Genesis 15:1 Fear Not

Genesis 15:1 Fear Not

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After these things the word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram:  I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.

After these things is referring to the previous chapter where a great war had happened between many powerful kings.  In the process Abram’s cousin Lot was taken captive.  This spurred Abram to get involved.  He rallied an army and went an defeated the evil king and set the captives free.  When the King of Sodom and the other kings came to pay tribute to Abram, Abram gave glory to God, and took no rewards from the kings for himself, because it was God who delivered the enemy to Abram.

God now reaffirms Abram.  I know, why should Abram have to worry after such a great victory and the adulation of the surrounding kingdoms?  Well this undoubtedly would make the surrounding kings a bit cautious of Abram and to possibility that if Abram so decided he might take their kingdoms.  After all by this time God promised to Abram, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3) I don’t know about you, but if God told me those things, I would probably tell others about it.  That is some pretty exciting news.

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No matter is the other kings knew why Abram had journeyed so far away from home, it was easy to see that he was a great leader of men and soldiers.  He had a clear head for tactics, he was unafraid, and people from all over the region would now look to him for safety.  You can see how a king would want him for an ally or would see him as a possible enemy to their own heads.

So God reassures Abram.  “I am thy shield”.  God lets Abram know that he is his protector.  It is more than just that.  The shield for a warrior is the brunt of the battle.  It is close at hand.  The shield absorbs impact, protects from missiles and other unforeseen dangers.  Often a shield was worn on the back and allowed for protection from an attack from the rear, and allowed the warrior to concentrate on what was in front of him.

I think this is very important.  God is not telling Abram that there will not be trials, or unforeseen dangers ahead.  God is not telling Abram that he is going to do for Abram what Abram is called to do.  Instead God is telling him to “Fear not”, because he is there with him in the battle, and he will protect him in his fight.  Abram is expected to stand, fight, and have faith in the LORD.

God further encourages Abram when he says that he (the LORD) is Abram’s “exceeding great reward”. Abram can have faith in God to fulfill his promise.  Abram can have confidence in God to stand by him, and see him through all of his afflictions.  Even more important is the expectation of God towards Abram.  Abram is encouraged that he will see the faithfulness of God in his life, and will be greatly rewarded for walking in faith.  Walking in faith is something that Abram had done from the first time the LORD called him.  If we take a study of Abram’s life, we will see that every success Abram had in his life is when he walked in faith.  God was true to this promise to Abram.  It is funny, because when most of us study the life of Abram, and the Promises of Abraham, this promise is often overlooked.  This one little promise is the picture of faith in action and the expectant results.

Fear not, is what God told Abram.  Fear not, I am your protector when harm is upon you.  I am your protector when you see the danger, and when you do not see the danger.   I am a rewarded of those who love me.  Great is that reward for those who have faith in me to keep the promises I have made.  I tell you of one thing.  If you look at the New Testament and study the history of the saints, that some took ill.  Paul had to be nursed back to health, after getting so ill he almost perished.  Other saints in the New Testament and in missionary positions throughout history have fallen ill, and some have died after being exposed to diseases as they ministered for Christ.

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It distresses my heart to hear those who say, “I thought you had faith…”, as if faith is what is used to keep you well.  The faith we have is not to keep ourselves well.  If is not even to heal others.  Miracles and healing was not why Jesus came here and died, and rose again.  It is not the reason we are left here after we have believed on Christ.  Jesus came to save that which was lost and to disciple others to know God, and spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  That is why we are here.  You want to be like Christ?  Then live for Christ, as Christ lived for his Father in Heaven.  Seek those who are lost, share the Gospel of Christ, and disciple others to do the same.  Fear not, the LORD is with you.  The LORD is your shield.  The LORD is your exceeding and great reward.  We are not immune to the tragedies of this world, but we are harbingers of the hope in the next.  Walk in the faith that the LORD has risen, and HE said that HE will raise us up!  We do not fear death, because our lives here are already forfeit for the Kingdom of Heaven.

 

Jeremiah 33 Call Unto Me

Jeremiah 33 Call Unto Me
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In the 33rd chapter of Jeremiah the Lord gives reassurance to the prophet and reaffirms the Davidic covenant.  In this he says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” (v.3)  and later the Lord states, “Behold, I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure them, and will reveal unto them the abundance of peace and truth.” (v.6).  This is such an awesome chapter of hope and reconciliation, and of the healing of the land and the people.  We can see the care that God has for his people.  He loves and cares, he is a shield and protector to his people.  He loves so much that he not only delivers, but he reals and restores.
This is the hope that we have.  That Jesus Christ came and died for us to pay the debt of death that we owe.  He was buried and took the keys to hell and death.  He then rose from the dead, and ascended to the Father.  Now he makes intercession for us as our advocate.  We who believe in him are no longer tied to this earth, or this body.  We have a great hope inside that gives us joy.  This hope is in the resurrection of life.  Even as Jesus was raised from the dead and received a glorified by, so shall we.
We are no longer trapped here in this existence. We, followers of Christ Jesus, have been given a new life.  This new life is one of the spirit.  We have been set free from the bonds of the flesh. We know that the few things we posses here in this world are worthless and will eventually rot, and decay. The things we look forward to are everlasting.  We now are pilgrims on our way to the promises of God, to be reconciled with him in Jesus Christ.  We will soon be glorified, although we do not yet fully understand what that entails, we will understand when we finally see him face to face.  This is the gift of God.  We have received unmerited favor from God as demonstrated in the grace he bestowed upon us in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Death has no hold on us, no bind is there to keep us in the grave.
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:6-11)
Look to Jesus, as the Lord says, “Call unto me, and I will answer thee”.  Hope is right here waiting for you to call out!  Life is right here waiting for you to seek Him!  Love is right here waiting for you to open your heart!  Peace is right here waiting for you to rest within.  There is no fear in Love.  You do not need to fear the Lord.  He has demonstrated his love towards us.

Abortion and the Failure of the Church

Abortion and the Failure of the Church

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I read a telling tale of a young girl who grew up in a Christian home, went to a Christian school, and attended church on a regular basis and yet when she had to face the most fearful time in her life, everyone failed her.  Yes she made a huge mistake, at the age of 16 she was pregnant, and then again at 17.  However; that would not be the worst of what she would have to deal with.  She was in great fear.  We really cannot blame her.  Grown adults, even those who have good finances, and secure lifestyles who have planned for a pregnancy get fearful.  Question swell up inside.  What will my friends think?  How will the father react?  How will I care for the child?  At her young age these questions are magnified by the prospect of addressing her parents, and friends.  What will happen with her schooling, college, and church life?  What about all of the stares, and whispers?  How could she ever care for a baby?  So many unknowns.  Advice is far from accessible because of the fear of shame and rejection.

With all of the Christian influences and church people around her she felt that they failed her.  “At the time, my church, my pastor, my school, and community never told me there were resources out there to help me—with adoption, abstinence, finances, or help caring for a child.” (Anonimous) The only ones who would be available to give her advice was Planned Parenthood.  What was the advice she received?  You can probably guess it.  She was advised that she did not have to keep the “embryo”.  No one asked if she wanted to talk about alternatives to abortion.  No other focus was given except to proceed with the abortion.

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She paid $300.00 for the abortion.  She described the event as horrible, and painful.  She and other ladies that were awaiting the procedure shared how sad they were at the need for the procedure and regretted their decisions.  She learned quick to harden her heart and to lie to herself and her family and everyone else she knew.  She became depressed and withdrawn, driven by more guilt and shame.  She abuse alcohol and herself.  Eventually the Lord led her to a group called Embrace.  Embrace helps people with abortion and abortion alternatives.  She became active in their prayer groups and ministry.  Eventually she began sharing her story. Telling the truth is the only way to rid the shame.  Her message? “Abortion is NOT freedom! Abortion is making “peace” with death and that is an absolute lie and brings so much destruction to a person’s live that goes beyond the mother.”

