Husband, Father, Friend, Pastor/Coach

Month: May 2021

Nationalism, Patriotism, and Humanity

Today it is Memorial Day weekend, 2021. Tomorrow, there will be picnics and parades. The short history of Memorial Day is to honor those that have fallen in battle, and those that served our nation in the military that have now died.

As the political climate shifts back and forth in America, followers of Jesus shift their emotions and feelings about what it means to be an American. In recent years, the term “Christian Nationalism” has become a lightning rod call to alert Americans that are Christians. The warning is that followers of Jesus should not put their hope in the systems of this world, and always maintain our allegiance to our King; King Jesus.

There are some that equate being an American with being a Christian. This is idolatry. The apostle Paul spoke to the core of this, as Jesus did. John the Baptist essentially told the religious community of his day that God was able to raise up sons from rocks! So much for a pedigree. Jesus said that the kingdom was going to be taken away from the (nationalist) Jews and be given to lower class, non-Jewish people. Paul said that a real Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly; in other words, by faith in Jesus Christ.

Being born an American does not make one born again. See John 3.

The other extreme idea is that if one has national pride, or patriotism – that it is a sin. Patriotism does not equal nationalism. Consider Roman soldiers who had a faith encounter: John the Baptist told the soldiers to be content with their wages, and not to extort. Jesus said the Roman centurion, (a high ranking officer), was an example of great faith. Cornelius – another high ranking military officer – was saved, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit.

In all of the above encounters, none of the Roman soldiers were told to leave the military. In fact, Paul acknowledges the Romans as governing authority, and that they are ministers of God.

As Americans, we live in a constitutional republic. Each person can live by the dictates of his/her own conscience. Those that serve in the military help “secure the blessings of liberty.” If one chooses not to serve, it is their conscience.

Paul Hocker is a retired minister living in Riverside, CA. He was drafted during the Korean conflict. Pastor Hocker registered as a “conscience objector.” This would mean that he would serve as a medic, and that he did.

I asked Pastor Hocker, “are you a pacifist?” He emphatically said no. It was his conscience objection to raise arms against another, but he understood that war, from time to time, is necessary to secure the blessings of liberty. He is a very patriotic man; he loves being an American, and has no conflict with that and his deep devotion to Christ as His one and only King.

Tomorrow, between burgers, remember that humanity depends upon those that love freedom to protect those who need it most.

Happy Memorial Day

The One-Generation Church

This Sunday is Pentecost Sunday. Its the traditional “birthday of the church,” as it was on that day 2,000 years ago that Jesus dispatched the Holy Spirit to the earth for semi-permanent residency. For 40 days following His resurrection, Christ had been teaching the disciples; about 500 that we know of. Jesus had been teaching them “what happens next.”

Jesus was going to ascend to heaven, and about 10 days after this the Holy Spirit would come. This promise of the Father was going to be a revolutionary event, because the Holy Spirit would take up residence into believers; soon to be called the church.

Psalm 90 begins, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in every generation.” The word dwelling place is the same/similar word as tabernacle / house / residence. Psalm 90 is prophetic, in that God would be taking up residence in mankind; in every generation. Jesus had spoken of this, declaring that “He is the God of the living, and not the dead.” (Mark 12:27)

Just a few moments ago, one of our parents informed me that her son is ready to be baptized in water. He is fully aware that Christ has taken up residence, and is ready to “follow the Lord in baptism.” He is young enough to be my grandson, but he is my brother in Christ… the one generation called the church.

Psalm 90 goes on to mention the importance of the one generation church. 90:16 and 17 enumerate the specifics: 1. let your work appear to your servants, 2. Your glory to the children 3. the beauty of the Lord (holiness) upon us, 4. establish the work of our hands, (in the New Living Translation it reads, “make our efforts successful).

The Pentecostal church isn’t just the group that I identify. Every Christ-follower is part of the church established on the 50th day after Christ’s resurrection. Every man, woman, boy, and girl that calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved, (Acts 2:21). Its not just the idea of Pentecost, it is the heart and essence of Pentecost.

My parents took this call seriously. They raised four boys to serve the Lord. Hard work good citizenship, respect for adults and those in authority. Thrift. Honesty. Many values were instilled into us.

The primary call and mission they had was for us to know Christ personally, to call upon His name for salvation, and to follow Him all the days of our life.

When we examine the familial ideas of Psalm 90, we can be reminded of the Deuteronomy 6 admonition as well. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 reads, “Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

  • teach them diligently – not casually to your children
  • talk about Jesus in the home
  • talk about Jesus in the vehicle / on the way to the store / school
  • talk about Jesus when you get up the morning, when you go to bed at night
  • make Jesus visible on your body
  • make Jesus visible in your home

Were there excesses to religion when I grew up?


Hear me when I say this, because it is very popular now to “blame the church” for every negative thing in the world. The church is made of imperfect people, making every effort to serve a perfect God.

What was normal in my home growing up, Faith and I strove to make normal in our home, and our children have continued to carry out this mission. This is not to brag. We have no room to brag…we are utterly dependent upon the Lord!

Pray with your family when you get out of bed, before they leave the home for the day. Pray with your family and speak about Jesus in casual conversations during the day. Pray and worship with your family before bedtime. Live a holy life, as God reveals Himself in your home. Don’t let it be a mystery to your neighbors and extended family that you are a follower of Christ.

At the time of this writing, my parents are in poor health. I thank God every day for my godly heritage. Someone said that the church is only one generation away from extinction. Its true. Its up to me and everyone else that names the name of Christ, baby Christian or seasoned saint, to make His name glorious on the earth.

