Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Luke 15


And he said, A certain man had two sons: (Luke 15:11 KJV)

I love this chapter. I wish I had it memorized. It begins with Pharisees complaining that Jesus received and ate with sinners. I do believe there are people in churches today who complain about the time a Christian spends with sinners without considering we all are sinners.

But Jesus didn’t tell them how sinful they were, too, He told them about seeking what was lost, then explained what joy there was in heaven when a soul recognized the need for turning their life around – and did so:

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. (Luke 15:10 KJV)

The next example, though, could be discussed until the end of time and we’d continue to find a lesson that applied to our lives. A certain man had two sons.

And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. (Luke 15:12 KJV)

He divided his living to both of them – not just giving the one his portion. Did you notice that? One received without asking. From the end of the story we know he stayed and continued working. The younger son left, and we know what he did, too.

I suspect the father knew what was going to happen, but we are not told that he tried to stop him. There’s no indication there was an intervention by the family to make the young man understand what could happen to him. There’s no verses telling us that messages went back and forth. Nothing indicates the father sent servants after him.

The son did have a memory, though it seemed to function when life was at its worst, not when he was having a good time. In a literal pigsty, he remembered his father’s house.

I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, (Luke 15:18 KJV)

I do believe that’s what it takes with our Heavenly Father, too. Just a prayer with those words from a contrite heart. We have so much more than a fatted calf waiting for us. We have a home with Him, eternally.

So, will our brothers rejoice as the angels do? Not so much:

And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him. (Luke 15:28 KJV)

Yes, we are His children. Yes, we read over and over He’s seeking the lost. No, we really don’t want to deal with the sinners that come to the church. We’d prefer to fellowship with those like us, and those sinners aren’t there – yet. Why, they don’t know the order of service; they aren’t familiar with our songs; they don’t dress as we expect; and the list goes on. Perhaps never voiced aloud, but the visitors know, don’t they?

My Bible tells me:

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

What part of that do we not understand when we look at our own lives? We won’t get it perfect until we’re home. Until then, let’s remember this father’s closing words, spoken by our Lord:

It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:32 KJV)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Not Enough Room

And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen. (John 21:25 KJV)

As we continue into the digital age, that verse still holds true. This world cannot hold all the books that contain what Jesus did – because He’s still accomplishing things today. Our Lord is not the God of the long ago events that happened to people who died, He is the God of the living – the Bible tells me so:

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 KJV)

There were witnesses, too:

And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light. And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. (Matthew 17:1-3 KJV)

He has an effect on the world today, too. Simply praying in His name is an offense to many people – a sufficient offense that lawsuits are filed, court costs paid, but we continue to pray in the name of Jesus. The Bible tells me so:

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; (Ephesians 5:19-20 KJV)

There is one book, however, that has plenty of room. It’s not contained by earth, but surrounded by heaven. Praise God, I have asked that my name be written in that book, and one day that book will be made known. The Bible tells me so:

And there shall in no wise enter into it any thing that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb's book of life. (Revelation 21:27 KJV)

Who is this Lamb? The Bible tells me so:

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 KJV)

Can you hear the echo of those words? John is standing in a wilderness. To get the attention of those around him, I believe he spoke loudly, perhaps pointing, gesturing with his hand, BEHOLD. How was this sin to be taken away? With blood. The Bible tells me so:

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 KJV)

So, we write more and more and more. From Moses until Christ returns, which the Bible tells me He will do:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 KJV)

Still, He is doing for us every day, and more will be written.

Saturday, February 15, 2014



Face-to-face speech is the best way to communicate. We get to see facial expressions, body language and look for the truth in one another’s eyes.  It does help when we speak the same language, but language changes over time, between regions and with culture.

We had a minister forty years ago, speaking to a primarily blue-collar audience, who told us we needed to be eleemosynary. I had no idea what that word meant – but I was determined to look it up. It took a while because I had no idea how it was spelled. I thought it might be the opposite of animosity since we were encouraged to have it.

