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WHO WILL SAVE US?

Monday, February 22, 2016

Headache 1My head hurts!  Dropouts are beginning to bring a little relief.  Originally I was for Dr. Ben Carson.  Yet, I knew he would not lead the pack.  Why?  He isn’t a “business as usual” kind of guy.  He has principles or values.  He upholds things that Satan hates.  He presented a danger to those who enjoy wallowing in filth.  So, he is down in the polls and so far hasn’t won any delegates.

Trump is leading the pack of three, maybe four of the original number of candidates.  If one of them has 4,000 at his rally, Trump has 14,000.  He is saying things people want to hear.  People who are sick and tired of business as usual.  Folks who are sick of seeing our nation guided into the depths of, well you know where?

Is Trump our man?  He isn’t a Ben Carson!  Oh, he has values, but not all of them are impeccable.  Yes, he makes promises, but who doesn’t?  Will he keep them or at least make an effort?  Who knows?  What about Cruz or Rubio?  Will one of them suddenly spring forward similar to daylight saving time and like the comic book heros, rescue us?  How righteous are they?  When power is the goal, few retain the values they once held.  Money talks louder than righteousness!  Public opinion isn’t always godly.  Principles are often discarded.

Although I will vote, I doubt if a Republican will win the presidency!  In 2011 49.2% of U.S. households were receiving government support.  Democrat Bernie Sanders promises to  give away everything but our kitchen sink to those who will vote for him.  The country is adopting a national slogan of, “give me, give me, give me.”  If folks don’t get what they want, they take it because they deserve it.  Being caught in a lie no longer embarrasses anyone, especially politicians.  Cheating or defrauding is a game to be played.  The title most worn is, “Everyone is doing it!”

So, who will save us?  Bernie?  Hillary?  Trump?  Cruz?  Rubio?  Kasich?  Democrats?  Republicans?  The Tea Party?  If you are depending upon government, you need to have your head examined!  Power corrupts politicians producing depots.

Aren’t you weary of voting for the lesser of two evils?  I’ll let you figure out who is which.  But, we have the privilege of voting.  At least in this next election.  So, make yours count. Let your value system direct you.

My faith nor hope is in who wins the White House in November.  My faith is not in that person.  My faith is in my Savior Jesus.  When all others fail and disappoint, he doesn’t.  Because of him my sins are forgiven.  He reconciled me to the Father.  His grace covers me.  His blood cleanses me.  This is not my home.  I’m just passing through.

Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!  Before the mountains were created, before the earth was formed, you are God without beginning or end.  You speak, and man turns back to dust.  A thousand years are but as yesterday to you! They are like a single hour!  We glide along the tides of time as swiftly as a racing river and vanish as quickly as a dream. We are like grass that is green in the morning but mowed down and withered before the evening shadows fall.  We die beneath your anger; we are overwhelmed by your wrath.  You spread out our sins before you—our secret sins—and see them all.  No wonder the years are long and heavy here beneath your wrath. All our days are filled with sighing.  Seventy years are given us! And some may even live to eighty. But even the best of these years are often emptiness and pain; soon they disappear, and we are gone.  Who can realize the terrors of your anger? Which of us can fear you as he should?  Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are; help us to spend them as we should.”

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THE ACTS 2 CHURCH?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

acts-2-churchI saw this picture with its statement on Facebook and was intrigued.  I wondered if we would really desire membership in that specific congregation, at least for the first forty years of its existence?  I recognize that the woman didn’t actually want to be in the Acts 2 church as it was in Acts 2 through 28, but rather in the 21st century interpretation of it!  Let’s put ourselves in the Acts 2 church on Pentecost 30 – 70 A.D.

In spite of the apostles being miraculously inspired, culture robbed them in understanding that Jesus’ great commission also covered the Gentiles (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-49)!  Because of the church’s blinding racism, Gentiles were forced to remain in an unsaved state for a decade or more.  Would we want to be a part of that kind of thinking today?  The Acts church was overwhelmed with it.  Come to think of it, most churches and their schools were racist in practice until just a few decades ago!

