But I’m Not Legalistic About it

Yes, another bulletin on the meaning of ‘LEGALISM’ because it’s the standard argument used by those who refuse to repent.

The discussion goes like this;

  • Believer: Jesus commands us to keep His commandments [Luke 6:46; Mat 7:21-29].
  • Non-Believer: Yeah, but I’m not LEGALISTIC about it.

End of discussion.

To understand their argument as to why they believe that God is giving them license to sin (if not fully, at least partially) let’s look at how the reasoning goes.

THE RATIONALE GOES LIKE THIS:

  • Since nobody’s perfect [1John 1:10],
  • And since God is full of grace & mercy [Heb 4:16],
  • Then God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, So, we don’t have to try. “I’m not going to be LEGALISTIC about it.”

That’s not very good bible study. Paul addressed a similar question in his time. In Romans 6:1 he answers a rhetorical question, “shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” His answer, “certainly not!” This may be why we have thousands of denominations with a nearly equal number of doctrines about how to live. It’s like they’re saying that since there’s a little room to sin regarding salvation, then we can intentionally be mediocre. That’s fine for unimportant things like dieting or quilting, but not a very good way to handle salvation.

Is GRACE & MERCY license to sin willfully? That’s just another way of saying “I’m not legalistic about it.” God is full of GRACE & He is MERCIFUL, but that’s no license to sin. The accurate way to look at it is that He has provided GRACE & MERCY to an imperfect people. This is the right way to understand Ephesians 2:8-9 and 1John 1:7-10. God sent His Son as a sacrifice for a sinful people that didn’t deserve it [Rom 5:8-10]. We obey the Gospel upon recognition of our need for the atoning blood of Jesus [2Thess 1:8-9; Acts 2:38; Heb 5:9]. Obeying the gospel & keeping His commandments [Mat 28:18-20] is not being legalistic, it’s being faithful.

WHEN NOT TO BE LEGALISTIC

There are 2 chapters in the New Testament that are telling folks not to be legalistic. They are, Romans 14 & 1Cor 8. These are dealing with issues that are NOT MATTERS OF DOCTRINE but matters of OPINION. If that’s what you mean by ‘I’m not going to be legalistic about it’ then we both agree with God and His word. If, however, you aren’t going to be legalistic with the doctrine of Christ, then you’re going to find yourself fighting against God.

“But I’m Not Legalistic About it”

People who say they’re not legalistic about the doctrine of Christ would never say the same thing in other areas of their lives. Below are just a few examples of how ridiculous this sounds.

  • I’m a VEGAN, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I love my wife, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I always do my job at work, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I want a great brain surgeon, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I take insulin to keep from dying, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I stop at red lights, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I watch over my kids when they swim, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I’m a bank teller, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I’m a judge, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I practice food safety at the restaurant I work, but I’m not legalistic about it.
  • I work with the nuclear warheads at Pantex, but I’m not legalistic about it.

So you see, we all can understand that in matters of importance we must stand firm. “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.” [1Cor 16:13] Regarding the matters of style or opinion, don’t be legalistic about it, but with matters of the doctrine of Christ, be LEGALISTIC.

Remembering Who & Whose you are

This is advice given by many a parent to their child as they send them out into the world. It’s good advice which every Christian ought to practice for themselves.

Reminding ourselves of our past is a good exercise, and often painful, that can aid us in our current walk in the Lord. In his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul did it for the saints. He said, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” [1Cor 6:9-11] This reminder was meant to admonish the brethren that their current attitudes could be changed for the better by a reminder of who they used to be and who & whose they are now. He went on to say, “know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” [v19-20] Remembering who & whose we are can continue to help modern day Christians in 3 ways…

REMEMBERING OUR PAST: By reminding ourselves of what manner of person we once were, that we’ve been freed from the bondage of sin through the blood of Christ, can help us to refocus ourselves to the hope of heaven. “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” [Eph 2:5; cr. 1Co 7:23; Ga 3:13]

