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Did religious leaders steal Jesus’ body?

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She made a false assumption. Mary came to the tomb and
found it barren. From her perspective, there was only
one plausible explanation for why this was so.

“They have taken the Lord…” (John 20:2b). “They”
whomever they were, had breached the burial chamber,
stolen the lifeless body of Christ, and then moved it
to an undisclosed location.

Atheist Richard Carrier, while neither willing nor able
to actually produce specific culprits for the burglary,
maintains that Mary was actually right./1 He asserts
that the empty tomb evidenced a theft, not a
resurrection.

But take just a moment to analyze Carrier’s flawed
logic. Truth should never be afraid of honest
investigation.

There are only two possibilities as to who might have
stolen Jesus’ body from the tomb. Either the enemies of
Christ did so, or the friends of Christ did so.

But 1) did the enemies, specifically the Jewish
religious leaders, steal Jesus’ body and–2) will that
answer stand up to real scrutiny?

Matthew’s inspired record says the chief priests and
Pharisees met with Pilate in an effort to foil any
attempts at taking Jesus’ body in the first place. They
said, “Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how
that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise.’
Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until
the third day…” (Matthew 27:63-64a).

These men were not worried that Jesus would actually be
resurrected; they were fearful that folks such as
Joseph, Nicodemus, Mary (Matthew 27:57-61) and perhaps
others, might stage a sort of mock resurrection in
order to propagate what Jesus had foretold (cf. Matthew
16:21; 20:17; 26:28; Mark 8:31; Luke 24:44).

They thought they had finally quelled Jesus and his
doctrine and wanted to make sure it wasn’t rekindled
again.

Pilate, in keeping with the religious leader’s pressing
request, secured the tomb and gave permission to set a
guard (Mattew 27:65-66, NIV; Matthew 28:11-15).

Now think about it. Why would the avowed enemies of
Jesus go to all of the trouble of preventing the theft
of his body, but then engage in the theft themselves?!

Why would they twist Pilate’s arm to protect the tomb
from any intrusion, but then steal what they had tried
so hard to secure?! What would prompt them to allegedly
pay off the security force, break the seal, and then
take possession of what they wanted nobody to acquire?!

Furthermore, when the apostles later preached a
resurrected Lord during the early days of the church
(cf. Acts 4:1ff), Why didn’t the religious leaders
simply produce the dead corpse of Christ?!

If they had, in fact, stolen the body, why didn’t they
display it for all to see? In so doing they would have
not only exposed the lie being propagated by Jesus’
followers, but they would have effectively killed
Christianity dead in its tracks!

The obvious reason the opponents of Jesus didn’t
produce his body was because they didn’t have it in the
first place.

Both Mary and Richard Carrier were mistaken. Nobody
took the body of Jesus. He was raised from the
dead–just as the Bible says (Acts 1:3; 2:32; 4:33).

–by Mike Benson

_________
1/ Richard Carrier, “The Plausibility of
Theft,” in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave,
edited by Jeff Lowder and Robert Price, 349-368

He had a heart attack at age forty-eight

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Bob worried about his death. His anxiety consumed him, day and night.

At night, unable to sleep, he paced up and down his room, worrying. In the day his stomach churned like a cement mixer as he worried still more. When would he die? How could he avoid that? Would he die of cancer?
Or would some dreadful tropical disease lay him low because he shook the hand of someone who had shaken hands with someone else from the tropics?

He lost weight and sleep. His lack of concentration led to the termination of his job.

Finally, Bob died of a heart attack at age forty-eight, which is absurdly young for such an event. His doctor said he died of stress and worry.

Worry is such a waste of time and emotional energy.
Some things we worry about never come to pass so our worry is a waste of time. Other things will hit us, regardless of whether we worry about them or not.

Certain kinds of worry are healthy if they cause us to better ourselves and prepare for the future.

But some people’s worry becomes as paralyzing as a mouse in front of a cobra. Where are our kids? It’s two past eleven! They’re in a car crash! Their bodies right now are mangled on the freeway! What will I do for the rest of my life without them?

Will our congregation survive? What if our preacher leaves? What if the young people don’t develop into faithful leaders? What if a false teacher enters the flock?

Yes! Be prepared! No, don’t worry endlessly, obsessively.

Jesus said, “Therefore do not be anxious
about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious
for itself. Sufficient for the day is its
own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).

Today, after all, is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday. Someone else has pointed out that we should not be afraid of tomorrow because God is already there.
Will you exhibit fear or faith, consternation or confidence in God?

Don’t worry. It’s under control: His control.

–by Stan Mitchell

Walking by faith

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“So she said, ‘As the Lord your God lives, I
do not have bread, only a handful of flour
in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and
see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that
I may go in and prepare it for myself and my
son, that we may eat it, and die'” (I Kings
17:12).

Fund-raising is the necessary price to be paid for the privilege of doing mission work. I don’t know of anyone who truly enjoys asking others for money.

If you are such a person, I commend you, if you are using that gift for good work. Most of us do it because we love the work it allows us to pursue, and because of the good use to which contributions are put.

We are fully aware that most individuals and congregations who give to us are making sacrifices in other areas in order to be able to help with our work.
It is not easy to ask an elderly person, struggling to make ends meet off of a fixed income, to give to the work of preaching in other nations.

