John the Immerser: Greater

John the Immerser: Greater

Other than Jesus, can you think of any person in the Bible who would be greater than Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Caleb, any of the judges including Samuel, any of the Old Testament prophets and even greater than David, the man after God’s own heart? This is not a trick question. The Bible says there is someone who is greater than any of those righteous men just listed.

Hear the words of Jesus. “Among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11). We may have overlooked the importance of this great man.

John had an immediate and far-reaching impact when he began his work. He obviously did not look like those religious leaders among the Jews who wore special clothing and designed their clothes so that would appear to men to be holier than others (Matt. 23:5). Their prayers were ornate and used as a public display of their pretended righteousness (Matt. 6:5).

What did John look like? Jesus asked the Jews of his day what did they see when they saw John in the wilderness. The Lord said he was not a man clothed in soft garments, for those who wear soft clothing live in the kings’ palaces (Matt. 11:8). You know his clothing and his diet. He was clothed in camel’s hair with a leather belt and ate locust and wild honey (Matt. 3:4). He did not look like any religious leader of his day, yet look at the impact he had. “Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized of him, confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:5-6).

Some thought John was Elijah who had come returned to the earth, perhaps because his clothing was like that of the prophet (2 Kings 1:8). Some thought he was that Prophet who was to come and be like Moses (Deut. 18:18). Others thought he was the Messiah. John denied that he was any of these (John 1:20-21).

Who was John and what made him so great? Two Old Testament prophets foretold his coming and described the work he would do which made his so great. That testament ends with a prophecy about his coming before the Messiah, and Isaiah described him as the voice in the wilderness as the forerunner of the Christ (Mal. 4:5-6; Isa. 40:3-5). Jesus himself said that John was “…more than a prophet” (Matt. 11:9).

What made him so great? Almost all of those holy men of old talked about the coming of the Messiah in various ways. John not only talked about Him, John said He is here—”Behold the Lamb of God” (John 1:29).

By the way, there is someone other than Jesus who is greater than John living on the earth today—read Matt. 11:11.

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Loving Our Adversaries

Loving Our Adversaries

Negative feelings, prejudices, harsh experiences, previous conflict, tarnished expectations, these and more lend themselves to a desire not to engage compassion toward real or perceived adversaries.  During World War II, a German Pilot by the name of Franz Stigler had an opportunity to destroy American soldiers.  They were the enemy.  His target, a B-17 bomber, served to destroy German cities.  Certainly, the duties of war called upon all sides to rain destruction.  Instead of delivering a death blow to the Americans though, Stigler instead chose love.  He saw the B-17 was heavily damaged, most of its crew wounded or dead.  They were defenseless.  Stigler, chose to preserve their lives and escorted them to safety.

B17 Adversaries

Who are your adversaries? Why? What is your response to them?

To behave kindly during moments where we can retaliate, exact revenge, or gain “power” over others is something we don’t frequently see.  It often appears to be reserved for youth sporting events where children stop to help an opponent up off the ground rather than focus on a ball.  Many cultures would encourage “going in for the kill” and exploit another’s weakness, rather than demonstrate kindness.  Yet, this is exactly the behavior Christ encourages in Luke 6:27-36, summarized by the words, “Love your enemies”.   The motive is not personal gain, the maintenance of a relationship, or the exchange of kindness.  The motive rests within righteousness itself.  God created us to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).  We should not primarily do them due to fear of punishment, promise of reward, or even love of our heavenly Father.  The motive of acting kindly should be the belief that the commands of God are right and therefore they are the right thing to do (Genesis 15:6, Deuteronomy 6:25).  Doing right, because it is right.

Every day, we have opportunities to let moments of possible conflict pass. Yet, the temptation to forget thoughtfulness, be short, snap back and say something mean, or behave in a harsh, unkind manner seems to overcome many.  Romans 12:17-21 warns of being overcome by the evil of treating others poorly.  Paul encourages us to find ways to do that which is honorable in the sight of others.  How are we able to shut the door on creating a negative situation and instead open the door to positivity (Philippians 4:8)?  The Roman’s text presents imagery of aiding a person looking for coals for his fire (once a common practice).  The idea of doing something compassionate is akin to filling a basket which he carried upon his head, full of coals for his fire.  Who knows if the proper act of goodness will stop there, be appreciated minimially, or blossom into something much more.  The reality is good can overcome evil in the spur of the moment or even overtime, but it has to be utilized to have a chance.

