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WHERE DID PRAYER FIT IN THE LIFE OF JESUS?

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JESUS TAUGHT THROUGH Paul that Christians ought to “pray constantly” (1 Thes. 5:17 CSB; cf. Jn. 16:13). While He obviously did not pray unceasingly, at least in the sense of never stopping, His life was marked and accentuated by prayer. The Lord was always in a prayerful mode. Consider the testimony of Scripture:

IN MATTHEW

He taught the inconsistency of a hypocritical life and prayer. 6:5-8

He trained His disciples about how to pray. 6:9-13

He thanked His Father in a brief prayer after being rejected by certain cities in Galilee. 11:25-27

He prayed up on a mountain by Himself after the thousands tried to force Him to become their king. 14:23; cf. Mk. 6:46; Jn. 6:15

He prayed and gave thanks before miraculously feeding the 4000. 15:36

He prayed for and put His hands on little children. 19:13; cf. Mk. 10:13-16; Lk. 18:15-17

He prayed at the institution of the Lord’s Supper. 26:26; cf. Mk. 14:22-23; Lk. 22:19

He offered the same fervent prayer three times in Gethsemane before His betrayal. 26:39, 42, 44; cf. Mk. 14:32-42; Lk. 22:39-46; Heb. 5:7

He cried out to His Father in prayer and identified Himself as the Messiah. 27:46

IN MARK

He arose long before daybreak and got off by Himself to pray before His first sermon in Galilee. 1:35

He taught a relationship between prayer and fasting. 9:29

He taught the apostles to pray in belief. 11:24

He taught that prayers are accepted contingent upon our forgiving others. 11:25-26

He fell prostrate on the ground and asked His Father to deliver Him from the cross. 14:35, 39

IN LUKE

He prayed at His own baptism. 3:21

He habitually withdrew into the wilderness alone to pray. 5:16

He prayed all night before selecting the twelve. 6:12-13

He was praying at His transfiguration. 9:28-29

He prayed after hearing the report of the seventy. 10:17-19, 20-21

He taught about the importance of persistence in prayer. 18:1ff

He prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail. 22:32

He withdrew about a stone’s throw from Peter, James, and John and knelt to pray in Gethsemane. 22:41

He prayed such a fervent, intense prayer in Gethsemane that His sweat became like drops of blood. 22:44

He prayed that the Father would forgive those who crucified Him in ignorance. 23:34

He prayed right before He died that the Father would accept His spirit. 23:46

He prayed before the meal with the disciples at Emmaus. 24:30

IN JOHN

He prayed in public at the tomb of Lazarus. 11:41-42

He prayed that He would glorify His Father in His crucifixion. 12:27-28

He prayed the “High Priestly” prayer for Himself and His disciples. 17

Jesus recognized the necessity of being in constant communication and intimate communion with His Father. He exemplified the concept of pray and was strengthened as He walked in Heaven’s will. Let’s emulate Him (1 Cor. 11:1).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” –Mike

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WHEN DID SATAN QUOTE SCRIPTURE – AND WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Some brief thoughts from Mat. 4:6

THERE ARE ONLY three occasions in Scripture where the devil spoke directly to others (cf. Gen. 3, Job 1-2, and Mat. 4/Lk. 4). In Genesis he spoke TO the woman ABOUT God (vv. 1, 4-5), in Job he spoke TO God ABOUT a man (1:9-11; 2:4-5), and finally, in Matthew he spoke TO God the Son ABOUT God the Father (vv. 3, 6, 9). For the sake of this abbreviated study, let’s notice this last speaking engagement in the first Gospel account (ch. 4:1-10).

Remember that following each of the devil’s three temptations, the Lord answered with “it is written” (vv. 4, 7, 10) and then quoted Old Testament Scripture (cf. Deut. 8:3 LXX; 6:16; 6:13). But notice in the second temptation in Matthew’s account (cf. the third in Luke—vv. 10-11) that THE DEVIL LIKEWISE QUOTED SCRIPTURE TO JESUS—specifically from Psalm 91. Yes, Satan said, “It is written” too, and then he quoted God’s word verbatim to the Word incarnate.

A few observations about the devil and his quoting Scripture are in order:

1. The devil was somehow CONSCIOUS OF GOD’S WORD. Remember that back in Genesis 3 he asked the woman about what GOD HAD SAID, but here in Matthew 4 he actually quoted what GOD HAD SAID through the prophet in the 91st Psalm. Does this therefore mean that because Satan referenced and quoted the Bible that he is all knowing? No. The devil is not deity; he is not omniscient. He is a CREATION, not the CREATOR (cf. Col. 1:16; Exo. 20:11; Mat. 25:41).

The Hebrew writer said, “He Himself (Jesus) likewise shared in the same (i.e., flesh and blood—Jn. 1:14), that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil” (2:14b—emphasis mine, mb; cf. Col. 2:15; 2 Tim. 1:10; Psa. 132:11). The devil had the power of death, and in fact, was indirectly responsible for the death of Jesus. Ironically, that death was the very means by which the tempter lost his battle with the God the Father. Had he foreknown that Jesus’s death would be his own demise, the tempter would have never sought to bring Christ to Calvary in the first place.

2. But BECAUSE SATAN IS NOT ALL-KNOWING, THAT DOESN’T MEAN THAT HE IS NOT KNOWING IN ANY SENSE OF THE TERM. Consider the fact that he spoke a) intelligently through the agency of the serpent in Genesis, that he spoke b) logically to God in Job, and finally, he spoke c) shrewdly to Jesus in the wilderness allurements (cf. 2 Cor. 11:14). It’s obvious the devil possesses the ability to know, think, and reason.

Someone asks, “But how is it that the devil, as a rational spirit-being, was able to know God’s Word in Matthew 4?” We don’t know; we can only speculate, but what we must realize, especially from the New Testament account is that while, yes, the devil did quote Scripture, and he did initiate those words (just like Jesus did!) with “It is written,” HE TOOK PSALM 91:11-121 OUT OF ITS CONTEXT.

“The passage is a general promise to those who make God their refuge, and Satan merely made application to Christ, with unholy intentions to the say the least”1

“Satan quoted these words (vv. 11, 12) to Jesus on Mount of Temptation (Mat. 4:6). Jesus answered his quotation by pointing to Deuteronomy 6:16, a verse that qualifies this promise and commands the servant of God not to deliberately test God regarding His goodness. God’s guarantee of deliverance is to be accepted by faith. It is dependent upon and enjoyed by God’s follower, but jumping from a temple wing to see if God will keep His word is putting God to an unnecessary trial. Doing so would, signal unbelief. Jesus did not diminish God’s promise; he gave it the proper meaning.”2

“The devil tempted Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple and be saved by angels. Jesus declined to tempt God. Boles noted that “this verse was written to encourage faith, not to encourage presumption” (101). This verse is not an assurance that we can pursue any silly endeavor we want. It is a general promise of care and protection for God’s people… Verse 13 highlights the hyperbole of the passage. Not many of us have been asked to take a walk on a bed of lions and deadly snakes. We do not know what it is God’s will to ferry us through situations of tribulation unharmed. The point is that if He has the will, then He also has the power. This passage teaches us to trust in both the power and the wisdom of Jehovah.”3

Satan quoted two verses in Psalm 91 passage that referred to God’s general protection of His faithful, but this misapplied and twisted it to suggest that it specifically promised to Jesus that the Father would keep Him from any harm.

Satan took a GENERAL truth that applied to God’s faithful as a whole, but then subtly twisted (cf. 2 Pet. 3:16) and misapplied it to SPECIFICALLY refer to Jesus. The Lord immediately recognized the tempter’s subversive tactic and countered with Scripture himself in context.

