Nation Under God…Under Attack

Romans 1:18-32

I knew when I began this blog where I wanted to go but I was a bit unsure of how I would get there. In researching this subject I was not prepared for what I found and my sense of direction is totally askew. We are a nation under attack but I am not so sure “nation under God” now or in the past is a proper tag line for the United States of America. I read an article written by Kenneth C. Davis, America’s True History of Religious Tolerance” which was published in the Smithsonian Magazine. I am one of many who have had my Christian tolerance challenged and have become indignant at the actions of certain people, groups and agenda driven social justice warriors whom I believe are destroying my country. I read the article through more than once even cross checked his dates and descriptions of the events written about…  The article was written in October 2010. Mr Davis believes that America has not been anything near a bastion of religious freedom and uses historical events of record to prove his point. I have always been God and country…now more than ever I am sadden by what is happening to my country and like many have been quick to point a finger at others. One of my favorite comic strips is Pogo, and the quote I remember most is “we have found the enemy and they is us”.

We learned in school that the Pilgrims came to America aboard the good ship Mayflower in search of religious freedom in 1620. Soon after the Puritans followed. It is a fact that millions followed to experience the freedom that allowed them to be free to practice their own faith. Some of you may remember a radio personality Paul Harvey, an early Rush Limbaugh, who had as a segment of his broadcast…The Rest of The Story. Well, as it turns out it seems possible that the account of America’s tolerance of religious freedom, has a Rest of The Story of its own. Mr Davis referred to that narrative as an American myth. I recommend you read his article with an open mind…It changed the direction of my thinking about where to go with this blog. Here is that Url.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/americas-true-history-of-religious-tolerance-61312684/

Let’s turn to scripture, Romans 1:18-32…In a previous passage Paul was addressing the truth about a relationship with God. A relationship entered into through faith, trust and living out God’s will in our lives. Paul now sets before us the wrath of God which men and women and their nation will face if they turn away from God. When we as a people refuse to worship God, adhere to his precepts and go off in other directions seeking to satisfy our own desires and allowing them to become our idols, we shall face the wrath of God. This thought or phrase one nation under God, implies we as a people and  a nation have a special relationship with God. I would say that the state of the nation and its people say just the opposite. What is our conception of that alarming and terrifying phrase? In early Old Testament writings God’s wrath is directed toward those we would call the covenant people. Those who had a special relationship with God. They were to be his chosen people and it would be so as long as they kept his Law.(Exodus 24:3-8) To put it simply, if anywhere in the nation the law was broken the relationship was severed and brought down God’s wrath. Also this relationship allowed for if another nation were to treat Israel with cruelty or injustice they would incur God’s wrath. As Paul speaks of the wrath of God, we must acknowledge that Jesus saves men and women from that very wrath. It is written many times in scripture that disobedience to God will ensure his wrath. Ezekiel was blunt and to the point… 18:4 Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.   Are we missing something? Consider this for just a moment. Suppose you live from the perspective there is really no God…but you choose to live as if there were, at the end of life you would have fared much better than if you simply accepted life as it were. If it is not God’s will what should we call it? One commentary states ‘There is a moral order in this world, and anyone who transgresses it sooner or later is bound to suffer.’ J. A. Froude, the great nineteenth-century historian, said: ‘One lesson, and one lesson only, history may be said to repeat with distinctness, that the world is built somehow on moral foundations, that, in the long run, it is well with the good, and, in the long run, it will be ill with the wicked.’

Could we conclude that this moral order is the wrath of God at work? We know that God made this world, his world, so that should we break his laws we do so at our own peril. If we can be put in a situation of peril due to this moral order, which is unbending and unrelenting, if we are left solely at its mercy, is it not reasonable to believe that the only thing left is death and destruction? How important might this be? The Prophets did not delay the wrath of God to the Judgement Day, they believed it was a continuous thing. Using Israel as an example whenever they strayed as a nation the wrath of God came against them. It often involved ruin, which often resulted in defeat and captivity. There is a concept here that we today find hard to understand…we read more about the wrath of God in the Old Testament writings rather than the New. We today are very much aware of this God of love, mercy and grace and we seldom think of him as a God of wrath. When was the last time most of us heard a  wrath of God sermon? These verses when read in context leave no doubt that we cannot plead ignorance of God. Paul makes a very valid point that suffering always follows sin. Look at the world and see the simple facts of God’s intended order. There are laws that apply to most any of our endeavors… one simple example…break the laws of  health and your body suffers. Break God’s law and you will suffer. You cannot deny that existence itself requires a far greater power than ourselves…that power is God. Those who sin are left without excuse. As sinners we look to ourselves and not to God. Christians are put in a very difficult position. God’s law has become secondary to our own laws, whims, opinions  and we have taken to setting our own standards to live by. We are a self centered people instead of God centered. In biblical times this resulted in idolatry. Idolatry is ruled by the selfish needs and wants of people. We enter our churches not to worship and serve God but to be served. Many times our prayers are self-centered that our dreams may be furthered and the result is we fail and then fall. We worship for self, not for God. 

Romans 1:28-32 provides us with a grocery list of offenses against God’s Law…I do not like to use scripture to beat someone with a righteous stick  so to speak and I am not an hysterical moralist, these verses describe accurately the decline of morals and degenerate behavior in Paul’s day. Even Greek and Roman writers of that day said the same thing about the state of the nations of that day. So now we arrive at the end of this blog that went another direction. We can point fingers all day long in every direction but like a boomerang they point right back to us. It is not the political parties, BLM, GLBT groups, social justice warriors or just a sign of the times, you know, the new norm. No… Pogo said it best the enemy is us.

