One soul at a time

The apostle Paul understood his life was nearly over. He told his beloved Timothy that the time for his departure from this world was near (2 Timothy 4:6).

Paul said something to Timothy to warn him about how evil the world would become (2 Timothy 3:13). Still, it was Paul’s hope that the young preacher would continue to change the world one soul at a time even though the world would rebel against sound teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

We live in a world that has, for the most part, thrown God’s laws away. Often, we believe we’re living in an enlightened world, but the truth is most people are unrepentant sinners who have heeded the call of science to throw God into a dark closet.

Things are no different now than they were in the beginning when Adam and Eve decided to do the same by disregarding God’s law (Genesis 3:1-3). The history of Israel was one of continued disobedience to God (Ezekiel 20:10-21).

After the apostles died, at least by the second or third century, most of the church left the Bible teaching of elders (plural) over a church for a single bishop over a city (AD 107). By AD 325, the bishops had approved a man-made creed to be recited during worship. By AD 451, Damasus I started calling Rome the “Holy See,” beginning the papacy. What followed is what was called “the Dark Ages.”

There are people who think that if they get involved with the world, they might be able to save it from the fate that awaits it (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). This is a forlorn hope. The unrepentant sinner can only change his destiny by obeying God, and this, many will not do. Jesus himself said the majority of people in the world would be lost (Matthew 7:13-14).

The truth is we can’t save the world from the fate that awaits it. This is why the apostle John warned Christians of the first century not to love the world (1 John 2:15ff), and why Jesus warned people to repent and obey the gospel (Matthew 24:35-39).

Sound negative? Yes, it does. Sometimes the truth is negative so that we’ll hear it and avoid the fate of the world. Remember, Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) tried to warn the world it was about to be destroyed? Only eight souls, however, were saved from the flood. The truth is we can’t save the world.

We can, however, save one soul at a time by teaching them the truth of God’s word. Paul understood the power of this when he wrote Philemon about the runaway slave Onesimus. Paul told his brother Philemon that Onesimus who had been a run-away slave but was now profitable both to his master and to Paul (Philemon 15-16). The gospel has the power to end slavery by changing on soul at a time.

Politics cannot change the world. If the last forty years have taught us anything, it should have taught us we can’t change the world by electing one party or the other to the White House. The Warren Court began the despicable practice of allowing abortion. Candidates for president have called for the abolishment of abortion, yet since the Roe v. Wade decision in the 1960s, we still have it. Man, by himself, has no power to change an unrepentant world.

Obedience to the gospel of Christ can save one soul at a time. Has it saved yours?

God is not a shifting shadow

When the sun is directly behind me, my shadow is very tall.

Since I’m only five feet, six-inches tall, it would be very easy to believe my 20-foot shadow is my true height. But, when I turn, the shadow shifts. The tall shadow disappears. My shadow is not a true representation, is it?

The apostle James wrote, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow,” (James Shadow on grass1:16-17 NASB). Chris Vlachos wrote, “God’s attribute of giving only what is good is not at the mercy of change.”[1] God does not change his merciful nature because his character is always the same. He is infallible.

This is a difficult concept for human beings because we are just the opposite. Let the morning dawn on our discontent and we are surly to rise. Some of us stay the same way all day. In such a mood, it would be difficult to be nice and kind to anyone. A couple of cups of coffee and some breakfast later, and the story may be different. All people are alike this way. We are all shifting shadows.

God never changes. People do. People sin. God never does.

Some of my friends are pretty good people, but they all share the same fault. They think they are infallible. Someone else makes all the mistakes. It’s not their fault the doctor wrote down the wrong appointment day. The dentist must be wrong about his appointment book, too. My friends and I are shifting shadows.

God isn’t. He is the same all the time. He is patiently waiting for you to read your Bible and obey the gospel. He is patiently waiting for you to do what’s right instead of what you think is right. He loves you and wants only the best for you, but his patience is not without limits. One day he will send his son and the door to his kindness will be closed forever.

Don’t let your shifting shadow let that happen.




[1] “The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: James,’ p. 49. Published by B&H Publishing Co.

Gone back in time

Science says time travel is impossible.

Just recently, I was teleported back to the 1960s and I saw demonstrators being punched and kicked.

“This has to be the sixties,” I thought, “this kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore.”

I was wrong. I was watching a political “rally” where the candidate was screaming at the crowd to punch someone in the face and get them out of the room.

Then, yesterday while I was buying a few items at our favorite dollar store, I had a problem with my chip card and removed it prematurely.

“Don’t take it out!” the cashier yelled. She managed to leave out the word “stupid,” but she was clearly upset with me and my card. She apologized for her outburst, and I forgave her. It was probably just the day’s tension with people like me who remove their cards before they should have.

