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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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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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DOES HONESTY AND SINCERITY EQUAL TRUTH?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

I’m not a Restorationist scholar.  Over the 61 years that I have been a member of the church, what brethren taught back in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries did not excite my curiosity.  Why should it?  I mistakenly assumed that we stood upon their shoulders and parroted their teaching.  I fault John Mark Hicks for pulling the curtain back and giving me a peek into that period!  I mistakenly believed that those brethren thought and wrote under the slogans, “We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent” and “We do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names.”   I imagined that such sayings, when believed, would only produce truth.  For years I have admonished friends and family, “Don’t accept something as truth because your preacher said it, believe it because you can find it written in scripture.” “Written” was the key word!  Sincerity and honesty don’t guarantee truth!  Sometimes truth is rejected by sincere and honest people.  One may pass on something that he honestly and sincerely believes is true.  Even preachers do.  I was guilty!  I probably still am!!

There are places in the New Testament that mirror the culture of that time.  For example, a covering on a woman’s head signified her subjection to her husband and men in general (1 Corinthians 11:6).  It doesn’t now.  The greeting then was a kiss (Romans 16:16).  In our culture, we substitute the handshake.  Some commands should be understood from the time and society in which they were made (Matthew 5:41).  Traditions flourish in every society.  There is nothing sinful about one unless it is held up as a divine command (Matthew 15:9) or contradicts a plain statement in scripture (2 John 1:9).  Sometimes, even plain statements must be viewed in the culture in which they were stated!  Paul could accommodate himself as easily in one culture as in another (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).  When the New Testament era was introduced, the church dragged its feet in spreading the gospel among Gentiles (Acts 10:1-47).  That first contact did not go unnoticed nor was it received in a positive way (Acts 11:1-3).  Some did not wish to accept Gentiles as Christians without their obedience to Moses’ circumcision (Acts 15:1, 5).  Background belief continued to allow fear to drive one apostle into hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-15).  His fear and actions influenced others!  Work among Gentiles created rumors that were dispelled only by clear cut action (Acts 21:18-26).  Tradition can be a virus difficult or impossible to overcome.  It still is.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, brethren believed women could not be doctors, teachers, lawyers, or sales clerks without digressing God’s word.  R. C. Bell, E.G. Sewell, James A. Harding and a host of others wrote this belief in the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation from 1897 through 1913.  They believed that the scriptural place for a woman was in the home.  When women desired to vote, they were warned that such desires were against God’s will!  Many readers accepted those articles as “gospel.”  We know better today, although in the mid-seventies a well-known preacher broadened those earlier views by allowing a woman to work outside the home if she was a school teacher, nurse, or church secretary!  He offered no biblical proof for his assertions.

What is universal is that such claims continue to be made and defended.  Why is something right or wrong?  “Because I say so”!?  “Because the preacher said so”!?  “Because that’s the way we’ve always believed and practiced”!?  “Because that’s what notable brethren taught in the lectureship of a “sound” school”!?  Because “We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent”?  Because “We do Bible things in Bible ways and call Bible things by Bible names”?

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”  1 Corinthians 10:12 

Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.”  King James Version

HE LOVES YOU!

Monday, August 13, 2018

I have heard mothers say, “I love all my children, but ____ is my favorite.”  I was mom’s first born.  I was followed by two sisters, a brother, and a third sister.  For some reason I was mom’s favorite and it upset me when she compared my brother to me, with him coming up on the short end.  Whatever I had was better than what my brother did.  I didn’t think mom was fair in making those comparisons.  I felt sorry him.  Jerry was a good husband, father, grandfather, and brother.  He was also a good son!

Oh, mom chided me for different things when I was younger.  “Stand up straight.  Do you want to go through life as a hunchback?”  “You don’t eat enough to keep a bird alive.”  “You are so skinny that if a puff of wind came up, it would blow you away.”  Yet, she never used one of the other siblings to make me appear insufficient or a failure.  Because of that, I don’t remember trying to impress her to get her attention or favor over the others.  Sometimes a son or daughter will attempt to impress their father.  My father abandoned us when I was eight and he wasn’t around for us to impress if we had wanted to.  But some children work hard at getting their dad to love them.  One of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard was performed by Reba McIntire, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” written by Richard Leigh and Layng Martine, Jr. in 1992.  It falls into a category I’m familiar with!

