Selling Our Product – III

February 27, 2017

Image result for Photo salesmanActs 1:7, 8

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We are commissioned in Acts 1:7and 8 to be witnesses for Jesus!

      It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in
      His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit
      has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem,
      and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. (See also
      Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47-49: II Timothy 4:2).

We are salesmen and saleswomen, offering ourProduct, the Lord Jesus Christ, to a world that desperately needs Him!  I have been involved over the years in sales other than witnessing for the Lord.  I have owned and operated three different sales businesses.  And I have learned a lot about offering Jesus to others from my sales experience.  My most successful venture was presenting fund-raising products to organizations for them to sell and raise money.  I represented TV Time Foods, Inc., manufacturers of popcorn products.  Their fund-raising division was called Funds-A-Poppin’.  Five points lent to my success:  1) TV Time Foods, Inc. was a first-rate company with a great product.  2) Good training was available from the company at their expense.  3) They furnished liberal samples to their sales force.  4) Product shipping was immediate, and customer support was great.  5) Selling for me was made easier because I believed in the company and what they offered in product, sales support, and customer relations.

In the last two blogs we have looked at the first three points, and how they transfer to our task of witnessing.  Let’s consider the last two:

•      They furnished liberal samples to their sales force.  I gave out a lot of free samples of popcorn products for potential customers to try.  And I loved the fact that I was not trying to get them to spend their money!  The worst experience they could have from my visit was a free box of Funds-A-Poppin’ popcorn!  If they were sold on the product to raise money for their organization, I would put in their order, they would sell the product, and then they would pay what was owed – keeping their profit!  So if I needed twenty cases (twelve to a case) of popcorn samples, the company would send them right out – no questions asked!

      ✞      Does Jesus give out samples?  In a sense, yes!  You and I are the samples!  Paul is writing in Titus 2:9 and 10 (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible) concerning bond-servants (slaves) – and there were a lot of servants and slaves in the early church!

              Let slaves be subject to their own masters, well-pleasing in all things,
              not speaking against them, not stealing, but showing all good faith,
              that they may adorn the doctrine of our Savior God in all things.

They were to adorn the doctrine of our Savior God !  They were to add beauty and attractiveness to the facts of the gospel by the lives they lived!

I had been praying for Tom, the proprietor of a hardware store in the town where I pastored.  I liked Tom and often stopped in to talk with him.  One day I determined to share Jesus more directly with him.  Before I could, Tom said to me, “Chip, I want what you have!  I want to have Jesus Christ in my life!”  We went into the stockroom, away from the customers, and Tom prayed, asking Jesus into his heart and life to be His Savior!  That was about the easiest task of witnessing I ever had!  Why was it so easy?  I had given Tom a sample of the Lord simply by showing forth in my life the beauty of Jesus!

     ✞      Unfortunately, somesamplesgiven out by Christians are not very good!  I visited Ken one day to find out why he would not attend church.  He hemmed and hawed a bit, but then said,

              Pastor, you really want to know why I don’t come to church?  So-and-
              so, he’s a deacon isn’t he?  And so-and-so, she serves on the Board of
              Trustees.  If that is what a Christian is supposed to be, I don’t want any
              part of it!

Be careful what kind of sample you are handing out to people!  Didn’t Jesus tell us in John 13:34 and 35:

      A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have
      loved you, that you also love one another.  By this shall all will know that
      you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

Love like Jesus, live like Jesus!  By this shall all will know that you are His disciples!

•      I believed in the company and what they offered in product, sales support, and customer relations – and that made selling their product much easier!

      ✞      I have been a Christian for almost 52 years.  Although I have often disappointed my Lord, He has never disappointed me!  He has always lived up to His promises He readily gives me in His Word, the Bible!

      ✞      I can trust that the ‘Product’ I offer to others – Jesus Himself – will be everything He says it (He) will be.

      ✞      There are so many promises in His Word that tell me – His representative – the support He offers me! (For just a few, see John 10:10; 27, 28; 14:12; 19; I Corinthians 15:57; Galatians 5:22, 23; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 13:5).

      ✞      I know that ‘customer servicewith God is just one call away!  What is His number?  Try Jeremiah 33:3 – “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” (See also Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:14-16).

So get out and sell Jesus Christ to others!

Selling Our Product – II

February 24, 2017

Image result for photo salesmanActs 1:7, 8

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In our last blog, I told of my experience running my own business 40 years ago – Successful Fund Raising.  Because of the five positive points pointed out in Monday’s blog, I did well in that venture.  I actually broke the old one-month sales record by 50% – in one day!  In brief, here are the five points:  1) The parent company, TV Time Foods, Inc. was a first-rate company who offered a great product.  2) Good training was available from the company at their expense.  3) They furnished liberal samples to try – both for me and for potential customers.  4) The product ordered was shipped promptly, and customer support was great.  5) I could sell a lot of their popcorn products because I believed whole-heartedly in the company and what they offered in product, sales support, and customer relations.

