Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Cain’s Example

I John 3:11-15

“For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you.” (I John 3:11-13)

In Matthew 22:37-40, Jesus said that God’s standard for human conduct could be summed up in two simple laws. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Every commandment is designed to help us fulfill one of these two. As we saw in John 14:23, Jesus stated that love for him would result in obedience to his commands. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words,” and his command is, “…That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” according to John 13:34.

The story of Cain and Able is found in Genesis 4. God had given directions as to what was an acceptable sacrifice. Cain decided to ignore the directions, clearly showing a lack of respect for God. When Able was rewarded for obeying, Cain became jealous. God told him that he could still do right and receive the same reward. If he chose not to do so, he would be guilty of sin. Rather than doing what was needed to receive his own reward, Cain murdered Able to keep him from enjoying his reward.

Several years ago, a family started attending our church. The man got saved and stopped drinking and doing the things he had been doing. As a result he was promoted at work and gained a lot of respect. His wife resented his popularity, stating she’d rather have him be a drunk than have people say such things about him, and set out to destroy his reputation. She physically attacked him on way to work, leaving bruises and damaging his clothing then throwing liquor over his clothes to give the appearance that he’d been drunk. When tried to protect himself, she accused him of abuse.

She stopped paying the bills, accusing him of spending his check on liquor and other women, and apparently hired a couple to put him in compromising positions. Because of the turmoil, he lost his job, dropped out of church and finally went back to drinking. The wife was extremely talented, but chose to destroy her husband rather than earning respect herself. A few years ago, a similar story was reported in the news involving a professional football player who was sentenced to prison for spousal abuse. The wife confessed to having deliberately destroyed his reputation because she was jealous.

Property is vandalized because the vandal resents someone else having something nice but isn’t willing to earn his own. Businesses rip people off and destroy their lives rather than building a solid business, as demonstrated by the financial sector in the present financial crisis. Politicians accuse others of corruption and destroy reputations to conceal what they are doing. The lack of concern for others is obvious. It should not be a surprise that they hate those who believe in God and are blessed of him.

Unpleasant as they are, we know who those who openly follow the world’s program are. The dangerous ones are those who, like Cain, pretend to serve God while rejecting his commands. Able loved Cain, and the man in our church loved his wife. Both assumed the feeling was mutual, and both were wrong. It is not wise to make such assumptions. John has given a way of checking ourselves and others for our benefit.

“We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” (I John3:14-15)

We know that we are saved, just as the world does, by our love for other Christians, as John 13:35 advises. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” That love is to extend even to those who do not do or teach what they should, according to II Thessalonians 3:14-15. “And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother.”

Our love for those who don’t conform to our standards is even more indicative of our Christianity than our love for those who do exactly what we say, as we see in Matthew 5:43-46. “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?"

Hatred and efforts to destroy or run down those who do not conform to one’s beliefs or practices standards implies that one is no different then the unsaved world, that he does not actually know the Lord, and is not saved. While we are not to judge, we should examine the fruit. The wrong attitude indicates the wrong spirit.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sinless Perfection?

I John 3:9-15

One of my younger brothers came home from school one day
in shock. Some of the other kids had been doing some things that were wrong and one of their fathers caught them at it. His son said, “My old man was really mad and was going to spank me but I just ran off from him and he couldn’t catch me.”

My brother asked, “What’s wrong with his dad? If we did that, we’d never get to stop running. Dad would always be right behind us, waiting for us to stop for rest or a drink. It’s just easier take the spanking and get it over with.”

While us kids did a lot of stupid things, like most kids, we always knew that wrong doing would surely be punished. As a result, we didn’t do a lot of the things those around us did. Many of them wound up in serious legal problems because they thought they could get by with it, demonstrating what Ecclesiastes 8:11 says. “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”

We didn’t do what others did because we knew we couldn’t get by with it. The country song, Daddy’s Hands describes Dad’s punishment, stating that even when they were causing pain, there was love in Daddy’s hands. In fact it was that love that caused him to administer punishment. He didn’t want us to suffer the things some of the others suffered. Hebrews 12:6-8 says God is the same way, chastening every one of his children. “For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.”

Any person who can habitually get by with sin is not God’s child, because God does not allow his children to behave that way. While they still have the old human nature struggling to do wrong, the Holy Spirit is in them to counteract the old nature, and when they yield to it, Punishment is sure because they cannot get away. Paul describes the experience in Romans 7:9-25. Just as there were things we couldn’t do because My father wouldn’t permit it, there are things Christians can’t do because God will not permit it.

“Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother.” (I John 3;9-10)

While Dad did not physically prevent us from doing wrong, he developed an attitude in us that could not be ignored. One of my brothers got arrested once for something he had done, proving that we were still capable of committing the crimes. He felt so terrible about it that he never dared tell Dad, and he made sure it never happened again.

Prisons physically prevent people from committing crimes, yet the recidivism rate is nearly ninety percent, because the attitude, the spirit if you will has not changed. God changes the spirit, giving us the Holy Spirit. While we are physically capable of doing the sin, we will never be able to keep doing it if we are his children. I Corinthians 6:12 tells us there is no sin capable of taking away salvation. “All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.” We choose not to let them control us.

That some who claim to be Christians can live at peace in a constant state of sin makes it clear that they are not God’s children, and never have been. If they ever had been, the Holy Spirit would have prevented their going to that point. I Corinthians 5 stresses the need for us to withdraw from those who deliberately do wrong and allow God to work freely. We are not to punish them, but to stop protecting them from God. If they are his children, God will chasten them. When He has chastened them we are to receive them back willingly. Galatians 6:1 commands, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” If we get proud that we didn’t get chastened, and rub it in, we’ll be chastened as well.

I John 1:10 states, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” If we were incapable of sin, that verse would be false. There would be no need for an advocate as we find in I John 2:1-2, nor would there be any reason to chasten us. We sin from time to time, but it is not our lifestyle.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Just Like Your Dad

I John 3:1-6

A little boy was walking beside his dad. He wore a cowboy hat just like his dad, cowboy boots, and a western shirt the same color. Almost every action was a copy of what his father did, and his speech was like hearing his father twenty years before. Even had his dad not been present, everyone who knew the father would have known who the boy was. He was obviously proud to be his father’s son, copying him in everyway possible.

People who love God will exhibit a similar desire to be like him. Young Christians should be working to be like him, while mature Christians should have developed an attitude similar to God’s. Just as the little boy adopts his fathers standard if he knows his father’s love, the Christian who understands God’s love will adopt God’s standard, retaining it throughout his life.

“Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.” (I John 3:1-3)

The little boy will continue to emulate his father unless he begins to lose respect for him. The admiration and respect can be destroyed by the father’s actions, or by how others treat or talk about his father. If it is destroyed, he will reject his father’s standards. Proverbs 14:2 states that our attitude toward God will be shown in our behavior. “He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.” If we love the Lord, and understand he came to take away our sin, there will be a desire to eliminate sin from our lives.

“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him.” (I John 3:4-6)

The intent of the traffic law is protection of people’s lives. As a result, there are specific regulations, but provision is made for when following the law exactly would endanger others. For example, the speed limit may be fifty five normally, but if the road conditions are bad, you may still receive a citation for excessive speed if you drive that fast. Emergency vehicles are allowed to exceed the speed limit to protect the lives of others. Though they are allowed to occasionally exceed the speed limit, habitual breaking it is illegal and many emergency vehicle drivers have lost their licenses because of a habit of exceeding the speed limit. Their disregard for the safety of others makes them unfit for the job of protecting others.

In the same way, while an occasional sin may be forgivable, a deliberate lifestyle of sin cannot be overlooked, as it demonstrates a lack of concern about the very thing Jesus died for. It indicates a desire to follow and emulate Satan rather than God. They are copying their father, as Jesus said in John 8:44. “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.” The way a person lives indicates who and what their parents are.

“Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (I John 3:7-8)

The way a person lives tells a great deal about his family, and his attitude toward them. As such, it is an indicator of a person’s relationship with God. While we cannot make a sure judgment from it, it indicates a need to look closer, whether in our own life or of those around us.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Only Teacher You Need

I John 2:27-29

The words translated anoint has the meaning of smearing something on. It is used to speak of applying medication in Revelation 3:18 and James 5:14, to refer to applying hair dressing in Matthew 6:17, or to a ritual pouring of oil on the priest’s head as a sign of his acceptance by God. In Hebrews 9:9 and 10:1, we learn that the Old Testament Tabernacle and Law portray in a physical manner what happens to a Christian spiritually.

The oil in the Tabernacle was specially prepared and appears to portray the Holy Spirit. Just as a man had to be anointed to serve as a priest in the Old testament, the person must have the Holy Spirit to be saved, according to Romans 8:9. “…Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” Being saved, and receiving the Holy Spirit makes us Priests before God according to Revelation 1:5b-6. “…Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, Re 1:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

We have been anointed by God with the Holy Spirit, and as I John 2:20 stated, we know all things. “But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” The word “unction” is translated from the same word as anoint. John 14:26 promises that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things using what Christ has already told his followers. “ But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

John 16:13-15 goes into greater detail about the source of the Holy spirit’s teaching, making it clear he is not going to teach anything contrary to what has already been taught. “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” There is no excuse for the conflict over doctrine or practice between Christians.

“But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him. And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming. If ye know that he is righteous, ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him.” (I John 2:27-29)

Paul told Timothy that the Scriptures provided everything that was needed to Please God. John states that with the Holy Spirit to guide us, no human teacher is needed. There is no need for tradition other than what is found in scripture, or for other books, or for new prophecies. This does not negate the importance of Paul’s command in II Timothy 2:15, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” actually reinforcing the idea of learning what he wants and obeying it.

The only real value of human teachers is in encouraging us to look more closely into the scriptures and find what the Holy Spirit wants to teach us. It was their willingness to put away their preconceived ideas and study to find out what the truth was that made the Bereans greater Christians than the Thessalonians in Acts 17:11. "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.”

Far too often we study to prove we are right, rather than to find out what God said. We are busy listening to the shouting of our pride or some speaker and don’t hear the still, small voice of God. God doesn’t need to shout because his followers are listening for his voice. My hope is that my writing will stimulate my readers to study the scripture more carefully, and allow the Holy Spirit to teach them. I am not the real teacher, just another student, sharing what I am learning. Agreement with me is irrelevant, but agreement with God is essential.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Proven Principles Are Best

I John 2:24-26

It is interesting to note that in our current financial distress, the ten largest American banks are on the list of the one most likely to fail, yet they are the ones giving the highest bonuses to their chairmen. They control over eighty percent of all the accounts in the United States. The strongest banks control only a small percentage of the deposits, required and accepted no bailouts, and have shown smaller but consistent profits throughout the financial trouble.

The troubled banks, like many other businesses have developed new and supposedly more profitable ways of doing business, while the solid banks have continued to do business in the ways that have made banks money for centuries. They are not exciting, and do not offer spectacular gains, and are ignored by most investors. Many survived the Depression, with their only significant losses coming during the period when Roosevelt declared the banking holiday and forced them to shut down their operations.

By sticking to principles that have been proven over hundreds of years, they have been able to avoid most of the difficulties. John advises believers to take a similar approach to being Christian. They should focus on what they know to be true, and allow the Holy Spirit to work in them.

“Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning. If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father. And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life. These things have I written unto you concerning them that seduce you.” (I John 2:24-26)

Many banks were convinced to guarantee huge loans to major corporations for a modest fee. What they didn’t check out was that the same guarantee could be bought from several banks. Thus making it far more profitable for the lender if the corporation defaulted, as each bank would be required to pay the full balance. By canceling lines of credit or increasing interest fees, many corporations were forced to default, putting the banks who guaranteed the loans in jeopardy. They had been seduced by the promise of high and seemingly low risk profits.

Christians are often seduced with promises of great spiritual attainments or greater physical blessing and go for new and exciting ideas. Paul warned Timothy, “But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them;” in II Timothy 3:13-14. If we stick with what we know is the Word of God, we may not appear as exciting, but we will be pleasing to God. The church at Sardis, described in Revelation 3:1-6 probably best describes the tendency.

Just before Paul went to Jerusalem and was arrested, he warned the Ephesian leaders, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them,” in Acts 20:29-30. Similar warnings are found throughout the Gospels, Paul’s other writings, and Peter’s.

Peter was concerned about the need to remember what we have learned in II Peter 2:12-15. “Wherefore I will not be negligent to put you always in remembrance of these things, though ye know them, and be established in the present truth. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance; Knowing that shortly I must put off this my tabernacle, even as our Lord Jesus Christ hath showed me. Moreover I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance.”

Paul stressed that he wasn’t writing some new thing in his different letters, but trying to protect them, in Philippians 3:1. “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.”

II Timothy 3 warns of the attitude in the last days. It reads like a commentator speaking of today. As we see the hundreds of books and popular speakers promising different ways of attaining spiritual power, Paul’s comment in II Timothy 3:7 is so very applicable of modern “Christianity. They are “Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One Lie Corrupts the Whole Story

I John 2:21-23

Smokers develop an addiction to nicotine, and get headaches when they don’t get another dose after a while. What many don’t realize is what a deadly poison it is. Farmers used to give a plug of chewing tobacco to their horses to rid them of intestinal parasites. The amount of nicotine in the tobacco would kill the parasites, but one had to be careful not to give too much for the horse’s sake. Just a very small amount of nicotine introduced into a city’s water supply could poison an entire city. Because of the danger from various poisons, tests have been developed to detect minute amounts of poison in water supplies.

