Sunday, March 31, 2013

The First Communion

And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine : and he [was] the priest of the most high God. Genesis 14:18

Such a mysterious person. Who was, or is Melchizedek? He gave communion of bread and wine to Abraham. This was hundreds of years before there was another priesthood, the one we are so familiar with, that of Aaron. Hundreds of years before there was even an Israel, or Moses. This was centuries before the law was given on Sinai.

No blood was shed by this priest. There was no animal sacrifice, just wine and bread, as we do today. This leads many to believe that Melchizedek was the preincarnate Christ, appearing as an angel in anticipation of His own death, as the Lamb of God. There is much to credit this view. Who better to appear to than Abraham?

But I do believe he was a man, great as he was. Yet he pointed the way to the blood of Christ for those who had the vision to understand. This seems so out of order to what many believe is the progression of the faithful. In this belief, the giving of the law was a great step forward, a precursor to the New Covenant we live in today.

Let me take a contrary view. The people were getting worse and worse, not better. After all what kind of people need to be told not to murder or commit adultery? What manner of people need to be informed that murder was a crime. Cain, the first person born, knew he had done a terrible wrong when he killed his brother.

Stephan, in Acts chapter seven, recounts that Israel offered sacrifices to pagan deities for forty years in the tabernacle of God.

It is that Melchizadek was showing Abraham the sacrifice of Jesus to come, just as we commemorate it in remembrance. Only he was looking forward, with such vision God gave to him.

The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou [art] a priest for ever after the order of Melchizadek. Psalms 110:4

Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Watchtower Visit

If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds. 2 John 10,11

I was napping when my doorbell rang. A lady was stuffing literature into my door as I opened it. She was a neighbor and a Jehovah's Witness. The literature was a faux Easter invitation to honor the resurrection of Christ. Although her cult does not observe Easter, why not take advantage of the season to help pull people in?

I knew what her statements would be. I have been down this road many times before. She was hardcore. She told me her religion was strictly from the Bible in every way. I interjected that all churches and cults say this. She wilted a little at this remark but soon resumed her spiel and said that only her religion actually was Biblical.

Now, I have long had a New World translation and understood this approach. Of course her religion conforms to their translation. It is custom-designed for this.

I imagine a man with a big pot belly. He goes to a taylor and has a suit made that fits his distorted body. When advised to lose some weight, he says, "What for? My clothes fit me perfectly."

As for religions claiming they are 100% Biblical, of course they do. Think of any religion proclaiming, "Come worship with us. Join our church. After all, we depart from the scriptures in many important ways."

I hope you will forgive me for being so negative about these people, but I have had them invite themselves into a private home where we were studying the Bible and contradict what was said. Finally, the lady of the house had to show them the door.

They do not realize they are victims of classical conditioning, which is to isolate them from others, subject them to endless meetings, and disfellowship them for infractions. Reading anything that is not cult-approved is forbidden, so in most cases they are impossible to reach.

What is more offensive than people who dictate what others must believe and do?

My mother liked to feed the birds and watch them as they came to her feeders. Her Witness visitors told her that this was wrong and a waste of money. Our ancestors made some hard boat trips to escape this very sort of thing.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Over Righteous

Be not righteous overmuch; neither make thyself over wise: why shoudest thou destroy thyself? Ecclesiastes 7:16

I actually don't see people who are righteous overmuch any more, or over wise, either. Then, I hardly see anyone at all. But I hear they're out there. I've met some. You need a dose meter to turn pink, warning you to back off. You've had enough.

I have met people who have reached sinless perfection, by not watching movies and not eating delicious food. I could have learned so much from them, but I backslid. An honest assessment of myself is not good, or getting better. If enough people were like me, the world would grind to a stop. I just wasted a whole morning watching the sun come up. So you see, I waste time, time I could use to make the world a better place.

When I see wonderful people, before I marvel at them, I imagine them getting up in the morning. "Honey, do I have some clean underwear?" "It's in the drawer, dear." "Well let's get the kids ready, we're running late." "I could use a little help, you know." Like that.

But maybe I'm missing something. They're probably not like that at all. It's just me and my imagination again. I do not live in the same universe with some people I've met.

Like David, I say that my sins are ever before my eyes. Now I am not trying to show how humble I am, because this does not bother me as it should. If I was a used car, no one would buy me.

So I don't associate with many Christians. They wouldn't have me any way. After, say, a month, they would dump me. It's happened. I have only this little favor to ask of them--could they please make the sun come up in a different place, so the plants in my window would get more light?

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Then he took him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; Luke 2:28-31

The story of Simeon and Anna the prophetess is very brief. They waited in the temple until baby Jesus was brought in. They knew, right away, who he was. The Holy Spirit informed them that the Messiah was coming and when Mary and Joseph brought him in, who he was.

