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Posts Tagged ‘Pensacola Christian College’

Understanding God’s Will as Mrs. Robinson says goodbye

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment

I began my freshman year at Pensacola Christian College in the Fall 1991 semester. For Speech Lecture class on Friday mornings, Mrs. Robinson would often speak. She was clear and concise and very likeable. I enjoyed hearing her speak. Once, she spoke affectionately about her husband’s adorable habit of hanging a shaving razor from the toothbrush holder in the bathroom. The way she paused, I could tell she adored him. I had also worked with her husband that summer and knew he adored his wife as well.

That year, she was in a play called Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. I forget the character she played, but I do remember at one point she spoke in a flawless French accent.

My second semester for Speech 102, I tried to get one of her classes but, unfortunately, the only time she was available was either when I had other classes or when I had to work. I did get to meet her, for the first and only time, to review a monologue I had to do for class. She was extremely helpful.

Mrs. Robinson and her husband were people I never got to know closely, but I found them very fascinating. I friended her husband on Facebook and then read his posts about what they were doing. Most recently, they were trying to get a coffee shop going and had plans to use it in some sort of ministerial capacity.

And then, tragedy struck as Mrs. Robinson got cancer.

I read the updates, prayed and hoped things would improve. Finally, earlier today, her husband posted that she lost her battle.

My initial thought was, Dear God, why is Mrs. Robinson deceased but a certain retired hedonistic NBA basketball star still alive?

One friend, Stephanie, made an excellent observation: “Look at the life she lived.”

You know, quality versus quantity.

Mrs. Robinson was well-liked, well-loved, well-respected, by all accounts a very kind person who went out of her way to help others.

In other words, the type of Christian I fail at being on a daily basis.

I wish I knew what to say to her husband and their two sons, but I don’t. There are personal tragedies and pains God allows to happen that we simply won’t understand this side of eternity.

One thing I firmly believe is that God’s Will for mankind is a vast montage, a myriad of information. If placed in written form, it could easy fill our galaxy, maybe even the universe. It consists of countless trillions of pieces. If we’re lucky, maybe we’ll get to see two or three pieces in our lifetime.

After 31 years as a Christian, the only thing I know about God’s movements through man is that it is twofold: 1) Allow mankind maximum opportunities to receive Christ and enter heaven and 2) Allow mankind maximum opportunites to not only grow as Christians, but to encourage and edify others.

No, I don’t know why God allowed Mrs. Robinson to die at such a relatively young age. I also don’t know why He allowed a college friend, Terry, to die from cancer in his late twenties and leave behind a wife and young daughter. All I know is He is in control and that there is a reason.

And until I get to heaven, that is all I will know.

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

Marathon vs. Sprint

November 14, 2012 1 comment

Amazing how Christians can be. I can think of two Christians at college that seemed destined to go nowhere in life. One left after a semester because he didn’t like PCC’s rules and the other seemed to teeter on getting kicked out due to his attitude.

Both are serving the Lord now. One ministers through music and the other is a pastor who blogs.

Then there are the Christians I knew growing up and on-fire Christians I knew at college who are not only no longer serving God, they question their faith. One who studied for the ministry tells me he no longer thinks of the New Testament as God’s inspired word. In high school, I knew of a young man who was absolutely on fire for God. Today, his walk seems much less so.

If there is a way to describe it, I’d say it’s because Christianity should be lived as a marathon and not as a sprint.

As a sprint, it’s easy to burn white-hot bright for about five years…and then fade into cold darkness.

As a marathon, you pace yourself and purpose each day to do the basics: read the Word of God, spend time with God, talk to Him and let Him talk back to you. Sometimes it’s through the still, small voice, sometimes through something in the Bible that speaks to you in capital letters, and sometimes it’s through intuition.

I’ve been a Christian for 31 years; ever since the age of eight I’ve been on my way to heaven. Frankly, the finish line marking the entrance into heaven doesn’t seem any closer today than it did back in 1981. Ironic, since my death or the rapture could happen at any time. At times, it’s like I gasp for breath as I complete yet another lap and groan at how much further there is to go.

