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Author Archives: Gary E. Davenport

About Gary E. Davenport

Christian man, husband, father, father-in-law, and granddaddy

Philosophical Arguments for the Existence of God (can be discussed without using the Bible)


Through the years rational and philosophical arguments have been developed in support of belief in God. These complicated arguments involve philosophical principles unfamiliar to the average person. They will be briefly stated here so that some familiarity with them may be gained at least. (These can be discussed without using the Bible).

1. The Cosmological Argument. 

This argument approaches the issue of the existence of God from the viewpoint of the existence of the
reasons to believeworld. The very existence of the world argues a beginning and an actuating cause, which cause believers affirm is God. If the universe had an origin, there must have been some causative force behind it, for there is no such thing as an uncaused beginning. “God is the infinite and perfect Spirit in whom all things have their source, support, and end” (A.H. Strong). Herbert Spencer speaks of “the absolute certainty that we are ever in the presence of an infinite and eternal energy from which all things proceed.”

 2. The Teleological Argument.

The object of this argument is to demonstrate an end or purpose of all things that comprise the universe. Simply stated, this argument affirms that order and purpose require an intelligent cause, or that the design of anything in itself suggests a designer. The presence of a beautiful building argues the work of an architect, an engineer and a builder. The presence of the universe, therefore, wonderfully produced and precisely arranged, argues divine intelligence behind it. We have evidence all about us of marvelous design: man, the planetary system, flowers, animals, the chemical elements, principles of physics, and the like.

 3. The Moral Argument.

The fact that man possesses moral concepts of right and wrong, which are not of human origin, also argues the existence of a Supreme Being. The fact that these moral laws, unvarying from generation to generation, so frequently condemn man shows that man is not the author of them. Sophocles speaks of “the unwritten laws of God that know not change; they are not of today or yesterday, but live forever.” Immanuel Kant, the philosopher, was so strongly impressed with the strength of the moral argument that he was willing to rest the case of the existence of God on it.

4. The Ontological Argument.

The ontological argument asserts the existence of God from the fact that man has a concept of Him. Since man does possess a concept of a Supreme Being, from what source is this concept derived? The fact is that man’s concept of a Supreme Being is received through inspiration, and is of divine origin. Man also possesses ideas of the infinite and supernatural-a supernatural Being that possesses the attributes of infinite goodness, perfection, justice, holiness, power, wisdom, and authority. These attributes are the very ones that are distinct qualities of God.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in God

 

What is our greatest need?


If you’re sick, you may think, “My greatest need is to be healed of this illness.” If you’re unemployed, you may think, “My greatest need is to get a good job to provide for my needs.”

If you’re single, you may think, “My greatest need is for a mate.” If you’re in a difficult marriage, you may think, “My greatest need is for harmony in my marriage.” If you have a child who has become ensnared by drug abuse, you may think that your greatest need is for your child to be free from this addiction.

While all of these are important needs, none of them are your greatest need. The greatest need of every person, whether he recognizes it or not, is to have God forgive his sins before he dies and faces God’s eternal punishment.

        Mark 2:1-12 (ESV)
1  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
10  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
11  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
12  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

Mark encourages us to notice the crowd in this house, or the four men who cared enough about this man to go to a lot of trouble.

What did Jesus see? NOT a man with physical ailments, BUT someone who needed his sins forgiven!

Don’t miss this point! Our greatest need? Forgiveness of sins.

Health, adequate money, and a happy family are wonderful blessings, but if you die without God’s forgiveness, these blessings will be useless. Your greatest need is to know that God has forgiven your sins and that you are reconciled to the holy Judge of the universe.

The subject of knowing and experiencing God’s forgiveness of our sins is so important that the enemy of our souls has worked overtime to sow seeds of confusion and error. Our modern pagan society often deals with the problem of guilt by telling us that we don’t need to worry about it.

In other words, since guilt doesn’t make me feel good about myself (which is my aim in life), when my conscience condemns me, tell it to take a hike. Rather than being ashamed about our sins, we now celebrate them under the guise of being “true” to ourselves.

Another ploy of the devil is to get us to invent a god who is not perfectly holy and to view ourselves as basically good people. This god is tolerant and loving. He couldn’t possibly condemn a nice person like me!

Of course, I’m not perfect, but compared to terrorists who blow up innocent women and children and perverts who abuse little children, I’m not so bad. So I can excuse my relatively “minor faults” and dismiss my need for God’s forgiveness.

Satan also sows confusion about God’s forgiveness under the guise of religion. All of the world’s non-Christian religions, some branches of Christianity, and all of the cults that claim to be Christian teach that we must do something—fasting, prayer, penance, self-denial, good works—to help pay for our sins and to earn God’s favor. Often religious people base their hope of forgiveness on the fact that they have faithfully performed certain religious rituals for many years.

Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)
3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places,
4  even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love
5  he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will,
6  to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
7  In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,
8  which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight
9  making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ
10  as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
13  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,  14  who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

Paul is saying, In Christ, we have redemption through His blood, the abundant forgiveness of all our sins.

re·demp·tion   [ri- demp-sh uhn] NOUN

  1. an act of redeeming or atoning for a fault or mistake, or the state of being redeemed.
  2. deliverance; rescue.
  3. Theology. deliverance from sin; salvation.
  4. atonement for guilt.
  1. repurchase, as of something sold.

Before we consider the meaning of Paul’s words here, I cannot over-emphasize the importance of these truths for your life. If you try to seek God’s forgiveness in any way other than what Paul here states, you will waste your time and endanger your soul.

If your hope of heaven rests on anything that you must do to earn it, you will hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me” on that great day. If, as a Christian, you do not understand and live daily in light of the truths that Paul here sets forth, you will not grow in godliness. You will be defeated by sin and guilt. So these truths are vital for a healthy Christian walk.

In Christ we can have redemption.

So, if you lack redemption or forgiveness of your sins, you will not find it anywhere except in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

REDEMPTION MEANS THAT CHRIST PAID THE PRICE TO FREE US FROM THE PENALTY AND POWER OF SIN.

We use words such as “redeemer” or “redemption” as religious terms. But when the man of the first century heard them he immediately thought in non-religious terms.” It brought to mind the common picture of a slave being purchased and then set free. Redemption meant release from bondage by the payment of a price. Every Gentile in the Roman world would have thought of this when he heard the word, “redemption.”

The word also has roots in the Old Testament, which refers to a “kinsman-redeemer.” For example, in the Book of Ruth, Naomi’s family property, due to debt, had fallen into other hands. Because she had lost her husband, she could not afford to recover it. Boaz was a near relative who had the right to redeem the property by paying the price, which he did.

In other Old Testament contexts, God is seen as the one who redeemed Israel from bondage in Egypt (Exod. 6:6). As you know, the Jews had to put the blood of the Passover lamb on the lintel and doorposts of their homes. It was a picture of our redemption through the blood of Christ.

Paul uses the word in a spiritual sense to refer to Christ’s paying the price of our sin by His sacrificial death on the cross on our behalf. We were helplessly, hopelessly enslaved to sin and under God’s just condemnation. But with His own blood Christ paid the penalty to release us from bondage. We now belong to Him.

Implicit in the biblical doctrine of redemption is that God did something for us that we could not do for ourselves. We were enslaved to sin and had no power or means to free ourselves. God did not need our help in paying the price. In fact, it is an insult to Christ if we think that we can add anything of our own to the great price that He paid.

If someone offered you a gift that was worth thousands of dollars and you reached in your pocket to give him a penny to pay for it, you would insult him. Jesus graciously paid it all. We can do nothing except to receive His gift and then live every day in light of what He so graciously and generously did for us.

WE CAN KNOW AND ENJOY OUR REDEMPTION RIGHT NOW.

Paul does not say, “In Him, someday we hope to be redeemed.” Nor does he say, “We’re working at obtaining redemption, but we don’t know yet if we’ll get it until we see whether our good works tip the scale.” Rather, he says, “In Him, we have redemption.” It is our current possession and experience.

Knowing that should fill us with joy and gratitude and love for Christ. It should remove any fear of judgment and fill us with hope beyond the grave. It should motivate us to be holy. If you have trusted in Jesus Christ as the payment for your sins, God wants you to know and enjoy the fact that He has redeemed you from bondage to sin.

So the issue is, either you trust in what Jesus Christ did on the cross as the full payment for your sins, or when you stand before God at the judgment, you must pay for your sins through eternal separation from God in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:11-15).

There will be no second chance (Heb. 9:27). That is why making sure that you have redemption through the blood of Jesus is your greatest need! Paul goes on to elaborate on what such redemption means:

Redemption through Christ’s blood is according to the riches of God’s grace, which He lavished on us.

The word “lavished” may be illustrated by ocean waves. They just keep coming and coming and coming. They never stop. God’s forgiveness is like that for those who are redeemed through the blood of Jesus. If you have trusted Christ as your sin-bearer, and responded to Him through faith that culminates with an immersion in water in order to have sins forgiven, Paul wants you to experience the extravagant, lavish undeserved favor of God in forgiving all of your sins.

We sometimes sing the old hymn, “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Either that’s true or it’s not. If the blood of Jesus does not wash away all of our sins completely, then we’re all in a lot of trouble, because we all have a lot of sins to deal with.

