Eschewing Sin

Posted on May 2, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 1 Comment |

Repentance seems to be an evil word (or at least an evil concept) in today’s religious world. One cannot talk about what practices need to be removed from the life of another without being accused of judging…and we all know that Jesus said that you should not judge! While a further discussion of Matthew 7:1-2 (the source most use to claim that Jesus said that we should not judge) would certainly be beneficial, it is beyond the scope of this particular study. However, there is much in the epistles of Paul that convey the importance of repentance. We will be considering, at least briefly, Ephesians 5:1-21.

Be imitators of God…

Paul encouraged the Ephesian brethren to imitate God, as a child would imitate his father (Ephesians 5:1). Lest the reader be left in the dark about what such a teaching could mean, Paul spent several verses addressing the specific actions that one would adopt, or that one would reject, if he were to be an imitator of God, our Father.

Paul’s instructions were not merely a suggestion for the first century Christians. These instructions were delivered so that Christians could know what God expected of them. That point was made abundantly clear by Paul in the following verses!   Read more

Every Spiritual Blessing

Posted on March 22, 2017 by
Filed Under Exhortation, From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 2 Comments |

Paul, as he began the epistle to the Ephesians (chapter 1), wrote of how they had available to them “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ…” This begins a powerful section of scripture in which Paul enumerates several (but not all) of these blessings. The importance of this statement is far reaching!

If every spiritual blessing is “in Christ” then that leaves no room for any other source of blessing! This is the same idea that Peter and John conveyed to the Sanhedrin concerning Jesus:

Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)

All spiritual blessing, including that of eternal salvation, is found only in Christ!

Paul, when writing to the Galatian brethren made it clear that there was one way to be in Christ:

For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)

Only when one is baptized into Christ has he put on Christ. One is not “in Christ” if he has not yet been baptized into Christ!

Paul was, therefore, writing to those in Ephesus who had already been baptized into Christ, and reminding them of the blessings that were available to them in Christ. We can briefly consider the blessings that Paul enumerated for these brethren, and understand that the same blessings are available to those who are baptized into Christ today as well!   Read more

Trusting the Source of the Gospel

Posted on February 23, 2017 by
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In our last article, we examined Paul’s warning to the Galatian brethren that they not follow after a “different gospel,” which he declared to be a perversion or distortion of the one true gospel message.

After issuing this warning, Paul gave several reasons why the Galatian brethren could trust that the message he delivered to them was in fact the one true gospel message, and not a perversion or distortion.

It was not man’s gospel.  The first test of the true gospel was its source. Paul declared that he had not received the message of the gospel he taught from other men (Galatians 1:12), but that he had instead received it directly from the Lord.

After his conversion, Paul did not go directly to the other apostles or anyone else to learn the whole of the message that was to be declared throughout the  world. Instead, he went to Arabia      (Galatians 1:17). Where had the message of the Judaizing teachers originated? It was clear that it had not come from Jerusalem (see Acts 15), which means it was not from the apostles. They had not received a new revelation that confirmed their proclamations (that was the point of Paul’s initial warning in Galatians 1:6-10). Therefore, the source of their message was not divine in nature, but, rather, was from man.

There are really only two possibilities when it comes to the source of information. Jesus faced the same issue and confronted those who sought to challenge Him:

But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”  (Matthew 21:24–25)

Every teaching is either from man, or from God. That which comes from God is what He expects His people to follow and obey. That which comes from man is at best a perversion of His message! Why would anyone want to follow that which is a perversion of God’s will?   Read more

The Threat of Another Gospel…

Posted on February 23, 2017 by
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Short Pauline Epistles | 1 Comment |

Paul, as he wrote to the Galatian brethren, warned them that there would be some who would come to them and teach something other than the pure, uncorrupted gospel message (Galatians 1:6-10). From the earliest of times, the danger of mankind corrupting the true gospel was real, and it was dangerous!

While Paul was dealing with the specific problem of Judaizing teachers insisting that Gentiles follow the law of Moses before becoming Christians, the principle Paul was teaching continues on today. There are those who make changes to the gospel message, either by adding to or taking away from that which was revealed in the first century. The consequence of these changes is the same as it was when Paul gave his warning to the Galatians!

Paul made it clear that there was only one gospel message. There were some who were trying to teach “another gospel,” but Paul emphasized the point that this “other gospel” was really not another gospel at all!