In the same way, just a little falsehood can contaminate a large body of truth, making the whole a lie. The more truth a lie is mixed with, the more likely the lie is to slip by unnoticed. The modern scientific method was developed as a way to detect and eliminate errors and falsehoods from science.

In the scientific method, a preliminary hypothesis is formed based on observation. This hypothesis is then checked by other observations of the same event, for example by seeing if the results can be duplicated. If so, then the hypothesis is tested by varying the conditions to see what the effects will be. If it holds up, the hypothesis is then tested in other settings, by other people to verify that it is not some unique action by the researcher giving the results. As the hypothesis is verified by independent researchers, it becomes a theory. Only when that theory has been proven to be true in every possible case is it considered a fact, called a Law. If at any point in the process a discrepancy is found, the hypothesis is wrong and must be changed to fit the known facts, and re-tested.

As a result, we have the Law of Gravity, for example because it can be proven to exist in every case. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, is only a theory. No evidence that it is not true has been found, but it has not been proven that it is true. Simply put a law is truth, a theory is a guess that is probably true, and a hypothesis is an educated guess. Unfortunately, modern scientific writers frequently assume theory to be law, introducing the likelihood of error. This was the cause of Einstein’s break with many physicists just before his death. He believed they needed to prove that the theory was in fact law before depending on it to support some new theory. Otherwise, science becomes increasingly a series of unsupported guesses and dogma, rather than fact.

God has made it possible for every Christian to know the truth. He has provided ways for us to check our understanding of the truth, despite the inexactness of human language, as we see from II Peter 1:20-21. “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” No passage may be interpreted in isolation, but must be compared to the rest of scripture. Any interpretation which produces conflict with other scripture must be resolved, because God’ word is truth. No lie can be part of the truth.

“I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.” (I John 2:21)

Just as a minute amount of nicotine can poison the water, a minute amount of false hood corrupts the whole doctrine. There must be none present. I John is written to encourage us to exercise discernment and identify falsehood, in our own lives, and in those we contact, and correct it if possible. It is with that in mind that John presents the next passage.

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” (I John 2:22-23)

“Christ” is the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word “Messiah.” There are over 1200 prophecies concerning the Messiah in the Old Testament. John and the other apostles were witnesses of his fulfilling all of them, as well as hearing God speak from heaven, identifying Jesus as the Messiah. There is can be no valid question as to whether he is the Christ. Anyone who denies it has to deliberately ignore or conceal the facts.

A person who denies the statements God has made about Jesus and the Messiah cannot truly believe in a God is incapable of lying, or who knows all things, and designed and created the world. Though they claim to worship the same God, it cannot be the same one. By the same token, one cannot truly believe Christ without accepting his claims about God. If God is not real, then Jesus is just another liar.

Monday, August 23, 2010

There Are Many Antichrists

I John 2:18-20

In 1902, Cecil Rhodes founded the Rhodes scholarships with the goal of promoting a the British Empire. At the time it was to include the British colonies, the United States, and Germany. Students were to be ones who could be expected to become leaders in their field. Rhodes scholars are inculcated with Rhodes’ philosophy of attaining world peace and government, and helped to obtain positions of authority. Today, Rhodes scholars occupy many of the leadership positions in our most prestigious colleges and political institutions, greatly influencing American education and attitudes.

As we look at the United States in the last few years, we see a deliberate effort to break down the traditional standards of the country, and many of the leaders of the effort are either Rhodes scholars or their followers, and do not have the same values as the American majority. Their goal is the attainment of Cecil Rhodes’ goals, rather than those of the founding fathers, or of most Americans. It is why Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid can say it doesn’t matter what the people want with regard to Health care, the Government can seize a company like GM, or why a federal district judge can set aside a legally obtained referendum about gay marriage even though Federal law specifies that it is the purview of the individual state. They enjoy the privileges of citizenship, while trying to destroy the American system.

Some have even gone so far as to give up their American citizenship because they were so opposed to the American system. Their citizenship was not revoked because of some crime they committed, but because they refused to be part of the United States. They are anti-American. There are people in the church in similar condition.

“Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.” (I John 2:18-20)

John 3:16 explains what is it means to be a Christian in a nutshell. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” James 2:19 makes it clear that that belief is more than simply acknowledging Christ’s existence or actions. “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” The devils acknowledge that much, but they are clearly not saved. Hebrews 3:8-19 speaks of the people who went into the desert with Moses because they wanted to escape the slavery of Egypt, yet never committed fully to God in faith. It warns of the same danger in our day.

“Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways. So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.) Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:8-19)

Jesus said salvation was not possible without that commitment by faith in Luke 14:26-33. A recognition of what is expected of Christians is essential. We cannot just “try Jesus,” or accept him as a backup.

“If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.

Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26-33)

Just as there are those in America who do not believe in American principles and are un American, there are those in the church who do not believe in Christ and are unchristian. Those who deliberately reject Christ are antichrist, just as those who oppose American principles are anti American. They are not really part of us, and they leave because they aren’t. They have refused to be part. While there is only one known as the Antichrist, there are many who are antichrist in doctrine and practice.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Loving the World*

I John 2:15-17

One thing that makes English hard to learn as a second language is the many and varied meanings a single word may have. Even those who speak only English may forget or not know some of the meanings of a word, and misunderstand a statement as a result. This becomes especially problematic as meanings change over time

One word that can be easily misunderstood is the word ‘fear.’ In modern English the most common use of the word by far is that of being actually afraid. If we accept that definition in every case, Leviticus 19:3 forces us to overlook child abuse. “Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.” After all children are to be afraid of their parents, if we accept that definition. Comparing it with many other references, however, we find that that is not what is meant at all. Exodus 20 12 for example, states “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” Numerous other verses also use the word “honor.”

As used here, the word ‘fear’ means the same as the modern meaning of the word ‘respect,’ another word that has a different meaning in modern English than in old English. This is the usual meaning of ‘fear’ in the phrase “fear the Lord.” The phrase is used throughout the Old Testament, but rarely in the new. To love the Lord is a more common phrase, and from I Corinthians 13:4-8, we see that an attitude of respect is essential to show love.

Proverbs 14:2 states that a person’s behavior demonstrates his attitude toward God. “He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.” A man who respects God will endeavor to do what is right. He will begin to hate what is not right. Proverbs 8:13 defines the things people who respect or fear God will hate. “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.”

