God’s Fullness and Our Bounty

Paul, when writing to the Philippians concerning their support for him expresses a desire that they would be supplied by God. Maybe this wasn’t really a desire, but a statement of fact.  Here’s the actual quote – [Phl 4:19 NKJV] 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Jesus himself taught that God is the provider for all that man needs in a physical way (Mat 6:24-34). Certainly, it stands to reason that God, who created all that exists and set in order every manner of nature which knows what it is we need, and what we need to thrive.  The very existence of our planet is perfect.  Perfectly situated in relation to other celestial bodies so that we have seasons, day, night, cycles of every kind of weather.  He created the plants which sustain life as food, the animals from which man has been clothed, assisted in labors, and which we often enjoy filling our bellies with.  All of this, as Paul observes in Rom 1:20 attests to the Creator who formed it all, His attributes, His power, His authorship.

Physical Bounties

The Philippians had from their own abundance supplied for the needs of the Apostle, and Paul is recognizing that while it was their generosity, it was God’s abundant supply which gave them the means to do so.  So we see here at the end of the section of text that Paul grants a sort of prayer on their behalf and that God would supply them not just physically, but especially spiritually through the richness of Jesus. 

It is so easy in our modern world to listen to the world’s praise of self, and of ourselves and quickly believe that we by our strength or our wisdom, knowledge, or skill have provided for ourselves.  How quick we are to forget how our tables have been set.  It may be by our labors that we earn our means, but all of it is by God’s providence, out of His abundance.

Spiritual Bounties

God’s abundance toward us is not contained only in the physical things of this life though.  He has done so much for us spiritually.  Paul describes it as a purpose and plan that predates that of time itself.

[Eph 1:3-6 NKJV] 3 Blessed [be] the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly [places] in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Throughout the Bible, we see God’s plan set forth and working toward the end of righting man’s wrong.  All of this culminates in the fullness of God’s time that He would send His Son, that this Son would sacrifice His own life for the remission of our sins, and that we might be called sons through the adoption we have in Christ Jesus.

Man was only deserving of death because of sin, yet God’s grace and mercy have been extended toward us that we might live, and that in Christ we might have life eternal.

Our Contentment

Seeing then the fullness of God’s provision for us in this life and for eternity, we should be content with such blessings as He provides.  He wants us to have faith in Him, in His ability rather than our own, in His provision rather than the illusion of our own, in His way rather than our way.  We must learn by trials, by perseverance, as we go along the way, that He is providing all that we need.  Such instills within us greater faith.  It is when we surrender to Him and lean upon Him that our faith is increased and we become stronger spiritually.

Paul provided a blessing to the Ephesians in this manner: [Eph 3:16-19 NKJV] 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what [is] the width and length and depth and height– 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Paul didn’t want them to lose heart at the tribulations which he was enduring (recall this letter was one of his prison epsistles).  Rather, he desired that they would be uplifted and streghthened by that which God supplies.  In Christ we are all of His household.  He is the Father then of us all and provides for us all fully. So we should depend on Him for He is always dependable in all that He has, is, and will provide.

[Heb 13:5 NKJV] 5 [Let your] conduct [be] without covetousness; [be] content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Let us then not waver in looking to Him to supply our abundance, and may we desire fervently to be content with that which He provides.  When we receive His blessings, it should move us in reverence and love to honor Him for what we have in this life.

Are we really leaning upon Him?  Are we trusting Him?  Are we being filled both physically and spiritually by Him?  When we won’t let Him provide in these ways, we will find ourselves always lacking in the contentment department.  Trust, Obey, be filled.


Next week marks the start of our season known as Daylight Savings.  We will advance our clocks by an hour and so change our days so that we can make the most of the hours of sunshine.  Anglers know that the best fishing conditions are on the horizon, water temps are coming up, we see trees beginning to bring forth their first buds and the first green shoots of leaves are on the branches.  Springtime is near.  Certainly, it is an exciting time and season in our calendars.

With the coming of the warmer months, we will pack away our coats and jackets and trade our long sleeves and pants for short sleaves and short pants.  With this change in our dress, it is a good time for us to discuss our attire and how we are presenting ourselves as Christians to the world.  What is appropriate for us in how we act, as well as how we adorn ourselves?

We often tie such discussions to a single word: Modesty.

Merriam-Webster says of this word that it has been around since the mid 1500’s.  It has always been used in connection with how one dresses.  Webster says it means, “propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.”  You know the thing that is modest does change depending upon occasion doesn’t it.