I thought of it again during a meeting where I was asked if I had been able to obtain information necessary for a report. “There’s a veritable dearth of information from the field,” I said, and my audience responded with blank looks. The word that to me meant “a lack, scarcity or inadequate supply” to me was unknown to my co-workers.

All of this just to say that words often take a lot of explanation, even though they seem simple to someone who knows them. The same goes for what we see as simple concepts. They may sound ridiculous to others, unless more information is shared. Which is why there are almost 2,000 blogs I’ve posted to this website.

Oh, I have one that “explains” what I believe, but I’ve written hundreds more, each different, each quoting scriptures, sharing differing viewpoints but all with one goal – telling people how much God loves us, how much I love God and I learn more about Him through His word.

Why in the world would that be important? Why would it make any difference to me what another person believes? It all comes down to the most quoted verse – not only on my blog – that speaks of a gift and love:

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. (John 3:16 KJV)

That’s not without a condition, though. We can’t take the first part of the verse and separate it from the second. And, we can’t take God out of the verse, either. Without God, love is a fleeting desire. When we accept Him, we must learn what He has revealed in His word and what is applicable in our lives. We need to understand verses such as:

Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment? (Malachi 2:17 KJV)

Basically, Malachi is describing a people who not only do evil and call it good (much as today) but they delight in doing it and sarcastically say “Where’s God’s judgment?” Later, Malachi records what God gave him about judgment:

And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:5 KJV)

I do not look at another person’s words/actions and say, “They are wrong!” I do see another’s word/s actions, look for God’s suggestions/commandments and say, “Based on the Bible, for me to do that would be wrong.” I’d better be able to cite chapter and verse, too. I’d better be able to explain what it means to me in ordinary speech, easily understood, open and truthful as it applies to me.

Bottom line, read His word while asking Him to show how it applies to you. I can’t do that, even for those I love. I simply pray that I use understandable words that have meaning to others.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Some time off …


… the keyboard. See that “e” in the graphic? That’s the most used letter in the English alphabet. Go ahead, count how many show in just this one paragraph – and I haven’t tried to use words that have it.

I type quite a bit. Writing and editing blogs, writing e-mails to friends and relatives, doing a bit of editing for friends, and never forgetting Facebook posts and comments! All that has become problematic right now as I have an inflamed tendon that is not responding to the most benign treatment of shots and anti-inflammatory treatment.

It needs to rest for a while. I have no idea how long. If we can’t get it to work correctly without pain, we’re looking at surgery. I’d prefer to treat it nicely and see if it will return to “normal” without jumping into surgery.

So – I’ll be away from the computer for an unspecified time. I pray for your patience and continued visits, asking that you look back in the archives and pick a month/title that suits your fancy and enjoy reading some verses while my doctor and I go through this process.


Friday, February 7, 2014


Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1 KJV)

I’m scratching my head over people who want proof. I can see the need for that in a court of law, and we have rules of evidence that help present valid testimony. When it comes to believing God is, the only proof I can offer is the change that occurs in lives. Just as we view God’s words, those changed lives are viewed with filters.

My own filter includes the belief that God created the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1); that He created man to have a duty and we will be judged by our response to that duty; (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14); that He provided salvation (John 3:16) and judgment (John 3:18) . I see the world filtered by God’s word.

I pray I do not see God’s word through another person’s filter! I must take care to see it through reading it myself with a prayerful attitude, not filtering through traditions which resulted from man’s interpretation:

This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. (Matthew 15:8-9 KJV)

I do not wish to be a theologian, with a “systematic and rational study of concepts of God and of the nature of religious truths.” I want what Micah describes:

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? (Micah 6:8 KJV)

I do believe there is very much more to God than we can possible know:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 KJV)

I respect Saint Augustine’s quotes:

"God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand you have failed."

“Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that you may understand."

