My Thoughts

Adventures in Faith


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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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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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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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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Thursday, December 6, 2018

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:13-14 NKJV

For he has rescued us out of the darkness and gloom of Satan’s kingdom and brought us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, who bought our freedom with his blood and forgave us all our sins.” (TLB).

Those two translations point out that Jesus takes those who are in the “power of darkness” or “Satan’s kingdom” and “conveyed,” “brought,” or “translated” (KJV) them into his “kingdom.”  He did this by redeeming us (buying our freedom) with his cleansing blood.  WE ARE FORGIVEN!   That means we are SAVED!

Paul told the Romans that in baptism they were buried with Jesus (Romans 6:3-4).  He informed the Galatians that they were immersed to “put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27).  Luke speaks of it as God adding the believer to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47 ASV).  Later, Paul tells the Corinthians, “Now you are in Christ’s body” (NASV).  Writing to the Ephesians Paul said that Jesus is the head of the body “which is the church” (Ephesians 1:22-23).  The Ephesians, the Corinthians, The Romans, the Galatians, and other members were the body of Christ and saved in his church or assembly.

When these statements are connected, the one who receives the word with gladness and is baptized is taken out of one kingdom and installed in the other:

  1. He is delivered out of Satan’s darkness and moved into Jesus’ light (Colossians 1:13-14).
  2. He is added to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47).
  3. He is immersed into Jesus (Galatians 3:26-29).
  4. He is clothed with Christ (Romans 13:14).
  5. He is in the body of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27).
  6. And, he is in the church which is the body of Jesus (Ephesians 1:22-23)!
  7. He is blessed by being clothed with God’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  8. His sin nature dies and he becomes a new creation of God (2 Corinthians 5:17).

When one was added to the church, it wasn’t a non-essential man made organization.  Each one became a body member of Jesus!  In Jesus there is no sin (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5).  In Jesus there is “no condemnation” (Romans 8:1-9).  Yet, we know that sin remains a problem for us, but not God (1 John 1:8, 10)!  How can we commit sin without that sin compromising the sinless body of Jesus that we are added to?  The Corinthians were in his body and look at their sin problems!

In the kingdom of darkness

  1. One is lost.
  2. He belongs to Satan.
  3. He is a citizen of darkness.
  4. He is dead in trespasses and sins.
  5. He is a child of disobedience.
  6. He is the old man of sin.
  7. The wages of his sin is death.
  8. He is without God or hope.
  9. He is a child of the Devil.
  10. How can he be there and be a Christian?

In the body, kingdom, or assembly of Jesus

  1. One is saved. Some believe they aren’t but must wait until judgment to find out!
  2. He belongs to God.
  3. He is a citizen of heaven.
  4. He has been made alive.
  5. He has newness of life.
  6. He is an obedient child of God.
  7. He is the new man.
  8. His sins are not counted, and he is forgiven, and sins forgotten.
  9. There is no condemnation.
  10. He is a child of God, a Christian, saint, or disciple of Jesus.

Christians are not sinless.  In fact, we are informed that if we deny that we sin, the truth is not in us and we are liars (1 John 1:8, 10).  If one walks “in darkness” it is because he is in the kingdom of darkness.  If one is in the kingdom of light he cannot be in the dark (1 John 1:6).  Sinners in the kingdom of darkness are not saved.  Sinners in the kingdom of light are.  How can a Christian sin and be in the kingdom of light?  One who is in the light recognizes his shortcomings and confesses or acknowledges that fact.  The difference between the two kingdoms is that in Jesus we are covered by God’s grace and cleansed by Jesus’ blood (v.7).  That grace and cleansing power is absent in the kingdom of darkness.

