Archives for : June2016

A Fallstreak Hole

The older we become the more amazing things we see.  We’ve stood in awe of waterfalls, mountains, and canyons.  We’ve trembled before tornados, tsunamis, and volcanoes.  With the accessibility of social media, it can feel like we’ve pretty much seen it all, and then God shows us something new and incredible.  The rare phenomenon pictured above is called a Fallstreak Hole.  It was recently seen in Victoria, Australia (Grind TV).

A Fallstreak Hole only occurs under some specific conditions.  First of all, it almost only occurs in certain cloud formations (cirrocumulus and altocumulus).  Second, the water temperature in the clouds has to be below the freezing point but not yet frozen (known as “supercooling”).  Third, ice crystals need to form within these conditions and then set off a chain reaction where all the other surrounding water partials start freezing and then falling.  The end result is a hole in the sky.  In the picture above, when the sun hit the falling particles just right, it also produced a rainbow.

Only through God’s power that we have clouds at all, not to mention all of the other amazing things that come from clouds.  Jeremiah 10:12-13Jeremiah 10:12-13
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12 He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding hath he stretched out the heavens: 13 when he uttereth his voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and he causeth the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; he maketh lightnings for the rain, and bringeth forth the wind out of his treasuries.

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says, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, and brings out the wind from His storehouses.”

In His wisdom, God thought out, planned, and added special features into the creation so that we can stand in awe of His glory and power.  He has built in so many little wonders into the universe.  There is no telling what other mysteries God has incorporated into creation that we are yet to see.  When we come across them, let’s give God the praise and honor He deserves!

“Stumbling” or “falling” in the Bible

“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4Galatians 5:4
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4 Ye are severed from Christ, ye would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.

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NKJV).

On several occasions I have had the privilege of trekking into the mountainous Himalayan districts of Nepal to visit congregations of believers and teach the Bible. I reflect back upon those hikes with wonder at how many times I slipped or stumbled and was literally upon the very edge of falling.

I actually did stumble and fall twice on my most recent such trip, but stayed on the trail and caught myself on my hands and knees without injury.  One of my companions also had a similar fall with the same results.

Most of the time, however, had I fallen, it would have been much more serious. Those circumstances involved steep up or down rock steps where a misstep would have resulted in a hard tumble for considerable distance, or a narrow trail on an almost sheer mountain-side. A fall from that might send one down hundreds or even thousands of feet.

Some readers might remember the old country song, “Please help me I’m falling.” Whether that is an emergency plea or a simple request for a hand back up depends to a very great degree upon where or in what circumstances the fall occurs. A slip on a soft surface may result in a slight bruise; a fall from the side of a mountain usually means broken bones or death.

Spiritually, any fall is of the most serious nature.

The Galatian Christians (see the verse quoted above) were on the point of rejecting salvation by grace through obedient faith in favor of a righteousness obtained by meritorious works of the Law of Moses (cf. Romans 9:31-10:4Romans 9:31-10:4
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31 but Israel, following after a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law. 32 Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by works. They stumbled at the stone of stumbling; 33 even as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence: And he that believeth on him shall not be put to shame. 10 1 Brethren, my heart's desire and my supplication to God is for them, that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For being ignorant of God's righteousness, and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. 4 For Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness to every one that believeth.

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). Paul said such a decision would result in their fall from grace. Imagine losing all of the blessings and gifts which God has prepared for us, while doing what we think will acquire those same benefits. What a tragedy.

Other spiritual falls described in the Bible include:

Falling “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23Romans 3:23
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23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

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Falling “into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:91 Timothy 6:9
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9 But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition.

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Falling “away” into apostasy or false teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:32 Thessalonians 2:3
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3 let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition,

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Falling “into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:61 Timothy 3:6
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6 not a novice, lest being puffed up he fall into the condemnation of the devil.

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Falling “into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:71 Timothy 3:7
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7 Moreover he must have good testimony from them that are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

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Falling “into disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11Hebrews 4:11
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11 Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.

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Falling “away (from God)” (Hebrews 6:6Hebrews 6:6
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6 and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame.

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Falling “into judgment” (James 5:12James 5:12
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12 But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by the heaven, nor by the earth, nor by any other oath: but let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay; that ye fall not under judgment.

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; compare also falling “into the hands of the living God, Hebrews 10:31Hebrews 10:31
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31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

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Falling “from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:172 Peter 3:17
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17 Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness.

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Falling “from your first works” (Revelation 2:5Revelation 2:5
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5 Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent and do the first works; or else I come to thee, and will move thy candlestick out of its place, except thou repent.

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The consequence of any of these falls is, potentially, eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:6-92 Thessalonians 1:6-9
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6 if so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might,

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). Only obedient trust in Jesus can spare any human from the inevitable fall from God’s glory into sin. Only confession of and repentance from sins can spare the erring Christian from guilt and punishment (1 John 1:8- 9; 2:1-21 John 1:8- 9; 2:1-2
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Štetje svetopisemskih vrstic se za?ne z 1! Vrstica 0 ne obstaja!

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One is prudent when walking on steep mountains to watch his step and avoid falls. One is much wiser who carefully avoids temptation, resisting the attempts of Satan to ensnare and condemn.

— by Michael E. Brooks

Elijah the prophet was a member of an endangered species

“And he said, ‘I have been very zealous for

the Lord God of hosts; because the children

of Israel have forsaken your covenant, torn

down your altars, and killed your prophets

with the sword. I alone am left; and they

seek to take my life'” (1 Kings 19:141 Kings 19:14
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14 And he said, I have been very jealous for Jehovah, the God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

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NKJV).

A group of us were traveling upriver in Bangladesh by boat from the city of Pirajpur to visit various villages and points of interest. We were thrilled when, soon after our launching, we were joined by a pod of river dolphins who swam along beside the boat, frequently rolling on the surface and even leaping out of the water in a display of power and grace.

Our pleasure in this display was enhanced by our knowledge that the Gangetic river dolphins (along with all other freshwater dolphins) are rare and are classified as either threatened or endangered by governments and environmental agencies.

Pollution, net fishing, the abundance of engine driven boats (with sharp propellers) in their habitat, and other factors has reduced populations to a few thousand or in some species mere hundreds. We were blessed to see something which most of the world’s population may not even know exists, and which may not exist much longer if steps are not taken soon.

Elijah the prophet was a member of an endangered species. He had already resigned himself to the fact that he would soon die, and with him, all hopes that Israel would be a nation which served the Lord God. He was discouraged and defeated, confused as to how God Almighty could allow his people to reject him totally.

Unless steps were taken soon, all hope would be lost.

Yet steps were being taken. Elijah’s survival, and that of the faithful in Israel, did not depend upon human government or agency. God himself was supervising their fate. He had resources of which even the prophet was unaware. “Yet I have reserved seven thousand in Israel, all whose knees have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:181 Kings 19:18
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18 Yet will I leave me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

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Elijah did not have a complete count of the faithful.

He was not aware of the seven thousand faithful worshipers of God remaining in Israel.

So also when modern Christians despair at the prevalent immorality of our cultures, and when it seems that the wicked prosper while the righteous perish, we may not know the true state of affairs. But these things we can know by faith, and that knowledge will encourage us to continue to serve our God.

First, we know that God is still in charge. Jesus promised “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35Matthew 24:35
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35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.

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). Of his kingdom it is said that “[It] cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28Hebrews 12:28
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28 Wherefore, receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us have grace, whereby we may offer service well-pleasing to God with reverence and awe:

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Though the earth and all that is in it will someday be destroyed, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:132 Peter 3:13
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13 But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.

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Secondly, we know that righteousness abides. Paul affirms that salvation has been received by many through faith in Jesus. “But I say, have they not heard? Yes indeed: ‘Their sound has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world'” (Romans 10:18Romans 10:18
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18 But I say, Did they not hear? Yea, verily, Their sound went out into all the earth, And their words unto the ends of the world.

