Forgery and Faith 1
In 1996 the renowned auction house Sotheby’s sold a poem by Emily Dickinson. Forty years had passed since the last Dickinson poem had surfaced. This is the unique event that collectors and museums look for. Like all of her poetry it was handwritten in pencil on a slip of paper. It was also signed – Emily. The poem had gone through authentications by experts including authorities on the works and handwriting of Emily Dickinson. Everything was right: paper, handwriting, style, and subject. Everything passed the test and was plausible. A place like Sotheby’s has spent years building a reputation. Their business is based on trust. Authenticity is all important.
The final cost was $21,000 and was sold to the Jones Library in Dickinson’s home town of Amherst, Massachusetts and went on display in their Special Collections. That comes to $1,400 per line or about $525 per word (including the signature). But after four months the poem was returned to Sotheby’s.
The problem is Emily Dickinson did not write it. It was a forgery. The experts were fooled. The piece of paper immediately devalued from $21,000 to worthless. The actual poet was a man serving time in the state prison in Draper, Utah. His name was Mark Hofmann. He was a convicted murderer and a prolific forger. The difference between a rare, cherished, artifact or garbage comes in one word: truth.
Let us now move to the spiritually authentic and fraudulent. The Bible proves itself real. It is God’s word. It gives all instructions to man with the authority from God to do so. But the religious world overflows with doctrines pretending to be from God. These are forgeries. Jesus spoke of such things in Matthew 15:8-9, “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” The world has not changed. There are innumerable ideas and teachings presented as valid but not from God. If a doctrine is from Him then it can save. If it is not from God then it is worthless. Authenticity brings validity but too many people do not check the faith they hold. Millions around the world have followed the teachings of men rather than the teachings of Christ. They honestly and whole-heartedly believe they are doing the will of God but do not know they have been fooled by religious fraud – it looks good and sounds good but cannot save. Do not rely on men. They can deceive and be deceived. Go to the proven original. When you have the authentic and can check the truth why go anywhere else? What is actually on the line in the sale of false doctrine? The answer is: a soul lost eternally in hell.
Forgery and Faith 2
There are two things that are certain. The first is that God’s word will never be destroyed or found to be false.
Isaiah 40:8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”
The second is that error will be found out.
2 Corinthians 10:4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,
Let us begin with the first certainty. If someone came to you claiming to have rare and ancient documents which proved without doubt that the Bible cannot be from God and that Jesus of Nazareth was a fictitious character- what would you do? Would you buy it to bury it? Would you try to burn it? Would you ignore it? Your answer would say a lot about your faith. If you think that any document (ancient or modern) could possibly prove the Bible false then your faith is not with God. If you think that somewhere actual proof against the Bible might surface or has surfaced then you have no faith at all. Nothing destroys the word of God. On the other hand, if your faith is in a lie (even if you think it is the truth) then evidence will arrive anytime to disprove it. What do you do then? Destroy it or follow the truth?
Now we go to the second certainty: error will be found out. Sometimes lies can be exposed in the strangest ways. Lies are so helpless that even a second lie can help uncover the first. In the early 1980’s, a man by the name of Mark Hofmann began a career dealing in rare books and documents. He was so good at finding unique, historical items that some believed he came upon them by the will of God. The first of his findings was when he accidently found a paper called the Anthon Transcript. It had been lost for over a hundred years. In 1828 Joseph Smith had jotted down some of the writing from the golden plates he was supposed to be translating into English. Since the golden plates were never seen by anyone but Smith this would be the only example of the writing from the plates which he claimed was Reformed Egyptian. The Mormon Church leaders (who are supposed to be inspired) bought the document immediately. A Mormon scholar actually translated the Reformed Egyptian into English. What is the problem with this? It was a forgery. Hofmann made the document- characters and all. Thus a lie exposed a bigger lie. These men are not quite as inspired as they let on, and I am sure Hofmann laughed to hear his drawings were actually translated.
Before Hofmann was discovered to be a seller and producer of fraudulent objects he sold the Mormon Church several documents with embarrassing implications. He knew they would buy them to hide them. One such item came to be called the Salamander Letter. This was purportedly Joseph Smith’s earlier version of how he came upon the golden plates. In this account a spirit in the form of a white salamander refused to let Smith dig up the “gold bible.” The salamander hits Smith and made demands on him. The Mormon leadership bought it immediately for $40,000. Though this was an odd story Hofmann knew they were hiding stranger things than this concerning Smith. This crazy, alternate telling of the tale was the sort Smith was likely to make up. Thus the document had to be secretly purchased and kept out of sight. One of the duties of being president of the Mormon Church is to cover the truth so all can be held together. The less of Smith’s behavior you have to explain the better. Even though these were forgeries it is an indictment on the ones who bought them to squirrel them away in the shadows of a vault. The point is: they believed the documents were real. Behind a façade of confidence they know they have something to worry about. They cannot rest easy on the book written by Joseph Smith because that message did not come from God. The Book of Mormon is a forgery and tell-tale events rise up time and again proving it to be just that.
Those who trust in God’s word know The Bible is genuine. Through thousands of years it has passed every conceivable test and is true. The Bible has no mistakes. The behavior of Christ does not have to be concealed in shame. Nothing can stop the word of God. Rest in it. Have faith in it.
Psalm 37:7 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him…
Forgery and Faith 3
If someone were to ask a very important question like, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer given should never be taken as immediate fact nor thought of lightly. There must be proof that the answer to such a question is the truth. The Bereans in Acts 17:11 are called fair-minded because they searched the scriptures to prove the doctrine taught to them by Paul. Was it true or was it more error. Any doctrine introduced must be examined especially in light of the warnings found in the New Testament. There are prophecies of false teachers and would-be Christs who, for their own advantage lead people astray. Peter described such people through an advanced warning in 2 Peter 2:17-19.
These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.
A person who speaks great swelling words of emptiness would give answers purposefully false. Many people will not adequately inspect the answer, but will rely on the supposed expert. These are then passed down as though they are ancient and obvious truths, but in fact may be relatively modern lies. How can one tell the difference? There must be authentication. Is the answer true? There is a process in the task of authentication that is done in the field of antiques. The process is called provenance.
Provenance is the act of seeking the earliest known history of an object in question. Where did it originate? Where has it been? Is there documentation? Can anything be proven? If possible it is always best to know where something came from. If a painting was from the hand of the painter Vincent Van Gogh then it is worth something. If this same painting is not from Van Gogh as claimed but from the hand of another then the value plummets and someone may go to prison for an attempted deception. Provenance would want to know if there is evidence that it is originally from Van Gogh.
More than any other object in the world the Bible leaves a wide trail of validation and provenance behind it. God would not give us a book and then leave no proof for its authenticity. The ancients wrote about it. Surviving letters and written sermons quoted it. The righteous accepted it. The scribes used strict rules to copy it. If someone asked the question, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer given would have to come from the Bible to hold any kind of value since the answer must originate with God to be valid. If the answer came from anywhere else it would be useless. We must be concerned over the provenance of the answer. Where did the answer come from? Consider Galatians 1:8-9. If it is not from God then it is accursed.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Forgery and Faith 4
In the past 2,000 years there have been plenty of doctrines that have arisen from men and are offered as though they came from God or stand just as valid as God’s words. John Calvin (1509-1564) developed his doctrine of Calvinism. It is a properly named doctrine since it did not originate with God but with Calvin. Even though the five tenets of Calvinism seem to be contradictory to the teaching from the Bible some or all of the tenets are matters of faith especially among Protestant denominations. It would not be necessary to look at Calvinism except it is so pervasive in current religious bodies who claim Christ and has made its way in one form or another into the church. Provenance clearly shows this came some 1,500 years after the New Testament was completed, accepted and was active in saving souls. That means that for 1,500 years no one knew the tenets of Calvinism and yet people were still saved. If the doctrine of Calvin was taught in the Bible, how is it that it took so long for someone to recognize it and describe it? Why attribute this doctrine to Calvin if it came from God?
Let us look at the first two points of Calvinism, what they mean and where they came from.
- Total Depravity – Here is the doctrine commonly called original sin. A teaching espoused by Augustine (354-430) who, in case you are interested, is the patron saint of brewers. This is not an original idea from Augustine. He merely carried it from his days as a follower of Manichaeism – a type of Gnosticism which believed the material world is inherently evil. The idea of total depravity claims we all are born in sin. Since sin came into the world by our parents (Adam and Eve) it is perpetually carried in all their children by default. If you exist you inherit their sin. This is a contradiction of Ezekiel 18:20. If the doctrine of total depravity or (original sin) was not valid in the days of Ezekiel then it was never true and certainly cannot be true today.
- Unconditional Election – This tenet states that the saved were individually chosen by God before time. The elect have always been elect before they existed. God chose individually who would receive His grace and excluded the rest. These elect can do nothing to remove themselves from the roll of heaven. Those who were never in the elect cannot be saved regardless of their actions. This actually goes beyond “once saved always saved” to that of “predestined as saved.” Predestination as described by Calvin is the belief that everything which happens on the earth is preordained and set by God. This goes back to Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) who took ideas of predestination from the Greek philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) who stated that if God is not the cause of everything (including all actions by men) then He cannot be God. If Calvin is right then Paul must be wrong. Paul did not know anything of such predestination when he said in 1 Corinthians 9:27 that he could be disqualified. He noted it as a definite possibility and did not try to blame God or predestination. Ezekiel could not have known of predestination in Ezekiel 18:21-24.
But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.
These are the first two tenets of Calvinism. The next three points only exist to prop up these first two. We have looked at the origin of this doctrine and it is clearly not from God. In the next article we will look further into this forgery which poses as the truth.
Forgery and Faith 5
In the last article we began looking at the points of belief under Calvinism and digging up the provenance (origin). This is not from God. None of it can be shown to exist in scripture. Calvinism is just philosophical wreckage that has floated through the centuries and has no foundation in the Bible. It starts with a misunderstanding of God, the nature of man and sin. These are rather old errors that are brought in from Gnosticism and prior to that Greek philosophy. From those misunderstandings Calvinism goes on to form what must follow logically. But if the starting point in false the conclusion cannot be true. We would not have to look at Calvinism seriously except it is found prevalent in one form or another throughout the denominations. Many Protestants may not believe every point of Calvinism but will keep some part of it. They do this not realizing they may hold onto a point that only exists because it logically follows some other point in which they do not even believe. One may believe in irresistible grace but deny unconditional election. But the doctrine of irresistible grace exists only to explain how unconditional election could work. Holding to the one and not the other is like buying vaccinations for a cow but having no cow.
Let us now look at the last three points of faith under Calvinism.
- Limited Atonement – According to this idea the death of Christ had a preplanned, limited effectiveness. By design the cross of Christ was only for the unconditionally elected – a predetermined number of set individuals. Salvation from the cross is neither possible nor offered to anyone else. This atonement is meant for some and the rest are irrevocably doomed. This tenet only exists as an attempt to harmonize the idea of unconditional election with a crucified Christ. But the question must arise: why would Christ have to die for those who were predetermined to be saved? This is a continuation of Aristotle’s thoughts of God applied to the purpose and effect of Christ’s crucifixion. If Aristotle was right about God (and how could he be?) as Augustine believed then the sacrifice of the Son of God is changed completely. It cannot be for all people. The good news is that Aristotle was completely wrong. Too much credence is given to men while avoiding the Biblical text. It is of interest how many verses one has to ignore to come to the conclusion of limited atonement (Romans 1:16, Acts 17:30, 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, 1 Timothy 2:4). Why would Christ bother giving the Great Commission if limited atonement was true?
- Irresistible Grace – Stated simply this means if a man is among the elect he will know and follow the commands of God without a true will of his own. The Holy Spirit controls him fully and he cannot choose his own path. This also means those who are predestined as condemned can neither know nor do the will of God. Thus no one has a will of their own. This part of Calvinism acts as another crutch for explaining how unconditional election could work in the behavior of both the elect and condemned. Why would Paul tell the church at Philippi to continue in obedience in his absence (Philippians 2:12) if they had no will of their own? If the doctrine of unconditional election is false then so is irresistible grace.
- Perseverance of the Saints – Thus we come to the last tenet but the third prop to reinforce the doctrine of unconditional election. This idea states that if a man appears to be saved but wonders off into sin he was never saved from the start. Also if a wicked man changes his life for the better and goes to God he was never actually lost. Where is any of this found in the Bible? This is all based on Gnosticism and ancient Greek philosophies repackaged by John Calvin. Acts 1:25 states that by transgression Judas fell. How could he fall if he was never of the elect? In Galatians 1:6 the churches of Galatia were turning from the grace of Christ. How could that be if the grace of Christ was only for the elect who could never be removed from it?
The doctrine of Calvinism has been handed down as truth. It has been held onto by faith, but it is not from God. Provenance shows where it originated. It was devised by the mind of men going back to the ancient, pagan Greeks and Gnosticism. This is yet another forgery – signing God’s name to a doctrine He did not give.
Unity Among Brethren
For an understanding of unity in Christ among brethren we need to look no further than the twelve apostles. Under other conditions some of these men could not be in the same room without riot and rock throwing. It is because of Christ and the maturity developed through Him that these men could work side by side. Matthew was a tax collector (Matthew 10:3). Simon was a Zealot (Luke 6:15). These two would have hated and feared each other prior to Christ in their lives. In Simon’s eyes, Matthew would be seen as a traitor to Israel, a willing agent of Rome and a corrupt official. In Matthew’s eyes, Simon would be seen as a collaborator and helper of terrorists and murderers and only a step away from prison. One man would have seen himself as working under law and order while the other saw himself as fighting for freedom against oppression, tyranny and corruption. Who was right? Both could be thoroughly convinced and self-confident he was right and the other wrong. No doubt they both could express their opposition by reciting injustices and assassinations done by the other side (Rome vs. Zealots).
