Monday, March 28, 2016

Revisiting History


I’m revisiting the story of Corrie ten Boom as she wrote it herself in “The Hiding Place.” Just a third into the book, I’ve found several reminders of things I’ve known – and a remembrance of a quote the world cannot (it seems) remember:
Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
George Santayana
We remember how horrible the violence of war is – we see it daily but we no longer call it war. Because it is fought differently than the last century, we would like to believe it is something else. It isn’t.

Nearly 80 decades ago, a young woman was given a truth by her father and she shared it with others after she had seen more violence than living generations can imagine. Corrie and her sister Betsie prayed as their country capitulated to Germany and discussed a vision, Betsie said:
"I don't know . . .  But if God has shown us bad times ahead, it's enough for me that He knows about them. That's why He sometimes shows us things, you know - to tell us that this too is in His hands."
Jesus’ disciples must have felt worse than these two Dutch ladies as their dreams evaporated on the cross. Three years of listening to His preaching. Three years of miracles. Three years of confirming in their own minds that the Messiah was there to restore Israel, to throw off the burden of Roman rule – only to see Him die right in front of them.

Rome was transitory. Hitler lasted an even shorter period of time. Kingdoms rose and fell, kings’ heads rolled and nations built on individual rights or workers’ common goals lasted no longer. Why we could possibly believe our world is different in the least is beyond me.

Yet, three days after His death, His disciples began to understand they had instructions to follow:

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)

They sort of forgot that and began looking to His promised return. Once again, they put their hopes and fears into what they wanted, not what God had in mind. Through the book of Acts we see them learn more and more about the future – often through visions, just as Corrie ten Boom.

Why? Because God is omniscient.

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)

Paul came to understand that God’s grace is sufficient to see His children through life (II Corinthians 12:9) And that Jesus endured the cross because He knew what was coming:

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)

What we need to know, God has revealed. While we do not know what each day will bring us, there is much in the Bible that has not yet occurred. Take time to read about the past, the future and what is available to each of us. And, if you have some time, spend a bit of it in Corrie ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place.”

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Here It is!

Antonius_Kloster_BW_15_Retouched -tombEaster
By Antonius_Kloster_BW_15.jpg: Berthold Werner

For me, this is the second most Holy Day I look forward to in celebration. Christmas is the third. This day is set apart to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. It is the whole reason for telling people about Jesus.

Oh, the doctrine He taught is worthy of attention, even by those who do not believe in His deity. That’s been true since He preached to people who were astonished at his doctrine (Matthew 7:28, Matthew 22:33, Mark 1:22, Mark 11:18, Luke 4:32) – note that only one of those indicates the fear in those who should have been expecting Him.

Paul was one of those who were working to put a stop to His preaching, stopping His doctrine. He felt strong enough that he would kill to keep this doctrine from spreading. It took meeting Jesus himself on the road to Damascus – after the resurrection. Paul understood that the resurrection proved every bit of the doctrine He taught.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:16-17)

Two verses later he explains how this prospect should impact Jesus’ followers:

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. (1 Corinthians 15:19)

I know there are people who do not believe the resurrection is a fact. Those whose belief ends as this life ends, nothing remaining except accepted scientific theories that we are but accidental entities, matter that really does not matter. Or those who do not believe there could possibly be a Creator who loves His creation enough to provide for each individual and worship another or others without that love.

It’s that love that planned from the beginning of creation:

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)

Paul changed his mind after speaking directly with the risen Jesus. He no longer doubted the resurrection any more than the soldiers standing guard:

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. And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. (Matthew 28:1-4)

The stone was not rolled back to allow Jesus to depart but to allow His followers to see that it was empty. He had risen. The resurrection was complete, as the angel pointed out:

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

He is risen. He is risen indeed! (Luke 24:34)

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Sabbath

I’ve been reading about the week between Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus’ ride into Jerusalem:

On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord. (John 12:12-13 KJV)

And Resurrection Sunday:

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 KJV)

I’ve also been reading what I would consider a pilpul, a Hebrew word from the late nineteenth century meaning to “search or debate.” The question is – why “Good Friday” when the Bible tells us Jesus was three days in the tomb. No – I’m not going to get into that question now, nor am I going to talk about where the tomb used for His burial might be. There are a couple of candidates, and that debate continues, too. Those questions are for theologians who wish to know answers that are not readily available.

