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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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ONE THING MISSING?

Monday, June 18, 2018

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Romans 14:10 (KJV)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NKJV).

In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” 1 Corinthians 15:52-53 (NKJV).

No one will misunderstand that last trumpet sound.  Suddenly, without warning, our location will change.  No one will ask who that magnificent person is, nor why he is here.  Each heart will increase its beating.  Some will immediately drop to their knees, sobbing loudly.  A day has arrived that some refused to believe.  The thought of many will be, “Too late.”  It will be.

A preacher is called and steps forward.  He begins telling Jesus when he became a Christian.  How many sermons he has preached.  The many locations where he has presented the good news.  He will give a “preacher’s count of the multitudes that responded to the invitation he offered.   He will detail the many local congregations he has established in his 65-year ministry.  He has been faithful in the proclamation of the gospel.  He has memorized and quoted huge portions of scripture.  He has defended God’s truth against all who opposed it.  Jesus compliments him in all the things he has mentioned.  Then he asks the preacher to stand to one side.  He informs him that he has done well in many things but is remiss in one.

Another person is called forward.  He tells Jesus that since he became a follower he has never missed a meeting the church has called.  He has worked with the youth director, with the older adults, taught a Sunday School class, was ordained as a deacon and served twenty years until appointed as an elder.  For the past ten years he has served honorably and with integrity in that work.  He has been a personal worker for 45 years and seen multiple individuals respond to the gospel like those folks in Acts 2.  Due to his business, he has been capable of giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to the cause of Christ.  He has worked in mission efforts in Central and South American as well as in Africa.  He has been honored not only by his church, but also his community.  He feels that his way of life counts for something.  Jesus also compliments him upon his activities and works, but asks him to stand with the preacher, because like the preacher, he is missing one thing.

A third person’s name is called, and he stands before Jesus with his head held low.  He confesses that he is a sinner.  That anything he has done that was considered good and sacrificial by others, is still like filthy rags.  His Savior is Jesus.   His faith is in Jesus.  His hope is in Jesus.  His trust is in Jesus.  His assurance of salvation has been and remains in Jesus.  Nothing nor anyone can remove his sins except Jesus.  So, he comes before his Lord and Savior with nothing to offer in his defense other than Jesus.  Jesus stands and commends him because he is not missing that one thing but has expressed it!  Jesus paid it all.  All to him I owe!  Like the tax collector, Jesus blesses him as justified because he puts his faith in Jesus, not in himself!

Jesus states to the man, “Well done my good and faithful servant.  Enter into the joys of your Lord.”  His announcement is a shock to the preacher and elder.  They ask in unison, “Why didn’t you grant us entrance as you did that person.  Look at all that we have done in your kingdom!”

Jesus replied, “Yes, you both have a long list of accomplishments.  You have put your trust in what you have done and not once mentioned what I did for you upon the cross.  Your faith has been centered in your works rather than in my blood.  You have believed that your works have put me in debt to you rather than you being in debt to me.  You have sidelined my accomplishments for yours and neglected what I did in your desire to prove to me what yours have earned for you.  You have bypassed me, so you could present yourselves as saviors.”

Who went from the Temple to his house justified (Luke 18:9-14)?

THE OTHER SIDE OF ROMANS 6:1-2

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace?   Of course not!  Since we have died to sin, how can we continue to live in it?” (Romans 6:1-2).

This passage is often used to focus on the answer given to the question, “Should we keep on sinning?”  The answer?  “Of course not” or “God forbid.”  Perhaps the other side has been given before, but from 1957 to about 2000 I could not see it.  What is the “other side”?

Paul is not saying that Christians are cut off from God’s fellowship if they commit sin after receiving “newness of life” (v.6).  He is not saying we must retain sinlessness to receive God’s “wonderful grace.”  He is referring to those who believe they can make sin their way of life because God’s grace is sufficient to cover them.  Yet, there is a reason for that thought to lodge in their cranium.  That is the misapplication Paul is addressing.

For too many years I believed one sin caused the Christian to lose his salvation.  How can God fellowship someone who is in sin?  He can’t.  Since he cannot be put in that position, what happens to the sinner?  Our answer was, “He must be put outside of Jesus’ saved body because sin would taint that body and make Jesus guilty of fellowshipping our sin.  Therefore, the put out one loses his salvation and is cut off from God’s grace”!  Sounds reasonable when you leave God and the cross out of the picture.  Some continue to do that.

