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Adventures in Faith

RIGHTEOUS, BLESSED, AND WASHED

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, January 31, 2019

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

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

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

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

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I FEAR!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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A COMPLETE BIBLE; A BLESSING!

Thursday, January 5, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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WHAT’S YOUR ASSURANCE?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your assurance built on?  You??

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Monday, December 26, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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THOSE OLD PEOPLE!

My Thoughts. . .

Wednesday, 09-16-2020

I can remember when I was in the third grade watching those who were in high school walk by.  My thinking?  I thought they were really old.  Then, there was my mom and my grandparents.  Mom was in her thirties and the grandparents were in their fifties.  I thought they had one foot in the grave with the other on a banana peel!  My mom died in 1995 at the age of 79.  During that 49 years my perspective on age began to change.

I never had any serious health problems during my years.  When I was young, I was diagnosed with Rheumatic Fever.  Yet, it did not cause me any of the problems that went along with its name.  My grandparents and parents died prior to their 80th birthday.  I observed that birthday closer than the others.  Yet, it passed, and I jumped from the 70s into the beginning of the 80s.  Then a close friend announced with surprise, “I can’t believe you are 83.”  I suddenly realized that it took effort to get down on my knees to retrieve something, and just as much effort to get back up.  My right hand did steady my left one, but by itself it was shaky.  Not good when trying to hit a target 10 yards away while shooting a pistol.  But these were little announcements that I was entering that “old person’s” stage.

I believe my black hair began to morph on me during my sixties until it washed out all the black except for my black eyebrows.  Even they are sprouting a number of white ones.  I punish them by cropping them as much as possible.  Forget the moustache and beard.  Both of them are traitors!

The last trip to the dermatologist rewarded me with his announcement, “I see you have several skin tags.”  Skin tags?  I had more than I either wanted or needed!  He recommended a 14-ounce bottle of medicated moisturizer that insurance will not share the cost on.  It does help or the drugstore could keep it.  I complained to my ophthalmologist about neck pain while at the computer screen.  A few $20 bills solved that with new eyeglasses which made computer work enjoyable.

Mirrors begin lying to you.  That cannot be me staring back at me.  How did my grandfather, who has been dead since 1953, escape the grave to be looking at me?   Why is it if a rain drip hits my arm, I develop a large red bruise there?  Someone has slipped around and added extra weight to everything I used to pick up.  I still have my hair, but it seems to have a mind of its own.  It knows all the points of the compass and takes delight in pointing them out to me. Today is the 16th and I have said goodbye to 83.  It still seems like yesterday when I was 8 years old and watching those high school students and thinking, “They must be really old!”  

WHO DO YOU LOVE BEST?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 09-14-2020

Jesus said if someone slaps you on the right cheek, “offer him the other one too” (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29).  He also said if someone sues you for your coat, also give him your cloak (Matthew 5:40).  Why?  Jesus’ reply was, “Don’t resist an evil person”! (Matthew 5:39).  Of course, that is not the full context.  Jesus started with, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’” (Matthew 5:38).  The basic message is, do not be someone who seeks revenge.

Most today would jokingly state, “I’ll do what Jesus commands and offer both cheeks, but if that person stays in my face, he will be picking up his teeth from the sidewalk.”  Recently, a mayor of a city that was experiencing “protesters” advised his citizens “To surrender to them anything they demand.”   Some well-meaning believers thought that advice was rooted in Jesus’ words.  Were they right?   They would be IF one understands Matthew 5:28-42 in the limited way given above.

Jesus quotes from the Law of Moses about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.   Most believe this law stated: “You slap me.  I will slap you.  You take me to court.  I’ll take you.”  The statement is found in three different context: Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; and Deuteronomy 19:15-21.  The reader will notice the context is different in each.  Jesus mentions a soldier requiring a Jew to carry his load for a mile.  Jesus says carry it two.  Your attitude goes the extra mile!  So does your impression.  Rather than exhibiting resentment, you exude the privilege of helping a soldier serving far from home.  Why?  You are a child of a different King and Kingdom (v. 45).  Is this a law for all occasions and cultures?  Some think so.  Others modify it according to their culture.  There are other alternatives taken which are positive but dismiss the context involved.  The following examples are given as actions by readers who believe they are doing what Jesus commanded.

