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I FEAR!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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A COMPLETE BIBLE; A BLESSING!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WHAT’S YOUR ASSURANCE?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your assurance built on?  You??

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IS IT IN THE GENES?

Monday, December 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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THE BIBLE ONLY?

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Bible OnlyHarvey Pearson and I collided with one another in 1957.  He was the Central Church of Christ preacher in Ada, Oklahoma.  I was a “licensed” preacher with another church.  Before leaving Ada for Memphis, Harvey gifted me with this slogan, “Don’t accept something because I say it, accept it because you find it in the Bible.”  Not too long after that, I read another slogan almost similar.  “We teach the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.”

As the years passed, I noticed that some writers and speakers would back up their arguments, not with scripture, but statements by uninspired notable brethren.  It is a common fault.  When a human statement is used to prove a specific interpretation, we need to question the validity of that claim!  Anyone can make a claim, but claims are not our final authority.

After Acts 10, Gentile congregations began to appear.  In Acts 15, James introduced a solution that affected both Jewish and Gentile assemblies.   Jewish assemblies continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses (Acts 21:20-26).  Gentile assemblies were not required to follow that Law which included its worship and divine traditions.  However, in mixed assemblies of Jews and Gentiles, a problem developed over these different practices.  Paul addressed some of it in Romans 14.

Imagine how the convictions of a Jewish Christian could be offended by a Gentile brother?  The Gentile means well, but invites the church to his home after services and serves pork and catfish.  No kosher food is available.  Should the Jewish members pull a Simon Peter and say “NO” (Acts 10:13-16)?   If he did, would that refusal offend the Gentile brethren?  If so, what then?  Should the Jewish brethren bring out their scriptures to prove that eating unclean items was scripturally forbidden?  Should they not show Gentile brethren that such servings is offensive and contrary to their biblical convictions (Romans 14:23)?  How long did confrontations like this continue until Paul wrote Romans 14?  Did those confrontations continue after reading it?  Yes, congregations had inspired prophets, but so did Corinth and look at their mess!  Both Jew and Gentile saints had scripture that justified their position!  Christian Jews were justified by the Law of Moses in their refusal to eat pork and catfish.  Gentile saints were justified in devouring both foods because their epistle released them from that Law!   Both felt God was on their side.  Their differences were basically over what God had given to each.

Today, we get upset over a lot of things.  The claim is usually made that something isn’t biblical.  Yet, the differences are not over what the scriptures say, but based more upon tradition and human judgment than actual Bible statements.  For many it is, “I like,” “My opinion,” “I’m not comfortable,” “My preacher says,” “My parents believe,” “the majority believes,” “my church teaches,” “my Bible is silent on that,” “in our judgment,” “I don’t like the direction we’re going,” “I don’t agree with,” “I’m fed up with,” and “the Bible may teach it, BUT. . .”

Before the 19th century ended, there were congregations which desired to follow the ancient order.  Being “ancient” meant rejecting the inventions and traditions of men.  If it originated from men, it wasn’t from God.  Division erupted because things were introduced “which we’ve never done before.”  Rather than Jews and Gentiles, it became “Conservatives” and “Innovators.”  Conservatives claimed to be holding to the “old paths,” whereas those who accepted the “innovations” were not.  Being “conservative” was identified as the ancient order.  Those on the left were liberals or digressive.  Today, due to multiple divisions in all flavors of Christianity, we have folks on our left and right.  Right, left, or middle, all identify themselves to be following the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible!

So, the slogan I was given in 1958 was, “Don’t accept something because I say it, accept it because you find it in the Bible.”  Who said that?  It wasn’t Jesus, Paul, or any other inspired writer.  In fact, I know of no book, chapter, or verse that contains that specific slogan.  Most slogans or creeds usually fall short of their intended purpose.  There is one fact that is clear.  We are excellent in restoring the divisions of 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and  justifying that restoration as New Testament Christianity!

HOW PERFECT ARE YOU?

