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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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THE GOD OF ENCOURAGEMENT!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Jesus told the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery, “Go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).  Did she?

Have you ever read the following passage where Jesus states, “unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)?  Did you think he was saying, “if you sin again, it means you did not really repent, so your last sin and this one is going to condemn you to hell”?  When Jesus told that woman, “Go, and sin no more,” did he mean she was never to sin again?  Never?  If so, how long do you think she managed to be perfect?  Reality shows that our brush with sinlessness is brief.  We all have a Master’s Degree in Sinning (Romans 3:10, 23)!

Have you ever had a bad habit?  When you recognized it as bad and quit, did you slip into reverse gear a few times?  Most do.  Did you beat yourself up each time you failed?  Most do.

I started smoking when I was 14.  At 17, when I decided I wanted to preach, I quit, but not without a roller coaster struggle.  At 18 I found that other preachers, in my Methodist faith, smoked.  So, I followed their example and restarted.  I smoked until I was 20.  I decided I needed to stop again, but I experienced that same ride.  It was expensive to buy a pack of cigarettes, smoke one, get that satisfaction, crumple the package and throw it in the trash.  Then, an hour later, digging it out and kicking myself for being so destructive!  I would manage to find a short piece of cigarette and almost burn my nose lighting it.  I would take a few puffs to get the satisfaction.  I would throw the package away after double destroying it, and then beat myself up for being so weak.  I imagined that God was very angry with my weakness, and didn’t care to have me in His sight.  I even wondered if He had kicked me out of His fellowship until I remained on the straight and narrow?  If someone had said at that time, “God is good,” I would not have agreed with him.  Maybe He was good to them, but He didn’t like me because I was a miserable failure.  I was a repeating failure!

How many saved sinners believe God decrees that unless you live a sinless life after He saves you, you are a liability rather than an asset?  If you are in the process of cleaning up your life, but haven’t immediately gone from sinner to perfection, He is wondering if He made a mistake by saving you?   Some do not see Yahweh as a loving, benevolent, patient, kind, understanding, encouraging, nor helpful God while His children are going through their trials.  They see Him as judgmental, hateful, desiring to punish, and a disappointed Creator that feels compelled to destroy rather than save.  It is difficult, with that mind set to believe that Yahweh is the God of John 3:16!

Peter tells us “as newborn babies, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:2).  We start as babes in Christ and mature.  But it takes time.  Some are slower in that growth.  Is God a monster waiting for His children to err so He can scream at and beat them senseless?  I’ve been preaching for 60 years, and I am still a babe in some areas of my spiritual life.  In others, hopefully more mature?  He does not abandon me in my faltering steps.  When I stumble, He is there to catch and steady me.  The song, “My God and I” expresses His fellowship with His children.  God has been overly patient with me.  The devil is the one who discourages, but God is our encourager.  Don’t get them mixed up!   Some do.

God is my Father and I am His precious child.  He loves me.  He helps me.  He builds me up.  He comforts me.  He lets me know that I am forgiven and worthy.  He knows I am not perfect, so He fills me with His righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).  He knows I will come up short, but He gives me support and stability.  He helps me stay on course, even when my feet wander, and my sight is blurred.  He feels my hurt.  He knows my heart.  He gives me assurance.  He hears my adolescent prayers, yet reacts with a Father’s smile.  He is my rock and defender.  He is my God and His name is Jehovah Saves (Matthew 1:21)!

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My God And I*

by Austris A. Whithol

1935

My God and I go in the fields together;

We walk and talk as good friends should and do;

We clasp our hands, our voices ring with laughter;

My God and I walk through the meadow’s hue.

 

My God and I will go for aye together,

We’ll walk and talk as good friends should and do;

This earth will pass, and with it common trifles,

But God and I will go unendingly.

* I have included only verses one and three.

FACT OR FICTION?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

To be pleasing to God, one must have perfect obedience and maintain it to be saved?  Fact or Fiction?

The congregation that one is a member of must be perfect in teaching and practice to go to heaven, just like Jerusalem, Ephesus, Sardis, Corinth, and Laodicea?  Fact or Fiction?

Our righteous obedience is 50% of our sin payment and Jesus death on the cross is the other 50%?  Fact or Fiction?

Because God focuses on the external more than the internal, Jesus wore a suit, tie, shirt, socks, and shined shoes to show his respect and reverence to Him when he presided over the communion!  Fact or Fiction?

God changed the practice of contributors laying their collection at the feet of the preacher because it was too embarrassing to do it that way?  Fact or Fiction?