We, as Christians, are to sell people on the Product we offer – The Lord Jesus Christ!  While there are several Scriptures giving us our marching orders to go out and sell (see for instance Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15, 16; Luke 24:47-49: II Timothy 4:2), I have chosen Acts 1:7and 8 as our featured Scripture:

      It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in
      His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit
      has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem,
      and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

I began to discuss the five points mentioned above, and see how they apply to us as Christians going out to offer to others Jesus Christ – as we are Selling Our Product to a lost world.  We looked at the first two above, but before we go on to the last three, I want to lift up some more information concerning the Product.  You see, there is no one, (nothing) better to offer people than the Lord Jesus Christ!  We have the ultimate Product that ever was, is, or will be available to sinful mankind!  Consider the following:

•      John 10:10 – “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come [Jesus said] that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

      ✞      The first mention of life in this Scripture has to do with eternal life (see John 10:27, 28; 11:25, 26; 17:3; I John 5:11-13).

     ✞      The second mention, life more abundantly, applies to here and now.  If Jesus was speaking of abundant life and applying it to our heavenly existence, He would be redundant. Obviously, such life will be abundant! (See Revelation 21:4).  However, I do not believe this is a reference to material abundance, as some do who teach the prosperity gospel!  I think it is a reference to what God offers us in Galatians 5:22 and 23 – the fruit of the Spirit (Lexham English Bible):  “…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control.”  If we have these nine characteristics abundantly in our life, not much else matters that could happen to us!

•      John 14:6 – “Jesus said…‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (See John 10:9; Acts 4:12; Colossians 1:20; I Timothy 2:5).  If there were other ways for sinful man to be reconciled to the Holy God, Jesus would never have had to die on the cross!

•      I John 1:7 – “…the blood of Jesus Christ…cleanses us from all sin.” (See Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 1:18; Hebrews 9:12; Revelation 1:5).

Is there anotherProductbesides Jesus that was ever offered to mankind – a product that will so benefit them now and throughout eternity?

•      The third point of my Successful Fund Raising sales experience has to do with the samples provided.  I freely gave out samples of the popcorn products I was selling – given to those leaders of organizations that needed a good money-raising product to help bolster their treasury.  And the products I offered were so good, that the samples often sold the people on my fund-raising services!

The question might be raised, “You mean to tell me that God offers to people ‘samples’ of salvation through His Son?”  Well, yes!  For it is written in Psalm 34:8:  “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good…! ”  To taste Him is one thing.  I don’t believe that saves you.  But Jesus, in John 6:51 and 54 said this:

      I am the living bread which came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of
      this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I give is My flesh, which
      I shall give for the life of the world….Whoever eats My flesh and drinks
      My blood has eternal life….

This is much more than just tasting!  The Lord is talking in John 6 about consuming Him – taking all of Him within our hearts and lives!  I believe the passages that are used for ‘proof texts’ against eternal security – that we can lose our salvation – have for their basis the idea that tasting and consuming are the same thing! (See for instance Hebrews 6:4-8).

We will cover the last two points of Selling Our Product in our next blog on Monday.

Selling Our Product – I

February 22, 2017

Image result for photo salesmanActs 1:7, 8

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

In 1976 I started a fund raising business in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  I called it Successful Fund Raising, and I arranged for schools, scouts, auxiliary groups, etc. to sell my products to raise funds for the organizations that benefited from their support.  The main company I represented was TV Time Foods, makers of popcorn products.  Their fund raising division was called Funds-A-Poppin’ and they offered several products.  But their most successful item was a box containing two-part packs of popcorn and flavored oil.  I sold a bunch of it! Here’s why:

•      The company, TV Time Foods, Inc. was a first-rate company who always offered a great product, and backed their products up with good support.

•      The fund raising division offered good training at their expense.  And I learned a lot from the guys who had been in the business before me.

•      They sent me liberal supplies of samples to both try for myself as well as give out to decision-making leaders of the organization I was seeking to sell the product.

•      Once the contract was signed by the organization agreeing to sell, Funds-A-Poppin’ always shipped the product in a timely fashion, and offered support to the customer.

•      But most of all, I could sell a lot of popcorn because I believed whole-heartedly in both the product I was offering and the company that backed up the product!

As Christians, we have a product to offer people, and we are told to get out and do it!  Here is our commission in Acts 1:7 and 8:

      It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in
      His own authority.  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit
      has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem,
      and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Let’s look at the five points I mentioned above, and see how they apply we called to be Selling Our Product!

•      The Great Product we have to offer is the Lord Jesus Christ!  And the Company backing that Product is the Trinitarian Godhead!  The Support these three Persons of the Trinity offer is their individual presence through the indwelling Holy Spirit! (See Matthew 28:20; John 14:16-18, 23; Hebrews 13:5).

•      Training is available for you to become an effective sales representative for Jesus!

