What Will Future Homes Look Like?

Some months ago, (this article was first written in February 2006) there was a big push for America to recognize homosexual marriage.  The mayor of San Francisco was licensing and performing such marriages, defying the state.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided to recognize such marriages.  While at the same time many states were considering propositions and amendments to clearly define marriage to be a union of a man and a woman.

During this time, I remarked to my wife that this might well open up a ‘Pandora’s box.’  If two men can be considered married, then why not recognize polygamy as practiced by the fundamentalists Mormons and Muslims?  Why not polyandry (one woman with multiple husbands)?  Surely, there would be some soon pushing for equal recognition in these areas if marriage could be expanded to include two from the same gender.  After all, if they love each other, who are we to say ‘no’?

In The Weekly Standard, December 26, 2005, there appeared a piece entitled, “Here Comes the Brides: Plural Marriage is Waiting in the Wings” by Stanley Kurtz.  Kurtz tells of three strange ‘marriages’. (1) A marriage recognized between a husband – Victor de Bruijn, his wife of eight years – Bianca, and a third – Mirjam.  Victor is heterosexual.  The two women are bisexual.  This marriage occurred in the Netherlands, in the town of Rosendale, on September 23, 2005.  This legally is not recognized as a marriage by Dutch law, but is recognized as a cohabitation contract.  This isn’t a typical polygamous relationship.  It is actually a ‘three-way marriage,’ polyamory.  The writer asked the question, “If every sexual orientation has a right to construct its own form of marriage, then more changes are surely due.  For what gay marriage is to homosexuality, group marriage is to the bisexual.”  (2) A marriage between husband – Serge Regnier, and wife of four years – Christine.  Christine’s sister, Katrina, wanted children so the two added her to their relationship.  Serge’s love from childhood, Judith, became ‘available’ so they all agreed to add her.  The man now has three wives, thirty children and more are on the way.  The three wives say that they don’t mind adding a fourth if ‘she was nice.’”  This ‘marriage’ is not recognized as a legal marriage in the Belgian town of Marcinella, where they’re from; But, this situation has opened arguments in Europe for multipartner marriages.  (3) The marriage of Koen Brand and his wife in the Netherlands.  Koen is bisexual and has a relationship with another bisexual who is also married.  One wife is uncomfortable with the situation.  Koen’s own wife is open to forming a threesome.  It is possible one marriage will end and the three remaining will form a polyandrous marriage.

The Unitarian church, which was a power behind the legalization of same-sex marriages in Massachusetts, is also calling for the recognition of polyamory (group marriages).  Unitarian ministers are already performing joining ceremonies for polyamorous families.

Folks, have we been silent too long?  Is it not time to take a stand? Regardless of what state and national laws recognize as  marriage, should not the church be vocal?

Let’s teach very clearly that God instituted the home.  He created Adam and Eve.  He didn’t create Adam and Bubba and Eve.  He didn’t create Adam and Eve and Becky.  When Jesus was asked about marriage, He returned to the Garden (Matthew 19:4-5).  So should we!

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Where Will You Die?

One of the most heinous crimes in Texas history was committed at about 3 a.m. on June 13, 1983 in Houston.  It was on this date that Karla Faye Tucker (age 23) and Danny Garrett (age 37) murdered two people by hammer and pick-axe.  Tucker would tell friends, and later testify that she felt a surge of sexual pleasure with each blow of the pick-axe.

Victim one: Jerry Lynn Dean (age 27).  Tucker had feuded with Dean for several months.  He had once parked his Harley Davidson in Tucker’s living room, and it had dripped oil.  Dean was married to Tucker’s best friend, Shawn.  Dean had allegedly physically abused this friend.  Tucker and Garrett - after three days of partying, drugs, and drinking - decided to intimidate Dean and steal his motorcycle.  They gained access to Dean’s apartment from keys which Shawn had supposedly lost and Tucker supposedly found.  Once inside, the plans changed to murder.

Victim two:  Deborah Thornton (age 32).  She and her husband had argued on the evening of June 12, 1983.  She left home angry.  She went to a party, and there she met Jerry Lynn Dean.  She returned with him to his apartment.  Never before had she met this man; but she would die in his bedroom.  Tucker, after the murder of Dean, discovered Thornton hiding under bed covers against the wall in Dean’s room.  She too was murdered.  She left behind a husband and a child.

How sad!  This woman, probably, never imagined that her life would come to an end on that night, or in this situation.  But it did!

How will your life end?  Will it end while you are in the grips of sin, or will you be found walking in the light (1 John 1:7)?  Let us each realize that the activity in which we engage may be our last.

