VIEWPOINTS

GOD HATES ESAU?

by Troy Spradlin
 
  It is rather common for an enemy of the Bible to attack its veracity by citing alleged discrepancies or appealing to supposed scientific and historical “errors.” On the other hand, when a Christian encounters an assumed “error,” or an unsettling passage that challenges his faith, what is he to do? The answer is quite simple – allow Scripture to explain Scripture. This basic principle was understood by the inspired writer of Psalm 119:160, “The sum of your word is truth, …” [emphasis added]. A diligent Bible student always considers everything the Scriptures have to say in order to discern the truth of a doctrinal question, a confusing word, a strange custom, or even a difficult passage. The Bible is truly its own best commentary.
  One such challenging passage is Malachi 1:2-3 where God states, “I have loved Jacob, but Esau I have hated.” If we bear in mind that 1 John 4:7-10 says God is love and He first loved us, then how can a God of love hate someone? Is that not a contradiction of His character? One must admit this passage presents some troubling implications for the faith of a Christian. However, by simply considering more of what the Bible has to say in relation to this passage, it is not difficult to deduce a reasonable explanation for the manner in which it is worded.
  Perusing the immediate context, notice that in the very next verse (v4), the prophet transitions to using the name “Edom” as a continuation of the discourse. Taking into consideration the historical context, that Edom is the nation which grew from Esau’s descendants, an attentive Bible student can quickly determine that Malachi is using the words “Esau” to refer to the nation of Edom and “Jacob” to refer to the nation of Israel (2:10-12). The words proceeding verse four could have been written as,“I have loved the nation of Israel, but the nation of Edom I have hated.” Therefore, the focus is not on the individuals being named but rather, on God’s chosen people as a whole. Furthermore, the overall context of the prophecy reveals that the nation of Israel had sinned against God just as Edom had (2:11), thus, they would be punished – because that which God really hates is sin (Proverbs 6:16-19). Despite all this, a remnant of His people would be preserved in order to fulfill His promise of the coming Messiah (4:2-6), attesting to the fact that the passage has everything to do with the sovereign choice of God, desiring to bless Israel as the genetic source of the Christ (3:1,4), and nothing to do with hating an individual.
  Consider also that in verse two God anticipates Israel’s complaint against their imminent punishment and the accusation that He did not love them, so essentially, He responds by reminding them that not only had He selected them over all nations, He had selected their lineage from among their own family’s ancestors. He reminds them, “Is not Esau Jacob’s brother?” (v2). Certainly, the children of Israel must have reflected upon how the providence of God had been working throughout their entire history and it had all been the result of His love for them.
   In summary, the context alone teaches that God does not hate anyone. Considering other verses throughout Scripture also, one can easily resolve that while God certainly abhors an individual’s sinful actions and will punish those who practice evil (2 Corinthians 5:10; Isaiah 13:11), the Bible never paints Him in the unflattering light of hating His own creation. Just because man was made in God’s image, does not mean he can or should assume emotions for God. His character is not so limitedly defined.
 


REMEMBER BY NUMBERS

There is but ONE LORD (Ephesians 4:5) and with Him, there were TWO THIEVES, one on His right, and another on His left (Matthew 27:38), who were crucified with Him upon THREE CROSSES (John 19:18).
 
His mantle was divided into FOUR PARTS (John 19:23) by the Roman soldiers who afflicted Him with FIVE WOUNDS while upon the cross – 2 in His hands, 2 in His feet, and His side was pierced. For SIX HOURS, Jesus suffered upon that cruel cross (Mark 15:25, 34).
 
Our Lord uttered SEVEN PHRASES while He suffered:
  1. Luke 23:34 – “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
  2. Luke 23:43 – “Today you will be with me in paradise.”
  3. John 19:26, 27 – “Woman, behold, your son. … Behold, your mother. ”
  4. Matthew 27:46 -” Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? (which means: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
  5. John 19:28 – “I thirst.”
  6. John 19:30 – “It is finished.”
  7. Luke 23:46 – “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit!”
 
