What Does God Care About?

What Does God Care About?

Hoseas marriage to the unfaithful Gomer masterfully mirrors the relationship with God and unfaithful Israel. His writings would reach through the years and find themselves as a teaching point of the Master Teacher. While being questioned for His association with tax collectors and sinners, Jesus offers up some homework for the pharisees directly from Hosea: go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice(Matthew 9:13; Hosea 6:6). Christ puts forth an interesting assignment, one that draws the reader all the way back to Hosea.

Hosea writes of Gods charge against unfaithful Israel, their call to repentance, their fall, and closes with their restoration. Throughout the book Hosea brings to attention the sin of Israel and the separation that occurred as a result. Israel would take the gold and silver given to her by God and make it into Baal (Hosea 2:8;8:4), she would leave the fulfillment of God for the emptiness of pagans (Hosea 3:1), she would be a stumbling block for other nations (Hosea 5:1) and Israel would remove the boundaries between God and Baal (Hosea 5:10), yet throughout all of this, Israel still upheld the Sabbath and feast days (Hosea 2:11), and offered sacrifices to the Lord (Hosea 5:6). This was not out of sincerity or love, for their faithfulness had “left like the early dew(Hosea 6:4), but out of habit. Thus God, who still wanted their worship, would says to His once faithful bride I desire mercy (i.e. Goodness, Steadfast Love, Loyalty) and not sacrifice. . .(Hosea 6:6), that is, I desire sacrifice with obedience, not insincere offerings. (Matthew 23:23).

Christ uses the unfaithful, insincere, and the disobedient Israel to teach us two lessons that to this day remains applicable, (First) God cares about more than ritual obedience. Israel had offered God what He did not desire, sacrifices without love, in like manner today, many are good at going through the motions but forget that our worship to God is to be done in Spirit (The right attitude) and truth (The right way)(John 4:24). (Second) God is concerned about how we treat others. Christ taught Hosea 6:6 in the context of eating with sinners, and that their spiritual well-being needs to be important to us (Galatians 6:1). In the same manner Christianity is not valuable because it gives a person spiritual knowledge. Ritual piety is empty, even when doctrinally correct, if it does not fill the heart with concern for others(Mike Criswell, Commentary on Galatians  pg. 245). 

Aaron Boone

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Why You Should Not Buy Into a Hippo

Why You Should Not Buy Into a Hippo

This is the sequel episode of a question introduced and answered a month ago, “Did the Catholic Church give us the Bible?” In answering that question, the Council of Hippo was introduced. This is the early church council that Catholics and Orthodox Christians point to and credit for producing the biblical canon as we have it today. Last month’s answer gave three burdens of proof in contradiction to the Catholic church’s confession. Now we ask the question, “Why did the Catholic church deem the Council of Hippo necessary?”
At the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D., a council of church bishops convened and gave their official authorization as to which books were and were not inspired. Milton Fisher writes about the Catholic church’s declaration of the New Testament canon in the 4th century. He states, “A need for officially defining the canon was not pressing until then,” (Comfort, Philip. The Origins of the Bible, p. 67). Paul warned the Christians at Thessalonica not to believe coming imposters who would write epistles in the names of the apostles, trying to deceive (2 Thess. 2:1-2). By the time of the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D., such imposters were at large, influencing Catholic bishops to make an official decree announcing which books were authoritative and which were not. In light of this brief history, no pope, man named Tertullian, or church council decided which books should be included in the Bible. The inspired collection of Bible books was recognized prior to this church council placing its stamp on the cover. Catholics and Orthodox Christians violently object to this truth, but it is indeed the truth as born out by historical fact. Much like a patient who has been given medicine by a doctor, the 1st century church was given the Bible by God. When the patient takes the medicine and acknowledges it to be good, he does not authorize the medicine; he simply recognizes the inherent authority already in the medicine. Such is the case with the Bible as delivered by the Great Physician. The church simply recognized the inherent authority within scripture, and it did so long before any Catholic church council opened its mouth.
​The Bible contains God’s very words to men. These words were written down by inspired men of God as they were instructed by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). The individual books that resulted from this revelatory process were then shared among the 1st and 2nd century churches (Col. 4:16). The staunch oral tradition and preservation of biblical manuscripts allowed faithful Christians to refute uninspired writings no later than the 2nd century. The Council of Hippo was deemed necessary by men in order to affirm what was already true and authoritative. In short, the Catholic “stamp” of approval was plagiarized from the stamp of the apostles and prophets that originally produced and circulated the Bible canon. The testimony of history and of the Bible together speak to the divine self-efficacy of scripture, needing no Catholic stamp of authorization. The 66 books of the Hebrew-Christian Bible is God’s breath- inhale it.

