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Christmas Cards

One of the pleasant cultural events of Christmas is receiving Christmas cards. We read the short notes of many friends and relatives. The cards are colorful. For years, we used them as a special part of our Christmas decorations. We would hang them on the wall on a string near the ceiling that circled our living room.

Each year we receive fewer cards. I assume it if for several reasons.

1. The sender has died or has become too old to bother.
2. The sender has not heard from us.
3. The sender has replaced the card with a Xeroxed family letter (good, but not as colorful).
4. The sender has replaced the card with an e-mail Christmas letter. Good!
5. Postage is too expensive, so are the cards.
6. This is great! The sender sends full color pictures of his family.

However, I have another point. Collectively, the cards are colorful. Individually (except for the personal note) many are awful, banal, or just plain wrong.

I have in front of me two Christmas cards. One of them has three wise men follow…

Contempt for Kindness

Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (Romans 2:4 NIV)

Here we see a funny confrontation: contempt for kindness. The requirement of God that man should repent is seldom regarded by man as an act of kindness of God. Yet it is! The next sentence tells us that “your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart” are the means of “storing up wrath against yourself.”

In ministering the Good News with love and kindness, occasionally we run into contempt and stubbornness.

(An excerpt from On Being a Christian by Jim Wilson)

Love and Obedience

The Bible speaks of the church as the Bride of Christ. We in the church, both male and female, are part of the Bride of Christ. The church is feminine; Christ is masculine. A bride’s love for her husband is a responsive love. The love of a man for a woman is an originating love. She loves because he first loved her. The more he loves her, the more she loves him. The less he loves, the less she loves.
Let’s look at 1 John 4:19 (KJV):

We love Him, because He first loved us.

Make a study from the Bible on how much God loved, and how much He loved and loves us. Keep this study going. You will find your love for Him growing. You will find obedience growing too.

God’s love for us is sacrificial. Our responsive love for Him is obedience.

Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in eve…

Impatience

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1, 2 NIV)

Living a life of love would mean knowing what love is and knowing how Jesus expressed that love. Let me point to one aspect of this love. It is a small but important part of love.
Love is patient… (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV)

Patience is the first mentioned characteristic of love. We are told to be imitators of God. Then Jesus must be an example of patience, for we imitate examples.
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:16 NIV)

Love is kind… (1 Corinthians 13:4 NIV)

Kindness is the second characteristic of love.
But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things…

Loving God

Recently I received a letter asking for help with getting rid of bitterness. The correspondent was so bitter that he admitted that he could not do the will of God. I answered the letter with the help he needed and wanted. However, there was something else in the letter that was a contradiction. He said that he believed in and loved Jesus. I am sure he thought so, but he did not love Jesus by Jesus’ definition.

If you love me, you will obey what I command. (John 14:15 NIV)

Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” (John 14:23, 24 NIV)

If he loved Jesus he would have obeyed Jesus. He said that he could not do the will of God.

If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot l…

One Another

...serve one another in love. (Galatians 5:13 NIV)

One another—that means both ways. I serve you in love, and you serve me in love. It is a two-way give, not a one-way take. Two verses later, Paul tells us that there is another kind of two-way practice:

If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. (Galatians 5:15 NIV)

Have you ever seen two people “bite and devour” each other? They might even be married. They destroy each other! Immediately after this in the chapter is the awful description of the works of the flesh and the lovely description of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). Then we find another two-way teaching:

Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Galatians 5:26 NIV)
And in chapter 6, verse 2 there is a strong command:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2 NIV)

Here, then, are the choices:

1. You bite and devour me and I bite and d…

Unselfish Love

On the surface there seems to be some difference in the following texts on love.

1. “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.” (1 John 2:15-17 NIV)

2. “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV)

3. “But I tell you: love your enemies and pray for th…

Love and Discernment

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ." Philippians 1:9,10

In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul writes of knowledge without love. Here it is suggested that it is possible to have love without knowledge. Paul here assumes that love is normal in the believers. He prays that this love might abound more and more. He also prays that this love be accompanied with knowledge and all discernment.

