Friday, September 28, 2012

Unicorns

The modern-day myth of the unicorn (a horse with a horn) does not discredit the fact an animal was called or described as thus. In fact, the term may have referred to the single-horned rhinoceros (which we see today, but is endangered), or it may refer to some animal long since extinct (perhaps the Elasmotherium—this animal apparently resembles a horse, which if described thus could easily over time be exaggerated into being an actual horse with a horn, just as we see depicted today). Regardless, you cannot take modern day fictionalizations of unicorns (or dragons for that matter) and attempt to conclude that the use of such terms, such as in the Wycliffe through KJV Bibles, are automatically mythical. This is an unscientific approach.

Elasmotherium Single-horned Rhinoceros





"God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn" (Num. 23:22).

"God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows" (Num. 24:8).

"His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh" (Deut. 33:17).

"Will the unicorn be willing to serve thee, or abide by thy crib? Canst thou bind the unicorn with his band in the furrow? or will he harrow the valleys after thee?" (Job 39:9-10).

"Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns" (Ps. 22:21).

"He maketh them also to skip like a calf; Lebanon and Sirion like a young unicorn" (Ps. 29:6).

"But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil" (Ps. 92:10).

And the unicorns shall come down with them, and the bullocks with the bulls; and their land shall be soaked with blood, and their dust made fat with fatness” (Isa. 34:7).

When you consider these verses from the Geneva and KJV Bibles, the Elasmotherium or single-horned rhinoceros seem like likely candidates. What kind of strength does a horse have in contrast to that of a rhinoceros? The reference to the description of its strength should be noted; not just the name. This animal is obviously very powerful.

The Hebrew word rendered as unicorn in many of our older translations appears as riem (ראם), rieym (ראים), reym (רים), or rem (רם), which The Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament writes, "A masculine noun indicating a wild ox. It refers to a large animal with horns that are powerful offensive as well as defensive weapons." However, this definition is wrong, as we will see in a moment! The fact is, English translators from the past chose to translate it as unicorn for a reason. Rather than assume, based on modern ideas and concepts of what a "unicorn" is, we would do well to find out why these translators chose this word and what it meant to them. I am quite certain it was not the mythical one-horned horse we see depicted today. Chances could be quite possible that they were referring to an animal that we no longer see today; a very real and non-mythical animal referred to as the unicorn. However, I believe that we do see this animal today.

The Webster's New World Dictionary says of the word 'unicorn': "A mythical horse-like animal with a single horn growing from its forehead." The 1828 Noah Webster American Dictionary of the English Language says of the word 'unicorn': "An animal with one horn: the monoceros. This name is often applied to the rhinoceros." Notice how this definition says nothing about a "horse", a "horse-like animal", a "mythical animal", a "fictitious creature", or "Greek mythology"? It says this name is often applied to the rhinoceros. People frequently and erroneously think of rhinoceroses as having two horns. If you look up the word "rhinoceros" in the same dictionary, you read: "A genus of quadrupeds of two species, one of which, the unicorn, has a single horn growing almost erect from the nose. ... There is another species with two horns, the bicornis." Noah's original dictionary was written almost 200 years ago. The KJV Bible was translated over 400 years ago. The Wycliffe Bible was first published in 1382 and used the word 'unicorn'. So if the definition of the word 'unicorn' has changed in the last 200 years from a rhinoceros to a horse, it does not make sense to take a modern definition of the word 'unicorn' and apply it to a 400-year-old and a 600-year-old translation of the Bible. That is illogical.

Furthermore, it is interesting to note that the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) translated these words as monokeros (μονοκερως), monokerotos (μονοκερωτος), and monokeroton (μονοκερωτων), which literally mean "one horn"; μονος "only, alone, without others" (i.e., "one") and κερας, "horn". Nearly 2,000 years before the Geneva and KJV Bibles were produced, the Hebrew scholars who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek chose these words. The Latin Vulgate translates the first 5 passages as rinocerota, rinoceros, and rinocerotis (rhinoceros), while it translates the last 4 passages as unicornis , unicornes, and unicornium. The Douay-Rheims Latin Bible renders Psalm 29:6 as rinocerotis and Psalm 92:10 as monocerotis (Remember Noah Webster's definition? Remember the Septuagint's rendering?). Interestingly enough, the scientific name for the single-horned rhinoceros is Rhinoceros unicornis.

You see, in Deuteronomy 33:17, it says, "His glory is like the firstling of his bullock, and his horns are like the horns of unicorns: with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth: and they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh." The Hebrew word for 'unicorn' is singular, whereas the Hebrew word for 'horns' is plural possessive. Now, look closer at this passage and what it says: "his horns are like the horns of unicorns"; and it goes on to say "they are the ten thousands of Ephraim" and "they are the thousands of Manasseh." Back in Genesis 48:19, it was prophesied that Ephraim would be greater than Manasseh. In the Latin Vulgate, the word 'unicorn' here is rinocerotis; the two-horned rhinoceros. Ever examine the horns of a two-horned Rhinoceros?


Ephraim is compared to the larger horn of the two-horned Rhinoceros, while Manasseh is compared to the smaller horn. Although the Wycliffe through KJV Bibles have a mistake here, they still had it right whereas our modern versions have it wrong. A wild bull or a wild ox is not a suitable translation for these passages. These translators have rendered it this way because, rather than believe the Bible and do their homework, they feared the Bible might have been referring to modern-day understanding of the mythical unicorn. We can trust our Bibles, people! Something to think about.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Tattooing

You shall not eat anything with the blood: neither shall you use enchantment (spells or witchcraft), nor observe times (astrology). You shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shall you mar the corners of your beard. You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead (bloodletting, scarification, piercing, self-mutilation), nor print any marks (tattoos) upon you: for I am the Lord. Do not prostitute thy daughter, to cause her to be a whore; lest the land fall to whoredom and the land become full of wickedness” (Lev. 19:26-29).

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). “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?” (Rom. 6:1-2). “What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, which is in you, which you have of God, and you are not your own? For you are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). “If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple you are” (1 Cor. 3:17).

Leviticus 19:28 is the Christian (or so-called Christian?) tattooist and tattoo-bearer’s worst nightmare. The Lord plainly, clearly, strongly, and without a doubt condemns the tattoo. The clear statement from the Word of God does not settle anything for this generation of disobedient, carnal, worldly, tolerant, non-judgmental Christians. Rather than obey God, they run miles and miles out of their way to “justify” their open disobedience to the Word of God.

A lot of Christians when confronted with Leviticus 19:28 scream, “Hey, man! That’s not for today. That’s the Old Testament. I’m under the New Testament. That was for the Jews. I’m a Gentile. That was under law. I’m under grace.”

Let’s look at this sick, perverted, wicked line of reasoning, shall we? They say:
  • That’s the Old Testament. I’m under the New Testament.” I hate to disappoint you, but the New Testament is a fulfillment of the Old Testament. What one condemns, the other does not condone, and vice versa. Christ Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament law.

  • That was for the Jews. I’m a Gentile.” So, if those commands were only for the Jews, does that mean that the Gentiles can go ahead and be homosexual? participate in bestiality? eat raw meat? practice witchcraft and astrology? cut their hair idolatrously to conform to the haircuts of the gods? perform self-mutilation? get tattoos? prostitute their own daughters?

  • That was under the law. I’m under grace.” So, does being under grace mean that we can continue in sin hoping that grace will abound? If one uses that logic, then they condone all of the above condemnations that were under the law. While they will argue all but a single point (because their own beliefs cling to it), in reality they are saying that it is okay to be homosexual; to participate in bestiality; to eat raw meat; to practice witchcraft and astrology; to cut your hair idolatrously to conform to the haircuts of the gods; to perform self-mutilation; to get tattoos; and to prostitute your own daughter.
A lot of Christians make the excuse that it is your motivation behind it that determines whether it is right or wrong. They say that if they want to praise and worship God, getting a tattoo with a Christian message is okay. Well, in that regard it also means that if I want to carve the name of Jesus into my flesh with a razor, it is okay to do as well. My motive is right, after all. C’mon. Get real. Whom are you trying to convince with your dishonesty and disobedience to God’s Word? You are merely offering up excuses to cover your sick, perverted, wicked line of reasoning. God said what He meant and meant what He said. Christians are not to get tattoos.

