Faith, Family, Friends and Firearms

The Indwelling Presence

Lately the congregation has been reading through the Bible chronologically. It’s been an interesting exercise, one we’ve not done for a number of years. It’s good to switch up versions and reading plans as it makes you THINK about what you’re reading, instead of getting into a rut.

Recently we were reading about the tabernacle and all that went into making it and provisioning it for service to God. The account of the finishing of the tabernacle has given me a lot of food for thought. In Exodus 40:33-35 we read: Next Moses set up the surrounding courtyard for the tabernacle and the altar and hung a screen for the gate of the courtyard. So Moses finished the work. The cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was unable to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud rested on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. The completion of the work lead to the presence of God filling the tabernacle.

Today those of us who seek to be disciples of Jesus Christ see the Old Testament as a type or foreshadowing of things to be revealed in the New Testament under the new covenant described in Jeremiah 31:31-34: “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt—my covenant that they broke even though I am their master”—the Lord’s declaration. “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.

In Galatians 3:7-9 we read You know, then, that those who have faith, these are Abraham’s sons. Now the Scripture saw in advance that God would justify the Gentiles by faith and proclaimed the gospel ahead of time to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed through you. Consequently, those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, who had faith. And in in verses 16-18: Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say “and to seeds,” as though referring to many, but referring to one, and to your seed, who is Christ. My point is this: The law, which came 430 years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously established by God and thus cancel the promise. For if the inheritance is based on the law, it is no longer based on the promise; but God has graciously given it to Abraham through the promise. and verses 24-29: The law, then, was our guardian until Christ, so that we could be justified by faith. But since that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for through faith you are all sons of God in Christ Jesus. For those of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ. There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise. So now we see how God set up so that He would be glorified through people of ALL nations, not just the nation He set up to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah.

So we see how God has made those who believe and obey to be His sons, yet He also makes us into a temple, an altar and a priesthood. Peter, the apostle, wrote in 1 Peter 2:4-5: As you come to him, a living stone—rejected by people but chosen and honored by God— you yourselves, as living stones, a spiritual house, are being built to be a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. And in Romans 12:1 Paul the apostle wrote: Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. This reflects back to what Jesus Himself said to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:23-24: But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in Spirit and in truth.”

So we see that as disciples of Jesus Christ we are:
1) sons of God
2) clothed with Christ
3) a spiritual temple
4) a royal priesthood
5) a living sacrifice

And that brings us back to the idea I’m trying to convey, the foreshadowing in the Old Testament of spiritual concepts in the New Testament. In Acts 2:38-39 the apostle Peter told those present, “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” When we are immersed for the forgiveness of our sins in the name of Jesus the Christ, we are clothed with Christ, circumcised by the hand of God and made pure and Holy before Him. And now we see in Acts that those who do so “will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit”. Today many believe that such a gift is something external to themselves, much like king Saul prophesying because the Spirit took control of him. Yet he DID NOT have the INDWELLING PRESENCE of God, nor do many who today emphasize external “evidence of God’s power”, forgetting that Jesus warned about depending on things external to ourselves. Matthew recorded this in chapter 7, verses 21 to 23 of his gospel. “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’

I’ve contemplated and meditated long and hard on that passage in Matthew along with what the Bible teaches about baptism (immersion in water is what the apostles referred to as baptism, we know this because that is what the scriptures record them and their disciples as doing). A conclusion I’ve come to, and note it is my conclusion – study it out for yourself, is that since Jesus spoke of being born again to Nicodemus saying “unless someone is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” , those who refuse to be baptized for the remission of their sins (as directed by Peter in Acts 2:38-39) are not known by God, just as we do not know a child that has not been known. They may be religious, they may be noisy, they may even perform miracles and cast out demons in the Name of the Lord – but if they’ve not been born of water and the Spirit then they run the risk of beng told “Depart from me, you lawbreakers!” on that last day.

