No Need

www.bible.com/72/php.4.19.hcsb

Need anything? This question gets asked around our house when someone is texting from WalMart or Kroger or somewhere else. It is an expression of love, a willingness to get something when that person can’t physically be at the store, but still lacks.

As Christians, especially American Christians, we have so much and our needs are so often met that it’s hard to discern between what we need and what we desire. I imagine God sees our needs in a couple of ways, our physical needs (air, water, food, shelter, clothing), our social needs (companionship, love, mentoring), and our spiritual needs (forgiveness, grace, knowledge, hope, faith, and love). My lists are not exhaustive but point to some things as human beings we need, but often neglect. We favor and savor desires for self and pleasure more than we ask for peace and joy. We might prefer a slice of chocolate cake over reading and savoring a passage of Scripture. Or maybe going out to the movies than a Home Bible Study.

Yet God knows what we need. If we will seek Him, He will supply all of them through Christ Jesus. We cannot get what we need through Shiva, Baal or Isis. Nor through Mohammed, atheism, or Wicca. There is only one path to meet the needs that God Himself installed: Jesus Christ.

So which of the countless ways to Jesus is the right path? It’s easy to dismiss alternative religions, but Christians don’t make it any easier. How can I know which church is true? Don’t be daunted by the number of Churches. Christian Churches all follow the same Bible and preach the same Jesus, more or less. Whether you find a Methodist, Baptist, Christian, Catholic, Pentecostal, Apostolic, or Fundamentalist, all of these churches revere Jesus and worship Him. But I would not attend a church that doesn’t believe in the Bible and teaches from it regularly. If they need other books, walk away. If they don’t preach salvation through Jesus, leave them behind. I can’t tell you which one to go to, because some individual churches in extremely liberal denominations are still very conservative and preach and teach Jesus and the Bible. Some pastors have not given in to social pressure and still preach truth. But they are getting harder to find. For myself, I attend a Southern Baptist-type church on Sunday morning and an acapella Church of Christ on Wednesday night. That’s where I am at present.

If you can’t find a good church, at least start reading the Bible on your own. Get a group of you and some interested friends to study together. That’s how the church started, followers of Jesus meeting in homes. I want to encourage you to become part of a fellowship as soon as possible.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Have a great Thursday and God bless!

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Y’all

www.bible.com/1713/1co.6.19.csb

There are times in Scripture where English simply falls short of the original. This verse is one of them. Unless you know some of the Greek behind it, you don’t get the intended meaning of this passage.

For example, I have often heard this verse used as justification against smoking, drinking, or even overeating. How? Because all of those things desecrate the Temple that is the body. The body is understood here as one’s own body, and anything that harms the body, even lack of exercise, is preached as misusing the Temple of God, from which the wrath of God may be involved.

However, a simple check back into the Greek of the text reveals something else. The word for “your” in English can be both singular and plural, unfortunately. While the verse can be understood of speaking of your personal body, the word is translating a plural original, meaning “y’all’s” body. In this context, y’all does a better job communicating the intent of the original. This also changes the meaning. Instead of one’s personal body in question, it is the body of believers as a whole that is the Temple. The Spirit dwells among us, it just in us. When we are together, we are the Temple, not just by ourselves.

Now does that mean smoking and drinking and whatnot are good for us? By no means, but it does mean that we cannot press this verse into service to be against it.

This means that our body of believers is a gift from God. That ought to change our attitude as we meet together this morning.

God bless!

Conflict Resolution

www.bible.com/1713/col.3.13.csb

When I come into a conflict, my sense get really hyped up and I have a significant stress response. I hate conflict. I get really nervous and anxious and it just messes me up. I’ve tried to get better at as I’ve gotten older, but conflict resolution is still challenging for me.

So this verse shows up in the feed this morning forcing me to address my fears. Conflict is the result of people in conflict. Often that conflict isn’t solved right away. The trap is to carry it with you as resentment or as a grudge. You may be carrying one right now against someone who offended you or wronged you years ago. STOP!

Don’t waste years of your life on someone who wronged you. Even if they never ask for forgiveness, never let that stuff poison your soul. But especially, as this verse instructs, never let that stuff happen in the body of Christ. Jesus died and forgave you both for far worse sins that what you’ve done to each other. You have no right to hold a grudge against a fellow believer, because if Jesus forgave them of their sins, you must.

