People of The Living God

John 17

 

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November 2009



DAILY

Billy Linthicum

       In Luke 9:23 Jesus makes a very strong, conditional declaration, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.”  His demand seems hard, even objectionable, but those requirements for discipleship were obviously a very important matter to Jesus because both Matthew (16:24) and Mark (8:34) made sure that they, too, chronicled the Master’s instructions, quoting Luke almost word for word: “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

       To help establish the grave importance of His statement, Jesus went on to emphasize that failing to fulfill this commandment gave reason to be disqualified as one of His followers: “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:27).  Jesus reiterated this truism by clearly establishing that “he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after Me, is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:38).  Contrary to what many would like to believe, there is a high cost in following Jesus.  To “take up the cross” means to not only accept the rejection of the world for turning to Jesus, but to personally die to the ways of the world and our own selfish motivations.

       Though all the Gospel writers practically quote one another verbatim concerning this important aspect of being born again, notice that Luke emphasizes that “denying oneself” and “taking up the cross” must happen daily.  It’s amazing how a single word can change one’s perspective on things.  At first glance, it could almost appear that Luke is introducing a slightly different variation of the doctrine stated by the other Gospel writers.  But on closer examination, it becomes understandable that his real intention is to accentuate what the others have stated.

       It is undeniable that once we die, we are dead, and to those who are still alive, our deceased status persists daily – never changing.  In the same way, Luke apparently wants there to be absolutely no confusion on the matter.  His inclusion of the word “daily” only reminds us that following Jesus Christ is a very serious matter that should continue, day by day, with the same relish, faith and abandonment as was exerted at the beginning of our commitment to Him.

       Usage of the word “daily” in Luke 9 not only helps us to understand the significant depth of what is involved in being a follower of Jesus, but it also establishes a precedence for all other aspects of the Christian life.  And nowhere is this more clearly evident than in the book of Acts concerning the beginnings of the Church.

       The establishment, governing and purpose of the Church are extremely important to our Lord.  And why would it not be?  The [true] Church is an expression of Himself and His character on earth.  Like Him, the Church is to be the light (Matt. 5:14-16) in a world that is darkened by sin and ignorance.  It is also meant to be the salt of the earth (5:13), seasoned with the Gospel and with Grace, to preserve the world “until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Tim. 6:14).  As the book of Acts unfolds the glorious story of this great Church, built by invisible hands, we repeatedly find the inclusion of that humble and unassuming adjective, “daily” (or its variations).  Whether stated as “daily,” “every day,” or “day by day,” the emphasis is the same.  The Church was a community of believers who saw their interaction and their faith as something that was in a constant state of being.  That is why the early Church is often termed as organic.  It was a living, thriving and intimate organism that could not subsist without constant association and fellowship with each other.  The concept of scheduling one or two hours a week together would have been an idea beyond their ability to understand.  As one writer expressed it, “Once you start reading the New Testament it becomes clear that the original followers of Jesus had only one day set aside for worship, fellowship, teaching and community.  That day was called ‘Everyday.’”

       “And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Act 2:46).  Without a doubt, the first century Church spent a lot of time together, but it wasn’t the quantity of time that was the focal point, it was the intimacy and friendship that dominated their time together.  And, this magnitude of intimacy and fellowship had very positive consequences.  The Bible tells us that “the churches established [strengthened] in the faith, and increased in number daily” (Act 16:5).  Notice that it was not only the number of believers that were increasing daily, but their faith was strengthening daily, also.

       Oh, how we need to learn from the early Church.  For those believers, being a Christian wasn’t just a part of their life.  It was their life.  They understood that every true believer had the divine blood of Christ flowing through his veins…and that meant everything to them.  They understood the sacrifice and commitment that are involved in following Jesus, and acceptance of that reality affected every area of their lives.  They didn’t trivialize the fact that they had been “bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20; 7:23), and their desire was to serve the One who had purchased them with His own blood (Acts 20:28; Rev. 5:9).  Together, they found comfort and strength, resulting in the discovery that serving Christ involved daily dedication, something they never considered a burdensome duty.

       From the birth of the Church, the word “daily” was at the heart of everything pertaining to the life of one who followed Jesus.  In Acts 6:1 we discover that they distributed food to the poor – daily.  The author of Hebrews admonished the members of the Church to “exhort [encourage] one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (3:13).  The believers in Berea were commended because “they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily” to see if what Paul had preached was true (Acts 17:11).

       “Daily” is a little word, but one consisting of dynamic proportions.  When applied to the Christian life, it is the factor that creates the difference between practicing impotent and empty religious format, and experiencing the organic, living expression of the Christ, Himself.

       Pastor and writer, Keith Giles, summed it up quite nicely when he said, “So, instead of arguing over what day of the week we should worship or gather or teach, perhaps we should stop and realize that, according to the New Testament, every single day of our lives should be devoted to God, and to the community of faith.  We need to be the Church every day of our lives, not simply attend one each week.”

 

 

YOUR CROSS AND MINE

Keith Giles

       In all things and in all ways, Jesus is our example, teacher and master.  We are His disciples, followers and friends.

       It troubles me that often we make the Gospel about His cross and not ours.

       I think that what Jesus did for us on the cross was incredible.  It was the single most heroic and astounding act ever committed by anyone in the known universe.  Mostly because the person committing this ultimate act of humility and sacrifice was God Himself.  He certainly didn’t have to go through this.  No one forced Him to do it.  He simply could’ve wiped out all of mankind and started over with a new group of humans rather than endure the shame and the agony of the cross.  Better yet, He could’ve just avoided all of this by not creating anything at all.