If it only atones for minor sins, what good is that? “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.” Thank God that is true! Cling to it and live it each and every day!

Exodus 34:6-7 (ESV)
6  The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
7  keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

Exodus 34:6-7 (MSG)
6  GOD passed in front of him and called out, “GOD, GOD, a God of mercy and grace, endlessly patient—so much love, so deeply true—
7  loyal in love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, rebellion, and sin. Still, he doesn’t ignore sin. He holds sons and grandsons responsible for a father’s sins to the third and even fourth generation.”

We read and quote John 3:16 (ESV) all the time: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

But we also need to take to heart verse 17: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

———————————–

When A. J. Gordon was minister of a church in Boston, he met a young boy in front of the sanctuary carrying a rusty cage in which several birds fluttered nervously. Gordon inquired, “Son, where did you get those birds?”

The boy replied, “I trapped them out in the field.”

“What are you going to do with them?”

“I’m going to play with them, and then I guess I’ll just feed them to an old cat we have at home.”

Gordon offered to buy them, and the lad exclaimed, “Mister, you don’t want them, they’re just little old wild birds and can’t sing very well.”

Gordon replied, “I’ll give you $2 for the cage and the birds.”

“Okay, it’s a deal, but you’re making a bad bargain.”

The exchange was made and the boy went away whistling, happy with his shiny coins. Gordon walked around to the back of the church property, opened the door of the small wire coop, and let the struggling creatures soar into the blue.

The next Sunday he took the empty cage into the pulpit and used it to illustrate his sermon about Christ’s coming to seek and to save the lost—paying for them with His own precious blood. “That boy told me the birds were not songsters,” said Gordon, “but when I released them and they winged their way heavenward, it seemed to me they were singing, ‘Redeemed, redeemed, redeemed!”

 

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2019 in Sermon

 

Searching for direction…It involves a decision…and some planning. At the spiritual level, planning means taking the initiative.


A man called his neighbor to help him move a couch that had become stuck in the doorway. They pushed and pulled until they were exhausted, but the couch wouldn’t budge.  “Forget it,” the man finally said.  “We’ll never get this in.” The neighbor looked at him quizzically and said, “In?”

Is it possible that Time magazine was right when they described the Bible as a book “more revered than read”?

The Bible needs to be treasured, but more than that it needs to be internalized. It provides the eternal road-map to heaven, which certainly ought to be the direction we’re wanting to travel.

life-directions1There is something wonderful about a beaten-up heavily marked, tattered Bible. Madeleine Delbrel, the French activist who lived a little more than a generation ago, stuffed her Bible with snapshots, clippings, ticket stubs, postcards and other detritus to remind her that she was praying in the world of people and events. She called these scraps “icons of humanity” that prompted one to celebrate the “liturgy of life.”

It involves a decision…and some planning. At the spiritual level, planning means taking the initiative. It’s not about sitting around until you are absolutely certain God is calling you to a particular task, direction, country, or ministry. Nor is it waiting for the doors to open so you can go there easily. Planning is an act of faith. Jesus never told his disciples to wait for an invitation. He told them to go. [1]

We must realize that you cannot pull people uphill who do not want to go; you can only point up.  We must come to see each day as David Brainerd saw it: “As long as I see anything to be done for God, life is worth having; but O how vain and unworthy it is to live for any lower end!”

Dr. Reid Vipond of Canada shares a story of an oil company that needed a suave public-relations man for its office in the Orient. After interviewing several candidates, the officials decided to ask a local missionary to take the position. Company executives met with this man of unusual gifts. Whatever their proposition, his answer was always “No.” “What’s wrong?” asked one interviewer. “Isn’t the salary big enough?” The missionary replied, “The salary is big enough, but the job isn’t.”

Duke’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, gave a great talk to the University Retirees Association. He told them about a friend of his in Southern California who was coaching a basketball team where out of 15 of the young men, 10 had never known a father.  He noted how he and his fellow coaches were spending more time trying to be daddies to their players than coaches.

Then Krzyzewski said, “Things are in too big a mess in the American family for you people to be sitting around playing bridge, or moving to some retirement community in Florida.  We need you.  We need your wisdom, your patience, your free time.  We need you to be adopting kids, stepping up and taking responsibility for kids that, while they may not be your own, they are all of our responsibility.”


[1] Brother Andrew in The CallingChristianity Today, Vol. 40, no. 8.

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Faithful Prayers – James 5:13-18


James closes his letter as he began it, with a call to prayer.

In James 1:5, after an opening challenge about joy in trials (which can easily be shown as a description of prayers of praise), he urges believers specifically to pray for the wisdom they need in becoming mature. James informs us that God will give generously that kind of wisdom without blaming us for our lack. The sole requirement is a faithful trust in God’s supply.

