Is Sincerity Enough?

“I don’t believe I have to become a Christian in order to be good. Won’t God accept me as long as I am sincere about my beliefs?”

That question from one of our readers has been asked for centuries. My question for him was: “Are you inferring that ‘sincerity’ on whatever topic is equal to truth?” He couldn’t answer that.

Sincerity is an admirable character trait. It derives from sin-ceré, which literally means “without wax.” The second-rate potters in ancient times often filled the cracks in their pottery with wax, then painted over the dried wax to make the item look like a first-class vessel. But when the pot was heated the wax melted and the liquid leaked out. Therefore, the respectable potters began writing on the bottom of their pots sin-ceré. The buyer knew she could trust this merchant and his merchandise.

Sincere is used today as: not feigned: true; presenting no false appearance. However, you probably understand that this word is often used insincerely — that is, as a smoke screen. Many times, when someone asks a question like the one above, rather than seeking truth they’re actually attempting to justify their questionable lifestyle. That is not being sincere.

Some people think they are living a good life, but Proverbs 16:25 says: “Some people think they are doing right, but in the end it leads to death.” I read of a professional basketball player who playfully pointed his gun at a friend. Sincerely believing the gun was not loaded, he pulled the trigger. When the resounding explosion subsided and the smoke cleared, his friend was dead.

Sincerity does not make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance.

No one can make a rotting apple fit for human consumption. Likewise, Christianity was not instituted as a program to make people good. Matthew 19:16-17 says: “Someone came and asked Jesus, ‘Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’ Jesus responded, ‘Why do you call me good? There is only one good person; that is God: but if you desire eternal life, keep the commandments.’” (Read the rest of Matthew 19 for the remainder of Jesus’ message.)

Attempting to become good, or turning over a new leaf doesn’t change us. Rather we need to recognize that human beings are basically self-centered, hedonistic, self-gratifying. Our apple is rotting, and we need to replace it. Then we need a brand-new start, and that new start comes with accepting Jesus Christ into our life. (Acts 4:12, John 3:16)

The ancient Canaanites (among other ethnic groups) sincerely believed in gruesomely killing their children as an offering to appease their gods. Some tribes in South America and Africa sincerely believed that if they captured, killed, and ate other people, they would receive their (the dead person’s) wisdom, knowledge, bravery, strength, etc. Other groups have done even more horrid and gruesome acts to appease their gods. Some groups have taken wood, stone, and/or metal, shaped them into images, assigned personality to the images, and called them gods. Yet other people say, “There is no God!”

Does sincerity of any of those beliefs validate them? You realize, of course, the answer is “No.”

Jehovah, God, is the God of Truth. Jesus said in John 14:6, “…I am the way, the truth and the life: no one comes to the Father except through me.” And in John 18:37b, Jesus said, “…all who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.” And He cannot place equal value on our lies or misconceptions as He does on Truth.

If two people are talking with you, and one is known for his knowledge while the other is known for his ignorance, you also will place greater trust in the knowledgeable person — and rightly so. If you don’t, then your integrity is in question.

The Biblical concept of sincere is: without blemish, perfect, upright, complete, pure, honest. So I repeat: Sincerity of our beliefs does not make something true; rather, truth substantiates faith, or exposes ignorance.

Therefore, sincerity is not the issue. Truth is the issue. So, will God accept you? Yes, but not on your terms. Don’t attempt to decide for yourself what truth is. Rather, accept the “tried-and-true” gospel — the Good News — found in the Bible.

We must come to God on His terms. What are they? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting Life” (John 3:16).

Base your sincerity on what the Bible says.

Problems Continue to Infect Us

What I will say today might be equally true for other nations, because many nations have turned away from the ideals of their founding fathers.

America’s convoluted concepts of preferential freedom of speech, inequitable freedom of religion, promotion of inverse morality, approval of re-written history, and the love affair of corrupted, degrading, murderous, and perverted entertainment are accomplishing within the United States of America what the Nazis, Communists, drug-lords, crime mafia, Taliban, Al Qaeda, et al, could not do. That is: degrade, demoralize, and desecrate our nation. Interestingly, our esteemed presidents and the US Congress – both parties – have been helping this to happen. What am I talking about?

For starters, we are told that if guns were banned less people would be murdered. That is foggy thinking because the criminal will steal or keep his own weapons and the mentally sick person will steal his, while the up-standing, law-abiding citizen will obey the law and be left defenseless.

Evil is in the heart and mind of man – not in the pistol, rifle, blow-gun, bow & arrow, poison, knife, rock, baseball bat, chemicals, abortion tools, brass knuckles, or the rest of the endless means of ending a person’s life. Banning implements used for killing people will never solve the problem because evil minds are very creative in forming new ways of killing.