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Austin McGary – A Radical

Austin McGary (1846-1928) was a Texas lawman.  He served as sheriff of Madison County.  He once disarmed and arrested the notorious John Wesley Hardin.  Later, he worked for the State of Texas transporting prisoners to penitentiaries.

In the early 1880′s, he began to give serious thought to religion.  He had been raised a Methodist, but had not been a religious man.  He made a careful study of the Campbell-Owen debate (1829) on the evidences of Christianity.  He listened to Harry Hamilton preach in Madisonville on principles of apostolic Christianity, at the urging of his sister.  He continued to study as was baptized into Christ on December 24, 1881.

Soon after his conversion McGary became deeply disturbed over how denominational people were being “shaken” into the church; that is, their denominational baptisms were being widely accepted, and with a hand-shake they were being counted as church members, even though they had not been baptized for the purpose of having their sins washed away.  He was especially concerned that this practice was defended by some of the biggest names in the brotherhood.  “Generally speaking, David Lipscomb and the brethren associated with the Gospel Advocate took the position it was not necessary that a man understand that his baptism was ‘for the remission of sins,’ but that any man who was immersed with a sincere desire to obey God was in truth and in reality baptism into Christ – even though he had thought he was already in Christ and had his sins forgiven before the act of baptism” (J.D. Tant – Texas Preacher, p. 59).

McGary knew something must be done.  He decided to combat the error in print.  He started a publication called “The Firm Foundation” in September 1884.  “When the first issue of the Firm Foundation came out only 500 copies were published, and many of them were shoved under the bed, for McGary did not know whom to send them to.  But in short time men and women came to his support by the thousands, and before the first year was out, the paper was read all over the state of Texas, and in many other states” (ibid, p. 60).

According to the Bible, candidates for baptism: (1) have been taught about the kingdom (church) and the name (authority) of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12); (2) believe (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 8:35-39);  (3) repent (Acts 2:38; 3:19 cf. Matthew 3:7-8);  (4) Confess Jesus (Acts 8:35-38; 1 Timothy 6:12; Hebrews 4:14; 10:23);  (5) Understand the purpose of baptism (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 22:16)  (6) Should be immersed (Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12) in water (Acts 8:36-39; 10:47 cf. John 3:23).

Some branded McGary a radical and a hobby rider.  W.H. Bagby wrote in the Christian Standard, “We know of no departure from the faith in modern times so hurtful to the course of New Testament Christianity as this hobby which the Firm Foundation was established to advocate” (West, The Search For Ancient Order, Vol. 2, p. 406).

However, in time he persuaded  many.  J.D. Tant said, “I met almost the first issue (of The Firm Foundation) with hatred because it condemned me for trying to palm off on God my sectarian immersion for scriptural baptism” (ibid, p. 60).  Tant had been immersed as a Methodist.  However, “After three months of seeking rest and finding none, I got on a borrowed horse and rode one hundred and twenty-seven miles to Austin to get John S. Durst to baptize me” (ibid, p. 61).

We need more “radicals” as Austin McGary.  We need more who will take a stand, even when doing so is not popular.  Let us say as Paul, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publically and from house to house… I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:20, 27).  Remember that one man of conviction can make a difference.  John Kennedy said, “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.”  Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  E. M. Forster, “One person with passion is better than forty people merely interested.”

 

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Lenny Skutnik and Us

On January 13, 1982 Air Florida’s flight 90 collided with Washington’s 14th Street bridge after taking off from Washington D.C.’s National Airport.  The plane plunged into the very cold and icy waters of the Potomac River.

U.S. Park Police tried to pluck Priscilla Tirado from the water by helicopter. She was too weak to grasp the line. She cried out “will somebody please help?” Countless onlookers stood on the bridge and river banks and watched, doing nothing.

However, Lenny Skutnik was different.  He had no special training in rescue.  He was, by occupation, an office assistant for the Congressional Budget Office.  He knew that something must be done.  Therefore, Lenny Skutnik removed his coat and boots,  jumped into the frigid water (temperature 33 degrees F.), swam 30 feet  and saved her.  He even gave his coat to one of the survivors, whom he thought needed it more than himself.

After these heroic efforts someone asked him why he so risked his own life.  In response, he said, “Nobody else was doing anything… It was the only way.” He later said ” I wasn`t a hero. I was just someone who helped another human being. We`re surrounded by heroes. What made this different was that it was caught on film and went all over the world.”

Brethren, are we actively trying to rescue those drowning in sin or are we  onlookers,  bank-standers?  Let us, as that Good Samaritan (Luke 10), seek to help all those we see in need. Let us not pass by on the other side. Let us not be do-nothing by-standers!  Brethren, if we don’t do something, who will?