My focus is that Jesus was entombed the day of His death. The Gospel writers are specific that Jesus was crucified, died on the cross (Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, John 19:28-30) and was buried (Matthew 27:57-61, Mark 15:42-47, Luke 23:50-56, John 19:38-42).

On that Sabbath following the crucifixion, there is no doubt He was  in the borrowed grave. Matthew tells us that those who called for His death were aware of His prophecies – and it worried them:

Now the next day, that followed the day of the preparation, the chief priests and Pharisees came together unto Pilate, Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest his disciples come by night, and steal him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead: so the last error shall be worse than the first. (Matthew 27:62-64 KJV)

That last bit is somewhat telling: “the last error shall be worse than the first.” At least someone was aware that Jesus’ death was an error – and that His resurrection would be worse. Especially for the Sadducees, who did not believe in eternal life, but they are not mentioned here. It’s the Pharisees who are concerned that Jesus resurrection – whether real or perceived – would be an error worse than his death.

That first day of the week is what I celebrate each Sunday with a congregation that sings praises for God’s great gift – the son that caused John the Baptist to boldly state:

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)

That includes mine! What a beautiful celebration it is each Sunday – but this one tomorrow is the annual celebration, the most focused of each year. It was the completion of the promise of Christmas, where angels proclaimed:

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:11 KJV)

It is the answer to the jailer’s question:

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. (Acts 16:31 KJV)


Friday, March 25, 2016



Last December 26, Texas experienced four seasons in one day. This [which no longer displays - I'm sorry] graphic showed up on FB, but it really didn’t explain that as we sat in our house in one spot, we had a warm day followed by rain followed by a tornado watch (that turned into a valid warning for Rowlett) followed by a winter storm that laid down ice. It took two days for us to experience all of that, but it certainly was real.

Weather stations were able to forecast because the had learned the signs of coming changes. There were warnings available because people paid attention, used technological tools and shared the information.

Christian (should?) do that, too. We’ve been given signs that will forecast changes:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be . . . . (2 Timothy 3:1-5 KJV)

Today we are closer to Christ’s return simply because another day has passed, as have thousands upon thousands since His resurrection, so we can continue to look forward to times that shall come. Now look at the description of men in verses 1-5 that Paul gives us:

Lovers of their own selves,
disobedient to parents,
Without natural affection,
false accusers,
despisers of those that are good,
lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof

No – I’m going into detail about each one of those attributes. But putting them in list format does make each one of them stand out. Please take a moment to look over that list and tell me if there is one item on there you do not see in our world today.

For me, the last two are the saddest. Putting pleasure before God could be at the beginning, especially since it breaks the first commandment. But the last is the scariest. To deny the power of God does come easily, doesn’t it? We can say He’s simply not interested in everything we do and we haven’t had punishment when we did deny Him, but we know we are deceiving ourselves.

“Without natural affection” is explained as:
The verb στέργω is "to love," used primarily of the natural affection of parents to their children and children to their parents. And στοργή is that natural love. These persons were without this στοργή, of which Plato says, "A child loves his parents, and is loved by them;"
Christians should be as filled with love as they are filled with God:

He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:8-11 KJV)

Showing God’s love in our lives will take care of the other items on the list, too, won’t it? But if we find those who will not respond to love, what are we to do?

. . . from such turn away. (2 Timothy 3:5b KJV)

Things may appear to be slow, but they can happen as quickly as the graphic above. Besides, aren’t we asking Him to come quickly?

