Are we to still 'mark and avoid' as Paul wrote in Romans 16:17-20?
This interpretive journey will look at the text from then, and now and make application to five different questions.
The following essay was submitted in research.
Are we to still 'mark and avoid' as Paul wrote in Romans 16:17-20?
This interpretive journey will look at the text from then, and now and make application to five different questions.
The following essay was submitted in research.
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1, NKJV)
Oftentimes we may hear of churches that are looking to appoint good men in the role of elders and deacons. Many times, the search is extensive but comes up empty.
Some men will not have a desire to serve (although I believe that a man should look at that verse with a different perspective than as a qualification - it isn't a qualification, but more an attribute of the heart of the servant), while others will not qualify scripturally.
I can't imagine a search being this difficult in the early church. True, there would be men that would not be qualified, but at the same token, men would set their minds and hearts toward being qualified for the honor of serving God in such a capacity.
I believe there are a handful of challenges in the church of today related to this problem of not having qualified leaders readily available, and here are a few of those thoughts for your consideration.
Friends, this article is not meant to be condemning, nor judgmental. It is intended to encourage the hearts of men and women of all ages to look at the role of leadership in the church as an opportunity to serve God in a much better way. Not to qualify each and every servant of the Lord in my eyes, but in the hearts of many as is outlined in the Bible.
I would ask you to consider that if you are not living a life that could be counted as "qualified" and you are a Christian - whether young or old - that you do your absolute best to "fix" those things that may not allow you to be qualified to serve as an elder or deacon. But, if you cannot be qualified due to the nature of the qualifications of family or gender, or if you cannot fix all things - as has been mentioned, not all can be - then do your absolute best to serve God in the fullest of capacities in which you can, and most importantly, help someone else begin their Christian journey in such a way that they one day could be considered "desiring a good work."
This is written in all love and sincerity. Some of my thoughts are my own, while others are direct statements from the Holy Writ. I hope you have found this topic worthy of more study.
In love for Him and the church,
Many of my friends and all of my family know that my dad and I have a newer camper that we store near the ocean in the panhandle area of Florida. It makes it much easier to just hop in the truck and go for a few days that way instead of twice the time to haul it back and forth to Tennessee.
Well, that proved a little challenging this week. As you probably already know there is a hurricane heading toward Florida. A big hurricane. A very powerful hurricane. Hurricane Irma has already caused billions of dollars in damages, lives lost, and areas that were once prime "paradise" spots to be totally demolished and she is pressing hard toward the land in which I live and love - the United States. More specifically, the Southeastern United States. Even more geographically specific - multiple paths could include nearly the ENTIRE state of Florida!
Of course, not to discount the effects of Hurricane Harvey from just days gone by, the southeastern United States is hunkering down, evacuating, making all kinds of preparation to either brace themselves, seek shelter, relocate - temporarily or permanently, and just basically survive this Category 5 storm which looks to have imminent landfall in just a matter of days and hours from the writing of this blog.
I live in Tennessee. My wife and I own a residential building lot in the panhandle, but we do not have any property there that is destructible outside of the improvements of the subdivision that we pay annual fees for that our lot is part of. But, let's move back to the original paragraph here. My dad and I do co-own a camper. And it is normally located in Florida and is currently uninsured because of policies of our insurance companies not allowing for out of state storage. This equated to worry on our part, which in turn led to a 17 hour, 1100+ mile trip over a 27 hour period of time in the middle of an already busy week for me to move the camper to higher ground in Alabama.
From the looks of the projected paths, we probably would have been okay with just leaving the camper in its storage area, but with that area only being between 7 and 10 feet above sea level....well, the camper needed some preventative maintenance anyway...so dad and I made a trip to the camper, arrived in the Forgotten Coast area at midnight, hooked up, drove about 25 miles, camped in a church yard that allowed us to use their hook ups (which we still had no electricity, but that's another story) and then another 100+ miles this morning to Alabama to the RV dealer. All good. Safe and sound, and we are back home - tired, but safe and in our own beds tonight.
Enough about my story - here is the reason for the blog....
We were ultimately concerned about getting back to Tennessee in a timely manner when we decided when to leave. Otherwise, we may have decided to not even go based on later forecasts; however, it seemed best to leave on Wednesday midday to not be in evacuee traffic on Friday. That proved to be true...for the most part.
This afternoon (Thursday), we crossed Alabama, into Georgia, and then into Tennessee at the Interstate 59 and Interstate 24 junction. Along the way, we passed several cars that looked as if they may be heading to higher ground, but nothing really major, or not much traffic out of the ordinary on this route, until we made that last junction at 24.
If you look at a map, you may see that 24 is a leg off of Interstate 75. And, of course, 75 comes directly out of Atlanta from the "gut" of Florida - all the way to the tip of the state. I paused at a stop to pull up the picture in this post on my traffic map on my phone to see how traffic was flowing. Wow! Just take a look at it. Well, once we got on 24, we had about 70 miles until our exit. Between the time we got on 24 to the time we exited the interstate, I probably could have numbered the civilian automobiles with a 3 or 4 out of 5 with Florida license plates. The remaining were mostly bordering states such as the Carolinas, Georgia, and Alabama. Very few cars were actually from Tennessee.
As we traveled, I would pass car after car after car after car. The majority of these cars were going well under the posted speed limit - which I found quite odd...until I noticed something. Nearly every car had at least one person in the passenger or rear seat that was looking at either a phone, a tablet, or an actual map. One poor guy had a map spread across his lap while he was holding the steering wheel with one hand and the map against the window with his elbow to keep it folded out (not very safe!). It dawned on me at this point that most of these people seemed to just be driving. They either didn't have a location in mind to which they were going...or they just had no idea where to go.
My prayers are with these people. I have a lot of friends in the state of Florida, and their safety is on my mind right now...night and day.
I want us to take a couple of minutes now, though, and look at a biblical perspective and application of this scenario.
How many times in life do we find ourselves in the "eye" of a storm - not necessarily a hurricane, or tornado, or major storm, but a spiritual storm...the kind that doesn't seem to be going away! Maybe it is that nagging addiction such as pornography, or maybe deceitfully using someone, or alcoholism, or any number of other vices that satan uses to tempt and destroy our souls with. How many times can you find yourself running from the storm...looking for shelter...looking for a safe refuge, but really don't know where to find it?
Even for the long-time Christian, this can be quite a challenge. I want to share some verses with you that can help us all to remember where our refuge, our strength, our soul's every help can be found in hopes that it may help you or I or others that may be facing their own storms - whether physical...or spiritual.
1. God IS our strength - Psalm 46:1
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
2. God IS our help - Psalm 34:17
"When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles."
3. God IS our shelter - Isaiah 25:4-5
"For you have been a stronghold to the poor, a stronghold to the needy in his distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat; for the breath of the ruthless is like a storm against a wall, like heat in a dry place. You subdue the noise of the foreigners; as heat by the shade of a cloud, so the song of the ruthless is put down."
4. God IS our deliverer - 2 Corinthians 4:8-10
"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies."
5. God IS our peace - Psalm 46:10
"Be still and know that I am God..."
To those who are trying to escape the hurricane that is on its way, words cannot help much outside of what God promises. However, the words of God can strengthen, encourage, and give peace. To those who are trying to escape spiritual storms, these words, and the rest of the Bible can help us to know how we can escape and find refuge.
My prayer is that if you are in harms way - physically or spiritually, that you will seek God and let Him help you!
May God bless you.
According to internet sources such as Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_flag), the "rainbow flag" has been around since the 15th century. The user-fed service even quotes that "according to the Bible, God created the rainbow as a sign to Noah that the world would never be flooded again."
For those of us that have read the account of the flood starting late in Genesis 5, this is exactly what we may believe. And we should. So, why all this hype now about using a rainbow as a symbol of something that the Bible actually condemns?
Over time, variations of a "rainbow flag" have represented several historical events, ideas, and even as it has since 1978 - movements of "diversity" such as "gay pride."
What I find interesting is the diversification in the use of the "rainbow" as a symbol since the 15th century, and not so much the diversity. I am puzzled at times why a movement that is clearly outlined in the Bible as a sinful sexual activity is used to celebrate the movement driven by the sin that is condemned!
Let's look at the rainbow...and the sin described.
“God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. “It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh.” (Genesis 9:12–15, NASB95)
You will see in this passage that God clearly utilized this "rainbow" to make and show a covenant with mankind. It was not for any purpose of a movement - whether a Reformation Movement or a Peace Movement or a Gay Pride Movement. It was a covenant!
Now, you may ask how I can be so straightforward about the sin of "gay pride," and rightly so. One may state that I am being judgmental...but I am not. Look at this verse for a second with me:
“There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?” (James 4:12, NASB95)
Interesting verse isn't it? One might say "see there, the Bible tells you not to judge." But, look a little closer. It also says that there is only ONE Lawgiver and Judge. When that Lawgiver and Judge has given judgment on a particular item as sinful, then it is indeed sinful! No way to argue that is there?
So, what about those judgments from God? Where can one find them? Let's look at a few passages together again.
It would take a while to read the entire passages regarding Leviticus 18 and Leviticus 20, but this is where the direct inference comes from. These two verses are evidence of this:
“‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (Leviticus 18:22, NASB95)“‘If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death. Their bloodguiltiness is upon them.” (Leviticus 20:13, NASB95)
“just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.” (Jude 7, NASB95)
Now, if you are reading this particular article and take offense to what has been said, I cannot apologize for posting the inerrant words of the Holy Writ as given by the Holy Spirit. Remember, these are the same words that were written in the same book that tells us to love one another, that we can be free from sin, and that we can have an eternal home in heaven. We cannot do justice to only "taking" part of the Bible and not all of it.