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Again we are taught, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:11-12Titus 2:11-12
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11 For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world;

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We may not always see or know of the many who have obeyed such teaching and who are living righteously before God. But we are assured that they exist.

Finally we know that Jesus will come again. “For yet a little while, and he who is coming will come and will not tarry” ( Hebrews 10:37Hebrews 10:37
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37 For yet a very little while, He that cometh shall come, and shall not tarry.

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). “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come
. . . (2 Peter 3:9-102 Peter 3:9-10
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9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

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God preserves his people unto his own purpose. We can have confidence before him in every situation, knowing that he loves us and that his power will prevail. We may be threatened, but the people of God are never endangered, so long as they trust in him. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31Romans 8:31
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31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

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by Michael E. Brooks

Are you a fryer or a flier?

Eagles and Chickens

“But they who wait for the Lord shall renew

their strength, they shall mount up with

wings like eagles; they shall run and not be

weary, they shall walk and not faint”

(Isaiah 40:31Isaiah 40:31
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31 but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

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, ESV).

 

Have you ever tried to corner a chicken? Paving stones are more aerodynamic than chickens!

Somehow this most inelegant of birds senses that flight is a matter of the greatest urgency, and in a flurry of claws and feathers she does her best to avoid a destiny with an iron skillet and a bottle of Crisco.

Poultry in motion.

Have you ever tried to corner an eagle? Ten-foot chicken wiring tends to be an inadequate confinement.

And in the broad, blue sky, a thousand feet above the earth, there aren’t many corners anyway.

Receding raptor.

When we attempt to rise above life’s difficulties on our own, our efforts are usually about as exalted and dignified as a harassed hen. And the temptation usually catches us, red feet clasped in hand, hanging upside down and ready for the fryer.

So why do we try vainly to live our lives without the help of God? Don’t we want to soar on wings like eagles? Don’t we want to rise above the dust and grit of the hen house? Why do Christians try to get along without the benefit of Bible Study and worship time?

Why do we fail to seek consolation in prayer? Rest on the wings of the Lord. Pray for his strength. Be in his presence for worship. Serve his people.

“You yourselves have seen what I did to the

Egyptians and how I bore you on eagle’s

wings and brought you to myself” (Exodus

19:4).

So are you a fryer or a flier?

— by Stan Mitchell

Socialism is an economic system where everybody is equally miserable!

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help'”

(Ronald Reagan, August 1986).

There is an old African joke where the Tanzanians, who are socialist, accuse Kenyans, who are capitalists, of being a “dog eat dog society.” The Kenyans have an answer, however. They say that Tanzanians are a “dog eat nothing society.” Which makes me think of Churchill’s apt definition of socialism: “Socialism is an economic system where everybody is equally miserable!”

I think a lot of people think of Christianity as the ultimate self-help system. They search the scriptures for better techniques for making money, having better marriages, and becoming more self-confident. It fascinates me to see purportedly Christian books with titles such as “Christian Assertiveness,” or, “Ten Easy Techniques to Make Your Church Grow.”

Christianity is not a system of independence; it’s one of dependence. We rely on God, not better technique!

Don’t look for Christian material on the “Self- Help”

bookshelf. God, himself wishes to help us! The Christian life is not about self-confidence; it’s about God confidence. It’s not about self-help; it’s about God’s help. It’s not about methodology; it’s about mercy!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6Proverbs 3:5,6
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5 Trust in Jehovah with all thy heart, And lean not upon thine own understanding: 6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he will direct thy paths.

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ESV).

It’s true. The Lord really is here to help!

— by Stan Mitchell

Does God Have Alzheimer’s?

My friend has been carefully monitoring her grandmother for some time…

There have been signals. Telltale signs. Inexplicable actions.

Lately they have been much more pronounced and observable. This is not simply “old age;” this is symptomatic of something far worse. Her grandmother doesn’t just forget something, she simply can’t remember.

She can’t recall people or how to do the simplest of tasks. Faces have no context. Loved ones are total strangers. It’s as if her mind is a sort of computer hard drive that has been irrevocably erased. The data is all gone. The external components are still intact, but there are no files to open and review.

Now my friend’s family has been forced to make a heart- wrenching decision to put grandmother into a nursing home. Grandma will never return to her old homestead.

Her home with its treasures and precious memories will be emptied and divided among her loved ones.

Alzheimer’s has claimed yet another unsuspecting victim.

What would it be like to not be able to remember? What would it be like to forget? What would it be like to lose the ability to function normally because your memories are being incrementally erased from your mind?

Imagine her dreadful plight.

She can see, hear, and move, but she can’t remember.

Names mean nothing to her. Every face is an unknown.

She is an infant in an old woman’s body, at best.  I shudder to think about it. I am sad for my friend and her family.

But it occurs to me that God also has a similar affliction-figuratively speaking. He can’t remember like he used to. Perhaps it might be more appropriate to say that “He doesn’t recall as he used to…” No, that’s not a misprint.

The “Ancient of Days” doesn’t recall things as he once did. You might say it’s a divine form of Alzheimer’s.

Don’t believe me? Read the following passage and pay special attention to Jer. 31:34Jer. 31:34
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34 and they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.

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b:  “saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.”

You may be thinking, “But Mike, how can this be? God is incapable of not remembering.”

In order for us to address this apparent dilemma, let’s notice a few Scriptural points:

  1. God’s is all-knowing (1 Samuel 2.3; Psalm 139.1-6; 147.4-5; 40.5; Matthew 10.29-30; Romans 1.19-20.)
  1. For God to not know or remember something would mean that he is not omniscient.
  1. God remembers sin in the sense that he knows everything, past, present, and future.
  1. Under the Law of Moses, sins were remembered each year on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16; 23.26-32).

“But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year” (Hebrews 10.3). This annual remembrance was necessary in order that God’s people (a) would be made conscious (Hebrews 10.2) of the enormity of their transgressions as well as (b) what was required in order to atone for them. Sin is a type of debt (Romans 6.23). So when the high priest offered the blood of innocent animals on behalf of the nation, the people were forced to see and remember the consequences–both physically and spiritually–of what they had done.

Think of it this way. Think of paying off your car loan.  Each month the bank remembers that you have a car payment-and every month it mails you a reminder.

You pay on the debt for several months in a row until eventually you pay off the car and the entire debt is–to borrow from Jeremiah–”remembered no more.”

Now once the loan is paid off, does the bank forget that you bought the car, or that you had a bill to pay?

We would agree and say, “Of course not.” The bank still keeps a record of your debt, but it acknowledges that the debt has been cancelled and, therefore, no longer held against your account.

Well, God has a record of our sin–because God can’t forget anything, but now under the new and better covenant (Hebrews 8.6ff), there is no need for perennial, repetitive sacrifices (i.e., bank reminders).

By virtue of the “once and for all” (Hebrews 10.5-18) payment/sacrifice of Christ (Hebrews 9.13-15), God no longer remembers our sins (Isaiah 43.25) or charges them against our account. He treats us as if we had never sinned; he, in essence, forgets (Jeremiah 31.34b; cf. Micah 7.18-20.)

by Mike Benson

I checked with the Supreme Court; nothing’s changed.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and

mother and hold fast to his wife and they

shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24Genesis 2:24
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24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

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, ESV).

Long before the political insertion of DOMA (the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996), marriage was a Christian institution. Long before the politicians decided to define marriage, then redefine it, God already had his own definition. This definition does not change with political whim.

When the American empire joins the Babylonian, Medo- Persian, Greek and Roman empires as dust and rubble, God’s rule will persist. The US Supreme Court cannot imagine how temporary their decisions are in the context of history.

Marriage began at creation, when God gave Eve to Adam, and commanded them to forge a union, the closest human relationship possible.

When Paul wanted to compare the relationship of Christ and the church, he chose the marriage relationship as the most accurate human analogy (Ephesians 5:25-33Ephesians 5:25-33
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25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: 29 for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church; 30 because we are members of his body. 31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. 32 This mystery is great: but I speak in regard of Christ and of the church. 33 Nevertheless do ye also severally love each one his own wife even as himself; and let the wife see that she fear her husband.