Monday, July 24, 2017

PerfectionA group stood on a 1,600 year foundation of biblical history.  They could quote the prophets coming and going, backward, and sideways.  The Messianic view they held was holding steady at number one!  They stood upon the shoulders of priests, scribes, and knowledgeable scholars.   Their parents, grandparents, and all the way back to Abraham were their legacy.  There was no way they could be wrong.  That is, until they tried debating an individual that was “full of faith and power” (Acts 6:8).

What happens when you believe you have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but you can’t “resist the wisdom and the Spirit” of your opponent (Acts 6:10)?   The simple solution?  You destroy his credibility!  “Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’” (Acts 6:11 NKJV)!  You add more charges, “For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.”  (Acts 6:14 NKJV).  You prove your view is the majority one and his isn’t!  Once you’ve convinced others that the charges are true, you’re in the winner’s circle.  Your pseudo-truth triumphs!

Not many make a conscious decision to be like the synagogue mentioned in Acts 6:9.  Yet, even though we believe we have the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, no one has perfect knowledge.  There is that possibility of being wrong on something.  The first congregation lack the proper understanding of Jesus’ commission for a decade or more and refused to share the good news with Gentiles (Mark 16:15).  Paul didn’t think Barnabas’ decision was “good,” so they parted company after a “sharp” exchange (Acts 15:39).  Peter had to be rebuked by Paul (Galatians 2:11-14).  Whether we admit it or not, we’re no different.

Sometimes people believe they are following the truth, but upon examination, it originated from man rather than God.  The problem is, that discovery is not made by some who continue to believe their position is valid.  Peter was convinced that it was against the Law of God to eat unclean meat (Acts 109-16)!  Evangelistic members of the New Testament church zealously taught Gentile Christians that they needed to be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15:1,5).  Members of the church of God in Corinth thought is was okay to denominate (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  Some members in that congregation did not believe in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:12).  The church in Jerusalem had a sect within it called Pharisees (Acts 15:5).  Imagine that!  Also, that congregation was filled with members, like Paul, who continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses.  They continued in the worship and practices of that zeal (Acts 21:24). Yet, God’s grace was abundant.  These citations illustrate the fact that even inspired individuals could make mistakes, be in error, and yet continue to be covered by the blood of Jesus.  Although perfection wasn’t possible, faithfulness was!

When one comes before Jesus at the judgment, he will not possess bargaining power!  One’s demands will evaporate.  Argumentation will be futile.  Reasons will be exposed as useless excuses.  One’s boasting of self perfection will be regretted.  Nothing will count except the blood of Jesus.  If our faith has not led us to be cleansed by it, we will remain in our sins!    Unless our obedience was based upon what Jesus did for us, it will be bankrupt.  So, how perfect must your perfection be, to be perfect enough to save you???  Reality warns us that our pseudo perfection doesn’t save.  Jesus does!  He is the Salvation of Yahweh!  So, where is your trust (faith)?  Is it in your ability to save yourself by your perfection, or is it in the perfection of Jesus?

WHAT IF?

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy(Proverbs 31:9 NIV).

What ifHave you ever said, “What if . . .?”  In this article I have taken some statements about another area of life and switched it around to see what you would think if it described Christians.  Not “all” Christians, just a small minority group.

What if the children of Christian couples in that small minority did not have to pay back their college student loans, would you be upset?

What if the children of people who worked for an employer, in that small minority, were also exempt from having to pay back their student loans, would that bother you?

What if members in that minority could retire and be paid their yearly salary for the rest of their lives after working at their job for only four years, would that upset you?

What if members in that minority were exempted from laws that you and all other Americans had to live under, would that bother you?

For example, what if that minority were exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harassment, would you think that was fair?

What if that minority of Christians were exempt from Healthcare Reform, in all its aspects, but no one else was, would you think they deserved it but not you?

What if that minority could put itself above the law, would you congratulate them?

No, there isn’t a small minority of Christians who have special privileges which are not open to you.  Yet, there is a group that exists which have granted themselves those perks which you cannot enjoy!  It’s called the U.S. Congress!

