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RIGHTEOUS, BLESSED, AND WASHED

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Solomon stated, “Righteousness exaulteth a nation.” (Prov.14:34). If the nation I am a citizen in does righteous things, does that guarantee my salvation? No. When citizens of a nation do what is morally right, the individuals and nation as a whole enjoy the results. However, salvation is granted by God to individuals, not nations. Salvation takes place in the mind of God. Therefore, man cannot create his own way to be saved. A prophet stated, “The way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Jesus is THE way, THE truth, and THE life (John 14:6). God gave us the way through His Son. Jesus died in our place for the sins you and I committed. When we place our trust in and follow Him, he takes away all our sins.

In Romans 4:7,8 we read, “Blessed and to be envied, are those whose sins are forgiven and put out of sight. Yes, what joy there is for anyone whose sins are no longer counted against him by the Lord.” When a Christian stands before Jesus in the judgment, guess how many sins he will have to answer for? None. That’s right. None. Why? Because all his sins have not only been forgiven but forgotten. That person will stand before God as though he had never sinned. He will be perfect because he is covered with the blood of Jesus Christ. That’s why we must put our trust in Jesus rather than in our accomplishments. Not our works, but his blood puts us in right standing with God.

We often ask in song, “What can wash away my sins?” The answer is also given, “Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” That song is correct. We sing God’s truth which is called gospel or “Good News.” How can I bath myself in the blood of Jesus? He died 2,000 years ago. By faith I can die to sin and be buried with Christ into his death. Inspiration tells me that I get into this burial by immersion. What a beautiful picture Paul paints in Romans 6 of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. I can be blessed by what he did by being involved in his sacrifice through that immersion. As a sinner, I must die to the body of sin. I bury that body through a burial with Jesus in water and I am raised from that watery grave as a new or saved person because I became a partner with Jesus in his death. Free at last from the old creature and now revealed as the new man (2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:3-4).

Regardless of which path my country takes, I can be right with God. When I am right with God, He removes all my sins. All of them. My trust is in Jesus whose blood keeps me in good standing with the Father. God has provided the way, the truth, and the life for us if we will accept it. God saves. Since He does, we can be saved by following his guide lines rather than ours.

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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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ARE YOU PERFECT?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect(Matthew 5:48).

This passage is tossed around to mean several things.  Some believe it refers to one being as sinless as God is.  As one brother stated, “Whatever it means, we don’t do it.”

If Jesus wanted us to be perfect as the Father is, why did God add to the saved those who were “of the circumcision” [circumcision party, RSV] (Acts 11:2).  Were they perfect?  If so, why did Paul and Barnabas later engage in “sharp debate” with them, making it necessary for a trip to Jerusalem to settle the issue (Acts 15:1-6ff)?  A church convention, composed of the apostles and Jerusalem elders, met to settle that question for all the other congregations.  Men were chosen from the Jerusalem congregation to deliver that message to the Gentile assemblies.  Later, it is these same brethren who put fear in the apostle Peter’s heart causing him to act hypocritically (Galatians 2:11-16).  Were they perfect and Peter wasn’t?  Or were they both at fault?  Later, when some bound circumcision upon the Gentiles, Paul wrote, “Why don’t these agitators, obsessive as they are about circumcision, go all the way and castrate themselves!” (Galatians 5:12 The Message).  Weren’t these individuals perfect?  Had God not added them to the saved as far back as Acts 11?  Why would God add someone to the body of Jesus who held that view when one is to be “perfect” or sin free?  Where is the perfection when the mother church has to settle a dispute for all the others (Acts 15:7)?

When you stepped out of the baptistry, how long did your perfection last?  How did you regain it?  If you managed to regain it, how long did you keep it?  Are you certain that you possess it now?  Are you in a state of confusion not knowing if you are imperfect or perfect?  Do you go from day to day with your salvation hanging by a thread not knowing if you are saved or lost?  One’s prayers often reveal his lack of security.  They magnify his doubts of whether be believes he presently possesses that perfection.  Prayers such as, “we pray that we will be found faithful at death,” or “Lord, forgive us for any unforgiven sins which we may have committed since we last prayed.”  Questions bombard such individuals with, “What if my faithfulness is not faithful enough?” or “What if the congregation I meet with isn’t 100% sound?” or “What if my ‘imperfection gap’ is too large for God’s grace to cover?”  For some, those doubts and fears control them, making assurance little more than a wishful vapor!

