Archive for July, 2010

Acts 10: Visions, Peter preaches to Gentiles, Richard inadvertently speaks fluent Finnish

This chapter in Acts really must make one re-think their Christianity for the good. It reminds me a little of Bruce Lee’s teaching of Jeet Kune Do which states, among many things, be flexible like water, discard what is not useful and be open to new things.

This chapter begins with a vision of Cornelius, a righteous Roman centurion (I do not know if he was the same one who said “Surely he was the son of god/Surely he was a righteous man” about Jesus on the cross). The passage says Connie (which I’ll call him for short) was devout, feared God and was generous with his donations and constantly prayed to God.

He saw a vision where an angel commanded him to send for Peter, and that Peter would tell him what next he needed to do with his life.

So, Connie sent for Peter who, while hungry and praying, received his own vision.

Pete saw a vessel coming down from heaven and on it was a spread of all kinds of unclean foods to eat. We suppose it contained pork, fish without scales (such as catfish, which I don’t care for), lobster and perhaps even a cheeseburger (Jews were instructed to not mix meat with dairy).

“God, you must be kidding!” Peter no doubt said. “This stuff is forbidden! I will not eateth it!”

This apparently happened three times (no doubt, a reference to the final chapter in John where Pete is asked thrice by Jesus if he [Peter] loves Jesus).

Pete was assured, yes, it was unclean, but God has cleansed, so shut your mouth (as far as arguing), open your mouth (for eating) and dig in.

Peter then learned three men sought him and that it was ok to go with them. They told him of Cornelius, the righteous centurion who was well respected among all the Jews, and how Connie wanted to hear Peter preach.

Peter left Joppa and went to Caesarea and, in his first order of business upon seeing Connie fall down to worship him, told Connie not to worship him since he (Peter) was just a man like him.

Peter told them how in Jewish law it was forbidden for Jews to have company with Gentiles, but that just as God had showed him it was acceptable to eat “unclean” food that had been purified, he was not to call any man common or unclean.

In other words, the Gospel is for everybody.

Pete then preached and in verse 34 announced that God is “no respecter of persons”, meaning that God is impartial and does not value people more because of their intellect, status or wealth. Instead, He accepts those who honor him and “[work] righteousness.” Peter then discusses Jesus’ earthly ministry, how He taught, preached, healed, died on the cross, arose from the dead and established the Great Commission.

Those there who were Jews who accepted Christ as their savior at that meeting, verse 45 tells us, were astonished by how many Gentiles came to accept Christ also. They began speaking in tongues, which I interpret to mean this: Peter’s words were understandable to those different nationalities there, and now those different nationalities could be understood by other nationalities also. The new Christians could converse with each other even though they did not speak the same language.

It would be like me, a native English speaker who speaks some Spanish, Russian and Mandarin Chinese, speaking with a Finnish gentleman named Markku Kaikkonen

Finland, where Markku hails from

and having this conversation:

Richard: Isn’t this great?!

Markku Kaikkonen: Yes, indeed it is!

R: I’m Richard, by the way. I’m from America. I grew up in Texas but now live in Michigan.

Mr. K: I’m Markku Kaikkonen, from Helsinki, Finland. It’s a privilege to meet you.

R: Likewise. Wow! You speak great English, Markku! I apologize for not knowing how to speak Finnish.

MK: Huh? I’m speaking Finnish!

R: How could you be speaking Finnish? I don’t speak Finnish and I can understand you just fine. You sound like you’re speaking English.

MK: I’m speaking Finnish, and so are you. In fact, I was just about to compliment you. I don’t encounter many Americans who can speak Finnish.

No, I’ve never seen this book, much less used it.

The new believers were then baptized and added to the church. Not surprisingly, they asked Pete to remain with them for a while. Perhaps to learn some Finnish.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer, true to the above hypothetical conversation, really does not speak or understand Finnish. He does know that the Finns call their country “Suomi” instead of “Finland”. Post comments here or drop a line to

Daniel 12: ‘All in good time’

I imagine Daniel must’ve been mentally exhausted at the end of his long life. He saw many visions, some wonderful and others horrifying. He also had to deal with royal egos, not the least among them King Nebuchadnezzar.

Chapter 12 takes place immediately after the events of Chapter 11 and is in itself a separate prophesy.

We learn in this chapter that Michael the Archangel will stand up for the righteous during a time of trouble that the world has never seen. It is possible this is a time of trouble that has taken place, but its wording suggests very strongly to me these are events that will occur in the Book of Revelation.

God’s people will be delivered, those who are found written in the book (my interpretation being the Lamb’s Book of Life) will be delivered, and that delivery is wonderful. The end times will be especially horrible; among many reasons, it’ll be the first time the world has seen what God is like when He is truly angry.

