Making the Best Choice!

“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

 

“Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word. He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck; he that offereth an oblation, as if he offered swine’s blood; he that burneth incense, as if he blessed an idol. Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations. I also will choose their delusions, and will bring their fears upon them; because when I called, none did answer; when I spake, they did not hear: but they did evil before mine eyes, and chose that in which I delighted not.” Isaiah 66:10

God, speaking through the prophet Isaiah, was very angry with His people because of their poor choices. It wasn’t as if He hadn’t given them clear direction on making good choices. God gave them, and us, all that we need for life and godliness [2Peter 1:3]. Look at what He spoke to the children of Israel about repentance and turning back to Him.

DEUTERONOMY 30:1-20

1-10 God had given clear direction to the children of Israel before He brought them into the land. If they chose to obey His commands, He would have compassion on them, protect them from their enemies and give them prosperity.

11-14 He tells them that His commands are never too difficult, never too far away, but are accessible by all so that they can keep it.

15-20 Here He makes a contrast between the BEST CHOICE and the worst. To Love the Lord thy God is the BEST CHOICE, and to walk in His ways and to Keep His commandments, statutes and judgements. By this He gives a promise of blessing.

However, by making a BAD CHOICE, that is, to turn away from hearing His commands, to worship false gods, then He will DENOUNCE them, remove His protection and not allow them to keep the land.

In verses 19-20, He makes it clear about the two basic CHOICES. Life is to CHOOSE GOOD, which is serving Him, or CHOOSE BAD, which is death. Choosing wrong is a matter of life or death.

“Who is wise, and he shall understand these things? prudent, and he shall know them? for the ways of the LORD are right, and the just shall walk in them: but the transgressors shall fall therein.” [Hosea 14:9]

THESE 2 BASIC CHOICES ARE STILL BEFORE US. Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” [Acts 5:29]. Jesus said, “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” [John 12:26]. Do you see the connection of God’s blessing to the one who follows?

These TWO BASIC CHOICES, following God or turning away from Him, are before us in all our day to day decision making…

  • The WORK we choose to earn our living. Eph 4:28
  • The FRIENDS we choose to keep. 1Cor 5:6; Gal 6:7-9
  • Our choice of SPOUSE. 1Corinthians 7
  • In how we choose to spend our MONEY. 1Timothy 6:17-19
  • In the way we WORSHIP God. John 4:24
  • By the way we choose to spend our TIME. Eph 5:16; Col 4:5

Don’t be confused, all this is to point out that we have free will. Just because we have choice doesn’t mean that God will accept that choice when we go against His commands. We can choose to ignore them, and when we do, we will pay the consequence of our BAD CHOICE.

God is not, as some suppose, a micro manager. He isn’t deciding whether you go to a specific place or another. He is letting you make those decisions. Those TWO BASIC CHOICES are ever before you. To do GOOD or to do BAD.

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” [Colossians 3:17]

Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life [John 11:25; 14:6]. When He appears, this world of sin and doubt shall be dissolved. Since this is true, Peter asked, “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” [2Peter 3:11]

“But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” [Romans 6:17-22]

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Has God Really Said…?

There is such a thing as a bad question…

In Genesis 3:1, Satan asked Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” This first question in the Bible, and such like it, have been on people’s lips ever since. Has God really said…you must be baptized…you must worship and so many more.

Normally the only bad question is the one not asked, and this wouldn’t be so bad if it was asked by a seeker. Unfortunately, it’s not asked by the seekers, rather, the deniers. Let’s examine this question considering God’s revealed word regarding the creation.

HAS GOD REALLY SAID, ‘HE MADE EVERYTHING IN 6 DAYS?

The short answer is, yes. “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:” [Exodus 20:11]. If “in six days’ doesn’t mean six literal 24-hour days, then we have a problem. Just as Eve believed the serpent about eating the fruit and lost paradise, if we fail here, we will lose the scriptures, literally! The theory of evolution is at odds with the biblical record. I recently learned that the Catholic church has accepted the possibility of evolution and since 1950, sees no conflict with evolution and the Bible. I see a conflict, and I hope you do as well. If evolution is true, then God has lied, but that’s not possible. God cannot lie [Titus 1:2] and the Bible contains His word [2Timothy 3:16] therefore the Bible is true. I realize this looks like circular reasoning, but God has no reason to lie or He is no God at all.

