Monthly Archives: December 2013

Choosing what to think about!

Among the many choices which we must make in our lives, what we think about is, by far, one of the most important. We spend a lot of time with our own thoughts and what those thoughts are can influence us greatly.

Eve was led away in her thoughts as Satan caused her to focus on the potential good in being wise “like God” and not on the commandment of God “to not eat from that tree”. Are we led astray like Eve? (2 cor 11:3) We know that those who did not want God to be in their knowledge, whose thinking turned to futility are on a pathway that leads to many sins and types of living, things that are a shame even to speak about.

We know that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. His are higher and purer than ours. Yet, we who choose to follow Him, want to become more like Him and so our thoughts should become more and more like that thoughts of God and not those thoughts that we learn from the world, or traditions of our fathers.

There are many different types of sinful thinking. Some examples might be:

Self preservation. Not the kind that makes you run out of a burning building but the kind that keeps you from doing something that is right or standing up for someone who needs your help for fear of damage to you, generally in the form or status or reputation. Esther was warned not to think that she would be immune from the command to kill the Jews but to use her position to deliver them. (Esther 4:13) I don’t know if Esther would have thought that but Mordecai’s words seem to be preemptive: Don’t allow yourself to think you can be saved by being quiet.

Revenge: Surely we have all had these thoughts. I am going to get back at the person; I am going to repay the favor…with interest! I will avenge myself. Yet, we know that “Vengeance belongs to God” (Rom 12:17)

Many other types of thinking can be found to be wrong. And the more you dwell on these wrong thoughts, the more they grow.

So how do we control our thinking?

First of all, remove the stimuli that leads to such thoughts. This may not be as easy as it sounds but it is necessary. If one of your child’s friends were sharing crude jokes, you would certainly do something about it, even to the point to removing your child from that friends influence.  We should do no less for ourselves and the influences we are exposed too.

Second, Paul tells us in Philippians 4 what we should think about:

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. (Php 4:8)

Each of these items are good items to think about and rather than dwelling on the bad and ugly things in life (of which there are many to choose from), these items will help you minimize those bad thoughts and keep your own thoughts centered on more godly things. Don’t think it is pollyanish to do this, we are not talking about ignoring evil just not letting it take root in your mind.

We need to have the mind of Christ and we know that Christ did not give place to revenge, self preservation, his own desires, or even to do things contrary to God’s law.

Question: Do we have the mind of Christ?

If you would like to hear this mornings sermon on this topic, click here!

Choosing to Press on

The choices we make in life can be very important and some of them have eternal consequences. The life of a Christian is sometimes compared to a race and, as in all races, enduring to the end is important and necessary. When one feels like stopping or giving up, it is always important to press on.

But what if you didn’t know if you had quit? You might not have planned to but the end result is the same. Here are four things to consider and ask yourself to help determine if you are still pressing on.

  • Which path are you following? You need to follow the strait and narrow path rather than the broad and wide one.
  • What do you take along with you?  Do you carry along the sin and distractions of the world or do you lay them aside?
  • Do you turn back at the sign of difficulties and struggles? Are you like the rocky soil that wilts at tribulation?
  • Do you allow distractions to catch our attention? Are you like the thorny soil that allows distractions to keep it from bearing fruit?

These are some questions that we need to ask to help determine if we are indeed pressing on. But they are external to the process. A more internal one can be found in Philippians 3:13:

Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:13-14)

Paul’s famous statement here shows one other thing that we need to do: Let go of the past. The past can entangle us in a lot of problems such as regret for past mistakes.  Choosing to forget those things and press on will help ensure us that we finish the race.

The point is though that it IS a choice to press on, or to stop! Which choice will you make?

This mornings sermon was entitled “Choosing to Press On” and you can listen to it if you wish.

 

An Outline of baptism

heb choice 2Sometimes taking a step back and getting an overview can help you see the topic more clearly. I want to do that in this post. Baptism is a topic that is sorely misunderstood, ranging from those who think that it is the very act of baptism which has the power to save, to those who think that baptism is a mere suggestion which we are free to do or not do. Of course, as is often the case, the truth lies in the middle.

It should not need to be stated but I will here (and probably repeat it), the reason why I am not writing about “FAITH” is that I don’t know anyone who has a problem with faith. Perhaps they misunderstand it but all agree that it is necessary. However, baptism does not enjoy such agreement, some thinking this and some thinking that, so I am focusing on this topic in an effort to share what I see the scriptures teach about it and challenge any who may have missed such an obviously important teaching. (And if you don’t think it could happen to us, how did the Sadducees miss the Resurrection teaching of the Old Testament? cf Mt 22:23) In stating that it is “what I see that the Scriptures teach” it should also be understood that Acts 17:11 is a good verse to keep in mind. Read the Blog and then search the Scriptures for yourself. Question, Ask, Challenge. My goal is not just instruction but to get to Heaven, if I am mistaken, please show me where and how.

