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He was carried from his birthplace wrapped in a baby blanket. He returned a man, walking with long strides on the street near where he was born. Surrounded by his large following, he sensed from the onlookers an unknown emotion–it was misery. The foreigners were easily noticed. Word swiftly passed. It was an invasion by an unarmed band. The authorities checked them out and judged them safe. They were wrong.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God. (1 Peter 2:9-10a NIV)  

The earlier long-anticipated father-son talk had been the missing piece. Mother had joined the two and shared her stories. She gave her adopted son treasured memories of his real parents, the people they were and the palace they called home.

His adopted mother and father were the second and third witnesses to his destiny. The first came as a prophecy a week before. It happened while walking the road alone. When he came upon a stranger, he greeted him. The man replied to him by calling his name. Sitting on a log, the stranger continued, “Shortly the whole truth will be revealed. You will return to the place from where you came. Until then, learn all you can and teach it to all who follow. You will free from bondage and bring justice to the people. You will be the example. Others will watch and do the same. When you see me next, it will be time.”  Then he got up, walked into the woods and vanished.

That day, as his parents spoke words they had stored for so long in their hearts, he detected the stranger’s voice blending with theirs, as if they were a trio. The only mother he had ever known lovingly put her hands on his shoulders. “Victor,” she said. “Victor Emanuel Leonidas Salvador.” That is your whole name. You will need to remember it when asked by those who loved your father.”

God’s plan was confirmed. The group around the young man steadily grew in maturity and in number. At their favorite spot, Victor’s inner circle learned everything he knew. They took a sacred an oath. If they broke faith, they would bear the curse of the broken-winged bird.

As they concluded the chorus of their song, the light from the campfire dimmed then grew bright. Then Victor laid eyes on the stranger of the woods. He had somehow joined them. To his kind acknowledgment, the man nodded and said,  “There’s a ship waiting.” He continued, “Tell the captain to take you to the island. It’s your first stop. Make haste. You will have no time to sleep. Say good-by to your family. Make a small bundle with a jar of water and some bread for the journey. If others hear of your venture and wish to join you, then welcome them, but only if they pledge loyalty to King Victor–even to the death. Meet here at first light.” As quickly as it brightened, the fire died leaving lit torches to light their path.

“You heard him,” Victor said. “We’ll have plenty of time to talk of this later. Back at first light. Let’s go!” With that they were off. They would not see the mysterious man again until all seemed lost.

Next Part 3, “Repulsed”


Under cover of darkness, the baby was whisked away in the arms of the woman who would become his mother. This was no kidnapping. It was a rescue. The little boy wrapped in the blanket was in mortal danger. The plan belonged to the baby’s true father, the king. The woman was the king’s trusted sister. Joined by her husband, the baby’s new father, the three boarded a waiting ship. Their destination was a port across the vast ocean.

Though raised by someone other than his parents, the little baby remained heir to his father’s kingdom. Corrupt officials formed a cabal and threatened the throne. Once the king knew of their plot, he had to act fast. The few at court he could count on were not enough. The schemers would stop at nothing to gain power, including murdering the prince. The king could live in exile, while the rebels ruled as regents. Knowing his son was safe and when he became a man he would return to wear the crown was enough. And that is what happened.

Far away from the port where they disembarked years before, the little baby had grown into a strong lad. His adopted father and mother were the only family he knew. They taught him well. He was kind and polite. He was smart and gifted with his hands. He honored his Heavenly Father as well as his elders and parents. As he worked one day in the field, his father saw the strong muscles he had developed in his arms and his back. He was working more like one of the men than a boy. His father knew it was time. He needed to be told about his true identity.

But a few days went by and nothing had been said. From the kitchen window the mother looked out and motioned to her husband. He got up from the table and outside the window their teen son was sitting with seven of his friends. They were in a circle while he was teaching them something that had him pointing to the trees, the sky, the birds, and the hills. They listened in rapt attention. And when he got up they also rose and followed, still asking questions. The husband and wife looked at each other in amazement. “Now,” she asked, “are you going to tell him or am I?”

The next day, while setting posts in the ground, the young man appeared and asked his dad if he could help. “You sure can,” father said. As the son commenced to work, the father took a knee and mopped his neck. There’s something important we need to talk about. I’ve been waiting for the right time, and I s’pose this is it.

