Sunday, March 31, 2013

First Day Of The Week

This is a photograph in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, believed by some to be the location of Christ’s tomb. Others turn to the Garden Tomb:
Doesn’t matter to me which is correct – He’s not there. He is risen.

In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. (Matthew 28:1)

Such a journey could not be made on the Sabbath, for many reasons. On that first day, those who loved Him came to the tomb.

He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. (Matthew 28:6)

That is the center of Christianity. He is risen.

Paul put it very plainly:

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. (1 Corinthians 15:13-14)

If Christ be not risen, our faith is in vain. There is no message, if Christ is not risen. Understand that, because it is a black and white message. He either rose from the grave, or He did not.  If not, the New Testament is a waste of words.

All of Jesus’ doctrines – the ones which astonished listeners in Matthew 7:28 and 22:33 – are invalid, if He is not risen. If He is risen, His words are truth.

But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee. (Mark 14:28)

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)

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 3:17-18)

Travel to Jerusalem and see more than one tomb – but both are empty. There are no remains to venerate. He completed the work John testified to when he pointed to Him and said:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

When that was accomplished, He appeared to many who would continue His message:

The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen: To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God: (Acts 1:1-3)

Now, go the world what you’ve heard.


Saturday, March 30, 2013


I do not express myself well. One of the nicest friendships I ever made was with a lady who was offended by something I wrote. It was too short, trying to get a big concept into limited space. Much of the internet is that way – we see written words, not thoughts and feelings. We answer on the surface, not looking into depth. When that lady and I exchanged longer, deeper communications, understanding came as well as a friendship we both appreciate.

The connection to the graphic is that these two authors came to their books as atheists. Lee Strobel as an investigative reporter, J. Warner Wallace as a homicide investigator. They express themselves very well. They are used to delving deeply, searching for facts to refute what might appear as truth on the surface.

That’s what Christ asks that we do, search – many do not:

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. (John 5:39-40)

That Sabbath following Jesus’ death on the cross must have been the worst day in their lives. They had given everything to follow Him, focused on an earthly kingdom. They fully expected to reign with Him here on earth. All that hope was crushed because they did not search the scriptures. They did not recall what He told Nicodemus:

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)

Christ on the cross was not a thwarting of God’s plan, it was the completion:

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7-8)

As they spent that Sabbath in sorrow, I wonder if any of the disciples remembered His words:

And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe. (John 14:29)

They heard, but didn’t understand, any more than people today. It is complex when we attempt to put our words to it, but the cross is the message. People look upon that as foolishness.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17-18)

That changes when we accept God’s gift:

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 12:2)

Blessed was the thief who understood that:

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:42-43)

The first day of the week changed it all.

Friday, March 29, 2013

What’s Good About It?

The night before, He was betrayed. Judas sold Him for thirty pieces of silver:

And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:15 KJV)

Peter betrayed Him out of fear for his own life:

Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly. (Matthew 26:74-75 KJV)

Judas regretted his actions, too:

Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? see thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself. (Matthew 27:3-5 KJV)

Knowing Christ was innocent, Judas went to the religious leaders for absolution -- their response? “What is that to us?” His next actions display his lack of understanding of God’s love mercy, just as the chief priests’ actions displayed theirs:

Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. (Matthew 23:23 KJV)

What Judas left undone was confessing that his sin was against God. All sin is. Judas never reached that understanding.

So, here we are on Friday, their teacher on the cross, and two men have reacted with vast differences. So, what’s good about it? Jesus followed God’s will:

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)

For most of us, our lives are not a forfeit for following God’s will. Usually, two commandments will get us started:

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 22:37-40 KJV)

We love Him because He showed us how:

We love him, because he first loved us. If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:19-20 KJV)

Because we love Him, we learn His commandments and keep them:

If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15 KJV)

That’s the good part of this Friday. God remains love.

Thursday, March 28, 2013



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, (Hebrews 12:1)

I’ve been on a witness stand, testifying to what I had seen, what I had heard. During one testimony, I was stopped in mid-sentence, the jury was sent from the room while the judge and opposing attorneys clarified a point. Although I had sworn to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, there was one portion of the truth that was agreed upon in advance would not be mentioned in the trial. The attorney questioning me referenced that and the trial stopped in mid-sentence.

In today’s America there is a great reticence about Christian witnessing, though witnessing about Christ began with John:

John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me. (John 1:15)

The witness John gave was loud and clear:

The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

To remove our sins, He had to die, and He knew it. He didn’t want to, but He would follow God’s will:

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)

One of His titles is faithful witness:

And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, (Revelation 1:5)

What He said and what He did are testimonies:

But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. (John 5:36)

Our witness of Christ’s work in our lives should not stop in mid-sentence. We should find within ourselves the faith to continue to testify, as Paul did:

For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27)

The verses before Hebrews 12:1 recount some of those in that great cloud of witnesses. They did not pick and choose what they wanted to say. They gave all the counsel that God gave them. They are our examples.  God’s words to Ezekiel resonate in my heart, too:

But if the watchman see the sword come, and blow not the trumpet, and the people be not warned; if the sword come, and take any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at the watchman's hand. (Ezekiel 33:6)

That’s only a single verse from a much larger portrait – as are all of the references I use. Take a look at all the counsel of God, not just picking from a buffet, ignoring the items that do not suit our current lifestyles. You see, I believe a certain time has come:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; (2 Timothy 4:3)

Read the Bible in prayer, then be the witness we’re told to be before stones have to cry out.

