A Life Saved

I don’t know the best way to describe this man, but his life was a mess. I’ll call him Joe. He was recently fired from his job, and his wife filed for a divorce with a corresponding restraining order. His children – one was nine years old and the other fifteen – were afraid of him. Simply put, he was an alcoholic and was abusive to his wife and kids.

Joe started drinking alcohol in elementary school by sneaking it when his parents were away from home. Oh, the family went to church and put on a good façade for the community; and most folk thought they were a fine family. Very few people knew the mental and spiritual torment the family was experiencing.

Because they had their own problems, Joe’s parents didn’t learn of his alcohol problem until Joe left home. After Joe’s parents’ messy divorce, his father committed suicide.

As Joe entered adulthood, he prided himself in being able to drink on the job, yet effectively perform his vocational responsibilities. As with so many alcoholics, he thought he was hiding the problem; but his friends, vocational associates, and family were covering for him.

Let me say here: “protecting” the alcoholic is the worst thing anyone can do for him or her: it prevents potential recovery. We shouldn’t condemn the alcoholic, but don’t cover for them.

Joe’s life went from bad to worse. I won’t go into the details, but the police department began building a file on him. Then Joe remembered his dad. Swearing early in life never to be like his father, Joe had, in reality, become just like him. Now, thinking there was nothing left in life for him, Joe found himself considering the same final action: suicide.

He stole a pistol and ammunition, robbed a liquor store (took whiskey and money), and went to a motel in a run-down part of town. Sitting on the edge of the bed with loaded weapon in hand, he thought maybe he should write a note to explain to whoever found him why he did it. Opening the top drawer in the nightstand to get a pen and paper, he became angry when he realized that the cheap motel wouldn’t even provide writing material. But he did see a book in the drawer.

Curiosity prompted him to look into the book before killing himself, so he picked it up to see what it was about. The title on the cover said, “Holy Bible”, and there was a round logo on the bottom with the words, “Placed by The Gideons.”

“Who are they?” Joe wondered as he opened the Bible. It seemed to fall open to the Gospel of John, and Joe began reading something he had never read before: “In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Joe wondered who the Word was, so he kept reading. Verse fourteen started with, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”

This was all new to Joe. Having nothing to lose, he decided to read a lot more before ending his miserable existence. By the time Joe had finished reading the Gospel of John, it was getting light outside and tears were running down his face. Something was happening inside of him. He blurted out, “Do you love me, Jesus?” No Answer.

Hiding the firearm, Joe called a local church. “There’s probably no one there to answer my questions” he muttered to himself. But amazingly, the pastor answered the phone. After listening for several minutes, the pastor invited Joe to breakfast. Time with the pastor lasted through lunch and into dinner. Joe finally met someone who could answer many of the questions he had asked for most of his life.

Because of that Gideon Bible, Joe reached out for help.

At thirty-eight years of age, Joe was introduced to Jesus Christ and Joe’s torment was over. Don’t misunderstand: he still had many issues to face and reconcile; but the pastor promised to walk with him every step of the way if Joe would give him the gun and whisky, and permit him to call the police. Joe did, and his healing began.

God’s word in that Bible, backed up by someone who cared, saved Joe’s life. This is only one of many thousands of real-life examples of how the Lord saves and changes lives.

If you are facing frustration, misery, and confusion, don’t end your life. Instead, start a new life with the One Who loves you and died for you. Turn to Jesus. He might not solve all your problems, but He can guide you and help you do what’s necessary to solve them. And find a Christ-honoring friend who can lead you in the right direction.

Your future doesn’t need to look bleak – it can look bright.

A Sword for the Lord, and for Gideon

What’s your favorite Bible story? Daniel dropping in to visit the Lions? Noah surfing the grandest of all tsunamis? David creating a giant headache? They are all-time favorites for most of the church, but have you considered the story of Gideon?

This story, found in chapters six through eight in the book of Judges, is the foundation for one of the great ministries in modern times.

While in Los Alamos, NM, I was invited to a dinner hosted by the local Gideon camp. Meeting at the Morning Glory Bakery, President John Elder, Randy Rowan, Charles Knoop, Kevin Albright and others were in attendance. I have known of the Gideons most of my life, and have known these men for several decades.

When I returned to Siloam Springs, Paul Kimball surprised Carol and me by inviting us to a Gideon camp dinner at the John Brown University. There were about fifty attending, including Marshall Orcutt, Paul Kimball, and Milton Lundberg.

The Gideon’s devotion to the Lord Jesus Christ, and their love and concern for people is unsurpassed. But why do they call themselves Gideons?

