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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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TIME TO WAKE UP!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

SleepingLiberals are offended by Christians because we believe homosexuality is condemned by the Bible.  Yet a world religion will murder them and liberals are silent.

If a Christian wishes to pray on school property, liberals say it violates the Constitution.  Yet, when another religion demands it, it is acceptable!

If Christians demand that schools set up special worship periods for them during school hours, the fallout would be immense, yet nothing is said when another religion makes those demands and they are met!

If a large number of Christians marched down the streets with placards stating, “Death to America,” “We will rule the world,” or “God hates all non-believers,” Christianity would be labeled as a terrorist organization.  Not so, if another religion does it.  They are defended as exercising their freedom of speech!

If a bystander used Jesus’ name as a curse word and a Christian slit his throat, the liberal news media would quickly condemn ALL of Christianity.  When a person from another religion does it because the offender cursed his prophet, we are informed that his religion had nothing to do with it!

If a Christian rammed into a group of people on a bridge killing and injuring them, the liberal press would quickly condemn ALL of Christianity.  Let the driver be from another religion, and his religion would never be the cause, even if the driver admitted it!

If Christians began ransacking the places of worship of other religions, liberals would be horrified and demand immediate punishment.  Yet Christian church buildings can be vandalized and burned by numerous individuals and little or no comment is made about their religious ties.

If Christians rounded up folks in their town who were not of their belief, brutally killed the babies and children, then shot all of the adults, liberals would immediately condemn the whole of Christianity as a violent religion and want it outlawed.  However, if individuals belong to another religion, their faith is ignored and they alone are guilty, even though they admit that their scriptures command them to do so!

If several Christians went into a night club shouting, “in the name of Jesus,” and murdered and wounded dozens, the media would focus on ALL of Christianity.  But, if several from another religion do that, their religion has nothing to do with it.

If several Christians hijacked three passenger planes and flew them into places of worship of other religions, the press headlines would picture Christianity as a warring religion, attempting to convert the world through violence.   If those men were from another religion, their religion would have nothing to do with their actions.

If a Christian drove his truck, loaded with explosives, into a military barracks filled with soldiers of another nation, shouting “In the name of Jesus,” and killing several hundred and injuring the others, the media would print how horrible Christianity is.  Let that driver be from another religion, and his actions are not motivated by his religion!

If Christians in France, England, Germany, Italy, Egypt, Russia, Mali, the Philippines, and the United States were guilty of murdering and maiming “infidels,” “in the name of Jesus,” the press and governments would charge that Christianity was a religion of hate and violence.  Yet, let members of another faith do that and their motivation is not religious.

If Christian preachers were telling their audiences that The Constitution must be replaced by the Bible through violence, the media would go ballistic in condemning ALL of Christendom.  If preachers in another religion made those statements, it would be smoothed over as instruction having no serious implications.

Yet, it is not Christians, Buddhist, Shintoism, Jews, or Hindus who are doing these things.  There is an uncanny denial that is causing countries to ignore warning signs and mistakenly believe it is their fault that these calamities are befalling them.  When men accept blindness rather than truth, society pays with the horrors increasing rather than diminishing.  Paul writes,

The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber(Romans 13:11).

Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God.(1 Corinthians 15:34).

Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light (Ephesians 5:14).

DYING YOU WILL LIVE!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Dying You Will LiveHave you ever thought to yourself, “I wish I had the faith of Stephen, without his price tag” (Acts 7:54-60)?  With ISIS capturing our news by holding up severed heads, one questions whether his faith is tightly welded or just slightly glued!  News stories tell us of mass exoduses in England and Europe from Jesus to Muhammad.  Since there was an absence of knives being held to their throat, one must ask, “Why the flight?”

Across the board there is universal refusal to see Islam for what it is.  True, it refers to itself as “the House of Peace.”  Yet it is at war with infidels.  Who is an “infidel”?  Everyone who isn’t Muslim!  That means YOU!

It makes no difference whether one is moderate or categorized as a “terrorist,” everything that is not Islam is in “the House of War.”  Islam is god directed to destroy all in that “house.”  This means that world domination is Islam’s gospel.  Every Muslim is a part of it, whether they are the “nice” neighbor of an infidel or a radical wearing a suicide vest.