Matthew 5:13, 14 “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world”

Galatians 6:1 “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness”

James 5:20 “He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins”

Romans 1:14 “I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise”

1 Corinthians 9:16 “Woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!”

2 Corinthians 5:11 “knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord , we persuade men”

2 Corinthians 5:14 “the love of Christ compels us”

President Ronald Reagan honored Lenny Skutnik sitting him next to Nancy Reagan at the 1982 State of the Union address. He said “Just two weeks ago, in the midst of a terrible tragedy on the Potomac, we saw the spirit of American heroism at its finest…we saw the heroism of one of our young Government employees, Lenny Skutnik, who, when he saw a woman lose her grip on the helicopter line, dived into the water and dragged her to safety.” There was a standing ovation. Note: Today, by precedent, heroes are honored in the Presidential gallery. These heroes are called “Lenny Skutniks.”

There is a far greater honor coming to soul winners than being seated in the Presidential gallery at the State of the Union address.

Proverbs 11:30 “He who wins souls is wise”

Daniel 12:3 “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever”

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Covering Sin With Love

Proverbs 10:12 reads, “Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”  James 5:20, with a similar sound, says, “Let him know, that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and cover a multitude of sins.”  Then, in like manner, 1 Peter 4:8 exhorts, “Above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’”  How does love cover, or hide sin?  What is the context of these passages?

First, Proverbs 10:12.  The context here is that love covers sins in contrast, or contrariwise to how hatred stirs up strifes.  Yes, our attitude and behavior can provoke others to sin (Galatians 5:26; Ephesians 6:1; Colossians 3:21).  The tone of our voice and our choice of words matters (Proverbs 15:1).  Our influence can lead others to do what is wrong (Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 22:24-25).  The godly will be careful in word and deed to keep down, and not bring our sin in others.  Any provoking we ought to be “to provoke unto love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24, 25).

Second, James 5:20.  The words are similar.  However, the meaning is peculiar to the context.  The context here concerns a brother that has erred away from the truth.  He has gone away from the right path.  The one who helps such a brother back to the right way  saves a soul from death (The second death – see Revelation 20:12-15).  The one who helps   turn (or convert) the brother covers (or hides) a multitude of sins.  This is true in the sense that he puts them out of God’s sight (cf. Isaiah 38:17; Micah 7:19).  Brother Guy N. Woods says here, “‘To cover’ sins is therefore, to put them away, cancel them out, forgive them” (cf. Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:6-8).  Again, he wrote, “It appears to be the design of the writer to point out that the love we have for our brethren prompts us to busy ourselves in their behalf in restoring them to the truth so that God may forgive them and thus cover their sins.”

We need to be concerned about covering sin in this way.  In many towns and cities there are by numbers more non-attending church members than there are attending members.  Let us busy ourselves in saving their souls from death.  Let us hide their sins.  Someone has said, “Perhaps the strongest test of brotherly love is the willingness to confront a brother who is involved in sin or error… one of the most unloving acts that one could do – is nothing – when he knows that a brother is being overcome by sin.”  Amen!

Third, 1 Peter 4:8.  We are to have “sincere love of the brethren” (1 Peter 1:22).  We are instructed to “love one another fervently with a pure heart” ( 1 Peter 1:22).  The word “fervent” has a couple of meanings.  The primary meaning had to do with stretching out the strings on a stringed instrument; In other words, to play with intensity, to play strenuously.  The secondary meaning is to do anything with intensity, or strenuously.  We are to have intense love for another.

In this context we are told that such love will cover a multitude of sins.  Brother Guy N. Woods has written, “When one loves another he forgives; and thus the way to peace and harmony in the church is through fervent love.”  This is absolutely true.  Moreover, it is true that we are to be a forgiving people (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13; Matthew 6:12, 14-15; Matthew 18:23-35).  But, nothing in the context suggests that forgiving others is primarily under consideration.  Thus, I think the original wording and context of Proverbs 10:12 must be the reference.  We are to live in a loving concern for another in every way (including being forgiving).

A  fourth wording is not exactly the same but somewhat similar.  1 Corinthians 13:7 says that “(Love) bears all things.”

At first glance, one might think of Galatians 6:1-2 or Romans 15:1.  Clearly, Christian love “bears” in these ways!

However, the wording here is different.  Though it has more than one meaning, here’s what certain lexicons have given for the word “bears” and its original primary meaning, Arndt and Gingrich, “To cover, to keep confidential…”  Thayer, “To cover, to protect by covering, to preserve by covering…”  Vine’s “primarily to protect or preserve by covering.”

