The Bible?

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             It was early in the 19th century; a young Baptist preacher and his friend were on a preaching tour, that is, they were going from community to community to preach what they believed to be the Gospel of Christ. Both young men were preachers; one said to the other, “Brother Sewell, I am sorry to see you carry the Book with you to church. Young Sewell asked: ‘Why?’ His companion replied: ‘I am afraid the people will think we learned our sermons out of it.’ This was exactly what young Sewell had done” (Biographical Sketches of Gospel Preachers, H. Leo Boles, p. 181). 

What was “the Book”? It was the Bible.

From that time, Jesse Sewell set his mind in a more diligent fashion to see what “the Book” truly said; he was determined that from it only would he preach. This did not go without a response from the church of his heritage. They responded when they gathered: “The vote was put, about half a dozen of the forty members present voted to exclude him from the Baptist Church; the others did not vote. The announcement was made that he was excluded, and the assembly arose and left the house in confusion” (p. 183). One man wanted it to be said about Jesse Sewell that he was excluded from their fellowship because “it was for teaching heresy.”

Imagine that! Teaching heresy when one uses only the Bible from which to preach and teach!

I remember when I was much younger my mother saying something to me that was similar. It was her thinking, at the time, that I should not have learned to preach from the Bible, but that I should have been preaching what the Lord’s Spirit gave me, apart from the Bible. Evidently, she learned from others this way of thinking (she later rejected that way of thinking). Since that time, I have not come across too many people who think this way, though I have read of preachers who believed they were guided by the Holy Spirit to say what things they were saying, apart from what the Scriptures actually said.

When a person preaches from the Bible, there is going to be a response. A good many people will like it and like it very much. There will be many more, however, who stand opposed to one’s firm resolution to preach what the Scriptures teach. One does not have to look far, as in our socially conflicting society, to see that. Paul said of himself, For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, But the righteous shall live by faith (Rom. 1:16-17). What did it get him? It got him much in the way of trouble! He was stoned, flogged, ostracized and incarcerated. Still, he would not change what he did, For I will not dare to speak of any things save those which Christ wrought through me, for the obedience of the Gentiles, by word and deed (15:18).

            There are many who say what Paul did, but as one looks around, all saying the same thing Paul did, there is still much confusion. Who and what are we to believe? It was John who wrote to the saints, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 John 4:1). How can this be done? In Berea, the Scripture teaches us: Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so (Acts 17:11). The Bible is The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul: The testimony of Jehovah is sure, making wise the simple (Psa. 19:11). RT

TWO MEN HANGING

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Two men hanging on their respective crosses. Both hurling insults at Jesus. As their energy drained and life slipped away, they heard people on the ground talking aloud about the One between them. After much listening, one of the thieves had a change of heart; he tired and felt guilty about insulting the One between them whom, he gathered, was guilty of no wrong. More than that, he heard people assign divinity to him. He heard that himself when he walked freely. Now he is beside Him; he had seen and heard enough that his regrets came rushing to him like a tidal wave. The other thief kept hurling insults, but the one with a change of heart had heard enough nonsense. He forthrightly declares, “But the other answered, and rebuking him said, Dost thou not even fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:40-41, ASV).

LESSON: Extraordinary circumstances on that occasion do not warrant our approach to follow the same pattern. The Lord’s pattern is in John 3:3-5 (Acts 2:37-38), follow that pattern. RT

Love Jumps In

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In the earthly / material realm, LOVE and HATE are defined according to the way of thinking that belongs to this world. That means both words are fluid in meaning. In other words, how love is defined today may or may not correspond to how another generation defines it. The same with the word hate. The evidence for this is our current, corrupted society. A Google definition of hate speech reads this way: “abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice against a particular group, especially on the basis of race, religion, or sexual orientation.”

Thus, to speak against the moral behavior of a person or a group is to manifest “hate”? This is Satan’s ploy to thwart God’s message in a world of increased wickedness; this illustrates the sentiment of Isaiah 5:20 (“Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”).

Fortunately, the Lord does not use the definition of current society (or any society) to define what He means when He uses the words LOVE and HATE in specific contexts.

LOVE, in the context of response to the Lord is related to obeying His will. This makes sense because the word LOVE is seeking that which is best for oneself and others. Is not obeying the Father’s will an example of what is best for oneself and others? It is, and to say otherwise is not to know what love is in relation to its Source or Founder. When one refuses to apply the Father’s definition for their personal salvation, how can this be defined as love? It can’t!

