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Things you must unlearn

Sometimes as a Christian, I find myself unlearning things I was taught that were either partially-false or completely false. Some of it was in church, other times it from fellow Christians and even comic books. 

One evangelist, who’s now with the Lord, loved the King James Bible so much that he felt that the verse Psalm 19:7 “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul” meant, if you weren’t led to the Lord with a King James Bible, then you’re not really a Christian. 

Even then, I disagreed with that.

As an adolescent, I read many Jack T. Chick gospel tracts and comic books. Not the best place to get grounded in theology: one Christian mentor years later would refer to the comic books as “trash,” saying they were based on “limited research.” One tract talked about how Catholics were not Christians because they worshipped Mary and the saints. 

A Catholic friend and I spoke about this, and they explained that they pray only to Jesus but call upon Mary and other saints in a sort of intercession to Jesus. 

That’s still not my style as someone who prefers to identify as non-denominational, as I personally don’t see a need to do that. With Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, you have direct access to God through His Son.

However, be that as it may, we are to avoid the sea of misinformation out there. Memes are notorious for it. People see, don’t bother to check, and assume them to be true.

I tell people: understand that different religions really believe, not what you think they do. 

Peter Gilmore, the High Priest of the Church of Satan, when asked, “Why do you worship Satan?” said on the church Website’s FAQ page: “We don’t.” Believe it or not, Church of Satan members are atheists who believe in nothing supernatural. They also believe the universe is completely indifferent towards mankind. However, many hear the word Satan and believe otherwise. 

I seldom speak out about Scientology, because I’ve been on its site and have read about its beliefs and am, frankly, still mystified what they believe. All I know for certain is it was founded by the late science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard. I also prefer not to criticize the Qur’an, simply because I’ve never read it. Undoubtedly, it has one thing in common with the Holy Bible: taking it out of context requires minimal effort.

Second Timothy 2:15 tells Christians to study to show themselves approved. Don’t operate on assumptions. Operate on facts.

Post comments here or email them to: richardstwoshekels@gmail.com

Should students learn about other religions?

An indignant friend posted on Facebook something that took me back to social studies class in sixth grade. That chapter of the book featured a picture in the Middle East, the temperature seemed to be around 120 degrees. Most wore long white outfits and hats and a man wearing a white hat fastened to his head by a dark agal. 

The friend was angry because the post was a homework assignment where a student had to list the five pillars of Islam. 

If I remember right, among the pillars are: giving alms to the poor, making a pilgrimage to Mecca, praying “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad* is His prophet.” 

Instead of the student answering the question, the parent wrote: “My son will not be a part of this in any sort of way! This is bad teaching material! He will not partake. If you have a problem with it, call our lawyer.”

After listing Bible verses, the parents also wrote this in the section where the student is to discuss Islamic beliefs and practices: “How about Christian practices? That sheet has never come home, this year or last!”

Is there middle ground to be reached? Sure.

I personally think social studies classes in public schools should explore all the major religions. Besides Christianity and what are considered its three subgroups, Catholicism, Orthodox, and Protestantism, that should include Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Buddhism, Shinto, etc. I also think students should learn about the basics governing atheism and agnosticism. This isn’t about indoctrination, it’s about education: teaching students about culture, what the religions are and what they believe.

In sixth grade, I learned about Islam that class and, after studying it, found it to be a works-based religion. I appreciated the lesson, but I came away more instilled in my Christian beliefs.

Some schools teach nothing about major religions, while some teach only about Islam. Much is said about the separation of church and state, but is a balance being achieved? 

I remember in Sunday school class in the mid 1980s. Our teacher, every week, would teach about a different religion and go through the founder, what the religions taught, and what the Bible said. In essence, it was designed to teach us why we as Christians believe what we believe. Some felt it was a waste of time, while some felt it was a great cultural lesson. 

I know there are some Christians out there who don’t like this approach. One Christian told me the only book he ever needs to read is the Bible. But, I think one reason so many Christians wither and quit the race and never grow in their faith is because they were never truly grounded. Growing as a Christian is more than just being able to quote a third of the Bible. It’s also about being a well-grounded person who can decipher the issues.

* In Arabic, Muhammed is spelled محمد, literally Mhmd. No vowels. Therefore, there are many spelling variations once transliterated.

Post comments here or email: richardstwoshekels@gmail.com

Free from the law

August 20, 2019 Leave a comment

Despite more than 30 years as a Christian, I could never quite process that and understand exactly what it meant. Finally, thinks clicked, thanks in part to a long-time mentor.

The Bible gives many types of laws: Noahic Law (you can now eat meat, capital punishment is in order), Mosaic Law (ceremonial for sacrifices, dietary for what Israelites could and couldn’t eat, moral for things they were prohibited to do, various laws, some of which are still applicable today). The different prophets also gave laws.

Jesus came and discussed the law in a new light. Paul talked about how Jesus’ sacrifice freed us from the law.