In modern society, pride and arrogance are considered desirable traits. After all as one Ad states, “I deserve it.” Dishonesty, deceit, extortion and intimidation are hallmarks of successful business, as is demonstrated by the attitudes of the banking system. The refusal to control their tongue abounds in our society, and is encouraged. Clearly our modern world has no respect for God, which we already knew. The Christian attitude ought to be different.

“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.” (I John 2:15-17)

It is impossible to love God while loving the things of the world. Everything the world offers is for earthly pleasure, and is purely temporary. In addition, it all comes at the expense of other people, and requires doing things that are against God to obtain. Everything the world offers caters to one of three things.

The first thing the world offers is the lust of the flesh, the satisfaction of physical desires, whether excess food, drugs, or sexual pleasure. Religiously it refers to finding a religion that makes one feel good as they are. We see the effects in the levels of obesity, drug use and promiscuity in the modern world.

The lust of the eyes refers to the attitude of getting something that looks better, a newer car, a bigger house, a prettier wife, or a higher paying job. Religiously, it focuses on activities in the church.

The pride of life is about competition, about being stronger, smarter, prettier, richer, better, or more powerful. It drives our politicians, our sports figures, our super wealthy people. Religiously the focus is on being the biggest or most famous, or having the fanciest buildings.

Everyone of these direct our attention away from God. As Jesus points out you cannot serve two masters. Matthew 6:24-34 addresses the point in some detail. One must choose which he loves. By default, by not making a choice, we choose the world. Proverbs 23:17-18 advises, “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long. For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.” Don’t get discouraged and give in to the temptation to go along.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Reason For Writing I John

I John 2:12-14

My chemistry teacher in high school retired the next year. He had been teaching chemistry since he graduated from college, and was bored stiff with the subject. As a result , we spent little time in the classroom discussing the subject, focusing on things that interested him instead. While I got an “A” in his class, I learned almost nothing about chemistry.

Because of my “A” in high school chemistry, I was required to take the advanced class in college. I almost flunked because there was so much I needed to know that I hadn’t obtained in other classes and I needed them to understand what was being taught in that class. Thoroughly confused, I struggled with classes in physics that required a solid chemistry background, although other parts were easy. Only when I read an old high school chemistry book did I begin to understand what had been taught in my advanced class. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go back and retake the class at that point.

The entire Bible, and especially the New Testament is written like a college correspondence course. Each book in the New Testament is written for a special purpose, yet each relates to and builds on what is taught in the others. II Peter 1:20 tells us nothing is to be interpreted by itself. To fully understand what is being taught requires relating it to what is taught in the other books as well. Like the correspondence course, we can easily go back and review what we didn’t fully understand.

As we examine the different books, we find that Romans is the basic Christianity 101 and 102, explaining basic doctrine, then teaching how to apply it. Hebrews is advanced doctrine, and is difficult for those without a sound basis in basic doctrine to understand. James deals with issues that particularly affect those of Jewish background, while I Peter is especially concerned with those who have no experience with Jewish teaching. Each of the other books serve similar purposes, and I John is no exception.

II Peter focused on the danger of being misled by false teachers, explaining how to find out what the truth is. Jesus said we were to identify a tree by it’s fruit, and I John teaches us what to look for to identify fruit. By learning to properly identify the fruit we can verify our own relationship with God as well as those we come in contact with. Being able to make valid assessments is critical at every stage of Christian development.

I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name's sake. I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I write unto you, young men, because ye have overcome the wicked one. I write unto you, little children, because ye have known the Father. I have written unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning. I have written unto you, young men, because ye are strong, and the word of God abideth in you, and ye have overcome the wicked one.” (I John 2:12-14)

Being sure of his salvation is critical for the growth of a new Christian. Assurance does not come from reviewing the sinner’s prayer, but from the Holy Spirit, according to Romans 8:16. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” Young Christians need assurance that their sins are forgiven, and that they are capable of knowing God themselves, and are not dependent on what someone else tells them.

They also need to understand the point Paul makes in Romans 6:1-4. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Knowing that we are free from sin doesn’t excuse further sin. God is not glorified by being forced to forgive other sin.

Older Christians can become discouraged and begin to doubt the validity of their experience and need reassurance, or they can begin to drift away because they are so familiar with what they have already learned that they assume they cannot be misled, and getting caught up in false teaching.

Strong mature Christians can become proud of their accomplishments and begin to try to serve God in their own power, or they can begin to feel they have attained what they needed to do and can focus on doing their own thing, becoming less faithful. God’s messages to the churches in Revelation 2-3 describe what happens and what is needed.

Constant checking ourselves and our relationship with God enables us to avoid falling into various traps that await the unwary. John has written this book so we will know where we are. Without it, we are much like a person walking along the edge of a cliff at night. We are unsure exactly where the danger lies. A light enables us to see the edge, and obstacles that might make us stumble. John explains how to turn the light on.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


I John 2:7-11

The dry climate has always made maintaining a nice lawn difficult in New Mexico. For hundreds of years, people only used native plants for decoration. As people from the East, used to a wetter climates moved to our state, they missed the lush greenery they were used to and pushed for restrictive covenants requiring lawns and landscaping to produce it. Irrigation was able to produce in the desert what occurred naturally in wetter climates.

Today, a burgeoning population, and increasing usage of water for industrial purposes has raised water usage to levels that water is becoming scarce. Cities are finding it necessary to restrict water usage, and residents of some communities are finding themselves caught between the demands of restrictive covenants and city restrictions. They can be fined for using too much water, and for not having a satisfactory landscape. Xeriscaping, or low water usage landscaping does not produce the lush effect demanded by the covenants. People have been forced to give up their homes because they could not afford to meet both standards.

Natural landscaping is considered a new idea, yet it has only been in the last hundred years or so that people have demanded lawns and decorative landscaping. Areas where rainfall made the grass grow naturally had lawns, but dry areas did not. We are just going back to the older standard, although some people view it as a radical and abnormal change to be prevented.

Christianity is often viewed as a new and radical change from the old ways, and Christian standards are rejected by many religious groups. Even groups which purport to be Christian hold traditional standards other than what Christ taught. For them, John’s teaching seems new and dangerous.

“Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth.” (I John 2:7-8)

The Jews had been given the old Testament law in Moses’ day. It was a standard that the Jews were to live by in order to receive earthly blessings. Deuteronomy 7:12-16 describes the results of obeying Gods commands, while Deuteronomy28:58-68 describes the consequences of failure to obey the law. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil." Christian standards are intended to accomplish what the Law intended.

The restrictive covenants were intended to establish a satisfactory standard of landscaping for the communities. Unfortunately the demands were abnormal and became difficult to meet, demanding constant watering, mowing, trimming and fertilizing. Natural landscaping, or xeriscaping eliminates almost all the above chores while still providing an attractive landscape. Ultimately, the covenants could be summed up as people were to keep their places looking nice.