The alternative to the Father’s definition is that which is of the world; how that can be defined as love has really manifested itself in peaceful sort of way, hasn’t it?! Think about it. If you know that you are about to die, would you not seek to save yourself from death? If so, whose standard will you seek to apply? Now, apply this to helping another person; they are drowning in the water in which they can’t swim, you throw them a lifeline or jump in the water to reach them.

A Christian who throws in the life-saving instrument (or jumps in) is showing love from a Source greater than himself. On the other hand, a person who is not a Christian, the source of their love is of their own making. What if their definition of love would change? In our world of selfishness, fluid definitions never work well. There is no anchoring quality wherein each can understand what is meant. With the Lord, His word means the same always and His love is the anchor of our soul in a floundering and fluid world. RT

Sex and No Surprise

PEW RESEARCH CENTER

Half of Christians say casual sex – defined in the survey as sex between consenting adults who are not in a committed romantic relationship – is sometimes or always acceptable. Six-in-ten Catholics (62%) take this view, as do 56% of Protestants in the historically Black tradition, 54% of mainline Protestants and 36% of evangelical Protestants. Among those who are religiously unaffiliated, meanwhile, the vast majority (84%) say casual sex is sometimes or always acceptable, including roughly nine-in-ten atheists (94%) and agnostics (95%) who say this (8.31.2020; http://www.pewresearch.org).

With such ways of thinking should we be surprised about our moral chaos in this country? Is it not the case the children learn to do what parents allow? This is not always the case, of course, but it frequently is. Sexual relationships outside of a God-ordained marriage is evil; it is evil because it is contrary to the holiness, the moral uprightness of the Almighty. It is not at all associated with righteousness and will be judged by the Lord at His day of reckoning.

The day of reckoning (judgment) will have all stand before the Judgment seat of Christ and the Lord will call out each name to see if that person’s name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (cf. 2 Cor. 5:10). If a person’s name is not inscribed, the Lord will say, Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire which is prepared for the devil and his angels (Matt. 25:42, ASV). In the context of Matthew 25, the Lord is not giving attention to sexual immorality, but the principle of application, as stated in John 16:9, wherein some refused to believe Jesus is the Christ and change their lives to reflect that belief.

The parents allow this because they are themselves confused about what response they should make to the children when the children step outside the bounds of moral behavior. The parents listen to media sources (news broadcasts, television programing, songs on the radio, etc.) and allow this to be an influence on them – all at the same time denying this what they are doing! “We don’t want to impact the children with such a hard reply”, they think, “therefore let us smack their hands (so to speak) and welcome them back into the fold as if nothing they did was wrong.” If it was wrong, their punishment is lessened so scarring does not last long.

Because this is an approach to take, some in the judicial courts of our country, some in the congressional or legislative branches of our government soften the blow the Lord, initially, judged differently. As people we think of ourselves as wiser than the Lord.

Just so you will appreciate the seriousness of how the Lord looked on some behaviors, consider how the Lord responded to some behavioral acts under the authority of the Old Covenant to His civilized nation of priests. The death penalty was applied when there was conviction for striking or cursing one’s parents, blasphemy, breaking the sabbath, witchcraft, adultery, rape, sexual intimacy outside of marriage, incest, kidnapping, idolatry, being a false witness, murder (ISBE (revised), vol. 3, pp. 1052-53).

Perhaps some of these behaviors you think is not warranted for the death penalty; on what moral standard do you use judge this is the case? What was the point of such a hard response to these behaviors? “This had the twofold result of restraining evil and advancing the benefits of just [justice oriented] living within the human society” (Baker Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 988).

To each Christian, let us be reminded, but like as he who called you is holy, be ye yourselves also holy in all manner of living; because it is written, Ye shall be holy; for I am holy (1 Peter 1:15-16). RT

Can you Prove?

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Imagine a conversation like the following to occur:

Tom: “I don’t believe God exists!”
Mike: “The Bible says He does.”
Tom: “Well, am I expected to accept the Bible as God’s word, when I don’t believe he exists?”
Mike: “Yes.”
Tom: “Prove to me he does!”

How would you go about doing this? Here is a suggested starting place: Hebrews 3:4, For every house is builded by some one; but he that built all things is God (ASV).
As you consider the passage, think about what it is saying. First, physical things are made by one that is greater than the thing (or things) made. Second, the planet on which we live is a material thing (within a physical universe). Third, it was God who built all things. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1).
Here is a logical argument from the above paragraph, an argument that is very old, but still very relevant. It goes like this: 1) Whatever begins to exist, has a cause for its existence (i.e. something or someone brought it into existence), 2) The universe began to exist (i.e., the physical/material universe was brought into existence), 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause (God). In formal logic, this is known as a valid (properly structured) argument. The first premise has two components, the first is an antecedent (whatever begins to exist) followed by the consequent (has a cause for its existence). If the antecedent is true, the consequent follows.