There seems to be two reasons for this discerning love: 1)so that we may approve what is excellent. If we have love without discernment, we may end up approving things we should not approve; and 2)so that we may be pure and blameless. These two reasons may be close together. If we approve what we should not approve, we will not be blameless.

One of the reasons that love sometimes occurs without discernment is because love does not have a precise,…

Holy Spirit and the Quality of Life

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Galatians 5:22-24

The Holy Spirit gives us a new character. It is just like the character of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Love Your Enemies

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” John 14:15

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be g…

Turn Away

“Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," and, "Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” 2 Timothy 2:19

These two statements seem super obvious. Of course, God knows those who belong to Him, and these same people, who belong to Him, must turn away from wickedness.

These are basic truths.

This is God’s foundation, immovable, and these two sentences are inscribed on, and seal that foundation.

The first sentence is an indicative statement. It is just so. The second sentence is an imperative statement that is laid on those who confess His name.

Much of my life is made up of those who confess the Name but who do not turn away from wickedness.

Read the New Testament in 67 Days

There are many Christians who read the Scriptures sporadically in time and place. In other words, they read the Scriptures “now and then” and “here and there.” They gravitate to their favorite chapters. If asked the last time they had read the New Testament through, they would not be sure they had ever had read it through. Consequently there is an appalling ignorance of God’s Word in the body of Christ, and a consequent lack of obedience. Listening to the best Bible teachers in the world will not make up for the personal ignorance of the individual.

First, the genealogies in the New Testament take up less than two chapters total in Matthew and Luke. If they are a problem to you, skip them. Then go back over then separately; it will only take five minutes. They are important or they would not be there. However, they are not intended to stop you from reading the rest of the New Testament.

Second, when you read, do not stop for hard to understand passages; keep reading. They will make mor…

Koran and the Bible

There is a more important difference between Christians and Radical Islamists than peace and Jihad.

The difference centers around Jesus, who He is and why He came to this earth.

Jesus lived about 33 years. The four Gospels record about 45 different days of those years. In the 89 chapters of the Gospels that record these forty-five days, 40 of those chapters are on the last six days of His life and another five days that cover His resurrection, appearances, and His ascension into Heaven. Almost half of the four biographies cover the week of His death and resurrection.

In the 230 remaining chapters of the New Testament, every single chapter speaks of or assumes Jesus’ deity, His death, and resurrection.

In other words, the New Testament is about nothing else.

The Koran speaks of the Injil, the New Testament as an inspired book. However, Muslims think that it has been changed by the Christians who added these verses of His deity, death, resurrection, and forgiveness because of this expressio…

More Gray Eyes

In the last week I have encountered more gray eyes, all in fiction. You may think that all I do is read fiction. The truth is gray eyes are everywhere. Here they are. This is the best one from an O. Henry short story.

“Had a poet been inspired to pen just similes concerning her favor, he would have likened her full, clear eyes, with their whiteencircled, gray irises, to moonflowers.”

The next best.

“Under the dark brim her hair, face and eyes were of a uniform grayish tint” Patricia Wentworth, murder mystery. The same eyes in the next two pages were “The light colorless eyes stared back straining” and “She fixed her light wild eyes on…”

The next is from a western by BM Bower “A little ginger-whiskered man with cold gray-eyes.”

Authors must be reading each other’s books to be encouraged to find things which are not real.

Don't Rock the Boat

Hardly a week goes by when I hear or read something on/in the “News” that sounds like this.

“___________ will not be allowed in this school or park, because “this minority has taken offense” or “we think that someone might be offended.”

Just the anticipation that someone might be offended immobilizes any action be taken that otherwise might be taken.

People have figured out that if they yell or complain they will get their own way.

It is a means of blackmail by threat.

A few years ago a Christian Publishing house was being sued by a church. I talked with the leaders of the local church that they should not do this based upon 1 Corinthians 6:4-8.

