Thankfulness

The apostle Paul, and those writing in his name, often began their letters by saying, “I thank God for you…” The letters go on to describe the faith that has been shared and lived by those to whom the letter was first addressed. So too, I want to begin my letter to you this month by saying, “I thank God for you.” Our church family has really pulled together over these last few weeks. With our building’s plumbing, bathrooms, and entrances in a bit of disarray, our church family pulled together! In a time of financial need, our church family has been stepping forward to help. When you think about “family” you know that it is times like these that bring out the best or the worst in people. In our case, it has brought out the very best! I am thankful for your patience, your flexibility, and your good humor. Soon, the nursery, Legacy and the surrounding bathrooms will be reopened with a fresh coat of paint and even some new furniture. Soon, the floor will be repaired and the glass doors on Carroll Street will be reopened. The plumbing crisis will be behind us. Yet, the memory of facing a crisis together and meeting the challenge will remain…and it will be a very good memory! When I think of our daughter, Beth’s ordination service, I will thank God for all of you for the rest of my life! This congregation stepped forward to provide a wonderful service of worship and praise for both Beth Clementson and Don Myers. As we hosted people from around our synod and people from multiple chapters of the Clementsons’ life in the church, the love and hospitality of Grace Lutheran Church shone brightly. I want to say a special thanks to the four families who worked together to purchase the “new to us” organ in Grace Hall. The addition of this organ for the Ordination/Consecration Service will be a good addition for special worship services in the future as well. In this time of financial challenge, we want you to know that this purchase was made with special donations of members and friends over and above their regular giving. Church funds were not used in obtaining this new instrument. As we enter this month of November, a traditional time of thanksgiving in our nation, I invite us to say to one another, “I give thanks for you.” In addition to the upcoming holiday, we also will finally learn the results of Election Day this month. In whatever happens, whether your candidate is elected or not, let us give thanks for the opportunity to live in a nation where we have freedom of speech and on Election Day a safe and structured process. As Christian sisters and brothers, let us speak well of one another and in all things give thanks for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who leads the way to peace, freedom and justice. I do truly give thanks for you!!!

Introduction to the Study of the Book of Acts

Introduction to the Study of the Book of Acts

By G. E. Watkins

4/21/2016

Today begins a study of the book of Acts in this Daily Bible Study series. We’ll try to put the book of Acts in context to prepare us to take on the text.

The book of Acts was written within the lifetime of most of the eyewitnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those events occurred within the boundaries of Palestine about 2000 years ago. The birth of Jesus is dated between 4 and 6 BC, and his death AD 30 or 33.

Four emperors were on the Roman throne during the span that the book covers: Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero.

There are three main characters in the book, Jesus, Peter, and Paul. Many might argue that Jesus is not a main character but He is there in every chapter, every verse. Peter and Paul are carrying out His commission, they are preaching His Gospel. Jesus had commanded (1:8), “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The book of Acts is a small look into what was done in carrying out that command. It is the story that God wanted preserved. Peter was with Jesus throughout his entire ministry and was a witness to the baptism, transfiguration, arrest, trial and crucifixion of Jesus. He was also witness to the miracles of Jesus and to His resurrection. Paul’s introduction to Jesus was on the road to Damascus where he was going to arrest Christians. He was a witness to the risen Lord there and immediately afterward determined to preach the resurrected Christ (Acts 9).

Antiquity tells us that Luke is the human author of the book as he is of the gospel account that bears his name. We would expect that someone close to the events of the book would write the record and Luke was a companion of Paul through much of his journeying. He had also taken upon himself to investigate closely the events to which he was not a witness (Luke 1:1-4). Luke was a physician (Col. 4:14) and scholars tell us that Luke often uses medical terms that are common to a physician.

This book serves as a pattern for Christians and searchers for truth today because of the path it outlines to heaven. The examples of conversion within its pages show how men and women became Christians under the preaching of the apostles and prophets. If we obey today what they obeyed then we’ll be saved today just as they were then.

Acts is a record of hardship that was endured by Christians for the faith. This was a testimony to the truth of the Gospel’s claims. Jesus’ ministry was an open one. Many of the events were public. Even the fact of the resurrection was witnessed by five hundred (1 Cor. 15:5) Christians at once. In the face of death sentences and hardship beyond imagination, the Gospel spread (Acts 5:29; 8:4) until Paul could say that every creature had heard (Col. 1:23).