But now consider our brief study from a modern, practical vantage point:

3. Many people, LIKE THE DEVIL, know some part of God’s Word, but they either intentionally or unintentionally, take it out of context, and make it say something it doesn’t say at all (cf. Heb. 5:12-14; 2 Pet. 3:16). For example, when an individual references 1 Cor. 1:17 and then claims that baptism isn’t necessary for salvation, he’s taking it out of context (Mat. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 6:3-4; 17-18. When a person quotes Mat. 7:1 and says, “Jesus says you can’t judge…”, he’s obviously failed to read the verse in its context. The Lord continued, “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (v. 5). And so rather than saying, “Don’t judge another person in any fashion,” Jesus actually taught the very opposite, and told us to make sure that before we judge our brother, we need to be sure that we’re not guilty of that which we condemn. When a brother recites Matthew 18:20 before he neglects the worship assembly of the saints in order to go hunting or fishing with a couple of friends, it’s painfully apparent that he’s wrenched the passage out of its original context and made it say something our Lord never meant to say.

Here’s the point, beloved. We are perhaps never more like the devil than when we take a verse out of its context and make it say something that God never said. He distorted and warped the Bible to fit his own personal narrative, and if we’re not very careful, we can do the same thing – to our eternal demise.

Let’s READ the Bible, let’s STUDY the Bible in context, and then let’s teach our friends exactly what the Bible says (cf. Mat. 28:18-20).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

1 Tom Wacaster, “Those Who Put Their Trust in Jehovah,” The Songs and Devotions of David – Psalms 90-108, Vol. 5, 40.

2 Eddie Cloer, “God, Our Dwelling Place,” Truth For Today Commentary – Psalms 90-118, 33.

3 Joseph T. McWhorter, “Psalms 90-93,” Studies in Psalms – Vol. 2 (73-150), The Denton-Schertz Commentaries, Editor, Stan Crowley, 194.

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“WHAT IF A PERSON DIES ON THE WAY TO BE BAPTIZED?”

Some thoughts on the doctrine of belief without baptism.

HE HAD BEEN studying the Bible with a member of the church for a few weeks. Even though he was brought up in a religiously devout home, and even though he sincerely believed for many years that he was saved, in light of his recent examination of the Scriptures, he’d come to the unsettling realization that he was, in fact, never saved at all (cf. Prov. 14:12; Jer. 10:23). Yes-he had been sincere, but no-he’d been wrong (cf. Acts 26:9).

He was on his way to the church baptistry to be immersed in accordance with the pattern set forth in the New Testament (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 8:36-38), but as he was driving down the highway towards his destination, a truck suddenly pulled out in front of him, the two vehicles collided, and he was hurled out of his car and killed.

This is a very popular scenario among our religious friends. Whenever a child of God refers to the necessity of baptism, some antagonists unfurl this revered storyline as though it were Scripture itself. “Are you telling me that Almighty God would consign him to eternal hell just because he wasn’t immersed in water?!”

On the surface, this emotional tragedy-narrative sounds reasonable, but does it, and can it withstand the test of the Word of God (cf. 1 Jn. 4:1; 1 Thes. 5:21; Acts 17:11)? Please consider the following:

God wants EVERYONE to be saved. If you think about it, this oft-told fictional tale is actually an indictment not only of the Word of God, but against God Himself. The under-the-surface theology goes something like this: 1) You claim that God requires baptism, BUT since 2) He didn’t protect this imaginary believing-seeker on his way to the water and allowed him to die in the car accident, then 3) not only is your understanding of the nature and necessity of immersion flawed, but your view of Jehovah is flawed as well.

What our friends fail to realize is that the scenario actually pits God against His own doctrine of baptism–even though immersion was His idea (Mat. 28:19-20), even though He cannot lie (Tit. 1:2), and even though immersion in water is specifically commanded in the New Testament (Acts 10:48) in order to put one into the body Christ (Gal. 3:27; cf. Eph. 5:30).

The truth is, God desires ALL to be saved, and His plan (Eph. 1:4) to save involves an active faith (Jas. 2:14-26) that moves believers to submit to the action of baptism (Acts 22:16)1:

  • “For God so loved the WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3:16; cf. vv. 14-15; Num. 21:4-9).
  • “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live…” (Ezek. 33:11a).
  • “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish…” (2 Pet. 3:9a).
  • “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires ALL MEN to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:3-4a).

God tells everyone through Scripture exactly HOW to be saved. The inspired Psalmist asked, “How can a young man cleanse his way?” and then answered, “By TAKING HEED to Your (God’s – mb) word” (119:9; cf. Heb. 5:8-9).

This passage implies at least two things: 1) A man can/does sometimes sin and spiritually defile himself (cf. Mat. 15:10-20; Mk. 7:20-23), 2) that faced with this awful dilemma (cf. Isa. 59:1ff), he can go to the Bible (2 Pet. 1:21), be taught (Mat. 28:20; Acts 8:30-31), understand and know (Eph. 5:17), and then submit to (i.e. “take heed to”) God’s gracious will (Tit. 2:11), and in so doing (Acts 2:37ff), be purified by the Lord from his iniquity (cf. Col. 2:12-“working of God”; Eph. 2:8-9; Acts 2:37-38; 16:31-34; 22:16).

Now ponder Psalm 119:9 and then ask yourself one essential question: Can God ever save an individual who never learns, or is taught, Whom to believe in (i.e. Jesus), or how, or what to believe about Him (Heb. 11:7; John 8:24)?

Imagine that a Christian is scheduled to teach a series of five Bible studies to a very moral,2 albeit aged man who has been recently diagnosed with a serious heart problem. In the evening just before their second lesson together, when teacher and student are set to study the subject of faith (cf. Jn. 20:30-31), that elderly man suffers a massive heart attack and dies–without ever having the opportunity to hear the story of Jesus and believe on Him (cf. Acts 11:17; 8:34-39; 16:31). Yes, he learned in the first lesson that the Bible is the inspired Word of God, and that the New Testament is the final and only authority (Mat. 28:18; Col. 3:17) in all matters of life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), but no–he wasn’t taught in that initial study the identity or deity of Jesus Christ (cf. Isa. 53:3ff; Acts 8:37) and therefore never had the opportunity to believe on/in Him because his faith was contingent upon hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17; cf. Heb. 11:4, 6-7, 8ff).

Question: Since some take the liberty of removing and omitting BAPTISM from the plan of salvation in order to save the sincere individual who was killed in the car accident, then by this same logic are they not also permitted to remove FAITH from that very same divine plan since the sincere, moral man in the second scenario died of a heart attack before his belief in Jesus? If not, why not? If it’s possible for the Lord to arbitrarily save one man without full obedience (cf. 2 Kgs. 5:9-14)3, then why isn’t it also possible for Him to save another man without any obedient faith (Heb. 11:6)? Ironically, I’ve never heard anyone use the old sincere, moral man scenario and then argue, “What if a sincere, moral person is not yet taught the Whom, what, and how of faith in Jesus,4 but then he dies from a heart attack? Do you mean to tell me God would send this man to eternal hell for not believing?!”

But what did Jesus say, good reader? What did the Lord actually say in His Word about belief as it relates to baptism? NOTE: “He who BELIEVES. . .AND. . .is BAPTIZED will be SAVED…” (Mk. 16:16a). Consider that He did not say, “He who believes will be saved…,” nor did He say, “He who is baptized will be saved…” He said both are necessary (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 19:5), and that settles the matter for all time (Psa. 119:89; 172).

God pleads with everyone NOT TO WAIT to be saved. Please pay attention to the following passages and then answer the questions which follow:

  • “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him” (Acts 8:36-38). CONSIDER: If it wasn’t urgent for the Ethiopian nobleman to be baptized, why did he command the chariot to stand still?
  • “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized” (16:33). CONSIDER: If it wasn’t urgent for the jailer and his family to be baptized, why did the Holy Spirit emphasize the fact that they submitted to baptism “immediately?”
  • “Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, ‘Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!’” But he said, ‘I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner.  King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.’ Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian'” (26:24-28). CONSIDER: If a person is saved at the moment of belief, as some allege in their car accident scenario, then how was Agrippa able say, “You almost persuade me to become a CHRIST-ian?” Webster’s dictionary says “almost” means slightly short of, not quite. How was it possible for Agrippa to believe (v. 26) what the prophets said ABOUT Christ, enjoy all of the spiritual blessings that are uniquely IN Christ (cf. Eph. 1:1b; 3, 10, 12, 20; 2:6, 7, 10, 13; 3:6, 11; 4:15), without having first OBEYED Christ (Mat. 28:18-20), without being IMMERSED INTO Christ (Gal. 3:27; cf. Rom. 7:1-4) and therefore finally being added BY Christ to His church (Acts 2:47)? How was it possible for Agrippa to “not quite” become a Christian and still access Christ?