Referencing Luke 6:27-36 again, Jesus proclaims “as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them”.  Why?  Intuitively, we do not want to feel pain, hurt feelings, shame, loneliness, hunger, want, a lack of hope, etc.  Certainly, others feel the same way. It is actually some of these feelings by those who do evil that actually drive them to do evil.  They have been treated poorly, so they think that is the only way to react to obtain their desires.  Sadly, it is not.  Yet, if we are demonstrating how a person should behave, how Christ would behave, what could the impact be? Perhaps we would bring a soul to Christ just by being a loving example (I Peter 3:1-2).  Perhaps seeing a Christian transformed (Romans 12:2), experiencing freedom in Christ (Romans 8:1), and fulfilling their purpose of goodness in purity would be the catalyst in an “enemy’s” life.

There are people in this world who oppose us, treat us poorly, or hold beliefs with which we strongly disagree.  Some of these folks are our spiritual brothers and sisters.  What have they done to us?  What are they doing now?  Do we dislike them? Why?  Remember Jonah’s reaction to the Ninevites.  He did not want to help them!  When he did, he wasn’t happy about it! Why?  Jonah 4:2for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, and repentest thee of the evil.”  Do we not want others to experience the same forgiveness and kindness of God that we have received (Romans 3:23)?  How hard is it to say or do something nice?  Is it that no one else understands how awful the person is that we have to engage?  Matthew 7:2For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you.”  This is really the other side of “doing to others what I want done to me.”  It is “don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you.”

God has put up with mankind’s sinfulness from the beginning (Genesis 3).  He got to the point that He regretted creating mankind (Genesis 6).  Yet, there is so much Bible afterward and even more sin: Rejection of God and His provision, killing of His prophets, profaning the things of God, and crucifixion of Jesus. Yet, not only did God know man would do this, His kind forgiveness was still extended to everyone (Acts 2:21).  Consider the many times we have acted in opposition to God’s commands.  We have been the adversary.  We have been the enemy.  Yet, He still calls us to Him (Revelation 3:20).

The kindness of Franz Stigler was not forgotten by the Americans.  50 years after the event, Charles Brown, the American pilot, contacted and was able to meet his enemy.  He thanked him for his kindness.  Stigler told Brown that he loved him.  What was the motivation that day in 1943?  What caused one enemy to show another kindness?  Hand on the trigger, ready to fire, Stigler believed it was contrary to the love God wanted him to show, and instead directed his enemy toward salvation.

 

 

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God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists

God Doesn’t Believe in Atheists

God does exist. All of the best-sellers in the world that espouse otherwise will not change that fact. But if we really expect our children to believe and follow the One True Living God, we must start thinking outside the box! Sadly, the atheists of this country are doing their job better than we Christian parents are. It’s time someone state the obvious: What we’ve done in the past hasn’t worked. If you do not believe this, just walk into a church building and inquire if anyone there has children who have abandoned the faith. But be prepared—for the line that forms before you may be much longer than you ever expected. Far too many young people are leaving the church only to turn around and embrace secular humanism, or even worse, atheism.

athiests puzzled

Are your children puzzled about God?

Now think: How many of those children who have left the Church could name you most of the state capitals? How many of those children know the value for pi, or how to solve for “x” in an algebra problem? How many of those children can name bones of the body or could describe the water cycle? How many of those children know every word to their favorite songs or could tell you verbatim lines from their favorite movie? How many of those children have studied for hours to take tests over meaningless material?

As you sit there considering how much time these young people have spent cramming for standardized tests, ask yourself this one simple question: How much time have they spent actually studying Christian evidences or logical arguments to prove God’s existence? If we are going to reverse this trend, we must start thinking outside the box as to what is “normal”. It’s time we expect more from ourselves and more from our children.

[Reader: “Is he actually suggesting that we test or quiz our children over Christian evidences or make them study biblical material outside of Bible class?”]

I guess my response would be: “Yes, whatever it takes.” After all, which “test” is ultimately more important? I’m not downplaying the importance of a good education—I’m just trying to remind parents that their children spend an enormous amount of time learning “things,” but too often they only spend a small fraction learning about God and His Word. It is no secret that during their educational years students spend a great deal of time studying evolution, humanism, other religious beliefs, and even the tenets of atheism.