If you were going to a formal event which the invitation described as “black-tie”, would it be modest to wear your Def Leopard t-shirt and a pair of shorts? Of course, we know that the answer is no.  Likewise, we would look a bit out of place in a full tuxedo or three-piece suit on the fishing boat in the middle of the lake.  One might say that you were overdressed for the occasion. 

It would by the very definition of the word describe both of the absurd illustrations above as immodest. These illustrate improper dress for the occasion, but how about our attire and our actions generally?

The idea of modesty is to draw ourselves unnaturally to being the center of attention.  Modern clothing designers have made it their habit to create clothes that attempt to make the flesh and the body of the wearer to be the absolute center of attention.  Clothes that accentuate physical traits and draw the eye to regions of the body which entice lust and longing.  Such designs are not becoming of Christians.

Peter gives instruction concerning how we should dress as does Paul in their letters.

[1Pe 3:3-4 NKJV] 3 Do not let your adornment be [merely] outward–arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on [fine] apparel– 4 rather [let it be] the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible [beauty] of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.

[1Ti 2:9-10 NKJV] 9 in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, 10 but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works.

So how we dress then is important.  Our dress, should be proper, moderate, unassuming.  We should not draw attention to ourselves by our attire, our hair, makeup, and the like.  How we dress should declare who we are in Christ.  It should demonstrate our allegiance to Him.  Such is true equally for men and for women.  The thing that people should take away from an interaction with us is not our outward appearance, but the fact that we are inwardly beautiful and reflecting Christ in our lives.

Go back and read in Genesis 3. When man first sinned and came to know that he was without clothes, what was his inclination?

[Gen 3:7  NKJV] 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

Man tried to cover themselves and they hid themselves from God.  Such coverings were inadequate though.  So God made them something more adequate.

[Gen 3: 21 NKJV] 21 Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

God made them tunics to cover the torso and upper body.  Most scholars agree that this would be a covering to the knee. So we should dress to be covered and not unclothed.

Beyond our dress, the idea of modesty also applies to how we conduct ourselves. Go back up and read the definition.  It also applies to our speech and our conduct.  The Bible also addresses this part of the idea of modesty. Paul describes the kind of speech we are to possess in his letters.

[Col 4:6 NKJV] 6 [Let] your speech always [be] with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.

[Eph 4:29 NKJV] 29 Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.

Our speech can be just as immodest as dress at the beach or pool.  If we are being modest, we are dressing in proper ways, we are not trying to draw attention to ourselves by what we wear, and we are conducting ourselves in a quiet manner.  In a word, we are chaste in dress, in conduct, and in speech.  This doesn’t mean that we cannot have fun, but it does mean that we have to consider carefully our dress, our activities, and how we act and talk. Let us be modest in all our ways and so be representative of who God wants us to be.

For Its Proper Use

Growing up, my mother used to ask dad to perform some task around the house which wasn’t an ordinary chore, and often his response was something to the effect that would get around to it, but he didn’t have the proper tool at that time.  I bring this up, because I was afforded the opportunity this week in my discussions in the community to bring up this concept of things being useful for the purpose they were made. Everything man has devised has been wrought for a purpose, hasn’t it?  We build tools to break the soil and plant the seed and pluck the crop.  We made walls for safety and roofs for shelter.  Likewise in our modern era, technology and time march on seemingly in a cadence that is ascending so fast we can but barely keep up.  In all of this though, we as humans continue to innovate and make tools for a purpose and for their use.

What happens though when that which was good for its use; a tool like a gun, bow, knife, etc. ceases to be put to use in the task for which it was created?  Of course this is easy for us to answer.  Many of us have experienced the tragedy of loss that can be brought on by such abuse – for shouldn’t that be what we call it when such tools are misused?  The word “misuse” doesn’t quite ring strongly enough for such times, does it? The problem is that we live in a world where so often, men want to blame the tools for the misuse which was perpetrated using that tool. That kind of mindset is largely the problem that has plagued man since the very first sin and the ensuing curses.  We as humans were created in the image of God (Gen 1:27-28; Gen 2:7) and were given life and freedom to be, do, and choose.  The command which God had given to man – “be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over” [it](Gen 1:28). Man was created and made for this purpose.  Further, Gen 2:15-17 tells us that the man was placed in the garden and was to tend and keep it.  God gave to man all manner of herbs and plants as his meal, and simply stated that “of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” When Adam and Eve ate from the tree which God had forbidden, they ceased to be useful for the purpose to which they were created.  They were abusing God’s creation and so in their selfishness, and being self-willed, they used the created object – man, a servant for God in a manner for which it was not created; namely to serve self.

