Thoughts of a messed up Christian saved by God's grace

Monday, July 25, 2016

Praying for Milo

  I follow an interesting guy on Facebook and Twitter named Milo Yiannopoulos. Milo is a very outspoken conservative that is getting himself banned from liberal colleges and even Twitter because he dares speak out against liberals, Muslims, and liberal agendas. I don't agree with him on everything. For one, he is an avid Donald Trump supporter. For another: he is proudly and unabashedly gay.

  As I was shaking my head in amusement over his antics recently in ticking off liberals, I found myself thinking how sad it is that a brilliant young guy like him has bought into the lie that he can find fulfillment as a gay man. That was followed up with me wondering what the chances are of a guy like him ever finding God and walking away from his gay life. And then another thought hit me: I wonder if there is anyone who prays for him, that he would find God and serve him.....  That was followed by the thought, "maybe I should pray for him...."

   Much has been said about Christians being the only Bible some people may read. Some of us may be the only Christian in someone's life......and if someone like Milo crosses our mind and this idea to pray for them comes out of nowhere, maybe we will be the only person to pray for them.

  I read a quote recently that has stuck with me: “The greatest tragedy in life is not unanswered prayer, but un-offered prayer". Think about that for a second.....now obviously God can work in people's lives without us praying for them. He is God, after all and can do anything.... but for some reason, He seems to like using us to do His work. He could do things without us praying about it, and I am sure He does, but there is something about this medium of prayer that is a tool He likes to use. How can we expect Him to work in people's lives - including our own - if we don't pray and ask Him to?

  How often have people been prompted to pray for a person, only to find out later that the person was in extreme danger. Could God have still protected that person without that prayer being said? Of course.... and I am sure He has and does, but if He urges us to pray for someone, there is a reason He wants that prayer said.

  I am reading a great book on hearing God in every day conversation, and it has really opened my eyes to how much God speaks to me that I toss off and attribute to other things, including my own thoughts...... but what if this idea to pray for Milo Yiannopoulos came from God, and wasn't some random idea that my own mind came up with?

  If I don't pray for Milo, is there anyone who will?

  I believe God has offered salvation to everyone, and that His ways of getting that message to lost souls are endless.... but one of those ways is us. He uses our lives, our prayers, the things we say and do to reach lost souls for Him.

  So if some random person comes to your mind, especially if prayer also enters your mind... pray for that person. And if you're reading this, say a prayer for Milo Yiannopoulos...... that some day, somehow, he will find Jesus as His savior. If God could save you and me, He can save him.

#nevertrump and as bad as Westboro Baptist Church

*Disclaimer:  My Christian walk has been a rocky one. Years of doubting God loved me, yet trying to be a Christian while dealing with sexual attractions I never asked for. God has brought me far, forgiven me of much, and has far more patience, grace, love, and mercy for me than I can ever comprehend. There is a song that says I am not what I should be, but thank God I am not what I was..... and that is an apt description of me.

 I don't think I am better than anyone else, and view myself as a failure that isn't good at much. One area I do consider myself fairly knowledgeable is politics. I have paid attention and don't just listen to sound bites or the powers that be who try to dictate my politics and beliefs.

**Disclaimer 2: This is not aimed at people who are reluctantly voting for Trump and not saying stuff like I am addressing. I don't agree with you, but I understand why you are doing it and am not condemning you.

    One of my favorite Bible stories is the story of Shadrach, Meshac, and Abednego. They were in a foreign land, and at a large gathering everyone was ordered to vote for the Republican candidate, or face unlimited vitriol and hate.........oops, wrong story..... they were ordered to bow to a golden statute of the king or be thrown in the fiery furnace.

 Can you imagine we modern day American Christians in that scenario?
"Hey Shad! You're making the rest of us look bad. Get on your knee and just say a prayer to our God"

  Many of us would do just that. Bow and promise God that inwardly we aren't bowing.

    This election reminds me a bit of that story. I still cannot fathom how the party that is supposed to have values and morals bypassed a few conservative and very decent candidates and went for Trump. The more I see and hear of him, the more sure that I cannot vote for him.... a stance that is as unpopular as not bowing to the golden stature of Nebuchadnezzer. Other Christians who have surely been mocked, maligned, and more for daring to stand up for something are throwing all that out the window and refusing to admit that I and others could possibly be right in feeling we can't vote for this man who has taken over the Republican Party.

  I have been called stubborn, stupid, egotistical, and just plan too critical by Christians who are throwing their support behind Trump. It is getting beyond ridiculous. Check out exhibits A and B below:

  This was posted by a Christian who I know of, but am not friends with. Sadly, I saw at least one of my friends "like" his comment, and though I could not see all of the comments, it did not seem anyone called him out for his insane comments.

  Read that last part again: This Christian man says we who feel we can't vote for Trump are as disgraceful as the Westboro Baptist Church. Think on that. Even if you are 100% Trump, don't you find that just a tiny bit wrong and hateful? Do you believe that we who feel we cannot vote for Trump as Christians are as bad as people who protest at the funerals of soldiers, who spread hate instead of love, and say the worst possible things about gay people? Do  you really believe that? If you were friends with this man, would you "like" his comment.... or would you call him out?

 Exhibit C:

  This is from someone who goes to my church. Take note of conscience being in quotes. According to this young blowhard, the idea of us not voting for Trump because of conscience is worthy of being mocked and not worth consideration or understanding.