       But, for whatever reason, God did create everything.  He did know that it would cost Him everything.  He did realize that this creation would require Him to leave His throne in glory, step down from the eternal praise of the angels and the twenty–four elders, and take on the form of a servant.  Even the form of a baby, in a small stable, surrounded by smelly shepherds and barnyard animals.

       Worse still, He realized that this creation would compel Him to first suffer unbelievable rejection, humiliation, physical torture, pain, separation from the Father, and even physical death.

       Would you have said, “Let there be light” if you knew it would cost you all of this?

       Yes, the cross of Jesus is miraculous and awe–inspiring.  We don’t talk about it or meditate on it enough.  It is the scandal of the universe that the perfect, pure, Holy One became smeared with the filth of sin and shame…our filth…our shame.

       But we forget that Jesus offered us a cross of our own.  Before He took up His cross, He called His disciples to take up their own cross and follow Him.

       “Then He said to them all: ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me’” (Luke 9:23).

       A.W. Tozer once said, “Among the plastic saints of our times, Jesus has to do all the dying, and all we want to hear is another sermon about His dying.”

       We are also called to die along with Jesus.  His death was for our salvation, but our death is also necessary to the process.  We must surrender our lives in exchange for the new life that Jesus died to give to us.

       Jesus also tells us, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.  He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.  If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour” (John 12:24-26).

       Somehow, in my walk with Jesus, I have forgotten to carry my own cross.  Somehow, I have neglected to receive the words of my teacher, my master and my friend when He tells me that “Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).

       What is left for me is repentance, and a search for the cross which He has set aside for me to carry.

       Jesus has left me with an example of what love is.  He has called me to follow where He has already traveled.  Our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus; as He humbled Himself, we are to humble ourselves; as He emptied Himself, we are to empty ourselves; as He took on the form of a servant, we are to take on the form of this same servant.

       The amazing thing about the Gospel of the Kingdom that Jesus came and died to preach and proclaim is that “the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you” (Luke 10:9).  This means that we don’t have to strive and dance around to get the Kingdom to arrive or to make it go.  It’s here.  Right now.  Jesus announced it.  He invites us into the Kingdom right now.  Today.

       What we often miss is that the pathway into this Kingdom is through humility, servant hood and taking up our cross to declare Jesus as our Lord and our King.

       Jesus declared the Kingdom was near to us.  He demonstrated that it was true.  He modeled for us how to enter the Kingdom and enjoy the Kingdom kind of life.

       We’re left with little mystery, then, as to where the Kingdom is and how to enter it.  What we’re challenged with is the cost of this great treasure.  It costs us everything, and yet, in comparison, it costs us nothing at all.

       “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20).

       We’d love for there to be “another way” into the Kingdom, wouldn’t we?  Even Jesus, when faced with His own cross, prayed and asked if there was another way, yet He concluded by saying, “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42), and He accepted this call to surrender unto death.

       Our temptation is no different.  The lie of the enemy is that there is “another way” to partake of the Kingdom and to follow Jesus besides the cross.  We cannot allow ourselves to think that following Jesus is possible without dying to ourselves daily and allowing Jesus to be our Lord and King.

       “The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wishes and precautions — to Christ” (C.S. Lewis, Counting The Cost).

       The cross of Jesus is a stunning and breathtaking act of love and sacrifice by God Himself for people like you and me, and the cross He asks us to carry is our declaration of love and gratitude to Him for this amazing sacrifice.

       “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost Of Discipleship).

 

 

SAVING THE SACRED INSTITUTION OF MARRIAGE

Haven Bradford Gow

       A September 24, 2009, Associated Press report pointed out: “Divorce is as common in the Florida Keys as fresh grouper and cold beer.  Census statistics released…show that Monroe County (in Florida) has the second highest proportion of divorced residents.  A little more than 18 percent of the people living in Monroe County are divorced, second only to Indiana’s Wayne County, which had 19 percent.  Nationwide, 10.7 percent of people over 15 are divorced.”

       In his book A Nation Without a Conscience (Tyndale), Protestant clergyman/scholar Dr. Tim LaHaye and his wife, Beverly, observe: “marriage has become a calculated risk.  For every two marriages today, one ends in divorce.  Of those who divorce, 90 percent marry at least once, and a majority of those couples get a second divorce.”  They note that “From the numbers some might conclude that there are more unhappy marriages than happy, causing many to bypass marriage altogether, choosing to live together without benefit of a moral or legal commitment.  Certain public policy rulings have the effect of discouraging marriage through the tax code, welfare, and no-fault divorce laws.”

       The LaHayes add: “Divorce devastates, and the life–long effects of wide–scale illegitimacy and parental abandonment lead to tragic and far–reaching consequences on individuals and society as a whole.”  Moreover, “We know America cannot long survive without strong families. The sexual permissiveness and cavalier view of the traditional family, adopted by our culture, spell disaster for our nation.”

       As Protestant scholar/author Dr./Rev. Rousas Rushdoony points out in his introduction to Toward a Christian Marriage (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books), “The family is the great transmitter of faith and culture.  Where the family weakens or fails, we have a return to barbarism…Any institution or group that does not strengthen the family is contributing to the downfall of civilization.  God ordained marriage for the welfare and happiness of mankind.”