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Jesus insisted that marriage and its component parts were “from the beginning” (Matthew 19:1-9Matthew 19:1-9
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19 1 And it came to pass when Jesus had finished these words, he departed from Galilee, and came into the borders of Judaea beyond the Jordan; 2 and great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. 3 And there came unto him Pharisees, trying him, and saying, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? 4 And he answered and said, Have ye not read, that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, 5 and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh? 6 So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. 7 They say unto him, Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorcement, and to put her away? 8 He saith unto them, Moses for your hardness of heart suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it hath not been so. 9 And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.

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This predates the latest Presidential administrations by some distance. It is prior to the New York Times, MSNBC and Hollywood. Marriage from a Christian point of view must be defined the way Scripture defines it.

* Puritans in England saw England as God’s kingdom on earth. It was not.

* Many Puritans came to the New World seeking to establish America as the kingdom of God; they did not.

* Dutch Huguenots entered Southern Africa convinced they were the kingdom of God, but they were not.

The United States has in many ways been a marvel of freedoms and democracy; perhaps it will continue in that manner. I hope so.

But the USA was never the kingdom of God. Jesus reminded Pilate regarding the nature of God’s kingdom:

“My kingdom,” he declared very clearly, “is not of this world” (John 18:36John 18:36
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36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

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). It is still not of this world.

Almost the last thing said in the Bible is an invitation from “the Spirit and the bride” (Revelation 22:17Revelation 22:17
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17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely.

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Marriage is not a political entity; it is a Christian institution. They can legislate what they want in Washington D.C., or Brussels, or Buenos Aires. The Christian is a citizen of another country, anyway (Philippians 3:20Philippians 3:20
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20 For our citizenship is in heaven; whence also we wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:

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I was as concerned about the supreme court’s political decision as anybody, but spiritually there is another reality.

I checked with the Supreme Court; nothing’s changed.

— by Stan Mitchell

Counselors these days talk about people being adept at “compartmentalizing” their lives.

I have always been puzzled about David’s state of mind when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to hide his actions by murdering her husband Uriah the Hittite. It’s not as if David, brought up in Jesse’s godly household, the man “after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:141 Samuel 13:14
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14 But now thy kingdom shall not continue: Jehovah hath sought him a man after his own heart, and Jehovah hath appointed him to be prince over his people, because thou hast not kept that which Jehovah commanded thee.

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) was unaware that adultery and murder were wrong!

How long, one wonders, did David intend to carry on as if nothing had happened? For months? Years?

Indefinitely? How does someone do this?

Counselors these days talk about people being adept at “compartmentalizing” their lives. So, for instance, a student might be facing a huge test for which he ought to study, yet be able to block that out of his mind while playing video games until late at night. Or a preacher might find himself in an adulterous relationship, somehow putting that side of his life, the one where he’s a worldly ladies’ man, in a different compartment from the one where he is a man of God, preaching God’s word.

I wish I could tell you that this brand of self- deception was unusual, but it’s not. It’s about as unusual as a cactus in West Texas, or a Crimson Tide fan in Tuscaloosa. This is so common, so human!

It seems likely that David would have gone to his grave convinced that he was just fine in God’s sight, had Nathan the prophet not confronted him.

Have you ever wondered why Nathan resorted to telling that heartbreaking story about the poor man and his ewe lamb who was victimized by the rich man who stole his lamb and shared it with his guests?

Was criticizing the king a dangerous occupation?

Perhaps. But Nathan faced a more critical task. He had to get David to see David for who he was! The story of a rich and powerful man who felt he was entitled to do as he pleased to the poor and helpless allowed David to see what he had done. It seems it was a moment of revelation – so that’s what I look like to God!

The poet Robert Burns once declared, “Lord give us the grace to see ourselves as others see us.” The real trick, of course, is to see ourselves as God sees us.

— by Stan Mitchell

This is the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.

IN SEPTEMBER 1962, Russia began to build bases in Cuba for nuclear missiles with the ability to strike most of the U.S…

A month later, the U.S. discovered this when a spy plane captured proof of missile bases under construction.  The immediate suggestion by military officials was to attack and destroy Cuba.  This is the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.

Wisely, President Kennedy decided not to attack, yet he was still able to get the missiles removed only two weeks later.  How did he do this?  He approached the situation with President Khrushchev’s perspective and tried to understand the situation through his eyes.

This is called empathy.

Sympathy is when you genuinely try to share the feelings and emotions of someone else, particularly during a trying time.  Empathy is going further and understanding those feelings and emotions, doing so without prejudice.

While we could employ this technique in a number of ways, I want us to consider this tool in relation to evangelism.

The sharing of religious ideas can be emotional, even explosive, when disagreement is involved.  When people get angry, the chances of an effective conversation decrease.

But if we can set aside our pride and dive into the thoughts of the other person, really trying to understand their position from their perspective, the ensuing road will be much easier to travel.

Paul did this in Acts 17.22-34 when he stood on the Areopagus and shared the Gospel.  He knew how they thought and adjusted his approach, and did so with positive results.

Strive not to blast people with your understanding of things.  Start where they are and go from there.  You will be more effective for the Lord.  Jesse Wagner

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 2.5

Mike Benson

 

If it feels good, do it!

When there is no consequence there is no motivation for compliance.

In this post-modern society, the thought of consequence for one’s actions is deemed unacceptable. The common ideology is that “if it feels good do it” or “if you believe it is alright it is OK.”

This type of thinking has permeated our society and affected the judicial system of our nation. Today if someone breaks the law they can’t understand why they are arrested and why they may face punishment.

For instance, if law enforcement stopped giving tickets for speeding, more people would exceed the speed limit.

When there are no consequences for home invasion, burglary, felony theft, assault, destruction of private and public property, etc. what would detour one from committing these acts? Where there is no punishment for breaking the laws of the land, chaos is certain.

From the beginning of time, God has given humanity laws to live by.

In the Genesis record it notes:

“Then the LORD God took the man and put him

into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and

keep it. The LORD God commanded the man,

saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may

eat freely; but from the tree of the

knowledge of good and evil you shall not

eat, for in the day that you eat from it you

will surely die'” (Genesis 2:15-17Genesis 2:15-17
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15 And Jehovah God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

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This context sets the precedent of God’s dealing with humanity and his commands (laws). Adam was to keep the garden and not eat of the tree of knowledge.

The consequence of not obeying God’s commands was death. As one continues studying about Adam and Eve, the text notes that they broke the law of God and were cast from the garden. Not only did Adam and Eve face physical death but they were cast from the presence of God (spiritual death).

James in his New Testament letter notes the law under the Christian dispensation. He calls it the “law of liberty” (James 1:25; 2:12James 1:25; 2:12
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25 But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty.

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). The children of Israel were under the law given to Moses while the Gentiles had a “law unto themselves” (Romans 2:14Romans 2:14
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14 (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves;

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To break God’s law is sin. John in his first letter defines sin:

“Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:41 John 3:4
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4 Every one that doeth sin doeth also lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.

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Paul writing to the Christians at Rome noted the consequences of breaking the law of God:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23Romans 6:23
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23 For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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In Galatians chapter five, verses nineteen through twenty-one one can find a listing of sins (lawlessness) recorded. This is not a conclusive listing but note the concluding phrase as to the consequence of practicing such things, “will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21Galatians 5:21
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21 envyings, drunkenness, revellings, and such like; of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practise such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

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Throughout the teachings of God there are laws for humanity to keep. There are also noted consequences for not keeping the law. Even though our society deems consequences unacceptable, God does not.

I wonder what the future holds if our society continues in this manner?

by John E. Werhan @ www.forthright.net

“Don’t be frightened,” he said. “I’ll look after you.”

“Whatever Happens”

During his courtship with a young woman named Julia Dent, Ulysses S. Grant once took her out for a buggy ride.  Coming to a flooded creek spanned by a flimsy bridge, Grant assured Julia that it was safe to cross.  “Don’t be frightened,” he said.  “I’ll look after you.”