How wonderful! So many railed against Him, and tried to confound him, but these two were already waiting for him when he was yet a baby. This passage can easily be passed up or forgotten, yet it is so rich.

It has been noticed that "gentiles" are mentioned first among those who would be blessed. Some see it as a foreshadowing of the church, with Israel, later having their blindness removed, after the church is complete. I see it that way too.

Such obscure people, yet so blessed by the Spirit. Simeon and Anna show that patience and waiting for Christ will be rewarded, no matter how long it takes.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Preaching to the Dead

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins. Ephesians 2:1 NIV

A common expression among those advocating our use of free will to "choose" Christ, is that predestination makes us into mere robots. Now who wants to be a robot, with no will of its own? No one I know of. After all, we have free will, to do good or bad. If it is true that our names were written in the Lamb's book of life, before the world was made, it is because God foresaw how we would use this will.

It is an appealing argument, as many false ideas are. We can rest upon it. Of course God did His part. We must give Him some of the credit, after all. Those who use their free will to opt for Christ are better than those who did not choose Him. At this point the free will people will balk. We are all sinners, as they say. "the ground around the cross is level."

Isn't it wonderful how God uses such physical things to illustrate how we are born again? He gets right down to it, saying we are born of incorruptible seed, that we are children who may call Him Abba or Daddy, shocking as that may seem. If we stay with the physical, we can't go wrong. So I will give an illustration that remains physical. Until we are made alive in Christ we are dead. Being dead is much worse than being a robot, isn't it?

My friend,Brother Gadd, used to describe preaching to a bunch of dead people. No response is possible. They must be alive to respond. Why it is like saying you must be born before you can say "Abba, Father." This is pure Aristotelian logic. It is either raining or not raining. You are either dead or you are alive before you respond to His words.

This is so radical, but here goes. God makes you alive before you choose Him. Paul, on the road to Damascus road, had been a party to the stoning of Stephen, had seen Stephen's face look like an angel's. When the risen Christ confronted Paul, he said "Why do you kick against the goad?" He was talking to a new believer, still resisting the call.

I don't remember being born. Who does? But I remember when I learned to acknowledge my earthly father. It was, of course, years later. First I was born, then I called out to him. Am I going to far in this? Am I giving God all the credit? I hope so.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Free to Good Home

Used Bible teacher.

  • Interfaces with all denominations, including Presbyterians, Baptists, and Roman Catholics.
  • Self educated not to say, "er," "ah," or "you know" for up to two hours. Knows funny stories but promises not to tell them during class time.
  • This model was called "Fundamentalist" by old-timers, but now is not called anything at all.
  • It loves cats and dogs, but causes allergy problems in some people.
  • Manufactured by the method called "hard knocks" but has a finish produced by some "soft knocks" too.
  • If necessary this breed has been known to remain silent for long periods of time, but being of the sub-set, Gemini, is capable of extended speech.
  • Suitable for class sizes as low as one person.
  • This one may not be useful to you, and all transactions are refundable.

Warning: The shelf life of this unit has almost expired. Please dispose of in a non-recycleable container.

Call any time.

Monday, March 25, 2013

It Began With Eve

And Adam called his wife's name Eve; because she was the mother of all living.
Gen. 3:20

People in a fast food restaurant came to a hush and stared at a woman who had just sat down. She was unlike any woman many of us had seen, right out of an illustration from Omar Khyaam. A bit of Persia, perhaps, was in our midst.

A few years later, in a bakery, I saw a man who looked like an Etruscan mosaic. These people, standing out in my rather plain and uniform heartland population, made me think. We all have one mother. One woman, Eve. It was hard to believe, so much diversity!

For those who would think I am hopelessly naive in believing that we all began with Adam and Eve, I submit the following. I was attending a biology class at the University of Cincinnati. The young teacher explained the genetic diversity of human beings. He told us, "Imagine a large set of encyclopedias filled with digits, all nines. That is how many babies are in the genes of one woman."

I understand the Chinese say that Adam and Eve were Chinese, and it seems some genetic studies bear them out on the basis of genetics present in every race. Since people who know the Chinese, as did Edgar Snow, even after the recent purge of intellectuals, he believes the Chinese are still the smartest people in the world. If so, we had a great beginning.

As time passed, in many ways, we went downhill. We finally became so evil that God brought the flood upon us and killed all but eight people. Noah had three sons. Of these the whole earth was overspread, says the word.

I see a continuing narrowing down here, until we all began from one person, spiritually. What we read as we look in the world's greatest history book, Genesis! If Eve knew how it all would go, would she not have marveled?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Strictly for the Birds

You will drink from the brook, and I have ordered the ravens to feed you there. 1 Kings 17:4, NIV

As a young man, I wonderred what the ravens brought to Elijah morning and evening. He was fed, by the commandment of God, by the birds.

