Alpha and Omega box with logo, from

The phrase “from A to Z” encompasses everything in the entirety of a known and finite range; in other words, it captures the whole kit-and-caboodle. So much so that the logo, which includes both letters, draws a smirking smile that points, well, from A to Z.

It’s hard to guess if the Alpha and Omega of the original term is smiling about the commercial use of His namesake. The letters together, representing the first and last letters of the ancient Greek alphabet, is one of the many names for the Lord. This metaphorical use in Revelation introduces the great I Am as the Alpha and Omega — both the beginning and the end.

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Revelation 1:8, Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version


Nuclear blast, from

If you came of age during the Cold War, you knew Armageddon as a thing: the cataclysmic end of the world and of all people, civilization and life as we know it — notably due to nuclear war or some other man-made disaster.  Or a bad Bruce Willis sci-fi action movie, perhaps.

More accurately; indeed, biblically, Armageddon isn’t a thing, but rather, is a place: perhaps a mountain or plain near the ancient city of Megiddo.  At this location, according to interpretations of Revelation, the battle to end all battles at the end times will take place and Satan and his demonic army will be defeated at the hands of God’s angels and the forces of good. The end-times event gets its name from the location it’s set to occur.

At the advent of horrific atomic technology capable of death and destruction on a supernatural scale, our World War III prophesies naturally took on the same name. While this final battle is sure to be scary for those still here to bear witness, it nonetheless will herald the beginning of the end, toward a new day, a new Heaven and a new Earth for all God’s people.

“Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon.”
Revelation 16:16, Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version

Superstitions Abound on Friday the 13th

The following article first appeared in The Airscoop, the official installation newspaper of Vance Air Force Base, in February 1998, when I was stationed there as a public affairs journeyman.

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – For the superstitious, 1998 could be a very unlucky year, as Feb. 13 is the first of three Friday the 13ths in 1998.

Many of the superstitions modern western people hold dear – including the beliefs that 13 is an unlucky number, our human fates are tied to the patterns of the stars and black cats are evil – originated more than 5,000 years ago in the Middle East, specifically, in Mesopotamia, according to Dr. Michael Seth, professor of history at Phillips University in Enid, Okla.

“The fact that everything is sevens, 12s and 40s in the Old Testament, of course, is because those were considered good or lucky numbers in Mesopotamia,” Seth said, “and so you see them over and over and over in the Bible.”

Because 13 came after lucky number 12, it was associated with evil.  “There are a lot of legends going on about the twelve apostles of Christ, and that the 13th member at the last supper was bad,” Seth said, “but these would be much later ideas, after the number 13 was already established as bad.”

In addition to continuing the belief that 13 is unlucky, Seth pointed out that people still believe in “lucky number seven,” especially in games of chance.

“Although these are really ancient Middle Eastern superstitions and beliefs, we still kind of like them,” he said.

According to Capt. Wendi L. Betz, behavioral health chief here, superstitions are formed when people erroneously draw connections between neutral phenomena and good or bad events in their lives that immediately follow those phenomena.

“Who knows how our superstitions got started in the beginning, but maybe somebody had a black cat cross their path, and then something bad happened to them, so they connected the two,” she said.

For the most part, Betz said, superstitions are a normal response to our often-random world.  She added that even animals have been shown to display superstitious learning, citing pigeons that developed elaborate “rituals” designed to elicit a food reward during a controlled experiment.

Betz said humans invent their own rituals to create a desired result or to stave off an undesired result.

“I’ve seen some guys on the softball team that have a certain warm-up routine they do every time, or there are the people who play bingo, who bring all their lucky dolls and stuff with them,” Betz said.

Superstitions in a culture’s collective consciousness can be self-perpetuating, because people look for anything that can support their belief in the superstition, she added.

“If you have a superstition about Friday the 13th, you’re going to look for something bad to happen to you that day, and you’re going to pay attention to it (if it does occur),” Betz said.  “Bad things can happen on other days than Friday the 13th, but that doesn’t count, because it doesn’t reinforce any belief,” Betz said.

“Then again, maybe black cats and Friday the 13th are bad, and they’re actually causing bad things to happen to people,” Betz added.

“But I have my doubts.”

Copyright 1998


The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

Adam’s Apple

adam and eve in the garden from

For men, that lump in your throat — along with a missing rib — are distinct features that come to us courtesy of Adam, the first man of creation. The actual apple that tempted woman, man and mankind is instead thought to have been a pomegranate, an apricot, a fig or some other fruit more common to the Fertile Crescent than apples were in antiquity. However, the Bible is mute on the specifics of the matter, as disclosed in Genesis 3.