How could Matthew and Simon possibly work together as apostles? In Christ neither Rome nor independence from Rome mattered. The political battle was of no concern. That could be cast aside along with years of bitterness, strife and hostilities for something greater. Here lies peace. In Christ you learn there is something of more importance than your feelings, ego, ambitions, politics, country and even your life. The thing of greater importance is the church and its work. Brethren must be willing to put aside everything else for the only thing that actually matters – the kingdom of God. Whatever is outside that kingdom can be counted as rubbish (Philippians 3:8). Unity in Christ is where all brethren submit to Christ in all things. Matthew drops his side and that is good regardless of what Simon does. Simon drops his side and that is good regardless of what Matthew does. When this is done by both they can work together and be useful in the kingdom of God.
Major differences can be overcome and have been overcome in a timely manner by all sides. Obviously it did not take years for Matthew and Simon to get along. Their lives are not spent trying to come to terms with the other. That would make them useless to the Lord indefinitely. Their purpose in life was not to point out the sins of the other. Both had to leave that far behind to serve Christ.
Unity Among Brethren
Let us now look at other problems which can test brethren’s strength in unity. In Matthew 20:21 the mother of James and John comes to Jesus and asks, “Grant that these two sons of mine may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on the left, in Your kingdom.” Jesus simply answers that those places are not His to give. This mother’s request, however did not sit well with the rest of the apostles: And when the ten heard it, they were greatly displeased with the two brothers (Matthew 20:24). They were not upset at her. They were troubled with James and John who were seen as trying to surpass or become better than the rest of the apostles. Most members do not try to be seen as someone great. This was a problem testing the apostles and it continues to be a problem today especially (but not exclusively) to preachers and elders. For elders it can be the bragging rights of having the largest congregation, most faithful congregation or best preacher. For preachers it can become a matter of desiring recognition and praise from the right circles. It may cultivate a desire to be in high demand and spoken of in reverent tones.
In Philippians 1:15-17 Paul speaks of differing motives of preachers, Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. Envy, strife and selfish ambition can become an enormous problem in unity. When humility is tossed out and self is overvalued and magnified then trouble soon arrives. When men who are to be fellow servants suddenly see themselves as greater than the rest of brethren or when men preach out of envy in order to outshine or destroy someone else, what is to be done? This can destroy fellowship and unity since there is a perceived competition and perhaps even an imagined hierarchy or ranking among brethren. Jesus gives the answer in Luke 9:46-48 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” Humility and genuineness must be matured in the self-aggrandizer and patience must be shown by the rest. Paul truly shows patience in Philippians for those who wished him harm.
Unity Among Brethren
Let us now move to the argument between Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15. In this passage it shows that a brother does not have to change his minds on an opinion to satisfy another. Brethren, however, must love each other and understand that an opinion (regardless of whose) is only an opinion. Paul and Barnabas disagreed on taking John Mark with them for their second missionary journey. Barnabas wanted him but Paul did not. The two parted company but they did so as brethren. They were united even while disagreeing on opinions. They continued their work but now in different directions – Barnabas to Cyprus and Paul onto Syria and Cilicia. They did not spend the rest of their years poisoning the minds of brethren against each other. There can be plenty of reasons why brethren part company and it not be wrong. There are personality clashes, contrasting opinions, and divergent approaches, etc. Brethren can either work through this or (as Paul and Barnabas) walk away as brothers united. Consider one another (Hebrews 10:24). Love one another (John 13:34-35). Do not sin against each other. Know that your brother is greater than any opinion including your own. There is no method, idea, or program so great that it is worth destroying a brother. It is better to be mistreated than to mistreat (1 Corinthians 6:7). It is better to part company than to harm him, his work or the church. In 2 Corinthians 12:20 Paul writes, For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults. None of these things are done out love for the Lord or His church.
Brethren can have their feelings hurt just as quickly as anyone else. Personal affronts and insults by brethren can be devastating. It is easier to take abuse from those outside the church than from one considered a brother and fellow worker. There is a Christ-like character that must be developed: we become less offended at personal slights from brethren and less offensive to brethren. As James writes in James 1:19 let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath. We are to become less passionate about ourselves and more passionate in serving Christ and building up our brethren. We must walk circumspectly (Ephesians 5:15) and be willing to drop certain rights just for the sake of our brethren as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.
Bitterness and anger must be replaced by patience, maturity and endurance. Unity requires rising above it all even when brethren refuse to be above their own childishness and carnality. Do not lower yourself into a useless fight (Titus 3:9). You must rise even when everyone else sinks. The one that rises is the only one who could possibly keep unity intact and the work going. The one that rises lets the insults, the attacks and the hurt feelings slide into the nothing from which they came. This is all part of overcoming the world (1 John 5:4).
Unity Among Sisters
Sarai and Hagar, Leah and Rachel, Hannah and Peninnah, Euodia and Syntyche: what does the pairing of these women named have in common? They did not dwell in unity. In some cases, the conflict between the two radiated out to others creating lifelong misery for all. God shows us these women for our learning that all should follow His will and understand the importance of unity.
Unity is defined as a condition of harmony; continuity without deviation or change (as in purpose or action); the quality or state of being made one. Unity makes for peace and contentment between friends, within physical families and abiding in a congregation. David tells us in Psalm 133:1 “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Certainly he spoke from the heart by living with strife and unhappiness within family and close friends. Life becomes joyful when unity exists. Days are miserable where there remains animosity among members.
What can hinder unity between sisters in Christ? A careless word spoken, a misunderstanding in a situation or a need to be the center of attention could contribute to discord. In short, it comes to putting one’s self before the good of others. Paul instructs Christians “fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself” Philippians 2:2-3. Here Paul reminds us of the selflessness we should express in our walk to be Christ-like. Jesus gave all; His life, His comfort, His rightful position in Heaven to become our Savior (Hebrews 2:9). A Christian sister is to model her character after His and follow His example. When humility stays foremost in her mind, disagreements seldom occur. We teach this principle to children in Bible class: Jesus first, Others next, Yourself last, resulting in the acrostic- JOY. We would do well to practice what we teach.
Conflict bred from the sorrow of being childless as in the examples of Sarai, Rachel and Hannah. Jealousy developed in their counterparts Hagar, Leah and Peninnah by not being the favored one. Outcomes left to God’s plan may have saved turmoil for all. Though we are not told the reason of the disunity between Euodia and Syntyche in Philippians 4:2, Paul shows the importance of resolving the situation in his wording. He implores each by name to be of the same mind in the Lord and asks the brethren to help them in doing so. If it were not crucial to their souls, Paul would not have written with such insistent language. Today, the lack of unity between sisters may not stem from childbearing issues but perhaps a struggle to have the top position in any given situation or pushing personal feelings as doctrine. A Christian sister who divides puts her soul in jeopardy and does not practice love (1John 4:20-21).
Galatians 5:19-21 teaches us “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like, of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”. Paul lists the works of the flesh which will keep one from a heavenly reward. This list contains sins which lead to disunity and are noted in other scripture as causing discord. Imagine letting a small misunderstanding escalate into division keeping one from an eternity in Heaven and condemned to the horror of Hell. How important will it seem in torment to have had the last word in an earthly disagreement?
Unity Among Sisters
Women are emotional, sensitive and delicate beings. Hearing a song floods her memory of a cherished moment in time. A simple commercial can make tears well up with the image of a family life. One unusual glance from a husband sends the wife questioning her hair and outfit. However, the nature of the “weaker vessel” (1Peter3:7) does not excuse one from the requirement to keep God’s commands. While it is true God created women with a more expressive character, restraint needs to prevail. A level head must guide emotions where one word or phrase does not erupt into volcanic outbursts. Christian women must follow the instructions to submit to one another (Ephesians 5), love the brotherhood (1Peter 2:17), sow peace (James 3:18) and be careful of one’s speech (Matthew 5:37, 12:36-37). They are to do good to all (Galatians 6:10). Do not become the woman people must tread on eggshells when near. Be the one whom all would imitate her generous nature and love for the Lord.
What if a congregation has sisters who insist in doing all and sisters who do little or nothing? Does this create unity within? Understand, a sister may be doing all because no one else will- she needs help. Some sisters are unable to be involved due to health, but can share in efforts by working at home through calls or cards. However, women pushing selfish agendas do not serve God nor show love. Those uninvolved do not practice service; instead look to others to do their work. Both extremes make unity difficult and can harbor unloving feelings toward one another. The church is a body which is to work together (1Corinthians12). Members are to use their abilities for serving the Lord and demonstrating brotherly love (Romans 12). Faithful Christians believe Ephesians 4:15-16 but speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head-Christ- from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. Each should do their share for the good of the body- the church.
I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace Ephesians 4:1-3. Paul pleads in many of his epistles for the brethren to be in unity. Guided by the Holy Spirit, the cause must be of great importance and wide spread among the churches to be addressed so often. This unity is to be adhered to in our day by learning from examples and heeding the commands in Scripture. We need to listen and obey.
Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena and Tryphosa, Persis, the mother of Rufus, Julia, the sister of Nereus and Olympas are sisters in Christ listed in Romans 16 among faithful servants of the congregation. Paul trusts Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea, to deliver his letter to the saints in Rome. He continues in the epistle to note those who cause division and avoid them since they do not serve Jesus but are deceiving. In contrast to the first list given, these women are remembered for unity, obedience and labor. Your name is recorded (Revelation 20:12), is it among the list for unity?
Ignoring the Lion
To disregard an obvious situation can be stated as “ignoring the elephant in the room”. How often are we as Christians guilty of “ignoring the lion in the room” when it involves protecting our family? Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour 1 Peter 5:8. Are we vigilantly watching for our children’s souls in an age of technological depravity?
For most of us, the exposure we have to lions is limited to television documentaries or the other side of an iron gate at the zoo. We can read the command written by Peter only to mildly consider the consequence. However a roaring lion actively hunts the sick, weak and unprotected to satisfy itself. Visualizing the devil as Peter warns would put us more on guard. It is all too easy to convince ourselves our sons and daughters would never be caught up in the vices prevalent in our society. They attend worship with us, obey our rules and lead a happy life. But worldly temptations lure the most steadfast Christian.
We as parents fool ourselves by thinking our children are immune. Computers and cell phones can connect them to addicting pornography and every form of evil. The youth today snap lewd pictures of themselves and post for all to see. Their actions scream for love and attention which has been absent in the home. Many choose a sinful path to be heard. The lion is breathing down their neck. Did you give them their armor?
Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil Ephesians 6:11. The apostle Paul then names each piece of protection and its virtue: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God. Parents must, by example and word, teach their children Bible truths to survive in this wicked world. Equipped properly and ready for battle will help our young win the spiritual fight. Ignoring the enemy and denying the state of affairs brings catastrophic failure. Ignorance in this instance is not bliss – it is destructive.
Be alert to watch and listen for that lion.
A Too Easy Panic
It is a part of American history. On Sunday October 30, 1938 at 8:00 PM (EST) thousands of people tuned their radios to the most popular show of the day: the “Chase and Sanborn Hour” staring Edgar Bergen. At about twelve minutes into the hour, the program went into the musical section of the show. Most listeners moved the radio dial to find something more entertaining. What they found caused a bit of a panic. On the radio appeared to be a live news broadcast. It was, however, Orson Wells’ clever adaptation of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds: a science fiction story about Martians landing on earth to destroy mankind. Orson Wells designed the script so that most of the program seemed like live reports from the New England area. Anyone tuning in who did not hear the beginning of the play would now have heard apparent news updates of terrifying creatures invading towns throughout the north Atlantic states. Most people did not realize it was a play but thought it real. Anything that sounded like news on the radio must be the news and therefore true. It caused such concern that police were actually sent into the radio studio in New York to stop the broadcast. Orson Wells refused to let it stop and later pretended publicly that he had no idea his radio drama had created such wide-spread alarm. He clearly calculated everything in hopes that it would. It was his Halloween stunt.
The whole incident seems absurd today, but such an event turned into a quick indicator. How was such a thing possible? Could people be so easily persuaded there was an invasion from Mars? Some left their homes for safer ground. This whole episode proved to be a needle gauging the level of faith in God in American society. Clearly many were fooled by the drama, but Christians living in that time were not taken so easily. They knew immediately such an idea was preposterous. It had to be a thing of complete fiction. It would not matter how real or authoritative it sounded. It did not matter that it came from the radio. Someone who knew the Bible and believed would instantly see through the prank.
The Bible sets out a complete foundation of truth. Through its books and chapters are written the certainties of facts and matters of reality. We can know enough about the earth and the universe from the text of the Bible (when the earth came about and why it is here) to know there can be no Martian invasion. The notion is silly.
If we have assured ourselves this current age is well seasoned and world-wise beyond susceptibility to any hoax, let us think again. It would be easy to write a short history on it – alien autopsies, crop circles, EQ Pegasi, etc. The gauge measuring faith in God in the U.S. has not risen but is plunging. And let us remember Romans 1:22, Professing to be wise, they became fools. As truth is suppressed and God is ignored, people do not improve. They become ripe for all tomfoolery. An evil-seeking opportunist will take advantage in the most destructive ways.
There are plenty of modern day hoaxes, and still the faithful are not so easily taken. We can be armed by the word of God and know immediately such things are farcical. The popular idea of global warming is fiction and flies against the promises of God in Genesis 8:22 and other places. “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” You either believe God or you believe atheists who think man is nothing but a spreading virus plaguing the earth – their description not mine. Is this any less asinine than thinking Martians were invading the earth? Not at all. But there is a difference: Orson Wells meant no real harm. The final solution to global warming is the eradication of most people on the earth. That is real harm. This is very evil. There has been the call for abortions to stop the advance of global warming. Some have believed this enough to actually murder their own unborn child. Do you realize the level of disregard in God’s word there must be for someone to do this? This goes beyond Orson Wells little joke. Let us not be fooled.
Proverbs 10:14 Wise people store up knowledge, But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.
Gardening in the Spring
In the spring of the year it is easy to do outdoor work. Mowing the lawn will never be easier throughout the rest of the year. Gardening is never so pleasurable than in spring (until something is harvested). Everything is fresh and new and promising great things. The breeze is cool, the sun is gentle, plants are sprouting, everything is well watered, and the smell of blooming plants drifts about through the air. If you do not like gardening and yard work in the spring then it is likely you will never like it because it does not get any easier. In fact it only gets harder.
