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.

Trusting the Lord in time of trouble

Though the fig tree may not blossom,   
Nor fruit be on the vines;   
Though the labor of the olive may fail,   
And the fields yield no food;   
Though the flock may be cut off from the fold,   
And there be no herd in the stalls--   
Yet I will rejoice in the LORD,   
I will joy in the God of my salvation.   
(Habakkuk 3:17,18, NKJV).

First, Habakkuk is a real book in the Bible. For those of you who have been neglecting to read your Bible regularly it is in the Old Testament. Habakkuk is not one of the better known prophets but these verses show how serious he was about the LORD. In his day Babylon was about to capture Judah because of their sin. Habakkuk could see how hardhearted the nation of Judah was.

Have you ever experienced intense hunger or wondered how much longer before you get to eat? This is the context that Habakkuk is setting up for verse 18. We know toward Judah’s end they suffered several severe famines.  Verse 17 contains seven qualifiers to verse 18.  Basically, verse 17 is stressing a situation where there is absolutely no food. It is a description of a famine. During famine, there is nothing to eat. Where there is nothing to eat  people starve. If people starve long enough they will die.

Now with the qualifying done Habakkuk says in verse 18 that he will rejoice in the LORD. He will be happy in God even if God lets him starve to death. This is devotion to God. This is exactly the type of devotion that Christians should have. You may be thinking well that is kind of extreme and you are right. Jesus said “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple (Luke 14:33, NKJV).” You are commanded by God to love Him more than anything else in this world. That includes your own life. This kind of dedication can help keep you out of trouble because you would sooner die than sin.

Habakkuk goes on to say that he will delight in the God of his salvation. If you have ever done without food for more than twenty-four hours you know that hunger pains are not pleasant. Yet Habakkuk is going to delight in God while starving to death. Not only that but he says that God is the author of his salvation in spite of pending death. This is how Habakkuk can delight in God, he knows that God is the one who saves. Habakkuk is not looking for salvation from death but from the wrath of God.

Truly God is the author of salvation but God does not promise salvation from a difficult life. God promises salvation from His eternal wrath to all those that are the disciples of Jesus. Job knew this as well and said that even if God slays him he will trust God (Job 13:15).

To practice devotion like Habakkuk, Job and many others you need to have the correct view of life. Life does not consist of the present flesh and bone that we live. This is just God’s proving ground for His saints. When you really get a hold of the understanding of how much you deserve hell and how gracious God is to have granted you salvation then you will be like Habakkuk. You can sing praise to God even if you are slowly dying.

China Rocket

Funny how the world turns. Today, China launched two astronauts on a 30 day mission to the Chinese space station. The United States has to buy seats on a Russian rockets to get astronauts to the International Space Station. It has been this way since NASA had to retire the Space Shuttles. The USA use to be the leader in technology. Now the world is a pretty even playing field.

That is the thing about technology. It spreads easily and rapidly. Rockets are incredibly complicated machines. Getting people into space requires a lot of people from many different trades and all of it is reproducible by any nation that desires.

Not just a nation, recently Elon Musk, an American entrepreneur, revealed his plans for a 2025 city on Mars. It is a very ambitious plan but if he succeeds he may find China already has a colon on Mars.

In 2025 I will be 58 years old. I would consider a mission to Mars even at that age. I think a technology astute pastor would be a useful thing in a Mars colony.

(Correction: The launch happened on Monday October 17, not Sunday 16th. Changed text from Yesterday to Today.)

Don’t Undervalue Bible Reading

Reading the Bible is one of the greatest privileges that a person has. In our nation it is taken for granted. We have dozens of different English translation and yet they sit on shelves unread in Christian homes. Sadly many Christians that do take time to read often read Christian literature and not the Bible. I am lumping all Christian literature together in this article, from devotions to fiction to historical to self help. It is not that Christian literature is bad. The problem arises when you spend more time reading it than the Bible. You are getting more of what someone thinks than what God thinks.

Peter tells us “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, (1 Peter 2:2)” We should have a desire for the Bible. Read your Christian literature and read the Bible. Let you beliefs be challenged by Christian literature but anchor your faith in the Bible. Christian literature may show you something new but go to the Bible for its proof of truth.

It is through the study of the Bible that we grow. Christian literature may highlight an area that we need to work on, knowledge that we need to embrace, or a place to humble ourselves before the Lord. But it is the Scripture that Christian literature quotes that puts the correction in our souls and it is the Bible that straighten us out before the Lord so that we might stand before Him giving Him all the glory.