I was asked by a dear friend recently, about preparation for troublous times. My response to her question was "flight". That is, to a less inhabited area.

Many will say they plan to rely on God to care for them, and making preparations is a breach of faith on our part. Let me say that I plan to rely on God for the rest of my life, that is not an issue. But what is the nature of our reliance?

Do we go to the store to buy food? Most of us do and are thankful that we can. But imagine a time when this is no longer possible. Who will live by staying put and relying on God?

I think of the many times good people have been warned in the Bible to flee. Noah and his family to the ark, which God then closed up. Sodom was destroyed by God. But before this destruction Lot was told to flee. Paul fled over the city wall in a basket. A wonderful example of flight was Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus going to Egypt.

I am sure that we agree that all these relied on God. They are a lesson to us all. Do you see a pattern here? God warns, His beloveds respond by fleeing, then God provides. And of those who do not follow this path? Remember Lot's wife.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Great Erasure

For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered , nor come into mind. Isaiah 65:17

Remember the Magic Slate? I had one and drew and wrote on it. But you know what? I don't remember what I drew or wrote. Guess someone shook it and made my writings and drawings disappear. That is a child's experience, of course.

They promised me that as an old man, I would start forgetting things. Oh, that it were so. I am plagued with memories of the things that grieve me, for example. At night I have trouble sleeping as these memories come out to haunt me. There is something about darkness that allows them to torment me.

Guess that is why lovers close their eyes when they kiss, to shut out distractions. Well, I welcome distractions. I am afraid my kissing days are long past, but my memory days are still with me.

The promise of God to make new heavens is thrilling, and His promise that the old one will not be remembered is very comforting. I eagerly await the heavenly slate to erase the old.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Agabus, the New Testament Prophet

After we had been there a number of days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. Acts 21:10

Agabus doesn't get much mention in the Bible or by the church. Imagine asking 25 people, "Do you know who Agabus was?" Maybe none of those you questioned would answer "Yes".

He appears only twice in the Bible, but both times are very important. First, In Acts 11:28, he predicts a severe drought throughout the Roman world. Far more than just a climate prediction, it was a warning to the church that there would be those in need. Much later, in Acts 21:10, Agabus makes his second and last appearance.

And what a sad message he has! He asks for Paul's belt, then uses it to demonstrate how Paul will be bound and turned over to the gentiles. People weep over this terrible news. Paul's ministry is coming to an end, and his friendship will be taken from them.

Now I bring up the prophecies of Agabus for this reason. Just as he had heart breaking news to deliver, modern teachers of the Bible do also. I realize that many people want to hear only happy thoughts. You must have a "positive" attitude to reach people. Why, a preacher could lose his position if he delivers depressing messages. Many a congregation is largely composed of "smiley faced" Christians.

But just as Agabus was empowered by the Holy Spirit to tell hard truths, so are ministers, and even Bible teachers. If you are alone, studying your Bible, should you not also read these messages? Please do not turn away, these also are the words of God.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Changing Gears in Heaven

Then said he, Knowest thou wherefore I come unto thee? and now will I return to fight with the prince of Persia: and when I am gone forth, lo, the prince of Grecia shall come. Daniel 10:20

This passage is so revealing! It tells us how governments or rulerships are determined. To read just chapter ten of Daniel is to view the ultimate source of power of who runs the world. Nations are involved in a heavenly struggle. Michael fights. Persia will be ousted to be replaced by Greece.

We may be accustomed to think we determine things by our votes and resolve. May I say it is the angel Michael who determines such things, and they occur in the second heaven, not at a polling booth. This is way out of our league. Daniel is not a book about politics, but of heaven-determined governments.

There are those who feel that man determines his own fate. A preacher once said, "If you want to be in charge, then create your own universe and all the people in it. This present creation is not run by you, but by God."

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Dashing Through the Snow

A New Year's Eve had become a New Year's Day about an hour before I left my friends' house and headed for home. It was very cold, and newly plowed snow had piled up. I turned on my car radio as I turned off the main road. A broadcast by Elder Laseere Bradley was playing as I realized I had made a mistake in turning onto the unplowed shortcut.

I left Elder Bradley on as I drove through the snow around a lake through a deserted park. Bradley was preaching in a pleading manner, as if he was talking to me. He talked about the much hated doctrine of predestination.

My old car was the worst snow car I have ever driven, and my almost bald tires skewed me around as I plowed through the snow. I was afraid to stop and get stuck, so I kept going, swerving wildly as I negotiated the curvy road. All this time I listened to the old time voice of the preacher.

He was an Independent Baptist and what many would call a five point Calvinist. I was a student of the Bible, yet still an Arminian. But Bradley had hold of me. Though contrary to my beliefs, his logic and references to the scriptures was unassailable. He had an accent that appealed to me. Half of my family descended from such people, though they are disappearing.

