I Can Worship Alone

We’ve all heard someone say, “I don’t need to go to church to worship God.” Or, “I worship God alone, because all organized religion is wrong anyway.” Others will say, “Our entire life is worship, so it doesn’t matter if I go to church or not.” Is there any truth in these statements?

For you to offer these folks better answers, below are 7 Reasons why Public worship is better…

  1. It’s Commanded. This should end the discussion, but in this day and age, the commands of our Lord are often ignored.

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him MUST worship him in spirit and in truth.

Matthew 18:20 For where TWO or THREE are GATHERED TOGETHER in my name, there am I in the midst of them.

 

To do something “in the name of the Lord” is to do it by His command or with His permission. Doing whatever we want and attributing it to God is the sin of presumption [Deuteronomy 18:20, Acts 15:24].

  1. It’s what the 1st Century Christians did. One of the ways we understand the commands of our Lord is through the examples of the Apostles and the first Christians as revealed in the New Testament. They gathered on each 1st day of the week.

Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

1Corinthians 11:20-34 When ye come together therefore into one place… [1Cor 16:1-2]

  1. The only time we are authorized to take the Lord’s Supper. Paul wrote to the Corinthian brethren about their perverting the Lord’s Supper. He reminded them of the command of the Lord on this matter.

1Corinthians 11:23-26 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.

  1. We are strengthened when we come together. Paul warned the brethren that many are weak and dying because of failure to worship properly.

1Corinthians 11:29-30 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep.

  1. Not worshipping together is called “FORSAKING THE ASSEMBLING.” If private worship is acceptable, then there could not be a forsaking of an assembly.

Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

  1. We teach and admonish one another in public worship. One of the five acts of worship is to sing (A Capella) psalms, hymns and spiritual songs for the purpose of teaching each other. Your voice is needed.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

  1. Private, in lieu of public worship is vain worship. Any time we replace the command of our Lord with our own, our efforts become worthless. Jesus warned us to always do His will.

Matthew 7:21-23 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

When we’re sick, or circumstances beyond our control, prevent us from attending the local body of Christ, we have not sinned. It’s when we have opportunity and willfully choose to skip it, or replace it with a private worship that we have disobeyed the Lord.

One more thing…If we’ve failed to obey the gospel [2Thess 1:8-9] no amount of worship will help us. Worship is only acceptable when it’s done by the FAITHFUL and is AUTHORIZED. On the back panel of this bulletin answers the question, “What Must I Do to Be Saved?”

– Spencer

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WHEN YOU READ…

…ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ [Eph 3:4]. The beginning of a year is a great time to press reset, and to evaluate how our year went and to plan for the next. James reminds us that our plans should first be aligned with God’s [James 4:12-16]. The only way to know the will of the Lord is through a continual study of His word.

As we’re making our resolutions, let us include the reading of God’s word. There are several reading programs available. Whichever one you choose, here are a few suggestions…

Tips on Reading the Bible Daily

1 – Start today — there is no better time. This time next year will you be wishing you had started today?

2 – Schedule it. Find a time that works best for you. I like reading in the morning, but you decide what’s best. A friend of mine cannot read the bible at night, as the things he learns excites his mind preventing sleep. Others might find that it calms the mind, allowing God’s word to comfort. Whatever time you pick, just do it. Nothing ever gets done until a deadline is set.

3 – Read for the sake of understanding, instead of just trying to plow through that days reading. Before you begin, say a prayer, asking God for wisdom [Jas 1:5]. Then read, allowing His wisdom to grow inside of you.

4 – Keep a Bible handy, EVERYWHERE. We have bibles placed throughout the house, in our cars and on our phones. This does two things. First, they act as reading reminders as we go about our day. Second, having the bible within reach allows us to pick it up during those moments of waiting. It’s amazing how much time we spend in waiting rooms, or simply waiting for someone else.