Instruction is given in the New Testament showing the collection was used to build a meeting place, so rules could later be created making it sinful to eat a “fellowship meal,” put up basketball goals, or to limit the use of it for anything not worship related?  Fact or Fiction?

In one day, the first century church grew from 120 believers to about 3,000 due to their magnificent building, their Sunday School program, a prestigious preacher, their handout literature, their door to door work, VBS, influential members, their evangelistic budget, their “feel good” lessons, and due to the support of the governor and the high court of their city?  Fact or Fiction?

The word “Amen” is found 51 times in the New Testament.  In every case where it is located, the prayer ends with the same dialogue we use in our private and public petitions?  Fact or Fiction?

Priscilla scripturally taught a preacher the word of God without violating 1 Timothy 2:11-12 or 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, because she did it outside the Sunday morning church assembly.  But the Bible shows she would have violated those passages if she had taught Apollos the Bible in the church’s Bible class room, if such had existed in her day?  Fact or Fiction?

All first century congregations in their work and worship practiced the same regardless of their cultural or biblical background?  Fact or Fiction?

New Testament congregations began their “worship service” with an opening prayer, and ended the “worship service with a closing prayer?  Fact or Fiction?

Only one New Testament assembly is described having worship performed in it.  Paul describes all five acts of worship?  Fact or Fiction?

In Acts 2:42 the expression “breaking of bread” is mentioned, as well as the expression, “break bread” in Acts 2:46.  Luke tells us the first one is the Lord’s supper, but the second one is just a common meal the church ate together?  Luke does the same thing in Acts 20:7 and in verse 11.  Fact or Fiction?

Luke tells us the eunuch in Acts 8 was baptized to be obedient, but it was not essential?  Fact or Fiction?

There are many things which are believed and practiced today which aren’t described in the New Testament.  Most originated with man, but often are looked upon as required by God!  Some believe they are more spiritual if they follow these traditions?  Fact or Fiction?

Perhaps a study of God’s word is needed to see what it states!

You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!”  (John 5:39).

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.  God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work(2 Timothy 3:16-17).

  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”  (2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV).

NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANS!

Monday, October 16, 2017

The expression “New Testament Christians” is a phrase often found in the writings and speeches of Restoration Movement advocates.  I am one of them.  That “Movement” began in the early nineteenth century with Alexander Campbell as a key figure.  His plea was to discard anything which divided Christians by returning to the unity of the New Testament.  The expression “New Testament Christians,” is misunderstood by some to be “a church and its membership pleasing God with perfect obedience”!  That may be a noble goal and an honest desire, but the results have been disappointing.  In fact, reality has displayed a contradictory picture!  The multiple lists describing that “perfect obedience” have not been unifying.  The differences have created division not unity.

The New Testament is not written to churches that topped the pinnacle of perfection.  Only Jesus lived a perfect life.  That’s why he is our Savior!  Imperfect people make up the saved because God adds them to it (Acts 2:41, 47 NASV).  It is referred to as the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  Neither saint nor assembly are perfect because of our faith or practice.  Both are perfect because we have received the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Our perfection comes from what he did.  Our achievements are successful messes!  Without Jesus’ righteousness, our imagined Armani suits reappear as filthy rags!  Twenty-three of the twenty-seven New Testament books refer to 20 or more imperfect first century assemblies.  Most, if not all needed correction.  Some more than others.  Even the mother church needed it!  That inherited gene is a constant reminder that Jesus is the answer to our sin problem, not mimicking our Genesis 11:4 ancestors!

 Denominating did not begin in our lifetime.  The first century church introduced it to the world!  Paul used about 25% of his first letter to Corinth to discuss this problem (1 Corinthians 1:2, 10-13; Chapters 2-4).  Its roots of discord impacted every facet of their congregational life!  Within Paul’s letter is a truth often missed.  Corinth is an example of an assembly of the sinning saved living as “New Testament Christians.”  God is showing us that even at our worst, His grace is sufficient!  We need to learn that.

If being “New Testament Christians” refers to a congregation having everything right, then which one?  Jerusalem, Corinth, Ephesus, Sardis, Laodicea, and others were void of it.  Anyone being corrected would hardly fit the category of “having everything right.”  In fact, the only congregations today that believe they have arrived at perfection are those who have been deceived by Satan.  Their prayers would fit the Pharisee’s more than the publican’s petition.  We are all sinners redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.  If an assembly can do everything right, why would they need God’s grace?  There would be no need of any public or private prayers seeking forgiveness.  The righteous have no need of grace because they have succeeded in clothing themselves in their own rightness!  They are head and shoulders above those who aren’t as spiritual as they are!  Wasn’t Laodicea in that category, not needing anything (Revelation 3:17)?

