Baptism

There has been much debate on the subject of baptism over the years that have caused a lot of confusion among believers and even the splitting of churches.  What you believe about baptism is important and can cause real problems in fellowship.  Baptism is not required for salvation.  If it were, the thief on the cross would not have been saved yet Jesus declared that they would be together in paradise that day.  Though it is not a requirement for salvation, it is a requirement of obedience and a faith walk of the believer.  It is proper evidence of your conversion.  A Scriptural baptism will include these 5 points of identification.

  1. The first point of identification is that there must be a proper candidate.  A proper candidate is one who has become a believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior.  He has been converted from the old way of living (sin) to the new life (walking by faith in Jesus).  This is done by a confrontation and confession of sin (called repentance) and the surrender of the control of your life to Jesus (faith in Him).  This is a conscious and deliberate choice of the will.  An infant is not capable of making such a choice, yet a few do make that choice at an early age prior to the teenage years.  A proper candidate is already a believer so baptism is not a part of getting saved but it is an important part of walking by faith and should be done as soon as possible after getting saved.  Without the conversion experience, you are not a proper candidate.  Baptism is not part of your qualification for salvation but an evidence that it has already been accomplished.  See Acts 2:38, 8:12-13, 36-38, Ephesians 4:5
  2. The second point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper mode.  A proper mode is how it is done.  The word baptism is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizo” which is the only method used in the Bible.  It means to dip, immerse or plunge under.  The sprinkling or pouring came much later in the history of the church and was in response to the erroneous doctrine that baptism was necessary for, or a part of salvation.  Scriptural baptism knows of only one method and that is by immersion and is seen in its meaning.
  3.  It is the picture of God’s provision of our salvation in Christ:  He died on the cross, He was buried in the tomb and He was raised victorious over death hell and the grave.
  4. It is also the picture of what has happened to the believer.  He has died to sin, buried in a grave of water and raised to walk in newness of life.
  5. It is further, a picture of the Christians’ hope.  We die physically, we are buried in the ground and we will be resurrected to join Christ in the air and so shall we ever be.  See Romans 6:4-6, I Thessalonians 4:13-18
  6. The third point of identification for a scriptural baptism is a proper time.  There isn’t a lot of scripture about the timing of baptism but the scriptural example is that it should be done as soon as possible after conversion.  Acts 8:36-38  I have heard of a number of individuals who claim to be believers but have never been baptized. In every case I have observed that there is a major problem in their faith walk.  We are commanded to be baptized once we become a believer and to put it off becomes disobedience when not done promptly, as it will affect your faith walk. 
  7. The fourth point of identification of a scriptural baptism is a proper purposeMatthew 3:15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.  A common question about baptism is why should I be baptized since I am already saved?  Some people have the idea that going to heave is all that is important but Jesus said that we should fulfill all righteousness.  Getting to heave is just the means of travel but God is in the business of transformation of the believer so that when he gets to heaven he will be at home.  Without this transformation we would either miss the trip all together or if we should actually make it there we would be dis figured or handicapped forever.  Here are some of the reasons that we should be baptized.
  8. It is a declaration of independence from the control of sin on our lives.  It is also a declaration of independence from the curse of the law (legalism).  Further it is a declaration of independence from the dominion of the old nature.  We are no longer a prisoner of our old nature.
  9. It is a declaration of dependence upon Christ not only to provide salvation but a means to continually be cleansed from sin by our confession of it to Him.  It is also a declaration of our dependence on the Holy Spirit to teach us the scriptures, give us recall of them (John 14:26), convict, convince and convert the world (John 16:8),  guide you into all truth (John 16:13), Shew you things to come (John 16:8), and to glorify the Lord (John 16:14).  We are totally dependent on the Lord.  Further, it is a declaration of dependence upon the Scripture.  It is wholly trustworthy as it will never pass away.  It has stood the test of time, trials and twisting and remains the sure foundation of all doctrine of God.
  10. It is a declaration of interdependence.  The church is the bride of Christ and very precious to Him.  As a part of a local church we support one another and learn  to lean on the Lord as He is in the church.
  11. Baptism is to be administered by a proper authority.  The proper authority is His church made up of His believers.  It is the church that was commissioned to carry the gospel to the whole world, to baptize the new believers and then to teach them to observe the things that He commanded us to do. (Matthew 28:19-20)  Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 1:22) Acting under His authority and leadership we have been given the ministry of reconciliation.  (II Corinthians 5:18)