Some believers are concerned about their salvation.  If so, why not exchange that festering doubt of anxiety for God’s satisfying gift of assurance?  God sent Jesus to pay for our sins.  God isn’t a deadbeat refusing to keep his promises.  The book of Hebrews addresses sinners like us and states, “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul”. (Hebrews 10:39). If you are not “in Christ,” you are still in Satan’s kingdom.  Jesus wants you to put him on (Galatians 3:26-29).  You must come to him in faith.  That faith will lead you to die to sin, bury the old man and put on the new one.  Paul says we are buried and raised with Jesus (Romans 6:3-11).  When God adds you to his saved body of believers, you receive His grace and Jesus’ cleansing blood.  Neither God’s grace nor Jesus’ blood is insufficient in keeping you in excellent standing with the Father.  Jesus erases all our sins and in exchange we are beneficiaries of His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Enjoy your clothing.  It is heaven sent.



Monday, December 3, 2018

I have just finished listening to a bishop from the Episcopal Church, being interviewed by one of the networks, claim that hell was invented by the church to control its membership.  He went on to explain that all religions are just fallible human systems seeking to control others with a reward and punishment teaching.

His logic is lacking.  He claims the Bible isn’t true because it was written by men, making it a human effort to control others.  He can’t see that his argumentation negates his own thesis because his efforts are based upon the same thing that he ridicules.  He wants others to accept his views at truth!

He stated that every church claims it is the true church because each seeks to control its membership.  He is seeking to control others by getting us to swallow his claim that his truth is the only one that is correct.  Apparently, he believes he has discovered what all others have failed to understand.  He wants us to believe he, not Jesus, is our rightful savior!

There is a small kernel of truth hidden among his remarks.  Perhaps that “kernel” isn’t the “truth” he wanted his listeners to understand.  It is true that we all think we have some “truth” that others need but have failed to discover.  Isn’t it true that we want others to believe what we know so they will discover what we have and be just as free as we are?  Would the world be better off if Jesus had stayed home to work with wood?  Even the Episcopal bishop thought his “truth” was far better than the truth taught by Jesus.

People can find agreement over some subject, but where the majority agrees is not our standard.  People have been wrong.  Our problem begins when two people disagree, but each believes his position is eternal truth.  Disagreement has produced division and wars.  A nation may pass a law that seems right to them, but it clashes with a higher truth that is not human.  It was lawful for German Nazi officials to imprison and murder six million Jesus between 1939 to 1945.  In the Nuremberg Trials in 1946, judges argued that there was a higher law of truth that negated Nazi Germany law.  Was that court mistaken about the existence of universal law and truth?

If we follow the logic of that clergyman there is no absolute truth in our world.  The logical conclusion of his view is found in scripture where everyone did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 21:25).  How do we know the clergyman’s assumptions are truth since they are generated to gain control over others?  He was claiming that his system of thought was the true one while all others were false!  Why should we believe his say so?  What elevates his belief above the “truths” held dear by the rest of mankind?  Doesn’t his belief also indict him?  Isn’t he just as fallible as he thinks everyone else is?

His reasoning makes a circular journey and ends up with the same question asked by a Roman governor long ago, “What is truth?” (John 18:38).  Pilate’s truth was to wash his hands and let someone else take the fall.  Jesus took the past, present, and future sins of mankind upon himself, by enduring man’s violence.  Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).  He was God in the flesh telling mankind “I love you.  I want you to have fellowship with me, forever.”  Apparently, that bishop believes Jesus was the most misguided individual that ever walked on the earth.  There are a lot of people that would rather stand with the bishop.  Whose truth do you accept as your teacher?  Your choice.

Grace is Free, But Not Cheap!

Thursday, November 29, 2018


For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9).

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”  (Hebrews 2:9).

 Grace was expensive for Jesus.  It cost him his life, so he could be the sacrifice for our sins. Paul tells us that grace is a gift from God (Romans 3:24-26).  Some believe grace needs a hand, our hand in supplementing partial payment for our wrong doings.  Some believe that our obedience is our payment as we work toward perfection. Most recognize they will not reach that noble goal, but their works will hopefully bring them close.  Whatever gap is left is where and when they look for God’s grace to step in and make up the difference.

