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The last two weeks were a wonderful experience for me and my son Andrew. We participated in a mission trip and youth camp in Ecuador. The people and the scenery were both beautiful and the experience is beneficial in so many ways.
First, We were thrilled to meet brothers and sisters in Christ from all over Ecuador and other Americans who joined us on the trip. Ecuador uses the same time zone we are in so the last two Sunday’s as we partook of the Lord’s Supper in Ecuador, we knew that our family in Parrish were participating in the same meal. One Sunday, in Tabacundo, I looked at my watch as we were drinking the fruit of the vine, and I noticed that we were within minutes of taking it at the same time our brothers and sisters at home. Somehow, that was an exciting realization to me.
Thinking about that common event, caused me to reflect more deeply on the efficacy of the blood of Christ and the unity of the church the world over. Every Sunday, the church gathers in multiple places as multiple cells of disciples and for a period of about 24 hours Christians the world over take a moment to reflect on the sacrifice God made in Christ for the sins of the world. Jesus said it best, “ . . . in remembrance of Me.” This coming Sunday morning as you partake of the bread and the cup, remember not only the sacrifice He made for you, but think about the universal nature of that sacrifice as well as your brothers and sisters the world over who are celebrating the same event.
The week of camp was full of games, Bible Studies, and worship. Sports included football (soccer), basketball, ecua-volley, Frisbee, some organized team events, a version of dodge-ball called “Gaga ball,” and a game I can only describe as a cross between rugby, American football, and doggie, doggie, who’s got the bone?! There were two Bible classes each day, each lasting two hours. There were two periods of singing, and an evening worship (chapel) each day. The young people were attentive, well-behaved, mostly responsible, and eager to learn.
The theme of the camp was “Entregate A Dios!” – Give Yourself to God! And beginning Wednesday and going through late Thursday night a number souls did just that. 17 young people obeyed the gospel by putting on the Lord, Jesus Christ in baptism for the remission of sins. That is why we wanted to be a part of this mission – to see the seed (the word of God) bearing fruit in the lives of these young people ages 13-20.
Recently, Brother Joe Spivy a minister and mentor near where I live shared a folder of article he wrote while undergoing medical treatments. He said I was free to use them. I thought this one was wonderful and it shows Joe’s servant heart and love for God.
A Good Work
by Joe Spivy
John 12:3 extols the good work of Mary, saying, “Mary took a pound of costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair.” She was criticized, as many good works are, but Christ said, “Let her alone, she has done a good work.” Even though her good work was criticized, there are some good thoughts that come from her actions.
It was a work of originality! As far as Bible history goes, this had not been done before. She dared to be different by anointing Him, as He said, “For my burial.” (Mat 26;12). How many good works have gone undone within the church simply because, “nobody ever did it that way before.”
It was a work of gratitude! Christ had raised Lazarus from the dead and blessed that family in other ways. This was her way of expressing her thanksgiving to the Lord. Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving in your heart, let your request be made to God.” (Phi 4:6). The psalmist said, “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.” (Psa 100:4). To God we must express our thankfulness, our gratitude.
It was a work of great expense! It could have sold for 300 pence (denarii) which is about 300 days of labor. Was it worth it? Christ said, “Assuredly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Mat 26:13). How often to ‘good works’ go undone because someone says, “it’s too expensive?”
It was a work of adequacy! In Mark 14:8 the Lord said, “She has done what she could.” Jehovah only requires what is in proportion to our ability. The parable of the talents in Matthew 25 teaches us to use our ability and capability. Paul said, “if there is first a wiling mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.’ (2Co 8:12). How adequate are our works? Will we be remembered for our good works, as was Mary?
Today I am participating in the funeral of a dear Christian lady. She was one of the first people to greet us when we first visited the Church in Parrish. Every time I am a part of a funeral or even simply attend a funeral I have mixed emotions.
As mortal beings, we do not think of death as a “blessed” event. On the contrary, we tend think of death as sad; as a breaking of relationships (family and friends); as a destroyer of hopes and dreams; as cold and without cheer. Most of us do not whistle happy tunes at funerals.
Is that how God view death? God seems to used death a punishment in Gen 3:3, yet near the end of Scripture we learn that death is also a blessing (cf. Rev 14:13).
Death is a blessing for those who endure. The Holy Spirit says calls those who die in the Lord “Blessed?” “Blessed” means to be happy or to receive of honor. How is death a blessing?
