Slavery Or Freedom

This article is part 3 of 4 in the series Grace

   After 430 years of slavery, the Israelites were finally free from Egypt and the horrible treatment of slave masters. God chose Moses (Exodus 2-3) to be His messenger to Pharoah. It took Pharoah ten lessons (Exodus 7-11) before he finally let God’s people go. They packed up everything they could carry, and even looted the people of Egypt, and set out for the Promised Land of Canaan. Following the Red Sea event, where Pharoah met his final defeat (Exodus 13-14), they are now free, but there is more to freedom…  
   After the song, dance and celebration came the hardship and responsibility, something they were not prepared for.  The wilderness was not easy and Israel continually griped and complained to Moses and Aaron about conditions… (Exodus 15:22-23; 16:3). They even wanted to go back to slavery in Egypt! 
   Slavery at least (the Government) provided them with food and water, and they didn’t have to even think for themselves… they were told what to do. Sure they were beaten if they failed at their jobs… but now the hardship of freedom and responsibilities of freedom, made them long for slavery once again.
   There are two ways to look at this thing called FREEDOM. Freedom is good and bad because it means you have to think and make decisions based on the knowledge of right and wrong. It depends on how bad you want to be free.  
   Some Christians still want a lot of rules and regulations… they have hard a time with the grey areas where decisions and choices must be made. Paul’s greatest battle was with Jewish teachers and Christians who were trying to either enforce or go back to the slavery of the Law (Galatians 4:8-11). The problem was that they were trying to be saved by PERFORMANCE OF LAW KEEPING not by FAITH IN CHRIST.
   The result of going back to law keeping… it takes the joy of the Christian away (Galatians 4:15) and you “fall from grace” (Galatians 5:4), since LAW/WORKS and GRACE/FAITH are incompatible. It really is a case where FREEDOM IN CHRIST is at stake.  
   Paul says, “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Religion which enslaves, and demands performance is a religion of frustration and guilt. You can motivate by both LAW and GRACE, but only one of these brings JOY.
   Yes, freedom in Christ means responsibility to study and think for yourself, and yes there is the possibility of making mistakes… but that is what grace is for. Grace means “unmerited favor”, it means having some “elbow room.” “Elbow room” to grow, make mistakes and get up and try again… not try to BE SAVED, but BECAUSE YOU ARE SAVED. Christians cannot grow under law… but they can grow under grace.
   There is a big difference between ‘going to church’, giving, praying, singing, studying because you HAVE TO and because you WANT TO. Slavery verses freedom…. I’ll take freedom in Christ every time.

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What Of Turtles And Hares?

