The Lord’s Prayer

The context: Death was near.  Jesus knew it.  He, with concern for His disciples, prayed.

Let us observe for whom and what He prayed.

1.  Himself (John 17:1-5)

“Father, the hour has come” (John 17:1a).  The reference is to the time for His death (John 7:30; 8:20; 12:23-24; 12:27 cf. 17:1a).

“Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You” (John 17:1b).  He prays for Himself.  There is nothing wrong with praying for self (Matthew 6:11; 6:12-13a; John 17:1; Luke 22:46; 1 Peter 5:6-7).

However, His prayer for self was not entirely selfish.  He desired to be glorified, so that He could be used to glorify the Father.  Prayer should not be purely selfish (James 4:3).

Consider the following prayers: (a) David prayed, “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous spirit.  Then, I will teach transgressors Your ways and sinners shall be converted to You” (Psalm 51:12-13).  (B) Solomon asked, “I am a little child. I do not know how to come out or come in… Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:7-9).  (c) Hezekiah prayed, “O LORD our God, I pray, save us from his (Sennacherib`s) hand, that all the kingdoms of earth my know that You are the LORD God, You alone” (2 Kings 19:19).  (d) The early church prayed, “Now Lord, look on their(The Sanhedrin`s)  threats, and grand to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word” (Acts 4:29).  Paul requested that the church at Ephesus pray for him so that he might “boldly… make known the mystery of the Gospel” (Ephesians 6:19).  (e) He asked the Colossians to pray “that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3).  (f) He prayed to be able to see the brethren at Thessalonica so that he could “perfect what is lacking” in their faith (1 Thessalonians 3:10).  (g) He wanted to visit Rome to help them be “established” (Romans 1:11).  Are you noticing a pattern?  Pray for self?  Yes.  Pray selfishly?  Never!

Suggestions: Instead of praying “Father restore my health” with the thought so that I can spend my time pursuing my own pleasure, it would be better to pray “Father restore my health so that I may be of greater service to You.” Instead of praying “Father bless my business” with the thought so that I may be a wealthy man, it would be better to pray “Father bless my business so that I may have greater ability to support Your work.”

2.  His disciples (John 17:6-19)

He prayed for their unity.  “I pray for them… that they may be one as we are” (John 17:9a, 11).  How much were they to be one?  The model is found in the unity of the Father and the Son.  Wrap your head around that!  Unity is important.  Jesus said, “I am glorified in them” (John 17:10).  Whatever we do is to be to His glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).  This includes our unity.  “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

He prayed for their sanctification.  “I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one… sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:15, 17).  He did not want His disciples to be monks living recluse from the world.  His disciples were to be the salt and the light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16).  In order to be a good example to the world, they needed to live it (1 Peter 2:12).  They needed to be sanctified, set apart by the truth, living in the world but not of the world (John 17:15-19).

He prayed that they may know His joy.  “These things I speak… that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves” (John 17:13).  Concerning Jesus, we are told, “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

It is good to pray for others.   Consider Paul’s prayers: (a) “I pray to God that you do not evil… that you do what is honorable” (2 Corinthians 13:7).  “I pray, that your love may abound still more and more…” (Philippians 1:9).  “We… do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding…” (Colossians 1:9).

3. Future believers (John 17:20-26)

He prayed for their unity. ” I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they may be one, as You Father, are in Me and I in You; that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:20-21). This is the second time unity is mentioned in this prayer. A lack of unity leads to unbelief. It becomes an excuse for not being a Christian, not a legitimate excuse, but an excuse none-the-less. Paul also was concerned about unity. He wrote “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no division among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).  Again he wrote, “let us walk by the same rule, let us be of the same mind” (Philippians 3:16).  If we are serious about leading the world to Christ, then we must be serious about Biblical unity.

He wanted them one day to be in heaven.  “Father I desire that they whom You gave to Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me” (John 17:24).  The Father gives souls to Jesus through the New Testament message (John 6:37 cf. 6:44-45).  Jesus wanted these souls one day to be with Him.  Jesus earlier told the disciples, “I go and prepare a place for you… that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3).  However, this prayer includes others who would be taught by the disciples, and come to believe (John 17:20, 24).  It will only be possible to be with Him in glory by being glorified (1 John 3:2 cf. Philippians 3:20-21).