Because the deeds of the faithful follow them in death, the faithful in the Lord receive a blessing in death. Whereas our possessions cannot follow us; what we did with life (blessings) can and will (cf. Act 9:36-39). Survivors and friends will remember our care for our family. Those benefitted will recall our compassion for less fortunate. Christians and God will know of our concern for God’s Kingdom and our efforts to rescue the lost
Because our physical life ends our labors here on earth cease that is a blessing for the future, for the eternity that follows death. We will not be idle, we will be in service to and praising God, but we will rest from our earthly efforts (cf. Heb 4:9-10). We will rest from fighting temptations and sin (cf. Eph 6:11-12). We will rest from pain and sorrow (cf. 1Co 15:35-53).
James Edmeston (1791-1867) wrote the following poem that succinctly and skillfully explores: Life in Comparison with Eternity
The world is but our nursery
And heaven our manhood stage;
This life is but our infancy,
Eternity is our age;
And all earth’s little griefs and joys,
Like transient pains and idle toys
Which childhood thoughts engage.
A spark of an immortal fire,
The spirit glimmers here;
But in full splendor will aspire
In heaven’s congenial sphere;
For passion, sin, and error free,
Strong in its immortality,
Unshackled free and clear.
How do you view your imminent death?
The British controlled the Colonies and became more forceful as Colonists expressed desire for
independence. Soon the British Parliament would enact Coercive Acts designed to turn the colonists back to Britain. Among these were 1) The Impartial Administration of Justice Act which allowed Colonial Royal Governors to move trials to different Colonies or to England if he thought the jury would not be fair. 2) The Massachusetts Bay Regulatory Act. This decree made law officers subject to appointment by Royal Governor and banned all town meetings not approved by Royal Governor. 3) Boston Port Act. This law closed the Port of Boston until price of dumped tea was recovered and moved capital to Salem. 4) The Quartering Act. This allowed for royal troops to stay in homes of empty buildings if barracks not available.
These oppressive laws were the proverbial straws and the Colonist had enough and rebelled for independence. Soon a “Civil War” for independence broke out but became more as the Hessians fought alongside British troops and the French eventually supplied arms to the Colonial Rebels. We know how this ended.
Today as Christians we are still at war, not a physical war, but at war spiritually (Eph 6:12). Our fight is with
Satan and his forces, his message, his plans, his workers, his control. We must break free from Satan’s control. “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. . . . But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Rom 6:6-8, 17-18). We are set free by Christ’s death and life (Rom 5:7-10). We must not return to bondage. We must refuse to let Satan ruin our lives (Eph 4:27).
We must fight to resist the Devil so he will fun from us (Jas 4:7). Resist is a military term meaning, “Hold your ground!” Remember ALL is at stake in our “stand” against Satan. The issue is life or death (possibly physically and definitely spiritually). When we battle Satan there is no armistice or terms of peace available with him.
To fight Satan we must stand strong (cf. Eph 6:10-14; 2Ti 2:1-4). Like the Minute Men of the Colonies the standing Militia of the day, we must train for our fight. We train for our fight with Satan and his forces by knowing God’s word. We can learn from experienced soldiers (Christians who succeed). We fight enduring until the end (1Co 15:58).
Will You Be Free? “If the Son sets you free, you are free indeed!”
You cannot turn on the radio or TV in my section of the world and not hear or see a report about The Food Network and Restaurateur, Paula Dean. If you do not know about this recent conflict, do a quick search and you will get more information than you can digest. Basically, a former employee is accusing The Food Network star of using racially charged language. Paula Dean admitted to using such language in the past and has tearfully apologized for her behavior that resulted in the cancellation of her cooking show and the termination of her contract with The Food Network. Some are applauding The Food Network for standing their ground while others are calling for them to reinstate Paula Dean.
I do not have all the information, so I do not have a completely formed opinion. Yet, these events bring to mind a misunderstanding that I continually observe in our society. Somehow, we think that if we apologize the other party has an obligation to forgive and relieve us of consequences. If both parties are Christians then forgiveness should be a part of the formula (cf. Matt 5:23-24; Matt 18:15-17; Eph 4:32; Col 3:12-13). But does forgiveness necessitate the removal of consequences?
