Monday, June 30, 2014

On Creating the Universe, Your Own Life, and Earning Your Salvation

If someone claimed to have created the universe, he would be considered a nut case. Same way for anyone maintaining that they gave life to themselves. Had they described how they went to their parents and asked to be conceived, then asked their mother to give birth to them, they would be laughed to scorn.

But on the basis of the philosophy that one out of three isn't too bad, there is a final option for them. They would get a huge following if they said we all must choose our heavenly Father, using a free will that was not impaired in the Fall.

In Xavier University, I heard a priest describe the difference between his order and that of another on this point. "We maintain that when mankind fell, every part of us fell, except our free will." This is often referred to as the "partial fall" theory.

Imogine Coca and Sid Caesar did a take-off on a spy movie that ended with a bomb blast. Everyone was lying on the floor. The hero and his lady companion got to their feet, uninjured.

"How come everybody but us got killed?" the hero asked.

She answered, "That's the kind of bomb it was. It only kills the bad guys."

So the Fall in Eden corrupted all of us, except our free wills. Now it is up to us to use these unimpaired free wills. God waits for us to choose Him. He wants to save every one of us, but His hands are tied. "The Great Monarch of the Universe stands helpless before the free will of puny man," I heard a preacher say.

When he finished I expected a few words from Santa Claus.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Your Grandmother Lois and Your Mother Eunice

I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded now lives in you also. 2 Timothy 1:5, NIV

Your grandmother and your mother. Don't you love how Paul mentions the names of otherwise obscure people? Surely Lois and Eunice never imagined that their names would be recorded in God's Word.

In her family, my grandmother stood alone in her faith and her love of the Bible. Her only son was an athiest who married an atheist. Her two daughters were very unsure in their faith. Grandma would listen to her radio. M. R. DeHaan and his books were her guides, and a very good choice. But she studied alone, with no one to share her devotion to God. If there was ever an example for me to follow, she was it.

There was no strong male image in my life. My father, a staunch believer, was dominated by a denomination that kept people ignorant, and used them for the aquisition of money and real estate. If you were to go to a pool to drink, they were the ones who would stir up its mud with a stick before you drank.

I had many miles to travel before I could join her, or read her precious books. Soon we will go to heaven together. Then there will be no need for her books. Their author will be there with us.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Agonizing Over the Hypostatic Union

For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. Colossians 2:9

When I was a member of a super intellectual church, a leading light--one with access to the elite--told me that he was having trouble over the Hypostatic Union. Of course, he had no problem with this doctrine, but he was trying to convince the choir director over it. Imagine that titanic struggle!

People who study the Bible, more than they rehearse cantatas, have no problems with God's teaching on this point. Jesus is both God and man. Simple as that. Even people who don't use Latin phrases understand this. But in the regions of the elite, it is more important to debate on what they consider imponderable theological problems with one another, than to talk to the people who pay their salaries.

Do these people know about the wonderful love of God, who became a man and died for them, so they would be forgiven of all sin, and inherit eternal life? Do they even know the so called little people--you know, the laity?

They say they do, but how could these minute people understand such deep things that are best conveyed in Latin, better yet in Greek. Those with heads so large they can hardly support them, prefer to debate with one another, while the non-elite are left to wonder over basic Bible doctrine.

Super Intellectual comes home after a hard day trying to make three times the average person's income. He has had a really rough time at lunch with the choir director. His wife, who can only guess how tough a time he has had, says, "Poor baby. Put your feet up and tell me all about it. Only first explain why you men didn't read Colossians 2:9, or even Hebrews 1:3."

Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person,... Hebrews 1:3, KJV

The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being,... Hebrews 1:3, NIV

Friday, June 27, 2014

The High Flyer Pigeon

Many years ago I read Carl Naether's book on pigeons. I found his stories and information on types fascinating. He described those having a flock that was not up to par in their flying ability. Their birds needed a "fitness trainer". They would get an American High Flier pigeon. Different countries have their own types.

When the birds were released this bird would take the lead and give them a real workout. It would fly higher, faster, and longer than the others were used to. Soon the whole flock gained strength and endurance.

When I was a little boy, still learning to read, a teacher asked us if we read newspapers. I was amazed at the question. Newspapers were for adults! Yet one of my friends held up his hand. That afternoon I spread the daily paper on the rug and tried to read it. You can imagine how little I could read or understand.

