Saturday, April 19, 2014

1st Century or 21st Century

Speaking of our Lord’s post-resurrection appearance, we are told, “He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once.” This does not include such as Peter, Paul, John, Thomas, the other disciples, and women.

I used to long to have lived in that early 1st Century, and been privileged to gaze upon Him in His risen form. To have watched as He ate a meal and later ascended into the heavens. How blessed I thought I would have been.

But then one day it struck me: this is not what Jesus taught. For He said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Do you realize the depth and implication of what our Lord said? Is it any wonder that Peter wrote to such people saying, “Whom having not seen, you love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory”? You know, being a 21st Century Christian may not be as bad as some think.

“Seeing is believing” is not the most blessed way, says our Lord.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Culture and Christianity

Many cultural conditions in the Bible have no parallel in our culture today. Few, if any, greet one another with a holy kiss. You don’t want to take a teaching that prevailed for that particular time and place and make it a binding law for all time, and in every place. It’s dangerous to make a blanket acceptance of first century Jewish culture, by transferring it into ours today.

Paul advised the single Corinthian believers to remain unmarried because of, “…the present distress.” But this was not to be a permanent statute, but was a temporal teaching for that time. Christ brought about vast changes in many cultural areas. For example, women no longer have their own Temple Court, or sit on opposite sides of the church to worship. The Cross now brings them along side their husbands.

There are transitory, geographical, and local cultural conditions in the Bible that were never meant to be timeless, nor universal. But the principle teaching can be applicable to whoever, whenever, whatever. For example, my wife says of the wise woman of Proverbs 31, “I don’t have to buy a sewing machine and make my own clothes to be like her; but I do need to be industrious if I’m to emulate her.”

It’s not the kiss, but an affectionate greeting that’s the issue. Not the washing of feet, but ministering to another’s needs that is important. Let us be careful we do not lose the lasting principle, while trying to establish something permanent out of the temporal.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hand-Me-Downs

What oldtime family, of any size, does not understand the significance of hand-me-downs? For those in our present day who know little or nothing of the meaning of the term; it's a garment or items that have been passed on from another person, usually a family member. It is pre-owned, if you please.

All God’s blessings, His righteousness, promises, mercy, peace, etc., are hand-me-downs from His First-born. Christ is the medium by which we receive all the good things of God. You might say, “We get them second hand.” But no worry, they're the same as new when we become possessors of them.

Ah, what an honor, what privilege, and how humbling, to wear and to display our Elder Brother’s hand-me-downs!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Sleeping Under the Feather Bed

The word "circumstance" is derived from circum, meaning around, outskirts. This definition is seen in kindred words such as: circumference, circumvent, circumcision, circumscribe, and circumspectly. 

Circumstances can so encircle a person that before long, they feel they are on top of them. Hence the saying, "Under the circumstances." As Oswald Chambers quotes another, "Circumstances are like feather beds, very comfortable to be on top of, but immensely smothering if they get on top of you." Christ would have us to be always on top of any and all circumstances! 

Circumstance is not the cause that determines, but simply the condition that dominates. We may not have control over the circumstances in our lives, but we can control ourselves whatever the circumstances. The principle being, "greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world." Our circumstance is not greater than Christ! Jesus Christ was born into a world where every circumstance was against Him, yet was victorious in all situations.

Circumstances may not change, but we can. And that my friend, is the victory that overcometh the world!  

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Your Last Two Cents

"And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing." (Mk. 12:42)

I'm sure my readers are familiar with the the story of the widow and her two mites. In today's article I'd like to center our attention on the "two mites which make a farthing." 

Since the Bible is its own interpreter (A.V. 1611) we will allow it to show us the significance of the two mites or, farthing. When Jesus told the story of the man being cast into prison, He said he would not be released until, as Luke writes, "thou hast paid the very last mite." And Matthew puts it this way, "till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

Now we understand Jesus' statement concerning her when He said, "but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living." That is, she scraped the bottom of the barrel, there was nothing left! She had cast in her last two cents, so to speak.Unlike Ananias and Sapphira, who "kept back part," she gave her all, even down to her last mite.

From our story, we find our Lord is not interested in what we have given Him, but rather, what we have left. Common sense tells us He already has the latter. From the whole burnt offering in the Old Testament, to the great Commandment in the New, the characteristic word is "ALL." I close my article with asking a question from a Gospel song.

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Truly Progressive Christian

Allow me to use a familiar C.S. Lewis quote, “We want progress, but progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. If you have taken a wrong turn, then to go forward does not get you any nearer, if you are on the wrong road. Progress means going back to the right road, and in that case, the man that turns back soonest, is the most progressive.” Or, to put it simpler, as the feminine voice on our car’s GPS says, when we’ve taken a wrong turn, ”When possible make a u-turn.”

Don't let anyone fool you, no matter how spiritual one may like to be considered, he or she has taken some wrong turns in life. If not yet, they will, I guarantee. Some do it unintentionally, others with their eyes wide shut. One way or the other, those who refuse to stop, turn around, and go back to the right road, can only attribute it to either their stubborn pride or willful ignorance; maybe a little of both. We are so egotistically slow to admit we're on the wrong road, in spite of all the road signs confirming it.

Those who attempt to save face at all costs, ultimately find, to their regret, the price to be way above what they’re able to shell out.

Friday, April 4, 2014

K.I.S.S.

In camp meetings in which I spoke, where there was a number of speakers, they'd remind us of K.I.S.S. "Keep It Short, Stupid!" Warren Wiersbe tells of a conference where he was the keynoter. It seems the speaker before him went beyond his allotted time, thereby leaving him with very little. The windy preacher's excuse was that he couldn't help it, that the spirit constrained him. To which sly Wiersbe replied, "Brother, have you never read, 'the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophet's?'"

It's humbling, but true, most people are not as interested in hearing or reading us, as we ourselves. The wise man's admonition, "Let thy words be few," can be applied to both public speakers and authors, as well as general conversationalists. Jesus said we're not heard for our much speaking. Even God likes one to get to the point!

The prophets of Baal talked all day, from morning till night, with no results. Elijah kept it pithy with only sixty-three words, and the fire fell. Read Jesus' Sermon on the Mount for brevity in speech. And as to writing, John tells us the Bible is a condensed Book, God kept out many things, even things of interest.

Whether in preaching, conversation, or writing, we should leave people wanting more, not bloated. As the old preacher said, "Don't dump on people the whole bail of hay all at once." Generally speaking, brevity is always best.

One thing that has helped me, especially in my preaching and writing, is leaving out detail when it is not pertinent to what you're trying to get across. For example: the State in which it took place; color of hair; make of car; how many other children they had; etc. Let's not wear people out with our words. I come from kin who were characterized by "going around robin's barn" to get something said. It is a trait that has not been easy for me to break; but I'm working on it.

"The only thing about getting old is one story reminds you of another."
(Walter Cronkite)