Thursday, December 15, 2011

Jesus Is More Than Just Another Slice of Pizza in the Box!

"There are many paths to the top of the mountain!" and "There are many ships that cross the ocean!" are ancient oft quoted statements that claim all religions are equal and no one superior to any other.

I and my family enjoy eating pizza. We have done our share in helping pizza establishments in our area stay in business over time. We have patronized different pizza outlets within a radius of about 10 miles. The common pizza we usually get is one with pepperoni. Once in a while Jean and I will take advantage of Pizza Hut's buffet where you can get a wide variety of stuff for one price and really pig out by choice!

Enough of our personal experiences with pizza and on to the subject at hand. Never has there been a time in which there has been more intense insistence that all religions are legitimate in the claims which each makes in addressing the issues of human life, responsibility, morality, death, and destiny.

It is as if one said that Jesus is just another slice of pizza in the box. I have noticed that when we get pizza in a box that there are some minor differences -- some pieces are a little larger than others and some may have more pepperoni on than others. So you can choose a bigger or smaller piece and if you are really into pepperoni, you pick the piece that has more on it than others.

There are those, including persons within the ranks of professing Christianity, who say that it is up to you to decide the "religion" with which you want to identify -- one is as good as another. And that, of course, includes Christianity. Just pick and choose and should you become dissatisfied, just come back to the religion box and choose another one!

There are still a few of us around who are quite radical on this issue. We maintain that true Christianity is distinctly separate from and far superior to all other religious expressions found in today's world. Another way of saying it is that only Christianity is the true faith and all the others, whether the devotees number but a few dozen or into the millions, are totally false!

The determining factor making the difference is none other than Jesus Christ Himself! While His uniqueness is mentioned repeatedly throughout the New Testament Scriptures, it is in the Gospel of John that His absolute claims concerning Himself are made known and the fact that either He is genuine or if not, then He qualifies as a first class candidate for admission to the nearest institution for those who are mentally deranged!

All the claims He made are very well summed up in two: first, the claim that He is the way, the truth and the life and that no one can come to the Father except through Him and second, the claim that He is the resurrection and the life and those who believe in Him will not die but will live. Critics will jump on that by saying that even Christians die, so Jesus is wrong. The fact is that Christians do not die -- it is a simple experience of moving out of their earthly bodies (described elsewhere in Scripture as a tent) and going into the presence of God. In some cases God has permitted some Christians to tarry a bit at that moment when they are leaving and speak some words of what they see -- past departed loved ones, angels, and even the Lord Jesus Himself! Those two claims of Jesus can be read at John 14 and John 11. But as you go through the Gospel of John, note every statement of Jesus which is preceded with the words, "I am...."

Christianity in its purest expression is uncompromising in stating that Jesus is God revealed in human form Who demonstrated the perfect life lived on earth. But the most significant act in His visit to the planet which He created a long time ago is seen in His sacrificial death on a Roman cross. His death was on behalf of every human born into this world as He paid the penalty for every sin committed by every human being (yes, even for those who follow the many false religions of this world) and made possible total forgiveness and acceptance in the presence of a holy God!

Three days after the crucifixion Jesus was resurrected from the dead and appeared to many people over a 40 day period. Some of His followers saw Him ascend back to Heaven and heard angels declare that this same Jesus Who had been taken from them would return in like manner at some point in the future. We are now a little over 2,000 years closer to His return than when that statement was first made!

No other religion outside of Christianity has anything that even begins to remotely resemble what the Christian faith is all about and the One in Whom it is centered -- a Savior Who paid the price of the sins of the entire human race through the sacrifice of Himself willingly ("No man takes my life from me -- I lay it down and I take it up again!" - also found in Gospel of John) and His subsequent victory in resurrection from the dead!

Becoming a Christian is, however, a conditional experience. We are called to repent of our sins -- that is, to abandon our sinful ways, and to receive Jesus into our lives by invitation with the intent that we seek to be obedient to Him for the rest of our lives here on earth. This results in being "born again" as mentioned in John 3 of the Gospel. It is a new and transformed life that results. One has moved from concentrating on self and the "What I want" way of life to what is it that Jesus wants of me -- how might I please Him each day that I live?

Again, no other religion in the world has anything that begins to compare to this -- it is only experienced in Jesus Christ and nowhere else!

One can be choosy when it comes to the pizza in the box -- you can pick a big slice, or a smaller slice -- one with lots of pepperoni or one with not so much, or even choose to remove all the pepperoni as certain members in our family choose to do. But when it comes to the religion issue -- be sure to choose the one that is centered in Jesus Christ and be assured of a place in His Kingdom forever -- choosing any other is a sure guarantee of ending up in a Devil's Hell! And that is not an opinion on my part, but what Jesus Himself said about the destiny of those who reject Him! Yes, Jesus is more than just another slice of pizza in the box -- He is Savior, Lord, and our soon returning King!

"Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!' Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. Now everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall." --- Jesus speaking in Matthew 7:21-27

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Jerry Sandusky Forgiven?

Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile. --- Psalm 32:1, 2

By this time the name, Jerry Sandusky, is familiar to a major segment of our population. Not only is he the primary subject in a sex scandal centered in a very high profile educational institution known as Penn State University, but he is also the focus of ongoing investigation concerning his sexual activities with young boys. Sandusky is also the concentrated focus of mass media news outlets and a hoard of talk shows.

Expressions of outrage have taken many forms, with persons yielding to the temptation to be prosecutor, jury, judge, and delightfully, the executioner! To be sure the allegations against Sandusky, if proven to be true, are abominable to say the least. With a number of victims now on record as having been involved with Sandusky's aggressive homosexuality, it remains for all this to be thrashed out in proper court proceedings.

Notice, I said "aggressive homosexuality" which goes beyond being simply a "predator!" Those who are pushing a sodomite/lesbian agenda in our culture would not want it to be spread around that Sandusky is a sodomite! But what is the definition of a male being involved sexually with other males, no matter what the ages are? If you haven't read the definition lately, look it up for yourself and see what it says.

Is it possible for Jerry Sandusky to experience true forgiveness? There will be those who will adamantly insist that for him forgiveness is not possible, and that he should not be forgiven -- further, he should be consigned to the region of Hell where the temperature is at the highest level possible and the agony the most intense possible!

OK, be that as it may, what about God and being forgiven by Him? There is but one sin that the Bible reveals to be impossible for forgiveness -- it is described as the sin against the Holy Spirit of God which is unpardonable. But what is it? In context in which it is identified, there were those who said Jesus was casting out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons. So Jesus mentions this issue and while elaborating on the fact that if He is casting out demons by the Spirit of God, then the Kingdom has come unto them. A bit later Jesus says this: "Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men." (Matthew 12:31).

It is the Holy Spirit Who convicts us of our sin, opens our eyes to see that Jesus Christ is the One Who took our sins upon Himself, paid the penalty of those sins by His sacrificial death on the cross, and through Him one can be totally forgiven of all sins upon the condition of repenting of those sins!

But to reject the promptings and conviction brought on by the Holy Spirit is to be guilty of rejecting the only possible way to be forgiven and entrance into God's Heaven when our earthly journey comes to its conclusion! The only other destination is a Hell which was originally designed for Satan and his angels.

Yes, Jerry Sandusky can experience forgiveness from a God Who loved us all so much that He gave His only begotten Son Who was sacrificed on a cross for the sins of the entire human race. But the condition for him is the same as for every sinner who desires to be forgiven of all transgressions -- remorse, regret, seeking forgiveness of those offended, and true repentance in seeking mercy from God. One MUST turn from all known sin and God will grant forgiveness with a miracle taking place -- that of the sinner being reconciled to and accepted by a holy God Who will not tolerate sin in any form!

