Friday, August 31, 2007

Testing True and False

Here are three verses we can practice our True and False Test on.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. (2 Corinthians 9:8 NIV)

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:20, 21 NIV)

After we answer “True” and thank God for the truth, then we should read the verses again and answer “Very true” and thank Him again. We should continue this for some time until the truth of our answer gets beyond our mental understanding and begins to seep into us, so that we are overwhelmed with wonder because of the magnitude of each of the words in the sentences. These are superlatives beyond our comprehension. We said “True” the first time because we are Christians and we are supposed to say “True” to statements in Scripture.

Now we can believe and obey God from our heart.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Empowered to be Holy

Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied of Jesus.

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us—to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75 NIV)

Notice that Christ came to rescue us and enable us. This enabling was so that we could serve Him without fear in holiness and righteousness before Him all our days. Isn’t it wonderful that He empowers us to be holy all our days?

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

If Our Hearts Condemn Us

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (1 John 3:18-22 NIV)

There are two expressions in these few sentences, one seemingly disturbing, and the other reassuring. They are, “whenever our hearts condemn us,” and “if our hearts do not condemn us.” The second expression is the reassuring one. It is connected with confidence, answered prayer and obedience. It is wonderful to be in a state when our hearts do not condemn us. However with some of God’s people, the disturbing expression seems to be true more of the time. They are people who have hearts that condemn them. There is something else, however, that takes the “disturbing” and makes it “reassuring,” and that is the main purpose of the sentence,

Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

The purpose is to take a condemning heart and set it at rest in God’s presence. How? God is greater than our hearts. A heart is not a legitimate condemner or noncondemner. God is greater than our hearts. God is in the business of setting our hearts at rest in His presence. Do not pay too much attention to a condemning heart.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Pure Conscience

A pure, clear conscience is a wonderful thing. A guilty conscience is an awful thing. We desire the one and do not want the other. However, there are guilty consciences that are filled with false guilt instead of true guilt. There are also seemingly clear consciences that are clear only because the conscience does not record; it has become seared.

Even when a conscience is working well and is clear, that does not mean it is working perfectly according to God’s standards of right and wrong.

The Apostle Paul said it this way:

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God. (1 Corinthians 4:4, 5)

A person may say his “conscience does not hurt” as if that were proof that he was innocent. It does not hold. The conscience is only an aid and an imperfect one.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, August 27, 2007

Making Restitution (part 1)

After hearing about restitution, people have come to me in a quandary. In years past they have stolen things. They do not remember the name of the place even if they remember the town. Or if they remember the place, it has long been out of business or the person has died or moved. In any case they do not know how to make restitution.

The answer is in verse 8 of Numbers 5:

The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the LORD, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged. But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him.’” (Numbers 5:5-8 NIV)

You do not get to keep the money. Give it to the Lord!

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Friday, August 24, 2007

Just & Fair

Many people use “just” and “fair” with usage tending toward “fair.” It is an unconscious admission that the two words do not have the same meaning.

Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, “synonyms. Fair, Just, Equitable, Impartial, Unbiased, Dispassionate, and Objective.

“Fair” implies an elimination of one’s own feelings, prejudices and desires so as to achieve a proper balance of conflicting interests. “Just” implies an exact following of a standard of what is right and proper. Equitable implies a less rigorous standard than “Just” and suggests equal treatment of all concerned.”

Notice the difference, “Just” is absolute. The other words are relative. “Just” is God-centered. “Fair” is man-centered. God is “Just.” We would like Him to be “Fair.”

The words are very different.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Restitution (part 2)

If you are not familiar with the books of Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers, you may miss some great teaching on the Christian life. If you miss the teaching, you will miss the application.

One of the greatest unapplied truths of the Christian life is restitution. This lack of application may be due to ignorance, fear, or pride, but whatever the case, it is a major hindrance to growth in grace and is a retardant to revival in the church. Here is the teaching from Leviticus 6:1-7:

The LORD said to Moses: “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do¾when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering. And as a penalty he must bring to the priest, that is, to the LORD, his guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty.” (NIV)

There are several things to notice about this passage. First, the LORD said it. Secondly, the sin committed against a neighbor is unfaithfulness to the LORD. Thirdly, He specifically mentions deception, stealing, cheating, lying about finding lost property and swearing falsely, but he adds the all-inclusive “any such sin that people may do.”

All of this is based on an “if.” “If anyone sins,” he becomes guilty. The guilt is real. The guilt is good. It is not false guilt; it comes from God. Guilt is to our conscience as pain is to the body. Both are unpleasant, but they tell us something is wrong.

In the passage we are then told how to rectify the situation to God, our neighbor and ourselves. It is very simple solution. It is simply returning what we have stolen, taking it back, plus 20% interest, and offering a guilt offering to the Lord. These two things are to be done on the same day. The result is that “he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty.” Forgiveness is the opposite or the absence of guilt. It is very real. The pain of guilt is gone.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Restitution (part 1)

Once there was a man who robbed a bank. I will not go into detail about how he accomplished it, but the result was $100,000 in his briefcase. Within five minutes of the event he was walking down the street with the briefcase (and the $100,000), when he encountered an evangelistic street meeting. He stopped to listen to the Gospel proclaimed in love and power. He was convicted and converted. In his new-found joy he talked with the evangelist and asked him what all of this joy meant. The evangelist explained to the man that his sins had been forgiven.

“All of them?” asked the man.
“Yes, all of them,” answered the evangelist.
“Oh boy, now I can enjoy this $100,000.”
“What $100,000?”
“This $100,000 in my briefcase that I removed from that bank over there ten minutes ago.”
“OK, let’s take it back.”

