WORN OUT DELETE BUTTONS

   The delete button on my keyboard is just about worn out. It is not because I am bad at typing. It’s not because I make a lot of mistakes when I am writing and need to back up. No, that’s not why. It’s almost worn out because I use it a lot, a whole lot. It’s not only the button on my desktop computer that is worn out … so is the one on my phone. I think the one on my iPad is about worn out, too. They are all about worn out, but it is not because I am some highly prolific writer that is constantly pecking on the keys to the point that these tools eventually wear out on me. In my profession, I actually write a lot and almost everyday. Here’s the reason why the delete buttons on my devices are almost worn out, it is because I wind up deleting almost everything I write to post on social media.
   Allow me to paint the scenario: I have many brethren, friends, family and acquaintances on many different social media platforms. A lot of them are very opinionated and write all kinds of things about all kinds of subjects. Still, others may not write much, but they share and post memes, articles, photos and other things that are rather controversial. Some of these may seem benign at first, but often, they turn into dissension. In addition, there are a few of my friends who just love to argue and be contentious on any subject that’s posted. This is simply the freedom of expression that comes with the internet and social media. There are really no filters, gateways, or stop-gaps between the “post” button on the sender’s device and the millions upon millions of screens on devices all across the globe. While this can be an absolutely wonderful platform for expressing one’s ideas and creativity, as you can imagine (and have probably experienced yourself) it can also create real problems and produce serious consequences.
   So, here’s what happens next. I certainly have my own opinions, thoughts and “soap-boxes,” and often, the posts I see provoke me to respond because I may either know something more about the subject, or I want to contribute in some way. I always strive to write in a loving, kind, and respectful tone no matter what the subject may be. But, after I have written what I think is the perfect counter-argument, the absolute-end-all response, or the greatest mic-drop come back ever, … I stop and re-read what I just wrote. Then, I start thinking about people I know and love, who might read what I have written . Questions and scenarios develop in my mind like, “Mary might not understand what I am saying and misread this. Will this upset Roger? John may get it, but then he might take it further than I intended. Is this really necessary to say? Will it really matter in a few moments? A day? In a month from now, or more?” The words of Jesus (Matthew 5:9; 7:12; 22:39), the apostle Paul (Philippians 2:4), and James (James 3:1-18) all come to mind. There are many other things I think about … until my index finger, almost by reflex, begins slowly moving up to the delete button and erases everything I just wrote. That is why my delete buttons are almost worn out. I have had a lot to say in response. But as a preacher, a friend, and a brother, I feel that peace, love and harmony with my brethren, my friends, and family was far more important than my lowly opinion.
    Now, I am certainly not saying that we should never express our opinions on social media. If that were the case, I should have never have written this article! Exchanging ideas, thoughts, and even opinions can be healthy and promote intellectual growth. I simply wish and pray that people, especially those who call themselves Christians, would locate and use the delete button more often. I hope I can encourage you to think about others and consider what you are saying before you click that “post” button! Wouldn’t the world be a better place with more worn out delete buttons?
“And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,” (Hebrews 10:24).


KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS!

