Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,
which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.
It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.
By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.
Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Monday, May 21, 2018

My Testimony

I joined the Navy on what turned out to be V-E Day 1945. I was in the recruiting office when we got the word that Germany had surrendered.

I was in the 13th and then 19th companies in the fourth battalion. I rowed crew for most of my four years at the Naval Academy, but never got into a varsity boat except for the first boat in plebe year.

Most of my classmates had narrow escapes in Korea, Viet Nam, or the Cold War. I had one remarkable event three months after commissioning. That is the time when the gunnery officer told me to leave my battle station in Gunnery Plot and come up to the Main Battery Director. We were off Tanchon on the east coast of Korea, closing range to destroy some railroad cars. I left the Chief Fire Controlman in charge of Plot and proceeded to the Main Battery Director. When I got up to the Director, he did not know why he had me come up there. While I was there, we hit a mine on the port side. The explosion obliterated Gunnery Plot and flooded the forward fire room. We lost sixteen men: six in the fire room, five in Plot, four overboard, and one died from burns in the hospital. No one from Gunnery Plot survived. That evening, I conducted the funeral when we buried the chief at sea. He died in place of me. That was on the USS Brush. Then I spent thirty months on the Brinkley Bass, including three two-week stints in Wonsan Harbor in ’51, ’52, and ’53, on the first of which we lost a man on the bridge from shrapnel from a near miss by .75mm.

Many of you already know the Father. Some of you do not know for certain where you will go when you die. Some of you are formally and maybe nominally Christian. Here is, hopefully, an adequate explanation of how to go to Heaven when you die. It is possible that some of you will not understand. It will sound like foolishness to you.

My father was born in 1899. My mother was born in 1900. They were married in 1924. They had six sons, born between 1925 and 1943. I was number two. We were a close, poor, moral, non-religious family. Our parents had very strong convictions which they passed on to their sons in two different ways: teaching by our mother and requirements by our father. The result in us was a sense of superiority which today would be called “self-righteousness” or “holier than thou.” I did not know the terms, but certainly I thought I was better than other kids. I did not use bad language, profanity or slang. Neither did I smoke (everyone else did), drink, or run around with girls. I did not think I was a “sinner.” I had reserved that word for the real bad guys. Because of this “goody-goody” reputation, I got in several fist fights in the eighth grade and a final one in eleventh grade. By my senior year in high school, I became a little more accepting of my classmates.

World War II started for the U.S. in the December of my freshman year in high school and ended in the August after my graduation in 1945. I had been very eager to enlist, so on May 7, 1945, I enlisted. It was the day Germany surrendered. I was not called to active duty until September 1945. Japan had surrendered in August.

During my last year in high school, my older brother Leonard had given me two books, one of which was titled Room to Swing a Cat. One of the two books—I don’t remember which one—stated that the Navy selected one hundred enlisted men from the fleet every year to attend the U.S. Naval Academy. I made up my mind to attend the Academym and this book told me how to get there.

While I was in boot camp, I saw the notice for the Naval Academy Prep School (NAPS) and immediately applied. After an interview with a board of officers, I was selected for NAPS. In January 1946, I arrived at Camp Peary, VA, a former Sea Bee training base. The school had been in session since the fall, so the group that arrived with me was behind. In the spring, 1,200 of us took the entrance exam; 330 of us passed. I barely passed. The Naval Academy accepted all 330 of us with Secretary of the Navy and congressional and presidential appointments. I entered the Naval Academy in June 1946.

At Camp Peary, I had not been a happy camper. I was moral in one sense and insubordinate in another. I would argue disrespectfully with commissioned officers. I would jump chow lines with a friend. I did not have many friends. This was the reason I thought I was unhappy. My explanation to myself was that I did not have friends because I did not get drunk or laid. I was not willing to compromise my morals in order to have friends. However, that was not the real reason I was unhappy.

Around January 1946, I received a letter addressed to "Jim Wilson Seaman First Class, Radio Technician, Del Monte, California." I was puzzled, since I had never been to California. It quickly became apparent that I did not know the correspondent-there must be another Jim Wilson. I do not remember the content of the letter other than that there were Bible quotations in the letter. This embarrassed me. I considered myself moral, but not religious. I mailed the letter back to the sender with an apology for opening it.

A few weeks later, a sailor came into the barracks and asked for Jim Wilson. I identified myself. He said that he was also Jim Wilson Seaman First Class, Radio Technician, and that he had just arrived from Del Monte, California. He had some of my mail. Of course we got to know each other.