The story is fiction, but the principle is true. The principle is simply this: being forgiven does not mean you get to keep the money. You may think that the principle is so obvious that you do not need to be taught it. There are two reasons it is obvious in the story:

1. It was $100,000 (grand larceny), not two dollars.
2. It was ten minutes ago (immediately before conversion), not twenty years ago.

Suppose, however, it was two dollars, twenty years before the conversion. Is the principle still just as clear? If not, where is the cutoff point, either in the size of the theft or in the amount of time since it occurred? Is restitution required only in big and recent things?

Let’s take a look at what the Bible says.

The LORD said to Moses:
“If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the LORD by deceiving his neighbor about something entrusted to him or left in his care or stolen, or if he cheats him, or if he finds lost property and lies about it, or if he swears falsely, or if he commits any such sin that people may do¾when he thus sins and becomes guilty, he must return what he has stolen or taken by extortion, or what was entrusted to him, or the lost property he found, or whatever it was he swore falsely about. He must make restitution in full, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the owner on the day he presents his guilt offering. And as a penalty he must bring to the priest, that is, to the LORD, his guilt offering, a ram from the flock, one without defect and of the proper value. In this way the priest will make atonement for him before the LORD, and he will be forgiven for any of these things he did that made him guilty.” (Leviticus 6:1-7 NIV)

Read it again, and notice, “If anyone sins and is unfaithful to the Lord,” and “if he commits any such sin,” and “when he thus sins and becomes guilty.” Now look at the list of the things that have happened to this anyone and then check to see if they have happened to you. Finally we have a solution that will get him forgiven for the things he did that made him guilty. The solution is

1. Restitution in full with 20% added.
2. A guilt offering.

We know as Christians that Jesus completely fulfilled the guilt offering. He is the sacrifice for sins. Now what in the New Testament takes the place of the restitution? Perhaps repentance. But repentance that hangs on to the money is not repentance. You can plead that the “c” batteries shoplifted from the drugstore in junior high school were taken ten years before conversion, and conversion was five years ago. The batteries were not yours then, and they are not yours now. Even though you were truly forgiven five years ago, when you choose not to pay for the batteries, you are in effect stealing them again. In some cases, the choice not to make restitution will be enough to keep a person from becoming a Christian.

John the Baptist and Paul each made strong statements:

John:
Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. (Matthew 3:8 NIV)

Paul:
...I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20b NIV)

One of the great salvation statements from the mouth of Jesus was made about a wealthy (and probably dishonest) tax collector:

Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:9, 10 NIV)

This statement followed Zacchaeus’ declaration of restitution of “four times the amount” of whatever he had cheated. He also had “fruit in keeping with repentance” when he said,

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” (Luke 19:8 NIV)

I have had people object to returning stolen property because the amount was in the thousands of dollars, and they did not have the money and could not foresee ever having it. I have had others object because it was a small amount of money and, consequently, it did not matter. The objections go on and on. Some people have forgotten in which stores they shoplifted, or the stores have closed or the people have died. An alternative is given in Numbers 5:8:

But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the LORD and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him. (NIV)

If the money cannot be returned to the original owner, give it to the LORD. The thief may not keep it. It is not his. If the person does not remember how much it was he took, he should make a high estimate and add 20%.Restitution is one of the normal occurrences in a spiritual awakening. It might even be a contributing factor.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Taking Up One's Cross Daily

I just received a question: “Have you a study on taking up one’s cross daily?”

Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:23-27 NIV)

The paragraph is about dying. Better yet, it is about values and choices, dying being one of the choices based upon following Jesus.

“Take up your cross.” This is not some unbearable task, some thorn in the flesh or someone unpleasant, like a roommate we have to endure daily. The cross is an instrument of physical execution of a shameful kind like the electric chair, the gallows, or the guillotine. This is speaking of capital punishment that is voluntary. This is a willingness to die physically in shame for Jesus. We could get out of dying if we were ashamed of Jesus; however, we would lose our life by saving it.

I said it is about values and choices. What about “daily”? Since I did not die yesterday, I must get dressed with the instrument of my own execution again today and every day following.

Here are two parallel verses that will give additional light:

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted… (2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:4 NIV)


The first verse talks about the desire to be godly. The second verse speaks of a desire to resist sin until our blood is shed.

Do we want to be godly so bad that we suffer persecution? Do we want to resist sin until we are killed for resisting sin? Do we want to be unashamed of Jesus?

Each morning (daily) we pray for grace to be godly, unashamed, and able to resist sin. Each morning this is the way we take up the cross.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Humility (part 2)

God’s objective for us as seen in Romans 8:29 is that we be “conformed to the image of His dear Son.” In similar passages we are told to “put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24), and that we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” (Colossians 3:10).

At one time we were created in the image of God. We lost that part of our God-likeness that had to do with true righteousness and holiness. Jesus came to earth in order to restore that likeness. We are to be like God. What is that like? Jesus! We are to be like Jesus. He is the “radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3).

To be like Jesus we must first know Him. One of the obvious characteristics of Jesus is His humility; He patterned and taught it. Let’s examine this pattern He left for us to emulate.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death¾even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:3-8 NIV)

The pattern began when He left heaven and continued downward to end at the cross. It was downward all of the way. While Jesus was here He gave some specific examples and teaching concerning humility, or voluntary slavery.

“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. (John 13:13-17 NIV)

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45 NIV)

We are His followers; therefore, we are to be servants. In order to be like Jesus, the path is downhill, toward voluntary slavery. To our knowledge the path will not turn around this side of Glory. It certainly did not turn around for Jesus.

Apparently, humility can be attained by choice. In fact, it is the only way because although coerced serving may be humiliating, it is not humility. Choosing to be a servant and continually choosing to do so is to follow Jesus.

