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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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ON BENDED KNEE?

Monday, September 17, 2018

“On bended knee I come, with a humble heart I come;

Bowing down before Your holy throne.

Lifting holy hands to You, As I pledge my love a – new, –

I worship You in spirit, I worship you in truth;

Make my life a holy praise unto You.”

 

Paul told the Corinthians church, “I will sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

If we were in pre-school through the third grade, we might animate our singing by doing what the words state in the above song.  We would bend the knee or bow down, as well as raise up holy hands (1 Timothy 2:8).   But, wouldn’t that only be in a VBS or a child’s class?  Adults would sing the words but never put them into action.   When we sing this song, we are either standing or sitting.  Isn’t that an action?  Most never bend a knee nor bow down.  One or two might lift up holy hands, but that isn’t the common practice followed by most worshipers.

When we sing the “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” outlined in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, do we mean what we are singing?  Paul was admonishing the Corinthians to sing with understanding.  Do we?  We sing the words of the last two lines above, but is our singing as stated in the song — “in spirit, I worship you in truth”?  We sing one song by saying, “I love you Lord.”  Are those just words, like “on bended knee I come” or “lifting holy hands to You.”  Is our heart involved in doing what we sing?  Paul tells two congregations to make “melody in your heart to the Lord” and “singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”  What if the mechanics of singing acappella is correct, but “in our heart” is missing?

Is our worship performed out of habit or is it in giving honor to God and edifying one another?  If it is habitual, is it the kind of worship being accomplished which Jesus spoke about in John 4:23-24?  Is it personal or put on?  It might be routine but is it “in spirit and in truth”?

If, because of the wording of this song we bowed down on our knees and raise our hands, are we only crossing things off our “to do list”?  Innocent habits may turn into traditions which future generations will address as “law.”  In some songs, at certain places, we clap.  In other songs that habit has not been established.  If we do something out of habit, rather than “in our heart,” are we still “in spirit and in truth”?  Why clap on one song but not others?  These questions are not written to condemn, only to make us aware of our actions which we label as “worship.”  When we sing, “On bending knee I come,” are we practicing what we sing?  Perhaps the words are poetic and meant metaphorically?

If I am singing the words, but disconnected from their message, what happens to the “in spirit and in truth” part?  If I justify myself by saying, “Everyone does it,” does that make it right?  What if that song had been written as . . .

 

Standing or sitting I come, with a humble heart I come;

Bowing my head before Your holy throne.

Tapping my foot to You, As I pledge my love a – new, –

I worship You in spirit, I worship you in truth;

Make my life a holy praise unto You.”

 

Would that have more meaning and be in tune with my actions while singing it?

The lesson?

I will sing with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Only a thought.

SO FAR AWAY?

Thursday, September 13, 2018

When I went to Russia for the first time in 1992, we visited the first McDonalds to be established in Moscow.  The square was filled with young people.  The line stretched for a block and a half.  At first, I thought they were all Americans because they wore what our youth did.  Yet, they were Russians. They looked like us, but they weren’t.  Have you noticed how often Christians do that?  We dress like the world.  We talk like the world.  We even think like the world.  When we do, we are putting Jesus on the back burner.  Why?  Because this is the “here and now,” and heaven seems so far away!  Religion becomes an emergency cell phone to only call the Divine 911.  However, until faith in Jesus becomes our daily garment, we will be nothing more than flashlights with dead batteries.  How far away is heaven for you?

That condition isn’t reserved for the young or middle aged only.  It infects the older generations too.  Sin comes in different shades.  Satan convinces us that our shade isn’t as bad as another person’s.  The thought is advanced that even though we are guilty, we can repent after self is satisfied.  Eve thought the forbidden was good, pleasant, and desirable (Genesis 3:6).  She probably thought, “Since God made everything good, why isn’t it good enough to eat” (Genesis 1:3, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).  Since God made everything good, isn’t the next logical step, “Since everything is good, and that good is pleasant to behold, it must be God’s dessert just waiting for us to taste.”  Logic certainly would be in favor of adding, “anything that is good to eat and pleasant to behold, must have been put here by God to make us wise.”  Perhaps Adam was so silent in all this because he was dumbfounded by his beautiful wife’s logic?  In fact, don’t we continue to mimic it today?

The Old Testament speaks well of David.  He is held in high esteem by the Jews.  The New Testament places him in “Faith’s Hall of Fame” (Hebrews 11:32).  Despite his faith, the following passage is a glaring reminder that none are perfect, and all need the Lord.

For David had done what was right in the eyes of the LORD and had not failed to keep any of the LORD’s commands all the days of his life–except in the case of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5.  Also see Romans 3:10, 23).

