Communion . . .

A few days back I got a text from my little sister, Dorothy. She asked a short question, “Do we know anything about Luke’s conversion?” That girl has the gift of making me think. Her question did, indeed, put me to thinking and embarrassed to realized that I actually knew very little about him, so I have spent several days researching and studying what is known about Luke . . . the author of two Bible books . . . the Gospel that bears his name (as in ‘The Gospel according to Luke,’ and The Acts of The Apostles.

Luke

The simple truth is that we really know very little about Luke . . . before or even after he came to know Jesus. Church history and some Bible scholars say that Luke was a Syrian doctor who was converted to Christianity when the first missionaries left the Jerusalem and Caesarea communities to take the Gospel beyond the borders of the Jewish country. They say that soon after conversion, Luke left his homeland to accompany the Apostle Paul in his journeys.

He is believed to have arrived in Rome, the capital of the then-known world, where he stayed for at least two years. It is said by some that it was at Rome he met Peter and Mark who were said to be preaching among the Christians in Rome. I argue that Peter’s having ever traveled to Rome is a Catholic myth to support their claim the he was the first Pope. There is no historical or Biblical evidence that I can find anywhere to support Peter having ever visited Rome.

When Luke wrote the Gospel that bears his name, various texts containing deeds and miracles of Jesus were available to him, the same texts which Mark and Matthew had used. In his travels, he had also picked up other stories that came from Jesus’ first disciples. These stories were preserved in the oldest churches of Jerusalem and Caesarea.

On this we have the witness of his first paragraph (1:1-4): he was concerned with finding the testimonies of the first ministers of the Word, which of course were the apostles.

Then it would be wrong to think that Luke wrote long after the events, as some people say, and that he elaborates on things he doesn’t know. Though the last believed corrections to his gospel were done about the year 70, the bulk is much older. This is the case specifically for the first two chapters of Luke’s gospel telling us about Jesus’ infancy. They are said to be the almost word-to-word of a Hebrew or Aramaic writing from the first Christian generation, based on information which his mother Mary must surely have supplied.

Luke’s cultural background was Greek and he was writing for Greek people. He omitted several Marcan details, dealing with Jewish laws and customs which would have been hard for his readers to understand.  Luke saw in the Gospel the power of reconciling people with God and with one another. Therefore, he was concerned about giving us the parables of mercy and the words condemning money – a divisive factor between people. Likewise, Luke showed the very natural way Jesus treated women, who were completely marginalized by the world.

The Gospel of Luke has three sections:

– Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, 3:1–9:56;

– The journey to Jerusalem, 9:57–18:17;

– The arrival in Jerusalem and the passion, 18:18–23.

The last chapter on the apparitions of the risen Jesus will serve as an invitation to read the Book of Acts, which is a continuation of Luke’s writing.  What would the New Testament be like without the contributions of Luke, “the beloved physician”?  Most do not realize that he penned almost as much of the New Testament as the apostle Paul! Paul wrote more epistles—fourteen in all—but Luke wrote nearly as many words in his two books: Acts and the Gospel of Luke.

Ironically, Luke is mentioned only three times by name, and each of those times was by the apostle Paul (Colossians 4: 1 – 12, 2 Timothy 4: a, and Philemon 1: 24).  Luke never mentions his own name in his gospel account, in which he does not appear, nor in Acts, in which he plays a major role. The other gospels were written by eyewitnesses (Matthew, Mark, and John) to the events they record. Luke admits in the first verses of his account that he was not an eyewitness of the life of Christ, but carefully records what eyewitnesses reported to him and others (Luke 1:1-4).

We actually know very little about Luke the man, and that just adds to the fascination and mystery about this great and humble person. He no-doubt wanted it that way. Every indication we have suggests he shunned the spotlight. In his view, what he wrote was never about him but only about Christ or what Christ did through others.

Even though the Bible says little about Luke directly, we can put together a few pieces of the puzzle and assemble a fascinating portrait of this great writer and Christian.

