Stay Out of The Basket… 1 Peter

A rather odd instruction resulting from a bible study group I am in. As we studied the introduction to this book, we came to a point that required a simple answer. We were well into the introduction when the question was posed… “at this point in our study what would be a simple description of the state of things for these people and this time?” The one I liked best was an old cliche of back in the day… “the worlds going to hell in a handbasket.”  Thus the blog this week is to encourage you to “stay out of the basket.” For a long period of time as the early church came into its own Christians and those who professed their faith in Christ were not on the radar of the Roman Empire…they were classified as being religiones licitae, one of the permitted religions. As was the custom at that time Roman toleration was very wide, and that any religion which did not affect public morality and civil order was certain to be permitted. In the early days of Christianity Judaism was considered a religio licita, at that time the Romans did not know the difference between Judaism and Christianity. Christianity was under no threat because of the lack of knowledge that was available to Rome. The Romans just assumed it was a cult within Judaism. Nero changed all that with some help from some Jews. At first Nero blamed the fires in Rome on the Christians…then discovering that Judaism and Christianity were different, via some influential Jews, he then pursued a different way. This Christian cult was then declared a new and separate religion. The result was that Christianity became at once a prohibited religion, and immediately every Christian by definition automatically became an outlaw. Bible scholars agree that 1 Peter was written to people who were living in troubled times and facing the prospect of worse times to come. They are encouraged to stay steady in their endurance and to remain pure in their character. One thing we can note that the second coming of Christ is in the very front of their concerns and it was believed to be soon. In the first few verses there are a few things right off that will keep the Christian out of the basket. The scriptures listed are from 1 Peter unless noted otherwise:

 Those who keep the faith will be saved from the coming judgment (1:7). 

Christians are to hope for the grace which will come at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1:13). 

The day of visitation is expected (2:12). 

The end of all things is at hand (4:7). Those who suffer with Christ will also rejoice with Christ when his glory is revealed (4:13). 

I find that sometimes you can be overwhelmed by scripture and on this particular blog subject that would be an understatement. The first point to be made here is…“the worlds going to hell in a handbasket” needs no great number of words to justify this as being true…a bit crude…but true from the Christian point of view.

The second being the Day of Judgement… 

The thing we sometimes miss in my opinion is that this Day of Judgement will be all-inclusive, the earth its people and all within it will be accountable.

Again, you could fill a lot of pages with the sins of man but it is just simpler to ask…have you lived a Godly life, Christ led, filled with the Holy Spirit and faithful submission to His will?

Third point, That Basket that is headed to hell. How do you stay out of it?  2 Timothy 4: 1-5

 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favorable or unfavorable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.

To close this blog I refer you back to last week…

 Colossians 3:11-17

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

It matters not at what point this world is…Prepare yourself…Stay Out of The Basket 

Life is Good

jk 

A Spiritual Vertigo…Finding a Spiritual Balance Colossians 3.

I recently experienced this rather odd affliction and it made a lasting impression on me. Everything spinning out of control, loss of direction…nothing to hold onto, your balance is gone and you are unable to stand on your own and your sense of direction is gone. On reflection it occurred to me that there are times in our lives that we experience a spiritual vertigo. Balance in our daily lives would be our ability to react to different circumstances and deal with the many differences in life in a Godly manner. No matter who you are there are things that affect your ability to keep things balanced. There are so many issues today, to name just a few…issues between men and women, cultures, social positions, education, religious beliefs, work…How do you balance all of these factors and some not listed or thought of and maintain a balanced life? It is really hard to answer that question. Consider this…Finding a spiritual balance will not only provide an answer to this question but will allow you to lead a full and balanced life as well. 

 Ok, how do we describe Spiritual Balance? One concern might be perceptions of other christians as to the balance in our lives concerning God, Jesus Christ and biblical teachings. Most all of us would agree that the Sabbath, the holy days, tithing and God’s Kingdom, all these are basic things we can believe in but each individuals conception of them will differ. Most of these differences will be based on personal beliefs and past experiences.

