The Fragrance of Christ


Trent Key, minister for the Mt. Leo Church of Christ in McMinnville, TN wrote, “God expects Christians to put on and diffuse the fragrance of Christ (II Corinthians 2:14ff). To God that’s the sweetest aroma of any (Ephesians 5:2). God will not accept knock off fragrances on Judgment Day. We have to smell like Christ and be immersed into His blood (Romans 6:3:5; Acts 22:16; Ephesians 1:7; Acts 20:28). The aroma of sin can not attractive at all. ‘Put on Christ’ today (Galatians 3:27)!”

Remembering 9/11/2001


Sunday is September 11, and as our thoughts turn to the tragic events in New York and Washington, D.C., let us remember those who died, their families, and the ones who still suffer as a result of the terror attacks.

“USA Today” marked the anniversary of the attack on the World Trade Center by remembering its victims, both alive and dead. The article written by Melanie Eversley focused not only on one of the Port Authority officers whose life has been changed by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but also on the fact there are many families that lost loved ones and the only recovered remains included only a few teeth or a wedding ring.

Dozens of emergency workers have been plagued with respiratory diseases after breathing the contaminated air around Ground Zero after the attack. They still require medical care for which they cannot pay. Many of them shed their tears in silence.

So, in addition to the families that have lost loved ones, let us remember those who are still trying to live with the effects of this cowardly attack. Stop and say a prayer for those who are still in pain and suffering from September 11, 2001.

The newspaper story can be found here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2016/09/10/loved-ones-survivors-still-struggle-pain-sept-11/89359192/

Practical Reflections from James


Some thbook-of-jamesink that when one is done with formal education, one stops learning.

Nothing can be further from the truth. Every day when I study the Bible, I learn new things. Today, I learned many new things from my daily reading I want to share.

In James 1:19-21, the writer moves into hearing and doing the word of God. Reading God’s word is a fine thing, but not obeying it misses the reason why God gave it. God has done man an incredible kindness in giving his word so that we may learn it and obey it. By contrast, God gave his word to Israel, and they basically cast it back into his teeth by disobedience.

As in most of this book, James focused on a very practical idea. He wrote (and this is my translation), “Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to begin speaking and slow into anger. For the anger of man does not continue to practice the righteousness of God. Instead, put away all filthiness and overflowing wickedness and embrace the implanted word which is able to save your souls.”

We must be quick to hear. There’s an old saying that we have all been born with two ears and one mouth. We should, therefore, hear twice as much as we speak. That’s good advice. How many of us have ever regretted not practicing this? How many have said things they regret because they did not keep their ears open and their mouths shut? I know I’ve been guilty of this.

We must be slow to begin speaking. A.T. Robertson wrote the construction of the phrase is the ingressive aorist active infinitive, and gives this idea of being slow to begin speaking.[1] One person told me, “Be sure that before you start talking that your brain is engaged first. How many begin speaking before thinking? How many live to regret not having thought first?

We must be slow into wrath. In other words, we must not rush headlong into anger. Instead, move slowing into wrath. One of the things I’ve learned driving a car and that moving slowly can help one avoid the damages and costly repairs that can come by blasting ahead on an unknown road at high speed.

But, there’s another reason for being slow into wrath. Once there, a person’s anger will make it almost impossible to remember to keep on practicing the things God expects of us. I don’t believe in spirits or demons possessing my mind. I do believe that anger can, and when it does it does not give up until it has damaged those I love or those who are trying to see Christ in me. In fact, it keeps me from continually practicing the righteous God expects from me.

There are practical ideas like this throughout the book of James. I look forward to going back tomorrow and finding more gold from this book. I encourage you to do the same.

[1] “Word Pictures in the New Testament,” by A.T. Robertson, Volume VI, Page 21.

One soul at a time


The apostle Paul understood his life was nearly over. He told his beloved Timothy that the time for his departure from this world was near (2 Timothy 4:6).

Paul said something to Timothy to warn him about how evil the world would become (2 Timothy 3:13). Still, it was Paul’s hope that the young preacher would continue to change the world one soul at a time even though the world would rebel against sound teaching (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

We live in a world that has, for the most part, thrown God’s laws away. Often, we believe we’re living in an enlightened world, but the truth is most people are unrepentant sinners who have heeded the call of science to throw God into a dark closet.

Things are no different now than they were in the beginning when Adam and Eve decided to do the same by disregarding God’s law (Genesis 3:1-3). The history of Israel was one of continued disobedience to God (Ezekiel 20:10-21).

After the apostles died, at least by the second or third century, most of the church left the Bible teaching of elders (plural) over a church for a single bishop over a city (AD 107). By AD 325, the bishops had approved a man-made creed to be recited during worship. By AD 451, Damasus I started calling Rome the “Holy See,” beginning the papacy. What followed is what was called “the Dark Ages.”

There are people who think that if they get involved with the world, they might be able to save it from the fate that awaits it (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3). This is a forlorn hope. The unrepentant sinner can only change his destiny by obeying God, and this, many will not do. Jesus himself said the majority of people in the world would be lost (Matthew 7:13-14).

The truth is we can’t save the world from the fate that awaits it. This is why the apostle John warned Christians of the first century not to love the world (1 John 2:15ff), and why Jesus warned people to repent and obey the gospel (Matthew 24:35-39).