“Therefore, if you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church! I say this to shame you. Is it possible that there is nobody among you wise enough to judge a dispute between believers? But instead, one brother goes to law against another—and this in front of unbelievers! The very fact that you have la…

Politeness

Politeness, Political Correctness and Relational Communication have something positive in common. They are surface attempts with words to be friendly, not to cause offense to be taken, and to avoid confrontation. Aren’t these good traits? Yes, I said that they were positive. I also said that they were surface attempts. They are mechanics. Teaching the little boy to say, “Thank you” is not the same as teaching thankfulness to the little boy. Certainly, things are more pleasant in a polite society.

I was taught politeness as a little boy. Then I was really taught it when I was a midshipman at the Naval Academy. I was being trained to be an officer and a gentleman. I found out that politeness worked, standing when ladies came into the room, opening car doors for the ladies, etc.

I found these positive mechanics were not the outward expression of the heart. They did not express kindness, love or patience. In many cases they hid or covered up unkindness, unlove and impatience.

Isn’t that bet…

Jesus Was Not Polite

Many years ago, after an eight week course of practical Christianity, three hours a day, five days a week I suspected that one of the students had not learned much of practical Christianity. She had come from a Christian home, grew up in good churches, Christian education including a degree from a famous Christian College. For years I had listened to people’s awful stories. I thought and they thought that I could not give a Biblical solution unless I understood all of the awful mess. One day I realized that I was giving the same solution regardless of what the story was. I did not need to listen to the stories. I also narrowed down to two of the causes that were common in all of these stories.

1. It had been a long time since the person had read all of the New Testament.
2. The person had one awful, distorted or truncated view of God, very different from the right catechism answer. They had Satan’s caricature of God. It was one awful lie.

I began to ask for the person’s gut view of the F…

Taking Offense

We are in a culture where taking offense has become a cottage industry. In every village and every church there are people who have become professionals at taking offense. By some quirk of manipulation they have convinced themselves and many others that being offended is a virtue. The more I am offended the more virtuous I am. Consequently, those who give offense are the ones in sin. The results are shown in people apologizing and explaining that they really did not mean it to the offended person. The offended person rarely forgives.

Giving offense may be sin if it is intentional. Taking offense is always sin. Not forgiving is another awful sin.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart." Matthew 18:35

Eternal Questions

In the past few years I have found myself asking basic questions several times a day. These questions are always asked when I am driving my car.

They are: Where am I?
Why am I here?
Where am I going?
How do I get there?

The questions are asked because I do not know the answers. The answers come to me quickly. Looking at my surroundings, I find where I am. A little reflection tells me I am there because I am going some place. A little more remembering tells me why I got into the car and where I intended to go. The last question is harder to answer. Why? I find out that I have already passed up my destination or the car decided I was going someplace else. This is inconvenient, but I do figure it out and I do get where I am going. It is not deadly.

In my teenage years I knew where I was, but I did know why. It took me several years to find out where I was going and how to get there. I had been 20 years old for about two weeks when I received Christ. Since than I have been sure I…

God is Not a Party Pooper

There is Joy in Heaven and there are eternal pleasures in Heaven.

Let’s look at the pleasures on earth. Most of them have to do with our senses, sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound.

God in His goodness has given us color and form and eyes and brains to appreciate what we see. We can also see things that cause fear, nausea and other awful effects.

The same can be said about all of the other senses. God is good.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything forour enjoyment.” 1 Timothy 6:17

God is not a party pooper.

“Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:18, 19

It sounds that there is a better life, “a life that is truly life.”

Prostitution of the Senses

These pleasures of the senses that God in His goodness has given us here on earth can be easily prostituted and have been.

Here are a few Biblical examples.

“At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.” Titus 3:3

“He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Hebrews 11:25

“They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.” 2 Peter 2:13

“A fool finds pleasure in evil conduct, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.” Proverbs 10:23

“Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!” Proverbs 9:16, 17

Heaven Anticipated

Recently, I have been thinking about Heaven. I anticipate the next several posts will be comparing life here and life there.

I will start with Jesus.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2

We are to look at Jesus who in turn was looking beyond the cross to the right hand of the Father. He anticipated joy.