A few years ago in the spring we planted numerous things about the house. At that time of year it was a pleasure to water them and tend to them. That was May. In June the sun was not so gentle and the air was not cool. All outdoor work began to have a serious side to it. The pleasure in it began to dwindle. When July arrived the sun became a relentless brute refusing to let up on its grip. It began to punish everything in its sight. The plants in the dry ground required constant attention. There was nothing pleasurable about being outside and certainly no pleasure in mowing. Everything was hot and the only thing on my mind was, “When will this sweltering summer end?” It is at that point that gardening and outside work must become a matter of love and devotion since there was little pleasure in it. One could see that some people were dedicated and that others were not. The springtime gardeners disappeared as their cool weather pastime became a sweaty work requiring a devotion they did not possess. Then came August and September and neither one held a day matching the cool pleasures of the spring.
The work of the church is very similar. It requires a life-long commitment. That is a dedication which will see to the work through it all – the good times and the bad, the easy and the difficult, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2). The fair-weather friend is not much of a friend. The fair-weather Christian is not much of a Christian. The stony ground from the Parable of the Sower (Matthew chapter 13) is a good example of this. The stony ground represents a type of person who hears the gospel and receives it with joy. But when things get difficult that person leaves Christ. A proper faith could not grow in him and his faith dies. This person can be found in the church until there is a difficult sacrifice which must be made. Then he disappears back into the shade and shadows of the world. God does not seek fair-weather friends nor does Christ desire fair-weather followers. When the work is easy and very pleasurable then more people are apt to be part of it – but even then some are not. How many will follow God and do His work through the difficult years? If you do not like the work of God’s kingdom in the best of times it is likely you will never like the work of God’s kingdom ever – and that includes eternity. This truly is the spring in more than one since of the word. The work of the church does not get any easier. The work God set before us is not to be ignored or conveniently forgotten or pushed aside for our own works. Those working in the kingdom of God when it is the best of times prepare themselves for future days. They prepare themselves slowly and look toward the future regardless of what type of days they turn out to be. They do so in faith.
God is looking for those who desire something better than the filth and vanity of this earth. He is looking for those who will do His works. No one purposefully hires lazy people or people lacking diligence. And He expects and demands more out of us. As we progress we mature and ready ourselves from greater things – greater works, greater sacrifices, greater results and heaven. This is not a pastime. This is not a hobby. This is the work of God. It is greater than anything else we could do. Let us not be fair-weather Christians, or stony ground. Let us have faith growing in us and let us mature and work through the easiest and the hardest of days.
Of the Conscience and Sin
I would like to discuss two examples and two situations. The first goes like this: I once knew a man who lived for years in a rather vicious section of Detroit. He said gunshots were common and funerals for the murdered very common. He viewed the whole experience as a curious thing. He did not realize he had become accustomed to lawlessness and violence. To him it was an expected way of life. He came to believe that life was supposed to be violent and dark. When he moved miles away from Detroit into a different town he noticed something: The surroundings were rather calm, and he was not tense or on edge. He had not realized he lived as tense and on edge for years. There was no crime around him. There were no gunshots. Murder was not common at all. Life became much different than what he thought it must be. He did not realize how terrible his living conditions were until he left it. Unfortunately there were those who never escaped to know a better life. They grew up surrounded by horror. They never knew there was a better life where everything was different. And they died victims of the horror.
Katrece and I know a couple who once lived in Italy. They did mission work there for a number of years. They spoke of various places, sights, and cities. When they told of visiting Naples there was one thing said. “Naples looks good in your rearview mirror.” They did not like the city. As a matter of fact many Italians do not like that city. They described it as a crowded city filled with crime of every sort, and crude people. It was (perhaps still is) a place where most people would not want to live. Yet there are people who live there. Those who are born there do not know anything different. Those who move there and stay eventually become accustomed to the packed narrow streets and the violent, lawless ways of Naples. This couple only visited. They saw what the city was like and then turned away. They rejected the ways of such a place.
It is often said that sin will take you farther than you wanted to go and keep you longer than you wanted to stay. Few ever leap immediately into the dark reaches and depths of sin. People are eased into it. They travel down a broad path and a gentle slope and suddenly find themselves deeper than thought. As one sin leads to another the conscience is slowly killed. Sin does not appear so bad to someone whose conscience is numb. To them sin becomes expected and desired. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 4:2 of those who would destroy their own conscience, “speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron.” Paul shows that you can harm your own conscience. It is done through sin. It is done by living in sins instead of repenting of them. Sin becomes normal and soon becomes master. Genesis 4:7 “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.” Satan entices with the false notion that you may freely sin and be in full control. In fact we can choose what we will and will not do. But when sin becomes the master and the conscience is destroyed then you are not in control but are submitting to sin (Satan) as master. You cannot be in sin and control it.
The only way to control sin is to be out of it, refuse it and be properly armed against it. Thus one must know a better way. The man who lived in a violent section of Detroit did not know a better way until he found it. He was not aware that there was a better place. He left people behind who never knew anything but crime and human life as worthless. The couple who went to visit Naples found a place they knew was rotten and could not leave fast enough. They went having known a better way and they did not want what Naples had to offer.
What then is the lesson of these two examples? Do not destroy your conscience by living in sin. Do not become accustomed to sin in any way. That is the first part of its path. That is when sin seems minor, trivial and a normal part of life. Know a better way. The only real better way is found in Christ. There is found true life – life the way it was meant to be by the Creator Himself. Sin becomes a harsh master. Sin turns the world into a place of shame, horror and deceit.
God speaks of the extent in which Satan can bring a person to accept sin through complete deceit. Such a person will fully believe they are righteous while in sin. They accept the most absurd notions and see nothing wrong or out of place. Isaiah 5:20-21 “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, And prudent in their own sight!”
. . .And now a word about global doom and disaster. My Dad has said on more than one occasion that throughout his life someone has tried to keep him and everyone else scared. He said that as long as he could remember there has been some eminent catastrophe circulated by experts and friends of experts. Such disasters came in all stripes and were always on a massive scale: famine, disease, pestilence, and worse. Something fundamental to life would shortly run out or break down. Such catastrophes were always just around the corner, but never came about. Stories like these seem to be a means of selling papers or books or news programs. There seems to always be an industry based on creating fear by a soon-approaching calamity. Something horrible is just out of view but will soon take us all.
There is a history of such imagined disasters and part of that history is that they never pan out. They are soon replaced as the old concern is forgotten and the experts and friends of experts come out with a new fear. Global warming is just the latest installment. Global warming is the idea that the earth will simply get too hot. This will cause floods, famine and madness with complete annihilation of the earth to follow. That fear motivates people to read books on the subject, watch news broadcasts, and even funnel money into research.
What is the problem with global warming? The first problem is that it is false and makes God into a liar. That is enough to know it is seriously flawed. That is also enough to bring it from the realm of politics into the realm of religion. You cannot call the God of the Bible a liar and then expect Christians to be quiet about it. If God knows all things (Isaiah 40:28) and if God cannot lie, (Titus 1:2) then any idea which contradicts God’s word is by definition wrong – it attacks God and attempts to undermine faith in Him. Those who believe God will not be taken by such a lie as global warming.
God spoke in Genesis 8:22 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease.” Thus the harbingers of the global warming (and their followers) cannot have any faith in God or His word – they are mostly atheists and new age spiritualists. Nor do they want the rest of us to believe in God. This is an effort to undermine faith so as to defraud and affect a dodge – a con. This brings us to the second problem.
Here is the second problem: global warming is a fraud. It is a fabricated “just cause” needed by a religious faith – environmentalism. A lie will never benefit anyone except those who are set to make money or power from it. Any conman can cleverly craft a lie to his own advantage. It is nothing more than a scam and has every element of a religious cult. Inside the environmentalist movement is the sense of enlightened and sacred discoveries and doctrines. All contradictory evidence or arguments are ignored, ridiculed or forbidden. Opposition is shut down – even by legal means. Transgressors are shamed. Leaders of the movement are considered non-accountable. The basic members must make all the sacrifices and radically alter their lifestyle while the upper echelon gives little or nothing. Any notion of something else with greater importance or urgency is prohibited. There can be no higher cause. The death of a person or all humanity is relief for the earth. That brings us to the third problem.
The third problem is that the myth of global warming is deadly. Unlike so many other man-made fears this one centers on man’s existence as the problem. Humanity is viewed as a virus on the earth. Man is seen as foreign matter harmful to the earth. Since global warming is supposedly occurring through large levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and since mankind naturally exhales carbon dioxide the final solution to global warming will be the death of innocent people. The logical conclusion to the faith of global warming is the elimination of some (or most) people from the earth. That makes global warming a moral issue. There are already innocent people who have died from this belief. A couple decided to abort their unborn child because that child would only contribute to the death of the earth. A man killed himself believing it was his duty for the planet. The whole thing would be completely laughable if it were not deadly. God gives his assurance that the earth will remain until He ends it (2 peter 3:10-12). Mankind simply does not have such power.
It is always better to believe God rather than man. God’s word is still far greater even when compared to that of a Peace Prize winner. Through the continued foolishness of man, Satan laughs.
Taking Our Ease in Zion
Amos 6:1 Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria, Notable persons in the chief nation, To whom the house of Israel comes!
The people of Israel were at ease. God describes them in Amos 6:3-6 as lying on beds of ivory, stretched out on couches, eating exceedingly well, singing idly and drinking wine. All the while they oppress the poor, crush the needy (Amos 4:1) and do not mourn for the sins they committed (Amos 6:6). They climbed the social ladder seeking the lavish and the sensual. These men of Israel ran roughshod over everyone and the Law of God to get to their place of self-satisfaction and became indifferent. They only sought to serve themselves. They were simply too busy enjoying their position in life and self-indulgence to serve God or listen to His warnings from a prophet He sent or to care about their own salvation. It would only follow that if they repented and changed their ways their level of power, influence and prosperity would change as well. Therein lay the trap: wealth brought complacency. As material satisfaction grew spiritual health declined to utter sickness and death. From this sprang complacency and complacency cannot be bothered.
There is a saying, “Beautiful doors are seldom opened by open hearts.” It is true that prosperity engenders apathy. When people become affluent they tend to develop faith in money and material things while confidence toward God diminishes to nothing. Concern for doing right interferes with a lifestyle pursuing comfort. Wealth carries a reliance on it, due service to it and satisfaction in it. Thus a mindset is built where money alone solves all problems and God is made irrelevant. He is replaced in the hearts of people by the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches (Matthew 13:22). It happened to the nation of Israel. It can happen to anyone. Christians must take care not to become “at ease in Zion.” There is work that must be done. The race we are to run is to be run by all, not by some. The race we are to run is not a sprint which is over in a matter of seconds. The writer of Hebrews states in Hebrews 12:1 …let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. This is a marathon which is far more demanding and requires pacing and diligence day after day, year after year and decade after decade.
Taking Our Ease in Zion
Amos 6:1 Woe to you who are at ease in Zion, And trust in Mount Samaria, Notable persons in the chief nation, To whom the house of Israel comes!
In Revelation 2:4 Jesus condemns the church in Ephesus for leaving their first love. In verse five he commands them to “repent and do the first works.” In Revelation 3:15-16 the church in Laodicea is called lukewarm and that God would vomit them out of His mouth. Why? The members of that congregation were apathetic and content to do nothing. A congregation is destroyed faster by rotting from the inside than any force could inflict from without. Obviously the churches in Ephesus and Laodicea were meeting on the first day of the week to worship God. It would appear they kept the doors of the church open but that must have been about all they did. While Ephesus does have a history of doing very well in the past Laodicea does not. Nevertheless both of them were condemned for their current condition.
God does not describe His followers as lazy and listless. The path to heaven is not a place where others must carry all burdens but somehow we are exempt from breaking into a sweat. Nor does Jesus tell parables of faithful servants who relied on everyone else to do the work. We all are fellow ministers. We are all fellow servants serving together.
Our society is one of prosperity and avarice. Such an environment becomes a petri dish growing the apathetic, the complacent and the spoiled. This culture is becoming harder and harder to evangelize. As churches slide under the weight of the material desires of members they become less concerned about evangelism and focus inward only to become nothing more than a social club and dating service. Many people wish only to be served and consider the church as a place where service is only one way. The only diligence they display is in seeking a congregation where nothing is expected from them. That is why megachurches are so popular. These sorts of Christians shop for a congregation the way one would shop for a hotel or a bank. They look for the congregation that will give them the most and expect the least? Never would these Christians lift a finger to help in some work of the church (benevolence, evangelism, etc.) if it were so much as mildly inconvenient. They never ask, “In which congregation will I be the most useful?” since they are driven by convenience, comfort and complacency.
It is not enough for a congregation to keep the doors open and the lights on. All congregations are to do what they can in the kingdom. Like individuals each congregation has its own service to fill. And each congregation has its members to help fill it. In the life of a congregation there may be years where less can be done in one area. But that does not mean nothing was done. A congregation may do very well in evangelism one year and the next must focus most of its attention to the sick or some other benevolent work. One work does not outweigh all others. There is a balance that must be done, but something must be done.
To be at ease in Zion is to retire from the Lord’s work. To be at ease in Zion is to have someone else do all the work. There is to be no ease in Zion. This is the Lord’s field. This is the Lord’s vineyard and it is serious work. This is the life God set us to do and there is no room for complacency. Complacency cannot be bothered, but it will be greatly bothered on the last day.
The Great Wall of False Information
I remember my World History textbook in the tenth grade. Printed boldly in the chapter on China were interesting details concerning the Great Wall. It said the Great Wall of China was 14,000 miles long and was the only man-made object visible from the moon with the naked eye. As it turned out both tidbits were completely false. I did not actually consider these things beyond how remarkable they seemed. The wall was designed to keep out invaders from the north. It would have to be large to do that. When I discussed this with a friend (who was not even taking World History) he mentioned it was impossible. I was incensed and showed him the text book. If it was in a textbook it had to be true. My friend said simply, “The circumference of the earth is a little less than 25,000 miles at the equator. If the Great Wall of China is 14,000 miles long it would stretch over half way around the earth.” He was right. The wall could not be that long. The introduction of one simple fact proved the textbook must be wrong. How could the writers and publishers of a high school textbook make such an obvious blunder? Only very educated people create textbooks. My thoughts were, “If the writers were wrong then why am I studying this textbook?” Also, “What else did they get wrong?” I was certainly not happy that soon I would be tested from a book I now knew to be flawed.