Is Paul saying God’s grace is insufficient to cover our sins?  We are sometimes told that God’s grace only covers the ones in Christ who do not sin.  Sin and you get acquainted with the kingdom of darkness again and become a child of hell?  Wouldn’t that view rob Christianity of all assurance, peace, and joy, and replace it with uncertainty, disappointment, and fear?  If the last three items are correct aren’t we saddled with a religion of doubts and hopelessness?  Wouldn’t our response to the question, “Do you believe you are saved?” be, “I hope so, but I don’t know”?  When would that person have the certainty that he was saved?  He believes he must wait until the judgment to find out!  It all depends upon his status when he dies.  If that person has hope, it is the hope that he doesn’t die without a prayer of repentance on his life.  Such a position leaves a person wondering if he will be saved.  If the Lord says, “Well done,” it will be a shock.  An honest person with such a view feels hopeless because regardless of how much he does, one slip at the wrong time will condemn him forever!

When such a doctrine has been fed to the flock for generations, it is almost impossible to correctly understand God’s grace!  We are prisoners to a doctrine that implies doing the very best we can always as our only key to entering heaven.  Grace becomes a “gap insurance policy” to be applied at the judgment to make up for our imperfection.  The gospel becomes, “Once saved, never saved until the judgment.”  If that is the gospel, wasn’t Paul experiencing delusions when writing to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:8)?  How can you know you are going to be saved when you don’t know if God’s grace is sufficient to cover your gap?

Paul had already informed the Romans saints that they are sinners (Romans 3:10,23).  Rising from the waters of baptism does not make us perfectionists.  We will sin.  Some less, some more.  The misguided are those who believe their sins receive a passing grade whereas yours do not!  If we sin, how can we remain in fellowship with God who knows no sin? The answer to that question is often ignored.

Paul is telling the saints that just because grace covers their sins, they should not make sinning their full-time job.  He clearly explains later in this very chapter what he is talking about.   Sin is not to “reign” us (6:12) or have “dominion over” us (6:14) or keep us in slavery (6:17-18). We are free from sin’s dominion or domination over us because in Christ we are continually cleansed and forgiven, but we are never free from sin’s presence in our lives as long as we are in this “body of death” (Rom. 7:12-25).  They could have thought God was giving them a license to sin as much as they desired because He would provide them with their “get out of jail free card”!  Peter warned, “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil.” (1 Peter 2:16).  That’s Paul’s message to the Romans.

I recently read the following comment which is helpful in our consideration of Romans 6:1-2,

“There is much more grace extended to us than we will ever need or use.  Grace flows to us like the water at Niagara Falls.  There is always much more than we could possibly need or use up, and always much more to follow. . . .God wants to save us much more than we want to be saved.  He is much more willing to save us than we are willing to sin – which says a lot.”

When we sin, Jesus’ blood cleanses us.  His blood acts immediately, continually, and without failure (1 John 1:7-9).  It is not on a timer.  Because of that immediate, continual cleansing, God’s holiness is not violated since Jesus’ blood covers and cleanses.  Before Romans 6, Paul quoted from the Old Testament in making this statement, “Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.” (Romans 4:8; Psalm 32:1-2, Emphasis, mine RH).  We need to soak that passage in because it says something which we have failed to understand!  In Christ, God never counts our trespasses against us (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

If you have been added to the saved by the Father, you are dead to sin.  Sins are not counted against you.  Since you do not lose fellowship with the Father due to the cleansing power of Jesus blood, you may rejoice!   I’ll repeat myself, you are dead to sin.  God’s payment to you is “eternal life”!  Where?  “In Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)!  Notice, Paul did not say you have to wait until your get to “heaven” to receive it.  He told the Romans 2,000 years ago that it was “in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Those who have the Son have eternal life (1 Jn. 5:11-3, 20).  That’s yours when you enter the body of Christ (Galatians 3:26-29; 1 Corinthians 12:27).  You aren’t forced to become a Christian.  That is your choice.  You are not forced to remain in Christ Jesus.  That is also your choice.  But, for those who put their trust in Jesus and the saving power of his blood, we are dead to sin.  There is no condemnation (Romans 8:1).