The greatest man I never knew

Lived just down the hall

And every day we said hello

But never touched at all

He was in his paper

I was in my room

How was I to know he thought I hung the moon

 

The greatest man I never knew

Came home late every night

He never had too much to say

Too much was on his mind

I never really knew him

And now it seems so sad

Everything he gave to us took all he had

 

Then the days turned into years

And the memories to black and white

He grew cold like an old winter wind

Blowing across my life

 

The greatest words I never heard

I guess I’ll never hear

The man I thought could never die

Has been dead almost a year

He was good at business

But there was business left to do

He never said he loved me

Guess he thought I knew.

What I regretted most while growing up, was not having a dad to show me how a man was supposed to be a father.  When dads walk away and never return, children think it must be their fault.  I credit O’Neal Horney being more like a father to me than my dad every was.  O’Neal came into our lives during my senior year in high school.  I went off to college after graduating, but my year with him was rewarding.  The marriage didn’t survive, and I never had the opportunity to tell him, “Thank you” or “I love you.”

Men who are fathers aren’t perfect.  Not everyone is a Dr. Spock!  Perhaps they shouldn’t be.  I know of one Father that always sets the right example and give us His love without reservation.  He desires our fellowship and proved it by sending His Son to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins.  He gave us the way, the truth, and the life to have that relationship.  That information is called the Good News or Gospel.

If you haven’t heard it, I hope you will.

SAVED OR LEFT GUESSING?

Thursday, August 9, 2018

When Paul wrote to the Galatians he stated,

For as many of you as were immersed into Christ have put on Christ.”  Galatians 3:26-27 (Emphases RH).

Paul told the Corinthians, “Now you are the body of Christ.”  1 Corinthians 12:27.

A Christian is one that God has added to the saved (Acts 2:46-47).  That added one is in the body of Jesus.  John tells us, “the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7. One who is “in Christ” is totally washed clean in the blood of Jesus.  That blood continually cleanses him.  The question which is not settled by some is, what does “continually” cover?

Some believe when the Christian sins, the single act turns off the blood’s cleansing power to him.  In that moment the sin is committed, he is transfers out of the body of Jesus because sin cannot be found in Christ.  These actions are simultaneous because that one sinful act causes the guilty to be immediately lost.  Why?  Because he is no longer in the body of Christ.  He is immediately transferred to the kingdom of darkness.  He is lost.  He is a child of the devil.  Some disagree that he is no longer a child of God, but how can he be when he is no longer in the body of Christ?  Since the body of Christ is the same as the house or family of God, he is no longer part of that family (1 Timothy 3:15).  He now belongs to Satan.  He is his child.  However, this view makes this erring soul into a dual citizen of heaven and hell.  Being a “former” member of the saved, he has special privileges.  When or if he repents and asks God to forgive him, the Lord will allow that prayer to reinstate him!  Those who are in the kingdom of darkness, but not former members of the saved body must be immersed to be added.  With this special privilege, this individual can bypass that immersion and reenter through prayer!  He can be “re-immersed” into Christ without experiencing an immersion!  His former membership gives him that privilege.  This scenario is believed to be in your Bible in as much detail as I have given here.

When the sinner expresses the last syllable of his prayer, God turns the cleansing power of Jesus blood back on so this person’s past sin may be washed away.  Keep in mind that this “washing” is actually not a washing brought about through being immersed into Jesus’ death, but through a verbal symbolic one.  This “washing” permits him to reenter the saved.  He is now a child of God.  He is no longer in the kingdom of darkness; therefore he is no longer a child of the devil.  Notice, his prayer and pardon take place prior to readmittance.   Once cleansed of that past sin, Jesus’ blood is no longer needed in that person’s case until the next sin reaches that past tense stage!  However, when he sins again, the circular cycle repeats itself!  The blood works only when the person is in the kingdom of darkness!  It never is supplied for those who are in Christ Jesus.  It takes away past sins, never present ones!  In summing up this belief, it may be reduced to, “The saved sinner is safe in Jesus as long as he does not sin!”  If you sin, you are no longer in God’s safe place!

