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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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THE CHURCH NO ONE WANTS!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, February 18, 2019

There was a man named Ananias.  His wife’s name was Sapphira.  Ananias sold some land which he had, and from the sale, he gave some of the money to the apostles(Acts 5:1-2).

Acts 1 is pre-church preparation.  Acts 2 is God’s Open House to receive members into the church.  Acts 3 is the church’s miracle that upset City Hall.  Chapter 4 is City Hall’s failure to silence the church.  Chapter 5 is the church service no one wants!

According to some the two acts of worship out of five that must be performed on Sunday only are 1) partaking of the Lord’s supper and 2) giving.  1 Corinthians 16:1-3 is quoted as proof of the Sunday offering being authorized and Acts 20:7 is cited as the validation for a Sunday only communion.  Mentally the word “only” is added in both passages.  Acts 5 is an example of a contribution being given in a church assembly on the first day of the week.  However, some deny this is a collection being taken up in a first day assembly.  The following are reasons for that conclusion.

1). The expression “first day of the week” is not mentioned in the passage.

That is true.  Neither is that expression found in the following statement, “The group [multitude] of believers were joined in their hearts and they were united in spirit. . .Everyone who owned fields or houses sold them.  Then they brought the money and gave it to the apostles” (Acts 4:32, 34).  The “group” or “multitude” in verse 32 is in the context of verse 31 that speaks of them being “assembled together.”  Vine also points out that “multitude” may be translated as “assembly.”  This view would have us to believe that this group or multitude was not the assembly meeting to pray and give upon the first day of the week.  Wouldn’t that be admitting more than one wishes to divulge?

If Acts 5 is not a “first day of the week” assembly, then you have “giving” as an act of worship which is not restricted to Sunday “only.”  This would mean that 1 Corinthians 16:1-3 would not have a mental “only” added to it.  If “first day of the week” in the Corinthian passage does not mean “Sunday only,” then “first day of the week” in Acts 20:7 would also be understood in that same way.  To deny that Acts 5 is the church in a “first day of the week” assembly, is to admit that neither the offering or the communion is restricted to Sunday only.  Without that added restrictive interpretation, Acts 2:42 and 46 allows the expressions “breaking of bread” and “breaking bread” to be the communion which was continued daily.  It would do the same thing in Acts 20:7 and 11 with “break bread” and “broken bread” to mean the Lord’s supper.  Some want the first “breaking” in each of these passages to be communion and the second one in each to be “a common meal.”  The expression “a common meal” is a man made addition to the text as is the word “only.”

Peter informed Ananias that the total amount was his to keep if that is what he had wanted (v.4).  He was not required to give anything from the sale of his land.  He and his wife knew he had kept back part of the money and was not giving the full amount to the Lord (v.2) as Barnabas had done (Acts 4:35-37).   Their actions were not against man (the church), but against God (v.4).  Ananias lived long enough to hear Peter’s last words on the subject (v.5).  Thankfully a burial committee was available to handle such members.

Keep in mind that all this happened on Sunday during the assembly!  In fact, during the process of the membership laying their gifts at the apostle’s feet.  What if you were in that specific assembly and observed this “drop dead” event?  You had not yet laid your offering at the feet of the apostle.  Would you have second thoughts?  We go through all kinds of suggestive loops when dealing with this subject.

1) “We’re not under the Old Testament, so do I have to give a 10th or tithe?”

2) “I’m to give as I’ve been prospered (1 Corinthians 16:2), so how much is that?”

3) “I should give at least a tithe or 10th.  Is that from my gross salary before taxes are taken out, or is it based upon what I actually take home?”

4) “Do I give a tithe or 10th and an offering in addition to that amount?”

Each has to answer those questions for himself.  None of those were this couple’s problem.  In chapter 4 we read, “Joseph owned a field.  He sold it and brought the money and gave it to the apostles” (Acts 4:37).  Ananias and Sapphira wanted to mimic Joseph but lied about the amount.

This passage is excellent in illustrating the modern habit of reading our practices into the scriptures as though they copied our way of doing things.  Luke writes, “About three hours later, the wife of Ananias came in (v.7).   Due to our modern interpretation, this cannot be an assembly of the church on Sunday since there is a spread of three hours or a “come and go” atmosphere.

2). The church came together in ONE undivided assembly.  Since Sapphira entered 3 hours later, this is not the 1 Corinthians 11:18-20 Lord’s supper assembly. 