Now getting back to the original idea of God’s Presence indwelling His tabernacle, we see that those who are truly Christ’s disciples are also living stones and a royal priesthood and an acceptable living sacrifice to God. And that means that His Presence indwells them. That is the promise that Peter conveyed on Pentecost day when he said “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Unfortunately, most people today do not understand this concept. Paul the apostle wrote in Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

May the Indwelling Presence of God be made manifest in and through the lives of His sons who are born again through water and God’s Spirit. May we come to truly understand the power at work within us, sanctifying us as His holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices as we lay our lives on His altar. May we not not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind, so that we may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.

How to make a redneck happy

Redneck, a term used disparagingly by many and a stereotype fomented by the likes of Jeff Foxworhy, yet born proudly by those of us who understand where the term comes from. Back in the days when many wore neckties even around the farm, there was a hardy lot of men who eschewed such things and bore the mark of the sun upon their exposed necks. Necks that were exposed to the elements as they went about their daily lives doing what men do “to get the coon” (whatever it takes to obtain what is needed or desired for daily sustenance.)

Such are the backwoodsmen and farmers, miners (black necks?) and stockmen that built the infrastructure of what we know as The United States of America. Rednecks. And leaving Jeff Foxworthyisms aside, what tends to indicate a redneck or someone with such a background? A pocketknife in their trouser pocket and a vehicle containing “the bare necessities” to jumpstart civilization and/or take care of needful tasks that may crop up along the way are just a couple of common denominators of the breed.

The year was 1998 and it was cold. We’d gone into town for something and found a lady with a car that wouldn’t start – dead battery. As we were up from S. America for a few months on “Home Service”, our vehicle didn’t contain all the paraphernalia we’d learned to carry with us down south. So I told the lady to hang on and I’d be right back. Down to the local wallyworld I went, straight to the automotive section where I got a good idea of the options – and chose not the cheapest but the best I could afford at the moment. Heavy gauge wire, heavy duty clamps, long enough to stretch across the front of two vehicles if needed, those were the cables I selected and carried back to get the lady out of the cold and on her way home. And those cables were included in our luggage upon our return south where they’ve resided in the trunk of various vehicles over the years, being brought out only occasionally, but always with appreciation from the person being helped. Machete, small hatchet, a tool box with basic things, a multimeter, two extinguishers, wheel chocks, a tow rope, hydraulic jack, a small set of sockets and a ratchet along with a decent 12v compressor – these are the type of things that reside in the trunk “just in case”. A quart of oil, radiator fluid, brake fluid – you never know for sure what you’ll run into or need along life’s journey.And at one time or another, all these and more have come in handy.

So, getting back to the title, “How do you make a redneck happy?” – give him a chance to use the tools, knowledge and abilities he’s been carting around for years. “See? I TOLD you it’d come in handy some day!” he’ll say, or at least think, as the situation at hand is resolved due to his forethought and preparation.

Bible vs Popular Christianity – 3

In part 1 of this series we see Jesus teaching on the importance of baptism to salvation. In part 2 we see the apostles response to this teaching and how they implemented it on the day of Pentecost, in Samaria and in the house of Cornelius. In this part we’re going to look at other parts of Acts – because by seeing what the apostles did we can understand what they wrote much better. What did they DO? Later on we’ll read more of what they WROTE.

Following his ministry in Samaria and the coming of Peter and John to open the door of the church to that people, we find Philip sent on a mission by God’s Holy Spirit. In Acts 8 we find him walking down the road and encountering an Ethiopian official who had been to Jerusalem to worship. He hears the official reading, is prompted by the Spirit to join the car and asks, “Do you understand what you’re reading?” to which the official answers “How can I unless someone guides me?” So he invites Philip to ride. Here’s how Luke describes what follows in Acts chapter 8:

Now the Scripture passage he was reading was this: He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb is silent before its shearer, so he does not open his mouth. In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who will describe his generation? For his life is taken from the earth.

