Monday, April 25, 2016

Dr. Peter S. Ruckman: the Nonpareil

The greatest Bible scholar of the past century went Home to be with the Lord on April 21st.  He is survived by his loving wife, his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren ... and by thousands of students he personally trained, who now serve the Lord throughout the world, from the Ukraine to the Philippines.

Peter Sturges Ruckman was, in his manner and in his presentation, no one's idea of a "scholar." He came from a rough background: before receiving Christ and being born again at the age of 27, he had worked as a drill instructor in hand-to-hand combat in the United States Army; a drummer in dance bands in the 1940s and 50s; a street artist in the French Quarter of New Orleans; and a disc jockey in Pensacola, Florida. When he came to Jesus Christ, he became a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), but all of his subsequent training and education never "civilized" him.  He was polite in polite society, but he was most at home casting a net in the waters off Pensacola, or playing with his beloved German Shepherds, or tending the goal in amateur hockey - - - a sport he loved passionately, but didn't take up until he was 68 years old.  He played with his students, men from the ages of 18 to 40, and he only quit playing at the age of 84.  He was the epitome of what was once called "muscular Christianity," which has all but disappeared in our effeminate, Laodicean age. 

He became an expert in Biblical languages at Bob Jones University in the 1950s; the founder of that school said that Ruckman was "the most brilliant man who ever walked onto this campus." After earning his doctorate, he worked as an evangelist or pastor for over a half century.  In 1964, he founded the Pensacola Bible Institute, for the purpose of teaching young men the Authorized King James Version of the Bible - - - God's final, perfect propositional revelation to the English-speaking world.  He also taught his students Greek, Hebrew, Church History, Advanced Theology, and homiletics - - - or, "how to preach."  He preached and taught all over the world, and at this moment his students are planting and pastoring churches from Mexico to Korea and beyond.  He was the world's leading expert in the area of manuscript evidence: the background of the King James Bible, as well as all modern translations.  He knew the various Greek texts and editions of the New Testament like no other living man.

But, because he would not abandon his belief that the Authorized Version is God's uniquely preserved and authoritative word, he was a "renegade." He was hated and rejected by the "evangelicals" and "fundamentalists" who  make their living by exploiting the technical ignorance of the average Christian.  These "scholars," who regard themselves and their own preferences as the only final authority on earth, hated Dr. Ruckman with a perfect hatred. And they were not fit, spiritually or intellectually, to water his dogs, or mow his lawn.

He has written verse-by-verse commentaries on over 40 books of the Bible, with others slated for future publication, as well as the Ruckman Reference Bible, any or all of which can be purchased from the Bible Baptist Bookstore in Pensacola.

I studied under Dr. Ruckman, in Pensacola, from 1986-1991; I have known him since 1985. Apart from his rough exterior, he was one of the most generous men I have ever known, and any of his students can attest to his grace and mercy in his personal dealings. And every man or woman who sat under his teaching came away with one paramount precept, written in bright lines: Dr. Ruckman is not the "final authority."  The Authorized King James Bible is the final authority.


In my brief 66 years, I have been personally acquainted with three men who I believed to be authentic geniuses: Francis Schaeffer, William F. Buckley Jr., and Peter S. Ruckman.  All were gentlemen and scholars.

But Peter S. Ruckman was the wisest and the kindest man I have ever known.  Millions around the world have been blessed by this delightfully simple, impossibly complicated servant of Jesus Christ, with Whom he is now face to face. 

November 19, 1921 - April 21, 2016
Saved March 14, 1949

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day, 2017

Friday of this week is "Earth Day," and as certain elements of the world's population concentrate on environmental issues, it seems appropriate, as a renegade Christian, to reflect for a moment on what the Bible says about the earth (since the Bible doesn't capitalize the planet's name, neither will we).  Pardon the blood-red typeface, please: I'm a bit tired of the color green in this context, and red is its opposite among the primary colors.
First, the most basic and obvious facts.  On this, Bible believers and skeptics alike have some basic agreements.  In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth .... and God saw that it was good (Genesis 1:1, 10).  The skeptics won't admit the "creation" part, but they'll certainly agree that the earth was "good:" that's what "Earth Day" is all about.  Hooray for earth!  Go, Blue! ...

But then Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, and what Christians call "the Fall" took place: and the earth was utterly shattered. We can't begin to imagine how beautiful this planet was before the Fall; but, even afterwards, it remained magnificent.  But so much of its current beauty is the result of catastrophe: think of the Grand Canyon, or mighty mountains pushed up by volcanic activity.  Some of the most breathtaking sights on earth are the result of violence .... and the violence came as a result of Adam and Eve's rebellion.  In other words, earth started out perfect, and man almost immediately set about ruining it - - - and he's been ruining it ever since.  Fundamentalist Christians and radical environmentalists can agree on this part; the latter just leave out the "God" stuff, which they find inconvenient, many of them also being radical theophobes. 