 If that is a true teaching, how many points does heaven require to enter its gates?  Let’s say an individual is very zealous and wants to get as close as possible so his assurance of salvation will be high, his obedience will be noteworthy, and God will not be burdened with a large amount of grace bestowed!

He prays at each meal vocally.  He prays before going to bed: 300 points each time.

He attends class, Sunday’s two worships, and Wednesday night: 400 points each time.

He teaches a Sunday morning class: 500 points each class.

He does not curse nor use profanity: 1,000 points each day he succeeds.

He treats his parents and siblings with respect: 800 points each day.

He studies his Bible every day: 2,000 points each day.

He memorizes large portions of scripture: 5,000 points with each new passage.

He keeps himself pure: 10,000 points each day.

He marries a faithful Christian woman: 5,000 points.

He has private Bible studies with folks that are not believers: 1,000 points each.

He baptizes some that he teaches: 25,000 points for each new convert.

He is a good Christian father: 25,000 points each day.

He is a very faithful husband: 25,000 points each day.

He served as a deacon for 15 years: 30,000 points for each year served.

He is serving as an elder: 100,000 points each year with an extra 25,000 for each meeting attended.

He is honest in his business affairs: 35,000 points each day.

He attends every evening during a gospel meeting: 75,000 points for each one attended.

He goes on mission trip overseas: 100,000 for each trip.

He works with the local soup kitchen: 5,000 points each time he serves.

He drives the church bus to pick up members: 500 points for each time.

He serves on several church committees: 100 points for each, and 100 each meeting.

Does fill in preaching: 75,000 points each time.

Leads singing when needed: 1,000 points each time.

Presides at Lord’s table from time to time: 1,000 points each time.

Good example for his children who are faithful: 25,000 points for each child.

Saved several marriages through counseling: 150,000 points for each.

For all other acts of faithfulness: 100,000 points for each day.

Judgment day!  He comes with a tremendous number of points.  Yet he knows that in spite of all his accomplishment, he has not been perfect.  However, he is certain that he is close and that he will not need much grace to fill his gap.  The Lord announces that the amount he needed was (10^)^(10^100)!  What he has amassed is like one drop of water compared with all the water in the rest of the world! 

What is he to do?  There is no way he can imagine what is expected much less attempt to reach it in one lifetime.  If he lived longer than Methuselah, his success would still be laughable and so incomplete.

Not one sin has been paid off by all his good works! Although his good works are appreciated, they are worthless as a payment.  Why?  Because Jesus has already paid his debt.  Grace has already covered his imperfections.  Grace is God’s gift to those who will come in faith to follow Jesus!


Monday, November 26, 2018

Jesus asked what others were saying about him. Different replies were offered. Peter answer was, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Jesus response was, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18). Have you ever noticed that the church has never worn the name of the one who said, “my church”? Paul told the Ephesians elders, “the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28). True, Jesus is God or Deity, but that is not his name.

The closest inspiration comes to showing it was Jesus’ church are two statements. In the first one the Corinthians were told, “Now you are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). The Hebrew writer announced, “the church of the firstborn.” (Hebrews 12:23). “Christ” and “firstborn” describe Jesus title and relationship but neither are his name.

If I built a house wouldn’t people say, “That’s Ray Hawk’s house?” Some might say, “That’s the preacher’s house” or “That’s Mary Nell and her husband’s house”? I am a husband. I am a preacher. But, do those titles properly identify the house as “my house”? Even the Bible identifies a house by the owner’s name in Acts 12:12.

The Hebrew writer states, “His own house, whose house are we” (Hebrews 3:6). Jesus’ title was “Messiah” or “Christ.” Both terms mean “Anointed one.” Most English versions do not translate the Greek word “Christos.” They simply spelled out the first six letters and dropped the Greek “os.” This has caused some to believe Jesus’ personal name is “Jesus Christ.” If translations had been consistent, each would display the phrase as “Jesus the Anointed One.” Matthew informs us that his name is “Jesus” (Matthew 1:25).