IF IT’S NOT 6 LITERAL DAYS

THEN…God lied about the thorns. “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree…Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee;” [Gen 3:17,18] Evolutionists tells us that the fossil record reveals both death and thorns for 350-400 million years. Who would know, them or God? Historical science is based entirely on theories, and evolutionists interpret the data through the lens of millions of years. Before they even examine the evidence, they already ‘know’ that whatever they find will be really old. That’s not even good science, for it rejects any evidence that suggest a young earth. God said that thorns came AFTER Adam’s sin, not before as evolutionists suggest.

IF IT’S NOT 6 LITERAL DAYS

THEN…God lied about the reason everyone dies. “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” [Genesis 2:17] God created everything and at the end of His creative work He said, “…it was very good.” [Gen 2:17] Are you saying that millions of years evolution, which requires death, as being ‘very good?” God never intended for us to die. We see evidence of this in the incredibly long pre-flood lifespans. There is also evidence of arthritis, cancer & disease in dinosaur bones in the fossil record. If dinosaurs truly lived millions of years before humans, then God called death & disease ‘very good.’

THEN…it also makes the Holy Spirit a liar, for He revealed to Paul, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” [Romans 5:12]. If evolution is true, then the Word of the Spirit is false, for He revealed that death came AFTER sin. He also wrote, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Romans 6:23] If evolution is true, and I hope you realize that it is not, then the wages of LIVING is DEATH, a direct contradiction to the Scriptures. Who are you going to believe, God or men?

Scripture teaches that in the beginning there was no death and there will be no more death when Jesus returns. “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” [1Corinthians 15:26]

The Almighty God was there, and like any history, those today only know of historical events through the eyewitness accounts. None of us was there, and therefore must rely on the evidence. For Christians, we have God’s own eyewitness account that tells us death and thorns were brought into the world as the result of Adam’s sin. If we cannot trust His word on a simple thing like thorns, how could we trust Him about what He says about salvation?

IF IT’S NOT 6 LITERAL DAYS

THEN…the redemptive work of Jesus and the defeat of Satan is called into question. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;” [Hebrews 2:14] If the Genesis story is not real, then Satan had nothing to do with death. This line of reasoning also brings the New Testament into question. “He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” [1John 3:8].  It was through Satan’s lie to Eve that brought death into the world. God really did say, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

We need to trust in God’s word and not compromise with the misinterpretation of historical evidence. Early Christians never worried about how to stretch the 6-day creation into millions of years. No, they wondered something completely different.  They asked, “why did God take six days?!”

What is the key to effective evangelism?

IS THERE A ONE WORD ANSWER to getting more bible studies? The key to evangelism is not probing, listening, preaching, talking, assessing, pain, and especially not manipulating. The key that opens the heart is HARMONIZING.

But you’d never know that from most or our actions. Evangelism is about understanding the other person and their needs. Their fears. Their desires. And their sense of need for the Gospel. People have different motives to respond, and it’s the evangelist’s job to uncover them – and harmonize with them.

REALITY: No two opportunities are alike.

We must adapt to uncover the motives and objectives, understand the opportunities and barriers, meet the needs and desires, and harmonize with the person and the personality. This is the point Paul was making in 1Corinthians 9…

For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. [1Corinthians 9:19-23]

Ever since becoming a Christian, I’ve searched for magic verses, those one or two passages that answer every error. I’ve collected tracts with hopes that these one sheet papers could somehow win souls without much difficulty or controversy. And I’ve tried different methods & systems designed to lead people to obey the Gospel. Unfortunately, there’s no “one size fits all” tract, verse or method. It’s not that these can’t work, rather that they don’t always work. What I’ve found is that I focused too much on getting through the material rather than focusing on and HARMONIZING with the individual. One instance, a person had asked a specific question, though I knew the answer was much deeper, they couldn’t hear it. I never heard from them again.

No one tract, verse or method will work all the time — BUT specific elements of any may apply. I’m NOT saying don’t learn the tract, verse or method — all Bible knowledge is valuable. What I am saying is be yourself, not the method.