Her Christian community around her had failed her.  They failed her in educating her on the importance of abstinence and the holiness of the temple of God, her body.  The environment that she grew up in was more concerned with condemning her sin then helping her to recover from her sin.  In fact they did not help her to recover at all.  So how can we change that so that others do not have to go through this shameful behavior from the church?  We are to educate, listen, remind, and assist; oh then repeat seven times seven.

It starts from the top down.  Pastors, Deacons, Teachers, and other elders of the church need to educate at all levels on the sanctity of marriage, abstinence, and how important each life is to God. (Psalm 139:1-24; Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 127:3; Galatians 1:15; Psalm 22:9-10; Isaiah 48:1)  However; we cannot stop there, we need a culture of love and truth in the church.  Peter tells us, “And above all things have fervent charity (love) among yourselves:  for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)  To many times when a brother or sister falls into sin, we are quick to condemn and not forgive.  We should condemn the sin, however; we do not need to continue with the same failed anti-abortion rantings that drive the repentant away. We are commanded to forgive one another.  Specifically, we are called to confess, repent, and forgive; in that order.  (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13) So then this is the first part in combating fear and shame and allows the truth to be shared.  Confidence given to the brother or sister who sins, that if they confess, they will be forgiven and will receive love and acceptance.

We must also educate our staff and members on a routine basis on alternatives to abortion, should the pregnancy be unavoidable.  Having a list of alternative pregnancy and women’s health clinics that support the woman’s choice to both live and the child to live.  Planned Parenthood spent allot of money making themselves the only voice on women’s health available.  This is not the truth, there are plenty of other alternatives to Planned Parenthood.  There are plenty of alternatives to abortion.  They may include adoption, guardianship of another family member, and single mother housing assistance or missions.  The church can use volunteers that can serve as a daycare for needy mothers so that the mother can continue in school, collage, and work.  Volunteers from the church can be incorporated into a babysitter program.  The church can even host an abortion survivors group.  Time, equipment, furniture, clothes, food, can all be donated by members of the church.  Professional skills can be donated that may include carpentry, mechanical, legal, financial, and even medical can be donated to the church for use in these programs.  Heck someone can even help clean the home, do laundry, mentor child raising, and cut the grass.

If your church does not have this kind of thing going on, then start it.  The Lord can use you to start this group.  In the church I attend a young lady felt a burden for the community after a school shooting, and started a community wide service that the members of the community , churches, and civil authorities could meet under to build up the community and get people in contact with the resources they need.  All it took one person saying, “here I am” to the Lord.

Get informed of local ministries that assist in pro-life assistance to expecting mothers and fathers.  We must always, as much as possible include the other silent victims, the fathers.  There are a many number of men who have these same feelings of guilt and shame, feelings of failure and inadequacy because of abortion.  Sadly, many men who would have rather taken the child into their own homes are not consulted by the mother prior to the abortion.  The biggest thing we can do that is included in all of these suggestions is to talk about it.  We need to bring the truth to the front.  People sin, if we didn’t we wouldn’t have needed a savior.

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Now that we do have a savior, Jesus Christ, who has already paid the price for our sin, and has forgiven us, we should forgive one another of sin.  We need to bring the truth the front.  Abortion is murder of an innocent life.  Murder is a sin, and a violation of the law of the land.  There should be no reason to accept the selfish taking of another life.  Murder of an innocent can never be justified by man. There are alternatives to abortion, even if the mother does not want the child.  The people affected by the sins of sexual immorality and abortion are people that we love.  We need to unashamedly reach out to and assist these victims (mother, father, and child) to find alternatives that will not destroy their lives and will encourage them to return to the Lord Jesus Christ who loves them and desires their love.  We cannot abandon our loved ones, nor allow them to abandon their loved ones out of fear and mis-education.

 

Bibliography

Anonimous. abort73.com. 31 Jan 2020. Loxafamosity Ministries Inc . Internet. 10 Mar 2020. <https://www.abort73.com/testimony/2674/&gt;.

 

The Need of God-fearing Men

The Need of God-Fearing Men

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In Pasadena Texas there used to be a huge Baptist Church on Vista Blvd.  This is the church that I made my public confession of faith in.  The attendance there was probably close to 200 on a Sunday morning, and at least half of that on Sunday evening and Wednesday evening services.  Later I moved to the state of Washington and attended a Baptist church in Roy.  This little country church was packed every service, and even had a radio tower that they used to broadcast their services our over the radio station.  A few year later I moved back to Texas and wound up briefly attending several churches that also had high attendance and great outreaches and ties into the surrounding communities.  In between these churches, I attended several other churches, as I tended to move quite a bit.  I have also had the opportunity to preach at several different churches of various sizes.  In looking back over these churches I could see something that seems insignificant to most, but stands out to me.  There was a difference in the churches that were growing and involved in the community and those who were dying, or at least in peaceful slumber.  The churches that had a fervent men’s ministry were the ones that were growing.

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When we look at what makes a church not only survive, but to thrive in an area, we can look at a lot of different factors.  Many studies go into looking at the local demographics of the area.  What is the income level?  What is the major ethnic population?  What is the major health or poverty driven issue?  What is the current and projected economic climate? Are jobs on the increase or the decrease?  How many children per home?  How many single mother homes are in the populace?   All of these are good questions, and can help to develop outreach opportunities and meet the needs of the people surrounding the church.  However; this information does little to spur the motivation of the church to do anything. We often look at aging churches and try to find ways to get youth programs off the ground.  The idea is that without youth in the church, the church will silently die of old age.  This is true in more than one way.  But what I am speaking of is something more fundamental.  We need men in the church to have a heart for, and to be, active in sharing the Gospel of Christ.

I heard a story one time concerning Charles Spurgeon and his boiler room.  The story goes that some college students came to see Charles Spurgeon preach.  They had arrived early and as they waited, a man from the church offered to give them a tour.  The guide took them into one room, referred to as the “heating plant”.  In this room were an estimated 700 saints praying.  The guide, who turned out to be Charles Spurgeon himself, explained that the secret to his success is not him at all.  Mr. Spurgeon explained that the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in answering the prayers of these saints that desire another soul would be saved.  The secret to these successful churches was the presence of an active, praying Men’s Ministry.

I want to make something clear.  Men’s Ministry is not an event driven service.  It is great to have the Men’s Ministry around to do all of the heavy lifting at an events like VBS or at a Kid’s Festival or a Fall Festival, however; that is not the only way the men should be of value in the church ministry.  They should be intimately involved in every aspect of the ministry of the local church and their families.

Each of these churches I attended that were growing had an active men’s ministry that prayed before, during, and after every service.  They arrived hours ahead of time, and remained as long as needed.  They painted, moved furniture, worked the plumbing, cut the grass and did many other things.  In fact, in the church in Roy, Washington we all met one Saturday morning and worked all day spreading truckloads of rocks around to make a new parking lot and did other landscaping items.  We were there from before the sun came up, until the sun went down.  The ladies brought us food and water as we worked. In all of these churched, men were subject to the Spirit of God and had a desire to see one more soul saved.  Men are the leaders in the church.  When I was in the Army, I learned that Leaders lead by example, and from the front, not the rear.  A leader does not sit in an office and dictate to others what needs to be done.  A leader teaches, demonstrates, and then supervises what needs to be accomplished.  A leader takes personal responsibility in the accomplishment of the mission. This is what an effective Men’s Ministry does.