Please don’t give up. The worst thing is to look back upon your life and utter these two words: If only

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.

Reading the Bible, finishing Job, Psalms and Proverbs thoughts

January 18, 2012 1 comment

To paraphrase the famous Wolf Brand Chili commercial: How long has it been since I’ve updated this blog…[brief pause that’s not long enough for anyone to respond]…well, that’s too long.

2011 saw me do something I hadn’t done probably since graduating from Pensacola Christian College in 1995: I read the Bible completely through. About 66 percent of the time I read daily and the other 33 percent I either didn’t read or had to catch up and read several days’ worth.

It obviously is better to read every day so you can focus on quality rather than quantity.

I’ve read of some Christians who read 20 chapters a day and others who read the Bible cover to cover in a month. Perhaps someday I’ll try that, but at this stage, the more I read, the far less I retain and comprehend. After all, the Bible’s not a Archie comic book. When you read in Romans about faith and salvation, each chapter seems like it should broken down over a week’s time…

Today, I finished reading the Book of Job as, in 2012, I’m reading the Bible chronologically. Fascinating book. Job was a godly man who lost everything, wrestled with the question “Why?” while his friends accused him of having unconfessed sin and pride. After all, God never punishes the righteous, does He?

Wrong.

I think of one godly friend, Terry, who while in his early 30s died of cancer. He left behind a wife and young daughter. I don’t know why and won’t know until eternity. Maybe this planet simply didn’t deserve him.

Job learns two things from a discussion with God: 1) Job isn’t not God and 2) Job is going to have to trust God. While the first two chapters indicate why Job went through what he did, nothing at the book’s end indicates Job knew why. It’s possible he did, but it’s also possible Job had to wait until heaven to find have his “Why?” question answered: Because God simply wanted to prove to Satan that humans serve God out of love for God and a desire to know Him rather than how much money and possessions He gives them…

A friend suggested I read Psalm 5 recently. It reminds me of that advice from PCC given to us from Pastor Jim Schettler about reading through a Psalm or Proverb every day. I figure through diligence you can read through both books twice in a single year. Granted, the Psalm 119 is long, but there are several Psalms that are shorter than I am (for the record, I’m about 5’8″).

Richard Zowie is a Christian writer who feels it’s best to be a Christian first and a writer second. Post comments here or e-mail them to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

An Aussie friend talks about how witnessing can be effective

July 14, 2011 5 comments
It’s been a few years since I did door-to-door evangelism, and it’s because I got spooked.
 
About 15 years ago, I and a gentleman from church visited an apartment in Beeville, Texas and witnessed to the young man who answered the door. I presented the gospel to “Juan”, who seemed very receptive. He then prayed the sinner’s prayer.
 
Juan nodded when we asked him what he’d done. I recorded his name in my Bible as one of the people I’d led to the Lord.
 
Great news, right?
 
About 10 years later in the public records of the newspaper, I saw Juan’s name mentioned in a crime.
 
Now, it’s possible he received Christ but backslid, and it’s possible we never properly discipled him. It’s also possible he just said some words because that was the path of least resistance.
 
It made me think that door-to-door evangelism is completely useless unless there is a solid method of follow-up and discipleship.
 
Recently, I spoke about this on Facebook with Lyndee, an Australian Christian who also attended Pensacola Christian College. (We never met, but I knew who she was).
 
I told Lyndee: “You know, one thing life has taught me is that there is a very wide spectrum in Christianity. God needs people everywhere. I mean, do you really think an Independent Fundamental Baptist fresh from Pensacola Christian College would succeed trying to pass out gospel tracts at a biker bar?”
 
Lyndee replied with a thoughtful respose:
 
“why waste your time passing out Gospel tracts when they will only end up littering the parking lot. Rather use that money to buy a couple of biker mates a round of beer and sit down and talk with them… not about Jesus at first, but about them. Everyone loves talking about themselves. Find out who they are, what they love, what they hate, and eventually where they hurt. Prove to them you care about them and not some notch in your christian belt (which i know is not what you want, but is how they perceive many witnessing Christians). Witnessing is not a numbers game, its a life long process of relationships in loving people exactly where they are, not where someone else thinks they should be.”
 
