Category Archives: Inscriptions

Death

Through the apostle Paul the Holy Spirit thus admonished, “I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who are asleep, so that you DO NOT GRIEVE AS OTHERS WHO HAVE NO HOPE” (1 Th 4:13). There . . . the Holy Spirit said it. The grave site scene of a dearly beloved Christian must be far different than the same scene at the burial of an unbeliever. Living Christians “do not grieve as unbelievers” in the death of their loved ones.

Consoling Christians must not be accused of being hard-hearted when they exhort the grieving with these words from the Holy Spirit. If our grief at the death of a Christian brother or sister is no different than that of the unbelievers, then we have a problem with our faith in the fact that the one who went down into the grave will come out again dressed in a glorious body. Our challenge at the death of a disciple, therefore, is how to salt our grief with hope. And in so doing, there is a sense of victory as we lay our loved ones in a tomb that will eventually be broken open.

There will be grief for the moment. The admonition of the Spirit allows for this. A simile is used with a negative concerning the occasion. The phrase reads, “not grieve as.” There is grief, but it is not as those unbelievers who have no hope beyond the grave.

The burial of a saint is only a temporary transition of the body. The body must transition through the dissipation of the body into dust in expectation of the heavenly body that will eventually dress our souls with a body from God. Therefore, in our hope “we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our house that is from heaven, if indeed clothed, we [in the state of our disembodied souls] will not be found naked” (2 Co 5:2,3).

When Jesus comes in the clouds, He will bring with Him all those souls of departed saints who have had the privilege of escaping this world that is infested and infected with sin and sickness (1 Th 4:14).  So the Holy Spirit concluded the matter, “Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Th 4:18).

BLACK CAT THEOLOGY

So it seems that Zeus, the chief god of the Greeks, was guilty of a little hanky panky (“infidelity”). Among the many servants of the heavenly palace, his eye had been lured to one particular young damsel named, Galinthias. All was fine until Hera, the wife of Zeus, discovered the hidden unfaithfulness. Since Hera could not take her anger out on the chief god of Greek mythology, she turned her attention to the compliant Galinthias and cursed her in order to impede the birth of her illegitimate child. Hera turned the servant girl into a black cat. This may have been the beginning of all “black cat theology.”

Nevertheless, the child was born, and thus came into existence in the minds of the Greeks, the god Hercules. But don’t fret concerning the fate of Galinthias. The Greek goddess of witchcraft took in the adulterous servant girl, now a black cat, and employed her as her own servant. Unfortunately, black cats thereafter have had to live with the curse of this superstitious mischief among the gods. “Black cat theology” is still with us today.

In some cultures today, the unfortunate black cat is often considered an omen of evil that is associated with witchcraft. Some have believed that black cats were the very embodiment of witches themselves. And so you might think that you are innocent of all this babble about black cats. If so, then we will pay close attention to your walk along a pathway or sidewalk when a black cat crosses your path. If you waver in your stride, or even have the slightest disturbance in your thoughts, then we will know that you too are still a victim of “black cat theology.”

Superstition is belief that has no evidence. Greek mythology is based on all sorts of superstitions. In fact, mythology itself is founded on vivid imaginations that have run wild in the absence of a knowledge of the one true and living God. It is for this reason that mythology affected the behavior of the Greeks because they had little or no knowledge of the one true and living God. Greek lives were controlled by the gods they had created after their own imagination. They did this or that in view of pleasing the gods, or escaping some punishment of a mischievous god. It was a society that was ruled by “black cat theology.”

A little over two thousand years ago a representative of the true and living God stepped into the capital where “black cat theologians” were gathered to babble about their beliefs and behavior in reference to imaginations. The common subject of debates among these “preachers” from throughout the ancient world was to babble about their “black cat theologies” or some new thing (See At 17:18-21).

Nevertheless, this particular day, the traveling preacher stood up in the lecture hall of Mars Hill and shouted out with a strong voice, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious [superstitious]. For as I passed by and observed your objects of worship, I found an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown God’ (At 17:22,23).

For the first time in the history of the Greeks this messenger from the true God established a contrast between the beliefs of the “black cat theologians” and the truth of a God whose gospel to mankind was based on the resurrection of His Son from the dead (See Hb 11:1). It was now time for all “black cat theologians” to step aside and hear a message about a living God who was not the product of vivid imaginations.

You might claim that you are unmoved by some relics of your own beliefs in “black cat theology.” This may be your personal conclusion, but the recent pandemic has rattle the faith of millions of people around the world. It seems that many folks have dipped into their former superstitions in order to blame some “demon” who supposedly causes this or that as people struggle for their last breath in emergency rooms around the world. In fact, in a recent conversation with an elder of the church on the other side of our country, he remarked, “It seems that religious leaders across the country have ascended to their pulpits in order to proclaim some superstitious reason for all this social turmoil.” “Black cat theology.”

In one case it was assumed that if one was injected with the vaccine against Covid, he or she would turn into a horse. In another case, someone contacted me from the other side of the world and ask, “What is the mark of the beast? My friends are telling me that if I am vaccinated against Covid, I will be receiving the mark of the beast.” “And thus,” she continued, “they said that they could not associate with me.” “Black cat theology.”

Taking medication, receiving vaccinations against diseases as polio, or just eating certain foods is the personal choice of the individual. But when such is either done or shunned for religious reasons, then it becomes “black cat theology.” Nevertheless, until that time when a new convert puts away his “black cat theology” in reference to eating meat, for example, those who are strong in the faith should exercise love and patience (See 1 Co 8). But at the same time, it is assumed in the Holy Spirit’s exhortations on this matter that the “weak brother,” who eats meat in respect to some religious superstition, as he previously did in respect to some foods in his former life of superstitious behavior, he must grow out of his “black cat theology.” In fact, the Holy Spirit said on such matters as food, “For it is a good thing that the heart be established by grace, not with foods” Hb 13:9). “Therefore,” continued the Spirit in another context, “let no one judge you in food or in drink” (Cl 2:16). Attaching spiritual or religious significance to foods, to idols, or even to vaccines that might prevent us from certain diseases, is “black cat theology.”

An even more subtle belief of “black cat theology” is the tempting of God with a faith that is contrary to science. So against the science of gravity, a foolish man of “faith” preaches from his pulpit to his friends on the top of a one hundred story building, “You must have faith. God will protect you.” So against the science of gravity, he leaps off the building in order to reveal his faith in God to protect him. As he passed floor fifty, it was heard that he yelled out, “So far so good.”

Assuming that God will protect us when we walk in violation of the laws of nature is tempting God to do evil by catching us on the final floor (See Js 1:13). If we willingly walk contrary to that which science provides to protect us, assuming that God will not allow us to fall victim our own neglect, then we are participating in “black cat theology” in reference to faith. If we knowingly place ourselves and our family in a situation of danger, while knowing that there is an opportunity to avoid that danger, then we are tempting God to do for us that which we should be doing for ourselves. This is the faith of “black cat theology.”

If we do this or that in our lives on the basis of superstitious beliefs, then we have allowed ourselves to promote “black cat theology.” It is for this reason that Christians grow in their knowledge of the word of God (2 Pt 3:18). They study zealously in order to sift out of their minds those former superstitious beliefs that are associated with “black cat theology.”

So you can judge for yourself on this matter. The next time a black cat crosses your path, take a moment to consider the fact that you may still be subservient to some beliefs of “black cat theology.”

Navigating Through Life

FROM THE PREFACE

The advantage of a Bible-based world view is that one’s responses to current events can always be sifted through eternal principles that do not change. People today respond to the word of God as they did four thousand or more years ago. God-fearing people from the beginning of time have responded to any revelation from their Creator in reference to the times in which they lived. I reserve the right to do the same. My understanding of matters that must be understood through deductive interpretation may differ from yours. However, those fundamental principles that permeate time need no interpretation, and thus, with these fundamental principles of the Bible in view, I have laid the foundation upon which I seek to respond to current events and religious discussions.

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Singing & Worship

SINGING DEFINES THE DEMEANOR OF GOSPEL LIVING
Some Bible students often read the behavior of their modern assemblies into the “one another” relationship passages of the New Testament. This practice could be defined by the Greek word, eisegesis, that is, reading our modern-day definition of works and words into the works and words of the Bible. This is probably one of the most violated principles of Bible study that we encounter today, particularly in reference to the subject under discussion.