First, the command.

Jesus commissioned his Apostles to go out to the world with a new message. In Matthew, He said “Make disciples” and in Mark, He said “Preach the Gospel” and in both Gospel accounts, Jesus mentioned baptism: In Matthew, he said that his disciples would be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and, in Mark, he said that the one who had faith and was baptized would be saved.

Second, the example.

So if Jesus sent His Apostles out to preach the Gospel, what was the message that they presented? If you look at Acts 2, Peter’s sermon, the message was simple: Jesus was the Messiah, you killed him, but God raised Him from the dead. Then not only did he tell them to repent and be baptized, the text says (verse 41) that those who received his  word were baptized.

However, time and time again, throughout Acts, the preaching of the Gospel message and baptism of those who listened are joined together. From Acts 8, Acts 9, Acts 10, Acts 16, Acts 19 one gets the clear impression that baptism wasn’t something that was delayed or suggested, but rather commanded.  Why the command? My guess is because that is part of what Jesus sent them to do. They were simply following orders. But there is more to it so let’s look at the epistles.

Third, the explanations.

It might seem amazing that someone would make a life changing commitment before knowing all the facts but sometimes, we know enough to realize that we need to make the change and later we find out all the implications. This was the case with Abraham when he left the Ur of the Chaldees; he left by faith not even knowing where he was going. Israel agreed to serve God in Exodus 19 just before receiving the commandments from God-apparently not even having time to look over the contract so to speak.

However, the explanations of baptism in which we learn more about what baptism means, what happened when we were baptized, and even what baptism does not mean and what it does not do are found in the epistles that were written to Christians and almost every epistle has some reference back to this important event.  Those passages and meanings will be discussed in future posts, Lord willing.

Our duty: To follow the commandment.

Does it matter what baptism does or does not do? One certainly can understand wanting to have  a better understanding of this event but what matters more than what it does or does not do is “Is it taught?” and “Is it taught like the Apostles taught it?” and “Is it taught like Jesus commanded it?”

For those who teach the alien sinner how to become justified by God and leave out all mention of baptism, you are not following the commandment. Jesus said not just to “Go make disciples”, not just to “baptize them” but to teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. Baptizing is one of those commandments. (Mt 28:18ff)

I know people who will tell someone all about Jesus but not tell a person to be baptized; I know those who say they have been a Christian since age 5 and baptized at age 18 or 25, I know people who think they can go through life and never be baptized yet still be a Christian.

Question: If I teach only Faith in Christ, Repentance from sins, Confession of Jesus as Lord and do not teach them to be baptized but DO tell them to pray a Sinner’s Prayer, am I following the commandment of Jesus? Am I following the example of the Apostles? Am I in line with the explanations given by the Apostles in their Epistles?

Please leave your thoughts and comments!

Baptism-a part of the Gospel message

why not baptizeThe Bible clearly unites baptism to the preaching of the Gospel. Yet many disagree on what baptism means, what part it plays in the salvation of a sinner, who can be baptized, when they should be baptized, etc., etc.

Rather than talk to the recipients of the Gospel message, I would like to address this post to those who teach the Gospel message. When you teach someone who is not a Christian but expresses interest in studying about God’s word or even in becoming a Christian, what is it that YOU tell them to do in order to become a Christian?

Granted, the question may be a hard one because some don’t think you need to “DO” anything. However, setting aside whatever action might be taken by a sinner, what is the message that a person trying to produce Christians should preach?

Consider this: Two of the Gospels (Matthew and Mark) actually commission the apostles with the word “baptism” just before Jesus leaves the earth to ascend into Heaven.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
(Mat 28:18-20)

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
(Mar 16:15-16)

Both of these statements take place after the resurrection and may even be the same instructions given at two different times. However, even if Jesus only commanded them one time, it took place during the 40 days Luke says he was speaking to them about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3) Since Pentecost took place 50 days after Passover (when Jesus was crucified) it leaves as few as 10 days from Jesus’ ascension to Peter’s first sermon; not much time to forget what Jesus had said.

Since Peter spoke to them, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, I think one would be safe in thinking that Peter not only accurately preached what God wanted but that it is also what we should preach too.   What did he tell his audience to do?

You see, if we set aside the question about WHAT baptism does; if we set aside the question about is role in the salvation of the one who hears the message, are we able to conclude anything at all about what Peter preached on the day of Pentecost? I suggest that we can.

What we can conclude is that when Peter told those inquiring Jews (who had been convicted that Jesus was the Messiah) what they should do, he told them to repent and be baptized.  How many preach that today?

