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I FEAR!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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A COMPLETE BIBLE; A BLESSING!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WHAT’S YOUR ASSURANCE?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your assurance built on?  You??

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Monday, December 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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KICKING GOD CAN BE DANGEROUS!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It was summer of 1946.  World War II had ended on September 2, 1945.  Most of the soldiers had returned from the battlefield.  The service flags had been removed from their windows.  Rationing stamps were a habit of the past.  Sugar, gasoline, tires, and other things were consumer goods again.  I was living with my grandparents in Stratford, Oklahoma.  They lived on the corner of West Smith and North Willow Streets.  Smith Street was Highway 19 which connected Stratford to Pauls Valley, which was 18 miles to the west, and Ada, 18 miles to the east.

On that day there was a lot of excitement in town.  Stratford contained less than 2,000 residences, yet we had two good doctors.  The usual description was that about sixty percent of our population was made up of “old age pensioners.”  My grandparents were on the verge of entering that category.  The excitement that day was being generated by one of the physicians buying the first new automobile since 1941.  He had traveled to Pauls Valley to drive it home.  The yards were full of people waiting to catch a glimpse of this new car.

We waited.  It was an activity we had learned during the war.  One waited to hear from a loved one serving in one of the two theaters of conflict.  One waited to get an item that was rationed.  Although folks depended a lot on their Victory Gardens during the war, sometimes there was a waiting line at the one of our two grocery stores.  So, we waited.  Then, there was a shout.  “He’s coming!  He’s coming!”  Toward Pauls Valley you could see a tiny dot slowly becoming recognizable as a vehicle.  Whether it was a Ford, or Chevrolet I did not know.  It was a two-door coup.  It was brand new.  I’m sure it had that “new” smell, that is soon replaced by the scent of the owner’s cigarette.  It was the only brand-new car in Stratford.  Its purchase and appearance indicated that things were getting back to normal.  It also signaled that a new day was dawning.  The war had pulled us out of what was labeled “The Great Depression.”

With every change in society comes both the good and the bad.  In 1946 we were deeply patriotic and religious.  When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States went from a pacifist position to one of “where do I sign up?”  My dad was in the Navy and I had uncles in the Army.  Even children supported the war effort.  We did without things!  Our boys in uniform needed them.  We collected scrap metal for the war effort.  There were Bonds to buy to finance the war.  There were constant prayers for our service men and women.  It was quiet time for children and grandchildren when Gabriel Heatter, Edward R. Murrow, or one of the other notables gave us news from the front.

From the dawn of the public-school system until 1962, prayer was an important part of school activity.  Thanksgiving and Christmas plays were expected.  Christmas parties were permitted.  In 1962, the U.S. Supreme Court banned prayers in the classroom.  In 1963, the reading of scripture was stopped.  In 1980, the 10 Commandments, in all forms, were removed from State government buildings.  In 1992, ministers were no longer allowed to give the invocation or benediction in graduations ceremonies.  In 2000, prayer was removed from school football games.  The nation was being acclimated to humanism.  Man was being made the center of worship rather than God.

The Constitution is based upon the Bible.  However, 1962 introduced an erosion of ethics and morality to destroy that way of life.  Liberals began chiseling away at our biblical foundation.  We were being adapted to accept humanism at our religion.  In 2008 the Executive office began supplanting Christianity with Islam.  Executive orders allowed Muslims to practice what was off limits to Christians.  But these rulings also allowed the transgendered to use the bathroom of their choice!  Same sex marriages flourished.  Illegals was accepted and supported.  People wanted a free ride and expected it.  Kidnaping and selling children and young women to the slave sex market became big business!  Interstate 40 was the delivery highway for illegal drugs supplying the Eastern USA.  Citizens were turned against the police.  Godlessness was becoming the national symbol.  Our country was being driven toward bankruptcy and a classification as a Third World country.  Then something unusual and inexpiable happened.