According to the Bible, if a sincere believing person dies on the way to the baptistry in a car wreck, he’ll still be lost (Mk. 16:15-16; cf. Jn. 7:24; Psa. 119:172) because his obedience was only partial. Then too, if a sincere, moral person dies of a heart attack before he’s taught the truth and has the opportunity to believe, he’ll also be lost. “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thes. 1:7-8; cf. 1 Pet. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 6:1-4; 17-18).

1 There is no inherit power in the water of baptism itself. Our faith is in the One (Jesus) who requires baptism, not in the water itself.

2 Cornelius is described in Acts as a devout, just, God-fearing, generous, and praying man (Acts 10:1-2, 22), but HE STILL NEEDED to hear words (about Jesus and His will) by which he and household would be saved (11:14). What if that morally upright, religiously devoted man had never heard, believed and obeyed the gospel (10:34-48)? Would he have been saved by his own goodness alone (cf. Isa. 64:6)?

3 HOW MANY times did Naaman have to dip in the Jordan in order to be cleansed of his leprosy?

4 When the people of Israel complained against God and Moses in Num. 21:4ff, and then the Lord sent venomous snakes among the them, WHAT HAPPENED to many of those individuals BEFORE Moses constructed the bronze serpent on the pole and then told them HOW to be saved? Did anybody die before belief? Was any snake-bitten person saved by believing without the action of looking (cf. Jn. 3:14)?

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WHEN IS CONFESSION NOT CONFESSION?

THERE ARE AT least seven individuals in Scripture who confessed outwardly and/or inwardly, “I have sinned…”

They include:

  1. Pharaoh – Exo. 9:27; 10:16,
  2. Balaam – Num. 22:34,
  3. Achan – Josh. 7:20-21,
  4. King Saul – 1 Sam. 15:24, 30
  5. King David – 2 Sam. 12:13; 24:10; Psa. 41:6
  6. Judas Iscariot – Mat. 27:4, and
  7. The youngest of the two prodigal sons – Lk. 15:18, 21.

Of this number, ONLY TWO experienced genuine remorse for their actions and were willing to turn away from their transgressions, even though all seven of them orally confessed essentially the same three words.

But how do we, and can we, determine the identity of the two who were sincere (one in each Testament), as opposed to the five who were not so inclined?

Is it possible to pour through the Bible, read and study the context of each man’s situation, and then decide which of them said more than “I have sinned,” but they actually exhibited penitent hearts of true contrition?

Consider:

When Pharaoh said, “I have sinned” his was a FEIGNING confession. He just wanted the plagues of hail and locusts to stop (Exo. 9:28; 10:17). The wicked monarch was like a soldier in a foxhole entreating God in prayer for deliverance, only to return to his former sinful ways after the artillery barrage is over.

When Balaam said, “I have sinned,” his was a FAKE confession because he felt compelled to justify the beating of his innocent, defenseless donkey that had seemingly rebelled against him (Num. 22:22-30), when the prophet himself was attempting to defy the Lord’s authority (v. 32). The seer was like an arrogant politician who believes that rules and laws only apply to the masses, but not to himself.

When Achan said, “I have sinned,” his was essentially a FORCED confession because his number one concerned was not over the fact that he had broken God’s command (Josh. 7:20), or that he was solely responsible for the deaths of three-dozen men (Josh. 7:11-12, 15; 1 Chron. 2:7; cf. Isa. 59:2), but that he and his family would mutually pay the austere wages of his own selfish sin (Josh. 32:23; cf. Rom. 6:23). He was like the immature child who complains and cries because he knows he’s going to be disciplined for not listening to his Father’s instructions.

When King Saul said, “I have sinned,” his was a FAULTY confession because he initially denied disobeying God (1 Sam. 15:13, 15), and then later offered a weak alibi (1 Sam. 15:20-21) to vindicate himself of his obvious guilt. The proud ruler was like the insincere person who says, “IF I have done anything wrong against you, I apologize…”

When Judas said, “I have sinned,” his was a FRUITLESS confession because a) he had been a long-time thief of his fellow-disciple’s money (i.e., the treasury box – Jn. 12:6), b) he knew experientially that Jesus was the Messiah (Mat. 16:20), but c) he also knew that he had sold out his sinless Savior for thirty pieces of silver (Mat. 26:15; cf. Exo. 21:32; Zech. 11:12-13). The wayward apostle was alike a self-deceived criminal who thinks he can indiscriminately break the laws of the land and still escape the consequences of his misconduct.

But now, pay very close attention to David and the Prodigal, because while both of them also confessed their sins, their heartfelt words were first born out of a keen personal realization that they had offended the Father (cf. Luke 18:9-14). Watch:

David lamented to Jehovah, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight…” (Psa. 51:4).

Likewise, the younger prodigal agonized, “How many of my father’s hired servants have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you…” (Lk. 15:17-19a).

The two mourned the enormity of their iniquities that had separated them from their Father (cf. Isa. 59:1-2; Psa. 51:1ff), while the five were less concerned about the sin and separation, and more worried about the consequences of their rebellion towards Him (cf. 2 Cor. 7:10).

“But Mike, what do all of these confessions tell me – especially about honest confession of my sins?”

These individuals tell us a great deal about the MOTIVES behind our confessions.

Beloved, WHEN (not IF) we sin, we need to take a long, in-depth look at WHY we admit, “I have sinned” (cf. 1 Jn. 1:8).

Is our confession sincere and indicative of a broken and contrite spirit (Psa. 51:17; Isa. 57:15) that acted in defiance of the Heavenly Father, OR is it a weak and feeble means of covering our transgressions?

The Bible says, “Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy” (Prov. 28:13).

Think about it.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

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SHOULD WE LISTEN TO MOSES OR JESUS?

ALMOST 1,400 YEARS before Jesus came in the flesh, Moses told the Israelites: 

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren.  Him you shall hear” (Deuteronomy 18:15; emphasis mine—mb). 

Centuries later, after the Lord fed the five thousand with loaves and fish, the people realized the fulfillment of this ancient prophecy.  “Then those men, when they had seen the sign that Jesus did, said, ‘This is truly THE PROPHET who is to come into the world’” (John 6:14).

The apostle Peter later confirmed this when he preached at Solomon’s porch, For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you A PROPHET like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.  And it shall be that every soul who will not hear THAT PROPHET shall be utterly destroyed from among the people’” (Acts 3:22-23).  The martyr, Stephen, also declared this truth (cf. Acts 7:37-38). 

But how was Jesus a prophet like Moses?  Study the following passages and note the striking parallels: 

1.  Both were sent from God.  Exodus 3:1ff; John 8:42

2.  Both were born under foreign rule.  Exodus 1:8-14; Luke 2:1

3.  Both, as infants, were threatened by wicked monarchs.  Exodus 1:15-16; Matthew 2:16

4.  Both spent their early years in Egypt and were miraculously protected from harm.  Exodus 2:10; Matthew 2:14-15

5.  Both rejected the offer and opportunity to become world rulers.  Hebrews 11:24; Matthew 4:8-9

6.  Both were initially rejected by their peers.  Exodus 32:1; Isaiah 53:3; Matthew 27:21-22; John 1:11

7.  Both suffered disrespect.  Numbers 16; John 12:37; Mark 6:4

8.  Both had family who let them down.  Numbers 12:1; John 7:5

9.  Both were teachers.  Deuteronomy 4:1-5; Matthew 22:16; John 3:2

10.  Both were prophets and spoke on behalf of God.  Exodus 4:15; John 8:26

11.  Both knew God on an intimate level.  Exodus 33:11; Deuteronomy 34:10; John 1:18

12.  Both spoke directly to God.  Exodus 3:1-10; Deuteronomy 34:10; Luke 9:34-36

13.  Both gave the people bread from heaven.  Exodus 16:14-15; John 6

14.  Both performed miracles.  Exodus 4:1ff; Deuteronomy 34:10-12; John 5:36

15.  Both were deliverers—Moses delivered Israel from the bondage of Pharaoh; Jesus delivered spiritual Israel, the church, from the bondage of Satan.

