OCCASIONALLY WE DO

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From the vantage point of humanity, to fail to drive out the people of Canaan when Israel went from Egypt to the land the Lord God promised was merciful. From the vantage point of the Lord it was both resistance to His will and destructive to them morally and spiritually. The Lord knew (and knows) what He is talking about! We (or people), on the other hand, only do occasionally. There were some who saw it the way the Lord, but not enough of them did. Through the years the proverb “wisdom is justified by her children” shows itself to be true—as it always does. RT

The Value of Relationships

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How do you view work?

“I view work as a necessary function of life that generates for me an income.”

“I view work as a pleasant experience in life that gets me out of the house and away from tension at home.”

“I view work not only as necessary, but something I enjoy because of how I feel at the end of the day – I contributed.”

Perhaps there are many other answers to the question “How do you view work?” Sometimes work is an escape. One can go to work and hide from matters at home or hide from struggles in the world that may be both at home and in other areas of life. There are many occasions when disappointment sets in and going to work allows the disappointment to be shelved to the corner of the mind where one is not quickly going to think about it. Sometimes work is a chore because the people one works with is less than they should be. It seems as if Pete always wants to control things, the manager is failing in her responsibilities, and cares only for the dollar, not the service rendered! Being productive is beneficial to not only the one working, but also in relation to the service rendered; thus, it is very important. Some guidance from Ecclesiastes can be of help to see this.

Think about work from the perspective of Ecclesiastes 4:8. Solomon reflected on the miseries of life from the perspective of “under the sun.” He concluded long before the famous words of chapter 12, life is meaningless without God. In the course his discussion on these things, he reflected on the man who works, but works all alone. He is 1) alone, without a partner, 2) has no family, 3) works incessantly, 4) is not satisfied with what he accomplished, 5) does not reflect on the purpose for what he does.

I watched a show called “Strange Inheritance” about a man who had a hobby that consumed him; he married in 1951 (I think), and by the time 1971 came around, he was divorced. There are far more complicating reasons for divorce than what the show could portray, but it left this impression – he was a man consumed by his hobby. That which he did conveyed to his wife he was more interested in his hobby than in her. Sometimes people tend to matters outside the family that are related to work, hobbies and/or recreation – all the while making major contributions to the family’s destruction.

The preacher in Ecclesiastes does not speak well of a person who is a workaholic, and the preacher (Solomon) speaks from much wisdom. Two things for which one needs reminding on matters like this. First, a workaholic is depriving his family of the love and attention promised when the wedding vows were made. This is a major contribution to the demise of the family, starting with the husband and wife. When such things occur, the contributor is thinking and standing opposed to the Lord, and it does not matter they would deny it—their life expresses what words refuse to convey. It is obvious to anyone this person thinks only about self and self’s interests. When Jesus taught His disciples about the sanctity of marriage, He said this: “Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” The workaholic is guilty of exactly this!

Second, the solution is not in work, but in relationship. The relationship must first start with the Lord, and this is not simply a matter of “being baptized”! It’s a matter of daily walking with the Lord. Second, one’s relationship with the spouse must be nurtured. Third, building relationships with people actually makes one stronger in character. Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 and see what you think. Denney Petrillo said four things result in these relationships; there is more productivity in two working together than one, there is mutual care as the two works toward a single end, the warmth in the two can be practical (husband/wife) and emotional (as in emotional support), the safety of two or more is obvious in comparison with only one.

The pictures below speak volumes about relationships—both in the Lord’s family and one’s personal family. What are you doing to enhance both? RT

BEHIND BLUE EYES

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I have always liked the song with the title “Behind Blue Eyes” by the rock group The Who. It is a song the singer, writer and just about anyone else can relate to in a special way. Not everything in the song relates, but the general tenor of the song connects with people very well, perhaps like the song by Keith Whitely, “I am no stranger to the Rain.”

Both musical tunes in different genres connect with the struggles people have regularly. No matter how vibrant a person a person appears on stage, on television, or in public in a different venue, the same struggles are present.

A young lady lost the “love of her life” because she made a choice and it did not include him. He moved on, but she struggled more than she realized when she saw him again. A young professional man is about to get married because “it’s the logical step” to a long relationship, and all the while the young lady does not feel loved, but only lonely. A powerful woman in the business world can’t seem to connect with a male because she is always afraid the male (now boyfriend) is interested in her because of her position.