The eunuch said to Philip, “I ask you, who is the prophet saying this about—himself or someone else?” Philip proceeded to tell him the good news about Jesus, beginning with that Scripture.

So, exactly WHAT did Philip explain to him? We don’t know ALL that he told him, but we can tell how much importance was placed on a very telling bit doctrine – by the immediate response to the message by the Ethiopian.

As they were traveling down the road, they came to some water. The eunuch said, “Look, there’s water. What would keep me from being baptized?” Why this response? Why not “Please guide me in the Sinner’s Prayer”? (something not found in scripture, by the way). This question gives us a very clear picture of the message that Philip had been sharing with this man. The importance of becoming a disciple of Jesus and being baptized for the forgiveness of sins (just as Peter preached on the day of Pentecost). History tells us that the church started in Ethiopia by this man is still in existence to this day.

In chapter 9 we find Saul of Tarsus on his way to Damascus to persecute the church. He is confronted on the road by Jesus, finds out he’s blinded and goes to Damascus where God sends a man named Ananias to visit him. Luke tells us, “Ananias went and entered the house. He placed his hands on him and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road you were traveling, has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” At once something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized.” Before eating, drinking or anything else – he was baptized.

Later on Saul himself tells us ““Since I couldn’t see because of the brightness of the light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and went into Damascus. Someone named Ananias, a devout man according to the law, who had a good reputation with all the Jews living there, came and stood by me and said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight.’ And in that very hour I looked up and saw him. And he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One, and to hear the words from his mouth, since you will be a witness for him to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now, why are you delaying? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

“be baptized and wash away your sins”… that doesn’t fit into popular Christianity’s denial of the importance of Baptism, but fits perfectly with the Bible’s assertion as to the purpose of baptism.

We’ve already looked at Cornelius and his household in Acts chapter 10. In Acts 11 Peter defends his actions in Cornelius’ house by explaining “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. I remembered the word of the Lord, how he said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ If, then, God gave them the same gift that he also gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?” When they heard this they became silent. And they glorified God, saying, “So then, God has given repentance resulting in life even to the Gentiles.”

In chapter 16 of Acts we meet Lydia in the city of Philippi. She and her household are immediately baptized upon her response to Paul’s message. She urges them to stay with her if they believe that she is indeed a believer, so they do. They stay for a while until Paul becomes weary of hearing a demon possessed slave girl yelling “These men, who are proclaiming to you a way of salvation, are the servants of the Most High God.” (it is my belief that what irked him is that Jesus is THE way, not A way of salvation). He cast out the demon, the slave girl’s proprietors were angered by this and had Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into prison where they sing praises to God instead of cursing their luck, their captors and their accusers as might be expected.

There is an earthquake and the doors of the prison swing open. The jailer is about to kill himself because he believes the prisoners have escaped – and now we come to one of the classic passages where context is ignored by popular Christianity.

But Paul called out in a loud voice, “Don’t harm yourself, because we’re all here!” The jailer called for lights, rushed in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. He escorted them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him along with everyone in his house. He took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds. Right away he and all his family were baptized. He brought them into his house, set a meal before them, and rejoiced because he had come to believe in God with his entire household.

That’s right – in the same hour of the night that he heard the message of salvation, he and his whole household were baptized. Why, if baptism is not necessary to salvation?

In chapter 19 of Acts we find the final instance in which it is recorded that the Holy Spirit was sent upon a group of people prior to, upon, or following their baptism.

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul traveled through the interior regions and came to Ephesus. He found some disciples and asked them, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” “No,” they told him, “we haven’t even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” “Into what then were you baptized?” he asked them. “Into John’s baptism,” they replied. Paul said, “John baptized with a baptism of repentance, telling the people that they should believe in the one who would come after him, that is, in Jesus.” When they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began to speak in tongues and to prophesy.