Two passages that are often misunderstood in the preceding manner are Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16:

“… speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ep 5:19).

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Cl 3:16).

It is often assumed that these two passages refer exclusively to an assembly context of the church. Subsequently, it is then assumed that singing is an “act of worship” that validates an assembly as true worship. The result of this unfortunate hermeneutic is to use these two passages a mandate to add another “act” to a codified ritual that must be performed during the Sunday morning assembly in order to determine if a church exists at a particular location. There are three reasons why neither passage is teaching this assumption in their original context.

  1. No assembly context: Nowhere in the context of either passage is the Sunday assembly mentioned. It is just not there. Such a time for singing is only assumed by those who read their present religious assembly pattern into the biblical context of each passage. Such is done in order to use the exhortation to sing in these passages to validate the assumption that singing in an assembly of the saints during the “worship hour” on Sunday morning is an “act of worship.”

But when we consider the preceding assumption in the context of both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, we must conclude that Paul was discussing the life-style relationship that must be characteristic of every Christian anytime and anywhere. In the context, exhorting one another through song was one of the manifestations of our relationship with one another.

True, singing can take place during the general assembly of the saints on any occasion, but not exclusively during an assembly. Anytime and anywhere Christians are together with one another they can break out in song in order to exhort and teach one another. If there were only two Christians who have come together, then they can still fulfill the mandates that Paul wrote to the Ephesians and Colossians.

  1. Singing everywhere and anytime: The singing that is mentioned in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 does not demand that singing take place during every encounter that Christians have with one another. Assembly does not mandate singing. This would include the general assembly of Christians on the first day of the week, as well as times when two or three Christians might encounter one another anytime and anywhere. All that is said in the passages is that Christians exhort and teach one another through the medium of vocal singing. Neither the occasion nor the context of the singing are mentioned in reference to when the saints might carry out the exhortations to encourage one another through song.

Now this brings up a very interesting point in reference to assemblies and singing. Is the mandate of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 to be carried out on every occasion when Christians come together? And if an assembly does not include singing, is such a valid assembly?

We would have to conclude that Paul did not mean that Christians must sing to one another every time they encounter one another. If they encountered one another on the street or in the field, they would not have to break out in song in order to relate with one another. If they encountered one another in a corporate business meeting, they would not have to start singing in the presence of the unbelievers who were present.

So what if Christians encountered one another at 10:00am on a Sunday morning? Would they be under a mandate to sing to one another in order to validate their encounter as an “official assembly”? If Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 refer to the daily living of the Christian—and they do—then we must assume that two or three Christians do not have to break out in song when they meet one another on Monday morning at 10:00am, or while working on the job throughout the week.

Now if Christians encounter one another on Sunday morning, the exhortation of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 does not change in meaning or application. The point is that Christians can meet together and not sing, as they can meet together and not study the Bible or pray or take up a contribution. There is thus no mandate in the Scriptures that assumes that worship takes place when certain performances, including singing, are acted out. An assembly of the disciples is thus not validated as such when a particular system of rituals is performed. Singing, therefore, is generic in the gospel life of the Christian, not specific in reference to being legally performed in order to validate a Sunday assembly.

It is natural for Christians to sing when they are together. When they come together on any occasion, it is only natural for them to speak to one another in song as they sing praises to God. While in prison, Paul and Silas behaved in this manner in a Philippian jail (At 16:25). There was no “official assembly” application to their singing in that jail house, neither did their singing validate an “official” assembly because they sang. They were simply praising God while in chains in the darkness of a prison. After the singing, there was no “closing prayer.”

What Paul was discussing in the context of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 was the nature of the behavior of Christians in their relationship with one another and God at all times. Paul was not giving a mandate that would become a legal code of identity to determine an “official assembly” of the saints. Christians must exhort one another through song, but they do not have to do so every time they come together.

Is it natural in their behavior to sing when Christians come together? Absolutely! But mutual exhortation through song was never given in the New Testament as an act by which some concept of an “official assembly” of the saints was to be identified or validated. Neither was singing given as a validation that worship takes place. Singing spiritual songs to one another is the result of a gospel-obedient heart, not a manifestation that an assembly must validated as true because an act of singing has been legally performed.

  1. Mediums of teaching: Both Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 explain that singing is a method of communication by which the saints can edify and teach one another. When we teach and admonish one another through song, we are not worshiping one another. Worship, therefore, is not inherent in spiritual songs. Spiritual songs can be used to teach spiritual truths, which they should. But when one is teaching others a spiritual truth through song, he or she is simply doing as the preacher who teaches spiritual truth by communicating truth in the words he speaks from a podium. Therefore, singing is not a signal to proclaim that an “official assembly” of worship is being conducted. Singing is simply a signal of the Christian demeanor of life seven days a week by which truth is proclaimed. Christians can, and should, bring their spirit of singing together in an assembly by which every attendee gathers together to sing praises to God in worship.

Be Not Deceived

In view of the calamity that was coming upon national Israel, Jesus knew that in the decade before the final event in A.D. 70, the news media, especially the Jewish news media, would be reporting all sorts of nonsense in reference to the affairs of the times. Knowing that the calamity was coming, accompanied with all the sensationalism of the news media, thirty years before, Jesus warned His disciples, “Take heed that you not be deceived” (Lk 21:8). We would add, “Take heed that you not be deceived by the local and international news media concerning the events of the times.”

So one morning in our own home we sat there for a moment, stunned in our chairs! We just could not believe what came out of the mouth of an international news correspondent on our television news of April 2021. This was one of those moments when one simply falls back in his chair, pleasantly surprised by the use of one simple word, realizing that not all news reporters have lost their way by reporting either twisted or fake news.

The reporter’s frank use of a biblical word to cast judgment on another news media organization was reassuring. In the surreal experience of the moment, the word that was used by this “secular” reporter floated around in our living room, trying to unravel all our prejudices that had been implanted by the liberal news media of day. In some things, we too had allowed ourselves to be deceived. Nevertheless, we thought we would never hear such things coming forth from the secular news media, especially in these times when much of the news media have long forgotten their moral bearings.

My father grew up in the wake of the William Randolph Hearst (1863 – 1951) news media corporation of the first of the last century. I can still see my dad sitting in the living room of the old farm house after a long day in the field choking on either dust or grain chaff. But in the evening he would just sit there in that old hole-ridden armchair with the weekly newspaper held up and spread across the entire width of the chair. We could only identify him to be there by two legs that protruded from under the newspaper and the Prince Albert smoke from his pipe that bellowed up over the top of the newspaper.

One time after reading a provocative article, he slowly lowered the now worn newspaper, took that charred pipe out of his mouth, and said to all of us, “Boys . . . you can’t trust half of what you read in these newspapers. And the other half . . . well . . . you must always question its truth.”

I have never forgotten those wise words. Our father was living in an era after William Randolph Hearst had bought up newspapers across early twentieth century America, and by doing so, built the largest network of newspapers in the world. By controlling the editorials and news reports of local newspapers, Hearst figured out that he could have voted into or out of political offices those candidates he either favored or disliked. He would do his political deed by running stories, or propaganda—whichever you like–that favored one candidate and slandered the opponent. Hearst had no moral values in reference to honest news reporting in a democratic society. He was morally bankrupt. He was, as most corporate news media, into the news media for the money.

So on that April morning in our living room, when we heard the use of a three-letter word by an international news reporter, the judgment of God was enacted on most of the liberal Western news media of today. And would you believe it, that reporter who made the moral pronouncement was a Russian. Yes, a Russian news reporter.

The particular story upon which the Russian called down higher powers of judgment was a story that had been leaked from an employee of a well-known cable news network in America. The “whistle blower” revealed that it was the determined purpose of the cable news network to distort all their reporting during the last four years in a manner that would bring down the sitting President of the United States. As the story unfolded, it was explained that from the very top of the news organization, to the those who gave live panel reviews and reports throughout the election cycle, the determined purpose was to slant all stories in order to make the former President look bad, and thus, unelectable.

