Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Once and Again

"Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities" (Phil. 4:15-16).
Paul had a very special relationship with the church at Philippi. The whole book of Philippians illuminates this fact (see Phil. 1:3-5 for example), but here at the close of the book, the apostle gives us yet another example of their loving fellowship. You see, there weren't any churches who provided Paul with financial support while he preached the gospel, at least not in the early part of his ministry...except for the church at Philippi. They loved him dearly and were cognizant of his needs as he preached and ministered in other regions. 

Of course, we learn here that it is Scriptural for the local church to support evangelists abroad, but the point that I'd like to emphasize is in verse 16 where Paul adds that the Philippians sent him aid "once and again."

So often, when we hear of someone who is in need (whether it be physical or spiritual), we "send them aid" once and that's it. If it's a physical hardship, we may go and visit them in the hospital just once. If it's a financial hardship, we may send them a Wal-Mart gift card just once. If it's a spiritual hardship, we may call them and encourage them just once. But then we get swept away by the business of our own lives, and we tell ourselves that at least we reached out to them once.

But you know as well as I do that hardship is not always short-lived. Sometimes, folks will struggle, not just for a day or week, but for a month, or for several months. Don't forget about those who are in need. Remind yourself that they may be in constant need of encouragement and aid. Call them often. Visit them often. Regularly check in with them regarding their needs. In other words, do what the Philippians did to Paul almost 2,000 years ago - send them aid once and again.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Help Requested...and Denied

This is the image for the main article currently running on foxnews.com. In case you don't know, this article is about the ongoing investigation regarding the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th of this year. Four Americans were killed during this attack including Ambassador Christopher Stevens. This incident, and specifically the government's response to this incident, has been the source of much controversy in recent weeks. And if this foxnews article is any kind of indicator, the issue isn't going away. Now it's being asserted that the CIA annex in Benghazi sent three requests for military backup and were denied all three times. The point? Such an inadequate response to such a dangerous situation resulted in unnecessary deaths. At least, that's the charge.
On a spiritual level, I'm afraid that there are Christians among us who are really struggling, and even if they're not asking for help, they're in desperate need of our help. How should we respond to our brethren in their time of desparation? Should we ignore their requests? Should we pass over their subtle pleas for help? Should we close our eyes to their body gestures - the sadness in their eyes, the way they're beginning to isolate themselves, the missed services, the remarks on Facebook?
Or, when we see our brethren in need, should we rush to their aid?
Let the Scriptures speak for themselves...
"Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:1-2).
"If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,' but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?" (James 2:15-16).
I know that we're all busy. We have families that need us. We have full-time jobs. We have appointments scheduled, vacations planned and errands to run. But we need to make time to strengthen those among us who are weak and in need.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Does Acts 13:48 Support Calvinism?

Luke records in Acts 13:48: "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed." This verse is often utilized by Calvinists to support the false doctrine of Predestination. This tenet of the TULIP doctrine (Calvinistic theology) says that before the world began, God foreordained who would eventually be saved and lost. Such a doctrine denies man's free-will and concludes that one's destiny is so fixed by God that it cannot possibly be altered. Does Acts 13:48 support this system of theology?

First of all, if we are going to understand Acts 13:48, we must examine it in light of its context. The same Gentiles mentioned in verse 48 are mentioned earlier in the chapter. Luke says in verse 42, "And when the Jews were gone out of the synagogue, the Gentiles besought that these words might be preached to them the next Sabbath." According to Calvinists, these Gentiles were, at this point, totally depraved and incapable of doing or even thinking anything positive. Yet the text says that they wanted to hear the gospel preached. Then, in the beginning of verse 47, prior to the Gentiles' "ordination," the inspired writer adds, "And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord." These Gentiles were interested in the gospel and desperately wanted to hear it. Then, when they heard about the promises that were available to them, they were spiritually-minded enough for this appeal to appeal to them. 

It doesn't appear to me, based on the context, that these Gentiles were totally depraved as the Calvinists would argue. Rather, these men were exhibiting free-will in seeking the benefits of the gospel of Christ.