The purpose of the law, I finally realized, is to show that we can never measure up to God’s standards of holiness. And because of that, we’re sinners.

By becoming Christians, we are no longer bound to the law. However, there are laws we obey because we love God and want to serve Him and become closer to Him.

If there’s one law to obey, it’s Matthew 22:35–40. Jesus said we were to love God with all our heart, might, mind. We were then to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus then said all other laws and the prophets hinge on this commandment.

Post comments here or email them to: richardstwoshekels@gmail.com

Honey vs. Vinegar

April 19, 2013 Leave a comment

“You can get more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Anyone know who said this? Drop me a line at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. I’m curious.

I don’t know if this is a scientifically-accurate statement, but here’s what it’s trying to say: you can get a lot more friends and influence a lot more people by being polite than by being rude.

I am reminded of this verse from 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.”

A Christian friend who is suffering a lot right now told me of teaching once at a Christian school and how one person at the church tore into her on a problem instead of sitting with her, asking and listening. It wounded her greatly.

I also think of one Christian employer I had who could quote lots of scripture and was well-loved by people at the church. He also is the most rude, condescending person I’ve ever met in my entire life. And considering all the atheists, agnostics, wiccans, hedonists, and other alternate lifestyle types I’ve know, that is indeed beyond sad. Beyond pathetic. It is inexcusable. He was a man who apparently saw no need to be nice because he knew everything. I prefer humility, myself.

Many other Christians out there are hurting because too many “wise” older Christians have chosen vinegar instead of honey. It’s one thing to practice righteous indignation when needed, but it’s another thing to be unnecessarily rude or angry.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 1 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Some may read this blog title and wonder, “Is Richard still a Christian?”.

Yes, of course I am.

Others might wonder, “Is Richard backslidden?”

Frankly, I feel more alive as a Christian now than I ever have been.

While I don’t believe God programs certain people to accept Him and others to reject Him, I also do not believe salvation can be lost once attained. And, I also don’t believe that only specific denominations are true believers.

I still consider myself a Baptist, meaning that I believe baptism should take place after a person has reached the age of accountability and has received Christ, and I believe a person should study the Word of God and live a responsible, temperate life. However, I no longer consider myself an Independent, Fundamental Baptist (From here on out, we will abbreviate it as IFB).

Let me start with my background.

I became a Christian when I was eight. After my oldest sister left Mormonism (my parents did not regularly attend church), we attended an IFB church in Alvin, Texas, a town about 20 miles southeast of Houston. Then, we moved to Beeville in South Texas and after about two years attending what I’d consider a Southern Baptist Church, we again attended an IFB church.

In those days, the rules were: short hair for boys, no earrings or necklaces. Clean cut. One Baptist minister, whom I will not name, preached a revival service and announced: “Any man who wears an earring probably wears lace on his underwear!”

For women, they were to guard their modesty and wear dresses, skirts or culottes. No pants, not even Capri pants. Many wore no makeup; some men referred to cosmetics as “fake-up” and “mass-scary”. Hair had to be long or, if cut short, lady-like and easily distinguishable from men.

In the home, the husband was the ruler, although he was gently encouraged to cherish his wife. Many men took this to mean they were the boss, the absolute ruler of their home. This, not surprising, led to many having children living secret lives of rebellion as they grew restless having to share their parents’ IFB convictions that they themselves did not share.

In general: no movies (you might be going to the movies to watch the G-rated movie, but how do others know you’re not there to watch the R-rated one instead? Hmmm?). A strong discouragement of television, no alcohol, no tobacco, no drugs, no rock music, no country music, no music with a beat. No contemporary Christian music: no Steve Green, no Steven Curtis Chapman, no Amy Grant, no Carman and no Michael W. Smith (One famous IFB preacher referred to Smith as “Michael W. Smut”). I imagine some even disliked Rich Mullins because he grew his hair long. A David Benoit-style sermon on rock music was sure to include a story about how the beat of rock music was similar to the drum beat used by primitive African tribes to conjure demons.

Dancing? Forget it. Not even ballroom dancing.

Some would add: No fun, no kidding!

And when it came to the Bible, King James Bible only. Not King James Version, since the term version implies there are other acceptable Bibles to read in the English language. There was no room for the New King James Version or the New International Perversion. One friend at college grew up in Germany and often carried with him a German Bible on campus; there very possibly may have been some who murmured, “How come he doesn’t use a King James?!”

And, speaking of college, I attended Pensacola Christian College. To say there were strict rules at PCC is like saying Baptists love potluck meals. After college, I served four years in the Army. Initially, that was a culture shock for me since I went from sheltered church and sheltered college to the military. Lots of my fellow soldiers, drank, smoke, had tattoos and body piercings. Some didn’t believe in God, some had ideas of God that must’ve originated from a marijuana-induced haze while others couldn’t have cared less.

