Archive for March, 2009

Will the Real Christians PLEASE Stand Up?

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in

For almost 25 years I’ve been a Christian, and if there’s one thing I often have wondered, it’s how much time in Christianity is lost when we have to stop and try to clean up the festering mess made by those who claim to be Christians. We’ve been hearing, seeing and reading about a Baptist church in the Midwest that’s been sending some of its members to various military funerals. Some were recently in Flushing, Michigan, to protest at the funeral of 26 year-old Army sergeant Joshua V. Youmans. I’d rather not give the church’s name, its website (which contains a derogatory term for homosexuals) or even the state it’s located in since it’s received far too much publicity already.

The protestors aren’t at the funerals to pay their condolences, but rather to take a sadistic stance of pleasure over the soldiers’ deaths. From what I’ve seen, it’s as though they’re thrilled the soldiers are dead – much like the way many Iraqis were ecstatic when confirmation came of the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein.

Some of the protestors’ signs read, “Thank God for Dead Soldiers” and “God Hates You.” The church members must not know their Bibles well since the second sign directly contradicts one of the most famous passages in scripture, John 3:16, which starts with these six words: “For God so loved the world-” [Emphasis mine].

These crass, thoughtless protestors are against the war in Iraq, but not for the standard reasons you might be thinking. Their logic: America tolerates homosexuality and God hates homosexuality; therefore, God is punishing America by letting its soldiers die.

Sounds like logic one might find in a crackerjack box.

Last time I checked, American soldiers also died in World War I and II, and in those times homosexuality in America was generally a taboo topic only whispered about. If gay tolerance is why American soldiers are dying now, why did they die back then? (The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the compromise which replaced the ban on homosexuals serving in the military, didn’t even come into place until the 1990s under the Clinton Administration).

For those of us Christians who know of the Bible and its message of love, repentance and living a Christ-like life, it’s very easy – almost automatic – to dismiss these protestors as carnival kooks that nobody could possibly take seriously, much less pay attention to. These protestors, unfortunately, receive lots of media attention; it grieves me to wonder how many look at these protestors and assume that their positions reflect that of mainstream Christianity.

Just as Jesus told His disciples (and reiterated the Apostle Paul in his letters) that the preaching of the Gospel would be an unpopular one that would lead to ostracism, I imagine that the pastor of this church probably sees his anti-soldier, anti-homosexual message as being ordained by God.
But is this church’s “God hates homosexuals” message really Biblical? No, of course not. Granted, the Bible has some very critical things to say about the practice of homosexuality but the theological fact is, sin is sin. Many Christians love to speak out against homosexuality, but we sometimes forget that adultery, stealing and lying are also sins before God. So are envy, pride, cursing and allowing anything to replace God in your priorities in life. Romans 3:23 tells us that we have all sinned and have come short of heaven. The Bible is also very clear that God loves all mankind and would love nothing more than for all mankind to repent of its sins and return to Him.

Jesus also gave us the Great Commission at the end of the Gospel of Matthew. In the commission, He commanded his disciples and us to go into all of the world, preaching the Gospel and disciplining all those who come to Christ. Does anyone really think this is accomplishable if Christians spread a hateful message targeting one specific group, or if Christians who know the truth of God’s love sit back and let the world think these crazed protestors speak for Christianity?

What can accomplish the Great Commission is for Christians to publicly distance themselves from these false teachers and do a better job of telling the world that though God hates all sin, He loves us and has provided a way for us to have a relationship with Him.

Flint Journal columnist Andrew Heller once wrote this a column: “-Christians, in my view, have allowed the good name of their faith to be hijacked by the lunatic fringe in this country, just as surely as decent, peace-loving Muslims have lost control of their faith’s image worldwide-Christians have an image problem. Some of it, maybe, is my industry’s fault. We gravitate toward the extreme. Some of the blame, however, lies with the silent majority of Christians.”

Heller makes some great points, and the core of his message is clear: Christians have to speak up. English philosopher Edmund Burke once said that all that was necessary for evil to prevail was for good men to do nothing, and now it’s our time to do something.

Why Jesus Wept

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in

Jesus wept.

Two simple words; a subject followed by a past-tense verb.

These words comprise the Bible’s shortest verse, John 11:35. It’s hard to imagine that such a small collection of words could convey such amazing truths about God and His Son Jesus.

It might be hard at first to imagine Jesus crying, but not so much when you consider that He became a human and adopted human attributes. Jesus hungered, thirsted, felt pain, and even had to sleep when He became exhausted enough. We also know from at least three occasions that He became angry (driving money changers out of temple, rebuking Peter and getting frustrated with the disciples for being unable to cast out a demon). He also grew frustrated with the Jewish leaders’ inability to correctly interpret the prophecies of the Old Testament and being unable to see past their pride regarding who the Messiah was.

And if Jesus could do all these things, surely He could cry. As a child, He cried when he needed food or when He felt pain. The misery and heartache caused by man’s sinful nature must’ve made Him cry. He may have also cried when He saw the hearts of people who hoped their sacrifices and good works would get them into heaven.

Matthew 23:37-39 and Luke 13:31-35 tell us that He wept over Jerusalem. He also cried on the cross as He became the sin sacrifice for all mankind, partly because of the temporary separation from God that He had to endure and partly because He knew there would be billions of souls that would still reject His sacrifice.

This brings us to the death of Jesus’ friend Lazarus. John 11 tells us that when Jesus first heard Lazarus was sick, He waited. If Jesus had wanted to, He could’ve simply spoken or even thought the words, and Lazarus would’ve been healed. On at least two occasions that we know of, He did this (the Roman centurion in Matthew 8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10, and the Greek woman in Matthew 15:21-28 and Mark 7:24-30). He also could’ve supernaturally transported Himself to Lazarus’ home to get there quickly.

But instead, Jesus waited for two days.

Not just until Lazarus was gravely ill or on his death bed, but until he’d died. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, where Lazarus and his sisters Martha and Mary lived, it had been four days since Lazarus’ death. By this time, the decay process had begun.

Jesus waited because He knew God would use Lazarus’ death to provide a miracle to those around the area. It would also go a long way, He hoped, in further teaching the disciples about God and strengthening their faiths.

But despite His omniscience and omnipotence, controlling His emotions still wasn’t easy. When Jesus arrived, getting there four days after Lazarus had died, he encountered much sorrow. Those who were family, friends and loved ones were lamenting the loss of Lazarus, whom John 11:3 says that Jesus loved (suggesting they were very close friends). Others were there because they wanted to know why this “holy man” hadn’t gotten there in time to heal Lazarus of his infirmity. Others might’ve even been there to get a first-hand glimpse of the miracles they’d heard so much about. Whether it was for entertainment or because they were seekers is anyone’s guess. And yet others might’ve been there simply as spies for the Jewish Sanhedrin. Maybe they were hoping Jesus would commit more unauthorized miracles (such as Sabbath-day healing) that would warrant his death sentence.

When Jesus saw the heartache of the two sisters and those around him, and the wailings of “If you’d gotten here sooner, Lazarus wouldn’t have died,” He wept.

He wept because of the sorrow felt by Mary, Martha and everyone else who was there. He wept because Lazarus had been a dear friend of His, and he was saddened that he’d had to die. Lazarus’ death would be used to demonstrate God’s power, but Jesus still felt sorrow over the initial physical death of his friend.

Jesus wept over the pain Lazarus must’ve felt over dying. Surely, Lazarus must’ve heard the talk about Jesus coming to heal him and felt saddened that it didn’t come to pass. Jesus also wept over the souls of those who were there to see him. They were seeking eternal truths, and Jesus realized that for the receptive minds they had, this was a golden opportunity for Him to present them with truth of the Gospel.

But there was another reason Jesus wept, and probably the biggest reason. He wept because He knew that despite the miracle He would perform in raising Lazarus from the dead (an exceptional miracle considering Lazarus was already beginning to decompose), there were those there who would leave with hardened their hearts, never to receive the Gospel. Despite seeing one of His greatest miracles, they would still choose their own path and eternal separation from God.

And so, Jesus had the stone rolled away, prayed aloud thanking God for the miracle. He then cried out, “LAZARUS, COME FORTH!” To the astonishment of everyone, Lazarus came out of the tomb, bound in grave clothes. His sisters’ tears of grief gave way to tears of joy, and we read that many believed. Others simply left to report what they saw to the Jewish Sanhedrin; perhaps the sole reason they had gone there was for further evidence used to quell the nuisance of this maverick rabbi.

This miracle might seem very difficult for us to believe. We live in an era where God chooses not to perform miracles the way they were openly done in Jesus’ earthly ministry. But, as it turns out, it really doesn’t make that much of a difference. We learn of another Lazarus who had died in Luke 16. The rich man in hell begged Abraham to send this Lazarus back from the dead to tell the rich man’s family about the horrors of hell. Abraham replied in Luke 16:31, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.” Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead in John 11, but we can conclude from the text that some of the witnesses there left with hardened hearts.

Why Jesus wept is easy to understand. Besides the compassion He felt for those who felt Lazarus’ loss and for those who were seeking out God, Jesus wept because He knew that despite everything He did, people would still choose to go their own way into eternal destruction.

And that’s worth weeping over.

Steve Irwin's Tragic Death: A Reminder of How Short Life Is

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in I liked Steve Irwin a lot and was very upset and depressed at his untimely death. Lord willing something good can come out of this entry.

Death happens all the time, often when completely unexpected. By the time you finish reading this column, several thousand people across our planet will have died. Sometimes they are as anonymous as the one-time obituaries that appear in a small-town weekly newspaper. Sometimes, such as in the case of former President Ronald Reagan, they warrant a state funeral and weeks of worldwide coverage.

When the famous of world die, they make the evening newscast. Some people, like The Beverly Hillbillies star Buddy Ebsen, live into their nineties. We’ve shaken our heads, though, as actors like River Phoenix, Bruce Lee and John Belushi and musicians like Aaliyah, Jim Croce and Rich Mullins die tragically young. I can still remember University of Maryland basketball star Len Bias dying of a drug overdose just days after being taken by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 NBA draft. The deaths of the die young are tragic and completely unexpected.

On September 4, Australian conservationist and celebrity Steve Irwin died. Irwin, also known as the “Crocodile Hunter” and for his catch phrase “Crikey!”, was tragically killed while filming a documentary called Ocean’s Deadliest. He was swimming near a stingray in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef when the stingray’s poisonous tail barb pierced Irwin’s heart. Irwin was able to remove the barb but, unfortunately, nothing could be done to save his life. Marine biologists say that these stingrays normally are very placid creatures; it is extremely rare for them to attack or kill humans.

The death of Irwin, at least for me, leaves a gaping hole in the world. He was only 44 and left behind a wife and two children. I enjoyed watching his show as he constantly stayed one step ahead of the dangers of snapping crocodiles while talking to the camera. For me, Irwin’s Crocodile Hunter show was Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on a very high dose of espresso. Some might’ve thought he was crazy-especially the time he held his infant son while feeding a crocodile-but Irwin’s energetic, passionate ways did much to educate people about animal conservation. You could also tell that not only was he very excited about what he did, but he also had a deep concern for it. Perhaps that deep concern is what fueled his excitement.

I have no idea what Irwin’s spiritual beliefs were. Whether or not Irwin was a Christian, his unexpected death teaches us a lot about the importance of life and how brief it can be. Every minute could be our last minute on earth, as death can happen through many methods: natural causes, unforeseen accident or, heaven forbid, a homicide.

If you’re a Christian, it’s a wake-up call to keep busy with the things of God. Each day it is important to have devotions, be in prayer and live a life that is above reproach. Of course, when the opportunities come to share your faith, it is important to do that. We never know as Christians when we will be spending our last minute on earth-whether because of death or because of the rapture. I can imagine fewer things more embarrassing than for our lives to be taken or our bodies raptured up to heaven, and we’re in the middle of doing something selfish, wasteful or embarrassing.

