Monthly Archives: December 2013

Don’t Blame Me

A Letter From 1999

Introduction to the Letter

          Although this topic is not specifically biblical, I think you will see that it deals with matters that are solidly Bible based.  If I offend, I am sorry – for you.

This time I am attaching a copy of a letter I wrote in 1999 shortly after the school shootings in Colorado as a reaction/response to some things said in the aftermath.   I did not intend it at that time as a political statement, nor do I now.  It would not have mattered who occupied the Oval Office at that point.  The matters I covered and the things I noted in the (unmailed) letter are completely non-partisan.

I am sure the President was partially right in the statement with which I deal in this missive.  However, to put everybody in the same boat is a cruise I refuse to take.  The actions of Harris and Klebold represent everything I have dedicated my life to opposing.

Well, just read the letter and draw your own conclusions.

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Remember this – we may not be able to do everything, but we can do something.

 

 

 

May 23, 1999

 Dear President Clinton:

After the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, you gave a speech in which a statement was made to the effect that we are ‘…all to blame…’ for this tragedy.  Mr. President, I find that I must disagree with this sentiment.  Among the dead in this catastrophe was the granddaughter of a good friend whose service in the Christian ministry is longer and more extensive than mine.  Surely this godly man and his good wife are in no way responsible for their own loss in this matter.

Do not blame me.  It is not my fault.  All my adult life has been spent teaching against violence and for the respect of the law.  (It is my understanding that Misters Harris and Klebold broke at least 17 gun laws besides all the other rules against assault and murder.)  The law is for the lawless, but does not restrain them.  It can only fix a penalty.

For 32 years the church I pastor has opened its doors on a regular basis at least three times a week.  During my ministry I have knocked on thousands of doors inviting people to church and speaking to them about the need of their souls.  I have passed out thousands of pieces of Christian literature and somewhere along the line lost count of the number of home Bible studies I have conducted.  We have run bus, van and personal cars to pick up children and adults who often decide not to come tonight, failed to get ready or went somewhere else without notifying us.  We have traveled as much as 35 miles one way to pick up a child for Sunday school.

Don’t blame me.  From my pulpit and others I have repeatedly taught compassion, love, forgiveness and yielding to the rights and needs of others.  As the apostle Paul instructed Timothy, I have tried to set an example of holiness, righteousness, modesty of dress, self-control and purity for the church and community.  I have preached against hatred, self-indulgence, immorality, lying and murder.  I have done what I can to foster an atmosphere of godliness and dedication to do right.  There are ministers from this church in six states preaching the same message.

Don’t blame me.  I have preached in 3 foreign countries at my own expense and been involved in the founding of several other churches.  I have spearheaded the contribution of thousands of dollars for missions each year.  For over two decades I have been involved in the running of summer youth camps.  The shootings are not my fault.

Don’t blame me.  Over the years I have been involved in helping drug abusers, gang members and alcoholics turn their lives around and become productive citizens.  I am not contributing to the atmosphere of moral decay and loosened standards.  I grew up during the 1950’s and 1960’s without ever experimenting with drugs, becoming involved in the so-called sexual revolution or rising up against those who were in authority.  Don’t blame me.  I am not and never have abetted the excesses of violence or the knee jerk restriction of the law abiding.

Don’t blame me.  If people will not change their lives, at least I have done what I could to try to point them toward a better way of living.  Over ten thousand times I have stood to encourage and invite people from all levels of society, from coast to coast, to repent of their sins, be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of those sins and to get the power of God in their lives by receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Mr. President I appreciate the fact that you are facing a problem in this country.  But don’t blame me.  It is not my fault.  I am not part of the problem.  I am part of the solution, if people will but listen.

 

Sincerely,

 Roy L. Moss

 

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Filed under Reflections

Conversion 1963

           

Roy Teaching Slide Rule

           March 23, 1963, the school bus left early from Monahans High School carrying students to University Interscholastic League (UIL) competition in Alpine, Texas.  I was among those going to engage in the competition that day.  I was entered in contests for Slide Rule and Persuasive Speaking.  On the way to Alpine I sat with Jimmy Fulmer, one of my Slide Rule students and one of four contestants in that competition from Monahans.

            By my senior year I had taken all of the math and science courses available at my school, and taught a course in Slide Rule on a volunteer basis after regular school hours.  Anyone interested in learning how to use a slide rule was welcome to attend.  From that class Jimmy Fulmer, Sharon Reed and one other (name forgotten) besides me were selected to go to UIL.  An interesting note on all this is that although I taught the class and knew the most about how to use a slide rule, I was the slowest in actual operation, because I could not move my hands as quickly as the others.  All my students finished the test ahead of me.

In Persuasive Speaking I won first place.  In that contest we were given a current news topic and access to a room with magazines and research material with a specified time to study and compose a speech, which we then had to present before judges.  The speech was to fall within certain time limits.  At this point I do not remember the topic, but I do remember that, when I opened the slip of paper with the subject of my speech written on it, I did not know a thing about it. Fortunately my competition evidently knew, or found, less than I did.