Forgiveness is always a conditional experience -- if I want God to forgive me, then I must forgive others who have offended me. For those so very directly involved in the Sandusky tragedy, being willing to forgive him will perhaps be the most difficult action some have taken in their entire lives. And it may be that some will say they cannot and will not ever forgive him for such offenses as he allegedly was guilty of doing.

Two statements remind us of the critical nature of experiencing forgiveness:

1. When we pray the Lord's prayer, we come to that part of where we express the desire to be forgiven and we say, "Forgive us our trespasses..." Most agree that we are guilty of committing "trespasses." But then we go on and say, " we forgive those who trespass against us." Do you see an explicit condition here?

2. Jesus was extremely clear on this subject when He said, "For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." (Matthew 6:14, 15).

The fall out in regard to the scandal involving Jerry Sandusky and other Penn State personalities will continue for some time. The trial will be extremely high profile with the mass media milking it for all it is worth. A big bunch of those in mass media work seem to take great delight in sensationalizing such happenings. This is a disaster of the first magnitude.

But the main issue the mass media will not at all discuss will be the issue of forgiveness. Forgiveness as it applies to Jerry Sandusky and all who have been impacted by his past behavior patterns.
"For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." --- Matthew 6:14, 15

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Outlaw Professional Lobbying!

Facebook extends tentacles into D.C., forms political action committee --- recent internet news headline

For quite some time organized lobbying has become a devastating curse in our republic. All PACs (Political Action Committees) should be outlawed. It ought to be considered a criminal act for a person to be paid high wages plus outlandish perks for engaging in activity which attempts to influence elected officials to vote on matters that are highly favorable to a certain group of individuals but not so to others.

There are solid reasons why professional lobbying and persons paid for engaging in such should be charged with committing criminal acts.

1. Professional lobbying is basically a very selfish activity and cannot qualify as being highly ethical in nature. A group pays one or more individuals to influence congressional members' votes in their favor. The view is simply this: "We should have top priority and be given first consideration when it comes to legislation that will affect us one way or another. Other people outside our group do not matter - we do not care in the least what happens to them -- we are first in line and our cause should be given first consideration before anything else!"

2. Many persons who have served in the Congress have ended up in intense lobbying activity. There was effort to restrict how soon a person after leaving office could engage in professional lobbying activity. But who knows how much money has gone under the table as one waits out the time limits until being able to become a professional lobbyist with all the advantages and connections such a position offers!

3. Professional lobbying blunts and often obliterates entirely the efforts of private citizens to make appeals to their elected representatives regarding impending legislation. The "group" (in whatever form it may exist) becomes the priority due to influence and financial support. The private citizen does not have that kind of clout when it comes to influencing an elected official.

Lobbying should be strictly limited to the private citizen and his/her personal appeals to elected officials by phone, letter, email, personal visit to the official's office, etc. Citizens certainly have the right to unite in their efforts in exerting influence in regard to legislation but the line is drawn at paying huge sums of money to individuals whose only job is to run up and down the halls of buildings containing offices of elected officials and seek to influence the outcome of pending legislation!

It is very obvious that in the realm of lobbying activity there has been an intentional rejection of what is required for government to function at its greatest and very best for the health and ongoing survival of our republic. Jesus Christ, Who created this world a long, long time ago, said it this way:

"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's, and of the holy angels." --- Luke 9:23-25

Will there come a time when professional lobbying will cease to exist? Will there be a time when not one person is paid lavish wages and "perks" for the sole purpose of influencing the votes of elected officials in favor of certain organized groups? Highly unlikely so long as present conditions continue politically -- money is the name of this game and the stakes are very high! It is best viewed as one views a patient with cancer in its terminal stages! There will eventually be an end to it, but it will require God's direct intervention to bring about such a desired result as that!

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! --- 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Friday, September 9, 2011

When Cross and Crescent Meet???

"....let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." --- Apostle Peter speaking in Acts 4:10-12

"When Cross and Crescent Meet" is the title of a recent article in The Interpreter, a United Methodist Church publication. The cover featured a photo of a group of Muslim women having prayers at Heartsong United Methodist Church in Cordova TN. Imposed on the photo was the title of the article which details how United Methodists and Muslims in some areas have been getting together.

The central issue is whether a United Methodist Church is to permit any kind of activity whatsoever to take place within its walls, or is there a line to be drawn and a "No!" to be addressed to certain individuals or groups wanting to use the premises?

We pretty well know what the response would be if a group wanted to use the church for a beer party or someone wanted to turn the church into a brothel for an evening with some prostitutes on site doing business! Then again, with changing standards the past few years and the unthinkable now being acceptable, who knows what might happen further down the road?

The United Methodist Church Book of Discipline does contain information as to how a United Methodist Church is to be used. The basic standard is that no individual or group which advocates doctrines and teachings that conflict with the doctrines of the Christian faith should be permitted to use the premises of a local United Methodist Church.

The trust clause of each UMC underscores the fact that the property is to be used in such a manner as to honor God through His Son, Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord. This is basic in our faith. Those who practice a lifestyle and adopt doctrines contrary to the mission and purpose of The United Methodist Church forfeit the right to make use of UMC property.

The picture of Muslim women having a prayer time in a United Methodist Church is in violation of stated use and purpose of a United Methodist Church. It is highly doubtful that they are praying to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob through the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is God revealed in human form!

This is not to say that they are not welcome to attend a United Methodist Church worship service or other functions taking place within the church. The view must always be that these are people for whom Jesus Christ died on a cross to make forgiveness of sin possible. The motive must be to reach out in love to these folk in the name of our Lord Jesus but at same time not to convey the idea that their "religion" is as valid as Christianity. It definitely is not.

However, there are those who take the position that other religious expressions in the world are legitimate when it comes to addressing the issues of life, its purpose, and its eternal destiny. So, in that view, bring in whoever has some kind of deity or combination of deities (Hindu) and let them worship the same in a United Methodist Church, in spite of violating the standards for proper use of United Methodist Church property!

Christianity is a very radical faith when honestly viewed in light of Jesus' statements about Who He is and why He came into the world. The Gospel of John lists a number of His statements that begin with "I am..." In examining these claims one is forced to admit that Jesus allows for no other person or deity to do for us humans what He does. It is quite well summed up in His statement in John 14:6 -- "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Not even Allah is given consideration here.

But equally radical is Jesus' statement about honoring God. Think a bit upon this one: "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son, that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." (John 5:22-24).

Only God is to be honored -- but when you honor Jesus, you are honoring God. On the other hand, if Jesus is merely a human being and nothing more, then to worship and honor Him is a vain and deadly act in which to engage.

All who claim to be Christian in faith also have to settle the issue of Jesus' parting commandment to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. Those who respond are to be baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That commandment has not been rescinded. That means that all citizens in this world are to be confronted with the call to repent of sin and receive Jesus as Savior and Lord of their lives. There are Muslims who have become Christian in faith, though in many instances at a very high price. Likewise it is so with other religious expressions. I have a pastor friend in India who was a Hindu before becoming a Christian. In his congregation are persons who formerly were Hindus and Muslims, but are now dedicated Christians.

Muslims acknowledge the fact that historically, Jesus did really exist. They regard Him as a prophet but that is it. In fact He does not rank as high as Mohammed in their list of prominent persons in the world of Islam.

What to expect in the future? There are and will be the efforts to sit down to the table and "dialog" about religious issues. Again, the assumption will be that all participants have a legitimate claim to addressing the issues of life, its purpose and its eternal destiny.

