“Part one in “The Lord’s church, are we members of it”-Are you “Cutting off the End of the Ham” in Religion

This part one of a mini-series on the “Lord’s church, are we members of it.”

What this series is going to help do, is examine, are we a member of the Lord’s church or are we following man made traditions, organization, and practices that were not set up by the Lord.

An Illustration many know and for those who do not, “A young couple, recently gets engaged, and while the man is sitting and watching his new bride cook, he notices something. She cut off the end of the ham, and threw the end away and began to cook. When he saw this he asked, “Why did you cut off the end of the ham?” She answered, “because that is how my mom did it.” Later, the wife went to her mother to ask but she gave the same answer, “that’s how my mom did it.” So finally going to the source of the issue, when the girl asked her grandma, her grandma stopped, smiled and let out a chuckle.  She answered, “I cut off the end of the ham because, I did not have a big enough pan.”

The story helps explain a little bit about traditions, they are not something that were meant to be passed down as, “the only way” or “the best way” sometimes, it may have just been the most convenient way at the time, and it may have not even been the best or right way to do it. As people, we love traditions, you can see this during holiday seasons and family events.

One thing we must ask ourselves is, are we following a tradition, that may not be right? Are we teaching those traditions as doctrines of God (Matthew 15: 1-9)? We must be in a constant state of self-examination when it comes to truth, why you ask? well because each person is to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12),” “God is searching for those to worship Him in spirit and truth.” We need to be in a constant state of searching the scriptures as the “noble -minded” brethren in Berea did (Acts 17:10-11) to find out whether or not the things Paul preached, were really so.

Do not be afraid to ask, your leaders and teachers the questions, “Why do we believe this?” and “How did we come to this conclusion?” If there answers do not mesh with scripture, start examining scripture. Even if they do give scriptural support, go see if they are giving accurate statements in context. The devil used scripture with Jesus in Matthew 4, but he did not use it accurately and He defended scripture with scripture. It is your salvation at stake, please take the time to examine it.

What this series is going to help do, is examine, are we a member of the Lord’s church or are we following man made traditions, organization, and practices that were not set up by the Lord.

Be more than a “Flash in the Pan.”

flash in the panThe term “flash in a pan”  derives from the time of Flintlock muskets. Flintlock muskets used to have small pans to hold charges of gunpowder. An attempt to fire the musket in which the gunpowder flared up without a bullet being fired was a “flash in the pan.” The phrase continued during the time of the Californian Gold Rush of the mid 19th Century, when prospectors who panned for gold supposedly became excited when they saw something glint in the pan, only to have their hopes dashed when it proved not to be gold but a mere ‘flash in the pan’.

I fear that some Christians are nothing more that a “flash in the pan.” They appear to be “christian” but upon further investigation they are no more Christian than a gunpowder flare with no bullet. This is not said to be negative but an encouragement for all Christians to take a deep internal look at themselves. Christianity is all about self-reflection and looking unto Jesus for life eternal. Is everyone going to be at the same point in their spiritual lives? No. Is everyone going to have the same knowledge of the word of God? No. Is anyone ever going to be perfect? No. Jesus is not looking for perfection but for a person who has been purified by Jesus, a person for His own possession, Zealous for good deeds (Titus 2:14, 15).

We can do one of three things in our Christian lives. One being correct the other two not being correct. We can try to rely completely on the grace of God to save us without us doing a thing for it or to remain in His grace. Second, we can think that it is all about us and our “works” and fail to rely upon the grace of God to save us. Finally, we can allow God to save us through His grace by our Faith (Ephesians 2:8). What does that look like? It looks like Paul’s words in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me; and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.” Because of the grace of God and our faith and trust in Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord, we do the works that God has given us to do in Him before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10).

We cannot have faith without works or our faith is dead (James 2:26) and we also cannot have works without faith (Romans 14:23). These are not works that we come up with but ones God has come up with. The proper faith will allow a person to do the commands of Christ, for Jesus himself said that you cannot claim to love Him and not do His commands (John 13:35). If we do not have the proper faith working alongside God’s grace which allows us to no longer live for our fleshly desires but allows Jesus to live through us; then we are nothing more than a “flash in the pan,” which is just as worthless as a flash of gunpowder with no bullet or a mere “flash” of something shiny but not being gold.

