Why Be Thankful?

There are those who are unthankful to God or man.  This is true for a variety of reasons.  (1) Some are so focused on what they do not have, that they fail to appreciate and be grateful for what they do have. (2) Some recognize what they have, but believe that all was achieved by their own abilities and efforts.  They have, in their minds, no one to whom they should be thankful or express thanks.  (3) Some recognize what they have, but have a sense of entitlement.  When something is done for them they feel that they deserve it; they expect it; it was owed to them.  (4)  Some are so focused on the problems of life and the ills of society that they fail to appreciate and be grateful for the good that does exist. 

1.  God created us.  

No one can rightly say that all was achieved by his own abilities and efforts.  One would not exist without God. It is God who has given us life and whatever abilities we have. Consider the words of Psalm 100, “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves… Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:3-4).  Paul proclaimed, “He gives to all life, breath, and all things.” Notice the prepositions, “For of (ek) Him, through (dia) Him, and to (eis) Him are all things, to whom be the glory forever. Amen” (Romans 11:36).

[ Sidebar: Consider the prepositions in Romans 11:36 with the prepositions in another. Colossians 1:16 reads, For by (en) Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through (dia) Him and for (eis) Him.” The first verse refers to God, the LORD (Jehovah). The second verse refers to Jesus. This has implications, I believe, concerning the Godhead.]

2.  God sustains us.

He makes life possible on this earth, and provides for our needs.  “He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45).  He daily loads us with benefits (Psalm 68:19).  Our food is to be received with thanksgiving, and this thanksgiving is to be expressed in prayer (1 Timothy 4:4-5). 

3.  God is good.

The Bible affirms this, repetitively.  “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.  Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.   For the LORD is good; and His truth endures to all generations” (Psalm 100:4-5).  Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good!  His mercy endures forever” (Psalm 106;1 cf. Psalm 107:1; 118:1; 1 Chronicles 16:34).  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of Lights” (James 1:17). 

His goodness to us goes beyond what one would expect.  No one should feel entitled.  “For scarcely for a righteous man will once die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8).  “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).  “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1-2 cf. Romans 8:17).

Furthermore, It is not only to God that we should be thankful.  When others do good to us, we should be grateful.  Consider: (1) A Samaritan leper returned to thank Jesus for healing him (Luke 17:15-16).  (2) Paul said of Priscilla and Aquilla “to whom not only I give thanks, but also the churches of the Gentiles” (Romans 16:3-4).  They had risk their necks for Paul.  We are told: “be thankful” (Colossians 3:12-15).

[Note: Many times Paul thanked God when brethren did what was right (e.g. Romans 1:8; 6:17; Philippians 1:3-5; 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3; 2:13-14; 3:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:3-4). Credit ultimately belongs to Him (cf. Philippians 2:13)]

4.  It is Good for Us

Having an attitude of gratitude is good for us.  (1) It is helpful in our relationships with others (Colossians 3:12-15). Christy Wright stated, “Thankfulness improves relationships. Everyone has a need to be appreciated – spouses, children, parents, friends, coworkers, even the strangers we meet in passing (Christy Wright, 10 Reasons I’m Thankful for Thankfulness, November 11, 2016, daveramsey.com). Remember, the Golden Rule, Matthew 7:12.

(2) It is helpful to our mental wellness. Ungrateful people are often miserable.  Ahab became so focused on what he did not possess (Naboth’s vineyard) that his spirit became sullen (1 Kings 21:1-6).  Jonah became angry with God when the plant shading him withered (Jonah 4:6-11).  He seems to have felt entitled (cf. Paul’s attitude Philippians 4:11-12 and Job’s attitude Job 1:21-22). 

Dennis Prager offers this bit of wisdom.  “You can’t be a happy person if you aren’t grateful, and you can’t be a good person if you aren’t grateful… Here is a rule of life: ingratitude guarantees unhappiness… Here are two rules of life.  Rule number one: The less you feel entitled to, the more gratitude you will feel for whatever you get and the happier you will be.  Rule number two: The more you feel entitled to, the less happy you will be… The more that you feel that life or society owes you, the angrier you will get, the less happy you will be… If I were granted one wish, it would be that all people be grateful.  Gratitude is the source of happiness, and the source of goodness; and the more good people and the more happy people there are walking around, the happier and better our world will be” (Dennis Prager, The Key to Unhappiness, prageru.com).   

(3) It may be beneficial to our physical health. Christy Wright stated, “When we stop focusing on what we do not have, and begin focusing on what we do have, our shoulders relax and we invite peace, patience, and health into our lives” (daveramsey.com).

(4) It definitely is needful for our spiritual well being. We are to be a thankful people. “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18). “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).