Now I get it. There are some people you don’t like. There are some people you would just as soon not spend time with. That’s fine. But eternity is a long time. If you can’t get along now, heaven may not be so heavenly. Do yourself a favor and let go of the right to be upset at someone.

I relapse as I write this that there are some pretty awful things people can do to one another, especially in the church. I’ve had awful things done to me. And I cannot sit here and tel you I am completely over them. But with age I have perspective and understanding of why people do what they do. I still have scars, but they are healing. I hope and pray your scars are healing too. I think they make you wiser and more cautious, but don’t let them get in the way of true friendships.

God bless you today.

Love Covers

www.bible.com/1713/1pe.4.8.csb

Brother Peter calls us to love this morning. He reminds us of the great commandment Jesus gave us, love one another, by saying we should remain constant in our love for one another. He adds here from Proverbs 10:12 that love covers offenses, or as he says, a multitude of sins. This should say something to us believers today.

You ever been offended by a fellow believer? Does the sun rise? Do people get on your nerves? Peter subtly acknowledges that yes, Christians can step on each other’s toes. So he reminds us of what Jesus said. Jesus said this, not just anyone. Love one another. This is the core of our relationships, the primary rule that binds us together. Love one another as He has loved us. Does it sound like he’s trying to say something here?

As a human being, Peter, probably more than most, knows we are prone to argue. He had disagreements with Jesus and Paul. So he knows how important it is to love one another, and how love covers offenses. I am looking at you Christian who holds a grudge against your fellow believer. Who remembers that wrong they did years ago and now you are holding it against them when they suggest the church support a mission or engage in a new project. I am looking at you Christian who hates other Christians because they don’t believe in the same way you do, or, heaven forbid, they dare to use instruments in worship.

This isn’t just about Christians in the same fellowship, though that’s bad enough. But it’s also also Christians of different *gasp* denominations. Christians have proved to the world over how important it is to be right. Let’s try also to prove how we love one another. If I recall, Jesus did not make the great commandment, be right at all costs, even if it costs Fellowship.

Now you may complain at this point and say, “I can’t fellowship with those who say gay is okay.” (As an example). If gay behavior is a sin (and I believe it is), how can I fellowship with Christians who don’t believe gay behavior is a sin? (Note: gay behavior is a sin in Scripture. Gay list would also be sinful, but to simply to be attracted to same sex people is a temptation, not a sin.) if they cannot be convinced of what the Bible plainly says, even at that, are be better of as Christians being hateful or being compassionate? Even Paul advocates separating from believers living in open sin, for a time, to give them time to repent, so that the sin would not taint the community.

I know these issues can be sharply divisive, but do we deal with each other according to the law or according to grace? In truth or in love? We are to speak the truth in love. We are to maintain love for one another, but not at the cost of truth. Even then, love should govern us, even if it means a temporary separation. Too long, and grudges set in, and they set harder than concrete.

A brother offended us harder to win than a strong city.

Just some thoughts today. Welcome your comments on this one.

Seeking Counsel

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.14.26.csb

The Silent Partner of the Holy Trinity is the Holy Spirit. Today on Pentecost Sunday we remember the birthday of the church and the role the Holy Spirit played on that day. Like tongues of fire the Holy Spirit descended upon those disciples of the early church and caused them to speak in various tongues so that all around were amazed, speaking of the works of God in their own language.

This remarkable event marked the beginning of the Church, the beginning of God’s mission of inclusion by faith of the peoples of the world by offering the “gift of the Holy Spirit” to all who would received Him by faith, repentance, and baptism. It was no longer exclusive to the Jews to know the Presence of God, to have a singular Temple where God resides. No, the presence of God is offered to all!

In one of Jesus final teachings with His disciples the night before He died, He told his disciples about the Holy Spirit, who would be a Counselor and a Teacher to them. This forms the basis for the teaching of the rest of the New Testament beyond the gospels. The Holy Spirit would and did guide them into all truth. That ceased when those disciples died, and those they directly discipled, like Mark and Luke. Paul was given special dispensation as an Apostle called directly by Christ and so too was given authority to write Spirit-inspired Scripture.

