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2
Apr

Where’s Your Bible?

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E.T. GACKENHEIMER LAID his preaching Bible on top of his car and then drove off.

When he arrived at the church where he was scheduled to speak in Barbados some time later, he realized what he had done.  By then it was too late to try to backtrack and find it.

E.T. never saw his Bible again. It was lost forever—or so he thought.

Twenty years after E. T.’s death and more than five decades after his Bible slid off the top of his automobile, the volume found its way back into his families’ possession this past June.  It was a gift from a stranger who had found it in a moldy, dusty stack of books in Chile, South America.

Stephanie Garcia, a missionary herself, decided one day to stop by a local junk store.  As she perused the dilapidated merchandise, she stumbled across a leather-bound Bible with a cursive name written inside—E. T. Gackenheimer.   She didn’t purchase the book initially.  Instead, she went home and did a Google search on the web.  To her surprise, she found considerable information about the life and ministry of Mr. Gackenheimer.  Eventually she was able to contact his relatives and then mail his Bible to them up in North Georgia.

A scratch on the front and the unique handwritten signature on the inside confirmed the Bible’s authenticity.  Audrey Henson, E. T.’s 76-year-old daughter said seeing her daddy’s Bible for the first time after all of those years was “very meaningful, very emotional” (Chattanooga Times Free Press, July 9, 2009, A1, A7).

“Very meaningful, very emotional.”  Ponder those words and then go back with me in your memory to an ancient ruler of Judah and another lost Bible.

Josiah had reigned for eighteen years (2 Kgs. 22:3).  At this particular juncture in his administration, the young king ordered repairs to the temple and an accounting of the monies therein (vv. 3-7).  During this period of “house-cleaning,” the high priest Hilkiah, somewhat like Stephanie Garcia, happened upon the the Law (v. 8) of Moses.  The book had been missing for perhaps as many as fifty-seven-years.  Hilkiah then passed the once lost text on to a scribe by the name of Shaphan, who in turn read it before Josiah (v. 10).

When the monarch heard God’s Word, Scripture says he wept (v. 19) and tore his clothes (v. 11). Think “very meaningful, very emotional.”  He then ordered the Book of the Law to be read aloud before the entire nation (2 Kgs. 23:1-2).  Josiah recognized that Jehovah’s will had not been followed and ordered that true worship be restored in Judah (vv. 3ff).  He then instigated a thorough overhaul of the religious corruption of his day, and destroyed anything and everything associated with idolatry.  And all of this came about because one man found a lost Bible.

How many times have you thought to yourself, “I never knew that was in the Bible!”?  It was as if the sacred text had somehow finally been found in your possession.  Yes, you owned a copy of the Scriptures, perhaps more than one, but you had never taken the time to sit down and really pour over them to see what they taught.  Maybe your Bible laid under a layer of dust in some forgotten shelf near the TV.  And only when you had heard a particular sermon, or found yourself in the throes of great adversity, did you really “find your Bible” and realize that your worship was vain and your life was not in harmony with the Law of Christ.

Restoration and legitimate change began only when folks back in Josiah’s day found and read the Bible.

Dear reader, do you know where you Bible is located right now?  Can you put your hand on it at this very instant?  Has it somehow been lost in stack of old books and outdated reading materials in your home?  When was the last time you sat down and read God’s Word?

Find your Bible and start reading.  You’ll find it “very meaningful, very emotional.”  I promise.

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
1
Apr

Leadership

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“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
31
Mar

INCARNATE 03.31.20

Covid19

30
Mar

Did the Apostles Reap Corn, Beans and Tomatoes?

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IF I PLANTED “Big Boy” tomato seeds in my garden in the spring, I should expect to reap Big Boy tomatoes in the summer, right…?

Tomato seeds will not produce corn, beans and tomatoes–just tomatoes.

They will only produce after their own kind (cf. Gen. 1:11,12; Gal. 6:7).

The same principle is true in religion.