Whose name do we confess? We sing, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know,” but most never display a street sign with “Church of Jesus” lettered on it! Scripture does not give us a singular or plural name that must be displayed to properly identify the church. Scripture uses multiple expressions to refer to it.

One Time
Church of the living God
Church of the Firstborn
Church of Ephesus
Churches of the Gentiles
Churches of Christ
Churches of the saints
Churches of Asia
Churches of Macedonia
Churches of Judaea

Two Times
Church of the Laodiceans (Col.4:16)
Church of the Thessalonians
Church of Galatia

Three Times
Churches of God

Eight Times
Church of God

Twenty-Two Times

Sixty-Six Times

You may have noticed that “Church of Jesus” and a lot of other descriptive names used by different groups are missing. Some insist that the expression “Church of God” and “Churches of God” are used more than any other as identifying names. The terms used most are “church” and “churches.” None were referred to as THE proper name.  In the first century, the assembly of Jesus did not buy “church” property, build cathedrals, pave parking lots, erect street signs, nor list with the Yellow Pages. Despite the lack of those modern expedients, traveling disciples found and met with fellow saints (Acts 20:7). Today, we have all those things, plus GPS and we still get lost!

Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Inspiration doesn’t identify Jesus’ assembly with his personal name, but with his titles. Is there a pearl hidden in that lesson that is waiting to be discovered?


Thursday, November 22, 2018

1 Now on the first day of the week, when the members of the Catacomb assembly came together to break bread, 2 Timothy spoke to them and continued his message until after midnight.”

Rome had become a hostile city to Christians.  Paul had recently been executed.  Christians were being arrested with families separated, never to see one another again.  Assemblies continued, but convened in safe,secret places that the average citizen would not frequent.  Accessing these places were done carefully.  One was careful, making sure no stranger was following him.  Keep the speaking and singing low key.  Soldiers are not known for their kindness when they discover one of these gatherings.  If found, members are impaled upon spears.  Soldiers delight in driving their blades deep into human flesh. Wounds bleed from large openings that guarantees a lingering and painful death.  The fortunate are herded into filthy, pest infected, dark and damp cells to await punishment.  That date arrives sooner than expected.  Saints are turned into performers to see how long they can remain alive when wild beast are set upon them.  To the chagrin of the entertained audience,no one performs in the arena for any length of time.

 The catacombs are not a pleasant place.  There is the smell of rotting flesh.  Some areas are well cared for, but these are bypassed for the more inaccessible places.  Discovery means death.  Better to smell it than suffer it.   The deeper into the catacombs, the better for these Christian assemblies which are hardly for the public.  Each first day of the week finds these individuals carefully making their way to the evening gathering.  Those who can, bring a container of wine and the unleavened bread to partake and share. Some may have small rolls of first covenant scriptures, but the group depends upon the memory of those who have had the privilege of hearing an inspired prophet or prophetess.  Psalms are quoted and chanted by those who know them. Those who have, share with the have not as they pray and partake.  Passages are given from memory and the group discusses what has been cited.  A prayer is offered, and the assembly begins to evaporate.

Where they assemble is void of comfort.  There are no chairs.  Dirt floors may contain vermin.  Light is supplied by those who bring candles.  It is not a place for the elderly, sick, or small children and babies. Rats are constant companions.  The smell has already been mentioned.  Death announces itself in many ways to those who venture into the depths of that sanctum.   Each saint appreciates the safety offered by those ways.  If it keeps snooping soldiers away, it serves their purpose. Worship does not depend upon furniture, bright lights, perfume scented areas, special clothing, nor creature comforts. Learning God’s word is not based upon “preaching,” but study is their mainstay.  

Those in attendance do not leave in groups.  Such demonstrations would invite curiosity, followed by unwanted questions and then unappreciated investigation.  Strangers are not invited since they may be pro-Rome rather than pro-Jesus.  Those who attend are careful to not betray their weekly evening visits to their neighbors, co-workers, or masters.  Some, who do not have a change of clothing,take a nightly dip in the river to rid skin and cloth of any telltale smells.