Later, in 4:1-3, James addresses the kind of selfish prayers that God does not answer. His confrontation is unmistakable: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (4:3 niv). Prayer is an essential tool, but it cannot be used to manipulate God.

James uses his closing words to describe effective prayer. He details prayer in several forms (praise, intercession, confession) and connects prayer with several other important spiritual disciplines (healing, confession, anointing, correction, praise, and mutual forgiveness).

If we can say that James’s letter summarizes the work of faith, his conclusion focuses on faith’s finest work—believers effective in prayer.

13  Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray.

There are many responses to trouble. Some of us worry; some of us vow revenge against those who have caused the trouble; some of us let anger burn inside us. Some grumble.

But James says the correct response to trouble is to pray (see also Psalm 30; 50:15; 91:15). This is not necessarily a prayer for deliverance from the trouble, but for the patience and strength to endure it.

There are three main reasons for not praying when we realize we are in trouble: ignorance, arrogance, and shame.

If we do not know that God wants us to pray when we are in trouble, we are simply ignorant of Scripture.

If we do not pray when we are in trouble because we are trusting in our own resources to get ourselves out, we are being arrogant.

And sometimes we may want to pray but are ashamed because the trouble we are in is our own fault.

James gives permission and encouragement to those who are ignorant. He urges submission to those who are arrogant. And he reminds those who are ashamed that God is full of compassion and mercy (5:11). To all of us he commends prayer.

Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise.

James says that if we are fortunate enough to be happy, we should thank God by singing songs of praise (see also 1 Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16).

Because our praise is directed to God, singing is actually another form of prayer.

These songs of praise can be the formal Psalms from the Old Testament, or spontaneous personal creations that express some aspect of God’s character or our response to him.

The quicker we are to blame God for misfortune, the slower we are to praise God when good things happen. Some of us take our happiness too lightly. We accept it as if it is our due or simply the product of our efforts. In happiness, it is easy to forget God.

But a real appreciation of happy times will lead us to recognizing their source. If prayer is to be our constant communication with God, then happy times should naturally add rhythm and music to our expressions of thanks and praise to him.

14  Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.

One characteristic of the early church was its concern over and care for the sick. Here James encourages the sick person to call for the elders of the church for counseling and prayer. The elders were spiritually mature men who were responsible for overseeing local churches (see 1 Peter 5:1-4). These men would pray over the sick person, calling upon the Lord for healing. Then they would anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord.

Jesus himself instructed us to pray in his name (John 14:14). As the elders pray for this one who is sick, they are to voice clearly that the power for healing resides in the name of Jesus.

Many of the details in this passage have to be consciously applied in our own age. James wrote to people in rather small communities, bound tightly by language and culture. We live in communities marked by isolation—even from people living next door. The early church practiced house calls.

Contact, prayer, appeals to the presence and power of God, expectations of God’s direct intervention, and healing were part of daily life. The life of faith really was a life-style, not a weekend component of a compartmentalized life that fits God into one’s weekly schedule for a couple of hours on Sunday mornings.

A literal practice by church leaders of James’s guidelines for healing prayer would make churches much more personal and effective.

The sick person here is incapacitated physically. Anointing was often used by the early church in their prayers for healing. In Scripture, oil was both a medicine (see the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-37) and a symbol of the Spirit of God (as used in anointing kings; see 1 Samuel 16:1-13).

Thus the oil may have been a sign of the power of prayer, and it may have symbolized the setting apart of the sick person for God’s special attention.

More important than the oil itself, however, the key function of the elders is their prayer for the sick person, as evidenced in the verses that follow.

5:15 The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.

The prayer must be from the heart, sincere, with trust in and obedience to God behind it, and with no doubting, as in 1:5-8. The believing is the role of the elders who are praying, not the sick person’s (nothing is said about his or her faith). It is possible that the sick person’s faith is exercised in calling the elders. Also, if there is need for confession, the elders will be able to minister to the individual. The process insures dependence of believers on each other.

The Lord will raise him up.

Not the elders or the oil, but the Lord himself does the healing. Does this mean that every prayer for healing guarantees that God will make the sick person well?

It must be emphasized here that the prayer offered is a prayer offered in faith—not only the faith that believes God can heal, but also the faith that expresses absolute confidence in God’s will. A true prayer of faith will acknowledge God’s sovereignty in his answer to that prayer.

It is not always God’s will to heal those who are ill (see 2 Corinthians 12:7-9). A prayer for healing must be qualified with a recognition that God’s will is supreme.