Murder originates in the mind, not in an object. That’s why Jesus said in Matthew 5:21-22,250px-Chimp_Brain_in_a_jar “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Anyone who murders another will be judged.’ But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged.” (Several of the early Greek copies refer to “angry without a cause.”) The point is: murder does not happen – it is planned.

Also, we’re told we must be tolerant of other worldviews. What they mean by that is: we must deny our Christian worldview in order to show approval of opposing beliefs which want to overturn ours. It is interesting that our own government leaders are blind to what is taking place. This is absurd, because it is our heritage that created the very environment that allows the freedom for those people to try to shut us down.

Please think this through: When people didn’t like what was happening in Communist countries, they left if they could. Many were killed trying to leave. Millions who stayed were killed. When people didn’t like what was happening in Nazi Germany, they left if they could. Many were killed trying to leave. Millions who stayed were killed. And when the people did escape, they went to where they would be free.

Please listen: If those who would subvert our American heritage are successful, they would lose the freedoms they presently enjoy. Why don’t they just relocate to where their worldviews are already being propagated and experienced?

The answer: It isn’t their purpose to experience freedom. It is their purpose to subvert the United States of America.

Yoga, transcendental meditation, visualization, and a host of other New Age or Eastern forms of religion are taught in European and American schools under the guise of helping us become better people. And those systems or methods are parts of or extensions of religions. Yet teaching the basic religion on which our nation was founded – Christianity – is outlawed. That is insane. Or outright evil.

We do need to respect others. However, people have been voted into political offices whose purpose is to reduce the impact and effectiveness of Christianity and our form of government. And because America has agreed to the mindless absurdity that teaching Christian values tends to warp the minds of children and tends to be intolerant of other’s beliefs, we set Christianity aside. And instead of teaching the values which have made us a healthy and prosperous nation, we allow intolerant people to dominate us – in the name of tolerance, of course.HW

We allow Hollywood to brainwash us, propagandize us, and coach their celebrities to take the lead in fighting against truth and against good moral values. We, who have created a nation where even our enemies have the freedom of speech, are sinking to the depths of depriving our own citizens of our own freedoms. We have become blind to those who would deny us the rights secured by our own Constitution and Amendments.

The only hope for our nation is to prayerfully return to our historic roots: reverence for and worship of Almighty God, and respect for truth. The only hope for people world-wide is the same.

There is no proper way to end this Reflection because the problems continue to infect us. So I’ll just say: See you next time on a different topic.

Who are the Hypocrites?

“I heard you say the church was filled with hypocrites. Do you deny it?”

That’s how one woman in Albuquerque, NM challenged me. But did I say that? If I disagreed with her would she accuse me of lying, thereby compounding a possible error? Better yet: how would she react if I agreed with her? In situations like this people either think fast for a way out, or relax and allow the truth to percolate to the top. I chose to relax.

Our prior conversation revolved around several problems in the church. Evidently the word “hypocrite” was a hot button for her and she spaced out much of the conversation; and what she missed was more important than what she heard.

How about you? When you think of a football team, do you think of the team’s headquarters? How about the accountants, lawyers, or the stadium? No; you think of a man coaching and a group of guys decked out with pads and helmets colliding with other guys with pads and helmets. Every one of them has agreed to the same code of ethics in order to play the game. Now, do any of them ever make mistakes? Yes. On purpose? Sometimes. Do any ever lie? Most likely. Are any of them Christians? Yes.

So the common denominator is: football players are humans who are employed by a football organization to play the game, who make mistakes, and some of them break their code of ethics. Doesn’t that make them a hypocrite or do you think that hypocrites lurk only in Church?

“Church” is not a building of any sort; it isn’t an ecclesiastical institution; and it is not a business. Having said that, the church meets in buildings, it is known through many identifiable denominations, and good business sense is mandatory. Simply put: the church consists of people – some mature, some not – most of whom abide by a common code of ethics and standard: the Bible.

Okay, but what is a hypocrite? The word is hypocrites (pronounced hi-pó-cri-tās in Greek) and means “actor”. In ancient Greek culture a hypocrite was a non-religious stage actor, or pretender; and by implication, a deceiver. So the question could be: is the church the only place in the world where we find actors, pretenders, or deceivers? I strongly doubt it: ever hear of Hollywood, Broadway, Politicians, or scam artists?  

