Tag Archive: Heaven

One of the Reasons I Love My Wife

text conversation

How do I love thee? let me count the ways . . .

Every day, Polly, without fail, texts me when she arrives at work. The screenshot above is of a text conversation we had earlier this week.

I love the last text from Polly, “I’d go to hell and back with you!” — complete with two smilies, signifying that her words are meant in a humorous way. We can’t, of course, go to hell and back. There is no hell. Hell and Heaven are mythical places used by preachers to keep congregants in line. In classic carrot-and-stick fashion, preachers promise congregants Heaven if they will play by the rules, and Hell if they don’t.

While there is no such thing as Hell, it is an apt metaphor for the lie Polly and I have shared. We started dating in the fall of 1976 and married the summer of 1978. This July we will celebrate our forty-first wedding anniversary. Polly and I have had a wide range of experiences as a married couple. Good times, hard times. Heaven, Hell. I can look back over our lives together and see we have experienced a fair bit of Hell in our lives: Poverty. A child born with Down Syndrome. Church strife. Severe health problems. Disagreements with parents and extended family. Loss of faith.  We have had extended periods as husband and wife when we wondered if would ever stop raining; if the sun would ever shine again; if life would ever return to normal. Yet, through it all, we persevered; and in that sense we have indeed been to hell and back. No matter the circumstance, with stoic determination we hung on, hoping (and praying) for a better tomorrow. And as sure as Donald Trump will say something stupid on Twitter, better times did come our way.

I could list numerous reasons why I love Polly, but the one reason that stands above all others is that when I have descended into hell, she has been right beside me, and when I emerge from the pit into the sunshine of a better day, she is still there.

Forty years ago, Polly and I stood before friends and family at the Newark Baptist Temple and recited the following vows:

Groom: I, Bruce, take thee, Polly, to be my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

Bride: I, Polly take thee, Bruce, to be my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth.

Till death do us part. The hells of life have certainly left us scarred, but we have endured. Every day presents us new challenges, but hand-in-hand Polly and I meet them together. And if we must, yet again, descend into hell for a time, we know we will make it because we have one another. To each other, we are friends who stick closer than brothers, even when it’s hot.

Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Wedding July 1978

polly mom and dad 2018 (2)

Bruce and Polly Gerencser 2018

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Independent Baptist Songs: When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black

soul strirring songs and hymns

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Bill Gaither and Friends.

Video Link

When the Roll is Called Up Yonder by James Black

When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound,
and time shall be no more,
and the morning breaks, eternal, bright and fair;
when the saved of earth shall gather
over on the other shore,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

Refrain:
When the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder,
when the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there.

On that bright and cloudless morning
when the dead in Christ shall rise,
and the glory of his resurrection share;
when his chosen ones shall gather
to their home beyond the skies,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. [Refrain]

Let us labor for the Master
from the dawn till setting sun,
let us talk of all his wondrous love and care;
then when all of life is over,
and our work on earth is done,
and the roll is called up yonder, I’ll be there. [Refrain]

The Story Behind the Song

He loved young people and tried to win them for Christ. One day, as he passed through an alley, he met a ragged fourteen-year-old girl. She was the daughter of an alcoholic. He invited her to his Sunday school and youth group and she began to attend.

However, one day when he took roll, the girl did not respond. Each child had to say a Scripture verse when his or her name was called. James saw a lesson in her silence. “I spoke of what a sad thing it would be when our names are called from the Lamb’s Book of Life, if one of us should be absent.”

He was not the kind of man to let the matter die with a moral lesson. After Sunday school, he went to his pupil’s home to find out why she had not showed up for class. He found her dangerously ill and sent for his own doctor–they still made house calls then. The doctor said that she had pneumonia. Since that was before the days of antibiotics, death was highly likely.