  How can I say this as nicely as possible...... it seems too many Christians are putting politics and Donald Trump above the Bible and God.

  Consider this: Trump promised to further gay rights, which will very likely infringe on our freedoms and rights as Christians. He defends Planned Parenthood and is not pro-life... yet my Christian friends who are supporting him keep bringing up the Second Amendment, that Hillary will do away with it. They bring up that Trump will put good judges on the Supreme Court, and Hillary won't...... though they have no assurance of that.

  Since when did gun rights and the Supreme Court become more important to us as Christians than abortion and homosexuality/moral issues? Since when did voting for whoever is on the Republican ticket become a must for Christians, no matter what that candidate is like?

  At the RNC,  something a man did in Trump's campaign -  who will most likely get a job in his administration if Trump should win - is not getting the attention it should. He announced from the platform of the RNC that he was proud to be gay...... and got applause. As my best friend pointed out, if this had been at the DNC, Christians would be decrying it, but since it was at the coronation of DT at the RNC, it didn't cause a ripple among Republicans.

  This party has become as opposed to the Bible and Christian values as the Democratic party, but somehow stopping the Democratic candidate has surpassed everything we stand for and believe, and even God and His Word must be set aside to stop the Democrat. This party is tossing aside the same values we have condemned the Democrats for tossing aside, and we just follow along and vote for whatever candidate they give us, lowering our standards more and more each election.....and how much lower can we go now if we support Trump?

  What have we become as Christians? Are we forgetting that we are not living for this world? Have we forgotten that Christian morals and values are more important than the freedoms our government is still giving to us? Have we forgotten what it means to stand up for truth and integrity so much that we attack and mock those who are doing it for something that we have give in to?

  It isn't ego. It isn't stubbornness or stupidity..... it is prayer, a lot of thought, and the desire to do what is right as a Christian and for God -  not for America or the Republican party........ though I don't think it is right for anyone.

I have people who mock me and think I am nuts for not giving into my same-sex attractions and just living that lifestyle...... even other Christians.

I have other Christians who knock the way I keep the Sabbath.

I have other Christians think I am crazy for my stance on alcohol, smoking, tattoos, immodesty, and other things.

   So this Trump debacle is nothing new for being misunderstood and mistreated for my beliefs. If you live your life for God, it comes with the territory. I am not living to please anyone here on earth. I have to do what I believe is right and that will please God, and I must abstain from those things that I feel is displeasing to God... yes, even voting for Donald Trump.

 And let me be blunt: If you cannot understand that, then maybe you have already caved too much on other issues that God wants you to take a stand on. If you can't understand that, then maybe you are not the Christian you should be. And maybe, just maybe your unwavering defense and support of a vile candidate like Trump is an indication of your spiritual condition, or at least of your priorities.

 A friend of mine said it is possible Trump OR Hillary may be God's judgment on America. We are past due for judgment, and neither candidate is going to do anything good for our country moral-wise or religious freedoms-wise. On election day, I am going to be as upset and sad no matter which candidate wins.

 Another friend said these Trump supporters are dependents of the "give us Barabbas crowd".... and it does seem that way. The same friend also said there is truly a falling away from morals and consciences must be seared....... and it does seem that way. When a Christian can mock the idea of another Christian not doing something because of their conscience, and another one says we are as bad as the Westboro church, something is wrong.

 I want to live a life pleasing to God, not people. I want my priorities to lie with Him and His Word, not my country or political party. As someone recently said, we should feel more in common with our Christian brothers and sisters in other countries than with our non-Christian fellow Americans.

 And let me take that a step further: We American Christians should feel more in common with our fellow Christians in America than with our political party or candidate of our choice.

 I would rather keep my conscience clear and "throw my vote away" than to vote for evil and throw my conscience away.

  So vote your conscience and do what you think is right, but don't you dare mock me, or say any of these other things to me for doing the same thing.

  And remember, we aren't living for America or this world - or for the Republican party and freedoms we hold as Americans. We are living for God and eternity. That is what matters... not a political party.

Monday, July 18, 2016

If everyone was just like me........

  There is a song that was popular on Christian radio several years back that went like this:


I wonder what kind of church would my church be,
If every member was just like me?
How many souls would be saved today,
If it all depended on what I say?
I wonder how many prayers would my Lord have to answer,
If all that He heard came from me?
I wonder, what kind of church would my church be,
If every member was just like me?

How many times have I said "I love Jesus",
And turned a deaf ear to a need
How many times have I said I'm a Christian,
But never one soul did I lead,
How many luxuries have I passed by,
To have more to give to the Lord?
Jesus I promise as long as I live,
from now on I'm gonna do more.

No wonder my pastor has so many burdens,
I never did offer to bear,
No wonder the members have bowed down with sorrow,
I never did offer to share
No wonder the heather are dying in sin,
No wonder the missions are lack,
My heart is so cold and I've lost my first love,
But Jesus I'm on my way back.

   Have you ever thought about that? What if every person in your church was just like you? If every person was just like you.......

How many people would be on time for church?

How much money would be in the offering?

How noisy would the church be before the service started.....and after it started?

When it came time to kneel for prayer, how many people would be kneeling?

How many people would sing?

Where would everyone sit in the church?