From the argument we learn of that which begins to exist has a cause. We know from science the material universe had a beginning. Without regard to what the Bible says on the matter of creation, let us note this scientific opinion, “According to the standard Big Bang model, the universe was born during a period of inflation that began about 13.8 billion years ago.” Evolutionary scientists have a great problem with the word born because it means “began to exist.” Thus, this material/physical universe must have a cause for its existence. Evolutionary scientists go from measuring or testing in the material realm into a leap of faith realm of “anything-but-God” religious belief.
In other words, they can offer no substantive counter to theistic reply of “God” as the cause of the material universe. What is offered is subject to ridicule and mockery; their “anything-but-God” religious belief becomes obvious.

You may not feel like you can adequately give attention to proving God’s existence but remember the Holy Spirit did give attention to the topic. When you think about fear associated with making the case for God’s existence, let there be no fear or apprehension. Reflect on the Holy Spirit’s words in Hebrews 3:4; remember that every house has its builder. RT

Godless Agenda

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In an evolutionary world, in the secular world in which we live – what roles do the males and females have? In such a world as this, the one who is stronger determines what roles each play. It can be no other way!

Survival of the fittest (or strongest).

Nature? What about nature? Nature allows certain things, but authorizes not a single thing. Nature is not authoritative in an evolutionary and secular world, except to say things left to themselves rundown, get old and rusty, decay. It’s neutral and has no stake in the game because, from the godless perspective, it cares not one single bit.

The strong eat (metaphorically or literal) all who get in the way.

There is no good reason for the female to be treated kindly, gently and with respect. What about children or the infirmed? If you say there is, what is that reason? Once you identify the reason or reasons, from what source of authority do they come? “It perpetuates life” you say. So? Does that or should that matter to a person in an evolutionary and secular world when might makes right?

Not even a little bit.

In an evolutionary and secular world might makes right; the only role that is king is the one who rules.

This is the world in which you live. It permeates Europe and the western world. It is beginning to get a hold in the United States. One political party is promoting it with their godless agenda.

“1” is a lonely number

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We live in a world where oppression seems to be a norm. The oppression comes in many different forms. There are those who oppress physically, there are those who oppress emotionally, there are those who oppress others mentally, even spiritually. The fact there are people guilty of oppression will not change. For some people, the experiences of life, well…it is just the way of life!

Those who oppress will met God one day.

Those guilty of oppressing others may be an ambitious person with the feeling of power and a recognition that there is not another person to come to the aid or relief of the oppressed. Ambition is that characteristic in life that can be both good and/or bad. It is good when a person is ambitious in trying to improve circumstances for himself and his family. It is bad when that same person does so and the expense of others. An ambitious person may not be oppressive, but if the goal is achieving the highest end without regard to an ethical standard greater than man, then the ambitious person is oppressive because those in the way must be thrust to the side.

If you played in any athletic sport, you know something about the competitive spirit. Perhaps you have not played in any sport, still the competitive spirit may reign in you also. I may be better than you or you me. If the one is better, is the better one a team player or an individual seeking his own glory and attention? On a team there are going to be players that are better at the activity than others; if the team, however, is not a unified whole, the better players will not overcome in all the contests in which the team is involved.

Some try to overcome a pain in life by working incessantly. Is this a team player? That person works and works, but at the end of the day, what did the workaholic gain for himself? He gained nothing but missed more than he can remember passing by him. As his life comes to an end, there are few who are near him because the workaholic gave little (or no) time to others, so they feel no compassion or empathy in giving any time to him, especially when he is in need of it. The strength in numbers is gone, because the only number he know is the number “1”, and “1” is such a lonely number.

Life Imposed by Man’s Will

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When life is over do you know what will occur? Without the Lord’s revelation there is no chance you would know a single thing about what occurs when life is over. No chance!

While we are on earth, there is time for a great many things to enjoy and also to avoid. You may not understand why this occurs or that occurs, but you understand there is a place for the occurrence. As you process all of this you spend time trying to “wrap your mind around it all” (so to speak). You wonder aloud, “Is there any point to that which I am doing?”

One man said it is the wisdom of life to catch understanding of the events in life. This is certainly true. Yet, though a person tries to understand many things in life, there are some things that cannot be understood “under the sun”, that is, exclusively from the vantage point of man’s wisdom. What things cannot be understood? For one, many of us ask “Why is there so much injustice?” For another, “What happens when physical life is over?”  