Thankfully there are many such persons who don’t wait to be asked, but like the Macedonian Christians of the first century, beg for the privilege of helping in the Lord’s work (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

When the drought and resulting famine for which Elijah prayed had prevailed to the point of starvation, God sent him to a widow of Zarephath, saying that she was instructed to provide for him.

When he arrived he found her gathering firewood. The prophet asked for bread, and she told him that she was about to cook her last morsel of food for herself and her son, after which they must starve.

Elijah then told her to cook her last flour and oil for him. When she obeyed these seemingly selfish and greedy instructions, he told her that the flour and oil would continue until the famine was ended (1 Kings 17:14).

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his
righteousness, and all these things shall be
added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

That is undoubtedly one of the most difficult of all his teachings for us to follow. We are trained from birth to walk by sight, always seeking security. We buy insurance against accident, fire, theft, illness, disability, and old age (i.e., retirement). We are constantly warned against incurring too much debt, against spending more than we have as income.

In contrast, the Holy Spirit encourages us to “walk by faith” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

This is not intended to prompt us to unnecessary or foolish risks in secular affairs, but rather to lead us to trust God and obey his commands, even when we do not know just what is in store for our future. God will provide for those who trust him. Just as he filled the bin and the jar for the widow of Zarephath, so he can and will supply all that we need, so long as we are seeking his righteousness first.

The fund-raiser is reminded that giving accomplishes two kinds of good. There is the good done through the work that is funded. There is also the good done to the giver, through his or her act of unselfishness, as spiritual blessings are provided by God.

“It is to your advantage not only to be doing what you began and were desiring to do a year ago; but now you also must complete the doing of it” (2 Corinthians 8:10-11).

Giving benefits both the giver and the recipient. If we should fail to provide opportunities for giving, we would deprive Christians of a path to great blessings.

“We are his workmanship, created for good
works, which God prepared beforehand that we
should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).

by Michael E. Brooks

Cookies can produce more than fat

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Recently I became the cookie ghoul, but not by choice.
I was simply supporting my son in an event, when suddenly an authoritative voice appointed me guardian and custodian of some sweet treats with a clear
mandate: One cookie per person.

It was not long before kids began rushing over to the refreshment area. Like a neurotic parrot, my repeating message began. “One cookie per person.”

Immediately, a boy who was probably in middle school snatched two cookies and was headed toward his third, before I could say, “Stop! One cookie per person.” He still began to reach toward the third cookie. “Stop!
You cannot have another one.” He finally moved on.

As I supervised this cookie table, hearts were laid bare before me. Open defiance would quickly claim two cookies. Conniving disobedience feigning compliance would either pick up a double-decker cookie wrapped in a napkin or try to get into line more than once.

I can only imagine their rationalizations.

• “Its only a cookie. What’s the big deal?”
• “I’m hungry.”
• “Who does he think he is?”
• “Where did this cookie Nazi come from?”
• “In the past I could get as many cookies as
I wanted!”
• “Nobody tells me what to do.”

The beautiful, submissive, and disciplined hearts were easy to spot as they passed through the line. Although every fiber in their body tore at them to claim multiple cookies, nevertheless they obeyed. Even in this small silly matter, they respected authority.

How could I not reflect upon Luke 16:10? “Whoever is faithful in very little is also faithful in much, and whoever is dishonest in very little is also dishonest in much.”

Admittedly, Jesus was addressing wealth on that occasion. Nevertheless, the principle remains valid.
Small matters do provide insight into our hearts revealing those principles that will be driving larger matters.

Previously, I had never thought about cookies revealing our hearts. But then, I guess all of life continually provides small windows into what lies within.

by Barry Newton

Proper dress for Christians

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Standards of modest clothing in our day have, please forgive the pun, plunged to new lows. From television to Walmart to the Internet, it seems, people are presenting themselves in various states of undress.

Don’t judge a book by its cover, we are told. Yet there are times the cover screams so loudly it’s hard to look beyond it. What should the Christian’s attitude to this be?

“Do not let your adornment be external – the
braiding of hair and the putting on of
jewelry, or the clothing you wear, but let
your adorning be the hidden person of the
heart with the imperishable beauty of a
gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s
sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3,4,
ESV).

The term “adornment” comes from the Greek word cosmos — hence “cosmetic.” We often say to someone, “The solution you’re proposing is cosmetic only,” meaning that we aren’t getting to the real cause of the problem.

One who cares only for the cosmetic, or
outer appearance, is applying Este Lauder to the face when the heart is what needs to be changed.

Yet Peter is not saying: “You should look like a bag lady.” He is saying, “Ensure that your beauty comes from the inside, the one part of you that you can actually change, and that will be beautiful even into old age.”

Does it really matter how beautiful a woman is if her heart is calloused, her mouth sharp and cruel and her attitude abrasive? On the other hand if a woman is warm and compassionate, her attitude selfless and classy, she will be beautiful all her life.

One thinks of Israelite women in Isaiah’s day:

“Because the daughters of Zion are haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet…” (Isaiah 3:16).

Wow, the old prophet might have been walking down the streets of Hollywood or Madison Avenue by that description. So with fear and trembling, I offer these principles for ensuring a Christian version of beauty, inside and out.

Deep Down, we Know: Men know what they “appreciate” and women know what gets the looks. It’s time to be honest:
We know.

Men Should Learn to Value a Christian Woman for her Christian Character: Emphasize a woman’s Christian character, and let her know this is why you value her. Don’t be so shallow!

