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Tag: Heaven

Angels: You Can’t See Them but They are Real

Sometime before the Christian God created the world, he created angels. Created higher than humans, angels are God’s gofers — doing whatever God commands them to do. Angels are sexless beings, spirits that cannot be seen unless they take on a corporeal (i.e. human) form. The most famous angel in the Bible is Lucifer (Satan, Devil, Beelzebub, Dragon, Serpent, Abaddon, Morningstar). Lucifer, along with one-third of the angels in Heaven, rebelled against God. The rebellion proved to be a failure. God cast Lucifer and his followers out of Heaven. These fallen angels (demons, devils, unclean spirits) made earth their home. According to the book of Job, Lucifer, called the accuser of the brethren (Christians), still has access to Heaven. He’s considered the god of this world, the prince and power of the air. Lucifer walks to and fro on the face of the earth, looking for people whom he may fuck up (devour). Some day, Lucifer will once again wage war against God. This war will fail, just as the last one did. After Lucifer is defeated, and Jesus renovates — what a great show for the Home and Garden TV channel! — the heavens and the earth, Lucifer will be cast into the Lake of Fire — the final home for Lucifer, fallen angels, Christopher Hitchens, Steven Hawking, Steve Gupton, Bruce Gerencser, and all (billions and billions) non-Christians.

I typed the previous paragraph from memory. It’s been fourteen years since I preached my last sermon, but the vestiges of a lifetime of serving Jesus live on in my mind. I can’t remember what I did an hour ago or yesterday, but religious beliefs learned over the first fifty years of my life live on. Some days, I wish I could have a Men in Black mind wipe, erasing all the religious nonsense that clutters my mind. Other days, I am glad I still remember this stuff. Thanks to a lifetime of reading and studying the Bible, I don’t have to spend much time researching Bible verses or Christian theology. I may be an apostate reprobate, but Christianity lives on in my mind.

Ask Evangelicals about what Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus believe, most of them will tell you that these groups are cults, sects that believe all sorts of crazy nonsense.  When asked if their beliefs are just as crazy, Evangelicals will take offense, saying that their God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — is the one true God, and there is nothing bizarre, fantastic, or foolish about Christianity. After reading what I write next, readers are invited to decide whether a room should be booked for Christianity at an insane asylum.

Evangelicals believe that there is a spiritual dimension all around us. We can’t see or hear what goes on in this dimension, but it is as real as the Twilight Zone. How do Christians know this spiritual dimension exists? The Bible, on more than a few occasions, speaks of this dimension. Christians are already used to believing in an imaginary God, so it is not a stretch for them to believe in the existence of a non-corporeal spiritual dimension.

Evangelicals believe that this spiritual dimension is inhabited by Lucifer, fallen angels (demons), and heavenly angels. Day and night, God’s angels and Lucifer’s angels fight one another. Think of it as an endless MMA match. According to the Bible, non-Christians are influenced and controlled by Lucifer and his minions. These fallen angels can and do possess humans, causing them to do all sorts of abominable things — you know, like voting Democrat. Evangelicals are fond of blaming Lucifer and fallen angels for much of the evil we see in the world. Never mind the fact that the book of Job teaches that Lucifer can’t do anything unless God gives him permission to do so. Remember that the next time an NRA-loving Republican senator blames Lucifer and his followers for a mass shooting. Lucifer may have pulled the trigger, but it was God who gave him the order to fire.

Lucifer also tempts, corrupts, influences, and leads Christians astray. While most Evangelicals don’t believe fallen angels (demons) can possess followers of Jesus, they can and do oppress them. In fact, the more godly Evangelicals are, the more likely they are to come under demonic attack. Charismatics, in particular, have wild imaginations when it comes to Lucifer and his influence over Christians and non-Christians alike. Spend an hour or two reading the CHARISMA website and you’ll come away wondering how the whole lot of them haven’t ended up being locked up in padded cells.

I am sure many Evangelicals believe that I am under the influence of Lucifer; that I am more than likely demon-possessed. Maybe I am, but just remember that if I am, it’s Jesus’ fault. He’s the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He holds the world in the palm of his hands. He possesses the keys to life and death. No one, according to Evangelicals, is born or dies before God says so.

Take a moment to stand in your front yard or in the middle of your living room. Glance left, right, forward, back, up, and down. According to Evangelicals, all around you is a spiritual dimension filled with God’s and Lucifer’s angels. Sure would be nice to see these angels and not have to take their word for it. If an angel showed up at my bedside tonight with an authenticated message from God, why I might, for a moment, ponder the existence of spiritual beings. I say “for a moment” because if I do happen to see an angel, it is more than likely that I am either drunk or high on drugs.