So that leaves one who professes to be Christian in faith with a very critical question -- are these who are traveling the road of "dialog" right, or is Jesus Christ correct when He claims to be the exclusive way of salvation and hope -- absolutely the one and only, thus shutting out Allah, Vishnu, Shiva, and all other deities in whatever form they exist?

The Crescent must bow down before the Cross -- that is, if there is to be any hope for time and eternity! And why is this? Consider seriously and honestly the following statement and then do the same with Jesus' parting commandment when He left the surface of this planet 2,000 years ago........

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. --- Philippians 2:9-11

Then Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. --- Matthew 28:18-20

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Shaking Things Up a Bit!

"Earthquake Rattles Parts of Eastern US -- The magnitude 5.9 quake was centered some 90 miles from the nation's capital. Parts of the Pentagon, White House & Capitol were among the areas evacuated." --- Headline as it appeared on during the afternoon of August 23, 2011

I got home from a doctor's appointment about 3:30 PM. Jean said the weirdest thing had happened around 2 PM -- for a little bit the house "quivered" as she described it in her words. But while at the doctor's office I noticed nothing as I was going through some testing of my eyes.

The news began to flow about the quake being centered in VA and as the headline mentioned, Washington DC is about 90 miles north of the center. But other places located some distance away also felt the quake's activity.

Cable news channels will be saturated about this recent happening and may even crowd out for a time at least what is happening in Libya as the rebels take over Tripoli, Gadafi's "stronghold."

Again, a most appropriate question can be asked -- God has been speaking in a wide variety of ways, but is anyone really listening? More importantly, to what extent is real honest soul-searching taking place and thoughts such as "We need to repent of our wickedness and seek God through His Son, Jesus Christ!"

Jesus, the foremost Authority on human behavior and how to properly relate to God in a positive manner, gave a detailed body of information as to how things would go in the latter times of human history as we see it being presently played out.

Our nation and the entire world are in for a shocking and dramatic change at some point in the future. Before that happens, it will seem that the entire world is in a state of convulsions on a repeat basis. The very structure of the earth will come under great pressure and strain. When the pressure is relieved at certain places, earthquakes will be the result. They may be rather large in magnitude or barely noticable.

Jesus mentioned earthquakes as being one of the indicators that His personal return to this world is drawing near. As He stated it, the earthquakes will be in many different places. This allows for such happenings to take place beyond the traditional "ring of fire" where earthquakes are more common. The "ring of fire" takes in the western coastal areas of South and North America, extending up toward Alaska and then curving down along the eastern coastal areas of the Asian continent into the southern Pacific area. In fact, there is an allowance for an earthquake to take place in areas that have not recorded one in recent memory!

Are you ready for more shake-ups in the days ahead? Perhaps one way of looking at this is to remember that God is just warming up -- we haven't seen anything yet!

When was the last time you had a good talk with God about things over which you are deeply concerned, including what the future holds?

And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows." --- Matthew 24:4-8

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Will the "Plan" Really Work?

"Obama's plan: New Jobs proposals" --- headline for news article on August 18, 2011

One report mentions about "unemployment north of 9 percent" and the fact that there has been no incumbent president in recent times who has won a second term with the jobless rate near such a level as that. But with election fraud a very real and powerful possibility due to use of electronic voting machines it may not really matter if there is even a 10 or 11 percent rate or more in unemployment!

Will the O "plan" really work is the question. The answer is an obvious "No!"

First, a significant reason is that our republic is exhibiting a high level of defiance against the laws and principles which Almighty God has revealed to be absolutely necessary for peace, prosperity, power, prestige, and positive prospects for the future.

Elected officials, beginning with the president, have provided no evidence that they are seriously concerned about seeking the will of God not just in regard to their personal lives, but also in regard to the health and future survival of our republic. Anyone with a bit of sensitivity to God's special revelation is aware that the will of God must always be a top priority issue -- to ignore it is to invite furture disaster of unprecedented dimensions. The ruins and remnants of past civilizations provide explicit testimony of this fundamental truth!

However, the primary reason the "plan" is doomed from the beginning is the fact that the president with a good degree of support from members of the Congress is an aggressive advocate of the destruction of unborn children. His track record dating back to years in the Illinois legislature is unmistakably clear beyond question on this issue.

No nation with leadership such as that provided by Barack Obama and his supporters will experience the blessing of God nor will that nation have a secure and hopeful future.

The prophet Jeremiah was inspired to make a statement that is largely ignored in personal experience as well as in collective experience such as in the affairs of government. It likewise is too often ignored in church issues as well. Jeremiah said:

"O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps." --- Jeremiah 10:23

We shall be hearing a lot about the "plan" in times ahead. But mark it down -- it is doomed to fail UNLESS there is genuine repentance from our national shedding of innocent blood, entrenched idolatry, pandemic sexual immorality, intentional and widespread profaning of the day of worship, deadly indoctrination of the young in regard to our origins, etc.

At this point in time the prevailing spirit is quite similar to a time of long ago in which a nation of people shared a common viewpoint as graphically described by the prophet Isaiah:

And in that day the Lord GOD of hosts called for weeping and for mourning, for baldness and for girding with sackcloth. But instead, joy and gladness, slaying oxen and killing sheep, eating meat and drinking wine: "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" Then it was revealed in my hearing by the LORD of hosts, "Surely for this iniquity there will be no atonement for you, even to your death," says the Lord GOD of hosts. --- Isaiah 22:12-14

A line from the works of the poet, Robert Burns, reads: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men / Gang aft agley," An American translation words it like this: "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry." Keep that in mind in the times ahead as the "plan" is implemented!

Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, besides his sin with which he made Judah sin, in doing evil in the sight of the LORD. --- 2 Kings 21:16

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Does An Old Man of 78 Years Have Any Real Future?

Clayton D. Harriger was born on August 5, 1933 to Russell & Helen (Sedgwick) Harriger at a farm house in Monroe Township in Clarion County, Pennsylvania.

I just recently celebrated my 78th birthday. Since I am on Facebook, my birth date was common knowledge among the many friends I have through this social network. I received a large number of greetings from not only friends and relatives here in the United States, but from many who live in nations outside the U. S. as well. For all these well wishes extended to me I am extremely grateful. I regret that I was not able to respond personally to each one of those greetings. So at this time I am stating my heart felt gratitude for all who took time to post some words and wishing me a happy birthday.

It was a good day and a relaxing one. There was no party and that was quite OK. I am at the age now where parties do not have the meaning they used to have in my very young years. I remember especially one my mother arranged for me when I was about 8 or 9 years of age. It was a surpise and quite a few friends came with gifts which were exciting to open. That special day was indelibly stamped into my memory.

But now, on to the question asked at the beginning - does an old man of 78 years have any real future? I have witnessed drastic changes in the nation and the world during the seven decades plus that I have lived. Science has developed many advances in many fields which have enhanced our living conditions. Going to the dentist, for instance, isn't quite the agony it used to be. At that young age to which I referred a moment ago, going to the dentist meant you would not receive novocaine for drilling out and filling a cavity. The drill was a slow speed piece of equipment which I referred to as the "grinder!" The pain could be sheer torture and added to that was the stink when the smoke began to roll as the dentist just kept on drilling and drilling -- no spray of water applied either during the process!

Anyway, developments and inventions of a wide variety have helped to make life a better quality experience over time.

But on the other hand the standards of morality, ethics, and spirituality have horribly deteriorated over time as well. Scandals among high profile persons in our culture are becoming quite common place. The two primary driving forces in our culture, state and church, are weighed in the balances and found greatly wanting -- to quote a situation from the book of Daniel in the Old Testament of the Bible!