How many people would actually pay attention to the sermon?

How many people would compliment the pastor on his sermon?

How many people would be standing in the vestibule/foyer chatting while the sermon went on?

How many people would be playing with their cell phones?

How many cell phone ringers would be left on?

How many people would keep turning around to look towards the back of the church?

How many people would be willing to do whatever they were asked to do in the church?

  I'll admit, if every member at church was just like me, my church would be in a lot of trouble. Everyone would be early for church, but some of the other stuff....... yikes. The church might even fall a apart at the seams..... well maybe not quite that bad, but it wouldn't be pretty.

  But what if we take it further than the church:

What kind of neighborhood would your neighborhood be if everyone was just like you?

What kind of drivers would be on the road if they all drove just like you?

What kind of politicians would be have if everyone voted just like you?

What kind of marriages would everyone have if theirs were just like yours?

How much love and compassion would there be if everyone was just like you?

How much bad language would there be if everyone talked just like you?

What would social networking be like if everyone was just like you?

Would the porn industry fail or flourish if everyone was just like you?

Just what kind of world would we have if everyone was like you..... or me?

   Fortunately God didn't make carbon copies and has made all of us different with different abilities, talents, likes, dislikes, etc. Family, culture, church, and other things also influence us to be the kind of person we turn out to be.

  But we can still all do better. We can do better in church, at home, at serving God, and in all areas of life.

  And if we were all like Jesus, we'd still be different from each other,  but the world would be a much better place.

Take heed, lest you fall

   Have you ever found yourself thinking "I'd never do that", or "I'd never go that far", when hearing some horrific sin a person has done? I have thought that, and I doubt there are many people who haven't thought similar thoughts at some point in their lives.

  But if we walk away from God and do our own thing, or if we never come to God in the first place, there is no limit to what we might do.

   Yesterday, I found out about a death of a woman I knew. This morning, I found out about the death of a man who I knew of and have heard in person singing with the music group he was part of. Both deaths are tragic, and the circumstances leading up to both deaths are also sad and tragic.

Athena, the drug addict

   Athena Nichols had a rough life. She walked across the country all by herself at a very young age. She had multiple men in and out of her life for years, and was into drugs, alcohol, and only God knows what else. Some years back - 6 or 7 or so, a lady from my church ran onto her and invited her to our church. She started coming fairly regularly and eventually found God and did very well for a while. Her testimonies were refreshing and honest with none of the "Christianease" used by so many of us raised in the church. Then she started missing church, getting around the life she had left, the kind of men she hung out with, etc. Soon she wasn't coming at all, and her Facebook posts became so raunchy and also so defensive of marijuana, that I deleted her.

  Saturday evening, July 16, shots were heard fired from where she was living with her boyfriend. Police arrived to find Athena dead and her boyfriend in critical condition, victims of a murder-suicide attempt. Drugs and drug paraphernalia were found all over their house. This 46-year old woman leaves behind three children as she slipped out to meet the God she had walked away from in favor of her previous lifestyle.

Steve, the Gospel singer

  Steve French had a promising life and career as owner of the successful Southern Gospel group he also sang in, The Kingdom Heirs. In addition to traveling all over the country, he and his group regularly performed at the popular Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN.

 Two years ago, he suddenly left this group he owned and sang in without any explanation given. It turns out he was having an affair with a woman who worked at Dollywood and left his wife for this woman. Details are sketchy as to what they did, but last month as he and his girlfriend were on the run from the police, they both jumped off a bridge to their deaths to meet the God he had served for so long but had walked away from.

  I am sure if you had told Mr. French a few years ago how his life would go and end, he would emphatically said he would never do that. Had you told Athena a few years ago how her life would go, she would have disagreed and said she'd never go back to that life or end up like that. But it happened.

 There have been Christians who have lost their ministry, families, and even their lives because of sexual sin. There have been Christians - even ministers - who have been caught having sex with minors, and other horrific sins and crimes. None of these people ever thought they would end up where they did, doing the things they did.... but they did do those things and did end up where they did.

  The devil is sly and hates God and we who serve Him. He will do anything to take us down, and once he starts us cutting corners, he starts us down the slippery slope of sin that will take us where we never thought we would go.

   If we don't continue to walk in obedience with God and live as close to Him as we can, none of us knows where we may end up. Our fate could be the same as these two I have mentioned, or worse, if we go our own way and let sin rule in our lives again. May God help us to serve Him faithfully and never give in and let sin back into our lives.

Matthew 12:43-45:

43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. So shall it also be with this wicked generation.”

Friday, July 15, 2016

Still #nevertrump

    This has been the weirdest and most frustrating election I have seen in my life. We had a few true conservative candidates that could have beat Hillary Clinton, but the majority of people who voted in the primaries picked a candidate far more liberal than the failure moderates we have run in the last couple of elections.

   It hasn't been easy for we who see the truth about Trump and aren't willing to ignore what he has said and done before he ran on the GOP ticket. It isn't easy to stand up to other conservatives and Christians against what you strongly believe is wrong and bordering on insanity.

   I have prayed about it, thought about it, discussed and debated about it, and have felt for several months now that I cannot vote for Donald Trump if he is indeed on the ballot in November. I have done several blog posts about my reasons already, but this is an updated one and is me standing up to say I am still #nevertrump.