Women Should Develop Inner Beauty: There are some drop- dead beautiful celebrities who are ugly ducklings on the inside. Develop the characteristics that are subject to improvement, and will grow more beautiful over time.

We Should Adopt God’s Standards not the World’s: As Christians we cannot allow the world to dictate to us on this point.

Men and Women are Different: There is a difference between the way men are “wired” and women are “wired.”
I don’t know if you noticed, but men and women are different.

I understand the desire to be loved and accepted. I understand the power and pull of loneliness. But young people, believe me when I tell you that external beauty does not generally survive middle age, while internal beauty can grow and sparkle deep into old age.

Christianity is predicated on the fact that we can make our character, make our personality more attractive, and Christ-like. We don’t need to be airbrushed; we need to be heart touched.

by Stan Mitchell

Am I rich?

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Would you consider yourself rich, even wealthy?

No?

Imagine doing the following, and you will get a glimpse of what life is like for more than a billion people in our world today:

* Take out all of the furniture in your house except for one table and a couple of chairs. Use your blankets for beds.

* Take away all of your clothing except for your oldest dress or suit. Leave one pair of shoes.

* Empty the pantry and refrigerator except for a small bag of flour, some sugar and salt, a few potatoes, onions, and a dash of dried beans.

* Dismantle the bathroom fixtures, shut off the running water, and remove all of the electrical wiring in your house.

* Take away your house and move your family into the tool shed. Place your house in a shantytown.

* Cancel all subscriptions to newspapers, magazines, and books.

* Leave only one radio for the entire shantytown.

* Throw away your bank book, stock certificates, pension plans, and insurance policies. Leave the family a cash hoard of $10.

Now, what did you say a moment ago? Are you rich?

Yes, to most people you and I are extremely wealthy.
That’s something to think about the next time we are tempted to complain about our circumstances.

The Bible says, “Let your conduct be without covetousness, and be content with such things as you have…” (Hebrews 13:5).

Think about it.

by Mike Benson

I saw all those lights, and I was confused!

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“The prudent see danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12, ESV).

Some friends of mine were driving down the highway at night, pulling a trailer behind their car. Their little two year-old had an “emergency,” so they pulled over to the side of the highway, put on their hazard lights and began to attend to little Wayne’s emergency.

It was then that a car came over the rise, and plowed straight into their car. Thankfully no one was hurt — they were extremely fortunate — but in the aftermath the policeman asked the erring driver the obvious
question: “Why didn’t you slow down?”

The answer was simple. “I saw all those lights, and I was confused!”

Confused? If you’re confused by what you see on the highway, then all the more reason to slow down until your confusion is resolved.

A lot of people live that way, it seems. Heedless of warning signs, advice from friends and guidance from God, they tear down life’s highway, ignoring all the indications of danger. They simply “keep going” and “suffer for it.”

When you see those flashing lights, slow down, look carefully, and think over your next move.

by Stan Mitchell

Silencing the arguments of doubters will not silence their wrath

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Anyone who shares the unadulterated Gospel will find hostility (2 Timothy 3:12). Yet, it is easier to destroy the messenger than the Message (Psalm 119:89).

We must internalize the truth that the Gospel is more powerful than the arguments of fallible humanity because it comes from the omniscient God (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Saul, the mass murderer, laid waste to the church (Acts 8:1-3), when he was forced to see his folly (Acts 9:1- 1-7; 22:4-10). Struck blind by God, he complied with Ananias who was sent to immerse him into Christ (Acts 22:16).

At some point Saul began to preach. In Acts 9:20, the text says “immediately.” However, in Galatians 1:13-24, Saul headed to Arabia to get his mind together. It’s likely that he did preach at Damascus first before going to Arabia.

If he spoke at Damascus immediately, we see the influence of the Spirit. How could Saul preach a Gospel message he knew nothing about? Clearly God was with him.

Saul went to the synagogues and confounded the scholars of the Law. He tied the Old Testament prophecies together, placing them alongside the life of Jesus, producing incontrovertible proof of Jesus’ Lordship (Acts 9:22).

We can confound our critics today as we take them through the Scriptures and knit them together into a tapestry that no man can refute. When Jesus was 12, he confounded the greatest Biblical minds in the Jerusalem temple (Luke 2:46-47).

Saul stood in Damascus and delivered undeniable truths shortly after he consented to the death of Stephen for doing the exact same thing in Jerusalem (Acts 6:10).

Silencing the arguments of doubters will not silence their wrath. We must have the courage to speak these truths to the lost no matter what happens to us. We have the courageous examples of the past, and we have the power of Christ behind us (Hebrews 13:5).

Let us never be silenced because the lost need the Word and no matter what they have been taught, the Gospel can touch their hearts, leading to repentance (Romans 5:6-11).

The sword of the Spirit cannot be defeated (Ephesians 6:17). Yet, it cannot accomplish anything if it never leaves our scabbard.

–by Richard Mansel

Honor your father and mother

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Anyone who claims to have all the answers to raising children is either a devout believer in the Easter bunny or unmarried.

I once asked some parents who had raised three faithful Christian children how they did it. The father surprised me (it shouldn’t have been a surprise) by saying: “Well, we prayed a lot.”

Every successful parent has prayed a lot, of that I can assure you. Every successful parent has also made mistakes. Of that I can assure you too.