God created for Himself his own chosen people from a man who was as good as dead along with a wife who was past the age of child bearing (I would refer you to the Abraham story in Genesis). This wasn’t to bring glory or honor to Abraham, but it was for God’s own glory. To Abraham’s descendants was written [Isa 43:7 NKJV] “7 Everyone who is called by My name, Whom I have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him.” Man then being created is a vessel made to serve its maker; when we lose sight of our place, we start to think in improper terms. We start to serve other gods.  We serve the god of self (isn’t that the lie that Satan told Adam and Eve? “you will be like God”), we serve gods which we have made for ourselves (material things, possessions, other people).  My point is that when we start to honor and glorify anyone and anything other than God, we become that which was created for a purpose – to serve God, and we are using the created for an improper purpose – namely sin.  Paul was writing about their liberties and the things they were consuming, but to the Corinthians he tells them to bring glory to God in all that they do (1 Cor 10:31).  That is what we have been made for, and that is what we as a redeemed people are put to the task to complete- Glorifying God. God is the creator of the created.  We the created continue to create things just like our creator whose image we were created in. He will use us as instruments of His, in similar fashion to the things which we create have a purpose and a plan for which we create, we are created to fulfill His purpose and plan. [Isa 54:16-17 NKJV] 16 “Behold, I have created the blacksmith Who blows the coals in the fire, Who brings forth an instrument for his work; And I have created the spoiler to destroy. 17 No weapon formed against you shall prosper, And every tongue [which] rises against you in judgment You shall condemn. This [is] the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their righteousness [is] from Me,” Says the LORD.“ It has always been that God is the source of righteousness and so He has called all people to be His own chosen people through Jesus Christ.  He has chosen us by means of the Redeemer and so we must be useful to Him and allow ourselves to be used by Him.

That requires us to be diligent in our preparation that our usefulness is complete. This requires our study and knowledge of His word: “[2Ti 3:16-17 NKJV] 16 All Scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” This requires us to put off things of the world and become people of God. – [Rom 12:2 NKJV] “2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” And when we do these things, we will begin to spread His word and will and bring others to Him.  We will commit such to others and they will in turn commit it to others further and so the Gospel will go forth and we will fulfill what God Has set for us to do. [2Ti 2:2 NKJV] 2 And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The preacher declared: [Pro 16:1-8 NKJV] 1 The preparations of the heart [belong] to man, But the answer of the tongue [is] from the LORD. 2 All the ways of a man [are] pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. 3 Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established. 4 The LORD has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom. 5 Everyone proud in heart [is] an abomination to the LORD; [Though they join] forces, none will go unpunished. 6 In mercy and truth Atonement is provided for iniquity; And by the fear of the LORD [one] departs from evil. 7 When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. 8 Better [is] a little with righteousness, Than vast revenues without justice.

Forgiveness and Love

When we think about love, probably the first thing that comes to our mind isn’t forgiveness, but as I contemplated love, I couldn’t help but observe all the different characteristics of God and of man’s relationship with Him which we should rightly connect with the fact that we are loved by Him. We think of love through a variety of lenses, and yet maybe struggle to fully grasp what it is. It isn’t just an emotion, or a dose of hormones on our brain. Love is deep within our hearts and is maybe a conviction, a hope, and all of the fullness of giving self to honor or uplift the object of that love.

Paul gives to us that greatest of definitions concerning love, [1Co 13:4-8a NKJV] 4 Love suffers long [and] is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails…

We so often romanticize the words of Paul, yet isn’t he telling us that love is the very best of outlooks (hope) with a big dose of forgiveness? Forgiveness is the opposite of selfish, for in forgiving, we must put off self and pride. Forgiveness is what God offered to us although we didn’t deserve it. Forgiveness to a sin-sick world, a world filled with envy, pride, rudeness, selfishness, and all manner of evils brought forth by Satan and all of his lies. Love is at the root of who we are supposed to be because we are Christ’s, and we are to be a reflection of the best characteristics which He embodied and lived out by way of example during His life on this earth.

