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Jesus Christ, savior, practical joker

March 30, 2014 Leave a comment

I am very convinced that, on a few occasions, the disciples yelled, “Jesus!”

No, not to take His name in vain, and not to call out to him when in a storm, in quicksand or because they were trying to get his attention. Instead, here are two examples:

Peter, at a wedding, takes a drink of wine–only to discover that it’s turned back into water.

Matthew, when looking for a lamb to slaughter for a meal for Jesus and the 12, stares in shock as the lamb says in perfect Aramaic: “PLEASE don’t eat me. I taste BAAAAAAAD!”

In both cases, the reaction was likely: “Jesus! Would you PLEASE stop doing that?!”

In both cases, I imagine our Lord doubled over, laughing.

Jesus probably also told His fair share of jokes. (“So the Rabbi tells the rest of the Sanhedrin, ‘That was no Samaritan woman! That was my WIFE!'”)

I see it this way: Jesus had a very busy schedule. There were no planes or cars, so He walked most places–save for riding on donkeys or other animals. He probably got very little sleep and had days where he had to: teach, teach and re-teach the disciples; deal with the Pharisees and other religious leaders who refused to see the obvious about Him; heal the sick, provide food for those needed; screen potential disciples; comfort the heartbroken, and on, and on, and on.

What better way to boost morale among His disciples and relieve stress by having a sense of humor?

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

Rebuilding as a Christian

January 2, 2014 Leave a comment

Years ago, a car show host told somebody they would need to have their engine rebuilt.

I never inherited my father’s mechanical skills, but I suspect that means this: take apart the engine, throw out the bad parts and replace them. Keep the good parts. Put the new parts and good parts all back together. Engine should work better.

Such is the case with my Christian walk.

I became a Christian in October 1981, when I prayed the sinner’s prayer with Pastor Jimmy Lilley of Kings Row Baptist Church in Alvin, Texas. I sincerely meant the prayer and wanted to do so, so I consider eight to be the age when I became a Christian.

Over the years, I attended very strict churches. No alcohol, no tobacco, no movies. Women, no wearing dresses. Don’t wear “fake-up” or “mas-scary” (I kid you not, those terms were REALLY used). Men, look like men. No long hair, no earrings, no flashy costumes, no necklaces. Wedding rings and class or college rings are OK, but, for heaven’s sake, don’t wear so many rings that you look like Liberace.

And speaking of the late Liberace (1919-1987), it was also taught that homosexuals will burn in hell.

While there are other believers in other denominations, we are the only ones who are really following Jesus’ teachings.

Some took things a step further and prohibited tea and other caffeinated products and no TV. One famous Baptist minister (you’d know his name if I said it) refused to carry life insurance, believing it showed a lack of faith in God. And across the board, the only acceptable Bible is the King James Bible.

Over the years I slowly began to wonder: why?

Which “rules” were truly Biblical and which ones were just the personal preferences of the leaders?

One person, who is no longer in my life, used to ask me where in the Bible it says you are to not do these things. More often than not, I had no answer for her, and that gave me a lot to ponder. I’ve also seen many such Christians have unsatisfactory responses when explaining why the same set of Mosaic Laws that prohibit homosexuality also a) Provide laws that governed slavery, b) Require some rapists to marry their victims, c) Prohibit the mixing of meat and dairy aren’t also applied today.

For me, my approach is take all the things I’ve learned, all the things I thought I knew, compare them with what the Bible truly says and then do two things: keep that which is true, discard which is not not God really wants for my life.

Our walk with God should be focused on a relationship, not simply following rules.

Richard Zowie lives in the Texas Hill Country and is a reporter for the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. The views expressed in this blog posting do not necessarily reflect those of the Standard newspaper staff, editor or publisher. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

How should you read the Bible?

December 28, 2013 Leave a comment

I can describe “how” in two words:

In context.

Those on the right who quote passages in Leviticus to condemn homosexuality should also be aware of passages that describe what we’d consider odd, inexplicable Mosaic laws dealing with slavery, sex and what animals were fit and unfit for food (if you love bacon, guess what–it would’ve been considered unclean).