It wasn’t supposed to happen.  The Democrat nominee had bought her nomination with millions of dollars.  This would not be revealed until November 2017.  Ballot boxes were corrupted.  She was supposed to win.  She had to win.  She was going to win!  The news media knew she was going to win and had already put her in office before all ballots were counted.  The Democrat Party knew she was going to win.  Hollywood knew she was going to win.  Voters on the left knew she was going to win.  Voters on the right were afraid she might win.  Anyone who was someone made their comments telling the world that her opponent would not and could not win!  A strange and contradictory thing happened.  She didn’t!  She lost!  At first, her loss was blamed upon the Electoral College.  Objectors claimed she won the popular vote.  Investigations proved she did not after the illegal ballots were discovered and disqualified.  She lost the electoral vote as well as the popular one.  How?  She had money behind her.  Powerful allies supported her.  Even the two past Republican Presidents voted for her!  Yet, she lost.  Liberals did not understand it.  They choked on their previous, prideful prophecies.  Mouths dropped open.  Words were lost.  The proverbial rug had been pulled.  Sadly, they refused to see the real “how” and “who” that brought about her defeat.

This nation attempted to kick God out in 1962.  He has been patient with us for 54 years.  But, God acted.  He took a former Democrat and made him President in November 2016.  Since elected, he has been lied about and his family had been grossly ridiculed.  The liberal news media even makes up news that is false to discredit him.  The last administration’s hounds have pursued him.  The things he has been charged with. his opponents have been found guilty of!  Yet, he continues to move this country toward God and greatness again.  He has had to put up with his own Party trying to discredit and derail him.  Yet, they too have failed.  Some don’t believe God is working in our history.

For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail.  But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39).

THE MASTER OF OFFENSE!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Jesus was sinless, yet his peers wanted to award him first prize as the master of offensive.  What did Jesus say or do that was so offensive?  Some thought it was terrible!  Some may have thought it too offensive to print, but Matthew did.  I don’t want to offend anyone by quoting it, but truth is truth and this truth needs to see the light of day!

On one occasion when he, a hometown carpenter who had become a Rabbi, was in Nazareth, he got up to teach in the local synagogue.  What was his offense?  First, he “amazed” them.  Second, he surprised them with his “wisdom.”  Third, he offended them with his “miraculous powers” (Matthew 13:53-57).  They asked, “Where then did this man get all these things?”  Then “they took offense at him.”  Another translation says, “they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him” (NLT).  In another translation, “Who does he think he is?” (The Message).   I am wondering if those who were outraged weren’t the biggest offenders?

The Greek word skandalizo is found 30 times in the KJV as “offend.”  Our word scandalize comes from that word.  Certain Jews considered Jesus’ teaching as heresy and blasphemous.  Offense is often in the eye of the beholder.  What one considers offensive another doesn’t.  These folks did!

At another time Matthew records this event, “Then Jesus called to the crowds and said, “Listen to what I say and try to understand:  You aren’t made unholy by eating non-kosher food! It is what you say and think that makes you unclean.”  The surprise is that the apostles sided with the crowd rather than Jesus.  “Then the disciples came and told him, ‘You offended the Pharisees by that remark.’” (Matthew 15:10-12 (TLB).

If the preacher is talking about someone else’s sin, we usually urge, “Preach On!”  When we recognize that the sin is ours, it’s time for him to “Move On!”  What did Jesus say that was so brutally ugly?  He mentioned what they ate wasn’t offensive, but what came out of their mouth could be.  Here was an audience that had refused to dine on catfish for sixteen hundred years being told it wasn’t what they ate that was offensive!  He rubbed it in by implying what they taught was.  What good, sound, faithful Christian wouldn’t be offended by such insinuations?  Since the apostles were defending the offended, they included themselves in that category.

It is not until later that Matthew informs us of a stinging denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees by Jesus (Matthew 23).  Just before this he had defeated every attempt on their part to destroy him with trick questions (Matthew 22).   Jesus did not surrender to the Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, scribes, or even his followers, but offered the truth to all.  Truth usually offends those who are uncomfortable in its presence.

When Paul was on trial and the offended Jews attempted to have him found guilty, his defense was, “I’ve done nothing wrong against the Jewish religion, or the Temple, or Caesar. Period.” (Acts 25:8 (Message).

Isn’t the same thing happening today?  Anything a Jesus believer does is offensive to someone.  The objections and ridicule heaped upon the Christian is categorized as non-offensive by the giver!  The Christian is offensive, because he is a Christian!  The world wants the Christian to keep his mouth shut and practice his faith behind his closed doors.  Their slogan is, “Out of sight, out of mind”!  If the Christian is offended by their language and demands, they think he is being “overly sensitive.”  Is it a sin for a Christian to defend himself?  Did Jesus?  Did Peter and John?  Did Stephen?  Did Paul?

