August 16, 2020
Joy in Times of Trouble
While Paul was a prisoner in Rome, Epaphroditus, a member of the church in Philippi, was sent to Rome to bring a special gift to Paul that would help him in his time of trouble (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:10-20). The letter to the Philippians is a thank-you letter, but more than that, Paul shares the secret of Christian joy and contentment. At least 19 times in these four chapters, Paul mentions joy, rejoicing, or gladness.
Paul is a Roman prisoner possibly facing the death penalty, yet his message is laced with joy and contentment. Acts 28:30-31 indicates that he was a prisoner in his own hired house, but he was chained to a Roman soldier and not permitted to preach in public. Paul had wanted to go to Rome as a preacher (Rom. 1:13-16); instead, he had come as a prisoner. And, unfortunately, the believers at Rome were divided. Some were for Paul and some were against him (Phil. 1:15-17).
Paul instructs his readers to focus on their relationship with Christ (Phil. 2:1-2). Jesus Christ was “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Yet He possessed a deep joy that was beyond human imagination. As He faced the cruel death of crucifixion, he said to His followers, “These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full” (John 15:11).
Those who have Christ as Lord have the privilege of knowing true joy. The Psalmist writes, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Ps. 16:11). Paul presents it as, “the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension” (Phil. 4:7). Yet, most of us live under a cloud of desperation, sadness, and conflict when we could be walking in the sunshine of joy.
The book of Philippians presents four ways that Christians are robbed of this joy. Circumstances often rob us of our joy (cf. 1:12-14; 4:11-13). People often rob us of our joy (cf. 1:15-18; 2:25-30). Things often rob us of our joy (cf. 3:7- 14; 4:10-11; Luke 12:15). Worry often robs us of our joy (cf. 4:4-7; Matt. 6:25-27).
Join us Sunday morning as we look at the ways we are robbed of our joy. Join us for our PM lesson as we learn to cultivate the mind to keep these thieves from stealing the joy that is rightfully ours in Christ. Paul uses “mind” 10 times, “think” 5 times, and “remember” once. In other words, the secret of Christian joy is found in the way one thinks—his attitude. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).
Join us as we study from Philippians.
August 9, 2020
Living by Faith
The book of Habakkuk differs from other prophets, because it reveals Habakkuk’s debate with God. In chapter one Habakkuk questioned God asking how long God would sit idle and watch the wicked control Judah (vv. 2-4). Habakkuk’s question was a plea for help (v. 2). He complained asking God why He makes him watch the suffering of the righteous and do nothing (v. 3)? Habakkuk had observed that the wickedness in Judah was so great that the wicked had a greater influence than the righteous which caused even the legal system to be corrupt (v. 4).
God then prepared Habakkuk for His answer instructing him to “look among the nations” (v. 5). Then God explained, “I am doing something in your days that you would not believe if you were told” (v. 5). God further explained that He was “raising up” the wicked and dreaded Babylonians to judge wicked Judah (vv. 6-11). Habakkuk questioned God again asking, “Why would you use a nation more wicked than Judah to judge the wicked in Judah” (1:13-14)? God’s response did not answer the questions, but God told Habakkuk to write what he saw, wait, and live by faith (2:2-4). This explains man’s whole role in life. When we understand that God’s judgment is coming upon the wicked, we will wait, and “the righteous shall live by faith” (2:4). We do not have to understand all that is going on in our world. We do not have to have everything explained. We must simply trust that God’s judgments are righteous; and live by faith in Him.
But, living by faith is more than sitting back doing nothing and trusting God to take care of things. Why did God tell Habakkuk to write what he saw so clearly that others would read it and run (2:2)? Was it so they would run to tell others? Was it so they would know of the judgement of God and change? It is difficult to know exactly what the meaning of this is, but it is certain that we can make application to our lives today by reading about the judgment of God, and waiting for it. To “wait for it” does not mean that we sit idle and do nothing. James teaches that a faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Dead faith is the faith of demons (James 2:19). They believe in God, but do nothing to follow Him. A living faith is just the opposite. It is a faith that is working toward a better life. Trusting God and doing all we can to be a godly influence in our world. A living faith is seen in the one who refuses to allow the world to be a greater influence. This one will refuse to give in to immorality, selfishness, and deceit of the world. The one living by faith is one living a righteous life (see Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38).
August 2, 2020
Habakkuk: A Message for Our Time
Habakkuk is one of the minor prophets to Judah. The book reflects the time just prior to the first Babylonian invasion (605 B.C.), and possibly during the wicked Jehoiachim’s reign (609 to 598 B.C.). (For the wickedness of Judah during this time see Jer. 7:3-6; 22:3, 13-18). This book is unique in that Habakkuk does not prophesy to any people. This book shows Habakkuk in a debate with God (chapters 1 & 2); and concludes with a prayer of humble submission (chapter 3).