VIEW NO. #1: Someone breaks into your house, but you do not defend yourself or your family.  If the individual wishes to rape your wife and daughter, you stand aside and consent without objection.  Are you not obeying Jesus by turning your other cheek?  At least you are.  What about the two female family members?  When finished with his ungodly actions, he continues by cutting their throats.  Your response is to follow Jesus’ instructions by turning the other cheek to your adversary.  He takes what he desires.  You turn the other cheek.  When officers arrive, you turn the other cheek by not identifying the culprit.  When he is caught in another crime, you do not testify against him because you continue to turn the other cheek.  Your justification?  You love his soul and do not want to stop his threat by shooting him, which would not give him a future opportunity to become a Christian.  Did you love your wife and daughter less?  Yes, you did!  But your justification is that they were Christians and went to heaven.  If you shot and killed the invader, he would lose that opportunity.  You would be keeping him from that salvation!  So, your resistance was to grant him his freedom to do whatever he desired.

VIEW NO. #2: Someone kicks in your door to rape, murder, and rob.  You have a 12-gage shotgun.  When he comes through the door, he receives a full load of Number 2 shot in the face.  He falls back but is dead before his body hits the floor.  You love your wife and daughter more than you loved him.  You also love the people who would be his next victims.  Some of them may not be Christians, but you would be giving them the opportunity to become believers later, rather than allowing this criminal to murder them.  You loved him less than your wife and family, as well as all of those intended future victims.  There is a law called The Castle Doctrine which allows a person, in his home or vehicle, to protect himself, family or friends.  Each person has the right to decide whether he will or will not use a weapon to protect himself.  Using a pistol or rifle to stop a criminal from doing his evil deeds is not for the purpose of killing him, just to stop him from hurting you and family.  When the homeowner protects himself and others from a criminal’s action, he is the lawful one.  He is protecting the lives of law-abiding citizens.  By using a firearm against the criminal, he is aiding law officials and others.  He keeps that criminal from causing a future officer to lose his life.  He is also protecting those people that the law breaker would have visited if you had not stopped him.  In fact, his actions will keep you from having to make the decision whether to protect your family or allowing him to molest and murder them.  The choice is yours.  Talk it over with family though, they may feel differently and wish to use your firearm to protect themselves.

C

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 09-14-2020

Jesus said if someone slaps you on the right cheek, “offer him the other one too” (Matthew 5:39; Luke 6:29).  He also said if someone sues you for your coat, also give him your cloak (Matthew 5:40).  Why?  Jesus’ reply was, “Don’t resist an evil person”! (Matthew 5:39).  Of course, that is not the full context.  Jesus started with, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’” (Matthew 5:38).  The basic message is, do not be someone who seeks revenge.

Most today would jokingly state, “I’ll do what Jesus commands and offer both cheeks, but if that person stays in my face, he will be picking up his teeth from the sidewalk.”  Recently, a mayor of a city that was experiencing “protesters” advised his citizens “To surrender to them anything they demand.”   Some well-meaning believers thought that advice was rooted in Jesus’ words.  Were they right?   They would be IF one understands Matthew 5:28-42 in the limited way given above.

Jesus quotes from the Law of Moses about an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.   Most believe this law stated: “You slap me.  I will slap you.  You take me to court.  I’ll take you.”  The statement is found in three different context: Exodus 21:22-25; Leviticus 24:19-20; and Deuteronomy 19:15-21.  The reader will notice the context is different in each.  Jesus mentions a soldier requiring a Jew to carry his load for a mile.  Jesus says carry it two.  Your attitude goes the extra mile!  So does your impression.  Rather than exhibiting resentment, you exude the privilege of helping a soldier serving far from home.  Why?  You are a child of a different King and Kingdom (v. 45).  Is this a law for all occasions and cultures?  Some think so.  Others modify it according to their culture.  There are other alternatives taken which are positive but dismiss the context involved.  The following examples are given as actions by readers who believe they are doing what Jesus commanded.

VIEW NO. #1: Someone breaks into your house, but you do not defend yourself or your family.  If the individual wishes to rape your wife and daughter, you stand aside and consent without objection.  Are you not obeying Jesus by turning your other cheek?  At least you are.  What about the two female family members?  When finished with his ungodly actions, he continues by cutting their throats.  Your response is to follow Jesus’ instructions by turning the other cheek to your adversary.  He takes what he desires.  You turn the other cheek.  When officers arrive, you turn the other cheek by not identifying the culprit.  When he is caught in another crime, you do not testify against him because you continue to turn the other cheek.  Your justification?  You love his soul and do not want to stop his threat by shooting him, which would not give him a future opportunity to become a Christian.  Did you love your wife and daughter less?  Yes, you did!  But your justification is that they were Christians and went to heaven.  If you shot and killed the invader, he would lose that opportunity.  You would be keeping him from that salvation!  So, your resistance was to grant him his freedom to do whatever he desired.