Anatomists attribute Adam’s apple not to a lodged piece of fruit — or guilt — choking us as yet another consequence of our original sin, but rather, to thick cartilage that protects the larynx, or voice box. Contrary to common belief, women have lovely lady versions of these lumps, too — would we call theirs Eve’s apples? Let’s not … The fairer variety typically don’t grow as large, protrude at a slightly different angle, and women generally have a higher body fat percentage than men, which affects how their apple appears. A man’s larger voice box gives him a deeper voice, but also a more prominent Adam’s apple. To round out your body of knowledge on the topic: the Adam’s apple is found in non-human species as well.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”
Genesis 3:6, Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version

(I Don’t Know Him From) Adam

Nick, It's a Wonderful Life
If someone tells you she doesn’t know a person from Adam, she’s telling you she doesn’t know him (or her, of course). More liberally, it’s possible that she’s heard of him or has even met him virtually; she just has no first-hand knowledge of him and wouldn’t recognize him in a crowd.

The Adam in this axiom is, of course, the first-created man, introduced to us — and into the world — in the Book of Genesis. In the expression, the comparison is to this historical Adam, who predates us to such a degree that no one can say for certain what he looked like, even though he’s familiar to us by reputation. In this same sense, being the archetypal human being, Adam represents all mankind, and she simply can’t distinguish the person being discussed from anyone else amongst the 9 billion of us traipsing about the Earth today.

A variant to this expression has perhaps passed into history, though the sentimental amongst us can still listen for Nick, the new owner of Martini’s tavern, tell the never-was George Bailey,“I don’t know you from Adam’s off-ox,” in the Christmas classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The off-ox is the one behind the first ox relative to the driver, and thus, is least visible — and thus difficult to discern from any other ox.

“Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”
Genesis 2:7, Scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version

Three God-Honoring Reasons to Avoid the Lottery

This article first appeared on the LinkedIn page of Jeffrey Bishop Jan. 14, 2016 — shortly after the recent historic Powerball lottery win was announced.

The hubbub is over. At least three someones bought winning tickets to the historic $1.6 billion Powerball lottery.  Congratulations!

For those with the other 371 million tickets that were in play, can we stop to reflect on what just happened? Only in the afterglow of such an exciting time of fantastical imaginings about how those many pretty millions might be spent in leisure and in helping others can we get our rational brains to remember why we usually don’t – and really shouldn’t – play the lottery.

In the run-up over the past two weeks, lots of other experts weighed in on various reasons why we shouldn’t play the lottery. Many of these experts are from the Church, but somehow, most of the reasons have been secular: it’s a regressive tax on the poor; or the odds of winning are astronomically low; and history shows us that lottery winners are disproportionately unhappy – and destitute – within a few short years of winning, etc.

Clearly those are solid warrants to ditch the odds-playing, but there are a number of compelling God-honoring reasons to not roll the metaphorical dice on the lottery that maybe haven’t yet been unpacked:

1) There are better God-honoring returns on that investment. Odds are, you’re not going to win.  Indeed, the losing ticket in your hand sort of bears that out. Those who didn’t win literally threw away $2 – or for some players, large multiples of $2.

Lots of players try to justify their gambling – and perhaps also seek to persuade God to let them win – with expressions of all the good they would do with their winnings: tithing, paying off their church’s debt, alleviating poverty and homelessness in their communities and the like. They would surely give out of their abundance, if they were only thusly blessed. But that’s man’s way of thinking, not in keeping with God’s economy (see the story of the widow’s mites, Mark 12:41-44).

With those odds, it will never work out the way you’d wish and hope and pray. Instead, what if the 1.55 billion lottery tickets sold since the run-up started in November was given to such causes?  Imagine what an incredible return on investment $3 billion dollars would have for our Kingdom work (Luke 12:33)?

So you’re a casual player who just bought a single $2 ticket – it’s harmless fun, right? You might have spent that $2 on a coffee at Starbucks.  But $2 would also fund a couple meals at the homeless shelter; would buy a live chicken for hundreds of eggs for a family in Africa; or would smuggle a Bible into North Korea. Go for the biggest return on every dollar.

