One Pagan’s View

If you go to church, remember that you are the church. Here is an eyewitness account by a pagan of what the church was like just after it was born. It didn’t look anything like a modern institution, but it did look like Jesus…

“They abstain from all impurity in the hope of the recompense that is to come in another world. As for their servants or handmaids or children, they persuade them to become Christians by the love they have for them; and when they become so, they call them without distinction, brothers. They do not worship strange gods; and they walk in all humility and kindness, and falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another. When they see the stranger they bring him to their homes and rejoice over him as over a true brother; for they do not call those who are after the flesh, but those who are in the Spirit and in God.

“And [if] there is among them a man that is poor and needy and if they have not an abundance of necessities, they fast two or three days, that they may supply the needy with the necessary food.

“They observe scrupulously the commandment of their Messiah; they live honestly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and all hours on account of the goodness of God toward them, they render praise and laud Him over their food and their drink; they render Him thanks.

“And if any righteous person of their number passes away from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God and they follow his body as though he were moving from one place to another. And when a child is born to them, they praise God, and if again it chances to die in its infancy, they praise God mightily, as for one who has passed through the world without sins.

“Such is the law of the Christians and such is their conduct.”

(From The Apology of Aristides, Syriac text and translation. Cited in Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. 1 (Chicago Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc), page 346)

By the way, Aristides the pagan eventually followed Jesus. I don’t wonder why.

In the Beginning God…

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, of course…)

I am far from knowledgeable about creation science, which means I usually steer away from it in my sermons and bring in a real expert. I also avoid speculations like the “gap theory”, except to say that it is a concoction of our hyper-rational need for us westerners to figure everything out. The Hebrews were presented by God Himself with a God who was different than all other idols and philosophies, because, until then, no one ever imagined a single eternal, all-powerful being who preexisted everything and made everything. In other words, the concise little opening sentence of Genesis was a towering statement that dwarfed the cosmos.

Every tribe, region, city, nation and empire in the world all had their own “patron” or tribal gods. More than that, everyone somewhat respected this arrangement and believed that “your gods are your gods, and my gods are my gods, though mine are better than yours…” (This is why Israel regularly gravitated towards idolatry until the Babylonian exile—which, by the way, cured them of it.) But then God speaks to Moses, and he writes down those amazing words. Suddenly, God is no tribal, regional or imperial god—He is the God, and He is talking to us. Too bad the Hebrew’s appreciation of this stupendous truth was diluted by the pagan-ecumenical indoctrination they got from a four-hundred year Egyptian immersion.

“In the beginning God created…” set Him apart from everyone else and everything else: that statement killed animism, paganism, humanism, nihilism and countless other “isms” with a single stroke of a pen. It defined God’s limitations (none); His power, knowledge, wisdom and understanding (all limitless) and His love and unsearchable plan—especially for a people like them—homeless brick makers and herdsmen, generations of slaves. And for us, who, despite all our modern conveniences, still wander and are just as needy.

I like that passage.



The Soon and Coming King

I am not against politics, though I do not like them.

My friend Gayle Erwin recently noted,

“If a politician runs on the “Jesus” platform and is not compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in mercy and truth, mercy to thousands, forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin, then I consider them hypocrites and liars. Support them at your own risk.”

Last Tuesday another attempt was made to lobby me to pulpit-political activism. I know it’s legal for me to talk about political issues and patriotism from my pulpit—I can even publicly espouse or deplore the merits of certain propositions. But—because I have only so many breaths in my lungs, I have elected to spend all I can of them preaching and teaching the Bible. Not the Bible and… There are just too many eternal things to talk about during my one short lifetime to use up good moments rallying people for causes less than Christ. Besides, God is not a Republican—in fact it may shock you to discover He’s not even an American.

I hope people come to church not to convert to a political view or, worse, to some political party, but to Christ and Christ alone. They already know how they will vote and who they will vote for next election when they walk through the door. Besides, what cause have I to add to any message that could ever equal or even enhance God’s Word of Life? I am both privileged and called to tell them about a King who will come, and that when He does, He will destroy all forms of government except His own. He will not even Christianize the world. He will simply rule it as He sees fit.

