Monthly Archives: December 2015

End – every beginning has an

In his book Back to the Front, Stephen O’Shea recounted his effort to walk—he sometimes rode—the 450 mile length of WWI battlegrounds.  His decidedly anti-military opinions notwithstanding, it’s generally an interesting book.  The front ran from Nieuport on the English Channel to the Swiss border.

The applicable point of the book to this blog is:  whatever begins has an end.  Wars may be ferocious and take millions of lives—WWI and II did—but both ended.  Farmers begin a new year each Spring and conclude the season with Fall harvest.  2015 began January 1 and will end December 31, 2015.  We who once were babies—like our great-granddaughter McKaela at six months—are now older or much older and closer to our end.

Pillboxes may mark the beginning and end of battle fronts, where events mark ours.  Between our beginning and ending we trace progress or retreat, success or failure, health or sickness, etc., by events experienced, people met or lost, personal goals achieved or missed.

Christians scan 2015 and see where we began, and now are.  The goals we set have to some, or  great extent been reached.  Whatever we did or didn’t get done, the end is near for this year.

As this last blog of 2015 is posted, I intend to be more prolific in all kinds of writing, but particularly in apologetic writing in 2016, especially finishing the second volume of Their Own Best Defense.  That’s a resolution that can be kept by God’s help:  and better one that can be than multiples that won’t be.  Join me:  think of one thing you want to do for God in 2016 that can be achieved by the Spirit of God at work in you.  If every Christian made one such resolution, multiple millions of Christ-honoring decisions will lead to multiple millions of good deeds done for Jesus, blessings shared with hurting people, lost people saved, marriages restored and substantial testimonies for the Savior.  All it takes are masses of Christians one-by-one committing to SOMETHNG we each do to honor the Lord God Jesus Christ!

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Humanism – mistakenly exalts man, Part II

In reading war histories, I’ve often noticed writers mourning the loss of novelists and poets in battle.  While little attention is paid to everyday people who also give their lives.

Why would the loss of novelists, poets and so forth in war be a greater tragedy than the average Joe or Jane’s?  What novel would be so original that another hadn’t already covered the subject?  What poem would be so striking that another hadn’t sung its song or rhymed its words?  What engineer or doctor or sociologist, etc., etc., would produce information and answer questions not available to others in their field?

Most troublesome, how can we offer each other such affection and loathe God in Christ?  To think mortals have more important instruction than God in his word?  Can we have such faith in ourselves and so little in the Bible?

Can we possibly think that humans—who live 40 or 70 or 90 years—have access to mysteries of pre-history, life-purpose and destinies beyond the grave that God’s word denies us?  That those majoring in the “arts” and “sciences” have insights known only to them?

Shall we continue mistaking everything humans think, do or produce as rivals and replacements of anything God says?  As Shen Yun foolishly advertised, art was linking heaven and earth.  That’s humanity’s view of life, death and the after-life.  It’s all a spectacle, theatrical, musical, color, leaping over life in great strides.  If we want it enough, and work hard enough to create life as we think it should be, IT IS.

IT ISN’T!  Any beauty, grace or hope we create for this world may not exist in the next world.  We don’t determine that.  And the beauty, peace, forgiveness, ecstasy God promises comes only in his world.  Never forget that.  – Finis –

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Humanism – mistakenly exalts man, Part I

Shen Yun is an extravaganza of dance, music and acrobatics. “Shen” means a divine being; “Yun” refers to one’s personal body language.  Therefore the combined terms mean “the beauty of heavenly beings dancing,”  Advertisement for Shen Yun, San Diego. Union-Tribune, 12/18/15.

Shen Yun has been praised as “5,000  years…in one night!”  New York Times.  “The Greatest of the Great!”, Christine Walevska, Cellist.  “I felt like I was in heaven,” Ms. Choi Yun ka, Korean dance artist.  “The ancient Chinese wisdom will benefit the whole world,” Ted Kavanau, CNN News.  Etc.  Etc. Etc.

In self-glorifying adulation, another ad declared, “The Arts Connect Heaven & Earth.”  That’s where they went too far.  It’s what promoters of the Arts, and the homosexual lobby, want us to think:  they, as creators of the arts, and what they create, replace our need of God in Christ.  They grudgingly accept medicine and technology as somewhat equal partners in displacing God, but the Arts lead the parade.  They determine the meaning of beauty, grace, peace and truth.