Jesus came up with the same conclusion. He told two different stories, in Luke 14:7-11 and in 18:9-14, after observing egocentric behavior. Both conclusions read the same:

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (NIV)

It is what one does with himself that determines whether he is following Jesus. If he exalts himself, he is following the enemy. If he humbles himself, he is following Jesus.

Webster’s Dictionary defines humility as the “absence of pride or self-assertion.” You may not be “neutral” with yourself; either you will exalt yourself or humble yourself. We must demonstrate our sevanthood by action that springs from a humble heart.

Jesus said:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Humility (part 1)

The way up is down. The way down is up. Contradiction, paradox, or simple truth? In Luke 14 at the conclusion of a parable about taking the place of honor, Jesus said,

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 14:11 NIV)

Jesus came to the same conclusion in Luke 18 after telling the story of two men who prayed in the temple:

I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:14 NIV)

In the second parable one man thanked God that he was not a robber, evildoer, or an adulterer...that he tithed and that he fasted twice a week. He also thanked God that he was “not like other men…or even like this tax collector.” Jesus did not say that his statements were not true, so what did the man do wrong? He exalted himself.

The other man was bad, and he admitted it. Jesus did not say that his statements were not true either, so what did the man do right? He humbled himself. Humility is apparently a character thought and action independent of, and senior to, any other merit of right or wrong. The first man could have humbled himself and the second man could have exalted himself.

We have a supreme example of self-exaltation in the Bible. It was Satan himself, and it was his way down.

How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.” (Isaiah 14:12, 13 NIV)

And we have the supreme example of humility in the Bible. It was Jesus, and it was the way up.

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death¾even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name… (Philippians 2:6-9 NIV)

In every encounter with God or man, whether we are aware of it or not, we have one or the other of these attitudes. We follow Satan by exalting ourselves, or we follow Jesus by humbling ourselves.

Christ, in glory with the Father, did not insist that His rightful place in Heaven was more important than humbling himself. It wasn’t! When he was an innocent man on earth He did not “protest His innocence.” Instead, He humbled Himself still further and died for our sins. He made Himself of no reputation. Humbling Himself was more important to Him than His equality with God, His reputation, His innocence. The same paragraph in Philippians says,

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5 NIV)

If we make this our attitude, then our “rightful place”, our “reputation”, and our “innocence” is not as important as humbling ourselves. How can this be? Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30:

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Facts and Fiction

Over the years I have read history, not so much for the gory details but for the thinking that causes the action. Occasionally, I have read historical fiction. There is a difference. In the second I know I am reading fiction. In the first, I think I am reading fact but I might be reading fiction.

In recent months I have encountered misinformation in books and magazines. Examples, “Biafra is in the Horn of Africa.” Actually, it is in Nigeria in West Africa. “The Shenandoah Valley is in West Virginia.” Actually, it is in Virginia.

It is in Nigeria in West Africa. The Shenandoah Valley is in West Virginia. It is in Virginia.

I don’t think these authors were lying. I am sure they thought what they were writing was true.

Irregularly, I encounter misstatements in history.

Since my knowledge is limited I assume much more of what I read is false, but I don’t know which is true and which is false.

That does not make me cynical. I keep on reading and keep on believing, but I keep my eyes open.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Joy

Most of us can remember the joy we had when we received Christ. Perhaps some will have to make an effort to remember, simply because they no longer have joy.

A friend came to our home in Yokohama, Japan, some years ago. He had been my roommate aboard an aircraft carrier, and during our time together he had become a Christian. On this visit he said, “I have that deep inner peace that I belong to Christ, but I don’t have daily victory. I don’t have daily joy.”

Of course something was wrong. It is basic that joy, as well as peace, are results of salvation. Our joy is in our salvation. Jesus promised in John 16:22b:

I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (NIV)

When the seventy returned from their evangelistic itinerary, rejoicing because of the power and authority they had and miracles they had done, Jesus told them their joy was misplaced…


However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. (Luke 10:20 NIV)

We tend to think that circumstances are the primary cause for having joy, but according to the prophet Habakkuk, this is not so:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (Habakkuk 3:17, 18 NIV)

Something was wrong with my friend in Yokohama. Whatever it was, he and I knew that it wasn’t circumstances. Joy is a state. It may be an expressive state, but it is not the same as pleasure. Pleasure and joy may be expressed in the same way. For instance, I can sing for joy or I can sing for pleasure. In the first case, singing is the result of the great joy; it bursts out into singing. In the second case, singing is the cause of the pleasure, not the result.

This is true with other forms of expression, such as dancing and laughing. I can sing or dance or laugh for joy, but singing, dancing or laughing will not bring joy. They might bring pleasure, and we might convince ourselves that this is joy or rejoicing.

In the texts quoted earlier we see that joy is directly related to the Lord and His salvation for us. Why then do we sometimes lack joy? We have an explanation in Hebrews 12:11:

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. (NIV)

Discipline comes from God (Hebrews 12:5, 6) because of unconfessed sin in the Christian’s life. But God intends discipline to be momentary. God’s loving discipline yields peace and a right relationship with Him to those who learn and respond to His discipline. If a person does not learn and is not trained by discipline, then the loss of joy continues; discipline is then not momentary and remains the cause for loss of joy. The right response to discipline for sin is the confession and forsaking of sin. Joy then returns.

One of the reasons we had great joy when we received Christ was that our sins were all forgiven. We had become clean after years of accumulated sin. If after our conversion we begin accumulating sins again and do not confess them, then we shall wonder where the joy has gone. We are under chastening, and it is not joyous. To walk in a joyful relationship with Him requires that we be honest with Him. God has promised His faithfulness to forgive and cleanse on one condition:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV)

When my friend realized that it was a matter of instant confession for daily joy, he confessed his sins, and his joy was restored.