An Encyclopedia of Christianity said: “In 1985 David Barrett could count 22,150 distinct denominations worldwide.” However another edition claims that “there are 10,000 distinct religions, of which 150 have one million or more followers. Within Christianity, we count 33,820 denominations. [Latest count someone told me was over 40,000 denomination.]” And the last time I counted, I found no less than sixty Baptist and thirty Pentecostal denominations in the United States alone. I also found the statistic that as many as one third of our 7,400,000,000 people in the world claim to be Christian. I wonder how many non-Christians claim to be Christians. Wouldn’t that make them hypocrites? Maybe that’s why we find hypocrites in the church!

I find it interesting that many who defame the church are, themselves, hypocrites.

Back to the Albuquerque challenge. I did not say that the church was filled with hypocrites. But I did say that, as in every organization and in every religion in the world, there are also hypocrites in the Body of Christ – the Church. However, since numerically speaking there are more pretenders in the world than there are in the Church, why is the Church always defamed for having these terrible monsters in it?

According to the Bible, Jesus is the head of the Church, and the Church is the body of Christ. And since we proclaim a high code of ethics as found in the Bible, we are expected to adhere to a higher standard, higher code of ethics, and higher morality than the world. The world is not expected to live up to our standard; but when we don’t, the world notices it. Therefore, when any of us violate our code of ethics, we not only let Jesus and the church down, we also let the world down. That’s why they view the Church as no better than they are and we become – you got it – hypocrites!

Church, for Jesus’ sake, and for the world’s sake, let’s practice what we preach.

In the Beginning …

Why do some people believe that the universe has always existed while others believe that it had a beginning? Why do some folk believe that the entire cosmos was created about 6,000 years ago while others believe it is over 4.54 billion years old? Why do some folk believe it started with “And God said” and others believe it started with a “big bang”?

There is only one answer, and it is wrapped up in the word “believe” because there is no empirical, over-riding proof on which to base our conclusions. We have the Bible which is the true Word of God, and is the basis for our Judeo-Christian faith. But it’s still a basis for FAITH – it isn’t empirical proof for the non-believing world.

Leon Lederman said in his book, The God Particle:

“In the very beginning, there was a void, a curious form of vacuum, a nothingness containing no space, no time, no matter, no light, no sound. A story logically begins at the beginning, but this story is about the universe and unfortunately there are no data for the very beginnings – none, zero. When you read or hear anything about the birth of the universe, someone is making it up–we are in the realm of philosophy. Only God knows what happened at the very beginning.”

I add to Lederman’s statement: “We are also in the realm of religion, and the Bible gives information about creation.”

However, even though Genesis chapters one and two give an overview of what God did in the beginning, there is still much speculation within Judeo-Christianity simply because God did not give us a definitive narrative of exactly what He did and exactly how He did it. For example, Genesis 1:1 says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” We know that the word “heavens” means atmosphere. But does the phrase “In the beginning” apply to earth with atmosphere, our solar system, or to the entire cosmos? The Bible doesn’t specify, so we speculate (guess, reason, surmise, deduce, BELIEVE).

Another question: “If the entire cosmos was created and completed about 6,000 years ago, and if God has been here for AN EXTREMELY LONG FOREVER, did He do absolutely nothing until 6,000 years ago, or was He continuously a creator? The Bible doesn’t say, so we speculate. To clarify: postulating whether He continuously created for millions of years or didn’t create anything until 6,000 years ago is speculation and belief..

But the Bible does say: Jesus was born, died, rose from the dead [that has been verified historically], and returned to heaven in order to redeem man on this planet from sin. That means the Bible applies to mankind on this planet. But we cannot expect the Bible to address every question we might raise about the universe. However, speculation increases because mankind demands answers.

Arthur Eddington, who experimentally confirmed Einstein’s general theory of relativity in 1919, stated: “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning to the present order is repugnant to me and I should like to find a genuine loophole.” Eddington didn’t believe in “a beginning” because that infers a creator – God; and he rejected the concept of God to avoid accountability to God.

Albert Einstein eventually gave grudging acceptance to what he called “the necessity for a beginning” and to “the presence of a superior reasoning power.” But we don’t know if he actually accepted the reality of a personal God.

Jeffrey Burbidge, formerly an astrophysicist at the University of California at San Diego, favored the steady-state (the universe always existed) hypothesis and admitted that his view supported Hinduism, not Christianity. A steady-state universe, were it true, would support the endless-life-cycle belief taught by Hinduism; which means the steady-state hypothesis is a religious belief. Therefore, also a matter of faith.

That brings to mind, the cosmological argument: (a) Everything that exists must have a cause; (b) The universe does exist; therefore (c) The universe has a cause. And you can see the obvious conclusion of this concept: there is a Creator – God.

