OPEN LETTER TO BEREAN MEMORIAL CHURCH
MY CHURCH HOME
[ Note that this letter progresses 'upward' with the latest report on top and the earliest one on the bottom ]
DECLARED CANCER FREE, HEALTHIER AND MORE ABLE TO SERVE GOD!
After months and months of struggling to get medical help for my injured knee and tests to see if I had cancer, I finally was helped by a Pinellas county investigator who forced family services to drop the attitude that I was trying to scam the system and provide the medical help. Apparently, the system has a reputation of taking this attitude, especially toward single males - despite the need and qualification. I've heard this point mentioned in various circles including a local free clinic. I hope this will pave the way for others in my predicament so they won't have to wait for more than a year.
Fortunately and providentially, for me, my knee healed up naturally - a surprise I am sure to the doctors who insisted I needed an operation right away. The doctor at the free clinic suggested that since my knee showed signs of gradual improvement, that I be patient with the slow healing procees and take it as far as it would go without an operation. Any operation is an injury, he said, so it was best to forestall it until it was clear that it was absolutely necessary. So I continued to rehabilitate it with walking and swimming. Yesterday's workout of 3500 yards included an extensive amount of freestyle kicking unaided by the pull buoy I use. It felt good.
The Pinellas County Family Services finally was ready to assign a doctor to me. I chose an older man with many years experience. He suggested a dramatic dietary change relative to my symptoms that pointed to a possible colon and upper digestion problem: lose the milk, ice cream, peanut butter and chocolate!!! I dove into this odious task of changing my diet just to get over the difficulty of change as soon as possible. It wasn't easy for someone who eats whole containers of ice cream with the chocolate syrup bottle in hand followed by endless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Non-lactate milk and sorbut substitutes have helped tremendously. I'm still looking for a chocolate, ice cream and peanut butter substitutes.
The biggest help has been the subsiding of the symptoms in a very short time with additional energy restored. I keep this in mind whenever I am tempted to go back to the old diet. One day I almost swiped a chocolate covered ice cream cone from a lady walking by at Baywalk downtown St. Petersburg. The final good news came when my tests for my 'upper' and 'lower' halves turned up free of any cancer - kind of an anticlimax. God has certainly enabled me to serve Him better! It is indeed my responsibility to stay healthy and not die early due to bad health habits and thus serve Him longer.
VERSE BY VERSE IS THE KEY - BUT NOW EXPERIMENTING WITH TWO STAGES: OBSERVATION FIRST THEN CORROBORATION!!
Last Friday night at Baywalk, I met with Todd from Calvary Chapel as we planned a joint evangelism debate with a group of leaders from a United Pentecostal Church. He and I are of one accord on the gospel and many other key doctrines of the faith. I pray that Calvary will be moved to accept the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone + nothing and move away from Lordship salvation. His testimony is a strong and effective one there at Calvary especially with the youth. The key that Todd and I are fervant about is to study the Scriptures passage by passage, verse by verse in order to properly interpret God's Word and build a ready defense of the doctrines of the faith. He and I are going to use John chapter 3 in an observatioin mode so as to limit running all over the bible in a futile argument. This is a struggle to convince believers to do. Most struggle with the false doctrine that true believers are not permitted to argue their faith. Todd has actively defended the doctrine that it is the Christian's duty to defend the doctrines of the faith, earnestly!
BTW, Todd has developed a unique system of witnessing to Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormans, Jews, Roman Catholics, Atheists, Secular Humanists, Darwinists, and Agnostics with a free evangelism tool.
Check it out:
Tony is going strong in his teaching at First Baptist Indian Rocks and prison preaching - passage by passage, verse by verse. He has matured in the faith almost overnight as his study habits became more focused on a detailed study of God's Word as opposed to a snippet here and a snippet there to support a topical lesson.
I have been producing studies to this effect which provide a two stage investigation of a chapter at a time wherein there is an observation mode and then a corroboration mode. It helps to read through a passage in an observation mode to get a handle on the context and then go back and dig in to corroborate all conclusions. I've done this with John chapters 3 and 6 which you may take a look at and may desire to comment on. I've used it very effectively as a witness tool, where instead of arguing all over the bible, you pick one passage and walk through it together in the observation mode. The issue is to keep it simple in order to get a handle on what the context is saying, avoiding preconceived notions, letting the words of God's Word speak to you. Take a look at John chapter 3 in observation mode:
62 AND COUNTING - I WONDER HOW LONG BEFORE I GO HOME
Well, it's two days past my 62nd birthday. No bells or explosions or shooting stars, just a lot of sharing my faith in the last few weeks. One time at the nearby United Methodist Church Wednesday night supper, a couple heard what I had to say about the gospel and they exclaimed how simple and easy it was and went away believers. Right after that a lady from Czechoslavakia came by as if God were ushering in one opportunity after another. As I explained the same thing to her she raised all kinds of objections especially her hatred for Jews based on some personal experience. She wouldn't permit God to offer the gospel to everyone freely by faith alone because of her hatred for Jews. When I explained that I was part Jewish, she was slightly taken aback and then made me an exception. When I offered to her that Jesus was a Jew she seemed to be out of control again and could not stand to be in my presence anymore. She just would not permit forgiveness of sins by faith alone. So in the last few weeks I have seen some who have accepted the gospel, and some who have reacted with verbal abuse, and yet others who have denied the truth and gone on evasive tangents. Just more of the same. A narrow path indeed.
I have four weeks back pay coming to me so that puts me over the hump til my first Social Security Check when I will be officially retired. Perhaps God is stepping up my evangelism opportunities to keep me occupied til I go home to be with Him.
NO LIBERTY AT LIBERTY BAPTIST CHURCH
I met members of Liberty Bapist Church at their evangelism booth at the Wagon Wheel Flea Market in Pinellas Park. I had a booth of my own there for months and often visited with them. Most of the people at the booth did not present the gospel correctly. My concern about them was reflected by my sharing from Scripture what it had to say about going to heaven. Most of the time their reaction was defensive, certainly not gracious.
It has always puzzled me that people involved in evangelism are almost always ill tempered and ill prepared to answer points others make. They expect everyone to listen to what they have to say as if they were an oracle from God. At the slightest hint of disagreement they get upset and shut down the communication with a personal attack that one should never argue. They condemn arguing as sinful and unchristianlike, yet never realize that they are arguing themselves. It's always ok for them to disagree with you but you are not allowed to offer your own point of view, even if it is presented properly from Scripture. Very often they resort to rude and irrelevant debating tactics like shouting you down, speaking over your answer, even quoting irrelevant verses to voice over your answers to their objections.
One man constantly over reacted angrily and asked that I not visit the booth any more - even after going to Scripture himself to see if what I had to say was true and verifying that I was not lying. He often blocked my path toward the booth so I would go away. On the other hand, the group leader verified that what I was stating was correct. We had a nice relationship. He always welcomed my visits. He mentioned that most of the booth members were new believers and poorly prepared to share their faith publically. I asked him why they were there in the first place and stated that it shouldn't take very long to train anyone how to present the gospel - not more than five minutes. He never answered my question. Actually, I discovered that most of them presented the gospel incorrectly and may not have been saved at all. Perhaps they weren't interested in being instructed by anyone. I have found that to be the case most of the time.
Nevertheless, and in view of the fact that the leader and I agreed on the basic doctrines of the faith including the gospel, I decided to attend Liberty Baptist Church.
First came the discouraging phone call with Associate Pastor Tolley who tested me to see where I stood on the King James Version being the only inspired Word of God. When I gave a thumbs up to the version but wouldn't go so far as to throw out all the other versions as evil, he told me I wouldn't be happy going to Liberty.
I went anyway determined to keep my mouth shut about which version of the bible I used. I was 'successful' at not being my usual sharing-my-faith self largely due to the restrictive atmosphere throughout the church.
The Sunday School was in strict lecture format. Questions or comments were rarely encouraged, usually at the end if any comments were entertained at all. The teaching was topical, shallow and moderately substantiated by snippets from Scripture. I really don't like topical supported by snippets from Scripture and much prefer examining a whole passage verse by verse that deals with a chosen topic. This takes time and effort which perhaps the teacher was not willing to devote himself to. The atmosphere was very stiff and uncompromising relative to instructing fellow believers via any kind of feedback or questions.
One night after my first few visits, the teacher and class announcer came over to my apartment unannounced. I was a bit embarrassed by my abode. My living quarters are a simple and stark efficiency apartment dedicated to the study of God's Word and certainly not for entertaining visitors. It consists of a large, black and white striped sofa - quite firm and comfortable, a beach chair, two office type stacking side chairs - one loaded with cushions sitting in front of a large white styrofoam folding table loaded with dozens of theological reference books, PC, printer and small TV on a white table off to the right. An air mattress propped against the closet wall completed the ambiance of the room.
The class announcer got up from the sofa immediately as if totally freaked out by the room, claiming to have a back problem. I wondered about that because I offered him my very comfortable beach chair equipped with cushions just fresh from the beach. He declined and stood the whole time totally freaked out with one hand on the door knob. Standing is bad for a back problem, the beach chair I mentioned was very good for it. They were very stiff so I did most of the talking. I turned on the computer to show them the bible study website that I explained I was commissioned to work on by a church in Texas. The teacher reluctantly came over to look but had little to say. They became very silent, even sullen, as I shared with them my latest project - a verse by verse exposition of Romans chapter 10. The man with the back problem offered his opinion on election which contradicted Scripture. I offered mine. He became upset and restated his position. I reiterated that the absolute sovereignty of God does not depend upon the choice of man. He thereupon became even more stiff lipped and voiced his readiness ready to bail out of my dungeon. In short time they excused themselves and left. I can only imagine what they must have said outside, especially in view of their completely cold reaction to me every time I visited their church thereafter. This was hardly a good example of a gracious Christian agape love. I wondered how well I would have been received had I known less bible and lived in luxurious quarters. Needless to say, they did not encourage me to continue going to Liberty Baptist Church. I wondered what they would have prayed if they bothered to pray for me at all.
I also attended the service after Sunday School and was quite entertained by those in the music ministry - all very talented. Several times they had guest entertainers there. One was a calvinist whose point of view directly opposed the beliefs at Liberty. I suspect that hardly anyone discerned that. Senior Pastor Lowe even commended the man for his bible knowledge.
Pastor Lowe's sermons were topical, certainly not exegetical, offering supporting snippets from Scripture without proving out the context. They were sermonettes for christianettes. The fellowship was not that promising either. On my first visit my usher had a lot of encouraging things to say to me. I had a premonition which I shared with him: my early demise from Liberty. He vigorously denied that this would happen -not in his friendly church. I gave him one of my personal testimony tracts and a copy of a study I was doing on the theology of Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel. He agreed with everything I had to say, except to say that Liberty would never exclude me from fellowship. He said he would call me that week. He never did. The next Sunday he was quite distant from me, unwilling to converse at all. Unlike the normally expected behavior of an usher/greeter. So I sat elsewhere. A nice little old lady struck up a conversation with me and for the next few Sundays I felt welcomed by her and her companions in the pew behind me. We both shared our faith with one another as the weeks rolled by.