Crises of Faith – 6

As I listened to the news this morning, I heard that there was over 500 tornados in our nation during yesterday’s storms.  This is unprecedented numbers.  My wife and I had to shelter from a potential tornado for the first time ever.  I got the sensation that God is trying to turn us as a nation, but I don’t sense that we are getting the message so here it is as I hear it from God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  We have adopted a lifestyle of religion without faith in Him.  We are similar to the Pharisees in that we are careful to dot the I’s and cross the t’s in our form of worship, without ever realizing we are in the presence of Almighty God.  We struggle and work to “do good” and to “be good” on our own, but God is saying to us that such religion is an insult to Him.  We need to get this right.  God is not pleased with a religion that does not place us in a position of trusting in Him and will judge us for not turning to Him. 

The situation is this:  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We are not guiltless, we are guilty of sin and will face judgment unless we turn from sin.  According to Romans 14:23 living a life of not trusting in Him (faith) is sin.  Do you get it?  Faith is the missing ingredient.  That is the only thing that will please Him.  We must own our sin.  It is not because we are so bad and fail so much, but because we refuse to live by faith in Him.

I can just hear the response of “I trust in God.  How dare you question my faith?”  My dear friend, I am not judging you.  I am sharing the truth of what the Scripture states about our condition.  Jesus Himself said that most people will travel the Broad Way that leads to death.  Only a few will find the narrow way that is restrictive and corrective but they will find life.

That brings us to the second truth about our situation.  There is a way to please Him and turn away His wrath.  Instead of insulting Him by our rejection of the truth of our sin, we need to own up to it and confess that we are desperately in need of His forgiveness.  We can’t do it without Him, whether we understand it or not.  God is well aware of our plight.  It is even worse that we know, so His plan is to take our sin on Himself, suffer the consequence of it, and deliver us from its consequence.  I remember a time when I was about four or five years old that there was a forest fire near our home and Dad was fighting the fire with other neighbors.  Dad had placed my older brother and I in a fairly safe place at the edge of the forest with a couple burlap sack to put out little spark fires that would break out from the airborne cinders.  Sure enough, one broke out near us and my brother put it out.  Soon there were others and I got involved but I didn’t know much about what I was doing.  I was wearing a pair of sandals and kicked at the fire but my sandal flew off and when I stepped down in the leaves, I stepped on a thorn and I let out a scream.  I stood there on one foot, with fire coming closer and fire between me and my brother and I cried out in desperation.  Then I heard a sound come rushing toward me and when I looked up I saw my Dad come running through the fire to me.  He spotted my sandal and in full stride, gathered it up and then grabbed me up and carried me out of my situation.  This is what our heavenly Father wants to do for us.  He is our solution and not the sum of our best efforts.

The final truth of our situation is that all God requires of us is for us to continue to walk by faith in Him.  He is not concerned with us looking good in His eyes.  His love for us is enough.  He is not pleased with our good works, but he is pleased with our faith in Him.  When Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”  The word “believe” and the word “faith” are exactly the same word in the Greek language so that it could be translated that ye have faith in Him. . .   God is not concerned with your mighty works but he is infinitely concerned with your faith in Him.  God will do the work, but you are required to do the believing.  Faith in Him is our work.  Sadly, we have it turned around today and are focused on the works, omitting the faith and that is what defines the Crises of faith today.

Crises of Faith – 5

Not long after I finished High school, I applied for a job with the Colorado Department of highways as a part of a survey crew and was hired.  The first day after orientation I loaded up with the rest of the crew and went out to an intersection where I was dropped off and was told to wait there until they came back for me.  They gave me no indication as to how long it would be but my instructions were clear, just wait until they returned.  It was a warm spring day but there was no shade for me to wait under.  I did have my lunch and a jug of water with me and that turned out to be a real good thing.

