Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Is our part of the "bride of Christ" pregnant?

I'm a strange man ("peculiar", according to the scriptures). I think strange thoughts. I say strange things.  I do strange things. In fact, I believe that my daughters are "normal" and respectable young ladies because they rebelled against their "strange" dad- LOL.

I had a very strange thought when I awakened this morning. I really don't know where it came from. Did I dream something and don't remember it? I'm a 46 year old Grandpa. My wife and I are not thinking about any more children- besides Grandchildren. Our daughters, who are single and live with us, are definitely not pregnant. Our oldest son has given us a wonderful Granddaughter and, we are told, will soon be providing us with a Grandson. But, I haven't thought of this in days. Still, I awakened with strange thoughts today, and thought I might share them with you. Remember: Strange thoughts.

But, here goes my rather unusual thought progression. A) When women are pregnant, it is a well known fact that they crave foods that they usually don't eat that way, and that most folks call them strange for eating that way. B) When women are pregnant, they usually become nauseated by one or more of the foods they would normally eat. C) The Church is the "bride of Christ" and is supposed to be about converting others to becoming a part of the bride of Christ themselves.

Brother Winskie, what in the world are you talking about? Let's take this one thing at a time.

The church is the "bride of Christ". Our goal is to grow the family of God. So, my questions begin here. Are we pregnant? How would we know if we, as his bride, are pregnant? Are there some signs and symptoms that we should look for as indicators? If we compare spiritual pregnancy with physical pregnancy, perhaps there are.

When a woman is pregnant, her body begins to change in preparation for the carrying of her child.

The first indicator is usually "morning sickness". Certain smells and foods seem to cause her an extreme amount of nausea. As such, she begins to avoid these things in order to avoid the nausea.

If we, as Christians, are truly preparing for the births of spiritual babies, shouldn't there begin to be an aversion to some of the things in this world that most think are "normal". Shouldn't we start to feel some convictions in our lives? Shouldn't we start being careful of the environment we allow ourselves to be involved in? Do sinful environments cause us to draw back from them because of the spiritual nausea we feel? Are there places we used to hang out at, that we wouldn't hang out there anymore? Have our reading materials and entertainment choices changed? If not, perhaps we aren't who we think we are.

As a pregnant woman progresses in her pregnancy, her clothing changes to fit her expanding body. To refuse to do this could be hazardous to both mother and baby. It can cause lack of proper feeding and circulation to the child. This can cause retardation, deformation, and even death (for both mother and child). Shouldn't the way that we dress change to fit our new situation as his bride? If we are pregnant, shouldn't our clothing change, as well? Some folks say no. Yet, if you look at their spiritual "offspring", you will see retardation and deformity, rather than a normal and healthy child of God.

Another indicator of a healthy pregnancy is cravings. The woman begins to crave things that she needs in order to care for both herself and her child. Many times these cravings seem crazy to others. Pickles and Ice cream? Are you nuts? No. Her body is letting her know that she needs the nutrients contained in those foods. It may not taste very good to her, but she eats it out of love for her child.

As a healthy pregnant bride of Christ, shouldn't we be craving things the world thinks are strange? Where is the travailing in prayer for hours for both ourselves and the lost souls we encounter? Where is the hunger for the word of God? Where is the time spent in intimacy with our husband (prayer, praise, worship, personal study), so that we can become spiritually pregnant? After all, There can be NO pregnancy without intimacy.

Do we worry about how long the service will last, or just enjoy the move of God and the seed (word) he's placing in us? Are we concerned with how we look to the world? Or do we change our appearance to please our husband and protect the coming child? Do we still hang out "at the club", or have we changed our hangouts to fit our new station as part of "the bride of Christ"? In short, Who do we really love? Our husband and the coming new born children of God? Or, ourselves and the world?

God has prophesied a wonderful end time harvest for his bride. Multitudes of new births to come. If we want to be a part of this enormous promise, perhaps we should begin to make changes to fit our new station in life. If we don't, are we really a part of his bride? Just some "strange thoughts" for us to ponder.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sunday School

Titus 2
2That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
 3The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
 4That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,
 5To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
 6Young men likewise exhort to be sober minded.
 7In all things shewing thyself a pattern of good works: in doctrine shewing uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity,
 8Sound speech, that cannot be condemned; that he that is of the contrary part may be ashamed, having no evil thing to say of you.

