The 'BARKING OWL' always has something to say, and like the feathered version, can be either WISE...............or ANNOYING!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

V is for that Vital Moment of My Testimony: Part Three

My testimony started here and here, and now continues.

In high school I was the guy who got along in every group.  Not very good in academics, I nonetheless hit it off with my smarter classmates.  Not a jock, but I gave it my all and won some respect in sports.  I could shoot a basketball fairly well just standing there, but never under pressure in a game!  I was the odd guy who excelled with the unicycle, but really enjoyed sharing it and teaching all who were willing to risk life and limb.  I was always a singer, though I neglected to become a musician    All things considered, I think my main  ability was in finding common ground with just about everybody in the school, and appreciating something about each one.  In fact, on of my proudest moments came when the Senior yearbook came out and I found that the editor had noted that my friends knew that I actually loved them.  Oh yeah; and there was some rumor that I had a sense of humor.  One of my nicknames was King DJ, which supposedly meant something like King of the Dumb Jokes.

College was different.  Like the high school jock whose standout skills seem to fade among the stars from schools all over, my new surroundings put me back into social beginner mode.  My roommate was semi-rowdy (I could always find my dorm room's window by the giant speakers placed therein and blaring Supertramp or Foreigner every afternoon) and was well established with like-minded friends on the floor, but I was bookish and shy while I found my bearings.  Once, and all of a sudden, there was a clamor down the hall and a bunch of guys were calling my name and tramping my way.  The annual campus wide trivia contest was on the radio and my roommate's team needed a quick answer to a Bible related question.  I had been seen at least dabbling in my Bible, so I was suddenly the go-to guy.

Later I moved to a single room on a different floor and started from scratch again.  Then came the knock on my door.  It was the staff guy from some group called Campus Crusade for Christ.  Never heard of it, but I was intrigued and thought maybe he had heard about my penchant for Bible trivia.  Not really, but my own pride was always eager to direct a conversation to something ego-centric.  When he opened our encounter by asking me if I knew much about the Bible I answered by saying "Well, I went to seminary for four years," and then stood waiting for him to ask me to take over his position or something.  The guy didn't go that far, but when he did react as I desired, by saying "Then I guess you really know your Bible!", I was deeply stung.

There was no biting sarcasm or challenge in his words or tone, and it wasn't Dave (I think his name was Dave) who seemed to slap me hard across the face in that moment.  I believe it was the Holy Spirit who struck me with a deep shameful sense of my sinful pride.  I was stricken, and ashamed.  I knew that my seminary years failed to give me any full sense of the Bible's main truths; that my academic response to God's word had been miserable (I mainly received C's and D's in Theology class each year), and that my own approach to the Bible was apathetic, careless and haphazard.  And yet I tried to put forth this picture of the mature and accomplished Bible scholar by acting out with such a brazen response.

That slap worked.  The Holy Spirit is a gentleman, never invading another's rightful territory, but only coming in freely where a door has been opened.  He knew that my heart's deep desire was to please God, even though my pride needed a violent prompt to admit it.

It wasn't long then, before I was immersed in every Bible study this campus ministry group offered, and eventually became a leader and teacher.  God can do anything.  And use anything, as He used those few lines of a conversation to reach into my heart and convict me of my sin.  I might have refused the poke; been hardened further instead, and inadvertently challenged Him to try harder to get my attention.  But when I think about it now, perhaps that "slap" was already an elevated attempt to prompt my repentance.  I might have enjoyed God's presence and love much sooner had I given my Mom, in particular, more credence when she was trying to get through to me.

My commitment thus far was largely only mental.  Important steps were yet to come.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

U Might Like To Read More of MY TESTIMONY: PART TWO

Continuing from yesterday's post.

And so I lived, thinking that my own natural status was the standard others should judge the truth by.
All on my own I decided that the Catholics were messed up, that my parents were overzealous and that I wasn't going to make some of the mistakes my brothers stumbled over either.

After four years of an all boy seminary boarding school, and I was finally exposed to GIRLS when I went to public college in Wisconsin, I began to discover how naive I was.  I invited one girl to my dorm room to "play cards" and when all we did was play cards (no quotation marks required) she tried dropping hints on my numb skull when I walked her home.  She told me she collected Playgirl magazines.  That was too much for me; and anyway, she was a Lutheran!

Most of my HS friends had followed our priestly examples and had learned to drink beer and mixed drinks.  I never could stand beer, though I learned to hold a full can long enough to blend in with the gang.  And I guess I could stand a screwdriver as long as it was mostly orange juice.  One time, our math teacher took a bunch of us (underage students) to the pizza place in town and I drank too much dark beer (which I could actually imbibe, probably because it was mostly sugar).  I remember getting out of his car and running across the front lawn of the school that night thinking; "So this is what drunk is!"  Even though I did fall down once (Egad!), I had to drum up the realization that I was drunk because it wasn't any more of a thrill than a good book, or a good grade on a math test might produce.  And that has been my only "drunk."  I have never experienced all the excitement of puking on a girlfriend or standing and peeing in my parent's bedroom garbage can.  I don't really get it when coworkers talk about such "exploits" or boast about their hangovers.  Woe is me!