      ✞      A lot of instructive literature comes with the Product!  One of the big problems of becoming an owner of something is that we don’t bother to read the instruction book!  There is the story of a farmer who years ago bought his first automobile.  It was back around 1946 when automatic transmissions had not been available for too long.  The farmer insisted he didn’t need to be instructed in the use of his new purchase because he had successfully been driving a truck and tractor for several years.  He hopped in the driver’s seat, and off he went.  But just half an hour later the car and the farmer were back – the car, with smoke coming from underneath, was on the hook-end of a tow truck.  Here was his explanation:  “I put ‘er in ‘L’ for ‘Leap’ and off she went!  Then I shifted the lever to ‘D’ for ‘Darn Fast’ and we were really goin’ down the road!  Then I dropped ‘er into ‘R’ for ‘Race’ and the thing just blew up!

We have an instruction manual for our faith! It is called the Bible!  This book will not only teach us how to successfully live out our own Christian lives, but will tell us how to properly interact with other – including how to share our faith with others!  And since it is a spiritual book, written by God Himself by means of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (see I Peter 1:20, 21), ask the Lord to give you understanding as you read and study it!  But remember, we have to do our part, as Saint Paul admonishes us in Colossians 3:16:  “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…,meditating in it…day and night.” (Psalm 1:2).

      ✞      As we do our part – getting to know the Scriptures, and relying on God to lead us – the Lord tells us in Isaiah 30:21, “Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.”  So we can be led by the One who sees all and knows all! (See Acts 16:6-10).  Our Savior will not only give us His presence in any situation in which we find ourselves, but He also promises the following in Mark 13:11 (Easy-To-Read Version):

              You will be taken to stand before governors and kings.  People will do
              this to you because you follow Me.  You will tell about Me to those kings
              and governors and to the non-Jewish people.  When you are arrested,
              don’t worry about what to say or how you should say it.  At that time you
              will be given the words to say.  It will not really be you speaking; the
              Spirit of your Father will be speaking through you.

Now, while this specifically applies to the followers of Jesus Christ during the Tribulation period (the last seven years on earth before the Lord returns), the principle involved is also for those Christians today who go out to ‘sell’ to others their Product, Jesus Christ!  The Holy Spirit will bring to mind just what to say in presenting what you are offering!

      ✞      There is also training available from seasoned Christians who have learned to share their faith with others.  Your church might offer witnessing classes for those interested.  And ask God to also lead you to the proper person He has for you to be trained one-on-one.  Inquire of your pastor whom he might recommend.  Then learn from those classes and that one!

We will continue in the next blog how to be Selling Our Product.

What The Hell…? – IV

February 20, 2017

Image result for photo hellRevelation 20:11, 12, 14, 15

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

There is a prelude to hell, and I am not referring to what was mentioned in What The Hell…? – I, that is, hades.  We will examine the Great White Throne Judgment, in Revelation 20:11, 12, 14, and 15 (condensed and rearranged a bit due to space requirements):

      Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face
      the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for
      them.  And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and the
      books were opened.  And another book was opened, which is the Book of
      Life.  And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things
      which were written in the books….And anyone not found written in the
      Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire….This is the second death.

I remember several years ago when I traveled to Greece following the footsteps of Saint Paul.  We toured Varlaam Monastery in Meteora, impossibly built in 1541 through 1542 high on one of the vertical rock formations that are unique to this part of the world.  Of the many murals that adorn the monastery walls is one depicting the final judgment – the Great White Throne Judgment!  But that judgment is wrongly depicted in this mural!  For it is represented as a judgment of works determining whether a soul goes to heaven or hell !

Anyone who stands in judgment before God’s Great White Throne is already condemned to hell !  Why, then, are they further judged at all if their condemnation is so sure?

•      It stands to logical reason that some people are more wicked than others, and therefore should receive a more strict judgment.  Jesus hinted at this in Luke 12:47 and 48:

      And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself
      or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  But he who
      did not know, and committed things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with
      few.  For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be requir-
      ed; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

Also, according to what is known as the Bema Seat Judgment in I Corinthians 3:10 through 15, Christ reviews a believer’s works, and that one receives either rewards in heaven or loss of rewards depending on how he or she lived out his or her Christian life!  This is the way works come into determining the judgment.  Works do not determine whether one goes to heaven or hell, but they do determine the degree of rewards in heaven and the amount of suffering in hell !

Keep this in the forefront of your mind – salvation is only by God’s grace grasped by our faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross – dying for our sins!

•      What about the books opened at the Great White Throne Judgmentone which is the Book of life, and the other (others) record the works of the damned?    I said, ‘others’ because I believe there are many books used to record all the works of humanity.

      ✞      Do angels sit on the clouds of heaven feverishly writing down everything we do?  Or, since the advent of the computer age, do they type away on a the keyboard of a heavenly computer?  Obviously, no!

      ✞      God is an economist!  By that I mean, He does not waste resources or energy on tasks at hand.  I believe He has built into creation a way to record every action, word, and though of His highest creation – mankind.  Here are some pertinent references:

              ▸      Joshua 24:26, 27 – “Then Joshua…took a large stone, and set it up…by the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said….‘…this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us.