    When Tesla first introduced the autopilot feature in its electric cars, it created quite a sensation in the automobile world. Shortly afterward, it created more commotion throughout the media when people started crashing their cars while using the new feature. As it turned out, drivers were putting entirely too much confidence in the autopilot and doing other things like taking naps and reading books instead of keeping their eyes on the road! Accordingly, Tesla responded by stating, “Autopilot is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times,” and that “you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using it. In other words, the feature was never intended to replace the driver, it was simply implemented for assisting the driver during his trip.
    There is a spiritual lesson here we could certainly apply to Christianity. It is seen in what the apostle John wrote, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). That word “if” is the key! It implies that we can drift off the path, or that we can wander off course. It also implies that we are capable of getting back on track, or that we can correct our trajectory when we stray by returning to walking in the light. Just as Tesla’s autopilot still requires the driver to be vigilant and make corrections whenever necessary, so likewise does the Christian need to do during their spiritual walk.
    Just because we have been saved and are cleansed by the blood of Christ, does not mean we should take our eyes off of Him! Think about how a sailor navigates a harbor, or a farmer plows a field, by pinpointing a landmark in the distance to mark and maintain a straight line in his course. This is what Paul is referring to by writing, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth,” (Colossians 3:2). It is truly the key to a successful spiritual walk and reaching spiritual maturity! Christians must maintain their spiritual compass so that it tracks straight and true.
    The Bible is full of this principle. Throughout the Old Testament, God uses the phrases “If you obey” (Deut 11:27); “if you do this” (Ex 18:23); “if you walk” (1 Kings 6:12); “if you heed, or if you keep my commandments” (2 Chron 7:17) to remind His people to stay on track and not drift off course. In the New Testament, Jesus also teaches us that we cannot serve two masters, so we should “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” (Matt 6:24,33). For a Christian, all of this has to do with keeping our eyes on Jesus. It is the only way we will make it to heaven. The way we keep our focus solely on Him is by learning God’s will through the Scriptures and then remaining obedient to His commands (1 John 5:1-3). This harmonizes perfectly with Revelation 2:10, “Remain faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life.” That certainly implies a true and straight trajectory, maintained through vigilance.
    So, just as Tesla stated that a driver “needs to maintain control and responsibility for their vehicle,” a Christian also needs to maintain self-control and responsibility for their spirituality. A Tesla driver must keep their eyes on the road and a Christian must always keep his/her eyes on Jesus. You can keep your eyes Jesus by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God,” (Heb. 12:2). He left an example for us to follow (John 13:15).
 


WHAT MUST I DO AFTER BAPTISM?

    “What must I do to be saved?” is the absolute most important question that one must ask themselves during their lifetime. Fortunately, the Bible gives us the answer to the question! We can find it in the New Testament in verses that teach the “Plan of Salvation.” This then leads one to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized which adds them to the church (Romans 10:17; John 3:16; Luke 13:3; Matthew 10:32; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:47). After all that is done, then the second most important question one should ask himself/herself is, “What must I do AFTER baptism?” It seems that we, members of the Lord’s church, are pretty good at helping people with that first question, but we don’t often put as much emphasis on that second question as we should. Yet, the manner in which one lives their life after they have been saved is just as serious of a matter as obeying the Gospel! Fortunately, the Bible gives us the answer to the second question, as well! Let’s take a look.
    The plan of God to save man is not just getting one into the baptistery. In fact, notice that within the Great Commission there is one very distinct objective that is to be completed in two phases. The first phase is, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” The second phase is seen in the words, “teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20). Those two phases lead to the main objective of making disciples, which is the only verb in the entire command. “Go,” “baptize” and “teaching” one to observe Jesus’ commands are all participles which point directly to the main verb, “making disciples.”
    Another way to look at this is by recognizing that God gives specific responsibilities to all believers. First, a believer must obey the Gospel in order to be saved. Secondly, a believer must learn and keep the Lord’s commandments in order to remain saved. Essentially, to be a disciple means one must be obedient all of his/her life from the day they obey the Gospel until the day they die. This is exactly why Jesus said, “Remain faithful until death and I will give you the crown of life,” (Revelation 2:10). Furthermore, note how the writer of Hebrews illuminates this same thought, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food,” (5:12). This verse implies those same Christian responsibilities, that basically, a true Christian’s life is characterized by a process of continual growth. This verse is also a clear indication that something special exists within God’s Word that every believer must learn. It is learned in small increments. It illustrates that just like a small child needs milk to grow, so do new Christians.
    Notice that when someone becomes a Christian, they are said to be “born again,” (John 3:7; 1 Peter 1:23). Thus, they become a “new creation,” (2 Corinthians 5:17). They are also called, “babes in Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:1). So, just as a baby or child grows and matures by being nourished by milk, so must a spiritual babe in Christ be nourished by the spiritual “milk” of the Word, (1 Peter 2:2; Colossians 1:10). As they mature, then they begin to consume “solid food” or the “meat” of the word. What a poetic way of saying that the goal of every Christian should be to grow in Christ (Ephesians 4:15)! It is only through the Word of God that one can truly grow and mature spiritually (2 Timothy 2:15).
    The truth is, it is not easy being a Christian! If it were, we wouldn’t need all those letters in the New Testament by inspired writers about how to live the Christian life! (Romans through Jude) The fact that we do have those letters shows that we must work at it, that there’s more to our salvation than just being baptized. That’s exactly why Peter warns: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;” (2 Peter 1:10). We also learn from those letters that after we are baptized, we must leave our old life behind and focus on the new. We must “put off the old man,” as Paul puts it in Colossians 3:9. We are no longer part of the world, but now part of a new special family, a “chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people” belonging to God (1 Peter 2:9). So, the answer to the question is “as you have always obeyed, … work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,” (Philippians 2:12).
 