After the military, I attended an IFB church in Texas that wasn’t as strict (the pastor’s wife wore slacks at times), but the pastor still took time to warn us to not listen to music of the style of Madonna, AC/DC or Hootie and the Blowfish.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Why I am no longer an Independent Fundamental Baptist, Part 2 of 4

February 14, 2013 Leave a comment

That being said about my background, I offer this observation: the purpose of IFB, what many might call an ultra-bland, neo-puritanical lifestyle, is to eliminate all sinful elements that would deprive you of being a godly Christian, having an intimate understanding of the Scriptures and having an intimate relationship with God. Sadly, it has turned out to be more about control. If control runs amok without accountability, it results in a cult.

Also, while we were encouraged to study the Bible and ask questions, ultimately it was up to your pastor and church leaders to decide for you what is acceptable and what is sinful. One couple who taught Sunday school resigned from a church I attended rather than sign an agreement stipulating what they could and could not do in their private lives. Others choose to follow without question, even if their church leaders or pastor have no formal Bible training and show it by mispronouncing words in the Bible or showing a consistent inability to understand Bible contexts.

Often I’d see things that, now, leave me speechless. Once during a revival, there was a minister who, as he warmed up early his sermon, took off his suit jacket, removed his tie and preached in his white, short-sleeved dress shirt. The sermon was about continuing in the faith, and somehow, the subject shifted to how women dress.

LADIES,” he thundered in a gravelly voice that reminded me of a used car salesman yelling out all his special deals during a 30-second television commercial, “Deuteronomy 22:5 still means the same thing today that it meant thousands of years ago!”

Any IFB woman knows what this verse says: “The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman’s garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.” (King James Version)

The verse is interpreted to mean women should not wear pants; ostensibly, men should also not be cross-dressers or transvestites. The fact that Deuteronomy 22 has lots of other verses the same Baptists probably don’t heed, and that fact that many Christians and non-believers alike probably don’t realize that Mosaic Law consists of an intricate network of dietary, moral and ceremonial laws are blog postings for another time.

That being said, I recall a few years ago taking pictures of a church carnival. A woman wearing modest culottes rode down an inflatable slide. And, for about three seconds, her culottes rode up, showing off her thighs and underwear. I did not get a picture of that and if I had, I would have deleted it. I was too busy marveling that a woman riding down the slide in jeans or capris could have been more modest than the woman wearing “women’s attire”.

One very wonderful female Christian friend I know tells me she hates culottes.

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Do cliques exist among Christians? Yep

April 26, 2012 3 comments

For those reading this who don’t know me, here’s a quick description of who I am: a quirky writer who sees the world differently. I’m clumsy. Convention often bores me, and for some my sense of humor is far too esoteric. I am lousy with my hands, don’t smoke, don’t drink or don’t do typical “guy” things.

I became a Christian in 1981 at eight, but over the years still struggled to find acceptance. I wore clothes that weren’t stylish. I didn’t wear my hair in stylish ways. I was still discovering myself and often told non-sequitur jokes or made non-sequitur comments. I had strange obsessions (ducks, pens, certain movies, baseball). I didn’t know it at the time, but I’m actually a mixture of both ADHD and Aspergers. Attending Baptist churches in my teen years, I always felt there were some people who didn’t accept me because I didn’t behave in patterns they were accustomed to.

After attending a public high school and often feeling out of place outside my close circle of friends (Bob, Lorin, Joe, Valkena and Sean, to name a few), I shifted gears and attended a Christian college. Even at Pensacola Christian College, while I made many wonderful friends, I also felt a strong sense that some there did not accept me or even try to, simply because I’m different. 

Years after PCC, as I began to understand more of who I am and why I say and do the things I say and do, I decided to re-connect with lots of former PCC classmates at a website that was a chat board. Everything was open for discussion. And some of the biggest things open for discussion were how bad the administration had been, how many backstabbers there were and how wrong the college had been in its rules, doctrines and theology.

And after a few years of being on the board, it became apparent to me that I would always be an outsider due to my different sense of humor, my perspectives. Some were kind, many were very antagonistic. I left, concluding that in their overall rudeness and condescension, they were no different than the elite, “evil” administration they condemned.

And so was the case in other Christian circles. My soon-to-be ex-wife a few years ago told me my sense of humor caused some at our church bewilderment and wondered how she put up with it all the time. Well, if they’d bothered to get to know me or ask, they would’ve learned humor is my stress reliever. And at the time, I had a lot of stress in my life. They didn’t ask, because, well, men aren’t supposed to be high-strung or exhuberant. They are supposed to be assertive, be able to fix things, go hunting, and so on.

During my separation, I did something I’ve always wanted to do and got involved in a local theater. Currently, I am a member of the Clio Cast & Crew and for the past month or so have been rehearsing for a part in the play A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

And for this amount of time, I have had the time of my life as I’ve been surrounded by wonderful people who seem to accept me for who I am. Some are Christians, some probably are not, but what I enjoy is that I feel far more at ease among my fellow castmates and director and assitant director than I do among many conservative Christians.