For the Christian who argues that there is no Scripture that speaks against this in the New Testament, I suggest you read Jude 8. The Greek word for “defile” means “to stain, to tinge, to dye with another colour.” In other words, to tattoo.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Christianity vs. Religion

What is the difference between Christianity and religion? Religion is a system of do’s and don’ts. Christianity is a relationship with a person—the person of Jesus Christ.

Religion says, “Do this!” Christianity says, “It is already done!” or as Jesus said on the cross, “It is finished!

Does this give us a license to sin or even continue living in sin? No! Consider Paul’s words in Romans 6. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (5:20b). “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (6:1b). “Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (6:16).

If we are truly born again and truly love Christ Jesus as our own personal Saviour, we will obey the 10 commandments and God’s other moral laws out of our love for Him—not out of duty. Duty is what religion is based upon. Love is what Christianity is based upon.

It was the love of a merciful Creator who manifested Himself in the flesh, to suffer as a man and die on a cross that should have been ours, so that we could be reconciled to Him and be given eternal life. Nobody sacrifices themselves for another person for any other reason other than love.

Followers of Christ Jesus were first called “Christ Ones” in Antioch. That is what “Christian” means: “Christ Ones” or “Christ Followers.” I believe this term was used as a derogatory comment toward believers. Should that not give us stronger conviction about who we are and Who we follow? I am called a “Christ One” because I follow Christ Jesus, the living God, and the world hates Him. I should be proud to wear the world’s derogatory term “Christian” for the sake of my Saviour, Christ Jesus!
“Sometimes Love has to drive a nail into its own hand.” –Chris Rice
God wants my fellowship, communion, and love. Is it the love of Christ that constrains what I do? Or a list of do’s and don’ts? Our greatest need has already been met! We can never do enough to earn God’s grace or get into heaven. Christ Jesus did it all. We can accept it or reject it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Christ Exalted!

by James Smith, "Christ Exalted, Saints Comforted, and Sinners Directed" 1855

If we look at the comparisons which are made use of by the Holy Spirit to set Christ forth, we behold something more of His loveliness.

He is compared to a MOTHER, and is said to have more than a mother's tenderness, kindness, and care.
His concern for His people is constant,
He never loses sight of them for a moment, and
He pledges His Word that He will never forget them!

He is the CITY of REFUGE, with . . .
  the broad and clear road,
  the gates wide open, and
  the hearty welcome awaiting every sinner who approaches to escape the threatened vengeance!

He is the STRONGHOLD, which emboldens, supplies, and secures all the prisoners of hope.

He is the ROCK, which shades, shelters, and refreshes the weary traveler.

He is the DAY-STAR, which betokens brighter scenes, and guides the vessel of mercy across the boisterous deep to the haven of perfect redemption and safety.

He is the SUN of RIGHTEOUSNESS, whose rising . . .
  cheers the benighted pilgrim,
  makes glad the weary citizen of Heaven, and
  produces moral beauty and fruitfulness in our world.

He is the APPLE-TREE among the trees of the forest . . .
  whose blossoms are beautiful,
  whose shade is refreshing, and
  whose fruit is sweet to the taste.

He is the BREAD of LIFE, which came down from heaven . . .
  satisfying the hungry,
  strengthening the weak, and
  giving life unto the world.

He is the BRAZEN SERPENT, which heals easily, instantly, and perfectly all who look to Him by faith.

He is the WATER of SALVATION, which . . .
  cleanses the filthy,
  refreshes the weary, and
  makes glad the city of God.

He is the only WAY, which leads from sin, condemnation, and wrath to life, holiness, and heaven!

He is the HEAD, which thinks, plans, and contrives for the welfare of the whole of His mystical body.

He is the DOOR, which admits to . . .
  the pastures of Divine truth,
  the privileges of His Church below,
  and His Father's glorious presence!

He is the FOUNDATION on which all must build for eternity, and which alone is able to support our hopes and sustain our souls amidst the wreck of matter and the crash of worlds!

He is the CORNER-STONE, which unites, beautifies, and strengthens the whole building of divine mercy.

He is the TEMPLE, where God . . .
  meets with us,
  accepts us, and
  imparts His blessing to us.

He is the ALTAR, which sanctifies both the gift and the giver.

He is the VINE, which communicates life, nourishment, and fruitfulness to all its branches.

He is the ROSE of SHARON and the LILY of the VALLEY, fragrant, lovely, attractive, perfuming, and unequaled in beauty and grace!

He is the FORERUNNER, who is gone before His flock . . .
  removing the obstacles,
  marking out the road, and
  ready to receive them as they finish their course.

He is the FRIEND . . .
  who loves at all times,
  whose mind never changes,
  whose love never cools, and
  who never neglects a friend in distress.

He is the greatest, best, and most glorious GIFT of GOD, including, securing, and conferring every good thing upon those who sincerely receive Him.

He is the KINSMAN . . .
  who redeems the forfeited inheritance,
  who ransoms all His poor relatives from slavery,
  and whose name is held in renown.

He is the LAMB of GOD, who took up, expiated, and forever put away the sins of all who trust in His blood.

He is the MESSENGER of the COVENANT, who . . .
  brings good news from God,
  carries all our requests to God, and
  ever stands as a Mediator between us and God.

He is the PEARL of GREAT PRICE, or the priceless pearl, which . . .
  all who sincerely seek find,
  all who find may claim, and
  all who possess are enriched forever!

He is the PHYSICIAN, who . . .
  heals all disorders,
  restores every patient to perfect health,
  and bestows medicine and care, freely.

He is the RANSOM, which . . .
  procured our release,
  ensures our liberty, and
  preserves us from going down into the pit!

He is the RIGHTEOUSNESS, which . . .
  justifies us from all charges,
  entitles us to eternal life, and
  enables us to lift up our heads with boldness in God's presence.

He is the TRUTH, which . . .
  enlightens the mind,
  purifies the heart, and
  regulates the life.

He is the FIRE, which . . .
  purges our dross,
  brightens our graces, and
  cleanses our consciences from works which deserve death.

He is the SHEPHERD, who . . .
  knows every sheep,
  watches over the whole flock, and
  never loses a lamb, by disease, accident, or beast of prey.

He is the CAPTAIN of SALVATION, who . . .
  collects His soldiers,
  disciplines His troops, and
  leads them forth to certain victory over sin, the world, and the devil.

He is the LADDER, by which we . . .
  rise from this earth,
  lose sight of carnal things, and
  ascend to the presence of God!

He is the SURETY . . .
  who engaged for us in the everlasting covenant,
  who is held responsible for our salvation,
  who has pledged to set us before His father's throne forever.

He is the WALL of FIRE, which surrounds, enlightens and infallibly protects all His redeemed people!

He is the chief among ten thousand, and the ALTOGETHER LOVELY ONE!

Precious Lord Jesus, allow me . . .
  to know You more fully,
  to trust You more heartily,
  to serve You more diligently,
  to enjoy You more frequently,
  to imitate You more closely,
  to exalt You more highly, and
  to show forth Your salvation from day to day!

Your love is my heaven,
Your presence is my delight, and
Your service is the joy of my heart!

Let me daily . . .
  walk with You,
  work for You,
  and bring glory to You!

Oh, send Your Spirit to my poor heart . . .
  to exalt You,
  to honor You,
  to endear You to my soul!

Use me to bring . . .
  lost sinners to Your cross,
  believers to Your throne of grace,
  backsliders to the path of obedience.

Be my . . .
  strength in life,
  solace in death, and
  eternal portion beyond the grave!

Monday, September 24, 2012

What Is Pride?

by Charles Spurgeon

There is nothing into which the heart of man so easily falls as pride, and yet there is no vice which is more frequently, more emphatically, and more eloquently condemned in Scripture.

Pride is a groundless thing. It stands on the sands, or—worse than that—it puts its foot on the billows which yield beneath its tread. Even worse still, it stands on bubbles which soon must burst beneath its feet. Of all things, pride has the worst foothold. It has no solid rock on earth on which to place itself. We have reasons for almost everything, but we have no reasons for pride. Pride is a thing which should be unnatural for us, for we have nothing to be proud of.