Each one presents themselves in a façade sort of way, allowing others to think that behind those blue (any color) eyes, all is well, when things are not well at all.

Blue eyes crying in the rain!

When Solomon was standing in front of the people praying to the Lord, dedicating the newly built Temple in Jerusalem, he used a word any thoughtful person can relate to. “What prayer and supplication soever be made by any man, or by all thy people Israel, which shall know every man the plague of his own heart, and spread forth his hands toward this house” (1 Kings 8:38, KJV).

Did you notice it? The word is “plague.” When every person knows the plague of his own heart, when that person prays, in this case toward the Temple, Solomon appeals to the Lord to hear and heal. Other translations use words and terms like affliction, wound, heartfelt sorrow, pain, their troubles, but most (that I have) uses the word plague.

That word conveys to me in a most accurate way what the Lord wants me to understand. That which I have in my heart, that with which I continually contend with is a plague, a disease that if not addressed will kill me, and in this case, spiritually. When Solomon prayed, he prayed the Lord would hear and heal, but the one who prays must first heed.

Behind blue eyes that are crying in the rain – there is a solution, and the solution is not within self. The solution is the Lord. It always has been, and it will never be anything but Him. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). RT

I AM INTERESTED—BUT NOT REALLY!

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Have you someone say something like this: “I am interested in learning more about God, but I don’t have time to study the Bible with you.” How about this: “I am interested in fixing problems in my life, but I don’t have the time to study the Bible with you.” It’s a common approach, an approach that wants something of great value, but there is little interest in taking necessary time to attain that which is of great value. In this “instant-gratification-society” in which we live, should we not gain that which is important similar to how fast we gain information on the internet? These same people who approach what they clearly know is very important, then wonder, “Why does the Lord let these things happen to me!”

Because this approach is applied by both the “Christian” and non-Christian, the words of Paul still have application. “For those who live in Jerusalem and their rulers, because they did not recognize him nor understand the utterances of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath, fulfilled them by condemning him” (Acts 13:27, ESV). The Lord’s prophet, Hosea, once boldly spoke that the Lord’s people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Many today who identify themselves as belonging to the Lord will experience the same, and for the same reason. RT

What is Inappropriate Contact?

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I feel compelled to write a word on this topic because of a Facebook post I saw the other day. A brother lamented a situation in the congregation where he is serving about an accusation by a lady toward another person (male) about inappropriate contact (I noticed he did not identify her as a sister in the Lord). The accusation was loud, and visitors saw this. You can imagine the response.

What is inappropriate contact? Many folks are not sure what it is in today’s “accusatory environment.” Accusations fly, and whether accurate or not, some lives are destroyed or adversely affected.

I can safely and biblically say that any contact that is contrary to biblical principles would be inappropriate contact, and who would disagree? No one that I l know of; still, what constitutes inappropriate contact? At the very least, it means there is no touching a person in any way that can be misconstrued or interpreted as a sexual advance. Unfortunately, some want attention, or some want to misinterpret innocent touching with sexual advancement.

Is hugging a child, a person of the opposite sex, or person of the same gender inappropriate? No. In today’s environment, however, it can be easily seen as improper, and in many cases it’s because what is appropriate is not known/understood. This gets us to trying to understand a proper measuring standard by which to judge.

There are so many that are truly guilty of inappropriate actions, misplaced words, and activities that are contrary to the Lord’s way, the proper standard by which to judge. Those who are guilty make it bad for everyone else. The failings of man, in this context, the male, has been around since the time of the Garden, but as the male is guilty, the female is not innocent. The actions of some have made genuine warmth scarce. So many who are truly guilty have “spoiled” the whole bunch.

No Christian should be involved with inappropriate touching, speaking, actions, even thinking! If one is, then the one who is guilty needs to be addressed at the lowest level (Matthew 18:15-17), so understanding and correction can be attained. When one makes it public, when no attention or effort is given to the matter in private, the one going public wants attention. No longer is it a matter of right-conduct or correction, but it then becomes “I want attention and I want you to look and hear me.”

Precisely identifying inappropriate contact in all regards is impossible; there is some contact that is easily and properly interpreted as improper, but there is some contact that is not easily seen to be or interpreted as improper. Here is the “rule of thumb” to think and live by: “My son, do not forget my law, But let your heart keep my commands…And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:1, 4-7, NKJV). RT

A Generated Outlook

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Because the ACLU (and similar groups) reject God, such sentiments like Daniel Webster’s fall to the ground like a mother’s tears. He once wrote, “There is nothing we look for with more certainty tha[n] this principle, that Christianity is a part of the law of the land. Everything declares it” (The Christian Life and Character of Civil Institutions of the United States, p. 245). There are many groups who reject God, such as the one identified (their denials not withstanding).