I cannot make myself perfect.  That is not my goal.  Jesus can make me perfect through his blood and God’s grace.  Heaven may seem far away, but the distance need not to be measured if we put our complete trust in Jesus now!

DROWNING IN HATE!

Monday, September 10, 2018

I’m 81 years old.  In those years I have never seen as much hate manifested as is found in this country today.  Hatred has an awesome penalty.  It destroys the one who is infected.  Hitler and the Nazi Party had a passionate hate for Jews.  They were successful in murdering six million.  Despite Hitler’s efforts, Jews continued to thrive, even reestablishing themselves in Palestine in 1948.  Where is Hitler and his Party today?

Hatred is an ugly weapon created to destroy another.  It attracts added companions to hurt those who are hated.   One may be so riddled with hate that he vomits volumes of lies labeled as truth.  Blindness is married to both allowing the initiator to justify his ownership of all three.

If hatred, lying, and blindness isn’t enough, the person allows himself to be infected with a false sense of righteousness.  He justifies the riots, violence, and lawbreaking because the government is oppressing the downtrodden.  Some will quote Peter’s words in Acts 5:29, “We ought to obey God rather than men” as their marching banner.  Peter wasn’t questioning the oppression brought on by the occupation of Roman troops.  He wasn’t preaching that the high priests were little more than puppets of Rome.  The court wanted Peter to stop teaching about Jesus.  The church did not mobilize Christians to protest against Rome with riots, violence, ransacking stores, or burning peoples’ property.  The church didn’t pray for courage to get in the face of others and dirty their faces with profanity.  Such actions would not be the spirit of Christ!

Hate causes neighbors to be intolerant of one another.  It drives believers to avoid other saints, erasing their brotherhood fellowship.  It eats away at the spiritual heart, replacing it with a cold and uncompromising one.  Smiles turn into misery that cannot heal nor comfort.  Friendships are strained to the breaking point.  Some snap.  Valid communication is lost.  Neither the hater nor the hated profit from such actions.  When such takes place, look around.  Search diligently.  Satan is somewhere close!  His heart surgery has been successful!

IMPOSSIBLE COMMANDS?

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

A simple command given by an apostle.  Paul is giving an inspired statement.  Commentaries suggest his meaning.  Despite some being excellent, none are in the category of inspiration.  We may pick the one that agrees with our thoughts, but they remain as human assumptions.  What follows is also in that category!

The statement is found in Paul’s letter to the Thessalonian church.  His command is in three words in English, probably less in Greek.  Paul is ending his letter with short commands with this one being in second place.

Paul does not explain the parameters of this statement.  “Pray without ceasing.”  A divine command.  At face value, isn’t this command impossible?  “Pray without ceasing.”  We give ourselves an “out” with, “What Paul meant was to have a habit of praying, not that we are in a 24/7 prayer.”  Perhaps the command is like Paul’s “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) or “Cease not to give thanks” (Ephesians 1:16) or “always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10)?  Are the Holy Spirit’s statements “without ceasing,” “always,” and “Cease not” restricted to set times during the day or week?  If so, could that mean that the rest of the time prayer, rejoicing, or thanks may be neglected?  Isn’t that like a person who dresses in his “Sunday best” to show respect for God while in the Sunday morning assembly?  However, on Sunday and Wednesday nights, our “Sunday best” is not required!  Wouldn’t that mean we are without what makes us respectful because we left it in the closet?

Is the expression “pray without ceasing” limited to those times one words a prayer?  To demand that “without ceasing” requires a 24/7 action makes it impossible to obey.  Doesn’t everyone need to have his Eutychus time without falling from a window (Acts 20:9)?  If praying without ceasing may be obeyed by one being in an attitude of prayer without specifically wording it, is it possible that one could also be in that same attitude concerning things one usually prays for?

In our family devotions my wife will sometimes mention, “You forgot to pray for. . .”  We will usually bow our heads again and mention that specific person or activity in the added prayer.  But, is it necessary?  If we are obedient to that command through an attitude of prayer, isn’t it remembered by God without our putting it into words?  If you are in the habit of praying prior to sleep, but it catches you before you’re finished, have you neglected prayer?   I’ve heard people say, “I went to sleep before I asked God to forgive me.  What if I had died in my sleep?”  Does God know our heart?  Doesn’t He know our tomorrows?  Remember, He isn’t restricted to our shortcomings!