So, it is unto His teaching and example we must look to really understand what it means for us to love like He loves. He loved us first! (1 Jo 4:19), and not because there was anything virtuous about mankind
which was deserving of His love. Like a parent, our Creator God bestowed every manner of blessing and gift upon mankind. He is the giver of all good things in the material realm, He is the creator of all
splendor, all power, and all authority; He has bestowed richly a spiritual blessing of eternal life in His presence which is rooted in His forgiveness of us for all of our transgressions.

So like toddlers, we are being taught by Him through His word and our discipleship of His life, that we are to love. We are to love God with all of our being and our fellow man as we love ourselves (Matt 22:37-39).
As He taught His disciples to pray, he taught them to ask for God’s forgiveness and connected that forgiveness to the act of offering forgiveness to others (Mat 6:12). We have to recognize what a great
debt we ourselves owe, and therefore find in our hearts compassion from which we may freely offer forgiveness to others (Mat 18:21-35). So much of the teachings of the Lord were directly related to these two ideas – love and forgiveness. Certainly our page is not enough to mention all that is relevant on these topics.

So much of John’s writings stress the importance of love; God’s love for us, our love for Him, our love for others. Mans’ relationship with God because of our sins is such that we are already living in a cursed world that is hopelessly condemned. Notice that it was from God’s love, that He would offer grace and mercy toward man: [Jhn 3:16-17 NKJV] 16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
For God to offer salvation, He must needs forgive man that our sin which separates us from Him might be put off and cleansed.

We are certainly quick to want love and want God’s love because of all that it means for us. Yet are we equally quick to love others by extending mercy and grace? With our obedience to His will, he provides forgiveness to us. Are we as forgiving with those who have hurt us, wronged us, done things which are truly harmful? This is a difficult thing for us with our emotions, our pride, our hatred. It is
often easier for us to keep up animosity, rather than offer forgiveness. Maybe that’s why Jesus said, “[Mat 5:44-45 NKJV] 44 “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, 45 “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Too many in the world today claim to be following Christ yet refuse to submit to His commandments or be obedient to Him. John tells us though that we must submit and obey in order to love Him: [1Jo 5:3
NKJV] 3 “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Love is the difference in doing someone else’s will by our own choosing rather than
begrudgingly. So it is that we must understand that love and forgiveness are inextricably intertwined in such a way that you cannot truly have the one without the other. As we begin to understand this and start to apply forgiveness to our love of others, we then can unburden ourselves with so much load of resentment, grudging and hatred. When you have forgiven, there is nothing to hold against someone. When you have forgiven, the scores are settled up and everyone is even. When you have forgiven, you have extended grace and mercy to those who haven’t done anything to deserve it. When we start to grasp these things, it can revolutionize our relationships with those around us.

God is Love, therefore if we are His children, we must also be filled with love and demonstrate that love toward others by being quick to forgive. Forgiveness is a gift that God has chosen to extend to us, and one which we must be quick to give. Love also compels us to hope and expect the best for others. It will change our relationship with God, as well as our relationships with other men because so much weight of negative feelings and walls of separation are torn down by forgiveness and love.

Love, grace, mercy, forgiveness are all gifts which God has given to us, and we should be more freely giving of these gifts toward others. It will change our lives and rebuild our heart. If we can move out of our own way and distribute these gifts more freely, our road will become easier and our steps lighter on the journey we call life.

What Relationships Are You Fostering

Our lives are filled with connections to people. We build these connections through shared experiences and moments, and just like the force of gravity, this connection is always present, even if though we don’t see it. However, in our fast-paced modern age filled with distractions and conveniences, we’re at risk of allowing these connections to weaken or even disappear. Our shared moments are becoming rare, and our relationships are increasingly defined by metrics and numbers rather than the depth of connection.

This trend is concerning, especially in a time when the pandemic has further isolated us from one another. It’s as if we’re adrift, disconnected from the fundamental aspects of life. But amid these challenges, there is hope. We can rediscover the essence of meaningful relationships by turning to the timeless lessons found in the New Testament, where intentional relationships formed discipleship in the early Christian community.

The Power Of A Moment: Consider the force of gravity; you can’t see it, but you know it’s always there, holding us to the ground. Similarly, our connections with others are a fundamental force in our lives, anchoring our relationships. Briefly, let us explore how intentional relationships, as demonstrated in the New Testament, can shape our lives and communities.

New Testament Examples

Jesus and His Disciples: The New Testament portrays Jesus and His disciples as the embodiment of intentional relationships. Jesus didn’t merely preach to His disciples; He lived with them, shared meals with them, and allowed them to witness His daily life. This closeness enabled His disciples to learn not only from His teachings but also from His example.