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Without

There are things that man must have for physical survival.  He cannot survive very long without them.  “How long can we survive without the basics?  Every person and situation is different, though the ‘rule of threes’ gets at the desperate nature of what our bodies need: three minutes without oxygen, three days without water, three weeks without food” (Here’s the longest people have survived without air, food, water, sunshine, or sleep by Sean Kane, June 9, 2016, businessinsider.com).  The current records for holding breath is 11 minutes and 35 seconds.  Allow a breath of pure oxygen before the holding of breath, the record is 22 minutes and 22 seconds.  The record without water is 18 days.  The longest hunger strike without food is 74 days (ibid).  There are things that are necessary, things we cannot do without.

This is also true in the spiritual realm.  The book of Hebrews sets forth three things that we cannot do without.  Let’s notice…

1.  “And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22).

Nearly all purification under the Law of Moses required blood [Priests and Tabernacle (Leviticus 8); Women following childbirth (Leviticus 12); Leper on recovery (Leviticus 14); Leprous house follow plague (Leviticus 14)].  There were exceptions (Leviticus 15). The Law of Moses required blood sacrifice for sin (e.g. Leviticus 4:3, 13, 22, 27; 5:5-7, 11, 15, 17-19; 6:1-7).  The very poor were allowed to make a grain substitute in a sin offering (Leviticus 5:11-13). Was this an exception to the rule?  Some do not believe that it was.  Robert Milligan comments, “But that even in this case, the sin of the poor man was not forgiven without the shedding of blood, seems evident from what follows in the next verse of the same chapter, where it said, ‘And the priest shall make an atonement for him…’  This atonement, it seems could not be make without blood; for God says (Leviticus 17:11), ‘… It is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul.’  …in the Talmud it is said, ‘There is not atonement except in blood’ (Yuma 5).  It is most likely therefore that in this case, the Priest was required to make an atonement for the sin of the poor man, at the public expense” (Milligan, Hebrews, p. 334).

Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for man’s sins.  He made a better sacrifice (Hebrews 9:23; note: sacrifices is in the plural in this verse.  Robert Milligan explains, “The plural is put for the singular by synecdoche, because of the plurality of the Levitical sacrifices” p. 335).  It was a once for all sacrifice (Hebrews 7:27; 9:24-28; 10:10, 12, 14). 

The blood of Christ is something we cannot do without.  If the sinner could be made righteous by law-keeping, then “Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21 cf. Philippians 3:9).  “Without Him I could be dying \ Without Him I’d be enslaved \ Without Him life would be hopeless \ But with Jesus, Thank God I’m saved!” (Song: Without Him). 

2.  “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

God has supplied grace to man.  This grace is connected with the death of Christ.  Paul wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law (lit. law), then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).

Man must supply faith.  We are to: (1) believe that He is, and (2) that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).  This second point concerns a few things.  (a) It concerns trust.  We should trust in Him and in His promises (Hebrews 11:6 cf. 11:7; Psalm 9:10; 34:8-10).  (b) It concerns desire, focus, and ambition (cf. Psalm 63:1, 105:3-4; 1 Chronicles 16:11; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Jeremiah 29:13; Amos 5:4; Colossians 3:1-2; Matthew 6:33).  (c) It concerns actions (Hebrews 11:6 cf. 11:7; Psalm 119:2, 45; Isaiah 55:6-7).

Noah is mentioned as an example of the kind of faith needed (Hebrews 11:7).  Noah believed God enough to do what He said was necessary for salvation. 

Abraham is another example (Hebrews 11:8-ff).  He was willing to follow God wherever He led him.  He lived his life trusting in the promises of God.  He desired that heavenly country (Hebrews 11:9-10, 16).

Moses is yet another example (Hebrews 11:23-ff).  He chose rather to endure affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasure of sin (Heb. 11:25).  He “Looked to the reward” (Hebrews 11:26). 

3.  “Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Man’s faith should be more than a mere mental assent.  It should affect one’s pursuits in life [The word translated “pursue” (NKJV) or “follow” (KJV) means “run after, pursue… fig. pursue, strive for, seek after, aspire to something” (BAGD)].  It should affect seek to live in relationship with man and God.

We are to seek to live at peace with our fellow man.  Paul instructed, “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12;18).   If peace does not exist, it should not be because we did not desire such, or seek such.  Furthermore, be exhorted, “Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19 cf. 15:2).  Our actions should be considerate of others.  We should desire to build others up in the Lord.

We should seek to live a holy life before God and man.  [The word translated “holiness” signified (a) separation to God… (b) the resultant state, the conduct befitting those so separated” (Vine’s)].  Paul wrote, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor… For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4, 7).  God cares how we live.  If we want to see Him we should conscientiously pursue the lifestyle that He would have us live.  This is not sinless perfection, but a lifestyle of following His will (1 John 1:7).

These three things we cannot do without.  We cannot do without the blood of Christ.  We cannot do without faith in God and His word.  We cannot do without a lifestyle of pursuing His will.