Does God hold forgiveness from us until we vocally or mentally say, “Forgive me”?  If so, then you better not go to sleep before you express those two words, or you are damned forever if you die.  Does God listen to a person’s prayer and turn to the angels and say, “Well, we’re losing another one to Satan because he went to sleep before he asked for forgiveness!”?  If that is the case, then any prayer that absentmindedly leaves an item out, isn’t going to be answered even though God knows all.  Don’t close your prayer without telling God how much you love Him.  If you forget, He may think you don’t!  If you died before telling Him, He may announce to the angels that you did not love Him due to that slight!

I know these are just my thoughts.  I’ve added my assumptions.  So, what are yours concerning Paul and the Holy Spirit’s statement, “Pray without ceasing”?

BROW BEAT OR BUILD UP?

Monday, September 3, 2018

Have you ever taken an excellent idea to your boss and had cold water poured on your proposal?  There is an element in the world that wants to discourage and beat you down.  Some refer to it as “dumb luck.”  Others describe it as “The cards played against you.”  Some blame God.  Some recognize “the god of this world” as the one who is responsible (2 Corinthians 4:4; John 3:19b).  He is the great deceiver (2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:14; 2 Thessalonians 2:9).  Everyone needs encouragement.  We need to be built up.  It takes ten compliments to overcome one negative remark.  We need moral support.  We need compliments.  More people die of broken hearts than of swelled heads.  We ought to be each other’s cheerleader, believing in and praising one another.  The church is God’s praise team.  Paul said, “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another(I Thessalonians 5:11).

In the first century, Christians slaves needed encouragement if they belonged to a harsh master.  They were never instructed to run away or harm their masters (Ephesians 6:5-8; Colossians 3:22-25).  Jesus called two men to be his apostles and both hated the other.  Matthew was a tax collector and was in fellowship with the Roman government.  Simon was a zealot who would rather kill a Jewish traitor than pray with him.  Yet, Jesus changes hearts.  Differences needed to be addressed.  Foundations of friendship must be built.  When that foundation is laid, love is the builder.  If that is off limits in the assembly, that assembly shouldn’t exist.  Notice Paul’s instruction to the Ephesians and Colossians.

Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

Some only notice the expression “singing” and the absence of a mechanical instrument of music in these passages.  An assembly may “sing” without a mechanical instrument until doomsday, but if the “one another” is missing, there is an absent of the “in spirit and in truth” worship (John 4:23-24)!  Satan has been working overtime with his deception.  He suggests rules to regulate “in spirit and in truth” turning true worship into a twin of the lie given in the garden (Genesis 3:4).

When Paul wrote to the church in Galatia, he stated, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.   Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”  (Galatians 6:1-2).

On the beginning day of the church Luke records that they “continued steadfastly” in:

  1. The apostles’ teaching.
  2. Fellowship.
  3. Breaking of bread.
  4. Prayers.
  5. Wonders and signs performed by the apostles.
  6. Had all things common.
  7. Gave to those who had need.
  8. Ate with gladness and singleness of heart.
  9. And praised God.

What was the results of such assemblies?

  1. A good reputation among the folks in Jerusalem.
  2. The Lord added to the saved daily (Acts 2:41-47)!

This was done without radio, TV, Internet, newspaper or mail out ads.

It was done without beautiful church buildings or attractive street signs.

It was done in a city hostile to Jesus and his followers (Acts 4:1-3, 17-18, 21; 5:13, 18, 28, 33, 40).

Do we assemble to speak and admonish one another?  Do we edify or build up?  If we don’t do the first part of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, do we really accomplish the last sections?

ARE YOU PERFECTED?

Thursday August 30, 2018

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

This passage has been interpreted several ways.  Some believe it refers to one being sinless as God is.  Another thinks it means one’s love must equal God’s.  As one brother stated, “Whatever it means, we don’t do it.”

God adds sinners to the saved.  Yet, we continue to sin!  If we continue to sin after being added, how can we obey Jesus’ command in Matthew 5:48?  Doesn’t “sin” indicate human failure?

Who is perfect?  Jesus!  Who saves us?  Jesus!  Whose blood washes away all our sins?  Jesus’!  Who made it possible for us to receive God’s righteousness when God added us to the saved?  Jesus!  Who lived a perfect life?  Jesus!  Paul told the Romans about those who were “none righteous” and “all have sinned” (Romans 3:10, 23).  The “none” and “all” includes everyone but Jesus.  Everyone!  That includes you and me!  Has God added you to the saved?  If so, what is the difference between you after being added and the “you” before being added?  You still sin!  So how can we be “perfect” like God?  If the passage means love as God does, who has?  Does God expect us to be perfect?  Isn’t that an impossibility unless we are God?  Some will reply, “We must at least strive to be perfect or sinless.”  Here is God’s reply, “none righteous” and “all have sinned, and come short”!  Can one brag about his “shortness” not being as “short” as someone else?