One’s efforts in failing to be perfect originated in the Garden of Eden.  Some equate the sign in front of their building, the way the congregation sings and partakes, and how and what is said when someone is being baptized, as their guarantee that they and their congregation have reached perfection.  Sadly, such assemblies fall short of their expected mark.  The idea that a congregation is not as bad as Laodicea, Sardis, Ephesus, Corinth, or even Jerusalem does not equal perfection.  Actually, such statements indicate that the one making them believes a sound congregation is acceptable to God without perfection!  Wouldn’t that mean that person believes his congregation’s infractions are passable, but those they frown on have errors that aren’t?

As human beings we are cursed and in need of salvation due to our imperfections.  We are not co-saviors with God.  Must we obey?  Yes, but whose obedience is our standard for perfection?  Yours?  Mine?  How obedient must one’s obedience be in order to accomplish and maintain perfection?  According to Paul, no one has been successful (Romans 3:10, 23).  That’s why we need Jesus!

How complete does a person or congregation’s practice have to be, to be perfect?  How faithful must one be for his faithfulness to be perfect?  Those who claim perfection are guilty of believing their own lie.  Satan is the author, not God.  Jesus was sent because we are sinful, and our “perfection” could not cleanse us of that ugliness.  God is the eternal cleanser.  He chose Jesus to be the perfection we needed.  We either believe it or reject it (John 3:17-18).  Some of the Pharisee Party, that were part of the saved, chose to reject that truth and preach “another gospel.”  Some believe their righteousness is their payment for their salvation, supplementing what Jesus’ blood could not cover.  They reject God’s Good News that Jesus took our ugliness upon himself and blessed us with his perfection.  It was not a fair exchange, but he was willing to pay the price (1 John 4:10 NIV).  It was God’s love that made that provision (John 3:16; 2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV, NIV, TLB)!

How can one be perfect when he rejects the righteousness of God by substituting his own?  Isn’t that “another gospel”?

SATAN’S MEAL CHOICE!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 04-15-2019

Isn’t it strange how our way of doing something, with time, is viewed as God’s way to do it?  Something begins innocently, is expedited, approved, confirmed by inference, and evolves as an untouchable practice.  If someone mistakenly or purposely deviates from our expectations, he is suspected of raising the “red flag” on a slippery slope.

Satan began by questioning why Adam and Eve could not eat everything in the garden (Genesis 3:1).  Then he questioned why God was withholding a specific item from them.  He continued by leading them to believe God was keeping something from them which they deserved (v.5)!  Satan took an item that was familiar to the first couple, used it to question God’s motives for withholding it, and then convinced them to believe they needed to be gods.  He is still doing that, and we are still tripping over ourselves to wear that crown!

Some Bible students do not realize that Jesus never quoted a Bible passage, giving chapter or verse.  He almost never told what book it was found in.  Folks don’t realize that when the Old Testament was quoted, sometimes it is from the Hebrew text and at other times from the Greek.  The Greek text may have been viewed then as some view the NIV today.  Believe it or not, Jesus nor the apostles read or quoted from the King James Version!

Jesus seldom mentioned the name of the book he was quoting.  Once he mentioned Daniel in Matthew 24:15-16.  He referred to David stating something in the Psalms but did not reveal which of the one hundred and fifty it was.  He would mention Moses but not tell which of the five books the quote was taken from.  He would do the same by mentioning the prophets but not say which one.  Our Lord quoted from the Psalms eleven times, from Deuteronomy ten, from Isaiah eight, and Exodus seven.  The rest are scattered throughout the first covenant.  What some may not be aware of is that Jesus paraphrased some of his quotes.  That would probably be paralleled today with someone utilizing the Living Bible, the New Living Translation, or even the Message!  The wording of a text from the Greek translation would not follow the exactness of the Hebrew translation.  In other words, it would be like reading a passage from the King James Version, then read it from the New King James or NIV and find out the NKJV and NIV were different from the KJV and more like each other.  It would be the same thought but worded differently.  Sometimes it would be completely different in the way it was expressed.

What this reveals is that no speaker or writer of the second covenant had a speech or spoke on a subject and 1) documented the quote with book, chapter, and verse, 2) documented the statement with five, ten, or fifteen citations attached,  3) no one limited themselves to a specific translations in quoting God’s word, 4) no one was criticized because he didn’t utilize or quote from someone’s favorite translation, 5) no one, not even Jesus was criticized because he paraphrased a biblical passage rather than quoting it verbatim from the Hebrew or Greek text, and 6) no one was accused of not quoting scripture when that passage was paraphrased!

There is nothing wrong with a speaker telling his audience the location of the passage he is quoting.  When it becomes a deception of Satan is when people don’t believe the speaker is preaching the gospel when he doesn’t give the specific location of his quote.  It is also a deception of the devil when folks believe it isn’t “gospel” because the speaker isn’t supplying a string of citations which he believes supports his remarks.  They may quote ten or twenty passages to sustain their point, but God doesn’t require it.  In fact, such actions were not practiced by Jesus nor any inspired individual in the first century.