Adam Clark, the commentator wrote, “Perhaps it would be better to take in the sense of contain, keep it as a vessel does liquor [meaning 'liquid'] love conceals everything that should be concealed.  Love betrays no secrets.”  This brings to mind Proverbs 25:9b (ASV),   “Disclose not the secret of another.”  Also, Proverbs 11:13, “A talebearer reveals secrets; but he who is of a faithful spirit conceals a matter.”

McCord’s New Testament reads, “(Love) throws a cloak of silence over what is displeasing in another person.”  In other words, we shouldn’t get joy out of embarrassing others and bring out other embarrassing private things.  Listen to Steve Williams, “To show Christian love we should take this approach with other people: Instead of trying to broadcast all the dirt and filth we know about other people through gossip, let us quietly work to help correct their faults.”

It is so important to have such an approach.  It is so important that people can  confided in us and place their confidence in us.  It is so important that others be able to come to us with their problems and struggles, asking for help (cf. James 5:16) without being hindered by the thought that if they do the next day everyone in the church, or neighborhood, or community might know.

Conclusion

In different context the wording carries somewhat different and distinct ideas.  However, the wording also has an over-riding similarity in meaning.  This meaning is that true love does what it can to get rid of sin.  True love seeks to (1) keep it down; (2) help overcome it; (3) dwell harmoniously one with another; (4) be trust-worthy, worthy of confidence.

May we strive to so live.

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You Have Heard… But I Say

These words are used six times by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  Two verses are helpful in interpreting these words.  (1) Matthew 5:20, “For I say to you, unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will be no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”  The words “you have heard” concerns the perverted approach that the scribes and Pharisees had to God’s teaching.  (2) Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets.  I did not come to destroy but to  fulfill.”  The law would one day be abolished (Ephesians 2:15), that is reduced to inactivity (Vine’s).  However, Jesus came to fulfill the law, not to destroy it.  He did not come to fight against it.  Contextually, after making this point, it seems unlikely that this message was intended to contrast the Old Testament and the New Testament.  While Jesus may expand principles taught in the Old Testament, His emphasis seems to be on the scribes and Pharisees’ perversion of God’s word.

1.  “You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of judgment.’  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause… and whoever says to his brother ‘RACA!’… Whoever says ‘You fool!’ Shall be in danger of hell fire” (Matthew 5:21-26).

Murder is condemned in the Bible. The Old Testament taught against murder (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17).  The New Testament also teaches that murder is wrong (Romans 13:8-10; 1 John 3:15).

However, some deceived themselves into thinking that God only cares about “big things” like murder.  The scribes and Pharisees were of this mind-set.  It is said that ‘RACA’ was “frequently used in rabbinical writings” (McGarvey, The FourFold Gospel, p. 237).

In truth, God demands much more.  Even the Old Testament taught, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18).  One cannot have a good relationship with God and hate or mistreat his fellow-man (Matthew 5:23-26; 1 Peter 3:7; 1 John 3:18; 4:20; Malachi 2:13; Proverbs 21:13; 22:22-23).

2.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-30).

Adultery is condemned in the Bible. The Old Testament taught against adultery (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18).  The New Testament also teaches that adultery is wrong (Romans 13:8-10; 1 Corinthians 6:9-ff; Galatians 5:19-21).

However, some deceived themselves into thinking that God only cares about “big things” like adultery.  Today, some say, “It is okay to look at the menu, as long as you don’t eat,” or “It is okay to window shop, so long as you don’t buy.”

In truth, God demands more. Even the Old Testament taught, “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife” (Exodus 20:17).  Job said, “I have made a covenant with my eyes; why then should I look upon a young woman” (Job 31:1).  Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).

Note: The words “to lust” denotes purpose.  This was no passing thought.  This was an intentional lustful look.  The term “looks” denotes a continuous action.  It could be rendered “keeps on looking” (present tense).

3.  “Furthermore, it has been said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife for any reason except sexual immorality (fornication, KJV) causes her to commit adultery…” (Matthew 5:31-32).

It is true, that when divorce occurred a certificate of divorce was to be given (Deuteronomy 24:1, 3; Jeremiah 3:8).  In this they were correct.

