Monday, October 16, 2017

So You Want To Be A Foot?

Isaiah-52-7
(My apologies for not knowing the source of this beautiful graphic)
There are many people in our world who will tell you that you can be anything you want to be – there are no limits to what you can achieve. All that is needed is to set and achieve goals, a step at a time and never, ever, give up your dream. You will read stories from and of people who have followed these instructions and are multiply-successful in all phases of their lives. I’m not refuting their stories at all.

No way I’d attempt to prove their stories right or wrong – it was theirs to live and to share.  But what if someone wanted to be a foot and instead should have been an ear?
Not familiar with that concept? Come see a few scriptures. Sunday’s sermon included verses from I Corinthians 12. Paul is writing to a church that needs a few lessons. Just as we still need a few lessons today.

Paul knew scriptures very well, and used Isaiah 52:7 in a letter to Romans:

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! (Romans 10:14-15 KJV)

There are a lot of people who feel they want to be the one to use their feet to preach Christ’s gospel of peace, bringing glad tidings of God’s redemption. But not all people should be missionaries – though all have a mission.  Take Paul’s examples in Chapter 12.

Paul is describing a single body – the total body of believers in Christ – being made of multiple parts. God has given us all gifts:

And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1 Corinthians 12:6-7 KJV)
Paul describes some of the gifts the Holy Spirit works within us. That does not make one “better” or “worse”, either. Whatever our calling, whatever our gift, wherever we work for our Lord, we still do it as one body:

If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? (1 Corinthians 12:15 KJV)

While there is a whole study in this one chapter, and I encourage spending time here, relating to ourselves and our own gifts from God, the final verse here leads into a beautiful chapter that applies to all:

But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way. (1 Corinthians 12:31 KJV)

Yes – the chapter showing the description and importance of Love.

So – what if you wanted to be a beautiful foot but your calling is simply to show love to all around you? There’s an answer in the Old Testament:

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?  (Esther 4:14 KJV)

I do not wish there to be enlargement and deliverance from another place when I was placed for a specific time. What’s your opinion?

Friday, October 13, 2017

Reconciled

reconcile

Not yet called Christians, Jesus’ followers heard Him say:

Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses. (Mark 11:24-26 KJV)

There’s another example:

Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican. (Matthew 18:15-17 KJV)

One more:

Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:23-24 KJV)

Sounds as though it’s rather important. There are examples of this at work in the letters of the New Testament.  There the discussions are among those who were first called Christians at Antioch, and the word still applies to those who follow Jesus, God’s Christ.

I'm picking one I've been reading for the rest of this blog - Paul and John Mark.  Half the story of Paul and John Mark (yes, the Mark that wrote the book, and the nephew of Barnabas) is told in Acts 15:36-41.  It began with John Mark leaving "Paul and his company" in Acts 13:13.

The end of the story shows them reconciled in II Timothy 4:9-11, where Paul is giving closing instructions:

Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry. (2 Timothy 4:9-11 KJV)

Here we see that Mark is profitable to Paul in continuing his ministry while Paul is in prison. They worked out a reconciliation.

But someone else moved away – this time Demas left, “having loved this present world.” The Bible does not tell what caused the rift between Demas, who in Colossians 4 and Philemon 1, is named as Paul’s companion, just as Luke and Mark are.

All those words, and the examples. Do they make an impression on us? Or do we not hold out a hand of reconciliation? Do we have to do it on every occasion? Let me leave that last question for the next blog. I need to spend time myself on this one. Rereading. Praying.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Extrapolate

Extrapolate
This has shown up several times across the web. The accompanying comments usually state a professor is wearing the T-shirt and had students that stated the second type was missing.

I thought there could be a lesson here and found a good example in John 3 while studying. The Pulpit Commentary discusses what scholars had to say about Jesus’ knowledge of Nicodemus’ reason for coming to Him:
A controversy has arisen on the point—Did our Lord, by these penetrative glances, manifest his Divine nature, assume a Divine prerogative, or exercise a lofty, penetrative human gift? Westcott, on the philological ground of the contrast in meaning between γινώσκειν and εἰδέναι, urges that the former word, used here, represents knowledge acquired by processes of inquiry and perception, as distinct from the latter, which is reserved for absolute and settled knowledge. Godet, on theological grounds, urges that the phrase refers to the human faculty of observation rather than to the Divine prerogative of heart-searching. There are, however, many other indications of this same thought-mastery, which the evangelists appear to regard as proofs of Divine power; so that I think the real significance of the passage is an ascription to Jesus of Divine power. The supernatural in mind, the superhuman mental processes of Jesus, are part of the proof we have that, though he was Man, he created the irresistible impression that he was more than man.
It helps to know the different connotations between γινώσκειν and εἰδέναι, but that goes very deep into theological studies.  While I find them interesting, no controversial discussions have changed my mind that Jesus is the promised Messiah, supernaturally created by God.