What is amazing is how quickly different groups are rushing blindly to associate themselves with Islam.  Why?  Because Islam’s hated enemy is Judaism and Christianity.  That may be one of several reasons that homosexuals seek to enter that alliance.

Recently Muslims and homosexuals marched together as a united front.  That’s like a chicken attempting to become the best friend of a fox!  If Muslims rule, homosexuals are tortured and murdered.  Islam’s scripture demands it!  A Muslim wants to go to Paradise, so homosexuals must die!  A Christian may offend a homosexual by refusing to accept his lifestyle as righteous.  A Muslim is religiously bound to kill him rather than allow him to practice his lifestyle!  So, an alliance between the two will only allow one to survive.  Guess which one is the fox?

Feminists hobnob with Muslims because they both hate Christians.  What they don’t realize is that Christians may offend them by not accepting some of their belief system, but we do not carry out the goals the Islamic view has planned for those women.  A view which they seem to be oblivious to.  The Islamic view of women isn’t favorable to the feminist agenda!  Muslims do not consider women to be equal to men, but rather as second class human beings.  A man may have three wives and an additional temporary one.  He is allowed to beat his wife or wives whenever he feels inclined to do so.  If she dishonors him or his family, he is allowed to kill her.  Her acceptable style of clothing will not be designer wear, nor the best from Walmart.  It makes Amish clothing look stylish!  A female may be married to an adult man before becoming a teen.  This goes back to arranged marriages.  There are other rules with none of them being favorable to a feminist’s viewpoint!  Yet feminist think Islam is the next best thing to chocolate and vanilla ice cream.

One of our National political parties is so enamored with Islam that it is willing to open our borders to any Muslim, even if he requires every citizen to convert or die.  Birthrate alone will put Islam in control of this country in less than twenty to twenty-five years.  Before then, what is occurring regularly in the streets of England, France, Germany, and other countries, will be happening here and when it does, it will be too late to change it.

With the liberal movement in progress to remove Christian principles from our society, an unholy vacuum is being created.  That emptiness will be filled.  If Islam fills it, then every Christian is going to be tested.  You will be given an opportunity to convert.  If you do not, but take the stand which Stephen did in Acts 7, or James did in Acts 12:2, or Polycarp, a disciple of John, did in 155 A.D., you will die.  But, in dying, you will live!

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.  What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?  Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26 NIV).

LEAN UPON WHAT?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

UnbeliefA man on a tight rope asked his crowd, “Do you think I can walk to the other side?”  They yelled, “Yes.”  He did so effortlessly.  He asked, “Do you think I can walk to the other side with a person on my shoulders?”  They excitedly responded, “Yes.”  Then he asked, “Who will ride on my shoulders?”  No one responded.  Talk is cheap!

Are we like the Jews in Micah’s day?

All of you claim to depend on the LORD.  ‘No harm can come to us,’ you say, ‘for the LORD is here among us.’”  (Micah 3:11).

Solomon admonished, “Trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself(Proverbs 3:4).

When armies threatened Israel, they looked to see how many shields, spears, arrows, and sword they had.  If it was not sufficient, they called upon the Lord.  When armies marched against them, they looked at how high and thick their walls were.  If the foe was larger than their walls, they called upon the Lord.  They put their trust in their sacrifices rather than the One they were offered to.  Their faith was built upon the existence of Jerusalem and the Temple, rather than trust in the One who provided them.

When we come to the New Testament, the story doesn’t change.  Remember what the apostles did when Jesus was asleep in the boat (Mark 4:37-39)?  Do you remember his response?  “Why were you so fearful? Don’t you even yet have confidence in me?” (Mark 4:40).  Peter projected himself as a granite defense of Jesus, but he had already turned to sand before the rooster finished its morning wake up call.  Before we swell up with pride, we need to take an inside peek!

How many folks assume they are going to heaven because of “I”?