16.  Both were shepherds.  Exodus 3:1; John 10:10-11; Matthew 9:36

17.  Both were baptized.  1 Corinthians 10:1-2; Matthew 3:13-17

17.  Both fasted forty days in the wilderness.  Exodus 34:28; Matthew 4:2

18.  Both were mediators.  Deuteronomy 4:5; Exodus 32; Hebrews 8:6; 1 Timothy 2:5

19.  Both of their faces shone with the glory of heaven.  Exodus 34:34-35; Matthew 17:12

20.  As Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness to heal the people, so Jesus was lifted up on the cross to heal obedient believers from their sins.  Numbers 21:8-9; John 3:14; 12:32

21.  As Moses sent out twelve spies to explore Canaan, Jesus sent out twelve apostles to reach the world.  Numbers 13; Matthew 10:1

Even though there are many other similarities which the two share in common, God made it clear whom we are to follow and obeyWhile he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him” (Matthew  17:5). 

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THEY FORSOOK ALL

Photo via freebibleimages.com

FISHING WAS THEIR livelihood. It put food on their table and a roof over their heads (Mark 1:29).1 Fishing “paid the bills.” But these two brothers quit their boats and nets and immediately followed Jesus (Mark 1:18).

Remember also that Simon and Andrew not only left their jobs, but their families as well (Mark 1:30; cf. Matthew 19:271 Corinthians 9:5). It was kind of like being in the army reserves and receiving a call to serve in a foreign theater of conflict (cf. 2 Timothy 2:4). The brothers were already acquainted with Jesus (cf. John 1:35-42; 2:1; 2:13, 17, 22; 3:22; 4:1-27, 31, 43-45; Luke 5:1ff), but some time later He summoned them to active, permanent duty (cf. Luke 22:28).

Vocation. Close relatives. Simon and Andrew walked away from both. “So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him” (Luke 5:11; cf. Genesis 12:1). Read those words again slowly. Let them sink down into your heart. They forsook ALL.

Would you quit your job at a moment’s notice? Would you close your business on an impulse, pack your bags, and then bid farewell to your loved ones for an undisclosed length of time? No? Simon Peter and Andrew did.

Now stay with me for a moment. Don’t get lost.

  • Could this be why some of us never attain our New Year’s resolutions?
  • Could this be why we are unwilling to pursue real change in our lives?
  • Could this be why goals are often little more than lofty pie-in-the-sky wishes?

You see, following Jesus means leaving certain things behind (cf. Mark 10:28Luke 5:28; 18:28). Following Jesus means forsaking our nets and walking away from the lazy comfort of the status quo. For children of God, it means constantly changing our internal spiritual street address (cf. 1 Peter 2:22 Pet. 3:18) and venturing into unknown territory (cf. Hebrews 11:8). For Simon and Andrew it meant surrendering familial bonds, shutting down their seafood restaurant and living out of their suitcases (Luke 9:3). It’s one thing to do a weekend gospel meeting in another state; it’s another thing entirely to become a full-time, traveling missionary. Where would they sleep at night?2

How would their meals be provided? There were no welfare programs to help the brothers find housing during their tour of duty in Palestine. The Roman government certainly didn’t offer food stamps to itinerant Jewish preachers. They couldn’t depend on monthly social security checks to make ends meet. They just left. They forsook all.

Maybe that’s why so many of us shun the opportunities afforded by the New Year and never grow to maturity in Christ. Maybe we reject the promise of self-improvement and real in-depth spiritual growth because 1) genuine resolutions require legitimate change (i.e., leaving), 2) change means uncertainty, and 3) uncertainty scares us. The fear of the unknown is so paralyzing that we never leave our boats and nets for the real trophy catch (Phil. 3:13-14). Think of just a few life examples:

  • Starting and maintaining a regular exercise program demands self-discipline (think sweaty exercise sessions, running on the treadmill, working out with weights, and changing our diet and eating habits). Uncertainty and fear whispers, “What if I fail and I don’t lose the weight, or what if I do lose the weight but it all comes right back?”
  • Curbing a hot temper requires much more than an empty promise at the start of the first month on the calendar (Eph. 4:26-32). Fear inquires, “What happens if, in a moment of weakness, I lose it again like I have a million times before? Then what? How many times am I going to have to start over again?”
  • Learning to teach an adult auditorium Bible class means leaving the quiet confines of a padded pew and standing in front of people who sometimes know more Scripture than we do (cf. Heb. 5:12-14). It means anxious hours of private study and wondering if brethren will want to even hear what you have to say. It means standing in front of your peers, perhaps at times with a weak and timid spirit, armed only (Rom. 1:16) with a powerful Word.

The question that begs to be answered is, “Are we really willing to forsake all in the interest of the maturation of our faith (Gal. 5:22-23Col. 3:12-152 Pet. 1:5-11) and the good pleasure of our heavenly Father?”

What about you, dear Christian? Are YOU willing to forsake all? Can you, like Simon and Andrew, leave your nets and boats and step out in faith for the journey ahead?

The calendar says Thursday, March 2, 2022. I urge you to leave–immediately.

“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give; I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
All to Jesus I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow;
Worldly pleasures all forsaken, take me, Jesus, take me now.
All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power, let Thy blessings fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

1/ See John MacArthur, “Peter,” Twelve Ordinary Men, 37.
2/ Hospitality was a sacred duty in this NT culture.

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ZEAL IN THE WAITING ROOM

Photo via Nathan Bang at Unsplash

HE SLOWLY SHUFFLED HIS way into the doctor’s office. He was a tall, fair-skinned, aged gentleman. Judging by his appearance, I figured he was in his late 70’s, perhaps early 80’s.

He was sporting a crisp, white, short-sleeved shirt, grey ankle-length slacks, and a navy blue ball cap with the words “I ❤ Jesus.” He held a long, slender walking cane in his left hand and big wad of religious tracks in his left hand.

I watched as he systematically worked his way around the room. As it turned out, he was handing out leaflets pertaining to salvation. I’d seen this very tract many times around town. It proclaimed, “Believe on the Lord and be saved.” By my preacher’s count, he’d given out at least fourteen of the brochures to various patients in the waiting room.

Eventually he settled down just two seats away from me. I knew exactly what was coming. I was pouring over a magazine article when he leaned over and offered me a tract too. “Would you like to read this?” he asked. I declined the offer. “No thank you, sir,” I said kindly. For one fleeting moment he looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “You don’t want one?!” he huffed. “Are you saved?!”

Now I have to admit this was new territory for me. I was just sitting there waiting for my annual checkup when this gentleman—a total stranger—asked me in front of God and everybody—about my pardon from sin.

No, I wasn’t offended, just taken back by his raw courage—especially in front of all the other waiting-room folk in today’s prickly, politically sensitive, don’t-talk-about-religion-in-public society. I smiled and offered gently, “As a matter of fact, I am saved—and I attend the local church of Christ just down the road.”

He leaned back in his seat, nodded in what appeared to be reluctant approval and then thundered, “Well, Jesus died on the cross for everybody!” I nodded in agreement and said, “Yes, He did.”

But my religious cohort wasn’t quite done. Our little impromptu Bible study in the clinic took on an even deeper dimension. He then announced to me and the rest of the waiting room, “Yes, Jesus died for everybody—including the thief on the cross.” “In fact,” he said, the thief just looked over at Jesus and said, ‘Lord save me,’ and He did just that right then and there! More than that, He saves us all the exact same way today!”