King David had been disciplined for his sin. He had lost his joy. Psalm 51 is a record of his confession; he prays,

Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you. (Psalm 51:12, 13 NIV)

David knew that he could not teach transgressors, and sinners would not come to the Lord as long as he was without the joy of the Lord’s salvation. Think of those you know who are effective in evangelism. Are they people with joy? Are they people who know all the right answers on the plan of salvation, but who do not seem to rejoice? If we are going to draw water from the well of salvation, let’s do it with joy.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Yalu River

You may not have heard of this river. It is the boundary between Korea and China. The river flows southwest into the Yellow Sea. The river really marks the location of happenings.

Here is a description of the area in 1907:

Another center visited in 1907 was Shan Chun, along the railway north of Pyongyang. Surely not much could be expected from such a young mission center, for the missionaries had only been established there eight years. Yet when we were there, in town and country there were 15,348 believers—and no one is counted unless he attends church and contributes to its support. They had just completed a church seating 1,500. A year before their churches seated 800, but the membership was 870, so they must build. During the year that Central Church hived off five country churches; but when it was completed, its membership had increased to 1,445. And no street radiating from that church had a heathen family left; all had become Christian. Since they say in our Christian lands, “the nearer the kirk, the farther from grace,” how do you account for that Korean church having no unsaved families near it? I can only account for it by the fact that they honor God the Holy Spirit, and thereby live such a powerful type of Christianity that all around them get convicted of sin, of righteousness and of judgment.

In 1916, I heard Mr. Foote, a missionary from the east coast of Korea; say that he had recently spent a Sunday at that center. That Sunday evening he worshiped in the enlarged First Church, where the church was packed with an audience of 2,500, and he was told that the other church that evening had an audience of 500. The town has a population of only 3,000; therefore all must have been out to church. Our highly favored Christian lands do not so appreciate the privilege of assembling themselves together. The Master is going to say some straight things on this subject some time.

To get an idea of how the work from that center spread throughout the country, I asked Mr. Blair to draw me a sketch map of one of his counties. He had but a few minutes before the train drew in. It was a sketch of Noag Ch’en County which he drew. It bordered on the sea, east of the Yalu River. About the center of the map he put down a church with 350 believers; less than a mile north there was another church with 250; northeast, five miles, another church with 400; east, less than two miles, another church with 750; and so on, there being fourteen self-supporting centers in the county. Mr. Whittemore, who was standing beside me, said: “That county does not equal one I work to the north of it. There are over 5,000 Christians in the county, connected with thirty-five self-supporting stations.” I heard of one place where 400 one year had increased to 3,000 by the next. Every forty-five minutes, day and night, since the work began in 1884, a convert has been added to the Church. Whole villages have become Christian.

Jonathon Goforth in When the Spirit’s fire swept Korea. Japan had annexed Korea in 1910 and controlled Korea until WWII ended in August 1945.

Russia declared war against Japan as soon as the A-bomb was dropped, crossed the Yalu River in August 1945 and made North Korea Communist down to 38 degrees North latitude.

Communist North Korea invaded South Korea in June 1950. They advanced to Pohang by Sept. 8th, which is on one end of The Pusan Perimeter. The Inchon invasion by UN forces on Sept. 26th turned the war around so that the South Korean Army entered North Korea in the East by Oct. 1st and the American 8th Army entered North Korea in the west by October 8th.

There was then a race to the Yalu River by the 8th Army and the Tenth Corps.

In October and November more than 300,000 Chinese troops crossed the Yalu River many of them without weapons. They began a major offensive on November 26th and the day of December 24th they surrounded UN forces. These forces were evacuated from Hungnam by sea.

The next two years of war were a stalemate. A truce was signed in June of 1953 but there has not been a peace treaty signed yet. The two nations are still at war. For the last sixty-two years, what was Christian North Korea has been a land of spiritual darkness.

Many of the Christians fled south under Communism.

One of the results of this is that of the 20 largest churches in the world, 10 of them are in Seoul, Korea.

Of missionary sending countries, South Korea is number 2 behind the U.S.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Christians, Capitalism, and Stretching the Truth

Capitalism is guilty of lying. Free enterprise stretches the truth.

Here is an example in advertising.

You deserve the best.” What is the best? Something very expensive! Who is the you? Everyone who has a television set! What is deserve? To be worthy of merit. That is like saying everyone is awarded Eagle Scout or the Congressional Medal of Honor because everyone deserves them. This word is ubiquitous in advertising. What is the catch? This thing you deserve is not awarded to you. You have to pay for it and you can’t afford it.

Christians in advertising, refuse to lie.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Idolatry

“Present your case,” says the LORD. “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob’s King. “Bring in your idols to tell us what is going to happen. Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome. Or declare to us the things to come, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods. Do something, whether good or bad, so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear. But you are less than nothing and your works are utterly worthless; he who chooses you is detestable. (Isaiah 41:21-24 NIV)

This is one of the many comments on idolatry in the Old Testament. Psalm 115 is another. We would like to think that idolatry is so self-evidently wrong that of course it disappeared out of this world long ago. It isn’t so. Idolatry may have changed. It still follows the pattern described in Romans 1:20-22:

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities¾his eternal power and divine nature¾have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools. (NIV)

And the results are the same as those described in succeeding verses of Romans 1.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Teacher

Illustrations are an effective means of teaching truth or falsehood. They can be used to hammer home a truth and to make it easier to apply the truth. They are also easy to remember. They also make it difficult for the student to sneak by or ignore a strong command.

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:25-37 NIV)

The expert in the law asked two questions; Jesus asked three.