The corporately most memorable thing about that day involved the president of the student council and two girls – all of whom shall remain nameless in this reminiscence. These three went to a restaurant for lunch.  One of the girls thought it would be great fun to play a trick on the boy, so she wrote on a napkin, “Help.  The man in the black suit has kidnapped us.”  Despite the fact that this part of town was overrun with high school students, when the waitress who cleaned up the table found the note she notified the police, who immediately went into overdrive and called in a Texas Ranger.

Things got complicated when the boy went his way and the girls went shopping.  When the boy was apprehended and identified no one could find the girls.  He had no idea where they might have gone.  I remember standing in the street next to an officer who was yelling up to the boy as he looked out the barred window of the jail on the top floor of the courthouse.  The officer was berating him for all the trouble he was causing.  It was during this tirade that I found out a Texas Ranger was on his way from El Paso.  The boy was totally bewildered and had only had lunch with the two girls.

When they finally located the girls and got things straightened out, we all loaded back up on the bus and headed home.  Seating arrangements were on a first come, first served basis, so my friend and I wound up sitting in a different place.  Somewhere in the course of the trip home I needed to get something from my attaché case, which I had left in the overhead rack above where I had sat as we went to Alpine.  I did not have room to open the case sufficiently while it was still in the rack, so I took it out and sat down in a vacant space on the seat.  As I was looking through the attaché case I got to talking to the girl, a junior, who was seated by me, or I guess more accurately, by whom I had sat.  The events of the ‘kidnapping’ and its ramifications gave us a topic for conversation.  One subject led to another and soon we were discussing our contests and results of the day.  She had won first place in the Ready Writing competition.  After reading her composition I asked for permission to have her read it into my tape recorder.

As a side note here I might explain that I had fairly recently obtained a reel to reel tape recorder and was making recordings of memorable things from my senior year.   Among those recordings was a campaign speech by my friend Richard Russell in his successful bid to be the president of the student council the following year.  (I am glad to report that Richard, who was voted ‘Most Intelligent’ and ‘Most Likely To Succeed,’ stayed out of jail, at least while I knew of his whereabouts.  I lost track of him later, but am fairly confident he behaved himself.)  So I was on the lookout for material to record.  Carolyn Maxwell’s composition would fit right in.

A few days later I went to Carolyn’s house in Wickett, a small town near Monahans.  When I arrived I met Carolyn’s mother and older and younger brothers, Wayne and Charles.  After I had visited for a while with the family, Carolyn recorded her paper and then we all visited some more.  At some point in all the conversation the topic of church came up.  Carolyn invited me to her church, and in reciprocation, since I was a Sunday school teacher in the largest church in town, I invited her to mine.  Somehow she never made it out to my church.

Although we attended a small high school, 96 in the class of ’63 and 132 in the class of ’64 (with fewer than that graduating), I only remember briefly seeing Carolyn once before that trip to Alpine.  After the UIL meet our paths crossed frequently.  There may have been no change in frequency, just now I knew who she was, and we had topics for conversation.  I know that very early, maybe on my first trip out to Wickett, the subject of speaking in tongues was mentioned.  Baptism in Jesus’ name was also introduced early, but, since I had no referent background, these things just went over my head until memory brought them back to me at a later time.

At some point before my first visit to her church, Carolyn let me know that when I came we could not sit together, as there was a rule/custom that the church girls did not sit with ‘sinner’ boys, though she phrased it much more diplomatically than that.  So when I went to the United Pentecostal Church of Monahans, Texas, Carolyn sat on the second row on the left when she was not playing the piano and I sat on the back row of that same section with her older brother, Wayne.

That first trip was almost my last.  I have since learned that what we are used to we consider ‘normal,’ and other ways and approaches ‘wrong.’  The memory of my shock at that service has helped me better understand a newcomer’s difficulties in relating to our often ‘strange’ way of worship.  From the age of six I had been a member of a well to do denominational church where reverence and rigor mortis might have shared some characteristics.  All of the clergy was male.  I remember the stir that was caused when the pastor, board, or somebody in another church of that denomination, appointed the first female song leader.  It rocked the church for months.  Yet this same group sent women – single women – oversees as missionaries.  Somehow female missionaries were not considered preachers.

I taught my first Sunday school class at the age of nine when our teacher got delayed on his job in the oil field and could not come.  This happened several times.  By the time I was fifteen I was the regularly appointed teacher of a class of nine year old boys.  I made sure I did not miss.

With that background you may imagine my shock when I walked in to a smallish building with some burned out bulbs in their fluorescent lighting system and many of the people were on their knees at the benches and altars praying out loud – very loud – before service.  Several people greeted me and told me to make myself at home – an utter impossibility under the circumstances.