So what does the Holy Spirit do for us, if His purpose in this verse was to inspire Scripture? We aren’t writing Scripture anymore. No. But the Spirit is the same. He need only guide us to what is written, remind us of what we’ve read. The wisdom of the Spirit is already written for us to consume, but we may not always understand what we read when we read it. The Spirit works within us to help us understand it. The Spirit is just as powerful and effective for us in seeking wise counsel as it was for Solomon.

Celebrate today the birthday of the Church, and give place to the Holy Spirit every day as He points us to the Son and the Father.

God bless you today!

Defining Heresy

https://www.bible.com/bible/1713/TIT.3.10.CSB

Today’s heresy is tomorrow’s orthodoxy. When I was trained into ministry, I trained according to the understanding of doctrine of the Independent Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, i.e., The Restoration Movement. Many moons ago, the “Campbellites” as they were once called were maligned and shunned because they promote “baptismal regeneration” or the idea that getting baptized is what gets you saved. Alexander Campbell was asked to leave the Mahoning Baptist Association of Western Pennsylvania for his radical beliefs. Today the Restoration Churches believe that baptism alone does not save you, but that baptism is essential to salvation, as part of a process of faith, repentance, confession and baptism. We believe that baptismal regeneration is not heretical, but essential to the salvation process.

Funny enough though, salvation without baptism was considered heretical a few hundred years ago when Ulrich Zwingli first brought the idea during the Reformation. At that time, believer’s baptism wasn’t really a thing, but infant baptism was commonplace. Zwingli proposed that it wasn’t baptism that saved you (as the Catholics insisted), but that belief in Jesus was essential, and baptism was a work, an act of obedience. Thus, many who follow in his footsteps, including the Evangelical Movement today, put baptism on the back burner, as an act of obedience, rather than including it as part of salvation.

But then again, infant baptism hasn’t always been a thing either. In the beginning, those who believed and were baptized were the ones that were saved. Infants cannot grasp such ephemeral concepts as salvation from sin. Thus infants were excluded from baptism in the early church. However, the idea began to be taught that baptism, apart from faith, could be effective for salvation. This was a heretical idea that was espoused in the second century. The practice of baptizing infants was introduced primarily for parents worried that their children would not live long enough to believe. They were worried about this because of another heretical idea, “original sin”, which taught that one was guilty of Adam’s sin from conception, and only baptism could save someone from it. However, they missed this one point: while all carry the burden of Adam’s guilt, God also provides “original grace” for children before they reach the age of accountability, the age they are old enough to have faith in Jesus. (Is that another heretical idea, or something that makes logical sense?)

Thus today’s heresy becomes tomorrow’s orthodoxy. It just depends on who you listen to.

That said, this brings up today’s topic. In the verse above, the of “divisions” is in Greek “heresy”. It seems an odd thing to put in the Bible if we have no way to know what heresy is. Rather, Paul, as he is writing to Titus (an evangelist in Crete) assumed that Titus would know what is truth and what is heresy. As I listed above, baptism, which is a central component of Christian doctrine, has been thrown around the proverbial playground of theology. It has been labeled saving and an act of obedience. It has been called essential and non-essential. My friends, this is a core doctrine of Christianity. This isn’t like setting a date for Jesus’ return. This is at the core of what we believe about salvation, and yet it has been played with by the Church for 20 centuries!

All of that to say this: Heresy isn’t as easy to spot as it used to be. The idea of heresy also points to the idea that there is a “faith once for all delivered to the saints” that can be known and understood, and that we can identify counterfeits. Is there Paul? Is there really?

The only way to resist lies is to know the truth. A truth understood can spot a lie every time. In the early days of the church, even to the time of the Reformation, having a copy of the Bible in your hands was almost impossible and horribly expensive. Only the elite had the truth and dispensed it as they pleased. (Note: The Book of Eli movie is an interesting take on this idea, for if you are the only one who has the book, you can make it say anything you want and can control people as you please). You do not have the luxury today of waiting for others to tell you what the truth is. You no longer have the excuse of waiting for church time to read the Book. The Bible is available on every platform, every form of media. We are without excuse to not know what the truth is.

