Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reading Together

There are reasons my readers may decide this subject is too deep and come back another day. Not a problem. That graphic is involved!

A question came up when I was looking at next week’s Sunday School lesson – John 8. Click to see it in the King James Version. I grew up with this version and there are many reasons I use it. When I have questions about words, I go to E-Sword app on my PC or my iPhone and look up the word using Strong’s dictionary. Each biblical word has been assigned a number to track its use through the Bible and it has the definition. As you can see from the above screen capture, it is a study tool, not a quick read.

I absolutely prefer using it when reading aloud with others. Imagine (if it hasn’t happened in reality to you) reading aloud John 8 from KJV above and reading it from New International Version (NIV). Here, in case you can’t click right now, the first few verses are – NIV, then KJV:

The wording does not change the picture each creates – Jesus, religious leaders, a woman taken in adultery and a plan to catch Jesus saying something wrong. But if we were reading aloud, together, words would run together and over each other and our focus would be on what we are reading rather than the message behind the words.

In depth studies of the question of versions also brings division and contention. It is a course of study that brings out arguments and pits good men against each other. We need to be aware of the history, but not allow it to detract from God’s word.

This particular passage is an example of such division. As given in the Pulpit Commentary:
Doubts have beset the authenticity of the passage from the fourth and fifth centuries in the Eastern Church, both on external and internal grounds. The authority and practice of Augustine, Ambrose, and Jerome gave it a secure resting place till the criticism of Erasmus re-awakened doubt.
I have found that knowing there is dissention does not negate my faith in biblical accuracy. God’s word has been questioned since the snake spoke with Eve:

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: (Genesis 3:1-4 KJV)

Now, do I believe a snake spoke to a woman? Yes – not as we think of today, but as it was in the beginning. Do I believe in the consequences of that woman’s decision? Yes – just as I believe  in the consequences of our own. As Paul explained historical facts having greater meaning:

Which things are an allegory: (Galatians 4:24a KJV)

Does being an allegory make them less applicable? No. To me it means God’s plan has been unfolding from the beginning of time and is in a book we need to be reading. Please, let us continue reading God’s word together.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Have You Read Monday’s Post?

If not, I would suggest you do so, because this is basically an extension of my views on God’s grace freeing us from the Law. Which can be misunderstood.

Some would take that announcement of freedom as an erasure of the Law given by God in the Old Testament. That accepting Christ as savior frees one from the Law in its entirety. Paul answered that question in the same book I was reading:

Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. (Galatians 3:21 KJV)

He addressed this in another letter to a different church faced with the same question:

What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (Romans 7:7 KJV)

It is the teaching of, the knowledge of the Law that convicts us to the point we open our hearts to the truth that we are sinners.  The Law defines what should be done and gives us understanding that what constitutes sin. How else can we understand when Paul tells us:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23 KJV)

Isn’t it much better to have the Law spell out what God wants His children to do than to be the child who learns from painful experience? My toddler picked up a bobby pin and wondered what would happen if he stuck it in a wall socket. No – I hadn’t gotten around to teaching him the results would be very painful.

God defined specific qualifications to remain sinless, all the while knowing there would be failures. He also provided worship processes to give solace and comfort while His people continued toward a greater promise – His provision of grace.

That does not under any circumstances negate His law, though it does provide live with unearned grace that He provided:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (Ephesians 2:8 KJV)

Does my love for my son ever negate the consequences of a bobby pin in a wall socket? Nope. The consequences remain the same here in the flesh. Does God’s grace negate the consequences of my sin? Yes. This is His promise. But – it does not negate the consequences of sinfulness in the flesh. Paul faced that, too:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? (Romans 6:1-2 KJV)

Our sins are defined by His Law. Breaking them has consequences in our relationship with God, impacts our witness to others regarding His love and makes us very unhappy. Don’t ignore that – Christians are not happy living with His will in our lives.

I’ll close with a verse from Monday – one that tells me to use the Bible to determine God’s message to mankind. Not what is written here, nor any other person. That is opinion. Here is mine, there is another’s, but God provided what He had to say:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8 KJV)

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Whole


There are a lot more words in Exodus 20:2-17 to explain the Ten Commandments shortened to fit in this graphic. The succinct version still means the same thing as the verses. This is the basis for Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s temptation:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)

The first four of the ten are the great commandment – love the Lord God will all our heart, soul and mind. The next six are covered in the second – love our neighbors as ourselves.