A man stepped to the pulpit and said, “It’s time to get started.”  This was Bro. Capps’ opening line at every service.  The hymns were strange, the singing boisterous, and they even CLAPPED THEIR HANDS!  Then after a testimony service and a special song, the pastor, SISTER Edna Capps began to preach.  And did she preach, with loud voice, hand waving, foot stomping and solicitations for the congregation to join in with “Amen,” “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord,” and raised hands.  Every time Wayne would wave his hands the bench would shudder – it had been stressed a bit too often.

In my home church there was only one man in a membership of over a thousand who would ever say, “Amen,” to some point the preacher had made.  Whenever he did, heads would turn from all over the auditorium to see if anything else strange might happen.  So when I attended this service I was sure that I had stumbled onto the biggest group of Pharisees and hypocrites within 500 miles.  And Carolyn seemed so normal.  I resolved never to return.

But as a song I did not know at the time says, ‘something got ahold of me.’  I soon found my Sundays filled by teaching my class in the morning and attending service at ‘my’ church, then attending the evening service at ‘my’ church, driving across town and arriving at the UPC in time for prayer meeting before church.

As I got more involved in the UPC and interested in their teachings I would attend area youth rallies and fellowship meetings where several churches from neighboring towns would come together to sing, worship and hear someone preach.  On one of these trips I met Rev. Howard Smelser, pastor of a UPC in Odessa.  He had led service that night and after service someone introduced us.  In greeting, Bro. Smelser reached out and hugged me.  SHOCKED does not describe my condition.  He later said that he noticed I ‘kind of stiffened up.’  I just thought I had learned about these Pentecostals.  Evidently there was quite an education awaiting me.

Carolyn would not go on a date with me (see above about sitting together), but would occasionally allow me to buy her a soda at the Dingo, a local drive-in.  When we were together we discussed a lot about the Bible.  As a teacher I knew just enough to really embarrass myself as she open the treasures of the Word to me like a patient teacher presenting the obvious to a very slow learner.

In May I was graduated from high school and left the next week for classes at the University of Texas in Austin.  I was enrolled in aerospace engineering, a four and one half year program.  I wanted to get the half year out of the way first by taking chemistry and analytic geometry during the summer.  Because I had arrived a little early my room at the law dorm was not ready, and I spent the first week and a half at the YMCA sharing a room with Saeed Somethingunpronounceable, a Muslim from Saudi Arabia.  Later that summer I had a Methodist roommate for the first part of the summer session and a Jewish graduate student the second half.

The first Sunday in Austin I attended a large, nearby church of ‘my’ denomination.  Among the illustrations used by the minister were the movie The Ten Commandments, and the book To Kill a Mockingbird.  He noted that the movie was religious, but not Christian, while the book was Christian, but not religious.  Having been around Pentecostals for the last two months, his example did not sit well with me.  That afternoon I wrote Carolyn asking for the address of a Pentecostal church in Austin.

Before the week was out she wrote back with a list of the UPCs in the Austin area and contact information for each.  She recommended that I contact Rev. Raymond Light at the First UPC.  She also admonished me to be sure I attended a UNITED Pentecostal Church because, “others might seem to be the same, but there are important differences.”  Upon contacting Bro. Light we made arrangements for him to pick me up Sunday morning at my room in the law dorm where I had settled in for the summer session.

Sunday morning an ‘elderly’ man knocked on my door and asked if I were the young man who had called about attending church.  Upon my assurance that he had the right place, he led me out to his large, old green Buick, where an even older man was in the front passenger seat.  After proper introductions we set off on the two mile journey to church.  Along the way Bro. Light asked if I had the Holy Ghost.  My rather terse answer was, “I am a (denomination name).”  This put a bit of a damper on conversation.  Later I realized that we took a rather circuitous course that morning and avoided going by a rather large church of that denomination which was on the shortest route.

The church at 4115 Avenue D was an old style building with a small vestibule, a central auditorium with overflow wings on either side, and the platform area completing the shape of a cross.  In the back of the building was a fellowship area along with other small rooms.  Connected next door was a two story educational building for Sunday school.  It was in this church building that my life changed, literally, forever.  (See picture below.)

I was introduced to Nelson Neeland, a young preacher who invited me to sit up on the second row with him and his wife.  Accepting this offer put me only a couple of steps from the altar.  Eventually, the Neelands moved to another seat, but I stayed up front until I left Austin about a year later.

The worship in Austin was much like that in Monahans, though Bro. Light was not as demonstrative as Sis. Capps.  He was just as fervent and sincere, but not as evangelistic in his delivery of the Word.  What I did not learn until years later was that shortly before I arrived there had been some church problems, and a group had left to worship elsewhere.  I did not realize that the worship and praise was that of a subdued and hurting congregation.  I felt so much of the power of God in that place I hardly knew how to respond.  Therefore I reverted to all I knew: sit quietly, sing the songs, but not too loud, and occasionally be so bold as to clap a little.