James returned home. He tried to find a song to fit the thought of a heavenly roll call but could not locate one. An inner voice seemed to say, “Why don’t you write one.”[Black then wrote When the Roll is Called Up Yonder]

I remember the Sunday School teachers of my youth “calling the roll.” Not that he needed to do so. How hard could it have been to look over the seven or so boys seated there and not know who was or wasn’t present. One church I attended in my teen years would have the Sunday School Superintendent go to each class and collect the attendance books and offerings. Baptists can’t do anything without passing the plate. The purpose of taking the roll was primarily an evangelistic tool. Teachers were expected to visit the homes of those absent from the Sunday School. Not that any teacher ever visited my home. No need. I was at church every time the doors were opened, and that included Sunday School.  I even got pins for “perfect attendance.” My, oh my, aint God proud of me!

About James Black:

James Milton Black was born on August 19, 1856 in South Hill, New York. He acquired an early musical education in singing and organ playing and knew such famous songsters of his day as Daniel Towner and John Howard. Around 1881, he moved to Williamsport, Pennsylvania where he carried on Christian work through the Methodist Episcopal church. Teaching music during the week, he was a song leader, Sunday school teacher and youth leader in his spare hours. In addition to all this work, he edited hymnals.

Songs of Sacrilege: Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch

five finger death punch

This is the two hundredth installment in the Songs of Sacrilege series. This is a series that I would like readers to help me with. If you know of a song that is irreverent towards religion, makes fun of religion, pokes fun at sincerely held religious beliefs, or challenges the firmly held religious beliefs of others, please send me an email.

Today’s Song of Sacrilege is Wrong Side of Heaven by Five Finger Death Punch.

Video Link

Lyrics

I spoke to God today, and she said that she’s ashamed.
What have I become, what have I done?
I spoke to the Devil today, and he swears he’s not to blame.
And I understood, cause I feel the same.

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

I heard from God today, and she sounded just like me.
What have I done, and who have I become.
I saw the Devil today, and he looked a lot like me.
I looked away, I turned away!

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

I’m not defending, downward descending,
Falling further and further away!
Getting closer every day!

I’m getting closer every day, to the end.
To the end, the end, the end,
I’m getting closer every day!

Arms wide open, I stand alone.
I’m no hero, and I’m not made of stone.
Right or wrong, I can hardly tell.
I’m on the wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side of hell.
The wrong side of heaven, and the righteous side, the righteous side of hell.

Dear Evangelical, Threatening Atheists with Hell Doesn’t Work

no atheists in hell

Over the past decade, I have received numerous emails from Evangelicals filled with Bible verses and warnings. These zealots want me to know that there is a special place in Hell for people such as myself. These threats and warnings are supposed to make me realize the error of my ways, leading me, then, to repentance and faith. What Evangelicals don’t realize, however, is that this approach NEVER works. I don’t believe in the existence of the Christian God, nor do I believe in the existence of Heaven and Hell. No God, No Hell, No Worries®. But Bruce, the BIBLE says . . . And your point is? The Bible says lots of things, but I reject its supernatural claims, including the notion that Jesus was the virgin-born son of God who was crucified on a Roman cross, resurrected from the dead three days later, and then ascended back to Heaven. I don’t believe the teachings of the Bible as Evangelicals do, so threatening me with a bunch of Bible quotations doesn’t work. I am immune to such proof-texting. In fact, I likely know more about the Bible and its teachings than the people quoting verses AT me. Come on, give me some credit for learning a thing or two over the 50 years I spent in the Christian church or the 25 years I spent in the ministry. I know the Bible inside and out. Yet, I reject its teachings and view it as no different from any other book. Sorry, Evangelicals, the Bible has no authority, power, or control over me.

Yesterday, Bill Wiese released a video warning to atheists. According to Wiese, today is the day of salvation. Death and Hell are coming, and we will one day regret not believing in Jesus. We may mock God/Bible now, Wiese says, but there is coming a day when we will bow our knees before Jesus and confess that he is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. In other words, Jesus is gonna git you some day!