Paul and Timothy: The relationship between the apostle Paul and Timothy offers deep insights into mentorship and discipleship. Paul invested time and guidance in Timothy, nurturing his growth as both a Christian and a young minister laboring in the Word. This intentional relationship bore lasting fruit in the early church and demonstrates the power of mentorship in shaping future leaders.

The Early Christian Community in Acts: Acts 2:42-47 provides a glimpse into the intentional relationships within the early Christian community. They didn’t merely gather for worship; they devoted themselves to teaching, fellowship, breaking bread together, and prayer. This shared life strengthened their bonds and facilitated their mission to spread the Gospel wherever they went.

Reclaiming the Fundamentals: As we reflect on these New Testament examples, we should be compelled to increase our togetherness. The stories of Jesus and His disciples, Paul and Timothy, and the early Christian community in Acts, lead us to prioritize genuine connections in our lives.

The distractions of our world, and the isolation brought about by the pandemic, serve as moving reminders of the significance of these intentional relationships. It’s time for us to take a step back, reevaluate our priorities, and reconnect with the fundamentals.

Reconnecting Today: In the 21st century, our fast-paced lives often prioritize speed and efficiency, valuing digital communication over meaningful connections. The pandemic highlighted the importance of what I would call “presentness”, revealing that virtual interactions can’t replace face-to-face connections. Let’s reevaluate our multitasking habits and invest more time, attention, and care in our relationships.

Prioritizing Face-to-Face Connection: While technology has undoubtedly enriched our lives, it should complement, not replace, the essential human need for face-to-face interaction. In the early Christian community, gatherings were more frequent than worship services, allowing them to have opportunities for genuine connections. They shared meals, prayers, and life experiences together. Those are truly the times that draw a community together.

Improving Our Relationships: So, how can we build and nurture authentic relationships? Here are a few ideas for your consideration:

Quality Over Quantity: Rather than trying to maintain a vast number of superficial connections, focus on fewer deep and meaningful relationships. Quality often surpasses quantity in the realm of relationships.

Unplug and Engage: Set aside dedicated time to unplug from digital devices and engage in meaningful conversations with friends and loved ones. Be fully present in the moment. Spend less time in front of screens whether alone or with others.

Listen Actively: Actively listening to others is a powerful way to show that you value their time and presence. It builds understanding and empathy, strengthening the bonds between individuals.

Share Experiences: Create opportunities for shared experiences, whether through hobbies, volunteering, or simply spending time together. These shared moments are fundamental to what makes for a true relationship.

Express Gratitude: Regularly express your appreciation for the people in your life. Gratitude acts as a glue in strengthening our connections.

Conclusion: In a world that prioritizes speed and efficiency, we must recognize the profound importance of our connections. The New Testament’s guidance on intentional relationships offers a path to rediscovering the life Jesus lived as an example for our own. As we invest time and care into our relationships, we enrich our lives and fortify the bonds that define our Christian community. Let’s get back to the basics and nurture relationships that mirror Christ’s love, grace, and obedience. This practice can bridge the gaps created by modern distractions and isolation, while fostering enduring connections.

The Greatest Story Ever Told

There are in every age a set of writings which for whatever reason, men of that age pick them up and consume them, discuss and re-read. They become in time beloved tomes which we often call “classic” works. Such often take on a new form, demonstrate a previously untapped genre, or represent some great turning point in social shaping and revolution.  Certainly there are many such works which have been of value as cultural pieces, but there is one which surpasses them all. 

Of course, I’m talking about the Bible- more widely copied in antiquity than any other work, yet to be fair the Bible is not of itself a singular work, but rather a woven tapestry of many works – 66 to be precise.  It is the most cohesive story which touches every generation and speaks to every generation who ever has or ever will walk this earth.  It is the story of a people, and yet also a story of a person.  It defines the framework by which all the legal and moral norms in western civilizations have been based upon. Within its pages, man finds all the mysteries revealed which are truly important to our understanding and our living. It is our origin story – Genesis, as well as the explanation of why for so many struggles.  It explains the why for death – sin, and from that very first family and their tragic story, we find the earliest glimpse into the mystery of God revealed through this collection of writings – [Gen 3:15 NKJV] 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the

woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Many have been critical of this grand book, as a history book for a people (truly as it was being recorded it did serve that purpose among many) for it is a history of the nation of Israel – the people who were born from a single man whose original given name was Jacob.  A man who wrestled with God and who he should be (Gen 32), how he should live.