Aaron Battey

Called Back from Ignorance

 

Called Back from Ignorance
​Paul’s letters to the Corinthians provide its reader unnumbered modern day applications. His handling of sinful brethren, things offered to idols, liberties, and Christian social interactions, provide for us the example that we as Christians should follow in our daily lives (1Corinthians 11:1). It is Paul’s love for the Church and desire to see the Church in Corinth be faithful that he was glad to give of himself fully (2Corinthians 12:15), but for the Corinthians to be faithful they would first have to shed off ignorance (1Corinthians 10:1).
​Paul would call the Corinthians back from ignorance by reminding them of the mistakes of their “fathers” (Israelites coming out of Egypt). Even though they, the fathers, were in the presence and under the protection of God, had been redeemed from slavery and baptized into Moses. They all ate the spiritual food and drank the spiritual drink (1Corinthians 10:1-4), “most of them God was not well pleased with” (Vs. 5). In fact, of the over 600,000 people that left Egypt (Exodus 12:37) over the age of 20, only Caleb and Joshua would enter the promise land (Numbers 14:26-38).
​In like manner, Christians are under the protection and leadership of God, redeemed from a state of sin through baptism into Christ, we eat of the spiritual food and drink of the spiritual drink. But even through all of this we must not be unaware of those who have come before us and set for us the example of what not to do (1Corinthians 10:6, 11: Jude 5). Christ would preach that some would do great things in His name and still fall short of the Kingdom of heaven because they did not obey God (Matthew 7:21-23). What does Paul want us to learn from those fathers who came out of Egypt? Paul is saying be careful lest you misplace your worship (Idolatry), you defile your body which is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1Corinthians 6:19), you walk in sin by trying to push the limits of Christ, or through all of this you fail to be content as Paul had learned to be content in all things (1Corinthians 10:7-10; Phil. 4:11-13).
​As Christians we are followers of Christ, but so much more we are yoked together with Christ (Matthew 11:28-20) and it is our charge to not be caught up in the affairs of this life, pulling us further away from God. Yet often, some find themselves misplacing their worship, by the things they give precedence to and celebrate. Yet we are called to be careful and watchful because our adversary is looking to devour us (1Peter 5:8). We must not offer ourselves up on a silver platter by ignoring the examples of those who have come before us. We, like the Corinthians need to be called back from the ignorance of the times lest we receive that Baptism of fire (Matthew 3:11-12).