REALITY: People don’t always respond the way you expect or hope.

Here are some more clues:

  • The more we believe in Christ, the Scriptures, and yourself, the more opportunities you’ll have. [Romans 8:35-39 …height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.]
  • The more care we show toward others, the more people will come to know, respect us, and listen to us. [1Corinthians 9:19-23]
  • The more we follow up and follow through, the more growth God will provide. [1Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.]
  • The more we study, the more we will know how to react to any situation. [2Timothy 2:15-16 Study to show thyself approved unto God]
  • The more we harmonize with the person’s situation, and offer answers they can apply — answers they perceive as truth, the MORE CONVERSIONS. [Acts 18:28 ‘Apollos’…showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.]

Always Keep this in mind. We are all EVANGELISTS, and people are expecting us to ask for a change. Don’t disappoint them. Just remember that God gives the increase and it’s our duty to serve Him. When people see that in us, they will be more likely to respond.

As mature Christians, our job is to identify with the person and take what we’ve learned in the Scriptures to lead them to the truth about Christ, which is the only true motivation that leads to conversion. Without a conversion to Christ, there is no conversion.

Harmony is understanding, not manipulating. It’s sensing the tone of the situation, and comfort level of the person — And gives them enough trust to hear.

Even though I haven’t found the perfect “system of evangelism,” I am still searching for “the best way” to teach. And what I have discovered along the way are elements, mostly personal (non-manipulative), that when mastered will create an atmosphere where people will listen to the Word.

Here are four elements to master in acrostic form, when mastered, are the surest (and shortest) formula to long term success. A.M.E.N. These have nothing to do with systems, manipulation, or pressure. These words, elements, and characteristics create harmony.

  • ATTITUDE – a positive & joyful countenance. [1Peter 3:15]
  • MEANING – Having a firm understanding of what you are saying and what you are affirming. [1Timothy 1:7; Hebrews 5:12] “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” [1Peter 4:11].
  • EMPATHY – Love is kind…does not envy…does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; [1Corinthians 13:4-6]
  • NECESSARY – Realize that without evangelism, neither you, I nor anyone else can be saved and that it’s necessary for our own salvation as we seek to obey Christ. [Matt 28:18-20; Romans 10:13-17]

Every evangelist I have ever met wants to have more meaningful studies — and the best way to do that is to never manipulate. Manipulation makes people defensive, reluctant, and distrustful. Mastering these elements will make people attracted to you, like you, trust you, believe you, have confidence in you — and then — study with you.

Is God Speaking to you? pt 2

LAST WEEK’S article began the discussion about the problems with a personal revelation from God today. These articles are a response to those who believe, feel or otherwise think that God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit is communicating with them SEPARATE & APART from God’s written word.

In the previous article, we discussed the first 2 problems. FIRST, it’s error and is contrary to God’s word about His own revelation. TWO, is the problem of AUTHENTICITY. How are we (or you) to know that this feeling inside of you is coming from God.

Allow me to clarify something. I do believe that God is communicating with mankind, but that the communication is through His divine, preserved written word, as was shown in the last article.

The next two problems are; REVIEWABILITY & ACCESS.

The THIRD problem with a personal revelation is REVIEW:

If Personal revelation is true, then why are there over 30,000 different “Christian” denominations? How would we become unified except by some standard upon which we all could review? I’m unable to STUDY your statements because of 3 problems;

First, It’s all in your head. Have you noticed that not everyone is hearing these voices? You might say that it’s a problem of “faith”, and you’d be right. But Romans 10:17 says, “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God”. This means that it is YOUR faith that has trouble. For we have faith because of God’s written word. “But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God;” If this “revelation” is in your head, how are we to know what God said? Furthermore, how am I to REVIEW the information? Oh, I know a way; IT COULD BE WRITTEN DOWN. Which is what God did in the first place.

Second, there’s the problem of memory. A person’s recollection of conversations is very poor. A study revealed that you remember approximately 20 percent of what you hear, 30 percent of what you see and 50 percent of what you hear and see together. Here’s a question; How much can you recall when you have at your fingertips the entire revelation of God? Answer: All of it, because you can look through God’s word continually.