What did Jesus do for you that he has not done for those who haven’t been added?  He took all our sins (1 John 1:7).  What does that mean?  You were born again so something is “new” (John 3:3, 7; 2 Corinthians 5:17; 1 Peter 1:23)!  What does that mean?  He bestowed upon you the righteousness from Almighty God (2 Corinthians 5:21)!  What does that mean?  “Old things” have passed away (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).  What does that mean?  God remembers our sins “no more” (Hebrews 10:17-18).  What does that mean?  He doesn’t count our sins against us (Romans 4:7-8).  What does that mean?  We are no longer under “condemnation” (Romans 8:1).  What does that mean?  We are hidden in Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:3-4).  What does that mean?  We are “dead to sin” and its reward (Romans 6:2, 6-8, 11, 14, 17-18, 22, 23b).  What does that mean?  We have “all spiritual blessings” found “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3).  What does that mean?  You and I are still sinners, so what has changed so we can be perfect like God?  God doesn’t expect the impossible from us.  So, how can we attain that perfection?

Is Jesus’ blood adequate in making us perfect due to it removing our sins?  Is the “full assurance” linked with the cleansing blood of Jesus to accomplish that perfection (Hebrews 10:22)?  Does He cleanse us of our “evil conscience” to bring about that perfect condition?

If God has given us an impossible command and expects us to do the inconceivable, then I can understand the huge question mark we would have about our salvation?  Is Christianity a religion of doubt that is void of assurance, offering only an empty hope of being saved?

Where is joy when assurance is a myth?  Where is peace when we surrender to temptations?  Where is hope when our faith is clothed in doubt?  Where is our faith when our thinking is clouded with uncertainty?  How can we understand “no condemnation” when our thoughts equal hopelessness?  Where there is an absence of joy, peace, hope, and faith, Christianity becomes a poor religion to die by!

Jesus came to offer something better than that.  Man is lost and cannot rescue himself.  That is why God sent us the Savior.  Jesus died to save us.  He is the Savior not us.  He paid it all, we don’t pay, even a small amount.  “Be perfect” is the command.  God provides.  The blood of Jesus is the answer.  God’s grace is the platform.  Accepting what God has done for us through Jesus is faith.  That understanding will lead one to rejoice as the eunuch and others did (Acts 8:39; Acts 13:52; Romans 1417; 15:32)?  Are you rejoicing through the perfection supplied by God through Jesus Christ?

DISCOVERING THE DIFFERENCES

The law was only a copy of good things in the future . . . The same sacrifices, offered year after year, could never make worshipers perfect. Otherwise, they would have stopped making sacrifices, because the worshipers would have been made clean once for all time. They would not feel guilty. . . God took away the first group of sacrifices . . . Because God wanted to do that, we have been made holy once for all time through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ. A priest serves . . . every day. He offers the same sacrifices again and again, but . . . can never take away sin. . . Jesus Christ offered just one sacrifice for sin forever . . . With just one sacrifice, Christ made them perfect forever. . . I will completely forget about their sins and their wrongs. When these people are forgiven, sacrifices for sin are no longer needed. . . with the blood of Jesus, we can have confidence to go into the most holy place . . . His blood is the new, living way that opened the way for us . . . let us come with a true heart and be sure of our faith, our hearts should be made pure . . . our bodies should be washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly to the hope . . . He is dependable. . . . We are not like those who move back and are destroyed. We are like those who believe and are saved.”(Hebrews 10:1-2, 10-12, 14, 17-18, 20, 22-23, 39, emphasis mine rh).

Old and New

What does God mean that the saint is “made clean once for all time”?
What does God mean that the believer is ”made holy once for all”?
What does God mean that the Christian is “made perfect forever”?
What does God mean that the kingdom servant is “made pure . . . washed . . . and saved”?

DOES HONESTY AND SINCERITY EQUAL TRUTH?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

HE LOVES YOU!

Monday, August 13, 2018

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

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

The greatest man I never knew

Lived just down the hall

And every day we said hello

But never touched at all

He was in his paper

I was in my room

How was I to know he thought I hung the moon

 

The greatest man I never knew

Came home late every night

He never had too much to say

Too much was on his mind

I never really knew him

And now it seems so sad

Everything he gave to us took all he had

 

Then the days turned into years

And the memories to black and white

He grew cold like an old winter wind

Blowing across my life

 

The greatest words I never heard

I guess I’ll never hear

The man I thought could never die

Has been dead almost a year

He was good at business

But there was business left to do

He never said he loved me

Guess he thought I knew.

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

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

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

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