Later in high school we had a new student in our class, a real brain. I found that he knew the symbols for the chemical elements. This really sparked my interest. How dare he show me up like that! I was a real egomaniac. So I began to learn the symbols too.

Little did I realize then that people were shaping me up with their superior abilities. I learned not to resent them, but to learn from them.

The new student introduced me to H.G. Wells and The Time Machine, still one of my all-time favorite stories. I was into Poe, so we swapped, I guess. I remember Wells saying, "There is no instantaneous cube" to prove that time is a dimension. My brain tingled with that one.

Years later I read a volume of Pater Mundi that helped turn my life around. The old timers were like bloodhounds that kept after you until you had no place to hide. The author's proofs of God were relentless and inescapable.

These were some of my "High Flyers" that helped me to learn to fly.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mr. Smarty Pants on Wanting to Dispose of Bombs

Dear Smarty Pants,
You occasionally mention your time in the army. Just what was your job, and did it relate to your religious beliefs in any way?

S.M. I was only a Guardsman and was trained to climb poles, install telephone lines, and run radios and a switchboard--commo as we called it. Had I made a career of it (fat chance) I would have opted for bomb-disposal.

Q. What is the connection, if any?

S.P. I am not a pacifist, but like wire stringing, bomb disposal hurts no one. It only saves lives.

Q. You still haven't told me of a connection.

S.P. In the church and in Bible teaching we are dealing with a lot of "mines". Detecting them and disarming them hurts no one, except for their feelings, and in some cases, their incomes. Much of the Bible deals with error. Finding it and seeking to correct it is like an MOS, Military Occupation Specialty.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Taking the Gloss Off of Glossalia - Tathakata thackata daba doo boo

Just found out that there is a name for one of the things I believe in. It is called "cessationism". Simply put it is that gifts such as speaking in tongues ceased after the apostles died.

My friend Joy studied tongues for seven years. A lady came into her Bible store and asked, "Do you have any books on tongues?" She had a whole shelf of them. The lady selected two. Later, Joy received an angry phone call from this customer. "I bought two of your books on tongues and they're against tongues!"

Like all of us, Joy had a few gaps in her Biblical knowledge, but she did know about this doctrine. You could almost feel sorry for the tongues lady, for if she had pursued it, Joy might have trimmed her wing feathers a little. Joy and I were both "cessationists".

I am a very poor ecstatic-experiential person--just about the worst I suppose. To tell me of your wonderful religious experience is probably wasting your time.

Speaking in an unknown tongue is not just the realm of Christians, but of many different kinds of people, including witches. Paul said, "Tongues will cease."

To try to counteract this a man wrote, "Paul also said 'knowledge will cease'. (1 Corinthians 13:8) Has knowledge ceased?" Yes, special revelations have ceased. This is what Paul was referring to.

In the time before the Bible was written, the Spirit communicated in this way. An example is the prophet Agabus, foretelling of a coming famine and the manner of Paul's death ( Acts 11:28 and Acts 21:10).

I believe that today special knowledge is confined to knowing which television programs have been cancelled without referring to the TV Guide.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hockey Announcers Need Not Apply

And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 1 Kings 19:12

"He shoots! He SCORES!"

Very exciting I am sure, especially for a sport so fast it is hard for me to follow. But I prefer the hushed voice of someone covering golf.

Recently I heard a fine inspirational-type preacher, with a good message (of that sort), trying to impress his listeners by raising his voice in both pitch and volume. Wow, if I wasn't paying attention before, I sure was now.

A preacher I knew tried speaking in a normal voice. This was before he learned that the people he was assigned to wanted to be addressed in the "key of G whiz", as he described it. To them, it was a sign that he was "in the Spirit".

We all have our preferences, but need someone speaking the Word of God yell like a used car salesman? I feel so grouchy today! But I do wish that the truth could be given in a normal tone of voice. Wisdom, not volume, is what impresses me.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Law Has a Flat Tire!

So again I ask , does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard? Galatians 3:5

One night in the city I saw a police cruiser stopped in the busy traffic. A nearby woman, with a tough voice right out of a crime movie, said, "Look at that, the law has a flat tire!"

There used to be a radio preacher famous for teaching "Anglo Israelism", that the United States and Great Britain were latter day Israel, and under the law of Moses. He tried to prove this by saying we were members of the "Lost Tribes". As a young man, I found him quite convincing.