You know, even though I don’t drink beer (to be honest, I hate it immensely), I honestly cannot find anything I disagree with in Lyndee’s assessment.
 
It makes me think that if there’s a Christian who prefers this approach, go for it. Bars aren’t my thing, but I’m sure God has others He can use.
 
Tell me, Richard’s Two Shekels reader, is what Lyndee suggests really radical or is it radically filled with theological common sense?
 
I believe it’s definitely the latter.
 
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.

Lunch with an old friend

December 7, 2010 1 comment

I’m the sentimental type, and so every so often I will use Google or Facebook to try to find people I used to know.

Such was the case with Jeremy, a guy I knew at PCC.

I met Jeremy my junior year at PCC as he and I worked in the pots and pans room. He was a freshman, and I remember after we were done with pans but still only an hour into our shift, he told me he was going to go out and look for more pans to clean.

About five minutes later he returned with about 10 pans that had been used for macaroni and cheese. “I figured it’s best to start working on these before this stuff has a chance to dry and get hard,” he said.

I was dumbfounded.

Not because Jeremy was right (he was, by the way), but because he–a newbie to PCC’s food service, was taking the initiative to get things done. This particular task was something that usually took other students semesters to really grasp. Needless to say, a semester later he was made crew guide. Someone later told me he also had managed a McDonald’s.

On Friday, Jeremy and I met to have lunch and talk. Despite studying criminal justice at college, he is now in the ministry. I was very encouraged to talk with him and am very thankful that he is living for the Lord and serving Him. You would be very unpleasantly surprised by how many wonderful guys I knew at PCC who were either ministerial majors or who were planning to serve God and who are now by the wayside. To say it is heartbreaking is like saying Michigan gets cold in the winter.

If you find a fellow Christian, network with them. Talk to them. Remember, iron sharpens iron.

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.

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.

Revisiting the debate about Bible versions

July 16, 2010 6 comments

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

And bless God, there were not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pisseth?

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

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

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

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

Tell me what you think, Christian Reader.

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

True Christianity advice can come from unlikely places

Lately, I’ve been chatting over e-mail with two people: Rhea and Gene. Rhea (pronounced “Ray”) was a classmate of mine at A.C. Jones High School back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Rhea is not a Christian, but the comments he shared with me about Christianity revealed something fascinating: he’d actually make a great Christian. A chat about some basics in Christianity, including our interpretations of the Garden of Eden, show Rhea has a pretty strong grasp on basic theology–even more so that some elitist Christians I’ve met. Granted, I don’t always agree with Rhea, but he’s one person I enjoy chatting with because he’s fascinating. Some people, including many Christians I’ve met, bore me beyond tears. Rhea is exactly the opposite.

I knew Gene at Pensacola Christian College. Those at PCC, no doubt, remember him very well. I remember that Gene became a Christian relatively late in life and grew up in Chicago in some mean neighborhoods. It was fun to hear stories of how tough he was back in the day. When I asked him about one story, his response suggested very strongly that his past was something neither to emulate nor remember.

Gene recently talked about how at PCC he stood up to a high-ranking administration member regarding the treatment of one particular person. Later, after leaving PCC, Gene was so stressed out over how he saw Christians treat others that he was at one point hospitalized. And now, when I read his Facebook postings, they’re one pearl of wisdom after another.

October 2011 will mark the 30th anniversary of when I became a Christian in Alvin, Texas, back in the ancient year 1981. As I approach 30 years and think of how I have still so much to learn about God, the Bible, Christianity, I find myself amazed that some of the people who grasp Christianity so well are Rhea (who’s not a Christian) and Gene (who became a Christian later in life and got off to a proverbial slow start).

It’s really ironic. For Christians like me, who are constantly striving to improve their spiritual lives and expand their intellect and wisdom (which often is tantamount to sprinting while up to your chest in a swimming pool), it’s a good idea to listen to both those who are viewing us from the outside and those who are newcomers. They bring a fresh perspective. And they just might know far more about our faith than what we realize.