I had a real problem with the friendship. Up until I met him, I had compared myself with everyone I had ever met and came out on the best end of the comparison. This included my older brother and my father. I admired and respected them very much for their intelligence and integrity, but still I thought I was better. I really was self-righteous.

This other Jim Wilson had me beat. He was more moral and lived it with less effort. He had many friends. He seemed happy. He was a brain. He was an athlete. He came from a wealthy, sophisticated home. He had it all. I felt inferior around him and thought that he was putting me down. He wasn’t, but I thought he was.

For two summers in high school, I had worked all night in the open air at the Omaha, Nebraska, stockyard. I became fascinated with the stars and learned a little about them. So in order to be up on Jim Wilson in something, I decided to spend an evening with him in the open naming the stars to him. He did not need to know their names, but my ego needed a boost, so I bragged.

In the middle of my teaching, he interrupted me.

Other Jim: “Jim, are you going to Heaven?” No one had ever asked me that before.

Me: “I don’t know. I will wait and find out.”

Other Jim: “What do you think about it?”

Me: “I think I will go to Heaven.”

Other Jim: “Why do you think so?”

I told him how good I was and how bad I wasn’t. If I did not make it, Heaven was going to be thinly populated. I was not trying to be funny. He had asked a serious question and I had answered it seriously. However, he laughed at me. I thought he was putting me down. I got angry and retorted that if he was so smart, did he know that he was going to Heaven?

Well, he replied that he did know that he was going to Heaven. He said it with such assurance I could not say that he did not know. I asked him how he knew. He told me of his experience with Christ. He also told me that salvation was not a product of being good or not being bad. It was a gift. He told me that people who thought they would go to Heaven because of their good works would not get there because of their boasting. I had been boasting.

In the ensuing discussion I am sure Jim told me the good news of the deity of Jesus, His death for sinners, and His resurrection from the grave. I did not understand much of what he said. What I thought I understood, I rejected I think I had fourteen reasons but I can only remember two now. 1) I did not think I was a “sinner.” I had reserved that word for the real bad guys. 2) If salvation was a gift, then the bad guys could get in just as quickly as a nice guy like me. That did not seem right to me.

I voiced my rejection, but I was still intrigued with his life. I asked him where he got all this information. He told me it was in the New Testament. I found one, a pocket-sized King James Version. I began to read it diligently. It made no sense to me. I kept reading it.

The war was over; Jim got out of the Navy and entered Columbia University while I went on to the Naval Academy. Freshman year was like boot camp plus a full academic schedule. I did not try to break rules, but I did talk back to upperclassmen. The result was that I accumulated many demerits. I forget how many was the limit before a compulsory resignation from the Academy, but I was close to the limit.

In January of my Plebe (freshman) year, a classmate, Caryll Whipple, saw me with my New Testament. He invited me to a Bible study. It seemed to me to be a means of understanding what I was reading. (The Bible was still not making sense to me.) I told him that I wanted to attend. Then he told me it met at 0545 in the morning. Suddenly I did not want to attend. That was 30 minutes before reveille. When I tried to get out of it by giving excuses of not waking up, he told me that he would wake me up.

The small group met in a janitor’s broom closet seven days a week. In this group, I met other men like the other Jim Wilson. One of them was Willard (Pete) Peterson, class of '49. He had been a Christian about a year. I went to it for the next 3 ½ years. Sometimes I would argue, and sometimes I would try to fake being a Christian. In the meantime, my moral willpower was running out. I was a goody-goody to my classmates, but this pre-reveille group knew I was not a Christian.

The year was finally over. I was in the first boat in the Plebe crew, so while the rest of the Brigade of Midshipmen went to Northern Europe on summer cruise, I remained for the National crew races at the Poughkeepsie Regatta. When I finally caught up with the summer cruise fleet, it was in Portsmouth, England. I was assigned to the USS Wisconsin, an Iowa class battleship. One of my classmates fixed me up with a blind date. The two girls were from Northern Ireland. They worked in the Hotel Russell laundry in Russell Square, London. Apparently my classmate’s plan (I just followed along. True, but dumb.) was to buy a bottle of wine and feed it to the girls while necking on a park bench in the square. I did not drink, but I did help purchase the bottle. The girls got drunk. They did not get friendly drunk; they got nasty. I went back to the ship thanking God I hadn’t lost my virtue with these girls.