THAT is Good News for all who are IN Christ Jesus.

WHAT IF?

Monday, June 11, 2018

Thankfully, today’s view which is manifested by the left, wasn’t the prevailing one on December 7, 1941.  When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the modern attitude that we deserved such was not entertained.  People didn’t go to induction centers to throw rocks or spit horrible epitaphs at recruiting officials.  When war was declared by Congress, the majority of citizens did not take to the streets in destructive riots, spouting hatred against Roosevelt and Congress, nor did the news media announce that we were receiving only what we deserved.

On June 6, 1944, when about 4,700 men were wounded or killed in less than an hour in the first wave on the beaches of France, with the worst being Omaha, generals and admirals didn’t throw up their hands and go home.  World War II ended 72 years ago.  There were 60 million military and civilian casualties.  The Japanese did not value human life and willingly gave theirs for Emperor and country.  Their superior attitude motivated them to harshly treat those they subjugated.  Nazi Germany considered itself to be the master race and the lives of those not in their ranks were worthless, especially Jews.

If Hitler had stopped the allied invasion on June 6, 1944, if the “Marianas Turkey Shoot” on June 19, 1944 had been in Japan’s favor, and if the Germans had destroyed Russia’s forces at Kursk in July 1943, we could be living in a different world.  Hitler’s scientists were working on the atomic bomb.  His engineers had a airplane on the drawing board that would deliver it to Washington, D.C. if we did not surrender.  The Nazi’s secret weapons program only needed 6 more months to be produced in enough quantities to annihilate our air force. Truman would have been our last president.  Nazism and Imperial Japan would be our masters.  The Gestapo would weed out any who dissented.  Judaism would be eliminated.  Churches would be controlled, and members brainwashed.  Slave labor camps would house those unworthy of the master race.  Christianity would be forced underground and hunted.  Only those who extended their arms saluting “Mein Fuhrer” and touting “Third Reich for a thousand years,” would be popular.

If history had taken us in that direction, the left would not have had a voice.  It would be ended with a gasp in one of several gas chambers.  Riots and looting to protest would have been silenced immediately with machine gun fire.  Dissent of any kind would bring arrest, torture and death.  But, according to the left, that is what the United States deserves!  I’m sure they would want to be left out of that deserving group even though they partook of its fruits and enjoyed the wealth they gained by being a USA citizen?

Despite this nation’s faults, prior to 1962 this country believed in prayers in public schools.  Discipline was part of that educational process.  Businesses expected a good work ethic.  Government officials, both Federal and State, openly praised God.  Honesty and integrity were encouraged.  In that year, a movement began to remove all that from our society and make us into a secular one.  Mankind was encouraged to do what was right in its own eyes.  We are seeing the fruits of that kind of lifestyle today.

We were a country where one could go to a hardware store and buy a rifle, shotgun, or pistol without background checks or waiting periods.  Pickup owners could display a rifle on a rack behind them without folks passing out as they passed by.  Schools supported rifle competitions.  Some schools furnished indoor ranges as well as the rifles and ammunition for that practice.  Despite all those weapons being readily available, school shootings then would not compare with those happening today.  When one took in a movie, the good guys always won, and the bad guys were always punished.  Life was precious, so the good guys just shot the gun out of the bad person’s hand.  Sin was discouraged and teens with a reputation were not admired by their peers.

Perhaps our sins are finding us out, and we are on the verge of paying for our poor choices?  If we begin suffering because our nation rejects God, we have no one to blame but ourselves!

MY SIN ISN’T AS BAD AS YOURS!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one;’” Romans 3:10 (NIV).

 People recognize that they are without perfection due to their sins.  However, some have the idea that their sin isn’t as bad as yours!  Theirs are small, yours are enormous.  Yours will keep you out of heaven, theirs will allow them to squeak by.  It is true that some sins have more consequences than others.  But notice our passage at the beginning.  Who is righteous?  Answer: “Not even one.”  All sins have consequences and the so-called acceptable ones also keep you from being righteous!  Yes, God has the answer to that dilemma, but His answer gets lost when we condemn others for the same thing that plagues us (Matthew 7:3-5)!

Paul seems to have this condition in mind when he penned,

Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out.  Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law.  If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.” Galatians 6:1-3 (MSG).