My fellow student/patients sat there quietly, a few shaking their heads in obvious approval, while others just stared down at the floor. We had all come anticipating a checkup for a $25 co-pay, but as it turned out, we were also offered a clamorous denominational Bible study for free.

I paused for a just a moment and then shared one brief observation with my zealous neighbor. “I’m glad you mentioned the thief,” I said. You may remember that Hebrews 9 says, ‘For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.” I continued, “The thief, unlike us, lived and died while an entirely different testament or covenant was in force, and He therefore isn’t an example for our salvation today.” I reached on my hip for my phone to show him the passage.

Sadly, our short debate was now over, not because I had spoken up, but because I offered a Scripture that countered his sectarian views. He bowed up like a scared cat in a corner and declared emphatically, “JESUS SAVES EVERYBODY IN THE EXACT SAME WAY!” No sooner had the words left his lips than the nurse called his name and he exited the room for his appointment.

I’ve mulled that whole situation over in my head several times. “Should I have spoken up? Was it wise to mention Hebrews 9?” Peter said, “Be ready to give an answer…” (1 Pet. 3:15), and I genuinely tried to do that in a Christian spirit. The man initiated the contact and I simply responded in kind with what little opportunity I was afforded at the time.

But the whole occasion got me to thinking on at least three levels. For instance:

1. Wouldn’t it be great if all members of the Lord’s church had the kind of fearlessness this elderly man exhibited at the doctor’s office (cf. Acts 4:13, 29, 31; Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 3:12; 7:4; Phil. 1:20)? Granted, however sincere he might have been, he was spreading a false, perverted gospel—in essence, easy-believism, but I couldn’t help but admire his boldness, his fervor, and his tenacity. He knew what he knew and he was compelled to share it (Jer. 20:9) with literally everybody around him. He wasn’t ashamed nor was he afraid.

2. The Oxford congregation receives all kinds of House-to-House literature. There are tracts and H2H periodicals scattered around our building. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to grab a handful to keep in our cars? Then when we’re waiting for a doctor’s appointment, could can leave a few copies around for others to read and consume. Beloved, not all evangelism has to be confrontational. Sometimes it can as quiet and as innocuous as planting a couple of paper seeds in a doctor’s office reading stand.

3. It is one thing to say that Jesus saves, but it’s quite another thing to say that He saves everybody the exact same way. Yes, we would agree that the principles that relate to salvation (grace and obedient faith—Eph. 2:8) are the same under the Patriarchal, Mosaic, and New Testaments, but obviously the expression of faith under each are vastly different.

Noah was saved by God’s grace (Gen. 6:8) through obedient faith (Heb. 11:7) AS ARE WE TODAY (1 Pet. 3:20-21), but we aren’t obligated to build an ark. The children of Israel were saved by God’s grace (Exo. 14:13-31) through the obedience of faith (Exo. 14:22; 1 Cor. 10:1-2; Heb. 11:29), AS ARE WE TODAY, but we aren’t duty-bound to cross the Red Sea. Naaman was saved by God’s grace (2 Kgs. 5:10, 14b) through the obedience of faith (2 Kgs. 5:14a) AS ARE WE TODAY, but we aren’t commanded to dip seven times in the Jordan. The blind man was saved by God’s grace (Jn. 9:7) through the obedience of faith AS ARE WE TODAY, but we aren’t required to wash in Siloam. Yes, the thief was saved by grace through faith—just as we are, but he was forgiven under the terms of an earlier covenant (Lev. 26:40-42; cf. 1 Kgs. 8, Dan. 9, Neh. 1, Psm. 51, 32) which do not apply to us today.

Allow me to illustrate. Suppose I were to send the following email to the IRS: “To Whom It May Concern, I do not intend to pay income taxes. Presidents Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln lived and died without paying income taxes, so why should I therefore be expected to pay today? Signed Mike Benson.” QUESTION: What do you suppose would happen to me? It’s safe to say that if I stuck to my guns, eventually I would be put in prison for tax evasion because I currently live under the law (think testament or covenant) that requires U.S. citizens to pay income taxes. On the other hand, Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln died BEFORE the income tax law went into effect, and were therefore never under its jurisdiction.

In a similar way, the penitent thief lived and died BEFORE the law of Christ went into effect. He was therefore never subject to its terms as we are today (cf. Heb. 9:27). The Testator—Jesus—hadn’t died yet. The Mosaic covenant was still in effect. We, unlike the thief, live under the terms of the new and better covenant (Heb. 9:7-13) which requires obedient faith (Mk. 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4) expressed in baptism for the remission of sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 6:17-18).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!”—Mike

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Have You Ever Slept Through the Lord’s Supper?

Were the infirmities of 1 Cor. 11:30 figurative or literal?

I CAN’T SAY that I’ve given a great deal of thought to this particular passage until a recent Lord’s Day.

The brother presiding at the table brought it to my attention.

Paul wrote, “Many are weak and sick among you, AND MANY SLEEP” (1 Cor. 11:30 – emphasis mine, mb).

What exactly did the apostle mean when he said, “and many sleep?”

It is possible that he was speaking figuratively.

The brethren at Corinth had merged a common “love feast” covered-dish fellowship meal with the communion (cf. 2 Pet. 2:13).

Yes, their eyes were open, but their hearts were dull and closed – in essence, asleep.

It was a sort of congregational epidemic, kind of like what I heard about years ago in the Knoxville, Tennessee area with the flu more than a half a decade before Covid struck the U.S..

Brethren couldn’t shake hands or hug lest they spread the rampant, life-threatening virus.

Well, members at Corinth could shake hands and hug, physically and metaphorically speaking, but evidently they didn’t.

On the contrary, they divided and separated (vv. 17-19; cf. 1:10-12) and failed to exhibit brotherly love, care and affection.

What the Lord had initially intended as a feast for the soul had been incrementally warped and twisted into a gluttonous feast for the belly (1 Cor. 11:21).

What made it even worse was the fact that some were eating while others were actually going hungry.

The church body was “coming together” (vv. 17-18, 20, 33-34) at the same location (v. 20), but they certainly weren’t coming together in the highest sense of the phrase.

“Many are weak (i.e., feeble and infirm) and sick (i.e., powerless, without strength) and many SLEEP” (are dead).

A number of commentators think this refers to a kind of divine judgment (cf. v. 32) against various members of the congregation – akin to what had happened to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11; cf. Rev. 2:21-23).

They believe Paul was speaking literally.

In essence, they are convinced God actually made some members physically ill because of their divisive and unlovingly hypocrisy (v. 34).

That is a plausible interpretation and merits further study.

One brother thinks they were the former:

“They were languishing with spiritual infirmities (cf. lukewarm, Rev. 3:15-16, and those who had left their first love, Rev. 2:4). Because they had failed to discern the body (to properly remember the sacrificial death of Christ and its necessity of their salvation) they had grown negligent and lost interest in the higher values of life and eternity” (Winters, 159 – emphasis mine, mb).

IF these afflictions were in fact figurative, it’s scary to realize that this spiritual virus can still infect precious hearts today.

Brethren can be deer-in-the-headlights awake as they consume the loaf and swallow the fruit of the vine and yet simultaneously be in a spiritual stupor – physically awake, but spiritually asleep as Winters suggests.

Beloved, may I lovingly probe our hearts with the scalpel of the Word (Ps. 139:23; Heb. 4:12)?

Can we really partake of the communion and then intentionally avoid our own brethren following the assembly?

Can we, in God’s eyes, feast one minute on a minute piece of unleavened bread and drink the contents of the cup and then bad-mouth a fellow child of God the very same hour?

Can we sup and then later serve roast preacher and poached shepherd?

Can we close our eyes in silent meditation as we allegedly commune with the Lord Jesus, and then refuse to do the same with other members of His precious blood-bought body after the very same assembly?

Obviously these are rhetorical questions.

Of course we can’t.

Period.

Dot.

End of sentence.