But as a college freshman, when Wisconsin's drinking age was 18, I did fall for the marketing maneuvers of a certain company.  "Riunite on ice; that's nice!" they told me in their commercials, and I started buying and drinking wine all alone in my single room.  I felt no serious outside pressure from my friends to drink, nor any to abstain, from my parental home, though Mom and Dad never did know what I was doing in my isolated world.

Finally I found an alcoholic drink that I liked!  But as I was carefully experimenting with life choices, all on my own, it occurred to me that when I drank wine, I became different.  "Duh!  That's the idea right?"  Yes, but remember I was "born right the first time...blah blah blah" and I did not like my spirit being altered by other spirits, so to speak, and I quit drinking.

(Skipping ahead a bit: My first very serious girlfriend (and present first wife) told me about the trauma of her childhood alcoholic home.  I quickly resolved that, if we married, she would never have to fear a similar situation in her own new home with me.  Nor would she ever have the near temptation alcohol might provide if it came into our future family life.  "Thanks Riunite, for helping me settle the matter early!")

Then came the "knock on the door"!

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Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Some would claim that there is no better apologetic (a reason for believing) than a personal testimony.  I am not sure if that's the case or not, but an eyewitness account, given in terms common to all, and the testimony of a few generally reliable witnesses, can readily settle a matter in a court of law where the truth is honestly sought.  Here I offer my own personal story of how I came to believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh of a man, though He was "one with God," and of how that admission changed my life.

Born in 1958, I was raised on Chicago's south side as the sixth of eight Catholic children.  Our folks were strong Catholics in the sense that not only did they bring all of us to church (where we filled our own pew), but they brought church home to us.  We knelt and said the rosary every night after dinner (unless we were made to sit at the table even until our cold mashed potatoes were all gone), and every year the 2 or 3 foot statue of Mary was brought to our home for a week and the neighbors came there for some special prayerful function or other.

Four of the five boys at least made a stab at the seminary high school.  I put in four years at the boarding school seminary over in Michigan.  The real reason I was there (I can admit now) was because I felt a calling to the 600 acres of wooded sand dunes and 2 miles of Lake Michigan beachfront the school owned.  I had told my Mom when I was 12 that "I either want to be a priest, or a construction worker," but early on my innate romantic nature determined that I would end up married, and not celibate.

Through those four years with a live-in, day to day contact with a bunch of priests ( fallen people) and a preponderant repetition of daily morning prayers, mass, and evening prayers (man-made religion), I lost any deeper attraction to Catholicism that might have been engendered otherwise.  Yes, I was molested by a priest in one short-lived incident, and I know that other boys were more victimized.  At least the one priest that "checked me" for a hernia when I reported sick one day was later kicked out of the priesthood.

Before I ever left home to go to school, my folks were somehow exposed to an "evangelical" group of Catholic friends, and they were "born again"   (John 3:3)  At various times my Mom tried to pin me down to explain what that meant, but perhaps because I was the sixth child I was very independent minded.  It seems that I pretty much took care of myself.  Even "spiritually."  I remember saying, not to Mom, but at least to my own stupid and insolent soul that "I don't need to be born again;  I was born right the first time!"

And so I lived, thinking that my own natural status was the standard others should judge the truth by.

To be continued.......

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Monday, April 22, 2013

The Art of Science

Back on April 12th ("K" day) I wrote about the value of knowledge.  Whereas a Facebook friend had claimed that Christians are told that knowledge is evil, I believe I demonstrated that God's intention was to protect the first two people specifically from the knowledge of evil.  Knowledge is just one of the basic building blocks of a life well lived.  As atoms are to matter, knowledge is to science.

Science is nothing more than knowledge codified.  Science is the art of observing and verifying a set of facts, then working to discover their relationship in the real world.  A good theory is then formulated to try to make sense what is known.  Besides explaining how proven facts (only those which are testable and repeatable) relate to each other, such a working hypothesis should also make predictions.

Classically, scientific theories have been evaluated by the quality and essence of the predictions that might follow.  One good set of understood facts should forecast another.  If such predictions are rare or vague or proven incorrect, the original theory must be either modified or discarded.

Of what true value is a theory that relies on improvable assumptions, has untestable conclusions, and makes incorrect predictions?  Such a theory is only maintained and supported for other than scientific reasons.  I submit that the theory of evolution was envisioned and propagated mainly by those interested in finding any explanation for our origins, other than an "ex nihilo" creation by the God of the Bible.  True scientists, willing to follow a solid trail of certainty instead of an ever changing flow of assumptions, do not end with a theory that is really only a collection of beliefs; a religion, as it were.

So many of the world's most famous scientists, those who researched and studied and discovered marvelous and highly applicable truths, believed in God.  In fact, in many cases, these men and women started with the conviction that all was created by a God of design and order.  This premise meant that they might find and follow a rational train of thought either forwards or backwards to unveil new insights into either primary causes or potential effects.

From Copernicus to Newton to Einstein, the belief in a creator God helped, and did not hinder the exciting, careful and deliberate discovery of the deeper mysteries.     

In this proverb (25:2) God equates ancient kings to present day scientists.  Not in the sense that we should allow our scientists to be our lordly tyrants, but because unveiling God's deep mysteries is a majestic privilege.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter;
to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Restrainer

Maybe I should have used this word last year when my A to Z theme was "weird words from the Bible."  Did you even know this word has a Biblical application?  It does, and it relates to eschatology, or prophecies regarding the ever nearing "end times."