Third, human communication is difficult, even under the best of conditions. But with all the communication methods available, the only one that allows for a continual REVIEW of God’s word is when it is written. A WRITTEN WORD IS REVIEWABLE BY EVERYONE.

This is what happened in 2Kings 22-23. The book of the Law was found in the temple. It was read to King Josiah (22:10), then it was read to the people, both small and great (23:2) and they could obey it. Today, we can read God’s word and understand the mystery of Christ. This is what made the Berean’s honorable. They searched the scriptures daily [Acts 17:11].

Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ).” Eph 3:3-4

The FOURTH problem with a personal revelation is ACCESS:

Are you going to come over to my house at 3am to let me study God’s word? What if I’m out of cell range? What about the different languages of the world? These difficulties were solved by God when He directed the inspired writers of His word to WRITE IT DOWN. 1 Corinthians 14 demonstrates the difficulties that come from oral communication. One man said to me, “you can verify what I’m saying by comparing it to the Bible.” If I must go verify it with the written word anyway, why do I need you?

What does the bible say about ACCESS to His word?

I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren. 1Thess 5:27

And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed2Thess 3:14

For we write none other things unto you, than what ye read or acknowledge; and I trust ye shall acknowledge even to the end; 2Cor 1:13

Well over 100x in the New Testament, both Jesus and His Apostles refer to the written word. We could continue with more scriptures to drive the point home, but these are sufficient. The question of “WHY ARE THERE SO MANY CHURCHES” now has its answer. We’re not all speaking the same thing, and the best way to become unified is when we all go back to the written Bible of God.

“Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” [1Corinthians 1:10]

You’ll be shocked to know what one church is doing on Christmas

How’s that for a title? Did I get your attention? I’ve noticed that many websites use shocking titles to attract readers so I decided to give it a try. The trouble is, what I’m about to tell you is shocking for all the wrong reasons.

You see, our local congregation, The Frankilin St. church of Christ in Borger Texas, is NOT changing it’s services on Christmas day. This news is shocking because so many denominations have altered their services to celebrate a man made holiday instead of the God commanded commemoration of our Lord’s death.

Look at what was written to the 1st century church:

For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup.
[cr. Mt 26:26; Mr 14:22; Lu 22:19]

Many will rationalize their decision to cancel services by saying, “it’s for the family.” That sounds great, but what about the family of God? “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” [Gal 3:26]

So, we shall be worshiping the Lord, as He described, on the day He ordered, in the manner in which He authorized, to remember His death as He commanded.

Besides, when you think about presents, what is the greatest gift ever given which was given for the whole world?

Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.
2 Corinthians 9:15

 

Local church cancels Christmas

…kinda, a church in Dumas, Texas has cancelled their corporate worship in favor of each family worshiping at home. Since Christmas falls on a Sunday, many churches are altering their normal worship times and services to accommodate the holiday. I learned about this through a Facebook discussion thread which involved members of this particular denomination and an evangelist who was simply wondering why.

One person said; “Many of our local churches are having only a worship service with no Sunday school or Bible study classes. Some are having no nursery or children’s classes. Some are having their services at a different time. Some are having music only, no sermon.”

Here is an explanation from one of the members of the denomination that has canceled their worship; “We have been preparing ourselves to lead worship with our own family and friends, in a small group setting as was done in the days of the early church.”

As the conversation progressed, the one who raised the question came under attack. Ironic, the very ones who were critical of any rebuke began rebuking the one who wanted to study!

What is the real issue?

Is the issue really about the public rebuke of a denomination? No, the real issue is where do we get our permission for worship? Let’s look at it this way;

Let’s say you had purchased a singing telegram service. This service is where people come to a place you decide, at a time you decide, sing a song you decide, for a person you decide. What is supposed to happen is that those people you hired (bought) are supposed to follow YOUR instructions.

What would you do if, however, they changed the plan? What if they change the time, place or elements of your desires? What if they go to the wrong place, or do the wrong thing or even worse, sing to the wrong person?

You’d demand a refund!