Paul refers to Corinth as “the church of God.”  He calls them “brethren.”  He says they are “the body of Christ,” “the temple of the Holy Spirit,” “the temple of God,” and that they have been “bought,” “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.”  All that in the very letter he writes to correct them.  The only time the subject of withdrawing is introduced, is for all four denominating groups to engage in withdrawing from that one man (1 Corinthians 5:1-11)!  They are in fellowship with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  All churches of Christ are in fellowship with them.  Which means that despite their erroneous practices and doctrine, they and other assemblies are involved in living as “New Testament Christians.”  If they were not, would that mean they weren’t Christians until they had everything right?  Do you (1 John 1:8, 10)?

So, what is a “New Testament Christian”?  First, the phrase itself is not found in the very source that is supposed to teach it!  Is it a list of “dos and don’ts”?  If so, what passage gives that list?  Most will reply, “It is found in the New Testament”!  That’s what is called, a “cop out.”  It is not a “one, two, three” type list.  That brings us back to the truth about what some miss when reading Paul’s letter to the Corinthians.  Before the house of Chloe wrote to Paul, had the congregation stopped being “New Testament Christians”?  What about members in Ephesus?  They had left their first love (Revelation 2:4).  What about the dead church at Sardis (Revelation 3:1)?  What about the Jerusalem church that continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses and its practices (Acts 21:20)?  If they didn’t have it, it meant they weren’t doing everything right!   That is, if being “New Testament Christians” means “getting everything right.”  If they were “New Testament Christians,” despite their errors, then it has nothing to do with a congregation’s membership being perfect.

It is strange how the first century church, in its imperfections, exploded from 120 members to about 3,000 in one day (Acts 1: 15; 2:41).  Soon after that, another 5,000 responded (Acts 4:4).  All that growth without getting everything right!  What congregation today, that is doing everything right, matches the imperfection of the first century church’s growth?  If not, wouldn’t that mean they are guilty of something which is impeding them from being “New Testament Christians”?  Despite Jerusalem’s imperfections, God continued adding to their number!  If being a “New Testament Christian” means doing everything right, then why would God add the saved to an imperfect, racist group that refused to preach the good news to another race for an entire decade?  Would you want to be added to a congregation that continued to attend the Temple and make your offerings through the Levitical priests?  Paul joined them (Acts 9:26).  He proved he was zealous for the Law by so worshiping (Acts 21:24).

Most overlook the fact that God added a sect of Pharisees to the membership of the Jerusalem saved!  What eldership would do that today?  Would yours?  Yet, those added Pharisees, attempted to get everything right by demanding that all Gentiles be circumcised after the Law of Moses before they could be accepted as valid Christians. (Acts 15:1-6).  These added ones also came from James, Jesus’ brother, and instilled fear in Peter to get everything right, by being hypocritical toward Gentiles saints (Galatians 2:11-15).  This hypocrisy affected Barnabas and others.  Yet, they were “New Testament Christians”!  Peter needed some “in your face” correction, but wasn’t he covered with a blanket called grace?  What about those whom he feared?

What we read in our Bible is imperfect congregations (members) living as “New Testament Christians.”  They assembled to learn.  They met to give.   They assembled to question, convict, and provide burial services (Acts 5:1-11).  They met to praise God and eat together.  They met to turn their assemblies into miraculous hospitals.  They met in their assemblies to distribute to the needy.  They met at night to break bread.  They assembled to pray, even when they didn’t expect an answer.  In all this, the Holy Spirit is showing us what is involved in being “New Testament Christians.”  It was not about how right one was over others.   No, it wasn’t about saints or assemblies being perfect by their righteous obedience, but rather Jesus sharing his perfection with the sinning saved.  He removed our filthy rags and clothed us in his righteousness!  We need to “rejoice.”  You and I stand before God the Father, clothed in all the glory and righteousness of Jesus Christ.  We are washed in his blood.  We are dead to sin.  We are no longer under condemnation.  Assurance is our shield.  Hope is our anchor.  His promises are our foundation.  We who were the sinning lost, He has added us to his category of the sinless, sinning saved!

That is the “truth” we seem to be missing today.  That is the good news illustrated through the imperfections of Jerusalem, Corinth, Sardis, Ephesus, and others who were day in, and day out, living as, what we call, “New Testament Christians”!

ORIGINS?

Thursday, October 12, 2017

When I first started preaching in 1954, fresh out of high school, I had some interesting beliefs.  I also was introduced to some that were just as curious as the ones I held.  Some of the members at my circuit church thought the expression, “Every tub sits on its own bottom” was found in Proverbs.  Having a Protestant background, I thought one would be struck by lightning if he used profanity in the church building.  Why?  Because I thought that building was “the house of God,” a sacred place, and using profanity in it would provoke God’s destructive anger.  It never crossed my mind that it was just as wrong to say those words prior to entering that edifice.  Then, as well as now, we develop ideas from our culture and think it is from the Bible.