A Christian must not present himself arrogantly.  He must not do so with false pride.  Jesus offended some, but his followers should not attempt to “out do him”!  Paul did command Timothy to, “Preach the word . . . rebuke, exhort . . .”  Jesus taught because he loved his students.  We are his followers!  Let us teach with the same spirit.

PRESUMPTUOUS RELIGION?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

In the late sixties I was asked, “What is the difference between Old and New Testament worship?”  Although there is a huge difference, some continue to mix the two without realizing it.  For example, in a recent article, the following three sentences caught my attention.  See if you notice the “mixture”?

“The ultimate sin that Nadab and Abihu were guilty of is being presumptuous in their worship.  God must be regarded as holy by those who come near Him and before all the people He must be glorified. When we choose to act carelessly in our worship and not treat the Lord with reverence, we are offering unauthorized worship to God.”

Nadab and Abihu were two of four brothers born to Aaron and Elisheba (Exodus 6:23).  Nadab was the firstborn, Abihu followed (Numbers 3:2).  They were ordained to minister in the Tabernacle (Exodus 28:1).  Their sin is found in Leviticus 10:1-2; Numbers 3:4; 26:61; and 1 Chronicles 24:2.  Their duty was to light the incense.  God prescribed where they were to get the “starter.”  Years later, Zachariah, the father of John the immerser, had no problem in following these simple commands (Luke 1:6, 8-10).  These two brothers did.

Since the two older brothers were punished, Moses selected the two younger ones to take their place.  He prescribed two things to them.  First, they were not to drink wine nor consume other fermented nourishment before entering the Tabernacle.  Second, “You must distinguish between what is sacred and what is common, between what is ceremonially unclean and what is clean” (Leviticus 10:10 (NLT).  Some commentators have suggested that the guilty duo were double wrong!  They had been drinking and the “strange fire” did not originate from the correct starter (Leviticus 16:12).  Their actions pointed toward a disregard for the sacred, by substituting what was common, and replacing the clean with the unclean!  Whether alcohol was the problem is not made clear, although Moses introduced it as a follow-up restriction for the two replacements.

However, neither the correct nor incorrect worship of these two brothers is parallel with New Testament worship.  We don’t have special “worship” clothing.  If someone takes medication with alcohol as its base, they have not committed a sin.   There is no such thing as a sacred dwelling, furniture, nor utensils to make “common” or “unclean.”  In fact, a lot of the dialogue we use to describe New Testament worship, refers to the Old Testament kind!

In the second sentence, the writer states, “God must be regarded as holy by those who come near Him.”  Is that “near him” only when we assembly three times each week?  Perhaps the writer did not mean to leave that impression, but there it is!  That is Old Testament worship, not the New (John 4:23-24).  Jews went to the Temple, to be in the presence of God.  Where is the location in our city one must be in, to be “near Him”?  Is it 1490 Campbell Street where our assembly room is located?  When God added the “about three thousand” to the saved, were they not “in” the “body of Christ”?  Didn’t God’s Spirit dwell in them as His temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 19-20)?  If God dwells in us, how could we not be “near Him” even though our physical location may not be the 1490 one?  God seeks those who are “near Him” to worship Him.  If being “near Him” is 1490 Campbell Street, and I’m at the corner of Oilwell Road and 45 Bypass, I’m separated from His “nearness” by 3 to 4 miles!  Isn’t THAT an Old Testament concept rather than the New?  If worship is something done when I come “near Him,” wouldn’t that infer that the “coming before” and “glorifying” Him is a part time worship?  Do I “regard” Him “as holy” only in those times that I “come near Him” at a certain location for worship?  Isn’t that idea the opposite of the worship Jesus was describing to that Samaritan woman?

The writer’s second statement is, “When we choose to act carelessly in our worship and not treat the Lord with reverence, we are offering unauthorized worship to God.”  If Nadab and Abihu had attempted to perform their worship without the prescribed “priestly wear,” it would have ended the same way because they would not be revering Him (Leviticus 10:2).  “Reverence” was tied in with their “priestly garb.”  Some carry the “garb” idea over into the John 4:23-24 worship!  That idea is that one cannot revere or respect God without the “priestly garb.” In our culture, that would be our “Sunday best.”  If we are going to mix the old with the new, perhaps we need to wear what Nadab and Abihu did, not substitute our cultural attire!  After all, the New Testament is a better covenant, so shouldn’t we wear something that is more expensive than what they were required to put on!  If one doesn’t worship God until he is in the right place, which for them was the sanctuary, then perhaps we need to refer to “the auditorium” as “the sanctuary,” since that is where we are “near Him”!  May we substitute our “auditorium” label, which is not in scripture, for the one that is?  If we mix, shouldn’t we match?