Sure, we can consume crackers and juice and then salve our conscious’ by saying, “Look Lord, we took the emblems!”, but the reality is, doing so may actually indicate our inner weakness, sickness, or perhaps worst of all, spiritual slumber or death (cf. Mat. 9:12).

I have an exhortation.

Let’s observe, partake, worship, and evaluate our hearts – and then let’s really show one another, as well as the world, that we are one in Christ.

“For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:17).

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike

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Welcome to the Twilight Zone

Rod Sterling

I ALWAYS READ these kinds of news stories with a certain incredulity.

It’s kind of like watching old re-runs of The Twilight Zone.

All of those low-budget, black and white episodes make for interesting, even provocative, fiction, but they’re obviously neither true nor believable.

Well, the story which currently haunts my thinking isn’t fiction, but reality.

It seems the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. is on the verge of altering its stance on how it defines marriage.

Less than a year ago, the group voted in its General Assembly meeting in Detroit to officially embrace gay unions.

In order for the vote to become formally accepted, a majority of the denomination’s 172 presbyteries have to now vote in favor of this new provision.

Incredible as it may seem, Amendment 14-F has been thus far embraced by 79 of 116 regional assemblies.

That means that at the Presbyterians are just mere 7 votes away from adopting homosexual “marriage” and amending its Book of Order from being uniquely between a man and a woman to any two people—male or female.1

It is as if I am back in the 60’s watching late night, three channel, Twilight Zone stuff.

“This just can’t be true.

How can any church endorse blatant immorality?”

Back in my grammar school days, Rob and Laura Petrie (e.g., The Dick Van Dyke Show) couldn’t even sleep in the same bed on TV.

And now, only a generation or two later, one faction of the Presbyterian Church is working hard to accept and promote rank perversion.

When is Rod Sterling finally going to step out in front of the TV screen and tell me that this is just an elaborate, satirical hoax?

Dear readers, as we ponder the ramifications of what is happening within one religious group today, permit me to stimulate our hearts and minds even further:

By what AUTHORITY does any group get to vote on whether or not to accept what the Bible teaches on ANY issue, including and especially marriage?

There is not a single passage or principle in Scripture that delegates that right to any collective. Jesus has ALL authority, not man (Mat. 28:18; Phil. 2:10-11; Col. 3:17). We are to preach and carry out His will exclusively—and no religious group (including the church of our Lord) has the right to alter, amend, or legislate in the realm of doctrine or living (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; 1 Pet. 4:11).

The Lord Himself cast the deciding vote on marriage “at the beginning” (Gen. 2:24; Mat. 19:4-5). His will is not, nor will it ever be, subject to change or man-made modification (Psm. 119:89; Isa. 40:6-8;1 Pet. 1:25).

The apostle Paul said “avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead more people into more ungodliness” (2 Tim. 2:16 ESV). Watch it—false teaching (babble) inevitably results in false practice (ungodliness). Friends, it is simply not possible to believe wrong and then live right before God. Doctrine and living are bound together (Phil. 1:9-11)! It is not “either or”, but “both and”.

Paul also spoke of some who “strayed” from the faith (2 Tim. 2:18). How does a group get from “one man and one woman” to either two men or two women? And the obvious answer is—because they stray, incrementally, piecemeal, a little bit at a time—and no one steps up to censure these obvious deviations from the revealed will of God.

But an even more difficult question also ought to prick our conscience, brethren. Many Presbyterians have remained deathly silent for far too long and now the denomination is about to rush headlong over the precipice of moral integrity and into the abyss of hedonistic relativism. How do we prevent the Lord’s church from doing the very same thing today? I increasingly hear of “gospel” preachers, who in their quest for numerical growth, say that they will not preach on subjects like marriage, divorce, and remarriage because doing so may “divide families.”2 Forgive me, but that kind of thinking smacks of cowardice at the least, and pragmatism (Col. 2:8) at the worst. Our liberal Presbyterian friends would be proud. Decades of silence from their pulpits have brought the denomination to where they may soon, in all good conscience, worship with and fellowship those who openly and unabashedly practice what God calls abomination (Eph. 5:11-13; Isa. 5:20).

I am of the conviction that if we are not extremely careful, we are not far behind the denominationalists. Think about it. How can we consistently condemn the open practice of homosexuality within the Presbyterian Church, but not also condemn the open practice of adultery within the Lord’s church? Ponder:

If we tried to convert a couple from San Francisco who practiced homosexuality, wouldn’t we insist that they repent of their sin first? If they legally kept an adopted child, would we say we can’t preach on homosexuality because a child is involved?

If we tried to convert a Tanzanian Maasai who practiced polygamy and had multiple children by two or more wives, would we not insist that he repent of his sin first? Would we baptize and then fellowship a man who openly practiced polygamy and refuse to teach him the biblical elements true repentance (Ezek. 18:2-23; Mat. 3:8; Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 17:30; 2 Pet. 3:9) because he had kids (cf. Ezra 10:10-11)? The “God would never split a family” doctrine is patently false.

Now if we won’t fellowship homosexuals who might have an adopted child, and we won’t fellowship the polygamist who has many children, how can we consistently fellowship the adulterer who also has children…? And the $100 answer is: WE CAN’T.

We simply can’t excise passages such as Matthew 19 from our Bibles like King Jehoiakim who cut out the Word with a scribe’s knife (Jer. 36:23). We can’t teach that repentance is necessary for sins like stealing, but not for sins like living in adultery (2 Cor. 7:10; Col. 3:7).3 On the contrary, we have a divine mandate, because we love souls, to warn others of the perils associated with all sexual sin—and judge those who are doing so (John 7:24; cf. 1 Cor. 5; Rom. 16:17).

Here’s my point. Once we begin to compromise the truth in one realm, we inexorably compromise it in another and yet another—just like the Presbyterians—until we’re not only accepting sin, but endorsing it ourselves.

Let’s stand together, and let’s stand up for what the Bible teaches about sin and repentance—however difficult it may be. This is not The Twilight Zone.

1 http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2015/03/10/major-christian-denomination-is-just-seven-votes-away-from-making-a-monumental-decision-that-some-say-willcause-its-demise/

2 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1120-does-ezra-deserve-criticism

3 https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/1015-what-is-the-fruit-of-repentance

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Treating Combat Fatigue

CHRISTIANS ARE SOLDIERS (2 Tim. 2:4).

They fight ongoing battles (Eph. 6:121 Tim. 1:19; 6:11,122 Tim. 4:72 Cor. 10:4) in a spiritual war (Rev. 12:17).

Battles inevitably produce casualties — lots of them, and casualties require medical (Mat. 9:12) attention.

The church — not the building, is a sort of front line M.A.S.H. unit — a divine trauma center.

Padded pews serve as medical stretchers for the injured.

Services house the wounded and hurting.

Assemblies offer temporary shelter and protection to traumatized infantrymen.

They suffer from the effects of divorce, sexual promiscuity, envy, addiction, hostility, stress, conflict, abandonment, lost love, guilt, hopelessness, infidelity, jealousy, selfishness, etc.

Their hearts have been scarred from injuries received while engaged in fierce warfare with the enemy — Satan (Rev. 12:101 Pet. 5:8John 12:312 Cor. 4:4Eph. 2:2).

Wounded souls are usually not too difficult to spot in the ranks of the congregation.

You can often see hurt in the eyes.

You can hear it in broken voices.

Pale expressions.

Fallen spirits.

Blank stares.

Furrowed brows.

Tears.

Internal battle scars tend to surface in the countenance.

While these soldier’s bodies still function, their minds have ceased to do so.

Thinking is much too painful.

Memory is a plague.

Sleep is restless and fitful.

Blow after blow have taken their terrible toll.

Emotional stress-fractures are the tell-tale symptoms of the cumulative assaults on the spirit.

GIs called it “combat fatigue” or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder).

The biblical term is “weariness” (Gal. 6:9 NKJV).