Facts about the Great Wall of China are of no real concern. This whole experience taught me you should never place your trust in men regardless of their assumed education. It also taught me bad information can spread indefinitely from an influential source. Here is the real concern: if you are taught a lie, you will be very likely to spread that lie for the rest of your life. If the lie is presented as a fact about God, His church or the doctrine of Christ then it becomes a concern indeed. It becomes the very thing in which people will be lost for an eternity. That is no small matter.
The world is filled with people who have been taught lies about God, His Christ and salvation. These fabrications are spread from one generation to the next believing that it originated with Christ without the faintest inclination of fact checking – which God made extraordinarily easy. A pastor said it therefore it must be true. How many people believe salvation is obtained by the sinner’s prayer? Yet it is not found in scripture anywhere. It originated from a famous radio preacher named Billy Sunday in the early 20th century. Billy Sunday was not given the authority to change Christ’s plan of salvation. The doctrine of the sinner’s prayer has been repeated as true and people have lost their souls by having confidence in it. How many people believe that one only needs to receive Christ into their heart? It sounds nice but is also easy to disprove. This doctrine had its origins from a preacher named Dwight Moody (circa 1860’s) not from Christ. Both Sunday and Moody spread a lie which once taught was repeated as true from one soul to millions of souls. These two are hardly the only modern false teachers. The continuous work of false teaching year after year has produced a Great Wall of False Information. The design of the wall is to keep as many people away from the truth as possible. But God has made the testing of every false teaching simple and easily. The quick examination of the truth exposes everything.
Jude 1:3-4 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
A Life’s Description
Often in the obituaries one finds long columns written of the person deceased. Listed are the family members left behind and those who preceded the death. It tells of their career and accomplishments, what organizations they affiliated and what religion they were a part of. Perhaps it mentions what a loving spouse, grandparent and sibling they were to the family. These are comforting words to read. Though much can be said of one’s life to show respect at their passing, they are temporary thoughts. What should be stated of a life to convey importance?
Several men and women in the Bible have summations of their life and the words are few. Enoch “walked with God” (Genesis 5:22). It is extraordinary that someone who lived 365 years, had sons and daughters and was a prophet (Jude 1:14-15) has his life summed up with three words: “walked with God.” That truly is an economy of words. Though brief those three words speak volumes. There really is no knowing what all Enoch faced in his life – the challenges, the successes, the loss, the sleepless nights, or the persecutions. He must have been a great man and certainly far greater even than those who were called “mighty men who were of old, men of renown,” or even “men of valor.” The others did amazing things on the earth but their works ended and any trace of their names and deeds quickly vanished. Whatever they did could not last nor was it enough to be taken by God (Genesis 5:24).
Three times God called Job “blameless and upright” (Job 1:1, 8 and 2:3). On two occasions Paul described Tychicus as “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7). The apostle John said “Demetrius has a good testimony from all” (3 John 1:12). Abigail “was a woman of good understanding” (1 Samuel 25:3). Anna “did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day” (Luke 2:36). Joseph was called a “just man” (Matthew 1:19). In Acts 10:2 Cornelius was described as “a devout man and one who feared God with all his household.” Simeon “was just and devout” (Luke 2:25). Jesus sums up Nathanael when he says “”Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47). In Genesis 6:9 Noah was called a “just man, perfect in his generations.” Moses is called “the servant of the Lord” (Joshua 1:13).
God can also describe entire groups in the same way. In 1 Kings 19:18 and Romans 11:4 God described a group of “seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal.” An elder seen by John describes another group: “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
The carefully chosen words speak volumes of the life they lived. What few words should a Christian hope to have said on their behalf? He was a servant of God. She was a faithful Christian. What more needs to be said? A faithful servant will incorporate righteousness in all parts of their life without long addresses. They will have been the obedient child, the devoted spouse, the caring parent and dedicated worker for the Lord. Not perfect but mercifully saved by God’s grace. Though the newspaper may state a hometown and age in parting words, the destination of that soul is the import. If it cannot be said that you “walked with God” nothing else matters.
The Message from Barnes and Noble
I believe Barnes and Noble has been trying to tell me something, and I believe I was not listening. There comes a time when the Christian looks about and sees the world is showing itself. It shows a heart that is extremely dark. It is easy to be naïve. It is easy to ignore. It is easy to deny the truth or even underestimate the extent at which this world is corrosive to the soul. For many years there have been certain stores I have avoided and even ignored their very existence. I have tried to make it a habit to keep away from shops displaying vulgar t-shirts or pornographic/fashion photography. But there have always been places I considered safe and others relatively safe as long as you stay out of certain sections of that store. For me Barnes and Noble always epitomized that second category “relatively safe.” Because bookstores shelve their books by categories and visibly label each category on the shelves one could quickly distinguish which areas to avoid. Some sections would be obviously friendly while others would be stocked with spiritually toxic matters.
Within the past few years I have noticed the local bookstore becoming more hostile with fewer safe areas. In the past vulgarities found inside the pages of some filthy paperback or kept in specified areas are now proudly displayed at the end caps of bookshelves. What was previously hidden and less pronounced is now painfully obvious. The undercurrent has become the ocean. The wickedness relegated to back corners has been encroaching steadily outward into every available space. It is as God described Judah in Jeremiah 2:34 …I have not found it by secret search, But plainly on all these things. Nothing is pure. Nothing is thought shameful. Nothing is left undefiled. And now the conclusion is obvious. The aisles of Barnes and Noble are indicative to what is going on outside the store. It is a reflection of what is going on everywhere. There are far fewer safe places where the soul can rest in refuge, in goodness and innocence. The church truly is an island and a safe haven. There is no better place on this earth.
There is no way to know just how bad Sodom was when Lot moved in to live there, but it certainly did not get any better.
2 Peter 2:6-8 and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) —
The world is on a steady and sharp decline. It is definitely time for everyone to decide which side they will choose and stay faithfully to it. Too many congregations are failing. Too many Christians are falling back into the world. This is no time of ease. Our job is no larger than those who worked this world before us such as Moses, Jeremiah, John or Paul. But neither is our job smaller and less demanding. This war is not small. It is not easy. It is not quick. It is not trivial. Souls are at stake.
Our work here is expressed in Revelation 2:26 “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations.” Our work here is to develop Christians and reach out to the lost. We are working here to plant and water. We are here to keep a congregation faithful and suitable for the kingdom. The world shows itself to be crumbling and it proves our work is vital. The world shows its darkness and proves God’s light is light indeed. It shows its corruption and proves God’s ways are better. The wickedness of the word is uncontained but God is still the perfect refuge.
What If God Was More Like Us?
What if God was good only as often as we were?
What if God lied to us as often as we do?
What if God blessed us only as often as we used those blessings for actual good?
What if God loved us only as much as we love Him?
What if God listened to us only as often as when we listened to Him?
What if God sacrificed only as much as we are willing to sacrifice for Him?
What if God reflected us instead of us reflecting Him?
What if God was faithful to us only when we were faithful to Him?
What if God kept His promises only when we kept ours?
What if God forgot us as often as we forget Him?
The point is this: we expect God to be there for us regardless and we do not want Him to be like us at all. We expect Him to always do right even when we choose not to. But do we demand a one-sided relationship with Him? A one-sided (or codependent) relationship is where one person expects everything and gives nothing; the other person expects nothing and gives everything. This side does all in its power to keep the relationship going while the other side cares little or nothing for it except what can be gained. Because God is longsuffering He will keep such a relationship but only for so long.
It is evident that many want God to be a protector and provider but desire Him to be far removed from their lives. Do we have an attitude toward God as though He were some sort of handyman? “I’ll call you when I need you to fix something.” Do we feel that God is obligated to do us good but we have no obligations at all? God’s love is greater than can be expressed in human words. He sent His Son because He wants the best out of us. He sacrificed His Son because of He wants us to be able to have the right relationship with Him forever. We are to reflect Him and His perfect nature in our lives. Our character is to be shaped by Him.
Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Bumper Sticker Devotion
The bumper sticker declared “I Love My Church!” as I passed by on a busy road. At first, that seemed a noble and positive statement displayed to the community of someone’s devotion to their faith. With the corruption and evil experienced in everyday life, the words stood out as optimistic medicine. Further consideration as I drove along caused me to change my initial reaction. How many times have I seen the same words on a bumper sticker with a different ending? “I Love Bacon”, “I Love Fishing”, “I Love My Cat”. Innumerable phrases are printed to share with others on the back of a car. On second thought, “I Love My Church” now seemed as meaningful as “My Other Car is a DeLorean”.
People wrongfully profess “My Church” when they have no ownership. Jesus is the One who bought His church with His blood and gave Himself for His bride. We have no claim. After Peter confessed Christ, Jesus said in Matthew 16:18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it”. Only Jesus Christ can rightly say ”My church”. Paul teaches us our place in Ephesians 2:19-20 “ Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone”. Further in the book of Ephesians, Paul states the facts of headship in 5:23 “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body”.
We can wear no other name but Christian for Christ. We can call His church by no other name but His, the church of Christ. Nor can we claim ownership to His body, the church. How sinful and arrogant to do so! The driver perhaps intended to show their love for the Lord, but we must be careful of what we profess. As the saying goes “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” and many can be read on the bumper of a car.
The Odd Twist of Man
There is something odd with the human heart (or mind) when it comes to God’s ways and God’s words. When men deal with each other one may misunderstand another or misinterpret the motive of someone else, but by and large men deal with each other rationally. When it is a matter from God however, reason begins to shift into voluntary, undying ignorance or self-imposed deaf assumptions (assuming what God did not say). Man has had the tendency to disregard a message from God altogether and then leap to bizarre, twisted conclusions. Case in point: Otto Rahn and Heinrich Himmler (who are not alone in doing this).
In the 1930’s as war seemed imminent in Europe there was a young German named Otto Rahn. He was obsessed with finding the Holy Grail and had become well known in some circles for writing books on the subject. He set himself to trek through the mountains, caves and ruins of southern France where he believed it was hidden by a religious group wiped out for their beliefs. Little did Otto realize that his obsession was shared by Heinrich Himmler the head of Hitler’s S.S. Himmler also wanted the Holy Grail so he made Otto a S.S. officer with the special task of finding the Holy Grail. Both Otto and Heinrich believed the Grail would endow unearthly powers to the one who possessed it. Exactly what power Otto wanted for himself is hard to say. What Himmler would do with unearthly power is an easy guess. Otto spent the rest of his life (short though it was) in a hopeless and now dangerous endeavor. If one were to find some cup, goblet or bowl buried in a mountain cave how would you know where it came from? How would you know if it were the one or not? Who said it would hold any power at all? The search was now perilous for Otto since Himmler became his boss, and Himmler did not like to be embarrassed or disappointed. This boss kills those who disappoint.
How could something become so twisted? How do you get from a memorial of the Lord’s death to some flimsy legend of the cup He used? How do men like Otto and Heinrich Himmler disregard the New Testament and yet believe that an article touched by Jesus must have powers attached to it? From what is the legend of the Holy Grail based? How did anyone get the idea of a Holy Grail? It is loosely based from scripture, specifically Matthew 26:26-29, Mark 14:22-25 and Luke 22:19-20. This is how far man can turn things in baffling ways. In those verses Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper. It is a memorial to be observed every first day of the week. The church in the New Testament observed it. Paul spoke on its proper adherence. It would seem that for many men they are not so much interested in keeping the Lord’s Supper faithfully (which is specifically taught). They want the very cup Christ used on that occasion for their own power – a power which is neither taught nor suggested in the text. Whatever actual cup was used by our Lord when He instituted the Lord’s Supper was never regarded as holy by the apostles. Paul mentions “this cup” and “the cup” in 1 Corinthians 11:25-28. He does not speak of any Holy Grail or the need for it. He is concerned with observing the Lord’s Supper properly – that is all. The cup is never mentioned anywhere in the New Testament except when discussing the Lord’s Supper. Jesus institutes a memorial of His death and all that some men get out of it is the idea of an object which grants power. That is simply odd.
So what do we have? Man ignored the real and made up the lie. Man believed the lie and followed the lie. Here is the curious thing: If you believe the word of God describes the actions of Christ accurately and if you believe the actions of Christ can provide extraordinary power to a cup because He is Deity then why not follow His words and ignore the myth? His words actually eliminate any myth. Why would such a godless man as Heinrich Himmler consider an item handled by Christ as having any source of power? If he believed Jesus had such powers by touch then why not believe His words have power as well? If Himmler believed Christ was from God then why did he not follow Christ’s teaching and oppose things like large scale murder? Man can be a curious collection of contradictions. Man can twist things beyond recognition.
2 Peter 3:15-16 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.
The First Laugh
We remember when our first child laughed for the first time. He was around four months old. It was on a Sunday morning. He had been fed and was placed on our bed. He lay on his back and did what babies do – he observed everything around him. We were busy getting ready when his mother came into the room and into his view. She had pink curlers in her hair. He did not know what curlers were. He had no idea why they were there. When he caught sight of his mamma with pink things on her head he laughed. He laughed. Who taught him to do that? He could not crawl nor form a single word, but he laughed. How could he know what humor is? No one was trying to make him laugh, he just did. It was uncontrollable and it raised an enormous question. How was he able to see something, process it as odd or out of place, discover it as funny and respond with a laugh? That is a complex set of mounting, progressive thoughts. There can be only one conclusion. A sense of humor is innate.
Laughter is a part of being human. It is a part of what it means to be created in the image of God. God gave us numerous abilities that cannot be found anywhere else in the natural world. We have a conscience and can choose right or wrong. We can reason. We are able to solve problems effectively. We are creative. We have emotions. We can laugh.
Laughter is a developmental marker for babies. Babies learn to talk. They learn to crawl. They learn to walk (May I add at this point that if you or your spouse are not witnessing these enormous moments in your child’s life you must rethink your parenting). Laughter is different. It is not learned it just arrives naturally as a baby develops. It is a conclusive response from thinking done in a split-second of time with the outward result of laughter. Though he had only four months of observing the world and only four months of development from birth he saw humor. Behind those wide eyes he was thinking, processing everything and naturally came to the concept of the absurd (his knew his mamma was not supposed to have pink things on her head).