“Well,” replied Julia, “I shall cling to you whatever happens.”  True to her word, she clung tightly to Grant’s arm as they drove safely across.

Grant drove on in thoughtful silence for a few minutes, then cleared his throat and said, “Julia, you said back there that you would cling to me whatever happened.  Would you like to cling to me for the rest of our lives?”  She would, and they were married in August 1848. *

Wikipedia provides the following summary of the marriage Ulysses and Julia Grant:  “The Grants’ marriage was often tried by adversity and it met every test, as the couple gave each other lifelong loyalty.”

In Genesis 2:24Genesis 2:24
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24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

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, we find God’s design for marriage: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united [“cling”] to his wife, and they will become one flesh.”

It is the “clinging together” in loving commitment that will enable a married couple to endure the challenges that life brings and enjoy life together.

And it is “clinging to Christ” that will enable a person to navigate through this life and have the hope of eternal life.

Life has its challenges but sin is our greatest enemy, for it separates us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2Isaiah 59:1-2
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59 1 Behold, Jehovah's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear.

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) and condemns us (Romans 6:23Romans 6:23
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23 For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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But God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we might be forgiven of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16John 3:16
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16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.

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; Romans 6:23Romans 6:23
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23 For the wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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God will save those who “cling” to Jesus by placing their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31Acts 16:30-31
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30 and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31 And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus, and thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house.

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), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31Acts 17:30-31
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30 The times of ignorance therefore God overlooked; but now he commandeth men that they should all everywhere repent: 31 inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

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), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10Romans 10:9-10
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9 because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: 10 for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

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), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38Acts 2:38
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38 And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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).  Jesus will continue to wash away the sins of those who continue to “cling” to Him faithfully (1 John 1:71 John 1:7
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7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

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“I shall cling to you whatever happens.”  That mindset is crucial for a great marriage.  It also describes how we should respond to the Savior.

Whatever happens, won’t YOU cling to Jesus in trusting obedience?

 

David A. Sargent

What MUST the Baptizer Say?

IS IT NECESSARY, i.e., Scripturally required, for one who is baptizing another to say a certain verbal formula just prior to the baptism itself?  Must he actually utter the words, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” in order to certify the immersion?  Let’s consider these questions together in the light of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 22 Tim. 3:16-17; 2
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16 Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: 17 that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work. 2 1 Thou therefore, my child, be strengthened in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. 2 And the things which thou hast heard from me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. 3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier on service entangleth himself in the affairs of this life; that he may please him who enrolled him as a soldier. 5 And if also a man contend in the games, he is not crowned, except he have contended lawfully. 6 The husbandmen that laboreth must be the first to partake of the fruits. 7 Consider what I say; for the Lord shall give thee understanding in all things. 8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, of the seed of David, according to my gospel: 9 wherein I suffer hardship unto bonds, as a malefactor; but the word of God is not bound. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 11 Faithful is the saying: For if we died with him, we shall also live with him: 12 if we endure, we shall also reign with him: if we shall deny him, he also will deny us: 13 if we are faithless, he abideth faithful; for he cannot deny himself. 14 Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them in the sight of the Lord, that they strive not about words, to no profit, to the subverting of them that hear. 15 Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth. 16 But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, 17 and their word will eat as doth a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus an Philetus; 18 men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some. 19 Howbeit the firm foundation of God standeth, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his: and, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from unrighteousness. 20 Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some unto honor, and some unto dishonor. 21 If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honor, sanctified, meet for the master's use, prepared unto every good work. 22 But flee youthful lusts, and follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But foolish and ignorant questionings refuse, knowing that they gender strifes. 24 And the Lord's servant must not strive, but be gentle towards all, apt to teach, forbearing, 25 in meekness correcting them that oppose themselves; if peradventure God may give them repentance unto the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him unto his will.

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Pet. 1:3).  Please note:

.  What if the immerser says nothing just prior to the candidate’s immersion?  Is the immerser guilty of sin?  How might he go about repenting of this omission?  Would a second immersion be necessary because he was silent just before the baptism took place?

.  When a candidate is immersed for the remission of sins is he still in sin because the one doing the immersing did not articulate a specific verbal formula?

.  Is any candidate’s salvation in any way dependent upon the verbiage of the individual performing the baptism?

.  Is there a specific passage of Scripture which instructs the one doing the baptizing to say a certain verbal formula?

.  Is there an approved example in the New Testament which illustrates where the individual doing the baptizing actually said, “I now baptize you in the name of…?”

It essential that we differentiate between what the candidate MUST DO (Acts 16:30Acts 16:30
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30 and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

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), and what the one doing the baptizing COULD SAY
.  Every candidate MUST believe on the Lord Jesus and be baptized (1 Pet. 3:211 Pet. 3:21
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21 which also after a true likeness doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ;

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), but every individual doing the immersing is free to speak or remain silent at the event.

Years ago I (Mike) brought one particular man to the building for baptism.  He knew the gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-41 Cor. 15:1-4
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15 1 Now I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, 2 by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. 3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures;

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), he knew that he lost (Rom. 3:23Rom. 3:23
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23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

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), as well as what he needed to do in order to be saved (Mark 16:15-16Mark 16:15-16
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15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.

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).  He was an especially large and overweight man.  I expressed concern as to how I might get him back into the water and then safely bring him out of the water.  He chose to kneel down, neck deep, in the baptistery and then suggested that I merely push his head forward under the water to complete his obedience to the Lord.  I agreed to do so in keeping with Scriptural precedent (Acts 8:38Acts 8:38
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38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.

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; Rom. 6:3-4Rom. 6:3-4
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3 Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life.

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).  I then started to say, “I now baptize you in the name of the Father…” when the man suddenly took a deep breath and pulled himself under the water.  My hand was touching his head, but my words were incomplete.  Was it necessary for me to baptize him again because I hadn’t finished the sentence?  Was he any less saved because of what I did or did not say?  Was his salvation in any way contingent upon my verbiage?  Were his sins not remitted by the blood of Christ because I wasn’t able to finish my sentence?  To ask these questions is to answer them.

The emphasis in Scripture has to do with the AUTHORITY for baptism and not the exact terminology employed at that time.  As Wayne Jackson states, “No passage in the New Testament, which mentions baptizing ‘into’ the ‘name’ of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (or ‘into’ Christ, or ‘in’ his name), has reference to what is being said at the time of the immersion.  …There is no allusion whatsoever to a formalized ‘language code’ that is required in order to validate the immersion.”1  Watch:

.  “Baptizing them IN (Greek—eis, into) THE NAME OF the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 28:19Mat. 28:19
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19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:

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b).

.  “Be baptized IN (Greek—epi, upon) THE NAME OF Jesus Christ” (Acts 2:38Acts 2:38
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38 And Peter said unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

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.  “Baptized IN (Greek—eis, into) THE NAME OF the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16Acts 8:16
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16 for as yet it was fallen upon none of them: only they had been baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

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.  “Baptized IN (Greek—en, in) THE NAME OF the Lord” (Acts 10:48Acts 10:48
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48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days.

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.  “Baptized IN (Greek—eis, into) THE NAME OF the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:5Acts 19:5
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5 And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.

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“To be baptized ‘upon the name’ or ‘in the name,’ of Jesus suggests the ground or occasion for the baptism.  “The name” in the Sacred Writings often denotes the sum of the divine attributes of the Person named; all that is involved in the Being whose name is thus designated.  ‘Into the name’ denotes union or communion with.  Thayer says that ‘by a usage chiefly Hebraistic the name is used for everything a name covers…to do a thing in the name of another, i.e., by one’s command and authority, acting on his behalf, promoting his cause.’  Thus acting by the authority of Christ from the relationship we sustain to him our Redeemer and Lord, we are baptized into a state of union and communion with God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit”’ (emphasis mine—mb).2

Sometimes one performing a baptism will hold his free hand high in the air as he says, “I now baptize you in the name of …”  Hopefully we all recognize and agree that having his hand in the air is neither required nor commanded.  It is simply a customary activity employed to add (it is argued) solemnity to the occasion.  The person who is being baptized is not in any way impacted by this token gesture.  Well, the same is true of what is said at immersion.  Verbal statements are merely customs which preachers and others have employed down through the years as they carry out their work.  The key word in that sentence is customs—and customs are not commands (cf. Mat. 15:8Mat. 15:8
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8 This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me.