The young man, stopped and faced his dad. “Would this have to do with God’s plan for my life?” Oh, it was the right time all right.

Continued in Part 2

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I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved… (Romans 11:25-26a NIV)

While watching Christian TV recently, the teacher got my attention. He said that viewers should keep their eyes on Israel since they are the focus of Bible prophecy. On the face of it, I heartily endorse his statement, so I wanted to find out what he meant. He went on to state that while the Church will be taken up in the rapture to be with Christ at the beginning of the tribulation, a righteous remnant of Israel will remain on earth to suffer through the great tribulation. This is a classic misreading of Scripture by Pre-Tribulation Rapture (PTR) followers. Though his conclusion was far afield, I was reminded that seeing Israel in prophecy was a tremendous contribution made by the PTR movement almost a century and a half ago.  Before that Israel was written off. In God’s kingdom, there was only the Church.

It was obvious that the TV preacher understood Israel in terms of the modern Middle East Jewish state. However prophecy’s focus is not on the nation “Israel” per se, but on “the Israelites,” the twelve tribes of Jacob, the restored family once ruled by David. It is misleading to label God’s people as the Church or anything but Israel. More than the Church is included in God’s plan of salvation. Israel is! This is the subject of Paul’s mystery regarding the grafted olive tree in Romans 11, so let’s look!

In his illustration (11:5-36), Paul starts with the remnant (people) of Israel chosen by grace. The remnant represents the root, the people on earth to whom God’s covenant was given, for as Jesus said to the woman at the well, salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). There was no Gentile remnant. They were excluded from the covenant. Yet because of God’s kindness, the disobedience of many gave opportunity for His mercy to displayed to the Gentiles. Supported by the root, the wild olive branch (the people from the nations) was grafted in. Warned against arrogance, the grafted in branch should remain humble and grateful to their roots. The two will become one. No more Jew and Gentile, but one glorious people of God named Israel. The remnant root will give life to the wild-by-nature olive branch until Gentiles world-wide are swallowed up in Israel. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

“The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”  (Romans 11:26b-27) 

This is a mystery. Former distinctions will disappear. There will be one King ruling over one people, the Israelites (Acts 1:6, John 16:16). There will be one people against whom the Ancient Dragon will rage; the saints who obey God’s commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus (Revelation 14:12). Even before this age ends, the two will be manifest as the reunited family of Israel. Count on it!

Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean.'” (Matthew 15:10-11 NIV)

Promoters of hate and discontent are going to come, but woe to the reapers of that seed. The Bible cites examples of discord organizers. The first is Satan, the great dragon. He stirred rebellion among a third of heaven’s angels (Revelation 12:4, 9). Korah and Absalom are two more sowers of discontent. In Numbers 16, Korah’s self-promotion convinced 250 elders that he, Dathan and Abiram were the ones to lead Israel. After so many years wandering in the wilderness and eating manna, causing hate and discontent was easy. For his rebellion against Moses and Aaron, Korah and his followers paid a terrible price.

Absalom, son of David, disguised his hatred for his father. He waited for the opportunity to stir discontent for the king’s rule. Sowing seeds of dissatisfaction while appearing regal, was his method to overthrow his father. Forced to flee for his life, David’s reign and his life appeared to be almost over. However, it was Absalom who died (2 Samuel 14-18). The Lord intervened. God opposed the sowers of hate and discontent, Satan, Korah and Absalom, by actively defending his established order.

Fascists like Adolph Hitler or Communists like Mao Tse-Tung were skilled in the ways of Absalom and Korah. Inciting the people is the devil’s prescription for seizing power, but there is a big price to pay.

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’ For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  These are what make a man ‘unclean’… (Matthew 15:18-19)

The scene I describe is happening a lot recently. As the speaker walked toward the center stage, she was greeted by boos and hisses. She was invited to speak on behalf of one side of the debate about guns in the hands of private citizens. So what did those who protested gun violence have to say? Someone from the audience rushed the stage and shouted “Burn her!” The “her” was Dana Loesch, spokeswoman for the gun owner’s rights organization, the NRA. Ms. Loesch managed to make her argument amid the hostility but confessed later she would not have been able to exit safely were it not for her security detail.

Think of this for a moment. Those vehemently opposed to guns, spewed violence, hatred and discord. This proves it is not guns that kill people, but people do.