What God does require is that those who hear a sermon must make sure that their speaker and they aren’t being deceived by Satan.  Sometimes when a speaker says the Bible teaches something, it may not.

Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Some don’t realize they have been devoured and Satin is satisfied with his meal choice!

USED BY PERMISSION:

Importance of Context and Context, 1 Cor 14
Author: Bobby Valentine

Bible believers routinely take verses out of context when it serves their agenda.

The famous New Testament scholar N. T. Wright has opined, “texts matter, but contexts matter even more” (Jesus and the Victory of God, p. 489). This observation deserves full acceptance.

Context is what called for the creation of the text in the first place. Context is why we have a text in the first place. Context is what gives the text meaning.

A text without a context, a text is simply used as a pretext.

Context matters because texts must be interpreted. There are those who claim they do not interpret the Bible, they only read it and obey it. Usually this claim arises when a sectarian position that has emotional content to it has come up for consideration.

But recognizing the Bible has context does not imply I am embarrassed by Scripture. Recognizing the context of Scripture is an act of submission to the authority of the Holy Spirit. It is to respect the integrity of the word as it was given. Here is an example,

  • “women should be silent”

First to be noted on this text is that not one church known to me actually obeys this text as it is translated in most English Bibles. That women sing proves that the text cannot be understand to “mean what it says and says what it means.” There is no caveat, no exception clause, for singing. But brothers will say that the text has to be understood in light of the “command” to sing. Precisely! The text has to be “interpreted.” They interpret even while claiming they do not.

Other texts that are routinely interpreted are:

  • “tear out your eye and throw it away” (Mt 5)
    “cut off your right hand” (Mt 5)
    “do not store up treasure” (Mt 6)
    “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mk 10.25)
    “sell everything you have and give it to the poor” (Lk 18)
    “unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood” (Jn 6.53)
    “do not forbid speaking in tongues” (1 Cor 14)
    “when you meet for worship, one person has a hymn …”(1 Cor 14.26)
    “baptized for the dead” (1 Cor 15.29)
    “men should pray lifting up holy hands” (1 Tim 2.8)
    “women … should not wear fancy hair and jewelry” (1 Tim 2.9)
    “women will be saved through childbearing” (1 Tim 2.15)
    “laying on hands” (Heb 6.2)
    “Greetings by kissing” (Rom 16.16; 1 cor 16.20; 2 Cor 13.12; 1 Thes 5.26; 1 Pt. 5.14)
    “believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16.31)
    “we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3.28)
    “It is by grace that we are saved you are saved through faith, and this is not your own doing” (Eph 2.8)
    “if any are sick they should call the elders and have them pray over them and anoint them with oil” (James 5.14)
    “they shall reign on the earth” (Rev 5.10)
    etc
    etc

There is not one of these texts listed that are simply used, obeyed or even preached without some sort of qualification, some sort interpretation. These verses are “explained.”

I maintain that the statement “women should be silent” must be understood in its CONTEXT just like every other text just cited. And every single person that allows women to sing also has already admitted the text does not mean “exactly” what it appears to say (in common English translations).

I am no more embarrassed by Paul’s words on women than Jesus’s words on tearing out our eyes and cutting off our hands. The text must be properly understood in its own context if we are to understand Jesus and be faithful.

It is the height of special pleading to insist that the texts above must be interpreted in their literary contexts and in light of the rest of scripture and then deny that very principle in 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2 … especially when the texts under question are surrounded by verses that they insist must be “properly understood.”

What drives the special pleading? Is it sectarianism? In Churches of Christ we place the caveat on Ephesians 2.8 because of baptism. So why can we not place a caveat on 1 Cor 14.34 when a mere column over (in Paul’s papyrus scroll) we read about women who are hardly silent but are publicly praying and admonishing the ecclesia (11.4-5; 14.4-5) and know that at least one woman in Cenchrea (the Corinthian port) was a deacon (Rom 16.1-2). And not only so but the biblical witness gives us a number of women who publicly taught God’s people (Miriam, Deborah, Huldah, Anna, etc).

First Corinthians 14 cannot have a meaning apart from its context and what Paul intended in that context. If we actually believe in the authority of the Bible then we must in fact do diligence to its context.

Context has a way of slaying sacred cows which may be why some dislike it.

QUESTION ABOUT DEATH!

My Thoughts . . .