  Trump supporters frustrate me....and especially the ones most who supported him from the start. I can understand, though not agree with, those who are reluctantly getting behind him now since it seems he will be on the ballot..... but I cannot and never will understand those who have supported and voted for him over the decent and conservative candidates we had to choose from. A post like this will never convince those people they are wrong about Trump....... and this isn't a post to convince anyone of anything about Trump. It is simply a post stating why I cannot vote for him:

1) I don't trust him. Come on,  the man held liberal views and policies for years and supported Hillary Clinton and other liberals before he jumped on the GOP ticket. What sane person wouldn't be suspicious?

2) I don't like him.

3) He is a bully - it is ridiculous the way he goes after people who disagree with him.

4) The same things in Obama that I have hated are the things I see in him:

    Disregard for the Constitution
    (and more)

5) He is vulgar. No Christian should support a man who says the things he says

6) He owns strip clubs. Really... how can a Christian be OK with that? Do they realize what goes on in those places and how women are used and often abused for the pleasure of pigs like Trump?

7) The man is a serial adulterer who brags about cheating on his wives.

8) He has promised to further gay rights, which means the rights of Christians will be further trampled and sacrificed to gay rights.....why and how can I vote for a man who is essentially promising to infringe on my rights and freedoms?

9) He is not pro-life. Oh, he says the right things for the most part, but he defends the largest abortion provider in the country, and was so pro-abortion that he supported partial birth abortion before his GOP run. Does anyone truly believe he changed his views that drastically? I don't. And I made a promise long ago that I would not vote for a candidate who is not pro-life.

10) Hillary Clinton. He supported and defended her and Bill for years, and is just now saying how corrupt and dishonest she is? Really?! I have known that for years, ever since they came on the national political scene. If he is so lacking in intelligence and discernment that it took him this long, how on earth is he qualified to make decisions as a president.

Unless of course, he knew all along how corrupt and dishonest she was but it didn't matter til now.

11) He is too think skinned and short tempered. We need someone who can be calm and take a lot. The idea of him being in charge of our nuclear codes is disturbing.

12) He is not presidential. Yeah, not a biggie in the grand scheme, but is another thing I don't like about him.

13) I don't believe he can win. People keep telling me I will be throwing my vote away by writing in Ted Cruz, and that it will mean a vote for Hillary. The latter is an idiotic statement to make, and I would rather throw my vote away on a candidate I respect and support than on one I have nothing but disdain for.

Polls have consistently shown that Trump loses to Hillary, but she would lose to Cruz or Rubio. Those polls have not changed.

Conservative experts acknowledge we lost the last two elections largely in part because we ran candidates who were not conservative enough..... so our solution is to run someone far to the left of both of those candidates? In what reality is that going to work?

14) I don't believe Trump is any better than Hillary Clinton.

15) We are told we need a businessman, but this businessman has several bankruptcies and failed businesses.

16) He is a hypocrite. He claims he will bring more jobs to the US, yet goes outside of the country to make his products.

17) No one truly knows what the man stands for or against. He flip flops even more than John Kerry did.

18) The man is a disaster on foreign policy.

19) I would be a hypocrite to vote for Trump. I would have to do the same things I criticize Democrats for doing if I voted for him. And after being against him for so long, how can I set aside my beliefs and all I have said about him and vote for him?

20) I cannot as a Christian vote for this man. He stands against everything I believe, and I disagree with his views and policies on everything. I would simply be voting against Hillary, and I can do that by voting for Ted Cruz.

21) Donald Trump has trashed the candidates I liked and anyone who disagrees with him. He said we who criticize him can just sit this election out..... why would I want to vote for him after that?

  When Hillary Clinton wins the presidency, Trump supporters are going to blame we who didn't vote for him. The blame, however, will lie with those who consistently ignored conservative and Christian values, history, and common sense to support a man who can never be conservative or beat Hillary Clinton.

 If we lower our standards this much for Trump, how far will we lower them for the next candidate? Donald Trump is where I stop. I have voted for too many candidates already that I didn't respect or truly want for my president. and he is far worse than they....... so I have reached my limit. Every Christian should have one, and this is mine.

  And if anyone should understand my position, it should be other Christians..... but if you support Trump, you support him over your Christian brothers and sisters. Sad, but true. My pro-Trump Christian friends who have taken a stand on other issues can't seem to understand my stand on Trump....to them, trying to stop Hillary trumps (I hate that word) Christian principles, and I have no right to those principles.

 So this election, I am voting my conscience. If Trump does indeed run against Hillary, she will destroy him in the voting booth, and I will at least have the comfort of doing what I knew and felt to be right.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

I am a patriotic Christian

  There are a lot of people starting to almost condemn patriotism..... and some just outright condemn it. They say we idolize our country and freedoms, that there is no place for love of country and patriotism for a Christian. One blogger who is a pastor with no church was knocking patriotism and God shedding His grace on America. He claimed God doesn't even see America. I couldn't really follow his reasoning, but this is the same man who says there is no hell and spends most of his time propagating a pro-gay theology and ranting against Christians for believing and saying homosexuality is a sin.