We still have the freedom to vote!  We still have the freedom to voice our concerns!  We still have the freedom to express our belief on what is fair!  So, what if. . .?

There is joy for those who deal justly with others and always do what is right(Psalm 106:3 NLT).

NOT FORSAKING!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching(Hebrews 10:25 KJV).

Complete apostasy from the faith. Neglect of public worship.In the sixties, I worked with a congregation that had members who were farmers and worked about 1,500 acres.  When harvest time arrived, they needed to get into the fields before the rains came.  This meant they would miss at least a Sunday and maybe a Wednesday night during harvest time.

We had an elder’s wife that was very critical of this family.  She believed they were guilty of “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”  Her husband worked with the city’s light, water, and gas company.  When storms came in and power went out, he had to be at work to supervise the repairs.  Sometimes this would be on a Sunday or Wednesday night.  He missed those assemblies.  I reminded the elder’s wife of this contradiction.  Her reply?  “That’s different!”  How was it different?  She stated,

“My husband works for the company and doesn’t have any say in the matter.  He must be at work when called.  The farmers are working for themselves.  So, they can put off getting their crop in since they can’t be fired.”

If the family lost their crop through delay, they lost their livelihood.  Why couldn’t the elder tell his boss that he would not work on Sunday or Wednesday night even if it meant losing his livelihood?  She didn’t think the two were parallel. Therefore, she couldn’t see her inconsistency.

Hebrews 10:25-29 refers to a different audience!  Neither the farmer or the elder are under consideration.  Some have segregated verse 25 from the following verses and substituted something entirely different.  Isn’t that adding to the scriptures?

Verse 25 is referring to:

  • Deliberately rejecting Jesus as Savior after receiving the truth.  That rejection cannot be forgiven because those individuals refuse to return to him.
  • Such a one has nothing to look forward to other than terrible punishment from God.
  • Terrible punishment will come because that person continues to trample the Son of God under his feet.
  • He has treated Jesus blood as unholy.
  • And he has despised the Holy Spirit.

Is THAT what an individual is guilty of because he missed a Sunday and Wednesday night to get his ox out of a pit (Luke 14:5)?  If that is the case, then anyone who misses a single called assembly, whether it is a Bible class, a worship assembly, Wednesday night, Ladies’ class, Youth meeting, Gospel Meeting, or VBS, must be immediately withdrawn from!  Why?  Because he believes he can be justified by something or someone else other than Jesus!  Is that the condition of that elder or the farming family?

This view would mean that any congregation which does not withdraw immediately from a member who is absent from the last called assembly, is remiss in its duty and because of that neglect becomes a partner in that person’s sins!  Is that what the congregation was guilty of because neither the elder nor that family were withdrawn from?

Those who are described in Hebrews 6:4-6 have forsaken the assembly for the following reasons:

  • They had been enlightened.
  • They had tasted the heavenly gift.
  • They had been partakers of the Holy Spirit.
  • They had tasted the good word of God.
  • They had tasted of the powers of the age to come.
  • But, they have fallen away, and cannot be renewed again to repentance.  Why?
  1. Because they continue to crucify the Son of God.
  2. And they continue to put him to an open shame.
  3. Their actions clearly show that they have no desire to return to Jesus!

Did the farmer and his boys return to the assemblies once the crop was harvested?  Yes.

Did the elder return to the assemblies once the storm repairs had been made?  Yes.

Did either one of these miss the assembly because they were never coming back?  No!

Some have the idea that Hebrews 10:25 demands that one be in the assembly even if he is sick, even contagious.  If one doesn’t get off work in time to attend Wednesday night, some think it is necessary for him to find another job.  Yet, there isn’t any passage they can quote which makes that demand!  If that is what God commands, why do we continue to be in fellowship with those who will not follow that law?

We need to be careful.  If we believe and practice a passage by taking it out of context, we are putting ourselves in the same position as those who bind where God does not (Matthew 23:4; Revelation 22:18-19)!