The 1611 King James Version became the well-established translation in English until the twentieth century.  Although it was not well received in King James’ day, by the nineteenth century it was almost deified as THE standard to judge the worth of all other English translations.  Although the Hebrew name of God, הךהי is Latinized as Jehovah, the King James committee rendered it as such only four times (Exodus 6:1, 3; Psalms 83:18; Isaiah 12:2; 26:4).  The name is found 6,519 times in the Old Testament!  Why did the KJV committee render JHVH as “Lord” 6,510 times, “God” 4 times, and a variant once, rather than as the Latinized “Jehovah” or Hebrew “Yahweh”?  Is there a specific command in the Old Testament which forbids the insertion of God’s name in writing or speech?  If so, why would anyone, much less God, give His name and then forbid it from being spoken or written?  If it was taboo, why did the KJV committee ignore that restriction four times?  Wouldn’t four be more condemning than once?  The KJV committee did capitalize the word “LORD” to show that it meant Jehovah or Yahweh, although they were not always consistent.  Many readers do not know that “LORD” was a subtle substitution originating from man rather than God!

When God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the third one was, “Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain” (Exodus 20:7).   During Israel’s second Temple period, the expression “in vain” morphed into “never.”  Since the Hebrew scriptures were written without vowels, the correct pronunciation was lost after the proper vowels were forgotten.  What we have today is JHVH or YHWH.  This Jewish misunderstanding of “vain” was carried over into the King James Version.  Even today, some are still influenced by this misunderstanding.  The first time the committee translated הוהי as “Jehovah” is in Exodus 6:1-3, yet that is not the first appearance of God’s name!  Even in the following quote, the KJV uses “LORD” rather than “Jehovah” or “Yahweh.”  I have used brackets “[“ ”]” where the translation should have been “Jehovah” rather than “LORD.”

Then the LORD [Jehovah] said unto Moses, Now shalt thou see what I will do to Pharaoh: for with a strong hand shall he let them go, and with a strong hand shall he drive them out of his land.  And God spake unto Moses, and said unto him, I am the LORD [Jehovah]:  And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them” (Exodus 6:1-3).

Moses first used “Yahweh” or “Jehovah” in Genesis 2:4, “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD [Jehovah] God made the earth and the heavens.”

Although neither the Old nor New Testament spell it out, God apparently allowed this misconception to continue, without correction, to later fulfill Paul’s statement about Jesus in Philippians 2:9-11,

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

It is strange how culture spoon feeds our thinking, leading us to created beliefs that are based upon tradition rather than scripture.  Some have a problem saying or writing “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” but think nothing of saying or writing “Jesus.”  What does the name “Jesus” mean?  Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14 in 1:23 telling us his name shall be “Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.”  Prior to that, the angel told Joseph, “Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21, Emphasis mine, RH).  The name “Jesus” means “Jehovah saves” or “Yahweh saves.”  So, in speaking or writing “Jesus” one is saying the very thing that he has been led to believe is taboo!  If one is in error for saying “Jehovah” or “Yahweh,” then one cannot say “Jesus” since his name means “Jehovah saves” or “Yahweh saves”!

Every tub may sit on its own bottom, but “Jehovah saves (Jesus)” or “Yahweh saves (Jesus)” isn’t taboo.  That’s what “Jesus” (Jehovah saves) came to do!

A GOD THING!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Lost BibleHave you ever heard someone talk about “a God thing”?  It means that God continues to work in our world in non-miraculous ways.  Although absent of miracles, the happening is so unusual, that the action points to the work of God.  Recently, David Sargent had the following story in one of his regular mail-outs which tells about “a God thing.”

The Train Story

In the 1960s, Vienna, Austria and Communist-occupied Budapest, Hungary were worlds apart, separated by the Iron Curtain. Vienna was basking in the new freedom of liberation from Nazi domination; Budapest was suffocating under Russian occupation.

Ivan Martos, however, was like a breath of fresh air in Budapest when Lynn Camp and a co-worker visited there, seeking people who professed faith in Christ.  Camp describes Martos as “one of the friendliest and happiest, most positive and enthusiastic of God’s creatures.”  Martos worked as an officer of the National Bank of Hungary.  Because of his position, he would travel to Vienna twice a year to attend banking conferences.  These trips enabled Martos to visit with Camp and other Christians regularly.