If we’re not careful, we will take on the attitude of the Corinthians,

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.1 Corinthians 5:1-2 (RSV).

Paul did not get in Peter’s face because Paul thought his sins were smaller.  He did so to help Peter understand the difference between living under Law and living by faith (Galatians 2:11-21).  When Paul wrote to the saved among the Romans, he stated,

Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

Sometimes human beings think they’ve got it all together while others don’t.  We like to think that our judgments are fairer, our common sense is more sensible, and our interpretations are correct.  What it often boils down to is, “My sin isn’t as bad as your sin.  I can squeak by, you can’t!”  Sadly, such displays aren’t classified as humility.

So, “There is no one righteous, not even one.”  That being the case, what is the answer to our sin problem (Matthew 10:28-30; Hebrews 12:1-3; Revelation 3:20; Romans 7:24-25; 8:1-4; Acts 2:41, 47)?

BE PREPARED

Monday, June 4, 2018

There was a time when the Boy Scouts of America used the motto, “Be Prepared.”  It was a good motto.  It’s sad that this organization was blindsided by a materialistic, secular world, that desires the materialistic rather than the spiritual.  Despite the direction the Scouts have taken, “Be Prepared” remains a good motto!

There is a song that is often sung in many churches with the title, “Are You Ready For The Judgment Day?”  Sadly, too many prepare themselves for hell, while expecting heaven as their reward.   They believe they can live wrong and still die right.  There are some who want to sow their wild oats just short of taking their last breath.  Some hold to what is called a “Death Bed” mentality.  They never entertain the thought that they may be short sheeted in that bed!

Death isn’t restricted to your time table nor mine.  Making peace with God is something we should do in our youth, not moments before we die.  Solomon stated,

Don’t let the excitement of being young cause you to forget about your Creator. Honor him in your youth before the evil years come—when you’ll no longer enjoy living.” Ecclesiastes 12:1 (TLB).

Heaven is the results of mental, physical, and spiritual preparation. Jesus speaks of the prepared life as “Come,” “Obey,” “Be faithful,” and “Well done thou good and faithful servant.” What kind of preparation are you making? Are you a good candidate for heaven or hell? The choice is yours!  Why put it off?

Some attempt to approach Jesus in an Old Testament fashion.  They believe keeping commandments is partial payment for their sins.  They would never take a bundle of $100-dollar bills and offer them as payment for their salvation, but they believe they are helping Jesus pay it off through what they do!  One may hear another say, “My obedience is my part in securing my salvation.”  If so, then Jesus did not pay it all.  Someone may object by saying, “Yes, Jesus did all of his part, but I have to do all of mine.”  Obedience is essential, but it is not essential in paying for our salvation.  When we stand before Jesus in judgment, we will have no bragging rights.  Why?  Because our obedience is not a 30 or 40% payment for our sins.  Jesus paid that complete cost upon the cross.  When we stand before Jesus, 100% of our gratitude should be showing on our face since his blood was our 100% payment!  We need to learn Paul’s lesson in Romans 7.  He confessed that he failed miserably in keeping law perfectly.  We all join him in that condition!  What we do is reduce our percentage from 100% obedience to 30 or 40%.  Paul reduced it to Jesus (Romans 7:24-25; 8:1).  We need to do that too!  To “be prepared” is to put our complete trust in Jesus power to save and obey him out of love for what he did for us!

CHEEK TO CHEEK OR CHEEK AND FIST?

Monday, May 28, 2018

If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it.   If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life.  No more tit-for-tat stuff.  Live generously.” Luke 6:29-30 (MSG)

How literal is Jesus applying this “turn the other check” stuff?  If someone wants your car, do you willingly hand him your keys and then throw in the house keys to boot to show how much like Jesus you are?  Wouldn’t that be practicing “the servant life.”  How far does Jesus want us to go?  Is there a quitting place, or is he saying, “No stop signs?”

A couple of rebuttals are offered.  One says, “Jesus is talking about turning the cheek, not giving him your keys.”  A second one follows, “Turn and give your cheek once, maybe twice.  But then the next ‘laying on of hands’ will be yours against his cheek!”  Does either one express Jesus’ teaching?  Of course, the Lord also said “If your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away.  You’re better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell.” Mark 9:47-48 (MSG). 