It appears that “the prophet” (1:1) has been questioning God for some time about when He would do something about the wickedness in Judah saying, “How long, O Lord, will I call for help, and you will not hear? I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ Yet You do not save” (1:2). Does this cry to God seem remotely familiar? Many of us have been crying out to God regarding this pandemic, the racial tension, and the violence in our streets for months now; but it seems God sits quietly watching the evil in our world yet does nothing. I want to remind us that God is under no obligation to explain Himself to us. You can be certain that God knows what is going on; and He will answer when He is ready. Furthermore, His answer will be sure.
When God finally did answer Habakkuk, He explained that He delayed His reply because He knew that Habakkuk would not understand: “I am doing something in your days—you would not believe if you were told.” God explained that He was “raising up” the wicked Babylonian army to destroy Judah (1:6, 15-17). Is this what God is doing in America? Habakkuk did not understand God’s plan and we cannot fully understand why we are experiencing the uncertainty and turmoil today.
Habakkuk’s confusion prompted his second complaint to God begging, “Why are You silent when the wicked swallow up those more righteous than they” (1:13c)? While God explains that He would eventually destroy the Babylonians too (2:6ff), He does not give Habakkuk a clear answer to his question, but simply instructs him to “record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run” (2:2). He also instructs Habakkuk to “wait” for the judgment to come, and live by faith (2:3-4). Habakkuk closed his debate with God in humble submission to God’s righteousness (see 3:16-19).
While this prophecy was to Judah long ago, we should apply it in the midst of our own injustice. God does not want anyone to perish (2 Peter 3:9). So, just as God hoped Judah would do, we should read and take heed of the promised judgment of God, wait patiently for it, all while we are living by faith (cf. Heb. 10:36-38).
July 26, 2020
Restoring the Straying Christian | James 5:19-20
In the last two lessons we have learned that James instructs his readers to be patient with those who mistreat them, to stand firm in the truth, and to pray when trouble comes upon them (5:1-18).
Our text for Sunday seems to give those who are practicing patience, steadfastness, and prayer instruction regarding those who give in to the temptations and fall away from God. James reflects upon three significant points in this text that faithful Christians must consider.
First, a Christian can sin and be lost. James asserts, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth.” “Among you” certainly reflects some of those who were “brethren.” Furthermore, the rest of the Scriptures support this conclusion. Paul declares, “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12); “You have been severed from Christ, you are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4); and the Hebrews writer declares, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in anyone of you an evil unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12). These are just a few of the many verses in the Bible to show that a Christian can sin and be lost by straying from the truth (James 5:19). To stray is synonymous with to “wander” (Matt. 18:12- 14 NIV); to “drift away” (Heb. 2:1) and to be lost. To stray from the truth is to stop following the word of God because the word of God is truth (John 17:17); and only the truth can set us free (John 8:32).
Second, James reminds his readers that those who stray from the truth and are not brought back will die (v. 20). James is not talking about physical death for we all have that appointment (see Heb. 9:27). James is referring to a spiritual death, a separation from God and eternal torment (Isaiah 59:2; Rom. 6:23; Matt. 25:46).
Third, the straying brother or sister can be forgiven and be saved (v. 20), but it may take our help (cf. Gal. 6:1). James implies this saying, “. . . he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (v. 20). Our efforts can make a difference in whether one is saved or lost. Are we concerned about a brother or sister who have strayed from the truth? I read about a boy who was carrying his younger brother on his back. When someone asked if he could relieve the older brother. He replied, “Naw, he’s not heavy. He’s my brother.” If we truly cherish the family relationship, it will not seem like a burden to bring an erring brother or sister back into the safety and security of God’s family. Think of a straying brother or sister and pray for them. Make a special effort to reach out to them.
July 19, 2020
Prayer Changes Things | James 5:13-18
In our text, James informs us when to pray, how to pray, and why to pray.
First, we are to pray when things go wrong. “Is any among you suffering?” James asks. “Then he must pray” (v. 13a). Anytime one is in any trouble, prayer is the answer. Paul instructs, “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere” (Eph. 6:18, NLT). James further asks, “Is any among you sick” (vv. 14-15)? The context best supports a physical sickness. The “if” in “if he has committed sins” (v. 15) seems to imply that forgiveness is in addition to healing a physical sickness. Furthermore, the New Testament does not teach that anointing of oil has any part in forgiving sins. So, calling for the elders of the church is not necessarily for doctoring, but for praying. They can anoint with oil because it was a common remedy for physical ailments, but their primary purpose is prayer, because “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (v. 16).
Second, pray when things go right (v. 13b). “Is anyone cheerful?” James asks. “Let him sing praises.” Maybe something was terribly wrong, but now it is right again. Praise God. Say, “Thank you, God” with a joyful voice. Singing praises are directed to God, thus prayer. Most of us pray when things are not going our way, but neglect prayer when everything is right. The idea is to “Pray all the time” (see 1 Thess. 4:16-18).