At first I was skeptical. His message was new to me--God has chosen us, before we were born, to be his people. As Jacob was chosen before he wrestled with the angel, my name was already on God's list of the elect, before I was born. Nothing could be so radical.

My car finally broke through the unplowed side road onto the main highway once again. But something had occurred to me. Almost like realizing you are in love. My crazy trip was over and I was safe. But in that short passage I had matured in my doctrine and there was no going back.

I have a sermon by Elder Bradley on a cassette. It sounds like so long ago and I guess it was. He is still my favorite preacher. That night, in the snow, he did so much for me.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Watch the Smiles Fade

And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. Mark 7:9

Have you ever visited a church and been greeted with smiles and welcomed with open arms? I mean as a visitor. This has been my experience a number of times. I have had people put an arm around my shoulder and call me brother. Later, they avoid me and will not speak to me. And all for my simple offense of saying that their church might better serve people as a linoleum and rug store.

A major offense could be to ask a question concerning doctrine. Say you inquire if their beliefs are the result of searching the scriptures or have been inherited, perhaps as a family tradition?

My father was an ardent believer in the "authorities". What the nameless authorities said was his law and rule of conduct. It does take less effort to just yield one's mind to someone else's dictates, and concentrate on sports. In sports you may follow your own leanings and be free from authorities.

Now about the smiling, friendly people. The less they know about you, the more they smile. As they get to know you better, the smiles may disappear altogether. That seems to be just the reverse of how it should be. It would make a lot more sense if you were greeted with a bit of reservation at first, then people could warm up to you as they became better aquainted.

I heard a great quote, attributed to Voltaire. He said you can tell who rules over you by who you are not allowed to question. May I say that applies to doctrine perhaps most of all. Deep down many people fear their beliefs are not sound, and will not stand up to investigation.

In fact, this is the age where beliefs are a matter of emotion or prejudice rather than the Bible. It is common to hear people say "You can prove anything from the Bible". If one chooses a particular passage this can be true. Satan is quoted at times, as are false prophets. I sure wouldn't assume their words were true.

So, questions and questioners are often forbidden and ignored. I have found that those whose beliefs are grounded in scripture welcome questions and discussion. Those who have not examined their beliefs shun examination of them as if they were poison. When a question is asked you can see the smiles fade away.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tell Me Why

There was a small county fair on the edge of a rather gritty, rundown town. My wife and I found it while on a ride and decided to go there. It was small and rather pathetic, but they were trying.

We gravitated towards the sound of the merry go round. It too was small. Not a big music making ride with mechanical drums and cymbals, it played recorded music over a speaker.

Next to this ride was a farm tent. This one had a pen of sheep on display. I like animals and visited a small pen of sheep. As I looked at the sheep the merry go round began to play. It was the music of the fifties, played on an electric organ. The Four Aces had a good disk on it, "Tell Me Why." But this recording had a mournful sound. It must have been in a minor key.

As the music began to play, I looked into the eyes of a young sheep. The sheep looked back at me as if we were friends and it wanted to speak. I thought of the fate of the sheep. After it was judged it would most likely be killed. It was the way things are.

As we walked back to the car, I was struck by the melancholy of the scene--a little ride with its sad recording. And I could not get the sheep out of my mind. The sheep were crowded into a pen. They must have heard the tune many times.

One can know why this all had to be by reading the story of the fall. It's all there, and the remedy is too. But I still felt the sorrow of it all.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

A Simple Way to Study

You may have memories of school where study was really a drag. I sure do. I failed algebra twice in spite of trying to get it. I loved geometry though, it was one of my best subjects. I needed to see a pattern, not as a number, but a shape.

I have a cousin who was miserable in school because she was ignored by people, though she is really sweet.

Here he goes with an application!

But I see churches like going to school and the Bible as having different patterns. Some people are ignored in church. They may get a hearty handshake and a big smile. Lots of churches do that. But perhaps a person is grieving, and a smile is not what is needed as much as someone to grieve with?

Study can be the same way. Some of us fail at certain subjects, maybe at the very idea of study at all. I sympathize with them. Just as my cousin needed someone to say, "You seem unhappy. What is wrong? Please tell me about it."

Others would love to understand the Bible better, but need to see a pattern or shape. They have a lot of pieces, but can't make a quilt from them, though the pieces of cloth are intriguing, or of great sentimental value.

Let me tell you my approach to both subjects. First, I don't try to "convert" my friends or pressure them, with my "superior" way. If any changes are needed, God will do that. Maybe it will take years, but friendship is more important than facts many times.

I started out to tell you about a simple way to study.

First thing is to find a theme you love--you really are in love with--and pursue this theme. You may have a gift here.

Some churches have a real thrust on evangelism. "Everyone should be an evangelist," they say. But this is a separate gift and calling. I don't have it. Though even a cat can swim, it is not their element.