   We usually hated to go to bed as kids…
   Bedtime always was announced when we wanted to watch one more cartoon or
Bonanza or The Jackie Gleason Show. Occasionally though, there was a bed time
story. The old saying is true that “a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go
down… in a most delightful way”, and a bed time story made bedtime better. 
   One of our favorites was the story of the turtle (or was it Tortoise) and the hare. Most of us pre-video game and i-pad generation, remember that story. One day this particular rabbit was bragging about how fast he was to all his friends. The turtle heard him and
said he could beat him in a race. Well, this crawled all over the rabbit, and his reputation was on the line (as well as a bucket of pride), so he accepted the challenge and added a few little statements on just how bad he would beat the turtle. Everyone prepared for the event. Finally the day came for the race, and the two racers got ready to run. “Get ready!” “Set” “Go!” With a cloud of dust, the rabbit leaves the turtle behind, and gets so far ahead of the turtle, that he decides to stop and take a nap. The turtle slowly but surely moves forward toward the finish line. Then the rabbit wakes up and looks around and sees the turtle has passed him and is close to the finish. The rabbit puts all
his energy into running as fast as he can, but the turtle, even though he was tired, never stopped… and he won. 
   Now this is my version of this fable, but it’s what I remember, and it has come to my mind at sometimes when things get tough. 
   There’s some good lessons here… 1.) Finish what you start. Still struggling with this one, but it’s a good rule to incorporate. If you start something that’s good, or necessary… finish it. I have to confess fighting the urge to begin several jobs at a time, and then getting bogged down. So many things need to be done. Usually I just sit and
make a list of these things, and number them in order of importance. Finishing the job hated the most really helps.  2.) Slow isn’t always bad (except when you’re working on a commercial airline repair crew… “time is money”). Yes, being slow can be a real pain at times, but the idea is to set a good pace and keep with it. This is tied to the next point,
3.) Make the most of who you are and stop trying to be something you are not.  You are special and you have certain talents and gifts… use them to the best you can. Weaknesses can be worked on and improved. Speed comes with experience.  4.) Slow doesn’t always loose, and fast doesn’t always win. Fast sometimes brings carelessness
and mistakes. Taking the ‘short-cut’ isn’t always the best thing to do. The more difficult and detailed something is, the slower you may have to work… just make sure when you’re done… it is done right. In the end, you may accomplish more than the one who rushes through a job and fails at the quality hoped for.
   When Jesus finished His work here on  earth… nothing was left to chance. When He said, “It is finished” (John 19:30), He meant it. The work of fulfilling the law, and providing a way for lost humanity to be saved was done and done right.
   With every task you face…. determine, to do it right the first time, and finish. It may be a small insignificant task… but these are the ones that add up.

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      Several years ago, we had what the Irish call a “Pub”, a Bar… and it was called “The Frog”. I have heard of a lot of drinking establishments… but none called  “The Frog”.  Then it was torn down and we watched when we passed sometimes daily (not that I shed a tear) but it just so happened that we were in the process of fixing up our yard. It seemed like we planted hundreds of plants, bushes and trees. We created gardens and actually named them. (Now I think that is just wrong.) We have the “Mail-box garden”,  the “Bird house garden”, the “Beside the house garden”, and we had the “Zig-zag garden” (which is thankfully gone), the “Triangle garden”,  and then there is the “Long garden” which goes around the back yard!! We just about gardened ourselves to death, right? Well, this was all a part of just making our little place look a bit better.
   Part of these projects included rocks… lots and lots of rocks. We would see a pile of rocks somewhere and stop and try and get some. We drew the line when we saw road repair being done and huge chunks of sidewalk and street were coming up. THEN CAME THE FROG! When that place came down, I mentioned it to my wife and we were both ‘drooling’. You may think it funny to drool over rocks…. But just think about how much that stuff costs! We were putting borders made of rocks everywhere! Around the gardens, walkways which probably measure out to going around a football field!!! (At least it felt like it.)
   The day came… I went down to the place where all the remained of the “Frog” was a huge pile of rocks. I had my trusty old, half ton 1989 Chevrolet truck (long bed), and stopped at the site, and asked if I could have some rocks. The workers said, “SURE!”, but I don’t think they expected what happened. I started picking rocks, actually cinder blocks that had been broken. Four trips, and two tons of rock later… we had what we thought was enough to put borders around everything in our yard. Surprisingly the truck withstood the stress, even though each load made the truck ‘sag’ on the rear end.
   Now we are almost finished with our projects… and the yard… well, it looks pretty good. All with a lot of hard work.
   Rocks (stones) have been used throughout the Bible for various reasons… building walls (Genesis 11:3), building an altar for worship (Genesis 28:18, 22), stones were used as monuments (Genesis 35:14), as vessels (Exo. 7:19), as examples (Exodus 15:5, 16), as weapons (Exodus 21:8), to write on (Exodus 24:12; 28:10,  to punish and put to death (Leviticus 20:27; 24:14; 26:1; John 8:1-11), used in prophesy (Matthew 24); and reference to Jesus (Acts 4:11)… for closing tombs (John 11:38-45), for marking a place of judgment (John 19:13)… The most notable stone… the one which is historically remembered and spoken about is the one which was moved from the tomb of Jesus (John 20:1).
   Jesus of course didn’t need the stone removed to get out of the tomb… it was moved for US. It was moved so the disciples could go in and see… the linens which wrapped Jesus lying in their folds… So they could see, Jesus was not there.  HE IS OUR RISEN SAVIOR! All the others who claim to be the Messiah are still dead, their graves… marked with a stone.