4.5 – Replace some of your Facebook time. The average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day. This 100 minutes is accumulated over the course of the entire day. Reading at pulpit pace, aloud, not too quickly, it only takes 960 minutes to read the entire New Testament. This means that you can read the NT in just 10 days using our social media time. I’m not telling you to give up Facebook, but what if you just used SOME of your social media time to read the bible on your phone? You’re already looking at your phone anyway.

Whatever system you decide, let the word of God dwell in your hearts.

And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. [Eph 6:17]

Conversing at the Lord’s Table

We all know, that on the night of Jesus betrayal, He implemented what is commonly called the Lord’s supper: “He said unto them, With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer: For I say unto you, I will not any more eat thereof, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves: For I say unto you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come. And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. 20 Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.” [Luke 22:15-20; cr. Matthew 26:26-29]

A most important topic but, have you ever considered what ELSE He taught at that last supper? When we read all the gospel accounts regarding the supper, we find 5 other topics of discussion.

1 – The Hurt of Betrayal Among them. [Matthew 26:20-25] As they sat down for supper, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me.” They all wondered aloud, “is it I?” Jesus goes on to say, “woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” So many lessons could be drawn, but one question keeps haunting me, “Is it I?” Could we betray our Lord? The Hebrew writer expresses this idea when he wrote about “crucifying afresh” the Son of God when we fall away. [Hebrews 6:6]

2 – The Value of Service. [John 13:3-17] While the twelve are all still there, Jesus humbles Himself and washes each of the disciple’s feet, INCLUDING JUDAS. Jesus tells them, “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” He is not commanding us to perform a ritual of foot washing, (that was a custom of that day), rather He is demonstrating service toward one another. To love one another. After this example He said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” [John 13:36]. The lesson is clear, have we such a love for each other?

3 – The Promise of Comfort. [John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13] At this supper He was telling them about His coming departure. As they wondered where He would be going, and how they might follow Him, He said, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” He then spoke about a Comforter who would come to “guide them into all truth.” He was speaking about the revelation of the New Testament scriptures, brought to them through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Today, we have the complete word of God. Can we still find comfort in them, just as the Apostles? I’d say we can.

4 – The Need to Bear Fruit. [John 15:1-8] As He was telling them of the Comforter, He also gave an illustration about being profitable disciples. He spoke of “bearing much fruit.” Connected with His word, and the words the Holy Spirit shall speak, the disciple can abide in Jesus, and He in us. Just as a branch bears fruit when attached to the vine, we too can bear fruit when attached to Jesus through His word. But there was also a warning, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” What a terrible thought, to be cast away and burned for failing to bear fruit. We can only bear fruit through obedience to His word. [cr. Matthew 7:21-29]

5 – The Power of Spiritual Unity. [John 17:11-23] Prior to their departure to the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed to the Father in their presence. He prayed, “Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.” Some today have the false notion that unity is found in just getting along and overlooking sin. This can never be right. Spiritual Unity is also called “fellowship.” Scriptural fellowship with God is achieved through heartfelt obedience to the Word of God. Jesus said it this way, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” [John 14:21].  Do you and I love Jesus? Then we shall keep His commandments and have spiritual fellowship.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. [1John 1:7]

What an amazing supper that must have been. These are the final words of the Master to His disciples before He is betrayed and crucified. They are important words with valuable lessons. Let us study them, learn from them and apply them into our lives.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

The weather is cooler, no longer are we suffering from the oppressive heat of our Texas summer. There’s excitement in the air, anticipation of the holiday.

The stores are filled with new and unique items found at no other time of the year. They’re offering deals and discounts to attract us to buy.

Happier greetings and if you’ll listen closely, you might hear a carol or two. I look forward to the mail this time of the year as cards with news and pictures arrive of family and friends from afar.

It’s the happiest season of the year, because folks are talking about Jesus. All the other times of the year, His Name is not to be uttered, anywhere. Every other time of the year, to speak of Jesus places you into the “bible thumper” category.