The summer session consisted of two six week terms with classes every week day.  Bro. Light continued to take me to church Sunday morning and evening, and eventually on Wednesday nights as well.

All this time Carolyn and I kept up a steady correspondence.  I was studying the Bible along with inorganic chemistry and analytic geometry.  And I had questions – mostly about the Bible.  Our letters consisted largely of my questions and arguments and her well reasoned and researched answers.  Having now participated in this sort of thing from the other side, I realize that she was likely using Sis. Capps for material to send me.  But whatever the source, scripture was doing its work.  I remember one exchange in particular.  I had been taught that the day of miracles was passed and that we should look to doctors and medical science for healing.  We had touched on this subject lightly in conversation, but went on to other topics rather quickly as I was full of questions and opinions.  Trying to show myself at least a little spiritual, I wrote in one letter that I really liked Isaiah 53:6.  Carolyn wrote back that, yes, Isaiah 53:6 was indeed a powerful verse, but one of her favorites was the verse just previous, Isaiah 53:5, which ends with the words, ‘…and by his stripes we are healed.”  I was stunned.  I realized how selective and narrow my knowledge and memorization of the Bible really was.  In concentrating on a favored verse I had completely missed a scripture literally next to it that refuted what I had been taught and plainly said otherwise.  What else had I missed?

Soon after this I found myself in a state of confusion about who and what to believe.  I made the conscious decision to lay aside what I had been taught growing up AND all the Pentecostals had been telling me.  I decided there was only one place to find what was right: the Bible.  I realize now that I could, and probably should, have made a wider and deeper study than I did.  What I did proved to be sufficient.  One evening, having asked the Lord to help me, I began to read in Matthew chapter one and continued through John chapter 21.  At this time my real confusion was over the proper method of baptism.  Immersion was plain, but what should be said?  Without even getting into the book of Acts where the record of early Christian baptism is given, I found the answer I needed.  As I read through the Gospels it seemed as though every time I came to the words, “in my name” (17 times), “in his name” (3 times) and “in the name” (9 times referring to deity) that these phrases stood out from the surrounding text, enlarging and rising up off the page in emphasis.  By the time I finished John, I was convinced that baptism in Jesus’ name was the Bible way.  I still did not have a full understanding and explanation for Matthew 28:19, but I knew there had to be one.  To me, the other evidence – even in just the Gospels – was overwhelming.  That baptism in Jesus name was correct gave me confidence that the Pentecostals’ view of receiving the Holy Ghost might also be correct.

The next Sunday morning I asked Bro. Light a simple question on the way to church: “Do you believe in taking Communion?”  When he replied in the affirmative I made some comment about not wanting to get into something that did not observe the Lord’s Supper.  Why I asked that question and made that comment still puzzles me.  Until that moment I had not even thought of Communion.  In church that night Bro. Light made the announcement, “Things have changed.  We are going to have a revival.  Bro. Howard Smelser from Odessa will be preaching for us.”  After service I mentioned that I knew Bro. Smelser (I later figured out that was why he had been invited.), and that I was looking forward to seeing a real Pentecostal revival, because their regular services would have been counted as a major revival in ‘my’ church.

As I look back from a vantage point fifty years down life’s road and after forty- nine years of active ministry, I am amazed at my actions and God’s grace and mercy.  When the revival started I attended the first few nights.  Although I do not remember the scripture or topic of any of Bro. Smelser’s sermons, God touched my heart and I came under conviction that, though I was a church member, I was a sinner in need of salvation.  On about the third night of the revival I knelt in the altar and began to repent, asking God for forgiveness.   My first words were, “Lord, I’ll tell them. Lord, I’ll tell them.”  During a tent revival at a former church, when I was eight years old, I had acknowledged a call to preach.  In the succeeding ten years I had pushed that call aside in my fanaticism with rockets, space and science.  When I began to really get right with God that call surfaced again, and I made a temporary acknowledgement of it.

Another thing that I had to deal with in another trip or two to the altar was related to something that had happened a few months before my graduation.  I had been shopping in Odessa, some 35 miles from Monahans.  When I paid for my purchases the clerk gave me a dime too much change.  I realized it, but walked out with the money.   I did not think about it again until it was brought to my mind as I knelt praying at that altar in Austin.  A dime is not nearly as much money now as it was then, but the amount was not the point.  I knew that, if I wanted to get right with God, I had to get that problem resolved.  I wrote a letter to the store explaining what had happened, and that I wanted to make things right.  I taped a dime to the bottom of the page and mailed it.

Then I skipped some services in order to study for the finals of the first six week session.  Upon finishing the tests I boarded a Greyhound bus and went home for the week-end before the next session started.  I took the bus because in those days UT freshmen were not allowed to have a car in Austin.