Video Link

Wiese, who allegedly spent 23 minutes in Hell, said:

What is the price of a decision? I won’t address those that mock the things of God, deny Him, or completely ignore His existence. Some of these people have no fear of Almighty God and have such arrogance toward Him. We all must be informed of what we will face one day. This is a loving message, because it’s a message of warning. One day you will stand before the one and only, holy, awesome, eternal God in heaven with all His infinite power and His millions of mighty warrior angels at His side. On that great judgment day, God will reveal your every thought, action, and motive. Everything you have ever done will be shown to all and nothing will be hidden. You will be found guilty of your sins and you will have no excuse. There is a payment required for those sins. Did you trust in Jesus to pay for them?

You might not believe this now, but it says in Romans 14:11, “As I live sayeth the Lord, every knee shall bow to me and every tongue shall confess to God, so then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Your knee will bow. You will then be drug off into an eternal hell by hideous, wicked demons and thrown into a furnace of fire for all eternity. It won’t be God’s fault. He warned you over and over throughout your entire life by sending people to tell you the way to heaven. In addition, we have the Bible, we have churches, we have the internet, TV, and radio proclaiming Jesus is Lord and Savior. He even gives dreams and visions to man to keep back his soul from the pit. As it says in Job 33, “but you ignored it all.” You won’t be able to accuse God of being unloving or unfair.

Wiese needs to realize, to quote Solomon, that there is nothing new under the sun. Most atheists have heard this kind of Christian drivel countless times. We know, we know, we know, and we — are you ready for it? — don’t give a shit. We are confident that we have one life to live and then we die. End of story. No God. No Heaven. No Hell. No matter how often you threaten us, pray for us, or quote the Bible, the fact remains that we are atheists out of conviction. We are atheists because we have carefully examined and rejected the claims of Christianity. We are not ignorant or ill-informed. We know what you know, and more, yet we still say, nah baby nah, there is no God.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Quote of the Day: If Christians Have Free Will on Earth, Will There be Free Will in Heaven?

bart ehrman

Most people who believe in God-given free will also believe in an afterlife. Presumably, people in the afterlife will still have free will (they won’t be robots then either, will they?). And yet there won’t be suffering (allegedly) then. Why will people know how to exercise free will in heaven if they can’t know how to exercise it on earth?

— Dr. Bart Ehrman, God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

In other words, Dr. Ehrman is asking, will there be sin in Heaven? If Christians in Heaven have free will, there exists, then, the possibility that they will sin. And if Christians won’t have free will in Heaven due to some sort of divine action, why can’t  God do the same now on Earth?  If you want to read an unsatisfying “the Bible says” response to this conundrum, please read this post by  former atheist Erik Manning.

Books by Dr. Bart Ehrman

The Triumph of Christianity: How a Forbidden Religion Swept the World

Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why

How Jesus Became God : the Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee

Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior

Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them)

Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth

Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question — Why We Suffer

Independent Baptist Songs: I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill

ira stanphill

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is I Know Who Hold Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by The Isaacs.

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow by Ira Stanphill

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from it’s sunshine
For it’s skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

Every step is getting brighter
As the golden stairs I climb;
Every burden’s getting lighter,
Every cloud is silver-lined.
There the sun is always shining,
There no tear will dim the eye;
At the ending of the rainbow
Where the mountains touch the sky.

I don’t know about tomorrow;
It may bring me poverty.
But the one who feeds the sparrow,
Is the one who stands by me.
And the path that is my portion
May be through the flame or flood;
But His presence goes before me
And I’m covered with His blood.

Video Link

I Know Who Holds Tomorrow is one of the songs Baptists sing when life is shitty.  When your life is swirling the toilet bowl, sing songs about the care and promises of God and the Heaven that awaits born-again Christians. Think of this as religious Valium, except Valium is real and Heaven is not.

About Ira Stanphill:

Stanphill  (February 14, 1914 to December 30, 1993) was an Assemblies of God pastor, singer, and Gospel songwriter. A gifted musician, he was already playing piano, organ, ukulele and accordion by age 10. By the time he reached 17, he was composing and singing, participating in revival crusades, prayer meetings, and tent campaigns. He graduated from the Junior College in Chillicothe, Missouri, and was later awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana. As a singing evangelist, he preached all over America and in over 40 other countries. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1981, and published his autobiography, This Side of Heaven, in 1983.

