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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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I DON’T BELIEVE . . .!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.” Revelation 20:12

In my lifetime I have heard preachers who made the judgment scene so real that you could almost hear the crackling of the fire as Jesus stated, “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angelsMatthew 25:41.

Preachers spoke of that book that contained every sin you and I have committed.  They announced how all our sins were exposed in the hearing of all.  Nothing was glossed over.  Nothing was left out.  Every detail was examined and uncovered.   Embarrassment prevailed.  Jesus stripped you naked for all to see.  Every friend, every relative, every classmate, every coworker, every church member, and every stranger were exposed to sins you thought were unknown or had been forgiven.  Every single one, was revealed, whether you considered it big or little.  Excuses were not relevant.   Repentance was too late.  Reasons?  Not valid.  They were yours.  You committed them.  Take responsibility!

Several years ago a preacher friend told me about a revival he preached in Oklahoma.  On the second row was a young mother with her three-year-old son standing at her side listening to his sermon.  He was building toward a climax using the story of Moses and the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea.  God had provided a path through it.  Israel was being pursued by revenge seeking Egyptian soldiers.  The last Israelite had reached the far shore, but pursuing soldiers were a hair’s breadth behind.  My friend announced, in a loud, dramatic voice, that the water, being held back by God, was released and all the Egyptians were drowned.  The three-year-old made his presence known with a loud, “I DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT!”  My friend lost his audience.

Isn’t that three-year old’s opinion shared by many?  Isn’t the judgement where everyone will have ALL his sins exposed?  Won’t both saint and sinner have his sins broadcasted?  Really?  Have we not read . . .?

This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” Hebrews 10:16-17?

Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.  Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him” Romans 4:7-8.

Paul writes to believers in Rome and reminds them of a blessing they received when they responded to the Good News.

How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?”  Romans 6:2.

In Romans 6 Paul tells saints that they have died to sin.  He continues by showing that they were buried with Jesus into his death when they were immersed.  When they were raised up from that immersion, they entered His new life.  Because they were united with Him in death, they were also united with Him in his resurrection.  In verse 7 Paul informs them,

For he who has died has been freed from sin.”

1 John 1:6-10 informs us that we are sinners and should confess it.  In Romans 7 Paul, knowing that fact informs saints about that deliverance from the deadly reward of the flesh.  He excitedly tells every believer, “Thank God!  It has been done by Jesus Messiah our Lord.  He has set me free” Romans 7:25.

There is no sin in Jesus Hebrews 4:15. Christians are in the body of Jesus 1 Corinthians 12:27.  Yet, none of the added are perfect 1 John 1:8, 10.  Why do our imperfection not stain the perfection of Jesus?  Are we not members of his sinless body?  God answers our “Why”!  Our sins are not counted.  Our sins are cleansed.  Our sins are not remembered.  We are not condemned if we recognize our total dependency for His “all spiritual blessingsEphesians 1:3. Paul found his sin problem was taken care of by Jesus.  His conclusion was, “There is therefore now NO condemnation to them which are in Christ JesusRomans 8:1ff.

Those who are not “in” Jesus continue to own their sins!  Believers have had theirs cleansed – “God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins.  Then in exchange, he poured God’s goodness (righteousness) into us” 2 Corinthians 5:21!

Despite that Good News, are there not some who are like that three-year-old?  “I DON’T BELIEVE A WORD OF IT?”

LONGEVITY?

Monday, November 12, 2018

Have you ever wandered through a cemetery looking for the headstone of a loved one? Were you distracted by viewing the information given on each marker as to how long each had lived?  The average life span today is 72 for men and 75 for women.  It was less than that a generation ago. Yet, some folks lived well past the eighty years spoken of by Moses in Psalms 90:10.  I’ve been blessed to see 82 winters come and go.  There are a few that lived past 100.  We have a couple of ladies in the congregation that have celebrated that 100-year mark and received their congratulatory letter from the President of the United States.  That’s quite an achievement in this day.

