Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Plan of Salvation

I have been studying the book of Romans for several months.  I am taking a class with Bible Study Fellowship.  (Check out and learn about this group which has offered classes for children and adults for some 65 years.  They are based in San Antonio and I only learned about them last Summer.)  The material for each class has been used for many years and is very, very good.  I highly recommend that you find a class near you and get involved.

I have also been taking a online class offered by Udemy.  (  The class is taught by N.T. Wright and source material includes the new Paul For Everyone commentary written by N.T. Wright and the new translation of the New Testament, The Kingdom New Testament, again written by N.T. Wright.  I find the Bible Study Fellowship study guides and lectures to be a good and necessary balance to N.T. Wright’s lectures and material.  I also have been leaning heavily on the NIV, NET and NLT translations I more commonly use, along with my NIV Study Bible notes.

We just finished the first 8 chapters and as chapter 8 climaxed I was moved to write some words responding to the last chapter.  In particular, I found verses 18-25 to move me in ways I had not experienced before.  Please understand that these are my own thoughts, not N.T. Wrights or BSF, but my own.  These thoughts have been fermenting in my brain for many years.  Please do not adopt these thoughts for yourself without much prayer, meditation and study.  Here is what I wrote:

“This scripture gives me a glorious view of God’s plan of salvation, not just for individuals, but for all of creation.  Suffering we endure here compared to the Glory God has planned is completely overshadowed by that Glory!  The Glory to come is not just a glory we can view, but it is a glory that God intends to share with us.  This scripture implies a time for us to share the triumph earned by Jesus and reign with Him over a continuing creation.  Creation is groaning, waiting for this victory over evil, death and decay to become a reality, for it to be finally revealed.  Look at the ending verses in Psalms 96, 97 and 98 – see the anticipation of creation which was pent up even in the time of the Old Testament.

What will it look like??  We are united with Jesus Christ living in a incorruptible body with no pain, no disease, and no evil.  Jesus has defeated Satan and his demons and shipped them off to the abyss.  He is well on His way to creating a New Heaven/Earth with no Sea, no separation from God the Father.  There is no night, God is the Light.  We have been changed so that we can enjoy fellowship with God and his angels along with all those who have been redeemed by Jesus.

All who have lived and died under the illusion of Satan can now see that his way was a sham.  Satan was a loser.  Could it be possible that they might have a chance to change teams??  Would it be consistent with the character of God, His Son and His Holy Spirit for those who have been deceived to have a second chance?

What is the activity of the New Heaven/Earth?  Sure it will consist of praising and honoring our Holy and Righteous God and Father.  We will pay homage to Jesus and His Spirit and see them as we have never imagined.  But what will we do to assist Him.  He works to complete the creation intended since Eden.  But to what end??  There is a new playing field and a new task.  Those who have been deceived by Satan can now see a demonstration of God’s true sovereignty.  

 There is a fascinating scripture in 1 Peter 3:18-20 which has puzzled me for a long time:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.  He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit.  After being made alive, He went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits.  To those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, while the ark was being built.  In it only a few people, eight in all were saved through water…

Jesus was awakened after dying a horrible death and did what??  He preached to the people who were deceived by Satan into ignoring Noah and his efforts to convince people that God was real.  To what end?  What good could come from that proclamation?? Jesus would not have done that unless there was some hope of even those souls being redeemed!

It is horrible to think of the people who died in the flood.  Every man woman child, baby … even every innocent animal who needed the breath of life perished.  Maybe, just maybe our task will be to join Jesus in His mission to give those who passed up their chance in life to follow Him because of Satan’s deception, a second chance. 

Satan is no more.  Evil is no more.  The environment is like Eden.  No weeds, no evil, no tempter.  God’s sovereign reign can no longer be denied.  People can see without doubt that to reject God is the most foolish act a being can make.  They will gladly enlist in His service along with us who lived as faithfully as we could.

1 Peter 3:18-20 may not be enough evidence to support this dream.  But it sure is a pleasant dream.  And it sure fits in with the vision I have of a loving and merciful God.