There were EIGHT WORDS written on a sign they hung above His head, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37). And, at the NINTH HOUR, Jesus died (Luke 23: 44-46).
 
TEN EVENTS marked His crucifixion: (i) Beginning with one of His own disciples betraying Him – Matthew 26:48-49. (ii) Then, two false witnesses were brought against Jesus – Matthew 26:60; (iii) while Peter denied Him three times – Matthew 26:74-75; (iv) and they spat in His face and beat Him – Matthew 26:67. (v) Jesus was condemned by five rulers: Annas, Caiaphas, Herod, the Sanhedrin, and Pilate – Matthew 27:1-14; John 18:13-38, (vi) during six trials – Matt 26:57-27:26 & Luke Luke 23:7. (vii) The soldiers mocked Jesus and put a crown of thorns on his head – Matthew 27:27-28; (viii) Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry the cross – Matthew 27:32-34. (ix) The curtain of the temple sanctuary was torn – Mark 15:8; (x) Joseph of Arimathea procured the body of Jesus, wrapped it in cloth, and put it in a tomb – Mark 15:46.
 
In the end, ELEVEN APOSTLES of Jesus remained faithful out of the TWELVE DISCIPLES whom He had originally chosen to follow Him. They went on to establish the church and preach the story you just read.
 
I’ve heard this acrostic-style lesson preached during my childhood and as an adult. It has always stuck with me and helps me to “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). I pray it is beneficial for you! – TS


THE ROADMAP TO SALVATION

by Troy Spradlin
   Why is the “Plan of Salvation” so difficult for some to comprehend? The Bible clearly teaches that in order for one to be saved they must: Hear the Gospel (John 5:24; Rom 10:17), Believe in Jesus (John 8:24), Repent of their sins, (Luke 13:3), Confess that Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 10:32) and be Baptized for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16). This pattern is confirmed once and again in every conversion story we find in the Book of Acts. However, as you study the different conversions, such as the 3000 on Pentecost, the Ethiopian eunuch, the Philippian jailer, and others, you will notice that not every step is always mentioned. Unfortunately, there are some who choose a single verse and teach that the some steps are not necessary for salvation because they were not mentioned.
   Consider this analogy, called “the Road Map analogy.” Suppose you ask me for directions from here to Oklahoma City. I might say, “Take I-10 West to Lafayette, then I-49 North to Shreveport. Turn West and take I-20 to Dallas, then take I-35 North to Oklahoma City.” I have given you several details, for four specific way-points, on how to get to Oklahoma City from Milton, Florida. Now, suppose you start on your journey and you get to Shreveport. There, you meet a friend and decide to stay a day or two. After your visit, you decide to continue your journey. Once again, you ask me for directions. Does it make any sense for me to start by saying, “Take I-10 West to Lafayette, then I-49 North to Shreveport. Then turn ….”? No! You are already in that place! I simply need to start from where you are! Does that imply the previously given directions are void, or unnecessary, if someone else wants to travel from Milton to Oklahoma City? No! They are still necessary. Most people are capable of understanding this concept.
   The Plan of Salvation in Bible is the same concept. For some reason, people don’t seem to apply the same rules to the Bible. Consider this, why didn’t Peter ask those men to believe before telling them to repent (Acts 2:38)? It’s because they already had belief! Why didn’t Ananias tell Paul to believe, repent, and confess before telling him to “arise and be baptized”? (Acts 22:16) It’s because Paul already believed, was penitent, and confessed Jesus when he said, “Lord, what would you have me do?” (Acts 22:10). Did Phillip need to tell the Ethiopian eunuch to repent before telling him to confess? No! He said “if you believe with all your heart you may” (Acts 8:37). The eunuch already had belief, had already repented, and just needed to finish the last two steps. In each case, the evangelist started with where the convert was in the process.
   This is why not every step must be mentioned in every single conversion case. This is why Jesus can say “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” is sufficient without mentioning the other elements. Remember, the Bible says, “The SUM of thy word is truth'” (Psalm 119:160). God bless! – TS
 
