Who is Your god?

The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’”, Genesis 3:4-5

The above reveals for us the most profound struggle of our own existence; which is our desire to govern ourselves as though we are our own god.

Intellectually, it makes no sense. We know that we did not create ourselves and so we have no idea what the “owner’s manual” would say if we had one. We are left with pure speculation as to how to help ourselves.

Emotionally, it makes no sense. Insecurity dominates our thoughts when we try to make ourselves, the highest authority for ourselves. Even as we grasp for control, we know it is out of our reach.

Spiritually, it makes no sense. We have absolutely no control or influence over anything in the spiritual realm, and without God, are totally ignorant of even our own spirit.

The only way being our own god makes any sense at all is through the eyes of our own flesh. We become like undisciplined and rebellious adolescents when our parents have left the house. We revel in making our own rules and living by whatever makes us happy in the moment. And like such an inexperienced and selfish youth, we wind up trashing our own house, being miserable, insecure, in chaos and without the means or even an idea of the direction out of it.

Self-help books are pitiful excuses for real solutions. Even if we realize our need to “get it together”, doing better on our own is impossible. All we can hope for without submitting to the true and living God is to follow some wayward path that might at least make it look like we have it all together. But we won’t. Not without God.

Solomon was right when he concluded, “Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil”, Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Living Words

Most people who have listened to sermons have heard the Bible called, at one time or another, the “Living Word.” Have you ever wondered what that means? Surely it does not mean that your Bible comes to life and goes from being an inanimate object to an animate object that lives, breathes and needs nourishment. It can be a difficult concept to grasp that words live. So, how can we better understand this statement?

John 1:1-5 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

In John 1:14, we are told that the Word became flesh. This Word was and is Jesus our Christ. When we learn that, John 1:1-5 becomes much clearer. Replace “Word” with “Jesus.”

Furthermore, Romans 8:10 tells us that Christ lives in us, and then Hebrews 4:12 says that the Word of God is living and active. Think about that! God speaks to us through the Bible, His Word. Yet, contained in the Bible is the story of Jesus from the beginning to the end! The Word prophesied, fulfilled in birth, hung on a cross and resurrected. We carry this story with us in our hands, minds and hearts. The Living Word.

Hey, What's Up Ahead?

Sunday, November 24 2019, has been designated by the shepherds here at Choctaw as “Every Member Present Sunday”. That’s what’s up ahead!

On a given Lord’s day, folks will be absent from our assembly for any number of reasons. Kids get sick, work schedules interfere, vacations come along, and well, you know. It is difficult to get everyone together at the same time; but how neat would it be if we did?

You may recall that we’ve made this effort before with marvelous results; and November 24th is the Sunday before our national day of Thanksgiving. How appropriate is that!?!?

But is this just about numbers?

Think about it. You’re having a family gathering. Is the size of the crowd the point? Duh, of course not. What is important is that everyone belongs, and has a place to fill and a part to play. Any absence of a beloved family member takes away from the gathering. The love we have learned from God compels us to want each one to be there; even the ones that behave like goobers sometimes (of course that’s never you nor me). You get it.

If we want to have all of us here on the same Lord’s Day, or even get close to having the entire congregation together for the same worship assembly, we have to plan. So, mark your calendar! Put a big red circle around November 24th. No, wait, not red, but use either royal blue or purple, since we are the royalty of the kingdom of God who are coming together to honor the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!

Markers ready?

Did I mention that the day to mark is November 24th?

"The End is Near!"......or not

My thanks to the Competitive Enterprise Institute for a compilation of news articles predicting dooms of various types. Below are some of the foreboding conclusions reached by scientists in the recent past that were noted in their piece.

17 November 1967 – The Salt Lake Tribune published an article by George Getze, a writer for the Los Angeles Times, with the headline, “Dire Famine Forecast by ‘75”. Dr. Paul Ehrlich, a Stanford University biologist, cited world population as the problem and called for radical birth control measures to be taken.

April 16th, 1970, – The Boston Globe ran an article with the headline, “Scientist Predicts A New Ice-Age By The 21st Century”. In it, James P. Lodge Jr. of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, warned that pollution would soon obliterate the sun and freshwater rivers would be dried up to create electric power.

July 9th, 1971 – The Washington Post, Times Herald published the findings of Dr. S. I. Rasool of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Columbia University claiming that air pollution would cause a disastrous new ice-age in as little as 50 years. The findings were also presented at the International Study of Man’s Impact on Climate, held that year in Stockholm, Sweden.

December 3rd, 1972 – A letter from Brown University informed president Nixon that a council of 42 scientists from the U.S. & Europe determined that glacial temperatures and food shortages due to shorter growing seasons could soon be expected.