According to this teaching, when the sinner prays to get back into Christ, his past sin must be removed by Jesus blood before this happens.  This is the only time the blood of Jesus is active in the individual’s life.  After this, he is in good standing until his next sin.  This seems complicated but makes perfect sense to those who espouse it.  In this view, the blood of Jesus is limited to the remission of past sins only.  You must sin to activate it!  The removal happens prior to entering God’s holy place, which is the body of Christ.

Another view concerning the effectiveness of the blood of Jesus is the degree of its efficiency.   In that view, Jesus’ blood is good for 50% of one’s salvation.  When one hears the good news and is immersed, God adds 50% of salvation to the person’s account.  According to this view, God left us with a complete set of rules in the New Testament and the remaining 50% is our responsibility in saving ourselves through flawlessly keeping those rules.  Even then, our side of the chart doesn’t increase in a positive way unless we cross every “t” and dot every “i” without fault.  The only problem, reality tells us that “perfection is impossible.”  If we are responsible for 100% of the 50%, then 49.99% is a failure.  Whatever that gap is, small or large, wisdom informs us that we must have help filling it.  This view sees grace as the magic answer for a complete percentage!  Whatever percentage is needed to fill our gap, God’s grace will supposedly fill it at the judgment!  However, honesty questions the validity of that reasoning.  What IF God has a cut-off percentage and will not fill anyone’s gap if it goes over what He is responsible for?  This causes everyone to sweat out the results.  So, a person may follow the example of the “about three thousand,” and receive the percentage supplied by Jesus, but the personal part remains questionable (Acts 2:41).  The individual knows he was saved, but he doesn’t know if he will hear “Well done” when before Jesus!  The only sure way of knowing one is going to go to heaven is IF he is fortunate enough to die with a prayer on his lips!  If not, one will not know his eternal destiny until the judgment.  Some attempt to stack things in their favor by going beyond the average in doing good works.  You cannot buy your salvation with money nor works!  This view is just another system where the Christian believes he can buy his way into heaven.  Good works is our payment!  All it does is leave the person with frustration, uncertainty, discouragement, and doubt.  Some throw up their hands in surrender thinking “Why try?  I’m probably going to hell anyway!”

A third view is questioned by those who hold to the first two.  The person is immersed in Jesus’ blood which continually remits his sin (1 John 1:7).  According to verse 8, the person is a liar if he says he doesn’t sin.  Sin where?  In Christ!  He does not lose his citizenship because he remains in Jesus’ body.  Since Jesus blood remits sin continually, not sporadically, his sin is not counted!  Notice the Spirit’s teaching.  “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” Romans 4:8. Another translation renders it, “Happy is the man against whom no sin is recorded by the Lord.”  Isn’t this what continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus does?

How is it possible for a person’s sin to not be counted against him?  How is that possible?  It is done through continual cleansing in the blood of Jesus!  The person continues to retain his citizenship because of it.  God’s grace is a present gift that keeps on giving, making this salivation a 24/7 reality.  It shows God’s love in providing the way for us to be in fellowship with Him, even though we are not perfect.  This continual cleansing keeps God’s holiness from being compromised.  That is how powerful the blood of Jesus is!

Some disagree with this view because of their idea that we must earn our salvation through perfection.  However, what if God doesn’t kick us out?  What if we remain in Christ because God doesn’t count the sin against us.  What if the blood of Jesus removes those sins making it possible for us to continue in fellowship with Him?

The possibility of sinning is almost unlimited due to the flesh’s weakness.  Paul bemoaned this fact in Romans 7 in his efforts to keep the Law of Moses.  Notice, three times he stated that he did what was wrong because “flesh” took control (Romans 7:17, 20, 23).  He admits his failure in living a perfect life, asking who will save him from that body of death?  He couldn’t do it because he nor anyone else could keep the law without breaking it.  The only answer to our sin problem is Jesus who kept the Law without sin.  Jesus is the answer to Paul’s and our predicament (Verse 25).  Because of putting our faith in Jesus we can say with Paul, “there is no more condemnation” (Romans 8:1).  Did Paul conquer the flesh and never sin again as a follower of Jesus?  If that is what “no condemnation” means, Paul didn’t gain it.  Was Paul perfect in his obedience?  If he wasn’t, how could he remain in the body of Christ?  He admits to being imperfect.  Yet, Jesus’ blood kept him spotless and intact as a faithful member!  If a person cannot know he is saved until the judgment, then he cannot know whether he is a “true” Christian.  According to that theory, one sin bars him from the saved, returns him to the kingdom of darkness, and he isn’t restored until he repents and prays.  How can a person be a Christian when God has removed him from the saved?  In fact, if he is removed from the saved, he has been removed from the church each time he sins.  So, he is no longer a member of the church which Jesus is head of!