Aaron Boone

Caring for Elderly and Sick Parents

Caring for Elderly and Sick Parents
At the age of 68, my mother had a debilitating stroke. She lived for eight more years and they were very difficult years. They were difficult for her, for my family and for me. It is my desire that this article will give you some advice in dealing with your parents if you are in a comparable situation.
First, we should have pity by putting ourself in their shoes. Proverbs 14:29 says, ” He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.” Most of our anger is due to a lack of understanding. We may believe that our parents earn our anger, but, most of our anger is immature, uncalled for, and unbecoming of a Christian. In Luke 7:35 the Lord shows us how to put some depth into our perspective. The place is the house of Simon, a Pharisee. During the meal, a certain woman arrived. Simon, the host, saw a nuisance. To him this woman was an embarrassing distraction. Jesus did not see it that way. Jesus saw a depressed, hurting person who was looking for a change and direction from God. The fact that Simon saw none of these shows us that we often fail to see these things in so many of the people we meet. The question is, what do we see in our parents? We need to see beyond the decline of their physical and mental abilities to see the parents who loved us. We should recognize how difficult and frightening it must be to live with the changes that are taking place in their lives. We should work to be more understanding and compassionate.
Secondly, we should ignore insults rather than arguing with them. That is not an easy thing to do. Proverbs 19:11 says ” The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.” Proverbs 17:9 says, ” He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends.” Even more to the point, Eccl.7:21-22 says, “Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee: For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.” Here we are told to ignore an insult. This is good advice when dealing with the confused insults of a parent who cannot help what age or sickness is doing to him or her. When we take it on ourselves to correct every little misstatement it will only add to the problem of a confused mind. Patient loving kindness is the best defense for dealing with a confused mind of an elderly, sick parent.
Third, when it’s time to convince our elderly or sick parents to make a major decision, try not to do it alone. 1 Kings 1 illustrates this well. David had become an old, ineffective king who was still trying to hold on to the power of the throne. Ambitious and evil men were cutting up his kingdom. It is easy to pilot a ship to ruin than to admit that we need help, and this is especially so with the elderly. David’s kingdom was falling apart, and Nathan wanted to do something about it, but he didn’t do it alone. He made a team effort with Bathsheba and was successful. This is good example for us to follow.
Finally, we should remember that when we were a child, there were times when we no doubt put our parents through “the works.” We should try to be understanding of their fears, not let unfair remarks become a big deal, and be there to help them as the best person we can be. It won’t always be easy. But, we should remember the most important part: God will remember our labor of love, and that makes everything worth it.
Eph. 6:2 “Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise.”

Rick Martin

God’s Word Or Paul’s Opinion?

God’s Word? Or Paul’s Opinion?
​In 1 Corinthians 7:10, Paul writes: “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.” But only two verses later in verse 12 he writes: “But to the rest I, not the Lord, say: If any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her.”What is going on here? Does Paul issue the Lord’s command in the first instance, but only offer a personal opinion in the second? Do we have to obey the first instruction but not the second since Paul says that the second comes from him rather than from the Lord?
​In defense of 1 Corinthians 7:12 being God’s word and not just Paul’s opinion, Paul’s numerous claims of writing and preaching by inspiration of God makes it unreasonable to conclude that he was denying inspiration when addressing marriage between Christians and non-Christians. Paul would book end his letter to the Corinthians with the acknowledgment that “the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (14:37; 2:4-5). Paul also claimed inspiration in his other epistles (Galatians 1:12; 1 Thessalonians 4:8,15). Even Peter alluded to Paul’s writings as being a part of Scripture, and thus inspired (2 Peter 3:15-16).
​When Paul wrote that he, rather than the Lord, was addressing a particular marriage relationship, he did not mean that he was speaking without authority from God. In the early second century, Polycarp of Smyrna, lists three sources of teaching for early Christians: “So, then, let us serve him with fear and all reverence, just as he himself [Jesus] has commanded, as did the apostles, who preached the gospel to us, and the prophets, who announced in advance the coming of our Lord”. Polycarp alludes to three sources of teaching that we learn from in the Bible: Jesus’s direct teachings (Matthew 17:5), the inspired teachings of the apostles (Acts 2:42), and the Old Testament (Romans 15:4). With this understand we see Paul was not stating a personal opinion, instead he was distinguishing the source of the teaching. Christ did teach about Marriage and Divorce (Matthew 19), but Paul being guided by the “Spirit of truth. . . Into all truth” (John 16:13), now makes application of marital truths that the Lord did not specifically expound upon while on Earth. Therefore giving an instruction that we as Christians must obey, as it is God’s word and not Paul’s opinion.

Aaron Boone

Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?

Did the Catholic Church Give Us the Bible?