Independent Baptist Songs: What a Day That Will Be by Jim Hill

jim hill

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is What a Day That Will Be by Jim Hill. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by The Gospel Plowboys. I also found a video of Jim Hill singing the song with Bill Gaither and Friends.

What a Day That Will Be talks about what awaits Christians some day in Heaven (the Promised Land). Is this not the draw of Christianity? The promise of no more heartaches, no more tears, no more sorrows, no more sickness, no more pain, no more losing loved ones and, strangely according to Hill, no more  clouds. Without these promises, Christian churches would be empty. The Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:16-19:

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

If this life is all there is, says Paul, then our lives are most miserable. Paul, of course, was wrong, as countless atheists and non-Christians can attest, but Christians believe Paul is right; that promises of eternal life and rewards beyond the grave are what make this present life worth living.

What a Day That Will Be was one of my favorite songs. Polly and I sang it numerous times in church, and it was a must sing song when we took road trips. (Polly and I spent countless hours singing gospel songs as we traveled here and there with our family. )

What a Day That Will Be by Jim Hill

There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Chorus
What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

There’ll be no sorrow there, no more burdens to bear,
No more sickness, no pain, no more parting over there;
And forever I will be with the One who died for me,
What a day, glorious day that will be.

Video Link

Video Link

About Jim Hill

Jim Hill was probably best known for his composition of “What A Day That Will Be.” His career as a singer spanned accross decades with tenures with The Golden Keys Quartet, The Stamps Quartet, The Statesmen Quartet, and in later year he enjoyed being part of the Gaither’s “Homecoming Series.”

Jim was a long-time member of Towne Blvd. Church of God where he served as worship minister and choir director for many years.

Independent Baptist Songs: I’ll Fly Away by Albert E. Brumley

albert e brumley

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is I’ll Fly Away by Albert E. Brumley. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Ransomed Bluegrass.

I’ll Fly Away talks about believers dying and flying away to God’s celestial shores — Heaven, a land where joy shall never end. As with many gospels songs, I’ll Fly Away speaks of entrance into Heaven as being immediate and corporeal. That’s not, however, what the Bible says or what orthodox Christianity purportedly teaches. When believers die they don’t go to Heaven, they go to the grave and remain there until Jesus resurrects them from the dead. Grandma is not running around Heaven free of pain and with all her teeth. She’s dead, in the grave, and will remain there until Jesus — much as he did with Lazarus — says COME FORTH!

I’ll Fly Away by Albert E. Brumley

Some glad morning when this life is o’er,
I’ll fly away;
To a home on God’s celestial shore,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

Chorus:
I’ll fly away, Oh Glory
I’ll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I’ll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)

Chorus

Just a few more weary days and then,
I’ll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I’ll fly away (I’ll fly away)

Video Link

About Albert E. Brumley:

Albert E. Brumley was born near Spiro, Oklahoma on October 29, 1905. Pre-Dustbowl Oklahoma was primarily made up of sparse agricultural communities; Brumley’s family was no different. He spent much of his early life chopping and picking cotton on his family’s farm. In 1926, he enrolled in the Hartford Musical Institute of Hartford, Arkansas, and studied there through 1931. The Institute was led by Eugene Monroe Bartlett (1884–1941), owner of the Hartford Music Company and composer of the well-known gospel song “Victory in Jesus”. Brumley purchased Hartford Music Company in 1948.

Brumley married Goldie Edith Schell in 1931. They lived on the banks of Big Sugar Creek in Powell, Missouri, where they raised six children.

“I’ll Fly Away,” “Turn Your Radio On,” “If We Never Meet Again (This Side of Heaven),” “I’ll Meet You In The Morning,” “Rank Strangers,” and “He Set Me Free” are among a host of favorites written by Albert E. Brumley. He wrote over 800 songs. He established the Albert E. Brumley Sundown to Sunup Gospel Sing (now Albert E. Brumley Gospel Sing) in 1969 in Springdale, Arkansas. Brumley has been inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.