OK, brother Winskie. How do you get Sunday School out of that? 

I realize that the early church, at least from what we can glean in the scriptures, did not have "Sunday School". I'm not saying they were wrong. All I can say is that (and I hate to say this, as it sounds like a cop out, but it really is the truth in this case) "times have changed". 

In the early church, they, it seems from reading the scriptures had house to house fellowship (not in one massive building) DAILY. They even had services so long, time wise,  that one young man fell asleep. From what we can glean from the scriptures, their services lasted many, many hours- not the short services we have nowadays (by comparison).  The mothers didn't work outside the homes. The children didn't have 40 hours a week of forced indoctrination called "public schools", but were generally taught most things at home, until the males got to a certain age, when they began to learn a trade- either through their Father's, or through an apprenticeship, or- if the family had money and could do it- through a Rabbinical school, or some such. (Sorry for the run on sentence) The Fathers tended to work either at home (farms, etc) or very near home in the markets, etc., and tended to be around their families much more than we are now. There also weren't near as many distractions in the form of entertainment, as there is now. 

The average child and adult, if they attend a church every time the doors are opened, generally has about 3 to 4 hours on Sunday, and about 2 hours during the week of biblical instruction. Some of this is taken up in praise and worship (not a bad thing, at all, but it does take up part of the church time). So, you can probably take about 2 to 3 hours away from the time involved, which leaves 3 to 4 hours a week of instruction at church. 

Compare this to the 40 hours a week at school- 40-60 hours a week at work for most parents. Then, there's computer time- especially with the rise and popularity of "social media" like this site, Facebook, My space, etc. Many homes have TV's where they watch News, Sports, ungodly shows (sorry, couldn't resist the dig at the crazy programming on most channels), etc. There tends to be VERY little personal Bible Study at home, much less Family study and prayer. Of course, we all believe that this needs to change, and rightfully so. But, this is still the reality of our society. 

Therefore, brethren, I truly believe that the biggest lack in the church of God today is plain, old fashioned, biblical teaching! Preaching WILL save the lost, but teaching and instruction WILL KEEP THEM SAVED! Unfortunately, in most of our churches, there are MANY subjects that are never taught at all! Acts 2:38 IS the plan of salvation. There IS only ONE GOD. And Holiness IS still necessary, though opinions vary on how to work this out. But, there is more to living for God and being a Christian than these 3 core beliefs!

Sunday school is NOT only for children. Adults need teaching too. Most "adult Sunday school" now are not a school at all. Rather, it has become another occasion for the preacher to preach his 4 or 5 pet doctrines. Most of the scriptures are ignored. There is almost no class room environment where the "students" can ask questions, make comments, or even (gasp)- respectfully disagree. All of these things are implicit in the way Jesus did things. He didn't cram his teaching down the disciples throat. He taught them and allowed them to have questions. 

Children's Sunday school is NOT for teachers to be "glorified baby sitters". These teachers are to be called by God, have a burden for the pupils, and pray about what to teach and how to teach it. Presently, we have Sunday school that is geared only for kids. These classes are not set up to truly teach, but to keep them occupied while the parents are in the service! Many of these classes are now bringing videos into the class room to entertain their students, rather than to do what they should and teach them. They also now have "children's church". Not really a time to teach, but rather a time to entertain. 

Church of Jesus- it's time for a change! 

It is because of this that I believe and have a burden for Sunday School. What I am about to write is by NO means an all inclusive list of topics that need to be taught, but it is a sample list. Feel free to add to it. I do believe that a Godly church starts in a Godly home. But, given the realities of our world, they need to be taught how to achieve this and see that Christianity is NOT simply a religion, but is, in fact, a lifestyle built on relationship with Jesus! 

Now, THIS would be my suggestion on how to organize the Sunday School. Keeping in mind the biblical passage we read above (the older men teaching the younger ones, and the older women teaching the younger ones), here is a small sample:

Nursery (ages 0-3, unless with parents) staffed on a rotational basis by praying older women.

