Category Archives: Salvation

THANK YOU!

 

eyeseeyouI am thankful to God for so many things…primarily that He has loved me so much that He has made provision for my eternity through the gift of His Son and the Grace and truth He introduced into the world.  It is beyond possible to thank Him enough.

I also have multitudes of people to thank in this life.  If it were not for my late father-in-law, and his generosity life would have been very difficult in some of the early years of our marriage when medical bills threatened to sink our ship.  I don’t think we ever asked for his help, he was just tuned-in enough to know when it was needed.  I trust he is enjoying his heavenly reward.

Nearly every job I’ve had was the result of someone suggesting, recommending, pulling strings, pulling rank or vouching for me.  I can only think of a few times I was hired because I acted totally on my own.

The church has been the source of so many blessings.  Lake Highlands church in Dallas was my sponsoring congregation as Brenda and I did mission work in Australia.  Aside from their prayers and monetary support, they sent things to us that made our work easier.  North Davis church in Arlington literally saved us from being homeless and broke during a very difficult time.  Our present church home, University church in Abilene has overflowed with kindness toward us many times.

I don’t ever want to be guilty of forgetting those I cannot embarrass by naming here.  Brenda and I have been the recipient of gifts from many people in Australia and here at home.  Frequently those gifts have arrived at very critical times.  We have enjoyed the hospitality of wonderful Australian and New Zealand saints in our travels.  They have fed us, sheltered us and entertained us simply out of their love for Jesus.  Truly, God works through His people!

In my meditations I often review, with tears, the kindnesses and mercies of God and His people who have loved us, prayed for us and given to us.  I can only say from the depths of my heart, THANK YOU!

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Filed under Blessings, church, dependence, discipleship, Encouragement, Friendship, Gratitude, homelessness, honor, Love, Salvation, Selflessness, Thankfulness

Religious Right or Wrong?

It is the turn of the year and I don’t know about you but I’ve already got a gut full of politics.  I have just about “had it up to here.”  The most disturbing aspect of all this is the antics of the so-called Christian “leaders.”  The “Religious Right” is in grave danger of becoming the “religious wrong.”  Along with the disgusting concentration on pre-election politics is the equally disgusting lack of concentration on what really matters: following Christ.

I have to believe that Jesus really meant it when He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting…but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm” (John 18:36).  His life, ministry and teaching were decidedly “not of this realm.”  His emphasis was the Kingdom of God, eternal life and preparation for it.

Yes, He was deeply concerned with justice, mercy and love for neighbors and enemies.  When it came to earthly kingdoms and their governments, however, he was decidedly silent.  Can you imagine Him endorsing a candidate — even in our time?  Yet we read stuff like this:

“The Rev. Donald E. Wildmon is making an urgent plea to Christian voters in Iowa to vote for Newt Gingrich in their caucuses on Tuesday in what he describes as the “most critical” election in American history” (Newsmax.com, December 31, 2011).

This, in spite of repeated warnings by the Holy Spirit not to put our hope in human beings (Psalm 118:8-9; Proverbs 20:6; Jeremiah 17:5).

The only thing that can change this world for the better is the spread of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ and the values of His Kingdom.  Earthly kingdoms, empires, nations and governments can never approach the power for good resident in the Kingdom of God.  Faith, hope and love are not the results of the legislative, judicial or administrative processes.  So, why are our leaders seeking to manipulate earthly politics?  Could it be because they have lost faith the Kingdom and its King?

It is the right of all citizens of all democracies to participate in the government of the people, by the people and for the people.  As Christians, we should consider the issues and the candidates and vote according to our Christian consciences.  At the same time, we must beware of placing undue trust or emphasis upon or in this process.

Our emphasis must be upon Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  We must seek to influence our cultures by trying to live, look, love and smell like Him (2 Corinthians 2:14).  To put our trust in politicians is to risk stinking like them and, considering our present congress, behold, the stench thereof rises to high heaven.

You shepherds of your flocks, put your hope and trust in Jesus, the only one who can change hearts and minds and thus change our world for the better.  Proclaim Him.  Emulate Him.  Gather disciples to Him.  Don’t place your trust in some flawed human being.  Only Christ can turn this capsized world right side up.