The writer was trying to show that we must not add to our worship as they added the “strange fire” to theirs.  However, when the writer brings the Old Testament concept of worship into the New, doesn’t he open Pandora’s Box?  Isn’t he adding?  If one may bring that concept over into the new and apply it, then part of that concept includes all their instruments (Psalm 150:1-6)!  If we aren’t careful, we could end up being just as “presumptuous” as Nadab and Abihu were!

TWO EMOTIONAL ASSEMBLIES!

Monday, November 6, 2017

What if Acts 5:1-11 was a common occurrence in today’s church?  Allow me to refresh your memory.  A man and his wife wanted to be bragged on as much or more than Barnabas (Cf. 4:34-37).  Brother “encouragement’s” giving was for the right reason, theirs wasn’t.  Their thinking got them noticed, but not how they wanted!  The husband attended the early service.  Peter was in charge and asked him why he was lying about his contribution.   It wasn’t the sermon Ananias expected.  He had a drop-dead response.  You could hear jaws dropping.  It was now a wide eyed, attentive audience.  Too emotional for some!  The church’s burial committee took over that part of the worship by taking the body away for the unscheduled funeral. At first there had been an awkward shock of silence.  This was followed by a congregational gasp, trailed by more silence.  Then a buzz of assembly whispering ignited, rising to a more excitable level.  Peter called for silence, then discussed why God’s Spirit had taken this course.

Three hours later, sister Sapphira made her grand entrance to the second assembly, expecting accolades.  Since Peter had double duty that Sunday, he immediately questioned her about their contribution.  All eyes were locked on her.  She suspected nothing.  She had everyone’s attention, but not because of her “generous” gift.  Peter’s face wasn’t showing appreciation nor were his words filled with praise.  He was asking, not congratulating.  Her replies were no better than her husbands.  She joined his journey!  A reporter from The Jerusalem Daily had been invited by a friend to attend.  Shock almost stole the story unfolding before him.  He was expecting two songs and a prayer type service.  He recovered from this surprise and rushed out to publish about this Christian worship service.  The burial committee returned.  Although tired from the last church job, they threw themselves back into the Lord’s work and carried her body away.  They didn’t wait for the closing prayer.  The rest of the membership yearned for that prayer, so they could tell others about the great worship service they had been in!  Two deaths in one day at two different assemblies.  A record had been set!  This event put fear in both church members and those who weren’t.  Some wondered if this was a plague whose boundaries would not end with a closing prayer?

If the happenings of Acts 5 took place today in our political correctness atmosphere, would some in the congregation demand an audience with Peter to inform him to “cut it out.”  Would the church develop a new slogan, “Dead members do not a living church make”!  Would their cry be, “People will be afraid to attend our assemblies!”  A prepared leadership might respond that no one had anything to fear unless they were lying about their contribution!  Being sensible, concerned saints would recognize that answer as reasonable.  But, the next Sunday, they probably would keep the burial committee on standby, just in case.

Some might have wondered, “If a lie about my contribution gets me killed, what about a lie concerning my failure to attend?”  “What about a lie concerning the amount I am giving which I could increase if I didn’t want what I don’t really need?”  “What about all those ‘reasons’ I’ve been using about my influence, which I know are just lies?”  Yet, despite the shock and fear being expressed, people were being added to the Lord.  They were also being healed (5:12-16).  Growth not exiting was the results!

If Acts 5 was played out in modern assemblies, not everyone would be required to attend the earliest one.  If Sapphira’s attendance is a hint, the first one lasted almost three hours.  Was that also true of the second, third and fourth assemblies?  After all, the church had eight thousand plus members.  They would not have the architectural plans in hand, much less be started on construction.  Wherever they were meeting, there was no clock on the back wall to remind Peter to cut it short!  That also means that the synagogue Jews beat the Christians to Hezekiah’s Cracker Barrel!

We also notice the absence of several things in these two assemblies that we often see in ours.  I’m not sure when those things began nor why.  They were later additions.  I’m not sure why no further deaths are reported.  Maybe people stopped lying about their contribution?  Years later, two older members were heard to remark, “We just don’t have gospel preaching like we did when Peter was in the pulpit.”