He used to say, "Snuggle up to God's law." He tried to present Jesus as speaking Greek, being clean shaved, and with a Roman haircut. This, apparently was an attempt to illustrate that Israelites, as he called us,were up to date, modern "with it" people, totally unlike members of the bad old Jews from the tribe of Judah.

Preachers were eager to debate him, but, of course he would not accept the challenge. He knew he would lose.

My mother in law was caught up in this ministry until shortly before her death. I might as well say his name--Garner Ted Armstrong.

He tried to put many of those living under grace, under the law given only to Israel. He was like a roach, and the book of Galatians was like a poison spray that killed him. Garner Ted is dead now, but his evil doctrine lives on.

The Law is perfect, no doubt about it. As a revelation of God's perfect demands, it can not be escaped. But as a way to be saved, the Law has a flat tire.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Distance Lends Enchantment

"Isn't this the carpenter's son? Isn't his mother's name Mary, and aren't his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren't all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?" And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home."
Matthew 13:55-57, NIV

There was a little item recently about the fact that creative thinkers are not respected locally. Jesus said that about two thousand years ago.

The article continued by saying that even the separation of a phone call makes new ideas more acceptable. Attribution to a distant source helps a lot. More than the prejudice against the familiar, there are perceptual reasons for this preference for remote sources. But whatever the basis, local talent and ideas are often ignored.

How many churches are touted as bursting with the Holy Spirit, yet are unable to produce a candidacy for a pastor? Rather, a "pastoral search committee" will be formed to find some unknown from another location. We can't have a pastor that we used to sit next to in the pews.

I read a story about vacationers at a tiny lake. In the morning they would get into their boats and travel to the other side of the lake. To those on one side of the tiny lake the other side was new territory.

When a church cannot produce a man fit to be a pastor, someone has not done his job.

My uncle, a famous chemist, used to say, "An expert is an S.O.B. from out of town."

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Last Part of the Song

Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. 1 Corinthians 3:13

A friend of mine belonged to a mens' chorus. It was an amatuer affair of sincere young men. Occasionally they would be a little off key, or weak. The director was forgiving though. He stressed one thing. "It will all be okay if you have a nice strong ending."

As I anticipate my death, after a life of multiple off key and weak notes, I hope my Director will be forgiving of my mostly wasted life. Salvation is not the issue. I trust in Jesus for that. But I am concerned about the Judgement Seat of Christ, where our works will pass through fire and be tested. If only I could think of a "strong finish" for my life.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The First Communion in the Bible

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. He was priest of God Most High. Genesis 14:18

Now why would anyone draw attention to this verse? First of all it describes a time hundreds of years before there was a priesthood that we usually associate with Israel, the Aaronic priesthood.

How much earlier? To satisfy different chronologists let me block it out in round numbers. Abraham lived about 2,000 B.C. Moses and his brother Aaron lived about 1,500 B.C. So Melchizedek is a very mysterious person indeed.

And so is this communion of bread and wine, if indeed that is what it was, for Melchizedek was a priest. The book of Hebrews gives us a thorough exposition on the person and nature of this man. Some like to say that he was the pre-incarnate Christ. But scripture uses the words "in the similitude" (Hebrews 7:15) when comparing Melchizedek and Jesus.

So he was not Christ, but we can learn much from him and this incident. A priest, who offered a ceremony, without shedding of blood, and this, 2,000 years before Jesus presided over the Last Supper.

When we study Abraham we see that this father of all who believe (Romans 4:16), is our guide in so many ways. It is popular now days for many Christians to imitate Jews in observances and language, as if they think they are getting closer to their roots. Let me say that our Christian roots are in Abraham, not Israel.

Israel is a chosen nation with a wonderful future after God has called out his church. But Christians are not the "latest model" of Judaism. Our roots go back much farther. Not the blood of animals, though our churches all seem to have "altars". The ten commandments were given to a rebellious nation that had lost its way and needed the revelation of God's righteousness.

No one is justified by the keeping of the law, nor has anyone ever kept it. But millions have followed Abraham's example of righteousness through faith.

Melchizedek's bread and wine are our way, not the blood of a lamb. Jesus is our Lamb.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Excitement of Peace

As a young man I kept odd hours. I liked to stay up all night, listening to the radio and reading. No phone would ring, no one would come to the door. The time was mine.

