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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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ARE YOU HIS NEXT MEAL?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, January 27, 2020

In 1974 our church bulletin announced a future debate that I would be engaged in with Gene Reynolds of the Alabama City Church of God.  When my dad read that report, he wrote citing Romans 1:29.

Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, DEBATE, deceit, malignity; whisperers,” (Romans 1:29 KJV).

He informed me that I would be guilty of blaspheming the Holy Ghost by engaging in that DEBATE.  As far as he was concerned, debating was equal to fornication, murder, and such.  He warned me that if I took part in that debate, I would no longer be his son.  He kept his promise.  He passed away in 1995 with Alzheimer and I was never able to reconcile with him.

The Greek word translated by the King James as “debate” I in Romans 1:29 is the only translation that does so.  Even that version renders the word as “strife” four times, “contention” twice, and “variance” once.  “Debate” in 1611 may have meant strife, but that is not always the case today.  From the ASV to the NIV, Romans 1:29 is rendered as “strife,” not “debate.”  A conversation may develop into strife, but that does not render all conversations as strife.  Two men may disagree, but that disagreement does not mean they are engaged in strife.  Peter disagreed with Jesus, but neither of them were guilty of strife.  Two people may discuss their biblical differences without it degenerating into strife.  Debate may develop into strife, like conversation or disagreements, but none of them engage in strife.  In fact, my father differed with me and yet he nor I were guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, nor being guilty of strife.  He thought I was but didn’t think he was.  Yet, we were debating (discussing) our differences.  By condemning me, he was also condemning himself.

My dad entertained some interesting religious beliefs.  He believed it was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to question another person’s religious claims.  Yet, it never occurred to him that he was preaching to himself by questioning my faith.  The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Timothy 4:3).  You can’t test another’s belief unless you ask him questions to reveal the origin of his teaching.  Does your teaching or mine harmonize with God’s word?  How would we know unless we compare both with what scripture actually says?

My dad was questioning my belief and telling me I was wrong for questioning Gene’s belief.  During that discussion, Gene was questioning my belief.  Yet, in dad’ mind I was the blasphemer.  In doing so, he was practicing the very thing that he accused me of doing.  Inconsistency is seldom admitted by the one introducing it.  What is interesting is that Gene never accuse me of blaspheming the Holy Spirit because I questioned his beliefs.  Notice what the apostle John told his readers to do,

 “Dearly loved friends don’t always believe everything you hear just because someone says it is a message from God: test it first to see if it really is. For there are many false teachers around, and the way to find out if their message is from the Holy Spirit is to ask” (1 John 4:1-2).

The problem among believers is that some never question the claims of those who announce that they speak for God.  Does anyone remember Jim Jones and the spiked drink he offered his followers?  He claimed God was moving him, but no one survived that drink.  They would still be alive if they had questioned Jim Jones’ faith!  They would not have been guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit for that questioning.  A few questions and he would not have had followers unless they were blind to truth.

Some do not want you to question their faith or to show their doctrine is inconsistent with the Bible.  Some are so convinced that they follow the truth, that they refuse to investigate their own arguments.  There were some like that even in the church of God in Corinth.

Paul admonished prophets, tongue speakers, and others who were inspired by the Holy Spirit to:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves” (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Peter exhorted the body of Christ to:

Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).

It’s safer to examine, be ready, and always be vigilant than to remain uninformed.  To refuse to study, one may not be actually walking by faith, his hope may be in question, and the devil may find it extremely easy to make him his next meal.

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Don’t be meat on the devil’s table!

ABRAHAM, THE BEGGAR, AND THE RICH MAN

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Recently I spoke on Luke 16:19-31.  This passage is often used to answer the question, “What happens when one dies?”  I noticed something that I had never seen before although I have studied these verses for the past sixty-two years.  I thought, “How could I have missed this point all those years?”

Some usually preach this passage to show that at death one will go, either to Abraham’s bosom or to a place of torment.  That person will remain in one or the other until the Judgment.  After the Judgment, those in Abraham’s bosom will go to heaven and those in torment will go to hell.  We usually say this passage is literal.  Why?  Because Jesus used names in telling it.  Is it possible for Jesus to use names despite the story being figurative?