          

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Feelings and Salvation

Let me tell you of a conversation that I once had.  I was eating with two others.  One was a member of the church.  The other was probably not.  He was questioning his baptism.  Had he been baptized for the right reasons?  Did he understand what he should have understood before baptism?  He asked me if he should be re-baptized.  Instead of giving him a “yes” or “no”, I asked him to have a Bible study with me.  I wanted him to come to his own conclusions based on scripture.  Then, he said, “I just want to feel again like I did on that day, long ago, when I was baptized.”  The church member chimed in, “You will!  God will give you that feeling again.”  I cringed.    There are a couple of things wrong with the church member’s reply.  First, if feelings are given by God when one is properly baptized, and are evidence of a relationship of fellowship with God, then the man did not need to be re-baptized.  He may have needed to confess his sins to God and to return to walking in the light (1 John 1:7-9; Acts 8:22).  However, he would not need to be re-baptized, according to the Scriptures, if he had been properly baptized.  Second, feelings can be very deceptive.  Consider: (a) The heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9).  (b) The book of Proverbs warns, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).  (c) Naaman’s thoughts were not in line with Elisha’s instructions (2 Kings 5:9-14).  (d) Saul thought that he was serving God when he persecuted the church (Acts 22:1-5 cf. 26:9-11).  (e) Imagine the feelings of one who thinks that his loved one was on a plane that crashed, which left no survivors.  Now, imagine that this same one later learns that his loved one was not on that plane, but had taken a different flight.  Feelings are not always based on reality.                                         

Do not misunderstand.  Feelings are not necessarily bad.  At times, they are appropriate.  Consider: (1) Jesus speaks of joy in finding hidden treasure (Matthew 13:44).  (2) Jesus speaks of there being joy in heaven over one sinner who repents (Luke 15:7, 10).  (3) The Ethiopian eunuch was baptized and “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:39).  (4) The Philippian jailer was baptized, and we are told that he “rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household” (Acts 16:34).  (5) If one is in a right relationship with God, then, even when persecuted, one can rejoice and be exceeding glad for his reward in heaven (Matthew 5:12 cf. Hebrews 12:2).

Here are how things should be approached.  Feeling should follow facts.  Facts are not determined by feelings.  Faith should be based on God’s word (Romans 10:17; Luke 8:11-12; John 5:45-47; 17:20; 20:30-31; Acts 17:11-12; 18:8; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Thessalonians 1:10).  Faith should not be based on feelings.

Consider this poem:

THE WORD OF GOD

“For feelings come and feelings go,

And feelings are deceiving;

My warrant is the word of God

Nought else is worth believing.

I’ll trust in God’s unchanging word

Till soul and body sever;

For, though all things shall pass away,

His word shall stand forever.

           

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“And Rejoice in Hope” (Romans 5:2; 12:12)

What is hope?  Biblical hope is more than a mere wish or desire.  It is “favorable and confident expectation” (Vine’s).  Our hope is based on Jehovah God (Psalm 31:24; 39:7; 71:5; 1 Peter 1:21), God’s word (Psalm 119:49-50, 81-82, 114; 130:5; Romans 15:4; Titus 1:2), and Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 1:1; Titus 2:11-13; Hebrews 6:19-20; 1 Peter 1:3, 15).  Think of the words of the song we sing, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness” (Song: My Hope is Built on Nothing Less by Robert Crichley). 

How important is it to have hope?  The Bible compares it to a Roman soldier’s helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8 cf. Ephesians 6:17).  Hope helps us keep our heads and stay alive in spiritual warfare.  The Bible also compares it to an anchor (Hebrews 6:19).  It keeps us from drifting away from where we should be (cf. Hebrews 2:1; 3:6; 3:14; 4:14; 6:19-20; 13:9 – nautical references are found throughout the book of Hebrews).  “We have an anchor that keeps the soul / Steadfast and sure while the billows roll / Fastened to the rock which cannot move / Grounded frim and deep in the Savior’s love” (Song: We Have An Anchor by Priscilla J. Owens).  Hope is essential to salvation and perseverance (Romans 8:24-25). 

Consider what some have said of hope.  “There is no medicine like hope, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something better tomorrow” (Orison Marden).  “A man can go on without wealth, and even without purpose for a while.  But he will not go on without hope” (C. Neil Strait).  “Man can live about forty days without food, about three days without water, about eight minutes without air, but only for one second without hope” (unknown).      

Hope provides courage and joy even in difficult circumstances.  Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before Him” (Hebrews 12:2).  The apostles were able to rejoice when persecuted (Acts 5:42). Paul and Silas prayed and sang hymns to God even after being beaten and jailed with their feet in stocks (Acts 16:22-25).  Paul wrote, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

This optimistic outlook is taught in scripture.  Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  Paul wrote, while in prison, “Rejoice in the Lord always.  Again, I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).  Let us remember that despite the hardships we may experience in this life, “We are more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).  We can “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is (our) reward in heaven” (Matthew 5:12).

Why Can We Rejoice in Hope?