WHAT’S YOUR FOCUS?

Thursday, July 13, 2-17

FocusOne TV evangelist claimed he went to heaven and Jesus showed him his future mansion.  His followers paid for its twin to be built in Louisiana.  Regardless of who is talking, or their religious background, heaven is always described in finite terms.   Some believe only a few hundred thousand will go to the heavenly realm, while others remain on a refurbished earth.  Those who may not see a renewed earth as “heavenly,” still describe heaven as earthly.  Since Revelation 21 and 22 speaks of a “new earth,” “holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven,” “walls,” “gates,” “river,” “streets,” and “tree,” it must look earthly.

Those who believe a second Garden of Eden will be recreated to house the faithful describe it in multiple ways.  Some see new constructed houses, their favorite pets being resurrected, and living with their earthly spouse.  Some believe their earthly body will be rejuvenated to an eternal age of 21.  Those who weren’t too pleased with their looks have a more beautiful or handsome outlook.  The thought of most is that our earthly body is needed in order to recognize our parents, kin, friends, and ourselves.

If you were God, how would you tell your creation, whose understanding is limited to the finite, what an infinite existence is like?  Wouldn’t you use their terminology to describe how magnificent your eternal fellowship is?  How close does a finite description come to an infinite reality?  We are told that God had no beginning nor end.  Explain that!  We can’t grasp “no beginning.”  Our minds don’t stretch that far!  We can’t begin to understand an eternal existence for ourselves.

Man reduces God to his level so he can better understand him.  Why not?  The Bible speaks of his hands, his arm, his back, his hearing, his seeing, and his speaking.  God has two big eyes, two ears, and a mouth, doesn’t He?  We have a twenty-five-cent term which means we use finite terms to describe an infinite God so we can have a finite understanding!  Some see Him as an old bearded man in the sky.  Others attempt to not visualize Him for fear of creating a mental idol.  Some reduce Him so they can curse or ignore Him.  Some see Him as a cruel taskmaster gleefully waiting for our next mistake.  Others visualize God as so loving that he overlooks man’s wickedness and grants eternal bliss to all!  Some choose heaven because it is the only alternative to hell, while others mistakenly choose hell rather than give up their wickedness.

John tells believers,

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is (1 John 3:2). 

Despite our sins, God’s word became flesh, took our place as our sin sacrifice, and made it possible for us to die to sin and have new life in Jesus (Romans 6:3-6).  His blood and God’s grace keeps us cleansed so we stand holy before him (2 Corinthians 5:21).  We benefit from Jesus’ faith and righteousness.  We have an eternal relationship, packaged in the love of God.  We wait for a body that is incorruptible.  We wait for something that is so awesome and beyond our imagination that it cannot be adequately explained in finite terms.  We will be like He is!

So, are you a believer who waits for His return or just another who focuses on the finite?

WAKE UP! WATCH OUT!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Bloody SwordThings are getting bad in England when one of Hollywood’s elite, George Clooney, moves his family from there back to the States.  Clooney is an advocate for immigration.  Yet, lately things seem to be backfiring on that support.  His mansion in Italy was occupied by squatters, much to Clooney’s surprise and dismay.  But, they were immigrants, so he should have welcomed their invasion on his private property with open arms.  Why is he fleeing from England?  Immigrants again!  He fears for his family’s safety.  Immigrants are making life dangerous in England according to Clooney, so he wants his family in safer surroundings.  What will cause liberal blindness to miraculously see?  When the pocketbook or family is endangered, sight usually begins!

What if Jesus had commanded all his followers to give every non-believer one opportunity to accept him as Lord and Savior?  If that opportunity was rejected, what if Jesus commanded that each infidel deserved to lose his life!  It would not matter if that infidel was gentle, benevolent, an asset in the community, a good family person, or even religious, if he refused to be converted, he sentenced himself to die!  What if Jesus had commanded that if an infidel was a woman, Christian men could abuse, rape, and murder her if she would not convert?  Their actions would not be unlawful nor sinful.  What if Jesus gave Christians the right to line up infidels, force them to kneel down, and then put a bullet into their head?  What if Jesus commanded Christians to take small infidel children and if they refused to convert, bash their heads in?  Would you expect Christians to renounce their faith in Jesus before accepting them as immigrants?  Or, would you think you were guilty of Christiophobia if you questioned or refused to allow them to immigrate to your town?