It is appropriate for us to be concerned about others, and pray for them, even for potential future believers.  We should pray, for example, for opportunity to study with others (Colossians 4:3).  We can pray that they come to know Christian joy (John 17:13); that they be kept from the evil one (John 17:13), sanctified (John 17:17), and unified (John 17:11, 21) to the glory of the God (John 17:1).

May we learn to pray like Jesus. Let us be a people of prayer.

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The Four Chambered Heart (Is Thy Heart Right With God?)

The physical heart is composed of four chambers.  (1) The right ventricle (lower, right chamber) pumps deoxygenated blood into the lungs where it picks up oxygen and gets rid of carbon dioxide.  (2) The left atrium (upper, left chamber) receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it into the next chamber.  (3) The left ventricle (lower left chamber) pumps oxygenated blood through the body.  (4) The right atrium (upper right chamber) receives the deoxygenated blood and pumps it to the right ventricle where the process starts all over.  A septum (wall) keeps the oxygenated blood (left side) from mixing with the deoxygenated blood (right side); valves in the system keep the blood flowing in the proper direction.  All of this points to intelligent design.

Spiritual Heart

Like the physical heart, the spiritual heart has four chambers.  It’s time for a heart exam.  Are all four chambers of your spiritual heart pumping and healthy?

1.  The Intellect

It has been said that the spiritual heart is, “The thinker in the head, not the thumper in the chest.”  The spiritual heart: (a) thinks (Genesis 6:5; Esther 6:6; Job 17:11; Psalm 139:23; Acts 8:22; Hebrews 4:12); (b) meditates (Psalm 19:14); (c) understands (1 Kings 3:9; Proverbs 2:1-6; 15:14; (d) believes (Mark 11:23; 16:14; Luke 8:14; 24:25; Acts 8:36-37; Romans 10:9-10).

How’s this first chamber?  Where are your intellectual thoughts?  Do you meditate on God’s Word (Psalm 119:11, 97, 99b)?  Do you think on wickedness (Proverbs 6:18; Matthew 5:28)?  God wants your mind (Mark 12:30).  He cares about your heart (1 Samuel 16:7).

“Purer in heart, O God, help me to be…”

2.  Conscience

The Spiritual heart can be “pricked” (KJV) or “cut” (NKJV).  This is what happened on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:37).  If men are going to be saved, their hearts must be soft enough to care about right and wrong (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:10).

It is sad that many do not even blush at sin (Jeremiah 6:15; 8:12).  They are past feeling (Ephesians 4:19).  They have hardened their hearts (Proverbs 28:14; Hebrews 3:8, 15; 4:7).  They have seared their consciences (1 Timothy 4:2).

How is this second chamber? How is your conscience?  Does sin still vex your soul?  Does it bother you at all?

“Give me the heart of a servant.  Tender and faithful and true.  Fill me with love, so that the world may see you.”

3. The Will

The Spiritual Heart: (a) purposes (Daniel 1:8; Acts 11:23; 2 Corinthians 9:7); (b) has intentions (Hebrews 4:12-13) and (c) obeys (Romans 6:17). External actions originated in the heart (Proverbs 4:23; Jeremiah 11:8; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 6:17).

Let’s grant that you intellectually understand God’s will, and even believe it in the first chamber. Let`s also grant that your conscience is tender enough to be bothered by sin in the second chamber. What about this third chamber? Do you have the will to do His will?

“Have thine affections been nailed to the cross? Is thy heart right with God?”

4.  Emotion.

The spiritual heart has emotions.  The Bible speaks of the heart having: (a) anguish (2 Corinthians 2:4); (b) desire (Romans 10:1); (c) love for others (Colossians 2:21; 1 Peter 1:22); (d) love for God [(Matthew 22:36; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27); heart = emotions (feelings); soul=being (life's existence); mind = intellect (brain); strength = energy (effort, muscle)].

How is this fourth chamber? Are you emotionally connected with God?  Do you truly love Him with all your being?

“As the deer pants for the water so my soul long after You.  You alone are my heart’s desire and I long to worship You.”

Conclusion

So, how’s your heart?  Are you pumping in all four chambers?  “Is thy heart right with God?”