That’s where faith comes in, the only evidence I am able to display that God exists. I cannot show my faith by my Bible reading, though. I cannot show my faith by the quotation of scriptures. Neither can it be displayed by any ability to answer questions or make lists. James realized this fact:

Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:18-20 KJV)

Is what I’m doing for myself? Or is it done to show God’s love for others? Do I see needs as described in James 2:14-16, or do I respond to those need with action? Isn’t that the same as God’s judgment?

Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. (Matthew 25:41-43 KJV)

Where is our filter set? What changes do we see? What have we changed?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

“We” Sailed Away

These going before tarried for us at Troas. And we sailed away from Philippi after the days of unleavened bread, and came unto them to Troas in five days; where we abode seven days. (Acts 20:5-6 KJV)

The stories in Acts about Paul’s travels are seen from two different views – hearing about them from Paul or others, and being there with Paul as he traveled.  In these verses, the Luke joins Paul. He doesn’t give his name, but we know he’s with Paul when he writes, “we sailed away.”

Have you ever wanted to travel with a missionary? Many visit our church, sharing their experiences. Some have been on the mission field for years, others are going through what we term the deputation process – preparing to go. And, yes, I’ve wanted to travel with some of them.

Not all destinations are welcoming now any more than they were in Paul’s time. There are many places today where speaking scriptures publicly is against local laws. There are pastors in prison today for speaking aloud their love for Christ and His love for others. We help support a missionary whose name I cannot write, whose travels I cannot share because it could cost him his life.

Their crimes are the same as Paul’s – obeying Jesus’ words to His disciples:

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 KJV)

From the Bible we know that Paul had some support from churches, but he had viable craft as a tent maker in a land where tents were home:

And found a certain Jew named Aquila, born in Pontus, lately come from Italy, with his wife Priscilla; (because that Claudius had commanded all Jews to depart from Rome:) and came unto them. And because he was of the same craft, he abode with them, and wrought: for by their occupation they were tentmakers. (Acts 18:2-3 KJV)

Last summer (and planned again for this summer) the youth in our church will go to camp several states away. They spent one night with a missionary, a church planter, and had an opportunity to be of help to him, the new church and get a taste of what it means to go and teach.

Several years ago my daughter and her husband vacationed in another country. They located a church in a nearby city that was started by a missionary. They, too had a taste of what it means to go and teach by seeing results.

We are all called of God. Some respond, some do not. Of those who do, a small number give their lives to go and teach. They really aren’t dependent upon us, for the Lord will provide what is needed to accomplish His purpose. It is we who are blessed by supporting them – financially, as it is written:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (2 Corinthians 9:7-8 KJV)

And, always with prayer support. Don’t confine this to foreign missions – your pastor is called for just such a purpose:

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 KJV)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Please, Lord, Send Cornelius


Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate, (Acts 10:17 KJV)

After our Lord’s resurrection, there were miracles happening that caused the gospel to spread quickly and with a fervor borne by eyewitnesses. In Acts 9, we read of Jesus’ appearance to Saul and the resulting change in his life, but in Acts 10, we read of a miracle that I’ve seen happen in lives around me – a message is heard, and an explanation is given.

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: (Acts 10:1-5 KJV)

Here we have a devout man – we are not told he’s a follower of Jesus, but he prayed to God always. And, God sent a messenger to him. As with most others in this same situation, he was afraid, but he followed the instructions and sent to Joppa for Peter.

As those sent approached Joppa, Peter was given a vision, too:

On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. (Acts 10:9-16 KJV)

When God speaks the same thing three times, I will not ignore it!! If it’s not clear, I’ll be in prayer for clarification. If it is clear, I’ll be following instructions (with some trepidation, I must admit.) According to my first verse – Peter’s understanding wasn’t clear – even though it was shown three times. But, why think about it when Cornelius’ men showed up and he was to return with them? Upon his arrival, it became clear:

And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. (Acts 10:28 KJV)

That’s why I’m asking the Lord to send us our own Cornelius – give us the message and teach us what we need to learn to serve at our best.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Woe and Extol

[I have a guest writer this morning. Second Daughter was discussing her morning Bible reading this weekend. I asked her to share, and she did:]

My morning reading in Proverbs was chapter 23.  The following verses spoke to me specifically.