Sorry, would-be usurpers.  Genesis 28:10-21 has the Pre-Incarnate Christ appearing in a dream to Jacob.  Jesus stood at the top of a stairway between heaven to earth, while angels scaled the stairway up and down.  That was the house of God—BETH EL!

Some 1960 years later Jesus stood along the Jordan in Judea.  Making himself the fulfillment of Jacob’s experience, he told Nathanael that “you shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man,” John 1:51.

As Jesus to Jacob illustrated, God communicated with humanity.  As Jesus to Nathanael proved, God’s Son, not merely God’s House, re-connected with humanity.  Jesus alone brought God down to us, John 3:13, even in ancient times and specifically in his Incarnation.  That leaves all Art as mere entertainment, not a spiritual experience.  More to come. – End Part I –

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Grace – our permanent possession

We can lose God’s grace by turning from obedience to rebellion, from spiritual fruitfulness to sterility.  That ever-present possibility warns Christians to be alert to and persistent in discipleship.

But we’ll never lose God’s grace because he gives it to the wrong person.  Whether comedian Steve Harvey will emcee another Miss Universe pageant; or whether he’ll take reading lessons so he can correctly identify the winner THE FIRST TIME, he certainly blundered when he announced the crown belonged to Miss Columbia, then apologized because it really belonged to Miss Philippines.  San Diego Union-Tribune, 12/21/15

O.K.  It’s the season of forgiveness.  Cut him a little slack.  Anyone who speaks publicly knows the danger of getting their tongue in front of their eye teeth so they can’t see what they’re saying.

Gaffes commonly accompany any human endeavor.

That never happens with God.  He never misidentifies the person he wants to honor OR disgrace.  Nor does he withdraw grace from a winning disciple to favor a really winning disciple.

So here it is, the day before the day before Christmas—with the last blog of the week.  Let every Christian praise God for his flawless recognition of each.  That he knows who are his; that those who are his must turn away from wickedness II Timothy 2:19.

And…blessed privilege, if we remain faithful to Jesus Christ, God’s grace will be our permanent possession, beginning now and continuing in the world to come.

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Christmas – the difference between its meaning and results – Part II

What many call the meaning of Christ’s birth is really the result of Christ’s birth.

All European countries took more from their colonies than they gave.  The English discouraged manufacturing in America.  The colonies were told to send raw products to England, where they would be turned into finished projects—clothing, furniture, equipment—and shipped back to America.  France had the same shortsighted views towards her Indo-Chinese colonies.  The Dutch shared the same myopic mercantile view of sovereignty in Indonesia.  All colonies existed to enrich the mother country!

In contrast, where Jesus Christ went, those forgiven erupted into positive new lives.  Wherever Jesus saves, economic, political and social benefits accrue.  He came to enrich us by living in us.  In belief we fall heir to all the good that is GOD.  Presidents carefully choose their advisors and CEO’s their boards.  But God opens his secrets to every disciple—at once, all glories known, no favorites played, each an equal heir.  Many results follow the birth of Jesus Christ, and all of them superior, excellent, profitable, enjoyable!  The results are always good since Christ’s purpose in coming was beneficent.  But they’re all the result of Christ’s birth, not the meaning.

The MEANING of Christmas is that God sent his SON as SAVIOR of the world—and underscored that purpose by calling him JESUS—Savior.  His life wound on a single spool—that humanity’s most basic, most desperate need is Forgiveness of sin.  For that reason the Meaning of Christmas can have the greatest possible results.

Christians have a much easier task diagnosing what’s wrong in humanity than a doctor diagnosing what’s wrong in a human body or brain.  We need not go through test after test and X-ray after X-ray to discover what’s wrong with us.  We know.  All have sinned before God and that condition is at the root of all personal and societal problems.  We don’t even need to know all the ways people sin to know the single cure is forgiveness through Christ’s birth.

That’s the meaning of Christmas, which Jesus demonstrated repeatedly in ministry.  Consider but one example.  When the four friends lowered a paralytic into Christ’s presence, they and he wanted him healed.  Only to hear Jesus say, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” Mark 2:5.  Why did Jesus say that?  This blog cannot detail all the reasons, but think:  He knew humanity needed forgiveness.  That he had come to forgive human sin.  That he had the power to forgive human sin.  That he wanted to forgive human sin.  And since he COULD forgive human sin, he WOULD any time he had the chance!