There was a daily Bible study at sea. It was on the 011 level (eleven decks above the main deck). I was gradually learning, from the Bible and experience, that I was a sinner.

Back at the Academy my youngster (sophomore) year, I was again attending the daily pre-reveille study and still not a Christian. In early October, I turned 20 years old.

It was football season, and Navy had a very small stadium, so home games with big-time opponents were held in Baltimore. Two of my classmates fixed me and themselves up with a triple blind date that we were to meet on the 30 yard line after the game. (Navy only won two games during my four years there. This was not one of them.) During the game, I realized I would be in trouble, morally, if I went on this blind date. I really do not remember whether I showed up and canceled or just did not show up. In any case, I found myself alone in Baltimore on a Saturday night. The section of Baltimore I was in was not very Christian in its entertainment.

I remembered the Christians had something planned that they were going to, but I had no idea where or what. I bought a newspaper and looked at church advertisements. There were many. One of them said Saturday night, corner of North Ave. and St. Paul. I got in a cab and went there. There were two churches on opposite corners. The Baptist Church was locked, and the Presbyterian Church was open. It looked like a few hundred people were there. It was a Youth for Christ meeting. I went up the balcony steps to look over the crowd. There were three midshipmen about five rows from the front. I went down the aisle to sit next to them. One was Pete Peterson. The other two were Jim Inskeep and John Bajus, all class of ’49. Pete was surprised to see me. The director of the meeting saw us four midshipmen sitting up front and thought we must be Christians. He came down, spoke to me, and asked if we would like to testify of our faith in Christ. I replied that I had nothing to say. The other three agreed and went to the platform.

I listened to them tell their personal stories. I had a hard time believing them. I wanted to think that they were lying, that they were hypocrites, but I knew better. They lived the way they talked. There was a possibility that they were mistaken. If so, they were happy mistaken men. As I said earlier, I was not happy. I envied happy people. There was a third alternative, that what they were saying was true and right.

There was singing, which was impressive. Then the main speaker for the evening was introduced. He was a Filipino. His name was Gregorio Tingson. His text was the first few verses of Psalm 40.
I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.
(Psalm 40:1-3)
I remember verse 2 very well: “He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and the mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.”

After the meeting, Pete took me into another room and introduced me to a saving relationship with God the Father through His Son Jesus. I was ready. I knew now that I was a sinner and could not save myself. I called upon the Lord. Immediately I had joy and peace that I do not recall ever having had before.

I went back to the Academy that night with a desire to tell everyone of the good news of Jesus Christ. Upon reflection, I realized that the Navy would think I was crazy and discharge me. My ambition to tell everyone was reduced to telling my roommate and classmates in my company. Then I realized that they already thought I was too religious (daily pre-reveille Bible study) and goody-goody (no profanity, no drinking). If I told them that I had just been saved from my sins, that would really confuse them. “What sins, Wilson? We’ve been trying to get you to sin all year!” I decided not to tell anyone.

In the meantime, there were real changes in me that I could see but I did not think others could see. I had joy and peace. The Bible which I had not been able to understand suddenly made sense. I found I belonged with these pre-reveille fanatics. My conscience was clear. My conscience was more sensitive. I realized I really cared for my roommate (loved him in a godly way).

Several weeks had gone by when my roommate, Dick Daykin, asked me what had happened to me. I asked why he was asking. He told me, "You've been unbearably pleasant for the last three weeks."

About forty some years later, I stayed with him in his home in St. Louis. We went out for a prime rib dinner. He asked me to tell his wife what I had told him our youngster year at the Naval Academy when we were 20-years-old. I now tell you what I told him those many years ago.

You may realize that you are not a Christian. If you are not a Christian, then you have a nature that is prone to sin. You need a new nature, and you need to get rid of your old nature. This cannot be done by you. It can be done only by God.

Here is your part.

• You need to want to be set free from the guilt and judgment for your sins and from the power of sin.
• You need to know that you are helpless in this want.
• You need to know that being good and not being bad will not set you free, nor will any other means of self-effort.
• You need to know that God has already accomplished this deliverance in sending the Lord Jesus to Earth in order to die for the ungodly. “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6).
• Three days after this death for our sins, the Lord Jesus rose from the dead in order to make us righteous. “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification” (Rom. 4:25).
• The Holy Spirit is now drawing you to turn from your sin, to call upon the Lord Jesus, trusting Him, His death and resurrection.
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Rom. 4:25)

Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. (1 Cor. 15:1-5)
Having called upon the Lord Jesus, thank him for bringing you to the Father, for forgiving your sin, and for giving you everlasting life.