  •  I have been baptized by immersion.
  • I am a charter member of the church.
  • I am a good person.
  • I pay my taxes.
  • I tithe.
  • I am a good neighbor.
  • I am a good parent.
  • I am a good son/daughter.
  • I’m an honest and trustworthy employee.
  • I am a good employer.
  • I say my prayers.
  • I read my Bible.
  • I go to church.
  • I don’t lie.
  • I don’t steal.
  • I don’t commit adultery.
  • I don’t curse or use profanity.
  • I don’t gamble.
  • I don’t drink.
  • I don’t smoke.
  • I don’t chew tobacco.
  • I don’t gossip.
  • I am truthful.
  • I am compassionate.
  • I am benevolent.
  • I am a Christian and a . . .
  • I am an elder in the church.
  • I am a deacon in the church.
  • I am a Sunday School teacher in the church.
  • I am a faithful member.
  • I am a preacher!
  • I AM doing the right things and I do NOT do the wrong things!

Sometimes we are so focused on “I” that we never notice a huge hole in our faith!  Then, deep in the depths of our soul, a question is waiting to be asked.  It nags.  It is a void that an “I” cannot fill.  Our refusal to hear it brings dissatisfaction.  Deafness is not comforting.  Ignoring it does not bring peace nor happiness.  It begs to be heard, but we don’t give it a hearing.  “I” tries to cover it up.  “I” wants to ignore it.  “I” substitutes something, anything to make it disappear.  It doesn’t.  The more effort put into erasing it only strengthen its existence.   We think just one more “I” will silence it.  For some, it does.  For those who submit to, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), the answer reveals itself!  “I” leaves God out of the equation.  Without God, there is no satisfying answer.  Only more questions.  More doubt.  More frustration.  A black hole inside that eats away at our existence.  It is a failure which multiplies fear that feeds on doubt!

It is only when my “I” understands that my “I” will fail me at the judgment, that “I” see my need for God’s wisdom!  “I” announces that my trust is in “me.”  What I do and did; not what Jesus did for me.  Oh, the words about Jesus being my Savior rolls easily from my tongue, but they are words for others to hear, not truths that I have digested.  My faith or trust has not been in Jesus to save, but my ability to save myself!!

The foolish will remind Jesus about what they have done.  The wise will know that their salvation rest upon what he did for us.  The foolish trust in their “I;” the wise trust in Jesus.  There is a difference between my “I” and his faith!  “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!”  (Mark 9:24).

WHY?

Monday, June 12, 2017

Sin“Ain’t you got no raisin?” is a familiar question remembered by folks my age.  Of course, when our parents or grandparents asked that question, they did it because we were guilty of actions of our own choosing, rather than being obedient to their instructions.

I’ve had my share of spankings while growing up.  Yes, I knew right from wrong.  When I did things which I wasn’t supposed to do, I knew I was going to be in trouble if I got caught.  I weighed the risks with the rewards and like most thought the end justified the path chosen.  Regret was written all over them!  But, you can’t take it back.  You say, “I’m sorry,” grab your ankles, and grit your teeth because you know judgment is coming!  How many of you were corrected once and then never made a wrong choice again?

Why do we (children and adults) mess up?  We aren’t stupid nor ignorant.  We know what is right or wrong, yet we still make the wrong choices even if we have to face our consequences.  Why do we make up excuses to justify our actions when we know it is only wishful thinking?  Do we think the repercussions will be less than expected, so it’s okay to proceed?  Do we convince ourselves that we have no other choice, so we must make the wrong one?  We know it is impossible to hide our sins from God, yet we proceed as if He is blind!  Does any of this sound familiar?

Peter told Jesus, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I will never desert you!”  However, before the rooster could crow, Peter denied Jesus three times, sealing it with cursing and swearing (Matthew 26:74).  Why?  Jesus told him he was going to do.  He denied it.  Then he did it!  Why?  What causes a disciple, an apostle, to deny Jesus three times with cursing and swearing?  We wouldn’t do anything like that, would we?  It’s a common path that is easier to follow than most will admit.  Does any of this sound familiar?