What if Christian scriptures told adherents to be pacifist until their numbers reach 4% of the population, then start demanded their way or else?  Would you shrug it off and think they might have a just case against you and the best policy would be to surrender to their demands?  What it you decided they had too many demands and you refused, would you think you were being a “racist” against Christianity?  When you failed to meet ALL of their demands, what if only a few Christians began blowing up bombs in crowded concerts, driving vehicles into crowds, or shooting up malls or schools, would you attribute it to their religion or just strict guilt to the individual?  Would you demand certain restrictions on further Christian immigration, or swing the doors wider for more of them?

What if a Christian man raped your daughter and when arrested, shouted “Jesus demands I punish these female infidels”?  Would you brush it off as a psychotic individual or take a hard look at his religion and scriptures?  If the police, fearing reprisals from other Christians, freed the guilty and shrugged it off as your daughter wanting him to molest her, would you punish your daughter?  If a Christian kidnaped your 7-year-old son, demanding his conversion, slit his throat when he said “No,” and left a note that Jesus commanded death to ALL infidels, would you ignore his religion as a motivator?

When answering those questions, most people would remove their blinders and say it was the Christian’s religion that motived this mayhem.  You would admit that his religion made him a threat to your way of life, your family, and to yourself.  Your opposition would not make you phobic.  You would not be a racist.  You would not be cold-hearted nor inhumane.  You would be seeing things as they actually are and wanting to stop such evil.

The only problem, it is NOT Jesus, the New Testament, nor Christians who are guilty of such actions!  Yet, the very people who hate Christianity are the ones who are blind to the very ones who perpetrate those atrocities and who will eventually bring them home to you!

The Golden Rule of Christianity:

So, do for other people all the things which you want them to do for you.  This is the meaning of the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).

God loved the people of the world so much that He gave up His one and only Son. . . .God did not send His Son into the world to judge it.  God sent Jesus, so that the people of the world could be saved through him(John 3:16-17).

God will not force anyone to believe in Him.  Many in the USA and world do not believe in God.  No Christian will force you to believe.  No Christian will threaten your life if you reject belief in God.  If you are correct and God does not exist, then all, including yourself, will one day pass from this existence and the only future we will have will be what people remember about us.  It may be good or bad.  That will be our legacy?  But, we will be dead and the dead don’t care!  Dust has no thoughts nor life!

WHERE IS THE TABLE?

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Serving CommunionIn 1955, Dr. Massengale, the Superintendent of the Ardmore District of the Methodist Church, entered the sanctuary and set up his things on the communion table for that church’s Quarterly Conference.  He had served that District years before and had been brought back to serve it again.  Unknown to him, the Methodists had built a new edifice and sold this one.  It now belonged to the Church of Christ!  Both the Methodists and the churches of Christ have a table at the front of the auditorium with the inscription, “In Remembrance of Me.”  Due to that tradition, Dr. Massengale did not notice anything different as he set things up on the communion table.

The Bible doesn’t illustrate a piece of furniture for the specific purpose of holding fruit of the vine, unleavened bread, and collection plates.  Neither is anything mentioned about men being selected to stand behind that piece of furniture to pass those items.  Those actions are based upon a manmade interpretation called “an expedient.”  A piece of furniture in an assembly labeled “The Lord’s table” was introduced by Catholicism rather than Luke or Paul.  Protestants as well as churches of Christ borrowed and adapted this practice and it has become a well-entrenched tradition.  Since we do not inform each generation of such origins, some believe this arrangement is heavenly produced rather than humanly introduced.