Ages 4-6
Ages 7-9

(after this age, I believe they should be segregated by gender, depending on the class because there are many subjects that can only be taught in non-mixed audiences- and because the scriptures above suggest it.)
Ages 10-15
Ages 16-19

Adult classes
1) Young Ministers class (men only)
2) Homemaker/Housewife (women only, but probably needs a more palatable name)
3) Man of the Home class (men only)
4) Young married
5) New Convert class
6) Finances according to scripture (with emphasis on how to follow this in todays world.)
7) End Time Prophecy
8) Bible Study training (for those who feel led to teach the lost)
9) Life Issues (catch all. This would be "the main" class for those not interested in the other classes)
10) Outreach class (teaching different methods of outreach)
11) Vintage group (seniors)
12) Divorce recovery (needed in our world!)
13) A.C.T.S. class (Alcohol and Chemical Treatment System. This class is required in many states for those involved in Jail ministry. Also a great way for the church to act as a sort of "half way house" to help people get their lives straight in a legal sense and could lead many of them to Jesus. Some judges will actually order the parolees to attend the class at your church.) 
14) Sewing (women only)
15) Cooking (women only)
16) A study of false doctrines, with emphasis on WHY they are false
17) Music (If a teacher(s) is(are) available in the church that is(are) willing to help the folks who'd like to learn.)
18) College/career (I'm iffy on this one, but some might want it.)
19) Biblical Courtship (needed to combat the whole "dating" scene!)
20) "Walk thru the Bible". (An excellent course [done by a trinitarian ministry, but we can get the literature and teach it ourselves.] It gives a GREAT general overview of the order of the books in the bible, while hitting a few highlights in the scriptures of events to fill out what's being learned. Even now, 21 years after I took the course, I fall back on some of the things I memorized back then in that ONE DAY COURSE to help me keep the order of the books straight in my head. Would be great for New Converts!)
21) Wilderness living (Some of you may balk at this one, depending on your end time beliefs. I believe that these skills- that include Archery Hunting, Fishing, Plant knowledge, Hiding and evasion, Cover in cold and hot weather, "Coats of skins", Safe fires, Natural dangers, Physical exercise, Rock and tree climbing, to name only a few- will be very useful to us in the coming days before the Lord returns. 
22) Any other classes that you can think of.

I realize that some of these courses are not necessarily biblical, but they do relate. Also, I realize that teachers would have to rotate to keep from burning out and for them to learn other things as well. For some of these classes, we would need larger facilities and more people than most of us have at present. But, I truly believe that this is a good structure! The particulars can be done according to what we have available, as the Lord opens doors. 
Also, I really believe that a structure like this would alleviate "the boredom" that some people feel in churches today and build an excitement into their walk with God. What will they learn today when they go to church? They can be free to take part in the subject of their own interest- teachers and students alike.
In short, brethren, I BELIEVE in Sunday School! In todays world it is a NEED! Given the massive amounts of subjects IN THE BIBLE that are NEVER even touched on in 99% of todays churches, I believe that it is very necessary.

God bless you. I look forward to your thoughts.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Chronological Christmas

Before I begin this post, let it be known to one and all that:

a) I do realize that Jesus was NOT born on Dec 25th.

b) I understand that Christmas was originally a pagan holiday that was "Christianized" by the Catholic church.

       That having been said, it is not the purpose of this post to argue about any of that. Rather, it is the Chronology of "the Christmas story", that I wish to address.

       It is currently presented via "the nativity scene" and most church plays, etc, that everything about the Christmas story took place during a few day period. Indeed, many believe all on the same night. Yet, scripturally speaking, this is simply not true. In fact, we know- at the risk of getting ahead of myself- that the wise men came to see Jesus some 2 years AFTER his birth. Why else would Herod order the destruction of all the Bethlehem children 2 years old and younger when the wise men left without seeing him (as he had ordered them to)?

       So, with that in mind, let us re-examine this story as the scriptures truly tell it.

       First of all, why does the world celebrate this holiday at all? The world celebrates it as a time of joy and sharing with friends and family. It's a time of giving and showing love to your loved ones. Nothing wrong with that, in principle.