Expert:
1. “Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
2. “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus:
1. “What is written in the law?”
2. “How do you read it?”
3. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

The expert did not want an answer to his first question nor his second. He was testing Jesus with the intent that Jesus would fail the test.

Jesus gave the man two answers: “Do this and you will live,” and “Go and do likewise.”
The truth was very clear in the command before the illustration and could not be avoided after it.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Smooth Teaching

Go now, write it on a tablet for them, inscribe it on a scroll, that for the days to come it may be an everlasting witness. These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” Therefore, this is what the Holy One of Israel says: “Because you have rejected this message, relied on oppression and depended on deceit, this sin will become for you like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant. It will break in pieces like pottery, shattered so mercilessly that among its pieces not a fragment will be found for taking coals from a hearth or scooping water out of a cistern.” (Isaiah 30:8-14 NIV)

The first thing I notice is that this was written down “as a witness forever.” The second thing is the unwillingness to listen to the truth when it is known to be the truth: “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions” (v. 10). The third thing is that the uncorrected iniquity does not have immediate judgment. But it is “like a high wall, cracked and bulging, that collapses suddenly, in an instant” (v. 13). The judgment is certain, devastating, and we have an advance warning (the wall is cracked and bulging).

How does this apply today? We as Christians have two temptations. First, we want to hear smooth things, so we seek teachers who speak of pleasant things. It is something that Paul warned Timothy of in 2 Timothy 4:3, 4:

For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. (NIV)

The second temptation is the willingness to respond to the request or the demand and be the prophet of “smooth things.” We cannot lay this charge at the feet of liberals. It is a major problem among evangelicals. We want to hear and we want to teach “smooth” things.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Stephen David's Testimony

The following is Stephen David's Testimony. Incredible, yes it is.


He Transformed My Life

It is written in the Holy Bible, “Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalm 96:3). I gladly take this privilege to testify of the goodness and the greatness of God in my life. The following message is a brief testimony of my life and most importantly, of His grace upon me.

Life before Christ

Family Background
I was born in the year 1976, on September 30th, in a lower class family. We lived in an inner-city slum for years. Half of my life was spent there and I remember the difficult times our family went through. My papa was a bus driver and poured his whole life for the upbringing of our family. My mom was a housewife and she too sacrificed her life for the service of her children and husband. My parents begat three sons and one daughter, also adopted two cousins. I am the youngest and of course, the most pampered son.

Religious Upbringing
Our family was not quite religious and I do not know what it is to grow in a godly family. Our religious background was basically Roman Catholicism; however, my family believed in polytheism and therefore all of us were idolaters. I still remember how as a child I used to go with my family to various religious places of different religions. We worshipped anything or anyone the crowd followed.

My elder brother, in his teens, happened to become a devotee of one of the admired gods of India, ‘Shirdi Sai Baba.’ Not only did he lead others to become the followers of Baba, in the year 1990, he also won me over to become Baba’s follower. I became an ardent worshipper of Baba and followed various rituals. To me all religions were various roads to God and I did not mind accepting anything that seemed to be appealing. Like many others, I did not care to examine my beliefs or practices as long as something good resulted according to what I had desired.

Secular Education
I suppose there is not much to speak about my academics. I was not a bright student and with much difficulty studied up to class 10th. I became too mischievous when I was in the 9th class and caused problems in the school. After coming to the 10th, I started to bunk classes, watch filthy movies and loaf around. Because of my misconduct, my Principal almost decided to terminate me from the school. Due to my family’s pleading, he relented and gave me another chance to continue my studies. Nonetheless, I continued to live a rebellious life.

In the year 1991, I worked hard for a while and finished my matriculation. I do not take the credit of passing the exam because I cheated. Moreover, I was having an affair with a girl at that time. Over the time of my entrance into the college, though I was unfit to take subjects relating to medicine, because my girl friend chose to do Bi.P.C, I too opted the same. Sadly, I could not finish my college while my girl friend went through and eventually became a physiotherapist.

During my college years, my family was under dire financial struggles. My father went to United Arab Emirates to earn a lot of money to support my family, but regretfully he was deceived by the agent. He suffered terribly in the desert and lost his health. With a hope that our father is going to send surplus amount of money, my family went ahead and got my sister married. After her marriage, our hopes were shattered and our family went into debts and faced severe accusations and insults from the creditors.

My father went to the extent of selling his kidney in UAE to help us in our desperate condition but the doctors had to reject his plea because he had acquired diabetes. Removing his kidney would inevitably cost his life. Here in India, not knowing what to do, my mother and brother virtually decided to commit suicide, after giving poison to the rest of the family members. Thankfully, by the grace of Jesus Christ, things did not happen as they desired. Eventually, it took almost eight painful years to come out of our debts.

During those pathetic circumstances, I stopped going to college and started to work as a waiter in a pub where there was a kind of cabaret act. I almost lost interest in studies by then and was caught up in a mood to earn money and enjoy life. If asked today about my secular academic studies, I must honestly admit that I am not a well-educated person, having only a tenth class certificate, that too passed in first class by cheating in the exam.

Indulgence in Wickedness and Evil Habits
Encircled by the poverty in my family, I supposed money to be the answer for life. I resolved to earn as much money as I could, be it through good or evil ways, to live a carefree and pleasurable life. Through lying and by producing fake educational certificates I secured work in a secular organization. There I began to misappropriate money. Once caught without sufficient proof, I was transferred to the main branch under disciplinary action. However, that would not restrain a person who had already committed himself to acquire riches by any and all means.

My only aim was to become an affluent person through whatever means. I was pursuing various illegal ways to reach my goal. In 1995, one person, whom I suppose to be a maoist, had observed my radical life and offered me money to commit a murder. Without taking time, I immediately consented to do anything for money. However, we both had a conflict later and the plan to murder failed. I thank God for not letting that happen.

