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My Thoughts

Adventures in Faith

Author

Ray

84, happily married for 61 years, 6 grandchildren and 4 great-grandson. I enjoy pistol competition, photography, and computers

THE WORTH OF ENCOURAGEMENT

My Thoughts. . .

Friday, 02-18-2022

Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’  Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work.  They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company.  Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, . . . He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).

Can you imagine two Christian evangelist having a “sharp disagreement” (contention, KJV) between them resulting in them “parting company.”  Remember, Barnabas went to Saul who was a new convert and got him to work with him in Antioch where they taught a “great number” of people (Acts 11:22-24).  That work and relationship ended with this disagreement.  Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, who was related to him, with them to evangelize.  Paul adamantly opposed that plan.  Why?  Mark had left them prematurely on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:24; 13:13).

The expression “sharp disagreement/contention” is from the Greek word paroxysm meaning to “dispute in anger, be contentious, or to provoke or stir up.”  Luke adds the word “sharp” to this word.  It is not a conversation where Barnabas says, “Let’s take my relative Mark with us on our planned tour” with Paul responding, “Mark is an excellent choice, but I’ve already asked Silas.”  The words “sharp” and “dispute in anger” indicates these two were poles apart on who would accompany them.  Paul had no confidence in Mark.  It ended with Paul taking Silas and going one direction while Barnabas took John Mark and went in another.

God used both in their chosen direction, even though both believed the other was wrong while they were right.  Mark proved his worth because later Paul wrote to Timothy stating “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me” (2 Timothy 4:11).  Barnabas gave Mark the opportunity to prove himself.   Paul’s refusal to give Mark a “second chance” could have forever soured their relationship.  Paul could have stood by his decision and refused to recognize Mark’s worth as an evangelist or writer.  Not too much is recorded about Barnabas after this episode but look at the world of good he did by encouraging Mark.  Without that support, Mark may not have been used by the Holy Spirit to write the Gospel of Mark. How often do we destroy a friendship or work-related relationship due to anger or having the wrong impression?

BE THOU FAITHFUL

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 01-20-2022

The expression “be thou faithful unto death” is found in Revelation 2:10 (KJV).  It is often quoted from pulpits exhorting those in the pew to be “more” faithful.  The expression “be faithful” is interpreted differently by the listener.  To some the statement demands that the pew warmer is responsible for mastering perfection.  The member’s reply of “I’m fine,” mated with a huge smile, is a poor substitute masking his failure to obtain that lofty goal.  Each week that disciple pleads for divine strength to overcome his frailties.  Some understand that Divine silence in a negative, self-depreciation way.  For them, God’s silence accuses them of not being of the elect. 

Some realize that perfection escapes them because they are not working hard enough to reach it.  So, they pray more.  They show up at the church building every time the doors open.  If a volunteer is needed by the church, they are it.  They increase their Bible reading.  They spend more time visiting the sick and aged.  They are described as being “Dependable.”  Yet, perfection remains a stranger.  Reward makes its appearance, but it is frustration and disappointment.  Those activities do not earn one a special key to unlock the gates of heaven.  Do we earn our medals, or do we receive salvation because of what Jesus did upon the cross?  As faith grows, we learn who to appreciate.  