REMEMBERING OUR HELPERS: No one is an island unto ourselves [Rom 14:7]. We’ve all been aided in some way. The Holy Spirit tells us that none of us heard the gospel without a preacher; “…and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:14b]. It is a very good exercise to make a list of those helpers in your life. I keep a running list of folks who have taught me lessons by their example or through their time. Those who have lifted me up when I was down, both emotionally & financially. Those who have motivated & inspired me to be more than I was. Who taught you the gospel? Who helped you to become a better Christian? Whose example do you wish to emulate? [cr. Phil 3:17] By making this list you will become more grateful and much more aware of influencers currently in your life. More importantly, it will make you more aware of those you can help.

REMEMBER HOW FAR YOU’VE COME: The third way remembering our past can help is by showing us how much we’ve grown. Paul reminded Timothy of this, “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also. Wherefore I put thee in remembrance that thou stir up the gift of God, which is in thee by the putting on of my hands. For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” [2Tim 1:5-7]. This reminder was to inspire Timothy to use all his gifts for the furtherance of the gospel. We can do this. Service to our King increases by using our growth.

Some might argue that Paul also told us to forget those things that are behind [Phil 3:13]. This is not a contradiction, because in the context of his statement he listed some of the things he had done, including persecuting the church [v6]. What he means by this is that as we remind ourselves of our past that we ought not to let it paralyze us from pushing forward or to think we’ve already achieved something.

We all need to remember that success in this life is not the end of things. For the Christian, success is serving God His way so that all may come to the knowledge of His dear Son and be able to go to heaven when He returns. [Eph 4:13; cr. 2Pet 3:9]

One final reminder. We need the reminder that we can become disqualified. Jude wrote, “I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not.” [Jude 1:5]. Why do WE need this reminder? Because it’s possible to fall away today.

spencer

5 Times People Think about God

There’s a song in our hymnal called, “You never mentioned Him to me.” It’s a very sobering song that asks you to think about the judgment day when you and everyone you know are present before the Lord [Mat 25:32]. Imagine on that day that you catch a glimpse of a loved one who is hearing, “depart from me…” [Mat 7:21-23] and they look over at you mouthing the words, “why didn’t you warn me?” I don’t know if we’ll be looking at one another or if when we all bow [Rom 14:11] our eyes will be averted. All I know is that there’s great pain to hear of a loved one who passes from this life outside of Christ.

It seems these days that very few folks are thinking about God. This makes it very difficult to mention Him to them. I have noticed, however, that there are a few moments in a person’s life that they are more open to hearing things about Christ. Moments of change in their life. While anytime is a good time to mention Jesus, I’ve discovered 5 times when folks may be more open to hearing of the Love of Christ.

DEATH: Long ago I met an aged lady who began her journey to Christ upon the death of her firstborn child. She sought the counsel of her denomination for answers, but none were found. She pressed on, seeking the truth, until she met a gospel preacher who showed her in scripture the safe condition of her child. In that search she learned about Bible authority verses the false words of men.

“It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart.” [Ecc 7:2].

MARRIAGE ISSUES: Whether it’s getting married or trying to stay married, couples will be open to godly strategies for their marriage. Many times, it will be the wife that will seek God’s advice first. Peter offers her this advice: “While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.” [1Pet 3:1-6] He continues with advice for the husband, “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge…” [v7a]

ILLNESS or INJURY: God expended a lot of ink about the sick. We’re to visit the sick [Mat 25:36; Jas 5:14]. When it’s a particularly nasty illness, some treat it as a near death experience and begin to ponder their eternity. We can be their for them with a meal or a comforting voice.

CHILDREN: Kids can be a challenge in these times. (I suppose every generation of parents said something similar) As Christians, we can be an example to our friends & neighbors as we raise our children and especially when we’re practicing godly discipline. “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence:” [Heb 12:9] You would be amazed by the positive responses from folks as they watch you train your wild child.

