22 July 2020

"I'M NOT THE MAN I USED TO BE"

This is a religious song that is often sung by different quartets, groups and individuals, emphasizing how that one’s life has been changed, “by Calvary”, noting the death of Jesus Christ who died on the cross for the sins of the world. Regardless how a person has lived previously, when a person believes in Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, is penitent of sins and obeys the gospel of Christ, his/her sins are forgiven and forgotten (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Hebrews 8:12). Mankind is not so merciful and forgiving. Recently, I read that “Boeing’s communications chief, who was forced to resign because of an article he wrote criticizing women in combat in 1987 - more than 30 years ago - when he was a Navy fighter pilot.” The gentleman explained he no longer held the same views about women serving in the armed services as he did when he was a young man. Nevertheless , he was forced to resign his position with the company. This is a prime example as to the extremes we are now witnessing in our nation. What if God treated mankind in like fashion as those responsible for pressuring this person to resign from his work with this company? Consider the following men who said or did something that was not in harmony with the will of God, the Lord forgave them and used them in His kingdom. Abraham, the ‘father of the faithful’, was not perfect. In two incidents he intended to deceive rulers in order to protect his life. When Abram “went to Egypt”, because of the beauty of Sarai, his wife, he said to her, “Please say you are my sister that it may be well with me for your sake, and that I may live because of you.” Thus Pharoah and others believed that Sarai was only a sister to Abram and not his wife (Genesis 12:10-20).While this statement was partially true, it was not the whole truth. Then there was the time when Abraham and Sarah went to Gerar. While there, he told others, “She is my sister”. King Abimelech took Sarah. God intervened and the king did not touch her. (Genesis 20). David, after much time and many obstacles, became King of Israel. God richly blessed him abundantly with power and material things. Yet, he lusted after a woman, committed adultery with her, and had her husband killed (2 Samuel 11) Peter denied his Lord three times (Matthew 26:69-75). The apostle Paul, prior to his conversion, persecuted the church of the Lord (Acts 9). He referred to himself as being the “chief” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12:-15) Abraham matured in his faith in God and his belief “was accounted to him for righteousness” (Romans 4:3,5). King David was truly penitent of his sins (Psalm 32; 51). The apostle Peter was truly sorry for his denial of Jesus Christ (Matthew (Matthew 26:75). Saul (Paul) believed in Jesus, repented and was baptized to wash away his sins (Acts 9:9-11;Acts 22:16). These individuals were not men they used to be. He did not hold their past mistakes, faults and sins against them. Have we not all thought, said or written something that displeased God and sought His forgiveness? We should be thankful for the infinite mercy of our Heavenly Father. God has given His children this blessed assurance: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). “As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12). “I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; And I will not remember your sins” (Isaiah 43:25).

12 June 2020

PREJUDICE AND THE "PRINCE OF PEACE"

Prejudice is not peculiar (distinctive) to any people, whether we speak of race, ethnic or religious groups. It can be found among all. Prejudice is defined as follows: “An unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason. Any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable, unreasonable feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group” (Dictionary.Com). A person is not born with prejudice in his/her heart toward any persons. Prejudice is learned by being taught by someone; or, one learns to be prejudiced against other persons by being influenced by his/her environment or by association. My wife and I entered a mall in a nearby city on one occasion when our precious granddaughter, age 2-3 years old, was with us. Our granddaughter saw two black children about her age and immediately ran up to them and began hugging their necks. I think the mothers were amazed as we were. We thought, how wonderful it would be if adults acted in their hearts as these precious children did toward one another. There was a person who was even prejudiced against Jesus because He came from a certain town. It was Philip who “found Nathanael and said to him, “”We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:45, 46). Nathanael did become a believer in Jesus, the Son of God. He was of the lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He was an Israelite, in other words, a Jew. The Jews were despised by non-Jews. In like manner, the Jews were greatly prejudiced against the Samaritans and the Greeks. In traveling from Judea to the religion of Galilee, the Jews would cross over the Jordan River and travel on the eastern side until they passed the country of Samaria, and then they would cross back over the River of Jordan and continue their trip. In the gospel of John, chapter 4, you can read the story of Jesus, while passing through Samaria with his disciples, He spoke to a Samaritan woman and talked with her of the “living water”. As we might say, this was unheard of, that is, a Jewish man speaking to a woman who was a Samaritan! But, Jesus was not prejudiced against others simply because they were not a Jew. To be like Christ, we will not harbor prejudice and/or hatred in our hearts against people who are of a different race or ethnic group. In the book of Isaiah 9:6, the messianic prophet wrote of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, as being the “Prince of Peace”. The apostle Paul, wrote “To the saints who are in Ephesus” ( Ephesians.1:1), that Jesus “Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His Flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the father.” (Ephesians 2:14-18). That which separated the Jews and Gentiles had been abolished and now the Jews and Gentiles could be reconciled in Jesus Christ and His body, which is His church (1:22,23). This was made possible when Jesus shed his precious blood on Calvary’s cross (2:13). Jesus, the “Prince of Peace”, preached peace that prevents persons from having prejudice in one’s heart toward people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds. The apostle Paul explains it clearly that we all can be united in Jesus Christ as found in Galatians 3:26-29: “for 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.”