When the first-century apostles planted the Seed (i.e., Word of God–Luke 8:11) into the fertile hearts of men (1 Cor. 3:6), what kind of crop did they harvest (1 Pet. 1:23; Acts 11:26)?

Did they sow the same seed and yet reap radically different crops?

Did they reap religious pluralism and diversity?

Did they reap different religious groups who wore different names and worshipped God in vastly different ways?

Did they reap corn, beans and tomatoes?

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10 “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.” 1 Cor. 1:10

Think about it.

Want to study more?  Go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blYqM4HaWdw&t=8s

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
29
Mar

INCARNATE 03.29.20

Mustard Seed2

28
Mar

Who’s THE Important Man in this Story?

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HE WAS A bad man.

You might be tempted to take me to task and say, “But preacher, Saul said that he had lived in all good conscience…”  (cf. Acts 23:1) and you would be correct.  But even in good conscience, Saul of Tarsus did some really, really bad stuff (26:9).  Pay special attention to the following words in all caps:

“Now Saul was consenting to his (i.e., Stephen’s) DEATH…”  (Acts 8:1; cf. 22:4a).

“As for Saul, he made HAVOC of the church, entering every house, and DRAGGING OFF men and women, COMMITTING THEM TO PRISON” (8:3; 22:4b).1

“Then Saul, still BREATHING THREATS AND MURDERS against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest” (9:1).

“Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you PERSECUTING Me” (9:4; cf. v. 5; 22:4, 8; 26:14-15).

He “PERSECUTED this Way to the DEATH, BINDING and DELIVERING into PRISONS both men and women” (22:4).

He brought “in CHAINS even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished” (22:5).

He said, “in every synagogue I IMPRISONED and BEAT those who believe on You.  And when the BLOOD of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his DEATH…” (22:19-20a).

He took many of the saints in Jerusalem, shut them up in PRISON, and then had them put to DEATH” (26:10).

He “PUNISHED” these brethren “often in every synagogue and COMPELLED THEM to BLASPHEME; and being exceedingly enraged against them, [he] PERSECUTED them even to foreign cities” (26:11).

He was “a BLASPHEMER, a PERSECUTOR, and an INSOLENT man” (1 Tim. 1:13).2

A handful of passages and multiple indictments.  I’ll say it again—Saul of Tarsus was a bad man.

Now based upon what you just read in the preceding verses, would you say he was a good candidate for a home Bible study?  “Of course not, preacher…”  Yeah, I’m just guessing that any first-century door-knocking campaigners thought exactly the same thing and observed the Passover when they got to Saul’s mailbox.  “Let’s not stop here, he wouldn’t be interested, right…?”

Ananias (cf. Acts 22:12) didn’t think it was a good idea to try to reach out to this young Jewish firebrand either.  When Christ commissioned him in a vision to go visit Saul, he protested, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much HARM he has done to your saints in Jerusalem.  And here he has authority from the chief priests to BIND all who call on Your name” (9:13-14).

Saul had a reputation.  He was the church’s most rabid, most fanatical and most frenzied assailant.  Ananias was understandably apprehensive and didn’t want to become another casualty in Saul’s war on the saints.

The Lord not only reassured Ananias that He had a divine purpose for Saul (15-16; cf. 22:14-15; 26:16-18), but He also prepared Saul for his forthcoming one-on-one Bible study with Ananias (vv. 6, 8-9; 22:6-11).  Ananias then made his way to Straight Street and the house of Judas, laid his hands on Saul, told him how and why he had been sent, and then baptized him for the forgiveness of sins (v. 18; 22:12-16).

The bad man’s guilt was instantaneously washed away in the blood of the sinless Lamb of God (cf. Rev. 1:5), and the individual who was the worst possible candidate for a Bible study became the best, and most shining example, of the manifold grace of God.

End of story, right?  Wrong.

Yes, Saul was now a Christian in the eyes of the Lord, but in the minds of his Christian peers, he was still the bad man with the checkered past.  When Saul started preaching Christ in the local synagogues (v. 20, 15), church folk weren’t at all convinced that his faith was legitimate.  They asked, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests” (v. 21)?  From their perspective, Saul was a charlatan, a spy—a Jewish plant, and he had been sown into the local community in order to ferret out other disciples, whom he would then deliver back to Jerusalem for prosecution.