For several weeks I also had very positive conversations with Senior Pastor Lowe about the doctrines of the faith. There was no anymosity nor disagreement on anything that I said. I gave him my personal testimony tract the first week to review and he voiced no objections to its contents. He gave me a good reference source for my project on the book of Romans. All things considered, no church being perfect, I felt that I might find a church home here despite others' negative reactions toward me.
But one Sunday, the other shoe dropped:
Pastor Tolley had been eyeing me all the time I had been attending Liberty Baptist; but he never came in ear shot of me to say anything. This day his face was especially negative. The Sunday School lesson was held in the sanctuary. The teacher was teaching on the Parable of the Talents. Toward the end of the lesson, he stipulated that the one with one talent went to hell because of his unfaithfulness. A lady raised her hand and asked about how a man could go to hell just because he wasn't very faithful. She expressed a concern that most believers weren't all that faithful. The teacher answered that the parable's context was set in the time when one had to keep the Law to go to heaven. He said that this was not the case now, that we were no longer under the Law to go to heaven. Several others asked for more clarification on this point, seeming to question his answer. I repeatedly raised my hand to offer a comment. The teacher almost got whiplash turning away from me when I made the repeated overtures to offer a comment. So I wrote down my comment on paper and gave it to him after class. It offered that salvation according to the bible has always been by grace through faith. I referred to the bible teaching that the Law was never a means for salvation, but as a schoolmaster to bring one to faith in Christ. I wrote that the one-talent-man would certainly not be sent to hell for not being faithful enough; for no one can claim to be faithful enough in any life at any time in history. Besides that, Christ paid the penalty for the sins of the whole world which includes being unfaithful. I offered an alternative point of view to consider that weeping and gnashing of teeth is not solely relegated to one destined for hell. Scripture offers such activity to the temporal life for a number of things, also for loss of fellowship with God for a season when one comes into His Millennial Kingdom. This certainly would resolve the problem of spending an eternity in hell because one was simply not very faithful which is salvation by works - an unbiblical concept.
The teacher received my written statement and verbal explanation of it silently. He promised to review it but his voice and face reflected a very unhappy mood.
As people came into the sanctuary to attend the service I moved over to my 'regular pew' to visit with my new found friend in Christ - the little old lady in the pew behind me. I noticed out of the corner of my eye that Pastor Tolley had an agitated look. My friend and I were discussing how to evangelize people and I offered that there often was very little time to make friends when the window of opportunity to share ones faith was closed. So one had to get right to the gospel as soon as the opportunity afforded it. My friend tended to disagree, and postulated getting to know someone more over time before speaking of spiritual matters. I noticed out of the ever vigilant corner of my eye that Pastor Tolley was making his way over to me with an aggresive walk and a stern look on his face. I spoke to my friend in Christ of how quickly the window of opportunity to share ones faith can close. I told her that my time at Liberty Baptist Church was at a close by virtue of being banned. I referred to the approaching Pastor. She began to deny that that would ever happen until Pastor Tolley angrily interrupted her and gestured with his hand to me to come with him to the church lobby. I put my hand up and politely said 'OK' and said that I would as soon as I could end my conversation with my friend. This did not satisfy him. He repeated his demand more forcefully, demanding immediate obedience. I politely repeated my reply, 'I'll be right there'. He continued to glare at me as he went out to the lobby.
I quickly finished my conversation so as not to exacerbate the situation any further. I told my lady friend in Christ that I wouldn't be permitted back at Liberty so this was goodbye and joined Pastor Tolley in the lobby. He demanded I go outside the church to speak with him where there were some usher/strongmen standing by. Outside the church door he accused me of handing out unauthorized materials and speaking with members of the congregation without permission. He demanded I cease these activities and leave. I told him that Pastor Lowe had seen my personal testimony and did not find anything wrong with it at all. He said this was not a matter for discussion. I asked him what I did or say that was wrong. He repeated his refusal to discuss the matter and asked me to leave as several ushers approached me. I left the church and walked out through the parking lot. Several of the parking lot attendants greeted me and my answer was to tell them to save their friendly greeting for those who were more acceptable to the congregation. When they asked me why I answered that way, I told them what happened. They were astounded. I told them that the Senior Pastor had no problem with my testimony, and that Pastor Tolley would not tell me why I was banished. I gave one of them my personal testimony tract, the other one wouldn't take it. Just then the head usher came up and demanded I leave the parking lot and cross the street. How graceless an experience this was!!!
There are times when I hear when my efforts result in positive volition, affirming the doctrine of earnestly defending the doctrines of the faith as I have done and have been criticized for all these years.
After debating the faith for weeks through a verse by verse examination of John chapter six, Keith and I came to a stalemate at verse 29. Keith could not accept that it said that a moment of faith alone in Christ alone resulted in receiving the Food that endured within one to eternal life without anything else needed to be done. He demanded that one had to persevere in the faith not just simply believe in Christ. But that's not what verse 29 portrays. So Keith broke off our study and went elsewhere, all over the bible refusing to accept what this verse said.
[Compare Jn 6:27-29]:
(v. 27) "Do not work for food that spoils, but for the Food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed His seal of approval.'
(v. 28) "The crowd then asked Jesus 'What must we do to do the works God requires?'
(v. 29) "Jesus answered, 'The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent.' "
After a month of difficult and very emotional debate which Keith threatened to be break off numerous times, I received this email from him:
'''Hi Bob. some comments
Tonight I had worship practice at my church, as I'm part of the group that leads with singing and guitar. And we were singing some encouraging songs, such as There is None Like You, which really touched my heart. Well, I came home and I was still having some doubts and fears, as I so frequently have, because I fear losing my salvation (or that perhaps I'm an imposter who never believed in the first place), especially because this past week I sinned so horribly.
Well, I called my best friend Lydia, who loves the Lord so much, and she told me that God can still have mercy on me, that when I called on Him and confessed my sin, that He forgave me, and that He has no intentions of sending me to hell but has a home for me in heaven (see especially Jeremiah 29:11-13). And she pointed to me some Bible verses and showed how God has only by best spiritual interests at heart because He truly loves me, even if I cant love myself.
This truth, which I grasped hold of to believe so quickly, spurred me to read my Bible again, which I hadn't read really for a while. And I read John 1-6, not quickly, but I read carefully, picking up key points as I read, making sure I didn't read into the text what wasnt there. And as I was reading John 6, I payed special attention to John 6:34, where the crowds implore Jesus to give them bread "evermore" (always, continuously, ongoingly), and Jesus rebukes this by saying that if they would only eat him and drink his blood (both figurative of believing on Him), then they would never hunger of thirst (cf. John 4 with the Samaritan woman). And then in John 6:51, I saw the words that the one who believes in Jesus will "live forever."
Now I know here Jesus was not teaching that the one who believes in him will have an immortal existence, since the immortality of the soul, whether that of the believing and unbelieving, is taught in John 5:28-29 and Daniel 12:1-2. So this life must be something different, perhaps the life spoken of in John 10:10 and John 10:27-29, which is a quality of existence. And in 6:51, Jesus describes the longevity of this quality -- forever. And in 6:54 he identifies this with eternal life.
Now Bob I aint saying yet that I'm fully convinced about all this, but keep on praying because God very well may be opening eyes and guiding me in the truth, because im seeking the truth, and God says that he will show us the truth if we seek him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:11-13). So I'm seeing where you are coming from. Keep praying!'''
Please pray for Keith and myself.
IN ANSWER TO CHUCK SMITH ON SAVING FAITH
[Chuck Smith, "Why Grace Changes Everything,"1994]:
"But What is Real Faith? Our actions must be in harmony with what we believe."
This is not true. One’s actions are often inconsistent with what one believes. That inconsistency does not negate the fact that one at some time truly believed. This is especially true relative to salvation unto eternal life since only a moment of faith alone in Christ alone + nothing else is required and no one is perfectly faithful after that 24/7, (Jn 3:16 & more than 150 passages indicate a moment of faith alone not requiring the faith to continue and 1 Jn 1:8, 10 indicate that no believer can claim to not sin).
Just as one might exercise a moment of faith in physical exercise being good for ones health, but for a variety of reasons one might never exercise at all;
yet this does not negate the fact that one truly believed that exercise was good for ones health at some time;
so, in the same way,
one might at some time exercise a moment of faith alone in Christ alone as Savior unto eternal life to become truly justified (saved) unto eternal life, (Jn 3:16 et al), but for a variety of reasons as supported in Scripture, a true believer may never live a faithful life, (Romans chapter 6);
yet this does not negate the fact that one truly believed in Christ as Savior at some time and secured for himself eternal life as stipulated in more than 150 places in Scripture.
Scripture does not teach that salvation unto eternal life is conditioned upon or will result in continual obedience. If anything, we could argue that John's Gospel purposefully introduces us to those who believed in Jesus as Savior, but were less than fully committed as disciples or were partially obeying Him. Martha believed and was obviously saved (11:27; and we can assume Mary and Lazarus were too), but there is no indication that she followed Christ in the fullest sense of leaving home and family. Less than full confession and commitment are also found in the 'secret disciple,' Joseph of Arimathea (19:38). Some would argue that Nicodemus was also in this category (cf. 19:39). In addition, the Jewish rulers mentioned in 12:42 believed in Christ, but did not confess Him publicly for fear of being ostracized by the other Jewish leaders. Yet nothing in Scripture indicates that they were not truly saved and Jn 1:12-13 stipulates that anyone who believes is]
[Chuck Smith, cont.]
"Belief isn't merely what we say; belief is demonstrated by what we do."
Here is the fallacy: One can demonstrate what one believes or not - neither response necessarily proves out what one believes. If there is no evidence that one believes at some moment in time, that does not negate the fact that they at some time believed or continue to believe!! Believing is a mental acceptance of something as true in a moment of time. That cannot be changed later by lack of demonstration that they believed. The opposite may also be true, that one may act as if one believes in something but that may not be conclusive either]
"In other words, true faith is more than a verbalization. True faith leads to appropriate actions… Our actions must be in harmony with what we believe or our belief can be called into question…."
First of all, there are no appropriate actions required of faith to be effective in saving one unto eternal life. Saving faith is simply a trust in the information that Christ paid for ones sins. Over 150 passages stipulate this. No passage in Scripture even hints that a commitment to behave better is required to be saved as part of saving faith nor demonstrate it later. One is required only to accept the truth of the matter that Christ paid for ones sins and that alone, (1 Jn 5:9-13). Check any of the more than 150 salvation unto eternal life verses.