These men, of the Men’s Ministry, lead by active service.  John 13:12-15 says, “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.”   This shows us how important this principle of leadership in the church is to Christ.  He himself made a point to ensure the disciples understood that in order to be a leader in the kingdom they must lead in service of the kingdom.  We forget that Jesus actively disciple all of these men.  I know what you’re saying, “Of course he did, that’s why we call them ’the disciples’”.  However, when we get a young man in the church we do not grow them into elders.  Instead we just hope that they will eventually figure it out, stay long enough, or the Lord will instruct them himself.  We forget that we, as men have been given a ministry towards other men. Men need to be disciple in the church.  Men need to be held to a standard and accountability.  These effective Men’s Ministries that I witness did not wait for some young or new male church member to approach them.  These men actively recruited all men in attendance at the church.  To be honest, most did not even care if you were a member of the church, they just wanted to get you active in spiritual growth.

I showed up at one of these churches early one morning.  While waiting for the rest of my family to arrive, an elder from the church came up and asked me my name.  I told him, and he smiled and said, “Well, Mr. Harvey, you’re just in time for the prayer meeting.”  Then he conducted me to an upstairs room where 12 other men were already praying.  The Pastor ducked his head in right before the door closed and told them some names to add to the list and disappeared.  Just like that I was in the Men’s Ministry.  I joined the church that service.  That was all it took.

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Men’s ministry assists the church, as the men in the church are disciple to mature faith and understanding of the scriptures, their roles in the family, local church, the Kingdom of God, and community. The Men’s Ministry is the place where this close discipleship can occur through fellowship, study, accountability, counsel.  Most of all the Men’s Ministry servers through men fervently praying for their families, the church, community, and one another in the unity of group prayer meetings.  There is nothing the devil can defeat a church with that has a group of righteous men praying in earnest for the spreading of the gospel.

Men, the apostle James tell us in his epistle that we should confess our sins to one another.  We should also pray for one another.  Then James tell us that the powerful passionate prayer of a righteous man is very advantageous to the plea being made. (James 5:16)  Wow!  Now imagine how powerful a whole group of such men praying together in agreement before the Almighty God would be, especially with the Spirit of God praying right along beside them, in perfect communion with the God, the Creator of the universe.  Prayer then is the foundation of the men’s ministry.  However, it also includes mentorship in Christ.  Group study of the Word, and proper fellowship.

Fellowship in scripture is not just having coffee before services, or having a lunch after Sunday morning services.  I includes, but is not limited to Men’s Breakfasts, prayer groups, and bible studies.  The word for fellowship in the Greek has a deeper meaning.  It means to share on one’s self.  This means that we should be living in fellowship.  We should be involved in one another’s lives.  We should be giving towards one another.  We should be living with one another on a daily basis.  Giving time, money, food, encouragement, advice, and emotional and spiritual support to one another.  This is what happened in the early church, they gave sacrificially to one another, even to other churches.  Another thing to consider is spiritual leadership.

The man is to be a spiritual leader in the church and in the home.  1 Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong”.  This means that we should be like men of wisdom who have understanding.  We should act like mature men, not like children.  We should be strong in doctrine, not carried away by every spirit.  We should search the scriptures to test what we have been told and what we interpret concerning scripture.  We should be proficient and able to identify truth from error.  We, men, should be able to instruct others on the meaning of the scriptures.  We should have the backbone to stand up for what is good and right before God.  In this age of effeminized men we need men who can show themselves as men.  Men who set the example of righteousness, no matter what the cost.  Men who lead.  If a woman goes to church, she will undoubtable drag her children with her.  The husband may not go.  She has no authority to make him.  The children, especially the boys will have a divided desire.

The boys will develop a resentment with one parent or the other, and the church.  This is because, boys want to be like their fathers.  The hidden message in their heart will be on of, “If dad doesn’t have to go, why should I?”  In all honesty, that is a very good question. If the father does not put any emphasis on church attendance then their children will fail to realize the importance of the church, Sunday school, or even Christ himself.  However; if the father goes to church then everyone goes to church.   He has that authority.  The wife who wishes to please her husband will go.  The children who see that both parents are in attendance will desire to go, because the importance of the church is recognized by both parents.  More so if the father is actively involved in the church.  Then the children see that a relationship with Christ is of most importance.   The child who understands the importance of a relationship with Christ will tell their friends, and invite them to church to meet Christ.  A family who worships Christ together, grows in love towards one another, the church, and in Christ Jesus.

The Church does not need to change its culture to make themselves more attractive to society.  To much of that nonsense has already happened.  We don’t need men that are effeminate, unsure of scripture, afraid to confront evil, or not daring enough to step on a few toes for Christ. What the church needs is a culture where men are righteous, caring, and active in their families, the church and community.  Men that are bold in their profession of faith.  Men that stand up for what is right.  Men who confront evil no matter what the personal cost. Men who would rather step on a toe or two in love, rather than see someone waist their life and die and go to hell.

When God made mankind, he first made a male and put him to have dominion over all of his creation. When Jesus selected his apostles, out of thousands of men, women, and children; he chose men.  When the disciples gathered together to replace Judas Iscariot, out of over a hundred men and women gathered together, the Holy Spirit chose a man. When the first deacons for the church were chosen, the Holy Spirit of God chose men.  The first recorded martyr was also a man.  The Holy Spirit moves through righteous men.  I am not saying that the Holy Spirit does not use women also, however; there seems to be no shortage of active women in the church today.  That being said, this is why scripture encourages men saying, “if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work.” (1 Timothy 3:1) You see the Lord wants men to desire to be of service.  He says that it is a good thing to have a desire to be of service; teaching, preaching, caring for the flock.  Then he gives some criteria.

I know what you are most likely thinking.  This is the criteria that he gives for pastors and deacons, however; shouldn’t all Christian men strive for these?  He says that a man of God should be blameless.  There should be no cause for accusation in his life.  He should have a clean witness both in and out of the church.  He should be the husband of one wife.  This man should have no eyes for any other woman than his wife.  He should have no mistresses, or practice polygamy.  He should be vigilant.  This means he should be aware of his surroundings. Attentive to the needs of others.  Aware of the dangers of the enemy about him.  He should be sober.  He should be of a good nature and not into mischief.  He is temperate, not into brawling, or striking others.  He does not boast or throw his weight around trying to impress himself.  The list goes on, and then includes some very specific things for the bishop. (1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Titus 1:5-9)

These are the things that we should be shepherding and disciplining young men in the way. This is the culture that we should seek to have in the men of our churches.  Real men who stand up for God and that do not let anything stop them from seeking the will of the Lord.  Men like this who pray together have a great effect on the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a church.  In Ezekiel 34 we can read that there are dire consequences for Israel because the shepherds of Israel failed their duties.  Israel became scattered having no leadership.  The people became the victims of wolves and beasts of prey.  They were weak and sickly.  This sounds like some churches you may know, does it not?

Something else to be aware of in Ezekiel 34:1-10, the Lord says, “I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock”.  Now let us move to Revelation chapter 3.  “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked:” (Revelation 3:15-17) Remember the Lord is talking to the members of the church.  He says that they have become self-sufficient and think that they have everything and that they have lost their zeal.  They are not doing the things of the Lord.  Because of this they are worthless to him, and he will spew them out.  Ever wonder if a church closed because God wished them to close?  They had become slipshod and non-responsive to the Spirit and the Lord simply pulled their charter.

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Men of God you must understand that you are important to the ministry of your local Church.  In fact, you are an invaluable asset to your church.  Your skills and craftsmanship are a great asset to the church, but your leadership and compassion for others has a far more reaching effect.  You have knowledge and understanding that some young man needs to tap into to see the working of Christ in his life.  We need men of God engaged in the fight for what is good, and right, and virtuous. (Philippians 4:8) These are the things that we should be doing.  We should learn to do well, seek judgement, relieve the oppressed, and protect the orphans and widows.  (Isaiah 1:17) This is the work that God has for men.