Rational, skeptical humans know that there’s no such thing as angels. Believing in the existence of such beings is a hangover from our pre-science past; back in a time when the unexplainable was attributed to God, Satan, or angels. We now know better — well some of us do anyway. Sadly, millions (billions?) of people believe that we are surrounded by invisible angels. They have never seen an angel (and if you say you have seen one, pictures or I don’t believe you) but because of religious indoc . . . as I was typing this, my browser crashed. Was this an angel trying to stop me from making fun of him? Anyway, because of religious indoctrination, Christians believe without seeing. That’s the essence of faith. If people believe in a virgin-born, resurrected-from-the-dead Jesus whom they have never seen, believing we are surrounded by angels is not too much of a stretch for them.

Just remember, with FAITH all things are possible.

What were you taught by your parents and pastors about angels and an unseen spiritual dimension? Did you read books such as  Frank Peretti’s novel, This Present Darkness? Please share your thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 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.

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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: Heaven Came Down by John W. Peterson

john w peterson

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 Heaven Came Down by John W. Peterson. I was able to find a video of this song being sung by the Temple Baptist Church congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Heaven Came Down was one of my favorite songs. The churches I attended and pastored would lustily sing this song, with congregants with higher pitched voices singing the last line right out of the ballpark.  Heaven Came Down reminded me, at the time, of the wonderful relationship I had with Jesus and Heaven that awaited me after I died.

I am many years removed from my church singing days, but songs such as Heaven Came Down still lurk deep within my mind. As I listened to the video below, I sang along, not missing a word. Using music to religiously indoctrinate people works, as I can surely attest. I suspect many readers can say the same; that try as we might to wash our religious past from our minds, songs and Bible verses live on.

Video Link

Heaven Came Down by John W. Peterson

O what a wonderful, wonderful day, day I will never forget;
After I’d wandered in darkness away, Jesus my Savior I met.
O what a tender, compassionate friend, He met the need of my heart;
Shadows dispelling, with joy I am telling, He made all the darkness depart.

Chorus
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,  (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;  (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!  (filled my soul)

Born of the Spirit with life from above into God’s family divine,
Justified fully thru Calvary’s love, O what a standing is mine!
And the transaction so quickly was made, when as a sinner I came,
Took of the offer, of grace He did proffer, He saved me, O praise His dear name!

Chorus
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,  (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;  (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!  (filled my soul)

Now I’ve a hope that will surely endure after the passing of time;
I have a future in heaven for sure there in those mansions sublime.
And it’s because of that wonderful day, when at the cross I believed;
Riches eternal and blessings supernal, from His precious hand I received.

Chorus
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul,  (filled my soul)
When at the cross the Savior made me whole;  (made me whole)
My sins were washed away and my night was turned to day,
Heaven came down and glory filled my soul!  (filled my soul)

Heaven came down and glory filled my soul.

About John W. Peterson:

John W. Peterson (1921-2006) was born in Lindsborg, Kansas, and began his musical career while he was still in his teens. During World War II, he served as an Army Air Force pilot flying the famed “China Hump.”Later, he attended Moody Bible Institute and served on the radio staff there for a number of years. In 1953, he graduated from the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago and shortly thereafter settled in Pennsylvania to continue his songwriting career. He then moved to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where for over ten years he was President and Editor-in-Chief of Singspiration, a sacred music publishing company. He also served on the board of Gospel Films, Inc. of Muskegon, Michigan for several years. Later he moved to Scottsdale, Arizona where he continued his writing and co-founded Good Life Productions. A few years later, the John W. Peterson Music Company was established. During this time, he also served on the board of Family Life Radio Network in Tucson, Arizona. He had wide experience as a choral director, and throughout his career was in great demand as a guest conductor of his own works.

His music is loved and sung around the world. Mr. Peterson has composed well over 1000 individual songs, including titles such as: “It Took a Miracle,” “Over the Sunset Mountains,” “So Send I You,” “Springs of Living Water,” “Heaven Came Down,” “Jesus Is Coming Again” and “Surely Goodness and Mercy.” In addition, he has written 35 cantatas and musicals. Among these are “Night of Miracles,” “Born a King,” “No Greater Love,” “Carol of Christmas,” “Jesus Is Coming,” “King of Kings,” “Down from His Glory” and “The Last Week.” Approximately 10,000,000 copies of these cantatas and musicals have been published and sold.

In 1967, the National Evangelical Film Foundation presented Mr. Peterson with the Sacred Music Award in recognition of his accomplishments in the field of sacred music. In the same year, he received the honorary degree, Doctor of Sacred Music, from John Brown University. In 1971, he received the honorary degree, Doctor of Divinity, from Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon; and in 1979, he received the honorary degree, Doctor of Fine Arts, from Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1977, his autobiography, “The Miracle Goes On,” was published by Zondervan Publishing House, and a film by the same title was released by Gospel Films. In 1986, Mr. Peterson was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and in 1996 at MusiCalifornia, he received the prestigious Ray DeVries Church Music Award. He’s listed in “Who’s Who in America” and “Who’s Who in the World.”

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.

Bruce Gerencser