Perhaps you have heard of "the rapture."  According to many Bible scholars, the rapture is the next event we can expect in the chronology of God's end times agenda.  If you are not a Christian, if you have not yet freely admitted your need for a savior and called upon Jesus to apply His saving work to your need, then you may very well be a witness to the most dramatic world event to ever occur, since the resurrection!  I would rather you partake in the rapture, than be an outside witness, however; because what follows for those who remain on Earth is called The Tribulation.  A time of chaos and ruin when God's wrath, and Satan's unrestrained enmity, will be a torment to all.

Rapture means "caught up."  In one tiny moment every believer, first those who have died, and then those still alive will be resurrected or simply taken away from whatever they are doing at the time, and be brought to Jesus.  As "the Church" (the complete body of believers in Christ) is thus removed from the planet, so is the Holy Spirit's role as "the restrainer."  Through the past two thousand years His powerful supernatural presence indwelling each believer, has actually restrained Satan from his goal of establishing the Antichrist on Earth.  After the rapture the restrainer will no longer restrain and the tribulation period can begin.

For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way.  And then the lawless one will be revealed   2 Thessalonians 2:7,8a

We can observe that there is in fact a "power of lawlessness" oppressing the people of the Earth.  All kinds of evil runs rampant, and is ever more liberally tolerated.  But what we don't realize is how much this anti Christ attitude is tempered by the presence of the Holy Spirit at work through the Church today.  Those who miss the rapture-- who might even rejoice once it is figured out that only Christians have suddenly vanished from their posts--will soon discover first hand just what effect the "Restrainer" had over "the lawless one."

For more (and better) explanations of these topics and more, I recommend "The End Times in Chronological Order" by Ron Rhodes.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Question Everything! Even This?

A few years ago I was reading a magazine about creation science in the shipyard lunchroom.  Another carpenter friend came by and asked me "Are you open minded about that?"  I thought about it for a minute but finally said "no."

Now before you go off proclaiming how "closed minded" Christians are, etc., think about it for a minute.  We are told to "question everything," and rightly so, because that is how truth is found.  But do such teachers really  mean "everything"?  I don't think so.  Who do you know that is credited for questioning the theory of evolution, for example?  In this society, the good people are the ones who concede to what they are told, but only by the natural culture at large:  man made global warming is a fact; gay marriage is only fair; illegal border crossers are now "undocumented immigrants."; those opposed to our left-of-center President's policies are racists; etc.  The mantra to "question everything" is expected to be applied only to those issues which the politically correct have asserted to be politically incorrect.

This imposed imbalance is the problem.  A growing human must question all things fairly and judiciously.  It is the mark of impending adulthood when teenagers, who for so many years simply believed everything their parents said, instead begin to "question everything" that ever passed their parent's lips.  But maturity is finally  manifest in these young lives when they begin to draw solid conclusions on a host of major issues.  The questioning must come, but it must also end.  A person who uses their open mind to gather good facts and consider a range of intelligent opinions should eventually be satisfied with a quality answer, and then close his mind and move on.  It sounds terrible (politically incorrect?), I know, but here is the Biblical proverb related to this idea:  A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.  James 1:8

After earning my BS in geology (while regularly finding the weaknesses in the "evidence" for natural spontaneous origins which my professors offered in the classroom), continuing to read and study and listen to hundreds of straight assertions regarding evolution, and looking deeply into the arguments made by creation-concluding scientists, I found that I had made up my mind on the subject.  My mind was as closed (established) as my friend's was.  I was certainly open to discussions on the subject because each of us loves to rescue others from their false ideas and win over converts to our much better side, right?

There are two points to be made here, regarding apologetics, the theme of this month's A to Z postings:

First, let's not deprecate those who have their minds made up as if they have supposedly failed to "question everything."  Before you conclude that the reason they believe in "such foolishness" must be because they have just accepted some teaching without thinking, or simply because their parents had similar views, offer to compare ideas and discuss the merits of your differing beliefs.

Secondly, we must take responsibility for ourselves to make sure we do "question" enough.  Perhaps a hundred years ago, the cultural pressure to "be christian" in this country created a lot of unthinking religious people.  The tables have turned now, and the pressure to be secular and humanist may cause many to bypass the riches of Christian discipleship without ever realizing, or questioning, the loss

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Thursday, April 18, 2013


A few things about Bible prophecy.

A prophet is not necessarily a "future predictor."  Not a fortune teller, but in the Biblical record a prophet of God was simply one who spoke for God.  He said whatever God wanted him to say.  Sometimes it had to do with future events, but not always.

Once in a while someone came along who wanted to be God's prophet but was not called by God to be so. If he ever stood up and said "Thus saith the Lord," he was subject to the strictest standard in the community: if he claimed that God did make a prediction, but it proved false, the "false prophet" would be stoned to death.  His extreme presumption was punishable by death.  God is serious.

And yet dozens of men and women stood up as prophets.  Hundreds of prophecies were made "in the name of the Lord" and all were either fulfilled in their particulars or...will yet be.  Many prophecies are related to future, end time, events.