Puzzling and in some respect sad but even how a person perceives God is often based more on past religious experiences, bypassing actual biblical revelations. Many of us see God as an untouchable being and remote, disinterested and uninvolved in the life of his people…nothing could be farther from the truth. So the first point of a spiritually balanced life would be a strong relationship with God. Biblically speaking references to balance, the word as we know it are few and subtle at best. In Hebrew the word translated refers to a pair of scales or balances. In New Testament Greek the word means to join together…yoke. Simply speaking in a symbolic way, a spiritual way, it is used as an emblem of justice and fair dealing. 

Proverbs 16:11 A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work.

Second Point….He must always be the standard by which we measure everything. Only God and his character are a true balance. I am going to move on to Point Three…which just happens to be Colossians Chapter 3.  as a way to gain that balance we need to live an abundant life. Real balance in our lives starts with our relationship with God and Christ. Turning away from our old ways that we might not be dragged back into our sinful ways…regaining and maintaining the proper balance in life, through God and Jesus Christ.We become a new person, replacing the old with the new…The new being the righteous character of  Jesus Christ, fully applied to our new person. In verses 11-17 Paul writes about this new person, he writes of tender mercies the benchmarks of his renewed soul. Kindness, humbleness, meekness, long suffering and extending forgiveness to others. 

Colossians 3:11-17

11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This is Christian Balance, when the realization comes to us that God is the final, just and faithful judge of all things. Through God and Christ we will be led to the joy of a balanced life making proper and Godly decisions. Remember – John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. There is a power in the word that brings balance in our lives.

Life is Good

jk

The Coming of Christ, Apostasy, Anti-Christ and The Believer’s Security…   2 Thessalonians 1-17 

This is an interesting chapter and as usual the truth lies within the Scripture. There was a misconception that the time of Christ’s coming was at hand. The people are warned of a falling away from the faith and told of the revealing of the Anti-Christ, followed by the notice of his destruction and that of those that follow him. Second Thessalonians is only three chapters, 47 verses and 1022 words. Small book with a big message. I will break it down as we go beyond the words and find the comfort of the covenant and the security in the steadfastness of faith powered by our prayers.

Christians can make mistakes , a good Christian will set them straight and be careful to suppress them, making our words and actions compatible with God’s word and the teachings of the Apostles. Our adversary is one of cunning, looking to do mischief, even sometimes by perverting the very words of Scripture to gain an advantage. Paul writes to correct a problem of time concerning the coming again of Christ. He gives some solid advice…People may make mistakes about the time but the coming itself is certain. The cross, resurrection and the coming again of Christ, has been the hope and faith of all Christians in all ages of the Church, hope and faith were cornerstones of the Old Testament saints. It is promised that all believers will be gathered together, and be happy and blessed in his presence forever. It is noted here that all must believe of the certainty of the second coming and it is a danger in mistaking the time and the truth of the thing itself. False doctrines have always muddied the water creating waves of uncertainty. Paul writes of some things to look for first. There will most likely be a falling away from the faith, giving the Anti-Christ the opportunity to do his thing. Sin is wicked and encourages sin and wickedness in others. Sin is certain destruction and is the instrument he uses to destroy many others, both body and soul. God was in the temple and he is here this day in the Christian church but so too is Satan. He has many names but his soul intent is to disrupt, discredit and usurp God’s authority. 

Corruption of doctrine and worship comes slowly and  usurping of power is sometimes even slower, usually a gradual process. The next characteristics of this time was the, superstition, idolatry, bigotry, persecution…all these promoted by a pretended zeal for God and his word. These things were in progress even while the Apostles lived, people pretending to love Christ but were truly opposed to hm. We do find in this chapter the fall and ruin of the anti-christian state declared. It will fall because in due time the word of God and the Spirit of God will prevail against this evil and it will fade away in the brightness of Christ’ coming. There were many things being done, presented to the people as signs, wonders, visions and miracles but they were pretended, they were false. Those who engaged in these things did not love the truth and  embraced that which was not true. God leaves them to their own devices and sin follows them and with it comes the judgements and eternal punishments in the hereafter. Before I move on I want to make sure that there is none of the  misunderstanding  as Paul found in his day, that prompted this letter. Below taken in its complete text from “Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary” 

