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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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A PATTERN PRAYER?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The church is still in diapers.  Persecution is attempting to silence truth.  Peter and John have just been released from the Jewish council.  They go to “their own company” to report (Acts 4:23 KJV).  It seems Peter is beginning a habit, when released, to go where the church meets for prayer (Acts 12:12-17).  Once the report is given to the brethren, the church lifts it voice in the following short prayer (v.24).

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, And the people plot vain things?  The kings of the earth took their stand, And the rulers were gathered together Against the LORD and against His Christ.’  “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” Acts 4:24-30

Prayer is one of the actions which the church “continued steadfastly in” (2:42).  When the apostles ordained the seven to wait on tables, prayer was offered before the church (6:6). When the apostles went to Samaria, they prayed that the church there would receive the Holy Spirit (8:15).  When Peter escaped from prison he went to where the church was praying (12:5).   The elders prayed for Paul and company as they went out to evangelize (13:3).  Paul and company prayed when ordaining elders in the churches (14:23).  Luke tells us prayers were offered by the church, but the prayers themselves are not recorded.  What did they say in prayer?

The only recorded assembly prayer in Acts is the one found in chapter 4.  It is interesting what it does and does not contain as an assembly prayer.

  1. The prayer does not begin nor end in the way modern prayers do, such as “We pray this in Jesus name” or “we ask this in Jesus’ name.”
  2. “Amen” is not used in closing the prayer.
  3. “Forgive us for our sins” is not listed.
  4. “If we have been found faithful” is not there.
  5. “Our Father” is a phrase not used.
  6. They do not thank the Lord for Peter and John being released and assembling with them.
  7. It is a short prayer.

The results of this prayer were, “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.”  Acts 4:31

I am not saying it would be wrong to begin or end a prayer in Jesus’ name.  I am not saying it is a sin to end a prayer with “Amen.”  Nor am I discrediting any prayer which includes “Forgive us,” “found faithful,” “Our Father,” or words of thanks.  I am not condemning long prayers.  I am amazed because this biblically recorded prayer does not contain the typical things we look for and expect in our assembly prayers today.  The results of that short prayer is that the assembly was not silenced by persecution or its threat, but were bold in their proclamation of it.  Would that not be a wonderful results of our assembly prayers today?

 

THE BAG?

Money Bag

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, March 18, 2019

In John 13:29 Judas Iscariot has the glossokomon.  This large Greek word is rendered by different English translations as the “money bag,” “money box,” or “bag.”  Some just put “treasurer” or “in charge of the money.”  Neither James, John, Peter, or Andrew are entrusted with the group’s money.  The one who will later betray Jesus is its keeper.  Is Jesus aware of Judas’ character flaw?  My opinion?  I believe he was giving Judas an opportunity which the apostle through away.

When the woman poured expensive perfume on Jesus head, one would think that Judas was the only one who voiced his disagreement.  The reason for this is because John only mentions Judas Iscariot and quotes this statement.

He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”  John 12:6

Matthew 26:6-9 reveals that all of the apostles thought it was a waste.  Mark 14:4-5 reveals that they were “indignant” and “murmured against her” or “scolded, rebuked, or criticized her harshly.”  Judas may have started it, but the apostles did not want to be left out.  Some today will first watch and see what others are going to do before they jump in.  They aren’t good leaders, just willing followers.  If things don’t go well, they can always step back and say, “I would not have agreed to if Judas hadn’t started it.”

When the five thousand were hungry, Jesus told his disciples to feed them (Mark 6:37).  The response was, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?”  One translation renders that as “eight months of a man’s wages.”  Whether they had that much in the group’s treasury may be questionable, but it shows they had a collective treasury and Judas was entrusted with it.  The question is, where did they get that money, whatever the amount was, that was in the bag?  Were they each required to “buy” a franchise by donating equal shares as they were appointed apostles?

Hospitality was more open back then.  Jesus would receive room and board when traveling.  Keep in mind that twelve men traveled with him.  Sometimes more.  So, whoever invited them to stay, not only furnished each with a pallet to sleep on, but food to fill their stomach.   That would stretch anyone’s bank account, even today if that many people showed up unexpectedly at your door and stayed for several days.  Of course, three meals each day might not have been the common practice, but even one or two would still be a burden in practicing hospitality.  In spite of this generosity, money was still needed when not staying with someone.  Have you ever wondered what they spent their money on?