I wonder what went through Daniel’s mind in verse two when he saw the vision of dead people reanimating out of the dust of the earth for their final judgment: the righteous to everlasting life and the unrighteous to shame (their sins and wickedness on open display) and eternal damnation.

Years ago, when Dr. Jack Hyles autographed my Bible, he wrote as his life verse Daniel 12:3. It reads: “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.” (King James Bible)

Sirius, the brightest star visible in our sky.

This tells me that those in heaven who’ve earned rich rewards by becoming godlike and by leading many to Him will not just have glorified bodies, but will shine like the stars in the universe. Our sun. Sirius (the brightest star in our sky), a.k.a., “The Dog Star”. Deneb, Rigel, among a few. Perhaps some righteous souls will even shine like all the stars combined that comprise the Andromeda galaxy.

The Andromeda Galaxy, one of the Milky Way Galaxy’s closest neighbors at about 2.5 million light years away (or, around 150,000,000,000,000,000,000 miles).

Daniel is then instructed by this heavenly being to cease writing and seal his scroll; in the end times, the prophecies would be fulfilled and people would understand. Then, things will indeed be hectic. Many will become very well-versed in the Bible as they seek out God and study what’s going on.

Daniel then saw one more vision, that of two men on different sides of a river. One wonders when things will take place. The other man, who apparently went onto the water, said it would be for a specific appointed time.

I don’t know what it means in verse seven when it says “…he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.” Perhaps this will mean Israel has been made weak by the antichrist, or maybe it refers to Israel ceasing to become a nation in A.D. 70. I suspect the former.

Daniel wants to know what the end should be and, probably when. He is told, basically, “All in good time.”

In other words: you’ve done a great job, Daniel, but it’s not for you to know…yet. When the time is ready, your physical body shall be resurrected and reunited with your soul and you will know.

Many will be made righteous and will be purified, but not the wicked, who will not understand.

Daniel does learn that the time that passes between the ending of the daily sacrifice and the abomination of desolation (when, I suspect, the antichrist will defile the Temple of God) shall be 1,290 days (about 3.5 years) while those who endure and arrive at the 1,335 days (a little longer than 3.5 years) shall be blessed. I suspect the first set of days refers to the first half called the Tribulation while the second half refers to the Great Tribulation when things really start getting ugly.

To close out this book, Daniel is told to go his way, rest and then arise again at the end. I suspect this means that Daniel died shortly after recording this twelfth and final chapter of the book.

Next, we move on to Hosea, a prophet who must’ve thought God was joking when He told Hosea to marry a prostitute.

Richard Zowie is going through the Bible in his Richard’s Two Shekels blog when not commenting on Christian issues or blogging about his Christian walk. Post comments here or drop a line to

Richard’s Two Shekels on… for July 27, 2010

…No, I’ve never read The Prayer of Jabez (or, for that matter, any of Joel Osteen’s books). When I worked in Christian radio in San Antonio, it was a book everyone seemed to talk about. Then, when I finally got around to checking it out, it seemed to reek of Prosperity Gospel. You know: follow God, obey His commands and pray really hard and He’ll reward you with a fat bank account. That sounds very unbiblical. God promises to meet our needs, but I know of no Scripture where obeying God’s Word and being involved in church means you’ll hit the jackpot…

…One of the most tragic things I’ve experienced in life is that some of the most egotistical, condescending people I’ve ever met have been Christians. That should not be so…

…Speaking of the above, please don’t use that as an excuse to go inactive and drop out of church. God needs Christians to get to work and needs more to be the right type of Christian instead of complaining there are no right types. If you think Christianity has cornered the market on hypocrisy, you are mistaken…

…I have often wondered how horrible it must be like for a lost person who dies in their sleep. How long does it take for them to realize that their unspeakably-horrid nightmare is one from which they’ll never wake up?…

…I used to live in a town where there was a church at practically every corner. Despite this, the town’s Christian bookstore closed. I never understood how a store like that could go out of business in a town where so many attended church…

…Besides the Zondervan King James Study Bible, another Bible I like is the New Open Study Bible. One was given to me as a high school graduation gift by my church; alas, the Bible was packed into a box during a move and inadvertently placed in the basement. After a heavy rain and due to a sump pump problem, the basement flooded. The Bible was ruined. I haven’t seen it in any Christian bookstores but have found out it’s available for online purchase. I’ll have to do that sometime as I liked that Bible a lot…

…That Bible also had a lot of sentimental value, including a few autographs in it. Among those I can remember: my pastor, Tim Stowe of Beeville Baptist Church; Jim Schettler, then the pastor of Pensacola Christian College’s Campus Church; Dr. Arlin Horton, president and founder of PCC; Jonathan King, a pastor who worked at the Roloff Homes; Richard Martin, a pastor and a friend; Dr. Tim Lee; Dr. Johnny Pope; Dr. Jack Hyles; Dr. Gary Coleman (the pastor of Garland, Texas’ Lavon Drive Baptist Church and not the late diminutive actor).