1.  God is trustworthy (Titus 1:1-2; Hebrews 6:19-20).

2.  No external force can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:31-39; Matthew 5:11-12; 10:28).

3.  God is in control (Daniel 4:17) and He can use even evil to accomplish good (Genesis 50:20).

4.  When properly approached even the unpleasant trials of life can be used for spiritual growth (Romans 5:2-3; James 1:2-4).

5.  The things we endure in this life are light and momentary and not comparable to our eternal weight of glory (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18)  

Application to Our Day

These are trying times in our nation and around the world.  First, there is a pandemic.  Second, there has been a shut down by many governments of the world in response to this pandemic.  This has created economic hardship and uncertainty for many.  It has also resulted in families not being able to see one another (e.g. hospital visits being restricted or forbidden).  Third, there is social and racial unrest in our nation.  Cities are burning.  Police, in some large cities, are being defunded.  Fourth, this is a Presidential election year.  People seems more polarized than ever.  Neighbors and family, in some cases, are alienated by politics.      Here are somethings to remember.  (1) There is no reason for a Christian to be fearful of death (Matthew 10:28).  A Christian has hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  Do not misunderstand me, I am not suggesting that one should not be cautious.  However, we are all going to die someday, whether it be from Coronavirus or something else (Hebrews 9:27), unless we are alive at Christ’s return (1 Corinthians 15:51; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).  Let us “work the works of Him… while it is day” (John 9:4).  “Let us not grow weary in doing good for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9 cf. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  Moreover, let us remember that “to depart and be with Christ… is for better” (Philippians 1:23). 

(2) There is no reason for a Christian to be fearful of a political election.  Do not misunderstand me; I do believe that elections have consequences.  I also believe that Christian light should not be hidden under a basket but should shine in this world (Matthew 5:14-16).  However, one can be a faithful Christian even in less than ideal circumstances.  The church was established and grew even during the day, of corrupt and evil Roman rules.  Our aim should be to magnify Christ in this life regardless of what men do (Philippians 1:20).  Our ultimate hope is not in political candidates but in Christ.  Our highest ambition is not to make America great, but to magnify Christ on earth.  This is a faithful saying: For if we die with Him, we shall also live with Him.  If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He will also deny us.  If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:11-13).  Additionally, let us remember that God is ultimately in control.  His will shall be done.  The Most High rules in the kingdom of man (Daniel 4:17; Acts 17:26).

                                     

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“They Were Good People”

I was in a conversation with a Christian, a member of the body of Christ.  The conversation turned to God’s plan of salvation.  The man said, “I do not believe that my grandparents will be lost.  They were good people.”  Note: I did not bring up his grandparents.  He did.  However, I believe that his words revealed a flaw in his thinking.

Is a person’s goodness the basis or the means of salvation?  (1) Humanity has a sin problem.  “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  “The wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).  (2) Salvation is by God’s grace.  It is a gift of God.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8).  (3) Man does not merit salvation by his own good work.  “It is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Our salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy…” (Titus 3:5).  Paul wrote, “I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law (lit. law – B.H.) then Christ died in vain” (Galatians 2:21).  Again, he wrote, “not having my own righteousness, which is from the law (lit. law – B.H.), but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

God has located grace “in Christ” for man living today.  Grace is found in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 2:1).  Eternal life is found in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:23; 1 John 5:11).  Every spiritual blessing, redemption, and inheritance is found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3, 7, 11).  One gets into Christ by baptism (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:26-28).  Consider Tom Wacaster’s comments on Romans 6:3, “There is a change of state, locale, or position that has taken place… If it is the case that one is baptized into Christ Jesus, what can be said of that person who has never been baptized?  Is he actually “IN” Christ…?” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Romans, p. 226). 

It is man’s responsibility to access this grace by faith, trusting in God’s plan for righteousness.  “We have access by faith (lit. the faith – B.H.) into this grace” (Romans 5:1).  “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8).  “Therefore it is of faith that it might be according to grace” (Romans 4:16).  Tom Wacaster comments on this verse, “Had justification been based upon man’s success in keeping some law system then it could have in no way be ‘according to grace.’  In addition, if God has placed justification in the realm of law, no man could ever hope to be saved since no man has been able to keep any law (perfectly –B.H.) under which he lived.  This inability to keep the law properly drives one to find refuge in that system wherein justification is granted by grace” (Tom Wacaster, Studies in Romans, p. 167). 

Theoretically, there are two ways by which a man may be justified.  (1) He may perfectly, flawlessly keep the standards of God (law), and thereby be regarded as justified.  He would need no grace (Romans 4:4).  However, there has only been one such perfect man (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22).  This is not how we are justified.  “Therefore by the deeds of the law (lit. law – B.H.) no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law (lit. law – B.H.) is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).  Neither Abraham (under Patriarchal law), nor David (under Mosaic law) were justified by flawless law keeping (Romans 4:1-8).  (2) He may be justified by faith.  That is, he may be saved by accepting God’s gracious plan for man’s justification.

