EMBARRASSED?

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“Once Smith was asked if he was not embarrassed by speaking before judges and lawyers in Sparta, Tennessee. ‘Not in the least,’ said he, ‘for I have learned that judges and lawyers, so far as the Bible is concerned, are the most ignorant class of people in the world – except for Doctors of Divinity” (Dabney Phillips: “Raccoon” John Smith, RESTORATION: THEN and NOW, 9th annual East Tennessee School of Preaching and Missions Lectureship, p. 139).

Wow! A person might think that was a harsh remark. Granted that it can be interpreted that way, I would say that it is not really. Many of our learned community members stand in judgment of the Lord and His word frequently. John Smith simply took note of those who did the same in his day and concluded they are just as uninformed as many in our day—feigning knowledge when they have little to none.

Is this how a preacher is to carry himself, speaking boldly and harshly?Consider what makes a Gospel Preacher: first, he must be a Christian man; second, he must be loyal to the Lord above all loyalties to people; third, he must be a man who desires to know the Lord’s will; fourth, he must know the Lord’s will well enough that he can teach it.

Some preachers, however, fail in one or more of the above. They are preachers, but not Gospel Preachers. They are recognized by many in the community as people of good standing, but the Lord does not recognize them. To be a preacher of the Gospel, one must count the cost, because it can be high. As I read what was said by “Raccoon” John Smith, I could not help but be reminded that not every preacher is motivated by the virtue of teaching the Lord’s way faithfully (cf. Gal. 4:16), that is, helping others learn His way, calling upon them to live holy lives.

Our society puts a great deal of emphasis upon formal education after the high school years – but for what spiritual purpose? Formal education is a good thing, but it’s not an end to itself. Broadly speaking, for some in our community, without a formal, post high school education, you are considered less informed than those who went to school and received that formal education.

Fortunately, the Lord does not look on these mundane matters in a similar way.

“Raccoon” John Smith was not a man who received a formal education after high school; in fact, during his day, “What was high school?” He was a self-taught man, a Baptist preacher who learned the Book of God; he took what he learned and taught others. He was devoted to the Lord, and when he could not harmonize his Baptist-Calvinistic learning with the Bible he made it clear to the congregation to whom he was speaking that he was in the dark and knew not how to lead them out of the darkness. This honesty served him well through the years.

So consumed was he with the Lord and His way, he took advantage of an opportunity to hear and learn from another preacher, one who was speaking some distance away. He made plans to go hear him, but after hearing him he expressed to one sitting by him that he was disappointed he only got thirty-minutes from the preacher in his preaching when he came such a long distance to hear him. His companion said, “Look at your watch. What you think to have been thirty-minutes was actually two hours and thirty minutes.”

John Smith devoured the Lord’s teaching when he heard another share it, and he devoured the Lord’s teaching when he read the Scriptures. Occasionally, it has been said, when he ate his meals, he would also memorize Scripture.

Learning from the Lord made all the difference in the world to John Smith. When he stood in the presence of great people of the community, those with formal education—he was not embarrassed or intimidated by their great learning because he had the greatest education any person could or can receive—he had the Lord’s learning. One’s formal education will be of great benefit in this life, but once life is over, without the Lord’s learning, that formal education goes to the grave with the deceased, and it certainly will be of no benefit then. On the other hand, the one who learns from the Lord not only benefits in this life, the Lord’s education graduates him and her to that Glorious Home of a “diploma” gained by the Lord’s grace and mercy.

I long for graduation, do you?

The UMC and Division

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The United Methodist Church (UMC) and the current issue of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual) is causing major problems for the church.

The UMC is a man-made religious institution that had no authority to exist as a “church”. The word “church” in the New Testament (New Testament) is a word that pertains to those called out of the world into a holy relationship with the Father and His way of holiness. This is important to notice.

Holiness is not the way of man in society, but the way of the Lord in the society of man. When people confuse this, the way of man becomes the way of holiness. Consider the words of Jeremiah in the long ago, when he said: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it? I, Jehovah, search the mind, I try the heart, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (17:9, 10, ASV).

If the heart of man, without the Lord, is corrupt, what makes us think man knows the way of holiness? Arrogance and a want-to-believe philosophy, for there is no other reason than these two. The Lord also said, via Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith Jehovah. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (55:8, 9).

According to CNN (https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/03/us/united-methodist-church-split-proposal/index.html), the UMC is on the verge of a split over the issue of LGBT). According to one university professor, “‘A set of complex church issues were reduced to a showdown between the left and the right, “progressives” and “traditionalists,”’ he said in a statement. ‘Both factions love their take on the issues more than the continuance of the United Methodist Church. The bishops — unable to lead continuing discussion of our differences — have now decided that the best they can do is to oversee church disintegration’.”