Three passages inform us about one source of their income.  Several women supported Jesus’ ministry (Matthew 27:55; Mark 15:41; Luke 8:2-3).  I’m not sure what amount these women supplied to the “bag,” but the total was enough that Judas could steal from it and the amount was not enough to warrant an audit (John 12:6).  Although Judas returned the thirty pieces of silver, nothing is said about the “bag” being returned to the other apostles.

Other question might arise about these supportive women.  If your wife was helping an itinerant preacher, wouldn’t you be concerned whether he was a cult leader or not?  Will she be swindled out of their money?  Would she be brain-washed?  Jesus himself warned about false messiahs (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22)!  He wasn’t the first on the scene recognized as “the Messiah” or “Christ” and he would not be the last.  If he was a revolutionary, as most “messiahs” were during that period, wouldn’t her safety be in question?  Joanna’s husband could have lost his job or life because of her actions (Luke 8:2-3).  Roman soldiers were not kind toward families that revolted again their occupation.  Wouldn’t you be concerned if your wife was giving monetary support to this Teacher that all the renowned preachers were saying he was sponsored by Beelzebub?

Sometimes we miss these tidbits of human weaknesses in our reading.  Those efforts could also be ours!  Isn’t there a lesson in these tidbits?

 

RESTRICTED WORSHIP AREA!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.”  1 Corinthians 3:16-17

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.”  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

If you are a Christian, you are “the temple of God” and/or “the temple of the Holy Spirit.”  You are a temple that has been bought by Jesus who is the one that paid your “price.”  You are the temple that God dwells in.  You are a “holy” temple.  You are a temple which glorifies God who dwells within you.  What does that mean?

  1. You are not required to be in a specific geographical location before you are in God’s presence. Since He dwells in you, His presence is always there. You may go to 1490 Campbell Street to assembly with others, but not because you had to do so in order to be in God’s presence.  Take a small test.  Stand up.  Move your right foot out about 6″.  Bring your left foot over close to your right foot.  Do this little exercise three times.  When you have moved your body 18″, God is right there with you.  He moved with you each time you moved 6″.  Run down the street.  Guess what?  God is still right there with you.  He moves with you.  He walks with you.  How?  He dwells in you.  You are His temple!  It is not vacant!  If you as the temple of God is vacant, may God have mercy upon your soul!  You’re lost!!
  2. Since God dwells in you and you are holy, that means you are God’s sanctuary. You don’t have to go to the church building and enter the assembly room or auditorium to be find His sanctuary. His presence has been with you since you became a Christian!  God’s sanctuary is not a building that has been erected by man.  If you believe putting on your Sunday best is how you show your respect to God, you have succumbed to a culture lie.  Didn’t you know God dwells in you before you stepped out of the shower?  Before you put on any clothing, God was dwelling in you.  If that Sunday clothing is how you show Him your respect, then you fail in that goal until you realize you are already His dwelling place.  If you weren’t showing Him respect before dressing, you’re not doing so when you put on your so-called respectful Sunday best.  That viewpoint would have you disrespecting God when you take it off.  That disrespect would continue until you put it on again.  No wonder we have so many problems in the home, at work, in school, in government, and in our local church memberships.  Our respect for God is limited to our presence one to four hours each week.  That makes us part-time Christians!  Such thinking would reduce God’s presence within us.  It would be parallel to an individual hanging a sign around his neck announcing, “Vacancy until Sunday.”  Satan looks for such signs.  Has he found yours?

3. Since God dwells 24/7 in the believer as His temple, wouldn’t our “worship,” “respect,” “adoration,” or “presenting our temple” before God coincide with that indwelling period?  Does He dwell in us just three to four hours each week?  Is He not dwelling within us on our way to the church building correcting the children?  Does He vacate when we lose our temper with the spouse?   Has he taken a vacation from us when we leave on our vacation?   When Sunday worship is started with the opening prayer, does He indwell us at the time that prayer is stated?  Does He depart from us when the “Amen” of the closing prayer is said?  If so, aren’t we a vacant temple during those periods?  If we realized that God was living within us when we lose our temper, think impure thoughts, fudge on the speed limit, harbor hard feelings, remain unforgiving, and put our Christian identity in jeopardy, wouldn’t we work harder to keep our lives cleaner?