The Acts 2 church never took up a collection for the building fund, never purchased property for or built one, never had a church baptistery, pews, pulpit, or table with “In Remembrance of Me” inscribed on it.  They never heard of communion ware, Welch’s Grape Juice or Matzah Bread.  Everything we commonly see on Sunday morning, in what we designate as an auditorium or sanctuary, did not cross their sight.  They didn’t “go to church.”  They assembled temporarily in the Temple Women’s Court, due to another cultural taboo, as well as in homes.  There is no indication that the Sunday morning assemblies started with “an order of worship” beginning with an opening prayer and an hour later, ending that order with a closing prayer.  They met in their homes where breaking bread took place and more likely the other activities mention in Acts 2:42.  Miraculous healing as well as preaching was done at the temple and in the house assemblies.  When persecution disrupted the Temple court assemblies, the home ones continued (Acts 2:46-47).  Saul of Tarsus probably interrupted many of those house assemblies (Acts 9:1-2).

Since Sunday was a work day, following Saturday’s Sabbath day off, the meetings on that first day of the week appeared to be a “come and go” activity (Acts 5:1-11).  Instead of men passing the collection plate, individuals walked to the one in charge and laid their contribution at his feet (Acts 4:34-36; 5:2).  If needed, the one in charge could question the giver concerning his contribution.  Even questions were asked of the women and there was an expected reply desired!  If any problems arose, the membership could assemble to solve it with a vote (Acts 6:1-6).  The brethren met daily, not just twice on Sunday and once on Wednesday (Acts 2:46).  Miraculous healings (tending to the sick) was an assembly activity (Acts 2:43).  Distribution of their needy closet was part of their assembly where needy members were encouraged and edified by the love expressed (Acts 2:45).  Their house assemblies were spent in breaking bread, eating together, and praising God (Acts 2:46-47).  This brought them praise and additions every day (Acts 2:47).  If we wish to be in a book of Acts church, wouldn’t we need to recognize what they considered to be important?

Would the first century Acts 2 church find our assemblies too restrictive and too limited because of our focus on time, fashion, comfort, and unnecessary details?

What Does It Really Say?

Monday, September 19, 2016

3000-baptismsOn the day of Pentecost, Peter and the others walked from the church’s upper room apartment to their just completed, magnificent church building.  The contractor had surrender the keys to Peter on the Friday before the Sabbath.  The edifice was as spacious as any mega-church building in the twenty-first century.  The sanctuary would easily accommodate 12,000 people.  Their rec room contained an oversized Olympic swimming pool that would allow over 3,000 people at once.  It would all be needed on that special dedication day (Acts 2:1-41)!

On that remarkable Sunday the sanctuary was filled past capacity.  The size of this new construction and their magnificent church street sign out front had caught the attention of the city.  At least a thousand people could not find seating but stood around the walls.  Thankfully the Fire Marshall was a member and looked the other way!  108 of the 120 formed the first choir.  The twelve apostles sat in huge, padded chairs facing the audience.  Peter rose to speak and immediately stirred the crowd with his eloquence.  In the middle of his lesson an exuberant individual shouted out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  Peter instructed him and others to “Repent and be immersed in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and there would be a reception of the gift of the Holy Spirit to follow.”  Since he was not finished with his sermon, he continued from his notes.  Finally, when completed, an invitation was offered, four verses of what was described as an invitation song was sung, and about three thousand responded!  The assembly was dismissed with about 10,000 exiting.

The response created a flurry of questions among the 120.  There weren’t enough baptismal garments available to handle that many responses.  A hundred maybe, but not 3,000!  They only had 3 waders.  How could 3 apostles handle such a crowd?  Which 3 would it be?  What would they do?  Matthew suggested that everyone go home, retrieve some “everyday clothing,” return, and they would be immersed.  They must “hurry” because time was wasting!  Waders were forgotten.  The ones doing the baptizing would have the honor of getting wet for Jesus!  They could later send their wet suits to the dry cleaners.