Second, the entire Calvinistic argument here hinges on the word "ordained" in verse 48. They see this word and immediately conclude that these Gentiles were fore-ordained before the establishment of the world to be saved. But that's not the case here.

The word "foreordained" is used in 1 Peter 1:20 (in reference to the sacrifice of Jesus), but that is not the word used in Acts 13:48. Wesley's Commentary Notes says regarding this verse: "St. Luke does not say foreordained. He is not speaking of what was done from eternity, but of what was then done, through the preaching of the gospel. He is describing that ordination, and that only, which was at the very time of hearing it." Amen! There is a difference, in other words, between foreordained and ordained.

So what does the word "ordained" here mean? Sometimes it is helpful to see how the same word is used elsewhere in the Scriptures. Acts 15:2 says the Antioch church "determined that Paul and Barnabas..should go to Jerusalem." The word "determined" has the same Greek word behind it that "ordained" does in Acts 13:48. Did the Antioch church predetermine that Paul and Barnabas would go to Jerusalem? No. It was a decision they made at that time. 

Likewise, Paul sais in 1 Corinthians 16:15 that the house of Stephanas had "addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints." The Greek word tasso is translated as ordained, determined, and now, addicted. In this verse, there is no hint of predestination or foreordination. The idea here is that Stephanas was devoted to the work of benevolence.

With these things in mind, what does the word mean in Acts 13:48? Luke is telling us that the Gentiles greatly determined to be saved; once they heard the gospel, they were devoted to the concept of eternal life. Thus, they believed. Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Acts 13:48, says regarding the Greek word tasso, "hence it has been considered here as implying the disposition or readiness of mind of several persons in the congregation."

It should be evident to all of us that acts 13:48 doesn't support the human system of theology known as Calvinism. The context confirms this, as well as the actual meaning of verse 48. There's no reason for us to be frightened by this text!!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

A Kingdom Which Cannot Be Shaken

I absolutely LOVE the book of Hebrews as it not only informs us about Christ, but builds up our confidence in Christ, who, in every way, is superior. In this very brief article, notice one such contrast in Hebrews regarding the superiority of Christ and His Kingdom...
"Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (12:28).
"For here [on earth] we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come" (13:14). 
Do you see the contrast? The kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ "cannot be shaken." In other words, it is a "continuing city" (spiritually speaking, of course), a kingdom that has endured and will endure the test of time. As Daniel prophesied in Daniel 2:44...
"And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingsoms, and it shall stand forever."
So on the one hand, there is the everlasting kingdom of God, while on the other hand, there is no "continuing city" or everlasting kingdom here on earth (Heb. 13:14). Think about it. Even the most powerful kingdoms have fallen - Egypt, Babylon, Rome. The British empire is nothing like it once was. And yes, even America, as strong as it may seem now, will one day fall.
But not the kingdom of Christ. Again, it cannot be destroyed. It will continue until the Lord's return, whenever that may be, and even then, it will not truly end, but will simply be moved from earth to heaven (1 Cor. 15:24-25, 50-52).
Isn't this incredible? Doesn't this information bolster your confidence in the power and might of Jesus Christ, the Lord of lords and King of kings? Which is exactly why the Hebrews' writer goes on to say that in light of this information, "let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear." In other words, we should be so in awe of the supremacy and power of our King over all earthly kings and kingdoms that we should be naturally prompted to praise and worship Him...not just because we have to, but because we revere Him and want to give Him all the praise He deserves.
Those of us who are faithful Christians are citizens in a kingdom which cannot be shaken. Wow!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

