Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Part Did You Play In Obtaining Your Salvation?

What is the Good News of the Gospel?

The Gospel is NOT that "God Loves You."  Its NOT that "He has a wonderful plan for your life."  Its NOT that "He is standing and knocking at the door of your heart hoping that you might invite Him in.

Here is a good  exposition of the Gospel (the Good News) by Joe Thorn as reproduced by Trevin Wax on May 30, 2011 in Gospel Definitions. 

“At its core, the Gospel is Jesus as the substitute for sinners. We could summarize the whole by saying that, in His life, Jesus lives in perfect submission to the will of God and He fulfills God's righteous standard (the law).  In His death on the cross, He quenches God’s wrath against sin, satisfying the sovereign demand for justice.  In his resurrection, He is victorious over sin and death.  All of this is done on behalf of sinners in need of redemption and offered to all who believe.  This is therefore very ‘good news.’

Jesus’ life is Good News, for His obedience to the Father and fulfillment of the law is for us.  While we, as sinners, fail to keep the law, Jesus was perfectly faithful. 

Jesus’ death is Good News because His death was (the) payment for our sin and by it we are cleansed from our guilt and released from condemnation.  

Jesus’ resurrection is Good News because His victory over death is ours and through it we look forward to a resurrection of our own.”  

Joe Thorn  

The focal point of this is that Jesus is the "substitute" in every aspect of our salvation.  

He lived a perfect, sinless life of obedience to His Father for us.
He died a horrible death on the cross and endured the wrath of His Father for us.
He was victorious over sin and death for us.

So the question is, What part did you have in your salvation?  What did you do to merit your forgiveness and eternal life?  What good have you done that God should show you favor?

The answer is NOTHING.  We were depraved.  We were destitute.  We were DEAD.  There is nothing any of us can do to merit God's favor.  There is no good that we can do to satisfy Him. 

The whole transaction was decreed by God the Father, before we were created.  It was secured by God, the Son, who is our SUBSTITUTE, while we were yet dead in sin.  And then God imputed His righteousness to our account and gave us new life through no merit of our own but because His Son paid the penalty for us.   

God's justice is satisfied.  That really is GOOD NEWS!


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Breath Of Satan

Here is a little timely and relevant, Southern California, local history lesson.

In 2014 we experienced something that occurs seasonally almost every year - strong wind storms that blow in from the desert east of Riverside and Orange counties.  But this year they were especially fierce.  Hundreds of huge, mature trees blew down all over our town.  Many roofs were destroyed.  It looked like a tornado swept through the area.

These terrible winds, in Southern California, are not (and I repeat "are NOT") "Santa Ana Winds."

Prior to the 1980s, almost every Southern California resident knew that.  It is odd that so few even remember that now.  Most locals, then, were quick to correct visitors who improperly identified them.  I even remember when weather reporters on local television stations made a point to correctly designate them by their proper name.

Now I understand how easy it is to be confused and misname the winds because of our locale; there is a city, here named Santa Ana and a river by the same name, which, by the way, some would say parallels the approximate path of the winds.

Santa Ana is the Spanish name for Saint Anna who was the alleged mother of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The name is a derivative of the Hebrew name, Hanna.  Incidentally, there is a neighbor city, Anaheim, which is a German name meaning Ana’s home.  The Ana of Anaheim is purported to be the same Ste..Anna.  
Neither are the winds named after the historic Mexican General who led the attack on the Alamo.  He might have been a blowhard but if the winds were named after him, they would have been spelled "Santa ANNA Winds."
The proper, historic name is "Santana Winds,"  If you lived in So. Cal. In the 1970s, you may remember Dr. George Fischbeck who was one of the first and most popular T.V. weathermen. He used the name, "Santana Winds," which was based on the "vientos de Satanas," or devil's breath. These devilishly hot and dry winds blow off the desert which was thought to be the home of the devil in early Southern California folklore.
So there you have it.  For the sake of the preservation of our local folk history, let’s try to be accurate.  The proper name is "SANTANA WINDS."