That is the hope of the world.  There would be little use if God directly, specifically and brutally diagnosed human condition as sinners, sinners, sinners all, without his corresponding solution in forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness perfected in Christ.

Sometimes all that doctors can do is diagnose, with no HOPE.  Diagnose:  “You’re sick, you’re dying, there’s nothing we can do.”  That further wounds without healing.  Christians have a greater ministry.  We must diagnose sin in humanity.  To refuse is to deny God and disregard Christ’s sacrifice.  He died, not to increase our self-esteem but to cleanse us from the sins that otherwise condemn us.  But what great pleasure is ours when we tell the sinner that Christ’s birth means he forgives and cleanses and renews—because he came to be Savior, and IS!  – Finis –

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Christmas – the difference between its meaning and results – Part I

Spend  a few minutes thinking of the difference between the meaning and result of Christmas.  For what most call the meaning of the Lord’s birth is really the result.

A policeman responded to a Christmas Eve domestic-violence call.  He heard adults shouting as he approached the house.  Entering, he saw items strewn over the floor.  What shocked him was the five year old boy on a sofa:  in a body cast from the waist down, crying hard.  The cop immediately warned the parents that one of them would go to jail if the arguments didn’t stop.  He left with the added warning that he would return to check on them.

As he drove away, he knew he needed to do something for the boy. He stopped at a toy store, met the owner just leaving, explained the situation and followed him back inside.  The policeman spotted a large teddy bear he knew would be the perfect gift.

He told the owner he wanted the bear but had only $4.  The owner smiled and said it was for sale for $4, including tax. They both found something in their eyes as they concluded the purchase.

He returned to the house, handed the teddy to the five year old, who hugged it as a living thing!  The policeman concluded that the experience proved how the meaning of Christmas could change people’s lives.  Reminisce, December 2015-January 2016, p. 11.

Sorry, officer, important as that experience was, it was the result, not the meaning of Christmas.

American emigrants to the Northwest and California sometimes found themselves imperiled, especially towards the end of their journey.  Dr. John McLoughlin, factor of British interests in the Northwest, never failed to provision, direct and protect them, though he knew they provided competition his Company didn’t need.  Sure enough, so many Americans kept coming that Washington and Oregon filled out America’s Northwest boundary.

Jesus had no fear that, while we would never stop trying, we would find someone more capable than he of helping us through life’s difficulties and our inevitable death.  He patiently waits while we run through the long list of names we put ahead of him as our hope.  He knows he alone IS.  He’ll continue to shine his sun on everyone and send his rain on all.  But that patience is the result, not the meaning of his birth.

After Krakatoa exploded in the loudest sound ever heard in historic times—3000 miles away—intrepid volcanologists wanted to investigate.  They arrived at the crest after a long, dangerous climb.  When they looked into the crater, gases, sulphur-dioxide, dust, smoke and clouds blew at them.  It amazed them that a mountain that seemed so harmless from afar could be so active and lethal.

Maybe it’s because God seems so distant, and so disinterested in us and history, that most people think he’s a harmless pansy; an old granddad in the sky intent on spoiling us with repeated favors; a pushover for anyone emotional enough or bold enough to confront him.

A fatal mistake.  A consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29, he incinerates anyone ignorant enough to disregard him.  Unapproachable holiness, Hebrews 12:14, he damns any who think their filthy-rags morality appeases him.  Fierce defender of his Son’s sacrifice, Hebrews 10:29, he denounces any who dismiss Jesus as irrelevant.

Yet…glory, glory…Jesus made it possible for all who believed in him to enter the very presence of Almighty God with confidence, joy, delight and PEACE of MIND.  But that privilege also is the result, not the meaning of Christmas – End Part I –

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Illustrations – as sermons, Part III

Faintly imitating Christ’s matchless pedagogy, consider the following illustrations as parables of the Christian life.

The fifth is from creation.  Earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes and floods all share a common destructive trait:  they so alter geographic features that people lose their way, even in well-known neighborhoods.

The people of Chicago lost those essential features in the great fire, October, 1871.  The morning after the burning stopped, thousands walked the mile-wide, four mile long expanse of extinction.  Since 73 miles of streets and over 17,000 buildings had disappeared, they couldn’t find homes or businesses.  Landmarks had vanished.  Great Chicago Fire, 188-189.

Spiritual Landmarks are absolutely essential in life.  Because Jesus Christ is God’s Eternal Landmark, the great colossus cleaving history, and God’s final word to humanity, his believers KNOW their way through life.  Indeed, we always know WHO we are by WHOSE we are.  He remains the only spiritual Landmark by whom we have sure and certain anchors in life, from whom we always take our spiritual bearings.