Finally, my method of study, may be is not easy, but such happy work! First, read through whole sections of the Bible, maybe the whole Bible. Like shopping, where each person has a part of a store that draws them, certain sections of the Bible will appeal, to you. You may love them most of all.

I feel I am talking down to you, and I don't want to appear to do that. I am just talking about my experience, that's all.

For me, it is the path of prophecy. I love to see the great things God will do and has already done. So if that appeals to you, follow it.

I think of the death of Dorcas. People remembered the garments she made for them, as they cried for her. They were her contributions. So love is where it all begins.

It is so neat to print out every verse in the Bible to study, and enjoy. We can now do it quickly, with a computer and a printer, or a print concordence will do it.

If an angel or a preacher were to tell me something is true, I still want to look it up. It could be a fallen angel, or a mistaken preacher I am dealing with. With every quote before you, it is much easier to really see God's ideas.

So begin with love , and every word God gives you. If you have it on your mind as you go to sleep, that may be your theme, whether it is a person in need, or a theme to study, that may be your gift.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Complicators Are Coming!

Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets: Proverbs 1:20

The village was quiet; people were asleep. But a voice was heard in the streets, "Wake up! The complicators are coming. Get pitchforks, axes, anything. We must fight them. We can win this thing."

Someone asked Chris Hedges if he was a Christian. He never replied in a simple manner. He began, "That depends on who you ask." Now I like Chris, he is a smart man. He was an amateur boxer. His father was a Presbyterian pastor. Chris has read a lot, and written a lot too. But if you can't answer the question, "Are you a Christian?" with yes or no, I assume you are not one.

Imagine a woman asking a man, "Do you love me?" The guy answers, "That depends on who you ask."

The complicators are coming. Many are here already, and they are busy complicating ideas and people. The word going around is, that if you can give a simple answer, you must be stupid, or at least uneducated.

I have often heard Peter, of the Bible, described as a simple man, practically a knuckle-dragger. Yet when I read his books, First and Second Peter, I am struck with how deep they are. This is not the work of an ignorant man, but a man with the greatest of knowledge, through divine revelation.

If you were to ask Peter, "Are you a Christian?" he would not say, "It depends on who you ask." He would say a resounding "Yes!"

Friday, March 15, 2013

"In", See Footnote One

I went to college with a little guy. He was a red-haired Jew. He would listen to a professor talking, then say, "Man that's deep! I don't know what the hell he's talking about, but it's deep."

A lady told me about how smart her preacher was. "He talked for two hours just about Genesis 1:1. I figure he was a proponent of the Gap Theory. That requires a lot of talk! After all, you're trying to reconcile the Bible's six days of creation with geologists and evolutionists. That takes a lot of talk.

So called fundamentals will yield to "experts" by creating a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2. It could be millions of years they say. I wonder, why not trillions of years? Anyway, if you allow enough time anything can take place, like geological ages and evolution. Maybe you can placate the more scientificly inclined in yourcongregation? Maybe you can even placate the scientists, hard as that can be.

I am wondering, why bend? Why compromise? Don't placate. Confront people with a God who can create the world in six mornings and evenings, uninterrupted, and a holy book that tells about it.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

What's My Motivation?

Saw a cute cartoon about a dog. I like dog cartoons,especially where dogs talk.

They are preparing a commercial shoot where a dog is to do a simple dog food ad. His script is posted. All he is supposed to do is just read the card. But before the shoot, the dog turns to the director with a puzzled look. "What's my motivation?"he asks. He must have been a method actor.

So often people hesitate when they read the Bible, especially the Old Testament. "What's this mean? Why is she doing that?"

Can I make a suggestion? Just read it!

Learn about what people, even donkeys, say and do. People dream, talk with angels, make love, kill other people. If you just zoom through their stories, you can learn about people until they are like personal friends, or even enemies. Later, you can reflect on them, hear them explained, perhaps in the New Testament. But first get to know them. Figure them out later.

I feel that in older times, we did just that. Great insights were made, by knowing the characters in the Bible, as if they were family members. It's all right to read Genesis through and then, instead of moving ahead, to read it again.

It is said, that when Genesis is completed, you are halfway through the Bible, time wise. To think, the grave of Abraham, is well known, and preserved to this day.

Please, get to know the people of Genesis, without taking snippets out as little lessons right away. Just read the card.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Save the First Dance for Me

Then Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women followed her, with tamborines and dancing. Miriam sang to them: "Sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea." Exodus 15:20, 21, NIV

One beautiful summer night, my little cat danced. The Moon was full with clouds blown past it by powerful winds. You could hear every tree branch full of leaves being played like harps. The night was warm in an exhilirating way.

My little cat left my side and raced across the lawn. She arched her back as she stood still, feeling the breeze, then ran to and fro on the grass. It was that kind of night, when even my little cat had to dance.