The Bible describes earth's current condition, and does so without the help of Al Gore or "Friends of the Earth:" For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now (Romans 8:22). Earthquakes, floods, volcanoes, hurricanes: the planet is suffering.  And it's suffering because of man's rebellion.  The reason that the lion and the lamb aren't lying down together, yet, is because man destroyed God's perfect environment through sin.  And man will not restore that perfect environment through pantheistic orgies like "Earth Day," or even by the most dedicated "science."  It will be restored by God, at a time of His choosing, and not until.  
(Actually, as Francis Schaeffer pointed out, it's not quite accurate to call today's radical environmentalists "pantheists."  Pantheism is the belief that nature is the manifestation of God, or is, quite literally, God: that God consists of the rocks and trees and star clusters.  But the "Earth Day" types don't, as a rule, believe that God exists at all.  They don't believe that everything [pan-] is God, because they don't believe God is there in any form.  So, as Schaeffer said, they should be called "pan-everythingists."  They don't believe that everything is God; they believe that everything is everything. They just haven't worked out the absurdity of their presuppositions.  And I'm not picking on the "Earth Day" people: Al Gore didn't invent pantheism.  Hindus and Buddhists and Native Americans have pantheistic elements in their ideologies; but at least they connect the visible with some sort of Deity, which the modern, educated Westerners simply don't.)
There are, to be sure, professing Christians who are terribly concerned about the state of the planet .... infinitely more concerned, I might add, than they are about the state of other men's souls.  These liberal "Christians," who predominate in the mainline denominations (Roman Catholic and most Protestant groups), will weep, and weep sincerely, over the destruction of a species or the clear-cutting of a forest, or beat their breasts over "fracking;" but they won't shed a tear over millions of people going to Hell every week because they haven't heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  They will yammer about "stewardship," and say that Adam and Eve (in whom they really don't believe) were put here to be "stewards" of the Garden.  Which is true; but they don't talk about the Fall, and how sin changed everything.  When the Bible refers to "stewardship" in the New Testament, it is not talking about "preventing global warming." That's a political position; and clergymen who present it as the Gospel are traitors to their calling, if they've been called at all.  They're infidels, and they literally don't give a damn about the souls of men and women.  If that offends you, go ahead and let your blood pressure shoot up: it won't affect your "carbon footprint."

So, what about "global warming?" (That term isn't used so much any more; as it's gradually being discredited, the pan-everythingists are talking about "climate change.") Not being a scientist, I'm not going to enter that discussion, but as a middling student of the Bible, I can tell you God's plans for the earth.  At some point in the future (I believe the very near future), Jesus Christ is going to return to this planet, in the Flesh, with the scars showing, and sit down on David's Throne in Jerusalem, to rule the world with a rod of iron.  The planet will be restored for a thousand years; that's when the lion and lamb will lie down together, and the toddler will play, safely, with the rattlesnake and the anaconda. 
The planet will be ruled, politically, by the Jews: not the "Messianic Jews" or the "former Jews," but the Jews. And at the end of that time, there will be a final Judgment, the Great White Throne judgment of God, where every man and woman who hasn't received Jesus Christ will finally get his or her "day in court."  (I won't be there; my sins were judged at Calvary.)  Then, Satan will be bound and cast into Hell ..... and the human race will finally see what "global warming" is all about: 
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up (2 Peter 3:10).   
God burning earth
And eternity will continue, and Heaven and Hell will continue ... and you and I will continue, in one of those places.  The earth will be, for some, a memory; others will have more wonderful things to think about.
What is the current significance of the planet earth?  It's a place of great beauty, but also great ugliness; great joy, but also unending heartache.  But, as someone said, many many years ago:  "This earth is all of Heaven that an unbeliever in Jesus Christ will ever see - - - and all of Hell that a believer will ever see." 
Enjoy "Earth Day," if you like.  Make yourself feel good by "caring for the planet."  But if you care about the things that are really important, like your relationship with the Creator, why not make this the day to actually meet Him, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ? But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).  Forget the politics and the fads and the fashions, and learn what life is all about!  You won't be disappointed!

Sunday, April 17, 2016


Hello there, brethren!  Forgive my long absence from this blog; I haven't truly been absent, but I have done very few posts in recent months.  As I said in a post on December 7 of last year, some of my inactivity was due to a series of surgeries and medical procedures, all of which (by the grace and mercy of God) were successful and had very positive results for me.  Since then, my posts have been limited because of my work on a major book-length manuscript; I'll share the details of this project as soon as possible.  (It's the last thing I ever expected to write: a Young Adult novel, thirty chapters in length, aimed at Christian teenagers. The manuscript is complete, and I'm in the process of finding a publisher; I would greatly appreciate your prayers.) But this blog is about to undergo some major changes - - - although it'll still be the blog you're used to.