Have anger and hatefulness become a part of the American landscape? For many people it has. It seems there are some who think the political process (flawed as it may be) needs a little help from them in the way of anger and violence. And, some of these people call themselves Christians.

Isn’t it the case, however, that to become a Christian one must turn from the ways of the flesh and change their lives and conduct? The Apostle Paul called anger and violence the “works of the flesh.” He wrote, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God,” (Galatians 5:19-21 NASB).

These outbursts of anger, as Paul called them, have become more and more common in our land. They shouldn’t. We’re supposed to be people who have learned self-control, aren’t we? Remember, we fought a war with Japan and when it was done, we HELPED THEM.

People who practice the things Paul condemned in Galatians 5:19-21 are hurting more than just the people they are kicking and punching. They are showing they are no more Christian than any heathen in the world, no matter what they call themselves. Christians don’t do these things, and they don’t condone those who do!

It’s time we turned our backs on the anger and violence in the world and obeyed the gospel of peace Jesus gave us. If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, it’s time we started acting like it.

Morning glory

There are many beautiful wild flowers to see during my morning walks. Some are purple; some are red. But one of the most lovely flowers I see every day at 5:45 a.m. is the Morning Glory.

Gardeners hate the Morning Glory because it chokes the lives out of the plants they are trying to grow. But, on the side of the road in contrast to the green grass and purple flowers the Morning Glory is beautifully white with tinges of purple. And, it’s only open early in the morning just for me.

The psalmipomoeaalba_4ist wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” (Psalm 53:1a NKJV). It is impossible for one to look upon God’s creation and not see his existence. Those who believe this world and everything in it is an accident are exactly what God said they are.

One must have help mistaking the created beauty of the world for an accident. Look at the Morning Glory. Could this flower have been created by a mistake? It has design. It is not like any other flower of the field. Those who say there is no God do so because they have been misled and deceived. As the psalmist wrote, “They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good,” (Psalm 53:1b).

Those who dispute the existence of God have given up on one of the simplest maxims of the universe: cause and effect are everywhere. Saying God’s creation was all an accident sets aside the truth of cause and effect for a lie. If one buys a watch that keeps time does he say the watch is an accident. No, he appreciates its design and its precision. Everything in the natural world proclaims God’s glory in its design and purpose. Just look at the Morning Glory.

Cynicism: Not the way to go

Cynicism began in ancient Greece, probably with Diogenes who was known for his “dog-like” behavior. In fact, the word for cynic in Greek, kunikos, means exactly that. The early cynics were just like Diogenes. They were people who barked at those who displeased them, spurned Athenian etiquette, and lived from nature.

To the pure cynic, nature offers a clear means of how to live the “good life,” which is characterized by reason, self-sufficiency and freedom.

The dictionary definition of cynicism is, “an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest.” This is the closest to modern cynical thought. It is also the reason that many cynics are plagued by skepticism, its close kin.

A certain amount of cynicism is probably not entirely wrong: many people in our world do not tell the truth. But, cynicism and skepticism in the way many have been overcome by both is wrong.

An alarming number of people no longer trust any leadership, national or local. They believe everyone is lying to them, even those who are helping them spiritually. The news media is being ignored because a cynical public believes all the news media is biased.

It isn’t as if they haven’t had cause. From Richard Nixon in the 1970s to Barack Obama it is difficult to know who to believe. And, as far as some of our spiritual leadership is concerned, well, some of them have been authors of fiction for years. Some of the news media is biased.

But, to think everyone is lying and no one is believable is just not true. There are plenty of honest people still alive. Condemning the whole of any group is not only foolish, it’s wrong. All Mexicans are not rapists. All black people are not cop killers. All Italians are not crooked. Those who condemn an entire race are racist.

There is also an honest book of values that is truthful. It is the Bible. Perhaps cynical people don’t believe this because they’ve never really studied God’s word. Many accuse the Bible of having nothing but contradictions, but a careful study will show it does not contradict itself. The Bible is the inspired word of God and it says so (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Cynics can let their cynicism take possession of their reason. Andrew Byars wrote for “Christianity Today,” “So many believers have slid into those dark pits that cynicism is becoming vogue.” He continued, “To be cynical is to be spiritually ill.” Some are so ill they don’t even sense the illness of cynicism that has captured them.

It is one thing to make sure what we’re being told is the truth. It is another to think that everyone in the world is lying. That’s worse that the cynicism of ancient Greece. That’s just downright paranoid.

Me and Self

I live with my beautiful bride, Judy, and a cranky old man named My Self.

When I rise early for my 45-minute walk, Self sometimes tells me, “You can’t go out and walk today. Your knee hurts.”