In the CNN piece, I noticed not one reference to what the Scripture teaches, to what the Lord said on the topic. This is significant. Why so? Because, it matters not to them what the Lord said, but what the people want. To the Philippians, Paul wrote, “For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ” (2:21). Just one chapter over, he also wrote of those whose end “…is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things” (3:19, ESV).

Not long ago, a sister (Jo Kaye Miller) told me she had to counsel a preacher (Dick Miller) on his problem with the Lord. The preacher put “love they neighbor” above the “love the Lord” emphasizing one’s response to people more than one’s response to the Lord. This, it appears, is what the UMC is doing.

In the end, while here on earth, people have their ears tickled when they are made to feel worthy while engaging in behavior that will cost them their soul. The blind that lead the blind, where do you think that will lead them!

I Don't Care

When I obeyed the Gospel of Christ in 1983 (New Mexico), I was on fire! Being on fire can be a good thing, or not. With me, it was a little bit of both. On fire for the Lord meant that I soaked up what I could learn, but on fire for the Lord, in my case, meant I turned over many fragile vases and was unable to glue them back together.

Since that time, it has been me desire, with all my manifold failings, to know the Lord and His way; more than just know it, also to teach it. I have been teaching in one capacity or another since 1989. I have learned much. I went from one extreme, but not quite to the other. I was once a radical in the movement associated with New Testament Christianity; I am no longer there. I never gave any consideration to going to the other extreme of being a radical on the left (no substance), but neither did I progress from radical conservative to anything remote considered liberal Christianity.

I have moderated, however. In New Testament studies, I am clearly a conservative and a very aggressive conservative. I strongly believe in my way of thinking (who of us don’t) and I seek to promote it when and where I can. In this approach, I do what I can to exhibit charity (Matt. 7:12).

Still, there are some in the radical right who look upon me as being associated with false teachers. I don’t care! There is not an ounce of truth in it – but I don’t care. I will stay with what the Lord expressly wrote, teach it, defend it and call upon others to walk along with me in it. If I am wrong, another will call me out and we can study together. If you are wrong, I will try to do the same.

It was Paul who wrote to the saints in Ephesus about speaking the truth in love. I hope that is what we all do.

The Number of the Beast

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The number of the beast (666) in Revelation 13 is directly associated with man, man being a servant of the “god of this world” (2 Cor. 4:4). This means, in religious terms, man-made religions and churches are directly associated with the mark of the beast because their origins are related to man’s wisdom. Whatever the specific application of 666 in the context of Revelation 13, the principle of man-made religions still applies (Prov. 14:12). There needs to be more respect for God and His Word / Authority than exhibited in the religious world and it people’s lives. RT

The Lord’s Prayer

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It was Jesus’ prayer to the Father for those who belong to Him to be one (John 17:21), that is, to be one in spirit and purpose. This will be the case if those who belong to Him allow the Word to control their lives and the way things are done relative to religious matters. Unfortunately, one can look around and see those who call themselves Christians are hardly one in spirit and purpose. They are not one in name (Baptist Church, Catholic Church, Methodist Church, Lutheran Church, etc.) and neither are they one in doctrine (saved by faith alone, not saved by faith alone, once saved always saved, one can lose their salvation, women preacher and elders, no women preachers nor elders, etc.).

Did Jesus’ prayer fail? No, it did not fail, and neither will it fail when those who abide in His word (John 8:31-32) do things in Bible ways and call things by Bible names. This cliché is a powerful one. While some denigrate it, they do so because they have failed to understand and appreciate its influential drawing power. Back in 1982-83, this phrase took me from a man-made institution and started me on my path to study the Scripture in order to be sure I am on the Lord’s path. I don’t want to be on a path set in place by man.

There were consequences (or a fallout) to my decision; I made many, far too many, mistakes in my learning and walking with the Lord. Still, I stayed the course. I was convinced of its rightness then, and no less so today. I desired conversation with any and all in matters pertaining to wisdom of the approach, would even debate any who challenged it. I now have nearly 40 years of experience.