But that is just the start. Even being familiar the Scriptures can expose you to the eisegetical whims of false teachers, those who read their own ideas into the Bible and make it say what they want. Just recently I read an article about the “Prosperity Gospel” teachers who say that God wants you to be healthy and wealthy and quote Scriptures accordingly. If you go into the Bible with that idea in mind, every verse will seem to say that back to you. Even the verses that say Christians will suffer will seem mere symbolism to one so deceived.

Read your Scriptures. Study your Scriptures in context, in the context of the paragraphs and passages they are found in, their historical and literary contexts and how both original author and audience understood them. Also remember you have the Holy Spirit. He is with you to help you understand the Scriptures. If a teaching you receive sounds “funny” or “odd”, that may well be the Holy Spirit nudging you to study and pursue further. I have had many occasions for this this and been rewarded for my pursuit.

NEVER take a verse by itself. NEVER assume you know what a verse is saying until you read its context. NEVER let anyone tell you what a verse means if they don’t also include its context in their teaching. The world is full of false religions and heresies where single verses are ripped from their contexts and put together with others to create new doctrines.

Paul’s warning is clear. Heresy has no place alongside sound Christian teaching. If a false teacher will not recant, then he or she needs to be removed. In your study, don’t ever assume that you have come up with a new understanding of Scripture. The Bible has been around long enough that someone somewhere has already had that thought or that understanding. Research your interpretation. Check it against trusted sources. Remember also that the Church is old enough to have collected heretical baggage along her way and passed it off as doctrine, sometimes forming even whole denominations (which is also “heretical” when you think about it). As Glenn Beck says, do your own homework. You may have actually exposed some of it. Be prepared to face the backlash of the Unstudied and the “This is the Way We’ve Always Done It” Crowd. If you are right, be humble. Don’t go around saying you’ve found the “Truth” because nobody likes that. Instead, offer it as an alternative, and be certain in your facts.

Think critically, both of what you have learned and what you study. Be wiling to ask questions when something doesn’t sound right. God bless you in your journey.

The Third Commandment

www.bible.com/72/jhn.13.34.hcsb

Jesus was once asked what are the greatest commandments in the Law. He said that the two greatest commandments were the Love God with all your heart, soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. These didn’t change with the advent of Christianity. We are still expected to follow these commands under grace. But Jesus then added a third commandment, one distinctive to the Christian faith and experience. He said that Christians ought to love one another. Weird, huh? It seems like that should be a given. If I love God and love neighbors, wouldn’t I love my fellow Christians?

It seems to me that Jesus knows us better than we think. But what commandments have we violated more than this? And do you know what excuse we use to avoid obeying this commandment? They don’t believe like we do. We don’t associate with them. We don’t fellowship with them. We don’t do anything with them that might look like we love them. Hmmm.

Should there be recognition of doctrinal differences? And are there boundaries that denominations should not cross, boundaries of orthodoxy? Is there orthodoxy? Should the Bible have the final say on what we ought to believe, or should the Church? Because if we are going to disobey this commandment of Jesus, then we ought to have a really good reason. Is our reasoning strong enough to “tithe mint and dull and cumin, but avoid the weightier matters if the law”?

This is the tension between love and truth. Many churches exclude others based on truth. Other churches avoid truth and include everyone based on love. Is the “other” in one another a person also saved by grace, washed in blood through faith in Christ Jesus who must also live up to a code of conduct expected of the Christian?

It is very easy for us to dismiss “one another” when they don’t believe as we do, or their practices are different. We may stand and point fingers at each and declare “heretic”! all day long. But we forget that we are all fighting he same battle, the same enemy. And this enemy has enjoyed much success because he has us fighting each other instead of him. Are there greater evils in the world than a rival denomination? It seems we have bigger fish to fry than making sure everyone believes in exactly the same way.

I believe that every denomination has a problem in its doctrine somewhere. Nobody has it right. And I don’t know if this side of heaven we’ll ever figure it out. But I do believe some have it more right than others. Certain essential doctrines like the resurrected Christ, His atonement for our sins, the veracity of the Scriptures, the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church and a host of other things. But let us not turn on each other over petty things, like worship styles and architecture, crowd sizes and preaching styles. We have a bigger mission. Let us learn how to love one another, despite our differences, learn to combine our strength and defeat this enemy’s work among us.

God bless you all today.