Of course, the conversations about Jesus are usually wrong, erroneous and flat out blasphemous. As you listen to people talk about the birthday of Jesus, you can’t help but think, “everything about that was wrong.” God didn’t reveal to us the date of our Savior’s birth.

At least they’re talking about Him. That’s why it’s a wonderful season. For a whole month, people won’t flinch when you mention His name. It’s a fabulous opportunity to have a conversation about Jesus. No, Christians don’t celebrate the day of His birth, we celebrate His death. Perhaps that’s where we can begin…

For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come. [1Corinthians 11:26]

Jesus is not coming back…

…to sit on a throne in Jerusalem

On Thursday, President Trump officially recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. This had been a broken campaign promise of each of the last 3 presidents dating back to the 90’s. With this announcement comes renewed interest in Jerusalem and the supposed 1,000-year reign of Jesus.

Jesus is not coming back…to reign from Jerusalem.

The doctrine that Jesus will reign on a throne in Jerusalem for 1,000 years prior to the Judgement is called “PREMILLENNIALISM.” To understand it requires a lot of squinting and taking very complex liberties with the Biblical Record. As a result, answering this error has been just as complex. Fortunately, it has a very simple solution.

Before we look at the answer, a little bit of background is necessary. Premillennialists hold many variants, but this is the one held by most: Jesus will first come invisibly, unknown by all except the righteous in an event they call the “RAPTURE.” Following this will be a 7-year period called the “tribulation.” After the 7 years the battle of “ARMAGEDDON” occurs and Jesus will visibly return to defeat the forces of evil and to establish His kingdom, physically upon the earth in Jerusalem, and reign as King for 1,000 years from Jerusalem. After this ‘millennium’ Jesus will raise the wicked to face the judgement.

3 Simple Answers

FIRST, it contradicts the prophetic Word of God. If this theory is true, then God goofed when He told Jeremiah,  “Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” [Jer 22:30;]. This was a prophecy regarding the last king of Judah, Coniah (also called Jeconiah & Jehoiakim). This man is also found in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:12. No descendant of this man, which would include Jesus, could sit on a physical throne in Israel. At Pentecost, Peter preached, by the Holy Spirit, that Jesus was on a throne and that throne is in Heaven. [Acts 2:34, Psalm 110:1, Mt 22:44; 1Co 15:25; Eph 1:20; Heb 1:13].

SECOND, it has been promised that the next time anyone sees Jesus it will be very visible and incredibly loud. Just before Pentecost in Acts 1, Jesus ascended into heaven. As the Apostles stood gazing at the clouds, 2 men in white apparel said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” [Acts 1:11]. Later, the Apostle Paul wrote: “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God:” [1Thessalonians 4:16]. The context continues into chapter 5 where it points out that the arrival of Jesus will bring destruction [5:3].

THIRD, all of mankind will be raised to face the judgement at one time. When premillennialists say that only the righteous will be raised, they’re in direct contradiction of Jesus. He said, “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which ALL that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.” (emphasis mine) [John 5:28-29]. Paul thought that everyone, the just and the unjust, would be raised at once [Acts 24:15].

I would encourage everyone to continue to study the truth about the 2nd coming of Christ, but I believe these are sufficient proofs. Sometimes the best answer is the simplest.

Bonus answer: Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you that there are some standing here who will not taste death till they see the kingdom of God present with power.” [Mark 9:1]. If His kingdom has not been established already, there are some very old folks walking around!

Who Knew?

Over the last few weeks, sexual misconduct allegations have rocked the news & entertainment world (Sometimes I wonder if there’s a difference between news and entertainment today).Then just this week we saw the firing of Matt Lauer from NBC’s the Today show. The earthquake has shaken everyplace far beyond just Hollywood. Trembles are being felt in the workplace, in sports and at the highest levels of government. The pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace has begun to shift our countries mindset.