I can’t tell the whole story here, but look at several data points. The Angel of the Lord chose Gideon to do an impossible job. When Gideon destroyed the village idol as a result of the angelic visit, the townsfolk wanted to kill him. I laugh when reading what Joash, Gideon’s dad, said, “If Baal is a god, let him fight for himself. It’s his altar that has been pulled down.”

The Lord gave Gideon a fool-proof battle plan; and because Gideon obeyed, 300 men overcame more than 135,000 of the enemy. A few is an overwhelming majority if God is in it. Remember this: God is not impressed with our ability; God is not depressed with our inability; But God is blessed with our availability.

In 1899 three men – Samuel Hill, John Nicholson, and William Knight – banded together and formed an association. They decided to call themselves “Gideons”. They met for several years. The group grew, and they felt impressed to distribute Bibles. Then in 1908, Pastor E. R. Burkhalter, First Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Kentucky suggested in a Ministerial Union meeting that “Gideon Bibles be placed in all local hotels and that the Union be responsible for the funds.”

Quoting Paul Kimball, “The Gideons International serves as a missionary arm of the local church, distributing over 1,000,000 copies of Bibles and Life Books every 5 days. Every Scripture distributed is funded by contributions from churches and individuals, and from the Gideon Bible Card Program. 100% of these contributions go for the purchase and placement of Scriptures (Gideon dues cover overhead). Millions of people around the world have no access to Scriptures, but with the support of generous contributors, Gideons ensure that many of them have a copy of God’s Word for their very own.”

Randy Rowan said, “Many of the public high schools in the USA no longer allow the Gideons to come on campus and distribute scriptures; so the Life Book program was developed so Christian students can share the gospel with their peers. The Life Book is a gospel of John that has handwritten comments and questions in the margins that reflect the perspectives of four high school students (male and female of different ages) and one adult. In the back of the Life Book is a gospel presentation in the form of a series of questions followed by a section on problems commonly faced by teenagers, along with scriptural advice on how to address those problems. Any pastor or youth pastor may order up to 1,000 of these Life Books free of charge at www.thelifebook.com.”

In 1908, The Gideons International placed the first Bible in a hotel room in Montana. Today, as of August of 2019, Gideons are organized in 200 countries around the world. Bibles and New Testaments are distributed by The Gideons International in 107 languages, and more than 2.3 billion Bibles and New Testaments have been placed through the Gideon ministry.

The Gideons are a few people doing an almost impossible task – attempting to distribute Scriptures to the entire world. The devil’s forces fight them but God gave them an excellent battle-plan. I encourage you, both reader and church, to support them financially. The Gideons pay the overhead themselves, so every dollar you give buys Scriptures – and saves lives.

May the Lord bless you as you support the Gideons International organization.

Gnosticism

The Bible says Jesus was tempted in every way humans are tempted. But Jesus couldn’t have been tempted if he was God (James 1:12-14). Doesn’t Jesus’ temptation prove that he was merely human?

I’ve been asked that question several times through the years, and it reflects on Gnosticism. So, let’s address the general concept of Gnosticism. Many of the gnostic philosophies can be summed in this (over-simplified) statement: Salvation is attained by gnosis – knowledge; Jesus’ death wasn’t necessary, and may not have even taken place; He may not have been God, or he may not have had a physical body.

The controversies continue. Everything that can be questioned about the God-man Jesus Christ has been questioned. The simultaneous natures of deity and humanity united in the person of Jesus Christ have been debated, argued, and killed over throughout church history. Let’s look into it.

The Bible says: 1) Jesus was tempted. 2) Jesus is God. And 3) God cannot be tempted. However, Matthew 22:29 applies here which says, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures….” Also II Timothy 2:15: “Study (Scripture) to show yourself approved (honorable, faithful) to God; a workman (student) who properly divides (discerns and understands) the word of truth.”

Here are a few Gnostic heresies that date back to Jesus’ time.

  • The Ebionites and Arians denied the deity of Christ.
  • The Docetists denied the reality of His physical body, stating He was merely a spirit or an emanation from God.
  • The Apollinarians claimed Jesus had a human body and the spirit of God, but not a human spirit.
  • The Unitarians said He was adopted as (or became) deity only at His baptism.
  • Some said He was the first man, Adam or the archangel, Gabriel.
  • Some say that our creator-god is actually Lucifer.
  • Others claimed that Jesus was God before conception and after His resurrection, but not for His approximate 33 years on earth.

Talk about confusion! Yet they all pride themselves on having GNOSIS — knowledge. How can all those conflicting teachings be called gnosis, or knowledge? It doesn’t make any sense!

