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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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WHAT IS WORSHIP?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, August 19, 2019

As one reads the Old Testament, he encounters believers who are “worshiping” God.  The Hebrew word is sha-ha.  It is used 99 times as “worship,” 18 as “Bow Down,” 3 times as “fall down,” and once to “stoop” and once to “crouch.”  It means to “bow down, crouch, fall down (flat), and to stoop.”  Out of the 99 times it is translated as “worship” in eight it specifically gives their posture which is either falling down or bowing down to worship.

In the New Testament the primary word for “worship” in Greek is proskuneo.  It is found 60 times.  This is the word Jesus used in John 4:23-24.  The definition of worship is “kiss like a dog licking his master’s hand, fawn or crouch, or prostrate oneself.”  Out of those sixty their posture is mentioned five times.  They either fell down, fell on their face, or fell at the feet of the one being worshiped.  Whether in the Old or New, the definitions are not literally practiced today as they were in both testament periods.  The reasoning today behind that substitution is, their posture in worship was connected to their culture not to their act of worship.  The reasoning continues by surmising that since our culture is different, we may choose what worshipers are comfortable with today.   The conclusion is that we may worship sitting or standing.

All English Bibles were produced by those who were in well-established practices which they called “worship.”  The Anglican Bible, referred to as the King James Version, did use the word worship (proskuneo) once with the New Testament assembly in Corinth (1 Corinthians 14:25).  The drawback is that the worshiper is not a Christian, but someone coming in off the street.  He falls down to practice his worship.  Something that some sects engage in, but not most Protestant or Catholics churches.  Strangely, the actions of the Corinthian church of God in chapter fourteen are never mentioned by Paul as “worship.”

There was a time in our history when men crouched on their knees in prayer and women wore a veil in the assembly.  Both practices yielded to the incoming culture.  If a man bowed down on his knees today in prayer, some might consider it a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:40!  If a woman wore a veil to the assembly, she might be considered a “show-off,” trying to get attention.  Anyone who would lift his hands in prayer as Paul spoke of in 1 Timothy 2:8, might be viewed as out of place, even non-biblical.  To challenge someone’s comfort zone today may be considered by some to violate God’s word.

So, what is worship?  Has anyone licked God’s hand lately?

 

FORGOTTEN FORGIVENESS!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 08/15/2019

Forgiveness. Something most folks seek and desire all their lives.  Yet, it is a object some find impossible to attain.  Simply put, we want to be forgiven, but we don’t want to forgive.  We are hurt when others will not forgive us, but we are too hurt by what others have done to us to forgive them.  Some say they have forgiven, yet they continue to wallow in remembering.   Yet Jesus placed a stipulation upon one wishing to be forgiven.

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you” (Matthew 6:14 NKJV).

It is easy to believe that you have forgiven your enemies if no proof is required and everyone accepts your word without question.  Yet, the first time that person’s name comes up, your facial expressions announce whether you did or didn’t.  Anytime someone mentions that person’s name, you will complain about your hurt originating from them.   We all need to remember Moses’ statement:

 “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Another translation states,

Be sure that your sin will track you down” (The Message).

Jesus tied our forgiveness to our forgiving others!  Too often we feel the offense we have suffered is too great for forgiveness to be granted.  We sometimes justify our actions of withholding forgiveness because “the person doesn’t deserve it.”  Yet, each of us is guilty, due to our sins, for the cruel death of God’s Son upon a Roman cross.  He was willing to put away his hurt and humiliation and wants us to follow his lead.  Self-justification may smooth our hurt, but it isn’t sufficient to remove our sins.

Do you feel what others have done to you is greater than what you and I have done to Him?  I hope not.  The cross is God’s proof that he will forgive and forget.  Our faith is based upon our actions (James 2:17-18).  A refusal to forgive upon our part, either confirms or negates our faith.  God wants to forgive you.  What kind of faith do you possess?