Women are now boldly coming forward to shine the light on crude conversation and lewd behavior. Let’s be honest guys, we’ve known about the vulgar way men tend to joke with each other when we’re not in mixed company. Many have heard stories (as it turns out they’re more than just stories) of ‘playboys’ taking advantage of innocent female coworkers. Many men, and even some women, would say, “boys will be boys.”

Who knew that this sort of sordid activity was wrong? WE ALL DID!! We all know that the harassment of women is wrong. We all know that sexual assault is wrong. It’s not wrong just because it is coming to light and our society finds it detestable. It was wrong long before these times. Who knew?

God did, for He deemed it wrong when He revealed His will to mankind for how we ought to behave. From the very beginning God began to show us how He expected us to behave toward the opposite sex. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” [Gen 2:24]. In the desert, He commanded us, “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Then He said, “…Thou shalt not covet neighbour’s wife,” [Exodus 20:14, 17]. He then revealed to us in Leviticus 18 what ought not be revealed.

Who Knew? Jesus did. In Matthew 5:28 He said, “But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Then He said, “And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.” [v19].

Who Knew? the Holy Spirit did. The inspired Paul warned us through the 1 Corinthian letter, “…It is better to marry than to burn.” [1Cor 7:9]. Paul warned Timothy, “Flee also youthful lusts” and to “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” [2Timothy 2:22, 1Timothy 4:12]. Paul wrote for us to know that, “fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints;” [Ephesians 5:3]. Who knew that sexual harassment is wrong? God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit knew, and He expects us all to know it as well.

I wonder what the world would be like if there was more concern given for God’s word. Perhaps these allegations and admissions will awaken us to the truth of God’s word, or at least remind Christians that our behavior is to be far above that of the world. That’s what Paul meant, “let it not even be named among you.”

But there’s more

Did you also know that the joking we excuse as locker room talk is wrong? In the same passage above, Paul continued, “nor filthiness, nor foolish talking, or jesting, which are not befitting: but rather giving of thanks.” [v4 ASV]. We ought to have known that the ‘locker room’ talk is never befitting of a Christian regardless of the company. Who knew?

GIVING THANKS

One winter, while a junior in high school in Fairbanks, a friend of mine invited me to have dinner with his family (we called the evening meal ‘dinner’ in Alaska). As his dad was plating the food and delivering it to the table one at a time, his mom began eating having been served first. As my plate was set before me, I refrained from eating as a courtesy toward the host. Mr. LaPerierre noticed me waiting and asked, “Spencer, are you waiting because you’re wanting to say grace?” At that moment, his wife, fork in mouth, looked at me with wide mortified eyes, filled with the realization that she may have committed a grievous faux pas.

Has something like that ever happened to you, folks begin shoveling food in their mouths before everyone even has a chance to sit down, much worse, discovering mid bite that a prayer of thanksgiving was going to be offered? Perhaps you’ve been the one with the fork in your mouth.

It’s called different things in different places. Some call it, ‘giving thanks’, ‘saying grace’ ‘asking a blessing’ or simply, ‘the blessing.’ As families come together this week to celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving, the above scenario will likely repeat as folks stumble through an awkward and unprepared prayer, while the rest choke down a premature mouthful or pause mid chew.

Is it your habit to ‘say grace’ for your food?

It may not, and not just for Thanksgiving. According to a recent poll, only about 43% of Americans pray before a meal. Of those that pray, the researchers discovered they only pray 2-3 times per week. When they examined denominational backgrounds, 52% of Catholics, 60% of Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals prayed before taking a meal. Interestingly, 80% of African American families prayed, regardless of religious affiliation.

It was surprising to learn so many folks were actually praying in America. However, surprise gave way to disgust as the pollsters found that it wasn’t necessarily God being thanked. Eleven percent who claimed to be atheist, agnostic or irreligious said a prayer. An atheist man, cited in a news article about the poll, said that he and his wife give thanks to the spirits of his food. When they eat beef, they thank the four-legged spirits, and the winged ones whenever they eat chicken. When eating veggies, he thanks the veggie spirits. Sounds like a veggie tale to me.