I remember when Dr. Pope autographed and saw Dr. Hyles’ signature (Dr. Hyles performed Dr. Pope’s wedding ceremony and at one time was a good friend), Dr. Pope did a double take.

…John Shore, a Christian writer, said something about Christianity that I feel qualifies as an incontrovertible statement: “Fundamentalist Christians are too limited in their thinking, but liberal Christians too readily dismiss the fundamentalists.”…

Agree with me? Think I’m out of my mind? Post comments here or drop a line to

Great visit at church yesterday

Yesterday, my son Charles and I attended First Baptist Church in Vassar, Michigan (my wife Jennifer and my oldest son weren’t feeling well and the youngest decided he wanted to stay home and help Mom out). Very nice church. Friendly with clear Bible teaching. I felt very uplifted. Charles, 12, told me he really liked the youth program. A friend of his, Angel, attends the church. That evening, he went to another youth activity.

Jennifer and I have discussed different churches in the area, and one of our key requirements is an excellent youth program. It may be trite, but it bears repeating: kids who are bored in church today grow up to become adults who don’t attend church at all.

We may still attend other churches in the area, although sometime next week I hope Jenn and I are able to chat with the pastor at his office to ask him questions about the church. V-FBC so far looks to be a good fit, but I’d like to make sure of it.

Over the past few years, after spending many years attending Independent Fundamental Baptist churches, I’ve floated around in the non-denominational/Independent Fundamental Churches of America realm. There was a time two decades ago where I scoffed at anything pertaining to Southern Baptist. It would be ironic (not to mention tickling) if we ended up joining such a church.

Richard Zowie is a Christian blogger. Post comments here or e-mail him at

Can I recommend my alma mater, Pensacola Christian College?

July 24, 2010 2 comments

I wish it were a simple yes or no answer, but for me it’s not that simple.

On my satire blog, I posted about a year ago about how Pensacola Christian College is finally getting accredited and will become known as Pensacola Christian University. Again, 100% false. Readers have responded accordingly to this satirical story, some believing it and some getting angry with me for posting it. Those who believe it are grateful that PCC is finally getting “accredited” while others who don’t are angry I’d joke out of such a sensitive issue. It was my way of having fun with probably the most popular urban legend on campus when I attended–especially since it has negatively impacted me in many ways since graduation.

Recently, I received an e-mail from a prospective PCC student who read the blog posting and asked if I recommended the college. In my response I asked her what she wanted to major in and what she wanted to do for a living. I don’t feel comfortable giving a blanket response without knowing something about the student first.

Speaking of PCC, I attended Pensacola Christian College from 1991 to 1995. Originally a commercial writing major, after my first year I changed my major to history with an English minor since I felt the CW major focused far too much on graphic design. If I had to do it again, I would’ve double-majored in English and commercial writing and then would’ve probably tried for a master’s in creative writing or a branch of literature at a nearby university. (Those graphic design skills would’ve really come in handy, especially with designing a website and laying out newspaper pages). I may also have just stayed at home and attended a junior college, but I was so burnt out over attending what I deemed a worthless public school system that I was dying to attend a Christian college.

In many ways, PCC is no different than many Christian colleges. It has its great qualities, and it has its bad qualities.

Some of the great qualities are indeed great: you get lots of instruction in Bible, both in chapel, church and in the Bible classes and even in prayer group. When it comes to the doctrine of salvation, I believe what’s taught from the pulpit and in classrooms is 100% correct. On campus there were many wonderful people who absolutely loved the Lord, both students and faculty. PCC does have some excellent academic programs, one of which that comes to mind is nursing. When I was there, the criminal justice program had a decent reputation since the teacher who headed it, Mr. Darrell Pope, was a well-respected longtime veteran on the Michigan State Police. (Mr. Pope has since gone home to be with the Lord). Some of my best friends in life are those I met at PCC, and I have many fond memories of Fine Arts series events along with dating and stag outings and getting a chance to visit different areas of Pensacola.

And then there are the not-great qualities.

Please understand I’m not trying to “sow discord” among Christians. Instead, I’m giving an honest assessment.

As great a place as it might be, PCC is also very sheltered. I suppose it’s great if you’re a person who’s been beat up spiritually and who needs a place to “detox”. In some ways, a sheltering environment can be a good thing, but for young adults who will soon be venturing off on their own? In my experience, no.

True, I know that many will leave PCC and work in churches, on the mission field, as evangelists, as Christian school teachers or as some other church worker. Still, spending four years in a bubble where you’re not allowed to watch television (except for the news and certain championship sporting events), not allowed to listen to radio except for approved stations, are told when to go to bed, what to wear, how to have your hair cut, what type of contact you can have with the opposite sex doesn’t do a good job of that. Young Christians who grow used to decisions being made for them will have a much more difficult transition into adulthood. Been there, done that.