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The uniqueness – and controversy – of Christianity is the Person of Jesus Christ: He is the Divine human being. Matthew 4:1-10, Hebrews 2:17-18, and other Scripture, verify that Jesus was tempted in His humanity; yet John 1:1-3 and other Scripture verify that He is God. This is not a conflicting doctrine blindly imposed on us to accept without question; rather, it is a sobering conclusion founded on strong evidence. This can be difficult to understand, for there is no other God-man in history with whom to compare.

However, back to the question: James 1:13 (“…God cannot be tempted ….”) is not talking about Jesus. The concept of Messiah is not in this specific text. Rather, James was referring to a then-current error making the rounds that justified immorality, which was: “God tempted me.” Remember, the Gnostics believed that our creator-god was evil. James was refuting that heresy while giving general encouragement to the church to live righteously. And He differentiated between Father Yahweh and Jesus the Messiah by referring specifically to Father Yahweh (verse 17: “Every good gift…comes down from the Father….”).

Jesus was and is God: John 1:1 (NLT) “In the beginning, the Word already existed. He was with God, and He was God.” Verse 14 lets us know that “the Word” here is Jesus. Jesus in His humanity was tempted in every manner as man can be tempted (Hebrews 4:15); where Father YHVH was never human, therefore, cannot be, nor has ever been, tempted. He is “un-temptable”. And our Creator God is a Good and Loving God; but Lucifer’s final destination is what the Bible calls the lake of fire. 

Much of the New Testament was written to combat the various heresies of Gnosticism; or, as the Apostle Paul said, to combat “a different gospel.” Anything that teaches differently from or in conflict with the message of salvation and Jesus Christ as found in the Bible is a different gospel – which is a different way to attempt to gain salvation; a different way to try to go to heaven.  But it can’t be done. It’s teaching a different understanding of Jesus Christ, or a teaching about a different Jesus altogether such as the cosmic christ

Salvation and eternal life are gained only through the knowledge of and the acceptance of our Lord Jesus Christ. Read about Him. Study about Him. Get to know Him. 

Relevance or Authenticity?

Several years ago, we received a calendar from the Insights For Living ministry titled: “The Dawn of a Church Awakening.” Chuck Swindoll’s caption for June was “The Church’s Attractiveness” and Chuck wrote:

I am convinced that the church doesn’t need marketing devices, worldly strategies, live entertainment, or a corporate mentality to be contagious. Not if the glory of God is the goal. Not if the growth of God’s people is in view. Rather, the church needs biblical truth taught correctly and clearly … and lived out in authenticity.

Now that’s a mouthful. I found ten themes: the Church’s nature; marketing devices; worldly strategies; entertainment; corporate mentality; God’s nature; spiritual growth; biblical truth; ministry; and reality.

The two central themes around which the other eight revolve are the Church’s nature and God’s nature. And the nature of the church directly affects how the world views the nature of God. So, how is the church doing?

For over fifty years I’ve heard “the church needs to be relevant” in order to influence the world for Christ. I might agree with that statement, but I need to see what it means first.

Relevant has various meanings, but the current meaning is pertinent to the matter at hand.

So is the church being relevant to the world? Yes. But we have a problem. The little-known church motto is: “The Bible is our standard for faith and practice.” That means our faith, lifestyle, and actions should conform to Scripture. However what we find is the church is conforming to the world.

The world is on a fast-track heading away from Jesus Christ. Those in an ungodly lifestyle have no intention of being influenced by the church, but the church wants to be relevant. Therefore the church adopts much of the world’s music, entertainment preferences, activities, and behaviors in order to promote identification. But as the world continues its trajectory away from God, the church, still wanting to be relevant, continues toward the world.

Do you see what’s happening? Many in the church, desiring to influence people for Christ, identify with non-Christians by becoming like them. Recently I heard a member of a Christian rock band say, “We try to be on the level of the main-stream artists.” And that’s the downfall of the church as it becomes relevant: many in the church look and act like non-Christians. Therefore, they begin living like non-Christians.

One New Mexico pastor asked a young man, “Would you like to become a Christian? God will accept you just the way you are.” The response was, “Sure, man; why not? There really is no difference between your church and my group anyway. I’ll accept your Jesus.” The truth was: he did not accept Christ; he merely joined a church.

Many in the church dress, act, talk, and live like the world, thus, blurring the distinction between church and world. That’s why many non-Christians don’t see the need to turn away from their detrimental or harmful lifestyles.