Rejecting God, such groups insist on secularism that generates little accountability that has any ultimate consequence. Thus, a deranged person thinks he (she) has nothing to lose when there is engagement in evil. Under the Lord’s way of thinking, there is only one penalty if conviction results. Under the way of thinking in this country, ambulance chasers instill doubt. With little accountability and no purpose or meaning in life, one takes a gun and levels all who stand at the other end of its barrel – for secularism’s philosophy (progressives/liberals) generate such an outlook. RT

Your Name is Aaron

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Your name is Aaron. You have been chosen by the Lord to lead the people of Israel in worship to the Lord. You know your responsibility will be great, but you don’t really know how great it will be. You can’t help but to be impressed with your younger brother Moses, for it was the Lord who chose Moses to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt, but you were fortunate to be by him to help and speak for him. Already to this point, you know the Lord.

You were there when the two of you presented yourselves before the king; you were there when you both were reprimanded by the people because the burdened became much heavier for them; you were there when Egypt’s king called Moses before him more than once seeking relief; you were there when Pharaoh sent you and the nation out of NE Africa with haste. You saw all of this, but more than having seen it, you experienced it. Now, the Lord choose you to lead His people. Your name is Aaron.

Through Moses, the Almighty tasked you to head up his priestly family. Moses was of the same ancestry as you, but it was you He chose. Now it begins to settle on you just how great a position of responsibility you have.

Moses calls you and your two sons, Nadab and Abihu, to be set apart for the Lord’s special work. As you look at your two sons, you are a proud father, but the significance of your role is yet before you. Animals are killed on the behalf of you three, and there is much symbolism administered as you three are set apart for a most important work. You are separated from the people at large and from your family for many days. Now it really begins to settle in on you just how important this work is. It begins to settle in, but it has not quite arrived at the point where it will settle in.

Not only are you given special clothing and set aside for a special work with much symbolism, but now you are presenting to the Lord only those things He wants done. By this time, you have come to honor, respect, revere and fear the Lord’s name and power. You are a changed man. Your two sons, you hope, have been changed as you have been. They experienced the same as you; perhaps their experience was not quite the same, but nearly so. Surely, as with your response, theirs is similar.

Now, you come to a part of the Divine service wherein an offering of incense to the Lord is to occur. You, with much devotion and respect, fulfill your responsibilities to this point; now it’s time for your sons to do the same. Before you know it, from heaven came fire and consumed them! Their lives are gone! Your mind is racing, wondering what just happened, and why it happened. Then you hear from Moses and begin to understand what happened. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified (Leviticus 10:3).

What in the world were Nadab and Abihu thinking that they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord? Some have suggested it was because of alcohol, for the Lord gives guidance concerning that in Leviticus 10. This may be exactly the problem, but I am inclined to think it was simply willful disobedience on their part to the Lord’s expressed way; they were thoughtless and careless. “Surely, the Lord will not be upset with a slight change in the offering of this incense! What difference does it make, anyway?”

Your name is Aaron. While you never met Jeremiah, you have come to learn by experience that which he wrote nearly a thousand years later, The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV). You have learned that the Lord knows your heart and the heart of every one of His created beings. LESSON: Never trifle with the Lord and His way, for one can be sure sin will find them out (Numbers 32:23). RT

 

DEPART FROM THE FAITH (2)

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Last week we gave attention to what the Holy Spirit said was going to be a “departing from the faith.” We noticed this occurs because a person has ears to hear, but chooses not to hear that which the Lord said; instead, there is a desire to hear what others think and see what others have done, then follow that pattern. This is not a recent phenomenon, of course, for it goes back to the days of the prophet Samuel. It was during the days of Samuel’s judgeship the people wanted a king; Samuel protested their desire, but the Lord said to grant them the request, and give warning concerning the nature of their king. Samuel did so; the people responded, “Nay; but we will have a king over us; That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:19-20, KJV).

In the pages of the New Testament, the structure of the local church is placed in the hands of the Lord Jesus. It was He who said that He would build His church and the gates of Hades (Hell) will not prevail against it (Matthew 16:13-19). The gates of Hades refer to death. Paul wrote to Timothy, “and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” (2 Timothy 1:10, ESV). Satan’s power over man was his death, both physical and spiritual.

