Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Go. Preach. Sing.

 


We call it “Thanksgiving Sunday,” which is a misnomer because every Sunday is a reason for giving thanks, but the second Sunday before Thanksgiving our church celebrates and gives thanks with preaching, singing, fellowship, food, and fun. It is a joyful day filled with thanksgiving for God’s love for His creation.

This past Sunday everything, including the weather, worked together beautifully to complete all of our plans. We had a guest family who sang for us. You can find more about the Johnson family by stopping by their website: Go Preach Sing. "Resurrection Power” was one of many songs they blessed us with their talent.  Their enthusiam was obvious as they loudly (and – unlike me - on key) sang “I don’t serve a dead Savior. I don’t have a dead faith. He’s alive and so am I.” That's what the gospel - the good news - is all about. The graphic today is the back of the Johnson family prayer card. 

The best sermons given are about that good news. I remember hearing one man's testimony where he told of being asked about when he was saved. In response he mentioned the sermon that day. He was asked what it was about. He replied that he doesn't remember the sermon, just that it was about Jesus, and it matched what the Bible said about Him.

That good news tells us that God is holy: (I'll use the scriptures from the graphic above) Isaiah 6:3. We are all sinners: Romans 3:23. Sin must have justice: Romans 6:23. Jesus Christ died for us: Romans 5:8. Jesus rose from the grave: I Corinthians 15:3-4. Salvation is by faith: Ephesians 2:8-9. Call on Jesus now: Romans 10:13.

The list is short, and seems easy, but the believing - the faith part - is hard. Believing that Jesus lived and His legacy is part of the Bible which people preach is very easy. You can see churches filled on Sundays (well, not in 2020, but we are getting back there!) So easy that the Bible tells us:

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 2:19-20 KJV)

Absolutely. Faith in Jesus' message requires acceptance that God expects us to do specific things when we become believers. Our example is to be a reflection of Jesus to our world. To find out what He did when he started His ministry, we must read the four gospels - Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Then move on to what happened after Jesus' resurrection in Acts. After that, spend time with Paul's letters to specific churches, they remain good examples for us today and should be studied.

For Christians reading this, does your life speak of Christ to the point others know you are a Christian? Would people point you out as an example of doing what Christ told us to do? Not all of us are called to be preachers, but we are all called to be teachers, telling all we meet how Christ has impacted our lives.

If Christ has not had an impact on your life, I would hope you can face the answers when I ask: Why hasn't Christ had an impact on your life? I've attended church with several people who can explain exactly how Christ changed their lives - when they made the decision to follow His example. That is one of the best ways to share the gospel, show it as we live every day with people we know.

For non-Christians who have read this far, please find a Christian friend to discuss Jesus' mission on this earth. If that person doesn't reach for their Bible, please find someone who does. Someone willing to take John 3:16 and work through why belief in Jesus changes lives. It will become easier for you to recognize those who follow God's most important commandments:

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)

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Continuity of Love


Yesterday I posted about biblical continuity and gave an example of seeing God. I did forget to mention Genesis 3:8, where Adam and Eve had walked with God in the cool of the day – but couldn’t on that one day after eating THE fruit. Now, instead of tending a garden as they did, we are to follow instructions, of which “love” shows a continuity throughout the Bible:

For the LORD your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment. Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. (Deuteronomy 10:17-20 KJV)

They may not look as we do, talk as we do, eat what we are used to. They are strangers to us, but our Lord sees them as the neighbors we are to love, or the strangers we meet. I’ve used Journey With The Messiah graphics (with permission) in years past. These coming holidays always bring that website and their message to mind.

“The Second Mile” – my blog from July 27, 2010 - eleven years ago I wrote:

I have struggled with this since I saw “The Second Mile.” I want to be able to walk with my Lord and follow His example. I believe He would have given his cloke, and that He would have walked that second mile, speaking to His follow traveler of God’s love.
Yet I draw back at the thought of doing so. Not just from the thought of those long ago Nazi soldiers, but of people today. People whose thoughts are not only far from God’s love, but whose actions oppose God’s laws and the people who love Him. Is it because I fear them? He tells me not to.

And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. [Matthew 10:28 KJV]

The word “Nazi” has been abused in the last ten years to the point that it has been applied to our physical neighbors. To the real people Jesus described in Matthew 22:34-40. A similar situation, where the lawyer asked Jesus “And who is my neighbor? “ He answered in Luke 10:25-37.

