Archive for July, 2009

Are Biblical exegeses evil?

July 30, 2009 1 comment

Bible majors at Pensacola Christian College, my alma mater, had to do an exegesis sometime during their course of study. I suspect this is standard operating procedure for other Bible/Christian colleges in their ministerial programs.

But is it the right thing to do?

Someone mentioned recently the late Dr. Jack Hyles, longtime pastor of Hammond, Ind.’s First Baptist Church, was against doing exegesis and felt instead that more focus should be put on preaching.

There are people who will be in heaven because Dr. Hyles’ ministry: while I disagree with aspects of Dr. Hyles’ ministry, I have no doubt he was still used by God. That being said, I must respectfully disagree with him.

Preaching is a great thing, but I think pastors do a great disservice to their congregation by not teaching also.

As a writer, I’ve done a series of columns on Ecclesiastes. It started off as a general overview but turned into a layperson’s exegesis as I wanted to really dig into what this Old Testament book about happiness and how to find it really said.

We were created in God’s image, and I think one thing God expects us to do is study. Especially when you consider that while some of us love the King James Bible (or New American Standard, New International Version or New Century Version), it may shock some of you to realize that English is not the Bible’s original language. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew with a little Chaldean/Aramaic while the New Testament was written in Greek.

I can’t speak for everybody, but fewer things in life frustrate me more than reading a passage of scripture and being unable to understand what it says. Sometimes understanding it is as simple as understanding Bible customs at the time. Other times, it can be as simple as reading a commentary on the passage. And yet for others, pulling out a concordance and reading what the original Hebrew or Greek word was.

It’s especially important to do, especially when you consider translating can be a tricky business at times.

So, to summarize, not only are exegeses not evil, they can be essential to better understanding the Bible.

Whatever happened to Enoch, Methuselah’s dad?

July 27, 2009 1 comment

Genesis 5:21-24 says this about Enoch’s life:

“And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methu’selah:

“and Enoch walked with God after he begat Methu’selah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters:

“and all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years:

“and Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”

It begs the question: what happened to Enoch?

The passage suggests God took Enoch up to heaven. Some say he returned as John the Baptist. Others say he’ll return as one of the two witnesses in Revelation (while others insist it’ll be Moses and Elijah). Enoch must’ve been a special person, if God allowed him to enter heaven without first enduring a physical death.

One friend named David Ricker, a former roommate of mine at Pensacola Christian College who now pastors Lighthouse Christian Church in Phillips, Maine, has a different take, one I’d never even thought of. It’s one I found fascinating.

Dave believes that Enoch’s ascent into heaven, followed some years later by the Flood, is a picture of the rapture. The earth in those days was filled with evil until God wiped it out with a flood and allowed Noah and his family to start over. And just as Enoch ascended into heaven because of his righteousness (which comes through Jesus Christ), Christians due to their righteousness will also “ascend” or be raptured into heaven.

“To the issue of Enoch and his being ‘taken’, I think that he was a godly man because he ‘walked with God,’” Dave said. “I think that it was a life change for him after he had his child, Methuselah. This actually makes an excellent type for a premillennial rapture. Let me explain. First, the whole earth is in constant moral decline. Jesus said that in the last days it would be like Noah’s Time. Second, Enoch, part of the line of godly men, after a ‘conversion’ and walking with God is ‘raptured’ out of the world before real trouble of worldwide judgment. Third, Noah, a picture of believing Jews are kept safe through this judgment to a beautiful remade world to start over in the millennium.”

Enoch is one of only two men recorded in the Old Testament to not have died. Elijah was the other one. Moses died but was buried somewhere where only God knows for sure.

One thing’s for certain, as far as the Great Tribulation goes: I’ll be very glad to miss it. I think mankind has yet to see God when He’s angry.

A greeting for my friend, Howard

In case he accesses this blog, here’s a Hebrew message for my friend Howard (who has studied Hebrew and says it’s a lot like sign language):

שלום, הורד! מא שלמחא?

אני רי׳צרד

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From the ‘Just when you think you’ve heard it all’ file

I understand some atheists are now having “debaptizing” ceremonies now for those who wish to break from their religious faiths and become a disbeliever in God.

According to this report, one person “unbaptized” by someone “drying” them with a blow dryer that had “Reason” written on it.

It’s symbolic, of course, since the person no doubt has long since dried from their initial baptism. I know I have: I was first baptized in 1981 and then re-baptized about nine years later after I reaffirmed my salvation.