              ▸      Habakkuk 2:9, 11, 12 (God’s Word to the Nations) – “How horrible it will be for the one who uses violence to get things for his own household in order to…save himself from disaster….A stone in the wall will cry out.  A beam in the roof will answer it.  ‘How horrible it will be for the one who builds a city by slaughter and founds a town by crime.’

              ▸      Luke 19:37, 39, 40 – At the Triumphal Entry:  “…the whole multitude …began to…praise God….the Pharisees…called to [Jesus]…  ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples.’  But He answered…‘I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.’

All living creatures put out energy! And all things surrounding them, even inanimate objects absorb that energy!  All God has to do at the Judgment is turn up the volume of creation and play back what is recorded!  Hence, the books!

•      The Book of Life has written in it everyone who has truly put their faith and trust in Jesus as Savior!  At the Great White Throne Judgment, it is an official document – guaranteed proof – of who is and who is not saved!  And, of those who stand before the Lord at that judgment, not one of them will have his or her name in the Book of Life!

All the dead (those who are spiritually dead – see Ephesians 2:1) because they have not been born of the Spirit, born again see John 3:3-8), will then be…cast into the lake of fire….This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:15).

This finishes our study of What The Hell…?  And may you befinishedwith the threat of hell because you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior!

What The Hell…? – III

February 17, 2017

Image result for photo hell

Matthew 25:41, 46

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

What The Hell…?  While people may use this question as a casual curse, we are using it to draw attention to the fact of hell, and the characteristics of it.  Today let’s look at Matthew 25:41 and 46:

      Then He will also say to those on the left hand, “Depart from Me, you
      cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” 
      …And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous
      into eternal life.

This Scripture is from a passage dealing with what is called the judgment of the sheep and the goats (see Matthew 25:31-46).  This judgment takes place at the end of the Tribulation, and it is based on how the nations of the world treat those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ during this terrible time of the last seven years before the Lord’s return.  Jesus “…will separate [the people]…one from another, as a shepherd divides his sheep from his goats…the sheep on His right…the goats on the left.” (Matthew 25:32, 33).  The sheep will inherit the kingdom and enter eternal life with the Lord (Matthew 25:34, 46).  But the goats will go away into everlasting punishment (Matthew 25:46.).

It is important to understand the principle behind the judgment Christ gives!  As Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:8 and 9:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”  While at first reading of this judgment, it may seem that the Lord is assigning the people to either heaven or hell because of their works, eternal destination is always based on salvation by grace through faith!  But as James reminds us in James 2:17, “…faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  So works proves the faith you have or do not have! (See James 2:14-26).  Here in our featured Scripture, works are emphasized, but faith (or lack thereof) is always behind works!

This Scripture lifts up the fact of an eternal hell – “Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire…everlasting punishment….” (Matthew 25:41, 46).  I have often heard unbelievers joke about hell:  “When I get there, all my friends will be there, and we’ll have a big party! ”  It won’t be like that – and for several reasons:

•      Sin has its origin in selfishness!  Selfishness is the emphasis of the importance of self.  God is to be first and foremost in our lives! (See Mark 12:30).  But Lucifer, in his five “…I will[s]” in Isaiah 14:12 through 14, was putting himself before God!  And he fostered the same lie upon humankind when he told them,…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5).  Ever since then, as Paul points out in Romans 1:22 and 23, peopleProfessing to be wise…became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed beasts and creeping things.”  Since man is the highest order of all the beings upon this earth, the best that other religions can do is to make gods in human image – some form of man or woman!  And if their gods are in the image of lesser beings (such as the many gods of ancient Egypt), that puts man even higher than God!

Now, applying this to eternity in hell the focus on self will be so intensified that people will be completely wrapped up in themselves (their own suffering, loneliness, lostness, and hopelessness).  They will be totally unaware of anyone suffering around them!

•     I think though that an awareness might be extended to another if,…in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…” (Revelation 21:8), they bump into physical contact with the devil or one of his demons!

•      Jesus tells us that “…the everlasting fire [is] prepared for the devil and his angels.”  Apparently, the final hell is not designed to house sinful human beings!  It is for the devil and his angels!  However, if someone follows Satan in this life, and refuses to turn to the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved, he or she will follow the evil one right into…the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8).

•      The final thought I want to present is the meaning of the second death.  The first death is that which all human beings face – physical death! (See Hebrews 9:27).  We will all die – except those who are raptured out of this life.  For it says in I Corinthians 15:51 and 52 (International Standard Version):

      Not all of us will die, but all of us will be changed — in a moment, faster
      than an eye can blink, at the sound of the last trumpet. Indeed, that trum-
      pet will sound, and then the dead will be raised never to decay, and we will
      be changed. (See also Philippians 3:21; I Thessalonians 4:13-17; I John 3:2).