These prophecies have, in a great measure, come to pass, and confirm the truth of the Scriptures. This passage exactly agrees with the system of popery, as it prevails in the Romish church, and under the Romish popes. But though the son of perdition has been revealed, though he has opposed and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; and has spoken and acted as if he were a god upon earth, and has proclaimed his insolent pride, and supported his delusions, by lying miracles and all kinds of frauds; still the Lord has not yet fully destroyed him with the brightness of his coming; that and other prophecies remain to be fulfilled before the end shall come.

 Apostasy (/əˈpɒstəsi/; Greek: ἀποστασία apostasía, “a defection or revolt”) is the formal disaffiliation from, abandonment of, or renunciation of a religion by a person. It can also be defined within the broader context of embracing an opinion that is contrary to one’s previous religious beliefs.[1] One who undertakes apostasy is known as an apostate. (Wikipedia)

Paul makes note of the fact that while many are falling away from the faith, great joy and comfort can be found in the fact that there is still a remnant through the grace of God, who still persevere and we rejoice with those who count themselves to be among that number. The Scripture that follows leaves no gray area of thought as to its meaning or intent. The saints are preserved because God has loved them forever, from the beginning of the world. Faith and holiness are joined together and the same may be said of holiness and happiness. The gospel, the word of God calls to us and strengthens us through the inner workings of the Holy Spirit. When the sinner is confronted with the truth and relies on Christ, he is able to love and obey him, the Holy Spirit fills the heart and God’s mercy is abundant in their life. Consider this….We have no other source of certain proof of anything more than the Apostles left us with…contained within the Holy Scriptures. We must stand fast in the doctrines taught by the apostles, and reject all additions, and the pressure of culture change and the agendas of societal change for the sake of special agendas.

This chapter ends on the importance of prayer. Prayers directed toward God the Father, to our lord Jesus Christ. The love of God found in his son Jesus Christ will sustain our faith and like a well in the desert of our trials strengthen our thirst for his presence in our lives…The saints have good reason for hope through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. We will persevere in the reading of the word, understanding the word, the works and ways of God will prevent us from wavering in the faith and remove the doubt from our minds and we will no longer be strangers to the joys of faith in our walk with the Lord.

Life is Good

jk

 FAITH…DISCIPLESHIP

We live in a world that today values convenience highly. We love the ability to do things that require minimum effort and little difficulty, things that come easily and fit into our schedules and don’t interrupt our plans. Sometimes religion requires our time at inconvenient times, in some cases serious efforts on our part and can at times be difficult. Back in the day there were buzzwords or phrases that had become part of our natural jargon  and were a heads up to what’s coming. I certainty do not put these next words in that group, in fact, I believe they are often not given the weight they deserve. Faith and Discipleship… both to be effective must be understood and both are not a causal acknowledgment of a trait or personal attribute… They are not at our convenience and require acceptance of responsibility so that they become a natural part of our daily lives.

Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith (pi’stis) is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

How important might that be. The disciples who were the closest to Jesus during his ministry here on earth were at times not sure who he was and struggled at times understanding his teachings. We sometimes over think faith, there have been all kinds of courses and articles written as to what and how faith is necessary in our Christian walk… but the best answer is in God’s word… Here again the scripture that in a few words says it all.

Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith (pi’stis) is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

 My thought is that faith is important because it is the engine of  our discipleship. What is a disciple?

Webster’s definition of a disciple is “a pupil or follower of any teacher or school.” A true disciple is not just a student or a learner, but a follower: one who applies what he has learned. The Biblical view is much the same. A disciple is someone who has chosen to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ and loves and follows him. But…there is a caveat here, they must accept the responsibility of applying what they have learned from their teacher who is now their Lord and Savior. This discipleship is now one of service.

Luke 9

Jesus Sends Out the Twelve

1When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” So they set out and went from village to village, proclaiming the good news and healing people everywhere.