Stated that the entire law could be summed up in two simple commandments in Matthew 22:37-40. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” The new command he gave is just a simplified, and more easily met version of the old law. John 13:34 expresses the new command. “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”

Jesus went on to say that it was through the demonstration of that love that others would know whether we actually knew the Lord in John 13:35. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Just as love for our parents will cause us to accept and even love our siblings, love for God will produce acceptance and love for his other children.

He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.” (I John 2:9-11)

Dogs naturally hunt and kill rabbits, yet a dog who loves his master will not harm his master’s pet rabbit because his master loves it. A dog which is jealous of other pets loves what he gets from the master but does not love the master himself. So called Christians who attack other Christians are more in love with themselves than with the Lord. They are living in the dark and there is no darkness in the Lord. They are going to stumble and fall into sin because they do not know the truth, they have no light.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

So you Messed Up, It Can Be Fixed.

I John 2:1-6

Before going into the ministry, my dad was a contractor, and worked for several years as a construction supervisor. After entering the ministry, he oversaw the construction of numerous church buildings and parsonages. Most of the time in those later years, he had only volunteer labor, many times people with no experience in construction. He never seemed to have trouble getting people to help, and often they would put in a whole day at their regular job before coming to help him. I have no idea how many people’s first work experience came from volunteering to help Dad as a kid.

Over the years, working in the construction industry, I saw many supervisors who could not keep employees, no matter what they paid. There were several differences I saw that made tremendous difference. I never saw Dad lose his temper at an employee and chew him out like many others do. Dad taught us no one has the right to treat anyone that way because the Bible teaches us to respect all men. He treated them with respect even when they did foolish things. There is nothing more disrespectful than the way some people bawl someone out.

Dad insisted that things be done the best way possible, but he understood that people make mistakes. As he taught us, almost anything can be fixed. Other supervisors developed men who were afraid to do anything until they had been told because they were afraid of what the boss would say if they were wrong. Guys working for Dad learned that honest mistakes were not disastrous, and gained the confidence to do things themselves. They were inspired to try new things, and to do better. If a mistake was made, the reasons why it was wrong were clearly explained so one knew how to avoid repeating it. People who refused to follow instructions were reassigned to jobs where they did less damage.

As I read Johns comments, I realize how much my Dad’s management style was like God’s. He wants things done the best way possible, and has given instructions for us to follow to accomplish that. Should we mess up, however, it is fixable, and thus is not a disaster. He has made provision for some mistakes. His goal is for us to gain confidence in doing following his plan. Notice John’s statements.

“My 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: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2)

It is not God’s plan that we sin. He understands our predilection to do so because Jesus Christ “…was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” according to Hebrews 4:15. Because he had no sin of his own, Galatians 1:14 tells us, he “… gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.”

When people realized they’d made a mistake, they’d often go to my dad and say, “I messed up.” He’d then help them fix it. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Jesus Christ is there as our advocate to take care of our sin, and Hebrews 4:16 says we should not hesitate to confess it. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” If we tell him what we did wrong, he’ll fix it, and he will do it for anyone.

Because of Dad’s reputation, guys were often hired because they had worked for him, and prospective employers had an idea what to expect. Their attitude, skills, and work ethic were different than those who had worked for others. The time spent affected everything about their work, and it showed at work. How closely we associate with God will show up in how we fulfill what he teaches us.

“And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.” (I John 2:3-5)

A person who refuses to confess his sin, and stop, doesn’t know the forgiveness of God. He isn’t one of God’s children. The Holy Spirit will stop those who are God’s children. A person who truly knows and loves God will not deliberately and persistently continue to rebel against him. Jesus said the same thing in John 14:23-24. “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me.”

Our obedience is one evidence of our Christianity. As I John 2:6 says, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Our sin is only a serious problem if we try to hide it rather than letting God take care of it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Walking in the Light

I John 1:5-10

I have been going for walks across the BLM land just to the north of our church in the evening. Some days, the sun is so bright and hot as to be very unpleasant. Since the area is considered desert, it is almost a mile to the first juniper tree, and about two miles to a small group. There is nowhere to get into the shade unless one takes a car along the road, so very few people use the area for walking, preferring to go to the river walk at one of the local parks where one can walk in the shade. People who want to walk in the desert with me must be willing to walk in the sun as that is where I usually go.

John says it is even more impossible to walk with God without walking in the light than it is to walk with me without being out in the sun. He is light. To walk with him is to be exposed to light.

“This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I John 1:5-7)

When I walk, anyone who walks with me must also walk with everyone else who accompanies me. Many times I have taken groups on hikes. Sometimes there are some who don’t want to associate with others in the group because of pride or guilt. They have to choose whether to walk with me or to not walk with the one they are trying to avoid. Sometimes they choose to walk away from the group. To walk with God, one has to lay aside conflicts with others who walk with God. I Corinthians 3:3 makes it very clear that conflict indicates an unspiritual state, not walking with God. “For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?

Light makes everything visible that is exposed to it as Ephesians 5:13 reminds us. “But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.” Since God is light, associating with him is going to reveal the truth about his associates. Many are afraid to take that chance, preferring to show only what they want others to believe. John 3:19-21 explains. “And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.”

Proverbs 28:13 warns, “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” Acknowledging our sin and an intent to change are critical to salvation. An unwillingness to do so prevents many from receiving salvation.

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (I John 1:8-10)

When we refuse to acknowledge our sin, or blame it on others, we call God a liar, because we don’t want to believe him. Only by taking responsibility for our actions and believing God can we be forgiven. Human nature wants to avoid taking responsibility, implying that some one else caused them to sin, but it is self deception. They may have encouraged or misled us, but it is our responsibility. Until we take our responsibility, neither praying the sinners prayer, being baptized, joining the church, or any amount of other good works can save us because we have not believed God.

On the other hand, if we confess our sin, God promises not only to forgive it, but to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, i.e. everything that is not right. The biggest difference between David and King Saul was David’s willingness to confess when he’d done wrong. Saul repeatedly tried to excuse himself, as in I Samuel 13:11 or I Samuel 15:13-15, and 21. He was willing to even kill his own son because he would not accept responsibility in I Samuel 14. As a result, David was called a man after God’s own heart, and given eternal promises, but Saul was rejected from being king.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Solid Foundation For Belief

I John 1:1-4

When I started college, I was studying to become an engineer. The program of study was carefully designed to show how each principle was developed, based on scientific testing and study, then applied to designing new machinery and structures. I enjoyed doing geometric proofs an the study of logic because each step had to be demonstrated to be true before moving to the next step. Because peoples lives might depend on the design of an airplane, a bridge, a building, or a power plant, every step must be carefully studied and designed to provide more than adequate protection, at the best possible cost.

