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Great adventures in faith

RUSSIAN, USA, OR JESUS?

Thursday, February 11, 2016

American and Russian FlagIn 1992 I spoke to a Russian University English class. I briefly told why I was there.  One young man asked, “We already have the Russian Orthodox Church, why do we need an American one?”

That Russian student may have been closer to the truth than either he or I comprehended.  Some missionaries go into a country to teach their peculiar brand of Christianity as if that is the apostolic doctrine mention by Luke in Acts 2:42.  Others are more wed to their church, than they are to Christ!  “Churchianity” is more popular than Christianity.  Some go to Americanize rather than teach Jesus and him crucified (Acts 8:35).

One can find congregations which have taken on the personality and peculiar beliefs of those who started them.  This oddity is not restricted to the few!  Have you ever heard, “Well, that’s not the way brother Somebody did it”?  Even some preachers have had their “of Paul” or “of Apollos” followers, leading to a destroyed fellowship, birthing of new churches, and exalted claims of being closer to Jesus than those they left!

Today’s church is no different from those which existed in the first century.  A congregation, like a chain, is as strong as its weakest link.  The problem is that all links are weak (Romans 3:10, 23)!  Shouldn’t our assemblies encourage, strengthen, and instill us with boldness (Acts 4:23-31)?  Shouldn’t they be a place where we can openly speak, teach, and admonish one another?  A place where we are comforted?  Yet one where our status quo is challenged (Acts 5:1-11)?  We expect the preacher to fill that void in thirty minutes and when he doesn’t, we wash our hands by charging him with failure! Some Bible classes fill that need when people open up and talk about their short comings.  People speak to one another.  They encourage one another.  They comfort one another.  Confession is our talk (James 5:16)!  We all have struggles and through speaking one to another, realize we are all fellow travelers seeking redemption through Jesus.  Yet, the modern view of worship negates that kind of openness.  It is not the tradition of our fathers!  It is not the American way.

WHEN NOT TO TURN!

Monday, February 8, 2016

Turning CheekMy last name is Hawk.  That is because I was born into that family.  Early on I was a dove rather than a hawk.  For those who know anything about the “war question,” both expression are used.  A “dove” is a conscience objector and refuses to take up arms for the defense of his country or family.  A “hawk” is on the opposite spectrum.

I understand the pacifist view.  It is based upon Jesus’ words,  “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”  (Matthew 5:39, also see Luke 6:29).

The view is also held that an “evil person” may take our life, but as Christians, we are saved.  If we defend ourselves and take his life, he loses his opportunity to do so.  So, it is better for our lives to be taken rather than his.

There is a part of me that sees the logic in that last paragraph.  Yet, what does “turn to him the other also” include?  If Jesus denies me the right to defend myself against a potentially violent person breaking into my house, wouldn’t it also negate swearing out a warrant for his arrest?  If I do nothing, which allows him to continue to rape and murder, am I not responsible for those lives being lost since I had an opportunity to put a stop to it?  What if his victims are lost, have I not removed their opportunity to follow the Lord by not taking action?

If someone breaks into my house, I have to make a decision.  Which one do I love the most?  My wife or the person breaking in?  If I point a loaded shotgun at him, I am giving him a choice of whether he wants to repent and be saved, or shot.  If he continues his aggressive actions, he makes my choice for me.  In the words of the Amish, “Sir, I mean thee no harm, but thou art standing where I am about to shoot!”

Jesus told the apostles, “If you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.”  (Luke 22:36).  What did one do with a sword?  If you put Jesus words in today’s vernacular, he said, “If you don’t have a Glock 21, have a garage sale and use the money to buy one.”

It is interesting that just before mentioning the slap on the cheek, Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.”  (Matthew 5:29).  I don’t see anyone advocating that we be “hawks” on that passage or the one following!

In Revelation, John sees the 5th seal being opened and writes, “I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained.  They called out in a loud voice, “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?”  (Revelation 6:9-10).

If turning the other cheek is a required action because one must never seek to defend himself, why are these souls crying out to be avenged?  Why not remain silent by turning the other cheek?

Turning the other cheek is a principle, like plucking out an offending eye or cutting off an offensive hand.  But, like Proverbs 22:6, there are exceptions to the statement.

