Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Persevering in Marriage: A True Story

Marriage is hard. It takes a lot of work, denial of self, service to the spouse, and submission. Having Jesus at the center is necessary for success and even then, some Christian marriages still fail. Without Christ, I am not sure how any marriage survives! Here is a heartfelt, true story about marriage from someone who knows. May you be encouraged as I was by this sweet testimony.


THIS STORY IS TRUE! Like most young couples, this couple was sure that they loved each other. They did not really need the one pre-marriage counseling session-- but it was required. So, there they sat before an aged pastor who had long ago performed the wedding of the parents of the young lady.

Wedding day-- It was a beautiful wedding in a large church's chapel. Every pew was filled. The weather was hot. The wedding went off without a hitch. BUT HIDDEN BENEATH were serious seeds of destruction. Troubles began soon. They mushroomed; but were still hidden from public view. However, in less than a year, all the emotions of love were deeply dead.

To the couple a son was born-- at which time her parents came. And somehow the sadness and hurt was seeping out. For before her parents left to journey several states back to their home, they looked the young father in the eye and said, "It all depends on you!" While not totally correct; but they were right more than they knew. They were met with stonewall silence.

A few months would pass and the young family flew back to the city where they got married. They visited with her family; the young husband later journeyed to another state to visit his family; and then back to their far away home, to work, and school. Just a few days later, as he arrived home at the usual 2-3 am from work-- a letter had been left. He opened it. His wife said, "It's over! My dad will be out on Friday to get my belongings."

The young man, alone in their apartment, raged with anger; and then wept like a baby; and then, he awakened upstairs friends and showed them the letter-- the neighbors were shocked. No one knew. The couple had been very good at hiding.

BACK DOWNSTAIRS in the apartment, the young man became overwhelmed with one conviction: He had vowed, "...until death do us part!" He had not a clue of how or if the marriage could ever be healed. He knew one thing-- by the authority of God's Word, he had to try. Thus, he got in his car and drove across several states to get to her parent's home.

The journey was instigated and empowered by one reality: THE AUTHORITY OF THE WORD OF GOD. He was BOUND by the Word of God to try to salvage their hopeless marriage.

[Note: Looking back, it was especially right that he, the husband, should humble himself and initiate reconciliation!]

SOME MIRACLES TAKE A LOT OF TIME! This one did. But slowly this husband and wife began to learn the ways of God for marriage. It takes a heap of God's kind of forgiveness and a heap of God's kind of sacrificial love to heal a broken marriage, to re-kindle love, to restore love, to take love to higher heights.

YOU KNOW WHAT-- sometimes that young man, now much older, wishes that his marriage to his wife was more 'STORY BOOK'... all wonderful and sweet from day one until the end.

NEVERTHELESS, he is exceedingly grateful for the GRACE OF GOD in healing the broken hearts of he and his dear wife. Grief lingers for the hurt and sorrow caused-- nevertheless, GOD'S GRACE is greater than all our sin!

TODAY, HE IS FEELING SUPER BLESSED THAT God 'ruled and over ruled'... that God gave him a beautiful and wonderful bride, completer, and companion. YES, SOME MIRACLES just take more time!

On May 27, 1967, Cynthia Anne Baker became my wife, Cindy Bell! I AM TRULY A VERY BLESSED man to have been given such a treasure! I love you, Cindy! WOW! 49 YEARS
TODAY! LET'S DO 31 MORE! With those years added on, I will only be 102... and by then, you will only be..... ..... much younger! --- James Bell, Pastor



James Bell is a pastor ministering since 1975 at Southside Baptist Church in Gallatin TN.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Harambe's death was just

An unfortunate incident occurred today at the Cincinnati Zoo. A three-year-old little boy, intent on splashing in the water, slipped from his parents' view, crawled under bushes, through wiring, and slid down 15 feet into the moat in the Gorilla Enclosure. Inside were several gorillas, the alpha Gorilla being a 450 pound Silverback named Harambe. Harambe immediately rushed to the boy, dragged him roughly through the moat to the other side, and stood over the boy. Being the technological age, the event was captured on cellphone video and photographed.

The entire event lasted about 10 minutes, with the eventual decision by the Zoo's Dangerous Animal Response Team to shoot the gorilla dead in order to save the boy.