It is shameful to find Christians hesitating to pray because God might not heal the way they wish. It is not our role either to decide how God will answer our prayers or to excuse him if our human desires are not met.

Trusting God only as long as he cooperates with our plans is no trust at all. The prayer offered in faith gives God a free hand to work. Because believers have an eternal viewpoint, we can claim the absolute certainty of this promise—God can and will heal, though not always in this world.

In the afterlife God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4 niv).

To limit God’s answers only to this world would indicate that we are trying to make God submit to our needs and desires in this life rather than submitting to him.

There would no longer be the internal conflicts, and fellowship would be strong and supportive. Those who are sick may be healed (nrsv), and the church would be unified in its prayer efforts.

The recent emphasis on small groups within churches has risen largely from a need to recapture some of these basic features of life in the body of Christ that have been neglected.

When Christians are really working to “carry each other’s burdens,” the world does take note, and we come closer to fulfilling “the law of Christ” (see Galatians 6:2 niv). Loving your neighbor as yourself does include, above all else, praying for him or her.

WHY CONFESS SIN?

Christ has made it possible for us to go directly to God for forgiveness. But confessing our sins to one another still has an important place in the life of the church.

If we have sinned against an individual, we must ask that person to forgive us.

If our sin has affected the church, we must confess it publicly.

If we need loving support as we struggle with a sin, we should confess the sin to those who are able to provide that support.

If after confessing a private sin to God we still don’t feel his forgiveness, we may wish to confess that sin to a fellow believer and hear him or her assure us of God’s pardon.

The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.

The prayer is effective because the person who is praying is righteous. The person is not sinless, but he or she has confessed known sins to God and is completely committed to him and trying to do his will. Again, we can say that the righteous person gets what he or she wants in prayer because he wants what God wants.

The Christian’s most powerful resource is communication with God through prayer. It is the instrument of healing and forgiveness and is a mighty weapon for spiritual warfare. The results are often greater than we thought were possible.

Some people see prayer as a last resort, to be tried when all else fails. Our priorities are the reverse of God’s. Prayer should come first.

Some see prayer as a way to obligate God to give whatever they claim in faith. God is pleased to use our prayers to accomplish his purposes and he delights in answering our needs, but he is never bound by our prayers.

God’s power is infinitely greater than ours, so it only makes sense to rely on it—especially because God encourages us to do so.

17  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.
18  Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

Prayer is indeed powerful—remember Elijah? The story is found in 1 Kings 17:1-18:46. Elijah had great power in prayer. A drought came as a sign to evil King Ahab of Israel that the idol Baal did not have power over the rain, God did. And when Elijah prayed, it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Then he prayed for rain, and the heavens gave rain (niv).

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2019 in Prayer

 

Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People? James 1:1-5


The Omniscient God knew that His people would have to suffer persecution, and even death for some of them, at the hands of their enemies, in a godless world. He made certain to make known that fact so we’d know that their (our) suffering would not be in vain.

 (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3 NIV)  Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. {2} And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men, for not everyone has faith. {3} But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.

 Acts 17:27 (153 kb)(2 Timothy 3:12 NIV)  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,

 (Revelation 2:12-13 NIV)  “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. {13} I know where you live–where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city–where Satan lives.

Life just doesn’t seem fair. It’s often the very best people we know who go through the worst things we can imagine. All too often it seems that the crooks get away with their meanness and even seem to have a pipeline of blessings coming into their lives.

Our human sense of logic would like to pigeon hole everything to such a degree that when people are having troubles we can know they aren’t doing right or they wouldn’t have such things happen.

  • Of a Christian in business and it goes bankrupt. Many will look at it and say something had to be wrong with the way they were living or such a thing would never have happened.
  • Of parents whose children become tyrants. We have a tendency to declare them unfit parents of their children wouldn’t have made such a horrible error.
  • Of couples in marriage. One leaves. The marriage falls apart. People begin to wonder about the Christianity of the one who was left. Must not have been living right or the other one would never have left. In so doing we ignore the teachings of the Bible.

 (1 Corinthians 7:14-15 NIV)  For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. {15} But if the unbeliever leaves, let him do so. A believing man or woman is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace.

 Remember the disciples when they saw the man born blind.

John 9:1-5: “As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. {2} His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” {3} “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. {4} As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. {5} While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

Silly question. What could he have done before birth to have violated God’s will and cause him to be born blind? Jesus declared, “Neither”. They had missed the whole point.

 But there is no doubt good people suffer, are persecuted, are hated by the world, are mistreated by neighbors and fellow workers and generally have problems. Why? Why do bad things happen to good people?

 BECAUSE WE LIVE IN A WORLD INFLUENCED BY SATAN.

When sin entered the world at Eden its affects passed on all, even those who hadn’t sinned.