Luke’s Life

Just as we do today, it was common practice in apostolic days to shorten names. Luke (or Lukas) is an abbreviation of the Gentile name Loukanos, which means “white.” Though it is not certain, some scholars believe that he and Titus were brothers, based on 2 Corinthians 8: 18. Actually, so very little is known about him that no one can positively state where he made his home, but most scholars feel it was in Philippi.

In the biblical narrative, Luke appears suddenly but unobtrusively among Paul’s companions in Troas. Acts 16:8 – 11 is written in such a way that the language changes from the third-person singular, “he,” speaking of Paul alone, to the first-person plural, “we,” when Luke joins in after he met Paul in Troas, possibly for the first time.

In Colossians 4:9-14 Luke is not included among those “of the circumcision” (verse 11), but along with Epaphras and Demas forms a group of Gentiles who assisted Paul in his travels and work. Many early Christian writers assert that Luke was converted directly from paganism, though others thought him to be a convert to Judaism, a Jewish proselyte, and later to Christianity.

We can also learn something about people by their writing styles. Luke is clearly a highly educated individual. As a physician, he would have studied a great deal more than medicine, including philosophy and classical literature. Bible commentators report Luke has the best command of the Greek language of any New Testament writer. Only the Greek used in the book of Hebrews approaches the quality of Luke’s writing.

Commentators call the gospel of Luke, “a work of high literary quality” (Unger’s Bible Dictionary). One scholar viewed Luke’s gospel as “the most beautiful book that has ever been written.” The subject matter as well as the author’s literary talent combine to give the book an interesting appeal and polish conspicuous in the New Testament.”

The Beloved Physician

Luke’s immediate service to God’s people comes as Paul’s personal “beloved physician” (Colossians 4: 14). Remember, Paul frequently needed a doctor’s ministrations. After all, even Jesus says that the sick need a physician (Luke 5: 3).  According to his own testimony in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, Paul relates how often he was beaten, whipped “above measure,” and/or imprisoned. He goes on to say he was once stoned and left for dead. We could also add to this list being shipwrecked three times and Paul’s consequent exposure. One time he spent a whole night and a day trying not to drown. No doubt, Luke’s trained hands and caring presence helped Paul recover from many of these severe beatings, open wounds and infections.

No wonder Paul calls Luke the “beloved” physician! Certainly, the Lord used Luke to help prolong Paul’s life and perhaps even to help him recover from serious illnesses. Luke may also have attended to Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (which I suspect was a problem with his eyes, and with his illness while among the Galatians). Luke’s later years are spent in Paul’s company away from Philippi: on the way to Jerusalem, at Caesarea, during the voyage to Rome, and of course in Rome itself. He is with Paul in Rome as Paul writes Colossians and Philemon. Luke is not only a physician to Paul, but he also becomes his personal assistant and friend.

In conclusion, the truth of the matter is that in one way we know much about Luke . . . he was a good, decent man; a skilled, dedicated medical doctor; was very smart; was totally devoted to the Lord Jesus Christ; was meek to the point of never drawing attention to himself; and was a valuable helper to Paul in his ministry. Then, on the other hand, we only know that he was a Greek convert, a Doctor, and he joins the mission team, and that he wrote two books in the New Testament.

The more I have researched and discovered about Luke, the more I like, admire, and appreciate about him. He puts me to mind of my dear friend, Charles Fake.

 

Gun Wars . . .

Gun Wars . . . April 2, 2018

Last weekend large numbers of high school kids were led, encouraged, financed, and coordinated by outside forces in a staged “March for our Lives” rally across America. Its basis was a recent school shooting in Florida, while totally ignoring a second shooting at a school in Maryland. The difference being the cowardly armed school guards (Deputy sheriffs) at the Florida school hid out in fear and allowed 17 kids to be murdered by a madman. However, the guard at the Maryland school acted bravely and quickly confronted the shooter and killed him on the spot. The organizers do not want armed officers on campuses, so they ignore that incident.