This is how many of us understand God regarding His worship…

  • He required it; John 4:24 MUST worship in spirit AND IN TRUTH.
  • He provided the instruction; John 17:17 His word is Truth.
  • He purchased the people for the worship; 1 Corinthians 6:19-20
  • He ordered that His commands be followed; John 14:15; Mat 28:19-20, Mat 7:21-23
Unity

Everyone wants unity, and I’m no different. The question is, how? Is unity only a product of tolerance when everyone does whatever they want? Or perhaps, is unity a product of people following the instructions?

Am 3:3 Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? (NKJV)

 

 

Is Demon Possession Possible today?

is demon possession possible

Folks today believe in the demonic possession of a person. They have this belief because of the many passages in scripture where people are possessed. [Matthew 9:32-33; 12:22; 17:18; Mark 5:1-20; 7:26-30; Luke 4:33-36; Luke 22:3; Acts 16:16-18]

The teachers of this doctrine explain demon possession today by saying that a person “allows” the demon to enter them by rejecting God’s word, allowing your heart to be ruled by habitual sin, inviting Satan [or one of his angels] to enter.

They also teach that a “true Christian” can never be possessed, because they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, [2Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; 1Corinthians 6:19], saying that the Spirit of God would not share residence with a demon.

WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY?

It is true that demon possession occurred in the OT [seldom, if at all], in the Gospels and in the first century church, but the question is; Can demon possession happen today?

First, it should be noted, that not every association with Satan qualifies as demon possession. For example, Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do” [John 8:44]. He was not speaking as if the devil gave birth to them, rather their actions indicated they were following Satan’s teaching.

Second, concerning demons, we are told: There are being called “angels” [Psa. 8:5; Heb. 2:7, 9] which are higher in nature than humans. Not knowing when, some of these angels fell / sinned [2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6]. These fallen angels seem to be the same angels as the devil’s angels [Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:7, 9]. These may be called, “demons” [Luke 11:15], “evil spirits” [Acts 19:12-13], “unclean spirits” [Matthew 10:1], or Satan’s angels [Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:7, 9].

Third, the bible teaches that evil spirits and demons would depart. In Zechariah 13:2, referring to the age of the Messiah, God promises; “… I will cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to pass out of the land.” This is fulfilled in the Gospels as the disciples were able to cast out demons and Jesus said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.” [Luke 10:18-20]. This shows the weakening power of Satan and his angels.

Finally, in the New Testament, there are two references to the binding of fallen / sinful angels. “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;” [2Peter 2:4]. And in Jude 1:6 “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day.” These are bound, awaiting the judgment.

Sound Doctrine provides comfort

I’ve shown these things to folks and some have gotten very upset with the idea that demon possession is no longer possible. What a strange reaction. The truth should provide us with much comfort, it does me. Imagine living a life where the possession of your person is possible.

Movies like “Damien” and the “The Exorcist” have generated fear, in the hearts of men, that it is possible to be possessed, but I find comfort in the Scriptures of God, clearly teaching that we should never fear Satan and his angels.

One final note, some people say, “The devil made me do it” when referring to some sin they’ve done. No sir, he did not. God teaches us in the book of James, “But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death” [James 1:14-15]. We can follow the teaching of Satan, but we are accountable for the sins we commit. I don’t need Satan to help me to sin, I’m doing a fine job all on my own.

— Spencer

Reaching in, to reach out

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG BOY the neighbor girl asked for my help to wash her car. She was just a few years older than myself, and being the kind, generous person that I am, I quickly left my chores of weeding the flower beds and charitably assisted this helpless neighbor. Upon my return, some few hours later, my father pulled me aside and said, “Son, I appreciate that you want to help your neighbor do her chores, but you need to make sure your chores are done first.”

I’ve saved this lesson in my heart for all these years, uncertain how to apply it to my life beyond the immediate application of leaving all to help the cute neighbor. That is, until now. I’ve been emphasizing so much about outreach lately, that I thought it was time to pause a bit and make sure our home chores are done. A brother in Christ, Bryan Gibson, calls these home chores of which I’m referring as “INreach.”

There’s no such word as “INreach”, but the idea of it is very clear in the Bible. We’re talking about the efforts of Christians, both collectively and individually, those who are “inside” (1 Corinthians 5:12), “Of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10), “our people” (Titus 3:14) – in other words, Fellow-Christians, or fellow saints, to encourage and to edify the body of Christ.