When Jesus and the apostles ate the Passover meal, they dined on lamb shank, a bitter herb, a non-bitter vegetable, a mixture of apples, nuts, and wine, another bitter herb, and unleavened bread.  About two hundred years before Jesus, four cups of wine were added with each having religious significance.  The meal is outline in Exodus 12 and 23.  The four glasses of wine were of human rather than divine origin.  Jesus accepted it without question even though it is from the Mishnah or oral law of Judaism.

Each participant brought his own drinking cup.  These cups were filled four times during the meal.  Luke mentions the last two (Luke 22:14-18: 1st cup, V.19: the bread, and V.20: the second cup).  Matthew and Mark merged the two as if there was only one.  In writing to the Corinthians, Paul corrects a problem that arose over the Lord’s supper (1 Corinthians 11:17-34).  He also merges it into the second cup.  Yet, neither he, Matthew, Mark, or Luke mention a special, lone piece of furniture specifically provided to hold the fruit of the vine, the unleavened bread, and the collection plates and designate this as “the Lord’s table.”  Paul mentions “the Lord’s table” in 1 Corinthians 10:21 as well as “the table of demons.”  Jesus instituted the communion at the Passover table.  Tradition focuses upon a piece of furniture and makes it a necessary elements of the communion.  We need to ask ourselves what is “the Lord’s table”?  Is it a piece of furniture or what is being served?

The table, its size, the inscription, its placement in the room, and communion ware are things developed several hundred years after the first century.  Communion ware owes it introduction to Catholicism and Protestantism rather than inspiration.  Such traditions are seldom explained, so generations grow up without that knowledge and assume first century assemblies contained them.  Other traditions have been added to this process as if they also are required as God’s law.

There is nothing in scripture that makes a table necessary.  1 Corinthians 11 shows individuals bringing the wine and unleavened bread, rather than it being supplied by the church’s contribution.  Paul shows that members were to share with those who were without.  Men passing the elements would not be needed, much less, standing at a special table to serve.  Keep in mind that Jesus introduced it while they were in the process of eating a special meal (Matthew 26:17, 19, 26; Mark 14:12, 16, 18, 20, 22; Luke 22:8, 13, 15, 21).  Also notice that they were all sitting or reclined around one table.  They passed items to one another rather than several men waiting on them.  They spoke and even argued during the major meal.  The communion liturgy developed after the first century, not during the inception of the communion.  Some churches take this meal of remembrance and develop an elaborate religious production that has become their tradition.

If we recognize actions as tradition and that they may be changed, no harm is done.  It becomes dangerous when we make manmade tradition into a doctrine and go ballistic if someone suggests a change (Matthew 15:9).  We need to teach each generation the difference between church tradition and God’s word (2 Thessalonians 2:15).  There is a BIG difference!

Is it possible to observe the Lord’s supper without a table being in the room?  If such a table is not present, have those who have partaken, done so at “the Lord’s table”?  If not, then a literal piece of furniture must be in the room for that partaking to be accomplished.  However, if it is in the room, do those who partake, actually partake at the table? NO.  The only ones close to the table are the servers.  Even they do not partake there.  So, if no one partakes at that table, have they partaken of the Lord’s supper?  If they do not have to literally be at that table to partake of the Lord’s supper, then what is “the Lord’s table” which Paul speaks of?  Isn’t it amazing how tradition introduces us to things that we think must be when scripture does not?

NO DARKNESS!

Monday, July 4, 2017

Darkness No LightMy youngest sister I were being disciplined by our father.  I was 7 and she was almost 5.  Our bedrooms were upstairs and to the right was a small door leading to a storage room. The light switch to that room was on the bedroom side.  Dad put both of us in there, closed the door, and turned out the light.  Immediately my sister began crying.  I told her there was nothing to fear.  My assurance wasn’t accepted.  She continued.  The total darkness and her wailing turned my assurance into doubt and I joined her.  Dad finally turned on the light and opened the door.  The punishment was over. The crying stopped.  I remember the punishment, not the crime!