CAN WE FALL FROM GRACE? (Part 2)

    Last week, we presented a few points regarding why people leave the church. This week, I would like to address the fallacy of teaching that it is impossible to fall away, or that there is no chance someone could lose their salvation. Such a position evokes numerous questions and stands in contrast to the Scriptures. Think about it for a minute, if someone cannot fall from grace, or if one cannot lose the gift of salvation, meaning no entrance into heaven will be supplied, then how do you answer these 10 questions:
 
  1. Why did Jesus warn the church at Ephesus saying, “I will remove your candlestick” in Revelation 2:5? That’s a clear indication that one’s position of salvation can be expunged. This can certainly happen if a Christian sins and will not repent!
  2. Why did Jesus teach that we should produce fruit or otherwise be discarded as dry branches (John 15:6)? Do not forget that Jesus was addressing His disciples (cf. John 14). We glorify God when we produce fruit! If we cannot fall, then why should we be bothered with producing fruit for God?
  3. Why did Jesus say: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven’ ” in Matthew 7:21? These people were followers of Christ, they were not unbelievers! But, apparently they hadn’t done something correctly.
  4. Why does the Bible clearly use the word “fall” and other phrases that clearly state, or imply such a possibility is always present? (cf. 1 Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 5:4; 1 Timothy 3:7; Hebrews 3:12, 6:6; Revelation 2:5)
  5. Why did Simon the magician have to repent and ask for forgiveness after being baptized (Acts 8: 20-24)? It is clear that he obeyed the Gospel and was saved (vs. 13). If one can’t fall from grace, what was that all about?
  6. Why did the apostles write so much about false teachers? Why are there so many warnings if there is no danger of falling? (Colossians 2: 8; Galatians 1; 2 Peter; 1 John) What difference does it make that there are false teachers?
  7. Why do we need to confess our sins to be cleansed again by the blood of Christ if one cannot fall from grace (1 John 1:9)? The warning is to people who had already been baptized (had already received salvation). John wrote, “we,” which included himself, an apostle, in the group. So, one of Jesus’ own righteous apostle needed to be forgiven?
  8. Why did Jesus pray for Peter “so that [his] faith would not be not lacking” (Luke 22: 31-32)? What’s the implication?
  9. Why does Peter say we must “stand firm in the faith” if there is no possibility of falling (2 Peter 1:10)? For clarity, note 2 Peter 2:20: “… having escaped the defilements of the world.” This refers to one’s salvation. These people had become entangled in sin once again after having obeyed the Gospel. He describes it as a dog returning to his vomit.
  10. Don’t forget that God’s people in the Old Testament (Israel) were a rebellious people. An entire generation lost their right (inheritance) to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 32:13-15). Has God changed in this Christian dispensation? Is God more compassionate today with sinners than what he was before? Of course not! Sin is sin — from then to now.
 