What does the Bible say?

Many who are reading this article already have a good handle on this subject, and I hope that had we been asked, we would have skewed the polling higher. Prayer is as much a subject of scripture as God Himself. We all know that it says, “Pray without ceasing” in 1Thessalonians 5:17, but did you know that verse 18 says “in everything give thanks?”

Among the “everything”, food is a daily opportunity to “give thanks.” We ought to be thankful for our daily food, “which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth” [1Timothy 4:3b].

Our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, lived an example of praying before eating. In John 6:11 He, “took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down; likewise also of the fishes as much as they would.” Then, during His final meal with His disciples, “he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” [Luke 22:19]. On the very night that he would be betrayed, Jesus knowing all things, was thankful. How simple a thing it is, and so worthwhile, to pause and to pray.

 

 

Our most Holy and Righteous Father,

Thank you for this beautiful day

For we know Father, only you can make our day.

Thank You for this food,

Which You created

And for the nourishment within it.

May it provide us the strength

For continued service in Thy Kingdom.

Please forgive us our trespasses,

For they have been many,

And we have been weak.

Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever.

Amen.

Pierce my Ear

There’s a peculiar law in the Old Testament regarding slaves…

Now these are the judgments which thou shalt set before them. If thou buy an Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve: and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing. If he came in by himself, he shall go out by himself: if he were married, then his wife shall go out with him. If his master have given him a wife, and she have born him sons or daughters; the wife and her children shall be her master’s, and he shall go out by himself. And if the servant shall plainly say, I love my master, my wife, and my children; I will not go out free: Then his master shall bring him unto the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, or unto the door post; and his master shall bore his ear through with an aul; and he shall serve him for ever.” [Exodus 21:1-6]

It’s difficult to wrap our minds around the idea that God allowed slavery. What’s also strange to us is that a slave could submit himself to slavery (why would anyone do that?), and if he wanted to leave, the master had to let him go free. Even more strange to our sensibilities is that the slave could decide to remain with a master he loved. We’re most familiar with the brutal history of slavery in our own country where a person was stolen into slavery, or born into slavery and could never leave of his own free will. So, how could it ever be that a slave would ever love his master enough to stay?

As much as we detest the slavery we read about in history (and rightfully so), that slavery bears no resemblance to the master / servant relationship we read about in scripture. Some will say that any form of slavery is detestable, biblical or otherwise. Before you jump to that conclusion, let’s examine why God might use the example of slavery.

Slaves of Christ

The New Testament uses the biblical example of slavery to help us to understand our relationship with Him. Just as in the Exodus 21 passage, we come to Him of our own free will, and He BUYS us. The purchase price being His own blood.

For ye are bought with a price” [1Corinthians 6:20]

We can choose to leave this arrangement, also of our own free will. While nothing can separate us from the love of God [Romans 8:38-39], we can separate ourselves from Him. [Hebrews 2:3, 10:28-29, Galatians 5:4; 2Timothy 4:10].

When we obey the Gospel of Jesus Christ, [Believe, Repent, Confess, Baptism & Faithfulness] we are selling ourselves into permanent slavery. We’re essentially saying, “we will never leave Him, we are His slaves forever, and He alone is our Master!”

You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” [1Corinthians 7:23]

Although the thought of becoming a slave holds a very negative meaning in our culture, the Holy Spirit had no trouble using this institution as an example. When you consider the love behind the sacrifice of Christ, you realize that God had placed an incredible value for your life.

 

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16]

This value wasn’t based upon how good you looked, or how good you were, or how much money you had. No, the cost of buying us was His own life. Additionally, Jesus promises His slaves an incredible and eternal reward. He said to His disciples…

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”

[John 14:2-3]

When we consider the price paid, and the promises made, it begins to make sense how a slave might Love a Slave Owner. Understanding these things will give us strength to endure this life.