Monday, September 29, 2014

God Has Spoken

Has God ever spoken to you?  Has He ever revealed any new truth to you? 

Not long ago the subject matter of my pastor’s sermon was the reformation principle of “Sola Scriptura” which has to do with the sufficiency of Scripture as our only and supreme authority in all spiritual matters.  So one of the Hymns I selected for our congregational singing was “God Has Spoken By His Prophets.” 

Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds."

That passage inspired the theme and forms the outline for this great hymn; “God Has Spoken.”

Verse one starts with the declaration that God spoke His “unchanging Word,” in times past, through His prophets. 

Then, in verse two, the author takes us to “These last days.”  God’s revelation today is “By His Son,” who is far superior to and more excellent than all the ancient patriarchs and prophets.  He is the Living Word of God.

In verse three the writer tells us that God is still speaking today through the Spirit BUT then he quickly points us to the vehicle the Spirit of God uses, and that is “the ageless Word” of God.

Notice the recurring emphasis on the unchanging or ageless Word of God  in all three verses.  Everything God intended to reveal to us, in this world, about Him and our faith and practice in our relationship to Him has been revealed in His complete, unchanging Word.  It’s not that God can’t speak directly or reveal something different to us; it’s just that He doesn’t   In that divinely inspired Hebrews passage we are told that God HAS spoken. Furthermore, in Revelation, we are warned that we are not to add anything to or take anything from God’s Word because He is unchanging and His Word is established forever.  There is no new revelation.

1.      God has spoken by His prophets, Spoken His unchanging Word.
                        Each from age to age proclaiming God, the One, the righteous Lord.
            In the world’s despair and turmoil One firm anchor hold us fast.
                        God is King, His throne eternal, God the First and God the Last.

2.      God has spoken by Christ Jesus.  Christ the everlasting Son.
Brightness of the Father’s glory, With the Father ever one.
            Spoken by the Word incarnate, God of God ere time was born.
                        Light of Light, to earth descending, Christ as God in human form.

3.      God is speaking by His Spirit, Speaking to our hearts again;
In the ageless Word expounding God’s own message, now as then.
            Through the rise and fall of nations One sure faith yet standing fast;
                        God abides, His Word unchanging, God the First and god the Last.


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Only God Is Awesome

Not long ago a friend and I were discussing how words degenerate.  Words mean things but when words begin to mean everything or anything, then they really don’t mean anything.

There is a word that I have been trying to erase from my casual vocabulary. That word “awesome'\” and it is one of the most misused words in our culture.  These days, anything vaguely exciting is described as awesome.  We use it as a synonym for “cool” or “impressive.”

But the biblical definition of the word means worthy of awe.  It implies an element of such great fear that it causes someone to fall flat on his face and worship. 

Movies are not awesome.  Cars are not awesome. My grandchildren are not awesome.  In and Out triple cheeseburgers with grilled onions?  Well maybe? Nope – Not awesome.  Not even my rhino collection is awesome.

The Bible tells us that awe is something reserved for God, and God alone:  Job 25:2 says, “Dominion and awe belong to God.”

In the English Standard version of the Scriptures, nearly every use of the word "awesome" is in reference to either God Himself, an aspect of His character, or something He has done.  God, in His Word clearly describes Himself as awesome because He is unique.  He is the ONLY One who is awesome. Scripture declares in many places, “There is none like Him.”

"There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides You; there is no rock like our God"
(1 Samuel 2:2).
"There is none like You, O LORD, and there is no God besides You, 
 (1 Chronicles 17:20).
"There is none like You, O LORD; You are great, and Your name is great in might"
(Jeremiah 10:6).

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why Some Christian Jokes Aren't Funny

Two fish swim into a concrete wall.   One turns to the other and says, 'dang.'"

 That's the sanitized version I heard from a blue-haired, red-lipped old Christian lady.  She laughed and laffed.  But I am notallowed2laff.  I didn't get it until I read this.