(Genesis 3:16 NIV)  To the woman he said, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

 God told Adam (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV)  To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. {18} It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. {19} By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

 Much of what happens that is bad is simply because we live in the world we do. Satan is powerful. His reign has been upset and he is like a tyrant over some country who has been voted out of office and is mad at the whole world now. Whatever he can do to cause pain and agony he is ready to do it. This is what Satan does when he controls.

 BECAUSE TROUBLES CAUSE US TO GROW.

If only good came to those who do good, we would become soft and tender footed in our spiritual life. One of the things wrong with the whole health, wealth and prosperity gospel is that it brings people into Christianity for the wrong reasons. They want something, which solves all their problems.

 But trials produce endurance. They bring a spiritual toughness to us.

(James 1:1-5 NIV)  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. {2} Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {3} because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. {4} Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. {5} If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.

 Persecution causes us to turn to God many times.

(Matthew 5:10-12 NIV)  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. {11} “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. {12} Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 (1 Peter 4:14 NIV)  If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.

 Suffering turns our hearts to the Lord.

(Psalms 119:67 NIV)  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word.

 (Psalms 119:71 NIV)  It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.

What needs to happen for us is for us to glory in our tribulation, since such troubles bring perseverance, which produces character, which produces hope, and hope doesn’t disappoint us.

 (Romans 5:1-5 NIV)  Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, {2} through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. {3} Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; {4} perseverance, character; and character, hope. {5} And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

We are more than conquerors in all the tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword.

 (Romans 8:35-37 NIV)  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? {36} As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” {37} No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

 CONCLUSION

Whatever the reason we have the troubles or bad things, which happen, the result can be marvelous. Our light, momentary afflictions work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.

 (2 Corinthians 4:16-18)  Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. {17} For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. {18} So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

 Our afflictions remind us what we already have in this life and that we certainly don’t want to go to a place where that is all there is.

 I may never understand all the why’s of this life, but God still loves me and  He longs to get me ready for an eternal home with Him. Are you ready to meet the Lord today?

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2019 in Church, Encouragement

 

Seven Things Wrong – With Denominational Baptism


The word “baptism” with its various inflections occurs 126 times in the New Testament. Hence, one has to say a good deal about baptism or neglect a large portion of the Bible. So far as we know, all denominations except the Christian Scientists and the Quakers practice some rite that they call baptism.

Most people, therefore, have submitted to some ordinance that was called baptism. When these people learn about the New Testament church, they often want to come into the church on their denominational baptism. But if something is wrong with denominational baptism, and we think there is, these people plainly need to be told about it. Therefore, we shall attempt to plainly tell each of you (rather you be Catholic, Mormon, Baptist, Lutheran, Community, etc.) seven things wrong with denominational baptism.

It has the wrong authority (Matthew 28:18 (NIV)  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)  And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Denominational councils and creeds authorize denominational baptism. Jesus never authorized it, nor did he ever command anyone to be baptized into any denomination.

It usually has the wrong subject. Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV) Mt 19 (NIV)  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:15-16 (NIV) Mk 15 (NIV)  He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:38 (NIV)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The Bible teaches that the taught penitent believer who confesses his faith is the only proper subject of scriptural baptism. But denominations often sprinkle infants who cannot meet the above requirements. Denominations also baptize people who think they are already saved rather than persons who desire to be saved (1 Pet. 3:21).

It has the wrong confession. Persons in the New Testament confessed their faith in Christ as the only confessional requisite for baptism. But lost souls desiring to undergo denominational baptism will be asked to confess agreement with the sectarian creed. One denomination that we know requires a confession consisting of twenty propositions. More common is the unscriptural confession wherein one states that he “believes that God for Christ’s sake has pardoned his sins.” Many who now question their denominational baptism have not the faintest remembrance of what they confessed.

It usually has the wrong action. Romans 6:3-4 (NIV) Ro 3 (NIV)  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

Colossians 2:12 (NIV)  having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

 Scriptural baptism entails “much water” (John 3:23 ), and a coming unto, a “going down into,” and a “coming up out of the water.” In scriptural baptism, one is immersed or “buried” (Rom. 6:3-4) in the water. Neither sprinkling nor pouring meets these scriptural requirements.

It has the wrong purpose. Acts 2:38 (NIV)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Mark 16:16 (NIV)  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 22:16 (NIV)  And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’

1 Peter 3:21 (NIV)  and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also–not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

These passages teach baptism to be “for the remission of sins,” to be “saved,” to have one’s sins “washed away.”

Denominations usually assert they are baptizing one into that particular denomination rather than into Christ Jesus.

