Thankful for Kindness


“…that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus,” (Ephesians 2:7 NKJV).

One of the many lessons Job learned when God put him on trial was that God doesn’t owe anyone anything.

Job thought God owed him a chance to make his case known (Job 13:18; 23:4). Job’s reasoning was that since he had been righteous and lived his life in accordance with God’s will, God at least owed him the chance to prove he was righteous and didn’t deserve the treatment he received.

Job was wrong.

Yet many people think God owes them. There are those who think God owes them salvation because they were somehow individually predestined to receive it. God chose the saved through the call of the gospel and obedience to the truth, (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).

Some think that because they only profess belief in God and Christ, that eternal life is owed to them regardless of the need to turn from sin and be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Instead, these folks think God owes them salvation because they believed.

Folks, God doesn’t owe any of us anything. He created us, he loved us, he gave his son for us. God has done enough. We should be thankful for his kindness to us. He didn’t have to send his son, but he did. He didn’t have to give us a plan of salvation, but he did.

In which dispensation did God ever rule out obedience as a condition of salvation? He never ever did. The Gentiles were told to obey (Romans 1). The Jews were told to obey (Exodus 15:26). Christians are also told to obey (Galatians 3:1).

God paid the price of sin for each one of us. What makes people think God owes them?

If we think God has changed, then we don’t realize how unchangeable God is (Hebrews 13:8). God doesn’t owe anyone anything.

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Define love


Once upon a time I was in love (or at least I thought I was) with a college girl. She asked me to define love.

Of course, I didn’t really know what to say. So, I launched into a country boy’s rendition of Shakespeare: “How do I love thee? Let me count them ways.”

That wasn’t good enough.

“Why do you love me?” she asked. Still searching for the right words, I realized I didn’t know.

Someone once said, “Love is better described than defined.” Perhaps, but when I define love now I look at Christ hanging on the cross. There, love is described and defined. The apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” (Romans 5:8 NET).

Paul discussed Christian love, or the love we are supposed to have for our brothers and sisters in Christ. He wrote love must exist without pretense (Romans 12:9). In early Greece, actors wore masks during a play to portray a character. Even now some people wear masks. They mask their disagreement, their disdain, their grumbling. They would like for others not to know the true character, but the false one they portray.

Christian love means abhorring evil and clinging to good. The word, “abhor” in Romans 12:9b is from a word in the original New Testament that means “hating and turning away from.”  We should hate evil so much we immediately and completely turn away from it. Instead, we should glue ourselves to good.

Paul also discussed how we are to love one another in Christ. We should be “kindly affectionate,” the New King James Version says. This translates one word, “φιλόστοργος” (philostorgos) which means to love like family.

To love each other as a family member indicates a love almost all of us can understand. Many of the problems people have with others in the church can be traced to this distinct shortcoming: we don’t love one another as we love family. Yet, God’s people are our family, our eternal family.

These descriptions of love, if followed in spirit and letter, will solve many problems. Love without pretense is the cure for hypocrisy in the church. Genuine love doesn’t need to be defined in words as it most certainly needs to be defined by action.

Have I given a profound definition of love here? Not really. I’ve only pointed to what the inspired apostle described, which is pretty good. I can stand on that.

 

 

Get out of that comfort zone!


J.R.R. Tolkien’s book “Lord of the Rings” describes the life of Frodo, a hobbit of the Shire, and how he found in his possession the ring of the enemy. For many months, Frodo took a journey to destroy the ring in the fires of Mt. Doom.

It seemed he hated every step of the journey. He hated sleeping on the ground. He hated walking long distances. He hated waking up with nothing to eat. Still, he pressed on to Mordor and the mountain.

Frodo had been taken from his home, his habits, and his routine. He was uncomfortable and longed to be back home.

Frodo is a mythical creature, but we can see something of ourselves in him. Frodo had a routine he enjoyed. Most of us have routines, too.

We get up at the same time, we eat three meals every day. We go to work and come home at the same time (well, almost). We do the same things with our children.

Most people are like prisoners in jail. They awake every day at the same time. They work and return to their cell. Their lives are regimented deeply in routine.

Frodo was in a comfort zone. So are many people. We depend on our routine to ground us, and that’s exactly what it does. Getting out of our comfort zones is so difficult it’s almost impossible.

We’re fat, we’re out of shape physically, we’re sick because we’ve carried on the same routine every day for 40 years.

Going to church is little different. People go because that’s what they do on Sunday. They pray little memorized prayers, they refuse to speak to anyone else about their need for salvation, they give the same amount every Sunday, they sing the same songs. Their religion is routine.

Here’s a suggestion. Instead of going along with the routine in church do something different that will show your love for God. Pour your heart out to him in prayer. Read the words you’re singing and let their meanings penetrate to your soul. Carry a Bible (gasp) and read it along with the sermon. Start thinking and meaning your religion.

Get out of that comfort zone and worship God for a change!

Driving the good away


Your iniquities have turned these things away, And your sins have withheld good from you,” (Jeremiah 5:25 NKJV).

Sin has consequences many do not understand or even notice. One of those consequences is that a person who lives long enough in the prison of sin will — at some point — drive all the good away.

The context of the passage bears this out. Judah had become so enslaved to sin that it had driven almost all the good from its life. They possessed a rebellious and stubborn heart because they chose idolatry to gain the money they thought they could have (Jeremiah 5:23, 30-31).

Judah did not realize its sin had hardened its heart and pushed it to resent and disobey God. God told them what happened, but they rejected what he said through Jeremiah. The extent of their sin is seen in how they regarded God’s prophet by dropping him in a pit and leaving him to die.

There are many whose bondage to sin causes them to drive good away from them. God is kind and gives his gifts to all people. Jesus said God causes his rain to fall on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45). But, Jeremiah told his people they had become willingly ignorant of God’s blessings giving them the early and latter rain (Jeremiah 5:24).