With God, of course, every bit of it is concerned with the Good News!  Yes, His wrath will (soon) pour out on the ungodly; those who are absolutely resolved to resist Him and His love.  But by His grace, He offers hope and peace and joy and forgiveness of sin etc. etc. to every one who simply repents and turns to Him through Jesus Christ!

Come back to God.  Be reconciled to God by believing in, and receiving Jesus as your Savior.  
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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Is God Oversensitive?

Specifically, is the third commandment a sign that God should not be loved?  In one of my classic Facebook encounters, somebody asked (rhetorically) why he should love a god who gets so ticked off just because someone uses his name badly; or something to that effect.

Here is the commandment from Exodus 20, verse 7:

"You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name."

The interested party then went on to abuse God's name as if it meant nothing to him.  And the reason he did so was obvious: God's name meant nothing to him.  I think the use of His name, and the actual attitude about God, go hand in hand.  Perhaps this commandment was actually a cheat for us to use.  We can measure, or discover where we stand with God by tracking the way we speak of Him.  God knows our hearts, so He doesn't need the clues indicated by our speech patterns.  The guilt of our blasphemy is clear if we listen to ourselves.

No, God is not hyper-sensitive about His name.  Your spouse has the same standard God has.  She knows what you really think of her by overhearing how you speak of her when her back is turned.  You can tell what your boss has in mind for your future employment by listening to the inflection in his voice when he says "Dar-ren did that report."  And you certainly know how your kids truly feel about you by the way they say "Daaaad", or "Moooom."  We either use or misuse, showing either respect or contempt, in regards to every name we ever speak.

To misuse God's name is to expose your heart's idea.  It reveals that if, unimaginably, you could get God in a small box, just how you would misuse Him.

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Neonatal Nincompoops

Being forced to use "N" words for this A to Z blog challenge today makes for an interesting title.  This one tries to represent original sin again, but in the lightest, low fat, low calorie sense.  I would rather be called a "nincompoop" than a reprobate anytime!  And I would rather wait until I was at least a teenager before my rebellion was called out, but it starts much earlier than in those honest years.  I know some people have recognized the sinful base of even their Grandchildren, and while I have not (my four are so very special!), the Christian's doctrine informs us that the wee ones are indeed just as prone to sinning as they are prone to being cute and adorable (though mine especially, lean toward the C and A part!).

But putting all my truth-denying humor aside, and even if we just laugh at their tiny displays of pride and self-centeredness, it must be admitted that we never do have to teach our kids how to lie or cheat or take things that don't belong to them.  Nor do we instruct them in feeling guilty and ashamed when they sin.  Their very young and God-given consciences provide that essential service for them naturally.  Yes, poor parenting might instill a form of destructive scruples in a child, where they learn to feel guilty for all kinds of good and normal behaviors, but that is just the sin of the mother or father bearing its sad fruit down the line.

I tried to minimize the impact of calling even my own (or, my wife's) Grandchildren sinful little wretches, by using the very euphemistic "nincompoop" instead.  But alas, the truth is that each of these little darlings will soon show that they need a savior as much as anyone else.  Just as we inherited some form of our first parent's death-doomed bodies, and live with them these many weakened generations down the line, we also take our part of the iniquities (the wayward bent) they made us heirs to, and the suffering creation that they have wrought.

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Murder and Mayhem

Murder and mayhem are part of this life.  Today's news from Boston says that much.  No matter who set the bombs out, and whatever the reason.  Whether it was a so-called rational terrorist, or a crazed lunatic, this was the work of fallen man.  There is no room to disparage the world's populations of beasts by calling today's criminal an "animal."  Animals don't do such things; only people do.

Since the fall of man, when disobedience first occurred and the knowledge of evil came into being, this race has been hell bent.  Adam and Eve felt the sting of the decision they made for us all, not only in the curses they earned, but most potently when their firstborn son plotted, and then killed, his brother.  You can read about it here, if you like.

Isn't the first thing detectives look for when investigating a murder, the motive?  But Cain had no insurance settlement to gain.  There was no woman they were fighting over.  Just like you and me, he only needed a corrupted heart to spawn this original homicide.  If anything, we might point to a mere "sibling rivalry" to explain Cain's evil deed.  In conversation with Cain, before the first murder, God warned Cain about the beast of Sin that was "crouching" at his door.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”  From Genesis 4, linked above.

Murder and mayhem are all too familiar to us simply because it doesn't take much to lead us astray.  But we have a way out!  God's warning to Cain also showed the way.  Cain knew God directly, and talked with Him.  Through this relationship, Cain should have been able to "rule" his temptations. Because of the grace and mercy of God, established and offered the very same day Sin showed its ugly face in the family picture of man, Cain could have done better.  We, through a relationship with God established in Christ, are also enabled to overcome the tyranny of Sin!

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?  
Romans 6:16

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Lord of All?

"Nope.  He is not MY Lord!" some will say.  At least for now.

Let's define the term.  I like for this kind of thing.  For each of the many definitions a word typically has, this site offers a list of synonyms.  We will look at some of the common uses of the word "lord", compare their meanings, and then see how they might apply to Jesus Christ.

1)  "Right away my Lord," said the Queen, when her husband beckoned.  The lord is the master.