Survey of Galatians

Survey of Galatians 

The epistle of Galatia is believed to be written in either 49 or 55 8.D.and addresses issues in the church the dealt with issues of salvation by faith alone and Christian ethics. Paul addresses the question of how: can a man, who is sinful by nature, come to a God, who is holy by nature. His answer is this: there is only one way – to accept the salvation of God’s grace that is made available through Christ death and resurrection. Salvation cannot be obtained through obedience to the law of Moses. Man, by his very nature is too weak and too self-serving to be able to accomplish selfsalvation and self-centered occasion. Certain Jewish Christians referred to as Judaizers, or teaching that works are necessary, and that Paul’s gospel was not true gospel and that Paul was not a genuine apostle. Paul answer was to clarify his doctrine of justification by faith plus nothing, and of the sanctification of the Holy Spirit, not the law of Moses he reasserted his apostolic authority received from Christ Jesus who appeared to him on the road to Damascus. Paul’s theology of salvation by faith effectively negates any other form of salvation that includes human effort through works, adherence to the law of Moses, or self-justification. 

Authorship 

Galatians is authored by Paul the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Paul starts this letter of by proclaiming who he is, and by what authority he is writing in. (Galatians 1:1).  It is believed that the letter to the Galatians may have been one of the earliest writings of the New Testament.  

Historical Settings 

The term Galatia was used in both the geographical and political sense. The former referred to the North – Central Asia minor, North of the cities of Pisidian Antioch (Atcs 13:14), Iconium (Acts 13:51), Lystra (Acts 14:8), and Derbe (Acts 14:19-21); the latter referred to the Roman Providence (organized in 25B.C.) that included the southern district of those cities just mentioned. If the letter was written to Christians and North Galatia, the churches were founded on the second missionary journey and the epistle was written on the third missionary journey, either early from Ephesus (about a. D. 53) or later (about 55) from Macedonia. In favor of this is the fact that Luke seems to use Galatia only to describe North Galatia (acts 16:6; 18:23 and parent. 

If the letter was written to Christians in South Galatia, the charges were founded on the first missionary journey, and the letter was written at the end of the journey (probably from Antioch, about a. D. 49, making it the earliest of Paul’s epistles) and the Jerusalem counsel (acts 15) convene shortly afterward. In favor of this dating is the fact that Paul does not mention the decision of the Jerusalem counsel that more directly on his Galatians argument concerning the Judaizers, indicating that the Council had not yet taken place. 

Key Verse 

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  – Galatians 1:8 

Major Themes 

The major themes discussed in his epistle, justification by faith and its defense, explanation, and application of the items discussed include Paul’s three years in Arabia (1:17), his correcting of Peter (2:11), the law is a teacher (3:24), and the fruit of the spirit (5:22 – 23). 

Doctrine 

  • Justification By Faith Alone 
  • Blessings received by faith in Christ 
  • Must be untied to Jesus by faith 
  • Blessings cannot be “earned” 
  • To abandon faith is to lose 

Outline 

  1. Greetings and Introduction 1:1-10 
    1. Paul’s Confidence in the Gospel 1:1-5 
    2. Paul’s Confusion and Rebuke 1:6-10 
  2. Paul’s Defense of Justification by Faith  
    1. His Authority 1:11-2:21  
      1. Premise of Revelation 1:11-24 
      2. Premise of Jerusalem Church 2:1-10 
      3. Premise of Authority to Rebuke Peter 2:11-21 
  3. Paul’s Explanation of Justification by Faith 3:1-4:31 
    1. The Believer’s Own Experience 3:1-5 
    2. The Children of Abraham 3:6-9 
    3. The Legal Requirement Satisfied 3:10-4:11 
    4. Personal Testimony of their Teacher 4:12-20 
    5. An Allegorical Argument 4:21-31 
  4. How Then to Apply to Life 5:1-6:10 
    1. How does Justification by Faith relate to our Liberty in Christ? 5:1-12 
    2. How does Justification by Faith relate to Love? 5:13-15 
    3. How does Justification by Faith relate to the Flesh and the Spirit? 5:16-26 
    4. What the Sins of a Brother? 6:1-5 
    5. What about Giving? 6:6-10 
  5. Instructions and Exhortations 6:11-18

References 

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print. 

Survey of Amos

Survey of Amos 

Amos’ bold proclamation is set early in the book.  “And he said, The Lord will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem; and the habitations of the shepherds shall morn, and the top of Carmel shall wither.” (Amos 1.2) The book of Amos contains three major sections.  The first section begins with oracles against the nations (chaps. 1-2), then by judgements against Israel (chaps. 3-6), and finally with five prophetic visions (chaps. 7-9).  Amos is concerned with social injustice and the treatment of the poor.  This is a concern also viewed by the early Christians in 1 Corinthians 11:22; James 1:27; 5:1-6) God has a genuine concern for the poor as discussed in James 2:5.  The fierceness of the Word of the Lord should have caused a great repentance in the land.  However, the words that Amos brought to the kingdom of Israel only infuriated the rebellious inhabitants of the land, and Amos was required to return home. 

Authorship 

Amos 1.1 tells us that Amos from Tekoa is the author of this book.  While he is identified as a shepherd or a herdsman, and a caretaker of Fig trees, the general impression of most theologians is that Amos would have been in the middle to upper-class of society.  Tekoa was approximately five to ten miles south of Bethlehem.  This is located in the southern kingdom, so he was called to basically be a foreign missionary, as his mission was located in the norther kingdom in the area of Beth-el.  He was not a professional profit and he declared this to Amaziah in chapter 7.4.  Instead it appears he was called by God for a specific prophesy and then retired to write his book. 

Historical Settings 

During the time of Amos, Judah was under the direction of King Uzziah (791-740).  
Even though Judah was prosperous during this time King Uzziah was under the influence of King Jeroboam II, of Israel (793-753).  Israel in outward appearances was at the highpoint of power, however inwardly it was full of idolatry and corruption. Idolatry and sexual immorality had taken root in Israel and Judah was in apostasy.  “And Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they had committed above all that their fathers had don, For they also built them high laces, and images and groves, on every high hill, and under every green tree.  And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.” (2 Kings 14:22-24)   
Social evils characterized the times (2.6-8; 3.10; 4.1; 5.10-12; 8.4-6). 

Key Verse

But let judgement run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream – Amos 5:24

Major Themes 

There are four major themes in the book of Amos.  Amos attacked social evils, idolatry and false worship within the kingdom.  Amos issued urgent pleas for repentance in order to escape the judgement of God. “That in the day that I shall visit the transgressions of Israel upon him I will also visit the altars of Beth-el: and the horns of the altar shall be cut off, and fall to the ground.” (Amos 3.14) The themes are: 

  • Everyone answers to God 
  • Cruelty (1.6-8,11,13) 
  • Sexual Immorality 
  • Complacency (2.4,7-12) 
  • Oppressing the poor (2.6) 
  • Selling the poor into slavery  
  • Exploiting the poor 
  • Unlawful Usury 
  • Superficial Religion (5.18-27) 
  • Idolatry 

The end result of the book is a stern warning that no one escapes the judgement of the Most High. “Hear ye this word which I take up against you, even a lamentation, O house of Israel.” (Amos 5.1). “Woe to them that are at ease in Zion, and trust in the mountain of Samaria, which are named chief of the nation, to whom the house of Israel came!” (Amos 61) Israel’s or no one’s status, for that matter, is no reason to take advantage of the blessings of the Lord.  God’s moral character must be satisfied.  Amos’ message is largely a “cry for justice”.   