And, yes, many of the above lean more towards the left politically while I remain an independent conservative.

It’s amazing to me just how easy it has seemed for me so far to gain acceptance in this group despite my issues, and how frustrating it is that I could go into the average church and probably be labeled different almost immediately. It’s almost like among thespians, diversity is not only accepted, it’s celebrated.

I suppose this shouldn’t be surprising: one song says that if Jesus showed up in the average church today, some parishioners would gripe that His bloody foot prints were staining the carpets. As my friend Lisa pointed out, others would gripe that Jesus’ disciples reeked of fish.

I take comfort knowing from the Bible that God often worked with the outcasts. Abraham had trust issues. Moses hated public speaking and probably stuttered. Jacob was a con man. David was the youngest son who probably wasn’t taken seriously by his older brothers, and later he would become an adulterer and murderer. Jesus’ ancestral bloodline contained incest, prostitution, murder, ungodliness. Paul had anger issues while Peter was very impulsive. And yet, God loved them and worked with them all. What is important to God is that we desire to follow and serve Him and make Him first in our lives.

The Bible gives us a set of clear rules to live by, and while these rules are important, sometimes the lines blur and subjective views of conformity magically turn into Biblical convictions, God wants a relationship with us, and as we get to know Him, we start to see things from His perspective.

And one thing I believe is God loves us despite all our quirks and flaws.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian for 30 years and is still learning. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Interview with blogger and fellow PCC alum Nolan Bobbitt: Part 1 of 2

March 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Nolan Bobbitt, a fellow Pensacola Christian College graduate, is a great example of someone I knew of at college (but not on a personal basis) but have, in recent years, exchanged e-mails with him every so often. I remember at PCC he had a reputation as a friendly, wonderful guy who loved people and wanted to serve in the ministry.

After I graduated from PCC and spent time in the proverbial real world (which included a four-year enlistment in the U.S. Army, where so many forbidden things at college were done by most as an afterthought), I began to discover the internet and websites that were both favorable and not favorable to PCC.

On one website I discovered an essay by Nolan titled: “ISOLATIONISM: The Gospel of the Fundamentalist Movement.” Sometime in the near future I will post it on my blog, as it is much-needed reading about how Christians should be insulated but not isolated from the world.

Nolan Bobbitt

These days, among Nolan’s ministries is a website, where he blogs. As I’ve read his blog I have grown to admire both the content and the design. Just a few years ago, I learned what a blog was, how to choose a server, how to post, how to create one working within the allowed parameters. And, yes, how to deal with angry readers who think I’m far crazier than I actually am.

Since blogging is still relatively new to some Christians, I decided to ask Nolan a few questions about blogging, how he got into it and how Christians can use it as a ministerial tool…

Richard Zowie: When did you first start using the internet?

Nolan Bobbitt: I started using the internet back in the dial-up days, around 1995.

RZ: When did you start blogging?

NB: Wow, it’s hard to believe, but I started blogging back in 2005.

RZ: What types of growing pains did you have when you first started blogging? Do you still find yourself wanting to tinker with your blog’s layout, format and what you write about?

NB: Sure I went through the typical blog growing pains, and the funny thing is, there are still some pains there from blogging, but they are a different kind. In the first couple of years, I was really consumed with growing an audience and trying to get high-profile “celebrity Christian” bloggers to read my stuff or write a guest post so that I could have their readership come my way. I obsessed over having a cool blog layout and header.

These days, it’s a little different…I obsess over writing something of substance and value, rather than growing a broad readership. I actually have taken an unintentional break from blogging. I was getting into a really good rhythm and posting at least 4-5 times a week, and then, I just stopped writing. At this point, I really need to update the “look” and layout of my blog, but I’d actually rather just have something that’s worth reading posted there more consistently.

RZ: Do you run across Christians who are opposed to blogs or to being on the internet? If so, what do you tell them?

NB: Oh, I am sure that there are a few Christians who are opposed to blogging or the internet, because they think that it is too “worldly.” I would tell the opposed that the internet may be one of the greatest evangelism tools that the 21st century will see if harnessed to further the Gospel in a compelling way!

In Part 2, Nolan will discuss his thoughts of how blogs can be used for Christian ministries.

Richard Zowie has blogged at Blogspot, Livejournal and now primarily uses WordPress. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Time Management and God

February 20, 2011 Leave a comment

An odd title for a blog posting, when you consider that if God were to come to earth in some corporeal form, we would not see a watch on his right wrist (the left-hander in me likes to think of God as a southpaw). Watches are for those who are restricted to 24-hour days. God is above time. 2 Peter 3:8 tells us a thousand years is but a day to God, and a day is like a thousand years.

I imagine it like this: God can see every single event in human history happening at the same time. To humanity, we’ve been around for thousands of years. To God, it’s irrelevant.

That being said, since we are bound by time, it’s best to make the most of it.