I had a good visit with my family and saw several former classmates who were still in town.  Then on Sunday I attended the UPC.  Sunday night I went to the altar in Monahans, but there was not in that service the urgency I had felt in Austin.  As I knelt there I got to talking to Wayne Maxwell and asked him about something that had been bothering me.  I questioned why we had to be baptized in Jesus’ name and receive the Holy Ghost, but the thief on the cross had to do neither.  Wayne’s answer, “That was in a different dispensation,” backed up by a hearty nod and, “That’s right,” from Sis. Capps, settled my mind.  This was in spite of the fact that I did not know what a dispensation was, or how that could make a difference.

During that time in Monahans my mother talked to me about where I was going to church. She said I should not change churches because of a girl.  She noted that I might later be “interested” in another girl who attended a different church.  She had no idea that this was not a matter of “interest” in a girl, but had become a matter of a relationship with God.  I wanted to be right with Him.

On the bus back to Austin I sat in front of two ‘old’ men (who were probably younger then than I am now) who spouted their warped philosophies of life to each other for seemingly endless miles.  The longer they talked the more determined I became not to wind up like they were.  Upon arrival in Austin I walked back to the dorm from the bus terminal and then decided that rather than calling for a ride I would just walk to church.  It was only about two miles.

My arrival surprised them, as they had no idea I was back in town.  I had at last shown up in the second week of a revival that had been, without my realizing it, scheduled for my benefit.  And I had taken out, literally, in the middle of it.  That night when it came time for testimony service I surprised myself by standing and telling about the two men on the bus and ending with the statement, “I don’t want to end up like that.”

Again Bro. Smelser preached a message I do not remember, but when the altar call was given I did not hesitate to go to the altar and seek the Lord.  After only a few minutes I began to have stammering lips.  I heard Bro. Light say, “That’s it! That’s what you want.”  At that point I began to speak in a new language as God filled me with His Spirit.

While in high school I had dabbled with hypnosis and studied esp, telekinesis (mind over matter), and other psychic phenomena.  Never had I run across anything like this.  An indescribable feeling of joy and peace flooded over me.  I perceived myself both at the altar worshiping and as an observer near the ceiling at the back of the church watching myself as I experienced the beginning of a walk with God that has spanned half a century.  This was no mere emotional excitement destined to fade with the sunrise.  God had changed my life.  I had many spiritual miles to travel and battles to fight, but the journey had begun.  When I stood up and looked around the first thing I did was hug a brother who was standing nearby.  I felt such an overwhelming love that had to be expressed some way.  It was after this that Bro. Smelser told of the time he had hugged me, and of my reaction.   God was already making changes.

I only spoke in tongues for a short while and remember Bro. Light encouraging me to keep worshiping, with an implication to keep speaking.  I think he was afraid I had not gotten enough of a touch of God to hold me.  But the scripture only says that God will give us utterance to speak in tongues – without a time limit in either direction.  A sign does not have to be a billboard to be a sign.

When things calmed down a bit we made arrangements for me to be baptized the following night.  Bro. Light wanted to be sure I was baptized right away.  He did not know that I had seen and accepted that Jesus name baptism was the scripturally proper procedure.  What I had been unsure about was the reality of the baptism of the Holy Ghost.  Now that was definitely settled.

That night was a glorious time of beginning again, but the next morning was one of the hardest times I had yet faced.  The difficulty came in the fact that I needed to notify my parents of the change that had happened.  I can still well remember the weight of gloom that oppressed me as I sat in the phone booth under the stairs in the dorm and placed a long distance call to Monahans.  I was still not comfortable with using Pentecostal terminology, and my parents would not understand the words and phrases anyway.   So when Mother answered the phone I told her that I was joining the Pentecostal church.  I also asked her to call Carolyn and tell her about my move.  The call was short, and I am sure that some of the burden that lifted from me settled on my mother.  For years I faced opposition from my parents until my mother received the Holy Ghost in a revival preached by Bro. Larry Booker, and I made a trip to west Texas to baptize her in Jesus name.

On July 17, 1963, Bro. Raymond Light baptized me in the saving name of Jesus (Acts 2:38; 4:12).  I seem to remember that in my exuberant worship that evening I splashed a lot of water out of the baptistery.  The quiet, denominal, engineering student was on his way to becoming a Pentecostal preacher. Someone in the congregation had brought a movie camera and recorded the baptism.  I never saw the developed film, but it may still be extant somewhere.

Upon my arrival at church the next Sunday one of the men asked me if I still had the Holy Ghost.  I did, of course, but had not yet enough knowledge to know a proper answer. I had a long way to go, on several levels, before I really began to understand what had happened, and what God was doing in my life.

My first job in the Austin church was that of greeter.  At each service I would stand in the vestibule and greet everyone who came in and then bid them farewell after service was over.  On Sunday mornings I would pass out Eight Point System reporting slips to all attendees as they arrived.