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HOW ARE WE TO WORSHIP?

by Troy Spradlin
 
  We gather in this facility every first day of the week to worship God. We do this because of passages like Acts 20:7 and 1 Corinthians 16:1. Yet, have you ever truly considered why we do all that we do during the worship service? What is the purpose of worship? Exactly how are we supposed to worship?
  The Bible gives us the answer. Everything we do in worship is for the purpose of bringing honor, glory, recognition, and respect to God (Psalm 29:2). He is worthy to receive all praise because it is by His will that all things exist and were created, (Revelation 4:11). As we gather here, we must recognize that the worship of the church is not for our own entertainment – we are not the audience in worship, God is our audience! Everything we do is for His glory! Everything we do is directed toward Him, not to us.
  We are to worship God “in spirit and truth,” according to John 4:24, which means we are to have the right attitude (within our heart) and do it according to His will (in doctrine – Matthew 7:21). The will and commandments of God, along with the examples of worship of first century disciples, is easily discerned in the Bible and clearly teaches us what we must do in our worship to Him. It is through this method that we are able to identify five, specific elements of worship.    
  Pictured below, is a simple graphic that outlines those necessary elements and gives the Biblical support for each action. A worship service based upon the Bible must include these five elements with nothing more being added, or nothing taken away. We must do each of these with God as our focus. “Oh come, let us worship and bow down,” (Ps 95:6)
 


The Invisible Bible

 
by Dan Jenkins
 
The impact of the Bible in the history of man is remarkable. Most books from the ancient past are hardly ever read. Yet, the Bible, though thousands of years old, remains at the top of the list of best sellers each year. This fact alone should help us marvel that our educational system has removed it from our classrooms. In many places, a teacher cannot even have a copy of it on his/her desk. What a tragic mistake!
 
Bible Trivia
Each year over 100,000,000 copies of the Bible are sold or given away freely in our world. It has been translated into nearly 350 languages and parts of it have been translated into over 1,100 languages and dialects. Most American homes have about three copies of the Bible. (How many do you have? I checked my shelves at the office and immediately found 57 copies of the Bible). The precise number of Bibles printed is difficult to ascertain, but 6,001,500,000 Bibles have been printed since Gutenberg printed the first one in 1455.
 
The Largest Printed Bible
The largest printed Bible was finished in 1930. Louis Waynai, a member of the church, used a homemade rubber-stamp press, and it took him 8,700 hours to complete the project. That Bible is in the library at Abilene Christian University. When closed, it is 34 inches tall and almost four feet wide. It weighs 1,094 pounds and has 8,700 pages.
 
The Smallest Printed Bible
The smallest printed Bible is about the size of a grain of sugar. Using a process called a “Focused Ion Beam,” the Haifi Institute of Technology printed 1,514 pages of the Bible on a metal plate the size of the head of a pin. It weighs less than one half of an ounce.
 
The Invisible Bible
Yet, there is something far more remarkable than the facts just given. There is a Bible so small that it is impossible to be seen. Its impact is also greater and has more influence than all the Bibles ever printed. Consider these words describing this Bible. “Your word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against you,” (Psalm 119:11). “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children,” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). “Written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is of the heart,” (2 Corinthians 3:3). This Bible is invisible to the eye of any mortal, but is seen daily in the lives of His people. One final question. Do you have your Bible on a shelf in your home or hidden in your heart?
 
Brother Dan Jenkins is the Pulpit Minister at the Palm Beach Lakes church of Christ in West Palm Beach, Florida. He is a close friend, mentor, and a great spiritual influence for me. I have learned a great deal from him and wanted to share this article of his I saved from a couple of years ago. – TS (Reprinted with permission).