For fifty years the church’s priority has been to identity with the sinful world rather than promote the Glory of God through Jesus Christ. A youth pastor I know takes several youth groups to pagan rock concerts where drugs and alcohol flow. When I challenged him about it he said, “Pastor Linzey, it’s the same music as Christian rock, but we tune out the words so it is okay. We like to use this kind of music in our churches but use Christian lyrics. That makes the music Christian. Also, after we get the kid’s attention, we can teach them about Christ.”

That sounded good, but I learned later that if he stopped paying for their rock concert tickets, they stopped attending his youth meetings. So, where is his authenticity?

A problem is that we are confusing concern with identification; and that degenerates to watering down the Gospel. We also need to understand that religious activity often blocks the voice of God. And if there’s no observable difference between church and world, we are preaching the wrong gospel.

Chuck Swindoll is right: In order to change our world for the better, in order to truly influence people for Jesus Christ, we must live authentic Christian lives.

Intolerance? By Whom?

The subject of intolerance comes up often. Emotions sometimes get in the way and people lose sight of reality. But what is intolerance?

Synonyms are: dogmatism, bigotry, narrow-mindedness, sectarianism, etc. The root is tolerate, and the widest definition is: to permit, allow the existence of. Therefore, intolerance in the public arena today is the unwillingness to consider other ideas; not allowing beliefs that differ from your own. So, who are the culprits?

Some folks insist that only Christians are intolerant, but that is not true. Political, ethnic, and religious intolerance has existed for more than five millennia; and there is a monumental misunderstanding of who is being tolerant or intolerant today.

Many pagan religions have been and are intolerant of Judaism and Christianity. Misguided Christians have been intolerant of others – even of other Christians. Japan was intolerant of China. Germany was intolerant of Jews. Many Democrats and Republicans are intolerant of each other. Islam (supposedly the religion of peace and submission to God) is hotly intolerant of anyone they consider an infidel – including Moslems of the other Islamic sects. Some atheists are intolerant of Christian symbols, such as a cross and the 10 Commandments. Members of the LGBT community are intolerant of Bible-centered Christianity and Christian ethics.

However, the governments of western nations, including America, are giving political recognition to homosexuality and the LGBT rights movements, while in many instances they are denying the right of Christians to practice their faith. In that sense, these governments are tolerant of the gay rights movement, but have joined the Moslems and others in becoming intolerant of Christianity.

Our American Congress is supporting the “rights” of non-Christians to talk against Christianity, but in some cases is denying the same freedom of speech to the Christian community. That means our Congress is tolerant of the gay-rights movement, but is becoming intolerant of Christianity.

When a Christian quotes the bible — not just his/her own viewpoint — concerning God’s thoughts on sexuality, marriage, and man-woman relationships, the gay community cries bigotry, prejudice, intolerance! But when the gay community protests against our traditional American culture – and hatefully embarks on Christian-bashing, cursing, etc. – the culprits are often ignored because our traditional American culture is becoming tolerant of non-biblical ideology, but intolerant of Biblical ideology. Why? The homosexual/gay lifestyle is protected under the erroneously named: “hate-crime” law.

Who is intolerant? Generally, those getting their feathers ruffled and crying INTOLERANCE! are the intolerant ones.

Take another look. In Matthew 5:39 Jesus teaches if anyone insults you, ignore it – turn the other cheek. Don’t fight about it. In Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:35, Jesus said to love your enemies (and those who disagree with you). In Matthew 5:10-12 the result of Jesus’ teaching is that we should not even fight against those who attack or persecute us for our faith. Therefore, true Christians are the tolerant people, and it is Christian ethics that made us a strong nation. Christianity is the force that allows the intolerant people to decry Christianity.

One of the concepts that helped the United States become the nation of choice is the first amendment to the US Constitution: freedom of speech. It “prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion, impeding the free exercise of religion, abridging the freedom of speech….” But because of sinful nature, we know this freedom cannot be absolute. Example: overt threats – from whomever – on our person and property should be curtailed.

But our government has violated its own rule. The government HAS made laws respecting (limiting the exercise of) religion – specifically, Christianity – and violated the rule of free speech. Example: our government won’t allow Christianity to be presented in public schools or in many public settings; but other religions, such as Islam, Evolution, and Hinduism, are allowed public freedom of expression, and are actually promoted by the public and educational system. Free exercise of my faith IS impeded because intolerance is politically sanctioned.

True Christians understand fallible humanity; that’s why we present Christ to any and all who will listen. “Know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32).” 

So, I repeat the question: Who is intolerant?

Those who intolerantly demand Christianity to be curtailed and Christian symbols to be removed are the intolerant ones. America, wake up, or your freedoms will be removed by those demanding one-sided tolerance.

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.