This requires humility.  One must be humble enough to admit that he is in need of salvation, and a Savior.  Moreover, one must be humble enough to submit to God’s conditions for the grace that is offered.  Naaman had to dip seven times in the Jordan to be cured of leprosy (2 Kings 5:10-14).  A blind man had to wash in the pool of Siloam to receive sight (John 9:1-7).  Today, man needs to accept God’s instructions for the remission of sins (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:37-38), and continued fellowship with Him (1 John 1:7-10; Acts 8:22). 

Man will not be saved by his own goodness.  Any who are saved will be saved by the grace of God. 

God has offered His grace on conditions set forth in His word.  Let all humbly accept His conditions for pardon.  Some believe that God may extend grace to some beyond this.  However, such is not revealed in His word, and goes beyond what is written.

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Impaled on a Torture Stake or Crucified on a Cross?

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not believe that Jesus was crucified on a cross.  They believe that it is more accurate to say that he was impaled on a torture stake.  (1) The New World Translation translates the noun (stauros) “torture stake.”  For example, Philippians 2:8 reads, “he humbled himself and became obedient as far as death, yes, death on a torture stake.”  (2) The New World Translation translates the verb (stauroo) “impale.” For example, Mark 15:20 reads, “And they led him out to impale him.”

Jehovah’s Witnesses sometimes use this difference to create doubt in a Bible student’s mind about things one thought that he knew.  If one is wrong on this point, what else could one be wrong about?

On what instrument was Jesus executed?  Let’s examine the Biblical words.  (1) Jesus died on a “xulon” (Acts 5:30; 10:39; 13:29; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 2:24).  This is commonly translated “tree.”  The NWT translated it “stake.”  Here are some definitions: “1. Wood… that which is made of wood… 2. A tree” (Thayer); “Wood, a piece of wood, anything made of wood” (Vine’s).  “1. Wood… 2. Object made of wood” (BAG).  (2) Jesus died on a “stauros” (Matt. 27:32, 40, 42; Mark 15:21, 30, 32; Luke 23:26; John 19:17, 19, 25, 31; 1 Cor. 1:17, 18; Gal. 6:14; Eph. 2:16; Phil. 2:8; Col. 1:20; 2:14; Heb. 12:2).  This is commonly translated “cross.” The NWT translated it “torture stake.”  Here are some definitions: “1… an upright stake… 2. A cross” (Thayer). It refers to “a stake sunk into the earth in an upright position; a cross-piece was often attached to its upper part” (BAG).  “1. An upright stake… 2. An instrument of torture for serious offenses.  It may be a vertical pointed stake, an upright with a crossbeam above it, or a post with an intersecting beam of equal length” (Kittle’s TDNT Abridged).  These definitions seem to allow for a cross beam.

However, Vine’s does not.  It says, “denotes, primarily, an upright pale or stake… Both the noun and the verb stauroo… are originally to be distinguished from the ecclesiastical form of a two beam cross.  The shape of the latter had its origin in ancient Chaldea, and was used as a symbol of the god Tammuz.”  This is sometimes cited by Jehovah’s Witnesses to not only deny the cross, but to associate it with idolatry.

What is the evidence for the traditional idea of a cross?  (1) certain ancient sources refer to the instruments of Jesus’ death being in the shape of the Greek letter tau.  These include: The epistle of Barnabas 9:8 cf. 12:22 (c. 150 – c. 215 A.D.), The Stromata book 6, chp. 11; Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 A.D.), Adversus Marcionem liber 3, chp. 22.  (2) Thomas wanted the see the print of the nails (plural) in Jesus’ hands (John 20:25).  This is consistent with the use of the cross.  However, it does not rule out a stake.  One nail could be used for hands stretched above the head attached to an upright stake, though multiple nails could be used.  (3) The charges are said to have been placed above Jesus’ head (Matthew 27:37).  It does not say that they were placed above his upwardly stretched hands.  The language is consistent with the use of a cross.  However, admittedly, this language does not rule out an upright pole or stake.

The word “impale” certainly sets forth a different image in my mind.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses admit that Jesus was impaled with nails.  Though, they do believe that it is possible that he was impaled on the stake itself (Watchtower, October 15, 1969, wol.jw.org).  There is no Biblical evidence for this.

This, in my opinion is much ado about nothing.  Christianity does not stake (pardon the pun) its faith in the shape of the instrument used.  The Bible does not describe the shape.

What is important?  “Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

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A Clean Trough (Life is Sometimes Messy)

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but much increase comes by the strength of an ox.” Proverbs 14:4.

If a farmer wants a clean barn, a barn from which he’ll never again have to shovel dung, all that he has to do is have no oxen, or other animals. He would cease having a mess, if his oxen were stolen, got lost, or died. He could avoid mess, if he never again purchased any oxen or other animals. However, think how much poorer a farmer would be without his oxen (especially in years past when such were used for work).  He would not have the oxen to pull the plow, turn the millstone, pull the cart or wagon, or even produce the dung that he uses to fertilize his plants.