Pilate was warned by his wife to have nothing to do with Jesus (Matthew 27:19).  Pilate found no Roman law broken by Jesus that would merit death (Mark 15:14; Luke 23:4).  He was willing and tried to release Jesus (John 18:29; Luke 23:20).  He had the authority to do so, but not the backbone!  He washed his hands of responsibility and surrendered to the demands of a rowdy crowd (Matthew 27:24).  Yet, he still provided his soldiers to carry out the punishment rather than allow the Jewish stoning!  His position of control was jeopardized so he chose job over Jesus.  How many times have we dismissed our responsibility with a hand washing?  Does any of this sound familiar?

Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for a few coins.  Surely, he had learned something that stuck with him in three and a half years?  Didn’t he realize his mistake?  He seemed to be on the right path by returning the money and confessed his error (Matthew 27:4).  Why kill himself?  If Jesus accepted Peter back, would he not also accept Judas?  No one forced him to put a rope around his neck.  Judas wasn’t ignorant of God’s law.  Why did he choose that path?  Why do people do drastic things when they don’t have to?  Does any of this sound familiar?

Some may think Paul was almost perfect.  He wasn’t.  He admitted he was chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  He said that “sin . . . produced in me every kind of covetous desire” (Romans 7:8).   Paul included himself when he wrote, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Does any of this sound familiar?

We are all sinners.  Faith in Jesus isn’t a magic garment we put on and miraculously sin no more.  Perfection is an elusive shadow that is desired but never captured.  We may put on our Sunday best, and smile as though everything is perfect in our world, but it isn’t.  We still do what we shouldn’t.  We still ask why we did it.  Paul discussed this malady in Romans 7.  Sin can either transport you to hell or drive you to Jesus.  Your choice!  Jesus is the answer to our sin problem.  He is the only one who can make you complete and give you a righteous standing before God the Father.  You and I need Jesus as our solution!

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Who do you belong to?

AN UNAWARE ANGEL?

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Don’t forget to be kind to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”  (Hebrews 13:2 TLB).

Male AngelI went through eighteen English translations and each rendered the Greek word “άγγελος” (aggelos) as “angel” in the above verse.  The Greek word is anglicized rather than translated.  Vine shows this word is translated in other passages as “messenger.”  In Matthew 11:10, Mark 1:2, and Luke 7:27, John the Baptists is referred to as an άγγελος, but it is translated as “messenger” rather than anglicized as “angel.”  John the Baptist sends several άγγελος to Jesus with a question in Luke 7:24, but it is translated “messengers,” not “angels.”  Jesus sends out several άγγελος in Luke 9:52, but they are called “messengers.”  James, in referring to Rahab, calls the spies “messengers” rather than άγγελος/angels (James 2:25).  So, the Greek word means a human or a divine messenger.  Context determines which!

Angels are referred to as “ministering spirits” in Hebrews 1:14.  In Luke 24:4 they are referred to as “men” in “shining garments (NKJV).”  Luke relates Cornelius’ experience by stating in Acts 10:3 that “an angel of God” appeared to him.  Later in verse 22, Peter is told that “a holy angel” appeared to Cornelius.  In verse 30, Cornelius tells Peter about “a man . . . in bright clothing” talking with him.  In most cases when an angel appeared, humans were told to “fear not.”  In most cases, there was a recognition that the person was being visited by a heavenly messenger.

Some read Hebrews 13:2 with guilt.  “What if that smelly person was an angel that asked for money and I turned him away”?  “If any person walks up and asks for money, should I clean out my billfold because he may be an ‘angel’ in disguise”?  “If a person asked for my car, should I give him the keys because he may be an ‘angel’ but I just don’t know it (NASB)?  I’ve watched winos work a bus station audience.  When they had the price of another bottle of wine they disappeared.  When it was empty, they resumed their “begging.”  Were those individuals worthy of support because they may be “angels unawares (KJV)”?

Did Jesus feed the 5,000 in John 6:10 because they were “angels unawares”?  Did Jesus only heal one man because he was an “angel unawares,” but the others weren’t (John 5:1-15)?  Just because a person has a need doesn’t make him or her an “angel unawares.”  Just because a person uses Hebrews 13:2 to make you feel guilty for not handing over a ten or twenty-dollar bill, doesn’t mean he is a heavenly messenger!