Richard Zowie is a Christian who knows one thing for certain: he has a LOT left to learn. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Keeping the faith by following the ‘wedge principle’

October 1, 2009 Leave a comment

When I attended Pensacola Christian College, I remember something taught in social ethics class: “wedge principle”. Scripture tells us in Ephesians 4:27 to “Neither give place to the devil.”

A floorleader my junior year explained it this way: he chased his sister into a room when they were younger and she refused to come out. He coaxed her to open the door just a crack since he wanted to talk to her. She did. He then used his foot to wedge open the door and from there, overpower her and open it the rest of the way.

If you give the devil an inch, he’ll gladly take a mile–and that’s just for starters.

Looking back, it disturbes me the number of students who would roll their eyes at the discussion of the wedge principle and think of how we had to hear the same or similar sermon from last year. Such thinking makes me wonder if complacency prevents the average Christian from being truly aware of just how hard or skillfully the devil works to try to ruin their lives and ministries.

It’s something to think about in daily living. I thought recently of a Christian I knew of years ago who seemed so on fire for the Lord. He has since divorced and now sees nothing wrong with some activities many Christians would find deplorable. A person who knows him told me it started with a sin problem that just escalated and grew out of control.

Richard Zowie has several blogs. Post comments here or go to richardstwoshekels@gmail.com.

Are Biblical exegeses evil?

July 30, 2009 1 comment

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

But is it the right thing to do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Michael W. Smith and umbrellas

July 13, 2009 1 comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

JackHyles

Dr. Jack Hyles

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

Pretty harsh.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But is love really the right word?

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

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

Daily Bible reading and prayer

I struggle with this and hope the day comes when I discipline myself to spend at least half an hour daily reading the Bible and another half hour in prayer. I remember at Pensacola Christian College seeing this sign on the door of one our floorleaders:

Have you been with the Holy of Holies today?

It’s very convicting, especially when you consider it’s a criminal offense in much of the world to have a copy of the Bible. There are also thousands of language groups, including the Sabüm of southeastern Asia, who don’t even have a translation of the Bible in their language.

Maybe I should get the Bible on CD.

Revisiting Jonah: God wants the whole world to be saved

NOTE: This column was originally published in Saworship.com.

By Richard Zowie

At Pensacola Christian College I met many different people, some so out there they made even me look normal. Despite PCC being conservative in its outlook and somewhat independent Baptist in its theology, many students at PCC came from various denominations. A few students had very odd theological viewpoints.

Here’s one example: I heard of students who believed the blood Jesus shed on the cross was sufficient only to pay for the sins of those who become Christians. In other words, Jesus didn’t die for those who reject Him, only for those who accept Him. Furthermore, God selects whom He will save, gives them irresistible grace while those He chooses not to save have no choice but to reject him (or what I like to call irresistible disgrace).

How do I say this nicely but with the utmost respect…hmm, let’s see…

HOG WASH!

Forgive me for sounding close-minded and dogmatic, but I find this belief to be abhorrent. It would take a separate column to cite scripture (such as the obvious one, John 3:16) showing that God loved the entire world and that Jesus’ death was for everybody—whether or not they accept Him. When God and Jesus collectively decided unfathomable eons ago that Jesus would die for our sins, it wasn’t for a select, elite group of believers. It was for everybody.

Here’s a quick analogy: let’s say a prisoner decides to go on a hunger strike. He tells the warden he won’t eat, and the warden knows this prisoner well enough to conclude he won’t back down. Despite this, the warden still arranges meals for the prisoner. This could be for two reasons. One, the warden hopes the prisoner might somehow change his mind or, two, the warden wants the prisoner to realize his refusal to eat is his choice and not to be blamed on the prison’s denial of food for him—an ostensible violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

With that, wouldn’t it be difficult for God to condemn someone to a Christless eternity when He never gave them the chance or choice to accept Jesus? If Jesus’ blood wasn’t available to the lost, then they couldn’t be justly condemned when not given a proper choice. To me, it is tantamount to writing a software program where the computer will always answer “No” when asked if it wants to become a Christian, and then holding them culpable for their “response”.