About an hour later everyone was back with street clothes in hand.  They met in the rec room.  The men were sent to one classroom to change out of their Sunday best, while the women to another.  Finally, all returned, ready to be immersed.  All respondents entered the enormous pool.  A buzz of questions went through the 120.  How long would it take the 12 to immerse 3,000?  Peter suggested that all of them do the immersing, 120 at a time.   Two main objections popped up!  First, women could not culturally immerse the men because it would be inappropriate for a female to touch a man who was not her husband.  Bartholomew quickly suggested that women immerse only the female candidates.  There was total agreement.  Second, only the apostles were “ordained,” and only the ordained could baptize for the baptisms to be valid.  Silence enveloped them.  It was broken by Andrew.  “When did the Spirit limit the administering of immersion to only the apostles?”  120 reflected.  Finally, Thomas spoke up.  “He hasn’t!  Immersing candidates is not limited to a specific, special clergy.”  It was the first time the term “clergy” was introduced.

As the 120 started to immerse, Thaddeus asked, “Aren’t we supposed to say something sacramental prior to the immersion?”  Simon asked, “What does that mean?”!  Joseph Barsabbas chimed in, “What would this sacramental dialogue be?”  Peter replied, “I’ve already told the 3,000 what to do and the purpose.  Nothing more needs to be said.”  Philip questioned, “It just doesn’t seem right, does it, to not add something to give it a ‘gospel feel’?”  Matthew added, “Gospel feel or not, I’m going to repeat part of what Peter said, ‘I baptize you in the name of Jesus, for the remission of your sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Bartholomew chimed in, “I’m going to say the same thing, but add what Jesus did, ‘in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit’!”  That difference would later cause debate!  The Zealot chimed in with a question, “How do we immerse?  Do we push them straight down, lay them over backwards, or forwards, or just let them sit?”  Matthias spoke up, “Jesus was carried by two men and placed in the tomb and then the stone was rolled in place.  If we’re buried with Jesus into his death, shouldn’t two people take a candidate by the arms and feet and lower them into the water?”  After some discussion, it was decided that each baptizer immerse in whatever way was easier for him.  So, they continued, although the two people system was a slowing factor, not as functional as one person immersing another.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls (Acts 2:41).

No, it didn’t develop as I have worded it above.  My purpose?  To show that we often insert our modern way of seeing and doing things into scripture rather than seeing it from their perspective.  How many read Acts 2 and assume that Peter gave a modern invitation at the end of his sermon, the audience sang an invitation song, people who responded stepped out from their pew and walked to the front of the audience, in unison made their confession while facing those who were seated, went to their respective dressing rooms and changed, then stepped down into the baptistery when called, were immersed, and then walked out the other side as another followed to be baptized?  How many see Peter holding up his right hand prior to the immersion and repeating a familiar dialogue as if it was “written,” then immersing that person?

Verse 41 says “the same day.”  Peter started his sermon around 9 am.  Let’s say he preached until 11 am.  Let’s assume the immersions began at 12 noon.  How long did it take and where were these 3,000 folks immersed?  When did they finish?  Did the Pharisees and Sadducees resist their efforts if they used the public water cisterns?  If it took 20 seconds to immerse one person and 120 disciples immersed 120 people in that time frame, how long did it take to finish with 3,000?   Did they start with the oldest individuals, just in case?  If each immersed individual was added to that 120 to help baptize others, it would have moved a lot faster.  Did they?  How was it organized?  Was there any confusion?  Did the Holy Spirit give them a plan of action?  Luke doesn’t say.  One thing is revealed.  That first “assembly” was unlike any you will find today!

WHAT WILL IT TAKE?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

jesus-paid-it-all-01The preacher raises his voice for effect.  His words pierce your soul and fill you with guilt.  “If you want God to really love you, you’ve got to attend more, give more, study more, pray more, teach more, convert more, visit more, worship more, love more, and do more!”  Ever heard that?

Most of us realize we could have made one more visit, delivered one more meal, talked to one more person, encouraged one more individual, prayed one more prayer, attended one more service, studied one more chapter, engaged in one more Bible study, and done a lot of one more things, but didn’t!  That shortcoming helps to fill our sin bucket.  We pile up more guilt and continue to go lower than a snake’s belly.

When that happens, we need to be a connoisseur of the Peanuts cartoon.  Charlie Brown had just finished reading John 3:16 and was shouting to his friends, “God loves ME!  God LOVES ME!  GOD LOVES ME!”  Many of us have been trained from childhood to believe God doesn’t love us because of our inadequacies.  If anything, He is so displeased with us that we’ve got to do more and more than what we have done in order EARN his recognition.  Some preachers have helped create this perception by piling on more guilt!