Is homosexuality the worst sin in the world? Certainly not, as sin is not judged by a grade of variation. It is, however, a sin that has been elevated in society as acceptable and tolerant. It is a sin that much like adultery, fornication, bestiality, and other gross sexual perversions will condemn a soul to torment if it remains active and unrepented of.
Paul mentioned in at least two places in the Bible about those that had left their sinful lives in various sins, and homosexuality is listed in those two places. So, I know it is a forgivable sin. I know it is a sin that can be overcome. I know it is a sin that many struggles with, and I hope that if you do, that you accept this approach in love and not in a hateful way. I love your soul and God does too!
Back to the blue skies and rainbows...
So, the first use of the rainbow flag was a sign of the Reformation of the Bible. Interesting. 400 years later, it becomes a sign of something that goes against the Bible. I cannot and will not celebrate something sinful by substituting a covenant between God and man as a symbol of iniquity between God and man. It just does not make sense. If I could say one thing about the "rainbow" and the movement of today...
Put the rainbow back in the blue sky where it belongs! It's not yours...or mine to "take" and make it what we want it to represent.
Friends, again, this article is meant to identify a love for souls and not intolerance. It is meant to hopefully help just one soul see the errors of the ways of homosexuality. It is meant to be a study help for me...and you...and others.
If you would like to study this topic further in sincerity, please contact me at email@example.com
Being a member of the church of Christ, I hear this question more times than I could count and answer. The question sometimes arises from those that want to define the church of Christ as a denomination. Other times, the question may arise when someone is trying to refute their beliefs that do not align with those of what I consider the doctrine of Christ described in Jude 3.
So, is it a valid argument or question? The simple answer is no. The more complex answer is no. While this blog is not intended to answer every question related to the era of Thomas and Alexander Campbell or Barton Stone, Racoon Smith, or any of the other known "Restoration Leaders" of that time, it is my hope that you will take a few minutes to compare the church of Christ to the church of Acts 2.
The concept of what is called the "Restoration Movement" at Cane Ridge, KY in the early 1800's or at Bethany, VA is a very unique and exciting story to research and read. These men, Campbell and Stone more specifically, sought to return to the church of the Bible once they realized that the denominations that they were members of were not truly that church. Presbyterian doctrines were not found to align with the things that both Stone and Campbell compared. What did they do about it? The same thing that I am doing about it, as well as asking you to do about it...go BACK to the Bible for the answers! Hence, the name "restoration movement" in an effort to "restore" simple Biblical Christianity.
What is that truth? How do we know that the church of Christ is the same as the church of Acts, the church of the Bible, the church that Jesus bought with His own blood (Acts 20:28)?
1. In the book of Acts, the story of the church starts on the day of Pentecost with Peter, the remaining apostles and about 120 "members" of the first meeting of the church. When Peter preached that powerful lesson (as well as the other disciples that were speaking in the languages for all to hear), those that were pricked in the heart asked a profound question..."what shall we do to be saved?" The reply, found in Acts 2:38, reads "repent and be baptized for the remission of sins in the name of Jesus Christ..." In Acts 2:42, the text says that about 3000 souls were baptized...and added to the church (Acts 2:47).
2. Ephesians 4:4-6 states that there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE hope, ONE God, ONE body, ONE Spirit, and ONE baptism (Not in that order). That would imply that the ONE baptism that we read of in Acts 2:38, would add one to the ONE body described as the church in Acts 2:47. (see 1 Cor 10:17, Heb 13:3, Eph 5:23, and Col 1:24). Since this is the case described in the church of the Bible, then that is the church that one should desire to become a part of today still.
3. Campbell, Stone, Smith...none of these men started a "denomination." As a matter of fact, they were doing everything that they could in order to get away from a mindset of being in a "division," or denomination. Many of the congregations that established as a result of the efforts of these men were named (for identification, not denomination) Disciples of Christ, Christian church, and the beloved name church of Christ. While these congregations favored in most things, eventually there was some division including things like instrumental music (something that the Restoration preachers did not teach nor condone), and other divisive doctrines that would segregate once again...the church of the Bible and a congregation of people following the doctrines of men. Paul wrote in 1 Cor 1:10 "let there be no divisions among you..." He asked if Christ was divided. This is simple context. Divided is not whole. Divided is no longer ONE. Divided is truly what is defined as "denomination" (denominating/dividing).
4. I only want to be a member of the church that can be found in the Bible. My dear friends that are parts of denominational bodies - Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, Assembly of God, Pentecostal, and so forth, my biggest plea unto you is simply this: Can you find "your church" matching the description and the pattern of the church of the Lord, the body of Christ, the church that Christ said that HE would build (Matt 16:18), not that man would build, or doctrines that would be listed in some creed or handbook that completely cause the identity of the body of Christ to be unrecognizable. They were called Christians first at Antioch. The "churches of Christ" salute you. There simply is not authority to be a so-and-so Christian or a member of a man-made church.
Friends, I know that most likely this short blog will not be fully convincing that a.) the church of Christ is not a denomination, b.) the church of Christ was started by Christ and not by Campbell or Stone or any other man, or c.) there may be a difference in the church that you are a member of and the church of Acts, the church of the Bible, the church of the Lord, the church of Christ. However, I do hope that you may have read something that will help you to consider a deeper study regarding the church - the body of Christ and where you may fit in.
If you would like more information or a deeper study on this topic, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or reach out on Facebook. All of this is said in love for your soul and for the truth of God's word and Christ's church.
May God bless you.
I have told this story before; however, there are a few people that I really hope will read this and take it to heart...
When I was 17 years old, I LEFT the church. I had been offended by some of my "friends" in the church and segregated from a lot of their activities because I wasn't in the "cool kid" group.
I gave up. I knew my Bible very well I thought. I decided that I could live my life the way that I wanted to, and that there would be no consequence to that. I had been baptized right at the age of 10. I was in a "future preacher's" class by the time I was 11. I went to Short Mountain Bible Cam every summer. I didn't cuss. I didn't disobey my parents (much). I didn't do the things that seemed to be bad. I just didn't do them!
I was a Christian. And, I loved God!
At 17 years old, I could have lost it all. It was MY desire that was taking precedence over God's. I quit attending Bible study first (since I could drive and had a job...I even asked to be scheduled so that I couldn't possibly be there). Then it was Wednesday night services that became non-existent in my prerogative. Then it was Sunday night worship services. Then this discrimination happened in my own youth group...even some by a "youth 'minister'". And...that was it!
I knew that I was my own person and that "I knew best" about how I could get to heaven. After all, I wasn't going to attend with those hypocrites; nor subject myself to such embarrassment and personal persecution. It just didn't have to happen. Me and God had it right. We were working together. I DID NOT need the church, anyone in the church, and certainly not these people that wanted to tell me how to live my life, when I knew better!
I knew God. I knew Jesus. I loved them both. I still read my Bible. (Notice I did not say study) I prayed...sometimes. I thought about what would happen if I were to die that particular day...many days. And, I answered myself...."You will go to heaven! You love God. You have been baptized. You have..." Well, YOU get it. There was no way that God would be so cruel to "make me go to church." I could do just as well on my own.
I don't remember exactly how long this lie lasted, but it became bigger, and bigger, and bigger. I began to tell my parents that I was attending worship services at different congregations (so they couldn't check up on me). But, when I would leave the house early on Sunday mornings, I would take two changes of clothing. One was what I would wear to work that afternoon. The other was my "when I get clear of the house I am wearing" outfit to fish in, hang out with some friends with, etc.
It was getting tough. I was getting rough. At 17 years old, I was trading my skills that I had acquired through my non-church "friends" of tinting windows and installing car stereos/speakers, etc. for cigarettes, liquor, beer, wine coolers, and living a life that was full of satan and sin!
I was LOST!
Now...go back to where I started. Remember - I was a young Christian. I had read my Bible. I had prayed sometimes. I had faithfully attended worship services AND Bible study assemblies for years! I even went on youth retreats and waited on the Lord's table, and thought I was bringing my friends to Christ.
It all changed. I was now living a lie that satan had created. He was winning. I was losing. My lie? "I don't have to 'go to church' to get to heaven."
While this subject is a much deeper one than most will give time or credence to reading, it is a very serious problem. God says that He wants us to worship Him. The Hebrew writer tells us WHY we come together in 10:24-25. Jesus says that we MUST worship in spirit and truth - giving a priority to worshiping Him in John 4:23-24. It was so important in the time of the early church that many LOST THEIR LIVES for the church and the ability to worship God.
Way back when I was 17, I thought I knew it all. I thought I knew what was best. I thought I knew more than God. I thought my life was more important...than my soul.
I am so thankful that there were those that saw my condition...and pulled me out of the fire. They were and remain my true friends. My brothers and sisters. They showed me what life in Jesus Christ was supposed to be like....not what I thought.
A dear friend kept inviting me to come with her and some of our mutual friends to worship with them. I finally did...one Sunday night. That night was the first time that I had ever met Tony Lawrence, my mentor and friend. He held out his hand to greet me, asked my name, remembered my name, and showed me that he cared about me. Another dear friend and several others that attended there welcomed me as their friend...and brother in Christ.