MAJOR CHANGES: This last category of life events involve non-health related but dramatic changes in a person’s life. It could be moving, a new job, or some other occasion that draws folks together. This is a great time to be the neighbor that Jesus described when asked the question, “who is my neighbor?” [Luke 10:29-37]. One of the most powerfully connecting things one family can do for another is to help them move or to help in picking up the pieces after a storm.

This only touches the tip of the iceberg of the ways you can be ready to preach Christ. One final way is in how you manage your own rough patch. This is the context of 1Pet 3:15;

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:”

The way in which we react to the struggles in our lives has a very powerful impact on others. Our hope on display is what draws our friends & neighbors to ask why. A perfect time to tell them about Christ.

We must prepare ourselves to have mercy, compassion & grace for these moments.

WHY MEMORIZE BIBLE VERSES? Part 1

 

Years ago, a young Christian was facing a choice. He could either take the lengthy final examination for his theology class or quote Hebrews. Not quote a few verses of Hebrews, no sir, he needed to quote the ENTIRE BOOK of HEBREWS. [13 chapters & 303 verses].

He chose the latter and quoted the entire book from memory. An astounding mental feat to be sure, but is memorization even necessary? We have smart phones apps and google that can return to us any inquiry of the bible we want. That is, if you know what you’re looking for.

Therein lies the rub, to get any benefit out of God’s word, you need to know what’s in it. Here are 8 reasons why we should commit to a bible memorization plan.

1: DEFENSE FROM SIN. An integral part of our defense against sin is the Armor of God [Eph 6:10-20]. The Sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, the active piece that serves for both defense & offense. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” [Psalm 119:11]

2: HELP IN TIME OF NEED. God gave His children the avenue of prayer to give us help in our time of need [Heb 4:16], but how would you know that without study? Additionally, when a sudden problem arises, we most frequently utter some form of profanity. Wouldn’t it be better to immediately draw into our conscious mind a piece of God’s word to counter the negatives we all face in everyday life? Memorizing Bible passages can give us an inventory of alternative utterances to the worldly expressions. Oh, and stop pretending that a euphemism is a cleaner alternative to the real cuss word, we know what you’re saying. “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” [Phil 4:8]

3: AS A BIBLE STUDY AID. As you begin to read & study your Bible you may find it difficult to understand. However, a person that commits to memorization will find that the Bible will become clearer as you connect the stories, especially the connections between the Old & New Testaments. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” [Romans 15:4].

Since the Word of God shall also be present at the judgement, a thorough understanding of it would be helpful. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” [John 12:48]

4: FEAR of EVANGELISM. Let’s admit it, we’ve all experienced fear whenever an opportunity arose to share the Gospel. Bible memorization can alleviate that fear. Inherent in the verse; “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” [1Peter 3:15] is the idea of memorization. We know what is right, but could we prove it to them? Memorization is a great way to build your confidence in directing another through the scriptures as you show them the plan of God’s Salvation.

One fellow said to me, “I have John 3:16 and that’s all I need.” The extent of his bible memory plan was one verse! Others have committed to memorize “Jesus Wept” but have no idea where to find it. [John 11:35] Another person half quoted 1Peter 3:21 in an attempt to disqualify baptism. Because he didn’t know what it really said nor where it was located, he had a false belief that will leave him lost. “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”

Next week we’ll look at 4 more good reasons to commit to a Bible Memorization Plan.

Click Here for a good place to start memorizing Bible Verses.

IT’S HOW MUCH?!

Surely, you’ve uttered those words after asking a vendor for their price. I’m often shocked at the price of certain items. With that in view, I thought it a good time to look at the prices of some of the finer things.

If you’re in the market for a new ring, here is the most expensive diamond in the world. The WINSTON BLUE DIAMOND weighs in at a hefty 13.22 carats and can be snapped up for a paltry $23.8 million.