God bless.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Handmade Wooden Pens

 Can I tell you just a bit about my hobby?

Pens are a delight to make.  "Bullet Pens" are very popular among hunters and gun enthusiasts.  I also enjoy twist pens, click pens and fountain pens.  It is a thrill to take a rectangular shaped piece of rough "firewood" and turn it on a lathe.  Seeing the grain of the wood clarify into a beautiful example of the nature of the wood can be most satisfying as you can see in this photo:

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Trust in God

I join millions of people who have gone before in the following convictions:

“I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our LORD, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead.

On the third day He rose again!  He ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy catholic (universal) church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

(These words are from the Apostle's Creed.  I believe they are true because I find evidence of their truth in the Bible.  I appreciate the effort made by the many believers who worked to summarize "what we believe" centuries ago so it could be more easily taught to others.) 

I believe that because God is our maker, redeemer and sustainer, we owe Him worship, loyalty, respect and the most perfect obedience we can accomplish.  We owe him our trust.

And, I believe in …


What a concept!  It is by Grace that we are saved.  If we got what we deserved, we would be condemned.  But God looks at us with Love and Mercy and has designed a "Plan of Salvation."  Through the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus Christ we have hope, yea even Assurance, of our sins being forgiven.

Monroe Hawley wrote this in 1976 in his book Redigging the Wells:

"A reexamination of the subject of divine grace will help us to be less judgmental.  Most of us appreciate the fact that God will forgive repeated moral sins, providing genuine repentance accompanies confession of wrong.  We know that God will forgive His child who repeatedly loses his temper but consistently tries to overcome his weakness.  ... However, many do not realize that God extends His grace to doctrinal matters."  page 211

Moral mistakes are erased by the power of the blood of Christ.  Horrible and ugly sins such as murder, dishonesty, adultery, slander, gossip and such like, can be forgiven because of Jesus' sacrifice.  But if that is true, what about the errors of judgment we make about religion?  There are many who surrender their life to Jesus Christ and serve Him all their lives to the very best of their understanding and ability.  Yet, many follow very different specific practices and rules because they are members of different denominations, or choose to follow different teachers and leaders.  Well intentioned leaders make rules which never should be made and exclude or include folks they should not.  If they knew better they would do better, but they neither know or do.  

It is puzzling and depressing to see the small number of humans who think they are destined for salvation on the basis of being in the "right" group, and in agreement with the "right" leaders.  I find great comfort and hope in the fact that God will be just as merciful and forgiving in dealing with our doctrinal mistakes as with our moral ones.  I hope this is the case, because we are all wrong about something.  If it is not true is there really any hope for any of us?  We are all wrong about something.  If we knew what we are wrong about we would surely correct it.

"Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To their own master, servants stand or fall. And they will stand, for the Lord is able to make them stand."  Romans 14:4

I really believe that all of us will be pleasantly surprised when we find folks in heaven that we never expected to see again.  If this is true, we need to give serious thought to how we treat the people with whom we disagree today.

The thing I really do not want to be wrong about is my condemnation or criticism of a brother or sister in Christ who is no more mistaken about religion than I am myself.

So, do we just keep on sinning and be unconcerned about moral and doctrinal matters?  As Paul said in Romans 6 – “God forbid…”  How can we not be even more concerned about what God wants of us, knowing what He has done and what He has planned for us?!  I pray that more and more we can surrender our will to His.  I pray that we will view those who are “less fortunate” with compassion and empathy instead of fear and repulsion. Trust Jesus.  Imitate Him.  Be a brother or sister with no reservation to all others who are trying to do the same.

Just thinking.

Be good to yourself.  - Carlin

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Love Your Enemies? Really?

These words by Frederick Buechner seem even more timely today then when he first published them in 1988.