Our Spiritual Focus for 2018

by Troy Spradlin
 
   We are so excited about our 2018 Spiritual Focus and Theme, “Lord, Increase our Faith!” Our prayer is that we will all grow spiritually stronger and closer to God. We pray that it will give us the courage to be that shining light the Lord desires us to be (Matthew 5:16) and to do our part in the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). As we mentioned last week, Margaret Street has many challenges lying ahead and the only way we can meet them is through faith! In order to help us grow in our faith, we will be focusing and teaching on various aspects and certain topics about faith throughout this entire year.
 
   Each month we will have a specific topic in which we will study (see the banner in the foyer or the available brochures). Details for each topic will be presented at the beginning of each month. Through this process, our prayer is the same as the disciples’ request, “Lord, increase our faith in these specific areas.” Throughout this entire process, we will be constantly going to the Bible and allowing God’s word to teach us what we need do to in order to increase our trust in Him in those different areas. But, let’s not just wait for each lesson. Instead, let’s develop some vital habits and spiritual exercises for ourselves. Let’s begin by studying the Bible on our own. Remember, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God,” (Romans 10:17). You have to first get into the word, before the word can get into you!
 
Here are a few suggestions on how to study / read the Bible:
  1. Set a regular time to study / read everyday. Try to keep to that time in order to develop a habit.
  2. Pray before, during, and after studying the Bible. (This is not to receive miraculous knowledge).
  3. Have the right attitude and humility in approaching the study of the Word of God.
  4. Memorize Scripture regularly. Pick a short, easy verse at first and then work up to longer ones.
  5. Consider everything the Scriptures teach about a subject. Let the Bible explain itself. The Bible is its own best commentary! If possible, use more than one translation, or version, of the Bible.
  6. Study the context, and don’t take a passage out of its context. The context includes the verse itself, the verses before and after, the book, and the rest of the Bible that deals with the subject.
  7. Ask lots of questions when you read a book, passage, or verse, such as, “Who is talking? To whom was he talking? When was he talking? Why is he writing this?”
  8. Recognize figures of speech, The whole Bible was not written to be interpreted literally. Some parts are figurative or symbolic. (cf. Revelation 1:1,19-20).
   We pray this will help you on the path toward spiritual growth, toward Increasing Your Faith!


WE HAVE THIS SURE AND STEADFAST ANCHOR

by Troy Spradlin
  Many communities have a certain object, or a landmark, which stands out as an identifying symbol for that city. For example, when you see a picture of a large stainless steel arch, what city comes to mind? How about a red suspension bridge spanning the entrance to a bay, with what city do you identify it to represent? What about the Statue of Liberty, or the Eiffel Tower? These are all objects that have become representative symbols for their associated cities. Now, how about our community? Something I have noticed as being prominent in our local community is the close tie we have with water, such as, our bays and rivers, the US Navy, our history with sawmills, and the fishing, canoeing, and kayaking tourism industries. So, when I drive by that big anchor in front of Milton High School, I am reminded of all those things regarding or community. But, I am also reminded of spiritual things. Specifically, it reminds me of Hebrews 6:19, “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast.”
  While an anchor is certainly a fitting symbol for representing our physical community of Milton, it is also a fitting symbol for our spiritual community, the Margaret Street church of Christ. I have even heard members describe Margaret Street in such a manner, saying that “it has been an anchor” for them over the years. Why is that? Why would they describe the church in such a way? It is because Margaret Street is a place where they find Jesus! It is a place where they can find and build upon hope! It is a place that has served as a stalwart of the faith for more than 60 years. That makes our congregation exceptional and appealing.
  The context of that verse is about the confidence we can have in the promises of God. Just as an anchor holds a ship in place, by being secured outside of the ship, our hope holds us in place, but it is secured outside of this world. Our hope is in a holier, greater place, because Christ has gone ahead of us to secure our salvation in heaven. With this promise, we can have a “sure and steadfast” confidence and faith. A sure anchor does not drag. It is in firm ground and the ship’s crew may trust it. A steadfast anchor is one that will not break, because it is strong and made of good, tough iron. There is no fear of it failing, no matter what strain may be put upon it. Margaret Street church of Christ places its trust in that sure and steadfast anchor and that is why it is such a special place. Here, we can build our faith together with like-minded people – all helping each other to get to heaven.
  With this in mind, we would like to present to you a new logo for Margaret Street, one that incorporates the symbol of the cross and anchor, placed within an open Bible (pictured below). It not only is an appropriate symbol for representing the basis of our hope and faith, but it is also an appropriate symbol for our community, both spiritually and physically. We hope you like it! – God bless!
 