Later when Saul made his way from Tarsus to Jerusalem, he encountered the same prejudice he had experienced earlier.  Luke records, “…When Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple” (9:26; cf. 22:18).

This entire story is compelling.  The avowed enemy of the cross became the number one defender of the cross.  Christ accepted Saul into His family upon his obedient faith (Eph. 3:15; Mark 3:35; cf. Mat. 7:21; Eph. 2:8-9), and yet Saul’s own brethren wouldn’t accept him—at least, initially.

And why not?  Because Saul’s sins were too numerous and too scarlet to be washed away.  The waters of baptism simply weren’t deep enough to bury his all of his transgressions.  (Can you imagine trying to worship with the very man who had been responsible for the death of your loved ones and friends?)  “His conversion isn’t legitimate,” they opined.  It was just another clever ruse he employed in order to further menace and oppress the church.

But then Barnabas entered the scene.  The trusted encourager (4:36).  The patient facilitator.  The gentle go-between.  The devoted mediator (cf. Phil. 4:3a).  He stepped in and brought Saul to the leaders of the church (9:27).  He personally vouched for Saul, and it was then that the brethren accepted him into their fellowship.

This is a powerful Bible account about three very special people:

  • there was Saul—with his seemingly unforgivable past,
  • there was Ananias—who was afraid to talk to Saul, but who courageously and obediently shared the good news of the gospel as the Lord had commanded, and then
  • there was Barnabas—who certified that Saul’s faith was genuine.

May I ask you a personal question, good reader?  Which of these three men best represents you today?

Are you an unforgiven sinner with a dark past (like Saul) who needs to be saved of his sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 3:19; Rom. 6:3-4)?  May I suggest that if the Lord could forgive the chief of sinners, don’t you think He can forgive you too (cf. 1 Cor. 6:9-11)?

Are you an anxious person (like Ananias) who knows he needs to work through his insecurities (2 Tim. 1:7) and initiate a Bible study with a lost soul (Mat. 28:19-20)?  Think about it.  If Ananias could go to somebody like Saul, surely you can go to a lesser threat he did, right?

Or are you an assuring person (like Barnabas) who’s willing to take in a new brother with a broken past and then introduce him to the local family of God?

All three of these people have a place in church of Christ (Eph. 2:21).  Whom will you emulate today?

1/ lymaino, pronounced lü-mī-nō and means, “to treat shamefully or with injury, to ravage, devastate, or ruin.”
2/ hybristes, pronounced hü-brē-stā’s (from which we get our English word, hubris, and means, “despiteful or injurious.”  The word describes one who was lifted up with pride, and either heaps insulting language upon others, or does something shameful to them.
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
27
Mar

Are All Lumps Alike?

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Robert Fulghum once wrote:

“One of life’s best coping mechanisms is to know the difference between an inconvenience and a problem. If you break your neck, if you have nothing to eat, if your house is on fire – then you’ve got a problem.  Everything else is an inconvenience.  Life is inconvenient.  Life is lumpy.  A lump in the oatmeal, a lump in the throat, and a lump in the breast are not the same kind of lump.  One needs to learn the difference.”1

I hear this author saying that folks need to learn the art of perspective.

Consider what Paul wrote to persecuted saints in the first-century:

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, which we do not look at the thing which are seen, but at the things which are not seen” (2 Cor. 4:17-18a—emphasis mine, mb).

Did ya’ll catch those inspired words?  Paul spoke of:

  • “Light”—as opposed to heavy.
  • “Affliction”—as opposed to ease. Our English word translated affliction means, “oppression, affliction, tribulation, and/or distress.”  It refers to pressure.  Think of someone pressing, and putting pressure on, grapes in order to make juice or wine.
  • “Moment”—as opposed to infinite/eternal.

Paul’s telling us that Christians have to learn to view earth and its lumps through heaven’s eyes and from heaven’s vantage point (Col. 3:1-2).