Author and military historian John C. McManus wrote:

“Sometimes the wounds a man received were not physical but mental. For some the stress of combat became too much and they could no longer function. This condition, called shell shock in World War I, and combat fatigue or exhaustion in World War II, was fairly common among U.S. combat soldiers. Although there were those who thought of battle fatigue as cowardice, Gen. George Patton being the most notable of this group, it became obvious during the war that this was patently false. According to one study, it could safely be expected that close to 10 percent of the men in an infantry outfit would eventually become combat fatigue casualties…”1

“He is not a coward. The last thing in the world he wants hung on him is cowardice. He starts a personal war within himself, his conscience on one side and his instinct for self preservation on the other. His physical fatigue carries a lot of weight in the argument. The tug-of-war in his mind gets worse and worse. He starts trembling so bad [sic] he can’t hold his rifle. He doesn’t want to shake but he does, and that solves his problem. Involuntarily he becomes physically incapable. Properly treated he’ll be okay in a few days-when he’s had SOME HOT CHOW, A FEW NIGHTS OF SLEEP and A CHANCE TO GET HIS TROUBLE OFF HIS CHEST.”2

“This disabling condition usually strikes after a soldier has been subjected to long and severe shelling or enemy small arms fire. A soldier reaches the point of ‘I can’t take it anymore…’…This condition is just as much a combat wound as a piece of shell piercing the body…”3

From a spiritual perspective, when our comrades-in-arms suffer from combat fatigue, we need to be ready to administer aid.

We need to be spiritual medics (Luke 10:33-35Gal. 6:2).

But how can we help those who are experiencing such intense heartache and difficulty…?

1. See that they get plenty of hot chow. While a covered dish is always appreciated, the kind of food wounded Christian soldiers need most of all is that which endures. “He satisfies the longing soul, and fills the hungry soul with goodness” (Psa. 107:9, cf.5). The eternal teachings of Jesus provide needed sustenance (John 6:27Psa. 103:52 Pet. 2:2) to the war-weary.

2. Encourage them to get sufficient rest and sleep. Time away from the battle front is imperative if soldiers are ever to recover and fight again. Even The Commander-In-Chief (of the spiritual army) Himself took an occasional “furlough” (Mark 6:31) from His engagements — “He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself…” (Mat. 14:13).

3. Urge them to get their troubles off their chest. Soldiers who have endured severe shelling need a sympathetic, listening ear. Fellow soldiers can listen and appreciate their comrades’ perspective (Pro. 17:17; 18:24Jas. 5:16), and The Commander will also be attentive. “The Lord will hear when I call to Him…” (Psa. 4:3; 27:2; 130:2).

1 John C. McManus, “The World of the Combat Soldier,” The Deadly Brotherhood: The American Combat Soldier in WWII, 162

2 Ibid

3 Ibid

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WHAT SONGBOOK DID JESUS SING FROM?

Jesus had a favorite songbook.

THINK ABOUT IT. Jesus was a Jew—and when He and His first-century Hebrew peers engaged in vocal worship (cf. Mat. 26:26-30), they used a songbook of sorts. Of course, there were obviously no spiralbound or hardbound songbooks to read from, and there were no electronic Paperless Hymnals to display on a screen like we use in the 21st century.

So what specific hymnal did the Jews employ? Was it some form of OT Christian Hymns III, or Praise for the LORD, or Great Songs of the OT Church, or OT Church Gospel Songs and Hymns? All kidding aside, the songbook of the Jews was—the Psalms (cf. 1 Chron. 16:8-36), written and collected from Moses to Ezra over a period of a thousand years, which were then committed to memory. The English title “Psalms” comes from the Greek word meaning “a sacred song or hymn—a Psalter,” while the Hebrew title, Tehillim, means “praises,” and every Psalm except the 88th contains some form of that fervent action. So when the Jews offered up the sacrifice of praise (cf. Psa. 27:6; Heb. 13:15), they didn’t simply quote the Psalms, they joyfully sang and shouted them, and THAT was the songbook our Lord used when He sang as well.

But this then begs yet another question. Since the Psalms served as the songbook of the Jews, who wrote and authored all of these psalters? Peter says, “Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21b), and yet the Holy Spirit received His words from Jesus (cf. John 14:14-17; 16:13-15)!

Here’s ONE lesson I’m learning: Jesus sang from the songbook which He wrote Himself—and one of His favorite subjects was—are you ready for this(?), THANKSGIVING to His Father!  Watch the repetitive refrain in the following Psalms: 

“Therefore I will GIVE THANKS to You, O LORD, among the Gentiles, and sing praises to Your name” (Psa. 18:49).

“Sing praise to the LORD, you saints of His, and GIVE THANKS at the remembrance of His holy name” (Psa. 30:4).

“To the end that my glory my sing praise to You and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will GIVE THANKS to You forever” (Psa. 30:12).

“I will GIVE YOU THANKS in the great assembly; I will praise You among many people” (Psa. 35:18).

“Offer to God THANKSGIVING, and pay your vows to the Most High” (Psa. 50:14).

“I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with THANKSGIVING” (Psa. 69:30).

“We GIVE THANKS to You, O God, we GIVE THANKS! For Your wondrous works declare that Your name is near” (Psa. 75:1).

“So we, Your people and sheep of Your pasture, will GIVE YOU THANKS forever; we will show forth Your praise to all generations” (Psa. 79:13).

“It is a good thing to GIVE THANKS unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High” (Psa. 92:1).

“Let us come before His presence with THANKSGIVING; let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” (Psa. 95:2).

“Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous, and GIVE THANKS at the remembrance of His holy name” (Psa. 97:12).

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be THANKFUL to Him, and bless His name” (Psa. 100:4).

“Oh, GIVE THANKS to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 106:1).

“Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the Gentiles, to GIVE THANKS to Your holy name, to triumph in Your praise” (Psa. 106:47).

“Oh, that men would GIVE THANKS TO THE lord FOR His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men” (Psa. 107:8, 15, 31)!

“Oh, GIVE THANKS to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever” (Psa. 118:1, 29).

“At midnight I will rise to GIVE THANKS to You, because of Your righteous judgments” (Psa. 119:62).

  • Jesus sang.
  • Jesus sang from the psalmbook which He had written.
  • Jesus offered the praise of thanksgiving to His Father.

In a world where we are tempted to complain and fuss about the current state of affairs, I’m learning from Jesus that I need be more thankful, and one of the best ways to do that is by singing with a heart of zealous gratitude as He did (Heb. 2:12):  “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, GIVING THANKS always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 5:19-20).

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How Much Do You Like the Buffet?

Larry and Jane Hudson are dear friends from the Main Street church of Christ. Years ago they invited me to Sunday dinner following the AM worship assembly. This special couple was celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary at the time, and so they asked me to go along and commemorate the happy occasion.

Our destination? Owensboro, Kentucky and Moonlite Bar-B-Q.

Everybody in this neck of the woods knows about Moonlite. Think casual dining. Think family feel. Think all-you-can-eat BBQ buffet. Underline the word “all.” Hungry guests stand in line with a plate and then help themselves to a smorgasbord of tasty, home-style dishes.

Buffet. Choose what you want. Skip what you don’t want. Go back as many times as you wish. This is gastronomical heaven. I loaded my plate with country favorites—mashed potatoes, pulled pork and green beans, but then skipped the macaroni and cheese, gravy and rolls.

I left the restaurant full as the proverbial tick. Okay, maybe not full—I stopped just one bite shy of gluttony.

The meal was great; the Christian company was even better.

It occurs to me that many preachers treat the Word like a trip to Moonlite. They fill their theological dinnerware with perennial favorites. They “eat” what their doctrinal belly desires (Philippians 3:19), but then pass over those food items that their denomination deems unpalatable. For instance, some heap their plate with faith, but then consciously omit what the Scriptures teach about baptism. They select some of God’s Word, but not the sum of God’s Word. They claim to be “Bible-believing,” but then do a “Moonlite” on those passages that teach the necessity of immersion.

Does the New Testament require baptism? You say, “No.” Look again:

According to Matthew 28:19-20, baptism is involved in my becoming a disciple of Christ.