…which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (Galatians 1:7)

To really understand the full import of Paul’s statement, we must understand what the gospel is. Essentially, gospel means: good tidings. The true gospel message was indeed a message of good tidings to those who heard it, and especially to those who obeyed. However, a corrupted message, while it may have made those proclaiming it, or those receiving it, feel good about themselves, would not provide true good tidings. The true gospel was a message of salvation, but the corrupted gospel led to destruction. Because of this, Paul declared that those who taught such a corrupted gospel were to be accursed (Galatians 1:8-9). This indicates just how seriously God takes the one true gospel message. Those who teach something that is different, something that corrupts the true gospel message, are accursed. Their message does not bring the true good tidings of salvation, but rather a message that leads to condemnation; for themselves and all those who follow after them! Read more

Wisdom Devotional: Day 11

Posted on February 2, 2017 by
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Here is day 11 of 365 Days of Wisdom.  Remember to click on the page below to see the full size page!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 10

Posted on January 2, 2017 by
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Here is Day 10 of the wisdom devotional, 365 Days of Wisdom.  Today, we think about the problem of pride…something that most (if not everyone) struggles with…at least from time to time!

Remember to click on the thumbnail below to see the full size page!

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A Word About the Election…

Posted on November 4, 2016 by
Filed Under Current Events | 1 Comment |

Here we are, just 4 days out from Election Day in the United States. If you are anything like me, you are at the point of complete aggravation at the political ads that are constantly broadcast on television and radio. Regardless of who you might be choosing to vote for, you are probably ready for all the noise to stop!

The point of this article is not to, in any way, address the decision you might make concerning who to vote for. Instead, I want us to think about something much more important from a Christian standpoint.

This presidential election has shown just how divided the country has become. Certainly, it has been divided for a long time, but this election cycle has seen the candidates intentionally seize on that division as a part of their campaigning strategy. It shouldn’t be surprising to see such division in the population as a whole. However, there has also been a great division among those who identify themselves as “Christians.” And that division has become extremely tumultuous.  Those who should be brethren are treating one another like enemies. There have been attacks ranging from mocking or ridicule to a blatant questioning of one’s relationship with God, based not only on a disagreement on candidates, but also a disagreement on whether one would choose to vote or not! This simply should not be!

I want to consider a few points that hopefully will cause us to consider the importance of not allowing things of this world, such as politics, to cause issues between brethren.

Involvement in politics is not required to be a “good Christian.”  Contrary to what I have seen in multiple online discussions, Christians have no “obligation” to participate in politics. While I do believe that Christians can participate in the election process here in the United States, if they so choose, it is a right that they have, not a responsibility. The difference is that a right is something that can be exercised, or can be set aside. A person does not have to exercise a right! There is certainly no biblical passage, or even principle, that would suggest that a Christian has a responsibility (something that can’t be set aside, but must be done) to participate in the election process.

Your candidate is probably not more moral than another.  Those who choose to vote often find themselves in the unenviable position of having to choose, in their judgment, the “lesser of two evils” to vote for. They find that they are not particularly happy with any candidate, but based on their own criteria (based as best they can upon biblical principles, perhaps) they try to choose the best candidate possible. In the end, the sad truth is that (at least at the national level) good men and women don’t make it into positions of power. There are differing types of immorality, and yet it is immorality all the same. Because of this, there is no “high moral ground” when it comes to picking a candidate. This is why both sides attack the morality of the other side. They both have plenty of ammunition to throw around. Those who try to declare that they are voting for the more moral candidate are truly deceiving themselves, or ignoring the immorality of that candidate. Causing division by accusing brethren of voting for “immorality” is disingenuous at best!

Voting for a particular candidate will not save or destroy the republic.  The divisive rhetoric that has invaded the worldly campaigning has found its way into the vernacular of Christians. They have begun fighting among themselves, declaring that if their brethren don’t side with them then they will be responsible for the downfall of the nation. The problem with this line of thinking is that it ignores the fact that God is indeed in control of nations (Daniel 4:32, 5:21)! While we have the right to cast a vote for the person we believe to be the best option, when God makes a decision concerning our nation, He will implement His plan regardless of what we think is best. It is safe to say that the Jews would never have “voted” for Nebuchadnezzar, yet God used him to achieve His purposes.

Voting is a purely individual choice. Perhaps more than any previous election, I have seen Christians make accusations against their brethren concerning their choice for whom to vote. “If you vote for Candidate C, you are really just voting for Candidate A!” “If you choose not to vote, you are really voting for Candidate A!” Not only is this argumentation completely illogical, it is being used as a methodology of attacking brethren! I have seen Christians’ spirituality called into question because they have suggested they may vote for a 3rd party candidate, or choose not to vote at all! I have seen accusations that Christians support ungodly acts (most notably abortion) if they choose to either not vote, or vote for a candidate other than the one the accuser has chosen. Trying to shame, bully or force someone to choose the same candidate that we have chosen is not how we should be acting! Politics can be interesting, and there is certainly room for rational discussion and even trying to sway others to the candidate we might choose. However, that should be done with truthful and accurate information, not with scare tactics and accusations.