Those on the left who quote passages in Acts to justify socialism or communism should also be aware of what the Bible says about not eating if you haven’t worked or those who take for themselves what others have earned.

I do believe the Bible is God’s Perfect Word, but I also believe that some rules God gave at various times were exclusively meant for those times and those particular circumstances.

For now, as I read, I consider the audience, the customs of the times and whether the command qualifies as an absolute from God or something He chose for that time.

Richard Zowie lives in the Texas Hill Country and is a reporter for the Fredericksburg Standard-Radio Post. The views expressed in this blog posting do not necessarily represent those of the Standard newspaper staff, editor or publisher. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

12-8-10 devotions: Amos 7-9, Acts 24-25, Psalm 38, Proverbs 22

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Today, I did my reading after going on a 3.6-mile walk. I really think I’d like to have it where I get up early and the very first thing I do is Bible reading. With the amount I do, I figure half an hour is enough time to get everything read and to read comprehensively. Perhaps the reading could be studied again later in the day. Or perhaps it could be Old and New Testament passages in the morning and Psalms and Proverbs at night. All I know is there really is no one-size-fits-all approach.

I doubt I’ll blog about my Bible reading every day and will save those postings for what is truly beneficial to others.

With that, here is what I read today.

Amos 7-9: Because it has been years since I’ve read Amos, I will not really even start to truly understand it on the first time through. Amos, a sheepherder and a tender of sycamore trees, was called to be a prophet. Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, complained to the Israelite king Jeroboam about Amos, and apparently the king ordered exiled him to Judah because he didn’t like the message. Amos’ response was he was only relaying God’s message and that Israel faced desolate times for its disobedience.

Bad things in store for Israel at that time because of its idolatry and sin. God does promise forgiveness and restoration if the nation returns to Him. But if not, they will wander, be desolate and will be thirsty and have no relief.

Acts 24-25: Paul is accused of defiling the temple and causing many problems. He stands his ground, says the charges cannot be proven and, being a Roman, wants to appeal before Caesar. He also spends his time witnessing. This passage is a good example of how Christians don’t have to be passive all the time and just take abuse. They can, in a righteous, dignified way, stand up for their rights. Paul realized he could be executed, I believe. Apparently, the Roman law regarding this was far fairer and just than the Jewish law.

Psalm 38: This Psalm David talks about sin, healing from it and how sin can make you physically ill. I know in Psalm 51 David confesses his sin with Bathsheba.

When David writes in verses 4-5: “For my iniquities have gone over my head; like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds are foul and festering because of my foolishness.”, it reminds me of the reverend in The Scarlet Letter and how his private sin goaded his conscience continually.

If a person ever were to want to read what sin does to a person and what true repentance is, this would be an excellent Psalm to examine.

Proverbs 22: We in western society have a skewed idea of wealth. Many think of wealth as lots of money in the bank, excellent investments, a nice house, a nice car, a few vacation homes and the ability to travel whenever and wherever.

God tells us that it’s more important to have a good name than great riches; if you have lie, cheat, steal and be a cut throat to be rich, ultimately it is not worth it. God created all people, both those who are rich and those who are poor, and all are accountable to Him.

Wow, this chapter is chock full of great stuff:

…A wise (prudent) man sees evil ahead and avoids it…

…Train up (establish lifelong habits for) a child the way they shall go, and when they become adults they will be the right type of person…

…A person who gets into sin (whether by mistake or willingly) will reap heartache.

…Walking with the Lord helps you develop knowledge, but those who do not will be “overthrown” by God…

…A lazy man is so content being lazy that he will make excuses not to go out and get things done…

…God abhors men who are fooled by the words of an immoral woman…

…For those blessed with money, God expects them to be good stewards and, in my understanding, help out those in need before further fattening their accounts or indulging in excessive wants…

…Listen to the wise and apply godly knowledge…

…Getting into a personal relationship with an angry person opens you to learning their ways and troubling your own soul…

…Be responsible in your financial dealings. If you say you will pay a bill, pay it…

…Do not be quick to be arrogant and tear down the traditional ways your family has done things. Be very cautious…

…A man who “excels” in his work will be respected and will be sought out by important people…

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 by the end of 2010 to complete his first visit in years with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

The Sacred Romance: Relationships versus Rules

December 8, 2010 Leave a comment

If I’ve blogged about this before, it’s because it’s a message that desperately needs to resonate in the Christian church.