It is a delight to see small children laugh. Adults do not usually laugh so hard so often. Toddlers can go into an uncontrollable roll of laughter and it is wonderful. But why is it wonderful? There is something expressed, shared, understood and contagious in humor. Its existence is no accident. Evolution did not bring the recognition of humor as something necessary to life or an adaptation to survival. Animals do not need a sense of humor to live from day to day. Yet it exists in mankind and as usual evolution has no answer – this is yet another mystery unsolved by atheists. Though the text does not say it I am sure Adam and Eve enjoyed laughing together in the garden, then laughing together with their children.
Psalm 139:14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
Secret Identities, Deduction, Deception
I was introduced to a new game. Here is the concept: all the players (about ten) are on a team. They all work for a common goal and seem to be a happy, united group. We will call them “the team.” Here is the problem: inside the team is a portion of players who are infiltrators having an opposing goal to the team. As the team wants and works toward success, the infiltrators are out to bring failure to the team. That is the goal of the infiltrators. They use secretive means to sabotage the mission. The infiltrators can cause the team’s missions to fail by just being part of it. They can cause a mission to fail by bogging down and blocking the decision making process and a mission is never attempted. The infiltrators are known only to themselves. And they know who is who. They know who the genuine team players are and they know the identity of all the saboteurs.
The genuine team members, however, know there are infiltrators in the group but they do not know who they are. All they know is missions are failing. This leads to complete distrust since they are in the dark. They do not know who they can actually rely on, and the team can begin to break down. They must use some means in the game to discover the identity of the infiltrators before the infiltrators win the game. The only way the team can win is by knowing who is sabotaging the missions. The team has only one weapon – the truth. If they can ascertain the truth in time to know who is friend and who is enemy, they can win the game. The infiltrators have only one weapon – deception. They must keep the team in the dark as long as possible to win the game. They use deception in order to abuse trust. When trust is given to an infiltrator he will use it to destroy the mission of the team. If all infiltrators were discovered, then no trust would be given and there would be no chance for them to win.
Something was revealed by the game. This sort of thing has been played out among the righteous and the unrighteous for a long time. In Nehemiah 6:17-19 Tobiah used the nobles of Judah in an attempt to influence Nehemiah and destroy his resolve. Centuries later Paul told the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:28-31 there would be savage wolves arising from their own ranks. These wolves would not spare the flock and would draw away disciples after themselves. These were all attacks from within.
Infiltrators must disguise themselves as fellow workers, otherwise trust would never be granted and they could not do as much harm to the mission of the church. Once trust is given, it is abused. Infiltrators seek to move congregations from the pure works set by Christ and in so doing destroy the works and the congregations.
When brethren do not know who they can trust, they are hampered and the work thwarted. Two brethren may be genuine workers and servants of God, but may never trust each other to join in works. Brethren may feel they must keep a distance since they cannot ascertain the truth concerning other Christians. There can be no strength in numbers since infiltrators work to divide Christians from each other. In this the infiltrators may know far more than the faithful. False teachers know weak from strong. They test the waters to find out. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 11:19 that the faithful may not be made known to a congregation until there is extreme difficulty: For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you. In certain circumstances, the best a Christian may do is to work alone or with a few trusted friends. He may not know which way to turn. Who is truly faithful and who is a pretender? Having been divided, the faithful may now be conquered. Satan’s weapon is still deception. Our weapon is truth supplied by God. Therefore we take the following warning from Christ:
Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
On a Pirate Ship
On December 9, 1718 in the courthouse of Nassau nine men were tried. Woodes Rogers presided over the trial. He was a privateer turned pirate hunter recently appointed to be Governor of the Bahamas. Nassau was the capitol of piracy in the Atlantic. It was the stronghold of every sort of treachery and Rogers was appointed with the unnerving task of breaking it up. Here was the hotbed of lawlessness which threatened everyone in the area – from Nova Scotia to Argentina. Pirates chose any direction and plied their trade of murder and theft, preying upon the innocent and weak, destroying ship and town. If they felt things were too hazardous for them, like being chased by the navy of some angry country, they could always return back to the protection of Nassau. Even the powerful Spanish navy kept their distance. The lawless felt perfectly safe there. Everyone in Nassau seemed to be a pirate or a sympathizer profiting from their exploits. Over the past few months Rogers had kept law and order with fewer and fewer men – they kept dying. He had arrived for duty with four ships. Now only one remained. This trial meant a lot. It would be a significant blow to piracy in the Atlantic.
The nine were brought to court. There were whisperings of possible rescue attempts from the defendants’ friends and fellow pirates so Rogers had placed as much firepower as he had available at the trial. The tension had to be very high. The trial went as expected with one exception. There were nine nooses in place, but only eight men would hang. The ninth man was John Hipps. It was discovered and proven in the trial that Mr. Hipps was a “forced man.” He had been captured by pirates and forced into their employ. He was not a pirate but he certainly lived and worked among them. What must it have been like for Mr. Hipps? He was living a lawful life onboard a ship of lawlessness and was likely a minority of one. He would have seen their monstrous deeds and plans in action, but was powerless to stop them. He would have in mind what everyone else on that ship had in the back of their mind: the law. When would they meet justice? They all knew that piracy ends with either death or retirement from it. Most pirates had a basic plan for life: plunder, grow rich and powerful by any means possible, live as you please outside the reach of any law, then at some point stop and rejoin society as a wealthy, influential man. The problem was avoiding the law until that time and also knowing when to stop. It should be noted that even the most notorious pirates had very short careers (Blackbeard’s was only two years). They all knew a law was in place. Gallows waited. Judges were appointed. When would they stand before one? John Hipps was unique in that he welcomed the end. He did not want to stay on that ship. He did not fall in love with the ship. He welcomed justice. Only then could he be released from a ship full of vile people. For him justice meant freedom. For the rest it meant the noose.
Let us take a look at where we currently live. Not everyone in the world is worldly. Lawless deeds are done every day on a global scale but then there are Christians. We do not join in. We are law abiders on a ship filled with the lawless. We are in a similar situation as John Hipps. He looked for and hoped for the law to find him. He looked for the judge and did not fear his life being examined honestly. Peter wrote in 2 Peter 3:12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God… There is no terror of judgment for the Christian. Christians look for justice. They look for the end. The worldly live with a great dread they hope will never come – full accountability. Hell is worse than any gallows. The world does as it wills and lawlessness continues, but a Law is in place. Hell waits. The Judge is appointed. This ship will run aground. Then comes justice and the righteous rejoice.
2 Peter 2:7-9 and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) — then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,
We live in an age of disposable pop culture. What is popular today is soon forgotten and replaced by something else just as forgettable and pointless. Popular songs are made with a shelf-life in mind. They may last in popularity and marketability for a few months, or a few years. It makes its money and is immediately replaced. The shelves of the music industry are constantly being restocked with something new. It does this because it is a marketplace and must function as a marketplace.
Hymns are different. Good hymns may last for centuries. Hymns are not like the top forty. They are used for worship to God. That takes on a sober and serious duty. They have a much higher purpose and are not to be part of pop culture. Certainly there should never be a pop church culture. We may need to examine that idea for the moment. Look at the denominations and you will see a well-defined popular culture. It has its celebrities, its current popular beliefs, and its present fads and trends. One is respected if he or she is up to date on all of it, and accepting it. Church music has its own history of being used to identify the “in” crowd. A group which defines itself as the super faithful and the enlightened simply on the merits that it accepts what it says must be accepted. Hymns are meant for the worship of God and for the teaching of man. They are not meant to identify one as in a certain group or demographic. They are a direct response to Ephesians 5:19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord. They are also a direct response to Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. The words “teaching and admonishing” means any song used in worship must teach something. Thus the words of the song are vital.
A song that does not teach anything cannot be considered appropriate for worship. There is a principle given in 1 Timothy 1:3-4 which directly applies to preaching and teaching. Since teaching is to be voiced through song in worship these verses also apply to hymns:
As I urged you when I went into Macedonia — remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
Paul tells Timothy that all teaching in a congregation must be of value. It is to be exclusively Biblical. Anything else will diminish spiritual life, the congregation will starve, divide and soon all will die away. If it is true in the spoken word of a preacher it is also true in the harmonic words of an entire congregation. In both cases people are being taught. The doctrine of Christ must be expressed in song. Hymns are not to be filled with words which have no real value to spiritual life. God is to be praised. Admonitions are given. Hymns must incorporate the teaching of the New Testament whether it concerns the church, moral living, reward and punishment, salvation, the love of God, etc. Only then is God glorified and worshipped. Anything else is a rejection of God and His will.
Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
Islam: Satan’s Perfect Religion
Regardless of what world politicians may say, Islam is not a religion of peace, and Muslims know it. It does not bring peace, nor will it ever bring peace. Its history is littered with war, atrocities, and genocide. While posing as moral and strict in righteousness, it evokes every form of evil. In its fifteen hundred year history Islam is filled with murder, slavery, drug trafficking, sexual perversions, etc. And why should anyone be surprised? The very founder of Islam was just as vile and hideous. The demands, promises and rewards from Allah entertain such perversions. The Islamic faith began by violence and it continues to spread across the world today by violence and by the threat of death. Muslims who truly desire peace with all mankind have no justification to do so from the commands of the Qur’an or by the example of Mohammad.
Islam was established by Mohammad (A.D. 570–632) who sought power. He did so by posing as the prophet of God, a prophet greater than Moses or Christ. These names would have held some degree of respect in sixth century Arabia. Mohammad was given extraordinary trust by his disciples, who gladly followed him to raid caravans and destroy villages. When he had little power, he taught peace and admiration for others including Jews and Christians. But when Mohammad became a warlord and ruler, his teaching became darker and ominous. He turned increasingly bloodthirsty, and so did his teaching. Islam is unique in world religions. It is the only world religion which demands the death of all who are not believers and practitioners of it. It demands that its followers lie, scheme, and kill in the name of Allah. Terror, deception and death are at its heart. This sets the pattern of Satan’s perfect religion.
Islam is based on the Qur’an. Because the Qur’an is so ambiguous and incomplete it leads to confusion. The Qur’an cannot stand on its own but must find help from other sources. Help was developed through the writings of the Hadiths. These are records of Mohammad’s life and his sayings. These writings give context and understanding to the text of the Qur’an but these have variations and only add to the confusion. What do you get when you have a book that demands obedience from God but is vague and incomplete? And what do you get when this ambiguous and contradictory book emphasizes death to all unbelievers? The answer: violent division. A book like the Qur’an is the very formula for it. It forms a faith of division and death. A Qur’an of uncertainty leads to sectarianism and death to all outside the sect. Thus Islam is not united but is fiercely divided. Muslim kills Muslim and then unbelievers. This is Satan’s perfect sort of division with murder at every turn. What extraordinary work. The work Satan did fifteen hundred years ago still brings death and suffering on a rising scale today.
There is no certainty in Islam. One cannot know that he or she is in fact saved. One can do things which may help, but there is still no certainty. In Islam there is only one way to be sure of salvation, and this is through martyrdom. If you are killed in jihad (struggle against unbelievers), then you are brought to a luxurious, sensuous, and blatantly immoral paradise. Mohammad bribed his men with the promise of a materialistic and decadent eternal reward if they were to die fighting for him. This bribe worked then and it continues to work today. A man who dies while killing unbelievers is taken to his own paradise and is met by seventy-two women created for him alone. Mohammad did not stop there. For the sake of homosexuals in his ranks, he also included twenty-eight young boys in this Muslim paradise. Today when a Muslim is killed in the act of murdering others (i.e. suicide bomber), it is common to hear the news of their death over loud speakers in their home town. It is announced as good news. Under the faith of Islam the murderer (Muslim martyr) is now joining seventy-two women in paradise. This is to comfort the parents and relatives of the deceased murderer. In reality, such a person dies and lifts their eyes in torments. They are not met by anything promised by Mohammad. They are met by misery and eternal anguish. Meanwhile, on the earth the living relatives celebrate the supposed wedding of their martyr in paradise. And Satan has yet another cruel laugh. What horror! What malice! What bottomless and utter hatred! A man believes the promises of Mohammad and kills innocent people. He dies in the process to gain a reward and finds the promises were all lies and ends in torment. Then it is too late. Eternity is set. This is an example of how Satan works. Islam is based on lies, and brings death at every step as it grows across the globe. This is Satan’s perfect religion.
On a Pirate Ship
There were very few ships in history that were built for piracy. Stede Bonnet is an exception. He was a wealthy man living in Barbados who decided to leave his wife and become a pirate. He had a ship built and fully outfitted with cannons and supplies. He paid for it all honestly – truly a rare thing. In the summer of 1717 he started his new career which would last a little over a year – he was executed in Charleston in 1718. For Stede piracy was a business he would invest in. Usually pirates simply stole what had been built by someone else. They were opportunists who investing nothing. They just took. Pirates bought only if they could not steal. Then they would pay for it with whatever they had stolen. Most pirates had to start small. If they saw a sloop as an easy target they would steal it. From this they would start with a small and quick operation and then build an ominous fleet. With each conquest they would gain another vessel and many times would add to their numbers with volunteers willing to join them. The most successful captains gained ships and men in a matter of months. The path was progressive. They would start with a small sloop to schooner to merchant brigantine and finally to a naval brig. Pirates produced nothing. They created nothing. They only took or destroyed what others worked hard to build. By prowling known routes they would come across a single ship and often did not have to fire a shot. Intimidation was enough to take it and everything aboard. What had been a ship in legitimate service is now taken for theft and bloodshed. Other captains and sailors may recognize the ship from a distance and never suspect it is now under new management and entirely hostile. They may never suspect until it is too late.