James then teaches how to pray. We must pray “in faith” (v. 15 NASV). We must believe that God can and will provide (James 1:5-8; Mark 11:24). Also, our prayer life must harmonize with our daily conduct. James says that “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (v. 16b). We must pray “earnestly” (v. 17). One is to pray seriously, sincerely, and submissively.
Finally, James says prayer heals the sick (v. 13). We do all we can and trust God. Prayer encourages God to forgive sins. Prayer strengthens the sinner (v. 15, 16a). In a word, prayer changes things (vv. 17, 18). The prayer of Moses caused God to change His mind (Ex. 32:9-14; cf. Psalm 106:23). God changed His mind at the prayer of Amos (Amos 7:5-6).
Praying is always the right thing to do. When things are not so good, pray. When things are good, pray. Pray all the time, in every circumstance. But pray in faith, not doubting the power of God. Believe, and trust God’s will. Remember prayer is powerful. It can change things.
July 12, 2020
Be Patient and Stand Firm (James 5:7-11)
Patience is the ability to endure challenges without getting angry, being overly critical, or giving in. Patience is the one virtue that many of us lack. We have been negatively influenced by our environment. We live in a world of fast food—instant potatoes, instant oatmeal, minute rice etc.; microwave ovens; self-service gas stations; drive-through restaurants, banking, pharmacy, even grocery pick-up. However, even for people who abound in patience, our present times are difficult to endure without getting angry or being overly critical. In this text, James presents two areas Christians should be patient in and why we can be patient even in difficult and challenging situations.
First, James emphasizes that Christians should be patient with those who treat them unfairly (vv. 7-8). James has just concluded the warning to the rich men who treat their employees unfairly (vv. 1-6). He now tells the Christians to “be patient until the coming of the Lord.” James uses the example of the farmer waiting patiently on the rain to germinate the seed, and the rain to make it bear. The farmer waits patiently because he can do nothing to change the time of the coming rain. The farmer waits patiently because the harvest is so sweet. The point is that the Lord’s return will be a sweet reward for patient Christians.
Second, James suggests that we be patient with one another (v. 9) saying, “do not complain against one another.” The point is not to blame others for the undesirable circumstances. Do not make degrading, or hypocritical accusations against your brothers or sisters. These accusations will drive a wedge between you. It will not promote unity. Again, James reminds us that we are not the Judge of others with the right to be overly critical (cf. James 4:12). He says, “the Judge is standing right at the door.” So, wait patiently on the Lord.
James then uses examples of those who have endured trials and suffering (vv. 10, 11). The prophets proclaimed the coming of the judgement of the Lord against Israel and Judah and were criticized and rejected. Amos is one who was rejected (see Amos 7:12-14). In verse 11 James uses the word “endured” which means to stand one’s ground. Do not give up or give in. All who refuse to give in will be blessed. James uses Job as an example of this. Job did not understand his suffering, and while he was confused and questioned God’s righteous judgment, he never turned away from God. And the end was better than the beginning (Job 42:12, 13). The same is true for Christians who are patient and endure until the Lord returns. We will be blessed beyond comparison to anything in this life (see Rom. 8:18).
July 5, 2020
Before the Convention of Delegates of Virginia, March 13, 1775, Patrick Henry said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” Men and women have died by that statement. And more will do the same unless Christ returns soon.
I am thankful for those who have fought for our right to be free. However, the freedom we enjoy as citizens of this country are being threatened by immoral and ungodly people. The only way America can be truly free is to return to the Christian principles this country was founded upon. The Constitution was drafted upon the foundation of these principles. People were educated and entertained by the Bible. We must put the bible back into our homes, our hands, our heads, and our hearts. We must teach our children to love God and His word, and be guided by them. The greatest freedom one can enjoy is the freedom provided by Jesus Christ (see John 8:31-32). Jesus said, “If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36). If we turn back to Him, then we will have the freedom as a nation that was intended by our forefathers.
When we have freedom in Christ, we have freedom from the power of sin. Sin is the influence of Satan. Satan is the ultimate murderer, liar and deceiver (see John 8:44). He had the power to deceive Eve, test Job and tempt Jesus. To give in to Satan enslaves us so that we cannot be free. He has the power to hijack our brains, our senses, and our wills. However, the Son of God gives us our senses and makes us free forever.
We also have freedom from death (Rom. 6:23). In Christ there is justification, redemption, and propitiation (Rom. 3:24-26). In Christ there is a new life in the Spirit (Rom. 6:3-8). Therefore, if we walk according to the Spirit and not according to the flesh, we put to death the penalty of sin and look forward to life and peace (Rom. 8:1-6). We will never be chained to the pain of death: “O death, where is your victory, O death where is your sting? The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:55-57).
While we live we may be tempted, but God has promised, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13).