You see...it was never about me. It was always, and will always be about God. When I put "I" in front of God, I become less dependent on God, and more dependent on satan. Not something that I am proud of, but it happened.
I have repented of these things both publicly and privately. That is what the Bible tells me that I needed to do. I cannot say that I have lived the most faithful life every day since these days; however, I can say that with the wonderful blood of Christ that continually cleanses sinners like me that repent, I now understand more about why I was wrong, I was ignorant through satan, and I was LOST.
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but NOW I am found...was blind, but now I see.
Please don't be blind. Please don't be lost.
This question has been asked by many brethren all over the world it seems. There is concern about the seemingly dwindling numbers of youth in congregations in areas that may have never seen this type of thing before.
I would like to contend that they are exactly where WE left them!
Please notice the image of this blog post. There is a young man, and two young ladies studying an open Bible. One of the young ladies is holding a phone as a flashlight in order for the young man to read the text in which was being studied. What a beautiful image to find on the internet...right?
I personally took this picture on my iPhone just days ago. The picture turned out really well, but I didn't take it to enter it into any photo contests. It wasn't taken to share with family or friends necessarily. It wasn't to be sold as a "stock image."
So, why was the picture snapped?
Because these young ladies and man inspired me. They inspired me to smile. They inspired me to think. They inspired me to write this very blog.
You see, I know these young people. The young man is the son of a preacher, preaches, and is studying to be a preacher himself. The young lady in the far edge is a very dear high school friend of mine's daughter. But, regardless of who they are, this picture tells a story.
Follow me for a few minutes in the answer to the question posed...
Where have our children gone?
Our children are right where we left them!
When we leave them in the avenue of temptation...they are in the streets of satan.
Many times, we as parents, grandparents, mentors, and church leaders "leave" our children in the avenue of temptation. What do I mean by this? Well, I am just as guilty as anyone else, if not more. I have put a lot of trust into my children - one is grown, one is a sophomore in high school, so we are still the parents of a child/teen as well.
When we do not leave our children in good places, we will leave them in the avenue of temptation, struggling to find their own way. Sometimes, we may even "drive them" down that road. We don't think they will understand what sin is, so we just ignore it and sometimes even say things like "they will learn better one day." Wrong. They know exactly what sin is most times, and when you leave them in the avenue of temptation, you allow them to wallow all in it!
How about you? Where have you left your children? Where have your children gone?
If you are a parent...or even a grandparent, please remember that God gave you that blessing with a responsibility. That responsibility? "Train up a child in the way he should go..."
Teach him or her to love God and keep His commands. Teach him or her the difference between being left "all alone" and being left "in the Word." Teach him or her that there is eternal life that is glorious, and there is a way to find it...through Jesus Christ.
Maybe you are not a parent at all. Maybe you are a "child" or an adult reading this blog and something has given you thought. If so, please consider studying with someone near you that will help you find yourself living in the word of God and let's all meet in heaven!
May God Bless and I hope to see your children right where you left them...
Abigail and I were experimenting to see if Brandon Eaves can lead us in this pattern for #tbh2016
Take a listen :)
Joey Ferrell - The Preacher in Steel-Toed Boots
“I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze at a virgin? What would be my portion from God above and my heritage from the Almighty on high? Is not calamity for the unrighteous, and disaster for the workers of iniquity? Does not he see my ways and number all my steps?” (Job 31:1–4, ESV)
Last week, I spent 5 days with over 4,000 brothers and sisters in Christ at Polishing the Pulpit. Some of them were older men, some older women, some were young school aged children, some were young men and women. They were of all ages.
One thing that was not an inherit problem at this gathering...I thought...was modesty. Sure, there were some situations that might have been just a little better with a different outfits, or different posture even, from both female...and males.
But, what about in the world? Or more interestingly...in the church?
Can we do a better job of not enticing lustful thoughts, or even just innocent curiosity by making sure that we are all modestly clothed? Of course, the answer is yes, we can. Does it stop there though?
While we were between classes, I was in an area talking to a friend from nearby our area and a very dear brother that is a well-known preacher walked up near us as we were actually mentioning his name. Naturally, he stopped to speak to us.
My friend made a statement that sort of stopped me in my thought. This is what she said:
"We have been visiting some different congregations at home. There have been a few that we have really liked; however, we have a teenage son." I kept listening to see where this conversation was heading. "The congregation that we visited a few weeks ago was really nice, and we felt that it might be one we could call home..." There was a pause before she continued. "Well, there were just some young ladies that weren't dressed very modestly and that concerns me."
As a father of two daughters, a grandfather to a step-granddaughter, and this year a hosting parent to an exchange student, also a young lady, this comment hit home really hard. It wasn't that my daughters were there and dressed inappropriately, but more so that sometimes any of us can be a stumbling block to others, and also that maybe there is more that we need to do.
This made me think about even as a grown adult man that yes, there are times in which waiting on the Lord's table, or standing in the pulpit to teach or preach that sometimes, what may appear as modest apparel to some...may be very immodest and become a temptation to others.
Can we do better? As parents, yes, we can do better. As Christians, we can do better. As a preacher, I can do better by teaching more on the subject - not the "cover up your nakedness" subject, but more so of the "think about how your appearance can affect others" in the way we dress, act, sit, stand, etc. As elders in the church, I think men can find ways to teach members better. So yes, I think each and everyone of us can do better....even the one on the other side of the equation.
What do I mean by this? Go back and look at the text of Job 31 above. Job made a covenant with God and himself to not allow himself to be tempted in situations in which he had little control. Yes, it is true that we each one have a responsibility to do our part in modestly dressing and keeping ourselves in a manner that would not cause such desires; however, sometimes a young lady in a nice dress may trigger something in a young man's eyes that even immodest attire would not...and the same goes for young men in young ladies eyes as well as the older ones of us as well.
Job makes this commitment to not allow sin in his life. He even goes on through the next few verses 9-12 to expand on the thought of adultery in lustful situations.
My thoughts and advice as a Christian man trying to live as pure a life as I can:
We can't always control the environment that we find ourselves in. But, we can control how we respond, think, and behave in our actions, and in our hearts.
Minister, Rock Hill church of Christ
You've most likely heard this statement a time or two, made famous in the 1992 movie "A Few Good Men" by Jack Nicholson. Although the premise in the movie was much different than the underlying meaning in this blog, there is some similance in the thought as well.
Even a more popular statement that aligns with the meaning, "the truth hurts," is used, it is also understood to be a negative...and rightly so! Let's look at some application in which the truth really does hurt...
This may seem like an odd statement, but is it really? The Apostle Paul writes "Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth" in Galatians 4:16.
Paul wasn't trying to make enemies, but rather, he was trying to help souls find salvation in Jesus Christ. Jesus says, "and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32)." Why would Paul be concerned about souls knowing the truth?
It's simple really...the Bible also tells us that the devil, or Satan, is the father of all lies. We cannot follow the lies of Satan and know the truth. Paul is emphatically wanting others to know the truth, so that they may be saved!
There is a quote that says "It is easier to believe a lie than to believe the truth." (unknown source)
The truth in the quote itself is paramount, but the context of what is being said is much deeper than the statement alone. It IS much easier to believe a lie than it is to believe the truth. By believing a lie, there typically is less friction to contend with, less rules to live by, and certainly less obligation to stand fast to anything else.
But, what is the end result of believing a lie?
Paul gives us some insight into refusing to believe the truth in the 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
Now concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we ask you, brothers, 2 not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by a spirit or a spoken word, or a letter seeming to be from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? 6 And you know what is restraining him now so that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work. Only he who now restrains it will do so until he is out of the way.8 And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
What a terrible thought that it may be to face Judgment not knowing, believing, or practicing the truth. The problem herein lies that there will not be any opportunities to bargain against the truth, change your mind about the lies that you have been living, or "lie" your way out of this one.
You see, in the day of Judgment, we are each one going to be judged the same according to our works, our faith, our belief, and our obedience unto truth.
For some, this day will be a great day. But, even Jesus says Himself that many will not find the path to life eternal with Him. Why is that? Because the truth will hurt for those folks.
That day is coming!
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil." 2 Corinthians 5:10
On that day there will be some that stand before Christ and say things such as:
"I believed what my 'pastor' (preachers are not pastors most cases) said I needed to do to be saved!"
"But, I just thought what was in my heart is what matters."
"Lord, I know that you commanded certain things, but they just didn't make sense based on my interpretation."
"I never knew that the Bible said that!!!"
"I asked you to come into my heart in prayer."
Friends, if you choose to believe a lie, it will be detrimental to your soul. You may not even realize that you are believing a lie; however, there is a way that you can test all things and stand fast, and that is through the word of God. You will not find error in the word of God, but only truth.
If you cannot find the answer to how you are saved without the use of the doctrine, creed, or handbooks of men, but instead, plainly written in the Bible...you are believing a lie. A lie that in turn will cause you to know exactly what the statement "when the truth hurts" means.
It is my sincere prayer and desire that you study these things and that you examine your own beliefs, interpretations, and understandings to weigh them against the truth of the word of God...and if you aren't living by the truth, please do what is required to make that change!
May God bless you and may your heart find truth always.
Rock Hill church of Christ
Recently, as I was traveling with my daughter in West Virginia, we had opportunity to meet some really nice folks at a park in the mountains. We were purchasing some souvenirs and asked about an item that we had purchased there before to see if they had it this trip.