Why not counter this with a solid Christian foundation? As I mentioned before, what we’ve done in the past hasn’t worked. It’s time we get serious and combat the atheist’s propaganda with knowledge! Ask yourself this question: Can my children and grandchildren truly prove that God exists?

Our children are told that if you can measure something using the scientific method (using your five senses) then it is an illusion. Where does that place God—a spirit (John 4:24)? Anyone who has spent any time at all studying philosophy or logic understands that while a Supreme Being may not be proven in a laboratory using the scientific method, the laboratory’s very existence is proof for His existence.

Consider this simple logic: It is a self-evident truth that something cannot come from nothing. (If someone wants to argue this fact, I would love to sell them some “nothing.”) Since something now exists, this indicates that something has existed forever. That means something is eternal—meaning it has always been here. This is simple logic—something exists today, thus something has always existed. The question is what has eternal properties?

Atheists and evolutionists would have students believe that the Universe is eternal, however that does not fit the scientific data. We know today that the Universe is expanding, which is a clear indication it had a beginning. As evolutionists Robert Jastrow admitted: “The lingering decline predicted by astronomers for the end of the world differs from the explosive conditions they have calculated for its birth, but the impact is the same: modern science denies an eternal existence to the Universe, either in the past or the future” (1977, p. 30).

The only logical conclusion is that God is eternal and He was responsible for the creation of the Universe. With a little time and a little study we can teach these Truths to our children and grandchildren.

I’ve heard it said many times that it takes more faith to be an atheist. Given the amount of evidence we have for God I would agree. Brad Stine once mused: “Who is more irrational? A man who believes in a God he doesn’t see, or a man who’s offended by a God he doesn’t believe in?”

I would take that even one step further: “Who is more irrational? A Christian who believes in a God but doesn’t teach his child about Him, or an atheist who doesn’t believe in Him but takes the time to teach the child his beliefs?”

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LA OFRENDA DE LA ESPOSA SIN SALARIO 

LA OFRENDA DE LA ESPOSA SIN SALARIO 

En cada lugar donde he trabajado por el Señor la pregunta es la misma aunque planteada de distintas formas. Muchos hermanos al llegar a 1 Corintios 16:1-3 la frase: “…cada uno de vosotros ponga aparte algo…conforme haya prosperado” se preguntan ¿y que de mi esposa que es ama de casa y no recibe salario? La pregunta sin lugar a duda plantea una inquietud genuina y demanda una respuesta con base genuina también.

esposa pregunta

Que hago?