Asking For Forgiveness

Asking For Forgiveness

By Mike Riley 4/21/2016

A querist asks, “Does God forgive people who do not ask? I have never seen where that happened. Should I forgive anyone who doesn’t ask?”

The Bible teaches that repentance has always been a prerequisite for forgiveness being granted by God (Psalm 51; Jonah 3:10; Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19; Acts 8:22; Acts 17:30; 2 Timothy 2:25; 1 John 1:9. Our Lord gives us the criteria for forgiving others who sin against us in Luke 17:3-4, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent, thou shalt forgive him.” We can certainly see clearly that asking for forgiveness coupled with repentance is necessary for forgiveness.

In Matthew 18:15-22, the Lord gives us instructions on how to deal with a brother who trespasses against us. In Matthew 18:21-22, Peter asked, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but Until seventy times seven.”

The number, “seven,” was the most sacred number to the Hebrews, symbolizing God’s completion and perfection. In other words, as often as our brother repents and asks our forgiveness, we are to forgive our brother. The duty of forgiveness has no limit, save in the want of penitence in the offender. We should also remember that in no instance should a Christian harbor malice or retain resentment toward a sincere penitent offender (Colossians 3:13). We should have the loving attitude of our heavenly Father in this regard; when He forgives, He forgets (Hebrews 8:12; Hebrews 10:17; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34).

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The Evidence Of Divine Prophecy

The Evidence Of Divine Prophecy

By Mike Riley 4/21/2016

Prophecy is foretelling an even in such detail before it happens so as to necessarily require divine guidance. The Bible is a book containing hundreds of detailed prophecies. There are, for example, well over sixty distinct predictions in regard to our divine Savior Jesus Christ. Not only were some these predictions made one thousand years before Christ came from heaven to earth, but regarding His crucifixion, they were made over five hundred years before crucifixion was first used anywhere in the world as a form of capital punishment! Crucifixion didn’t exist when the prophecies were made!

A scientist picked out forty-eight such prophecies and determined that the probability of one man randomly fulfilling them all is one in ten to the exponent of one hundred fifty-seven. That is “one” followed by one hundred fifty-seven seros! Yet, Jesus fulfilled all the prophecies! In this article, let us look at sixty prophecies of Christ by subject categories and observe their fulfillment.

Concerning His Birth

1) Born Of The Seed Of woman

Prophesied – Genesis 3:15
Fulfilled – Gal. 4:4

2) Born Of A Virgin

Prophesied – Isaiah 7:14
Fulfilled – Matthew 1:18-25

3) Seed Of Abraham

Prophesied – Genesis 22:18
Fulfilled – Matthew 1:1

4) Seed Of Isaac

Prophesied – Genesis 21:12
Fulfilled – Luke 3:23,34

5) Seed Of Jacob

Prophesied – Numbers 24:17
Fulfilled – Luke 3:34

6) Seed Of David

Prophesied – Jeremiah 23:5
Fulfilled – Luke 3:31

7) Tribe Of Judah

Prophesied – Genesis 49:10
Fulfilled – Rev. 5:5

8) Family Line Of Jesse

Prophesied – Isaiah 11:1
Fulfilled – Luke 3:32

9) Born In Bethlehem

Prophesied – Micah 5:2
Fulfilled – Matthew 2:1-6

10) Herod Kills The Children

Prophesied – Jeremiah 31:15
Fulfilled – Matthew 2:16-18

Concerning His Nature

11) He Pre-existed Creation

Prophesied – Micah 5:2
Fulfilled – 1 Peter 1:20

12) He Shall Be Called Lord

Prophesied – Psalm 110:1
Fulfilled – Acts 2:36

13) Called Immanuel (God With Us)