So please don’t undervalue the reading of the Bible. Within it’s pages you will find what pleases God, how much He loves you and how the genuine gospel message gives people hope and changes lives. I am a better man today because of what the Lord has showed me in the scripture. But don’t take my word for you need to study the Bible and see the change it will make in your life. Look into the Bible and see things like “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.(2Peter 3:18)” Or when Jesus’s says “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me has everlasting life. (John 6:47)”

Sin Doesn’t Care About Race, Neither Should We

The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit do not care about race as they invite people to share in their grace, mercy and love. The Devil, sin and death do not care about race as they chase people to the grave. So if both ends of the spiritual spectrum don’t care about race then we as believers should not care either.

It is call racism but it is just a sub set of sinful prejudices, which is just another way to say hate. Mistreating people because of their skin color, heritage, nationality, or gender is still a sin. Some believers allow themselves to cary a tinge of racism that they picked up while they were growing up. My fellow Christians we have no excuse to let such sin linger in us. We can retrain ourselves. We are suppose to strive to see all humans the same way Jesus does. The image of God is in everyone. Yes it is broken by sin but all can be redeemed through Christ Jesus.

Jesus offers salvation to all without regard to race, skin color, heritage, nationality, or gender. So I ask you to think. Are you making Jesus proud of the way you treat people that are different from you. He gave His life for them. People that you are suppose to be offering the gospel message to. If you are not willing to strive against this sin in your life maybe you need to ask Jesus to take your eyes so you can't see the difference.

This post is to genuine Christian, all others please refer to the Knowing God link.

Bible References

  • Matthew 18:9 (NKJV) And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you. It is better for you to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes, to be cast into hell fire.
  • Matthew 28:19-20 (NKJV) 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, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
  • Matthew 5:44 (NKJV) 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,
  • John 13:34 (NKJV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Don’t Put Words in God’s Mouth

Well said when Paul wrote Timothy, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).” Scripture is powerful and it can change lives. Scripture is inerrant but our minds are not. It is easy for us to blend more than one verse together to make the Bible, which is the Scripture, say something that God does not say. When you do that you are putting words in God’s mouth. That is lying.

This is most evident when you are question where the Bible says what you are asserting and you have know idea. I am not talking about a momentary lapse where you quote a Bible verse but you can’t remember the exact reference. That can usually be resolved with a quick search using just about any Bible phone app. I am talking about when you say something and when questioned, you have know idea where it is the Bible or even what the general wording is so that you can search for it. “I know it is in there,” is not a valid response. “Let me get back to you,” is a better response. You need to remain humble in your assertions because when you search the Bible you may find the Bible does not say what you believe at all. Then you have to go back with, “I was wrong.”

Columbo

I guess about a month ago Ronny and I began watching Columbo on Netflix. I am throughly enjoying it. We have one more episode and will complete season three. Netflix has seven seasons of the show which ran from 1968 to 1978. There are three more seasons from 1989 to 2003.

I have been a long time fan of the murder mystery genre. One my favorites is the BBC Midsomer Murders. Columbo is a different kind of murder mystery. It is not a "who done it" but a "how to catch them." Most murder mysteries start with a dead body and then the detective must find the clues to the killer. In Columbo you see who is the murder and how he did it within the first five minutes. Even Columbo guesses who the murder is at the beginning. The rest of the show is watching Columbo figure out how to catch the person.

But Columbo is even more intriguing in that he often aggravates the killer with question after question and bumbling antics until he gets the killer to make a move in frustration that reveals he is guilty. It is funny how the murder get so frustrated in dealing with Columbo. You may think that is good acting until you read the history of the show. Peter Falk who play Columbo often broke from the script and ad libbed in ways to actually frustrate the guest stars playing the murderers. He did it so their frustration would be more real. That cracks me up.

Another interesting thing about Columbo is that the show started in 1968 so I get peek in the world of when I was just a baby. Of course like any TV show America life is not portrayed accurately but still it is interesting to see the styles of clothes, hair, cars, computers and everything of that time period. What is ironic is some things the older generation today disapproves of was actually the style when they were in their twenties and thirties.

So if you want a show that that feels you with suspense of how he is going to catch them and gives you a giggle at life in America forty years ago I recommended Columbo.