An Aide to Spiritual Growth

Some people have told me that they experienced a big improvement in their walk with God when they had a vision of the resurrected Christ.

I wanted to do better in my walk, but how does one go about getting such a vision? Details were light or non-existent. I remember one Calvary Chapel pastor encouraging the congregation to “visualize the throne room and Jesus sitting there.” Well, I could do some imagining, I guess, but that didn’t help. I was aware I was just making it up.

Since I found that Torah is for all believers, I have actually seen the Father and the Son as I read His Word and do what He says. I’m making a lot of changes for the better in my growth and walk with God, but some of the changes I need to make are coming slow. Do I need a vision of the resurrected Christ to become a different, more righteous person?

As I was pondering this a few days ago, I had what I think was in fact a vision. But it wasn’t of the resurrected Christ. I think God gave me a better vision, one which is going to help much better.

He gave me a vision of myself.

I don’t mean the same type of vision that some believers claim to see of Jesus. I mean God gave me a view of myself as He sees me, with emphasis on my character development (or lack of it). I got a glimpse of myself as I really am, which cut through the image I have of myself normally. We want to think the best of ourselves, and we craft an image that we hope is true. But most of the time it isn’t true. It’s just wishful thinking.

The downside to seeing yourself as you really are is it’s very discouraging. The upside is, when you accept the truth about yourself and take responsibility for your actions and for changing your actions, then you can make progress in moving closer to God. The reason is that as you draw closer to the light of the Father you become more aware of what you lack in perfection or holiness. You can either patch over your flaws with fig leaves as did Adam and Havah, or with improved vision you can accept and change.

It was painful looking at my history and seeing the bad decisions, the unwillingness to do what God said I should do, the times of stunted growth; simply because I didn’t want to give up my comfort.

So in a sense I did get a vision of the resurrected Christ through eating and drinking His body and blood (hearing and doing His word). But what really got me was the vision of myself as I really am.

I still need a lot of work, but the job is actually easier with an honest, albeit painful, self-evaluation.

Shalom

Bruce

The Law versus the Approval of Men

One of the many good things about God’s living oracles, or the law, is that I can take comfort and have confidence that I am an approved son. Oh, not that I get any special awards or accolades. It’s just that I can feel good about doing one more thing God says on a minute-by-minute basis. I am not perfectly behaved. I am not Jewish. I don’t have a bunch of people who hang on my every word, nor do I have frames of famous people I’ve met or recognition from colleges or learned men on my wall. What I do have is the satisfaction of doing what God says, no matter how small the effort or how many times in between I might fall.

The approval of men is much different. Most judge by appearances, or money, or by the number of followers on Twitter. Approval from people is ephemeral, vaporous, and without substance. As long as I think like them, do like them, make sure I feed their egos and avoid hurting their feelings, then I am accepted and part of the group. Step outside with a different thought one time, however, and you are done. Not only that but you will never be accepted by them again unless you spend a lifetime in obeisance, bowing and scraping and hungry for every tiny little pat on the head or scratch under the chin.

Each command, statute, hint or suggestion I do from what He says as outlined in His Word I know meets with His approval. I might not get a coin from Him immediately, or even a pat on the head or scratch under the chin, but each step connects me better and blessings flow. When I refrain from work on His sabbath simply because He asks me to I am made whole with His oneness and Spirit. I avoid pork or shellfish; He is there. His holidays channel the river of life through my soul.

Men do not approve. They’d rather my worship be at their direction and that I elect them to be as gods. The only reward from that, however, is in their regard which is as changeable as the weather during a Rocky Mountain spring. One minute sunshine, the next a freezing snowstorm. No thank you. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Shalom

Bruce

Liar

Hillsong has a recent song out called New Wine. There’s a line in there that made me think, “Liar.”

What do you think would make me react that way? They sing:

“So I yield to You and to Your careful hand

When I trust You I don’t need to understand”

Sounds perfectly fine, doesn’t it? So why the negative reaction? you ask.

The part that made me think of liars was “I yield to You.”

No, they don’t yield.

How could I possibly know?

Because they are standard, modern church. There are a lot of songs like this in the church, and Hillsong is a big creator of them. They (and their fans and so-called “worship teams” that copy the music) love to close their eyes and sway back and forth and raise their hands. Standard, modern church places a huge premium on looking holy and “feeling the Spirit.” Except when you get right down to it, there is no yielding.