And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. (Luke 19:40)

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Our Children

Sion and children
Yesterday I posted a comment on Facebook about going over family photos as a child. I knew of the people in this photo because my Dad showed it to me and talked about them. The man in the upper right corner is his father. The man in the lower left is his grandfather. The others are my Dad’s aunts and uncles – yes, even the older looking woman on the middle right, from her father’s first marriage, before the Civil War. Think I feel old now?

I know stories about each one of the people in that photo. One died when struck by lightning – inside his home, reading a letter by the fireplace. The girl on the middle left died young, leaving a daughter who never knew her mother. Yes, I’ve shared their names and their stories with my own children. Is that important? Not really.

What is important is what God wants taught to our children:

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 6:4-7 KJV)

Every parent on this planet teaches their children what they believe about God. Some by following the above verses and teaching diligently, talking about their own belief in God. Others teach by example, ignoring God or teaching that He does not exist.

One single mother I know stated that someday she will take her son to church, when he’s old enough to understand. Another family is divided in their beliefs and decided not to tell their children how they see God out of respect for each other’s beliefs. In both instances the children have learned that God is not important.

This teaching of children was of sufficient biblical importance that it was repeated just a few chapters later:

And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: (Deuteronomy 11:19-20 KJV)

Christ shared the importance of a child’s faith – and the consequences for offending them:

And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me. But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh! (Matthew 18:5-7 KJV)

We are responsible for what we teach our children, and our children’s children. If we have failed, today is the right time to set that right.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Sunday, March 24, was my Dad’s 100th birthday. The date he was born and the date he died are special to me. Same for my Mom. I remember my nephew, born 23 May 1968 and died 22 October 1973. Not enough time in between those dates, is there?

I’ll remember the dates for my brother-in-law, but not with the same depth of sorrow as his beloved wife. The empty spots in her life exist in every moment, and grief will be more like the graphic’s right side.
None of us experience the grief drawn on the left in the graphic. Grief is not simple nor is it straight. There really are curves and loops and recrossings of the same path. There are regrets and recriminations, too. Lots of “what if’s” and “if only’s”, even though they are non-productive. They are human grieving. We don’t make our way “through” grief, we live with it.

Yet, in the midst, we find comfort. My father’s favorite verses came from John 14. The one that gives me most comfort also suggests an action:

Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)

I read an atheist’s description of death – that we would find it exactly as we knew life before we were born – nothing. He had no fear of death other than cessation of a life he enjoyed. Many religions teach of a continued spiritual existence. Even without proof, I would prefer to search for a continued existence.  Even without accepting there is a continued existence, non-believers discuss the subject, looking for answers before determining they cannot accept what believers do – eternal life. A man asked Jesus:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? (Matthew 19:16)

The answer was a bit lengthy, and the man did not like it at all, leaving sorrowful. As he left, the disciples asked their own question:

When his disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? (Matthew 19:25)

God’s answer was God:

But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. (Matthew 19:26)

Paul understood:

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)

I grieve, yet I rejoice because I believe I shall see my father again, my Mom, my nephew, my brother-in-law. I will know them just as Thomas knew Jesus:

And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20:28-29)

No, I have not seen, yet I believe. Is it simply because I cannot face the nothingness of the atheist? Or that the atheist cannot face the consequences of eternity? That choice stands before each of us. Once the choice is made to accept a power greater than ourselves, it is our responsibility to seek.

But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)

Thursday, March 21, 2013


My Beloved Husband and his brother are examples of why a bad childhood does not mean a person grows up hating. It would take a book to do justice to their story, and I should take time to write it. No one else will, and the participants are dying - his brother did yesterday.

Born in 1941 and 1942 before their father's draft number came up sending him off to war, their parent's first separation caused their placement in the Maumee Children's Home in Toledo, Ohio. The young wife, oldest of eleven children herself, had lost her mother the year before and was unable to handle two babies while helping her siblings and carrying a third. Unfortunately, the equally as young husband found another, returning to divorce and offering to take the boys. The third son, born in 1943 and only two at the time of the divorce, stayed with their mother.

Within two years the boys were investigated by the state and being declared abused and neglected were placed in Whitaker State Orphanage, Pryor, Oklahoma. When their mother was notified that their father had signed for their care, she was told they were to be adopted in Oklahoma City. Newly married, carrying her fourth child, she felt they would have a better life and also signed for their adoption.

No one was standing by to adopt. For more than a year in that facility, it appeared the boys would remain institutionalized until adulthood. Adoption of older children is rare. Adoption of the two of them together? Their goal was to remain together - the only person they had known all their lives was each other.

That gave them a bond few siblings share.

They were adopted, together, when they were eight and seven. Past the time when so many studies show their personalities are set.