Living 100 years by itself isn’t much of a record.  If that’s all a person’s years show, he hasn’t accomplished much.  Whether a person lives into his teens or manages to squeak by a hundred, his or her life takes on significance only if Jesus was the author and finisher of their life (Hebrews 12:1,2).  It isn’t how long you live, but who you lived for that counts.

Adam, the first man, blazed the trail for all men to follow.  He lived 930 years.  That is a long life.  When Adam celebrated his 30th and 50th birthdays, it wasn’t a black balloon affair.  That event would have to wait until his 465th birthday.  Despite several centuries of life, the epitaph which Adam left future generations is, “and he died” (Genesis 5:5).  Noah lived 20 years longer than Adam, but he could not escape that expression, “and he died” (Genesis 9:29).  Methuselah outlive them all.  Yet, after 969 years inspiration still concludes with, “and he died” (Genesis 5:21).  There is no outstanding thing said about Methuselah other than he lived longer than any other human being.  At the age of 187 he had a son named Lamech.  After that other sons and daughters were born (Genesis 5:26).  Lamech’s first son was Noah.  When Noah was born, Methuselah was 600 years old.  When Noah entered the ark and the floods came, Methuselah died.  There is a question of whether he died in the flood or just before it took place.  Lamech died several years before the flood.  Yet, some of Noah’s brothers and sisters and their families perished in those waters.   Age means very little if that’s all you have.

Methuselah’s father was Enoch.  Enoch’s years upon the earth were limited to 365 (Genesis 5:24).  That doesn’t seem to speak well of Enoch.  What was his problem that his life on earth was cut so short?  Something is said about this man which is not said about his forefathers, nor most of his offspring.  Scripture states, “However, since Enoch was so close to the one true God, Enoch did not die.  God took him.”  Methuselah holds the world’s record for length of time on this earth.  Enoch has the shortest record of those described in Genesis 5.  Yet, all the long term living ultimately had “and he died” written about them.  Enoch never experienced death.  His life is eternal (Hebrews 11:5).

The rest of us will have that statement said of us, “and he/she died.”  The length of time we are here upon this earth is not important.  What is essential is whether we were “close to the one true God” or will be separated from Him throughout eternity!

What will your epitaph be?

CONSEQUENCES

Thursday, November 8, 2018

In Genesis 3, Eve had a conversation with a serpent.  Some believe it was a snake.  It may have been, but since some believe that way, let’s continue with that perception.  In the beginning man could either talk to all the animals and reptiles, as the movie’s Dr. Dolittle did, or this was a onetime occurrence.  Since it was an age of innocence, perhaps a talking snake caused curiosity rather than suspicion and fear.  In my day a good snake was a dead one!  Eve’s mistake was listening and believing its lie.  She wanted the right to live her life free of all restraints.  Like so many today, she failed to understand that consequences are tied to that kind of “freedom.”

Feminist believe they are in control of their own body because they have the right to legal abortion.  This “freedom” separates them from the responsibilities of motherhood.  They have fallen prey to the smooth line of selfish, chauvinistic men.  These modern Eves don’t realize that those chauvinists are related to that smooth-talking snake!  Swallowing their lies comes with consequences.  It is called pregnancy.  However, our courts have made it possible to remedy the consequences of that deception.  For a few dollars, abortion releases the man.  That’s right, it releases the MAN from all responsibility for his selfish, lustful act that produced that pregnancy.  This leaves him without any commitment to the woman.  She was his selfish whim rather than a person to be respected.  She isn’t honored, she is simply viewed as another stupid conquest.  God stated, “Do you see a man (or woman) wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 26:12).  Feminists are intelligent women who have believed a sweet-talking liar.  Lies have their consequences.  Female believers also partake of their reward!

Abortion doesn’t solve the problem.  The snake (man) continues to believe abortion will allow him to proceed without commitment.  That attitude will be a trap waiting to enslave him.  Venereal Disease is just a partial payment for the chauvinist and those he sweet talks.   VD is rampant in Tennessee as well as other States.   The Pied Piper of today leads the deceived into consequences they never dreamed of nor desired.