January 29th, 1974 – An article in The Guardian with the headline, “Space Satellites Show New Ice Age Coming Fast”, warned that scientists had indeed examined satellite pictures of weather patterns and concluded that a mini-ice was soon to come.

June 24th, 1974 – A TIME science article reported that since the 1940s, the mean temperature had dropped 2.7°, that the persistence and thickness of the icepack around Iceland and a 12% increase in area covered by ice & snow in the northern hemisphere were all harbingers of a coming ice-age.

Many other such articles were included, but as always, God will have the last word, “While the earth remains, seedtime & harvest, cold & heat, summer & winter, day & night shall not cease”, Genesis 8:22

Salvation

The most important information we could provide is how to be eternally saved from your sins through Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that we are all created in God’s image, but that through our own sins, we have fallen short of his glory and become separated from him. Since the penalty for sin is death, Jesus took on flesh so that he could die in our place, paying that penalty for each of us on the cross.You and I can avail ourselves of his gift of salvation by putting our faith in Jesus as God’s son to save us, turning away from of our sins and allowing someone to baptize us in water. It really is just that simple, and is exactly what Jesus said:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
- Mark’s gospel 16:15-16

We see this pattern of the gospel being presented, and those who believe it being immediately baptized in the New Testament book of Acts multiple times. The first instance is in chapter 2. Peter, one of Jesus’ apostles, preaches about Jesus, how he was crucified and buried, but then resurrected by God and made Lord of all (to be read in Acts 2:22-36).

When many in the crowd believe Peter’s preaching, they are pierced to the heart and ask him what they should do (Acts 2:37). Peter answers, telling them to repent and be baptized in Jesus’ name (by Jesus’ authority) for the forgiveness of their sins and that they would receive the gift of God’s Spirit (Acts 2:38).

This pattern is repeated several times in the book of Acts

  • Acts 8:12 – Samarians hear the gospel of Jesus, believe and are baptized
  • Acts 8:13 – Simon the sorcerer hears, believes and is baptized
  • Acts 8:26-39 – an Ethiopian is taught about Jesus believes and is baptized
  • Acts 9:1-19 – Jesus appears to Saul of Tarsus, Saul believes in him and is baptized
  • Acts 10:24-48 – Cornelius and his family hear the gospel and are baptized
  • Acts 16:14-15 – Lydia and her family are baptized after hearing and believing the gospel
  • Acts 16:25-34 – the family of the jailor in Philippi hears the gospel and are baptized

This then, is the simple means for our salvation, that we believe in Jesus and based on that faith, we allow someone to baptize us just as Jesus taught. Jesus’ apostle Paul wrote of baptism:

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
- Letter to the Romans 6:3-4

Jesus died on the cross taking our punishment on himself. Baptism brings us into that death, so that our sins are covered by it. We rise from baptism, just as Jesus rose from death, to walk in the new life God gives us free from our sin. This is how the New Testament teaches us to be saved.

I Am Disappointed!

The “Step Up In September” plea was a genuine, sincere effort by the elders to overcome—”bridge the gap”—between the Sunday morning and Sunday evening —Wednesday evening attendance numbers. The imposed Divine obligation for the elders “to feed the church of the Lord” (Acts 20:28 AS) automatically imposes a Divine obligation for members of the church “to be fed!” Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening have been supplied by the elders for the feeding of EACH MEMBER!

Sickness, travel, and employment may occasionally be “causes” why some members cannot attend on Sunday morning. That is understandable. However, are those “causes” a fitting explanation for the consistent, sizable gap between Sunday morning and Sunday evening—Wednesday evening attendance? Hebrews 10:25-31 is a sobering context about members who “sin-willfully” by “forsaking our assembling together” (Heb. 10:25f). Willful sin is when one is in conflict, or one is contrary, to God’s designed plan, or to Christ’s Covenant teaching. It further states that members so doing are akin to those “who have trodden underfoot the Son of God,” and have “counted the blood of the covenant by which we are sanctified an unholy thing,” and have “done despite unto the Spirit of grace” (v.29). What sad, sick, and sobering charges!

The word “forsake,” which the Spirit gives is from the Greek term, egkataleipo, which means, “to abandon, desert...to leave in straits, leave helpless” (J.H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.166). Have You so responded?

Willful forsaking the assembling is a public sin and calls for a public confession, coupled with the effectual fervent prayer of faithful brethren (James 5:15-20). Do You need to repent—change your mind —about those times when brethren are “assembling together”?

How edifying it would be to see each member Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evening together, rejoicing like sheep, who have gathered for “feeding time!”

So brethren consistently assemble that they may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).