I don’t mean to berate broken-hearted parents whose children no longer live a Christian lifestyle. I do hope to be an encouragement to those parents whose children are still young and in the home.

Teachers can tell a myriad of stories about being confronted with indignant parents of children whom they have reprimanded. It becomes quickly clear that the children’s lack of respect for authority came from their parents.

If I were asked what was the greatest mistake made by parents in our day, I would respond: A failure to discipline them.

By this I do not mean a return to the days when “whipping” kids was the parental default. Losing cell phone or Internet privileges (a fate considered by the young worse than death) might be used.

Use of the carrot as well as the stick helps: “If you don’t obey, this privilege will be taken away, if you obey, this privilege will be given”). Children in schools exhibit signs of great indulgence by their parents and little discipline.

“There was a time when we expected nothing of children but obedience,” Anatole Broyard observed, “as opposed to the present, when we expect everything of them but obedience.”

Kids need to be taught the following: Respect for their elders. Consideration for others. Keeping one’s word.
Humility. Whatever one’s hand finds to do, do it with all one’s might. Fairness and compassion for those less fortunate. Love for the church. Love for God.

Especially the last two: Parents, please speak positively of the church before your children. Please do not give them the impression the church is there for our harsh, mocking derision. I am not saying the church is beyond criticism, but please be aware of eager, impressionable ears.

And if I can put it kindly but clearly: If the Lord’s cause is not number one in our lives, it is unlikely it will be number one in their lives.

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with promise), that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land” (Ephesians 6:1-3, ESV).

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Ebola and threats to America

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Threats to America: Ranked
America has been obsessive with the Ebola and ISIS pandemonium. However, one article recently ranked the current threats to America by their “actual threat value instead of the media hype.” Here is their list of the top 9 threats to America (MSN):

9. Ebola
8. Your Own Furniture – 30 Americans killed and about 40,000 injured per year.
7. ISIS
6. The Flu – Thousands die every year from the flu (typically the elderly and very young).
5. World War 3 Breaking Out in the Baltics.
4. Climate Change
3. Guns
2. Traffic Accidents – About 34,000 deaths in 2011
1. Heart Disease & Cancer – Currently the top two killers of Americans.

Agree or disagree, this list is intriguing. This list communicates a lot about our world. It speaks of current trends and ideals, realistic or otherwise. It talks of other nations’ angry and disagreements. Above all else, this list communicates the aspects our society worries about the most. In reality, most of these have a pretty low threat value. We will probably never encounter the majority of these in our lifetime, yet we continue to stress over them.

I get it. There are a lot of scary things in this world. But let’s not forget that if we are living faithfully, we have God in our corner. This is why God tells us to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). In the absolutely worst-case scenario, a faithful Christian dies from some of these and goes to heaven (Revelation 21:4; 2:10).

We can drive ourselves crazy by worrying about everything in this life (Matthew 6:25-34). Instead of doing this, let’s abide by a good rule of thumb:
1. Stop worrying.
2. Fix what we can control (better health, safe driving, corner protectors on furniture).
3. Place everything else in God’s control.

Brett Petrillo

“A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food” (Proverbs 28:3, ESV).

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The little boy slipped out of the backfield, and broke free into the secondary. The quarterback saw him, and threw a perfect spiral his way. The pass landed, soft as an autumn leaf, in his hands.

And he dropped the ball!

But that’s not the part I remember most. His father, a large man, and apparently an ex football player himself, rose from the stands, his face contorted in
anger: “No son of mine,” he yelled so that all could hear, “drops a pass like that.”

The little fellow hung his head in embarrassment, and returned to the huddle. But here is my question: If you were that little boy, would this type of paternal “motivation” make you more likely to catch a pass next time around, or to drop it?

I worry about the long-term effect of this kind of parenting on this boy, but ironically the short-term effect also falls short of the father’s desire. Likely, this little boy will not be in an emotional state to make the next play, either. Not only is his father not fulfilling his role as dad, but he is also not as good a coach as he thinks he is!

I expect the next pass to fall harmlessly to the ground, also.

Solomon tells of rainfall, which is normally beneficial, falling in a driving storm, and causing more harm than good. Rulers who intimidate their populations, spouses who nag their partners, and parents who constantly criticize their children will find that the effects are the opposite of the ones they desire.

Next time, try this: “Better luck next time! You can do it, I believe in you!”

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

I’m gonna die

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It would not be accurate to say that he talked about it all of the time. But it would also not be accurate to say that he never talked about it.

Jesus talked about death–specifically, his death.

“From that time Jesus began to show to His
disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and
suffer many things from the elders and chief
priests and scribes, and be killed, and be
raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21).

He told those closest to him, “I’m gonna die.”

I think of those occasions when I learned of a friend’s or loved one’s impending death. “I can’t believe it! It can’t be so!” I was in denial. In retrospect, I realize now that my reaction was pretty normal.

Peter felt the same way.

“Then Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him,
saying: ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You’” (Matthew 16:22).

He was in denial, too. Evidently, he didn’t want to talk about it either. Either he had different expectations for Jesus, or he couldn’t wrap his brain around Jesus in a tomb.

And yet the Lord kept bringing up that awful, scary subject (Matthew 17:23; Luke 9:22). “I’m going to die, fellas.”

So why did he keep talking about it? Why did he keep mentioning his death?