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Brethren, let’s be very cautious about speaking where the Bible does not speak and legislating where the Bible has not bound (1 Pet. 4:111 Pet. 4:11
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11 if any man speaketh, speaking as it were oracles of God; is any man ministereth, ministering as of the strength which God supplieth: that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, whose is the glory and the dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

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; Col. 3:17Col. 3:17
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17 And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

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).  The Word of God does not specify what one doing the immersing must say; 3 it does mandate what he must do—immerse!

1 Wayne Jackson, “Is a ‘Word Formula’ Required in Administering Baptism,” Christian Courier.

2 Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers—Open Forum, 165-66.

3 To be baptized upon the name is to be baptized on the confession of that which the name implies: on the ground of the name; so that the name Jesus, as the contents of the faith and confession, is the ground upon which the becoming baptized rests. In the name (ἐν) has reference to the sphere within which alone true baptism is accomplished. The name is not the mere designation, a sense which would give to the baptismal formula merely the force of a charm. The name, as in the Lord’s Prayer (“Hallowed be thy name”), is the expression of the sum total of the divine Being: not his designation as God or Lord, but the formula in which all his attributes and characteristics are summed up. It is equivalent to his person. The finite mind can deal with him only through his name; but his name is of no avail detached from his nature. When one is baptized into the name of the Trinity, he professes to acknowledge and appropriate God in all that he is and in all that he does for man. He recognizes and depends upon God the Father as his Creator and Preserver; receives Jesus Christ as his only Mediator and Redeemer, and his pattern of life; and confesses the Holy Spirit as his Sanctifier and Comforter.  Marvin Richardson Vincent, Matthew 28:19Matthew 28:19
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19 Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit:

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, Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. 1, 150.

–By Mike Benson and Jason Campbell

Does it matter what we call ourselves, as a church?

Where God Puts His Name

    Does it matter what we call ourselves, as a church? I began studying that question two months ago. I began sharing the results of that study in a Daily Droplets on April 6th, then again on April 14th, and again on April 27th. Other obligations have kept me from pursuing the study but here is some more fruit…

    God’s name is holy and we must keep it holy. Not only is that one of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:7Exodus 20:7
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7 Thou shalt not take the name of Jehovah thy God in vain; for Jehovah will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

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) but Jesus says it ought to be a part of our prayers (Matthew 6:9Matthew 6:9
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9 After this manner therefore pray ye. Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.

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). Since God’s name is holy, that to which He puts His name also carries His holiness.

    Before leaving Mount Sinai, God told Israel: “‘You shall make an altar of earth for Me, and you shall sacrifice on it your burnt offerings and your peace offerings, your sheep and your oxen; in every place where I cause My name to be remembered, I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus 20:24Exodus 20:24
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24 An altar of earth thou shalt make unto me, and shalt sacrifice thereon thy burnt-offerings, and thy peace-offerings, thy sheep, and thine oxen: in every place where I record my name I will come unto thee and I will bless thee.

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    Before the Israelites invade the land of Canaan to establish residence there, Moses told them, “But you shall seek the Lord at the place which the Lord your God will choose from all your tribes, to establish His name there for His dwelling, and there you shall come. …then it shall come about that the place in which the Lord your God will choose for His name to dwell, there you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and the contribution of your hand, and all your choice votive offerings which you will vow to the Lord” (Deut. 12:5, 11Deut. 12:5, 11
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5 But unto the place which Jehovah your God shall choose out of all your tribes, to put his name there, even unto his habitation shall ye seek, and thither thou shalt come; 11 then it shall come to pass that to the place which Jehovah your God shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there, thither shall ye bring all that I command you: your burnt-offerings, and your sacrifices, your tithes, and the heave-offering of your hand, and all your choice vows which ye vow unto Jehovah.

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    The command for observing the Passover was: “You shall sacrifice the Passover to the Lord your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the Lord chooses to establish His name” (Deut. 16:2Deut. 16:2
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2 And thou shalt sacrifice the passover unto Jehovah thy God, of the flock and the herd, in the place which Jehovah shall choose, to cause his name to dwell there.

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    The behavior of the Israelites would (should) lead the other nations to glorify the God whose name they wore, whose character they reflected: “So all the peoples of the earth will see that you are called by the name of the Lord, and they will be afraid of you” (Deut. 28:10Deut. 28:10
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10 And all the peoples of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of Jehovah; and they shall be afraid of thee.

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    Israel, as God’s people, was closely associated with His name: “For the Lord will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the Lord has been pleased to make you a people for Himself” (1 Samuel 12:22; 21 Samuel 12:22; 2
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22 For Jehovah will not forsake his people for his great name's sake, because it hath pleased Jehovah to make you a people unto himself. 2 1 And Hannah prayed, and said: My heart exulteth in Jehovah; My horn is exalted in Jehovah; My mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; Because I rejoice in thy salvation. 2 There is none holy as Jehovah; For there is none besides thee, Neither is there any rock like our God. 3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; Let not arrogancy come out of your mouth; For Jehovah is a God of knowledge, And by him actions are weighed. 4 The bows of the mighty men are broken; And they that stumbled are girded with strength. 5 They that were full have hired out themselves for bread; And they that were hungry have ceased to hunger: Yea, the barren hath borne seven; And she that hath many children languisheth. 6 Jehovah killeth, and maketh alive: He bringeth down to Sheol, and bringeth up. 7 Jehovah maketh poor, and maketh rich: He bringeth low, he also lifteth up. 8 He raiseth up the poor out of the dust, He lifteth up the needy from the dunghill, To make them sit with princes, And inherit the throne of glory: For the pillars of the earth are Jehovah's, And he hath set the world upon them. 9 He will keep the feet of his holy ones; But the wicked shall be put to silence in darkness; For by strength shall no man prevail. 10 They that strive with Jehovah shall be broken to pieces; Against them will he thunder in heaven: Jehovah will judge the ends of the earth; And he will give strength unto his king, And exalt the horn of his anointed. 11 And Elkanah went to Ramah to his house. And the child did minister unto Jehovah before Eli the priest. 12 Now the sons of Eli were base men; they knew not Jehovah. 13 And the custom of the priests with the people was, that, when any man offered sacrifice, the priest's servant came, while the flesh was boiling, with a flesh-hook of three teeth in his hand; 14 and he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or caldron, or pot; all that the flesh-hook brought up the priest took therewith. So they did in Shiloh unto all the Israelites that came thither. 15 Yea, before they burnt the fat, the priest's servant came, and said to the man that sacrificed, Give flesh to roast for the priest; for he will not have boiled flesh of thee, but raw. 16 And if the man said unto him, They will surely burn the fat first, and then take as much as thy soul desireth; then he would say, Nay, but thou shalt give it me now: and if not, I will take it by force. 17 And the sin of the young men was very great before Jehovah; for the men despised the offering of Jehovah. 18 But Samuel ministered before Jehovah, being a child, girded with a linen ephod. 19 Moreover his mother made him a little robe, and brought it to him from year to year, when she came up with her husband to offer the yearly sacrifice. 20 And Eli blessed Elkanah and his wife, and said, Jehovah give thee seed of this woman for the petition which was asked of Jehovah. And they went unto their own home. 21 And Jehovah visited Hannah, and she conceived, and bare three sons and two daughters. And the child Samuel grew before Jehovah. 22 Now Eli was very old; and he heard all that his sons did unto all Israel, and how that they lay with the women that did service at the door of the tent of meeting. 23 And he said unto them, Why do ye such things? for I hear of your evil dealings from all this people. 24 Nay, my sons; for it is no good report that I hear: ye make Jehovah's people to transgress. 25 If one man sin against another, God shall judge him; but if a man sin against Jehovah, who shall entreat for him? Notwithstanding, they hearkened not unto the voice of their father, because Jehovah was minded to slay them. 26 And the child Samuel grew on, and increased in favor both with Jehovah, and also with men. 27 And there came a man of God unto Eli, and said unto him, Thus saith Jehovah, Did I reveal myself unto the house of thy father, when they were in Egypt in bondage to Pharaoh's house? 28 and did I choose him out of all the tribes of Israel to be my priest, to go up unto mine altar, to burn incense, to wear an ephod before me? and did I give unto the house of thy father all the offerings of the children of Israel made by fire? 29 Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation, and honorest thy sons above me, to make yourselves fat with the chiefest of all the offerings of Israel my people? 30 Therefore Jehovah, the God of Israel, saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now Jehovah saith, Be it far from me; for them that honor me I will honor, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed. 31 Behold, the days come, that I will cut off thine arm, and the arm of thy father's house, that there shall not be an old man in thy house. 32 And thou shalt behold the affliction of my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel; and there shall not be an old man in thy house for ever. 33 And the man of thine, whom I shall not cut off from mine altar, shall be to consume thine eyes, and to grieve thy heart; and all the increase of thy house shall die in the flower of their age. 34 And this shall be the sign unto thee, that shall come upon thy two sons, on Hophni and Phinehas: in one day they shall die both of them. 35 And I will raise me up a faithful priest, that shall do according to that which is in my heart and in my mind: and I will build him a sure house; and he shall walk before mine anointed for ever. 36 And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left in thy house shall come and bow down to him for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread, and shall say, Put me, I pray thee, into one of the priests' offices, that I may eat a morsel of bread.