And if you’re not a Christian, an unexpected death is all the more reason for you to examine yourself and act upon the claims of Christ. Now is the time to examine the plan of salvation and make a decision about it. Now is the time to reconcile yourself with God by accepting His Son Jesus as your Personal Savior. It may seem like you still have weeks, months, years or even decades to make a final decision, but a simple perusal through a newspaper’s obituary pages will tell you that that’s not true. Death can come at any time. Your age, social status and bank account balance are all completely irrelevant. It is just as common for a young child to meet death as it is for an octogenarian who has seen it all and done it all. It is also just as common for death to come to someone in the middle of a hectic life of raising kids, paying bills, completing work projects and tackling a honey-do list on the weekends. If you die without making a decision to receive Jesus as your personal savior, then it will be eternally too late for you.

Steve Irwin’s death, as tragic and saddening as it is, should serve to remind all of us of just how short life truly is. None of us knows when we will die, so it’s important to focus ourselves on living for God instead of ourselves.

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Some People Will Get Offended Over Anything: Pope Benedict XVI Owes No Apology

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in

Whenever I can, I like to pitch ideas for radio programs to the stations that I’ve worked for. Among the ideas was a comedy hour, filled with various skits, fake commercials and a fake news broadcast. One of the many skits was a brief, five minute broadcast of a chess game with the broadcasters calling the match as if it were a professional wrestling event. Irony can certainly make for great humor.

One guy read about this idea I had pitched and told me how much he disliked my idea of doing an entire hour of a chess game broadcast.

“It’s not for an entire hour, just for five minutes of the broadcast,” I tried explaining to him. “Henry,” though, was insistent that I wanted to do an hour-long chess broadcast.

Finally, I asked him: “Henry, did you even bother to read my entire e-mail about the show?”

Now, I know exactly how Pope Benedict XVI feels.

Angry radical Muslims have been staging often-violent demonstrations against the German-born leader of the Roman Catholic Church in the form of riots, mass protests and the burning of papal effigies. Many have demanded an apology. Why the rage, you ask?

It all came down to his comments in a speech he gave in early September at Germany’s University of Regensburg. In the speech, titled “Three Stages in the Program of De-Hellenization,” the pope briefly referenced a conversation in the late 14th century between Byzantine Christian Emperor Manuel Paleologos II and an educated Persian regarding Christianity and Islam. Pope Benedict XVI mentioned how the emperor addressed the issue of jihad (holy war) and quoted the emperor: “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

The pope then said that the emperor felt that violence was incompatible with Christianity and God’s nature and that the Christian faith should be spread through reason. After all, the pope reasoned, Jesus is known in John 1:1 as the “Word of God.”

Based on a text of the speech, the Pope Benedict’s comments regarding Islam accounted for less than 15 percent of the total speech. He used the rest of the speech to talk about the central theme: the “de-Hellenization” of Christianity (removing Christianity of its secular influences). Still, many Muslims saw a need to take the pope way out of context and get angry, protest violently and, ironically, confirm Emperor Paleologos II’s opinion of Islam.

The pope subsequently apologized for how his comments were taken, recently saying that he was “deeply sorry for the reactions in some countries to a few passages of my address at the University of Regensburg, which were considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslims.” Pope Benedict went on to say that the Emperor’s comments did not reflect his own personal view of Islam, but apparently that wasn’t enough. Some Muslims are calling on the pope to issue a further apology.

Why? The pope didn’t say anything to merit an apology in the first place.

Some people just don’t play well with others. It’s hard to believe that even the hard-core radical Muslims could get so offended by the Pope merely quoting a medieval emperor regarding their religion. But then, maybe it’s not so surprising.

After all, these are the same type of extremists whose newspapers in places like Iran and Egypt frequently feature racist caricatures of Jewish people but can’t seem to handle someone drawing a picture of Muhammad wearing a bomb for a turban. A few years ago, one Egyptian columnist openly lamented that Adolf Hitler wasn’t able to kill off all the Jewish people during the Holocaust-a shocking statement considering that many Muslim extremists will deny it ever happened.

These are also the same types of extremists who will torture and murder those who disagree with them, dumping their mutilated bodies to decompose and be picked by scavengers until discovered by the authorities. But if anyone kills even an al-Qaeda insurgent, they had better make sure the body is given a prompt and proper burial.
Yes, the same group of terrorists who will try to force captives to convert to Islam at gunpoint somehow can’t handle a non-Muslim missionary setting up a church in their country.

If you look at all these protestors as they burn American and Israeli flags and call for jihads, you’d think they’re the only people on this planet who have ever been offended. What exactly entitles them to corner the market on being offended?

Not the most diplomatic thing to say, but I’m really fed up with it all. I’m sick of the Islamofascists who feel at liberty to torture, rape, murder, maim and threaten all in the name of their own interpretation of their religion, but yet they expect the rest of the world to treat their religion with the highest respect possible while cowering and catering to their every wish. Why must we still cater to those who insist on living in the middle ages? Okay, they’re offended. Get over it, I say.

As a Christian, I find myself offended daily:
* By people who use the name of God and Jesus as expletives.

* By Madonna, who has been doing performances in her recent world tour where she is “crucified” on an illuminated cross. Absolute blasphemy, if you ask me.

* By Hollywood, which seems adamant on putting out anti-family, anti-God films when time and time again research shows that family-friendly films are the ones that thrive at the box office.

* By the music business which churns out albums with all the raunchy lyrics.

* By much of what I see on television.

* By an ever-passive world that seems more and more inclined to appease these evil radical Islamic thugs than to stand up to them and tell them, “We won’t let our free society be compromised or threatened by an evil organization that seeks to spread out its regime throughout every corner of the world.”

Yes, Christians like me often find ourselves offended daily by the world’s ugliness. But despite all these things that offend me, I don’t resort to burning flags, sending death threats, raping, torturing, murdering or strapping dynamite to my waist to go out on a suicide mission. I also don’t resort to kidnapping those who disagree with me and forcibly convert them to Christianity, nor do I put them on video and make them denounce Islam and its leaders and beg for American or non-Muslim captives to be set free.

I understand that this world is a diverse place, and that the only true way I can make a difference as a Christian is to be aware of the issues and events, pray for God’s guidance, share God’s love with others and live a life that shows others God’s amazing, boundless love. It’s a shame the world largely prefers to appease an irrational faction that will get offended over almost anything.

Procrastination: The 8th Deadly Sin

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in in 2006.

Anger. Envy. Gluttony. Greed. Lust. Pride. Sloth.

You might recognize these as the Seven Deadly Sins. One prominent magazine ran a full feature of various celebrities and how they deal with a particular deadly sin (actress/writer Carrie Fisher with anger, celebrity weatherman Willard Scott with gluttony and Major League Baseball Hall of Famer and then-New York Yankee Dave Winfield with pride). There was even a movie, Seven, in which detectives played by Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt try to track down a killer whose victims and their murders are based on the deadly sins.

The Seven Deadly Sins are a traditional list of sins, but not an actual list from the Bible. However, the Bible does tell us to control our anger, have no pride, keep sexual desire within the bounds of marriage and exercise moderation. And, of course, as much as many of us love to eat (myself at the very front of the line), temperance is one thing certainly that should be practiced in the dining room.

Much can be gained by avoiding the seven deadly sins. But I think there’s another very critical sin that we should try to avoid. The eighth deadly sin, if you will.


This, of course, is putting off for tomorrow the things you should be doing today. Tomorrow, of course, never seems to come. Things that we know are the right thing to do get delayed through things like fear, laziness, or complacency. For example, there was a creator of a popular children’s show who was known to work through illnesses, including a nasty fever that he thought would go away. It didn’t and instead turned into an infection. By the time he sought medical help, it was far too late.

I am also reminded of a famous musician, known for his artistic skills, who used his skills to design a guitar strap. His colleagues encouraged him to get it licensed, telling him that the design would sell very well and earn him lots of money. He kept procrastinating, unfortunately, and by the time he finally got around to trying to get it licensed, he was too late.

For non-Christians, Satan works feverishly to make them procrastinate. One story I heard tells of Satan asking his minions about the best way to keep people from making a decision of Christ. Idea after idea was rejected until Satan came across one he loved: no hurry.

In other words, procrastination.

Here are some ways a person procrastinates salvation. Often, tragically, this pattern leads to a one-way trip to a Christless eternity:

Having fun – Satan would love to make the unsaved believe that the Christian life, and heaven itself, is a state of boredom. Christians, he might reason, never get to have fun. They don’t watch television, don’t drink and never engage in anything pleasureful. For married couples, sex is strictly for procreation. And heaven? It’s a boring place where Christians yawn, float in the clouds and play harps.

Before you make a decision to lead a boring life, why not have fun first and sew your wild oats? Satan might ask. Besides, you’re young. You’ve got plenty of time later to become a Christian!

The evangelist David Benoit, who heads up Glory Ministries and preaches about rock music and the occult, tells this story: a young man came up to him once and talked about salvation. He said, “I know that I need to become a Christian, but becoming a Christian means I’d have to quit having sex with my girlfriend. To tell you the truth, I’d rather die and go to hell than stop having sex with her.”

And so that person has their fun and one of two things happen. They either put off a decision for Christ for so long that their hearts become permanently calloused toward the Holy Spirit, making a salvation decision virtually impossible or they die prematurely.

Avoiding embarrassment – Some people put off getting saved because they don’t like getting up in front of church and admitting they’re lost. They put it off for weeks, then months, then years, and then, before they know it, it’s too late.

Perhaps there’s a young boy or girl who is coerced to repeat words that don’t make much sense to them. They fall victim to a well-intentioned Christian who, in an effort to get them saved, has them pray the Sinner’s Prayer even if they don’t grasp it. These kids then are presented to the church as “saved.” Unfortunately they haven’t matured enough yet to understand the condition of their souls and their need for salvation so they will go to heaven. Once they become older and understand what salvation is about, then they are ready to consider the claims of God and be held accountable for their decision. But by then, the haunting memories of being embarrassed as children might make it tougher for them to admit that they were prematurely rushed into a decision.

I am reminded of two young men. I grew up in church with Don, who, after years of seeming to be a wonderful Christian, came forward during an invitation and became saved. “For years, I’ve been living a lie,” Don told us. He had gone forward in a service when he was five, not to become a Christian but because a girl he liked had gone forward also. A Christian worker then asked Don pray to receive Jesus. Don cried in front of the church, not because he was now saved but because he was embarrassed and wasn’t really sure what he had done.

Years later, Don explained, he realized he was lost but was far too embarrassed and bitter to admit it or take care of it. So, for years he pretended to be a Christian, knowing that he’d spend an eternity in hell if he didn’t get saved. Thankfully, he finally got his soul taken care of.

I also knew a man at Pensacola Christian College. “Jerry” led Bible clubs and probably led many kids to the Lord; he was also a prayer leader in the dorms and seemed like a very godly young man. But his senior year at PCC, he came forward and got saved. The next summer, when I was working at PCC to make money for the next semester’s tuition, I met Andrew and asked him about this. His story was similar to Don’s. Jerry told me he had known for years that he was lost. Performing Christian service at PCC was his way of trying to appease the Holy Spirit when it really tried to work on him. And, thank God, Andrew, like Don, finally heeded to the Holy Spirit and became a Christian before it was eternally too late.

Avoiding church – It’s possible that Satan knows when a lost person is ripe to receive Christ. To keep that person from attending church, Satan will tell that person that church is a boring place with boring music and boring messages. He’ll try to convince the lost person that church is a place of hypocrites. Maybe the person’s mind will be filled with the Christians who have fallen from grace, such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart. How can these people, whose own lives are messes, tell you about how Jesus can clean up your own life? Satan might try to rationalize. Or maybe he’ll try to convince the person to hold off on church this week since there’s a good game on television, the weather’s ideal for fishing or golfing or there’s a chore around the house that has to be done. If this person feels that church is not important enough to attend, salvation can be put off for good.