The devil adds to this deception by convincing us that we need our own fruit tree to gain God’s favor.  For some, their inability to reach perfection causes them to dig a guilty hole so deep that God’s light can’t penetrate their self created dankness!  Their epitaph becomes, “I might as well give up since I’m going to hell anyway!”  WHY think THAT?  The devil’s lie is, “God doesn’t love you.  You’ve tried to earn His love, but you can’t be perfect because you can’t do enough.  So give up!”  Don’t listen!!

Satan is good at his job.  He blinds us to the truth.  He say, “Give up, you’ll never be perfect.”  If a voice cries out, “You don’t have to be perfect for God to love you,” the reply is, “Oh, you don’t believe in obedience?”  I believe in obedience, but I leave perfection to Jesus!

Stop listening to the devil!  He’s the wrong communicant to seek information from.  His  answers are never helpful (Genesis 3:1-5).  He’ll give you more grief than a faulty hard drive!  Regardless of your failures, God loves you.  Why do you think He sent His Word to become flesh and take your sins as His own and bless you with His righteousness (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21)?  Recognize that God has made it possible for failures like you and me to stand in righteousness before Him because of what Jesus did.  In Jesus our sins are continually removed, not sporadically dealt with!  Sure, we pray, teach, give, study, and all those other commanded things, but we will never accomplish that perfection called “more.”  If we could, our “more” would eliminate our need for Jesus.  The devil wants you to substitute that “need” by believing your “more” pays your way.  Obey Him out of love because God first loved you!  Don’t obey because you think you need to “punch the clock” to merit His love.  You’re listening to the wrong source if you do.

Tune in to God’s love.  Accept how He expresses that love to you through Jesus!!

RESPECT OR REVOLT?

Monday, September 12, 2016

brass-poleMost people recognize that their church believes and practices things which the one down the street doesn’t.  In the 1800s some churches would not allow anyone to partake of the Lord’s supper if they didn’t possess the church’s communion coin to prove membership.  The Campbell father and son believed that if everyone would discard their human traditions which divided nineteenth century Christianity, and accept only the Bible, they could resurrect the unity of the primitive first century church.

When I was immersed in May, 1957, I was impressed with the information that a first century saint, when he located the church, found each was the same in doctrine and practice.  I was shocked a month later when I found out we weren’t following that lofty pattern!

Separating ourselves from human tradition is a monumental task.  If you don’t recognize it, you can’t reject it!  If you think a practice or teaching is biblical, you will defend it with your last breath.  The more biblical it appears only solidifies its support.  One may claim to follow the Bible, but the origin of his accepted standard may have found birth in his grandparent’s generation rather than in the apostles’!

Even in the first century, in less than two decades the saved developed two different biblical paths to follow!  One was made up of those who were zealous for the Law and the other of those who were not (Acts 21:20, 24; Acts 15:23-29; 21:25).  This divine solution was not accepted by all, therefore problems soon developed (Romans 14).  The Jewish tradition had some who wanted to make their practice binding upon Gentile saints.  Paul warned against such (Galatians 1:6-9; 5:1-4).  A different gospel developed and was being taught in less than 35 years after the Acts 2 beginning!  Those Jewish saints that demanded Gentile disciples follow the Jewish practice and teaching, lost grace (Galatians 5:4)!  How is it possible to fall when one is following sixteen hundred years of biblical teaching and practice?  How?  By rejecting one small inspired letter (Acts 15:23-29)!  It was not wrong for them to practice and follow the Jewish way, but they must not bind it upon Gentile saints.  When Jewish saints were banned from Rome and the church was left with only a Gentile membership, their return in a few years caused problems.  It seems, from Romans 14 that some Gentile members wanted to bind their way upon the returning Jewish saints!  Rather than segregate into two congregations, one Jewish and the other Gentile, Paul wanted them to respect the differences of the other and be one assembly.  How do you do that?  There seems to always be some that don’t trust God’s solution!  When human desire takes precedent over God’s will, the problems created affect future generations (Genesis 3:1-19).