Please read Romans 1:28-32 

We have banished God from our life as a nation and a people. Harsh statement to make even harsher when we who sin know it to be true. Examples…no longer are the bible and prayers welcomed in our schools in schools, prayers are not allowed before or on field during an athletic event…churches and religious institutions under attack…just a few. We have reached the point in this nation that those who openly attack people of the faith are encouraging others to do so. A quote to help wrap this up:

The dramatist and critic George Bernard Shaw once said: ‘No nation has ever survived the loss of its gods.’ 

Paul has given us a picture of what happens when people banish God from their lives. They eventually perish. Theirs is a legacy that in time produces disaster. We have failed to obey God, to continue the work his Son, Jesus Christ commanded us to do.

We must pray and live our lives so that this Nation is truly “One Nation Under God”

Life is Good

jk

Great Chapters of the Bible…Hebrews 11

Hope and the Hero’s of The Faith

In July, 2016, I wrote a blog about Cowboys and Hero’s, below an excerpt from that blog…

Back in the day many young boys dreamed of riding the plains doing good and rescuing the young girls from evil. Mounting the trusty broom and riding the backyard range in search of stray cattle or damsels in distress and even hoping to come across a bad guy or two. Sporting a set of Gene Autry pistols and a new hat and cowboy boots from Sears or the local Western Auto store, we were the picture of young justice and any number of Saturday cowboy shows on the old black and white TV. Sneaking a bit of small rope from dad’s work bench for a lasso, even the dog and cat feared our pass through the backyard range. They were examples of what we admired or wanted to be in our adolescent dreams and wishes. Today we look at a different time and a different type of hero, the ones back in the day that set an example of faith and are called to mind in the 11th chapter of Hebrews through the writings of Paul. (fromthepewblog.com)

I Always like to check in with Webster just to be sure…What is a hero? The simple answer is:

a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities…

Biblically speaking the eleventh chapter of Hebrews contains the major heroes of the Bible. A hero is a person of great courage, conquer, a victor and a winner to use just a few descriptive nouns. But in these definitions we find the most compelling attribute of a hero is missing, Faith the fuel of  Christian Hope

Faith is the certainty that what you believe is true and seen or unseen it will come. The hope we are looking at is not a make a wish thing but one of unshakeable conviction. I remember the young girl at Columbine High School who when confronted by the shooter, he asked her, “Do you believe in God?” while holding a pistol to her head…she never hesitated… “yes” he shot her. This unique Christian Faith, is a hope turned to certainty. It dictates the way Christians conduct themselves. They live it, they die for it and it is what’s makes them live as they do. James Mofatt writes three ways this Christian Hope works.

  1. Belief in God against the world
  2. Belief in the spirit against the senses
  3. Christian Hope in belief in the future against the present   

The writer to Hebrews makes the point that what God has promised will be. They put everything on God, and the history of the scriptures proves them right. There were those who argued that God created the world out of existing matter, the writer to this letter insists that the creation of this world was all of God’s will and preference. The fact is that it is God’s world.  Acceptance of this leads us to these principals. We will respect and use wisely what God has created and believe that even when it looks bad, God is in control. Chapter 11 describes the nature and power of Christian faith. It does so by providing examples of such set forth by instances from Abel to Noah, Abraham and his descendants. They are joined by Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the Israelites, and Rahab. We can also add many Old Testament believers. Faith has always been the mark of a servant of God. Through faith we keep the truth of Christ’s sufferings through which he is justified, the promises made, the covenant secured and that which fuels our own hope and faith. A faith that proves to our mind those things we can’t see. Faith contains all things of worth while granting full approval of all God has revealed as holy, just and good. Here in chapter 11 we find examples of persons from Old Testament times who were honorable in character and the word of God. In faith they were examples of holy obedience, Godly service and patient sufferings. The bible is the one source of a true and accurate account of all things of God. There is power in the creation story and it is to be believed by all Christians. It is one of the cornerstones of our faith, one we cannot allow the disbelief of some to take it from us, just because they don’t believe.

We read here that all the works of the creation were brought about by the command of God. There is the account of Abel’s sacrifice, his atonement, acknowledging himself to be a sinner and seeking mercy and forgiveness from God. Contrast that to Cain’s rage and hostility against Abel and his sacrifice. Who would have known at that time this rage and hostility, even murder of believers would travel across time to this very day. Enoch, a man who walked with God always keeping the distance between him and God as little as possible. He did not see death, God took him to heaven just as Christ will do for the saints who are living at the time of his second coming. Enoch believed God and those things that the scripture of that time revealed him to be. If we are to find God in our life we must seek him with all our heart. Noah guided by God’s words and driven by his faith set about to build the ark. His faith overshadowed their unbelief and his obedience was greater than their contempt and rebellion. There is a point to be made here. The example of believers like that of Noahs after being warned of the wrath to come, moved by fear but filled with faith took action at God’s warning and became an heir of the righteousness of faith. We too can expect to be called, leave our interests and comforts behind. Strike out as Abraham, obeying and going forth not knowing what we might encounter, seeking only to do God’s will, to do that which He has called us to. Abraham’s trial was brought about simply because he fully obeyed the call of God. Abraham offered up Isaac putting aside his doubts and fears and looking to the power of God. We will be better off enjoying our comforts if we allow God to give us that which we need and He knows are best for us. Jacob lived by faith, and he died by faith, and in faith. This grace of faith is available to us in our life cycle but is especially needful when we face death. Here at last we have come to our destination, facing it with a life of patience, hope and joy, a life of faith in which we have striven to honor God in all things. Joseph was tried by temptations to sin, by persecution for keeping his integrity; and he was tried by the honors and power in the court of Pharaoh, yet his faith carried him through. Moses was a special baby, raised in royalty, tempted by power and sin, was of his own violation a murderer but God used him and Moses by faith led his people from captivity. Moses became a true believer of God and was willing to subject himself to their fate, being desirous to be in a covenant with God and in communion with his people. Rahab’s inclusion in this list is a bit tricky. It is written that Rahab operated an inn in the city and aided the Israelite spies to escape capture when scouting the city. There were some inns that were also brothels but the story does not indicate that. Rahab’s life was not perfect but she was declared just by her actions. 