Albert Brumley was a member of the Church of Christ and is buried at Fox Church of Christ Cemetery near Powell, Missouri. He died November 15, 1977. Brumley’s son Tom, who would die in 2009, later became a respected steel guitarist in country music and songleader in the Church of Christ in Powell.

The Suddenness of Death

steve gupton

Steve Gupton

Eight years ago, I came in contact with a man by the name of Steve Gupton. Steve had been raised in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church movement and attended Bob Gray’s IFB college in the 1980s. Steve and I spent countless hours talking about shared past experiences and our attempt to forge a new path in life sans God. Several years ago, Steve went through a divorce and suffered through long periods of depression. I talked him off of the ledge on more than one occasion. Steve deeply loved his children, and had plans to get married this year. Polly and I planned to travel to North Carolina for the wedding, hoping to meet Steve face-to-face for the first time. Sadly, I will never get to meet my friend in the flesh. On Saturday, Steve, a physically fit martial arts instructor, suddenly died from a heart attack. He was fifty-one.

Steve commented hundreds of times on this blog. We traded messages on Facebook hours before he died. We chatted about IFB pastor Donnie Romero being forced to resign over cavorting with prostitutes, smoking weed, and gambling. And now, just like that, the voice of my friend is forever silenced.

Earlier this week, another internet friend of mine, Justin Vollmar, woke up to discover that his three-year old daughter Clarisa had died suddenly in her sleep. Clarisa was deaf and blind, and was loved dearly by her parents. Justin rarely commented on this blog, but he did credit me with helping him on his journey out of Evangelical Christianity. Justin was a pastor of an Evangelical deaf church before he deconverted.

Both of these deaths are a reminder to me of the brevity of life and how suddenly it can end. The Bible is right when it says: Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth. (Proverbs 27:1)

My friend Steve will face one final indignity as he is laid to rest: an Evangelical pastor has been asked to hold the funeral service. Steve and I often talked about what we wanted when we died. Having a Bible thumper preside over our funerals was definitely not something either one of us wanted. I suspect Steve’s IFB family is getting the last say on his funeral. Let this serve as reminder of the importance of putting into writing your last wishes.

Christianity offers the delusional hope that if people will just “believe” that they will be reunited someday in Heaven with their saved loved ones. As a Christian, I would have comforted myself with the promise of seeing Steve again. I would have comforted Justin with the promise that one day he would see Clarisa again and she would have a perfect body, one that could see and hear. Such promises are essential to Christian belief. Without the promise of a blessed afterlife, Christianity loses its power. People want to believe that there is more to life than the here and now; they want to believe that death is not the end; they want to believe that the family circle won’t be broken in the sweet by and by.  But life tells us a far different story — that death is certain and often comes when we expect it least; that death rips from us those we love, leaving only our memories. I wish it were different, but alas I must embrace reality, a reality that tells me I shall never see my friend Steve again; that Justin will never hold in his arms again his precious daughter. All we have are the memories of time spent with those we love. These untimely deaths are reminders, at least to me, that I should live life to its fullest and that I shouldn’t put off to another day experiencing life with those I love. Most of all, I am reminded of my own mortality. Steve was physically fit and in good health, yet he’s dead. Here am I with a broken-down, failing body. Dare I think for one moment that long life awaits me? As I helplessly watch, for the first time, my wife of forty years struggle with serious health problems, dare I think that we have forever in our future? No! We have today. We have now.

Let me conclude this post with the advice I give on my ABOUT page:

You have one life. There is no heaven or hell. There is no afterlife. You have one life, it’s yours, and what you do with it is what matters most. Love and forgive those who matter to you and ignore those who add nothing to your life. Life is too short to spend time trying to make nice with those who will never make nice with you. Determine who are the people in your life that matter and give your time and devotion to them. Live each and every day to its fullest. You never know when death might come calling. Don’t waste time trying to be a jack of all trades, master of none. Find one or two things you like to do and do them well. Too many people spend way too much time doing things they will never be good at.