Jesus wants our hearts and our dedicated lives to Him. Let’s stop living for self and begin to live for Jesus! Think on these things.

Is it a Blind Faith?

Hebrews 1:1, lets us know that faith is more than a mere leap in the dark. Faith has substance and evidence. If we cannot prove what we believe then how can we convince others? I have heard people say, “Well Christianity, is the best possible solution.” I cannot agree with that statement or use it while teaching others. That leaves a possibility that Christianity could be wrong.
In our modern culture, truth is really a grey area. We just cannot seem to say anything is 100% true or concrete. Christianity has no such grey matter. The writers of the New Testament like Paul and John, seemed more than possibly convinced that Jesus was the Christ, they knew without a doubt that Jesus was the Christ. John gives his testimony in 1 John 1, that he actually saw and touched Jesus.
Living a faith that is the “best possible” solution is a dangerous place to be. God is not looking for disciples who cannot say with 100% certainty that God is real; He wants true disciples who are willing to worship Him in Spirit and Truth.
“Faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen” (NASB with NKJV substitutes; emphais JN). The men of faith in Hebrews 11, did things because they knew God existed and God was the creator of the universe (Hebrews 11:3).
Let’s get rid of the this blind, leap in the dark faith and let’s be able to give a defense for the hope that is in us for anyone who asks (1 Peter 3:15).

Yes that means we have to be diligent students of God’s word! It is well worth it!

Living in God’s Plan

If you truly trust that God has a plan for you than you can neither complain nor grumble about your life. I think we can all learn from Joseph’s words in Genesis 50:19-20 “19 But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in God’s place? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (NASB).

When complaining we put ourselves in God’s place thinking we know what is best for us and what is not best for us. Philippians 2:14 “Do all things without grumbling or disputing” (NASB). This goes for everything, not just some things. It is God’s plan not ours, so when you complain and grumble you complain and grumble against God Almighty. It is a hard lesson to learn but when we realize what Jesus has done for us and where our eternal home is, there is nothing to complain about!

No More Denominations, Lets Get Back to UNITY!!

I just cannot come to an understanding of people who claim to follow God’s word 100% and then openly deny certain scriptures. There excuses being, well do you really think God meant that or do you really think God would do that? My response being, it does not matter what I think God will do or it does not matter what I think God meant. What does matter is what His word says. It is not based upon your interpretation against my interpretation (2 Peter 1:20), because if it was then we could all believe different things, that are contrary to each other and still be right. Logically, contradicting thoughts cannot both me right or wrong at the same time, especially when one or both claims, claim to be right and complete. God has delivered to us, His will for all mankind for every generation (Jude 3) and we can all come to the same conclusions and all need to come to the same conclusions. The Bible screams for unity (Phil 1:27; Ephesians 4:4; Romans 12:6; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Phil 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:25), and yet we want to be divided; the bible screams for unity, yet we all want our own interpretation; the Bible screams for belief in ALL scripture and we some want only a selected few. We cannot claim to be a follower of God and not follow ALL His commands (1 John 2:1-ff). Let’s get back to unity, let’s get away from division. Jesus says a house divided against itself cannot stand, do you really think He meant for differing ideas and denominations, in His own body? The church is the body of Christ with only one head (Ephesians 1:22, 23; Colossians 1:18-29), why do we try to give one head many bodies?

The Cure, It is Here, and Available for All!!

What is the first thing you do when you are sick? Most, try home remedies and/or over the counter drugs. When the sickness continues and begins to affect their everyday life, what do people do? Well some, they go immediately to the doctor to get well, some wait a while and when they are no longer able to bear it, they go to get well, and some are stubborn and never go.

Sadly the truth of the matter is that when it comes to sin, the ultimate sickness, most will never go to see the doctor. Few will realize right away that they need help and go directly to the source of the cure. There are those who will try to fight it but when the effects of sin weigh to heavily they will turn too Jesus and be thankful they did. And some, will come to the doctor because of their sickness but never want to do what is necessary to receive the cure, so they walk away and are never cured. And then there are those will never admit they are sick and never receive the cure for eternal life with God.