 Here is the original, unsanitized version:

Horror Stories From Missionaries

My wife and I have some missionary friends in a remote part of South America. Years ago, when their five children were very young and unfamiliar with life in “civilized” Southern California, they were home on furlough. They told us about an incident that occurred during their first week here in town.

The day they arrived, they stopped at a supermarket for some groceries. They parked their rented car in the lot and the kids, as most kids are inclined to do, started piling out. One of the kid’s door bumped the car in the next stall. The owners were in the car and immediately flew into a tirade.

There was no visible damage - just a bump.  Our friends graciously tried to apologize, explaining that their children were unfamiliar with parking lot etiquette, but the other couple would not accept their apologies. They just continued their vulgar criticism of the wild, undisciplined kids, and the couple's irresponsibility in procreating too many of them.  Our friends were humiliated and embarrassed at the rude behavior their children had just witnessed.

The following Sunday in church, the pastor announced the presence of the visiting missionaries and introduced the family to the congregation. They stood with their children and turned around to face the people. Right there in the pew behind them was the couple they had encountered in the parking lot. They smiled politely at them; the couple sank back with embarrassment.

Sometimes we think we can get away with our rudeness. We act as though we will never see that person again, but sometimes we do. We would do better to choose compassion and understanding rather than crankiness. Your heart cannot hold contempt and kindness at the same time so choose the one that can serve you best.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31

Monday, September 22, 2014

Grapefruit Or Sour Grapes?

What impressions do we make on others?  What opinions do they form when they observe what we do or hear what we say?  Are we crude and nasty or do we speak to others with decency and respect?  Do we yell at waitresses when our order isn’t quite right or are we kind and gentle?  Do we masticate the sales clerk when the customer in front of us takes too long or do we demonstrate patience and understanding? Do we blow up at service people when we have a problem or do we practice self-control?  You only get one opportunity to make a first impression and the one you make is the one that will most likely stick. 

When I was first hired to manage a non-profit Christian ministry about twenty years ago, I formed my opinion of an employee I met the first time she walked into my office.  Her language was filthy.  Later, when I learned that she “professed” to be a Christian, I was shocked; and then I was disappointed. You see her speech was not consistent with her profession.

I know there are lots of you who would jump to her defense and caution me, that I should not be “judgmental” but this is simply a matter of understanding the nature of things.  I once had a grapefruit tree in my yard. Every year it prominently displayed its fruit. Everyone who saw the tree knew what it was and every time I picked fruit from it, I got grapefruit; not cherries, not avocados, just grapefruit.  I was never surprised or disappointed by its fruit. Why?  Because (pay attention now) grapefruit trees always produce grapefruits.  That is the nature of the tree.

When God saves us, He gives us a new nature. Therefore, it is not judgmental but it is reasonable to expect that certain characteristics will be evident in our lives. The apostle, Paul, referred to those collective characteristics as the “fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and self-control.” Gal. 5:22-23.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

My Constitution Day Letter To The President

September 17, 2014

Dear Mr. President

I read a disturbing headline this morning; It said that one of our constitutional rights may soon be taken away.  Actually there have been several similar postulations and threats over the past few months and, frankly, they are believable because it is no secret that you and your administration are vigorously at work to trash our constitution and strip us of most of our rights.  In fact, you and I both know very well that you have blatantly ignored the rule of law and thumbed your nose at several of the amendments in our Bill of Rights.

So I just thought I would take this opportunity, on the birthday of our Constitution and Bill of Rights, to inform you of some facts.  Our rights do not derive from you or our government.  They derive from God and, regardless what you might think, you sir, are not Him.  They are inalienable; that means they cannot be taken away.  I’m sure you know that because you claim to have been a Constitutional professor (although there is substantial doubt about that). 

You swore an oath to protect and uphold that document when you were inaugurated.  Did you forget about that or was that just another of your many deliberate lies?