Looking again at Exodus 21, we note verse 6; “and he shall serve him for ever.” Applying the picture of slavery to us, we need to note that by becoming a slave to Jesus, we are placing His will above our own. We will have no other master, including those things that tend to rule in our lives [e.g. sin Romans 6:6; money Luke 16:13]. Thy will be done, becomes our song.

When we truly understand this picture, our entire attitude should shift toward humble appreciation for our Master. Let us not be like those slaves who search for holes by which we can escape, for we serve a Loving Master. Rather, let us strive to serve Him in everything that He has commanded and when we’ve done all that we are commanded, let us say…

We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.”

[Luke 17:10]

 

 

“Pierce My Ear”

By Steve Croft

Pierce my ear O Lord my God

Take me to your door this day

I will serve, no other God

Lord I’m here to stay.

For you have paid

The price for me

With your blood, you ransomed me

I will serve, you eternally

A free man I’ll never be.

Chorus:

So, Pierce my ear, O Lord my God.

Take me to your door this day.

For I will serve no other God.

O Lord I’m here to stay.

If it’s my time to go…

You’ve heard someone say this before, “If it’s my time to go there’s nothing I can do about it.” It’s usually said just before they participate in some risky activity like, skydiving or free climbing (when a person climbs a mountain without safety equipment). Another way they might say it, after surviving some calamity, “I guess it just wasn’t my time to go.” The question I ask, is it scriptural?

The root of this idea may be found in Job 14:5, “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass.” The popular interpretation is that God has already determined when each individual person is going to die, and it can neither be prevented, nor quickened.

A New Testament passage seems to be making the same assertion in the Lord’s parable of “The Rich Fool.” In this parable, the rich man is found with an abundance of wealth and decides he needs to build bigger barns and take it easy. Then, God says, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” [Luke 12:13-21]

Is this what the scripture is teaching? Has God already decided that some will live to be very old, whereas others are going to die young? If this is true, does this teach us we can live a reckless life?

Isaiah wrote, “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.” [Isa 1:18]. We need to use our heads and examine the scriptures to find out if these things are so.

My grandfather used to answer folks who said these things by asking, “Why don’t you go out and play in traffic? If it’s not your time to go, you’ll be alright.” Or he would ask, “If I bring you a rattlesnake will you play with it?” While certainly not authoritative, these questions do make you reconsider the position.

What’s the Bible say?

When we go back to the beginning in the garden, we discover some interesting things about this subject. The punishment for eating the fruit from the KOGE tree was death. Yet, when they ate of it, they didn’t die immediately. The reason for this is necessarily inferred that Adam & Eve had eternal life prior to eating and lost it afterward. This is confirmed by the passage, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin;” [Romans 5:12a].

In another passage God said, “The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” [Psalm 90:10]. If we made doctrine based on single passages, why don’t we ever say that people live a minimum of 70 years, or maybe 80? Because observation tells us otherwise.

In the proverbs, one could lengthen life by keeping the commandments of God, “For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.” [Proverbs 3:2]. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon wrote, “…time and chance happeneth to them all.” [vs 9:11b]. When we look at “the whole council of God” we come to a better understanding of these things, so what is it?

The conclusion of the whole matter.

First, mankind does not have an eternity to live on this planet. This is what is meant when scripture says his days are numbered. There’s a finality to this carnal world. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” [2Peter 3:10].

Second, it is true that God knows the end from the beginning, [Isaiah 46:10]. This is foreknowledge, not predestination. He may know how long each of us is going to live, but we don’t.

Third, if you haven’t already figured it out, our lives are short, especially when you compare it to eternity. “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” [James 4:14]. Since we have no idea how long we’re going to live, nor do we know how long the earth shall remain [Matthew 24:36] …

…We ought to take every day a lot more seriously. In the 2 Peter passage it continues, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” [vs 3:11].

We all think we’re going to live a very long time on this planet and we have eternity in our hearts [Ecclesiastes 3:11]. The reality is that we’re going to live a very short time here, and eternity elsewhere. God wants us to live that eternity with Him, I hope you do too.