He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20 KJV)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

The Bible Says He Did

I finished the book “And He Healed Them All”, mentioned in an earlier blog. Those exact words are used in Matthew 12:15, but the concept is the same in Matthew 4:24, Luke 4:40, and Luke 6:17. It’s different from the healing scenes where the person is described, the healing is given and there is a result – such as the healing of the ten leprous men in Luke 17:11-19, with an odd result:

And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? (Luke 17:17 KJV)

Think of the multitudes. A couple of numbers are given in the gospels – 3,000 and 5,000. How many in that group were healed? I believe in groups of those sizes, the portion of ill would be greater than the average because the news of His healings would have travelled at the speed of sound – the sound of rejoicing by those healed, and their families.

Can you really understand what it would take to heal even ten percent – 300 to 500 – of the numbered multitude? Think of the woman who believed she would be healed simply by touching His garment, so she reached out:

And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes? (Mark 5:29-30 KJV)

He knew.Strong’s gives the Greek δύναμι translated as “virtue”:
From G1410; force (literally or figuratively); specifically miraculous power (usually by implication a miracle itself): - ability, abundance, meaning, might (-ily, -y, -y deed), (worker of) miracle (-s), power, strength, violence, mighty (wonderful) work.
You might be familiar with an English word from that root – dynamic:
always active or changing: having or showing a lot of energy: of or relating to energy, motion, or physical force
With that in mind, I’ve settled on two thoughts. First, Jesus was as human as we are. The virtue in Him was God. The physical touch to the hem of His garment drew on that virtue, that miraculous power of the living God. That touch also impacted the physical Jesus by the change to the woman. I would expect that loss of miraculous power to be small – and wonder what it would be like multiplied by three or five or even greater hundreds of times. I imagine it would be tiring – but, He healed them all.

Second, I wonder how much we limited our Lord’s ability to work through us. There is no physical garment to touch, but we do pray for His miracles. We pray for healing for loved ones whose pain and suffering (whether physical or spiritual) is evident. Yet our prayers need to include, “Thy will be done.” That takes faith, doesn’t it?

He healed all in the multitudes, but not all in the world. We may not understand why, but we can build our faith and believe:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:26-28 KJV)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016


In 1515, Raphael painted Paul preaching to the Athenians. I think that’s a beautiful sermon, found in Acts 17:15-34. He spoke with men who loved studies and discourses:

And they took him, and brought him unto Areopagus, saying, May we know what this new doctrine, whereof thou speakest, is? For thou bringest certain strange things to our ears: we would know therefore what these things mean. (For all the Athenians and strangers which were there spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing.) (Acts 17:19-21 KJV)

You know I would never pass up an opportunity if someone asks, “May I know this doctrine you speak?” That’s an open invitation if ever I’ve heard one – and I’ve been known to start up religious discussions on a lot less. However, what we tell now is no longer new, except to people who have not heard it – or not paid attention to the good news.

That gospel is not for Christians on Sunday mornings, it is for everyone who will listen and ask questions about it. I would make an assumption that everyone reading this has heard of Jesus, knows at least the names of the first four books of the New Testament – but I wonder if they would have been sufficiently curious to ask questions. I wonder if they wish to verify what they have heard.

Preaching is a very important part of the gospel. Jesus preached: Matthew 11:5, Matthew 24:14, Matthew 26:13, Mark 1:39, Mark 2:2, Mark 14:9, and that's just the first two books.

Paul knew what preaching was meant to do:

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 KJV)

He also knew that he had to tell all, not just what was pleasing to people:

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:26-27 KJV)

“All the counsel of God” was hard to understand, as Peter mentioned:

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

Both Peter and Paul knew they had been sent by God to preach. Paul put it in writing:

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 10:15 KJV)

While Peter warned of errant preachers:

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; (2 Peter 2:12 KJV)

Paul knew what would happen if he didn’t preach:

For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9:16 KJV)

Listen to preachers of the good news from God’s word.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Rochester Family Visited Again!