  Most of the people I see pushing this "patriotism and love of country is idolization and wrong" stuff seem to be liberal Christians. I am not sure what the connection is there, but if I had to make an educated guess, it would be this: These are the same people who are OK with abortion, homosexuality, who are against the Second Amendment, and other such things Christian conservatives believe. They tie a lot of these in with our love of this country and what it was founded on, and with our freedoms. But if it is wrong to love America and our freedoms, than it doesn't matter what happens to our freedoms....or something along that line. Liberals are hard to make sense of, and liberals who claim to be Christians are even more difficult.

  I went to church Sunday morning July 3. We sang our usual three songs for the worship service, and two of them were patriotic ones: America the Beautiful and My Country Tis of Thee. We then pledged to the American flag and continued the worship service.

  There are those who would be horrified at that. Patriotic songs in church, an American flag on the platform (there is also a Christian flag) -  and gasp!!! - a pledge to the flag. I, and many others have no problem with that. I actually enjoy it.

     I believe Christians should be patriotic. In fact, maybe we should be the most patriotic of Americans. This country we live in was founded so we could have the freedom to worship as we please. Many who have gone on before us fought to keep America free, fought to keep us free to worship as we please, and for other freedoms. Should we Christians not appreciate that even more than non-Christians and not just want to celebrate Independence Day, but need to celebrate this day set aside to celebrate freedom? Should we not be the most ardent supporters of our military and the most faithful supporters of days like Veteran's Day, Flag day, Independence Day, and other such holidays set aside to honor those who gave their lives to make and keep this a free country?

   Some former friends of mine attended a very liberal Mennonite church for a while. This church was no different from any other church, except they were non-resistance as the conservative Mennonites. Mennonites, Quakers, and other such people do not believe in fighting in wars, in defending oneself, patriotism, These former friends of mine said it felt so weird on patriotic holidays because there was no mention of our country, no patriotic songs sung.....nothing to indicate the day was any different from other days.

  I actually take issue with that. No, I don't want to kill anyone, nor do I want to be in the military. If I had to do it though, I would. I want and need to appreciate our military and what they and those who served before us do and have done to keep our country free and safe. Could it even be our Christian duty to thank and appreciate what has been done to keep us free and safe? Is it possible by ignoring patriotism and patriotic holidays, we are shirking our duty as Christians? I am not saying that is true, just asking.

   As these liberal Christians knock patriotism and accuse us of idolatry, they are not only idolizing other things such as sports, entertainment, etc; they are also trying to excuse the infringement of our freedoms and the moral decay as liberal policies destroy our country and morals.

   And it IS possible to put country above God. This whole idea that we must set aside the religious reasons for not voting for Trump are being knocked by fellow Christians. They tell us we must vote for the lesser of two evils and refuse to admit we have good reason as Christians to NOT vote for a lesser of two evils. They are saying we should put our country and freedoms above God, although they would never look at it that way.

 I am thankful for our country, for those who gave their lives to make and keep us a free country. The least I can do is observe and celebrate the days we have set aside as a country to be thankful for and celebrate the freedoms they fought and died for. I am a Christian, and I am patriotic.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

When I'm gone, long gone

   I am feeling nostalgic.....probably more so than I have ever felt. This week-end, I visited my home town, New Bethlehem, PA. It is around 120 miles from where I currently live in Ohio. I lived there for approximately half of my life, and had not been there for 17 years.

  My parents and I had driven in to visit some family at a family gathering. Two of my mom's cousins that she and I had gotten to know through Facebook was going and wanted to meet us, so we decided to make the 2 hour or so trip.

 There weren't a lot of people there, and I didn't even know some of them. As we ate and visited, names came up who are no longer with us. Aunts, uncles, cousins, and others who have gone from this earth and are now just a memory.

 With a 2 hour drive ahead of us, we left after about 2 1/2 hours of visiting. As we headed out of the park we had met at, I asked my dad if we could swing by a place we had lived at that was close by - almost within walking distance. So he made a left, drove up the road about 1/2 a mile, and turned onto the street we had lived on. There sat the house that is the first place I can remember living at. It had changed a lot. Instead of the ugly shingle-like exterior, it was now brown siding and had been added onto. As we looked at the house, some memories came to my mind of this house we had lived in from when I was very small to when I was around 10 years of age. After chatting with the son and daughter-in-law of the people we had rented from who lived next door, we went on our way.

  As we headed out of New Bethlehem, we drove on South Broad Street and passed another place we had lived. This house holds a special place in my life. In January of 1981, our house burnt to the ground and we lost everything we owned except for two cars and the clothes on our backs. We lived with my grandma Buzard until August of that year. We finally had gathered enough things to have our own place again, and this house on South Broad Street in New Bethlehem, PA was the place where we started to rebuild our lives again.

                                            South Broad Street residence, 1981-1983 (approx)

  My mom said she wouldn't mind seeing another place we had lived that we were going near -  as we went home a different way that we had come. So we drove a couple of miles out of our way to a sad sight. We already knew the house had been torn down since my parents had vacated it 20 years ago, but as I stood there and looked at just an empty space where the house used to stand, I felt memories sweep through me and a sadness that a place so full of memories was gone. I couldn't even tell where the house had stood for sure.

              Vacant lot where the house stood we lived in for several years before moving to Ohio

                                                          1985 - 1996 (approx)

  After snapping a few pictures to show my sister, I got back in the car and we headed back out the road we had come down. As we reached the end of the road, my dad decided to drive by one more house we had lived in -  the one before the residence we had just left. This place had changed also. It was sided and had a different kind of window. We turned around and headed out, passing by the empty house 4 houses up and across the street that my mom's aunt and uncle had lived in.....many were the times we could see them watching us through binoculars as we were out in the yard of the house we had lived in.