What human traditions have become our brass serpent (Numbers 21:9; 2 Kings 18:4)?

OLD THINGS HAVE PASSED AWAY?

Thursday, September 8, 2016

bow-to-an-idolDid you see the movie, “The Planet of the Apes”?  If so, do you remember what the main character found when he made his way to where other humans were?  They were worshiping the Bible!  Far fetched?  Not really.

When Israel made their exodus from Egypt, their evil actions brought deadly serpents upon them causing them to cry out for help.  Moses was told to make a bronze pole with a serpent on it.  If bitten, a person could look upon this brass creation and be saved (Numbers 21:4-9).  Have you ever wondered what happened to that brass pole with its metal snake?  About 730 years later it was being worshiped by the offspring of those it once saved (2 Kings 18:1, 4).

Ignorance often flows through our human veins!  Something created for a noble purpose, in our possession, has the possibility of evolving into something evil.  As a teenager, I heard folks elevate the King James Bible as if Paul carried it in his hip pocket.  Is so, wouldn’t Paul need blue jeans rather than a robe?

In the fifties the American Standard Version was being accepted by some because the New Testament was closer to the original Greek than the KJV.  Yet, if one quoted from it rather than the King James, he was accused of incorrectly quoting the actual WORD of God!  Some thought the King James was the divine standard to judge the soundness of all other translations.  Preachers thought nothing of reading a passage in the KJV and spending time explaining its shortcomings to his audience.  If he pointed out a word which was mistranslated or added to the inspired text, it was done without being negative.  Yet, when reviewing a newer translation, those same discovered points were used as indictments to prove it was a corrupt, untrustworthy translation!  If you read from one, you were immediately suspected of being disloyal to God’s word!

One author wrote a voluminous book to expose the errors of the Revised Standard Version.  His standard of correctness was the King James.  The author fully accepted the American Standard Version not only as an equal to the King James, but superior in the translation of the Greek.  Yet, his criticisms of the RSV also condemned the ASV since the majority of passages introduced were identical.  Apparently he never recognized his inconsistency.

Through the eighties some bemoaned the fact that if one left the KJV, reverence would be lost by addressing God as “you” rather than the solemn and reverential “thee” and “thou.”  If one wishes to continue using the King James Version as his standard Bible, that is his right (Romans 14).  However, to bind upon others what originated in 1611 is little more than man made tradition (Matthew 15:9).  For either side to feel superior to the other because of their choice is absurd.  Some were concerned that the songs of the past four hundred years would not make sense if the “thee” and “thou” were replaced with “you” and “your.”  Just because we continue to sing songs with archaic words does not demand we continue to use the KJV to please God.  Spirituality nor reverence were lost when we started using modern expressions rather than the King James vocabulary.  We went through a growth period during those decades and everyone survived regardless of choice.

Today, I occasionally quote from the KJV.  I read from the International English Bible in our family devotionals.  I often use the ASV, NASV, NASB, RSV, NRSV, NIV, TLB, NLB, ESV, and NKJV translations in my articles.  Computers have put all of those versions and more only a few key clicks away.  Each person has a right to use the version he prefers.  Even though I may prefer one translation over another, none of them have become my “Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4)!

SIN NO MORE!

Monday, September 5, 2016

Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. . . . they said to Him, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. . . . But what do You say?’  . . . ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” . . . And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. . . . ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’  She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” (John 8:3-11 (NKJV).

Go and Sin No More 2he Bible thumping, scripture quoting, scholarly, recognizably dressed, pastoral leaders of the day captured a woman engaged in a damnable sin.  She was someone else’s wife with some other woman’s husband!  “Adultery” was the charge.  The right reverends were on a mission!  Each could meticulously quote the Law she had broken in both Hebrew and Greek.  Jesus could have asked, “Where is the accused man?”  The curious would like to know!  John doesn’t satisfy the inquiry with an answer.  Perhaps this absentee was an Olympic runner?  We will never know.  However, she was there.  She was guilty.  Her accusers were numerous.  They were reputable witnesses.  Every Bible believer knew the ghastly punishment!