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” [John 14:2-3]

Why I left the Baptist church

via Biblical Insights, April 2005, pp 20,21

There’s a proverb that says, “a wise man learned from the mistakes of others; a fool learns only from his own.” When asked to prepare a short treatise on my conversion, I jumped at the opportunity to do so. There was a time in my life when I was a lost person who thought he was a saved person, just like Cornelius (Acts 10) and the “many” of Matthew 7:21-23. Anything I can do to help other people who are either personally deceived, or are working with those who are, 1 will always do.

Reared a Good Calvinistic Baptist

My immediate family didn’t attend any church regularly until I was about 12 years old. We began attending church when an associate pastor of the local Baptist church moved across the street from us and invited our family to join them at services. Perhaps realizing that it was not wise to neglect the spiritual development of their children, my parents agreed to go, and my active spiritual life began. Having not really been involved in church earlier in my life, I really knew almost nothing about the Bible. I developed a strong spiritual interest, and I was eager to learn all that I could.

In my late teen years, I began to play guitar professionally in a Christian rock band. Also, I took a job working at the local Christian bookstore. Part of my job requirement was that I’d be very well read on the inventory within our store. As a result, even at the young age of about 18 years old, I had read probably hundreds of books on theology, doctrine, and Protestant church history. I probably understood Calvinistic theology and Premillennial eschatology as well (or better) as the Baptist Church staff I attended. My reading would have been essentially what those in mainline protestant denominations or evangelical churches embrace.

I distinctly remember the day that I told my family of my desire to go to seminary and become a Baptist pastor. They encouraged me in that, and said that people had prayed for generations that a preacher would arise out of the family. The Baptist Church of which I was a member also encouraged me, and I began to do a considerable amount of work within the congregation. Ultimately, I began doing preaching work at Baptist churches, presentations before youth groups, and worked as an assistant to the Sunday school director.

While I was working with the Baptist Church, I was also attending a Baptist University in preparation for my seminary studies at Dallas Theological Seminary (Ground Zero for the modern Premillennial eschatology movement). It was fairly normal for me to give “faith only” invitations, work at evangelistic rallies, deliver sermons and messages, and teach classes involving sometimes intricate areas of Calvinistic theology and eschatology.

To be completely honest, most people attending Baptist churches don’t really know their theology. Baptist theology is deeply rooted in Calvinism, yet most Baptists would deny they are Calvinistic. The entire basis of “once saved, always saved” is that you cannot be lost, because you did nothing of your own accord to be saved in the first place! I was a little unique in that my reading schedule at the bookstore had resulted in me not only knowing what I believed, but also having a thorough understanding of exactly why I believe it. Further, I was extremely zealous and evangelistic in teaching the “truth” of Calvinism, and all that it contained: original sin, the impossibility of apostasy, unconditional predestination, etc.

Although churches with Calvinistic theology are perceived as teaching “faith only” salvation, in truth they teach “nothing only” salvation. A genuine Calvinist would tell you that you have done absolutely nothing for your salvation — you were unconditionally selected before time began by God. A common Calvinistic line is “you did not choose God; God chose you.” Because this essentially makes all evangelistic activities pointless, this element of Calvinism is generally forgotten.”

My Beliefs Radically Changed

I met a young lady who was attending the church of Christ in the neighboring town. We started dating, and I agreed to visit her church on Wednesday evening. When I got there, I was astonished to find that I disagreed with almost the entirety of their doctrine and theology. This was clearly not the “faith only salvation,” “once saved always saved,” unconditional Calvinistic theology that I embraced so dearly. In fact, I had determined that my new goal was to convert the entire congregation to the “truths” of Calvinism, and committed to attending their midweek Bible study every week until I had succeeded.

Because I was now attending their Bible study, the church there began a new Bible study on denominational error. As our study went along, we evaluated characteristic error taught within various denominational churches. Much of the error we were studying were things that I held very dearly as true.