Thursday, April 11, 2019

 

Several years ago, I was in the recovery room at the hospital.  A nurse was checking to see if I was awake by calling my name.  I was in and out of sleep, but the nurse was persistent.   Finally, she asked, “Aren’t you a preacher?”  I told her I was.  She asked, “When you die, what happens to you?”  My reply was, “I don’t know.  I haven’t died yet.”  I promptly went back to sleep.  Being a nurse, she should have known that her timing was off by asking such a complicated question.  It was a good question though.

In most funerals a speaker will attempt to say something positive about the departed to comfort the family.  Yet, nothing said will matter to the deceased.  Solomon stated,

The dead know nothing, And they have no more reward, . . .  Nevermore will they have a share in anything done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 9:5-6).

There isn’t a lot of information in the Old Testament about the state of the dead.  Jesus pointed out that someone else would enjoy the fruits of the rich farmer’s work (Luke 12:20).   When David’s baby died, he stated, “I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me” (2 Samuel 12:23).  Usually, when death happened, the dead were said to go down to Scheol, or the grave.  A few exceptions are Daniel 12:2 “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, Some to everlasting life, Some to shame and everlasting contempt.”  Solomon writes, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it” (Ecclesiastes 12:7).  We’re also informed that neither Enoch nor Elijah saw death but were taken up by God.

In the New Testament Jesus spoke of Lazarus being with Abraham, whereas the rich man was separated from them (Luke 16:19-31).  The Hebrew writer speaks of death and a judgment afterwards (Hebrews 9:27).  Jesus reminded his audience that God was the God of the living, not the dead (Matthew 22:32).  Paul spoke of dying and being with Christ as “far better” (Philippians 1:23).  John writes of judgment and seeing the dead being judged (Revelation 20:12).  Also read 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18′ 1 Corinthians 15, and 2 Corinthians 5:1-8).

Bart Millard, lead singer of the group “Mercy Me,” wrote a song in 2001 titled, “I Can Only Imagine.”  He attempted to show what he thought it would be like in heaven.  It struck a chord with the public and became the bestselling Christian single of all times as late as 2018.  It sold over two hundred million copies.  John tells us we will see Jesus “as he is” (1 John 3:2).  We are not told the details of that sighting.  It is impossible to describe infinite sights with finite words.  The reason being that we are limited to a finite understand.

If you want that sight to become infinite reality, develop a following trust in Jesus!

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 1:9).

CULTURE AND GRACE!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, April 8, 2019

One of the problems in studying God’s word is forgetting that it was written primarily by Hebrews living several thousand years ago.  They expressed things in their culture, under their laws, circumstances, customs, traditions, conditions, and mind set rather than ours.  Sometimes they practiced things which are against the law in our day but not in theirs.  One example would be the acceptance and practice of slavery.  Even in our time, culture and traditions change.  Some expressions I grew up with like jalopy, carbon copy, okidoki, and fiddle sticks are a foreign language to my grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Even my spell checker doesn’t recognize some of them!  Just twenty to thirty years ago most Christians were horrified hearing someone pray using “you” and “your” rather than “thee, thine, or thou.”  Some thought those pronouns bordered on blasphemy!  Language and definitions change with time.  How many know what “wot” means?  It’s in the New Testament portion of the 1611 King James Version!

When Paul wrote about a woman’s role in marriage, we don’t realize how controversial he was being.  Both Jesus and Paul were Jews growing up in a Roman controlled world.  Romans who occupied Palestine were viewed by Jews. as Simon Zelotes did, which was less than favorable.  How long it took him and Matthew to become friends is questionable.  There were constant uprisings led by false “messiahs” to rid Palestine of those foreign barbarians.

Although married Roman women had more freedom than their Palestinian counterpart, first century Roman culture was different.  Marriage was highly important to the female for she would bear heirs for her husband.  Usually the female was quite young, and the male much older.  Divorce was not encouraged but frequent.  Remarriage was common.  Infidelity upon the part of the Roman male was common and expected.  Since slavery was legal, and male and female slaves were property, the slave owner had his pick with either one to fulfill his sexual desires.  There were harsh laws against the wife having relations with a slave or another man, but very little disapproval of a husband doing so unless his partner was married to another Roman.  The reason for the laws restricting a wife is that if a child was born out of wedlock, it was not a Roman citizen and it would not be in her husband’s bloodline nor be part of his legacy.

Men were allowed to practice their religion which usually involved “Vestal Virgins” that were readily available for them at their places of worship.  These virgins served the temple for a period of time then were replaced by younger women.  Roman culture viewed women, children, and non-Roman citizens as inferior to the Roman male.  If you grew up with that view, being taught to love someone who was not your social equal, like a Jew, slave, freeman, or woman, would be difficult to accept or understand (John 13:34-35; Galatians 3:26-28).  Even a Roman wife was considered inferior by her husband.