CHOOSE A HATRED!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Why do people hate? Harry Emerson Fosdick stated, “Hating people is like burning down your own house to get rid of the rats.” Ishmael and Isaac’s descendants have been in a conflict for years. French citizens, from my father and grandfather’s generation, didn’t like Germans after two world wars. Some soldiers and Marines didn’t think too highly of the Japanese soldiers in the Pacific. Jews didn’t win popularity contests in Nazi Germany. In school, there was the proverbial bully and the “picked upon.” There are pet names that one nationality uses to degrade another. Matthew, due to his profession, didn’t win a popularity contest among Jewish zealots. On such occasions, love is seldom the motivator!

When one person feels superior to another, there is a tendency to depreciate the lesser of the two. Such attitudes do not generate respect for the classifiers. Jesus’ instruction to turn the other cheek gets lost in such merry-go-rounds.

Hate thrives and grows in such debates. It becomes a two way super highway, where it accelerates. Hate takes Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, and rewrites it. “Hate” is substituted for “love” and the results is an indictment against humanity!

When Jesus named the Roman sympathizer Matthew and Simon Zealot (Luke 6:15) as apostles, hate had a field day. Simon was a redneck, apple pie, flag waving individual that thought a dead Roman sympathizer was a good one. Matthew wasn’t popular with any of the apostles at first. Perhaps Jesus chose him to teach all of them a lesson.

Not all hatred is sinful. For example in the Old Testament there are passages which state, “You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalm 97:10 NKJV) and “A righteous man hates lying” (Proverbs 13:5). Even God is said to hate “These six things” (Proverbs 6:16-19). The Bible reveals the right and wrong kind. The selection is a choice!

Satan makes his kind of hating an easy option to acquire. One may quickly earn his doctorate! Some believe that turning the other cheek means to not offend those who believe you are wrong. Some have the idea that a real Christian is one “who comes to be taught, not to teach others.” Even the apostles were upset because they thought Jesus was offensive (Matthew 15:12). Later, Peter followed in Jesus’ footprints by offending the priest and Sadducees with his teaching. However, five thousand still believed (Acts 4:1-4). If Peter had been politically correct to win friends and influence people, the five thousand would have continued buying into their false thoughts.

Jesus is offensive to other religions. They are offended by his claim to be the Son of God. They are offended by the message of the resurrection. They are offended because his way, truth, and life is not theirs. They are offended because the ethics of Jesus are hated by a world that is enamored with Satan’s “righteous lie”!

There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness” (Proverbs 30:12).

There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).

In those days . . . everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6).

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 myths (lies)” (2 Timothy 4:2-4).

HOLY TRADITIONS?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Man made religious traditions have been around for a long time.  They existed before Jesus was born.  The synagogue practice began while the Jews were in Babylonian captivity.  Jesus taught in the synagogue without condemning it as a human innovation.  When Jesus engaged in the Passover meal, he practiced a man made addition.  Four cups of wine were added to that scriptural feast.  Jesus used the last cup to institute his memorial supper (Luke 22:15-20).  He did not believe this addition was sinful.  Yet, he was negative about other traditions (Matthew 15:9).  What is the difference between an acceptable tradition and one that isn’t?

Do we make a tradition into a “thus saith the Lord”?  Do we believe our tradition makes us spiritually superior to those who do not engage in it?  Does it lead us away from a biblical truth into a false concept?  Is it less than, or more than what first century saints engaged in?  If so, does it make any difference?

Most are familiar with Jesus’ dialogue with the Samaritan woman and can quote John 4:24, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”  However, in attempting to explain that worship, some get lost!  Here is an example, “We are going to worship.”

The phrase is not in scripture.  It is closer in describing Old Testament worship which Jesus said would no longer be confined to, “this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem.” (John 4:21).  Some believe they “go” to a certain place to worship, because they will be in God’s presence.  Since they believe God meets them there, the place takes on a “holy” atmosphere!  Due to this perceived “holiness,” the attendees believe they must present themselves before Him in a respectful and reverent manner.  The outward appearance becomes just as important as the inward man!  Rules that categorize that appearance materialize.  Scripture tells us which “man” God notice?  Do we?

Some also entertain the idea that worship is a Sunday, 11 to noon activity.   This categorizes the Christian life.  We give God one, two, or three hours each week in worship, and the rest belongs to us.  One style of life at the church building while in God presence, a different one when we are on our own!