Happy birthday to the church; the church of the living God.

Demyth the Demtyh, Part Two

Note: Please read part one, so that it flows together.

The Bible isn’t the end of our faith; its the entry point. God is alive, and therefore the text is alive – because the Holy Spirit is continually illuminating the written word. This is why it is vital to receive that “all scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Timothy 3:16).

The word inspired is a beautiful word. It means “breathed by God.” The Apostle Peter referred to the Apostle Paul’s letters as scripture, (the word scripture means writing). Peter had referred to the prophets beforehand of speaking, “…as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit,” 2 Peter 1:21.

God only physically wrote the ten commandments. All of the remaining books of the Bible were written by frail humans, “as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” This may be of concern to some, but in reality its a beautiful and amazing thing.

If I were God, I sure wouldn’t let humans carry out my word. They would be certain to get it wrong. Have you ever played the party game “gossip?” One phrase begins in the ear of someone on one side of the room, and by the time it comes back around, its a totally different phrase! Humans can be unreliable.

Furthermore, if I were God and I wanted the whole world to know about my love, holiness, rules, and relationship; I wouldn’t include any of the bad stuff. I’d only tell of Noah hearing God’s voice, saving his family, and starting over. I would leave out the part about him getting drunk and that weird encounter in the tent.

And I sure wouldn’t let my one and only son become a human, and die on a cross.

That would be my version of demythologizing the Bible. Take out the parts I don’t like.

I’m not God. God decided to leave all of the ugly parts in the story, all of the misinterpretations of His character and nature. That’s not the problem of the scriptures; that’s the beauty of the scriptures!

The safest and most plausible approach to scripture is to read the scriptures prayerfully. Read them with the full disclosure to God, “such knowledge is to wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it,” Psalm 139:6. Read it with Wesley’s approach that reason, tradition, and experience aren’t opposing forces to the scripture, but rather companions.

In the words of the psalmist, “how shall a (young man) keep his way pure? By taking heed according to your word.” (parenthesis mine) Psalm 119:9

Demythologizing the Demythologizing

You may not be aware of this, but there are many well educated people that make a living teaching theology. Theology: “the study of God.” Furthermore, many of these professors teach and profess the idea of “demythologizing the bible.”

The term “demythologize” isn’t particular to theology. The word means to take out the mythology out of a story to only see the essential element. For example, Jack and Beanstalk has a moral to the story; the essential element is that one should be brave in the face of adversity, etc. When the story becomes “essential” the other elements of the story, (by default) become unessential.

A theologian named Bultmann introduced the idea of taking away the “mythological” elements of the New Testament, (and the scripture in general), to get to the essential part of the story. For example, like Jack and the Beanstalk, it doesn’t matter in the parables if the elements of the story are true; what is the essential take away? In the parables, the bottom line of the story is the essential; the moral of the story, the action needed part of the story.

With this in mind, the modern mindset can more easily navigate through the text of scripture. One doesn’t become encumbered with the burden of the depth of any text, but can get to the bottom line. Therefore, when we read about Jesus healing the man who had scales on his eyes, we have a new enlightenment of the text that when Jesus told him to go wash, and his eyes were opened. In our old way of reading scripture, we were to accept that Jesus had miracle working power, and the man was actually blind, and Jesus actually healed Him. In the new “demythologized” text, we are enlightened to understand that the man most likely wasn’t blind, but had some kind of build up on his eyes, and so Jesus sent him to wash his face, but let the man think he’d had a miraculous healing.

Are you confused yet?

One has to work harder at making the obvious obscure.

One of the many challenges of demythologizing the scriptures is that it goes too far. Jesus didn’t multiply the loaves and fishes, he just showed compassion and so the people there got out the food they were hiding, and they shared with one another…that’s an actual theory. There are several prime targets of this so-called interpretation methodology:

  • creation account is not be trusted, including Adam and Eve. these are to be viewed as moral lessons.
  • noah and the ark. general moral idea. the details of story are unimportant.
  • jonah in the whale.

This makes Jesus an unreliable witness. Jesus affirmed all of the above biblical accounts. In Revelation Jesus is called “the faithful witness.” John also records that Jesus, (the logos of God), was there “in the beginning,” therefore, and eyewitness account of creation.

Here’s the greatest challenge of “demythologizing” the bible: John 3;16 can’t be trustworthy either. If only the moral teachings of the bible are important, then Christ didn’t actually suffer and die on the cross for our sins, He wasn’t buried in a borrowed grave, He didn’t rise from the dead three days later, He didn’t appear to the disciples for 40 days following the elaborate ruse, He didn’t ascend to heaven, He didn’t sit down at the right hand of God, He didn’t send the Holy Spirit, and He isn’t coming back again. There is no eternal life for those who have put their faith in God, and there is no eternal punishment for the wicked who have not put their faith in God.

Paul addresses most of this in I Corinthians 15, addressing an apologetic for the resurrection. “If Christ be not risen…” he begins, and concludes with, “…but now Christ is risen from the dead.”

The bible isn’t a dead book of ancient moral stories, it is the living word! By faith, we enter the text and believe the whole of scripture, in its historic, contextual, and applicable truth. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, created a construct of faith that became known as the “quadrilateral.” Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience are the four elements of this approach to faith and theology.

Here’s something ironic: the literalist and the demythologist are similar in their mindset toward the bible. The literalist / fundamentalist and the demythologist read the bible through the same lens, with different outcomes. Its a scientific method: read this, conclude this.

The Bible is the foundation of our faith. It isn’t the end of our faith. God, by the power of the Holy Spirit, enters into the story with us.

End of part one.

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