Oh, there’s lots of sentiment. Tons of feelings.

I’m a musician, and I love to play and sing. I really like many different songs, and enjoy group music. But a lot of what passes for “worship” in the churches is not much more than ego feeding and vanity. If there was really a yielding, which would show up all week long in many actions, then it might be more genuine.

How do I know there’s no yielding? Simply put, they don’t follow God’s living oracles.

Try this experiment sometime. In your Sunday school or weekly Bible study, make a suggestion that all of God’s Law is relevant and a valid lifestyle and discipleship method for every believer.

See what happens.

I guarantee that almost universally, especially among the young adults, there will be instant and ferocious denial. You will be hit with all sorts of counter-arguments, from the nice to the not-so-nice.

Because we don’t like to yield. We don’t want to do what God says. Rather than holy behavior, we’d rather sway and cry and raise hands when a really good band plays appealing songs. Then go home and “feel led” to ignore much of what He has laid down for us in the Word.

Like I said. Liar.

And don’t get me started on the “When I trust you I don’t need to understand” stupidity.

Shalom

Bruce

Audiobook for Whole Bible Christianity Available

It took a while, but an Audiobook version of our book Whole Bible Christianity is now available. It’s about 15 and a half hours, narrated by Bruce. You can get it free if you sign up for a trial membership at Audible.com. You get a free audiobook when you first sign up for the service. After the first month it costs $15.00 per month but you get one free book per month too.

If you click this link to view the print version, then click on the Free with your Audible Trial button and stay with Audible for two months, not only do you get two free audiobooks (for $15.00 the second month) but we get a $50.00 bonus! You can exchange any audiobook you decide is not for you, and your credit for one free book rolls over to the next month if you don’t use it. Even if you cancel membership after a while you can keep all your audiobooks.

What a great deal! Whole Bible Christianity, Blessings Pressed Down and Overflowing audiobook for free, a bonus to us, and you get more free audiobooks.

There’s also the print version of the book, and Kindle version for a pretty low cost. The Kindle and audiobook versions do not have the Scripture Index with almost 1,500 entries from every book in the Bible, and the audiobook doesn’t have the footnotes, but still you can listen on the way to work and back or read on a Kindle at your leisure. Get all three and get it all.

Shalom

Bruce

Proving the Stupid Point

“With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless; with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous. You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down. (2 Samuel 22:26–28, ESV)

I love verses likes these. God doesn’t even have to really do anything to make people look stupid. They do it all by themselves. We have many idiots writing books and posting online about “bizarre stuff in the Bible” or “Ten Things That Turned Me Off About the Bible” or “Confusing Facts About The Bible” and other similar subjects. They might as well be putting up neon signs that say “I’m Crooked.” They are not straight, so God appears not straight.

Lots of people look at God through their experience or the Bible and can’t figure Him out. But it’s not Him that is the problem. If your brain is screwy, if it is darkened by hate and bitterness or if your top desire is to call the shots yourself without interference from some God who is going to tell you when you’re wrong, then you will naturally suspect others of the same twisted motives.

God is not twisted or dark. He is not wrong in any sense, nor does He have trouble informing creation of His purposes or intent. We just want to ignore Him, so many of us come up with excuses to make it seem like we don’t understand. Then we can do what we want.

If we make the switch to humility, however, then the picture starts to clear up right away. Knowing that God is always right and true and holy is a guiding light for understanding. People can be screwed up; never God. You might not like what He does, or doesn’t do, but that doesn’t mean He’s wrong.

Shalom

Bruce

New Audiobook!

We’ve now produced an audiobook for Whole Bible Christianity. It is available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. I narrated it myself and it sounds very good. I did the narration because I don’t think anyone else could’ve really given the project the right tone except the guy who wrote it. It’s about 16 hours long but I don’t know what the pricing will be. Just check with Amazon under Whole Bible Christianity when you want a complete reference for Whole Bible Christianity to listen to in your car or while you are trying to go to sleep!

Shalom

Bruce

The Demise of Christian Bookstores

Publishing a book is not an easy task. Traditional publishers want you to get a literary agent and won’t accept manuscripts if you don’t. A literary agent can be good or bad, but mostly they are limited by their own perspective on what will sell. What sells is frequently not really connected with the Bible or good Bible teaching but more likely something based on feelings only loosely connected with the Bible. If you write a book, as I think I have, that is not only biblical but comes from an unexpected direction then you are pretty much out of luck with traditional publishing. You won’t even get a second look.