RESTORING NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Liars in ChurchApril 27, 30 A.D.: To the Jerusalem Firm Advocate: Sunday was a great day for the Jerusalem congregation.  We wish to report two responses.  As you know, Sunday is a workday for Jews, so we have a continuous assembly beginning at 6:01 pm as the Saturday Sabbath ends and the first day of the week begins.  This way, members may come and go as their work schedule allows.  We have four-six hour shifts for those who preside.  This epistle reports on that time when the apostle Peter’s shift took place (Acts 5:2).

Brother Cephas had just begun to delivering apostolic doctrine to us as folks were walking by him and laying their contribution at his feet (Acts 2:42).  One of our wealthier and respected members, a brother Ananias, went forward to give the money he and his wife had received for a piece of property they recently sold (Acts 4:34-37).  They reported that Barnabas’ gift the previous Lord’s day had inspired them to do the same thing.  Sister Sapphira was not with our brother but had told him she would attend later.

My brother and I, along with several others had recently be appointed as interment servants.  Since brethren Joseph and Nicodemus had buried our Lord, and since we have a large number of elderly poor, we thought that would be our work when we were needed (John 20:38-42).

As brother Ananias laid a hefty bag of money at brother Peter’s feet, you could not help but notice the looks of admiration on the face of each member.  There were even a few soft “awes” and a lot of whispering!  Brother Ananias also noticed and smiled and nodded at those who were assembled.  As he started to return to where he had been standing, brother Cephas called his name.  As brother Ananias turned to face the beloved apostle, I’m sure he expected Peter to praise him for the gift he and his wife were giving!  I know my brother and I did!

What a shock to everyone when Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?”  (Acts 5:3).  Brother Thomas of North Gaza was so surprised that he coughed real hard and had to catch his false teeth!  You could have heard a pin drop after that initial shock.  After Peter finished with, “You have not lied to men but to God,” we were in for an even bigger shock  (Acts 5:4)!  Ananias dropped dead!  I thought he had fainted.  No, the man was dead!!  When Peter looked our way, it dawned upon us what our appointment was all about!

It took us just short of three hours to bury Ananias (Acts 5:7, 10).  When we returned, Peter was speaking to his wife, Sapphira.  When Peter finished speaking to her about the same lie, she dropped dead.  We took her out and buried her.  Wow, what an assembly that was!

What effect did it have on those present as well as those who weren’t?  “Great fear seized the whole church” (Acts 5:11).  No one after that sold something and then lied that he was giving the entire amount to the Lord!

I must admit, I thought this action would hurt the image of the church.  I thought I would be reporting, not only that we had lost two members by death, but several hundred who disagreed with the way the Holy Spirit dealt with liars and decided to establish another congregation that did not engage in such questioning.  Instead, we had two responses.  The actions of Ananias and Sapphira have made it possible for the Jerusalem body of believers to stand together as one group of  faithful believers, in spite of persecution, and to see “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

If we had been living in Jerusalem at that time, would we have desire membership in such a congregation?

ASK AND DO?

Monday, February 1, 2016

Two FingersIt is a special holy day.  120 disciples have been meeting in a second story room since their Rabbi left.  Suddenly a marvelous occurrence takes place.  Those learners closest to the Rabbi are able to speak different languages which they have not learned.  This happening garners an immense crowd.  Some misunderstandings occurs.  One of the learners stands up and begins correcting the crowd’s thoughts.  Several thousand out of the huge crowd gladly receive his instructions (Acts 2:37-41).  Since those word were uttered some two thousand years ago, many “what ifs” have been offered to explain them.  Discussions have been introduced with more questions than answers.  Debates often proved who was better prepared.  Eloquence moved some, but not others.  Why is there a problem with Peter’s words or the response of the three thousand hearers?

Some think baptism is necessary, but not essential.  Some see no reason for it.  Some believe it must be done, but at the convenience of the candidate.  Others believe it must be done at the convenience of the church.  Still others think it is a symbol of what has already happened.  Some believe if you refuse to do it, you aren’t really saved.  Some believe it is the exact time Jesus’ blood is applied remitting the immersed person’s sins.  Yet, after all the squabbling, the fact remains!

•    They asked what to do.
•    They were told what to do.
•    They did what they were told to do.

Luke, the inspired historian tells us:

(1) About three thousand people understood what was asked.
(2) Those same three thousand understood the two things they were told to do.
(3) Those same three thousand understood how to do what they were told to do.
(4) Those three thousand were glad to do it.
(5) Those three thousand did it on “the same day” (Acts 2:41).
(6). Those who refused to believe did not do it!