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Samuel 7:23).

    In God’s covenant He made with King David, He said that the house David would build (a prophecy of David’s spiritual descendants, otherwise known as the kingdom of the Messiah) would reflect the name of God: “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:13, 262 Samuel 7:13, 26
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13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. 26 And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, Jehovah of hosts is God over Israel; and the house of thy servant David shall be established before thee.

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).

    A physical representation of that Holy Name in the midst of Israel was the temple built by King Solomon (reflecting, again, the spiritual descendants of David, portrayed by a metaphorical temple: Amos 9:11Amos 9:11
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11 In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old;

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): “The people were still sacrificing on the high places, because there was no house built for the name of the Lord until those days” (1 Kings 3:21 Kings 3:2
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2 Only the people sacrificed in the high places, because there was no house built for the name of Jehovah until those days.

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; See also 5:3-5so 5:3-5
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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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). That temple was built for the name of the Lord God of heaven (1 Kings 8:201 Kings 8:20
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20 And Jehovah hath established his word that he spake; for I am risen up in the room of David my father, and sit on the throne of Israel, as Jehovah promised, and have built the house for the name of Jehovah, the God of Israel.

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). It reflected His plans, His nature, His character. It was to be honored and preserved holy for that reason. “The Lord said to him, “I have heard your prayer and your supplication, which you have made before Me; I have consecrated this house which you have built by putting My name there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually” (1 Kings 9:31 Kings 9:3
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3 And Jehovah said unto him, I have heard thy prayer and thy supplication, that thou hast made before me: I have hallowed this house, which thou hast built, to put my name there for ever; and mine eyes and my heart shall be there perpetually.

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).

    As we continue to study the question whether it makes a difference what Christians call themselves (individually and collectively), consider these thoughts from Exodus 34:14Exodus 34:14
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14 for thou shalt worship no other god: for Jehovah, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God:

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: “for you shall not worship any other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God”—Paul Holland

Preach the word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2-4)!

What Are We To Do?

What are we to do when our culture turns from God and snubs its nose at his word, the Bible?  What are we to do when mind-altering substances are legalized?  What are we to do when our Supreme Court redefines marriage in such a way as to encompass same-sex relationships?  What are we to do when the Mayor of Houston, TX subpoenas sermons preached in Houston churches because they spoke against the practice of homosexuality? In summary, what are we to do when our culture calls good, evil and evil, good (Isaiah 5:20Isaiah 5:20
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20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!

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)?

The answer is: The same thing we were doing before our culture turned from God and snubbed its nose at the Bible. The same thing we did before mind-altering substances were legalized.  The same thing we did before our Supreme Court redefined marriage to encompass same-sex relationships.  The same thing we did before the Mayor of Houston subpoenaed sermons that were preached in Houston churches.  And the same thing we did before our culture called good, evil and evil, good.

My point is, the mission of God’s kingdom doesn’t change depending on borders, governments, rulers, and laws. Whether under the oppression of Rome, who persecuted Christians in the Coliseum, or Hitler, who murdered “enemies of the state” in the gas chambers, or the United States, who has all but marginalized Christianity today, the mission of God’s Kingdom remains the same.  Preach the word, in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2-42 Timothy 4:2-4
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2 preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.

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)!

Remember, Christianity isn’t American. While I’m thankful for the freedoms that have been extended to Christians living in America, I can’t really expect any secular government to adopt Christian values. Friends, be thankful for the respite we’ve had, but understand it may not last for succeeding generations.  Christianity existed long before the birth of America, and if America were to ever fall, it will still exist then (Daniel 2:44Daniel 2:44
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44 And in the days of those kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, nor shall the sovereignty thereof be left to another people; but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.

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). The success of Christianity doesn’t depend upon a friendly and supportive government.

Jesus once asked James and John if they were able to “drink the cup that he am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with?” They replied, “Yes, we are able” (Matthew 20:22Matthew 20:22
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22 But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink the cup that I am about to drink? They say unto him, We are able.

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). What about us? While I don’t wish for it and I hope it isn’t necessary, maybe persecution is just what is needed to shake Christians out of their lethargy and purge out the leaven of insincerity.

— Steve Higginbotham

2 Timothy 4:2-42 Timothy 4:2-4
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2 preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lusts; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.

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)!' data-link='http://www.abiblecommentary.com/blog/2016/06/13/preach-the-word-in-season-and-out-of-season-2-timothy-42-4/' data-summary=''>

Are God’s laws up for debate?

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 1:3Jude 1:3
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3 Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.

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). God has already given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:32 Peter 1:3
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3 seeing that his divine power hath granted unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that called us by his own glory and virtue;

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). God has already given us all the commands we need to be “equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-172 Timothy 3:16-17
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16 Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: 17 that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.

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). We should never expect, nor look for, nor accept anything different than what Scripture has already commanded (Galatians 1:6-9Galatians 1:6-9
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6 I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; 7 which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. 9 As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.

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).

God has always strictly warned against the changing of His commands. He gave such warnings in the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 4:2Deuteronomy 4:2
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2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you.

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), in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 4:61 Corinthians 4:6
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6 Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other.

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; Revelation 22:18-19Revelation 22:18-19
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18 I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: 19 and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.

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.). At times God even struck down those who dared to go beyond His commands (Leviticus 10:1-2Leviticus 10:1-2
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10 1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them. 2 And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah.

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). 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 

Trangsgender Voyeurism

It’s a clash of political correctness agendas, though the latter one is extremely legitimate.  On one side, we have the recent, insane push for recognizing transgenderism-even that which is simply claimed and asserted at the apparent whim of the claimant.  On the other side is an important, needed aspect of feminism-protecting women from the sexual aggression of men. Both are fiercely championed by those of a liberal mindset, and the two came face to face in the “gender neutral” bathrooms of Whitney Hall at the University of Toronto.  Ironically, two incidents of voyeurism, where male students were “caught holding their cellphones over female students’ shower stalls and filming them as they showered” (dailywire.com), occurred in September, 2015, just as the push was heating up for men and women to choose the public bathroom of the gender they felt themselves to be. Our sitting president even defended a federal transgender directive for public school bathrooms, allowing “transgender students to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity, saying that society must protect the dignity and safety of vulnerable children” (nytimes.com, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, 5/16/16). The outlandishness of such baseless thinking had already been demonstrated well before this “guidance” issued by the Education and Justice Departments was made public this Spring.