Why? To create something that does not exist, the creator must exist separately from the proposed creation; and the Bible tells us God created everything. Therefore, God existed prior to the creation episodes.

We have the privilege of believing what the Bible says because it has a proven historical track-record. Of course, some folk claim the Bible is very detailed and specific about creation while others say it is not. But rather than fighting about our interpretations or understandings, we should be encouraging each other to actively study the Bible.

Don’t fight or argue with non-Christians; it won’t prove anything. But discuss in a friendly manner. Don’t fight other Christians: that gives the world opportunity to blaspheme the Lord and defame the Church. After all, only God really knows when He created anything. Instead, agree where you can, build each other up in the faith, exalt the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. And employ a maxim attributed to Saint Francis but probably originated by Marco Antonio de Dominis: In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things, charity.

What is an Occult Religion?

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First of all, let’s clear up a misunderstanding. Many people confuse Occult with Cult, but the words are not the same. Occult has the same root as ocular, and involves the lack of sight or vision. It refers to “not apprehended by the mind; beyond the range of ordinary human understanding; secret or esoteric; of or pertaining to magic, astrology, or any system claiming use or knowledge of secret or supernatural powers or agencies.” Christianity does not fall into this category because it is an open religion. The Bible says that the heavens declare the glory of God;.Jesus came to reveal the Father, His majesty and power. We also have open Scripture upon which to base our faith.

It is true that in the Old Testament, God tell us that His ways are not our ways and He has wisdom that is beyond our understanding. However, the New Testament tells us that Jesus came to make His ways known to us. In fact, the last sentence in First Corinthians chapter 2 says, “We have the mind of Christ.” That means God’s thoughts and desires are available to those who truly love the Lord and live for Him.

Cult, on the other hand is “a specific system of religious worship, especially with reference to its rites and deity; a group having an exclusive ideology and ritual practices centered on sacred symbols; from cultus: cultivation, refinement; which is derived from colere: to tend, guard, cultivate, till.” Christianity and Judaism have sometimes been erroneously called cults. Why? Because although part of this description fits, Christianity and Judaism are not centered on symbols; but on God, Himself. Again, Christianity is an open religion. It is based on a relationship with God, not on feelings or unknowable mysticism.

Cult is etymologically related to culture, for culture also stems from colere. But culture took a turn in its meaning: it eventually added “cultivation through education” and “the intellectual side of civilization.”

Occult qualities have no rational explanation. For example, in the Middle-Ages, magnetism was sometimes called an occult quality. Newton’s theory that “gravity was effected through action at a distance” was harshly critiqued by his contemporaries as occult. Of course, they didn’t understand Newton’s concept.

All occult practices involve the invocation of a deity or deities. Therefore, occult systems are religions. Occult practices also include rituals and ceremonies which somewhat parallel traditional religions. For example, shamans – also called medicine men – are the healers and magicians of their tribes and villages as well as the religious or spiritual leaders.

Some folk attest that the traditional Judeo-Christian religions are also occult; however, there is a distinct difference when it comes to Worship. Where the occult is concerned with contacting the forces of nature (“the Force be with you”), spirits, or the imagined Masters of the Universe to affect a desired change, the true Judeo-Christian belief system is focused on worshiping, petitioning, and obeying Almighty God. True Christianity views the occult as being anything supernatural which is achieved by or through the work of Satan, evil spirits, or man himself.

Gnosticism, which has many branches and could have originated as early as 600 BC, was the basic occult philosophy that is addressed by a number of the New Testament letters. Of course, Gnosticism has its roots in the Ancient Mystery Religions which predates Noah’s flood. The Gnostics [“knowers”, or those with knowledge] believed that “knowledge” was the key to life; and that if we gained knowledge, we could achieve salvation – or at least, attain a higher spiritual position. There are several well-known organizations today which espouse the same philosophies. Rather than promoting a relationship with Jesus Christ or God the Father, they promote learning, attaining knowledge, seeking truth, or seeking light. One of the basic tenets of one organization denies the deity of Christ while exalting man. Today, the New Age Movement encompasses all of Gnosticism and a myriad of other occult religions.

It would take a number of books to list all the occult groups and their beliefs and practices, but here is something to consider:

Occult [read the definition above] practices include, but are not limited to: tarot card and palm readings, witchcraft and wizardry, self-realization, psychics, and horoscope dependency; praising and idolizing activities, music, and people; self-improvement and meditation systems that deny or circumvent Jesus and/or Jehovah God; any religion or organization that exalts the human body, mind, or spirit without depending on God, makes Lucifer equal to or greater than Jesus, makes man equal to or greater than God, or who worships anything, any spirit, or any god other than God in the Old Testament and Jesus Christ. Any religion or organization that says we can achieve or attain salvation, immortality, or perfect light without Jehovah or Jesus is an occult religion. The Bible gives us true knowledge, and leads us to our Creator, Almighty God.