The sources staging said march want to abolish guns in the USA . . . and are willing to use any and all means to accomplish their objective. These kids are simply available and have proven to be willing. These folks paint the NRA as some hellish, evil organization that is dedicate to murder. Nothing is further from the truth. The NRA is an Association made up of millions of law-abiding, tax-paying, church-going Americans who love America and want to protect the 2nd Amendment, as well as their families and homes.

Here are a few truths on the matter:

  1. There has never been a single report of a single NRA member who committed a mass murder (but an NRA member who lived near the church outside of San Antonio actually stepped forward in an emergency and used his gun to kill the Church shooter);
  2. There are five times more people killed in America by knives . . . than there are by rifles. The most recent FBI data shows that in 2016, there were 374 murders committed using rifles in the entire United States. That includes so-called “assault rifles.” However, a stunning 1,604 murders were committed using knives or cutting weapons. Even hands, fists, and feet were used to kill more often than rifles: Criminals committed 656 murders using just their body.
  3. It’s also true that over 86 percent of the 20,000 police chiefs and sheriffs in America do not support repealing concealed carry permits, but rather support gun ownership, nor do they support more gun control measures.
  4. Banning a particular gun is not the answer . . . it simply starts a chipping away of rights. Changing age limits by three years is not really an answer . . . because there haven’t been many cases of under-21 shooters . . . again, it simply starts a chipping away of rights.

There’s a good reason for that: As concealed-carry has become more common in America, the country has become more safe. Do you know that there has been an amazing 215 percent increase in concealed carry permits between 2007 and 2015? During the same time period, there was a 14 percent decrease in the murder rate. In fact, violent crime has been cut in half since about 1990, yet the media constantly acts as if violence is spiraling out.

It seems to me . . . that emotion is a terrible substitute for truth. It is even a poorer substitute for facts. These folks are trying to put a face on murder . . . and calling it the NRA.

There was a time in history where the bigger, stronger, and meaner men could terrorized smaller, weaker, and more gentle men. They could take his goods, property, and even his wife and daughters at will. Then Samuel Colt invented and built the hand-gun . . . . the Peace Maker . . . and leveled the playing field. It was no longer a matter of the biggest and strongest . . . it became a matter of fastest. Now, these goofy people are wanting to get everyone to take their weapons and toss them into the river. Think about where that would leave us as a society . . . that is not lacking in big, bad, mean, and evil characters . . .

Well, now I have put my 2-cents into the debate . . .

Hurricane Assistance by the Feds . . .

The following is a statement in a news report critical of hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico as compared to that in Texas:

No two hurricanes are alike, and Harvey and Maria were vastly different storms that struck areas with vastly different financial, geographic and political situations. But a comparison of government statistics relating to the two recovery efforts strongly supports the views of disaster-recovery experts that FEMA and the Trump administration exerted a faster, and initially greater, effort in Texas, even though the damage in Puerto Rico exceeded that in Houston.
The article is correct that the response was better in Texas, but fails to address the reason, so I will. The truth of the matter is that Puerto Rico (PR) has long been a troublesome area . . . financial irresponsibility, crime, greed and corruption, and reckless behavior. The Federal government has thrown great amounts of money that way for many years, and nothing has changed. PR wants the money and that’s it. The electrical grid in PR was old, outdated, and over-loaded. The Corp of Engineers had been trying to get PR to take some responsibility and assist with upgrades for years; PR was simply not interested . . . they simply wanted to wait and have the U. S. taxpayers pay for it all.

Here is the cold hard truth . . . when you have done all you can do . . . you have done all you can do . . . move on.
A parent wants to deal with his or her children equally and in the same impartial manner, but when one child goes to school, applies himself, and works responsibility in building a foundation for a good life while the other child goes in the opposite direction, it must alter the parent’s dealings with the pair. The one child lives hard, fast, and lose . . . and on the edge . . . using street-drugs and such, gifts received from the parent are used in a pawn shop to get money to support his continued misbehavior . . . the parent must set some boundaries. It is not even reasonable for the parent to punish the hard-working kid because of the rebellious kid. That is exactly the difference between federal disaster assistance to Texas and that to PR following the hurricanes.