Psalm 16:10 is quoted in Peter’s message at Pentecost in Acts 2:25-28.

“Because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.You have made [a] known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” Psalm 16:10, 11

“David said about him: "I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, because you will n…

Christ's Character

“When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, "Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don't know what has happened to him." Aaron answered them, "Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me." So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, "These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt." When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, "Tomorrow there will be a festival to the LORD." So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.” E…

From the Heart

“The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” Luke 6:45

“The Lord says:
"These people come near to me with their mouth
and honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
is made up only of rules taught by men.” Isaiah 29:13

Jesus quotes this in Matthew 15:8, 9

There are God given escape valves in people that keep people from exploding. They are instantaneous reactions. They include laughter and tears. Another is the mouth. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” The cure of a bad mouth is to keep good stored up in the heart.

However, not everything that comes out of the mouth comes from the heart. Some of it comes from the heart. Some of it comes from things they have been taught by men whether true or false. In Isaiah 29:13, it is rules taught by …

People's Eyes

In my 79 years, solitude has not been one of my vocations or vacations. I suppose if I figured up my time outside of eating and sleeping it would be made up of people and books, mostly people. Besides listening and talking I look at people. If I am in a conversation I focus on the persons face, eyes and mouth, mostly eyes. This is to say that I have spent a lot of time looking at people’s eyes. When this happens, of course I see the color of their eyes (that’s my subject) but I see more. This may sound crazy, but I look into the person. That’s not my subject.

The rest of the time is spent with books; History, Biography, Spiritual and many kinds of fiction. History supposedly deals with facts. Historical fiction is facts with added color.

One of the ways you can tell you are reading fiction is the description of the eyes of people. This is a means of describing the good guys and the bad guys. I don’t mind reading about “cozy brown” or “jet black’ or “bright blue” or weak “pale blue” or t…

Atheism

It is difficult for a Christian to prove scientifically or rationally that there is a God. The wonderful thing is that the Christian does not have to prove and should not be tempted to prove. God is his premise, not his conclusion.

But for the atheist he may not start with a premise that there is no God. That is not scientific. He must prove it, make his case. As I see it there are three types of atheists. At least these are the three that I have encountered.

1.“I do not believe in God!” This fellow is not really an atheist. What he is really saying is this, “There is a God in whom I do not believe.”

2.“I believe there is no God!” The “no” in this sentence modifies God instead of “believe” as in the first atheist’s sentence. However, the statement is a faith statement. This atheist has a great positive faith in nothing. That is more faith than I have in God.

3.“There is no God!” This is a dogmatic statement. It cannot be a premise. It has to be a conclusion. This person has to find the or…

Humble Yourself

The Bible tells how we should treat ourselves. Please don’t be surprised.

“Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:5, 6

“For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23:12

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:14

There are many gifts that God gives us like the fruit of the Spirit. Humility does not seem to be one of them. We are to learn from and imitate Jesus.

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humb…

Humility: The Greatest Virtue

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” Romans 12:3

It does not look like God is worried about low self esteem, low self worth or low self love.

We have grown up in generations where pride is a virtue.

Whereas the Bible teaches:

“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18

“There are six things the LORD hates, seven that are detestable to him:” Proverbs 6:16

“He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil.” 1 Timothy 3:6

Pride is an evil.

Humility is the greatest virtue.

Unity: Reconciliation

“Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23, 24

How is your memory? Do you remember this problem that your brother has with you? If yes, then what have you done about it? Your offering in church is to stay there until reconciliation is accomplished.

“If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” Matthew 18:15

In this case, your brother does not have something against you, you have something against your brother. The object is reconciliation, to win your brother over.

In either, you are the one to go to your brother. This is in context with the last verse in Matthew 18.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matthew 18:35

Wh…

Disunity

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Proverbs 6:16-19

All of the above the Lord hates. Lying is in the list twice. However, I want to draw your attention to the last phrase. “A man who stirs up dissension among brothers.” Think back to your years in junior high. Were there kids who were expert in stirring up dissension? They seemed to delight in it. How about since then? Have you ever been in, or observed a church fight in a local congregation?