With all due respect (I have a friend from Christian college who’s now a professing atheist), I’m a little puzzled why atheists seem to think they have cornered the market on “reason”, “enlightenment” and “free thinking”. I’ve encountered a few atheists and agnostics in my time and have found, more often than not, anyone who believes in God or—even worse—intelligent design is an ignorant fool who can’t possibly understand the way the world really works.

Never mind that Dissent from Darwin shows a long list of well-educated scientists and professors who are skeptical of Darwin and evolution and feel far too few questions are being asked and explored—critically studying evolution inexplicably doesn’t belong in the classroom.

Never mind that books like Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box explore the growing difficulties evolution is having in trying to be reconciled with science.

I wonder if that’s why American children lag behind in science.

I suppose anyone atheist who sees this post will insist on my reading Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great or Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Perhaps they should, in fairness, read ex-atheist Lee Stroebel’s Case for a Creator.

Handling a crisis…what does Jesus say?

We are reminded in Matthew 6:33 to do this:

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”

As I face a crisis, I am reminded of what Jesus says in His Sermon on the Mount…make your priority God and His Kingdom, and from there your needs will be met.

God bless.

Is there life on other planets? An answer from a Christian perspective

July 21, 2009 2 comments


This is a question that seems to be mostly ignored within Christianity. When I was younger, I remember the evangelist David Benoit talking about whether or not there was extraterrestrial life out there. Benoit, whose messages specialized on rock music and the occult noted that books at the library that deal with E.T.’s¹ could be found in the occult section.

Open and shut. Cut and dry. Case dismissed.

Or is it?

I’ve always had a fascination with astronomy and used to spend hours drawing pictures of planets and how the sun would look like if viewed from Jupiter or from my favorite solar planet, Pluto. We now know that life as we know it does not exist in the solar system apart from Earth. Other planets are too hot or too cold or have atmospheres that won’t support life. Jupiter, for instance, isn’t even a terrestrial world but rather a gaseous one consisting of two oceans of liquid hydrogen. Venus is far too hot and has an unbreathable atmosphere. And, of course, past Mars it gets far too cold. Pluto, that perpetual winter wonderland, has estimated temperatures of 390 degrees below zero.

Others would ask two questions: what about other forms of life that might not be human or even organic? In science fiction novels, we read of intelligent crystals and shades of blue along with gaseous bags that float in Jupiter and Saturn’s atmosphere.


Many astronomers and potential exobiologists believe life could exist in the ocean that lies underneath the icy surface of Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

For some Christians, the idea of intelligent life beyond our planet is blasphemous. It is unthinkable for God to have created other forms of life living on other planets orbiting other stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, in the nearby Andromeda Galaxy (about three billion light years away)² or in the other billions of galaxies that we now know, courtesy of the Hubble Telescope, are out there. After all, Jesus died once for all, as teaches the Bible.

If there are other planets out there, does this mean they had opportunities to choose or reject God and that Jesus went to their world, lived, died and resurrected?

Does life exist on other planets?

If you’d asked me 15 years ago, I would’ve answered absolutely not.³ Now, my response is I don’t know, but I think it’s possible.

Consider this: the Bible could very well stand for Basic Information Before Leaving Earth. If that’s the case, then the Word of God tells us all we need to know to live this life as Christians, to serve God and evangelize and edify as much of the world as possible before our time is up. Once we reach eternity, we’ll have lots of learning to do.

Who knows what God has to teach us?

All I know is I think there’s a whole universe of knowledge to be attained, and even after several millennia of recorded history, I think our knowledge of God, the world and the universe is still primitive at best.


¹ I use the term E.T. only to save on typing. Honestly, I didn’t really care for the movie. Too sappy, among other things.

² A light year is a unit of distance designed to simplify astronomical distances. Light travels about six trillion miles in a year. This means the Andromeda Galaxy’s about 18,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles away from earth. Our closest celestial neighbor, Alpha Centauri, is about 4.3 light years from earth, or 25.8 trillion miles away.

³ It’s funny how bent out of shape people get when asked if they believe in UFO’s. The acronym stands for Unidentified Flying Object.


Funny Christians

Growing up as a Christian, I remember one popular thing to ask people was “What’s your life verse?” Mine changed a bit. I liked Isaiah 26:4, Psalm 27:14, and Habakkuk 2:2-3.

One visiting pastor during a revival said he didn’t have a life verse, but he did have a life book. He held up his King James Bible.