There is a little more here in the chapter but I think the point has been made. Hope, Faith, Courage and Strength are some of the attributes of a hero by earthly definitions. These people were saints of the faith…It is because they believed that they had hope and were able to serve God. What is that old refrain…faith of our fathers… May we pray and endeavor to increase our faith and like them be made perfect in Him… Believe.

Life is Good

jk

Great Chapters of the Bible… Sin, Complacency and Judgement…1 Corinthians Chapter 5

This is a short chapter only 13 verses but they challenge the church today just as strongly as they did the Corinthian Church of Paul’s day. We have as a community of faith become more and more complacent accepting among us those things that weaken the faith and over time we have allowed ourselves to view them as the acceptable in today’s society. We accepted the premise that to judge others is wrong, in this chapter Paul adds some much needed clarity to this idea. In the NRSV version the word unchastity is used to describe a series of bad behaviors. First Paul speaks to a specific problem that has occurred there in the church at Corinth. In todays world we have gone to great length to tone down and in some instances accept that which society deems appropriate or the new norm. We have allowed the perversion of God’s word and law to mirror the demand of social and cultural change.

First we must acknowledge that the Gentile world did not know the meaning of the word chastity. To make this plain they took pleasure where they found it with whom and whenever it pleased them. A Christian mind could not grasp this and certainly found it difficult to escape this sea of idolatry that surrounded them and was overwhelmed by such behavior. There were those who had come into the church from this very environment and they would have to unlearn these practices of such loose living. If the church was to grow and be kept pure they would have to say goodby to the old ways. As we join Paul at this point we find him dealing with what is a constantly recurring problem. The sin he confronts is to found in Leviticus 18:8. A couple of things here…Paul does not attempt to deal with her at all which indicates that she must have been outside the jurisdiction of the church…it being possible she was a divorcee…perhaps a Gentile. Now the other point to be made…The indication is that as shocked as he was of the nature of the sin he was even more shocked by the attitude of the Corinthian church to both the sinner and the sin itself. They had retained a complacent attitude toward both sin and sinner. They had accepted the situation, because they were surrounded by such behavior, they let this become the new norm. It was Paul’s opinion that they should have been deeply upset about this happening among the body of the believers within the church itself. Such an easy-going attitude toward sin is always dangerous, their silence and lack of response was in a way condoning such. There are scholars that have said sin puts believers in a perilous position. This is not about condemnation of another person it is about the fact that sin, when it comes among us is something that no Christian man or women should ever take an easy-going attitude toward. Sin…crucified Jesus Christ. Christ died that we might be free of sin.

It is at this point in the chapter that Paul introduces a new thought. We have always been taught to love the sinner, hate the sin. Paul puts a twist on that… 1 Corinthians 5: 5-7

 hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord. You, boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are.

Paul leaves no doubt to his intentions in this matter. The man must be dealt with. In Paul’s day the world was looked upon as the domain of Satan, the church was the domain of God. They were to  put this man out of the church. Send him back to Satan’s world, that’s where he belongs. It was not the wish of the church to break this man…it was meant to get his attention and was done with a great deal of sadness. It was always the intention that in getting his attention they might have the time to change his sinful nature, restore him to the fellowship and save his soul. The example given here has at its core a practical truth. Discipline is sometimes needed in the church. To keep ignoring situations, and there are many others, we weaken the strength and ground of the faith our Lord has called us too. We , Christians, people of the faith cannot allow the weeds of sin to grow on our ground. The weeds of sin must be removed before it renders the ground unfit for planting and growing the seeds of faith. Discipline must always be used to prevent and to cure…Remember we are not in the practice of condemnation but one of restoration. 

Paul has already written a letter to the Corinthians. In this letter he had urged them to avoid the evils of society and the men and women involved in such behavior. Now here is the catch…some I am sure misunderstood what Paul was saying. Paul had meant that to apply only to the members of the church. Some of the members of the church had taken this to be an absolute, which would mean withdrawal from the world entirely. In Corinth it would be impossible to function in such a way in every day life. The society Paul is speaking of would be those within the church itself. Paul’s thought was that wicked people would have to be put out of the church, until they mended their ways. Paul believed that discipline was a necessary thing to maintain the faith and message of the church. In reality Paul would never have advocated   withdrawal from the world. I do not wish to put words in Paul’s mouth but I am sure he believed that our Christianity and faith must be lived out in the world…this he believed would make it a better place. There is no such thing as a solitary religion and I believe there is no group salvation. We find our strength in the community of faith but our salvation is something that we alone will stand before God to be judged on that day. 