It was as if William Randolph Hearst had been resurrected from the dead and was now running this particular media organization. As Hearst, the news organization determined that they did not like the President of the time, so they would use all their influence through their “news” organization to bring him down.

In order to accomplish their deed, specialists in politics and doctors of medicine were scheduled for interviews who would assume that the administration was making all the wrong decisions concerning the pandemic. Reporters became political agents by presenting only one side of the story. The President was presumed to be in some alliance with foreign demons. The media organization, as the Hearst organization, had no moral value system by which to conduct honest reporting and interviews, and thus most of the personalities of the media network focused on a twisted understanding of the sitting President. Lies were pronounced to be truth. Good was called evil, and evil good.

This particular news corporation under consideration simply became a political arm of the opposition party. Objectivity in news reporting was sacrificed for hidden political agendas.

We then remembered the words of our father. Therefore, this was not news to us, only the old Hearst behavior that surfaced from within those who are in the business of selling twisted sensationalism. (It is particularly interesting to note that after all the sensationalism of the past four years in America, the number of viewers of the news corporation under consideration fell by 47% after the November 2020 election.)

The particular news media organization against which our Russian reporter made the striking condemnation had lost its moral compass. This was brought out in the leaked testimony of one of the employees of the offending corporate news organization. What was revealed was that the particular news organization under consideration persisted with the claim that they were an objective “news” media network. However, we must not forget that when either politicians or religionists lose their moral compass, they will always establish a corrupted behavioral pattern of leadership that will seek to win over and maintain the votes of the populace.

When the religionists of a society forsake the authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith (see Hs 4:6), they will invent their own authority, and thus use their religious inventions as the standard by which to make judgments in reference to the behavior of others (See Mk 7:1-9). In the same manner, when political leaders and news media lose their moral integrity, they too will go in search of demons to shoot and crucify. If they find none, then they will manufacture some. And sometimes, and if possible, police states will assume that all protestors in the streets are demons, and thus must be shot. Their leaders must be nailed on crosses.

Since liberal religionists have given up the authority of the word of God, they must have some standard by which to make judgments against their opposition. Someone or something must be demonized. Through propaganda (“lies”), they will convince the multitudes to crucify any opposition candidates. The Pharisees, scribes (lawyers) and Sadducees knew well this tactic.

It is no different with the liberal left in politics. Since the liberal left has forsaken any conservative principles by which to determine judgments, and thus, recruit the voters through principles and policies, they must demonize something or someone in order to persuade the people to vote for their party. The voter, without considering principles or policies for which to vote, thus becomes a puppet to vote against the manufactured demon.

In order to demonize an opposing candidate, in today’s world, much of the news media operates as the arm of the liberal left. Sometimes, the liberal left must extend its tentacles throughout the world in order that demons be found in the leadership of other countries. International leaders are thus judged either “tyrants,” being without souls, or dishonest merchants who seek to steal away our riches.

Liberals cannot win elections in a democratic state without demons, both locally and internationally. Collective opposition to demons is the only foundation upon which liberals have to stand. They win elections, therefore, by opposing their manufactured demons. They do not win by taking a stand on a foundation of moral principles and policies. If they established a moral standard upon which to stand in an election, then they would be considered conservatives. If you have forgotten this, then you are a prime candidate for the persuasion of the liberal news media that circles as vultures for those like themselves who have also lost their moral values, and especially their integrity. They circle because they have no moral compass to direct them to a specific location.

All of us who live outside America can see the vultures circling over America. It is as one respected reporter outside America recently stated, “It is now time that we start talking about end-of-empire issues in reference to America because that society is losing, if not already lost, its moral compass.” These are things that transition over a century or two, and thus are largely not realized by the citizens who live at any particular time within a society during its decline. Bible scholars who are deep into the history of the Old Testament realize these trends.

Moral decay is slow and always without social pain. Those who notice the decline are simply shouted, if not intimidated, into silence. In fact, the silence of the old guard of a declining empire is evidence that an empire is morally in decline. When the past majority that brought an empire to its zenith eventually becomes the minority, then the new majority threatens the old to the point that the old is intimidated into silence. “Cancel culture” is the order of the day since culture always reflects the past. The culture of “cancel culture” means that all discussion is over, and the new order seeks to suppress alternative ideas. (Any historian will reveal that this is an elementary principle to identify empires in decline.)

So back to our living room when we heard that Russian reporter turn to preaching. The Russian reporter was correct in making an assessment of the last four to five years of political conspiratorial behavior that was broadcast throughout the past election cycle. Though nauseatingly regurgitated from day to day from the American media corporation that had lost its integrity in the business of honest and objective news reporting, Russia, and much of the world, have simply dismissed one particular news network in reference to news reporting. When this story broke on the international Russian news network, Russia Today–the news media that was previously judged a demon by the liberal left–the Russian reporter pronounced his judgment. His judgment was a startling denunciation of the twisted behavior of the American cable news network. He judged, “This is SIN! It is beyond propaganda.” And the Russian was absolutely correct.

When declining democratic empires lose their moral compass, such is reflected in the candidates that the citizens of the empire chose to be their leaders. When the people lose their moral integrity, they will vote into office like-minded people.

Nevertheless, we will keep a cautious eye on the next few years of America. We are waiting to see if the now silenced moral minority will once again rise to save the nation.

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Questions & Crosses

The Greek philosopher Socrates was known during the days of the ancients in the fifth century B.C. to be the wisest man in the world. Unfortunately, he met his fatal end by being condemned to death by a court of five hundred jurors. He was subsequently consigned to a suicidal death by drinking the executioner’s cup of the deadly hemlock poison. Socrates’ only “crime” was that he asked too many questions, and by asking too many questions he forced his intellectual and political peers to question any absolutes that they considered to be concrete truth. So really, why would someone who was considered to be the wisest man in the world end up condemned by a court of contemporary jurors simply because he asked questions concerning the beliefs of those who thought that they knew all the answers?

The Jewish Messiah Jesus was known in His days of the first century as the wisest man who ever walked across the face of the earth. He was the greatest teacher of moral integrity of all history—Christians know this. But He too by those of His time was condemned to death by both the contemporary religious leaders and the occupying Roman government of Palestine. But why did Jesus meet the same end as Socrates, having also forced to “commit suicide” on a cross outside Jerusalem? Unfortunately, He too asked to many questions that forced people to confront the very soul of their religious beliefs and behavior.

The fatal mistake of both Socrates and Jesus was that they asked too many questions, questions that forced individuals, or groups of individuals, to seriously consider the validity of what they considered to be either truth or moral. And worse yet, we wonder why would some people who were supposed to be either intellectual or spiritual leaders of the people, would behave so hypocritically? The questions of both Socrates and Jesus unleased a vile eruption on the part of those who were suffering from the indigestion of their own misguided religiosity, or in the case of Socrates, unprovable philosophical conclusions.

Both Jesus and Socrates directed questions to the hearts of those who already harbored damaged souls, and thus, the two thinkers became the opportunity for corrupted souls to unleash their venom on those who would dare question their thinking, whether philosophical or religious.

Socrates believed that in determining the validity of any truth, the truth itself must be approached with a series of questions, each question being asked to force the one who is interrogated to self-judge for himself what he considered to be the truth or a final moral standard.

By being persistent in asking challenging questions, the individual or group is forced to eliminate all alternatives to that which one considers to be the final truth or moral. In this systematic persistence of asking questions, the Socratic method of inquiry was establish, which method later gave Socrates the honor of being considered “the father of political philosophy.” The Socratic method of questioning is what defines the existing legal system of the American court.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, the Socratic method for determining truth or moral standard falls far short of that truth or moral standards that are maintained and revealed by a Higher Authority, which Higher Authority Socrates failed to discover. He simply saw the assortment of inconsistencies in religion through the interactive Greek gods of Athens who seemed to function only on demand of those who believed in them.

Socrates simply concluded that there was no such thing as a final authority in matters of faith. And if there were no God, then he was right. For him and the Greeks, there was only this catalog of gods who had been created after the imagine of desirous men who sought to play with the imagination of men’s minds. All such religious thinking only presented the opportunity for someone as Socrates to drive into hysteria those who believed in the gods.