We had a mixture of that belief about women until most of the twentieth century had run out.  In 1776 Jefferson wrote “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”  Some thought Jefferson was addressing only the male population.  Hearts had to change, and it didn’t happen overnight.  Before 1920, it was unlawful for a woman to vote.  Women who advocated the right were ridiculed, cursed, beaten, and arrested.

Slavery was another thorn in man’s flesh.  It was not until 1803 that Denmark became the first to outlaw the importation of slaves into their colonies.  England followed in 1807.  It spread to the United States a few years later ending with the Civil War.  Some don’t realize that we lost 620,000 during the Civil War because our North and South cultures misunderstood the meaning of the words, “We be brethren” (Genesis 13:8).  Can you visualize the reaction when that first preacher announced to his audience that slavery was sinful?  Did he keep his job?  Didn’t Christian schools and colleges have closed doors to integration until the sixties?

Early Christian scholars, like Augustine (354-430) thought marriage was for the explicit purpose of fulfilling “be fruitful and multiple” (Genesis 1:22).  Cohabitation to have offspring or to keep from lusting was acceptable because the husband and wife were married.  However, Augustine believed that sexual contact beyond that was sinful.   If the husband desired to touch his wife, but it was not related to having children, then it was shameful.  For the wife to allow him to touch her for those reasons meant she was at fault, not the husband.  This was male dominance kicking in!  Augustine and other Christian apologists were products of their culture and misunderstanding.  Future teachers who were influenced by Augustine’s thoughts developed doctrines on marriage that were not biblical.   The influence of those teachers has affected believers for the past seventeen hundred years.  Interpretations have been advanced and accepted that ignored scripture in favor of culture, customs, traditions, and changes observed in that societal period.  It still happens.

Some cultural things are so ingrained that people would rather fight than fellowship.  Culture and the traditional are not sinful IF they are recognized for what they are.  It is when they become doctrine that headaches are experienced, and sin begins doing its destructive work (Matthew 15:9).  Human beings are flawed, and that condition clouds our vision.  The religious division among believers is deplorable but accepted by most.  Each division has peculiar beliefs, erecting walls that separate rather than unite.  Each believes he is closer to the New Testament example than all others.  Few will admit error.  For some that admission means destroying the foundation of their truth.  Most believe that if all the others would believe and practice what they do, those others would be as right as they are!  Sadly, that has become an enslaving lock and chain binding each division, closing the open door to freedom.

What is the answer to this ongoing problem?  It seems that all need to understand God’s grace more adequately!

I WASN’T THERE. . .OR WAS I?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, April 4, 2019

It seemed like a dream.  I had accepted an invitation to eat an important meal at a gentleman’s house in his upstairs room.  The host explained to me that this event would be a once in a lifetime experience.  I would be sharing the table with very important guests.  I suddenly realized that I could understand my host’s speech although it was not in English.  I heard a voice outside.  I could not put a name or face with it.  Other voices accompanied the first one.  The guests had arrived together.  They came up the stairs.  I immediately was overwhelmed by his appearance.  Somehow, I knew who he was.  It was the Galilean and his dozen plus one students.  His greeting was unforgettable.  His disciples warmly greeted me.  Several completed the last-minute preparations while the rest of us seated ourselves.  I was invited to sit a couple of apostles to the right of Jesus.  I had a huge advantage.  I knew what was going to happen but wasn’t permitted to divulge that information.  I could only observe, and did so, but in awe.

We had not been seated long, Judean style, until Jesus stood up, took a towel, a basin of water, and announced he would wash everyone’s feet.  His announcement shocked the group, but I knew what was going to happen.  I was a participant in history being made.  The fisherman called Peter objected, but the Messiah negated it.  I knew I must be dreaming, and I was afraid I would wake up.  The Master washed the feet of all.  I could not believe he was washing mine.  Then he explained what he was doing and why (John 13:4-12).

A custom prevailed which featured four servings of wine during the Passover meal.  This cultural and traditional addition had been added to the Passover meal beginning with the Babylonian exile.  Each participant’s cup was filled and consumed at specific times.  They had already partaken of two when Jesus announced, “I wanted very much to eat this Passover meal with you before I die.  I tell you, I will never eat another Passover meal until it is given its true meaning in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15-16).  Then he offered a prayer of thanks (v. 17).  He continued with the third cup saying, “Take this cup and give it to everyone here.  I tell you, I will never drink from the fruit of the vine again until God’s kingdom comes” (v. 17-18).   When finished, “while they were eating, Jesus took bread and gave thanks to God.  He broke off some of it and gave it to them.” (Mark 14:22).  Then he stated, “Take it.  This bread is my body which I am giving for you.  Eat this to remember me.” (Luke 22:19).   I had observed the supper hundreds of times but this one was unique and special!  I could not believe I was there.  We were reclined around a table that was not designated as “the Lord’s table,” while today we substitute a small table referred to as “the Lord’s,” but don’t recline around it.