Prophesied – Isaiah 7:14
Fulfilled – Matthew 1:22-23

14) Prophet

Prophesied – Deuteronomy 18:18-19
Fulfilled – Acts 3:18-25

15) Priest

Prophesied – Psalm 110:14
Fulfilled – Hebrews 5:5-6

16) Judge

Prophesied – Isaiah 33:22
Fulfilled – John 5:22-23

17) King

Prophesied – Psalm 2:6
Fulfilled – John 18:33-37

18) Annointed By The Spirit

Prophesied – Isaiah 11:2
Fulfilled – Matthew 3:16-17

19) His Zeal For God

Prophesied – Psalm 69:9
Fulfilled – John 2:15-17

Concerning His Ministry

20) Preceded By A Messenger

Prophesied – Isaiah 40:3
Fulfilled – Matthew 3:1-3

21) To Begin In Galilee

Prophesied – Isaiah 9:1-2
Fulfilled – Matthew 4:12-17

22) Ministry Of Miracles

Prophesied – Isaiah 35:5-6
Fulfilled – Matthew 9:35; Matthew 11:4

23) Teacher Of Parables

Prophesied – Psalm 78:1-4
Fulfilled – Matthew 13:34-35

24) He Was To Enter The Temple

Prophesied – Malachi 3:1
Fulfilled – Matthew 21:10-12

25) Enter Jerusalem On Donkey

Prophesied – Zechariah 9:9
Fulfilled – Matthew 21:1-7

26) Stone Of Stumbling To Jews

Prophesied – Isaiah 28:16; Psalm 118:22
Fulfilled – 1 Peter 2:6-8

27) Light To Gentiles

Prophesied – Isaiah 49:6
Fulfilled – Acts 13:46-48

The Day Jesus Was Crucified

28) Betrayed By A Friend

Prophesied – Psalm 41:9
Fulfilled – John 13:18-27

29) Sold For Thirty Pieces Of Silver

Prophesied – Zechariah 11:12
Fulfilled – Matthew 26:14-15

30) Thirty Pieces Thrown In Temple

Prophesied – Zechariah 11:13
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:3-5

31) Thirty Pieces Buys Potters Field

Prophesied – Zechariah 11:13
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:6-10

32) Forsaken By His Disciples

Prophesied – Zechariah 13:7
Fulfilled – Mark 14:27,50

33) Accused By False Witnesses

Prophesied – Psalm 35:11,20,21
Fulfilled – Matthew 26:59-61

34) Silent Before Accusers

Prophesied – Isaiah 53:7
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:12-14

35) Wounded And Bruised
Prophesied – Isaiah 53:4-6
Fulfilled – 1 Peter 2:21-25

36) Beaten And Spit Upon

Prophesied – Isaiah 50:6
Fulfilled – Matthew 26:67-68

37) Mocked

Prophesied – Psalm 22:6-8
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:27-31

38) Fell Under The Cross

Prophesied – Psalm 109:24-25
Fulfilled – John 19:17; Luke 23:26

39) Hands And Feet Pierced

Prophesied – Psalm 22:16
Fulfilled – John 20:24-28

40) Crucified With Thieves

Prophesied – Isaiah 53:12
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:38

41) Prayed For His Enemies

Prophesied – Isaiah 53:12
Fulfilled – Luke 23:34

42) Rejected By His Own People

Prophesied – Isaiah 53:3
Fulfilled – John 19:14-15

43) Hated Without Cause

Prophesied – Psalm 69:4
Fulfilled – John 15:25

44) Friends Stood Aloof

Prophesied – Psalm 38:11
Fulfilled – Luke 22:54; Luke 23:49

45) People Wag Their Heads

Prophesied – Psalm 22:7; Psalm 109:25
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:39

46) People Stared At Him

Prophesied – Psalm 22:17
Fulfilled – Luke 23:35

47) Cloths Divided And Gambled For

Prophesied – Psalm 22:18
Fulfilled – John 19:23-24

48) Became Very Thirsty

Prophesied – Psalm 22:15
Fulfilled – John 19:28

49) Gall And Vinegar Offered Him

Prophesied – Psalm 69:21
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:34

