Lego

I just read an interesting article about Lego. You can read it here. It got me thinking. Legos were one of my favorite toys when I was growing up. Right up their with my tinker toys and erector set. I loved and still do love building things.

I had adventures all over the world and galaxy with legos. One involved a friend of mine who taught me how to make bottle rockets motors. Then he and I would strap the rocket motors to lego dragsters we made and launch them across the porch.

Later in life with my son grew old enough to play with legos I gave him my old Legos. We had many adventures together. I did not teach him how to build bottle rocket motors but a few of the legos had the burn scars from when I was a teen.

I must confess that even as I an adult I have played with legos. Once while my family was gone a three week trip, I built a castle using all of my sons legos.

Good Soldiers Are Not Entangled With Affairs of This Life

You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier (2 Timothy 2:3,4, NKJV).

When I read 2 Timothy 2:3,4 I think of the Children’s song about being in the Lord’s army. We do not often think of ourselves as soldiers but that is one aspect of being a Christian. This earth is a battlefield, not just a physical one but a spiritual one. Many today are worried as they have love ones in military service around the world. In the spiritual war there are souls on the line all around us. Souls are even more precious than lives because should a soul be lost it is lost forever. It is not that lives are not valuable, they are, for to each life a soul is attached. The spiritual war is often overlooked because it takes spiritual discernment to see it.

When Japan surrendered that became the official end of the WWII in the pacific. That however was not the end of fighting in the pacific. There were many Japanese soldiers scattered across islands that did not know that Japan had surrendered. They fought on until they got the word. 

Almost two thousand years ago Jesus Christ died and rose again. Jesus won the war but he did not vanquish all of the enemy. Battles still rage for souls. People are still dying and going to hell. Jesus Christ has enlisted all faithful believers into the war effort. Our duty is to rescue souls. We are soldiers in the spiritual war. We do not volunteer for this duty. Jesus has drafted us. It is part of the very essence of salvation.

Paul reminds Timothy that his activities need to be guided by the war effort to rescue lost souls. There are three things that stand out for the Christian soldier in those two verses. First the Christian soldier must endure hardship. The Christian life is not about the easy road. Christ never promised that we will have an easy life in following Him. What He promised is the way to life is difficult (Matthew 7:14), we must take up our own cross (Luke 9:23, 14:27), and be persecuted in His name (Matthew 5:10-12). Hardship is an expectation of the Christian walk.

Second, we must not allow ourselves to be entangled with the affairs of this life. This is probably the enemies greatest weapon against us. An example is how some Christian get so wrapped in sports that they skip church so they can watch the games. They can tell you the full name, and stats of the players on their favorite team, but they can’t name the ten commandments. It is okay for us to participate and enjoy the things of this world like sports. We are not to become entangled by them. That is encumbered by them so that they drag us down.

Third, Our focus should be on pleasing our General. Jesus is the one that purchased us on the cross. It is His army that He enlisted us. We should focus our life around Him. Jesus taught us that no man can serve two master. You are either serving Jesus or you are not. The more you focus you life on Jesus the easier it becomes to endure hardship and avoid entanglement.

Surveyor 3

It has been fifty years since this lunar lander was sent to the moon. Launched on April 17, 1967, Surveyor 3 landed on April 20, 1967. Two and a half years later the crew of Apollo 12 visited Surveyor 3. They photographed the spacecraft and removed some of its instruments to bring back to Earth to study how instruments were affected by their time on the moon. This is the only space craft that we have launched that has been later visited by man.

You can read more about Surveyor 3 here.

Sunday School

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that in the last few months I have been pushing the idea that you need to be involved in Sunday school. You know you need to be reading your Bible daily. You know you should be involved in public worship in a church. But do you really understand the importance of small group Bible study? In the early days of the church it is written:

“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” Acts 5:42, NKJV.

They were involved in public corporate worship in the temple. Our Sunday morning service is a descendant of this worship time. The disciples were also moving from house to house teaching. They didn't have Sunday school class rooms to gather in so they would meet in homes to discuss the Word of God on a more personal level and in more detail. It was small group Bible Study. Some churches today have gone back to that model. No longer do they have Sunday school but meet through out the week in homes. I am not concerned about the location, in homes, in Sunday school class rooms, or in the back corner of a restaurant is okay with me. I am concerned about your involvement in small group Bible study.