Thanks to the effort to make sure that every portion of the design was correct, there are still drivable Model T cars, built as a cost that ordinary people could afford them. Airplanes built during the fifties still fly commercial flights, and the Empire state building and the Golden Gate bridge are in daily use.

Knowing how to do many of the needed calculations, it is troubling to see attempts to copy someone else’s design without verifying that each part is properly designed, resulting in failure of critical components, in an effort to save on design costs. People have died in collapsing buildings or bridges because the designs were not fully engineered, just copying someone else’s design, and critical details were ignored. A single flaw, or a series of minor errors, may cause the collapse of the entire structure.

As I study the Bible, I am impressed that the care to carefully document the basis for each claim or statement is so similar to what we did in our engineering classes. It is critical because people’s eternity hangs in the balance, as well as their life now as we see in I Timothy 4:8. “For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.” It would be silly to have a bridge built without assurances as to the design. It is equally silly to base our eternity on a system that can’t be verified.

Paul states that God is the author or designer of the scripture, in II Timothy 3:16. “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” In essence God signed of as the engineer responsible for the design, although others did the drafting, at his instruction according to II Peter 1:21. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

It is impossible to show every detail clearly in a single architectural or engineering plan, so various drawings are made to clarify different aspects of what is required. Plumbers, electricians, framers and heating specialists must know what the plans call for on each set of plans and adapt their work to fit the engineers intention. It is critical that the various draftsmen who drew different parts be qualified, and directed by the chief engineer.

Throughout the Bible, God has given us points of reference so we can check the accuracy of our understanding and of our lives, just as engineering drawings give dimensions, which can be verified from plan to plan. It is these references that assure us of the accuracy of our work and that we have an accurate plan. John gives a set of reference points here that we can work from.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life; (For the life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us;) That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us: and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ. And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.” (I John 1:1-4)

John is not writing the things he thought, or some tradition, but what he actually experienced, what he heard from God the father, or from Jesus Christ, what he actually saw, and what he and the other apostles did. We can check what is taught here with the records of the other apostles to verify the accuracy of his teaching. Peter describes the same basis for his teaching.

“For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount.” (II Peter 1:16-18)

Luke was not one of the apostles, but an interested observer of the teachings and life of Christ and the apostles. He describes what he observed from the sidelines, to make sure there was no mistake about the truth. Luke 1:1-4 records his basis. “Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed."

Because we can go back to those reference points and verify their accuracy, we are able to trust the accuracy of other scriptures. Anything which contradicts them must thus be incorrect. John’s teachings are to be taken on that basis.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Does It Really Matter?

II Peter 3:11-18

I installed a water treatment system on a log house northeast of Durango, Colorado. It is located about four and a half miles off the nearest major road, and the road is so steep that my work truck could hardly climb it. The house sets in the edge of the forest, in a beautiful location, getting it’s water from two wells.

When the county issued the building permit, they required that a fire protection system and sprinklers be put in the house with adequate storage because there was no way the fire department could arrive in time to save the house. The fire system alone required about two thousand gallons of water storage, a huge pump, and a full sprinkler system, costing a huge amount of money.

These requirements were made after the Missionary Ridge fire burned about thirty homes. Such large forest fires are uncommon, but the possibility that another one could happen prompted the requirements. God has warned of the judgment to fall on the earth, including the final burning the earth itself. Believing that it is coming, it is stupid not to take measures to protect ourselves when it happens.

“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Peter 3:11-13)

We know that the world is going to be destroyed because of the wickedness of mankind. We also know that Christ died to make propitiation for our sins. We can by faith receive that salvation, and deliverance from the power of sin, as Romans 6:6 declares, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.” To go back and live in sin after being saved is as if the owner of the house decided it would be alright to start build a campfire in the middle of the living room because the Fire protection system would keep it from burning down the house.

Although the house might be saved, the fire, smoke and water damage would never be completely erased, Seriously reducing the value and pleasure in the home for as long as it stood. Building the fire would be a really stupid thing to do for a person who intended to keep the house. Going back into sin will seriously affect our eternity, and thus is a really stupid thing for a person who believes in eternal life to do. Romans 6:15-16 asks, “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?”

An owner who set his house on fire because the fire protection system would stop it from burning down would almost have to be drunk or high on drugs, thinking only of the moment. A sober person would consider the impact over a longer term. A person who is looking for God’s kingdom will be focused beyond the pleasure of the moment.

“Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” (II Peter 3:14-16)

If we believe that we are going to spend eternity with the Lord, and appreciate what he has done, there will be an effort to find out what he wants and do it. John 14:21 states, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me:…” A person who doesn’t care enough to find out what God wants or to do it doesn’t love the Lord. Knowing what God wants requires more than a superficial scanning of the scriptures, and many don’t care enough to study it thoroughly. If we don’t, we may be led to believe something other than the truth ourselves, no longer depending on Christ for our righteousness, but on our own efforts and understanding.

“Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.” (II Peter 3:17-18)

To avoid falling away, it will be necessary to increase in our knowledge of him, allowing him to produce changes in us. II Corinthians 3:18 states, “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” He will get the glory because it is him that changes us. As Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

It’s Still Going to Happen*

II Peter 3:8-10

Moving to the reservation used to be a real shock to most Americans. Everything was on Navajo time. When we first came, almost no one had a watch. Time was determined by location of the sun or moon. Only the few who had watches knew when it was eight o’clock. For everyone else, it was just around eight. They had no way of identifying the exact time, and as far as herding sheep and raising corn were concerned, it was more than adequate to estimate the hour.

To a society that had been raised where everything started at the exact minute, it was frustrating. Navajos had a different concept of time than most Americans, because they had no way of precise measurement. As a result, most Americans were frustrated in their attempts to impose their attitude about time on the Navajo people.

All humans are bound by time. We are born on a particular day. The sun rises and sets, establishing a period of time called a day. Movements of the earth and moon establish other divisions of time such as months and years. One day we die and our life ends. Time is a major element for us. We have invented accurate clocks that measure minutes and seconds, and some measure millionths of a second. Minutes and seconds are totally human inventions. While they are quite convenient for measuring time, there is no natural standard for it, and thus it is impossible to keep track of without a clock.

On other planets and moons, the standards are different than on earth. A Lunar day lasts twenty eight earth days. A day on Mars is Mars is thirty nine minutes longer than a day on earth, but a year is 687 days long, or nearly twice as long as an earth year. We realize that concepts of time would be different if we lived on Mars than it is on earth.