While onlookers interpreted the scene where Harambe stood over the boy as protective, and it could have been that the gorilla was initially attempting to protect the boy, there is a level of stress that animals raised in captivity can never escape. The gorilla was increasingly becoming agitated as the onlookers screamed and crowded the gorilla's eye view. He could easily have drowned the boy or severely injured him at any point. Silverback gorillas are not particularly aggressive but they are unpredictable and the gorilla's stress of being in captivity compounded with an unusual intruder, and screaming throngs, could have easily resulted in a death or injury at any moment. The boy was dragged through the water twice and up a steep hill once, he is lucky the gorilla didn't dislocate the boy's shoulder or leg.

Zookeepers initially attempted to give Harambe a species call to go back into the enclosure, but only the females responded. Harambe did not and his stress level increased at that point. He dragged the boy up the hill through vegetation and away from keepers and the screaming crowds. The decision was made to shoot the gorilla dead.

Here are a few headlines from the last hour. You can see they are heavily skewed toward the animal.
  • Harambe's rights were violated long before his tragic death
  • Gorilla Experts Weigh In: Did Harambe Have To Die?
  • Extended video of Harambe shows gorilla holding the boy's hand
  • #justice for Harambe
  • After death of gorilla, petitioners seek 'justice for Harambe'
  • 78K and counting sign 'Harambe's Law' in light of gorilla's death
  • We'd make the same decision, say zookeepers.
I have just a few thoughts on the incident.

Trust. When you take your children to the zoo, you are entering into a relationship of implicit trust. You've trusted that the Zookeepers have competently cared for the animals. You would not take your kids to see deranged, skeletal animals who have been abused. No, you trust that the animals are prime of their species and you and your children will learn something about them through your visit. You also trust that the Zoo has developed enclosures adequate to keep the animals in and most reasonable people out. (I say reasonable because someone with intent will always breach an enclosure.)

Therefore then, after ten minutes of assessing the situation and implementing less drastic strategies, the Zoo Response team made the decision to shoot the animal. We must trust their decision. When we walk around the zoo, we don't spend our time second guessing the animal care, and we don't second guess the enclosures, and we should not second guess the Zookeepers' ability to assess and decide. They have a specially trained response team designed to handle situations like these. We are not animal behaviorists, gorilla specialists, or even zookeepers. We are ignorant. So we should trust the experts in this case.

Judgment. Animal rights activists immediately sided with the gorilla, charging the parents with negligence and blaming them for the death of the gorilla. This is also not our business. In 2016 (if you are reading this in future months and years) is a time when everyone is an expert and everyone judges and everyone is outraged over something or other. All the time. The boy had wanted to swim with the gorilla, and had told his mother he wanted to. His mother of course said absolutely not. It is sin in us that makes us defy authority. In a matter of seconds he slipped out and was down in the enclosure. Every parent, relative, teacher, caregiver knows how fast children can be, especially when they have their mind set on something. They run into the road, they wander into the woods, they fall down wells, they pet the doggie, they put the bean up their nose, they do these things and usually there is no harm done. They're yanked back from the road, the dog turns out the be friendly, the well wasn't deep, they're found in the woods before dark, they sneeze out the bean. Usually these things happen in private and are swiftly resolved with no harm done. This time, it happened in public in front of judgmental throngs videotaping it and calling for charges to be made against the parents. This is a case where the phrase 'don't judge' can be said appropriately.

Human rights. People these days want justice for animals, zoos to be closed down, captivity to stop. Harambe was a particularly magnificent animal. Truly. Today's secular world automatically denies the human his rights (like, to live safely in a womb) and puts a primary emphasis on the animal- even if it's a jellyfish or cockroach, instead of a human. This was somebody's son, a human being, and that takes precedence over a gorilla. Sorry. God said man has dominion over the earth and all the animals. (Genesis 2:15). The animals were actually given to us as food and to make beasts of burden and to use as we wish.

Of course, I'm not advocating heartless shepherding of God's creatures. I'm saying that humans are made in the image of God. Animals are not. If it comes down to a choice between the animal and the human, we save the one who is made in God's image. (Genesis 1:26-27). It is a strange world where onlookers make petitions and screech for justice for the gorilla, are the same kind of people screeching to maintain their "right" to kill babies in the womb. To the ignorant (Ps 73:22), animals deserve to live over a precious son of two parents.

The Zoo. I applaud the zoo for their decision. He had been nurtured and raised in captivity for 17 years. He had been fed and protected to the best of the keepers' ability. They had a relationship with this animal. They had a program for this gorilla. They had intended to breed Harambe, and since he had just turned 17 years old he was about to come into his breeding time. The Zoo instantly set all that aside on behalf of the implicit contract I mentioned above. When we attend a zoo we trust that they have developed it in a way that protects us from harm, and I am sure they feel strongly about the value of human lives that enter there. While on their property, we are in their care. The Zoo is no doubt mourning the loss of a magnificent animal, an animal 'friend', and the now lost years put into the breeding program. They are no doubt grieving over the death of their animal and with him, their hopes to make an impact for endangered lowland gorillas. Yet they said they would make the same decision again. Why? Human lives matter.