Remain in the truth and walk according to the Spirit and you will be free indeed (see John 8:32; Rom. 8:4).
True freedom is not found in this life, but in the life to come!
June 27, 2020
The Golden Rule
There is such a ruckus right now about “black lives matter.” Of course, “black lives matter” so do red, white, and yellow. We all came from the same people (Gen. 1:27-28). If each of us would think of all others as fathers and mothers, or sisters and brothers, we might not be so divided.
In Matthew 7, Jesus transitions into a discussion on relationships. In the first six verses, He teaches that we are not to use ourselves as the standard for judging others (vv. 1-2), we are not to judge others without first examining ourselves (vv. 3-5), but we are not to accept everyone (v. 6). In verses 7-12 Jesus turns to the positive and teaches how we must treat others. In verses 7-11 Jesus reminds His readers how good God is. You will remember Jesus taught that we do not need to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear because God knows what we need and He will provide these things to His children who are seeking the kingdom and his righteousness first (6:25-33). All we have to do is keep on asking, seeking, and knocking (7:7). God’s children, although not perfect (we are “evil”) can depend on Him to provide. Jesus relates this saying that no father will reject a just request from his own children (7:9-11). Therefore, God will not refuse His children.
We then come to verse 12: “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” The word “therefore” moves the readers mind to a conclusion. Because God is a loving and benevolent Father to all who are asking, seeking, and knocking, we should treat others the same.
“In everything” or “all things whatsoever” implies that this rule should be applied to any situation and with everyone. This is why it is called the “Golden Rule.” When people are selfish, they do not do for others, but they expect others to do for them. For example, how many times have you heard someone say, “They never visited me, why should I visit them?” If we apply the golden rule, we would visit them even if they did not visit us.
Notice how verse 12 ends: “For this is the Law and the Prophets.” The heart of the Law and the prophets is to love God and our neighbor (Matt. 22:37-40). If we love God, we will keep His commandments (John 14:15). If we love our neighbor, we will do for them regardless of who it is or what the need is (cf. Luke 10:30-37). If God loves His children so much that He is willing to give His only begotten Son, we should love others enough to treat them with respect and honor, no matter who they are.
What a difference it would make in our world, if everyone would practice the “Golden Rule”!
June 20, 2020
God Chose a Father
One father in the Bible is often overlooked. In some ways, his prominence is overshadowed by the honor given to his wife. You guessed it. I am talking about Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus. I believe it is significant that even as God chose Mary to be the mother of His only begotten Son, so in His mighty providence, He chose Joseph to be His father.
The Scriptures paint Joseph as a “righteous” and honorable man. We see this characteristic in his relationship with Mary (Matt. 1:19). Upon discovery that Mary was with child, Joseph possibly had three options: He could ignore Mary’s condition and proceed as planned, he could have Mary stoned to death, or he could divorce her. Being a man of honor, Joseph had no vengeance or bitterness in his heart toward Mary. He did not want to humiliate and expose her to public shame, so he sought a way to divorce her secretly, not knowing she was with child by the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:19). We also recognize the righteousness and honor of Joseph in his acceptance of Jesus. There was no resentment or indifference toward the child. Joseph adopted Jesus as his own. He protected Him from the hatred of Herod. He nurtured Him and cared for Him. He taught Jesus his own trade of carpentry. Joseph adopted the One most of the world would reject.
Joseph was a man with obedient faith (Matt. 1:20-25). When an angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream and told him to marry Mary (even though she was already with child) he obeyed. Although Joseph was probably well aware of the prophecy of Isaiah, it still took great faith for him to expose himself to the mockery and ridicule that could possibly come. Obedient faith accepts God’s instruction, and has confidence in the outcome. When God said, “Take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt for safety,” he immediately obeyed (Matt. 2:13- 14). It takes faith to head off into a strange land with no prospects and no planning simply on the basis that God said, “Go.” Then when Joseph was told to go back to Israel, Joseph did as he was directed. He was a man of obedient faith (Matt. 2:19-21).
By all accounts, it seems that Joseph died before Jesus became an adult. However, Jesus was not the only child Joseph had. He raised other boys for the Lord also, and possibly daughters. He had at least two other sons that were devoted servants of God. James and Jude became inspired writers of the Bible, and James was a respected leader in the church at Jerusalem. Joseph used what time he had with his children to live righteously and honorably before God. He set an example they would remember.
How are we doing as dads in comparison?
June 13, 2020
Can We Love and Hate at the Same Time?