The ending of the book is a promise that when the Lord has finished his chastisement of Israel, He will again restore her and keep her forever. “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old:” (Amos 9.11)… “And I will pant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God.” (Amos 9.15) 

Outline of Amos 

  1. Identity of Author and Theme of the Book 1:1-2 
  2. The Prophecies 1:3-2:16 
    1. Damascus 1:3-5 
    2. Philistia 1:6-8 
    3. Tyre 1:9-10 
    4. Edom 1:11-12 
    5. Ammon 1:13-15 
    6. Moab 2:1-3 
    7. Judah 2:4-5 
    8. Israel 2:6-16 
  3. The Sermons 3:1-6:14 
    1. Doom of Israel 3:1-15 
    2. Depravity of Israel 4:1-13 
    3. A Dirge over Israel 5:1-6:14 
    4. Destruction in Judgement 5:1-17 
    5. Rebuke of the Religious 5:18-27 
    6. Reprimand of a nation 6:1-14 
  4. The Visions 7:1-9:15 
    1. Vision of Devouring Locusts 7:1-3 
    2. Vision of Fire 7:4-6 
    3. Vision of a Plumbline 7:7-9 
    4. Historic Interlude 7:10-17 
    5. Vision of a Basket of Summer Fruit 8:1-14 
    6. Vision of Future Blessings 9:11-15 

 References 

King James Easy-reading Study Bible. Goodyear, AZ, 2002. Print. 

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell. The Ryrie Study Bible: King James Version. Chicago: Moody, 2008. Print. 

Longman, Tremper. “The Book of Amos.” Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012. N. pag. Print. 

Commentary 1 Corinthians 8 Touching Things Offered to Idols

1 Corinthians 8 – Touching Things Offered Unto Idols

There came a question to Paul that was directed against sanctification and idolatry. The Jewish Christians had raised a good point of conversation that Paul is about to confront.  The root of this debate may very well be rooted in such scriptures as these:

“And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

Exodus 20:1-6, KJV

“And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.”

Exodus 23:13, KJV

“I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. Thou shalt have none other gods before me. Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.”

Deuteronomy 5:6-10, KJV

“Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you; (For the LORD thy God is a jealous God among you) lest the anger of the LORD thy God be kindled against thee, and destroy thee from off the face of the earth.”

Deuteronomy 6:13-15, KJV

This means that likely the concerns had been brought up by those who had influenced by Judaizers or Messianic Jews who were familiar with the customs of the Hebrews from antiquity. They were struggling with a real issue of faith.  Sometimes when we come from a legalistic background we cling to some of the structures that were involved in our upbringing because they give us a certain amount of security.  The danger that these individuals were facing wasn’t one of eating mean and displeasing God and being therefor condemned.  What they did not realize is that they were running a chance at putting themselves back into the bondage of legalism in trying to fulfill the law.  Paul’s gospel of Grace goes allow deeper than most of us would be willing to publicly debate. I venture that most Christians have not idea how radical the gospel that Paul preached really is.  This is just one little glimpse into the liberty that Paul says we have in the Gospel.

Paul makes an argument that is directly related to the dispensation of Grace that is now upon the world.  Just as Paul will argue concerning that salvation is by grace through faith, walking in faith is different from walking in the Law.  Paul has to open the eyes of the believers to a fact that they may not have considered.  The fact is that there are actually, no other gods to worship.  Knowledge of the truth of God can sometimes take a little longer to set free some of those who have lived in bondage, than other believers.  We are all growing in this knowledge of God and the truth of salvation by grace.  None of us, even Paul had a full understanding of the ramifications of the effects that faith in Jesus gives us.  Grace has truly set us free.  Our understanding of this is made through the process of the sanctification of the Spirit towards us and the development of our knowledge and relationship to God the Father through our Lord Jesus Christ.

The best way I know to describe this is through my personal grow.  I converted to Christ out of Roman Catholicism.  I was raised up from a baby to believe the atonement for my sin was made through.

  • Confession to a Priest
  • Penance
    • Making a restitution
    • Repeating Prayers from the Rosary
    • Performing some other work that showed repentance and obedience to the church and to God. (Community Service, etc…)

Now these were so engrained in me that after I converted, I still had the intense urge to go to a confessor.  Even though I knew that I was now a priest to God and could confess directly to him.  I also carried a rosary years after, not because I prayed the prayers, but because it still gave me a sense of security.  As I grew in the knowledge of the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I eventually understood that these things were unnecessary and were just crutches that held no real power to affect my relationship with God.  God loved me for who I was.  In accepting his love, I was made free of these trinkets and idolatry. But God never rejected me, he allowed me to grow and love him, because at my heart I was seeking him and the truth in him.  I know several converts from Catholicism that struggle with these same issues when they are first converted.   Grace allows them to grow in full discipleship and love. Spiritual maturity takes time, patience, and some enduring.  Most of all it takes love and fellowship.

1 Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth.

The apostle Paul now turns his attention to a specific question or questions in relation to foods that were offered to idols and if it was lawful for Christian to eat of these foods. We must understand that when foods were offered to pagan gods in Corinth there would often times be remains that were left. If this offering was a private offering than the offer would be allowed to take them home. These remains would then be used in other meals provided to guess that would attend. If the remains poor from public sacrifices then the remains will be sold to the market. These remains would then be purchased by the local citizens and again they would wind up in the evening meals. The question became can a Christian eat meat that was sacrifice to idols, no matter how they came to the table.

2 And if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know.

This issue; issue of presumption of knowledge, has often caused problems in the Christian community and in the church. Some of us are just smart enough to be dangerous. (Job 32:13; Ecclesiastes 7:16; Jeremiah 8:9; 1 Corinthians 1:20; 3:18; 2 Corinthians 1:12; Proverbs 3:7:26:12: 28:11) In arrogance some of us set ourselves on a pedestal to tell others how what they do is misunderstood are incorrect.(Romans 12:16) We don’t do this an attitude of love rather we do this in a demonstration of our perceived intelligence. (Psalm 36:3; Jeremiah 8:8)

Paul says if you think you know something about God, you better rethink what you thought. The truth of salvation and a God himself is deeper than any of us could ever comprehend with our carnal mind. There is no greater evidence of ignorance more common than a conceit of knowledge. You see he that knows the most and understands it also understands his own ignorance and the imperfection of human knowledge. So he that imagines himself as a knowledgeable man is being vain and conceited and only tempts his own imagination. So Paul says it’s one thing to know the truth but another thing to understand the truth. We would say it’s one thing to have book knowledge and another to have common sense.

3 But if any man love God, the same is known of him.

Here said Paul says that if a man loves God everyone can see it. It doesn’t matter whether he eats food of idols or not. The testimony of his life reads like an open book. A man of God lives a certain way, treats people a certain way, and has expectation of how he should be treated before God. Anyone who encounters a man that loves God, knows that the man loves God by his countenance. A man or woman of God does not need to put on pretense, or have the need to give false impression, because their heart is what reveals their love for Christ and their actions. These actions include not only a love for God but a love for others. (Luke 10:27) This love is manifest and their day-to-day life.  This love of God is not only evidenced to others, but God loves those who love him. (John 14:21-24; Deuteronomy 7:9; 1 John 4:19; Proverbs 8:17; John 10:14,27-30)

4 As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.

Paul is trying to make a point that the educated Christian should understand. There are no idols, because there are no other gods. All other gods are from the imagination of men and their evil desires and possess no power or authority because they are not real. This means there is only one God. Since there’s only one God, the meat could not have been sanctified to another god because the other god does not exist.

5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,)

Paul recognizes that there are many cultures that worship many different gods. Some of the gods found in Corinth would be Artemis, Nike, Tyche, Aphrodite, Poseidon, Apollo, Zeus, Helios, Asklepios, Pan, and Dionysus.

6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.

Paul’s realized that others believed that these idols actually represented other gods. Paul makes a point to clarify, even though people worship these idols, there is actually only one God. This God we call our father. Our father created all things, and everything belongs to him, and his son our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the one who created all things and sustains, us we belong to him and the father through him.