Some months later I was assigned to teach the Young People’s Sunday school class.  I guess they thought I was making sufficient progress in learning the doctrine.  Whatever the reason, they took the chance and gave me an opportunity to learn by teaching.  After I had begun to talk to Bro. Light about a call to preach, he had me take up the offering during a revival.  He probably figured that if I were still interested in preaching after that, he would know I was not doing it for the money.

After I received the Holy Ghost the Lights made it a practice to have me over to their house for lunch on Sunday, and then stay over until church time.  During those times I was permitted to read some of Bro. Light’s books.  I read The Winds of God by Howard Goss and Azusa Street: How Pentecost Came to Los Angeles by Frank Bartleman, among other books about the modern Pentecostal outpouring.

I also bought a Scofield Study Bible and wore it out to the point of a loose cover and loose, tattered pages during the year I was in Austin.  For the last month or two I was there Bro. Light loaned me one of his old Thompson Chain Reference Bibles.  I later became a salesman of Thompson Chain Reference Bibles to help put myself through Texas Bible College in Houston.  Until my eyesight began to fail from cataracts I used Thompson Chains as my main study and preaching Bibles.  By the time I resigned from pastoring I had at least 56 different hard copy translations of the Bible and several in electronic form in English, besides about eight more hard copies in various languages, picked up as a result of missions trips.

All did not run smoothly in those early days.  I have already alluded to the fact that I faced family opposition.  For instance, once when I was home my mother wanted me to talk to a preacher of her – my former – denomination.  We had attended different churches, but she did not choose either of those pastors.   There was another church across town whose pastor she thought would be more convincing.  When we arrived for that meeting my Scofield Bible was still new as was my experience with God.  I knew so little of what I was about that I was a sitting duck for his arguments.  I had no solid answers.  But I had an experience.  I knew (at least a little of) what God had done to change my life, and no argument, no matter how well reasoned and supposedly backed up with scripture, could negate what I had already been through.

That preacher did have some interpretations of scripture that, at the time, I could not refute.  One of them was centered on Hebrews 6 and dealt with the eternal security doctrine.  Fortunately at that point it made no difference to me whether that doctrine was true or false.  Since I was determined to live for God it was of no import in my situation.  It was a solid thirty months before I finally got an understanding of what the Bible was really saying in that passage.  I then saw how he had misapplied and misinterpreted that section of scripture.  Through this test I learned that I do not have to have clear understanding and complete answers to keep going.  Generally, if I keep going the answer will eventually come as I continue to study and pray.  I found that I do not have to have an answer for there to be an answer.  A good rule to follow is found in the Living Bible translation of Proverbs 19:27, “Stop listening to teaching that contradicts what you know is right.”

One of the things that helped me not to be too shaken by my ‘loss’ in that session was that upon arrival back home I looked up some of the scriptures he had used.  It did not strengthen his case when I discovered that he had clearly misquoted, and misused, Ephesians 4:28.

Proverbs 18:13 (He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.) also came into play.  Since he did not really understand what had happened to me and never took the opportunity to find out, the baptism of the Holy Ghost and baptism in Jesus name were not real topics of discussion in that meeting.  He argued doctrines that were important to him, rather than finding out what was really the cause of my change.  But I left that meeting shaken, nonetheless.

Before the school year was over I received a renewal of my call to preach the gospel.  I argued mightily that I could be of more use as an engineer than as a preacher.  I could have more money to support the work as an engineer.  Somewhere in that long night I received a clear indication that I could preach and be saved or be an engineer and be lost.  After that it was not difficult to make the decision.  After that all that was left was to change career paths, notify my parents of the redirection and develop a ministry.  The journey had just begun.

(Note: Dates are my best approximation from memory and calculation.)

1st UPC of AustinThis is the Google Earth© picture of the former First United Pentecostal Church in Austin, Texas.  It was not bricked when I attended. The landscaping around it has also been improved.  The two story building to the right with the green canopies was the Sunday school annex when I went there.

 

I do not have a picture of the Monahans UPC, as the building was destroyed in a fire.  The church was relocated.  The McDonald’s restaurant now sits on the old UPC property.

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The Message of the Angel

“And the angel sad unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:lO-12).

 

 

          In December of each year there is a renewed interest in the second chapter of the Book of Luke. Bibles which have been closed since last December are opened, and the old story of the birth of Jesus is reviewed once again.

In innumerable churches around the world, plays and skits once again repeat the story in sight and sound, in flesh and blood. One of the principal characters in many of these skits is the angel who first announced to the Judean shepherds the birth of the Messiah.  Songs and stories abound in which this heavenly messenger and his message are mentioned.

Yet with all of this emphasis there is still a great need to examine what the angel really said. The angel’s announcement, properly understood, provides a remarkable description of the identity and nature of the child born in Bethlehem.

 

FEAR NOT

 

First, let us notice that when this heavenly envoy appeared the shepherds were sore, or very, afraid. This is still the reaction of many people when faced with a manifestation of God’s power. So the first words of the angel were “Fear not. . . .” God is good and His love for mankind is great. A desire to help, not harm, mankind was the motive behind the incarnation.