And now, let’s talk to those who are Christians. Whether we’re saved or not, it seems so easy to endlessly shelf something, promising ourselves to do it “when we get around to it.” Before we know it, it’s far too late. I cringe to think of the countless people who will someday stand at the White Throne of Judgment. Some will, at that moment, possibly even drop to their knees to say the sinner’s prayer. Their prayer then might be answered by six words from Jesus: “I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

In October I reached my silver anniversary as a Christian. How the years go by! Then, I was an eight year-old praying the sinner’s prayer in Alvin, Texas. Now, I’m a 33 year-old writing this column in Arbela Township, Michigan. Over those 25 years, I’ve seen what happens when I procrastinate. When I lived in San Antonio, I often worked many hours and often put off attending church until “next Sunday.” Years ago, I had a problem with an unprofessional coworker. Instead of coming out and confronting the worker with their unacceptable behavior, I chose to endlessly procrastinate and live in denial. By the time I was ready to do what was right, I had lost the job. With money, I have learned the perils of putting off balancing the checkbook and not being careful over expenditures. There are questions I would’ve loved to have asked my grandfathers about their lives but kept putting it off. Grandpa George died in 1992 and Grandpa Paul died in 1994, and now I’ll have to wait until heaven to ask them.

For those of us who are Christians, there are many ways in which we procrastinate:

Devotions – It’s easy to put off reading God’s Word. Some complain about being bored with passages like First Chronicles, others say they’re not a morning person and need the extra rest; still others don’t have time because of a lack of time management skills. Some complain that the Bible is too hard to understand-even if a concordance is readily available and even if they’re reading a modern version with handy footnotes and reference materials. Soon, it becomes more difficult to remember Bible verses or to refute the simple claims made by those who believe in false religions. One former pastor of mine urged us not to try to talk to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons or atheists if we don’t know the Bible well. The more familiar you are with the Word of God, the less likely you are to be swayed by false doctrines or verses taken far out of context. Also you’ll be less likely of committing a terrible sin that can shatter your life and those of your family members.

Attending church – People often love to give reasons for avoiding church: you don’t have time, you don’t like driving in the rain, you have a project to finish in the yard, you don’t like the preaching or you don’t like to be around “hypocrites.” The hypocrite excuse is, to me, just that-an excuse. You don’t have to attend church to encounter hypocrites. They’re everywhere.

But yet, ironically, despite being able to tolerate hypocrites in other walks of life, some can’t handle it in a church setting. Folks, we live in a very imperfect world, one God never intended for us. The only perfect church we’ll have one day is the one Jesus sets up when we move on to New Jerusalem. People may wrong us in a church setting, but we-not they-are ultimately accountable to God for how we conduct ourselves as Christians. Attending church helps you to develop a deeper relationship with God and become an encourager to other Christians as well as other Christians becoming an encouragement to you. By not attending church, you are only cheating yourself. You’re also a terrible testimony to those who know you are a Christian or find out that you are a Christian.

Praying – Often it seems like we don’t really pray unless there is a catastrophe in our lives. Maybe it’s an auto repair that costs far more than we can afford. Maybe it’s a failed relationship or an illness. Sometimes it’s the loss of a job and the arduous task of getting a new one. Soon, after months of little more than quick prayers over meals (“dearlordblessthisfoodinjesus’nameamen”), we become ardent prayer warriors. And then, once the crisis passes, business slowly returns to normal. Praying, I have observed, helps us to become more in tune with God’s nature and His will. It also gives us a chance to talk with God and lift up those who have needs.

Witnessing – My style of witnessing is to live a life where the unsaved will get curious enough to ask what it is about me that’s so different. Once that question is asked, I then can tell them about Jesus. Perhaps some Christians feel more comfortable being point blank. Either way, the point is that when the Holy Spirit leads us to share out faith, now is the time to do it.

One pastor of mine told me how procrastination can turn tragic. When he was with this friend, he could feel the Holy Spirit prompting him to talk with him. Pastor kept putting it off, even though he knew his friend was probably lost. Later, his friend was killed when leaving a bar. Assuming his friend didn’t know the Lord, Pastor then was left to wonder if his friend’s eternal destination would’ve been different if he’d shared his faith with that friend.

Here’s the sad thing. A Christian at the end of their life will be filled with the heartache of all the wasted chances to live for the Lord, share their faith and make a difference in someone’s life. A lost person will have all eternity to remember all the countless times they had to become saved. And even if they live for 80 years and become a “been there, done that” person, all the fun they had will be a brief, almost unnoticeable flash in their minds compared to the fiery, unending agony of the lake of fire.

No matter how inviting it might seem, the eighth deadly sin of procrastination can lead to disaster. If you’re a Christian prone to putting things off, get involved in a church or find a godly Christian who’s willing to be an accountability partner. If you’re not a Christian and find yourself putting off a decision for the Lord, contact this publication immediately or e-mail me at or simply post a comment on this blog.

Twenty-Five Years as a Christian

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in in 2006, 25 years after I became a Christian.

As you’ve probably guessed from the title of this column, I became a Christian 25 years ago. In October 1981 in Alvin, Texas, our pastor came to our home and led me and my father to the Lord. A week or so earlier, a minister preaching on how Jesus was the only way to God had shaken me out of my cocoon of innocence; children normally are considered “safe” until they reach the age of accountability, and I was starting to realize that I had an eternal choice to make. I thank God that I made the right choice.

How time flies! It seems like only yesterday that I was a young lad, taking my navy blue paper-bound King James Bible to church and learning about Bible characters in both the Old and New Testaments. Now, I’m an adult who takes a hard-cover Zondervan King James Study Bible to church and still tries to learn about Bible characters along with doctrines. Back then, I went to Children’s Church. Now, my wife Jennifer and I teach Children’s Church and assist in Awana. Life’s full circle is indeed funny.

In my two-and-a-half decades, I’ve had many spiritual ups and downs. For several years after getting saved, my attendance at church was off-and-on. I can remember returning to church at 16 after several months of spiritual inactivity, my life changed by a youth conference I’d attended that summer. I stayed on fire after that, attending church and trying to serve God however I could. I kept up my walk with the Lord at Pensacola Christian College and in the military, where I made it a point to attend chapel even during basic training.

Because I’m not really a morning person, the battle for 30 more minutes of sleep versus having devotions is one I fight daily. After I left the service and would sometimes work three jobs to make ends meet, I spent almost three years completely out of church. My pathetic excuse: working more than 60 hours per week didn’t leave me with time to worship God. Finally, I wised up and got back into church. I realized that I was cheating myself out of a relationship with God, and when you consider that people die and go to hell every day and that there are countless Christians who need encouragement and growth, excuses are worth as much as a bounced check. If there’s one thing about heaven that I’m absolutely certain about, it’s that no excuses will work-whether used by Christians at the Judgment Seat of Christ or especially by non-Christians at the White Throne Judgment.

Christians who share their faith get opportunities to lead someone to the Lord or to help be a blessing to someone. I’ve had the privilege of leading people to the Lord, and occasionally I receive an e-mail from someone telling me how much they enjoyed reading one of my columns. One of the reasons that I write My Two Shekels is to serve the Lord by trying to share Biblical truths with the saved and unsaved alike.

Over the years, I’ve seen God work in incredible ways:
* A man who was a self-described alcoholic getting saved and completely turning his back on alcohol. He later became related to me by marriage and is now a well-respected businessman.

* Bringing my wife Jennifer into my life.

* Bringing me back from depression, where I dwelt for a few weeks many years ago and came close to making a terrible decision.

* Providing for us countless times when we had only a few dollars-and sometimes only change-in our bank account.

* Allowing us to move up to Michigan despite our shoestring budget.

* Bringing Jennifer back to full health. Earlier this year, Jennifer had an ovarian abscess that burst, resulting in a near-fatal strep infection that sent her into septic shock and a high fever. She ended up getting an emergency hysterectomy and spent weeks in a hospital intensive care unit in very critical condition. One doctor told us that Jenn was as sick as a person could get without dying.

* Allowing the Bible to become clearer the more I read it.

And after 25 years, it goes without saying that there are plenty of things I’ve learned:

* The more resolved you are to live for the Lord, the harder Satan will work to thwart your efforts. If you find many obstacles in your path to serve God, although you attend church and have devotions, keep one thing in mind: Satan doesn’t bother the dormant, complacent Christians. If you’re having troubles, you must be on to something that terrifies the Father of Lies.

* Regret is something you should do only enough to learn from a mistake, and I’ve made plenty. One of my biggest regrets is that my lack of interpersonal skills has led me to miss plenty of opportunities to be a more effective witness for Christ.

* Be careful not to be judgmental over a visitor or even a fellow Christian who acts differently or doesn’t seem to dress correctly (at least not by your standards). Jesus spent much of His earthly ministry associating with the undesirables of his culture. Besides, you never know if you’re dealing with the next C.S. Lewis, Steven Curtis Chapman or Dr. Chuck Swindoll.

* Life is far too short to be wasted on the minor, insignificant issues. If the Bible gives no clear principle for an issue, whether directly or indirectly, then the best thing to do when encountering someone of a different opinion is to agree to disagree and move on.

* Fewer things are more destructive in a church than when Person A has an issue with Person B, but instead of talking to Person B, they choose to tell everyone else in the church.

* Two verses in the Bible that should be used when dealing with people: Proverbs 18:19: “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; and their contentions are like the bars of a castle” and Jude 22: “And of some have compassion, making a difference…”

* Faith is something I’m still learning on a daily basis, and I expect to be doing so for a very long time.

* I still have a lot to learn about life, people, women, theology, apologetics, church history and-most important of all-the Bible.

From here, I move on from my silver anniversary in Christ and work toward my golden anniversary in 2031, when I’ll be 58. Assuming I’m alive and that the rapture hasn’t taken place, I hope to be able to have fewer regrets and much wisdom to impart. Time will tell.

Time will tell for us all.

Misadventures in Dating

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in

The teen years are a wonderful, yet innocent time in life. Those are the days that you know you know all there is to know about life, blissfully unaware that the opposite is true. Not only do you not know, but you don’t know that you don’t know. This is how I saw life as a teenager growing up in the eighties and early nineties, and this is how my three sons will probably see life as they hit their teen years.

Back when I was 18, almost 18 years ago as of the posting of this column in 2009, I had my love life completely planned. In retrospect it was one of the most ironic things I have ever done, considering that I had yet to have my first date. After 12 years in a public school and two unsuccessful attempts at dating, I set my eyes on Pensacola Christian College, believing if there was ever a proper place to find a wife, it would be at a Christian school.

As I headed off to PCC, here was my plan: 1) Spend the first year or two dating different girls; 2) Either late in my sophomore year or early my junior year, pick a girl and start dating her exclusively; 3) In the summer going into my senior year, visit my “girlfriend” at her home and surprise her with an engagement ring; 4) In the summer or fall after graduation, get married; and 5) Live happily ever after.

Sounds like a fool-proof plan, huh? Well, it’s hard for a plan to be fool-proof when it was a fool who planned it.

What really happened to me when it came to dating? Well, I did get married, but to a young lady who didn’t even attend PCC. My wife and I met through pen-pal correspondence, and I didn’t meet her in person for the first time until almost a year after finishing college. At college, there were two girls that I dated off-and-on. One was a blond nursing student from Nebraska that I went out with for a few months my freshman year, but nothing came of it. The other was a good friend who’s now a missionary in South America. I asked her to go steady a few times, but she politely declined. God, as it turned out, had other plans for her on the mission field.

More times than I can count and care to admit, I’d ask out girls and get the standard response: “Richard, you’re a nice guy, but I just want to be friends.” This was an unpleasant pattern: I’d get to be “friends” with a girl I liked, and when she made it clear she wasn’t interested in anything beyond a friendship, I’d move on.