Thoughts for families: If you were the only one in the house, no doubt all would be neat, and well arranged, just the way you want it.  If there were no children in the house, things would often be much easier.  However, think how much poorer your life would be in so many areas.  (No, I am not calling your children “oxen.”  Don’t press the illustration too far!!!). Thank God for children.

Thoughts for the church: If the church were composed of only mature Christians, no babes in Christ, many difficulties and challenges would be eliminated. Many things would be easier. However, we would be much poorer; it is true. Furthermore, if there were no young children in services, crying would not be heard, fingerprints on glass would not be seen.  Many messes would not exist. However, we would be much poorer. There would be little hope for the future of the local church. Life is sometimes messy, but not all messes and challenges are bad. Let’s be thankful for new converts, and children.

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The Little Maid (Young Israelite Girl Saves Syrian Commander)

She is called “a little maid” (KJV) or “a young girl” (NKJV).  She had been torn from her home, a young Israelite girl, taken captive by the Syrians.  She was placed in the service of Naaman’s wife (2 Kings 5:1-2).

Naaman was “Commander of the army of the King of Syria.  It was “by him the LORD had given victory to Syria.”  He is described as “a mighty man of valor, but a leper” (2 Kings 5:2).  [Note: Josephus identifies Naaman as the one who had killed Ahab, King of Israel, some years earlier (Antiquities 8:414 cf. 1 Kings 22:34)].

Imagine that you were in her position.  Would you be bitter?  Would you be filled with hatred?  Would you want revenge?  Would you be angry with God or lose faith in Him? [Note: God wasn’t to blame.  Israel’s defeat was due to the national sins (2 Kings 5:1 cf. 1 Kings 21:17-29; 22:51-53; 2 Kings 3:1-3)].

These things (bitterness, hatred, etc.) do not seem to have characterized her.  What we are told of her, we would do well to emulate.  Consider…

1.  She had no joy in her master’s disease, but she sought to help him (2 Kings 5:1-3).

We can learn from this.  We should not hate our enemies (Matthew 5:43-44).  We should not rejoice in our enemies calamity (Proverbs 24:16-18).

2.  She did not seek revenge, but was kind (2 Kings 5:1-3).

We can learn from this.  Her efforts helped change him.  We should seek to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

3.  She did not forget God (2 Kings 5:1-3).

She knew that there was a prophet in Israel, who could help.  She told Naaman of this (2 Kings 5:1-3).

Sometimes, when people are removed from family and friends, they also move away from God.  However, this young girl evidently remained a believer, and not only a believer, but she was even a proclaimer of a message of hope to others.

This may have provided a lesson from which later exiles could learn.  One writer said, “Despite her captivity, she is not bitter or unhelpful.  Rather, she shares what she knows about the Lord and the prophet out of concern for Naaman and her mistress and desire to see God’s glory magnified. In this way she acts like Daniel, Mordecai, Ezra, Nehemiah, and other exiles who care for the spiritual and physical well-being of their conquerors”(Paul House, 1&2 Kings, p.272 quoted by Michael Whitworth in How to Lose a Kingdom in 400 Years, p.278 in a footnote).

Here is some words of exhortation for us. Let us shine as lights in this world, wherever we may be, and in whatever situation we may find ourselves (Matthew 5:14-16). Let us not be overcome by evil, but seek to “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). Let us learn from this young Israelite girl.

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The Battle of Monongahela: God’s Providence?

The date was July 9th, 1755.  The war was the French and Indian War with the British.  Both Franklin and Washington had warned British General Braddock of a possible ambush.  Braddock, without concern marched his men in a line stretching four miles long on a narrow, twisting forest path, near modern day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  Braddock was skilled in open field, European style warfare, and not what was to occur that day in the woods of Pennsylvania.  To Braddock, to hide behind trees was cowardice.

A force of 72 French regulars, 146 Canadian militiamen, and 637 Indians (combined force of 855) ambushed the 1,300 English in the woods.  The battle was very one-sided: 714 British soldiers were killed or wounded, of the 86 British officers 63 were killed or wounded – Braddock himself was mortally wounded; The French side lost about 30 men and three officers.

Washington, at 23 years of age, was a part of this great battle.  His coat was ripped four times by musket balls.  Two horses were shot out from under him.  A gold seal which hung around his neck bearing his initials was shot off him (this was found some 80 years later).  Yet, Washington was unharmed.

Chief Red Hawk told of shooting eleven times at Washington without killing him.  At that point, because his gun never had such trouble hitting its mark, he ceased firing at him, convinced the “Great Spirit” protected him.  Washington met an Indian chief, 15 years after the battle, near what is now the border of Ohio and West Virginia.  He said, “Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss –t’was all in vain; a power mightier far than we shielded you.     Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased firing at you.”  Another Indian is said to have said, “Washington was never born to be killed by a bullet!  I had 17 fair fires at him with my rifle, and after all could not bring him to the ground!” (The Bulletproof George Washington by David Barton).