I was trying to apply the Law of First Mention to the word "dancing" in the Bible. So many thought it was evil, and I suppose some forms may be. But I discovered Miriam and all the women celebrating with tambourines, as they danced. It was a victory dance, and she sang a victory song. It was not over her peoples' victory, but the greatest nation in the world being defeated for the sake of slaves. It was done, not by warriors, but by God.

I began to see the beauty of it all--David dancing as the ark was brought into the temple. Miriam the prophetess, David the king, what great joy there was in them, as they danced unto the Lord.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Air Express

Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, "Look up and see what is appearing." I asked "What is it?" He replied,"It is a basket." And he added,"This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land." Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman!
He said,"This is wickedness," and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed its lead cover down on it. Then I looked up--and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth. "Where are they taking the basket?" I asked the angel who was speaking to me. He replied "To the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. When the house is ready, the basket will be set there in its place."

Zechariah 5:5-11, NIV

This obscure passage is one of my favorite prophetic passages. It tells us so much in a simple vision, and dovetails perfectly into Revelation. A person living when this was written, would understand the meaning of the basket and the women with stork wings. The two women are an old symbol of commerce. Today we might use dollar signs.

The basket, or ephah, was a unit of measure. The woman in the basket is described. She is wickedness. The prophet asks where she will be taken and is told, to Shinar, or Babylonia.

This is so important. Though Martin Luther called Rome "Babylon" it was a term of derision, not a geographical term. Many interpret Babylon as Rome, and the Vatican. Even the old Duay Catholic Bible's notes do so. I'm afraid this is what is called a self-reference complex. Everything is not about their church or any church for that matter.

No, the simple, direct, interpretation is the answer. In the later days, commerce will carry wickedness to Babylon, just as the book of Revelation says.

What about the lead weight? The woman is imprisoned until it is time for her to come out. A place is being built for her. When this place is complete, out she comes. It is really quite simple.

I find this prophecy so important because it not only tells us of a future union of commerce and wickedness, it tells us of where the hub of this activity will be--Babylon. Many feel this has already occurred, but as Al Jolson used to say, "You ain't seen nothing yet."

Monday, March 11, 2013

The High Carry

Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself? Ecclesiastes 7:16

My wife and I were watching an episode of Walker, Texas Ranger. In the early days of the show, Christians were shown in a bad light. The program was into Indian religion at that time. Later, Christianity was ok. Maybe sponsors objected, or they got new writers.

But this early episode featured a very stern, hypocritical, preacher. He really acted the part. He had a self-righteous look, and he carried his Bible in what you could call "the high carry". This is done a lot in movies too. In case viewers are a little dense, they make it obvious that the carrier is super-religious.

Not sure I could pull off the high carry myself. My arm would get too tired, and I prefer to show my faith in other ways.

A friend and I were walking into a restaurant when we passed a table where a Bible was placed. It was a family, no doubt raised by a very pious father. I thought, What a drag, especially for the kids. The waitress would come to your table and ask, "May I warm up your coffee?" Someone would shush her. "Dad is reading Ezekiel. Please don't bother him."

My friend, eternally naive, said to the man, "I see there's no dust on that Bible." The father glowed with pride. I had a different reaction. Relax, let the kids enjoy their french fries. Methinks you are more interested in looking religious than in praising the One who died for you.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Bad Seed

In 1956, a movie came out that was supposedly very shocking. A sweet looking 8 year old girl who killed people. In the end, lightning gets her. This idea was so new and terrible that the makers added a disclaimer at the end, we were only kidding.

They were afraid to present the idea that some people are just born bad. The problem with bad people is bad environment. But to those who read the Bible, the theme was not new or shocking.

But for those who are convinced that environment is the cause of bad behavior, let us imagine a perfect environment. Remember the commedian who said, "The devil made me do it." So let's take him out of the picture.

Others claim that given enough time, people can be reformed. So let's give them 1,000 years. Some say we need the influence of government to reach our true potential. For them we offer Christ in control, with resurrected David as regent. This time there will be no Bathsheba temptation.

Let's review our list: perfect environment, no devil, 1,000 years to reform, Christ ruling, and David as his regent. Sounds perfect doesn't it? This should settle the argument over environment as the cause of evil.

Of course, we are describing the millennium, and it is not at all imaginary, just future. It hasn't occurred yet. Let's look with the eyes of prophecy and see how it all turns out: When the thousand years are over.

Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth- and to gather them for battle. In number they are like the sand on the seashore. They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of God's people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and devoured them. Revelation 20:7-9, NIV

We see that our ideal world has not made goats into sheep after all, and tares have not become wheat.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Michael and His Angels

Then war broke out in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven.
Revelation 12:7 and 8,NIV

A good friend of mine, who was a teacher, told me of strong boys in her classes, often fighters and trouble makers. "It seems like their names are always Mike," she told me with a laugh.