Abortion has hidden pitfalls that are revealed later.  Abortion is supposed to be cheaper and safer than giving birth to a baby.  Perhaps that is true if one doesn’t consider the life that could have been.  For some the reward is depression, regret, and guilt.  An immediate consequence may be the realization that the man has played her for a fool.  She was not a valued person to him, only a toy to be manipulated and counted as another conquest.  For some, they will realize the folly of such actions and turn from the snake to the Creator (John 14:6).

Jesus told the woman caught in the act of adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  While dining with a Pharisee, a woman with a bad reputation entered and began washing Jesus feet with her tears and wiping them dry with her hair.  Although the Pharisee and guests were horrified by this, Jesus said, “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much.”  Then he said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.  Your faith has saved you.  Go in peace” (Luke 7:47-50).

Regardless of your sins and despite your reputation, Jesus can and will forgive you.  He will claim you as his own if you will come to him (Matthew 11:28-30).  Even those who had shouted “Crucify him” were given the opportunity to follow Jesus (Acts 2:23, 36-41).  When Peter finished preaching, they “gladly received his word and were baptized: and the same day there were added about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41).  You can follow their example and receive the same spiritual blessing they did.

THIRTY SHADES OF GREY!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Solomon wrote, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).  Righteousness exalts; sin disgraces!  The definition of “sin” has been converted into multiple shades which glorifies blending.  Isaiah spoke of such long ago, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).   It seems some enjoy repeating the past, when it promotes death rather than life.  Even among believers, sin is deceptive and morphed to fit our life styles.  Eve set the standard (Genesis 3:6).  We adapt our sins by pigeon holing them into big and little, white and black, dark and light, acceptable and unacceptable.

Have you heard the philosophy of the litter bug?  It promotes those different shades of sin.  It states, “It’s just a candy wrapper.  That’s not enough trash to hurt anything.”  Perhaps not, if it was limited to one person throwing out one candy wrapper.  But littering is not limited to one person nor one piece of trash.  Human nature says, “I have the singular privilege of getting rid of my trash, but you don’t.”  Despite our highway and media ads, plus threats of heavy fines for littering, it is still done.  Our highways are covered with millions of tons of litter each year because some Americans are exercising their choice to make our highways their trash basket.  They are special in that littering because they believe they have a unique privilege!  Millions of our tax dollars are used to pick up our folly.  Litter demonstrates that we have a nation filled with people who neither respect the law, their neighbors, or the beauty of God’s nature.  “Righteousness exalts a nation.”  Sin brings disgrace in the form of a discarded candy wrapper.

What if everyone on your block brought their garbage, twice each week, and dumped it on your lawn?  Would that upset you?  Would the sight of that trash and stench of that garbage delight your eyes and tickle your nose?  What if the burden of keeping your yard cleansed fell solely upon you?  Would you enjoy that removal cost each month?

Most people see Satan as a buffoon wearing a red suit, trailed by a tail, small horns, black goatee, and sporting a pitchfork.  Others view him as the warped figment of the religious right’s imagination.  Deception is his tool.  Just as Eve was deceived into believing she had a right to eat of the forbidden, so we justify that wrapper, cigarette butt, or other trash as our gift to the State or City.  Then we gripe when our taxes are increased, or our folly blows into our yard!

Ah, that candy or gum wrapper is just a little thing.  If so, call the State Highway Department and see if they will use your yard to dump what is picked up along the highway each week.  Then with pride, show off that “little.”

David was Israel’s king.  He was a mighty warrior.  He should have been with his men on the battle field.  Where was he?  At home, walking on his roof.  Just a little thing.  What did he see?  Another man’s wife taking a bath.  Just a little thing.  He inquired about who she was.  It’s still just a little thing, isn’t it?  She was the wife of one of his men that had been with him when he was running from Saul.  Just a little thing.  He requested her presence.  It’s still just a little thing, isn’t it?  He committed fornication with her.  No one knew, so no one was hurt.  So, it is still just a little thing, isn’t it?  She sent word that she was pregnant.  Maybe there is a problem but bringing husband home will smooth things over.  It will remain a little thing, won’t it?  Husband comes home but refuses to go home to his wife.  Is the little thing becoming a problem?  Nothing big, just send him back to war, but have him fight on the front, then withdraw from him so he is a single target.  Isn’t that little sin growing?  The husband is killed.  Is the unjustified death of another human being to cover up what was classified as a little sin more than “little”?  Lying to ourselves is a deceptive tool originating from that being which some deny exists!  It all begins when one sin begins adding up because the guilty one classifies it as “little.”  Sin is shady!