Do they share their faith?  Carefully.  Despite the persecution, threat of imprisonment or death, members slowly and carefully feel out their pagan neighbors for glimmers of curiosity or search for something spiritually superior to what they believe and practice.

From time to time,news filters through about the death of an apostle or known prophet.  Pagans and government hate both Jews and Christians for their narrow views and refusal to worship the emperor.  Yet, the body of Christ continues to grow and now there are two catacomb assemblies that meet in two different locales. 

Would such assemblies be of interest to anyone today?


Monday, November 19, 2018

Which apostle worked harder, suffered and sacrificed more, and accomplished what no other apostle nor disciple of Jesus did?  I think most would say Paul won that honor by a land slide.  Rather than believing the others were in competition with Paul, some would think that Jesus was in competition with him!  If we were asked for percentages to compare how close Paul came to be like Jesus, some would give him 90 to 95%!  There is just one problem, Paul would not have thought so.

He spoke of himself as a number one sinner (1 Timothy 1:15).  Guilt remained with him over the number of saints he was responsible for imprisoning and putting to death (Acts 8:1, 3).  He referred to himself as a blasphemer, persecutor, and a violent person (1 Timothy 1:14).  He did not consider himself to be eloquent nor even as a good speaker (1 Corinthians 2:4).  He described his persona as one of weakness, fear, and trembling (1 Corinthians 2:3).  He had a temper and it was manifested when Barnabas suggested Mark as a fellow partner in the gospel.   He was not one to back down from the truth even if it meant prison or losing his life.  His zeal for the Law of Moses was unquestionable (Acts 21:18-26).

Despite his good marks, Paul admits that he was far from being perfect.  Like all of us, he had a problem with the flesh (Romans 7:5-25).  If there was anyone, other than Jesus, who could have kept the Law flawlessly, it would have been Paul.  Yet he admits he failed.

But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire” (Romans 7:8).

I don’t understand myself at all, for I really want to do what is right, but I can’t.  I do what I don’t want to—what I hate.  I know perfectly well that what I am doing is wrong, and my bad conscience proves that I agree with these laws I am breaking” (Romans 7:15-16).

He was guilty of manifesting every kind of covetous desire.  He knew what was right but ended up doing what he hated.  He knew he was breaking God’s law!

He knew Jesus was the answer to his sin problem.  Because of Jesus, those desires and what he hated did not condemn him because in Christ Jesus one is dead to sin.  Did becoming a Christian mean Paul became an anti-Sin Superman?   Could he ward off sin as Wonder Woman’s bracelets did from lethal weapons?  It is not that Paul never sinned again, but that Jesus’ blood protected him from the eternal consequences of those actions.  When Paul and other first century individuals gladly received the Good News and repented, they died to sin, were buried with Jesus into his death, were raised with Him into the new life offered by our Lord.  Being dead to sin, our sins are not counted against us, Jesus’ blood keeps us cleansed, and we are not under condemnation (Romans 8:1).

You are either dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1-3), or you are dead to sin and alive in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-13).  Your choice!


Thursday, November 15, 2018

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Revelation 20:12

In my lifetime I have heard preachers who made the judgment scene so real that you could almost hear the crackling of the fire as Jesus stated, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angelsMatthew 25:41.

Preachers spoke of that book that contained every sin you and I have committed.  They announced how all our sins were exposed in the hearing of all.  Nothing was glossed over.  Nothing was left out.  Every detail was examined and uncovered.   Embarrassment prevailed.  Jesus stripped you naked for all to see.  Every friend, every relative, every classmate, every coworker, every church member, and every stranger were exposed to sins you thought were unknown or had been forgiven.  Every single one, was revealed, whether you considered it big or little.  Excuses were not relevant.   Repentance was too late.  Reasons?  Not valid.  They were yours.  You committed them.  Take responsibility!