Again, pride is a brainless thing, as well as a groundless thing, for it brings no profit with it. There is no wisdom in a self-exaltation. Other vices have some excuse, for men seem to gain by them—avarice, pleasure, lust have some plea—but the man who is proud sells his soul cheaply. He opens wide the floodgates of his heart to let men see how deep is the flood within his soul. Then suddenly it flows out, and all is gone—all is nothing for one puff of empty wind, one word of sweet applause. The soul is gone, and not a drop is left.

In almost every other sin, we gather up the ashes when the fire is gone. But here, what is left? The covetous man has his shining gold, but what does the proud man have? He has less than he would have had without his pride, and is no gainer whatever. Pride wins no crown. Men never honor it, not even the menial slaves of earth. All men look down on the proud man and think him less than themselves.

Again, pride is the maddest thing that can exist. It feeds upon its own vitals. It will take away its own life, that with its blood it may make a purple cape for its shoulders. It saps and undermines its own house that it may build its pinnacles a little higher, and then the whole structure tumbles down. Nothing proves men so mad as pride.

Then pride is a protean thing because it changes its shape. It is all forms in the world. You may find it in any fashion you may choose. You may see it in the beggar's rags as well as in the rich man's garments. It dwells with the rich and with the poor. The man without a shoe to his foot may be as proud as if he were riding in a chariot.

Pride can be found in every rank of society, among all classes of men. Sometimes it is an Armenian and talks about the power of the creature. Then it turns Calvinist and boasts of its fancied security, forgetful of the Maker, who alone can keep our faith alive. Pride can profess any form of religion. It may be a Quaker and wear no collar to its coat. It may be an Episcopalian and worship God in splendid cathedrals. It may be a Dissenter and go to the common meeting house. It is one of the most catholic things in the world; it attends all kinds of chapels and churches. Go where you will, you will see pride. It comes up with us to the house of God. It goes with us to our houses. It is found in the market and the exchange, in the streets, and everywhere.

Let me hint at one or two forms which pride assumes. Sometimes pride takes the doctrinal shape. It teaches the doctrine of self-sufficiency. It tells us what man can do and will not admit that we are lost, fallen, debased, and ruined creatures, as we are. It hates divine sovereignty and rails at election.

Then, if pride is driven from that, it takes another form. It allows that the doctrine of free grace is true, but does not feel it. It acknowledges that salvation is of the Lord alone, but still it prompts men to seek heaven by their own works, even by the deeds of the law. When driven from that heresy, it will persuade men to join something with Christ in the matter of salvation.

When that is all torn up and the poor rag of our righteousness is all burned, pride will get into the Christian's heart as well as the sinner's. It will flourish under the name of self-sufficiency, teaching Christians that they are "rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing" (Revelation 3:17). It will tell them that they do not need daily grace, that past experience will do for tomorrow—that they know enough, toil enough, pray enough. It will make them forget that they have "not...already attained" (Philippians 3:12). It will not allow them to press forward to the things that are ahead, forgetting the things that are behind. (See Philippians 3:13-14.) It enters into hearts and tempts believers to set up independent businesses for themselves. Until the Lord brings about a spiritual bankruptcy, pride will keep them from going to God.

Pride has ten thousand shapes. It is not always that stiff and starched gentleman that you picture. It is a vile, creeping, insinuating things, that will twist itself like a serpent into our hearts. it will talk of humility and prate about being dust and ashes. I have known men to talk about their corruption most marvelously, pretending to be all humility, while at the same time they were the proudest wretches that could be found this side of the gulf of separation.

O friends! You cannot tell how many shapes pride will assume. Look sharp about you, or you will be deceived by it. And just when you think you are entertaining angels, you will find you have been receiving devils unawares.

The true throne of pride everywhere is the heart of man. If we desire, by God's grace, to put down pride, the only way is to begin with the heart.

Now let me tell you a parable in the form of an eastern story, which will set this truth in its proper light. A wise man in the East, called a dervish, in his wanderings came suddenly upon a mountain. He saw beneath his feet a smiling valley, in the midst of which there flowed a river. With the sun shining on the stream, the water, as it reflected the sunlight, looked pure and beautiful. When he descended, he found it was muddy, and the water utterly unfit for drinking.

Nearby he saw a young man, in the dress of a shepherd, who was filtering the water for his flocks with much diligence. One moment he poured some water into a pitcher and then allowed it to stand. After it had settled, he poured the clean fluid into a cistern. Then, in another place, he would be seen turning aside the current for a little, and letting it ripple over the sand and stones so that it might be filtered and the impurities removed.

The dervish watched the young man endeavoring to fill a large cistern with clear water. he asked him, "My son, why all this toil? What purpose does it answer?"

The young man replied, "Father, I am a shepherd. This water is so filthy that my flock will not drink it. Therefore, I am obliged to purify it little by little, so I collect enough in this way that they may drink, but it is hard work." So saying, he wiped the sweat from his brow, for he was exhausted with his toil.

"Right well have you labored," said the wise man, "but do you know your toil is not well applied? With half the labor, you might attain a better end. I envisage that the source of this stream must be impure and polluted. Let us take a pilgrimage together and see." They then walked some miles, climbing their way over many a rock, until they came to a spot where the stream took its rise. When they came near it, they saw flocks of wild fowls flying away, and wild beasts of the earth rushing into the forest. These had come to drink and had soiled the water with their feet. They found an open well which kept continually flowing, but, by reason of these creatures which perpetually disturbed it, the stream was always turbid and muddy.

"My son," said the wise man, "set to work not to protect the fountain and guard the well, which is the source of this stream. When you have done that, if you can keep these wild beasts and fowls away, the stream will flow by itself all pure and clear, and you will have no longer need for your toil." The young man did it, and as he labored, the wise man said to him, "My son, hear the word of wisdom. If you are wrong, seek not to correct your outward life, but seek first to get your heart correct, for out of it are the issues of life. Your life shall be pure when once your heart is so."

So if we would get ride of pride, we should not proceed to arrange our dress by adopting some special costume, or to qualify our language by using an outlandish tongue. Rather, let us seek of God that He would purify our hearts from pride. Then assuredly, if pride is purged from the heart, our life also shall be humble. Make the tree good, and then the fruit shall be good. Make the fountain pure, and the stream shall be sweet.

Friday, September 21, 2012

19 Signs You Are Becoming an Apostate

By Unknown
The following list is provided to allow people to examine which direction their ongoing lifestyles are taking them:
  1. Prayer is either nonexistent or mechanical.
  2. You know the Word but you don't really live it.
  3. Earnest thoughts about eternal matters no long grip your heart.
  4. You can indulge in inward and outward sin without feeling devastated.
  5. A longing for holiness is no longer a predominant passion of your life.
  6. The pursuit of money and possessions are an important part of your life.
  7. You can sing worship songs without really meaning what they express.
  8. You can hear people treating eternal issues flippantly without becoming upset.
  9. Your main concerns are of your temporal, earthly life.
  10. Conflicts in your relationships with others are not a major concern to you.
  11. You no longer hunger for a deeper life in God.
  12. You don't live with a full and grateful heart.
  13. You have little concern over and make little effort to meet the needs of others.
  14. You always see your level of spirituality in positive terms.
  15. You are more concerned about your pet doctrines than people's souls.
  16. Sports, entertainment and pleasure are important aspects of your life.
  17. You are more concerned with your image than with the reality of your life with God.
  18. You are full of bitterness, or criticism, or pride, or covetousness, or lust.
  19. You have a head full of knowledge and a heart made of stone.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Holy Club Member Tests

By John Wesley
  1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I really am? In other words, am I a hypocrite?
  2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate?
  3. Do I confidentially pass on to another what was told to me in confidence?
  4. Can I be trusted?
  5. Am I a slave to dress, friends, work or habits?
  6. Am I self-conscious, self-pitying, or self-justifying?
  7. Did the Bible live in me today?
  8. Do I give it time to speak to me every day?
  9. Am I enjoying prayer?
  10. When did I last speak to someone else of my faith?
  11. Do I pray about the money I spend?
  12. Do I get to bed on time and get up on time?
  13. Do I disobey God in anything?
  14. Do I insist upon doing something about which my conscience is uneasy?
  15. Am I defeated in any part of my life?
  16. Am I jealous, impure, critical, irritable, touchy or distrustful?
  17. How do I spend my spare time?
  18. Am I proud?
  19. Do I thank God that I am not as other people, especially as the Pharisee who despised the publican?
  20. Is there anyone whom I fear, dislike, disown, criticize, hold resentment toward or disregard? If so, what am I doing about it?
  21. Do I grumble or complain constantly?
  22. Is Christ real to me?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

12 Marks of a Holy Man

By J. C. Ryle
  1. Endeavour to be of one mind with God as we find His mind described in Scripture.
  2. Endeavour to shun every known sin and to keep every known commandment.
  3. Strive to be like our Lord Jesus Christ.
  4. Follow after meekness, longsuffering, gentleness, patience, kind tempers, government of his tongue. He will bear much, forbear much, overlook much.
  5. Follow after temperance and self-denial.
  6. Follow after charity and brotherly kindness.
  7. Follow after a spirit of mercy and benevolence toward others.
  8. Follow after purity of heart.
  9. Follow after the fear of God.
  10. Follow after humility.
  11. Follow after faithfulness in all the duties and relations of life.
  12. Follow after spiritual mindedness.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tests From the Epistle of 1 John

By Unknown
  1. Do you enjoy fellowship with God?
  2. Do you enjoy fellowship with other believers?
  3. Are you sensitive to sin?
  4. Do you confess your sins?
  5. Do you love God's Word?
  6. Do you obey God's Word?
  7. Do you continually dwell in sin?
  8. Do you reject the evil world?
  9. Do you eagerly await Christ's return?
  10. Do you conduct your life down here in view of eternity?
  11. Do you desire to help your brother?
  12. Do you see a decreased pattern of sin in your life?
  13. Do you experience answered prayer?
  14. Do you discern between truth and error?
  15. Can you recognize false doctrine when it comes your way?
  16. Do you enjoy a rapport with other servants of God?
  17. Do you really love your brother?
  18. Do you have the witness of the Spirit?
  19. Do you proclaim Jesus?
  20. Are you plagued with constant fear?
  21. Do you hate your spiritual brother?
  22. Are you rejected and persecuted for your faith?
  23. Do you really love God?
  24. Are you able to overcome the world?
  25. Is your Christology correct?
  26. Are you straight on the deity of Christ?
  27. Are you straight on the work of Christ?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Examine Yourself...

  1. Was there a time when you honestly realized you were a sinner and admitted this to yourself and to God (Luke 18:13)?
  2. Was there a time when your heart stirred you to flee the wrath to come (Luke 13:3; John 8:21-24)?
  3. Have you ever seriously been sorrowful over your sin (2 Cor. 7:10)?
  4. Do you truly understand the Gospel that Christ died and rose again for your sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4)?
  5. Do you understand and confess that you cannot save yourself (Eph. 2:8-9)?
  6. Did you sincerely repent of your sins to turn from them, or do you secretly love and enjoy sin (Mark 1:15; 6:12; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:17)?
  7. Have you trusted in Christ, and Christ alone, for your salvation (John 14:6; Acts 4:10- 12)?
  8. Do you enjoy a living relationship with him through the Word and in the Spirit (1 John 1:3)?
  9. Has there been a change in your life (2 Cor. 5:17)?
  10. Do you maintain good works (Eph. 2:10)?
  11. Do you seek to grow in the things of the Lord (1 Pet. 2:2; 2 Pet. 3:18)?
  12. Can others tell that you've been with Jesus (Acts 4:13)?
  13. Do you have a desire to share Christ with others; or are you ashamed of Him (Romans 1:16, Mark 8:38)?
  14. Do you enjoy the fellowship of God's people? Is worship a delight to you (Ps. 119:63; 1 John 1:7)?
  15. Are you ready for the Lord’s return; or will you be ashamed at His coming (2 Pet. 3:11-14; 1 Thess. 4:13-18)?

Friday, September 14, 2012

God's Promises

You say: “Nobody really loves me.”
God says: “I love you.”
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son . . .” –John 3:16

You say: “I am not beautiful.”
God says: “I made you beautiful.”
He hath made every thing beautiful in his time . . .” –Ecclesiastes 3:11

You say: “I am not smart enough.”
God says: “I give you wisdom.”
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom . . .” –1 Corinthians 1:30

You say: “I feel all alone.”
God says: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
. . . I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” –Hebrews 13:5

You say: “It is impossible.”
God says: “All things are possible.”
The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” –Luke 18:27

You say: “I am too tired.”
God says: “I will give you rest.”
Come unto me . . . and I will give you rest.” –Matthew 11:28 (-30)

You say: “I cannot go on.”
God says: “My grace is sufficient.”
My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” –2 Corinthians 12:9

You say: “I cannot figure things out.”
God says: “I will direct your steps.”
. . . Lean not unto thine own understanding . . . he shall direct your paths.” –Proverbs 3:5-6

You say: “I cannot do it.”
God says: “You can do all things.”
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” –Philippians 4:13

You say: “I am not able.”
God says: “I am able.”
And God is able to make all grace abound toward you . . .” –2 Corinthians 9:8

You say: “It is not worth it.”
God says: “It will be worth it.”
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God . . .” –Romans 8:28

You say: “I cannot forgive myself.”
God says: “I forgive you.”
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:9

You say: “I cannot manage.”
God says: I will supply all your needs.”
But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” –Philippians 4:19

You say: “I am afraid.”
God says: “I have not given you a spirit of fear.”
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” –2 Timothy 1:7

You say: “I am always worried and frustrated.”
God says: “Cast all your cares on me.”
Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” –1 Peter 5:7

You say: “I do not have enough faith.”
God says: “I have given everyone a measure of faith.”
. . . Think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” –Romans 12:3

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Remember This

God won’t ask what kind of car you drove, but He’ll ask how many people you drove who didn’t have transportation.

God won’t ask the square footage of your house, but He’ll ask how many people you welcomed into your house.

God won’t ask about the clothes you had in your closet, but He’ll ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won’t ask your social status, but He’ll ask what kind of class you displayed.

God won’t ask how many material possessions you had, but He’ll ask if they dictated your life.

God won’t ask what your highest salary was, but He’ll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.

God won’t ask how much overtime you worked, but He’ll ask if your overtime work was for yourself or for your family.

God won’t ask what you did to help yourself, but He’ll ask what you did to help others.

God won’t ask how many friends you had, but He’ll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won’t ask in what neighbourhood you lived, but He’ll ask how you treated your neighbours.

God won’t ask what you did to protect your rights, but He’ll ask what you did to protect the rights of others.

God won’t ask about the colour of your skin, but He’ll ask about the content of your character.

God won’t ask how many times your deeds matched your words, but He’ll ask how many times they didn’t.

God won’t ask why it took you so long to seek salvation, but He’ll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of hell.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How To Find A Good Church

By Unknown (#'s 24 and 25 added by myself)

Looking for a good church? Join the club. Church-shopping can be a long and painful process. To shorten your search, call the pastor of the church before you visit and ask the following questions. This might save you a lot of Sundays.
  1. What is man's biggest problem, sin or self esteem?
    Seeker sensitive and felt-needs churches focus on man’s hurts and problems. The Bible says that man’s biggest problem is sin.
  2. What must a man do to inherit eternal life?
    Repent and trust is the Biblical answer. If the word “repent” is never used, say, “Thank you.”
  3. How do you deliver the salvation message?
    Ask the pastor to describe specifically what he says. Does he encourage people to simply say a prayer? Does he tell people to ask Jesus into their hearts?
    The salvation message should include: God’s holiness, man’s sinfulness, God’s response (hell), God’s kindness (Jesus on a cross), man’s response (repentance and faith).
  4. How hard is it to become a Christian?
    The “formula” is simple, doing it is not. It is not easy to believe.
  5. How often do you talk about sin, righteousness and judgment?
    Balance is key. This should not be the only emphasis, but it should be a regular emphasis.
  6. How seeker sensitive is your church?
    It is o.k. for a church to be “seeker aware”, but seeker sensitive means that they lean toward seekers and not the saved.
  7. Who do you do church for, seekers or members?
    “Both” is not acceptable. Church should be done for members and the unsaved are welcome to attend.
  8. Do you dumb down your sermons?
    If he says yes, he is probably not trying to wean his members from milk to meat. Answers like, “We try to make our sermons accessible to everyone” are sermons that are not meaty.
  9. What is your mixture of topical vs. expository preaching?
    Topical preaching is fine, but if a pastor never or rarely preaches expositionally (verse by verse), then you are going to be learning from the pastor and not God’s Word.
  10. Do your sermons emphasize theology or are they just relevant?
    Everyone should say their sermons are relevant, what you are looking for is if they teach theology.
  11. Describe your youth programs.
    If fun and games is the major (and usually first) emphasis, you have a youth program that is trying to compete with MTV.
  12. Describe your evangelism programs.
    Don’t just accept, “We have an evangelism committee.” Dig. Are they serious about saving souls?
  13. What church growth model do you follow?
    Hopefully they don’t have one. Churches should be reaching out to the lost, but churches that are plugged into new church growth models tend to follow man’s modern ideas rather than the Bible.
  14. How much do you give to missions and the hungry?
    Again, this reveals the heart of the church. While most churches give to missions, many never consider the poor.
  15. Do you believe the Bible contains no errors or contradictions?
    No equivocation allowed here.
  16. Do you believe in a literal 6 day creation?
    Jesus did (Matt.19:4).
  17. Do you believe in a literal hell and eternal punishment?
    Jesus did (Matt.25).
  18. When you distribute the Lord's Supper, do you emphasize the need to examine yourself?
    Paul did (1 Cor.11:27-32).
  19. Can a person who is living in a persistent lifestyle of sin inherit eternal life?
    Sinners can certainly be forgiven, but practicing sinners cannot inherit eternal life (1 John 3:8-9).
  20. Does your church exercise church discipline?
    Paul said we should (1 Cor. 5).
  21. Do Sunday school teachers, nursery, and youth volunteers fill out an application to answer questions about their core beliefs and salvation, or are all volunteers accepted because of a lack of volunteers?
  22. What are the essentials of the faith?
    Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Salvation through faith alone, the inerrancy of Scripture.
  23. Do you have a cross in your sanctuary?
    Many remove it because they fear it will turn off seekers. They should glory in the cross.
  24. Would you ever ordain a woman as a pastor/preacher?
    If the answer is affirmative, say "Thank you" and leave. Such a church has no respect for God or His Word and does not hold the Bible in high regard. They are in willful disobedience to what God has laid forth (Eph. 5:23, cf. 1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:11-14, cf. 1 Cor. 14:34-38) and they will attempt all manner of ill conceived arguments in order to try and justify their disobedience.
  25. What is your stance on same-sex "marriage"? Would you ever ordain a homosexual?
    Again, if the answer is affirmative, say "Thank you" and leave. Individuals who support this are just as deluded and self-deceived as the one's who practice it (Rom. 1:32). It is rebellion against God's created order (woman created as a suitable comforter and sexual partner for man, and vice versa) and disobedience to God's mandate: "Be fruitful and multiply". It also ignores the clear passages of Scripture against such perversion (Gen. 19:4-9; Judges 19:22-24; Lev. 18:22; 20:13; Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10).

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

35 Reasons Not To Sin

By Jim Elliff
  1. Because a little sin leads to more sin.
  2. Because my sin invites the discipline of God.
  3. Because the time spent in sin is forever wasted.
  4. Because my sin never pleases but always grieves God who loves me.
  5.  Because my sin places a greater burden on my spiritual leaders.
  6. Because in time my sin always brings heaviness to my heart.
  7. Because I am doing what I do not have to do.
  8. Because my sin always makes me less than what I could be.
  9. Because others, including my family, suffer consequences due to my sin.
  10. Because my sin saddens the godly.
  11. Because my sin makes the enemies of God rejoice.
  12. Because sin deceives me into believing I have gained when in reality I have lost.
  13. Because sin may keep me from qualifying for spiritual leadership.
  14. Because the supposed benefits of my sin will never outweigh the consequences of disobedience.
  15. Because repenting of my sin is such a painful process, yet I must repent.
  16. Because sin is a very brief pleasure for an eternal loss.
  17. Because my sin may influence others to sin.
  18. Because my sin may keep others from knowing Christ.
  19. Because sin makes light of the cross, upon which Christ died for the very purpose of taking away my sin.
  20. Because it is impossible to sin and follow the Spirit at the same time.
  21.  Because God chooses not to respect the prayers of those who cherish their sin.
  22. Because sin steals my reputation and robs me of my testimony.
  23. Because others once more earnest than I have been destroyed by just such sins.
  24. Because the inhabitants of heaven and hell would all testify to the foolishness of this sin.
  25. Because sin and guilt may harm both mind and body.
  26.  Because sins mixed with service make the things of God tasteless.
  27. Because suffering for sin has no joy or reward, though suffering for righteousness has both.
  28. Because my sin is adultery with the world.
  29. Because, though forgiven, I will review this very sin at the Judgment Seat where loss and gain of eternal rewards are applied.
  30. Because I can never really know ahead of time just how severe the discipline for my sin might be.
  31. Because my sin may be an indication of a lost condition.
  32. Because to sin is not to love Christ.
  33. Because my unwillingness to reject this sin now grants it an authority over me greater than I wish to believe.
  34. Because sin glorifies God only in His judgment of it and His turning of it to good use, never because it is worth anything on it's own.
  35. Because I promised God He would be Lord of my life.
Relinquish Your Rights — Reject the Sin — Renew the Mind — Rely on God