CONCLUSION: You and I are walking, talking, and performing temples of God 24/7.  God dwells in us, puts up with us, is patient and long suffering with us each and every day.  He has been doing that since the day we died to the flesh, were buried and raised with Jesus, and He took up His dwelling in us.  Are you God’s sanctuary?   If not, why not?

A LITTLE SHUT EYE!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, March 10, 2019

Imagine that you are a trillionaire!  Also, imagine what would happen if you went out in public and people knew you would give everyone a $100 bill.  If you knew someone like that, wouldn’t you make sure you were in the crowd to receive your $100?  Would you attempt to push through the crowd to get it sooner?  Wouldn’t you let the giver know you were close by and ready to receive your free money?  Wouldn’t others attempt to out do you?

Some will remember Elvis Presley.  When we lived in Memphis, one of our church members was a Police Officer.  He was assigned to accompany Elvis and his wife when they went out in public.  No, not in the day time, but late at night.  Elvis would rent an entire movie theater after hours to go and watch a current movie.  The officer would accompany Elvis and Priscilla to make sure no one else came into the theater.  Why so late?  Elvis and his wife would have been flooded with fans wanting an autograph, to touch him, or have him say something personal so they could record it.  Some would even attempt to tear off a button from his clothing, snatch a handkerchief, or pull off his belt.  Any item that belong to him would be a worthwhile souvenir.

Do you remember when Jairus asked the Lord to heal his dying daughter (Mark 5:23)?  According to vs. 21, 24, and 31, Jesus was already in a “great multitude” or “large crowd.”  On the way to Jairus’ house a woman managed to touch Jesus’ robe.  Jesus asked, “Who touched my clothes?” (v.30).  Seeing the crowd, the apostles asked him how that could be known due to the crowd “pushing and jostling” him (v.31).  Jesus was not handing out $100 bills.  He was miraculously healing people.  Restored health is worth a lot more than money.  Jairus’ daughter was dead, but he restored her life.  If your son, daughter, grandchild, husband, wife, brother, sister, mother, father, or grandparents were sick or had just died, would you not fight the crowd to beg Jesus for a miracle?  Who wouldn’t?

Have you ever been at a store that was discounting their merchandise, with several thousand eager patrons trying to get in first to buy the best items?  The store opened its doors at 8 am Monday.  Would you show up Monday at 7:30 a.m. or camp out overnight with hundreds of others so you could be among the lucky few getting in first?  Wouldn’t you have wanted to be as close to the doors as possible when they opened?  Wouldn’t you fight the thousand others to get in as quickly as possible before certain items were depleted?

From the very beginning of his ministry Jesus dealt with crowds.  Once he fed 5,000 and another time 4,000.  If stepping out of your house caused hundreds, if not thousands of people to show up, crowding around you, attempting to get next to you so they could receive their $100 bill, would that pushing, and shoving, along with the uproar going on, not begin to wear on you?  Sometimes Jesus would go off to himself, or with a few apostles to pray (Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:23; 11:1).  The pushing, shoving, cries and pleading, with the noise from hundreds or thousands would soon wear a person down.   After one-episode, Jesus and the apostles dismissed the crowd, got into a boat, and sailed across the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus found a place to lie down and went to sleep (Mark 4:38).  Teaching and healing people can wear a person out, even God’s Son.

Just think, they sent the crowd away but there could have been one more person who needed to be healed.  His suffering could have been relieved.  They sent the crowd away, but there could have been one more lesson Jesus could have taught.  Yes, but there is a time for one thing and time for another (Ecclesiastes 3).  Some preachers neglect their family because they are “doing the Lord’s work.”  When Jesus laid down to sleep rather than continuing to teach and heal, was he “doing the Lord’s work”?  Yes, he was.   Was he doing “the Lord’s work” when he did not stop the woman from anointing his head with precious perfume which could have been sold to help feed and clothe the poor (Matthew 26:9)?  Was the woman doing “the Lord’s work” by pouring it on Jesus’ head rather than selling it to help the poor?  Yes, to both questions.