Are You a Practicing Atheist?

A vast majority of you will say “No, I’m not an atheist,” while some will say “Yes, I am.” But why would I ask that question? Back to that in a minute.

Atheism has been defined as a lack of belief in God, a total denial of His existence, Atheist Symboland variations of the theme in between.  The word atheism comes from the Greek negative article “a” which means “no,” and “theos” which means “god.” Therefore, atheism is the belief that there is no god. Did you catch that? A belief that there is no God. On the other hand, many of us believe that there is a God, He is knowable, He loves us, and is involved with mankind.

The polytheistic Romans in Jesus’ day, who believed in hundreds of gods, accused Christians of being atheists simply because Christians believed ONLY in the HolyDSCN0464 Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit); while the Jews accused Christians of polytheism BECAUSE they believed in the Holy Trinity. The accusations depended on the point of reference. But that’s a story for another time. (This cross is on Mount Helix in San Diego County, just four miles from where I grew up.)

Many atheists probably don’t consider themselves anti-theists, but non-theists. Many are good, ethical, moral citizens, and strong Americans; and most atheists claim that atheism is not a belief system or a religion. But I call atheism a religion. Why?

In the atheist’s belief system: there is no God; nothing formed itself into a well-organized, majestic universe; organic life evolved from rocks; man evolved from … who knows?; there is no life after death; belief in God is wrong; and so on. But all of that is a matter of faith, and that is religion. Simply put: the atheist’s non-belief system is, by definition, a belief system. Biologist George Klein wrote: “I am an atheist. My attitude is not based on science, but rather on faith. The absence of a Creator, the non-existence of God, is my childhood faith, my adult belief, unshakable and holy.”

Many strong atheists are often aggressive in their conversations with theists and try to shoot holes in theistic beliefs. (And, sadly, many Christians are equally argumentative.) Atheists like to use logic and anti-biblical “evidences” to denounce God’s existence. However, I’ve had many interesting discussions with scientific atheists in the past, and most of them are still my friends because we didn’t hammer, degrade, insult, or malign each other. Rather, we expressed our beliefs – yes, religious beliefs – and allowed each other freedom of religion, freedom of thought, and freedom of expression.

Remember, we cannot change anyone’s mind. We must, as simply or as complex as the situation requires, present our beliefs and convictions to them and allow the Holy Spirit to work in their heart and mind.

Question MarkBut now I have several questions for you: If you are a Christian, are you a practicing atheist? Keep reading.

1.       Do you effectively deny God by your lifestyle: your language, actions, thoughts, motivations, work ethics, choice of humor, the places you go, what you watch at the theaters, on computer, or on television?

2.      When someone begins to bad-mouth God or another person, do you just sit by? Or worse, do you join in the negative conversation?

3.      If you attend church, do you attend for social purposes, out of obligation, or for business contacts?

4.     Without being abrasive or overbearing, do you openly proclaim Christ to the world, or do you hide your Christian faith in the social shadows?

5.      Would some folk be surprised if you told them you are a Christian?

A “yes” answer shows you are effectively denying God: being a practicing atheist. But if you claim to be a Christian, I want you to think about your relationship with God. Do you truly desire to live for God? I am not encouraging you to cram your religion down someone’s throat; that would be wrong. But we do need to openly, definitively “let our light shine” for the Lord – if indeed we are Christians. 

Matthew 10:32-33 says, “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I willBible.docx also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.”

Let’s not try to intimidate others, but let’s allow them to experience truth and life through our lives. Let’s give them a glimpse of Christ by the way we live.

Did God Create Evil?

When was the last time you heard that question? What was your answer? Or did you have a deer-in-the-headlights look on your face? The question is normally NOT asked in search of information, but either to strengthen the emotional barrier that blocks God out of a person’s life, or to hide some deep-seated hurts he is bearing. And he asks the question, knowing that he can shoot down most answers that people usually give. He’s done it many times and is good at it.

So, what IS the answer? You probably already know, but I’ll put it in a way that you can get a better handle on it. For starters, the following is a real interaction I heard back in California.

Challenger: “Did God make everything?” Christian: “Yes.”

Challenger: “That means God also made evil?” Christian: “No.”

Challenger: “Then God didn’t make everything?” Christian: “Well, uh …”

And the challenger was happy that he, once again, defeated a hapless Christian in a worthy debate.