Very difficult, indeed. I often succeed at getting up and reading my Bible, but often I fail. Procrastination is my weak spot, and, admittedly, I loathe getting up early in the morning. At college, when I’d try to read the Bible on a few hours sleep, I’d end up reading the same sentence over and over and over and over again.

What is the solution?

Get sleep and purpose that before your day begins, you will make time for God. Even if it means cutting back on Facebook, Twitter, e-mail or other distractions.

God wants to spend time with us, to reveal Himself to us, and when we don’t make the time to spend time with God, I believe it hurts God far more than we can possibly imagine.

Richard Zowie has many opinions on Christianity, some of which just might be correct. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Richard’s next poem: Twenty-nine years

February 15, 2011 Leave a comment

2-14-11 — Twenty-nine years

By Richard Zowie

Twenty-nine years

As a Christian

Have taught me

One iron, firm, dense, immutable fact:

I still have much to learn.

Still, I fret not.

When I read and struggle to grasp

Romans, Galatians, Corinthians, Psalms.

I well know

Daily Bible reading

As the years go by

Will make the combination locks’

Numbers and sequences

Easier to see

Easier to grip

Easier to turn

Easier to pull at the right time.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian for–yep, you guessed it–29 years. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

My devotions for 2011

December 23, 2010 Leave a comment

The good news is, I have been keeping up on my devotions despite some radical changes in my life. I lament that it has taken an emotional personal tragedy for me to get off my lazy rear end and become the type of Christian God wants me to be. This includes reading the Bible daily, praying, attending church and so forth. I am also becoming closer to my sons.

I had a Bible reading list I’d started around 2003 and had planned to complete that list around May or so and then spend the rest of 2011 catching up so I could get the Bible read through by the end.

As I’ve blogged and read, I have decided that is an unwise course.

When it comes to Bible reading, it is always best to focus on quality rather than quantity.

It is useless reading 20 chapters daily and then, some time later, having little idea of what you read. God wants us as Christians to be intimate with Him, and the way to do that is to read the daily allotment.

I plan to finish as much of the list as I can by December 31 and then on January 1, begin reading the Bible in the passages I did not finish and then once all those are read, re-reading what I have read so far to complete the Bible through in a year.

Ideally, I am looking to read from the Old and New Testament every day along with a Psalm and possibly even a Proverb. When it comes to reading, I will split my time between the King James Version and the New King James Version (I am not a big fan of the NASB or NIV, but to each their own; some wonderful Christian brothers tell me the New English Version is good).

Thoughts, anyone?

Richard Zowie will celebrate his 30th year as a Christian in October 2011; however, he still has much to learn. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

12-3-10 devotions: Hosea 8-10, Acts 16, Psalm 33

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

I did my Bible reading Friday night after my work was done for the day, and I was upset with myself. Devotions should really be done in the morning–or at least begun in the morning.

In my current path, I think what I will try to do is read the Old and New Testament in the morning and at night, read from the Psalms and Proverbs. Or perhaps it is best to read it all in the morning and to take a closer look at each passage at night; each delve into Psalms and Proverbs provides encouragement to take on the day.

What works best for you, Dear Reader?

I knew of one man who was serving at the Roloff Homes and spoke at my then-home church, Beeville Baptist Church, to speak. He told of how he was reading the Bible through in a month.

Wow! I thought. That is a LOT of reading.

Sometime I may try that just to see if I can accomplish it, but I’m leery because with my short attention span, it would be a classic case of quantity over quality. At least three times in my life I’ve read over Old Testament books like Ezekiel, Amos, Obadiah, the other Minor Prophets along with tiny New Testament books like 1, 2 and 3 John and can barely–if at all–tell you what they were about. In fact, if I died today, I’d have to ask God to let me have a crash course on what Obadiah and other books were about since I must presume that, until we are completely perfected in heaven, it is possible still to feel embarrassment in heaven. (Perhaps some young Christian may even go up to David and say, “Yo! David! Was Bathsheba as hot as the Sports Illustrated swimsuit models?!”)

Rabbit trail aside, what I am trying to say is I like the year-long approach to Bible reading much better.

That being said, what I might do is when I finish reading the Bible through (I am almost halfway through with my current plan that, sadly, I have been doing since 2003), I may see if I can read the Word of God through again before the end of 2011. We will see.

That being said…

Hosea 8-10: In these chapters, Hosea continues speaking to the brick wall that is the hardened heart of Israel as he urges the nation to repent and not face the humiliation of God’s correction. I imagine as he returned home for the night, perhaps Gomer even gave him encouragement and insight. “Honey, you won me back through tough love, and that’s what you need to have in your message to Israel–tough love.”

It’s a question I intend to ask Hosea someday. I am so glad now that when I get to heaven I won’t have to say, “Hello, Hosea! I’m ashamed to have to tell you this, but I don’t remember what your book was about!”

Hosea 8:14 says this: “For Israel has forgotten his Maker, and has built temples; Judah also has multiplied fortified cities; but I will send fire upon his cities, and it shall devour his palaces.”