Therefore, Socrates was accused of asking too many questions about the imagined gods who supposedly had for centuries playfully interacted with mankind. He was thus endangering the youth of his day, for he motivated them to ask questions concerning the traditional beliefs of the fathers, and the moral political system that was prevalent in Athens. His questions undermined any religious heritage that may have been given by the gods. He was thus accused of asking too many questions of religionists and politicians, and especially asking questions to which he himself gave no answers. This system of learning, therefore, set him at odds with the religious, philosophical and political establishment of his day. His questioning thus doomed him to a fateful end.

Socrates wrote nothing throughout his entire life. We think that he did not lest his writings be questioned and he be found in some contradiction of what he previously questioned. But in reference to his quest for truth through systematic questioning, to him, no truth could be considered concrete, and thus written down in the permanency of literature. So Socrates responded to his critics, “I know that I know nothing.” And if one knew nothing, then there was nothing to write. He was on an endless quest for truth through systematic questioning. In the end, he simply concluded, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

It seems that Jesus was not unfamiliar with Socrates, whose method of systematic questioning made its way from Greece to Palestine three hundred years later through the writings of one of Socrates’ most famous students, Plato. At least the apostle John many years after the death of Jesus was familiar with the writings of Plato, for when John searched throughout the Greek dictionary in order to write concerning the incarnation of God, there was only one word in the entire Greek dictionary that he could use in reference to God Himself coming into the world of humanity. John thus wrote, “In the beginning was the Word [Gr. logos], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).

The Greek word logos was the best word, if not the only word in the Greek dictionary, that John could use to define how a “god” could incarnate into the affairs of the world. And it was Plato, the student of Socrates, who had three centuries before defined for philosophy the “logos” to be the word that should be used in reference to “the gods” intervening (fellowship) in the affairs of man. If John wanted to use only one word to explain the incarnation, it was the Greek word logos. So that he might not be misunderstood, in the same text of the preceding statement, John explained, “The Word [logos] was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). This is what set the stage for the irreconcilable confrontation between religiously broken souls and Jesus’ call for the broken to look beyond Him as the Word, to the fact that He was indeed God in the flesh.

These were considerations that Socrates forced “believers” in gods to reconsider. Plato simply put the matter into words, or at least, one word. So back to the point of comparison. During his final trial—and see if you do not recognize this today—Socrates accused his five hundred prejudiced jurors, who sought to impeach him, that they were more worried about their careers and political ambitions than they were about damaging their souls with an unjust condemnation of him. As all prejudiced judgments, what they would cast upon him would even further damage their souls. The point being, that through the injustices by which they were about to vote in reference to his fate, their vote of death would validate the fact that damaged souls could act no differently. With every prejudicial judgment, damaged souls only sink deeper into the abyss of injustice and the twisted irony of hypocritical judges.

Their unjust trial and judgment would continue to damage their souls because of their deep seated prejudices to condemn him were not based on their search for truth, but on promoting their own political agendas. Whatever judgment they made, therefore, would be prejudiced, and thus the revelation that their souls were deeply damaged morally. (Does this remind you of any contemporary circumstances?) Jurors with damaged souls render few fair verdicts.

Jesus fell victim to the same fate that was poured out by the damaged souls of Socrates’ court. As Socrates, Jesus asked too many questions. On one occasion, the religious court asked Jesus in reference to His plucking of grain on the Sabbath, “Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath” (Mt 12:2)—of course, this was not a violation of the Sinai law, only their self-imposed religious law.

But Jesus in turn questioned this court of religiously damaged souls in order to make them face up to their own hypocritical inconsistencies: “Have you not heard what David did … he entered into the house of God and ate the showbread?” (Mt 12:3,4)—now this was against the Sinai law. The religious jurors, however, justified David who actually violated the Sinai law, but they condemned Jesus because He questioned them about justifying David, who did violate the Sinai law, but condemned Jesus by violating some of their religious rites, rituals and ceremonies that they had invented for themselves.

And then on another occasion there was the case when Jesus, as Socrates, asked a question of the religious court of His day in order to reveal their broken souls. He asked, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” (Mt 12:10). The damaged soul of the religious leaders was on this occasion again revealed because the religionists, without answering, “went out and held a council against Him, how they might destroy Him” (Mt 12:14).

Religious courts do not like to have their honored religious rites, rituals and ceremonies questioned. The jurors of such courts especially do not like their morals questioned. Such questioning of long held norms more often reveals the fact that one’s religious heritage and accepted behavior are based only on traditions, or the pronouncements of Diotrephetic leaders. Such theologies exist among religious adherents because people are often compelled to base their faith on biblically baseless mandates that are cried out from podiums around the world by persuasive religious propagandists.

Socrates questioned all such morals and traditional heritages by which men determined that which was true. In the case of religion, he questioned the inconsistencies of the religionists of his day who manufactured gods after the imagination of spirited people who had the gift of persuasion, and thus could talk the people into believing anything. Jesus did the same in questioning such religionists. He exposed their beliefs by leading them to self-examining their own thinking. Their concept of God was found lacking because the one true and living God was standing incarnate right there before their eyes.

Throughout His short ministry, Jesus continually questioned the religious establishment. On one occasion He questioned His religious judges, “Is it lawful to do good on the Sabbath or to do evil?” (Mk 3:4). By this time in His ministry, the self-righteous religious judges could say nothing to such a pointed and direct question. So, “they held their peace” (Mk 3:4). Their frustration was building, and Jesus knew this. In this way He was taking Himself to the cross, for He knew what damaged souls would eventually do if they were forced to realize the inconsistent theologies of their own religiosity, but especially the evil of their own hearts.

By the time in His ministry when Jesus started introducing the truth that He was God in the flesh, His continual questioning had embarrassed His adversaries so much that they remained silent. Eventually, they would lash out at Him. Their initial silence, however, revealed that they were religious judges with damaged souls, for only those with damaged souls would reject the incarnate Son of God who stood in their midst. Therefore, because they were morally damaged, it was not possible for them to see the Father through the Son.

When inquisitive minds question matters of tradition and heritage, especially matters of religious tradition and moral standards, those with damaged souls will lash out with fury, no matter how sincere they might claim to be in their religiosity. Since religion exists because of biblical ignorance, zealously religious people will often be the first to lash out at those who ask questions that force religionists to validate their beliefs and behavior with a Bible book, chapter and verse. It is at this time that inquiring individuals should be looking out for a cup of hemlock, or possibly the echoing sound of a cross being built.

We know the conclusion to the life of Socrates. Instead of fleeing to safety from His opposition, as did Confucius, he willingly took the cup and drank the poisonous hemlock. And Jesus did the same. He too drank the poisonous “cross” in order to crucify Himself for the salvation of those who did believe. We must not forget what He said in anticipation of the cross: “I lay down My life for the sheep … I lay down My life so that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it up again” (Jn 10:15,17,18). He could have called on legions of angels to deliver Him from the fate that was handed to Him by the unjust judges. Instead, He “swallowed” death on the cross in order that one day death might be swallowed up in our victory.

Yes indeed, the religious court of Jesus’ day sent an innocent man to crucify Himself. All the jurors voted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” So He relinquished to their cries and drank of the cross for us.

Jesus wrote not a word during His life. Only His immediate disciples recorded His life and word in which we grow. As His disciples, we write with the dedication of our lives that He is the greatest intellectual who ever set foot on this earth, and now, the greatest King who reigns over all this earth.

By our love for one another, people understand that we are not those with damaged souls, but the church of those who have responded with love and gratitude to the grace of the One who allowed nails to be driven through incarnate hands and feet on our behalf (2 Co 4:15; 5:14). Our faith in Him, therefore, is not shallow, for faith is only kept shallow by some damage in our souls that seems to persist.

We must continually remind ourselves, however, that all the damage that we may have brought on our souls in the past has now been healed by His grace. Therefore, in forgiving ourselves as He forgave us through the cross, our faith continues to grows deeper. It goes deeper as we grow in grace and the knowledge of Him who revealed this grace to us (2 Pt 3:18). We will not, therefore, damage our souls again by heaping unjust judgment upon another who is likewise struggling to keep his or her soul clean with the blood of Jesus (See Mt 18:21-35).