Many passages indicate that a true believer can choose to live an unfaithful lifestyle.
Furthermore, if what Chuck Smith says is true, then no one would be saved because all fall short of his unbiblical mandate to demonstrate by works a faithfulness in behavior to God’s standards in order to be truly saved. This begs the question, 'How far short can one fall of meeting the mandate of faithful behavior to support what one once believed to make it true saving faith??' Since God has a zero tolerance for sin, might I suggest no failure at all. But thank God for the grace of God - Scripture indicates that a true believer can fall short of the glory of God with no limit yet still be a true believer:
[Chuck Smith, cont.]:
"None of this means, of course, that our actions are always going to be perfect…. Sometimes my activities and actions are opposed to my faith in Jesus Christ…. But I can't live in that condition. I may stumble and fall, as does everyone, but I don't lie there."
Interesting, but the bible says that believers cannot claim to live without a pattern of continuous unfaithfulness, (1 Jn 1:8, 10). So to what degree according to the unbiblical gospel of Chuck Smith can one not continuously sin??? No Lordship salvationist has offered an acceptable answer to this from Scripture. As a matter of fact there is large disagreement on this issue within the Lordship salvation camp itself.
Since the grace of God covers the forgivenness of all of the believers’ sins past, present and future no matter what: , then the demand that one live a life of continual obedience in order to demonstrate that they have true salvation is false.
"Our faith must necessarily lead to a life of obedience and right actions, but it is not those right actions or our obedience that earn us right standing before God……. If there is no fruit in my life, then the relationship must be questioned and even challenged."
Since one’s assurance comes solely on the basis of what Jesus Christ did for us at Calvary, (1 Jn 5:9-13), then lack of fruit to whatever degree, (no one produces fruit 24/7), is not ever the issue. Is it? According to Scripture, no one can claim to lead a life of continual obedience to God’s standards. Thus according to Chuck Smith’s unbiblical theology, no one can be saved.
But thank God for the grace of God and what Scripture clearly teaches.
[Chuck Smith, cont.]
'''That is why Paul tells us, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?" (II Corinthians 13:5).'''
To determine that 2 Cor 13:5 is a proof text as to whether or not one is saved is to rip the passage out of its context.
Paul is not saying, "Examine yourselves to see whether you are born again, or justified." But he is saying, "Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith."
Unfortunately these forceful words are often read as though they challenged the Corinthians to find out whether or not they were saved. This is unthinkable and absurd. After twelve chapters in which the Apostle takes his readers' Christianity for granted, can he only now be telling them to make sure they are born again? The question answers itself.
The phrase "in the faith" relates in some way to our Christian walk or warfare. The meaning "to be a Christian" is not relevant in any New Testament passage at all!
Furthermore this false interpretation of Chuck Smith contradicts clear passages that stipulate that recalling that one believed in the Son of God to save one is sufficient to know for sure that one has eternal life from the moment expressing saving faith without having to examine ones works from day to day. No one can assure themselves of continual obedience all their lives so assurance that their final destiny is heaven is non-existent.
A final flaw in this point to check one's works to see if one is saved:
Can an unbeliever objectively view his lifestyle without a godly viewpoint to discern whether or not he is faithful? The godly viewpoint can only be obtained when one has become a born again believer who has a biblical perspective of divine good works and can now be led by the Holy Spirit. So Chuck Smith's test to see if one is saved by ones actions is flawed. The carnal mind of the unbeliever is not equipped to make such a judgment, neither is the mind of a carnal minded believer.
[Chuck Smith, cont.]
"Jesus told us that there is such a thing as a wolf in sheep's clothing. You can look like a Christian, act like a Christian, and talk like a Christian - but grandma, what big teeth you have! You may have all the outward appearances of a sheep but in reality be a wolf. So how are we going to know who's who? Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matthew 7:20, emphasis added)."
This passage is about false teachers within which v. 7:20 is located. Again we have a verse wrenched out of its context. One cannot stretch this passage to say that one can detect whether one is a believer or an unbeliever by one's lifestyle because Scripture does indicate that believers do have the potential at times of carrying on a lifestyle that does not reflect the fact that they are saved, (Eph 5:1-20; Gal 5:16-25; Ro 6:1-23, 8:1-4).
[Chuck Smith, cont.]
"We are called to examine our lives in order to determine what kind of fruit we're bearing. If the fruit is bad, then there is something wrong with our relationship, which means there is something wrong with our faith. A vital relationship of faith in Jesus Christ will bring forth fruit - without fail."
"We are called to examine our lives in order to determine what kind of fruit we're bearing. If the fruit is bad, then there is something wrong with our relationship" = Amen.
Something indeed is wrong with the relationship. Notice that Chuck Smith implies that there is a relationship.
In fact, it is a born again unto eternal life into the family of God relationship, (Jn 1:12-13), which has something wrong with it.
The wayward child of God is out of temporal fellowship in his relationship with God his Father. The child is not unsaved but is under the Father's discipline. He needs to confess his sins, (1 Jn 1:9) to restore his fellowship with the Father, and resubmit himself to the leading of the indwelling Holy Spirit. There is no unbeliever in view here at all!!
"If the fruit is bad, then there is something wrong with our relationship, which means there is something wrong with our faith. A vital relationship of faith in Jesus Christ will bring forth fruit - without fail." = Here Chuck Smith goes too far. Know any believer who maintains a right relationship with God 24/7 or can even claim not to be out of fellowship with God with sin in ones life daily? Scripture says anyone who claims this is a liar and makes God out to be a liar.
A KEY TO MATURING IN THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
A key to maturing in the Christian faith is to begin doing one's own detailed, verse by verse commentaries on key passages in the Bible. I’ve been speaking at length to Pat from Louisiana and Bonnie from South Carolina. I shared with them that the key to the next step in spiritual maturity is to begin doing detailed studies on key passages in Scripture. In effect to do one’s own biblestudymanuals commentary. This is a major step in the Christian life wherein one moves from depending upon the teaching of others to determining what Scripture says on the basis of one’s own study via the normative rules of language, context and logic. This is not to say that one is to be independent from others' teaching for one is to correct and confirm what one arrives at through trusted sources of instruction from God’s Word including commentaries, fellow believers and pastor teachers.
NEARLY APPREHENDED AT CALVARY CHAPEL, ST. PETERSBURG
I'd been attending Calvary Chapel for four weeks. People said that Pastor Danny Hodges was a good verse by verse preacher.
No Sunday school and 40 minutes of arms-in-the-air, 'Praise and Worship' is not my cup of biblical tea, however.
The first time I attended, I filled out a visitor form and provided information to them as to what I believed in.
Pastor Danny's sermon touched upon John 3:5 where he erred on the phrase 'born of water' being physical birth. (Certainly babies go to heaven if they die before physical birth, hence 'born of water and the spiritual' is symbolic of the Holy Spirit in the spiritual realm, not physical birth).
Providentially, I had a print out of my take on it, so I sent it to him via the offering box. I wondered if doing this would offend him, but I couldn't pass up the providential opportunity. I made several attempts in addition to this to present myself to the church to see if I might be accepted. There was no response so far.
The next week, I bumped into a young man at Calvary who I observed several times preaching works salvation downtown with a youth group from Calvary. In our conversations about the gospel he often postered himself in a physically threatening manner. He insisted on naming every sin and perseverance (works) in order to be saved despite all the passages I showed him to the contrary. His entire group was in harmony with his position.
I contacted Calvary once more re: their concept of the gospel, especially considering this youth group leader's testimony. Associate Pastor Timothy then engaged me in a conversation which was none too friendly. He did not listen to me very well, consequently I spent much of the conversation correcting him on what I said and didn't say. I gave him my website address and pleaded with him to take a careful look to see if my 'theology' was ok with him. This he did not do.
My third Sunday was missionary day at Calvary Chapel with booths lined up in the hallway for everyone to drop by and visit with them. I visited three booths. I began each conversation with an introductory statement about how most missionaries I have met did not have a handle on the gospel and how that disappointed me so much. And then I posed the question to them from Scripture: "What must I do to be saved?", (Acts 16:30), expecting them to at least be familiar with the answer from such a well known passage in Scripture. No one got it right, nor was anyone familiar with this popular passage!!! Two gentlemen heard me out without rancor when I explained the biblical answer. They finally agreed with the Bible's answer, "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved." [Acts 16:31a].
The couple in the first booth insisted on works and then became negative and then non-responsive as I defended the gospel from Scripture in the same way as before.
Finally, a woman at the last booth caught my attention as I was passing by. When I posed my question to her from Acts 16:30, she insisted that one had to evidence a commitment in ones life showing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ in order to go to heaven. She said that believing in Jesus was not enough, (contrary to Scripture), and that 'You had to accept Him into your life' by way of ongoing faithfulness. She focused on the difference between faith and acceptance as if there was one. When I mentioned that they were synonymous in the context of salvation according to the dictionary, she became visibly upset, excused herself and walked away. Later on she went to Associate Pastor Timothy and expressed deep anger about how badly I behaved. Pastor Timothy became her champion. Our next conversation reflected his adoption of her anger toward me without getting my side of the story. He condemned me for my unloving and divisive behavior and for handing out literature to others.
I had given a print-out testimony with my name, phone number and website address to Pastor Danny, each missionary I spoke with and a few others in the congregation. I also provided copies of a study on John chapter 3 to Pastor Danny and the two missionaries who agreed with me. So nothing was done behind anyone's back. Nevertheless this led to Pastor Danny's special condemnatory sermon of me. He described my behavior as unacceptable, unloving, conceited, rebellious and heretical. He associated me with a number of well known heretics who denied the Trinity and other basic doctrines of the faith.
It is interesting to note that Associate Pastor Tim had previously affirmed me to be biblically accurate in our second conversation the Friday before Pastor Danny's condemnatory sermon. I had also agreed not to hand out anything until he had a chance to review it. And I promised to provide Pastor Timothy with copies of the two items I handed out, which I did. But this did not forestall Pastor Danny's personal castigation of my behavior in his Sermon the following Sunday.
Pastor Danny's sermon clearly implied that my point of view twisted Scripture bordering on heresy. Furthermore I was accused of acting in an unloving, conceited manner with an agenda to cause division in the church body in order to win people over to my 'heresy'. He implied that I was prone to promote controversies about inconsequential matters. I suspect he hadn't read my personal testimony or the study of John chapter 3 which I sent to him weeks ago which centered around the gospel - something that is not inconsequential! Several times Pastor said that if anyone in the congregation found me personally handing out this salacious literature to report me so they can 'get me'. Ironically, he quoted what I said in my printed personal testimony verbatim as the way to salvation unto eternal life: salvation "by grace through faith." Hence he condemns himself.
I was reminded of our Lord's comments in the Temple at Nazarath after which they tried to push Him over a cliff.