If you search this blog for “Rochester” you’ll find a blog a year about their visits. Their music is awesome (if you like blue grass gospel, and amazingly, I know a couple that don’t!) and uplifting. They bring us something old and something new. I have over ten hours on an iPod to play on trips. I think I have more of their CDs that what’s listed on their Music page.

A favorite is “I’m A Soldier”, which begins:
I'm a soldier bound for Glory
I'm a soldier going home
Come and here me tell me story
All who love the savior come
I love the chorus:
I love Jesus, Hallelujah
I love Jesus, yes I do
I love Jesus, He's my Savior
Jesus smiles and loves me too

Their visit isn’t all music, though. They do put on a concert at our small country church Saturday night for the entire community, and people come from other counties, too. We offer a free BBQ sandwich, baked beans and chips – and your choice of tables of desserts our families bring in. Oh, there’s Deb’s Sopapilla Cheesecake, David’s Texas Sheetcake, maybe even Tina’s Lemon Pie or Lorene’s Banana Pudding. Remember that for next spring when the Rochesters visit our church again.

They sing for Sunday School, and some for morning worship – but then Scott Matthews preaches.  This past Sunday his scripture reference was Philippians 1:6:

Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: (Philippians 1:6 KJV)

I found my notes from his sermon very sparse. I was too busy listening and watching him move across the room, making eye contact, knowing he was speaking to each of us, personally.

He told personal experiences, too, just as Paul did when he was writing. One was about his daughter, with him at a fast-food picking up meals. When they returned to their car, they past a group of young men lounging outside the door. She asked Scott if she could give them a tract and he said, “Yes,” so she took one from the car.

She handed a Christian tract to a young man standing with a group of others. He batted her hand away, refusing to take it. She offered it again and one of the others took it from her hand. The first man grabbed it, pulled out his lighter, set it on fire, dropped it to the ground and laughed at her.

Scott, as any father, was incensed at his daughter’s treatment, but when she returned to the car and asked him what she should do, he was able to say, “Pray for him.”

That may have been the only time anyone offered that young man a glimpse of what Christians have to offer. All we have to offer to anyone is the story of Jesus given in the gospels and the spreading of his word through the letters His apostles wrote. We are not confined to printed words, however, because we can show those stories with our lives – if we have applied His words to the actions of our lives.

How can we tell if we have? Read His words and see how they are applied to lives. We must transform our lives to match what He commands:

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

Monday, March 21, 2016

Lots of Fruitfulness

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30 KJV)

Click on the following scripture references and the links will take you to an online Bible where they may be read:  Matthew 13:1-23 will give you Jesus’ parable – and His explanation – of the sower.  Ephesians 5:9 and Galatians 5:22-23 give the fruit that grows from His word. But no one will know this unless they open their Bibles and read. We know that from Romans 10:17. Having read all of those, we can see how important reading the Bible is – especially since we can also read Hebrews 11:6. Got it?

Maybe not, if you haven’t read all of those verses in context. The Matthew 13 reference pretty much tells an entire short story – very short, but important. The other references are much shorter – and I may have taken them out of context. It is necessary to read many more verses around them to be certain what they state is valid. It helps to know something about the author, the historical timeframe but most of all, the inspiration – explained in II Timothy 3:16.

All of the above is leading in to a challenge to the youth in our church, as well as why I write a blog. A paragraph from BEAMS explains:
The purpose . . . is to promote regular reading of God’s Word.
Our Youth Minister, Kenneth Ralph, is giving our youth a pamphlet for Bible reading, part of a ministry by Faith Baptist Church called BEAMS. Since my first blog was about 2004 in a closed group on Yahoo360 intended to encourage Bible reading by our Jr Hi Girls Sunday School class, I’m totally in favor of a program encouraging young people to pick up their Bibles and read!!