But I digress so let me get back on point.  You, sir, with a stroke of your pen or a phone call, may just declare our rights null and void or you may even mandate new laws by executive order. But I say to you, an illegal law is not a law and there are plenty of us out here in the Real America, who will not obey your illegal laws.  And many of us are inspired, instructed, and dutifully motivated by the preamble to our Declaration of Independence which I have paraphrased here for your convenience:
There are some things that are just absolutely and fundamentally true. In fact, they are so universally evident and understood that they don’t even need to be argued or defended. One of those absolute truths is that we are all created by God. And because He is the creator and the giver of life, no one, and no government has the right to arbitrarily take the life of another. Nor does anyone have the right to own, control or hold another person hostage. And, no one has the right to deny any other person the opportunity to pursue his dreams or ambitions. The right to life, the right to be free and the right to pursue happiness are all rights that are granted to men by God-not by government.

In order to secure and protect their God-given rights, it is the responsibility of men to organize governments for themselves whose ONLY powers are those that are granted to them by the willing consent of the people. And, with those powers, they must act righteously for the good of those they govern. 

Whenever any government becomes so destructive or oppressive that it threatens or diminishes these basic rights of its people, it is the responsibility of the people to change or abolish that government and create a new one that will most effectively secure their safety, freedom, well-being and happiness.

Governments that have been well-established and that have served well over long periods of time must be wise and very careful to remember their fundamental purpose and not substantively deviate from it for frivolous or fleeting causes. History has shown that most men will endure a lot of abuse and persecution and even evil at the hands of their governments as long as they think the abuses are tolerable because, over time, they become accustomed to it. Resistance is hard work and, frankly, it is much easier to just endure government encroachment as much as possible.

But when any government becomes so abusive and oppressive; when it systematically erodes the freedoms of the very people who established it and empowered it in the first place, to the point that it becomes tyrannical or dictatorial, it is the right, - no, it is the duty of men to overthrow that government and to organize a new system to guard their future security.

Mr. President, your administration already has and no doubt will continue to make our lives increasingly more miserable.  We have no reasonable assurance that you will not continue to dispatch federal thugs and goons to harass us and intimidate us.  And you might seize our property, incarcerate us, or even kill us.  That’s what tyrants do and you have shown us no good reason to expect less from you.  Nevertheless, understand this; there is a great, patriotic resistance out here across our country who value liberty more than safety and comfort and, if necessary, many of us are willing to bleed or even make ultimate sacrifices for our freedom.
So in closing, Mr. President, I hope you have a nice day and I look forward to the day when you no longer occupy the People’s House.  God bless America.

Respectfully Yours,


Ralph M. Petersen

(mailed on 9-17-2014)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

F is for Fabricator

(I originally wrote this in 2011 for a blogger "A to Z Challenge" that required writing 26 different blog posts in the space of thirty days with the subject of each post starting with a letter of the alphabet beginning with "A" and ending with "Z".  I have slightly edited it here for republication. 

In this post, I refer to a real person who exhibits many of the classical characteristics of a sociopath.   He did me a great deal of harm.  At the time, a former pastor and friend (who had also been a victim of his abuse) tried to warn me but I did not recognize the danger nor did I heed his or the scriptural warning from the Apostle Paul.  I have since become much more aware of the characteristics and the real presence of sociopaths in positions of power and influence within Christian churches and the severe damage they can cause. 

Here is my unscholarly commentary on the Apostle's warning.)

is for Fabricator.

We know very little about him or what terrible evil he did to Paul. All we have is this one brief statement and a warning written by the apostle to Timothy, “Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message” 2 Timothy 14.

Some commentators have suggested that this Alexander might be the same one who is mentioned in 1 Timothy 1:20, and perhaps the same as the one mentioned in Acts 19:33.

God’s Word is instructive and every detail is precise and deliberate. So here’s what I might surmise from this short account although I must preface it with this disclaimer; I am neither a theologian nor a Greek scholar and I have no idea what I am talking about.