                                              Kellersburg residence, 1983 - 1985 (aprox)

  That all seems so long ago. Those 3 houses and that one vacant lot hold so many memories, and yet it doesn't seem all that long ago. I have changed a lot in those years and in those houses. I am a lot different than I was from that first house that I can remember living in.

 This visit, the talk of those who are gone from us, seeing 4 places where I lived as a kid......it has made me realize how fast life goes by. The Bible says this life is like a vapor. We are here for such a short time, and then we are gone. Our names are put on a stone with our beginning and ending date, with a small dash to represent the time in between those years.

  I've been wondering what will people say about me when I am gone. What will I be remembered as and for?

Will people remember how opinionated I am? Or will they remember my sense of humor and how much I love to tell jokes?

Will people remember the times I tried too hard to get my point across, or will they remember my love of books and reading?

Will I be remembered as a guy who loved his nieces and nephews and tried to be the best uncle I could be?

How many people will truly say they knew me - the real me - when I am gone?

How many people will truly care when I am gone and will miss me?

  Sobering thoughts for this fun-loving guy. As I think on these things, a song comes to mind that I ran across lately that may have started this thinking. It is a country song, but has a great message, and one I want to live up to.

When We're Gone, Long Gone

Trouble, we have known trouble
In our struggle just to get by
Many times the burden's been heavy
Still we carried on side by side

And when we're gone, long gone
The only thing that will have mattered
Is the love that we shared
And the way that we cared
When we're gone, long gone

And when we're walking together in glory
Hand in hand through eternity
It's the love that will be remembered
Not wealth, not poverty

And when we're gone, long gone
The only thing that will have mattered
Is the love that we've shared
And the way that we cared
When we're gone, long gone

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

And his bishopric let another take

      In my Sunday School class, we are doing most of the year on apologetics, with a break every once in a while on an obscure person of the Bible - a person we don't know much about, but is mentioned usually very briefly in the Bible. This week's lesson was on Matthias and Joseph Barsabbas, the two men they picked between to replace Judas as an apostle in the first chapter of Acts. The Sunday School  teacher was reading aloud the verses he had selected from that chapter, pausing to comment occasionally. I was reading ahead, and my eyes fell on verse 20, which says:

"For it is written in the book of Psalms, Let his habitation be desolate, and let no man dwell therein: and his bishopric let another take."

  Bishopric? What on earth is that?

   My church uses the King James Version of the Bible, which is the version I was raised on. Occasionally, my pastor will brave the rabid KJV only people in the congregation and read from the NKJV for the verses used for his sermon, but for the most part it is KJV.

 And that is the version this weird word appears in.

 I was using my Bible app, so I went to the versions page and picked one of my favorites, the CEV(Contemporary English Version) and pulled the verse up again:

"In the book of Psalms it says,

"Leave his house empty,
and don't let anyone
    live there."

It also says,

"Let someone else
    have his job."

  Job. Ah, that makes a lot more sense. I checked a few other versions and the word was also interpreted "office" in some.

    I am not anti-King James Version, but rarely use it. I can't remember the last time I used it outside of church, preferring to use other versions at home in my personal devotions and for other Bible-related things. I would rather read versions with updated language that don't use words like thou, thine, lovest, and other outdated words.

  When I pray, I don't talk like that, nor do I talk that way to anyone. "How art thou today? Lovest thou the day we are having? Has anyone taken your bishopric at the job you just quit?"

  The KJV translation was done at the order of a very immoral king. Could that have affected the translation any? I don't know, but it is amazing how fired up and self righteous people can get about being KJV only. I say self-righteous, because I think they are being that and a tad bit hypocritical. Yes, hypocritical.

  No one that I know of reads the original King James Bible. What we have as our King James Bible is an updated version of the 1611 translation.... hmm, almost sounds like the NKJV, an updated version of the KJV.......exactly! The same people condemning anyone who dares use a more modern translation than the KJV are themselves using a more modern translation than the original KJV. Yes, hypocrisy thy name is KJV only people.

  And no, I am not putting all KJV people in the same category. I know a lot of people who prefer the KJV, and that is fine. What is not fine, is the ones who condemn other translations and people who use them and spend a lot of time putting down those translations and those who use them. Those are the people I have a problem with...... the ones who pull their righteous robes around them and proudly announce they use only the KJV.

  I actually own a copy of the 1611 KJV Bible.... and wow. I challenge anyone to read it.

   There seems to be an almost idolization of this version of the Bible by many. The idea that this one translation done 400 years ago is the only translation that is infallible and perfect, and we cannot use any other and truly have God's Word....that is arrogant, silly, and wrong. Is every translation since then good? No, but there are several that are. If the KJV is the only Bible that is truly God's Word, one has to wonder about all of the poor souls prior to the KJV....how on earth did they serve God and make to to Heaven without the KJV? Is it possible they missed Heaven because they lived before King James ordered the perfect and flawless translation that is the only true Word of God? (Sarcasm intended)

  But let's be realistic and serious: can we truly say this one translation done so many years ago is the best and only translation that we should use? Who has the authority to make that decision? I know of no man who has the authority or perfect knowledge to make that decision for all of Christendom......and it is arrogant to make the claim that one knows that for sure.