Some believe our inability to be perfect is minimized when God diverts His view from our imperfections to gaze upon the “truths” which we manage to practice.  Yet the haunting question now becomes “How much doing must I do to be identified as being a faithful doer?”  Those inconsistencies are a nagging question which must be ignored when we make the choice that we will earn our way into heaven!  Then some express their belief toward the opposite extreme.  They will have faith in Jesus’ blood to save, so they don’t need to do anything.  The middle ground contains borders that are not marked well enough for some to see.  Perhaps the question to be asked is, do I have an active faith because I am the Savior, or do my actions glorify the one who is?     Faithfulness is based upon growth.  That growth may be quick, medium, or slow.  One’s faithfulness is not based upon outdoing another.  What did the eunuch fail to observe which was not a problem for Philip?  Did Barnabas outgive Paul when the collection basket was passed (Acts 4:36-37).  How much confidence did Barnabas have in John Mark than what Paul exhibited (Acts 15:37-39)?  Yet all three were saved.  What I did not understand 40 years ago, I do now.  My faith needed time to grow.  Sometimes that growth seemed to stop.  I studied Greek, Hebrew, and French, but still have problems with English.  I have forgotten more Bible than I can remember.  Will I ever be sinless?  Not if I depend upon myself.  Thankfully, the cleansing by the blood of Jesus made me a temple suited for God’s indwelling.  Each Christian is God’s temple, but only because of the blood of Jesus.  If one’s faith is focused on his strength rather than in the blood of Jesus, his faith is misplaced.  Hopefully our faith will grow so we will recognize who is the Savior (1 Peter 2:2).

HOW ASSUMPTIONS CAN MISLEAD!

My Thoughts. . .

Friday, 12-31-2021

In Acts 20:7-11 Luke gives us a few things the believers in Troas did and did not do on the first day of the week.  Paul spoke to the group, stopped to raise a dead member, then continued to speak.  During that period of time the disciples “broke bread.”  Since there were “many lights” in the assembly, speculation questions whether the church was observing Jewish rather than Roman time?  Jewish time was from sundown one day to sundown the next.  Roman time was closer to the way we look at the clock.  

Troas is not a congregation like those familiar to us.  Most today pick from Acts 20 what is already being observed.  The rest of verses 7 through 11 are ignored.  The reader will notice from verse 6 that Paul and his group were in the city seven days.  However, they waited until Sunday to meet with the church.  Does that not sound strange since that is not how we practice Christianity? 

1). Troas did not have a mid-week service nor a Sunday morning one. 

2). If they did have those two assemblies, Paul’s group chose not to attend. 

3). Would we allow a preacher to occupy our pulpit if he would not attend the other two assemblies before he got up to speak? 

4). Would Paul and his group not be considered guilty of forsaking those assemblies (Hebrews 10:25)? 

5). If they were not guilty of the sin of forsaking, then would the Troas church not be at fault for having only one meeting each week rather than three as we do?  

6). Would that practice not indicate Troas’ lack of faith?

The third item involves the way communion is served in Corinth.  Since “broke bread” is mentioned and readers usually connect that with communion, why do folks assume a prayer was offered before the serving of the bread or fruit of the vine?  There is nothing wrong with having such prayers, but Matthew (Matthew 26:26-29), Mark (Mark 14:22-25), nor Luke (Luke 22:14-20) mention a statement from Jesus, commanding such.  In fact, when Paul corrected the way, the Corinthians were partaking, he does not command that a prayer must be offered prior to consumption (1 Corinthians 11:20-34).  We assume that a prayer is required.  Does scripture bind that?  May a congregation meet and partake of the Lord’s supper without singing, giving, or preaching and still receive God’s blessings?  If one pointed to Acts 20:7-12 would that not be a “pattern” they could use to authorize their actions?  What if a congregation today wanted to meet only on the first day of the week and the beginning of that assembly would be prior to midnight and dismissal would take place before daybreak?  Would they be criticized because they did not meet Sunday morning nor Wednesday night as most believers do?  Would a congregation be chastised if they followed the Jewish way of determining time?

As one reads Acts 20:7-12 what are some of the other differences between that congregation and those which exist today?  If worship is dismissed by a prayer or song, was worship dismissed before Paul went downstairs to raise Eutychus from the dead?  Since Luke does not mention that dismissal, did they have prayer or a song to re-engage in worship when returning to the third floor?  Luke does not mention a dismissal of worship nor one to readmit it.  What if today shock paddles were used to restore life, would that still be equal to what Paul and the church did?  Would that action be accepted as “worship” or denied?  Would that denial not put us in a contradictory position with the Troas church? When inspiration does not give us all of the details, we often assume something is true.  Assumptions are related to “guessing.”  Neither one can be bound as God’s word.  Traditions are built upon the foundation of assumptions.  How much of what you and I believe is found in that category?  You may even find some of that in this article!  (1 Corinthians 3:10).