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Amazing Grace And Divorce/Remarriage Part Two

This article is part 8 of 9 in the series Divorce and Remarriage

   Paul, speaking to the Christians at Corinth, specifically mentioned the sin of adultery as one of the sins which had been forgiven through the blood of Jesus Christ
(I Corinthians 6:9-11).
   How could we then conclude that adultery is not a pardonable offense? As if what Paul said is not enough we also have the case of David and his adultery with Bathsheba in addition to murder. (2 Samuel 11 & 12) When David acknowledged his sin and showed repentance Nathan said to him, “The Lord has put away your sin.”
(2 Sam. 12:13).
   In the face of these specific Bible examples, how do men conclude that one who commits adultery today in putting away a wife and marrying another has a non-cleansable sin? Some make a mistake by changing what the actual sin is. Instead of accepting the text of Matthew 19:9 that adultery is committed in the two acts of putting away and marrying another, they say that “adultery” is a sex act and therefore it is
committed later in the sexual activity of the subsequent marriage and therefore
is a continuing sin not repented of. That is a gigantic mistake. Jesus was very specific about it that when a man puts away his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, he “commits adultery.” 
   This change originated historically with the Roman Catholic Council of Trent in the 16th century. They ruled that marriage is a “sacrament” and therefore unbreakable. Thus the divorced person is still married to the first spouse in the eyes of God and the next marriage is “an adulterous relationship.” That contradicts the Bible text.
   It is important to understand that man’s theories and opinions cannot over rule the word of God. The facts are as the Bible states them. The adultery occurs as Jesus said it does when a man is disloyal in putting away his innocent wife and going to another. At Mark 10:11 the Lord said that man who does that “commits adultery against her.” So He was talking about a sin committed against the wife put away, not a sin committed WITH the next wife
   So can the adultery be stopped? This is not the same to as ask “Can the adultery be undone?” No, it cannot be undone any more than any other sin. But any sin can be repented of and forgiven and not repeated in the future. The only answer to it is repentance and a change of behavior and forgiveness by the grace of God for the Christian. When God said “I will be merciful to their unrighteousness and their sins and lawless deed I will remember no more,” and then His word gives examples where this particular sin was forgiven in that way, there is no reason to have anymore questions or doubts about the matter. Adultery is a forgivable sin. If one who was  divorced has now
become one who is committed to one mate for life and is penitent about his former sins, that person has come from the wrong way to God’s way. Such a person can rest assured that God will keep His promise to forgive. Yes, there will be people in hell that God loves. But there will not be anyone in hell whom God has forgiven. For those outside Christ, who come to Jesus by faith and repent of sins, and are immersed into Christ, (born of water and the Spirit, John 3:3-5), they are forgiven of every sin… even divorcing and move forward from that point on, growing in grace and the Holy Spirit.
   “Amen walls!”

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Amazing Grace And Divorce/Remarriage Part One