Many of the rules stem far more from legalism and a desire for a clean-cut image than they did from Biblical convictions.

What’s ironic is in many ways (such as the what to wear, how to have your hair cut), PCC mirrors the Army. Is it easier being in the Army than being a student at PCC? Not necessarily. (Keep in mind, anti-PCCites, I am a veteran). The Army might grant freedoms that PCC doesn’t, but the Army many times over could be far more anal retentive–most of the time due to sergeants and officers on power trips. PCC may have been annoying and frustrating at times, but it was in the Army that on one occasion I was so driven into anger, fear and frustration over the Army’s stupid rules I actually met with the chaplain to get some advice on how to deal with the stress. Never came even close to that at PCC.

Then there’s the accreditation issue.

Despite earning a bachelor’s degree from PCC, I entered the Army as an E-1 (the lowest enlisted rank) because the Army would not recognize my unaccredited degree. (Many fellow soldiers and even a few sergeants asked me why I wasted my time at an unaccredited college while I marveled at how some of the biggest morons and drunks I’ve ever met had accredited college degrees). I tried without success but apparently I didn’t pull the right strings, since I saw once in a PCC Update that fresh graduates of PCC were then commissioned as officers in the Marine Corps. I’ve lost out on several jobs due to PCC’s lack of accreditation and if I ever returned to college, I’d probably have to go as a second-semester sophomore (thanks to the 45 credits I earned in the Army from the accredited Defense Language Institute) instead of as a graduate student.

In the Spring 1994 semester, I had a conversation with PCC’s then-vice president and current Campus Church interim pastor, Dr. Joel Mullenix, about accreditation. The conversation was for research I was doing for a long short story that looked at PCC in the year 2073 when it would become Pensacola University (that anti-accreditation short story, written in the summer of 1994, remains unpublished). Dr. Mullenix, whom I liked a lot and consider one of the friendliest, most dignified people I’ve ever met, told me that PCC founder and president Dr. Arlin Horton’s refusal to be accredited stemmed from a concern that the college should be accountable to God and not to the state. Furthermore, the concern was that the college would then be told by a bunch of unsaved administrators whom they could hire, whom they could fire, what they could teach and, presumably, whether or not they’d have to have a union for the staff, faculty and student workers.

Fair enough, but there seem to be many wonderful Christian colleges out there (such as Ohio’s Cedarville University, Virginia’s Liberty University and Regent University) that are accredited but are turning out some wonderful Christians.

Also, at PCC there’s no such thing as “spring break”. When I was there, we had Bible Conferences during spring break. Instead of relaxing in your dorm or heading to the beach, you attended three services a day (morning, afternoon and evening). Each lasted two hours, minimum. Bible instruction can be great, but I remember practically nothing from the conferences (except when the exhuberant and informative Dr. Johnny Pope preached) except for nodding off and being bored due to the looooooooong, dry messages while wearing a suit inside a Dale Horton Auditorium where the air never seemed to circulate enough to make the air conditioning effective. What also made it a miserable week was that Pensacola gets warm in the spring, but during that week we had to wear a suit anytime we were outside our dorms. Ugh. Bible Conference made me hardly be able to wait to “relax” when classes would start up again.

Perhaps the biggest thing about PCC that concerns me, interestingly enough, stems from my time spent on a website discussion board of PCC graduates, former students and others. It was mostly an anti-PCC site, one where you could hear tales of hypocrisy, people getting dismissed from PCC without being given a chance to tell their side of the story and so forth. After a few years posting at that board, I chose to close out my account. Ironically, I encountered far more rudeness, condescension, self-righteousness and even hypocrisy from many of the “liberated” Christians there than I ever encountered from people at PCC. I left concluding there was no difference at all.

While I have left the board, I have made no attempts to get back on the college’s good side by opening a thread with an open letter of apology to PCC for frequenting the board. I don’t agree with everything with PCC and certainly didn’t agree with everything on that board, I do feel the board gives PCC something it desperately needs: accountability.

PCC, remember, has no student newspaper, and when the infamous Student Voice came out, students at the college were given very strict orders not to visit the SV–or else. Likewise, anyone caught visiting anything perceived to be an anti-PCC website while at college can expect to be kicked out or severely disciplined. If you’re an alumnus and openly visit such a site, expect to be shunned. Once upon a time, I “outed” myself on the board I was on and soon found I was no longer receiving the PCC Update and was no longer on the college’s official alumni site.

PCC may not be too thrilled about dissenting opinions, but let’s face it: we live in a fallen world and no matter how godly a Christian or organization is, there absolutely must be accountability. The college’s lack of accountability has also resulted in very wonderful people I knew at PCC who, today, want practically nothing to do with the college. One guy, “Jack”, is a prime example. I also find it funny that one girl no longer welcome at PCC now works with Contemporary Christian Music bands that are totally sold out to God and whose music sings His praises. (“Non-passing” music, of course).