Luke 16 Gives These Details:

  1. The rich man can see Abraham and Lazarus: v.23.
  2. The rich man can talk to Abraham and Abraham can talk to him: vv. 24-25.
  3. The rich man is in torment due to the flames he is in. Vv. 24-25.
  4. Abraham (& Lazarus) see the rich man in that torment.
  5. The rich man wants the beggar, not Abraham, to relieve his pain: v. 24.

Most believe it is literal.  If so, here is what Jesus states as literal.

  1. Those who are in Abraham’s bosom can see those who are in torment?
  2. Those who are in Abraham’s bosom can hear the painful cries of those in torment.
  3. Those who are in Abraham’s bosom recognize those who are in torment.
  4. A person in torment can plead with those who are in Abraham’s bosom, asking them to relieve them of their pain.
  5. Since one area is a place of comfort and good things, but the other is a place of continual pain and pleading, as long as there is one, the other will exist within sight and sound of the other.

1). If one part of verses 19 to 31 is real and the other parts are figurative, where is the instructions telling us which one is what?  (Book, chapter, and verse)

2). When we read this passage and fill in the blanks, are we not filling them with our assumptions?

3). If we are supposed to use our intellect to determine what is real, and use that same intellect to determine what is figurative, would that not make man the deciding factor of what is or is not figurative or real in all other Bible passages?

4). If vv. 19 – 31 are not figurative, then doesn’t this section of scripture tell us that the faithful can see and hear those who are lost?  If that part is real rather than figurative, it would mean that the faithful are subjected to observing and hearing those pitiful, cries from acquaintances in torment?  Would that be comforting?

5). If those passages are not the real deal, then we have to take them figuratively.  The only problem, neither Jesus nor Luke give any inspired instruction one way or the other.  So, if we move in either direction, how do we know we have taken the right course?  If we take the wrong one and preach it, would we not end up teaching for doctrine the traditions of men if we are wrong!  How would we know we were right or wrong?

6). If we believe “common sense” tells us what is right or wrong, then is our “common sense” God’s standard of right and wrong?

7).  If those passages are literal, how could Abraham’s bosom be a great place if we can see and hear across that great gulf?  Would that “great gulf” not be all that great?

AN AGENDA, AN AGENDA, MY KINGDOM FOR AN AGENDA

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, January 20, 2020

Everyone has an agenda.  Some may be more earnest in supporting theirs than another.  Some are willing to go outside the law to obtain their goal.  Some will lie and deceive to reach theirs.  Even religious people have agendas.  If an individual holds to a specific doctrine denied by others, he will fight furiously for his.  Some are so dedicated to their agenda that they are willing to give their lives to uphold it.  An agenda may be ridiculed, and the owner ostracized, but such negative actions reinforce his faith rather than weakening it.

If a person believes he is doing God’s will, he will not be convinced otherwise.  Some are willing to defend their agenda by flying an airplane into a building or blowing themselves up.  If in the process they kill others, those victims deserved it because they did not accept his faith.  He is an instrument of God’s wrath upon infidels.   He will be richly rewarded for his martyrdom.

Those who claim to follow Jesus may not go to that extreme, but some do follow a different path in destroying others.  Innuendo is permitted.  Lies are justified.  Character assassination is allowed.  All such actions are justified in protecting that individual’s agenda.  He is God’s vengeance against those who will not remain on his path of conceived righteousness.   His followers see him as the defender of the faith.  He “tells it like it is.”

The problem inherent in this is that everyone has an agenda.  I have mine and you have yours.  An agenda may not kill anyone, but it can be destructive.  Saints in Corinth had theirs.  Four are introduced in the first four chapters.  Each agenda supported noble names.  Who would deny that Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Jesus supported the truth?  All four did.  Yet, the congregation’s loyalties created the first “my favorite preacher” syndrome.  Even the one that touted itself as being “of Christ” was guilty (1 Corinthians 1:12).  Their paths followed neither the man nor his scriptural plan.   It was the beginning of “my agenda is better than yours.”