       In this connection, in September 1994, representatives of the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh and African Traditional religious communities convened in Vatican City, Rome, for a significant examination of the sacred institution of marriage.  Despite religious and cultural differences, the religious groups were able to agree on many essential points about the sacredness of sex, marriage, family and human life.

       According to their joint statement, “The family is the basic unit of society.  Marriage is the foundation of the family.  It exists to foster love between man and woman, and their mutual growth and spiritual fulfillment based on ethical, moral and religious values, enabling procreation, nurturing a holistic development of children, safeguarding the sanctity of human life in all its dimensions.”

       However, despite the noble idea of the sacrament of marriage, many young couples in America choose to live together without being married; the problem is that the advocates and practitioners of living together have mocked, scorned and rejected the Judeo–Christian moral and religious tradition that celebrates and affirms the sacredness of sex, marriage, family and human life.  For too many today, sex — instead of being the communion of life and love within the sacrament of marriage — simply is a tool of masturbatory and voyeuristic gratification.

       In sharp contrast is St. Thomas Aquinas’ insistence that true love means we desire the genuine good and happiness of the person loved; this philosophy of love places priority on the development of a spiritual and psychic bond between two people who say they love one another.

       Billy Graham, author of Peace with God and The Secret of Happiness (Word Publishing), says living together without being married “can never be secure and stable in a lasting way.  Why?  Because there is no commitment — no committing to serve each other and help each other, even when life becomes hard.”  Bro. Graham adds: “What happens when one of you gets bored or is attracted to someone else?  But when God brings two people together, a strong bond is formed that can take the stresses and strains of life.”

       In their new work Love is a Decision (Word Publishing), family counselors Gary Smalley and John Trent contend that, if we want to build strong marriages and families, we must practice the virtue known as “honoring others.”  They explain: “Without a doubt, the concept of honor is the single most principle we know of for building healthy relationships.  It’s important for a husband and wife to begin applying it toward each other.”  When one honors another, he is showing courtesy, respect, consideration and reverence for the person he honors.

       An article in the February 9, 2001, Mississippi Catholic, Jackson, tells us these steps toward a happy and enduring marriage: Apologize frequently; pray for your partner; keep a sense of humor; be faithful; always be courteous and considerate.

       Joseph W. Gow, a devoted and loving father in Illinois, and Lena Wong Yee, a dedicated Ark. wife, put it this way: “If two people living together say they love another, then why don’t they prove it by getting married?  You show love by your willingness to make a commitment to one another, by your willingness to care for and be responsible for one another.”

 

 

 

THE RAPTURE OF THE SAINTS

Randall Walton

       One of the great myths which has fallen upon the church of Jesus Christ is that Jesus may come at any moment and catch away a select group of people and “rapture” them out just prior to a time of great tribulation which will come upon this sin–sick world!

       Even though there is not one Scriptural reference in the entire Bible to support such a theory as this, it has become the message in a majority of the churches in this hour; in fact, its popularity is overwhelming.  Many books have been written in support of this doctrine, and they all have the same general idea of Jesus swooping down secretly (only the saints are aware of this) and taking His church, the Bride, to heaven to wait out the 3½ years, or 7 years (depending upon the preacher’s word), for the tribulation to be over and done.

       It sounds great, and if it were true (which it is not), it would provide a great escape for the faithful ones who expect Him to do this magnificent wonder.  Just think, for a moment, how great and marvelous such a trip would be: at home in heaven while the rest of mankind suffers the pains and agony of a time of extraordinary trouble and anguish at the hands of their tormentors!

       Let us examine some of the few references used by those who promote this non-Biblical doctrine.  The most well–known of all “proofs” is found in I Thessalonians 4:15-18: “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep (dead).  For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.  Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”

       This is merely a description of the second coming of Jesus Christ.  We will make an outline of these events so that you can see clearly that there is not a speck of truth here for a rapture!

  1. The Coming of the Lord
    1. The Lord descends from heaven
    2. There is a shout
    3. The voice of an archangel is heard
    4. The trump of God is there
  2. The Dead in Christ rise first
    1. We who are alive and remain are caught up with them
      1. In the clouds
      2. To meet the Lord in the air
    2. So shall we ever be
      1. With the Lord
  3. Comfort one another
    1. With these words

Please notice, there is not any mention of secrecy!  Paul did not include any information regarding those who are sinners or unbelievers; he was trying to encourage those Thessalonians to be faithful and true to God.  It is impossible to squeeze a “rapture” into these verses without destroying their meaning.

       Also, the fact of the shout, the voice of an archangel and the trump(et) of God links well with Matthew 24:29-31 where Jesus describes His coming again.  True, there are more details given in Matthew, but the likenesses are there as well.

No Mention Of The Church After Revelation 3

       We agree that the word “church” is not mentioned after chapter 3, but the church as a testimony of Jesus Christ is in nearly every chapter of Revelation, all the way to the very end of the Book!

       More important to the believer is the use of the words “People of God” as used in I Peter 2:9-10, where Peter affirms the truth by saying, “which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”  The omission of the word “church” is no proof at all.  The word rapture is not there either, but is that any proof that the saints will be “raptured” just because the word “church” is not there?  How ridiculous!

God Hath Not Appointed Us To Wrath.  I Thess. 5:9

       The rest of verse 9 should be included in this discussion because it is relevant.  It states that: “but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”!  The fact that we are not appointed to wrath does not mean that we will be raptured – rather that we can be partakers of the salvation which is given us through our Lord.  The deception used in this verse is quite evident.