Since Corinth was divided into four different churches (1 Corinthians 1:10-13) and this was destroying their unity, which also affecting communion, Paul warns them that their divisive ways are destroying that function.  The Jerusalem congregation began with about three thousand.  It quickly grew another five thousand without counting women and young children.  That’s an estimated twelve to fifteen thousand people.  A mega-church without a meg-building!  Some believe they had an 11 to 12 o’clock Lord’s supper service in the women’s Temple’s courtyard (Women were restricted to that area).  It’s hard to visualize a Lord’s supper partaking on a Jewish workday in that or any other Temple courtyard.  Also, arrests were being made when the apostles preached.  Persecution was beginning.  A large membership of twelve to fifteen thousand and growing would find multiple private house meetings more conducive than a busy public courtyard where the population came to sacrifice, dealing with money changers and either bringing their live animals, or buying sacrificial ones there (Acts 2:46).  Try working out the logistics of that each week by holding a Lord’s supper assembly of twelve to fifteen thousand on Walmart’s parking lot and see how well it progresses?

Sapphira entering three hours later shows the flexibility of the church’s meeting schedule.  Acts 20:7-11 shows it also in their meeting prior to midnight and continuing until the next day.  This suggests Jewish time being observed rather than Roman.  The Jews did not appreciate the Roman occupation of their homeland, Roman taxes and tax collectors, Roman paganism, nor their barbaric culture.  Night time meetings may have been required so slaves could slip away and attend.  Persecution may have been another reason.  The church accommodated the societies they were in.

3). Acts 5 does not mention the Lord’s supper so it could not be a Sunday assembly.

That may be true, but neither does the Acts 20:7 passage mention 1) singing, 2) praying, or 3) giving.  Since they weren’t mentioned, why wouldn’t the above argument also apply to Acts 20:7?  In fact, we could throw in Acts 2:42 since it doesn’t mention singing or giving per-se.  Singing isn’t mentioned in scripture for another twenty years after Pentecost.  Even then it is not the four-part harmony we practice which didn’t begin for another thirteen to fourteen hundred years.  Our practice as such originated from a Catholic/Protestant addition rather than a biblical pattern.

When Eutychus fell out of the window, the assembly did not have a dismissal prayer to end worship before going down to check on him.  When they returned upstairs, an opening prayer to begin that worship is not mentioned.  Would that not indicate that everyone going down to the courtyard and checking the boy’s status, was still engaged in their first day of the week “worship service?”  They did not dismiss it with a “closing prayer.”  We are very precise with “closing” and “opening” prayers.  I attended a Sunday worship assembly where an announcement was made that the worship would be ended with a closing prayer.  Then the assembly would enter into a memorial service for a departed member and we were informed that the second assembly would not be “a worship service.”  That “closing prayer” made the scriptural difference!  It was the same audience.  We sang hymns from the same song book.  Prayers were offered to the same God and ended in Jesus’ name by some of the same men.  Scripture was quoted from the same Bible.  The same preacher spoke.  He used the same Bible as his text to preach a sermon.  But the first assembly had been closed with a prayer and the second one labeled as “not worship.”  The impression was that after that “closing prayer” we weren’t worshiping God anymore.  If not, wasn’t what followed, vain?  Was God left out?  The Bible doesn’t follow our way of thinking or actions.  Having prayers that are specified as “opening” or “closing” a “worship service” is a later addition by men.  Nor do we have labels saying this is or this is not worship.  Who started that and made it “scriptural” is unknown to me?  I just know these descriptions and definitions we use are lacking in God’s word.   As far as I could determine, the expression “first day of the week” is found in Acts 5 just as many times as it is found in 1 Corinthians 11.

4). Since Peter questioned Sapphira in that assembly and she replied, it could not be the 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 assembly since women are restricted to “silence.”

If the 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 assembly forbade Sapphira from answering Peter’s question, because she would violate the “silence” of that assembly, why do we allow women to violate that silence with singing and confession?  If today’s preachers may ask a woman a question and expect a response in the Sunday assembly, why could Peter not ask Sapphira a question and expect an answer in that same assembly?  We contradict ourselves when we allow her to respond to questioning in our Sunday assemblies, but refuse to allow an apostle to ask and expect a response in his.

After Peter asked and she replied, he informed her, “Listen!  Do you hear those footsteps?  The men who buried your husband are at the door!  They will carry you out in the same way.  At that moment, Sapphira fell down at Peter’s feet and died(vs.9-10).  “The entire congregation and all of the other people who heard about these things were filled with fear” (Acts 5:11).