50) His Forsaken Cry

Prophesied – Psalm 22:1
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:46

51) Committed Himself To God

Prophesied – Psalm 31:5
Fulfilled – Luke 23:46

52) Bones Not Broken

Prophesied – Psalm 34:20
Fulfilled – John 19:32-36

53) Heart Broken

Prophesied – Psalm 69:20; Psalm 22:14
Fulfilled – John 19:34

54) His Side Pierced

Prophesied – Zechariah 12:10
Fulfilled – John 19:34,37

55) Darkness Over The Land

Prophesied – Amos 8:9
Fulfilled – Luke 23:44-45

56) Buried In Rich Man’s Tomb

Prophesied – Isaiah 53:9
Fulfilled – Matthew 27:57-60

His Resurrection And Ascension

57) Raised From The Dead

Prophesied – Psalm 16:8-11
Fulfilled – Acts 2:24-31

58) Begotten As Son Of God

Prophesied – Psalm 2:7
Fulfilled – Acts 13:32-35

59) Ascended To God

Prophesied – Psalm 68:18
Fulfilled – Ephesians 2:8-10

60) Seated Beside God

Prophesied – Psalm 110:1
Fulfilled – Hebrews 1:3,13

Conclusion

Today, the only way Bible scoffers can explain away this astronomical probability is to discredit the prophecies in one way or another. Their only alternative is to accept that God is the author of the Scriptures. The Bible is a reliable book of genuine divine prophecy – We can trust it!

The evidence of divine prophecy presented in this article is just a tiny portion of the “proofs” available to establish the divine origin of the Bible. Yet, they are more than sufficient to prove the inspiration of the Bible. There will always be men who scoff at the Bible. As Christians, however, we can be confident when we read our Bibles that God is definitely the Author, for it is written:

“We constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God’s message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Related Article:

  • Principles Of Bible Prophecy

The Reality of God’s Ultimate Authority

John’s account of Jesus’ death is so profound, meaningful and convicting. And each time I read it I seem to learn something new.

This morning I shared this passage with the folks at Sycamore Healthcare center.

1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2 And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9 He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:1-11

Many of the folks at Sycamore struggle with extremely difficult physical and/or mental circumstances. This morning I tried to encourage with the idea that through it all, God has the ultimate authority over their lives and they should try to rest in the peace of that reality.

Sometimes preachers can be pretty dense. I have been ignoring that reality when it comes to one specific part of my life. And because I have been avoiding accepting God’s total authority as reality, I have been robbing myself of peace.

Here’s what I am talking about. Ever since my last ministry, I have had a deep burden in my heart to unite and mend where we have separated and broken. I have tried to do that my changing peoples’ attitudes. Not their opinions or minds, just their attitudes.

Recently I have been getting so frustrated and discouraged by the way people attitudes have led them to act. In other words, I was starting to feel like I have not made a difference and the past three years have been a waste. Because of that, I have questioned God’s plan and why He has traveled us on our road. Sharing that passage today with my friends at Sycamore reminded me of my place and how significant I could be if I would only embrace how insignificant I actually was. Jesus understood and accepted the reality that all authority originates and resides with God. That’s why He was able to maintain such peace – even in the face of a terrible death.

God reminded me of this reality today. I will keep plugging away at changing people’s attitudes. But I have been reminded that God alone holds the key to every lock – particularly the ones that people use to guard their hearts. Is there a place in your life where you need to more firmly embrace the reality of God’s ultimate authority?

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What Must the Church of Christ Do to be Saved?

The following is a post by Jay Guin on his blog, One in Jesus. I do not know Jay Guin personally. Based on his blog, I believe that he and I may some differences of opinion on some other the specific details of our faith. But one thing in particular that we are in complete agreement on is the necessity to ask difficult questions and challenge our beliefs. To that end, his writings have a been a tremendous blessing for me. You can read the original blog here.

We’re working our way through Leroy Garrett’s book: What Must the Church of Christ Do to Be Saved? The paperback is $7.95, but it’s also available in Kindle edition for $0.99. For $0.99, it’s really an offer you can’t refuse!

Now, by “saved” Garrett doesn’t mean that he questions the salvation of the individual members of the Churches of Christ. Rather, he is concerned to save the Churches of Christ as a “viable witness to the Christian faith. What must it do to escape extinction in the decades ahead …?”

The comments in this series have largely focused on the baptism question — which is inevitable given that Garrett is urging us to fellowship denominations other than the Churches of Christ. The comments follow very much along the traditional lines, and I’d urge us to think of the question in some different ways. After all, people have long-ago stopped listening to the traditional arguments — on both sides.

First, many denominations baptize believers by immersion for remission of sins. We are not alone in this respect at all.

The independent Christian Churches/Churches of Christ, of course, share our baptismal doctrine and practices — and yet many treat them as damned in their sins.

The Roman Catholics often baptize adult converts by immersion for the remission of sins, and they have always done this — although not always uniformly. European cathedrals typically have a separate baptistry that is designed for immersion. Recently, many (not all) American cathedrals have built baptistries for immersion.