Proverbs 23:29-35 KJV

Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? [30] They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. [31] Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. [32] At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. [33] Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. [34] Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. [35] They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

These verses remind me so much of my life before salvation.  Alcohol and drugs destroy lives and families; only by the grace of God are we healing from a life so destructive.

We tend to compare ourselves with others.  When you're down in despair you think that no one knows what you're going through and you think that you have it worse than anyone else. I have learned that when you really get to know people you will find sometimes your life seems so much better than theirs, even in your own misery. Then there's always someone else who is looking at your life and thinking 'Wow my situation is so much better than theirs'. I don't have it too bad.’  And so on and so on, we continue in this destructive spiral.

As I was reading my Proverb this morning verse 35 says 'they have beaten me and I felt it not' I was reminded of a young lady I met that was an alcoholic/cocaine addict married to an addict.  Her husband had come home high and passed out in the living room; she laid down an old blanket and rolled him in it.  Then she got her cast iron skillet and proceeded to beat him with it. She then unrolled him, threw away the blanket and left him there. In the morning she came in and woke him up and said 'Wow, what happened to you last night'.  He said ' I don't know, I don't remember anything.' While in therapy she confessed to the beating . You should have seen the look on his face.

Then I went to my reading in Psalms and this was the passage. And is my life now.

Psalm 30:1-12 KJV

I will extol thee, O Lord ; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. [2] O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. [3] O Lord , thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit. [4] Sing unto the Lord , O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. [5] For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. [6] And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved. [7] Lord , by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. [8] I cried to thee, O Lord ; and unto the Lord I made supplication. [9] What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth? [10] Hear, O Lord , and have mercy upon me: Lord , be thou my helper. [11] Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness; [12] To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.

What a contrast!  When the devil tells me I haven't changed. God shows me just how much I have.  I am a work in progress. May I never forget where I have come from, only so that I can see how far God has brought me.

Now I see people differently too.  I don't compare my life to theirs. I compare it to Christ's.  That is my goal. To be like Christ.  I do not want people to see me, they need to see Jesus.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Which Church?

Oakland Church
People have strong feelings about the church that holds their membership. Obviously they chose it over all the other nearby churches – and in America there are a lot from which to choose. We might, however, take a look at the churches God examined. Don’t think of them as being “ages” of His Church theologians describe, think of them as the one holding your membership. Where would it fit?

Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. (Revelation 1:11 KJV)

Ephesus sounds good for a while, but our first love must be God:

I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. (Revelation 2:2-4 KJV)

Smyrna receives some good points, but has non-believers working against the church:

I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan. (Revelation 2:9 KJV)

Pergamos’ faith is extolled, but there are those who lead the faithful away and block God’s work:

I know thy works, and where thou dwellest, even where Satan's seat is: and thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth. But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. (Revelation 2:13-14 KJV)

Thyatira is a good church, too, but allows one person’s error to be applied to the church:

I know thy works, and charity, and service, and faith, and thy patience, and thy works; and the last to be more than the first. Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed unto idols. (Revelation 2:19-20 KJV)

Sardis comes out a little better than the previous and although their works are not perfect, they are encouraged to hold fast:

… I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. (Revelation 3:1b-3 KJV)

Philadelphia!!  That’s my goal:

I know thy works: behold, I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it: for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name. (Revelation 3:8 KJV)

Laodicea? With a sense of security? Living is easy and prosperous? Sound familiar?

I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: (Revelation 3:15-17 KJV)

Don't stop reading here, please.  There’s much, much more in the second and third chapters of Revelation about these churches and the Lord’s reaction to them. How similar are they to today’s churches? What changes in our lives can help us be as Sardis? Or, Philadelphia? Why should we?