The Bible is the exhaled breath of God. By “the Bible,” I do not mean to include the apocryphal books included in the Catholic Bible. Apocryphal means “of doubted authorship.” Neither do I have in mind the Eastern Orthodox Bible which includes more Old Testament apocryphal books written under pseudonyms during the 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. I refer to the 39 books of the Old Testament Hebrew Bible and the 27 books of the New Testament Christian Bible.
Is the world indebted to the Catholic Church for producing the Bible as it exists today? The Catholic and Orthodox faiths are both very vocal in giving all credit to their church as the divine entity responsible for producing and preserving the Bible canon. When Catholicism or Orthodoxy makes this claim, it is presumptuous, without foundation, and paradoxical. First, the claim is presumptuous, because it assumes the collection of Bible books as we have it today was non-existent prior to the official Catholic decree at the Council of Hippo in 393 A.D. Biblical and historical evidence does not agree with this presumption. 2 Peter 3:15-16 acknowledges Paul’s epistles in the plural form, and also references them alongside, “the rest of the Scriptures.” Clearly there was already a practice of collecting the inspired writings in the first century while the Bible was still being written. Tertullian (2nd century Christian writer) was the first person recorded to call the collection of apostolic writings the “New Testament” in 190 A.D. (Comfort, Philip. (2002). The Origins of the Bible, p. 66). Second, the claim is without foundation, because many of the early and respected Christian historian writings affirm the 27 books of the Christian Bible and refute the other apocryphal books in circulation long before any Catholic council. Follow this link http://www.ntcanon.org/table.shtml for a helpful chart which evidences this statement. The evidence speaks out loudly to the fact that all 27 books of the Christian Bible receive widespread recognition by reputable 1st and 2nd century, Christian historians, while none of the apocryphal writings share the same reputation. Third, the claim is paradoxical. I say this, because it was the same Catholic church that burned the Bible as translated by William Tyndale and Martin Luther in the 1500’s. The Catholic church readily takes credit for producing the biblical canon, but it is not so eager to take credit for destroying God’s word some centuries later. The Council of Hippo was nothing other than a group of uninspired men without any authority from God but with great political and religious power. This power and influence is better credited to the Roman emperor Constantine than to God. If someone still wants to say that God used the Catholic church for the preservation of scripture, do remember that God also used the evil Balaam to bless Israel, wicked Pharaoh to drive Israel out of Egypt, and pompous, idolatrous Nebuchadnezzar to judge Judah. Even if one were to prove that God did use a certain institution to produce the biblical canon, it would not prove the divine origin of that institution anymore than Balaam, Pharaoh, or Nebuchadnezzar.
This brief presentation serves as an introduction to answering the question, “Did the Catholic church give us the Bible?” The principles of presumption, foundation, and paradox touch three of the major tenets at conflict with the widespread confession that the Catholic church gave Christians the Bible. I have several Catholic and Orthodox friends and have great respect for their willingness to discuss theology. However, this is one particular empty claim that frequently shows its face in such discussions. Do not quit discussing the scriptures. At the same time, do not fail to ask for sound evidence. Think on these things and be prepared for part two of this topic which will answer the question, “Why did the Catholic church deem it necessary to authorize a biblical canon?”

Aaron Battey

The Error, Way, & Doctrine of Balaam

The Error, Way, & Doctrine of Balaam

By Bennie Cryer

April 2010 Issue of the Old Paths Advocate

Jude 11, “Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward and perished in the gainsaying of Core”. 2 Peter 2:15, “Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness”; Revelation 2:14, “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication”. The Holy Spirit chose Balaam to use as an example of what a man of God should not be. The narrative about this prophet after the patriarchal order is found in Numbers 22-25 and 31:8, 16. He was a Midianite. He belongs among those who had a knowledge of God but were not descendants of Jacob. Abimelech of Gerar, Melchisedec, Job, and Jethro are some of the examples that show God dealt with others that did not have Jacob as one of their ancestors. Balaam belongs in this group though his knowledge and respect for Jehovah seems faint when compared to some of the others. The Holy Spirit seems to have wanted churches in New Testament times and churches in this 21st century to learn important lessons from the brief glimpses we have of this Midianite prophet.

THE ERROR OF BALAAM
Error means a wandering off or a forsaking of the right path. The Greeks used this word to describe a planet in the heavens that did not seem to have a set orbit. This word seems to indicate that Balaam was once on the right path and wandered away from it. In 2 Peter 2:10, the Holy Spirit uses these words that accurately describes Balaam and his actions: Presumptuous are they, selfwilled. In a shameless and irreverent way Balaam presumed God would let him have his own way even though he knew it was against the will of God. how well did he know the will of God? God had said unto him, “Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed”. Numbers 22:12. How could he have misunderstood that commandment? Balak, King of the Moabites, had sent messengers to Balaam two times to offer him a reward for cursing the children of Israel. They knew that whoever Balaam cursed they were cursed and whoever he blessed they were blessed. Balaam had invited them to stay with him overnight, so he could talk to God about the matter. In verse 18-19 Balaam told them, “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more. Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more”. Verse 18 tells us he understood God’s instructions to him about the matter. Verse 19 shows how self willed he was and how he assumed God would change his mind and let him go curse Israel. God telling him one time was not enough for Balaam. he wanted to see what more God would say to him. he is like some today who wander away from the path of righteousness and do not even recognize they are walking in a path away from God’s way.