Note that this is not a new group. That is, the Jews recognized Jews, Gentiles and Samaritans, with the Gentiles making up the largest group of people. So this has nothing to do with “the keys to the kingdom”. What we see here is a clarification between the “baptism of John” and “baptism into the name of Jesus”. John said “believe in the One Who comes after me”. Upon believing they were baptized and then received the Holy Spirit.

So as we follow the apostles around, what do we see? Baptism is an integral part of the message. We see it in the response of the Ethiopian, the Samaritans, Cornelius and his household, Lydia, the jailer and his household and the disciples of John the Baptist. This is what the actions of the apostles tell us – baptism is central to the Gospel message.

To be continued…

Bible vs Popular Christianity – 2

In the first part of this series, we took a look at what Jesus Himself had to say about baptism, as well as looking at the classic objection to baptism – “the thief on the cross”. In this part we’ll look at what the apostles DID in response to what Jesus taught.

On the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter and the apostles preached to the gathered celebrants of the festival. They flat out told them “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” This cut them to the core (they were guilty of killing the very Messiah they’d been looking for for generations!) and they asked “What should we do?” (Acts 2:36-37)

Peter’s answer to that simple question is telling. “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” In other words, quit shunning God’s way and be immersed FOR THE FORGIVENESS OF YOUR SINS, and you’ll receive God’s Holy Spirit as a gift! But it gets even better!

“For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he testified and strongly urged them, saying, “Be saved from this corrupt generation!” (Acts 2:37-39) In Acts 17:30 we see that God is calling all men everywhere to repent! In other words, this promise made on the day of Pentecost in 30 A.D. is a promise that extends around the globe and through time, reaching down to us to this very day.

So the church of Jesus the Christ was established in response to His commission in Matthew 28 and in accordance to His assertion in John 3 that we must be born of the water and the Spirit if we want to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. About 3,000 people heard, believed and obeyed on that day. (Acts 2:41)

So let’s keep following the apostles as history unfolds for our consideration and edification. The first few chapters of Acts relate Jesus’ return to the Father’s right hand, the coming of His Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and the early growth and struggle of the young church. In chapter 8 of Acts we follow Philip up to Samaria and witness him preaching, performing miracles and baptizing people. Yet it wasn’t until Peter and John went up to Samaria that the Samaritans received God’s Holy Spirit. What’s going on?

Another clue to what’s occurring during these early days of the church is found a couple chapters later in Acts 10. A centurion named Cornelius sends for Peter after an angel commands him to do so. Meanwhile God gives Peter a vision indicating that “what God has purified do not call unclean” and that he is to go with the men that are about to arrive. He goes with them, prevents Cornelius from worshipping him when he arrives, preaches the Gospel message and is astounded when God poured out His Holy Spirit on Cornelius and his family. After all – these were “unclean gentiles!” Peter’s response is important. ““Can anyone withhold water and prevent these people from being baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10: 47). Remember, Peter’s probably still processing the whole “Arise, kill and eat” vision in combination with God’s command to go and enter the house of a gentile. And those with him hadn’t had the vision, but now they witness these “unclean” people receiving a unique gift from God. What’s going on? Let’s step back in recent (to these events) history and take a look at a special commission given by Jesus to Peter.

One of the most misunderstood passages of the Bible is found in Matthew 16. Let’s take a look at verses 15-19 and think about it in the light of events that are in the future (future in regards to Matthew 16, not in our future).

“But you,” he asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus responded, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.”

“You are Peter (petros)” says Jesus. Peter meaning a rock, a stone, something you can lift and carry. “On this rock (petra) I will build my church”. Rock meaning a mass of stone, bedrock, unmovable foundation. The church was not built on Peter, it was built on his assertion – that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. THAT is the foundation of the church.