However, some evidently thought that so long as a certificate of divorce was given, then all was okay.  But, what about the wife?  The literal language is that she is adulterized.  What does this mean?  (a) Some have suggested that the meaning is that she is “stigmatized as an adulteress” (Lenski, The Interpretation of Matthew’s Gospel, p. 232).  The difficulty with this view is that they were divorcing for many reasons.  There would not have been an automatic assumption of infidelity.  (b) Another view is found in her likely remarriage.  Wayne Jackson, “Now the presumption is this: if a man just whimsically and capriciously throws his wife out – he divorces her – what will she likely do?  Go find another man!”  (Divorce and Remarriage, p. 34).  Jonathan Edwards, “A woman so divorced found herself many times in practical necessity of remarriage to find support for herself… she was under pressure to enter into a union which was illegitimate because she was not eligible to remarry” (Spiritual Sword Lectures on Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage, p. 362).  Women had a difficult time without a husband, in those days (Ruth 1:8-9 cf. 3:1).

We should consider how our actions affect others.  We should no longer think only of self (Philippians 2:4).

4.  “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform your oaths to the Lord.’  But I say to you, do not swear at all: neither by heaven… nor by the earth… nor… by your head… But let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes’ and your ‘no,’ ‘no’…” (Matthew 5:33-37).

This is not forbidding any and all types of oaths.  Oath taking was regulated by the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:12; Numbers 30:2; Deuteronomy 23:21-23, etc.).  Furthermore, consider: God swore (Hebrews 6:13; Acts 2:30; Luke 1:73); Paul swore (Romans 1:9; 2 Corinthians 1:23; Galatians 1:20; Philippians 1:8).  Every time one enters into a marriage vow, or business contract he is swearing, that is – he is taking an oath.

Two other passages are helpful in our interpretation: (a) Matthew 23:16- 22.  Jesus said “woe to you, blind guides, who say  ‘whoever swears by the temple it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it…And whoever swears by the altar, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gift that is on it, he is obliged to perform it’” (Matthew 23:16,18). (b) James 5:12, “Do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath.”  The word “other” is not heteros (another of a different kind) but allos (another of the same kind).

The kind of oaths forbidden concern the word games played by some.  Guy N. Woods, “Some rabbis held that one was bound to tell the truth only when the names of Deity were mentioned, on the ground that God became a party to the agreement… but that if His name were not included in the oath any promise made one did not have to keep… other avoided the use of God’s name in their oaths be swearing by the handiwork of God – the heavens, the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars” (Commentary on James, p. 289).

We should be truthful, honest people.  Consider Ephesians 4:25; Colossians 3:9; Revelation 21:8.

5.  “You have heard it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person.  But whoever slaps you on your right cheek turn the other to him also…” (Matthew 5:38-42).

The Old Testament did say, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth…” (Exodus 21:24; Leviticus 24:19-20; Deuteronomy 19:21).   This expresses a need for justice. Moreover, It seems to have been set forth to limit the punishment.  Legally this is known as Lex Talionis,  law of like punishment.  An example: A black eye did not justify the taking of a life.  The punishment was to fit the crime.

However, in time, some had abused these words using them to justify their get-even attitudes and vengeful spirits. I once saw a young man who seemed to have this attitude. His bumper sticker on his truck which read “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.”  I think he may have meant “If you mess with me, I will return the favor.”

God’s word should be studied in its totality, and not cherry picked.  It taught: (a) “Vengency is mine, and recompense” (Deuteronomy 32:35 cf. Romans 12:19).  Note: One of the ways that He repays is through the use of governments (Romans 13:1-7).  (b) “Do not say, ‘I will do to him just as he has done to me; I will render to the man according to his work’” (Proverbs 24:29).  (c) “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if his thirsty, give him water to drink.  For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, and the Lord will reward you (Proverbs 25:21-22 cf. Romans 12:20).

We should be a peaceful people.  “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).  “Pursue peace with all people” (Hebrews 12:14).

Note: The slapping of the right cheek  by the back of the left hand was a personal insult.  This is not speaking of a life threatening situation.

6.  “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you” (Matthew 5:43-48).

The words “you shall love your neighbor” are found in the Old Testament (Leviticus 19:18 cf. Matthew 22:39), but the words, “hate your enemy” are not.  It is worth noticing that Jesus did not say “It is written” (e.g. Matthew 4:4, 7, 10; Luke 24:46) nor did he say, “the scriptures” say (e.g. Matthew 21:42; 22:29; Luke 24:27), nor does he say “Moses” said (e.g. Mark 1:44; 7:10; 12:26; John 5:46; 7:19).  Instead, He says “you have heard that it was said…”

God did not want them to be hateful of others, even their enemies.  “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall surely bring it back to him again.  If you see the donkey of one who hates you lying under its burden, and you would refrain from helping it, you shall surely help him with it” (Exodus 23:4-5).  “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles” (Proverbs 24:17). Concerning foreigners, He instructed, “Love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:19).

Jesus asks, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet your brethren only, what do you more than others?  Do not even the tax collectors do so?”  (Matthew 5:46-47).