Perhaps you’re in the market for a new production vehicle, then the ROLLS-ROYCE SWEPTAIL may be for you. You can lose 20% of it’s value when you drive this $13 million baby off the lot. If that’s out of your budget then you can grab one of the cheaper most expensive cars, the MCLAREN SPEEDTAIL for just $2.2 million.

If you’re like me, you’re saying, “I’ll never spend more for a car than I would my house.” So, you’re looking for a house? If BUCKINGHAM PALACE were on the market, you could grab it for $1.5 Billion. Unfortunately, it’s not for sale; however, you can pick up the VILLA LEOPOLDA, VILLEFRANCHE-SUR-MER in France for just under $800 Million.

All of these are likely out of your price range, so let’s look at a few ‘cheaper’ things. At $11,000 per night you could take a vacation at NORTH ISLAND IN SEYCHELLES. If you’re a bit more adventurous you could spend just one night at WHITE DESERT “GREATEST TRIP” TO ANTARCTICA. This trip of a lifetime will only set you back $195,000 for the 24-hour trip. That’s just $8125 per hour…or perhaps you could visit for a few minutes at just $135.42 per minute.

These things are just luxury items anyway, how about we look at some more practical items? The most expensive suit of clothing will only set you back $895,000, THE STUART HUGHES DIAMOND EDITION. Each one of the three suits ever made takes over 800 man hours to design & stitch the finest wool, cashmere & silk into this magnificent work of art. We all need clothing, right?

Moving onto food, how about THE FORTRESS STILT FISHERMAN INDULGENCE? You’ve gotta eat, and this fine dining experience is a mere $14,000. To wash it down, there are beverages ranging in price from $225,000 up to $3.5 million.

That’s some shopping list, but we don’t come here to give recommendations like Yelp. No, we need to talk spiritual matters.

For most, if not all of us, these pricey things are way out of our league. We’ll never experience such worldly pleasures. However, what would we do for much less, much less?

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” [Matt 16:26].

By the way, you can pick up everything that could be bought for just $241 trillion (based on the combined world GDP).

You see, when we reject God’s plan for us, His plan of salvation through Christ Jesus, we place a higher value on things that will one day burn up over the great cost paid for your soul. [2Peter 3:11].

Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:” [1Peter 1:18-19]

Jesus told us not to fret over things we shall eat, drink or wear. Rather, we are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. [Mat 6:30-33]. While on this planet we may never take a luxurious vacation, nor live in a magnificent mansion, but there is a far greater place that awaits those who are in Christ. Lay up your treasure there [Mat 6:20; John 14:2; 1Thess 4:16-17]. (BTW, you can get a RTW ‘Round the World’ flight for just under $2k)

This Website contains the instructions for God’s plan of Salvation. Let’s go to heaven together, shall we?

Give THANKS for He is GOOD

This week our nation pauses to give thanks. I’m unsure as to who the Atheist, Agnostic, Arrogant or the Absent minded shall thank, but the Christian has an ALMIGHTY GOD to whom we can give thanks. Rather than more words from me, let’s go to the Psalms of Thanksgiving. [Note: The Hebrew word for ‘THANKS’ <yadah> is also translated as ‘praise’ This bulletin only contains the verses translated as ‘THANKS’]

Psa 6:5 For in death there is no remembrance of thee: in the grave who shall give thee THANKS?

Psa 18:49 Therefore will I give THANKS unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.

 

That I may publish with the voice of THANKSgiving, and tell of all thy wondrous works. Psa 26:7

 

Psa 30:4 Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give THANKS at the remembrance of his holiness.

Psa 30:12 To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give THANKS unto thee for ever.

 

I will give thee THANKS in the great congregation: I will praise thee among much people. Psa 35:18

 

Psa 50:14 Offer unto God THANKSgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High:

Psa 69:30 I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with THANKSgiving.

Psa 75:1 <<To the chief Musician, Altaschith, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.>> Unto thee, O God, do we give THANKS, unto thee do we give THANKS: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.