But allow me to give you food for thought. I’ll ask several questions, but will also provide the answers since you’re not here to answer them for me.

Is there such a thing as cold? No, there is not. But we do have the concept of temperature where:

1) Absolute zero (absolutely no heat) is 459.67 degrees below zero F., minus 273.15 Celsius, and 0 on the Kelvin scale.

2) Fresh water freezes at sea level at 32 F, 0 C, and 273.15 Kelvin;

3) The average human temperature is around 98.6 F, 37 C, and 310.15 K;

4) 78 F in the house is 25.55 C, and 298.71 K.

So we cannot turn the cold up or down – we remove or add heat. And for the record, outer space (far away from stars and planets) is around 3 degrees Kelvin. If that makes you feel cold, put on a sweater or a jacket.

Is there such a thing as dark? Again, no. But we do have various intensities of light. Partial darkness (if it can be called that) is a reduction of the intensity of light, and total darkness is the total absence of light. The closest I have ever come to being in total darkness was in the big room of the Carlsbad Caverns – 700 feet below ground. They could not turn on the dark, but they did off the lights. And it was DARK!

Now we ask: Is there such a thing as evil? The answer once again is, no. Where cold is a reference to the reduction of heat, and dark is the reduction or absence of light, evil is the absence of or the rejection of the holiness of God. Evil is not a thing or a cause: evil is a result.

You may ask, “What about murder, rape, robbery, sexual deviancy, hatred, etc.?” I can tell you, on authority of Scripture, that none of that is in heaven where the pure holiness of God prevails.

The lower we set the temperature, the colder it gets. The lower the light setting, the darker it gets. So the lower the level of Godliness in our lives and in society, the higher will be the intensity of evil – murder, rape, sexual deviancy, drug abuse, etc.

Billy Graham never said, “If you will just stop living like you are, if you will just stop your sinning, you will become holy!” But he often said: “If you will come to Jesus and ask Jesus to forgive you for your sins, if you ask Jesus to come into your life, you can become a new person and learn to live for the Lord!”

We do not stop doing evil to become holy; but we come to Jesus and become holy and the result is that we stop doing evil. But learning to live for the Lord is a process: we do not become a mature Christian overnight.

If I trip and drop my coffee cup, I would not create a broken cup. Rather, the broken cup would be a result of my carelessness. Likewise, evil is not a thing or something created; rather, evil is the result of rejecting God – a lack of Godliness.

Our holy God did not create the devil, nor did he create evil. He created the angel Lucifer. But Lucifer – of his own free will – disobeyed, and evil is the result. Likewise, God did not create all the mess of humanity in this world. The mess is the result of rejecting a holy God.

If you want to see a reduction of evil, turn to the Lord and begin living for Him.

What Constitutes “Wickedness”?

Dr. Chuck McCullough, my long-time friend, JBU Graduate, and writing partner in New Mexico, gave me permission to reprint an article he wrote for his Bible Answers column as a spring-board for discussion. Chuck wrote:


 “Does God have it in for wicked people? Does He want to damn them to hell for all the bad they have done?”—Brian

The Bible makes it clear God is not happy about “wickedness”. He issued specific commands to keep it in check (Ex. 20:1ff). The writer of Proverbs told his readers what God abhors (Prov. 6:16-19). There were some pretty severe judgments upon wickedness in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 19; Josh. 7)

The New Testament provides several lists of serious infractions (I Cor. 6:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; Col. 3:5-9).  This sort of behavior is clearly not what God intended for His highest creatures. He “hoped” for better, in a manner of speaking.

But hear two other pertinent thoughts:

First, God doesn’t relish the destruction of the “wicked people.” The Book says as much (Ezek. 18:23, 32). God has gone to unimaginable lengths to reach all people (the “world” of Jn. 3:16) in our brokenness, to rescue us from an eternity apart from Him (Rom. 1:17; 5:6-10; Eph. 2:4-10; I Tim. 2:4). He does not want any to perish (II Pet. 3:9). Indeed, Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved (Jn. 3:17-21).

Second, the Scripture presents a cautionary message to those who wish to identify the “real” sinners and condemn them to hell. Before we draw the line, attempting to spell out who is worthy of grace and who is not, we should remember that “all are sinners and fall short of God’s perfection” (Rom. 3:23).

Thus, from God’s standpoint, all of us may be considered “wicked” and desperately in need of rescue by His grace (Eph. 2:1-9). God’s great desire is that all people will come to faith in Him (I Tim. 1:12-15; I Thess. 5:23; II Thess. 3:3-5; Titus 3:1-7; I Jn. 1:5-10).