You probably answer this question, “Of course we can.” But, many people in our world do not understand it this way. When many people speak out against homosexuality, they are accused of being “homophobic” and the objectors call it “hate speech.” Also, when someone speaks out against violence and riots, they are called racists. I know there are still racists in America. However, I am confused that when one speaks out against immorality or criminal activity, he is accused of “hate speech,” but when someone speaks out in favor of these things, it is supposed to be accepted as love. Let us take a look at how God looks at love and hate. First, it must be acknowledged that God hates. One of the most common passages to show that God hates is Proverbs 6:16- 19: “There are six things that the Lord hates, Yes, seven that are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” Also, “I hate divorce, says the Lord . . .” (Mal 2:16). “. . . the one who loves violence His soul hates” (Psalm 11:5). “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery and iniquity” (Isa. 61:8a NIV). “[D]o not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this, declares the LORD” (Zech. 8:17 NIV). There can be no doubt that it is possible for God to hate.
But on the other hand, God Loves. “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The very nature of God is love. Everything God has ever done for man has been because of His love. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16). “But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). “By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him” (1 John 4:9). The same people who do the things God hates; He loves enough to sacrifice His only Son. Therefore, God can certainly hate an act done by an individual and still love that person.
If God hates and loves at the same time, it must be possible for us to do the same. God expects us to love and hate: “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).
Therefore, when someone speaks out against immoral behavior or violence, it should not be assumed that he/she hates the individual, but because he/she loves God and righteousness. It is my prayer that we all hate sin and love righteousness.
June 7, 2020
Loving One Another | Luke 10:25-37
Jesus had spoken directly to His disciples (10:23-24), when “a lawyer stood up to put him to the test” (10:25). Jesus knew he was being tested so He asked the lawyer: “What is written in the Law?” The lawyer answered: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself” (10:27). Jesus responded, “you have answered correctly; do this, and you will live” (10:28). But the lawyer wanting to justify his own failure to practice this love demanded, “Who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29)? In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan.
At the end of the parable, Jesus once again allowed the lawyer to answer his own question when he asked, “Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?” “The one who showed mercy” was his reply. Jesus answered, “You go, and do likewise.” With this parable, Jesus addressed three pertinent issues regarding loving your neighbor:
First, he revealed the meaning of “neighbor.” A neighbor is one who tries to help anyone truly in need.
Second, Jesus proved that being a neighbor is helping out of compassion (v. 33).
Finally, Jesus showed what it means to love. Love is colorblind. The Samaritans usually had no dealings with Jews, but this Samaritan did not allow tradition, religious preference, or race to hinder him. Love is not self-serving. The Samaritan thought about others more than himself. Love is sacrificial. The Samaritan sacrificed his time, money, provisions, and self for the good of another.
We are all like the man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead. We were robbed of our righteousness, beaten down by sin, and left for dead by Satan. But God loved us and sent His Son to show us compassion and restore our worth, heal our wounds, and save us from death. If Jesus did this for us, we should love our neighbor enough to help them live eternally in peace and joy (cf. 1 John 4:7-11).
Rob Whitaker and his wife Nicole will be here Friday and Saturday for an Evangelism Seminar. We will be encouraged and motivated to reach the lost. But really this weekend is about learning to love your neighbor. Remember what Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). We cannot love our neighbor more than to help them understand the value of their own soul. I hope you will make plans to attend as we grow in our love for our neighbor.
May 31, 2020
Some Additional News
Sunday, May 31, 2020 is a fifth Sunday and the last Sunday in May. David Garner is scheduled to preach the morning service every fifth Sunday, and Jeff is scheduled to speak on the last Sunday night of each month. Therefore, my article for this space is not a preview of the sermon on Sunday.
I am continuing to receive suggestions for “What the Bible Says About . . .” and encourage you to continue submitting those by text or email. You can write it down, but you should put it in my hand, or in my box in the office. Otherwise, there is no guarantee I will get it.
We are continuing to go live with our worship services as well as Wednesday nights. Our Summer series is still on go. The Theme is “General Stories from Genesis.” The first lesson is on June 10, and David South from the Woodland Hills church in Cordova, TN will be speaking on “The Worship of Cain and Abel” (Gen. 4:1-8).
June 17: Mitchell Rogers from the Bolivar church in Bolivar, TN will speak on “Standing Alone in a World of Sinners” (Gen. 6-8).
June 24: Tim Alsup from the Great Oaks church in Bartlett, TN will talk about “Noah’s Drunkenness” (Gen. 9:18-27).
July 1: Mark Reynolds from the Forrest Hills church in Memphis, TN is scheduled to speak on “The Call of Abraham” (Gen. 12:1-9).
July 8: Mark Blackwelder from the Estes church in Henderson, TN will address, “Abraham Trusts God Again” (Gen. 22:1-9).
July 15: Justin Rogers from the Broad Street church in Lexington, TN is scheduled to address “The Tower of Trials” (Gen. 11:1-9).
July 22: Josh Manning, from the Eastwood church in Paris TN will speak on “Jacob’s Deception” (Gen. 27:1-45).
August 5: Justin Paschall, from the Ripley church in Ripley, TN will speak on “Jacob’s Dream” (Gen. 28:10- 22).