Being a true disciple means accepting the charge to go forth and proclaim the gospel (the Good News) to the world. Once more we emphasize the fact that a disciple is one who applies what he has learned. A true disciple will ask, “What would Jesus do?” Discipleship means you are committed to going out and sharing the Good News with the non-believers. You believe that the mission of a good disciple is to love all people, to teach, share and stand out, you are called to be different. You are firm in God’s word, you fellowship with other believers, remaining steadfast and dedicated to the Lord and investing in the work of the Lord among all people. What is the cost of Discipleship? The simple answer is ….your very life. There is no shortage of Scriptures that can be applied to this question. Here is but one of many. 

 Luke 9 23-26ESV 

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

 To be a true disciple we must understand what is required of us. We must also consider the cost of discipleship…Christ made that clear in many different scriptures. There is a great book that makes plain the cost…

The Cost of Discipleship is a book by the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, considered to be a classic of Christian thought. It can be found in paperback or on line.

Life is Good

jk

Remembering

Pulled this from a few years back…”Those who refuse to learn from past mistakes are doomed to repeat them.”

Looking Back……the day we were one…

11SundaySep 2016

Posted by John Kurt Carpenter in Uncategorized

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I had prepared and uploaded my blog for today but I set it aside late last night. I can’t get past tomorrow, September 11 or as it has become simply 9-11. There will be many words today, few will be able to capture the impact in loss of life and the realization that our enemies now had the ability to bring the horror of war to our soil. Here are a couple of things I take away from that day.   Death is never an easy thing to cope with and I don’t hold much with the advice that “things will be better in time; every day it will get a little better.” Don’t believe that, I believe we just learn how to live with it or for lack of a better term tolerate the loss. Like everyone else I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. Been fifteen years now and I still can close my eyes and see those people jumping from the towers. Now after all these years’ history is slowly being rewritten in that many films have been edited to remove those pictures. Why is that important? To me it is important because while I can’t say what was in their mind at that time, I prefer to believe in that moment of extreme despair they chose how they would die. First take away, how much easier is it for us who only have to choose how to live.

One of the first things that happened after it was determined that this was not a terrible mishap but was indeed a deliberate attack, was a no fly order issued for the whole country. All flights except those of military origin were grounded throughout the USA. I remember standing outside at work that afternoon and the next few days and looking up at the sky above. My second take away was that those contrails left by planes were absent from the sky. How odd it seemed. Just as a room becomes quite, no one speaking, their absence marked the silence of the skies. It was as if I was waiting to see something there that would tell me everything was going to be alright. My third take away is perhaps the one that is most imprinted on my mind and heart. As the towers fell the dust and debris of this awful destruction blotted the sun from the sky and blinded all those trapped by it. Everyone was covered to the point that there was no way to distinguish skin color or ethnicity, all were caught in a world of gray horror, dependent on the help and mercies of those closest to them. Somehow the need to take or offer a hand, to cover and shield another from the debris, to offer self in defense of another was the most striking thing I saw. We came together as a people, there was no time to shout USA, USA as would be heard much over the next few days. This may not make sense and I stand to be corrected. I believe on that day we were Americans all and in that moment we all became God’s children. (Matthew 22:39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.”

There is no way I could ever put to words the sacrifice of NYFD or Police, EMS or the hundreds of medical and civilian responders, there are no words that could do honor to their sacrifice. So how or where do we go from here? As a nation and a people we need to return to the good way, we need God and there is only one way…..

John 14:6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

My deepest respect and gratitude to those who died, survived and sought to go in harm’s way on that terrible day. Good folks gave their lives on that day and good folks gave their lives for over 20 years in Afghanistan and now once more we are facing some of those who brought 9/11 to us. May God have mercy on our nation…

jk

Forgive…Never Forget

They Gave All

I have really had to wrestle with myself…forgive…at this moment in time it is almost impossible for me to do that. I call myself a Christian and then the reality of that is while I do have a choice, the God I serve leaves me no wiggle room on this. It is here that the picture of the cross and the image of our Savior hanging there, for all who have sinned…you see, Christ said your sins are forgotten. I have been reading what the Bible says about forgiveness and I discovered that this thing of forgiveness to be complete requires we forget the sin also.