Fear is a necessary friend under certain conditions.  It is good to be afraid to enter a fenced-in yard with a snarling dog mimicking a crazed, mad one.  Fear of being burned keeps our hand out of the flames.  Fear of heights keeps us sane so we don’t strap on a parachute and purposely step out the door at 3,000 feet!  Fear keeps us from doing things that may put us in harm’s way.

The expression “fear not” or “not fear” is found seventeen times in the New Testament.  Six of those are from Jesus.  In one, he told his disciples, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul.”  (Matthew 10:28).  Despite those seventeen admonitions, we end up surrendering to doubt and allowing fear to own us.

Chris Tomlin sings, “Whom Shall I Fear?”  Some of the words are,

Whom shall I fear?

Whom shall I fear?

I know who goes before me

I know who stands behind

The God of angel armies

Is always by my side.

When Jesus said, “Fear not,” he wasn’t giving a guarantee that if we are conquerors, we will have smooth sailing.  The same one who said, “Fear not,” also warned, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.”  (Matthew 5:11).  He also stated, “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”  (Matthew 24:9).

What he was saying is that we can put our trust in him and he will make us victorious.  Don’t be afraid.  If you are “in” Jesus, you are safe.  You are saved.  You are the beneficiary of “all spiritual blessings” (Ephesians 1:3).  Paul asks, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Romans 8:35).  So rejoice.  Fear not!

When someone becomes a Christian, he becomes a brand new person inside. He is not the same anymore. A new life has begun! . . . For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. Then, in exchange, he poured God’s goodness into us!”  (2 Corinthians 5:17, 21).

And so, dear brothers, now we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, because of the blood of Jesus.  This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us by tearing the curtain—his human body—to let us into the holy presence of God.  And since this great High Priest of ours rules over God’s household, let us go right in to God himself, with true hearts fully trusting him to receive us because we have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean and because our bodies have been washed with pure water.  Now we can look forward to the salvation God has promised us. There is no longer any room for doubt, and we can tell others that salvation is ours, for there is no question that he will do what he says.”  (Hebrews 10:19-23).

For the saint, there is no future punishment.  There will be no darkness.  There is life now and in eternity (John 10:10)!  Fear not!

WHAT’S IMPORTANT?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

iPhoneThe grandparents were telling the granddaughter about her cousins who were her age and had never owned an iPhone. This produced a puzzled look on her face with the question, “How do they live without an iPhone? We are living in a time when all “options” or “luxuries” are standard equipment! We think we can’t live without “our things.”

In 1953 we owned a 1948 Ford pickup truck and a 1946 four door Ford. Both with standard transmissions and nothing to cool us in Oklahoma’s 103 degree heat, except to manually roll the windows down. The Packard was the first car with air conditioning in 1940, but who could afford an extra $274? The 1940 Oldsmobile sported “Hydra-Matic,” the first automatic transmission. My step-dad’s disdain for such was, “If you’re too lazy to shift the transmission, you don’t need to drive.” We were beginning the accumulation of “our things.”

In today’s world, such stories are difficult for our grandchildren to grasp. To them we appeared to be living in hopeless poverty because you didn’t have the latest Nintendo or Xbox games, new phones, or the latest Reebok shoes on the block. The last generation’s options was now the present one’s necessities!

People wallow in their “options,” moaning because someone else has more, and few give thanks to God for what they have! It is not a sin to have three cars and a double cab pickup in one’s four car garage. Neither is it sinful to own a vacation house on the lake or in the mountains. It is wrong only if we forget the One who actually owns “these things.” It is sinful if we brag about what we have accumulated and leave God out of the picture.

One day your strength will fail you. You will know you are dying. All “your things” will neither comfort nor accompany you as you travel through “the valley of the shadow of death(Psalm 23:4). Nothing you have can stop aging and the ravages of time. God’s announcement, “It is appointed for men to die once,” will knock at your door. Your “things” will not save you (Hebrews 9:27)! The only thing that will matter, as you face eternity, is: “Did I have the right relationship with God?”

For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?(Matthew 16:26 NKJV).

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