Dr. Chuck McCullough, former pastor of White Rock Baptist Church, Los Alamos, NM; published in The Los Alamos Monitor, Los Alamos, NM on March 28, 2014


Well said, my friend. Thank you for permission to reprint your article because people have asked me, “What constitutes wickedness? What makes a person wicked”?

One of our grandsons said, “A wicked person is someone who kidnaps a kid and is mean to him.” An adult in New Mexico said, “Wickedness is doing things like dropping atomic bombs on Japan!” When I asked him if Japan’s prior attack on Pearl Harbor was wicked, he said, “That wasn’t as bad as dropping those bombs!”

Hmmmmm…. I suppose people judge wickedness on a sliding scale, but God doesn’t have a sliding scale. We either pass or fail. We are either wicked or we are righteous. So, what are the criteria?

 Wicked is spelled out in the Scripture listed in Chuck’s article, but is briefly defined as evil or sinful. Evil is the absence of good; sin is the attitude or act of violating God’s will; and a righteous person is one who does what is right. But since Romans 3:10 says, “No one is righteous; no, not one!”, and since Jesus said in Matthew 19:17, “There is no one good, but God.”, how can Matthew 13:49 tell us the angels will separate the wicked from the righteous?

That’s easy: Romans 5:19 tells us if we repent (turn away) from our sins, accept Jesus into our lives, and live for Him, Jesus will declare us righteous. Jesus can do that because He, as God, took our place when He received judgment for our sin on the cross.

Conclusion: anyone who has ever broken any of God’s laws is wicked and worthy of judgment. But God doesn’t want to damn us; that’s why Jesus came to rescue us, and the remedy is given in Scripture. “Jesus did not come to condemn the world; rather, He came so that the world might be saved” (John. 3:17-21).

Also, Luke 19:10 says that Jesus came to save those who are lost. So, what should we do?

When the jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the Apostle Paul replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:30-31).  That’s the answer. You will no longer be wicked, but declared to be righteous.

If you have not responded to Jesus, please read the blogs for the past two weeks. Jesus loves you and wants you in his family.

Valentine’s Day

image00771I remember Valentine’s Day in 1965. Valentine’s Day was on Sunday that year, and Carol and I were attending SCC (Southern California College: now VUSC – Vanguard University of Southern California). I remember thinking: “If Carol accepts my invitation to the Valentine Banquet, I’ll know that she is the girl I will marry.” So, nervously, I asked her.

Laugh if you want. I am chuckling now as I write because I was somewhat immature at the time, and I was overcome with “puppy-love.” (Yes friends, she accepted.) I know that isn’t the way to1966 wedding decide whom to marry, but we DID get married a year and a half later — August 22, 1966 — and 52+ years later, we are still in love.

Someone asked Carol several years ago, “What’s it like being married to the same person for all those years?” Carol responded: “Oh, he’s not the same person I married. He’s changed.” She is right. Through time we all change — hopefully for the better. For one thing, my puppy-love grew into a true, full-fledged love for Carol. Maybe not fully-mature even now, but definitely going in that direction. I have learned (and am still learning) to love her with the love of Jesus Christ; and His love supersedes or surpasses any love humans think they have. But how do husbands and wives keep their love and devotion vibrant through the problem-laden decades?

Bishop Valentinus, or Saint Valentine as he is remembered, gave us a hint by manifesting a two-fold love: An undying, obedient, irrevocable love for God, and a deep, loyal commitment to people. And that’s what Carol and I have applied in our marriage through the years.

dscn7495Carol explains it this way: “Marriage is made in heaven. But it comes in a kit that must be assembled here on earth.” She also says, “Marriage is like a pyramid: God is at the top, with husband and wife at the bottom corners. When husband and wife focus on each other, they tend to repel each other. But if they both focus on God and grow toward Him, they inevitably grow closer together. And growing toward God helps us to become more like Him. Therefore, we find ourselves loving each other more with the pure love of God. That’s why God should be at the center of every marriage.”

That reminds me of a song written in Pasadena, California by Frederick Lehman; but the lyrics are based on a Jewish poem titled “Haddamut” written in Aramaic in 1050 AD by Meir Ben Isaac Nehorai, a cantor in Worms, Germany. The words to the chorus are: “Oh Love of God, how rich and pure! How measureless and strong! It shall forevermore endure the saints and angel’s song.”

Another supporting factor in keeping your love going strong is to let your spouse be your very best friend. That way, NO one can ever come between you! Carol has been my best friend for these 52 years, and she will never be deposed from that position as long as we both shall live.