If during the collection, this same action of questioning and results took place today, would you want to be a member of that kind of congregation?  Would you mind serving on the burial committee?

WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A LITTLE LIGHT?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 02-14-2019

People are offended by a lot of things.  Sometimes an offense arises because the offended do not see all that is involved.

In 1962 Mary Nell and I were returning to our apartment.  The person behind me was flashing his lights.  In France that meant he wanted to pass, and he is asking me to move out of his way.  If I had not needed to turn left, I would have obeyed his signal.  I had my left turn blinker on, but he had not observed it.  He kept flashing his lights rapidly.  Not thinking, I rolled my window down and stuck my arm out and motioned him to come around me.  Stupidity and offensive on my part!  Following that signal would have put him into the oncoming traffic.  The light caught me before I could turn.  The man got out and in French gruffly stated, “Sir, that was not very diplomatic of you.”  Then he slapped my face.  It stung.  He returned to his car.  The light changed and I made my turn.  In the back seat of my Volkswagen were two American servicemen.  One wanted to get out and give that fellow some righteousness indignation.  I told him “No.  Forget it.”  The servicemen were offended because the man was 1) driving behind us too closely, 2) he failed to see my signal, 3) he did not control his tempter, and 4) he slapped me.  Perhaps he had an emergency and that was his reason for following so closely and his need to pass.  Due to these unforeseen circumstances, he and the two Army passengers were offended.  There was a misunderstanding shared by all.  I just happened to have my window rolled down and a readily available face!

Today, in a number of countries Christians are being beaten, imprisoned, having their homes burned, their church buildings demolished, and murdered.  Why?  Because the persecutors are offended by anything that is Christian.  On an average, eleven Christians are murdered each day in our world because their faith is offensive to those who believe differently.

That kind of belief is beginning to infect this country!  People are openly condemning believers, hoping they and their church building will be destroyed by fire.  This country kicked God out of the public schools on June 25, 1962.  Perversion is allowed in some curriculums and that lifestyles is promoted.  Abortion was made lawful in 1973.  In the beginning, no abortion was permitted after 20-22 weeks of pregnancy unless the woman’s health was an issue.  That has changed and now one state allows the baby, ready to be born, to be killed by lethal injection.  That way the infant is born dead.  The fetus’ designation has progressed from being labeled “flesh, like an unwanted wart” in 1973, to it is “not a human being until it is birthed.”  This allows a national abortion business to profit by harvesting body parts from those little bodies.

If Christianity is so offensive that worldly folks may publicly wish them to be burned alive in their places of worship, how soon will that wish turn into actions?  Can you image church street signs being outlawed because they offend someone?  Can you visualize all Christian schools being closed and students forced to attend State schools for the same reason?  If you object you are jailed or executed.  Can you imagine that wearing a T-shirt with any Christian slogan being a Federal offense?  Can you visualize being severely beaten because you were offensive by wearing such?  What if your church building is turned into a warehouse, or house of prostitution, and you and your family are hunted and rounded up like rabid dogs to be exterminated?  Is it possible that things will deteriorate to that extent?  If is happening elsewhere.  Will such persecution cause some Christians to believe that Jesus isn’t worth the hassle, and they will follow the path of those mentioned in Hebrews 6:4-6 and 10:25-29?

Can you remember when men bowed down on their knees to pray in the assembly and an “Amen” was loudly expressed?  When that practice was eliminated, was anyone offended by its cessation?  Five times the command to greet one another “with a holy kiss” is given.  It was changed from a kiss by substituting a “holy” handshake?  Was anyone offended by this cultural change?  Women formerly wore hats in the assembly due to 1 Corinthians 11.  Was anyone offended when those women stopped doing that?  Pulpits used to tell women how unscriptural their desire to vote was.  When government allowed that vote, weren’t some pulpits offend by it?  Would it be offensive if a Christian today owned slaves?  Philemon did (Philemon 1:1-25).  Mary, John Mark’s mother did (Acts 12:13).  Paul regulate slavery but did not condemn ownership.  Would ownership today be offensive?  It would be to those who were enslaved!  People are offended by change, when it is wrong and even when it is right.  There have been a large number of changes in the past one hundred and fifty years.  Offenses were produced by each introduction.  Today we enjoy and practice those things without giving any thought to the offenses they produced, nor the adverse fallout they created.  In the following passages you can see how Paul dealt with offense.

When I was with the Jews, I lived like a Jew to bring the Jews to Christ. When I was with those who follow the Jewish law, I too lived under that law. Even though I am not subject to the law, I did this so I could bring to Christ those who are under the law.  When I am with the Gentiles who do not follow the Jewish law, I too live apart from that law so I can bring them to Christ. . .Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.  I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (read the full passage).

Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong.” Romans 14:1.

Now regarding your question about food that has been offered to idols. Yes, we know that “we all have knowledge” about this issue. But while knowledge makes us feel important, it is love that strengthens the church. . .There may be so-called gods. . . and some people actually worship many gods and many lords.  But we know that there is only one God. . .However, not all believers know this. Some are accustomed to thinking of idols as being real.”  1 Corinthians 8:1-7, 9-13 (read the full passage).

Jesus offended the religious teachers, priests, and his own apostles, but he did so without displaying an arrogant, superior attitude.  If righteousness offends, should we put our light out and refuse to confess Jesus?  Remember, in the absence of truth you create a vacuum which Satan delights in filling (Matthew 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26).

IS BLINDNESS SCRIPTURAL?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 02-11-2019

In John 9:1-34 the apostle tells about a blind man that Jesus healed. Several of life’s problems are covered in this story.

Who Sinned? The man has been blind since birth. Jesus’ followers asked a question, “Who sinned, this person or his parents, to cause him to be born blind?” That question, in different forms, is still asked today.

Some believe if tragedy hits them or a loved one, it was caused by the individual or a family member’s sin. There is some truth to that view. However, not in the way it was asked of Jesus. If a person drives while drunk and kills or injures innocent people, he can spend 3-4 years in prison. God may use the tragedy to teach different lessons to those involved, but he did not cause the vehicular homicide because the man was drunk (v.9). Jesus’ reply is, “This person did not sin; his parents did not sin” (V.3). Why was this man born blind? We may not know the “why,” but we can know it was not due to any sin he or his parents committed.

I Am the One! Jesus heals the man (v.7). Imagine what it would be like if you were able to see things which you had formerly recognized only by touch or sound. Would you recognize family or friends without hearing them speak? Would you know if a ball of twine sitting next to an apple or orange was eatable? Would your attitude be, “Hmm, how about that, I can see” or “WOW! I CAN SEE!”? Would family try to calm you down because your running might cause harm to a blind person? If people were confused, not knowing if this was you or some look alike, wouldn’t you shout out, “I am he!” (V.9)?

This man did not know who Jesus was. When asked who did this his reply was, “A man called Jesus.” The healed man would have been speaking Hebrew and “Jesus” in that language is “Joshua.” He finished his sentence by saying, “A man called Jesus made some mud and rubbed it on my eyes.” If you were one of this man’s friends, wouldn’t your reply be, “You let a man spit on some dirt, work it into mud and apply it to your eyelids? You must think I’m an idiot to believe that?” They wanted to know where this “Joshua” was? The man did not know. Isn’t it amazing how in our joy we can forget who is responsible for giving it? That is, until someone says, “Let’s pray and thank God.” Too often we include ourselves with the 9 of Luke 17:17.

Inquisitive Conservatives. As smart and conservative as the Pharisee were, they posed the same questions. How had he received his sight? The blind man told about the mud salve. Whether the Pharisees were able to understand that “Joshua” in Hebrew is the same as “Jesus” in Greek, they weren’t confused about condemning anyone who supposedly broke the Sabbath. Rejoicing because the man could see was not important. This “Jesus” healed him on the Sabbath! If you had asked, they would have informed you that this Jesus had committed the unpardonable sin! This Jesus fellow is godless because in their way of thinking, he “keeps not the Sabbath.” Therefore, he could not perform miracles since he was a sinner (v.16). In their circular logic, if Jesus gave sight to a blind man on the Sabbath, he was a sinner. If he was a sinner, he would not be capable of restoring sight to anyone, Sabbath or not. Man’s logic usually takes precedent over God’s truth! It did as far as these conservative Bible teachers were concerned.

The blind man’s parents were questioned next. If they replied incorrectly, they would be kicked out of the synagogue. Restricted from the synagogue meant being expelled from the Temple and its courtyards. Losing one’s membership in either was like being arrested and exiled from family, friends, and neighbors because you contracted the deadly Ebola virus. The parents’ way out was to send them back to their adult son for questioning (v,21).

When they questioned the son again and he gave them the same answers, they insulted him by saying, “You are Jesus’ follower. We are Moses’ followers! We know that God has spoken to Moses. But we don’t know where this Jesus comes from.” (V.29). Their logic kicked in again. “We know our Bible. You and Jesus do not.” Then they added insult to injury by saying, “‘You were totally born in sin; you cannot teach us!’ And they threw him out.” (V.34). The BBE translation states, “They put him out of the Synagogue.” They switched back to the man being a sinner because he was born blind! Even if a statement is a lie, if it is believed to be truth, you may use it to put someone down as a liar. So, they did!