That’s not the only pejorative word people have used incorrectly. Nor is ours the only nation where words have been applied with hate filled fervor. Nor where physical assault accompanied such words. Nor where the original meaning has been forgotten.

Open your mind to a symbolic person you would hate the most. One that you never want to meet or speak to under any circumstances. Then look at today’s graphic replace the Nazi soldier with that person – and realize that Jesus is just as concerned about that person’s soul as He is whosoever’s:

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)

We’ve been told what happens if we believe, and what happens if there was/is/will be one that never believes:

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 3:18 KJV)

When we believe, we must tell others. We must share what we know, where we found it, what it means in our own lives, and where it can be found for themselves. When having trouble remembering, Jesus promised us help:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV)

All we need to do is ask Him to help us remember:

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 KJV)


Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Continuity

 


Sometimes a later version does sounds so appropriate:

What a shame—yes, how stupid!—to decide before knowing the facts! (Proverbs 18:13 TLB)

Still, in my preferred King James version, the meaning is the same – but to a certain antiquity of the problem which continues unbroken and consistent existence through human history:

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him. (Proverbs 18:13 KJV)

That, my friends, is continuity:

the unbroken and consistent existence or operation of something over a period of time.

In electrical property terms, continuity defines the connection necessary for electricity to flow. A ‘multimeter' allows us to see whether or not the unseen electrical current does flow through a connection. I have a circuit tester that detects whether or not voltage is present. Without that presence, there is no continuity.

There’s continuity across the Bible. It would take a lot of pages to cover the width of biblical writings that continue across thousands of  years. Both the Old and New Testaments define a monotheistic religion, though God is seen from different viewpoints, He remained the same from Genesis through Revelation.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: (Deuteronomy 6:4 KJV)

The Office of Rabbi Sacks was among the references for Shema:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord is our G-d, the Lord is one.” These words are the supreme testimony of Jewish faith. Each word is worthy of careful study, but it is the first – the verb Shema – that deserves special attention.

Shema is much more than a single word, nor does it simply mean a prayer. As with any movement from one language to another, the word “shema” doesn’t simply mean “Hear,” as explained in Strong’s definition of the Hebrew word:

H8085
שָׁמַע
shâma‛
shaw-mah'
A primitive root; to hear intelligently (often with implication of attention, obedience, etc.; causatively to tell, etc.): -    X attentively, call (gather) together, X carefully, X certainly, consent, consider, be content, declare, X diligently, discern, give ear, (cause to, let, make to) hear (-ken, tell), X indeed, listen, make (a) noise, (be) obedient, obey, perceive, (make a) proclaim (-ation), publish, regard, report, shew (forth), (make a) sound, X surely, tell, understand, whosoever [heareth], witness.

(See that part of hearing intelligently, which includes attention and obedience?)

Moses saw only a glimpse of God as He left Moses, as told to us as Exodus 23 closes. No other instance in the Bible mentions anyone seeing God. In the New Testament there were years where Jesus, as a physical representation of God’s love, interacted. After being seen by assembled followers (Acts 1:3-4) over forty days, there was no doubt among them as they met at Pentecost that God spoke to them without being seen.

Not until the Sunday that John heard that great voice (Revelation 1:10) do we begin to see the throne of God (Revelation 4:2-3) and He who sat upon it.

That is only one example of biblical continuity – from Genesis where God was capable of creating a universe, to Revelation where He was capable of showing how it was to end. Between the two events, we are blessed:

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 KJV)

From Genesis to Revelation we are exhorted to read, hear, keep, and share what God has for us. while we acknowledge God not only exists, but we also acknowledge He is to be obeyed. He asks nothing more than that we love Him and the people He created.

Sounds simple – until we realize:  1) we do not love plus we have been and/or are one of the unlovable people that He loves;  2) we must change through obedience to be lovable, and share God’s love to people we still deem unlovable (the book of James is the best one to work through that conundrum);  plus 3) we must have the Holy Spirit through the John 3:16 belief in Jesus Christ.

After that, we have continuity with God – the connection to a consistent existence through God’s timing, which is eternal.


Thursday, November 4, 2021

Salvation and Discipleship

 

Today it would be odd to find a photo of a preacher smoking. I think this pastor was not only a part of a society that accepted smoking, but one under a good deal of stress. As Nazi’s rose to power in Germany, he was formulating his book The Cost of Discipleship.