 


NEW YEAR, NEW OPPORTUNITY

by Troy Spradlin
 
  This past year was marked with many wonderful milestones and achievements! Margaret Street also experienced lots of changes and faced several challenges. It was certainly an eventful year, to say the least. Above all, God was glorified in the process! So, as we face a new, fresh year let us always remember that our purpose is to glorify God – above all else. Whatever our plans may be, whatever goals we want to accomplish, or whatever our intentions, let us keep our focus on our purpose as a church. We should begin by praying for this new year.
   Pray, thanking God that He has blessed us with a new year to serve Him. Pray, asking God to guide us in our plans and preparations, that they bring glory to Him and that they be done according to His will. Pray, that the new year will provide opportunities to bring others to the foot of the cross and that the congregation might grow in number. Pray, that we all might grow in spirit and truth.
   With this in mind, what do you want to accomplish in this new year? How might you best glorify God? What might be your personal, spiritual goals? Here are a few suggestions that might help:
 
  1. Read the Bible. Get a “Bible Reading Plan” that lists passages and days for reading. If anything, just make an effort to read the Bible frequently. Perhaps, a daily reading starting from Genesis to Revelation. Try reading the New Testament more than once, or different versions. Reading the Bible in chronological order is always enlightening. A great resource for a Bible reading Plan (with interactive links to videos) can be found on our website under “Links.”
  2. Pray. Learn to pray more frequently. This is one area that many of us could always improve. Find yourself a prayer partner, form a prayer group, or join an already existing one. Keep a prayer journal and make an effort to develop good habits for praying.
  3. Improve you attendance. Are you attending all services? If not, begin there. If you already are, consider other fellowship activities, or help plan some new activities for the church.
  4. Get more involved. There are many areas of ministry at Margaret Street. There is always much work to do and there is always a place for someone willing to work. Start visiting the sick, or our shut-ins. Invite members to your home for fellowship, or a devotional. Use your imagination!
  5. Evangelize. When was the last time you brought someone to Jesus? Maybe you could start a Bible study in your home to invite your neighbors, or friends. Learn the methods of “Bring, Teach, Keep” and put them into practice. Pass out fliers or tracts. Find something that works.
 
Hopefully, these will be a little helpful to you in your spiritual walk. We pray that you and all of the members at Margaret Street will have a wonderful, productive New Year! God bless!
 


THE CHRISTMAS TRUCE OF 1914

by Troy Spradlin
 
Man’s inhumanity toward man has always been a difficult reality for me to accept. I simply cannot fathom how one human being could ever want to kill another human being. Yet, it has been happening since the dawn of time. Over the centuries, killing each other developed into countless wars being fought because of man’s continuously violent tendencies. The bright light of Jesus coming into the world finally arrested this trait toward what God had always intended for His creation, for us to love Him and to love one another (Matthew 22:37-39). One of the most reoccurring messages and prayers of Jesus was about the fostering of love and unity among His disciples (John 13:35, 17:1-26). Anyone who calls themselves a Christian should understand and practice these concepts.
However, a little over 100 years ago, millions of people in Europe, many who claimed to believe in Jesus – whether Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, or Coptic, once again took up arms against one another to engage in a horrendous, bloody war. Ignoring the teachings of Jesus to “love your enemy” (Matthew 5:44), they started brutally killing each other! Trenches were dug, casualties mounted, and the carnage ensued. The First World War would go on to claim the lives of more than 15,000,000 precious souls.
Then, something remarkable happened on that cold, cruel battle front. It was December of 1914. In the midst of the vast hatred, senseless bloodshed, and dark wickedness, German and British soldiers began to sing Christmas carols back and forth while still hunkered down in the trenches. In some areas along the front, German troops set up small, decorated trees and eventually, began to post signs saying, “You No Fight; We No Fight.” The British troops responded with “Merry Christmas” banners. That day, their Christianity rose to the top and remarkably, a temporary truce was established between the opposing combatants. These men, who were enemies just a few hours previously, came out of the trenches to greet one another and exchange gifts!
Previous negotiations of important government officials, the strategies of brilliant military officers, or the pleadings of influential religious leaders of the time had not been able to achieve what the simple teachings of Jesus Christ had accomplished that Christmas day within the hearts of those who believed in Him. Christianity had prevailed and the inhumanity was snuffed out, at least for a day or two. While details concerning the event are a bit clouded or exaggerated, a spiritual lesson is easily gleaned from this account. While man may have a violent tendency, he still yearns for peace and security within his own heart. Only Jesus can provide that kind of peace! (Philippians 4:7; Matthew 11:28,29; John 16:33).


