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.”

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37b-38a NIV)

What is truth?” Pilate asked. Was it relative? Was truth whatever Caesar said it was?

“Fact-checking” is what America’s mainstream media (ex. The Washington Post, New York Times, CNN, etc.) offers to the public. They seem happy to point out the less-than-factual claims of Donald Trump. But who fact-checks the fact-checkers? Someone should. They should be subject them to the same scrutiny since their accuracy record is not too good. One conservative member of the broadcast media proclaims he is “America’s truth-detecter.” He claims to be “almost always right”?

Who is the real arbiter of what is true or false? Truth is a person, but not just any person. May I introduce you to Jesus? If you do not know who He is, don’t expect help from Google Home. Google’s smart audio device cannot identify Jesus or God, nor can Amazon’s Alexa. They seem to know everybody else, but when it comes to Jesus or God, they “do not have that information.” So can we trust them to know the truth?

Jesus came for the purpose of testifying to the truth. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)

Americans have a dilemma they brought on themselves. They have embraced a multitude of ideologies. Each claims truth is on their side, yet all claims are equally valid. But truth does not take sides, it stands alone as judge. Deceit takes sides. The best we can do is be on the side of truth.

Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (the deceiver), by testifying to the truth. When the Antichrist comes, he will claim he is “Truth.” Antichrist’s spirit is saturating the globe. The manifestation of it is seen in what comes from the deceiver’s mouth as well as that of the deceived. Jesus warns, “Watch out that no one deceives you” and “See, I have told you ahead of time.” (Matthew 24:4, 25)

Confusing claims of truth witnessed in politics are heard in the Church of Jesus Christ. Proof is the thousands of denominations and different groups. Only one can be true, or possibly none. Truth is not arbitrary.

Any other foundation than Christ is a lie. Yet even a foundation on Christ can be later become a lie. Soon God will judge his household with this question: You started your race, but did you continue in the truth? Every work that presumes to be of Christ will be tested by fire. Judgment on the household of faith is laid out in Revelation 2-3. We must examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. Contentment comes from Biblical illiteracy or neglect.

Jesus answered the Samaritan woman by saying that her people worshiped what they did not know, yet Jews worshiped what they did know, for salvation comes from the Jews (John 4:22). Samaritans had a faith built on a lie (an idol). Jews were given the truth by God, but they turned from the Scripture and incorporated the lie (idols) instead. Were Jews saved because of their foundation in God or a relationship to Abraham? Many thought so. Were the Samaritans saved because of their sincere devotion to idols? Are we saved because we “prayed once at a church altar?” Salvation entails more than a foundation, it needs a persistent following of the truth.

Salvation is not something we secured in the past and then forgot. Neither is a house ours if we fail to keep it up, or if we default on the mortgage or taxes. Paul taught Timothy. God wants all people everywhere to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. There is one God and one mediator between man and God, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:4)

We must add to our faith, truth, or accept the consequences. Truth is a standard by which we live. Christ is the cornerstone on which to build. The stone Jewish builders with the right foundation had rejected.

If we think we have attained truth, we are mistaken. Truth is based on love, so if we think we know it all but have not love, we have nothing. Truth is Jesus. Eagerly pursue Christ-likeness. Blind guides offer a path with many on it. The way to LIFE is narrow and there are few on it.

What is truth? Only that which comes directly out of the mouth of God. Truth and salvation are mutually dependent. Unless we know who is truth, we will never know “What is truth?”


Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect for everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:17 NIV)

All are keenly aware whenever they are legitimately disrespected. America’s president Donald Trump made it clear from his interview in Davos, Switzerland this week that his administration felt disrespected by Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. With the $100’s of millions in aid the U.S. doles out annually going to his government, he still refused to meet with Michael Pence during the vice-president’s recent visit. For the slap in the face, the hefty sum America sends to the PLO is now “on the table.” The money flow has stopped. Abbas broke a simple rule: “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.”

“As in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” -Jesus

What is there about us? We know instantly when we are disrespected? There is a built-in sense. Certainly President Trump knows and has chosen Twitter to return fire–which is his trademark. “An eye for an eye.” He is not given to turning the other cheek, the Lord’s way of dealing with persecution. Striking back only empowers our enemies, but the illusion of impunity emboldens the attackers as well. It is an illusion because God and God-fearers are fully aware of their lack of reverential awe and disrespect.

We are made in God’s image. When we are ill-treated, God feels it. For that reason, we should treat each other according to the Golden Rule: “As in everything, do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Matthew 7:12) 

Christians are the best of citizens.” -St. Augustine

To get respect, we must earn respect. Peter’s teaching (above) came during a horrific period of history. Nero’s persecution had broken out on the pretext that Christians started the fire that destroyed much of  Rome. Innocent followers of Christ were burned alive, others ripped to pieces by wild dogs, still others lost all possessions. Suffering unjustly had to elicit the deepest of negative emotions. With apostolic authority, Peter taught to respect everyone, to love the believers and to unconditionally honor Nero, their murderous king.  Saint Augustine would later observe, “Christians are the best of citizens.” Of all people, saints should understand both dimensions of respect.

“Fear God and obey his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13b)

Respect is in short supply. As a result, nations like the U.S. are dividing into factions. Respect has not been taught or re-enforced in the home. Disrespect is taught by example, then protected and encouraged through various institutions. Insults, slander, lies, corrupt talk and open threats against authority, are an assault against the order established by God. Rebellion against the king is rebellion against the Lord himself. The vertical dimension of respect is founded on the oft repeated precept, “Fear God and obey his commands.” The fear of God has to be taught and enforced from generation to generation or all restraint will disappear and the divided state will fall.

We do not choose between treating others with dignity and loving God, for how can we love God whom we have not seen, if we hate our brother whom we have seen? The answer is that we cannot. Hate that manifests itself in shouting down, shutting up or tearing down a fellow human being, is hatred of God and what he has created.

Everyone must submit himself to  the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established… Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. (Romans 13:1, 2)

If there is no fear of the king’s sword, then God still has a way of punishing the disrespectful. For his insolence, President Abbas may be humbled by a loss of funds. God commands fear, respect and honor, as does the king. If we curse (“Raca”) our brother, then at our King’s discretion, death and judgment may follow (Matthew 5:22, 22:5-7)

The disrespectful will be purged. The humble will be exalted. As to the one who spits in God’s face, they will feel His wrath. Their knee will bow and their tongue will confess, to the glory of God the Father, that Jesus Christ is Lord (Philippians 2:10-11). Immediately after their confession and humiliation, into the eternal fire they go.

It all starts with God. And so, with the sixth commandment in mind, God asks, “If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?” (Malachi 1:6a). The vertical dimension governs the horizontal. In an age of unprecedented lack of respect, many Christians ought to be more concerned.

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