Getting some “shut-eye” is needed to do the Lord’s work.  Fulfilling one’s responsibility to his family is doing the Lord’s work.  Spending money to support one’s parents is doing the Lord’s work (Mark 7:9-13).  In our zeal, let us not substitute one “Lord’s work” while neglecting another.

THE CHURCH = THE ADDED SAVED

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Something referred to as “the church” is found for the first time after the ascension of Jesus in Acts 2:47 KJV, NKJV. Prior to Luke’s second book, the term is recorded twice by Matthew.

Jesus promised, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18; also Cf. Matthew 18:17 NKJV).   Paul tells us, “the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). This “my church” which Jesus spoke of was the saved which he purchased with his own blood (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

At the end of Peter’s Pentecost sermon, he exhorted them to “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation” (Acts 2:40). About three thousand gladly received his message, were baptized, and were added by the Lord to the saved (Acts 2:41, 47). With Acts 2, through the rest of the New Testament, the word “church” signifies those who were added to the saved. Every member in the Corinthian “church of God” were in the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). To be in “the body of Christ” was to be “the saved.” Even the man who was living with his father’s wife was among the saved (1 Corinthians 5:1-11). Although the Corinthian church was divided into four groups, referred to as “of Paul,” “of Apollos,” “of Cephas,” and “of Christ,” they were still “the body of Christ.” This four-way split was not condoned by the Holy Spirit and was contradictory to Jesus’ prayer (John 17:20-23). Yet, Paul and the Spirit continued to address them as “the church of God” and “the body of Christ.”

Just because God added people to the saved in the first century does not mean He did so because they deserved it. They were neither perfect in doctrine nor practice. Far from it. That first assembly in Jerusalem refused to preach the Good News to a Gentile barbarian for about ten years. Peter went to the house of Cornelius, but it wasn’t until he arrived that he realized God accepted Gentiles (Acts 10:34-35). Until then, that thought never entered his thinking. The assembly in Jerusalem was not that receptive to Gentile membership (Acts 11:1-3). Later others wanted to force Gentiles to be circumcised to make them full-fledged children of God (Acts 15:1,5). Why not? Circumcision, since Father Abraham, had put them in covenant relationship with God. Shouldn’t Gentiles do the same? Proselytes did! God had earlier added Pharisees to the saved. He added slave owners. He added pagans who still believed their idols represented living deities (1 Corinthians 8). He added folks who did not believe in the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15). He added Jews who continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses and continued to worship in the synagogue and at the Temple. Peter realized Gentiles could be added without Jewish circumcision. Salvation was not based upon law, but upon the faith of Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16).

According to the New Testament, one could not be saved outside the membership of the church. If he was saved, it was because he was in the church. God had added him to its membership (Acts 2:41, 47).. If one was in the body of Christ, he was in the church because the church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23). Only those who were in the body of Christ were referred to as “Christian” (Acts 11:26; 1 Peter 4:16). Christ is the head of the church because it is his body. If the church is non-essential to one’s salvation, then neither the body nor the head of the church is essential to salvation. Paul told the Corinthians saints that their manmade additions “of Paul, of Cephas, of Apollos,” or “of Christ” were their problems. Why? Because they were already saved by being in the body of Christ before those additions were created! Non-essential additions are worthless and unauthorized. If you were “in Christ,” it was because God had added you to Jesus’ body of believers which he is Head and Savior of. There is no such thing in scripture as a non-essential body of Christ. If one is in a church or fellowship today that is considered “not essential” to his salvation, it finds itself with those four “of” groups in 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. That membership has misunderstood the nature of the biblical church or body of Christ.