George Washington believed that he had been protected by the providence of God. He wrote to his brother John on July 18, 1755: “But by the All-powerful Dispensation of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although Death was leveling my companions on every side of me!” (encyclopediavirginia.org).

Due to the nature of providence there is not a way to say with 100% certainty that this was due to God’s providence.  (See Esther 4:14; Philemon 15).  However, we do know that God is ultimately in control (Acts 17:26). It is so even today.

Furthermore, we know that we are to be good citizens.  We are to obey the laws of the land (Matthew 17:24-27; 22:17-21; Romans 13:1-2; Titus 3:1; 1 Peter 2:13-14).  We are taught to pray for those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-2; cf. Jeremiah 29:7).

Clearly, this is a country with great prosperity and freedom.  In the scriptures, it is taught that we are to be good stewards of what we have (1 Corinthians 4:2; Matthew 25:14-ff; Luke 19:11-ff; Luke 12:48b).  No other people in the history of the world has been so free and prosperous.  How are we using our blessings? Are we using our freedom and prosperity to spread the Good News?

 No, I cannot say with 100% certainty that Colonel Washington was protected by God’s overpowering providence.  Though it does make one wonder.

Here are a few thought on life in this(or any country). These are some things that I know. I do know that God wants us to obey this nation’s laws (with but one exception Daniel 3; 6; Acts 4:18-20; 5:29).  I do know that we should pray for the leaders of this country, whomever they may be,  that we may live a quiet, peaceable life (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  I know that we are blessed to live here and with the great opportunities we have comes responsibilities. I do know that we are to live as lights in this world (Matthew 5:16). Furthermore, may we always remember that this world is not our home.

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Pharoah’s Offers of Compromise

Is compromise good or bad?  It depends on what is being compromised.  Compromise can be a good thing.  It may make the difference in whether or not a house sells, or a business transaction takes place.  It may make the difference in getting a piece of a pie, or none of the pie.  It can also be a very bad thing.  We should never compromise on what God says.

Moses and Aaron told Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let My people go, that they may hold a feast to Me in the wilderness” (Exodus 5:1).  At first, Pharaoh totally denied the request saying, “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).

In time, Pharaoh would witness the power of the LORD in the form of plagues upon Egypt.  Pharaoh would offer Moses and Aaron compromise offers.  However, they would have none of it.  Let’s notice –

1.  “Then Pharaoh called for Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Go, sacrifice to your God in the land’” (Exodus 8:25).

He is saying, in effect, “I will let you make your sacrifices to your God.  But, you do not have to leave this land to do so.”  He reasons, if they do not leave, then I can maintain some control of them.

Moses replies: (a) If we offer sacrifices here, then the Egyptians will want to stone us (Exodus 8:26).  There would be no peace in this land (See: Sacrificing The Abomination by B.H.).  (b) No, we will do what He told us to do.  “We will go three days’ journey into the wilderness and sacrifice to the LORD our God as He commanded us” (Exodus 8:27).

In application, some have accepted this compromise.  (a) Some try to serve God, without being a member of the church.  It will not work.  (b) Some worship God.  But, they do so as the world suggests that they should.  They compromise on the role of women in the church.  The compromise on LGBTQ issues, and what constitutes a God approved marriage. They let the world dictate the terms of acceptable Christianity. (c) Some worship God.  But, they never leave the world. There is peace between them and the world.  This is because their lives are not clearly distinguishable from the world (cf. John 15:19).

While we live in the world, we are not to be of it (John 17:16; Romans 12:1-2).  We are to be a separate people (2 Corinthians 7:14-18).

2.  “So Pharaoh said, I will let you go, that you may sacrifice to the LORD your God in the wilderness; only you shall not go very far away” (Exodus 8:28).

He is saying, in effect, “OK, I will let you leave the land to worship, but you do not need to go so far out of the land to do it.  Stay close to Egypt.”  He reasons, if he can keep them near, then he can get them back.

Moses replies: “Let Pharaoh not deal deceitfully anymore in not letting the people go to sacrifice to the LORD” (Exodus 8:29).  Moses does not directly respond to the “go not far away” offer.  He has already stated, “We will go three days journey into the wilderness” (Exodus 8:27).  He tells Pharaoh not to be deceitful.  Pharaoh had already broken his word (cf. Exodus 8:8, 15).  He was about to do so again (Exodus 8:28, 32).  Moses seems to sense that this is more deceitful talk.

