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

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

A Whole Bible, Paul’s Teachings: Stepmother, Passover, Circumcision

We are now up to 87 videos on our Youtube channel and over 1,000 views (total) covering nine chapters of our book Whole Bible Christianity and a few other topics. Yay! We’re working on the tenth chapter scripts now, which will be longer than just what is in the book and include more helpful biblical information on application of the Word to daily living. In the meantime, take a look at this video we are highlighting today.

Usually we hear that Paul converted to Christianity, except there was no Christianity such as we know it today in his time. He was a model of a Law-following Jew. He never stopped abiding in His Messiah’s Word. He taught the Law, filled with the Spirit and love, as it was intended – a lifestyle and discipleship method. See our video Whole Bible Objections: Paul Says It’s Okay, Can’t Do, It’s A Curse. Many of his teachings have been sliced and diced and taught differently. But when we just read the Word, we can see he held to the ancient, unified message of the Father and Jesus.

Paul doesn’t make up any new commandment for stepmoms in 1 Corinthians 5:1-2. He certainly doesn’t cherry-pick nor does he apply only the law he chooses. Not only does he say that the Corinthians should be following this Law, he implies it is a natural fact everyone (even the non-believing Gentiles) knows. In other words, God’s people should at least have the sense God gave a pagan. He also gives the punishment for the sin outlined in Torah – “purge the evil from among you.” (Deuteronomy 13:5, 17:7, 12, 21:21, 22:21). Later, it looks like they were “obedient in all things” (2 Corinthians 2:1-11) although they didn’t stone the guy with the stepmom wife because we don’t have the power of capital punishment. Our alternative is from Matthew 18 – confront for repentance and cast out if we have to.

In 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 it is obvious that the meal is the Passover (verse 23 “the night (our Lord) was betrayed”). The misnamed “Lord’s Supper” is in reality the Passover before His crucifixion (Matthew 17:7; Mark 14:12; Luke 22:8, 15). It is not communion. This is a problem for those who insist on separating the Law into civil, ceremonial, and moral sections. The Passover is clearly ceremonial in their view. But the Corinthians (and probably the rest of the “church”) are celebrating the feast. The reason we don’t spot this is because it is taught wrongly that they are celebrating some sort of “communion” ceremony.

The issue with circumcision is the same as other places, which is that circumcision doesn’t save anyone. Never has, never will. Becoming a Jew or following some Laws does not save a person and never has. A person follows the Laws because they are saved. In other words, a person following God by faith is justified. Circumcision is a sign after the fact (as in Genesis 17).

Keep three things firmly in mind as you are reading Paul’s writings. One is that he doesn’t downgrade or speak negatively about God’s Law. Ever. But like his Messiah he’s not so fond of man’s laws. Two is that the Law was never meant to save anyone. Law was added as a guidepost because of transgressions increasing (see our video A Whole Faith: Continuous through Generations). Israel was “saved” first then given instruction on living a saved life. Three is that the word “law” can mean any law including natural law, Roman law, God’s Law, man’s traditions especially Jewish ones, and physical laws. Law is improperly thought of as a legal relationship to earn merit which can be traded for salvation.

If you don’t like the Law and have been trained to reject it, then Paul’s writings will look anti-Law. However, if you have a heart of flesh with His Law written on it, then Paul’s writings are easy to understand and completely fit in with the rest of Scripture.

Shalom,
Bruce

Passover 2014

We are getting ready for our lamb barbecue tomorrow night, looking forward to spending time showing love for God by doing as He commands His people to do. We touch God and touch each other in an intimate fellowship that goes way past the physical markers and deep into a spiritual connection. His love flows to us, and our love flows back and between. We remember what God has done for His people, is doing, and will do. Remember means to speak or act on behalf of someone, which is why we can “remember” the future promises of God.

Some are speaking of the “blood moons” that will appear on this Passover and the Tabernacles celebration this year, as well as the same two holidays next year. I’m not big into that stuff, but it probably has some significance. Coupled with the increase in earthquakes, volcanic activity, and cultural degradation, we can definitely see that labor pains for the world are increasing. Maintaining our love for God through His commands is coming under attack at a greater intensity, but He said a “falling away” would happen before the end. Therefore be encouraged and keep your faith strong, standing on the Rock of His Word and our Savior Jesus the Christ.

I feel sorry for those who do not participate in God’s holidays, either because they just don’t follow God or because they classify His living oracles as “old” or “outdated” or for another group besides believers. Paradise awaits a change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, sensitive and trembling at His Word. All it takes is humble obedience to find out the nature of real love and spiritual renewal and refreshment. I feel sorry for those who choose their own way, like Cain, substituting their own understanding for God’s Word and offering slovenly disobedience through physical symbols such as ham and bunnies. The symbols show the disobedience in the balance of their lives, corrupt and unclean and spurning the love that is waiting. Compromise shows its fruit in sexual immorality and unfruitfulness through acceptance of behavior God said would cause death. No wonder they are known for hypocrisy. One cannot practice hate for God in trashing His commands and expect God to accept the resulting uncleanness using the cosmic eraser of Jesus. If we harbor iniquity in our hearts, our offerings mean nothing. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Rejoice, children of God. Look up for our redemption draweth nigh. Stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Pursue righteousness through humble submission to every word of His glorious instructions. Hold fast to the hope He has given, practicing as best we can every tiny utterance from our loving God and Savior Jesus our Messiah. Eat His body and drink His blood, taking in every breath from God through His Word and breathing it back to Him. Rejoice as our meager offerings of obedience gain His regard and we find acceptance in Him because of our love and practice of His Word.