There is a biblical and biological answer to what has amazingly become an enigma and conundrum for everyone from politicians to corporations. Jesus said, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6Mark 10:6
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6 But from the beginning of the creation, Male and female made he them.

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). There are external ways to both test and validate these, and are as accessible as a basic medical examination. I trust a Creator whose ability is demonstrated everywhere from the order and continuous operation of the universe to the magnificence of the earth to the intricacies of the body’s circulatory and respiratory systems to somatic cells to our DNA.

In the world’s rabid desire to reject His authority, there’s no wonder that people concoct such far-fetched, senseless ideas as we are seeing put forward at the present time. Paul traces the genesis of such ludicrous ideas, saying, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper…” (Rom. 1:28Rom. 1:28
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28 And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting;

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). Until that mindset changes, we are likely to see more issues like the push to accept transgenderism and welcome it into our public private places (like bathrooms in stores and dorms) even if they produce the kind of actions reported in Whitney Hall.  May more people simply and humbly follow the perfect guidance of God’s Word.

–Neal Pollard

Camel Lag

“So I came to Jerusalem and was there three

days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few

men with me; I told no one what my God had

put in my heart to do at Jerusalem; nor was

there any animal with me, except the one on

which I rode” (Nehemiah 2:11-12Nehemiah 2:11-12
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11 So I came to Jerusalem, and was there three days. 12 And I arose in the night, I and some few men with me; neither told I any man what my God put into my heart to do for Jerusalem; neither was there any beast with me, save the beast that I rode upon.

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NKJV).

It is more than 10,000 miles by air from my home in Alabama to South Asia, to where I have traveled this past week. There is twelve hours difference (twelve time zones) between Alabama time and Bangladesh time.

In other words they are exactly on opposite sides of the earth.

Jet lag is a concept with which I am very familiar.

After flying for about 26 hours of actual time in the air over an elapsed total time of 36 to 42 hours on average, I am always tired and physically confused. My mind may say “It is morning, let’s get to work.” My body however responds, “I am tired; it is time to sleep.”

When Ezra the scribe led a company of Priests and Levites from Babylon to Jerusalem, the journey required exactly four months ( Ezra 7:7-9Ezra 7:7-9
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7 And there went up some of the children of Israel, and of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the porters, and the Nethinim, unto Jerusalem, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king. 8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. 9 For upon the first day of the first month began he to go up from Babylon; and on the first day of the fifth month came he to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of his God upon him.

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). We do not know how long Nehemiah and his guards took to make the same trip, but it was certainly a long and arduous journey.

Similarly, we are not told just why it was three days after arrival in Jerusalem before Nehemiah began his mission. My own personal experience suggests he may have required a little resting time. Perhaps he was suffering from “Camel Lag” from his long trip across the desert.

Time is a valuable resource, yet our use of it must reflect physical reality. Nehemiah’s example leads us to a few reasonable guidelines which will help us become good stewards of our time.

First, do not hesitate to use necessary time for rest and recuperation. When the disciples returned from the limited commission Jesus invited them to “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” ( Mark 6:31Mark 6:31
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31 And he saith unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while. For there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat.

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). He understood the body’s demands. It is not a waste of time for us to get the rest which is required for good health and strength.

A recent news report suggested that in America there is an epidemic of sleep deprivation — too many people just don’t get enough sleep to be healthy.

However, the body’s need for rest however in no way justifies laziness and idleness ( Proverbs 24:30-34Proverbs 24:30-34
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30 I went by the field of the sluggard, And by the vineyard of the man void of understanding; 31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, The face thereof was covered with nettles, And the stone wall thereof was broken down. 32 Then I beheld, and considered well; I saw, and received instruction: 33  Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep; 34 So shall thy poverty come as a robber, And thy want as an armed man.

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; 2 Thessalonians 3:102 Thessalonians 3:10
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10 For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, If any will not work, neither let him eat.

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).

Second, Nehemiah shows us that when rest has been acquired, promptness and careful haste are appropriate.

Certainly his arising in the night was partially in order to preserve secrecy for his mission. Yet there is also the inescapable conclusion that Nehemiah wanted to waste no available time. His task was urgent. He moved decisively and quickly.

The New Testament teaches us, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:22 Corinthians 6:2
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2 (for he saith, At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, And in a day of salvation did I succor thee: behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation):

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). We are to “Walk circumspectly, . . .

redeeming the time, because the days are evil”

(Ephesians 5:15, 16Ephesians 5:15, 16
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15 Look therefore carefully how ye walk, not as unwise, but as wise; 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

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). Time is one of God’s gifts to us.

Let us be good stewards in its use.

Third, Nehemiah made excellent use of the time which he was given. When he asked the king of Persia to be appointed governor of Judah, the King said, “How long will your journey be?” (Nehemiah 2:6Nehemiah 2:6
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6 And the king said unto me For how long shall thy journey be? and when wilt thou return? So it pleased the king to send me; and I set him a time.

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). Nehemiah was conscious of a limited time-frame in which to act. He worked swiftly therefore without delay or hindrance.

When enemies of Israel sought to distract him from his labors he responded, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3Nehemiah 6:3
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3 And I sent messengers unto them, saying, I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?

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). As a result of his determination, the wall of Jerusalem was completed in a remarkable span of only 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15Nehemiah 6:15
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15 So the wall was finished in the twenty and fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty and two days.

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).

There are physical limitations within which we all must work. Yet we must also give an account for the way we use our time, as is the case with all our possessions and resources. Nehemiah teaches us to be time conscious. In so doing, we too can accomplish great works for the Lord.

— by Michael E. Brooks

Human lives are like chimney’s coughing up the soot of sin.

All of us have probably heard people qualify their lives with something like, “Well, I might not be saint.”

While some of their ideas about sainthood may be awry, the core of that confession is right on target. All of us are currently, or we have been previously, unholy and corrupted by sin.

Human lives are like chimney’s coughing up the soot of sin. We stain our own dwelling and brick as well as negatively affecting all those living around us.

Our lives might not be an industrial smoke stack belching out a commercially sized cloud obscuring the sun, but our little fireplace flue is not holy, pure, godlike and innocent.

So how does a life whose dark chimney walls testify to the stain of sin become holy? God’s answer throughout scripture remains the same.

To the Israelites encamped at the foot of Mt. Sinai, God revealed, “I am the LORD, who makes you holy”

(Leviticus 22:32Leviticus 22:32
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32 And ye shall not profane my holy name; but I will be hallowed among the children of Israel: I am Jehovah who halloweth you,

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). Lest the newly minted priests be filled with a false sense of superiority, God repeatedly proclaimed concerning them, “I am the LORD, who makes them holy” (Leviticus 21:23; 22:9, 16Leviticus 21:23; 22:9, 16
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23 only he shall not go in unto the veil, nor come nigh unto the altar, because he hath a blemish; that he profane not my sanctuaries: for I am Jehovah who sanctifieth them. 9 They shall therefore keep my charge, lest they bear sin for it, and die therein, if they profane it: I am Jehovah who sanctifieth them.

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It was God, not human effort, who made possible their holy lives. Israel was then charged with obeying God to avoid exasperating the situation. And yet, a question lingered: How did God transform unholy lives into holy ones?

God instructed Israel to offer sacrifices to clean up their messy lives. Nevertheless, God was clear.

“I have given the blood to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life” (Leviticus 17:11Leviticus 17:11
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood; and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement by reason of the life.

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It was God, not they, who made them holy.

Moving beyond how Israel related to God through the covenant given at Mt. Sinai, we arrive at the foot of the cross where Jesus’ sacrificial death created the basis for a new way to relate to God through the new covenant. Nevertheless, a certain similarity persists.

“By his [God’s] will we have been made holy

through the offering of the body of Jesus

Christ once for all…for by one sacrifice

he has perfected for all time those who are

made holy” (Hebrews 10:10,14Hebrews 10:10,14
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

10 By which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 14 For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.