When they did what Peter told them to do, what were they “added” to?  The King James and New King James reads, “the Lord added to the church.”  From the American Standard to the newest translations, we are told, “And the Lord added to them, day by day those that were saved.”

The Lord didn’t add them to the Church of God of Paul, the Church of God of Cephas, the Church of God of Apollos, the Church of Christ of Christ, or any denomination.  Those were human organizations created by men (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  The baptism they submitted to on Pentecost did not put the three thousand into a denominational church. None now existed back then.  They were added to the saved!  A baptism for the purpose of gaining membership into a non essential religious organization is man’s idea, not God’s.  Baptism was into Christ (Galatians 3:26-27).  It was a burial and resurrection with Christ from his death (Romans 6:3-4).  The 3,000 on Pentecost did it as a result of gladly receiving Peter’s command (Acts 2:41).  Those who responded were added to the saved by none other than God Himself (Acts 2:41, 47).  The baptism commanded by Peter was never practices to put anyone into a man made church.  To do so totally misses the purpose of immersion!

We can argue it.  We can discuss it.  We can debate it.  We can “what if” it.  We can reject it.  We can confuse it.  We can misunderstand it.  We can change it.  But, after all is said and done, Luke still lays it out to for us, simple and plain.

•    They asked what to do (Acts 2:37).
•    They were told what to do (Acts 2:38).
•    They did what they were told to do (Acts 2:41).

Will we do any less?

NEGLECTED ADVISE?

Thursday, January 28, 2016    

Man and Woman in Your Face 3Have you ever given someone your advice?  Did you do so because you felt it was good advice?  Have your averages been high considering the advice you gave?  The reason I ask is because advice doesn’t always fit the occasion.

Not long ago I received a paper giving “Four Guidelines For Modest Dress.”  Since 1 Timothy 2:8-10 was quoted, I assumed it was specifically for women, but I could be wrong.  The first part of that passages is directed to men.

The guidelines were:

1. If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, IT IS PROBABLY NOT MODEST.
2. If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, IT IS PROBABLY NOT   MODEST.
3. If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, IT IS PROBABLY NOT MODEST.
4. If you can see your most private body parts under the fabric, IT IS PROBABLY NOT MODEST.

I can appreciate the author’s reason for giving those probabilities, but they may not always be valid.

Recently my wife and I drove 376 miles to attend a memorial service for a very good friend of 40 years.  We arrived the day before so we would be fresh the next day.  As I was dressing for the occasion, my wife handed me the dress trousers she brought for me to wear.  The change in distance from Tennessee to Florida must have had an adverse affect upon those pants.  There was a gap of 3-4″ between the button and its adjoining button hole.  My suggestion to substitute jeans with my shirt, tie, and jacket was not received well.  I did a gut calibration and managed to close the gap.  Don’t ask me how I continued to breath!  However, my wife was happy.  Don’t ask me about it!  Since I had trouble getting in and out of the trousers, was I immodest?

When I arrived at the church building, I found a pew and began to slowly descend to make a gently landing on the pew.  I wasn’t afraid the seat of the trousers would be stretched beyond its endurance, but was concerned about my waist.  My eyes may have bulged just a little and my “grunt” was polite, but breathing wasn’t my forte.  In spite of 42 inches attempting to accommodate a 38 inch circumference, I managed to appreciate each of the 3 participants who spoke at the service.  However, should I have been concerned with being immodest according to guideline number 2?

I was asked by a few folks, “Are you alright?”  I don’t know if my trousers cutting off my blood supply from my waist down was affecting my facial features or not?  If so, was I immodest according to guideline number 3?

I’m not sure a protruding gut is considered “your most private body parts under the fabric,” but I felt subconscious about how much a girdle like effect, created by my trousers, could magnify a portion of my body which I did not wish to exhibit.  So, again I ask, was I immodest?

1 Timothy 2:8-10 tells women to dress or “adorn themselves in modest apparel” or clothing.  Isn’t it strange that Paul did not include the men in that command?  He did “will” that “men pray every where, lifting up holy hands.”  Why is it so perplexing when about 5% of the women neglect to obey verses 9 and 10, but not bewildering when 99.9999% of the men omit what Paul willed in verse 8?

A CREATED GOD!

Monday, January 25, 2016: 

A Created godMan is so enamored with his inconsistencies.  If it sounds good, it must be.  If an opponent’s ignorance fails him in answering it, that becomes the proof of its scripturalness.  If man is convinced that he has the truth on a subject, he will aggressively defend his assumption because he cannot be wrong.  Man has walked this path since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-1-19)!