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” Hebrews 12:15

If bitterness springs up it defiles many people and dissension then happens. The instruction is to see that no one misses the grace of God.

This dissension has to be …

Islam and Democracy

Twenty-five years ago I was on a 747 flying from Manila to Bangkok. Seated next to me was an attorney from Pakistan. In order to start a conversation I opened up with something like this, “What do the following countries have in common: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordon, Egypt, Libya Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco?” This was a leading question expecting him to answer, “Islam!” That was not his answer. With much vehemence he said, “They are all run by dictators.” Over the years I have meditated on his answer and have done a little bit of research.

Among the Shiites there is no separation between politics and theology. The descendants of Ali are the only rightful caliphs. The caliph has absolute political and theological power. He is appointed by God. He is not elected. Democracy is foreign to this form of Islam. Separation of church and state is not known.

Love and Forgiveness

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34, 35

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

Do you know any Christians who do not love other Christians?

Do you know any Christians who do not forgive other Christians?

It is not possible to love until we get forgiven for our unlove.

It is not possible to forgive until we repent of our unforgiveness.

Unity: Humility

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:2, 3

Be completely humble and gentle.”

“Keep the Unity.”

“Completely” is a superlative. It is also absolute. It modifies “humble” and “gentle”.

This complete humility and complete gentleness is a lot of humility and complete gentleness. These two characteristics precede the command to keep the unity. If these two attributes were a little bit evident in churches today, keeping unity would be a piece of cake.

The command is a “be” command. It is not a “do” command. It addresses what we “are,” not what we “do”.

We have a hard time “being”. We are so used to “doing”. If we succeeded in being, our doing would be okay. We “do” out of what we “are”. How do we “do”, “being?” We don’t. We start by “doing” nothing. Are we not to obey? Yes, but not by effort. We are to obey out of we are. We start with “being”.

On Slavery

A few days before he died John Wesley wrote a letter to William Wilberforce on the subject of the slave trade in which he said that American slavery “was the vilest that ever saw the sun.” In Though the Mountains Shake, Amy Carmichael thought that if Wesley had known of the sex slavery of temple prostitution where baby girls are married to the gods and which had been going on for centuries he would have pronounced it the “vilest that ever saw the sun.” My comment here is that all slavery everywhere in all centuries has included sex slavery. In addition to the evil of slavery there is that added evil of the rape of children and adults. It is going on today in many nations. Northern Uganda is one example. Prostitution in most countries is slavery. The women are owned by their pimps. Japan sent Korean women to be prostitutes for their army. The Russian revolution in 1917 sent the wives of 10,000 Russian Army officers to be women for the Russian Army on the Eastern Front. England stopped …

More On Teachers And Disunity

There is a different kind of teacher who may be part of the disunity. He is not false, malicious, or seeking followers of himself. He is a true servant of God who brings people to the Father through the Son. In that sense, he is a great participant in the unity of the body.

In what sense is he a participant in the disunity in the church?

He may, himself, be a follower of a man, a doctrine or denomination to which he has an intellectual agreement, a great loyalty, an emotional attachment or just a sense of belonging.

He doesn’t think that this attachment he has is greater than his love for God, but it may show when he does not show love to a brother who has a different attachment.

“If anyone says, "I love God," yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother.” 1 John 4:20, 21

Disunity--Teachers

I mentioned earlier that “followers” are a major cause of disunity. So are some teachers. Paul warns against such teachers in his charge to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30.

“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:30

Teachers are gifted. They can distort the truth, and do it effectively. The reason is to get Christians to follow them. Paul mentions another kind of teacher in Philippians 1:15-18.

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:15-18

Here are some additional motives, envy, riva…

Teachers: Disunity

How can a teacher, who is a Christian and otherwise living a godly life, be a cause of disunity? It seems to be easy enough because there are so many participants. Let us suppose that the doctrines taught are absolutely true and that the students learn these doctrines well. Then, of course, the students will be more like Jesus, more Godly, and more Holy. This does not seem to be the normal outcome. Why?