There is moral truth to the truth of the Socratic method of inquiry that has permeated thinking since the days of Socrates, and then Jesus. It is the imperative of every disciple to ask questions concerning the “why” we believe or behave in this or that way. If we ask the questions, and all that comes in return from the religious establishment is the reply, “This is simply what we have been handed to us by our fathers, and thus we will continue to believe,” then it is time for further questions. If at the end of our systematic questioning we do not receive a Bible book, chapter and verse in answer to our persistent questions, then the one giving us answers is caught up in religion. It is then time for us to cuddle our Bibles in our hands and move on.

As with those who finally led to the end of Jesus and Socrates on earth, questions will engender frustration, if not outright rage. Therefore, if we still hammer away with questions about why we religiously do this or that, the outcome is not always pleasant. Socrates was forced to drink the hemlock. Jesus was forced to carry His cross to Calvary. And we would supposed that those today who cannot give Bible book, chapter and verse replies to all our questions concerning faith, they will do as Diotrephes who loved power more than Bible, even more than the apostle of love, John. Because his soul was damaged, as the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, with a thirst for power he kicked every questioning “Socrates” out of his cloned monastery of religious robots (3 Jn 10).

The behavior of philosophers today is no different than the philosophers of Socrates’ day, who did not want their political social order disrupted by someone who was persistently forcing them to answer questions that made them go deep into their souls concerning what they believed was the foundation of their moral and political views. Socrates was an outsider in reference to the religious, philosophical and political establishment. And because he was, there was no place for him in their establishment. Jesus came into and became the same in the religious establishment of His day. Because both asked too many questions, both had to be eliminated.

The behavior of some religionists today is no different than the hypocritical antagonists of Jesus’ day who likewise did not want their “Jewish religion” to be disrupted by someone who persistently questioned their inconsistent theologies and religious leadership (See Gl 1:14). The religious leaders did not like being forced to see the hypocrisies of their own behavior (See Mt 6:2,5,16; 7:5; 15:9; 22:18; 23:13-15,23-29).

Jesus’ persistent questioning forced the religious leaders to answer questions that revealed the inconsistencies of their thinking and hypocritical behavior in reference to their own teachings. They were thus embarrassed before the people. The cross was subsequently the only answer for their embarrassment.

Therefore, the extreme frustration of the religious leaders come to a climax. Jesus’ questions forced them to be the judges of their own souls, and to face the inconsistencies of their own theologies. In fact, those who were persistently questioned by Jesus became so frustrated that they eventually schemed to commit murder. Such a scheme proved that they were indeed damaged souls of the lowest level. Therefore, Jesus’ judgment of them was validated: “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do” (Jn 8:44).

And so it is today. If you ask too many questions of the guardians of the religious establishment, and do not receive book, chapter and verse answers for your questions, then there will probably be handed you a cup of “hemlock” disfellowship, or possibly a cross which you can carry outside the church house, and nail yourself thereon. Questions presented to those who seek to defend biblically unsubstantiated religious heritages will engender great hostility. Depending on where you live in the world, it might be written of you in your questioning the religious establishment, as it was in the final hours of the life of Jesus: “Now the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill Him” (Lk 22:2).

Pandemics

This Inscription may save your life, and many others around you.]

History has forever labelled it the “forgotten pandemic.” It appeared first in America in the spring of 1918, at the time when history was about to draw the curtain on WW I. It was a time when the American government, as well as all governments of the Allied Forces, had hushed all negative news broadcasts that might discourage the people from supporting the Allied fighting forces in Europe in their defeat of Germany. Therefore, all news media, except for Spain who remained neutral during the war, could not report to the world a plague that was sweeping across the face of the earth.

Unfortunately, the Spanish media alone went public to report the pandemic scourge that was killing millions of people around the world. This was the influenza pandemic. And because only the nation of Spain was broadcasting the devastation of the pandemic through their news media, the plague was eventually labelled the “Spanish flu.”

Today, no one really understands the origin of the influenza virus and why it would eventually claim from 50 to 100 million lives worldwide. Some virologists have suggested that it originated in the deplorable conditions of the trenches in Europe when the Allied Forces were deadlocked in fact off against the Germans in WW I between 1914 and 1918. Others have suggested that the first outbreak was in the Shanxi Province of China in 1917. And then some have suggested that it originated at the American military base of Camp Funston, Kansas in early 1918. A Kansas health official reported that 40 soldiers in the camp had died from some mysterious strand of a vicious flu virus. In the spring of 1918, hundreds soldiers from this military camp were eventually shipped to other camps, and then onto crowded ships that transported them overseas to fight in the war.

It was from both Europe and America that the virus spread like wildfire around the world in only a few months. In one religious newspaper in South Africa, one of the religious leaders of the country reported, “People died by the thousands. It has not yet been fully determined how many died as a result of the sickness [of influenza]” (Pentecostal Holiness Advocate, Apr. 3, 1919). In fact, during the two-year long pandemic more people died in America, about 675,000, than all the American soldiers who died during WW I. Because the reports of the pandemic were kept under wraps in America during the final days of the war, some thought that all the deaths were only the result of the common flu virus. However, it was everything but common.

Though this flu virus by September 28, 1918 had been reported to be spreading at pandemic light speed around the world, on that day the leaders of the city of Philadelphia went forward and conducted the Liberty Loan Parade in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. They had decided to carry on with the parade because it was an event where tens of thousands of people could come together in a mass crowd of celebration, especially in celebrating of the coming signing of the armistice to end the war that would take place in France two months latter on November 11, 1918. However, within ten days after the event, 1000 Philadelphians were dead. 200,000 were sick and confined to beds. By March of 1919 over 15,000 had died from the virus.

In contrast to the behavior of the leaders in Philadelphia, the civic leaders of St. Louis, Missouri shut down all their theaters, schools, and banned all public gatherings, including churches. As a result, at the peak of the pandemic the city suffered only one-eighth of the number of deaths that occurred in Philadelphia.

By the summer of 1918, the pandemic was raging across America. In the month of October alone in 1918, it was reported that 195,000 people died across America because of the virus. Civic leaders vigorously reacted to the mounting death rate by asking the public to refrain from hand shaking, wear masks and also discontinue all public assemblies, including church assemblies. In fact, in San Francisco, California, the civic leaders were so serious about the pandemic that citizens were fined $5.00 if they were found in public without a face mask. At that time that amount would be equivalent today to a few hundred dollars. Those who did not wear a face mask were mockingly called “mask slackers.”

In response to the pandemic, churches of America were called on to terminate their assemblies for the safety of the members. Thousands of churches throughout America subsequently complied with this request because the church was the true beacon of love in society. And in order for the members to love one another, they had to distance themselves from one another. By discontinuing their assemblies they revealed that they truly did love one another. However, though gathering together is certainly a signal of Christian love, during pandemic, assemblies actually revealed a lack of love for one another.

This call to restrict assemblies also came to the people of central Kansas where my forefathers almost fifty years before had homesteaded the area. One of the churches that had been established by the pioneering Christian homesteaders was the Peace Creek church of Christ that was only a few miles from where I grew up on a farm in central Kansas. The Peace Creek church building itself was about ten miles (about 15) kilometers) from the nearest town of Sylvia, Kansas. (Please read of the history and work of the Peace Creek church in the book, A Prairie Beacon by Grant M. Clothier and Jeanie Clothier Montford. Find it on Amazon.)

After several people of central Kansas had succumbed to the influenza virus, the members of Peace Creek decided to close the doors on their assembly. And such they did for about three months. They conformed to the best understanding that the health authorities had at that time concerning the spread of the virus through the air when people spoke to one another in close proximity, or coughed or sneezed. I have always thought it interesting that these farmers out on the plains of Kansas were willing to educate themselves as much as possible about a pandemic, and then take action to do their part in stopping the spread of the virus.

In order to impede the virus through human to human contact, the Peace Creek members, as well as thousands of other churches across America, decided that as churches they would protect themselves from one another by terminating their assemblies. The members, therefore, went into isolation to their own homes and stayed there in lockdown with their children. Unfortunately, the virus had already struck down one of the leading members of the Peace Creek church, leaving a widow and eight children without a breadwinner for the grieving family. This was a common scenario that was repeated thousands of times throughout America in those days. But the members of this church, as well as thousands of other churches across America, closed their doors in order to save their lives.