To be completely honest, the platform for this blog (provided by Google), which has served me well since 2011, is becoming increasingly difficult and even unpleasant to use. Google, that mammoth corporate monstrosity which seeks to enfold us all in its smothering embrace, is constantly changing policies and rules, and I've decided, after praying about it, to move to another platform.  I won't be starting from scratch; I'll gradually re-post most of the important "Christian Reflections," as I continue to create new posts. I may be forced to change the title of the blog, but it will be recognizable.  Those of you who are "followers" of this blog will be notified by email when the change is made, sometime this summer, probably in June.

I thank you all for your interest and support, and I ask your prayers as I seek to follow God's will for this little blog.  God bless you all, and keep looking up!  The Lord might be back before any of these projects are completed! I leave you, temporarily, with these words from A. W. Tozer:

The will of God is always the proper goal for every one of us. Where God is must be the place of desire. Any motion toward God is a forward motion. Even repentance is not a retreat toward the past but a decided march into a more glorious future. Restitution is not a return to yesterday but a step into a blessed tomorrow. There is such a thing as going backward in the spiritual life. There is such a thing as a retreat from a spiritual position once held by us as individual Christians. And there is such a thing as denominations and missionary societies making a wholesale withdrawal from ground once won at tremendous cost. If we find that we have gone back, then we should immediately reverse the direction and again go forward. The great truths of superior spiritual experiences, of high levels of personal living, of rapturous communion with the Three Persons of the Godhead, of victory over the flesh, of the gifts and power of the Spirit: what has happened to these? Once they marked us out and made us peculiar. What about it today? These are fair questions and they demand an answer. If candid self-examination reveals a departure from the green pastures where once our fathers grazed, what then? Let there be no wasting of time in a futile mooning over the past. Rather let us arise and go! Let us go forward to a new and better place in God. The land lies before us. Let us go in and take it.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

What do you say?

It used to be a common greeting, but you don't hear it so often any more: "What do you say?"  As in, "What's up? How're you doing?" Just an innocuous, everyday greeting, or a proposition: "I feel like going bowling tonight.  What do you say?"  But if you take those four simple words, all by themselves, they might constitute one of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself.

Because what we say, and when we say it, can be one of the most accurate barometers of our spiritual condition. Words, and the way words are used, are of course important: they can enlighten or destroy, they can exalt a nation or destroy an empire.  But on a more mundane level, the words we use in our everyday lives tell a great deal about us - - - especially if we're Christians, who have received Jesus Christ according to John 1:12. And the power of our words goes far beyond even that.

The Bible has a great deal to say about words, and the power of the tongue.  And sometimes it's a lot more important, a lot more consequential, than simply evaluating our own spiritual condition.  A teacher can, with a few well-chosen words of praise or guidance, help a child to develop and grow healthy, happy, and productive. Conversely, a parent who snaps at a child, or constantly speaks sarcastically, can scar and stunt a child's emotional health for a lifetime.  And how many friendships have been sundered, how many marriages have been destroyed, by angry or intemperate words?

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, says Proverbs 18:21,  and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof. Our words can inspire others to acts of heroism ... or drive them to suicide.  The possibilities, both good and bad, of what our words can accomplish are endless.
A skinny, sickly little boy is unlikely to become a playground bully; he's not built for it.  A girl who's not very attractive, physically, might not become an accomplished seductress. But anyone who can communicate in words can affect the lives of others - - - and themselves.

Most intelligent people, most thinking people, understand this.  But nobody, no matter how wise, no matter how well they understand language or psychology, can control their words all the time, without slipping up.  This is of particular importance to the Christian, whose words, on a day to day basis (or an hour to hour basis!) can reveal very clearly where he or she is standing with the Lord.  In a way, you can take a Christian's spiritual "temperature" by using the thermometer of his or her words.

Why is it that our words are so hard to control?  Even the kindest, gentlest, most Christlike people lose their temper at times, or say things they shouldn't.  And the rest of us do it even more frequently!

From the Epistle of James, chapter three: For in many things we offend all. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body. Behold, we put bits in the horses' mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be (James 3:2-10).

(Don't be intimidated by the perfect English of the King James Bible: it's not as tough as it sometimes looks!  Verse 2 simply means, "Everybody blows it, and sins, in many ways." When it speaks of the ship, the "governor" is the captain; when he "listeth," he's leaning on the helm, to steer the ship. These words can be understood by looking at a simple English dictionary.  If they sound "archaic," remember that words have many uses: yes, your state or province has a "governor" - - - but so does the engine on your car!)