The Bible. Genesis 1:26 says we have dominion over all animals. After the Flood, He reaffirmed our rule over the animal kingdom in Genesis 9:2, making one change. He put the fear and dread of man into animals, and into our hand they are thus delivered. It's pretty clear. Harambe the Silverback Gorilla had to die.

1. The Zoo made the right decision. Not because I have inside knowledge, but because I trust the Zoo to be able to assess the situation and in their animal behavioral knowledge, make a correct decision.
2. Human life is more precious than animal life, because God made humans in His image.
3. Rushing to stupid judgment based on facts we don't know is common these days. Christian, be prudent.

In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly. (Proverbs 13:16)

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. (Proverbs 14:29)

The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps. (Proverbs 14:15)

Postscript: This is said with no snark and no sarcasm, but be it known that after the Rapture, one of the wrathful judgments God will send to the earth during the Tribulation will include killing a quarter of the earth's population through four specific judgments- one of them being death by beasts. (Revelation 6:8). Let's see where the 'hashtag justice for Harambe', PETA, and animal rights enthusiasts are when wild animals suddenly lose their dread and fear of humans and begin killing humans wholesale. They won't be leaving roses at gorilla memorials then, I would surmise.

Jesus has been there

When people come to me needing encouragement, I often refer to Hebrews 2:18,

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

And to Hebrews 4:15.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

Barnes Notes explains Hebrews 2:18,
The Saviour was subjected to both these in as severe a form as was ever presented to people. His sufferings surpassed all others; and the temptations of Satan (see Matthew 4) were presented in the most alluring form in which he could exhibit them. Being "proved" or "tried" in both these respects, he showed that he had a strength of virtue which could bear all that could ever occur to seduce him from attachment to God; and at the same time to make him a perfect model for those who should be tried in the same manner.
He is able to succour ... - This does not mean that he would not have had "power" to assist others if he had not gone through these sufferings, but that he is now qualified to sympathize with them from the fact that he has endured like trials.
Barnes Notes explains Hebrews 4:15,
Our High Priest is not cold and unfeeling. That is, we have one who is abundantly qualified to sympathize with us in our afflictions, and to whom, therefore, we may look for aid and support in trials. Had we a high priest who was cold and heartless; who simply performed the external duties of his office without entering into the sympathies of those who came to seek for pardon; who had never experienced any trials, and who felt himself above those who sought his aid, we should necessarily feel disheartened in attempting to overcome our sins, and to live to God. His coldness would repel us; his stateliness would awe us; his distance and reserve would keep us away, and perhaps render us indifferent to all desire to be saved. But tenderness and sympathy attract those who are feeble, and kindness does more than anything else to encourage those who have to encounter difficulties and dangers
In practical terms, Jesus has experienced everything we might feel in our own life. He has experienced temptation, malevolence, malice, ill will, murderous intent, suspicion, fury, hatred, contempt, disgust, resentment, distrust, bitterness, unfriendliness, dislike. Jesus was acquainted with grief, sorrow, suffering, He has been humiliated, despised, mocked, abandoned, rejected, persecuted. He has even been executed.

There is nothing we go through on this earth that Jesus as High Priest cannot pray for in intercession with which He has not already experienced and therefore empathizes to the highest degree. You have a loving Father in heaven who is all-powerful, ready to care for you in ways that are for your good and His glory. Be encouraged He is alive, at the right hand of the Father, attuned to your woes and sympathizes with you in perfect empathy.

What a God we have!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Are the tumultuous events of the world making you seasick?

Sister, do not focus on the darkness of this world, but instead keep looking at the horizon for the Bright and Morning star. (Revelation 22:16). During the long dark night, the appearance of the morning star means daybreak is imminent. In the old proverb, the darkest hour is the lowest ebb of the nightly cycle.

There is a fine line between watching the times and focusing on the times (or worse, dwelling on the times.) I understand this as a Christian who has been given discernment as a precious gift from the Spirit, a gift for which I am eternally grateful. In Dr Barhnouse's sermon this morning (listened to on Expositor.FM) he had urged us to focus on the horizon. This made me think of the time I spent living on a sailboat.