Some former classmates of mine will give a resounding “Yes!” or “Absolutely not!” when asked if they can recommend PCC. I prefer not to do that. Instead, I advise the following:

1) Decide your major and research PCC’s program for your major carefully. Look at the classes, the credentials of the instructors and decide if it’s a solid enough program to warrant a second look.

2) Find out how important accreditation is to your vocation. If you want to work in Christian circles or plan to get a graduate degree from another Christian college, non-accreditation might not be a problem. However, if you’re training for a job that requires public certification (such as an engineer or accountant), PCC might not be a good fit. If you want to teach in a public school or in a school that requires a teacher certification, PCC most likely won’t work (trust me, I’ve tried; never mind that some of the most worthless public-school teachers have teacher certifications). Places like these want to see accredited degrees. Getting an exception is extremely difficult, if not impossible.

3) Talk to current and former students and get their input. What did they like, not like and what are their overall feelings? Would they do it again?

4) Find out what the rules are and ask yourself if they’re something you feel you can abide by. Former Campus Church pastor and PCC alumnus Jim Schettler famously had to get three haircuts before he could enroll back in the mid 1970s. I’ve heard urban legends of other male students who sport long hair, learn how short it must be cut and simply refuse to enroll and return home. One girl I used to date at PCC told me about how her brother visited the college, didn’t like the dating rules and decided not to go to PCC. Myself, I hated wearing suits all the time to each church service (even in the summer when I worked at the college); to this day, I seldom wear suits–even to church.

5) Pray. Seek godly counsel from Christians you respect and trust. I would strongly advise the type of Christians who not only know the Bible, but ones who know how to separate personal preferences from convictions (trust me, in Christian circles these lines get blurred quite a bit).

Would I send my kids to PCC? Considering my problems with accreditation and the way we’re raising our sons and how we want them to be prepared for the “real world”, probably not. Should they express a desire to go, I will lay out the pros and cons for them but will most likely discourage them from going. I don’t think it would be a good fit for them, but for other Christians, it might be a great fit. For others who wish to attend PCC, I wish them well and pray God will work in their lives and lead them according to His will.

Please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a “perfect” college. I’ve met PCC graduates who have nothing but glowing things to say about the college and other grads who think PCC is a stronghold for Satan. I have lots of respect for both those who recommend and don’t recommend PCC. Likewise, there are both pro- and anti-PCC people out there whose views and condescending attitudes disgust me. I would advise people not to discount PCC simply because of those who don’t like it, just like I’d advise people not to go based solely on positive recommendations a few have. Take any college out there, from the most leftwing state university to what seems like a great, more liberal Christian college and chances are excellent you’ll find students and faculty who love it and disgruntled former students and faculty who hate it. Cedarville, Liberty and Regent probably have their share of former students who wouldn’t recommend the college to their worst enemy.

I hope that helps you. This is just my opinion, one many Christians on both sides of the spectrum will differ with, so take it for what it’s worth and make the decision of where the Lord wants you to go.

Richard Zowie graduated from Pensacola Christian College in 1995 with a bachelor of arts in history and a minor in English. He believes God needs godly, wonderful people there as much as he needs godly, wonderful people at places like the University of California-Berkeley. Post comments here or drop a line to

Is it a sin to get tattoos?

Is it a sin to get tattoos?

This is yet another question where even in Christian circles, you’ll receive a wide spectrum of responses.

One school of thought is an emphatic “Yes!”. Getting tattoos violates Leviticus 19:28, which says: “Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.”

It’s that simple, they’ll tell you. No tattoos. Period. End of story. Next question.

Another school of thought insists this verse applies to a different dispensation, back when God wanted Israel to maintain separation from surrounding godly nations. Besides, they say, if we were to look at other verses in Leviticus, Exodus and Deuteronomy, we’d also execute kids for being disrespectful towards their parents and anyone who works on the Sabbath. Other verses in these books prohibit wearing garments of mixed fibers (personally, I absolutely hate those itchy 50% cotton/50% polyester t-shirts), mixing meat with dairy (meaning if an Israelite traveled through time and came here, they’d have to avoid cheeseburgers) and having sexual relations with a woman who is on her period.

While it’s sadly common for Christians to take Bible verses out of context, I wonder how many are aware there are actually three types of Old Testament laws: ceremonial (regarding the procedures for sacrifices and often done to strict measures to create a picture of the Messiah), moral and dietary (prohibited animals were generally unhealthy to eat).

Whereas the No-Tattoo School says the body is the Temple of the Lord and should not be defiled by permanent ink inserted into the skin, the Tattoo-If-You-Wish School counters with the temple-of-the-Lord verse is conveniently applied here but conveniently not applied whenever Baptists gorge themselves with a huge potluck dinner or drink lots of sugary sodas (especially the caffeinated kind).