The devil is the master of deceit.  Didn’t he quote scripture to Jesus (Matthew 4:6)?   If he used God’s Word on the one who is God’s Word, do you think mankind would be a challenge to him?  If you doubt his abilities, look at the tremendous number of divisions that now exist among those who believe in Jesus.  Do you think God is the originator of our divisiveness?  Didn’t God show four ways were four too many (1 Corinthians 1:13)?

Satan uses man’s weaknesses to strengthen his kingdom and agenda.  So, why wouldn’t he use our agendas for his purposes?

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Are You A Hyphenated Christian?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 01/16-2020

One person asks another, “Are you a Christian?”  The other responded, “Yes.”  The first person asked, “What kind are you?”  The person responded, “I’m a ______ Christian.”  If you wish, you may fill in the blank.  If you were living in the first century, what would that answer be?  Perhaps the hyphenation you wrote in the above line is not found in scripture.  Why?  No one was referred to by that hyphenation until centuries later.  It was an addition that resulted in the following:

1). It did not save anyone since the person enjoyed salvation prior to that and other hyphenations being created.

2). It did not improve a person’s standing with God because Yahweh saved them due to the blood of Jesus rather than them joining a hyphenated group.

3). Not one single apostle of Jesus Christ adopted or referred to themselves by a hyphenation.

4). The saved were organized as the body or church of God prior to the introduction of hyphenated bodies or churches.

5). Hyphenations did not improve the body of Jesus in organization, fellowship, worship, or work since God created that divine body before man created hyphenations.

Paul wrote to a congregation in the first century that made the mistake of introducing that kind of hyphenations.  The ones who introduced those new creations were already Christians because they were already in the one body of Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:27).  They were already the church of God (1 Corinthians 1:2).  Yes, the names of the ones they used to denominate themselves with were highly respected and honored men.  However, those personalities did not suggest nor encourage those brethren to do what they were introducing.  Neither Paul, Apollos, Cephas, or Jesus encouraged nor suggested that their names or teaching were to be used to create those hyphenated divisions or sects.

Each one of them was something in addition to being a Christian!  “What KIND of Christian are you?”  “I’m a Pauline Christian.”  “Oh, Well I’m a Cephasite Christian.”  “I’m neither one of those, I’m an Apollosian Christian.”  “All of you are wrong.  You need to be a Christ Christian like me.”  Paul’s rebuttal to all four was, “Is Christ divided?” (1:13).  No, four times No!

The divisiveness promoted by all four was wrong.   Did a person have to hear Paul rather than Peter to become a Christian?  No.  Were those who had heard Christ the only real Christians?  No. Were those who were immersed by Apollos rather than Cephas the actual Christians?  No.  Paul points out that some had heard him preach but were immersed by someone else.  God adds to the saved those who have received and responded to His word.  Who teaches you and who immerses you is not the important factor?  Philip immersed the eunuch rather than Paul, Apollos, Peter, or Jesus doing it.  Was he added to the saved by God Almighty?  Yes, he was.  It may give a person bragging rights, but God did not save them because they were immersed by Paul rather than by Philip.  What hyphenated group was the eunuch in after his immersion?  Did the eunuch see any reason to be hyphenated as “of Paul,” “of Apollos,” “of Cephas,” “of Christ” or “or Philip?

Those hyphenated saved folks in Corinth were divided into four “of” groups.  They were saved before they divided.  They were saved before they named themselves.   Most, if not all of the problems they were drowning in was a results of those four divisions.  Such divisiveness owes its allegiance to Satan rather than Jesus.   Those Corinthians and others who had been added to the saved by the Father were complete in Christ Jesus without those hyphenations.  Hyphenation isn’t necessary to one’s salvation.  It isn’t necessary as an addition because it divides those who believe in Jesus!

If one wishes to be scripturally hyphenated, the best way is to be a faithful saved one!