From the failed Yahoo360, I moved to a full blog on Multiply – which shortly died – and then to its current home, Google’s which offers their service free. I do not take advertisers, and I’m not the least bit concerned that the audience is small. I believe those who seek will find, based on several verses through the Bible:  Deuteronomy 4:29, Jeremiah 29:13, Luke 11:9, but especially Hebrews 11:6. And that leads back to the Bible:

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? Romans 10:14 KJV)

That’s why I’m writing to send people to God’s inspired word – what we call the Holy Bible – where they read for themselves that God provides what we need to learn of Him.

Jesus taught His disciples for only three years – and they didn’t understand. All, even Peter who said he would be faithful no matter what (Matthew 26:33-75), betrayed Him the night He was arrested. Peter later wrote that God’s inspired message was hard to understand (II Peter 3:15-16). It takes spending time reading the Bible and discussing what is read with people experienced in reading theirs.

The best place to begin is in a church:

Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25 KJV)

The best time to begin is right now.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

All The Counsel–Part 2

Yes – same graphic of Paul writing. Yes – an extension of yesterday’s post. If you arrived here first, please take that into consideration.

We were reading about Paul’s statement before the elders at Ephesus:

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

I believe “all the counsel of God” is contained in the scriptures, even parts hard to accept. So did Peter: The Pulpit Commentary tells it that Paul was "a teacher, who was so skillful in dividing the Word of truth that he could make the very mysteries plain. Compare his language in Ephesians 3:4:

If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: (Ephesians 3:2-6 KJV)

“….where he speaks of their 'being' "able to understand his knowledge, in the mystery of Christ." It is right to declare the whole counsel of God; but it is wise only to declare it to those who are prepared to receive it. Compare St. Peter's counsel and reference to St. Paul in…” 2 Peter 3:15-16.

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. (2 Peter 3:15-17 KJV)

As a Christian, long term or new, there “are some things hard to be understood.” If you don’t believe this – if you really believe you know all there is about being a follower of Christ – you have not studied His words. It’s wasn’t just Paul’s writings, either. Peter writes of unlearned and unstable wresting “as they do also the other scriptures” which can end in destruction.

This is why the “full counsel” is available to us. Not just the verses we like or want to follow, but the ones that are hard to understand. The ones we must accept that God has a reason for their inclusion, though it is a mystery at first.

Picking scriptures from the buffet laid before us is fairly simple – take what we like and leave the rest as we would at any food buffet. Doing so with scripture leaves us open to the adversary Peter described:

Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist stedfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world. But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. (1 Peter 5:8-10 KJV)

And – if you think you can’t be perfect, established and strengthened by His grace, please go back to March 16th post. He is able.

Friday, March 18, 2016

All The Counsel–Part 1

I believe the scriptures are God inspired. I believe that Jesus appeared to Paul just as Luke describes in Acts:

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? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:3-5 KJV)

Jesus knew the answer to His own question, and that Paul was fighting a battle within himself just as he was fighting Christians. I’ve wondered who – if Paul had continued to deny Christ – would have taken his place in God’s plan for the gospel to spread.

Wait – if you think that only Paul could have accomplished the job, you’ve forgotten Esther:

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

God is not mentioned by name in Esther, but I believe Mordecai was referring to Him and his ability to provide deliverance through another if Esther refused. None of us are necessary for God’s plan to be accomplished, but He is necessary for our lives to be complete.

Completeness is what Paul preached, through more books in the Bible than any other of God’s servants. He knew the difference between meat and milk when it came to understanding God’s word:

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)

New Christians have a lot to learn, and some things to unlearn. We are carnal – and even that word requires an explanation to a new Christian. It comes from the Greek σαρκικός “pertaining to flesh, that is, (by extension) bodily, temporal, or (by implication) animal, unregenerate.” Nothing spiritual there – and Christians are spiritual – as Jesus told the Samaritan woman at the well:

But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23-24 KJV)

Paul addressed this need to teach those who did not know Christ:

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)

Even writing about “All The Counsel” takes me more words than I can fit on one page – join me tomorrow, please. Not for completeness, but for the need for each to grow on their own.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Neglect or Rebellion?