In John 18:38, Pilate asked, “What is truth?” This, too, is a powerful expression. What is truth? From the words of Jesus, His words are truth. That means, in matters pertaining to God, anything that comes from man is not the truth of God. Such things that come from man that are not connected to the truth of God are 1) a person is saved by faith alone. This is not a teaching of the New Testament (James 2:24). Try as one might, it won’t be found. What will be found is one is saved by faith. The two expressions are not the same. If one is saved by faith alone, that means God’s essential command of repentance is not required. Who will argue for this? Some, in reply, say faith and repentance are two sides of the same coin. Really? It was John who said this is not so when he said some believed but would not repent (John 12:42-43). 2) Some will say, in religious matters, there is nothing in a name. What they mean is this: there is nothing in the name of a religious group of people who call themselves by a name not found in the Bible. As far as they are concerned, all roads (in Protestant Christianity) lead to heaven. Is that true, however? Think along this line. You are a male/husband/father, would you want your wife to take the name of another man when she is married to you? In Ephesians 5, the Lord’s apostle said as the husband is the head of the wife, so Christ is the head of the church (5:23), the church is presented to Himself as a people unblemished (5:26). There is no chance the Lord is going to accept a name He does not recognize. A name denotes identification, possession, even doctrine. Do you think I am wrong? 3) Related to the previous point, in the New Testament, the local church is set up, organized after God’s pattern. In Philippians 1:1, Paul addressed his letter to the elders, deacons and the congregation. Elders? This word corresponds to other English words such as bishop, overseer, pastor and presbyter. In the New Testament, these men are married and with children, but not just children, faithful children. In fact, Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to set up the church appointing elders and deacons in every church. Yet, in today’s Protestant churches, we hardly have this. We have “pastor” who is the preacher, married or not, children or not; male or not. Does any of this matter? To the Lord it does.  

The above long paragraph is to illustrate the importance of staying with the Lord’s way, doing Bible things in Bible ways and calling Bible things by Bible names. Some may dismiss it for any number of reasons, but if one’s heart is loyal to the Lord, obedient to the Lord and His way, if one listens and obeys the Lord’s prayer of John 17, this is what he and she will do. RT

Blind Leading the Blind

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If the blind lead the blind, then both the blind and those led by the blind will fall into the ditch.

Who are the blind? When Jesus spoke His words (Matthew 15:14), He was speaking of the religious leaders and their precepts or commands of men. The word tradition, a word Jesus used in this context, is a word that means “passing down.” The word can be understood in a favorable context as well as unfavorable. When Jesus used the word, it was most certainly unfavorable. Why so unfavorable? Because the passing down of teachings from men had the effect of neutralizing God’s word, His will for the nation of Israel. This resulted in religious leaders and teachers setting to the side the Lord’s express will and living by the guidance of man. Jesus called these leaders blind, and to make it even worse, those who follow their teachings are themselves blind.

We live in a context today that is similar. We have blind religious leaders leading blind religious people (or semi religious) and both will fall into the ditch. Here are some examples. First, there is the common teaching that many churches subscribe to what is called the sinners prayer. Here is what they mean: a contrite person is to pray a particular prayer asking Jesus into that person’s heart. This is not Bible teaching; the closest one can get to wanting the Bible to teach this is Luke 18:9-14. Read it, ask yourself if this is a prayer by a sinner asking Jesus into his heart. Now compare that with what Peter said to those in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

The difference can’t be more obvious. If that is the case, then why do so many people follow this way of thinking? Just like they were in Jesus’ day, they are today. The blind lead the blind. If the blind don’t know (or refuse to believe) what the Bible teaches, how are they going to accurately teach? They can’t.

Lesson: search the Scriptures to see if that which is taught is so (Acts 17:11). If the thinking of your way can’t hold the day throw it away.

Wisdom and Foolishness

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The Proverbs of Solomon. The wise in heart will receive commandments; But a prating fool shall fall (Proverbs 10:8, ASV). Wisdom, by most, is measured by what a person accumulates in experiences. If you live to be 75 then, presumably, you will be wiser than a 55 years old person because you have experienced much more. This is not an unreasonable interpretation, but it is mistaken. Wisdom is not measured by years of experience, but by the knowledge one gains, coupled with consistent application in difficult circumstances, then add to this the years of experience. If wisdom is connected with knowledge, then what is the source of that knowledge? There are only two sources. One source is God, the other source is not. That’s it. Paul wrote, For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe (1 Cor. 1:21). Paul makes a contrast. There is wisdom that comes from man without God with the wisdom that comes from God to man. The wise in heart will hear God and obey, but the foolish person will have little time for God because the Almighty does not perpetuate one ambition in this world. I don’t want to be a fool; how about you? RT

BOND OF PEACE AND DOGS

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The scriptures are clear. The Lord’s apostle said the saints are to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3). That can hardly happen where there is present a “Mr. Diotrephes” or a “Mrs. Diotrephes.” John wrote with regard to the “Diotrephes” spirit, “I wrote somewhat unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not” (3 John 9). This is the disposition of a person who wants his (or her) say and way. Those who are of this attitude and spirit have no regard for the words of the Holy Spirit.

In the “funnies” section of the newspaper, the cartoon “The Middletons” make a perfect illustration. There are two dogs barking continuously (like dogs sometimes do). One dog stops and asks, “What are we barking at?” The other dog replies, “A leaf fluttered to the ground.” “Oh” came the reply. The dogs resume barking fervently. This a perfect illustration of the Diotrephes spirit that exists with some. It begins with a lack of biblical knowledge, continues with failure to gain knowledge of the situation as it needs to be properly understood, then proceeds with a lack of a charitable disposition toward the thinking and ways of someone else, coupled with a desire to have control / power / influence over others (all in a compelled sort of way, at least some of the time), all to arrive at a point of “we don’t need a reason of substance, let us just make up one.”