Galatians 3:26-27 (NIV) Gal 26 (NIV)  You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, 27  for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Romans 6:3-4 (NIV) Ro 3 (NIV)  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

So even though one has been immersed, if he was not immersed for the scriptural purpose, that person’s baptism was wrong.

Most sectarians teach that one is baptized to SHOW that he HAS BEEN saved rather than in order to be saved. Were you so baptized? Did you think or confess that you were saved before you were baptized? If so, your baptism was wrong. Immersion in water is “for the remission of sins” and into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).

It has the wrong order. Hebrews 11:6 (NIV)  And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Romans 10:17 (NIV)  Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.

Mark 16:16 (NIV)  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Acts 2:38 (NIV)  Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

These verses establish the sequence of events in conversion to be hearing, faith, repentance, confession, immersion, forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Sectarians confuse this order. They state the sequence like this: Gift of the Holy Spirit, repentance, faith, salvation, and then baptism.

It has the wrong allegiance. Sectarian baptism binds one to wear a human name, obey and endorse a human creed, belong to a human organization, and to support a human program; while scriptural baptism binds one to wear a divine name, obey a divine message, belong to a divine body, and to engage in a divinely authorized program. Denominational baptism attracts people to a denominational body rather than to Christ and His Kingdom.

Matthew 16:18-19 (NIV) Mt 18 (NIV)  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

(1) One cannot be taught wrong and baptized right (Rom. 10:17; 6:17).

(2) One cannot be baptized wrong and worship right (Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 2:42).

(3) One cannot worship wrong and live right (John 4:23-24).

(4) One cannot live wrong and die right (Matt. 25:31-41).

(5) Therefore, one cannot be baptized wrong and die right.

Have you submitted to scriptural baptism? Do not make the error of interpreting what you did years ago in the light of what you now know the Bible to teach.

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Baptism

 

Searching for that elusive place of contentment


“It is distrust of God to be troubled about what is to come; impatience against God to be troubled with what is present; and anger at God to be troubled for what is past.”

To a large extent, we’re searching for that elusive place of contentment. The Holman Bible Dictionary describes contentment as “an internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.”

Hebrews 13:5-7 summarizes the teaching in advising believers to be free of the love of money and to depend on God’s promise not to forsake His people: “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”

PowerPoint Background using 1 Corinthians 13:13Worry has become an obsession in our modern world. A look at the self-help section in any bookstore will reveal its prevalence. Hospitals and waiting rooms are filled with people who have physical problems caused by overwhelming anxiety. In addition, there are many people whose lives are disrupted or made unenjoyable because of paralyzing fear.

Christians like to hide their worry by labeling it Christian concern. In spite of protestations to the contrary, Christians do worry. But, do they have to? Not if they learn from Jesus how to win over worry.

Paul spoke in similar terms in 1 Timothy 6:6-10: “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”

The believer can be content no matter what the outward circumstances: Philippians 4:11-13: “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”

When we look at life against the message of the life of Jesus and His teachings, the risen life is not easy: it is also a dying life. [1] We should make it our priority and purpose.

Contentment finds an opposite in the form of worry. The words of Jesus early in His public ministry suggest that food and lodging should be enough for the godly: Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

There is plenty to worry about (vs. 25). There is no shortage of potential items to worry about. Jesus mentions several matters of common concern: life, health, possessions, We could add our own list of concerns: accidents, aging, weather, or criticism.

There is nothing accomplished by worry (vv. 26-33). It is senseless. The rest of God’s creation does not worry, but God provides for them. Will he not do the same for us.

This does not say we should not work, only that we should not worry while we work (v. 26, 28). It is fruitless. It will not add an inch to your height or a hour to your life. In fact, it may well take away from your life (v. 27). It is harmful. Worrying makes us look like the heathen, and it destroys our witness. [2]

Worry, he says, is characteristic of a heathen, and not of one who knows what God is like (verse 32). Worry is essentially distrust of God. Such a distrust may be understandable in a heathen who believes in a jealous, capricious, unpredictable god; but it is beyond comprehension in one who has learned to call God by the name of Father.

The Christian should not worry because he believes in the love of God. Worry gives a small thing a big shadow. Worry is an indication that we think God cannot look after us. Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere.

Jesus goes on to advance two ways in which to defeat worry. The first is to seek first, to concentrate upon, the Kingdom of God. We have seen that to be in the Kingdom and to do the will of God is one and the same thing (Matthew 6:10).

To concentrate on the doing of, and the acceptance of, God’s will is the way to defeat worry. We know how in our own lives a great love can drive out every other concern. Such love can inspire a man’s work, intensify his study, purify his life, dominate his whole being.

We must trust the heavenly father to provide for us as he has promised (v. 32b). We also need to live one day at a time. Handle each worry as it comes. Many will never come to pass. Those that do occur can only be handled in the present (v. 34).