Psa 79:13 So we thy people and sheep of thy pasture will give thee THANKS for ever: we will shew forth thy praise to all generations.

Psa 92:1 <<A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day.>> It is a good thing to give THANKS unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:

Psa 95:2 Let us come before his presence with THANKSgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with Psalms.

 

Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous; and give THANKS at the remembrance of his holiness. Psa 97:12

 

Psa 100:4 Enter into his gates with THANKSgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.

Psa 105:1 O give THANKS unto the LORD; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people.

Psa 106:1 Praise ye the LORD. O give THANKS unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psa 106:47 Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give THANKS unto thy holy name, and to triumph in thy praise.

 

O give THANKS unto the LORD, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. Psa 107:1

 

Psa 107:8 Oh, that men would give THANKS to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

Psa 107:15 Oh, that men would give THANKS to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men!

 

Oh, that men would give THANKS to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! Psa 107:21

 

Psa 107:22 And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of THANKSgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.

Psa 116:17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of THANKSgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

Psa 118:1 O give THANKS unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.

Psa 118:29 O give THANKS unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psa 119:62 At midnight I will rise to give THANKS unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.

Psa 122:4 Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD, unto the testimony of Israel, to give THANKS unto the name of the LORD.

Psa 136:1 O give THANKS unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psa 136:2 O give THANKS unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psa 136:3 O give THANKS to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psa 136:26 O give THANKS unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

Psa 140:13 Surely the righteous shall give THANKS unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.

Psa 147:7 Sing unto the LORD with THANKSgiving; sing praise upon the harp unto our God:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” James 1:17

Coping with Stress

Life can be very stressful. Everyone faces, at one time or another, something that knocks them down or shakes them up. There seems to be 5 categories of stressors, I call them the 5 D’s…

  • DEATH – when someone close to us dies.
  • DISEASE – when we get sick or hurt and it changes how we live.
  • DIVORCE – when issues in marriage come up (not just a divorce itself).
  • DILEMMA – when non-health related issues arise, like loss of a job.
  • DEPENDENTS – when issues affecting our children.

This is not an exhaustive list, but most difficulties fall within one of these 5 categories. How do we handle it when we get bad news increasing our stress levels?

For a lot of folks, they run away or try to avoid the problem. Here are a few other negative coping mechanisms…

  • Acting out – not coping, but giving in to misbehave
  • Denial – refusing to acknowledge the problem
  • Distancing – moving away from the problem
  • Emotionality – outbursts and extreme emotion
  • Passive Aggression – avoiding refusal by passive avoidance
  • Provocation – getting others to react so you can retaliate
  • Somatization – psychological problems turned into physical symptoms

A clear example of this are those in Acts 7 who had become completely enraged when confronted with the reality they had killed The Messiah.

When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him.” [Acts 7:54-58]

In another place, when Nehemiah learned of the distress of his people, he wept. “And it came to pass, when I heard these words, that I sat down and wept, and mourned certain days, and fasted,” [Neh 1:4]

Stress is unavoidable, coping with it in a godly way is a choice and a blessing from God. How can we handle stress in a godly way? One of the ways is prayer.

In the Acts 7 passage, when Stephen was under attack, he prayed… “And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.” [Acts 7:60]

What did Nehemiah do in his stressful situation? He prayed. “and prayed before the God of heaven, And said, I beseech thee, O LORD God of heaven, the great and terrible God, that keepeth covenant and mercy for them that love him and observe his commandments: Let thine ear now be attentive, and thine eyes open, that thou mayest hear the prayer of thy servant, which I pray before thee now, day and night, for the children of Israel thy servants, and confess the sins of the children of Israel, which we have sinned against thee: both I and my father’s house have sinned..” [Neh 2:4-6]

It doesn’t take much time, it can be done in a moment. When asked about his sorrow by the king… “So I prayed to the God of heaven.” [Neh 2:4]

What is your first response to stress? Is it to run away? Is it to lash out at the one you perceive is the cause? Is it denial? None of these will be of any help in your time of need.