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Filed under Change Agent, Christlikeness, Culture Wars, Current Events, discipleship, Eternal Life, Faith, Good & Evil, Holy Spirit, Ignorance, Incompetence, Infidelity, Integrity, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Love, morality, Persuasion, Politics, Religion, Salvation, Scripture, Trust

Sabbath Lessons

During Jesus’ ministry he was repeatedly criticized for allegedly breaking the Law of Moses.  Those who had taken upon themselves the responsibility of making sure the Jews were obedient to the Law used their usurped authority to follow Jesus around scrutinizing his actions for any imagined violation.  Their motive was more to discredit Jesus than to please Yahweh.  They witnessed his signs and miracles but refused to accept the implications of them.  When we become more concerned with rule-keeping than godliness, we jeopardize our salvation and that of those we discourage and hinder.

It is instructive to study the words and actions of Jesus as he countered the “spiritual enforcers” in regard to the Sabbath.  It helps us know whether we are more concerned with mercy and compassion or legalistic rule-keeping. Are we focused on “getting it exactly right” while neglecting justice and the love of God? (Luke 11:42).  Is our goal the letter or the Spirit? (2 Corinthians 3:6).

What Jesus said about the traditions and teachings of men are applicable to today’s nit-picking counterparts of the Pharisee enforcers (Mark 7:5-13).  Here are nine points regarding the Sabbath for our consideration:

1. Many rules for keeping the Sabbath were men’s additions, inventions and traditions and therefore extra-biblical and non-binding.

2. Jesus is the law-giver (even the Law of Moses) and Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8)

3. The purpose of the Sabbath was rest and rejuvenation and was created for the benefit of humans

Mark 2:27 Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.

4.  The Sabbath, as originally given, did not restrict necessary physical labor (such as eating when one is hungry and the labor necessary to feed one’s self (Matthew 12:1-8)

5. The Sabbath did not forbid spiritual labor

Matthew 12:5Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are innocent?”

6. Compassion (relieving suffering) trumps sacrifice (laws and traditions)

Matthew 12:7-8 But if you had known what this means, ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT A SACRIFICE,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.     8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

7. Doing good on the Sabbath is lawful

Matthew 12:9-12 Departing from there, He went into their synagogue. 10 And a man was there whose hand was withered. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse Him. 11 And He said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So then, it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.”

8. If God, who gave the Sabbath, is working, then it is permissible for us to do His work

John 5:17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I myself am working.”

9. Rules which violate common sense and logic are invalid.

John 7:22-23 “For this reason Moses has given you circumcision (not because it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and on the Sabbath you circumcise a man. 23 If a man receives circumcision on the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well on the Sabbath?”

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Filed under Christlikeness, Edification, Freedom, Holy Spirit, Hypocrisy, Ignorance, Jesus Christ, Judgmental, Religion, Salvation, Scripture, Signs, Suffering

Without Apology

“So, you believe that only Christians are going to heaven?”  It’s a question that has caused more than one person to squirm uncomfortably.  It is especially uncomfortable if the question is asked in a public forum (radio or television interview) in a challenging way by someone who (1) isn’t a person of faith or, (2) an adherent of a non-Christian religion.  In reality, any answer will offend someone, somehow.  One response will offend one group, the alternative will offend the other.  No answer at all will offend whoever’s left.

If you are a Christian and you believe the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to be accurate accounts of the words and actions of Christ, only one answer is possible.  It is the answer Jesus gave to a disciple named Thomas.  Here it is:

Jesus *said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

It is also the answer that, after the death of Christ, Peter gave to the rulers, elders and scribes in Jerusalem.

And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

Jesus and Peter said it, I didn’t.  So, you can get mad at me for believing it, but you can’t blame me for saying it.  I don’t have to apologize for their answers.  No uncomfortable squirming here.

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Filed under Atheism/Theism, Eternal Life, Evangelism, Faith, Jesus Christ, Judgmental, Quotations, Salvation

The Answers for Everything

Two questions: Why did the number of disciples explode in the first three centuries after the establishment of the church on that wondrous Day of Pentecost? And, why isn’t similar growth occurring now? Once we have answered these questions, we will have the answers for everything. So what are the differences between then and now and us and them?  I can think of a few:

1.      They were Holy Spirit motivated and driven. Too many of us are ignorant of the Spirit’s provision, power and His primary legacy: inspired Scripture. It is within these God-breathed words we will find the answers we seek, not in some book on church growth.

2.      They were not building-oriented. We are. We spend millions on structures we mistakenly call “churches” with a “sanctuary” and classrooms. Try finding that in Scripture!  What a classic misappropriation of time, energy and money!

3.      They did not have a “professional class” or clergy. We do. We spend millions on their salaries and benefits. Then we work the hound out of them. This too is alien to Scripture. As Lisa Sells has written,

…the pastor (“preacher” for us restorationists-DW) is expected to both nurture the mature and win the lost through a one-way monologue (i.e., the weekly sermon-DW).  Then through the week the pastor is expected to satisfy member needs for personal love and concern.