Now, in the joy of your forgiveness, tell someone about what God has done for you.

If you would like to know God truly, not just know about Him, and would like to be sure that you will go to Heaven when you die, please contact me at jimwilson27@frontier.com. I will send you help for growing in the Christian life. If this has you interested at all, I will also be glad to correspond with you.

If you are interested, but not in writing to me, I suggest that you read the Gospel of John and the first eight chapters of Romans. You may also call on a pastor or chaplain and talk to a close friend or relative whom you think is very clearly a Christian.

Respectfully,

Jim Wilson

Here is a short synopsis of the years since my entrance into the Kingdom. By the time I was a first-classman at the Naval Academy, I was relatively a mature Christian and one of the leaders of an underground Christian movement at the Academy.

Since it was peacetime when I graduated, I asked for a ship in the Western Pacific with the idea of being an encouragement to missionaries when we were in port.

During my 30-day graduation leave in a little town in central Nebraska, about 25 high school and college kids came to Christ. Three of them were my brothers. One adult received Christ; he was my father.

I went on to San Francisco to wait transportation to the USS Brush (DD745), supposedly in the Philippines. While I was in San Francisco, the North Koreans crossed the 38th Parallel. When the handful of classmates finally got transportation, it was close to the middle of July. It seemed everyone wanted to go to Wespac. We landed in Okinawa July 15. We heard a rumor that TF77 was in Buckner Bay. It was true. I came aboard the Brush that day. The Task Force got underway on the 16th. We supported the landing of the 1st Cavalry Division in Pohang on the 18th and rode out a typhoon the 19th.

After six weeks in a bent line screen with the carriers Valley Forge and HMS Triumph, the Brush was sent to the front lines of the Pusan Perimeter in Pohang Dong. We spent 20 days there, much of it at GQ, firing most of the time. I remember three such times, one 30 hours, on 26 hours, and one 16 hours. We fired not less often than every five minutes. As plotting room officer, I was the one pulling the trigger. After this was the trip north with the Maddox where we hit the mine.

Then there was 30 days in dry dock in Sasebo. The Brush looked like a small boat in the bottom of the massive dry dock. During these days and following visits, I was able to help start an orphanage in Sasebo.

After the tour in dry dock, the Brush went to Yokosuka. While I was in Yokosuka, I looked up Bessie Dodds, a Canadian headmistress to a Bible School for women in Yokahama. Eighteen months later, we were married in Yokahama, on April 7, 1952.

When the Brush got patched up, I had requested a transfer to any combatant vessel remaining in the forward area. I got my orders to the Brinkley Bass (DD887) at Midway Island. I flew back to Japan and came aboard the Bass on January 1, 1951, by a highwire in the Sea of Japan right after the Hungnam evacuation.

I had one year in postgraduate school at Monterey ‘53-‘54 then back to Japan on the staff of COM NAV FE in Yokosuka for one year, then most of another year at Kamiseya and CarDiv 5 staff.

In 1956, I resigned my commission in order to represent the Officers’ Christian Fellowship at all of the service academies. I did this for five years, then spent an additional seven years as the OCF representative at the Naval Academy. Three major events led to my decision to resign:

1. My own conversion to Christ during my youngster year.
2. My battle station men dying with me not having told them the Good News.
3. Not a few officers and men receiving Christ on the ships and stations I was on. I realized I had a gift to communicate the Good News in an effective way.

As a point of contact with midshipmen, I opened the Christian Bookshop for the Officers Christian Fellowship on Maryland Ave. In addition to traveling to other Academies and military bases on the East Coast, I ran the Christian Bookshop for close to ten years. After we left Annapolis, the store moved to Parole, where it remained open for almost forty years.

In 1968, I helped open the first of 80 Logos Bookstores in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In 1971, we moved to Moscow, Idaho, to open stores in the west. These stores are not primarily business places, but people places. They were all been part of not-for-profit organizations.

Bessie and I have four children, fifteen grandchildren, and twenty-eight great-grandchildren. Our life together was greatly blessed.

If you have further interest, I have a web page, www.ccmbooks.org, and a SoundCloud page.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Dear Saints: Beyond Sound Doctrine

I am now 90 years old. I have been in pastoral and evangelism ministry in Moscow and Pullman since 1971. Consequently, I have gotten to know many people. However, who I am is not as important as the Scripture that speaks to all church members.