Malcolm Muggeridge seems to have been quite a prophet. Here was his take on the subject:

“Whatever may happen, however seemingly inimical to it may be the world’s going and those who preside over the world’s affairs, the truth of the Incarnation remains intact and inviolate. Christendom, like other civilizations before it, is subject to decay and must sometime decompose and disappear. The world’s way of responding to intimations of decay is to engage equally in idiot hopes and idiot despair. On the one hand some new policy or discovery is confidently expected to put everything to rights: a new fuel, a new drug, détente, world government. On the other, some disaster is as confidently expected to prove our undoing: Capitalism will break down. Fuel will run out. Plutonium will lay us low. Atomic waste will kill us off. Overpopulation will suffocate us, or alternatively, a declining birth rate will put us more surely at the mercy of our enemies.

In Christian terms, such hopes and fears are equally beside the point. As Christians we know that here we have no continuing city, that crowns roll in the dust and every earthly kingdom must sometime flounder, whereas we acknowledge a King men did not crown and cannot dethrone, as we are citizens of a city of God they did not build and cannot destroy. Thus the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, living in a society as depraved and dissolute as ours. Their games, like our television, specialized in spectacles of violence and eroticism. Paul exhorted them to be “steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in God’s work,” to concern themselves with the things that are unseen. “For the things which are seen are temporal but the things which are not seen are eternal.” It was in the breakdown of Rome that Christendom was born. Now in the breakdown of Christendom there are the same requirements and the same possibilities to eschew the fantasy of a disintegrating world and seek the reality of what is not seen and eternal, the reality of Christ.”

I pray our pews (okay, chairs) will be filled with every kind of political animal—who will come because they love hearing about our soon and coming King, and how we will all bow and worship before Him without flags, affiliations, parties or petitions.

Just Him, and us looking at Him. Our King.



The Eclipse of All I Ever Knew

“The proper study of the Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy which can engage the attention of a child of God is the Name, the Nature, the Person, the Doings, and the Existence of the great God we call “Father”. It is a subject so vast that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep that our pride is drown in its infinity. Other subjects we can comprehend and grapple with; in them we feel a kind of self-contentment and go our way with the thought, “Behold, I am wise!” But when we come to this master science, finding that our plumb-line cannot sound its depth, that our eagle eye cannot see its height, we turn away with the thought, “I am but of yesterday, and know nothing!”  —C.H. Spurgeon

9/11 Thoughts and Thanks

Blue skies Towers Pentagon Planes Crashing Burning Running Black skies Police Firefighters Chaplains Rescuing Rolling Falling Disbelief Weeping Surviving Not surviving Empty skies Remembering Revenging Devils Heroes Justice Glory Freedom. Thank you.

The world is a remarkable place, full of people who love life, who love their children, and, free or oppressed, love liberty. But the world is also a perilous place, contaminated by a few envious villains who covet power, who rage at the thought that people come and go without their leave, and who revel in death; whose malevolent ideologies the forces of freedom—even to last breath and last drop of blood—must resist.  All evil is worthy of defiance—and all virtue is worthy of all sacrifice.

The Hebrews taught that when people are free, they are rich, and that to save a single life is to save the whole world. Today we are rich and we are safe by the intervention of men and women who risked all—to save a world—your world.

Today we salute the firefighters, police officers and resolute civilians who esteemed the lives of OTHERS as of greater worth than their own, who did not expect to be heroes, yet they did The Greater Work, and were buried in smoldering ruin.

Today, we salute all men and women in uniform—who stand—and sometimes fall—guarding our inalienable human liberty; the sentries of our children’s futures: soldiers-in-arms, firefighters, police officers, who fight in far away places, and who stand here with us—among us—daily risking life to save life to save…the world. This is the cause of freedom.

Though you may not know their names, remember their sacrifice, give thanks for their vigilance, and follow their courage…



The End of the World: Getting Our Facts Straight

Jesus is coming—soon. Be ready.

As our world circles the drain it gurgles, “the end is near”, and I believe it. The Bible describes in terrifying detail the last days of life on earth as we know it: trends, events, personalities, cataclysms, holocausts and apostasy like no other epoch of history this side of Noah’s Flood. The universal upheaval of those days will be so horrendous that no fewer than ten times Jesus sternly warned His followers—and everyone else, “be ready!”