  The questions don’t stop there either! If someone can’t fall from grace, then … why should we meet together with the church? Why should we study the Word? Why should we walk in the light? Why should we do anything more than just be baptized? It makes NO sense! We need to really take into consideration that when a doctrine produces so many questions, contrary to plain Scripture, then there must be something wrong with it! The Bible is simple and easy to understand. It is not necessary to do “circus acrobatics” in order to reach a correct conclusion. Just read what the Bible says to do, do it, and be honest with yourself.
    Finally, think about this: Suppose you are standing before the throne of God on the Day of Judgment. Which of the following is more secure to believe? (A) To believe in the possibility that one could fall and not make it to heaven, so you work hard to be obedient and stay on the path? Or, (B) believe it is NOT possible to fall away, and essentially, “in the end” will we will all get there? One of these thoughts is very dangerous, the other is in harmony with the Bible. Which one will you choose?


CAN WE FALL FROM GRACE? (Part 1)

    There is a rather common saying among preachers that goes like this, “It’s easier to get them in the front door than it is to keep them from going out the back door!” What is meant by this is that evangelizing and converting someone is not as difficult as trying to keep them in the church, or help them remain faithful! Essentially, this becomes a major goal for anyone who serves in ministry, trying to strengthen the souls of the brethren so that they don’t fall away. To make things more difficult and confusing, there are countless religious teachers who say it is impossible to fall away. Could that be true? Or, can we fall from God’s grace? How can we know for sure?
    The only way to answer these questions, including why people leave the church, is with an open Bible. God’s Word is very clear about this subject. If anyone desires to know the truth, then it first requires an honest heart and a humble approach to Bible study. In other words, we should never open the Bible with the purpose of forcing it to confirm something we may already believe. Instead, we must allow God’s word to reveal its knowledge to us. This simply means reading the words that are written, understanding what it says (along with all that is says about a subject), and then just accepting what it says. Simple. According to 1 Peter 4:11 we must speak according to the words of the Bible, which implies not adding to it, changing it, or negating what it says in any way at all.
    One time, during a Bible study, I asked the person with whom I was studying to read a particular verse. I then witnessed them reading it aloud from the Bible while changing the words as they spoke them – what came out of their mouth was not the same words that were written on the page! When I asked them to re-read the verse, they repeated the behavior of changing the words! The reason why that happened is because they had been taught by someone else “what that verse is supposed to mean,” or “what the writer really meant to say here,” instead of just reading the words literally and directly from the ink on the paper. It was a very strange experience, but it illustrated to what extent people can be confused about certain Bible doctrines.
    With that in mind, let’s look objectively at what the Bible says in Galatians 5:4, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Here, we can see that one who was in a previously saved state of being can wind up in a separated state of being, or an alienated position from God’s saving grace (the context also supports this deduction). In other words, you can go from being saved to being unsaved (no longer saved). Now consider this, how many times does God have to say something for it to be true? Only once, right?! Indeed. Yet, this isn’t the only place the Bible speaks so directly, or implicitly, about how one can walk away from the faith, even after having been saved by obeying the Gospel.
People leave the faith for many reasons, but every reason can be boiled down to having a heart problem. One’s heart simply isn’t right with God. The parable of the soils is a helpful illustration regarding this principle (Matthew 13:1-23). It describes how people can come right up to the foot of the cross, even become a disciple (implied), but then leave the faith. It teaches us how God’s Word affects the heart in four different ways. Every human heart falls into one of those four categories.
    This same principle is seen once again in the actions of Simon the sorcerer, (Acts 8:9-25). The apostle Peter says to him, “You have neither part nor portion in this matter, for your heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you,” (8:21,22). His heart was not right and he needed to repent – those are clear indicators that Simon was no longer in a saved state of being. Just reading what the words say and not adding to or taking away any bias, notice the sequence of events: Simon was saved (8:13), he sinned (8:18-19), was told he was in danger and would perish (8:20-23), all of which Simon recognized and acknowledged (8:24). Simon fell from God’s grace!
    The lesson for us is straightforward. A Christian, a saved member of the body of Christ, may choose to leave the church, and decide to no longer be a faithful disciple. In doing so, it removes the gift of salvation and any hope of eternal life in heaven. How very sad! I hope this helped you see that both coming to Christ and leaving Christ are done by choice.