This article is part 9 of 9 in the series Divorce and Remarriage

   Does God’s GRACE cover (a) ALL (b) SOME (c) IT DEPENDS ON WHICH ONE (d) NONE, of our sins?  
   We  must learn to avoid extremes when studying the Bible.
Push any truth to an extreme, where it receives more attention than other
truth, results in a loss of Biblical balance. “Once saved always saved” is no
more correct than “once saved never saved or maybe saved”. One lady told dad “I
just cannot accept what you are saying on (grace).” She continued, “Every day
from morning till night, I say to myself, forgive me Lord, forgive me Lord.”
She lacked the confidence of her own salvation.  
   Now you may be thinking, “We don’t teach that!” No, not in so
many words, but we have the results which have to come from our Bible classes,
and pulpits where inferences, and assumptions have resulted in guilt,
performance, and merit in Christians.
   We simply must strive to find balance in our teaching on LAW, SIN
   We need to realize that grace is a divine concept, not a human concept. Grace is a general term meaning the ‘undeserved gift’ of God’s favor. That’s great, but is not specific until applied to man’s sin problem. The specific application of it is seen in God’s word. Here we find what God has said about it and why it is so important.  In order to have real confidence (that Christians are saved from all sin) we need to look to the
grace and promises of God.
   God included both grace and law in His New Covenant offer to man.We have to consider both (‘law’ providing guidelines and ‘grace’ providing continued forgiveness and ‘room for growth’). In Hebrews 8:10 He said “I will put my laws in their minds and will write them on their hearts.” His laws are immutable, and provide important, necessary guidelines (while law keeping does not save), grace/faith does. God then says  “And I will be merciful to their (His children’s) unrighteousness and their sins and lawless deeds I will remember no more” (Verse 12).This “mercy” and “forgiveness” is just as immutable as His laws.
   Now, we know what God says about breaking marriage (divorce). It is sin. But we need to know specifically what His mercy and grace says about forgiveness and the sin of adultery. And His word is specific about this.
   For instance in John 8, a woman was brought before Jesus who was guilty of the sin of adultery and asked “What do you say?” His statement to her was “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” You can’t get more specific than that. If she stopped committing the sin of adultery she was pardoned.
   Again, in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, a list of sins is given and the third one on the list is adulterers. Then the text says, “Such were some of you but you were washed, sanctified, justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” This is the power of grace to one who comes to Jesus… is there less grace for Christians???

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Divorce And Remarriage – Personal Thoughts

This article is part 7 of 9 in the series Divorce and Remarriage

   To all who read these words, I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your patience as these lessons are developed.
   I do not know everything about this subject… and my knowledge of NT Greek is not so great… so I depend on not only my own studies of God’s word, but help from others who DO know and study the Word in light of the original language. 
   I have always thought that if we have to go to the Greek language that we are making things too difficult, but there are times when studies highlighted with ‘light’ from the NT Greek  helps. I certainly admire those who have learned and can understand the Original language of the scriptures.
    The real question here is can we disagree on this and other things and still walk together as ‘Heaven bound learners”? I pray we can! I am grateful for God and for His grace, since none of us deserve what God has freely given to us. The forgiveness, redemption, justification, sanctification… all by his grace.
   Brethren differ… but the idea has always been that we should love and accept each other (Romans 14-15). At least that’s the principle taught.
   These little articles on this ‘hot button topic’, are simply presented in hopes that someone will be encouraged and helped. I have always held that sin (all sin) can and is forgiven by the blood of Jesus Christ. Sins cannot be un-done by our own efforts, and surely if we had to remember every sin and try and un-do them… we would all go a bit crazy, and probably just quit.
   I hope that these articles help, and for those who disagree… well that’s ok. But before you go out and teach someone who has been through the terrible pain of divorce… (Like the minister who told a lady he met who had been through divorce three times… “You have been divorced too many times to be saved.” and refused to study further.) 
I hope you will consider again, the heart of Jesus. If one sin must be un-done… all have to be un-done. That’s not grace. 