Elected officials in the U. S. government have hatched a "health care plan" which eventually will result in old people being hung out to dry -- one theme in all this is referred to as "cost effectiveness" -- that is, will it be good to treat a person for health needs because it will result in that person living longer and making a further contribution for the improvement of society, or will it be a wasted expenditure because the person in question will not be living very much longer anyway due to age!

There is a cold and calloused attitude developing which essentially says that old people are like parasites in our culture -- they are a drain on finances and take up space, while making absolutely no contribution for the enhancement of society -- they are like a ball & chain and hindering the progress and prosperity of our nation! So it really is best to see them make their exit from this earthly existence as soon as possible!

I am one of those "candidates" that eventually may be "hung out and left to dry" (insert word "die" if you wish). It is amazing how the spirit of Nazi Germany is creeping into our nation and influencing viewpoints and attitudes. Greatest proof is in the bloody trail created by destroying over 53 million unborn children since January 1973 by sanction of the Judicial, Executive, and Legislative branches of the federal government!

Do I have any real future? You thought I would never get to that, didn't you? I answer with an enthusiastic "Yes!" However, my future and high expectations do not rest upon what is going on in Washington DC or in the capitol of the state in which I live, Harrisburg PA. The shenanigans going on in such places as those offer no hope whatsoever, The Bible informs us clearly as to how the manipulative antics of humans in the times preceding the judgment of God will proceed.

My hope rests upon the Person and promises of Jesus Christ, the living Son of God. I was and am not worthy of such love and mercy as He has shown to me. I was not yet born when the apostle Paul said that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners -- and then he added, "... of whom I am chief!" I would have to say to Paul, "Get behind me and be second in line -- I'll take the place of being the 'chief' of sinners!"

Jesus died an agonizing, tortuous death on the cross -- in so doing, He paid the penalty leveled against me for every sin of which I have been guilty in my entire lifetime. And he did the same for you, dear reader. I repented of my sins, asked His forgiveness, and received Him as Savior and Lord into my life many years ago. My life has been far from perfect since that miraculous moment many years ago -- but where I have failed, He has been gracious to forgive and restore me to fellowship with Him on a daily basis!

My hope is not only centered in Him as Savior and Lord, but also in the prospect of His personal return to this chaotic planet to take control of human affairs. What a day that will be. I got so excited one time about this that I wrote a blog piece discussing the wonderful fact that a great day is coming -- all government officials will be out of a job, including those in the U.S. -- if it is still around at that time! Jesus Christ will be in total charge as He establishes His Kingdom over the whole world.

One of many promises concerning this future event upon which I stand is found in Revelation 11:15 which explicitly declares: "Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'"

Yes, it is an ever present reality that an old man can have a rock solid hope for the future as he views the shifting sands of the nations and present governments of this world -- a hope that extends beyond the very limited things of time into eternity itself where the perfect trouble-free environment exists as established by One Who holds the title, "King of kings and Lord of lords!"

But until that hope of which I speak becomes a reality in this world, I shall continue to fulfill the calling God gave me to preach and teach His holy Word, bearing witness in whatever way possible that Jesus is "..the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father but through Him." (John 14:6).

Where is your hope centered today?

By You I have been upheld from my birth; You are He who took me out of my mother's womb. My praise shall be continually of You. I have become as a wonder to many, but You are my strong refuge. Let my mouth be filled with Your praise and with Your glory all the day. Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength fails. For my enemies speak against me; and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together, saying, "God has forsaken him; pursue and take him, for there is none to deliver him." O God, do not be far from me; O my God, make haste to help me! Let them be confounded and consumed who are adversaries of my life; let them be covered with reproach and dishonor who seek my hurt. But I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. My mouth shall tell of Your righteousness and Your salvation all the day, for I do not know their limits. I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD; I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only. O God, You have taught me from my youth; and to this day I declare Your wondrous works. Now also when I am old and gray-headed, O God, do not forsake me, until I declare Your strength to this generation, Your power to everyone who is to come. Also Your righteousness, O God, is very high, You who have done great things; O God, who is like You? You, who have shown me great and severe troubles, shall revive me again, and bring me up again from the depths of the earth. --- Psalm 71:6-20

Friday, July 15, 2011

Will The United Methodist Church Capitulate to the Sodomite/Lesbian Agenda?

Out of concern for the welfare of all God’s people, and, out of special concern for the people of The United Methodist Church, we, United Methodist Bishops – retired, believe The United Methodist Church should remove the following statement from The Book of Discipline (2008):

“…The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching. Therefore self-avowed practicing homosexuals are not to be certified as candidates, ordained as ministers, or appointed to serve in The United Methodist Church.” ¶304.3 ............
[Clayton D. Harriger is an ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, a member of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference and author of the following comments.]

It's a well known fact -- the old oak tree may be huge -- the trunk may be at least 15 feet or more in circumferance -- but if you keep chopping away and the chips keep falling, the tree will topple eventually!

And so it goes in the United Methodist Church. For some time those supporting the sodomite/lesbian agenda have been zealously at work to force full acceptance of unrepentant sodomites and lesbians into the life and ministry of the denomination. One central focus of attack has been the statement in the UMC Book of Discipline that states homosexuality to be incompatible with Christian teaching.

Other areas of attack have been the statements dealing with ordination of those who practice this abominable lifestyle and the performing of ceremonies which join 2 sodomites or 2 lesbians in a "union" that is supposed to be comparable to the marriage of a man and a woman.

The political posturing has been taking place for some time in anticipation of General Conference which will be held in spring of 2012.

Noted at the beginning is a partial statement from a gang of retired United Methodist bishops (term used very loosely) who are pressing for acceptance of unrepentant sodomites and lesbians without any objection whatsoever. The "bishops" signing that declaration are: Sharon Z. Rader, Donald A. Ott, Beverly Shamana, C. Joseph Sprague, Melvin G. Talbert, S. Clifton Ives, Joe A. Wilson, William Lewis, Forrest Stith, Susan Morrison, Susan Hassinger, Judy Craig, Dale White, William Boyd Grove, C. P. Minnick, Kenneth L. Carder, Roy I. Sano, Joe Yeakel, Kenneth Hicks, Joseph Humper, Monk Bryan, Jesse DeWitt, Jack Tuell, J. Lloyd Knox, Charles W. Jordan, J. Lawrence McCleskey, Marshall L. Meadors, Jr., Franz Schafer, Sheldon Duecker, Fritz Mutti, Cal McConnell, and Leontine T. C. Kelly. Not all signed that statement -- at least one did not and that was Bishop George Bashore who retired a few years ago after serving the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference. However, in the list of those signing is the name of William Boyd Grove who is originally from the Western Pennsylvania Conference and served in that conference before being elected to the office of bishop.

From out of Illinois has come a pledge on the part of 200 U. M. clergy to flout church policy and bless "unions" for same-gender couples who seek to be "united" in the same. Further, it has been reported that United Methodists in the Northern Illinois Conference called on the global church to impose no more than a 24-hour suspension for clergy who defy the policy of the United Methodist Church regarding same-gender union ceremonies!

Should we be surprised? With the stench of Illinois and Chicago politics greatly impacting Washington DC, it follows that the U. M. Church in Illinois would demonstrate it too is very capable of tolerating corruption of the first magnitude!

A female U. M. pastor this past June was found guilty for performing a "union" ceremony for 2 lesbians. The trial court really came down hard on her for this violation -- she was suspended for 20 days! There are more details as to what she has to do in writing a document along with discussions etc. in preparation for next year's annual conference. The Board of Ordained Ministry and the bishop have certainly bent more than 90 degrees backward to accomodate Amy DeLong, and of course she continues to do pastoral work as an ordained elder in her conference. Is this akin to laying your pinky lightly across her wrist and saying, "You naughty, naughtly girl -- now please, if you can find it within yourself, try not to do this again."