And then there was this girl I met my sophomore year. “Monica” was a very beautiful girl, easily the prettiest I ever met at college. From what I remember, she had blond, curly hair and was an education major from the eastern United States. We worked together in food service and had an English class together. Soon, I found myself smitten by her, without bothering to really get to know her. After striking up a few casual conversations I asked her out on a date-only to discover she liked someone else. Two years later, though, in the spring semester of my senior year, surprise, surprise, Monica was once again single. I asked her out, and much to my very pleasant surprise, she agreed.

It was, for me, a very nervous date. We went out to church, and I suspected that after spending most of the evening initiating conversation that there probably wouldn’t be a second date. I was disappointed that things didn’t work out with Monica, but as I pondered, it finally came to me. After four years of college, I had the completely wrong approach about dating. What might work magically on the silver screen usually fails miserably in real life.

What is the correct approach? For starters, it begins with your relationship with the opposite sex. A lot of guys have this impression that you see a pretty girl, turn on the charm, act friendly with her and try to see if you can ask her out. However, in my observation, the best way to go about it is to be friends with girls-unconditionally, with no strings attached, whether you’re interested in her or not. Ask her how she’s doing, what her interests are, what she thinks about life, what burdens she has, and what things she prays about. How ironic it is that some men will base their interest on physical attraction, when the real thing to do is to get to know her. I have to think that women can see right through men who become friendly for all the wrong reasons, and that must irk women (especially if they’re godly women not driven by egos) who get excessive attention merely because of how they look.

In my observation, the more a young man makes it a point of developing healthy, no-strings-attached social relationships with women, the easier it is for him to be able to be friends with a woman instead of treating them as sex objects.

Several months after I graduated from college without a girlfriend, I resolved to quit trying actively to date. Instead, I told God, I would simply relax and be friends with girls and let Him bring my future wife into my life when I was ready. And a few weeks after deciding this, a lady named Brenda came up to me. She had a daughter up in Michigan, a single mother, who was a Christian and needed some encouragement in her walk. She asked if I would I like to write to her.

We wrote letters, and before long I could sense something very special about this girl named Jennifer. On June 30, 2007, we will celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary. As much as I love my wife and think she’s absolutely gorgeous, what helps us to have a great relationship is that we were friends before we started dating. This simple principle is something I really hope to emphasize to my sons. A relationship that’s not built on a friendship, even if both of you are Christians, is likely to fail.

Being friends unconditionally with women and letting God take the lead is a simple principle I wish I’d known before going to college. If you’re a young man, whether a teenager or young adult, I strongly suggest this principle for you also. Though as funny as they can be, misadventures in dating can lead to much regret.

Discerning Fact from Fiction

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in

Many years ago, a minister spoke at a church I attended. He served in a ministry that, along with helping people get their lives back on spiritual track, also promoted healthy living. Tobacco and alcohol were avoided. They also avoided caffeinated products, which meant coffee was out, along with tea products because of tea’s tannic acid.

Since I neither smoke nor drink, the abstinence from tobacco and alcohol didn’t bother me. But the avoidance of caffeinated products seemed a little extreme. Sweetened iced tea and Diet Coke are two of my favorite beverages, although I try to enjoy both of them in moderation. The coffee abstention might seem tough for some Christians: at Pensacola Christian College there was one administrator who told us of his love for coffee and joked of how much he hoped coffee exists in heaven. I also know of Christians who drink and smoke, some because tobacco and alcohol are vices and others because they feel that alcohol is acceptable if consumed in moderation.

This minister then said something else that got my attention. He encouraged the consumption of honey instead of sugar. It’s important to avoid sugar, he said, because the chemical composition of sugar is very similar to that of cocaine. And since cocaine is a highly-dangerous, highly-addictive illegal drug, he continued, it’s best to avoid anything that is similar to it.

Just how similar are the two substances? The molecular structure of table sugar, or sucrose, is C12H22O11. This means it contains 12 parts carbon, 22 parts hydrogen and 11 parts oxygen. Cocaine’s molecular structure is C17H21NO4. This means it contains 17 parts carbon, 21 parts hydrogen, one part nitrogen and four parts oxygen. The difference between sugar and cocaine is 13-atoms, not counting that cocaine-unlike sugar-contains a nitrogen atom. Thirteen atoms might appear to be a miniscule difference when you consider just how incredibly tiny atoms are, but, believe it or not, it can still make a huge difference. Moreover, sugar is a carbohydrate whereas cocaine is an alkaloid. Though a layperson might look at the two substances’ chemical compositions and see some similarities, according to Professor Bill Bordeaux, who teaches chemistry at Huntington University in Huntington, Ind., the two substances are very different.

Furthermore, Professor Bordeaux explained, carbohydrates serve as fuel to provide the needed energy for a living organism to perform non-spontaneous functions (such as movement, production of proteins and other cellular components). Alkaloids exert their effects neurologically and are not food, per se. Therefore, the fates of ingestion of a carbohydrate and an alkaloid are quite different.

“No one would argue that a sugar high in a 7-year-old is the same as the high from crack cocaine, but there are some outward similarities,” the professor added. “They actually produce their respective effects quite differently, and the last I heard, no one had thrown away family and career to support a ‘sucrose habit.'”

It makes me think that the only real thing sugar and cocaine have in common is their color.

That being said, the minister’s argument-though well intentioned-was very flawed, especially since even a one-atom difference can make a huge difference. At the time I heard this message, I was taking high school chemistry. I knew from class that sodium and chlorine by themselves can be very dangerous substances. Sodium, which can burn your skin, reacts violently in water. Chlorine is an extremely pungent and poisonous gas. However, when one sodium atom is joined with a chlorine atom, you get a common, ordinary substance-salt. Water is a substance for which we depend on for life, but if you add an oxygen atom to H2O, you get H2O2, better known as hydrogen peroxide. As great of a disinfectant as peroxide might be, this highly-unstable substance is hardly suitable for quenching thirst. We know about ozone and how it protects us from ultraviolet rays. In itself, ozone is a pungent, poisonous gas. Guess what its chemical composition is? O3-think of it as ordinary oxygen with an extra oxygen atom added.

Here’s what bothered me the most about this minister. We as Christians work very hard to get the world consider the possibility that there might be irreconcilable flaws in the theory of evolution. By doing so, we are able to further plant seeds that might later germinate into a lost person coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. And as we learn from Lee Strobel’s book Case for a Creator, there are scientists who, though not necessarily Christians, not only have serious doubts about evolution but also feel that the scientific evidence points to an intelligent designer. But when we as Christians grab on to “science” that sounds good but isn’t really sound, it makes us look very foolish in the process. A close friend of mine noted that secular scientists who believe in evolution are far less likely to take Christians seriously in science debates if we make it a habit of presenting arguments without truly researching the facts.

Even today, I hear of things among Christians that are often accepted as “fact.” One e-mail claims that NASA discovered a missing day in a computer program it ran (in the Book of Joshua, Joshua asks the sun not to set during a battle, and it appears to obey him). One e-mail claims that Charles Darwin, who gave evolution widespread attention with his book Origin of Species , recanted evolution on his deathbed and became a Christian. Outside science, there’s also that longtime rumor that rock star Gene Simmons of Kiss displays his allegiance to Satan by his famous three-finger gesture.

But how do these “facts” measure up? According to urban legend Websites like, NASA has stated that this “missing day” in a computer program it ran is, in fact, a hoax. Darwin may have known that evolution had problems that would need to be reconciled, but there is no convincing evidence that he recanted evolution or became a Christian on his death bed. (Ironically, Darwin earlier in his life had earned a theology degree from Cambridge University and, during that time, might have even contemplated entering the ministry).

And as for Simmons’ three-finger gesture, a little research indicates that it is merely short-hand sign language for “I love you”-something an entertainer might do to express his adoration for his fans. It is often confused with the corna (derived from the Italian word for horn), which is a hand gesture made by stretching the index and pinky fingers while holding the middle and ring fingers with your thumb. This two-finger gesture has been used by some to ward off the “evil eye” and by others as a reference to Satan. It is also, in another context, used harmlessly by University of Texas fans as a “Hook ’em Horns” gesture to show their allegiance to their team. But, again, this gesture uses two fingers; Simmons’ “I Love You” sign uses three. The Israeli-born bassist has emphatically denied that it’s a cloak-and-dagger expression of allegiance to Satan (Simmons, whose spiritual beliefs often suggest agnosticism, has stated that he doesn’t believe in the devil or demons). This is not to say that I agree with the lifestyle and philosophy of Kiss, but that we should be careful to not just believe popular opinion or to read into something what’s not really there.

The Bible tells us in James 4:14 that our time on earth is like a vapor that quickly vanishes away. It is very important that we spend our time immersed in facts and defend the faith based on facts. After all, if God is the author of all truth, what do we really have to be afraid of?

Keeping the Faith at College

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in

There are Christian parents out there who send their children off to college, praying that the godly values instilled in their young adults will blossom into a life of service to God. Some of the students might even have been active in their local churches and have grown into strong Christians. And for some of those parents, perhaps nothing can be more heartbreaking than to hear their children say some of the following things:

“Mom and Dad, I don’t believe in God anymore.”

“I’ve decided to convert from Christianity to Islam.” (Or Hindu, Buddhism, Hare Krishna or some other faith)

“I don’t think the Bible is the inspired Word of God. What I learned in comparative religions class has disproven that.”

“The Bible is a pro-slavery, misogynistic, homophobic piece of hate literature and should be banned.”

I attended a Christian college, so I never dealt with these issues. But I know there are readers out there who are either parents of college-age students or who are college-age student themselves. How can a Christian survive at a state or public university? I’ve asked a close friend from high school, Texas A&M graduate Bob Jackson, some questions that I pray will be beneficial you:

Richard Zowie: Tell me about your salvation. When did you come to know Jesus Christ as your personal savior?

Bob Jackson: I got brought to a King James-only church in Beeville, Texas, by you in high school. I wondered why I hadn’t heard that salvation stuff in my normal church. I got saved but still smelled a bit like sulfur when I started college.

RZ: What made you choose Texas A&M?

BJ: Two grandfathers and my dad attended. Plus, the fans were way, way classier than University of Texas’s fans. And the price was right.

RZ: Did you have any professors that seemed hostile toward Christianity? What types of arguments did they make? How did you respond to that?

BJ: In Intro to Archaeology, my professor had a gripe about doing archaeology with an agenda. The professor didn’t seem to think that an ancient document called the Bible should be assumed to be true on anything. He had some points on bad science, but didn’t have much luck pointing out good science when it presented itself. (They used the Star Presentation.)

RZ: What types of Christian student services were available to you at college? Student unions, chapel services?

BJ: Intervarsity Christian Fellowship – They got me discipled and helped rid me of much sulfur. Got me around Christians from other backgrounds, which was a good thing.

Intervarsity Graduate Group – Got me around international Christians.
Emmanuel Baptist Church – Intercity ministry, it was a good thing for me.
Westminster Presbyterian – Also helped get rid of sulfur, it put me around a healthy Christian family atmosphere. It rubbed off on me.
Brazos Community Church – Introduced me to the Holy Spirit, and it got rid of the breadboxes I was trying to put God into.
Calvary Community Church in Houston – Showed me much of God’s character.

RZ: Did you ever have times at college where you found yourself questioning your faith? If so, how? If not, why not?

BJ: After my Dad died, I was pretty messed up. It took a year to a year and a half before I was a properly functioning human being again. I received a lot of TLC from the folks around me during that time. It’s scary how much engineering school you can do while emotionally messed up.

RZ: What are some of the more unusual religions or faith systems that you encountered at college?

