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I FEAR!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

fearWhen I look at my righteous achievements, I fear. When I look at my perfection, I fear.  When I look at the quality of my prayers, I fear.  When I look at my life each day, I fear.  When I think about dying, I fear.  When I think about the judgment, I fear.  Am I paranoid?  Some might think so, but “No!”  Do I have panic attacks? No. How can I possess fear and not have negative results?  How can I own those fears and be a Christian?  I am one, but my shoulders are too small to bear fear’s burden alone!

My righteous achievements?  Laughable.  My perfection?  Nonexistent.  The quality of my prayers? Dismal. My daily life? Inadequate. My death? Frightening. The judgment? Questionable.

Yet, I don’t have panic attacks nor negative results.  I haven’t been defrocked.  My shoulders remain small.  I fall so short, if measured in inches, powerful microscopes would not see me. Paul may have been “chief” but I’m second.  My cry is the same as his, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”  (Romans 7:24 (NKJV).  His and my answer?  Jesus!  Jesus!  Jesus!!  What’s yours?

Without Jesus, fear would be my driver.  What can I do to pay for my sins or assist Jesus’ blood in my cleansing?  If perfection is required, failure is my companion.  Perfection was Jesus’ mission, not mine.  Belief in what He did for me is required, not “Look how much I have done for you, Jesus.”  I sin, but it drives me to the one who remits it.  If I thought my prayers paid for my forgiveness, I would be a fool.  My gospel would not be good news but one rewarded with damnation.  I don’t fear dying because I know who walks with me through that valley.  I am not afraid of judgment because I will not stand there to remind Jesus about how faithful I’ve been, but rather praise Him for how gracious He is.  I will not look at my achievements, but glory in His.  He takes away fears and gives peace! He is my focus, not me!

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).

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A COMPLETE BIBLE; A BLESSING!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

In Luke 14: 15-24 Jesus tells about a man who had a banquet but the invited guest had excuses and could not attend.  The master sent hbible-scrollis servant out to invite people off the street.  The hall was still not filled, so the master told the servant to “Go out to the highways and country roads.  Make them come.  I want my house to be full!  I tell you, none of those men whom I invited first will get a taste of my banquet!

We are introduced to the same story in Matthew 22:1-10.  However, a lot of things are added and the purpose is different from the one in Luke.  In Matthew, the secondary invited folks, if not properly dressed, are bound and thrown out.  The story ends with, “Many are invited, but few are chosen” rather than “none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

In Luke’s account the “excuses” are more detailed than in Matthew.  Luke doesn’t mention that this is a wedding party.  Matthew does.  Luke is more descriptive about who the servant invites.  In Luke the guest are compelled to come, but not so in Matthew.  In Luke the host is “a certain man” whereas in Matthew he is “a king.”  In Matthew, how one is dressed is important, but Luke says nothing about it.

The Holy Spirit inspired both Matthew and Luke.  So, why are their stories different?  Both are stories or “parables.”  Matthew is writing to a different audience than Luke.  Matthew fills in some details of Jesus’ story not covered by Luke.  Luke is writing to a Gentile readership.  Luke picks out a lesson that fits the audience he is writing to whereas Matthew uses what will best fit his readers.

Preachers are often approached after a service and told what the individual got from the sermon.  Most preachers are surprised because the point they were making is different from the point that person heard.  Sometimes an audience with different needs receives help to deal with that need from a sermon that wasn’t designed by the speaker to address it.  Sometimes a person is feeling guilty about a secret sin and imagines the preacher is exposing it, whereas the minister is totally innocent of the charges.  It is the power of God’s word (Hebrews 4:12)!

Matthew is not contradicting Luke.  Both are giving the essence of Jesus’ story, but dealing with different points from the story which fits their respective readers.  In the first century, most people would not have both Matthew’s account and Luke’s.  We have the advantage of possessing both so we may gain the lessons delivered to both audiences.

In studying Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, one needs to research the parallels of each to gain all that is being said.  Our studies are enriched by this advantageous blessing.

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WHAT’S YOUR ASSURANCE?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

A few Sundays ago one of our songs was, “Lord, I Need You,” written by Matt Maher in 2013.  Some of the words are:

assuranceLord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You.