So this is a reminder that to follow Christ, to be called a Christian requires that we emulate Christ, become more like him everyday….I thought I had found a solution to the problem…I forgive….but I forgot to forget

This Christian thing…It ain’t easy. Read Romans 12, it is only 21 verses. Join us again in the Pew tomorrow eve for our regular From The Pew Blog.

Life is Good

jk

And in Conclusion…Ecclesiastes Chapter 12

Ecclesiastes is a book that is many things too many different people but seems to hold a majority of thought, or consensus, that most believers find to be baffling and to some even wrongheaded. From the get-go there were strong efforts to exclude it from the list of sacred books and even now it has a very small place in liturgical practice. In Jewish liturgical practice it is of greater use only because it is one of the five scrolls that are read at the festivals. It is said that this book encourages conversation because of its grasp of the truth. That, however is quickly walked back by those who say its value is it serves as a dark background against the shining light of the gospel. There is a wealth of information available about the book of Ecclesiastes, extensive and easily available. The one question that is asked in most commentaries….Who wrote Ecclesiastes or better yet who is Qohelet in Ecclesiastes? This question after all this time has not gained a solid acknowledgement that it was Solomon. Is he Qoheleth, the teacher and in turn the Preacher

We return this week to the book of Ecclesiastes and specifically the 12th and concluding chapter of this book. The text of this chapter addresses the youth throughout the creation. 

We are reminded that we are not our own. We were made to be happy but this is only true when we live our lives for him. Not only has God created you he also preserves you, feeds you and clothes you and in difficult times he upholds you. You have been made as being able to know, love and serve him. You have been given the privilege to enjoy him in his own glory for ever. Even when you had chosen to undo that relationship, he sent his Son to redeem you through the cross and his blood shed for you. But God has even more for you. He sends the Spirit to enlighten, persuade and to led you away from childless endeavors, keeping you from trifling and sinful pursuits. In our youth memory is strong and unrelenting. In this time in our lives it is easy to remember our creator, our loving and affectionate Father but through the perversion of sin it seems in our youth we come to the point where we forget and remember any other thing better than God. We  remember the kindness of others and even feel gratitude for it but what of our Father in heaven? There is no one who can give us the benefits of a relationship with him. From the Father came our body and soul, our eyes to see, ears, tongue, hands and feet. With our eyes we can see the beauty of his creation, hear the word of salvation, the tongue allows us to speak to his goodness and with our feet to carry us forward we can raise our hands in celebration of our service to God who calls us to serve his people. How can we forget HIM?  

In our youth we are susceptible to the evils of this world. You could say we are at times in some ways drawn to them, resulting in the corruption and misery that accompanies them. Remember him in thy YOUTH. In our youth we have the power to be more active and vigorous in our endeavors. Faith, hope and love at this point in our lives could be a thing of great joy. It is now in our youth that it will be easier for us to believe, hope, pray, love, obey, and bear our cross, then it can be in old age and the those infirmities that weaken body and determination. Even in your youth there is no certainty of life. Today is yours, tomorrow may not be. Youth also has no promise of old age. While you have your youth and health hear the call of your God. If you do not heed that call you may find that sin will encroach on your heart every moment that goes by. Give your heart to your creator early and it will serve you well in the years you have. There is much to be said about old age and some things are harsh but reality is the part of the Preacher’s book of life. Evil habits gain strength over time and the infirmities of time press down on our bodies and minds. The cold fact is that our hearts can become hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. There is little time left to repent and even less inclination to do so. There is nothing of this world that can ease the burden of sin. Words of truth are always valued and have worth. The truth of God’s words often annoy those who would shy away, often causing a negative reaction as they seek to reject the good way. To fear God and keep his commandments makes a man whole. Fear where there is no love has no redeeming power. We are to have a fear of God but by his gracious love for us as a child of God, we are in awe of his presence and that which he gives us in this life. There are many distractions in this life but we have only one task to be mindful of… Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is all that concerns man.