God is an eternal being, according to Daniel 33:27. “The eternal God is thy refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms:” He was already there when the world was created according to Genesis 1:1. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. John 1:1-2 states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God." He was literally the beginning of the earth, and will be the ending of the earth, as he said in Revelation 22:13. “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” Hebrews 7:3 describes the priest Melchisedec as “Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually.”

Just as a minute or second has no real meaning without a measure, a day had no meaning until God created the first day. That he uses the present tense I am in revelation 22:13, rather than saying I was the beginning, and I will be the ending implies that to him there is no real binding of time. For us, time is a one way linear progression, like sand running out of an hourglass. We can reverse the hour glass, putting the sand back but not putting time back. God on the other hand is able to reverse the hourglass and put the time back as well. He can also alter our measures of time. Joshua 10:13-14 describes him as stopping the setting of the sun. II Kings 20:9-11 describes him as making it back up about forty minutes on the sundial. He had to change the earth’s rotation in both cases. Unlike humans, God is not controlled by time. Understanding this will affect our faith.

“But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (II Peter 3:8-9)

Just as the Navajo concept of time was difficult for modern Americans to understand, I is difficult for us to understand God’s concept. As a result, we can become frustrated and impatient, deciding he has forgotten his promise, and giving up, just as many other people did in dealing with the Navajos. We need to be aware of the difference in our understanding of time. Too often we are like the little child asking “are we there yet?”.

God has deliberately delayed his coming to give unbelievers an opportunity to change their mind, because he does not want anyone to have to suffer, but if they refuse, he will judge. Romans 2:4-6 explains, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds:” The delay does not indicate a change in plans.

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.” (II Peter 3:10)

Jesus said that if a man knew what time a thief would come, it would be easy to stop him. The problem is that we don’t and have to be ready at any time. The fact that he didn’t come when we most expected him doesn’t mean he isn’t coming. We still need to be ready. Jesus told the disciples “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” in Acts 1:7.

God is going to judge the earth exactly as he said. When eh said the earth will be burned up, some question whether that means literally, but he said the elements, the molecular elements such as carbon, helium, silicone, and iron would melt. Pure iron melts at nearly 5,000 degrees, and silicone melts at a still higher temperature. Pure carbon melts at about 6,700 degrees Fahrenheit. At that point everything else has already burned up or evaporated.

Revelation 6:12-14 describes some of the other events that will occur just before the earth burns. “And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.”

If there was a forest fire headed toward my home, I would prepare to fight the fire or evacuate as needed. Knowing that these things are coming in the future, I do not want to be caught unprepared.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Does The Expert Know?

II Peter 3:1-7

My mom grew up in the heart of the dustbowl, at Campo Colorado. As a child, there were still deserted homes, traces of old buried fence lines, and many old CCC projects still around. While little was said about the dustbowl, most adults remembered it, and became quite tense when dust started blowing. As a child, I remember going to town, and having to shovel dust out of the house when we got home.

I have been interested in reading Timothy Eagan’s book, The Worst Hard Time, describing the experiences of people during the period and comparing it with the experiences of my own family. It is troubling to realize how many hard working and devoted people lost everything they had, often including their lives as a result of the dust.

The really shocking thing are the causes. Long before the area was settled, various Indian tribes had lived in the area, following the buffalo and living well. There are evidences that at times some had tried farming and found it only minimally successful. Spanish explorers surveyed the land and concluded that it was not suitable for farming, but would work well for raising livestock. A few Spanish and Mexican families settled in the area to do so.

When the United States obtained the land as a result of the Louisiana Purchase, Calvary officers and surveyors concluded that the land was not suitable for widespread cultivation because the annual rainfall averaged less than twenty inches per year, and the continual wind evaporated much of the moisture from unprotected ground, which then blew away. Ranchers and cowboys working in the same area came to the same conclusion, soon learning that they had to limit even the number of cattle to keep from overgrazing and causing wind erosion.

Despite the experiences and warnings of those already in the area, real estate people began promoting that the land was cheap and a fortune could be made, enticing thousands into the area. The homestead act was expanded to encourage more people to move into the area as well. A period of a above average rainfall caused great grass crops, making the land look extra productive. Old timers were not able to warn people before they bought, and were ignored when they did.

War and drought in Europe and other areas created demand that pushed the price of wheat to record levels, and the wet years caused bumper crops. Machinery became available to do much of the work and huge profits were made for about five years. Speculators called suitcase farmers rented as much land as possible, and planted wheat with no concern except for the profit they would make.

The war overseas ended, and demand for wheat dropped, leaving huge surpluses an the price dropped below the cost of producing it. Those who were just out to get as much as possible simply walked away leaving the land bare. When the wet period ended, those who remained had trouble producing a crop at all. Huge areas of bare topsoil were exposed to the wind and blew away. It was largest and most expensive disaster our nation ever experienced.

The entire disaster occurred because over three hundred years experience and warnings were ignored. In their pride, people became convinced that the new crops would cause the unusual rainfall to continue., or that special methods of farming, such as dust mulching would overcome the lack. As things began to decline, the Government guaranteed wheat prices, encouraging them to plant more, and ignoring growing concern by farmers, and agricultural experts.

Millions of people fell for the promoters claims and never checked them out. Peter wrote this letter because he was concerned that Christians would fall for claims by those with no real knowledge, who gained a popular following. His intent was to remind them of the reality, and get them to listen to instruction from people who knew the truth.

“This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour: Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (II Peter 3:1-4)

Promoters and self styled experts convinced people that the rainfall would remain at the abnormally high levels and the demand for wheat would maintain record prices, enabling everyone to get rich. The same attitude has caused the present financial crisis. By looking into history, we can see similar spiritual crises. Man can only go so far before God causes things to be put right. Deliberately ignoring that only results in disaster, yet man chooses not to know.

“For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (II Peter 3:5-7)

Evidence for a world wide flood abounds. There are legends in every ancient culture of a worldwide flood. Fossils and petrified wood require rapid burial and hardening of stone. The huge canyons such as Grand canyon indicate they were formed when the rock was not yet hardened. Every evidence of seven ice ages can be explained by a single world wide flood. The formation of coal, and oil are more consistent with a flood than with the evolutionary theory.

A friend of mine married a man who was involved in studying the effects of the Mount St. Helens collapse. He visited and studied the initial collapse, then returned ten years later to document the changes. As a result he became convinced that the modern claims of historical geology to prove evolution are bogus, and became a Christian. Nevertheless, many choose to believe in evolution.

Paul wrote about this in Romans 1:20-23. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” There is no excuse for falling for the lie. Man makes his own choice.