       God has made an escape to those who will follow Him.  In Matthew 24:15-21 where Jesus warns of a great tribulation, He also says that there must be a flight into the mountains.  He did not state that no one would experience wrath.  It will depend upon each person’s willingness to obey the voice of God as He directs them.  There is preparation to be made by the saints so that they will be ready when the time is right.  Consider, for example, verses 6 and 14 of Revelation 12 in God’s providing for His people:

As It Was In The Days Of Noah!

       God wondrously protected Noah, his wife, their three sons and their wives; but they were not raptured!  They were watched over and cared for during the time of world-wide flooding, as God Himself oversaw the safety of the ark.  Notice that “the flood came, and took them all away,” that is, the ungodly.  They were completely destroyed because they didn’t believe the words of warning given by the man of God, Noah.  “So shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37).

       There is no sign of release nor rapture in the Book of the Lord.  We hope that this message of warning will be instrumental in convincing you that in the soon to come tribulation, you will be spared by finding and entering into a place prepared by the Lord Himself for your protection and preservation.  Such places are being prepared now for the benefit of the people who know and love God with all their minds, their hearts, and their souls.

       Please notice also that the word “rapture” is not found anywhere in the Bible!  This term was coined by none other than a young woman in Scotland named Margaret McDonald who claimed to have had a vision or a dream about Jesus coming to catch away His bride before the great tribulation began.  Such foolishness has no foundation in the word of God, although millions of people now believe it.

       Mat. 24:29-31 says very plainly that Jesus will not return until AFTER the tribulation.  He confessed that He did not know the day nor the hour, but said that in “an hour that ye think not, the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 24:44).

       Yes, Jesus is coming again, but not in secret, not just for His people, not for self-preservation, but to judge the world and to take to heaven all those who have proved faithful to Him (Matt. 16:27; Rev. 20:12-15; II Peter 3:10-12).

 

 

THE BIBLE REMINDS US TO BOLDLY PREACH THE WORD

Gerald Hallmark

       This weekend is Halloween and being frightened is all a part of the fun.  However, this past Wednesday a really scary law was signed by our new president that makes Halloween look comical.  Congress attached a Hate Crimes Bill to the military appropriations bill for our troops in the field.  This bill has never been able to get anywhere on its own so they put it as an amendment on this crucial funding for our troops.  Shows you the respect they have for our military fighting a war, doesn’t it?

       Anyway, this Hate Crimes Bill is supposed to protect people against prejudiced attacks caused by race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality and so on.  That means that this law really deals with motivation, and hence, deals with the thoughts of one person against another.  The First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution are weakened in the process of prosecuting people under this bill.  What you say about someone is now a crime and can get you a fine or jail time.  The thought police will be watching and listening to make sure you are politically correct and in sync with the latest cultural fad of the day.

       So, as a pastor I will have to be very careful what I say about immoral lifestyles, sexual orientations, cults or any special interest group that decides God’s Word is offensive to them from the pulpit.  Once this is law a preacher cannot use the Bible as a reference to justify any remarks concerning sinful behavior because it will offend the people involved in these practices.  That is because this law is designed to “protect” special groups from perceived biased and prejudicial statements about their lifestyles.  It is really there to justify lifestyles that the Bible clearly condemns as sin and is intended to silence believers that oppose these sinful behaviors.

       In spite of all the lawmakers’ assurances about free speech and equal protection not being affected, the general consensus of the Christian community is that this law will fall heaviest on them.  Throughout history people have always rejected the messenger when he brings a condemning message, and silencing the prophet was a way of life in the Old Testament.

       After all, Jeremiah was put in a well, Elijah ran for his life and Isaiah was “sawn asunder.”  Satan has never changed his tactic, just the people he works with.  God is never popular with the godless.  Watch carefully, dear believers, because this will come about under this law.

       Therefore, if a pastor preaches against these lifestyles and encourages the congregation to oppose them as well, and then someone later commits a crime against someone adhering to these practices, the pastor could be charged with conspiracy to incite the crime.  He can then be automatically linked to the perpetrator because he spoke out against the lifestyle of the victim, even though he never identified a specific person.  This is a very slippery slope that has a bad ending to it no matter which way you look at it.  Believers need to be aware of this Hate Crime Bill that will turn out to be a hate crime against the church, and because of it surround their pastor in prayer.

       May God give us the courage in the days to come to stand boldly and proclaim, “Thus saith the Lord!”

 

 

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

Haven Bradford Gow

       According to Carmen Mills, director of the Memphis/Shelby County (TN) Domestic Violence Council, fifteen to 20 percent of all battered women are pregnant; 80 percent of runaway children are from violent homes; juvenile delinquents are four times more likely to come from abusive homes; sixty–three percent of all boys between ages 11 and 20 who are arrested for murder have killed the man who was assaulting their mother; sixty–eight percent of domestic violence cases involve children as witnesses.

       Miss Mills points out these disconcerting facts: “Children from violent homes have a higher risk of alcohol or drug abuse and juvenile delinquency.  They may experience cognitive or language problems, developmental delay, stress-related ailments (such as headaches, ulcers or rashes) and hearing or speech problems.”  Moreover, “Boys who witness domestic violence are more likely than those from non–violent homes to batter their female partners.”