By the summer of 1919, the influenza pandemic was subsiding. Virologists assume that so many people had died from the virus, that only those who remained alive by survive the virus by developing an immunity to the virus. The immunity thus prevented the continued spread of the virus. The virus had no place to go. It had run its course.

Nevertheless, the “Spanish flu” virus still lingers with us today through mutated variants of the original virus. Because flu viruses quickly mutate, they have a tendency to bypass immunity and carry on throughout history. An effective vaccine against the influenza virus was not discovered and made available until 1938, and then it was initially given only to military servicemen who were going into WW II in Europe.

We are fortunate today because several vaccines have now come on the market to stop the present pandemic, and its variants. It would certainly be unwise, if not irresponsible, to advise people not to be vaccinated. If you are one of those who have voiced your apprehensions about being vaccinated, please keep in mind that your unwise advice may be gossiped to hundreds of other people, who respond by not being vaccinated because of your apprehensions. If a thousand people refuse to be vaccinated South Africa because of your apprehensions that you have voiced to others, two to three of the one thousand who took seriously your advice will be infected and die. This is true because two to three people out of every one thousand people die in South Africa from the present pandemic virus.

The problem with any virus is that some people can have the virus, but be asymptomatic for days before any indications arise that one is infected. While one is asymptomatic, he or she can be infecting others. With the influenza virus, one might not show any symptoms, but eventually come down with the usual chills, fever, fatigue, and then recover. The Spanish flu virus was so vicious that one could be dead from the virus within a few hours, and at the most, a few days.

So now you are asking me why all this discussion about the 1917-1919 influenza pandemic that took so many lives throughout the world? The problem is that many in the religious world today are becoming victims of a new virus because they are victims of some of their religious behavior and some unfortunate interpretations that are associated with their particular religion, specifically in reference to the practice that they continue unrestricted assemblies. It might be good here to point out some of these scenarios where some might find themselves testing God. James said, “Let no man say when he is tempted [tested], ‘I am tempted [tested] by God.’ For God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt [or test] any man” (Js 1:13).

We need to pay close attention to James in reference to the present pandemic that is upon us. God does not test us by leading us into evil, nor does He test us by inflicting suffering. At the same time, neither can we test God by thinking that we can lead Him into doing evil (suffering) to us. We are testing God if we unwisely put ourselves into a situation where we suppose He is going to work some miracle to deliver us directly from our own foolish behavior. When dealing with evil and suffering, all such happenings in the fallen world must be accredited to Satan, who goes about as a roaring lion. He continually seeks permission from God, as in reference to Job, to do some evil in this world or cause some suffering. We would advise that this is a time for all of us to read the book of Job. If we willingly endanger our health while thinking that God will heal us, then we are testing God. It is like a smoker asking God to heal his or her lung cancer.

Nevertheless, when we do suffer from the plagues of this material world, we pray fervently that God would heal us (Js 5:13,14). But if God does not bring recovery, we will not blame Him for directly inflicting us with suffering. It is simply a simple faith to blame God for that which is in this world through the work of Satan.

We must continually be positive about these matters, as was inferred by Isaiah: “For when Your [God’s] judgments are on the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Is 26:9). God will take responsibility for all the “judgments” that inflict the world, though the pandemics, with God’s permission, originate directly from Satan. The blessing of the pandemics, however, is that people of true faith move closer to God. It was the same James in the same book who introduced his theme with the words, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the trying of your faith produces patience” (Js 1:2,3).

If we foolishly do not take all the precautions that we know to guard ourselves from evil and suffering in this time of a pandemic, then we will possibly be infected with a virus that will cause us much suffering, if not death. If we behave foolishly, then we cannot blame God by saying that He directly infected us with a virus, and thus He must be held directly responsible for our suffering, and possible death. Also, if we are infected with the virus, but continue to blame God for not healing us, then we are blaming the wrong entity. Evil and suffering are the business work of Satan.

We cannot test God by putting ourselves in a situation where we can be infected, and then presume that God did not protect us from infection when we are tested positive for the infecting virus. We cannot test God with such foolishness. Satan is roaming about as a roaring lion, and if we step into to his realm of roaming, then we open ourselves up to be “bitten” by a pandemic virus. Sometimes we are “bitten” even though we make all precautions to stay safe.

However, we are not so foolish as to step off a high building and think that God will protect us from the law of gravity. We cannot be so foolish as to place ourselves in harms way of a virus and think that God controls all those viruses so that they will not infect us. If we do such things, we are foolishly testing God.

We will not be involved in such mockery of God. We enshrine one particular statement of the Holy Spirit that came through the pen of Paul’s hand: “Be not deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap correction” (Gl 6:7).

In reference to this, and all pandemics, many preachers are sitting between a rock and a hard place on this matter. In fact, some have even involved themselves in testing God—those of you who live in Western countries will probably not understand what I am going to advise here for some of our preachers who live in the developing world. My advice is that many preachers need to take another look at what they are doing in reference to the assembly of God’s innocent flock.

Here is the dilemma. There are hundreds local preachers who have faithfully worked hard to establish churches in their communities. In the past, and on every Sunday, the members of these churches have faithfully assembled and taken up a contribution to support their faithful preachers and their families—this story could also be told of those who lived over one hundred years ago during the influenza pandemic.

As in any pandemic, people die in the thousands worldwide. Friends, relatives and members of the body of Christ are almost daily laid to rest in graves, some who could have possibly not have faced this fate if someone had behaved sensibly as those members of the Peace Creek church and hundreds of other churches in America during the influenza pandemic.

Health officials around the world today have faithfully sought to function for the safety of the people. So when the health officials of a particular nation mandated that all public assemblies be shut down in order to abate the pandemic and protect church memberships, many preachers around the world lost their weekly income. If they had no garden to til for food, then their families often went into destitution. If they were urban preachers, they could have no gardens to feed their families.

So what some of these preachers have done is to behave unwisely. They have continued to call their members together in the close assemblies of small church buildings with little ventilation so they could take up a contribution for food for their families. The result has been that members have infected one another with the virus and people have died. I am personally acquainted with several cases as this. Some of our preachers are thrown into the lion’s den by infected members calling them to funerals, praying for members beside deathbeds, counseling in times of grief, etc. It is unfair and unwise. In Africa we do not have Zoom. We do not have internet communications. There is no live-streaming in the village. We are often in a village where people just die like they have always done throughout the centuries.

But in the preceding scenario some preachers have become Grim Reapers, that is, for the sake of the contribution they have presented the opportunity for the virus, and subsequent death, to spread among the members because they needed the weekly
contributions from the assembled members in order to feed their families. They thus loved their families more than the health of the members.

Those of you in the West need to keep in mind that we live in Africa, and India; in the developing world where living is often from day to day. Therefore, before you are too harsh with these preachers who continue to call the members of the church together into small church buildings with little ventilation, for which they struggled to piece together with a few bricks and sticks, we need to understand that this is their world.

Some in the West helped them to build these confined premises, and thus do not want them to stand empty during this dreadful pandemic. Some are intimidating the local folks to continue to meet in something that has become a hall of death. Pictures are thus posted on social media to reaffirm the supporters that meetings are still taking place, and often with little social distancing. Therefore, before we criticize the preacher for reporting back that he had no one in attendance on Sunday morning, we must think again about requiring him and the members of the church in his area to do a most unwise thing in reference to the present pandemic.

Even in houses in the cities, the same scenario has developed. I recently had one church leader come by and boast that he had thirty-five people present in the assembly of his house last Sunday—and yes he was given this same lesson of exhortation I am now writing to you.

Thousands of preachers throughout the world are living in these dire circumstances and calling the members of the body to continue to assemble in small “coffins” with little ventilation wherein the virus has every opportunity to migrate from one victim to another. These cases are primarily in rural situations as in those days back in 1918 when the Peace Creek church shut down their assembly. Those farmers had enough sense to follow the instructions of their health departments, and thus, not offer the opportunity for the influenza virus to spread in the public gatherings of the churches. They also had enough knowledge of the Bible to understand that God gave no law concerning assemblies that would endanger the health of His people.