I gave the leaders at Calvary every opportunity to check out who I was but their response was to ignore what I have said and attack me with a paranoid admonishment of imaginary heresies and bad behavior and threats of personal harm.
Ironically, Assoc. Pastor Timothy had declared my 'theology' acceptable at the end of our second conversation, the Friday before Pastor Danny's castigation of me.
On the other hand, Pastor Danny revealed his true self when he declared that it didn't matter what anyone in the congregation believed because we were all at different levels of maturity!!! He made a few exceptions to this like those who denied the Trinity, were greedy, or divisive and unloving like me. He cited Pentecostals and Charismatics and those who believed you could lose your salvation as individuals one should not judge, (as holding an unbiblical point of view). Furthermore Pastor Danny espoused Lordship Salvation (works are required for salvation). He condemned me for my unloving and divisive attitude which he put on a par with denying the Trinity and other heresies. Each of those he condemned, including myself, he likened to rebellious individuals with a personal, divisive and heretical agenda which is destructive to the church. Yet he quoted what I have been saying all along to him and others in his congregation: that the gospel is by grace through faith alone. I have found a surprising number at Calvary who do not hold to this means of salvation, hence they may not be saved at all and need to be witnessed to just like I did.
I can only surmise that he has his own definition of grace and faith outside of Scripture.
My second conversation with Pastor Timothy on Friday was largely spent correcting him on what I said and didn't say. The rest of it was spent listening to his condemnation of my behavior as unloving and divisive. It was interesting to note that as soon as I expressed concern to Pastor Timothy for the eternal destiny of the angry woman that he championed, he did a 180 degree in his attitude toward me and began to listen to what I had to say. After testing me with a number of difficult problem passages, he ended the conversation commending me for my knowledge of the doctrines of the bible. Nevertheless, he still admonished me for bad behavior and made me promise to bring him what I handed out in the congregation so he could review it.
FOLLOWUP WITH PASTOR TIMOTHY FROM CALVARY CHAPEL
The Thursday following my official castigation before thousands in Pastor Danny's sermon, I called Pastor Timothy to see if he had anything to say about the 'objectionable' materials I sent to him which I had handed out to people at Calvary. He said he had none!!!!
He immediately burst the bubble of 'loving' acceptance with a stern rebuke of me for sending a friendly email to one of Calvary's missionaries which referenced my biblestudymanuals ministry website. He asked me why I used a fake name implying that I was continuing to do something evil behind his back. He said that this kind of behavior was totally unacceptable. It was tantamount to underhanded solicitation.
I advised him that I used my middle name for my internet email at excite.com because it was more available than my first name. This is common practice not an example of the guile of an evil man!! I had already spoken to the individual and had signed the email with my name at the bottom. So there was nothing underhanded going on but a simple message of hello and information as to what my ministry for Christ was all about! I reasoned with him that since he found nothing objectionable with my 'theology' so far, then why the stinging rebuke!!
Nevertheless, he insisted that if I was going to attend Calvary Chapel, that this kind of behavior was unacceptable. I wondered what other unspoken rules I might violate before the wrath of Calvary finally struck me down.
Pastor Timothy said that he highlighted a copy of Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith's opinion on eternal security which he would leave in the church office for me. He implied that it was required that I read and accept it if I wanted to become part of the Calvary congregation. Interesting to note that Pastor Danny's sermon indicated that one's view of eternal security was not key to attending services at Calvary.
Furthermore, both items I sent to Pastor Timothy, which he said he had no problem with, clearly stipulated my position on eternal security in the bible. I've been up front the whole time.
Now he tells me I must read and accept Chuck Smith's point of view, as if what I have presented is not satisfactory????
I can only surmise that there are critical differences between Chuck Smith and myself which prevent me from attending unless I repent of them.
Why Pastor Timothy has not been up front with me I can only guess. Par for the course at Calvary. Ironic that I am the one who is being accused of being underhanded as well as expressing unacceptable, unloving behavior.
STRIVING FOR ANOTHER SOUL BUT ALMOST NOT ALLOWED TO FINISH
One Saturday morning, on the way to the Seminole library, I heard an ad on my walkman radio about the youth ministry, 'Going The Distance', (727-394-9483). I called them on my cell phone. After a brief introduction similar to my approach at Calvary Chapel, I asked the youth leader, 'What must I do to be saved?'.
He got it wrong! (Surprise!). 'A simple moment of faith alone was not sufficient', he argued, 'It would give one a license to sin. One must make a commitment to live for Christ in order to be saved'. He became belligerent as I attempted to share Jn 3:16 and other clear salvation passages with him. He repeatedly interrupted me with opinions that 'refuted' Jesus' words to Nicodemus. After a while all I could interject between his insults and opinions was 'let me answer that'. But he never allowed me the opportunity to finish a sentence using a constant barrage of insults and condemnation. He chuckled perversely each time he interrupted me with yet another 'No, I won't let you finish' followed by another insulting remark. He declared my beliefs blasphemous and psychoanalyzed me as a mentally sick control freak.
Nevertheless, I persisted and answered each of his challenges with passages from the Bible. At the end of our conversation he affirmed that the bible verses which stipulated that salvation was by a moment of faith alone in Christ alone were a separate issue from those passages that referred to leading the Christian life and the consequences of unfaithful behavior.
I noted that the conversation had immediately calmed down as if the Holy Spirit had put a damper on his emotions. It appeared he had settled in his mind that nothing but the blood of Jesus can wash away his sins.
REPEAT WITHOUT RANCOR
It is interesting to note that I had quite a number of conversations this week which were very similar to the ones with the youth group leader and attendees at Calvary Chapel. This includes two nice young women from Calvary who were evangelizing at Baywalk downtown with a false works gospel. They listened without getting upset and one of them said I had given her a lot to think about. Pray that they will be saved. These conversations were all quite amicable in spite of initial responses which most often reflected a false works gospel. Sad to say most so called Christians do not have a biblical understanding of the gospel and have a nasty chip on their shoulders when challenged with the truth.
So in answer to the condemnation received from the youth group leader on the radio and the pastoral staff at Calvary, I ask the question, 'Should one shoot the messenger of the truth for perceived 'unloving delivery' or heresay. Perhaps the fault lies with the 'messengee'
On the other hand, heaven might indeed have a few more residents as a result of my 'unloving' persistence or at least a seed was planted in that direction.
I rest my case on the example of the persistence of our Lord and His Apostle Paul when presenting biblical truth. Neither was very popular or 'loving' by today's definition.
Is it better to permit error to persist in the congregation in the interest of harmony for the cause of eternal damnation or be divisive and 'unloving' in ones persistence in defending the faith for the cause of eternal life?
"Better wounds from a friend than kisses from an enemy."
Who is your friend."
It is Saturday, 10 P.M. as I await the arrival of Frances - sometime midnight the winds and rain are expected to arrive and increase through early morning. I've already experienced a squal line and now it is eerily quiet outside.
I applied for Social Security on the 26th - first check promised January 2005. The minimum wage job of taking pictures for licenses at the Florida DMV continues but with reduced hours, (5 hours a day). This gives me just enough money to make it to retirement in January and more time to devote to the biblestudymanuals website and evangelism - literally an answer to prayer. The full day job was a drain on me physically and time wise. It required such energy dealing with the public 12 hours a day door to door.
A St. Petersburg Times reporter observed me one day last month at the DMV taking an ID picture of her son. She came back last Tuesday with a photographer to report how we all coped with such a diverse and often ornery public from all parts of the world, often not speaking a word of English. Will post the article here as soon as it appears.
Everyone has a ego and a chip on his/her shoulder with few exceptions. Hardly anyone listens and is willing to follow instructions. Few individuals express kindness toward his fellow man. Self-centeredness interferes with that.
I've had the flu for a week starting with a very sore throat and laryngitis. So Monday and Tuesday were tough at work because I couldn't speak. People being what they are often took offense because I didn't talk to them much.
This just verifies that man cannot offer kindness and understanding to his fellow man only condemnation when they can get away with it. All of this verifies that man is so totally depraved that he can neither truly be kind nor believe in the sovereignty of God and the gospel because he simply will not. It is not beyond man to act in a godly way nor understand simple instructions nor believe in the gospel but he simply won't accept these because man is unwilling to let others have authority over him - even when it hurts others.
TOSSED SALAD THEOLOGY IS ALIVE AND WELL!!
I spoke to a young religious group Friday night on the street and they insisted that there is more to what it takes to go to heaven than what John chapter 3 says.
They insisted you have to add to John 3:16 what they think James chapter two says, (works), water baptism in Acts 2:38 and Mark 16:16, etc., etc.
I told them more than 150 passages give you possession of eternal life forever at a moment of faith alone in Christ alone + nothing else. 'What more do you need to do once you have eternal life?' I asked. I gave two of them a 6 page study on John chapter 3 which presents the case for the gospel verse by verse and completely negates any human doing - especially 3:5-6. It covers most of the objections individuals have to the gospel in a verse by verse observation. It might be helpful for anyone to carry a copy or two of this study with them to hand to die hard religious people who insist on working their way to heaven. I copy and paste it to Word in 3 column format which makes it much easier reading, like a magazine. Here's a link to the study.
It is Friday in my apartment at 3 PM, 233 5th St N #8, St. Petersburg five blocks from Tampa Bay, awaiting the predicted arrival of Hurricane Charley which has been aimed at my back door for hours. Stores are closed, the streets are empty . Tall office buildings stand awaiting the rain and 145+ mph winds. Two homeless people begged for money to sustain their drug habits as I passed by Williams Park from the convenience store with my gallon of hurricane vanilla ice cream toward home. One of the beggars listened long enough to receive the gospel. Pray that he will move on in his new Christian life.
The TV news just announced as I am writing this that a cold front has diverted the hurricane inland to Ft. Myers south of Tampa Bay. So there will probably be an empty downtown this Friday the 13th evening, but one that is less windy and wet.
I started Monday working for the State of Florida, Dept. of Motor Vehicles full time at minimum wage - enough to tide me over to my first social security check. Medical help still eludes me, but my leg is better than ever. Now to get the major medical problem of a colonoscopy taken care of through the free clinic if it offers such.
I have nearly finished a much recommended book, 'The Reign of the Servant Kings,' by Joseph Dillow, Schoettle Publishing. It is not simply a text book but a key reference book. I've posted a number of articles on the site for your examination which I am sure Dr. Danish would highly recommend:
Every day as I travel, I am afforded opportunities to be a servant for my King by sharing the gospel and the doctrines of the faith. It is a tough business because spiritual ears are few and far between. Sunday I hope Calvary Chapel on US 19 is open after the hurricane's passing through. That's my new destiny for the moment. At the bus stop for #59 I engaged a man with a Church of Christ background enough to present the gospel and have it accepted. Changes in routine are often followed by opportunities to share my faith. So I look forward to change with anticipation.