7 Howbeit there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.

Now Paul makes a distinction. Paul says I understand that some of you come within upbringing that determines that there are other gods. Paul also understands that even though they have been converted to Christianity they still have tendencies and beliefs that are centered on their old gods. In coming to Christ these individuals have placed Jesus into a category with other gods; false gods. Paul understands this as a weak point and their faith that must be strengthened. So he says, if your conscience bothers you concerning the eating of meat offered to idols even though the are no other idols then you should not eat food offered idols, because your faith is incomplete. You don’t have an understanding yet that those other gods really do not exist. As one grows in faith we learn to put away the child’s things that we once knew.

8 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse.

Since we are held by Christ and on the grace period meat cannot be what commands us to Christ. Since we love and live in the grace there is no law that condemns us before God. What we eat has nothing to do with our spiritual us. That is eating the meat of idols or refraining from eating the meat of idols has no effect on our standing with God through Jesus Christ. Spiritually it does not make us healthier or weaker in the spirit. Meat is for sustainment of the body.

9 But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak.

We must understand that each of our faiths are at different points of maturity. We also come from different backgrounds which give us different weaknesses and our belief. We must be cautious to ensure that the liberties or freedoms that we take in Christ do not hinder someone else and their walk. Just because we are free to do as we would, it does not mean that we should do as we would. This in itself shows a weakness in our own belief. If we move in selfishness and not in love then we show the incompleteness of our faith in Christ.

10 For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols;

The reason why we must be careful with how we live our liberty is that if someone else a week or faith sees us to do something that they think is wrong, then they would be encouraged to do what they think is wrong. This does not help their faith instead it allows them to live in compromise of their convictions.  If they do not adhere to the convictions of the Holy Spirit in their lives, then they will never mature.  Being a Christian requires the ability to stand up against the world system, and to resist temptation. (1 Corinthians 10:13; Matthew 4:1-11; Matthew 26:41; James 1:3; James 1:12-16; James 4:7; Hebrews 2:18; Ephesians 6:11)

11 And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died?

Knowledge without understanding can be a dangerous thing.  I once saw a young man hurt themselves rather seriously.  His car had over heated.  He knew that he needed to check his radiator.  He opened the hood, and removed the radiator cap.  When he did the pressure build up from the overheated liquid cause an eruption that spewed scolding hot water up into the air, and onto the young man.  He pulled away as fast as he could but it was too late.  He received 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his hand, arm, and parts of his chest and face.  His knowledge of what needed to check the radiator was correct.  However, his understanding of the functioning of the radiator was insufficient, and it nearly killed him.  This is the same thing.

If someone does not know why the eating of something offered to idols is no longer a sin, then making them to eat the meat will only lead to their destruction.  It is then that sin can be taken too far.  For instance Paul makes a distinction between, sin and being judged by sin, when he says that we can sin no more.  However, we all know that there are other consequences to sin.  Paul makes a designation between sins of sexual immorality and other sins also.  He says that sins of sexual immorality are against your very nature. (1 Corinthians 6:12-20)  James and Paul both say that us to willfully live in known sin is an abomination to God, and Christ.  They even beg you to consider that if you do these things that you really do not believe in Jesus and the painful sacrifice he performed on your behalf, nor do you believe that he lives and sees your behavior.  If you did believe and understand that, you would act differently, out of love and respect. (Hebrews 10:26)  Paul’s periphery is that knowledge of Christ must be in juxtaposition with the understanding of its implications on liberty and sanctification with regard to our spiritual maturity and conscience.

12 But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.

And this we must remember our primary motivation of love and the second commitment to Christ gave. We are commanded to love one another as we love ourselves. So to cause a brother to fall or doubt his faith is an act of selfishness, especially if it is a boast of one’s own spirituality. This selfishness is a sin against our brother because we wound their conscience and we calls them to sin against Christ by violating their own conscience.

13 Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.

Paul sums up his argument at this point and gives us a guiding principle that regulates our conduct and morally in different matters; a principle of love. We should voluntarily regulate our liberty so that we don’t cause someone to commit offense and stumble. In Galatians chapter 5 verse 13 it reads “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty fornication to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” Our liberties are given to us to be servants of one another, and to allow us the freedom to relate to one another and to the lost in a manner in which we can lead them to Christ, and encourage the fellow believer. These liberties are a benefit for the Kingdom of God and his Christ, not of our own.

Paul addressed this same principle in Romans 13:8-14.  In this passage Paul tells us to accept the brother (or sister) who is weak in their faith.  He adds to is that we should not accept them in to vain argumentation and pointing out the weakness of their faith with conjecture or cynicism.  Instead we should accept them in love.  It is in love that the commandments are fulfilled, not in the refraining of the eating of meats, or other traditions of man.  “Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Romans 8:10)

The Execution of Rev. Hans Bret on January 4, 1577

The Execution of Rev. Hans Bret on January 4, 1577

In 1660, Author, Thieleman van Braght published a book cataloging some of the events of the martyrdom of the Anabaptists.  This work was titled, “The Bloody Theater or Martyrs Mirror of the Defenseless Christians – “Who Baptized Only Upon Confession of Faith, and Who Suffered and Died for the Testimony of Jesus, Their Saviour, From the Time of Christ to the Year A.D. 1660.”

The Anabaptist believed that infant baptism was not scriptural and did not save the soul of the infant.  They maintained that in order to receive salvation, one had to first believe on Jesus Christ, and repent of their sin.  Baptist was an act of obedience required by Christ for all who believed on his name.  Since an infant was unaware of personal or generational sin, they could not repent.  To add to this, an infant does not yet have a manner to understand who Christ is nor what atonement should mean, so therefore could not believe on Jesus Christ as their savior.  The Anabaptist required that any adult coming into their folds have a confession of faith in Jesus Christ and be baptized in believer’s baptism.  This meant that they were to be re-baptized.  The Anabaptist did not initially call themselves Anabaptists, this was a mocking name placed on them by the Catholic and Protestant religions of the period.  Eventually they accepted their title as a badge of distinction.

This distinction would cost them dearly for their lives would be the price to stand on the scriptures and adhere to their faith in Christ.  The persecution of the Anabaptist by the Catholic and Protestant religions is reported to be so severe that more Anabaptist were martyred in the sixteenth century then the amount of Christians  martyred by Rome and pagan religions in the first three centuries of the origins of the church.

Hans Bret, a baker by trade, and Anabaptist by faith is one such life laid down for Christ.  He was in his twenties and an earnest bible scholar who supported his widowed mother and drew many converts who sought his teaching and preaching of the Word.  On May 6, 1576 in the evening hours his home and bakery were surrounded by the bailiff and his posse. They arrested young Hans and several others who were meeting in his establishment.  Thrown into prison and charged with heresy for being re-baptized Hans Bret was sentenced to execution by burning at the stake.  He was tortured and beaten multiple times while awaiting his execution.  This young man never retracted his statement of faith.  In his dark prison cell, he wrote several letters to friends and family and encouraged them in their faith and the faithfulness of God.   Tradition tell us that before they carried him out for his sentence, his tongue was burned up by torch, so that he could not preach from the steak.

I often wonder when I read these accounts of the horrific way a fellow believer has been martyred; if I could endure such an event.  Could you endure such an event for your faith?  We are living in a time where Christians have no backbone.  We cower down when confronted about our faith.  We are afraid to lose friends, family or our jobs, of social standings.  It makes me wonder if we really believe at all? I know that Hans Bret believed.  I know that Rev. Bret only wanted to share the truth and to care for those that he loved.  He loved enough to die for them, so that they could keep the faith.  Keep your eyes upon Jesus.

Reference: https://www.nobts.edu/geauxtherefore/articles/2018/Martyr.html

Noel! Come See What God Has Done!

Noel! Come See What God Has Done!

I was listening to Lauren Daigle sing Noel.  Her voice is so powerful and inspiring that it began to fill my heart with excitement and my mind with wonder.  Her strong vocals cry out, “Noel! Come see what God has done!”  Wow!  I began to ponder on what the shepherds must have felt like when they saw the angels after Christ was born. Here is the scripture that relays that account.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. –Luke 2:7-11

Now this word, “Noel” has a Latin root ‘natalis’, which means ‘birth’.  The French word ‘nouvelles’ means ‘news’.  Then we have the English, ‘nowel’, meaning “shout of joy”.  Historically a noel was a joyous herald of a new born baby.  It is now almost unique to Christmas and the Christmas Carol and associated with this scripture reference in Luke.

This song, Noel, and the verses strongly associated with it brings some great thoughts to my mind’s eye.  When I most often here of this in a sermon much is made of the fear that the shepherds felt.  This is quite understandable.  God is holy and is not to be toyed with.  In ancient times, angels were not perceived like they are now days.  These shepherds were not looking at little fat babies flying around with stubby feathered wings, looking down from white, cotton soft clouds, playing miniature harps.  In ancient times angels were seen as enforcers of God’s will on man.  When an angel appeared, someone was going to receive the judgement of God.  They were seen as battle hardened soldiers of the Most High and carried his full authority in the matter they were sent to deal with.  They represented God directly.  However, I want to take a different look today.  What about the herald?

Imagine the excitement that the angels had in being able to announce the arrival of the messiah.  The possibly billions of angels that could have been selected to give this message, and God chose them.  All of creation moaned and desired deliverance from the bondage of sin and death that was brought into it through the fall of just one man.  Now, through the birth of just one man, that very deliverance was now made possible.  There was no more waiting.  God’s plan from before the beginning of time was starting to unfold before their very eyes, and they were the ones who were to announce to the world, a savior is born.  God had now entered the stage!

So now back to Lauren Daigle and Noel.  “Noel, Come see what God has done!”  This is an amazing event, probably the most amazing event in the history of mankind.  God himself became flesh and now dwelt among men.  Israel’s king was now preparing for his kingdom. God had just directly intervened in the fate of man.  The love of God so compelled him that he could no longer sit on the sidelines and watch the love of his life destroy itself.  This wasn’t the first time God intervened.

I can see Adam and Eve proclaiming, “Noel, Come see what God has done!”  When God shewn mercy and covered their sin with the skins of the first sacrifice. I can see Noah stepping out of the ark and calling to his children, “Noel, Come see what God has done!”  He has saved man from total destruction and turned away from his anger. I can see the angels talking to one another, “Noel, Come see what God has done!”  When God shewn mercy at the Tower of Babble and confused the languages instead of condemning man for their rebellion.  Then I can see Moses looking on the destruction of the Egyptian army at the Red Sea and telling the children of Israel, “Noel, Come see what God has done!”

Time and time again God has delivered us from destruction.  I can think how my own heart declares to all who will listen, “Noel, Come see what God has done!”  See how he took this broken vessel and remade it into a new vase.  Those of us who have heard others declare this message, “Noel, Come see what God has done!” now have our own message of hope and redemption to share.  We can declare to others the love and healing given through the mercies of his love. “Noel, Come see what God has done!”

What God has done is to provide for us, a way to return to fellowship with him.  The one who created the universe, thought enough of you to give you the gift of eternal life.  Although this gift is free to all who accept it, was not free to God.  God had to make a sacrifice that we could not make.  He had to sacrifice his only son.  This one we call Jesus who is Christ.  His birth heralded an event that had never been seen before, nor would it ever repeat.  God himself became man, born for the sole purpose of physically dying to make a way for us to live spiritually in the presence of God.  “Noel, Come see what God has done!”

Matthew 7:6 Judgement and Spiritual Discernment

Matthew 7:6 Judgement and Spiritual Discernment

Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your perls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Jesus starts this chapter off by saying that we should not judge one another.  Then he gives the reason why.  He says that we do not have proper understanding to judge one another and therefor put ourselves in danger of judgement.  Instead, Jesus says that we should concentrate on our own faults and seek to correct ourselves.  To assume that you have no faults is to lie to yourself.  But more directly Jesus says that you who judge others of hypocrisy would do well to make sure that you are not being hypocritical yourself.  This then would mean that we should use wisdom in judgement because there is a terrible responsibility and consequence for not using righteous judgement.  In addition, this set of verses is not talking about judging if something is right and wrong.  Instead it is a discussion on the weight of the judgment.  Remember in this discourse, Jesus has drawn several contrasts and comparisons between the religious and the ones who would seek the Kingdom of God. He corrected misconceptions, in what true sanctification is verses what it was perceived as. He addressed matters of the heart, clarified the Law of Moses and the Law of Reconciliation.  Jesus gave us an understanding that God sees what a man is like in his heart and not in his appearance. He also said that love should be the primary motivation in everything we do. In judgement then, we should not judge harshly or put undue burdens of punishment.  In these verses in Matthew, it also does not say that we should not judge the brother with a “mote” in his eye. It does say that we should be more concerned with our own sinfulness than someone else’s.  Paul says that we should work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. In Matthew 7:1-5 we receive a warning that our judgement is subject to review by God who is the rightful judge, so be aware. It does not say that we cannot be discerning.  The whole of Proverbs is concerned with us seeking wisdom and making correct decisions in order that we may be prosperous in the will of the Lord. So it is a discussion of judging with a good heart, in love, and in accordance with scripture. So what does scripture say about this?

Matthew 7:6 Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your perls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Romans 14:4 it tells us, “who art thou that judgest another man’ servant?  To his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand”.  We are all at different levels of spiritual maturity in Christ, but it is the Spirit that instills knowledge and understanding.  To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.  This is a point where we all have to start at.  We have to recognize that God exists and is the Creator and source of all existence.  Without God nothing can exist.  He is the supreme authority over all the Creation.  It is God who then establishes all kingdoms, and all their rulers.  He established all powers, principalities, and dominions.  This includes Pastors, teachers, musicians, church counsels, deacons, and other ministers of the Word.  Each God has given authority fit to their position and function.  This is established and blessed by God. We also then can trust that God knows what he is doing and that he established these for our benefit.  He gives according to his will.  He is the master who will ultimately judge the work of his servant.  For you to judge his servant is to assume the place of God and thereby expose yourself to judgement from God.  We are then forbidden to make judgements of condemnation.

We are warned several times in scripture that there will be those agents from the enemy who will try to infiltrate our churches in order to lead astray the flock with misleading doctrines and smooth talking sentiments of partial doctrines.  Those who feed us what we want to hear instead of the truth.  The most dangerous lie is one half-based in truth. (Matthew 7:15;24:24; 1 Timothy 4; Ezekiel 13:9; Jeremiah 23:6; Luke 6:26; 2 Timothy 4:3-4; 1 John 4:1-6; Matthew 7:15-20)

That being understood; in our verse, Jesus reveals that we are still to use discernment. Because although we are not to judge hypocritically, we are to discern with scripture and hate evil and the deeds of the wicked.  Our opinion is not the standard by which we make decisions judgement of others.  Because our opinion is inherently flawed.  However, scripture has definite ideas on what sin is, its effects, and how it should be dealt with.  Just to note, our opinion of someone should never be used as a basis for judgment either.  Bias distorts discernment. Instead we should be looking to be a loving family member, seeking to help our brother or sister in Christ. We should make sound decisions based on the things we have learned and been taught in sound doctrine.  The Apostle Paul wrote Timothy concerning this very issue when advising him on ordaining elders in the church and what their responsibilities are.  Take a quick look:

For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. (Titus 1:7-9)

So a Bishop (Pastor, Elder) is to hold fast (depend on in obedience) the faithful word (the scriptures and teachings of the faithful) that he was taught (the elder is instructed) so that he will have the ability to teach others and convert the lost by the use of sound (proper, complete) doctrine. Why? Well in verse 11 it tells us so that the mouths of the unruly, vain talkers, and deceivers may be stopped from subverting the teachings.  They are to be rebuked sharply (Titus 1:13) Discernment of the believer is an absolute necessity. Even though we love, love does not dictate that we turn our eyes from correcting sin in the church. Just to clarify, correcting sin in the church is not everyone talking about it behind someone’s back. That is gossip and gossip is a sin.  I hope also you understand that this is not a lofty gaze on someone who is being the “police” of the church.  We should do all things in love and humility.