Summary

God cares about more than murder, adultery and divorce laws.  He cares about how we treat others.  He cares about our minds.  He cares about our attitudes.  God cares about more than a contracts wording.  He cares about our integrity.  God cares about more than the wrong done to us.  He cares about how we respond to that wrong.  God cares about more than how we treat those who are easy to love.  He cares about how we treat those who are hard to love.

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Christ’s Peculiar People

“Who (Christ) gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14)

1.  Christ’s people are a purchased people

He gave Himself for us.  He did so to “redeem us.”  The word “redeem” literally means “to buy out”.  Vine’s, “especially of purchasing a slave with a view to his freedom.”  Thayer, “to redeem i.e. by payment of a price to recover from the power of another.”

Freedom is not free.  The price to free men from the bondage of sin was high.  Peter wrote, “you were not redeemed with corruptible things like silver or gold… but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).  Paul reminded the Christians at Corinth, “you were bought at a price” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

2.  Christ’s people are a purified people

He purified us “for Himself”.  He made us fit to be His bride.  Consider Paul’s words – “that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).  Adam Clark commented, “There is certainly an allusion here to the ancient method or purifying women, who were appointed to be consorts to Kings… (see Esther 2:12; also see Psalm 45:13-14; Ezekiel 16:7-14).”

He cleanses with blood (Revelation 1:5; 7:14), through baptism (Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26) in obedience to the truth (1 Peter 1:22).  We’re “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3).

3.  Christ’s people are a possessed people

He owns us.  We are: “His own special people” (NKJV); “a peculiar people” (KJV); “a people for his own possession” (ASV, NASB, ESV).  We belong to Him.  Paul exhorted, “you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20).

Baptism is literally, “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).  Ed Wharton has pointed out, “‘into the name’ was a common phrase for transference of ownership” (The Church of Christ, p. 47).  Arndt and Gingrich remarked, “Through baptism… the one who is baptized becomes the possession of and comes under the protection of the one whose name he bears; he is under control of the effective power of the name and the one who bears the name, i.e., he is dedicated to them.”  Paul wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

4.  Christ’s people are to be a productive people

He wants us to be “zealous for good works.”  The term “zealous” means to be hot, or on fire for something.  God’s people are to be workers.

Have you ever noticed how frequently “good works” are mentioned in the books of 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus?  Consider:

1.  1 Timothy 2:10 “…women professing godliness, with good works”

2.  1 Timothy 3:1  “If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work”

3.  1 Timothy 5:10  “well reported for good works…”

4.  1 Timothy 6:18  “Let them do good, that they be rich in good works…”

5.  2 Timothy 2:21  “…useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.”

6.  2 Timothy 3:16-17  “…thoroughly equipped for every good work”

7.  2 Timothy 4:5  “…do the work of an evangelist…”

8.  Titus  1:16  “…disqualified for every good works”

9.  Titus 2:7  “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works…”

10.  Titus 2:14  “…zealous for good works”

11.  Titus 3:1  “…ready for good work”

12.  Titus 3:8  “…those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works”

13.  Titus 3:14  “let our people also learn to maintain good works, to meet urgent needs, that they may not be unfruitful”

 

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How Are We Tempted? (Part two)

In medicine, the more that is known about how a disease is contracted, the better prepared one is to avoid it.

In security, the more one understands how the employees or customers steal, the more prepared the company is to prevent it.

In military, the more one understands how his enemy will attack, the better prepared the military will be to resist such an attack.

Likewise, spiritually the more we understand how we are tempted, the more prepared we will be to resist sin.

James 1:14: “Every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”

What leads to sin?  First, one has certain lust(s) or desires(s) within the mind [The word "lust" in the original language can be used of good and wholesome desires (Luke 22:15; Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:7).  However, it is very commonly used of evil and wrongful desires (Romans 1:25, 27; 6:12; 1 Corinthians 10:6.) It is also used of desires of wrong priorities, and unwholesome attitudes  (1 Timothy 6:9).]  The means of temptation is through our desires.  Even normal, natural desires can lead to spiritual tests or temptations. Example: The desire to preserve one`s life is normal. It is normal to care for self (Matthew 22:37-39; Ephesians 5:28-29). However, what happens when this natural inclination is challenged by one`s commmitment to Christ? (Luke 14:26-27 cf Matthew 10:37-38; Luke 9:23-24; Revelation 12:11).  Example: Is there anything wrong with the desire for food?  Or physical intimacy?  No!  But such must be regulated by the word of God. Another example:

Second, one is enticed.  The word “entice” in the original language means “to bait, to lure by bait.”  Think of a fish-hook with a juicy worm on the end wiggling around before the fish.  One`s own desire(s) becomes the bait to lead us away from God.  The devil takes our desires and dangles them before us trying to get us to satisfy these desires in a way which is contrary to God’s will, or to put our desires ahead of serving God.