In the following chart Luke shows how individuals got into the body of Jesus or his “my church.”

what-is-the-church[2].jpg

UNEXPECTED KNOCK!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, March 04, 2019

There is a passage in Acts 12 that is unusual.  James has already been executed and Peter is next in line if King Herod Agrippa has his way (vv.1-4).  An angel awakens Peter and they miraculously leave the prison.  Peter goes to a familiar home where saints meet in large numbers and knocks on the outer door (vv.12-13).  Rhoda answers the door but does not open it.  She is referred to in Greek as a paidiske.  Strangely, this word is rendered in different ways as 1) KJV: “damsel,” 2) NKJV: “girl,” 3) ASV, RSV, NRSV: “maid,” 4) NASV NIV, NLB2, IEB: “servant girl,” and 5) Message: “a young woman.”  According to two Greek-English Lexicons, Strong and Vine, the word means “slave.”  Rhoda is Mary’s slave.

Mary is identified as the mother of John Mark (v.12).  Since she had at least one slave, and her house is large enough for “many” people to assemble in, it indicates she is far from poor.  John is Mark’s Semitic name and Mark is his Greek one.  Mary was either Barnabas’ aunt or sister.  Whereas Barnabas sold land and gave a contribution to the Lord, Mary offers her spacious house as one of the places for some of the twelve to fifteen thousand members to meet (Acts 2:46; 4:36-37; 12:12).

Luke informs us that Herod was going to “bring” Peter “before the people after Pentecost.” This event took place at night on the first day of the week.  Christians are praying throughout the city in their house to house meetings.  Luke refers to all of these as “the church” not “churches.”  Perhaps, because singing, giving, preaching, and communion are not mentioned, some fail to understand that this is what we would designate as a “Sunday worship assembly.”  Today, each of these “house to house” meetings would be known as separate congregations, identified by their street sign as the church in that specific location.  Why does it seem impossible for us to understand how one eldership can be over twelve to fifteen thousand members meeting in multiple locations?   Could our culture and traditions blind our view?  Perhaps Peter goes to Mary’s house on Sunday night because it was the nearest assembly to the prison where he had been held.

Luke tells us that Rhoda “recognized Peter’s voice(v.14).  Apparently, Peter had visited there often enough that the slave girl could tell who it was by his speech?  Some believe this is the house, with its upper room, where Jesus and the apostles observed the Passover meal.  We’re not told whose house was furnished for that event, but neither Mary nor Mark are strangers to the apostles.  If they did meet there, it may explain the young man mentioned only by Mark who was with the apostles when Jesus was arrested (Mark 14:50-52).  It is also interesting that at the cross Luke informs us of the names of several women and then refers to “other women” being present (Luke 24:10).  There are several with the name “Mary” mentioned in scripture who supported Jesus and the apostles in their work (Luke 8:2-3).   Mark’s mother may have been one of them.

Rhoda apparently became excited by hearing the voice of the one they were praying for.  In her exhilaration she announced that Peter was at the gate (v.14).  Luke tells us that “prayer was offered to God for him by the church (v.5).  One would assume that this news would provoke numerous “Praise the Lord” statements.  Wrong.  Rhoda’s announcement did not cause a stampede to the door!  Not one person shouted, “Our prayers have been answered!”  Not one.  Their response was, “You’re crazy!(V.15 Message).  So much for prayers!  She wasn’t insulted to silence but repeated her claim.  Rather than belief, an alternate explanation, “It must be his angel” was given.  Out of fifteen translations, only one renders the word “angel” as “messenger” (v.14 YLT).   The explanation by Commentaries of that short sentence is: 1) it was a human messenger.  2) it was Peter’s guardian angel.  3) Or it was a real angel who had come to inform them of Peter’s demise.  Like some today, they would have been wrong on all three counts.  Peter’s persistence moved them to open the door and they were “astonished(v.16).  Maybe part of that shock was created by their unbelief being shattered.  Jesus had taught, “ask in prayer, believing, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22).  Here is a case where prayer was answered in spite of doubt being exhibited.

Mary’s house may have been larger than the average, but twelve to fifteen thousand people could not have squeezed into it.  Peter command them “Go, tell these things to James and the brethren(v.17).   Luke informs us that Peter “departed and went to another place(v.19).  It must have kept them busy going to all the different houses where that mega church was meeting.  What is interesting is that it was night time and Peter had been asleep prior to his miraculous release (v.6).  Troas wasn’t the only congregation that met at night (Acts 20:7-11).  Persecution was being waged against the church.  Most of the time, Sunday would have been like our Monday.  It would have been a busy day.  Night time meetings would have been more expedient.