The Eastern Orthodox have always baptized adult converts by immersion or dipping — except they do it three times — and theirs is also for the remission of sins.

All Baptists baptize by immersion, and some do so for remission of sins. Yes, really. I know some personally. Not every pastor follows denominational teaching, and not every Baptist denomination adheres to Zwinglian teaching (the teaching that baptism is symbolic of grace previously received traces back to Zwingli).

The Wikipedia says,

Baptism by submersion is also practiced by the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), although the faith does not suggest rebaptism of those who have undergone a different Christian baptism tradition. …

Seventh-day Adventists believe that “Baptism symbolizes dying to self  and coming alive in Jesus.” They practice full immersion baptism.

Anabaptists perform baptisms indoors in a baptismal font, a swimming  pool, or a bathtub, or outdoors in a creek or river. Baptism  memorializes the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.[Rom 6] Baptism does not accomplish anything in itself, but is an outward  personal sign or testimony that the person’s sins have already been  washed away by the cross of Christ.

Also listed as practicing baptism by immersion are Christadelphians, Trinitarian Pentecostals, and various “Holiness” groups, Christian Missionary Alliance, Assemblies of God, and Oneness Pentecostals. The Plymouth Brethren baptize believers by immersion, but take a position similar to the Southern Baptists as to its effect. The International Church of the Foursquare Gospel is also immersionist.

For denominations outside the Reformed/Calvinist tradition, baptism is almost always for the remissions of sins.

Now, if all these groups practice baptism of believers by immersion and most do so for the remission of sins, why don’t we treat any of them as part of “us”? — unless, of course, we are rank sectarians who believe that only those in the Churches of Christ are saved?

If we’re not a denomination and, rather, simply congregations of the church of Christ universal, why don’t we consider other churches that immerse for remission of sins part of “us”? Indeed, why act as though we have a patent on correct baptismal theology and practice and no one else does it the way we do?

It seems that we’re looking for ways to damn all others. After all, we ignore all evidence to the contrary and we certainly have a bad habit of exaggerating the errors of other denominations while excusing our own. Read the comments in this series, if you doubt me. And that tendency sure seems to evidence a desire to be the exclusive place of salvation.

Oh, and there are lots of our former members who left the Churches of Christ and now worship as part of another denomination. They have perfectly good baptisms, too — by any standard. Are they damned? If a member of the Churches of Christ joins an instrumental Christian Church, is his baptism canceled?

Now I readily admit that many of those other denominations have errors in their teachings and practices. And we’ll take that question up shortly. But can we not at least admit that there are those in the denominations with baptisms that are just as good as ours? And that their converts come out of the baptistry 100%, totally, utterly saved?

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Why are you so happy?

Recently, Abigail had a couple of days where she was home from school due to sickness. Even though she was running a temperature and not feeling well, she was in a good mood. One time, when she was lying in bed with her mom as I was leaving, I asked her, “Why are you so happy?” She replied, “I have my mom, my iPod, and a water bottle. I have everything I need.”

I have thought a lot about her answer. Mom, her electronic toy, and her water bottle made her happy. She had everything she needed. What do you need to be happy? What do you need in order to get by? Seems like the older we get our list just grows. We think we need more to be content. Our list grows and grows and we find ourselves happy less and less. So imagine I ask you, “What does it take to make you happy?” What would be on your list? To answer along Abigail’s lines would it be; my God, a warm bed, and food? Or would your list go on and on?

With the wintry weather falling on weekends, we have cancelled a couple of Sunday worship services. We do not have to meet in a church building to praise God. Thankfully, we can worship God with those in our house. I have enjoyed the family times of worship we have had on those Sundays. It has also helped me look forward to a typical Sunday when we gather together as a church. Yes, there is an added benefit of being together with other Christians, but it’s good to know we can worship even on those days when it is not safe to get out.

Well, I have gotten side tracked. What does it take for you to be happy? God has given us so much. Surely we can be happy with that. A lot of the stuff we get so unhappy about is wants. You have your God, a warm bed for sleeping, and plenty of food. So be happy!

Written by my friend Jimmy Hodges

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What I’ve Noticed as a Church Visitor

It’s been years since my family has “looked” for a church to call home. It’s been a great experience. I say great, because I’ve learned so much by not looking at things from an insiders perspective. Here’s a few thoughts from the past couple of months:

1. Please don’t ever tell someone they are sitting in “your” seat. It really doesn’t send a very welcoming message. And if you hear someone else say this, please smack them in the back of the head and remind them of how horrible it sounds. And yes, this actually happened.