THE SCHEME OF REDEMPTION

    The entire Bible revolves around one, specific subject – man’s relationship with God. The entire Bible is about God’s special plan for redeeming His creation back to Himself, or what is also called, “The Scheme of Redemption.” The Scriptures are about the history of that plan of salvation (Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:4). It is what makes every single person, place, and event inextricably linked together in an unmatched harmony carried throughout every page of God’s Holy Writ. The apostle Paul calls this overall theme of Scripture the “eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 3:11). In his other epistles, he sometimes calls it “the mystery,” (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-9; Col. 1:26; 1 Tim. 3:16).
    Because of Paul’s education in the Scriptures and his upbringing among Jewish rabbis (Acts 22:3), he certainly understood all the connections and nuances of this singular, topical thread. This is clearly seen in his explanations of how all Scripture is related to Christianity. In Romans 5:14 and Colossians 2:17, Paul uses two special terms to describe the connecting points of the development and realization of the Scheme of Redemption. He calls them a “type” and also a “shadow of things to come.”
    Type is a word that means, “an impression, figure, example.” Shadow means, “something representing another, an image cast.” The concept of “shadow and reality,” or “type and anti-type,” are a Biblical method used to explain the links between something in the Old Testament to something in the New Testament, Christian age. Think of how shadows work; they look like the object and have the same form, but they are not the actual object. Thus, a hand print of a palm is the “type,” while the actual hand that produced the print is the “anti-type.” One is the object in reality while the other is just an image, or “shadow,” of the object. Understanding this concept is absolutely crucial for identifying the Scheme of Redemption throughout the Bible.
    Some examples of “type and anti-type” include things such as the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21) being a “shadow of that which was to come,” (the type) which is Christ in reality (the anti-type). The lamb and its blood, which was sacrificed to save the Hebrews (Exodus 12:22-23), was a representation of what Christ did for humanity (John 1:29; Romans 5:8,9). Others include connections between the tabernacle to that of Christian worship, prayer, atonement, and the church. Still others include Israel representing the Christian church (1 Peter 2:9). In fact, if you sit down with your Bible and study it with the overall Scheme of Redemption in mind, then everything that the Bible contains begins to make more sense! The study of any topic such as grace, or the problem of sin, the covenants, atonement, the resurrection, or the person of Jesus will all take on a deeper, richer, and more meaningful understanding.
    To study, identify and then understand the Scheme of Redemption reveals the historical connections between Abraham and the Jewish nation to the Lord’s church today. It provides clarity to why God gave the Law of Moses and instituted a sacrificial system. This kind of study will clarify Messianic prophecy, the incarnation of Jesus, and his death, burial, and resurrection. To understand the Scheme of Redemption is to understand the true role of kingdom (the church) in the past, the present, and the future. It better prepares you for the second coming of Christ, the final judgment, and the eternal realm of heaven. If you really want to grow and mature spiritually, then read and study your Bible through the lens of the Scheme of Redemption. Your life will be greatly blessed! – TS.


IS GOD ONE OR THREE?