The attendant was very kind and we struck up a conversation about "why" we were there in the area a few times a year. I answered that we were there because I was preaching a Gospel Meeting (Revival in that area) a few towns over. This young man proceeded to tell me about his faith and his "current" belief system of worshiping God in his own way at home because of some hurtful things that had happened in the organization in which he identified as a member.
As we listened, we both (my daughter and I) cordially replied to some of his thoughts and tried to encourage him to do a couple of things for us. 1. Come and visit us at the meeting. 2. Purchase a copy of Muscle and a Shovel, read it, and then call me when he had.
Although he agreed, I am not convinced that he will accomplish #2, and he did not accomplish #1. This conversation had merit. We actually were possibly opening a door to a study with this young man...and then it happened....
"It really doesn't matter where you go to church at, or what you believe...we're all going to the same place!" I had to look to my right to see who had very loudly proclaimed this. It was his co-worker. She appeared to be much older. A lady with a very loud and scratchy voice, large rimmed glasses and a look of disgust on her face. I am not trying to be unkind in my description, just trying to paint a mental picture for my readers.
My daughter looked at me and I scrolled my eyes back to this young man in hopes that I had not lost his attention with the interruption. He thanked us for being so kind in discussion with him and told us that he would read Muscle and a Shovel and call me and thanked me so kindly for giving him my name and phone number.
Now...to the heart of the blog...and the question of the hour...
Such an interesting thought. The question does come up in discussion from time to time in different elements. So, what is the answer? We need to look at some Bible passages to better understand the premise of the question to begin with...so...you ready? Let's open our Bibles and study this together!
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
Okay...so Jesus Himself tells us that there is eternal life. He also tells us that those that "believe" in Him shall HAVE eternal life. Right? So that settles it! Wait, not so fast.
First off, context would define for us that there is much more to just believing in Jesus to find eternal life. This text is quoted in the same chapter that Nicodemus was told what he must do to find eternity. He was told that he must be "born again". Also, in remote context, we have to apply the brakes in the text of James that tells us that even the devil believes...so, that can't be the sole answer to the question. It is certainly part of the answer, but not the whole.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Eph 2:8-9 ESV
Here is another passage to take into consideration in our question. So, by the grace of God, we are saved THROUGH faith and not as a result of works. Alright...so now we are shaping this puzzle up a bit. We must believe; yet, we also must have the GIFT from God through faith in order to find eternity...not by our own works that we can boast of. But, again to quote James, "faith without works is dead!" How does that balance? We won't be able to cover the entirety of this thought in this particular blog, but we will add this thought to our search for an answer. So, now we have belief in the One who gave us the gift of grace through faith that takes us into eternity.
Now...about those "works"....
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ... Matt 25:31-46
Jesus explains the "separation" of persons (souls) for us in this passage. Here is where we can see in part a clear definition that "we are not all going to the same place" and part of the reason why is given. You see, we can't just believe and have faith, we also need grace, and we need to exhibit good works. Works of righteousness, not of merit. This is where so many get confused it seems in placing immersion as a work. Immersion is not a work any more than believing is a work, or having faith is a work, or acting Christ-like in righteous works as listed...is a work. Immersion is obedience.
So, now we have faith (belief), grace, good works, and obedience. That is what is shown to determine that one has lived a life pointing toward heaven as their eternal home. However, there is a bit more.
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” ... Heb 10:26-31 ESV
Now we can start to see a bigger thought process throughout the Bible in our home for eternity. The Judgment day will be the final separation of the sheep (good) and the goats (bad). An eternity in heaven for those found worthy and faithful by the gift of grace through their faith, repentance, confession....yes that is there too (Rom 10:9-10), obedience, and living a life of good righteous works (fruits); and an eternity in hell - yes the one that is real - the fiery pit as described throughout the Bible where weeping and gnashing of teeth are prevalent and the soul never dies but torments for eternity for those that are labeled as "goats".
And someone said to him, “Lord, will those who are saved be few?” And he said to them, “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then he will answer you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.’ But he will say, ‘I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!’ ... Luke 13:23-30
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Mat 7:21-23
You see, when we search the Bible for answers, we have to understand that the answers are there. They always have been. Although it would be a glorious thought that "we all go to the same place" when we die....if it is a heavenly eternity....we must also realize that Jesus has said that few will find that reward due to their own accord.
In reality, we all really deserve to go to the same place when we die in our sinful lives, yet, our Father has seen fit to allow us to overcome sin through His Son, the propitiation of our sins, the Lion and the Lamb, the Prince of Peace that died for the sins of the world through His magnificent grace! Won't we all consider His grace and be obedient unto Him and remain faithful so that you and I can hear those beautiful words one day "Enter in thou good and faithful servant!" I hope you will. I know I will do all I can do to make sure I am there!
Rock Hill church of Christ
Social Media has changed the way we eat, talk, think, react, evangelize, and live. Some of these items can be good...while others...well, they speak for themselves.
I have been a member of a social media site of some sort for quite a few years now. That stems from a love of computing and technology and interactions with people...those that I know...and those that I don't. It has become a "way of life" it seems in many instances.
But, what do you do when that "way of life" isn't really the life that you actually live? Well, much like in any other avenue, you have to decide how to get a handle on a situation, decide an affirmative plan to change the situation, and then implement it.
Recently, our "social media" worlds have been on fire, so to speak. We have arguments over rights, arguments over politics, arguments over truth, arguments over arguments! So, how are we behaving during all of this arguing? Let's take a closer look at how our responses should be seen, felt, and can be heard!
In order to answer this question, we have to think about a few things first.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. Ephesians 4:29 ESV
The writer of Proverbs has some very wise words for us in answer to this particular question. I will let these verses speak for themselves.
There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. Proverbs 6:16-19 ESV
Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears. Proverbs 26:17 ESV
Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Proverbs 18:21 ESV
This question is the whole basis of the blog that you are reading. As I have looked back on some of my own responses and posts for a few days, I have to ask myself this very question.
Sometimes we may lose sight of what our words can do to others. Sometimes, we may even lose sight of what our words may do to ourselves! We should not be exonerated in making someone upset over something. We should not be happy when we "tell them like it is", especially when the topic revolves around the Bible. We should want to kindly explain our thoughts and try to influence others for good in the way that we respond, the way that we post, and the way that we live.
Think about how much of a blessing someone's words have meant to you at one point or another. Maybe they complimented you on an appearance, or maybe they congratulated you on an accomplishment. Maybe they just offered a well wish for a great day to you. Do you remember how that made you feel?
Now, think about that other time when someone replied to a comment, or the post that someone posted just had to be about you (although most times it has nothing to do with you - I am guilty of reading into those myself). How did that make you feel? Did you spend hours trying to figure out how to respond? Did you immediately post something venomous in a reaction to maybe some harsh words...or possibly some words that may have been meant as a help and not a hurt to start with? I know I have. And it really does much more harm than good.
Be a blessing...not a bully. I am talking to myself, but if you read this blog, maybe you can share my thoughts with your own heart too.
Rock Hill church of Christ, Readyville, TN
Consider these 5 things that a "true" pastor would never say:
Well, let's start with the basics.
The term "pastor" is only used one time in it's English transliteration in the New Testament. That verse is found in Ephesians 4:11.
“And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,” (Ephesians 4:11, NKJV)
This text is certainly a guide in which we can see church bodies functioning, can't we? Well, let's take the terms for what they are:
Apostles - we know there were 14 named apostles, among others in the New Testament. There were the original 12, then Judas was replaced, and the one born out of due season - our author in this text - Paul. An Apostle had to see the resurrected Christ in order to "qualify" to be called an apostle. Not something we can be today.
Prophets - Prophets were those that had a special revelation given unto them by God, an angel of the Lord, Christ Himself, or by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (as can be seen in the predictive prophecies in some of the language of the Bible). Considering that the writer of Hebrews "dates" prophets (in times past God spoke through prophets...), we also realize that those days have also completed.
Evangelists - good ole preachers. Gotta love us. The Greek word euangelion derives from the same term as angel - or messenger. Evangelists are just folks that are spreading the message of the Good News to others.
Pastors and teachers - wait....why are these two together? Let's skip this definition for a few minutes and look at the conjunctives in the sentence.
The collective list is read a little differently in some translations. The KJV specifically states "and some" before each list item in the verse. This "and" is a different word used in the original language, however, than the conjunctive "and" that is used as an inclusion between "pastors and teachers."
This may be where in layman's terms, we get easily confused. And means and...right? Not necessarily. The first "and" is the Greek word "de" which is a "logical correlative or contrast" according to Logos reference. The second "and" that is between pastors and teachers is kai, a "logical conjunctive" which would combine these instead of "list" them. In other words, pastors and teachers are not the same person necessarily. An evangelist can be a teacher. Some apostles were pastors. Every prophet was an evangelist, and some pastors can be teachers (and they should be able to teach according to 1 Tim 3). You see, this makes some of the uses of the term "pastor" false in the worldly definition. A pastor is not just a teacher.
Let's go a little further. In this single verse, the term that is used for pastor is POIMAINO. The Greek root word for Poimaino is Poimen - which is also translated "shepherd". Hmm. So, a pastor is a shepherd under that word study. Notice the same word used in another text:
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” (Acts 20:28, NKJV) (emphasis mine)
The same word....used differently. Same context. Same meaning. Notice though, one word before that sentence. The word "overseers". So, now we have a new word to study since this would tie the definition of overseer to shepherd to pastor...follow me?