2) God doesn’t want us to get rich quick. God tells us this in His Word, in a number of places:

  • “A faithful person will be richly blessed, but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.” – Proverbs 28:20
  • “Dishonest money dwindles away,  but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow.” – Proverbs 13:11
  • “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” – Hebrews 13:5 (all verses New International Version)

Indeed, our original sin means that instead, we’re to work hard to eke out our living, until the end of our days here (Genesis 3:17). Gaining quick riches is in direct opposition to God’s will for His people – which means playing lotteries or gambling is, too.

3) We’re poor stewards of God’s talents when we gamble. Meager or flush, the treasure in our wallets and in our bank accounts is His, not ours.

In the parable of the talents, Jesus tells how each of us has been put into stewardship with varying amounts of God’s treasure (Matthew 25:14-13). He advises that we’re to be good stewards of that treasure – to invest it wisely and to seek a strong return on it – and he warns of dire consequences to those who don’t obey this wisdom.

With the odds stacked so high against any return on gambling “investments,” playing the odds in the lottery is worst than burying our money in the ground. At least that man in the parable was able to return to his Master the principle amount. Lottery spendings are lost to the Kingdom forever.

With the ubiquity of lotteries in almost every state and gambling halls on riverfronts, Reservations and enclaves across America, gambling somehow seems to have been absolved by the culture as sin to Christ-followers and to all others in these United States. But God’s edicts; His will and His wishes for goodness and blessings for each of us – are eternal for each of His good and faithful servants.

Copyright 2016


The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

On Faith and Worldview

The Pope addresses the US Congress in 2015.

Photo from

Originally published on the LinkedIn page of Jeffrey Bishop Oct. 8, 2015.  In this still-contentious political climate, it remains relevant today.

For a long time I’ve struggled to classify — for myself, if not for others — where exactly on the spectrum of political-economic leanings my particular worldview lies. Because unfortunately, it’s not clear — or rather, in my convictions, it’s plenty clear, but in our emerging binary-polarized schema, I don’t sort well.

While generally more conservative than otherwise, I’m probably batting less than .500 on agreement with the current Republican platform. And I am even less aligned to the Liberal perspective, though I find truths in a few of their causes as well.

But lo! The Pope addressed the Congress, and within the well-chosen (inspired?) words of his speech, I find I’m nearly 100% in lockstep with his perspectives on every major platform issue facing our Nation, the first world and our post-modern planet.

Maybe this coincidence is because we each strive to use the Bible and the teachings of our Savior Jesus the Chris as our moral guidepost, and not those of our own flawed consciences or of our world-stained political “leaders?”

To wit, while I don’t think I’ll ever choose to express my Christian faith through Catholicism, I find in this Pope the character, nature, conviction and Gospel truth of a true Prophet of God. And if there’s anything that our world needs short of the second coming of Christ, it’s Spirit-filled witnesses of righteousness from all of its “big-C” Church leaders.


Copyright 2015


The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

Representing your Faith Life With a ‘Life Verse’

Wall plaque with Joshua 24:15 engraved on it.

What’s your life verse?

For many Christians, whether they happen upon one, one happens upon them, or they intentionally scour their Bibles to find the “just right” expression, a life verse is the faith-driven equivalent to selecting a song lyric, a poetry verse or a pithy quote that deeply and uniquely represents you.

Similarly then, a life verse is often used in an email signature, put in vinyl letters on a wall at home, or, more permanently, tattooed onto a shoulder, arm, leg or back – and in that respect, sharing the verse is part of the experience of having one.

As I reflect on my Christian faith, I’ve come to realize that I’ve relied upon not one, but a number of life verses, in keeping with life’s transitions – a series of life verses that speak to my walk with Christ. Mile markers along my journey deeper into my faith.

An early life verse that resonated with me was found in Joshua 24:15: “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” This affirmation of faith, spoken by a patriarch to cover the entirety of his family and of his home, spoke to me when my wife and I were first establishing our home and starting our family.  Not unlike the “Give us today our daily bread,” carved wood platters adorning our parents’ walls (Matthew 6:9-13), we christened our home with a cherry wood plaque, laser-etched with Joshua’s words – and the wisdom. It was important and meaningful for me to overtly establish this value and direction for our family; to put into words a solid faith-based guide for our forward motion together.