Paul has a specific list, three sins to be exact that have or are occurring in the world and he places them in three classes of people. They are fornicators, the greedy, and idolaters. 

It is reasonable to believe that fornication is a sin against ourselves, self inflicted.

-Greediness is a sin against others, our neighbors and of course the men and women we encounter every day.

-Idolatry is a sin against God. Worshiping things that takes our time from God. Not keeping God first in our lives.

I do not believe that scripture contradicts itself, it does at times clarify itself as to meaning. There was a Jewish phrase those outside which was applied to those who were not the chosen people. Paul believed that we must leave the judgement of those outside the faith to God, because He alone knows what is in their hearts. There is no doubt in Paul’s reasoning about this. Those within the church had special privileges, so it was only right that they should have special responsibilities. We of the faith have taken an oath to Christ and will and should be called to answer for our fidelity to it.

Chapter 5 has a rather harsh ending…I will let you be the judge as to its place in the church today.

1 Corinthians 5:13

13 God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”

Life is Good

jk

Great Chapters of The Bible…Titus 1…Standards and Procedures…

Those of us who at one time worked for a large company will at once grasp the words standards and procedures. Chapter 1 in the book of Titus is just that, it gives Titus the standards and the procedures to follow needed to strengthen the church and to grow the faith.

We know very little about Titus to whom this letter is written until we step back a moment and allow ourselves to let scripture reveal him to us. It is rather strange that Titus who had garnered enough standing in the early Church that one of the great Apostles to the Gentiles took the time to write a letter to him with instructions and responsibilities he is to share and undertake in Crete. There is evidence in scripture that Titus was a frequent companion of Paul in his journeys, Yet Titus is not mentioned once in the book of Acts of the Apostles. It is safe to say that Titus was very dear to Paul and Paul put much trust and confidence in his “son in the faith” (Titus 1:4 ). In 1 Timothy Paul had set out in detail the qualifications of an Elder in the church. Crete was an island of many cities and there would be many more little cities and Paul had always insisted that small churches should be encouraged to stand on their own feet as soon as possible. This chapter is special to me and made my list because we get an insight into the organization of the early church. The Council of Carthage had set down the standard for Bishops, elders and deacons that all members of their families should be believers of the faith. It was the council’s opinion that Christianity begins at home. No matter the path we follow in life it should not result in neglect of family. There is also the reference that families or individuals should not be involved in licentious or disruptive behavior. There is much to be said in our world today that the best avenue for training one to be a leader and productive member of society starts at home and is reinforced by christian standards taught in the church. Back to Chapter 1, Book of Titus…. all are the servants of God…There is truth in the gospel that there is value in teaching not so much fear of God as just plain awe of His Divinity and Power. The intent of the gospel is to raise the people’s faith and hope. To remove the burdens of the everyday world and point to the Heavens and the things above the everyday, that being, the gospel, the divine promise and the privilege of salvation! Our faith is strengthen by hearing the word of God and those who are called to preach the word, must do so with vigor and discipline. The fruits of God’s grace and favor are freely given to those who believe. The fruits of this favor are many…There is mercy in the pardoning of our sins, blessed relief from our miseries now and later on. Another fruit would be peace…peace through Jesus Christ with all others and ourselves. Consider please, that this blessing is the fountain of all blessings from which mercy, peace and all good things come forth. In verse 7b we are told what elders must not be. We start right off with the admonishment that we must not live our life to please just ourselves. Not easy because within this standard lies the fact that we cannot be intolerant of others or arrogant . We are standard bearers of the church, even more important that those who hold office should put aside such behavior. Elders should not be quick tempered. It is a common trait that those of quick temper are more likely than not to nourish their anger against others. 

Paul writes to Timothy that the leaders, here in referred to as bishops and elders must meet certain qualifications. They are to be overseers of the flock, set an example as how to live and to manage the affairs of the household of God. It is made clear what they are not to be and is shown that they are to be, servants of Christ, minister to the practice and letter of the Gospel. We are also shown that they are to be examples of good works. Paul addresses the issue of false teachers in the church. He stresses that the faithful oppose them, they must not be allowed to continue with their false messages and immoral actions against the word of God. They serve a worldly interest, pretending to be of Godly mind and spirit. They do so to gain the riches of worldly sin. Shame them by presenting to the people the sound doctrine of the Scriptures. Actions such as theirs is far from that you have been taught. 

“falsehood and lying, envious craft and cruelty, brutal and sensual practices, and idleness and sloth, are sins condemned even by the light of nature.” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary on the Bible)

 It is true that there are many evil doers among you and it was one of their very own who said “Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons” and for these reasons you should rebuke them sharply. Verses 13 – 16 are a good example of what Titus is having to contend with….

Titus 1:13-16

13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

It might be said Paul wastes no words here, he is direct and to the point. There is an underlying thought in this rebuke thing that is worth noting. You will find it in verse 13… This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith . (NRSV) As is in all things of God’s, mercy and grace are always offered. “So that they will be sound in the faith”… I will close this blog by writing what I believe to be a Gospel based truth…Our God is a God of restoration, not condemnation. There is always salvation for those who believe and repent.