The second death is spiritual death – separation from God, who is Spirit! (See John 4:24).  Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:1, we were all born into this world,…dead in trespasses and sins….”  Our human spirits are dead toward God!  And unless that is changed, we will remain separated from Him throughout eternity!  This is why we desperately need to be…born again…” (John 3:3 – see John 3:3-8; I Peter 1:23).  As someone once said, “If we are born once, we die twice! If we are born twice, we only die once!”  If we are only born physically, we will face both physical and eternal death!  If we are born again, we will only experience physical death!

Please, dear person – avoid hell and gain heaven – only through Jesus Christ! (See John 14:6).

What The Hell…? – II

February 15, 2017

Image result for photo HellMark 9:43-48

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

What The Hell…?  What’s it about?  Is it real?  If it is, how can I be assured that I won’t end up there?  Jesus gives us some answers in Mark 9:43 through 48.  I have condensed this rather long Scripture:

      …if your hand makes you sin, cut it off….if your foot makes you sin, cut
      it off…if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out….It is better for you to enter
      into life maimed…lame…with one eye…than having two hands…two feet
      …two eyes, to be cast into hell fire — where their worm does not die and
      the fire is not quenched.

We looked in the last blog at the reality of hell, and some of it’s characteristics:

•      It is “…the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death…,” according to Revelation 21:8.

•      Jesus likened it to the Jerusalem garbage dump in our featured Scripture when he said that hell is “…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched…” (Mark 9:44, 46, 48).  It is eternal suffering!

•      We are told in Revelation 21:8 that the fuel of hell is brimstone sulphur, which burns the flesh as well as the airways with a potent and noxious smell.

I believe that Jesus’ main point in our Scripture is to avoid hell at all costs!  To lose a hand, a foot, or an eye to escape hell is price worthy of the purchase!  Of course, no one can ‘purchase’ his or her way out of hell! (See Psalm 49:8).  Jesus Christ made the purchase, and it cost Him His life’s blood! (See I Corinthians 6:19, 20; I Peter 1:18, 19).  There is no other price anyone could pay!

But it is not the hand, the foot, or the eye that causes sin.  Sin comes out of a corrupt heart, corrupted by Satan!  When, by disobedience to God (which is what sin is), our first parents transferred their received spiritual heredity from the LORD to the devil, they became the children of the evil one instead of having God as their Father!  Jesus told the Pharisees in John 8:44 (and all of us are included):  “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.”  Ever since that first sin in the Garden of Eden (see Genesis 3:1-7), we have all inherited that sin nature (see Romans 5:12) out of which sinful thoughts, words, and deeds come! (See Matthew 15:18-20).  We don’t need new hands, feet, and eyes! We need a new heart (see Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26) – a new nature! And that is just what God gives us when we are born again!  Paul tells us in II Corinthians 5:17 (Good News Bible), “Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come.

So to escape hell, don’t cut off hands or feet!  Don’t gouge out an eye!  If that was how it was to be done, many people who were serious about avoiding hell would be limping through life, missing hands, feet and eyes!  What we need is what the Lord told Nicodemus in John 3:6, “You must be born again.”  And that only happens when we receive Jesus as our Savior! (See John 1:12).

When we have that new nature, we have then the power not to sin!  John tells us in…

•      …I John 3:9 – “Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

•      …I John 5:18 – “We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him.

The problem is that we still have the old sinful nature (as well as the new spiritual nature) until we see Jesus “…face to face…” (I Corinthians 13:12).  And, as Paul tells us in Galatians 5:17:  “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.”  We must count the flesh – the old sinful nature – dead by constantly crucifying it! (See Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23; I Corinthians 15:31; Galatians 2:20).  And we must feed the new spiritual nature by obedience to God’s Word! (See Romans 12:1, 2; II Corinthians 4:16; Colossians 3:10, 16).  Then we will experience what is written in I Corinthians 15:57:  “…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

I have found the best way to crucify the old sinful nature is to make Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane ours in every situation:  “…nevertheless not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).  Accepting Jesus Christ as our Savior will keep us out of hell!  Obeying Him as our Lord, we will experience…life in all its fullness.” (John 10:10 Good News Bible – see Galatians 5:22, 23).

What The Hell…? – I

February 13, 2017

Image result for photo HellMark 9:43-48

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

What The Hell…? It is often thoughtlessly used as a cuss to question the validity of something. But I use it here to emphasize the existence of hell and what it is like! The condensed version of Mark 9:43 through 48 is as follows:

      …if your hand makes you sin, cut it off….if your foot makes you sin, cut
      it off…if your eye makes you sin, pluck it out….It is better for you to enter
      into life maimed…lame…with one eye…than having two hands…two feet
      …two eyes, to be cast into hell fire — where their worm does not die and
      the fire is not quenched.