The sad truth is that the U.S. acquired PR as a territory after the Spanish American War (1898), and over a period of some 120 years, things are still very complicated. PR declines statehood and refuses to comply with reasonable rules after getting money from Uncle Sam, refuses to honor contracts, and such. And worst of all, fails to improve the standard of living on the island. There is a large percentage of the population in PR living in housing funded by the U.S. government. In fact, that small island has a greater number of assisted dwellings than does the entire state of Texas . . . think about that . . . Houston, Dallas, Ft. Worth, El Paso, the Lower Rio Grande Valley, the Golden Crescent area, San Antonio . . . you are talking about a large amount of housing.
I am sure that the amount of food stamps used in PR exceeds the per capita levels of most states. Some things simply cannot be fixed! When you have done all you can do . . .

 

Monday, March 26, 2018 . . . was a Very Big day on the Big Board . . .

Dow Jones up 669 points

. . . S& P up 70

. . . Gold closed at $1,353.02

. . . Oil was at $65.59

The reason: China has agreed to trade-talks with the USA. Pretty crazy that they have been applying a 25% tax on American-made autos shipped into China for years . . . and our leaders remained silent. Yet, President Trump recently imposed steep tariffs on China and other trading partners on a number of metals, and now China wants to negotiate. Many speculators cried ‘foul’ and warned about a trade-war in the making. Trump just keeps proving his critics wrong on all things financial . . .

It seems that we might well see some adjustments and perhaps a more level playing field on world markets.

I watch the markets as a matter of due diligence. I am one of several people who oversees a rather large series of investments for an organization.

Crime . . . Penalty . . . and Justice (or the lack thereof)!

Let me begin by first declaring that I am a law-and-order guy. When I was a younger man, there was a TV series about a scrappy, big city detective who was very unorthodox in his law enforcement approach to crime, but he got the job done. The series was called Baretta. One of his famous statements to criminals was, “Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time!”

Society today is plagued with crime and mayhem and the masses are looking to the government for a solution . . . which it does not have. The real truth is that government cannot legislate morality. All it could possibly do is ensure that punishment fits the crime . . . that is an age-old, proven deterrent.

The photo is of a gallows used in frontier America. It was a brutal form of punishment . . . but it gave sensible people pause about crime. As an example in that era, folk’s horses were essential. They used the horse to plow their fields, clear their land, transport themselves, their families, and their goods. The penalty for stealing a man’s horse was hanging by the neck until dead! Sound harsh? Perhaps . . . but the truth of the matter was that without such a harsh penalty, a man could not have kept a horse. Why? Human nature.

The reason why mayhem abounds today is the lack of penalty to match the crime. Today, a bad guy enters a school and murders a bunch of kids and the government spends $50M on a trial . . . $30M to prosecute him and $20M on his defense . . . and at the conclusion gives him a lifetime of freedom from responsibility, from paying taxes, free room-and-board, medical services. Do you see a pattern? You want to argue about the loss of personal freedom. Get real . . . many people have no appreciation of, nor for, freedom. Do a little research on the recidivism rates (within 3 years, 67% of those released from prison are arrested . . . within 5 years, over 75% are arrested).

A reasonable person understands that human nature is not inclined toward good nor God. The Bible says “the heart is deceitful about all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17: 9). Romans 3: 11 says, “There is none that understands, there are none that seeks after God.”  These are but two citations from the Book that openly declares an indictment against mankind . . . yet also declared that there is a righteous, holy God . . . who loves man . . . and has an eternal cure from his wicked nature. The Bible clearly declares that all can be saved . . . one at a time . . . but there is not a universal salvation which is a myth of utopia.

Outside of that precious truth, the only reasonable action of human government in response to and reply for crime is to have laws that are properly enforced . . . and when they are broken, there must be punishment . . . swift, fairly, and matched to the evil done. The wise person understands that human government is not the solution to the evil in the world today . . . in fact, I would argue that it is a large part of the problem. Our government is divided into three branches . . . the Executive, the Legislative, and the Judicial. Let me show you how it plays into the evil of humankind:

The Executive Branch is totally corrupt . . . a party that spends $100M helping a man get a job that pays $400K per year . . . and I don’t believe there has been one single moral man hold the office in the past 25 years. The current office-holder is being accused openly of gross immorality.