When weighed in the eternal (cf. Jas. 4:14; Eccl. 12:5) balance of things, our earthly lumps amount to very little.

I’ll say it again.  Perspective is an essential skill (cf. Rom. 8:17-18; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).

It helps us to distinguish between light and heavy, between a problem and an inconvenience, and between short-term versus long-term.

Good brother and sister, was that lump you experienced today REALLY a lump, or was it just an inconvenience?  Think about it.

1 Robert Fulghum, “Oh-oh: Some Observations from Both Sides of the Refrigerator Door.”

“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
26
Mar

Could You Pass the Open-Book Exam?

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HAVE YOU EVER started to take a test in school—and instantly wished it was an open-book exam?

You and your peers heard the teacher talk earlier in the week about the material, but her lesson hadn’t yet gelled in everybody’s thinking—including your own.  Maybe it was an English test or a math quiz.  You and your fellow class-mates heard audible sounds, but you didn’t yet comprehend; you didn’t get it—yet.   You wanted the open-book, but your instructor didn’t give you that option.

Rabbi Jesus had been teaching a fundamental lesson in His sea-side classroom (Mat. 13:1-2).  Unfortunately, many of His pupils heard His message, but they too failed His exam.  “Hearing they heard, but did not understand…” (cf. Isa. 6:9-10). Ironically, He not only gave everybody the examination, but He specifically gave the twelve the answers too (vv. 18-23)—He gave them an open book exam.

He had been talking to the multitudes about different types of soil:  wayside, stony, thorny, and good (vv. 3-9).  Most assumed Jesus was talking about simple agrarian truths (i.e., first-century gardening practices).  THEY GOT IT, or so they thought.  They often observed their friends and neighbors with a seed-sack on their shoulders, scattering seed on the ground in their community, and so what the Lord said made sense.

Peter, James and John and the rest of the disciple-dozen knew Jesus wasn’t talking about literal soils as such and that He was teaching parabolically, but they failed to understand the deeper (and real) message itself.1  Lord, “what does this parable mean?” (Luke 8:9) they asked.  “Give us the open book test with the answers, please.”

Jesus complied.  Wayside soil represented closed hearts which couldn’t see beyond the obvious literal message.  Stony soil represented hearts that eagerly received the Seed/Word with joy, but because they hadn’t sufficiently matured and grown in the faith (cf. Simon the Sorcerer—Acts 8:14-25), they didn’t produce fruit when hardship arose.  Thorny soil represented hearts that received the seed, but also failed to produce fruit because they were distracted by the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth.  Finally, the good soil represented hearts which not only received the seed, but it produced abundant fruit—some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty (v. 23).

Dear Christian, may I ask a personal question?  Could you pass the Lord’s open-book exam?  Someone will object, “Preacher—I get it!  This parable is easy to interpret.  Good soil bears fruit.”  Well—yes, that’s true, but that doesn’t mean you fully appreciate the message, brother—even with Jesus’ explanation.  You see, the ONLY way to know whether or not you possess the proper heart soil and grasp the Lord’s teaching is when it is internalized, and you actually start bearing soul-fruit.2

Yep—it’s that simple and yet that challenging.  A Christian can talk all day and night long about what Jesus meant in the parable, but if he doesn’t practice it—he obviously doesn’t get it; his heart is either like the wayside soil, the rocky soil, or the thorny soil. 

Good hearts receive the Word of God and produce bountiful fruit.  Good heart soil is productive (Mat. 28:18-20).

Dear child of God, can you pass the open-book exam?  Are you scattering precious seed?  Are you bearing abundant fruit?  Are you teaching others about the Jesus of Calvary and guiding them to the cross?  Think about it.

1/  Parabole, literally “to cast beside”.  This was Jesus’ favorite method of teaching.
2/  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (Jas. 1:22).
“God loves you and I love you and that’s the way it’s gonna be!” – Mike
25
Mar

What is Worry?

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24
Mar

What’s Wrong with Worry?

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