If the Greek word άγγελος had been translated as “messenger” in Hebrews 13:2, as it is in Matthew 11:10 and other places, would the reader come away with the same guilt feelings?  In the first century, the apostles and prophets were “messengers.”  They didn’t stay at the Holiday Inn, but received room and board from believers.   What if a stranger showed up at your door expecting hospitality, but he was an “angel/messenger” of Satan (2 Corinthians 12:7)?  Would you welcome him?  He would be an angel or messenger!  Paul warned, “Prove all things’ hold fast that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).  Shouldn’t one test before hosting?  Why should one feel guilty by heeding Paul’s warning?  John also warned, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1 NKJV).

The question to ask is, “Is this person a messenger of God or not”?  Why remain ignorant?  Test by asking, “Are you an angel?”!  If the person fails the biblical test, you and I have no business “entertaining” him.

THE ANSWER?

Monday, June 5, 2017

The AnswerWe had just arrived at the condo where we would be staying during our brief journey in Gatlinburg.  A young man was cleaning up the sidewalk on one side of the pool.  He saw us pull in and greeted us.  After a few pleasant remarks, he stated, “I wonder if I might ask you a question?”  We agreed.  He asked, “What must I do to be saved?”  Coming from an seventeen or eighteen year old person caught us off guard.  My reply was, “Faith in Jesus as our Savior!”  That reply caught him off guard.  He expected us to say something else.  However, his face quickly brightened and he said, “You’re right!  We must have faith in Jesus as our Savior!”  He then told us that most people reply with, “You must join a church,” or “you must be baptized,” or “you must be good,” or “you have to get the Holy Spirit.”

Another young man appeared, needed that young man to help on some work project, so he bid us goodbye and we never saw either one of them again.  There are not many, including myself, that would walk up to a stranger and ask that question.  So, I admired him for his interruption and faith in doing so.  Being caught off guard, and him being called away so soon after our short conversation, I didn’t have time to ask him a question that came to me after they disappeared.

It is true that Jesus saves.  If it were not for his sacrifice, I would still be in my sins.  If it were not for his resurrection, I would have no hope.  If his righteousness had not been bestowed upon me, I would be left with nothing more than my worthless rags (Isaiah 64:6).

The answers given by others may have had some merit, but anything we do which falls into that category isn’t our savior.  Paul joined himself to the disciples, but he was already saved (Acts 9:26).  Baptism is not our savior, being with Jesus in his death and resurrection is (Romans 6:3-6; 1 Peter 3:21).  Being “good” is a result of being saved by Jesus (2 Peter 1:5-10).  One receives the Holy Spirit, but that is a gift for those who have already been blessed (Acts 2:37-39).

Faith is important, but it is sometimes believed and taught out of context.  Yes, the eunuch wanted to be immersed, but first Philip had to begin with Isaiah’s text to preach Jesus to him (Acts 8:35; Isaiah 53:1-12).  Faith comes by hearing the word (Romans 10:17).  Without that faith, we cannot be pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6).  Without Jesus, immersion is little more than a speedy bath without soap.  Yet, some believed or had faith in Jesus but refused to confess him (John 12:42).  So, not every faith held was a saving one!

I wanted to see the young man again to ask him if his faith made him tremble.  The devils believed so intensely in Jesus that they did (James 2:19).  If our faith did not motivate us to tremble, would theirs be stronger that ours?  What separates our faith from theirs?  If trembling is the criteria, they win!  Some believe one must obey Jesus and submit to immersion to prove their faith is a valid one.  If one refused to obey, it proves his faith is as bogus as the faith held by the devils.  The equation would look like this:

✤Faith + obedience in immersion = a faith that is validated as a saving one.

✤Faith – obedience in immersion = a bogus faith because it has not been validated by one’s submission to Christ Jesus.

Faith or belief is sometimes like the word “love.”  Saying “I love chocolate ice cream” is a different kind of love than one spouse saying to the other, “I love you.”  James talks about a faith which makes devils tremble, but it isn’t enough to motivate them to be obedient.  Their faith is not validated.  The faith which Abraham and Rahab possessed was.

If Jesus is your Savior, is it just talk, or have you obeyed him as about three thousand did on Pentecost (Acts 2:41).

Are We There Yet?

