RPM, Volume 16, Number 36, August 31 to September 6, 2014

Be Ready for the Changeup

By Rev. John McWilliams

From First Presbyterian Church of Bonita Springs

Old Testament Lesson: Genesis 3:1-6

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.''‛4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.

New Testament Lesson: Galatians 1:6-10

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel— 7 not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed. 9 As we have said before, so now I say again, If any one is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed. 10 Am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.

The Changeup

Well it's baseball season again and those of us who like baseball are happy about that and those of you who aren't should be. After all it is the American Pastime and if you're not passing time watching it, well, we have to wonder just what kind of American you are.

Yet if you are a baseball fan you are likely familiar with a pitch called a changeup. When you're standing at the plate and you're waiting for the pitch, you have about a half a second to determine what kind of pitch is coming after it leaves the pitcher's hand, if indeed you can determine it at all. What batters do to try and determine what kind of pitch is coming is to look at the pitcher's hand as he's releasing the ball. They try to see what kind of grip he has on the ball as he releases it, because different grips indicate different kinds of pitches.

The one shown on the screen right now is what a grip looks like for a changeup. However, that is also exactly what the grip looks like for a fastball. Yet there are differences and those differences are unable to be detected by the batter from his vantage point. The difference is that in the grip for a changeup, the ball is not gripped as tightly and the ball kind of sits back in the palm of the hand a little bit more, so when it's released it isn't released with anywhere near the force or speed of a fastball.

Therefore it comes to the batter slower. It's a change. So if a batter detects a fastball grip and expects a fastball to come, he's going to be swinging the bat fast and early, but if it's a changeup instead, the batter is going to be deceived. He will be swinging way too early and is going to miss the ball altogether and that's the point. The changeup is designed to fool and deceive the batter with the goal of getting him to miss the pitch and strike out. It's that simple.

Small changes can make a big difference. When speaking in a foreign language for instance, small changes can make a difference. I was once in a restaurant in Costa Rica ordering a meal. I was trying to tell the waiter that I would like my glass of water without ice. However, the Spanish word that I chose for ice was a mistake. Instead of the word for ice, I chose the word for ice cream. So I ended up asking the waiter for a glass of water without ice cream in it and yeah, he looked at me a little strange as well he should.

In another example of a small thing making a big difference, a good friend of mine was telling some people about his son. He was explaining to them that his son was in jail, but he was going to be getting out soon. He went on to explain how happy he was that his son had gone to jail and how proud he was of his son for doing well there. He told me that when he told people that story they looked at him strangely. He wondered why people would look at him that way when he was simply telling them how proud he was of his son for going to jail and for doing well there. Then someone kindly told him about his little mistake.

You see my friend is from Mexico and as is often the case when speaking English, our Latin brothers and sisters pronounce the letter "Y" like the letter "J." So, for example, instead of the Yankees, it becomes the "Jankees." What my friend was trying to say was that he was so proud that his son had gone to Yale, not jail. So little mistakes can make a big difference.

Changeups are being thrown at us today from various places. The corporate world is doing this in the products they produce. They are making changes to save money without telling us about it. Here are some examples of corporate changeups that are currently being thrown at us.

Pillsbury's Moist Supreme German Chocolate Cake Mix has been reduced by 3 ounces — from 18.25 ounces to 15.25 ounces. So now instead of making a nice even two dozen cupcakes, you only get about 21.

Then we have Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts in a can. They now put 52 fewer nuts in each can and they didn't tell us about the changeup.

Look at what Ghirardelli is doing. In their bag of Premium Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips for baking there are now 48 fewer chips per bag.

The next one is perhaps the worst. When I went to school a half a gallon was equal to two quarts. Now the so-called "half a gallon" of ice cream is made up of just 1.5 quarts. It's 25% less than it used to be.

Then we have the infamous case of chicken wire. You all know what chicken wire is and the many uses it has, but we're even being thrown a changeup from the chicken wire people and the culprits are suspected to be some pretty angry turkeys and ducks. These guys were possibly feeling left out and discriminated against by the name chicken wire and maybe they lobbied and fought hard for the change because now they have it. You can look it up. Are you ready? Chicken wire isn't just chicken wire anymore. In its much more politically correct form, it now is officially called "Poultry Wire." As one person said the turkeys and ducks must have cried, "FOWL" and gotten their way.

No Laughing Matter

Well, it's fun to joke about some of these things, but as we move to more serious things you're going to see that the changeups that are being thrown these days, especially at Christians, are anything but a laughing matter. As Christians we have to be ready for these changeups.

Of course the first changeup ever thrown was thrown by Satan to Adam and Eve in the Garden. We read about that in our Old Testament Lesson this morning. He was certainly deceptive. He convinced Adam and Eve that God never really meant what He said.