What I find especially dangerous about this crazy theological notion is that it makes Christianity seem like a country club religion to outsiders. Why entertain any ideas of taking a path to heaven when it’s only for a select, elite few? Christianity is anything but that and is open for anyone: rich, poor, morally upright, depraved criminals, New Yorkers, New Zealanders, the cultured, the primitive. Absolutely anybody. The song “Whosoever will” doesn’t contain the line “Some restrictions apply” but means what it says—if you want Jesus in your life, He’ll gladly take you.

Previously, I explored the life of Jonah, and I’d like to do so yet again. The Book of Jonah, if indeed an autobiographical work, is perhaps the bravest book in the Bible; it’s a confessional piece written by a disgruntled, possibly prejudiced man. God called Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, a cruel nation hated by the Israelites.

We know from the book that Jonah refused and ran, only to be brought back on course by God using a giant fish. Jonah finally preached and the Ninevites, much to his chagrin, repented in stark, collective humility.

Call Jonah the most ungrateful soul winner. His sour attitude is even worse than that of a person who, after winning a $300 million lottery, grouses about how much in taxes they’ll have to pay.

Jonah 4 tells us that this grumpy prophet, whose name in Hebrew translates somewhat ironically as “dove”, became angry with God for sparing the Ninevites. The prophet left Nineveh, ventured out to its eastern realm and sat down under a shelter, vainly hoping he could witness the city’s destruction.

As Jonah watched, God prepared a gourd to provide further shelter for him. Verse six tells us the prophet was “exceeding glad” for the shelter. But then God brought about a worm to “smite” the gourd, causing it to wither away.

Jonah suffered the ultimate pity party. He hoped God would take his life so he didn’t have to witness the sparing of this detested nation. If it wasn’t bad enough God was sparing the destruction of more than 100,000 people, Jonah now felt the scorching sun beating down upon him and taking away the comfort the gourd had provided. When Jonah told God of how angry he was that the gourd had died, here’s what God said to him in verses 10-11:

“Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not labored, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:

“and should not I spare Nin’eveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”

The last two verses represent one of the key themes of Jonah. God essentially said this: “Jonah, how could you possibly get so upset over the destruction of a inanimate plant but yet be so calloused and hope that I would destroy more than 120,000 people? These are people who were so wicked that they had virtually no way anymore to distinguish right from wrong.”

And so we have the vital Gospel message: God cares for the entire world and NOT just for the select few. This is why God lays it on the hearts of some Christians to serve in the mission field, others to give comfort to the homeless and others to visit jails and tell inmates of God’s power. This is also why God lays it on the hearts of Christians to embark on seemingly suicide missions to witness to primitive cannibals or in parts of the world where espousal of Christianity is a capital offense.

Although many will reject Christ’s sacrifice, God wants everybody to someday dwell in His eternal kingdom; Jesus’ blood was shed for everybody. This is a message Jonah learned the hard way, and I hope it’s something that student at college now understands.

If you need prayer or guidance, feel free to email me at mytwoshekels@gmail.com or leave a comment on this blog posting.

The Perfect Perspective on Pastoring

Sorry about the alliteration…that’s a homage to the Christian circles I grew up in. The idea is that a sermon outline should have points with alliteration to make them easier to remember. I’ll never forget how at Pensacola Christian College, Pastor Jim Schettler (who now pastors at First Baptist Church of Santa Maria, California) used to preach on “The Four Fatal Phrases of February.”

Speaking of pastoring, as the church I attend looks for a pastor, I really hope they find one with the right perspective on the job. Ken Collins, on his website, wrote How to Pastor a Church. This is priceless advice that more pastors need to follow–especially when you take into account how Satan works non-stop to make as many churches and pastors as possible fail and fall from the ministry.

And you know something else? I’m finding that as a Christian and a writer, it’s also very applicable to my own life as well.