Of course, the story is much longer and deeper, but I cannot do it justice here. This is just a touch on a memory that will be shared this weekend as we celebrate his brother's life - along with that third boy and additional siblings from their mother's second marriage. We were able to locate their birth family and reunite children raised apart.

The one thing the brothers, those little boys, held in common from adulthood, was the love of their Lord, Jesus, the Messiah. We will celebrate his life, mourn his death, all with faith that the resurrection of our Lord fulfills a promise He made for those who love Him:

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know. (John 14:1-4)

Like many of us today, Thomas did not know the way:

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way? Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:5-6)

Knowing this, we can follow Him in rejoicing:

Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. (John 14:28)

Please know that as we grieve for our own loss of his presence, we rejoice as he joins the Father.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Three Reasons

I found this graphic after checking through quite a few of photos in my own church, and I don’t have one of just our pulpit. This example is sooo different from Sunday’s sermon, that it caught my eye. Scott Matthews, with The Rochester Family, preached Sunday after the group sang for us. This pulpit could not have contained his energy!

He opened with scripture:

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:6-8 KJV)

He became more concise, and took from that five words: I have finished my course.

Scott began with a serious look at the number of people who have not finished their course, but have walked away from churches, faith and God’s will in their lives. He then gave us three reasons why he has not walked away, will not walk away, and why we shouldn’t:
  1. Those who have gone before, the faithful in our families or fellow Christians who paid high prices for holding on to their faith and finishing their course.
  2. Those little ones coming after, the children we are to teach, to be examples to and pass along faith in God’s promises.
  3. God – who first loved us, with such a love that He provided himself a sacrifice through all sufficient grace.
Those are tremendous reasons and he expanded on his selections with specific examples. I have always been impressed on his delivery – he cites scripture and segues into the application, melding together as a single action.

He does that not from our pulpit, but in constant motion across the front of the sanctuary or down the middle aisle, consistently making eye-contact with the audience – he’s speaking to us, individually.

I can think of specific scriptures to go with each of those reasons, too:
  1. 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, (Hebrews 12:1 KJV)
  2. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. (Deuteronomy 11:19 KJV)
  3. We love him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19 KJV)
Those aren’t the ones Scott Matthews used, but are the ones that speak to me for the reasons he gave – especially of when to speak of God’s word – morning, night, home away. Pretty much covers every moment of every day. That’s why I share this, here. Where do you share?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Man In The Middle

We were doubly blessed at our church Saturday night with The Rochester Family (above) and the Marksmen Quartet bringing us the gospel in music.The links will take you to their sites for examples of their Bluegrass Gospel Music.

There were so many different stringed instruments!! From a mandolin to a bass violin. There were many instrument switches, too – guitar to banjo brought a joke from Earle Wheeler: 
If a guitar player and a banjo player jumped out of a plane at the same time, who would reach the ground first?  Guitar player. Guaranteed that the banjo player would stop along the way to tune!
The key word for the evening is gospel – the good news that the Messiah came, fulfilled prophecy, provided salvation for mankind and a home for God’s children. All the songs they sang gave that message. One sticks in my mind – “The Man In The Middle.”

Three men on the mountain
Up on Calvary
And the Man in the middle was Jesus
He died for you and me

Accepting that is necessary to become a Christian. And, that scene is something everyone should consider. An historical Jesus is established fact. No one appears to deny that His teachings have value in dealing with our fellow man. Other beliefs accept that He lived, taught valuable lessons from Jewish scriptures, then was killed. Only Christians believe that He miraculously rose from that grave – that He is the physical middle between God and man.

On the cross He hung between two others:

And there were also two other, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place, which is called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. (Luke 23:32-33)

Under the worst possible conditions, those two were faced with what to do about the man in the middle. One cried out as so many do today – give us a sign, show us who you are by doing what we want!

And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. (Luke 23:39)

The other recognized Him:

But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. (Luke 23:40-42)

He admitted he was justly condemned, believed Jesus was Lord and had power beyond the grave. That response is valid today. So is Jesus’ answer:

And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise. (Luke 23:43)

That’s the message from the Man in the middle – because I trust Him to be what He said He is, I will be with Him in paradise.

Not everyone I know has this understanding of God’s will from the reading of His word. Many decline even to read His word, never seeking to understand the message. They reject the very concept of the Man in the middle. Should those be surprised by His rejection when the time comes?

Monday, March 18, 2013


If we thought the Daylight Savings time change was confusing (you know I personally did!), consider Easter.

Jesus rose on the first day of the week following Passover.

Simple, right? Mankind has a way of taking the simple and making it completely un-understandable. Which brings us to computus: a medieval set of tables for calculating astronomical events and movable dates in the calendar. Computus is used to calculate Easter.

There are plenty of website results from Googling “Easter 2013.” Yes, I was trying to do a quick look up ‘cause I forgot that it was March 31 this year. I also treated myself to a brief education as to why there are two dates listed (March 31 and May 5) and why it doesn’t coincide with Passover.

No, I’m not going to go into why – there’s information and links from the Wikipedia answer, along with the list of dates for previous and coming years.