Third, the lure draws one, as a baited hook does a fish.  Please note that to be tempted is not sin (Hebrews 4:15), as we sing “yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.”  Though, one may have certain desires, one must recognize the hook of sin and avoid grabbing hold.  In fact, one would do well to run from it (2 Timothy 2:22; Genesis 39:12).

The points I want you to remember are: (1) Satan does not make one do anything.  He lures one.  (2) Satan can use even good and natural desires to bait one.  Many times God has frequently, made available a legitimate way for one to fulfill those desires.  Satan tries to get one to fulfill his desires in a different way, a way which is contrary to God’s will.

James 1:15: “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”

The imagery changes a bit from the previous verse.  This concerns conception and birth.

First, it starts with lust(s) or desire(s) existing.  The desire may be universally sinful, or it may be that one is not authorized to receive this desire in the way one seeks it, or it may be that the desire is begging for priority over serving God.

Second, this lust (desire) gains life and grows within one.  It is extremely important that we guard our minds (Proverbs 4:23; Mark 12:30; Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8).

Third, this eventually leads to the birth of sin.

Fourth, the birth of sin leads to (spiritual) death.  Just like the fish which has been hooked!

Beware of how temptations come. Tempting situations one can avoid, should be avoid. Those things which are unavoidable (natural, physical desires of the flesh) one should understand how such can be used to tempt, be sober,  be diligent (1 Peter 5:8).

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How Are We Tempted? ( Part one)

In medicine, the more that is known about how a disease is contracted, the better prepared one is to avoid it.

In security, the more one understands how the employees or customers steal, the more prepared the company is to prevent it.

In military, the more one understands how his enemy will attack, the better prepared the military will be to resist such an attack.

Likewise, spiritually the more we understand how we are tempted, the more prepared we will be to resist sin.

1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or the things in the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world.  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” 

The word “world” can refer to: (1)  The universe – the Kosmos, the Greeks so used.  (Roy Lanier Jr. cites John 17:24 for this usage); (2) The earth (Romans 1:8; 1 John 3:17); (3) By metonymy: The human race which inhabits this ordered sphere (1 John 2:2; Matthew 5:14); (4) The gentiles as distinguished from the Jews (Vine’s cites Romans 11:17); (5) The sum of temporal possessions (Matthew 16:26; 1 Corinthians 7:31); (6) The evil which dominates this world (John 15:18-19; Galatians 6:14; Colossians 2:8; James 1:27; James 4:4; 1 John 4:5; 1 John 5:19).  I do believe that this last usage is in usage here [though, it is possible to live this material world too much (2 Timothy 3:4b; Romans 1:25; Luke 8:14; Matthew 6:33; Colossians 3:2)].

The “things of the world” means do not love anything that may be included in the term “world”.  It is a movement from the general to the specific. Notice that the warning starts with what we love, or where our affections are. God should be ultimate love (Matthew 10:37; 22:37-39)

 Let’s consider the three areas of temptation.  First there is the lust of the flesh (that is: fleshly needs, desires, and appetites). Robert Taylor Jr. adds, “Bodily appetites are not wrong per se.  But they are to be fulfilled legitimately.  We hunger for food, air, sexual release, security, etc.  There are wrong ways to obtain such; there are right ways to obtain such” (Studies in Romans, p. 114).  Kerry Duke has also said, “Since we dwell in a physical body, we are dependent upon the world.  We must breathe, eat, and sleep to survive… even more significant is that those drives are involuntary, having been instilled by the Creator… Man’s craving for food is an inherent drive.  Wish though he may that this did not exist, man cannot escape the need for food.  But though the desire itself is not of man’s choosing, his response to it is.  In fact, how man handles physical hunger is indicative of whether he exercises a basic Christian virtue: temperance or self-control” (God at a Distance, p. 87).  Again, he writes of man’s sexual drive, “The feelings themselves may be involuntary and spontaneous, but to experience a feeling is one thing; how one responds to it is a different matter” (ibid, p. 95).  “…It is important to remember that although dealing with the intensity of the sexual drive is a major struggle of life, fulfilling this desire is not a necessity of life” (ibid, pg. 98).  And to the married he said, “For the Christian, the sexual drive is not so much an enemy to be conquered as a force to be channeled” (ibid, p. 91). False teachers sometimes appeal to our fleshly desires (2 Peter 2:18-20).