In the Bible, every name has a meaning. Alexander means protector of mankind. Perhaps Alexander truly believed that his opposition to Paul was noble. He might have thought that Paul’s message was too uncomfortable, too radical, or too narrow. Or maybe he just had a different point of view and disagreed with Paul. He no doubt must have thought that his calling was to protect the folks from the apostle and he would stoop to whatever means necessary in order to accomplish his purpose.

He was a coppersmith, a master craftsman, skilled at the art of fabrication. One of the definitions of the word, fabricate is: to make up for the purpose of deception as in fabricating evidence. Could it be that he took some of Paul’s words and skillfully twisted, hammered, and shaped them into something other than the truth?

Alexander’s medium was copper. Copper is a soft, pliable, and easily malleable metal. The word, copper, when used as a noun means to cover, coat, or sheathe. Perhaps he was clever at taking some, out of context, elements of truth from Paul’s message and deceptively covering or obscuring them with something so that it is not what is appears to be.

Whatever Alexander did, the apostle said of him, “he strongly opposed our message.” Incidentally, I think Alexander might have been the “thorn in the flesh” that Paul asked the Lord to take away from him. Certainly Alexander was a pain in the neck.

I also had an antagonist. For over a year he made my life miserable with his evil and false accusations. But I have not been his only target. I learned, too late, that he had caused much grief and contention in several local churches and other organizations. Like Timothy, I was warned by people who knew him,  to be careful but I did not heed the warning.

He considered himself to be the champion of the regular folks whom, he believed, were ill-treated by their pastors and leaders. He really believed that it was his calling to do the “heavy lifting’ for those who could not speak up for themselves.  Ironically, many of those he hurt the most were the very ones he claimed to be helping.

He is not a coppersmith but he is a master wordsmith with a smooth, glib tongue and a wicked pen and he is skilled at twisting the truth to suit his own purposes. On many occasions, he has taken true phrases (that I have uttered) out of context, covered them with lies, and fabricated them into something other than the truth.

What would the apostle do? He asked God three times, to remove his “thorn in the flesh.” God’s response was, “My grace is sufficient for you.” So, to his friend, Timothy, Paul simply said, “the Lord will repay him according to his deeds.”

I have to admit; I have imagined some very clever and crafty ways to get even.  My natural instinct is to retaliate; vengeance seems so sweet but that is God’s domain and not my prerogative.  So I guess Charlie the Wordsmith gets to keep breathing at least for another day.

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Christian Schools

“When schools prosper, the Church remains righteous and her doctrine pure…. Young pupils and students are the seed and source of the Church. If we were dead, whence would come our successors, if not from the schools? For the sake of the Church, we must have and maintain Christian schools.” Martin Luther

Sunday, August 31, 2014


As far as I know, I believe I coined the word.  At least I had never heard it used before and I have used it often since I first thought of it.

My wife doesn't appreciate it but I think it the perfect word when it is used appropriately.  Here's my definition:

Happycrap - noun

-the warm, fuzzy, touchy-feely kind of emotional chatter used by politically or theologically liberal people to manipulate non-thinking people into believing, accepting, and feeling good about their baseless and nonsensical ideologies in the absence of substantial evidence or truth.

The short video below is a perfect example of how "HAPPYCRAP" can be employed by clever charismatic church leaders, with pretty faces and gleaming white teeth, as they entice thousands of mindless minions with a false sense of security down the wide road to Hell.

Bill Cosby recognizes "happycrap" when he hears it.  Who knew Bill had the spiritual gift of discernment?


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Maybe You're The Problem

I have a distant cousin who has never been very successful in marriage.  A few years ago, he was complaining to me about his third wife.  As he ranted on about all of her deficiencies and character flaws, it occurred to me that his complaints about her were amazingly similar to ones he had rehearsed to me on many occasions about his first and second wives.  He is no longer married to her.  These days he is complaining about his fourth wife.

That reminds me of this humorous fable I heard when I was a young boy:

One afternoon an old man decided to take a nap on the sofa.  While he was asleep, his two mischievous grandsons rubbed some Limburger cheese in his moustache. 