At a much later stage of my life, we were compelled to contemplate a rather difficult decision: whether or not to leave the Air Force after 12 years of active service. There were many positive and negative factors on each side of the scale, and the decision seemed to hinge mostly on our family’s economic security in unsure times. For the first time, we were tested to put our faith in our finances fully in the hands of the Lord our father, and not also in those of a seemingly maternal Air Force. We weighed and prayed our decision a lot – for months – and in doing so, soon enough had a God-honoring decision, and with it a profound sense of calm and faith and peace in a new life verse:

“ … Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? … do not worry, saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” (Matthew 6:25-34).

It was more than coincidence – indeed, it was Providence! – that I was able to find a good job here in St. Louis; a job that started the Monday after my military service ended, providing me with continuous employment across the transition that I’ve been blessed to have ever since.

There’s nothing in the Bible that says a person has to find a life verse.  But unless one tries to encapsulate their entire faith experience into 5-7 words, there’s no harm in it either.  On balance, choosing one is probably good.  Indeed, for many contemporary Christians, having a life verse might be the sole scripture they ever commit to memory, providing an ever-present help needed in hard times – or that a friend or loved one needs to hear in witness.

While the passing of time through life is bittersweet, it’s humbling to look back at what I’ve gone through.  With the benefit of hindsight, it’s cheering to look ahead, knowing there will be more, different milestones ahead. And knowing that my Lord – and His Word – will be there with me, to guide and comfort along the way.

All scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version

Copyright 2016


The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”

Tattooed Shame: Indelible Ink Redeemed

Color photo of the author's tattoo that brings him shame as it represents his distance from God.

You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms His covenant, which He swore to your ancestors, as it is today.
Deuteronomy 8:17-18

I have a tattoo – only one – and it’s a source of shame to me.

A tattoo doesn’t seem to be such a big deal, especially among my generation. Although I got mine in the early 1990s, they are all the more common in today’s twenty-teens.

Even most Christ-followers seem ok with them, despite Old Testament prohibitions lumping tattoos with prostitution and black magic (Leviticus 19:26-31). A post-modern seal of approval perhaps stems from Jesus’ teaching – normally attributed to food – that, “nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather, it is what comes out of a person that defiles them” (Mark 7:15). Our tattoos can even be a part of our testimony.

While earnest followers argue for or against tattoos, my shame isn’t for sake of having skin art. It’s not because a friend of a friend of my sister’s did the work – clearly, it must have been his second or third tat ever. It’s not because 25 years later, on my middle-aged shoulder, this “art” is sagging and fading and blurring, just like wiser people back in the day told me it would. And it’s not even because the design bears an unanticipated resemblance to the Body Glove logo, and the suggested commercialization of my body – without the proceeds of an endorsement deal – embarrasses me.

Rather, this is the source of my shame: I got the tattoo at the height of my self-reliance, my pride and my rebellion, in my late teens. To be clear: I wasn’t rebelling against my parents or society. Indeed, my immediate circles of loved ones, friends and acquaintances were what you’d call freethinkers, and if they weren’t outright supportive of something like a tattoo on a young man, they were at least “to each his own” about it. Instead, my rebellion was against a God that I didn’t yet believe existed.

In that respect, the art that I selected – that I designed, I should admit – suited such a worldview perfectly: It is of my hand print, set inside a machine gear.  To my adolescent understanding, my intellect, creativity, craftsmanship and hard work is what made me who I am; they were my means to success and to meaning. Me. My. Mine. Instead of a Holy God, I was the sole agent of my life – god of me, if you will – over something like Johnny Cash’s empire of dirt, as I’d figure out later in life.

Today, a born-again follower of a sacrificed, risen Christ, I hate my body art. As described, the depravity of my thinking “B.C.” – Before Christ – is pretty self-evident. It clearly represents my sin, even in its muddy image.

By my research, getting rid of an unwanted tattoo is futile and vain. It’s a time-honored trick to put a new tattoo over the old one; to cover up the old stain with a new stain. But even if no one else knows what’s underneath, I always will. There are some pretty fancy lasers that can blast away the pigment of a regretted tat. But the raised welts of the skin give away the mark.

Metaphorically, if not also metaphysically, the indelible mark of a tattoo represents the stain of sin on every one of us. There’s nothing on Earth or in man’s power that can forever remove the permanence of a tattoo. And likewise, there’s nothing that a fallen man like me can do to rid himself of the stain of his sin.

And yet, there’s hope.

Our hope is in the Lord, who promises to wash away all sins, with the blood of His sacrifice. New. Clean. Pure. Saved. These words, throughout the Bible, and especially in context of the saving grace of Jesus, tell us that the worst juice-sin stain on the white carpet of our souls will be Oxi-Clean with Jesus.