“The result is often a membership that watches the pastor try to do all the ministry as well as a pastor that is overextended and skating on the edge of burnout. (Lisa Sells, “Avery Willis’ Last Dream,” Mission Frontiers, USCWM, 1605 E. Elizabeth St., Pasadena, CA 91104, 626-7971111, www.missionfrontiers.org. January-February 2011, p. 9)

4.      They were not assembly-oriented. We are. Assembly has been called, “The Sunday Morning Show.” It has replaced The Great Commission as the focus of our resources and energies.  Assembly an essential part of our Christian walk but it must not become our major focus.  As Steve Smith wrote,

The Great Commission says we are to go, not invite people to come to us.  We must go to where the lost are, and train the new believers to also go to the lost, into factories, homes, shops and neighborhoods (Steve Smith, “Training for Trainers Process,” Mission Frontiers, January-February 2011, p. 11)

5.      They understood what “making disciples” was and how to do it.  We don’t.  They proclaimed the word, lived the gospel, baptized those who came to belief and taught them to observe all that Jesus commanded.  Those disciples made more disciples who could make disciples and multi-level discipling was born.

6.      They knew that their mission was to follow Christ.  We know it too, but we get distracted by stuff that has nothing to do with our primary mission. They didn’t get involved in peripheral diversions.  Since Jesus came to seek, serve and save the lost, they knew that was their job too.  It’s all right there in the Gospels and the Letters.

It is time to dump the ineffective inventions, innovations, diversions and distractions that have gummed up the simple process of seeking, saving and discipling the lost. It is time to stop wringing our hands in despair and to fill those hands with a copy of Scripture.  It is time to quit looking around wondering what to do and to fill our eyes, mind and heart with the teachings and examples of Jesus and the apostles. There we will find what to do. There we will find the answers to everything.

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Filed under church, Community, conversion, discipleship, Evangelism, Faith, History, Holy Spirit, Ignorance, Jesus Christ, Kingdom Growth, Missions/Evangelism, Preaching/Teaching, Restoration, Salvation, Scripture, Uncategorized

FAILURE TO PROCLAIM

What a tragedy if we should ever lose the freedom to speak freely!  One of the great things about America and some other Western cultures is the “market place of ideas.”  No matter how weird or wonderful, if you have some concept, some idea, some philosophy…you can talk about it freely.  And, you can freely pursue your philosophy provided it does not intrude upon or injure your fellow-citizen.  It seems that no matter how strange, one can persuade a few others to join in one’s weirdness.

Of course, the results of such freedom are not always comfortable or pretty.  It provides forums for televangelist money-grubbers, cultists, communists, socialists, atheists, republicans, tea-party persons, liberals and anyone else with something to say, advocate, enjoin, advise, recommend or decry, expose, denigrate, criticize, denounce…whatever.

The Tragedy of Silence

But the real tragedy is when Christians fail to take advantage of these freedoms and remain silent.  What if we were as determined to proclaim Christ as Julian Assange is to spill the state beans?  Not even jail could bar us from speaking about Christ.  Gag orders would not gag us.  No magistrate could muzzle us.  We would not be reticent in the face of ridicule.  To all this, we must give the ancient answer: “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19,20).

We have, after all, been saved to save others.  We have been liberated to liberate.  We believe, therefor we speak (2 Corinthians 4:13).  We have been made complete in Christ to see every person complete in Him (Colossians 1:28).  We have been chosen to proclaim (1 Peter 2:9).  Silence is not an option.

Find Your Marketplace

It is time for Christians to find their marketplaces and forums and speak of Christ and The Way.  What is your forum brother?  Where is your marketplace sister?  Maybe it is the dinner table, coffee klatch, sewing circle, barbershop, pulpit, blog, letter to the editor, call-in talk show, golf course, coffee shop, ad infinitum.  Maybe it is a neighborhood Bible study.  You say, “No one will listen”?  Then follow Jesus and, while you proclaim, heal, comfort, ease, assist, support, aid, encourage, give and befriend.  Then they will listen.  They listened to Jesus.

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THE MEANING OF THE TOMB

Mark the 16th chapter begins like this:

After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus. Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they said to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe — and they were alarmed.

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here — he has been raised!  Look, here is the place where he was placed. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: “He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you.’ “

But why the words, “Including Peter?” Why is that in this text?  Could it be because Peter had denied him?  In Luke 22, starting with verse 54 we read the story: Continue reading

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Filed under Eternal Life, Faith, Jesus Christ, Meaning of Life, Resurrection, Salvation