By her own volition, the long ago Princess vowed to honor the King with her loyal submission, when she married him.  She knew what the rules were and how things might play out for her future, and she took the leap.  Perhaps when they are alone, her wisdom and prudence guides his decision making, but at least in the courts, she surrenders her own will for the sake of the kingdom.

2)  Sir Henry inherited the Baskerville estate and intended his time as Lord of the manor to be good for all the people on the desolate moor.  The lord is a person in charge.

My research (having recently read The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle) taught me that the head of a large family estate in the old English countryside may have held considerable sway over the community.  Not so much because of any official governmental authority, but by the decisions he made with his money.  He would either spend his funds hiring many local people in keeping and improving his house and lands, or he would abandon all responsibility and squander his wealth selfishly.

3)  "At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do."  The lord is a supernatural being worshiped by people.

As the one and only, ultimate, "supernatural being" (notice that the best way we can describe God is by saying he is a "super" one of us?), God should be recognized as Lord, in at least as much as He is both a master, and a person in charge.  But being the one who even created all things "natural" (both the visible and invisible, the Bible tells us) He is way more "lordy" than any simple template of a lord we have ever known.  Yet in Isaiah 29:16 we see reference to how we made-of-clay people rebel against this Lord.

You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?

4) The most personal, and the most important decision you or I will ever make relates to lordship.  Some one or some thing will have and keep your attention all of your life.  It might be a spouse or a lover, or some political or sports hero.  It may be a hobby or important task that holds your devotion.  Most likely, the object of your undying support  Only one person ever born was not absolutely self centered, and it wasn't me or you.  While Jesus even gave up His throne in heaven to be born as a human baby, only to lay down his life for us, we resist, and refuse to give up our petty dreams and even acknowledge that He is both Lord and God.  This Lord is the master, in charge, and the supernatural being worthy of our worship.

 Then he (Jesus) said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

John 20:27,28

PS  At the top of this post I noted that "at least for now" some will deny the Lordship of Christ.  But Romans 14:11 reveals in the New Testament, quoting the Old, that

It is written:
“‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord,
‘every knee will bow before me;
every tongue will acknowledge God.’”

Far better to make the free choice now, than to wait and make the grudging (and vain) admission later.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

What Do You Know About Knowledge?

As I am wont to do (I am especially wont to use the word wont a lot!), I referred to a Bible verse when making a Facebook comment a few weeks ago.  Apparently, that is about the only unacceptable thing left to do.  My "friend" was upset that I "went there."  Another commentator thought my verse deserved another, so he offered what is probably his standard "in your face" Bible verse to make the point that he is more ignorant and rude even than I was purported to be.  I tried to query about the proper use of comments among friends, to discover whether a Facebook friend is only allowed to say what the other person thinks, or if friends might be expected to represent themselves.  I got my answer, so now I don't even bother reading my friend's many posts because I know now that whatever my reactions might be, they don't matter.

Enough venting already?  This all is mentioned because as part of the dialogue described above, one person who went and read the verses from Genesis that I had referenced made the outrageous claim that the story of the fall of man teaches us that God does not want us to have KNOWLEDGE!

From Genesis 2
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

It is this kind of ridiculously sloppy interpretation that bothers me.  If I said to the man: "Please do not drive the car of death and destruction to the store," would he be likely to claim that I told him "do not drive any car"?  I hope not.  If he is living his life without considering the impact of any adjectives, adverbs, modifiers, qualifiers, nor even the relevance of the nearest prepositional phrase , I imagine that he gets a lot of funny looks from people.  But no.  Regular communicative people who get along with language and logic and normal rational processes, sometimes seem to turn these off when the Bible is the subject.  

This is so sad because, when considered carefully (or with at least normal language skills) the Bible makes perfect sense.  A little deeper look into the verse above for example, tells a lot.

When I was much much younger, and first heard from Genesis 4:4 that "Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain," this King James understanding of the word "know" became a silly game with me and my friends.  We could actually talk about "sex" in public without anybody (under the age of 1 1/2) knowing (ooops! I just said sex again!) what we were giggling about.

But the understanding is important.  Adam KNEW his wife.  It means that the two of them had become intimate partners.  There was actually a permanent bonding of their spirits that could never be undone.  And this is the relationship with evil that God was hoping the first two people would never...know.  

Since God had declared His creative work to be "good," a couple of times during the creation week (until Eve had been fashioned; then God said His work was "very good"!), the nature of "good"  was already well known to Adam and Eve.  But evil is only the absence of good.  When good is covered, or ignored, or dismissed, evil appears.  It is this complete awareness of evil's corrupting influence that came to Adam and Eve when they decided to disobey God.

The Bible does not teach that "knowledge is bad."  To the contrary, many verses encourage the gathering of knowledge.  Check out a few of these encouraging words about knowledge, if you like.  But here in 2 Peter chapter one we see knowledge in its proper place as a tool, or stepping stone to something even better:

5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love.8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

The next time you hear or read some simplistic statement that would belittle the Bible, I hope you will pause long enough to consider the intrinsic value of any such claim.

PS  For more about the value and import of KNOWLEDGE, come back on April 22nd when S is for Science!


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Thursday, April 11, 2013

Who is Jesus?