Isn’t Jesus saying, “Give your all?”  However, what if your other eye offended you?  I haven’t seen any one-eyed Christians, nor those with two torn out!  Isn’t it strange that if 100% is expected, Peter still had a house to go home to (Matthew 8:14)?  Keep in mind, all a person had to do is ask and the Christian is to give and not expect anything back (Luke 6:29-30).  If Jesus statements are literal, non-believers would be flocking to saints to take their freebies.  Poor Barnabas would not have been able to give what he did because he would have practiced “the servant life.”  his “generosity” would have depleted his gift before he could get to the assembly (Acts 4:36-37).  If that had happened, it could have eliminated the Christian couple from doing what they did (Acts 5:1-10).  The “fear” experienced by the church and others would not have happened (Acts 5:11).  The burial deacons could have remained in the assembly until the closing prayer.

Yet, the dilemma is, Jesus said do it!  So, we must obey Jesus by turning the other cheek, plucking out that eye, or removing that hand!  Ah, but someone pontificates, “You’ve got to use ‘Common Sense’ to understand those passages.”  But whose common sense?  Everyone thinks his is it!   Why not mine?  Mine is common and it makes sense to me!  Isn’t that how additional denominations are created!  Isn’t “common sense” related closely with “I think,” “in my judgment,” or” I’m more comfortable with”?  Yet, Jesus did say it!  So, as followers of Jesus, how do we put that command into action?  That is the difficult part.  We can talk about it endlessly, but without practice we’re saddled with a “faith only” religion!  If it is a literal command, it must be literally done!  Without action, there is no discipleship!  Perhaps we salve our consciences because we know of no older saint who is minus an eye, a hand, or displaying rosy cheeks!  Even so, is an excuse acceptable in the eyes of God for neglecting to obey a command of His Son?

So, followers of Jesus are caught in a dilemma.  How tall must one stand up before he is offensive?  When Christians themselves aren’t sure of the answer, we certainly can’t look to the unbeliever for our standard.  We’ve been doing that for the past 50 years and things keep going South!  Some follow Jesus’ example with the scribes and Pharisees and “tell it like it is.”  Yet, there are some, like the Westboro Baptist Church which are accused of “hate speech.”  Would Jesus be comfortable in their membership?  What about ours?  So, why would Jesus make such a statement?  Have we missed something?

Is Jesus using what appears to be extreme language to say we need to be different?  Did any apostle end up minus an eye or hand?  Does history reveal a Jesus group of one eyed or one handed followers?  If not, why?  What do you find?

Apply your mind to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” Proverbs 23:12 (RSV).

So, are you remaining with the literal statement by turning the other cheek?  Have you plucked an eye or cut off a hand yet?  If not, how are you being different?

THINGS HAVEN’T CHANGED MUCH!

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Yahweh sent the prophet Jeremiah to the children of Judah in Egypt to say, “Why are you now doing such great harm to yourselves by continuing to worship other gods?” (Jeremiah 44:7).  God told them that if they continued their idolatry, the following would happen.

1). They would cut themselves off “from the mainstream of Judah” (v.7).

2). They would be responsible for their own destruction (v.8).

3). Other nations will speak evil of and make fun of them (v.8).

4). It will show that they have not learned their lesson (vv.9-10).

God warned them that if they continued in their idolatry, He would punish them with death from war, starvation, or a terrible disease.  Yet, their reply to Jeremiah was, “We will not listen to you!  We promised to make sacrifices to the Queen Goddess!  And, we will do everything we promised. . .to worship her!” (vv.16-17).

Their argument was, when they worshiped the Egyptian goddess, 1) they were successful and 2) nothing bad happened to them.  When they stopped worshiping her, “Since then, we’ve had nothing but problems.” (V.18).  Their problems were wars, starvation, and disease.  Jeremiah told them their idolatry was responsible for their problems, not Yahweh.  He stated, “That is why this current disaster has happened to you people!” (23).

When bad things happen, folks usually blame God.  Some need God as a scapegoat when their bad decisions disrupt their lives!  They refuse to take responsibility for their own actions.

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.  Rather than admit that we live in a broken world and some sorrow may interrupt our lives, blame is placed upon God’s shoulders because He should have stopped it.  Since He didn’t, it is His fault.  The Jews in Egypt were given a choice to stay in Palestine until things got better.  Better was too hard to wait on!  So, they went to Egypt seeking peace and safety.  They found out that it wasn’t there.  They thought their misfortune was caused by turning away from the Egyptian goddess, so they returned to idolatry to regain that lost happiness.  Why worship Yahweh?  He allowed the cities and towns to be destroyed?  It was easier to blame God than to acknowledge their faults.