The Bible says a lot more about hell than it does about heaven – perhaps because we need to be warned of the danger and conditions of that place! We will start a series of blogs from different Scriptures about hell, to get a better understanding of just what it is. Our featured Scripture gives us quite a bit of information:

•      The reality of hell – While the Lord does not argue here for the existence of hell, Jesus talks about it firmly assuming it’s reality! Hell is mentioned 54 times by that name in the Bible, and 22 times in the New Testament alone (King James Version). But often, especially in the Old Testament, hell means the grave or the realm of the dead. In the New, three Greek words are translated as hell:

      ✞      γέεννα (gheh’-en-nah – occurs 11 times in the Greek New Testament) – According to James Strong’s Greek Dictionary of the New Testament, geenna is the “…valley of (the son of) Hinnon; gehenna (or Ge-Hinnom), a valley of Jerusalem, used (figuratively) as a name for the place (or state) of everylasting punishment….”

      ✞      ᾳʽ́δης (hah́-dace – occurs 10 times in the Greek New Testament) – Strong: hades means “…properly unseen, that is Hades or the place (state) of departed souls….”

      ✞      ταρταρόω (tar-tar-o’-o – occurs only once in II Peter 2:4) – Strong: tartarus means “…(the deepest abyss of Hades), to incarcerate in eternal torment….”

But, in referring to hell,…the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death…” (Revelation 21:8) is mentioned in various forms in other passages in Revelation as well as in the gospels. It is real, and it is eternal! And it is a place to avoid at all costs!

•      It is thought that when Jesus said, “…where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched…,” He was outside the walls of Jerusalem near where waste was dumped and burned in the valley of Hinnon, mentioned above. Worms would have continually crawled through the garbage, and fires would have smoldered there. Whether worms in hell are figurative or actual, the fires of that place are very real!

      ✞      Hades, as discussed above, is in Luke 16 the waiting place of the dead who are headed for judgment before being cast into the final hell ! In verses 19 through 31, the story of the rich man and Lazarus is recorded. It is most often called a parable. But if it is a parable, it is the only parable in which Jesus uses proper names – Lazarus and Abraham! Some Bible scholars think this is an actual happening that the Lord – in His omniscience – knew about. In any case, in verse 24, the rich man, finding himself in Hades, cried out to Abraham across “…the great gulf fixed…” (verse 26), “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that He may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.Hades is a place of torment in flames!

      ✞      Hell, also called the second death (see Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8), is said to burn…with fire and brimstone (see Revelation 14:10; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8). Brimstone is an antiquated name for sulfur – a yellowish element, solid at room temperature, it melts at around 240o F and can be ignited at 330o F. When burning, it produces sulphur dioxide, an powerful irritant to breathing, and it smells like rotten eggs.

•      In hell, the experience of suffering in…the lake which burns with fire and brimstone…” (Revelation 21:8) goes on forever! (See Matthew 26:46). As Jesus said in our featured Scripture,…the fire is not quenched.But the physical body of the damned does not burn up! It says in Revelation 14:9 through 11 of anyone who…

      …worships the beast and his image, and receive his mark on his forehead
      or…hand …shall be tormented with fire and brimstone….And the smoke of
      their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night….

We are designed from the beginning to be eternal creatures. Sin infecting the human race has not changed that! Being condemned to hell does not change that! We will exit somewhere forever! God forbid that anyone experience eternity in hell, when Jesus Christ has made the way to experience eternity in heaven! (See Matthew 25:46; John 10:28; Romans 6:23; I John 5:11-13).

More on What The Hell…? in the next blog.

Foundation Repair

February 10, 2017

Image result for photo cracked foundationMatthew 7:24-27

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

When my wife and I bought our house in 1990, it was livable, but needed complete remodeling if we were going to make it our home.  We rented it out for ten years to a lady and her family who needed a basic place to live.  We took the house over for our own home in 2000 and began our remodeling.  It was more like rebuilding!  For further damage had been done over the decade by our tenant and her animals.  I rebuilt the house from the foundation up – adding a five-car garage with an apartment above it (every guy needs a five car-garage, especially when he has a love for antique automobiles!)  I mentioned that I rebuilt from the foundation up, because the basement was damp, moldy, had a cracked floor, and had barely enough height for me in which to stand upright.  That foundation may have been fine when the house was built in 1904, but over the years it had deteriorated, and problems resulted!

Jesus spoke in Matthew 7:24 through 27 concerning having a proper foundation:

      Therefore, whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken
      him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:  and the rain descended,
      the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not
      fall, for it was founded on the rock.  Now everyone who hears these sayings
      of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house
      on the sand:  and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew
      and beat on that house; and it fell.  And great was its fall.

I see two scenarios to which this spiritual treatment of our foundation applies:

•      The first is pretty obvious.  The house that was founded on the rock stood solid – even in the face of rain, floods, and wind !  Remembering that, according to I Corinthians 10:4, “…that Rock was Christ…”, what does Jesus further reveal about this foundation?  It is also doing these sayings of the Lord!  James tells us in James 1:22 through 25 to be careful concerning this matter:

      But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For
      if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing
      his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and im-
      mediately forgets what kind of a man he was.  But he who looks into the
      perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but
      a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Jesus summarized this thought in Luke 11:28:  “…blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.