Jesus Finds. “Jesus heard that the Jewish leaders had thrown the man out. Jesus found him” (v.35). Jesus’ question to him was, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The poor fellow did not know the answer. Jesus told him that he had seen him and was speaking to him (v.37). With that short dialogue the man’s reply was, “‘Lord, I believe.’ And he worshiped Jesus.” (V.38). Some today would give him a green light on his worship because Jesus was present before him in the flesh. They would even give a green light after Jesus returned to heaven, if you prayed, talking through him to the Father. However, if you talked directly to Jesus, you would be praying. If you were praying, you would be speaking without divine authority! You are lumped in with the blind man. You are a sinner!

Conclusion. John begins with Jesus’ followers asking, “Who sinned” and ending with “Lord, I believe’ and he worshiped Jesus.” When blindness exists, Jesus was the blind man’s solution with, “Lord, I believe.” If your logic is like the Pharisees, you would tell the blind man that it is better to remain blind than to worship Jesus.

Jesus paid my sin debt! Thank you, Jesus!

ABORTION FROM BIRTH TO TWO

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Now after Jesus was born . . . behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, . . . Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, . . . he sent them to Bethlehem . . . “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” . . . being divinely warned . . . that they should not return to Herod, they departed . . . Herod, saw that he was deceived by the wise men, . . . sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under” (Matthew 2:1-2, 7-8, 12, 16).

Knowing the biblical record, students will understand that Herod did not want to worship Jesus.  A new king in town was a threat to his throne.  According to Josephus, the Jewish historian, Herod didn’t mind killing some of his family members, so aborting a baby from that throne would be easy.  His 37-year reign was marked by numerous problems that threatened it.  He probably thought this one would be the easiest to solve.

Herod’s Bible scholars knew this Messiah baby would be born in Bethlehem, but the exact spot was unknown.  Since it was tax time, there would be a larger population to deal with, so it was advantageous to wait until the crowd had gone home.  The important visit by the Eastern caravan may have alerted him to that royal birth, but he probably wanted to wait until they returned to pinpoint for him that baby king’s exact location.  The wise men didn’t oblige by returning to reveal Joseph, Mary, and Jesus’ address.

Herod had been appointed as “King of the Jews” by the Roman Senate.  He was viewed as being successful by some and as a tyrant by others.  His greatest success was in expanding the second Temple.  This was the temple whose destruction was prophesied by Jesus in Matthew 24.  What is ironic is that when Herod’s Temple was finished, God destroyed it by using the Roman army.

Some of Herod’s tyranny is seen in Matthew’s passage.  The wise men apparently visited and worshiped Jesus shortly after his circumcision in Jerusalem, then headed home (Matthew 2:13-14).   Herod probably gave them a few weeks to return and when it became evident that they would not, decided to send his soldiers on their rampage.  He wasn’t satisfied with killing newborns, he wanted to make sure.  All male children from newborns to two years of age were slaughtered.  He kept those parents from experiencing their son’s “terrible twos.”

It’s interesting that when abortion was legalized in the USA, it could not be performed after 20-22 weeks of pregnancy, unless the mother’s life was in jeopardy.   Abortionists claimed it would stop there!  Wishful thinking by some, deception by others!  Now, Democrat politicians allow it to be performed on the innocent seconds before birth.  Some would allow it to happen after that event.  One wonders if said politicians will follow Herod’s actions and reach out and include the twos or beyond?

What if the wise men had returned to Herod and given him that address?  Wouldn’t a multitude of children have moved past one and two rather than be murdered before three?  Why does God allow men like Herod to practice such evil in this world?  God gave Herod the same thing that he has given you and me.  It is called “choice.”  Herod chose his way of life and you and I have been given that same opportunity.  So, why have you made your choice to live as you now are?

IS IT IN THE BIBLE?