What is “worship”?  Some will quote John 4:24.  That doesn’t detail for us the “acts” related to being in “spirit” and in “truth.”  Some point out that it is singing, praying, preaching, giving, and communion.”  Ephesians 5:19, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 2 Timothy 4:2, 1 Corinthians 16:1-3, and Matthew 26:26-29 are cited as proof.  They may be, but the fact remains that God never describes them with the word “worship” in those citations nor in others.

What some describe as worship is what they practice.  How many preachers question the contributors about their giving?  Do these givers lay their gift at his feet (Acts 5:1-11)?   Is our first day of the week collection for only one purpose and that purpose is not for local expenses (1 Corinthians 16:1-3)?  We assume first century men and women sang soprano, alto, tenor and bass, but they didn’t.  We don’t have a person to come before the Sunday assembly with a brand-new song and sing it for us so we will learn the words and melody.  We don’t have nine speakers in an assembly: 3 prophets, 3 tongue speakers, and 3 interpreters.  We certainly don’t have unbelievers coming in to worship by falling on the floor and telling us that God is with us!  Our prayers are different from the Jerusalem church in that we end ours, “In the name of Jesus.”  We don’t meet at night to partake of the Lord supper and continue until daybreak.  Most do not meet in houses all over town.  Neither did they use a lot of the religious vocabulary that we do.  Does one sin by using these expressions?  Are they biblical?

Worship is not a one to three-hour weekly activity.  Didn’t that idea have its roots in Catholicism, with Protestantism adopting it?  Paul told the Romans,

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship(Romans 12:1).

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks(John 4:23, Emphasis mine, RH).

If we limit biblical worship, are we not guilty of practicing a devotion that is less than what Paul outlined?  If we practice more than what they did, isn’t that going beyond what was engaged in by first century saints?  If either direction is scripturally permitted, then subtracting nor adding are sinful!  Are we at fault by making “worship” a part time “living sacrifice”?  Is Christianity a part time faith?

Wouldn’t the answer depend upon whether our practice is the type Jesus commended rather than condemned?

“I PREACH . . .?”

Monday, October 30, 2017

The apostle Paul wrote, “I was appointed a preacher” (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11).  I was appointed when the Wapanucka, Oklahoma church hired me in August 1957 to preach each Sunday morning.  Over the past sixty years I have been asked multiple times if I preached “Church of Christ doctrine.”  My answer has been, “No, I preach the word of God.”  I certainly hope that has been true, but as inconsistent as mankind is, probably not!

Is it possible for any minister today to preach what Peter (Acts 2, 10), Stephen (Acts 7), Philip (Acts 8), or Paul (Acts 13ff) taught?  What would keep a group of folks from teaching “the apostles’ doctrine” (Acts 2:42) as the first century assembly did?  Would that doctrine or teaching include what is being preached in modern pulpits?

In today’s Christianity, each church has the Bible plus (+) it’s specific teaching that makes that person different from someone in another denomination.  For example, the Methodist Discipline does not produce a Baptist.  The Baptist Manual does not make one a Catholic.  The Catholic Catechism does not create a Jehovah’s Witness.  I’m sure you understand the point?!  The question we need to ask is, “What did apostolic doctrine produce on the day of Pentecost and afterwards?”  Although today’s churches preach some of the same things taught in the first century, our recognized differences separate us, just as “of Paul,” “of Apollos,” “of Cephas,” and “of Christ” did (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  Although none of those four taught different gospels, “preacher love” created four divisive denominations.  It still happens today!  Most recognize that Paul is not praising them for that division.  Paul reminded them that “God is not the author of confusion” (1 Corinthians 14:33).  Guess who is the author of division?

Since all our present divisions or denominating were created years after the first century, Paul’s correction applies just as much to us as it did to the “church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Although time has softened our outlook on division, and since it has continued rather than curtailed, most have decided to live with it.  No church has escaped the devil’s lie.  A yesteryear radio evangelist often asked, “Are you listening?”

Is it possible to be added to the saved, as those on Pentecost were, and “devote ourselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayer” (Acts 2:42) without our additions?  If we taught exactly as they did and practiced what they engaged in, in the name of Jesus, wouldn’t we be what Peter told them to praise God in (1 Peter 4:16)?  Most believe that their denomination or division doesn’t save them.   If it will not save us, why do we allow it to divide us!