I’m reading more lately. I used to last summer, waiting in doctors’ offices or the hospital. I’ve become a bit more focused now, wanting more stories Christian based, even in fiction. This one, “And He Healed Them All” was a freebie from Amazon a few days ago – and is still free today (March 17.) But, this is not going to be a book review.

48% into the book I was caught by a couple of sentences:
I let Jesus become that faded historical figure. It was like neglect instead of open rebellion.
Rebellion against God is not new – and often is posed as rebellion against something else.  Last night our lesson was on Numbers, where after 40 years of murmuring, the people were still blaming Moses for taking them from Egypt:

And the people chode with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there? And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink. (Numbers 20:3-5 KJV)

This is their 40th year wandering outside of their promised land and they’ve forgotten what Egypt was like – but it had to be better than where they were now. They also forgot about being afraid to enter the promised land – ten spies had told them about giants, only two told them God keeps His promises.

Did they neglect God? Or were they in rebellion to God. Oh, they made their complaints to and about God’s designated leader, but it was God’s planning they neglected or rebelled.

Of course, I wanted to look at my own attention to God over my lifetime and there were both times of neglect, rebellion and overwhelming love. That last attribute is the one I found to be the best times in my life. Why?

Rebellion first – rebelling in itself is sourced in anger, what Jesus described to Paul:

And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. (Acts 9:5 KJV)

Paul was following his religious beliefs, personally working to destroy people’s belief in Jesus as Christ, Israel’s Messiah. That was rebellion against Jesus’ teaching of love and that He was speaking what God wanted the people to hear. Paul’s work created anger and fear – which never has been God’s message to those who know and love Him.

Neglect – the easiest to do because it requires nothing. No church attendance, no prayer, no Bible reading – and I’ve been there, too. Again, no happiness, no comfort, no peace that does pass our own understand.

It is so easy to neglect God. To let Him become a figure on a throne completely beyond our comprehension. To think He is too large, if He exists, to be concerned about one world, and especially one person. If he was, it was an important, bigger than life person such as Moses, Elijah, Paul – someone much bigger than we are.

God does not think as we think:

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)

But – He has given us what we need to know:

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

I believe that.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

It’s A Big Universe

I read "Mission Under Fire" by Rex Byers & Jeff Bennington and while I didn’t find it an outstanding book, I was struck by this sentence:
"It’s amazing how you can feel so close to the God of the universe and at the same time not apply the grace that He gives."
The above graphic is our Milky Way galaxy. I selected it from a page of background photos to show just how small our planet is, and our galaxy isn’t considered among the largest, either. The grace of God is not confined to our small planet, is it? Do we then believe it is divided up among so many particles of the universe He has none left for us?

That’s a huge question, isn’t it? We look around (less than a mile within our normal vision, right) or we go up to a mountain and see further (from Lookout Mountain, TN, we see seven states) and it makes us feel the ability of a powerful force that created what is in our sight – but not all identify that with the God Christians believe created everything.

Everything – we now know that includes a lot more than the earth, sun, moon and stars mentioned in the Bible. The universe makes the Milky Way stars seem small in comparison. Yet, I feel close to God.

Close in a way that gives comfort. Non-believers can explain that away with psychology or even physiology explanations, but more people accept that God is active in our lives than those who reject Him. Numbers will not change one individual’s belief. The personal relationship with God is necessary for that peace that passes understanding

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 KJV)

When we finally accept God is capable of creating everything in the universe, we often fail to accept that He would possibly be interested in what we do, and that His grace is sufficient for our needs. Paul spoke of that:

And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 KJV)

Paul found a peace though his life was far from perfect. He knew by heart what Jesus promised him: My grace is sufficient for thee.