God’s people have the avenue of prayer, let that be our first response.

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” [James 5:13]

Under Pressure

It’s that time of year again when summer vacation comes to a screeching halt and our children head back to school. Back into the pressure cooker of studies, homework and sports. These are good pressures, but there’s another pressure they will face, peer pressure.

Peer pressure is not new, AND it’s not restricted to the school yard. Peer pressure continues throughout life. Don’t fool yourselves you big people, we all need to guard our hearts from the pressures of the world.

Before you can overcome peer pressure, you must become aware of it and from where it will come. Following are the 6 areas of pressure everyone faces.

THE 6 PRESSURES OF LIFE:

TO BE CONFORMED TO THE WORLD: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” [1John 2:15] (1Tim 2:9; 4:12; Rom 12:2; Jas 4:4)

Conformity — people acting like everyone else, without knowing why or what they are doing. Conformity is the opposite of COURAGE. It’s hard to go against the crowd, but that is the best way.

Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.” [Mat 7:13]

TO GIVE UP THE FAITH: “And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.” [Mat 10:22] (2Tim 4:10; 1Cor 9:27)

In today’s world, true Christianity is frowned upon for its stance against sin and denominationalism. In many classrooms, our children are compelled to believe in humanism & evolution. But stand firm, for a reward awaits the faithful.

Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” [Rev 2:10]

TO BE DISHONEST: “Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse:” [Prov 1:14] (Rom 12:17; Phil 4:8; 2Cor 13:7; Rev 21:8)

Honesty seems to be a lost art today.  In some cultures, religions and politics lying is an acceptable form of communication. We must guard ourselves from lies or we might end up believing some of them and that’s not good. [2Thess 2:10-11]

Now I pray to God that you do no evil,” [2Cor 13:7]

TO BE POPULAR: “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ.” [Gal 1:10] (2Tim 4:3; John 12:42-43; 1Th 2:4)

Nobody likes to be isolated from others, but better to have just a few quality friends than to do what is necessary to have many friends. The compromises of your integrity are just not worth it.

For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” [Acts 4:20]

COMPROMISE THE TRUTH: “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” [John 8:32] (1Pet 1:22)

You may have noticed a subtle change in way people refer to truth. Listen carefully and you’ll hear people say, “your truth” or “my truth.” We live in a time when majority of people no longer believe in THE truth, but you must.

Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” [John 17:17]

TO BE LUKEWARM: “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad.” [Mat 12:30] (Rev 3:15-16)

People don’t really care what you do so long as you don’t make them look bad doing it. Being a quality Christian is going to make folks look bad. People may become uncomfortable with you as you walk in the light. But this is God’s desire, that people see your good works and glorify Him by converting [1Pet 3:1-5; Mat 5:16].

Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” [1Cor 15:58]

The Strange Church

There’s a bittersweet scene in Ezra chapter 3 during the time when the exiles, returning from 70 years of captivity, were rebuilding the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar.

As they laid the foundation, all the younger folks, “…praised the Lord, because the foundation was laid.” But the older ones, the ones who had seen the first temple built by Solomon, “wept with a loud voice.” [Ezra 3:12; cf. Haggai 2:3]

Why such a disparity in the reaction between the two groups? It is the answer to this question about which I want to speak.

The reason for the weeping was that the older one’s could still remember how beautiful the first temple had been. They could remember the gold plating, the cedar paneling, the incredible beauty. The younger ones had no point of reference, therefore they rejoiced while the others wept.

POINT OF REFERENCE

The religious world is suffering from this same thing today. Many religious, churchgoing folks are looking for a church based upon their social programs, entertainment and food options. Why? It would be easy to just say that their stomachs have become their gods.

“Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” [Philippians 3:19]

You would be mostly right. But let me suggest that another part of the reason this is so is since people have been separated from the truth about a sound church for so long they don’t even recognize one when they see it. There are some who have never even heard the truth on certain matters. They’ve never seen a sound church.