347 MORE DAYS UNTIL CHRISTMAS?

My Thoughts . . .
Monday, 01-13-2020

The Christmas or Holiday Tree has been removed and is now waiting 347 more days to be resurrection again. Around Thanksgiving or shortly thereafter, several groups begin arming themselves to change very few minds. It is the yearly festival of blowing off steam to anyone that will listen. This article is either too late or too early but fits in that category. Take it with a grain of Sea salt.

One group is offended because someone says “Merry Christmas” to them. This puts them in a dilemma of whether to set that individual straight or let him remain in his ignorance. They are thankful that they understand December 25th is NOT the actual birthday of Jesus. They will neither parrot the greeting nor accept it. They want everyone to know that no Bible character celebrated Jesus’ birthday on December 25th.

Some in that belief are divided into at least two categories. There are those who not only know the truth about Jesus’ birth, but that it was never celebrated on December 25th by Joseph, Mary, the angels, the shepherds, the Eastern elite, nor God. Each December it is their duty to teach others the truth on how this practice began. Their position never wavers and is held as “the faith once delivered to the saints.” It is their right to teach what they believe.

The other category knows December 25th may not be Jesus’ birth date but are happy that people think about his birth even if they may be wrong on the month and day. Most treat the season as a Catholic/Protestant tradition. Some will not give the “Merry Christmas” greeting while others will. Those who refuse to say “Merry Christmas” will usually substitute it with “Season’s Greetings.” They see no contradiction in doing so. They don’t turn down getting off work with pay on that day. They enjoy their Christmas bonus without objections. They don’t protests the gifts given by friends and family. They go with the flow!

Since no New Testament author identifies any specific day as the birth date of Jesus, nor first century saints celebrating it individually or collectively, an alternate doctrine is produced. One is, “We celebrate Jesus’ birth 365 days of the year.” Another is, “We celebrate his birth on Sunday each week as we partake of the communion.” They never seem to understand that neither substitution is given in the Bible. They are as guilty of believing something that is not stated in the Bible as those who recognize that birth on one specific day. At least those who celebrate the 25th know it may not be the actual birth date. If that fact is known by those who make those two substitutions, why do they do something when the Bible is silent. Would all three categories not be passengers in the same boat?

Is it wrong to tell others that Jesus’ birthday is not mentioned in the Bible as being on December 25th? No. That is a true statement. In fact, during this past December a Catholic priest told a national television audience that no one knows the specific day Jesus was born on. He spoke the truth. A Methodist Church in Memphis for years displayed a sign on their lawn that Jesus’ birth was in June! Perhaps, but who knows? Does that Bible omission mean we may celebrate his birth, just not on any specific day? How would that be possible? Does that Bible omission mean we may observe his birth while partaking of communion, just don’t tell anyone? If Christians are bound to not observe Jesus’ birth on any specific day, would that not make atheists happy? If silence is our master, wouldn’t the safe course be to teach and preach that saints are not to celebrate his birth on any specific day? What specific Sunday would we be authorized to read Matthew 1:18-25 to 2:12 and Luke 2:1-20? Since Sunday would be a specific day, may we do that reading ONLY if we prefaced it with, “We are reading these scriptures about Jesus birth, but the audience must understand that this is not the specific day on which he was born”?

Romans 14 covers these different opinions.

LOST OPPORTUNITIES

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, January 6, 2020

When the men from the high priest came to arrest Jesus, Matthew and Mark tell us the disciples fled.  Both were referring to the apostles and friends who made that choice.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us that Peter followed Jesus “afar off.”  John’s account is different.  He informs us that Peter followed Jesus but doesn’t mention whether it was “afar” or “nearer” that the others (John 18:15).  Neither Matthew, Mark nor Luke tell us that “another disciple” was with Peter.  Neither of those three inform us as to how Peter gained entrance to the court of the high priest.  John is the only one who gives that information (John 18:16).  That disciple was known to the high priest (John 18:15).  John informs us that this particular disciple “went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest” (v. 15).  According to verse 16, the high priest knew that disciple.  Who was he?  It was the apostle John.  Peter could not get past the gate into the court.  The female attendant knew John and upon his word, Peter was allowed to enter.  The text may indicate that John was allowed into the presence of the high priest when he interrogated Jesus.