Over my years of ministry across several denominations, states, and nations, I have encountered Christians with sound doctrine but not a sound Christian life. “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Some of my encounters with church members have taken place after a tragedy has happened, in which case everyone knows about their unsound, sinful life. In many cases, few people know about the inconsistency between the person’s life and doctrine. The local church might not know. In every case, the person with the sin does not get easily fixed. Some Christians seem to watch their doctrine more closely than they watch their lives. They have adjusted to their own lives.

Here is a little open-book quiz. It is self-graded, or better yet, God-graded. Please find an index card and write down the descriptive phrases or words from the following quotation. There are nineteen of them.
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Tim. 3:1-5)
These are people with the appearance of godliness. Please read through the list several times. Ask God if any of these words or phrases describe you. Put a check mark by each such phrase. Count the check marks.
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. (Col. 3:1-10)
These are people who have been raised with Christ, whose life is now hidden with Christ in God, and who have taken off their old self with its practices.

On the other side of your card, write down those sins you have not put to death (verse 5) and the sins you have not put off (verses 8-10). Keep the index card in your Bible. Cross out the checked-off sins on the front and those written on the back as you get the victory over them. You may not say, “I am only human.” Remember that we are dead, and our life is hidden with Christ in God. If you want to get rid of these sins, the process will be short. Then you may throw the card away.

If you need more help, please contact me at jimwilson27@frontier.com.

In the Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Dear Friend: Do You Know God, Or Do You Know About God?

I am sitting under the apple tree in our backyard. Although we did not get to visit, I was very glad to meet you. I had asked God to cause our paths to cross. God is good!

I am starting this letter to you because there are things of great importance that you may know but it certainly has not been through me and to my knowledge no one is pastoring you.

There are two types of knowing. Here are a few examples: knowing that George Bush is President of the United States and knowing George Bush; knowing that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world and knowing Jesus Christ; knowing the definition of love and loving; knowing the definition of forgiveness and being forgiven; knowing the definition of forgiving others and forgiving others.

If we have been in an orthodox or evangelical church, we have been taught truths about God, sin, and salvation from sin. Since we know the truth, we think that we have experienced the truth. Many “Christians” have not experienced what they know and consequently have not been saved. They are not really Christians.

When you were married, I did not check very thoroughly, if at all, whether you had experienced and were presently experiencing the joy of your salvation. Here is a way you can evaluate yourself experientially and scripturally.

1) “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death.” (1 John 3:14). Do you love to be with real Christians? Real Christians are to love everyone: neighbors, brothers, wives, enemies, and God. Jesus said that even pagans love the people who love them. There is nothing distinctly Christian about that. People who are not Christians are not able to love their enemies or Christians. Christians can do both. Do you love real Christians? Do you love your enemies?

2) “We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands” (1 John 2:3). Obedience to God is the means of knowing we are saved.

3) “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). Do you understand the Scripture? Do you love the Word of God?

4) “…because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). Are you led by the Spirit of God?

5) “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:22-24). Which list describes you the best? Jesus saves us out of the first list and saves us into the second list.

6) “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory” (Rom. 8:16-17). Does the Spirit bear witness with your spirit that you are a child of God?

7) "And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: 'My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.' Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Heb. 12:5-11). Do you get disciplined by God? Is your conscience more sensitive that it used to be?

8) "I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24). Have you heard? Do you believe?

If all of these truths confirm to you that you are saved, then it is a simple matter to get back into the joy of God’s salvation. Ask God to bring to your attention any and every unconfessed sin you have committed since you received Christ. When these are brought to your attention, confess them one by one to Him.

If the above Scriptures have caused you to doubt your salvation, then turn to God in repentance and call upon Him and confess that Jesus is Lord.

If this letter gets you angry, it might be because some of it is true.

With love and respect in the Lord Jesus Christ,

Jim Wilson

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dear Friend: Getting Out From Your Parents' Religion

For the last several days you have been on my mind. You were born into a godly family. As a pastor's kid, you were under scrutiny by the congregation (or if not, you may have felt under scrutiny). It seems you have wanted to get out from under.

Over the years, I have found that most Christians have two different doctrines (some have three): the ones they were taught and the one they believe, their gut feeling. These may not be contradictory to each other, but they are almost always different. The third doctrine is the evangelical, cultural one which they are in. You are not in the third one at all.