       As feminist scholar Tish Langlois points out in her book Fault Lines (Second Story Press, 720 Bathurst, #301, Toronto, Ont., Canada M5S 2R4), one of the worst forms of child abuse is child sex abuse: “The long–term consequences of sexual abuse are now better understood than ever before…One study conservatively estimates that at least a quarter of child sex abuse carries a legacy of serious long–term psychological harm to survivors.”

       Indeed, our contemporary cultural/moral/sexual climate encourages adults to view and treat children as toys to be used, abused and discarded after use.

       One popular myth involving domestic violence is that men always or almost always are the ones who instigate or engage in domestic violence and abuse; but, as conservative social critic Kathleen Parker pointed out in the June 30, 2008 Memphis Commercial–Appeal, “women initiate violence as often as men.”  She says, “Ignoring or downplaying (the fact that women often are guilty of instigating or engaging in domestic violence and abuse) obscures the real problem of violence in intimate relationships and makes solutions less likely.”

       Linda Mills, senior vice president at New York University and author of Violent Partners, notes that studies reveal that women instigate domestic violence in 24 percent of cases in which husbands do not retaliate, and that men initiate violence in 27 percent of cases in which women do not fight back.  In the other 49 percent of cases, both husbands and wives instigated and engaged in the domestic abuse and violence.

       This writer asked William Kelly, an FBI agent for 28 years before retiring, for his views on domestic violence.  Mr. Kelly, an expert regarding the connection between pornography and sex crimes and violence, said, “Child abuse and domestic violence are most definitely on the rise…For one thing, the population is growing.  That alone would almost explain the increases let alone the terrible breakdown of family life generally.  Also, the number of one–parent or no–parent families is staggering.  Instability, lack of morally–instilled values and guidelines of conduct and general selfishness account for much of the problems.”

       Mr. Kelly added: “No doubt more cases are being reported to police.  In the past some departments did not treat domestic violence as seriously as they do now.”

       Domestic abuse counselors Brenda Branson and Paula Silva, co–authors of Violence Among Us (Judson Press), insist that we are experiencing a nationwide epidemic of domestic abuse and violence; they suggest that the already pervasive problem may be even more serious than reported, since “Many women are ashamed to admit they are having problems at home.”  Behind the façade of a happy marriage and home may be vicious attacks – verbal, mental and physical – on spouses and children.

       Please consider:

       *A U.S. Justice Dept. study found a woman is beaten in her home every nine seconds; each year around three million women are physically abused by their husbands or boyfriends; thirty–one percent of American women say that they have been or are being physically or sexually abused by a husband or boyfriend; at least three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends each day in the United States; fifty percent of homeless women and children are escaping domestic abuse and violence.

       Moreover:

       For women aged 15–44, the leading cause of injury is abuse by a partner; victims of domestic violence account for 22–35 percent of all women obtaining emergency medical care; up to 324,000 women every year suffer violence from a partner during pregnancy; for pregnant women in this country, homicide is the leading cause of death.

       An article in the May/June 2004 Plain Truth pointed out, “Nearly one in three adult women experience at least one physical assault, according to the American Psychological Association.  The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports that 28 percent of all annual violence against women and five percent against men is perpetrated by intimates.”

       Coupled with the alarming increase of domestic violence is the depressing rise of child abuse (verbal, mental, physical, sexual).  In their work Murder is no Accident (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass), public health educators and violence prevention activists Drs. Deborah Prothrow-Stith and Howard Spivak note that “In the mid–1990s, approximately 25 children per 100,000 were reported as being maltreated (abused or neglected).  That number nearly doubles, to over 40 per 100,000, when those who are defined as at significant risk for harm are included.  Equally important is the fact that both these numbers have doubled since the mid–1980s.  These numbers represent about one million reports of child abuse a year and two thousand child deaths per year as a consequence of abuse or neglect.”

       What do abused children learn?  They learn that the world and even their homes are a mean, nasty dangerous place; they learn that uncontrolled anger and violence are normal and acceptable; they learn that the people who are supposed to love and protect them will not or cannot do the right thing.  And they learn that they must respond to frustrating and violent situations with even more violence.

       A nation must be in moral and spiritual decline when so many of its children have become targets and victims of abuse, violence and sexual assault.

       Child abuse – mental, verbal, physical and sexual – has become a nationwide epidemic.  FBI statistics reveal that between 1996 and 2000 the number of Internet–connected crimes against children skyrocketed 1,264 percent from 113 to 1,541.

       Why the tragic and alarming increase of child abuse?  In my view, the increase in child abuse reflects society’s moral decline and the view that human life no longer is sacred.

       The vicious attack on the sacredness of God–given human life is demonstrated by FBI statistics on murders, rapes and other violent crimes; the increase in suicides and attempted suicides; the nationwide epidemic of drug and alcohol abuse; the widespread popularity of pornography that degrades and dehumanizes women and children; the horrifying and terrifying reality of children killing other children; the increased demands for the social, moral and legal acceptance of infanticide, euthanasia and physician–assisted suicides; and the 40 million plus innocent unborn babies that have been butchered and scalded to death in their mothers’ wombs since baby–killing was legalized in this nation in January 1973.

       Abortion, after all, is the ultimate form of child abuse, and a callous disregard for human life inside the womb inevitably leads to disrespect for human life outside the womb as well.  In such a dehumanizing social and moral climate, where human life is deemed cheap and expendable, it should not surprise us that so many adults view and treat children as toys to be used, abused and discarded after use.