You may think I’m referring to denominationalism, but no sir. I’m speaking about the Lord’s church. The Lord’s body is suffering from this failure in having a sound POINT OF REFERENCE.

It is certainly true that denominations have ruined the truth about worship and the work of the church, Paul called it a perversion, and therefore many people of the world only think of the church as a benevolence or social welfare institution. They don’t even consider the church as a teaching organization.

The Strange Church

There was a time when Christians were thought of as strange. Peter said, “Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you” [1Peter 4:4]. He also said that members of the Lord’s body were, “a peculiar people” [1Peter 2:9].

Many of our ‘denominational’ minded brethren have never heard the truth on subjects like, institutionalism or the errors of the social gospel. Instead they’re rejoicing that they have ‘youth pastors’ & ‘children’s church’ and many other such perversions of the Gospel.

I know this to be true because I’ve asked of their members, “Do you know why we’re separate from you?” To a person they say no! One person was super excited to tell me the news that they found a ‘youth minister.’ I asked, “what is that, aren’t the biblical youth ministers the older people of the congregation?” [Titus 2:4] Yes, they think it strange.

Think about this; it was the strangeness of Christ that drew people to Him and His church. Strange in that He taught the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. [John 17:17]

He didn’t give His life on a cross to bring about an earthly kingdom and earthly bliss [Mat 10:34]. No Sir! He died to bring reconciliation between mankind and God. [1John 2:2]. This is not to say that joy cannot be found, it’s just not the work (responsibility) of the Lord’s church. Peace & Joy are blessings for people who, having put on Christ in baptism, are in Christ [Ephesians 1:3].

The Lord’s church is a teaching organization [1Timothy 3:15]. We are to reach out to the spiritually lost of this world with the Gospel message and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Then we are to teach these Christians “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

“For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” [Romans 14:17]

You’re Rich

Ingratitude is one of the worst diseases of the mind one can have. It stems from failing to recognize the good that we enjoy, failing to appreciate (see the value of) the things we have received and failure to recognize from whom we received these good things.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” [James 1:17]

Another part of ingratitude is perspective. We tend to only see what’s missing in our lives without ever looking to see what is missing in another’s life. This narrow perspective warps our attitude and hinders our ability to be happy. More importantly, it hinders our ability to serve.

I came across this ‘test’ developed by Robert Heilbroner, who studies world conditions of the poor. He suggests we do the following 12 things to give us a better perspective about wealth:

  1. Take out all the furniture in your home except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use blankets and pads for beds.
  2. Take away all your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit, shirt, or blouse. Leave only one pair of shoes.
  3. Empty the pantry and refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, some onions, and a dish of dried beans.
  4. Dismantle the bathrooms, shut off the running water, and remove all the electrical wiring in your house.
  5. Take away the house itself and move the family into the tool shed.
  6. Place your “house” in shantytown.
  7. Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and book clubs. This is no great loss, because none of you can read anyway.
  8. Leave only one radio for the whole shantytown.
  9. Throw away your bankbooks, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of ten dollars.
  10. Move the nearest hospital or clinic ten miles away and put a mid-wife in charge instead of a doctor.
  11. Give the head of the family a few acres to cultivate on which he can raise a few hundred dollars of cash crops, of which 1/3 will go to the landlord and a tenth to the money lenders.
  12. Lop off 25 years of life expectancy.

Pretty sobering, isn’t it? Made me want to sing the song “Count Your Blessings” over and over again.

 

COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS

When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,

When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,

Count your many blessings, name them one by one,

And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Are you ever burdened with a load of care?

Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?

Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,

And you will keep singing as the days go by.

Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.

So, amid the conflict whether great or small,

Do not be discouraged, God is over all;

Count your many blessings, angels will attend,

Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

Refrain:

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your blessings, see what God has done!

Count your blessings, name them one by one,

Count your many blessings, see what God has done.

Johnson Oatman, Jr., pub.1897