I am witness to the darkness before the dawn myself. I lived on a sailboat with my husband for two years, making sea journeys overnight offshore through day and night and a day and a night. Standing watch through the night, being out in the weather, alone on the sea, makes one desperately appreciate the light. The 3:00am watch is dark, cold, and seemingly endless. When one glimpses the first glimmer of a change from blackest coal sky to indigo then blue then the pink and golds of sunrise, the heart lifts and one feels that one has emerged from an endless tunnel in which one's very soul had been swallowed.

First cup of coffee after dawn watch's first light
I always become seasick on the boat whenever I was down below, and usually became seasick when in the cockpit, unless I was looking at the horizon. The smallest rolling yaw, the minutest pitching swell would set my stomach to churning. The only solution was to keep my eyes on the steady horizon. Staring at the waves was a sure way to become ill. This is because, according to LiveScience,
Although it might seem that looking at something steady would make the ship's movement all the more noticeable, it helped to focus on a distant, steady point on the horizon while at sea, the researchers found. ... Stoffregen suspects that the horizon provides a helpful point of reference, allowing people to sense the difference between their body's natural motion and the motion of the ship.
Gazing at the horizon steadies the gaze and helps the seasick-afflicted maintain equilibrium. Continual staring at the wicked world, and the wicked are like the sea which cannot rest, (Isaiah 57:20) will only serve to disrupt your equilibrium.

We discernment bloggers watch the events of the world as did the men of Issachar, understanding the times and knowing what to do (1 Chronicles 12:32), which is to urge all men to repent and be salt and light as Gospel sharers in the dark world. Our job is to be about the Light, not the dark. Watching the tumultuous sea for too long will darken the gaze and upset the stomach, metaphorically, if not actually! Watching the horizon for the Light of Christ who will appear is the antidote for the churning stomach of the times.

During the night watch (or any watch) we'd continually scan the horizon to stay on course, to watch for obstacles that would sink us, and to look for land. Land was home, safe harbor, and rest. If you watch for Jesus, keep looking to Him, and stay on His course, you will not be upset by the world's events nor will your eyes stay in the dark but see the Light continually. Since it is SO dark before the dawn, therefore when the Bright Glory of Jesus appears to rapture us home, His Light will be magnified and heightened in brightness untold!!

Praise the Lord that the darkness has not overcome the Light (John 1:5). Praise the Lord that He is the Light.

Jesus is the Light and the darkness has not overcome it.
No matter how tumultuous the sea, the Light is always there, shining steadily.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Do you know an untethered Millennial?

Do you know a millennial who is "untethered'? Someone who says they know Jesus but doesn't KNOW Jesus through His Word? Todd Friel of Wretched fame does. He witnesses on campuses throughout the United States and is saddened and alarmed by what he sees.

As a result, he is producing a movie called Untethered. He and his team are halfway to their financing goal. From their web page,

Source Wretched
Help us reach the “Untethered” generation!

Millennials are not stupid. But they are not wise. Even the worldview of young professing Christians is downright untethered from the Bible. We need to reach these kids, and our own kids, so their lives, hopes, futures and eternities are tethered in God’s Word.

Todd Friel will host this eye-opening 6 episode series that features on campus encounters with Millennials and an incredible lineup of great teachers:

-Dr. John MacArthur
--Ray Comfort
--Phil Johnson
--Emeal “E.Z.” Zwayne
--Dr. Steve Lawson
--Philip Decourcy
--Dr. Abner Chou
--Mike Adams
This show has a three-fold goal:
  1. To expose the minds of Millennials to understand how and what they are thinking.
  2. To equip the saints to reach this untethered generation.
  3. Provide the tools for parents/youth pastors/ Sunday school teachers to help our kids not become untethered.
You have our word, the Gospel will be front and center! We believe God us going to use this program to save many…for generations to come.


Please consider donating. Please consider praying for the film to reach hearts and minds for the glory of Christ. Praying for the team at Wretched is a great idea too! I'm looking forward to the film's release.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Strange Fire Q&A: Why have some gifts ceased and others continue? Are we picking and choosing?

One hundred years ago, the modern Pentecostal movement was born. By October 2013 the Pentecostal movement has morphed into the Charismatic movement with its particular brand of false doctrine, had infected much of western Christianity and polluted quite a bit of Christianity abroad. The excesses of the movement include faith healing, reports of raising the dead, babbling tongues, alleged prophecies and direct revelation, disorderly church services and worse. The movement assaulted the sufficiency of scripture, the inerrancy of scripture, besmirched the name of Jesus Christ and damaged the faith of many.