Even years later as Paul prepares to return to Jerusalem he says:

“how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house,” Acts 20:20, NKJV.

Decades later we still have public (church worship) and from house to house (small group Bible study).

It is in small group that others learn who you are and you learn who others are. You build bonds so that when you need help they are there for you and when necessary you are there for them. Small group Bible study lets you ask questions so that you can grow in knowledge of the Bible. It is the best help for your personal Bible study.

I really want to encourage you to become a regular attender of a small group. Right now at Callaway we have grade separated small group meetings on Sunday morning at 9:45 am and an all age Bible study on Tuesday at 7:00 pm. I hope one day that we will have more small groups meeting through the week.

One final note if any of you wish to start a new Bible study let me know. I will be glad to help you organize a new class.

Twitter

I have given up on Twitter so many times. This time I deleted my account. I just would rather visit a news providers web site once a day than follow their Twitter stream. It is too easy for one sites twits to be lost in the excessive chatter of another. I kept paring down who I was following until I was just following a few. If Twitter had just made using list easier on mobile I would have stuck with it a little longer. What I would have loved is an option to pay like $20 a year to have an ad free version and I could only be @ replied by other paying users. Oh, well, I hope they do well with the customers they seek.

The United States is NOT a Christian Nation

The United States has the reputation of being a Christian nation. It is just assumed that the majority of Americans are Christians. But that depends on what your definition of Christian is.

One definition of Christian often used by polls is if a person answers yes to the question, “Do you identify as a Christian?” I have seen that the number of self identifying Christians in the United States ranges from 66% to 80%. The latest Pew Research Poll puts the number at 70.6%. From my personal experience that seems like a fair assessment. So with that definition the United States is a Christian Nation.

But calling yourself a Christian does not make you one. A genuine Christian is radically changed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. They are marked with many new characteristics like love, joy, peace, giving, mercy, Bible study, and fellowship. For this article I am going to focus on two characteristics. Genuine Christians have a deep desire for Bible Study and fellowship with other believers.

Think of it this way, would you say that a man loves a woman if he doesn’t like her body and her mind? How can a person love Jesus if he doesn’t like Jesus’ body, i.e., fellowship with other Christians, church attendance, and small group meetings? How can a person love Jesus if he doesn’t like Jesus’ mind, i.e., the Bible, group and personal Bible study?

Many claim that around 40% of Americans attend church regularly. That would mean that the United States is not a majority Christian. In all the places I have lived, I have never seen a rate of 40% regularly church attendance, unless what you call regularly is attending once a year.

A 2005 study revealed that weekly church attendance of Americans is at 17.7%. Weekly attendance does not make you a Christian but it is a good sign. The number of people that attend two or more weekly services drop off to a third of that in my observations at 5.9%. Now there are some genuine Christians that only attend one service a week. It may be job, health or a lack of discipleship that hinders them from attending more often. That puts the genuine Christians in the United States at some where between 6% and 17%. That means that the United States is NOT a Christian Nation.

The majority (53% to 64%) of the United States is folk Christians. Folk Christianity is a thin veneer of Christian terminology slapped on top of a thick base of personal relativism. Sadly, the folk Christians are the ones that make the most noise. They are more concerned about boycotts, protests and passing special interest laws than about making disciples, which is a genuine Christian concern.

Be of good cheer, rejoice for even though genuine Christianity is a minority in the United States, Jesus is still Lord over all. His is able to save as many as come to Him.

Reference

- http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/

- http://churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/139575-7-startling-facts-an-up-close-look-at-church-attendance-in-america.html

Alex and the Cat

Years ago we lived in house with a sliding glass door that was extremely difficult to open and close. Our cat liked to go outside. We would let her in and out by the carport door. One day she wanted in through the sliding glass door. Ronny said she was not going to let her in that door. The carport door is the proper way.

Jesus is the proper way to Heaven. Like the cat we try many times to get in our own way but it won’t work. Jesus said “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9). We need to look towards Jesus for the proper way.

Alex wanted her to come in but she would not come in the right way when we opened the carport door and called. So Alex went out the carport door, walked around the house, picked her up and brought her around in through the carport door.

Jesus likewise knows we are trying to come our own way. So He comes and gets us. He can bring us through the right door. “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

I hope that you are not stubborn like the cat and beat you head against the wrong way door. But rather you come when called. Jesus said, “... the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3).