So—what do the signs of the End look like? That’s the colorful question of which we all want to know the answer. And despite the fact that God has told us everything that He wants us to know about the end of the world through the prophets and His Son, we insatiably curious Americans have somehow become convinced that it is our sacred duty to fill in the blank spots that God did not.

What does the End of the World look like? Well, not like America. The end of America might well be upon us, but it’s not the end of the world—just our little corner of it. America is not Israel, and all the end-of-the-world prophecies in the Bible center entirely around Israel. In fact, the only lens God gave us to view and interpret the signs of Jesus’ return is Israel. If we want to get it right, we have to pluck out our American eyes and start looking at the global happenings through the eyes of a Jew standing in Jerusalem looking out at the rest of the world. Every prophecy of the End is built on that single premise.

What does the End of the World look like? Well, not like the science that all too many pulpit ministers and bloggers use to describe it (I am both, but for what it’s worth, read on). Let me give you three recent examples…

1. Elenin the comet. A comet is not a planet, an alien mother ship or a rogue brown dwarf star. A comet is a chunk of dirty ice grabbed by the sun’s gravity and pulled into the inner solar system (our general vicinity), only to be hurtled back into deep space when it finally slingshots around the sun. Comets are small—typically a few miles across—and they are made of mostly water ice. This means they’re not nearly massive enough to affect the orbits or tectonics of any passing planet or moon in the solar system. Short of a direct hit, it’s a scientific impossibility. Their trajectories are also extremely predictable—so much so that busy astronomers leave all the comet-spotting and naming to back-yard sky-watchers.

Now—why waste your time with such scientific drivel? I have recently heard and read predictions by several influential Christians that comet Elenin is at least partly responsible for our recent spate of deadly earthquakes and tsunamis, and that it is even on a collision course with the earth.

Newsflash #1: Comet Elenin has, at the most, the mass of 36 cubic miles of ice. Were that to hit the earth, it would be catastrophic. But it’s not going to. NASA and Elenin’s Russian discoverers have calculated it will miss the earth by around a thousand times the distance between our earth and moon. And it will not even cross the earth’s orbit coming or going. Besides, our moon, which is made out of rock and metals and is billions of times more massive, and orbiting us at a mere 238,857 miles is more likely the guilty party for all the shaking on terra firma.

Newsflash #2: Comet Elenin seems to have disintegrated approaching the inner solar system…

Newsflash #3: God doesn’t need a comet—or anything else in nature—to produce the terrifying events of the world’s end.

2. The sun will be given the power to scorch people with fire (Revelation 16:8) because it will become a supernova. All kinds of ministers who teach the Book of Revelation continue declaring this scientific “fact”. But it’s not a fact—in fact, it’s not even good science fiction. Einstein and a lot of other really smart guys figured out that a star could go supernova only if it had at least three times the mass of our sun. What is a supernova? Here’s the short version: Stars emit light because of a process called nuclear fusion going on in its core (think hydrogen-bomb on a gigantic scale). Because of the incredible pressures in its core, our sun is fusing hydrogen atoms (which have a single proton and electron) into helium atoms (which have two protons, neutrons and electrons). When this happens, unimaginable amounts of energy are released and the sun shines. When a really massive star (unlike our sun, which is little by comparison) uses up all its hydrogen, it starts fusing helium into carbon, and so on. When the star finally works its way up the periodic scale and begins fusing the element iron, something happens that physicists don’t really understand. The gigantic nuclear forces in the star’s core can’t seem to hold up the upper layers of the star anymore, which its massive gravity is already pulling inward toward the core. When this happens the whole star collapses in upon itself with such force that it fuses every element on the periodic table and, voila! You have a supernova. Another way to describe it would be the biggest, brightest, most violent explosion in the universe. They don’t happen too often, but when they do, they can often be seen in broad daylight—even when they are exploding in another galaxy. I am happy to report that none are expected in our neighborhood anytime soon.

Newsflash#4: If our own sun were to supernova (which it can’t), it would obliterate everything in our solar system, in any neighboring solar systems, and would saturate our entire galactic region with intense, lethal radiation. Revelation 16 isn’t talking about this. On a similar note, the much less energetic “planetary nova” (which could happen to our sun, but not today) is often confused with a supernova. But even a simple planetary nova would vaporize the solar system, so it won’t be one of these, either.