"Episkopos." Overseer. Bishop! Same word. Same meaning.
“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1, NKJV)
Now we are starting to see a bigger picture. Pastor means the same as shepherd which means the same as an overseer, which also means bishop. And that leads us to several texts using the word "elders," which by definition is one that is ordained or appointed in a leadership meeting certain qualifications.
So, now that we have all of that out of the way...back to the five things a "true" pastor (overseer, bishop, shepherd, elder) would never say:
1. There is no single pastoral scenario described in the New Testament. Elders/pastors/shepherds are always listed in the plurality. This means that one that is a "true" pastor would never refer to himself as THE pastor.
2. This falls in line with what is already stated. No pastor/elder/shepherd can assume a role of head in the church. With that said, there could never be an assistant pastor in scriptural terms.
3. And...we've already seen why this doesn't work in tenet number 1.
4. A "true" pastor/elder/shepherd/bishop should only follow, teach, and live by the words of inspiration in the Holy Bible. There is no manual given to "establish rule or leadership" in the church outside of the Bible's own words. Any such manual would be a false heretic.
5. A "true" pastor/elder/shepherd/bishop will desire that his "sheep" be safe in all things. The Bible clearly teach that baptism saves (1 Pet 3:21, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and more). A "true" pastor would not tell you that you can be saved any other way than what the Holy Writ of God has already explained.
Have you fallen into a denominational confusion about who a pastor really is? I hope this study has been beneficial in explaining that there are many who misuse this term, both as an incorrect labeling of a preacher in the Lord's church, but also in claiming some position of authority in the church that does not exist in the way it is told.
Friends, we only have one Truth and it cannot be misused to fit what man believes. There is only one true doctrine. Please consider studying this topic on your own and know that God is not the author of confusion.
Preacher, Rock Hill church of Christ
In a world of hatred, anger, violence, terrorism and so on, it is said that we "Christians" should all lean upon each other and especially not attack one another for the differences that some may believe.
Is this a valid question? Is this a valid argument at all? The Bible tells us that we all need to become Christians in order to be saved for an eternity...but what does that really mean? Aren't we all (believers in Christ) Christians?
Let's take a look at the very basis of the question and see if we can find a biblical answer as we should in all things.
1. Who are Christians?
“Now those who were scattered after the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to no one but the Jews only. But some of them were men from Cyprus and Cyrene, who, when they had come to Antioch, spoke to the Hellenists, preaching the Lord Jesus. And the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed and turned to the Lord. Then news of these things came to the ears of the church in Jerusalem, and they sent out Barnabas to go as far as Antioch. When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad, and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord. For he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord. Then Barnabas departed for Tarsus to seek Saul. And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:19–26, NKJV)
In the text quoted, we can see several qualities of a Christian. Notice in the final verse that the Bible says that the "disciples were first called Christians in Antioch." Why were they called Christians here? Let's look at a couple of points:
We can also see in the surrounding verses that these Christians showed their allegiance to God, to Christ, and to each other in their unity, their continued study, and their lives of teaching and living.
2. What does the term "Christian" really mean?
The term is built from a root word and a suffix. The Greek terms Christos (Christ) and ianos (possession of, belonging to) put together would render the easiest and best definition that can be given. "belonging to Christ." Some have said that the term meant a "follower of Christ," and that would possibly lend to the thought of a majority of persons identifying themselves as a Christian. But, belonging to Christ would imply and entail much more than just "following Christ." We can see this in the thoughts of the early disciples/apostles.
Jesus said to His disciples on multiple occasions - "Follow Me." It is a simple statement, but is that all that we see in the lives of the disciples; specifically those that became His disciples? Certainly not. We can see their desire to follow Jesus in the sense that they wanted to learn His teachings, but we also see their complete allegiance to Him (even Judas unto the point of betrayal), their obedience, and their love for Him.
Following Jesus isn't enough for you and I to be called a Christian either!
3. Can all believers be Christians?
Back to our original question...aren't all believers Christians?
Personally, I have been "attacked" with this thought by those in denominations, and surprisingly by those in the Lord's church as well. The thought is that we should all band together and fight false religions such as Islam, ISIS, atheism, agnosticism, etc. Who is "all?" According to some, it is any that believe that Jesus is Lord, and have followed any sort of way to salvation that is taught by men...whether it be by saying a prayer to invite Jesus into their hearts, sprinkled as either an infant or an adult, being baptized for someone else that has already died, just confessing that Jesus is Lord, and so on.
Friends, this cannot be true. Just believing in Jesus is not enough! James 2:19 says that even the demons believe and tremble! Jesus poured out His blood so that you and I can become "Christians." Not followers, not believer, not part-timers...but fully belonging to Christ.
Belonging to Christ would also mean that we are willing to obey Him. Jesus told His disciples to continue teaching, much like we see in Acts 11, but He said to do more than teach. He said to baptize, making other disciples, and then teach them some more! That is the ONLY way that one can become a Christian...full obedience to Christ.
How do we become a Christian?
The Bible clearly tells that we must obey the Gospel of Christ. (2 Thes 1:8)
We can only obey the Gospel if we understand that the Gospel means coming into contact with Christ's death (His blood - Hebrews 9:22; 1 John 1:7; Rev 1:5; John 19:34)
Obeying the Gospel means that we submit our lives to Him fully in His death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:1-6)
There is only one Gospel to obey (1 Cor 15:1-11)
Are we all Christians?
That would be such a joy! But, unfortunately, just like I was told recently - "Christians need to stand up against false religions such as Islam." That is ever so correct; yet, Christians also need to stand up against religious confusion and false teaching just as much! Romans 16:17 says that those that teach falsely should be identified. Not as Christians...but as false teachers. 1 Cor 1:10 tells us that we should not be divided. The inept definition of "denomination" is to be divided.
We can't all believe different things and be united as "belonging to Christ." There is only ONE Christ, and only ONE Gospel of Christ. Please obey that one doctrine that is presented in the only source that we can trust! His Holy Word!
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ (Acts 22:16 NKJV)
I pray that these thoughts are taken in love, understood, and acted upon if necessary.
Minister, Rock Hill church of Christ
In the rush and hustle of life, we tend to get bogged down with the simplest of things. One of these might even be discussing salvation on God's terms, and not of our own.
Recently, there have been many blogs on the necessity, command, and importance of baptism based on Biblical text.
If you missed this particular post a few days ago, here is a reminder - What Must I Do To Be Saved...oh, I don't want to do that.
But, is there a point in which we really need to "slow down" and make sure that when we talk about baptism that we really and truly understand the need, the desire, and the command?
Let's look at 5 reasons that one should NOT be baptized, and then 1 very important reason that you should.
Ready? Open your Bible and let's go!
1. You should NOT be baptized because a friend or family member wants you to.
In Acts 8:37, you might remember the familiar story of baptism and the eunuch. Philip had been brought to the introduction of the eunuch and began studying with him Isaiah 53. There is a very obvious implication when the text says that he taught Christ unto the eunuch.
Teaching Christ brought this man's understanding of baptism. As they came to water, the eunuch says "here is water, what hinders me?"
And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Acts 8:37)
Notice what it says about the heart...
The heart is where repentance, belief, confession and faith are found. It is not a physical measurement of a goal. It is from the heart - not the physical heart, but the emotional heart...the one that we feel with.
2. You should NOT be baptized based on age, whether young or old.
Some like to consider that there is an age in which a person should consider baptism. The "key" age seems to be around 12 years old. It is interesting that this age is brought into the thought process, and some believe that it is because of the story told of Jesus at age 12.
Frankly, to say that there is an age that one must consider baptism is not really a scriptural thought. Some people mature much faster and much slower than others. Personally, this author was baptized at a young age. There are no regrets in that as it was understood that baptism was for the remission of sins, as well as a command that was to be obeyed of Christ.
There are those that believe in infant baptism as well. This is a false doctrine. The Bible clearly states that we choose to follow in the path of salvation as outlined in 1 Cor 15:1-8, as well as in Romans 6:1-4; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16, and so on. An infant or baby cannot choose what they are going to do. To baptize an infant would liken to predestination in that man cannot do anything about his eternal condition since he has no control over what happens to him as an infant.
The alternate theory of someone of an age near average death should not be the reason for baptism; however, let's approach this topic with tender love and care. Jesus tells of a great story in Matt 20:1-16 (workers in the vineyard), in which the master of the vineyard gives the reward that was offered as pay to all that came to labor, regardless of how long they had been hired for. We would do good to remember this in effort to bring souls to Christ, younger and older alike.
3. You should NOT be baptized because of false teachings of the world or false doctrine.
One should never be baptized to become a member of a particular church. Matter of fact, we do not become a member of the Lord's church [just]* by being baptized. We are baptized for the remission of our sins...and the Lord adds us to His church such as were saved (cf. Acts 2:37-47).
Some believe that baptism is a ritual that adds one to a certain membership, while others may believe that the person baptizing them has some sort of power. Look at the words of Paul in a plea for no division in the church in the first epistle to the church in Corinth:
Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. 1 Cor 1:12-15
Luke also reminds us in the book of Acts that there were those that Paul had met that did not even understand for what they had been baptized:
And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John's baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Act 19:3-5
Baptism is for the remission of sins. That is what the act of obedience is to represent. Not baptism for any other reason, nor is it in anyone else's name besides the name of Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.
4. You should NOT be baptized if you are not willing to change.
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Rom 6:3-4
Baptism requires a change. A change in life, a change in thinking, a change in heart, a repentance...a turning away...a burial as Paul puts it.