Our friends Gary and Carol Kroah, formerly Associate Pastors of the Siloam Spring (Arkansas) Assembly of God Church say, “To start out, it’s not hard to love someone who is lovable. But our love for one another has endured through the years because of our mutual commitment to Jesus Christ and to one another. The closer we have been to Him, the closer we are to each other. Our determination to care for one another has motivated us to stay together, and love with unconditional love.”

Unconditional Love—growing toward God—growing closer together. It sounds like Bishop Valentine’s two-fold love: an undying, obedient, irrevocable love for God, and a deep, loyal commitment to people.

You’ve probably figured out that I like the Valentine’s Day celebration, but I do not subscribe to the superficiality ascribed by the world. Using the celebration as an enhancement in courting and marriage is fine, but don’t use it for defrauding someone or for sexual immorality.  A person who truly loves someone will act honorably toward that person. Acting selfishly or dishonorably is devoid of true love. Read 2 Samuel 13.DSCN0185

Jesus exhibited the purest love by sacrificially giving Himself in order that we may receive eternal life. (John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son [Jesus], that whosover believes on Him will not perish [eternally] but have everlasting life”. Respond to Jesus. Receive His love, and live. Happy Valentine’s Day.

A Labor of Love

gene's info 120For over three years we were pastors of a church in Springer, New Mexico that was 200 miles from our home. Some routes went through winding mountainous roads and took longer. Living in the hills in northern New Mexico and driving the 6-8 hour trip to church and back every weekend – while working 50-60 hours a week at a national laboratory – we were late for church only twice. You may ask “Why did you accept that challenge?” That, and the results of our efforts, is another story for another time. Today’s story is about the trips; and of the eight possible routes to church, we found six that we took quite often.

In all our travels in over 52 years of marriage, we have had fun. Even when we made a wrong turn or were detoured due to highway work, we made a mini-vacation out of it. Last December, traveling from Missouri to home, we decided to take some roads we had never been on. We discovered only one problem: highway 221 turned into a gravel road. We laughed, turned around, and went another direction which took us through Eureka Springs; so we stopped and had dinner before resuming our trek. We make enjoyable memories out of potential irritations in life. But back to the story.

One Sunday morning, one of our deacons asked, “Pastor, what’s on your hands?” I told him I was bleeding. He said, “Blood isn’t that color. What’d you do?” Carol quickly said, “We went through Mora, and picked raspberries yesterday.”

mora, nmOne of our routes to Springer was through Espanola and up the canyon through which flowed the Rio Grande. At La Cienaga we turned east toward Sipapu then over the mountains and down into Mora. And that is where my hands turned red – or maybe, purple. Mora is well-known for its raspberry farm, and Carol had often asked me to stop and pick raspberries. Each time I said something like: “I’m going to be preaching and teaching, and berry-picking isn’t on my mind.” Although that was true, it was also a smoke-screen: I didn’t want to pick berries.

Now, for all you who have never picked blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, etc., let me tell you: I don’t enjoy that activity. We reach inside the foliage to find the berries, and these bushes have thorns containing toxin. Picking berries was both painful and made my arms itch for over a week. Now you might understand why I don’t like picking berries.

But one weekend my Precious wife was so desirous for those delicious, reddish-purple clumps ofraspberries juice, and she was so gentle in her running commentary about how delicious those berries would be in ice cream or made into a berry jam, that my mouth drooled and I just had to stop. When Carol excitedly asked, “Are we going to pick berries?” I said, “Yes. I don’t want to, so this will be a labor of love.”

“Yeah, right! You just want berries and ice cream!”

She was at least partly correct.

That time of year the berries were ripe, and many of them leaked their contents because they split or crushed easily as we picked them. But we left with five quarts, and Carol kept her word: they were GOOD over ice cream, over angel-food cake, in fruit salads, and made into jam. In the long run, I was glad I stopped. (But my hands did get stained with the juice, and I itched for a week.)

But do you know that someone else performed a labor of love that far surpassed anything I could dscn0464do ever for Carol? Where I merely paused on my trip and received a few scratches on my arms, Jesus deliberately left His home in heaven and came to earth to rescue mankind from an eternal separation from God the Father. Jesus didn’t have mere scratches on His arms; the soldiers made a wreath containing inch-long needle-sharp thorns and jammed it onto His head. Jesus purposely allowed Himself to be killed in a gruesome manner in order to reveal the depth of the pain we would suffer eternally without God.

But Jesus doesn’t want us to suffer, and because of Jesus’ labor of love, we can have a home with Him forever. (Romans 8:35-39)

The results of my labor lasted only several months; but the results of Jesus’ labor will never end. I hope you accept God’s Love through Jesus Christ, our Savior. (Luke 19:10, John 3:16)