Christ built His church. He gave the promise of this in Matthew 16:18. Prior to that there were prophets who spoke of it (Isaiah, Jeremiah, David, Daniel, Joel, etc.). The church was started in Acts chapter two at about AD thirty. But today the religious world is filled with denominations all believing they have the Christ as its builder. They cannot all be from Christ. There are contradictions everywhere: in doctrine, in practice, in purpose, in beginning, in result. If they are not from Christ, then where did they come from? Man took what God built and used it for his own purposes. Man cannot build this ship – it is the church. The builder is God. Man has taken what was constructed and paid for by God. As stated in Job 20:19 the wicked “has violently seized a house which he did not build.” Man then repurposed it and refitted it to his own liking. Thus the church is taken from the legitimate service with Christ as its head to becoming something quite different. When man takes control of the church there will be nothing but destruction in its path. How many times in history has man done wicked things and explained it as the duty to the will of God and the church? The denominations represent man’s conquest over congregations of the Lord’s Church.
Jeremiah 5:30-31 “An astonishing and horrible thing Has been committed in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, And the priests rule by their own power; And My people love to have it so. But what will you do in the end?”
Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
(the good side)
Life is one large uncertainty. There can be no way to know what will happen today much less tomorrow. We can hope for one thing, work for one thing, and live for that one thing and yet life gives us something else. From that point we have to adjust everything. The human ability to adjust is astonishing. People can be thrown into a situation and have the capacity to adapt, or as one might say: get along. For the most part people change their lives as life brings on changes. People can be thrust into a completely different environment or condition and immediately begin to modify their thinking. We had to do this constantly as children. We are given the ability to be mentally and emotionally flexible to fill the spot in life where we are placed. As that spot moves so must we adjust to it. Children are masterful at this. We are all born and reared and have no control of the situations where we find ourselves. Thus we must make the best of where we are. As adults we have more control. But still there may be situations brought on by unstoppable forces in life that seem to scramble everything and then wait for our response. People can use what they learned as children and use that instinctive ability to bend to every circumstance. There is however, more than one side to that ability. First let us look at the good side.
People can go through enormous tragedies and astounding, devastating loss and yet adjust and get through. A life has been changed and that life continues. Even through multiple catastrophes a person can show astonishing adaptability. In history people have seen their lives turned upside down. In Daniel chapter one we see a young man taken from his home in Judah to serve in the distant land of his conquerors. In the same chapter we see a resilient, faithfully determined Daniel who refused to disobey God simply because he was now under the wishes of the king of Babylon. Daniel and his friends appear to be absolutely buoyant in a tough time that changed their lives completely.
Job went from a prosperous father to a man sitting alone in the ashes of his former life in a matter of a day. His children were killed. Everything he owned was destroyed. He was covered head to toe with boils. When his three friends arrive he sat for seven days in the dust grieving and said nothing. But he lived on and in fact adjusted to what was he was given. In the very time of shock and anguish it is stated, “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10). Of course it was his patience and faithfulness that brought him through. That is what makes him an example of human resilience. How far can one be put to the test and not break? How much could one person lose and continue to adjust?
Paul spoke of being content no matter what condition he found himself in. As he stated in Philippians 4:11-13 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. There is only one reason that Daniel, Job and Paul could make it through very difficult times. It was their reliance and trust in God. He would do right always. He still does.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.
1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy.
(the bad side)
The human ability to negotiate through the changes in life is astonishing. We all learned how to do this as we did it naturally as children. We were able to leap from one situation to the next and seem to make it without blinking. Childhood is a steady course of change. There is always something new whether good or bad. Life after childhood is a continuation of the same track. There are highly predictable changes in life but there are always unexpected curves and hills. There is a good side of adjustments. There is also the negative side. Let us observe the negative.
We have all seen the stories of someone who was found living with a million cats in their house, or in an apartment filled with garbage, bugs and rats. Sometimes there is no way to understand it empathetically. There is what can only be described as a developing madness. Over time the amassing filth became normal. These people must have slowly adjusted to their situation and did nothing to correct it. Day by day and year after year people can become so comfortable to appalling and deteriorating living conditions (they created) they do not understand the scope and seriousness of their problem. These problems were easily solved in the beginning. As time passed new problems compounded older problems and the home became something which seemed impossible to clean. The harder the situation is to remedy the less likely it will be corrected and the more likely a person will just continue to adjust and live with the condition as is. When, however someone comes to their senses to conclude that life would improve with a cleaning then the garbage will be cleared out of the house.
The same can be said for sin. People can adjust to it as well. Few people go from complete innocence to abject perversion in a single bound. One goes down a hill one step at a time. Satan knows that people must be taken from one compromise to the next. He uses temptations based on opportunities aimed at an individual’s weaknesses. When sin is committed people adjust to it and the weaknesses and corruption that follow. When Satan has a home in the heart people can adjust to that as well. He, like filth and rats, will not pick himself up and leave your life voluntarily. But he is far worse than the dirt and vermin in an earthly home. At death someone can leave a dirty house behind and enter paradise (that is good news). Sin and Satan, however will follow into eternity. Death can never separate you from the filth of the soul. No one can be rid of sin without help from God.
The adjustments to sin can be astonishing. In Romans chapter one Paul describes a people’s declination from God. There are words which note the points they passed. Each describes a worsening state. Yet they accepted each point of condition and passed on to further decadence. This is certainly the bad side of the human ability to adjust if one could become comfortable with increasing depths of sin. “Their foolish hearts were darkened” (1:21). God “gave them up to uncleanness” (1:24). He “gave them up to vile passions” (1:26) and “gave them over to a debased mind” (1:28). Nothing good could ever come from this. Their society sank into every form of evil. Sin in its matured state sin is neither comfortable, convenient nor pleasurable. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death (James 1:15).
Adjusting to a life in sin is a horrible disorder. It is a type of developing madness where one can go so deep it is not easily understood except to say that one can become a slave to sin and adjust to any level of filth. But God supplies the means to clean it all away. What seems impossible for man is easily accomplished by God.
Psalm 51:2-4 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight — That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge.
Many years ago on a very cold day it snowed and I did not have to go to school. That sentence alone makes this a happy story. As a kid snow days were the highlight of the winter. It was as though someone granted us a spontaneous holiday. It was a reprieve from the classroom. To us it seemed that we learned more about life by jointly exploring a fresh and quiet new world covered in snow than we would have ever learned in a school building. There are very few adventures in a school building. Upon discovering our new fortune for the day my brother and I went on a walk in the snow. Other children, some still in pajamas, were coming out to see the liberator (the snow) which allowed us this one day of freedom. Thus we met our friend Charlie who was ready to join us to see the world as arctic explorers. We were fearless. We felt unstoppable with the energy of boyish youth inspired by the snowy wild. And we were unstoppably stupid. That could prove to be a terrible mix. It is only by the longsuffering of God that we all walked back home.
I was the youngest of the three. Charlie was a year older but must larger. He was easily thirty pounds heavier than me. My brother was older still and weighed even more. We tromped our way through the snow into the woods and across hills and pastures. The sky was gray, the wind was kicking, the earth was white and the lakes were frozen… Here is where trouble began. Yep, it was irresistible. To an unstoppable ten year old boy there is no danger in nature. There is no thought as to what could happen or what it could do to you. I was the lightest so I ventured out first. The ice cracked under every step. We did not realize that was a very bad sign. For future reference: never walk on any ice that makes a noise. It is too thin. I went out a few steps and then back to the bank. Charlie was highly competitive. He could not be outdone. He stepped onto the lake and went a few feet further. My brother stayed on the shore like a news crew waiting for an imminent disaster. I was not as competitive as Charlie but I loved irritating those who are. If I surpassed his farthest point then he would be predictably compelled to go even further. In this game I had the advantage. I was lighter. I knew wherever he went was safe for me. He could only hope that wherever I went was safe for him.
Charlie and I ventured further and further as we crossed the lake. We had to stay a safe distance from each other because our combined weight would be too much for the ice which became darker with water visibly rippling below it. We had no idea how deep the lake was, how difficult it would be to get out if we fell in, or at what point the ice would fail. All the while we sang songs and hoped to get across the lake without getting wet. I was ahead of Charlie by about fifty feet and was getting close to the bank. The ice was significantly thinner on this side. In the very last step to shore my feet went through the ice. The water there was only ankle deep so I easily walked right onto the bank. This was bad news for Charlie. I left broken ice behind me. Its integrity, which was questionable to begin with, was now compromised. My brother looked at Charlie and said, “If he can’t make it, you can’t make it.” Charlie took about two more steps and down he went with a crack and a splash up to his belly. He made his way up and out breaking ice and splashing dirty lake water as he came. Yep, this was better than school.
What this ten year old boy did reflects what adults do in a more dangerous game. The game is simple: How far can you go away from God’s word and still be pleasing to Him? God set the limits and I will test the limits. Do we ever see the seriousness of our situations? Playing games with God or testing God’s patience is never a winning plan. God’s word is always solid ground. Why test to see how far you can go away from center and still be safe? Why venture when eternity is looming? Why venture and claim any faith or love for God? With God there is no uncertain step, there is no thin ice. We can rest assured that each step with God is entirely safe, and right and good.
Deuteronomy 5:32-33 “Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.”
The Mind of an Author
In 1840 Edgar Allan Poe became a co-editor of Graham’s Magazine based in Philadelphia. At that point in his life he was becoming well known to the thousands who bought the magazine and was making his mark as a writer of unique and intriguing stories. His mystery stories were very popular in the States as well as in Europe (Poe predates Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by decades). One of the things that fascinated people by his mysteries was that Poe had a theory he introduced in them. He purported that one could figure out a mystery done by another by using the same mental process to come to the same conclusions. Any mystery could be resolved by following the necessary steps to accomplish the riddle of the crime. In essence, an intelligent mind can discover the works and the means of another intelligent mind – or that for every effect there must be an adequate cause. He believed that with some work one could find the cause. This idea brought interest to his writings. There were other subjects he incorporated in his writings as well which kept the public buying his magazine – the fascinating science of cryptography. Codes and hidden messages are always good for a mystery. Poe had a theory on that as well. Concerning coded messages Poe stated that, “human ingenuity could not construct a cipher which human ingenuity could not solve.” If you can encode a message someone else can decipher it. People took this as a challenge and sent him various puzzles, cyphers and mysterious messages which, according to biographers, he solved all but one. He proved the unsolved one to be a fake seeing it was gibberish with no message in it. What did Poe express in these theories and discover in the challenges? An intelligent mind can create something. Nonsense can be tossed together. Man can distinguish between the two. Anyone can recognize the works of an intelligent mind. An encoded message denotes an intelligent mind behind the message.
Let us now turn our attention to DNA – the genome. It is the very substance that builds all things living. It is the highly complex blueprint in biochemical form necessary for anything living to grow into its fully developed form. It does far more than decide if you have detached earlobes. It determines whether you are a humpback whale, a dandelion or a person. It defines everything about a living organism. Here is the important part of understanding DNA that no one disputes: it is an encoded language. For this to be remotely possible there must be four components in place which, in themselves demand a fifth. The four components are: 1) a language, 2) a message, 3) a code, 4) a decoder. For every effect there must be an adequate cause. These four components are an effect pointing to a cause. For there to be an encoded language there must be a deciphering of the language otherwise DNA would be useless. Thus there is RNA – the highly convenient and necessary biochemical decoder. If the DNA is decoded there must be a message in a set language. Here the fifth component or cause is demanded. If there is message in a language then there must be an intelligent mind that made the language, message, code and decoder. There must be an Author. Anyone can recognize the works of an intelligent mind. Man can now decipher the genetic code. It is not nonsense tossed together in an accidental arrangement. The four components demand the fifth component: God. He is the Author of it all. We can know a little bit about the mind of the Author by what He wrote in nature. He is overwhelmingly powerful and is extraordinarily intelligent. He is God.
Romans 1:18-20 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,
You Know That Song Makes Me Cry
Having grown up in the church, I can remember occasions as a young girl misunderstanding a hymn. “Work for daylight flies” brought thoughts of the annoying insect darting about from the words of Work for the Night is Coming. In the hymn Hark the Gentle Voice, the word yoke was heard as yolk which left me wondering why eggs light and easy would be laid upon us. Children hear words and picture them in their imagination. As I grew, I came to understand the words of the hymns.
“You know that song makes me cry!” laments Charlene Darling on the Andy Griffith Show as her brothers begin a tune. The songs that made her emotional bore ridiculous titles such as Never Hit Your Grandma with a Great Big Stick. Though taken from a comedy show, she says something in which we can all relate. Certain songs can make us cry. Are there hymns in the songbook which have the same effect?
Often a hymn reminds us of a loved one who has passed especially if it was their favorite. A particular hymn may have been sung at a funeral, now making the singing of that hymn difficult. However, hymns can have an effect on many which is unrelated to a memory. The song simply makes them cry.
Do we truly comprehend the words of the hymns we sing in worship? Or do we mindlessly mouth the words with thoughts on other matters? As part of worship to God, we do not obey the command of worshipping in spirit and truth if we sing thoughtlessly. 1 Corinthians 14:15 What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding. If we focused on teaching and admonishing as we should, most members would be brought to tears.
Many of the hymns sung on any Sunday are difficult to sing without emotion when the words are truly understood. Nailed to the Cross cannot be sung and comprehended without feeling shame. I can never make it through the first verse without tearing up since I have my part in putting Christ on the cross. It Is Well with My Soul should stir feelings of joy and reliance toward our Creator. Almost Persuaded reminds of how many hear the Gospel but do not obey.
Do not be embarrassed by feeling the emotion meant in the hymn. God gave us the ability to cry and understands when we do. We should all pay attention to the purpose in the hymn and not choke back the tears. Have a tissue in hand and worship God!
(the first part)
When I was a child I had whims of the impossible. I would dream that I could fly, become invisible and take vengeance on bad guys who deserved such things. The imagination can be wonderfully useful. Most invention comes from imagination. Inventions like imagination can be good or evil. Children imagine things they cannot do but wish they could. It is all a part of childhood and immaturity. Childishness aside, I personally believe that adults becoming obsessed in fantasies involving fame, greatness or even kindness are a sign of a mind ill at ease with conditions, limitations and personal actions. Fantasies can be the result of a flawed person pretending to be better without actually taking steps to make corrections and improvements. It is the mind wishing to be someone less disappointing (stronger, smarter, desired, clever, etc.) under different circumstances. Fantasy can also be the mind desiring sin and formulating thoughts based on those desires. Thus the mind becomes a staging area for evil to fester and gain footing in the heart. It is the problem found with Esau concerning Jacob. Esau wanted to kill his brother and the murder was planned, perfected and performed internally in Esau’s mind.