      But, what is the real reason behind the season for the Christian? It is all of the above AND it is a time of celebrating the birth of Jesus. Why celebrate his birth at all? Because of Calvary! He came to die. He came to show us that there is a real and lasting hope of eternal life THROUGH HIM. For me, just because the early church didn't celebrate his birthday (at least as far as we know from scripture) is no reason not to celebrate it. I'm glad he came! If he hadn't we'd have no hope at all. And, if I can celebrate the birth of my wife and children, how much more can I celebrate the birth of my Savior?

      Indeed, let us look at why he came:

Matthew 1:21
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

The scriptures scream that God came to save us from our sins. Who is this Jesus? 

1 Timothy 3:16
And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Isaiah 9:6

King James Version (KJV)

 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

The one and only creator- the God of the whole universe- made himself a man (became a son) and went to Calvary in order that we could truly be free. That's love! That's a loving Father!

That, to me, is the real reason for the season. The fact that God almighty robed himself in human flesh in order to make a way for me- That is reason to celebrate! That's what the whole world needs to know!

So, without further waiting, here is the "Christmas story", in Chronological order, so we all get it right. After all, don't we want to tell the story correctly?

Luke 1:5THERE was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
 6And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
 7And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
 8And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
 9According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
 10And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense.
 11And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
 12And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
 13But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
 14And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
 15For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
 16And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.
 17And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
 18And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
 19And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
 20And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
 21And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
 22And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
 23And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house.
 24And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
 25Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men.
 26And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
 27To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
 28And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
 29And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
 30And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
 31And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
 32He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
 33And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
 34Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
 35And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
 36And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
 37For with God nothing shall be impossible.
 38And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.
 39And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;
 40And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.
 41And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:
 42And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
 43And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
 44For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
 45And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.
 46And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
 47And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
 48For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
 49For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
 50And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
 51He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
 52He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
 53He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
 54He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
 55As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.
 56And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
 57Now Elisabeth's full time came that she should be delivered; and she brought forth a son.
 58And her neighbours and her cousins heard how the Lord had shewed great mercy upon her; and they rejoiced with her.
 59And it came to pass, that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they called him Zacharias, after the name of his father.
 60And his mother answered and said, Not so; but he shall be called John.
 61And they said unto her, There is none of thy kindred that is called by this name.
 62And they made signs to his father, how he would have him called.
 63And he asked for a writing table, and wrote, saying, His name is John. And they marvelled all.
 64And his mouth was opened immediately, and his tongue loosed, and he spake, and praised God.
 65And fear came on all that dwelt round about them: and all these sayings were noised abroad throughout all the hill country of Judaea.
 66And all they that heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, What manner of child shall this be! And the hand of the Lord was with him.
 67And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying,
 68Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,
 69And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
 70As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:
 71That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;
 72To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;
 73The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,
 74That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,
 75In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.
 76And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
 77To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
 78Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
 79To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.
 80And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.

Matthew 1: 18Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
 19Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
 20But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
 21And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
 22Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
 23Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
 24Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
 25And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Luke 2

 1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
 2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
 3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
 4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
 5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
 6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
 7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
 8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
 15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
 16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
 17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
 18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
 19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
 20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
 21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
 22And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;
 23(As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)
 24And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
 25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
 26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
 27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,
 28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,
 29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
 30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,
 31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
 32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
 33And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
 34And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;
 35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
 36And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;
 37And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
 38And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
 39And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
 40And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.

Matthew 2:

1Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
 2Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
 3When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
 4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
 5And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,
 6And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel.
 7Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared.
 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
 9When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.
 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
 11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
 12And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way.
 13And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.
 14When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt:
 15And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son.
 16Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying,
 18In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not.
 19But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
 20Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life.
 21And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel.
 22But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
 23And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.

       Notice that the shepherds saw Jesus in the manger the night he was born. The wise men saw him in a house about 2 years later. The shepherds saw Jesus as a baby. The wise men saw him as a young child.

      The Christmas story was about a 2+ year story, not a one night event. Just as our own walk with God requires a life time relationship, not a one time prayer. God bless you all and Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So what's wrong with growing old?

Leviticus 19:32
Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honour the face of the old man, and fear thy God: I am the LORD.

Proverbs 16:31
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.