Divisive issues of our day are many. Spurred on by the media’s quest for high ratings, the image is the same: angry protesters, placards with hate-filled slogans, shouted obscenities and threats. A few sit back and smile. They want the fires, the physical beatings and the destruction for they sowed the seeds. The murder and slander, the evil thoughts and the false witness came from their heart and spread like a virus.

In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said,

The good man brings good things out of the good stored in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45)

No culture has ever survived the level of hatred, slander and violence currently spread across America. Murderous thoughts cannot be outlawed by legislation. Only Christ can change the heart (ex. Acts 7:59- 8:1).

Hatred and slander are manifestations of a heart mastered by sin, just as love is evidence of a heart God’s Spirit has mastered.

You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment.” (Matthew 5:21-22a)

Anger directed at our brother and murder come from the same polluted well. Instead of hate, rebellion and dissatisfaction, if we sow love and contentment we will reap a harvest of peace, and, in the process, we shall be called the children of God (Matthew 5:9). 

Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. (James 4:17 NIV)

Attorneys take an oath that, as “officers of the court,” they will pursue justice.  During an investigation, if a prosecutor discovers evidence that supports the defendant’s innocence, then, in the interest of justice, they are bound to share it with the defense counsel. If they happen upon evidence that supports the defendant’s guilt, prosecutors have responsibility to share that as well. Omissions are a threat to justice. The American judicial system is not about an outcome but about equal justice under the law. Hiding exculpatory evidence (evidence that rules out guilt) is a serious offense and punishable under the law as a felony (“contempt of court”).

Many Americans are not informed that top Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) officials may have committed crimes by failing in their obligation as officers of the court in order to achieve a political objective. Evidence suggests top law enforcement officials were granted a warrant to spy on members of the Trump team after leaving out evidence that would have damaged their case. It was not what law enforcement swore to in their testimony, but what they left out. Yet the major media has chosen to omit this big story from their reports. So why no criminal charges? When those in authority are willing to commit perjury by lying under oath as a false witness, we have lost the foundation for liberty.

Power that devotes itself to outcomes rather than the law are the tools of tyrants.  Dedication to a so-called theology has corrupted much of the Church as well. Teachers of the Gospel are to be officers of the court of truth. If they are committed to an ideology, then Bible facts that threaten their position are omitted and those who raise them are branded enemies. Truth is the first casualty. The deck is stacked. The fix is in. All sides are not fairly represented. Even if one is convinced they are right, omitting contradictory Biblical evidence to support a system of belief is sin.

“Truth is not realized until all seeming Scriptural contradictions are harmonized.” #4, “Five Major Rules of Biblical Interpretation” -R. van Kampen

Let few be teachers, especially if they choose to omit contradictory Scripture rather than introduce it. The standard by which God judges teachers is strict. It would be better a millstone were tied around their neck and they be cast into the sea than to be a teacher, preacher or pastor who fails to act as an officer of the court of Truth.


With the announcement today that Billy Graham departed this life at the age of 99, tributes are coming in from everywhere. I wanted to join those giving honor to this humble man who stood above the crowd. The ravages of Parkinson’s disease had left his body frail and almost lifeless, so it is akin to an act of mercy that God has allowed his soul to slip its mortal coil and be carried by angels off to heaven.

I never met Billy Graham or shook his hand, but I felt like I knew him well. My wife and I attended two crusades, one in Boston and the other in Pittsburgh; we heard him speak to graduates at the seminary I attended, and I listened intently while he addressed a large group of pastors at a conference bearing his name. What a sense of humor he had. It was usually the self-deprecating type.

As a boy, I grew up watching Billy Graham’s now famous mass crusades. They came on our TV at family viewing hours night after night. As an adult I had an appetite to read the official biography by John Pollock, and Billy’s later autobiography “Just As I Am.” In recent years, I found his 2-part video biography on YouTube to be very enriching. I’m not an expert on Dr. Graham’s life, but I am familiar it and continue to find it inspirational.

Now Billy belongs to the ages. His humility and his passion to preach Christ to a lost and dying world formed the perfect combination. He courageously broke down walls of religious and racial bigotry. He submitted himself to a board of trusted advisors and rejected the temptations of wealth. Much criticized and often maligned, he stayed true to his calling and followed his principles. If you want to know what God can do with a surrendered will, Billy is an example. Seemingly never seeking self-glory, he understood and was content in his role as a servant of Jesus Christ. If taking center stage would further the cause of the Gospel, he would seek God’s help and do it with all his might.