Shalom
Bruce

New vid: Living in the New Testament Synagogue

Hot off the computer, a new video looking at the New Testament synagogue and what they used for a daily living guide. The New Testament wasn’t compiled and accepted until about 200 A.D., so in the meantime what did the New Testament synagogue use?

Just a little curve to help with the biblical thinking processes.

Shalom
Bruce

Video the Second: Our Second Youtube video

I probably won’t keep posting these, but they’re so useful I want to make sure people get the word. Our youtube channel is wholebible if you want to bookmark it. This video is on Reintroducing Whole Bible Christianity. If you’ve been reading the book you’ll notice right away that it provides much of the text for these videos. Just another format to get the word out about the Word.

Shalom

Great. Joseph Prince, Mega putz, er, pastor

Wonderful. Another traveling “pastor” of a huge church (30,000 member Singapore church) preaching a part-Bible message is making his way around the U.S. What are his qualifications? He’s pastor of a big church, that’s what. He reaches “over 680 million households in over 200 countries” with a TV show. He’s got a book titled The Power of Right Believing, 7 Keys to Freedom from Fear, Guilt and Addiction. His influences are Kenneth Hagan and Watchman Nee. So this must mean he’s okay, right?

Not to my way of thinking. The only thing that qualifies a preacher’s messages is whether or not they are biblical. All you have to do is listen to Joseph Prince for about 5 minutes and you can tell he’s another big name with a false message. Which explains his popularity. So what is it about his message that doesn’t ring true? He’s another one that separates law and grace. He talks about “heavy rules and regulations” weighing him down when he was younger and that “grace” set him free. This might be true, but the rules weren’t God’s rules. The yoke of the Father and the Messiah is easy and the burden is light. This yoke is none other than His Word. All of His Word. Including the “rules and regulations.”

He speaks of “rules and regulations” as negative things (in particular God’s rules and regulations), then comes up with his own rules and regulations. He’s got seven “rules and regulations” or “keys” in the book, none of which are in the Bible (at least, not the way he teaches them). They are: 1. Believe in God’s love for you. 2. Learn to see what God sees. 3. Receive God’s complete forgiveness. 4. Win the battle for your mind. 5. Be free from self-occupation (change to “Christ occupation”). 6. Have a confident expectation of good. 7. Find rest in the Father’s love.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Except the goal is to listen to him, not the Word. God’s Laws accomplish all those things (without having to buy Joseph’s book), simply by doing God’s rules and regulations in the Spirit with a heart of flesh. Read the New Covenant, and it doesn’t mention a word about 7 Keys. It does, however, mention God’s Laws written on a heart of flesh by the Spirit.

Mr. Prince says “Jesus did not come to give us more laws.” Well, that’s true. First, it’s because the Laws were already there. He came to rip away false interpretations (or 7 keys) that cover over His laws and prevent people from reaching the kingdom. Second, Jesus for sure didn’t mean for us to reject His Laws then come up with 7 keys either. What this guy, and many like him, are saying is, “Hey. Don’t listen to God’s Laws. Listen to mine.” He is like a Pied Piper in sheep’s clothing, softly and gently leading away from God’s Word. For those of us who follow God’s living oracles (as Stephen called them in Acts 7:38) it is easy to hear his Piper music is discordant and out of tune with what Jesus delivered to us. Jesus said His will and the Father’s will were the same. The words He spoke were the Father’s words. Jesus didn’t eliminate the Law, He eliminated tradition that was interfering with the Word of life.

This guy is wrong on so many levels. He uses part of the Bible, mixed with his interpretations, to lead away from the Word. For instance, he says that Jesus was preaching “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” to a bunch of Jews who knew the law. Therefore the Law was the problem. But actually, the Law was not the problem because God’s Law was not being lived. Jesus reminded them (and us) that His Law includes love and the Spirit. The Jews knew “laws” but not God’s Law. They had many “Keys” for living, but they were not God’s keys. The Jews were not living God’s Laws, they were living rabbi’s rulings. These rulings were much different than the living oracles. God’s living oracles had been obscured my “rabbi’s keys” just like Mr. Prince is obscuring them now by his own keys.

How in the world (pun intended) these mega-putz, er, mega-pastors think that we “simplify” by chucking God’s Law while adding to the Word with their own books and keys is beyond me. It doesn’t get any more simple that reading and doing the Word. We don’t need more keys. All we need is the will of Jesus which He got straight from our Father and is expressed in His “rules and regulations.” If you want to “see as God sees,” then you will see that His Law is good and holy. Observing His Laws is the way to change from self-occupation to “Christ occupation.” It’s what Jesus did. The focus then is on God, as it should be. Everything from God is good, and we find rest for our souls when we abide in His living Word. If you see God’s Laws only as “rules and regulations,” then I suggest you don’t see God at all.