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, February 4, 2019

I began publishing “My Thoughts” in 2011.  I recognize that just because I believe something doesn’t mean others will agree nor that it is correct.  I also recognize that culture, tradition, and peer pressure are tremendous forces that can blind a person and keep them from accepting the truth.  Jesus and the apostles ran into that brick wall with the Pharisees and Sadducees.  I also realize that one may have “a martyr complex” which drives his agenda.  Jesus mother and brothers thought Jesus had developed that condition (Mark 3:21 RSV, NIV).  Right or wrong, I believe we need to ask whether a passage teaches what we have always thought it did.  If not, what does it actually teach?  About three thousand gladly received Peter’s teaching, but the number who rejected it isn’t given (Acts 2:41).  Biblical teaching is not always popular even with those who claim they know it.  The divisions among believers is a biblical testimony that everyone in the body of Christ isn’t as “right” as each separate group claims.  Passing something on to the next generation held as truth may be the mother of all divisions.

When Harvey Pearson immersed me in 1957, he gave me this advice.  “Don’t accept something because I say it, accept it because you find it in the Bible.”  That may appear to be good advice and I accepted it in that context.  However, expressions may not be as good as originally thought.  Harvey’s advice is much like another slogan or creed introduced as truth which states, “Silence is prohibitive.”  Harvey’s expression, “because you find it in the Bible” and “silence is prohibitive” are related!  When quoting scripture, where did Jesus or any inspired writer give book, chapter, and verse?  What passage tells us the first day of the week contribution is to be spent on 1) evangelism, 2) edification, and 3) benevolence?  You can’t find simple things in scripture that are today’s common practices such as a church building, church street sign, or a small table with the Luke 22:19 inscription?  What passage tells us to substitute a “holy handshake” instead of greeting one another with “a holy kiss”?  If “silence” prohibits a practice, then these are modern activities which scripture is silent about.  You cannot find them in your Bible!  Believers have been divided over the introduction of these non-mentioned items.

Sometimes a person’s actions may be based on a false conclusion rather than on the Bible itself.  For example, an individual may give a truthful quote borrowed from someone who is guilty of teaching things that aren’t biblical.  Someone objects to that quote, not because it is false, but due to its origin.  If it is a sin to quote such a statement made by an unbeliever, Paul was guilty!  He quoted the Greek poets to make a truthful point (Acts 17:28).  There is another idea that if one associates with those who are guilty of some sin, then they too are suspected of engaging in it.  If that is true, then Jesus himself would be a suspect because he allowed a prostitute to pour expensive perfume on him.  This caused his host to doubt his credentials (Luke 7:36-39).  On another occasion he refused to condemn a woman caught in the act (John 8:1-11).  Apparently, Jesus wasn’t aware of the Pharisee’s unwritten law which pontificates, “If your actions are interpreted in the wrong way, it is a sin to engage in those actions.”

Sometimes our rules and regulations are more like those concocted by the Pharisees than being a “thus saith the Lord.”  Some, like Satan, will make a statement and quote a passage as proof that the statement has a scriptural foundation.  Like Satan, they are wrong.  Even good intentions do not make a wrong action right.  The believers who were in the Pharisee Party did not think they were in error when they demanded that Gentiles submit to circumcision (Acts 15:1, 5).  Circumcision was a commandment to be obeyed for the Jews, but not the Gentiles (Acts 15:19-29).  For a Gentile it was an option, not a command.  If a Jewish saint demanded that a Gentile believer be circumcised to be saved, Paul’s reply was Galatians 1:6-9.  Picture a disturbed Jewish Christian bemoaning the fact that the Acts 15 epistle was unfair because Jewish males had to submit to the knife to be in covenant relationship with Yahweh since Abraham.  Now, these Johnny-come-lately Gentiles can have that same relationship without that surgery!  In the first 15 years of the church, circumcision was followed because the scriptures taught it, and Jews were the major members.  Then that Gentile Roman officer had to be recognized for his prayers (Acts 10:3-4)!  The Jewish brethren were confronted with the problem of recognizing an uncircumcised Gentile barbarian as a brother in Christ!  It’s not easy living through a transition period.  Paul wrote telling both groups to respect each other’s differences (Romans 14).  It was easier for Paul to write that chapter than for disciples to practice it.  Jews thought they were compromising God’s word.  In their mind, a Gentile was still unclean.  Like Peter, it was hard to say “Yes” when the correct answer seemed to be “No” (Acts 10:9-14 NLT2).

Jewish Christians and proselytes continued to worship at the Temple and in the synagogues (Acts 21:18-26).  Then in 70 A.D. another major transition took place.  The holy city of Jerusalem and its Temple were destroyed by pagan soldiers.  Jews were forbidden to live there.  After that, the church gravitated toward a Gentile membership and separated itself from being “Jewish.”  It was a major transition period for Jewish members.  Another transition plaguing the church was predicted by Paul (Acts 20:28-31).  Today we have the complete Bible in print rather than being blessed with living apostles and prophets.  Yet, in both periods, disciples have continued to have those transitions.  Our responsibility is in determining which ones are good and not throwing something out because it isn’t like “what we’ve always done.”