August 12: Roy Sharp from Henderson church in Henderson, TN will address, “Jacob Takes a Wife or Two” (Gen. 29:1-30).
August 26: Mike Hixson from Olive Branch church in Olive Branch, MS will close out our series discussing, “Joseph Saves the Nation of Israel” (Gen. 37; 39-47:27).
This schedule is posted on our website, and the schedule is available for you to pick up at the welcome station. We look forward to the end of the pandemic when we all feel comfortable being together.
May 24, 2020
What Does the Bible Say About Cremation?
There is no “Thou shalt not cremate” in the Bible. On the other hand, there is no approved example either. This does not mean the Bible has nothing to say about burning bodies. The primary example many people use to prove cremation is acceptable is the bodies of Saul and his sons being burned. It is interesting to note that the head of Saul had been chopped off, and he and his sons were hung on the wall of Beth-shan in a display of victory by the Philistines. When Saul’s people heard what had happened, “All the valiant men rose and walked all night, and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there. And they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree at Jabesh, and fasted seven days” (1 Sam. 31:12-13). Later, David collected the bones of Saul and his son Johnathan and brought them back to “the country of Benjamin in Zela” and buried them “in the grave of Kish his father” (2 Sam. 21:12- 14). I have been told that if a body is badly deteriorated, even today, funeral directors will recommend cremation. This is likely why the bodies of Saul and his sons were burned rather than buried.
This is not the only example of burning bodies in the Bible however. Bodies were burned in a display of humiliation as a form of severe punishment (see Lev. 20:14; 21:9; Josh 7:15, 25; 2 Kings 23:19-20). We read in Amos 2:1 that the Moabites are condemned for burning the king of Edom’s bones. Another example is of Paul as he presupposes martyrdom (see 1 Cor. 13:3).
If we learn anything from the Bible about cremation it is that cremation was not a custom of the Israelites. Sarah was buried by Abraham (Gen 23:3-4,17-20); Abraham was buried by his sons (Gen. 25:8); Rachel was buried near Bethlehem (Gen. 35:19-20); Isaac was buried by his sons (Gen. 35:29); Jacob buried Leah in the family tomb (Gen. 49:31); Jacob was buried in a grave in Canaan (Gen. 47:29- 31; 50:2, 13); God buried Moses in the land of Moab (Deut. 34:5-6); Samuel was honored with a burial “at his house in Ramah” (1 Sam. 25:1). There are many more examples of burials in the Old Testament. In the New Testament we read that Jesus was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea (Matt. 27:57-60), and Stephen was buried after he was stoned to death (Acts 8:2).
While cremation may not violate scripture per se, it is not portrayed as an honorable way to treat the body. Saul and his sons were cremated, but their bones were finally buried in honor in the grave of Saul’s father. Join us Sunday for more!
May 17, 2020
A few years ago, I did a series entitled, “What Does the Bible Say About . . .?” It has been requested that I do these kinds of lessons again. So, beginning Sunday, I will begin a series of lessons on What the Bible Says About . . ..“ If you have a request for a lesson on what the bible says about something, submit that to me and I will do my best to develop and present a lesson on it.
The first lesson in this series will be, “What Does the Bible Say About the Identity of the Church."
The word “Church” translates the Greek word ekklesia. It has been argued that this is a compound word that literally means “the called-out ones.” While there may be some practical truth to this identification, the word is NEVER so translated. This word literally means “assembly.” The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses this word, or a form of it, more than 200 times and each time it appears as “assemble” in some form. The Greek New Testament uses this word 114 times and 111 times it translates “church” and always refers to the people of God. 3 times in the New Testament this word translates “assembly” and does not refer to the people of God (see Acts 19:32, 39, 41).
While it is true that we commonly refer to the church as a place, today, most people use the word “church” to refer to any religious group. Yet, the Bible speaks of the church as “one body” (see 1 Cor. 12:12-14; Eph. 4:4-6). This body was bought with the blood of Jesus (Acts 20:28), and given to Christ to be head over (Eph. 1:22-23).
Yet, the Bible does not use one name exclusively to identify the church. The church’s identity is not based on a name, but on specific characteristics. Isaiah prophesies, “The nations shall see your righteousness, and all the kings your glory, and you shall be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give” (Isa. 62:2, emphasis mine). The “new name” is not an identifiable label. It is an identity based on recognizable characteristics. People in the first century knew the people of God as “the Way” (Acts 9:32), because they followed Jesus who is “the way” to life (John 14:6). They were seen as “saints” (1 Cor. 1:2), because they behaved differently than other people (1 Peter 1:13-16). They were called “disciples” and “Christians” (Acts 11:26), because they are followers and imitators of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). They were known as “the body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:27), because each one acts as an instrument of Christ (12:12-27). Any church that does not demonstrate these characteristics, may wear a name that is known in the Bible, but they cannot be the one church revealed in the Bible.