Here’s the conclusion of the matter. It’s your life and you best get to living it. Someday, sooner than you think, it will be over. Don’t let your dying days be ones of regret over what might have been.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Bob, the Saved Rapist

barbara gerencser 1978

Mom and Bruce, Rochester, Indiana, 1978

Bob was my mom’s brother-in-law. Married to my dad’s sister, Bob was a rough-and-tumble truck driver and dirt-track race-car driver. Bob’s parents were devout Fundamentalist Baptists. Bob was raised in the church, and at the age of seventeen he walked the sawdust trail at a revival meeting and asked Jesus to save him from his sin. According to Baptist theology, Bob was now an eternally saved child of God.

After high school, Bob left home and abandoned the Baptist faith of his parents. Over the next six decades, Bob lived as if God did not exist. In every way, he lived as the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. He was a booze-drinking skirt chaser known for sexually harassing and assaulting women. Female family members knew to steer clear of Bob lest they find themselves a target of his sexual advances. Age didn’t matter to Bob, and more than a few teen family members endured his touches, squeezes, and other demeaning behaviors.

Women got “used to” Bob’s sexual assaults. Viewing him as harmless, they would recount to me, “Oh, that was just Bob being Bob.” It was the 1960s and 1970s, after all, and that’s just how men were, I was told. As I will share in a moment, Bob was anything but harmless.

In early 1969, we lived east of Farmer, Ohio in a farmhouse owned by my dad’s sister and brother-in-law. I was in the sixth grade at Farmer Elementary School. One day, I was home from school sick. I spent the day in bed recuperating. In the early afternoon, Bob pulled into the drive. I figured he was there to see my mom, so I stayed in my room. A short time later, Bob left and I heard my mom calling my name. She was crying, saying that Bob had just raped her. She asked me to go to the neighbor’s house and call someone (I can’t remember who). I did, but no one ever came to our home.

You see, Mom had mental health problems — lots of problems. This meant, of course, in the minds of “healthy” people, she couldn’t be relied on to tell the truth. Bob was well-known in town. Bob would never rape anyone. Yes, he was a “little” too friendly with women, but, hey, that was just “Bob being Bob.” A few months later, we moved to Deshler, Ohio. Mom never talked about Bob after that. I suspect that she buried the rape deep in the recesses of her mind, right next to memories of her father repeatedly sexually assaulting her as a child.

Bob died a few years ago. His funeral was held at the local Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) church. Bob’s parents helped start this congregation and were pillars of the church for decades. I attended the funeral, wanting to see what kind of send-off the once-saved-always-saved Baptists would give Bob, the Saved Rapist. The pastor giving the sermon spoke of the night sixty years prior that Bob had been gloriously saved, and that he was now in Heaven with his mom and dad. The pastor never mentioned that Bob hadn’t darkened the doors of the church since the 1960s and he, in every way, lived a life of debauchery. The pastor cared more about protecting the memory of Bob’s parents than he did telling the truth. I have seen this behavior countless times over the years: degenerate people preached into Heaven, all because they mentally assented to a set of theological propositions. And therein lies the vulgarity of once-saved-always-saved soteriology. It’s the same theology that says I am still a Christian, and that no matter what I say or do I will go to Heaven when I die. Just pray the right prayer, believe the right things and Heaven is yours!

As the funeral service went along, I found myself becoming increasingly angry. I wanted to rebuke the pastor for his lies. I wanted to scream at the congregation for their willful ignorance of what kind of man Bob really was. Most of all, I wanted to be my mom’s voice. Not a mile away, Mom lay silent in her grave. Oh, to bring her to life again so she could give testimony to what Bob did to her! On that day, I so wished that there was a Hell. If anyone deserved endless torment, it was Bob. Alas, there is no Hell, so the only satisfaction that comes from Bob’s death is that no other woman will ever have to suffer the indignity of being sexually assaulted by him. I wish Mom had been alive to see Bob meet his end. Unfortunately, fifteen years prior, Mom turned a Ruger .357 on herself, pulled the trigger, ripping a hole in her heart. Her beautiful, tragic life instantly came to an end at age fifty-four, due in no small part to men who saw her as an object of sexual desire and gratification and not as a thoughtful, intelligent — and yes, beautiful — human being she really was.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Independent Baptist Songs: Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stanphill

ira stanphill

From time to time, I plan to post lyrics from the songs we sang in the Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) churches I grew up in and pastored. Unbelievers and non-Fundamentalists might find some of these lyrics quite interesting, and, at times, funny or disturbing. Enjoy!