LENGTH WITHOUT LIFE?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 08-12-2019

When I was in elementary school, we would see a high school student and think he was old.  If he was thought to be old, what about our parents and grandparents?  The parents were real, real old and the grandparents had “real” so many times before “old” that you could not count them!  There was a saying to describe such a person.  He had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel!  The older folks would use the expressions “twenty years ago” or “twenty years from now.”  Those terms were as incomprehensible and in the same category as our thoughts were on how long eternity is or how big is God.  Age was seldom the center of our communication.

I didn’t spend much time wandering through cemeteries as a child or teenager.  When a teen friend was killed in an auto or hunting accident, it produced questions, but with school, dating, and such, the event and thoughts were put away and seldom brought up after the funeral.  It became past history.  However, as time passes, circumstances in life will require occasional graveside visits.

When you visit one, looking for the grave marker of a loved one, you may be distracted by how short or long others have lived?  Today, the average life span is 77 for men and 81 for women.  That age seems like a galaxy, far, far away when you are young.  When you reach that age span you wonder where those years went.  Here is what Moses stated,

Seventy years are given us!  And some may even live to eighty.  But even the best of these years are often emptiness and pain; soon they disappear, and we are gone” (Psalm 90:10 TLB).

There are a few who live past 100. We have a fine lady in the congregation that is 101 and will soon celebrate her 102nd birthday.  That’s quite an achievement in this day.  There is a tradition in the fifty states that anyone who reaches the age of one hundred receives a congratulatory letter from the President of the United States.  That is an honor for the birthday person and family.

Yet, living 100 years by itself isn’t much of a record.  If that’s all a person has to show for his years, he hasn’t accomplished much.  Whether a person lives into his teens or manages to squeak by that hundred-year mark, his life takes on significance only if Jesus was the author and finisher of his faith (Hebrews 12:1,2).  It isn’t how long you live, but who you lived for that counts.  Length without that life is folly.

The fool has said in his heart, there is no God” (Psalms 14:1; 53:1 NKJV).

A wise man is cautious and avoids danger; a fool plunges ahead with great confidence” (Proverbs 14:16 TLB).

AN ENIGMA CALLED CORINTH!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, August 8, 2019

I once worked for a church eons ago that had a lot of potential for growth.  Predictions were that in ten years the area’s population would easily triple in size.  We were about 300 on Sunday mornings.  We looked forward to that growth spurt and envisioned a 600 to 1,000-member congregation.  It never happened.  Internal problems were evident, but nothing was really done to solve them.  Members started leaving.  The “why” was never revealed, at least right away.  When the truth of those departures were discovered and a remedy proposed, it failed and the results was swept under the rug.  Two years later the rug could no longer hide the ugliness that members had hoped would evaporate.  The area grew as predicted, but the congregation’s numbers went the wrong direction.  That reputation stuck with that assembly for years that it was burden with problems.  Despite those problems and the history created, they appeared as a bride, not having spot or wrinkle when compared to the church of God in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:2).

Paul heard about the doctrinal and personal sins in the church from the house of Chloe (1:11).  Some might charge that family with gossip, but Paul was shocked.  His dismay was not over the origin of the received information, but by the deplorable state the congregation had sunk to.  His letter was longer than most that he wrote.  If a congregation must be perfect in doctrine and practice, Corinth was woefully lacking.  Paul may have referred to them as “the church of God,” but their doctrine and practice were far removed from God’s pattern.  If that congregation existed today it would not be connected to Jesus but would be an apostate church unworthy of support or membership.  If they had possessed a street sign, churches around them would have avoided them.