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May 10, 2020
Honor to a Mother
Kevin Durant was named MVP of the NBA in the 2013- 2014 season while playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Durant spoke directly to his mother in his acceptance speech saying, “We weren't supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street. You put clothes on our backs. You put food on the table. When you didn't eat, you made sure we ate and [you] went to sleep hungry. You sacrificed for us. You're the real MVP.”
The celebration of mothers was established on May 9, 1914 by an act of Congress when, out of love and respect for his own mother, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May, “Mother's Day.” At the death of his mom, President Wilson is quoted as saying, “Her loss has left me with a sad, oppressive sense of having somehow suddenly lost my youth. I feel old and responsibility ridden.” Sunday, we pay a special honor to our mothers, both living and deceased.
On the sixth day of creation, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth . . .” (Gen. 1:27-28). “Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20). Motherhood is not perceived as exciting and glamorous by most people. We seldom hear little girls say, “I want to be a mommy when I grow up.” Yet, motherhood is the most honorable position a woman can hold because it is a role given exclusively to women by God.
Also, being a mother is not easy. Giving birth is never easy: “To the woman [God] said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children” (Gen. 3:16a). John acknowledges, “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world” (John 16:21). But it doesn’t really get easier as the child grows. The Samaritan woman begged Jesus to heal her daughter and showed the pain of being a mother as she cried out, “Have mercy on me . . .” (Matt. 15:22). With her daughter in trouble, the desperate mother had no problem approaching this Jew because she felt the pain of her daughter as her own. Every mother feels the pain of their child regardless of their age. How do you think Mary felt as she stood at the foot of the cross seeing the humiliation and suffering of her Son? But just as John says, the joy of being a mother outweighs all the pain that goes with it (see John 16:21).
May 3, 2020
All Things Work Together for Good | Romans 8:28-30
I heard a preacher quote this verse one time and say, “Now, I don’t know exactly what that means, . . ..” I didn’t know either, but His comment caused me to study. The following is a brief overview of what I have determined.
First, we must admit that all things are not good, not even for the one who loves God. The death of a child is not good. Diabetes, chronic back pain, cancer and other incurable diseases are not good. Drug addiction and alcoholism are not good. Tornados, hurricanes, pandemics, et al. are not good. Even Joseph called his brothers selling him into Egyptian slavery “evil” (Gen. 50:20a). But Paul is not saying all things are good when he asserts, “God causes all things to work together for good . . ..”
It seems to me that the word “together” plays a much greater part in understanding this verse than we have traditionally given it. In the world of science, many chemicals by themselves are deadly, but when mixed with other chemicals they make medicines that can cure sickness. Even common table salt is made from sodium and chloride. Sodium, and chloride by themselves are poisonous, but when mixed together, they create a flavoring that is actually necessary for life. God can take things that are bad in and of themselves, and put them together in one with a love for Him, and the end is better than the beginning. Consider what Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into Egyptian slavery, “you meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good . . .” (Gen. 50:20).
Furthermore, we must realize that God causes all things to work together for good “to those that love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” The phrase “to those who are called according to His purpose” explains “those who love God.” One who does not love God, cannot be called according to God’s purpose, because one who loves God is one “predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (v. 29). “Predestined” does not mean that we have no choice. It means that God’s intended purpose for Christians is to be like Jesus. One who does not love God cannot be like Jesus (see John 14:31), and cannot claim the promise of all things working together for good.
The “good” in this verse is not the idea of being healthy or happy. The point is to make us like Jesus. If the goal of our lives is not to be like Jesus, then we cannot expect the end result to be “good.”
April 26, 2020
Come to Me | Matt. 11:28-30
We are living in a most discouraging time. The social distancing and quarantine rules have most of us on edge. We need and want to work, but these rules make it difficult, if not impossible for some. We are concerned for our own health and for the health of others. Yet, we need to be around other people for our own sanity. This is a most stressful time.
Our text is one of the most appropriate texts for such a time as this. Jesus looks out over His crowd of listeners and sees people as poor, exhausted workers laboring under the yoke of Jewish law and Roman jurisdiction. He recognizes the burden is too heavy for them to bear alone. So, He utters the most compassionate words ever spoken, “Come to Me.”
This invitation is from Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the savior of the world, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the Shepherd and bishop of our souls, the builder, the head, and the chief corner stone of the church. Had these words came from the Jewish court, or a Roman official they would have been repulsive and intolerant. People would have cringed from their arrogance. Yet no one has ever been disgusted, or repulsed by the invitation offered by Jesus the Christ. All the love and compassion of a humble shepherd are engulfed in this invitation.
The invitation is to “all who are weary and heavy-laden” (v. 28b). Jesus is inviting all who have problems that seem too heavy to bear, the sick, the hungry, the lame, the blind, the recovering addicts, the lonely, the discouraged, et al. He is especially inviting those who are struggling under the guilt of sin.