There are several reasons.

These truths were taught to the head, not the heart.

The teacher was not an example, he was just a teacher.

This is compounded, if in fact, the doctrines are not true.

Or if they are held to be as important as the gospel or if they are taught by ungodly men. There are hundreds of differences among evangelicals and many different subjects. They all could be wrong on “something”, if not everything. They could all be right on “something”. They are different “somethings”.

If we are right we should hold our “rightness” in humility.

If we are wrong and think we are right …

Too Many Opinions (cont...)

How does this affect our study of the Scriptures? Suppose we come upon 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing” (KJV) and “Pray continually” (NIV). If we ask the group what they think it means, there will be much discussion, largely based upon the prayer habits or abilities of the people in the group. Any discussion which maintains that it could not possibly mean what it says because none of us knows how to pray continually (or because, knowing how, we do not do it) will be invalid. If that line of reasoning dominates the discussion, there will be very little to say when we come to personal application of the passage. We will have already conformed the Scriptures to our experience, so we do not have to conform our lives to the Scripture. There is no possibility of making any application.

Instead let us see what the passage says. We go back to verse fourteen for the subject, “And we urge you, brothers.” The subject of verse seventeen is “you, brothers.” The verb is “pray,” and the a…

Too Many Opinions

Over the years I have heard the comment that small group Bible studies were events where each member of the group “shared his ignorance” with the other members. This has gotten a defensive reaction from me because I did not think it was true. That is why I thought I was defensive. Probably the real reason I was defensive was because it was true, or true enough, to warrant a reaction.

The person who attacks small group studies as “sharing ignorance” is a person who wants a teacher. However we have a problem with this. Teachers also have been known to “share ignorance” or false teaching with students. Having a teacher is no guarantee of getting true Bible teaching.

In Acts 17:11, Luke speaks of the people at Berea as having “a more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The people were commended because they did not receive the teaching from the teacher as absolute…

Read the New Testament in 67 Days

There are many Christians who read the Scriptures sporadically in time and place. In other words, they read the Scriptures “now and then” and “here and there.” They gravitate to their favorite chapters. If asked the last time they had read the New Testament through, they would not be sure they had ever had read it through. Consequently there is an appalling ignorance of God’s Word in the body of Christ, and a consequent lack of obedience. Listening to the best Bible teachers in the world will not make up for the personal ignorance of the individual.

First, the genealogies in the New Testament take up less than two chapters total in Matthew and Luke. If they are a problem to you, skip them. Then go back over then separately; it will only take five minutes. They are important or they would not be there. However, they are not intended to stop you from reading the rest of the New Testament.

Second, when you read, do not stop for hard to understand passages; keep reading. They will make mor…

Teachers and Students

Here are a few random thoughts from and about the scriptures.

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

This text should thin out the teachers because of stricter judgment on the possibility of teaching something false.

When I observe, among conservative believing churches, the vast number of differences on ecclesiology liturgy, eschatology, holiness, music and other forms of worship I have come to the conclusion that some of this is wrong teaching. At least some of the teachers should not be teachers. I suspect they cannot all be right.

Of course, each teacher thinks he is peculiarly right so he does not disqualify himself as a teacher.

Then we have problems with the students of the teachers. They believe what their teacher teaches. Aren’t they supposed to believe their teacher? No!

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many fa…

Unity: Inductive Bible Studies

Inductive Bible Study groups flourished in the 1950’s-80’s. They were a major cause of unity in the believers. Christians were meeting together in small groups to study the Bible to find out what it said. They submitted to the text.

See my next Roots by the River, “Too Many Opinions.”

Unity: Groups Are Formed

Much evangelism took place in the American Armed Forces during World War II. Returning soldiers and sailors went to Bible College, formed missionary societies and went back to the Far East and Europe. They also joined many other missionary societies. They had seen first hand the need for the Gospel in Europe and Asia.

Evangelism on the universities with new effective groups like InterVarsity, the Navigators, and Campus Crusade for Christ increased. The same with high school work like Youth for Christ, Young Life, and Hi BA. The first International Student Missionary Convention was held in Toronto in 1946 and has been held every three years since. Most of these conventions have been held at the University of Illinois at Urbana. This year it will be in St. Louis, Dec. 27-31st.