When the young woman accepted John’s instructions to allow Peter through the gate, John apparently returned to where Jesus was held.  Peter was asked by the girl, “Are not you also one of this man’s disciples?”  Apparently, she knew John was or the question would not have been asked.  However, Peter’s reply was, “I am not” (v. 17).   Opportunity Number One lost!  Sometimes it is who you know that makes the difference on how you respond.  John knew and was known by the high priest.  That gave Peter the right to enter.  It also set in motion his opportunity to witness or wither.

Peter warmed himself by the fire where the servants and officers of the high priest were.   He wanted to see how things would go for Jesus (Matthew 26:58b).  Some in that group were in the crowd that arrested Jesus.  If Jesus friends fled to keep from being arrested, why would they think Peter had enough courage to be in their midst (v. 25)?  His answer to their question indicates he lost another Opportunity.  Then a relative of Malchus, the one lost and regained his right ear, asked a question.  “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” (John 18:26).  Response?  “Peter denied it.”  Opportunity number three.

When the rooster crowed Peter realized his bragging for what it was (Matthew 26:33-35; Luke 22:33).  He understood that he had denied Jesus, not once, but three times.  He was mortified over his actions and Matthew and Luke tell us he “wept bitterly” (Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62).  Despite that, when Jesus rose and met with the apostles, he never reminded Peter about those lost opportunities.  He never demanded Peter to make a public confession.  Instead he told Peter, “Feed my lambs” (John 21:15), “Feed my sheep” (v. 16-17, and “Follow me” (v. 19).

Regardless of what your past looks like, Jesus say, “Follow me.”

AT HOME?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, December 30, 2019

Sometimes a truth may reveal itself when a different statement is substituted.  The substitution is not made to change God’s word, only to direct the student to see God’s actual statement.  When twenty-first century prejudices, traditions, or culture substitutes expressions that are foreign to first century events, it creates misunderstandings.  Notice what Paul actually said in the following passage.

“Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.  And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands AT HOME; for it is shameful for women to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

Who are these women?  Some believe they are the prophetesses in 1 Corinthians 11:5. Some believe they are the wives of the prophets.  Some believe they are all females in the assembly.  Some believe this passage applies to any woman regardless of her location.  She is to be silent when men are present.  The Greek word “sigao,” translated “silence” in verse 34 is also used in correcting the prophets and tongue speakers (v.28 and v.30 “hold his peace”).

The Corinthian prophets were engaged in confusion not edification (v. 26).  Tongue speakers were adding their part by not have an interpreter to translate (v. 28).  They were to speak one at a time rather than at the same time.  Whoever these women were, they were guilty of adding to that confusion with their questions.  All three are told to be silent or hold their peace.  Prophets and tongue speakers were commanded to speak one at a time, with no more than three in their category speaking in that assembly.  If a tongue speaker did not have an interpreter, he must remain silent (sigao).  If a prophet received a new prophecy, the new one became the speaker and whoever was speaking was to remain silent as the new prophecy was given.  Those specific women were to ask their questions at home, NOT in the assembly!

Why do some readers change several expressions in the text?  One is changed from “SPEAK” to “PREACH.”  “LEARN” is changed to the word “TEACH.”  “ASK” is changed to “PREACH” or “TEACH” and the third expression, “AT HOME” is changed to “WHEN TEACHING WOMEN.”  The passage is made to say the following:

“Let ALL your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to PREACH; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.  And if they want to PREACH, let them PREACH TO WOMEN; for it is shameful for women to PREACH to men in church.”

Check it out!  These women are ASKING, NOT preaching.  Their ASKING is disrupting the assembly just as much as the erring prophets and tongue speakers are.  They are ASKING their husbands, who apparently are the speaking prophets or tongue speakers.  Paul commands them to ASK at HOME, not ASK in CHURCH.