VIEW NO. #2: Someone kicks in your door to rape, murder, and rob.  You have a 12-gage shotgun.  When he comes through the door, he receives a full load of Number 2 shot in the face.  He falls back but is dead before his body hits the floor.  You love your wife and daughter more than you loved him.  You also love the people who would be his next victims.  Some of them may not be Christians, but you would be giving them the opportunity to become believers later, rather than allowing this criminal to murder them.  You loved him less than your wife and family, as well as all of those intended future victims.  There is a law called The Castle Doctrine which allows a person, in his home or vehicle, to protect himself, family or friends.  Each person has the right to decide whether he will or will not use a weapon to protect himself.  Using a pistol or rifle to stop a criminal from doing his evil deeds is not for the purpose of killing him, just to stop him from hurting you and family.  When the homeowner protects himself and others from a criminal’s action, he is the lawful one.  He is protecting the lives of law-abiding citizens.  By using a firearm against the criminal, he is aiding law officials and others.  He keeps that criminal from causing a future officer to lose his life.  He is also protecting those people that the law breaker would have visited if you had not stopped him.  In fact, his actions will keep you from having to make the decision whether to protect your family or allowing him to molest and murder them.  The choice is yours.  Talk it over with family though, they may feel differently and wish to use your firearm to protect themselves.

THE EFFECT OF HUMAN DEITY

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 09-10-2020

The perfect man and woman were in a perfect world endowed with choice.  Remember, for every action, there is a reaction.  Freedom of choice has its reaction.  They had it all with one exception.  That exception proved to be their Achilles heel which was, “Eat and you die.”  No, there was no “if” nor “maybe.”  It was, if you eat, you die!  That is plain enough.  But they had a choice.  That choice would rob them of being the oldest living couple today.  It would keep them from enjoying their grandchildren and offspring.  Choice is a freedom, but it may include a death sentence.  It was their choice.  They made it.

It is difficult to believe that two people created this mess we are wallowing in today!  They started it, but each generation keeps it alive with glowing platitudes, believing their efforts will create a better tomorrow.  With every act produced, there is a reaction with varied degrees on both ends of the spectrum.

That choice, which took seconds, produced a garden with weeds and tomorrow’s nightmares.  They had the choice in picking any fruit and consuming it except from the tree in the middle of the garden.  Why was it forbidden?  Wasn’t it a tree with fruit like all the other trees?  Ah, but it had something the other trees did not have, didn’t it?  Why would God withhold the fruit from that one tree?  Wasn’t everything created for them?  Was it fair to withhold that fruit from them, especially since it would give them wisdom?  If God did not want them to eat from it, why put it where it was with nothing to impede them from taking and eating its fruit?  Building a fence with words is an invitation, not a hindrance. 

Since God gave them choice, if they made the wrong one, wouldn’t it be God’s fault rather than theirs?  However, if man were created without choice, he would not be at liberty to complain since that would involve choice.  We have that freedom to make our choices.  However, for every action, there is a reaction.  We want to retain the benefit of making choices, but we do not want our choices to affect us in a negative way!  Since choices can be beneficial or destructive, the results hoped for may not be granted.  The rain one farmer prays for may increase his crop but damage his neighbor’s.  The action you desire may be someone else’s nightmare.  It could be yours.

Everyone has a right to make his own choices, good or bad.  We benefit from one and share Eve’s displeasure when ours follows hers.  Choices are made that can be beneficial.  When that happens, the benefit may be enjoyed by others.  If it is a bad choice for us, it may affect others too.  However, some may benefit from that choice.  One may make a choice that brings monetary gain to himself.  Yet, that gain may cause jealousy in another.  That jealousy may motivate that individual to decide to harm you.  Cain made his choice to murder his brother due to the favor his brother received from his choices (Genesis 4:5-8).  The elimination of Able removed Cain’s competition!  His actions produced a reaction which he did not cherish (Genesis 4:11).

The choice the United States Supreme Court made in 1962 that prayer in public schools was unconstitutional is seeing its results.  When a vacuum is created, something is going to fill it (Matthew 12:44-45).  Kicking God out, invited Humanism into each classroom.  58 years of godlessness has graduated individuals without faith.  The choices made by those individuals has produced an army bent on eradicating biblical truth and making man the supreme deity.  58 years of infiltrating government, business, universities, TV news media, TV shows, Hollywood, and churches has seen an erosion of righteousness.  It has been 58 years of acclimating believers to “go along.”  Remember, every cause has its affect – “Every man did that which was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

SO, YOU’VE NEVER WON THE LOTTERY?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 09-07-2020

If you are a preacher, do you remember your excitement when that first congregation hired you?  Everything was new.  You had a lot of names to learn.  There were shut-ins to visit.  There were sick people to visit.  Two sermons prepared each week was a necessity.  Bible studies were necessary.  Fellowship meals were a break and the congregation had some excellent cooks.  The handshakes and back slapping came as people exited the building when worship was over.  Do you remember that exact moment when a crack appeared in that rosy painting of yours?