Just before dawn I might go into the garden to watch the sun rise. At the first light, the garden was still. Even the insects made no sound. The crickets were all chirped out. On the driest day there would be dew on the grass and plants. Spider webs that went unnoticed during the day, were outlined with silvery moisture.

The peace was palpable. You could feel it in your stomach. This was not just the absence of "bustle and strife", it had a silent force of its own.

Christians like to sing, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Anyone who understands what lies ahead, knows there will be no peace. Not under the present Satanic "Administration". The pathetic dreams of peace, the lack of war so many long for, are not to be until evil and the Evil One are destroyed.

Individuals may find it for awhile, but under the best of circumstances death awaits--goodbye "peace".

So what I want to think about is Eternal Peace, when the whole earth and those who will dwell in New Jerusalem, will live in active peace. Even the thousand year reign of Christ will end in the attack and destruction of great multitudes who attack the Camp of the Saints (Revelation 20:9).

Remarkable as it may seem, permanent, eternal peace is over a thousand years away. Rather than a mere lack of war, it will be a peace in the presence of God, without the devil and his evil--an active peace. Isn't that exciting?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Why Was the Law Given?

Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. Galatians 3:19

An earnest young couple saw me reading my Bible and told me, "We just took a course on Romans. Our preacher told us that you've got to keep the law." Can you imagine a more contradictory statement?

Yet they were so proud. They had just acquired some false doctrine by listening to a preacher instead of reading the Word. I turned to Romans and showed them verses that proved just the opposite. If you could only cite one book of the entire Bible to prove that we are justified by faith alone, it would be Romans.

I dread the words "My preacher says", for unless he is describing his vacation, his words are final on nothing. In this case, it was as if a guide to the Grand Canyon were to say, "This is the tallest mountain in the world."

It is quite common to say that the Jews got the law as a giant step forward in the progress of humanity. Earlier, we supposedly learned of monotheism from Pharoah Akhenaten who worshipped the sun. As if Adam and Eve believed in more than one God. PROGRESS is ever the theme of the promoters of evolution.

I asked a group of Methodists ("Welcome, get yourself a cup of coffee!") if it was not wonderful how people keep getting better all the time. "Aren't people a lot better now than in the times of your parents and grandparents?" It was enough to make people drop their coffee.

We all expect progress to be cited as we move up from "lower life forms", but it is also promoted as an example of advances in theology. If the Devil ever takes a break, I haven't seen it.

So then, why was the law given? Abraham was justified long before the law was given, for he knew it was wrong to kill and steal, for examples. A nation arose that was so evil that they needed to be told so.

Steven's denounciation of Israel's evil practices, in Acts chapter seven, shows the condition of these people. It is as if the law turned to poison in their mouths, and the New Testament was given as the antidote.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Duel With Dualism

My sister was explaining to me about the need for balance in the moral world, how good must be equal to evil. This is a very common belief.

Black and white checkered floors, as in Masonic lodges, are emblematic of this ancient philosophy. Winston Churchill and other elite often retreated to a country building called Checkers, with the same pattern.

My wife and I went for a boat ride with a lady to a tiny island in Florida's St. John's river. As we sat on the beach she explained that she believed in dualism. The sand was nice and flat, and I could not resist drawing a simple diagram in it.

A Boy Scout rescues a little old lady by pulling her from the path of a speeding auto (+1 for a good deed). Somewhere, across town, a psychopath--the kind that used to be played by Richard Widmark--pushes another little old lady into traffic, and she is run over by a bus (-1 for an evil deed). This is perfect balance.

I completed my simple little arithmatic diagram. We add, +1 and -1 = 0. This is dualism in action.

Poor lady! She just wanted to take us for a little boat ride. But after she had lectured us on the art of proper breathing, she lit up a cigarette. So I knew she was in trouble.

Satan is often pictured as the equal, but opposite, of God. C.S Lewis rescued me from that idea. He said Satan (once called Lucifer), though he is smart and strong, is a created being who fell. God is the Eternal One, but Lucifer had a birthday.