You can hear the Word (the gospel) and miss the central truth of it – commitment to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!  Too many who occupy a pew on Sunday morning fall into this category.  You have to have the foundation of the Word in your life if your are going to live out the spiritual life at all!   As Paul tells us in I Corinthians 3:11, “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Let’s further define the Word (according to the testimony of Scripture):

      ✞      It is the written Word of God – the Scriptures!  In I Peter 1:25, Peter is quoting Isaiah 40:8 when he writes, “‘…the word of the LORD endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.”  So the gospel, spoken and/or written is the word of the LORD.

      ✞      It is also the living Word of God – Jesus Christ!  For “…in the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God….And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:1, 14 – see Revelation 19:13).

Make sure Jesus Christ is your Savior, your Lord!  Any other foundation is really no foundation, and will only bring ruin to what you are trying to build by your life!

•       The second scenario is a deteriorating foundation!  This is how my opening example of our house applies.  Over the years the foundation deteriorated.  And it ended up compromising the integrity of the whole house.  If we are not careful, we can let the foundation of Jesus Christ deteriorate in our lives!  Not that Jesus ever deteriorates!  But the attention, care and maintenance we give our Christian foundation can go downhill!

      ✞      We can have a burning desire to live for the Lord when we are first saved, but – like the Laodiceans of Revelation 3:15-17 – we can become lukewarm in our faith!  And that is unacceptable to the One who bought and paid for us! (See I Corinthians 6:19, 20; I Peter 1:18, 19).

      ✞      Our Christian disciplines can become neglected!  Our commitment to read and study the Bible can slip (see Colossians 3:16); prayer time can be shortened and even stopped (see Luke 18:1; I Thessalonians 5:18); church attendance can falter (see Hebrews 10:24, 25); witnessing can be neglected (see Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; II Timothy 4:2); giving of time, talents, and treasure can decrease and even cease (see Luke 6:38).  We can become backsliders to the dangerous point of seeming to…crucify again…the Son of God, and put Him to open shame.” (Hebrews 6:6).

So what do we do when we need Foundation Repair?  The One who is the foundation (see I Corinthians 3:11), is also the One we need to call for repairs!  First, call the right number – God’s phone number listed in Jeremiah 33:3!  “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.”  And when you have Him ‘on the line’, tell the Lord what is written in Psalm 139:23 and 24:

      Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxious
      thoughts; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the
      way everlasting.

If this is asked sincerely, Jesus will be right there to fix the foundation and put the structure of your life back on Himself – solid, strong, and true!

Revelation Praise! – XIII

February 8, 2017

Image result for photo praise the LambRevelation 7:9-12

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

Today we will finish our study of Revelation Praise! from Revelation 7:9-12 – the great seven-fold passage of praise!  Studying this one verse can help change our prayer life, helping us offer more praise to God!

      …behold, a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations,
      tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and…the Lamb,
      clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying
      with a loud voice…“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne,
      and to the Lamb!”  And all the angels…and the elders and the four living
      creatures…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying,
      “Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and
      power and might, be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.”

Seven-fold praise’ I have been calling it, but we started yesterday with an eighth part, “Amen!…Amen.” (verse 12).  This just means that the praise being given between the two Amens is offered in sincerity and truth!  We then covered the first three praises of this featured Scripture, so lets go on to the final four.

•      “…thanksgiving…” (Greek, εὐχαριστία) – Strong defines this word as “…gratitude; actually grateful language (to God, as an act of worship)…”  The Bible says some interesting things about thanksgiving toward God:

      ✞      Psalm 69:30 – “I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify Him with thanksgiving.” (See also Psalm 95:2; 100:4; 116:17 – and many other Old Testament Scriptures emphasizing thanksgiving as a vital part of the believer’s life!).

      ✞      Ephesians 5:20 – Paul tells us that we should be “…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ….”  Here he is emphasizing “for all things…!

      ✞      Philippians 4:6 (International Standard Version) – “Never worry about anything.  Instead, in every situation let your petitions be made known to God through prayers and requests, with thanksgiving.”  Thanksgiving to God should always be part of our prayers!

      ✞      I Thessalonians 5:18 – “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  And here, Paul emphasizes “In everything…!

There are so many more passages of Scripture that emphasize giving God thanks!  We can’t begin to cover them all!  I encourage you to do your own study on thanksgiving.

•      “…and honor…” (Greek, τιμή) – as applied to praising God, it is holding Him in the highest degree of esteem or dignity (according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary).  Here is how Paul applies giving God honor in his opening benediction to Timothy in I Timothy 1:17:  “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever.  Amen.

•      “…and power…” (Greek, δύναμις) – Dunamis is where we got our words for dynamite and dynamoThe first is a flash of power!  The second is power produced and released continually!  God has both – in His being and under His control!  The physical manifestations of such power are alluded to in Hebrews 1:2 and 3.  Speaking of Jesus Christ, the writer says, “…through whom He [God] made the worlds…[and Jesus is] upholding all things by the word of His power.