In my wild passion to obtain money and pleasure, I began to sink lower and lower in behavior and morality. I got addicted to smoking and loved to drink. Once I got drunk to such an extent that I almost behaved like an animal and fell unconscious on the road. My friends carried me to my house and I slept like a dead man for more than normal hours. Due to smoking, even today if I run fast for a little distance, I struggle to breathe normally for at least half an hour. I was earning a lot of money in an improper way and lived a hedonistic life. There were times I ended up in a police station twice and in a court case on a petty issue. I was lured into pornography and lost the basic moral senses of humanity. My heart was wretched, my speech abusive and my lifestyle horrible.

Encountering Jesus Christ
In living a wicked life, my heart became terribly restless and I started to question myself about where I was heading. I was told about Jesus Christ but I was reluctant to either hear or believe. To me, money and pleasure was the answer for life. Believe me, my family was scared of my lifestyle and some of them, who already believed in Christ, started praying for me.

There came a time when I was preparing to commit a crime along with my friends. During that process, on June 26th 1996, something happened to me that changed the rest of my life. A heavy conviction came on my heart when I woke up in the morning and my mind was bombarded with questions about my life and future. There was nothing auspicious or miraculous encounter to think about God. On that day I happened to go to the temple of Sai Baba, along with my relatives, and stood before the idol as the devotees were coming in one by one to worship. To me all gods were one and I found nothing wrong in differing religious practices.

However, on that day a powerful conviction gripped my heart and my sins emerged before me. I could clearly sense my evil heart. The Holy Bible actually condemns idolatry and it was obvious to me that it is sin to worship idols. The thoughts about Jesus were becoming more real to me. It may sound strange to hear, there in the Baba’s temple, I knelt with a repentant heart and gave my life to Christ Jesus and became His follower. Oh, I was born-again!

Life after Christ
When I became a Christian, my life drastically changed. Jesus transformed a horrible beast like me. I came to know that there is only one God and none other and salvation is only in Jesus’ name (Isaiah 45:22; Acts 4:12). When I shared this with my friends they mocked at me and abandoned me for taking a decision to follow Christ. I wasn’t disturbed much because the love of God was all-sufficient for me. I learned during that time, “People may love me thinking that I am good but God loves me knowing that I am bad.”

After being saved by Jesus Christ, I was passionate to know God more and more. I knew nothing about God and the Holy Bible except the gospel of Jesus Christ. The only thing I knew was that Jesus loves me, laid His life for me on the Cross and rose on the third day and that He was the only Savior and hope for the perishing world. The Lord made a way for me to join in a Bible college. I wasn’t good at speaking English and I struggled a lot to learn there. During my theological studies, initially, I could not preach well in English due to language barrier.

Thankfully, God gave me the grace to become a diligent reader of the Holy Bible. For the first time in my life I started to spend long hours in reading the books in the library. Finally, after three years, I completed my graduation in theology upgrade my theological education. Currently, the Lord has blessed me with preaching, teaching and writing ministry.

I must also mention that there were ups and downs in my Christian life. There were times I turned my back on the Lord and grieved His heart. Nevertheless, God chased me in His love and persevered patiently with me. He is constantly working in my life and now I cannot imagine my life without Jesus. The joy that I have in Him now is nothing compared to what I was pursuing in the world before coming to Christ. I am eternally grateful to know that the Lord Jesus Christ alone is the answer for life.

Final Words

Once in a hopeless condition, our family is now a mighty witness of Jesus Christ. My elder brother, C. Nelson David (a former devotee of Sai Baba), was the first person in our family to believe in Christ. Today he is an outstanding servant of God and a lecturer in a bible college. My papa trusted Jesus in his latter days and went to be with the Lord in the year 2003. My sister, Vinolia, is also in the Lord’s work. My mom has an evangelistic heart and passionately shares about Jesus with many women. My girl friend, Chaitanya Devi, trusted Christ in 1997 and we both got married in 1998 and are blessed with a wonderful son, C. Jason David.

Dear reader, if I was not saved by the grace of Jesus Christ, I would have become either a smuggler or a criminal. Jesus is the One who is able to save and change sinful lives. You may not be as worse as I was but the Holy Bible says that we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23); and the finished work on the Cross for the atonement of our sins, our sins are forgiven, our lives are transformed and we have eternal life.

My life is a testimony of what God can do through a man who can do nothing by himself. Yes, He can bring the best out of the worst. The following Scripture is something I ought not to forget in my life: “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one my boast before him” (1 Corinthians 1:26-29). Glory be to God!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Matt Meyer's Testimony

The following will begin to introduce the man who will, in the near future, take over most or all of Jim Wilson's responsibilities. That is, of course, if Jim slows down enough for this monumental, completed transition to take place.

The testimony of Mr. Matt Meyer

With faithful expectation my parents of Lutheran tradition from both German and Swedish descent had me baptized in the Missouri Synod Lutheran Church shortly after my birth. This was dutifully followed by primary education in a Lutheran parochial school that my father’s parents had sacrificially assisted in its construction. My training culminated in my confirmation as a Christian and member of the Lutheran church around my twelfth birthday. But all was not well with my soul.

Shortly after moving to southern Idaho in 1968, my father divorced my mother for the second time. The first was after the birth of my oldest brother and sister the second time when I was about five, now the youngest of five. My mother started a career of minimum wage jobs to support us and I quickly became a poster child for latch key kids.