A HARD LESSON TO SWALLOW

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘’He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:5-6).

Did Satan know Jesus was the Son of God? My answer is, “Yes, he knew.” This was simply a test. Jesus would either pass it or fail.

Second, Satan knew scripture. Have you ever noticed that an atheist may quote scripture just as well or better than some Christians? Even the father of lies has that ability. Truth may come from the strangest sources, but that doesn’t negate that truth. Even the quote by Satan was truth and you and I must accept it as such. However, Satan’s motive for using that truth is in question.

Do you remember what Paul said about those who wanted to hurt him through their preaching?

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (Philip. 1:15-18).

Some are bent out of shape if someone prints an article by one who is considered a “false” teacher. Yet, the article may be truth. There is no error contained within it. The lesson is needed. Those same brethren will read and quote Satan’s message to Jesus in their class lessons and from the pulpit without a second thought. Are they aligning themselves with Satan’s lies because they broadcast the truth spoken by the devil? When a preacher quotes something from Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, does that mean they agree with the author on everything he has written?

Third, Satan had faith! Yes he did. First, he believed Jesus was the Son of God or he would not have tempted him. Second, he believed the passage he quoted. He believed the angels would protect Jesus if he threw himself off the temple. However, his motive for that request was wrong and Jesus knew it.

Satan’s sin sometimes becomes ours. How?

  1. A preacher is hurt by a member, so he uses the pulpit and scripture to strike back.
  2. He becomes jealous over another minister’s success, so he finds fault with that brother’s actions and justifies his own with book, chapter and verse.
  3. A brother has little or no assurance of his salvation, so he condemns those who have it to feel better about his insecurity.
  4. A brother feels superior over another because he can quote fifty passages in a sermon as compared to another who only refers to two or three verses in his.

When we preach or teach with the wrong motive, we may speak truth, but our hearts are in fellowship with Satan. We can all learn a lesson from Paul. In spite of the “trouble” that some stirred up against him by preaching “Christ out of selfish ambitions, not sincerely,” he rejoiced that they were preaching Christ. Ouch! That can be a hard lesson to swallow, even for this writer.

REFLECTIONS

Not too long ago, my wife and I had an opportunity to visit with another congregation. During one song, in a specific place, individuals in the audience let out a “hoot.” Although this did not violate my “comfort zone,” it did cause some reflection on my part.

Was there anything wrong with the “hoot”? I am not one of those folks who is bent out of shape by something different done elsewhere that is not practiced where I worship. So, I did not take Paul’s statement out of context and attempt to see the “hoot” as being a contradiction of 1 Corinthians 14:40, “Let all things be done decently and in order.”

My reflection was more along the lines of the future. Humans have a tendency to make a practice into a custom, a custom into a tradition, and a tradition into the law of God. What may have started out with meaning, often ends up being something we do, not from the heart, but from “that’s the way we have always done it.” It loses its original purpose and significance and digresses into an action done “because that’s what our parents and grandparents did.” Then, when someone questions it, or heaven forbid, wants to eliminate or change it in any way, their actions are considered heresy.

When Moses lifted up the brass serpent on a pole, there was a divine reason for it. Those bitten by snakes lived rather than died because they looked upon that brass serpent (Numbers 21:8-9). However, by the time of King Hezekiah, the purpose had changed (2 Kings 18:4). It had become an object of worship and needed to be destroyed. Imagine the alarm generated in the hearts of those who heard Hezekiah’s order. Many of those folks looked upon that object as something commanded by God, built by Moses, and which made it possible for many in that generation to exist because their ancestors were healed by the sight of it. It was no longer a creation by Moses for a past purpose, but had taken on a name and worship. It was Nehushtan. Strangely enough, the word translated means, “a piece of brass.” Yet, they worshiped it!When we look at 2 Kings 18:4, it makes us wonder how Israel could come to worship something which they called “a piece of brass.” Yet, are our motives for making traditions into the law of God anymore questionable?

Look at the laws some have made over the Lord’s supper.