Notice how God, speaking through James, refers to the tongue. "A little fire ... a fire ... a world of iniquity ... defileth the whole body ... setteth of fire the course of nature ... set on fire of Hell ... an unruly evil ... full of deadly poison." God is not flattering us here, or telling us what sweet talkers we are!

Nor is he telling us what some preachers tell us.  Many Pentecostal/Charismatic preachers are obsessed with the tongue (in fact, they're even obsessed with "tongues"). They promise that we can create blessings and wealth and happiness by "speaking it into existence." Marilyn Hickey actually says that she talks to her checkbook, and says, "Checkbook, you're just full of money!"  (I'm not making this up.)  People like Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland talk about "the power of a positive confession."  It is hard to imagine a concept, or a teaching, that is more of an outright contradiction of scripture. In fact, the "preaching" of these people is a perfect illustration of the passage in James!

The entire Bible is full of references to the tongue: most are negative, but some, notably in Proverbs, contrast the words of the wise with the jabbering of fools. David was always preoccupied with the importance of his own words, and those of others; he knew the stakes.  Come, ye children, hearken unto me: I will teach you the fear of the LORD. What man is he that desireth life, and loveth many days, that he may see good? Keep thy tongue from evil, and thy lips from speaking guile (Psalm 34:11-13). In Psalm 120:2, David is speaking of his enemies - - - but, perhaps, of himself as well: Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. David knew all about deceit; he never really got over his scheme to have Uriah killed, so that he could claim Bathsheba. 

The Old Testament is so full of verses about the tongue that no single blog, much less a single post, could treat them adequately. But everyone agrees (even if hypocritically) that lying and conspiring and slander are wrong.  Christians try to avoid these things, although we are just as prone to gossip as anyone else - - - usually in the guise of "prayer requests!"  A woman who would never tell a Big Black Lie will very often say, "Oh, did you hear about Mr. Jones and his secretary?  We need to pray for them!"

Most of us aren't involved in teaching false doctrines, or constantly lying, and most of us have God-given scruples about using inappropriate language.  And, when we've obeyed God's command to be filled with the Spirit - - - not a one-time thing (that's the Baptism of the Spirit, which occurs when we're saved), but on a daily basis - - - God gives us a "self-control" and a tempered tongue that we wouldn't otherwise have.

But we need to remember the old illustration of the glass, because it's true of everyone, at all times.  If a drinking glass is full of liquid, and the glass is jolted or jarred, whatever it contains will spill out. Every day, or nearly every day, the Christian is jarred and jolted by people or circumstances or events.  Someone insults us.  A car cuts in front of us in traffic.  We smash our toe on the doorjamb in the middle of the night.  We lock ourselves out of the house.  When such things happen, how does our tongue react?  What spills out of the glass: honey, or poison?

That's when our words become the spiritual thermometer!  If we're filled with the Spirit, we still won't be pleased by these little occurrences, but we won't lose our temper or use foul language.  If we're not filled with the Spirit .... well, you know the words that come to mind, as well as I do!    And, sometimes, it's not even a matter of temper, or pain, but simply a habit we've gotten used to.  With all due respect to my children's generation, the Internet and social media have even created abbreviations for profanity, lest people expend too much energy in dishonoring the Lord.  In fact, people even regard it as "cute:"

A very intimate question, if you're a married Christian: Have you ever argued angrily with your spouse as you drove to church on Sunday, and then began smiling and acting pious once you got there?  Or maybe you weren't acting: maybe, once in church, you came closer to the Lord, and the anger was gone.  But the two things came pretty close together, didn't they?  Have you ever prayed for your children, beseeching the Lord's blessing on them ... and then yelled at them when they did something unexpected, like spilling their milk or leaving a toy in your path?  If you've never done these things, I wish I could shake your hand!

Whatever is in the glass will spill out.  If the glass is full of Jesus Christ, then Jesus Christ will spill out.  If the glass is full of me, you don't want to be around when the glass gets jostled!

Why is the tongue such a good indicator of our inner spiritual condition?  Because, as Jesus Himself said, out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34).  Whatever is in our heart will escape our lips, sooner or later.

Back to James: Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be. Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh (James 3:10-12).

"These things ought not to be" .... but they often are, in my life and yours.  But it doesn't have to be that way.  

Because James has already given us the answer - - - and you might have missed it on first reading.  But the tongue can no man tame (verse 8).  Did you get that?  No man can tame it ... but God can, and wants to!

Like everything else in the Christian life, "the taming of the tongue" is accomplished by remembering two verses:  

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing (John 15:5); and

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:13). 

Even taming the tongue?  Even taming the tongue.  You and I can't do it ... but the Lord Jesus Christ, indwelling our bodies through the Holy Spirit, can!

That's something worth talking about!