When I served as best man for my friend Bob’s wedding, he gave me as a gift the book The Sacred Romance: Drawing Closer to the Heart of God by Brent Curtis and John Eldredge. I started reading it, but life got in the way.

Pathetic excuse, indeed.

I regret not having read it sooner. Do I ever!

I know I will offend some I’ve known in Independent Fundamental Baptist Churches, but as I’ve started reading this book again, even before I delve deeply into the book, it is clear to me that in much of Christianity we really are thinking backwards regarding our relationship with God.

Normally, when a person gets saved in the Baptist circles I’m from, they are instructed in the King James Bible and are given a list of do’s and don’t’s.

How does that saying go? “I don’t smoke, drink or chew or go with girls who do.” Furthermore, new Christians are also instructed not to go to movies and not to get tattoos. Guys are told not to wear their hair long (which, for some churches means it should be neatly tapered off the collar and off the ears) and not to wear earrings. Women are told to wear dresses, skirts or culottes, never pants and especially never shorts or skirts that show off the thighs, and to avoid wearing too much makeup (or in some cases, any). They should not work outside the home. Some churches don’t even believe women should wear fingernail polish or hair dye.

Other general convictions also apply. If music has a beat or an electric guitar, it should be avoided. And, for God’s sake, do not listen to Contemporary Christian Music. (I remember how some ministers would refer to Michael W. Smith as “Michael W. Smut” and Amy Grant as “Amy Grunt”). If you must have a television, it should be used only to watch Christian programs and news programs. Some are against watching professional sports due to the cheerleaders dressing immodestly.

And, for some, sex should never, ever openly be talked about. For those who do, they might even say sex is solely for procreating. Missionary position only. Lights off. No role playing. And absolutely, positively, no birth control or masturbation.

One wonderful Christian, who is no longer with us, once said: “If you don’t have convictions, come talk to me and I’ll give you some.” As well-intentioned as this might be, it is a horrible approach. It is one thing to explain to new or struggling Christians why you have certain convictions, but too often I feel they are given convictions they don’t understand and are expected to apply them to their lives. And we wonder why so many get disillusioned and leave the church; some not only leave the church, but abandon their faith altogether and embrace atheism.

This approach to Christianity, which I am convinced stems from personal preferences that magically evolve into convictions instead of developing legitimate Bible-based convictions, probably makes many think of heaven as a place where people dress in iridescent, flowing white robes as they float among the clouds and play harps. Nothing exciting ever happens.

<Yawn>

It seems to me a far better approach to Christianity is to discerningly read the Bible in context, pray for God’s guidance, get involved in your church and surround yourself with wise Christians. For me, among those wise Christians are my sisters, my friends Bob J., Howard H., Joel K. and Jeremy H. and my pastor. There are also Charlie M. and Dave R., college friends whom I will ask questions about the Bible.

Consider this verse from Proverbs 13:20: “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.”

Of course, the verse is referring to “he” and “men” as mankind in general. The same applies to both men and women and whom they choose counsel from, and it’s possible to get wise counsel from a person of either gender.

And as you read the Bible, get involved in godly activities and get wise counsel, you will start to have a more intimate relationship with God and will start seeing things from God’s perspective. From here you will develop your own godly convictions.

As I type this, here are some things about me some Christians may find objectionable: I wear a leather necklace with a cross made from horseshoe ties (which I see nothing wrong with). When I read the Bible, I often read from the New King James Version (even though I still prefer the King James Version). I also sometimes watch R-rated movies and also listen to some forms of rock music. I even like some Van Halen songs, even though there are other songs of theirs that have very unhealthy messages. I also have from time to time used profanity (I have never taken the Lord’s name in vain). Some of these things about me are very unapologetic parts of my life that I feel God is blessing me in or that God has no problem with. They are part of my Christian identity. Some, such as the movies, music and profanity, God is still working on me. I am working to eliminate the profanity from my life since I believe further usage would make me become a person I absolutely loathe.