A quoted part of that book reminds me that it is just as valid today as it ever was. I’ve heard “easy salvation” described similarly to his “cheap grace”:

cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline. Communion without confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Salvation is not the same as getting someone to say a prayer that they accept Jesus as their savior. Luke described what Paul gave as an answer to the question:

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

Simply saying a prayer does not constitute salvation through Jesus. When Paul met Christ on the Road to Damascus, he was given different instructions. Obviously, Paul believed it was Jesus who spoke, and even called Him Lord:

And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do. (Acts 9:6 KJV)

Even devils believe:

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. (James 2:19 KJV)

Believing on, trusting in, giving our lives to God, accepting His gift, all of that changes our lives:

costly grace confronts us as a gracious call to follow Jesus, it comes as a word of forgiveness to the broken spirit and the contrite heart. It is costly because it compels a man to submit to the yoke of Christ and follow him; it is grace because Jesus says: "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."

Salvation requires that we build a relation with God, that we accept that He does have a plan, that we are a part of that plan, we need to do our part, and His plan was laid out by the Apostles in letters to churches in that first century. The New Testament is full of examples and instructions for us.

Perhaps that is what scares us – we are required to give our lives as a sacrifice:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:1-2 KJV)

It’s frightening, isn’t it? to live according to the two laws Jesus said were the basis for all the Law and prophets, the two laws He and others kept, the two laws use more than any other scripture:

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)

According to the Bible, and mankind’s experience, forgiveness does require repentance. Baptism does require church discipline just to understand why baptism is a sign of obedience, not the physical washing away of sinfulness. Communion does require confession as we should never approach God with sin we consider unimportant.

Grace requires the cross. Jesus Christ died because it was part of God’s plan. He knew that when He prayed for the cup to pass, and accepted it when the cup was necessary. We must have a heart that expresses our remorse, that shows how affected we are by guilt:

For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. (Psalms 51:16-17 KJV)

Give guilt to God, accept discipleship, grow into a mature Christian, then provide discipleship to new ones. God bless those who preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021

Hope and Patience

 


Does being patient make you thing of being a patient? I’ve been a patient a couple of times where patience wasn’t needed – a coma will do that to us. It helps us, too, to understand hope and patience and how they work together when we love God.

A large number of people mock Christians because we have faith in something we’ve heard from others but have never seen ourselves. Our Lord has said a blessing for us for just that reason:

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 20:29 KJV)

Paul also tells us that our hope gives us peace with God:

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  (Romans 5:1 KJV)

It may have been Paul who defined what faith is:

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

All of that is pretty easy for a Christian to accept – but there are verses around them that contain as much truth as these selected. For example, let’s return to Roman’s 5:

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. (Romans 5:2-5 KJV)

Not many people expect to become a Christian only to “glory in tribulations.” Nor do they expect those tribulations to provide patience, experience, and hope. Remember, faith is the substance of things hoped for, so Paul is telling his readers that tribulation will bring hope. Do you really believe that? Have you had a tribulation that brought hope? Built your faith?

When we do, it shows how our patience is in proportion to our belief that God is in absolute control. That hope, along with peace, during our worst times, shows how we have surrendered our lives to God.

I do not believe God causes tribulation for us – but I do believe He allows it to happen to us in this world because we live in an imperfect sinful world. This natural world provides destructive storms, earthquakes, natural disasters in the same way mankind provides liars, thieves, and murderers. God did create this world, but long before He did that there were angels that followed a rebellious leader:

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. (1 Peter 5:8-9 KJV)

In the Bible we have a large number of examples of people who fell for the tempting mirror-images of God’s caring for them. Best examples are the temptations Satan offered Christ told by Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, and Luke 4:1-13.

Temptations offer us what we want. Turning them down to do what is right gives us experience. We gain patience through experience, don’t we? We know that waiting a while is so much better for us rather than yielding to temptation.

We also need to remember that there is life beyond temptation:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 KJV)

Patience is listed in some great company:

But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (1 Timothy 6:11 KJV)

In your patience possess ye your souls. (Luke 21:19 KJV)

Look up patience in your Bible – my King James Version has 33 verses in the New Testament with the word patient in it. Seems to be it’s a pretty good thing to enjoy – and a strong part of our faith. How does it seem to you?