The Diotrephes spirit in a local congregation is exhibited in more than just what the Lord’s apostle wrote; it’s exhibited in identifying “sound brethren” and only those who are identified can be fellowshipped, in telling a preacher from what exclusive translation he can preach (and it better not be the Greek text!), how the preacher can make no use of illustrations that come from life but can only come from Genesis to Revelation (Paul and Jesus would both have been condemned by the Diotrephes spirited person). The Diotrephes spirit splits churches, sometimes those splits manifest themselves in a congregation imploding, the majority of the saints walking out to start a new work or wandering off “back into the mire.”  

Maybe you know someone in the congregation where you worship manifesting all of this, or only some of it. If so, you are headed down a path that brings frustration, confusion and heartache.

What the Lord’s apostle said in Ephesians is not an option or suggestion, it is a command of the Holy Spirit. Those who divide churches because of the Diotrephes spirit will answer the Lord for their self-exultations. We may wonder, sometimes, who is guilty of this sort of thinking. Generally speaking, however, the Diotrephes spirited person is manifest to all. When we wonder, we can be sure the Lord knows! “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beseech you to walk worthily of the calling wherewith ye were called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; giving diligence to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3, ASV). RT

Teach and Help Them

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Teach and Help Them

               Why do people leave the Lord? There are a number of reasons; let me identify some. First, parents talk better than they live; when the child grows up, since the Lord’s way made little to no difference to the parents in the way life was lived, it must not be all that important for the child in his or her own life. Second, what I learn in my science classrooms (through the years), the preacher and the elders can’t or won’t refute (such as evolution). It must be the preacher and the elders are not all that certain about what they believe. Perhaps the preacher and elders have no depth of knowledge to help me as I try to understand the difficulties of life. If they can’t help when science challenges, why should I think they can help in other areas. Third, there is too much confusion in the religious world; I can hardly make sense of it all. All these people who say they believe in God hardly agree on much of anything! Even though I have heard God is not a god of confusion, it seems exactly the opposite is the case. Fourth, I see all these people come to the church building and pretend they are religiously devoted, but then I hear them as they go out the door speak badly about someone or something; I wonder if there is any good that comes from their mouths. Fifth, I have had bad experiences with those who call themselves Christians.                The list could go on, but you get the point. I received an email the other day from The Worldview Bulletin Newsletter that spoke of a research project about people leaving the church (this research was conducted by UCLA; they have a broader understanding of the word church than what the New Testament teaches). The reasons were multiple; the paragraph above reflects some of those reasons. What can we do to give attention to this? First, live what you believe! If you call yourself a Christian, live as Christ did. Don’t be a “fake” Christian. Second, do not have a superficial knowledge of the Bible, but have substantive knowledge, knowledge that can be instilled in the youth because you not only know what the Bible teaches, where it teaches it, but also why it is taught and the importance in living that way. This entails effort on your part, much effort. Put what you learned to good use. Third, don’t make “church going” a matter of convenience or duty, but because you are devoted to the Lord and would rather be no other place. You’ll help yourself by not having too many activities going on. The Lord is your priority, and His saving institution (the church) is your priority also. If you say that you do, and show up infrequently, your children have already learned your priority. Fourth, if problems arise in the church be sure you contribute to a solution rather than the problem. Too many run away. This teaches volumes! Some will turn away regardless, but don’t let that be you. Do what you can to teach them and help them to stay. RT

Walk Sure

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The Proverbs of Solomon He that walketh uprightly walketh surely; But he that perverteth his ways shall be known (Proverbs 10:9, ASV). It’s very important for people to have dignity and integrity in their lives. The word dignity means one is worthy of honor and respect, while integrity means one is honest, having strong moral principles. One’s dignity is sacrificed if the life lived is not worthy of honor or respect. For instance, a person chooses to wallow in pits with hogs engaged in behavior that is destructive to his or her life. This could means drugs, alcohol, sexual promiscuity, greed and many other things. Once this dignity is sacrificed it is exceptionally hard to get back. Associated with dignity is integrity. The strong moral principles that a person should live by, once sacrificed, means the person wanders from one way of thinking to another, like a piece of driftwood on the water. Perhaps in the lives of each of us we have wondered about ourselves whether or not we have cut into or own dignity and integrity, weakening the two pillars in our life that give self-respect. The proverb gives an exhortation that it does not have to be that way, and it won’t be if a choice is made, from the beginning, to choose the Lord’s way. What if I didn’t choose the Lord’s way at the beginning? Then start now. It may be your bad-reputation will follow you, but as you choose to follow the Lord, what was once lost will soon return because people notice the one who walks uprightly, according to a standard not his own. RT