United Methodist pastor, Michael Gray, is in the heart of the effort to get a referendum on the ballot in Maine which will legalize marriage between same-gender couples. He supported the effort back in 2009 which was eventually overturned. He claims most of his congregation supports marriage between same-gender couples.

Six states have now legalized marriage for sodomites and lesbians which means U. M. pastors in those states will really be under pressure to do weddings involving such persons.

The above situations are but merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the ferment taking place within the United Methodist Church. Will 2012 be the year that significant changes are made and the door is opened quite a bit wider for unrepentant sodomites and lesbians with same-gender sexual intimacy no longer regarded as "incompatible with Christian teaching?"

One very effective strategy being used by the sodomite/lesbian agenda people is the "dialog." This is where you sit down at the table and discuss your differences with participating parties agreeing to respect one another and to refrain from any negative references to those holding an opposite position on the issue. Too many claiming to be "conservative" and believers in the Scriptures have fallen into this trap. It makes for good publicity and in order to "get along, we go along" even in our dialog experiences! Remember the old oak tree -- dialog advances and more chips are taken out of the old tree's trunk.

There is talk of a split in the UMC over this issue. There are those who strongly support such action. But really, it will do little good. The sodomite/lesbian cartel would not be content with a split -- they want universal unquestioned acceptance on the part of every person who is a part of the UMC -- laity and clergy alike!

Any who refuse to accept this abominable lifestyle have already been labeled in the most negative terms that can be dredged out of Mr. Webster's dictionary, starting with the word, homophobic.

How very real are the words of Jesus in these times as He warned that conditions would duplicate those which existed in a city named Sodom when a godly, but tormented, man by the name of Lot lived there. Unfortunately Lot paid an extremely high price for the deadly choice of moving into that city with his family.

Those who believe God has clearly established the boundaries of human sexuality will increasingly become targets of attack in this ongoing moral war. But stand your ground, dig in your heels, and speak up to the end -- victory lies straight ahead. Be comforted in knowing that our Lord will render the final judgment and have the last word!

Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." And the Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" And let him who thirsts come. And whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely. For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book. He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly." Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen. --- Revelation 22:14-21

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Only One Nation Has a Bright Future Absolutely Guaranteed!

Thus says the LORD of hosts: "In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'" --- Zechariah 8:23

A large number of U. S. citizens along with their leaders, political and church, hold to the United States having a great future in spite of some aggravating issues in which the republic presently finds itself. The grand deception lies in the fact that a majority sincerely believe we as a nation can successfully work through all the issues, solve the problems, and usher in a time of great economic prosperity. This in spite of God's revelation showing us with crystal clarity that without God's grace, mercy and guidance we cannot possibly succeed in our efforts.

But there is a time coming when one nation will achieve all that others have failed to gain through centuries of time. And among the nations who have failed is one known as the United States of America! Israel is that nation which is destined to have that very bright future, standing all alone in the glory which God has reserved for it.

Isaiah 60 is but one of a number of chapters in Scripture that speak of Israel's future and that of its prominent city, Jerusalem. God is going to bring about some very shocking changes at some point in the future regarding the Israelite people and their nation.

First, there will be a time of paramount prosperity for Israel and that coming about in a most unusual way:

Arise, shine; For your light has come! and the glory of the LORD is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. "Lift up your eyes all around, and see: they all gather together, they come to you; your sons shall come from afar, and your daughters shall be nursed at your side. Then you shall see and become radiant, and your heart shall swell with joy; because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you, the wealth of the Gentiles shall come to you. Surely the coastlands shall wait for Me; and the ships of Tarshish will come first, to bring your sons from afar, their silver and their gold with them, to the name of the LORD your God, and to the Holy One of Israel, because He has glorified you. The sons of foreigners shall build up your walls, and their kings shall minister to you; for in My wrath I struck you, but in My favor I have had mercy on you. Therefore your gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring to you the wealth of the Gentiles, and their kings in procession." --- Isaiah 60:1-5, 9-11

Second, there will be a time of prominent prestige with foreign nations being in servitude to Israel -- seems impossible that it will ever happen, but when God has said it will be, then when the time is right it will happen exactly as God has planned:

"For the nation and kingdom which will not serve you shall perish, and those nations shall be utterly ruined. The glory of Lebanon shall come to you, the cypress, the pine, and the box tree together, to beautify the place of My sanctuary; and I will make the place of My feet glorious. Also the sons of those who afflicted you shall come bowing to you, and all those who despised you shall fall prostrate at the soles of your feet; and they shall call you The City of the LORD, Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, so that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations. You shall drink dry the milk of the Gentiles, and shall milk the breast of kings; you shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob." --- Isaiah 60:12-16

Third, it will be a time of stable and solid security for a people described as being "righteous:"

"Violence shall no longer be heard in your land, neither wasting nor destruction within your borders; but you shall call your walls Salvation, and your gates Praise. The sun shall no longer be your light by day, nor for brightness shall the moon give light to you; but the LORD will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory. Your sun shall no longer go down, nor shall your moon withdraw itself; for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and the days of your mourning shall be ended. Also your people shall all be righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified. A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation. I, the LORD, will hasten it in its time." --- Isaiah 60:18-22

Israel will continue to go through very difficult and trying times for a while. For the most part the nation is in a state of unbelief in regard to Jesus Christ being the Messiah, the Savior and Hope in regard to the future. But the time will come when eyes will be opened and hearts will earnestly seek Him in a spirit of repentance. A nation much despised and hated to the extent that some wanted to totally destroy it will be the only one to arrive eventually at world prominence and to be dominant over all other nations!

For Christians, the responsibility remains as always -- to be involved in every way possible in carrying out the command of Jesus to take the Gospel into all the world, bearing witness to the fact that He is exclusively the only way of forgiveness, and reconciliation to God the Father. If one is going to experience salvation, it will only be through Jesus Christ and no other!

But there is another thing Christians can also be doing -- praying for the peace of Jerusalem (Psalm 122:6, 7) and giving God no rest until He makes Jerusalem a praise throughout all the earth:

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem, who shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, and give Him no rest till He establishes and till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. --- Isaiah 62:6, 7

I am fully aware that there are various interpretations regarding reference to Israel in the Scriptures and the church having in a sense "replaced" Israel so far as future events are concerned. Personally, I prefer to take it the way God has spelled it out and that under the terms of the covenant made originally with Abraham, Israel is the only nation to have a very bright future! And why is this? The answer is very simple -- because God has promised it will be so!

Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."..............On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: "To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates; the Kenites, the Kenezzites, and the Kadmonites; the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Rephaim; the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites." --- Genesis 12:1-3; 15:18-21

Monday, July 4, 2011

235 Years of Independence But The Termites Are Eating the Supporting Timbers!

"America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great." --- quote from Alexis de Tocqueville who was a French political thinker and historian best known for his Democracy in America (appearing in two volumes: 1835 and 1840) and The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856). In both of these works, he explored the effects of the rising equality of social conditions on the individual and the state in western societies. Democracy in America (1835), his major work, published after his travels in the United States, is today considered an early work of sociology and political science.

First, an explanation of the above photo of a tattered and torn U. S. flag. It was flying by our home and it started to get torn. I didn't replace it right away and after some strong winds, it really got mangled. Jean kept after me to get a new one. So, before doing so, I took a picture as you see above. The reason? I consider it a bit symbolical since the prevailing mood and spirit throughout the republic is one of shredding the holy Scriptures and the U. S. Constitution! It reminds us that our beloved republic is in major need of repair, restoration, and healing in government and church, which are the major forces of influence in any culture.