Peter’s reference about James is interesting.  He is mentioned by name, but the apostles are lumped in with “the brethren(v.17).  One might wonder why none of the other apostles are referred to?  This happens again when Paul arrives in Jerusalem for the last time.  Luke states that Paul “went in with us to James, and all the elders were present (Acts 21:18).  Were the apostles on vacation?  Was their presence no longer important?  Paul mentions in the Galatians letter that “certain men came from James . . . but when they came, he (Peter) withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision(Galatians 2:12).  It seems that James takes precedent over the apostles and elders.  Those coming from James puts fear in an apostle’s heart causing him to be hypocritical (Galatians 2:11-15).  When the Gentile issue was being discussed in Jerusalem, James gives his opinion on how to solve the problem and it was accepted.  His introduction settled the matter, not Peter nor Paul’s statements (Acts 15:6-21).  Because James was Jesus’ brother, did this put him in a special category in the church?  Maybe not, but these passages are unusual.

When messengers from Mary’s house arrived at the meeting place frequented by James, was their response equal to the earlier astonishment found at Mary’s residence?  When Peter knocked on the doors of other houses where saints were assembled, did he receive the same reception?  If so, and if we mimic their doubtful prayers, let us be thankful.  Why?  Because God is greater than our doubts and still answers them!

AN EARLY GPS

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 02-28-2019

Today folks depend on a GPS in their cell phone or car to get them from one location to another.  The wise men in Matthew 2:1-12 had a divine, directional GPS.   This GPS was not voice activated.  Neither did it have a small screen.  Yet, these men knew it was taking them to the location where “The King of the Jews” would be born (v.2).   Although they had a valid GPS, they stepped out of character for men by asking for directions!  Most men refuse such because they always know where they are going!  Always!?  These men should have trusted God’s GPS, but like most, they wanted to verify God’s directions by receiving man’s fallible instruction.  That decision ends in trouble.  Isn’t that typical?  They decided to pay a courtesy visit to King Herod.  Why?  When you have God’s Star, you don’t need man’s standard?  Kings aren’t omniscient.

When you don’t have all the answers, you find someone who does!  Herod called in his best Bible scholars.  “Where is the Messiah to be born?”  Scholarship use the Bible for their answer, “Bethlehem of Judea” (v.5).  With that information, he told the wise men to let him know the exact address so he too could worship this new born king (v.8).  Some today, like my dear departed mother-in-law, would shout in Herod’s ear, “Liar, Liar, pants on fire.”  It would be her nice way of telling Herod, “You’re going to hell for lying.”

When those wise men resumed their journey, their GPS had been patiently waiting for them to get back on track.  It led them to the exact spot where they needed to go (v.9).  Some fail to recognize that The Star did not lead them to the manger.  Jesus had already been born.  Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were now in a “house(v.11).  That side trip to see the wrong king caused them to miss the angels and the shepherds.  Since the Star was not voice activated, they did not hear, “At the next intersection make a U turn.”   Much like the wise men, we trade God’s GPS, by seeking the wrong advice to get us to our heavenly destination!

Matthew doesn’t inform us of the number of wise men who arrived at their destination.  Most assume that if there were 3 gifts, it had to be three men.  Perhaps, but not necessarily so.  It could have been ten wise men with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Numbers aren’t important, their purpose was.

These wise men seemed to possess more wisdom than some today.  When they came before Jesus, they “fell down, and worshiped him(v.11).  When they were in Herod’s presence, nothing is said about them kneeling!  When they presented themselves before this new born baby, they did.  There are some Christians, that would do just the opposite!  If there is no command to fall down to worship, then there is no purpose for such without that necessary command!  We make up rules governing what and how to show respect, but none mimic the action of those wise men.  Most recognize Jesus’ death with some who refuse to celebrate his birth.  If they had been shepherds, they would have justified remaining with their sheep and ignoring the divine announcement.