Nevertheless, there may be some differences between then and now. The Peace Creek members, and many other churches in those days, had no full-time preacher who depended exclusively on the contributions every Sunday to survive. Unfortunately, some preachers of rural Africa and India have made the mistake of making themselves “full-time,” and thus subjugated themselves to depending on the weekly contributions of the saints. Therefore, when an assembly is closed down, so also is closed down the income of a family.

The result of all this is that there are thousands of “full-time” preachers in the developing world who continue to unwisely call their members together into an environment wherein the members are infected with the pandemic virus of today. Some of these preachers seem to be more concerned about the weekly contribution than they are about the safety of the members. And the fact that they have harped for years to the members that unless they “give to God, God will not give to them,” they must come together and make their contributions in order that God continue to bless them.

And then there are those preachers who have for years been teaching an erroneous legalized system of assembly and worship. They have convinced themselves, and those who attend their assemblies, that there is no true worship if the members to do assemble together in order to perform five legal ceremonial acts of worship, with focus on the act of contribution. They have failed to understand that Paul and Silas were truly worshiping alone as two Christian prisoners in a Philippian prison.

Some preachers have taught for years that unless members come together and legally perform their acts of worship, then no true worship has transpired. To them, the church ceases to exist if there is no assembly of the members—I am not making this up. There are thousands of preachers out there who have for years preached this message, and thus they have made the members feel guilty if they did not regularly show up on Sunday morning for their ceremonial worship, and thus make the contribution. And now, many of these members are sitting at home alone in lockdown on Sunday morning at 10:00, feeling that they are out of touch with God. Again, I am not making this up.

Fancy terms have been added to theological discussions on this matter. One can worship in his or her house, but then there is the official “corporate” worship of all the members on Sunday morning. If one does not attend the official “corporate” worship, then he or she has not truly worshiped God in spirit and truth. And if one seeks to worship with his family and friends in a house when there is a “corporate” worship going on in town at the same time, then one has supposed “left the church.” Of course this is all theological nonsense.

This terminology and theology developed many years after the existence of the rural Peace Creek church, which church of members—according to the thinking of these modern-day theologians who master in the subject of assembliology—supposedly gave up their “corporate” worship in order to worship as families in their homes. They subsequently and supposedly terminated the existence of the church in the Peace Creek community.

However, did the Peace Creek really cease to exist as the church in the area of Peace Creek because the members ceased to assemble for some “corporate worship”? According to some, their worship was also supposedly not “true” until they were all able to come back together again into one assembly three months later after the pandemic.

You might think that I am setting up a straw man against some who differ with my point. But I assure you that almost no week goes by when I do not read on social media the outcry of some assembliologist who seeks to keep the people together in some assembly in order to continue “the church.”

On the positive side of these matters, one of the blessings of the pandemic is that it has forced people to take another look at the assembly instructions concerning the church. Isaiah was right. Hard times make us think.

Nevertheless, we are in an era where the present pandemic will be spread among millions who unwisely persist in maintaining their unfortunate understanding of the assembly of the saints. I asked a north Malawian church leader about what the members of the church were doing in northern Malawi. He replied, “The members are carrying on as usual in their assemblies.” And then recently on the news one of the doctors of the association, Doctors Without Borders, said of Malawi, “The pandemic will soon hit hard in the country of Malawi,” as it will in all those countries where people walk in ignorance of the infectious nature of the present virus.

What the Western world does not understand about Africa is the ingrained fatalism that permeates the thinking of the typical African. Africans have been dying from diseases for centuries. Influenza, Ebola, AIDS, and now Covid; “we just die” as one brother told me. The most recent cause of death is just another pandemic that will take thousands of lives, even as the Spanish flu did a little over one hundred years ago. The lack of education on these matters, combined with a fatalistic view of life, will lead to a great number of our brothers and sisters going on to glory before their time.

It is the responsibility of church leaders in these times of a worldwide pandemic to act wisely in order to protect God’s people. This virus is not going away anytime soon. Therefore, it is a time to hunker down and pray for the Lord to come and deliver us from this Satan infected world. I am ready to go up directly to the arms of Jesus when He is visibly revealed with His mighty angels. Until that time, however, I would just as soon not have to met Him via some Covid grave, though regardless, the final destination will be the same.

[Share this note around the world. You might save some lives. If you need help in straightening out some twisted scriptures on the assembly of the saints, download free Book 103 of the Biblical Research Library from the following website: ]

http://www.africainternational.org/files/Book103.pdf

Real Lockdown

[The theme of the following does not actually fall into the definition of the “Inscriptions,” but since I am completing a book on the DICKSON DIARIES, I thought the scope of the following message might teach a very important point that folks today should consider, and thus, count their many blessings that they often take for granted.]

The usual—as in every winter of midwestern America—a great monster of a winter blizzard was bearing down upon us in the old farmhouse. At the time of the relentless onslaught, it was just a few degrees above freezing Fahrenheit, that is inside our old farmhouse in central Kansas that had absolutely no insulation. It was the same in all those farmhouses that were built at the turn of the last century. And because of the cooking and human humidity, ice froze on the inside of the windows. Because there was only a thin layer of wood on the outside of the wall studs, and plaster on slats on the inside that stood as a barrier between human flesh and those miserable conditions outside, we could only sit there cocooned in cotton blankets. We sat there listening to the howling northern monster coming through the trees that our father had planted years before on the north side of the house in order to somewhat cushion the house and those frail human occupants from those invading “Northerners.” In all this typical winter blizzard, we believed we were all fine in such a lockdown. Sometimes we were mostly inside that house for weeks, busying ourselves with our own entertainment.

Thankfully, and without any prodding by our father, we three brothers had during the fall chopped and gather enough fire wood to stoke a homemade furnace in the basement. Our father had knocked the end out of two fifty gallon drums, welded the two opened ends together, welded on legs, and then cut a log-size whole in one end into which we would faithfully, as railroad engineers, stoke the fire with wood. This was the main heater of the old farmhouse because it was in the basement. Convection would take its life-preserving heat to the second floor, and then on to the top floor where we slept in somewhat refrigerated comfort. On the intermediate floor there was an added diesel-burning heater that was likewise laboriously puffing away in the living room. With the two sources of survival running full blast, and with winter sweaters cloaking our tender bodies, we could survive any demon out of the north during those cold winter nights in central Kansas.

When one of those Northerners came through, the temperature outside our survival cocoon would plummet to as low as -10 degrees Fahrenheit (-23 Celsius), and sometimes much colder. I remember—I do not know why I remember this—that on one winter night the weatherman reported that it was colder in Goodland, Kansas for the day than any place on the entire northern continent of America and Canada, even in Alaska. It was -17 degrees Fahrenheit (-27 Celius). We somewhat took pride in that historical fact of Kansas cold, for it toughened us to live longer—people who live in colder climates live longer. I also remember that for three years from 1960 to 1962 there was very little snow. The reason I was told that there was little snow was that it was too cold to snow. And indeed it was simply fridged during those years.

But back then we did not know how good we had it. When Kansas was first settled by the early pioneers in the middle 1800s, including the Dicksons, there was no fire wood in those regions. In our day when we cut firewood for the blast furnace in our basement, we were cutting wood from trees, particularly Cottonwoods, that had been planted in central Kansas when time turned the calendar to the 1900s, and specifically when America went through the great tree-planting, job-creating New Deal of the Great Depression. But back in those pioneer days of the 1800s, there were only “buffalo chips” to burn. And if you do not know what a buffalo chip is, it is, or was, the sun-dried mature of the buffalo herds that had wandered throughout the region. Little did those buffalos know that they deposited survival possibilities for a future civilization by relieving themselves of “fire wood” for settlers who would later follow in their footsteps. Once dried in the sun, the manure made good “fire wood.” At least one advantage of the old sod houses was that they had tremendous insolation, and thus a little heat from the buffalo chips would allow the occupants to survive. So in my day in growing up on the farm, we really had it good. At least we could cut existing wood and not wander around the Kansas plains searching for and picking up dried buffalo manure.