The term hoary, here, means: "1) age, gray hair, hoary head, old age
                                                             a) gray hair, hoary head
                                                             b) old age"

We live in a society that puts a premium on being "young". The entertainment stars- and even politicians- of our day spend much money on surgeries, nails, hair salons, etc to try and stay looking young. Movies, magazines, newspapers, billboards, and even sporting events all put a high value on "the young". 

Everywhere we look, in other words, we are told that a) young is good, and b) to get old is bad. Many are the men and women who have bought into this lifestyle. They look in the mirror and, instead of being grateful for the time they've had, lessons learned, and thankful for the victories and wisdom God has given them- all they see is a person who's (gasp) "getting old"! We wear makeup to cover our age. We imitate the ungodly fashions of the day because we want to be "cool" and accepted by society. 
Many even brag about staying "young". They throw out the music styles and lessons of their youth. They take on the modern music and lifestyles all to try and appear "young". They fight this battle every day. 
One day, inevitably, it hits them. In spite of all of the money they've spent and effort they've applied, they are...dare I say? ....GETTING OLD! This is terrible! What can they do? Instead of being glad for the blessings they do have, they pine for the youth they've lost. They think back to high school or college and wish they could be that age again. 
Then, the enemy of their souls- having reeled them in to this point- baits the trap that he has so painstakingly prepared all this time. He sends them a young person that seems to be, or even is, attracted to THEM. Being around this young one makes them feel "alive" (a euphemism for "young"). The more they hang out with this person, the more they begin to look at their own spouses lack of youth. 
The results? First it's adultery of the heart. They spend lots of time speaking with this person. They go out of their way to be with this person. They begin to try and woo this person the way they wooed their own spouse in their youth. Finally, comes the inevitable: physical adultery. 
Suddenly, all the faithful years their spouse has spent with them doesn't matter anymore. All the laughs and smiles, tears and trials of their lives together are thrown away for something they believe to be "better". Whether by their doing it, or their spouse doing it, the marriage ends in divorce. A family is destroyed. 
Soon, they learn that their greener grass, isn't so green. Their "new and improved" partner lacks both the true love of their original spouse and the experience and care that comes only from years together in the trenches. They've thrown away what they had for an illusion, only to find that what they now have is less than what they gave up.
MANY times, after the divorce, their new partner winds up leaving them all alone. All they really wanted was the thrill of taking this married person away from their spouse. The person has built up their ego on the pain of a destroyed home- leaving the newly divorced one, helpless, despondent, and all alone. All because of the fear of getting old.
God's word paints a different picture all together. It's GOOD to grow old with God and your spouse. It's GOOD to learn together, laugh together, struggle together, and grow together. Let the world point a finger at you. Let them call you old. It's a JOY to grow old together.
More than that, it's a joy to be able to help younger folks who are trying to learn and grow together. Your stand for God can be a living testimony for the young folks around you who are trying to live out their own marriages and walk with God. Your testimonies can give strength to them, as they struggle with some of the very things  that God brought you through. 
Don't give in to the "stay young" lie. Don't give in to that young thing who's trying to flirt with you. Stand for God. Hold onto your spouse ("cleave unto"- as the scriptures say) with ALL your heart and mind. Live your life together as a testimony of what God can do- even in this day of high divorce rates. 
Growing old is a blessing, not a curse. Let God carry you both through so that your life and experiences will be an example for later generations to follow until the Lord comes back. Instead of settling for the enemies "hall of shame", hold on to Jesus and enter God's "hall of fame". 
God bless you all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What to do when the promises come through.

Deuteronomy 12

 1These are the statutes and judgments, which ye shall observe to do in the land, which the LORD God of thy fathers giveth thee to possess it, all the days that ye live upon the earth.
 2Ye shall utterly destroy all the places, wherein the nations which ye shall possess served their gods, upon the high mountains, and upon the hills, and under every green tree:
 3And ye shall overthrow their altars, and break their pillars, and burn their groves with fire; and ye shall hew down the graven images of their gods, and destroy the names of them out of that place.
 4Ye shall not do so unto the LORD your God.

Israel had been in bondage for 400 years. They spent their days in bondage, longing for their deliverer to come and take them to their promised land. Day after day of hard labor. Night after night of tending wounds from the taskmaster's whip. They longed for, prayed for, and looked for the realization of the promise given to them by God: 

Exodus 3:16-18

King James Version (KJV)
 16Go, and gather the elders of Israel together, and say unto them, The LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared unto me, saying, I have surely visited you, and seen that which is done to you in Egypt:
 17And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.            