It was during one of those summer trips when Martos got off the train in Vienna, Camp immediately knew something was wrong.  “Before we could even leave the train platform, Ivan, practically in tears, related his bitter experience.  That day, as the train neared the Austrian border, uniformed guards boarded the train at the next-to-last stop on the Hungarian side.  They would make their way through the train, checking identification and documentation of all passengers prior to arriving at the border stop.  The guards immediately discovered that Mr. Martos was an important officer with Hungary’s National Bank.  His papers were all in order, permitting the official travel.  Before proceeding to the next passenger, one of the guards asked Ivan to open his briefcase.  The first item removed for inspection by the guard was Ivan’s personal Bible.  In a loud, angry voice, the guard held up the Bible for all in the car to see and yelled, ‘What is a man in your position doing with a Bible?’  Before Ivan could respond, the guard sailed the Bible through the open window of the moving train.”

“Ivan had indeed lost a best friend.”

Fast forward two years.  Again, Camp was awaiting Martos’ arrival in Vienna.  “This time he arrived as upbeat as he had been downcast two years earlier.”  Here’s why: “Just a few days before leaving Budapest, a package had been delivered by the postman.  Ivan did not recognize the return name and address.  But as his wife prepared dinner, he sat in the kitchen and opened the unexpected prize – it was his Bible!  And accompanying his old friend was a letter of apology and explanation.  It went something like this: ‘Some of our children were playing one day along the railroad tracks.  They found your Bible.  Not knowing what it was, one of them took it to his grandmother, who immediately recognized it as a Bible.  Word spread quickly through the little village on the border.  Some of our older people had possessed Bibles before they were banned and remembered the significance and power of the Word of God.  We decided to conceal the discovery while those who so desired would make handwritten copies.  That joyful task took two years.  Please forgive our keeping your Bible so long.  But you might like to know that we are now a secret band of about 30 who have baptized each other and seek to follow Jesus in our daily lives.’”

“A God Thing!”

LIVING IN THE FIRST CENTURY

Thursday, October 5, 2017

PerfectionIt is 64 A.D.  Thirty-four years prior, Peter preached that first sermon on Pentecost (Acts 214-41).  My father was a member of Pilate’s guard.  He was the one who peaked my interest in the Galilean called Jesus.  He spoke of how he and other soldiers had ridiculed Jesus, spit on him, struck him, and put a purple robe on his shoulders (Matthew 27:27-31).  They derisively called him “King.”  My father’s description of Jesus’ demeanor was entirely different from his tales about other prisoners he had punished.  My dad confessed that he, with other soldiers were so awe struck by the events at this man’s crucifixion that they all uttered the same statement, “This man truly was the Son of God” (Matthew 27:54).  Their confession shocked them.  But only my father took it to heart!

I was in the streets on the Jewish Pentecost when people began running to the Temple courtyards.  Even at the age of eighteen, I was driven by curiosity, so, I followed.  I heard Peter, one of the Galilean’s apostles, as he stood up to speak.  I was as impressed with his oratory as the one who shouted, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  Although I did not respond, I continued to be impressed by things I heard some say about this Messiah.  I learned that one of Jesus’ apostles had visited with Lieutenant Cornelius.  They had become followers of Jesus (Acts 10:44-48)!  My father knew the Lieutenant and since he had become a follower, we began investigating this Jesus which Cornelius called, “Savior.”

Shortly thereafter, our family was posted to the garrison at Corinth in Greece.  As far as we knew, there weren’t any who knew about this Galilean in the city other than our family.  We would study from the first covenant scriptures, especially those that pointed to the Messiah.  We encouraged one another in those devotionals, as well as each day.  One day we heard that a group had come from Antioch, referred to as “Christians.”  There was a man lecturing by the name of Paul.  He was a Roman and a Jewish scholar.  We came to understand that a “Christian” was a believer in the Messiah (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16).

Through Paul’s teaching, we decided to die to sin and be buried with Jesus into his death.  We rose from that burial to the new life Jesus offered (Romans 6:1-6).  After God added us to the saved, we joined ourselves to the disciples in Corinth as Paul had done with the disciples in Jerusalem (Acts 9:26).

We had not been members of Jesus’ saved body very long until problems developed at Corinth.  The major schism originated among members according to which teacher they admired most.  Some followed Paul’s teaching.  Others followed Apollos’ instruction.  Some preferred Cephas.  Some preferred what Jesus had taught, which they had heard when Jesus was still living and they had visited Jerusalem.  This four-way division was an undercurrent detouring the church from its God intended goal.  It affected our assemblies, relationships, cheapened our love, ruined our hope, and promoted continual confusion.  The church had its inspired prophets, just as Adam and Eve had their walks with God, but both strayed.

The Chloe family hoped Paul could help, but mail delivery was slow.  Preacher worship never edifies the devotees!  Four assemblies began to form into infant denominations.  “Holier than thou” attitudes developed and destroyed.  Pride took over.  Elitism flourished.  Doubts developed.  Disappointment reigned.  Faith faltered.  When news spread that the Chloe family had contacted Paul, everyone wondered if he would commit us to hell as a group that no longer was the true church?  With all our doctrinal, immoral, ethical, and other problems, surely, we could no longer be in fellowship with those who were practicing perfect obedience?

Then, Paul’s letter came!  We held our breath as a member of the Chloe family broke the seal and open the scroll.  What was expected was not there.  The announcement of losing our fellowship with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, other churches of God, and Paul was absent!

Paul addressed us as “the church of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  He referred to us as “brethren” (1 Corinthians 1:10-11; 2:1; 3:1 etc.)?  We are the only congregation that Paul wrote to and specifically referred to us as, “ye are the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27).  He said we are the temple of the Holy Spirit (6:19).  He told us that we had been “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified” (6:11).  ALL that despite our terrible doctrinal error, lack of morality, and other sinful practices!  It was almost unbelievable.  We were still “the church of God.”  Before any correction, we were still “the church of God.”  We were still in fellowship with the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, all other churches of God, and Paul!  In fact, rather than inform us that we had been withdrawn from and we had lost all fellowship, he instructed us to only withdraw from one brother (1 Corinthians 5:1-11)!  For months, we had been void of perfect faith, perfect knowledge, perfect understanding, perfect practice, and perfect obedience, yet we did not lose our fellowship with God or brethren.  We were not decommissioned as a church of God because of our imperfections.  We were not condemned to hell.  In fact, Paul treated us in the same way that Jesus treated the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:11).

We learned that Jesus is perfect and we share in his righteousness.  We learned that none of the congregations were perfect and most were being corrected for one thing or another.  We were without perfection as individuals and congregations, yet we experienced God’s love, patience, mercy, and grace.  Although we of the first century were still in God’s fellowship as imperfect congregations, it would become a belief hundreds of years later, that churches must be perfect to be classified as “the church of God.”  Isn’t that “another gospel”?

DARKNESS RATHER THAN LIGHT!

Monday, October 2, 2017

Tradition or TruthSometimes individual are so wed to tradition that they will condemn biblical practices as if they are upholding God’s word!  The guilty believe they are sound in the faith!  They believe they are condemning the doctrine of the devil.  What they are guilty of is defending tradition and rejecting the Bible!  Recently a writer charged some had abandoned the “plea for unity based in the New Testament.”  After reading his charges, my question was, “What have some abandoned that the New Testament teaches”?  The problem was not that he wasn’t right in some of what he said, it was because he included two items which did not fit his charge!

He stated, “They change the plan of worship revealed in the New Testament (Jn.4:24) for ‘a celebration’ with lifting of hands, swaying, . .” (Emphasis mine, RH).  He includes, “lifting hands” and “swaying, and impresses upon his readers that those who practice those two, are as guilty of changing “the plan of worship revealed in John 4:24″ as the other items mentioned.  A study will show he has ventured into speculation on those two items.  For example, when Paul wrote to Timothy, he said, “I will therefore that men everywhere, LIFTING UP HOLY HANDS, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8).  Most believe Paul is describing the public worship assembly!  For some, that command does not fit our established tradition of keeping our hands at our sides!  The author believes “lifting of hands” is changing “the plan of worship revealed in the New Testament (Jn.4:24).”  The truth is, we cling to our manmade traditions and justify our actions by denying Paul’s divine instruction!  Some claim the practice began in the late nineteenth century with a specific group!  No, it was a practice which Paul shows to be right, when they do so without wrath and doubting.  The “without wrath and doubting” was also bound upon women (v.9a).

Who is at fault in changing “the plan of worship revealed in the New Testament”?  It wasn’t Paul nor the Holy Spirit.  Paul was inspired to give the apostolic command for men praying everywhere.  The ones who are attempting to change that “plan of worship revealed in the New Testament” are those who condemn the biblical practice of “lifting up holy hands”!

The writer also condemned “swaying.”  Since he does not define “swaying,” one is left to guess at his meaning.  Was he talking about the swaying of “holy hands” that were being lifted up?  If we had a definition, we would have the means of comparing his condemnation with God’s word.  If it isn’t there, then he is trying to bind his convictions, based upon his opinion, rather than upon God’s word!  Regardless of his scholarship, his opinions nor judgments equal the word of God.  In fact, he practices the very thing he is condemning!  He condemns a biblical practice and substitutes his tradition in its place and wants us to believe his replacement is God’s truth (1 John 4:1).

It is interesting that he refers to “The plan of worship revealed in the New Testament (Jn.4:24).”  Yet there is nothing in the second covenant which speaks of a “plan of worship.”  John 4:24 states, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.”  The expression “the plan of worship” is not in that verse, nor any other that I am aware of.  In fact, why wouldn’t 1 Timothy 2:8 be included in what is classified as “spirit and in truth”?  Paul, an inspired apostle, commanded it and most believe it was done in the first century church’s public worship assembly?

The author believes “swaying” is an “appeal to the emotions instead of the Bible heart.”  Here again, no definition is giving, even to explain what he means by “the Bible heart.”  He refers to it as an “appeal to the emotions.” Of course, the audience may only be keeping time to the beat of the song.  I wonder, “is the Bible heart” which he mentions, emotionless?  That impression is given, although it may not have been his intent.  When Thomas answered Jesus with, “My Lord and my God,” was it without emotion (John 20:28)?  Did he make that statement with or without the Bible heart?  Does the author think “the Bible heart” is void of all emotion?  I suppose the worship he referred to “in spirit and in truth” in John 4:24 is completely empty of such?  Is he implying that any sign of emotion would mark that person as one who is not in possession of “the Bible heart”!  I guess that would mean no finger or foot tapping is allowed while keeping time to a song?  Why?  Perhaps it is too emotional?  Neither must the song leader wave his hand to keep time?  Too emotional?  Perhaps when baptizing, the preacher is forbidden to raise one hand prior to immersing the candidate and saying, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus for the remission of your sins”?  Anyone responding to the invitation must not shed a single tear because that’s an emotion!  One’s voice cannot have the slightest hint of cracking while talking about God’s love and grace, nor it being displayed while speaking about the cross?  When men immerse themselves in tradition, opinion, and human judgment, the rules that flow from their “emotions,” displays man’s foolishness.

Tradition and culture often become our scripture, rather than a “thus saith the Lord.”  Human opinion often substitutes itself as the truth.  Is it?

HE PREACHED JESUS TO HIM!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

ObedienceLuke tells us about Philip’s ministry in Acts 8.  Philip was very successful in Samaria, having multiple responses.  Yet, an angel directed him to leave the many and make a hot, dusty walk into the desert for an audience of one!  That would have been a good time for Philip to use John’s command, “try the spirits whether they are of God” (1 John 4:1), to see if the devil was trying to end his successes in that area!  Yet, he did NOT respond to the angel’s command with, “Where?  To do what?”

Philip found a scripture reading somebody who needed help.  A man who would have the potential to covert royalty!  A man of influence who would use it to honor God.  A man who was willing to ask his queen for time off to travel a great distance to worship his God, even if his scriptures restricted him from enjoying what others could experience.  God knew the eunuch’s potential, Philip did not.  But, Philip obeyed rather than arguing.

Philip possessed a simple sermon with eternal benefits.  God wanted a man to introduce this man to His man Jesus! So, he selected the successful Philip (Acts 8:35).  The eunuch knew Isaiah, but not Jesus.  Philip made the introductions!  The queen’s treasurer met God’s Son.  That introduction opened a door and an experience which he had never enjoyed before.

Luke does not detail Philip’s introduction.  We don’t have Philip’s notes or outline.  Philip didn’t leave a copy of the King James Version, “Muscle And Shovel,” The Catechism, the Discipline, The Watchtower, the Memoirs, or a Manual to indoctrinate the treasurer.  He preached Jesus.  Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and raised, so the eunuch saw water and asked if he could be immersed into and be brought forth from it.  Philip did not object and tell him it wasn’t necessary, or that he could wait until he returned to Ethiopia.  Philip immersed him, then left.

Philip left his student and traveled thirty-two miles to Azotos on his way to Caesarea.  He had found a reading man who knew Isaiah, and left a rejoicing one saved by Jesus!  But, Philip left a spiritual babe (1 Peter 2:2).  We preach sermons against that!  The eunuch needed growth, but the food available did not mention Jesus by name.  How can a man develop what some claim must be “perfect obedience,” if the knowledge needed is not available to tell him how?  How can one be saved without obedience to that knowledge?  Since he was a eunuch, worshiping under the Law of Moses, that is what he returned to when he arrived at home.  That is what the Jerusalem church, the inspired apostles, elders, prophets, and others in that congregation did (Acts 21:20-25).  They continued to frequent the synagogue and Temple.  They were zealous for that Law and its practices.