Most of these groups have been called para church. This is the church as it is meant to function in spiritual unity.

Disunity--Teachers and Followers

Here are two of the major causes of disunity.

They are:

1) Teachers
2) Followers of the teachers.

The Bible speaks to followers clearly in 1 Corinthians 1, 3, and 11.

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-12

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when on…

Causes of Disunity

The last part of the nineteenth century and the first fifty years of the twentieth century was a major blow to Christian Unity in that liberalism had taken over many seminaries and many denominations. There was also an ecumenical movement by the same denominations. “Ecumenical” means “promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity.” The difficulty with this movement was that the cardinal doctrines were denied or played down and so was the “born again” experience. Real Christians were marginalized in their own churches. Many Christians and churches left these liberal denominations. That was good in that there was no compromise. It was bad in that the attitude was more of an anti-modernist than a love for enemies. This turned around at the end of WWII.

Maintaining Unity

One of the best ways to maintain the unity that come about when we first received Christ is the contextual reading and rereading of scripture.

This includes reading all of the New Testament fairly rapidly, four chapters a day. If you are a slow reader it will take you about twenty minutes each day. You will finish the New Testament in about two months.

Concurrent with this, pick a short book of the New Testament (1 John) and read all five chapters each day for a week. This will reinforce what you read yesterday plus you will learn more each day.

Confess as sin any violations of the text. Choose to believe and obey what you read. Add a new book each week to your repetitive reading.

The next post will give you a reading schedule.

Merit

If God judges on merit, where is the bar? Is it high? How do you know? Is it low? How low? How high? Does God grade on the curve? What happens to those who do not make the grade regardless of how low the bar is? Do they go to Heaven anyway? If so, then the bar has no significance.

If everyone goes to Heaven when they die regardless of their belief or character does their character change when they die? How? Why? If it does not change then Heaven would be Hell. Heaven would be filled with immoral people.

If, however, God has a high bar then overwhelming numbers of people are lost. If merit is the way then they have no hope. If God has 4.0 moral standard then 100% of the population is lost.

If God has a solution which is not based upon the merit of man, but on his own merit of Justice and Love, Mercy and Forgiveness, then there is a solution for everyone. That is the way it is!

Without the cross of Christ the bar is very high, so high that no one has ever made it except Jesus.

“There is not…

Unity Continued

The greatest advocates of unity in practice, not necessarily in words, are the evangelists. They are in the work of bringing people into the kingdom. At the instant of conversion, a person is one with all other Christians in the world.

Those people who are major on evangelism are workers for unity. Here are a few that you may recognize: Campus Crusade for Christ, Young Life, Youth for Christ, Child Evangelism, Billy Graham, YWAM, OM, most foreign missions, African Enterprise.

Many years ago I was riding a bus from a refugee camp (Rennie’s Mill) back to Hong Kong. I was seated with an older woman, a Missouri Synod Lutheran missionary. We had great fellowship. Then she told me how close she was with the Southern Baptist missionaries. She also added that she had to be careful when she got back to the states. That was a “No, No.” Evangelism is a great means of unity.

More On Disunity

I can imagine all of the saints in this world, all of the assemblies, all of the congregations with no seekers and no hypocrites in them. Boy! That is a great imagination. I can further imagine that they are all in agreement in everything biblical, salvation, holiness, end times, form of worship, theology, singing, preaching, and church government. That is wild!

Here is the easy part of this imagination. No one or very few would like this unity. Why not, it is wonderful? Because no one is more right or most right about one or more of the above mentioned. Look at the present denominations. Each one is most right. We like that.

Disunity

The following reasons are not separate reasons. They are mixed together, intertwined. I am arbitrary by putting them in an order.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

It looks like knowledge is the opposite of love. If that were so, we would have to stay ignorant in order to love. No! The knowledge is the temptation. Being puffed up is the sin. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. He is the man in sin and a cause of disunity.