Our republic is celebrating its 235th birthday today, remembering a special statement that was made known as the Declaration of Independence. There will be lots and lots of celebrations of various kinds in each of the 50 states. Tons of fireworks will be set off in numerous communities and families will have a lot of picnics and their own fireworks experiences as has already taken place in the area where we live. Alcohol will flow like a raging torrent and there will be the accompanying tragedies resulting from such abuse.

After the ashes of the fireworks lie on the ground, the garbage cans are filled with remains from the picnics, and police make their detailed reports related to the tragic incidents involving use of alcohol, the troublesome question to consider is this: is there really very much to celebrate regarding the birthday of our republic?

Yes, we still have a measure of liberty which is at times greatly stressed. Yesterday I was able to get up, and go to church with my wife, Jean. I was able to participate in the worship of Almighty God and to preach with no church leader or politician telling me what and how to preach a message, or that I was not permitted to publicly read portions of the holy Scriptures. Afterward we were able to gather with some members of the family and enjoy a cookout picnic together without any restrictions imposed upon us. Freedom that all too often is taken for granted.

And yes, we can still go to the voting booth and cast our ballots for persons seeking political office in spite of electronic voting which makes election fraud more of a possility than ever before, especially at the state and federal levels!

But the "termites" are at work eating away at the supporting timbers. They are ethical, moral and spiritual in nature. There are some people who believe our republic is headed in a direction that will lead to ultimate disaster unless drastic changes are made soon.

The fact that we have accumulated a national debt that cannot be sustained and each day sees that debt increasing even more is an indication alone that a financial "Armageddon" looms in the future of the republic. Neither Republicans nor Democrats are serious about getting that debt paid down -- worse, they can't even agree on doing some reducing of the annual deficit. Lots of talk but never any serious action on this. And if there is no agreement on tackling the deficit, what chance is there that even a couple of bucks will be applied toward the ever expanding national debt?

Recent years have seen a number of scandals involving high profile religious leaders and political leaders alike. It seems a number of these choose to set their own "rules" for the questionable moral and ethical conduct which they practice! Too often the response when exposed is denial, then maybe a half hearted admission and it is usually somebody else's fault -- you know, we are unwilling to take full responsibility for our actions. High profile sports and entertainment figures could also be added to this growing problem - those who are supposed to be role models and moral examples for our young!

There is a growing acceptance of immoral practices which God clearly condemns in His special revelation to us. This is a barometer indicating that our republic is like a ship in the midst of a storm with its rudder disabled and unable to avoid the rocks along the shoreline. Recently New York state became the 6th state to legalize marriage between two sodomites or two lesbians. Other states are considering this issue and some have already granted "rights" to domestic "partners" as it is in the case of legally married couples (male and female) at the present time.

And of course the destruction of the unborn continues under the sanction of the president, many congressional members and some of the membership of the U.S. Supreme Court which is responsible for the original ruling that it is a constitutional "right" for a female to destroy her unborn child by a deliberate choice. What all of us are overlooking is the fact that God has not yet made a full response to this abomination. When He does, there will be no question that He is in radical disagreement with that Supreme Court decision. He may well make this nation's landscape resemble the mutilated and murdered remains of those unborn children for whom He had a high and holy purpose in life!

The aforementioned issues are but a few of the "termites" eating away at the supporting timbers of our republic. But the last one is the leading "candidate" for inciting the wrath of God more quickly than any other. A culture always commits moral suicide when it adopts a gutter level standard in its regard for human life and leadership takes a position that human life can easily be discarded by whimsical choice!

If Alexis de Tocqueville were to visit the United States today, would his comments be a bit different than what he said in the much younger years of the republic? And might he also say, "America has ceased to be good!"???

Celebrate? The better choice of action is to pray, asking God for mercy and forgiveness, and doing so in the spirit of Daniel who set a noble example for us many centuries ago.

And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, "O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land. O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day; to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You. O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You....." --- Daniel 9:4-8

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Did Jesus Really Mean ALL When He Said "All?"

"Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake." --- Jesus speaking in Matthew 24:9

My daily devotional time involves the reading of the Scriptures and prayer. The Scripture readings take me through the Bible in a year's time -- the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice plus additional readings in the prophets as well as elsewhere. The prayer time involves praise and thanksgiving as based on Psalm 103. There is a time of confession, personal petition, and intercession.

One part of intercession involves prayer for those who are in governing authority and church leadership authority. But more important than that is prayer on behalf of brothers and sisters whose faith is centered in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Unknown to me but certainly known to God are those fellow believers who are suffering bitter and violent persecution for their faith in some countries in this world. There are families who grieve this day because some member or members of a family have been put to death for no other reason than the fact that they were followers of Jesus Christ and faithful ambassadors for Him (2 Cor 5). The Voice of the Martyrs is an excellent source of information on how Christians are treated in some parts of this troubled world. Our prayer list at our church in Gipsy includes a reference to praying for those fellow believers who are suffering violent persecution.

There are some countries that have built a "reputation" for being very hostile toward Christianity and those who are Christian in faith and commitment. China, North Korea, and many Muslim controlled countries are examples. Try building a church that preaches the Gospel of Jesus Christ and do evangelism in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, or Iran and see how far you get!

This should not really be surprising in light of statements made by Jesus. He explicitly revealed that His followers would undergo persecution. Since He became the target of resistance and open hostility it stands to reason that those who follow HIm will experience similar treatment at times. He confirmed this by stating,

"If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you." --- John 15:18, 19

The Greek word in the original text (miseo) as translated "hate" (John 15:18, 19) means to detest, especially to persecute. Followers of Jesus Christ are "light" and "salt" in this present world (Matthew 5:13-16) The world (great mass of unbelievers) does not want to be exposed to the glaring light of truth nor does it want to be resisted (salty Christians) in its acceptance and practice of evil in its many forms. The reaction will always be hostility, if not violent persecution.

So, when Jesus said hatred toward His followers would involve ALL nations (Matthew 24:9) did He really mean all? The Greek word for "all" in that reference is pas and has the following meaning -- "all, any, every, the whole."

Now comes the interesting part -- how about the United States? Could it be the exception? If so, then that makes Jesus out to be a liar. There are a few of us who not only acknowledge Him as Savior and Lord, but as perfect God revealed in human form on the planet which He created. As such, He only speaks truth on any and every occasion.

There has been a growing hostility against Christianity even in "the land of the free and the home of the brave" in recent decades particularly. The fierce debate continues over the Supreme Court decision that banned the reading of Scriptures and the practice of prayer in public classrooms. There are professing Christians who support the decision and state that it is a good thing. Was it really? Is the country in a more superior spiritual, moral and ethical condition now as a result of that decision than it was at the time the decision was handed down? Honesty would dictate that the answer is a definite "No!" and the Supreme Court decision was nothing less than a slap in the face of Almighty God Himself!

Other court decisions have demonstrated an explicit hostility toward Christianity with perhaps the most infamous one being the decision in 1973 stating that it is a constitutional "right" for a female to destroy her unborn child by an intentional choice! One critical thing to remember -- of the over 52 million victims of the United States' "holocaust," there would have been those who would have received Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, but due to being mutilated and murdered before birth, they never had that opportunity. Hostility against potential Christians in its most horrendous form, is it not?