I believe Nicodemus “extrapolated”, or extended his knowledge of God’s work with the Jews to include Jesus’ actions, assuming the miraculous occurrences were a continuing trend of God’s intervention in mankind. I believe we can extrapolate across the centuries, based on the wide range of eye witness writers during that first century as well as the number of theologians who have studied those writings, that what we see of God’s work in our lives is a continuation, too.

Although there have been detractors and deniers, The Bible continues to be a best seller around the world. People read it, study it, pray with it, define their days with it, and best of all – share it with others. That’s all Peter and Paul did as they reached Jews and gentiles – witness to others their personal experiences with Christ.

Peter means to me that we can err and return. Paul means to me that we can be willfully involved in fighting Christ and meeting Him, follow in service. While I love reading Hebrews’ 11th chapter, that list of Judaic faithful, I love even better:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV)

We’ve had another two-thousand years to see additional faithful join that great cloud of witnesses. We’ve also seen some who failed, miserably, taking others with them. Stick with the full story of God’s gift to us – because He loves us. Read more in the Bible.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Two Paths, One Witness

ElGrecoPeterPaul

Yes, they knew each other – and they both are Jews who lived in the first part of the first century. It appears they were about the same age, but they were very different men.

We know quite about about Peter’s family because he and his brother, Andrew, were workers in the family business. It was Andrew who first heard John the Baptist introduce Jesus – perhaps attending Jesus’ baptism. Andrew told his brother and instead of following the family business, these fishermen became “fishers of men.”

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. (Matthew 4:19-20 KJV)

The next three years were tumultuous. People were divided. Sides were taken. Peter was very vocal about his support of Jesus. Immediately following Jesus’ telling the disciples of His death and resurrection, Peter says:

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended. (Matthew 26:33 KJV)

Open your Bible to that verse – read the previous, then read Jesus’ response. Then turn to Matthew 26:69-75 to read the rest of that particular story.

One of the detractors of this band of Christ followers was Saul. He describes himself as the “Hebrew of Hebrews”:

Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; (Philippians 3:5 KJV)

He continues in the following verses to confess as to his persecution of Christ’s followers, but the best of the story is found in Acts, chapter 9. What a tremendous event it had to be to change this man’s heart! He had to be struck blind before he could see.

Those are the two paths taken to reach an understanding of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection, but they pretty much give the same witness.

It comes earlier in Acts, Peter’s witness, Acts 2:1-36. Yes, I’ll include the link, but I really wish you would pick up your Bible and read those verses, then flip over to Acts 26:1-29 and compare Paul’s witness.

Both witnesses tell fully the verses Jesus said to Nicodemus:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 KJV)

Do you know Christians today who give the very same heart witness account that these eyewitnesses gave? It is the message Jesus Himself gave then and gives now.  Begin there, and learn about Him if you haven’t before.  If you have met and love Him, please go tell someone so they can do the same.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The Invitation

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That’s not a very informative invitation, is it? We would want to know what, when, where and pretty much who else is going to be there. We might not want to spend time with some of the others, right? Sort of picky about who we spend time with. Why not? Time is valuable and there are some people who simply take up your time without providing entertainment, enlightenment or even companionship.

So we look at invitations, and turn some down.

Would the host come looking for you? Of course not! How silly. The host would understand that this particular event was not something that drew your interest.

What if you found out later that it was a marvelous occasion! Many of your friends, some of your most liked relatives (along with some you really didn’t want to spend time with, though) accepted the host’s invitation and not only had a wonderful time – they were still there! Imagine that. Didn’t even call out to you and let you know that this was simply not to be missed. What would you do?

Here it comes. The Bible verses you knew just had to be here – this is a blog to encourage Bible reading. You knew that when you surfed here, didn’t you? Pick up your Bible and turn to Matthew 22:1-14. (Yes, there’s the regular link. I know some of you really don’t like to pick up a Bible. I make it easy for you.)