    There are many things we simply do not know about God. Everything we do know comes directly from what He has chosen to reveal to us in His Holy Word. When Jesus came to earth, He brought to light a few more aspects of the nature of God, further helping us to know and understand Him. But even with that, man is still perplexed about the true nature of Yahweh. Perhaps, the most difficult concept to comprehend is that God is One being (Mark 12:29), while at the same time, He is three beings – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:7; John 10:30). That’s not easy to get our minds around! So, indeed, how are we supposed to understand this?
    Let’s start by by first considering what Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The “us” and “our image” are suggestive of an intimate plurality of which God consists and is associated. It stands in perfect harmony with other Scripture, such as Matthew 3:16,17 where we see the three “persons” presented together at Jesus’ baptism. The Father is seen in the voice (v17), the Son had just risen from baptism, and the Spirit was “descending like a dove and alighting upon Jesus”. Another revealing teaching comes directly from Jesus when He stated, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30) Again, this harmonizes perfectly with John 1:1 which reveals that the Word (Jesus) was not only there with God at the creation, but that He IS God. These, along with other verses such as John 15:26; Acts 10:38; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2 which speak about the three persons separately while being one are what makes God unique, underscoring why there is no other God besides Him.
    Yet, over the centuries, man has conjured up various philosophies and theories in an effort to explain God’s nature. These have names such as Arianism and Modalism, with the most popular one being, Trinitarianism. This is where we get our word “trinity,” which was formed by joining together the words “three” (tri) and “unity.” The concept of the trinity is generally understood that God is three persons who share one essence. But sadly, this theory has added only more confusion to the religious world and still doesn’t completely explain the full nature of the Godhead.
    For example, such a doctrine has led to people blending the three together so much so that they no longer mark a difference between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As a result, many people now pray to the trinity instead of addressing the Father as the One to whom we should pray, with Jesus as Mediator (John 15:16; 1 Tim 2:5). It has also led to the other extreme, where people overemphasize the individuality of the three. To some, the doctrine of the trinity creates a sharp distinction between the three persons of the Godhead – essentially creating a polytheism consisting of three separate gods which function completely apart from the others. As a result, some are teaching that one should only be baptized in the name of Jesus and not in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, as is commanded in Matthew 28:18-19. Some also believe we should pray directly to Jesus, although He never taught His disciples to do so and even stated that, “in that day, you will ask me nothing,” (John 16:23-26).
    The bottom line is, we simply do not know everything there is to know about God and probably never will. What we do know is found in the Bible, so we should be careful how we describe Him. Scripture describes distinct and subtle nuances between the “one” and “three” characteristics of His nature. May we never deny the three distinct beings which make up God as seen throughout the Scriptures. Let us also never deny that the Lord our God is one and we are called to love and obey Him. He is our God and He is sovereign because there is no other.


IS ATTENDING WORSHIP NECESSARY?

    It is early Sunday morning. You haven’t slept all that well and you are still very tired from a long, hard week at work. It is also raining and cold outside. To be quite honest, you just don’t really feel like going to worship this morning. Maybe you think to yourself, “I believe in God. I pray every day. I don’t do anything bad or sinful. Do I really have to be at worship services all the time? Can’t I just go every now and then?” …. Have you ever felt this way? It’s not that uncommon. So, is our attendance absolutely necessary? In order to arrive at the answer, there are few other questions one should ask themselves first.
    Is pleasing God important to me? Jesus taught His disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15). He also said that only those who fulfill the will of God will enter into heaven (Matthew 7:21). With that in mind, listen to what He told the woman at the well, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him [emphasis added],” (John 4:23). It is God’s desire – it is His will – that you and I worship Him. Therefore, if we truly want to please God, then we must worship Him and we must do it in the way that He has prescribed to us in His word.
    Am I thankful for what God has done for me? Understanding the “Scheme of Redemption” – the sacrifice that God and Jesus made on our behalf (John 3:16) – should be more than enough to motivate us to worship God. When the disciples came face to face with the reality of Jesus’ power and deity in calming a storm and saving their lives, they worshiped Him! (Matthew 14:30-33) Are you thankful for God’s gift of salvation? Then, show that to Him by singing praises and worshiping Him in His church (1 Peter 2:9).
    Do I want the best for my family and myself? Edification, knowledge, and brotherly love are only really possible to develop in a corporate setting. They can’t be increased alone. Just being around fellow Christians can also have a major, positive impact on one’s life. With so many negative influences in the world, we certainly need positive reinforcement. The church provides that! (John 13:35; Galatians 6:2; 1 Thess. 5:11) It is an “organism” (more so than an organization); a body, a family, that cries and rejoices together – you won’t typically find that kind of support in a worldly setting (1 Corinthians 12:23-26). Worship is yet another way we build up each other (Colossians 3:16).
    Is the salvation of my soul important to me?  According to 2 Timothy 2:10, salvation is “in” Christ Jesus – that is, one must be in His body. This implies that one cannot be saved outside of the church. Just being a member is not all that is required of a disciple. There is no such thing as “isolation salvation” presented in the Scriptures. So, active involvement in the church, Christ’s body, is necessary. This is exactly what is seen in the many examples of the first Christians (Acts 2:44, 11:26, 14:27, 20:7; Romans 16:5, 16:16; 1 Cor. 14:23). Worship is connected to salvation.
    If you answered “No” to these questions then, stay at home in bed. God wants those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. In the meantime, ponder this: if you don’t like assembling with the saints to worship God, if you don’t look forward to lifting up His name in praise with the church at every opportunity available because of the thankfulness in your heart, … then what do you think you will be doing in heaven? Revelation 4-5 gives us a glimpse into heaven. The only thing revealed in that scene is a view of worship! Everyone there was worshiping God. So, if we truly want to be prepared for heaven, then let’s worship our God and “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:25).