Acts 16: This chapter touches briefly on a subject I intend to blog about in the near future.

Circumcision.

Timothy, a Christian whose Mom was Jewish and whose father was Greek, was not circumcised. He was in the ministry in Lystra and Iconium, and Paul had Tim circumcised. Since his ministry was among Jews (who were and are still circumcised), it was determined Tim could be a more effective missionary if he were circumcised.

Yes, by modern standards it seems silly that ancient man could get so hung up over foreskins, but it’s about how you can best tend to the needs of those you minister to. Having no respect for the culture of a country you work in makes you an ineffective missionary.

That being done, Paul continued to minister and lead people to the Lord, including the very prominent businesswoman Lydia, a merchant of purple in Thyatira.

Also in this chapter, Paul and Silas were famously beaten and imprisoned for exorcising a demon from a girl who told people’s fortunes. Paul saw her anguish and ordered the demon to leave her, which angered her masters since it deprived them of their lucrative income.

So, Paul and Silas were jailed and through their testimony of praising God despite their tough circumstances, the jailer came to know Christ. I wonder what would have happened had they moped, cried and complained? The jail probably was not a very pleasant place to be, and we can hardly imagine the miserable times there as they were beaten.

After leading the jailer and his family to the Lord, Paul then informed the officers of the local legal community that he and Silas were Roman citizens and that it was illegal to beat them without a trial.

Oops!

This was no doubt why tradition says Paul eventually was probably beheaded instead of crucified. It has been said crucifixion was the most severe form of Roman capital punishment: no Roman citizen could be crucified.

Reading about Paul and his trials leads me to one incontrovertible conclusion: I may be dealing with heartaches and craziness in my own life, but compared to Christians in the Middle East, Sri Lanka, China and other places, I practically live in Beverly Hills.

Psalm 33: As I read through the thirty-third Psalm, I wonder if it has been made into a song. I imagine David in heaven in a recording studio with musical instruments we cannot even begin to imagine, instruments that play melodies well beyond the limits of finite human sound.

In short, it is a Psalm encouraging musicians to use their talents to praise God.

Verse four tells us: “For the word of the LORD is right, and all His work is done in truth. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the goodness of the LORD.”

This Psalm also speaks of God’s work during Creation (before man ruined things) and how God is in ultimate control over the affairs of man. It speaks of how God works in every human individually, placing things in their hearts that He hopes will bring them to Him.

Verses 18-22: “Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His mercy,

“To deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine.

“Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield.

“For our heart shall rejoice in Him, because we have trusted in His holy name.

“Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You.”

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. He hopes in the coming months to complete his first visit with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

 

A very quick note about this blog

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

I have learned recently that there are people who find Richard’s Two Shekels to be an encouraging blog. This encourages me more than readers could ever possibly know, and it inspires me to follow the example of the ant and get busy.

That being said, when I blog about my Bible reading I have decided to shift gears and not attempt to give a detailed exegesis of each chapter. This will get boring quickly. So, when I read the Bible that day I will blog about what passages I read, the highlights, things that really got my attention and how it applied to me.

And, of course, as the mood strikes and the need arises, I will also blog about issues in Christianity. Perhaps this weekend I will blog about that football player who blamed God for dropping a game-winning touchdown pass.

My latest blog posting should be up on Saturday.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian for 29 years and feels he still has a lot to learn. He enjoys listening to Dr. Charles Swindoll and is a former member of the King James Only movement (he still prefers the KJB but also likes reading the New King James and has been known to check out the ESV and NASB. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Acts 14: Paul faces persecution, gets a headache

December 2, 2010 Leave a comment

Acts 14 represents the latest tale of what turned out to be some of the misadventures of the Apostle Paul. Last time we visited, he had led many to the Lord but, naturally, made many enemies. At Iconium, those Jews who chose not to believe decided to infiltrate the Gentiles there and get them to reject Paul.

Understand that Paul’s preaching was an extension of Jesus’ preaching. It wasn’t just the following of a new faith, but in many ways a completely new way of thinking. After all, Jesus had preached once that while adultery is wrong, a man is committing adultery in his own heart just by lusting after a woman (something that’s very applicable in our own culture where even in the summers in Michigan, it’s still easy to see women showing off their bodies).

He and his friends stayed a while, but the city then became divided: half sided with the unbelieving Jews (by the way, that is NOT a redundant term despite what any anti-Semite will tell you) and the other half supported Paul. Perhaps much of the hatred was because Paul, who had been the Angry Saul who persecuted the church, was now preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They then fled to Lystra and Derbe to avoid death by stoning (getting heavy rocks thrown onto you rather than being forced to smoke marijuana).

Paul then healed a crippled man, which led people to mistakenly think the two were Greek gods: they considered Barnabas Zeus and Paul–due to his being the chief speaker–Hermes. The two then had to explain to the people they were not gods but that they served the true, living God. It proved to be a witnessing opportunity.