In application, some have accepted this compromise.  (a) Some are willing to serve God.  But, they don’t go very far to do so.  James Burton Coffman comments, “Don’t be a fanatic.  Don’t go very far!  This is the motto of all lukewarm, indifferent Christians” (Coffman, Exodus, pp. 103-104).  (b) Some will attend if the church meets nearby. However, they will not go far to attend a sound church.  Moreover, they certainly would not think of organizing a church which belongs to Christ in their community if one does not exist.  (c) Some are willing to give, but not very much.  After all, there are the cares, and riches, and pleasures of life (Luke 8:14).  (d) Some are willing to attend on Sunday morning, but don’t ask them to do much more than this.   They don’t want to go very far. They do not want to teach. They do not want to promote the Gospel meeting. The do not want to attend Bible class, Sunday evening worship, mid-week Bible study, the Gospel meeting, or anything extra, just the minimum.   There is an old preachers’ joke.  A congregation was searching for a preacher.  They selected a man, telling him, “We like a little preaching, and you are as close to a little preaching as we were able to find.”

Full devotion is needed.  We are to be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).  We are to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).  We are to love the LORD with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27).

3.  “So Moses and Aaron were brought again to Pharaoh, and he said to them, ‘Go, serve the LORD your God. Who are the ones that are going?’” (Exodus 10:8).

It is not apparent to this point why Pharaoh asks this question.  Let’s read on.

Moses answers, “We will go with our young and our old; with our sons and our daughters, with our flocks and our herds we will go, for we must hold a feast to the LORD” (Exodus 10:9).

Pharaoh replies, “The LORD had better be with you, when I let your little ones go!  Beware for evil is ahead of you.  Not so!  Go now, you who are men, and serve the LORD for that is what you desired” (Exodus 10:10-11).

Pharaoh is saying in effect, “The men can go worship.  However, they cannot take their families.  I am warning you, if you leave with the children, then there will be trouble.” He knows that if he keeps the children in Egypt, then the fathers will return to Egypt.

In application, some have accepted this compromise.  (a) Some are willing to serve God alone.  They do not try to take others with them: family, friends, neighbors, fellow students or co-workers.  James Burton Coffman comments, “If you must be a Christian, do not attempt to take others with you.  Keep your religion to yourself!” (ibid). When it come to your children, do not “train up a child in the way he should go.”  Let him seek his own path, and direct his own steps.  (b) Some are willing to worship, and even attend Bible class, but are content to leave their children at home.  After all, they are only young once.  There are sports, and other extra-curricular activities.  There is school work to do.  There are birthday parties and sleep-overs.

However, the Bible teaches that we have a responsibility.  We are to bring our children up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).  The soul winner is wise (Proverbs 11:30; Daniel 12:3).  James wrote, “he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:20).

Church attendance can leave valuable lessons in the mind of our children.  A well-known Gospel preacher, Robert Taylor Jr., has written, “I heard great preaching as I grew up.  I am glad I got to attend area gospel meetings as a boy and that I was not placed with a baby sitter when our family went far and near to such.  I well remember the very first time I heard N.B. Hardeman.  It was at Trenton, Tennessee… I well remember the first time I heard Guy N. Woods preach.  His sermon was, ‘Where are the Dead?’  it was delivered at a meeting in Humbolt, Tennessee.  I still preach sermons from notes I took while yet a youngster” (Robert Taylor Jr., The Bible Doctrine of Christian Fellowship, p. 84).

4.  “Then, Pharaoh called to Moses, and said, “Go, serve the LORD; only let your flocks and your herds be kept back. Let your little ones also go with you” (Exodus 10:24).

He is saying, in effect, “OK, the children can go, but not your possessions.”  He knows that if they would agree to leave their material interests in Egypt, then they very likely would return.

Moses replies, “You must also give us sacrifices and burnt offerings, that we may sacrifice to the LORD our God.  Our livestock also shall go with us; not a hoof shall be left behind.  For we must take some of them to serve the LORD our God, and even we do not know with what we must serve the LORD until we arrive there” (Exodus 10:25-26).

In application, some have accepted this compromise.  (a) Some worship God, but do not surrender all to Him.  James Burton Coffman comments, “If you must be a Christian, go ahead; but don’t invest any money in it.  Use your wealth for yourself.  Of this class of Christians are these whose pocketbooks were never baptized!” (ibid). They live in expensive homes, drive expensive automobiles, have expensive toys, and take expensive vacations, but give little to support the Lord’s church. (b) Some compartmentalize their lives. Christianity is Christianity. Business is business. The two shall never meet.  I am a Christian on Sunday.  I am a business man (or woman) the rest of the week, and my Christianity does not affect how I do business.

A true Christian is a Christian always, not just on Sundays.  Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:27).  Christianity is to be lived on a daily basis (e.g. Hebrews 3:12-13; 2 Corinthians 11:28; Ephesians 5:1; James 2:15-16; 4:13-17).

What motivates us to give?  (a) Remember that all things belong to Him (cf. Psalms 24:1).  (b) Remember what Christ did for us (2 Corinthians 8:8-9). (c) The key to liberal giving is to first give ourselves to the Lord (cf. 2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

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