According to Mark 16:15-16, baptism is something I must engage if I want to be saved.

According to Acts 2:37-38, baptism is something I must undergo in order to be forgiven of my sins.

According to Acts 8:12-13, 38, baptism is something to which I must submit, even if it means changing my religion.

According to Acts 10:48, baptism is something I must obey because it has been commanded.

According to Acts 16:14-15, 33, baptism is something I will yield to—immediately—in order to be faithful to the Lord.

According to Acts 22:16, baptism is something I must do if I desire my past sins to be taken away (cf. Acts 9:6).

According to Romans 6:3-7, baptism is that which makes a difference (slave of sin vs. slave of righteousness) in my life.

According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, baptism is the means by which I enter the body or church (cf. Ephesians 1:22-23).

According to Galatians 3:26-27, baptism is the way that I become a child of God.

According to 1 Peter 3:21, baptism saves.

Do you have your Bible handy? Read through Jeremiah 36. Jeremiah prophesied during the closing days of the southern kingdom of Judah. On one occasion, the prophet received a divine message from God and then had the words written on a scroll (vv. 1-3). This inspired document was later read to king Jehoiakim by Jehudi (vs. 21). When Jehudi read that the kingdom-nation would be overthrown by the Babylonian empire, Jehoiakim decided he couldn’t “stomach” anymore. The arrogant ruler took a scribe’s penknife, cut up the scroll, and then cast it into the fire until it was consumed (vs. 22-24).

Jehoiakim would have liked Moonlite. Eat what you want. Skip what you don’t want. Mashed potatoes “Yes,” dinner rolls “No.” Authoritarian rule, “Yes,” servile bondage “No.” Faith “Yes,” baptism “No.”

Dear reader, the Bible is not a self-serve restaurant. We can’t pick out the parts that we like and then reject or cut out the portions that don’t strike our fancy. We must declare and consume (Jeremiah 15:16) the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27; cf. 2 Timothy 4:2-4), including those passages that teach the necessity of baptism.

Is your preacher offering some of God’s Word, or the sum of God’s Word? “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (Psalm 119:160).

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Why Can’t You Hurry a Good Pot of Pinto Beans?

I MAKE NO secret of it.

My favorite meal consists of fried potatoes, fried cornbread and home-cooked pinto beans.

Oh yeah, and a slice or two of white onion.

Having become something of a connoisseur of pintos over the years, I’ve made a significant discovery – beans cooked quickly aren’t fit to eat.

It’s true.

Good beans have to soak overnight in salt water, then be boiled, then be left to simmer slowly in a pot on the stove.

We’re talking hours.

That’s why I’m unwilling to eat store bought, canned beans.

Canned bean aren’t worth the aluminum can and paper label that encases them.

Now that I think about it, that’s pretty much what they taste like – aluminum and paper.

Food processing factories leave out the most important ingredient in good beans.

Time.

You can’t hurry a good pot of pinto beans.

Gospel sermons are a lot like good beans because they require time.

They need several hours of mental industry and preparation.

A preacher can’t cook up a lesson late Saturday night before he goes to bed any more than you can microwave a bag of beans.

If a congregation expects a regular diet of well-balanced spiritual meals (John 6:27), then the preacher has to devote large blocks of time to his studies each week.

Sound, Bible-based sermons have to soak, then be boiled, and be allowed to simmer slowly in the recesses of his heart and mind.

Passages have to be explored.

Greek and Hebrew languages have to be researched.

Commentator insights have to be considered.

Relevant illustrations have to be chosen.

Thoughts have to be organized.

Immediate and remote contexts have to be deliberated.

Ancient cultures have to be brought to bear.

And I haven’t even mentioned prayer yet!

Brethren who sometimes maintain that their preacher spends too much time in his study fail to appreciate the true nature of his work.

A preacher is first and foremost of all a thinker.

He has to chew on and digest the Word himself before he can bring it to the table of the Lord (cf. Ezek. 3:1ff) on Sunday.

Paul told Timothy, “Give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine…meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them…take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim. 4:13b, 15a, 16).

Are you hungry for real food (1 Pet. 2:2)?

Do you want to be nourished spiritually (1 Tim. 4:6).

Is your diet prompting growth and maturity in the inner man (Heb. 5:12-14)?

Canned beans aren’t fit to eat.

Neither are canned sermons.

Encourage your preacher in his studies.

Insist that he be a diligent student.

Make sure that he has sufficient time behind his desk, with his Bible, books, and computer.

When he’s able to cook for long periods of time, then you’re able to eat well.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart…” (Jer. 15:16).

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Do You Remember the Tragedy?

Tribute in Light

I HAVE A vivid recollection of that day.

My wife came in the room, turned on the TV set and then spoke in shaken tones.  She said, “They’ve flown a jet-liner into one of the World Trade Center towers in New York…” For the next several hours I sat transfixed before the television and watched in horror as the events of 911 unfolded.

wtc3

Eighteen years after that dreadful day, some Americans, like myself, look back on September 11 with intense emotion. We recall those gaping wounds in the sides of the towers. We remember those ill-fated flights and how they were intentionally slammed into the very icons of our nation. We remember those thick plumes of noxious smoke as they bellowed out of the top of those lofty skyscrapers and into our collective conscience. We remember our own anxiety and ponder what must have raced through the hearts of fellow-citizens as they contemplated the end of their earthly existence and the brevity of human life. We remember the internal shock of watching the first, and then the second tower plummet to the ground. We remember those feelings of helplessness and despair as lower Manhattan was engulfed in ash and debris. 

But may I suggest, dear reader, that there is a far more terrible tragedy that warrants our joint remembrance.

Every first day of the week (Acts 20:7), we need to call to memory (1 Cor. 11:23-26) those horrific events which transpired nearly 2,000 years ago:

  • We need to remember the murderous plot against the innocent Son (Mt. 26:3-4; Heb. 4:15; 7:26).
  • We need to remember the Lord’s internal struggle as He pondered His impending death (Mt. 26:37-39).
  • We need to remember His betrayal at the hands of one of His own disciples (Mt. 26:47-50).
  • We need to remember the ill-informed attempt to thwart His crucifixion (Mt. 26:51-54).
  • We need to remember the disciples’ cowardice and how they fled for their lives when He needed them the most (Mt. 26:56).
  • We need to remember the howls of the angry mob as they shouted, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” (Mk. 15:13-14).
  • We need to remember the incredible injustice of both the Jewish and Roman courts (Mt. 26:57ff).
  • We need to remember Pilate’s timidity before that blood-thirsty crowd (Mt. 27:24-26; Lk. 23:13-25).
  • We need to remember the brutal flogging (i.e., “little death”) at the hands of the Roman lictors (Jn. 19:1).
  • We need to remember Peter’s lying about his association with Jesus (Mt. 26:69-75).
  • We need to remember the slanderous mockery of the soldiers, priests, and thieves (Mt. 27:27ff; 39-44).
  • We need to remember the Lord’s humiliation as He was stripped of His clothing and numbered with lawless, ungodly men (Isa. 53:12; Mt. 27:28; Heb. 12:2).
  • We need to remember that ruthless blow to His head (Mt. 27:30). We need to remember the heavy burden of the cross that was thrust upon His weary shoulders (Mt. 27:32).
  • We need to remember those cruel nails that pierced His hands and feet and how that He was suspended between holy God and sinful man (Jn. 3:14; 12:34).
  • We need to remember the bitter taste of sour wine mingled with gall (Mt. 27:34).
  • We need to remember His desperate cry to His own Father (Mt. 27:46).
  • We need to remember the frightful earthquake that shook the earth the moment the Savior died (Mt. 27:54).
  • Perhaps most importantly, we need to remember that our own sins made this barbaric occasion necessary (1 Pet. 2:24; Isa. 53). 

“Lest I forget Gethsemane, lest I forget Thine agony, lest I forget Thy love for me, lead me to Calvary.”

“Do this in remembrance of Me…” (1 Cor. 11:24, 25).