Looking at the letters from Paul to the evangelists, Timothy & Titus, it becomes obvious how much emphasis is given to “INreach”. Paul instructed the two evangelists to “set in order the things that are lacking?” (Tit 1:5) – to appoint qualified men to serve as elders and deacons (Titus 1:5-9; 1 Timothy 3:1-13); to keep the church pure from false doctrine (1 Timothy 1:3-11; 2 Timothy 2:14-18; Titus 1:10-14); to instruct brethren how to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12); etc. If we fail to do our own chores of “INreach” for very long, then we’re certain to have problems creep into our homes and lead some away with divers lusts (2Timothy 3:6). Yet, if we give it proper attention, then the weeds will be plucked away allowing the fruit to grow, including a people better prepared to reach OUT.

If we continue to study our Bibles, it will be difficult to miss what it says about our individual responsibilities to “one another.” We’re commanded to…Love one another (1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11-12); be hospitable to another (1 Peter 4:9); admonish one another (Romans 15:14); weep and rejoice with one another (Romans 12:15); restore one another (Galatians 6: 1); comfort one another (1 Thessalonians 4:18); etc. As we continue to be an evangelistic church, remember to REACH IN, for your brethren need you and you need them. “As we have opportunity, let us do go to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

Look at these commendations to the early church: “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10). “The household of Stephanas… they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints” (1 Corinthians 16:15). Brethren in Thessalonica received strong commendation for “brotherly love,” but were then urged to “increase more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:9). Serving the needs of the saints takes up a lot of time. How can we “increase more and more?”

Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for overlooking the weightier matters of “judgment, mercy, and faith,” commanding them to do these, without leaving “the other undone” (Matthew 23:23). Putting these lessons together, we Saints need to strive to do ALL of the work of the Lord, balancing our duty to outreach to seek and to save the lost, with our “INreach” in teaching and strengthening our brethren. A spiritually strong, and loving church leads to a strong and loving outreach (John 13:35). The teaching of the New Testament clearly states this principle; “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:” (Ephesians 4:11-12), showing us that a balanced church is “thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2Timothy 3:16-17).

It can be easy for us to criticize others in the church for their lack of outreach. We ought to remember that some of these are also doing the work of the Lord in their “INreach”. For a period of time, my baby doll and I were dedicated to bringing up our boys “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). This is a vital duty of parents, lest we lose the next generation of Christians from among our own families.

A final word, it is easy to turn “INreach” into selfishness, looking ONLY at your own personal needs. Yes, we have a duty to care for one another, but that duty doesn’t begin AFTER your needs are met. If I’ve learned anything it is this, when I’ve sought to “bear one another’s burdens,” that my burdens were also lifted (Galatians 6:2). Job had all restored to him AFTER he had prayed for his friends (Job 42:10).

If Christ is living in us (Galatians 2:20), we shall become a growing church. Growing in grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ (2Peter 3:18) AND growing in size from those that are outside as we preach the saving gospel of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-20).

-Spencer

Let your conscience be your guide?

Give a Little Whistle

Give a Little Whistle

 

Give a little whistle, and always let your conscience by your guide.” Jiminy Cricket (1)

            In the movie, Pinocchio, the little puppet wanted to be a good boy and Jiminy was going to help him. All he had to do was whistle. Oh if that were only possible!!

            The presumption in the movie is that the conscience is never wrong, but is that true? It’s true that we do need to let our conscience be a guide, but what if it’s wrong? Who sets the conscience anyway, God? If God sets the conscience then none of us would have ever sinned. Of course we all have. [1John 1:8]. If God sets the conscience then how do we explain Saul?