Things seemed to be going well until some of the angry Jews from Antioch and Iconium reached the city and stoned Paul.

I cannot imagine the agony of being stoned as heavy rocks are thrown onto your head, torso, shins and other sensitive parts of the body; a heavy stone dropped or thrown with enough leverage could easily crush the skull or ribcage.

However, God had other plans and Paul miraculously survived (our atheist friends would insist the angry Jews just suffered from lousy aim or, if that failed, the Bible itself is just a collection of fables and nothing more).

Paul then told other Christians about the trials they must face when preaching the Gospel. They preached, prayed and fasted. Paul then concluded that his suffering allowed God to open the doors to share the Christian faith with the Gentiles.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Homosexuality: a Christian perspective–first observation

October 12, 2010 11 comments

I’ve been chatting online with one particular Christian friend. I knew “Sammy” back at Pensacola Christian College, and he told me about what he’s up to these days. In previous messages, he and I debated about whether homosexuals serving openly in the military was pragmatic. Sammy felt his friends should have nothing to hide.

And in a private message this past week, one where I asked him some questions about the Christian church and how it deals with gays, Sammy outed himself to me.

He told me about his life growing up, his feelings about being gay and how he has witnessed to witness to gay men (including some who are dying of AIDS) whom, I suspect, would probably never listen to a heterosexual Christian.

Sammy tells me that many Christians have forsaken him. The ironic thing is that in reading Sammy’s testimony, I see far more Christianity than I do in some Christians who can quote large chunks of the Bible.

(Feel free to disagree with me, Condescending Christian).

While I’m not as ultra-ultra-ultra conservative on the gay issue as I used to be (I’ve worked with a few open gays and found them to be far more professional and friendly than some raging heterosexuals I’ve known), I’m in no hurry to jump on the gay rights bandwagon. What I am looking to do, though, is study Scripture and ponder on some areas.

For those Christians who view gays as undesirables who should quarantined and shunned by the church, they should visit the Gospels and read about all the “undesirables” Jesus spent much of His time with (prostitutes, tax collectors and even Samaritans–whom the Jews absolutely despised). They should also re-read the Book of Jonah, which, besides the story about the giant fish swallowing Jonah and putting him back on the path to Nineveh, teaches that God wants the entire world to come to Him–not just the people who act, dress, talk and look the way we think they should.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer who, though a Christian for 29 years, still has a lot to learn about God, the Bible, the world, life, etc. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

 

Are Christians oblivious towards Satan and what he wants to do?

August 21, 2010 3 comments

He hates Christians and wants to destroy their testimonies, their lives and their careers.

Yes, I know some will roll their eyes and think of this as John Madden-style analysis, but I often wonder if Christians are really aware of this as much as they should be.

At Pensacola Christian College, I remember once casually asking Mr. Bob Greiner (who has since gone home to be with the Lord) about the rumor that Daryl Hall of the pop music duo Hall and Oates had once attended Mr. Greiner’s alma mater, Bob Jones University.

Mr. Greiner thought a moment.

“I don’t know, but anything’s possible,” he said. “I knew one guy at BJU who was studying for the ministry but is now a member of the Hare Krishna movement.”

Today, I am reminded of some people I know that if you looked at them and read about them, you’d hardly believe they once attended a very conservative Christian college and seemed like people who really loved the Lord.

There have also been the countless stories I’ve heard of or even know of directly of pastors, evangelists and missionaries who left the ministry.

I wonder how many Christians truly grasp that a) Satan hates our guts with all his heart, soul, mind and might and b) He wants to destroy us so that c) He can take with him as many damned souls into the eternal lake of fire as possible.

I knew one guy at PCC who wanted nothing more than to be an evangelist. He is now divorced and while living for the Lord and still attending church, is out of the ministry. Every day I wonder if perhaps that might have changed had I made it a habit of praying for him and being a far better encourager towards him when I roomed with him.

Richard Zowie is a Michigan-based writer. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

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 richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

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 richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Everyone needs accountability–even the godliest of Christians

Two years ago, I initially blogged about the need for accountability. Lately I’ve chatted about it with a few people. Sometimes we as Christians live in a vacuum and find it hard to understand why all Christians would need it. In the past few years, though, we’ve read of pastors stepping down from the pulpit due to immorality. Back in the 1980s, I remember this the mess Jimmy Swaggart made and how he tried to clean it up with his infamous “I have sinned speech”:

We know from the Bible what happens when you have no accountability. King Asa imprisoned a prophet who confronted him about his backsliding ways. He was, no doubt, a man not used to listening to what he didn’t want to hear. King David committed adultery and then murder and went on a spiritual spiral until the prophet Nathan stood before him and confronted him with this infamous words: “Thou art the man!” One has to wonder if David simply felt after writing many Psalms and being a man after God’s own heart that he was above needing accountability.

Wrong.