Now lets consider “the keys of the kingdom of heaven”. It was given to Peter the responsibility to “open the gates of the kingdom of heaven” and we know that “the kingdom of heaven” and “the church” are synonymous. On the day of Pentecost Peter stood “with the 11” and delivered the first Gospel message designed to establish the church on the Solid Rock. He preached repentance and baptism as essential to salvation. This message was preached to the descendants of Abraham by the flesh, with ramifications to all people everywhere. BUT the jewish people were set in their belief that they were the only ones who could be saved, not realizing that the pact with Abraham included blessings to ALL peoples everywhere. (see Galatians and Hebrews which clarify many points on this matter)

So it wasn’t until Peter arrived in Samaria that the Samaritans received God’s Holy Spirit and it wasn’t until he saw the gentiles receive the Spirit that he was firmly convinced that even THEY were allowed to enter the kingdom – being uncircumcised (although this point had to be made over and over later in history).

We see, then, that through the apostles Jesus established His church on the day of Pentecost, 30 A.D.. Later on He confirmed that even those mongrel Samaritans (as seen by the Jews in Jerusalem and elsewhere) and even those “unclean Gentiles” were to form part of His holy people. But the story doesn’t end here…

To be continued…

Bible vs Popular Christianity – 1

What do you believe? A valid question, and one that SHOULD be approached seriously by anyone who seeks the truth. Also, WHO do you believe? Another important question that should make us stop and consider the source of what we believe.

Recently I was approached on FB by someone who knew my grandparents way back in the 20th Century. This person inquired as to my beliefs and I shared with them some of the scriptures relating to the importance of baptism in the salvation of a believer. Now, I realize that this can be a “controversial subject” and folks have even argued it “to the knife”. But I’d rather allow the Bible to guide me rather than the arguments of folks who claim that their interpretation of the Bible is more valid than the Bible’s interpretation of itself.

As we approach the matter we are faced with two important indicators of what the Bible teaches on the subject. What Jesus and His apostles taught on the matter and what the apostles actually DID. So begins a series of posts on the subject as we consider these two approaches to the subject: “Is baptism vital to the salvation process?”

So, what did Jesus Himself say on the matter?

When Nicodemus went to visit Jesus, he was told “Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3 – CSB) and “Truly I tell you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) I’ve read and heard all kinds of “reasons” why this OBVIOUSLY couldn’t mean that Jesus was talking about baptism – yet a careful look at other scriptures gives us a very convincing argument in favor of this being exactly what Jesus is referring to.

In Matthew 28:19 in the “Great Commission”, Jesus told His disciples “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (DO read context of all scriptures used, and note that there is a LOT more to be learned from these passages if one is a seeker after truth.) Again, in the Mark 16 account of the ascension and Great Commission, we read Jesus’s words as He said: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” It fascinates me no end to see the mental gymnastics that people go to in order to “prove” that Jesus didn’t REALLY mean what Jesus Himself said – because it does not match up with their theology that is typically based on theologians who came along well over a millennium after Jesus established His church on earth.

So, one must be born again, of the water and the Spirit. One must become a disciple, being baptized. If one believes and is baptized one is saved, but unbelief leads to condemnation. (and why be baptized if you don’t believe? and why NOT obey and be baptized if you DO believe?) These are the clear and simple reading of Jesus’ words.

So, what about the “thief on the cross”? This is tossed out as an “Aha!!!” type argument. “Gotcha! See? No baptism and yet he was saved!”. Well, what about Able? What about Abraham? What about Moses, Joshua, Caleb, David, etc, etc, etc? None of them were baptized either – or were they? Moses, Joshua and Caleb WERE all baptized, and so was Noah. (see I Corinthians 10:1-5 and I Peter 3:20-21) But let’s get back to the thief on the cross. When reading the Bible we need to ask, “Who’s talking?’ “To whom? ” “What is the context (immediate, in the same book, same testament, historical, etc)?” In this case we see Jesus talking to a ‘son of Israel’ (under the mosaic pact), BEFORE Jesus died, BEFORE Jesus resurrected, BEFORE He returned to the Father, BEFORE His church was established on the day of Pentecost. Why is all this important? Because essentially that man was one of the last to be saved through faith in the COMING sacrifice of the Lamb and His victory over death. He was by no means the first of the new pact as it had not been ratified by the death and resurrection of The Lamb.