Thursday June 1, 2017

Are We There Yet 2Do you remember when you were there?  There?  Where?  When you were a child and your folks told you the family was going to see the grandparents.  Didn’t you ask several times, “Are we there yet?”  Didn’t the anticipation prompt the question?  Maybe the distance played a part in motivating it?  If you have a GPS, the instrument’s  little voice will announce, “You have arrived at your destination.”   Most of the time, it is correct.  You are there!

When Jesus ascended into heaven, the angels announced to the goodbye crowd, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven(Acts 1:11).  Before Jesus and the disciples got around to the Passover meal they were admiring the Temple.  During his dialogue he told them about his return with,

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.  As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man(Matthew 24:36-37).

That passage has been summed up in several ways?  One says you can’t know the second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, or century when Jesus is going to return.  Others claim that you cannot know the day or hour, but you can know the week, month, or year due to the signs.  The first group says the “days of Noah” had no signs therefore the first group is in error!  The second says when that first rain began, that was the beginning sign of Noah’s preaching being fulfilled!  So, it is with today.  The problem is that the second group is guilty of giving multiple false starts.  That tends to cause folks to become skeptical and join the doubts of those described in 2 Peter 3:4, 9.  Yet, some are confused by the statements of Jesus and inspired writers.

Jesus told his apostles,

When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes(Matthew 10:23).

Notice Jesus said the apostles would not be capable of covering every city in Israel before he returned.  That points to an immediate return in their lifetime, not ours!  This is backed up by Paul who states, “The Lord is at hand(Philippians 4:5), Peter writes, “the end of all things is at hand(1 Peter 4:7), and John warns, “Little children, it is the last hour . . . we know it is the last hour [it is the last time,” KJV] (1 John 2:18).  The two letters to the Thessalonian saints are the earliest books found in our New Testament.  They were written in the early fifties.  Notice what Paul repeats in the first letter.

to wait for his Son from heaven(1 Thessalonians 1:10), “the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes(2:19), “at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints(3:13), “we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air(4:17-18), and “be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ(5:23).

If you were a member of the Thessalonian assembly, wouldn’t Paul’s letter make you think Jesus’ coming was imminent?  The letter is to them, not twenty-first century saints!

Did Jesus “come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” during the period when the Thessalonian congregation existed?  He certainly did not return in that fashion before the apostles had covered the cities in Israel.  Several explanations have been given to show that he did return, but not as he was “seen” as he was when he went “into heaven.”

★One group stated that Jesus did return in the clouds, but his coming was invisible.  He returned only to those who had the spiritual vision to see it.  But, that theory overlooks the statement that his coming would be seen as they saw him go.  Was his ascension invisible?  This view is considered extreme since this group has given multiple dates for a “visible” return which never materialized.  They were forced to make it an invisible one to fulfill their erroneous teaching.

★Another idea is that Jesus will suddenly return, refurbish the earth, 144,000 will go to heaven while the rest of the faithfully will live on a new earth forever.   This group also gave numerous failed dates, built a house for Abraham to reside in when he would return in 1925, sold it a few years ago, believed those on earth would revert back to the age of 21 beginning in 1925, and believe Jesus is a created god.

★A third group believes Jesus will return for 1,000 years and reign with the righteous.  Then wickedness will resurface, the battle of Armageddon will take place, wickedness will be defeated, Satan will be destroyed, and the righteous will all reign with Jesus.  This view has many different facets to each of the points made.

★A fourth group believes two returns are mentioned.  Those with time values are attached to Jesus’ return in judgment upon the Temple and city in A.D. 70.  The second coming, given by the angel in Acts 1:11, is still future.  Sometimes those prophecies with time values are mistakenly attached to the coming of Acts 1:11.  The ones with time attachments should not be aligned with that passage.  When this happens, it creates confusion and error results.  This view has a number of aspects to it, with some being inconsistent.

★A fifth view is that Jesus fulfilled the coming of Acts 1:11, as well as the immediate ones, by his coming in judgment in A.D. 70.  The language of the Old Testament is produced to explain all passages concerning a future judgment and destruction in the first century.  Those which refer to an event in the lifetime of the recipients of the New Testament letters were the ones who would be living when the Temple and Jerusalem were destroyed by Titus and the Roman army.  Acts 1:11 is re-explained to fit this scenario.  Some of the explanations are not always clear to those who hear them.