THOUGHT FOR YOUR MINUTE!

Jesus promised to build his church (Matthew 16:18). Paul informed his readers about that church being one body with Jesus as its head (Ephesians 1:22-23). In all twenty-seven New Testament books there is only one church. However, man originated the doctrine concerning an “invisible” and a “visible” one. The “visible” church does not and cannot offer salvation. Only the “invisible” one does and only God knows who makes up its membership. If the “visible” church does not offer salvation, what is its purpose? It requires each member’s attendance, contribution, and work. However, nothing done for that “visible” church is for his salvation. His attendance, contribution, and work is required to support that “visible” church but is not essential as far as the “invisible” one is concerned. Only faith is required., not works. The “invisible” church has no building for its members to meet in. It has no treasury to contribute to. It has no personnel staff to operate it. It has no earthly headquarters to overseeing it. It has no school to educate its future ministers. It publishes no Sunday School material. It has no visible membership role. There is no guarantee of fellowship with other members because God is the only one who knows who they are! Since God is the only one that knows, one could actually be in fellowship in a “visible” church with those who are the children of Satan. If the church Jesus promised is “invisible” and its membership known only to God, why belong to a “visible” one that cannot offer salvation? Which one did Jesus build (Matthew 16:18)?

“THEY MADE READY THE PASSOVER”

My Thoughts. . .

Tuesday, 12-28-2021

Matthew, Mark, and Luke discuss the Passover table.  First of all, they asked Jesus where they were going to meet (Matthew 26:17).  Jesus gave them instruction as to the “where.”  They went to a large upper room supplied by the individual Jesus told Peter and John about.  Matthew states, “they made ready the Passover” (v. 19, also Mark 14:17; Luke 22:13).  Apparently, Peter and John were responsible for either making arrangements for the meal to be prepared, or they prepared it themselves.  Matthew and Mark mention a singular cup which Jesus used to introduce his memorial.  Luke goes into more detail and begins with the third of the four cups consumed during that meal.  (1) Jesus begins introducing what inspiration refers to as communion or the Lord’s supper (Luke 22:17-18).  (2) He then takes the bread, gives thanks and breaks it (Luke 22:19).  (3) Then he offers the cup (Luke 22:20).  

In the course of eating the bread and drinking the cup that was available, there is Jesus’ announcement about him being betrayed.  There is a natural response to that topic.  There is also Peter’s future concerning his denials.  Perhaps some today believe the silence expected during the Lord’s supper as we practice it, was also how the apostles engaged in it.  Actually, there was a specific dialogue connected with the Passover feast.  Only John mentions it, but there is the surprise of Jesus becoming the servant and washing the feet of the apostles.  Peter objects but submits.  Although John does not mention communion, he gives us a lot more of the dialogue during that meal than found in Matthew through Luke’s description.

Today’s church usually follows some of the traditions made popular by the Catholic and Protestant churches.  The table where the apostles and Jesus sat has been discarded and replaced with pews.  Men gather around what is identified as “the Lord’s table,” but the pew is where the church actually partakes.  The “table” is symbolic!  The recent pandemic has forced most congregations to change how the “supper” is passed and partaken.  The “supper” has been greatly reduced as well as changed.  During the pandemic, men passed the bread or wine to those who were sitting in the pews.  Also, the Lord’s supper which we participate in today does not remove “hunger” (1 Corinthians 12:20-21).  Cracker Barrel is now the champion filling that need.  Are these changes and adaptions wrong?  They would be IF our substitutions have been accepted as doctrine and bound as the only scriptural way to do communion.  Sadly, some teach as doctrine the commandments of men, binding things which God has not (Matthew 15:9).  Tradition is a terrible animal to kill.