Monday, August 9, 2010

No Water At The Well

II Peter 2:17-22

Several years ago, I took a group to see the cliff dwellings in St. Michaels, Arizona. Most of the kids didn’t take any water, and after a couple hours of hiking around, became quite thirsty. Driving back we passed the old hand pumped well and stopped so the kids could get a drink. Apparently the pump had lost it’s prime, and would not pump any water. After pumping a while everyone was a lot thirstier, and we were desperate to get back to the house for a drink. The half hour drive seemed to take forever.

The well indicated the water we needed was available and led us to further expend time and energy trying to get it, and making us worse off than before. False teachers are like that old well. They divert us from the truth with promises of things we want, and use our energy in fruitless effort.

“These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.” (II Peter 2:17-18)

Most businesses use targeted advertising, because they know that the most likely buyers fit a certain profile. Whether you are selling cars, furniture, toys, shoes, or drugs, knowing what the customer wants makes it much simpler. Shoe manufacturer, for example, have found that by making a shoe appeal to a certain age group, they can get a premium price. A pair of five hundred dollar Nike basketball shoes provide the same protection and traction as a twenty-five dollar pair of Spalding basket ball shoes. They do not promise the same social prestige, and it is the prestige some people are after.

In a similar way, false teachers focus on specific desires and adjust their teaching to satisfy those wants, whether for more material belongings, a higher spiritual level than others, or an exclusive place in heaven. There is always that appeal to be better than other people in some way. The idea of being a better Christian than others is especially appealing to those with a sincere desire to serve God, who have turned to Christ and away from sin.

Some false teachers are like Balaam, knowing God, but so craving what they desire that they are willing to modify God’s word to attain it. Others are like Jezebel, not believing in God at all and ths free to teach anything they think will accomplish their goals. More complete descriptions can be found in the Messages to the Churches. While the teachers promise spiritual and financial freedom, they are slaves to their own lusts, and controlled ultimately by sin.

“While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” (II Peter 2:19)

Romans 16;17-18 to avoid those who deliberately cause division because they are serving their own lusts. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” The problem is that as Romans 6:16 says, when we become slaves to what we serve. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” Hebrews 10:26-27 warns of the danger of deliberately turning away from God. “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.” When they knowingly and deliberately turn away there is no longer any hope of turning them back to Christ.

“For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them.” (II Peter 2:20-21)

Judas Iscariot gives us a great example of what Peter is talking about. In Acts 1:16-17, Peter himself said that Judas was considered one of them and had a part in their ministry. “Men and brethren, this scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus. For he was numbered with us, and had obtained part of this ministry.” This despite the fact that in John 6:20, shortly after calling him, Jesus himself said he was a devil. “Jesus answered them, Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” John 12:6 states that Judas’ interest was in the rewards, not the ministry, because he was a thief. “This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” While praying in the garden, before he was betrayed Jesus referred to him as the ‘son of perdition,’ in John 17:12. “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.”

Judas was one of the twelve who went out, performing miracles and casting out devils in Mark 6:6-13, helping at the feeding of the five thousand, and watching all the miracles. In spite of this Jesus still said he wasn’t one of them, and he turned against the Lord. I John 2:19 makes it clear that while they were considered as part those who turn back really weren’t part. “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” As he says, if they had been part of us, they would not have gone back to the old life.

“But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.” (II Peter 2:22)

Though they can act like a Christian for a while, the old nature will eventually overcome the training and they revert back to acting what they really are. They have not lost their salvation, it just becomes obvious they weren’t really saved.

Friday, August 6, 2010

What Kind of Fruit Do They Have?

I Peter 2:9-16

When I was in third grade. We had the old time desks with had the seat mounted on the desk behind it. Some kids thought it was really funny to wiggle their seat when one was trying to write an assignment, messing up the penmanship and causing mistakes. Some teachers never caught on and blamed the victim for sloppiness or disrupting the class if they retaliated. Other teachers watched more closely, and would straighten the problem out immediately, punishing the one causing the problem.

Like the better teachers, the Lord is alert to what is going on. He knows the ones who are trying to lead others astray for their own benefit. He also knows the ones who have been deceived and are ignorantly leading others astray convinced they are right.

“The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.” (II Peter 2:9-11)

Judgment will be especially severe for those who in their arrogance have boldly condemned true teachers, convinced they could not be wrong themselves. These false teachers go where angels fear to tread, accusing God’s men of heresy and blasphemy, when the angels would not dare to make such accusations against the false teachers. Jesus said, Mt 7:20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” in Matthew 7:20, and their unspiritual attitude gives them away.

"But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time.” (II Peter 2:12-13a)*

A wolf, acting on his natural instincts, may attack and kill an entire flock of sheep, having no concept that the sheep belong to a shepherd. To protect his flock the shepherd may be forced to kill the wolf once he finds out how easy it is to kill a sheep. These false teachers, with no understanding of the truth attack true doctrine and it’s teachers in an effort to turn away believers, and will be destroyed by God, just like the rest of the wicked. Their religion will be no protection.

"Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you; Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man's voice forbad the madness of the prophet.” (II Peter 2:13b-16)

I just opened a repacked box of strawberries I bought at Walmart, and ate one. It tasted horrible. Near the center of the box was a berry covered with what appears to be a fungus. Apparently, though I couldn’t see it, the fungus had spread to the berry I tasted. The false teachers are like the fungus, concealing themselves among those who believe the truth, and infecting everyone possible.

In Romans 16:17-18, Paul instructed the Roman Christians, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.” Peter describes them as lacking spiritual power to cease from sin, having their eyes full of adultery, whether physical or spiritual, and working for what they covet, rather than to please God.

Numbers 22-24 tells the story of Balaam. After God forbid him to go with Balak, Balaam kept asking God to allow him to go. When God granted permission if certain conditions were met, Balaam ignored the conditions God gave and went anyway because he wanted to attain a high position with Balak’s government, with the accompanying financial rewards. After his donkey had demonstrated more spiritual insight than Balaam, he ignored the angel’s warning not to speak anything except what God had said in an effort to salvage something. Explaining why he couldn’t curse Israel and to justify himself with Balak, he revealed the reason for God’s blessings, and Balak used that against Israel. It cost him his life in Numbers 31.

Like Balaam, these false teacher are more concerned with attaining their goals than with what God actually said. They don’t hesitate to ignore or change the interpretation of scripture that contradicts their position. Titus 3:10-11 instructs us not to waste time trying to change the belief of someone who is committed to their position. “A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.” He is not interested in the truth, but in promoting his position.

* Notice that the separation of the verses is according to the original punctuation, ending at a period, whereas the verse divisions in both cases end at a semicolon, indicating the thought is not complete. Verse divisions were added by man later for convenience, and were not inspired by God. While it does not greatly affect interpretation of this passage, observing the punctuation can greatly affect the understanding of other scriptures. The punctuation should always be checked.