BJ: Baha’i – Everyone is supposedly right except those who say that someone is wrong. (Do you see any logical fallacies in that statement?) Sad group to meet.
Muslims – Nice enough people but their religion has problems.
Atheists – Generally seemed to either a) Want there to be no God or b) Be angry at God but on the surface denying his existence.
Homosexuals – Very tight knit group of people. They form a community based on their sin, and when they get messed up, they alter their thinking in strange ways to avoid concluding they’re doing something wrong. We must love them, but how is tricky. And as a group, they’re not that different than a religion.

RZ: How do you think college changed you in your walk with God or your approach to spiritual matters?

BJ: Being around the right people showed me that being a Christian doesn’t make you an idiot, and it moved me forward in my walk with God. It also made me a harder target for that other guy.

RZ: For students trying to decide on a college to attend and are concerned about their faith being challenged, what resources should they check out at college when they get there?

BJ: Student Groups can be good. Some are even attached to churches.

a) GO TO A CHURCH where you get small group fellowship. Having older people and married people and children around helps you learn about life. Guys, work nursery. It’ll make you think about your future.

b) Get advice from Christian Professors so they can give you the proper perspective about college.

c) Intervarsity and Navigator press has some very good books on why belief in God is not unmerited. The real question is, “where is your faith?” Sometimes faith is looking at a scientific report and someone’s claim that invalidates God and telling them “God sure did a good job there, didn’t he?” Our faith needs not to be in proofs, but in God. Faith is about believing, not about seeing. And God, being who he is, can’t be put in a breadbox. All of the “scientific proofs” against God aren’t worth their weight in oatmeal and miss the point.

RZ: What advice would you give to Christians about to head off to a state or public university?

BJ: a) Find the good Christian people. Preferably, with a diverse background. BUT FIND A GROUP OF CHRISTIANS AND MEET WITH THEM. I feel the need to digress here. When a hurting girl (who slept with the football team to get attention because she hurts) offers to sneak off with you, it’s much easier to respond properly and in love rather than give in if you’re in the right group. We are sheep, we are pack animals. Part of our defense is connected to remaining in the pack. Things are easier to deal with if you’re in Christian fellowship. And it’s scriptural.

b) Go on missions. This is the easiest time to go to Where’s-that-istan for three months. Once you get a job, it’s harder, and you might even find a calling out there.

c) If someone is helping you going to college, honor them by working hard, getting good grades, and maybe getting skills/experience/degree etc., that brings home a paycheck.

d) Being a doctor/lawyer/nurse/rocket scientist can open doors to otherwise closed countries. Don’t sneer at getting a job that requires getting a degree.

e) Your faith needs to be in the God who created all, not in proofs, or theories of how he created it, or etc. The thief on the Cross was a smart guy. He knew Jesus and he knew he had done wrong, and he knew Jesus was the way. No theology, science, etc. The healed blind man, when questioned by the Pharisees about Jesus, didn’t have in-depth theology but he had faith and out-argued the Pharisees. Faith is a simple thing at its core.

f) God is not only real, but he can also be experienced. If you experience God, silly arguments don’t matter much. You can argue that elephants don’t exist, but if you go to India and ride one, the theory doesn’t count for much. Find the right group and EXPERIENCE GOD.

For more information about maintaining your Christian faith even when at a secular university, here are some books written by J. Budziszewski to consider: Ask Me Anything: Provocative Answers for College Students and How to Stay Christian in College.

Watering Down "Amazing Grace": Salvation is by Grace through Faith

March 28, 2009 2 comments

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This column originally appeared in

Years ago, a former teacher of mine died. I attended the funeral and paid my final respects. It turned out to be a sad occasion, in more ways than one. “Mrs. Evans” died relatively young, in that her mother outlived her. I also felt that she had years of teaching left in her. But neither of those reasons was why I went to the funeral with a heavy heart. On a few occasions I had spoken to her about the Lord, going through the plan of salvation as she read a short story of mine that dealt with the White Throne Judgment. She seemed very entrenched in the idea of hoping her good works would outweigh her bad, despite the verses I quoted that showed that salvation is by grace through faith.

At the funeral the church was packed with Mrs. Evans’ family, friends, work colleagues and former students. Her family cried as they spoke of their fond memories of her. We learned from her friends and professional colleagues of what a wonderful person this woman was.

A few songs were sung in the service. One of them was “Amazing Grace,” that great autobiographical hymn of the faith. Written by John Newton, “Amazing Grace” details how an evil man, a slave trader, came to know Christ and was changed into a totally different man.

The first stanza captures Newton’s testimony eloquently:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me;
I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.

The first verse summarizes Newton’s testimony. God’s grace and desire for us to come to Christ and have eternal life are so strong that they can save even the most wicked of sinners. Even one like the Apostle Paul. Even one like a gang leader from San Antonio’s south side. Even one like Newton, who at one point reportedly said he didn’t want to get saved because he loved sin so much. But eventually, he did accept Christ and experienced salvation.

But during Mrs. Evans’ funeral, someone got up and sang this hymn. Here’s how they sang it:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved and set me free…

I’ve also heard that it’s sometimes sung this way:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved someone like me…

John Newton is in heaven, but to borrow a popular cliché, he must be turning in his grave. How sad is it that a song that illustrates such a basic Gospel truth can be so readily watered down? These two versions of “Amazing Grace,” both of which should be called “Amazing Disgrace,” completely miss the point of Newton’s words.

Why do some churches choose to water down Newton’s song? Perhaps because it contains a truth that modern man detests: that hell and the lake of fire are real and await those who die without Jesus Christ. That before God we are all sinners in need of repentance. Granted, you and I might not be slave traders, but Isaiah 64:6 tells us that before God, all our righteousness is as filthy rags (which, in this context, were used to wipe the sores of a leper). Moreover, James 2:10 tells us that if we’re guilty of breaking even one of God’s laws, we’re guilty of breaking all of them.

I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior when I was eight and reaffirmed my salvation three years later. I wasn’t a drinker, junkie, womanizer, murderer or thief, but I was still in need of a savior. We all are.

And that’s something to remember the next time you sing “Amazing Grace” or go to see the movie of the same name.

What is True Christianity?

March 28, 2009 1 comment

By Richard Zowie

Note: This column was originally published in the San Antonio Christian Beacon and was later republished in with permission.

Have you ever had a question that has really plagued you for an answer? Maybe it’s the name of a catchy song you remember from high school, or perhaps you might be wondering what must have went through Samson’s mind when he realized two things: he had lost his God-given strength and he was about to be humbled in the most humiliating way possible.

And for me, there’s one question that might help me to become a better Christian, if I can ever get solid answers to it:

What is true Christianity?

I think have a few ideas, based on what I’ve observed in a quarter century of being a Christian. It involves more than just reading the Bible, getting dressed up and attending church on Sundays. If you think it solely involves socializing at potluck dinners or saying a prayer at mealtime, think again. It requires something substantial and lasting.

With this, I wanted to touch on six thoughts that begin to give us an idea of what true Christianity is all about. I will also include some thoughts from some friends to whom I asked this question. Some of these thoughts might seem radical, but all I ask is that you take some time to ponder them. In the future, Lord willing, I may feature occasional profiles of what I see as true Christianity in action.

First thought: Indiscretions and sins of clergy members shouldn’t be tolerated under any circumstances. Ministers who engage in extramarital affairs, molest children or engage in sexual relations with the underaged have no place whatsoever in the ministry. As far as I’m concerned, shame on the church officials who are alerted of accusations and choose to shelf them. Jesus has something to say in Matthew 18:6 about ministers who harm children: “But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Furthermore, ministers who have sexual affairs or are caught doing other inappropriate things should be swiftly held accountable. Granted, God forgives, but God also holds us accountable for our sins. Read the story of King David and the mess that erupted in his household and eventually his kingdom due to his sins. Tolerating indiscretions inside the church is one of the quickest ways to destroy the church’s testimony to the lost-not to mention its credibility.

Second thought: Christians should take a firm, unapologetic stand for what they believe. This notion of politicians saying “religion is a private thing for me” is garbage. I have absolutely no respect whatsoever for a political candidate-conservative, liberal, Republican, Democrat or Libertarian-who talks of having a deep relationship with Jesus Christ but supports legislation that would help to continue the holocaust of unborn children. This type of person is exactly whom Jesus spoke of when he referred to millstones. Anyone who has a set of religious beliefs and a totally different set of political beliefs is selling out God.

One friend responded with this profound thought: “True Christianity discerns the difference between tolerance and approval.” It’s one thing to respect a person’s God-given free will in choosing their own paths in life, but it’s another thing to stand next to them and tell them that we agree with what they’re doing. Many people will tell you of how Jesus told those about to stone the adulteress to not cast a stone unless they were without sin, but they forget what He told the woman in John 8:11, “Go and sin no more.”

Third thought: Christianity shouldn’t be about seeking out fame or rewards; instead, it should be about helping people come to Christ and ministering to Christians. Jesus teaches us in Matthew 6 that whenever we do things to do so as discreetly as possible. I have certainly been guilty of this in the past, and I wonder how many Christians do good things in hopes of receiving a plaque or applause instead of simply trying to be a blessing in someone’s life. If you’re involved in a ministry or project because of a desire for an award or attention, please reconsider your motives.

Fourth thought: the lost should see us as friendly and approachable, but they should still see a difference in our lives. I heard an evangelist once say that carrying around a 52-pound Bible and sanctimoniously telling people that they’re vile sinners in need of repentance simply won’t work. When friends or co-workers find out you’re a Christian, chances are pretty good they’ll watch you carefully. Any joke you tell, any music you like to listen to or any movie you like to watch will be scrutinized. There’s a balance to maintain: God wants us to be sociable toward the lost but not to the point to where our lifestyles are no different than theirs. Some might prefer “Cafeteria Christianity” to where they pick and choose their own beliefs and convictions, but we open up doors of opportunity when someone tells us: “There’s something different about you. Could you tell me about it?”

Fifth thought: Be a friend to any guest at church. What would your reaction be if you see a visitor in church adorned in clothes that are too big, too small, horribly out of style or look as though they were acquired in a rummage sale? What if that person doesn’t have the best personal hygiene habits? The natural reaction might be to hide one’s face behind the nearest 52-pound Bible, but the right thing to do is to offer the “right hand of fellowship” and welcome them to the house of God. Jesus ate with sinners, showed compassion toward prostitutes, associated with undesirables that the Israelites rejected and even touched lepers. I’m not suggesting you enter the personal space of a person stricken with a highly-communicable disease, but I am suggesting that you show enough concern and warmth to a visitor to make them think it was worth their time to visit your church. Who knows, they might get saved or even become a church member. You never know who might become the next Billy Graham, basketball star David Robinson, Country music singer Clifton Jansky or comedienne Chonda Pierce.

Sixth thought: Show compassion to the less fortunate. This should not be the job of government. We’ve learned time and again that the more government tries to get involved in social programs, the more it complicates and confuses things. James 1:27 tells us: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction…” Being the grandson of an orphan, I find this passage particularly interesting. If we see an orphan in need of food, clothing or a parental figure, God wants us to help them out. Jude 22 tells us to make a difference by showing compassion, and having compassion on the parentless is the best way to show them God cares about them. By being a parental figure, we can help orphans choose a life of Christ instead of a life of loneliness or crime.

Perhaps fewer things are more painful than losing a spouse after decades of marriage, and God wants us to show concern to widows and widowers. Visit with them. Be a friend. Ask them to reminisce about their spouse. Take part in an activity about them.

There are countless other examples of Christianity, but these six are ones that have stricken me the most lately. To continue winning souls and edifying the body of Christ, we must daily examine our faith and find what convictions and beliefs are truly of God and which are of man. Ponder them and let me know what you think.