Part of the answer is that he was preparing them beforehand; He was teaching them how to work through the cross and the tomb. But part of the answer is that he was teaching them, and us by extension, how to navigate with faith through the valley of the shadow.

You see, merely talking about death didn’t kill Jesus.
The murderous crowd did that.

But talking about his death helped the twelve work through their fear, anticipatory grief and bereavement.
It helped them, whether they realized it or not at the time, to process and prepare for that awful day when Jesus would breathe his last.

This is helpful to me. I don’t know that I need to be talking about death every time that I sit down at the dinner table, but I do know there are times when I should-and must-broach the subject. especially when either I or a loved one knows that death is approaching.

* “I’m feeling scared about dying.”

* “Okay, let’s talk about it together and see what the
Bible says.”

* “It’s okay for you to go on–I don’t want to you fight
and suffer just for me.”

* “What do you want at your memorial service?”

These kinds of conversations are healthy and biblical.
Spiritually healthy people talk and communicate about any and all subjects–even death.

Jesus said, “I’m going to die, guys. Let’s talk about it.”

by Mike Benson

Homosexuals and the Catholic Church

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More and more warning signs are appearing. It really started rolling when Pope Francis was elected. Just a few months into office Pope Francis said, “When I meet a gay person, I have to distinguish between their being gay and being part of a lobby. If they accept the Lord and have goodwill, who am I to judge them?” (CNN). Continuing the warning signs, a few months ago Pope Francis married 20 different couples. Some of these couples had been living together, some already had children together outside of wedlock, and some had even been married before (ABCnews). The last time a pope had married anyone was 14 years ago, back in 2000 (ibid). Since this is so rare, it makes one wonder what message the Pope is trying to send since he specifically chose these couples to marry.

Most recently, the Vatican released a document regarding a meeting they had called, “Relatio post disceptationem,” which translates as “Report After Debate.” One specific section in this debate was entitled, “Welcoming homosexual persons.” Here is a part of this section:

“Homosexuals have gifts and qualities to offer to the Christian community: are we capable of welcoming these people, guaranteeing to them a fraternal space in our communities? Often they wish to encounter a Church that offers them a welcoming home. Are our communities capable of providing that, accepting and valuing their sexual orientation, without compromising Catholic doctrine on the family and matrimony?” (Zenit).

Thankfully, the document did not proclaim any definitive changes as of yet. It does recognize some “moral problems” with homosexuality and they would have to “compromise” on doctrine. What is alarming, though, is the fact that these questions are even being asked.

This document is essentially the starting point for more conversations to happen among Catholic leaders. Over the next year or so other discussions will take place on several topics in addition to homosexuality. Once these discussions are done, the Catholic Church will then tell people what their final word is on these topics.

This is extremely unsettling. Since when are God’s laws up for debate? Since when did God allow men to discuss and decide which commands to obey? Since when are any of us allowed to change what God has already firmly decided upon?

The answer should be clear: if God has already decided, then there is nothing to discuss or debate, no matter the topic. The reason this is the case is because the faith has already been handed down “once for all” (Jude 1:3). God has already given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). God has already given us all the commands we need to be “equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). We should never expect, nor look for, nor accept anything different than what Scripture has already commanded (Galatians 1:6-9).

God has always strictly warned against the changing of His commands. He gave such warnings in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 4:2), in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 4:6; Revelation 22:18-19.). At times God even struck down those who dared to go beyond His commands (Leviticus 10:1-2). Anyone who is questioning which of God’s laws to follow is walking on the edge of a treacherous cliff. Man does not get to give the final word. Not even the Pope has the privilege to give the final word on God’s commands. The final word belongs to God alone.

However, let’s not think for one second that this message is just for the Catholic Church or some other denomination. This message is for you and I. We must not change God’s laws just because our world disagrees. Our culture places extremely heavy pressure on us to change our ways. Let’s not be shaken. If God commands it, let’s stand with Him!

Brett Petrillo

Jesus our high priest

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The Perfect Priest – Hebrews 7:23-28

Do you like your doctor? I do not have a doctor here in Swartz Creek (yet). When we first moved to Kentucky, I obtained the services of a doctor. He is close to my age and I told him that I wanted to have a doctor with whom I could grow old. We do not like to change doctors.

That is something like how the Israelites were in the Old Testament when they had priests. How would you feel if you had to bring an animal sacrifice to a priest to offer for you and your sins while you knew that he himself was dishonest or immoral?

There are some examples of that. Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10). Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:27-36). Samuel’s sons (1 Samuel 8:3). The prophets frequently rebuked the priests of Israel.

For these and other reasons, we need a permanent, perfect, holy High Priest. He is Jesus Christ. “High priest” is mentioned 17 times in the book of Hebrews!

JESUS BECAME HUMAN TO BE PRIEST – 2:17:
In verse 9, the writer says that Jesus, being the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s nature (1:3), was made a little lower than angels, that is, He became man “so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

JESUS IS SYMPATHETIC AS PRIEST – 4:14-16:
Verse 15 is so encouraging! We have a high priest who can sympathize with the feelings of our weaknesses! Jesus knows what it is like to be tempted! Jesus knows what it is like to have to control your thoughts! He knows what it is like to have to control your tongue. He knows what it is like to control your attitude. He knows what it is like to be tempted in all things as we are – yet without sin! No wonder Jesus can be our priest!