WHY PREACH?

    Preaching is an important part of our worship, but it is not the most important part, nor is it the central focus. That distinction goes the Lord’s Supper. People have differing opinions as to what true preaching is. Some think that preaching is just a motivational speech and some think that it simply serves to rebuke people. While it can include some of those elements, that is not the purpose of preaching according to the Bible. Such misconceptions show why it is important to study the subject in order to better understand the place and purpose of preaching in worship.
    Why is there preaching in a worship service? The answer is, “because of examples and commandments in the Scriptures.” For example, what did Jesus command His disciples to do in Mark 16:15? What mandate was given to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4? What did Paul do for the brethren in 1 Corinthians 15:1? There are also many examples of preaching recorded in the New Testament; see Acts 2:14-36, 3:12-26, 4:5-12, 7:2-53, 8:5, 10:28-47, 16:32, 17:22-31; and 20:7. Because of these commands and examples, there is usually someone who will get up and preach as part of our worship service. As a result, thousands of sermons are preached every first day of the week throughout the entire world. But, a sermon must have a purpose.
The Bible us teaches us that the purpose of preaching is:
1. To reveal and explain the scriptures (Acts 7:1-53, 8:35; Nehemiah 8:8)
2. To present Christ as our only hope (2 Corinthians 4:5; Acts 8:35).
3. To promote Christian growth (Acts 2:42).
4. To inform man as to how to receive salvation (Acts 2:37, 38; 1 Cor 15:1-4).
Through this avenue, both believers and unbelievers can get to know Jesus and learn more about God’s will.
    Who is the person that preaches? Is it someone with a special gift? Must one have a special license or specific credentials in order to preach? Although many of our religious friends like to make the preacher part of some special office like “clergy,” or as “reverend,” “priest,” or “pastor,” those are not how Scripture uses those words nor how it describes the preacher (the word clergy is not even found in the Bible). In reality, the preacher is really nothing more than any Christian who shares the Word of God with others. There is no verse that indicates one must have a special license or other credentials to preach. All Christians are to preach in some form or another.
    However, just because everyone should/can preach doesn’t mean just anyone should step into a pulpit. This is because a preacher should have an exemplary life. His actions outside the pulpit are often more persuasive than any words he may speak. He must also be one who knows how to “rightly divide the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15). Therefore, preaching should never be discounted, nor contain only one’s opinions. Peter makes it abundantly clear that preaching is serious business (1 Peter 4:11)! It has been said, “A preacher should hide behind the cross when preaching!” That would certainly keep one’s ego and opinions in check and the true purpose of preaching out front!
    How are we to preach? One of the kingdom’s greatest preachers, Paul, explains, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) From this, we can deduce that (1) we must preach from the Bible; (2) we must be prepared to preach at any given moment and in any circumstance; (3) we must persuade others by reasoning with the Scriptures; (4) we must point out our shortcomings when compared to the Word; (5) we must build up and edify others; and (6) we must do it all with method that exhibits much love and patience. Lastly, we should be reminded that preaching is God’s chosen method for talking directly to us – through His Word (Hebrews 1:1,2; Romans 10:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).