He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. (Revelation 3:22 KJV)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Author of Faith

This past week I was reading a friend’s Facebook post:

The only thing that the Lord does with your Faith is to perfect it.

Another friend, corrected:

I suppose that's after He has authored it?

That wasn’t an original idea, as she gave the scriptural basis for her question:

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 KJV)

The Bible has a lot to say about faith. We need to know what it is, how to have it and know when we do.  For me, the main reason for having faith is:

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

Two hundred and thirty one verses in the Kings James version mention faith – and only two of them in the Old Testament, though Jesus spoke of it often – both lacking and having:

Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? (Matthew 6:30 KJV)

When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. (Matthew 8:10 KJV)

Go ahead, look up those verses in context. Study to see what was happening – who did Jesus say had little faith, and who had great? Where did the conversations take place? Why was He talking to them? What were they asking? That’s all part of Bible study, the knowing where verses fit, what audience heard them and how/why they apply in our lives today. That’s how faith comes:

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

It is not my preacher I trust, it is the scripture he shares that I study that I trust. It is not the author of our Sunday School lessons that I trust, it is comparing what is written with what the Bible says. Oh, those lessons are helpful, just as I hope what I write here is helpful, because they send people to the Bible to see if this is true.

The book of Hebrews gives excellent examples of faith, and tells us why it is important:

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

The phrase “By faith” is used in sixteen verses in Hebrews, along with the example of a person who had faith to follow God. You see, it’s a two part equation – faith requires following. James gets specific (please take time to study his whole book):

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

The faith Christ authors in us requires obedience to God’s will. The first sign of that obedience in my life was baptism. It was an outward sign of an inward change – I believed Jesus when He said we cannot reach God without Him:

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

I believe He was baptized by John as an example of obedience, for He was perfection:

Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. (Matthew 3:13-15 KJV)

That’s the first work of showing faith. Learn more.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Christian Home

Oakland Church
My daughter tells me she wasn’t raised in a Christian home – and she’s right.

Did her parents consider themselves Christian? Absolutely.  Did we attend church? Some of the time. Were scriptures read? Yes. Studied? No. Was application made to daily lives? No. I could go on, but the best explanation was written in How To Raise A Pagan Kid In A Christian Home. That article struck home. What is a Christian?

A church is a mixture of people of different growth, differing patterns of fruit. Different understandings of how to answer the question, “What is a Christian.” The Bible tells us the word’s origin:

Then departed Barnabas to Tarsus, for to seek Saul: And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. (Acts 11:25-26 KJV)

What Barnabas and Paul did, taught people, earned them the name “Christians.” Although it’s only used two other times in the Bible, the word must have spread for King Agrippa to have known when to use it:

Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian. (Acts 26:28 KJV)

Mostly, though, the New Testament writers used the word “brother” when speaking of like-minded believers in Jesus, as Christ and their savior. John pretty much describes what I expect Christians to be:

And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. (1 John 2:3-5 KJV)

Jesus’ examples of how to live are many, but His commandments are few. He specifically defined the two foundational commandments for all the law:

Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37-40 KJV)

Later, He gave one more, a step closer than loving one’s neighbor:

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. (John 13:34 KJV)

There are many lists in the Bible that define what is sin, what separates us from God. Paul gave us such a list:

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21 KJV)

It’s easier to see those things in other people, but acknowledging them in our own lives is more difficult. We also tend to apply different weight to sins – murder much worse than wrath – based on our own sinful nature. We much more easily see another’s hatred, strife or heresy and more likely not love them because of it. We need to tend to our own sinfulness, then we can love the unlovable, as God does.

Though we were not then where we are now, we were trying, with little fruit and a lot of room for growth. Now we know to look for Christ in God’s word, in scripture, with a heart prepared to admit sins and sharing His love. Not simply advocating living a moral life, but being Christian.