Monday, November 1, 2021

Trying Not To Be Harsh

 



We've been studying II Corinthians in our Sunday School this year and reached chapter 13 this past Sunday. I was struck by Paul's closing to the church in this chapter. A question was asked in class about verse 7:

Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates. (2 Corinthians 13:7 KJV)

This has to be studied in context, as with all verses - even those we use as stand-alone. Paul writes of reprobates in the two previous verses:

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? (2 Corinthians 13:5 KJV)

We are to do as Paul did - examine our own lives to know if we do have Jesus in ourselves. Paul had written this second letter to a church who had reprobates. He felt he had to explain that sinfulness was being lived by members and accepted by a congregation. The application applies to us, too, so we need to know what being a reprobate means - according to Strong's:

ἀδόκιμος
adokimos
ad-ok'-ee-mos
From G1 (as a negative particle) and G1384; unapproved, that is, rejected; by implication worthless (literally or morally): - castaway, rejected, reprobate.

When we believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and trust that what He promised in John 3:16, God provides a Comforter for us that is ours forever:

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:15-17 KJV)

Comforter is mentioned in Ecclesiastes 4:1 and Lamentations 1:9, 16. The references concern a lack of a comforter, but John provides the explanation of who the Comforter is as well as what the Comforter does for us:

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:26 KJV)

When we examine ourselves, we need to know what Jesus taught so that is part of our "remembrance." Remembering that the first and most important commandment is to love God and our neighbors (Matthew 22:35-40)

When we are living as though those two commandments do not exist, when people cannot see Jesus in our lives, they wonder if we ever did understand what He taught. We would be seen as reprobates, as castaways, unapproved, worthless - and strongest of all - rejected. Obviously, Paul was not a reprobate:

But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. (2 Corinthians 13:6 KJV)

That background brings me to verse 7 again. Paul was asking the congregation at Corinth to do no evil, not to show that Paul was not a reprobate, but that they should do what is honest whether Paul was or not. The Corinthian had the good news that Christ came from God to share God's good news, die on the cross, defeat death by His resurrection, and tell us that it was for all to hear and accept. 

Paul preached that same gospel everywhere he went. We read it over and over again in the New Testament. Paul told Agrippa what Jesus sent him to teach - and you should be hearing this same message from pulpits today:

To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18 KJV)

It shouldn't matter if the person sitting next to you in church is a reprobate, seems to be a reprobate, or has been deemed by others to be a reprobate. Jesus' message was personal, individual, open to each one of us. Paul told the church at Corinth, and your own pastor should be speaking the same message that includes the first two works of verse 5:  Examine yourselves. Not someone else, but each of us examine ourselves and pray for the Comforter to bring to our remembrance what we need to do.


Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Measurable Evidence

 

"What gets measured gets attention.” The first time I read that phrase it was on a six-inch ruler at a Kiewit job site. Each of our immediate family worked for Kiewit at one time or another - even I had a temporary position. I wanted to use that quote with another, from BigThink.com:

But extrapolating beyond the limits of your measurable evidence is a dangerous, albeit tempting, game to play.

My next thought was to find the source for the Kiewit quote - which brought me to a page about Lord William Thomson, Lord Kelvin, who actually said:

When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science, whatever the matter may be.

Measuring is a valid business process.  It is an asset to be able to measure. Measuring evidence is a key phrase, I used it myself when testing software. But what happens when something is immeasurable?

From Job 38:4, God gives Job a mass of unanswerable questions, beginning with:

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding. (Job 38:4 KJV)

The next verses, then chapters, show us how immeasurable God is. The answer Job gives is what I also believe:

Then Job answered the LORD, and said, I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. (Job 42:1-2 KJV)

We see our God as omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, as well as being eternal. He cares for His creation (check out John 3:16!) and provides:

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19 KJV)

God also takes care of those who follow His instructions:

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. 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 9:6-8 KJV)

Christians cannot measure God. As the Big Think quote said, we should not extrapolate when explaining what we believe He is. The Bible describes God and His dealings with mankind. Our belief in Him comes only from His word and how He works in our lives. We love Him based on faith, which comes from:

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

Christians also know what happens without faith:

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)

Faith is mentioned twice in the Old Testament – Deuteronomy 32:20 and Habakkuk 2:4. Worth reading, then read Hebrews 11 and see how faith plus work can show measurable evidence of our faith in God. Or Esther, where God’s name isn’t mentioned, nor is praying to Him, yet through Esther’s faith He provided “enlargement and deliverance”for the Jewish people.

Although God is immeasurable, is there visible evidence of our faith in Him? James felt very strongly about that:

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. 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 2:17-20 KJV)

This blog exists to continue what John wrote:

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)