If there were no Bible what would we be? All of humankind searches for meaning and struggles with suffering, sadness, pain, and finally death, but as we contemplate such things and process our grief, we would be left with emptiness and despair. Because of the Bible, what it claims, and what it represents, we are not left with despair, but that despondency is replaced with hope.  Death is replaced with life.  Division of man and his creator is replaced with reconciliation.  If ever a book had a perfect plot, if ever there was a great build up and suspense in a literary work, it is here in contained within the pages of your Bible.

Yes, the Bible is the greatest story ever told, by way of many stories.  Stories which we can find enrichment from and stories that are so very instructive to us.  We would do well then to give it more time in our lives. To revere it as the revealed word from our Creator (2 Tim 3:16-17).  It is His message to us, and if we desire for life to be more than pain and suffering, we must recognize this life as dead and the here-after to be the life which we live for. In a world that struggles with social injustices and wherein people have caused divisions with one another because of wrongs or perceived wrongs, we have been given a way of reconciliation.  That grand book tells the story of a family which was estranged and

grew divided to the point that they couldn’t find a way back together.  Yet, in one individual, we find the way back together.  We find reconciliation from people who think of themselves as many families, to those who are made one family in Christ.  We can be part of that family- God’s family, His own people, His sons and daughters.

For all the epics ever conceived by men, the Bible is a jewel whose beauty surpasses all others, and it is the writing which truly contains meaning for each of our lives.

However, none of these themes, nor the redemptive work of God toward His people will matter to me, if I never pick up this book and take in its story.  I must hear the story told and contemplate it for it to shape me, mold me, make me to the person that I need to be. It is the ultimate self-help book for it tells me how to make use of all the blessings which God has provided.  He provided these blessings, by His Spirit He has revealed these things, through His own Son, the redeeming of a sin-sick race has been offered.  Through that Son, this work will be demonstrated as perfection when all is done away with.  He has told us how the story will end, and what we must do if we want our story to end in victory. 

God has provided for us the choice – victory and life or defeat and death.  So I ask you dear reader, what are you doing with the Bible?  Have you read the greatest story every told?  Has it changed your life? Has it changed who you are?  If you are applying the Bible, you will find that it has the power to change you, to shape your heart and to provide hope.  By faith which compels obedience, you may find such life.

We invite you to study this great story alongside us.

Coveting Time

Before I put this into the universe, let me disclaim what follows.  I am in no way judging those who choose to fight, who choose to undergo radiation therapy, chemotherapy, homeopathic/natural therapies to fight and treat cancer. I pray that you will not find it in any way critical of those enduring cancer for that is not the intention with which I write it.  I have nothing but love and respect for the cancer survivors (especially those close to me in my life).  This is simply a contemplation that struck me as I meditated on scripture, who we are and who we should be, what our focus and desire should look like.

In my life, I have seen so many from family members to friends, to mere acquaintances who have suffered from cancer. 

Certainly, it is one of those ominous words in our vocabulary. When a doctor comes in and shares their opinion with you that you have cancer.  The “C” word. When they proclaim that great pall over your head that it is a terminal condition. They give you a professional estimate of how many months or years they would expect you to remain in this mortal flesh.

I have observed at times in these patients that they will talk to all the experts and gather up all of the opinions and then comes nothing but bad choices.  They must choose to take care that is made up of poisons and toxins which are documented to kill at a cellular level.  These compounds are administered to the patient stealing their hair, their clarity of thought, their strength, energy, and zest for life.  They steal away appetites for food, company, and are a kind of suffering at least as equally terrible as the disease they are purported to fight. 

The alternative choice given by the experts is to go and enjoy the few days, weeks, or months that you have left.  The experts paint a bleak picture as though we were meant to roam here indefinitely and should seek to stay bound up here at any and all costs.

Everyone who fights against this disease regardless of treatments that they choose does so for their own reasons.  They know the people and the causes for which they fight. They fight so bravely and hold onto their loved ones and this life with all they have. Again, I have nothing but respect for these and the situation in life that they face.  It is a reminder of the darkness of this world and was brought upon mankind because of sin.

But there is another outlook on all of this.