I only know of two angels with names who are prominent in the Bible--Gabriel, the messenger, and the warrior, Michael. What a victory he finally wins. He is victorious over the devil himself.

Revelation tells of the greatest battle ever, and tells us that, presently, Satan and his angels have a place in heaven. Although the past tense is used, as it often is in prophecy, this climactic battle is yet future. It portrays a great victory for those in heaven, but woe for those on the earth.

Therefore rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them! But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you! Revelation 12:12, NIV

Friday, March 8, 2013

Brother, Can You Spare Some Time?

For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. Jude 1:4, NIV

If you have a few minutes, you might read Jude. He only has one chapter, just twenty five verses. A person could print out Jude on two sheets of paper, or on both sides of one sheet. In your pocket you would have a letter written by a brother of Jesus. How precious is that?

And what does he warn us about? False teachers. You would expect them, but so soon? False teaching is not a new problem. The scriptures warn that men like ravenous wolves would tear into God's flock. When? When the apostles had died.

It is well known that many, if not most, seminaries are filled with false teachers. It was the experience of Chuck Swindoll to confront one of his respected teachers over a theological point. The teacher was trapped in his teaching of untruth. His response: I'm the teacher and you're not. He used his position of power to defend error. He could not resort to the word of God. Chuck was fortunate to learn his lesson early.

Am I being cynical? Hardly. Jude warned us, and so do Peter and Paul. This little book on a single sheet of paper, has an important warning for us all.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Dustville Ahead

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return. Gen. 3:19, NIV

Not much in this passage to inflate my ego. But I learned long ago that this is a good thing. It makes me seek God and his resurrection.

As it is for me, I feel very dusty these days. This is a graphic way to say that I feel quite mortal. if Jesus does not return soon, I will be headed to dust. But this is the most common fate that there is. I share it with all of mankind.

As I was riding to the cemetary to bury my wife, I asked the lady who was driving, "What do unbelievers do?" She knew exactly what I meant. It was not a theological question. It was a question about their emotions. "They have no hope--only despair" was what she told me.

This little entry of mine is my witness to you. Few could love the resurrection promised to believers more than I do. It is my comfort and my joy.

Paul tells us that mortality must be put on, For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality (I Cor. 15:53, NIV).

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Second Death

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death. Revelation 2:11

So there is more than one death. In order to rightly divide the word we need to read what the Bible says about it. It is pretty simple, really.

When I taught Revelation, a man told me that he wanted to join my class. I talked with him about it. He said he had always wanted to understand this book. But when I asked him what he had read regarding Revelation, he replied, "Nothing. I wouldn't know where to get a book on it." Should I have told him to try a religious book store? There are some good books out there.

Fortunately for us, we really do not need a book on this subject, though. It is really a simple concept. In the normal course of life we all die once. But the blessed will not die after they are caught up to heaven. These are believers. They become immortal at the rapture. Death will never touch them again.

Not so for unbelievers though. They must be resurrected and face a trial at the Great White Throne judgement (Rev. 20:12). Those who are subject to this trial and are found guilty are cast into the Lake of Fire. Contrary to the belief of so many, this is not torture without end. It is the second DEATH.

Those who argue against annihilation say it is not so--they don't die. that second death only means separation from God. I ask, when were they ever united to Him?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The First Resurrection

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. Revelation 20:5

There is a phrase commonly used, not by ignorant people, but by the so-called learned. It is "general resurrection." It is an invented term, to define an invented idea. It does not explain what the Bible says. Different people have different resurrections. The Bible says so.

Even the first resurrection is not just one event. The first resurrection began with Christ. he was the first, so fitting for the pioneer and perfector of our faith.

I once built a large bird house for purple martins. It had thirty six rooms, each with a large doorway. Martins seldom come to earth. Maybe one will swing down to pick up a leaf, yet even then, not land. They sweep the sky catching flying insects, their only food.

In the winter it's common for them to live in South America. When they return to--in my case--southern Ohio, they must be tired. I learned they do not just return en masse. One bird finds a suitable place and checks it out. He then leads the others there. He goes first, then leads the others.

This is how the first resurrection works. Our leader has led the way. In his resurrection He was the first of the resurrection of which we will be a part. First Corinthians 15:23: But each in his own turn: Christ; the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him.

Like the beautiful martins, our leader will return and lead his flock home.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Please Don't Take Away My Hell!

An urban dictionary defines hell as "A place that a yellow bus takes me to from Monday to Friday."

It's a start. Now this may not seem like a very serious way of discussing a very serious subject such as "hell". It is not meant to be. Though my Baptist friends are fond of saying, "Jesus spoke of hell more than anyone." Now this is absolutely true if the translators are right. If the original texts are true, then Jesus never mentioned hell at all.