What are your “little sins”?

TRANSLATION SLIPS!

Monday, October 29, 2018

The King James Version was my basic Bible from the time I started carrying one to church as a teen until the seventies.  Most who lived through the sixties and seventies remember the strong attachments some churches and individuals had for that version.  Some congregations had strict rules, “In the classroom and pulpit, only the King James and American Standard were allowed.”  If one quoted from the Revised Standard Version or New International Version, eye brows were raised, and criticism was leveled against such as heresy.

I remember in the mid-fifties that the American Standard Version was produced with a “red” cover.  It was quickly labeled as a “Communist Bible.”  It was anathema for some!  What was interesting about those congregations that accepted only the KJV and the ASV, is that the ASV was more closely aligned with the NIV than it was with the KJV.  Both translations used older manuscripts than the KJV was produced from.  The ASV was touted as the translation that was closer to the Greek New Testament than the KJV.  It was also interesting that the RSV Old Testament was more accurately translated than the KJV.  Those facts were usually ignored by KJV disciples.

In the eighties Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee sponsored a discussion format where two preachers would show why the KJV was a better translation than the NASV and NIV and two would show why the latter were better than the KJV.  No one could be found to take the KJV side, although some in the audience had questions during the discussion part.

Some lamented the passing of the “thee” and “thou” language in preaching, teaching, singing, and prayers.  One preacher wondered how congregations would be able to sing songs that contained that archaic language when performed with the modern “you” and “your.”  Some believed prayer using “thee” and “thou” to address God was set in stone by heaven.  They believed “you” and “your” were an abomination and demonstrated disrespect for Almighty God.  It is not wrong to address God in the 1611 language, but it is sinful to treat those who do not use it as though they were infidels.  The use or non-use is a choice of the one praying and in the realm of personal conscience.   Each should respect the other’s choice of expression.

Despite the newer translations, most continued following the KJV habit of not translating certain words.  This “decision” to not translate those words has resulted in traditions being created which followers saw as “a this saith the Lord.”

In many translations, Jesus’ cousin, is referred to as “John the Baptist.”  The word “Baptist” was capitalized as if that was John’s last name.  The same was done with Jesus Christ.  “Christ” is a title or work not Jesus’ last name.  Some came to see John as the founder of the Baptist Church.  Some continue to believe that.  The KJV through the NIV continued to refer to him as “John the Baptist.”  One church thought he founded the Baptist Church and Jesus became a member.  The quote created was, “The Bible was written by Baptists, to Baptists, and for Baptists.”  All of this because of capitalizing “Baptist” and refusing to translate it!  The International English Bible (IEB) is one of the few English translations that renders the word “Baptist” correctly.  Matthew 3:1, “During those days, John (the one who immersed people) . . .”  The expression “Baptist” (baptistes) indicated John’s work.  He baptized or immersed people.  In fact, he immersed Jesus (Matthew 3:13-17).  If the KJV had translated the word, perhaps the incorrect idea that baptism is sprinkling, pouring, or immersion would never have materialized.  Can you imagine someone claiming that “immersion is sprinkling, pouring, or immersion” if the King James committee had translated the word instead of anglicizing it?

Some believe the expression “Christ” is Jesus’ name.  It is the English translation of the Greek word “anointed one” or the Hebrew word for “Messiah” or “anointed one.”  If translated, would the expression “Christian” not mean “One belonging to the Messiah” or “One belonging to the anointed one”?  If that Greek word had been translated, we would not say, “He is a Christian,” but rather “He belongs to the Messiah.”  Wouldn’t Paul’s statement in Romans 16:16 not be rendered as “the churches of the anointed one” or “the churches of the Messiah”?  The English word “church” has its own jaded history.  The Greek word ekklesia is actually “assembly” or “congregation” in English.  If that had been rendered correctly, then “churches of God” or “churches of Christ” would be “assemblies” or “congregations of God” or “assemblies” or “congregations of the anointed one,” or “assemblies” or “congregations of the Messiah.”