“Well, we’re going out anyway,” I reply.

“I’m just trying to say your right knee is going to be weak,” Self says. “You might fall.” Self knows how I hate falling down.

“Be that as it may,” says I, “we’re going.”

Self doesn’t like to exercise, though he always feels better after it. Self also likes to eat foods that are bad for us, and he would like to engage in conduct that is just plain wrong. So, we have a lot of arguments.

Listing the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle Paul included self-control in Galatians 5:23. In the next verse he wrote, “Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires,” (Galatians 5:24 NASB). This relates to an earlier statement in the same book when Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me,” (Galatians 2:20 NASB).

The problem most people have, including me, is that we are supposed to have crucified Self and its desires. We are to exercise self-control. Instead, we let Self talk us into things we shouldn’t do.

So, when Self and I have discussions about what I should, or shouldn’t do, Self usually loses. I’m under the control of a new owner — Jesus Christ — and he rules in my life.

Does he rule in yours?

Is there a cure?

Looking for a cure for a dread disease? There may not be one.

Diabetes is an insidious disease that can kill silently. So can high blood pressure. Both are known as diseases that can kill before the victim even realizes what has happened. Heart disease can also be a silent killer. One may go for years and never suspect coronary arteries are closing until there is pain and death.

Physicians would like to cure diseases, but there is only so much they can do. Sometimes, all the doctors can do is treat the symptoms. To treat diabetes, they give drugs to lower blood sugar and encourage the patient to exercise. Treatment may help an afflicted person live longer, but, often, people stop the treatment and the disease continues its course. The same is true for heart disease, high blood pressure and a myriad of other types of illnesses.

The United States has a disease. The disease is spiritual; it is sin. This disease has always existed, but some people don’t like to think about it or find a treatment. Sin is a silent killer going undetected by the victim until spiritual death. But, with this spiritual disease, there is only one cure. One must change the heart and mind and conduct and obey God. As with physical disease, many people don’t like the prospect of the spiritual treatment.

That tdivorce-ratehis nation has departed from the living God is self-evident. A look at the conduct of its people is diagnostic. Millions are lost in sin in a nation with religious freedom. Divorce rates have been escalating since 1950 and, now, at least 50 percent of marriages end in divorce. Why? It’s a symptom of spiritual disease.

Abortion, the murder of the unborn, has remained at about the same rate since the Roe vs. Wade decision by the Supreme Court in 1973. Although politicians have promised to stop this premeditated murder, they have US-national-abortion-ratefailed. Richard Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush all promised to appoint Supreme Court justices that would throw out the 1973 decision. They all failed. Why? Because we are talking about a spiritual disease here.

There is only one thing that can stop the insidious disease of sin and the fruit that it bears, and that is obedience to the gospel. The apostle Paul lived in the days of the Roman Empire, the most corrupt and sinful system of government the world has ever known. Yet, Paul knew that if people repented and obeyed the gospel the world could change. It is impossible to read Paul’s letter to Philemon about the slave Onesimus and not see this. Changing people into obedient children of God makes us all brothers and sisters. Obedience changes our relation to God and each other, (Galatians 3:26-28).

This is the only cure for sin. The writer of Psalms wrote by the inspiration of God, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD; and the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance,” (Psalm 33:12). He did not write that any nation whose God is its belly is blessed. He wrote, “Blessed is the nation whose God IS the LORD.” The inspired psalmist did not write, “Blessed is the nation whose God WAS  the Lords, but isn’t now.” The United States hasn’t been a nation whose people are the Lords for a very long time. The evidence of this is incontrovertible.

If we want this nation to become one centered in obedience to the Lord, it won’t happen through the political process. Politics is a popularity contest. Politicians are elected to do what the greatest number of people want, and the greatest number of people in this country want to march on to eternity bound for condemnation. Why do you think we have the leaders we have? It’s because we wanted them.

This is not a new problem. Judah was led to accept the “lesser of two evils” called idolatry. They were simply hedging their bets. They didn’t believe God was helping them and they thought Baal might, so they capitulated. Who led the way? Judah’s politicians and leaders, that’s who. Isaiah wrote, “’Now therefore what have I here,’ declares the LORD, ‘seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,’ declares the LORD, ‘and continually all the day my name is despised’”, (Isaiah 52:5).

The disease of sin is insidious and the cure does not just treat the symptoms! The only change that can redirect this country is a spiritual one — obedience to the gospel and God’s commands — because nothing else will change it. Elect whomever you will, no politician has ever preached the truth of the gospel (which is the only way to become a nation of godly people), and they never will. Unless and until people obey the gospel and live obediently for God, there is no hope of changing it.