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Making Me His

  When Wiwik and I were married in 2004 we were faced with many difficulties. One was our little house. Some called this type of home a ‘match-box’, but we didn’t care… it was OUR home. However, since I had been divorced… it just didn’t feel like it was OUR HOME. Thus the renovations and changes started. New paint, new molding, walls came down, two rooms became one, one became something else, a bathroom became a closet (mine), a new closet was built (hers), old carpet came up and new title went down, more paint, a window came out and French doors went in and a back porch, and an addition with yet another porch… That’s just on the inside!!! So, what’s the point?
   We read in the scriptures that Jesus came to give his life a “ransom” for sinners (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; I Timothy 2:6; Hebrews 9:15). To “ransom” means to pay the price demanded to set someone free. Jesus did this with his for us “while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8), when we were spiritually “dead” (Ephesians 2:1-4). We belong to Satan before Christ comes into our lives. I repented of my sins and was immersed into Christ (Acts 2:38-39), I was born again (John 3:1-10)… when I was 10 years old. Then and now I was and am His.
   Jesus moved in, immersed in water and Spirit (John 3:3-5), forgiven, justified (I Corinthians 6:9-11) and no longer under condemnation (Romans 8)… I became a temple for His Spirit (I Corinthians 6:19), but I needed RENOVATION SO BADLY. You see Jesus came to do all this for everyone, but after He saves an individual, HE CONTINUES TO WORK TO MAKE US, RENOVATE AND CHANGE US into HIS DWELLING PLACE, HIS HOME, HIS TEMPLE!!! We just need to ‘yield’ and let Him work!
   A lot of stuff has to go when Jesus comes into a person’s life. Understand, ONLY JESUS AND HIS SPIRIT CAN TRULY CHANGE A PERSON ON THE INSIDE. I had and have a long way to go… so many changes are continually being made… like, “WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE?”, “SEEKING REVENGE AND JUSTICE FOR EVERY WRONG DONE TO ME”, “TRYING TO BALANCE THE BOOKS WITH GOD BY KEEPING LAW”, “FORGIVING” and so much more. Everything from the past life that is a reminder that I was Satan’s property… HAS TO GO! No looking back like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19:26).   
   Is the renovating over? No way! There is still much work to be done in my life by His Spirit, and I say, “bring it on, whatever it takes!” You see there is nothing in the old life of serving Satan, that is worth keeping. There is everything to gain in serving Christ and truly becoming HIS HOLY TEMPLE.
   The apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:7-10a “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ…”

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God Of Wonders

Growing up, I remember times when we would gather on the porch and watch as storms could be seen ‘coming in’. The temperature would drop, dark clouds would cover the sky, and the thunder could be heard along with the flashes of lightning. We would say “Wow! Did you see that lightning dad?!” Just sitting in our rocking chairs, we were all amazed at God’s grand power.  
   Now mom and dad are gone, we still sit and watch the storms roll in. Sometimes we go out on the porch at night and look at the sky, filled with stars and are so amazed at God’s creation. We sat and watched the program the other night called, “God of Wonders” narrated by Creation Scientists, and I just wanted to mention a few things that were mentioned on this great program.
   In Romans 1:20 Paul says, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”
    The sun’s core is twenty seven million degrees Fahrenheit. Five million tons of energy leaves the sun every second. One million earths would fit into the sun, and yet our sun is average in size compared to other suns. “Arturis”(?) is the brightest star (one hundred times brighter than ours). “Betelgeuse” is one hundred times brighter than that. Yes, “The LORD reigns, he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed in majesty and armed with strength; indeed, the world is established, firm and secure” (Psalm 93:1). “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6). Without the sun, all life would just disappear! So, “Let all the earth fear the LORD;  let all the people of the world revere him” (Psalm 33:8). There are hundreds of billions of galaxies, maybe a trillion billion galaxies… how great is that?!  “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit” (Psalm 147:5).
   All of this is circling and spinning, and moving in sync and design and by plan!  To try and cross our  galaxy would take an estimated twenty eight billion light years. (Light travels about 671 million miles per hour.  I am reminded of what Isaiah says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in”  Isaiah 40:21-22. 
   Truly, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge. They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them. Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun” (Psalm 19:1-4).
    “God of Wonders” is the name of the program, look it up, watch it, think about it… Our God is an Awesome, Awesome God…. He reigns!!! He loves you!!! He gave His one and only Son just for you and me. 

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