Yahweh also informed Jeremiah to remind his scribe, Baruch that although he was moaning, “Woe is me,” life isn’t always as rosy as one would like.   Neither he nor Jeremiah had an easy life, but God promised to protect both men’s life.  When bad things happened to the righteous, it isn’t because God is punishing them, it is because they are living in a broken world where things aren’t always beautiful.  Grief and misery aren’t experienced because a righteous person isn’t faithful.  Jeremiah was faithful for fifty years despite multiple problems, rejection and death threats from kings, priests, and false prophets!

The books of Jeremiah and Daniel point out how righteous individuals suffer when a society’s majority decides to reject God.  The feet of righteous Jews developed blisters on them when they were march from Palestine to Babylon.  Daniel, Mordecai, and Esther’s faith were tested over and over.  Not every righteous believer lived to see a victorious conclusion.  Neither Daniel, Mordecai, Esther, nor the three who refused to bow their knees, saw the promise land again.

We are all presented with choices.  The biggest choice we make is where we want to spend eternity.  If we want to spend it with Yahweh, we must seek His plan for mankind.  That plan is given in the New Testament and its name is Jesus!

IS THAT REALLY GOOD NEWS?

Monday, May 21, 2018

The mystery is that people who have never heard of God and those who have heard of him all their lives (what I’ve been calling outsiders and insiders) stand on the same ground before God. They get the same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus. The Message is accessible and welcoming to everyone, across the board.” Ephesians 3:6 (MSG)

Stand on the same ground before God . . . same offer, same help, same promises in Christ Jesus . . . accessible and welcoming to everyone”!  Sounds great, right?

That’s why we have this Scripture text: No one’s ever seen or heard anything like this, never so much as imagined anything quite like it— What God has arranged for those who love him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9 (MSG)

Wow!  The Good News is not like anything anyone has seen or heard before.  Wow!  No one has ever imagined anything like the Good News before.  Wow!  God has arranged it for those who love him.  Wow, and double Wow!  Sounds great, right?

But, does everyone who claims to love God and teach His Good News really understand how wonderful it is?  How about the following?  The Bible teaches us that God revealed His full revelation to man in the first century through inspired apostles and prophets.  He tells us that folks gladly received Peter’s sermon and were baptized with God adding them to the saved (Acts 2:41-42, 47).  Why was this gladness expressed?

1. Is it because they were taught that God’s adding meant all their past sins were forgiven, but they must now live perfectly before Him? They are told that one sin in their life after being added destroys their relationship with God. According to this logic, they are removed from the saved and returned to the unsaved?  They are bound for hell until they repent and ask God for forgiveness of that sin?  Only then does He add them back to the saved?  They remain in the saved until their next sin?  They live in this state of uncertainty, not knowing for sure if they are saved, or unknowingly not saved?  The assurance of being saved is reserved for the judgment where they are surprised if they are saved?  Until that time, the nagging thought is that they will hear “depart” rather than “Well done.”  Is that what Ephesians 3:6 and 1 Corinthians 2:9 offers?

2. Is it because they were taught that the person is added by God to the saved, but perfection must be their goal since it is demanded by God? It must be obtained and maintained to spend eternity with Him? Yet, sin, in all its subterfuge plagues them.  The believer knows the slightest infraction will return him to an unsaved state.  Ah, but the good news he has received holds out hope.  He knows he will never be perfect, so there is a gap between what he is and what he is supposed to be.  Whatever percentage that “gap” is, he must have it filled for him by God to gain heaven?  He can’t fill it due to his imperfections (sins).  So, he has been told that his “gap” insurance is dependent upon God who by His GRACE will supply the percentage needed to fill that chasm?  The nagging question following him through life is, “Will that percentage be too much and God’s grace not enough to fill it?”  What if he needs 40% of God’s grace, but God will only allow him 39%?  Assurance is not a gift which he has the privilege of enjoying!  Discouragement, hopelessness, guilt, and depression are his constant companions.  The judgment will finally reveal whether God’s grace is enough because he did or didn’t deserve that much of it.  Is that what Ephesians 3:6 and 1 Corinthians 2:9 offers?