Translation slips are interesting!

ISN’T IT STRANGE?

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Isn’t it strange that an atheist refuses to believe there is a God and devotes himself to proving what does not exist?

Isn’t it strange that some folks will devote themselves to getting rich and powerful, reach that goal, then discover they can’t keep what they have sacrificed their life to gain?

Isn’t it strange that some people devote themselves to manipulating others, and then discover they cannot manipulate aging, death, nor God?

Isn’t it strange that a person will attempt to be perfect in belief and action, then discovers in dying that his trust has been in his efforts rather than in what Jesus accomplished upon the cross?

Isn’t it strange when a person believes his righteousness is better than another’s, yet he has more assurance of that person’s salvation than he does of his?

Isn’t it strange that folks believe they don’t come into God’s presence until they enter the church’s sanctuary, yet they have been the temple of God for years?

Isn’t it strange when a believer prays to God, but doesn’t know how to picture Him since the Infinite will not print out in his finite brain?

Isn’t it strange that some believers wants to go to heaven, know they aren’t perfect, doubt they will make it, but view it as a wonderful place where they will endlessly play a harp?

Isn’t it strange that some believe it is stupid serve a God that does not exist, when they sell their soul to the god of this world?

Isn’t it strange that some believe they have a license to criticize others, but no one has a permit to do the same to them?

Isn’t it strange that some believe that if they have all the “do not” items covered, that they “do” deserve heaven?

Isn’t it strange that a lie may become truth if it accommodates a person’s faith, but remains a lie if engaged in by someone who doesn’t share that faith?

Isn’t it strange that one person blames his violent behavior upon a non-violent person because that pacifist doesn’t deserve to be non-violent?

Isn’t it strange that a person who is anti-abortion needs to abandon his position because it provokes violence in those who oppose him, believing their lifestyle merits the right to continue violence against the unborn?

Isn’t it strange that some Christians believe in open borders but refuse to bear the expense of that position, expecting others to provide it if they want to be good Christians?

Isn’t it strange that some believe their work in life is telling everyone else what they need to do to please God, but the doing is up to those who are told, not the one doing the telling?

Isn’t it strange that some view hypocrisy as a virtue?

Isn’t it strange?

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32

PRAYER GOAL!

Monday, October 22, 2018

There are only two places in scripture where the expression “thy (your) will be done.”  One is when Jesus was teaching the disciples to pray in what is commonly referred to as “The Lord’s Prayer” (Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2).  The other was when Jesus was praying in the garden before his arrest (Matthew 26:42).  In today’s prayers the phrase is usually, “Lord, if it be your will” do this or that.

Some pray for the sick with, “Lord, if it is your will, heal brother Joe.”  Could that be a misunderstood “hidden” message that we are not aware of?  For example, if Joe isn’t healed, will God be blamed? When the preacher states, “If you are faithful, God will richly bless you,” but a family’s 16-year-old dies in a freak accident.  Will this be understood as punishment for the parent’s imperfect faith?  Sometimes, without realizing it, some find hidden meanings in some phrases that may be understood by the individual in the wrong way.  Is being misunderstood a gamble we all have whether we realize it or not?

The publican praying with the Pharisee did not believe himself to be justified, but he went home with that gift.  The Pharisee thought his righteousness would attract God’s complete attention from that tax collector, but justification slipped through his fingers and fell in disarray at his feet.  Paul said, “I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 12:15).  That’s a lofty goal given to all.

When we’re young we hear prayers using certain phrases and they become our mentor in offering our petitions.  Have you ever heard the following repeated?

  • “Guide, guard, and direct us”?
  • “If it by thy will, give us a home in heaven if we’ve been found faithful”?
  • “Give the preacher a ready recollection of thy word”?
  • “Bless the sick and afflicted in this church”?