If the fault of those women was PREACHING, then Paul commands them to PREACH at HOME.  Some will disagree, but if so, they disagree with what Paul wrote.  Paul commanded these women to “shut up” (sigao) rather than ask their questions of their husbands IN CHURCH.  They are commanded to ASK at HOME in order to learn.  What they cannot do IN CHURCH, they are COMMANDED to do AT HOME.  If several couples go home with them nothing is changed and she may ask her husband at home what she cannot ask at church.  She is not violating scripture when she obeys Paul’s command.  She is simply following God’s instruction.

Paul’s instruction in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 has been abused, misinterpreted, and taken out of context.  If we follow the usual interpretation taught by some, wouldn’t that path cause the practitioners to be 1) guilty of ADDING to God’s word, 2) of going beyond what is written, 3) taking the passage out of its context, and 4) teaching another gospel (Galatians 1:6-9)?

If Paul’s instruction in this passage silences SPEAKING for ALL women in that assembly, then no female has the authority to SPEAK in song or confession.  Scripture is silent about a woman making here confession or singing in the 1 Corinthians 14 assembly.  Paul’s sigao in 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 would restrict her in doing so in Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, and Romans 10:9-10.  She would be required to do those actions AT HOME.

What does 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 actually say?

PERFECTION SAVING THE IMPERFECT!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Do you have any relatives that have a bad reputation?  Were they guilty of breaking the law?  I got into the ancestor search a few years back.  Originally, my maternal family came from England and settled in Virginia in 1609.  The family spread in two directions from Virginia.  One son remained in Virginia.  Another son went to North Carolina and the third one moved to Sevierville, Tennessee.  Then some moved from East Tennessee to East Madison County near Brownsville.  My great-grandfather and his immediate family left Brownsville and traveled to middle Arkansas.  He was murdered during a card game.  Was he cheating or was it another player?  One thing is clear, my great-grandfather wasn’t quick enough on the draw.   I know that my aunt Vida Chandler Watts never would allow spots cards in her house because of that incident.  After that incident, my grandfather and family left Arkansas, traveled West and settled in Stratford, Oklahoma.  This move was shortly after Oklahoma became a State.  I grew up and lived in Oklahoma until I traveled East to study in Memphis, Tennessee in 1958.

Although there were some rascals in the Chandler lineage, their stories are interesting.  There are also businessmen, landowners, some who fought in the Civil War, World War I and II, law officers, lawyers, teachers, farmers, college professors, and preachers.  Some were recognized by society because they “came from good stock.”  Those who stayed in trouble with the law may have come from good families, they just didn’t stay with their raising.

Jesus was born in a manger or what we would call a barn.  That birth spot wasn’t because Joseph was poor, but because the inns were full.  Back then the early arrivals usually got the best rooms.  Mary was pregnant. Perhaps her condition meant more rest stops.  When a family has their first baby, most will take a lot of pictures.  Jesus’ baby book was located in Mary’s memory (Luke 2:19, 51).  On one occasion during Jesus ministry, Mark informs us about an unusual family event.  Jesus’ brothers and their mother attempted to take him home and restrict his public appearances.  They thought he was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21 RSV, NIV, ESV).

Who would believe Jesus was God’s anointed one or Messiah?  Even his lineage contains some “shady” individuals.  There is a possible Canaanite woman whose name was Tamar.  She became pregnant through deception (Genesis 38).  She presented herself as a prostitute so her father-in-law would get her pregnant.  The second woman is also a prostitute and pagan whose name is Rahab (Joshua 2:1-14).  The third woman is a Moabite Gentile named Ruth.  Her son would be David’s grandfather (Ruth 4:17).  The fourth woman willingly commits fornication with David.  To cover his sin, David ultimately has her husband killed in battle and then marries her.  Solomon is their second son.  Solomon starts well but decides to try different things to see how each scenario plays out.  Living quarters for his wives and concubines must have been huge since he had 700 wives and 300 extra in-house women!  Solomon’s son Rehoboam was also a disappointment.  “Train up a child” didn’t help that royal kid.  However, from these imperfect individuals a prophesied Savior comes into the family.