The morning began to wear on and I wondered what was taking so long.   As time wore on I began to wonder why they left me there alone.  It didn’t make sense but I continued to wait.  Noon came so I had my lunch and tapped my jug of water but they didn’t return.  I continued tapping my water as the afternoon wore on but still no one came for me.  It was just about quitting time when I saw the crew returning.  Everyone was smiling but no one said a word.  Come to find out it was a test to see if I could follow directions.  My directions were to wait and watch for their return. 

That is the same directions that the Lord gave to His followers with one exception, we are to be busy sharing the gospel of Christ as we wait and watch for His return.  There may be additional directions that that the Lord gives, but the point is that we cannot be trusting the Lord when we take it upon ourselves to add – or subtract – from those direction.  Anything we change in those directions is not trusting in Him, but ourselves.  Romans 14:23 says, “. . . whatsoever is not of faith, is sin.”  King Saul was given specific directions by the Lord to destroy the enemy, his flocks, and his herds.  But when Samuel came by to check on him, Saul had not destroyed the cattle and sheep.  He explained that it was his intention to sacrifice them to the Lord.  For this sin of changing the Lord’s plan the kingdom was taken from him.  Samuel’s response is very telling.  I Samuel 15:22-23 “. . . Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.  Because thou has rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.”

Sometimes what the Lord doesn’t make sense to us but we are to follow it to the letter else we stand against God.  Faith in the Bible is clearly understood to mean that we are following the Lord’s directives, otherwise it is not faith in Him.  What we see a lot of today is doing what we think might be the Lord’s will.  That is nothing more than a wild guess, carried out to the full of our understanding and is not faith in the Lord but faith in our guess.  In order to walk by faith in the Lord, we must get our directions from the Lord.  If He is not directing then we cannot proceed.  So where do you find His directions?  The vast majority of God’s will is written down in Scriptures.  God will never contradict His Word.  Another way that God directs us today is by His Holy Spirit.  That is not a hunch, or good guess, or even what seems right, but the leading of the Spirit.  Again, it will never contradict His Word and will require us to trust Him and not a result.  Further, it will glorify or expose God to the world and call us to righteousness.  I do not put stock in open and closed doors as Satan can also open and close doors.  However, I do believe that we can find God’s leading through those who have traveled the road of faith successfully.  Long established principles of faith and doctrine can clarify the way. 

Popular fads may look good at the moment but fade over time.  Worldly success is not a good measure of God’s involvement.   Sensationalism is one of the most popular measure of a church’s success but promotes the individual rather than the Lord.  In the final analysis the way of God is a narrow way but it leads to life everlasting.

Crises of Faith – 4

2 Timothy 3:1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.  2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good  4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;  5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.  6 For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts,  7 Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.  8 Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds,  reprobate concerning the faith.  9 But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.

Today, I want to look at a passage of Scripture in 2 Timothy 3:1-9 copied above.  The apostle Paul is writing to his son in the faith, Timothy and describing the conditions of the latter end of the last days.  This looks a lot like the days we are living in today.  We know that we are much closer to the last days than we have ever been before.  Paul describes these times as perilous, that is risky and dangerous, and that there would be a type of “religious” people who are like the world but not like Christ.  Notice that they have a form of godliness that is they may be benevolent and involved in a church but are not focused on extending the kingdom of God. When the time to stand on principles comes, they stand against truth.  You need only to look at the issues of abortion, free speech for Christians, prayer, etc.  The workplace is a mine field and can bring accusations of raciest, sexist, homophobia, prejudice, unfairness, etc. for proposing any alternate to the proposed cause. 

How can you tell if the “religious” are real Christians or just imposters?  One way is to test their message.  Does it speak of glorifying anything other than Christ.  It the message is “Hey, look at me, it or them” when it should be saying “Hey, look at God”, then it should shout DANGER!  Another evidence is that those who are following Christ are accompanied by God’s power.  God backs up the believers faith by His power.  If there is an absence of God’s power, then there is cause to turn away from the person or teaching proposed. 