Eze 18:31 Cast away from you all your transgressions, whereby ye have transgressed; and make you a new heart and a new spirit: for why will ye die, O house of Israel?
Unless one realizes the depth of the removal of sins, there is not a way to understand the power of forgiveness that is found in baptism. Imagine if you will, that you had been living your life carrying a forty pound anvil tied to your left leg. Every time you stepped forward, you now had to drag that anvil a few feet in order to get anywhere. Think of sin as this anvil. As you find yourself walking along a level or gently rolling plain, this task may not seem too difficult; however, what happens when you get to a set of steps, or better yet, a huge tree that has fallen in your path? How are you going to lift up that anvil to get to your destination?
You see, when we make that wonderful choice to follow Jesus, our lives change. They have to change. Simply put, as the Bible states, we must die to ourself and now allow Christ to live in us! If you aren't willing or ready to change, you should not be baptized, but study more and find the commitment that is required of each of us.
Gal 3:27 For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
5. You should NOT be baptized if you think that this is all that is required to get to Heaven.
Many of us have witnessed that new birth as mentioned in Romans 6:3-4. It is a new creature, a babe in Christ, a new and cleansed living soul, dead to sin, living to Christ.
Of course we know that we cannot be "born again" in the physical sense, nor can we "become as a child" in order to be most pleasing to God, but we can heed these words:
And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal? Who then is Paul, and who is Apollos, but ministers by whom ye believed, even as the Lord gave to every man? I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 1 Cor 3:1-5
God gives instruction that we must keep on growing spiritually. We cannot stop with baptism alone. We must do all that we can to live a faithful, Christ-like life that is evident in influence and example that we are certainly those that belong to Christ...today, tomorrow, and for eternity!
This list is by no means inclusive of reasons that one should not be baptized; however, it is a list of reasons that one must consider when they are thinking of choosing to obey the gospel of our Lord and Savior.
There is so much confusion in the world, and especially in denominationalism regarding baptism. Nowhere in the bible will you find some practices that we see all too often in today's time...
These things ought not be! Baptism is commanded by Jesus in command and inference in Matt 28:18-20, and Mark 16:15-16. We would do well to thoroughly study these texts to see why we should not be baptized, and also one majorly incredible reason that we should...
Because there will be no eternity in heaven without baptism for the remission of sins! There is not another chance for a "thief on the cross" scenario, nor another opportunity to meet John the Immerser who baptized for repentance until the baptism of Christ.
Friends, if you have not obeyed the gospel, putting on Christ in baptism by being washed in His blood, please know that God desires for men everywhere to be saved, and is long-suffering that not one precious soul should die eternally lost. All we have to do is be obedient unto Him!
Minister, Rock Hill church of Christ
*Editor's Note: In point #3, I stated that we do not become a member of the Lord's church because we are baptized. Please do not miss the context of this statement. Yes, we become a member of the Lord's church (body) once we are baptized for the remission of sins. My point is simply that becoming a member of the Lord's church is not the reason for being baptized (the church was not established when Jesus gave the Great Commission, as well as the rhetoric of great sermon preached the day of Pentecost was not the primary of the imperative statement made to be baptized. Becoming a member of the church was the result) . In 1 Cor 12:13, we certainly see that we are baptized into the body - the body of Christ - synonymous for the term "church" in many ways, but we should not desire to be baptized just as an entry into the church. We should desire to be baptized for obedience unto God's will, into Jesus blood, for the remission of sins. I apologize for any confusion this statement may have caused in its semantical argument.
I started riding my exercise bike again recently (within the past 3-4 weeks). It has been a while since I consistently rode due to some pinched nerve, work, and laziness issues :)
When I first started riding it again, I set the starting level of exercise at "3" because I knew that would be a good starting point, and the time at 30 minutes (20 minimum is always recommended for good cardio). That first day, I was only able to ride 7.7 miles in 30 minutes. Good start...but way off of my norm.
Last week, I moved the starting level up to a "4" and the first day, my new length was 8.4 miles. Not too bad, but still not where I wanted to be. I am not quite ready to move up to "5" just yet, but will try to do so soon.
The interesting thing that I noticed the past few days, though, is that every day, I have been very consistent in the amount of miles that I have ridden. Some days I feel like I am "punching it", and then some days, I am struggling to spin the pedals. Regardless, the mileage has been a constant 8.77 miles. I never look at the stats until I finish my work out, so there is nothing that is giving me a push to speed up, or slow down.
Want to know something more interesting than that?
Last year, I made a commitment to read the entire Bible in a year. In order to do that, the software that I use broke it down into a simple timeline. I needed to read 3-4 chapters per day in order to complete the Bible by 12/31. Started out very well. I got ahead a few days here and there because I knew there would be days that I couldn't read as much, if at all due to schedule conflicts (and excuses). I went almost two months last year without flipping a page (electronically) when I was going through some personal challenges. When I picked back up in reading, it felt like I had no way to catch up.
Each time I had a chance, I would read a little extra, and finally, around September of last year, I "caught up" with where I was supposed to be. But, I had found a new pace. It seemed as if I couldn't slow down my pace the next day...then the next day...then the next day. I actually ended up completing the goal of reading the entire Bible by November 10 last year, which gave me a chance to read through the New Testament once again by 12/31.
This year, I made that same commitment; however, I chose to set my goal to read the entire "exact" chronological reading plan in a different translation in completion by September 30 as opposed to December 31, in which I will have a few months to read and study the New Testament in the remaining time.
With the pace coming off of last year, I felt there would be no problem in achieving this goal as it would take about 6-8 chapters per day according to the software that I use. If you have ever read chronologically, you will understand that some days is much more, some days much less as you move around a lot in certain areas of text.
As of this morning, statistically, I should be at 25% completed. Doing some simple math, and pinpointing where I actually am at this morning shows just over 43%.
Habit changes a lot of things in life. Consistency changes many things in life. We all have to choose what we do with our time and our hearts each and every day. Through some very simple changes in mine, I have found a new "pace" in reading and studying God's word, much like I have continued to improve pace riding the exercise bike. I haven't really changed much in the riding part, but each day, the riding continues to be much more consistent, and the distance longer.
Reading 3-4 chapters a day will accomplish a task that many people will never take on in reading the Bible because they don't feel that they can. I was once there. "I don't have enough time", "I don't like to read a lot", "It's too hard to drudge through some of the Old Testament text to read consistently". These are not excuses I have heard....they are excuses that I have used.
I know that this blog is not a "scriptural" posting so to speak; however, it is a reflection of what scripture is doing in my life. It is not intended to be a boasting point on reading, and certainly not in riding - I can do much better :) It is intended to be an encouragement to those that will take up the goal...and read the Bible completely through.
My challenge to you is this....there is still time to set a goal to read the Bible completely this year. There are more than 9 months remaining and that calculates roughly to 5 chapters a day. Will you set a goal to do this? You can accomplish it! You will be enriched by doing such. Why not give it a try!
Here is a sample schedule that I found on the internet that completes in about 9 months if you would like to use one.
God bless, and happy reading...and riding!
In the realization that they had killed their only hope of salvation ever on the day of Pentecost when Peter preached an incredible sermon, those that were there had a question that was posed in Acts 2:37 that reads:
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
The question seemed to be one of confusion, sincerity, and certainly characteristic of a repentant heart, doesn't it?
Peter answers the question with a very affirmative and imperative action statement in verse 38:
And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The text goes on to tell us through verse 47 that those that were saved were added to the church. It is a really simplistic, yet very important situation that we are looking at in one's salvation.
If this is the case in the first century, wouldn't it seem that the case still stands today regarding salvation?
Well, it would seem so...except for those that, as the title suggests, determine that they believe differently than the scriptures teach.
In today's time, many claim to be saved and going to heaven; yet, many of those that make that claim refuse to be obedient to the word of God and will "find" reasons that they feel that they do not have to obey these very words that were given on the first day of the church...the day of Pentecost...the first sermon preached after Jesus was resurrected and ascended into heaven (emphasis on the authority that Peter had been given to preach these words).
Let's look at a few things that we may hear about salvation, baptism, faith, grace, and obedience:
Faith indeed does save. Matter of fact, faith and belief are sort of synonymous when it comes to salvation. But, let's keep something in mind in relation to this statement that "faith saves." Nowhere in the New Testament will the words "by faith alone" or "faith only" be read in regards to salvation, or any subject for that matter.
James writes that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:14-26). Paul makes a statement in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are "saved by grace through faith...not of ourselves." Romans 3-5 also show that Paul was adamantly convicted to faith being the key source to salvation. So, how do we balance this? The answer to this question is not that Paul and James could not agree my friend, but more in opposite than that, James and Paul are in complete agreement here!
Paul and James both show a representation of faith. In the writing of Paul, he uses Abraham as the object of the discussion. Abraham was not saved by any works...or was he? Did Abraham believe God? Some would say that this is not a work, but it is. In order to believe, that requires a mental and spiritual action. The more important question is: Did Abraham obey God? In Abraham's obedience in doing what God told him to do, he is called righteous. Even the words of Hebrews 11 talk of his faith in God through his obedience when the Hebrew writer writes "By faith Abraham obeyed..."
Baptism is a work! It is a work of obedience. In Mark 16:15-16, the scriptures say "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved." Would you agree that the Bible does say this? It may sound a little different in your translation of choice; however, the words are still there in relativity, and of course, the emphasis being on the conjunctive "and" being from this author, but can certainly be seen in the text in the original language as well.