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Life in Blood

“The life of the flesh is in the blood” (Lev. 17:11). How true this is! Man could not live without it. Blood performs many functions for man: (1) oxygenates cells; (2) removes carbon dioxide and other waste from cells; (3) transports nutrients to cells; (4) transports hormones; (5) transports and regulates heat; (6) provides defense against disease; (7) clots, preventing minor cuts from resulting in total bleed-out.

            Human blood provides strong evidence for creation and intelligent design. Let’s notice…

 Oxygen/Carbon Dioxide

The circulatory system is pumped by the heart.  The heart is composed of four chambers.  (1) The right ventricle (lower right chamber) pumps deoxygenated blood into the lungs where it picks up oxygen and gets rid of carbon dioxide.  (2) The left atrium (upper left chamber) receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it into the next chamber.  (3) The left ventricle (lower left chamber) pumps oxygenated blood through the body.  (4) The right atrium (upper right chamber) receives the deoxygenated blood and pumps it into the right ventricle where the process starts all over.  A septum (wall) keeps the oxygenated blood (left side) from mixing with deoxygenated blood (right side).  Valves in the system keep the blood flowing in the proper direction.  How could such a system have evolved?  “Evolutionists have a difficult time explaining how the heart could have evolved to serve as a blood ‘pump’ since the heart itself requires oxygenated blood” (Brad Harrub, The Truth About Human Origin, p. 455).

The exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide occurs in the lungs.  “Alveoli are grape like bunches of very small air sacs.  Each person has approximately 750 million of these.  All of them together likely have a surface area which is about 25 times that of skin.  Spread out flat, they would cover as much as 600 square feet.   Compare a room of about 30 by 20 feet.  Each alveolus is covered with a network of capillaries.  These capillaries are so small that red blood cells must pass through them one cell at a time, through the very thin walls of the capillary.  The blood gives up its waste, that is carbon dioxide, and takes on refreshing life-giving oxygen.  Now note carefully that without this exchange, this interchange, of carbon dioxide and oxygen no human being could live more that a few moments.  The body’s entire blood supply must pass through these small blood vessels every few minutes.  The blood goes in one end a dark blue-black and out the other a bright cherry red, day and night this process must go on without interruption… Now we all know that one cannot live if that interchange stops longer than five minutes, and yet every evolutionist would say that for such a complexity to develop it would require not only thousands but millions of years!” (The Warren-Flew Debate, p. 116-122).  Again, “the tension of oxygen is lower in the venous blood than in the alveolar air, but the venous blood has a higher tension of the carbon dioxide.  The pulmonary capillaries and the air in the alveoli are separated by membranes which are so delicate as to be freely permeable to these gases – that is oxygen and carbon dioxide.  The differences in the relevant pressures are favorable to a rapid inward diffusion of oxygen (from alveolar air to blood) and an outward diffusion of carbon dioxide (from blood to the alveolar air).  Now notice, you have got to get oxygen into your blood and it has got to go all over your body or you will die.  And you have to get the carbon dioxide out of your blood and out of the air you breathe or you will die.  And that has to occur within at most a five minute period” (ibid, p. 214-216). This cries out design.

Pre-birth/ Post-birth

Prior to birth, things function differently.  The unborn child does not breathe through the lungs, but the mother breathes for the child.  The mother’s bloodstream provides the aeration for the child’s blood.  Dr. Russell C. Artist explains, “until birth, the blood is diverted around the perfectly developed but not functioning lungs by a systems of bypasses… one of these is a small opening between the right auricle (part of the atrium) and the left auricle… it is called foramen ovale… The opening…the foramen ovale…is in embryonic life guarded by two flaps of tissue that permit the blood to flow through the opening.  At birth, and of course instantaneously, because of certain pressure relationships, the flaps are closed never to open again… eventually new tissue grows across the opening, and in the majority of people this shortcut is completely sealed off in adult life… The other bypass in the system of circulation before birth is a short and thick vessel, covered by a tough sheet of smooth muscle.  This unique blood vessel, the ductus arteriosus, is designed to carry the blood from the pulmonary directly across to the great aortic arch, thus eliminating the passage of blood through the lungs… Now we come to the muscle that contracts only once.  This short-circuit, which we call ductus arteriosus, is clamped shut at the moment of birth by a ring of strongly contracting muscle… This tiny muscle remains firmly contracted until the bypassed blood vessel has withered away and then, it too degenerates and disappears, after contracting only one time!  That it is absolutely essential for the two bypasses to function properly at the moment of birth… lies in the sobering fact that in the case of failure there are no second chances” (Dr. Russell C. Artist, “Fearfully and Wonderfully Made,” Gospel Advocate, January 23, 1969, quoted in Roy Deaver’s Commentary on the Book of Psalms, Vol. 2, p. 236-239).  This cries out design.