God’s love and grace isn’t identified as a windshield wiper faith.  Such a view has an individual trapped in the kingdom of darkness more than he spends time in the light of Jesus.  There is joy and peace in knowing where you stand with God.

We are washed in the blood of the Lamb.  That’s Good News!  Do you limit the power of that blood or rejoice in it?

FAME IS FLEETING!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Joey Chestnut won the men’s title in Nathan’s famous hot dog contest held each year in Brooklyn, New York. He consumed 64 hotdogs in 10 minutes. This was his eleventh win. Miki Suddo ate 37 hotdogs in 10 minutes to win the women’s title. This was her fifth win since 2014. I’ve never met either winner. Most folks have never heard of this contest. Perhaps both will be written into the Guinness World Records Book? Yet, fame is fleeting. Moses wrote,

“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.” Psalm 90:10

How would you train to be a winner in such a contest? Surely neither Joey nor Miki are light weights? His stomach had to be large enough to handle 64 hotdogs in 10 minutes. Her stomach must be capable of holding 37! Last year Joey won by eating 74 hotdogs. My mother used to tell me that I needed to chew my food at least 25 times or I would have stomach problems the rest of my life! Perhaps Joey and Miki’s mother gave them no such instruction!

Fame means recognition. Some desire that recognition even if it is gained in the wrong way. In the past few years several students have walked into their schools shooting teachers and students to gain notoriety. Notoriety means recognition. Yet one does not need to take innocent life to gain it. We usually think of famous people being those who have done something outstanding that helps society. Yet, fame is fleeting.

Recently a TV personality asked university students the name of our first president. I believe Lincoln was as close as anyone got. Yet, all those presidents from Washington to Lincoln were famous. Being remembered for doing the right thing is the best fame anyone can have! In fact, a person’s action can be remembered even though the person’s name is not given.

Jesus stated,

“Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” Matthew 26:10-13

Jesus told the apostles that this woman’s act would be remember wherever the gospel was preached. It is told even though the apostles were upset and spoke out against what she did. If it had not been for Andrew, we would not know about the apostles Peter. If Peter had never been contacted by his brother, the New Testament would be shy of two books.

Jeremiah preached for about 50 years, but very few heeded his words. Yet, he is known today as one of the major prophets of Israel.

Do you want to be remembered? To gain enduring fame, live for the eternal!

“Then those who feared and loved the Lord spoke often of him to each other. And he had a Book of Remembrance drawn up in which he recorded the names of those who feared him and loved to think about him.” Malachi 3:16

“Nothing evil will be permitted in it—no one immoral or dishonest—but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.” Revelation 21:27

HE LOVES YOU!

Monday, July 30, 2018

I have heard mothers say, “I love all my children, but ____ is my favorite.”  I was mom’s first born.  I was followed by two sisters, a brother, and a third sister.  For some reason I was mom’s favorite and it upset me when she compared my brother to me, with him coming up on the short end.  Whatever I had was better than what my brother did.  I didn’t think mom was fair in making those comparisons.  I felt sorry him.  Jerry was a good husband, father, grandfather, and brother.  He was also a good son!

Oh, mom chided me for different things when I was younger.  “Stand up straight.  Do you want to go through life as a hunchback?”  “You don’t eat enough to keep a bird alive.”  “You are so skinny that if a puff of wind came up, it would blow you away.”  Yet, she never used one of the other siblings to make me appear insufficient or a failure.  Because of that, I don’t remember trying to impress her to get her attention or favor over the others.  Yet, the two middle ones did.  Sometimes a son or daughter will attempt to impress their father.  My father abandoned us when I was eight and he wasn’t around for us to impress if we had wanted to.  But some children work hard at getting their dad to love them.  One of the saddest songs I’ve ever heard was performed by Reba McIntire, “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” written by Richard Leigh and Layng Martine, Jr. In 1992.  It falls into a category I’m familiar with!