We will leave little old ladies out of this now. In the future, the devil will be run over by an 18 wheeler. When this happens, all the negatives will be gone. There will be nothing that is not good.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Handling Thorns

But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered with the hand. Whoever touches thorns uses a tool of iron or the shaft of a spear; they are burned up where they lie.
2 Samuel 23:6-7, NIV

These verses are a prelude to the action of David's three mighty men. They are not a guide to gardening practices, but instructions concerning combat. You might say, "Don't go into battle unarmed. Do not use your bare hands when fighting evil men."

A pastor could make much of this idea. "Be armed with the Word of God when you fight Satan" might be one. And this would be a good sermon I am sure. But since everything in the Bible means something other than what it says (to many), and I feel the non-literalists have these kinds of interpretations pretty well covered, I will take a literal stand.

We live in an era when we kill innocent people all the time. Police do it, the military does it, and the alphabet agencies do it. At the same time, we are told that "Violence is not the answer." I see a whole lot of cognative dissonance goin' on! "We can use violence, but you cannot."

So how do we handle thorn people? Not with bare hands, but with implements of iron. Today we use steel.

Sunday, June 15, 2014


My high school English teacher challenged my class to think of any philosophy that had not been invented by the Ancient Greeks. Being the wise little guy I thought I was, I tried, but, of course, could not.

A favorite movie, "My Big Fat Greek Wedding", has the father claiming that he could trace any word back to its Greek origin. A young lady says "Kimono", and he even manages that one.

A foreign film, "Black Orpheus", which I dearly love, brings the Orphic Legend up to date in modern Rio.

It is indeed impossible to escape our culture's roots in ancient Greece. In many cases I have no desire to do so. But in the case of trying to apply these legends to the Bible, I object. Translators have done God's Word the injustice of trying to insert "hell" into the Bible and almost everyone has bought it. This is a "cultural debt" I do not wish to acknowledge.

Ironically, the nation that gave us these legends, has also given us a language of great precision in which to translate the Bible. When we wander (purposely in some cases) from our Greek texts, we can insert error.

Though the King James or Authorized version is my favorite Bible, it is not, as some call it, "the" Bible. I am certain that the Holy Spirit did not retire from inspiring translators in 1611. Modern translators and expositors are doing a wonderful thing in taking "hell" out of God's Word.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mr. Smarty Pants on Visions of the Afterlife

Dear Smarty Pants,
Since you do not believe in immortal souls or any intermediate state, how do you explain visions people have concerning the afterlife and their loved ones.

A. I don't even try. This is a very personal matter.

But since you mentioned visions, there may be an answer in Matthew 17:3-9. Moses and Elias are seen talking with Jesus, though both were dead. This was a vision of the coming kingdom, as Jesus explains in verse 9. Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.

This was not a vision of the present, but of the future. If God, in His mercy, can show us Moses and Elias, then He can show us our dead or heaven if He chooses. It is between Him and those having the visions.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Trapped in an Elevator

Ever watch disaster movies? I occasionally do, or used to. Many times the subject matter of the movie is the possible end of all life on earth. This is shown with amazing special effects. It could be the freezing of the planet, or its collision with a giant asteroid.

Just as we face the prospect of world wide disaster, the plot narrows, way down. The big picture is forgotten, now our attention is directed to the plight of one of the cast who is trapped in an elevator. Now we must be really worried. The world scene is on hold because of one person's situation.

I see a parallel with today's news. Our would-be owners and controllers try very hard to distract us from the really big issues, such as the radiation threat from Fukushima or Hanford. They would rather write of the circumstances surrounding one recently released soldier. However tragic his story, no one dare question the validity of the illegal war he had been engaged in.

Narrow it down to one man. Try to make us forget the threat of our dying culture and our fatally polluted environment. Perhaps a starlet's romantic affairs could be used to make us forget what is happening. Both soldier and starlet are in peril from these big things. Do they feel the danger? I know I do.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Last Words of David

The God of Israel spoke, the Rock of Israel said to me: 'When one rules over people in righteousness, when he rules in the fear of God, he is like the light of morning at sunrise on a cloudless morning, like the brightness after rain that brings grass from the earth.'
2 Samuel 23:3-4

David is rightly extolled as a man of many virtues and abilities. But it as a king that I want to speak of him now.

The Kingdom of David existed about 3,000 years ago. So far there is no record of its physical presence, just as there is no record of finding the carpenter's shop of Joseph, father of Jesus. or of the temple in Jerusalem. But the words of David still speak. Jesus spoke them on the cross.