Let's take an analogy and place it in this same context.
Would you agree that if you are wanting to buy something from the grocery store that you must first get to the grocery store? Most of us would go to the store in a vehicle, such as a car. Now, if I go out of my home and get in my car and do nothing else, will I get to the grocery store? If I believe that I am going to the grocery store, yet never turn the ignition of the car, or find another way to get to the grocery store, I will never be able to purchase the item from the grocery store unless they deliver! So...let's look further. What if I drive to the grocery store, but never get out of my car? Will I still get the item? Probably not unless some kind soul brings the item to me. The words "believes" and "baptized" are both verbs - implying action or being. Something to consider. Now...go pay (yet another verb) for that item that you are buying and read some more!
I have read many times in which this particular statement is made in defense of someone feeling that they have been "saved" by saying a special prayer (that isn't found in the Bible), or being elected into salvation, or "accepting Jesus as their personal savior in their heart" (which also is not found in the Bible). Some will want to say that 1 Peter 3:20-21 is not a literal "water baptism" but more figurative. Well, they are right...to an extent.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit,in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:18-22
Look at the passage in its immediate context. Christ brings us to God (18) by being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit. Peter then uses an object lesson for those listening to better understand when he describes the obedience of Noah. He uses the fact that there were those who "did not obey" even though Noah kept on preaching to them (19). Then, in verse 20, Peter shows a correlation between the saving of water in Noah's obedience (he and his family were saved because they obeyed God by floating in an ark in water that was built at the imperative direction and instruction of God), and the significance of baptism.
It is important to notice at the end of Peter's words in verse 22 the authority given to Christ. The text says that He is at the "right hand of God...and powers having been subjected to Him." Now, compare this important text from the very words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18-20,
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Did you notice the start of Jesus' statement to His disciples? "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." That would correspond ideally with what Peter had explained in his writing in naming the authority of Jesus in heaven, just as He has authority on earth. The next statements from Jesus' mouth are extremely important in this understanding: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit..." So, in this imperative statement, Jesus commands His disciples (then and now) to do something. He commands that others be taught...and baptized. The same ideology is recorded as mentioned earlier in Mark 16:15-16 as an imperative command, except in the passage recorded by Mark, the end result of obeying Christ's imperative command is explained as "salvation."
Water does not cleanse sins. The blood of Christ cleanses all sin. We must come into contact with the blood of Christ in order to have our sins forgiven. How do we do that?
Do you want to go to heaven?
Have you obeyed the gospel?
Do you ask the same question as these men (and women) did in Acts 2:37 - "what must I do to be saved?"
We can find many reasons and excuses as to why we do not want to do something in our lives. I say this in all sincerity and love for souls - if you do not desire to obey the words of Christ, you will not enjoy the wonders of eternity in heaven with Him and our Father and the Holy Spirit.
There are many passages of the Bible that go more in depth about salvation. This article has only touched on a few in relation to words heard rejecting salvation by coming into contact with the blood of the Lamb. (c.f. Rev 1:5; 1 Cor 15:1-8; Rom 6:1-6) Jesus said Himself "unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." What a sad thought. Please do not reject the authority of Christ!
Do not delay. Salvation awaits.
Minister, Rock Hill church of Christ
*Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
In Revelation 5:8-14, there is mention of how worthy the Lamb of God is. Read along with me:
“Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.” Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever.” (Revelation 5:8–14, NKJV)
There are also a few songs that are penned with this scripture in mind, one of which is titled "Worthy is the Lamb," that I enjoy listening to and singing. But that's not really what this post is about. Please consider some thoughts with me on a very serious subject that is affecting brethren and churches around the world. I do want to iterate and reiterate that this blog is written in love and concern for souls, and more for encouragement than discouragement before you read on...
So, what is this post really about?
The title reads as it does for a reason. It is not a typo, an error, a false statement, or otherwise. It is a subject that is weighing heavily on my heart, as well as has become a bit problematic in the church as it would seem.
Paul writes a statement that is somewhat challenging outside of context: "How beautiful are the feet of those that preach" in Romans 10:15, which lends to itself being a quote from Isaiah 52:7. What I mean by being a challenge outside of context is...well, honestly, we don't regard feet of men as beautiful usually...or at least I don't. But, it is the context that we need to read more into, and not the verse itself. The feet that delivered the Gospel, and still do, are remarkable. In the time of the writing of both of these verses, keep in mind, sandals were the "Tennis Shoes" of the day. Sandals were open, allowing all of the dirt and mar of the ground in which they travelled to find itself into the cracks and crevices of their toes and layered on their feet. This statement is not used to elevate the feet, but more so the servant heart of the legs that the feet carried!
Now, on to some deeper thought and the purpose of this blog.
I was never able to hear the voices of preaching giants such as T.B. Larimore, Alexander Campbell, Gus Nichols, N.B. Hardeman, David Lipscomb, Marshall Keeble, and many other faithful and wonderful brethren before my time of knowing who these men were. But, I have heard the voices of other great preaching icons of today's time and am proud to call many of them my friends, such as Dan Winkler, B.J. Clark, Philip Sanders,Tom Holland, Melvin Otey, David Shannon, Lonnie Jones, Kyle Butt, Eric Owens, Glenn Colley, and many more. I appreciate all of these brethren more than they will ever understand and know.
When I began preaching in January 2009, by invitation of a small congregation near my home, I never imagined that last night I would be sitting and learning at the beautiful feet of Alan Highers telling the story of Mark in the Bible and how some of these great brethren from years past would share that message. Nor did I ever imagine that I would devote several days at a lectureship listening to men that are much younger than I am that have far more wisdom of the Bible than I believe I have ever had, such as Neal Pollard and Reed Swindle. I certainly never expected to meet some of the greatest and most unselfish servants of God like Roger Leonard, Tom Bowling, Jack Honeycutt, Drew Milligan, Gantt Carter, and the list goes on, that I have enjoyed getting to know, love, and learn from over the past several years.
All of this being said; however, therein lies a very big challenge, problem, and struggle that lives within the church. As of late, yet probably not new by any means, there has come to light a mentality through mediums such as social media and brotherhood publications that we might find in the attitude of the Sons of Thunder. That attitude is simply this: "Who is the greatest amongst us?"
I am sure you would agree that this is a very dangerous and slippery slope to be traveling...not to mention how discouraging it can be to young men who have learned to have a desire to preach the word of God! Again, please remember that I am not saying any of these things out of spite, hatred, envy, jealousy, or lack of love.
Brethren and friends, the words of brother Reed Swindle from a lesson titled "God doesn't need you" and a lesson on the servant attitude of Mark from brother Alan Highers have rung in my head for days now, and I hope these words will ring in yours too. We have to realize something that is crucially important. We have to take a step back and look at what we may have allowed ourselves to become. Our voices proclaim the gospel, our hearts need to proclaim it too. We have to come to terms with a simple, yet very important fact: we are nothing! Don't underestimate, or overcompensate this statement. We ARE something of importance...but it is because of the Message that we carry in trying to reach lost and dying souls, but, we are nothing in which should be elevated - at all.
We all want to be accepted and liked in the shadows of our service to God, but we must also realize that many times we can overlook the purpose that we set out to accomplish in stumbling over our own feet as we look intently to measure how beautiful they must be.
I don't mind admitting the obvious. I am not a very skilled preacher. I am not eloquent in my words. I am not "the greatest" anything really. I am just simply a man that has found a talent and a desire in proclaiming the word of God that He has given me to proclaim!
I will never get to hear most of those men that I listed at first. Until tonight, I never thought I would hear the voice of Guy N. Woods, whom I had originally listed in this preaching hall of fame last night when I began creating this blog post. But tonight, I did. He was a remarkable preacher of God's word. He was instrumental in helping a lot of souls find their way to God, and ultimately eternity with God. But...he looked like a man that I knew once. He looked like a man that used to be a janitor that I knew. He spoke with proper etiquette, yet he mispronounced a few words based on his locale and accent as compared to mine. He didn't have on a shirt that said "Be Calm, I am #1." He was wearing a suit. Much like those that I wear when I stand in the pulpit. What makes him a preaching giant, in my eyes, is that he never proclaimed to be anything more than a servant of God. Maybe like a David with a sling and some pebbles.
To paraphrase brother Highers - "Can you imagine hearing the voice of the great T. B. Larimore in person, or how about Alexander Campbell - oh how I would love to hear him preach - the things he would say - the way he would say them, but, can you imagine sitting on a hill and hearing the sweet, sweet voice of the Master Teacher culminating throughout with a commanding voice that could be heard throughout?"
Let that sink in for a few minutes. To hear the Master speak. I would be ready to empty out my entire "bucket list" for that moment. Can you hear it? Can you hear His voice?
I am nobody. I am not #1. My feet aren't that pretty (just ask my wife, she will agree). But...oh that Message! That wonderful, sweet, glorious message of Christ the Messiah and Savior. What a Message that it is, and I get to tell the world about Him!
It isn't about my voice, my words, my blogs, my posts, my outlines, my PowerPoints, or my crazy "new way" to bring the Message to others or "adjusted method" of laying out the commands of obedience in the Bible. It is about Christ. It is about salvation. It is about using our talents the absolute best ways that we can...and doing it with the right heart!
How beautiful are your feet preacher! Preach on, and preach the word!