 

 

HARDSHIPS & HARD TIMES

Randall Walton

       God has not promised an easy road for the followers of Jesus Christ.  He did say, “Strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13).  In this day when homes are being lost, unemployment is on a steady rise, hunger is abounding, and real jobs are scarce, many people are discouraged and overcome with despair.

       But the words of Jesus remain true – the gate is still strait and the way is still narrow.  So many people have tried to change the gate and the way, but after all these many years they remain the same.  The gate is strait and the way remains narrow and few there be who find it.

       That is the way it ought to be.  As long as it remains in that condition, there will be impostors, people who believe and teach that the WAY gets easier as we become accustomed to it.  But that is not true.

       Jesus taught that in our walk with God we are required to take up our cross, die on that cross, be crucified with Jesus, and follow Him.  Death to the flesh is death to self; that is, it is self humiliation, self denial, self renunciation, self crucifixion, self death.  Jesus taught this very thing!  Strait means confining, narrow means squeaky clean.  There is no room here for the natural man, or the carnal man, to proceed on this narrow way.  The flesh with all his wants and desires must cease to be!

       Jesus taught this over and over, again and again.  He made no room for the flesh to profit nor gain anything along the way.  The only solution to the problem is that we must willingly face the cross, embrace it, cling to it, and die thereon.  Don’t think that God has special people who don’t need to die to special treatment.  Not so!  The cross, my cross, your cross, our cross must become supreme in our own personal lives.  Self–preservation must stop, because there is no room nor place on this narrow way for us to pamper nor please the flesh.  God has called for us to do the will of our heavenly Father, and His will is not the same as our will.

       As Jesus so plainly stated, “I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:30)!  “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38).  “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).  “Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work” (John 4:34).

       Since Jesus could do nothing of Himself, and we are to be like Him, why do we think that we can do whatever we want to do, and God is obligated to bless us?  Is not this the height of a rebellious nature?  God does not, will not, lower His standards to please rebellious people.  He has stated His desires in plain, easy to understand language, and He will not lower those divine standards for anyone!

       We need to remember God’s dealings with the man Moses.  The people needed water, and God told Moses to strike a rock and water would come out of it.  Moses did what God ordered and the water gushed forth.  Later, the people needed water again.  This time God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come forth.  But Moses was angry with the people, and he struck the rock when God had said to speak to it.  Water in abundance came out of the rock, but Moses’ anger cost him the privilege of going into the promised land.  The Lord allowed Moses to look at it from a mountaintop, but because he had disobeyed God in striking the rock instead of speaking to it, the Lord punished him by not allowing him to go there!  Was God justified in His action toward Moses?  Yes, indeed, God was completely justified.  God meant what He said to Moses, and Moses should have held his temper.

       It is amazing that so many people hold the word of God in such contempt.  It is as if God didn’t mean what He said.  But let it be known that God knows exactly what we need in every situation.

       Consider the word of God as He speaks to us in the Holy Scriptures: “And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Luke 10:23).  “And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27).  “Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it” (Luke 17:33).  “whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it” (Mark 8:34,35).  “And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that has left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions and in the world to come eternal life” (Mark 10:29,30).

       Total devotion to the Lord is what it costs to please Him; we have a cross to bear; we have self denial to perform; we have possessions which must be forsaken; we have dedication of ourselves, our families, our holdings.  God must be first!  He must be Number One in our lives, our thoughts, our hearts, our souls.  Jesus Christ must have preeminence in our lives.  If we are to be known as Christian, then Christ must be exalted above everything else.  We must exalt His Words and Sayings; we must follow Him no matter where He leads us; we must do His blessed will in everything; God is searching for those who will submit themselves to His perfect will in all that they do.  He will not be satisfied until that glorious day has come wherein He is glorified and lifted up above all idols, all vestiges of this world, and all of everything that pertains to this life.  That and that alone is all it takes to please the living God!

 

 

IS THE END NEAR?

Randall Walton

       Most of the people of the Christian faith are concerned about the nearness of the coming of Jesus Christ and the events which are prophesied to precede His return.  We, ourselves, often wonder how near we are to zero hour: could it be a few minutes before midnight, or do we have a great deal of time left before the trumpet announces the arrival of the great King?

       No one, of course, knows.  Jesus said that He did not nor did the angels know the day nor the hour of His appearance, even though the heavenly Father does.  This statement makes fools of these latter day “prophets” who claim from time to time that they have inside information about when He will reveal Himself.

       Jesus gave us some signs to watch for, which He said would indicate that the end was close at hand, but while these signs are quite specific it is also true that there is room for speculation and question.  Remember that Jesus warned of troublesome times to precede His coming which would overcome humanity as a great surprise, or a snare (Luke 21:34,35).

       One of the most profound statements He made regarding the end–times is that conditions would parallel those which existed in the time of Noah and the time of Lot.

       In both of those cases, it is a fact that mankind had become as corrupt as he could possibly be.  There was absolutely no sense of morality; there was neither wrong nor right: anything was right so long as it was enjoyable.

       We can easily assume from Genesis 6 that the single most important factor in life in Noah’s day was sexual activity, not only among and between humanity, but also humanity with “spirit beings.”  There is a duplication of such activity at the present time: Satanists have reported liaisons with demonic beings, and there are those who claim that “alien forces” have abducted individuals with the avowed purpose of producing a super race to take over and control the world!