As the congregation sang that song I wondered how well those words were sinking into our consciousness?  How many believe God will save them because of their righteousness, performed to co-host His?  One faith teaches that we must have more “good” works than bad ones if we are going to heaven.  In other words, you are on a “point system” and must work to produce “x” number in order to save yourself!  If that is our religious foundation, we have no business singing Matt’s song!

In discussing the righteousness of Jesus as compared to ours, an individual asked if his obedience didn’t amount to something in procuring his salvation.  Is “obedience” necessary?  Yes (2 John 1:9 NIV).  If one loves the Lord, he will willingly obey Him (John 14:15, 23; 15:10).  However, that is altogether different than saying, “My righteousness is worth __% in paying for my salvation.”  Actually, “our righteousness” is like a dirty rag, that if you touched it, you would want to immediately wash your hands (Isaiah 64:6)!

At the judgment, one will not remind Jesus about how well his works measured up to Jesus’ actions upon the cross and expectantly state, “You owe me something for what I’ve done!”  Those who do such have missed the Good News completely.  In fact, it could be another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

If my trust in going to heaven is based upon how obedient I am, my failure to “do enough” will leave me frustrated, ridden with guilt, depressed, and with a fear that will consume me.  Why?  Because our obedience will never be sufficient to make a down payment on our sin debt.  However, I can with assurance say that Jesus is my Savior and I trust that He paid it all for me!

“Lord, I need You, oh, I need You, Every hour I need You, My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need you.”

Jesus paid it all!!  I am not capable of adding even 1%.  Jesus is not a 99% Savior.  He is my 100% Lord and Savior!  He is the one who saves, not me (Hebrews 5:1)!  I obey Him, not to make points, but because He made the points for me.  I can never repay Him.  My obedience does not supplement the full price he paid for me (1 Corinthians 6:20)!  Why do men demote what Jesus did in order to glorify what we think we’ve done?

What is your assurance built on?  You??

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IS IT IN THE GENES?

Monday, December 26, 2016

This family got up together.  The boy dressed and went to milk the cow.  The father cut and retrieved wood for the cook stove and started the fire.  The mother prepared breakfast for going-to-church-2everyone after she got the youngest child dressed.

The father fed the livestock.  The mother gathered the eggs and fed the chickens.  The boy strained the milk, separating the cream, and put the milk where it would stay cool.  Everyone finished breakfast, got the Bible, and finished getting ready to go to church.  The mule was harnessed and each member mounted it.  Snow was still on the ground, but the weather had warmed causing the yard and road to be soft and muddy.  They rode five miles to the church building in town, arriving fifteen minutes early.  The year was 1895.

The alarm goes off.  An arm manages to swings out from under the covers and hit the snooze button.  Fifteen minutes later, the scene repeats itself.  He and his wife finally drag out of bed.  He retrieves the Sunday paper and sits to read the funnies.  The wife yells at the two boys to get up, “IT’S SUNDAY”!  There is no response.  A second, third, and fourth warning is called out, each getting louder.  Grumbling is heard.  Arguments begin.  It signals that both are up!

Mom heats up some Pop-Tarts for breakfast.  Three times “Breakfast is ready” bounces off the walls before anyone appears.  There is bantering between the boys but breakfast is soon consumed.  Instructions again about it being Sunday and the boys are admonished to “quit messing around and get dressed.”  Dad is included in the instruction!  He shaves and combs his hair.  He and she get dressed.  A few more admonitions and the boys look half way decent.  It takes a few more warnings to get everyone in the family vehicle.  Off they go.  They live four block from the church building.  The speed limit is 40, but dad fudges 5 miles more.  This morning they hit all the green lights.  They arrive but parking near the entrance is taken.  Four part grumbling fills the car.  They are in the seventh row of parked cars and down about 300 feet.  All four doors open and the family exits, heading for the church entrance.  The wind is brisk and cold.  More grumbling. They are ten minutes late rather than the usual fifteen.  They congratulate themselves on being five minutes earlier!  The father is the great grandson of the youngest brother pictured on the mule.  The year is 2016.

The wife sees that picture every Sunday and wonders if their ride was on a mule rather than in a Ford Bronco, would they arrive at church fifteen minutes early?

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COMMANDED BUT NEVER OBEYED?