I know many Christians are against consuming alcohol, but I do have one solid brother in Christ who does drink. However, he is a stickler about moderation. While I don’t drink (the last time I consumed alcohol was beer and vodka when I was 15, and I thought both were absolutely disgusting), I can respect someone who does so responsibly. While the Bible may not specifically condemn drinking, it is very strict regarding moderation.

As for me, unless I visit Germany where they frown upon people who don’t accept a drink, I have no plans to drink: I have an addictive personality, and people like me easily fall into alcoholism. And, frankly, I have more than enough problems in my life.

If there’s a point to this blog posting, it would be that instead of just following a set of rules, Christians need to be reading God’s Word and talking to godly Christians and asking tough questions about their faith and investigating why they believe what they believe instead of just following a crowd. To have convictions without understanding them is a recipe for an unsuccessful Christian life that will never be as profitable for yourself or for God as it should be.

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 by early 2011 to complete his first visit in years with all the Minor Prophets. Post comments here or drop a line to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com. 

Dec 6-7: Amos 1-6, Acts 20-23, Psalm 36-37, Proverbs 20-21

December 7, 2010 Leave a comment

On December 6, I did my devotions around 5 a.m. due to having to get up extra early. Surprisingly, it was easy to stay awake and read. I had wanted to re-read the passages in the evening, but I grew too tired and went to bed.

On December 7, I did my devotions after walking nearly three miles on a cold, crisp day (wearing shorts, something I don’t recommend).

I am trying to further summarize my devotions readings as to not bore my readers, since, again, nobody wants to read an exegesis. But I’ll do my best:

Amos 1-6: Reading this book makes me think Amos was just as exasperated at the Israelites as Joel was. You know it’s bad when a prophet tells you not bother making sacrifices to try to make things right: repent and turn from your wicked ways instead. God even tells them He is so disgusted that making music to Him will accomplish nothing. Perhaps it is comparable to a person cheating on their spouse and thinking a box of chocolates or a thoughtful gift will make all the pain go away and will fix things.

We find Israel is guilty of moral and ethical corruption. Israel has thwarted God’s efforts to get its attention through plagues, droughts and failed military campaigns, and in today’s reading it is suggested God will allow the Israelites to go into exile and once again serve another nation. That nation, eventually, would be Babylon.

Acts 20-23: Paul preaches and gives his testimony of how he came to Christ. The way it is worded, with God talking about how Paul was chosen to meet Jesus the way he did, I’m sure there are Calvinists out there who will say this proves God called Paul to Him and that Paul, overcome by irresistible grace, succombed. I wonder if they know how many wonderful, spiritual, ethical people I’ve met in my life who will probably not be in heaven someday because they are convinced there are many paths to God or that their works will save them or that there is nothing beyond this life. Sadly, some of the most condescending dirtbags I have ever met have been Christians. Sorry, but the notion that God programs people to accept Him or reject Him is a perversion of the Gospel. God does not want robots. He wants people who genuinely desire a personal relationship with Him.

That being said, Paul escapes a beating by reminding the authorities that he is a Roman citizen. He points out he was born a Roman citizen and did not buy his citizenship.

I suspect a showdown is coming…

Psalm 36-37 and Proverbs 20-21: Lots of encouragement from reading the Psalms and Proverbs. The importance of living righteously, using wisdom and knowledge and how if you keep your eyes on God and maintain an intimate relationship with Him, He will guide you through life. How foolish indeed it is to trust solely in yourself or in your bank account!

When I was in Monterey, California, in the military, I attended Monterey Bay Baptist Church (now Central Coast Baptist Church). Pastor Rick Flanders, who has since gone home to be with the Lord, told of witnessing near Pebble Beach, a very affluent area of northern California. He asked a man who had a beautiful home, RV and other expensive toys: “If you died today, are you 100% sure you would go to heaven?” To which the man replied, “I feel like I’m already in heaven!”