The greatest man I never knew

Lived just down the hall

And every day we said hello

But never touched at all

He was in his paper

I was in my room

How was I to know he thought I hung the moon

 

The greatest man I never knew

Came home late every night

He never had too much to say

Too much was on his mind

I never really knew him

And now it seems so sad

Everything he gave to us took all he had

 

Then the days turned into years

And the memories to black and white

He grew cold like an old winter wind

Blowing across my life

 

The greatest words I never heard

I guess I’ll never hear

The man I thought could never die

Has been dead almost a year

He was good at business

But there was business left to do

He never said he loved me

Guess he thought I knew.

What I regretted most while growing up, was not having a dad to show me how a man was supposed to be a father.  When dads walk away and never return, children think it must be their fault.  I credit O’Neal Horney being more like a father to me than my dad every was.  O’Neal came into our lives during my senior year in high school.  I went off to college after graduating, but my year with him was rewarding.  The marriage didn’t survive, and I never had the opportunity to tell him, “Thank you” or “I love you.”

Men who are fathers aren’t perfect.  Not everyone is a Dr. Spock!  Perhaps they shouldn’t be.  I know of one Father that always sets the right example and give us His love without reservation.  He desires our fellowship and proved it by sending His Son to do for us what we could not do for ourselves.  Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins.  He gave us the way, the truth, and the life to have that relationship.  That information is called the Good News or Gospel.

If you haven’t heard it, I hope you will.

IT DOESN’T SAY!

Thursday, July 26,2018

Men like sports.  Some women do.  Men are very competitive.  Most have a burning desire to win.  That competitive spirit is older than Methuselah.  It goes all the way back to Genesis 4 when one brother killed another (Genesis 4:2-8).  Eliminating the competition didn’t help the survivor win any prizes.  But we see human nature being revealed!

Men being what they are, one wonders if there was a competitive spirit among the apostles?  Andrew’s outstanding deed was telling his brother about the Messiah.  When compared to Simon Peter, Andrew’s accomplishments come up short.  Peter wrote two of the New Testament letters.  Andrew wrote none.  Right or wrong, Peter was always answering or challenging Jesus.  Andrew did not.  Jesus said to Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church.”  Jesus challenged Peter to “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).  Similar responses were never addressed to Andrew.  Did he feel slighted?  Was he ever burdened with a jealous streak? Inspiration doesn’t say.

Peter denied Jesus, Paul did not.  Paul wrote thirteen of the New Testament letters.  Peter only wrote two.  Peter refused to obey the Lord’s command three times, Paul did not.  Peter denied Jesus.  Paul did not.  Luke writes some about Peter’s activities, but most of the book of Acts is about Paul.  Paul got in Peter’s face to correct him, but Peter never had to correct Paul.  Did a competitive spirit ever find lodging in Peter’s thinking?  Holy writ doesn’t say.

There are a lot of blank spaces in scripture where information is lacking.  For example, in Acts 16:22, Paul and Silas had their clothes torn from their bodies before being beaten.  Were they allowed to put on shreds of clothing afterwards?  If not, they met the jailer’s wife in their Fruit of the Looms?  Mel Gibson illustrated how terrible crucifixion was in his 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ.  Yet, the viewing public did not see the complete humiliation the crucified suffered.  That individual was nailed to the cross naked.  Did they do that to Jesus?  Scripture doesn’t reveal that information.

There are things written in our Bible that reveal human nature in motion, but not followed in detail.  We do not know the extent of that behavior in those who are mentioned, but it could have followed a mutual course revealed in others.  We may speculate about this nature being acted out fully, although it is not mentioned per se.  For example, what was Peter’s reaction when Paul corrected him?  We are not told.  What is the usual reaction when someone gets in your face to “set you straight”?  Did he repent right away?  We are not told.  How adamant was Peter when God told him to “kill and eat” (Acts 10:13)?  He did refuse, didn’t he?  Was his refusal just a meek whisper?  Peter didn’t mind speaking up even when wrong (Matthew 26:33-35).  He probably never thought he would be guilty of cursing and swearing to prove no relationship with Jesus (Matthew 26:74-75).  He did though!  We see human nature rising to the surface.  As a side note, Peter’s denial could not be the unpardonable sin because he was forgiven!