Matthew does not inform us about Jesus’ circumcision nor of the earlier visit by the shepherds (Genesis 17:10-14; 21:4; Leviticus 12:3).  Luke does.  He leaves out the wise men and the moving van going to Egypt (Luke 2:21).  Did they move from the stable to the house before or after the eighth day?  Did the wise men come before or after the circumcision?  The parents were warned in Matthew after the wise men left (Matthew 2:13-15).  The urgency of this warning indicates that the 8th day circumcision had been accomplished before these gifted men arrived.  Luke mentions two turtle doves or pigeons being offered for the circumcision.  This indicates a poor family’s offering.  If so, they were not in possession of the three types of expensive gifts brought later by the wise men.  If they had been in possession of them, they would have offered a more expenses sacrifice.  Also, these gifts would give them the resources needed for a trip to Egypt and an extended stay.

We are not informed about a GPS being used by Joseph and Mary to get from Bethlehem to Egypt.  Neither writer explains what highway that took to arrive there!  Apparently the divine one used by the wise men wasn’t available, then or on their return trip to Nazareth.  Its limited purpose had been served.

If we are God’s GPS today, how well are we in giving His divine directions so others may come into the new Jerusalem?

OUR MUTUAL GIFT!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, February 25, 2019

Everyone has it.  It is given to us early in life.  Right or wrong, we use it.  Sometimes another thinks it clashes.  Yours may anger another or brighten their day.   Their gift may have the same effect on you.  What is it?  Both Adam and Eve were blessed with it.  It also became their curse.  Eve exercised hers and Adam silently hitched a ride.  Both attempted to justify their use of it, but Adam seems to be the winner, but not to his credit.  It is called choice.

Choice brings a lot of things into our life that may or may not be expected.  The prophet’s question carries some weighty words, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3).  Someone opined, “It’s good when a disagreement ends well.”  Even there, choices were at work.

People disagree.  My barber told me that there are two topics that are not brought up with the customer.  The are religion and politics.  The choice to do so has the potential of becoming “heated.”  Those choices may end with agreement, or agreement to disagree.  Beyond that, choices may get “testy.”  Individuals have choices about what the Bible does or does not teach.  Those choices are made due to a person’s understanding or misunderstanding.  Each of those may be based on a number of factors that are good, bad, or a mixture of both.  If one’s view is based upon a misunderstanding, they still believe that view is better than yours.  A lady once told me, “Why should I exchange my faith and accept yours?”  Good question.

Back in 1957 I was talking with a second cousin about some New Testament commands.  My almost related cousin informed me, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’ve got Jesus in my heart and I’ll stick with him.”  Jesus is an excellent choice, but one’s heart may not lead him correctly in following the Lord.  Solomon stated, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 16:25).  Of course, both she and I could have been wrong.  Two wrongs do not make a right.

I have met folks who accepted as their authority only the red lettered words of Jesus.  They considered the rest of the New Testament as inferior to Jesus’ teachings.  One individual rejected Paul’s statements in Romans and 1 Corinthians concerning his lifestyle because they did not come from Jesus himself.  Of course, Jesus didn’t speak for his lifestyle either.  That individual accepted Matthew through John as God’s truth but rejected Acts through Revelation.  He is commended for his acceptance of Jesus’ teaching.  But he apparently overlooks some of that teaching by Jesus which is also found in the other twenty-three books.

Jesus told his apostles,

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

 “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come” (John 16:13).

In Acts 8:29 the Holy Spirit spoke to Philip.  In Acts 10:19 He spoke to Peter.  In Acts 18:5 he spoke to Paul.  There are numerous passage where the apostles and prophets tell us they are speaking God’s truth through the Holy Spirit.  Jesus tells us that God is Spirit (John 4:24).  Our Holy God spoke truth to the apostles and prophets.  Jesus spoke God’s truth.  That truth is found from Matthew through Revelation.  What the apostles and prophets spoke were what Jesus wanted spoken which was “all truth” (John 16:13).

Regardless of our opinions, we have a choice.  God gave us the freedom to make our choices.  That freedom also carries responsibilities.  We are responsible for our choices whether they are good or bad, right or wrong.  The father of the boy Jesus healed made his choice by saying, “Help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).  We might repeat, “Lord help me to make the right choices.”  He helps by instructing us in His truth through all twenty-seven books of the New Testament.

A WORSHIPING JEW!