  1. The fruit of the vine must be served in one container to the congregation. If the container is dropped or runs out prior to everyone being served, a larger one must be obtained and the serving started again from the beginning.
  2. The fruit of the vine must be fermented.
  3. The fruit of the vine must not be fermented.
  4. The unleavened bread must be made from wheat.
  5. Communion must be served prior to preaching.
  6. The bread must be served before the fruit of the vine.
  7. The bread must be broken by the one who presides prior to it being offered to the congregation.
  8. The communion must be served in an upper room.
  9. The Lord’s supper must be observed in the evening only – after 6 o’clock.
  10. The communion may be served to a congregation only once. A night time serving is unscriptural.
  11. When the Lord’s supper is being served, the congregation must observe silently as an act of reverence and/or respect.
  12. During the communion, there may be no other acts of worship performed, such as singing, praying silently, or reading one’s Bible.
  13. Those who serve on the table must wear suits and ties as a sign of respect or reverence.
  14. The elements must be covered with a table cloth prior to the elements being served.
  15. The table upon which the elements sit must be in front of the auditorium.
  16. The Sunday night serving of the Lord’s supper must be in the auditorium/sanctuary. They may not be dismissed to partake in another location.
  17. Only men may serve the congregation the Lord’s supper since this is a “male only” role. Allowing women to serve would be a violation of 1 Corinthians 14:34,35 and/or 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
  18. An announcement must be made to the assembly when the Lord’s supper is finished, that the collection to follow is not a part of the communion.
  19. In the prayer prior to the communion being served, the pattern or formula must be followed as given in Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

Yes, these and many other customs have found their way into law. Families have been torn apart due to religious differences on these matters.

My parting reflection is: Are any of these things the “good news” of Jesus Christ?

YE DO ERR!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, January 28, 2019

An English professor wrote the following on the chalkboard and asked the students to punctuate it correctly.

“A woman without her man is nothing.”  The male students wrote: “A woman, without her man, is nothing.”  All the females wrote: “A woman: without her, man is nothing.”  Punctuation is powerful.

All three sentences are grammatically correct.  Punctuation is not only powerful, but important in expressing a specific point.  In the above sentences, despite each having the same words, three different ideas are developed.  Not only are they different, but in the class, there were two opposing views.  Each expressed a truth formulated by the group it came from.

When a Hebrew boy reached the age to pass from youth into manhood, most of his early training was in the scriptures (2 Timothy 3:15).  This training was the responsibility of the parents (Exodus 12:24-28; Proverbs 22:6).  To become a man, a boy was required to read a passage from the scriptures that was assigned to him.  It had to be read correctly.  Keep in mind that scripture was written on material without margins, without spacing between words, and without the vowels in those words!  He was not only required to read the text, but to punctuate it without that grammatical assistance.

When Jesus rebukes the Sadducees with, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures,” some may think their knowledge of the Bible was as deplorable as “Archie Bunker’s” who attempted to quote scripture in the show, “All in the Family” (Matthew 22:29).   The knowledge of the Sadducees far outstripped Archie’s!

If fifty members of today’s church were in a contest to see if they could quote more scripture than a 20-year-old Sadducee, one might think that young man was at a noted disadvantage.  If the fifty were required to quote only one new verse each time until the group could not say another, but the young Sadducee had to quote ten verses for each of the fifty’s one, he would still be quoting long after their knowledge had dried up!  The Sadducees facing Jesus were not stupid nor ignorant.  They were as well versed in scripture as the Pharisees or any male Jew.  As boys, they received the same training as Jesus did!  They, like the Pharisees, had a problem of not staying within the context of what they knew.  Satan made the same mistake (Matthew 4:5-6).  Do we follow the lead of the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Satan?  Do we quote scripture but miss the context?  Do we fail in the art of punctuation?  Do we read into a passage what is not there?  Do we quote a passage correctly, but mentally add to or subtract from it to harmonize with our faith?  Is our understanding of scripture hampered because what we believe is based more on our culture and tradition than in what God stated?  Do the divisions of Catholicism and Protestantism, along with the divisions in jour fellowship support such an explanation?  Shouldn’t those facts drive us into the scriptures to discover why we are divided?  Division is neither approved nor helpful.  Corinth tried it and wallowed in the problems it created (1 Corinthians 1-16).

How do you punctuate the following passage in 1 Peter 3:21?  Don’t cheat by looking in the Bible!

The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the answer of a good conscience toward God by the resurrection of Jesus Christ”?

Here is how some punctuate that passage.  What did Peter write?

  1. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us.
  2. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us not.”
  3. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us not the putting away of the filth of the flesh but the answer of a good conscience toward God.

All three quotes are out of context.  All three leave out “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”  All three are in error!

When Jesus is removed from what we quote, what is left?  Who are we mimicking?  The Sadducees?  The Pharisees?  Or, Satan?

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