How seldom we hear of the kingdom of David, except in the past tense. In some big denominations it is a forbidden subject.

The passage in 2 Samuel and surrounding texts show us the high water mark for a leader, one praised by the Holy Spirit. Sadly we are told of just the opposite kind of man:

But evil men are all to be cast aside like thorns, which are not gathered by the hand.
2 Samuel 23:6

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

A Little Parable

We could talk about the Biblical "watchman on the wall", but who worries about such things any more?

A person was walking through an area of homes when they saw a small fire start in one of them. There were alarm boxes in the area to alert the fire department. Yet they watched with horror as the fire quickly spread until the home was fully engulfed in flames.

Screams of the trapped inhabitants were heard, but it was too late now to save them. Eventually the fire department was called by neighbors. When they arrived, the home and its people were beyond hope.

Someone noticed a person standing near an alarm box. "Are you the one who notified the firemen?" they asked.

"No,", was the reply.

"How long have you been here?" was the next question.

"I've been here since the fire began."

"Did you warn the people in the house?"

"No, of course not!"

"Of course not? You let them all die?"

The conservative person said, "I didn't want to be called an 'alarmist' ."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Attack of the Loop Thinkers

I know three people who have been traumatized in their childhood years. One has gone on to become a super person, open to new ideas. But the others are prone to being caught in circular thinking. A word or association causes them to revert to a tragic theme again and again.

Someone I knew took a boat ride on Lake Erie. They were caught in a storm and tossed about. From then on any reference to the lake caused them to repeat the experience and relate it always in the same words.

In a humorous example, we have a classic act by Lou Costello or the Three Stooges, where just one word sets a person off into a rage. You may have seen it as "Niagara Falls" or "Pocomoco".

In real life my friends revert to about age nine, the time of their crises. Two of them live in a past tense whenever possible, and seek happiness there. Some glorious day, these memories will be gone forever. Until then God gives us the promise of heaven or a renewed world to think of.

I said "attack of the loop thinkers", but they are the ones who were attacked.

Monday, June 9, 2014

You Have Too Many Men

The Lord said to Gideon, "You have too many men. Judges 7:2

Twice God told Gideon to reduce the number of men in his forces. And this was before a great battle. Quality, not quantity, was what He wanted. Doing great things with small numbers gives the glory to God.

Many years ago I heard a sermon called "Christians Don't Count". At the time I was struck by the idea that numbers are so often mentioned in the Old Testament, and so seldom in the New. There is no comparable book there to "Numbers".

A few times in Acts of the Apostles, numbers are mentioned, but as early as the Gospels we hear of Jesus alone in the garden. It was mobs that mocked and killed Him. Nothing like a mega church existed . He had a band of twelve disciples and one of them betrayed Him. He spoke of His followers as a "little flock", and that, in a future tense.

Jack Hyles wrote a book on how to have a bus ministry. Numbers mean a lot in this age though. Ever known a person with a great number of friends, yet who did not have one close friend?

The "heroes of the faith", Hebrews chapter 11, are composed of individuals, though a great "crowd of witnesses". Such a comfort to be loved by God, who sees each sparrow fall.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Bride Cried

In the days of three channel black and white tv, I saw a play that I recall as I near the end of my life. "The Bride Cried" was about a young lady courted by two men who wanted to marry her. This was a common plot line. Which one shall she choose, the young but poor man or the older rich man?

Such a dilemma! But these guys were different. They were both young men with adequate means.

One was a romantic sailor, filled with the spirit of adventure. He described what he had seen on his travels--"Sunsets that looked like a can of gold had been poured on the sea!"

The other man was in the plumbing supply business, supposedly a very dull and unimaginative fellow. He was concerned over things like drip free faucets. When the lady told him of his rival, she said, "He taught me to look at the sparkle of a fresh sliced onion, how beautiful it is!" The supposedly prosaic plumbing man told her, "To me, life is the onion--making a home, eating together, just living and working." Needless to say he won her heart.

In my latter years I think of how I was going to live my life. Dreams I had that never worked out. The better me that I never became. In this world my time is about up. Strike the set, dreaming time is over. The fantastic hopes are gone. Ralph Edwards is about to say, "This was Your Life". Good bye golden sunsets at sea. Hope you enjoyed selling plumbing supplies. Oh, how I wish I had done better!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Eleazar Son of Dodai

but Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. . The Lord brought about a great victory that day.
2 Samuel 23:10, NIV

One of David's three mighty men. I am fascinated by the people whose names are recorded in scripture, their names and their deeds.