The word “don’t” is a magnet drawing us into “doing”!  When something is good, pleasant, and desired, “go” is written all over it!  Eve exchanged revelation for deception.  Not only was that fruit good, pleasant, and desirable, but it would make her and Adam “gods” (Genesis 3:5).  Their deaths did not erase that deceptive goal!  The birth of every male or female, from Eden to end, continues to feed on that deceit (Romans 3:10, 23).

Man’s inconsistencies evolved into his traditions.  Those traditions developed their own sacredness.  Rather than allow truth to speak, man reads his inconsistencies into the scriptures and reveres them as god.  It only takes a few years to produce that ascension!  What begins so innocently, in a short span, grows into a position of misdirected faith.

Paul wrote to a congregation just a few years after it had been established.  He was astonished that they were deserting the grace of Christ in such a short time (Galatians 1:6-9).  The Corinthian church was established by Paul in his eighteen month residence there.  Three years later they were in the process of dividing the one body of Christ into four non-essential denominations.  When believers follow Eve’s desire to be god, the surrender is visualized as a God induced victory!

If it happened to saints in the church born on Pentecost, why assume it does not happen twenty-one centuries later?  Why does man continue to desire to displace YHWH and seat himself on His throne?  Why does man continue to defend his right to sit as god?  Is that which looks good, pleasant, and desired better than submitting to the Lord of lords and King of kings (1 Timothy 6:15-16; Philippians 2:9-11)?

NO IS A YES!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

No Is A YesHis father had been arrested in the middle of the night and taken by the SS.  He prayed the soldiers would release and return him home.  God said, “No.”  His mother became despondent and then her body gave in to sickness.  He prayed that she would regain her health.  God said, “No.”  He and his brother were cold, hungry, and penniless.  He prayed that their circumstances would change.  God said, “No.”  His brother was beaten by other boys, weakened by hunger, and gave up hope.  He prayed that his brother would recover and be healthy again.  God said, “No.”  One day he quit praying.  He told several who weren’t listening, “I’m tired of God saying, ‘No.’”

Have you ever had prayer fatigue?  Are your prayers rewarded with two steps forward but a loss of three?  Why does God’s answer always seem to be “No”?

How did the father feel when the best doctors that money and influence could buy, just shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders, as his young daughter kept slipping away?  Was God telling him, “No”?  What about the woman who hemorrhaged for twelve years, spent her money on doctor after doctor without success, and was avoided by society?  Didn’t God say, “No” time and time again?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  Faithful people?  People who are giants in the faith?  Why did God keep telling them, “No”?

Who can supply us with the total number of prayers offered during the 430 years of Egyptian bondage?  Who can give us the number of prayers offered by the Jews during the 70 years of Babylonian captivity?  Weren’t they hearing a “No” from God during those years?

James informs us that “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).  If so, weren’t there any righteous people praying during either one of those captivities?  What about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshack, Abednego, Esther, Mordecai or Ezekiel?  Weren’t they righteous?  Why was God’s answer to them, “No”?

Sometimes good people are born with a bad taste in their mouth rather then a silver spoon.  The Power Ball always finds ownership with someone else.  The best luck some find is always bad.  Life is a drag with no lift.  Murphy’s Law is their experiment in life.

Some folks want their pie in the sky, now!  Perhaps, in one way or another, we all do.  Yet, when this life is over, what then?  If you amassed several billion dollars, where will you spend it after you’re pronounced dead?  You may be the most popular person in the world, but what will that notoriety buy you in the grave?  One hundred trillion dollars could be spent to put your funeral service into the Guinness Book of World Records, but you would never know it nor benefit from it.  Your earthly inheritance would only be a marble marker.

On the cross, when Jesus asked, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” didn’t God say “No” to Jesus in order to say “Yes” to us?  Jesus made it possible for us to have an abundant life that time cannot erode.  This life may be harsh, but this isn’t all there is.  You cannot take material things with you in that walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  When death comes, only your faith and trust in Jesus will comfort you as you exchange this life for one that is eternal (Matthew 11:28-30; Acts 2:36-41).

HIT THE DELETE KEY!