Their purpose was not to honor the Law.  It was not to punish the woman.  They wanted to ruin Jesus.  They wanted him to answer one question.  They quoted Moses.  What would his response be?  He did not answer their intimidating question!  He doodled using mother earth as his black board.  What was his justification for his silence?  Was he afraid to answer?  Was he in error?  Did he believe Moses was wrong?  Was he defending adultery?  Did error prompt him to ignore the question?  Some today might have charged him with such if they had been part of that clergy crowd.  Didn’t his silence indicate that he accepted her sin?

Jesus did not tell them to refrain from carrying out Moses’ sentence.  He did not disagree with Moses.  He did not say anything to support the woman’s conduct.  He did not sympathize with her position.  He simply invited the one’s without sin to be first in carrying out the sentence.  He then went back to doodling!

When he looked up, the righteous clergy had disappeared.  He asked the accused about their absence and charge.  Her short reply was, “No one, Lord.”  She probably breathed a partial sigh of relief.  However, Jesus had heard their charges.  He knew the Law.  He knew what she had done.  He knew the punishment.  She knew she was guilty.  Those whom Jesus had been teaching had also heard the charges.  Death would come shortly!  However, what she heard was not expected.  “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”  Can you visualize yourself before Jesus’ at the judgment and your emotional state when he says that to you?  Will he?

Yet, notice that something is missing in this encounter.  Jesus doesn’t tell her to “repent,”  “confess,” or to “pray.”  No condemnation spills from his lips!  Hasn’t she broken the Law?  Isn’t stoning the punishment deserved?  The “witnesses” have left.  But didn’t Jesus and his crowd hear the charge against her?  They did!  Yet the Law calls for eye witnesses, not hearing ones.  Some may ignore it, but grace is present!  The problem today is, some believe God’s grace covers their failures, but not the shortcomings of others!  Especially one who deserves to be killed by having her brain splattered!

Jesus’ last five words to the woman are troubling.  “Go and sin no more.”  Some say Jesus is telling her to stop sinning, period!  Under Law, one infraction made one guilty of all!  If she is to never sin again, Jesus has burdened her with an impossible task.  Her future offers only failure.  Is perfection expected of her and us by our Lord?  If so, our failure will drive us into depression, joylessness, guilt, and self-destruction.

Without the sacrificial blood of Jesus, one sin on our part makes each of us a 100% sinner!  Yet, being in the body of Christ keeps us washed.  We are saved sinners, not sporadically, but continually cleansed (1 John 1:7-10).  We leave the old lifestyle and start living the new one (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:1-23).  Now that we have new life in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).  Basically, what Jesus told the woman, he tells us.  Live the new life: “Go and continue in a sinful lifestyle no more.”  Jesus makes it possible for us to live forgiven lives.  THAT is GOOD News!

A DISCIPLE!

Thursday, September 1, 2016

BikerHis hair looked as if the last time it was brushed, his mom wanted to do it for him.  His arms were covered with tattoos.  His blue jeans were in style due to wear rather than manufacturing.  He wore boots that had lost their shine.  His face was covered with a beard that hid his neck.  Although he bathed, his appearance camouflaged it.  Sunday finery was lost on him!  He had been a gang banger until his conversion less than a month before.

Some in the church were uncomfortable around him.  Small children were terrified.  Teens looked his way and spoke in glanced whispers.  Others talked among themselves.  Conversations meandered from, “If he was really converted, he would comb his hair and trim his beard” to “If he was really converted, he would shave, comb his hair, and wear some decent clothing.  It’s the Christian thing to do!”  Some were horrified by his appearance and annoyed by his  loud sounding Harley.  “What would neighbors think as well as those who passed by?”

Some discovered that in his younger days he had spent time in jail.  They knew something had to be done.  Either he cleaned up his act or he must go somewhere else!  He would ruin their good reputation.  Their friends would not want to attend if he was there.  He was a negative influence upon their children.  He did not fit in.  He was not one of them!

The Sunday he brought two of his motorcycle buddies to church with him almost caused a “walk out”!  No one else would sit on their pew.  There were scattered talking groups that often looked his way void of any love.  When his buddies responded to the invitation, seeking to be immersed, several commented under their breath, “Not in OUR baptistry?”  Others surmised, “I knew if we accepted one trashy person, others would follow.”  Some simply shook their heads in disbelief, hoping some how, in some way, this nightmare would go away!