These are just a few that are commonly heard.  Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying a person cannot used these phrases in prayer.  When the apostles asked to be taught how to pray, didn’t Jesus give them a model (Matthew 6:9-13)?  We call it “The Lord’s Prayer,” when it was for the disciples.  Did Jesus give something that would be sinful for a disciple to repeat?  Some believe the expression “thy kingdom come” should be omitted.  However, don’t we desire His kingdom to come into the hearts of those who are lost?  Don’t we want it to come in appreciative growth in our own lives?  Since we are broken individuals, don’t we “mess up” even in that?  Another item to watch is mimicking the Pharisee rather than the publican when it comes to assuming another person’s motives.

As a preacher I have had members call on Sunday afternoon questioning why I said a specific thing in my sermon which they believed was questionable.  When I asked them to repeat what I said, they did so without a flaw.  Yet, their understanding was not what I meant.  As flawed individuals, we sometimes assign motives for something said which was not in the heart of the speaker.  The next time you pray, “Guide, guard, and direct us,” I’ll need to understand that I too need God’s guidance, guarding, and direction.  I may not use that expression in my prayers, but I’m sure some know what I’m going to say in my prayer before I say it.

I will pray with the Spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also” (1 Corinthians 12:15).   A lofty goal!

COMFORTABLE TRADITION!

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Have you ever been asked to preside at the Lord’s table?  If so, were you concerned about what you should say?  I’ve heard people complain because the one presiding did not read nor mention passages on the communion such as Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:17-20, or 1 Corinthians 11:23-34.  Yet, the complainers are not as familiar with the Bible as they might believe!   Sadly, we are more familiar with tradition than scripture!  It is a malady infecting us all.

If a person serving on “the Lord’s table” is required to use a certain dialogue or read specific scriptures to validate what is being done, then John must not have received that instruction!  The modern criticism would be directed to John just as much at it is to each  Tom, Dick, and Harry’s presiding today.  He wrote about Jesus and the disciples eating the Passover meal, as did the others, but covered Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, rather that the communion (John 13:4-5).  Wasn’t he there?  Did he not know about our modern traditions and dialogue?  Do we practice the communion part because three, who were present, mentioned it?  Is that why we refuse to wash one another’s feet because three didn’t refer to it?  Why not denounce John for his substitution?  Does truth reside in a 3 to 1 ratio?  Again, aren’t the demands for a specific dialogue based more on tradition than scripture?

First, according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul, Jesus is the only one who ever “presided.”  When Paul corrected the Corinthians, he began by saying, “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you” (1 Corinthians 11:23).  In that delivery, did Paul mention the necessity of having someone preside and confine his remarks to Jesus’ statements in those passages?  If not, is it permissible for us to require what inspiration never did?  Should we fault Paul for not introducing someone who presided over the communion?  Should Paul be disciplined for not mentioning that detail?  Is Luke remiss in the Troas assembly, for not mentioning the one who presided, those who served, and the essential dialogue needed on that occasion? (Acts 20:7-11)?  If those items were essential, would those details not be revealed?  When did the practice of requiring one person to preside and several others to serve with a specific dialogue being required?  If you are not familiar with the dialogue and actions of a Catholic priest engaged in the communion, one might see embedded in his actions some of the traditions we have borrowed and adopted.

Second, there is no command from our Lord nor any of the apostles demanding that one is to preside over the table and use biblical phrases to introduce what is taking place.  That may be our tradition to inform the audience, but not something expressed by the Holy Spirit as a pattern or a command.

Third, there is no dialogue given and required prior to partaking.  When the Catholic Church made the communion into a sacrament, a priest presided, but such is from man rather than God.  I’m not sure when this practice began, but it certainly wasn’t in the first century.  Justin Martyr, around 153 to 155, wrote the following,

Having ended the prayers, we salute one another with a kiss. There is then brought to the president of the brethren bread and a cup of wine mixed with water; and he taking them, gives praise and glory to the Father of the universe, through the name of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, and offers thanks at considerable length for our being counted worthy to receive these things at His hands.  And when he has concluded the prayers and thanksgivings, all the people present express their assent by saying Amen. This word Amen answers in the Hebrew language to ge’noito [so be it].