            Saul was a Jew, zealous toward God, “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.” [Acts 22:3]

            He was among the religiously elite class of Pharisees, “….after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.” [Acts 26:5]. He succeeded beyond his equals far and above any other. “And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers.” [Galatians 1:14]. Concerning the Law of Moses he kept it diligently. [Philippians 3:5]

            Because of his zeal toward God, he persecuted the sect called “the way” because he knew in his heart that it was wrong, even consenting to the death by stoning of Stephen. He persecuted Christians, consenting to their deaths, breathing out threats and slaughter against them. Delivering both men and women into prison. He petitioned the chief Priests to give him permission to go to other cities and synagogues, that if he found any “of the way”, he may bring them bound to Jerusalem.  [Acts 7:58 ; 8:1,3; 9:1,2; 22:4]

            If God sets the conscience, then what happened to Saul of Tarsus? He said, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” [Acts 26:9] He was very sincere about his persecution of the church. [Acts 23:1]

            Our conscience is our moral compass, but only if it is set correctly, pointing to true north. In other words, attuned to truth. [John 17:17]

            The trouble is that our consciences are sometimes set wrong. Saul, later called Paul, had a conscience that was set toward God, but with wrong, outdated information. [1Timothy 1:13]

IS SINCERITY ENOUGH?

            If sincerity, based on our conscience, determines whether or not we go to heaven, then Saul was heaven bound while he persecuted the Lord. [Acts 9:4]. A famous denominational Pastor said that he doesn’t know if a Jew, Muslim or an atheist is lost if they don’t follow Jesus. “You know, I’m very careful about saying who would and wouldn’t go to heaven. I don’t know …” (2)

            If sincerity is enough, then why did Jesus tell Saul, “….Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” [Acts 9:6b]?  If sincerity is enough, then why was he told “arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” [Acts 22:16]? If sincerity is enough, why did he tell others to confess that Jesus is the Christ? That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. [Romans 10:9]. If sincerity is enough, why did he tell others to repent? [2Corinthians 7:9]. If sincerity is enough, why did he tell others to be baptized? [Romans 6:3]

GIVE A LITTLE WHISTLE

           Oh, it would be nice if we could just whistle and have Jiminy show up to keep us out of trouble? Jesus is no cricket, and He’s not a pet that we call to do our bidding. No sir, we have been given control over our conscience, and we are to train it. Jesus showed us the way….

 

Spencer Blackwelder

1 – Walt Disney Productions 1940.
2 – Larry King Live. http://www.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0506/20/lkl.01.htm

God has 3 No’s

When a person says things like, God must have a reason for this tragedy, or He’s got a plan for me (spoken in the midst of all sorts of trouble) I want you to be ready to point out something about God, his no’s.

The trouble stems from a misapplication of ……..Ro 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

They believe that God causes tragedy in order to fulfill His purpose. I think we blame God too much. When we blame Him, it seems we are accusing Him of unfairness, or some prejudice. Does it seem fair to you when one person loses a child and another doesn’t? If you begin to think that God is unfair, or unjust, I want you to turn to this passage……..

2Ch 19:6 And said to the judges, Take heed what ye do: for ye judge not for man, but for the LORD, who is with you in the judgment. (7) Wherefore now let the fear of the LORD be upon you; take heed and do it: for there is no iniquity with the LORD our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts. (Bribes) <righteous De 10:17-18> <respect of persons Job 34:19; Eph 6:9; Col 3:25>

Let’s go back to Rom 8:28, what does it say?

  • All things work together for good –salvation, see the rest.
  • to them that love God – If you love me, keep my commandments (Joh 14:15; Heb 5:9)
  • to them who are the called –
    • God calls us through the gospel – 2Th 2:14
    •  The gospel of Christ concerning His death, burial and resurrection – 1Co 15:1-4
    • This gospel contains commands that must be obeyed – cf. 2 Th 1:8; 1Pe 4:17
      • The command to believe in Jesus – Jn 8:24
      • The command to repent of sins – Ac 17:30-31
      •  The command to confess Jesus as Lord – Ro 10:9-10
      •  The command to be baptized – Mt 28:19; Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38; 22:16
  • According to His purpose – Mrk 1:38 purpose to preach; to be sacrificed Joh 12:27; to destroy the work of Satan 1Jo 3:8; 2Pe 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

God wants all of us to be saved. He wants us to go to heaven. He wants us to be reconciled to Him.

When you’re facing trouble, feeling low, thinking that life is just too hard and unfair…….Remember this about God…..

He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth
and without iniquity, just and right is he. De 32:4