Did you know that the government uses taxpayer dollars to provide syringes to addicts . . . at street sites where drugs are illegally sold? In fact, 158 countries worldwide reported people who inject drugs, and 90 of these countries implement a needle-and-syringe program; the USA being one of them.

Did you know that there is a government program that openly provides birth-control measures to students.  In Portland, Maine, the school board extended the service to middle-school students . . . with no required notification to parents!

Did you know that the government pays for cigarettes to be distributed to nursing home patients?

It almost seems as if the government has decided its best solution is to come alongside fractured individuals and seek to help hurry along their demise.

The Legislative Branch is made up of imperfect people who have seriously flawed views of the nation. That group is so at war within itself that little can be agreed upon. This bunch of clowns are the very ones who appropriate the money for the Executive branch to hand out birth-control to children and syringes to street drug-users, and cigarettes to the infirmed. The Judicial branch is an absolute mess . . . and has handed down some of the most hare-brained decisions imaginable . . . abortion-on-demand (calling it a woman’s right to choose), prohibiting both God and His Holy Word the school house, burning the US flag in protest . . . teaching evolution to our children . . . and the list goes on and on!

The tragic result is that for a generation . . . kids have been taught they originated in a pond with no certain beginning . . . they have no notion of what happens at death or where they go . . . so why should we really be surprised over their developing an attitude of it doesn’t matter what they do while they are here?

Having said that . . . permit me to add that human history is actually playing out pretty much as it has long been predicted. The real truth is that we all began as goats, but God has lovingly converted some of us into sheep. There is a day coming on which the Master of the universe, the righteous Judge, will separate the sheep and the goats!  Even so, come now Lord Jesus!

We truly are in a mess and Hollywood-led marches will not cure the problem. That bunch of pukes have dirty hands in bringing America to this troubled place.

Let him that have ears . . . believe!

Courage . . . in the Face of Danger . . .

Recently there have been two guys who showed up at a school with a gun intent on doing harm to others. Of course they were different schools . . . one in Florida and the other in Maryland. There was an armed-guard at each school. The armed guard at the Florida school hunkered down and never even entered the building or drew his weapon. The killer walked away leaving behind 14 dead kids and 3 dead adults . . . and a school full of emotionally-damaged kids. The guard in Maryland acted quickly and decisively . . . and when the dust settled the only dead person was the one who came to kill.   There were, however, two students injured. There is no way of knowing how many lives were saved.

Here is the hard truth: If one wears the uniform, he is honor-bound to serve, protect, and defend. Here is a great quote from a really brave American hero:

“If we take the generally accepted definition of bravery as a quality which knows no fear, I have never seen a brave man. All men are frightened. The more intelligent they are, the more they are frightened.”  ― George S. Patton

But in spite of that truth, many find the courage to stand in the gap for the rest of us. Some do it in a patrol car, some do it in an airplane, others in a tank, many on a ship at sea, some standing on a wall, and others in a fox hole.

God bless our folks who protect us, our homes, and our way of life. I am thankful that the President and Congress gave them a pay increase this week . . . but I would argue that it ain’t neatly enough . . . especially in a society that wants to pay a kid $15 an hour to flip burgers at McDonald’s!

A Witness . . .

I teach a great Sunday school class and have for a number of years. Tomorrow’s lesson comes from 1 Corinthians 9. It is in that chapter where the Apostle Paul writes of his great passion for sharing the Gospel message with every person he can find. He said, “I become all things to all men in order that I might save some.”  Of course Paul knew that he could not save anyone . . . not even himself, but he knew the One who could save them. That was the One of whom he spoke and wrote so much. I would, using today’s terms, translate Paul’s declaration as being, “I am simply a nobody, telling everybody about somebody who can save anybody . . . His name is Jesus!”