It depends on what you want to believe. If you want to believe in a fiery underground place of punishment, you have most translators on your side. On the other hand, if you are concerned about literal truth, you can read what the translations were made from. Many Bibles contain both, with the original words in brackets.

I believe in freedom of belief and people making their own choices. I wish I had more of it. But if I say I don't believe in hell, I get a scornful, often hateful reaction. I find all kinds of religious people who go ballistic over this.

My first college experience was to take a course entitled "Christ and the Gospels" at Xavier university, Jesuit institution.. I was a Protestant, so I entered this study with both curiosity and alarm. How would they treat me? Would I be brain-washed with Catholicism? To my relief, it was an entirely pleasant experience.

One of my fellow students was a Baptist science teacher. After one of our lectures he told me, "I thought I knew the Bible until now."

We were given a little chart of the chronology of the Bible, which really helped a lot. Our teacher was chaplain of the football team and a very gentle person. He recommended a Bible dictionary available in the campus book store. I bought it. I remember it was written by a Father Tos. It was very thorough.

I looked up "hell" and the author stated the doctrine of such a place was adopted from the Greeks and not Biblical at all. Now, the Catholics still believe in hell. Its non-Biblical origin is not a problem to them. They are, of course, free to do this, and Tos's honesty was very refreshing. I wish it was true for all of us.

I was a babe in Christ and His Word at the time. You may wonder if this pleasant experience led to my becoming Catholic? It did not, but it made me realize, that like gold, truth is where you find it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Texts Jesus Used

He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it he found the place where it is written: The Spirit of the Lord is upon me...
Luke 4:16-18

There used to be a joke about the poor, dumb Fundamentalists, (like me) who supposedly said, "I want the Bible Jesus used." But how dumb is this when referring to the above quotation from Luke? I am certain Jesus did not need to read from a scroll to "get it right", but did it to illustrate to others that he was sticking to a text.

Well it certainly was not a King James he read from, or even an NIV. But the Septuagint is a different matter. This version of the Old Testament was the reference used. It's been around a long time. Jesus also quoted from Masoritic texts, and it could be said these ancient texts do not always agree.

But idioms are not critical to doctrines in this case. Can anyone find a Bible doctrine that is altered by such a disagreement?

Then there are the Dead Sea scrolls. Who can show a meaningful doctrinal difference resulting from the discovery of these texts?

But I am saying the doctrine of hell is not found in any of these sources. It is of Greek origin, not Biblical, and has been adopted by some translators and mistranslates basic Biblical ideas such as grave or pit to mean a fiery place below the Earth where people never die, but are tormented forever.

Original sources? I will honor texts Jesus referred to as being accurate. Erasmus got in late.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pardon Me, Your Agenda is Showing

I believe the Bible is God's Word. I believe in Biblical Infallibility. But there is a catch. I believe in the infallibility of the original text. Translations and translators may not be infallible. Especially where the original text uses a word, but a translator uses the same word in two (or more) differant ways.

An example would be Acts 12:4, where the word passover is translated as Easter by the KJV. I know there are those who will defend this usage by saying the Jews kept Easter. My question is, then why didn't Luke say so? Did the translators know more than Luke, who wrote the book of Acts?

Most of us are not going to become scholars in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, so we can understand the original Bible texts. But many people have, and when they produce a Bible, they often put the original words in brackets. The Scofield, for example, does a great job of this. Now we can all be experts. The original translation is preserved, as in the 1611 Authorized or King James Bible. I use one of these.

Some will say, Why not leave it alone? The King James has beauty and power. What Bible has done so much and continues to do so? None that I know of.

I want both, really. With the original text in brackets though, I can be rid of Easter and Hell. The original text does that for me. We still have the beautiful language of Shakespear's time, only without these concepts. Could these wonderful people have had a secret agenda in their translation, to promote these false concepts?

Friday, March 1, 2013

Struggling With a Verse

And the devil, who deceived them, was throne into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Revelation 20:10, NIV

Jacob wrestled all night with an angel. I have wrestled for many years with the above verse. Many people speculate and say, "Is this the action of a loving God?"

My approach is much simpler. I want to know, does the Bible really say this? I guess another way to say it is, it does not ring true.

Obviously whatever God does is righteous. But I was very troubled by the many passages that speak of the destruction of the wicked. They contradicted this passage about the wicked living forever. It came down to this: are the unrighteous alive forever, or will they die? Simple as that.

I knew God does not contradict Himself. Could it be that some expositors do? Even translators? But I wanted to find out what the Bible says, nothing more.

I looked at Isaiah chapter 66:24. And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me; their worm will not die, nor will their fire be quenched, and they will be loathsome to all mankind. Is this a parallel to Revelation?

I looked around and the evidence added up. Jude says that Sodom and Gomorrah suffered the vengence of eternal fire (Jude verse 7). Yet they are not burning today. A commentator explained it this way: eternal fire is fire that cannot be quenched until its work is complete.