Another huge problem in publishing is the Christian bookstore. My wife and I are getting ready to take another trip to see family in San Diego. So I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to buy some copies of my book and take them around to the bookstores there and see if they would like to carry some copies. I started researching on the web to find the stores and got a shock. One chain calling themselves Family Christian had just closed (something like 240 stores) after filing for bankruptcy a couple years previous. Another chain calling themselves Lifeway tells me on their website that they don’t accept Product that is self-published. The “Product” must come from a traditional publisher or a literary agent. A third option I remembered in San Diego was the Evangelical Bible Bookstore which was famous for a long time because they carried a lot of serious theology books, were very knowledgeable and helpful, and discounted their books. To my surprise they had gone the way of many independents and closed their doors too after 40 years in business.

Locally, the three or four independent Christian bookstores we used to have are also out of business. The only stores around here are a Barnes and Noble (not exactly a Christian hotspot) and a couple of church bookstores. We used to have a Borders also, but they bit the dust some years ago. You would think we could maybe try the church bookstores and see if they would carry our book. But the problem with the church bookstores is if you have a book that is not “church friendly,” such as our book Whole Bible Christianity, or you are not one of their own famous people or pastors, you are not going to get a fair hearing from them. They only carry stuff with which they agree, usually written by their own people.

The church bookstore does okay because the overhead is paid by the church, and they don’t have to meet sales goals. They are present just to push the publications and music of the particular church or denomination. Catholic bookstores sell Catholic books, Calvary Chapel sells books by Chuck Smith or others of their pastors, Christian Science sells their own teachings, and so on. Since Whole Bible Christianity just teaches the Bible, and we don’t push a particular church teaching, we are out of luck.

So why is the Christian bookstore (or even just bookstores in general) disappearing from the landscape? Many people jump to blame the internet, and Amazon in particular. They have a point. Amazon has a tremendous selection, fast shipping, discounted prices, and are open 24/7. But did the rise of Amazon kill the bookstore, or did Amazon and others like them come into existence because the bookstore wasn’t getting the job done in the first place? Did Amazon kill the bookstore, or did the bookstore help create Amazon?

In my estimation, Amazon or the internet in general has not killed the bookstore. It is also not the main factor hammering the traditional publisher either (traditional publisher sales, Christian and otherwise, are also slumping). Two things I think are doing it. One is the lack of vision; the ability to discern what people need and would want, or if you will, the ability to tell the difference between a good product and a bad one. The second is the church itself.

Publishers and bookstores have to make money. Printing is expensive, and carrying space in stores costs money. If a publisher prints a bunch of copies of a book and they don’t sell, it can get costly. A bookstore has limited space, so if a book doesn’t sell it is a double whammy because the space could’ve been used by a book that did sell. So the industry is forced to gear all of their decisions around what will sell. If they make a mistake it can get real expensive real quick. So the nature of the market causes them to be super cautious. The publishers use literary agents to sift the writers material, which helps a little, but the literary agents work off of commission and tend to be extra cautious also. They have reputations to protect too, because if they keep recommending books that bomb then they will not be able to continue in the field. Everything is driven by money, which is not necessarily a bad thing (costs have to be paid somehow) but it tends to make people in the industry want to find the guaranteed “sure thing” and stay away from stuff they simply don’t have the vision, skill, imagination or judgment to evaluate properly.

A couple of cases in point. The first Harry Potter book was universally turned down by every publisher by the account of J. K. Rowling. A book called The Shack which has become a multi-million bestseller (although I think it is a piece of trash) was also turned down by everyone. Many more examples could be listed, but I think you get it. People in the book industry have purposefully become dumber than a sack full of hammers, too afraid to take a chance because of the dollars involved and reputations that could suffer.

The same problem afflicts the Christian book industry. But another problem serves to double the damage, and that is the church. I will go out on a limb here and say that the church doesn’t teach the Bible anymore. They just teach opinions about the Bible. Pastors, priests and rabbis have (in general) made themselves into champion ear-ticklers. They have convinced themselves that no one wants the truth, because the truth may not fill the pew or the offering plate. The lure of a bigger paycheck, a mega-church or a spot on late night talk shows is too strong for most of them.

