are not Jews at all. Many Christians believe they are doing God's will by the encouragement of Jews to go to Israel. The Torah Jews say it is not time for them to return. I agree totally. I am a Zionist for the future, when Jesus leads them back.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Very Deep Bible Course, But So Deep

Please be patient with me. I am not about to tell you some wonderful thing I have thought up. Lots of books and preachers too, will give you a fantastic scheme that only they know about.

What I propose is this; just read the first six chapters of the Gospel of John. That's it. If anything is not clear, don't let it stop you. Keep on reading until you are finished.

You know how old people repeat themselves. I know I do it. I've said this before. Wouldn't it be wonderful if people read the whole Bible? I hope you do.

You may be pressed for time. A lot of people are. I sympathize. Maybe you don't want to take a Bible course. You have worked hard and just want to watch television and relax for a time. Then don't take a Bible course, with all the questions and so forth. Please, just read six chapters of John.

Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. John 6:67,68

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Riding in the Moonlight

I used to ride my motorcycle a lot at night. I knew the roads very well, and at night went slowly. One bright moonlight night I turned off my headlight. Immeadiately I saw the moonlit road far ahead, even though my closeup image was reduced. One night I hit a goat's chain stretched across the road. The chain wound around the front tire and bit in. I was thrown off when the front wheel jammed. The goat was an unharmed spectator.

How much my life has been like that. I miss a lot that is going on. I will do nothing special as I spend New Years Eve alone. My life is uneventful. But I try to see as far ahead as possible. Like the view of the moon lit road, I see better a long ways ahead, past my life for sure. What I see ahead is troubling. But beyond that time I wait for the wonderful things we are promised that lie ahead for us all. Until those times I expect to hit a few chains.