John MacArthur and his team at Grace To You took a stand against this movement and sought to bring clarity to why its doctrines needed comparison to the Bible correction. To that end, they organized the Strange Fire Conference, held in the fall of 2013. One of the main purposes of the conference was to initiate a substantive discussion about these issues. It achieved its purpose. Every sermon preached at the conference rebuked the movement simply by preaching the truth, and brought correct biblical doctrine to the fore. Given the outcry, it seems that the effect was immediate.

There were many good questions asked at the various seminars and Q & A sessions held during the conference period, but not all of them could be immediately answered. After the conference concluded, ministers and theologians at Grace Community Church and The Master's Seminary wrote out answers to these unanswered questions, compiled them, and put them on one web page.

The page is a treasure trove of good, solid rebuttals to and practical helps about what to do if encountering Charismatic doctrines in your church, in your family, or in yourself.


Why are the teaching gifts and others in the list of gifts in effect today if the others ceased? Do we pick and choose?
As in all matters of life and doctrine, we must follow carefully the teaching of Scripture. We must be careful to interpret the text and to apply its direct teachings and its principles to every area of life. God has indicated clearly in His Word that some spiritual gifts were given for the duration of the church’s time on earth and some were intended for use only during the establishment of the church. We don’t have the authority to decide which gifts belong in those categories, nor do we desire to make that decision. Our only desire is to follow what God has revealed to us in Scripture. 
The miraculous sign gifts accompanied the apostles and validated them as true spokesmen for Christ (2 Corinthians 12:12; Hebrews 2:3–4). The ministry of the apostles and New Testament prophets was to lay a doctrinal foundation for the church (Ephesians 2:20). They laid the foundation on which the evangelists, pastors, and teachers can build (Ephesians 4:11–13). Evangelists anchor new people into the foundation, and pastors and teachers strengthen and grow them from the foundation. 
After the apostles died and the canon of Scripture was completed, the church has carried on through the equipping ministry of evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And now every Christian has the ability to discern truth from error by studying the written Word of God.
For a careful explanation of which gifts have ceased and how we know they were intended by God as temporary gifts, I refer you to Tom Pennington’s excellent teaching in “A Case for Cessationism.” Explore our sermon archive for more detailed exposition on the key passages related to the temporary spiritual gifts, such as 1 Corinthians 13:8–13, 2 Corinthians 12:12, Ephesians 2:20–21, and Hebrews 2:2–4.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

We will not know the day nor the time

This essay was first published on The End Time in June 2009.

Matthew 24 is a major area in the bible that foretells the conditions at the time of the end. Jesus is answering His disciples' questions about when the end shall be and what the end time conditions will be like. It is called the Olivet Discourse.

1. Jesus declined to answer the first question as to when. Mt 24:36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone." And He repeats this in verse 42: “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming..."

There are many other instances in the bible where it is stated explicitly the exact time is not revealed. Likely to keep us faithful as much as to throw satan off. However, despite the clarity with which the verse is stated, there are some who still choose to interpret it as something else. "We didn't know then, but we will know now" kind of interpretations. The bible interprets the bible and where it is clear (non-parable or allegory) it means what it says!

That did not stop Steve Coerper from predicting that on Pentecost, Sunday May 31 2009 we would be raptured. His take spun off many others and there was a mini-ripple of excitement among those who decided to believe twisted interpretations of the bible rather than the bible itself. Of course Mr Coerper wrote an addendum on June 1, to all of us who are still here and of course, not raptured. (Ed Note: since 2009, many others have predicted rapture, the Tribulation, down to the day and time. Of course, all have been incorrect.]

While I agree it is exciting to think the Lord may come in the next second, and I credit people for being a watchman and doing his best to alert us to imminence, it is folly in my opinion to interpret it to the time and day! We do know the seasons, and there is much scriptural support for being watchmen and commandments to understand the times of the signs, but we will NOT KNOW THE DAY.

2. We focus on the signs in Matthew but often forget this part: verse 13: "But he that shall endures unto the end, the same shall be saved. " What hope!!!!

We can endure, we have all the strength of the Eternal God under our feet to support us. Think of the surface simplicity of those words: 'he shall be saved.' SAVED! What blessings await! What glory and honor we can offer our Lord in person! What an eternity He offers us, glorified in body and soul! SAVED means saved from hell, from sin's judgment, from everlasting darkness, pain, tribulation, torment that the chains of sin hold us under.

Psalm 40:1-3
I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD.

It matters not that the we are witnessing His efficient dismantlement of earthly and carnal idols. Because we are saved, we sing in the midst of chaos! "Many will see and put their trust in the Lord". If you're saved and you know it, act like it. Your confidence will be a blessing to someone!