A third warning is the appeal to knowledge as opposed to a faith walk.  I am not against knowledge for the Scripture states that we are to study God’s word.  However, when we come face to face with the knowledge of the truth, we are changed by it.  We will be changed  from faith to faith and we will not be able to just absorb the information without being changed.  In My dad’s day, they used to speak of educated idiots.  They had tons of information but no application.  The military used the phrase, “a thirty day wonder.”  People sometimes think that if they could just understand it then they could believe it. Just the opposite is true, however, that you must first believe it and then understanding will come.  That was Jannes and Jambres problem with Moses.  They opposed it because the problem was in their minds and the Scripture states that they were reprobate (depraved, corrupt, unprincipled) in their faith.  The Bible states that their folly shall be manifest to all men.

The crises of faith we see in the church today is not because there is no faith, but that the faith is exercised in the wrong things, when it should be in response to God’s directives.  The lack of power in the church, the use of the platform for attention, and the hypocrisy in the leadership are some of the causes of today’s crises of faith in the church today.

Crises of Faith – 3

Today I want us to look at the state of the church in America.  We see its values being attacked on a daily basis and its effect on the American culture lessening continually.  Church attendance is shrinking and the message is becoming confused with false doctrine.  In short, we are steadily losing ground  

Churches are trying different strategies to try to turn the tide, but nothing seems to bring lasting results.  One of the cries is that the church is out of date and boring, so some churches are changing the format to include a different type of music and dress code to make people feel more comfortable.  The doctrines are being watered down and compromised.  Some churches are promoting the “prosperity gospel” that is measured by physical prosperity.  While it is true that the attendance does increase for a time and the excitement is there, it is also true that many of the traditional values are driven out of the church and when the emotions subside (and they will) and when the music style changes (and it will), then the same results of a diminishing core will certainly follow. 

The reason that these will be the results will follow is that they have not identified the real problem.  It is just as my father used to say, “you can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  Attendance and excitement are not what makes a church effective.  In reality, it is much easier to fill a church with people than it is to fill a heart with hope. 

There are several flaws in this type of approach to building a church.  First of all, we need to remember that the church belongs to the Lord.  It is not our church and therefore the ultimate responsibility is His and not ours.  He is the one who has the power to convict of sin, and He is the one who will draw the people to come.  The point is that He will fill the church in direct proportion to the room we make in our hearts for Him.  God is willing and able to turn the tide but His grace is frustrated by our refusal to surrender the control of our lives to Him.  As long as we cling to the controls of the church, we prevent God from working as He wants to and our faith is in our abilities instead of in Him. 

As I shared with you in my last blog, the object of our faith is the Lord.  Not in what He will do but simply in Him.  We need to trust His working and not our programs.  We need to trust His promises and not our ways.  Our faith must not be in our ability but in His ability to effect change in us first and then in our living in His ways.  Here is a glimpse of what that means:   new life comes from the death to the old life; gain comes from giving; greatness comes from serving; humility and compassion trumps power and authority and Love never fails.  When the lost world sees the life of Christ in the believer, then that is the only thing that will satisfy the hunger of the heart.  No other plan of man will work to stabilize the church.  The problem is not in what we are doing but is in our failing to live by faith in Him.  Romans 14:3 states that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 states that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  That is why I say we are in a Crises of Faith.   We are religious but not righteous.  2Ti 3:5  Having a form of godliness but denying  the power thereof.

A Crisis of Faith

There is a strange phenomenon going on in the churches of America.  It is affecting all churches of all sizes and all denominations and that is that the attendance is dropping, as well as resources, influence and power.  If it were only one denomination we might conclude it was because of a teaching or doctrine.  If it were just the larger churches or just the smaller churches we might conclude it was because of resources.  But it is affecting all churches which are causing church leaders to ask why is it happening.  I have even heard that it is the fulfilling of the prophecy that times will wax worse and worse as we get closer to the end times.  However, this process of degenerating has been going on for thousands of years already.  No, this phenomenon is something else that has not yet been understood by the vast majority of the churches.

I remember before I became a Christian that it was hard to distinguish between the Christians and the non-believers.   They all seemed to follow the same moral code and conduct.  There was a general respect for the church member over the nonmember but little else.  Later, after I became a Christian I became curious about not seeing God’s power working in the lives of the members and churches.  I wondered why I didn’t see or hear much about God doing much in His people.  Then the scandals of the tele-evangelist and the breakdown of our national morals followed, until today when we have been devastated by compromising many of our long held beliefs.  Despair has become much more prevalent and there are all manner of “churches” sprouting up that claim that the long held truths that we have stood on for ages are no longer valid and were just for a time.