I really don’t care what date is chosen. I do care about focusing attention on Christ’s life, His acceptance of death, the reason for His death – and on His resurrection, the fulfillment of God’s prophecy and promise. No, I can’t give all the verses that give me proof – it takes the entire Bible - all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:27)

Besides, the very act of worshipping on Sunday, the first day of the week, speaks to me of Christ’s resurrection. Every Sunday, every week, I’m reminded that Jesus gave us freedom:

Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (Galatians 5:1)

It takes a study of the allegory in Galatians 4 to understand why Paul tells us to stand fast therefore in liberty. By such liberty, it is not legally essential that we worship on the exact date of His resurrection. It is not legally essential that we celebrate the exact date of His last supper, either. We are instructed to remember:

And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. (1 Corinthians 11:24-25)

It is up to each of us to examine “Why?” Why do we celebrate His birth, remember His death, celebrate His resurrection? What is in us spiritually when we hold these celebrations?

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (1 Corinthians 11:28-29)

We are not worthy to celebrate any portion of His life – unless He has made us worthy. It is His gift:

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

We become worthy only through Him. Remember that, and celebrate.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Separating Sheep and Goats

I don’t read many sermons. I listen to quite a few – Sundays at church and some audio files. I prefer hearing God’s word, then studying it. That’s been my habit long before I memorized:

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

I believe I enjoy most expository preaching, where the word of God is read, openly discussed in detail and the pastor available for questions afterward. That helps me understand the application of specific scripture in daily life.  Often a preacher will be quoted in short clips from sermons and we don’t get the full picture. This week I saw a C. H. Spurgeon quote that might require a larger picture:
A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats
To understand what Spurgeon meant, it is necessary to be familiar with:

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:33)

Along with the surrounding verses, Christ explains that the sheep are those who followed God’s word, the goats did not. The previous verses describe when this event will occur – at the Messiah’s return. The following verses give examples of those who were surprised at where they fit into God’s kingdom.

Those unfamiliar with the Bible might not understand the reference to sheep and goat in Spurgeon’s remark and would laugh at the foolish picture portrayed. Sometimes these remarks are seen as “inside jokes” that set Christians apart. They appear as part of the foolishness of preaching – I mentioned that this week.

We know there will be many who do not listen. The Bible tells us so:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)

Paul speaks of this in other verses, too:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; (2 Thessalonians 2:3)

So, what are we who believe suppose to do? That answer is given in Timothy, surrounding 4:3-4:

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. (2 Timothy 4:2)

But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. (2 Timothy 4:5)

Do the work of an evangelist. Paul was writing to Timothy, but it applies to our lives, too. Christ gave that same Great Commission to the disciples who remained after His resurrection:

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20)

We’ve been given instructions. How do we apply them?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Coming Home

Thursday our pastor, his wife and another couple from our church made their preparations to return from Israel. It looks rather small in this satellite view, a tiny sliver of land among the nations of the world. From this photo I can understand why David, in the Judean wilderness, would describe it:

O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; (Psalms 63:1)

The two couples have been with a group touring the Holy Land, but I have no idea what their itinerary has been. I would hope they have seen many places where men have built churches denoting activities in His life – the birth in Bethlehem, first miracle in Capernaum, the well in Samaria where a woman recognized Him and changed her life.

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. (John 4:25-26)

I would imagine they visited Galilee where He called fishermen to be fishers of men, and they succeeded.

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)

They will not, however, visit a grave that holds any portion of His body.

And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. (Mark 16:6)

I do hope they have a stop at Caesarea. The floor Paul stood upon before Felix and said:

But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets: And have hope toward God, which they themselves also allow, that there shall be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust. (Acts 24:14-15)

Felix listened, and trembled:

And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee. (Acts 24:25)

But – there was no record of there being a convenient season for Felix. Christ, along with His message, is often deemed inconvenient.

Perhaps their trip included Masada, the last redoubt of the Jews before the Romans crushed their rebellion. The last portion of a nation until almost two millennia pass and the state of Israel is recreated. It did not exist when these two visiting couples were born.

They come home to us with experiences to share, photographs to show, and we will learn more about the people and the land God chose to spread His word and be the example to all mankind. I’m looking forward to that!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Thinking About Easter

When we speak of our Lord, we reach back into the scriptures for words that help explain where we are now. Paul did that, too:

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But I say, Have they not heard? Yes verily, their sound went into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the world. (Romans 10:16-18)

Paul quoted a chapter Christians point to as describing our Savior. He most certainly saw these verses as portraying the Messiah he had seen with his own eyes. Spend a few moments with Isaiah’s prophecy:

For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:2-6)

After Jesus, some scholars looked upon this as a prophecy applying to Jeremiah, or Josiah or even to the Jewish people as a whole. I don’t see any of that, of course, when I read:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7-9)

Pilate recognized an innocent man standing before him – he had done no violence, told no lies, had given truth. His grave was provided by a rich man.

When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathaea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: He went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, And laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed. (Matthew 27:57-60)

Paul had studied scriptures his entire life. He knew why Christ died, what Isaiah meant and shared that in his letter:

Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (Philippians 2:5-9)

Thursday, March 14, 2013

How’s Your Appetite?