Hay dos opciones de primera mano: 1) No dar ofrenda del todo (pues no tiene salario) y 2) Dar ofrenda del dinero que el esposo le pueda compartir. Según parece ninguna de las dos opciones suena en armonía con lo que el texto pudiera estar diciendo a los oídos de muchos y es ahí donde entra en juego el aporte que este artículo pudiera ofrecer. Estoy perfectamente consciente que muchas parejas han estado casadas aún antes del “diluvio” y han resuelto con satisfacción esta interrogante a través de los años, y para nada sea mi intención cambiar su sistema de trabajo, pero más bien poder orientar a quienes tienen esta duda genuina en su búsqueda de querer agradar al Señor con todo y en todo. Hay muchas otras cosas similares a esta en las que no existe texto en específico que dicte o regule, pero sí existe un principio divino para estos casos mostrado por toda la Biblia llamado sentido común o lógica de la cual echaremos mano en esta ocasión.
PRIMERO: Lo que el texto no dice. El texto no dice que las hermanas casadas sin salario no den ofrendas del todo por no tener un salario. Considero que ese pensamiento atenta directamente con la integridad de la Ofrenda como acto de adoración a Dios, pues no es una cuestión circunstancial monetaria solamente sino que con respeto hemos de observar como un acto de adoración a Dios en el que con mis recursos estoy cooperando para el avance de la obra de Dios acá sobre esta tierra. Para nada entonces las hermanas han de observar este acto con indiferencia solamente por lo fuerte que podría parecer de la frase “según haya prosperado”.  He observado hermanos que toman esta frase y la aíslan del contexto del Nuevo Testamento y de la lógica haciendo de él una ley escrita con “sangre”.  Ni por un segundo creo que existe solamente un versículo que sea el único que dicte el proceder en la ofrenda, y sería un error de su parte alienar la frase, del resto del libro. Observe por ejemplo Lucas 21:1-2 la viuda pobre que dio todo lo que tenía. Hay que notar con cuidado: 1) Era viuda, 2) no tenía salario, 3) era pobre 4) era mujer, 5) aún así ofrendó. La condición actual de muchas hermanas que no están ofrendando por no tener salario es mucho mejor que la condición de la viuda. Considere también que la observación de Jesús va mucho más allá que sencillamente el dinero, El dice  que ella “…dio todo lo que tenía.” El acto de adoración de la ofrenda consiste en darse a uno mismo y después despojarse de su posición por amor al Señor. Me temo que muchas hermanas que son amas de casa, necesitan mirar más de cerca este relato antes de escudarse en silencio a “yo no trabajo”, o “yo no tengo salario” mientras ven con indiferencia el plato de la ofrenda el domingo por la mañana.
SEGUNDO: Lo que el texto está enseñando.  Una de las primeras cosas que Pablo enfatiza en este pasaje es que él había dado orden a las Iglesias de Cristo que estaban en la provincia romana de Galacia. Lo que sabemos de eso es que son 4 (Antioquía, Derbe, Iconio y Listra). Bajo inspiración divina Pablo estaba organizando lo que sería universalmente la adoración de la Iglesia de Cristo en estas cuatro congregaciones y luego en el mundo entero incluyendo Corinto a quienes estaba escribiendo. Pondré mucho énfasis en lo que sigue, pues no era la intención del apóstol dar una indicación INDIVIDUAL de cómo proceder en detalle con el acto de la ofrenda. ¿Guardarla en un banco o tenerla en su casa?¿Si el salario es mensual, debería de guardarla y en un mes darla toda, o dividirla aunque semanalmente no esté prosperando? ¿la esposa que no tenga salario?… nada de estas cosas están aquí en discusión sino que sencillamente cada miembro del cuerpo de Cristo debía apartar es decir formar un espacio en sus gastos de vida, “según haya prosperado” es decir aprender a ser generoso con su Dios entre más y mejor le esté yendo en las finanzas.  Observemos con neutralidad el texto de 1 Corintos 16:
1.     Cada uno ἕκαστος (hekastos) cada cuál, cada uno. Misma palabra que se usa en Mt.18:35 “…si no perdonáis cada uno a su hermano”.  Esto excluye la “Ofrenda familiar” pues su esposo o esposa no canta, en lugar suyo ni tampoco toma la cena en su lugar.  Dios espera una adoración individual que se una al grupo colectivo de la Iglesia local.
2.     “Ponga” τίθημι (titemi) depositar, designar. Y es un verbo, presente, imperativo, este último expresa mandato. Y aquí podría indicar dos cosas: 1) Poner aparte en la mente y el corazón o 2) Poner aparte en el sentido de depositar el dinero de forma separada. Es mi convicción que el uso de esta palabra aquí es empleado en el segundo sentido, es decir;  poner a parte, en un acto físico de depositar de forma separada el dinero. La razón es porque cada versículo en el contexto así parece indicarlo. El v.2 le llama ofrenda, mientras que el v.3 donativo. No es que tenían que separarlo en su mente durante la semana…NO, NO, NO.  Más bien su ofrenda de cada domingo sería puesta aparte (físicamente hablando), es decir sería destinada para este esfuerzo misionero de ayudar a los hermanos en Jerusalén y cuando Pablo llegara a Corinto no tendría que ir casa por casa a recoger individualmente la ayuda sino que sería un esfuerzo colectivo.
3.     “Haya prosperado” εὐοδόω (euodúo) tener éxito, irle bien, completar.  Esta palabra aquí está en el modo subjuntivo. ¿Sabe usted que es el modo subjuntivo? Generalmente, el modo subjuntivo es aquella forma del verbo que expresa acción, estado, o condición, no como algo verdadero, sino más bien, como una posibilidad, una contingencia, o algo hipotético. Por ejemplo en Mateo 19:9 se emplea el modo subjuntivo : “ y yo os digo que cualquiera que repudie a su mujer…” No es que ya haya sucedido pero es un caso hipotético. “Haya prosperado” también debe de ser tomado de la misma forma por lo que no considero prudente hacer una ley absolutamente estricta en algo que es una posibilidad. ¿Significa entonces que si no prospera esta semana no doy ofrenda? Absolutamente No.  Porque, ¿Qué hacemos con la viuda que no había prosperado y aún así dio lo único que tenía? Claramente no existe armonía si tomamos el “haya prosperado” como algo semanal. Más bien, el principio universal que Pablo está enseñando aquí es que si un hermano está teniendo éxito en sus finanzas, eso debe de ser reflejado en la ofrenda de la Iglesia, pues entre más tenga más podrá dar y entre más de la obra de Dios en la tierra se extiende con éxito también. Bernabé en Hechos 4 tenía una propiedad y la vendió y la trajo a los apóstoles para que estos lo repartieran y cubrieran la necesidad de todos los hermanos que se habían quedado ahí después de encontrarse con la salvación el día de pentecostés. ¿Era algo semanal? Por supuesto que no “y vendían sus propiedades y sus bienes, y lo repartían a todos según la necesidad de cada uno”. (Hechos 2:45) de esa misma actitud está haciendo referencia Pablo en 1 Corintios 16.
TERCERO. Sentido común. ¿Cómo puede ofrendar la esposa sin salario?. Cuando el esposo le da plata para comprar un par de zapatos ¿acaso no es el dinero  de ella ahora? Por supuesto que sí. Si el esposo le da un dinero para que ofrenden, algunos han dicho: “Es que ese dinero no es bien visto, pues el texto dice que tiene que prosperar”. A lo que yo respondo:
A.   En el matrimonio son una sola carne, y dos finanzas separadas.
B.    En el acto de la ofrenda, es más importante el dinero y su fuente que el corazón.
C.    Ninguna de las anteriores.
D.   Todas las anteriores.
Escoja usted una opción de las cuatro.
En una práctica de buen sentido común se podría entender que si el esposo le provee dinero para otras cosas y ella personalmente toma algo para dar su ofrenda el domingo, sencillamente eso refleja el corazón de una mujer como la viuda que ama a Dios. Hay que cuidar  nuestra actitud al momento del acto y no solamente verlo con indiferencia aún cuando no tengamos que aportar.
Muchas cosas más podrían ser dichas pero para concluir lo más importante para remarcar es que Dios solamente conoce los corazones y uno mismo. Amar a Dios con todo nuestro ser y yo añadiría con todas nuestras finanzas también. El dar debe ser un acto de toda liberalidad que pueda ser expresado con el corazón hacia Dios y hacía la Iglesia.  Hay que tener cuidado en no construir  reglas imaginarias alrededor de textos sin considerar el resto de la Biblia. Así como Dios dio su ofrenda más grande y mejor (su hijo) en amor, invitándole  debemos aprender a dar siempre lo mejor que tengamos y nuestros corazones agradecerán eso. Recuerde que los de corazón puro verán a Dios (Mt.5:8), es mi oración que podamos dar al Señor lo mejor que tenemos, aún cuando con monedas no podamos aportar nada.
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Preaching Revelation