Pity those who reject him for any other landmark.  For he alone remains now and forever as God’s TRUE POINT of reference.

The sixth is from the Civil War.

President Lincoln often noted that Ward Hill Lamon was obsessed with protecting him from assassination.  On the night of Lincoln’s re-election, Lamon visited John Hay, one of the President’s private secretaries.  After a long discussion, Hay offered Lamon a bed in his quarters.  Lamon refused, took instead a glass of whiskey and a blanket, went to the President’s door, wrapped himself in his clothes, laid a number of weapons close by and kept watch.  Hay considered it a “touching and dumb fidelity.”  War Years III, 586.

Why call it “dumb” as if, like an animal, Lamon protected his President?  Why not call it “intense loyalty to the man”?  After all, eleven of the Twelve disciples felt such allegiance to Jesus.  Was it just “dumb fidelity”?  To him they gave themselves unreservedly.  They believed HIM, even when they didn’t understand him, when he bewildered them, corrected them, astounded them.  Was that “dumb fidelity” or “spiritual enlightenment”?

Can we say we believe Jesus Christ as they did—as God’s Son and our Lord—whatever happens, whoever disagrees, despite any price we pay to be his?  Do we commit ourselves to him, knowing we can never be wrong because he’s always right?

The seventh is from geography.

The earliest white exploration of America kept uncovering lands west in the trackless wilderness:  French voyageurs, British explorers, American trappers.  Wherever they traveled, and whatever stories they heard, they kept hearing one name—of one river—that supposedly led to the Great Pacific waters.  That river was the Missouri.  The one constant in all the speculation.  The one name that finally proved true.  That led Lewis and Clark west by north and finally to the Columbia and on to the great Salt Water.  Westward Vision, 24

Jesus Christ is the Reality behind all the religious speculation in the world, in history, in our time.  And every December, at this time of the year as Christians celebrate his birth, let it remind us that He hasn’t left.  He’s still here.  He’s never leaving.  He hasn’t abdicated his throne.  He’s the one in charge.  He can’t be dismissed.  We can’t avoid him.  We must come to terms with him.  And we better get used to it, America! – Finis –

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Illustrations – as sermons, Part II

Faintly imitating Christ’s matchless pedagogy, I continue the following illustrations as parables of the Christian life.

The third is from current events.  From 1965-1971 a man served as the TV voice of Charley Brown, the anti-hero of the Peanuts comic strip.  Yet, mild-mannered Charley Brown’s alter ego himself had a violent disposition.  The voice of hapless Charley has recently been sentenced to 4 years and 8 months for threatening his mobile home park manager and trying to hire the murder of San Diego County’s sheriff.

He had two personas:  one for show business, the other for real-life.

Jesus Christ had but ONE:  a public and private; when dealing with patricians and peasants; when discussing issues with Gentile women or Israel’s High Priest.  People could then, and can now, count on Jesus being what he was and IS.  If we come to him making demands, he refuses to hear us.  If we come begging mercy, he’ll always help.  If we come enumerating the reasons we should be saved, OUT WE GO.  If we come confessing faith in his sacrifice, INTO his presence we’re welcomed.

The fourth is from the Duke of Wellington.  He believed that neither history nor battles could be recalled “with total accuracy.”  He was right in a sense.  Everyone sees what strikes him in history; each soldier usually sees but a few yards either side of him in battle.  And if we all stood on Broadway in Escondido, California, or any busy city street, and saw two cars collide, we would agree a crash occurred.  But each would remember particular sights others missed.

All this is true of humans.  Which is WHY…mark it well, readers…Jesus didn’t depend on apostolic memories to preach his message and record his life!  As Jesus said in John 16:13-15, he would send the Holy Spirit, whose perfect memory would guide them “into all truth.”  Which is why we can know with certainty that the Four Gospels offer an authentic record of Christ’s life.  As this writer has shown in Volume I of his series Their Own Best Defense, a text-by-text chronological study of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John leaves no doubt to any fair-minded reader of Jesus Christ’s integrity as they recorded it.  – End Part II –

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Illustrations – as sermons – Part I

Faintly imitating the matchless pedagogy of Jesus, consider the following illustrations as parables of the Christian life.