Clotting

“Run flat” tires are designed to provide a temporary seal to punctured tires. This enables the tire to continue to be used for a limited distance at reduced speeds.

The human blood system also has an ability to seal. “Blood clotting has to work within very narrow restrictions. When a cut occurs in an organism with a pressurized blood circulation system like ours, a clot must form quickly or the organism will bleed to death…When a cut occurs, the clot has to stop the bleeding all along the length of the cut, sealing it completely. But blood clotting must also be confined to the area of the cut or the entire blood system of the animal could solidify killing it” (Of Pandas and People: The Central Question of Biological Origins, pg. 141).

How does blood clot?

Many things must work correctly for beneficial blood clotting to occur. It takes a chain of events.

 1. About 2 to 3 percent of the protein in blood plasma consists of a protein called fibrinogen. Normally, fibrinogen is dissolved in the plasma like salt is dissolved in ocean water.

2. When a cut occurs, another protein, called thrombin, slices off several small pieces from two or three pairs of protein chairs in fibrinogen. The trimmed protein is now called fibrin. Fibrin has sticky patches exposed on its surface that had been covered by the pieces that were cut off. Fibrin proteins aggregate making a protein meshwork that entraps blood cells. This forms an initial clot.

3. Thrombin initially exists in an inactive form, prothrombin. Prothrombin must be activated into thrombin before it can trim fibrinogen into fibrin. Two other proteins, called stuart factor and proaccelerin, cut off a small portion of the prothrombin to make the active thrombin.

4. Prothrombin cannot be transformed into thrombin by the presence of the stuart factor and proaccelerin without being modified. Ten specific amino acids called Glu residues must be changed to Gla residues which allows prothrombin to bind the calcium and then stick to the inside, exposed surface of the injured cell. An additional component, Vitamin K, is necessary for this modification.

5. The stuart factor must be activated for it to play its role in transforming prothrombin into thrombin. This can occur in two ways. One pathway is called the intrinsic pathway. The other is called the extrinsic pathway. The intrinsic pathway begins with trauma to the blood vessel, exposing blood to collagen. The extrinsic pathway begins with trauma to vascular walls, or extravascular tissue by exposing the blood to tissue factor.

6. What prevents the blood from completely solidifying, shutting down circulation, and leading to death?

(a) A protein called thrombamodulin lines the surface of the cells on the inside of the blood vessels.   Thrombomodulin binds thrombin, making it less able to cut fibrinogen.

 (b) Protein C is activated by thrombin. It is an anticoagulant.

(c) A protein called antithrombin binds to the active (but not the inactive) forms of most clotting proteins  and inactivates them. Antithrombin is itself relatively inactive unless it binds to a substance called heparin.   Heparin occurs inside cells and undamaged blood vessels.

7. Proteins are also involved in clot removal. They are activated at the proper time by biochemical signal.

[ Info from: (1) Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box, Chapter 4; (2) Of Pandas and People, Chapter 6 ]

“Why is the blood clotting system an example of intelligent design? The ordering of independent pieces into a coherent whole to accomplish a purpose which is beyond any single component of the system is characteristic of intelligence… It is like a car engine… which fails to work if the fan belt is missing, or the distributor cap, or the spark plug… When the system is lacking just one of the components… severe health problems often result. Only when all the components of the system are present and in good order does the system function properly” (Pandas and People). The cries out design.

Blood Shape

“In humans, red blood cells are anucleated (i.e. they are devoid of nuclei)…All cells require a nucleus for reproduction and maturation even red blood cells have a nucleus during their very early stages of development…As the red blood cell matures and is ready to leave the bone marrow, it expels its nucleus… in humans, the smallest blood vessels (capillaries) often are so narrow that a nucleated red blood cell would have a difficult time passing through them… However, without the nucleus present, the red blood cell is flexible, and is able to fold over on itself. The anucleated red blood cell`s shape… can best accomplish this feat” (Brad Harrub, The Truth About Human Origin, p. 455). How could such be accomplished by blind chance? This cries out design.