JESUS’ SACRIFICE IS ETERNAL – Chapter 7:
The point of chapter 7 in comparing Jesus to Melchizedek is largely to show that Jesus is eternal. Melchizedek is actually the very first man referred to as a priest in the Old Testament. Verse 3 says that, as far as the historical record is concerned, he had no father, no mother, no genealogy. No record of his birth, no record of his death. God put him into the historical record to serve as a pattern for the coming of the high priest, who would be a priest forever.

So, in 7:23-28, the Hebrew writer summarizes what he had been saying. The former priests, under the Law of Moses, had to be appointed often because they were prevented by death from continuing in their service. I lost my medical doctor when I moved to Michigan. But I did not lose my High Priest!

JESUS OFFERED THE PERMANENT SACRIFICE – HIMSELF – 9:11-14:
Chapters 8-10 are a trilogy on the sacrifice of Christ. The writer shows that animal sacrifices could never take away sins. Because of that, the Law of Moses needed to be done away. A new covenant had to be inaugurated based, not on the death of animals, but on the death of the High Priest Himself. “All things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness” (9:22).

HOW DO WE RESPOND TO THIS HIGH PRIEST?
We need to hear Him – Hebrews 2:1
We believe Him – Hebrews 4:3
We confess Him – Hebrews 3:1
We obey Him – Hebrews 5:9
We repent of our sins – Hebrews 6:6
We must be washed with pure water – Hebrews 10:22
We must remain faithful unto death – Hebrews 3:6

–Paul Holland

Adverse consequences of bullying

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Over the past several years, the adverse consequences
of bullying have been brought to light. Statistics
based primarily on survey data, which have typically
found that at any given time between 20 and 30 percent
of students are involved in bullying, either as
perpetrators, victims or both.

According to researchers this action is as harmful to
the perpetrator as to the victim. For the perpetrator
there can be devastating consequences such as school
discipline, arrest, legal problems, violent
retaliation, and the haunting memory of their actions.

One man noted:

   "I still remember the names and faces of
   kids I picked on, and I'm troubled today
   with their memory and the haunting questions
   of whatever happened to them."

Victims face a multiplicity of harmful effects:

physical
mental injuries,
anxiety,
depression,
headaches,
abdominal pain
fatigue.
Suicide
violence

These harmful actions affect both the perpetrator and
the victim throughout their lives.

The action of bullying is no stranger to the inspired
text. There are examples of how people suffered, and
how far bullying could go.

Consider:

the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis 4,
the story of the flood in Genesis 6-9,
the story of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19,
the story of Isaac and Ishmael in Genesis 21,
the story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis 25-28,
the story of Joseph and his brothers from 
    Genesis 45-50,
the story of Exodus 1-15,
the story of Gideon,
the story of the sons of Ba’al in 
    Judges 17-21,
and several of the stories of the kings in 
    Samuel, Kings and Chronicles, etc.;

In the New Testament, Paul condemns such things as
"...enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger,
disputes, dissensions, factions, envying" (Galatians
5:20-21), which are characteristic of bullying.

In essence, individuals, "who practice such things will
not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:21).

Bullying is not only destructive to individuals
physically and mentally, but also spiritually. Even
though such actions are promoted as acceptable in our
society one should really consider the outcome of
involving themselves in such.

Exhibiting Christian love would certainly be better and
truly pleasing to God than tormenting the innocent.

What kind of thinker are you?

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There are three basic kinds of thinking.

Egocentric thinking puts our own needs above everyone else’s.

Sociocentric thinking means that we put the group’s needs above our own.

Rational thinking strives to develop a realistic, critical sense of the world.

As babies, we are egocentric and frame the entire world in terms of our own desires. Everyone has to serve us, or we become angry. At some point as children we develop an intense need to be accepted by our peer group.

Few people break from the pack and enter into the third realm. Critical thinking requires higher thought, and we must be able to see the world outside of our own needs. We develop the courage to see ourselves critically.

The critical thinker desires to see themselves as others do so they can, to some degree, examine themselves dispassionately.

As a Christian, we consider these three forms of thinking and find a wealth of insight.

When we are immersed into Christ (Acts 2:38; 22:16), we are added to the body of Christ (Acts 2:47; Ephesians 1:22-23). Once we are in Christ (Galatians 3:27; Romans 6:3-4), we are transformed by the gospel so that Christ becomes the Lord of our life (Romans 12:1-2).

His Word becomes our domain (John 1:1-5,14), and we must immerse ourselves in it.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light
to my path. I have sworn and confirmed that
I will keep your righteous judgments” (Psalm
119:105-106, NKJV).

In Christ, we develop a spiritual mindset so that we make our decisions based on God’s Word (Romans 8:1-6; John 14:15; 2 Timothy 3:16-17). We remain within that Word as a perpetual boundary (Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 4:6).

The three forms of thinking above are fleshly to the extent that they do not include God’s voice. As Christians that must be our only realm of thought.

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in
Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God,
did not consider it robbery to be equal with
God, but made himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a servant and coming in
the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:5-7).

Once we develop a spiritual mindset, we can think critically about ourselves and the world. While we must put others above ourselves, that must always be secondary to Christ (Philippians 2:4,16).

Satan establishes a form of truth that resists Biblical truth and uses his human facilitators to force all of us to accept this new standard.