So what do humans do in such conditions? They go into real lockdown. These were the days before central heating was installed in homes in the northern hemisphere. These were the days before anyone ever heard of insulation. These were the days when vehicle batteries were so cold that they could barely start an engine. If a cold snap surprised the diesel fuel industry, the diesel fuel would congeal and not flow through the fuel lines because the oil companies did not have time to put a special additive in the fuel in order that it not become like jelly in frigid conditions. Those were the “good ole days” only because we were totally ignorant of any better days.

Now suppose you lived in such conditions for three to four months out of every year. I remember what we did in those lockdown days, which conditions are now almost totally foreign to those today who “suffer” through a few weeks of lockdown during a pandemic. I can remember that during the “winter lockdowns” we played a lot of monopoly, and then spades, hearts and bridge with cards, and then dominoes, and then whatever board game we had in the house. I am not certain, but I believe that the creativity of many people inspired the creation of games during those years that later made them a great deal of money when the games were sold on the market.

Sometimes we would just dream up some game, like sliding down the staircase on a mattress, or roller skating in the basement. We had no television, and rarely listened to the radio. There were more exciting things to do than idly sitting in front of the TV or listening to a radio. For example, my bother and I once made a sand box in the basement of the old farmhouse wherein we crafted our own tractors and vehicles out of wood and Coke bottom caps for wheels for our miniature farms we carved out of the sand. My oldest brother had his trains with which he played endlessly. In other words, we busied ourselves with ourselves. Being alone was not frightful.T

here was no such thing as video games or computers, or even Zoom. No telephone. Well … we had a telephone, but the ice in the middle of the winter often collected on the telephone lines and subsequently brought down the lines. We were out of touch with the world, and the house itself became our only world. We were isolated in an icy world, and sometimes snow drifts behind the farm buildings were so high that you could dig a cave in them. Because we were in such isolation, we created our own little worlds. I must confess that I do not ever remember being bored. The winter lockdown forced the development of our creativity, and thus we entertained ourselves. Those were the days when family members were interdependent, not disconnected from one another during the week with countless individual activities of people outside the immediate family.

Other than going out to the barn dressed with coats, clothes and shoes that almost weighed as much as our bodies, we fed the cows, and then scurried back to the house. When we came in from the cold, we welcomed the warmth of the lockdown, realizing that if we were stranded outside, we would certainly end up being just another ice cycle.

So for all those depressed grumblers out there who complain today about lockdowns during pandemics, I would suggest that you be thankful that every winter you do not have to go about chopping wood, or even worse, scavenging around the prairie collecting buffalo chips. Nevertheless, I can remember that when I left the farm I told others that I did not want to ever be cold again.

“Professor Grace”

In the letter of 2 Peter, the apostle Peter wrote to Christians. When he concluded this letter, he encouraged those to whom he wrote to grow in their knowledge of the grace of God: “Grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pt 3:18). By growing in our knowledge of the grace of God, grace becomes our instructor as to how we can live a spiritually abundant life (See Jn 10:10).

We must allow the grace of God that appeared on earth through the Son of God to teach us how to live a better life. The Holy Spirit instructed,

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us, that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live sensibly, righteously and godly in this present age” (See Ti 2:11,12).

The gospel of God’s grace must be our teacher as to how we should live. Grace teaches us how to live a better life. It is for this reason that Christians must continue to grow in their knowledge of the revelation of the grace of God that was revealed to humanity through the appearing of the Son of God in this world.

The apostle Paul’s desire to go to Christians in Rome illustrates the mission of teaching grace in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. We must allow the grace of God to teach us how to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. This teaching on the subject of grace is necessary in order that we live righteously and godly in this present world.

Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome that he planned to go to them in order to accomplish the mission of producing spiritual fruit in their lives. He explained that he wanted to go to them “so that I might have some fruit among you also” (Rm 1:13). His motivation for going to the Roman disciples reveals how he would produce this spiritual fruit: “I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to the Barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise. So as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you [Christians] who are at Rome” (Rm 1:15).

Paul’s primary motivation to go to Rome was to preach again the gospel of grace to the believers in Rome, not unbelievers, though he would take every opportunity to preach the gospel to unbelievers. However, his primary objective in going to Rome was to produce spiritual fruit in the Roman Christians as they continued to grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. This means that we must always allow ourselves to be taught the gospel of God’s grace. It is through study of the gospel of grace that we are motivated to grow in the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.

Paul continued to explain what would cause spiritual growth in the hearts of the believers in Rome: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes” (Rm 1:16). We often quote this statement in reference to preaching the gospel to unbelievers. But in the context of Paul’s desire to go to Rome, he made the statement in reference to preaching the gospel to believers in order that the power of the gospel continue to produce spiritual growth in the lives of the Christians in Rome.

The gospel is the power by which God produces spiritual fruit in our lives. In other words, the more we grow in our understanding of all that God did for us through the gospel of His Son, the more we are motivated to respond with gratitude for what Jesus did for us. All things that God did for us through Jesus causes thanksgiving for the gift of His Son (2 Co 4:15). It is in this context that Paul wrote, “For the love of Christ compels us” (2 Co 5:14). God’s love for us through Jesus compels us to grow spiritually as we emulate His love for us in our love for others (See 1 Jn 4:7-11). The more we study the good news of the coming of the Son of God into this world for us, therefore, the more we grow spiritually in response to God for giving His Son for us (See Jn 3:16). It is for this reason that we, as believers in Christ, must grow continually in our knowledge of the gospel. The more we understand the revelation of the gospel of God’s grace, the more we are motivated to grow spiritually.

One Body

Acts 12 is a good example of what happened in Jerusalem surrounding Herod’s efforts “to harass some of the church [ekklesia]” (At 12:1). What this effort on the part of Herod did for us is that it gave the historian Luke the opportunity to observe the early disciples’ function as the one organic body of Christ in a particular city.

At this time in the city of Jerusalem—about ten to twelve years after the events of Acts 2—the number of members of the church in Jerusalem could have been from 25,000 to 30,000, some historian estimate more. Since there was no place of common assembly for this number of members, the members met in the houses of the members that were scattered throughout the city.

Now notice carefully how Luke detailed Herod’s ambitions. Herod’s goal was not to harass some of the “churches” (plural), but some of the entire body of believers, the church. There was no such thing as approximately 1,000 autonomous “churches” throughout the city—assuming about twenty-five members meeting in one house assembly. There was only one church, but hundreds of assemblies. This is significant in reference to the organic function of the universal body of Christ. In this case, Luke’s account of this matter details that there was always only one church in any particular city that is mentioned in the book of Acts. There was no such thing as individual autonomous “churches” in the cities that are mentioned in the New Testament.

In order to accomplish his sinister deed, Herod arrested Peter. On this occasion, the whole church, that is every member in the city of Jerusalem went into prayer action. “So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was earnestly made to God for him by the church” (At 12:5). Again, reference was not to autonomous “churches” throughout the city of Jerusalem. Emphasis was on the one body, the one church in Jerusalem, though at the time the members were assembling in an estimated one thousand homes throughout the city.

The prayers were made, and God subsequently answered the prayers by sending an angel to fetch Peter out of jail (At 12:6-11). Once out of jail, Peter then went to only one house where there were disciples meeting in prayer for him (At 12:12). After some persistent knocking in order to be allowed to enter, Peter eventually explained all that had happened, and now he was free. But after encouraging the disciples who were meeting in that specific house, the house of Mary, Peter then said, “Go tell these things to James and to the brethren” (At 12:17).

There were other brethren of the church in Jerusalem who were not praying in the house of Mary. “The brethren” were scattered to houses throughout the city. Even after meeting in the house of Mary, Luke wanted to emphasize this point by recording, “Then he [Peter] departed [from the house of Mary] and went to another place [house]” (At 12:17).

At the time, the members of the church in Jerusalem (singular) were meeting in the homes of members throughout the city. All the members in many houses were offering up prayers as one organic body on behalf of Peter. Not all the members in the city of Jerusalem could assemble in the house of Mary. Nevertheless, it was still the church in the entire city that Herod set himself to harass. In this case, it was the one church functioning as one organic body in prayer. There was no such thing as autonomous church groups assembling throughout the city of Jerusalem. There was only one church in the city, and the members of this one church functioned as one body in offering up prayers for Peter to receive a “get out of jail free card,” which thing the angel became.

[I will republish a forthcoming book on this subject in a few weeks.]