Several years ago a preacher friend told me about a revival he preached in Oklahoma.  On the second row was a young mother with her three-year-old son standing at her side listening to his sermon.  He was building toward a climax using the story of Moses and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea.  God had provided a path through it.  Israel was being pursued by revenge seeking Egyptian soldiers.  The last Israelite had reached the far shore, but pursuing soldiers were a hair’s breadth behind.  My friend announced, in a loud, dramatic voice, that the water, being held back by God, was released and all the Egyptians were drowned.  The three-year-old made his presence known with a loud, “I DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT!”  My friend lost his audience.

Isn’t that three-year old’s opinion shared by many?  Isn’t the judgement where everyone will have ALL his sins exposed?  Won’t both saint and sinner have his sins broadcasted?  Really?  Have we not read . . .?

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” Hebrews 10:16-17?

Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him” Romans 4:7-8.

Paul writes to believers in Rome and reminds them of a blessing they received when they responded to the Good News.

How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”  Romans 6:2.

In Romans 6 Paul tells saints that they have died to sin.  He continues by showing that they were buried with Jesus into his death when they were immersed.  When they were raised up from that immersion, they entered His new life.  Because they were united with Him in death, they were also united with Him in his resurrection.  In verse 7 Paul informs them,

For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

1 John 1:6-10 informs us that we are sinners and should confess it.  In Romans 7 Paul, knowing that fact informs saints about that deliverance from the deadly reward of the flesh.  He excitedly tells every believer, “Thank God!  It has been done by Jesus Messiah our Lord.  He has set me free” Romans 7:25.

There is no sin in Jesus Hebrews 4:15. Christians are in the body of Jesus 1 Corinthians 12:27.  Yet, none of the added are perfect 1 John 1:8, 10.  Why do our imperfection not stain the perfection of Jesus?  Are we not members of his sinless body?  God answers our “Why”!  Our sins are not counted.  Our sins are cleansed.  Our sins are not remembered.  We are not condemned if we recognize our total dependency for His “all spiritual blessingsEphesians 1:3. Paul found his sin problem was taken care of by Jesus.  His conclusion was, “There is therefore now NO condemnation to them which are in Christ JesusRomans 8:1ff.

Those who are not “in” Jesus continue to own their sins!  Believers have had theirs cleansed – “God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins.  Then in exchange, he poured God’s goodness (righteousness) into us” 2 Corinthians 5:21!

Despite that Good News, are there not some who are like that three-year-old?  “I DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT?”


Monday, November 12, 2018

Have you ever wandered through a cemetery looking for the headstone of a loved one? Were you distracted by viewing the information given on each marker as to how long each had lived?  The average life span today is 72 for men and 75 for women.  It was less than that a generation ago. Yet, some folks lived well past the eighty years spoken of by Moses in Psalms 90:10.  I’ve been blessed to see 82 winters come and go.  There are a few that lived past 100.  We have a couple of ladies in the congregation that have celebrated that 100-year mark and received their congratulatory letter from the President of the United States.  That’s quite an achievement in this day.

Living 100 years by itself isn’t much of a record.  If that’s all a person’s years show, he hasn’t accomplished much.  Whether a person lives into his teens or manages to squeak by a hundred, his or her life takes on significance only if Jesus was the author and finisher of their life (Hebrews 12:1,2).  It isn’t how long you live, but who you lived for that counts.

Adam, the first man, blazed the trail for all men to follow.  He lived 930 years.  That is a long life.  When Adam celebrated his 30th and 50th birthdays, it wasn’t a black balloon affair.  That event would have to wait until his 465th birthday.  Despite several centuries of life, the epitaph which Adam left future generations is, “and he died” (Genesis 5:5).  Noah lived 20 years longer than Adam, but he could not escape that expression, “and he died” (Genesis 9:29).  Methuselah outlive them all.  Yet, after 969 years inspiration still concludes with, “and he died” (Genesis 5:21).  There is no outstanding thing said about Methuselah other than he lived longer than any other human being.  At the age of 187 he had a son named Lamech.  After that other sons and daughters were born (Genesis 5:26).  Lamech’s first son was Noah.  When Noah was born, Methuselah was 600 years old.  When Noah entered the ark and the floods came, Methuselah died.  There is a question of whether he died in the flood or just before it took place.  Lamech died several years before the flood.  Yet, some of Noah’s brothers and sisters and their families perished in those waters.   Age means very little if that’s all you have.