Lest I be understood to be saying that there is no hope and that everything is falling apart, I want to say that this is nothing new.  It has happened many times before.  If fact, every great revival of history began in such times as we are in today.  Let me also say that this phenomenon is not worldwide, though it is found in several countries.  Last year, I visited the underground church in another country and found an altogether different church.  There it was illegal to publically share your faith and Christianity was declared as darkness by the government.  Still, believers were so hungry for the gospel that they would travel up to two hours to a Bible Study; they would arrive 30-45 minutes early and quietly pray and read their bible;  sit on a plastic child’s stool that didn’t even have a back, for nearly 3 hours without complaining or squirming around;  take notes like a college student studying for an exam; stay for an hour or more in fellowship; and travel the up to two hours home.  After they completed their work day they would return the following evening and each day thereafter.  They weren’t tardy or missed opportunities but considered it an honor to be able to be there and were very grateful.  I came home wanting to bring that back with me.  Under these conditions the ratio of Christians was around 1in14 where here it is somewhere between 1in50 or 1in100

So we come back to the question of what is wrong in our churches in America.  I have prayerfully considered this for a long time and remembered what my Father told me years ago, “ You can’t fix it until you know what is broke.”  If we do not properly diagnose the problem we will just be treating the symptoms and will not see real change so I share with you what I believe is the real problem.  We are in a crises of faith.  With all of the books that are written on faith, I do not know of one that is addressing this as the problem.  So I will be writing several post on this and hopefully we can move closer to the center of God’s will in this matter.  After all, Romans 14:23 tells us that whatsoever is not of faith is sin and Hebrews 11:6 tells us that without faith it is impossible to please Him.  I conclude therefore that until we get our faith walk right that we will see a continued deterioration of our churches and the quality of life that we live.

What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?

I have listed a few of my favorite scriptures on believing as I will be discussing them and they are here for your reference.

John 6:29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.

Mark 9:23 Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.

Matthew 17:19-20 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?  And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.

In our harried world of social networking, busy schedules, pressures, and hectic paces, we often try to simplify or reduce the topic to one main idea.  We have all heard the saying, “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing.”  When it comes to studying the Bible, we often look for basic concepts or verses that go straight to the heart of the truth.  One verse that was eye opening to me was John 6:28-29 (The title of this article and verse 29 listed above).  I was a new Christian and I simply wanted to know what I should be doing.  I didn’t know a lot of verses or history and it was all new to me so I wanted to just be doing the right thing.  I wasn’t interested in denominations or traditions, just what the Bible said.  Verse 29 summed it up for me.

But then I asked the question, “What does it mean, to believe on Him?”  I had a generic idea that it meant to be in agreement and to do right things but what were those things that I was supposed to do?  Like so many other people, I thought that the Lord would be pleased with me if I did the right things.  My understanding was in the doing, but the verse said that it was in believing and not in the doing.  As I studied I learned that the word, believe and the word faith are the same word in the Greek.  That word is pistis and it is translated as believe in one place and faith in another.  This opened a whole new thought process to me.  The Lord is not looking for me to do great things but He is asking me to allow Him to do great things through me.  Now I am not working for God (as though I am earning His favor), but He is working on me, and consequently through me so that he can transform me into His likeness and image to prepare me for eternity.

I learned that to believe on Him is to trust and rely on Him to do the work.  It is His job to do the mighty works and it is my job to be in a position of faith, reliance and dependence on Him for the results.  Those results are limitless. There is nothing impossible that he will not do to those who are believing in Him.   This brings up the question, why then, do we not see this power working in and through our churches today?  I believe that He answered that in Matthew 17:19-20.  The disciples could not cast out the demon because of their “lack of faith”.  But it was not a shortage of faith, rather it was that their faith was not in Him.  This was also brought out with the father of the demon possessed son.  He began with the word “if”, as though to say I don’t know you well enough to trust you but I have no other one to turn to so please help.  I trust you to help my son, but I need you to first help me with my faith.  The barrier to our seeing God work is that we see him as a man, but he works when we see him as God.