Arguably the most hope-filled line of the Bible is where we’re told that, “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). God also promises us a new body – a body made perfect and without the blemish of sin (1 Corinthians 15:42-49).

On these promises, I’m content to shoulder my stain for the rest of my time here, as a bitter reminder that in the place of that once-proud, rebellious young man is a new creation, filled with hope in redemption for eternal perfection. All because of Jesus.

All scripture from The Holy Bible, New International Version

Copyright 2016


Read the personal Christian testimonies of famous, infamous and not-so-famous people at Testify!  Want to share yours?  Have someone whose testimony you’d like to know more about?  Let me know!

Conviction: The Fuel that Drives Commitment Successes

agile-safari-pig-and-chicken-part2_panel1You may recall the conversation between the barnyard pig and his sister the hen: “You, my dear, are interested in the cause of breakfast;” said the pig, “while I, on the other hand, am committed.”

The old joke makes crystal clear the difference in meaning between two similar ideas; when you’ve committed to something, you’ve made a pledge that you will see it through to the end.  At least, that’s what Noah Webster tells us.

A concept closely related to commitment is conviction. At the other end of the spectrum from mere interest, conviction is a firmly held belief. The things that we are convicted of follow hard-won struggles on both intellectual and emotional fronts.

In that respect, our basic Christian beliefs are perhaps our most strongly held convictions. Most of us are permanently convicted of our faith because we each did the hard work to critically assess our Christian beliefs – or former lack thereof – to arrive at intellectual and emotional conclusions that convicted us of our need for the Grace-offering presence of an eternal and supernatural all-powerful, all-knowing, all- loving Triune God.

In turn, a Biblical worldview makes arriving at other convictions pretty easy. I know a guy who uses profanity too often when he speaks; particularly when he’s passionate about an idea, or when he’s around family or friends who don’t seem to mind (or, truth be told, who merely tolerate) such talk. Of late, however, people that I care a great deal about have asked me to address this social shortcoming, and I’ve taken up the cause with great zeal – and good results thus far.

Committing to curb the cursing is great – and I have on more than one occasion made such a resolution, particularly at the first of any given year.  But it wasn’t until recently that I was convicted of the dreadful sin.  The source of that conviction was a few dozen Bible verses, not least among them Colossians 3:8, “But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” Gaining a clear understanding that God despises “filthy language from our lips” has given supernatural fuel to my more temporal interest.

Without conviction to fuel the drive, we sometimes fail to see our commitments through. So what commitment actions derive from our convictions?

1) First, moral matters demand conviction. You don’t have to be convicted about everything – indeed, some of our convictions are really mere snap judgments or even strongly held opinions. Don’t care for provel on your pizza?  Fine, skip it; let others eat it. But, for every moral matter, you MUST take a side.

2) Be on the right side of right. Accordingly, when you do take a side, choose wisely. For moral matters, there is a single correct answer. This is your chance to separate what looks to be all grey into clear black tones and white tones – again, using intellect and emotion. Completely unpack an issue to the best of your ability with good research into all sides of a matter, and with the Bible as the ultimate arbiter. Then decide.

3) Once convicted, grow in it. Learn. Reinforce your belief. Find community to help you grow. You’ll notice that that’s exactly what church is all about.

4) Act. You are now accountable to something bigger than you: your God-ordained convictions. You don’t necessarily have to be an activist – but you must take personal action. For amoral matters, your actions are at the personal level. But for moral matters, you must go outside yourself; you must share your convictions, proselytize them and seek to compel powers and principalities to veer in the direction of your convictions. When said that way, it’s pretty heady stuff – but day to day, it’s as simple as talking to friends, boycotting a business or writing a letter.

Taking action on our convictions – making commitments and seeing them through – is tough stuff.  It takes guts, and it can be lonely, difficult work. But a final word of hope: as Jesus promised in John 16, we also have an ever-present helper – the Holy Spirit – who guides us in the convictions that undergird our commitments.  And that, I’ve found, is more than enough for any conviction I might have.

Scripture quotations taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version

Copyright 2016


The Church Deconstructed category is a “Church for Noobs” guide that offers a glib look at today’s mainline church, covering the lifecycle of a Christian from the perspective of a reformed skeptic and now longtime church member.  At times borderline irreverent, the musings aim to be spot-on accurate about both the virtues and the foibles of the modern church and of the “church life.”