Cain hated Abel for standing higher in God's esteem than he felt he himself did, so he killed him. King Saul hated David for stealing the hearts of the people with his winning ways and tried to kill him every chance he got. Saul of Tarsus hated the followers of Jesus because he thought they were blasphemers and heretics and made a career of rounding them up so they could be stoned to death like Stephen. By and large most of us don't have enemies like that anymore, and in a way it's a pity.
It would be pleasant to think it's because we're more civilized nowadays, but maybe it's only because we're less honest, open, brave. We tend to avoid fiery outbursts for fear of what they may touch off both in ourselves and the ones we burst out at. We smolder instead. If people hurt us or cheat us or stand for things we abominate, we're less apt to bear arms against them than to bear grudges. We stay out of their way. When we declare war, it is mostly submarine warfare, and since our attacks are beneath the surface, it may be years before we know fully the damage we have either given or sustained.
Jesus says we are to love our enemies and pray for them, meaning love not in an emotional sense but in the sense of willing their good, which is the sense in which we love ourselves. It is a tall order even so. African Americans love white supremacists? The longtime employee who is laid off just before he qualifies for retirement with a pension love the people who call him in to break the news? The mother of the molested child love the molester? But when you see as clearly as that who your enemies are, at least you see your enemies clearly too.
You see the lines in their faces and the way they walk when they're tired. You see who their husbands and wives are, maybe. You see where they're vulnerable. You see where they're scared. Seeing what is hateful about them, you may catch a glimpse also of where the hatefulness comes from. Seeing the hurt they cause you, you may see also the hurt they cause themselves. You're still light-years away from loving them, to be sure, but at least you see how they are human even as you are human, and that is at least a step in the right direction. It's possible that you may even get to where you can pray for them a little, if only that God forgive them because you yourself can't, but any prayer for them at all is a major breakthrough.
In the long run, it may be easier to love the ones we look in the eye and hate, the enemies, than the ones whom—because we're as afraid of ourselves as we are of them—we choose not to look at, at all."

~originally published in Whistling in the Dark and later in Beyond Words

Friday, April 10, 2015

God's Shalom Project

This is one of the best books I have ever read.  Our congregation is spending 31 weeks reading "The Story" and concentrating on the overall story of God's dealing with mankind.  This book is a wonderful, brief, easy to read explanation of what God had planned for us from the beginning of time.  The author uses a unique technique to provide additional understanding:  At the end of each chapter he responds to questions raised by an imaginary couple who are "reading" along with you.

Click on this link to go to the book in Amazon:    God's Shalom Project

You will be blessed by reading this book.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Humans Are NOT Mere Animals

The statement, "Human beings are only animals."  does not and has never rung with TRUTH.  But why not?  How can we describe that which makes us different from the animals?

Walker Percy wrote this observation:  "Chickens have no myths, but man always knows or thinks he knows what is under the earth and above the earth, and what is holding the earth up."  This quote is actually from an introduction Percy wrote to a manual for Louisiana State University's mental-health services.  His subject had to do with mental-health therapy.  The Chicken analogy shines the spotlight of thought on how ridiculous it would be to imagine using therapy on Chickens, or fish, or animals of any kind.  They have no language by which they could understand "story" or "myths" or any other similar concepts which we humans take for granted.

From earliest times humans have been able to communicate in symbols representing concepts.  Words, pictures and objects represent both a title or description and an understanding of the nature of being.

If you would like to explore Percy's development of this line of thought, here is a link to a site devoted to his life and writings:

Have a blessed day.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

My friend, Dave Simpson

Charles Kingsley wrote: 

"One good man, one man who does not put on his religion once a week with his Sunday coat, but wears it for his working dress, and lets the thought of God grow into him, and through and through him, till everything he says and does becomes religious, that man is worth a thousand sermons -- he is a living Gospel -- he comes in the spirit and power of Elias -- he is the image of God. And men see his good works, and admire them in spite of themselves, and see that they are God-like, and that God's grace is no dream, but that the Holy Spirit is still among men, and that all nobleness and manliness is His gift, His stamp, His picture: and so they get a glimpse of God again in His saints and heroes, and glorify their Father who is in heaven." 

He must have known Dave Simpson. I have known no better man.