Have you heard that story before? I see two or three applications, but the one I want to write about today addresses those who believe 1) there is no God – thus, no hell; 2) there is a God – and everyone goes to heaven; 3) there is a God – who sends people to hell.

The Bible teaches heaven and hell. The Bible teaches those who die go to one or the other. The Bible teaches how we get to where we are going.

The Bible teaches why God created hell:

. . . Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: (Matthew 25:41 KJV)

Hell was not created for humanity. It was created for the angels that did not wish to be in His presence. There are humans who do not wish to be in His presence, either. They have turned down His invitation.

I’ve known one or two that specifically denied the existence of a supreme being. Yet, when they passed, their friends said, “They’ve gone to a better place.” Heard that on television recently. “He’s in a better place.” I have not found a definition regarding this better place – unless it comes from a person who believes all are going to heaven. Unfortunately, no religion has ever promised that.

Got sends out invitations:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. (John 3:16-18 KJV)

God does not send people to hell. They simply turned down His invitation to be in His presence. Why would He force them to spend eternity with Him when they turned down every invitation He sent?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Don’t Ask WWJD

WWJD
You can find the jewelry all over the web. The initials remind us to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus do?” then we are to follow His example.

May I suggest we change the word “would” to “did”? Just for a little while we need to ask ourselves:  What did Jesus do?

What did Jesus do about going to religious services?

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. (Luke 4:16 KJV)

Not only had Jesus built the custom of attending the synagogue, He took His turn reading scripture.  I wish you would take the time to read this entire scene (Luke 4:16-21) to see that He understood what He read.

What did Jesus do about saying a blessing before He ate?

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. (Luke 24:30 KJV)

This is only one of many verses that affirm Jesus blessed food before eating.  This one is my favorite because of the entire story – which takes a bit more reading (Luke 24:13-22). Has nothing to do with blessing the food, but a lot to do with understanding Jesus.

What did Jesus do about praying for what He wanted?

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39 KJV)

In Hebrews (12:2) we are told Jesus endured the shame of the cross. He knew it was coming and He knew shame and what physical torture there would be. Yet the end of this first of three prayers for the very same thing, He bent to God’s will.

What did Jesus do when asked about God’s the most important commandment?

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. (Matthew 22:37-38 KJV)

He gave the same answer that echoed from the time God created the heavens and the earth. However, He went a step further and continued the explanation:

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 22:39-40 KJV)

Jesus did not stop with answering the initial question. He moved on to the next step in God’s commandments, giving only two reasons for all the law and all the prophecies in the Bible. Two reasons that will answer all the questions about what Jesus DID do.

That should also provide for us the answers for:  What should I do that will follow Jesus’ example? Love God with all myi heart and my neighbors as myself. What Jesus did do is based entirely on those two ideals.

Yes. Totally applicable in this day and age, too.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Past Whispers For Today


For this to make sense (sort of), yesterday’s post is a lead in. The concept came from a magazine article that asked about “the biggest challenge facing evangelical churches today” and the person being interviewed,Carl Trueman, answered:
How can the church, when it has one or maybe two hours on a Sunday, truly shape people’s minds and characters, when there is so much in the wider culture that is now directly antithetical to Christian ethics and Christian ways of thinking? (“WORLD Magazine”, September 30, 2017, Page 25 printed copy)
The Question and Answer session was an interview in front of students at Patrick Henry College. The topic was Trueman’s book about Martin Luther, as the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation approaches. 

One of the results of the Reformation was the printing of Bibles in common languages and the speakers of those languages reading it on their own. I have personally spoken with people who believe that was – and remains – an error. That only theological training makes a person able to interpret the Bible correctly.

For many, having it in their own language did not open the book for them to read. The majority of the people could not read – that was for the upper class. Today, there should be no educational system that does not teach students the ability to read for themselves.

The Bible was written by a number of different men who tell us over and over it was inspired by God, to carry His word down centuries for us. Paul mentioned the old writings:

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. (Romans 15:4 KJV)

Paul wrote of them all:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31 KJV)


Peter speaks of Paul’s writings being equated with scripture:

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. (2 Peter 3:15-16 KJV)


My favorite was written by John – author of several of the Bible’s books:

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:31 KJV)

That last is the very same reason I return to this blog and write a bit more, sharing not only what I read – and study – but what I believe. Every once in a while I ask: What do you believe?