You take all your life’s experiences and mold them into a moral and political philosophy that is a guide to life. Yet, as you consider these two philosophies, for all you know, they are as full of substance as a submarine staying submerged with the hatch open (it sinks to the bottom!).

From the vantage point of “under the sun”, for all one knows, life is pointless (a sunken submarine!). Yet, that hardly seems reasonable. Solomon understood this better than our academics in the universities. We live in a world wherein God placed man in His perfect environment, but since that time it has been fouled it up with our imposed will. Thus, in one’s freedom of will, “we live and move and have our being” in a God-created world, but as we look about us, as we look at this world of our own making, what’s the point! The wisdom of man comes and goes; with the wisdom man generates, all end of in the ash heaps of other countless philosophies of wisdom. On the other hand, the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord. “I thought to myself, ‘God will judge both the righteous and the wicked; for there is an appropriate time for every activity, and there is a time of judgment for every deed’” (Ecclesiastes 3:17, NET).

FUTILITY IN LIFE

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The psalmist asked the same question that is asked by man in each generation. “For what futility have you created all the children of men?” (Psalm 89:47, NKJV). In different translations it reads: “Why do you make all people so mortal?” (New English Translation). “Remember how short my life is, how empty and futile this human existence!” (New Living Translation).

There are circumstances in life that drive people to express such sentiments, but in their expressive frustrations, many choose different answers. The psalmist never lost sight of rationality; he knew well the Lord God brought man into existence. He was not of the irrational mindset that said the material universe came into existence from nothing, absolutely nothing. Neither was he of the silly notion that the material universe has always existed.

He may not have known much, but he knew that he was brought into existence by a power, force, and mind greater than anything of human creation. No, the psalmist was clear thinking, but his frustrations on this occasion were great. “What is the point of life!” he yells out.

If he was so rational and concluded that God brought it into existence, why is it that others who are equally rational conclude that God does not exist? Two reasons, I suppose. First, there is a strong desire and inclination to reject anything that is religious. Is it a matter of evidence? Not really. Evidence abounds. It is a matter of one’s desire to not be constrained or required to think there is One to whom we all must give an account (Heb. 4:12-13). A second reason is related to morality. If there is no God, then there is no moral code higher or greater than the one who made up the code he lives by. Strangely, for some, this is a liberating way of thinking. It is liberating until the moral code of another directly and adversely affects the one who made up his own code, thereby rejecting the Lord’s standard of right conduct. To reject the Lord’s standard of right conduct is to reject the Lord’s standard of righteousness (cf. 1 John 5:10).

The psalmist understood all these things. Earlier in the Psalm, he wrote, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; steadfast love and faithfulness go before you” (89:14, ESV). What does man know about righteousness or justice? If he is wise, he knows that with the Lord both exist, but without the Lord he knows that both are arbitrary, based on the whim of man’s thinking. With the Lord there is no futility.

Ron Thomas (updated, 6.22.2020 from an earlier writing)

Point of being wise

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What is the point of being wise?

One looks about the natural world and wonders at the wondrous things he or she sees. The streams flow into a basin, but the basin never fills and overflows. The wind blows with wicked violence, but in the proximity to the wind, one structure is destroyed, while another stands undamaged. How does the rock balance on such a small precipice? When typhoons (hurricanes) rampage over the water, does anything in the water suffer because of it?

You can set your mind to gain wisdom, but the wisdom gained, while it answers some questions, generates different questions that seem to have no answer. Solomon was a wise man; none wiser before him or since him (the Lord excepted). He looked out over the natural world and wondered aloud (and in print) the point of it all. What gain did he have in the wisdom the Lord gave him long ago (cf. 1 Kings 3)? When one looks at life “under the sun” – is there any point to this gain or that loss?

He set himself to understand the value of wisdom is not in what a person enjoys or avoids; neither is it found in what he builds. That which is built gives satisfaction, but the satisfaction that came from building deteriorates as the building deteriorates when it is left untended. The structures built are left for others that come after; will there exist the same motivation and respect with the original intentions? Who knows whether it will be cared for or left abandoned? Even if that which is built is perpetuated for generations, with the satisfaction once gained, is it now lost with time and maturity? With the satisfaction gone, what then?

The value of wisdom is when the mind is directed toward Him who is the Author of life, not toward things that break down. Wisdom brings a person to a point when he sees life is more than the material realm in which one lives; it is more than building things and enjoying the pleasures of life. If all one did is evaluate life from strictly an “under the sun” perspective, then life is pointless. On the other hand, with the mind’s eye, one sees more; life is seen as a gift from God.