I spoke with a lady at the pool recently who had a peculiar view of life. She told me of her life-long struggle with alcohol and immoral living (she is like 80-years-of-age). She declared that she now had it all under control and that she faithfully “attended AA meetings.”  As she spoke about her turnaround she declared that she had discovered the “higher power.”  That mindset always saddens me . . . one believing that there is a guiding force, yet unwilling to put a name on it. I told her, “Ruby, dear lady, you have a prearranged, predetermined appointment with Jesus at some point in the not too distant future . . . it would be so much better for you if you knew Him before you meet Him.”

She smiled and said, “That was nicely stated,” but was unwilling to take the step of faith that is required. Of course, I would really like to see the poor lady get to that place, but that is not mine to decide. I, like Paul (and you, too) am only responsible to be a witness. A witness is simply one who tells what he knows or has seen or has experienced. I can serve as a witness simply because I have accepted Christ and have been forgiven and redeemed. Actually, I am compelled and commanded to serve as a witness of my experience (you are, too).

I once heard it described as “One beggar telling other beggars which door they could knock upon to receive free bread” . . . It Seems to me . . . that describes it perfectly

Terms of Endearment . . .

In most any relationship we tend to develop a private language. We have our inside jokes, our frequently used phrases, and our nicknames. A nickname is a fun, playful way to express your feelings for your mate, friend, sibling, and other loved ones and establish a level of familiarity and comfort in the relationship. These terms of endearment run the gamut from classic to cute to bizarre. Pet names like “sweetheart” and “honey” have been around for hundreds of years. Sandy has me in the address book of her phone as “Honey” . . . when I call her, her phone flashes my photo and ID’s the caller as Honey. She has both Chris and Courtney identified in a similar fashion. Chris has Courtney in his phone as “Sissy.”

Popular terms also vary greatly from culture to culture. In France you might dub your partner a “little cabbage” (petit chou), in the Arabic-speaking world your beauty could be compared to that of a gazelle (ghazal), and in Thailand you might be a “little elephant” (chang noi).

There are a number of new expressions of how much one person vows to love another person . . . “to the moon and back” is one such declaration (I have only heard it used by women).

My favorite of all time is that of 5-year-old Abi . . . and it is uniquely her very own . . . when she says, “Pappy, I love you in the whole world and all ‘Merica” . . . my heart soars like an Eagle.

 

The Ruination of a Good and Decent Man . . . a Public Servant . . .

At the start of this week, former FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom suggested to Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo that former President Barack Obama and former CIA Director John Brennan committed felonies . . . and not Gen. Michael Flynn. Kallstrom said that “high-ranking people throughout the government . . . had a plot to not have Hillary Clinton indicted so that she could remain “the flawed candidate that she was,” RCPreported. Kallstrom cited text messages from anti-Trump FBI agent Peter Strzok as evidence that the administration “had a backup plan to frame Donald Trump.” “They are the people who committed felonies, not the general,” Kallstrom suggested, apparently referring to Brennan and Obama. “They’ve ruined [Flynn] — and because they threatened his son, you know, they bankrupted this guy that gave his life to this country.” Read more at http://trumptrainnews.com/articles/report-obama-admin-committed-felonies-not-flynn#rrLpjVxoR7JoXHmC.99

I was a Democrat for most of my life . . . and I am now embarrassed over that. The sad truth is that everything God is in favor of . . . they loudly oppose . . . and everything God is against . . . they love, support, and embrace.

Confusion . . .

I read about a lady who recently won the Powerball . . . $445 million . . . the poor lady’s life is about to become quite difficult. I am reminded of a quote from C. S. Lewis:

“One of the dangers of having a lot of money is that you may be quite satisfied with the kinds of happiness money can give and so you fail to realize your need for God. If everything seems to come simply by signing checks, you may forget that you are at every moment totally dependent on God.” — C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Is it possible to forget that one simply cannot sign a check without God granting you the ability to raise your hand, take a pen in hand, and process thought?