Some did not believe Paul was a genuine apostle (9:1-2).  The church had denominated into four groups with each divisions touting their favorite preacher (1:10-13).  Unity was not evident among them.  Division or denominating was the course set by all.  They could not sit down and partake of communion with one another (11:18-22).  Some were going home hungry while others staggered out drunk.  Those who considered themselves strong in the faith ridiculed those whom they considered weak.  Some believed there was an actual god represented by each of the idols they formerly worshiped.  At least Yahweh was supreme in their thinking.  Some were suing others in the Roman court and making Christianity a sham.  They were arrogant rather than in tears that a brother was living with his father’s wife which brought shame upon the church (5:1-8).  Their assemblies were far from being edifying.  The services could not be expressed as decent or orderly (14:40).  Some did not believe in the resurrection of the dead.  If there was a pattern, they had discarded it.  Today, most would look at such a congregation and label it as liberal and not a “true” church.  Corinth possessed a “pattern,” but it wasn’t from God.  Paul addressed them as “the church of God,” but they seemed more like an apostate than apostolic.  I doubt if any preacher worth his salt would want to work with such a congregation.  Who would wish to place membership with them?  Why fellowship error?

Yes, Paul wrote to correct them.  Despite their doctrinal error, the corruption of their worship, their alienation from one another, and the shame they had brought upon themselves due to their arrogance, Paul 1) did not tell them that other churches of God had withdrawn fellowship from them.  2) He did not refer to them as an apostate congregation.  3) He never told them that they were going to hell.  4) He never informed them that they were no longer the true church.  However, just the opposite, he told all four denominational groups to withdraw from one man and one man only (5:1-11).

While all the things mentioned in chapters one through fifteen were addressed by Paul as wrong and no repentance had yet taken place, Paul referred to them as:

  1. The church of God (1:2).
  2. The body of Christ (12:27).
  3. The Temple of the Holy Spirit (3:16-17).
  4. They were bought with a price (6:19-20).
  5. They had the gifts of the Holy Spirit (12:28; 14:1-40).
  6. They had prophets, language speakers, interpreters, and others with the Holy Spirit  still residing in them.
  1. He continues these accolades in the second letter despite their failure to completely  solve their problems.
  1. And he addressed them as “brethren.”

God’s Temple is holy. Corinth has not been withdrawn from.  They were deeply encased in error.  How could Corinth have God dwelling in them as His holy Temple when they were burdened with sin and had not yet repented?  In fact, they didn’t receive Paul’s letter and clean up their act immediately.  In spite of error continuing to exist when the second letter arrived, Paul addressed them as “the church of God,” “saints” and “brethren” (2 Corinthians 1:1,8).  Look at the divisions among us.  Would we say the same about those we disagree with?  Corinth becomes our thorn in the flesh when we attempt to find their proper fitting place.  Even when they fell in line with Paul’s instruction in both letters, we know they never reached perfection.  Truly an enigma.

THE SPARK OF MISINFORMATION!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, August 5, 2019

The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell (James 3:5-6).

One church member says to another, “We no longer have the Lord’s table in front of our auditorium.”  In shock the listener replies, “REALLY?”  An affirmative nod seals it.  Later, with this upsetting information, the man blurts out to his preacher, “Did you know that the Northeast church no longer observes the Lord’s supper?”  The preacher is speechless, but ultimately overcomes his shock with, “How do you know?”  The informant states, “I work with one of their elders and he told me!”

The preacher meets with his elders.  He breaks the sad news to them.  One states,

“I knew something was wrong with them, but I just didn’t know what it was.  They have really gone off the deep end with their apostasy.”

Affirmations show in each elder’s eyes to that statement.  Prayer is offered for the erring congregation.  A decision is made to inform the congregation Sunday that their assembly will no longer fellowship the Northeast assembly.  A letter of withdrawal is prepared, signed by the elders and preacher, and mailed to the Northeast eldership. The statement is brief.

To the elders and members of the Northeast church:

 “The elders, minister, and members of the Southwest congregation are withdrawing from the Northeast church due to your apostasy.  Until you repent publicly of your false teaching and practice, fellowship will not be restored.

 Signed: The elders, preacher, and members of the Southwest church.

When that letter is read by the Northeast elders, they have no idea why they have been withdrawn from, nor what sin they have committed that requires their repentance and confession.  The elder who works with the member of the Southwest congregation on Monday asks him “Why?”  The member is somewhat reluctant to speak, but finally explains that the withdrawal is due to the Northeast elder telling him that they NO LONGER PARTAKE of the Lord’s supper.  This is a shocking surprise to the Northeast elder since he NEVER said that.

The Northeast elder explains that they decided to remove the table from the front of the auditorium that normally held the fruit of the vine and bread used for communion.  The elder informed the Southwest brother that Northeast continues to partake of the Lord’s supper and has never ceased to do so.  The only thing removed was the platform the two elements rested on.  In fact, scripturally speaking, the table referred to in 1 Corinthians 10:21 as “the Lord’s table” was NOT A PIECE OF FURNITURE, but the unleavened bread and fruit of the vine!  Tradition had distorted the Southwest church’s thinking and from that misunderstanding they were misled in their actions.  Such misinformation is often too easily spread.  It is similar to a wildfire started from a small spark.  Such beginnings often lead to additional innuendoes that destroy unity rather than promoting it.  It is often harder to correct such situations once introduced!  Inappropriate pride and self-justification may cling to the guilty more than truth does.

The words “gossip, gossiper, or gossiping” cannot be found in the King James Version of the Old or New Testaments.  However, such an action is implied in James 1:26; 3:15-16.

 “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless(James 1:26).

__________

The seed from which this article is taken happened between two congregations about forty-one years ago.  The details have been changed, but one withdrew from the other over a matter of judgment.   

WHEN IS SIN NOT SIN?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, August 5, 2029

 

The question is asked, “Do we know the difference between sin and righteousness?”  That’s a simple question.  Is there a simple answer?

What if you were a Jew living in Jerusalem in 70 A.D.?  The Roman army, under Titus, has breached the walls.  The Temple is in flames and crumbling.  Over a million people are dead, due to starvation, suicide, or the Roman war machine.  You did not leave the city when 50,00 other Jewish Christians did.  Why?  Didn’t Jesus make that destruction known through signs he told followers to look for (Matthew 24; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36)?  You stayed because you would not abandon your sick parents.  You were being obedient to God’s command to “Honor your father and your mother” (Exodus 20:12).  Despite your efforts, they did not survive.  You did.  Yet, weren’t you guilty of disobedience?

Didn’t Jesus tell his disciples to “flee,” take “flight,” and “get out” of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:16; Mark 13:14, 20; Luke 21:21)?  Could some in that 50,000 not help you carry your parents to safety?  Why second guess Jesus?  Paul wrote,

Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).

Weren’t the Romans the bonified rulers of Palestine?  Weren’t they fighting against the city of Jerusalem because of the civil disobedience of the Jews?  Did Jesus tell saints to remain in the city and fight for the rights of Judaism or “get out”?  If one was staying because of the protection the city walls offered, would he not be disregarding Jesus’ prophecy about the failure of those walls?  Should one remain and protect his property against looters or obey Jesus’ warnings?  Which is more important?

The proper course seems so clear that we would wonder why any Christian would decide to remain in Jerusalem during that siege.  Perhaps the right answer is simple to come by because we are not involved.  What would be our choice if the scenario was in 2019 rather than 70 A.D.?

Most Christians would agree that abortion is wrong.  Liberal politicians, doctors, and “health” clinics are now for the killing of unwanted babies that survive the technics of abortion.  We would vocally vote against such.  We would, without hesitation, label such action as “murder.”  Our cry against it would be 100% in line with our faith.   That opposition would be the “Christian” thing to do.

Easy questions from easy scenarios appear easy to answer.  However, what if a business supporting that liberal action is your favorite place to shop?  You shop there because they have what is difficult to impossible to find nearby.  Their prices are right.  Their product quality is outstanding.  Their return policy is simply and quick.  Their charge card is in your possession and features some wonderful perks.  You know and appreciate some of the employees.  Yet, 15% of their profits go toward the political support of that abortion practice.  They support passing laws which would make such “killing” legal nationwide.  Yet, you continue making that your favorite place to shop.  Which is more important, buy from a business that supports the murder of babies, or your faith which says it is sinful?

  1. Is it too inconvenient to shop elsewhere?
  2. Do you continue shopping there because all other stores will probably follow suite?
  3. Yet, if the owners were Hindu, would you be guilty of supporting Hinduism by shopping there? If not, why would you be guilty just because the ownership spends their profits on something else you disagree with?
  4. What modern business or manufacturing concern doesn’t support things which a Christian is against? Why stop shopping over one sinful action but not others?
  5. If one is guilty by association, wouldn’t Jesus be a sinner because he allowed a prostitute to wash his feet?
  6. If shopping at a business makes one guilty of the sins that corporation indulges in, wouldn’t saints that work for it be just as guilty? Would they not need to quit?

For some Jews, using Roman money meant they agreed to Roman occupation and paganism.  With that thought in mind some approached Jesus with a Roman coin and asked, “Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar or not?” (Matthew 22:17).  What is interesting, Jesus wasn’t the owner of the coin!  He didn’t mince words and called them “hypocrites” (v.18).   It wasn’t sinful for them to own Roman money.  It wasn’t sinful for them to ask their question.  However, their motives were the sin of hypocrisy.

In a broken world, made up of broken people, it is hard for broken individuals, even those who have been mended by Jesus, to not be touched by that brokenness.  We may be interested in doing all things right, but because of our imperfections and inconsistencies, we may end up being more like those who questioned Jesus than being like the Master himself (Luke 7:39; Matthew 22:15-17).  Like a lot of other things that come up for questioning in a Christian’s life, the right answer is found in Paul’s advice.

Some think that Christians should observe the Jewish holidays as special days to worship God, but others say it is wrong and foolish to go to all that trouble, for every day alike belongs to God. On questions of this kind everyone must decide for himself” (Romans 14:5).

TO DO OR NOT TO DO?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, July 29, 2019

Some are trouble by the words of John 8:1-11.  They aren’t sure if the passage is inspired or not.  Some believe it has been added by a later scribe.  A woman is “caught in adultery” (8:3-4).  They informed Jesus concerning what the Law of Moses states about such actions (8:5).  Jesus did not reply but wrote something in the dirt (8:6).  The woman’s captors continued asking Jesus what he would say about her punishment (8:7).  Jesus raised up and asked, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (8:7).

Jesus did not deny what Moses said.  They had asked him what he thought about the Law.  Jesus placed the burden of decision upon the accusers with “who is without sin?”  All of them were honest in answering his question because each knew he wasn’t sinless.  The results of that discovery caused their walk out.

Jesus’ question to the adulterous woman was, “Where are those accusers of yours?  Has no one condemned you?” (8:10).  Her reply was, “No one, Lord.”  Jesus’ reply caused some mouths to drop open in disbelief.  Some find his statement, “Neither do I condemn you,” almost impossible to accept (8:11).

  1. Jesus did not deny their accusations against the woman.
  2. The woman did not deny their accusations.
  3. The apostles nor the crowd with Jesus denied the accusations.
  4. The witnesses quoted the Law of Moses correctly concerning her punishment (8:3).
  5. No one denied that outcome.
  6. Jesus’ reply did not deny nor set the Law aside.
  7. Jesus simply asked who was going to be first to carry out the Law’s sentence.
  8. The accusers did not fail to carry out the letter of the Law because they were squeamish about shedding a woman’s blood.
  9. Their motives were wrong. They wanted to accuse Jesus and the woman was their pawn to accomplish that task.
  10. Why did Jesus not proceed with the punishment since he and the crowd had heard the valid accusations?

 

  1. Why? Because according to the Law, he nor his audience were eye witnessed of her guilt.
  2. Why? Because the eyewitness accusers left without carrying out the punishment.
  3. Why? Because no one was left to give testimony against her as an “eyewitness.”
  4. Why? Because without the presence of eyewitnesses, the charge could not lawfully be fulfilled.

However, if Jesus had been anyone else in that story, that person would have been charged with:

  1. Refusing to carry out the mandates of God’s Law.
  2. Not having a backbone to do what was right.
  3. Refusing to take biblical responsibility.
  4. Being too soft on truth.
  5. Being a liberal in conservative clothing.
  6. Being more a disciple of error than a lover of truth.
  7. Being too compassionate with sin.

Jesus dismissed the woman with one command, “Go and sin no more” (8:11).  What does that mean?  Is Jesus requiring perfection from the woman?  If when she later sins, regardless of what that sin is, is Jesus saying she will be killed by stoning at that time?  Is Jesus saying don’t sin by committing adultery anymore?  If so, isn’t Jesus skipping over all other sins she may commit?  Is he saying to her that as long as she doesn’t commit adultery, she may sin to her heart’s desire?  Surely not?  Isn’t this an impossible command unless you have it explained?  Since Jesus doesn’t give the specifics, don’t we write our own scripture by filling in our own blanks?  Those “fill-ins” are never identical.   That’s one reason we have so many religious divisions among believers.

Most biblical illustrations have one point being made.  That is helpful but does not guarantee that every reader will develop the same point.  This is similar to the biblical statement, “Be faithful unto death” (Revelation 2:10).   The passage does not define what “faithful” includes.  One may ask the question, “How faithful is faithfulness?”  Some experience deep anxiety because they know they come up short in possessing a perfect faithfulness.  Is that what John meant by “be faithful”?

Some may ask, “If Jesus excused an adulteress, what else will he dismiss?”  Some believe any sinner who enters their place of worship should never have their sin brought up from the pulpit.  In other words, never offend them by informing them that their lifestyle is not in harmony with God’s word.  This view basically teaches that since you believe your sins are not as bad as the sins of others, yours should not be mentioned, but the bad sins should.  Should every congregation have each guest to sign off on what biblical subjects would offend them so they should not be addressed in that assembly?  Yes, Jesus confronted the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes, but are visitors threatening the Lord as those individuals did?  They may need more private teaching rather than a public thrashing.

There is a right way to correct others.  Jesus told Peter that he would deny him three times before the rooster crowed twice (Matthew 27:34; Mark 14:30).  When Peter came into Jesus’ presence after the resurrection, the Lord did not remind him of his denial, but commanded him to “feed my sheep” (John 21:16-17).  He told the adulteress “Go and sin no more,” he did not appoint her as the teacher of the third grade Bible class.

The right word at the right time is like a custom-made piece of jewelry, And a wise friend’s timely reprimand is like a gold ring slipped on your finger” (Proverbs 25:11-12).

A small rudder on a huge ship in the hands of a skilled captain sets a course in the face of the strongest winds.  A word out of your mouth may seem of no account, but it can accomplish nearly anything—or destroy it! It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire” (James 3:4-5).

Sometimes our follow-ship is not as good as Jesus’ leadership!

WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED IT?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, July 25, 2019

A 16-year-old boy failed his entrance exams to school.  Some probably thought he would never make it in this world.  Menial jobs would be his future.  If he can’t make it in school at 16, what hope is there for his future?  Would anyone look at this failure and hope to mentor him because he had “promise”?  Oh, I forgot, he also had an accent.  Who would want to encourage such a teen?  His name?  Albert Einstein.

One day he decided he would not shave.  He made it through that itchy stage and watched his mustache and beard lengthen.  Within a few months is was looking good, so he decided to allow it to continue its growth.  Some wondered why he didn’t trim it, or perhaps shave?  After a while, he decided to see how long it would become.  His name was Hans Steiniger.  He was known by the world for what he accomplished.  He had every right to be proud of the length his beard had grown.  It was the longest grown by anyone else in the world.  But its length was his downfall!  Literally!  He was coming down the stairs, tripped over it, and died in the fall.  What other accomplishments did he have?  His beard seems to overshadow that information.  It was a world’s record in length!  He may have accomplished another record that no one thought about.  He may have been the only man in the world who was killed by his own hair growth!

My great grandfather, on my mother’s side of the family was a gambler.  I don’t know if that was his profession or he just enjoyed a good card game.  He may have been the best husband and father that anyone could desire.  He may have been an excellent bread winner.  He could have been a Mr. Fix-it.  He may have been well known and loved by his peers or even by society.  But not everyone who plays cards wants to lose.  He sat down at the card table with such a person.  The man charged him with cheating, pulled his pistol, a shot rang out, and my great grandfather was dead.  Because of the reason for his untimely demise, my grandfather’s sister never allowed any of her children to play with “spot (gambling) cards” on the premises.

Society misjudged that 16-year-old.  Some “wrote him off” as a failure.  Perhaps few would have given him a second glance.  Yet, in spite of all the negatives, his name is known around the world.  What about those who misjudged him and thought he was a failure?  Who remembers them or knows their names?

Hans Steiniger?  If he walked into the worship service and wanted to sit next to you, would you gladly move over and welcome him?  Maybe not because your gaping mouth would probably freeze you in place!  A tremendously lengthened beard would fall into the same category as someone with fingernails over a foot long.  Such accomplishments would put that individual in our “odd” category.  The attitude of many would be, “You aren’t one of us!”

I can understand Aunt Vida’s reason for not wanting her children or guests to play with spot (gambling) cards in her house.  Yet, “spot cards” like money are neither good nor bad.  All card games are based upon someone being the winner.  Sometimes we restrict the playing cards from the premises but socialize with the player.  We are “turned-off” by the appearance of an individual and cheat ourselves from knowing his heart.  We fail to see a person’s worth because of his failures rather than recognizing his value as one of God’s creation.  We do not appreciate others judging us, but we justify judging others.

What would you do with Jesus if you did not know who he was?  If he walked up to you in his first century garb, with the smell of body odor, his dirty feet showing through his sandals, needing a haircut, and spoke with a heavy accent, would you stop and gladly talk?  Would you invite him home to meet your family and stay for supper?  What judgments would we put into play to assist us in deciding what to do with the strangely dressed, body order smelling man?

I’m not suggesting that one will lose his soul because he passes up someone whose body odor burns his nostrils.  Neither am I inferring that everyone who holds out his hand is your signal from God to fill it with a twenty-dollar bill.  We live in an imperfect world and are guilty of adding to that condition.  We live in a huge classroom each day and need to recognize that God’s love is not reserved for us only.

SUICIDE IN SCRIPTURE

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, July 22, 2019

Does an individual lose his soul if he commits suicide?  Exodus 20:13 states, “You shall not murder.”  Suicide is defined as self-murder.  There are some who would quickly and unequivocally place all suicide under that heading.  We know that all killing is not murder.  Suicide could fall under that description.  Sadly, scripture does not address all scenarios in enough detail to define whether that self-killing is murder or not.

Ahithophel, who aligned himself with Absalom against David, hung himself (2 Samuel 17:23).  Perhaps his action was out of desperation due to the conflict he was involved in.  Would he have done what he did if that conflict had not been present?  No, he would not have.  He decided to kill himself rather than suffer that fate at the hands of David’s men.  His choice of death was his own sword as opposed to being killed by the sword of another.  Under those circumstances, would death by his own hands be considered suicide or self-murder?

In Saul’s final battle with the Philistine, he commanded his armor bearer to kill him.  The man refused.  So, Saul “took a sword and fell on it” (1 Samuel 31:4).  The armor bearer followed Saul’s example and fell on his own sword (verse 5).  If the armor bearer had complied with Saul’s order and killed Saul, we would classify it as euthanasia or “mercy killing” rather than suicide.  I’m not sure if Saul’s command would have made his armor bearer guilty of murder under those conditions if he had complied.  Saul chose to kill himself rather than be killed by his enemy.   Again, under those conditions would falling on his own sword be termed suicide or self-murder?

In 1 Kings 16:15-20 Zimri “burned the king’s house down upon himself with fire and died” (1 Kings 16:18).  Scripture continues by saying, “because of the sins which he had committed in doing evil in the sight of the LORD . . . and in his sin which he had committed to make Israel sin” (1 Kings 16:19).  Scripture states he died in sin.  By refusing to escape a burning house, the man died.  Should the taking of one’s life by refusing to flee the flames be identified as suicide or self-murder?

In World War I, pilots did not have parachutes.  They were given a pistol.  If, in a combat situation their plane was in flames, they had three choices.  1) they could ride the burning plane to the ground, 2) they could jump and escape burning to death, or 3) they could shoot themselves.  All three today would be classified as self-murder or suicide.  Yet, under those conditions and since they were in the military, were any of those choices actually self-murder?

Remember Samson?  He prayed, “Let me die with the Philistines!” (Judges 16:30).  Whatever you may say negatively about Samson, the Hebrew writer lists him with great men of faith like David, Samuel, and the prophets (Hebrews 11:32).  Was God’s message at that time, “It is okay if you kill yourself while killing My enemies”?  Scripture paints Samson as a martyr in the cause of God.  He is seen as one of Israel’s judges who died in the faith.    Yet, wouldn’t his last actions be classified as suicide today?

Last, but not least, is Judas Iscariot.   He betrayed Jesus.  Yet afterwards 1) he repented, 2) confessed his “sin,” and 3) he returned the blood money (Matthew 27:3-5).  In the upper room the statement is made concerning Judas about his “wages of iniquity” and “by transgression fell” (Acts 1:16-18, 25).  Luke tells us that “Satan” entered “into Judas” (Luke 22:3).  Prior to hanging himself, what was Judas’ frame of mind?  Only God knows.  Luke tells us Matthias took his place as an apostle and Judas went to “where he belongs” (Acts 1:26).  Some Commentaries give us five different meanings of that statement.  Most today would select hell as its meaning.  Perhaps that is so.  Yet, the 1), 2), 3) things said about Judas refers to his actions that transpired after Jesus was arrested and being brought before different individuals.  Is Luke saying that “where he belongs” is the grave?  God is Judas Iscariot’s judge and He alone knows.

Depression is seldom understood by those who have never experienced it.  Hallucinations are usually not understood nor believed by loved ones, friends, or neighbors.  Yet, for the affected individual, snakes, spiders, or someone trying to kill them is all too real.  Does God hold such individuals guilty?  It would seem that such are far better off than those Jesus prayed for by saying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Jesus healed the demon possessed rather than condemning them.  When he healed the two among the tombs, they were in their “right mind” and clothed (Mark 5:15; Luke 8:35).  Before that healing, they were naked and cutting themselves with stones.  Would Jesus’ attitude not be the same today for those whose minds have been captured by depression or some other mind robbing ailment?

We often judge others based upon our traditional knowledge, experience, background, understanding, and traditions.   We are deceived into thinking that our error, sin, transgressions, faults, or mistakes are never as bad as those held by others.  We sometimes fool ourselves into believing that our judgments are the same as God’s judgments.

Suicide has been referred to as “self-murder.”  Was Samson guilty of murdering self?  If a person kills himself in a few moments, we usually classify it as suicide.  If he kills himself slowly, over a period of several years due to overeating, gaining too much weight, refusing to exercise, over medicating, under medicating, or engaging in activities that provoke a heart attack, we refuse to classify it as self-murder.  If he throws himself on a grenade to protect his fellow soldiers, we honor and decorate him posthumously.  God will judge whether a murder has been committed.  His judgments will be righteous regardless of whether we agree or disagree.  God knows our heart.  Will God punish a person for taking his own life?  That is in the hands of God.

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