An Observation From the Debate

I wasn't able to watch the second presidential debate last night between President Barack Obama and the Republican challenger Mitt Romney, but I did listen to some of it on the radio, and then watched a few highlights on TV later in the evening. Debates are often very interesting and lively, and this debate was no different. In fact, not only were both candidates lively, they were quite aggressive, and while the aggression didn't really bother me, many people were turned off by it - the way they interuppted one another, the snide remarks, and the general tone of disrespect. Of course, this shouldn't surprise any of us. It's election season, and politics can get ugly.
I've heard some religious people say that it's wrong to debate the Scriptures. I disagree...
"And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.' Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question" (Acts 15:1-2).
"As I urged you when I went into Macedonia - remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3).
"...I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3).
Based on these and other verses, it is clear that God expects us to stand up for His truth. If that means disagreeing with someone, or responding to an attack on the Scriptures, or even "debating" spiritual matters with others, then so be it. It matters what we believe!
However, in our efforts to defend the truth, we ought not be reduced to squabbling children. We mustn't resort to unfair criticisms and personal attacks. In other words, we shouldn't debate the Scriptures as Obama and Romney debated politics last night.
"And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth..." (2 Tim. 2:24-25).
After all, it's not about who's right, it's about what's right. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Seasoned With Salt

"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" (Colossians 4:5-6).

Occasionally, I will meet someone who prefers tasteless food. I knew one individual who, for health reasons, couldn't eat any spiced and/or spicy food. But for the most part, we like to eat food that is spiced and flavorful, and salt is, without a doubt, the go-to spice. How many times have you reached for the salt-shaker after eating a bite of bland corn or dry meat?
Likewise, season your speech just as you would season your food. The word "seasoned" in the Greek literally means, "stimulate." So your speech - your words to the lost - ought to be stimulating and thought-provoking.
Folks, we need to take this seriously. Souls are at steak! Study and prepare yourself. Begin each day with prayer, and "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). Be alert for opportunities to share your faith, and make the most of those conversations. Ask stimulating questions. Offer thoughful answers when asked stimulating questions. Be patient and deliberate.
No one is saying that you have to be perfect in your presentation. All I'm suggesting, based on this verse in Colossians, is that you take this work seriously. To put this in food terms, don't resign yourself to Ramen noodles and Spaghetti-O's. Offer spiritual meals that will be so stimulating and tasty that people will come back for seconds...and thirds...

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The King's Way

The blog formerly known as "Anchor of the Soul" has a new name and look. Welcome to "The King's Way at Queen Way," a blog that from this point forward will be tied to my new work and ministry at the Queen Way church of Christ in Sparks, Nevada.
And for those of you back east, it's Nev-ADD-uh, not Nev-odd-uh.
I moved here to the Silver State a week ago today and so far, I'm loving everything about this state, the people, and most importantly, the church of Christ at Queen Way. This is an incredible group of Christians who have a deep and profound love for one another as well as for Jesus Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords. And that brings me to the blog's new name.
The church of Christ is located at 520 Queen Way in Sparks, Nevada, and here at Queen Way, we're concerned about following the King's Way. Jesus Christ, of course, is our King.
"Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now my kingdom is not from here.' Pilate therefore said to Him, 'Are you a king them?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice" (John 18:36-37).
"He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love..." (Col. 1:13).
"I, John, both your brother and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ..." (Rev. 1:9).
So if you're a Christian, you're a citizen of the kingdom of Christ, which, according to Jesus, is a spiritual kingdom based, not on earth, but in heaven. And this kingdom will continue - in other words, Jesus will continue to reign - until He returns...at which point He will take the kingdom (His people) and deliver it to God the Father...
"Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death" (1 Cor. 15:24-25).
Now here's where all of this information makes a real difference in the way we think...
If Jesus is King, and if He is reigning now, then wouldn't that mean that we're subject to His law? Too many religious people want to view Jesus as their Savior - and He absolutely is our Savior - but if we only see Jesus as someone who offers us an escape from Hell, we've got a one-sided view of Him. He is our Savior, but He is also our King! In other words, we must humbly submit to Him. We must be concerned about the King's way!
"Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (1 Tim. 1:17).
"...that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ's appearing, which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:14-15).
Here at the Queen Way church of Christ, we're not concerned about man's way. We don't follow the precepts of Martin Luther, John Wesley or the Pope. We don't have manmade creeds. We don't submit to some hierarchy somewhere. We don't attend conferences and synods where the leadership of our denomination tells us what to believe. In fact, we're undenominational. We're just Christians who meet in a building located on Queen Way in Sparks, Nevada who strive to follow the precepts and laws of the King, Jesus Christ. 
The purpose of this blog will be to deepen our knowledge of the King's way!