Denominating has become an accepted way of thinking.  It is almost impossible to visualize the first century church outside our own denominational prejudices.   We find it difficult to address one another as “Christian,” reverting to our denominational titles as if Peter wanted them used to praise God rather than what he wrote!  We proudly tell the world that we are a Jehovah’s Witness, Adventist, Mormon, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Catholic, or Pentecostal.  If asked, “Are you not a Christian?” the reply may be, “Oh!  Yes, I am a Christian to.”  Unconsciously we put “Christian” in second place!  Yet, the name “Christian” isn’t what divides us!  We are divided by what is not essential to our salvation!

Is it possible for all followers of Jesus to be “one” as he prayed (John 17:20-21)?  What did one who was “of Paul” have to relinquish?  Whatever made one “of Paul” or “of Apollos” had to be abandoned.  Wouldn’t that be the case today?

The 120, which became the “about 3,000,” grew another 5,000 with all being added to “the saved” by the Lord (Acts 2:41; 47 ASV-NIV).  This happened without a single denomination being created.  Are our additions essential to make Yahweh’s addition complete?  Wouldn’t God’s adversary be the one who is convincing us that Acts 2 is a Don Quixote adventure?

What doctrine was Peter preaching on Pentecost?  Didn’t it produce the saved number who are later referred to as “the body of Christ”?  Did Peter preach denominational doctrine or the good news of Jesus?  Did Philip preach denominational doctrine to the eunuch?  Did Peter preach it to the house of Cornelius?  Did Paul and Silas preach such to the jailer and his family?

If one preaches what inspired men taught, to what body would God add them?  What would they preach?  What would be their doctrine?  What would their practice be?  Wouldn’t it be the Bible without the stuff that has been added since inspiration closed?

Hermeneutics are used by Satan to fool the disciple into believing his pattern is from the Lord.  Comfort zone and “I like or don’t like,” are tools he enjoys working with.  The denominationalism that began in Corinth has offspring that continue to bring confusion among Jesus followers today.  We can either question our traditions and expose them for what they are, or we can use them as a comfortable blanket, wrapping ourselves with their indifference.  Remember, Paul’s admonition is to the church in Jackson just as much as it was to “the church of God in Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10-13)

My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me(John 17:20-21).

THE GOD OF ENCOURAGEMENT!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Jesus told the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).  Did she?

Have you ever read the following passage where Jesus states, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)?  Did you think he was saying, “if you sin again, it means you did not really repent, so your last sin and this one is going to condemn you to hell”?  When Jesus told that woman, “Go, and sin no more,” did he mean she was never to sin again?  Never?  If so, how long do you think she managed to be perfect?  Reality shows that our brush with sinlessness is brief.  We all have a Master’s Degree in Sinning (Romans 3:10, 23)!

Have you ever had a bad habit?  When you recognized it as bad and quit, did you slip into reverse gear a few times?  Most do.  Did you beat yourself up each time you failed?  Most do.

I started smoking when I was 14.  At 17, when I decided I wanted to preach, I quit, but not without a roller coaster struggle.  At 18 I found that other preachers, in my Methodist faith, smoked.  So, I followed their example and restarted.  I smoked until I was 20.  I decided I needed to stop again, but I experienced that same ride.  It was expensive to buy a pack of cigarettes, smoke one, get that satisfaction, crumple the package and throw it in the trash.  Then, an hour later, digging it out and kicking myself for being so destructive!  I would manage to find a short piece of cigarette and almost burn my nose lighting it.  I would take a few puffs to get the satisfaction.  I would throw the package away after double destroying it, and then beat myself up for being so weak.  I imagined that God was very angry with my weakness, and didn’t care to have me in His sight.  I even wondered if He had kicked me out of His fellowship until I remained on the straight and narrow?  If someone had said at that time, “God is good,” I would not have agreed with him.  Maybe He was good to them, but He didn’t like me because I was a miserable failure.  I was a repeating failure!

How many saved sinners believe God decrees that unless you live a sinless life after He saves you, you are a liability rather than an asset?  If you are in the process of cleaning up your life, but haven’t immediately gone from sinner to perfection, He is wondering if He made a mistake by saving you?   Some do not see Yahweh as a loving, benevolent, patient, kind, understanding, encouraging, nor helpful God while His children are going through their trials.  They see Him as judgmental, hateful, desiring to punish, and a disappointed Creator that feels compelled to destroy rather than save.  It is difficult, with that mind set to believe that Yahweh is the God of John 3:16!