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The Model Prayer

Jesus set forth a model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13).  It is brief, consisting of a mere sixty-six words in the New King James Version.  Yet,  it is rich.  Note: Great prayers do not have to be long prayers.

Let’s notice:

1.  “Our Father in heaven”

We are to pray as children of God.  He cares for us.  “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent?  If you then being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him?” (Matthew 7:9-11).

2.  “Our Father in heaven”

He did not say, “My Father,” but “Our Father.”  Physically God is the Father of all.  Spiritually He has a family (Galatians 3:26-28; Ephesians 2:19 cf. 4:4-6).  We are to pray as part of a family.  We are to be mindful of others (cf. Romans 1:8-9; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:15-16; Philippians 1:3-4; Colossians 1:3-4; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4-5; 3 John 2).  We should also remember that one cannot be successful in his prayer life and mistreat others (1 Peter 3:7; Matthew 5:23-24).

3.  “Hallowed by Your name”

The term “hallowed” means “to render or acknowledge to be venerable” (Thayer).  God is to be approached with respect.  Think of how God is approached in the prayers of the Bible: “Blessed are You, LORD God of Israel, Our Father, forever and ever.  Yours, O LORD, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty for all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours” (1 Chronicles 29:10-11); “LORD God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or on earth like You” (2 Chronicles 6:14); “O LORD My God, You are very great: You are clothed with honor and majesty who cover with light as with a garment, who stretch out the heavens like a curtain” (Psalm 104:1-2); “O LORD God of Israel, the one who dwells between Cherubim, You are God, You alone… You have made heaven and earth” (2 Kings 19:15); “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm.  There is nothing too hard for You” (Jeremiah 32:17); “Lord, You are God, Who made heaven and earth and sea, and all that is in them” (Acts 4:24).

4.  “Your Kingdom come.  Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The Kingdom, as used here, refers to the church (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 9:1 cf. Acts 1:8 cf. Acts 2:4 cf. Colossians 1:13; Revelation 1:6, 9).  We should not pray for the kingdom to come; it has come.  However, we still should be mindful of the kingdom in our prayers.  We should pray for its increase.  We should pray for its well-being.  We should pray for its holiness.  Moreover, we should ever pray for His will to be done (cf. Matthew 26:39).

5.  “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Some think this refers to spiritual bread (cf. Matthew 4:4; Job 23:12); However, hermeneutics rules teach that “All words are to be understood in their literal sense, unless the evident meaning of the context forbids” (Dungan, Hermeneutics, p. 10).  It is absolutely proper to pray for physical things (1 Samuel 1:10-ff; 2 Kings 20:1-ff; James 5:13-15; 5:17-18; 3 John 2).  We should pray understanding how dependent we are on God (1 Timothy 4:4-5 cf. Acts 17:28; Colossians 1:17; James 1:17).  Caution: this should not be viewed as a way around work (2 Thessalonians 3:10).

6.  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.”

The term “debts” refers to sins (Luke 11:4).  It is proper to pray for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  We should understand that our forgiveness is conditional.  One of the conditions is that we too are to be willing to forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15; 18:15-35).  We should pray understanding how dependent we are on God for our forgiveness.

7.  “Do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”

A common Bible idiom is The Idiom of Permission which speak of God as doing something, when in reality he only allowed it.  God does not tempt us to sin (James 1:13).  However, He does allow us to live in a world in which we are tempted.  We should pray to God when facing temptations for His providential help (cf. Matthew 26:41).  Prayer is a part of our preparation for spiritual battle (Ephesians 6:13-20).

8.  “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.  Amen.”

The model prayer closes with more words of praise to the Father.  This model prayer was not provided to give us the words to pray. These exact words are not repeated in any of the recorded prayers in the New Testament. However, this model prayer does provided us with thought about appropriate content for prayer. Notice the contents of this model prayer: two parts exaltation of God (Matthew 6:9, 13b); three parts spiritual petitions (Matthew 6:10, 12, 13a); one part physical petition (Matthew 6:11). Furthermore, It is simple. It is something we each should be able to do. May we be a people of prayer!

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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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