Remember those illusive whispers that remained incognito because it was “some people have said”?  You knew it was a problem when the phrase changed to “a lot of members are upset because. . .”  Little things were blown out of proportion such as, “you aren’t using enough scripture,” or “you are not quoting scripture, you are just reading them.”  Visits by some to your office were informational about the elders or some member.  The admonition seemed to be rehearsed with, “Don’t mention my name, but. . .” or, “I don’t want to get involved, but you need to do something about. . .”  Then you kept running into a wall each time you suggested something helpful to the elders.  You knew it would produce astounding growth spurts in a short period of time if they would only be wise enough to accept it.  Your suggestions were heard, then forgotten.

You noticed that those members with the biggest smile also had teeth for backbiting.  It seemed that for each positive thought, there were always two negatives.  The person you thought you could let your hair down with left you bald.  So, you began looking for that congregation that you thought this one was.  The string of moves continued as the moving van did its job.   That “perfect” congregation was always illusive.  You were not the first to experience disappointment.

When one is angry and upset with his elders or with some aspect of church life, it is because of the imperfections of life which visits each and all.  In fact, those who complain the loudest usually make up that percentage of those who are involved in inconsistencies.  Rather than being the solution to the congregation’s woes, they may be guilty of creating them.  Sometimes those who want to lead the congregation into an amazing future are the ones who drown it in sorrows.  The Bible is a history of inconsistencies owned and operated by God’s children throughout history.  It is a malady suffered by all.  Some just have lighter cases that others.  Jesus himself dealt with it (John 1:11)!

Jesus’ first and only located work was to a congregation called Israel.  His mission?  To fulfill the prophecies in their scripture.  He chose twelve men from different walks of life to work with him in that mission.  Molding them into a productive preaching program sometimes brought disappointments.  They were at each other’s throats and usually disappointed because he was not fitting their image of Israel’s Messiah.  Oh, they had two swords, but shouldn’t there be one for each if they were going to drive the Romans out?  Why wasn’t he making them into Generals rather than apostles?  He kept talking about love your enemies.  How can you love people who use the sword to rule, who do not respect your faith, and who have corrupted your priesthood?  His miracles brought in hundreds if not thousands, but his teaching was not insurrection and civil disobedience.  How can he fill the sandals as Israel’s Messiah if he will not wear the stars of a General?  His army should have been shouting, “Fight, fight, fight,” but their screams were “Crucify him, crucify him.”  The crowd’s victory was not in pushing the Romans out, but in silencing this “preacher” with the cross.

Mankind has two highways before it.  One is smoothly paved with four-lanes.  On each side it is cared for and beautiful.  Take it and the world will lie at your feet.  The other choice?  It may hold disappointments.  There may be cheering crowds, but not for you.  There may be times when your eyes are filled with burning tears.  You may be guilty of asking multiple times, “why?”  Temptation may squeeze you tightly in compromise.  Your proverbial back may have multiple stab wounds.  Your imperfections will preach that God cannot love anyone like you, so give up, give in, and get out of the way. Being a Jesus follower may not bring worldly success nor popular recognition.  It may not help you win the State Lottery.  However, it will bring peace and contentment making your choice eternally worthwhile.

PANDEMIC BENEFITS

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 09-03-2020

In February we heard about the Chinese pandemic invading our shores.  Little did we realize the affects this Virus would have on our religious views.  It took people out of the church building and put them in house to house assemblies (Acts 2:46; 5:42; 12:12; 20:20; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philippians 1:2).  It caused us to question the “church building rules” that some have elevated to the level of scripture.  For some, the place of worship had become their holy Temple although the New Testament does not possess that view.  Some believe they go to that building because that is where God is.  On the way to that rendezvous, tempers may flair, grumbling and discontent may be expressed, and minds may be controlled by thoughts totally removed from worship.  For those individuals, the building is God’s location and when they enter they must do so respectfully since they are now in God’s presence.

Church buildings may serve a positive purpose, but they also have been a powerful weight around disciples’ necks.  The building is considered “holy” and God indwells it.  Since God is there, respect must be shown while “in house.”  If one does not attend, he is refusing to meet with God.  Such negligence would be disrespectful and an act of disobedience (Hebrews 10:25).  Such views produce additional errors.   It creates the thought that God is given His hour, but the rest of the week belongs to us.  If profanity is needed to correct an employee, it is permitted because the user is not “in church.”  Church has its rules but the rest of the week a different set is allowed.  The Virus allows us to question such practices.      