Many will shudder at the whole idea of one who killed--actually killed--people and are recorded with such honor in the Bible. This often has led to the belief that there is a God of the Old Testament, and another God of the New. They will even say, "My God is a God of love, not hatred and killing."

But who am I to say who their god is? People have all kinds of gods, based on their preferences. I will say this though, their personal god is not the God of the Bible, Old or New Testament.

William Blake expressed it so well in his poem about the lamb and the tiger. He understood the mystery of God's nature, that He was both a lamb and a tiger. This is beyond anyone's understanding, but it is true, nonetheless.

Let me ask you a question seldom asked: Who is the greatest killer in the Bible? Of course, it is God.

When people wonder at "a God" who would countenance killing, let them remember the Flood. Let them look ahead at the Lake of Fire. God is both Savior and Executioner.

When Jesus returns to Earth with His saints, He will not wear an unstained garment, but one colored red with blood. How wonderful not to be slain by Him, but saved by His blood.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Working for Salvation or Working for Reward?

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple , truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward. Matthew 10:42, NIV

My brother-in-law, speaking of my dead sister, said, "If anyone deserves to go to heaven, she does." He was paying tribute to her hard work and suffering." All very true, but when he said it, he had yet to learn of God's gift of salvation.

Were her work and suffering worth nothing, will God overlook them? Not at all. We are talking about two different blessings.

Sadly, almost two thousand years after the crucifixion of Jesus, many of His people live under the illusion that they must work to earn their salvation. Some of the arguments are, "If we are not saved by works, then why work at all?" Or "Since we cannot lose our salvation, why not enjoy sin?"

We live in a work dominated culture. We expect to be paid for our work. That may be fading now, but many apply these values to their religion. It used to be common for people to say that they had never gotten anything for free, that they had worked for everything they got. Any argument to the contrary was of no value to them.

This is a flaw of mine, but I find self-righteous people tedious and boring. I am attracted to broken people. I want to help them by telling them of the Good News of free salvation.

Then what of good works? Where do they come in? They are counted for reward in the life to come. There are many blessings to a believer in this world, but they all end at death. Eternal reward is what the Bible promises and what I hope for, starting with Eternal Life.

My personal concern is my mostly wasted life. Too late now, of course, now that my life is about over. But the forgiveness through faith in His sacrifice will be for all who who believe.

I heard a famous theologian--a strict Calvinist--say, as if to wake up his students, "Remember that salvation is through works--His works."

However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness. Romans 4:5, NIV

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Dropped Baton

Ever seen a relay race where the runners, who would have won, lost because they dropped the baton? Then there are the jazzed up pass receivers in football who turn and run before they have a grip on the ball.

How many times scripture is wrongly interpreted because someone has not taken the time to read the following passages. Seems like the "fast food" idea has often been applied to Bible interpretation.

I've told you about my un-favorite passage in this regard. It is John 18:36: Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world:" This fragment has been the basis for so many attempts to prove that his kingdom is "other worldly". Later, in the same verse, Jesus explains that it is not the time for his kingdom to be set up on earth. Jesus says, "but now is my kingdom not from hence".

I've heard pretend pious talk show hosts use it the wrong way, and in the church that I came from you would never get in trouble by using it this way. They hated for Jesus to be involved in an earthly kingdom. And this from people piling up money, property, stock, and honors. Just whose kingdom were they working for?

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The World or the Congregation?

He that is unjust, let him be unjust still: and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still: Rev. 22:11

You may rightly accuse me of misapplying the scripture above as to timing, but it does speak of who will do the cleaning up when the time comes. Clue: it won't be us.

I have spoken of a preacher who, though outwardly successful, quit his ministry to "fight pornography". He was so earnest a reformer that he deserted his first calling. But it is wise to remember that the great reformer, Martin Luther, did not reform the Roman church. He left it.

As many admonitions as there are to Christians to "shape up", they are all directed to us personally or to church congregations. Jesus condemned the Pharisees, not the Roman Empire. So what is our mandate? Is it to reform or inform?

I have had my hands full working on myself, with limited success. So where am I told to judge the world and to fight its sins and vices?