God uses man where he is to accomplish His will.  God manifested Himself in the form of an imperfect man to save wayward mankind.  Some powerful men rejected him then and they still do.  His name is Jesus (Joshua in Hebrew), meaning “Yahweh or Jehovah saves.”

The angel told Mary about the child she would have.  Angels announced his birth.  Men from the East traveled to their rented house to worship him.  They brought expensive gifts and presented them to the baby.  Jesus as a youth astonished his mother with his knowledge and speech.  As a teen, his interests were different from others.  As a man, his wisdom and teaching continued to astonish and mystify her.  His miracles were mind boggling and crowds followed him to share in their benefits.  Yet, human misunderstanding stepped in and his divine actions were interpreted as an embarrassment to the family.  He was raised to be a carpenter but recognized as one having authority.  His lessons were not easy to accept.  His family thought their actions were right.  Mary’s son could not be right when so many preachers claimed he was so wrong.  So, they went to get him off the streets.

The prophets foretold of the Messiah’s coming.  Details were given that would be fulfilled by God’s Anointed One.  Mary was visited by an angel.  That was not a daily occurrence.  The signs and instructions were overwhelming to one so young.  She had never had sexual relations with a man, yet she was pregnant.  Explaining that condition to family, neighbors, and a future husband in that culture was impossible.  God spoke to her appointed husband.  The events surrounding her son’s birth were not ordinary.  Even as a boy, his actions and reputation were overwhelming.  As she heard about Jesus’ teachings and miracles, her awe and questions grew.  Yet, there she was, with her sons, to take Jesus, by force if necessary, back home.  They wanted to get him off the streets and away from the crowds.  Even a mother can have doubts.  The sons were not helpful in recognizing Jesus as the person he actually was.  Human inconsistency being what it is, the jealousy of Jesus’ brothers was alive and active.  One may also see Satan alive and active in their actions.

Despite the negative feelings Mary and the sons manifested, Jesus was not detoured in his mission.  We are not told when those brothers realized their error.  However, two stand out as believers after Acts 2.  James is referred to as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19).  He is mentioned in Acts 12:17; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12.  He is also the author of the book of James.  The other brother is the author of the book of Jude (1:1).  James also stands out as a leader in the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 15:13-21).  The KJV uses the word “my sentence” to translate the Greek word krino in verse 19.  However, the ASV, NASV, RSV, and NIV use the expression “my judgment.”  The NKJV has “Therefore I judge.”  Some passages appear to describe James’ position in the church based primarily upon his family relationship to Jesus.

God stepped into man’s history, saving the imperfect through His perfection.  Yahweh is continuing that role today in your life and mine.  Doubt continues to flourish, but faith continues to save despite our imperfections (Acts 4:12; 16:30-33; Romans 5:9-10; 10:9; Ephesians 2:5, 8; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:5).

DO CULTURAL CHANGES AFFECT BIBLICAL COMMANDS?

My Thoughts . . .

Monday, December 23, 2019

Have you ever heard someone claim, “If it was good enough for Peter and Paul, it is good enough for us”?  Not everything that was right for Peter and Paul to practice is right for us.  That may sound contradictory, but it isn’t.  What most people don’t take into consideration is that the culture and tradition Peter and Paul lived under was not the same as ours.  Culture and traditions have a way of changing through the years.  Sometimes that change is right and at other times it may be wrong.  Sometimes it may not be right or wrong due to circumstances!

Paul wrote to the Ephesian and Colossian brethren addressing both Christian “masters” and “slaves” (Ephesians 6:5-8; 6:9; Colossians 3:22-25; 4:1; Titus 2:9; Philemon 1).  Slavery wasn’t outlawed in the United States until 1865.  Prior to 1861, when the Civil War began, slave owners argued that slavery was “scriptural.”  It was in the first century when Christianity began.  Paul did not condemn slave ownership.  No matter how much that topic rubs us the wrong way, scripture reveals the practice was lawful in apostolic days.  Although slavery was abolished in the United States 154 years ago, it continues to be a sore spot in our history.  We have National Parks that contain some 620,000 graves of Northern and Southern soldiers who died due to conflicting belief systems.