Life is Good

jk 

Great Chapters of The Bible…1 Corinthians 15

1 Corinthians chapter 15 has always been a favorite of mine, I call it the resurrection chapter. This week we will read a little closer the words of Paul and hopefully they will give you encouragement and hope. Be sure to read the highlighted verses.

1 Corinthians 15: 1-11

In the first eleven verses of this chapter the apostle seeks to prove the resurrection of Christ to unbelievers and oddly enough some believers who had some doubts. The very foundation of our faith and of Christianity, rests on the death and resurrection of Christ. We must have faith in the cross and in the empty tomb. Take this from us and we sink into an abyss of sin and no hope. It is by a firm faith in the cross and the resurrection that we of the faith will stand firm in the days of trial that lie ahead. Unless we keep the faith and believe in the gospel, all is in vain. Believing what you cannot see or have not seen is difficult in the world today, one of instant gratification. The truth of Paul’s testimony is confirmed by Old Testament prophecies and recorded testimony of those who saw the risen Christ. There is also the difference of the gift of divine grace. Paul was well thought of but he always had a low opinion of himself. It seems that when sinners turn from their old ways and by divine grace they are made new, there is always the times of remembrance of past sins that keeps them humble and faithful. It is safe to say and often remembered that Jesus Christ crucified and risen from the dead is the substance and power of Christianity.

1 Corinthians 15: 12-19

Paul is still answering the questions and attacks of others than the faithful, as to the resurrection…There would be no justification or salvation if Christ had not risen and would not our faith in Christ be in vain and of little use to us if Christ were still among the dead? If Christ had not risen from the dead we all would die in our sin…forever. Christ is our redeemer and in him alone lies our hope for salvation. Here is a thought that should resonate in this life this very day. The conditions of mankind at the time of the Apostles writings were not that good but Christians were hated and persecuted by all men. But they had the comfort and promise of the risen Christ and could find peace amidst all the persecution they suffered.

1 Corinthians 15: 20-34

In one of my sources for this blog there is the statement “There will be an order in the resurrection.” All who have faith in Jesus Christ can be assured by his resurrection they to will experience their own. The resurrection shall see Christ as the first fruits of the promise made followed by the redeemed and last will be wicked, who will stand for their judgement. Our salvation and resurrection will be because of our acceptance and following his will, then we shall live again in glory to him our savior. Much value can be added to fact that to live a Godly life is indeed better than conforming to those who find comfort in their ignorance and those who choose to live in sin, they should be avoided as to their behavior, but prayed for and helped to find Christ and salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:35-50

Questions are raised and answered. 

  1. How are the dead raised up? that is, by what means? How can they be raised? . 
  2. As to the bodies which shall rise. Will it be with the like shape, and form, and stature, and members, and qualities. 

Much has been written to explain this resurrection thing. There were many who sought to discredit it, those who embraced it and of course those who preached it. But there is no better way to explain this issue which was often challenged in the early church than the words written in the 15th Chapter of 1Corinthians verses 35-58. This will take but a moment of you time, please take this moment to do so, for the very foundation of the faith rests on the cross, the resurrection and Jesus Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

In time we too (the saved) will experience the pain of death. In one of my research materials there is an interesting point…we can calmly face the tomb knowing that we have the assurance that while our bodies may well sleep there, in the in-between time our souls will be present with the Redeemer. The other important point to be made is that we are to remain stedfast and firm in the faith. We must never lose our hope or expectation of the privilege of the resurrection, raised incorruptible and immortal.

We have the power by the presence of the Holy Spirit to to live a life of joy and triumphant now and in the life to come.

Life is Good

jk  

Ebenezer…Stone of Help

This is one of my most read blogs. I wrote it in May of 2018…I hope you find a blessing in it.

There is a fine old hymn many of us have sung and many of us may have tripped over that stone in verse two, not knowing where it came from or what it meant.

Sorrowing I shall be in spirit,
  Till released from flesh and sin,
Yet from what I do inherit,
  Here Thy praises I’ll begin;
Here I raise my Ebenezer;
  Here by Thy great help I’ve come;
And I hope, by Thy good pleasure,
  Safely to arrive at home.

The hymn was written in 1757 by Robert Robinson. Most of us associate Ebenezer with the character in “A Christmas Carol”. Ebenezer had a few problems but he did become a different man at the end of the story.

Today we look at a story from the Bible found in 1 Samuel 7 beginning in verse 7.

7 When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.

The people told Samuel to not stop asking the Lord to rescue them from the Philistines (v 8) and Samuel sacrificed a suckling lamb to the Lord (v 9). Verses 10 and 11 tell of Israel’s victory. In recognition of the victory because of the help of the Lord we are told of Samuel’s action in verse 12.

12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.”

One thing we do not want to pass by here is the very first few verses of this chapter. The importance of repentance, verses 2-4. The people come together and confessed their sins and Samuel offers a sacrifice on their behalf. (verses 5-9) Ebenezer means Stone of Help, and Samuel put it there as a reminder to all Israelites that saw it of the Lord’s power and protection. The Lord had kept his promise to bless his repentant people.  V 3–4: Samuel insists that a returning to the Lord must include the putting away of foreign gods and idolatry, and involve a wholehearted commitment to serve Him. The Israelites do this and ‘served the Lord only’.