PRINCIPLES OF OUR GIVING

    Could you live in this world without money? Possibly, but it would certainly be difficult! It seems we need money for almost everything — for food, shelter, clothing and lots of other things. We need money just to be able to function in our society. It can be a good thing, but it can also be bad sometimes, causing anxiety, stress, or other problems. The Bible talks a lot about money, too, in both good and bad ways. It even talks about money as a part of our worship, in the form of our offering. In order to understand the principles of giving, let’s look at the Scriptures for application to our lives. Here are four points to consider:
    GIVE BECAUSE YOU ARE A STEWARD. Jesus considered all things to be the property of God and pointed out that we are simply stewards (meaning administrators, managers) for God. In Matthew 25:14-30, how did Jesus reward the two men who used their talents well? According to Matthew 16:24-27, Luke 6:38 and 16:10-13, what is required to be a faithful servant?
    The discipline of stewardship was also taught by the apostles. Peter wrote, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10). Look also at what is said in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Acts 4:32; or in Ephesians 4:28 about a disciple’s stewardship. The point is, we must be good managers with the blessings God has given us! This requires a lot of discipline and faith! We must handle our money well in order to please God.
    GIVE AS YOU HAVE PROSPERED. This principle is found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. Everyone’s offering will be different according to what he/she has received. If God provided abundantly for you, then you must give abundantly. We must all give diligently and generously! Notice also that our ability to give is not limited to just money, but also includes our skills and talents that we have, according to 2 Corinthians 8:5. What did those Christians first give to the Lord?
    Does this mean tithing? Are we supposed to give 10%? Nowhere in the New Testament do we find a commandment to give a tenth of our income. That was something that the Jews had to do in the Old Testament. Even then, it had a specific purpose: to provide sustenance for the priests. Since we no longer live under a Levite priesthood today, then the tithing commandment does not apply to the church. But, just because we are no longer under the old law (Col. 2:14; Rom. 6:14; Eph. 2:15) does not mean that we have no mandates on how to give. Nor does it mean we can give much less than the Hebrews did.
    GIVE WITH JOY. The Bible says we should give “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7). It’s a problem many have – we will give, but we don’t really like to give up our money. We must be careful with this attitude! It’s called covetousness, or greed. Covetousness is not only wanting someone else’s things, but can also be an excessive desire for one’s own things. The fact is, we will all have to give an account for our sins. Greed is a sin … and how many sins does it take (un-repented of) to prevent making it into heaven? Only one! So, a miser is just as far from Christ as any other sinner. In fact, according to 2 Corinthians 8:9, a miser has an attitude that is contrary to that of Christ.
    If one gives, but thinks in their heart, “I prefer to keep this,” then their offering is in vain, since it is not done with joy and generosity. Read and learn from the story Jesus taught in Luke 12:13-21 about greed and the rich fool. Consider also what Christ teaches in Matthew 6:19-24,33. Where does joy come from? It comes from giving. Where does greed come from? It comes from selfishness. We must give from our hearts with joy if we want to be pleasing in God’s eyes!
    GIVE PROPORTIONATELY. No one should be overly burdened with their offering to the church while another person refuses to give (2 Cor 8:13-15). Is it necessary that each member contributes financially to the church, in some amount and/or manner. No one can give more than the Lord deserves and no one who gives generously has ever been forgotten by God. The Lord knows what we have offered and has promised to provide for us if we’re faithful to Him (Matthew 10:29-31).
    Remember the widow of Mark 12:41-44? The Bible says that the poor widow “put in everything she had, all her livelihood.” Why? Because of faith! The lesson is simple, Jesus judges your offering by what is left over, not by what you put in the plate. Our offering is an act of worship, which is yet another way of expressing our faith, hope, and trust in Him. Giving is something personal between an individual and God that can also serve as a “proof” of your faith and love (2 Cor 8:24). God bless! – TS