Jesus called twelve men to be his disciples.  They would be sent out to teach his good news.  One of his apostles would have been a good accountant if not for his dishonesty (John 12:3-6).  He returned his “blood” money, repented of betraying Jesus and admitted his wrongdoing.  Then, in remorse, he hung himself.  Didn’t he know forgiveness was possible?  Some Christians today probably come close to manifesting Judas’ thought pattern.  They see their imperfections, wave their white flag, and settle for hopelessness.  Spiritual suicide is their reward.  It is the flesh’s victory over the spirit!

 Jesus’ teaching on turning “the other cheek” must have hit Matthew and Simon the zealot hard.  In modern application, Matthew was a Trump type supporter and Simon hated everything Matthew stood for!  Those two entered their discipleship without a good word for the other.  Both were a thorn in the flesh of the other!  “Forgiveness” was a foreign subject neither wished to discuss.  How long did it take for their hatred and mistrust to develop into love and appreciation?  Didn’t they go through that turmoil?  The Bible doesn’t say.

When Peter returned to Jerusalem from visiting in a Gentile’s home, he was questioned by negative thinking members (Acts 11:1-3).  Surely Peter knew from his own experience that others were not going to appreciate that visit?  These individuals are identified as “those of the circumcision.”  Paul and Barnabas later ran into these brethren, who Luke reveals as “the sect of the Pharisees who had believed” (Acts 15:5).  These are the same believers who put fear in Peter, and he stopped fellowshipping Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-15).  Didn’t he remember what he told Cornelius (Acts 10:34-35)?  Apparently, this sect was in the church from Acts 2 until the destruction of Jerusalem.  Even Jesus’ brother seems to be a party to it (Galatians 2:12).  Yet, Luke nor anyone else spends time explaining why the church was “tolerant” of this party or sect.  Paul corrected the Corinthian brethren over their division into four named parties (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  Scripture doesn’t answer this question.

Human nature!  It is good and bad.  It can be helpful or hindering.  It may build yet sink into brokenness.  Although scripture doesn’t always reveal the full extent of that nature, we can see some of it in those who wrote the 27 books and some those writers dealt with.  Application is our responsibility.  Do the scriptures speak to correctly direct our human nature?

You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus.   All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:15-17

RESCUE IS AVAILABLE!

Monday, July 23, 2018

During the Olympics the first, second, and third winners are honored with the primary one standing in the middle just a little higher than the other two.  When I think of the apostle Paul, I think of Jesus being in the middle, but Paul to his right and a little higher than the one standing on the left.  Paul authored thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament.  Luke introduces us to Saul of Taurus in Acts 7:58. Except for Acts 10:1 through 11:25, Paul fills the rest of Luke’s second book.

Paul was a Pharisee in belief and teaching.  His teacher was Gamaliel, a renown and respected Pharisee (Acts 22:3).  Paul told the Philippian church that if he wanted to brag, he could because he was “circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Philippians 3:5-6.  When he was converted, that zeal did not diminish!

Paul stood up to saints who were more Pharisee than Christian, demanding that Gentile believers needed to be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15:1, 6).  When that view infected Peter, he stopped fellowshipping Gentile saints and Paul got in his face (Galatians 2:11-15).  In spite of negative talk against him, Paul wrote and planned to visit the brethren in Corinth to correct their problems (1 Corinthians 4:17-21; 9:1-2).  He admitted that some of the negative things said about him might be true (1 & 2 Corinthians).  He was concerned that the Corinthians would not heed his corrections.  Yet, Paul was a leader and endured much for the cause of Christ (2 Corinthians 11:24-27).  He recognized his limitations.  He realized his prayers for his own comfort would not be realized since he needed the lesson for his own good (2 Corinthians 12:8-10).  Paul implied that he had a problem with covetousness (Romans 7:8-10).  He included himself in the “all” of Romans 3:10, 23.  Although I may put him on a pedestal slightly lower than the one Jesus is on, Paul was not perfect.  Paul recognized he needed help.  Hopefully, we will share in his understanding!

Paul was a lot better at keeping God’s commands than most of us could.  If his parents wanted him to marry, he never complied, feeling his work for the Lord was more pressing.  He did not have a stipulated salary with benefits.  A modern retirement program was unknown to him.  He supported himself when needed.  He did not quit when things went South (1 Corinthians 4:9-13).  When beaten and jailed, he sang praises to God rather than complain about his wounds.  He used the word “woe” once, but not because he felt sorry for himself (1 Corinthians 9:16).  He told followers of Jesus, “imitate me, as I do Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).  Yet in all this he admitted he was chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:13-15).  Paul was a sinner because he was not perfect.  He needed Jesus, just as we do.