One Sunday there was a flash that momentarily blinded everyone in the assembly.  When all the nay-saying members opened their eyes, they were in unfamiliar surroundings.  Where were they?  They were in an assembly, but candles produced light rather than electricity.  They quickly realized that no air conditioning was available as sweat appeared on their brows.  People were looking at them in a strange way.  It suddenly dawned on them that they weren’t dressed like everyone else.

Although they knew everyone was speaking Greek, they could understand what was being said.  They asked one gentleman where they were and what year it was.  The reply shocked them.  The year was 60 A.D. and they were in Thessalonica!  Although the assembly was shocked by their sudden appearance, they readily accepted them and invited them to share in the bread and fruit of the vine.  No one spoke negatively about their clothing nor the way they looked.  They were fellow saints and that’s all that mattered.  As they looked around and listened, they saw and heard slave owners talking with slaves as brothers in Christ.  The slave owners were sharing what they had with those who had brought only themselves.  Where culture had once separated them, their faith did not!  Several shared the good news of Jesus with the rest.  Rich and poor sat together mingling their voices in song.  It wasn’t hard to see the love they had for one another.  They were also sharing it with them!

Suddenly there was another flash and they were back in 2016 in their assembly.  This time, when they looked at the three bikers, their thinking was changed.  They realized their attitudes were self-centered rather than Christ-focused.  They had viewed others with the wrong lenses and realized that disciples must see one another through the eyes of Jesus.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”  (John 13:34-35 (NKJV).

THE ORIGIN OF RULES?

Monday, August 29, 2016

Preaching1. You haven’t preached a gospel sermon until you have ended it with the five step plan of salvation, which is: 1) Hear, 2) Believe, 3) Repent, 4) Confess, and 5) Be baptized.

Although each of these points may be found in scripture, a five point listing was not popular until a pioneer preacher, by the name of Walter Scott, introduced the “seed” in his 6 point system in 1827.  His was 1) Faith, 2) Repent, and 3) Be baptized which brought 4) Forgiveness of sins, 5) The gift of the Holy Spirit, and 6) Eternal life.  However, rather than mention all 6 points, Scott and Alexander Campbell usually gave the first three in their invitations.  It took another one hundred years for the list to morph into the present tradition.

One will not find a singular verse in his Bible where the five are listed together.  Neither will one find that style of invitation being used by any inspired apostle or prophet.  For example, Peter did not give a hymn book number for an invitation song before saying, “Save yourself from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40 KJV).  In our English text, his admonition was in six words rather than in five steps.  There is no instruction which required a specific invitation to be given or to identify “a gospel sermon.”  Although there is nothing wrong with such an announcement, it isn’t necessary nor required by God at the end of each sermon.  To require such is to go beyond what is written (2 John 1:9).  Man has the bad habit of making innocent traditions into a “thus saith the Lord,” then believing it is a sin if the tradition is not precisely followed.

At the house of Cornelius Peter first asked a question, “Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (Acts 10:47).  Then he “commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:48).  Notice, the statement to the Gentiles is different than to the Jews (Acts 2:38-39).  Since the five step plan isn’t found in either one, wouldn’t that mean Peter did not preach a gospel sermon nor end either lesson scripturally?

2. One has not preached a gospel sermon if he has not documented his lesson with citations from the Bible giving 1) book, 2) chapter, and 3) verse.

If this “rule” is correct, neither Jesus nor any inspired writer ever preached a gospel sermon!  Chapters and verses were not created for the New Testament until 1551 and 1571 for the Old.  Man was the creator of such, not Jesus or the Holy Spirit.  One is binding what no one practiced for 1,500 years!

Sometimes, inspired writers did not mention the book they were quoting from.  For example, “But one in a certain place testified, saying. . .” (Hebrews 2:6).  Did this omission mean the Hebrew writer’s book was not the gospel since he did not inform his readers that Psalm 22:22 was the scripture being quoted?  Also notice Hebrews 1:5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13; 2:6, 13; 3:7, 15, and 4:3, 4, 5, 7, as well as the rest of the book do not follow this modern rule!  Someone might believe that the Hebrew writer would have given book, chapter, and verse if it had been available to him, but if so, why didn’t he give the “book” since that was known?  What is illustrated is that folks didn’t have to be told what book was being quoted, they knew!  If anything should be bound, wouldn’t it be the hearer is required to know “the where” without being told?