Our history is a testimony of how culture and traditions in one generation may be acceptable, while being frowned upon by another.  Abraham was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23), Jacob wrestled with an angel (Genesis 32:24-30), and David stood tall as the slayer of Goliath (1 Samuel 17; 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4).  All three men are found in God’s Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11).  Yet, what was right in their culture would not be in ours.  Abraham slept with his wife Sarah and her slave girl Hagar (Genesis 16:4).  He had a son by both women.   Jacob married sisters.  David had eight wives.  Time changes culture.

Some believers today fail to see that the Jewish church continued to be zealous in keeping Jewish (Old Testament) law with its religious days, priesthood, sacrifices, and worship (Acts 21:17-26).  Paul kept that law and its worship to prove to Jewish members that he “walked orderly, keeping the law” (Acts 21:24).  The Gentile churches were not required to observe Hebrew Law nor to engage in Old Testament worship (Acts 15:6-29).  Gentile worship changed, traveling in a different direction from what the Jerusalem and other Jewish assemblies observed.

First century saints obeyed Paul and Peter’s command to “greet one another with a holy kiss” (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).  Western culture changed that command and substituted a handshake.  Culture changed and the Western church followed.

Culture often creates its cults causing tradition to reign as God’s word.  This is a pit that conservatism may fall prey to.  Although a tradition may have an innocent beginning, time erodes that stage and justifies itself with “that’s the way we’ve always done it.”  Liberalism takes a different path which contains its own potholes.  Culture is hypnotic in convincing saints living in one century that all Christians before them “did church” exactly as they are practicing it.  If their practice is difference from what the Bible literally states, their justification for that change is because the biblical action was based upon first century culture, not theirs.  The doctrine advanced is that changes in a society’s culture allows changes in a biblical practice!  However, this can develop into a problem.  The Bible is void of instruction which gives a person the authority to change certain biblical commands to harmonize with his change in culture.

When newer translations of the Bible challenged the 1611 King James language, some deified that 290-year-old version.  Some believed the words “thee, thou, and thine’ were divine language.  Most popular church songs contained those words.  Prayers were filled with them.  The first person who addressed God as “you” was viewed as a heretic.  If one read from any version other than the KJV, he was reading from a false translation.  Human rules flourished allowing only the KJV as the translation that must be used in classrooms and pulpit.  Some at first allowed the ASV second place, but that privilege contained a questioning “if.”  118 years have passed since the ASV was introduced, but there are individuals who continue to view the KJV as God’s only authorized version.  Culture may create an idol that imprisons its subjects to accept a lie as truth.

Sometimes a belief will blossom due to a practice being accepted and practiced for a few hundred years.  There is a contradictory position that has become an unwritten law for some.  That law is, “Introducing anything new is not authorized by scripture.”  Yet, we are top heavy with things that have been introduced since the first century!  They were new at the time of their introduction.  Why have we accepted those practices?  “Because a trusted preacher of yesteryear said it was okay” or “Because we have practiced it for several generations, and it has to be right or we would not have practicing it.”

Culture and traditions have a way of changing through the years.  Sometimes that change is right and at other times it can be wrong.  In the first century, if a non-Jew didn’t submit to circumcision, Jewish believers would not accept him as a true Christian (Acts 15:1).  When Paul was with a Gentile audience, he did things the Gentile way.  When he was with a Jewish assembly, he did things the Jewish way (1 Corinthians 9:20-23).  This caused a rumor to reach Jerusalem that Paul was telling Jewish believers they no longer needed to circumcise their sons or follow the Law of Moses (Acts 21:21).  When Paul wrote to the Roman church, that Jewish/Gentile problem appears to be causing problems there (Romans 14).  Christians still have a problem with that passage and its principles today.

When culture changes, does that require Christians to change biblical commands to harmonize with the new culture?  We still have that problem today.  Sometimes we are no better at solving it than first century brethren were.

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