I love Billy Graham. I am sad for us who remain. The heaven he preached about and yearned for is now his. Billy is home. His shoes are too big to fill, but if everyone who was touched by his ministry would hold their candle high and re-dedicate the rest of their race to Billy’s savior, then what a bright world it would be. A glory has departed but the light can be made brighter.

My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. (Proverbs 3:1 NIV)

The flight attendant goes over the emergency instructions. Some bury their nose in a magazine while others stare outside. The attendant has info that could save their life, so why wouldn’t they follow it?

We all follow someone’s guidance, but whose? By listening and watching we can usually identify who people are following or who influences their thoughts. The Book of Proverbs hails wisdom’s teaching. If kept in our heart, her commands will prolong our life. Wisdom wants us to live long and enjoy “shalom” peace and prosperity, but first, like an obedient son or daughter, we must follow her instruction.

One would not know this by the American media’s lack of attention, but information that a clandestine group of high-placed government officials have been working to undermine the candidacy of Donald J. Trump and then his presidency. Evidence has been piling up, but it does not suggest Trump or his team colluded with the Russians, but that Secretary Clinton’s team and some top echelon officials in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Justice Department were the ones colluding. (But this is where many Americans are– Christians certainly included: Figuratively, they are burying their face in a magazine or staring outside. Avoidance behavior. See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. If they do not listen with ears that hear, then, in their mind, nothing should happen.)

Follow wisdom or follow only what you want to hear, then tune out the rest. Life is the reward for listening to Wisdom; disaster and destruction come by ignoring her. What is being played out in the political arena, is also happening in the church. A friend observed recently that his church never teaches about prophecy. (It may be because they don’t know anything.) If they did give some worthy instruction, my friend would eagerly follow along.

Sheep are often kept in the dark. They do not know what is coming upon the saints (Daniel 7:21-22, Matthew 24:21-22). At least the airlines attempt to prepare passengers to survive a disaster, but not some shepherds of Christ’s flock. Why not seek wisdom on the matter of prophecy? Would God not generously supply? Who are church leaders, teachers and shepherds following if they pass on misinformation or nothing at all?  Our Savior came to teach everything the Father told him about the end (John 15:15). In Matthew, Jesus instructed his disciples on last days’ emergency procedures (10:17-42, 24:4-51). Are we following the Bible, or are our eyes shut and ears closed?

We have Moses and the prophets. If we do not believe them, neither will we believe one risen from the dead. 

The prophet’s words are often unwelcomed, but not by those who will be saved. The medical test results must be heard, if positive steps are to be taken toward a cure. The corrupt must be brought to justice, before reform can happen and trust re-established. We are all followers. Those who reject wisdom’s teaching will tragically always follow the wrong leader.

Who is wise? He will realize these things.

Who is discerning? He will understand them.

The ways of the LORD are right, the righteous will walk in them, but the rebellious stumble in them.  (Hosea 14:9 NIV)

Even when we think nothing is on our mind, our mind is still there, working overtime. If anyone accuses you of “losing your mind,” you really haven’t. You probably expressed an idea they found unacceptable. It’s time we understood that there is a battle for control of our mind.

What is on your mind? Nothing more than what has been accumulating over your lifetime. Our minds are selective. Tons of information is being created every day, we cannot begin to process it all.  So, as Christians, we must make choices about the info that occupies our thoughts. That is where discernment becomes necessary. What we entertain (discernment) and how we respond to it practically (wisdom) is something over which we have control. Discernment to distinguish the truth from a lie, and wisdom to decide what, if anything, to do with the thought, separates the righteous from the rebellious. The righteous will take charge of what is on their mind and make it obedient to Christ.

Finally, my brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things… And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8, 9b).

Unhealthy and unholy thoughts find their way inside everyone’s head, but like the saying goes, “A bird may land in your hair, but you don’t have to let it build a nest.”

Guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life. Set a guard. Protect your mind. Desire truth in the inner being. Direct your mind to things above, not on things below. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways. Yet we should aspire to know the Lord’s thoughts and, like Moses, strive to learn His ways. We have not arrived until we are able to confirm Paul’s declaration: “We have the mind of Christ.”

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