Knowing your parents, I can guess, fairly accurately, what you were taught and learned about God and the gospel. Do your “gut” feelings agree with what you were taught, with the evangelical culture, or with neither of them? You may have already spent much time trying to figure this out.

What is your “gut” feeling about:

• the Father
• the Son
• the Holy Spirit
• the body of Christ
• the Evangelical Free Church
• individual believers, not including your family
• the world (all non-Christians as a group)
• Hell
• Heaven, grace, faith, the gospel, the Bible, works, etc.

Here is another exercise of definition. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Gal 5:19-24).

The first list has some gross things in it and some things that do not seem so gross. The second list has all good things. These are not personality traits. These are gifts of the Spirit. They are unrelated to your personality, circumstances, and environment. In other words, it is normal to rejoice in bad circumstances.

Which list describes you the best? How long has it described you the best?

The five-chapter book of 1 John has many “either/or” statements on knowing that we know Him. Read 1 John every day for a week. Notice the word know all of the way through the book.

It is fairly easy to have caricatures of godly people--hypocrites, legalists, Bible know-it-alls. We all know people who fit these caricatures.

A few months ago, I was talking with an 18-year-old young man. I asked him if he wanted to be godly.

He answered, “If being godly is being like ‘so-and-so’, then no!”

"Suppose being godly has nothing to do with 'so-and-so.' Suppose it is God’s definition of godly. If it were possible to be godly by God’s definition, would you want to be?"

He said, “I'll have to think about that.”

The world is made up mostly of natural men, including the nominal Christians. Since they are the majority, they set the norm of society in dress, food, morals, etc.

Jesus prayed this for his followers: “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified" (John 17:13-19).

Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:1-2).

John wrote, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever” (1 John 2:15-17).

If these questions and suggestions get your back up, that’s easy: pay no attention to them, or wait until you cool down and then pay attention to them.

May the Lord bless you greatly.

With warm affection,

Jim Wilson

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dear Friend: Forgive Us As We Forgive?

I have been thinking about our talk on forgiving. First, I would like to draw attention to two truths that seem to be contradictory.

1) "Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13). "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Eph. 4:32).

2. "This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (Matt. 18:35). "Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors… For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Matt. 6:12, 14).

The first truth sets Christ’s forgiveness for us as the means that makes it both possible and mandatory that we forgive others in the same way. The second truth sounds like our forgiveness of others is the basis of our being forgiven by God.

All forgiveness begins with God’s character and work.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. (Psalms 51:1-2)

He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (Luke 24:46-47)
The man in Matthew 18:24 owed the king $100 million. He was forgiven by the king’s mercy only. It was after he had been forgiven that the servant did not forgive his fellow servant.

It is after we are forgiven that we can pray Matthew 6:12: “Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors.” (Because we have forgiven others like the Father has previously forgiven us.)

We can honestly pray Matthew 6:12 if we have obeyed Colossian 3:13. In other words, I need to be forgiven first for not obeying Colossians 3:13 in order to be able to forgive.

The major thing is to confess to not forgiving. We will then be forgiven, and we will be able to forgive. Forgiving others is a natural consequence of being forgiven for not forgiving.

The two books that we use the most are the result of the 17-year revival (1935-1952) in East Africa: The Calvary Road by Roy Hession and Continuous Revival by Norman Grubb.

"If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, `I repent,' forgive him" (Luke 17:3-4). It is obvious that the “repentant” person in this verse is not truly repentant. However, forgiveness is unlimited. It is not dependent on the other person being truly repentant.

When I forgive someone, it does not help the someone. My forgiveness for him does not clean his conscience. Only God does that. So when I forgive someone, it does not help him at all. It only helps me. If I do not forgive, I am like the man in Matthew 18:35. If forgiveness is from my heart, I am helped. If it is not, then I am the one in big trouble.

Jim

Monday, May 14, 2018

Dear Friend: Searching for the Right Religion

I appreciated your clear explanation of your difficulty in believing, that is, the many sincere people who live by their beliefs but whose beliefs differ from evangelical Christianity and from each other. Your said we cannot all be right, but all of us could be wrong. I have observed the same things about these different kinds of believers and agree with you that we cannot all be right and it’s possible all could be wrong. It is possible that someone could be right, but not more than one.