More recently, a Christian friend was telling me about how he once had a terse conversation with the head of a Christian ministry regarding the rough treatment of one particular employee at the ministry. One has to imagine if it was terse because the person being confronted wasn’t accustomed to someone telling what they didn’t want to hear.

It is a reminder for me to make sure I’m touching base regularly with those I’ve entrusted with my accountability. A Christian who isolates themselves and makes themselves believe they are completely immune to criticism are setting themselves up for a fall that’s spiritually and emotionally humiliating–not to mention the terrible testimony that will result.

Richard Zowie blogs about Christian issues. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

The Zowie Family searches for a church, Part 1

Since my wife had just recently been discharged from the hospital with a heart problem that she’s now treating with meds, a low-fat, low-sodium diet and by losing weight, I decided to use my day off last Sunday to engage in a long put-off task–finding a good, local church to attend. I work two jobs, so it’s a challenge having work scheduled around church services.

We had attended one in Lapeer for the past few years but decided to look for something closer (among other reasons). On Easter Sunday, I visited a nice church in Frankenmuth, but it wasn’t a good fit. The preaching and contemporary music weren’t bad, but they had two services due to overflow: 9 a.m. and 10:45 a.m. When we arrived there, I was told that they did not have children’s church at the 10:45 a.m. service, which really soured me. If the day comes that we are still looking for a church and they’re in their own building again and are able to offer normal services and offer children’s church at a decent time, we’ll check them out again.

This past Sunday by myself, I attended First Baptist Church here in Vassar. The people were pretty friendly, and I liked the Bible teaching. The pastor also encouraged anyone who didn’t know the Lord to get that settled, which was also a huge plus. Some snooty Christians treat invitations as something only done in the “embarrassing” circles of Independent Fundamental Baptists.

As someone who’s heavy and is losing weight, I don’t have any dressy clothes in my closet that fit. So, I wore a nice pair of jeans, tennis shoes and a button-down shirt. Turns out, many of the men in the church also wore this style. It reminds me a little of that one church’s slogan: “Dress casual. Jesus did.” Nothing is more embarrassing than to go into a church and see you’re extremely under-dressed.

Overall, I liked FBC in Vassar. There are two other churches in the area I plan to check out, but I definitely liked what I saw. And, of course, it’s only a few blocks away from our house.

I come from a Baptist/Independent Fundamental Churches of America/Non-denominational background. Here’s what I look for in a church:

Teaching of the Bible. Preaching is great, but I really like it when a pastor digs deep into what the Word says and telling how it can be applied to our own lives. Two former pastors, including Don Ohm of San Antonio’s Lighthouse Baptist Church, are great at this. You come away knowing something about the Bible and its historical backgrond.

Separating personal preferences from convictions. In Baptist circles, I’ve seen this far too much as the lines between personal preferences and convictions frequently get too blurred. One pastor decides he doesn’t like Michael W. Smith’s music, and then soon it becomes a Biblical dogma that Smith’s music is not to be listened to. I remember once that the late Dr. Jack Hyles once referred to the “Jesus is the Answer” singer as “Michael W. Smut”. It’s one thing to not like the Power Rangers or the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (I personally find the turtles very obnoxious), but if you’re going to tell your youth group they’re “new age”, do research to see what they are about, compare it with the Bible and make sure it’s really harmful rather than just a harmless kids’ entertainment.

Contemporary music. I used to be vehemently opposed to Contemporary Christian Music, until I started learning a few things. First, as one pastor once said, today’s CCM is tomorrow’s traditional music. IFB-ers love Fanny Crosby’s hymns, but my understanding is in her day she was considered pretty worldly and radical with her music. I love songs like Watermark’s “More Than You’ll Ever Know”, Stacie Orrico’s “Don’t Look At Me”, Rebecca St. James’ “Don’t Worry” and Crystal Lewis’ “Only Fools”. Huge blessings, including the evil Michael W. Smith’s song “Jesus is the Answer”. I even like Petra’s version of “The Graverobber” and “Not of This World”. It’s ok to use an amplified guitar in church, kids. And it’s also ok to use drums and a bass guitar. Heck, when I was at a Baptist church in Mexico back in 1990, guess what they used for musical accompaniment? An electric guitar!

Various activities. A church needs to busy itself serving its members, encouraging people, edifying and evangelizing the community.

Children’s programs. I’m not just talking about Awana or Patch the Pirate, nor am I just talking about Sunday School and Children’s Church. There needs to be activities for children during Sunday night services, midweek services and during revival meetings. When kids are stuck in adult services, they get bored. Very. Quickly. Nothing’s worse than for kids to associate church with boredom.

Keeping things fresh and thinking outside the box. Churches that adopt the “We’ve never done it this way before” attitude are doomed–especially with how our society (and especially technology) is constantly changing. Even Pope Benedict XVI has recently encouraged Catholic ministers to use the internet and blog as a way of reaching out to parishioners.

Richard Zowie has been a Christian since 1981 and blogs here about Christian issues. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.