2. People can tell whether or not the friendliness is authentic or just a ruse because you hope a family will “place membership.”

3. Whether you have a traditional, progressive or some other type of worship that we haven’t named yet, always strive for excellence in worship. Plan it out, be intentional and have a cohesive theme that seeks to lead the worshipers closer to God.

4. A good preacher is nice – but it’s not that important. I’ve sat through sermons that left something to be desired but walked away from worship feeling drawn closer to God through the experience of being with other Jesus followers. Likewise, I’ve heard a couple of dynamic sermons from very talented preachers but left worship discouraged because no one cared enough to talk to us.

5. The lyrics of the songs we sing matter, a lot. There’s a few songs from “our” hymnals that need to be retired. Actually, a bunch of them probably shouldn’t have made the cut in the first place.

6. Here’s the last one. PLEASE don’t make communion a routine, five minute ordeal that you speed through in order to get to the sermon. No matter “how” you do communion, plan it out and be intentional about honoring the essence of the purpose and theology behind it. If we do nothing else well, nail this one.

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Devotional from Colossians 3

During my devotional time this morning I was reading and praying through Colossians 3. I have so much of that text highlighted and underlined. It’s been a catalyst to my spirit many times over.

This text has led me to meditate and pray over the opportunities that I will have to be a witness for Jesus Christ in my new community. It seems like the Spirit guided me toward vss 12-17.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

This has convicted me. I am God’s chosen – holy and dearly loved. That’s how God feels about me and you! I’m holy, which among other things, means that he’s setting me apart and remaking me for a greater purpose. Want to make a difference? Do you long to be used by God?

I do. We can make a great difference by choosing compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness and most of all, LOVE.

I pray that from his glorious and unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength though his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your heart as you trust him. I pray that your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. And may you have the power to understand, as all of God’s people should, just how wide, how long, how high,, and how deep his love is for you. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all fullness of life and power that come from God. Now all glory be to God the father, who is able through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever. Amen.

Shalom

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Another Restoration . . . maybe it’s time?

I have always been a question asker. I probably drove my parents crazy with my favorite word – why? As I’ve gotten a little older my curiosity hasn’t waned, but it has gotten a little more complicated. Instead of the standard “why is the sky blue,” I am more into questions like, is the Church being and doing what God intended?

That question is more puzzling and more troubling. Mostly because I’m scared of the answer. Here’s what I mean, let’s say that I have never heard of, or seen any type of Church, church building, Christian or had any religious exposure at all and someone just walked up and handed me a Bible, and then walked away and let me figure it out on my own. Just simply from reading the Bible, would I come up with the same thing that we have today? Would my faith look the same? Would the Church look the same way and do the same things? There’s no way! If I just followed the Bible without any background information, or any subjective opinions or preferences my faith would look differently. My focus would be on other things.

Here’s an example. I have been taught through my childhood and into my adult life to have an almost ascetic approach to my faith, particularly to worship. Why? That’s not what the Bible teaches. If I just read the Bible without any background interference I would be the most excited, joyous person – ever. I would be so excited to worship God and wouldn’t be nearly as concerned with what people thought of me, or if I was going to be judged or looked down on. Yet the opposite is often the reality. We come to worship, not filled with awe and excitement and humility for who God is and what He did for me. But instead we’ve taught each other to come to a well-planned, yet minimalist performance that’s designed to appease the people in the room rather than worship the Creator of life.

Somewhere along the way we seemed to have gotten turned sideways. Actually, I’m probably closer to upside down. One last thought to chew on . . . for all the good that the restoration movement did and intended to do, we find ourselves back in the same place nearly 200 years later. Too many of us have become members of a denomination and enslaved to traditions instead of Christ, worshiping doctrines instead of the Sustainer.

I think it might be time for another restoration. It’s time to do it again when we stop following those principles like speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. Consider this one question as a bit of litmus test. 1 Timothy 2:8 says, “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.” Be honest and ask yourself, how much trouble would it cause if your preacher offered a prayer before he began preaching, and lifted his hands high in the air while praying? How many people would care? How many people would be upset? Now answer the question: are we speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent?