Rejoicing in Hunger, Suffering, and Need

Rejoicing in Hunger, Suffering, and Need

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” It would be impossible to tell just how many millions of lives over the past two millennia have been positively impacted and perhaps forever changed by all of the incredibly powerful truths found in Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. Sandwiched in between the ever-empowering and encouraging epistles to the first-century congregations of the Lord’s church in Ephesus and Colossae (which are often described as regarding the church of Christ and the Christ of the church respectively), these three epistles together, comprise the heart and soul of a trio of truth, without which our Bibles would be sadly lacking.

hunger need

Where ever you are, how is your spirit?

But do you recall what else they have in common? They were all written during Paul’s first Roman confinement. Really stop and consider that for a moment. Paul could no longer travel about to preach and teach as he had done in the past. While he still managed to visit with those who dared come and be with him (Acts 28:30-31), his social and occupational movements were now much more severely restricted. Life as he had known it – and perhaps even taken for granted – had now ground to a screeching halt. (Sound familiar?) Although Paul could not have known the full extent or possible divine purpose at the time, God, through Paul’s inability to carry on with his regular daily pursuits and activities, was providing him with the “free” time, to – amongst other things – write those three beautiful, magnificent, and all-empowering epistles (Rom. 8:28)!

So the question is: What are you doing for God with your new-found “free” time? Do you recall all of those instances wherein you may have said something like, “I just don’t have the time to study daily,” or, “I’d like to talk to people more about Jesus, but I’m just too busy?” Well, now you have it. Are you, like Paul (Phil. 1:12-13, 4:22), making the most of the time (Eph. 5:14-17)? God bless!

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Born of a Conversion Experience?

Born of a Conversion Experience?

In his book Decision Points, George W. Bush recalls asking Billy Graham whether a conversion experience was necessary to become a Christian. Graham said that some people are just born Christians, no conversion necessary.The answer contradicts what Jesus said in John 3:3“Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Jesus spoke not of physical birth, but being born of water and spirit: baptism, the “washing of regeneration” (Titus 3:5). No one can see the kingdom of God without it; individuals are not born Christians.

Conversion Experience

Let’s stick with the Bible in matters of conversion.

Jesus also said, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me” (John 6:45).  Christianity is a taught, heard, and learned religion. If someone were born a Christian, Jesus would be wrong. Someone might object, “What about Hebrews 8:11: ‘And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest’?” This passage contrasts the Old and New Covenants.  Men were physically born under the Old Covenant as Israelites; they had to be taught as children to “Know the Lord.”  However, those who are born again aretaught before conversion.So, upon entering the kingdom,they know the Lord.

There are no New Testament cases where an individual is born a Christian.  Graham’s message of salvation does not come from the Bible, but John Calvin. Calvin believed that God personally predestined all individuals to heaven or hell, and nothing can change it. Graham’s answer is consistent with Calvinism, but not the Bible.  Let’s believe the Bible, not Billy Graham.

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Political Correctness by the Preacher?

Political Correctness by the Preacher?

Over the years, the style of preaching has changed. In recent years, the impact of political correctness has created an atmosphere in many churches today where sin may be dealt with in a generic way but where the clarity of God preaching about the sins of the listeners has almost been removed. Young preachers, and some older ones, would do well to examine the kind of preaching which in the first century “…turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).

Politcal Correctness Heston

Truth doesn’t always make you smile.

Have we lost sight of the fact that the preaching in the first century came about because God determined the message, and “they began to speak…as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4)? Jesus’ disciples were told that when they were confronted in the synagogues or brought before authorities, “Do not worry about how or what you should answer, or what you should say. For the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you should answer, or what you should say” (Luke 12:11-12). Preachers need to study to learn the kind of preaching done when God chose the style of preaching.

Look at how Jesus described the kind of preaching that was done by the Holy Spirit. “He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). When properly understood, the Greek word translated convict shows the kind of preaching God wanted in that day as well as in ours. Barclay says in defining that word, “It is used for the cross-examination of a witness, or a man on trial, or an opponent in an argument. It has always this idea of cross-examining a man until he sees and admits his errors or acknowledges the force of some argument which he had not yet seen.” This concept stands in marked contrast to the use of the sophistry of human wisdom trying to suavely change lives of the listeners without upsetting their souls.

It is the word used to describe the preaching of John the Baptist when he openly confronted adulterous Herod (Luke 3:19). It is the word used to describe the public action God intended for preachers to do when they openly rebuked impenitent elders before the whole church (1 Tim. 5:20). It is used to describe what could happen when an unbeliever comes into the weekly assembly. “If…an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all…so falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you” (1 Cor. 14:24-25).

Yet in our day, we tend to remove the convicting words of the Spirit and replace them with our own ideas. Why would we not bring to the forefront those book, chapter and verse words given so forcefully by God? Have you considered that by not using His word you might be quenching the Spirit?

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Tact: Work on It

Tact: Work on It

A person who is tactful is able to say and do things in a manner which have a lesser chance of offending people.  Some people are absolutely more tactful than others.  All of us have had moments where we could have been more tactful.  Over the years, I certainly have had my tactless moments.  I know as I have aged those moments have become fewer and far between, but I am not immune to a lack of tact.  Christians need to be careful that they are growing in their ability to be tactful.

tact behavior

Consider the impact of what you say and do before you say or do it.

A good brother delivered a fantastic live online lesson on Church History.  The lesson was factual, contained a heart-felt plea for restoration, and was received well by a large audience.  Unfortunately, immediately following the lesson another brother in Christ decided to publicly challenge him on a divisive topic not addressed in the lesson.  The example was poor.  The timing was poor.  No visible benefit was produced.  What was conveyed was insensitive, unconstructive, and tactless.  The good Christian brother with a lack of tact did not increase his influence in reaching others.  Strangers are not more likely to be going to him for Biblical instruction.  Souls will not be won by his actions.  What could have happened?  How could the concern on the questioning brother’s mind have been handled so that it did not reflect negatively on him, other Christians, and the Church as a whole?

Acts 18 discusses a man named Apollos.  Apollos was mighty in the Old Testament scriptures.  He was eloquent.  He spoke about Jesus.  He spoke boldly!  Yet, due to his own ignorance, he shared the truth only in part and not in full.  Two Christians, Aquila and Priscilla listened to his message.  They had concerns.  They could have publicly blasted Apollos in a tactless moment.  They could have shamed their example and the Church.  What they did instead was treat a good brother in Christ with respect and kindness.  Acts 18:26, speaks of them taking Apollos to the side and helping him with the way of God.  That is the art of tact.

Do we think of what we say and do before we do it?  Why not take concerned replies to others into private discussion instead of disgraceful public squabbling?  How often have you read on the internet or on a bumper sticker something to the effect: “I was at Church Sunday, not watching the Big Game”.  How many souls have ever been won by this approach?  How many have been offended and turned away by this attempt to dump of a random bucket of guilt on a stranger’s head?  The Puritans when they came to America would demonstrate how “pious” they were by multiple worship services on Sunday.  When Christians behave with such tactless motive are they simple trying to show how “pious” they are in comparison to others?  I suggest they reevaluate the result.

Christianity is about a relationship with our God.  While the Word of God ultimately may bring offence to many, the manner in which that Word is shared needs to be done with kindness and thoughtfulness.  Consider a few scriptures for further study on tactfulness:  Proverbs 16:24, Ephesians 4:29, I Corinthians 9:19-23.  I implore you, please keep your words under control, sober, and edifying all those with who come within your sphere of influence.

Ephesians 4:15 – “But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:”




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Scattered and Alone?

Scattered and Alone?

Just shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to His own, and will leave me alone” (John 16:32a). We can all certainly relate to both sides of that statement today can’t we? We have all been scattered, each to his/her own home for the time being, no longer able to enjoy the sweet fellowship and togetherness that we have become so accustomed to, and maybe even taken a little for granted at times over the years. Subsequently, many of us have perhaps even begun to feel very alone due to our physical isolation from one another… But hear Jesus’ next words very clearly: “And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (John 16:32b).

scattered pieces

Scattered and alone? Or Scattered but One?

Jesus, going into the worst and most horrific event of His entire existence, knew, and took total peace and comfort in the fact, that even if no one else He loved could/would be there with Him, that His heavenly Father was with Him. Jesus was dying to have you and I be able to enjoy that same level of divine peace and comfort, even in the worst of our worldly tribulations: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

When you factor in that God would soon, however, be forced to abandon Jesus because of our sins upon Him (Matthew 27:46); but how that God has promised never to forsake His faithful and forgiven children in Christ (Hebrews 13:5) because of the righteousness of God upon/within them (2 Corinthians 5:17), shouldn’t that therefore, enable and empower us to have even more peace and comfort than Jesus did that evening… even though we, too, may be scattered, and/or otherwise alone? It surely should! And so, go forward and rejoice today my beloved brethren, knowing that God is with you (Psalm 118:15-29, and particularly verse 24)!

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