Jesus’ message from the beginning of His ministry was simple, “Repent, because the kingdom of heaven has come near.” (Matthew 4:17). Repentance is central to the Gospel message. And the thief on the cross repented, as we can plainly see by reading the different accounts of the crucifixion. He went from mocking Jesus (Matthew 27:44; Mark 15:32) to asking Jesus to remember him when He came into His kingdom. (Luke 23:39-43). So we see a man who was raised under The Law come to repentance and faith in Jesus, even as the Mosaic Law was about to be consummated by the death of The Lamb of God.

To be continued…

The Bible Vs Popular Christianity – Part 2

An Interesting Observation

…according to the religion duly registered in their pay books, a majority belonged to the Church of England, with Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists and Baptists following in order of numbers, also one Jew and one Atheist; none of them, however, as far as I could find out, had any strength at all of religious feeling; neither in behaviour nor in argument did anyone ever display any interest in matters of faith. They were not ignorant, for they all had had a religious upbringing, but so completely unconcerned that they could not legitimately be described as Christians.

Peniakoff DSO MC, Lt.-Col. Vladimir. Popski’s Private Army (p. 499). Lucknow Books. Kindle Edition.

The quote above is from “Popski’s Private Army”, a book about the adventures of one Vladimir Peniakoff and the “private army” that he raised and fought with against the Axis powers during the second world war. Recently I read the book for the second time and this quote stuck out to me. It is from a place in the book where he was reminiscing about the kind of men that made up his unit. Just previous to this quote he was talking about their political outlook, but then he drifts into his observation about their religious outlook, which independent of their upbringing did not seem to impact their daily lives very much – if at all.

This lead me to consider how his observations are valid when considering the majority of “Christian” peoples today. His comment, “They were not ignorant, for they all had had a religious upbringing, but so completely unconcerned that they could not legitimately be described as Christians.” rings true for many today, with the clarification that many ARE ignorant, for the level of religious teaching in most homes and churches today is far less than in the days in which the members of PPA were raised.

Unfortunately, the concept of living daily for Christ and of not allowing the world to direct our thoughts has been lost on most of the current generation of people who are called “Christian”, but who do not live out their supposed convictions.

Romans 12:1-2 really needs to be taught to our people, and not by rote but by deed, example AND by word. “Therefore, brothers and sisters, in view of the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your true worship. Do not be conformed to this age, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may discern what is the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God.”

Further Developments In Photographic Expression

Building on experiments here on my blog dealing with photographic expression, I decided to simply dedicate a domain to that endeavor, so was obtained, hosted next to our mission blog and my personal (this) blog. My hope is that this will help me to 1) keep my photographic learning and sharing organized into its own space; 2) help me focus on choosing which of the many pictures I take to share with others; and 3) help me track improvement in my photographic learning trajectory as well as 4) give me a simple URL to share with folks who might be interested in what I have to share there.

It’s not much to look at yet, but I have hopes of sharing some of the beauty that I see around us, even in an urban environment such as where my wife and I live. Even in an urban area of over a half million people one can see God’s handiwork – if one will look. Botanical Beauty – Looking Out My Front Door, for example, takes a look at what is there to see, if one will, just stepping out our front door.

I’m hoping to bring back some vintage lenses to experiment with as well when I return from an upcoming trip north. Photography as an art form is one means of helping people to see God’s handiwork and His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made – as stated in Romans 1:20.