<Richard stops writing, raises his hand and acknowledges he’s guilty as charged>

The NTS counters that the TIYWS have assimilated too much into worldly trends and desires and will split hairs and twist the Bible around until they can make it justify their heathen lifestyles.

The end result often is a draw as neither side is willing to budge.

Years ago, I remember taking my father to task for getting a tattoo while he was in the Army. This was back in my absolute black and white days when men had nice short haircuts, women had longer hair and wore dresses or culottes and where there was a rigid set of rules to live by. In those days of being an independent fundamental Baptist, if a minister had told his congregation that sunglasses were ungodly to wear, there would no doubt be a large pile of sunglasses in that church’s conviction box (a box in which you deposit clothes, music, movies and non-KJV bibles you feel guilty about). The belief was also that if a new Christian came to church with long hair, tattoos and earrings, it was only a matter of time before the Holy Spirit took control and the person got a haircut, removed their earrings and wore clothing that covered up their “tats”. If they continued in that path, then the pastor magically found ways to work in “shame for a man to have long hair” in one of his sermons. You know the drill.

I remember at Pensacola Christian College, there were students who were disciplined and transferred into different collegians (what PCC called fraternities/sororities) and were given hefty demerits for getting their collegian Kappa Psi Delta’s Greek symbols tattooed on their arms. Those guys by now, I suspect, have had had new tattoos to cover up those old ones. Or maybe the tattoos remain for sentimental reasons. Or maybe they’ve been removed through one of those light saber-type lasers.

Looking back 15 years later at 37, I find myself wondering if everything I thought I “knew” about whether or not tattoos were Biblical was ever correct in the first place. Since then, I’ve even done sketches of drawings of possible ideas for tattoos. As a sentimental man and as a Christian, there’s that idea of getting a cross inked somewhere. Or maybe “Restless”, a homage to my Dad (who used that as a CB handle when driving trucks) and due to my own restless nature. Or maybe something memorializing my late sister, Kimberly. Or maybe a word in Spanish, Chinese and Russian–the three languages I’ve studied.

What prevents me from following through and getting inked?

A few things.

First, I’m still not convinced it’s 100% ok to get tattoos. If you have doubts, don’t–especially when it comes to something as permanent as getting your skin inked.

Second, tattoos cost money, and with the money I owe still, I can’t justify spending $50-$500 on a tattoo at all.

Third, buyer’s remorse. I have a lingering concern that no matter how sentimental a tattoo would be, a week or so later I would look at it and think, “Oh, no! What have I done?!”

At this point of my life, I’ve come to a few wet-cement conclusions:

One: due to financial constraints, I have no plans for tattoos anytime soon.

Two: even if I am finally ready for it or if someone is dumb enough to offer to buy one for me, I’d have to do a lot of praying and seeking of wise counsel first from Christians I deeply respect.

Three: while tattoos at this point (and possibly for the rest of my life) aren’t for me, I will not look down upon Christians who have them.

Does not having a tattoo make you a more morally-upright, spiritually-pure person? Not necessarily. Some of the most wonderful, dedicated, knowledgeable Christians I’ve ever met have had tattoos while some of the most condescending dirt bags I’ve ever met in my life have been bare-skinned Christians.

For some Christians, having tattoos makes sense since their ministry is to a group of people where, to be accepted and heard, perhaps it helps to be inked. For other Christians, who serve in churches where the idea of permanent body art (or even temporary, for that matter) is abhorrent, tattoos are a no go.

To both groups, I wish them well in their ministries as they seek to evangelize, encourage and edify.

The closest thing Richard Zowie has to a tattoo is a surgical scar from when a benign cyst was removed from his back. The scar looks like the Great Red Spot of Jupiter. Post comments here or drop a line to

What’s your favorite book in the Bible?

For me, it’s Ecclesiastes.

I’ve blogged my way through the book, and in the next few weeks or so I’ll post on this blog what I’ve written.

Quite simply, it’s an Old Testament book about a king named Solomon who had everything he could possibly want in life (money, power, fame, women, knowledge, wisdom and women) and was still completely miserable. In short, it’s a late-life observation of Solomon’s life, the mistakes he made, the things he did and his ultimate conclusion that true contentment and happiness comes from God. We cannot fill the God void with money, fame, sex, knowledge and power and then wonder why we have no peace.

Solomon makes this observation: there is nothing better in life than to work, be content and honor God.

The same rings true for a 21st century Christian, doesn’t it?

Of course, I also like Revelation and other books.

Tell me, Christian Reader, what your favorite book of the Bible is. I’d love to read your thoughts.

Richard Zowie, a 1995 graduate of Pensacola Christian College and a Christian since 1981, remains a humble student of God. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at

Revisiting the debate about Bible versions

July 16, 2010 6 comments

In my youth, I was a staunch King-James-Only believer. I read from the King James and called it King James Bible instead of King James Version. A college classmate who listed the late Dr. Jack Hyles as one of his heroes used to say that “version” implies that there are other acceptable translations.