So what is this cure? The cure is the blood of Jesus (Matthew 26:28). His sacrifice for our sins allows all to be healed. So how does one access this cure? Some think that if you just call up the doctor that He will cure you over the phone. That is not how it happens, here on this earth for a physical sickness nor is it how it works with Jesus. We know that faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). So in the word of God is where we find the instructions for receiving that cure. So what does the Bible say about receiving forgiveness of sins (cure for the sickness)? Jesus the great physician says in John 3:5, that it is received by water and Spirit. He also says that for one to be saved (the cure) they must repent and be baptized (Mark 16:16). In Acts 2:32 after the first gospel sermon was preached the men cried out to Peter, “what must we do to be saved? Peter said to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (the cure). Paul when he was converted called on the name of the Lord through His baptism (Acts 22:16). Galatians 3:26-27, says that in faith we cloth ourselves with Christ by baptism (the cure). Romans 6:3-7. says we free ourselves from sin by baptism (the cure). Ephesians 4:5, tells us there is one baptism; and finally, 1 Peter 3:21, says that baptism by water, corresponding to Noah being saved by water, now saves us!!

The cure is the blood of Jesus, it is available for all. Are you willing to do what is necessary to be healed from your sickness of sin? The Bible has the answer, nobody else. If you have not accessed the blood of Jesus, the way the Bible teaches, then all you are doing is taking medication that will make you think you are cured, but in the end only the blood of Jesus can do that.

A Jesus Moment!

So many times people are faced with the reality of a Jesus moment. Jesus living in the first century was God in the flesh (John 1). He was a Jew who was born into the Old Testament system. Jews at this time, specifically the Pharisee’s and Sadducee’s had their own system of doing things. Like anything, it starts off pure and when man gets a hold of it, we taint and make it our own. Similar to the worship of some today, they see what they read in the New Testament and want to make it their own. So they add here and subtract there until it is exactly what they want it to be. If you know the story of the Gospel’s of Jesus, then you know that approach does not work well with Christ. He is not looking for a person who makes “godly” living into what they think or want it to be. So Jesus came and had what I like to call a “Jesus moment” with them.

These Jesus moments, can be different, sometimes Jesus uses a parable to explain their error, sometimes he needs to call people out (Matthew 23),  sometimes he just lives a life differently than the religious leaders and shows the people how it is supposed to be done, and sometimes He just comes right out and says exactly what He means. Turn your attention to the Sermon on the Mount, or what I like to call, “The ultimate Jesus moment” where Jesus takes the corrupt thinking at the time and tells them how it ought to be.

Jesus towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount with some of the most powerful, yet simple words a person can ever hear, “Why do you call Me , Lord, Lord, and do not do what I say?” (Luke 6:46) Wow, talk about a terrible feeling. Imagine Jesus Himself, saying these words to you. Well there is good news, a Jesus moment can happen every time you open up the word of God. James describes it as looking into a mirror at the perfect law of liberty (God’s word) and being an effectual doer (James 2:19-25 NASB). Or in other words, the one who has a “Jesus Moment” from the word of God and does what it says, James says that man will be blessed. Jesus back in Luke 6:47, uses very similar words, “Everyone who comes to Me and hears my words and acts on them, I will show you who he is like:” Jesus continues with the story of the man who builds their house on foundation Rock, when the winds and storms come, his house will stand.

A Jesus moment is when we realize we are living in opposition to God’s word; we can react like the Pharisees did and reject Jesus, we can act like some do today and profess to love Jesus but not follow His commands, or we can be an effectual doer and be blessed in our life.

Do you want to be blessed by God? Then all Jesus asks, is to do His will the way He wants it to be done. There is no room for human wisdom in God’s will, so let’s remove it from our congregations and daily lives. Let’s take our ultimate “Jesus Moment”, the word of God and apply it our lives so that we live a life worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27)!