We, in human flesh are all terminal.  We suffer from a terminal condition which is bound to this earth and brought on by sin. We can none of us know the ending, yet we all understand that before us lies an end. We scratch and claw and fight to remain fastened here.  We long for so much of our lives to prevent change and keep ourselves rooted to this existence.  So much is done in our ignorance of what we have been created for. 

God made us in HIS image.  HE breathed into us the breath of life. HE molded and formed us.  We were made for HIM.  To honor Him; To serve Him; to glorify Him.  He loved us so much that He sent His only begotten to redeem us from sin (Jhn 3:16).  Redeem us and restore us to His own (1Jo 3:1).  He made a way to escape sin and overcome death.

He provided to us the test case and the testimony is real and true.  Jesus of Nazareth, the first fruit of the grave to never die (1Co 15:20-22). The sacrificial lamb (1Co 5:7) who’s death overcame sin and the temptations of this life (1Jo 3:16). The Son presented in glory overcoming both sin and death is our way to overcome these ourselves.  These shackles and weights of sin.

So we should cease to covet time here. Prolonging and increasing our suffering by accepting the poisons of this sinful world.  Rather, we should as Paul says, redeem the time (Eph 5:15-21). Make the most of the minutes and moments of our walk on this earth.  Live life to its fullest knowing that we are dying here and in faith knowing that we will live eternally with Him.

The Apostle Peter, in his letters, gives us these perspectives:

[1Pe 4:1-6, 11-18 NKJV] 1 Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 that he no longer should live the rest of [his] time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For we [have spent] enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles–when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. 4 In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with [them] in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of [you]. 5 They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6 For this reason the gospel was preached also to those who are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit. … 11 If anyone speaks, [let him speak] as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, [let him do it] as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 12 Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. 14 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed [are you], for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. 16 Yet if [anyone suffers] as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. 17 For the time [has come] for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if [it begins] with us first, what will [be] the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?”

[2Pe 1:5-11 NKJV] 5 But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6 to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7 to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8 For if these things are yours and abound, [you] will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; 11 for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So let us not covet the time here along with its suffering here; let us seek our entrance into everlasting life and the reward of the crown of life by dying daily to sin and this present age; putting on Christ and His perfection.

Who Can Make It To Heaven? – By Matthew Miller

I had the opportunity to discuss this question with someone this week whom I had just met. During our conversation the challenge was made that “you believe that you are the only ones going to heaven.” Many who are members of the Lord’s church might have this concept in their minds, and certainly many who we discuss the Bible with can easily walk away from the conversation under this impression. We would do well to be clear on this matter, for the sake of our soul, as well as those who we might visit with.

Attending a church of Christ does not make one automatically marked for Heaven when this life is over. Being a member of a local church of Christ does not mark one automatically for an eternal abode in Heaven. In fact, Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount to, [Mat 7:13-14 NKJV] 13 “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide [is] the gate and broad [is] the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. 14 “Because narrow [is] the gate and difficult [is] the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.

Salvation which leads to eternal life and an eternal abode in Heaven, while simple, requires whole-hearted commitment on our part. We must obey the simple message of the Gospel – concerning Jesus, [Act 4: 11-12 NKJV] 11 “This is the ‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ 12 “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

This begins by hearing the message of the Gospel (Rom 10:17, Jhn 8:32) We must come to Christ and accept the salvation which God has graciously offered to us by faith that He is the Savior, the Son of God, and that He lives and reigns today. This is our moment of Belief (Heb 11:6; Mk 16:16; Acts 8:37). We must repent of our sins (Lk 13:3,5; Acts 2:38; Acts 17:30-31; 2 Pete 3:9), confess Him before men (Mat 10:32-33; Rom 10:9-10; Acts 8:37), and be buried into baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 1 Pete 3:21; Acts 22:16; Mk 16:16; Gal 3:27) entering into the likeness of His death, burial, and resurrection that we might become a new creature (Rom 6:3-5; 2 Cor 5:17). Then, we must also live faithfully before Him until death (Rev 2:10).

What we have just outlined above is the plan of salvation as it is presented by God in His Word. What we do believe is that every person individually is going to be held accountable by God for how we have lived in this life (Rom 14:10-12; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pete 1:17-19; Rev 20:12), and whether or not we have come in obedience to the Gospel call.

We seek to simply be Christians. The kind that are described in the New Testament of our Bibles. We believe that the Bible alone is inspired by God and has been both revealed and preserved for us by the Holy Spirit. It is complete and all sufficient for our spiritual needs (2 Tim 3:16-17).