Today’s Independent Baptist Song is Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stanphill. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by Jeanne Johnson and Friends.

Mansion Over the Hilltop by Ira Stanphill

I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver lined

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Though often tempted, tormented, and tested
And like the prophet my pillow’s a stone
And though I find here no permanent dwelling
I know He’ll give me a mansion my own

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely
I’m not discouraged I’m heaven bound
I’m but a pilgrim in search of the city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold

Video Link

This song is based on John 14:1-3:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

Unfortunately, for Evangelicals, the Greek word translated mansion in the King James Version should have been translated rooms. Instead of Evangelicals getting their very own mansion in Heaven some day, what they will really get is a room at God’s YMCA dormitory. The way Evangelicals fight amongst themselves, communal living should make for great entertainment. Imagine Fred Phelps being in the same vicinity as Billy Graham.  Sure will be fun to watch from Hell.

About Ira Stanphill:

Stanphill  (February 14, 1914 to December 30, 1993) was an Assemblies of God pastor, singer, and Gospel songwriter. A gifted musician, he was already playing piano, organ, ukulele and accordion by age 10. By the time he reached 17, he was composing and singing, participating in revival crusades, prayer meetings, and tent campaigns. He graduated from the Junior College in Chillicothe, Missouri, and was later awarded an honorary Ph.D. from Hyles-Anderson College in Crown Point, Indiana. As a singing evangelist, he preached all over America and in over 40 other countries. He was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1981, and published his autobiography, This Side of Heaven, in 1983.

Dear Christians, What Really Matters?

what really matters

When it comes to matters of Christian faith, who decides what is orthodox and what is not? Who is the final authority?

Is God the final authority? Which God?

Is the Bible the final authority? Which Bible? Which Translation?

Is the Pope the final authority?

Is the denomination the final authority?

Is the Church the final authority?

Is the pastor the final authority?

Perhaps, in classic Protestant, priesthood-of-the-believer fashion, the individual Christian is the final authority?

No two churches agree on what constitutes orthodoxy.

No two denominations agree on what constitutes orthodoxy.

Certainly, no two Christians agree on anything.

Disagreement, debate, disunity, and internecine warfare are common everyday experiences in Christendom.

Yet, atheists, agnostics, and other unbelievers are told that unless they embrace the God of the Christian faith they will surely die in their sins and spend eternity in the Lake of Fire.

Perhaps the Christian community would be better served if they stopped evangelizing, stopped debating non-believers, and instead diligently worked at getting their house in order.

Outside of the promise of a future home in Heaven, what does Christianity offer anyone in THIS life? Why would anyone want to become a Christian?

Christians want unbelievers to accept that they speak for God. They want unbelievers to accept that their Church has the truth, direct from God’s Holy Word. They want unbelievers to accept that their God is the ruler of all things, the giver and taker of life, he who holds the universe in the palm of his hand.

Yet, what do unbelievers see?

They see a Christianity that is hopelessly mired in endless argument, disagreement, and debate; unable to even agree on basic matters such as salvation, baptism, and communion. They see a Christianity that says, with great self-assurance, that unless you are like us you will go to hell and burn forever. They see a Christianity, particularly in the United States, that does not take seriously the teachings of the Christ they say they follow. They see a Christianity enamored with power, money, buildings, and self-importance.

What unbelievers really want to know is WHY would anyone want to become a Christian? Unbelievers are not interested in doctrine. They are not interested in whose church is the “right” one. They are not interested in your peculiar beliefs or practices. What unbelievers want to see is that “people matter.” That’s it. That people matter. Not for the sake of their money or power, but simply because they are fellow citizens of Planet Earth.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that all the commands of the Bible can be summed up in two statements:

  • Love God
  • Love your fellow Man

Where can one find such a Christianity?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 61, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 40 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.