When he woke up he smelled the foul odor.  “This room stinks!” he thought and he went into the kitchen.  He sniffed around the kitchen and said, “The kitchen stinks too!”

No matter where he went in the house, the odor was there so he went outside to get some fresh air.  When he drew in a great big breath he was shocked to find that he could not escape the rank smell.  “The whole world stinks!” he concluded when all the time, the problem was right under his nose. 

Bert thought those four women were great when he married them but, before long, he discovered their faults and each one turned out to be a big disappointment.  I suggested to him, that maybe his problem wasn’t with his four wives; maybe the problem was him.  That was the last time he ever spoke to me and I haven't seen him in over 30 years.  I guess the truth hurts.

“There are persons who always find a hair in their plate of soup for the simple reason that, when they sit down before it, they shake their heads until one falls in.”
                                                                                                               -- Friedrich Hebbel

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


It’s not that I love sick, disgusting, gory graphics. I don’t. But I resent the fact that our liberal, government-controlled media sources select, edit, sanitize, and spin what they deem to be politically correct doses of sound bites and info-bits to shape our thinking and conform us to their anti-American and godless ideologies. 

I want the truth. If my neighbor is an unstable, psychopathic serial killer, I want to know so that I can be alert and careful. I was disappointed a few years ago when Nick Berg and others were beheaded; YouTube, Fox News, and everyone else spared us the graphics. Michael Savage was the only one who posted the actual videos but they were pulled off after a few months. While it was up, I watched it a couple times. And both times it made me sick but I saw the face of evil and I know what it is capable doing. 

We have become a nation of wusses, weaklings, and sissies who can’t handle glimpses of reality. How are we supposed to recognize evil, identify it, and defend ourselves from it when our government and media lie to us?   We are purposefully deprived of the information we need to be vigilant. They tell us that our enemies are our friends; they tell us that Islam is a religion of peace and Christianity is a threat to our culture. They tell us that Israel is evil and their enemies are humanitarian freedom fighters. 

I just want the truth.   I want everyone to have access to information so that we can see it and learn from it.  This country has some serious enemies and many of them are inside our borders. And regardless of what our first Muslim president says, their threats are real; they hate America. They hate our culture, our religion, our values, and our freedoms and they want us destroyed. 

And that is why I am posting this video while it can still be seen. Watch if you will or bury your head in the sand and go smell some roses. The choice is yours but know this; truth can be found. You won’t find it on ABC, NBC, or CBS. Truth is not always pretty but it is always true.


Sunday, August 10, 2014


I know that a very large percentage of people who read my blog will find the graphics and content of this post offensive so either close it now or man-up and read and observe at your own risk.  

There is something horrible being practiced in our world today by extremist, terrorist practitioners of "the religion of peace" and is being largely ignored by the mainstream media and the illegitmate "Muslim-In-Chief" occupant of the White House.

Hundreds of children are being beheaded.  That's right-beheaded (that means their heads are being cut off while they are still alive). 

But the torture and murder of hundreds of children pales in comparison to the 50 million or more children that have been tortured and killed in our American abortion clinics.

If you are offended and repulsed by this picture

or this,

and you think this one is acceptable

or if you are not bothered by this,

then you conflicted, hypocritical, and you lack any kind of a moral compass. 

Quite frankly, I really have a hard time discerning the difference.

I'm just saying that we have no right to be outraged at the actions of barbaric Muslims while we practice our own brand of "sanitized" child torture for the sake of our personal convenience and comfort.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Relevant Church - No Stinkin' Gimmicks

Do you want your church to be more relevant? 

A friend of mine often describes his church with this little phrase, "No stinkin' gimmicks."  I like that!

If the Word of God is boldly proclaimed from your pulpit; if your pastor's primary focus is on preaching the whole counsel of God; if he feeds you a steady diet of expository preaching; if he unabashedly tells the truth about sin and constantly warns you of it's consequences; if he is obsessed with the glory of God; you have a relevant church.  You don't need no stinkin' gimmicks. 

This is what church looks like when God's Word is ignored and men have other ideas about what is relevant.