Obviously, the Bible is the champion bestseller in history, so why would we back away from teaching it? Money and ego, again. It is easier to write and sell a book catering to the latest fad or to sentiment than it is to take the time to learn and teach the Bible or anything from it. You also don’t (seemingly or immediately) get very far with Bible teachings because those require humility to learn and teach.

Fortunately, God doesn’t need the world’s systems (including the worldly church) to get His Word out. One way or another He gets the job done. His Spirit is causing all sorts of people all over the world to wake up and embrace the pure, plain, soul-saving teachings of the Lord of Life. We may or may not be able to sell a single book, but His work goes on and on for eternity. His holy, just and life giving will is being done, and you can come along for the ride if you want. A bookstore could find that the difference between bankruptcy and success lies in the radical marketing concept of the Book that beats all others. Publishers would see fewer reverses if they would just commit to serving up the meat of the Word instead of the bland, nutrition-less saccharine they insist on providing at the present time. If we submit to His Word we find that judgment for finding what really matters comes roaring back.

The bookstore, the publisher, and the church/synagogue are sowing the seeds of their own demise. Blame Amazon if you want and it makes you feel better. But you might want to look in the mirror instead.

Shalom
Bruce

Whole Bible Christianity, The Book

Our book Whole Bible Christianity has finally been published! It is on Amazon at this link:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0997501413/ref=wl_it_dp_o_pC_nS_ttl?_encoding=UTF8&colid=1DQVER67Q2HMX&coliid=I1RPTLB6JQO1FI

There is a Look Inside feature, you can flip between the front and back cover, and it is only $19.50. If you would prefer, we will have the entire text on a web page when we update our website so you can read it online.

The book has about 800 direct quotes from the Word, around 1,500 entries in the Scripture Index, and is about 340 pages. One of the many uses of the book is as a handbook for whole Bible Christians everywhere who need a reference to help counter attacks against a whole Bible lifestyle. Chapter 7 deals with a bunch of the objections to following God’s living oracles, and chapter 8 has a list of blessings from doing what Jesus says.

Let us know what you think, and make sure to post a review on Amazon if you would be so kind.

Shalom
Bruce

A Whole Bible Look At Romans 9 through 12

The third video in our Romans series is up, and I’ll bet you’ve never heard Romans this way!

Shalom
Bruce

What If God Were A Linebacker?

Hey there sports fans, time for a reprint of an article I wrote a while back thinking about God as a linebacker. Definitely wouldn’t get picked last!

Can you imagine if God was a linebacker on an opposing football team you were playing? If you were a quarterback, would you want to try and pump fake? You certainly couldn’t fake a hand off, and you couldn’t fool Him with misdirection or a man in motion. You could never check off on the line and audible a change in the play. No matter what you changed it to, He would know. Maybe you could hand off to the running back, but where would he go? How would you pass to the dump-off receiver if the other receivers were covered? Even if the receivers had moves that made a ballerina cry, wherever they went God would be standing there in front of them waiting for the ball. You wouldn’t want to try a long snap for a punt or a field goal because He would probably be fast enough to intercept that, too.

Blocking would be a problem, to say the least. Even if He stood still long enough or slowed Himself down so you could get a hand on Him, you wouldn’t stand a chance of stopping Him. He’d be in the backfield holding the quarterback up by the legs quicker than you could say, “make a wish.” Facing Him across the line of scrimmage would be no picnic. He wouldn’t even have to insult your mother or cast aspersions on your ancestry to intimidate you. If He just smiled at you you’d have to change your shorts (again). He’d always know the snap count, and could beat you off the ball like you had roots. He’d plug any hole you opened for the running back, if He felt like letting the running back get that far. If He were to hit you, you might even live to tell about it after all the bells stopped ringing.

What would His stats be? Ten feet tall, weighing 600 pounds and running the 40 in “we didn’t even get the stopwatch started?” Would He be able to bench press His own weight? With each hand? Each finger? Without even breaking a sweat? Would He even sweat? Would His cleats leave marks you could plant trees in? But He wouldn’t need cleats, because wherever the ball went He’d already be there. He’d give a whole new meaning to the saying “He got skills.”