And bless God, there were not.

Even today, I still use the King James Bible primarily. I have a Gideon New Testament of the New King James. Somewhere in storage, I have a copy of the New American Standard Bible (which I originally bought a few years ago as a reference point). My wife has a New King James Bible. Lately we’ve been talking about getting all three of our sons Bibles that are more readable since all complain the KJB is far too complicated.

Heck, I went to Pensacola Christian College, took Bible classes, have read the Bible through a few times and there are still passages of the KJB that I need a good Bible commentary and a concordance to get through.

At PCC, there were even teachers who endorsed the New King James, and I knew of students who read the NKJB. Some students even read heretical versions like the New International Version (or, as evangelist Dr. Al Lacy deliciously likes to call it, the New International Perversion or, “N-I-V-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E”).

Likewise, there was a condescending twit a few years ago who, quite smugly, told me that the New American Standard Bible was superior to the King James Bible. (Note to the arrogant who might read this: a little humility can greatly enhance your argument).

A few years ago, a solid brother in Christ said something about Bible versions that really surprised me: it’s far better for a newer version to get read than for a King James to collect dust on the shelf, unread. Another guy named Peter, a roommate at PCC, pointed out that one of my favorite Bible teachers, Dr. Chuck Swindoll, did not use a King James in his sermons. “Besides, I believe it’s possible a person can go out and serve the Lord and do so with a version that’s not the King James,” Peter told me.

The King-James-Only debate was something I continued to ponder in the Army as I studied Mandarin Chinese for eight months and then Russian for a year and started to learn more and more about languages and translating and how it’s not a very cut-and-dry process.

Let’s face it: English is a littered, mercurial language, a witch’s brew of strange grammar rules (not to mention endless exceptions to the rule) and borrowed words from countless languages. Those who believe we are speaking the same language now that was spoken in England in 1611 are living in a dream world. Some linguistic scholars say English reached its zenith during Elizabethan times, and we have to wonder if the English we speak today is a indeed a step down from that used by William Shakespeare.

In English, there are also many dialects and sub-dialects: British English, Scottish English, Irish English, Canadian English, American English (with further variations depending on the region where you live), Australian English, New Zealand English and the English spoken in Africa, along with the English spoken by the hearing impaired.

When I look back on my time in Baptist churches and think of the many sermons I’ve heard preached, there have been a few ministers whom I’ve wondered if they really understood what a passage said. Is it impossible that a preacher today using a nearly-400-year-old Bible will misinterpret and misapply? One friend, Darrell, told a story once of trying to find a church and encountering one where the pastor talked about God turning His back on Jesus when He was on the cross. “Just as God turned His back on His Son, so must we also turn our backs on wayward children,” the pastor said.

Really? I thought. Does this man grasp the passage and that God turned His back on Jesus because Jesus became the sin for mankind?

When Darrell posted this on a website I once frequented, I read it and felt like asking him to tell me the church so that if I were ever in his area, I’d know which church to avoid. And wherever the pastor went to Bible college, I’d rather avoid that also. It also made me wonder if this man really understood what the Bible taught and if he was a victim of reading what he really didn’t understand and making wild misinterpretations.

For those who are King James Only, my question is this: with the evolution of the English language, is it possible that sometime within the next 50 to 500 years (assuming the Lord tarries and the rapture hasn’t occurred yet) that the language will evolve to where the 1611 King James Bible will become unreadable and incomprehensible?

If your answer is no, please consider this: Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was written in Middle English in the 14th century, around 250 years or so earlier than the King James Bible. If you read TCT in Middle English, it won’t make much sense. How about reading the Lord’s Prayer in Old English? Forget it. It’s practically another language.

One thing about the King James I find tickling is how it contains words that would practically get kids spanked for using them today. In 2 Kings 9:8 God commands the execution of King Ahab’s sons, specifically he who “…pisseth against the wall.” [Emphasis mine]


Back in those days, “to piss” apparently was an acceptable verb to use for “to urinate”. These days, it is considered vulgar, especially used in slang to mean becoming angry. What the King James (possible translating a Hebrew euphemism) was saying is that God wanted all males executed. And since men “piss” while standing up and women have a difficult time doing so…

Over the years, I’ve encountered godly Christians who use the King James, New King James, NIV, NASB, New Living Translation, and so on. There is also a 21st Century King James Bible out there and an updated version of the NKJB. Believe it not, there apparently is even an American King James Version.

This is not to say we should be careless with translations. I prefer Bibles that come from the Masoretic Hebrew and from the Greek Textus Receptus. If a Bible is translated from something else, it’s not for me. We should take great care in selecting the Bible we want to use: while I still prefer the KJB but am no longer a King James-Only person, I do believe that excessive carelessness in translations is exactly what Satan desires now that he knows he cannot destroy God’s Word.