       Without a doubt, there existed abortion mills where unwanted fetuses could be destroyed (“the earth was filled with violence.”  There is hardly a more violent act than terminating the life of an unborn baby).  Divorce and dissolution of families was commonplace (marrying and giving in marriage: Luke 17:27).  And since “all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (Gen. 6:12), it is safe to assume that multitudes of people were sexually active without benefit of marriage.  No doubt their sexual involvement started in their pre–teen years (It does now).

       It is probable that they had the same slogan which many corrupt people quote today: “sex before eight, or it’s too late.”  Drugs and pornography were a way of life, acceptable by most and refused by only a handful (The Noah family).  Homosexuals proudly stalked the streets and by–ways, declaring that they were madly in love with their own gender.  And of course, they attributed this behavior to their genes – they were born the way they were, just as alcoholics have a natural proclivity for drunkenness.  (If this were true, God would be most unjust to pronounce eternal damnation upon them, as He surely will.  And it wasn’t very nice of Him to destroy all those corrupt peoples in Noah’s and Lot’s days, was it?)

       Those rebels were very busy, though.  Their businesses were booming; they had huge building programs.  People were planning for the future as if they expected to inhabit the globe forever.  They weren’t content with mediocrity or a low–class style of life.  They were out to get all they could lay their hands on.

       They didn’t look on poor old Noah as their role model, that religious fanatic who claimed God talked to him and instructed him to build a big houseboat on dry land.  They wanted a four–camel stall attached to their prestigious mansion, with a gorgeous kidney–shaped pool in the back yard where they could entertain their fun–loving friends and enjoy an afternoon of orgiastic pleasures.  Hedonism ruled the day as well as the night.

       And music filled the air.  It was heard night and day.  Their music and their lifestyle were most compatible – made for each other.  The more bawdy and raucous it was, the more the people liked it.  Their corruption was reflected through their hard–core music.  They extolled the life of the faithless, the scum of society, the hateful and mean: murderers, those who defied law, order and respect.  “Every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

       This was in evidence in all their writings, their music, education, literature, the theatre, all of society.  The base and immoral became legitimate: their heroes were the vile, the fornicators, the blasphemers, the lewd, the ungodly, the homosexuals, the haters of that which was good.  And the real stars were those who displayed the most flesh in public.

       Naturally, money played a leading role in their lives.  Schemers, sharks, and chiselers were very adept at turning their dimes into dollars (or their copper into gold).  Commercialism was the backbone of society and government.  There were a few guidelines which somewhat limited how deep a gouge was legal; but then, the guy who could take a little gold dust and multiply it a million times over in a short period of time was considered a real genius, a mastermind, in short, a success!  “Buying and selling” (Luke 17:28) meant, “buy low, sell high.”  Profiteering was as natural as spring and fall.

       It was so natural, in fact, that their day of destruction came as a great surprise to them all (Matt. 24:39).  They just could not believe that a just and merciful God could be so unmerciful and full of wrath.  Their motto was, “God hates the sin, but loves the sinner.”  Translated into English, this usually meant that the sin was “negotiable.”  It’s strange that mankind thinks he can talk God out of His determination to destroy the wicked in the lake of fire!

Not Much Time Left

       How do we know those conditions existed in the days of Noah and Lot?  Easy!  Jesus said so: the horrors of those days are to be repeated in the time just prior to Jesus’ second advent.  We know we are living in the time just prior to His appearance by many other signs; therefore, we know that the mess we see in the world today is a replicate of the scene which existed ‘way back there in ancient times.’

       The violence, the corruption, the moral decay, homosexuality, evil imaginations, etc., all of which are prevalent in modern living, tell us that the world witnessed this before, several thousand years ago.  What we see today is Noah’s day and Lot’s day.  They also tell us that judgment and justice are drawing near and that God will surely fulfill His word, just has He has before.

       What time is it?  “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep” (Rom. 13:11).  Let’s not kid ourselves about the spiritual condition of the “church.”  Sleep dominates the pews and the aisles of the average assembly, and has invaded the pulpit as well.  It is a pitifully sad day for those who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ.  Outright lethargy chokes the atmosphere of the modern house of God.  Most ministers must resort to jokes and entertaining stories to spur the interest and enthusiasm of their clientele.  Very little of the pure word of God is expounded anymore, because people have “turned away their ears from the truth, and have turned unto fables” (II Tim. 4:3,4).

       It is time to wake up.  Conditions are bad and are getting worse.  When we are aware of the judgments of Almighty God upon a godless, sin–immersed, violent population, we must be aware that time is very short.  Be serious, be sober, be sincere.  “Draw nigh unto God, and God will draw nigh unto you.”  And that’s what time it is!

 

 

 

THE SAVIOUR IS BORN

Randall Walton

       The fact of Jesus’ birth is unquestioned.  Even those who do not believe in His Messiah–ship recognize that He lived in Judea in the first century A.D., a truth admitted by our use of the terms B.C. and A.D.

       What is not agreed upon is the date of his birth, neither the year, the month nor the day.  The Roman Catholic church arbitrarily set the date as December 25, a date of convenience since this day was already a day of great celebration.  Sun worshippers had long ago set aside the time of the winter solstice as a joyous occasion: the shortest day of the year had just passed, the days were lengthening, the sun god would be visible for a longer period of time each day.