It was Jesus’ conviction that worry is banished when God becomes the dominating power of our lives.

Simon Patrick said, “It is distrust of God to be troubled about what is to come; impatience against God to be troubled with what is present; and anger at God to be troubled for what is past.”

What seems clear is that we often worry about things over which we have no control, or about events and circumstances that never occur. For this, we lose the joy of today and add a burden to an already difficult day.

Life’s too short for worrying. “Yes, that’s what worries me,” we reply. Rather we should know that one is given strength to bear what happens to one, but not the one hundred and one different things that might happen. [3]

John Dryden commented that “Only man clogs his happiness with care, destroying what is, with thoughts of what may be.”

Only one type of worry is correct: to worry because you worry too much. We should leave tomorrow’s trouble to tomorrow’s strength; tomorrow’s work to tomorrow’s time; tomorrow’s trial to tomorrow’s grace and to tomorrow’s God.

It ain’t no use putting up your umbrella till it rains.[4]

Solomon got involved in all kinds of projects, hoping to discover something that would make life worth living. He started with great works (4-6), including houses (1 Kings 7), cities (2 Chron. 8:4-6), gardens, vineyards, orchards and forests (1 Kings 4:33), and the water systems needed to service them.

Of course, Solomon also supervised the construction of the temple (1 Kings 5ff), one of the greatest buildings of the ancient world. Solomon accumulated wealth (7b-8a), in flocks and herds (1 Kings 8:63) as well as gold and silver (1 Kings 4:21 and 10:1ff). He was the wealthiest and wisest man in the whole world, yet he was unhappy because activity alone does not bring lasting pleasure.

There can be joy in the doing of great projects, but what happens when the task is finished? Solomon found delight in all his labor (2:10); but afterward, when he considered all his works, he saw only “vanity and vexation of spirit” (2:11). The journey was a pleasure, but the destination brought pain.

“Success is full of promise until men get it,” said the American preacher Henry Ward Beecher, “and then it is a last-year’s nest from which the birds have flown.”

We must not conclude that Solomon was condemning work itself, because work is a blessing from God. Adam had work to do in the Garden even before he sinned. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (Gen. 2:15, niv).

In the Book of Proverbs, Solomon exalted diligence and condemned laziness; for he knew that any honest employment can be done to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). But work alone cannot satisfy the human heart, no matter how successful that work may be (Isa. 55:2).

Solomon’s conclusion: Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole of man. This is what makes man whole. And the secret is to enthrone God in the days of our youth. If you want to find the secret of living so that the heart is satisfied and the spirit is enriched and fulfilled according to God’s intention for you, then “Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come.” Enthrone God in the center of your life and you will discover all that God has intended your life to be. And you will be able to rejoice all the days of your life.

Affirmative Living

Joseph was called, derisively, the dreamer. Some of his dreams were prophetic. He saw himself as a leader of men. Joseph dreamed of using his considerable talents to do great things for God and his family. Joseph’s dreams enabled him to live affirmatively.

Affirmative living means recognizing the presence of God in your life. Whatever happened to Joseph never caused him to give up on God. In fact, everything that happened to him only drew him closer to God. Do you notice the presence of God in your life? Do you believe he has a plan for you? If not, you need to dare to dream again. 

Affirmative living means making the best of bad situations. Joseph was hated and sold into slavery. He was unjustly accused and placed in prison. Though forgotten, he never lost hope. We couldn’t have blamed him if he had. But, whatever happened to Joseph, he kept on making the best of it. He was sold into slavery only to become the head servant. Sent to prison, he took over the administration. Brought before the king, he became Pharaoh’s right hand man.

Affirmative living means maintaining your principles even when inconvenient. Joseph faced his biggest challenge when accosted by his master’s wife. He could have given all kinds of excuses to give in, but he was willing to do what was right, in spite of the consequences. Have you been mistreated? If so, you need to dare to dream again.

Affirmative living means recognizing God is in control. Joseph, when he was finally reunited with his brothers, said to them, “What you did to me you meant for bad, God used for good.” Joseph believed that ultimately God is in control, and that all things work together for good. Have you wondered if God has deserted you, or if your life has any purpose at all? If so, you need to dare to dream again.[1]

I sing with the hymn, “Through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come,” but I can also say, “‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.”


[1] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.

[1] Thomas Merton in He Is Risen. Christianity Today, Vol. 43, no. 5.

[2] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
[3] C. S. Lewis (1898–1963)
[4] Alice Caldwell Rice [5] Sermon Outlines For Seekers by J. Michael Shannon.
 
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Posted by on March 28, 2019 in Encouragement

 
 
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