Monday, March 27, 2017

DisobedienceMost Christians believe obedience to Jesus is essential to their salvation.  Yet, most of us aren’t real quick to respond to every command given by our Lord.  If we were asked, “Are you faithful in your obedience to Jesus,” most would answer “yes.”  We don’t mean to lie, but in a sense, we have!  If we wanted to justify ourselves, we could call upon Paul and the other apostles because their path is no different from ours!  Disobedience feels more comfortable when shared with our kin!

A certain ruler asked Jesus, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  Jesus replied, “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” (Luke 18:22).  Have we, as followers of Jesus, done that?   Are our explanations as to why we haven’t obeyed this command, valid or flimsy?

Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away . . . If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away(Matthew 5:29-30).  Since we still have our right eye and hand, one of two possibilities is true.  Either we have never sinned or we have refused to obey this command!  Are our explanations valid or flimsy?

Peter informed Jesus, “We have left everything to follow you!(Mark 10:28).  Jesus countered with, “Everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.(Matthew 19:29).  Is that what we’ve done?  Are our explanations valid or flimsy?

Jesus also stated, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.  If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”  (Matthew 5:39-42).  Do we follow his teaching to the letter?  Are our explanations valid or flimsy?

Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  (1 Timothy 4:16).

These passages illustrate that not every command from the mouth of Jesus is black and white or literal.  Sometimes an extreme illustration is used to teach a spiritual lesson.  This is when we need to know something about the culture Jesus lived in and how he is using that culture to teach a lesson.  If that is not the case, I have a “gouge” and a special bone saw to help remove that offending right eye and hand!

THE CHRISTIAN THING TO DO!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

BrowbeatngIt was a cold, windy day Monday.  I dropped Mary Nell off in front of Kroger so she wouldn’t have to walk too far in the wind.  I went to the Kroger gas station to fill the gas tank.  I drove back around to the striped area at the end of a parking lane and stopped.  I cut the engine and waited for Mary Nell to finish grocery shopping.

I could here his music before I saw him.  He pulled by me and turned into the lane I was facing.  He saw an opening to his left that was two parking spaces away from me.  He was driving a red Chevy Camero convertible with the top down.  My first thought was, “His music sure is loud.”  Then I realized that with the top down, he would need it loud to hear over the road noise and wind.  He turned left to get into the parking spot.  He had to back up to pull in straight.  As he turned off the ignition I glanced up and thought, “Nice car.”

In my peripheral view I could see the fellow get out of his car and start walking toward Kroger.  He was saying something and I thought he was talking to someone.  As he got closer to the car, perhaps six to eight feet away, he stopped.  He was still speaking loudly.  I looked up to see who he was addressing.  Surprise!  Surprise!  It was me!

He told me I was breaking the law by parking where I was.  That it was not a parking space.  He informed me that I was being very inconsiderate of other people who had to drive around me to get into a parking lane.  At first I thought he was kidding.  But, I saw his belligerent look and felt the terseness in his voice.  He told me that I was stupid for parking there.  He wrapped it all up as he continued toward Kroger by informing me, “You’re an idiot!”

I never said a word to him.  First, his actions caught me off guard.  Second, his tone told me that reason was out of the question.  It didn’t matter to him whether or not I was waiting on my wife to come out of Kroger soon with groceries, nor that I would be needed to put them in the trunk of the car.  Neither did it matter that I was not parked, but considered to be “standing” since I was in the driver’s seat.  Neither were there any signs forbidding me to wait there.  No one from the store had ever charged me with being discourteous.  The car was not blocking the entrance nor exit part of the lane in front nor in back of me.

As he went into Kroger I thought, “He must be a Christian!”  Now, why would I think that?  First, he did not use any curse words or profanity in expressing his displeasure.  Second, he did not come to the car, reach in and slap me.  Third, once he performed his duty to correct me, he went on about his business.  Now, isn’t that the Christian thing to do?