Matthew and Hebrews have more quotes from the Bible than any other.  Yet neither contained chapter or verse citations.  Only a few citations inform you what book or writer gave the passage being quoted.  Even then, a comparison with the Old Testament quote will reveal that it is not always quoted  word for word!  For example, the Hebrew writer quotes Psalm 22:22 in chapter 2:12 but note the difference or additions.

I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.”  (Hebrews 2:12 (KJV).

I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee.”  (Psalm 22:22 (KJV).

If inspiration isn’t word for word when quoting from one testament to the other, why make a rule that rejects a translation that is faithful in following the Spirit’s lead?

There is nothing wrong in supplying book, chapter, and verse, but it is not a biblical rule that one’s lesson must contain such in order to be a gospel sermon.

3. One has not preached a gospel sermon unless he has quoted more than two dozen passages in his sermon.

It is not wrong for a preacher to quote numerous passages from the Bible while speaking.  However, to require such is to place more emphasis upon the preacher’s ability to memorize rather than on the scripture being taught.  Such direction elevates human accomplishment rather than the divine message.  It boils down to being entertained by human achievement rather than being enthused by scriptural content!

So, are we guilty of making rules and binding them when God has not (Galatians 1:6-9; Matthew 15:9)?

TRUST!

Thursday, August 25, 2016

TrustDo I have any assurance that I am going to heaven? If I am depending upon my perfection to answer that question, the conclusion is “NO”! If a positive reply depends upon which sins I occasionally commit, such as little sins as opposed to big ones, the response again is “NO” for both! If my eternal destination relies upon crossing every “t” and dotting every “i” to solidify that assurance, I might as well expect a hot reception. If my eternity depends upon committing only “non-fatal error” rather than the “fatal kind,” my ignorance of such already condemns me. If my ability to accumulate a lot of good works will help pay my way into heaven, I have succumbed to the lies first produced in Eden.

The Word of God did not empty himself to occupy Mary’s womb so we could fill an imaginary gap left over from his sacrificial actions! Eve thought one bite would make her equal to God. Adam bit into that philosophy. God wants us to place all our trust in Him. When we seek to add “one wit” to that trust to mimic what the first couple attempted to “bite off,” we play their foolish game! Is our price of “one wit” sufficient and better than the blood of Jesus? Some see it as a necessary payment for our salvation! So, we trust Jesus? Yes. 100%! We don’t merit heaven with our two cents worth of effort!

Some have made it appear that what we do is equal to what Jesus did! He gave 50% and we pay off the rest through our obedience. Since his part was perfect, wouldn’t ours also need to be? When we set a percentage for our actions, which obligates God to reimburse us with eternal life, aren’t we swallowing the same lie which Eden’s occupants digested?

Obedience is commanded, but not as A PAYMENT for our eternal salvation. If it is a payment where God owes us, then what is the exact percentage required to validate that amount? If grace becomes necessary on God’s part to fill up what we lack, what percentage is required of us to merit that amount from Him? If we come up short, what assurance do we have that God will intervene? Can one ask for forgiveness at the judgment? In other words, grace will cover a percentage of our religious shortcomings, MAYBE! Is there a “cut-off” percentage? If 50% is our standard to make our righteousness acceptable, what percentage criteria must be met to guarantee we have reached that essential goal? Must we wait in limbo until the judgment to find out? That might end up being an eternal shocker! Doesn’t self-righteousness leave us insecure and without real joy? Doesn’t this serpentine doctrine teach that we’re good for 50% of our salvation and God’s grace and Jesus’ blood covers the other 50%? You earn 50% of your crown and only need God’s 50%? Doesn’t that sound like a boastful condition?

God’s lesson to Israel was, “You need me 100%”! That percentage did not decrease at the cross. It just emphasized it! So, what assurance do you have that you are going to heaven? To have 100% assurance, you must put 100% trust in Jesus! If your assurance is built upon your works, they would need to be perfect. Are they?

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