Our problems were also Paul’s!  He knew right from wrong and desired to do what was right.  Yet, he didn’t!  He hated doing what was wrong but ended up doing it.  This was a perplexing problem to him.  The harder he attempted to keep the Law of God perfectly, the more failure he experienced.

Paul informed the Philippians, “concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.”  “Blameless” did not mean he kept the Law without breaking it.  That was an impossibility that God wanted him and others to learn.  It is a lesson which needs to be understood today!  Paul wanted to be perfect, but his “want” never became his “was.”  Something was present within Paul that continues today.  The King James Version refers to it as “the flesh” (Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:19; 7:5, 25; 8:1, 3).  The NIV translates it as “the sinful nature.”  Paul blames his surrender to this condition three times in Romans 7:17, 20, & 23.  In this helpless condition he cries out, “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (v.24).  If the one whom I have put on a pedestal could not live a perfect life, why do I think I can?

Under the Law of Moses, this haunting question could not be answered.  But, in Saul of Tarsus’ life, it was!  Paul answers this painful question with, “Thank God!  It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (v.25).  Paul, you and I share the same nature.  In our mind we desire to serve God.  Yet, “the flesh” or “sinful nature” keeps us from owning that perfection.  How does Jesus solve that “flesh” or “sinful nature”?  His blood negates the sin (1 John 1:7-10).   His blood does not license us to sin, but it cleanses us, so we are not sinners.  Paul expressed it this way, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).   Let that sink in and you will rejoice!

Imitate Paul!  Follow Jesus into “no condemnation”!

OUR GARDEN?

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Some people don’t believe in Satan.  Because he is the master of deception he dupes people in that fashion.  Satan uses their wisdom to blind them.  Remember the scene in the Garden and Satan’s conversation with Eve?

The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the LORD God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?” “Of course we may eat fruit from the trees in the garden,” the woman replied.  “It’s only the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden that we are not allowed to eat. God said, ‘You must not eat it or even touch it; if you do, you will die.’”  “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman. “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5

The first thing Eve should have noticed was that speaking reptile!  Perhaps there was communication with all living beings then?  I know that I’m not believing a “serpent” even if he told me, “I won’t bite”!  If “reptile” means “snake,” I was raised in Oklahoma where a good one was a dead one.  Upon spotting a snake my grandmother’s philosophy was, “Grab the hoe and kill it!”  Very sound advice, although there are laws today against such actions.

Notice the devil’s first words.  No courteous “Hello, how are you.”  Straight to the point with a statement questioning God’s decision, mixed with a whopper lie.  If questioned about his lying inferences, Satan would probably have shrugged it off with a sarcastic reply and a smug look.  That is still being practiced today!  Satan was setting Eve up for a fall.  Notice, silent Adam is there, but not present!

Poor Eve, her reply is pathetic.  She doesn’t have her facts straight.  When you’re mesmerized, whatever “smarts” you have, disappears.  Notice how quick Satan jumps on Eve’s use of the word “die.”  His response is, “You won’t die!  God knows that your eyes will be opened . . . and you will be like God.”  Wow!  One bite and you are promoted to God’s level!  What an opportunity to be the mother of future generations that will follow in her footsteps!  What a legacy!

Satan convinces us, in different ways, that he knows God better than we do.  He is the world’s best at introducing a falsehood and it being accepted as truth.  That continues to be practiced today.  Once done, all he needs to do is sit back and watch us run with it.  Mankind is good at believing things from the devil are original thoughts of wisdom which we have developed.  Some accept those ideas as being from god.  They are.  Not Yahweh God, but the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4)!

So often we are more like mother Eve and papa Adam than we think!  We live in our own garden!

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”  1 John 4:1

MISINTERPRETATION CAN PRODUCE HYPOCRISY!

Monday, July 16, 2018

Some would refer to them as “compassionate hearts.”  One can appreciate their honest and sincere concerns for others and a desire to do what is right.  Yet, the good they wish to do is misplaced and sometimes based upon poor interpretation of scripture.