"A good man." is not an acceptable answer.  Jesus Christ claimed to be God.  A "good man" (who is NOT God), would not do that.

A gentle shepherd?  Nope, he was quite tough.  And did not pull any punches.

Was Jesus a liar? Who will go to a tortuous death to defend a lie?

Was He a lunatic?  For a regular man to claim he was God, he must be insane.  But no.  Jesus is world renowned for His wisdom, his eloquence, and His ability to relate well to people of every state.  He met with religious, political and military leaders, and also ministered to tax collectors and prostitutes.

Let the Apostle John tell us who Jesus is:

John chapter one:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

He refers to "the Word" as being "in the beginning" and having made all things.  Then in verse 14, below, John makes it clear who "The Word" is:

14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus Christ was God Himself.  He came to Earth, to suffer death, to die for our sins, and to rise to give us eternal life.

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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Imagine What Is Real

Imagine by John Lennon

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today... 

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace... 

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one 

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world... 

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

I appreciate the heartfelt cry for world peace, and the intense yearning for a human condition that is abounding in love, and sharing, and brotherhood, which John Lennon expressed in his most famous song.  A little analysis, however, kind of ruins it for me.  

John starts out by refuting the doctrine of heaven, but then leads straight into a beautiful description thereof.    In the real heaven, wide open to all who believe that God has a home and that He has sent His son to make a way for their welcome(For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16), there will indeed be a people "living for today", "living life in peace", and "sharing all the world".

There will "be no countries" but there will be saved people there from every country.
Nothing "to kill or die for" because that will have already been done by the suffering Savior who died "once for all".
There will be no religion in heaven.  No man made efforts to reach God.  God will have accomplished His reach into this world and retrieved all those willing.  
There will be "no possessions".  John was right to wonder if we can even imagine that, but with all of our needs being met by God directly and completely; without living in a fallen and cursed world, there will be no competition for, or striving after what is necessary. 
There will be a "brotherhood of man", for all in heaven, having received Jesus Christ, will be "children of God".

I hope this description, Biblically based, will be received in the same spirit as John Lennon's song was received and loved. I hope you "will join US" in the true heaven when you die, rather than living here with only the vain hope that some imagined utopia will supernaturally appear in this real world so full of striving and fighting and greed; and then dying to discover that the heaven and hell found so easy to "imagine" away are real, and present.

John 1:12,13
Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Meet Me in Heaven!

Everyone wants to "go to heaven".  If heaven means experiencing even 10% of all we can ever dream of, then why not?  If your favorite long lost pets will all be there, and every beloved Grandmother and Grandfather is waiting to greet you; and if all there is fair and benevolent, and if each of the religions of the world represent just one more way to get there, and if everybody you know or ever heard of will be let in just because God MUST be so nice..... then forget about it!  That sounds too much like the here and now for me!

Ever since sin was introduced into the human drama, we have all gone astray.  Forsaking the only prohibition God gave us, at first, we now ignore everything He says.  But one by one,  the Holy Spirit works to reach each human spirit. God has tried to draw us back to His side; back to the place where each individual might walk with Him in good fellowship.  He made this possible through the redeeming work of Christ, but it is up to each individual--to you--to accept His one condition (repentance) before a future eternity of friendship with God, in heaven, is possible.

Members of all religions, or of no religion, are invited and welcome to come.  Christians are not those who were born to "christian" parents, as if it were something to be inherited or rubbed off, but Christians are only those who have indeed come out so far.

God is all about change.  Since we are sinners, we need to change, but since we are sinners, we can NOT change.  Only with God's help can we even recognize the need to change, and then with His help again, can we surrender and let Him do the necessary work.  He will make us fit for life in heaven so that we don't show up there (as if any one could  barge into God's home!) as we are, and ruin the place!

If you do not accept God as your Creator, nor believe or even like all that He has revealed about Himself to you; and if you can not accept the most precious gift He has to offer, which is an invite to His home, then please stop talking as if you want to go there.  Frankly declare that you would rather not abide by His company, and that you will just stay outside of heaven (a place called Hell).

On the other hand, you might simply admit that you do need a savior, be saved, spend the rest of your life as His disciple, and then someday go and live with God in heaven,  Of course, you might have to get used to His particularly rigorous attentions:

He will wash you perfectly clean,
He will dress you perfectly well,
He will carry you there in His everlasting arms,
He will wipe every tear from your eyes, and
He will do so much more than you can ask or imagine!

We will probably never meet, in this life.  But I have accepted God's invitation to join Him in heaven, by receiving His simple conditions, and I hope you do the same so that we can meet there!

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Monday, April 8, 2013

Good God

Somebody said recently that "being good is all that matters".  As a Christian believer I had to say "I don't think so".  But actually, it is true.

God does call us to be good.  In fact, the very word good is so closely related to our name for Him (God) that we might say we are called to be good like (Godlike?) Him.  And we are.  In Mathew 5:48 we see that Jesus said "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The bad news is that we simply can not do it.  We can never be good like God (perfect) because we have already blown it.  Our first parents messed up good, and we are their children; fully inheriting every flaw.  Only in receiving Christ's full substitutionary blessing, even His perfecting work (not yet completed in this present life) can we hope to be good.  