Once, I asked my brother-in-law Joe what his life verse was. Joe replied, “John 11:35.”

So, I looked it up and saw it consisted of two words: “Jesus wept.”

Ho, ho, very funny, Joe. Ha ha, it is to laugh.

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Michael W. Smith and umbrellas

July 13, 2009 1 comment

When I typed on this blog Sunday night, I listened to Michael W. Smith’s wonderful song “Jesus is the Answer”.

Smith reminds me of this interesting story about my time at Pensacola Christian College.

PCC’s located in Pensacola, Florida, which receives lots of rain. If there are any prospective PCC students reading this blog posting, I’d strongly advise them to purchase a good umbrella.

Preferably, one that’s not too expensive. Umbrellas at PCC (at least when I was there from 1991-1995) tended to magically disappear. In my four years there, I lost two of them. Ironically enough, to try to keep my second umbrella from getting stolen, I wrote in bold black letters RICHARD ZOWIE’S UMBRELLA and STEAL THIS AND GET SHIPPED! (At PCC, getting “shipped” meant getting kicked out). That umbrella disappeared, and a friend a year behind me told me the year after I graduated it showed up again on campus.

My favorite form of umbrella art belonged to one student named James W. (anyone who graduated from PCC in 1995 probably knows whom I’m talking about). James listed Bible verses that talked of how stealing was prohibited and a sin, but then talked about how he would still forgive the person who committed such an atrocity just as Jesus forgave us. I liked it. James was a serious but very good guy, and he mentioned once wanting to use his engineering degree on the mission field.

One student took umbrella protection to a new level. A fan of Dr. Jack Hyles, “Andrew” filled his umbrella with Dr. Hyles quotes. One panel said, “Yes, I support Dr. Hyles” while another quoted Hyles calling out another minister and saying, “He ain’t no fundamentalist!”


Dr. Jack Hyles

Another panels showed Hyles’ fervent dislike for pants on women along with contemporary Christian music (which, I must confess, I wasn’t a fan of at the time). There was a quote where Hyles referred to Michael W. Smith as “Michael W. Smut”.

Pretty harsh.

I wasn’t too surprised to find out later that Andrew transferred from PCC to either Hyles-Anderson College or some college like it.

As for Smith, “Jesus is the Answer” is one song I’d love to have played at my funeral. I find it to be an encouraging song that also helps to evangelize.

Howard, my spiritual mentor

We all need them, especially in this crazy world where Satan works around the clock to destroy the testimony of every Christian and to take as many people with him as possible into eternal separation from God.

For me, one such mentor is Howard.

At college, I originally knew him as a food service supervisor. He seemed quiet and serious, and the way he walked around you could tell he was a very busy man. You know the type: 40 hours worth of things to do in the confines of a 24-hour day.

Summer 1992, I worked with him closely when we had to paint much of the Varsity Commons at Pensacola Christian College. Howard (then known as Mr. Howlett) had painted professionally, so he worked with me and a few other students.

And as we worked, we spoke. You name the subject and we talked about it. Sign language. The Bible. Ancient history. Martial arts. Serial killers. Funny but harmless anecdotes about food service supervisors. Stories from when he went to college. As someone who loves hanging around people with vast amounts of knowledge and experiences, conversing with Howard was like dying and going to heaven.

The funny thing is, Howard takes a humble approach to himself and even refers to me as “Dr. Zowie”. Maybe someday I’ll give him a good reason for calling me that.

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Can demons repent?

July 10, 2009 2 comments

Theology teaches us that God created Lucifer and all the other angels and that sometime later, Lucifer decided he wanted to be God. So, he recruited a third of the angels to join him. God prevailed and they were removed from heaven. Lucifer became Satan and his angels became demons.

How many demons does Satan have? Hard to say. If God created a billion angels, then there are more than 333 million who serve Satan. If God created a trillion, then 333 billion serve him.

Last night I had a dream about this and wonder: can demons repent?

Some say yes while others say no.

Personally, I think it’s more an issue that they don’t want to. They’ve been at it for at least 6,000 years and are probably convinced that they will indeed someday reign alongside Satan. Or, it’s possible they simply believe at this point that suffering in torment for all eternity is far more preferable to humbling themselves before God.

Is it possible that some have had second thoughts about joining Satan in his ill-fated rebellion?

It’s possible. Whether God would take them back is difficult to say.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?