Please, Don't Be Left Behind

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

Note: This column originally appeared in

A few years ago I began reading the Left Behind series and soon found myself immersed in it. It took me about six months (my wife, the voracious reader, took much less time), but I was able to go from Left Behind to Glorious Appearing. And then, once they came out, I also read the prequels: The Rising, The Regime and The Rapture.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about End Time prophecies. Soon, the final Left Behind book, Kingdom Come, will be published. Eternally gone are Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia and the false prophet Leon Fortunato. Now, in this final book in the series, we are in the Millennial Kingdom. I’ve often wondered how people who live in the curse-free environment of the millennial reign of Jesus Christ-without having the devil to try to plant corrupt thoughts in their hearts-could possibly decide that they want nothing to do with Jesus or His eternal love. And soon, I’ll find out.

We don’t know when the rapture will take place, but for premillennialists like me, it is imminent. Many theologians and eschatologists tell us that there are no prophecies left to be fulfilled and that the second return of Jesus is the next event on God’s “calendar”. When I look out into the world and see the persecution of Christians in places like China, the Middle East and elsewhere and think of how our government in America is slowly getting more and more hostile toward Christianity, I often find myself thinking of those words spoken in the book of R evelation by the Apostle John: “even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus.”

Assuming the rapture happens in my lifetime (I turned 34 in February), there is a good chance that myself and all other Saworship contributors and staff members will be gone once that moment comes. There’s also a decent chance that this Website might even be read by some left behind. Perhaps some of them may even try to use this site to reach those who are seeking the truth in the Great Tribulation – an event that terrifies me even though I’ll never have to experience it.

Who will be left behind? I suspect there will be four types of people:

The Immediates – Those who were witnessed to, weren’t quite Christians or knew a lot about Christianity but were still undecided in their lives. When the rapture happens, they’ll instantly see-perhaps to a great deal of initial sadness-that their Christian friends had been right. The rapture is the final evidence they’ll need, and as soon as it happens, they receive Christ as their personal savior.

The Open-minded – Those who will eventually get saved, but it takes more evidence of things being fulfilled in scripture and more witnessing. Or perhaps some will be skeptics that God has to further work on. This is the group of people I find myself praying about even now. Deep in their hearts, they might know the right way, but it takes some convincing. However, there lies an underlying problem: the farther along they go without a decision despite all the events of Revelation transpiring (such as the “peace treaty” with Israel, the Two Witnesses, the Trumpet and Vial judgments), the better chance there is of their hearts hardening. A person who chooses not to make a decision for Christ despite all the strong evidence happening around them not only will run out of excuses and opportunities, but they might get to a point where God will give up trying to reach them. They may even be faced with the point-of-no-return decision: accept Christ or take the mark of the Antichrist.

The Hardened – Those who decided before the rapture that they wanted nothing to do with Christ and eternal life. This might be the staunch skeptic who will endlessly try to rationalize every supernatural eschatological event with some scientific theory. It might also be someone who believes in God and knows Revelation is true but has no desire to submit their lives to Him or admit they’re a sinner. It may also be persons who, when they see the rapture take place, might realize to their eternal horror that they have rejected God’s call for salvation so many times that their heart is immovably hardened.

The Ominous – Those who are part of Satan’s final plans and know exactly what’s going on. This might include those who are associated with the soon-to-be Antichrist, along with the False Prophet.

This brings up a question: will the rapture happen in this lifetime?

Some say yes for these reasons:
* No other prophecies have to be fulfilled.

* Man is getting more and more evil, and surely God will soon decide He’s had enough.

* There’s talk of rebuilding the Temple in Jerusalem, a certain sign that Jesus will soon return for His church.

* As bad as the world is, surely we have reached the time yet where things are as spiritually bad as they were in Noah’s time.

Some say no for these reasons:
* There are approximately 3,000 language groups that still don’t have so much as the New Testament in their own language; surely God will tarry until the Gospel has been spread to all parts of the earth.

* God is giving the lost as many opportunities to receive Him as possible.

* All the “signs” that point to Jesus’ soon return mean little considering that time is irrelevant to God. A day is like a thousand years to God, and a thousand years are like a day.

* As bad as the world is, surely we haven’t reached the time yet where things are as spiritually bad as they were in Noah’s time. After all, didn’t Apostle Paul believe that the end of the world would happen in his lifetime of almost two thousand years ago?

What do I think? I don’t know. All I know for sure is that the rapture is imminent. It could happen now (as of the posting of this column, we’re in 2009), as you’re reading this column, or it could happen in the year 9073 -7,064 years into the future. We know that God is very patient and that time means nothing to him. For now, I think the correct thing to do is to not focus too much on waiting for the rapture and instead busy ourselves with the things of God. It’s our job to evangelize and encourage as much as possible and to leave enough of our work behind so that those left behind will have ample reasons to get saved.

This brings up the final question, and one that is perhaps the most asked and debated in eschatology:

Who will the Antichrist be?

In the Left Behind series, the Antichrist is Nicolae Carpathia. He’s the smooth, suave and highly-deceptive Romanian businessman and politician. He has left a long list, void of any paper trails, of people he’s murdered to get to where he is.

I have only one incontrovertible observation about who the Antichrist will be: it’s not me.

Otherwise, I don’t want to look out into the world and speculate. Over the years, countless observers suggested the following: Adolf Hitler, Richard Nixon, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Saddam Hussein, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and so on. Jerry B. Jenkins, who co-authored the Left Behind series with Tim LaHaye, made this observation on the Left Behind website: We wouldn’t speculate on who the Antichrist is. Because while we feel Christ could return any day, God, in his mercy could wait one more day, which in his economy of time is a thousand years.”

With that, the Antichrist could already be a young businessman. He could still be in college or high school. Perhaps he’s only a teenager, a toddler or even a newborn.

Or maybe his great-great-great-great-great grandfather is still only a young teenager.

Here are some things about the future Antichrist that I suspect:

* He will be very handsome and athletic. I think he’ll be very robust, around six-feet tall or more and excel at several sports. In our society (and probably in a future society), image is indeed everything. Many women will gravitate toward him.

* He will be extremely intelligent, perhaps fluent in several languages (especially if he’s European, where there are many official state languages). Academics will be easy for him, as would post-graduate work and any type of project he sets his mind to. He might be trained as an attorney or businessman. Or perhaps even as a theologian.

* He will be an excellent public speaker. Words will roll effortlessly off his tongue, whether it’s his native language or a language he just learned a few years prior. He’ll have little or no need for notes when speaking at a lectern, even if it’s under the glaring pressure of speaking on live television in front of billions of people.

* He will be very charming, and he’ll always seem to be in a good, gentle mood (in public, at least). I suspect he will be an excellent “people person.” Once the initial shock of the rapture dies down, he’ll soon emerge as the answer to the world’s tough problems. Even those who receive Christ or are well on their way to that may at first be pulled back by him. Or perhaps they’ll instantly recognize it. The Bible describes Satan as the Angel of Light, and this trait will be shared by the Antichrist as well.

* Finally, he’ll have a monstrous ego like the world has never seen. If his ego were a planet, then the Solar System’s largest planet, Jupiter, by comparison, would be just a tiny one-mile diameter asteroid. Everything is all about him, and heaven help the person who tries to tell him otherwise. Perhaps it won’t be recognized at first because of his manipulative skills, but eventually it will. Whereas one of Jesus’ greatest human attributes was His humility, the Antichrist will do his best to mimic this for his own personal gain. The Antichrist will be convinced that one day he will be in charge of the planet and will be the eternal object of worship. What he doesn’t know, or refuses to acknowledge, is that he’s merely the biggest pawn in the twilight of the final battle between Satan and God.

Where the Antichrist will originate is anyone’s guess. Some people think he’ll come out of Israel or be of Jewish origin-the ultimate counterfeit to the humble Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. Perhaps he’ll be European. Maybe even American.

All I know for certain is that I’m thankful that I received Christ 25 years ago and won’t have to be here for the end times. For those who haven’t received Christ yet, I implore you to search to learn more about how you can receive Christ. And for those who might be reading this after the rapture has taken place, please, please, don’t delay in coming to Christ.

Excuses, Excuses: God Gives Us All We Need to Know Him

March 28, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

(Note: This column originally appeared in

In my four years in the Army, I learned some fascinating things. As we studied weapons, such as the M-16 rifle, we learned how to disassemble it, clean it, reassemble it, and fire it at targets up to 500 meters away. We also learned its maximum effective range and the range of other weapons that many soldiers used from time to time.

I was late to a class one time and told the sergeant teaching the class that I had lost track of time.

The sergeant made an “OK” sign with his hand, connecting his index finger and thumb into a circle. “Do you know what this is, PFC Zowie?” he asked.

I had no clue. “No, sergeant.”

“This is the maximum effective range of an excuse.”

That distance, of course, is zero.

Excuses were worthless to this sergeant, and they tend to be worthless in many areas of life. God doesn’t think much of excuses, either, especially excuses people might give for why they don’t believe in Him or acknowledge His existence. Some, such as atheists, insist there is no God. Others, such as agnostics, either say that God’s existence can’t be proven or disproven or that they don’t know if He does exist. Others simply don’t know and don’t care and wish to be left alone.

But according to the words of Apostle Paul in the first chapter of Romans, all these excuses are worthless. God gives us all the evidence we need for His existence. In fact, more than enough.

Paul, in Romans 1:17-25, talks about how God actually reveals Himself to mankind. Consider these words:

17 – For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

18 – For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness.

19 – Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.

20 – For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.

These verses tell us that the arguments of atheism, agnosticism or “I don’t care”-ism don’t work. God gives us all the clues we need to show He’s real. Whether you follow God or not, He reveals Himself to us.

In the Old Testament, the Israelites in the wilderness saw God provide for them time and time again. King Ahab saw fire fall from heaven and consume Elijah’s sacrifices; the king then told his wife Jezebel what he saw. Nebuchadnezzar heard a Jewish boy named Daniel interpret a dream that the king himself could not even remember telling. The Gospels tell us of the countless people who witnessed Jesus’ miracles.

Granted, miracles of Biblical times might not manifest themselves today the way they did then, but God still shows Himself.

* In 2006, I saw my wife come back from the brink of death to fully recover from a strep infection that had put her into septic shock, resulted in temperatures escalating to 105.8 and caused her for several weeks to have to breathe with the assistance of a machine as her lungs were extremely weak. The doctors, who did an amazing job treating her and giving her antibiotics, told me that she was as sick as a person could get without dying.

* We also hear reports in our times of people who have life-threatening cancer that inexplicably disappears.

* I have a family member who was an alcoholic who used to drink a case and a half of beer every day. This person became a Christian and has been sober for more than 20 years. He is a godly Christian who is married, has children, is a businessman and is very active in his local church.

* God also gives us evidence of His existence through nature. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork.” These declarations can be readily seen. Once I went to a planetarium once and saw astonishing images of constellations, nebulae and distant galaxies. One of my older sisters, Misti, used to take photographs of sunsets. The colors she would capture in her pictures were nothing short of mesmerizing. Pinks, purples, golds, oranges, coppers, yellows and other indescribable hues danced across the photos, showing the visual palaces of God’s creation.

* Outside of nature, we have examples such as the internal combustion engine. This can power an automobile to long distances and high speeds and are equipped with devices to make driving as smooth and carefree as possible. But the internal combustion engine is an elementary machine compared to the amazingly-sophisticated machinery within a single-cell organism. The DNA of such an organism, if printed out, could span countless pages. If a human being created the engine, it is not logical to believe that a Supreme Being created the organism? If a simple engine could not have invented itself, how could a single-celled organism have done that?

Whenever I hear people say they only believe what they can see, I tell them to open their eyes. Proof is everywhere.

We are indeed without excuse, as verse 20 tells us. God gives us all we need to know Him and want to learn more about Him, and it’s our responsibility to respond to the obvious evidence and seek Him out.

But, suppose that God chose to supernaturally prove Himself to us, as so many would love for him to do? I recall a pen pal once telling me that if God would simply come down and physically manifest Himself, then they would believe in Him.

Would this really help?

According to Luke 16, no.