Genesis 27:41-42. So Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing with which his father blessed him, and Esau said in his heart, “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” And the words of Esau her older son were told to Rebekah. So she sent and called Jacob her younger son, and said to him, “Surely your brother Esau comforts himself concerning you by intending to kill you.
It must be noted that although Esau may have repeatedly imagined killing Jacob, he never did. As it turned out Esau never harmed Jacob but the two brothers were reconciled many years later.
Having said all that, we need to make a distinction between fantasy and the use of imagination in a constructive, positive way. 1) Someone may look at a failed result and wish they would have finished better and succeeded. They could speculate on what they should have done and even visualize the outcome and work toward that end. 2) Two people get into a raging argument and afterward one thinks what he should have said and how it should have been handled. 3) A person may desire to accomplish a goal in life and then make plans to complete all tasks involved and envision success. 4) An author may create a story, characters and even a world from the imaginings of his own mind and bring that world to paper, or just tell the story to others. None of these are wrong use of imagination, but can be very helpful. The first is examining a failure in hopes of doing better in the future. The second is dissecting the words and actions of a bad situation for the purpose of being more influential or persuasive for the next disagreement. The third plans steps for achieving goals. The forth is simply story telling – a matter of entertainment and even education. Obsessive or dangerous fantasies however can be very destructive. They could be seen as a symptom of some weakness.
Fantasies can cross the line. Imagining personal vengeance and destruction on an enemy (like Esau) is wrong. Desiring God’s justice in His time and by His way is not. David expresses that in places like Psalm 10:15. Martyrs are envisioned in Revelation 6:9-11 who cry out for judgment.
The product of one’s mind reveals the heart. Our desires dwell in the heart. Sinful desires can make way into expanding thoughts and the mind can then form a playground for those desires in fantasy. That can get us into great trouble. The desires of sin cast into our own personal fantasies can never produce anything good. It is nothing more than entertaining the idea of sin first in fiction (our home-spun fantasy) which then leads to action. All of it is sin. It may be best to remember the words of Christ:
Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
Committing adultery is wrong but so is desiring adultery. Creating a fantasy around it cannot be any better and compounds the problem. Here fantasy becomes a playground of lies where Satan can advance into your mind. Satan can never tempt you to do what you would never do. But if you fantasize long enough he knows you will be weakened. What is permitted in the mind today may be put into practice tomorrow. Even so the line was crossed in the desiring.
James 1:13-15 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
Be careful little mind what you think.
I had an English teacher who was very strict and unyielding about most things. That goes with the territory, I guess. She would write on the blackboard the proper use of a word and she would be correct. Then she would write the common grammatical misuse of that word, or the common misunderstanding of the word as could be found among the general population – students and adults alike. Most people either used the wrong form or the wrong word. Such examples would be, “A balloon may burst but a balloon can never be busted – unless it is arrested.” She also noted that, “In regards to physical appearance one cannot be light or dark complected since complected is not a word. The word is complexioned.” It is true that complected is not an English word but it is an American word and can be found in Webster’s Dictionary. The problem for my English teacher is that though she was unmovable and exacting in the ways of the English language, the English language is not. Language belongs to those who use it. It is steadily changed by the very thing my English teacher was working against – popular misuse. At the end of the day popular use (or misuse) rules and no English teacher has any official say in the matter. The best any teacher can do is to show how to speak and write English in its present form. Editors of dictionaries must consider how a word is used whether that use is currently considered right or wrong by academics. The popular mistakes and errors today become the rules for English tomorrow. Because language is driven by common use it is made into a very fluid apparatus. My teacher could not freeze the language for the sake of what she knew as proper English. This leads us to Bible authority and denominationalism.
What my English teacher wished to accomplish with the English language the Bible does accomplish with spirituality. The Bible has the authority to set doctrine. That doctrine does not move. In Matthew 28:20 Christ tells us to teach and observe everything He taught. Does His teaching ever change? If so when and by whose authority did it change? In Matthew 7:24 Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” That rock (His word) is solid and steady. It does not move. That is the only way He could possibly judge mankind – by a law that is set and does not change. By contrast (Matthew 7:26) Jesus then says, “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” Sand moves. It is never still, never set, never solid. Dunes are like waves of the sea in slow motion. Sand is easily moved by wind and water.
If we examine the teaching offered today by the denominations and compare it to their teaching of a hundred years ago we would find many differences. In the past there was a general stand against immorality. Preachers taught the existence of Hell. People generally understood that certain behaviors were not tolerated by God and would be punished. Things have deteriorated in many of these denominations because they are driven by popular thought and desires. Change is the unmistakable and inevitable result of a denomination. They are fluid because they adjust to popular sentiment. The best a denominational teacher can do is to show the official teaching of the denomination in its present form.
Christ’s church is different. It is founded on something that does not move: God. It is a testament that is brought into effect by the death of the testator. That cannot change. His doctrine has remained the same for the past two thousand years with the promise that it will not change because it is perfect. It is unmovable through time. The current practice is the ancient practice. It saves exactly as it did in the first century. If we examine and understand the teaching found in the New Testament then we can imitate it for the same results as those in the first century. The pattern for the church is easily seen in the New Testament. That pattern is easily followed and kept. That is the only way the church can continue and be identified.
Matthew 4:4 But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” In two thousand years His word has not changed.
Ignoring the Prison Break
Sometimes the world admits things they did not intend to admit. Of course this is usually done without realizing it or by having no other choice and hoping no one took notice. There are times when the actions and decisions of atheists inadvertently concede there must be a God. Even religious people who work against God admit by their actions that they know they are enemies of God all the while trying to keep up appearances.
In Acts 5:17-18 there was another attempt to stop the preaching of Christ. The apostles were thrown into prison by the high priest and the Sadducees who were “filled with indignation.” The next day the Sanhedrin with the council of elders came together to try the apostles. But there was a complication. In Acts 5:23 the officers who were to bring the apostles from the prison reported, “Indeed we found the prison shut securely, and the guards standing outside before the doors; but when we opened them, we found no one inside!” The apostles were no longer in prison. This would be a major problem for the Sanhedrin and one that must to be resolved carefully. Investigations should be made, guards should be punished, the prison should be made secure, and men should be sent out to hunt for the escaped prisoners. But nothing like that happened. Verse 24 states, Now when the high priest, the captain of the temple, and the chief priests heard these things, they wondered what the outcome would be. That seems to be an odd response. The men of the Sanhedrin had seen too much to be thought clueless. These men had seen the miracles of Christ and were still unmoved. In Acts 4:16 they had seen the miracle done by Peter and John and responded by saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. They obviously understood another miracle had taken place and they knew no other prisoner could escape.
The apostles did not go into hiding. The high priest would prefer they disappear. They were teaching in the temple since early morning and were easily discovered. They were brought back to the Sanhedrin quietly because the officers feared the people. What are the first words the apostles hear? The high priest asks them in verse 28 saying, “Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this Man’s blood on us!” Did the high priest and all the Sanhedrin forget about the prison break? No, they just did not want to discuss it or even broach the subject. The first question should have been, “How did you escape?” But they knew they would have feared the answer – an angel of the Lord brought us out of prison. They do not seem to show the least bit of curiosity. So they had a private discussion with advice from Gamaliel, “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it — lest you even be found to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39). Then they threated and beat the apostles and let them go.
Did the high priest and the Sanhedrin just admit something? Could they avoid it? Are not prisoners usually punished severely for escaping? If the posted prison guards could lose their life for an escape (Acts 12:19) should not the prisoner also be punished because he escaped? The Sanhedrin knew more than they cared to acknowledge. No guard was punished. No investigation was held. It was an ignored incident. By dodging the subject altogether and letting the apostles go, they inadvertently admitted that God must be with the apostles. If God was with the apostles, He could not be with the Sanhedrin since the Sanhedrin was actively persecuting the apostles. It should be noted that the Sanhedrin would continue to persecute Christians but they would never throw the apostles in prison again. It is too embarrassing. Gamaliel’s advice opens a window into the thinking of these men. Their actions disclose the fact that they knew they were fighting against God, yet they continued.
Ignoring the Prison Break
There are times when the world must admit the truth even when it does not want to. There are occasions when this admission is completely unintentional and perhaps unavoidable. In Acts 5 the apostles are put into prison. An Angel of the Lord brings them out and the Sanhedrin does not want to talk about the escape because they know it was a miracle. They know what it means: God is behind the teaching of the apostles. That is precisely what the Sanhedrin does not want to acknowledge. By their actions they admit they know the truth. Regardless of what they know they continued to persecute the church. Stephen is killed in Acts 7. In chapter 9 they sent Saul of Tarsus to Damascus to bring Christians to face trial. This did not pan out as planned since Saul/Paul became a Christian on that trip. Thus there would be attempts on Paul’s life (Acts 9:29) and on the lives of others.
In Acts 12 Herod began to stretch out his hand against the church. He killed James. This murder was immediately applauded by the Jews. The men of the Sanhedrin were no doubt happy that Herod was doing what they wished they could have done earlier. Seeing that his actions were popular Herod then threw Peter into prison. He may have been well aware of the apostles’ escape in Acts 5 because Peter is placed in the custody of four squads (12 men). That is a lot of guards for one fisherman. He is chained between two soldiers with guards before the door. None of this is a challenge for God or to an angel, for that matter. An angel awakens Peter in the night and walks him out of the prison. Peter makes his way to the house of Mary where prayers were being offered for his release and safety.
When morning came there was a bit of a disturbance among the guards as to what happened to Peter. This would not be good news for them. Herod looked for Peter who simply was not there. What does Herod do then? He has the guards interrogated, then killed and then he leaves town. He took his anger out on the guards, but what of Peter? Was there a manhunt for the fugitive? Was there a bounty on Peter’s head? Was there even a wanted sign? Herod does not go looking for Peter, he goes to the coast, and Peter does not go into hiding. In chapter 15 Peter is still active in the church in Jerusalem. He would be an easy find. Under ordinary circumstances a fugitive would be found and executed. By his actions Herod unavoidably admitted what the Sanhedrin had faced earlier. If God wants His apostles out of prison no one can keep them there. Herod opted to spend time at the beach rather than seem too concerned about this problem. He knows he must ignore the prison break. That action of ignoring is inadvertently conceding to the truth. He knew God is with the church, yet he did not change his path. After this point Herod would not have too much time left on the earth. Soon he would be basking in the worship and praise of men only to be struck down by an angel. Herod knew the truth, he just refused it.
The Mind of an Author
Ezra Pound was born in 1885 in what was then the Idaho territory. He grew up in the U.S. and moved to Europe prior to World War I where he became a recognized poet, a friend to poets and editor to various literary magazines. He shaped the careers and lives of notables of the day such as T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway. It is claimed he was a valuable friend to have and was full of sympathy, especially to writers in desperation. Pound’s life is certainly not admired by all when later in life he began to show sympathy toward the wrong people with the wrong ideology. But there is something he said concerning the value of literature that is telling about the art of good writing. Pound said, “Literature is news that stays news.” What did he mean by that? Good literature, whether poetry or prose, always contains some indispensable truth. It is by observation or natural conclusion that an author writes about people, their relationships, the world or life. Good literature reveals some very important truth. Perhaps a truth that is so elusive that it remains enlightening or it is so perceptive and profound that a new depth of its meaning is discovered every time it is revisited. Or it is so universal that it will always be relevant regardless of when it was written, published or read.
It is certain that Ezra Pound was no Christian – he became a fascist, a follower of Mussolini, a traitor and then incarcerated for twelve years as insane. And I do not believe he had any respect for the Bible at all. But even a fascist and a mad man can stumble onto something. If it is true that good literature is “news that stays news” then what of the Bible? Certainly one would expect God to produce literature better than any human writer could produce. Is it permanently relevant?
The mind of God brings mankind the greatest news possible. The Bible leads us to its absolute message: the message of the cross. This is called the euongelion. That is the Greek word which means “good news.” It is usually translated into English as the word “gospel.” It is eternal news that we can be saved from sin. The Bible informs every age of what is needed for salvation. Nations come and go but the Bible has remained through the centuries (now 2,000 years) to teach the next generation. No book has had such a positive effect on people or on history. No book has ever had the staying power to be printed, read through the ages and to be put into practice. Its influence is profound. A concept of outcome Ezra Pound may not have ever considered. Outside the English department of a college and a handful of poetry lovers few people consider the works of Mr. Pound. Even then there are discussions on whether his poetic merits outweigh his fascism. That may not be as hard of a sale as you might think. There are plenty who will value the words of a fascist maniac before they would ever consider the words of God.
The Mind behind the biblical text, that Mind, that Author knows too much about the true human condition to be from observation or natural conclusion. There is complete understanding and insight as a Creator knows His creation – the psychology, the motivation, the weakness, the needs, the past, the future and the potential. He communicates a timeless wisdom which could not be obtained through a natural source. Take any single book from the Bible and you will find eternal truths. Take any book from the Bible and you will find help for mankind. The Bible is the foundation for human education. It guides us into all truth as promised in John 16:13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.
Its words bring every spiritual blessing as stated in Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,
Is the Bible permanently relevant? Is the Bible news that stays news? When a book carries the truth, when that book has the words to raise mankind to its noble place in creation, and when that book has the exclusive way to God and salvation, then the answer is yes.
Ignoring the Prison Break
There are honest hearts in this world. When the truth is before them they respond positively. Others may not react so well. The Sanhedrin in Acts 5 and Herod in Acts 12 knew that an undeniable power was in action to thwart their best efforts to stop the church. Therefore they did not publicly deny it; they went silent as though it never happened. The fact they ignored the prison breaks is tantamount to admitting the power was from God. No apostle was ever placed on trial as a fugitive from the law, but the Sanhedrin still threatened them that they must never preach in the name of Jesus. These powerful men ignored the obvious and continued on their course dead set for destruction. The truth was increasingly obvious and they were left pretending for the rest of their lives that they were right.