First, from the book The Golden Age of the Country House.  These mansions, built between the late 18th to the early 20th century, served as playgrounds for England’s patricians.  Hosts invited carefully screened guests to enjoy games, parties, hunting trips and discreet political discussions.

A thousand people came to one such party, arriving and leaving as they pleased.  After each breakfast, replete with many delicious viands, and heavy with assorted breads, the host’s chaplain earned his keep.  He read “a few short prayers” after which everyone went wherever his pleasure took him on the estate until the next meal, p. 19.

He reada fewshortprayers.  The English Prayer Book being a masterpiece of literature, the prayers were magnificent.  But…did the Vicar have to read them?  Could he not have created his own?  He proved only a wallflower to the social occasion.  Which is what his host expected.  Which is what the guests wanted.  But not what God could have done had the chaplain at least read the Bible!

If a preacher is good for anything, it’s as God’s spokesman to people.  Should he excel in anything but that, he is really good for nothing.  Overlook a minister’s faults; forgive his sins; but hold him accountable for personally digesting and faithfully preaching God’s word.

Second, from World War I.  The Schlieffen Plan was designed in 1905 and improved until 1914.  The Plan was to conquer France in six weeks, then to turn east and conquer Russia.  The Plan failed in 1914.  In 1940 it worked in the conquest of France in six weeks, followed by Hitler’s attack on Russia in 1941.

The Plan stressed the historical animus between Germany and Russia over the hegemony of Europe.  Both felt ordained to rule the Continent.  Neither found success in its effort.

Leading to the scriptural point.  Two spiritual powers exist in the world, claiming the right to rule humanity.  But only one is ORIGINAL; the other is derivative.  Only one is ETERNAL; the other is a created, temporary interloper.  The derivative can only pretend to be original.  But, the colossal ignorance of God’s word in culture leads most to think the derivative is original or at least equal to the ORIGINAL.

He isn’t.  In every conflict between Jesus and Satan, the ORIGINAL Jesus denounced and devastated Satan, the derivative being.  It happened first in the Wilderness Temptations and in every encounter between them afterwards.  In every encounter.  Without fail.  Jesus succeeded, Satan failed.

Still…while no one wants to be a loser, let alone follow a loser, most people strew flowers across Satan’s path and throw brickbats at Jesus Christ!  How can humanity, so intent on being first, pursue a lifestyle God has determined will always come in last?  And at the end will be cast into Hell?  How can we be so perverse and so willingly misled by Satan’s deception when we have in Jesus the Sole, Only and Perfect Man able and willing to save everyone from sin and lead him to everlasting life?  – End Part I –

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Slavery – the non-negotiable cause of the Civil War

On the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, Confederate forces chased Federals from their original positions.  In panic they hastened through the village to Cemetery Ridge south.  The result, as seen by residents of the town after the Union soldiers had gained the heights, or been captured by the Rebels, was an exultant Confederate army occupying their hometown.

Feisty with the overload of Pennsylvania’s food and supplies; rested and anxious to continue what they had achieved in battle that day, Southern troopers bragged that they had beaten Meade’s soldiers, taking 5000 prisoners—which they had.  They also boasted that they would capture the whole Army of the Potomac they next day—which they wouldn’t.

All of this showed an arrogance begotten by the Confederates’ previous success in arms.  They felt invincible, whatever the odds against them.  And having bested what troops Meade had at hand the first day, they saw no reason they couldn’t manhandle the rest as they arrived.

Then…in the evening of that day…an act defying human decency.  Confederate troops detached from fighting herded together blacks from their homes in West Gettysburg and marched them south through town on their way to slavery!  Whether they were free blacks or escaped slaves, and however much the captives cried and groaned as they left, the Army of Robert E. Lee felt obsessed with the need to drag back into slavery blacks from Northern soil!  Witness to Gettysburg, 163-164.   That historical event was like Hitler’s obsession with killing Jews—the very sin that caused his destruction.

For those who think slavery wasn’t the root cause of the Civil War, THINK about that decision.    Trained to fight, and leading troops in war, a Confederate officer felt the need to detach his men to return blacks to slavery!  Truly, that obsession cost the South the independence it demanded so it could continue its penitentiary culture.  All other differences between the sections were resolvable by negotiation—and, most always to the benefit of the South.  But slavery was not negotiable.  Indeed, as Lincoln had declared in June, 1858, the nation could no longer exist half-slave and half-free.  And since God Almighty wanted he nation WHOLE, slavery had to die.

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