What we must do to inherit eternal life then is to obey His word and submit to His will.

Because of these truths, we must be constantly examining ourselves (individually) to see if we are adhering to what the Bible has described. We must also seek to join ourselves to a local body of like-minded Christians who will help us to stay on that narrow path that Jesus described in Mat 7:14. That is what the local church is here for; a community of Christians who we can be a part of which is of one accord and seeking Heaven for ourselves and as many as we might have opportunity to influence.

The other part of the conversation which I had with this stranger is this: It is never too late in life to obey the Lord. The alien sinner who has never obeyed, may enter that covenant relationship with Christ and be washed and made free of guilt that very moment. Likewise, the child of God who has drawn themselves away from Him may come home whenever they are ready. The Lord is such a benevolent Father and has provided us refuge and return. It requires our repentance; our confession of sin, and a willingness to restore our lives to serving Him and His righteousness. We may never be so wayward that the door is eternally closed unless we allow that state to remain as we go down to our graves. Consider for the sake of this part of our discussion Acts 8 and the conversion and sin of Simon the Sorcerer. Peter told Simon what to do to make his sin right. [Act 8:22-24 NKJV] 22 “Repent therefore of this your wickedness and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 “For I see that you are poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity.” 24 Then Simon answered and said, “Pray to the Lord for me, that none of the things which you have spoken may come upon me.” Jesus described the rejoicing which occurs at such times as he spoke by way of 3 different parables illustrating what is lost and then found in Luke 15.

Finally, we may become right with God while we draw breath on this earth. [2Pe 3:9 NKJV] 9 The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” What are you waiting for?

Jews and Baptism in Jesus Day – By Matthew Miller

The ideas of a ceremonial purification involving water were common in the First Century throughout many pagan religions, and certainly cleansing with washings and the use of water is found extensively in the Law of Moses (Lev 14-17).  There were a number of reasons that one would need to be cleansed including skin infections, bodily discharges, contact with corpses, etc.  In addition to this, the priests were to be washed before offering sacrifices.

We know that on at least one occasion, the Jews of Jesus’ day were critical of His disciples for not washing their hands prior to eating (Matt 15:2-9).

In the times of Christ, one became a proselyte (one converted to Judaism rather than being born into it) through submitting to circumcision (if male), being baptized (a ceremonial washing), and offering a sacrifice of atonement (International Bible Encyclopedia). It appears that Jesus may have been referring to the proselyte efforts on the part of His contemporary Pharisees in Matt 23:15.

We see the idea of being cleansed in water from sin begins in prophecy concerning the time of the Messiah.

Isa 1:16 NKJV] “16 “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil,”

[Zec 13:1 NKJV] “1 “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.”

So when we see John the Baptizer appear on the scene, we see him begin to have a message that was new to the Jews. [Mar 1:4-5 NKJV] “4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 Then all the land of Judea, and those from Jerusalem, went out to him and were all baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.”

Prior to this, Jews dealt with sin through animal sacrifices alone.  So when Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born again of water and Spirit, he in essence is telling this Pharisee that he must be baptized to see the kingdom of God (Jhn 3:5-7). So it is then that under Christ, all nations were being called to Jerusalem and being consolidated to God entering in through baptism and so the prophesy of the Messiah were confirmed and fulfilled (Isa 66:18, Jer 3:17).

John introduced the idea, Jesus taught on it, and by way of the great commission, instructed the Apostles that those who would come to Him must be likewise born again (Matt 28:19, Mk 16:16).  So it was then on the Day of Pentecost that Peter instructed those who would be saved to “repent and be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Paul expounds on the connection of baptism to being made new, a regeneration (2 cor 5:14-17, Rom 6:3-9). Peter likens baptism to the salvation from sin that was granted to Noah in the waters of the flood (1 Pete 3:20-21).

The Hebrew writer told the Jews of the First Century that they should be washed from their sins and enter the Holiest as priests because of Jesus the High Priest. [Heb 10:19-22 NKJV] “19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and [having] a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”

This is exactly what Paul tells Titus regarding the regeneration of baptism. [Tit 3:4-7 NKJV] “4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

So we see that the Jews in Jesus day were familiar with washings, and the teaching of John the Baptist, Jesus, and the subsequent preaching of the Apostles were bringing Jew and Gentile alike to God via the washing of baptism.  This is the new birth which Jesus taught Nicodemus and it is the birth that we today must go through in order to be granted entry into Christ and into the kingdom of Heaven.