Our Youth Minister’s toddler has a good appetite. It has grown over the months of his life. At first, his appetite was for milk. His Dad told us he's progressed through Cheerios to ‘Nilla Wafers, and has a definite appetite for them. He has not progressed to the finer cuts of meat and would not appreciate an excellent cut of prime rib. I would. The toddler was the first example in Wednesday night's lesson.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. (1 Corinthians 3:1-2 KJV)

Yep – we’re still in 1 Corinthians – you remember from yesterday, a church divided in loyalty to men. Paul is still explaining to them that he does understand their situation – they are carnal Christians. We know that because he addresses them as brethren, though he could not speak to them of spiritual truths.

For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? (1 Corinthians 3:3 KJV)

He does not question their salvation. He knows they love the Lord, though they love the men who led them to Him, too.  Enough that they identify with those men. Paul returns to the subject of verse 12 in chapter 1:

For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? (1 Corinthians 3:4 KJV)

How is your appetite for meat? For the spiritual meat that we are able to bear when we move from carnal to spiritual:

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11-12 KJV)

Paul gives us the result of carnal in Christians – envying, strife, divisions. Seeking affirmation from the one who brought them to Christ, not from Christ.

Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? (1 Corinthians 3:5 KJV)

The men who led us to the Lord, who spoke His words to us and helped us understand them, are not the One we worship.

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. (1 Corinthians 3:6 KJV)

That’s the spiritual part of it all – God gave the increase. God gave us His grace, His mercy – not the person who led us to Him.

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13 KJV)

Listen to the spiritual, not the carnal. Ignore the envy, do not participate in the strife and never allow divisions to keep us from the spiritual meat that is laid before us. Grow that appetite!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Beyond Sermons

Yesterday I had every intention of writing about Sunday’s sermon, but Paul’s story is so moving. I do wander at times, yet return to study what has been given, and Sunday’s sermon is a good example. I take notes during sermons and lessons. I’m not sitting there just to listen or fill a spot in a congregation. I’m there to learn. For me, there’s homework involved.

I appreciate the ministers in our church who give expository sermons. These offer opportunity to continue the analysis and seek further evidence in the explanation of the scriptures. It’s a far cry from some unbeliever’s view that Christians do not or cannot reason. In-depth research is generated and lively discussions ensue. Often, there is discord, but it should be very short lived. Paul explains why:

Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10)

Corinthians had an advantage – they had Paul and other very good preachers. We have an advantage, too – the writings the apostles left us regarding Jesus, the gospel, the church, the Revelation. Mankind has failed to take all of that and maintain a close relationship with God. We would rather align ourselves in cliques, as Corinth:

Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. (1 Corinthians 1:12)

If we don’t add such labels, the world is quick to apply them. And, there remain such divisions among churches. It appears Paul did not want his name connected to such fracturing:

Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? (1 Corinthians 1:13)

Paul describes elsewhere Christians’ common purpose:

Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5-6)

We should understand this purpose when we hear preaching:

For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, … (1 Corinthians 1:22-23a)

Paul knew the difficulties in preaching that message:

… unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; (1 Corinthians 1:23b)

Paul understood fully why he preached – and why preaching is necessary today:

For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

Back to Romans, where Paul expands on preaching – and the message of salvation it brings to all:

For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 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 10:13-15)

Find a church where the Bible is read, studied, preached and treated as the word of God. There you will find glad tidings of good things!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Born Out Of Due Time

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, (1 Corinthians 1:1)

He wrote more books of our Bible than any other apostle. Some of them wrote none. As I was going over notes from Sunday’s sermon in 1 Corinthians 1, I was struck as to how Paul had so much to overcome in convincing people, which makes his witness so much the greater.

Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;) (Galatians 1:1)

Paul had not been convinced by the witness of men. Stephen’s impassioned telling of the gospel did not impress him, though Stephen had impeccable credentials:

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people. (Acts 6:8)

Yet, Stephen died, while Paul not only watched but was complicit in the execution.

And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. (Acts 7:58)
And Saul was consenting unto his death. And at that time there was a great persecution against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria, except the apostles. (Acts 8:1)

Think a church would hire him to be their minister? But, he didn’t stop there:

As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison. (Acts 8:3)

Doing that locally wasn’t enough. Saul enlarged his coast, his goal stretched wider:

And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)

Unlike Moses, who said he could not give a speech, or Jonah, who just ran away, we have no indication of Saul listening to God’s calling after witnessing the gospel. Why was Saul given what no other received after Jesus’ death – apostleship:

And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven: And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? (Acts 9:3-4)

My personal opinion is that he was called to do exactly what he did – witness to Jesus’ ability to change lives. Yes, the other apostles changed, and they witnessed, but not as dramatically as Paul:

And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: (1 Corinthians 15:8-10a)

We, too, can be the recipients of that same grace. The ability to change lives is in God, not the passion of men. Paul endured the same punishment he had been intent on giving to believers simply because he believed. Or do we fear that grace?