One of the leading stories in the news is on illegal immigrants.  Those who wish to allow them into the USA, void of all “vetting,” feel those who disagree are unchristian in their attitude.  Some have gone as far as demanding that ICE be disbanded, and all illegals allowed in and their needs supplied.  They believe “this is the Christian thing to do”!  In their minds, to refuse this care reveals “an unchristian spirit.”

To justify this generosity, the fact that these immigrants are breaking the law, is dismissed.  This law breaking is justified by some with scripture to prove that our generosity trumps the law!!  Acts 5:29 is cited, “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  The apostles were not defending illegal immigration, only their right to preach the gospel.  This mass of illegals is not entering the USA to preach the gospel.  Among them are gang members who are vicious in their actions.  There are also terrorists who wish to murder the very individuals who wish to aid them.  These terrorists consider their benefactors to be pagan heathen.  A number of those illegals are demanding the same rights which legal immigrants worked hard to receive.  In fact, some illegals are demanding much, much more.  They believe they have a right to receive what our veterans and the poor cannot receive!

It is interesting that those Christians who dismiss the term “illegal” want the US government to provide the immigrants with free housing, medical services, schooling, transportation, food stamps, and other desires.  They believe our government “owes” those illegals the care which cost the USA billions of dollars each year.

Excerpts of scripture are quoted to justify this invasion and expense that burdens the US government.  Part of Luke 6:30 is quoted, “Give to everyone who asks of you.”  Jesus speech in Matthew 25:35-36, 40, 45 is used to show Christians must supply the needs of all these illegal immigrants.  We are told, “It is the Christian thing to do”!

The problem in using those and other passages is that the supplier being referred to is not the government, but the individual follower of Christ!  This biblical fact is ignored!  The ones being judged in Matthew 25 are individual believers, not the government.  It is hypocritical to substitute the responsibilities given to individual Christians and place it on the government’s pocketbook!  God does not hold the government accountable in these passages!  Yet, some Christians who feel the government is being “unchristian” in refusing to shell out billions of dollars in care, are pointing an accusing finger in the wrong direction!  At the judgment, Jesus will not ask the US government the questions of Matthew 25.  The questions will be directed at those who mistakenly claim the responsibility of that passage is directed to the US government!

How many illegal immigrant families have you as a Christian taken into your home to feed, clothe, school, and supply them with medical care?  None?  If so, won’t you hear Jesus say, “Depart” rather than “Come” (Matthew 25:34, 41)?  Isn’t it hypocritical to believe the US government is responsible for what Jesus puts on your shoulders, rather than in the government’s lap?  After all, the slogan, “It is the Christian thing to do” puts the responsibility upon the individual Christian, not the US government!  Again, this substitution of government paying the bill rather than the individual Christian, makes the disciple of Christ guilty of rewriting God’s word (Matthew 15:9)!  Such individuals are producing another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9).  It keeps the Christian’s pocketbook intact while emptying Uncle Sam’s!

Misinterpretation can produce hypocrisy!  If those saints desire to be consistent, who wish to open Uncle Sam’s pocket to do “the Christian thing,” they must be required to document their claim with scripture.  Jesus fed 9,000 people, not Pilate or Rome!  Isn’t that the Christian thing to do?  Christians doing it?  Reaching deep into the Christian’s purse will reveal who is or is not practicing what is being preached!  Why should the protesting Christian expect others to do what he refuses to practice himself?  Isn’t that hypocritical?

What if five, ten or fifty families show up on your doorstep?  What is the Christian thing to do?  What if it is a thousand families?  If you turn away just one, wouldn’t that reveal an unchristian spirit?  Did Jesus say the following or not?

For I was hungry, and the government fed me. I was thirsty, and the government gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and the government invited me into government housing.  I was naked, and the government gave me clothing. I was sick, and the government cared for me. I was in prison, and the government visited me.’  Then these government officials will reply, ‘Lord, when did we the government ever see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink?  Or a stranger and show you hospitality? Or naked and give you clothing?  When did the government ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’  And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when the government did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, the government was doing it to me!’”  Book, chapter, and verse?

When the Christian takes himself out of Matthew 25:35-40 and substitutes the government, he takes that passage out of its context and steps on dangerous ground!

Who made government responsible for what Jesus commanded the Christian to do?  God didn’t.

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