  But yet there are several out there trying to do such a thing.

  Ironically, the newer translations have been translated using way more manuscripts than were available when they did the KJV translation. Interesting....

  So go ahead and read the KJV if you prefer it. That is your prerogative and your right. But it isn't your right to tell other Christians that we must use that translation.

  Meanwhile, I will be reading translations I prefer and getting more out of my Bible reading than if I were only using the KJV. You could even say that other versions have taken the bishopric of the KJV in my Bible reading.....

And for further reading, 7 things you may not know about the King James Version (taken from here):

7 things you may not know about the King James Bible

By Margaret Mowczko

The King James Version of the Bible is a great translation and has helped countless
thousands of people to find and know God, to receive his gift of salvation, and to effectively
serve him and his people. The Bible was beautifully written by some of the best scholars of
the day, and its reputation as fine literature is deserved.

Some Christians today maintain that the KJV is the superior English translation. Some
Christians and churches are so enamored with the KJV that they refuse to use, or give
credit to, any other Bible. The stance of these Christians has been referred to as KingJames-Onlyism
The KJV is an excellent English Bible and if you can easily understand it there is no real
reason to change to another English translation. However, one of the biggest shortcomings
for most people is its dated language.

The KJV uses many archaic words: words such as “jangling”, “subtil”, “privily”, and “holpen”,
etc. And it uses archaic expressions that are unfamiliar to modern readers and audiences.
For instance, how many people readily understand “Charity vaunteth not itself” (1 Cor.
13:4c). The earlier editions of the KJV also used spelling that is outdated, such as sunne for
“sun”. Moreover, the edition of the KJV that is still commonly used contains several words
which have changed in meaning over time. Words such as "suffer, “vile”, “conversation”
and “quit” convey a very different meaning to modern readers than was intended by the
translators. (See Matt. 19:14 KJV; Phil. 3:20-21 KJV; 1 Cor. 16:13 KJV, etc.) The fact that the
KJV uses the word “unicorn” nine times in the Old Testament is also problematic, as a
unicorn is regarded as a mythological creature rather than a real animal.

Apart from its dated language, there are a few other shortcomings of the KJV. KJV-only
people seem unaware of these shortcomings. Moreover, many accept incorrect statements
that are frequently made about the KJV. The following paragraphs contain seven pieces of
information that some KJV-only Christians may not be aware of.

(1) The KJV was not the first English translation.

A few King-James-Only Christians believe that the King James Bible was the first English
translation of the Scriptures. This is incorrect. John Wycliffe’s Bible was translated from
Latin into English and hand copied in the 1400s. In 1526, almost 100 years before the KJV
was first published, William Tyndale's English translation of the Greek New Testament was
published. “After Tyndale's, a number of other versions were produced. Among them were
the Coverdale Bible, the Matthews Bible, the Great Bible, the Geneva Bible, and the Bishops'
Bible.”[1] In fact much of the KJV borrows heavily from earlier English translations,
especially the Bishop’s Bible.

(2) The KJV has been revised several times.

Some King-James-Only Christians believe that the King James Bible perfectly preserved the
Scriptures for all time. If this is the case there would have been no need for further edits.
The current edition of the KJV is different from the original 1611 translation and several
other early editions. “The KJV Bible we use today is actually based primarily on the major
revision completed in 1769 - 158 years after the first edition.”

(3) All early editions of the KJV contained the apocryphal books.

The 1611 version, and all other editions of the KJV that were published for the next fifty
years, contained the Apocrypha. Protestant Christians do not regard the apocryphal books
as uniquely inspired and authoritative. The 1666 edition was the first edition of the KJV that
did not include these extra books that are not included in the canon of Holy Scripture.

(4) King James authorized the new Bible translation for political reasons.

King James believed that a single ‘Authorized Version’ was a political and social necessity.
He hoped this book would hold together the warring factions of the Church of England and
the Puritans which threatened to tear apart both church and country.[3] Most of the
translators, however, were clergymen belonging to the Church of England, but at least some
had Puritan sympathies.

King James issued over a dozen rules that the translators had to follow. King James disliked
the Geneva Bible, the Bible used by the Puritans, because he believed that some of the
commentary in the margin notes did not show enough respect for kings.[4] James' new
translation was to have no commentary in the margins.

King James favored the hierarchical structure of the Church of England and wanted the
new translation to keep words that supported a bishop led hierarchy. In keeping with
James' preferred views on church government he specified, "The old ecclesiastical words
[are] to be kept; as the word church [is] not to be translated congregation." (I personally
believe that congregation is a better translation in some instances.) King James also ruled
that only his new Bible could be read in England's churches. The translation rules of King
James can be found here. The political motives of King James had a direct influence on the
translation of the KJV.

(5) The translators of the KJV 1611 were untrained in Koine Greek.

Koine (common) Greek is the original language of the New Testament. Koine Greek had
been a dead language for over a thousand years when the KJV was published for the first
time in 1611. The translators of the KJV didn't even know what Koine Greek was. Some
people believed that the Greek language of the NT was a unique Spirit-inspired dialect.[5] It
was not until the late 1800s and during the 1900s, when tens of thousands of papyri
documents were discovered - many written in Koine, that we could begin to understand the
language more fully.[6] Unlike the translators of the KJV, modern translators of the New
Testament are scholars of Koine Greek.