Peter tells us “as newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).  We start as babes in Christ and mature.  But it takes time.  Some are slower in that growth.  Is God a monster waiting for His children to err so He can scream at and beat them senseless?  I’ve been preaching for 60 years, and I am still a babe in some areas of my spiritual life.  In others, hopefully more mature?  He does not abandon me in my faltering steps.  When I stumble, He is there to catch and steady me.  The song, “My God and I” expresses His fellowship with His children.  God has been overly patient with me.  The devil is the one who discourages, but God is our encourager.  Don’t get them mixed up!   Some do.

God is my Father and I am His precious child.  He loves me.  He helps me.  He builds me up.  He comforts me.  He lets me know that I am forgiven and worthy.  He knows I am not perfect, so He fills me with His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He knows I will come up short, but He gives me support and stability.  He helps me stay on course, even when my feet wander, and my sight is blurred.  He feels my hurt.  He knows my heart.  He gives me assurance.  He hears my adolescent prayers, yet reacts with a Father’s smile.  He is my rock and defender.  He is my God and His name is Jehovah Saves (Matthew 1:21)!

________________

My God And I*

by Austris A. Whithol

1935

My God and I go in the fields together;

We walk and talk as good friends should and do;

We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter;

My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.

 

My God and I will go for aye together,

We’ll walk and talk as good friends should and do;

This earth will pass, and with it common trifles,

But God and I will go unendingly.

* I have included only verses one and three.

FACT OR FICTION?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

To be pleasing to God, one must have perfect obedience and maintain it to be saved?  Fact or Fiction?

The congregation that one is a member of must be perfect in teaching and practice to go to heaven, just like Jerusalem, Ephesus, Sardis, Corinth, and Laodicea?  Fact or Fiction?

Our righteous obedience is 50% of our sin payment and Jesus death on the cross is the other 50%?  Fact or Fiction?

Because God focuses on the external more than the internal, Jesus wore a suit, tie, shirt, socks, and shined shoes to show his respect and reverence to Him when he presided over the communion!  Fact or Fiction?

God changed the practice of contributors laying their collection at the feet of the preacher because it was too embarrassing to do it that way?  Fact or Fiction?

Instruction is given in the New Testament showing the collection was used to build a meeting place, so rules could later be created making it sinful to eat a “fellowship meal,” put up basketball goals, or to limit the use of it for anything not worship related?  Fact or Fiction?

In one day, the first century church grew from 120 believers to about 3,000 due to their magnificent building, their Sunday School program, a prestigious preacher, their handout literature, their door to door work, VBS, influential members, their evangelistic budget, their “feel good” lessons, and due to the support of the governor and the high court of their city?  Fact or Fiction?

The word “Amen” is found 51 times in the New Testament.  In every case where it is located, the prayer ends with the same dialogue we use in our private and public petitions?  Fact or Fiction?

Priscilla scripturally taught a preacher the word of God without violating 1 Timothy 2:11-12 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, because she did it outside the Sunday morning church assembly.  But the Bible shows she would have violated those passages if she had taught Apollos the Bible in the church’s Bible class room, if such had existed in her day?  Fact or Fiction?

All first century congregations in their work and worship practiced the same regardless of their cultural or biblical background?  Fact or Fiction?

New Testament congregations began their “worship service” with an opening prayer, and ended the “worship service with a closing prayer?  Fact or Fiction?

Only one New Testament assembly is described having worship performed in it.  Paul describes all five acts of worship?  Fact or Fiction?

In Acts 2:42 the expression “breaking of bread” is mentioned, as well as the expression, “break bread” in Acts 2:46.  Luke tells us the first one is the Lord’s supper, but the second one is just a common meal the church ate together?  Luke does the same thing in Acts 20:7 and in verse 11.  Fact or Fiction?

Luke tells us the eunuch in Acts 8 was baptized to be obedient, but it was not essential?  Fact or Fiction?

There are many things which are believed and practiced today which aren’t described in the New Testament.  Most originated with man, but often are looked upon as required by God!  Some believe they are more spiritual if they follow these traditions?  Fact or Fiction?

Perhaps a study of God’s word is needed to see what it states!

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”  (John 5:39).

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work(2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”  (2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV).

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