Satan, however, can have no success at getting evil “in” the church (if you will) unless he is let in, and the Lord won’t do it! If the local church holds true to what the Lord taught, that is, the collective body of the saints (not a building), Satan is defeated every time. In relation to church history, it was not long before the “doors” of the New Testament church opened up and the “gates of Hades” made their way in!

In the New Testament, the church of our Lord appointed men to serve as elders (a term equivalent in function/work to bishops, presbyters, overseers or pastors), as leaders of the local congregation. Up until sometime after the end of the first century, going into the second century, this was the norm. Later, it changed. “It is evident, however, that till some time after the year 100, Rome, Greece, and Macedonia had at the head of each congregation a group of collegiate bishops, or presbyter-bishops, with a number of deacons as their helpers” (A History of the Christian Church, Williston Walker (1918), p. 46).

Is this an insignificant occurrence in church history? Not a chance! It was one of the first structural changes of the church after the simple plan of the New Testament was put in place by the Lord; He never gave authorization to a single man to alter what He set forth in the New Testament.

In another church history volume, the writer mentions that after A.D. 135, there was a single bishop in Jerusalem and one in Ephesus, because it was not until after the time of the apostles the monarchal (single) bishop came into existence (Christianity Through the Centuries, Earle Cairns (1954), cf. pages 126, 88).

When the structure on New Testament leadership is changed, as it was so long ago, it is but a short time later that others changes creep in also. History attests to this having occurred. Leadership in the New Testament church is a leadership that respects and insists on the Lord’s way, and only His way. A failure of leadership is to do things some other way. RT

DEPART FROM THE FAITH (1)

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The other day I was reading from a book that gave attention to the history of the church through the first five hundred years. As I was reflecting on that which I was reading, I took notice of what the book said about the church and compared it with what the New Testament said about the church. The two were different. That brings to mind the words of the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (KJV). Paul wrote to Timothy these words also, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:1-3).

I want you to notice the two passages again. First, people will not endure sound doctrine; that means there will be some who will not want to hear a “thus saith the Lord” from the pulpit or in the Bible class setting. Yet, the Holy Spirit said that if any man speaks, let him speak the very oracles (words) of God (1 Peter 4:11). Second, these same people who will not endure sound doctrine (words) are people who have ears to hear, but will only hear what they want to hear (they have itching ears). If/When something new is being done elsewhere, there is a tendency to give thought to “Why can’t we do that here?” which then translates into “We need to do that here!” Third, the “itching-ear-person” then turns to a preacher who gives an ointment that sooths the ear, and this is not a good thing! The Lord said this is a turning away from the truth unto things that are not true, but instead are fables in relation to God’s will. Fourth, this turning away results in departing from the faith, buying into the teachings of man so one does not look out of place in the religious world.

The church in the New Testament and the church in church history are not the same. They may have started out the same, but they turned into something different from one another. The church in the New Testament is a church with Jesus at its head, the foundation being Jesus and the words of the apostles. This means that the teachings of the church are to be, and only be, the teachings of the Lord and His designated servants. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 3:11). Again, …. the household of God…built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone… (cf. Eph. 2:19-22).

Because of such dangers, leadership in the New Testament church is a crucial issue. Leadership that respects and insists on the Lord’s way, and only His way, is in prime position to promote the Lord’s way in a dark world. the leadership of which I speak is not a reference to preachers or elders, but to each New Testament saint who love the Lord. They must exercise leadership in this dark world, for many who are lost are looking to them for guidance.

A failure of leadership is disastrous. RT

Atonement Day

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On the DAY of ATONEMENT, in Leviticus 16, one reads of the seriousness of sin in the life of the nation (and individual) – from the Lord’s perspective. Sin in the life of a person, under the teachings of the Old Testament, was so serious it actually adversely affected one’s relationship with the Lord. If not taken seriously by the one who was guilty of sin, that one’s relationship with the Lord would be severed on Judgment Day. Can you envision that?! I can, and thus the words of Paul in 2 Cor. 5:11 become very real to a person like me. “We know what it means to fear the Lord, and so we try to persuade others” (Good News Bible).

It will do us well (spiritually) to reflect on that in our own lives today. I am afraid there are many who fail to understand the seriousness of sin in one’s personal life. It is deadly and damning. RT