      ✞      The first mention obviously refers to creation!  “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.”  This was an instantaneous flash of God’s power through Jesus Christ! (See John 1:1; Colossians 1:16).

      ✞      The second mention infers Christ’s ongoing power of sustaining of all creation! (See Colossians 1:17).

But for God – and His power demonstrated through His Son Jesus Christ – nothing would have ever existed, nothing would exist now, and nothing would exist in the future!  Praising God for His power in this seven-fold praise acknowledges this fact.

•      “…and might…” (Greek, ἰσχύς) – This refers to God’s forcefulness, according to Strong.  As I see it, Jesus does not often use His might, His forcefulness in lives of mankind.  For instance, in Revelation 3:20 the Lord says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in….”  He comes in when invited!  As a matter of fact, in the famous painting by Warner Sallman (based on Revelation 3:20), “Christ at Heart’s Door”, there is no handle on the outside of the door upon which Jesus is knocking!  It can only be opened by the person on the inside!

But there are other times when the Lord uses His might and forcefulness, and just bowls over any opposition!  Such was the case in John 18:6 (International Standard Version) for the soldiers who came to arrest Him in the Garden of Gethsemane:  “When Jesus told them, ‘I AM,’ they backed away and fell to the ground.”  And He also knocked Saul of Tarsus off hishigh horseon the Damascus Road! (See Acts 9:3, 4).

•      “…be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.” – Yes, we should give God such praise as did these in heaven!  The next time you go to prayer, read Revelation 7:12, and incorporate such seven-fold Revelation Praise! into your time before Him!

Revelation Praise! – XII

February 6, 2017

Image result for photo praiseRevelation 7:9-12

(All scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.)

We are looking at Revelation Praise! from Revelation 7:9-12 – one of the greatest passages of praise in our Bible!

      …behold, a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations,
      tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and…the Lamb,
      clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying
      with a loud voice…“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne,
      and to the Lamb!”  And all the angels…and the elders and the four living
      creatures…fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying,
      “Amen!  Blessing and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and
      power and might, be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.”

We’ve looked at the first four verses of our featured Scripture, but we have not yet gotten into the seven-fold praise (verse 12) offered “…to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (verse 10), and offered by “…a great multitude, which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues…[and] all the angels…and the elders and the four living creatures…” (verses 9 & 11).

•      “Amen!…Amen.” – There are only four other Scriptures in our Bible where there is a double Amen (see Numbers 5:22; Nehemiah 8:6, Psalm 41:13; 72:19).  Strong (in his Greek Dictionary) tells us that Amen means “…properly firm, that is, (figuratively) trustworthy; adverbially surely (often as interjection) so be it….”  Used just one time per context (70 times in the King James Version) it means you can trust what is being said as the truth!  But Amen used twice in the same context, you can really trust what is being said – absolutely!

•      “Blessing…” (Greek, ευ’λογια) – This word is only used when it is applied to God, either blessing coming from Him or going to Him.  If going to Him from His children, it means adoration.  The Christmas carol Joy To The World invites us three times in the chorus, “…come, let us adore Him.”  Do you adore God?  For He adores you! (See John 3:16; I John 3:1, 16).

•      “…and glory…” (Greek, δo’ξα) – Strong says that glory means just that, but very apparently!  The word is also translated, dignity, glorious, honor, praise, and worship.  How great is God’s glory?  Moses, after Israel fell into blatant idolatry in Exodus 32, needed the assurance of God’s presence for himself and the nation (see Exodus 33:12-16).  So he made this bold request:  “Please, show me Your glory.” (Exodus 33:18).  But because of God’s shining (shekinah) glory, He told Moses,You cannot see My face [looking straight on at His glory]; for no man shall see Me, and live.” (Exodus 33:20).  Why?  I Timothy 6:16 has the answer:  God dwells…in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see….”  In our present mortal state – infected by sin as we are – our bodies would be destroyed in God’s unapproachable presence!

In a sense, this is what will happen when we see Jesus “…face to face…” (I Corinthians 13:12).  According to Philippians 3:21, He will have transformed…our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.”  Our old sinful nature will be gone, our physical bodies will be adapted to perfect spiritual living forever, and…we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is…” (I John 3:2), in all His glory!  All glory to our God and to the Lamb!

•      “…and wisdom…” (Greek, σoφι’α) – Some modern Bible scholars have given this name (pronounced ‘Sophia’) to the Holy Spirit.  For in the Old Testament wisdom is often presented with similar attributes as the Holy Spirit in the New (see for instance Proverbs 1:20-33).  Strong describes it as high spiritual wisdom.  I have come up with a simple definition for wisdom (comparing it to knowledge):

      ✞      Knowledge is knowing the facts!

      ✞      Wisdom is properly applying those facts to life!

Of course, God properly and perfectly applies all the facts (both actual and possible) in existence to our lives and His glory! (See Romans 8:28).  So in praise, all wisdom can be ascribed to Him!

We will finish Revelation Praise! in our next blog.