There is a “knowing” that is way beyond knowledge. We see it in Ephesians 3:17-19. “To know this love that surpasses knowledge.” This prayer is for all the saints.

Knowledge can be measured on a written exam. Knowing love cannot be measured by any means, “wide, long, high, and deep.” We are to grasp it by the power of God. It is like grasping the Pacific Ocean in our hands.

Unity

The next several posts will be talking about the cause of disunity, but first I will quote a few verses on the normalness and requirement of unity in the body of believers.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

Regardless of our social, religious or racial background we become one body when we’re baptized by the Holy Spirit.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

When you are walking in the light and I am walking in the light we have fellowship with one another. We cannot help having fellowship.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit thro…

Paul & Barnabas

There is a short piece of scripture that describes an argument between Paul and Barnabas.

Here it is:

“Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.” Acts 15:37-40

Barnabas was the one who endorsed Paul when the Apostles would not accept him.

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking bold…

Grace

“Big words” normally mean lots of letters and a surplus of syllables. I will use “big” in its frequency of use and its influence on society. I will use wide in its breadth of definition, that is not precise English. There are many wonderful words in the languages of the world. Some of these words have precise definitions like the word “kind.” Because of this preciseness, the word is not a “wide” word. There are other words that are “big,” “wide” and are NOT wonderful. “Sin” is one of those words. However, there is a word whose definition is “big,” “wide,” and it I is still wonderful. The word is GRACE.

Before we start to tell you about this word, let us look at the definitions of the word “definition.”

The dictionary defines “definition” as:

Definition #1: A statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol.

Definition #2: The meaning of a word from the context of a paragraph or a story or a lecture.

There are many such examples from the books of L.M. Montgome…

Again, On Tolerance

Since it is a good thing to be judged to be tolerant and since tolerance requires sympathy and indulgence and may be endorsement of something with which one differs; it seems to be wise to stay ignorant of the possibilities. One does not want to put a strain on one’s love and wisdom.

Tolerance

“Tolerance: sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” This is a good definition for a good word.

However, like many words, definitions change with the usage in the culture.

Here is a sliding definition of tolerance: “an endorsement with enthusiasm for beliefs and practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” Anything short of this endorsement faces the accusation of intolerance.

Prejudice

“Prejudice: an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge.”

It looks as if “tolerance” is a good word and “prejudice” is a bad word.

Some of “tolerance” is an advance positive judgment without information whereas “prejudice” is an advance negative judgment without information.

The practice of both words may be based upon ignorance.

Let us be adequately informed so that our judgments, pro or con, are neither prejudicial to the good nor tolerant of evil.

Narnia

In the summer of 1958 I was, with Jerry Hawthorne, teaching for a week at Cedar Campus in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. One evening our little family was invited to Keith and Glady Hunt’s home where we heard Keith read aloud the first chapter of The Last Battle. Douglas had just turned five, Evan would be four, and Heather turned two at the camp. Well that turned me on to Narnia. That November we opened the OCF Bookstore in Annapolis, Maryland. We had immediate access to Narnia. This is a plug for the Chronicles of Narnia. They are children’s books. I am 78; I am not too old for Narnia.

This is also a plug for “What I learned in Narnia” by our oldest son, Douglas. This is a series of CD’s on the following subjects: Authority, Confessing Sin, Nobility, Spiritual Disciplines, Love of Story, Complete Grace, Love for Aslan, and Love for God.

This is great personal teaching about the above subjects and also great teaching about all kinds of people, their character, their reactions, and Go…

Advertising

All of us have basic needs; food, clothing, and drink.

We are not to be anxious about meeting these basic needs.

“So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:31-34

There are two reasons given.

1. This is what unbelievers do. Do you want to be like the unbelievers?
2. God knows you have need of these things.

If we seek first the Kingdom and His righteousness, God will provide the basics.

This is not the subject. The subject is advertising. Advertisers do not advertise basics. They do not need to advertise basics. People will buy basics even if they are not advertised.

What is advertised? Luxuries! We…