Jesus tells the familiar story in this chapter about the rich man in hell. The rich man, we learn, lived royally and sumptuously while Lazarus, the poor, diseased beggar, lived off of whatever scraps fell from the rich man’s table. Both die; Lazarus goes to paradise while the rich man goes to hell. The two men’s destinations had nothing to do with their financial status, though. Lazarus placed his faith in God while the rich man had placed his faith in his money. Perhaps Lazarus even tried to talk to the rich man about God. The rich man, who already was filthy rich, may have wondered what useful advice this beggar could’ve possibly offered him. after all, doesn’t money buy happiness?

In the unspeakable agony of hell, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn the rich man’s younger brothers about this horrible place.

But instead of miraculously bringing Lazarus back from the dead, Abraham tells the rich man in verse 29 that his brothers have Moses and the prophets (what we would know as the Old Testament), and that his brothers should hear them instead. In other words, through the writings of Moses and the prophets, God gave the Israelites the information they needed to secure eternal life. All they needed to do was search the scriptures and find God there.

“But, you don’t understand, Father Abraham!” the rich man might’ve countered. “My brothers don’t believe in the writings of Moses and the prophets. They are rational men who want some type of scientific proof that God really exists. If you send Lazarus to them, they WILL believe!”

Abraham’s response is one we should really consider. He says in verse 31: “…If [your brothers] hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”

In other words, if they forsake the evidence that is plainly before them, then they won’t consider something supernatural. Remember, people saw Jesus perform miracles and walked away without believing in Him; some of them instead insisted that Jesus used the power of the devil to perform miracles or griped that He was performing miracles on the Sabbath. Countless Israelites died in the wilderness because they wouldn’t follow God despite the miracles they’d already seen. Pharaoh continually hardened his heart despite all the miracles he’d seen Moses perform. Jezebel, despite hearing what King Ahab said regarding his account of Elijah’s miracle, still chose to follow her own gods. Revelation tells us that despite people witnessing the supernatural events of God in the end times, most will still reject Christ.

And today, what if such a miracle happened? Many would insist that the “miracle” of God has some sort of rational scientific explanation. Others might want to see another miracle. Some, such as King Herod in Luke 23:8, might look it as entertainment only, perhaps the way people do towards illusionists like David Copperfield. Others would have little interest, their minds already made up to follow after their own desires rather than God’s.

When persons choose not to follow God or acknowledge the evidence clearly before them, they are sending themselves into dangerous spiritual ground. Romans 1:21-25 explains:
21 – Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.

22 – Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

23 – And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

24 – Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:

25 – Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
If a person chooses not to believe in or follow God despite all the overwhelming evidence God gives and turns their backs on the Holy Spirit’s promptings for the final time, Scripture teaches that God allows that person to go into their own way of thinking. A reprobate mind, which could’ve been used to serve God, is deemed useless.

Spiritual common sense slowly fades to the point to where the totally illogical will soon sound perfectly logical. This is how people develop outlandish and often blasphemous perspectives on God: they reject the evidence God puts before them, and as a result, God allows Satan full discourse to come in and conform them to ungodliness. We often wonder how people can call evil good and good evil. When they fall into corrupted thinking, this is how they can do that. The further a person falls away from a loving, rational God, the further from rationality they fall.

Many will stand before God in judgment at the day of the Great White Throne Judgment, when Jesus judges unbelievers for the final time. Their works will be reviewed, including all the chances they had to receive Christ as their personal savior. They will discover that they were without excuse.

If you’d like to know more about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, drop me a line at

Who has your heart? A Simple Answer to a Seemingly-Complex Question

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

(This column originally appeared in

There’s a question that had plagued me for years, the answer darting away from me like a frightened rabbit every time I tried to get near it. Some questions, such as whether or not certain celebrity marriages will last longer than the gallon of tea I just brewed, aren’t worth waiting for the answers. But the answer to this particular question was well worth the effort:

Why do so many who grow up in Christian homes forsake God once they reach adulthood? And how can some grow up in the most godless environments but turn out to become stellar Christians?

The answer to such a seemingly-complicated question is actually fairly simple, smaller question: Who has your heart?

I realize the answer now as a 33 year-old, and what truly amazes me is that I had the answer right in front of me 16 years ago. In the summer of 1990, I traveled with my church youth group and attended a youth conference at Lavon Drive Baptist Church in Garland, Texas (a Dallas suburb). On the first night of that year, Pastor Steve Roberson (then a North Carolina youth pastor who now pastors Calvary Baptist Church in Red Bank, Tenn.) preached a message titled “Who Has Your Heart?”


Several years ago, my pastor gave me a cassette tape of the sermon. The tape was packed away and rediscovered when I went through some boxes during a recent move. One day, while driving and finding nothing good on the radio, I decided to listen to the tape again. When I heard it for the first time as a 17 year-old, I got the basic premise of the sermon and enjoyed the humor; now, after hearing the sermon again, I was floored by the message and how Pastor Roberson used hilarious stories to illustrate eternal truths about who has our hearts.

You spend years and years laboring over a decision, feverishly analyzing the facts and trying desperately to find an answer. The answer seems so distant from us, but sometimes—such as in this case—it really isn’t.

To find out what path a person is going in life and try to determine whether or not they’ll follow God, all we have to ask is this: who has their heart? Their parents? Their minister, youth minister or Sunday school teacher? Perhaps a Christian athlete or a Christian musician? Maybe, unfortunately, it’s a rapper known for violent, profane lyrics or an actor whose box office success is topped only by how many bed partners they’ve had. Whoever has their heart is whom they will try to emulate.

In order to ensure that our children follow faithfully in our footsteps as Christians, we have to lead them in ways where they’ll give us their heart—something I’m learning as the father of three boys and the uncle of many nephews and nieces. And as for the children who grow up in ungodly homes but develop into solid Christians, most likely there was a godly leader at their church that inspired them. Or perhaps it was a godly grandparent, aunt or uncle.

The year before Pastor Roberson had us in stitches as he told a story about playing in a high school basketball game and the sweat mixing with his hair spray and producing hilarious results. This time he told about the adventures of having an overflow of adolescent boys at youth camp one year. One of them woke up from a nightmare, started screaming and soon the entire tent was filled with screeching teens. Why were they all screaming? Because everyone else in the tent was. In life, it’s so easy to be a follower.

Two other stories, one hilarious and one tragic, further illustrated Pastor Roberson’s point. That morning, he had encountered some professional wrestlers at the Atlanta airport. One of them picked up a display sandwich and unwittingly asked a cafeteria attendant to heat it up. Kids raced up to the “rasslers” to ask for autographs and get photos taken. And then, a few weeks before in Winston-Salem, N.C., the rock band Mötley Crüe performed a concert. At the time, two of their biggest songs were “Shout at the Devil” and “Smoking in the Boys’ Room.” The group also made frequent use of the pentagram. The mostly-teenaged audience, sadly, soaked it up and loved it.

Pastor Roberson noted that much crime followed the debauchery of the concert. Even worse, kids who seem to prefer cutting up in the back of a church instead of sitting in the front and listening to the message seem more than willing to give their hearts to wrestlers and rock stars. Why? Probably because those kids feel it’s more “fun” or “cool” to give their hearts to people who ultimately turn out to be spiritual fools instead of spiritual giants.

Conversely, Pastor Roberson mentioned a young lady at his church who, despite having alcoholic parents, grew up to be a fine Christian woman who taught at the church school and—along with her husband—had a Sunday School bus route. The young lady gave her heart to her godly older sister and brother-in-law along with the other godly examples at the Christian school (where she would later teach).

“Why is it,” Pastor Roberson asked at the close of his message, “that a girl can grow up in a chronic alcoholics’ home and, at age 28, be serving God, and another kid can grow up in a preacher’s home or deacon’s home and at the age of 28 be out in the world, not even in church? Let me tell you the difference: the heart. And I beg you, just give us your heart…men who have proven themselves and women who have proven themselves, give them your heart.”

And with that, whether you are young or old, saved or unsaved, I have this question to ask: Who has your heart?

I strongly encourage you to give your heart to God and to a godly parent or to a godly mentor at a good, Bible-believing church.

Categories: Uncategorized

Encouragement: What If Jesus Comes Back Like That?

March 10, 2009 1 comment

By Richard Zowie

(This column was originally published in

Matthew 25:37-40:
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we ahungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

“When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

“Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

If we were to simplify spiritual matters, I’d say that Christians have two basic duties to mankind: to evangelize the lost and to encourage or edify other believers. However, both evangelism and encouragement can be done in a vast spectrum of ways.

Let’s take a closer look at encouragement. In a past column, I wrote about Barnabas and his role as an encourager in the book of Acts. First, he encouraged the Apostle Paul in his new faith in Christ and, second, encouraged other believers to accept Paul into their circles.

When it comes to meeting people who either don’t espouse Christianity or seem very rough in their appearance, in the past I’ve felt inclined to walk the other way or simply ignore them. About a year ago, I saw a visitor at church that caused me to do a brief double-take. He had tattoos, lots of them all along his arms. He also had earrings in both ears. But not the small stud or loop earrings you might be imagining. This man had the gauged kind of earrings, ones that looked as thick as padlock shackles. This man must be into pain, I thought, cringing since earrings, body piercing and tattoos aren’t my idea of pleasure activities.

Fifteen years ago, I would’ve turned a cold shoulder toward the man and walked away. The sooner such a person left the church, the better. After all, who needs someone with a “worldly” appearance?

This man reminded me of someone I once knew from church as a teenager growing up in South Texas. “Stanley”, a brand-new Christian, liked to ride motorcycles and came from a very rough background. He told me once that he spent about a year of his life in a coma, courtesy of a motorcycle crash where he wasn’t wearing a helmet. In church, he usually wore one of two t-shirts. One was of a tattoo parlor: it had a skull on it with the caption, “You bet it hurts!”

The other was of a man watching television while—well, I’d rather not get into the details in this type of column except to say that the caption was “New Father.” When Stanley wasn’t wearing questionable t-shirts, he would often raise his hand to ask a question during a sermon. This was just something you didn’t do in the church I grew up in. Sometimes the pastor would answer his question, and other times he would politely motion for him to wait until the sermon was over. This visitor from church recently and Stanley would be very easy for some to write off, especially if you’re a stuffy person who feels that everyone in church needs to dress just right and act just right.

Instead, the two men pose an interesting thought. As Christians, we are called to be separate from the world, but yet be in it to make an eternal difference. Some Christians may prefer to distance themselves from people who curse, drink, smoke, live immoral lifestyles and dress in inappropriate attire, but too often we forget the example set before us.

Jesus was holy and sinless, but He also spent much of his time with publicans, tax collectors, prostitutes and other undesirables in society—including a Samaritan woman. While Jesus spent much of His earthly ministry around “worldly” people, He never became part of them. He showed them that while He loved them and cared about them, He never condoned their lifestyle or partook in it. To the woman who was caught in adultery in John 8:1-11, while Jesus encouraged the one without sin to cast the first stone at her, He also told her, “Go, and sin no more.” Jesus in the Great Commission in Matthew 28:16-20 tells us to go into the world and evangelize. This requires not barricading ourselves at home and sealing ourselves off from the world, but going out and trying to make a difference. Our time on earth is very short, and it’s up to us to make the best of it.

At college, I had a suitemate whose father worked in Rock of Ages Prison Ministry. Tony said once in a prayer meeting that his father talked of being “insulated” rather than “isolated.”

In my life I’ve spent a lot of time around people who don’t know the Lord or those who are lapsed Christians. In the service, I knew several Wiccans, practitioners of eastern religions, those who either didn’t believe in God or who didn’t care and those who were hedonistic in their lifestyles. As I look back on my four years in the Army and years since then, I have learned that adopting an isolated, holier-than-thou attitude does nothing to win people to Christ and help those who are Christians grow in their faith. The best way to reach the lost and reach out to fellow Christians is to be an encourager. Show that you care about them; and when talking to them, make their concerns your main interest. Be an unconditional friend. One service member I knew, who was not a professing Christian, became well-thought of and popular because he was an excellent listener. As I looked at this guy, I thought that this was the direction I should pursue.