Jesus promises rest to all who come to Him. This rest is an inner peace, joy, and comfort that can only come through Jesus (cf. Phil. 4:7, John 10:10). In Verse 29, the “rest” is eternal salvation. The same word is used in Revelation 14:13: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes, says the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”
He invites us, “Take My yoke upon you.” (v. 29). We may not be able to bear our burdens alone, but yoked up with Jesus, no burden is too great. He declares, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
He invites us, “Learn from Me.” Jesus has suffered in every way we can, but “without sin” (see Heb. 4:15). From Him, we can learn to bear our burdens in meekness and humility. Come to Jesus today! Only the gentle Lamb of God can ease our pain of stress and guilt and provide us rest. In your stress, remember Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me!
April 19, 2020
What Are You Doing Here? | 1 Kings 19:9-18
Elijah was a great prophet of God. He had just defeated 450 prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:20-40), but when opposed he felt threatened and alone. So, feeling alone and rejected, Elijah ran from the threat of Jezebel and sat down under a “juniper tree” and prayed to die (1 Kings 19:4). “The angel of the Lord” appeared to him, fed him and told him to travel to Horeb. It took forty days and nights for the 200-mile journey, and upon arriving, he entered a cave. The next morning the Lord spoke to him asking, “What are you doing here” (1 Kings 19:9)? Elijah replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10).
God then instructed Elijah, “Go forth and stand on the mountain before the Lord” (v. 11). As the Lord was passing by, “a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing” (vv. 11-12).
There have been times when God was in the wind (Acts 2:2), in the earthquake (Acts 16:26), and even times when God was in the fire (Dan. 3:25). But God was in none of these this time. He appeared in a quite solemn voice as in a gentle soothing breeze calling Elijah out of the cave again and asking again, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah responded just as before expressing his feelings of rejection and loneliness.
Just like Elijah, loneliness may come upon us at various times in our lives. It may come at the death of a loved one, or even in a dreaded virus. Yet, the real reason for loneliness, in every situation, is the lack of purpose. When we are focused on our purpose, we will never be lonely. Just like Elijah, we may wallow in our own loneliness because we have been looking for God to help us in a big way.
Maybe we should relax and listen for that quite solemn voice that asks, “What are you doing here?” We should be reminded that, whatever our circumstances, God has a purpose for us. Our situations may change, and opportunities for doing good may change, but we can always fulfil God’s purpose in some way. Maybe this is a time for us to do something different for God.
April 12, 2020
The Wonders of the Resurrection | 1 Peter 1:3-9; 1 Cor. 15:35-58
In light of the fact that Jesus was raised on the “first day of the week”; and the various New Testament passages that express the church “coming together” on the first day of the week; and in light of Acts 20:7 that the purpose for their coming together was to “break bread” i.e. eat the Lord’s Supper, we, as a New Testament church, remember the resurrection of Jesus every Sunday by eating the bread and drinking the fruit from the vine. Yet, I think, especially under our present circumstances, this is a good time to remind us of the wonders of the resurrection.
The story is told of a family watching a familiar movie about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Although they had seen the movie numerous times, the little girl began to cry at the scene of the scourging; and her tears continued to flow until they laid the body of Jesus in the tomb, then she dried her eyes and said, “Now comes the good part.”
I often wonder how many of us read the story of Jesus’ resurrection with that same expression of joy and hope. I think of the chorus, “Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone; because I know He holds the future, and life is worth the living just because He lives.” The resurrection of Jesus should be a joyful and hopeful thought for us all.
Peter reveals the wonders in the resurrection in 1 Peter 1:3-7 revealing that through the resurrection God revealed His great mercy (v. 3). Mercy is kindness or concern expressed to one in need. It is feeling compassion. Mankind has never had, or will ever have, more compassion and mercy shown to him than is shown in the resurrection of Jesus.
Second, through the resurrection is the possibility of a new birth (v. 3). How would you like to start all over? A clean slate, nothing in your past—no guilt, no grief, no fear? This is what is offered by Jesus’ resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:3-11).
Third, through the resurrection there is living hope (v. 3). This hope is alive, real, certain, and secure.
A fourth thing Peter reveals is that through the resurrection there is a promised inheritance (v. 4). This inheritance can never be taken away, nor will it ever diminish.
Furthermore, through the resurrection there is divine protection (v. 5). There is no greater authority than the almighty God. He will not allow anything to rob you of your inheritance (Rom. 8:31-39).
A final wonder Peter reveals is salvation (vv. 5-9). There is deliverance from the trials and tribulations of this life. There is deliverance from the penalty of sin (see Rom. 6:23).
In his first preserved letter to the Corinthians, Paul calls this deliverance, victory (1 Cor. 15:35-58). There is victory over death and sin (vv. 54-57). In the resurrection, there is complete and eternal victory over everything that belongs to this life (Rev. 21:4).