3. Is it because the person is taught that once God has added him to the saved, the difficulties of remaining in God’s grace during his Christian existence is solely dependent upon his works? He is given more do’s and do nots than the Law of Moses contained. These are both written and oral.  Things expected are controlled by the group he belongs to that believes it is the way, the truth, and the life.  His life is made miserable by attempting to keep the written and unwritten laws which he must memorize so he doesn’t break any.  If it isn’t hard, it can’t be the Good News!  If he moves and places membership with another assembly of the saved, he must make sure those same laws are observed by them.  If not, even in one thing, minor or major, he must steer clear of that group.  To join it would be disastrous to his soul!  Even when he believes they are in tune with the Good News, there might be one thing he doesn’t know about which they are engaged in!  He must be on guard 24/7, attempting to uncover and expose any digressive point.  His eternal salvation depends upon it!  His joy melts away, eaten by a cancer called suspicion.  Being on guard against all imperfection develops into an acute negativism.  His only comfort is that he is faithful.  Even in that false hope, the nagging question that remains with him is, “Am I really faithful or just fooled by Satan’s lies?”  Is that what Ephesians 3:6 and 1 Corinthians 2:9 offers?

Those two passages speak of an entirely different Good News than what has been previously outlined.  It is the one that people seek but are detoured from because Satan convinces them that what they have been taught is God’s Good News.  Did God send Jesus to die to make us “rejoice,” or to be depressed?  Is the joy and relief we experienced right after God added us to the saved just a momentary experience, and that small burst doesn’t last?  Some so believe.  Are any of those conditions in 1, 2, or 3 possessed by you?  If so, you’ve not discovered the real Good News of God!

ARE PROMISES WORTH A FLIP!

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Promises, promises, promises. Politicians make and break them.  We make New Year’s resolutions and a few weeks later pat ourselves on the back because we kept them longer than we did last year.  A man’s word used to be his bond and was sealed with a firm handshake. Now, we sign multiple page contracts and must bond ourselves in case we don’t keep it.  It’s a good living for lawyers who write them for us.  Two people stand before a preacher and promise “until death do we part.”  If the facts are correct, about half of our adult population should be dead!

According to some, promises are made to be broken.  If so, that is a sad commentary on our society. When a promise is broken, someone has been cheated.  In some, not all those cases, the one breaking the promise loses because it makes him a liar.  Man has been a notorious promise breaker.  Look at the treaties made with the American Indians but broken because of land hungry individuals.  Look at the promises made to children by parents, but often broken because priorities were in the wrong place.  Sometimes it is easy for the promise maker to become a promise breaker.  All he must do is convince himself that something else is more pressing and important.  Not so with God.  His promises are true.  Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Sometimes the Bible student will misunderstand what a passage is covering.  What does, “I will give you rest” mean?  If the reader thinks God drops a job in his lap where he only has a two-day, total of eight hours work each week, without much responsibility, he has misunderstood that “rest.”  If he believes that job will pay him $150,000 a year after taxes and include all the benefits, then that kind of “rest” isn’t what Jesus had in mind!

Neither does it mean that he will be given rest from all criticism, adverse circumstances, sickness, accidents, or loss of property.  Peter received a face full of Paul when he put on shoes of hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-15).  Ananias and spouse Sapphira received a free burial service from the church for reworking their finances (Acts 5:1-11).  James lost his head over his preaching (Acts 12:1-2).  An unknown number of Jewish believers lost their sainthood due to misplaced loyalty (Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:25-29).  Bad things happen to the good, the bad, and those who want to be ugly!  Sometimes those who are good wonder why the bad seem to have it better than they do.  Baruch misunderstood that and so often, we do too (Jeremiah 45:1-5).

The world doesn’t understand how a Christian can keep his head when they are losing theirs!  It is because they possess the kind of “rest” Jesus was talking about.  During hunger, thirst, opposition, imprisonment, and other adverse happenings, Paul could say, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11).  That “rest” gave Paul that “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).  It is because of that “rest” the Christian possesses assurance of his salvation, the removal of all his sins, and understands that there is an everlasting home for him with God throughout eternity!

Do you have that “rest”?  If so, remember, God keeps His promises!

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