Lately, I've been giving out my cell phone number to any who wish one on one discussion and teaching from God's Word. I have received a number of calls already, not the least of which is a young lady trying to witness to her Morman mother. It was nothing short of elation for me to be of service to this young Christian.
The American Baptist Church found someone else to be an assistant pastor. I never got the courtesy of a reply nor the review before the deacon board as promised.
My hours on my AARP part time job for unemployed seniors have been reduced to 20/week at minimum wage - still searching for any assignment to make ends meet with no 'luck'.
How I am going to make it to retirement in January is simply a matter of faith, which ebbs and flows within me every day - in spite of being provided for all these years. Scripture and prayer is my resort. Several promising job interviews did not provide an opportunity to work. A long term assignment which began on June 15th turned out to be for only 4 days. It is typical that what I am told what the assignment is all about, it turns out to not be the case at all in kind and duration. So I am back working part time at minimum wage for the AARP. I'll be glad to leave the corporate world in January. I wonder how anyone can be 'successful' in it and be faithful to the Lord at the same time.
"Trust in the Lord with all my heart, and lean not on my own understanding, in all my ways acknowledge Him and He will direct my path." (Pr 3:5-6).. I've been saying and praying that for years.
Tony DiRienzo, a man I have frequently instructed over the last three years on many doctrines of the faith, has been teaching a faith alone in Christ alone class now for a number of months at Indian Rocks Baptist Church. He has been going through Romans and the gospel of John, verse by verse. His knowledge of and enthusiasm for doctrine amazes me - considering our first meeting three years ago. He has grown as a believer and has become a true friend in Christ after many hard moments of debate and difficulty. He is a great encourager in my oft tested walk with God. I pray that his class will draw many who will grow to be instructors of the Bible themselves.
Pastor Bob from Biblefood.com, Jacksonville, Florida has become a friend and fellow student in Christ via the internet and cell phone. He is a pastor of a small church in Jacksonville. In spite of his duties he frequently responds to my questions and submissions for review with nothing but encouragement and great insights.
My right leg and knee are gradually improving. Ironically I have virtually doctored myself in the absence of adequate medical help with frequent ice packs, hot baths, freestyle kicking in the pool and walking without a cane. I still swim 9 to 10,000 yards a week - favoring the right leg, usually with a pull buoy, pulling with my arms. Soon the knee brace may not be needed at all.
Not being able to pass the lifeguard test because of the injury during lifeguard training was a great disappointment to me. But my disappointment has become less intense, as I learned to accept God's sovereignty in all things. So my walk of faith is a bit 'tougher' but necessary to reach greater maturity in the faith.
I have been instructing and debating with a number of individuals via the biblestudymanuals website as usual. Many have visited it without contacting me to read whatever they choose to. I am glad I made the index comprehensive so that one can go to a topic or passage of interest without too much trouble. Although simple in design, it affords a complete review of hundreds of topics and passages with the click of the mouse:
A review of the history of the Jews in Palestine - this one has opened my eyes even more about the destiny of God's chosen people can only be in the hands of God and Him alone.
John 17:3 - in answer to one who attests to conditional security depending upon the faithfulness of the individual
A further review of Romans chapter 10 - reaffirms that a moment of faith alone in Christ alone + nothing secures salvation unto eternal life. This passage is so often misused to promote the false gospel of works salvation that it bears constant review.
A CHANCE TO SERVE
Last week I met a lady at a Senior Center event and she recommended me to Pastor J. Phillip Miller-Evans for a youth pastor assistant at a local American Baptist Church. I have an interview Thursday next week. There is a small income involved which will be needed as my hours at my part time job will be reduced in July.
ROMANS CHAPTER 6
The basic-observation exegesis of Romans chapter 6 is finished and ready to examine for all who are interested.
Most commentaries I have seen do not deal with this chapter in detail, verse by verse, point for point. Hence I saw the need to do just that to reaffirm that salvation is by faith alone that does not demand demonstration in one's life thereafter in order to confirm that salvation is secured. Furthermore, Paul clearly teaches that the Christian life is a struggle between offering the parts of one's body to sin or to righteousness moment to moment in view of the believer's position of enslavement to the righteous sovereignty of God.
INVESTIGATING 'THE PURPOSE DRIVEN LIFE' (BY RICK WARREN), AT FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, ST. PETERSBURG
On Wednesday, I attended a bible study at a nearby United Methodist Church on the best selling book, 'The Purpose Driven Life', by Pastor Rick Warren.
Over the past 6 months, I have seen & heard of many people reading this book, largely in lieu of good Bible study. I have read excerpts of it and it did not impress me as a good substitute for the bible. Furthermore, the format of it did not focus on a careful examination of bible passages to support the points made.
I thought that if I delved into it a bit more, I might get a better perspective of it before I made definitive commentary on it.
I presented myself in class as a bible student with Seminary experience. I explained that I was distressed at the general lack of interest by 'Christians' in serious bible study. On the other hand I noticed that there was great popularity with Pastor Warren's book. This peaked my interest since it seemed to focus on the Christian life.
The moderator began the class with an explanation that the format of the class was a participatory one. She then began with chapter one, and encouraged class participation with key questions and comments, page by page.
I answered several questions and immediately found opposition from a number of the attendees. The negative reaction was relatively mild and indirect at first, centering around whether or not a Christian should argue about the Bible. I presented specific passages, (Jude 3 and Phil 1:27-28) and the examples of our Lord and the Apostle Paul who persistently and strenuously argued with those who opposed the doctrines of the faith. ....At the end of the class several participants and the moderator herself became very agitated and openly accused me of being dogmatic, argumentative and intimidating. I was directly accused of presenting concepts in the class that were too theological - implying that I had too much Bible knowledge to suit the class agenda. The biggest complaint however was that I did not allow that one opinion about the bible is just as good as another. As a point of reference, most of what I commented on was a simple explanation of the gospel and eternal security using Jn 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8-9.
It is interesting to note that every time someone accuses me of being argumentative, they go into an argumentative mode to prove that one should not argue, finishing it off in a flurry of personal attacks and condemnation, all the while accusing me of unchristianlike behavior.
As I walked out, an older woman walked with me for quite a while posing one question to me after another. I presented the gospel clearly to her and she responded with amazement. Pray that she will respond also with belief.
I attended the second class. The regular teacher attended. The session was apparently a difficult one for Dave, the teacher, who objected to much of what I commented on. We covered a number of chapters and my comments stayed short and topical. I supported much of what was in these chapters as well as offering Biblical passages which the book contradicted. A key objection was that the book presented the gospel of eternal life as an attempt to have an ongoing relationship with Jesus Christ. I countered with Jn 3:16 which teaches that eternal life is received at the moment one simply believes in the Son of God being given for one. A number of those in the class agreed with what I had presented, even added to it. Dave became agitated a number of times as the class progressed.
Shortly thereafter I received an email from Dave banning me from the class:
"Subject: Wednesday Night Class...
I have discussed this situation with our senior pastor and have been in prayer and from this I write this email.
Upon hearing of the class on 5-12-04, in my absence, and in regard to last night, I tend to feel that this class is not the right place for you now.
We have been very effective with this class thus far in other offerings at FUMC. But for us to start out and then have some drop out after 2 classes and others ready to leave is unacceptable to me as the leader of this class. I have new people who have not even been involved in a church, trying to find their way. I have new visitors that members have brought telling them how exciting this class is and some are back in for a second offering of the class. I, and others have given you the courtesy of letting you speak, and with many valid points[emphasis mine] but not points that are going to be discussed within the bounds of this book [actually all of them were germane] and for the short period we have. [actually we got through the class agenda on time]
Here at FUMC, we are using this class as a guide to help those who want to know their purpose in a general way and at times a deeper way. It seems that this author conflicts with a lot of your views and it is not productive for our class if you keep cautioning us or saying that he is "not exactly right" all the time. [I did not contradict everything the author said, often supported what we covered in his book]
Again, I have folks who feel uncomfortable speaking up at all in your presence and who the first night were eager to come but now want to leave. [Interesting that I have such an effect on others and that is the criterion by which one is included or excluded in a bible study class]
I cannot let this happen! And I am not about to debate issues in front of these visitors and members. [I'm a visitor???] Again, this is neither the place nor is it the time to do that. [Scripture says differently - 2 Tim 4:2]
Honestly I wouldn't debate anyone on scripture. [Scripture says differently - Phil 1:27-28, Jude 3]
Please respect our class and those who are involved. I do not need someone else to help me lead the class nor I do I want sermonettes on every issue. I DO FEEL that you mean well, but this cannot and will not continue in this class. Please grant us the courtesy of letting me continue my class in a manner that will let all feel comfortable and that they will want to come back. Again, I do not feel that this is the class for you at this time. [Notice a lot of feeling is going on here, very little reference to Scripture which is what the class is supposed to be about]
My response is as follows:
1) It is interesting to note that those who find anything wrong at all with this book are to be excluded in accordance with Rick Warren's Purpose Driven Church which book I suppose you are familiar with. Such is the hypocrisy of this point of view: that those who differ from it are not to be contended with lovingly and objectively, rather simply excluded - even told to leave.
2) If my points are well taken and accurate then you will be held accountable for excluding me from the class. Suggest you go here and determine if I am indeed accurate in my point of view, especially on the most basic of issues: how to go to heaven: http://www.biblestudymanuals.net
3) My comments were hardly too advanced and addressed only those issues which were brought up in the class. They were also short and to the point. If others are intimidated, perhaps they need to simply listen objectively before they get into an emotional tizzy. The first class was punctuated by others' objecting to what I had to say, rather than the other way around. This followed by a personal castigation of my behavior as intimidating, too theological and argumentative.
It was interesting to note that it was not me who argued that one shouldn't argue, a curious contradiction.
Also interesting was the point those who objected to my presence made that everyone's point of view should be tolerated. Yet mine was to be silenced?
I noted there were some in the class who were in agreement and not intimidated at all. Truth is not a popularity contest or something that must necessarily be inclusive of all points of view. I take my examples from our Lord and the Apostle Paul.
4) All believers are commanded to contend for the doctrines of the faith. I thought you knew that.
5) Where should one as 'knowledgable' as I go in your 'church' in order to be accepted? Must I dummy down my comments?
(I actually did in your class but it was still considered offensive as you infer).
I was not trying to lead the class, only participate. Can you give me several specific examples which were out of godly line?
6) I openly agreed with much of what the first two chapters said. So it appears you are intolerant of any disagreement at all. Is Rick Warren the Holy Spirit???"