Perhaps the very first element in my theology to fall was the idea that denominations were acceptable. Within most denominational churches, it is often accepted as a good trait that there are so many different churches to choose from. That way, people can always find a church that they agree with. Of course, the problem with this is it sets man as the ultimate arbiter of truth, rather than the scriptures. God’s expectation of us is that we conform ourselves to the truth of the word of God, not that we just move around until we can find people who agree to ignore the same portions of scripture (see Rom. 3:4).

Much to my surprise, I found myself completely unprepared to deal with the rather pointed questions I was being asked about my beliefs. What about men with long hair who claim to be godly? (see I Cor 11:14). This was problematic for me because I was a long-haired hippie type playing in a Christian rock bank. When asked about the frequency of which we observed the Lord’s Supper at the Baptist Church, I could only reply that we did so quarterly, four times a year, for no other reason than “that’s just the way we do it” (see Acts 20:7). When asked why I didn’t teach baptism was essential to salvation, I would rely on passages such as John 3:16, while admittedly ignoring passages such as Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38. I did not understand the principle of homogeny of scripture (John 10:35; Acts 15:15), and was genuinely surprised to learn that I had significant holes in my Bible knowledge.

I had preached. taught. and performed concerts in and around Baptist churches for years. I was attending a Baptist University. I had at this time read extensively on doctrine and theology. I had been formally educated in Biblical languages. But one thing I had not done was actually read the Bible much. Amazingly enough, I had logged thousands of hours in studying about the bible, but comparatively little time actually in the Bible itself I began to see where my studies had almost systematically avoided large segments of scripture. You can imagine my shock when someone read me James 2:24. I think I probably responded somewhat like Martin Luther. and thought to myself, “that just doesn’t belong in the Bible.” I was amazed that I had never seen that before.

I remember sitting in a Baptist worship service when the senior pastor’s wife went to the pulpit and proclaimed, “Many people are proud to be Christians. But I want you to know, that I’m proud to be a Baptist.” I remember exactly where I was sitting. I will never forget it. Never. I was absolutely devastated. I remember thinking to myself, “This is so wrong! We have a woman preaching about how proud she is that we have divided up the body of Christ. I just can’t do this anymore.” I determined right then that I would not be a Baptist pastor. Instead. I changed my plan to pasturing a nondenominational evangelical church. I was making progress, but I still wasn’t there yet.

My plan to “convert” the local church of Christ was not going as I had intended. Instead, I found major tenets of my theology being shot down one right after another. Clearly man had a free will, as God had given men many occasions to make a choice. It was also evident that the Bible taught about a faith that did not save. Even with my Baptist Church invitations, I appealed to Romans 10:10 which teaches the necessity of confession. For years I had managed to miss that faith plus confession did not equal faith only. Our salvation was not unconditional, but was very conditional upon an obedient faith.

And then I had the night at the church of Christ that I will never forget.

I was sitting on the back row, when someone in passing read I John 3:15: “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” This was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I remember feeling somewhat shell-shocked at that passage. I had to have been visibly stunned. I turned to the person next to me and said. “Do you realize that this passage says if you are a murderer, you don’t have eternal life?” She said, “Of course, everybody knows that.” I replied, “You’re wrong — everybody doesn’t know that.”

Within Calvinistic theology, once a person has eternal life, it can never be forfeited. I had already determined that man had a free will. Therefore, I knew it was within the realm of possibility for a Christian to choose to commit murder. And if that Christian could choose to commit murder, I John 3:15 said he would not have eternal life. “Once saved, always saved” was not true.

I spoke with a preacher at the church of Christ, and told him my concerns. He pointed out that I took passages out of context in order to support a position I had already decided upon. To avoid this problem. I read through the entire Bible in essentially one sitting over the course of three or four days. Thereafter, I went back to the Baptist Church and told them I was leaving. My final stop that day was for scriptural baptism (Titus 3:5; Col 2:12). I am now privileged to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).