Romans 12:9 “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.” We all like the first part of this verse, Love without hypocrisy, be sincere.  However; we also see that a part of loving with sincerity is to hate evil and to cling to goodness.  This is a choosing between good and evil.  We should choose to be good, not evil. This is a part or our sanctification. “I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.” (Psalm 26:5) We should love those around us, and especially in our church to care enough to confront sin issues.  While a loved one is in sin they are out of communion with God, the church, and their family.  This is easily seen in cases that involve extreme behavioral sins.

Everyone who sees signs of drug dependency, alcoholism, or spousal or child abuse, knows that there is a sin issue that needs to be confronted.  I mention these issue specifically because most everyone understands that these typically require internal and external intervention.  These will most often require the removal of the offender for a limited time.  This is in order to allow repentance, forgiveness, and healing to take effect.  When these are done in love, restoration is always the goal.  The separation or removal of the offender is done for love and is best for all parties involved.  To allow such behaviors to go on would actually indicate a lack of love and concern for family and church members involved.

Jesus in Matthew 7:6 tells us to be discriminating. “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your perls before swine, …“.

The Apostle Paul give us an example of this in his correspondence with the Corinthians. In 1st Corinthians Paul has to address the issue of sin in the church.  In chapter five, Paul is confronting an issue of incest among members of the church.  The matter was no small or private thing.  It had affected the church on many levels, so much that people outside of the church were talking about it.  Paul told the church that they should be ashamed of what was being allowed to happen in the membership of the local church.  He accused them of having a false doctrine of love.  He said they were puffed up, proud, of their tolerance of the sin, when they should have executed church discipline and confronted the sin.  This is what love does.  Love confronts sin, it does not turn a blind eye, or become an excuse for acceptance of sin.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:1-3). 

Now Paul says that they should be taken away from among you.  We must understand that in the verses following this Paul talks about the need for personal sanctification and the detrimental effects that willful sin has on the individual and the church.  It takes over the whole of the host that allows it to remain. Paul is saying, for the good of the individual and the church, the sin must be identified and removed. A patient suffering from Cancer has to have the cancer physically removed and follow up medical procedures initiated in order to have any hope of recovery. This is the drastic measure of church discipline.  It is never entered into lightly, and should always be done with the end result focused on reunification of the believer in fellowship with God first, and the church second.  Christ himself give us the process of moving from individual confrontation of sin to ultimate church discipline.

  • Have a conversation (Matthew 18:15)
  • Take a witness to confront again (Matthew 18:6)
  • If the individual will no listen – Involve elders of the church (
  • If they still do not listen – bring the matter before the whole of the church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4)
  • If they are unrepentant- Remove them from membership/ fellowship (Matthew 18:17)

This is an unfortunate step that is sometimes necessary.  No one likes to have to take this step.  We are in the business of the spread of the gospel.  However as our verse in Matthew 7.6 tells us, not everyone will receive criticism well.  Let’s face it, no one likes to be corrected, especially if they already know what they are doing is wrong. Some will even become violent.  In our efforts to reach out to the community in love and care for their needs, we will expose ourselves to some who would take the generosity, but reject the love of Christ.

Unfortunately some will pretend to believe, in fear that if they do not act like a church person, the church will stop helping them.  When the church asks them to conform to what they confess, instead of doing what is good, they return the good for evil.  They do this because they were never really a believer.  Now we must also see that Paul is not calling for condemnation of the rebellious believer.  Instead, he says “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that they spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” (1 Corinthians 5:5) Paul is saying that if they desire to live in the flesh, then return them to the world.

There are many benefits to being in fellowship in the church.  Those benefits could keep someone living comfortable in sin by absorbing some of the consequences that sin brings.  Paul is saying let them go out into the world and suffer the consequences of their actions.  This suffering of consequences of sin, may bring them to true repentance, and the allow them to be restored into fellowship with the Lord and the church. This drastic measure does not apply to the majority of believers who sincerely seek to walk in the Spirit and are seeking to grow closer to the Lord, but have a besetting sin, that they are struggling to overcome.

Some believe, but have difficulty in their walk and need close discipleship in order to grow.  We must be wise to the difference in trying but failing and not trying but lying. We are called to be discerning.  In 1st Corinthians, Paul says “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world?” Paul later tells them that it is shameful that they are so ignorant that they cannot be discerning among themselves to use proper church authority and discipline. This all being said, Jesus gives his own warning. He said, “lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

They will disregard your sharing of that which is holy, or sanctified (gospel, truth) and treat it like rubbish to be trampled on.  Then they will rend you.  Rend means to violently tear apart.   This is where you hear phrases like: “who are you to judge me?”; “you think you’re not a sinner?”; “they think they are better than me”.  Then they spread lies, and even become physically confrontational, and violent.   James tell us, “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.” (James 3:14)  James therefore says, if you have contentions in your heart, then stop lying to yourself.  If you are filled with hatred and anger then you are not filled with the love of Christ.  So then someone who says they are a believer, but responds with arrogance and returns condemnation or violence against someone who loved them enough to tell them of their error before God, instead of repentance is not walking in the Spirit of Christ. They have not clear judgement.  This is a point of understanding raised in Proverbs 9:7.

He that reporveth a scorner getteth to himself shame:  and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. – Proverbs 9-7

  • One who corrects a scorner or a wicked man will be turned on by the one they are trying to help.
  • The wicked man will lash out against the one trying to help them.
  • Like a dog who bites the one who feeds them.

Interestingly, this verse does not tell us, “don’t reprove a scorner, nor rebuke a wicked man”.  The, verses 6-9, of this text draw a comparison and contrast between the wise and the wicked in their response to correction.  The correction, or how it was managed, or by whom it was directed is irrelevant to the response. In other words, it would be great if the correction was delivered in a very tactful way, which was discrete and sensitive to the receiver’s feelings and privacy.  However; the delivery method does not change the reaction of the rebellious hearted man or woman.  Especially in light of the Politically Correct attitude so prevalent today. This generation looks for a reason to be offended where there would otherwise not be one, except that it was invented in the ever self-absorbed, mind of the spoiled child.

What good is this discernment and correction then?  Well believe it or not, it is a sort of “leave no man behind” focus of discipleship.  We should be concerned with our fellow believers, and their needs, physical and spiritual.

  • Ephesians 4:26–27 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.
  • Philippians 2:4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
  • 1 Peter 3:8–9 Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous: Not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing; knowing that ye are thereunto called, that ye should inherit a blessing.

The whole reason for discernment and church discipline is based on forgiveness and restoration.

Galatians 6:1–2 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

We should walk in Sprit not in the flesh (Galatians 5:16).   So then focus on yourself and encourage others to be vigilant, rejoice in the hope of the Kingdom of Heaven, being patient in tribulation, and in continuous prayer.

There will always be differences in opinion in a church and feelings will get stepped on from time to time.  Clergy are human also and will make errors in judgement.  Church members will take offence to the preacher and hurt the preacher’s feelings.  But we must always keep in mind that we are all part of the same body.  When one part of the body is hurt, the whole body suffers.  Sin hurts the individual, and it hurts the whole body of Christ.  Sin must be dealt with directly and swiftly.  In being dealt with we mean that it should be addressed out of love for the benefit of the believer and the church.