We try to be good to please God, perhaps, and even earn a shot at salvation.  But we fail.  Once He MAKES us "good, as in covered in the righteousness of Jesus through the free gift of his grace, we try even harder, but only to show our appreciation.

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

What is Faith?

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.  Hebrews 11:1

There is the answer.  This somewhat poetic description of faith is found at the beginning of what is called the "Hall of faith".  Hebrews 11 goes on to list many heroes of the old and new testaments; men and women who somehow exemplified what it means to live, at least the main thrust of their lives if not every bit of it, by faith.

Before we look closer at the "definition" given in verse one, let me share this real life descriptor that I heard recently.  The guy was saying that because of his good marriage, he can be at work through the day and have "faith" that his wife is at home taking care of the children.  He knows his wife so well, and knows of her love for him so completely, that even without calling and checking every hour, he can "know" that she is there and doing what she regularly does.

How does this relate to verse one?  Of course the man hopes that his dear wife will do as she has committed to do for him and for their children.  But it is his faith that gives him confidence in that hope.  And it is his faith that assures him, even though he does not call or watch some security monitor, that all is well at home.

This analogy between a man's faith in his wife and a Christian's faith in God breaks down of course, because things might happen to a man or woman that interfere with the hope we have in each other.  Things that can never counteract the God of the universe, nor His ultimate good will.

When we hear glib cliches like "keep the faith" thrown about in the culture, we must ask; Faith in what?  Or in whom?  The value of faith is in the object of the faith, not in faith itself.  There really is no one and nothing on earth we can rely on perfectly.  We have words like heartbreak and tragedy and shock and even dismay, always ready for the occasions when either somebody we loved or trusted, or when the weather or planet itself, has let us down.  Only faith in God our creator truly suffices.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Evil Enemies Established!

My title today seems like a horrific headline torn from the front page of the newspaper.  Is it about Al Quaeda building up a firm base in Kansas?  Iran's success in putting together their first atomic bomb?  Mexican cartels taking over illicit drug business across America?  Well, yeah, it might be any one of these, but I found these three "E" words in the first chapter of Paul's letter to the Church in Colossi, and the good news is that it is not the evil that is being established.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation— if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.
Colossians 1:21-23

Some people have the idea that Christians have gotten together and formed some kind of exclusive club.  That we go to church and celebrate the fact that we are not like the "real sinners" out there.  Perhaps they think we sit and dream of heaven being reserved only for we "good" folk and can't wait to look down from the balcony up there and watch those oh-so-evil reprobates suffering in hell.

Is this anything like the idea you might have of Christians?  It breaks my heart to think so, because a Christian in fact, is simply another one of the "real sinners" that populate this planet.  The only difference, which is both a slight variance and a huge distinction, is that a new Christian is simply a sinner confessed.  As the verse above (which was written to believers) says, our sin did once separate us from God, but here and now, having accepted Christ's physical death as if it were the death we deserved, we live "free from accusation".  We are now "established" in hope!

Of course we gather and rejoice in this very good news, and we worship Him who has given us so much hope, but we strive to share our joys with whomever we can; with those still entertaining "evil behavior", who might feel as we felt before--that we were God's "enemies".

Read the Bible carefully and you will find so many deliberate distinctions like the one here in the middle of the first sentence.  Yes we are all alienated from God (because of our choices).  That is given as a fact, and that's why we call this idea part of the Christian doctrine.  But the rest of the verse is very telling.  It suggests that if we are "enemies" of God it is only a one-sided war.  Paul tells the Colossian believers that you "were enemies in your minds"!

Honesty requires us to admit that our behaviors are generally evil.  Not that we go around torturing cats or stealing the life savings of the elderly, but that we all exercise an independent I-don't-need-God-because-I-am-my-own-god kind of pride, and we decide for ourselves what is good and bad.  But this evil nature we bear has not made us enemies IN GOD'S MIND!  He longs for each of us to simply repent and come back to Him.  When Christ told His followers to "love your enemies", He was telling us to be like God, for He is ready, willing and (because of Christ) able, to forgive us and see us established again in His corner!

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Thursday, April 4, 2013

Disciples Made Here Every Day

If that sign could be hung over my door, my life would be complete, and all goals satisfied.  After all, what was the last commandment Jesus gave to the disciples He had made?

Interestingly, He did not say to go and get people to say the sinner's prayer.  Nor to walk down an aisle.  Jesus did not even say to go and get people saved.  Of course, being saved  is vitally important simply because the opposite, by definition, is so dreadful.  Consider any of the disasters that often do befall mankind and see that the first response of good people everywhere is to jump in and SAVE those in need.  Jesus did very clearly say that without help we are all lost.  It was Jesus who "jumped in" to save us, and He who came up with the catchy imagery we still use today:  He said that a person "must be born again".

But I have a little twist on the general mandate understood by most Christians, regarding evangelism.  In my view, each person's final destiny is already determined.  No, not by a capricious God who selects certain people by some weird favor and rejects others because of some invisible wart.  But by the person!  If all else were equal, and every quivelling argument were settled; if every bit of spiritual ignorance was eliminated; if each personal psychological hang up was mollified; I would then ask each man and woman: Under these undefiled circumstances, what WOULD you do with Jesus?  It is the spirit inside that either WOULD accept the loving acts of Christ, or else reject the amazing gift of Christ's love and grace.  Each pure spirit makes its own decision clear to God in many innumerable ways.  There are no unknowns in His mind, and He has not left the eternal fate of any soul in the hands of one as shabby as me.