       High spirited revelry, drunkenness, orgiastic partying and colorful decorations were all a part of the pagan scene.  An evergreen tree, symbolizing continuity of life, was brought in and decked out with tinsel and trinkets (and in some instances, candles), all in honor of the sun.  SUNday was the weekly festival of Sol, fittingly held on the first day of the week in honor of a New Beginning, for which the sun was given credit and praise.

       That heathen holiday, Saturnalia, became known as the birthday of Jesus Christ is one of the wildest hoaxes foisted off on an unsuspecting, uneducated, and vulnerable people.  That the R.C. church was able to do it is a credit to their cunning and craft.  That it is truly an invention of the R.C. church may be attested to by its very name: Christ-mass, or a mass in honor of Christ!  That the protestants have bowed down to the decree of the R.C. church is strong evidence that they have not carried their protest far enough.

       There stand before us two vital questions concerning the birth of the Savior:

  1. When was He born?
  2. Should we observe His birth?

When Was Christ Born?

There is not one logical reason to believe that Jesus was born in December.  The climate in Palestine is much too cold in December for travel on foot over long distances.  The same can be said for shepherds watching over sheep out in the open fields: much too cold in December.

   In addition, taxing (the reason for Joseph’s and Mary’s journey to Bethlehem) usually took place at the beginning of a new civil year at harvest time, not in December.

   Further, it is quite simple to calculate the time of His birth from the time of His death.  It is believed by most Bible scholars that Jesus was 33½ years old when He died.  There are several reasons for this assertion.

   Since He was crucified on Passover day (the 14th day of the first month, Nisan), we need only count six months (or a half a year) from that day, and this will give us the exact date of His birth!  It is probably no coincidence that six months from Passover brings us to the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles!  This harvest–time feast begins on the 15th day of the 7th month, exactly six months after Passover day.

   It is probably also no coincidence that He was circumcised the eighth day, and the eighth day of Tabernacles was known as “that great day of the feast.” (John 7:37, Luke 2:21, Lev. 23:34-36, 39)

   Bringing this into a modern perspective, we reckon Passover this year, 2009, as having fallen on April 10.  The Feast of Tabernacle was six months later on October 10, and the last great day (or day of special assembly) was on October 18.  Thus we state that the birth date of Jesus Christ this year was October 10.  Of course, this will vary from year to year just as your own birthday does not occur upon the same day of the week each year.  It will always occur on the 15th day of the 7th Biblical month.

Should We Observe His Birthdate?

There is nothing in the Scriptures to suggest that the Lord intended for His people to observe the birthday of the Saviour.  There is neither precept nor precedence for such an observance.  It is scriptural for us to observe His death, but not for His birth nor resurrection. The setting aside of those two events as special holidays comes straight out of paganism and the R.C. church.

       No one should infer from the above statement that we believe Jesus’ birth and resurrection were unimportant; not so.  His appearance on earth was absolutely necessary, and His manner of birth was ordered by the Father.  Likewise, His resurrection was a necessary complement to His plan of salvation (I Cor. 15:16,17).  However, the Bible is silent about either of those two events being observed religiously or ceremonially.

       But if anyone believes he can honor God by observing the birth and/or resurrection of Jesus, he should do it at the proper time and without the inclusion of all the heathen customs, traditions and practices.  His birth date coincides with the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles and His resurrection took place on the third day after Passover.

       God forbids the decorating of trees: Jeremiah 10:1-5.  The other things connected with December 25 are heathen also: Santa Claus, stuffed stockings, yule logs, mistletoe, gifts, etc.  There is very little left to do if you drop all the heathen traditions that accompany the heathen holiday.  Since we are no longer heathen, why should we stoop to heathen customs?

       Paganism has filled Christianity with its filth and ungodliness, and sadly, “the people love to have it so.”

 

 

HAPPY THANKSGIVING, 2009

Randall Walton

       We have so many blessings and are so honored to represent our wonderful Lord, that we are nearly without sufficient voice to recognize His mighty power and authority in so many ways; He has been so good to us in so many things, and we can only appreciate His goodness and mercy and grace and preservation to this very moment.

       It is a fact that there are many homeless and shelterless people who have little or nothing to eat, no warmth for their pitiful bodies, no bed, none of the comforts that we count dear to ourselves in this land of super–abundance.  Our hearts go out to the poor souls who are suffering and are barely making it from one day to the next day.  We only wish it were possible to take them in, provide a bath for them, give them new or good used clothing, set them down to a bountiful meal and care for their needs.

       God is helping us to build a place where we can offer help to the needy, a place of rest, a place of refuge from the storms of life and the ravages of unemployment, grief and despair.  God has touched our hearts so that we desire to share the blessings of life with those less fortunate than ourselves.

       We plan to have a sumptuous meal on Thanksgiving Day and have invited a large number of people to come and enjoy the blessings of God with us, but we can’t overlook the fact that there are countless numbers of folks who have little of this world’s goods for which to be thankful.  If you have the good fortune to enjoy the blessings of God, don’t forget the homeless, the down–and–out hungry souls who long for the comfort and satisfaction of a well–prepared dinner with all the trimmings which go along with the meal.

       Give thanks to Almighty God who has made it all possible, and remember that this could be the last Thanksgiving Day dinner you will enjoy as in the past because of sinister and dire forces at work to deprive us all of the blessings of this Holiday.  May the living God bless you all on this special day, and may He be close to you and guide you as never before.  God bless!!