Without Christ, Satan is working very hard at Groupthink where we put the good of the group above everything else. This is how Satan will bring society inline with his beliefs. Groupthink pares down human language and ideas until they are subsumed into what the group [Satan] desires.

Groupthink, however, is a misnomer, because it is not based on pure democracy but a dictatorial system where peer pressure forces their will on people by violence, if necessary. Except instead of an evil government, Satan is the dark power behind the veil.

When Christians become more afraid of societal standards than we are of God’s, we begin to accept abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia and all kinds of depravity.

In order to save the world, we must remain focused on God-thinking and teach others to develop this mindset before it’s too late. Corrupt patterns of thought will doom the world, and we must avoid that certain death so we can save some.

–by Richard Mansel

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find

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“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Luke 11:9-10 NKJV).

We had walked from Katithok to Dordor in the middle hills of Nepal to have a Bible Study at the home of a family there. When the study was completed the mother of the lady in whose home we had studied asked us to come with her to her house. It was a 15 to 20 minute walk around the village and through some terraced crop land to her home.

When we arrived it was obvious why she wanted us to visit. She is obviously very poor, and quite elderly, so unable to work. Her home was one room, with thatched roof well past needing to be replaced and walls of sticks held together with a few rickety poles of framing. She pointed out all of the problems and asked us to help her improve her house.

As humans, we have limited resources, and therefore are often unable to meet all the needs with which we are confronted. Jesus pointed out that even so, a good father or neighbor will often inconvenience himself to give to his children or to friends who request something from him (Luke 11:5-8; 11-13). The desire to give to those in need is a natural response, even to selfish humans.

God on the other hand has unlimited resources plus an infinite love and generosity.

“For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. . . . The world is mine and all its fullness” (Psalm 50:10, 12).

“Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

God is the giver of all good things, the source of light (1 John 1:5), life (Genesis 2:7; 2 Peter 1:3), mercy (Titus 2:11; 3:4-5), material necessities (Matthew 6:31-33; Acts 14:17) and all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3).
Regrettably, none of us can provide for every need of the poor or helpless in this earth. However, that does not relieve us from the obligation to help when we can.

“Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:10).

“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

As Christians, we are “to be ready for every good work” (Titus 3:1). We must give as we can, sharing the blessings which God has so liberally bestowed upon us. By doing so we not only obey Jesus’ commands, but we give testimony to the love and glory of God.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

There are times (frequently) when each of us – even the wealthiest – have needs which cannot be satisfied by man alone. At all such times we should remember our Father’s richness and love and ask him for help. As James wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).
We have learned to be dependent upon government, charities, and even our family and friends. Their ability and willingness to help is limited at best. Let us not forget that we have an all-powerful and loving Father whose resources never cease, and who will never tire of helping his children. “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

by Michael Brooks

Whippin’ sermons

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Over 30+ years of ministry, I’ve occasionally heard various church members say, “Preacher, I think we need a sermon on_____________________.”

The subject suggestions have been as diverse as those who offered them. Frequently, but not always, the proposals leaned towards moral issues like modesty, sex, or beverage alcohol.

Sometimes they gravitated more towards specific doctrinal issues like marriage and divorce, giving, or the oneness of the church.

I’ve always been curious as to what really prompts people to offer sermon suggestions in the first place.

Sometimes I’ve been courageous enough to inquire as to why they think a particular message needs to be addressed.

What I’ve discovered from listening is that some brethren request specific sermons because they’ve got a burr in their saddle.

They’re aggravated with a fellow church member who doesn’t meet their own personal–dare I say it–Pharisaic expectations, and so sermon suggestions are tendered as a means of fixing folks. “So-and-so is doing this…and so you need to preach a good sermon on this”–whatever this may be.

I call these, “whippin’ sermons.” Whippin’ sermons are where I’m urged to preach on pet subjects and verbally whip a church member or members into submission.

In essence, Mike needs to tell off weak members via the pulpit in one glorious fire and brimstone message; he needs to correct folks and one whippin’ sermon will do the trick.

I’ve never been able to find quick-fix, duct-tape, whippin’ sermons in the Bible. I do find occasions where some preached with improper motives (cf.
Philippians 1:15-16), but even they didn’t reap immediate, instantaneous results.

What I do find in the Scriptures is where prophets and preachers did a lot of seed planting (Luke 8:4-8; 11- 15). They scattered the seed–Word, cultivated it, fertilized it, and watered it in anticipation of an eventual God-given harvest (1 Corinthians 3:6).

Strange as it may sound, it is not a preacher’s job to fix anybody. Correct (2 Timothy 3:16-4:3), yes; fix, no. It’s not his job to tomahawk members of the body of Christ into compliance.

It is his God-given responsibility is to scatter the precious Word–seed on different soils and then let God do his part (Isaiah 55:10-11).

A preacher knows the seed is good. He knows some soil is good. He also knows some soil will soften over time given the right conditions.

Have you ever heard of a person who listened to just one whippin’ sermon and obeyed in totality?

More likely what you’ve witnessed is that over time, with repetitive, consistent, loving seed-planting and instruction, as well as godly influence and patience (1 Peter 3:1-4), a person eventually came to the truth and made a successive, gradual change.

If either a preacher or a farmer forces seed on blacktop, you can be certain there won’t be any growth or legitimate conversion. That’s true in the field as well as in the pew.