BELONGING TO THE UNSAVED?

My Thoughts. . .

Wednesday, 12-22-2021

Matthew informs us about a conversation between Jesus and Peter.  It begins with a question from Jesus to the group.

But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood,  but by my Father in heaven.   And I tell you that you are Peter,  and on this rock I will build my church,  and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:15-17).

Notice, Peter answered Jesus’ question with, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”  Jesus’ response is, “on this rock I will build my church.”  What did Jesus build based upon Peter’s statement “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God“?  Jesus is its foundation, not Peter.

The Holy Spirit paints a picture of that “church” or “assembly.”  It is described, not as a building upon a city street or corner.  It was not constructed of wood, cement, or metal.  It did not have a steeple nor stained glass windows.  It was not furnished with pews or pulpit.  It did not have a street address, offices, or a specific telephone number.  People did not assemble in a specific location to study, edify, pray, or be in the presence of God.  God was not far off.  He was dwelling in each saint.

Neither Jesus, the Holy Spirit, nor any inspired apostle or prophet describes it as an invisible church.  Although every member was without perfection, the membership of congregation like Corinth and Laodicea kind were indwelt by God.  The expression “the body of Christ” is used to describe the saved in different locations  (Romans 7:4; 1 Corinthians 10:16; Ephesians 1:23, 4:4, 12).  No believer was described being in “the invisible church,” then later joining a “visible one.” 

Paul pictures it in the following words,

That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,   Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:17, 22-23).

If one is “in the body of Christ,” Jesus is his head.  Being in that saved body, one is indwelt by God and is referred to as “the temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16).  Imperfection is found in all such assemblies, yet are saved because God added and  cleanse them with Jesus’ blood (Acts 2:47).  In the first century those added ones did not have “dual” membership in (1) one body that saved and (2) another that was useless in saving.  When division reared its ugly head in Corinth, God did not give it His approval (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).  That division occurred each time man made himself equal to God.

Jesus is the head of his saved assembly.  That assembly was capable of fellowship, worship, edification, teaching, disciplining, and comforting long before man decided God’s way was not enough.  Notice the differences between what Jesus’ “my church” is and what man’s additions have built.

JESUS’ “MY CHURCH”                                                       MAN’S ADDITIONS

1. Jesus is its “head.”                                              1. Man heads each division

2. God adds to its membership                                2. Man outlines how to join

3. God adds those He saves                                     3. Man votes the person in

4. The added are saved by God                              4. Assumes candidate is already saved

5. God & man know the saved                               5. Membership assumed to be saved

6. Saved and belonged to Jesus                            6. Salvation is not its purpose

7. Dividing the saved condemned                        7. Division is glorified

8. Jesus is the 1 head over his 1 body                  8. Multiple heads over multiple bodies

9. Identified as disciples, saved, or Christian      9. Multiple identifications by division

10. Capable of existing without denominating   10. Offers different belief systems

11. One head, one body, one faith, = salvation   11. Does not nor cannot offer salvation

12. Created and identified by God.                       12. Offers conflicting doctrines

First century disciples of Christ did not seek fellowship in an organization which was not the body of Jesus.  Why join something that cannot save?  Can the saved not have fellowship without creating an organization which does not save?  Denominations do not save.  Denominations do not make the Lord favor you over others who are not in that denomination.  One’s contributions goes to an organization which is not the body of Christ.  One’s work in that organization is to glorify that institution which cannot save.  The apostle Peter did not write, “However, if you suffer as a (your denominational name), do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that (denominational) name” (1 Peter 4:16).

Jesus promised to build his church.  Did he keep that promise in the first century or wait until several hundred years later to do so?  If later, what were the apostles, prophets, elders, deacons, and others have their membership in?  They would not be in “the body of Christ” nor be “saved” if the church was late in being established.  Do the scriptures condone or condemn dividing the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)?  Did Paul lie or teach falsely when he stated that there was one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God (Ephesians 4:3-6)?  If Jesus built multiple churches with different doctrines, rules, worship, and organization, why is inspiration silent on that subject?  Could it be that what we read in the New Testament originates from God rather than from man?