Newsflash#5: God doesn’t need a supernova—or anything else in nature—to cause the sun to scorch people with fire during the coming Great Tribulation (the last seven years of the world before the return of Jesus). And it will still be really bad…

3. The Mark of the Beast will be a sub-dermal microchip implanted in the right hand or forehead. The logic cited by lots of ministers and bloggers has to do with the Apostle John’s observation (Revelation 13) that during a portion of the Great Tribulation no one will be able to buy or sell anything without possessing this mark. Scary scenario indeed—but whether or not the Mark is a microchip, a barcode or a magic marker is not the point, and it never was.

If you remember, there were a few special “marks” put on people in the Bible. There was Cain, who was marked by God so others would’t kill him. But there was also a group of people in the Old Testament who were marked on their foreheads, apparently by an angel. Ezekiel saw this happen in a vision God gave him, where an angelic scribe was commanded to go around Jerusalem and put a mark—a taw [pronounced “tav”, a Hebrew letter which, in those days, happened to look like a cross] on the foreheads of everyone who wept over the terrible moral and spiritual condition of God’s people. Even though the mark wasn’t physical (it was a vision, remember), everyone who was marked God considered His worshipper in a city full of idolaters. They were the good-guys. Then there are the 144,000 male, virgin, Messianic Jews living in Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation. God said He would keep them perfectly safe during the worst time the world has ever seen. How? He put His mark of ownership on their foreheads because they worshipped Him.

And then there is the Beast—the Antichrist. He is the great usurper of Jesus and God, and there seems to be no end to his blasphemies. He will cause everyone on earth to take his mark or die. That anyone rejecting the mark would be denied the ability to buy or sell would have been an obvious thing to anyone living in the First Century. How? Did they have a vision of microchips and a cashless society? No—but they understood the consequences for not worshipping the right god.

Here’s how it worked: The Gentiles back then worshipped all kinds of pagan deities, including Caesar. When they started converting to Christ they stopped worshipping the gods and worshipped only THE God. That made them atheists in the eyes of the pagans. But even more, it made the Christians responsible for any and all the catastrophes that would befall the region because they didn’t worship the right pagan god. In fact, the pagans believed, because Christians refused to worship the local deity, they made it mad, and it would send a plague or locusts or an earthquake. Whatever disaster came upon them, it was the Christian’s fault—not because of who they worshipped, but who they didn’t. You can see how it made the locals angry at the Christians—in fact it made them so angry they would punish believers by boycotting them—refusing to sell to, or buy anything from them. It was all about who you worshipped. And that is what the Mark of the Beast is all about.

Newsflash #6: The world doesn’t need sub-dermal microchips or a cashless society for the Antichrist to impose his blasphemous will upon the world.

Newsflash #7: The end may be closer than we think…

Christian “science” is frequently criticized a oxymoron, and the critics are usually spot-on. The rational, scientific world laughs at the Evangelical Christian community because they think we don’t know what we’re talking about. And all to often, we don’t. If a pastor cites scientific data in sermon or blog, they had better get it right, because the world we want to reach will scorn us needlessly when all the speculations and pseudo-data are proven false. Far worse, congregations will have been cheer-led into a paranoid frenzy over a set of ludicrous “facts” about the end of the world—facts that are sensationalist in the face of an oncoming freight train—the End that God said He ordained and He would do with His mighty hand.

When our speculative, sensationalist “facts” fizzle, why should anyone believe the rest of us? Worse, why should other Christians? We might well be dancing on the precipice of false prophecy. Regardless, we have only demonstrated to the unsaved that they were right in thinking that “all” Christians are just like, well…Harold Camping.



Way Beyond Politics

Since my last post was a rare venture into the ruins of the political realm, I thought it would be nice to post something a bit more transcendent and eternal that puts man’s meddling in his own affairs in its proper place. It may be familiar to you, but it’s always an exhilarating read. It was written by the late Malcolm Muggeridge.