Do I covet sermon suggestions? Absolutely! Do I intend to preach one-hit wonders so that somebody can vicariously get at somebody else in the assembly? Not for a minute.

Give that a thought the next time you find yourself saying, “Preacher, I think we need a sermon on____________________.” The person who may really need a whippin’ won’t be the “weak” brother, but you.

by Mike Benson

ISIS and Ebola

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If one were to ask what ISIS and Ebola have in common it seems that both are deadly, strike fear into those who know about them, and their reputation is well known.  It’s an unseemly but congruent parallel with how God worked in the OT to give the children of Israel victory over wicked nations.

We can first understand the message Moses gave to Israel about why God was going to give them victory over nations mightier than they; “Not for thy righteousness, or for the uprightness of thine heart, dost thou go to possess their land: but for the wickedness of these nations the LORD thy God doth drive them out from before thee, and that he may perform the word which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Deut 9:5). And so it was when the spies came to Jericho, Rahab said, “…I know that the LORD hath given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when ye came out of Egypt; and what ye did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom ye utterly destroyed (Jos 2:9-10).

When you read about the extent of God’s punishment for the nations that He destroyed, it demonstrates just how little we understand of God’s work and way.  His message to Saul, “Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass” (1Sam 15:3). It’s hard to understand the reason behind this direction but we know it was for His purposes and when Saul disobeyed, he was taken from power.

But there were also terrible diseases that God used for destruction and in fact, it’s interesting He told Israel that He would protect them, “And the LORD will take away from thee all sickness, and will put none of the evil diseases of Egypt, which thou knowest, upon thee; but will lay them upon all them that hate thee” (Deut 7:15). And later He promised to punish them with disease if they did not observe His commands, “Then the LORD will make thy plagues wonderful, and the plagues of thy seed, even great plagues, and of long continuance, and sore sicknesses, and of long continuance. Moreover he will bring upon thee all the diseases of Egypt, which thou wast afraid of; and they shall cleave unto thee. Also every sickness, and every plague, which is not written in the book of this law, them will the LORD bring upon thee, until thou be destroyed” (Deut 28:59).

When you read messages from God you’ll see the direction to “fear not”; the only exception being to fear Him. Samuel’s admonition would serve us well today, “Only fear the LORD, and serve him in truth with all your heart: for consider how great things he hath done for you” (1Sam 12:24). Jesus commanded us to do the same, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt 10:2). I don’t know how God is working all things today, but we should know that He rules in the kingdoms of men (Dan 4:32-35), that Christ has all power in Heaven and earth (Mtt 28:18), and that all things are working for good to those who love God (Rom 8:28).  Let’s be guided by faith and fear of God, rather than of man or disease.

–Matthew Johnson

 

choosing righteousness over unrighteousness

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Telling people they are rejecting Jesus will provoke an angry outburst and an accusation of judging. Their emotionally charged response highlights an important problem in Christianity.

Countless people are rejecting Jesus and they have no idea they are guilty of such a heinous act. All they know is that claiming to be a Christian is sufficient for them. It is immaterial that their claims have nothing to do with their lifestyles and morality.

It comforts us to have control over everything in our world. Making up our own rules is intoxicating. As a result, the world is full of people who claim they are spiritual but not religious, so they can design their own spirituality.

They desire the feeling without any change in their lives. They will not cede control of their lives to anyone, including God. They want God to be their servant, ready to clean up their messes. They will put their fleshly preferences and peers over their souls and when time allows, and when the mood strikes, they will recall God for a few blessings.

God is not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and we must remember that God is love (1 John 4:8).
However, we also have the responsibility to choose righteousness over unrighteousness (Deuteronomy 30:15- 19; Ezekiel 18:19-23).

If we see things from God’s perspective, we will be healthier spiritually. God established the ground rules of freewill, conditions that we love, so we must accept the boundaries God has given us.

In John 12:26, Jesus tells us that following and serving him are one and the same. If we serve Jesus, we will be honored by God and glorify Christ (John 12:26; Ephesians 3:20-21).

If we walk with Christ, we will walk in the light (John 12:35; John 8:12; 1 John 1:5). In John 1:1-5,14 we find that Jesus is the Word, the very thoughts and expressions of God. To follow the Word is to walk in the light, while a dismissal of the Word leads us to darkness. Jesus cannot be separated from the Word.

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46, NKJV).

We know that Jesus will be the judge at the judgment day (2 Timothy 4:1, Romans 2:15). Yet, John 12:47 says that Jesus will not judge us. The next verse clarifies when Jesus says, “the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

We accept Jesus by accepting his Word. Conversely, rejecting the Word is to reject the Christ. Our claims, titles, beliefs and rationalizations will have no effect on our eternal destiny.

The ultimate decision will be made by two facts:

One, are we in Christ, by God’s standards (Acts 2:38,47; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27). If we are in Christ, we will not miss heaven (Romans 8:1).

Second, our works, meaning our obedience, are an inescapable aspect of our salvation (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 20:12).

We cannot hope to enter heaven without the grace of God, no matter how perfectly we have lived (Ephesians 2:8-9; Luke 17:10). However, our works, meaning our daily walk in Christ, is evidence of our allegiance (James 2:24).

We cannot separate Jesus from the Word. It is blasphemous to even try. We must live the Word if we will follow the Savior. Submission, not superiority is the spiritual order of the day.

by Richard Mansel

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