Respect for God is not restricted to one hour on Sunday nor confined to those who enter through the doors of the church building.  That view owes its allegiance to passages in scripture being misused.  The Virus has caused some disciples to question those traditions.  For example, members may not be in the church building on Sunday, but that does not mean they have forsaken the assembly.  A mother may take her baby out of the auditorium/sanctuary to go to the nursery, but is she guilty of forsaking the assembly?  If so, should she not be disciplined?  If she is guilty and not disciplined, the error has now taken a leap in the wrong direction.  If she has not disobeyed Hebrews 10:25, then what is the difference between her actions of leaving the assembly and another member staying home and watching the service on her TV or computer?  If she has a fever is that an excuse or a reason for staying home?  If so, where is either case detailed in scripture?  This scenario could degrade into a “judging” contest on which member is engaged in “forsaking” and which one is not.  Judgment contests usually produces more problems than they solve.  All because of that Chinese Virus! 

Hebrews 10:25 uses the word “together.”  Today’s saints define that to mean everyone must be in the same auditorium room.  Yet, the Jerusalem church, with an 8,000+ membership met from house to house!  Owning a building did not exist at that time.  When the Jerusalem church met to receive the apostles’ doctrine, were they in one room?  If not and they were meeting in different homes, were they “together”?  We are so indoctrinated by our way of doing things that it is almost impossible for us to understand how the Jerusalem church could be together and yet be meeting in hundreds of different homes scattered throughout Jerusalem.  In our way of thinking and practice, the only way the Jerusalem “church” could meet in different locations to worship, would be to follow us!  Our way would be to divide into several different assemblies, with each having their own elders, deacons, and preacher.  Each would own a church building with a sign describing their division as the Northside, Southside, Eastside, or Westside congregation.  Of course, Paul condemned that plan which started with the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 1:8-10).  They did not have it perfected as well as today’s church has.   When persecution hit the Romans church, we visualize them finding an underground burial spot large enough to take care of the thousands who were members in the city.  In New Testament language, the church can be “together” whether the membership meets in different locations or even at different times.  The Chinese Virus forces us to question our practices and return to a study of what the New Testament actually states about their practices.

Some will use Acts 2:46 to prove that the 8,000+ Jerusalem church held Sunday services every week in the Temple courtyard.  If our “respect for church laws” were applied to those meetings, they would be disappointed.  The day after the Sabbath would have been like Saturday at today’s Walmart.  How would one stop the noisy Temple traffic?  The respectful quietness expected, especially during communion, would be impossible.  Persecution from the Jewish court began almost immediately.  Would the Temple police blind themselves to this heretical group taking up space that belonged to respectful Jewish worshipers?  If 8,o00 worshipers from Jackson invading the Northside Walmart store, would they be welcomed or removed by the police?  How sincere would one’s worship be if allowed to invade a store and start a worship service?  Who would even propose that churches do such a thing?

Some elderships are attempting to “get back to normal” by having an assembly at the church building.  Yet, elders are giving their blessings to the older membership to “stay at home” and “worship.  Since the older ones are not meeting where the church building is located, are those folks guilty of forsaking the assembly?  Where in the Bible is permission given by an eldership to inform members to NOT attend the assembly which the elders are in?  The entire arrangement should open our eyes to the traditions we have been innocently engaged in for years.  Covid-19 should be shouting loudly to us that sin enters only when we attempt to bind our traditions and views upon others.  Thankfully, elderships are not making it mandatory for members “at risk” to be in the assembly in the church building.

Who would have thought that the Chinese Covid-19 Virus could teach us so much?

WHY DON’T WE DO IT LIKE THAT?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 08-31-2020

I know folks who believe culture is not tied in with being a New Testament Christian.  Think about that statement.  Isn’t that saying that one is attempting to restore the first century church into the twenty-first century by stripping it of its cultural statements?  Do we?  Don’t we discard first century culture and redress the commands and examples in twenty-first century culture?  Would that action not be a substitution?

There are practices in the first century church that were not condemned which are ignored and substituted by twenty-first century Christians.  Why?  Because it is unlawful in our culture.  Slavery is not condemned by any New Testament writer.  In fact, Paul corrects the behavior of Christian slaves in Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-25, but never condemns the practice.  Perhaps today, when mobs who are destroying offensive statues realize the biblical position of slavery, may start burning Bibles because they too are offensive?  Some Christians may be influenced to follow their example.