STILL WAITING TO GET MEDICAL ATTENTION
Tomorrow I'll be meeting with Jay a teacher at First Baptist St. Petersburg to show him my study on the Crucifixion Chronology I've been working on and discuss points he has questions on from Scripture. The study is nearly ready to post. So far I've concluded that our Lord was crucified in 32 AD on Wednesday, Nisan 13 as the Passover Lamb Who takes away the sins of the whole world so that the Annual Passover Sabbath on Nisan 14 could be celebrated. There are many points that have to be carefully considered. So I'll receive any and all constructive criticisms: crucifixion_chronology.htm
Tonight was quite an eventful night. I ran into a group of young people once again who were passing out salvation tracts to passersby on the corner where 'my coffee shop' sits. The tract I was handed demanded I name and repent of all of my sins and vow not to commit any more in order to be saved. The insanity of that requirement did not escape me. I presented my case of Jn 3:16 to them and all I got was bitterness and accusation of my unchristianlike behavior as I defended the doctrines of the faith each time they bought up yet another passage that they inferred refuted what Jn 3:16 said. Their leader thereupon came up to me so aggressively and closely that his face was a blur in my vision and our noses nearly touched. He was full of hate. He demanded I leave their presence and not speak another word. When I asked him upon what authority did he exercise this restriction of my personal freedoms on this public corner, he mounted an attack on my personality, beginning with an accusation of me taking up everyone's time with useless & godless arguments. When I continued to speak to whomever would listen, the entire group of more than a dozen individuals was ushered away from my corner like rats running to a dark corner as one entered a barn at night with a lantern. Interestingly enough the tract they were handing out remarked of that very possibility of those who did not want to hear the truth - that it would make them run. Here was little ol' me who preached the gospel on a street corner and made all those people run for the hills. They had pointed to their very own darkened point of view and accused me of the very unchristianlike behavior that they imposed upon me. They even argued with me that you are not supposed to argue if you are a true Christian????
After a month of seeking medical help and a job assignment somewhere, anywhere even for minimum wage, I have come up empty once again. Several close calls though. I was called at 3:40 PM Monday while I was working at my part time DMV minimum wage job. It was busy so I had to call after work at 5 PM. Too late. Evidently jobs are still scarce. I am counting the days to retirement praying that my funds do not run out 'til my first SS check - evidence of my lack of trust in God. I must recite Proverbs 3:5-6 frequently.
Just yesterday, my bus pass ran out of days but the kind bus driver let me one, giving me one day's grace. I still needed funds to ride home. But guess what. I met a Christian at work and he gave me a ride home unexpectedly. Is God my Father or what! He plans to start a ministry that I may participate in. They need a swim instructor and an good bible teacher.
Medical assistance waits until May 17 because the bureaucracy is so paranoid they needed one more piece of paper and one more phone call which was not immediately forthcoming at my meeting last month. Since my temp agency was busy when my case worker called, I must delay treatment another month. Only one attempt to call is permitted - sounds more like I am a criminal with only one phone call permitted before I'm returned to my cell. So I continue to limp around because of the fear that I might be scamming the system and asking for illegitimate help. I have learned patience under physical disability and bureaucratic insanity - not an easy lesson.
Nonetheless, I have had multiple opportunities to share my faith every week. Two ladies approached me last Saturday with their version of the gospel. When I responded with a careful and simple examination of Jn 3:16, one immediately left the scene. The other one remained and listened intently. The first returned after I had finished and said I was complicating things. She had not listened to my explanation and went all over the bible to explain how to go to heaven, and yet she insisted that my simple explanation of Jn 3:16 was complicating things. The other lady wholeheartedly agreed with what I said. Pray that she will minister to her partner.
IT HAPPENED AGAIN
Last Friday night I strolled through Baywalk and spotted a middle aged man with an open bible in his hands explaining something to two younger men. An open bible is a magnet to me. I was drawn right into the conversation which centered on the 144,000 in Revelation 7:4. The man was a Jehovah Witness who was attempting to explain that only the 144,000 would make it to heaven. My comment punctured the conversation. It focused on the context which I explained did not address the issue of who goes to heaven at all. Mr. J.W. was suddenly silent. I added in the moment of silence that the key to interpreting Scripture was simply to let the words say what they mean in accordance with one's simple reading skills and avoid reading anything into them. The two young evangelicals who espoused Lordship salvation, picked up the conversation by moving to the Trinity and the Diety of Christ. I interjected with an explanation of the capacity of an omnipotent God to appear on the earth as human if He so desired - which is reflected in the Bible everywhere. Then I went into detail about how our Lord operated for the most part out of His humanity. This I explained to him answered his question of how our Lord would pray in His humanity to the Father in heaven. When I moved to John 1:1 which clearly declared our Lord as God - especially from the Greek where the order of words specifically is 'and God was the Word', all I saw of the gentleman was the back of his heels.
For the next hour I fielded questions on the gospel and saving faith, explaining one problem passage after another. By this time there were four young people surrounding me. Their eyes were wide open as I explained from Scripture that a simple moment of faith alone, a mental acceptance of God's testimony that eternal life was in His Son immediately and forever, provided eternal life without an ounce of commitment to lead a better life. We meandered from 1 Jn 5:18 to Hebrews six, James two, Romans 10, Acts 2:38 and a number of other Lordship 'proof texts' until they were answered such that not one single passage contradicted another. All passages were seen as supporting a moment of faith alone in Christ alone unto eternal life + nothing - an eternally secure eternal life. I pray they will take hold of this instruction and move forward in God's grace, leaving works salvation behind. Perhaps we will meet again, prayerfully in heaven.
DEALING WITH AN INJURED PART
As I work my way through Romans chapter six, I am reminded of my injury by Paul's repeated command, "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness."
I had put my daily bible studies and evangelism tours on hold to concentrate on lifeguard training. The training was abruptly ended and my studies and faithfulness were resumed. I have been made painfully aware of the priorities of my life in Christ.
My knee has made progress. I can walk with a cane now and sometimes without, provided I wear a knee brace. It is still quite sore all the time. Motion is anything but 100%. I suspect permanent damage has occurred which might lead to the operating table. Medical assistance is still months away as I have no health insurance and have applied to Social Services for help. The wheels of bureaucracy have moved slowly as usual. Hopefully I will not exacerbate the injury. Swimming seems to help a bit, provided I only pull with my arms and do a light flutter kick now and then to test the progress of my knee.
Northeast Park Baptist has afforded me some opportunity to share my faith without a lot of negative reaction. One lady, a pastor's daughter, has also become interested in sharing her faith. So I've made up her personal testimony tracts for her to begin handing out. Perhaps this is the beginning of something here at NE Park Baptist Church where my spiritual gifts can be freely exercised for the benefit of the body of believers. Pastor Crowley has often touched upon the subject of the Christian life of works for the Lord and I pray he will move more specifically into the doctrine of rewards.
AS ONE WALKS THROUGH LIFE DAY BY DAY THERE ARE OFTEN UNEXPECTED OPPORTUNITIES TO SHARE THE DOCTRINES OF THE FAITH
Hardly a day has gone by where I haven't had an opportunity to share something from God's Word with someone. I'm willing to accept that some days will provide no opportunity or missed opportunities - but not lightly. One night last week, I went the whole day without any opportunity that I could discern. By the end of the day, I found myself in the local coffee shop examining several verses in Romans chapter 6 as I sipped my herbal tea. It was a slow night with no one readily available to talk to. I began to get drowsy by the minute as the sleep herbs began to do their work. I picked up my things and 'slumbered' out toward home with walking cane in hand to assist my stiff and aching knee.
As I traveled outside toward home, I heard 'Sir, I'll pray for a miracle for your leg to heal'. A man spoke from a nearby sidewalk bench. I stopped and began a discussion with him and a woman friend that lasted for more than an hour. The two of them had many unanswered questions. They were overjoyed to find someone out of the clear blue who had studied the passages that seemed to conflict with salvation by a moment of faith alone in Christ alone or opposed eternal security. My fatigue disappeared for the moment as I fielded one question after another. I went home with such a peace knowing that this, after all, was what I was created for from before the foundation of the world. Several days later I delivered a detailed study on Hebrews 10:26.
YET ANOTHER 'BLOW' IN MY LIFE OPENS UP OPPORTUNITIES TO SHARE THE FAITH
On Wednesday, March 10th, I arrived for a long term desk job assignment at Interstate Transportation, albeit beginning on crutches. I made it easily up the stairs to my new job home - right across from where I live. I was met by my new supervisor. But he immediately sent me home. He refused to let me work there that day because of my injury - in spite of the fact that I told him it was only temporary. I said that I would be off the crutches shortly. He promised to keep the job for me 'til Monday after my doctor's appointment, but reneged on it. The Temp agency gave the assignment to another. I am now off the crutches and on slight cane assist - nearly walking without any help. Too late. I suppose that was the shortest assignment on record. So far I have not been reassigned, so I start next week part time at minimum wage at the DMV to make some of my ends meet. I hope I'll receive a new assignment by next month for funds are scarce and I need to have medical tests done in April for cancer and my leg.
In any case, my constantly changing circumstances have afforded me unique opportunities to witness. One Tuesday morning, (3/16), the rain and my crutches slowed me down so much that I missed my bus to a job interview. I then found out that the appointment was miscommunicated to me anyway. It was for the next day!!! I was a day early. As a result of this, I bumped into my friend, Bob, coming home. We walked together and then sat down to talk at length in a large bus shelter nearby where I live. The circumstances provided me an opportunity to continue to teach Bob the value and purpose of the Christian life. It was evident that everyone in the shelter could hear our conversation. One man came closer to us and stood nearby, leaning on the shelter doorway. He fidgeted constantly as he listened intently to what I had to say. It seemed like he couldn't help but to interrupt me in mid-sentence, which he did with a series of his own questions concerning salvation and the Christian life. He was an Orthodox from Eastern Europe who was interested in his eternal destiny and purpose. As a result, he and the rest of my 'audience' in the shelter were given the gospel and directions in how to grow in the faith. So was I really misdirected and defeated? Perhaps by the world, but not by God.
The extra time off work assignments has also given me an opportunity to present my case for the differences between agape and phileo love to John, a Roman Catholic ex-priest. We have had some heated conversations revolving around the RC doctrine that laymen must rely on RC authority for interpretation of the Bible. So if he is convinced that my study is accurate he must also accept the fact that an individual can study the Bible on his own and arrive at what God is saying without the input of RC authorities.
John's friend, another John - a retired AF officer, also engaged me in a conversation about the RC doctrine of Mary's sinlessness and perpetual virginity. He seems to approach theological matters more objectively. Hence our discussions were friendlier - a I was able to get my points across more clearly. The next day I presented a study on this topic to him from my website. On Sunday, (3/19), he admitted that the study was quite convincing. He said he would give the study to John, the ex-priest for his comments. All of these conversations were overheard by others in the group and those surrounding us at the local Starbucks coffee shop. My prayers are that all of this will lead to an acceptance of the simple message of the gospel of faith alone. Perhaps some of this little group of people will begin to attend NE Park Baptist Church.