His grace is sufficient for me, too, though He is greater than the universe I cannot comprehend. If that’s a problem for you, talk to Him about the application of His grace for you.

Monday, March 7, 2016


Matthew 13 has one of my favorite parables – the sower. Click on the graphic will take you to a larger copy where you can see all the details, which are important in understanding the parable. Also important is the setting in which the parable was given:

The same day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And great multitudes were gathered together unto him, so that he went into a ship, and sat; and the whole multitude stood on the shore. (Matthew 13:1-2)

This must have been a full day. In Chapter 12 we read of healing, confrontation with Pharisees and a definition of his brother, sister and mother. The same day He left the house to sit by the seaside – but was not left alone. Multitudes followed Him.

Not an unusual .occurrence. Within the four gospels and Acts there are 101 verses of “multitude” or “multitudes.” Granted, the gospels describe many of the same events, so we could be looking at 25 separate occasions within a three year period where masses of people kept Him from having private moments. This time, He moved to a ship and spoke to the multitude.

Sunday morning, Bro. Sam Davison from Oklahoma City described this scene then spoke to us about understanding “wayside heart.” It was a description of my heart, too.

Yes, Christians can ignore good news for them, too.

As His followers we’ve been given the explanation of this parable in verses 18-23, and we are very aware of Isaiah’s prophecy fulfilled:

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. (Matthew 13:13-15)

The wayside in the parable is hard ground, untilled, unprepared to receive seeds, leaving them available bird feed. Christians can have hardened hearts, not opening themselves to God’s message for their lives. Some have been emotionally, spiritually or even physically hurt during their Christian lives – perhaps by someone in a leadership position in a  congregation. Others simply do not apply growth in their own lives. Yes, we often miss the mark.

What do we do when we recognize this in our lives? Talk with God. He has provided an advocate for us:

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:26-27)

Isn’t that what we pray for our family and friends? A personal relationship with our Lord? Shouldn’t we keep that relationship fruitful ourselves? How do we describe our Bible reading, our prayer life, our own personal relationship with God?

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Where Does It Fit


I really like this graphic and wish I knew it’s source. It has shown up in a number of places, and I did “capture” it from the internet without knowing the source to acknowledge. I don’t do that often. However, after watching this past year’s political eviscerations of what is or is not true, it pretty much reflects my reaction. I also feel that way about labels on Christianity. That comes from having read a couple of articles on how “the word ‘world’ does not mean ‘world.’”

May I once again remind readers that context is important, but so is a full explanation of circumstances.

John 3:16 is used as a concise, stand alone, statement of the gospel (the Good News) for mankind. Remember who made this statement? And, to whom it was made?

Nicodemus is mentioned only in John's gospel, three different occasions. The second was when Nicodemus said:

Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth? (John 7:51 KJV)

The third was when Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea wound Jesus' body in linen clothes and a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes, placing him in a new sepulchre. (John 19:39-42) Thus we know what he was (a Pharisee) and his standing in the community (knocked elbows with the rich and famous.) A man of means, capable and respected. Their conversation begins with Nicodemus stating a logical conclusion on his part, but Jesus’ response went much further:

The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:2-3 KJV)

To me, Jesus expected Nicodemus to understand that statement:

Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. (John 3:10-11 KJV)

For me, the conversation is quite understandable, even when we read “world” in John 3:16. The Greek word written is κόσμος – cosmos. Go ahead and look up the meaning and where it is used elsewhere in the New Testament. I believe it does mean the world God created along with its inhabitants.

Again, for me, verses 17 and 18 are just as much as a part of the explanation Jesus gives to Nicodemus as verse 16:

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. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:17-19 KJV)

Back to the graphic above – there may be differing views depending on our position and perspective, but there is one truth.

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)

Take a moment to look at all of these verses in context, and in prayer. It takes more than one word or one verse to see clear meaning.