We can expect increased "warfare" being waged against Christians in the United States as time moves on. That is, the target will be those who still believe that the inspired record known as the Bible is totally true and to be practiced in every day living. There is a problem, however, and that is those persons who claim to be Christian but who have compromised on issues of morality and ethics and do not accept the Bible as the final authority on matters of faith and practice -- to these, the Bible is but a fallible book merely produced by some human beings! And you, the individual, become the final judge as to what you want to accept or reject. Above all else, be sure to do everything you can to silence those fanatics who insist that the Bible is God's inspired Word and Jesus Christ is the exclusive way of forgiveness, salvation and hope for time and eternity!

"Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man's sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! for indeed your reward is great in heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets." --- Jesus speaking in Luke 6:22, 23

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Memories of Dad!

Picture of Russell F. Harriger with daughter, Connie, and son, Clayton, about the year, 1940, on a rented farm in Monroe Township, Clarion County, Pennsylvania.

Russell F. Harriger was of German and Dutch ancestry. I have always been thankful that the last name was "Americanized" because, having seen the original, I know I probably would not be able to pronounce it and would certainly struggle to spell it.

My dad had those qualities that are too often sadly missing in today's world and the quality of life in our culture often reflects the reality of that in these very unsettled times.

From my earliest memory of dad I learned quickly that he was a hard worker at anything he ever did. His dream was to own his own farm and the hard work eventually paid off. The picture above was taken on the farm that he and my mother rented for a time. Then they entered into an agreement with a cousin of dad to live on the cousin's farm. This happened during the WW II years. The rented farm had no electricity. Our lights were gas with what was called a mantle attached over the fixture. They created a kind of eerie glow while ignited. We did not have a radio. There was no indoor plumbing. When we moved into the house on the cousin's farm we had electricity, a radio, and a hand pump at the sink for drawing water.

During this time my dad was working on the section gang of the New York Central Railroad. His dream was still to buy and own his own farm. Finally early in 1946 it happened -- my folks had managed to save enough money to make a down payment and get the farm. It was the one they originally had rented. The price paid for that farm was $4,600.00. We moved back into a house that now had electricity and a water pump system. But there was no bathroom. The bath was still taken in a galvanized tub and the little "outhouse" was where you went for "relief." Out of date Sears & Roebuck catalogs provided our toilet paper in abundance. Montgomery & Ward also assisted in maintaining this important inventory!

My dad was a man of honesty and deep conviction when it came to issues of right and wrong. He was definitely a "black and white" person -- there was no hazy gray area when it came to issues with him -- it was clearly right or clearly wrong and he would never compromise on his convictions.

He was also quite clear as to his stand on political issues. He believed that every citizen should vote and he did so in every election he could.

Dad was a man of faith and believed in prayer. He always said the prayer before we ate our meals. He and my mother were deeply involved in our church in a variety of ways. Dad did confess that he could never teach a Sunday School class, but when it came to manual work that needed done in some form around the church, he would be there and always ready to go to work.

He had a sense of humor and it was the kind that could be shared in mixed company without embarrassment. He had no time for the off color brand and was never amused when someone may dredge something up out of the gutter. He also never used foul language of any kind. In fact I never heard him use expressions that have their roots in profanity such as "dang," "darn," "gosh, "gee," "gee whiz," etc. His language was simple and you had no trouble understanding what he was talking about.

My dad dropped out of school in the sixth grade. And at that young age began working on his dad's farm as well as helping neighbors. He told me once of earning 50 cents a day -- a day that involved long hours. This rate of pay from an uncle involved plowing fields with a team of horses and walking behind a plow! If I recall correctly, he was 13 years of age when he did such work.

About the time I was born my father became a member of the school board for Monroe Township in spite of never having completed even grade school. He continued in that position for some time after I had graduated from high school. A major change took place during those years with the closure of the one room schools in Monroe Township and merger with the Clarion school district. A picture in my high school yearbook shows the school board for that year and my dad was one of the members of that board!

He was a disciplinarian and made clear to my sister and me what was expected of us in terms of behavior. Get out of line and we were punished. Sometimes I learned the hard way -- that when my dad had said how it was to be and I did not listen, I then paid a high price. But I never violated his word again in that area in which I had experienced his "judgment!"

To save money, he bought hair clippers and would cut my hair. He and a cousin would "trade haircuts" as they called it. Each would cut the other's hair on a regular basis. All this went rather well until the time came when the clippers got a bit worn and dull -- then instead of cutting all the hair, some didn't get cut and when he pulled the clippers away, those few hairs got pulled out by the roots! You can understand why I did not look forward to those times when my dad said it was time for a haircut. By that time he was going to a regular barber in Clarion.

His love for us was also demonstrated in many ways time after time. An early memory was when he and mom had gotten me a pair of rubber boots. I was about 4 years old at the time. It was in early spring of the year and our barnyard was really a quagmire. I had to try out the boots -- I waded into the barnyard a few steps and began to sink -- the more I tried to get a foot out, the other went deeper into the mud. In desperation, I cried out and my dad was near enough that he heard that frantic call for help. He came and lifted me out of that mud. What a relief! I have used this from time to time as an illustration as to how Jesus Christ came into this world to rescue us from the quagmire of sin, setting us free and making possible forgiveness and assurance of eternal life with Him forever.

Dad was just a few weeks past the age of 84 when he went to be with the Lord. We felt our loss was Heaven's gain and look forward to the moment when we shall be reunited in the presence of our Lord Jesus forever.

Thanks, dad, for the many ways you were a blessing and an inspiration to my sister and me over the years -- even though there were some of those times we did not recognize you to be the example and teacher you really were. It was only later in time that I recognized you were far more intelligent than I gave you credit for when I was in my rebel teen years.

And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord. --- Ephesians 6:4

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Too Late to Pray for Our Republic?

The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD, saying, "Stand in the gate of the Lord's house, and proclaim there this word, and say, 'Hear the word of the LORD, all you of Judah who enter in at these gates to worship the LORD!'".......... Therefore do not pray for this people, nor lift up a cry or prayer for them, nor make intercession to Me; for I will not hear you." --- Jeremiah 7:1,2, 16

There are two very common assumptions about prayer.

One, that God always hears every prayer. That is, when anyone prays, then God is going to hear and respond to that prayer no matter who is doing the praying and no matter the nature of the request that is submitted.

Two, that God will always be around in a crisis when the time comes in which we need to be "bailed out" -- after all, is God not a God of love and He would never leave us stranded in a time when He is so greatly needed, would He?

Tons of books have been written on the subject of prayer. Further, there seems to be no end to a listing of persons considered to be "specialists" in the realm of prayer in times such as these.

And certainly there has at times been an emphasis upon praying for our republic and its leaders. There are solid Biblical grounds for engaging in such a practice.

However, the Bible also reveals that there are limitations regarding prayer. It's sort of like the proverbial "line drawn in the sand." There can be times when God Himself makes clear the fact that it is useless to pray any longer!

It happened in years just prior to 586 B.C. in the ancient Israelite kingdom of Judah. For the most part God's commandments and standards had been rejected by the religious and political leaders in the kingdom. With that kind of leadership it was simply a matter of time before the majority of the citizens followed the ungodly examples set before them. There was a small remnant which still held to the true faith but the influence of this group could not bring about a miraculous change so that the kingdom again was under the favor and blessing of Almighty God.

Now then, how about the United States of America -- the "land of the free and the home of the brave?" Are we in a postion to effectively call on God with assurance that as a nation we will be abundantly blessed and secure or have we "crossed the line" and if there is a response, it is worded something like this: "Therefore do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them; for I will not hear them in the time that they cry out to Me because of their trouble." (Jeremiah 11:14).