Or maybe He’d just be an undersized rabbi, not much to look at. Maybe He wouldn’t even “hit” very hard, especially if you were having a bad day. He’d just somehow manage to “move through the crowd” and be wherever the ball was, frustrating you to no end. You might wonder how He moved so fast in those robes He wore, but you wouldn’t even think about making fun of Him for wearing a dress. You’d probably want to knock that silly little cap off His head, but He wouldn’t hold still long enough to let you. He’d just smile and pat you on the back and say, “Keep on trying, my son!”

How would His contract be structured? Would He even need the money? Shoot, the team owner probably wouldn’t need all those other high priced defensive players, so you could give Him at least all the money for the other ten guys that used to be on defense. He would never get an injury (like anybody could hit Him hard enough!), so He wouldn’t need backups, and you could give Him all that money too. The other teams might even chip in money if they didn’t have to play against Him!

If He played “iron man” (iron God?) football (both offense and defense) all that money could go to His salary too. You wouldn’t need trainers, medical supplies, equipment to cool Him off, or equipment to warm Him up. He could probably play without pads or a helmet. You wouldn’t need coaches, front office personnel, or draft picks to be named later. You wouldn’t even need the draft because He lives forever!

Really though, who would play against Him? Would you have to draft Satan and all his demons? I bet they wouldn’t even enter the draft. They know better; they played against Him in college and got hammered. He made a show of them openly, and since then they haven’t been able to show their faces in public. And that was when they had the game rigged, the officials bought and paid for, and God was playing with injuries. No way would they attempt a contest where He didn’t have a sizeable handicap. But even if He looked handicapped they would still be suspicious, because of the beating they took before when they thought they had Him nailed.

Maybe He would only have to play one game a season. Would we just hand Him the Super Bowl trophy (and all the money) at the beginning of the season? Or would the other teams play each other, with the “winner” having to play the team with God on it? Wouldn’t that make the games more interesting! Imagine how desperate your team would be to lose! Ow, ow, ow, my hamstring suddenly acted up! To heck with the money, just don’t make me play against God in the Super Bowl! Or any Bowl for that matter!

How would the gamblers handicap the games? Who would bet? Even Satan wouldn’t be that stupid. The whole gambling industry for football would be wiped out. Not a dollar to be made anywhere, nobody going to the poor house for making sucker bets. Louie the leg breaker would be out of a job because nobody would need to be “encouraged” to pay gambling debts. Sports related crime would evaporate. No games to fix, no referees to buy, no players to corrupt. The television contract would be worthless, nobody would bid on it. The advertising dollars would have to be spent somewhere else.

Baseball would be shut down too, because God would have enough energy and skills to play both sports. Heck, He could probably play four or five sports every year and still not get tired. All that money would be His for the taking, that is, until people quit going to the games. Who would pay hundreds of dollars to see a game with their families when they already know who would win? We wouldn’t need to build stadiums or maintain them, and billions of dollars could be saved on freeway modifications to handle all the traffic. There would be more open space and we could plant more trees (in His cleat marks if He had cleats).

And the endorsements! Would you see His picture on a box of Wheaties? Would Mormon-owned Coke and secular Pepsi play “Can you top this?” until a new monetary record was reached? Or would He be shunned because He was pro-life, anti-gay, and didn’t celebrate Christmas? Do you think He could be induced to allow beer and automobile makers the rights to use His image for Budweiser or Ford? I can’t imagine Him leaping in the air for joy at the thought of owning a Toyota. Who would argue against Him if He said it was less filling? What would happen if He merely said He preferred not to drink beer? Would the beer industry immediately go out of business because no one would buy it? He certainly wouldn’t need money, so what else would they use to get Him to sign?

Maybe kids would idolize Him by plastering His posters all over their bedrooms. Would they want to play the same position? Would they even play sports knowing they could never beat Him or beat Him out of His position? Maybe they would start to walk like Him, dress like Him, and talk like Him. They would probably want to know what He ate and what His favorite TV shows were so they could be “just like” Him. Perhaps the whole kid’s sports structure would disappear. Soccer Moms would be a thing of the past. Parents wouldn’t have to pay all that money, scream, or kill each other over a child’s game. Test scores would go up, and athletes would have to actually work for their grades and plan on a productive career in something useful, like say, teaching.

Maybe, if He were here in physical form, playing linebacker, a lot of things would change. Maybe, the world would be a better place, with money spent on more important things. Maybe, we would see the folly of our ways. Maybe, just maybe………nya-a-a-ah.

Shalom
Bruce Scott Bertram