Today some of the biggest changeups being thrown at us are also trying to convince us that God never really meant what He said on a number of topics. Be assured that these changeups are aimed at fooling us, aimed at deceiving us and getting us to listen to what the Apostle Paul called "other gospels" rather than the Gospel that God's given us.

First let me tell you where many of these changes are coming from today. These changeups are coming from folks both inside and outside the Church who love to criticize us more conservative type Christians because we still base our theology and our Christian living more on what Jesus says than on what Oprah says and more on what the Bible teaches than what The New York Times preaches.

Yet before we look at some of these specific changeups, let's take a minute to take a look at one very general and sweeping change that's taken place that nobody talked about and which serves as a foundation and a launching point for so many others. This changeup seems like a small thing, but it's very deceptive and it's aimed at making Christians strike out.

A Changeup in the Definition of Tolerate

This changeup is the difference between the old and the new definition of the word "tolerate." Here's the old definition of the world tolerate:

Tolerate: to respect [others' beliefs, practices, etc.] without sharing them (Webster's New World Dictionary and Thesaurus, 1996)

You can see that this is about a 20-year old definition. Now take a look at the new definition of the word "tolerate." See if you catch the difference, the changeup that's being thrown at you.

Tolerate: to accept behavior and beliefs that are different from your own, although you might not agree with or approve of them (Cambridge Dictionaries Online, 2014)

You probably noticed the change. The word changed from "respect" in the old definition to "accept" in the new definition. That is a huge difference, because now we are being told that even if we disagree with someone, real tolerance means that we still accept their view as being as valid as our own.

If we don't declare that the other person's point of view is just as valid as ours, we're going to be labeled as intolerant and maybe some other things as well. Yet the irony here is that those who are calling us intolerant Christians are some of the biggest hypocrites on the planet because they are very selective about where and when they choose to apply their new definition of tolerance.

We are having stuff thrown at us every day that is designed to look very different than what it really is; changeups that are designed to deceive us and get us out of the game. Let me give you a few examples. These are changeups we get thrown at us all the time.

Example: Changeup #1

Religion and government should be completely separate and have nothing to do with each other. The establishment clause in the U.S. Constitution demands it.

That's not accurate. It's false. What the U.S. Constitution says, if a person reads it, is that the government shall make no law establishing (that is, giving official status to) one religion over another. The founders of the country had that problem in England. They didn't want to have it here in the United States.

In England, the Church of England had been given the status of being the official church in the country. It had all the perks that went with that status and it really discriminated against other churches. They didn't want that here in the U. S. They desired all churches to be able to worship as they so choose. In fact the establishment clause was actually written to protect the Church from the government, never the other way around.

It was never intended that religion should have nothing to with and never influence the government or our laws or how we do things in this country.

Anybody with an I.Q. in double figures should admit that our nation and our government and our laws were squarely founded on the Judeo-Christian heritage and worldview, and when they wrote "In God We Trust" on the walls of our courts and imprinted it on our money, they weren't speaking of Buddha, or Allah, or various Hindu gods. They were speaking of the God of the Bible, the God of Israel and the God of the New Testament.

I could spend an hour showing you slides of Washington, D.C. and federal buildings there that have carved in them in stone, passages from Scripture and images from the Bible.

The evidence is plentiful and it's really irrefutable. To try to deny that this country was born and built on Judeo-Christian law, ethics and morals drawn from the Bible you'd either have to be a complete historical revisionist or perhaps better put, an historical denier.

In fact I'd go so far as to say that a person who looks at the evidence and denies that this nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and values would be cut of the same cloth as someone who looks at the evidence for the Holocaust and denies it.

George Washington was involved in writing the Bill of Rights. He knew something about it. He would never violate the First Amendment. Yet shortly after the Bill of Rights was ratified, he wrote a prayer for the nation, calling on the God of Israel to bless this nation. This prayer was written out and shared with the entire country.

Was that a violation of the First Amendment and the establishment clause? Absolutely not and he was fully aware that it violated nothing in the Constitution. He knew the difference. I wish our courts today saw that difference the way George Washington saw it.

Yet when we Christians exercise our First Amendment right to free speech and express our opinion about our Christian heritage in this nation, we are called intolerant. We are called unconstitutional and the reason for that is clearly because the inventors of the new tolerance deem that we have nothing worthwhile to say and that whatever we do say shouldn't be tolerated.

What would be refreshing for those historical deniers to do would be to have the intellectual honesty to admit that our country was built on Judeo-Christian values and they simply don't like that fact and they'd like to change it. If they would just come clean and admit it we could go from there.

Let's face it. All societies have certain things that they are never going to tolerate and whatever those things turn out to be, are determined by whatever moral compass that society is following at the time.