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Once again, not only do we discover that God is making people holy, but from other texts we learn that we are responsible to appropriate God’s gift to us. We must rely upon the blood of Jesus to be forgiven and atoned (Romans 3:24-26Romans 3:24-26
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

24 being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: 25 whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God; 26 for the showing, I say, of his righteousness at this present season: that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him that hath faith in Jesus.

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7 in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

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Accordingly a familiar note rings out, we are not capable of cleaning up our lives or producing holiness within ourselves.

Since God makes us holy through Christ’s death, we ought not to denigrate God’s work in our lives under the pretense of a false sense of humility by describing ourselves as sinners.

God’s people are holy! Along with the apostle Paul, we should rightly describe fellow Christians as being saints, that is holy ones.

“To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 1:1Ephesians 1:1
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Ephesians 1 1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints that are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus:

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by Barry Newton

There are many guidelines we can use to become better Bible students.

The Bible is God’s inspired book (2 Timothy 3:16-172 Timothy 3:16-17
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16 Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: 17 that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.

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From it, we find the path to heaven (Romans 10:17Romans 10:17
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17 So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

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Therefore, we should be eager to immerse ourselves in God’s Word.

How can we presume to follow and emulate a Savior that we know nothing about? Christians must develop the initiative and routine to read and study God’s Word on their own (John 14:15John 14:15
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

15 If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments.

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We must be very careful when we study so we can learn the truth of the Gospel. We must be diligent to monitor the veracity of the teachings of men (Galatians 1:6-9Galatians 1:6-9
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6 I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; 7 which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema. 9 As we have said before, so say I now again, if any man preacheth unto you any gospel other than that which ye received, let him be anathema.

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4 1 But the Spirit saith expressly, that in later times some shall fall away from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons,

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We must never tamper with the Word of God (Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32
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2 Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you. 32 What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it.

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6 Add thou not unto his words, Lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.

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18 I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book:

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6 Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other.

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There are many guidelines that we can use to become better Bible students.

First, God is always good. His “goodness endures continually” (Psalm 52:1Psalm 52:1
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For the Chief Musician. Maschil of David; when Doeg the Edomite came and told Saul, and said unto him, David is come to the house of Ahimelech. 52 1 Why boastest thou thyself in mischief, O mighty man? The lovingkindness of God endureth continually.

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, NKJV). He is eternal, all- powerful, all-knowing, awesome and incomparable (Jeremiah 32:17,27Jeremiah 32:17,27
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17 Ah Lord Jehovah! behold, thou hast made the heavens and the earth by thy great power and by thine outstretched arm; there is nothing too hard for thee, 27 Behold, I am Jehovah, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for me?

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3 Say unto God, How terrible are thy works! Through the greatness of thy power shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee. 8 There is none like unto thee among the gods, O Lord; Neither are there any works like unto thy works.

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20 because if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things.

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God and His Word deserve the utmost respect and reverence (1 Corinthians 4:61 Corinthians 4:6
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6 Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other.

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Second, facts are not trivial. We must learn everything we can about the Bible. The number of books of the Bible, the divisions, the authors, the names of prophets, priests, apostles and cities are important as we build familiarity and comfort within the Biblical world.

Third, remember the covenants. The majority of false doctrines come from a failure to understand that we are under the new covenant and no longer under the Law of Moses (Hebrews 9:11-16Hebrews 9:11-16
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11 But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, 12 nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant, they that have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must of necessity be the death of him that made it.

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15 Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.

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Fourth, slow down and notice the small words. We miss so much when we hurry. Scripture is laser focused on its redemptive story. Nothing is wasted. When we slow down, we notice a richness of detail that we would otherwise miss.

Spiritual light and darkness is a major theme in the writings of John (John 1:5; 8:12John 1:5; 8:12
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5 And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. 12 Again therefore Jesus spake unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.

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5 And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

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In the upper room, Jesus tells the Apostles about his imminent death (John 13:1John 13:1
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13 1 Now before the feast of the passover, Jesus knowing that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto his Father, having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them unto the end.

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25 He leaning back, as he was, on Jesus' breast saith unto him, Lord, who is it? 26 Jesus therefore answereth, He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him. So when he had dipped the sop, he taketh and giveth it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 And after the sop, then entered Satan into him. Jesus therefore saith unto him, What thou doest, do quickly. 28 Now no man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him. 29 For some thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus said unto him, Buy what things we have need of for the feast; or, that he should give something to the poor.

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John mentions Judas leaving and notes “it was night”

(John 13:30John 13:30
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30 He then having received the sop went out straightway: and it was night.

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). Judas was a part of a drama that began before time and was prophesied in Genesis 3:15Genesis 3:15
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15 and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

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God’s Word is filled with such overlooked examples if we will notice them.

Fifth, we must focus on the simple. Fleshly man craves the dark and exciting. Conspiracies capture our imaginations. When we approach God’s Word, we must be childlike and filled with wonder and trust (Matthew 18:3Matthew 18:3
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3 and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye turn, and become as little children, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.

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God’s Word says what it says, and there aren’t any schemes or tricks. We develop spiritual eyes through the gospel transformation and we see as God wants us to see (Romans 12:1-2Romans 12:1-2
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12 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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Bible students need to restrain their imaginations and focus on the spiritual, not the fleshly (Romans 8:5-8Romans 8:5-8
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5 For they that are after the flesh mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind of the flesh is death; but the mind of the Spirit is life and peace: 7 because the mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be: 8 and they that are in the flesh cannot please God.

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Bible scholars are often atheists and every passage, author and book in the Bible is doubted and discredited.

We must be very careful with men and we must trust God above all (Titus 1:2Titus 1:2
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2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised before times eternal;

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Visit http://howtounderstandthebible.abiblecommentary.com/ for more helpful Bible study tips.

— by Richard Mansel

Preacher, you put him to sleep. You wake him up!

“And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at

the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul

talked still longer. And being overcome by

sleep, he fell down from the third story and

was taken up dead” (Acts 20:9Acts 20:9
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

9 And there sat in the window a certain young man named Eutychus, borne down with deep sleep; and as Paul discoursed yet longer, being borne down by his sleep he fell down from the third story, and was taken up dead.

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, ESV).

You have heard the joke. A man falls asleep during the sermon. The preacher spies him, and addresses his neighbor. “Can you reach over and wake brother so-and- so up?”

The punch line follows: “Preacher, you put him to sleep. You wake him up!”

I’m sorry. I never liked that joke.

And I don’t think it’s because I lack a sense of humor.

I think Jesus used humor to get his points across, and as long as it’s appropriate, I think a preacher can do it effectively today, too.

Can you imagine a man attempting eye surgery with a beam in his own eye? Can you imagine a punctilious housewife straining a gnat out of her soup…and swallowing a camel?

What I don’t like about the joke is that it blames the wrong person. It’s like saying that an assaulted woman was guilty because she was running at night or the victim of a robbery was guilty because he left his car window open. Perhaps he was unwise, but the thief was the guilty one!

And I don’t really mind (much) if someone is having a hard time staying awake on a given Sunday morning. You know what I mean — when he dozes for a moment, then wakes up guiltily, and does his best to stay the course. Get more sleep next Saturday night, but trust me, I understand.

But what I don’t understand is the person who outright “crashes” in worship, making no pretence that he despises proceedings. It’s not just a rebuke to the preacher, it demonstrates a lack of respect for God himself.

If you are a child of God, ask yourself, is this the way you should act in God’s very presence? What if the Lord were to come and speak to us directly, would we pay attention? If the preacher uses God’s word, is there a difference?

Parents, I ask it in all kindness, observe your child in worship. If he or she is not demonstrating proper respect for the Lord, it’s your responsibility to teach them, by word and example how to do it properly.

Your leadership might also be needed with regard to bedtime on Saturday nights. If need be, cancel other activities in order to carry out the most important thing you will do all week — worship God!

I say this in love. If we do not show proper respect for God, worse things than falling out a window may happen to us!

— by Stan Mitchell