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A great website for Christian apologetics

If you can, check out this site, the home of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry. Everything you need for Christian apologetics. Why you believe what you believe. What the Bible teaches. Debates between Christians and non-believers. When you go there, tell them Richard from My Two Shekels sent you.

Men with necklaces and rings–a Christian perspective

July 10, 2009 1 comment

In the church circles I’m from, men are prohibited from wearing necklaces. At college, it was also prohibited. I remember returning home from basic training and someone at church told me men don’t wear necklaces.

I pulled out my “necklace” and showed them my dog tags.

These days, I have a cross necklace that I wear on a leather string. I purchased the cross pendant two years ago at an engine show and finally got it made into a necklace. Problem is, the clasp above the cross keeps coming undone, causing the cross to fall down my shirt.

I actually have a rough sketch of a cross pendant that won’t come apart. All I have to do is find a machinist or blacksmith.

Same goes for rings. I wear a wedding ring and also would like to wear a ring on my right ring finger. I have a few designs in mind for a few rings to rotate.

I find myself wondering how it came about among some Christian circles that men were not supposed to wear any necklaces. Anyone care to enlighten me? Perhaps it’s just a preference that evolved into a conviction.

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Should we really substitute ‘love’ for ‘charity’ in 1 Corinthians 13?

 I attended Pensacola Christian College, which, when I was there, was a predominantly King James Version-using institution. Some teachers had no problems with the New King James, but for the most part, it was KJV. That didn’t stop one chapel speaker from reading a passage of scripture using a different word, a la the New Scofield version.

(For those who attended PCC in the nineties: if I said his name, you’d know whom I was talking about).

The speaker announced he was reading 1 Corinthians 13 but wanted to read the word “charity” as “love.”

Some wonder why the translators chose “charity” in this passage instead of “love” and almost automatically substitute love. Newer versions say love.

But is love really the right word?

I understand that while the Greek word for “charity” is ἀγάπη (agapē), the idea here is a love that’s put into action. According to the Strong’s Concordance, this Greek word is defined as affection, good will, love, benevolence. It is the love God not only has for us, but the love He expects us to share to others. My understanding is in the 17th century, when the King James Bible was published, such a word for practical love was “charity”.

Yes, I know much has changed since then, but it makes me think people should do research before jumping the gun and offering to “correct” a Bible passage.

My thoughts on Eddie Van Halen, Janie Liszewski’s recent wedding

I’ve made Eddie Van Halen the subject of a few satirical postings (all in good fun; however, even in the satirical realm I consider his struggles with alcohol and substance abuse 100% off limits), so I’ll say this. I was very happy for Mr. VH and Ms. Liszewski (now Mrs. VH) for their recent nuptials. His brother, Alex Van Halen, an ordained minister, presided while his son, Wolfgang, was best man. My hope and prayer for Eddie is that the Lord would bless him and help him stay clean and sober.

The one thing money can’t buy

“Weird Al” Yankovic, in his song “This is the Life”, says this about money: if money can’t buy happiness, then he guesses he’ll have to rent it.

Among other famous people, I’m reminded of the late rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who recorded a song “Mo Money Mo Problems”. Then there was Shaquille O’Neal, who won three NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and just recently was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers. In a 2002 Sports Illustrated interview, O’Neal talked about the stress he deals with, how he’s moody, hates talking on the phone, has a lot of problems and how he has one man watching his money and some other people who watch him. In the midst of this, O’Neal was making more than $10 million a year. O’Neal told the magazine he received phone calls every so often from former teammates, whom he didn’t even know, asking him for money.

Years ago, a minister at my church spoke of a friend who did maintenance work for many celebrities of yesteryear, among them an early icon on television. The friend spent time around them and said he was amazed how unhappy they were despite their vast wealth.

I am reminded of Solomon’s book Ecclesiastes. The Israelite king writes of how he had all the possessions, knowledge, wisdom, knowledge and women he could possibly want, but yet he was completely miserable.

Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1: “Vanity of vanities…all is vanity.”

In other words, the ultimate emptiness was realizing that all his wealth, possessions, wisdom and knowledge and countless sex partners left him empty.

Even now, as money is very tight for our family and I don’t know what tomorrow will bring in terms of finding employment and paying bills and providing for my family. But I do know if the Lord ever blesses me with finances, the best thing is to have a budget, be content with what you have and ask the Lord to provide ways for you to be a blessing to others who are needy.

And to remember: the money you have is not your money. It’s the Lord’s money, and it’s on loan to you. Be a good steward and seek first the kingdom of God.