We agreed, I think, that believing something did not make it true. However, if it is true it should be believed. Rather than spending time comparing the sincere believers with each other, including me, spend your time searching for the truth, but not in the different believers. You can read the scriptures of the different world religions and apply what they say to believe and do. You may stop searching when you find the truth.

The difficulty with many of these texts is that there is no means of knowing you are saved until after you die. There is no promise in the present of both intellectual and experiential assurance of salvation. That is why I suggested reading the New Testament first. You can reject it if you choose to because it promises results now. You will have to wait too long on the others.

To learn the most the fastest, read Luke, John, Acts, and Romans. That gives you two complementary biographies of Jesus, the story of the first Christians, and the New Testament's major book on salvation. Romans caused Martin Luther’s reformation and, two hundred later, the Wesleyan Revival.

There are only two major means of salvation promoted in the world today: 1) what man does to earn or deserve salvation and 2) what God has done to save people who cannot earn or deserve salvation. Some religions say it takes both. However, they are mutually exclusive.
So too, at the present time there is a remnant chosen by grace. And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Rom. 11:5-6)

Do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Gal. 2:21)

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)
There are people in every historic Christian denomination who are saved and people in every historic denomination who are not saved. Those who have been saved have immediate fellowship with each other, and those who are not saved do not have that fellowship, even though they want it.

Your Friend,

Jim Wilson

Friday, May 11, 2018

Dear Friend: Non-Christians Who Live Good Lives

Dear C,

From what I know of your reputation, you are respected as a man of integrity, a good man. At the end of our last conversation you said something like this: The Christians who did not live like Christians were not your obstacle to believing in Christ. Your problem with Christianity was the people who seemed to live exemplary lives and did not believe, whom Christians seemed to think are condemned.

You are not, as you are well aware, the first person to have this objection. Certainly I had it for the first twenty years of my life.

Let me raise some other problems related to your problem.

If God judges on merit, where is the bar? Is it high? How do you know? How high? Is it low? How low? Does God grade on the curve? What happens to those who do not make the grade? Do they go to Heaven anyway? If so, then the bar has no significance.

If everyone goes to Heaven when they die regardless of their belief or character, does their character change when they die? How? Why? If their character does not change, then Heaven would be Hell; Heaven would be filled with immoral people.

If, however, God has a high bar, then overwhelming numbers of people are lost. If merit is the way, then they have no hope. If God has 4.0 moral standard, then 100% of the population is lost.

If God has a solution which is not based upon the merit of man, but on His own merit of justice and love, mercy and forgiveness, then there is a solution for everyone. That is the way it is! If that were not the way, then your Christian friends would not be Christians, and you could not be.

Without the cross of Christ, the bar is very high, so high that no one has ever made it except Jesus.
There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins. (Eccl. 7:20)

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. (Rom. 3:20)

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. (James 2:10)

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. (Isa. 64:6)
If these were the only Scriptures, then there is no hope for anyone. But there is hope.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:23)

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. (Rom. 3:21-26)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph. 2:1-9)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. (Titus 3:5-8)

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isa. 53:6)
If this inclusive, free salvation for all people is not the way, then if there is a way in other religions and philosophies, ancient or modern, advanced or primitive, none have yet shown an inclusive way that guarantees salvation and has a solution for sin, past, present, and future.

Your other problem, as I recall, has to do with creation and evolution. I have two comments. 1) Are you willing to converse on the subject with PhDs in biology and microbiology? These men are scientists and would stay on the subject of science. 2) Even when you are convinced, either way, intellectually, you still have a sin problem. Science has no solution for sin.

I recommend reading the Gospel of John.

Your Friend,

Jim Wilson

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Dear Friend: Submission & Bringing Up the Past

Dear A & V,

You both had a question about a conversation we had several years ago about a wife submitting to her husband. I do not remember the exact words, although I would have said something from Ephesians 5:22-25. What surprises me is, “Who should care what I think or said?”

Please meditate on Colossians 3:12-17. "Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him."

Verse 13 is key. However, it is based on verses 12 and 14. Verses 15 and 16 begin with the word “Let.” Verse 17 begins with “Whatever you do . . . " These are commands. This teaching immediately precedes the teaching on husbands and wives.

A, you have been concerned that V wanted to bring up the past for discernment or discussion or reconciliation. You have stated that once bitterness is gone and being forgiven and forgiving is all finished business, it is not necessary or wise to bring up the past. I have no problem agreeing with that; however, it looks as if bitterness and not forgiving are still around.