Now let’s move to Galatians – much of this you’ll have to look up on your own strictly because I have (sorta) a word limit (well, within a hundred words or so.)

Within fifteen years of Christ’s resurrection, Paul visited Galatia to give them the same witness he had given others – Christ lived, died and is risen. After that visit, Paul wrote a letter to the churches believers established:

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia: (Galatians 1:1-2 KJV)

Why? Because they were very much as we are today – forgetful:

I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-8 KJV)

Of what? Grace. They forgot God’s grace and were depending on obeying the law to reach God. That is error. I’m going to do some skipping ahead – so please read between posted verses to be certain I do have the context – to the gist of the matter. I believe Paul used sarcasm here:

I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? (Galatians 4:20-21 KJV)

It’s the next chapter that gives the gist as to why that’s a problem (though verses between are explanatory):

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (Galatians 5:1-3 KJV)

People in the church were requiring new believers be circumcised in accordance with Mosaic law. In his letter Paul spends time explaining what is done to meet the law, requires us to keep the whole law. We can’t. You haven’t, I haven’t, no one has – except Christ. All have come short – as Paul wrote to the Romans (3:23) and remains true for us all.

Read Paul’s letter to understand trading bondage for freedom – or else Christ’s death means nothing:

Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4 KJV)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Who Is This?

Again I’ve used a graphic for which I cannot site a source. I tried to track it down and ended up on a Pinterest with this .JPG. If I hear from the originator, I promise to share. However, this graphic is just right for a recent Sunday School lesson.

John’s chapter 7 begins with people going to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Tabernacle. Do you know it is being held this month? That a Christian organization offered excursions to this for October 16-21, 2016? Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to go and do a little “show and tell” for the people in Jerusalem:

His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. (John 7:3 KJV)

This Feast was set up in Deuteronomy:

And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, When all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: (Deuteronomy 31:10-12 KJV)

Note that it was open to non-Jews, “thy stranger that is within thy gates”. And, note that it was specifically where “thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.” Judaism was for everyone, just as Jesus, Christ, came for everyone. Many choose not to believe that.

Many still don’t know what to make of Jesus – who is He and why do some people think He is worthy of worship while others see Him as a criminal leading people astray? During His lifetime, there was this same division

And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: for some said, He is a good man: others said, Nay; but he deceiveth the people. (John 7:12 KJV)

Eventually, without notice, He went to Jerusalem and taught - which surprised people who wondered how an uneducated man could.

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him. (John 7:16-18 KJV)

Once again, people were asking, just who is this?

Then said some of them of Jerusalem, Is not this he, whom they seek to kill? But, lo, he speaketh boldly, and they say nothing unto him. Do the rulers know indeed that this is the very Christ? (John 7:25-26 KJV)

There was arguments then about who He was, and there are just as many today:

So there was a division among the people because of him. (John 7:43 KJV)

Eventually – in another chapter, a coming Sunday School lesson - Jesus asked the disciples the question each human has to answer and Peter gave the answer I believe is correct:

And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matthew 16:16 KJV)

Do you know who He is?

The Three C’s

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 KJV)

What in the world does that pyramid have to do with my belief in God? Good question – and there is a path to follow for the connection.

You see, I truly belief that God exists – did, does and will eternally. I also believe He cares for His creation and works within our lives. I’ve created a page that outlines my beliefs, and you are welcome to read them by clicking here.

There are uncountable numbers of people who have compassion. They wish the very best for their fellow man and will volunteer both time and money to ease suffering in this world – often in the name of something or someone they worship. They have a conviction that they can make a difference in this world, often giving no thought that there is anything beyond this. For those of us who believe Jesus is Christ, we are to do more.

Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 KJV)

Our conviction that we can have compassion and provide a personal view of our belief in God builds an understanding of the top of the pyramid – charity.

Yes – we are to provide comfort to those that need it, but we are to add what has been translated as Charity. The Greek word Paul used is defined as benevolence and includes the concept of Love - especially the love God offers to us.  That love is filled with mercy and grace. For us to reflect Him, we cannot omit love.