Thoughts on Upgrading Photographic Essentials

Recently I started a new page on this blog, “This Is My Father’s World“. There I hope to share pictures of nature that I take with my trusty old Canon DSLR’s. As mentioned in a post by the same name, I’m doing my best to get into shooting “off auto”, using manual settings and learning how to get the shot I want and the look I want.

Over the past few weeks where I’ve been working on this off and on, it has become obvious that my efforts would be improved by improved gear. This lead me to check out various channels on YouTube and to join a couple of groups on FaceBook about photography with Canon cameras. And I keep seeing the same questions over and over again – mostly along the lines of “Which camera should I buy?” or “Would this upgraded camera be worth it?” and so on and so forth. Now, I’m by no means a professional photographer, but both of my current cameras are capable of pretty decent pictures under the right conditions. I’ll confess to looking longingly at this or that camera body that some “internet expert” touts as “the ultimate!” or “the absolute best!!!”, but the truth of the matter is – lenses count more than camera bodies.

The fact is – whatever you’ve got between your subject and the sensor is going to affect the image more than anything. Lower quality lenses will not give you the sharpness you’re looking for. “Slower” lenses are going to cause you to crank up the ISO and crank down the shutter speed, resulting in noisy or blurred images. A mediocre camear with top of the line glass will probably give you better results than the latest, greatest camera model that is currently being hyped on the ‘net – if it’s wearing mediocre lenses.

Kit lenses ARE capable of turning out some decent quality images – if the conditions are right. But they limit you in certain ways. For example, the 18-55mm lens typically sold with the Rebel series of Canon cameras has a maximum aperture of f/3.5, but as soon as you start zooming in it reduces quickly to a maximum of f/5.6 at 55mm focal length. This is fine if you’ve enough light to be using a smaller aperture anyway, such as an f/8. But when the light starts to fail in the evening or if the light is still dim in the morning or if you’re in a shady area or it’s a very cloudy day, this lens will simply not give you enough light for certain pictures.

When it comes to the camera body, one must ask: “Do I have good enough glass to take advantage of the capabilities of this new camera?” Also: “What will this camera body improve over the one I’m currently using?” In my own case, I’ve got three EF-S lenses, two 18-55’s and a 55-250mm. These are not the greatest lenses, but they’ve given me some really decent pictures, under the right conditions. I also currently have an EF 75-300, but it is also limited by the f3.5-5.6 aperture range. It really cramps the ability to take hand held shots in low light, such as this picture of El Nevado De Ruiz that I took recently as the light was fading fast.

Unfortunately, I did not grab my tripod when my wife called to say, “Get your camera. There’s something I want you to see!” She was coming home and had seen that the nevado was clear after a long period of hiding behind the clouds. If you click on the picture it’lll show you exactly how grainy and noisy it is – because the camera simply wasn’t able to receive enough light through that f/5.6, 1/100 shutter at 300mm zoom, and 6400 ISO. I’m sure the little Rebel T3 would have done just fine with a better lens, but my glass held me back, and that’s the best lens in the bag right now. It’s still a lovely enough photo, at low size such as in this thumbnail view above. You can see the pink tint from the sun setting behind me, but blow it up and the noise crops up.

Anyway, those are just some random thoughts I’ve come up with on the matter of upgrading photographic gear. I hope this year to be able to pick up a really decent lens, but don’t know right now which one to go for. Once we have some good glass we’ll start to see what these camera bodies are capable of.

This Is My Father’s World

One of my all time favorite hymns was written in 1901 by Maltbie D. Babcock. It is a call to remember – this world has an Owner and He is in ultimate charge, why should we then worry? Here are the lyrics.

This is my Father’s world,
And to my list’ning ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas—
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world:
The birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white,
Declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world:
He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world:
Oh, let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world,
The battle is not done:
Jesus who died shall be satisfied,
And earth and Heav’n be one.
~ Maltbie D. Babcock

As we come up to the 30th anniversary of my earthly father’s passing from this life, I’ve been quite pensive. Looking back at what I learned from him all those years ago reminds me of God’s love and mercy as well as the positive aspects of my father’s life and teaching. He taught me many things over the years and although he was no perfect father (who is, other than God Himself?) he left a legacy in his children of a love of God and God’s word and a willingness to try to do things ones’ self rather than depend on others. Dad was a very creative person and had amazing skill in many areas, and he passed some of this on to each of his kids.