And in Conclusion….

Verse Ecclesiastes 12:14For God shall bring every work into judgment — This is the reason why we should “fear God and keep his commandments.”

The following is from Adam Clark Commentary and is public domain.

1. Because there will be a day of judgment.

2. Every soul of man shall stand at that bar.

3. God, the infinitely wise, the heart-searching God, will be judge.

4. He will bring to light every secret thing – all that has been done since the creation, by all men; whether forgotten or registered; whether done in secret or in public.

5. All the works of the godly, as well as all the works of the wicked, shall be judged in that day; the good which the godly strove to conceal, as well as the evil which the wicked endeavoured to hide.

This, then, will be the conclusion of the whole mortal story. And although in this world all is vanity; yet there, “vanities will be vain no more.” Every thing, whether good or evil, will have its own proper stable, eternal result. O God! prepare the reader to give up his accounts with joy in that day! Amen.

Life is Good

jk

At The End of The Bench

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I am re-publishing this blog from a few years back. Computer problems and I lost this weeks blog. Hope you enjoy this one. jk

I always wanted to play football but time and circumstances kept me from it until the eighth grade. We moved around quite a bit and my dads last duty station took us to Texas. Texas, where a baby’s first crib toy is a football and his first pair of outdoor shoes are cleats. Now in Texas most boys my age had been playing football since Pee-Wee league and have a good knowledge of the of the game and its language. Truth is they speak it better than the Kings English. I wanted to be a part of the game so bad and any amount of humiliation and effort was worth it. So I gave it the best I had and made the team, even after the coach said my lack of skill would get me killed. Well that is a bit overstated but I did get on the team……at the end of the bench. Now in my golden years I sometimes revisit those early days and that’s how this blog came about.I kind of believe that even in church some of us feel like we are at the end of the bench. We want to be a part of what’s going on and to actively become involved in some type of ministry within the church but if time has taught me anything, it is preparation and knowledge goes a long way.

 Psalm 25:5

Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; For You I wait all the day.

It occurred to me that maybe my football experience was due to my lack of knowledge as to what the game required and my lack of preparation. Admittedly, serving God is no game but it does require knowledge and preparation. I once wrote about getting out of the pew, go and serve. This is about getting off the bench, preparing yourself to serve and getting in the game.

2 Thessalonians 3:5

May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.

Here are some good points as to where you can start your preparation. These are from a sermon by Tom Shepard, Quiet Life Ministries.

John 1226 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

 Develop a servant mentality.

“Possessing A Servant’s Heart. God’s Word teaches that greatness in the Kingdom is defined by serving others in the body of Messiah. Having the heart of a servant is an important component in our spiritual walk with the Lord. God shaped each one of us for service.” (Tom Shepard, Quiet Life Ministries.)

How do we define selflessly? Perhaps servanthood is a better word, or rather a clearer definition for us. Servanthood literally means serving others, putting them and their needs first. (“It means willingly giving of oneself to minister for and to others and to do whatever it takes to accomplish what is best for another.”)*Tom Shepard, Quiet Life Ministries.

Gal 6:9-10 (Phi) Let us not grow tired of doing good, for, unless we throw in our hand, the ultimate harvest is assured. Let us then do good to all men as opportunity offers, especially to those who belong to the Christian household.

Have a determination to serve.

Determination also requires endurance.

 Psalms 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

 1 Corinthians 9:24-27  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

 Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

 Thessalonians 3:13 As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good

We Christians will have times of doubt and fear and even worry. Allowing fear, doubt and worry to rule our lives weakens our faith. The word of God gives us strength and determination in our daily walk with God. God’s word gives us hope. Consider the following verses…

 Psalms 27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!

 Proverbs 20:13 Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.

 Luke 9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Commit to following God.

“Each believer is responsible to respond to God’s call by committing their heart, mind, body, and life to serve Him, to share the Gospel, and to be His ambassadors in this world.” (https://bible.org

 Acts 20:32 “And now I entrust you to God and the message of his grace that is able to build you up and give you an inheritance with all those he has set apart for himself.