Today most believers stand firmly against slavery.  We substitute the words” employee” and “employer” for “slave” and “master.”  We make Paul’s instruction fit our culture rather than his.  We justify this, not because scripture allows the substitution, but because THAT IS NOT OUR culture.  When that happens, a contradiction is created between the claim that “we teach ONLY the Bible” and our insertions which are based upon and justified by our culture.   

If we may rewrite practices found in scripture to fit our culture, then our actions will allow others to follow our lead.  Whatever objections we raise against others following that course, will cry out against us.  The view that first century culture had nothing to do with New Testament commands is without biblical confirmation.  For the first ten to eleven years after the Acts 2 Pentecost, the church was Jewish.  They continued to worship at the Temple and in the synagogue (Acts 21:18-26).  After Peter visited Cornelius, he had to face his Jewish brethren when he returned to Jerusalem (Acts 11:1-3).  A few years later, some of those Jews demanded that Gentile converts must be circumcised to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5).  The decision was that Jews remain Jewish and Gentiles were not bound to Jewish first covenant practices (Acts 15:19-20).  Not all Jewish saints agreed and a few years later they attempted to bind what God had not.  Paul condemn this action as “another gospel” (Galatians 1:6-9, 2:11-14, 5:1-7, 12).

First century congregations met from house to house in small informal groups that were minus the roles created by the introduction of church buildings.

First century congregations did not have a piece of furniture called “the Lord’s table.”

First century assemblies followed the culture of women being veiled and men being without a covering while participating in prayer and prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:1-16).

First century assemblies had six speakers.  Three prophets and three language speakers with their specific interpreter (1 Corinthians 14).  3 + 3 + 3 = 9!

Women in first century assemblies were forbidden to ask their husband questions “in church,” but were commanded to ask them “at home.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

Women were discouraged from braiding their hair with gold or pearls or wear costly garments but were to be dressed in a modest way (1 Timothy 2:9).

Brethren were commanded, five times, to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16).

When giving to the Lord, the membership was to place their contribution at the preacher’s feet (Acts 4:33-34; 5:1).  Members did not appoint a group of men to pass the plate.  That was a much later addition.

When a church wide problem needed attention, the largest congregation met and settled it, then informed the other congregations about their decision (Acts 15).  Their only choice was to agree. 

The church met at night to partake of the communion, apparently following Jewish time (Acts 20:7-11).  Paul used the assembly to preach.  Those two activities are all that is mentioned.

A widow who could be supported by the church had qualifications she was required to meet to receive the church’s assistance.  She must have washed “the feet of the saints.” 

If a woman cut her hair it was shameful (1 Corinthians 11:5-6). 

Does scripture permit a rejection and change of those commands?  If a command may be stripped of its first century cultural settings, and a twenty-first century cultural attachment take its place, then wouldn’t the door be opened to do that with any other New Testament practice?   

What is interesting, is that our desire to change those biblical commands from their first century cultural involvement and adapting them to twenty-first century practices, admits there is a relationship that those commandments had with the culture they were introduced in.  The changes we institute of necessity divorces them from the culture they started with in order to be married to the one we are in.

Why bring it up?  Every act has a reaction.  It may be good or bad.  The determination made on whether something is good or bad or whether we have the right to change anything has a way of dividing the body of Christ.

WHO IS YOUR SAVIOR? YOU?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 08-24-2020

Have you ever come across two different passages in your Bible study that seemed to contradict one another?  Example?  First, there is Jesus’ statement,

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil.  But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if anyone would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (Matthew 5:38-41).

Then, you read the following which appears to contradict the first reading.

“But now,’ he said, ‘take a duffel bag if you have one and your money.  And if you don’t have a sword, better sell your clothes and buy one!  For the time has come for this prophecy about me to come true: ‘He will be condemned as a criminal!’  Yes, everything written about me by the prophets will come true.’  ‘Master,’ they replied, ‘we have two swords among us.’ ‘Enough!’ he said.” (Luke 22:36-38).

Some will look at both passages and conclude that “The Bible contradicts itself.”  A second observer will state, “The second passage is false whereas the first is not.”  A third individual states that both passages are like statements found in Proverbs.  Both are truthful within their context.  For example, David and his men were hiding in Keilah.  Saul found out where David was.  David asked God, “Will Saul come down?”  God’s answer was, “He will come down” (1 Samuel 23:7-11).  However, when David left Keilah, Saul heard about his departure, so he did not make that trip.  One has to see the context to note the truth.  There is no contradiction.