25 April 2020

"IN TIMES LIKE THESE YOU NEED..."

Because of the Corona virus, our world has been ‘turned upside down’. None of us has ever experienced what is now occurring in our lifetime and in our country. Perhaps it has caused us to consider what we really need in this life, rather than just what we want. There is definitely a need for food to sustain life. Because of health problems, there is a need for many to see a doctor, others may need to be hospitalized. Grandparents truly need to hug their grandchildren. Students need to be in school. There is a great need for family members who are separated to be together again. There is a great need for an owner to open his/her business soon! There are people who need to go back to work. There are multitudes of family members who need to see their loved ones who are in hospitals and nursing homes! There are individuals who are in the Emergency Room, Intensive Care Unit or in a hospital room who are in critical condition, who desperately need a loved one to hold their hand and express words of comfort and love to them. There are Christians who have a great need to assemble with their brothers and sisters in Christ to worship Almighty God and Jesus Christ. During this crisis, we should all realize that we really don’t have control over what a tomorrow may bring in this life. In the epistle of James, we read, “Come now , you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that” (4:13-15). We all agree that we need a cure for Covid-19; however the greatest need we have in this life is Jesus Christ who gave His life for us on Calvary’s cross. There is a disease of the heart and it is called sin. If it is not removed, it will lead to death (Romans 6:23). Jesus was born to be the Savior of the world (Luke 2:11). In fact, He came to “seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus, the great Physician, came to call sinners to repent (Matthew 9:12,13). The hope that we have in Jesus Christ, is the anchor of our soul that is “both sure and steadfast (Hebrews 6:19). Read carefully the words of the apostle Peter, when asked by his hearers what they should do to be saved, “Repent and let every one of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”. The “saved” were added to the church, the body of believers (Acts 2:36-38;47). In this time of uncertainty, anxiety, being quarantined, loss of loved ones, worry, fear of contacting the virus, etc.; it is comforting to know that God “desires all men to be saved”(2 Peter 3:9). Truly, it can be said, “In times like these you need a Savior.” “In times like these you need an anchor Be very sure, be very sure Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock This Rock is Jesus, Yes He's the One This Rock is Jesus, the only One Be very sure, be very sure Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock”

13 April 2020

IS IT AN AUDITORIUM OR A SANCTUARY?

It is not uncommon to hear a brother mention in his prayer that “we are thankful to be able to come out to God’s house and worship.” Also, you will hear from time to time a member of the church referring to that part of the building where the assembly of worship is conducted as being the ‘sanctuary’. If you were to bring someone to visit our buildings, most likely the person would refer to the place of worship as being “a beautiful sanctuary.” To some degree, most of us have been affected by Judaism or Catholicism whether we realize it or not. The Lord God had Moses to erect the tabernacle. This portable tent of meeting was to be the center of worship until many years later when Solomon would build the temple in the city of Jerusalem. In Exodus 25:8, we read that the purpose of such a place was “that I may dwell among them.” In this verse, the whole of the tabernacle was referred to as the “sanctuary.” However, in Exodus 25:22, we learn that it was at the mercy-seat between the two cherubim, atop the Ark of the Covenant and located in the Most Holy Place that God said, “I will commune with thee.” In short, the sanctuary, whether speaking of the tabernacle as a whole or the Most Holy Place, was a dwelling place of the presence of the Almighty God. In contrast, the place of worship in the Christian age is of no significance. Jesus taught the Samaritan woman that it would not matter where one worshiped God (whether in the mountains or in Jerusalem) as long as such was done “in spirit and truth” (John 4:20-24). Paul declared that the “Lord of heaven and earth dwells not in temples made with hands” (Acts 17:24). The Lord’s called out congregation is never a place but always a people. The church is “a spiritual house”, not a physical building, “to offer up spiritual sacrifices” (I Peter 2:5). Again, Paul wrote in I Corinthians 3:16 that “You (Christians) are a temple (sanctuary) of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you.” Paul referred to the “house of God” as being the “church of the living God” in I Timothy 3:15. Therefore God’s sanctuary (house) today is His kingdom, the church, and not where the saints meet to worship.