Monday, March 11, 2013

A Day Late

If I were to pick up a time-wasting cause, it would be Daylight Savings Time. You cannot take the top three inches of a skirt, tack it on the bottom and say the skirt is longer. As well as being nonsensical, it is confusing, according to NBC:
Not everybody goes along with the plan. Arizona sticks with Mountain Standard Time, which turns out to be the same as Pacific Daylight Time. (The Navajo Nation, however, goes along with the summertime switch.) Hawaii and U.S. possessions such as American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are also staying on standard time.
Most European countries don't switch to summer time until the last weekend in March. That means the usual time difference will be out of sync for three weeks.
At least I didn’t post this Sunday – it was too early in the morning. The rest of the week we have no morning appointments and will wake when we wake. In three weeks we will need to be at the hospital at 8:30, following what amounts to a two-hour drive (a stop for a morning treat and join the flow of morning traffic) and we will notice – seriously notice – that hour’s difference.

As with many others across our nation, some in Utah don’t think it’s a true money saver, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. William Shughart agrees with me: 
“I think it’s a tyrannical action by the Federal government … There are many costs of DST both to human health and to the economy and absolutely no benefits. No argument justifies the cost of DST."
That’s my annual rant against Benjamin Franklin’s solution – take the top of the skirt and take it on to the bottom and call it fixed.

Then I realize that no matter what Mr. Shughart or I think, this isn’t going to get changed. It’s slightly better than the Chinese solution of one time zone for their entire country. Can you imagine our entire country living on New York time? There are other, much more important things that do require our attention and have a great effect on our lives.

My voice shalt thou hear in the morning, O LORD; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up. (Psalms 5:3 KJV)

It’s truth, not cliché, the sun will come up in the morning and I have made commitments to my Lord for His mornings.

This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalms 118:24 KJV)

Whatever the clocks say, each day was made by our Lord and we should rejoice in it. Even when legislators seem a little silly to morning people.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Maturity Levels

My boss gave me this book when he gave me the most interesting job I’ve ever had. There are many things in here that helped me in that job, but a lot of them are applicable to life, especially Christian life, too.
One of the first is found on page five, Process Maturity Levels:
    • Initial
    • Repeatable
    • Defined
    • Managed
    • Optimized
It reminds me of Paul’s:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Becoming a man is a process, too. Unfortunately, not everyone gets beyond the Initial steps. As Humphrey puts it: “Until the process is under statistical control, orderly progress in process improvement is not possible.” Think of a toddler’s progress in walking – there is measurable control before there is an orderly walking.

Now, apply those principles to a Christian’s growth. Can’t be done until there is measurable discipline in studying God’s word. Without learning more, there is no Repeatable progress. Staying as a new Christian memorizing only John 3:16 will not provide growth.

The church, even though it has become a pejorative, as organized religion has Defined the “process as a basis for consistent implementation and better understanding. At this point advanced technology can usefully be introduced.”  Now that’s where Humphrey and I agree, though he’s talking software and I’m talking about Christian growth. Maybe it is the software technician in me that appreciates “consistent implementation and better understanding,” but that’s the goal a church has for new Christians.

Now we get to Managed – Humphrey tells us “this is when the most significant quality improvements begin.” Applied to Christians, this is when we grow fruit, when we allow God to become the manager of our lives and we heed the plans He has.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

Then we really display the fruits of the Spirit:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

At this point we can begin Optimizing – our foundation is firm and we provide favorable results dealing with all people, not just those we like. A truly optimized Christian loves everyone:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (John 13:34-35)

That’s what we’re supposed to teach the world – best done by example:

Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:20)

Now, that’s the gospel truth!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

What Shall I Do?

Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. (Matthew 27:22)

Secular history confirms the existence of Judea’s governor during Roman occupation. The inscription above reads:
This building - Tiberium
By Pontius Pilatus
Prefect of Judea
Has been built

I’ve always found it strange that a group of men could drag a woman through a city, collecting stones along the way, to confront Jesus with a question of law – yet it took a Roman Prefect to sentence a man to death. The Jewish leaders were condemning Him for blasphemy – for saying He was equal to God. Yet Roman law was necessary to put Him to death. Convoluted, wasn’t it? We do much the same, though.

So many people echo Pilate’s response to his question “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” :

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. (Matthew 27:24)

That’s the easiest thing to do. “Not my problem.” “Doesn’t concern me.” “I don’t want to think about it.” “I don’t have time.” There are so many answers, when the one Christians give is:

And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God. (John 6:69)

Pilate had beliefs about Jesus:

Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man. (Luke 23:4)

He did not follow through on this belief.

The question stands before each of us at least once in our lives, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” In evangelical churches it is heard often so that everyone has ample opportunity to publicly state their decision.

That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

Having heard the message, and having decided to do nothing, many will stay away from churches so that they are no longer faced with the question. They’ve made their decision, as Pilate, to have nothing to do with this man.

There is no clear history that tells us what Pilate’s life was after his tenure in Judea. The Bible does not address his life after Christ’s resurrection, so the inference is he had no additional interaction with Christians. Later writers speculate that Roman authorities sent him west into Europe, but there’s no documentation to show history was accurately written.

I’d like to think that if Pilate had acted upon the witness given to him, his conversion would have been as important as Paul’s. A man who stood before Christ, asked if He were a king and still had to ask:

Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? (John 18:38a)

May those who today ask that same question find their answer in Christ.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Afraid Of Reading It?