If that is the case, Matthew 18 applies. "Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart" (Matt. 18:32-35). The key verse is verse 35. All action is in the light of forgiveness in your heart. If an accusation is made without forgiveness in your heart, reconciliation will not happen. The object is to win your brother. If it is necessary to get a brother to go along, he must be a brother with forgiveness in his heart. If it is necessary to take it to the church, it must be a church with forgiveness in its heart.

In bringing up the past, it would be better if each of you brought up your own sins rather than bring up the other person’s. Then say whether or not these sins of yours have been confessed to God and forgiven by God.

In these years of strong differences between the two of you, there is something I have noticed. That is that A is more interested in V’s responsibility, and V is more interested in A’s responsibility. The commands in Ephesians 5:22-33 are not conditional commands. They are not dependent on the other person doing his or her part. A, you are to love V as Christ loves the church, unrelated to her ever submitting to you. V, you are to submit to A unrelated to whether he loves you as Christ loves the church.

The conditional way is made up of two “getters.” The unconditional way is made up of two givers. The husband gives sacrificially. The wife gives in submission. Those are two different ways of loving.

God made man to need respect and love. God made woman to need love and respect. As children, both sexes need both respect and love from both sexes of parents. Many children are short-changed, but they still need love and respect. As children approach adolescence, the girl needs love more than respect, and the boy needs respect more than love. How can we tell? The boy begins to brag, and the girl begins to flirt. The boy is asking for respect. The girl is asking for love. It is a poor way to get either, but the bragging and flirting show the needs that they have.

God loves the church sacrificially. The church loves God obediently. Parents love children sacrificially. Children love parents obediently. Husbands love wives sacrificially. Wives love husbands obediently.

The church, children, and wives all respond to sacrificial love. “We love Him because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

It seems that you have both been more concerned with the other person’s lack of obedience to the text than you have been with your own obedience to it.

As a husband, you are not to require submission. You are not to coerce it. Your job is to love your wife so much that she gives back in submission. I do remember that you both think that you, alone, have been the primary giver. If it were really so, the other person would have noticed it some time in the last twenty years.

A loving couple should be able to communicate, in love, differences of opinion on every subject, including the Word of God. If the differences remain, that is not reason not to live together. Since we are required to rejoice in the Lord always, then we live together in joy.

If a decision has to be made with the differences still there, it is the husband’s decision, and the wife rejoices, even if, from God’s perspective, the decision is a wrong one. The only exception would be if the husband requires immorality or apostasy of the wife. She could then say, "I must obey God rather than men." If the decision is not either of those cases, but just a wrong decision, then the husband is held accountable, not the wife. In other words, if the wife is submissive, she is never wrong. The husband is responsible. If the husband gives in to the wife, and the decision is wrong, he is still responsible, not the wife.

With love for you both,

Jim Wilson

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Dear Friend: Forgiving Your Father

Thank you for giving me time to see you while I was in the area. I enjoyed my visit very much.

The last prophecy in the Old Testament is Malachi 4:5-6: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse.” This was quoted in part by the angel Gabriel to John the Baptist’s father in Luke 1:17. Notice that verse 6 in Malachi has it both ways: “the hearts of the father to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” If this does not happen, the land will be struck with a curse.

It seems that you have not yet turned your heart to your father. It is for one of two reasons: you cannot or you will not. If it is the first, it is because you are not yet saved. You say that you are saved, so then it must be the second: You will not. That is scary!

Whatever happened several years ago, it was one of these two things: something done BY you or something done TO you.

If it was the first, God will and has forgiven you. If it was the second, you are not responsible. You are not guilty. However, if you will not forgive the other person, then you are very guilty.

You seem to agree with me that embarrassment, pride, and stubbornness were at least some of the reasons you have not forgiven. I think that you know I love you and that you cannot shock me. If you could shock me, you also know that it would not change my love for you.

It is not necessary to tell me what the problem was or is. However, if you do not tell me, you probably won't confess to God because it is a secret. As long as you hold on to this unforgiveness, you will multiply your future sins such as disobeying your parents. Read the lists of sins in Romans 1 and Timothy 3. These things go together.

You want to marry a godly man. He will want to marry a godly woman. That does not automatically happen. Read Psalms 32 and 51.

With love in Christ,

Jim Wilson

If you would like to know more about turning to the Father, please join us for the Practical Christianity class at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday at 114 S. Howard St. in Moscow. This week's subject is God the Father.