Sharing is Caring

I am constantly telling my daughter, “Share with your sister.” or “Share with your cousin.” I don’t often hear adults saying that phrase to each other, yet we all make sure to instill the idea of sharing into our children. Why is that? Do we realize exactly what we are doing when we share? Hebrews 13:16 says,

“Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

The saying, “Sharing is caring” is based on biblical principles. When we teach our children to share, we are teaching them to willingly sacrifice! When they share with others, they are completing a biblical action and such actions please God. Also, when they share, they often receive a reward as well; it makes them feel good! How great to know that a simple saying we often say without much thought, plants God’s values within our children and, in turn, blesses others who receive what they share.

Please Don't Die!

All too often I hear of someone tragically taking their own life. Having presided over funerals for such folks and having attempted to comfort survivors, I want to put something out there again, to encourage anyone who may be considering suicide to reconsider. Please, reconsider.

I haven’t been where you are, so I don’t pretend to understand all you are going through. I would like to hear your side. Until then, here are just a few things I believe you need to know:

  1. The rest of us want you to keep going, to live. Even if it doesn’t show, we care about you. You are a unique human being like the rest of us and we are connected by our humanity even if we don’t know you.
  2. Regardless of who you are, you have the potential to do much good that will benefit others. Right now, someone needs what you have to offer. You have God-given gifts. Please stay with us so for the benefit of those who need what you have.
  3. Losing you will hurt every right-thinking person who hears of your death. It will hurt most, those you care about the most.
  4. If you need help of any kind there is someone who is willing to provide it. We just need to get you connected.
  5. Regardless of what may seem to be crushing you, it is not worth your life.
  6. If you press on with life, you can be a source of strength to others who are struggling. Conversely, your decision to die may weaken the resolve of others to go on.
  7. Everything in God’s universe has purpose. This is especially true of you, as you are created in God’s image. Keep going until you have discovered your purpose.
  8. If guilt is troubling your soul, killing yourself will right no wrong. You can only make amends if you live.
  9. You need to know that your survivors will likely see your suicide as a selfish act.
  10. Your pain may turn out to be one of the best teachers you’ve ever had. The rest of us need to hear the lessons it has taught you.
  11. God does his best work with the biggest, baddest, most seemingly insurmountable problems. That's what the cross of Jesus Christ is all about.
  12. Death will not be the end of your pain, but it will end your opportunity to do something about it.

Contact me. Contact someone. Call me selfish, but I do not want to hear of another fellow traveler through time who has cut theirs short.

How Can We Step Up?

Three things I read recently with which I absolutely concur:

  1. “Children died in the great flood of Noah’s day because their parents failed to get them on the ark”
  2. “If our children have to ask us if we are going to church, we are doing it wrong”
  3. “Christians should not have to be badgered into attending Bible classes and worship”

Ouch! Those hurt! Well, only if they are true.

Truth is, living as a Christian begins with worship and Bible study. As David wrote nearly 3,000 years ago:

I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord’
Psalm 122:1

Prepare to meet with the saints, and to be on time. We always prepare for those things we care about.

  • On Saturday night, let your children help choose their clothes for Sunday morning
  • Lay those clothes out so they are ready to go
  • Get them to bed early and get them up in plenty of time
  • Provide breakfast food that you know your children will enjoy
  • Get to the parking lot 10 minutes before meeting times (planning to be “on time” will make you late)
  • If needed, have quiet, age-appropriate activities for your children during worship (note taking items, soft toys, etc.)
  • If you bring snacks for your children, bring those that are quiet and easy to clean up after

We know the old adage, “Failure to plan is planning to fail”, but I would rather say, “Succeeding to prepare is preparing to succeed”.

Danger Will Robinson?

Technology is improving.  More and more jobs that once were done by humans are now being done by machines.  Some are even speculating that robots will soon be able to function much like living beings.  As a matter of fact, in October of 2017, a robot named “Sophia” was granted citizenship in Saudi Arabia.

Can we legitimately give such status to a machine?

The biggest question to me is, does “she” have a will of her own?  After all, how can you consider “her” a citizen if she is unable to make decisions independent of her programming?  Is it possible for a robot to have its own desires, or even point of view?  Can you program that?

Is Sophia really a person if she has no will of her own?

Therein lies the answer to the age old question, “Why is there evil in the world?”

There is evil, because God created us with our own minds and the ability to exercise our own free will.  Evil could have been avoided if God had made us automatons.  That is the only way, in this world, for perfect order to be kept.  As soon as you allow individuals to make choices according to their individual desires, you open up the door to evil.

Interestingly, that is also the only way to open the door to love.  Love cannot be programmed.  Choice is the only means by which love is possible.

God knew that most of his creation would rebel against him in favor of their own will.  He also knew that many would choose to love him.  He has provided each of us the power within ourselves, to make either the worst decision possible, or to make the best one, which will lead us to eternity.  Which do you choose?