WHO IS BEING HONORED?

My Thoughts . . .

Tuesday, 12-07-2021

Have you ever heard about something happening and wondered why it did?  Once when I was having my car serviced a man ran out of a beer joint across the highway, stopped and turned around.  Another man ran out with a pistol. He started shooting at the first man.  I was wondering what the man being shot at had said to the shooter for that individual to want to kill him?  Apparently, the shooter was drunk or not a marksman because he emptied the pistol without hitting the man which he hoped to put bullet holes in.  Jesus asked his apostles who men were saying he was.  Three names were given.  1) John the Baptist, 2) Elijah, and 3) Jeremiah.  Have you ever wondered why Jesus was thought to be one of those three? 

Why would anyone compare Jesus to John?  Did they dress alike?  No.  They were related, but not enough that Jesus appeared to be John’s identical twin.  John did not drink because of his vow.  Jesus did and was falsely accused of being a wine bibber and glutton (Matthew 11:19; Luke 7:34).  John did not perform miracles.  He immersed people.  He immersed Jesus, but the Lord did not immerse others but left that action for his disciples to perform.

Elijah did performed miracles but why would people believe Jesus was the resurrected prophet?  The angel told Zacharias that he would have a son who “shall go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah” (Luke 1:17).  Matthew states that John the Baptist was a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3. Elijah would return to announce the coming of the Messiah.  Yet some in Peter’s crowd in Acts 2 were among those who shouted, “Crucify him” (Mark 15:13-14).  If Jesus was Elijah, why would they desire to kill that prophet?  They respected him. If John the Baptist personified Elijah, then Jesus was the Messiah their prophet Elijah (John) was proclaiming!

Jeremiah was a prophet, but most of the people rejected his message and wished him dead.  Jesus’ ministry lasted about three and a half years.  Jeremiah preached for about fifty.  Although “repentance” was part of both men’s preaching, it is difficult to understand how Jesus could be mistaken as a resurrected Jeremiah.  Jews in Jesus day did not want to kill Jeremiah, they honored him.  Perhaps it was easier to believe Jesus was a resurrected or personification of Jeremiah than to admit he was God in the flesh.  I doubt if Jews in that day wanted to kill Jeremiah, but they did kill Jesus. 

Those who thought Jesus was a resurrected John, Elijah, or Jeremiah recognized those three as God fearing men who preached God’s will.  If they thought Jesus was a personification of all three, Peter’s sermon convicted them of their sin in crucifying our Lord (Acts 2:36-37).  The switch from categorizing Jesus as John, Elijah, or Jeremiah to wanting him dead, highlights the inconsistencies of man.  Even in the church some proudly declared they were followers of Peter, Paul, Apollos, and Christ.  Yet Paul pointed out how each division was digressive rather than something to proudly join.  Those who claimed to follow Peter, Apollos, Paul, or Jesus honored the one they claimed to follow.  Yet each thought their division was the correct one.  It is a sin to be a part of a division even for those who claimed to follow Jesus.  Why?  It divides the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 1:10-13).   It was sinful then and still is.

Have you ever wondered why we follow inconsistency as if it was the truth?

WILL WE BE REMEMBERED?

My Thoughts. . .

Thursday, 12-09-2021

When we pass from this life into the next realm, will we be remembered?  As long as there are friends, neighbors, and family still living who knew us personally, we will be.  When they die will we be remembered by something that we owned that is passed on to the younger generation?  A “saying” or a particular moment in our life will be told.  However, all too soon, our memory will become past history and only a name in the family tree.