When the treasurer returned to the service of his queen, was it possible for him to introduce her to the one Philip introduced him to?  Was it possible to tell her about the one Philip introduced him to?  If she wanted to experience the same rejoicing he had experienced, wouldn’t she need to do what the eunuch had done to enjoy that experience?  That may not sound “perfect,” to some, but it would be a life in obedience to the gospel!

IS PERFECT OBEDIENCE ESSENTIAL?

Monday, September 25, 2017

My Good WorksRecently a good friend asked if the Bible taught that one’s obedience must be “perfect”?  By “perfect” he was referring to one’s obedience reaching and maintaining 100%.

I know Jesus was perfect, and maintained that perfection.  Although some have claimed that they matched the Lord’s perfection, they have deceived themselves!  John stated, “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8 (NIV).  Paul stated, “There is no one righteous, not even one . . . all have sinnedRomans 3:10, 23 (NIV).

We know what the Bible teaches, yet we dine upon the devil’s lie!  Do we think we hung with Jesus upon his cross and we are co-saviors with him in purchasing our salvation?  Does the Bible teach us that we are saved by the blood of Jesus as well as by our own blood payment?  Is Jesus blood the 50% down payment on our redemption and our works of obedience the other 50%?  If so, wouldn’t our partial payment need to be just as perfect as Jesus’ blood is?  If Jesus had to be sinless to be our sin sacrifice, why would God accept our payment since we are blemished?

If our obedience is our partial payment to get into heaven, how perfect must that obedience be to merit that reward?  What less percentage can it be and still be considered “perfect” obedience?  If someone was capable of producing and maintaining an obedience that was 99.99% perfect, would it actually be “perfect”?  If perfect obedience is required for one to receive heaven as their reward, it could not mean less than perfect!  All we are capable of producing is less!

Some believe “biblical obedience” must be “perfect”!  For some this means the individual must reach and maintain perfection in obedience as well as the congregation he has joined.  Yet, when questioned about this perfection, advocates define “perfect obedience” as what they presently believe and practice, which is different from the true definition.  Has any congregation reached and maintained “perfect obedience”?  John and Paul say, “No.” Who should we believe?

If no one reaches “perfect obedience,” how could anyone be in fellowship with God, much less enter heaven?  The “Way” spoken of by Luke would be surrounded with an impenetrable barrier that you and I could never cross.

Some will also wed “perfect knowledge” with “perfect obedience.”  How perfect must one’s knowledge be to possess the perfect kind?  If one must understand God’s truth perfectly, what does that mean?  When the eunuch was immersed by Philip was his knowledge perfect or incomplete?  If lacking in perfection, was he actually saved?  He knew about Jesus and wanted to be immersed.  Yet, that’s all he carried to Ethiopia with him after leaving Philip.  He did not carry the King James nor “A Muscle And A Shovel” with him.

If one was a member of the Corinthian congregation two months before Paul’s letter arrived, would that congregation possess perfect knowledge?  They had inspired prophets, tongue speakers, interpreters, and other Spirit lead individuals.  Yet, they needed an inspired apostle’s instruction.  That need proved they were short on possessing “perfect knowledge”?  If a congregation is short on perfect knowledge, wouldn’t it be impossible to possess “perfect obedience”?  If one was without “perfect obedience,” wouldn’t that mean they were no longer in God’s grace because of that shortage?  Were they no longer a true church of God?  Were they just an apostate or false one?  Did they reclaim “perfect obedience” by the time the second letter arrived, or were they short of perfection even then?

How perfect is your obedience?  How perfect is your faithfulness?  How perfect is your knowledge?  If your knowledge is not perfect, how can you have perfect obedience?  If you do not have perfect obedience, how can you be considered faithful?  How many have given up because they could never succeed in being perfect?  How many lived with guilt day after day because their lack of perfection robbed them of all joy in Christ Jesus?  The devil’s deception reached out from Eden to convince them that heaven was just a tree limb away!  Perfect obedience was the price for a taste!

My salvation and joy is in what Jesus did for me upon the cross.  He paid my debt.  He gave me that abundant life!  My faith, trust, hope, and dependence is in Christ Jesus.  Why look elsewhere?

Is perfect obedience essential?  Yes, and Jesus lived it in order to be our sin payment.  He did what we could not do.  It is by his stripes we are healed, not by our sweat!  My obedience will never be perfect, but God knew it.  That’s why He sent His Word to become flesh and live among mankind!  My Savior came from heaven.  He wants your obedience, but he knows it will not be perfect.  He did not come to seek perfect people, but broken ones.  He came to save sinners.  His name is Jesus.  Do you know him?  I hope so!

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