The graphic is the Angers Tapestry, created in the fourteenth century and considered by a French historian  "one of the great artistic interpretations of the revelation of Saint John, and one of the masterpieces of French cultural heritage". Click on the graphic to see its story on Wikipedia.

Wednesday night we had a substitute teacher – our pastor left that morning for a tour of Israel – and his lesson was on the first chapter of Revelation. He made a comment that I’ve heard before, from loved ones who have a firm foundation in Bible study and love for our Lord:

“I was afraid of the book of Revelation.”

I must admit, I have been, too. The “rest of the story” tells of physical wars, not just spiritual ones. It tells of hunger, pain and death. We would prefer not to know, or even think about, this. The very first chapter, however, promises one thing that no other book in the Bible does:

Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. (Revelation 1:3)

The rest of that first chapter simply describes the who, what, when and why of any news story:
The Who comes down to two characters – the writer is an imprisoned John:

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 1:9)

The author, the speaker in the book, is:

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. (Revelation 1:8)

Though it may lay before you as a physically open book, there is as much unrevealed as there is a revelation. It reminds me of what Peter wrote:

Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into. (1 Peter 1:12)

Much was written of the Messiah, yet He remained unrecognized by so many that He was crucified – which was part of God’s plan.

But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. (1 Corinthians 2:7-8)

Oh, yes, angels would have desired to look into this! Yet, we take a step back when we are given the Revelation (there’s no ‘s’ on that, either – it’s not plural) spoken by God, experienced by and written by John.

Have we not heard – do we not believe:

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. (Luke 2:10)

Take time to be blessed by the reading of this book.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Rich Men

Their stories are just a chapter apart, but I hadn’t noticed that, even reading through the Bible. A few words, short physical difference, similarities, vastly different outcomes. We meet the first one:

And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? (Luke 18:18)

Then, the second:

And, behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus, which was the chief among the publicans, and he was rich. And he sought to see Jesus who he was; and could not for the press, because he was little of stature. (Luke 19:2-3)

The first one was able to get close to Jesus, the second could only see Him from a distance. The first asked his question, and received the answer he expected:

Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these have I kept from my youth up. (Luke 18:20-21)

Which do we like better, hearing sermons where our actions are praiseworthy – or ones that tell us we have either failed or we should be doing better? I would suspect that his ruler was feeling pretty good at this point, having accomplished what Jesus described.

The rest of the story didn’t go so well:

Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Yet lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. (Luke 18:22-23)

Instead of condemning the ruler, Jesus stated truth:

And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Luke 18:24-25)

Poorer people have used this as a pejorative against richer, without realizing that it is difficult for everyone to enter into the kingdom of God – riches are only one hard item. There are many others. Jesus not only tells us:

And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. (Luke 18:27)

He goes to Jericho and shows how it’s done. Zacchaeus not only invited Jesus in, he received Him joyfully and basically did what Jesus asked the ruler to do:

And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. (Luke 19:8)

One man walked away, unable to leave riches. The other gave riches away and received salvation:

And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. (Luke 19:9)

Jesus' message has not changed, nor has His purpose:

For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10)

The Church

That’s my church building. This capture was taken from the Cottondale Store when they noticed the rainbow ending right over the church. I recently posted a screen capture from Google Earth in “Which Church?” Church has been on my mind often after our “First Steps For New Christians” lesson, “ Chapter Six “The Local Church.”

This lesson covered “What is the purpose of the local church?” There were specifics:

To preach the word of God. The scripture for this item was Acts 13:5, but it’s better to start with 13:1:

Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. (Acts 13:1)

Prophets here is προφήτης, which comes from the Greek for advocate, an inspired speaker. The next verse defines the inspiration:

As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. Acts 13:2)

By verse 5, we learn:

And when they were at Salamis, they preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews: and they had also John to their minister. (Acts 13:5)

That to me is the primary work of a church. It also provides fellowship, and that's not confined to potluck suppers (which really are a good thing!)

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:42)

God provided a “good work” for a man who leads a congregation (1 Timothy 3:1-7) and instructions for members:

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you. (Hebrews 13:17)

It is in the church that we practice baptism and observe the Lord’s Supper. For Baptists, baptism is required for church membership, and is required as the congregation partakes of the Lord’s supper.

But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. (1 Corinthians 11:28-29)

“God gave the local church the command to reach the lost through telling others,” the command to spread the gospel. That will also serve to help God’s children grow in grace which also serves to bring glory to God.

The church is the ideal place to disciple new believers and to mature new Christians.

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

It is also the place to restore sinful members to fellowship:

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:1-2)

Of course, I’ve omitted many excellent verses the chapter uses for these bolded topics. Each of those verses provide an opportunity for growth as they are studied in God’s word – which speaks so much better than I do. Ephesians 3:17-21 says it best, for me – God glorified.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Angel Martinez

I posted most of this last week on Facebook, so if it sounds familiar, you may have heard it before. ‎Daniel Coates, a missionary our church helps support, posted a video that reminded me of a sermon I heard. Can you remember a sermon you heard more than 50 years ago?