There is a great evil in our land that deceives many into thinking that chasing money and possessions will deliver blessings and desired power. One would think that for all the teachings of Christ and the apostles on covetousness, that members of God’s family would not pursue such to the exclusion of the Almighty. But, these days, many have.

Why? Because “your iniquities have turned these things away and your sins have withheld good from you.”

Snakes belly in a wagon rut


Although I have heard the phrase, “lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut,” many times, I did not know where it came from.

From some very brief research, I found the phrase is used by pilots who fly “lower than a snake’s belly in a wagon rut.” It is also used as a description of a terrible comment or deed.

There are people who, when they are in their comfort zone, they are in a “rut.” They tend to do things the same way over and over and are comfortable that way. To defend the comfort zone, they say, “people are creatures are habit.” I’ve used the phrase myself, but now I’m not comfortable using it because I don’t believe it is necessarily true.

We humans sometimes love routine. We often live as a matter of routine. We wake at the same time, go to work at the same time, do the same tasks the same way, leave at the same time, arrive home at the same time, sit down in the same place, eat at the same restaurants, shop at the same stores. We may even worship God the same way in a kind of rote memorization that doesn’t require too much attention because it’s the same thing every Sunday and becomes part of a routine.

See, that’s wrong. This is something of which the Jews and the Gentiles were guilty. Their services at a temple were routine. They’re prayers were also routine. Jesus said of them, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words,” (Matthew 6:7 ESV). The phrase, “empty phrases,” is from the word βαττολογέω, which means “to speak without thinking,” (Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich Lexicon of the Greek New Testament).

In other words, humans (who are famous for routine) sometimes get in a rut. This, we must NEVER do with God. God expects us to worship in “spirit and in truth,” (John 4:24). That means we must worship God in accordance with the right attitude and according to the truth. Mechanical worship, just like mechanical instruments, are an abomination to God. God wants us to THINK, not to speak without thinking.

God didn’t give the Jews the Tabernacle service to them so they could turn it into a ritualistic banality. So, Jesus said this same kind of thing in Matthew 23:5 in their hypocrisy. In both Matthew 6 and Matthew 23, the problem is the same: they do these things to be SEEN, not to truly worship God.

Jesus said, “Do not be like them.” We ought to remember that the next time we worship without thinking.

About Teddy


Someone once said, “Don’t judge someone until you walk a mile in his shoes.” After reading three books about Theodore Roosevelt, I think I am closer to knowing the man a little better.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t read biographies to praise human beings as the be-all, end-all of everything.  I read biographies because they are usually the most well written books and secondly, good biographers show the good and the bad sides of their subjects.

 

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Roosevelt was one of  most prolific and intelligent presidents this nation ever had: he wrote no less than 36 books. Some of the books he wrote were dictated in less than 30-days, and even those show a remarkable scholarship and erudition. His “Winning of the West” was the definitive history of the settlement of the Western United States and is still in print (available on Amazon). His autobiography, too, is in print. Folks, we’re talking about a man who lived more than 100-years ago (1858-1918).

One of Roosevelt’s most amazing traits was his lack of fear. He was a weak and sickly child. When his father told him he needed to train his body and overcome asthma, he did just that. When he decided to attend Harvard and graduate with honors, he did just that. When he decided to win election to the New York assembly, he did it. When he decided to go to North Dakota and live as a cowboy, the bespectacled young man did. just. that. This little sickly child grew up to become a man who had no fear staring down a grizzly bear.

Was I impressed with him? Yes, I was. But, I was also saddened. Roosevelt never really gave God a chance. When his first wife, Anna, died, he entered a terrible time of grief but put his wife from his mind to go West. When he lost elections and had problems with others, we don’t know he ever sought out the Almighty for help.  When I think that such a remarkable man died lost, it makes me very sad, and it should make us all very sad.

There are many people in the world who are like or unlike Roosevelt but just like him they need God. If we are sad Teddy won’t be walking “When the Saints Go Marching In,” we ought to learn from it and teach others the gospel.

Another brother falls to liberalism


It was saddening today to hear of another brother preacher falling to the error of liberalism.

Liberalism in religion is defined as loosing where God has bound. It has to do with errors that arise in how God authorizes what must be done in work and worship in the church and how the Bible must be understood.

There is a great chasm that exists in religion. There is one God, but dozens of religious bodies in the world. How can that be if there is “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all,” (Ephesians 4:5-6). Liberalism says that because God has not specifically condemned a thing, that thing may be done. Liberalism looses where God has bound.

For example, the only music in the church God commanded is singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). No other form of music is acceptable to God for he spoke of no other. Yet, there are people who believe the use of instrumental music in worship is a matter of personal opinion. The problem with that idea is that it doesn’t square with what God has said and done in the Bible.

The confusion in so many religious bodies is because men either don’t know or don’t care how God authorizes. Because they don’t believe God has spoken to man today through his word in the New Testament has caused and is causing division. So many religious bodies observe baptism, but teach it is not necessary for salvation. If it isn’t, then why observe it? Many teach the Lord’s Supper instituted by the Christ himself may be observed any day of the week, although the church observed it on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). If the example is the first day of the week, then why observe it any other time?

Then, there are those who bind where God has not bound. They are against the church caring for the home, orphans’ homes and condemn those who wish to join together to preach the gospel. They are not happy when those who wish to do God’s work cooperate with others who also wish to do the same. Why? I’ve never understood why.

Unless men can shake their antibiblical and untrue ideas about the Bible, unless they learn to apply appropriate measures to interpret God’s word and unless they reject loosing where God has bound and binding where God has not bound, the religious world will always disagree and divide.