While continuing to memorize Bible verses, go to church and participate in church youth group functions, I began a slow but steady slide into spiritual apathy and indolence. A key event that hastened this process was the return of my oldest brother from four years in the Air Force. I idolized him. Unfortunately, he was cut from the same cloth as my father with a penchant for wine, women and self focus. While seeking to look, talk and act like him; I entered the rocky shoals of Jr. High and found myself a misfit from both spiritual and carnal worlds.

I was too “weak” willed to physically chase my lusts except in my mind and too “traditional” to not maintain appearances at home and church. The result was a sullen four or five years avoiding everyone, watching endless hours of television and sneaking my brother’s “adult” magazines to pass the time. While my mom continued to work long hours to maintain the house and put food on the table, I did little to help around the house or maintain the yard.

When I reached a point of self loathing in my junior year in high school, instead of confessing my sins to God, I decided to improve myself through self help books like How to Make Friends and Influence People and The Greatest Salesman etc. I signed up for speech classes, started running for class and club offices at school and even joined a pyramid marketing organization that fed its participants with ladles full of positive thinking…about oneself. The results were impressive, but not spiritually healthy.

Soon, I was president of several clubs, valedictorian and voted smartest in my senior class, with the result that the skin on my head was stretched and tight but my soul was shriveled and weak. The problem was one of hollowness. I knew that I was miserable just below the surface of my pleasant and now outgoing personality.

My spiritual turning point came when my sister, five years my senior, returned from the University of Idaho changed. Having experienced her motherly tutelage during my formative years, I can testify that she was now joyful and full of grace. Unable to hold back—some habits take time to change—she cornered me and let me know in no uncertain terms that Jesus died for me. Reminding her that I had practically been raised in the narthex of the church, I responded that this was nothing new. Still, she was persistent to make it clear that Jesus’ death was personally connected with my sins and that if I got hold of that reality, it would change me. Did she know more than she let on? I pushed her off, but her words haunted me.

About a month later around Christmas 1980, when everyone was supposed to be happy on the outside and inside, her words came to blows with the angst of my proud soul. In a fit of depression, I negotiated with God, that if He would give me joy and peace like I witnessed in my sister, I would commit to read the Bible cover to cover over the next year with the intent to really know Him.

Whether I was “saved” before this experience I don’t care to debate. What I did know was that from that moment, I was certain that God was real, gracious and that I wanted to know Him more than anything else.

I did begin daily reading of scripture, started attending Young Life and even started a Bible study at my home. But the real change began when I started at the University of Idaho that fall. The Christian community in Moscow was vibrant, where Bible teachers from a number of churches worked together offering noon studies, seminars and men’s retreats. The biggest difference was the teaching. For the first time, I heard and understood that the Bible was true and relevant. It was to be read, believed and obeyed without excuses—something the leaders called “practical Christian living.”

For the first time I learned how to confess my sins, deal with my bitterness toward my father and to resist the temptation of lust. More than this, I was blessed by a mosaic of Christians from various evangelical denominations and para-church organizations. I couldn’t get enough even though I attended six or seven Bible studies a week in addition to my engineering studies. In the months and years that followed, the teaching and leaders’ examples from these years were foundational to my Christian walk as I found my life long partner in Renae, mother to our six children, and entered into a 20 year career with an international mining company.

Thinking back over these years, the verse “God remains faithful even when we are faithless” (2 Timothy 2:13) marks well my passage to adulthood. Even though I didn’t rack up a crowd stirring testimony of physical rebellion and personal destruction, the internalization of my sin was in some ways more potent as I was able to hide, excuse or ignore it most of the time. Praise be to God, His Word was like a light shining in a dark place revealing my sin for what it was and making clear that my only option was to rest fully on His provision for my sins in the death of Jesus, God’s Son, on the cross.


Mr. Stephen David's testimony will be posted on Monday. Here's a brief excerpt:

"My only aim was to become an affluent person through whatever means. I was pursuing various illegal ways to reach my goal. "

David's testimony, in its entirety, will fill us in on the rest of the story.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Jim Wilson's Testimony

The following is Jim Wilson's testimony to his classmates, but is meant for all to read. Enjoy!

July 2007

Dear Classmates,

Besides the greatness of the camaraderie that comes from the closeness and the danger in the military there is something else that I have appreciated. That is that “authority” and “obedience” are good words. The recognition of our mortality is also a great asset.

I have not been the best at showing up at reunions, so many of you do not know me or even recognize my name.

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

Most of us who are still alive have 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 at GQ. We were off Tanchon on the east coast of Korea, closing range to destroy some R.R. 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. That evening I conducted the funeral when we buried the chief at sea. He died in place of me. That was on the Brush. Then I spent thirty months on 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.

Now we are 79. I read in the Wall Street Journal that the average life span of an American is 77.6 years. That means that we are now ahead of the average by about 1 year.

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 at the Naval Academy. Consequently I know men from classes ’57 to ’72, and classes since then, but not as well.

Three major events led to that decision:

My own conversion to Christ during my youngster year.
My battle station men dying, with me not having told them the Good News.
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.

I have been remiss in not telling you. 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, some of you are anti-religion, some of you will get angry with me for bringing up the subject, and some of you will really want to know what I am writing about.

Whatever the response or lack thereof, here is, hopefully, an adequate explanation of how to go to Heaven when we die. It is possible that some of you will not understand. It will sound like foolishness to you.

I will start by sharing with you my own experience.

My father was born in 1899. My mother was born in 1900. She and my father 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. 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 the eleventh grade. By my senior year in high school I became a little more accepting of my classmates.

World War II started for the US 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 of ’45. Japan had surrendered in August the same year. 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. In 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 Naval Academy 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 of ’46.

At Camp Peary; I was not a happy camper. I was moral in one sense and insubordinate in another sense. 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.