 “And when the president has given thanks, and all the people have expressed their assent, those who are called by us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread and wine mixed with water over which the thanksgiving was pronounced, and to those who are absent they carry away a portion.” (All emphasis mine, RH)

Notice Justin Martyr informs us about a “president” who gives “praise” and offers “thanks,” but even he doesn’t give a specific required dialogue.  Justin is describing the communion 75 to 80 years later.  By that time the use of a president has been developed, but not in the New Testament period.

Is it wrong for someone to make a few remarks about partaking?  No.  But it has never been a requirement.  Some have taken this tradition and made it into a command from God.  Their view is that if someone doesn’t follow that tradition, he must be attempting to leave the old paths.  Since such is not required by God Himself, wouldn’t such demands rob worship of its “in spirit and in truth” label by those making such demands?

Fourth, when Jesus introduced his memorial, it was during the Passover feast.  While eating that meal, Jesus took two items from it and used them to establish his memorial.  The disciples were eating while Jesus made his introduction (Matthew 26:26; Mark 14:22; Luke 22:15-16).  During that meal Jesus also got up and prepared to wash their feet (John 13:4).  The introduction of the communion was worked into this Passover meal.  John doesn’t tell us whether the “washing” took place prior to nor after the introduction of the communion.  Neither do any of the writers inform us if all stopped chewing, swallowing, or taking another bite of the Passover meal when Jesus took the bread and introduced his memorial.  Although the order of actions is not fully known, one thing is clear, Jesus did not assign anyone to introduce and explain the supper, nor assign a specific dialogue for it.

It was assumed that someone was needed to fill Jesus’ shoes to introduce the communion each time it was offered.  Since scripture is absolutely void of such instruction, men assumed that it was expedient to have an introduction using a specific dialogue to accompany it.   Tradition is often accepted as Biblical teaching.

Fifth, when Paul wrote to the Corinthians he mentioned several things which we often overlook or ignore.  These items were not peculiar to the Corinthians, nor are they things being condemned.  Was the unleavened bread made from wheat or barley? Scripture doesn’t say.  What flour was used for unleavened bread under the Old Testament?

1) Individuals brought the items to be partaken (1 Corinthians 11:21).  Supplying the bread and wine were not in the church’s budget.

2) Those without the needed items depended upon those who had them to share with them.  Missing from Paul’s instruction is a command giving the specific dialogue that must be used to validate it as communion.

3) The amount brought was enough to make the one who brought it full while those they refused to share with went hungry.   When shared, both were filled and neither went away hungry.  So the amount consumed was an actual meal.

4) Those who refused to share the wine they brought, were getting drunk from consuming too much.  That indicates more was consumed, even when shared, than what we consume today.  The Jews brought their own drinking vessel which was usually filled 4 times during the Passover meal.  Jesus used the fourth cup to establish communion.

5) Enough bread and wine were being brought that if they refused to share, Paul told them to stay home to eat and drink it.

6) Neither a physical nor a symbolic piece of furniture, which we refer to as “the Lord’s table,” is mentioned in the 1 Corinthians 11 or Acts 20:7-11 assembly.

7) No dialogue is demanded from those who partook.

8) A collection is not mentioned by any of the communion accounts being in sequence with it.  Nor is there a dialogue required to show it isn’t part of the communion.

9) Many things we do today are based upon church tradition which we are “comfortable” with.  With time, those comforts become so dear and embedded that they are considered God’s Holy Word.

There is nothing wrong with a congregation practicing “church traditions” that have been handed down IF those traditions don’t become religious law.  When they are pushed as “the way things must be done,” that insistence transforms into an unholy monster that devours unity.  Such digression negates the claim that “we preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  As we walk through the jungle of life, let us be cautious of the Genesis 3 serpent which attempts to encircle and squeezes the truth out of us!