This faith in Jesus is to see him as the God of Creation who can move mountains.  Even to the extent of using the likes of me to do greater works than those that He was doing.  Simply put, to do the impossible.  So how do you know Jesus?  Is He just a man?  Or even a prophet?  A might man of power?  Or is he very God who loves you and will spare no expense, and cross any barrier that we might know Him for who He is and know His resurrected power in this present evil time.

John 14:14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.

Luke 1:37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

It’s Just A Little sin.

My oldest son, who lives 10 minutes from me, is building a cover for his patio and has asked me to assist him as some of the beams are 6” x  12”  x 18’ to 23’ in length.  For the last two days we have been moving the beams as well as all the other lumber to the rear yard by hand.  Along with assorted scratches and bruises, I managed to get a splinter in one of my fingers.  This morning I noticed that it had become infected and swollen so the splinter had to come out.   It was one of those splinters that was blond and not easily seen so it was not apparent that there was a splinter but because of experience I knew that it was there.  There was all the evidence; pain, swelling, infection and a puss pocket.  After it was removed there was immediate relief.  The pain and soreness quickly subsided, the puss was removed and the redness began lessening. 

So why did I wait until this morning to remove the splinter?  I suppose that there is a number of reasons.  I was in the middle of a job that had to be completed within the time I had.  It took priority over the situation so I just put it off until a more convenient time.  Then there was the fact that it didn’t seem that bad at the time.  I have had lots of splinters and they have never caused a major problem so I didn’t feel that it was that urgent.  Also, I wasn’t certain that there really was a splinter because I couldn’t see it.  Then there was no urgency as the splinter and its repercussions were not yet evident.  But by this morning all of these reasons for procrastination were gone and in its place was the urgency to do something about it, simply put – get it out now.  It would not wait even long enough to write this post. 

It is funny how something as small and insignificant as a splinter can command such attention.  It is such a small portion of the beam that its loss does not affect the strength of the beam yet when it is pricked into the skin of a person it affects the strength of the person so much as to require immediate attention.  The reason is that it brings germs with it that begin to multiply and attack the body.  Infection is the bigger problem and is more devastating than the injury. 

So it was with man.  He was created without sin and was a giver by nature.  He was in step with God and His ways.  Harmony was the order of the day and all of creation was in harmony as well.  Plants did not have thorns and were not poisonous (with the exception of the tree of knowledge of good and evil), animals did not eat each other and everything supported the plan of God in perfect harmony.  So what happened?  You know the story of the sin of Adam and Eve.  They injected their will in the order and sin (like germs) began to effect man and all of creation until now,  Ro 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  The order has been infected by sin and now instead of being a blessing, we seek to get a blessing.  We have become takers instead of givers. 

With the entrance of sin into the world comes the consequence of sin , DEATH.  (Romans 3:23)  Physical death is a certainty but eternal spiritual death is yet to be decided.  It can be averter but ONLY by the blood of Jesus our Lord. Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Just as the splinter demands its removal  for healing, so also our sin demands the blood of Christ, or there is no remission of sin.  There is no plan be or any other way.  You cannot earn it by your good works but it is offered free to those who will put their trust in Jesus as the Lord of their life.

Honesty

A young church of about two years since it began, called a young preacher as its pastor.  It was his first pastorate since graduating from school and he was eager to see his church grow and do well.  Things were going along well for the first few weeks but then came his first challenge.

At the first business meeting he discovered that there was a problem with the finances.  There was no one taking the funds but there was a shortage and the budget wasn’t being met.  He began to investigate to find out the cause of the shortage and he found that the church budget looked fine.  Everything was paid except the mission giving and nothing had been paid toward it. It was a modest budget and included the items you would expect to be there.  They weren’t wasting any money and they certainly weren’t over paying the pastor, in fact he was working to subsidize his income to provide for his family.