This promise gave them hope! It kept them alive and willing to endure the troubles they faced every day. God sends Moses, he delivers them, and they begin the march to the promised land. They go through battles, famine, lack of water, lack of faith, daily drudgery. Finally, as they begin to prepare to enter into the "land flowing with milk and honey", God gives them a stern warning. 

I'm about to do what I said I would do, BUT when I give you your promised lands, there are some things I expect from you. 

1)Realize that your promised land is not without difficulty. There will be enemies who will try and destroy you. You will have to fight to keep what you've been given.

2) Do not intermingle with their culture and especially their religions. In fact, you are to go in and clean house. You are to take MY culture to this new land. You are to destroy the sacrificial places that they have set up to their false gods. Do NOT believe the lie that all religions lead to the same place. I am your God and you are NOT to bow to and worship their gods. Burn down the groves where they have performed rituals to the fertility goddess. Tear down the high places where they sacrificed to the sun. Take over the land and follow me, changing the land for my glory.

How many of us have lived in misery for years, barely hanging on to the promises that God has spoken to us. We endure the trials and hardships, all the while aching for the day of deliverance to come. We are tempted to give up and walk away, but we know we can't- that way leads to death. 

Finally, God tells us, "I'm about to deliver you." We shout for joy and begin to pack, but do we hear the rest of what he is saying? Listen, dear friend. For if we stop with the message of deliverance, then we will not be prepared for what we face when he does. 

Yes, we all have a place of service. We are called to serve God and each other in whatever capacity he chooses and wherever he tells us to go. It may be across the street, across the state, or across the world, but he has a plan for what he wishes to accomplish in our lives.

When that day comes, it would behoove us to listen to the rest of the story.

1) Know that our place of service, our promised land, is fraught with danger. Our enemies will be there trying to destroy us. We are to go in, take charge, and defeat them in the name of Jesus. 

2) Know that we cannot accept the lie that all roads lead to heaven. We cannot worship with them in their false religions. We are NOT to bow to their ways of doing things. We are to go in the power of his might, and through HIS word, tear down the false religious systems and let God be God! We are to take over our promised land and follow HIM- allowing him to change things there for HIS glory. 

Whatever little things that have been hindering our walk with God that are in our lives, need to be dealt with. We cannot hold to the world and to God and expect to win the battles ahead. We must allow God to show us our hearts and to deal with the wrong things we are shown there. If we do, God will do great things for us and through us. If we do not, we will fall. 

Israel did not follow God's instructions. Even though they received their promise, they could not keep it, because they compromised and fell. 

When God gives us our promised land, we will do the same thing they did? Or, will we pray, fast, stand, and fight the way God tells us to? It's up to us. He has given us clear instructions, will we obey? 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What about the Epistles? Are they for everyone?

Romans 1

 "1Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
 2(Which he had promised afore by his prophets in the holy scriptures,)
 3Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;
 4And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:
 5By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
 6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:"

1 Corinthians 1

 1"Paul called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,
 2Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both their's and our's:"

2 Corinthians 1

 1"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, unto the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints which are in all Achaia:"

Galatians 1

 1"Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)
 2And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:"

Ephesians 1

 1"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:"

Philippians 1

 1Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Colossians 1

 1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother,
 2To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1

 1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians which is in God the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 1

 1Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ:

1 Timothy 1

 1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ, which is our hope;
 2Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Lord.

2 Timothy 1

 1Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus,
 2To Timothy, my dearly beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

Titus 1

 1Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect, and the acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness;
 2In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;
 3But hath in due times manifested his word through preaching, which is committed unto me according to the commandment of God our Saviour;
 4To Titus, mine own son after the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.

Philemon 1:1
Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved, and fellowlabourer,

Hebrews 2

 1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.
 2For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;
 3How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;
 4God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

James 1

 1James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.

1 Peter 1

 1Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,
 2Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.