Around January of ’46 I received a letter addressed to a 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 sent it back to the originator with an apology for opening it. A few days or a few weeks later a sailor came into the barracks and asked for Jim Wilson. I identified myself. He then 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, 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 to be happy. He was a brain. He was an athlete. He came from a wealthy, sophisticated home. 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 worked all night in the open air at the Omaha, Nebraska stockyards. I became fascinated with the stars and learned a little about them. So in order to be up on him 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 him he interrupted me. It went something like this:

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 then 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. 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, as I remember, that salvation was not a product of being good or not being bad. It was a gift. He also 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. (I am writing this 59 years later.)

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 real bad guys could get in just as quickly as a nice guy like me. That did not seem right to me.

Having voiced my rejection 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 entered the Naval Academy. Freshman year was like boot camp with 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 year a classmate, Caryll Whipple, saw me with my New Testament. He invited me to a Bible study group. It seemed to me to be a means of understanding what I was reading. 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 gave excuses of not waking up he told me that he would wake me up.

The small group met in a janitor’s broom closet. In this group I met other men like the other Jim Wilson. One of them was Willard (Pete) Peterson 49. He had been a Christian about a year. This group met seven days a week. 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 will power 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, 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 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 cancelled 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. It may have been the Block. 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 of them 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 to us and 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. Here they are:

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, very well, verse 2: “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 now ready. I knew now that I was a sinner and could not save myself. I called upon the Lord. I think that was October 18, 1947. 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 then 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.

1. I had joy and peace.
2. The Bible which I had not been able to understand suddenly made sense.
3. I found I belonged with these pre-reveille fanatics.
4. My conscience was clear.
5. My conscience was more sensitive.
6. I realized I really cared for my roommate (loved him in a Godly way).

Several weeks went by when my roommate, Dick Daykin, asked me what happened. I asked why he had asked. He told me that I had been pleasant for the last several 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 am now 78-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.

1. You need to want to be set free from the guilt and judgment for your sins, and the power of sin.
2. You need to know that you are helpless in this want.
3. You need to know that being good and not being bad will not set you free nor will any other means of self effort.
4. 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.” Romans 5:6 (NIV)
5. Three days after this death for our sins, the Lord Jesus arose 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.” Romans 4:25 (NIV)
6. 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.” Romans 4:25 (NIV)

“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.”
I Corinthians 15: 1-5 (NIV)

Having called upon the Lord Jesus now, thank him for bringing you to the Father, for forgiving your sin, and for giving you everlasting life.

Now, in your 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 write to me. I will send you help in the form of books and booklets that will help you grow in the Christian life.

If this has you interested at all I will 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 St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. You may also call on a pastor or chaplain and talk to a close friend or relative who you think is very clearly a Christian. You are probably right in your estimation.

Respectfully a classmate and friend,

Jim Wilson

Here is a short synopsis of the 58 years since my entrance into the Kingdom. By the time I was a first classman I was relatively a mature Christian and with several other classmates a leader of this underground Christian movement. As you remember we all went to church or chapel. That did not make us believers.

Since it was peacetime 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, 25-30 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 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 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, 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, one 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 when we hit the mine.

Then there was 30 days in the Yamato’s dry dock in Sasebo. The Brush looked like a small boat in the bottom of the 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 in Yokosuka I looked up Bessie Dodds, a Canadian head mistress to a Bible School for women in Yokahama. Eighteen months later we were married in Yokahama. That was 54 years ago on April 7, 1952.

When the Brush got patched up I 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 high wire in the Sea of Japan right after the Hungnam evacuation.

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

After leaving the Navy in Nov. 56’ we spent about 2 years in Washington D.C. In November of 58’ we moved to Annapolis.

As a point of contact with midshipman I opened the Christian Bookshop for the Officers Christian Fellowship on Maryland Ave. In addition to traveling to other Academies and other 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 has been for almost forty years. By the time you receive this it will be closed.

In 1968 I helped open the first of 80 Logos Bookstores. This was 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 have all been part of not for profit organizations.

Bessie and I have four children, fifteen grandchildren, eleven great grandchildren and will have thirteen before the year ends.

Our life together has been greatly blessed.

Much of this you do not need to know but some of you requested this sequel.

If you have further interest we have a web page, http://www.ccmbooks.org/ and a blog, http://www.rootsbytheriver.blogspot.com/.

Tomorrow, Matt Meyer's testimony will be posted. He is the new CCM Director.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Clean, Clear Conscience (part 2)

In the Bible we see instances of consciences that are clear, weak, evil, defiled, seared, corrupted, witnessing, testifying, good and cleansed. It would be easy to draw a conclusion that a good, clear and cleansed conscience would reflect God’s absolute moral law, and those who followed their consciences would not be guilty. Sometimes that is true, and sometimes that is up for question. Here are two of Paul’s statements:

Now this is our boast: Our conscience testifies that we have conducted ourselves in the world, and especially in our relations with you, in the holiness and sincerity that are from God. We have done so not according to worldly wisdom but according to God’s grace. (2 Corinthians 1:12 NIV)

My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Corinthians 4:4 NIV)

In the first instance, Paul is innocent. However in the second, he says that a clear conscience does not guarantee innocence. We also have another criterion for our actions. It is other people’s consciences.

On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. (2 Corinthians 4:2b NIV)

But if anyone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, both for the sake of the man who told you and for conscience’ sake¾the other man’s conscience, I mean, not yours. For why should my freedom be judged by another’s conscience?…Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God¾even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved. (1 Corinthians 10:28, 29, 32, 33 NIV)

So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man. (Acts 24:16 NIV)


We are to pay attention to our conscience. As we grow, we are to make it more and more sensitive and acute by the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and constant use.

But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:14 NIV)

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)