There is more than a tad of evidence to suggest that it could be the latter scenario! We continue to destroy thousands of unborn children every week of the year. As of this writing we have mutilated and murdered more than 54 million unborn children since the infamous Supreme Court decision in January of 1973. We are a nation of fools of the first magnitude if we believe that God is not going to respond to this massive shedding of innocent blood for which we are solely responsible!

We continue to follow our idols at a fervent pace with money being the #1 "god" and the pleasure "god" being a close runner-up. Idolatry can take many forms and certainly has done so in our republic over decades of time. It can be an object, a person, or a type of activity and involvement in the same.

Our sexual immorality is practiced at an unprecedented rate and the philosophy that "Sex is fun with anyone, or more than one anyone at the same time, anywhere and at any time!" is being adopted by all ages in U.S. culture. God has in His special revelation to us explicitly shown where the boundaries on human sexuality are drawn. The sacred gift of human sexuality is to be shared and experienced within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman. Search all you want to -- you will not find even a hint that God has enlarged the boundaries to include additional sexual activity of different kinds involving males and females, same gender persons, adults with children and/or animals, or whatever bizarre perversion may enter a person's mind.

We are teaching millions of our young every year that we have evolved from lower life forms over millions and millions of years in time -- go ahead, insert however many millions of years you want to -- does it really make any difference? Perhaps the big difference in the millions of years is whether the forehead is sloped 3/4 inch backward or a mere 1/4 of an inch! Of course this also means that you have no need of a Creator and you are free to make your own "rules" in life with no real accountability after you die. Since it was convenient to ban God from the public classroom, it was also very convenient to deny that we are the focus of an act of creation in the past with a divine purpose and plan for each conceived human being. A godless theory filled the resulting vacuum and we are producing millions of young people who wander about day after day with no meaning to their existence!

And the church at large that claims to be "Christian" in faith has become corrupted over decades of time. The Bible is under assault and its truths denied by apostate renegades. Just a couple of many examples is denying the literal resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead following His crucifixion and that Jesus was indeed God appearing on earth in human form in the 1st Century! The United Methodist Church stresses that it is a "connectional church" due to its organized structure. What isn't recognized is the seriousness of the "infection within the connection." When a church leader says that we need to forget about going to other nations and converting the people to Christianity because they have their own religions and we ought not to interfere with that, then something is terribly wrong in light of Jesus' command to take the Gospel into all the world and confront all nations with His claims and call.

Pray for our republic and expect to be heard? It could happen if certain conditions are met. The main one is that the majority (including political and religious leaders) are willing to pray in a repentant spirit as did Daniel who found himself being carried away from his home and placed in a raw heathen environment known as Babylon! Consider the opening statements of his prayer: "Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, 'O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments, we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.....'" (Daniel 9:3-6).

Anyone up to admitting that we are badly out of step with the Creator of this mighty universe and we are guilty of commonly accepted practices which have caused Him to pour out His undiluted wrath in the past on cultures that committed similar transgressions?

And what is this thing that is said about history repeating itself?

Then the LORD said to me, "Do not pray for this people, for their good. When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and grain offering, I will not accept them. But I will consume them by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence." Then I said, "Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, the prophets say to them, 'You shall not see the sword, nor shall you have famine, but I will give you assured peace in this place.'" And the LORD said to me, "The prophets prophesy lies in My name. I have not sent them, commanded them, nor spoken to them; they prophesy to you a false vision, divination, a worthless thing, and the deceit of their heart." --- Jeremiah 14:11-14

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Am Sold 100 Per Cent on Marriage!

"Foreasmuch as Clayton and Jean have consented together in holy wedlock...... I pronounce that they are husband and wife...." --- statements made at conclusion of a wedding ceremony held at Monroe Chapel Methodist Church, south of Clarion PA, on June 13, 1953 by Pastor Paul B. Dunlap.

I confess to a long standing conviction -- I'm 100 per cent sold on marriage for some solid reasons!

First, my life is richer and fuller because of a very special person by the name of Jean who has been my wife for 58 years. That means she has worn many "hats" in her experiences with me over these years. She has been confidant, friend, lover, comforter, supporter, partner, mother of our five children, nurse at times, prayer warrior, and the "always there" person whom I so often needed!

Second, marriage is that very special arrangment in which two persons become as "one." It is a perpetual sharing experience over time. Each day is an open door to new adventures and opportunities. Sometimes the experiences are trying, difficult and painful -- but the comfort is in knowing one is not alone -- the "partner" in this special arrangement is there to share and to give support -- so together, you press on. But there are the blessed times and those numerous occasions of joy and delight which make the painful moments fade away into the valley of insignificance!

Third, this is a great institution because God Himself so arranged it to be. In the book of Genesis we are informed that a man will leave his father and mother and be joined unto his wife and they shall become one flesh (Genesis 2:24). Jesus confirmed that this is how it is to be when it comes to the issue of marriage as He made reference to that early declaration in the book of Genesis -- a man leaving his parents behind and being joined to his wife with the result that they are no longer two, but one in that special union known as marriage (Matthew 19:4-6).

However, in unstable times such as these there are those persons and groups that want to alter this special arrangement which God has clearly established. These are days of "redefinition" and the vain attempt to say that marriage must also include 2 sodomites or 2 lesbians being permitted to marry! There is absolutely no Biblical revelation that permits this to take place. God has explicitly set the boundaries for marriage and sexual expression and experience. Those are limited exclusively to a male and a female within the covenant of marriage.

Yeah, yeah -- I know, such statements as these place me in the category of a Bible-thumping, mean-spirited, homophobic radical. But I can live with that knowing that the day will come when God will have the last word on this issue and will confirm that the arrangement of marriage that He originally revealed through His inspired Word is indeed true.

We are warned that the time would come when there would be those persons who would, by their very conduct and attitudes, cause the earth to become defiled -- "The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant." (Isaiah 24:5).

I'm sold 100 per cent on marriage and the fact that it is limited to one male and one female -- and the best wife I ever had agrees with me on that. We claim that we are living proof by the grace of God revealed in Jesus Christ that it is indeed very true!

And now a PS on that wedding, preceding events, and later ones -- I was on a short leave between my schooling in TN near Memphis and my orders to report to Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station near New Bern NC. We had to get blood tests, apply for marriage license and all those details in a short time. We made it to the court house about 45 minutes on Saturday before it closed to pick up the license. The preacher was about 20 minutes late for the wedding which was scheduled for 8:00 PM. We had a fender-bender accident turning into a motel that was closed for our wedding night and then went back to Clarion to the hotel. Some neighbors surprised us with a serenade on Sunday night. We left early on Monday morning for North Carolina. It was raining in New Bern when we arrived. We got a newspaper and started looking at apartment ads. Found a kind of broken down place and rented it for a while, and set up housekeeping -- a chair collapsed the first time Jean sat in it -- and no, she was definitely not overweight! Anyway, I thank God that in His great mercy and goodness, He arranged for Jean and me to meet, fall in love, (at our home church) and eventually enter into a very special covenant known as marriage reserved exclusively for one male and one female!

Oh, and now a PPS: I heard an unusal tribute to marriage a few years ago -- a man was asked, "If there is such a things as reincarnation, what would you like to come back as in the next life?" Instantly without hesitation the man answered, "My wife's second husband!" Sounds like he was sold on marriage also, does it not?

Finally, a PPSS: A while back I got a card for Jean which was very simple in its design and in the words expressed -- it said this, "I wonder where all the years have gone, but never how else I might have spent them." On this day of June 13, 2011, those words still very much apply!

And He answered and said to them, "Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning 'made them male and female,' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate."
--- Matthew 19:4-6