02 July 2018

"EXTREMES BEGAT EXTREMES"

I remember well these words spoken by a wise and knowledgeable teacher of mine when I was in college. Brother Rex A Turner, Sr. had many ‘sayings’ but this is the one I want to emphasize presently. I have lived long enough (83 years) to know factually and by experience that this is true in our society today. He also said that a man need a “Balance wheel”, which we sorely need today. We are people of ‘extremism’. This is so evident today in the political world. Seemingly there is no ‘middle ground’ for some of our elected officials, and, in society in general. It is truly sad to witness the prejudice, bigotry and hatred manifested in our country. You can find such attitudes in people of different races and ethnic backgrounds. When you watch the news on television, or, read the newspapers, you can be assured the actions of such extreme attitudes of various individuals and/or groups are reported. I am reminded of the opening sentence in the book, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’, written by Charles Dickens (1857): “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” In short, the description of the society in which the author lived, describes, in many ways, our present extreme attitudes and actions of our own time. As Christians, we should follow the teachings of Jesus Christ who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:17, 18, “Repay no one evil for evil, Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” In Hebrews 12:14, we read, “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.” We should not only be children of God who possess “the peace of God, which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7); we must be “peacemakers” in the church and in society. And that , my friends, is a great challenge for all who are followers of the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The following should be the prayer of all Christians. “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved, as to love.” - Francis of Assisi

24 March 2018

IF THERE IS NO HELL, CAN THERE BE A PLACE CALLED HEAVEN?

Now, think with me. If there is no hell, then we cannot believe in the Bible because hell is mentioned in the Holy Scriptures as being a real place. And, if the Bible is not reliable, God did not create the heavens and the earth as claimed in Genesis chapter one. Neither can we believe in God even though the Bible states that “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (2 Timothy 3:16). Additionally, we cannot believe in the Holy Spirit regardless of what the apostle Peter wrote, “knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2:20, 21). Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:10-12, that, what he had received and spoke was from the “Holy Spirit.” And, if there is not a place called hell, how can we believe in the one who mentioned hell more than any person in the Bible. Did you know that the word “hell” (Greek, Gehenna) is found 12 times in the New Testament? In the book of James, we read that the “tongue is set on fire by hell” (3:6). Eleven times you will find the word “hell” mentioned in the books of Matthew, Mark and Luke. You will find expressions like, “hell fire” (Mt.5:22); “eternal fire” (Mt.18:8); “son of hell” (Mt. 23:15). Do you know who used the word “hell” and these expressions? It was Jesus Christ! If there is not a place called hell, how can we believe in the person called Jesus Christ, because He often spoke of that terrible place. If we do not believe in Jesus Christ when He spoke about hell, how can we trust Him when He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this”(John 11:25, 26)? Or, the beautiful and precious promise He made in John 14:1-3: “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God believe also in Me. “In My Father's house are many mansions, if it were not so,I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” And then, there is that final and grand invitation extended to all who have believed in Him and have given their lives to Him: “Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Mt. 25:34). My friends, can you not understand the fatal and final results of such illogical reasoning by rejecting the biblical truth that teaches there is a terrible place call hell? But thanks be to God that He is, that the Holy Spirit inspired the writings of the Holy Scriptures; and, Jesus Christ died for our sins so we could be saved. And, that by His grace, we have the precious promise of being with all the redeemed in heaven when this life is over. God does not desire that anyone should die and go to the awful place call hell (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9).

20 February 2018

"AND BE KIND TO ONE ANOTHER"

The apostle Paul, after he had given directives to “put off” the “old man” , that is their former way of life; and, to “put on the new man which was created according to God in true righteousness and holiness”, he continues to list certain sins that should not be descriptive of the life of a Christian (Ephesians 4:22-31). Paul concludes this section of his letter to the Ephesian brethren by giving them this positive exhortation:“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another,even as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). It is the word, “kind”, that I want to emphasize presently. It is an adjective that describes the heart and action of a devoted Christian. Paul stated that “love is kind” (1 Corinthians 13:4). In 2 Peter 1:7, we are admonished, in our Christian growth, to add faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness and “to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.” In Galatians 5:22, we read that “kindness” is one of the “fruit of the Spirit”. The apostle Paul, in Colossians 3:12, instructs us to “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts,kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Albert Barnes, in his ‘Barnes Notes on the Bible’, commented on the word “kind” as found in Ephesians 4:32: “There is no religion in a sour, misanthropic temper; none in rudeness, stiffness, and repulsiveness; none in violating the rules of good breeding. There is a hollow-hearted politeness, indeed, which the Christian is not to aim at or copy. His politeness is to be based on "kindness;" His courtesy is to be the result of love, good-will, and a desire of the happiness of all others; and this will prompt to the kind of conduct that will render his conversation. with others agreeable and profitable”. One of the most important reasons as to why we should be kind to one another is found in the word itself. Please remove the letter (d) from “kind” and what do you have? You have ‘kin’. One definition of the word ‘kin’ is, “a group of persons of common ancestry”. Jesus said, “But you, do not be called Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Matthew 23:8). He saying that we are not to elevate one brother above another; rather, we are all brothers and sisters on the same level. But how did we all become ‘kinsfolk’, spiritually speaking? The answer is found in Galatians 3:26-29: “(F)or in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” And being ‘kin’ to one another, we will also be “tenderhearted” and “forgiving”, because we are brothers and sister in Jesus Christ. We are God’s family! (Ephesians 3:14, 15)

15 December 2017

"YOU ARE A GOD MAN, HAS GOD EVER GIVEN YOU A GUARANTEE?

My Cardiologist had finished examining me during my annual checkup. He then said, “I will see you next year.” I was thankful that my heart seemed to be in good shape. When I entered the hall, I saw several of the ladies who worked in the building and I said to them, “He said that he would see me next year, but, he did not give me a guarantee.” It was then that my doctor walked up behind me, placed his arm around me and said, “You are a God man, has God ever given you a guarantee?” Though my Cardiologist is very religious, he is not a Christian; but, since 2001, when he put a stent in a 95 percent blocked artery that was across my heart, he has known that I am a gospel preacher.That is why he called me a “God man”. I replied that God has not promised me another year to live (James 4:13, 14). However, God has given to me, as well to all Christians who endeavor to live faithfully, several ‘guarantees’. I have chosen only a few ‘guarantees’ from God that are mentioned in the inspired writings of the apostle John. John 10:27-29: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand.” As long as we listen to the voice of our Good Shepherd and follow Him, there is no power on earth that can remove us from the hands and care of our Heavenly Father. John 11:25, 26: “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. “And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” These words of Jesus Christ give comfort to children of God who trust in Him who died for our sins, and was resurrected from the tomb. 1 John 5:11-13: “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life, he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life....” Eternal life for the believer is to be found in the Son of God, and what He did for us on the cross of Calvary when He shed His precious blood. If we “walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin.” “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7, 9). Revelation 14:13: “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” say the Spirit, “they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.” These are God given ‘guarantees’ for Christians who “die in the Lord”. “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God; Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.”