There are circumstances when an individual in Jesus’ day would turn the other cheek, give up his coat and cloak in a lawsuit, or go two miles rather than the prescribed one.  Yet, Jesus ask if his apostles had a sword.  Their answer was, “Two.”  Jesus said that was sufficient.  We know Peter had one.  He used it to cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear.  We also know that Jesus rebuked Peter and told him to put his sword up.  Did he give that command because Peter sinned by owning and using his sword?  No.  One has to look at the context and see why Jesus did not want Peter interfering with the fulfillment of prophesy.  On other occasions a sword could be utilized, but not on this one.

This problem is seen more acutely on passage concerning sin.  Some believe one sin will send him to hell unless he immediately asks God to forgive him.  The individual believes sin immediately transports him from the body of Jesus back to Satan’s kingdom.  Until he repents and prays, he remains in that lost state.  It may only be a matter of minutes before he confesses his wrongdoing, but during that time he is bound in a hellish kingdom.  There are circumstances where this could be true if he walks away from Jesus with no desire to return.  However, everyone, even the sanctified, commits sin.  To deny this fact is to deny 1 John 1:7-10.  Too many saints leave the blood of Jesus out of the equation as well as the indwelling of the Spirit.  Some quote 1 John 1:9 as if a vocal statement must be made prior to forgiveness being offered.  The passage does not define forgiveness in those terms.  Any conscious Christian knows he is capable of sinning during any 24/7 period.  God dwells in him as His Temple.  God keeps his Temple cleansed with the blood of Jesus.  Context bears this out.  The blood of Jesus is not a limited covering nor impotent in its cleansing.  The difference between sinner and saint is that one is either a lost sinner or a saved one.  The lost one needs to confess his sins, repent and be immersed into Jesus’ death, buried, and resurrection into the new life.  The saved sinner recognizes what Jesus has and is doing for him and continues to confess or admit his sins while rejoicing over his forgiveness.  The problem some have is that they believe the blood of Jesus is sufficient a long as WE continue in sinless perfection.  Such perfection would make Jesus’ sacrifice foolish.  Blindness on man’s part is that he reduces the effect of Jesus’ blood and magnifies his perfection as the answer to his salvation.  Foolish man.  Guess where that idea began?  It came from the originator of the phrase, “You will not die” (Genesis 3:4-5).

Which sinner are you? 

THE REBUILT TEMPLE OF CHRIST

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 08-24-2020

In February 2020, a virus invaded our shores, traveling across continents and oceans from Communist China.  After the invasion, one could almost hear the doors of church buildings being shut.  It was not safe for groups of people to be that close together.  Safety was the concern and rightly so.  Even with the precautions, members of different faiths have been infected and some have lost their lives.  When weeks turned into months, different doctors disagreed on decisions previously made, giving the public an excuse to do things detrimental to their health.  Mask appeared and disappeared.  Local and State governments made demands attempting to save life rather than frustrate it.  Their attempts produced protected frustrated people. 

Remember the sound of those church building doors closing?  The sound produced false conclusions.  Some thought the government was attacking “the church” in an attempt to destroy our faith!  Hebrews 10:25 was quoted as though it taught only one choice was available to the faithful.  1) Be in the auditorium/sanctuary regardless, or 2) you could stay home and lose your soul.

Church buildings are not part of biblical faith.  They were not heard of before the third or fourth century.  That is about 350 years after Jesus promised to build his saved assembly (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:46-47).  Preaching by the apostles was done in the courtyards of the Jewish Temple until early persecution prevented it (Acts 6:8 – 8:4).  Prior to and after that, saints met in different homes (Acts 2:46).  The saved numbered over 8,000 very quickly (Acts 2:41; 4:4).  With an average of 25 meeting in each house, how many homes would be needed to house such a fast-growing number of saints?

Most people see the first century church meeting in large church buildings, capable of seating thousands of people, when such was not the case.  Such a view leads one to misunderstand scripture.  When Paul wrote, “When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s supper” (1 Corinthians 11:20 KJV).  What was possible for Corinth, with a smaller membership, was not feasible for the Jerusalem church that had a much larger one.  Actually, when Christians today partake of the Lord’s supper on Sunday, regardless of location, we are eating the Lord’s supper TOGETHER as the body of Christ.

The idea of having several local assemblies identified in each city as a different congregation is not a biblical view.  With thousands of members meeting house to house, it was still one congregation in Jerusalem.  Today that view is a hard pill for some to swallow.  Two congregations may merge, but even that is not a common occurrence in the history of today’s church.  Just because we are acclimated to practicing something for a hundred years or two, does not mean our pattern negates the first century one.