“We look back on history and what do we see? Empires rising and falling, revolutions and counter-revolutions, wealth accumulating and wealth dispersed, one nation dominant and then another. Shakespeare speaks of ‘the rise and fall of great ones that ebb and flow with the moon.’ In one lifetime I have seen my own fellow countrymen ruling over a quarter of the world, the great majority of them convinced, in the words of what is still a favorite song, that, ‘God who’s made the mighty would make them mightier yet.’ I’ve heard a crazed, cracked Austrian proclaim to the world the establishment of a German Reich that would last a thousand years; an Italian clown announce that he would restart the calendar to begin his own assumption of power. I’ve heard a murderous Georgian brigand in the Kremlin acclaimed by the intellectual elite of the world as a wiser than Solomon, more enlightened than Ashoka, more humane than Marcus Aurelius. I’ve seen America wealthier and in terms of weaponry, more powerful than the rest of the world put together, so that Americans, had they so wished, could have outdone an Alexander or a Julius Caesar in the range and scale of their conquests. All in one little lifetime. All gone with the wind. England part of a tiny island off the coast of Europe, threatened with dismemberment and even bankruptcy. Hitler and Mussolini dead, remembered only in infamy. Stalin a forbidden name in the regime he helped found and dominate for some three decades. America haunted by fears of running out of those precious fluids that keep her motorways roaring, and the smog settling, with troubled memories of a disastrous campaign in Vietnam, and the victories of the Don Quixotes of the media as they charged the windmills of Watergate. All in one lifetime, all gone. Gone with the wind. Behind the debris of these self-styled, sullen supermen and imperial diplomatists, there stands the gigantic figure of one person, because of whom, by whom, in whom, and through whom alone mankind might still have hope. The person of Jesus Christ.”

South America—Who’da Thought?

Biblical Dinners in South America

As you may know, I have a ministry called ‘The Biblical Dinner’—a live presentation of the historical Last Supper, and you’re in it. I’ve also been given the privilege of sharing this ministry all over the world, with powerful results and lasting good fruit. Let me tell you what happened today

I was embroiled in a conversation with two other pastors over coffee when we all realized that we were late for dinner, and being Calorie Chapel pastors, we were late for our calling. As we entered the dining hall, eight hundred pastors were already seated and working on their salads. We needed to find seats, preferably together and we rushed past a table with three open seats right next to each other. Over the deafening noise in the room I called to the other pastors and pointed to the empty chairs, and they turned and quickly sat down. The other pastors seated at the table were all from Latin American countries, including Guatemala and Columbia. The Columbian man was at my left elbow, and he introduced himself as Luis from Cali.

I had visited Ecuador on several occasions, and since Ecuador borders Columbia, I told this to Luis hoping to stimulate a little conversation. He immediately asked me if I knew pastor Freddy Bernadino of Calvary Chapel Cuenca, Ecuador. I not only know Freddy, I ordained him. More than that, Freddy learned the Biblical Dinner from me and has been busy presenting them all over northern South America. Luis then told me that Freddy did these dinners and has asked him if he would like to learn how to present them.

Here’s where it gets interesting…

Luis looked at me and said he would like to meet the man who taught Freddy how to do the dinners. Now it gets even more interesting. He looks at me, having never met, and said, “you are the one who does the Biblical Dinner…!” I was stunned, to say the least.

He then explained that he had been praying about if he should launch out into this amazing ministry, but was still unsure—until now. There is much more to tell, but I think you get the idea. We now have another Biblical Dinner presenter!
But it gets even MORE interesting. During our amazing conversation the Lord showed me something that had never occurred to me. I have had many people urge me to raise up other men to do Dinners in order to spread this powerful ministry and to help lighten my schedule. So far no one here has taken up the torch, though there are now four men doing it in South America. But wait—do you see it? We Americans are often ignorantly arrogant about ministry. Ministry is not ours to command, keep or even define. God determines what He will make of it, and i am now quite convinced that the ministry of the Biblical Dinner was primarily meant for, of the places on earth, the people of South America. To us, South America is a forgotten continent, an afterthought in geography class. But it is full of all kinds of people, Indian and Hispanic, Portuguese and European, and all of them need to know and can appreciate the understanding of ancient biblical culture as much as all the rest of us. And God has paved the way through men like Freddy, Fernando, Luis and others. As I continue ministering these Dinners, I am beginning to happily understand that I am the one orbiting these pastors, and not the other way around. This is tremendous. I would have never imagined—the Biblical Dinner—determined by God for South Americans!

As I continue to minister these Dinners, I will continue to seek for a few good men to expand the ministry here, north of the equator, but now with the knowledge that God has done something wonderful, completely outside my imagination, with this ministry.

For South America. Who would have thought?

Bless the Lord…!