Shalom

The Word of God Saves Us

Does the Law save us?

 

Lots of Christians say that the Law doesn’t save us. They hammer the point, mostly made plain by Paul, that salvation is by faith, not by works. Works, it is claimed, is doing something, including doing the Law. Therefore, according to this line of thinking, we shouldn’t follow Laws. The Law doesn’t save us. “It isn’t a salvation issue” as I’ve been told. A few modify this idea with the imaginary designations of civil, ceremonial, and moral and just say we don’t do the first two. Never mind that the Bible doesn’t do this, that everything God says is moral, and that they can’t tell you which commands are “only” civil or ceremonial. They are all linked together. There are other excuses too, but this summarizes the main points. But let’s go with their hammering for a moment.

 

It is true, of course, that salvation is by grace through faith. It is also true that it is a gift, and cannot be earned. It is received by accepting the finished work of Jesus in the crucifixion and resurrection. His blood pays the debt incurred by our sin. For our sake He who knew no sin was made sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). We cannot work for this. We can’t follow some rules then demand salvation as wages. That is what Paul is talking about. Merit versus a gift. Wages versus unearned wealth. We are not saved because we behave so well that we deserve it. While we were yet sinners Jesus died for us.

 

But what would these people say if I asked instead, “Does the Word of God save us?”

 

That kind of changes the dynamic, doesn’t it? Because in fact it is the Word of God that saves us. “God said let there be light.” He speaks, we accept His Word, and we are saved. By His Word He creates a new heart of flesh in us, and engraves His Word on it through the Spirit. We respond by abiding in that Word, eating and drinking His body and blood (the Word of God) on a daily, minute by minute basis.

 

Before you get too uptight about my characterization, remember also that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us” as John says in John 1:14. “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples” (John 8:31). “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). His Law and His Word are the same thing. The goal of the Law is the Christ (Romans 10:4). We cannot say we abide in His Word, that it is written on our heart of flesh, then get picky about which ones we’ll consent to follow, can we? Does such pickiness really go along with salvation?

 

The Word of God is life, it is moral, it is in civil laws and ceremonial laws, it is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword. He does not separate His Word into a sections that we can dismiss on a whim. That attitude is certainly a “salvation issue” in the negative sense.

 

So answer me, you who say the Law doesn’t save. Does the Word of God save us?

Father of Mercies, God of Comfort

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3–5, ESV)

 

It’s tough to find comfort in the middle of sadness, and it is usually tough to offer comfort too. My mother-in-law passed away recently after a few years of not knowing who her family was and not hardly being able to feed and dress herself. Comfort was a little easier in her case because she had lived a pretty full life. My dad died from a brain disease at 62, a nephew died by his own hand recently at 30, and a friend died from cancer a few years ago in middle age after adopting five children. A six year-old girl I know is fighting leukemia. I have trouble finding comfort in understanding sometimes, but I do find comfort in the Father of mercies and God of comfort.

 

Believers have comfort because we know this life is not all there is. Our hope is that we will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before. This life is hard and death abounds because of sin, but it’s not going to stay that way forever. God is righteous, just, merciful and loving and has offered us a way out of the eternal consequences of sin.

 

It is a comfort to realize in a way that we MUST die once in order to enter eternal life. Sometimes it happens sooner than we want, but it must happen. None of us is getting out of this alive. We have a resurrection hope, that even if we lose life in this age we will regain it in the next. It is a comfort that God is in control, and He knows what He is doing.

 

Pagans are a different story in the comfort department. It’s a super tragedy when someone dies without God. There is no hope there, except perhaps that we might be wrong, they really did have God, and maybe God will look with favor on them somehow. The other hope is that people will be moved to make their own position with God secure by accepting His mercy in the form of His only begotten Son Jesus the anointed.

 

Before we get uptight about bad things happening to good people, we really should make sure of our definitions of bad and good. We can take comfort in the fact that just because something feels bad doesn’t mean it really is. And we might think we are good, but is that really true? Are we really doing everything we can to pursue His kingdom? Yet even if we are good, we live in a sinful, wicked world and sometimes we suffer because of other people’s sin. In all of it believers find comfort that God is a God of reason and all things work together for good for those of us who love Him.

 

The bottom line is the mercy of God. We need to recognize that He doesn’t owe us anything. We owe Him everything. Pagans don’t acknowledge this (even though they owe Him everything too) so they have no comfort. Believers do, so we throw ourselves on His mercy and ask humbly for things to be different. If not, then we continue in comfort knowing that we are in the household of the Father of mercies. We suffer as sons and daughters of the most High God, brothers and sisters to the Messiah who makes adoption possible, and have the mercy of eternal life. In 10,000 years or so, we will look back on this life as a wisp of a memory, and only our walk with Him will remain.