A little less than 20 years ago, Joe (a real person, but not his real name) was a young man and a new Christian. He had a good job with a fair amount of responsibilities. Somewhere along the way, he took advantage of those responsibilities and the freedom entrusted to him and became involved in an illicit activity – once. He came to me for spiritual counselling and told me about what transpired. He was truly sorry for his actions and knew that they were sinful. Because the events involved others and reflected poorly on Christianity, Joe confessed his sins not only to God, but to the church as a whole asking for and receiving forgiveness. That is not the end of the story. He lost his job as a result of his actions and because of the nature of his actions he spent time in jail. He will also carry this record with him for a long time. Apologize? - Yes! Repent to God and fellow Christians? – Yes! Forgiven? – Yes! Release of consequences? – No!
Fair? Right? Just? Ask David. David was King of Israel when he had an adulterous relationship with a married woman (Bathsheeba) and then when his initial attempts at covering up the sin failed, David, the King, had her husband killed in battle so he could comfort Bathsheeba and take her to be his wife. The prophet Nathan speaks for God and shows David the full nature of his sin. We pick up the story in 2 Samuel 12:11-14, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the LORD, the child who is born to you shall die.”
- Notice that David confesses his sin (I have sinned against the Lord).
- Notice that God forgives that sin (The Lord has put away your sin . . .).
- Notice there were still temporal consequences (Nevertheless . . .).
When I sin against God or man, I must apologize, I must repent. But know that even when forgiven, there may still be physical consequences that I must endure.
This is a re-working of a post from May 2012. With today’s Supreme Court ruling that apparently refuses to rule on Proposition 8 and strikes down sections of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), I thought about this post. I stated the following on Facebook this morning: “As we reflect on the state of marriage and what our government now recognizes as marriage, remember that long ago our government forsook a godly definition when divorce and remarriage for reasons other than what Jesus states in Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:4-12, and Mark 10:3-12.” This goes with what I said a year ago. Keep reading;
One valid observation homosexuals and others make is that many “Christians” who speak loudest against homosexual marriage (and many politicians who are using this agenda for political gain) are on their second, third, or even fourth marriage or they are guilty of violating the marriage covenant by having affairs. Some may also be guilty of having sexual relationships before marriage (which is also a sin according to God’s word). Folks, this is a serious matter. How can we expect others to listen to us, when we do not follow Christ’s teaching ourselves?
Now for my friend, I would remind him that just because others are sinners that does not give me (or him) license to sin where we want too. In an effort to make my point to all involved (my friend and to those promoting the protection heterosexual marriage even while they abuse it) I ask all of us to consider the following event from Jesus’ life as recorded in the John’s account of the Gospel.
Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” (Joh 8:2-11 – ESV)
This story appears to be specific to heterosexual relationships outside of marriage. Jesus tells those who are about to stone her to look at themselves first and see if they meet the qualifications as judge. (BTW – if she was caught in the “very act” where is the man?) Then Jesus tells the woman that He is not condemning her and then to stop her sin. Here are some quick observations:
- She was guilty of sexual sin – specifically adultery – a sexual relationship outside of marriage.
- Jesus, in so many words, is telling those about to condemn her to death and to hell that she deserves a second (third or fourth) chance to do what is right.
- Jesus takes this opportunity to teach these men to think hard about how they would want to be treated if they were the one caught in this sin – (the Golden Rule).
- Jesus gives the guilty woman the opportunity to keep living – Jesus offered Grace when others would not.
- There is a difference between stating that an activity is sin and judging (condemning) the one who practices that sin.
- There is an important statement from Jesus we cannot over-look. He told her ”from now on sin no more.”
There is a question for all of us to consider: What if she were caught with another woman? What if? I believe that Jesus would have responded the same way. My point to Christians who pounce on the sin of homosexuality without considering the many sins of heterosexuals – THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE! Both are sin. If you speak against one, speak against both. If you are guilty of one, I would be very cautious about judging, lest I be just as harshly judged (Matt 7:1ff).
Admittedly, I do not have all the answers or even a good start on the answers. My goal, as I tried to communicate to my friend is to get all of us who are sinners (which is all of us – cf. Rom 3) to come to a realization that we need the forgiveness of our sins offered by God’s Grace found in the good news (the Gospel) of Christ (Rom 1:16; 2Th 1:7-9; 1Cor 15:1-4; Rom 6:1-6) . This is the ONLY hope any of us has (John 14:6; Acts 4:12).
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