But what I can do, and what Jesus commanded even me to do, is to "go and make disciples of all nations"!  I do not know which people will or will not repent, so I must try to share the Good News (The Gospel) with anyone I meet in order to encourage them to make their decision for Christ as soon as possible and become His disciple.  God would rather that His children repent early and begin to serve and enjoy living an abundant life, rather than wasting years in ruin and wreaking havoc, before finally following.  Once a person willingly becomes a disciple (a student, or follower) His growth and walk with God are his own responsibility and continually depend on day to day choices.

If you do not/can not/ will not listen and learn of the one path God has laid out for your eternal hope (and don't tell me that you would have refused the one shaft drilled down to the forsaken Chilean miners because there was only ONE shaft offered?), then my heart breaks for you, even as it leads me to somebody else who might still discover the joy I have found in the resurrected Christ living in me.  Others will admit their sin, repent of its entrapment, receive forgiveness, and become one of His glad, ever-learning disciples.

Follow Him today.  Do become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

(Verse quoted in red is from Mathew 28:19)

If not today, what might be the arguments, points of ignorance or hang-ups that hold you back?

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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Fifth Conviction

Everyone seems to talk about convictions.

The DA is always looking for more convictions (prosecutorial success).

The drill sergeant is looking for men to promote who will live up to their convictions (bravery).

The pastor wants the Church's members to live according to their convictions (beliefs).

The best politicians are those involved simply because of their convictions (ideals).

But only the Holy Spirit can bring CONVICTION!  His is an all convincing forcefulness.  His facts are undeniable; His approach is potent; and his message is always relevant and valid.  There is no room for discussion or debate with the conviction of God.  Without submission and acceptance, there is only shirking and shunning.  Only dodging and disputing as a child might who has no more hope of outwitting his parents:  "Oh YEAH?" we say, but that's all we have.

Jesus said, in Mathew 12:31

And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.

My understanding here is that blasphemy against the Spirit means denying His work.  The work of the Holy Spirit is to bring the comfort of conviction (as it does it's good work of promoting repentance and thus salvation) to the sinner's heart.  The only sin that can not be forgiven then, is the sin of refusing to ask to be forgiven.

Perhaps as an unbeliever you face your Christian contacts with all the punch and certitude in the world.  Utterly persuaded in your own convictions, you laugh and stomp on the stage of attack.  But as you lie in bed, or walk alone in the dark and quiet, that still small voice of God's conviction is winning the argument.  He wants you.  He is calling you.  He is right, and in His rightness He is calling you to come and be loved.  Allow the conviction to breach your resistance, and be forgiven.

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Believe What You Will

"Believe what you will"?

I seem to remember saying this line years ago to somebody who was simply insisting that I was lying.  After giving up on the effort to convince a determined skeptic, you also might walk away saying, "Believe what you will."

Perhaps after God has revealed so much to mankind, through His Word, through nature's obvious declarations about Him, and most importantly, through our own struggling-to-breath consciences, and we still so often "call him a liar"; perhaps God will ultimately give up, saying "Believe what you will."

We can not believe whatever we want to believe.  Remember the song "I believe I can fly"?  Though well sung and powerful, R Kelly could not.  Of course he was speaking figuratively, but what about these lines from the same song?

If I can see it, then I can do it

If I just believe it, there's nothing to it

There are miracles in life I must achieve

But first I know it starts inside of me.

Maybe the truth does not make for good popular lyric, but like spinach, it's better for us than cotton candy.  The value of BELIEF comes from the correct application.  I might choose to believe that all dogs go to heaven, but is it true?  (Not going there, sorry)  I might like the idea that there is nothing after death, or that I will come back again as a great chess master, but an idea's comfort level is no match for its truth test.

Zig Ziglar said that "we believe what we tell ourselves".  Fair enough.  But do not take this to mean that whatever we tell ourselves is true!  This proverb is double edged and should give us motivation to be sure that, rather than tell ourselves mythical delights we face up and tell ourselves, and thus believe, the TRUTH.

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Monday, April 1, 2013


a·pol·o·get·ics [uh-pol-uh-jet-iks]
noun ( used with a singular verb )
the branch of theology concerned with the defense or proof of Christianity.

Being so often tempted to stick my Christian nose in where it may not belong, I have discovered that there are many good folks living their good lives under bad impressions of the Christian faith (perhaps my errant nose has something to do with this sad state).  Nobody should believe something that makes no sense to them, obviously; but then again, we must each be careful that our sense-checker is working properly and is fueled only by pure clean facts.

There is not room here for the longer arguments that can be made to "prove" the Christian view on major doctrines.  My approach will be to offer short descriptions of my (hopefully orthodox) view on various basic topics related to the Christian faith, in order to dispel some little fog.

This month I hope to clear up a few of the awkward ideas that I have been surprised and dismayed to find.
Please accept my humble apologies if, in my zeal, I have ever stepped on your toes, and consider dropping by to review my "apologetics" from A to Z.

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