MIXING COVENANTS

Monday, March 20, 2017

Ot and NT CovenantsSome mix Old Testament worship with the New Testament kind.  Special clothing for preachers comes from the Levitical priesthood.  Going to a specific place to worship is from several passages in the Old Testament.  Certain buildings or rooms are accepted as holy as if they are God’s New Testament tabernacle or related to the Jewish Temple.  Special dedicatory services are held to set aside (sanctify) a building for members to perform their holy service in and a special reverence is expected while there.  Some of the traditions over a period of time begin taking on a special allegiance and defense.  Rules of use and conduct while inside are enforced as if holiness is lost without a clearly defined reverence being exhibited.  I admire and respect the desire of those who wish to show their dedication to Jesus through those venues, but is one less spiritual or void of  all righteousness because he does not display the same interest?  Must we treat a man made structure as holy before we can experience a deeper, emotional bond with Jesus?

There seems to be a tendency to restrict the Lord’s work to the church building.  If one worships “off campus,” he is seen as “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together(Hebrew 10:25).  Yet that is a misapplication of that passage!  When Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman she told him, “Sir, . . . our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews say that Jerusalem is the place where people must worship(John 4:19-20 IEB).  Jesus’ reply was, “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you won’t worship the Father on this mountain or in Jerusalem (v.21).  Jesus wasn’t saying that one could not worship “in spirit and in truth” in either place, but that such worship would not be restricted to either one.  Are we guilty of mentally restricting one’s worship to the church building?  We chastise brethren, even when they are present for the three “required” hours on Sunday and the one hour Wednesday night, by reminding them that they are only giving God four hours out of a one hundred and sixty-eight hour week.  Really!?

When Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he did not limit worship to either a building nor to four hours at specific times on two special days.  He stated, “So, brothers, with God’s tender feelings, I beg you to offer your bodies as a living, holy, pleasing sacrifice to God.  This is pure worship from you(Romans 12:1 IEB).  Is this a four hour a week worship, or a twenty-four hour, seven days of the week, one?

The Bible does not speak of a Christian’s worship being confined to a specific location on a specific day.  One should be in worship before arriving at a called assembly, worship during that assembly, and continue doing so once he has been dismissed from it!  Does one “offer” his body “as a living, holy, pleasing sacrifice to God” only on Sunday and limit it to three hours on that day?  A Christian should be involved in that living sacrifice worship one hundred and sixty-eight hours each week!  The kind of worship that Paul mentions to the Roman church did not have an opening nor a closing prayer!  If so, what passage allows one to be dismissed from this worship?

I’m not sure when expressions, such as “going to worship,” “in a worship service,” “a worship service beginning,” or “a worship service ending,” were introduced into our religious vocabulary, but they must have been created after the Bible was completed since it is silent in their usage.

The Romans 12:1 worship is not limited to Sunday or Wednesday, nor is it restricted to four hours each week.  It is the kind of worship that Jesus spoke of in John 4:23-24.  He informed that Samaritan woman, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.”  John 4:23 (NKJV).  When Jesus said, “now is,” he was not saying “2017 is the “now.” but “now is” as that woman was hearing Jesus speak those words.  She could “now” engage in that worship as she stood before Jesus by giving herself as a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God!

You don’t have to go to the mountain to worship, Jesus made it possible for the mountain to come to you 24/7!  It is a lifestyle, not a removable “Sunday best” reserved for short periods of wear!

WHAT IS IT?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Speak the TruthWhat is worship?  The primary Greek word used in the New Testament is proskuneo.  It is translated “worship” in all sixty occurrences.  Strong’s Greek-English Lexicon states that the word means, “to kiss, like a dog licking his master’s hand.  To fawn or crouch to; prostrate oneself in homage (do reverence to, adore).”  Vine says it means “to make obeisance, do reverence to” (from pros, “towards,” and kuneo, “to kiss”).  He continues by saying it is the most frequent word rendered “to worship.” It is used of “an act of homage or reverence (a) to God” (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words).  Proskuneo is offered to Jesus as well as the Father (Matthew 2:2; John 4:24).  When is the last time we have fawned, crouched, or been prostrate in homage to God?  Have we redefined proskuneo and substitute other actions in the place of those definitions?