The people had not been living a Holy life and verses 3-4 indicate the seriousness of their actions. They embrace the fact that they must turn from their sins and do so in mind, body and soul. Not only do they turn from their sin but they dedicate themselves to changing the way they live. Repentance always demands a certain amount of contrition but without change it is a meaningless gesture. Back to verse 12… 12 Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the Lord has helped us.” We know from a previous episode that the Israelites carried the ark into battle only to suffer a resounding defeat. The Israelites presumed they could not be defeated in battle with the ark among them. An interesting thought I acquired while doing research for this blog, from the Reformation Study Bible.

“Now God has given them a great victory over the same enemies. Samuel sets up a memorial stone with the name Ebenezer, “Stone of Help,” not only to commemorate the victory but also as reminder of the different results brought about by presumption on the one hand and by repentance on the other.”

When we seek to live a Christian life, the challenges of this life do not cease. We won’t always be successful but from these scriptures we see that God is receptive to prayers for forgiveness and herein lies another lesson. Showing contrition and seeking forgiveness without changing our ways is worthless. Maybe I am being to harsh here. This I do believe to be true. Contrition, forgiveness and change of how one lives is a process that in the Christian world succeeds only when we give ourselves over to God completely, remembering this from verse 12… “Thus far the Lord has helped us”. We might ask ourselves if “thus far, have we have served our Lord faithfully?”

Life is Good

jk

Great Chapters of The Bible…Romans 8

 In my readings and research for subjects I came across one article that put forth the Book of Romans, chapter 8 as being one of the great chapters of the Bible. I re-read chapter 8 and after spending a more in-depth read decided to share some thoughts with you. 

There are six reasonable motivations for the apostle’s writings here. Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary gives us a clearer understanding of his motives…and I quote…

“to answer the unbelieving, and to teach the believing Jew; to confirm the Christian and to convert the idolatrous Gentile; and to show the Gentile convert as equal with the Jewish, in respect of his religious condition, and his rank in the Divine favor.” 

Paul plainly states that salvation and acceptance in God’s eyes is by grace and through faith in Jesus Christ. There is no implying that any distinction of nation has a place in the grace and mercy of  God or Christ in bestowing of such on anyone. We can see that there is an area of concern by a certain group within the Christian movement known as Judaizing Christians who had set terms of acceptance with God to be a mixture of the Law and the Gospel. Sometimes the mass of words are better understood when personal circumstances are at stake. For example it should be a source of comfort to know that the Lord might well rebuke the believer, but they will not be condemned with the world. This is because through Christ with faith they are secure. In these first 9 verses we read of the freedom of believers from condemnation. The Christian faith is one of restoration not condemnation. 

 The verses that follow state that there are privileges granted to those believers, for they shall be known as children of God. The gift of the spirit that dwells in us, then also shall Christ be in us. Our very soul is new in its nature, renewed by grace is engulfed by a holy happiness that will endure forever. We are blessed to know

it is our duty to walk in righteous. Those who live a life that is corrupted by sin and lusts of the flesh and mind will surely die. The spirit will allow us to be more and more ashamed of those things that corrupt our lives and put them aside. Regeneration by the Holy Spirit brings a new and Divine life to the soul. There was the  bondage of the law in the Old Testament Church but this spirit of adoption, poured out in grace now gives his children peace and hope. 

There is a turn to reality in these verses 18-25 that gives us pause to think about our lives and our place in this creation. God’s creation has suffered much since the fall of man,  impurity, deformity, and infirmity, and the hostility of one creature to another. Indeed, the creation is in a deplorable state but there is hope. The writer states that God will deliver it from man’s depravity. We are to understand that the miseries of the human race are of our  own doing. But because we have been awaken by the first fruits of the Spirit, our hopes, desires and expectations have risen. We should awaken ourselves to the fact that our sins have brought these woes upon the creation. It is only reasonable that we should find comfort in our place in this creation as believers. For us it is the hope of what is to come…our comfort does not lie in the things of this world. We wait in the certainty of a Spirit filled renewed soul resting in the goodness of God’s grace. He will come. Christians are not exempt from the infirmities of this world, which are many and could be easily overpowered by them if it were not for the Holy Spirit’s support. Verses 26-27 reveals the Spirit as an enlightening force in our lives. It teaches us to pray for our needs, fills us with grace and hope, lifts us above our discouragements.The Holy Spirit is like a well, from which all our desires toward God flow freely. Remember, ‘drink of this water and you will thirst no more.’ The enemy cannot prevail when the Spirit makes intercession. 

As we move to verses 28-31, you can read the that the apostle speaks and writes as one who is in awe and admiration of the height and depth, the inclusiveness of the love of Christ which passeth all understanding. With Gos’s love we can with assurance defy the powers of darkness. All we read in the pervious verses is good for His Children. It is necessary to bring us closer, part us from the evil of the world, lift us up and preparing for salvation and the haven to come. There is a golden chain of salvation here in these verses….take time to read vv.28-31… This empowers our hope and faith…God’s way, God’s work is perfect.

The last verses of this chapter, vv. 37-39 are assurances that that God’s grace and power can never be taken from us. We can give it away through sin and perversions of the faith but God in us…Christ in us…the power of the Holy Spirit is best summed up in these closing verses of this chapter.

Romans 8

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Life is Good

jk

Road Trip…The Seven Churches… Revelations Chapters 2-3

Last week we were looking at Revelations 3: 14-21 and the harsh words Christ had for the church in Laodicea. In Revelations chapters 2 and 3 we have the account of all seven churches in John’s vision. I encourage you to read these messages to each church after reading this weeks blog. Here is a quick look at those churches.