A SECOND BLOW IN SUCH A SHORT TIME LATER
Came to work this morning and half way through it I was advised that this was to be my last day on the assignment. After weeks of affirmation that I was to work for them indefinitely and that my work was much appreciated and valued, then comes the sudden dismissal from out in left field. A budget crunch was the reason all of the temporary workers were laid off. I finished out the day and left a tract for Crystal who often spoke of spiritual things but did not want to get into a personal conversation about it. My prayers are especially for her salvation as well as for all the others.
So it is again a hunt for a place where I can earn at least a meager income to make ends meet until retirement. I am counting the months, (9) until I reach 62 to take early social security. I look forward to spending more time studying the Word of God and sharing it with anyone who will listen. Perhaps I will invade the local college campus of USF and take a few courses which I enjoy and share my faith as fellow students interact with me. Perhaps this might lead to a student bible study or students attending NE Park Baptist Church.
THIS IS WHAT I AM 'PAID' FOR
Being on crutches has already gotten old and sore in new places. Nevertheless and running late, I hobbled over to the #4 bus as fast as I could to attend Sunday night service at church.
I struggled to move the crutches as fast as I could. My hands, wrists and arms all began to complain at the same time. I needed to be there at NE Park Baptist Church in touch with my new family in Christ. It's a tough world out there especially for believers who make it a practice to defend the faith. We need all the support and affirmation we can get - especially me.
For the first time in years the walls around my heart and mind are becoming less protected as I fellowship with my new Christian friends. Pastor Crowley has been providing me a ride home after evening service when the buses stop running. With such encouraging fellowship I decided to divert my homeward destination to a popular coffee shop nearby so I could make myself available to others to share my faith with. This has been my routine ever since I moved to downtown St. Pete. I pray that other believers will accompany me some day so we can share our faith more effectively together.
There are times I simply study the bible a bit more. I enjoy being around people.
Tonight a young woman sat right across from me in a twin lounge chair. She was very receptive to conversation. It revolved around the same subject that pervaded the question that Pilate asked our Lord:
'What is truth?'
The young woman asked, 'Are you a Christian?', inferring that my reasoning about truth being absolute and beyond the control of an individual's perception seemed to point to that conclusion.
I answered her question with a question, 'What is a Christian?' I considered that people often redefined the word Christian to meet their unbiblical agenda, and I was not sure she had a biblical perspective of that word. Hence the conversation turned directly toward first things first: the gospel.
'Someone who follows Jesus Christ,' she said. Evidently her perspective was not in line with the gospel.
I posed a thought provoking question, 'Is that always the case? What about Judas? Couldn't one follow Christ but not be a true Christian?' (Many of our Lord's disciples did depart from Him).
This led to the point that one becomes a Christian by a moment of faith alone in Christ alone whereupon one is placed into Christ forever unto eternal life.
The discussion moved to assurance and eternal security based not on works but the finished work at Calvary. Two friends of the young woman arrived and sat down around me, intently listening to every word that was spoken. I discovered that they all were students at Northwestern Bible College on Spring break. The first young woman was concerned about living the Christian life and whether or not a true Christian was capable of backsliding. The one sitting on the floor to my left clarified that a true believer may not choose to live a faithful life but that discipline, shorter mortal life span and loss of eternal rewards would be the result if they did not. I presented my case from Scripture, mainly from the Book of Romans which all were relatively familiar with. The key point which really opened their eyes was the doctrine of eternal rewards via faithfulness vs. the gift of eternal life via a moment of faith alone in Christ alone + nothing else.
A BUDDING 'CAREER' STOPPED BEFORE IT BEGAN
I began taking a lifeguard training course last week with the thought of then completing the Water Safety Instructor course. My hopes were to remove myself from the corporate world where I've had such great difficulty for years receiving a steady income and humane treatment and get a job where I feel most at home: at the swim pool guarding lives and teaching young people how to swim safely. I've had numerous opportunities to share my faith there and looked forward to doing it more often. This year there were plenty of opportunities for work at St Petersburg municipal pools. I've taught swimming and coached swim teams in the past. I had no thoughts that the lifeguard course would not be a breeze. My right knee thought otherwise and completely snapped on me today! I cannot do the whip kick that is required in rescues any longer, so another personal dream has been shattered.
My thoughts drifted to the sovereignty of God: If I am to accept that God is sovereign in all things, then I must accept that God has a better plan which will better serve Him and His kingdom elsewhere - not on the pool deck. I must also continue to trust that He will provide the basics so that I can serve Him - be it to continue in the corporate world or wherever.
I considered that several people were placed in my path today, several to help me walk to safety and provide ice for my swollen knee, one to even give me a ride home - a complete stranger and a deacon of the church where I attend who went way out of his way to bring over some crutches so I could get around. I am gladdened by all of this as it points to God's direction in my life which takes away some of the sting of disappointment of not being able to do something I've wanted to do for many weeks.
I pray that my disappointment will not stop me from looking elsewhere for where I can serve God.
I think back over the recent weeks emails that I have received, especially a number that thanked me for providing a detailed study of one topic or another on the Bible Study Manuals website. One especially comes to mind on the topic of 'zoen aionion' = everlasting life, (Jn 3:16). There are religious groups that attempt to refute this in order to promote their own agendas outside of the Bible's free grace gospel of faith alone in Christ alone + nothing else.
A NEW MEMBER AT NORTH EAST PARK BAPTIST CHURCH
Today I attended North East Park Baptist Church and presented my view point of saving faith to Pastor Gene Crawley. We had already had a number of short discussions on the matter of the gospel. So I presented eight pages on a biblical perspective of saving faith which made it clear where I stood on the gospel in order to illicit his clear response on the matter . I was interested in joining the congregation but only on the basis of compatibility with what the Pastor taught in the congregation relative to the basics of the faith.
Pastor Crawley came over to me later and said he agreed wholeheartedly with everything stipulated in the above referenced pages, i.e., that salvation was by a moment of faith alone in Christ alone. I was supremely glad to hear that news. I have finally found a church home in Florida after searching for four years. I mentioned that his stance was in contradiction to the Southern Baptist Convention and he stated that his only concern was to be true to the Word of God.
Amen to that. True Christian fellowship is something that I cherish dearly.
A YOUNG BUDDHIST GIRL IS SAVED UNTO ETERNAL LIFE
Had a noteworthy interchange with a young Buddhist lady of Vietnamese descent at the local Starbucks Coffee Shop. I relayed the gospel to her beginning with the basis of the reliability of the Bible versus all other sources, then I presented to her the story of Jesus Christ ending with an exposition of Jn 3:16 and closed with the wonderful assurance that one who simply trusted alone in Christ alone would surely go to heaven. She agreed to this with enthusiasm and wanted to meet again and hear more. We exchanged phone numbers and she indicated that she would come back to the coffee shop to hear more next week.
MONDAY NIGHT AT JOE NEALY'S
I spent one Monday evening at the home of Joe Nealy, self-proclaimed bible teacher with the result that I was not invited back to his study ever again. The key to the differences in our theologies was due once again to the lack of a verse by verse exposition on his part on the basis of normative rules of language, context and logic in order to back up each point presented in the class. Instead Mr. Nealy skipped around and drew one unwarranted conclusion upon another.
FUN TIMES WITH THE 'BRETHREN' AT WILLIAMS PARK
From the numerous opportunities I've had to share my faith in the last several years, I find one incident quite noteworthy and symbolic of the state of the 'Christian world' today. Sad to say.
I was walking past Williams Park in downtown St. Petersburg one night. Along the way, there was a van parked in the street with several men handing out toiletries and hot coffee to the homeless. One man addressed me as I passed by, 'Brother, is there anything we can help you with, anything you need?', he said.
I said, 'No thank you.' and passed by. But then I had second thoughts and turned back. I walked up to him and said, 'You know, there is one thing I really do need.'
He said, 'I love you brother, just name it'
I said that I needed good Christian fellowship. I told him that this had been absent from my life for quite some time.
He responded that he loved me as a brother and that I could always have unconditional fellowship with him. He suggested a church home that would do the same. Whereupon he repeated that he loved me with great emotion.
I answered, 'How can you testify of this love for me when you hardly know me? Suppose I'm not the person you think I am?'
He strenuously affirmed his unconditional love for me once more.
Whereupon I predicted that within five minutes he would practically be spitting in my face with anger and would totally break fellowship with me and even tell me to leave at once. He and his fellow brethren vehemently denied that they would ever do that.
It struck me that this man did not express an interest in my eternal destiny, but was obsessed with expressing how he felt. He never attempted to find out if I was going to heaven - a true test of godly agape love.
So I began my five minute test explaining to him what a man must do to have eternal life, beginning with a careful and patient examination of John 3:16:
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.", I quoted. And I proceeded to explain each phrase as the message of the gospel unfolded.
He became impatient with me and said that he was very familiar with this verse. I persistent patiently, explaining how the verse taught that eternal life was immediately and forever received the moment one believed in the Son of God being given for one, and that alone - because that's what the words said, and what Jesus spoke to Nicodemus. He constantly interrupted me as I proved out each point. His insisted on going elsewhere in the Bible to Romans chapter 10 and declared that this passage proved that more than a simple moment of faith alone in Christ alone was necessary in order to be saved.
His rantings and interruptions became so forceful that I relented and patiently began showing him how Romans chapter 10 supported Jn 3:16's message in every way. 'Certainly the bible would not contradict itself,' I said.
I made it clear that the confession in Romans 10:8-9 was not needed to provide eternal life; but when read properly, confirmed that one was already justified unto eternal life by faith alone, the same as Jn 3:16.
'How can one confess that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved?' I asked. 'That's a bit premature, for Jesus is not Lord of one's life until after one is saved.'
I continued to say, 'The confession confirms that one is already justified by faith alone. So, confession is an affirmation of one's eternal destiny in heaven, not a requirement,'
I began to explain this from the koine Greek to confirm what was plain in the English had my 'brethren' friends read the passage from beginning to end.
In midsentence, when my five minutes were about up, everyone of my 'brothers' from the van turned on me like junk yard dogs and told me to leave immediately - even coming at me as if to force me out of their area.
As I retreated, I reminded them all of their promise to love me and never break fellowship with me. They affirmed their promise, but said they didn't care. Without offering a single excuse, every one of them told me to go away and never come back - with a threat to back it up by force.
BIBLE STUDY FELLOWSHIP IS NEITHER A GOOD BIBLE STUDY NOR GOOD FELLOWSHIP
I recently attended several BSF meetings at the local United Methodist Church a few blocks from where I live. BSF stands for Bible Study Fellowship, an international organization that meets all over the country and teaches the exact same lessons on the same day every week - for each group across the world. It was begun by a woman missionary and has grown by leaps and bounds to over 500,000 members. Much of the authority and instruction comes from women.