Methuselah’s father was Enoch.  Enoch’s years upon the earth were limited to 365 (Genesis 5:24).  That doesn’t seem to speak well of Enoch.  What was his problem that his life on earth was cut so short?  Something is said about this man which is not said about his forefathers, nor most of his offspring.  Scripture states, “However, since Enoch was so close to the one true God, Enoch did not die.  God took him.”  Methuselah holds the world’s record for length of time on this earth.  Enoch has the shortest record of those described in Genesis 5.  Yet, all the long term living ultimately had “and he died” written about them.  Enoch never experienced death.  His life is eternal (Hebrews 11:5).

The rest of us will have that statement said of us, “and he/she died.”  The length of time we are here upon this earth is not important.  What is essential is whether we were “close to the one true God” or will be separated from Him throughout eternity!

What will your epitaph be?


Thursday, November 8, 2018

In Genesis 3, Eve had a conversation with a serpent.  Some believe it was a snake.  It may have been, but since some believe that way, let’s continue with that perception.  In the beginning man could either talk to all the animals and reptiles, as the movie’s Dr. Dolittle did, or this was a onetime occurrence.  Since it was an age of innocence, perhaps a talking snake caused curiosity rather than suspicion and fear.  In my day a good snake was a dead one!  Eve’s mistake was listening and believing its lie.  She wanted the right to live her life free of all restraints.  Like so many today, she failed to understand that consequences are tied to that kind of “freedom.”

Feminist believe they are in control of their own body because they have the right to legal abortion.  This “freedom” separates them from the responsibilities of motherhood.  They have fallen prey to the smooth line of selfish, chauvinistic men.  These modern Eves don’t realize that those chauvinists are related to that smooth-talking snake!  Swallowing their lies comes with consequences.  It is called pregnancy.  However, our courts have made it possible to remedy the consequences of that deception.  For a few dollars, abortion releases the man.  That’s right, it releases the MAN from all responsibility for his selfish, lustful act that produced that pregnancy.  This leaves him without any commitment to the woman.  She was his selfish whim rather than a person to be respected.  She isn’t honored, she is simply viewed as another stupid conquest.  God stated, “Do you see a man (or woman) wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).  Feminists are intelligent women who have believed a sweet-talking liar.  Lies have their consequences.  Female believers also partake of their reward!

Abortion doesn’t solve the problem.  The snake (man) continues to believe abortion will allow him to proceed without commitment.  That attitude will be a trap waiting to enslave him.  Venereal Disease is just a partial payment for the chauvinist and those he sweet talks.   VD is rampant in Tennessee as well as other States.   The Pied Piper of today leads the deceived into consequences they never dreamed of nor desired.

Abortion has hidden pitfalls that are revealed later.  Abortion is supposed to be cheaper and safer than giving birth to a baby.  Perhaps that is true if one doesn’t consider the life that could have been.  For some the reward is depression, regret, and guilt.  An immediate consequence may be the realization that the man has played her for a fool.  She was not a valued person to him, only a toy to be manipulated and counted as another conquest.  For some, they will realize the folly of such actions and turn from the snake to the Creator (John 14:6).

Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  While dining with a Pharisee, a woman with a bad reputation entered and began washing Jesus feet with her tears and wiping them dry with her hair.  Although the Pharisee and guests were horrified by this, Jesus said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.”  Then he said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.  Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace” (Luke 7:47-50).

Regardless of your sins and despite your reputation, Jesus can and will forgive you.  He will claim you as his own if you will come to him (Matthew 11:28-30).  Even those who had shouted “Crucify him” were given the opportunity to follow Jesus (Acts 2:23, 36-41).  When Peter finished preaching, they “gladly received his word and were baptized: and the same day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).  You can follow their example and receive the same spiritual blessing they did.

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