On that day Alex did not go get any of the other cats in the neighborhood for they did not belong to us. Jesus will save all his but there are some not his. Jesus said “All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats” (Matthew 25:32). He explained his people will get eternal life and the rest get eternal destruction for they reject Him.

I suggest that you come while Jesus is calling. If you are reading this because someone handed the newsletter to you or sent you the web link, understand that it is not your friend leading you to Jesus. It is Jesus using your friend to call you to Himself. Had the cat put up a fight Alex would not have brought her in. Jesus calls but he is not going to fight you.

Bible Reading Helps

When studding the Bible there are four basic questions you could ask yourself about a section you read.

The questions are: 

1. Is there a lesson to be learned?
2. Is there a promise to be claimed?, 
3. Is there a sin to avoid or repent of?
4. Is there a truth to understand? 

Before I explain more about the question I feel I need to explain what I mean by a section. A section in the Bible is a complete thought, argument or pericope. Man has divided the Bible into chapters and verses. These divisions are not always in the most ideal location. Sometimes a verse is a complete sentence (John 3:16) and sometimes multiple verses make up a sentence (John 4:1-3). John 3:16 is a complete sentence but it is part of a larger section that runs from John 3:1 through John 3:21. Today many publishers marked sections with italic subtitles. In my main Bible John 3:1-21 is subtitled “The New Birth” and John 3:22-36 is subtitled “John the Baptist Exalts Christ.” In older Bibles publishers marked sections by a paragraph mark.

First question, is there a lesson to be learned? This question often comes to play in narrative text. In 2 Samuel 1:1-16 a young man lies to David about how Saul died. The young man takes credit for killing Saul. However, in 1 Samuel we are told that Saul committed suicide. Apparently the young man felt that David would reward him because he killed David’s enemy. Unfortunately the young man did not know that David had passed up two opportunities to kill Saul. David knew that Saul was the Lord’s anointed. David had the young man executed based on the young man’s testimony. A lesson to learn from this text is that trying to earn other people's respect by lying will backfire.

Second question, is there a promise to be claimed? Sometimes God makes promises to His people. We can claim some of those promises. In James 1:5, NKJV it is written, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” Reading the context of that whole section (verse 1:1-8) you will see the promise that we can claim. The promise is if we are bond servants of the Lord Jesus Christ during times of testing our faith we can ask God for wisdom and He will grant it if we ask in faith and without doubting.

This text is a good example on why it is important to read the whole section. If verse 5 was by itself then the promise would appear to be anyone who wants to be wiser just ask God and He will make you wiser. It is the context that establishes the verseеs meaning. Look up James 1:1 in your Bible. In verse 1 James defines himself as bond servant of Jesus and then addresses the letter to the brethren. That is people who like himself are bond servants of Jesus. In verse 2 the context is further set in times of trials. Verse 6 the promise is narrowed to asking in faith and without doubt.

I know that it looks difficult to figure out the promise in James 1:1-8, but it really is not. It is just a matter of practice. The more you read the easier understanding what you read will become. Don’t worry if after a few minutes you canеt find the lesson, promise, sin, or truth of a section. There may be another section you need to read. In the 2 Samuel example you would not know the young man lied unless you read the death of Saul in 1 Samuel.

Third question, is there a sin to avoid or repent of? The Bible contains many sins that we should avoid. These are the easiest applications to look for. These type of applications usually applies to you same way that they apply to the people in the Bible. In Genesis chapter 3 we read where Adam sins against God through disobedience. The sin to be avoided here is disobedience. God says don’t do something then we are not to do it. Repentance is an integral part to recognizing the sins. As you read the Bible you will discover sins that you need to avoid. You will also discover that you have already committed them. As you find sin that you have committed you need to repent of them.

Repentance is more than just asking God to forgive you. It is turning from that sin and doing it no more. Pretend your neighbor is angry and backs over your mailbox on purpose. Then suppose he realizes his sin and asks you to forgive him. This is how we should do God, recognize our sins and ask for forgiveness. Now on the next day, your neighbor gets up on the wrong side of bed and backs over your mailbox again on purpose. He then seeks your forgiveness. For the third day in a row your neighbor runs over your mailbox and again seeks your forgiveness. He truly recognizes his sin and truly wants your forgiveness. He has not repented until he stops running over your mailbox on purpose.