There are names in the Bible of people who lived over a thousand years ago that are remembered by Bible students.  David is remembered because he killed Goliath.  He is also remembered because he became king of Israel.  He is remembered because he had Bathsheba’s husband left exposed to the enemy and died in battle.  We remember this was done so David’s adultery with Uriah’s wife would not be disclosed.  Scripture reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly in their triumphs and tragedies as heroes or scoundrels.  Paul is respected, yet admits he was chief among sinners (1 Timothy 1:15).  There are unnamed men and women who lacked perfection but are remembered for their faithfulness.  The Hebrew writer mentions Abel through Samuel with some whose faithful record is very short like “Rahab the harlot” (v.31).  There are “others” who are not named, but who suffered and died for the truth (vs. 35-38).  Only God knows who they are.  But though forgotten by man and their names left out of scripture by the inspired, they were faithful. As years turn into centuries and those centuries surrender to identifiers that are much longer, today’s faithful will be forgotten by tomorrow’s population.  However, those who are no longer with us have not been forgotten by God.  One day we will be reminded of that when He states, “Well done” or “Depart from me . . .”  Whether we express joy or sorrow depends upon our response to Hi

THE PATH TAKEN BY JESUS’ “MY CHURCH”!

My Thoughts. . .

Monday, 11-29-2021

What did God have in mind when Jesus promised to build his, “church”?  Some believed we should resurrect the Jerusalem congregation and make it our blueprint for restoration.  Would that be a pattern?  If so, then why did inspired members neglected to preach to the Gentile world for a generation or more?  Who was at fault?  A bewildered apostle Peter went to the house of Cornelius and introduced them to Jesus.  The Spirit fell on the Gentiles causing Peter to command baptism.  When this news reach Jerusalem it did not produce a chorus of “hallelujahs.”  Time and conversions continued in the Gentile world.  However, questions grew asking whether or those converts were “real Christians” without being circumcised.  This question required a counsel made up of the apostles, elders, and Jerusalem congregation on whether to accept uncircumcised Gentiles as “true” Christians (Acts 15).  Although the decision was made to accept Gentiles as saved without being circumcised, not all Jewish Pharisee Christians accepted that decision (Galatians 1:6-9, 5:4).  Yes, God saved Pharisees.  Jesus’ brother, the Jerusalem congregation, and other Jewish churches were allowed to continue following the Law of Moses (Acts 21:20).  Gentiles were not required to do so.  Tolerances between the two was commanded but not always followed (Romans 14).  After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 A.D., the Gentile churches grew, but not so with the Jewish ones.  Jewish practices in the church were avoided by Gentile saints.

Scripture is one thing, but life can force alternate views to become acceptable.  In 1860 to 1865 Southern disciples fought against Northern believers with each thinking that God was on their side.  That thinking ended with 1.5 million military and civilian being killed.  The views of disciples who were US citizens in 1918 were a lot different from the citizenry on December 7, 1941.  Churches cold shouldered those members who fought in WWI but warmed up some in their attitude of those who served in WWII.  Some German believers applauded Adolph Hitler’s resurrection of Germany’s pride after he was elected.  Some blindsided themselves concerning his elimination of the Jews, gypsies, and others.  That conflict ended with worldwide deaths of 70 to 85 million civilians and military from 1940 to 1945.  Lessons were learned, but not enough to stop the same thinking process which continued to take lives from 1946 to the present.

Even today the idea is accepted that we may substitute Jesus’ instructions with practices more in line with modern culture.  Whether this is permitted by God is not clearly outlined in Scripture.  Usually, disciples of Jesus will criticize the political party in control rather than pray for them.  Peter commanded Christians to “honor the king” even though Rome was applauding the lions in Coliseum events where those carnivorous beast were devouring Christians (1 Peter 2:17).   If we do not agree with that kind of response, we describe how hot it will be for those politicians.   If someone slaps us, we seldom turn the other cheek.  When disagreements arise in a congregation, the dissension often destroys fellowship (Acts 15:36-40).  Then both sides justify their behavior, believing God is on their side while the other is following Satan!  If it were not for the grace of God, both would feel the heat!

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