For the fourth time each participant’s cup was filled.  “After supper, Jesus took a cup and said, ‘This cup is God’s new covenant sealed by my blood, which is being poured out for you” (v. 22).  After this was completed Jesus shocked his students with an announcement.  “I am telling you the truth: One of you will turn against me!” (Matthew 26:21; Luke 22:21-22).  That announcement motivated a unified question, “Lord, I am not the one, am I?!” (Matthew 26: 22).  Jesus’ reply was, “The person who dipped his hand in the same dinner bowl with me will turn against me” (v. 23).  He ended by saying, “It would be better for that man if he had never been born!” (V. 24).  I turned and watched Judas Iscariot because I wanted to see what kind of expression his face would portray.  I was shocked.  He would have passed a lie detector’s test without a problem!  He replied, “Rabbi, I am not the one, am I!?”  Jesus answered, “Yes, you are” (v. 25; John 13:21).  There was no denial offered by the accused.  He displayed nothing to alert the others to what he planned to do that evening.  To answer their “who” question, Jesus plainly stated, “After I dip this piece of bread in the sauce, I will give it to that person” (John 22:26).  I knew they would be as “blind as a bat.”  Jesus dipped the bread and gave it to Judas.  No recognition crossed anyone’s face.  Judas left with them thinking Jesus had sent him to “buy what we need for the feast” or “give something to the poor people” (John 13:29).  In spite of Judas’ character, the others refused to visualize him as a turncoat.  Neither could anyone see Peter denying Jesus three times before the rooster finished his morning habit.  The rooster’s second crow did jostle Peter’s memory (Matthew 26:75; Mark 14:72; Luke 22:61)!  None believed they would forsake Jesus.  When the mob appeared, twelve men (which included Mark), evaporated into the night’s shadows (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50).  Scripture was being fulfilled.

How far John ran before his loyalty kicked in, only John knew.  His friendship with the high priest’s family would allow him to follow where Jesus had been taken.  He took Peter with him.  If Peter had only known and paid attention to Jesus’ warnings, he would have remained outside (John 18:15-18, 25-27; Matthew 26:58; Mark 14:54; Luke 22:54).  He didn’t, so the rooster crowed twice!  Jesus had known Peter’s disposition better than Peter knew himself.  Are we all not guilty of possessing Peter’s weakness?  Doesn’t the Lord know ours as well as he knew Peter’s?

No, I wasn’t there.  I never smelled the roasted lamb on the Passover table.  I never heard the arguments engaged in by the apostles.  I never felt the Lord wash my feet nor dry them.  I never had a cup to be filled once, much less four times at that table.   I never heard their questioning denials.  I did not see the mob’s torches as they came to arrest Jesus.  I did not see that betrayal kiss.  I did not hear Peter’s blade when it separated Malchus’ ear from his head.  Nor did I hear that slave’s painful cry nor see him feel his restored ear.  Neither did I hear Jesus on the cross utter, “It is finished.”  No, I wasn’t there, but my sins were, and Jesus paid it all!

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV).

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (NKJV).

For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness (righteousness) into us!” (TLB).

Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?  Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free” (Romans 7:24-25 NLT, TLB).

EATING A COMMON MEAL?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, April 1, 2019

“I am not praising you with the following instructions: Your meetings are hurting you instead of helping you! First, when you come together as a congregation of people who have answered God’s call, I hear that there are divisions among you, so that it will become plain which of you are ‘true’ believers. So, when you gather together, you are not eating the Lord’s supper, because each person takes his own supper. He does not wait for others; he just goes ahead and eats. So, one stays hungry and another gets drunk. You have houses where you can eat and drink. Do you look down on God=s group of called-out people? What should I say to you!? Do you want to humiliate poor people? What should I say to you? Should I praise you in this matter!? I most certainly do not!” (1 Corinthians 11:17-22 IEB).

Paul informs the congregation that Cloe’s family had notified him about their disagreements. Each “is saying, ‘I belong to Paul’; ‘I belong to Apollos’; ‘I belong to Cephas’; or ‘I belong to Christ.'” Even their participation in the Lord’s supper was being affected by this problem. Paul declared, “You are not eating the Lord’s supper.” Today, some read things into Paul’s statements that are not there. Modern practices in the name of “expediency” or “saving time,” have reduced the supper to a minimum so it fits into our sixty minutes of worship.