The message of the angel is initially that we do not need to be afraid of the will of God. Many seem to hesitate to follow God’s directions because they fear they will not like or enjoy what He has planned for them. Fear not. Being in His will will bring you more fulfillment and greater lasting happiness than anything else you could do. Fear not.

 

GOOD TIDINGS

 

In the message of the angel are broad but specific hints of things to come. Even today the whole of God’s Church echoes the angel when we mention the gospel. Gospel literally means “good news.”  The shepherds were thus the first to be informed that this babe’s coming was “good news” for the world.

This good news has, as the angel declared, brought great joy to all people who will accept it. The joy of the Holy Ghost is available because of Jesus’ coming. Throughout the centuries .the joy of the Lord has been the hallmark of His coming. From the Ethiopian eunuch who went rejoicing on his way (Acts 8:39) to the latest one to receive the Holy Ghost, the coming of our Savior has meant joy unspeakable.

And, as the angel proclaimed, this good news has been for all people. For the birth, life and death of this One, whose birth announcement was given by an angel from heaven, has brought about the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning the salvation of the Gentile nations. This good news crosses all color, social, economic and political lines.

 

THE CITY OF DAVID

 

We, centuries later, know much more about the eventual outcome of this life than did those shepherds who first heard it announced. But all that they needed to understand about the mission and identity of this babe was given to them by the angel.

 

Unto You.   This child’s birth was important to the shepherds. They seem to have been chosen as representatives of the human race. They were hard working, diligent, probably not too wealthy, and most likely looked down upon by some. Yet from the sheepcote had come one of Israel’s greatest kings, David.

As there are good and bad shepherds, with dullards and potential kings within their ranks so it is with all of humanity. And it was to humanity that Jesus came. “Unto you. . .” seems to echo through the years until the Apostle Peter picked up the refrain on that special Day of Pentecost and amplified it: “. . .unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39).

Is Born.  The Jews as a whole expected their Messiah to come into their midst in regal splendor and power. They were expecting something quite different from the normal birth of a child in a borrowed stable. It somehow had not occurred to them that His coming would not be with the nature of angels, but of the seed of Abraham.

They read the prophecies and gave mental assent to the human nature of the coming Messiah, while in their hearts they anticipated an angel. Their plans required a king, so they overlooked the pauper.

Jesus robed Himself in human flesh that He might taste death for every man. He would live facing all that life throws at us. And He would die as a man dies, that we might know that He knows our problems, not just theoretically, but from experience.

Besides the other things that He accomplished and the sacrifices He offered, He walked where we walk, and left us an example, that we should follow in His steps.

          David.  To these men especially the mention of Israel’s second king ought to have brought to mind memories of the promises made to the shepherd-king by a faithful God.

“The LORD hath sworn in truth unto David; he will not turn from it; Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne” (Psalm 132:11).

Among the many promises to David, this one stands out as a clear indicator of the identity of this Child in Bethlehem. For here the God of the Old Testament declared that He, and not some other, would come as a descendant of David to sit upon his throne “. . .and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever” (Isaiah 9:7). The One who would do this would come as a Child, as a Son, and yet be the mighty God and the everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6).

The reference to David, in itself, should have quickened to the shepherds’ minds, and to ours, the fact that this Babe whose birth the angel announced was none other than Jehovah come to be among men.

Then the allusion by the angel to David’s city should bring to our minds the history of this royal family which proves the necessity of the virgin birth. Many years before this night one of the ancestors of Joseph, the carpenter, had been a very wicked man. This man, Jehoiachin, the Coniah of Jeremiah 22, and the Jechonias of Matthew 1, was cursed so that no male of his family could rule as king again (Jeremiah 22:30). Since Joseph, the supposed father of Jesus, was descended from Jehoiachin neither he nor his son could ever be king, although they were legal heirs of the throne.

But Jesus was literally a son of David on his mother’s side through David’s son, Nathan. Thus He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 132: 11 only by being virgin born. He was the offspring of David through Mary. And from Joseph he inherited the throne, without inheriting the curse.

 

A SAVIOR

 

“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the Lord Jehovah is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation” (Isaiah 12:2).

By announcing that the child was a Savior, the angel let those who understand know who had come to this world. Isaiah told long ago that God is our Savior. In fact the word translated “salvation” in 1saiah 12 is the Hebrew word from which we get the name Jesus.

Salvation comes only through the Jehovah God of the Old Testament. “But the salvation of the righteous is of the LORD” (Psalm 37:39). A clear understanding of the message of the angel will tell us assuredly that this Babe was Jehovah in the likeness of sinful flesh.

 

WHICH IS CHRIST

 

And as He dwelt among them, He revealed His name: Jesus. Christ is a title; Jesus is His name. There has arisen a strong misconception about the term “Christ.” This is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah,” which means “anointed of Jehovah.” The anointed of (or with) Jehovah is what this Babe was. But Jesus is who He was.