I think of my pornography-fighting ex-preacher. What if he were to have supper with those in his congregation, or meet with them in his office or home? I hear there are plenty of griefs, sorrows, and sins to minister to, to keep the pastor of even a very small congrgation occupied.

Will Jesus judge our works concerning the world, or rather our neglect or care of his own people?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Why is Virtue Considered Boring?

John McGee once preached and taught Bible at the Los Angeles Church of the Open Door. He planned a lecture series on the virtues of Jesus. He was told by an older man that if he lectured on the devil, he could fill the church.

One of the animators for Disney's "Snow White" confessed that he enjoyed portraying the Wicked Witch, but found the rescuing Prince as tedious and boring. There is something in our culture--in ourselves--that finds virtue boring. We make bird feeders of Saint Francis, or temporarily boost Mother Teresa, but the real "press grabbers" will be crooked politicians and mass murderers.

An exception is Princess Diana or "Lady Di". She visited a woman with a baby in a hospital and talked to her. Before she left she asked if the lady had any laundry she could do for her in the hospital laundry! I imagine a worker being asked by Lady Di if the dryer was free to dry some "nappies". This exception tells us a lot.

Don't portray our good people like Kipling's "Plaster saints". David murdered. Paul condoned the murder of a saint. Yet their virtues far outweigh their evil deeds.

Those of virtue are remembered for their touching and beautiful deeds of kindness. But why are they often pictured in such a boring way? Perhaps because these good people are pictured as martyred losers. And who wants to be a loser?

The devil does run the world. Maybe that is a clue to his popularity. Our Bible reveals the real winners though. They go to heaven. The losers have a "hot date" with the Lake of Fire.

Monday, June 2, 2014

From Bad Thinking to No Thinking at All

I submitted a book on Glen the Bible teacher to a used book store. When the clerk-owner saw "Bible teacher" on the cover, he gave me a look of anger and hostility. From a non believer I could understand this, but from a man who promoted church attendance it came as a surprise. I am no longer so naive. I donated the book to Goodwill.

Why the hostility? I had experienced a new trend in religion. Where people once debated and promoted doctrine, it is no longer acceptable to do so. Old cats like me have had to learn that there is another form of religion.

I call it Dionysian. When people of this cult were asked to describe its Mysteries, they replied that they could not. "You have to experience them." What is taking place today is not a new thing at all. It is the old ecstatic or "experience" religion returning.

When I derided modern "tambourine" religion to a hospital therapist, she exploded on me, "You better know who you are worshiping..." etc. She was a very cool, calm, person, almost icy, until I mentioned ecstatic religion.

My high school teacher told of going to a bank where a clerk that he knew was working. Usually a friendly, relaxed man, he was, on this day, tense and nervous. His problem? The bank examiner was there, and he was soon to be discovered as stealing from his bank.

I have a feeling that those whose religion is totally unscriptural, like praying to the Holy Spirit, fear an examination by the Bible. "I just want to have fun" people know they are outside the Bible. Some even have demonic forces within them. Darkness fears light, and so do those within it.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

The Grave of W. C. Fields

Apparently this old-time comedian once had a bad reception in Philadelphia. Somehow the idea arose that this slight was referred to on his headstone. What is more pathetic than a dull person trying to be clever?

Occasionally I have heard the remark that he had "Better here than in Philadelphia" placed on his grave marker. This is often repeated by those thinking they have some arcane knowledge, and often out of the blue. Of course this is a harmless urban legend. His marker merely states his name and years of his birth and death.

So why do I even mention this? Because it reveals a lamentable and often dangerous practice of repeating something we have heard or read, without having first hand knowledge of it.

I once said to my sister that Paul forbade women to teach or have authority over men. Her response was, "Well, we all know that Paul was a woman hater." How awful for her to say and think that.

First she assumed that the writings of Paul were based on his prejudices and were not inspired by the Holy Spirit. Further, she totally misjudged the character of this man. Paul taught, in Titus, that women should teach, but younger women. Who could be more suitable?

He lamented that he had no wife, though he had the right, and that Peter (the so called first pope) did. If one were to go through the letters of Paul they might be surprised at how many women he refers to with great honor.

Where did her statement come from? I never knew, but my sister suffered greatly towards the end of her life from a number of wrong ideas about the Bible, because of ideas that "we all knew".