The final question, is there a truth to understand? Some parts of the Bible are meant to just be understand and accepted. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1, NKJV).” This verse contains many truths that God expects us to just accept and believe. Here are some of them. God existed before the beginning of everything that we know. There is only one God. The one God created everything. Materialism is futile because it is not greater than the Creator. We are not greater that God because He created us. God has to reveal Himself to us for we cannot discover Him.

It is amazing at how much easier it is to trust the rest of the Word of God if you will just accept Genesis 1:1 as fact. Much of the Gospel of John is truth that we need to believe.

You really should develop a habit of reading in the Bible every day. The discussion of the four questions was only meant to help you. I know it is easy to become discouraged if you don’t understand importance of what you read. The greatest help is just read a little every day for the rest of you life. God considers His word so important that Psalm 119 (the longest chapter in the Bible) is all about His word. Jesus said “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God’ (Luke 4:4, NKJV).”

Recap 2016

2016 is almost over and what a year it has been. Many people and organization will be publishing their recaps of 2016. They will cover topics on the deaths of movie stars and musicians that we will miss, political changes like the opening of business between the United States and Cuba, and the most violent acts of the year. For me the two biggest events are: 

One, my wife going through dozen of medical test culminating in the scare something might be wrong with her heart and having to have a heart catheterization. I thank God that all is well with her heart.

Second, maybe I am the only way that sees it like this but we elected a reality TV star to the office of President. Decades ago we elected an actor but that was after years of him being in politics. This guy literally jumps from TV to President. I believe he actually proves that old saying that anyone can be President.

As for 2017 I am hoping it is a boring year. Things like people are less violent, wars are on the decrease, politicians run their mouths less, the economy is stable, and people are just more tolerant of one another. Here’s hoping and may God bless you in the upcoming year.

Disciple or Believer

Today’s question is, What is the difference between a believer and a disciple of Jesus?

Christians use the words believer and disciple a great deal. They are often interchanged, but they do not necessarily mean the same thing. According to the AHD (American Heritage Dictionary) a disciple is a person who embraces and helps in spreading the teachings of another. For example a young man in high school who is taking an English class because he believes it is important to know; he is not a disciple of the English teacher. On the other hand, a teacher who inspires a young man to learn as much as possible and to go on and be an English teacher himself is a disciple. The Christian definition of a disciple is a person who understands the teachings of Christ, follows those teachings and helps propagate those teachings.

Again in the AHD a believer is someone who accepts something as truth. For instance I believe that the world is round although I have never personally proved that it is round. Both of the young men in the English class example were believers. A believer in Christian terms is someone who accepts that Jesus Christ was the Son of God along with many other facts.

All disciples are believers but all believers are not disciples. In Matthew 28:19, NKJV it is written, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus command to His disciples was to go and make more disciples. Don’t let these disciples here confuse you. Often people mistakenly call the twelve apostles, the twelve disciples. Jesus had more than twelve disciples. In Luke chapter 10, Jesus appoints seventy to go and teach the word. At the giving of the Great Commission, which includes Matthew 28:19, Jesus had about one hundred and twenty disciples.

In Luke 12:42-47, Jesus teaches that believing is not enough to inherit the Kingdom of God. This means that just believing is not enough to be saved from the wrath of God. Jesus explained that the blessed servant is the one that the master finds doing the things that the servant knows to do. This is a disciple. He believes in what Jesus taught, he does what Jesus taught, and he teaches others to do likewise. 

The evil servant is the one who knows the will of his master and does not do it. If a person knows the will of the master then he believes certain facts. Not doing them means the servant is not a disciple. According to Jesus, this servant will have his portion with unbelievers. Unbelievers will suffer the wrath of God for all of eternity. However, there is one difference for this servant from the unbeliever. His punishment will be more severe.

Some would reject this and say that all you have to do is believe. It is true that the Bible teaches that if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you will be saved, but the whole counsel of God never stops with just believing the facts. It teaches that a person must strive to keep the commandments of Jesus Christ. In fact, the Word says that if you do not pursue holiness you will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Or to paraphrase James 2:18, show me your believe without being a disciple and I will show you that I believe by being a disciple. We are called to be disciples. We are not to just hear the Word, but do the Word.