 Serve where you are.

Many times people believe that in order to serve or be a part of ministry, you have to go overseas or commit to a month long mission trip. While being involved in those type of things is commendable and even worthwhile, we need to understand that we can serve right where we are. There are so many opportunities that we miss out on by thinking mission work is done some place other than where we are. When we chose to not serve and be involved where we are I think many times it is because we have conditioned ourselves to think that mission work is done some place other than where we are. Look around there are many opportunities in our neighborhoods, schools and even our own church or home.

“God has called believers to “go and make disciples” in Matthew 28:19, but we must realize that we can fulfill this command in class, with the neighbors down the hall, and even at work. Wherever you are, just go! Go, and make disciples.” (Tom Shepard, Quiet Life Ministries.)

Get off the bench, get in the game.

Life is Good

jk

Butterflies…the Bible and Dean H Taylor

This week we look at a subject that you would not expect to find in a religious blog, the butterfly. I am not sure but I believe butterflies are not all that common in scripture. It has been noted that as a part of God’s creation they do provide a beautiful picture of spiritual transformation…. The butterfly in the Bible is a symbol of resurrection. It can sustain a comparison to the Christian conversion, resurrection, and transfiguration. What does the scripture say?… 

(2 Corinthians 5:17).So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new! 

Our God who can transform a caterpillar into a butterfly, can turn sinners into saints. Butterfly just a symbol, could be but God has many ways of speaking to us. That little voice we hear now and then, we refer to it as our conscience just might be the Holy Spirit speaking to us and maybe, just maybe the butterfly is in some simple way a message from God. Christian tradition holds the butterfly to be a symbol of resurrection. In many  spiritual, circles the butterfly represents the spirit or soul. What does a butterfly mean spiritually? Butterflies are beautiful and they have in times past been a mystery because there is attached to them a certain symbolism, a metaphor if you will that represents spiritual health, transformation, change, hope and life. The short life of the butterfly reminds us of the shortness of our own life. Butterfly colors also carry a symbolic message…The color blue representing a transformation from human life to everlasting life. The color blue also conveying the emotions of beauty, joy and hope. The old traditions means seeing a white butterfly could be a response to prayer. We are reminded that God has a plan for all of us:

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 ESV)

Now I stress that we are dealing with mostly traditional thoughts of the meaning of the butterfly, some that have even made their way into church traditions. These two scriptures could be inspired by the butterfly.

2 Corinthians 5:17 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 3:18 

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

 I had thought that I might be done with this blog but somehow it just wasn’t enough. I am not always the brightest bulb in the box but I do believe that the Spirit answers and guides us in many of our endeavors. Such is the case with this blog today…Dean H Taylor wrote about butterflies not being in the Bible, well by name that is but what a brilliant example of enlighten writing he brings to his article. He writes that Jesus, who always used examples people could relate to in getting his point across would at seeing the beauty of this creation of the Father, most likely would have used it to illustrate some profound truth.  But butterflies aren’t in the Bible Mr. Taylor writes….but wait…

‘ The unsightly caterpillar, its range of movement restricted to a few square feet, becomes a Monarch butterfly that will spend the rest of its life as a living miracle, flying above the earth, venturing as far as Mexico on its migratory path.’    (Dean H. Taylor)

This radical change in its original state is called metamorphosis. So it is interesting how Mr. Taylor ties the butterflies journey to our own journey as Christians to become acceptable and the perfect will of God is brought about in our lives. In the two verses below the Greek word metamorphoo is translated with the word “transformed.” 

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  (Romans 12:2)

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.  (2 Corinthians 3:18)

There is the striking comparison to be made that the transformation of the butterfly is much like the transformation that takes place in us when we believe in Jesus Christ.What Mr. Taylor goes on to explain is astounding and its full impact can only be appreciated by reading his words.

So I am asking you to go to his post, the link is below…

https://deanhtaylor.com/2014/10/07/butterflies-arent-in-the-bible-wait/

It is worth the read and in these days of focus being on bad news it is a pleasant read.