When Paul wrote, “What? Have ye not houses to eat and to drink in?” (KJV), some believe he was criticizing them for eating “a common meal” in the church building. If they were eating a spaghetti supper and referring to it as “the Lord’s supper,” I too would be critical. That is not what they were doing. They were inappropriately partaking of the communion with the items authorized by Jesus. First, there was no such thing as a “church building” paid for out of the 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 collection in the first century. So, how could Paul be concerned about what they were or were not doing “in the church building”? Rather than meeting in a “church building,” they were meeting “from house to house” (Acts 2:2, 46; 5:42; 12:12; 16:40; 18:8; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). Since it was from “house to house,” some would be meeting in their own home (Acts 12:12). Paul tells them that if they are not going to wait on one another, the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine would not be the Lord’s supper. Their division destroyed it as such! Do our divisions today produce the same results?

Paul states that because they are not waiting on one another and sharing:

1). They are divisive (v. 18).
2). They are not engaged in the Lord=s supper (v. 20).
3). They are causing some to go away hungry (v. 21).
4). And, those who do not share the fruit of the vine are getting drunk on it (v. 21).

Because of their incorrect spirit they were guilty of producing the following results:
1). They could not be praised (v. 22).
2). They partake with the wrong attitude (v. 27).
3). They sin against the body and blood of Jesus (v. 27).
4). They condemn themselves by eating in this manner (v. 29).
5). And, this makes them weak, sick, and dead (v. 30).

Paul wanted them to understand what the communion was about. He closes this section with this admonition, “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation” (v. 34 KJV). A clearer translation is, “If someone comes only for the food, then he should stay home and eat there! Meeting together should not bring condemnation on you” (International English Bible).

Are we eating the Lord’s supper?

Do our twenty-five or more divisions not put us in the same category as Corinth? They had four divisions, we’ve lost count of ours! We believe we are partaking of the Lord’s supper, as did they, yet we are more divided than Corinth was. They were still one congregation in their city, are we (1 Corinthians 1:2)? They would not wait on one another, but we exceed that by partaking within our group but have no fellowship with the others! We use unleavened bread and fruit of the vine on the first day of the week, but not in harmony with Jesus’ “one” (John 17:20-23). According to Paul, shouldn’t we “stay home and eat there”? Would the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine not be “a common meal” under those circumstances?

NO RESURRECTION?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?  But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”  1 Corinthians 15:12-14

What if Jesus had not been raised from the dead?  What if his remains are lock away in a hidden grave somewhere?  Paul states that if that is so, then his preaching has been “empty,” “vain,” or “worthless.”  Everyone who said they saw him after the resurrection would be a liar, or crazy.  Judas Iscariot would have died in vain.  The soldier who looked at Jesus on the cross and said, “Truly this was the Son of God” was influenced by superstition and motivated by his paganism (Matthew 27:54).  The devils and demons that cried out “Son of God” were just as blind as the apostles were (Matthew 8:29; 14:33).

It would mean that God never added anyone to the body of Christ.  Everyone would still be in their sins (John 8:24; 1 Corinthians 15:17).  Jesus’ promise to build his church would be an empty one.  Even if folks built a building and put Jesus’ name on the street sign, or his Jewish title, it would only announce a pathetic lie.

Man would still be facing God’s wrath.  Man would be without hope.  When one experienced his last breath, there would be nothing more to look forward to.  All would be vain.  If there is no God, then man lives out his four score and dies.  Man is only dust, waiting to spread himself around.  Dust isn’t worth much, so human life means nothing.

If there was is no resurrection, then Jesus’ name would not be worth any more than the name of another.  If Jesus wasn’t resurrected, would people be using George Washington or Abraham Lincoln’s name as an expression of profanity?  There were numerous Jews claiming or being claimed as the expected Messiah, but few of them are remembered unless you blow the dust off some history book.  Jesus never raised an army.  He never signed a combat order.  He never trained men how to fight.  He told his apostles to buy a sword if they did not have one, but commanded Peter to put his up when he used it.  He never fought for an earthly kingdom nor promised one.  He had angels at his beckon call but did not mobilize them.

Jesus came for one purpose.  You and me!  We were lost and could not save ourselves.  Our righteousness was worth less than filthy rags.   We were and are incapable of paying our ransom price.  Hell would be our final place of unrest.  If it does not exist, then eternal and mindless darkness would prevail.

Jesus came to give us life.  A life that was lost in Eden.  We neither deserved it nor could pay for it.  He came and paid our price on the cross.  He made it possible for us to enjoy fellowship with the Father here and in eternity.