Today, too many preach  Jesus and instruct the recipient to pray what is commonly called the Sinner’s prayer. It is in many books, it is included as a “bonus CD”, and placed at the end of many TV religion shows. Something like “Jesus I believe in you, please forgive me of my sins and live in my heart. Thank you for saving me. In Jesus’ name, Amen”

My question to those who teach the sinner’s prayer is simple: Where is that in the Bible? What example do we have of the Apostles ever instructing any person to pray such a prayer when they respond to the Gospel message?

Jesus commanded the apostles to baptize, Peter commanded his audience to be baptized, and Phillip, who “preached Jesus” (acts 8) to the Eunuch must have mentioned it  because the Eunuch’s question was “here is water, what hinders me from being baptized?”  When you preach Jesus, do you get that response? Hey, there is a swimming pool, river, baptistry real close, why can’t I be baptized?

Today, few who “preach Jesus” would ever have someone ask them that question. My question is “why not?”

So if you do not preach baptism, if you do not include it in your message as you try to save someone, “why not?”

4 things to keep in mind to avoid Gossip.

gossipAs I mentioned in the last post, gossip is one of those sins that seems to have a perpetual grey area: When do you know if you have crossed the line?

The company gossip keeps in passages that mention it are things like slander, idleness, malice, inappropriate conversations and things like that. One way you might notice gossip is if you see some of those characters hanging around.

If you were to use Strong’s concordance to find a definition of the word, you will find “whispering” and “secret detraction”. Whispering we understand: (Pssst! Listen to this but don’t tell anyone…” It is a secret simply because you don’t tell it in the open. Face it, who gossips about Joe when Joe is right there with them? Detraction is something that takes away from a person, perhaps their character or reputation may be attacked OR the person gossiping tries to make them smaller in order to try and increase their own  status.

Some definitions that people gave me which I think are good are as follows:

  • The speech intended to hurt, discredit, or simply set up in a bad light.
  • Repeating what you heard or thought you heard, sometimes adding your own spin
  • The propagation of rumor or slander, whether factual or fictional

David Watson, who preaches for the Benchley church of Christ provided this definition : The sharing of personal or negative information, either true or false, about someone else without righteous intent.  (Note: This doesn’t mean that you want your intent to be righteous. It either is or is not)

Which brings me to the 4 things that I think will, if we keep them in mind, help us avoid gossip.

#1. What is the content of the information?

The content of the information, in order to not be gossip, must be absolutely true without spin or exaggeration. Just because something is true does not mean that it is NOT gossip, but statements which are false, misleading, or slanted for effect or sensationalism will quickly fall into gossip, rumors, or slander.

#2. What is the motive for telling the information?

Is it needed for the good of the person to whom you tell OR is it good for the person whose information you are sharing? Sharing information with people who do not need the information to protect themselves is a lot closer to gossip than we generally acknowledge. Sharing information that does not help the person you are talking about is almost always going to fall into the category of idle speaking and gossip.

When dealing with first graders, who are notorious for tattling, a question I often asked them was this: “Are you telling me this because you want them to be in trouble or because they are in danger?” To get a fellow student in trouble (e.g. they are not walking in line) is tattling but if they are in danger (e.g. He has a lighter and is burning his shoe lace) it is acceptable information sharing.

#3. Are you open about your part in the sharing of the information?

Have you ever told someone something you thought they should know, perhaps even so they could do something about it and then added “But don’t tell them where you heard it.”? If this is not “whispering” I do not know what is.  Again, by itself, this is not a full proof example of gossip. However, I would hope we can tell the difference between someone needing to be in a witness protection program and a neighbor, friend or acquaintance who might be settling a grudge, simply stirring the pot of conflict, or who wants to avoid being embarrassed if the target of their information ever found out who was the source.

#4.  Are you sharing this with someone who can actually solve the problem?

Sharing your dissatisfaction with your company’s vacation policy with the janitor is not going to solve the problem.  It will only serve to discourage the janitor who may think he/she is working for a great company.  If you have a problem with the vacation policy, talk to HR or the Boss but don’t discuss with others. Even if a majority agreed with you, you run more of a risk of sedition (a close cousin to gossip and slander) than actually solving the problem.

Ok, So I promised to share with you why Chloe’s report to Paul and his rebuke to the Corinthian church did not fall into Gossip. Based on the above 4 criteria: It was true, It was done for the benefit of those with a divisive mentality as well as those who were affected by it, there was transparency as to where the information came from and Paul was indeed able to solve the problem.

So often, when we discuss other people, their lives, or their circumstances, we might meet one of these four criteria but not meet all four. In the end, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you requires us to take extra precautions to avoid slipping into Gossip.

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