I can remember a story from a sermon during a Billy Graham Crusade at Tulsa University's stadium in the late 1950's. No, not his sermon -- the one given that night by Angel Martinez. If you haven't heard of Angel, take a moment to read a bio or click on his above picture to listen to some of his sermons.

What I remember is him talking about his conversion as a young teen. He said that when he prepared his first sermon he had seventeen talking points, but he'd learned a lot and that night's sermon wouldn't be as long.
That's about all I remember - except for one personal story about food.

Angel explained that being raised in San Antonio, but doing most of his evangelical preaching in Baptist churches in the South, he missed the spiciness of his home cooking. Southern home cooking is good, but he would carry chili peppers with him to crumble on his plate for a taste of home.

He told of being in a small country Baptist church and after the services he was invited to lunch with a deacon and his family and some guests. The weather was nice, so there was a long table outside where the meal was served. Angel said there were about ten people down each side of the table. The deacon sat at the head of the table and Angel at the foot.

The deacon noticed Angel adding his peppers and asked what they were. Angel got up, took three of them in hand, walked down the side of the table and explained about his home cooking and how the peppers were the flavor of his heritage, then handed them to the deacon and started back. Before he could complete his explanation of how it took an experienced stomach to eat small bites, the deacon plopped them in his mouth and started chewing.

I've wondered if those were Habanero peppers since I've learned more about Tex-Mex cooking.

The immediate response was the deacon's reaching for his glass of tea. Insufficient, he reached for the tea pitcher. It didn't quench the fire, either.

Being on a farm, the deacon headed for the well, drew a bucket of water and actually poured it over his head while the people around the table sat awe struck. Finally, he returned to the table and said:

"Angel, I've known a lot of preachers who preached about hell. You're the first one I've known who carried a sample with him."

We often ignore hell and the truth about it. Jesus didn’t:

Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? (Matthew 23:33)

John was inspired to write of it:

And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:14-15)

Thanks be to God for His gift, that we need not experience hell, but preachers should never forget to remind us - it exists.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Present Tense

Are we worshiping God in the past or future? When we read the Bible do we see what He has done, what has been promised and look forward to His return, our eternal life – and overlook the present?
When Moses asked:

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? (Exodus 3:13)

God was not confined to the past nor to the future:

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. (Exodus 3:14)

Present tense.

Jesus taught this present tense:

But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. (Matthew 22:31-32)

We are just as surprised by that today as His listeners were then:

And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at his doctrine. (Matthew 22:33)

His doctrine remains astonishing – when we think about it. Unfortunately, that’s not been often enough in my life. I’ve looked upon Him as history – what He’d done for others as told to us through the Old Testament into the New. I could give examples of what was done for Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – and the list went on and on, through the apostle’s letter.

I can tell you how I’ve been blessed by reading John’s Revelation, looking to the future with a triumphant return and gathering of His children. We sing of mansions in heaven, unclouded days and standing to be divided before His throne.

But, what about the present tense. The now of the I AM?

I must admit my life was segmented – the first ten years, pretty much dependent upon my parent’s for church activities, and there were none. For the next twenty years, there was a lot – several times a week as a teen, young adult, young married, young mother. Then, sporadic attendance after a move, followed by another move with even less activity or acknowledgement of His lordship.

Fifteen years ago, though, we found a church where the Bible is preached and there are ministries where everyone can be of service in our Lord’s work.

That’s present tense. When Christians are unceasingly aware of His presence there are opportunities for service and sharing His word. There are fellow believers to discuss, exhort, explain, question, answer, do – all of those things that were written about in the Bible.

The world was looking for the Messiah, and Jesus confirmed who he was to a woman at a well:

The woman saith unto him, I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things. Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he. (John 4:25-26)

When she knew, she acted and told others. We should, too, in the present.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


In last Wednesday’s lesson on 1 John 4, Pastor made a statement that had me questioning what I thought I knew – “The word antichrist is not found in the book of Revelation.” Go ahead, do your own search, I’ll be here when you get back.

Finished? You found that John is the only biblical author that did use the word, in 1 and 2 John, but not in Revelation? Certainly not capitalized as Antichrist, either. He first says:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18)

It was not revealed to John when the last time would be, any more than it has been revealed to anyone – only our Father knows:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Matthew 24:36)

John gives three more verses explaining what an antichrist is:

Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22)

Next is the verse that was part of our lesson:

And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:3)

The first part of that chapter tells us how we can know:

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: (1 John 4:1-2)

There are huge steps in those two verses.

To believe in spirits is beyond many people. They are firmly rooted in a physical world defined by specific laws that can be seen, measured and have been tested for accuracy. A statement of belief not based on empirical evidence is considered without foundation – and the spiritual world is immeasurable.

Accepting Jesus as an historical figure, then gleaning desired attributes from His words is fairly easy. To categorically state that He is Christ, the Messiah, is much more difficult and must be done at a level of spiritual acceptance. A huge distance to span, with many detractors – many antichrists – at work to deny Jesus. Yet, the Bible tells us that is necessary.

John repeats what Christ commanded:

And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another. (2 John 1:5)

Not new at all, and from Jesus’ teachings for all:

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 22:37-40)