We in this country refuse to tolerate murder. We don't tolerate rape and robbery and a whole lot of other things we shouldn't tolerate. Yet we also now tolerate a whole lot of things we didn't used to tolerate and that Scripture says we shouldn't tolerate. In my opinion that is in large part due to the fact that we are currently experiencing the greatest disconnection from Scripture that our society has ever seen.

Example: Changeup #2

More and more today when it comes to conservative Christians expressing their feelings respectfully about same-sex relationships and same-sex marriage, we are being labeled as intolerant and even worse, as haters.

By the very inventors of the new tolerance, we are being told our views cannot be tolerated.

It seems that those who are in favor of same-sex marriage can pretty much say anything they like, even when what they say is often completely false. Yet when we fail to accept their position as having equal value to our own, we are called intolerant and labeled as haters.

Moreover, when presented with undeniable and irrefutable facts showing that same-sex marriage isn't what they claim it to be, those facts are swept under the rug. In addition, those who bring them up are deemed to be haters and people who aren't to be tolerated, even if they are respectfully sharing their views and are doing nothing to force their views on other people.

You have to wonder what happened to that part of the new definition of tolerance that calls for them to accept the views of others as being of equal value to their own, even though they disagree with them.

The bottom line is that those in the pro same-sex movement who practice the new tolerance do tend to accept everyone's opinion on this subject, unless they deem someone's opinion to be intolerable and if they deem it to be intolerable, they will even call for laws to be written to punish those who openly and respectfully express such views.

Many in the pro gay movement are in favor of having people like me, who publically and respectfully express my opinion that the practice of homosexuality is sinful, to be found in violation of the law and guilty of hate speech. Just north of the border, in our neighboring country of Canada, this is already law. It's already happening. It's already taking place.

Just last month a man from the United States went to Canada, where he was to speak at a conference. He was detained at the Regina Airport. His luggage was searched. His phone was searched. His computer was searched and DVD's of previous speeches he'd given in the U. S. were also searched.

You might wonder why he was detained. He was detained because of his Christian position on same-sex relationships and marriage. Someone tipped off the Canadian officials that he was coming and that he was against same-sex marriage. A preliminary ruling barred him from entering the country, but was overturned at a hearing the next day and he was allowed to stay in the country. After the conference, he then went to a college campus to hand out literature which shared his position on homosexuality and he was asked to leave the campus. In my opinion, once asked to leave he should have left because they have a right to ask him to leave and he should have respected that opinion, yet he chose to stay and was therefore arrested.

Yet it was the quotation by one of the college vice presidents that really captured my attention and tells the tale of the new definition of tolerance. Look at it:

We are a diverse campus, we are a welcoming campus. We celebrate that diversity and our staff felt that the material and some of the things they had with them simply contravened that policy and we asked them to leave.

We're a diverse campus? Actually it's more like, "We're a welcoming campus unless we determine you're not welcome."

So there you have it. The new tolerance says that everyone is to be tolerated unless we deem you to be saying things that aren't tolerable. We're diverse and welcoming unless we determine you aren't welcome and by the way, if we deem that you are saying things that should not be tolerated, that doesn't make us intolerant.

Bottom line is, if we don't like what you say we're not going to tolerate it. We're going to kick you off our campus and if you don't agree, we'll get you arrested, find you guilty of hate speech and put you in jail. God forbid that definition of tolerance is ever upheld by the courts in this country.

Now let's take a look at one more changeup. This, too, is an important one.

Example: Changeup #3

Everything in life is relative. There are no absolutes. If you preach that there are absolutes you are intolerant of others' opinions.

Jesus was always tolerant. He always accepted and loved everybody.

Now that sounds kind of good, especially about Jesus, but the problem is that it's not true. It's actually the polar opposite of what Jesus was really like and what He came to do in this world.

Those who say Jesus always accepted and loved everybody are Biblical deniers or they haven't read the Bible in the first place. Jesus was certainly loving. He even told us to love our enemies. Yet He never told us to accept what our enemies say about Christianity as being an opinion equal to that of what we hold to in our faith.

If you feel Jesus was always tolerant you've forgotten about some tables He turned over in The Temple. You've forgotten that He said He was The Only Way to God, not one of many, but the Only Way to God. You've forgotten that although He loved and forgave the woman caught in adultery, He also confronted her and did not tolerate her sin and told her to stop doing it. He saw what she did as absolutely wrong.

People who paint Jesus as some kind of cosmic nice guy, Who just forgives everybody whether they accept Him or not, are making up their own theology. They are completely untrue to what the Bible actually says and they are playing with fire of an eternal nature.

Those who say there are no absolutes often also say there is no such thing as absolute good or absolute evil. What appears to be evil, they say, really isn't evil. It's just good people acting selfishly and if they would just be more tolerant, things would be fine. All they have to do is concentrate on being the good person they naturally are in this life. If you just can sit down with them and talk with them, you'll walk away with a good agreement which they're going to honor when you show them how good they really can be. Really?