Ephesus 

There is much to share about the city of Ephesus which is located in modern day Turkey. Rome made it a provincial capital and at one time it boasted over 200,000 residents. It was the third largest city in the Roman Empire. Three things about Ephesus, it had size, wealth and power. Among this mix the city was known for trade and idol worship. Located there was what some referred to as the seventh wonder of the ancient world…the temple of Artemis. Ephesus had much to offer and was a major cultural center in the ancient world. Paul visited Ephesus on his second missionary journey. (Acts 18:19) On his third missionary journey he again came to Ephesus, this time staying three years. The time spent there was longer than any other of his church plants. It came to a sudden end when the silversmiths of that city came against him. Seems his presence, preaching and teaching were hurting their sales of trinkets made to sell in honor of the goddess Diana. (Acts 19: 26-41) There is much more but this is a brief summary of the church in Ephesus.

Smyrna:

As one of the principal cities of Roman Asia, Smyrna vied with Ephesus and Pergamum for the title “First City of Asia.” A Christian church and a bishopric existed here from a very early time, probably originating in the considerable Jewish colony there. Was one of the seven churches addressed in the Book of Revelation.

https://bible.org/seriespage/3-smyrna-suffering-church

Note: When I quote an article or Blog directly I will always place that quote in Italics and include the web address. I encourage the readers of my blog to go to that address at some time and read that authors comments.

According to others research this church in Smyrna was founded by Paul during his time in Ephesus. (Acts 19:10) There are some other interesting facts in that article you might want to read about. The church at Smyrna was under some heavy persecution and tribulations and could be found everywhere. But they remained strong in their faith and the message Jesus gave them was to encourage them to continue to stand strong and pray to God that they may continue to endure, whatever the cost. 

Pergamon:

The Church here had an interesting profile. Pergamum served as the capital of the Roman Province of Asia Minor for over 25 years. The City had the distinction of being the center for a number of pagan cults.There was during that period of time the rise of Caesar worship, the City built a temple there and it became the capital of the Caesar worship cult. The commitment of the City to cults and idol worship was greater than all other Asian cities and places.We know very little about the founding of this church other than some believe it was Paul who planted it during his ministry at Ephesus. (Acts 19: 10) It was at this time that the gospel was being preached throughout Asia. 

The church at Pergamum was awash in sinned the godliness which sadly should remind us of the world we are living in this day.

Thyatira

Thyatira was 45 miles southeast of Pergamum and was famous for its textiles, production of purple dye and its trade guilds. Though it was the smallest of the seven cities it received the longest of the letters.The story here is about as simple as you can get. This church was doing well and was an asset to the city and its people. But there was one among them who made false claims about her personage and sought to influence the church to join the powerful trade unions. Joining such unions required participation in the guild feasts that included immoral acts and the worship of idols. God sends a message to those who would disregard and distort His word. Stand Firm in Your Faith.

Sardis

The greatness of Sardis lay in its past. Much had been written about its past wealth and splendor. It was also known for it geographical position. It sat on a mountain which boasted steep cliffs which would be impossible to scale and there was only one narrow way of approach.This thought to be impregnable city would be attacked and defeated twice! They were an arrogant people given to carelessness. (Revelations 3: 2-3) The City was known for its woolen, textile and jewelry industry. Their sinfulness was great and there is no need for me at this time to give space to it. There were many good external works and activities, however the church was know as the sleeping church. (2Timothy 3: 5)

Philadelphia

Not much to coverer but it is noted that was a small church with little influence. It had the saving graces of a church that was pure, holy and faithful to God’s Word. The members of this church had experienced personal victories over sin.

Last week we took a look at the church in Laodicea. So now we have completed the Road Trip…The Seven Churches of Asia. 

Personal note to you who visit us in The Pew. I have been having a problem with vertigo and it has been a struggle to complete this work this week. Every week I end my blog the same way Life is Good… This week I add to it…

Life is Good…Because God Is Good.

Jk

A Legacy To Be Avoided…Revelations 3: 14- 16

 14 “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation: 15 “I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. 16 So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Did the Church at Laodicea experience the damnatio  memoriae, the condemnation of a person’s memory? What could the church had done to warrant such a punishment? Many opinions exist but of the two that garner the most support I favor that of Adolf von Harnack, a much respected German scholar. In later times, the church in Laodicea sadly fell from grace. It is his theory based on scripture from the book of Revelation referring to the letter to Laodicea, which makes sad reading… in the letter, to the church of Laodicea the risen Christ, says in that vivid phrase: ‘I am about to spit you out of my mouth’ (Revelation 3:16). So what was damnatio memoriae? It would have resulted in the church at Laodicea records being erased from all books, obliterated from all inscriptions and chiseled out of all memorials. It would be as if they never existed. The biblical equivalent of our current day cancel culture. What did they do that would merit such punishment? The answers lie within the scripture and can be an uncomfortable recognition of current attitudes.  