Sound negative? Yes, it does. Sometimes the truth is negative so that we’ll hear it and avoid the fate of the world. Remember, Noah, a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5) tried to warn the world it was about to be destroyed? Only eight souls, however, were saved from the flood. The truth is we can’t save the world.

We can, however, save one soul at a time by teaching them the truth of God’s word. Paul understood the power of this when he wrote Philemon about the runaway slave Onesimus. Paul told his brother Philemon that Onesimus who had been a run-away slave but was now profitable both to his master and to Paul (Philemon 15-16). The gospel has the power to end slavery by changing on soul at a time.

Politics cannot change the world. If the last forty years have taught us anything, it should have taught us we can’t change the world by electing one party or the other to the White House. The Warren Court began the despicable practice of allowing abortion. Candidates for president have called for the abolishment of abortion, yet since the Roe v. Wade decision in the 1960s, we still have it. Man, by himself, has no power to change an unrepentant world.

Obedience to the gospel of Christ can save one soul at a time. Has it saved yours?

God is not a shifting shadow


When the sun is directly behind me, my shadow is very tall.

Since I’m only five feet, six-inches tall, it would be very easy to believe my 20-foot shadow is my true height. But, when I turn, the shadow shifts. The tall shadow disappears. My shadow is not a true representation, is it?

The apostle James wrote, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow,” (James Shadow on grass1:16-17 NASB). Chris Vlachos wrote, “God’s attribute of giving only what is good is not at the mercy of change.”[1] God does not change his merciful nature because his character is always the same. He is infallible.

This is a difficult concept for human beings because we are just the opposite. Let the morning dawn on our discontent and we are surly to rise. Some of us stay the same way all day. In such a mood, it would be difficult to be nice and kind to anyone. A couple of cups of coffee and some breakfast later, and the story may be different. All people are alike this way. We are all shifting shadows.

God never changes. People do. People sin. God never does.

Some of my friends are pretty good people, but they all share the same fault. They think they are infallible. Someone else makes all the mistakes. It’s not their fault the doctor wrote down the wrong appointment day. The dentist must be wrong about his appointment book, too. My friends and I are shifting shadows.

God isn’t. He is the same all the time. He is patiently waiting for you to read your Bible and obey the gospel. He is patiently waiting for you to do what’s right instead of what you think is right. He loves you and wants only the best for you, but his patience is not without limits. One day he will send his son and the door to his kindness will be closed forever.

Don’t let your shifting shadow let that happen.

 

 

 

[1] “The Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament: James,’ p. 49. Published by B&H Publishing Co.

Gone back in time


Science says time travel is impossible.

Just recently, I was teleported back to the 1960s and I saw demonstrators being punched and kicked.

“This has to be the sixties,” I thought, “this kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore.”

I was wrong. I was watching a political “rally” where the candidate was screaming at the crowd to punch someone in the face and get them out of the room.

Then, yesterday while I was buying a few items at our favorite dollar store, I had a problem with my chip card and removed it prematurely.

“Don’t take it out!” the cashier yelled. She managed to leave out the word “stupid,” but she was clearly upset with me and my card. She apologized for her outburst, and I forgave her. It was probably just the day’s tension with people like me who remove their cards before they should have.

Have anger and hatefulness become a part of the American landscape? For many people it has. It seems there are some who think the political process (flawed as it may be) needs a little help from them in the way of anger and violence. And, some of these people call themselves Christians.

Isn’t it the case, however, that to become a Christian one must turn from the ways of the flesh and change their lives and conduct? The Apostle Paul called anger and violence the “works of the flesh.” He wrote, “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God,” (Galatians 5:19-21 NASB).

These outbursts of anger, as Paul called them, have become more and more common in our land. They shouldn’t. We’re supposed to be people who have learned self-control, aren’t we? Remember, we fought a war with Japan and when it was done, we HELPED THEM.

People who practice the things Paul condemned in Galatians 5:19-21 are hurting more than just the people they are kicking and punching. They are showing they are no more Christian than any heathen in the world, no matter what they call themselves. Christians don’t do these things, and they don’t condone those who do!

It’s time we turned our backs on the anger and violence in the world and obeyed the gospel of peace Jesus gave us. If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, it’s time we started acting like it.

Morning glory


There are many beautiful wild flowers to see during my morning walks. Some are purple; some are red. But one of the most lovely flowers I see every day at 5:45 a.m. is the Morning Glory.

Gardeners hate the Morning Glory because it chokes the lives out of the plants they are trying to grow. But, on the side of the road in contrast to the green grass and purple flowers the Morning Glory is beautifully white with tinges of purple. And, it’s only open early in the morning just for me.

The psalmipomoeaalba_4ist wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God,'” (Psalm 53:1a NKJV). It is impossible for one to look upon God’s creation and not see his existence. Those who believe this world and everything in it is an accident are exactly what God said they are.

One must have help mistaking the created beauty of the world for an accident. Look at the Morning Glory. Could this flower have been created by a mistake? It has design. It is not like any other flower of the field. Those who say there is no God do so because they have been misled and deceived. As the psalmist wrote, “They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good,” (Psalm 53:1b).

Those who dispute the existence of God have given up on one of the simplest maxims of the universe: cause and effect are everywhere. Saying God’s creation was all an accident sets aside the truth of cause and effect for a lie. If one buys a watch that keeps time does he say the watch is an accident. No, he appreciates its design and its precision. Everything in the natural world proclaims God’s glory in its design and purpose. Just look at the Morning Glory.