The men meet on Monday evenings at 6:50 sharp. The introductory meeting I attended included an invitation to all those who were interested in learning the bible and growing in the Christian faith. All were invited to attend, all denominations from unbeliever and baby Christian to the most mature in the faith. There was no agenda in view except the bible and the strict format within which the week's lessons were to be discussed.
Homework was given to all the men for my second week: nearly two dozen chapters in the Old Testament and not a few references in the New. There were twenty-eight essay questions to answer. I spent all week doing the homework and was ready for my first classroom session.
The next Monday evening broke up into small discussion groups once more. From the beginning, I was repeatedly called upon to answer questions. I also volunteered answers after no one responded and the facilitator turned his attention to me. I also provided several points once all the others had had their turn.
After the class, the facilitator came up to me and admonished me not to participate so much in the class. He suggested that I prevented others from participating and had intimated everyone into silence. I commented that I did not see anyone being intimidated by what I said. I asked him why he kept calling on me if my participation was so objectionable. He did not respond. On the matter of being accused of 'taking over the class,' the facilitator had no answer when I indicated that I waited for others to respond on a number of questions and there was no apparent evidence of intimidation or lack of participation over all.
Later on that week, we had several phone conversations. The facilitator made it clear that my bible knowledge was what caused the alleged negative reaction by others in the class. 'I should have toned down my answers', he said. He would not explain what 'toning down' my answers specifically meant.
It was inferred that I had no place at BSF because of my advanced bible knowledge which he declared caused disruption in the class. Later on I reflected, 'Suppose Jesus had attended a BSF class? Would His answers be objectionable too, because of His advanced bible knowledge? And how about those in BSF who mature in the faith? Are they admonished to tone down their answers and not respond with godly wisdom or be refused admission if they don't'?
At first, there was no question as to my point of view being unbiblical. But once I probed for details, the facilitator made it clear that my point of view was flawed. He countered that true believers will not want to sin anymore, nor will they do so to a great degree. The facilitator maintained that confession of sin was required in order to be saved, and stay saved. Thereafter, sin must not be a part of the believer's lifestyle if he is a true believer at all.
I presented passages from Scripture to him that taught that believers still had to struggle with their sin natures, (ref. Ro 7:21-25). Furthermore, I maintained that Scripture taught that a Christian cannot claim to be without sin, (1 Jn 1:8, 10). That is why, I said, that the bible is full of passages addressed to eternally secure born again believers to remain faithful in their daily walk, (Eph 5, Gal 5, Ro 6).
Upon further discussion, it was discovered that the facilitator believed that a simple moment of faith alone in Christ alone was not sufficient in order to be saved; that saving faith involved a 'heartfelt' commitment to leave a life of sin with a successful follow through. So according to him, head faith did not save, only heart faith did. And a holy lifestyle was absolutely essential to prove out that one was truly saved. Otherwise, the saving faith was a false faith and the individual's eternal destiny was hell.
I presented my case from Scripture that saving faith was a matter of accepting the testimony of God about His Son, (1 Jn 5:9-13) and that it occurred instantly and forever and the moment of faith in Jesus Christ as Savior, (Eph 1:13-14, Jn 3:16). This occurred simply in the mind where the center of all mental activity exists. I asked him, 'If the mind was not a sufficient place to contain true Christian faith, then why did Paul command believers to renew their minds? I pointed out that any commitment to live a holy life was tantamount to salvation by works which had no part in God's saving grace, (Eph 2:8-9).
I called the international headquarters in San Antonio, Texas and they got me in touch with the director of the St. Petersburg group. I had the same kind of discussion with him as with the facilitator and he too became rather angry when I presented the same case for the gospel of faith alone in Christ alone from Scripture.
All of this was confirmed with a conversation with Jane Roach from the international office who repeated the same agenda over and over again about following the rules - even after I had repeatedly acknowledged them and testified to adhering to them. She inferred that I hadn't done that at all; although she admitted more than once that she had not been informed either way. She then accused me of trying to take over the class and instruct everyone with my answers. I advised her repeatedly that I was very familiar with the rules by stating them over and over to her. I indicated that my answers were direct, to the point and short, i.e., within the rules. But she said repeatedly that she felt that I had not followed the rules and inferred that my answers should have been less informative and that my tone of voice less offensive. She had no response when I asked her about being repeatedly called upon in class; and how she knew that my tone of voice was offensive.
I was not to instruct the class, she demanded. But I said that anyone who responded to a question was in effect instructing the class - that was unavoidable.
She said that it was not the purpose of the class that anyone's answers be instructive. She reiterated that the purpose of the class was to permit everyone to express their point of view without instructing anyone at all. She insisted once more that I tone down my answers and that if I would not cooperate, I was not welcomed back into the classroom. She was not specific as to what 'toning down my answers' actually meant and how my answers actually broke the rules; nor how an answer couild avoid being instructive to the class.
I can only move on, rather than agree to be silent. After all,"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16). Hence, my job is to share what God's Word actually says, not a toned down version which is 'non-instructive' whatever that means.
I researched the internet and found the following testimonies that supported what I observed at BSF
MOVED TO DOWNTOWN ST. PETERSBURG
Thanks to not accumulating much stuff I managed to move a good portion of my belongings via public bus to my new downtown efficiency apartment over the week. This is an ideal location for witnessing, walking to work and for access to the North Shore swim pool where I do my miles under water. (My exercise regimen has literally stretched my back into place better than ever. The workouts are a bit extreme perhaps for a 61 year old man, but I seem to handle the 12,000 yards per week pretty well - so far so good.)
A deacon from Northeast Park Baptist and his family helped me move the rest of my belongings last Saturday in one efficient move. When he spoke from the pulpit two Sundays ago, He offered to help anyone with logistical matters, so I decided to take him up on this - more importantly so as to get acquainted with him in the Lord and perhaps find a more permanent role to play at the congregation. So I'm completely moved in less than 2 hours. It pays to travel light. He was very hesitant to discuss bible doctrine but his father was wide open and suggested I might be of use to the congregation.
There is always something going on downtown St. Petersburg - parades, festivals, art shows, music concerts, etc. I'm right near Williams Park where all the buses go and where many homeless and downtrodden congregate - as well as hundreds of bus riders. I've had innumerable opportunities to witness already. Just today at morning break I gave a man carrying a bible an affirmation of the gospel, confirmed eternal security and a way to systematically grow in the faith by studying the NT epistles verse by verse with my help and the help of a good commentary like the Bible Knowledge Commentary which he said he will purchase at a local Christian book store. Pray that I will meet with him regularly - and others in the park and elsewhere.
It is always a good opportunity when you move to look to give others what you do not immediately need. For God is the provider of all things and I have always been blessed with sufficient for my needs where ever I go. A number of my possessions were donated to others who might need them more than I - especially evangelistic and doctrinal items. I gave Tony DiRienzo, a deacon at a large Baptist Church and an active evangelist many of my evangelism materials and extra bibles and Berean Brochures and Tape Catalogs. Pray that he will use them well. I have been working with him now for several years and he has progressed in the doctrines of the faith very well. He is now a staunch defender of the faith alone in Christ alone gospel as well as eternal security and the grace way of life. Amen to that. And he now teaches this every Sunday at First Baptist Indian Rocks. Pray for this effort. It seems to support a pattern in my life - to spend time with individuals and then depart to let them grow in the Lord.
My new address is 233 5th St N #8, St Petersburg, Fl 33701 727-204-8189. I am very busy now doing tax research work for First American Real Estate Tax Service 8-5 PM M-F but I now walk home in 8 minutes and can begin my bible research and answering emails re: biblical matters every evening - even at lunch time for a short period. The Mirror Lake library is across the street, so I don't really need to pay for website service because I only need to get my emails and FTP new studies. I've become proficient with all my business computer experience so that keying in bible studies and posting them on the Bible Study Manuals website takes a fraction of the time it used to.
FRIENDS FROM TEXAS HELP ME ONCE AGAIN
Since I discovered I probably had cancer earlier this summer, I had been struggling more than usual in everyday things as this weighed heavily on everything I did. What a great blessing that after my resources ran out, you sent me the funds to go ahead with the testing/procedure I needed to diagnose my problem. I cannot imagine not knowing whether or not I was ill because of not being able to go ahead with the procedure. Although I was advised that I probably did have cancer, the procedure you sent funds for showed it all to be benign!! What a relief! Thank you Bereans for your gift.
The lack of good Christian fellowship here in Florida has been super magnified during these trial months. It has made me appreciate how invaluable it is to have the support and encouragement of fellow believers.
I have managed without employment for nearly 6 months - having to share quarters with a little old lady who has many serious ailments. Space and circumstances have been extremely limited so I have been unable to do as much study of the Scriptures and posting of studies on the Bible Study Manuals website as I have in the past. On the other hand, I learned of how important investing your life in the spiritual growth of others is, one to one. Ann has been hindered in many ways, not the least of which is by her illnesses and by living all alone after the death of her husband. She is a Christian, but it has been quite difficult for her to get into a regular routine of personal bible study and application to her life after all that has happened to her and her isolation from people. Older people, it seems, can have a very difficult time changing routines which do not promote a productive and happy Christian life. But then again, the private priesthood of every believer must not be invaded uninvited. 'Tis a delicate task for believers to minister to one another.
Recently, I have experienced a number of less than polite extrications from local congregations. The scenario is typical of all of them as represented with Clearview Baptist church which I have posted on the website here:
I have finally secured full time employment. In my visit to a Brethren Church nearby, a woman found out about my unemployment predicament and gave me a lead to secure a temporary job. So I pursued it and was placed at First American Real Estate Tax Service because of her kindness. The assignment looks like a permanent one and is located in a high rise bank building in downtown St. Petersburg. So I have been seeking to find a place to live nearby the building I work in and get back to my routine of consistent daily study of God's Word. That to me is key. For if I am not focusing on the words of God's Word all day, then what am I thinking about? There are also far more opportunities to witness downtown. The suburbs, like in most cities shut down. But the area I plan to move into has all kinds of activities and places to meet people.
I await further orders from above at this point.
I have been looking forward to returning to Irving, Texas. This will be evident perhaps as 2005 approaches - if I decide to take early retirement at age 62. In the meantime it is business as usual. The company I work for has an Irving facility, or perhaps I might switch to my favorite secular activity for securing an income: lifeguarding/swim instruction. I now attend Northeast Baptist Church. So far the SS class is right on doctrinally and the pastor is teaching through the book of Romans chapter by chapter. But just as my experience at Clearview and other congregations proved to go away from God's Word sufficient to promote a false gospel, so this may also be the case at Northeast Baptist. I look forward to attending a congregation that does not throw its members out for sharing doctrinal truths with others.