*Originally posted on the Preacher's Pen on May 31, 2015
Have you ever been using a shovel and all of a sudden it just breaks?
Shovels are designed to dig...and usually dig as deep as necessary. Sometimes the handles are wooden, sometimes aluminum, sometimes some other form of metal. The blade can be round, spade shaped, and even square...depending on the purpose needed of the use.
Shovels are man made. They are not indestructible. They simply can...and sometimes will break.
I just finished reading "When Shovels Break" by Michael J. Shank this morning. I remember reading the first chapter of this book as a preview just over a year ago when Mike put a blip on the Muscle and a Shovel Facebook page. It certainly grabbed my attention.
Muscle and a Shovel was written as a true story of a couple's journey to finding the truth. When I read this book, my personal views of how to approach evangelism changed immensely. I learned a lot from this sometimes "heart-wrenching" story. It was a great story...and needed to be told!
Shortly after reading the book, I had the privilege to meet Mike and Jonetta. Meeting the "characters" of this book was truly a blessing. Mike and I became pretty good friends via a lot of online conversations, sharing spiritual blessings and challenges, and by being a "central distribution" point of the book in the area in which we live with many requesting bulk orders.
When you get to know someone who is in the church, there is always common ground to work with. We certainly had some common ground; yet, I never could understand completely what inspired Mike to write his story. I think now that I have read the "sequel", it is much clearer to me that the purpose of Muscle and a Shovel was to be a precursor to even a much deeper story as is found in "When Shovels Break."
The book - well, just like it's predecessor, it is a very easy and quick read. Mike's writing style is "down to earth." He does not use long words, or lengthy thoughts. He does use a lot of scripture, and for that I am indeed thankful. The story...I had heard much of the first four of five chapters through attending speaking engagements where Mike had spoken, as well as our communications online. It made sense. It starts right where Muscle leaves off - two young Christians seeking to find their place in the world.
About a third of the way through, a pretty intense storyline breaks. I can't say much more about that in this blog or it will be too much of a spoiler to not read the book. John - the character of the story - has hit some pretty rough spots in his life. He had run into a brick wall in his faith, family, finances, and future. He didn't know what to do any longer.
The story continues on with many more words and chapters after the revealing of John's challenges, shaping a way of repentance not only for his own life, but a design that is found in the words of the Bible of how anyone who falls away from the church can find their way home.
I gave this book a 4 star rating on Amazon - short one because of editorial errors :) - and it is certainly worth your time to read.
I do NOT recommend this book for those who have not obeyed the gospel, or are living in a religious state of confusion (i.e., denominational doctrines, false teachings, etc.). I do NOT recommend this to even a novice Christian - unless they have indeed found themselves wayward yet so soon. I DO, however, recommend this book to every Christian that will take the time to read it. The book is an absolute MUST for those that have fallen away from the church and need to find their way.
Mike told me that this was going to be an intense story. He was right. It opened my eyes to some pretty sad situations, some challenges in the church, and certainly my own spirituality in growth and need.
I am proud to call Mike my brother in Christ...and friend. We aren't so close now because of many reasons, including the success of the first book demanding so much time and energy of the human time table, as well as all of the projects that came shortly after with the workbooks, translations, audio book, and so on; however, as I read this book, knowing Mike the way I do, it brought tears to my eyes, as well as gave me a better grasp on who the man is that we know as Michael J. Shank.
May God continue to bless many with the works that "Mr. Mike" has produced, and may others be as bold to share their story of conversion, and stories of how to help the lost.
Both Muscle and a Shovel and When Shovels Break can be found online at either Amazon.com or MichaelShankMinistries.com. If you cannot afford to purchase the book, or feel that you would like to read it but cannot justify paying for the book, please let me know at email@example.com and I will do my best to reach out to some anonymous donors to get you a Kindle copy or a paperback.
Why me Lord?
If you are like me, you have heard...or maybe uttered this question a few times. Oftentimes, on the brink of a family member's or friend's death, we may hear this question, or when times have gotten tough at home, financial burden has found us, illness traps us, loss of a job, or other catastrophic events can cause us to wonder...and maybe grab this saying in our heart, or in our voices.
But, do we truly understand the question of "Why Me Lord?"
Let's look at some basic thoughts together.
1. What have I done to deserve this...
This particular question seems to be the most popular that I have ever heard, and possibly grabbed hold of. We often think that things that we do either have a reward...or punishment, and rightly so as there are consequences for our actions in all things.
What have we done to deserve this? In comparison, think of Job. Job was a righteous man. He had done nothing to invite Satan into his life...matter of fact, the context of the text would reveal somewhat that Satan wanted in because of Job's devout righteousness. The book of Job describes some pretty sad situations in his life. He lost his family, lost his riches, lost other worldly things, and nothing seems to point to a fact that he "deserved" any of this.
Now, don't get me wrong, I can empathize with all of these thoughts just as much as anyone else can. We can all feel like we have been backed into a corner a time or two and place unmerited blame where it should not and does not exist.
With that said, the consequences of our actions may sometimes seem as if we may deserve certain things in an element. I have heard it said that when Jeffrey Dahmer was converted as a Christian that he realized that his sins were forgiven, but the consequences would continue on. Those consequences eventually cost him his life.
2. I thought that You took care of those that love You...
Romans 8:28 (NKJV)
28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
What a comforting verse for us. Or is it really? Romans 8 is a very beautiful and eloquent passage. There is a lot of meaning in the words of Paul here to those he was exhorting. What we cannot do though, is take these words and misapply them to our thought.
Many have used this verse to attempt to comfort those in times of trials. It is certainly a comforting thought; yet, if we step back and look at the entire context of the passage at hand, we can certainly see that Paul was not saying "everything will be okay!" Matter of fact, everything - in the physical life - would not end up okay for Paul as we know.
Paul describes in his letters some pretty heart-wrenching events in the lives of others, and specifically in his own life. He states that he had been shipwrecked multiple times, snake bitten, beaten half to death (in the phrase we might use), left for dead, arrested, persecuted, stoned, and the list could go on. So, how is it that Paul could look at the events in his own life and still write these words of comfort in Romans 8:28?
I will submit to the reader that the entire context will clarify this for us. In verses 35-39, we will certainly start to see the "bigger picture" of the context. Does God love us? Absolutely. Does He take care of those that love Him? Absolutely! We have to look beyond the physical realm to understand how God takes care of us though.
3. I go to church...most Sundays...
"Okay preacher...now you are meddling!" Not really. This phrase has been said in more ways than one, by more Christians than not. We tend to allow things to shape our thoughts that never were conceptually principle to start with.
Christianity is much the more than just "going to church" when the doors are open. The most faithful Christians that you may encounter may share a common ground that you may have not thought about. 208. 208 is the number of hours per year that the typical "most faithful" church goer spends in assembly. (2 services on Sunday and Bible studies on Sunday and Wednesday). Contrast this to some other thoughts of how many hours we spend on other things in our lives each year. 2080 hours are spent by a typical worker that works 40 hours per week without vacation and overtime.
Am I suggesting that if you spend more time with "church" things that life will be better? Certainly not, however, as James says in the book of the same name "Draw near unto God, and He will draw near unto you."
You see...things happen in everyone's life. It isn't a qualifier if they are a Christian, or not. The way that Christians' lives are lived and filled with such things as violence, stress, death, anxiety, and so on, is the same exact way that anyone else's life is lived. The difference is in how the Christian is able to handle things, not on our own accord, but with the help of God. Going to church, worshiping God, and studying the Bible does not change the way things happen in our lives...it changes the way that we resolve, address, and encapsulate in our lives.
4. You know I can't handle this...
Philippians 4:13 (NKJV)
13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Wouldn't it make sense to start this bullet point with this verse? After all, Paul said he could do all things right? But...I can't do all things. I can't move a 500 pound rock. You may can, but I cannot. I can't build a bridge. You may can, but I cannot. There are limitations to what I can do as a human, either in skill, physical limitations, or just plain knowledge.
So, what is the meaning of what Paul said? Is he really saying that we can do all things? Take a few minutes to think about the words of the passage at hand in context.
Paul is writing a passage scripture that tells of his joy, hardship, struggle, and desires for life...at a time in which he is under arrest in a prison! He begins this passage with an exhortation of meditation of life. He is reflecting on the good, and the bad things that have happened in his life. He had even started this letter off stating that "to live is Christ, and to die is gain."(1:21) No doubt that Paul had some challenges, but he also had the right mindset. In this context, he doesn't complain. He doesn't say that he cannot handle what has been put in front of him. He answers with an affirmative to what he has already stated when he says that he has learned that whatever state that he was in...to be content.
So, can we really handle all things? Or not? Christians will face hardships, struggles, and even sometimes what might seem like the "end of the world." When we put our strength in God, and realize that what Paul is saying here is that Christ has already lived the hard life...and death for us, how can we consider that we might not be able to handle these types of things?
Why do we suffer? Is it because God doesn't love us? Is it because we are being punished? Is it because we haven't done what God wants us to do?
Maybe we can see the beauty of what Paul meant in Philippians 4:13 when he says that he can do all things through Christ in a new set of questions. Let's answer a few questions in a different tone now.
"Why Me Lord?"
Why did You leave heaven and come to the earth for me Lord?
Why did You live in a world full of strife and temptation for me Lord?
Why did You die a cruel death on a wooden cross for me Lord?
Why me....why me Lord?
Blessings and the love of God to you.
~Joey Ferrell - the Preacher in Steel-toed Boots