BEING ILLEGAL!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, March 25, 2019

In first century’s Rome and twentieth centuries Nazi Germany, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and in Idi Amin’s Uganda, those with conflicting views were hated, vilified, persecuted, and robbed of their citizenship, property, jobs, and lives.  Those and other regimes imprisoned, enslaved, tortured, and murdered anyone that stood in their way.  What if here in the United States it became illegal to be a Christian?  The punishment for being a believer in Jesus would be loss of citizenship privileges, property, jobs, dignity, and life.

What if the government passed laws declaring all Christians as enemies of the State?  Anyone identified as a Christian would lose his job.  The family would be moved into a rundown section of the city so their property could be distributed by the State to non-believers.  Barbed wire would surround that area and passes at checkpoints had to be shown to exit from it.   Anyone outside that area after certain hours would be jailed and beaten before release.  Some would never be seen again.  Job permits would also be needed for menial work outside that restricted area.  A sewed-on cross would identify the believer as David’s Star branded a Jew in Nazi Germany.  Christians would be treated like third class citizens, lower than slaves or property.  Women identified as Christians could be raped without recourse to justice.  Children so identified would be subjected to beatings by bullies from the privileged section of the city.  Any Christians traveling outside their section of town must avert their eyes downward to show their inferior status while in the presence of non-believers.  Beatings could be expected for no reason.

The State confiscated every church building, converting each into small apartments for government housing or warehouses.  Those apartments would be available to the lawful citizens, not believers.  All vehicles belonging to Christians would be seized and distributed to worthier citizens.  Christians would not be allowed to ride on city buses or in other public conveyances seated with the general public.  They would be restricted to certain sections clearly marked.   Walking would be the common means of travel, although not without danger to the pedestrian.

Public gatherings of Christian would be forbidden.  Disobedience would be met with arrests, beatings, loss of whatever work each was engaged in, and the leaders jailed, tortured, and never seen again.  Whatever meetings were planned, care would have to be taken to not invite a stranger or someone too friendly with non-believers.  The assembly would need to be small and held late at night.  Each participant should stay in the shadows to not attract attention.  If followed, the group would be discovered.  Denominational divisions, traditions, customs, culture, and opinions would have to be discarded.  Instruments would be too dangerous to carry or use.  Quietness would be expedient.  Concealing any lights would be essential.  All loud displays would invite discovery.  Basically, the gathering would be to quietly encourage and strengthen one another.

Each Christian would have three choices.  Number one would be to denounce Jesus and joined the ranks of the non-believers.  He would keep his social standing, job, property, and societal respect.   The second choice would be to openly identify himself as a Christian.  He would lose everything.  He would be treated as an inferior and open himself to abuse which he had never dreamed of experiencing.  The third choice would be to keep his identity as a Jesus follower secret.  He would pretend to be a non-believer.  This would allow him to continue to remain in society, yet secretly work for Jesus.  This is what is inferred about Manean, who was brought up with Herod the Tetrarch (Acts 13:1).  It also seems evident concerning those who continued working in the emperor’s palace (Philippians 4:22).  Although the apostles were scattered when Jesus was arrested, John took Peter and went to where Jesus was held.  He was known there and allowed to enter.  Peter had his problems, but John did not.  In spite of the circumstances, John did not deny Jesus.  He was not shy about using his friendship with the high priest’s family to gain entrance to the place Jesus had been taken (John 18:15).  It is apparent that he did not brag about being one of Jesus’ apostles either.  When Jesus was arrested, John did not accompany him to the place where the mob was taking Jesus to be judged!  Scripture states, “Then all the disciples deserted him and fled” (Matthew 26:56; Mark 14:50).  John was in that group!

An average of ten believers are murdered each day in our world because they are identified as Christians.  Their houses are ransacked and usually burned.  The Christian family is beaten.  Young Christian girls and boys are often kidnapped and sold as sex slaves.  Church buildings are burned down.  Christian services are invaded, and members beaten.  There is a world-wide movement to either forcibly convert all Christians, murder them, or make them second class citizens.  That belief system is now in the United States clothed with different names and philosophies.

Paul and company had folks like that in his day that followed him from one city to another attempting to end his ministry.  Today, that effort to silence is alive and active.  Christianity is charged with being offensive and treacherous.  How long before it is made illegal?

 

If you were given one of three choices above, which would you choose?   Some would repudiate Jesus to save their family and themselves.  Others would choose number two even if it meant death for them and the spouse and physical and sexual slavery for their children.  Some of the children might convert while others would resign themselves to that abuse.  Some would choose the third option.  They would secretly continue to serve Jesus.  Peter chose number one by denying openly.  Didn’t John and the others choose number three for a short period of time?

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