Honest hearts can be found. In acts 16 there is a different prison, in a different town with different people. Paul and Silas are thrown into jail in the town of Philippi. This was done by wicked men who made their living using a girl possessed by a demon. When Paul sent the unclean spirit out of the girl the men discovered their cash cow was not so profitable anymore. They were not happy so they dragged Paul and Silas to the authorities ignoring the fact that something very powerful and inexplicable just happened. Paul and Silas are stripped, beaten and then placed into the inner prison. These Philippian authorities could have learned something from the Jewish authorities (if the Sanhedrin was willing to talk about it): it is not the best idea to imprison an apostle. But when honest people meet the truth something good will happen.
At midnight Paul and Silas are singing hymns and praying. The other prisoners are listening, the jailor is asleep, and then came the unexpected. An earthquake hit and shook the foundation of the prison. The doors open and the chains were loosed. The jailor awoke to what first appeared as a jailor’s nightmare: the prisoners had certainly escaped. That is a death sentence for any jailor. In the panic he decides to kill himself, but Paul calls to him with a loud voice to assure him everyone is still in place. That was a very relieved man. The jailor does not deny what just happened. His reaction is certainly different than the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. He knows these men have the word of God and that God must be with them. He asks them in Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
The truth calls and an honest heart answers. No prisoner escaped, but the Philippian prison literally broke. This time a prison break is not ignored. The jailor is not quiet about it and what it means. This was too big, too obvious and too real to disregard. He takes Paul and Silas and is taught by them. He wants his family to be taught. He and his household are baptized and they rejoice together. They feed Paul and Silas in their own house. How is it that a simple jailor in Philippi understood the truth and responded in joy but the same truth was disregarded and silenced so quickly by the Sanhedrin and Herod? The heart made the difference. Different people bring different conclusions. The jailor’s advantage was his honesty. Anyone can put the facts together and come to a quick and proper conclusion. It is easy. He and his household did it. The problems for the Jewish leaders was completely self-administered, preferred and guarded. It was their arrogance and love for power and status that kept them an enemy and suppressor of the truth. What was that truth? The truth was Jesus is the Christ. If the evidence had proven anything else they would have gladly latched onto it, but not Christ. The Philippian jailer did not lock himself into nonstop, irrational behavior. His desire was salvation. He received the very thing the Jewish leaders were driven to stop.
Pretending against reality is not a healthy lifestyle. Shutting eyes to the evidence of an undesired truth is madness, especially when the truth leads to salvation. The Philippian Jailor did not fight against God. He found his place in the church instead of working against it. The prison break greatly improved his life. God sends complete evidence for everything necessary to know the truth and to follow Him. God has placed so many proofs in this world that people stumble over them constantly. Here an honest heart finds the answer, but a dishonest heart finds unwanted evidence which must be silenced.
Psalm 100: 4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
Thank the Lord when among those who may not be thankful
2 Samuel 22:50 and Psalm 18:49 Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, And sing praises to Your name.
Psalm 79:13 So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, Will give You thanks forever; We will show forth Your praise to all generations.
Psalm 105:1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Thank the Lord when among His saints
1 Chronicles 16:8 Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples!
Psalm 35:18 I will give You thanks in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people.
Thank the Lord for His mercy upon us
1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 106:1 and Psalm 107:1 Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Thank the Lord that others have also received the grace of God
1 Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus,
Romans 6: 17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.
Thank the Lord in remembering Him
Psalm 30:4 Sing praise to the LORD, You saints of His, And give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name.
Thank the Lord and do not be silent
Psalm 30: 12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to You forever.
Thank the Lord for His wondrous works
Psalm 75:1 We give thanks to You, O God, we give thanks! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near.
Psalm 107:8 Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
Thank the Lord for protection from those who would do us hard
Psalm 106:47 Save us, O LORD our God, And gather us from among the Gentiles, To give thanks to Your holy name, To triumph in Your praise.
Thank the Lord for all men
1 Timothy 2:1 Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, 2 for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
Thank the Lord for His church and His saints
Ephesians 1:16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:
Israel was thankful
Ezra 3:11 And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: “For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.” Then all the people shouted with a great shout, when they praised the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.
Kings were thankful
Daniel 4:2 I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me.
Psalm 100:4 Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.
Moses was thankful
Exodus 15:1 Then Moses and the children of Israel sang this song to the LORD, and spoke, saying: “I will sing to the LORD, For He has triumphed gloriously! The horse and its rider He has thrown into the sea!
A leaper was thankful
Luke 17:15-16 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.
A man in the depths of the sea was thankful
Jonah 2:9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD.”
Angels are thankful
Revelation 7:12 saying: “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom, Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, Be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”
The Apostles were thankful
Acts 5: 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Jesus was thankful
John 11:41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.
The saved are thankful
Colossians 3:15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
(the second part)
Imagination is a great tool and should never to be underestimated. The human mind is extraordinary. The benefits from the workings of the imagination are countless. Throughout history problems have been solved, plans have been carefully and meticulously made and the standard of life has been raised. All of it initially done inside the workings of the mind. This is evident in the first chapters of Genesis. In Genesis 4:21 there is a man named Jubal. He is the inventor of musical instruments – specifically flute and harp. In verse 22 Tubal-Cain was an instructor in smelting, blacksmithing, and making alloys. These were being done within seven generations from Adam and Eve. The mind of man has envisioned great and wonderful things and set them into action for the profit of all. The mind is the beginning point of many beneficial ideas. But the workings of human imagination can also be used for evil. Man has also historically used his mind for wicked plans. That is where man veers quickly into trouble.
In Genesis 11:6 God notes the ability of man, the power of man’s mind and the range of his creativity. Men were using their imagination to create the Tower of Babel. Man’s purpose of the tower was in counter effect to God’s will. And the LORD said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. He wanted them to scatter across the earth. The tower was being built to keep the population together. God stopped the construction and His will is done without their compliance to it. Moses also wrote concerning the world before the flood in Genesis 6:5. The evil in that world began as evil always does – in thought. Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. That world was destroyed because of their wickedness. Their wickedness was first in their hearts.
As Solomon writes in Proverbs 23:7 For as he thinks in his heart, so is he. The best way to know yourself is to know what your mind is dwelling on. What possesses it? Is it good or destructive? This will alter the setting for your character which is always in a steady process of development. Our minds are always susceptible. There are many movies, computer games, comic books, etc. which work into forming a new and skewed reference point for an ever adjusting conscience. Violence and wickedness portrayed by a sympathetic character can numb the conscience and all sense of compassion. The mind dwells on these things and is prepped (or corrupted) for future decision making. Fantasies fester from this affecting your life. Fantasies are nothing more than mentally dwelling on things we cannot possibly do, things we should have done or ought to do but have no real intention of doing, or things we should never do. The first is perhaps innocent (perhaps not). The second is avoiding good but wanting the satisfaction of it. The last is just evil. Thus it is best to guard our minds as Paul states in Philippians 4:7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Our minds should be occupied by what is good and able to improve as Paul mentions in the next verse, Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.
We should keep our thoughts under control.
2 Corinthians 10: 4-5 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.
Assisting in Sin
I cannot believe what I got to do today. It was certainly not on my list of things to do. By a set of circumstances I poured out quart after quart of fifty year old scotch into the backyard. I broke the seal of each bottle and with arm fully extended, I let the stuff rain onto the ground. This made the area smell horrible and the odor stayed in my nose for the rest of the day – I guess in that sense I did get a snoot full. I must confess I did wonder how much money I could get for all this well-aged whiskey. Clearly this represented a small fortune being emptied out onto the dirt. By the end of it all I figured I emptied out several thousand dollars’ worth of hard liquor onto weeds and ant beds. I wondered if it would kill them all but did not seem to do anything but stink. I realize there are people who would have paid top dollar to get that whisky. But would selling it be the right thing to do? One could rationalize it this way: I am not drinking it, I am not buying it, I am getting money from it, and I cannot help what someone else might do with it. While all of that is true there is one important detail missing: I would bear the blame for contributing to someone else’s sin. There really is no reason for someone to buy expensive, hard liquor except to drink it. I would be providing the very substance for wickedness. That would make me an accessory to sin. I would be just as culpable as a distillery or bar for helping someone get drunk. Consciously aiding in any sin is just as bad as the sin itself. What kind of example is set by someone who says, “I don’t drink,” but will gladly supply it for others? If it is wrong to drink alcohol then it is wrong to offer it to others as a gift or as merchandise. This is the act of placing temptation in front of people.
When is it suitable to enable, encourage, entice, protect or add to the wickedness of others? When is it acceptable to make someone stumble or even help them stumble? When is it right to profit by servicing someone’s sin? If sin is wrong then supplying the means and object for sin is just as wrong. Paul writes of the responsibility we have toward others in 1 Corinthians chapter eight. He states that even a liberty may become a stumbling block to others (1 Corinthians 8:9). If he did something he could rightfully do (he uses the example of eating meat) but it caused a brother to stumble (go back into idolatry) then it would be wrong to eat meat – at least in front of the weak brother who could stumble from it. Even our liberties, the things we can rightfully do, must be kept in check. Even liberties can cause someone to fall away from Christ. We must always consider the souls of those around us. Freedoms (the things we can rightfully do) must be met with responsibility and, in some situations, appropriate restraint. That is why Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:2 …I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. So what is Paul’s conclusion? He writes in 1 Corinthians 8:13 Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble. Freedoms done thoughtlessly and carelessly can be very wrong. Paul considered the part his actions may have on others – even actions he could lawfully do. If these things are wrong under certain conditions then how much more so are actions that are intrinsically wrong in every situation?
We must not bring about ruin from our lives by disregarding others. Our actions can cause great harm if we do not consider them. Seemingly harmless actions can potentially make a brother fall back into sin. Doing something absolutely destructive will always have a negative impact on the lives of people around us. We will be held accountable for it all. Assisting in sin is always wrong.
Habakkuk 2:15 “Woe to him who gives drink to his neighbor, Pressing him to your bottle, Even to make him drunk, That you may look on his nakedness!”
On a Pirate Ship
In 1719 a ship stopped briefly off a small uninhabited island in the bay of Honduras. The sailors spotted a lone man on the shore signaling for help. As an act of mercy he was brought onboard. This man had been marooned for several months after surviving shipwreck. This rescued sailor introduced himself under a false name and no one knew who was now onboard. He was soon put to work like the other sailors. A few days later another ship sailed into the area commanded by an acquaintance of the captain. The friend’s name was Captain Holford. When Holford came onboard he noticed a man on the deck and recognized him immediately. He then informed the captain that this rescued sailor was none other than Charles Vane. That was a well-known name. Vane was a notorious pirate. Both captains knew what it meant to have Charles Vane onboard. He was a dangerous man and a natural leader. He could easily start a mutiny, kill all who refused to join him and take the ship. He could undermine all loyalty to the captain and all fear toward law and take to piracy once again with instant ship and crew. He would not have to attack from without. Vane was in a far better position. He was onboard with a certain amount of trust already given. It took only moments for Vane to be put into custody. Vane was taken by Holford to Jamaica where he was tried and hanged.
Congregations have been taken and fooled so many times. Since the beginning of the church false brethren have corrupted congregations from within. Paul spoke of this in 2 Corinthians 11:26. He also warns of the destruction they were bringing to Galatian Christians in Galatians 2:4. These worked in secret to bring the Galatian churches into bondage. This is what is known as asymmetrical warfare. This warfare is not done according to the typical battle front. It starts with corrupting the target from within. Christians are a naturally trusting people. They do not spend their time in cynical suspicions and first assumptions of evil. Congregations can be seen as easy objectives for the false teacher, but Christ has prepared us for such by His warnings and by providing the means of defense and combat. In Matthew 10:16 Jesus states, “..be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.”
One of the methods of the Boston movement (and other false teachers through the ages) was to undermine trust in the eldership. They would bog down works of the church while complaining to members that no works were being done. Any work they could not stop they belittled. All this was done in the homes and living rooms of members. Small meetings were held with the spiritually weak and those they felt they could influence. These meetings were kept hidden from the strong. These were obvious threats to the goal of infiltration. During all this the infiltrators would test for weaknesses in the local preacher and the eldership to see if any could be persuaded, held under threat, or easily manipulated. Any type of power was used as well as the method of “advance and retreat.” That is the art of slowly introducing false doctrines. Error is advanced as far as possible. Once there is resistance then it is time to pull back and wait for the next opportunity. When a congregation accepts compromise in one point, false teachers know that success is only a matter of time. As the invaders effectively progress in deception, the congregation digresses to the point of fracture and death. Then the takeover is complete.
A congregation is to remain faithful, strong and vigilant. A group of weak Christians lacking Bible knowledge is unprepared and will likely fall for the schemes of the enemy. They would not be able to spot a Charles Vane in their midst. False brethren can be natural leaders and opportunists waiting for the right time and place to begin taking a congregation for themselves. Christ did not leave us without help. Let us not keep ourselves helpless.
2 Peter 2:1-3 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber.
Ready or Not
“Ready or not here I come” is a very familiar phase in the game of Hide-N-Seek. In the rules of the game, you say this phrase when you have counted down the allotted time for the other players to hide. The phrase tells the other players the countdown is over and all is fair game to begin searching, hidden or not. This game can be used as an example to Christ’s return; His return by no means is a game. Rather, He will come again whether we are ready for Him or not.
We know Christ is coming as taught in Acts 1:10-11 “and while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel. Who also said, Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” These two men in white apparel are angelic beings, telling these Men of Galilee that Jesus is going to return. We can know more about His return in other Bible passages that our time on this earth will end.
2 Peter 3:10 “But the Day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.” The earth is not promised to us tomorrow or for that matter the next hour of life.
Now understanding that, we need to be ready for His return. There will not be any signs or omens at His return. He will be coming at an hour when no one expects it; we find this in Matthew 24:36 “but of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.” His return will not come with warning; we have to make those preparations now. Clearly the instructions are in the Bible. In the previous verse 24:31 it says He will “gather together His elect”, that is the Church that Christ established. We all need to be baptized into Christ’s Church, so we do not have to worry about His coming. The Bible tells us the coming of Christ is certain, but God does not allow the date to be for human knowledge. We must live faithfully to death or His return, and will be able to live with our Creator for eternity.