PSALM 22 AND THE CROSS

by Troy Spradlin
 
   The prophecies of the Old Testament that pertain to Jesus the Christ, the coming Messiah, constitute some of the most beautiful and powerful attributes of the Holy Scriptures. Messianic prophesies give insight as to what kind of person the Christ would be, what He would do, what He would say, and even what sufferings He would endure. Some of the most eloquent scriptures of prophecy that depict these various aspects, are found in the Psalms. The twenty second Psalm is especially intriguing because it gives us insight as to what Jesus must have experienced while suffering upon that cruel cross.
   Perhaps, nothing in this world is more iconic than the cross of our Savior. In Psalm 22, we find writings that are precisely descriptive of the kind of agony one would face while being subjected to such a brutal instrument of execution. For example, the Psalmist vividly portrays exceedingly deep sorrow and physical suffering of the victim as being “poured out like water,” with his “bones out of joint,” (Vs. 14). He continues with, “My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue clings to my jaws; you have brought me to the dust of death,” (Vs. 15). Compare those words with what Jesus experienced during His crucifixion, (Matthew 27:26-50; Luke 23:32-46; John 19:1-30), and a connection is easily seen. The psalmist also compares his enemies to bulls, dogs, and lions. Those are rather blunt descriptions of the same classes of the evil hearts who desired to see Jesus killed. When comparing the depictions of suffering in Psalm 22 to the passion of Christ, (translated from the Greek word “paschein,” meaning “to suffer”), it becomes exceedingly clear that it wasn’t David, the writer of this Psalm, who suffered such pain and agony, but instead, these words must belong to the Messiah during His suffering.
   A common connection recognized between Psalm 22 and the Christ are the words He cried out from the cross, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani?” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). This transliterated, Aramaic quotation is taken directly from the first sentence of the Psalm. However, it is not only the opening words that were involved. According to Jewish tradition, citing the first words of a text was how they identified an entire passage. This implies that all the descriptions of suffering, contained within that mournful monologue, are to be applied to that very moment in which our Savior uttered those words of anguish. This is further confirmed with the prophetic fulfillment of, “They divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots,” (22:18).
   Through the lens of this vividly descriptive psalm, we can clearly see the agony of the Messiah during His worst hour upon the earth. We can imagine how Jesus felt completely forsaken by the Father as He withdrew His divine presence from the Anointed One as part of the punishment for sin. It was not for any trespass Jesus committed, for He was sinless and faultless, but because the Christ was to be the substitute for all sinners. Given that sin separates man from God, (Isaiah 59:2), He had to separate from Jesus in order for the sacrifice to be made perfect, (Hebrews 2:16-18). Surely, the Messiah had never before felt such pain, anguish, and abandonment while here upon the earth and was prompted to implore, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” His words serve to remind us that the cross, upon which our Savior was sacrificed, did not belong to Him.
That cross belonged to you and me. Psalm 22 allows us to see more clearly exactly how much Jesus suffered for US!
 
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