Monday, January 18, 2016

 

Delete Key 1Have you ever reached for the “Delete” key, hesitated for a moment, made your decision, tapped it, and then realized you had not saved an important file? Did a very audible “NO!” exit your lips? Most of us, in working on our computer, have experienced that moment. Questions immediately cross your mind. “Did I save it in another location?” “Do I have a backup?” When reality finally sinks in, did you exhale a defeated sigh and then mentally kick yourself? Wasn’t your next step spent attempting to reproduce that file from memory? I’ve been there and done that. Not once, but several times. The larger the file, the deeper the feeling of loss. Starting over is never easy. Yet, it has to be done. The importance of that information motivates you to reproduce it. Sometimes the finished product is better than the lost original. Sometimes it isn’t, which intensifies that feeling of loss!

 Life is like that. Some have the idea that when they become believers in Christ, life will always fall on the positive side. No more confrontations. No more problems. No more heartaches. No more anger. No more . . . you name it!

 Some believe they will meet that perfect prince or princess, “who will make me happy”! Wrong! No matter how much in love you are, the world wasn’t built around you. Hopefully, your mate may have some things in common with you. However, it’s those other things that become mountains rather than ant hills. You can’t always blame others when you are at fault! Just being the opposite sex means you approach life in a different way.

 Even before you leave the crib, life starts throwing challenges at you. How you handle them will develop who you are and how your relationship with others will be. Sometimes you have to hit the “Delete” key when you don’t want to, but it is essential in your development. Jesus said,

 “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.  And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 (NLT)

Sometimes that “Delete” key is necessary and your decision to activate it will make an eternal difference!

FEAR, DEATH, LIFE!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Fear 2Hey, Joe. Where were you yesterday morning? We were supposed to go hunting!

“Oh, I’m sorry. I should have called you. My wife insisted I go to church with her or else.”

You went to church?

“Yep. When the little lady insists, you know what you’re going to do!?”

Wasn’t that your first time to go to church?

“Yep. Let me tell you, it was an experience and a half.”

What do you mean?

“Well, first thing, there was about a thousand people there. This one feller got up and he said the Spirit had given him a ‘spiritual song.’ Then he chanted what someone said was a stanza. Well, everyone chanted that part. He continued doing this until everyone remembered all the words, then the audience chanted the whole thing.”

Okay. But how was that an experience and a half?

“Well, since that was my first time, I didn’t know what they were doing. My wife tried to explain the goings on, but I was having a little trouble trying to understand it. The shockers was when this feller got up and said they was taking up a collection.”

So, why was that an experience and a half?

“Just wait. I ain’t finished yet. After this feller announced the collection, folks started walking toward him. When they got there, they put several coins at his feet.”

Well that might be unusual, but it don’t sound like an experience and a half.”

“I’m not there yet. If you will hold off on your comments, I’ll tell you what happened.”

Okay. I’m all ears.”

“This well dressed man approached the feller where folks is laying their money. He tells this preacher that they’ve sold some property, and they was giving the total amount to the Lord. That’s when things got real interesting.”

“Okay, I’m listening!

“The preacher told this fellow that he was lying. That what he had plunked down was only a part of what they had gotten for their property. He said the man was lying to the Holy Spirit. There was a few more words, then, ‘WHAM!’ This guy drops dead!! I’ll tell you, the hair on the back of my neck stood up like a threatening dog’s hair does when he is angry!” Have you ever heard a thousand folks gasp at the same time?”

No, I don’t reckon I have. What happened then?

“Well, these young men took the dead feller out to bury him. After a while, the dead man’s wife comes in. No one has told her what has happened to her hubby. The leader sees her and starts questioning her about the gift. She told the same story as her husband. ‘WHAM!’ She drops dead!! A second unified gasp is exhaled! I’m glad I’m not a member of that group. I’d be afraid to give!”

Didn’t you say they lied about their giving?

“Yep.”

It seems to me that you wouldn’t have anything to be afraid of if’n you didn’t lie. You going with your wife the next times she attends?

“Yep. Honesty is something our society needs, so I like what they stand for. Also, my wife has been trying to explain to me about this Messiah person that died so we could be saved from our sins. That intrigues me. So, I’m going to see what they’re talking about at the next meeting. Besides, I want to see whether their giving increases or decreases next Sunday! I also want to see if these two deaths causes the attendance to go up, or go down! I want to see if some of their members quit! Oh, something else. You can bet, when it comes down to it, that I’ll not lie about my giving!!! No sir-re!”

 Read Acts 5:1-11.

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