The search through the New Testament reveals that it is silent in mentioning the expression “five acts of worship” as well as attaching that phrase to proskuneo.  Neither does it state that “worship” (proskuneo) is singing, preaching, giving, Lord’s supper, or prayer!  The only time an inspired writer used the word proskuneo in a church assembly, he was not referring to the church’s performance, but one who was an unbeliever entering their assembly and proskuneo being attached to what he did (1 Corinthians 14:23-25).  Few would agree with the Spirit’s definition.  Neither would we approve of the man’s actions if he did in our assembly what he did in the Corinthian’s meeting!  In fact, if someone performs a practice that is commanded in scripture, but isn’t the tradition of the congregation, isn’t the excuse of negligence, “That’s what that group down the street does”?  Doesn’t human nature motivate one to attach the biblical act with that group’s erroneous actions as if it too is not scriptural?  Isn’t the attitude manifested that if the person doesn’t conform, they need to go down the street?

Ask the man on the street what “worship” is and you will receive varied responses.  Most simply parrot what their favorite pastor has spoon fed them.  Others believe if it was good enough for their parents and grandparents, it is good enough for them.  These are honest and sincere folks but many of them don’t have a clue.

Some will be engaged in a heated family squabble until they drive onto the church parking lot.  Expressions change, words are filtered, and halos are straightened.  The pious facade remains until they leave “church.”  Then it disappears as the fuming and fussing resumes.  For them, “being in church is being in God’s presence.” Once the last “Amen” is said, “worship” is over and what is left of their 168 hour week now belongs to them.  If business calls for a foul mouth on Monday, a foul mouth it will be.  It’s okay because we aren’t “in” church!  For some, to worship “in spirit and in truth” means to softly and quietly enter the sanctuary.  Being reverent is required because we are on “holy ground.”  One must respect God’s “dwelling place.”  But, walk out the door and God is left behind!  Out of sight and out of mind.  That is, until next Sunday.

If one wishes to proskuneo, he goes “to church” to sing specific church songs, pray to the Father, pass the collection plate, listen to the preacher, and partake of the Lord’s supper when served.  Each church has its specific forms and guidelines to perform acceptable proskuneo.  These forms are either written in their discipline, manual, catechism, or verbally handed down by respected teachers.  The majority are not found as such in the New Testament, but tradition has given them life and clothed such forms in holy garments.  Each is cherished and defended as a holy action or expedient.  Most describe their proskuneo as being what Jesus taught (John 4:23-24; 17:21).

Different rules have surfaced in the past two thousand years concerning how, what, and where proskuneo may be performed.  Some believe it is primarily an “in church” action.  If a prayer is offered at a civic club, it may be considered proskuneo by one individual, but as something entirely different by another.  A lot of verbiage is thrown around by sincere and honest folks who talk about proskuneo.  Yet, very little if any of it is found per se in the New Testament scriptures.  Some is located in the Old Testament, but never in the New.  We are not under the Law of Moses, but under the freedom of Jesus Christ (Galatians 5:1-4).  Our justification is not in keeping the old law but in living and walking by faith.  So, what is proskuneo?  What does the New Testament actually say?

* In the picture, is the slogan on the person’s shirt grammatically correct?

AREN’T YOU FREE?

Monday, March 13, 2017

Free in ChristYou were introduced to sin by your first wrong (Romans 3:10)!  You’ve got nothing on Adam or Eve, because your shortcomings would outshine theirs!  You discovered Jesus as an answer to your problem (John 8:24).  Yet, the message spun made your actions equal to his blood!  You exuberantly sang, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus,” but mentally added, “and MY obedience.”  You thought your works counted for a hefty part of the payment.  You thought God needed your pious energy to help buy your salvation (Titus 3:5).  You believed your goal to get to heaven depended upon your perfection.  Your imperfections screamed “failure” to you louder and louder, but your hearing was impaired.  Finally you recognized you needed God’s grace for something!  Yet, ignorance fed by blindness lied to you!  You thought you didn’t need much grace, just enough to fill the gap between your accomplishments and the nearby perfection.  Satan’s table had been feeding you a false self-reliance!

That view is a burden carried by those who believe in a partial Savior!  They  believe Jesus’ part was 50% and theirs is the rest.  An accompanying view is that each time we sin, that singular shortcoming separated us from God!  We are no longer in fellowship with the Father UNTIL we ask forgiveness.  Once completed, we are brought back into His fold until the next singular sin. Soon that travel is so common that it’s almost impossible to know if one is saved, lost, or caught in between!