If there was ever a handshake with evil, this is what it looks like.

On September 30, 1938, England's Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain shook Hitler's hand as they signed The Munich Agreement, a pact with Hitler in which Hitler promised to back off his attempts to conquer the world. Everything was going to be just fine because after all. Chamberlain had sat down and talked with Hitler and now he had an agreement in his hands in writing that he waved in the air at the airport when he returned to England.

Well, we're all pretty much aware of how that worked out. Shortly thereafter, Hitler invaded Poland and continued his pursuit of trying to take over the world. Then a few years later, on December 7, 1941, another person obsessed with ruling the world — oh excuse me, that is another really good person down deep, who was just acting badly — ordered an attack on Pearl Harbor.

You've likely heard the famous saying that "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Well, after Pearl Harbor a whole lot of good men and women who felt evil was real, determined to do something about it and because they did you and I are sitting here this morning. Those good people have been given a name now. They are called "The Greatest Generation."

The Greatest Generation didn't buy this stuff about no absolutes and about no evil people, just good people acting badly, and because they didn't we still have a nation. Everything they did to defend this nation was driven by the conviction that there is ultimate good and ultimate truth in this world and there is evil in this world and when that evil tries to take over the world it has to be stopped.

They didn't just sit on their hands. Based on the same Judeo-Christian principles on which our country was founded and which prevailed in this nation at that time, they put their hands together and went out and did nothing less than save the world. They weren't all geniuses, but they could tell evil when they saw it and they did what they had to do to stop it. People in this country and other countries, did whatever they could to contribute to the effort to turn back this evil that had been unleashed on the world.


Let me close with a story, a real story. It began over Kassel, Germany during World War II.

An American B-17 aircraft was on a bombing mission over that city. They were experiencing anti-aircraft fire from the ground and the Germans had recently developed a new 20mm anti-aircraft cannon that was particularly effective against low flying aircraft on bombing missions. When one of these shells hit and came through the body of the aircraft and exploded they were particularly devastating, especially if they hit the fuel tanks in the wings.

As this particular B-17 was flying, it was hit directly in the fuel tank by one of these 20mm cannon shells. It went right through the wing and into the fuel tank, but for some reason it failed to explode. (That actually makes people in an aircraft pretty nervous because it could go off at any time.)

So now what you had was a B-17 flying a bombing run with an unexploded cannon shell in its fuel tank. That is one of the most dangerous things a crew can face. Just a little jostle or bouncing around in the air could set it off and they still had to finish their mission, turn around and fly all the way back to their base and then land. Any or all of those things could shake the plane up enough to make the shell go off.

So they continued their mission and flew back to their base and landed safely. The next morning when there was plenty of daylight to inspect the aircraft and to get that shell out of the fuel tank and off to a safe place to be disarmed, the bomb experts started to do their job. And as they did, guess what they found. They found not one, not three, not five, not seven, but eleven unexploded cannon shells that had penetrated the aircraft without going off.

They were shocked and unaware of what to make of it. Now their job was even more dangerous as they would have to remove eleven unexploded shells from the aircraft and transport them to a safe place to be disarmed and that's exactly what they did.

As the bomb experts began to dismantle the shells to disarm them they found something very strange. As they opened the first one to remove the firing mechanism, they saw that the firing mechanism was missing. They were at a loss for how this could possibly be. As they continued to open the others they found the same thing. Each shell had its firing mechanism missing.

Then in one of the shells where the firing mechanism should be they found a note. It was written on a small folded up piece of paper and it was written by someone from Czechoslovakia, since the language used was Czech. They scoured the base to find someone who spoke Czech; when they found someone who could translate the note, they were told that this is what it said: "This is all we can do for you now."

It became obvious that the note had been written by Czechoslovakians who had been captured by the Nazis and forced to become laborers in a Nazi munitions factory making these new 20mm cannon shells. It was clear that these brave captives had purposefully removed the firing mechanisms from the shells. Had they been caught removing the firing mechanisms from the shells, I'm sure they would likely have been taken out and executed. Yet as they said, and even under those horrible conditions, they did what they could for now to save lives and as it turned out they saved the lives of an entire air-crew that day over Kassel.

As Christians today, we, too, better be doing all we can do now, which is certainly a lot more than those Czechoslovakian laborers were able to do in Germany, because the devil has a whole staff of starting pitchers who are throwing at us all the changeups they can with the goal of striking us out and getting us out of the game.

As the Apostle Paul says, there's no other gospel and unless we stand for the Gospel God gave us and unless we stand for what God's Word teaches us, we are at risk of falling for anything. May we learn from history and may God protect us from those who would tempt us to change and to accept any other gospel but His. Amen.

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