He decided to do nothing until he could investigate this further so he told the church he would look into it and bring back his recommendation at the next meeting.  He searched further and in talking with the church treasurer he asked the question as to why nothing had been paid toward the mission.  The reply was most revealing.  “After we paid all of the bills, there was nothing left.” This was a well-meaning church and were following the same system of finance used by the world system.  Their priority was to pay the bills first.  The problem is that the Lord must have first place and our method of operation is to be by faith in Him and not in what we think. 

At the next business meeting, the pastor poised the proposition that honesty is a necessity for a church, to which everyone agreed.  He then stated that it was not honest to declare that they wouldl give 10% of our income to missions and not give anything.  He further said that the church should make the adjustment in the budget that properly represented what they truly believed what would be the proper giving amount.  If it was zero, then that is what the budget should say.  If it was more than zero then that is what they should do, and since this was a commitment to God then it should be given before anything else.  This would be the true expression of faith in the Lord.  He then offered that the church discuss what that true amount would be and he would return when they had come to a decision.

When he was called back, the church had decided to reduce the amount to 5%.  The pastor further reinforced the commitment by asking them if they understood that it would be paid before anything else was paid.  They responded that they did and then he further clarified that that included even his own salary.  They weren’t happy about this further clarification but finally agreed, reluctantly.

The very next month there was enough to pay the mission giving and all the other expenses, with a little bit left over.  This continued for the next two years of always having enough to pay everything and the mission giving never lacked.  Then one month there came a shortage and the mission giving did not get paid and the pastor took his check and gave it back to the treasurer and said he would not accept a check until the mission giving had been paid.  The treasurer disagreed and insisted that he take the check as he needed it for his family, but the pastor stood his ground and refused the check.  Finally, the treasurer took his check, paid the mission commitment and monies came in to more than cover the pastor’s salary as well.  In fact, during the 4 ½ years he was there, there was never a time when there was another shortage, even though they had increased their mission giving to 14% and had doubled in size and budget.  In fact they even built a new church building on nearly 3 acres of prime real estate, and their total indebtedness’ was only $34,000.  Honesty is truly the best policy.  God honors them that honor Him.

The Greatest Miracle

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his  glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (KJV)

We see miracles every day but we don’t call them miracles.  The miracle of a new birth, the miracle of life itself, the miracle of our environment, healing, and a million other things that go together that we call life.  Somehow we have come to expect miracles to happen as though they were the natural order of things.  These events are not natural, but supernatural, and go beyond the scope of universal law.  They require the involvement of our creator’s intervention.  He who established the law has reserved for Himself, the right to supersede the law and go beyond it.  For example, natural law allows for a chemical reaction whenever wood is burned.  Also, the heat of the fire will cause a burning of the flesh.  However, in the third chapter of Daniel we have the story of three Hebrew children who were cast into a burning furnace that was heated 7 times what it was designed for, yet they were unharmed in any way.  We call that a miracle.

In the New Testament we read the story of Jesus performing a number of miracles.  He healed the sick, caused the blind to see, calmed the storm, walked on water and raised the dead.  Still, it was not enough to convince the Pharisees of who He is and they still asked for a sign.   Luke 11:29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.  That was the sign that God would give, He would be resurrected 3 days after He had been crucified.  The miracles that Jesus did was not the focus intended.  God wanted mankind to know the God of the miracles, and not to just marvel at the miracle.

It was a tremendous thing that God (the Word) would be made flesh or simply become a man.  The incarnation is and incredible and wondrous miracle that defies our understanding, yet it enables us to know our Creator (and we beheld His glory).  Even greater than His arrival into this world was His purpose of delivering man from sin.    Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:  God never intended to abandoned man when he sinned but to deliver him from sin and its grip on him.  Not only did He die for man but in three days He was resurrected to destroy the power of sin and truly set us free.

Once delivered from sin it is then God’s purpose to transform him into His own children. 2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.  Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.  That is a miracle the exceeds words to explain it.

So what was the greatest miracle; God becoming a man, Christs miracles that reveals God’s love for man, His death to pay for man’s sin, His resurrection, His ascension?  I don’t think it is any one of them, but rather all of them.  It is not his deeds, but rather, it is He, Himself.  It is not about what He did, it is about who He is.  That is the greatest miracle and it finds its expression in His love for me.