(6) The KJV translation of the NT is based on relatively recent Greek manuscripts.

As well as relying on previous English translations, the 1611 edition of the KJV relied on a
critically edited Greek text that was “for the most part based on about half a dozen very late
manuscripts (none earlier than the 12th century AD)."[7] These late manuscripts include
editions of the Greek New Testament by Erasmus[8], as well as Robert Estienne's (a.k.a.
‘Stephanus’) edition (1550), and Theodore Beza's edition (1598). Unfortunately, one of the
manuscripts Estienne and Beza used for their Greek editions contained a few "corrections"
that downplayed the importance of women in the church.[9]

(7) The early editions of the KJV are not based on the Received Text.

Most KJV advocates claim that the KJV was translated from a Greek text known as the
Textus Receptus (TR) and that the TR is especially accurate and inspired. However the TR
did not exist in 1611 when the first King James Bible was published. The first TR was written
in the 1633. “The TR used today is normally the one created by Scrivener in 1894, which
took as its basis the English translation of the KJV, giving the reader the Greek textual
choices made by the KJV translators.”[10] Conversely, most modern translations of the New
Testament are based on critical texts which take into account much more ancient, and much
less handled, Greek manuscripts. A few of these Greek manuscripts date from as early as
the third century.

Other Criticisms and Considerations

One of the criticisms leveled at some newer English translations is that the New Testament
was translated from the Westcott and Hort Greek New Testament. However, the 2011
edition of the New International Version (NIV) is based on the 27th edition of the NestleAland/United

Bible Societies' Greek New Testament which is a critical text that takes into
consideration all known Greek manuscripts, and lectionary quotes, of the New
Testament.[11] Any criticism of the Westcott and Hort text, or the men themselves - and
much of the criticism has been misleading and outright slander - has no relevance
whatsoever to the latest edition of the NIV and other modern translations.

Another criticism of newer translations is that some words and phrases, and even a few
passages, that are included in the KJV are absent in newer translations. These are not
omissions. Rather, these words and phrases are additions in the KJV. These additions are
absent in the more ancient Greek manuscripts. Most modern translations still acknowledge
the traditional additions in some way (e.g. margin notes, footnotes, or in a different font,

The King James Version is a good translation, but I believe the NIV (2011) to be better. I
mostly read the New Testament in Greek, but the English translations I use, roughly in order
of preference, are: the NIV (2011), the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New
Revised Standard Version (NRSV), and the King James Version (KJV). Most of the other,
better known English translations are fine too.

It is most important that we read a Bible that we can understand. The New Testament was
originally written in common, everyday Greek - a language that almost everyone in the
Roman Empire (the world of the New Testament) could easily understand. We need
modern English translations of the Bible for modern audiences.

The 14th person

  The occasions my entire family gets together are rare. My youngest sister and her family travel. He preaches, they all sing, and they also do vacation Bible schools.... so they are often gone a week or more at a time. My oldest two nieces now have jobs, and the other adults all work. Yesterday was one of those rare times when we were all together. No one had to work or travel. It was my parents, myself, my sister Vicki and her husband and three girls, and my sister Pam and her husband and three boys...all 13 of us....plus one.

  Back in December, my family took an evening and went Christmas caroling to some people. One of those people was a lady who is probably in her late 60's or early 70's named Judy. My sisters and nieces work with this very nice lady who was widowed two years ago. She had no children of her own, and her late husband's children don't come around much, so she is usually alone. She had to work until 2 pm on July 4, and my sister felt like she should ask her to join us at my sister's house. We were gathering at 4:00, so there was plenty of time. Judy arrived a little before food, bringing a large bowl of fruit and several apologies for intruding on our day. We assured her she was not intruding, and welcomed her into our celebration.

 As the kids set off firecrackers and other loud and smoky fireworks, we adults watched my brother-in-law grill food on two grills, and chatted with Judy. When we ate, I urged her into line as she was hanging back, and more than one of us asked her if she wanted anything else and urged her to help herself.

    After we ate, the music began. As my nephews and youngest niece hit the swimming pool, some of us hit the instruments. My brother-in-law Paul was at the electric piano, I was playing the regular piano, and my oldest two nieces were on the flute and violin. Judy commented several times how talented our family was and how wonderful the music was, occasionally asking us if we could play a certain song. My mom and sisters saw her wiping tears away a few times as she enjoyed our music.

  She left to go home around 7, thanking us all again for including her. We thanked her for coming and assured her she was welcome and not an intrusion. I later told my sister it was a good call inviting her. We all knew she would have spent the afternoon and evening alone with no cookout and no company.

  But how many Judys are in our lives? How many people cross our paths who are alone, who spend not just most or all holidays alone; but most every other day of the year alone? And what are we willing to do about it? My family included a lady most of us don't know well in our July 4th celebration. It didn't put us out at all. She was easy to talk to and we had plenty of food..... but how much are we willing to inconvenience ourselves and make room in our busy lives to be there for someone.

  We are surrounded by hurting and lonely people. What if we Christians reached out more to such people, and if there is no one in our lives we can think of who might fit that.... pray that God would send someone into our lives for us to befriend and be there for in some capacity. Only God knows how many people are out there waiting for someone to show them they care.