Soon, by being an encourager, friends might say something to you like, “There’s something different about you. What makes you so different?”

“I’m a Christian.”

“Really? What made you decide to become a Christian?”

By doing this and by maintaining your testimony, you can then get through doors that might normally be accessible. Perhaps you might not get a chance to directly lead many to the Lord, but you can at least plant seeds and water what’s already planted—all while remaining a Christian who encourages without asking for anything in return.

Jude 20-22: “But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Ghost,
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.
And of some have compassion, making a difference…”
[Emphasis mine]

One important reason for encouraging comes from the Collin Raye song “What If Jesus Comes Back Like That.” The first stanza of the song deals with a hobo who drifts into town. Many are put off by this undesirable transient and work to have him driven out of town. In the chorus of the song (written by Pat Bunch and Doug Johnson), Raye sings:

On an old freight train in a hobo hat
Will we let him in or turn our back
What if Jesus comes back like that
Oh what if Jesus comes back like that

Later in the song is this poignant stanza:

Nobody said life is fair
We’ve all got a cross to bear
When it gets a little hard to care
Just think about him hanging there

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Christianity in a nutshell: The Greatest Commandment

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

(This column was originally published in

When some people think of Christianity, they often visualize an endless, meandering list of do’s and don’ts. You know: don’t swear, don’t drink (and don’t even use alcohol for cooking), don’t watch movies, don’t smoke, don’t gamble, don’t wear a dress that goes above the kneecap in the sitting position, don’t listen to any music that has a drum beat to it. Men shouldn’t let their hair touch their collar or their ears ladies’ hair shouldn’t be any shorter than shoulder length. Don’t let your children watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Power Rangers. If they do, make them go straight to the church altar and get right with God. They should not pass Go, nor should they collect $200.

Looking at the list, while there are some that are things all Christians would probably agree on (such as not swearing), others on the list might prompt some to think that there must be an 11th Commandment: Thou shalt not have fun.

But is that what Christianity is really all about? Hardly. Granted, God gave Moses the Ten Commandments and inspired Moses to record in the first five books of the Old Testament the rules for life. Some were moral laws, which don’t change. Some were dietary laws, God’s way of protecting the Israelites from food products that would be harmful to them. Others were ceremonial laws, which were designed to teach about the meticulous details revolving around sacrifices and offerings and giving a picture of the perfect, spotless Messiah that eventually paid the debt for our sins on Calvary. I’m a supporter of Bible-based convictions, but I believe that there are personal preferences that some Christians—whether unintentional or not—try to pass off as convictions. Whenever someone gets saved or is a growing Christian, the best perspective to take is to help that person grow in Christ; as they grow, God will start to reveal to them (whether through the Bible or through sage advice) what areas of their life need to change.

This leads me to ponder something about Christianity. Legendary physicist Albert Einstein spent time trying to formulate the Theory of Everything. This theory, which modern physicists still pursue, is an attempt through theoretical physics to connect all known physical phenomena. In a loosely-comparable vein, I have wondered if Christianity can be boiled down to one single commandment instead of sifting through endless ones. As it is, I feel that these are the basics of Christianity: 1) to evangelize the lost and 2) to encourage or edify fellow believers.

But there is an even easier way of simplifying Christianity—a simple command to follow through which all of the commands in the Christian faith flow. Three of the Gospel writers mention it: Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34 and Luke 10:25-37. In these instances, Jesus was answering questions from the religious leaders of the day. Whether it was from Pharisees, scribes, Sadducees or other “spiritual intellectuals” trying to discredit Him, Jesus answered them all handily. In short, Jesus rightfully accused the intellectuals of majoring on the minors while disobeying God on the important matters.

But then, a lawyer approached Jesus after Jesus had silenced the Sadducees regarding the debate of marriage and the resurrection. He was a seeker, and Jesus treated him as such. While Jesus divested Himself of certain attributes when taking human form, He could spot right away that this lawyer was seeking the truth rather than just trying to trip him up.

Because this story is told by three different Gospel writers, we receive three different questions this attorney asked. Matthew 22:36 states that the lawyer asked Jesus, “Master, which is the great commandment of the law”? Mark 12:28 has it this way: “…Which is the first commandment of all?” Luke 10:25 has it this way: ” Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

These answers may seem different, but they remind me of a man who is anxious about the afterlife and is eager for an answer. So, as a result, it’s entirely possible this attorney may have said to Jesus, “Master, what is the first commandment of all, the great commandment of the law? What I’m trying to find out is what I need to do to inherit eternal life.” This attorney seemed to recognize something that the Pharisees and other religious leaders didn’t: simply obeying all the laws and traditions wasn’t sufficient for salvation.

“Love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.” The second-greatest commandment, Jesus adds, is to “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Furthermore, Jesus says in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

In other words, all the other laws and doctrines of the Bible come from these two commandments. These two commandments represent the Doctrine of Everything, the idea that everything that comprises God’s command for us to evangelize the lost and encourage and edify fellow believers stems from these two commands. By obeying these two commands, all of God’s other instructions for us will come naturally.

To illustrate this, Jesus gives the lawyer the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable tells of how a Jewish man traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho is robbed by thieves, severely beaten and left for dead. As he lays there severely injured, both a Jewish priest and a Levite pass him and ignore him.

But along comes the unlikeliest of people, a Samaritan, who has compassion on this Jewish man. The Samaritan dresses his wounds, puts him on his own animal and takes him to an inn. After paying the innkeeper for the wounded man’s extended stay, he informs the keeper that when he returns he will pay the extra expenses incurred for taking care of the man.

Amazing compassion, when you consider the Samaritan had very little motivation for it. After all, he had to have known this man was a Jew, and the Jews at the time considered the Samaritans beneath them. Half-breeds, if you will. This reminds me somewhat of that episode of the CBS sitcom The Jeffersons where George Jefferson, an African-American dry cleaner mogul, saves the life of a racist white man who has had a heart attack.

This Good Samaritan, Jesus told the lawyer, was a man who loved his neighbor. This is the example of loving God with your heart, soul and mind and transferring that love to those around you. By transferring that love, you can show your unsaved neighbors the type of love God has for them and give them a reason to become a Christian. As for your saved neighbors, seeing the love God has for them may give them a reason to further their walk with Christ.

Hearing this, the lawyer (or scribe, as Mark calls him), answers in Mark 12:32-33: “…Well, Master, thou hast said the truth: for there is one God; and there is none other but he: and to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

And that is Christianity in a nutshell.

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Job and the Lesson of Faith

March 10, 2009 Leave a comment

By Richard Zowie

NOTE: This originally was published in I am re-posting it here out of a heavy burden. There have been people I’ve known in my life who were once solid Christians but are now away from God. My prayer is that this and other columns would provide them with a much-needed source of encouragement and enlightenment).

One of the great but yet simple theological truths can be found in the feel-good 1993 film Rudy. Daniel “Rudy” Ruettiger is a physically and academically undersized-but nevertheless determined-young man who wants nothing more than to play football for his beloved Notre Dame. In the film, he seeks advice from a priest regarding the direction he’s supposed to go in. The priest offers this amusing but interesting observation: “Son, in 35 years of religious study, I have only come up with two hard incontrovertible facts: there is a God, and I’m not Him.”

Indeed, we are not God. This, of course, goes against the secular humanistic thinking that mankind either is God or can become Him through enough eons of successful evolution. If we were God, we’d have all the answers to the problems that plague our lives. The answers are indeed very far away, most of which won’t be answered until we enter eternity.

Our family has gone through some tough times, and I’ve been repeatedly found myself asking the question, “Why?” We do the best we can to live for the Lord, praying and reading scripture and serving in our church. Why do these frustrating things still happen?

Years ago, I woke up early one morning and found myself worried about a discouraging incident. I was upset at God that He wasn’t giving us the resources to get these things taken care of. This situation has actually been an ongoing problem for sometime, and I found myself very flustered.

As I sat down in the early morning hours, I took my Bible and turned to the Book of Psalms. Each Psalm I read emphasized the importance of entering God’s presence with praise, being thankful and recognizing the great things He has done. And then, I thought about Job. He had it all, lost it all and spent chapter after chapter wrestling with God’s sovereignty. I went over to Job and read over the last three chapters.

Job is considered by many to be the oldest book in the Bible. It’s about a godly, wealthy man who has it all: a wife, many children, servants, and lots of livestock and other possessions. God and Satan have a dialogue early in the book, and God mentions Job and what a godly man he is. Satan argues that Job’s godly ways are solely a reflection of the material wealth bestowed upon him. “Bring tragedy into his life and take away his wealth, and he’ll curse you, God,” Satan argued.

God must’ve been very impressed with Job to bring him up in the first place, and He gives Satan this order: you may take away his possessions, but do not harm him. Satan does just that, with Job’s kids and servants dying and his possessions taken from him. Job holds firm and keeps his focus on God, even in the next stage when God tells Satan that he can bring physical affliction upon Job-but still he is not allowed to kill him. Job develops boils over all his body and suffers much agony. His wife implores him to curse God and die, to which Job replies that she speaks foolishly and that it is unreasonable for us to only expect good things from God.

After that, Job and his friends have a long dialogue about why he is suffering. Job says he doesn’t understand why. His friends think he’s hiding pride or has some sort of unconfessed sin in his life that would have caused God‘s wrath. Finally, in the latter chapters, God speaks to Job from a whirlwind. Just as Job spends much of the book questioning God, the Almighty has some questions of His own for his servant:

Where were you when I created the world and the universe?
Do you know all about what’s in the deepest depths of the ocean?
(This is something marine biologists still don’t know millennia later).
Do you know all the intimate details of zoology? (There are still many species of animals and insects yet to be discovered).
Is a fallible, finite man really capable of second guessing an infallible, infinite God?

God then demonstrates His power for Job by discussing the dinosaur-like creature, the leviathan. This creature, which God created, is a very mighty creature, and the Lord details its staggering physical characteristics. God’s point is simple: He is capable of creating the earth, the heavens, the oceans and all the majestic creatures: it is therefore foolish for man-with all his physical and mental limitations-to doubt the way God does things. Instead, we must trust Him.

As I read this, I realized something. If He’d wanted to, God could’ve easily explained to Job the conversation He’d had with Satan and how Job’s afflictions were a test to prove that godly people will follow God no matter what trials are going on in their lives. But instead, God chooses to hammer this point: “Job, my son, you are not Me. I alone am God. You are not able to do the incredible things that I do. My ways are infinitely above your ways, so there is no way, at this point, for you to be able to truly grasp them. At this stage, all you can do is acknowledge My Sovereignty, have faith in Me and know that it’s all in My control-and leave it at that. Someday, perhaps later in your life or in heaven where your mind won’t have the limitations it has now, you’ll understand why these things have happened to you.”

Job confesses his lack of trust in God. As a result, God not only gives Job his wealth back, it’s also more than he had before. He also has more children, and Job 42:15 tells us that his daughters were more beautiful than any other women in the land.

And as I concluded my reading, all I could think was my sin of getting upset with God and not trusting in Him. Sure, with our obligations it can be extremely tough since we have answers that we need very soon rather than later, but ultimately it’s important to realize that everything is in God’s control. He makes no mistakes, and all things happen in His perfect timing. Romans 8:28 tells us, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.”

Maybe you’re facing a hardship in your life. It could be a failed relationship, a lost job, a bad job, money, past-due bills, a church split or a death in the family. To escape the dark valley of heartache and despair, what is best for us is to pray about it, place it in God’s hands, and watch for avenues to open for us as He helps us move out of our trials. God never promises we’ll have only good times, and it’s through the tough times that He’s able to help us develop a solid foundation for a relationship with Him.

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