Where is that person when he is not in fellowship with the Father?  Is there a special “time out” room in the Lord’s body for sinning saints who have yet to pray for forgiveness?  If so, where is it mentioned?  Some believe they are no longer in the body of Christ!  If so, since the body of Christ is the saved (ekklesia), then the sinner is back in the “power of darkness” (Colossians 1:13-14).  Sin has robbed him of his citizenship in Jesus’ kingdom and reconfirmed the one he had in the “power of darkness.”  If he retains his citizenship in “the kingdom of his dear son,” when he returns to the “power of darkness,” then he has dual citizenship.  Two passports, kept close at hand, because his imperfections keep him crossing both borders!  When he is in the body or church, Jesus is his head.  When he is in the “power of darkness,” Satan is.  In this view, Jesus’ blood is only valuable as long as one does not sin.  Once he does, he is robbed of its power to cleanse because he has returned to darkness where there is no cleansing blood!  He loses his divine citizenship.  He is absorbed in darkness.  He is under the headship of Satan.  He does not regain the benefits of that blood until he prays through as a citizen of darkness!  Only when that prayer ends with the word “Amen,” is the power of that blood reactivated as he enters the body of Christ!  Reactivated as long as he does not sin!  When he does, the merry-go-round enters another cycle!  Think how often, in just one day’s time, he crosses both borders?

Jesus doesn’t need our payment to cleanse us.  His is complete.  It is sufficient to handle all our past, present, and future sins.  It isn’t sporadic but continual (1 John 1:7 IEB).  One is clothed in Christ (Galatians 3:27; Romans 13:14).  He has died to sin and is buried with Jesus to rise into a new existence (Romans 6:2-11; 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21).  Being dead to sin, he will not receive its wages, but the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).  Jesus is the answer and payment for our sins and the only one who could and can deliver us from that “body of this death” (Romans 7:24-25 TLB).

Perfection escapes us because we are not “the Christ.”  Jesus was and is.  Some fail to understand that one dies to sin.  One is resurrected from that burial through immersion and added to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47).  Too many rush past Romans 6:2-11 and overlook the mentioned “death,” yet they cry the anguish of Romans 7:24, but fail to hear Paul’s answer in verse 25, and continue to misunderstand the proclamation in Romans 8:1!  We are “free, FREE” from sin and alive to God through Jesus!  Why seek a bondage that robs us of that freedom by thinking we need to pay part of the price to remove our sins and are co-saviors with Jesus?  That friends, is another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).

THINGS RIGHT THAT GO WRONG!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Right and WrongHave you ever wondered if a specific action was right or wrong?  Some might counsel that if we haven’t done it in the past, it shouldn’t be done now.  Why?  Because, if it was right, we would already be doing it!  Since we aren’t, it must be wrong!  That may sound reasonable, but usually isn’t.  After all, we aren’t that perfect!

In the past, most preachers explained that elders could set the time, place, and when the church would assemble to fulfill Acts 20:7-11 and 1 Corinthians 16:1-2.  One congregation might meet on Sunday morning for an early assembly at 8, Bible classes at 9:15, and the second assembly at 10:30.  Another congregation meets at 10 for classes and 11 for the assembly.  This is a matter of human choice because God did not specify the hour.

In the first century church, no example exist of the Lord’s supper being offered in a morning service (Acts 20:7-11).  Also, in Acts 2, they met daily rather than limiting it to our traditional Sunday and Wednesday.  Jewish timing was observed rather than the hated Roman one.  After the Acts 15 meeting, Gentile congregations may have preferred Roman time.  The Lord’s supper may have been switched to a morning partaking by Gentile Christians and the Jewish congregations continued to follow the biblical example of Acts 20:7.  Romans 14:5-6a infers that Gentile churches did not observe the Sabbath, whereas Jewish ones did because of their zeal for the Law of Moses (Acts 21:18-26).  Decay and age, coupled with two cultures, seems to be the motivator based upon the short letter to Gentile brethren (Acts 15:23-29; Hebrews 8:13).