Preaching Revelation

Have you always wanted to teach the book of Revelation but felt too intimidated to do so? This book will help you unravel the great mysteries therein. Whether you want to preach, teach, or just learn what the book is about, you will find this volume a helpful guide in learning the signs, symbols, numbers, and flow of the last book of the Bible.

In this book, Kevin Cauley guides you through the text in a practical way looking at both the big picture and how the elements all work together. The book of Revelation will unfold before you as you study the cross-references embedded in the text and discover their relationship. It does not matter if you are a Bible scholar or a Bible beginner. This book will help you understand what Revelation means and how it applies to your life.

This is an excellent book for teen and adult Bible classes. The chapters are broken down into easily understandable sections that will help you see the structure and flow of the book, and the end of each chapter has a set of ten discussion questions for further thought. These are designed to help the student engage the text of the book of Revelation and learn the key elements.

Preaching Revelation is a volume born out of years of work and study and a lifetime of learning. If you are looking for a orthodox handling of the text, you will not go wrong with this book.

(Church of Christ Articles does not receive compensation or provide content for any books the authors write.  Kevin Cauley is an outstanding scholar of the Word of God.  As with all authors on the site, he is not inspired, and therefore has different approaches of interpretation regarding some topics.  Consider the thoughts he has compiled in his study and presentation, then grow closer to God!)

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