2 Peter 1

 1Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

1 John 2

 1My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:

2 John 1

 1The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

3 John 1

 1The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
 2Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
 3For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

Jude 1:1
Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:

2 Timothy 2:15

King James Version (KJV)

 15Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth 

 I realize that this is a whole lot of scripture- much more scripture than I usually use in a typical post. To some this will seem like overkill. However, sometimes, in order to understand a truth of the word of God, this is necessary.

There are many groups out there that espouse many different doctrines. They all point to scripture and on the surface, from a certain point of view, they all seem to make some logical sense. Yet, they cannot all be correct. Scripture commands us to study the word of God and to RIGHTLY DIVIDE (correctly understand) it.

There are many different beliefs on how to be "saved", or "born again". Everyone points to a pet scripture to try and prove their belief. One of the more popular ones is to use these verses: 

Romans 10:9-10

King James Version (KJV)
 9That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
 10For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

Ephesians 2: 8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
 9Not of works, lest any man should boast.

1 John 1: 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.                                   

They say, from this- and adding John 3:16 to it- that we are saved by simple belief in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and all we have to do to access this is to believe and repent. 

Sounds good on the surface! Yet, in order to correctly understand a scripture, we must first understand the context of the verse. What is the conversation about? Who is the verse written to? This second question is the sincere point of this blog post. 

Who was Romans 10 written to? Sinners? Or saints? Unregenerate people who have never known the saving Grace of God? Or people who have already become God's children?

Answer:Romans 1: 5By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:
 6Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:"                                 

So Romans 10 was written to people who have already been saved! The same can be said about 1 John 1:9. Who was this Epistle written to? 

1 John 2: "1My little children..." What does John mean by this? His fleshly children or spiritual children? 

 John 1

 1The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

3 John 1

 1The elder unto the wellbeloved Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
 2Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
 3For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth.
 4I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

It is evident from these scriptures that John called his spiritual converts his "children". He's not alone in this. Paul did the same thing in 1 and 2 Timothy 1 and Titus 1, calling Timothy and Titus his sons in the Gospel. 

What about Ephesians? Who was this Epistle written to? 

Ephesians 1

 1"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus:"

So, again, this letter is written to people who are already saved. Indeed, all the letters (Epistles), from Romans through Jude are written to already saved people. 

So does it follow that the doctrine of the majority of today's "Christian churches" is true? No. 

Does the Bible give any examples of teaching salvation to unsaved people? Yes. What does it say there that we must do to be saved?

John 3:1There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
 2The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
 3Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
 4Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?
 5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
 7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
 8The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
 9Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be?
 10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?
 11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness.
 12If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?
 13And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
 15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
 16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
 17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
 18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
 19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

Here Jesus explains that we must a) believe (verse 16), b) be born of water and of spirit" (verse 5). 

Most groups whole heartedly accept verse 16, but either ignore or try and explain away verses 3-5. Rather than try and argue here, lets look at how this teaching translated into what the Apostles taught to unsaved folks. 

Acts 2: 37Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?

The day of Pentecost comes and the "church" is born (Acts 2:1-4). People gather and Peter preaches the first sermon of the church's history. The power and truth of his words is so convicting that his hearers become convicted of their own sins. They immediately ask, in essence, "How do I rid myself of this sin". 

It's a valid question. It's not very hard, if a soul is honest, to admit that we are sinners in the eyes of God. So what do we do with that knowledge? Peter gives us the answer.

Acts 2: 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 

This answer agrees with everything Jesus taught in John 3. Jesus said we must believe. A person will not repent of their sins unless they first believe God exists and that they are indeed a sinner in need of a savior.

Jesus said we must be "born of water". Peter said we must be "baptized in Jesus name for the remission of sins". Paul says in Romans 6:4 that we are "buried with him (Jesus) in baptism". Peter says in his Epistles that we are saved by water in baptism, just as Noah and his family were saved by the waters in the flood. 

Jesus said we must be "born of the spirit". Peter said we would "receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". Paul said in Romans that if we don't have the spirit then we are "none of his". 

Read Acts 19:1-7 and Acts 8 and 10. The same plan of salvation is taught here as Peter taught on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

The Epistles are great scripture, but they are all, as you can see by the scripture references above, written to already saved people- explaining how to stay saved, not how to get saved. 

To get saved, do what Jesus, Peter, and Paul all taught:

Acts 2: 38Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.