Life is Good

jk

James…The Journey To Inclusion

I have been reading introductions to various books of the Bible, the most recent one being James. While James is not the only book to have doubts or suspicions toward it, James also had a long hard journey to make before its inclusion into the New Testament. Though it would eventually be considered to be scripture there was still a fair amount of reserve and suspicion about it. Martin Luther would have been happy to see it banished from the New Testament. This view was also shared by the early Christian fathers but in fairness to James not so much to banning it as to the fact there was strong doubt still among them as to content. At this point the journey is just beginning. It was into the fourth century that the Latin speaking church saw the emergence of  James in the writings of the fathers. The scholar Jerome included James in his Latin version of the New Testament, The Vulgate which was completed early in the fifth century. However the doubt was still present to some degree. James, who is referred to as the brother of the Lord wrote only this epistle, it was one of the seven catholic Epistles and some said it was issued by someone else in James’ name. Although Jerome had some doubt as to who the writer was he did accept it as scripture. We can add to that Augustine, who fully accepted James and had no doubt that James was the brother of our Lord. There are other points and facts that make this journey so long and arduous.  If the book was really written in Palestine and James was really the brother of our Lord, was the hesitation of the Syrian Church fostered by the wavering and swings of opinion that continued to present itself?

 We add this note here…

Peshitta, (Syriac: “simple” or “common”) Syriac version of the Bible, the accepted Bible of Syrian Christian churches from the end of the 3rd century ce. 

The name “Peshitta” was first employed by Moses bar Kepha in the 9th century to suggest (as does the name of the Latin Vulgate) that the text was in common use. (Wikipedia)

Now we could engulf ourselves in dates and times but it is much simpler to just add a few  comments here.

-The Peshitta was to the Syrian Church what the Vulgate was to the Latin Church.

-The first time it was translated into Syrian was about AD 412 by the Bishop of Edessa.

-It was not, in fact, until mid-way through the eighth century that the great authority of the Greek theologian John of Damascus did for James in the Syrian church what Augustine had done for it in the Latin church. (W Barclay)

James emerged sooner in the Greek speaking churches compared to the Latin and Syrian but still that doubt was there for some. As strange as it seems no one really questioned the value of James but in all the letter was emerging and went through a period of debate while its right to be considered a new testament book was in dispute. In our day we seldom hear James mentioned in conversation as often as John, Romans, Luke or even Galatians. There were those books that were accepted without question from the very start and then there were those that had to gradually win there way in. James found itself in that second tier that only time would heal the doubts and suspicions attached to the book. The Roman Catholic Church settled its issues with the book of James with the Edict of the Council of Trent. Things didn’t work out as well in the Protestant Church because of the attacks against it from Luther. We will take a little space and a few more words to note this interesting fact. During the printing of the German New Testament Luther kept a contents page. There was a separate small group that he considered to be secondary. That group consisted of James, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation. These were books which Luther held to be secondary. I think to sum all this up we can best simply use Luther’s famous verdict on James. It is in the concluding paragraph of his Preface to the New Testament… 

‘In sum: the gospel and the first epistle of St John, St Paul’s epistles, especially those to the Romans, Galatians and Ephesians; and St Peter’s first epistle, are the books which show Christ to you. They teach everything you need to know for your salvation, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or hear any other teaching. In comparison with these, the epistle of James is an epistle full of straw, because it contains nothing evangelical. But more about this in other prefaces.’ 

I will close with this thought. James had a long and perilous journey but one bright spot was that the Roman Catholic Church agreed  in 1546, Council of Trent, that James is canonical and is written by an apostle. So why this blog? For me it brings into focus how important scripture is. Those who wrote the words as they lived the ordeal of teaching and preaching the Gospel, the agony of Christ as he went to the cross and the faith of the believers as they took the reality of eternal life through the resurrection of Christ to the people. 

James stood the test of time because the believer’s faith stood firm…It did not waver, it did not give into doubt. How do you stand today? Do you waver and allow doubt to marginalize God’s word?

Life is Good

jk