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 02-21-2019

Luke reminded Theophilus “of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1).  John admits “there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25).  Have you ever wondered what things Jesus did that doesn’t have much revealed about it?  Perhaps there is a lesson in that too?

Jesus went to the synagogue to worship.  While there he was given the privilege to teach.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke record two visits (Matthew 12:9 and 13:54; Mark 3:3 and 6:2; Luke 4:16 and 6:6).  John records only one (John 6:59).  Some believe Jesus only went to the synagogue twice during his life.  Some believe his purpose on those two occasions was to show the audience he was the true Messiah.  Some never consider the thought that Jesus attended for the purpose of worshiping.

Luke tells us that Jesus attended “as was his custom” (Luke 4:16).  The word “custom” is translated from the Greek έθω (ethos) meaning “habit.”  John informs us that Jesus, stated, “I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple” (John 18:20).  That sounds like more visits than the two recorded times given by Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  Jesus was a faithful Jew who perfectly lived by the Law.  Being Jewish, he faithfully attended worship in the temple.  Although the synagogue was born out of culture rather than scripture, both Jesus and the apostles were in the habit of attending.  Although worship in both locales would be strange to us, it was not for the Jewish Jesus.  Jesus condemned some for making their traditions into doctrine, but he saw nothing wrong in practicing traditions as tradition (Matthew 15:9; Luke 13:15; 14:5).

Although Jesus often worshiped privately, his public worship is sometimes overlooked.  From the time he was youthful he attended the annual Passover feasts in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-42).  The good doctor informs us that “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).  If Jesus had not frequented the synagogue assemblies, the “in favor with . . . men” would have been absent and he would have been viewed as a rebellious teen.  Jesus would have probably been criticized for being “too religious” rather than “not religious enough.”  His devotion to Yahweh caused his mother to keep “all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51).  John gives us a time marker on the length of Jesus’ public ministry with these words, “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem” (John 2:13; 12:2; 13:1).  It also shows he attended Passover in Jerusalem each year.

When Jesus was born, he was taken to the Temple to be circumcised.  This was a covenant practice between Israel and God (Genesis 17:10-14).  His parents paid the priest either two turtledoves or two pigeons (Luke 2:24). Since scripture is silent concerning a sacrifice being offered by Jesus, some assumed he was exempt from them.  If exempt from that part of the law, why not from circumcision?  He was just as perfect and in fellowship with the Father at one time as he was the other.  John’s baptism was for the “remission of sin” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3), which Jesus submitted to just as sacrifices were for purposes also not related to Jesus.  But he was a Jew under the Law of Moses.  He came to fulfill it, not to bypass it.  He submitted to both John’s immersion and the sacrifices for the same purpose “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15).

When Jesus and his apostles finished that last Passover meal, they went to the garden.  On the way, Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 tells us they “sung a hymn.”  This passage, like John 9:31 is often misapplied.  Some interpret John 9:31 to teach that God doesn’t hear the prayer of a non-Christian.  How could that be the meaning when it was stated prior to Jesus’ death when those involved were incapable of becoming Christians?  Some point to the word “sung,” leaving the impression that it would have been sinful if a mechanical instrument of music had accompanied them.  That interpretation, like the one given for John 9:31 misses the time period of both passages.  You cannot take a scriptural event prior to the cross and read it as if it was made after the cross and Jesus’ ascension.

Jesus was born a Jew, lived as a Jew, died as a Jew, was resurrected as a Jew, and ascended into heaven as a Jew.  He did Jewish things in Jewish ways, for Jewish purposes.  While he was in the flesh here upon earth, he never spoke to nor saw a Christian.  His church or saved assembly had not yet been built.  To put it in a simpler form, Jesus was never a Christian.  He was a Jew who lived under the Law of Moses that he came to fulfill.  He had to die to accomplish that work.

We gave him all our sins when he died upon the cross.  In that sacrificial act, he made it possible for those who put their trust in him to receive the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).


But when the right time came, the time God decided on, he sent his Son, born of a woman, born as a Jew, to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law so that he could adopt us as his very own sons.  And because we are his sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, so now we can rightly speak of God as our dear Father.  Now we are no longer slaves but God’s own sons. And since we are his sons, everything he has belongs to us, for that is the way God planned” (Galatians 4:4-7).

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