Monday, September 10, 2012

60 Christian Character Builders

  1. Attentive = Paying attention to and respecting the person by giving genuine courtesy and consideration to God’s Word or a person’s words.
    see Hebrews 2:1
  2. Available = Willing to adjust my schedule to fit the desires of God and others.
    see Mark 1:17-18
  3. Committed = Giving the Lord control of my life.
    see Psalms 37:5
  4. Compassionate = Expressing a deep feeling of love and concern for other’s needs and difficulties.
    see 1 Peter 3:8
  5. Confident = What I say or do will benefit me and, more importantly, others.
    see Philippians 4:13
  6. Consistent = Living my daily life according to God’s principles.
    see 1 Corinthians 15:58
  7. Content = Accepting whatever God provides for my life.
    see Philippians 4:11
  8. Cooperative = Working together in unity and harmony.
    see Ephesians 4:3
  9. Courageous = Realizing that God has given me the strength to face any trial or danger.
    see Deuteronomy 31:6
  10. Creative = Using the talents I have been given to serve the Lord.
    see 1 Timothy 4:14
  11. Decisive = Make decisions based on God’s perfect will.
    see Romans 12:2
  12. Dependable = Being reliable and trustworthy.
    see Colossians 1:10
  13. Determination = Doing all I can to accomplish my part in God’s plan.
    see Hebrews 12:12-13
  14. Devotion = Setting my desire and hope upon God.
    see Colossians 3:2
  15. Diligent = Working hard to do my best for the Lord.
    see Colossians 3:23
  16. Discreet = Forming sound opinions and giving serious attention and thought to what one is doing.
    see Psalm 112:5
  17. Efficient = Making the most of every situation.
    see Ephesians 5:16
  18. Fairness = Seeing a situation from the viewpoint of each person involved.
    see Matthew 7:12
  19. Faithful = Being loyal and true to the one I serve.
    see Matthew 25:21
  20. Fearless = Facing danger boldly with God’s strength.
    see 2 Timothy 1:7
  21. Forgiving = Overlooking a wrong that was done unto me.
    see Colossians 3:13
  22. Friendly = Desiring to know and help others.
    see Proverbs 18:24
  23. Generous = Giving to others because God has given to me.
    see Deuteronomy 16:17
  24. Gentleness = Being patient and kind with others.
    see 2 Timothy 2:24
  25. Godliness = Changing our lives to line up with God’s character.
    see 3 John 1:11
  26. Honest = Being truthful and doing what is right.
    see 2 Corinthians 8:21
  27. Humble = Understanding my weaknesses and striving not to lift up myself above others.
    see 1 Peter 5:5
  28. Joyful = Being filled with happiness in Christ.
    see Ephesians 5:19
  29. Just = Doing all things right, according to God’s laws.
    see Genesis 6:9
  30. Kindness = Showing a loving attitude towards others.
    see Ephesians 4:32
  31. Loyal = Showing my commitment to a person or cause at all times.
    see John 15:13
  32. Meekness = Yielding everything to God.
    see Psalm 22:26
  33. Merciful = Showing more kindness than justice requires.
    see Luke 6:36
  34. Obedience = Willing to do what God requires of me.
    see Deuteronomy 13:4
  35. Optimistic = Thinking of the best in all situations.
    see Romans 8:25
  36. Patience = Going through a difficult situation with calm endurance and not complaining or losing self-control.
    see Psalm 33:20
  37. Peaceful = Yielding myself to the Lord for His control, for He is our peace.
    see Philippians 4:7
  38. Perseverance = Being able to cope with stress to accomplish God’s work.
    see Galatians 6:9
  39. Persuasive = Helping others to understand God’s point of view.
    see 2 Timothy 2:25
  40. Prompt = Being on time and quick to act when a request is made.
    see Ecclesiastes 3:1
  41. Prudent = Seeing what is likely to happen and giving careful thought in acting and planning.
    see Proverbs 14:15
  42. Purposeful = Knowing God’s will for my life.
    see 2 Timothy 1:9
  43. Resourceful = Ready to take on projects that others would overlook or discard.
    see 1 Thessalonians 4:11
  44. Respectful = Honoring the authority God has placed in my life.
    see 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13
  45. Responsible = Knowing and doing what is expected of me.
    see Romans 14:12
  46. Secure = Feeling safe because of God’s protection.
    see Proverbs 29:25
  47. Self-Controlled = Ruling my own life with obedience to the Holy Spirit.
    see 1 Thessalonians 5:22
  48. Sincere = Desiring to do what is right with pure motives.
    see Joshua 24:14
  49. Submissive = Yielding myself to God’s guidance through others.
    see Ephesians 5:22
  50. Supportive = Giving strength and courage to those with troubles.
    see Galatians 6:2
  51. Tactful = Saying and doing the right thing, especially in a difficult situation.
    see Colossians 4:6
  52. Temperate = Not being extreme in any way or thing especially with regard to feelings or appetites.
    see Titus 2:12
  53. Thankful = Expressing to God and others the ways they have shown me favour and kindness.
    see 1 Thessalonians 5:18
  54. Thorough = Doing all that should be done to complete the job.
    see Ecclesiastes 9:10
  55. Thoughtful = Remembering to think of others and their feelings.
    see Philippians 2:4
  56. Thrifty = Using money wisely according to God’s principles.
    see Proverbs 14:24
  57. Tolerant = Being patient with the weakness of others.
    see 1 Thessalonians 5:14
  58. Truthful = Speaking what is true and accurate
    see Ephesians 4:25
  59. Understanding = The ability to know the meaning and reasoning behind a certain situation.
    see Psalms 119:34
  60. Wisdom = The ability to make good judgments.
    see 1 Kings 3:9

Friday, September 7, 2012

Watch How You Live!

If you can pray the following prayer over the things you watch, then by all means watch them.
"Dear Lord, we invite You to come join us in this time of viewing. As Your children, we commit this time to You as worthy of our attention. May our family be uplifted by this hour before the screen. And, Lord, we pray that families everywhere would have the opportunity to do likewise. We thank You for providing this program for us, and we ask You to bless the men and women who produced this show and those who made it available. May they have Your blessings to do more of the same. In Jesus' name, we thank You, Amen."
This can also be applied to what you listen to and what you read. You are what you read; you are what you watch, and you are what you listen to. Garbage in, garbage out. It is not "just a book"; it is not "just a movie"; and it is not "just a song". It is an influence on who and what you are and what you believe.

God knows everything you think, hears everything you say, and sees everything you do because He is always with you. With that fact in mind, freedom in Christ is doing those things which the Holy Spirit leads you to do; not what you feel like doing. If the Holy Spirit is leading you to...
  • ...drink alcohol (if you believe this is okay)—How much?
    Remember what Ephesians 5:18 says?
  • ...listen to music—What’s the message?
    Would the Holy Spirit want to embed this message in your heart? (Galatians 5:13)
  • ...watch movies—Which ones?
    Would the Holy Spirit want to embed these images in your heart? (Galatians 5:13)
  • ...visit places of entertainment—Are you taking God with you?
    If you wouldn't take Jesus there if he was with you in the flesh, you have no purpose in being there yourself.
"For as a man thinks in his heart, so is he." Proverbs 23:7

You act the way you act because you believe the way you believe. You behave the way you behave because you think the way you think. How you believe determines what you do. Correct belief and correct thinking will result in correct action.

Galatians 2:11-14 teaches us to (1) watch our lifestyle and not to act hypocritically, and to (2) act in a manner that is worthy of the truth of the gospel. "As you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him" (Col. 2:6). In other words, walk as if you have truly received Him. "Bear fruits in keeping with repentance" (Luke 3:8).
  • "...walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called," Ephesians 4:1
  • "...conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ;" Philippians. 1:27
  • "...walk in a manner worthy of the Lord..." Colossians 1:10
  • "...walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory." 1 Thessalonians 2:12

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Love is the Law of the Christian Life

Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15; cf. John 14:21, 23-24; 1 John 2:5; 3:23; 5:3; 2 John 1:6). Which commandments would those be? Jesus had said that the greatest commandment was, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30; cf. Matt. 22:37; Luke 10:27), and that the second greatest commandment was, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Matt. 22:39; cf. Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27). Beside these, there is no greater commandment given. These two commandments sum up the entire Ten Commandments. However, Jesus gave his disciples a new commandment: Love.

Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35; cf. John 15:12, 17; 1 John 3:11, 14, 23; 4:7, 11-12, 21). Jesus described this love thus: "For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited me in; naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me...Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of mine, even the least of them, you did it to me" (Matt. 25:35-36, 40). John the baptizer also showed us what love in action looks like: "The man who has two tunics is to share with him who has none; and he who has food is to do likewise" (Luke 3:11). Just as Jesus laid His life down for us, "we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16) because "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). We are to "Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor" (Rom. 12:20; cf. Phil. 2:3-4) and "keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Pet. 4:8). "If someone says 'I love God,' and hates his bother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen" (1 John 4:20; cf. 1 John 2:9, 11).

Most Christians find it easy to love some of the saints, but it is not so easy to love all of the saints. It is said of the churches at Ephesus and Colossae that they had a "love for all the saints" (Eph. 1:15; Col. 1:4). Do we love those saints who disagree with us, whose doctrinal positions differ infinitesimally from our own? Do we love those saints whose dispositions and temperaments are the opposite of ours? Do we love those saints whose culture clashes with ours? We need to learn to love like this, to learn to love like Christ Jesus, because "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). "Let love of the brethren continue" (Heb. 13:1).

Jesus also said to "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you" (Luke 6:27) "and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). "For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?" (Matt. 5:26) "For even sinners love those who love them" (Luke 6:32). "Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great" (Luke 6:35). What does loving our enemies look like? Jesus said, "do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you" (Matt. 5:39-42). Paul puts it succinctly: "Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, 'Vengeance is mine, I will repay,' says the Lord. 'But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:17-21), but "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness" (1 Tim. 6:11).

We are to "Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor, love therefore is the fulfillment of the law" (Rom. 13:8-10; cf. Gal. 5:14). "If...you are fulfilling the royal law...you are doing well" (James 2:8). What does loving my neighbor look like? Jesus illustrated this parable when asked, "who is my neighbor?": "A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead. And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you" (Luke 3:30-35). The one who showed mercy was the one who proved to be a neighbour to the man who was attacked by the robbers.