John put it very well:

Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world. (1 John 4:15-17 KJV)

Yes – the word translated in I Corinthians 13 as Charity was translated here as Love. So, while we may fairly easily have compassion and we most certainly have convictions – Christians must top it off with love.  Yes – I mentioned this on Thursday:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:3 KJV)

Even when we point to what we believe is truth based on biblical principles, it must be done in love or we are not becoming more Christ-like, more Christian.

But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: (Ephesians 4:15 KJV)

Do not give up on compassion; know the basis of convictions; build on the truth of love, which is contained in the greatest of God’s commandments (Matthew 22:37-40.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Works Based Sufficient?


I don’t know the source on this graphic. But I didn’t search deeply for that – it showed up with graphics when I searched for “Hard Work” and really fits for a story I heard Sunday.

A missionary met a gentleman on a plane that gave them hours to meet, exchange tidbits and discuss a bit of religion. That happens often when missionaries travel – they don’t keep their love of God in a container to use only at their “workplace,” the live it. The question to the young man has been given in an earlier blog – that he had attended communion, regularly, and that would be sufficient.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “works salvation,” the concept that good deeds will earn us a home in heaven. Wouldn’t that be great, except for a few Bible verses:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (Matthew 7:21-23 KJV)

Remember from earlier this week His commandments? Check them out in Matthew 22:37-40. Love – Him and neighbors. Now, I’ll admit, that may be hard work. Wouldn’t it be easier to just ignore those who have hurt us, hurt others, hate God – we could make a whole list, couldn’t we? Won’t work – all on that list fall under neighbors. What work can overcome not doing God’s will?

There are several specific verses that tell us what is required other than works:

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6 KJV)

Paul believed and preached repeatedly to those who asked:

And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:30-31 KJV)

Spelling it out, plainly:

For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 KJV)

That is sufficient – but it opens the door for much more.  Once we believe that God is, that He love us, that He was shown miracles beyond our belief and the Bible brings us closer to Him, we study His word. There we get our instructions:

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (II Timothy 3:16-17 KJV)

There are those good works! And they are sufficiently important that more is given to us:

Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. (James 2:17-18 KJV)

If we could achieve eternal life on our good works alone, why did Jesus go through crucifixion and resurrection? As usual, I hope you’ll not remain ignorant of verses surrounding those above. I’m always open to listening to other viewpoints, but my resource will always remain the Bible.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Spell It Out


One of our Sunday missionaries serves in Thailand. When he came to the platform to speak, he began in Thai. No, we did not understand one word. He did give a description of the language – not as detailed as the Wikipedia explanation:  44 consonant letters, 15 vowel symbols that combine into at least 28 vowel forms, and four tone diacritics. It is a writing system in which each consonant may invoke an inherent vowel sound and are written horizontally, left to right, with vowels arranged in positions (or combination of positions) around the corresponding consonant. That’s the written language – speaking it requires a variety of tones.

I took Spanish in high school and for a year in college. I use a minimum amount of it today. I cannot imagine learning a language with a complex alphabet with tonal requirements to explain something that is necessary to save a life, much less explain doctrine.

Even though of us who accept Christ’s message to a people who lived by God’s law:

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:36-40 KJV)

How do spell out the importance to Jews of the Mosaic law and its relationship to the two commandments Jesus says are the most important? How do we spell that out to people without the background we have when we don’t live it ourselves?

Less than a century later, John was still trying to get this message across to new Christians, spelling it out to them in a letter:

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. (1 John 2:7-10 KJV)

John didn’t write that because people were loving so well.  He wrote to spell out what they had been told but were not practicing. We would do well to spend time considering where we are in that love commandment. Studying what Jesus did and said; who He spent time with and why; when He prayed and what He asked. Then spend time in Acts, seeing how His disciples applied His teachings.

Move on to the epistles – spending time with Paul’s letters to the Corinthians, including chapter 13. Read that substituting our American concept of benevolence, which includes affection – a depth of love – not the charity of a tax deduction. Paul tells us that without that feeling of love, we are nothing:

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:2 KJV)

Everyone one of us needs to spell out our love of God and our fellowman. How good is your spelling? I'll admit mind needs correction.