Today, churches don’t “restore” the evening service as the only time to partake of the Lord’s supper nor observe Jewish time to practice it.  Neither are we comfortable with anyone mimicking Paul’s “long preaching” (Acts 20:7, 9, 11).  Daily “church” is considered an impossibility. T.B. Larimore (July 10, 1843 – March 18, 1929) held a five month meeting and when it ceased he said they were quitting “too soon.”  If ours lasted that long, the crowds would drastically disappear.  Gospel meetings have shrunk from three to one week in length, usually beginning on Sunday and ending Friday night.  Recently the erosion has brought it down to 3 days.  Some have replaced it with mission meetings.  Does that illustrate a fall from grace or lack of spirituality?  Some believe one has left “the old paths” to do so!  Yet that decision is based upon tradition rather than truth.  Today’s quality has drastically dropped from the standard set by T.B. Larimore!  Are we less spiritual than Christians in his day?  If so, will it diminish our standing before God?  Who decided to begin that five month meeting which Larimore engaged in?  Who decided to end it?  Was it men or God!  When men make their judgments, based upon their culture, opinion, or  comfort zones, into a command of God, their “right” becomes “wrong” (Matthew 15:9)!  Sometimes the plans of men go the wrong direction!  That’s why we need to continually “examine” ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 Corinthians 10:12).  Remember, a lot of our decisions are based upon convenience labeled as “an expedient.”  Expedients are changeable because they are not commands from God!

We have borrowed a lot of things from others.  Yet, no one today is upset by that practice.  To believe others are lacking in spirituality because they don’t follow the traditions of yesteryear, illustrates a restoration of Phariseeism rather than New Testament Christianity.  When our understanding collapses to that point, something that started as good, ends up wrong!

SUFFICIENT FAITH?

Monday, March 6, 2017

faith-comes-by-hearingHow sufficient must one’s faith be, in order to be sufficient?  Paul informs us, “Faith comes by hearing” (Romans 10:16a).  So, how much did the eunuch hear before or after he said, “See, here is water.  What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36)?  After those on Pentecost heard Peter’s words, what else did they hear prior to “gladly” receiving his words and being “baptized” (Acts 2:41)?  How much faith must one have in order to have a sufficient faith?  Did Luke record, or Paul or Peter write, giving details on what one must believe in order to have a faith that is sufficient?  How sufficient was the faith of the “about three thousand” which were added to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47)?

Since our faith comes by hearing God’s word, one needs to go to that word to see what is recorded.  We’re not looking for passages that speak of our faith after God has added us to the saved, only those which are prior to that addition.  What is sufficient in helping us to arrive at being “added”?

In Acts 2 Peter preached “Jesus” who “you” . . . “crucified” and “put to death” (Acts 2: 22-23).  This caused them to ask what they needed to do (v.37).  Peter gave them two “faith” items.  “Faith comes by hearing.”  They were to  (1) “Repent” and (2) “be baptized” in Jesus name.   Remission would then follow.  Verses 38-39 contains the words to be heard that would bring about faith.  That faith action would answer the question of verse 37.  Once stated by Peter, they gladly received what was heard and “were baptized” (Acts 2:41).  Then Luke concludes with “they were added.”  Added to what?  “Faith comes by hearing.”  Luke answers in verse 47.  They were added to “the saved” (NKJV).  So, how sufficient was the faith of the “about three thousand” in order to be sufficient?

What type of examination did the apostles put the “about three thousand” through before they were allowed to be immersed?  Did the apostles allow immersion for those whose divorce and remarriage occurred prior to Jesus’ death, but not those that followed?  Did they query this number concerning how inclusive their zeal for the Law was?   Did they know that the Levitical priests were no longer real priests?  That animal sacrifice was now only cultural, not a real sin sacrifice?  That they were no longer under the city elders, but were now to obey the apostles and church elders?  Peter preached Jesus.  “Faith comes by hearing.”  They heard.  “Faith comes by hearing.”  They asked what to do.  Peter told them.  “Faith comes by hearing.”   They gladly received his word.  “Faith comes by hearing.”  Their faith responded in repenting and being immersed.  “Faith comes by hearing.”  Remission was given.  The Holy Spirit followed as a gift.  Their faith was sufficient and God added them to the saved.