Maybe I’m right. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in five years I’ll be a King-James-Only advocate again, or maybe in five years I’ll go nuts in my Christian liberties (I already wear a cross necklace).

Tell me what you think, Christian Reader.

Richard Zowie, a 1995 graduate of Pensacola Christian College and a Christian since 1981, remains a humble student of God. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at

Facebook reveals Christians who are still following God


The greatest miracle of Facebook is it allows you to re-connect with people you haven’t seen in decades. A few months ago I re-discovered Lance, a childhood friend from when I lived in Alvin, Texas around 30 years ago. Hard to believe it’s been that long. It seems like only yesterday he and I were playing baseball and football and I was getting on his nerves about going to his house to play that ancient, antiquated relic game called Atari.

Others I’ve connected with have been friends from high school (Bob, Lorin, Tami, Dean and Valkena), college (Tim, Rachel, Jason M and Bill), the Army (Steve, William, Mike, David and Angela) and even people I’ve met within the last 10 years as a writer (far too many to list). I also use Facebook to connect with professional acquaintances (Wendel, Tara, Terry, Steve, Tino).

Of the Christians I’ve re-connected with from college, it’s always fascinating to see what they’re up to now. Some are still living full-speed ahead for the Lord, perhaps as a minister at a church or as an employee at a Christian organization. Some are on completely different paths. One friend from college is now a professing atheist while another has theological and world views that are very different from mainstream Christianity. Others have made me wonder if they were really ever a Christian in the first place.

And then there are the Christians whom you’re proud of.

Recently, I found a guy named Ray, whom I knew at Pensacola Christian College for a summer and a semester. I worked with him and saw him every so often. Since Ray was from Maine, I often teased him about his accent. It was exactly that—teasing. I was tickled by his accent and remember how he used to make many people laugh at work when they’d ask him for an item and, needing to know the number of the item, he’d say, “What numba?” When they’d call out his name, he’d say, “Yeah! Talk to me!” Humor like that made a dreadful job tolerable.

PCC tends to be hit or miss when it comes to how receptive students are to its rules. You either learn to to tolerate the rules or you don’t. For those students who are being forced to go there by their parents (and believe me, there were a lot like that), it was four tortuous years. Some went, decided they didn’t like the rules and didn’t return. Many times I’d presume it was because they disliked the rules while other times it also was because they ran out of money. Others who really hated the rules badly and decided being on their parents’ good side wasn’t worth it would sometimes deliberately do things to get kicked out.

If memory serves correctly, Ray left PCC after a semester. He had different music standards than PCC did and seemed to find the college far too restrictive. I’ll never forget that time I told him about how “worldly” and “ungodly” I believed the Christian heavy metal band Petra to be. Ray responded: “Man, don’t be knockin’ Petra! I got saved at a Petra concert!”

At the time, it was practically unfathomable for me that anyone could find the Lord at a concert of a band representing perhaps the greatest oxymoron—Christian heavy metal. But as I observed Ray, I came to see that while he was different in his practices, he was indeed a Christian. Yes, there were unsaved people at PCC, but Ray definitely did not seem to be one of them.

Now, when I consider Petra and more-recent bands like Audio Adrenaline, I see God as a fisherman. Just as a fisherman uses different bait depending on the type of fish, type of day, type of year, type of water conditions, God uses different bait to bring people to Him. Some require a hellfire-and-brimstone message to come to God while others require seeing Christianity in action over a long period of time. I am reminded of how Pat Robertson, in his 1972 autobiography Shout It From the Housetops remarked about criticism he received for using contemporary music to reach younger generations that he would never reach that crowd with a spiritual diet of “milk and crackers.” It is infinitely better for a person to get saved at a “Christian heavy metal” than to never get saved at all. A failure to grasp this is one of the things that, in my opinion, absolutely plague the Independent, Fundamental branch of Baptist churches.

We’re quick to assume that when someone leaves a Christian college that they’ll go into a worldly downward spiral and never be useful to God. Thankfully, looking at Ray’s website, that’s clearly not the case. He plays guitar and seems to really love the Lord. He represents that paradox that seems to lurk for many sheltered Christians: if you want to see Christians who are on fire for the Lord, you often have to look outside the circles of dress shirts and short haircuts for men and dresses and no makeup for women. You’ll find it among Christians who dress in jeans, shorts, who listen to popular music, watch movies and where even on Sundays the wives, mothers and daughters often still wear pants. Some of the strongest Christians, some of the godliest people I’ve ever met have been in this camp.

Observations like this make me think that after almost 30 years as a Christian, I’m just now starting to have an elementary grasp of whom God truly is and how He operates.

Richard Zowie, a 1995 graduate of Pensacola Christian College and a Christian since 1981, remains a humble student of God. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at