Your vote is not going to correct moral deficiency. Those who vote should most certainly examine party platforms and try to support a platform that they can at least mostly agree with. However, there is a challenge that Christians should consider seriously. Morality cannot be legislated. Don’t misunderstand my point here. I will, given every opportunity, vote for morality. I will vote to defend marriage. I will vote to end abortion. I would vote for any ballot initiative that prioritizes morality over immorality. However, even when casting such a vote, we need to realize that morality cannot be forced by law. No matter how many laws are passed against immoral activity, people will still be immoral. Two examples can be given. The first comes from scripture. In Josiah’s day, he did all he could to eradicate idolatry and return the people to following the Lord. However, their “morality” was not a conviction of heart. As soon as Josiah was gone, the people reverted to their previous  state. They could not be forced to do God’s will by legislation; they needed their hearts converted to His ways. The second example comes from our own history. Alcohol was outlawed. While we might applaud the sentiment, the results were disastrous. Rather than doing away with an immorality, trying to legislate it away led to more immorality. Voting, while providing us a public voice, does not fix moral problems. Christians who put their trust in the voting process, thinking it will bring a nation closer to God, have the wrong perspective on living in this world. We do not enact change by forcing morality through legislative means, but rather by working in our God given responsibility of spreading the gospel message. The only type of change that will be effective (and permanent) is the changing of a person’s heart. If some would spend as much time preaching the gospel as they do campaigning for political candidates, real change might be more evident!

There are certainly many more points that could be addressed. There are, perhaps, innumerable areas where Christians are dividing in this political environment. But the question becomes, “What’s next?”

Unfortunately, with all of the brashness and incivility surrounding this election, there are bad feelings that exist between brethren. I know that those who are being very vocal concerning their choice in candidates think they are doing a good thing. They believe they are correct, and that they are doing what is best for the country. These actions, however, are not what is best for the Lord’s church and relationships between brethren.

When the election is over, one person will be the new president. We will continue to live in this nation. More importantly, we will still have the same responsibilities that exist today. We have the responsibility to treat brethren with love and respect. We have the responsibility of edifying brethren. We have the responsibility of teaching the gospel to those who are around us dying spiritually in sin. We need to conduct ourselves in this present hostile environment with the kind of demeanor that ensures that we can continue with our more important work! We do not want to instill bitterness in those with whom we should have a Christian relationship. We do not want to harm our own reputation among those with whom we hope to share the gospel. We certainly do not want to put political beliefs and activism above the truth of scripture and spiritual relationships. Yet, there are many who will side with the ungodly to bash their own brethren because of a disagreement over political candidates. This ought not be!

So, as these difficult times continue moving forward, remember that being a Christian is far more important than being an American. Your spirituality should trump your patriotism. Perhaps the best way to close the ideas I have tried to convey here is to simply quote the apostle Paul, as he wrote to the brethren at Philippi:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1–4)

Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern. For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things. For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:17–21)

Let us conduct ourselves as Christians all the time. Let us remember that our citizenship is in heaven, and that is far more important than any election cycle or candidate. Let us treat one another with the love and respect that is befitting those who are true servants of God.

Wisdom Devotional: Day 9

Posted on October 12, 2016 by
Filed Under 365 Days of Wisdom | Leave a Comment |

Here is the 9th installment of the 365 days of wisdom. This one hits home…as sometimes I am too quick to “like” or “share” information on social media that is just not accurate. It is easy to jump on board with some meme or post that reflects what we already believe, or want to believe, without verifying the actual truth of the statements.  I fell for one such thing just yesterday, and so I was in need of the reminder of the post below!

Remember, you can click on the page below to see the full size PDF. Share this with your friends, if you find it useful!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 8

Posted on October 7, 2016 by
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Here is the 8th installment of the posts of Wisdom Devotionals.  You can click on the page below to see the full sized PDF version.  Use the buttons to the left to share with your friends!

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Wisdom Devotional: Day 7

Posted on September 29, 2016 by
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Here is day 7 of 365 Days of Wisdom from the Proverbs.  Click the page below to see the full size PDF.  Thanks for reading, and if you find something of value here, please share with your friends and family!

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