The fault with today’s Bible student is that we read scripture, fail to see what it says, and substitute our traditional practices to supplement it.  Sometimes tradition is so comfortable that it kills all desire to “search the scriptures” (John 5:39).

LIVING THE CONTRAST!

Monday, October 15, 2018

Most believers want to do more, but their best efforts are always less.  They want to be better, but their spiritual arms aren’t long enough to reach that goal.  They have a burning desire to please God, but imperfections trash that hope.

If they can do one more thing each day, which they normally put off, God will be impressed and love them more!  Anxiety is the reward of that “one more thing.”  Fear shouts, “Your constant failures are robbing you of your eternal salvation!”

There are some believers who think because they do more than others, their faithfulness will gain them special merit.  Doing more is a false satisfaction embedded in human assurance that fails rather than satisfies.  Honesty steps through a door thought closed and shakes its head negatively.  Each swallows another Rolaids to calm their doubts and build their hope that tomorrow they will do better.

The devil is alive, well, and very busy.  He uses our emotions, hoping we will become discouraged and turn away from God.  The world steps in to assist.  “God doesn’t love you because you’ve failed to do your best.”  “You have failed again, and it decreases God’s favor for you.”

Rather than wake up, some think, if they say one more prayer, attend one more assembly, volunteer for one more spiritual task, take food to one more shut-in, visit the hospital one more time, have one more Bible study, knock on one more door, think one more good thought, love one more person, go on one more medical mission trip, and accomplish one more good thing that they failed to do the day before, God will see their worth and announce, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”  Yes, obedience is the testimony to our faith.  Yet, Satan deceives people into believing God can’t love them unless they capture perfection though their own will power.  They believe that such is the deciding factor that will save them.  It makes man’s accomplishments his personal savior.  His “will power” assists the blood of Jesus and the grace of God to give him the needed push to get across the finish line of being eternally saved!  He will be successful in saving himself!

Despite their obedience, Christianity seems to dangle that favorite carrot just beyond their reach.  God appears to be related to the Egyptian Task Masters more than being a loving Father desiring fellowship with His creation.  So, perfection in obedience is the challenge for each believer to be his own savior!  Desire and hard word will accomplish that goal!  Some have believed they reached it (Luke 18:9-14).

Will we ever accomplish perfection?  The Old and New Testaments reply with a tremendous “NO!”  But the New Testament does show us how we may reach and maintain that lofty position.  Why is it necessary?  We believe we must be perfect to go to Heaven.  Right?  Since we never make the goal of being perfect, nor maintain it, how are we made perfect??

We’ve already seen that perfection is not through human power.  Here is the “how”!  God sent His Word to earth to be born as a human being and experience life and temptations as we do.  He did, he was, but he didn’t!  He did come to earth.  He was born as a human being.  He was tempted, but he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).  He was God in human form to give himself as a perfect sinless sacrifice for our sins.  He paid the price!  He paid all of it!  We put our faith in him as the one whose blood cleanses all past, present, and future sins.  God’s grace is larger than all our sins.  Yes, some decided that it wasn’t for them and turned from it (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:25-29).  Those who stayed were still sinful human beings (1 John 1:7-10).  But they were perfected by Jesus’ blood and God grace (Hebrews 10:38-39; Ephesians 2:12-13).

The word “death” carries the idea of separation.  The spirit departs from the body because of death.  Paul tell us that we die to sin.  Yet, we know we commit sin due to our imperfections (1 John 1:8, 10).  Paul tells us that our spirit is cleansed by the blood of Jesus.  The flesh motivates us to be fleshly or “sin.”  That body will be separated from our spirit at death.  It is of the earth.  What God breathed into us is from Him (Hebrews 12:9).  Our sins are not counted against us (Romans 4:8 NIV).  They are continually removed by Jesus’ blood, so we may stand cleansed before God (Hebrews 10:17).  We are “hid” in Jesus (Colossians 3:1-4).  We are members of his sinless body (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:25-27).  Being “in” Christ, we are no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1)!

Since the Spirit reveals those things to us, let us be “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).  Jesus is our salvation!

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