"We love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). "God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in Him" (1 John 4:16). "The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:8). The Christian is supposed to imitate Christ Jesus. "What was this life of Jesus, which is to be repeated in every Christian life? Its great central characteristic was love—love full of compassion; love serving even to the lowliest degree and at greatest cost; love which was patient, forgiving, thoughtful, gentle; love unto the uttermost, which went to a cross to save sinners!" —J. R. Miller

The Christian is to "put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Col. 3:14) and to "Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good" (Rom. 12:9). Warren Wiersbe said that "Truth without love is brutality, and love without truth is hypocrisy." Truth and love must go hand-in-hand. You cannot have one without the other. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal. 5:22-23). "The greatest of these is love" (1 Cor. 13:13). All the rest flow forth from love. All that the Christian does should be done in love (1 Cor. 16:14). Love edifies; it builds up (1 Cor. 8:1). "Love is patient, love is kind, and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails" (1 Cor. 13:4-8a). If we do not have love, then we are nothing and it profits us nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3). Christians are to "prove [themselves] doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (James 1:22). So "prove the sincerity of your love" (2 Cor. 8:8), "show the proof of your love" (2 Cor. 8:24).
The distinguishing badge by which Christ would have his people known, is not by a sound creed, or by a conduct in the general correct, as excellent as these are — but by LOVE. Love is the image of his Father, love is the characteristic feature of his nature, therefore he said, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples — if you love one another."
Nothing is so frequently pressed upon our attention, nothing is so urgently required of us — as love. Just before Jesus left his disciples, having displayed his own humble love in a most marvelous way, he said to them, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples — if you love one another." John 13:34-35. He does not merely counsel, or recommend — but he commands. He exercises his authority, and displays his love at once. Let us observe,
His Command. "Love one another." He requires love to all saints, without any distinction. All who believe in him — all who acknowledge him — all who make his word their rule — every one whom he loves — we are to love. We must love the saints, though in some secondary things they differ from us. They may differ in some points of doctrine, they may differ in their views of ordinances, and they may differ as to Church government. But the dissenter is to love the churchman, and the churchman is to love the dissenter. The Calvinist is to love the Arminian, and the Arminian is to love the Calvinist. Love one another. Love every child of God, whether a babe, a young man, or a father. Whether a prince or a pauper, a peer or a peasant. Whether a youth or a man of grey hairs.
Jesus requires love — not merely pity, or sympathy, or respect — but love — that is, delight in them, and union to them. He calls this a new commandment, because it is a most excellent one — and also because it is novel. The old commandment was. "You shall love your neighbor — as yourself." The new commandment is, "Love one another — as I have loved you." Mark,
The Pattern: We are to love one another — just as Jesus has loved us.
He loved us freely — without looking for advantage, or expecting profit. So we are to love each other, not for advantage derived, nor gifts conferred — but freely for Christ's sake.
He loved us tenderly, with more than a mother's love. So are we to love each other tenderly as children of the same family, as members of the same body.
He loved us with a love of preference, preferring the ties of grace to the ties of nature. So should we love the Lord's people with a purer, holier love, than our natural relations.
His was a constant love. Having loved his own who were in the world — he loved them unto the end. So should we, displaying forbearance, patience, and compassion, as far as God's honor will allow.
He manifested his love by words and by deeds. So we should use the loving word, and perform the loving deed. From the cup of cold water, given in the name of Christ, up to our laying down our lives for the brethren. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
This love, Jesus displayed to us, and now he says, "Love one another, as I have loved you." Precious Savior, how wonderful your love! May the same mind, the same love be in us — which was also in Christ Jesus.
"I command you to love each other, as I have loved you. For this purpose I died for you. For this purpose I have provided grace for you. For this purpose I exercise my authority, and command you to love one another. For this purpose I have placed you in your present circumstances to prove you. Will you love my brethren, my sisters? Will you love them — as I have loved you? Do you wish to do it? Will you strive to do it? Are you sorry that you have not done it?"
Beloved, are we not guilty? Have we not forgotten and neglected this new commandment? What is the cause of our divisions but this? What would cure our heart-burnings — what would heal our breaches — what would give power to our testimony — what would bring about a glorious revival in the church — what would render the most beneficial impression on the world? This, this, a practical attention to Jesus, when he says, "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples — if you love one another."
"A New Commandment", James Smith, 1860
I am often criticized for the lack of love contained in my writings and/or words, but let me ask you a question: Which is the greater concern, a lack of love in one's words or a lack of love in one's actions? Actions speak louder than words, remember. "Let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth" (1 John 3:18). While I am being condemned because of the lack of love in my words, many of these Christians condemning me are blind to their own lack of love in their actions: "I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite me in; naked, and you did not clothe me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit me...Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me" (Matt. 25:42-43, 45). "And so, by sinning against the brethren...you sin against Christ" (1 Cor. 8:12). The reason for this is "because lawlessness is increased, most people's love will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12). Given a choice between the love in their words or the love in my actions, I will choose my actions every time. I am trying to better the love in my words, because we are to "[speak] the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15), but love in my actions will speak volumes compared to any amount of love in my words. I would rather one act done in love than ten thousand words spoken in love. Showing a person that you love them does far more than merely telling them that you love them and not showing it.

So, to you, Christian, who judge me because of the lack of love in my words, do you judge yourself for the lack of love in your actions? Or are you nothing but a hypocrite? Pull the log out of your own eye before you attempt to help me pull the speck out of my eye. At least I know where my flaw is at. "Better is a diamond with a flaw, than a pebble without." —Confucius

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The World's Christianity

"If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me" (Matt. 16:24).
"Let me warn everyone who wants to be saved not to be content with the world's standard of Christianity. Surely no man with his eyes open can fail to see that the Christianity of the New Testament is something far higher and deeper than the Christianity of most professing Christians. That formal, easy-going, do-little thing, which most people call 'religion,' is evidently not the religion of the Lord Jesus. The things which He praises are not praised by the world. The things which He blames are not things in which the world sees any harm. Oh, if you would follow Christ, do not be content with the world's Christianity! Tremble, tremble and repent!"
(J. C. Ryle, Holiness, Its Nature, Hindrances, Difficulties, and Roots, 1879.)
Two years ago, I read through the entire New Testament in a day and made notes on various verses and passages. After having made my notes, it was very evident to me that what the Bible says about the Christian and what most churches and most "Christians" say about the Christian are two completely different things. Christianity today makes all sorts of excuses for people's sins and will have none of repentance and forsaking of one's sins. When you speak on these things and on holiness, they immediately charge you with legalism. The majority of churches out there have turned the grace of our Lord Jesus into a license to sin as we want to. They have been preaching a false gospel for so long that they have had to water down and reject much of what the Bible actually has to say on these matters.
"We do believe the truths of God's Word but we need to make them bear more upon our experience and practice. Our religion is too much in the head and too little in the heart. Truth rather floats in the understanding than sinks down into the soul. Our memory lets it slip and nothing but frequent meditation on these things, will cause us to profit by them. The truths of God's Word are calculated and intended to benefit the Lord's people, but unless we exercise our minds upon them we shall not be benefited by them.
One truth, brought home to the soul by the Holy Spirit, and digested by meditation does us more good than volumes which just pass through the mind! We ought, therefore, to pray more over what we read and look to the Holy Spirit, beseeching Him to unfold and apply the truth to us!"
(James Smith, Christ Exalted, Saints Comforted, and Sinners Directed, 1855.)
When I was first in Peru, I experienced a Christianity unlike I had ever experienced in North America. The Christianity I experienced down there was akin to what we read in the New Testament in the book of Acts: "And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need" (2:44-45). The Peruvian believers have very little to begin with and yet they are willing to reach out and help you (whoever the "you" may be) with what little that they have. Here in North America where we have an abundance, Christians typically will not lift a finger to help you (unless you are part of their clique). Even the church itself, from all the tithes it receives, will rarely lift a finger to give you aid. If you are without a job and struggling to pay your bills and put food on your table, the entire church can be informed about your predicament and yet no one will lift a finger to see you through your struggles. Oh, one person might slip you a $20, but that is as far as that goes. You have to stretch what little you have just to make sure you can survive, even if that means having a single meal per day because you cannot afford anything more.