The angel was not giving the shepherds His name. They were merely being told “the Messiah you have longed for is finally here.” The Messiah, Christ, is the joining of human flesh with eternal Spirit. The flesh of this man was what had been anointed by the Spirit. Through that anointing, God was then in their midst in a new and different way.

And as He dwelt among them, He revealed His name:  JESUS.  Christ is a title.  Jesus is His name.

 

THE LORD

 

Then before giving the shepherds directions to the manger, this celestial messenger made things so clear about this One’s identity that none should miss it. The One you will find lying in a manger is the Lord!

The Hebrews who had had some two thousand years of training in religious matters could understand this only one way. The Lord is their God, the Jehovah of their fathers. In the light of the Scriptures there is no difficulty in conceiving of God being in flesh and at the same time filling heaven and earth. Even as far back as Moses’ day, God had made it clear that there did not need to be several gods doing things. He was, and is, great enough to do it all and still just be one.

“Know therefore this day, and consider it in thine heart, that the Lord he is God in heaven above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none else” (Deuteronomy 4:39).

 

THE MESSAGE

 

Year after year the message of the angel is repeated. Multitudes fall under the sound of the words heralded so long ago.  Yes, we hear the message. But do we understand its meaning? This is more than just a high powered birth announcement. God sent this message that the world might know He had come. But more importantly, it was sent that they might know who He is.

 

This article first appeared in the Oklahoma District Beacon about 1974 or 75, and then in the Pentecostal Herald December, 1976.

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How Old Is The Earth?

       Some people have seen what they suppose is a contradiction between the Bible and science.  This has caused a crisis of faith in some, a reason for derision in others and a “so what” attitude in still more.  As with many other things, the conflict may not be so much with the Bible or scientific data as with the interpretation that has been forced on that information.  Is the earth some six thousand years old, or has it been around for billions of years?  Let us look at what the Bible really says instead of what we have thought or been told it says.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the Heaven and the earth.

2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.         (KJV)

Genesis 1:1 tells of the original creation of the world.  There is no time noted except ‘the beginning,’ whenever that was.  This original creation was fully formed and quite unlike what we find in Genesis 1:2.  Look at what the prophets say about the creation and what followed it:

Isaiah 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

Jeremiah 4:23 I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.

The implication here seems to be that between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 some sort of calamity occurred to destroy the original state of this orb and resulted in the total chaos existing when the six days of ‘creation’ began in Genesis 1:3.  The word translated in English versions as ‘was’ in Genesis 1:2 can also be rendered as ‘became.’  That translation would give credence to the possibility of a prior creation that was the victim of some disaster.

OT:1961 hayah (haw-yaw); a primitive root [compare OT:1933]; to exist, i.e. be or become, come to pass (always emphatic, and not a mere copula or auxiliary): (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.)

If this translation of the word were appropriate, then Genesis 1:2 would read as follows:  “And the earth became without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Whether this catastrophe was associated with the fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12-17) or something else is really irrelevant.  It happened.  How and why is of no import now except as to how remnants of that world are interpreted in relation to this age.  In Genesis 1:3 we get the story of the REcreation of this old orb.  The six day restoration of habitability is what is important to us.  Our salvation is a matter of God’s dealings with the family of Adam and Eve.  Whatever may have happened before is no more important to our destiny than what plays may have previously been on the stage we now occupy.  As props used in prior productions may yet litter the area behind the curtains, so remnants of a prior ‘creation’ may be dug from the dust of the past.  Gross error can creep in if, to follow our analogy, the present cast and crew try to figure out how the discarded scenery and props relate to the current production.  The cauldron from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the furniture from Ionesco’s The Chairs, and the masks from any of Euripides’ plays, while interesting, are of minor impact upon today’s theatrics and can only confuse the dialogue and flow of the present production.

I am not trying to kick millions of tons of fossils under the table rather than deal with them.  Instead I acknowledge their existence, but have a different, biblically plausible, explanation for their existence. They were part of a previous creation.  The similarity of physical structure is no problem.  The Great Designer used a model that worked.  In the new ‘creation’ He updated and modified the basic version.  Why throw away a design that works?  If dinosaurs and another type of man once trod the earth and were destroyed in a great calamity (or calamities), that has little or no relevance to our present state in the matter of salvation.  What ultimately concerns us is the fall and restoration of Adam’s family.

The Bible is not written as a science or history book to give us the full scope of everything that has ever happened.  It is given to us as a guide to salvation for this ‘creation’ and this people.  What may have happened before Genesis 1:3 is finished.  When God breathed into man the ‘breath of life’ a new chapter began.  The Bible is to guide us now, not to satisfy our curiosity about some distant, irrelevant yesterday.

And how old is the earth?  God only knows, and our disputations about it are far less crucial than obedience to other, plainer; matters in the Word.

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Remember:  What the Bible says may not be what we have thought it said.

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