When one reads “the time is at hand” and “shortly come to pass” as statements made in the first century, but were to be applied only to folks in the twenty-first, it is a twenty century stretch that is a little tedious.  It removes those statement from a first century context to reformat them in a twenty-first century one.

The question is, “Are we there yet?”

Jesus SAVES!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Jesus SavesJesus saves!  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him(John 3:16-17).  “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5).

Jesus saves!  “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him(John 1:11).  “Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God(John 12:42-43).   Some did respond to God’s Good News!  “And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’  Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them (Acts 2:40-41).

Peter was sent to the Gentiles, “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him(Acts 10:34-35).  Yet, most Gentiles today know Jesus only to use his name in vain!  In the first century, as well as today, those who were believers turned from Jesus to something less.  “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt(Hebrews 6:4-6) and “For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt(Hebrews 6:4-6).  Yet, there were others who did not turn away.  “Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.   But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul”  (Hebrews 10:38-39).

When thousands with full stomachs turned from Jesus, he turned to his apostles and asked them a question.  Peter’s reply should be ours, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life(John 6:68).

Here is why it should be our reply?  Jesus saves!

UNINSPIRED?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

UninspiredSometimes preachers will tell their audience that God laid a message on their heart which they are going to deliver at that service.  The statement can be true or false.

Back when I was nineteen I was preaching for two congregations.  One at Thackerville, OK and the other at Lebanon.  It was called “a circuit assignment.”  I would go to Lebanon one Sunday to preach and the next Sunday to Thackerville.  I suppose this gave each congregation a reprieve until I returned.  I must admit that my knowledge of the Bible was limited and my experience as a preacher was nil!  Some would and did say that I was “still wet behind the ears.”

Being a young man who was going to college classes during the week and working afterwards at the APCO service station the rest of the time, my days were full.  A friend of mine was dating his girl friend who lived in Oklahoma City, 80 miles away.  The dates were always on Saturday!  He invited me to date his girl friend’s cousin.  We ended up going to revivals each time I would double date with him.  I didn’t mind since I would take notes and use what I heard as a sermon the next morning.  This worked out fairly well until a sermon was delivered which I didn’t agree with.  My friend was a member of the church of Christ.  The particular one which did not believe in having classes at their buildings.

On that occasion, I did not have any notes to use the next morning.  What was I going to do?  I remembered hearing different preachers say that God gave them their sermon.  I thought if He gave a sermon to them, He would do the same for me!  After all, I had just read the following passage in the New Testament,

But . . . not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit(Mark 13:11).

I would not worry, nor would I have to think about what I was going to preach the next morning.  The Holy Spirit would give me my sermon!  I confidently drove to Thackerville with the assurance that the Holy Spirit had a great sermon ready to supply!

When it came time for me to speak, I walked to the pulpit with Bible in hand.  I turned to face the audience, place my Bible on the pulpit, opened it, and thrust my finger toward the open pages.  I look to see what the Holy Spirit was going to guide my thoughts on.  I was in the genealogies in the Old Testament.  There was an unbearable silence.  Inspiration did not come!  I closed my Bible and reopened it.  Again I put my finger to the page and looked.  Genealogies again!  This time in the New Testament.  What was the Holy Spirit trying to tell me?  Panic set in.  I don’t remember what I said, I just remember it was the shortest sermon on record.  The only thing lacking was, Cracker Barrel was still 35 years in the future for us to beat the Baptists to!  The Methodist were very forgiving and didn’t tease me about my goof off.  I figured out later that the lesson from God was, prepare your sermons beforehand by studying the Bible!

How does God lay a message on our heart?  Often when I am reading from the scriptures different thoughts will come to mind as I read a passage or statement.  Since the Holy Spirit inspired those passages, my motivation comes from His sword ((Ephesians 6:17).  If I stick with what that passage or verses says, I am teaching God’s word.  If knowingly or unknowingly I teach something that isn’t what is being said, then my teaching is false.  Too bad I didn’t know that when I was 19!

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.  But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry (2 Timothy 4:2-5 (NKJV).

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