Second, there is the lust of the eyes (that is: temptation comes through our senses – sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell).  The eyes are an avenue for temptation to come our way (2 Samuel 11:2; Proverbs 6:25; Proverbs 23:31).  The ears are another avenue (Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 6:20-24; Proverbs 7:4-5).  Smell may also lead to temptation (Proverbs 7:17; possibly Genesis 25:29-30).  We need to be careful what we allow to come into our minds by these avenues (Job 31:1; Proverbs 23:31; Matthew 5:29; 2 Peter 2:14).

Third, there is the pride (vain-glory) of life.  Most of us like to be liked.  We want to receive the praise of men.  We must decide whose praise is the most important to us.  In John 12:42-43 - there were some who believed in Jesus, but they would not confess Him, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”  Our ultimate aim needs to be to please God, not man.  (Read 1 Thessalonians 2:4; Galatians 1:10; 2 Corinthians 5:9 NKJV).  Let us accept the truth:  if we truly are what we should be, not all will speak well of us (Luke 6:26).  False teachers some times play upon our desires to be admired (Jude 16).

Furthermore, Most of us like the comforts of life. Some have erred from the faith for the things of life (1 Timothy 6:9-10; 2 Timothy 4:10), and have failed to be spiritually fruitful ( Luke 8:14).  There is nothing inherently wrong with enjoying material things (1 Timothy 6:17). However, let us have as our priority the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Colossians 3:1-2). Let us “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” ( Matthew 6:33).

Beware of how temptations come to us.  Tempting situations which we can avoid, we should avoid.  Those things which are unavoidable (natural, physical desires of the flesh) we should understand how such can be used to tempt us, and be sober, and  vigilant (1 Peter 5:8).

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Camels and the Bible

“Camel bones suggest error in Bible, archaeologists say” (Foxnews).  “Will camel discovery break Bible’s back?” (CNN).  “Camel study throws the Bible’s historical accuracy into question”  (Global Post).  These headlines appeared in February of 2014.

Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef archaeologists from Tel Aviv University studies the bones of camels in the area of an ancient copper mine located in the Aravah Valley, south of the Dead Sea.  These camels were used in the mining operation.  The bones date to the 10th century B.C. using radiocarbon dating.  This is the oldest find of domesticated camels in the area.

The issue raised by critics is that the Bible mentions camels being used by Abraham (Genesis 12:16; 24:10-ff; 24:61-ff) and Jacob (Genesis 30:43; 31:47) hundreds of years earlier than this oldest find of domesticated camel bones.

Let us respond: (1) The argument is based on a logical fallacy, ad ignorantiam.  Jack Hebert wrote, “The critics assume that their supposed inability to find archaeological evidence of domesticated camels in the southern levant at the time of Abraham somehow proves that none of these creatures existed in the region at that time.  This is not the first instance where skeptics have made such a fallacious statement; they once declared that the Bible was in error when it mentioned the Hittite people because evidence for their existence had not been found.  However, critics were eventually clearly shown to be wrong” (Genesis Camels: Bible Error? by Jake Hebert, www.icr.org).  “The use of camels for copper mining is an important discovery.  ‘But to extrapolate from that and say they never had domesticated camels in Israel in the 1,000 years before that is an overreach’ said Todd Bolen professor of Biblical Studies at Master’s College in Santa Clara, California” (The Latest Challenge to the Bible’s Accuracy: Abraham’s Anachronistic Camels? by Gorden Govier, www.christianitytoday.com.  (2) There is evidence that camels were domesticated in Egypt before Abraham’s time.  This evidence “come from a pottery camel’s head and a terra-cotta tablet with men riding on and leading camels” dated at 3150 B.C. (Camels in the Bible by Shawn Nelson, www.geekychristian.com).  “Egyptian artifacts depicting domesticated camels – which even secular archaeologists date before the time of Abraham – have been found” (Genesis Camels: Bible Error? by Jake Herbert).  Remember that Abraham was gifted his camels from an Egyptian Pharaoh (Genesis 12:16). (3) Camels may not have been widely used in Israel in Patriarchal times. (a) Camels are associated with the rich, men like Abraham and Job. (b) Camels are associated with other places.  Abraham recieved his camels from Egypt (Genesis 12:16). Jacob came out of Syria with camels (Genesis 30:43; 31:17).  Joseph was sold to Midianite traders who were traveling with camels to Egypt (Genesis 37:25-28).  “Even if camels were rare in the land of Israel during the time of the patriarchs, this does not mean that they were non-existent” (Genesis Camels: Bible Error? by Jake Herbert).

This story is greatly over-blown.  Why?  It seems that some are searching for a reason to reject the Bible.  Is this the best objection with which they can come?

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