The building is not holy, even if you sprinkle “holy” water on it in a dedication service.  Just because a Virus closes the church doors does not mean the church no longer exists.  The people who follow Jesus are his church or assembly.  Burn down all church buildings and the body of Jesus will still exist.  The building is just a dwelling place in a specific location where today’s Jesus people go to be edified.  We are God’s dwelling place, not a constructed church building nor a specific location (John 4:19-21).  Paul referred to the membership as “the church of God” and “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 12:27).  The meeting place was never described as such.  Were those Roman Christians who met in the catacombs (graveyard) not “the church”?

Some with a skewed concept of the church see the church building as a “holy place” or “holy grounds” where they are Deity blessed by being present.  People believe they “meet” God there.  They create special rules to keep that building “holy.”  Some create rules where certain rooms are “off limits” to eat in.  Some argue that money which is contributed to the church must be used only for spiritual things.  Therefore, the building is holy and must not be desecrated by secular actions.  One dresses to the hilt to impress God while there but puts on daily attire when outside its holy influence.  The holy wear will hang in the closet until the following Sunday.  What is worn the rest of the week is not put in that holy classification.

The Bible points out that those who gladly received Peter’s preaching were added to the saved (Acts 2:41).  Those who were saved were the church or body of Christ.  He was their head (Ephesians 1:22-23).  There is not an edifice, referred to as “the church building” which God is going to save.  Putting a sign in front of that building does not make it the church of God.  The saved will still go to heaven even if they never edify one another in a borrowed, rented, or purchased building.  Whether one meets with 20 others in one home while 20 others meet in another, all 40 are still the church of God or body of Christ before they arrive on location, while on location, or after leaving that location.  They are the saved whether at home, at work, on vacation, at the gym, at the ballpark, traveling in their car alone or with family, co-workers, or friends.  The church building is not holy, those who fill it are.  Why?  They belong to Jesus who is the Savior.

So, are you a member of Jesus’ body or is your church building needed to make you holy?

WHAT KIND ARE YOU?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 08-20-2020

The Corinthian church isn’t one that modern congregations care to be identified with.  Sadly, we are more like that church than we will admit.  Although the New Testament church did not have a proper name, Paul described them as “the church of God.”  Apparently, there were several others identified as such.  There was one in Ephesus (Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:5) and one in Jerusalem (Galatians 1:13).  There appear to be more according to Paul’s comments in 1 Corinthians 11:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:14; and 2 Thessalonians 1:4. How many is anyone’s guess.  The church of God in Corinth is the only one described as “the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27) although the expression is generically applied to others in Romans 7:4 and Ephesians 4:12.  Several times the church’s name, in the singular and plural, is connected with the city it is in (Example: Colossians 4:16).  Paul applies the expression “house of God” and “church of the living God” to all assemblies in 1 Timothy 3:15.  The same is done in Hebrews 12:23 referring to it as “general assembly” and “church of the firstborn.”  Inspiration also uses “churches of the Gentiles (Romans 16:4), “churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16), and “churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).  People settle on the singular or plural description which they are more comfortable with although their example is not found in scripture.

Few know that the King James and following English versions do not translate some words but anglicized them.  If they had been translated, the word “church” would be “assembly.”  The expression “Christ” would be “Anointed one.”  The word “Christian” if translated would be “a follower of the Anointed One.”  A failure to translate has led to views that are not always true.

The division of the church in Corinth has been multiplied and justified in our day.  In 1955 there were about 200 divisions among believers in Christ.  That number is now into the thousands.  Different excuses are given for each division or denominating.  Due to these divisions, humanism, atheism, and Marxism have grown.  Extremes have created strange associations and fellowships which have weakened rather than strengthened the teachings of Jesus.  Religions that are against slavery accept faiths that practice it.  Beliefs that are horrified if an animal is killed, are not concerned with the millions of deaths caused by abortion.  We have surrendered through acclimation to the destruction of the biblical family.  Christianity has a difficult time standing up for anything that is right due to that division.

Ask the average believer, “What is your faith?”  The usual reply is, “I am a Christian.”  When asked, “What KIND of Christian are you?” The rapid reply is, “I am a Baptist Christian,” “I’m a non-institutional Christian,” or one of the many other divisive names loyally defended by today’s believer.  The strength of loyalty is moving from the expression “Christian” to the denominated first part of that statement.  It is heard as; I am a Democrat Christian or I am a Republican Christian.  I am a liberal Christian, or I am a Conservative Christian.  I am a King James Only Christian or I am a NASV to NIV Christian.  The only one who wins in this hyphenated war is Satan.  Is he the Conqueror?  It is just as difficult for believers to stand together against Satan’s offerings as it was for the church in Corinth to assemble together as one body.

And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” (Mark 3:24-25; Matthew 12:25; Luke 11:17).

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