Laodicea was a wealthy city during the Roman period. Located on major trade routes that passed through important cities like Ephesus, Smyrna and Sardis, Laodicea also was a center of textile production and banking. Like the city it resided in the church had done well, as noted in Revelations 3:17 it was a wealthy church. Wealth has a way of corrupting our character, lessening our resolve to follow the right way and hampers good intentions for the sake of acquiring more of worldly things that cools our faith. The scripture indicates that the people had become lukewarm and that attitude was shown by their deeds. In Revelations 3:14-21 the Lord describes them as such. There are many examples of analogies to be found among the scriptures. The people of Laodicea would have picked up on this one in these verses. Those who would read John’s “Revelation” would have also. The cities drinking water came by aqueduct from a spring six miles to the south of the city and when it arrived it was lukewarm, not refreshing at all. There were hot springs near by that people bathed in, seeking to heal their bodies. Hot water can clean and purify, cold water can refresh and give life to a tired soul. Lukewarm water could do neither. Scripture tells us that the seven churches in Asia Minor each received a letter, the harshest being the one to the church at Laodicea. Their deeds or lack of drawing the Lord’s displeasure. In the eyes of Jesus, this is a dead church. This church practiced a faith of convenience being neither hot or cold. They had become comfortable in their wealth and were arrogant to others around them. 

Mark 10:23 (ESV)

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

Jesus and scripture often equates deeds as an indicator of a person’s spiritual health.

Matthew 7:16–17 (ESV)

16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn  bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.

The Church at Laodicea was prosperous in material goods and its people were also. They enjoyed the fruits of their physical labour but in return they became victims of their wealth and allowed themselves to become comfortable with a semblance of the faith…  Their attitude of self-sufficiency  and lukewarm faith placed them in constant danger of the evils of this world.

Where are you and your church in this world today? Have we become so comfortable in the things of this life that our legacy will be that of the church at Laodicea? I hope and pray not. 

Join us in the Pew next week….

Life is Good

jk

….Attitude Is A Choice

 While not stepping completely out of The Pew I am figuratively at the end of the pew and I must be careful with my words and thoughts. We will have many choices to make in our lives and all will in some way be influenced by people, places and things, timing and for many of us our faith… 

 Let me introduce you to Viktor Frankl… who was an Austrian neurologist, psychiatrist, philosopher, author, and Holocaust survivor. Viktor Frankl was a practicing Jew his entire life, but he was very careful not to impose, or even be seen to be imposing, his religious conviction upon others; that was not the way he operated as a therapist, physician or man. Frankl believed that humans are motivated by something called a “will to meaning,” an overwhelming desire to find meaning in life. He argued that life can have meaning even in the most miserable of circumstances and that the motivation for living comes from finding that meaning.  According to Frankl, “We can discover this meaning in life in three different ways:

(1) by creating a work or doing a deed

(2) by experiencing something or encountering someone 

(3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering” and that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances” 

City Slickers a 1991 movie, gave us an exchange between Jack Palance and Billy Crystal that lasted a whole 1:03  and gave us a question that people have spent a life time asking and trying to answer. What is the meaning of life? Curly Washburn’s answer was… ‘just one thing, stick to that and everything will be all right’. When asked what that one thing was, Curly replied… ‘that’s what you have to figure out’.  I found it interesting that Mr. Frankl, a man of degrees has narrowed down the ways to discover the meaning of life. My friend Webster defines attitude as follows…. “a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior.” We can enlarge on that somewhat by adding this….

“The definition of an attitude is a way of feeling or acting toward a person, thing or situation. Passion for a sport, dislike for a certain actor and negativity toward life in general are each an example of an attitude.”

Ok, next I found myself reading this…

The four basic types of attitudes and behaviors that are positive, negative and neutral.

  • Positive Attitude: This is one type of attitude in organizational behaviour. …
  • Negative Attitude: A negative attitude is something that every person should avoid. …
  • Neutral Attitude: …
  • Sikken Attitude:

“The silken attitude was new to me, so I dug a little deeper and found this….People with a sikken attitude demonstrate a negative state of mind. They try to destroy the image of every element that reflects into their mind. However, you may consider it as a type of much more aggressive negative attitude.”

If we accept that attitude is a choice, I would then ask you to consider that a biblical attitude is one that should be added to that list. The bible has much to say about attitude, the one that resonates the most with me is from Philippians 4: 8-9…

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. “

 On the other hand the Bible is full of folks who are in need of an attitude adjustment. Some sins of  attitude include, a false pride, unjust anger, bitter envy, malicious hatred. When attitude becomes a verb, a negative one…it always brings with its actions hurt, pain and the lessening of value of the people, places and things it is directed at. We can unpack and pull up scripture and still miss the point. Curly said it in a simple and short conversation… I believe it starts with the attitude you have toward doing one thing and doing it well. Live a Godly life, lifting up Jesus Christ and the good news of the salvation for all who believe and call on his name and those who are in need of God’s love. Remember, a biblical attitude is one of affirmation, not one of condemnation. You can start doing just that by remembering this 

Romans 12:2

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

What does God say is the purpose of life? In one sense, you are always living in God’s purposeGod is God and He works all things, including your life, according to his purposes. … Psalm 57:2 says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me.” This is key in understanding God’s purpose for your life.(What Is God’s Purpose for Your Life And How to Find It … https://www.cornerstone.edu › blog-post › what-is-gods-p..)

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

Walking with Jesus will give you the answer to the question of the meaning of life… Your life. Apply what Curly said…‘just one thing, stick to that and everything will be all right’. 

Yes, attitude is a choice. Hear what God has told you…Micah 6: 8

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.

    And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy

    and to walk humbly with your God.

Life is Good

jk