Is This Just a Convenient Love?

calendar1

The definition for “convenient” is: Fitting in well with a person’s needs, activities, and plans; or involving little trouble or effort. Let’s face it, many things in life are done out of convenience. We go to the grocery store, when convenient (most times), we plan activities when it is convenient. We try our best as people to do things when they are convenient to avoid always having to reschedule our life. When a person asks us if we can do something for them, we normally say something like, “Let me check my schedule”, or “I will have to get back to you.” We then, go and check our sch, make sure that what was asked from us, fits our “free-time” or a time when it is “convenient” to do so.

In challenging our thoughts and motives, the question must be raised, do we “do” Christianity out of convenience? Yes, I will go to worship, because I have nothing better to do on Sunday’s, I am usually well rested because of Saturday, and worship is a place I can go and be with nice people. Sure, why not go. Same with Bible Class, yeah, it is not too far from my house, there is no sport’s game on, yeah I think I will go.

If any of these seem to be your reason, to go to worship or bible class, maybe we should recheck our motives. Jesus does not just ask for our love, He demands it from us, if we are to call ourselves His faithful servants.

Christianity though, is more than just bible class or worship with the saints. It is something that needs to consume our every breath and thought. Christianity is a life style, not an activity one chooses to participate in. Are you a Christian because it is convenient?. Hey I now have a Lord and Savior, all I have to do is be an okay person, show up to “church” and I can live the rest of my life the way I want. Jesus wants more than our “convenient time”, He wants our all. One cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God (James 4:4). You cannot live your life the way you want and then at the convenient moment, “play” Christian.

We are called to be holy and blameless in the sight of God, in ALL our behavior, says 1 Peter 1:15. This love that surpasses convenience comes from the heart. It comes from an appreciation for what God and Jesus Christ has done for us. It comes from an internal understanding that when we became a Christian we received the Spirit of God and we are no longer to walk as we once did (Ephesians 4:22). Verse 23 and 24, tells us to renew our minds and put on the new self, this does not sound like a person who conveniently serves God. This man Paul is talking about is a person who no matter what their schedule looks like, no matter how inconvenient it is to behave holy, no matter how hard it may seem to love Christ, does it anyway.

Have you joined the Lord’s church because of its convenience and what you can get out of it? Or have you joined the Lord’s church because you understand what Christ has done for you and realize, there is no other way. Your love for Jesus overpowers you and drives you to serve Him and to follow His commands, not the convenient commands but ALL of them!!

It Is Already Yours…Now Just Go and Take It!!

One day when I was 18 years old, my parents came to me and asked to see me. They told me to go outside. This was a very unusual request, and I was excited but a bit anxious as well. Knowing me, I could have set something on fire, or ruined one of my mothers plants. So as I walked outside, my father said, this is your car, now get in and take it for a drive. I was so excited, my first car, no longer would I have to beg my mother to take her’s, but now I was a man! Excitement over took my body, and I froze for a moment, with a tear coming from my eye, I ran and hugged and thanked my parents…then I bolted for the car.

This experience is a similar experience found in the book of Joshua. We see that God has already gone and claimed the land for the people. He says in Joshua 1:2,3, “Moses My Servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them–the children of Israel. 3 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.” Before Israel ever step foot in the promised land, God had already given it to them, but did this mean they were done? No, God said to get up and go get it. They even had to march around the city multiple times. If God had already given it to them, why did they have to march? God has always wanted to see our faith in response to His grace, acknowledging God and His grace has never been enough, but what we do with it, is where God finds His faithful servants.

God in a similar sense has given us salvation, through Grace. In Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” God just like in Joshua, has already extended His hand of grace, but does that mean all will accept it? No, every gift given must be taken and received. We must be His workmanship. Continuing in Ephesians 2 in verse 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

My parents bought me that car, but if I never got in and drove it, would I have ever reaped the benefits of that car? God today, like everyday is offering His hand of grace, what will you do with it? Will you take action and have faith in His promises or will you let them fall by the wayside and never reap the blessings of His grace?

God’s grace is already yours, all you have to do is just go and take it!!