So, how sufficient is my faith?  Your faith?  “Faith comes by hearingRomans 10:16a

MANY OTHER WORDS!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’”  (Acts 2:40 (NKJV).

longwindedPeter had the opportunity on that special Pentecost to preach the Good News to thousands.  Earlier he and the other disciples thought Jesus’ preaching was offensive to the Pharisees (Matthew 15:12).  Here in Acts 2, Peter preaches truth not political correctness.  Peter told that crowd that they were guilty of crucifying God’s Son (Acts 2:36).  In response, some asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”  (Acts 2:37).  Peter answered in verses 38-39.  However, rather than call upon James to lead them in an invitation song, he kept on preaching.  Luke tells us, “And with many other words did he testify and exhort.”  Yes, he finally stated, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40).  Most preachers don’t use such words like that today in extending an invitation.  Of course, this wasn’t “in church” nor does Luke mention an invitation song.

Have you ever wondered what Peter’s “many other words” were?  Some believe he gave the “five steps” to being saved, the “five acts” of worship, the qualifications of the three church offices, and the three-fold mission of the church.  Others add how Sunday worship is to be conducted, future rules on the proper and improper use of church buildings, and the three things that the contribution is limited in financing.  If one practices it, it must have been the practice of the first century church!

There are many standards introduced and followed by believers which may sound godly, but the mother of their origin is found in Genesis 3.  Some are labeled as the “old paths,” but were introduced less than two or three hundred years ago!  Some may be touted as divine tradition, but can be traced to someone’s great, great grandparents rather than the Holy Spirit.

All attempts to guess what Peter’s “many other words” were, fail.  God’s standard is not built upon assumptions, comfort zones, opinions, or human judgment.  One may believe something sincerely and honestly, but it still may have its origin in man, not God.  The Pharisees thought their search of the scriptures put eternal life in their pocket.  Jesus indicated otherwise.  They were reading into the scriptures what they wanted to believe, but it wasn’t what God said.  If assumption is God’s standard, then there would be none.  This is what some in the Old Testament followed (Judges 17:6; 21:25).  Let our standard be the Bible.  Let us not misapply it and end up with a gospel that isn’t Good News (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19)!

ONE EQUALS FORTY TWO THOUSAND?

Monday, February 27, 2017

divisionA fellow journeyman in Christ, who takes tours to the holy land, recently wrote about a repeated happening.  The guide on each one of his trips was a Muslim by the name of Tony.  He writes, “When he had everybody’s attention, he would say, ‘Jordan is 94% Muslim and 6% Christian.  The 94% who are Muslim are all members of the same Muslim sect, the Sunnis.  The 6% of us who are Christian are hopelessly divided into hundreds of denominations and sects.’”

If one will search the Internet, he will find that there are at least 41,000 denominations identified as Christian.  I can remember back in 1956 when we thought 1,000 was an astronomical number!  I’m not sure what the amount was in the early 19th century when Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and others began pleading for Christians to be “one” as Jesus prayed in John 17:20-21.  The basis for that oneness was so “the world may believe that You sent Me” (NKJV).  When the world recognizes and defines Christianity as 41,000 separating walls, it doesn’t support Jesus’ claim that he came from the Father!

Division is a blight upon Christianity!  Jesus prayed for oneness!  From every pulpit Jesus’ prayer is preached but seldom practiced.  Missionaries dedicate themselves to visit distance lands with Good News that unites, but sadly their faith is based upon division.  Each one fortifies his message with scripture, proving that his teaching on true worship and practice are the way, the truth, and the life!  Follow him and you will be saved.  Cross your “t” and dot your “i” as he does and heaven will be your home.

Yet, those churches that follow his belief refuse to teach one single individual who will not submit to their way of seeing things.  When some in that fellowship disagree, there is heated debate and a parting of the ways.  Jesus’ prayer is forgotten as each division scrambles to prove how right they are and how wrong the other is.  Each loudly proclaims that “they” are true to the gospel while their counterpart isn’t.

Soon other fires that have been smoldering, break out.  Churches have their differences based more on culture than on truth.  What mamma and daddy did becomes more important than what Jesus prayed!  Yet each justifies their stance because they have correctly crossed every “t’ and dotted ever “i” as the Lord did!  With such thinking, how can these divisions be right?  Yet, in spite of Jesus prayer, ripping the church apart continued to be fair game!

What is surprising is that this did not happen in the twenty nor the twenty-first centuries, but in the first (Acts 15; Galatians 1:6-9; Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; etc.).

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