Also, David tells us to cease from anger and wrath and that worrying only causes harm.

Some people are warriors, but I certainly have been a worrier.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer who believes it is his responsibility to use his talents for God’s glory. Hence, this Richard’s Two Shekels blog. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

12-5 Bible reading: Joel, Psalms 35, Proverbs 19, Acts 18-19

December 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I got off to a late start with this Bible reading, unfortunately. Saturday was pretty stressful in the Zowie household due to our van breaking down. My wife and I were both very frustrated because we’ve had it in twice at one shop and now there are problems again that sound like they have something to with what we thought had already been repaired. We’re supposed to find out today what the problem was, and I pray it’s not too expensive.

So, I went to bed around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday and didn’t wake up until 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. It was one of those fun slumbers where nine hours felt more like five. I had intended to do devotions that morning, but time ran short as my sons and I had to get ready for church (which included getting rides to and from church).

So, that night when my work was finally done for the newspaper, I was able to sit down and read God’s Word.

Joel: On recent broadcasts of Insight For Living (one of my favorite Bible-teaching programs), Dr. Charles Swindoll has been talking about Joel. This is a book I have not read since probably around the time of college when I was making it a point to read the Bible through each year. I read some of the commentary in my Bible about Joel and then read all three chapters. It’s a story about the horrible desolation that will soon come upon Israel if it continues its path of disobedience against the Lord. Very poetic in the way it expresses how devastating it will be, and how its enemies will tear through its lands the way locusts tear through a crop. The book also ends with how things would return to normal if Israel repents and returns to God.

Joel 2:13 says this: “So rend your heart, and not your garments; return to the LORD your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness; and He relents from doing harm.”

And, of course, for Israel’s enemies, they will be dealt with. God, of course, allows Israel’s enemies to work in ways to get the nation’s attention if they stray off His path, but when Israel is serving Him, it is a different story.

Psalm 35: This passage was a huge blessing for me as I deal with lots of frustrating issues in my personal life. You get to a point where you have to put things in God’s Hands and move on. I was encouraged and was reminded that for Christians living for God, they have nothing to worry about from their enemies.

Proverbs 19: Proverbs in each chapter is laden with wisdom, and this one is no exception. I was reminded again the importance of being wise, careful and living for the Lord. I also was convicted about making sure I am doing my job as a father (something I was far too lackadaisical on for too long).

My two favorite passages in this chapter:

Verse 8: “He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will find good.”

And verse 11: “The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.”

Acts 18-19: At Corinth, Paul continued preaching the Gospel and came across some who rejected his words. He told them their blood would be on their own heads. You know: while you can preach the Gospel and present it on a clear level, it is still the individual’s responsibility whether or not to accept it. If they reject it, that is their choice.

After receiving a vision from God that he would not be harmed, Paul remained there for a year and a half teaching and preaching. Paul then returned to Antioch and apparently got his hair cut after having taken a Nazarite vow. Anyone know why he took this vow?

Then in the next chapter, Paul teaches about what baptism does, heals the sick.

Some Jewish exorcists then try unsuccessfully to cast out a demon, whose words show the type of reputation Paul has. The demon says to them in verse 15: “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?”

Many come to Christ and burn their books on magic, books that totaled 50,000 pieces of silver (I’m no economist, so I have no idea what that equals in today’s money).

No, I’m not a proponent of book burning, but this is a basic principle of the Christian life: if there is something in your life that is hindering your walk with God, get rid of it.

Paul then encountered problems in Ephesus, notably from a silversmith named Demetrius who apparently thought Paul’s call to repent from idol worship and serve the true God would kill his own business of making and selilng silver shrines of Diana. Despite the discord in the city, God was in control.

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer who laments the years wasted by having a Bible that collected dust on a shelf. His goal is, once he completes his long-put off Bible reading plan sometime in the spring or early summer, to read the Bible through again before the end of 2011. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.