"Christians" in North America have this attitude of "I worked hard for my money, why should I give it away to help someone else?" That is not a Christ-like attitude. That is not even a biblical Christian's attitude, according to all that we read in the book of Acts, the Gospels, and the Epistles. What makes North American Christianity even more pathetic looking is how the cults are doing the very things these Christians should be doing. Mormonism, for example, is winning over tons of people, despite its erroneous and heretical teachings, due to the fact that they treat people as if they actually care about them and will go out of their way to help them out. They will come over and do yard work for you without expecting any pay. The Christian who sees the Mormon doing these things and is not doing them himself/herself should be ashamed of himself/herself and convicted over his/her weak religious practices.
"I believe that one reason why the church of God at this present moment has so little influence over the world, is because the world has so much influence over the church."
—Charles Spurgeon

"The Christian is supposed to be different from the people of this present world. If there is no difference to be seen between a Christian and a non-Christian, then how will sinners see the change in our lives if we are exactly like them? If they do not see the difference that Christ has made in our lives, then how can we lead them to saving faith in Christ when our life contradicts our message to the lost?"
—Jerry Sheppard
"I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me" (Matt. 25:42-43). This verse is what many today (Christian and non-Christian) experience inside most North American churches. Why? Because their love has grown cold. This verse is what most Christians in North America are guilty of. These professing Christians are nothing more than selfish, self-centered, greedy, egotistical, hard-hearted, loveless frauds who claim the name of Jesus and yet do none of His works. Jesus said we will know you by your fruits. Well, your fruits are speaking loud and clear. Clean up your act, church—Christian, or may God tear down your house and leave it desolate the same way He did to the temple for the mockery you make of His name. "And so, by sinning against the brethren...you sin against Christ" (1 Cor. 8:12).
Adapted from Matthew 23:13-33
(and fitting for most North American Christians today):

"Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from men; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in. Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites, because you devour widows' houses, even while for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you shall receive greater condemnation. Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land preaching your false brand of Christianity ("Pray this prayer and you're in the club; you can even be a carnal Christian if you want. You don't need to repent or forsake your sins.") in order to make one convert; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! For you tithe your ten percent, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the other. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Christian, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, Christians, you hypocrites! You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell?"
"I want to see a Christianity in action; not a Christianity in distraction." —Jerry Sheppard

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Contending With Loveless Churches, Part 2

by Jerry Sheppard (Soul Reach)

"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13: 35, ESV).

In part one, we dealt with the spiritual condition of a "Loveless Church". The blog entry primarily dealt with the complacent believer's relationship with God, whereas, this present blog entry will deal with the complacent believer's impact upon his/her fellow saints and especially the negative effect he/she has upon non-Christians.

The Complacent Believer's Impact Upon Fellow Saints and Unbelievers

The Scriptures says that "in the last days the love of many will grow cold" (Matt. 24:12). Sadly, this is happening in many local congregations today. Many of God's dear ones, along with many unbelievers, get the cold shoulder when they attend a local Church. Their Church Bulletin gives a hearty welcome, but the experience of many has been anything but welcoming. When the world looks at you as a Christian, do they see the love of Christ in you? In other words, as today's text puts it: are you known as a Christian by your love demonstrated to others?

It is one thing to be a Christian and to live for Christ in a world in opposition against him, but it is quite another thing when you have to deal from day to day with Christians who really do not love each other; they are a loveless Church. For example, over the past 20+ years I have witnessed many power-hungry families in leadership that preside over the local Church and that control the decisions, activities, and affairs of Church life within the congregation. Popularity and social cliques have become the norm in most North American Churches to the point that the ones who cannot fit in usually leave the congregation disillusioned. Some try other evangelical Churches only to experience the same abuse. So they eventually leave. To make matters worse, the social cliques, which usually includes those in leadership, end up blaming the disillusioned and hurt believers instead of helping them fit in. Sadly, love is rarely ever shown towards those within a congregation who struggle with trying to fit in. Instead, they are usually tolerated and socially bullied into keeping quiet about how they are treated. Yet, the local congregations like to give the impression that all is well, and present to the world a squeaky clean image, yet they fail to recognize that they are devoid of any love. I am not alone in my assessment of the carnal state of the local Church. In Keith Miller’s well known book The Taste of New Wine he made this revealing comment:
“Our churches are filled with people who outwardly look contented and at peace but inwardly crying out for someone to love them… But the other people in the church look so happy and contented that one seldom has the courage to admit his own deep needs before such a self-sufficient group as the average church meeting appears to be.” 1
Another author, Marion Jacobsen wrote this observation about the problem of many of today’s local churches:
“Church-members like to think (and have others think) that loneliness, lovelessness, and snobbery do not exist among them. Those who vigorously defend the pure doctrines of the Bible and its way of life are reluctant to admit that in actual practice such social problems do exist among them. They would like for everyone to keep his mask of spiritual pride and joy well in place instead of admitting that there is needless deep, humiliating hurt in the hearts of some of the church family.” 2
Here are the words of one woman’s experience while visiting a local congregation in a strange city:
“I was a stranger in the city. The church sign read, “Welcome,” so I went in. I smiled at the Sunday school children as they rushed to their classes. Neither they nor their parents greeted me. After I sat down, an elderly woman sat beside me. We exchanged names and shook hands. Another woman joined us, saying it was nice weather. After singing a few songs, we went to class. No one spoke to me.

After Sunday school everyone rushed to the worship service. The service included hearty singing, prayer, and a beautiful duet. The minister welcomed Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so. “I don’t see anyone else I don’t know,” he said, and then went on with announcements. After the closing prayer, I waited expectantly to meet someone, but over a hundred worshipers filed out, not even pausing, not even pausing to say, “It was good that you came today.”

Big words in the bulletin said, “Welcome, we are glad you came. Come often.” But all I could think was, “I was a stranger and ye took me not in.3
Concerning such bad behaviour as outlined above, the Lord Jesus says, "If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount" (Luke 6:32-34, see also Matt. 5:46-47). You see the truth here, just showing love to those whom you favour is showing favouritism. As Christians we should be known for our love to all God`s people. The sad indictment that can be said of today`s Church is, "For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked" (Rev. 3: 17). This is how God sees the Church in North America. The good news is that the Lord gives us hope in these next verses, "I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent" (Rev. 3: 18-19).

It saddens me to write about the loveless state of the Church here in the West, while many of our fellow brethren and sisters in Christ around the world are suffering terrible persecution for the cause of Christ. The interesting fact that sets them apart from us here in the West is that they are known for their love and compassion for one another. While we here, in North America in particular, are pretty unloving and indifferent towards each other. Hardly what I would call a Christ-like example to be very proud of. Actually, it is this very attitude that has done much harm to the cause of Christ in evangelism, discipleship, and the building up of the church. Because of this loveless condition of the Church here in the West:
  1. We have lost our healthy fear [reverence] of the Lord.
  2. We have lost our holiness and separation that once use to mark us as the people of God.
  3. We have grown self-centered and worldly in our attitude.
  4. We have become worshipers of pleasure rather than of God.
  5. We have become complacent and compromising in our discipline and convictions we once held dear in our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Now before you start thinking that I am being too negative and critical about the present condition of the church, I just want to point out that the only way to address problems within the body of Christ is to uncover what the issues are, and then come up with the right steps to take action for the solution. To fail to do so, or to brush it aside, so that others might not be offended is definitely not the loving thing to do.

Often, I have been in churches where I heard pastors say we should pray more for the needs of the persecuted Church. The truth is that we need their prayers much more than they need ours. For example, I remember reading a story about a well-known evangelist who visited China. While there, the evangelist asked one Chinese pastor what he would like fellow Christians in the West to pray for in regard to the Chinese Church. The Chinese pastor, with conviction, quickly responded, "Pray that we do not become like you." Noted author, Brennan Manning wrote these sobering words, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips then walk out the door and deny him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable." Another sad fact is that the Church is so judgmental toward others that it fails to judge its own sins. Dave Burchett in his book When Bad Christians Happen to Good People wrote this insightful comment that agrees, "Today, the church condemns those who drink and smoke and live immoral lives, while churchgoers freely engage in glutton and gossip and selfishness and bigotry. The unchurched stand by in amazed, bemused, cynical, or angry observance of our hypocrisy. And they lose respect for our message" (pg. 18). This is the sad commentary on today's modern Church. With all the beautiful designer Bibles, exquisite church buildings, and state of the art programs, it still fails to attract people from outside and to keep fellow Christians inside from leaving. So the question now can be asked, what is the solution to this problem?


1 Keith Miller, The Taste of New Wine, 22.
2 Marion Jacobsen, Saints and Snobs, 19.
3A. D. Schanz, Power for Living, "Was This Your Church?", 3.