One of those areas that I learned a little bit of is in the area of photography. Dad loved to take pictures and I can only imagine how much he would have enjoyed the new technologies available via digital photography and digital processing of images. Dad had a Konica Autoreflex TC and upon leaving home I managed to acquire one of my own. I didn’t know too much about photography, but did know that setting that lens on AE would allow me to control the shutter speed and focus and turn out some decent images.

Recently I looked around, trying to remember what camera it was, and eventually found an image and the name and a few details came surging back.

That old camera went with me on many adventures and recorded precious memories, but the cost of film and processing and the delays involved never allowed me to learn too much about the mechanics of decent photography.

And then came a Sony Mavica with its 640X480 jpgs, followed by a 3 megapixel camera that I can’t recall the manufacturer of and then a number of different cell phones, all allowing one to snap a quick digital image and share it online with others. But again, not much about photography was learned other than “let the camera do it all”, which sometimes is enough, but often falls far short of what one is seeking to portray.

And then we stopped at a Walmart for a bathroom break while up in the US and on their clearance rack was a Canon Rebel XT at a very attractive price. Once more I had in my hands a Single Lens Reflex camera – but with the added attraction of digital imaging. Unfortunately, however, it seemed easier to continue to slough off and let the camera do it all.

A few years later and we were in California and stopped in a pawn shop where they had a Canon Rebel T1i at a very attractive price, due to the fact that the battery was flat and no charger available. So I took the risk, ordered a new battery and charger off of Amazon and it was promptly delivered, allowing me to test and find that the camera was in very good shape and fully functional. And the original battery took and held a charge (and several years later it still does).

But again, let the camera do it all was the modus operandi. But this simply isn’t enough when you want to do a good job of portraying images of the world around. So recently I started delving into the mysteries of ISO, Shutter Speed and F/Stops. And started taking pictures of the world around me to share with others, using my own judgment as to settings and ending up with some decent pictures in the process.

So, in the spirit of “This Is My Father’s World” I intend to share pictures here on my blog, pictures shot with intentionality and and not just happenstance. I’ve already run into some of the limitations that come from the relatively slow “kit lenses” that my cameras came with, so the hunt is on for other options. One aspect of modernity that intrigues me is the opportunity to mate the technology of yesterday with that of today. The hunt is on for one of the Konica lenses from yesteryear and an adapter ring to allow me to use it on my “modern” DSLR. This should give me the chance to finally use such a lens to its potential instead of just running it on AE as before. In fact, mating it to a modern Canon would REQUIRE manual use of settings and focus instead of point and shoot and “let the camera do it all”.

I look forward to developing this idea further.

Ripping Out Tares – Or Producing Wheat?

Recently I’ve noticed a lot of people dedicating time to “ripping out tares”, grousing, complaining and worrying about denouncing “false doctrine!” And it’s not just from one theological perspective either! I’ve seen a messianic Jew, a lot of “conservative Christians” and even more “liberal Christians” denouncing what they perceive to be “a threat to us all”. The whole “Asbury ‘Revival'” thing has stirred a lot of folks up, but it’s not the only area I’m talking about.

It is all so easy to see when someone else messes up and “does things wrong”. But why are we worried? Jesus told us that the enemy would sow tares among the wheat. And He also told us to “let it grow until the harvest”. So, what should we do? I suggest we produce wheat, do the things that Jesus the Christ told us to do, and let Him sort things out upon His return.

Rather than criticizing others, let’s turn our eyes back to the labor to which we have been called. Let Him find us faithful to His message when He comes.

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