THE DOCTRINE OF BALAAM
The context for this point is found in Revelations 2:12-16. Balaam entertained the Moabite ambassadors because He wanted to see if God would change his mind and say “more” than He had before. The truth is Balaam desired to do more than God had said. Balaamites from the 1st century to this 21st century have brought in innovation after innovation because they were not content with what God has said in His word. Like Balaam they wanted more and sometimes less than what the Holy Spirit revealed. Baptism is a case in point, Acts 2:38 teaches the necessity of baptism for the remission of sins clearly: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost”. Those who teach salvation by faith only do not like this verse because they believe in the doctrine of salvation by faith only. Balaam understood he could not go beyond the word of Jehovah to do more or less. A few of our own brethren including preachers are following the denominational Balaamites in bringing in new practices and beliefs into their ministries. Dissatisfied with God’s plan of salvation and God’s plan for worship services these few are trying to bring in one new thing after another. When they are questioned about it they try to justify them in the name of tradition or maybe stop their practice but not their belief. Like Balaam they sometimes confess beating their donkey but do not confess their dissatisfaction with God’s will because they feel their own will is more important. That is the doctrine and way of Balaam. Not all of it but enough to taint them so far as God is concerned and the brotherhood. Some also advocate leaving them alone and try to compare them with Ephesus, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, and Laodicea. The Lord is the one that removes the candlestick, not us, they say. They fail to teach us how we are to know when He removes the candlestick. It seems to me that the word of God is still the measuring stick we are to use in determining this. There is one thing this measuring stick reveals. The Lord was not going to let their light burn very long. This is confirmed by the Lord’s warning to them in Revelation 2:16, “Repent; or else I will come unto thee quickly and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth”. In His salutation to them he introduced Himself to them in verse 12 in this way: “These things saith He which hath the sharp sword with two edges”. The sword is likened to the word of God in Hebrews 4:12. In other words, Christ was going to discipline them with His word. This was to be done, not by Christ personally but through his faithful preachers and church members. 1 Timothy 3:15 tells us that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. It is a strange thing that these advocates do not compare the churches that are going astray to the churches in Smyrna and Philadelphia to whom the Lord gave unqualified approval. These two churches seem to be the correct paradigm, not the ones in error. But, alas, it seems some brethren overlook the fact that the Lord wrote to the ones in error to correct them not approve them and leave them in their error. How long was the Lord going to put up with their errors? Forever? I think not. The bible student should think the same thing unless he is following the doctrine of Balaam.

THE WAY OF BALAAM
The way of righteousness is the same as it was in the first century. God approves the same thing today as He did back then. Furthermore,He condemns the same things today as He did during the early history of the church. Balaam knew that the only way he could get God to curse Israel was to get them to sin. He did this by getting Balak to cause Israel to commit fornication with His people and to eat things sacrificed to idols. Those who walk in the way of Balaam today encourage God’s people to commit spiritual fornication by teaching them to practice religious things God has not authorized. Every denominational false doctrine and every innovation that has crept into the Lord’s church came in as a result of someone walking in the way of Balaam. Unlike Balaam, those who are loyal and faithful to God only require God to speak one time and they will hear. One command and they will obey. They will not go back and see whether God has changed His mind. They love the truth even when it does not harmonize with their own will. Finally, and tragically, Balaam walked in the Lord’s way for a while, but he did not stay the course. Alexander Campbell helped in the restoration of so many New Testament practices, but in his later years he digressed from things he had helped to restore. In my own life time I have seen preachers, young and old, fight the good fight of faith and then later on they turned their back on the thus saith the Lord principle. Even today preachers and brethren are turning away from the things they once mightily stood for. This practice is the way of Balaam. Balaam cried out one time, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his”! Look at the death he died in Numbers 31: 8,16. Brethren, let us all take heed to the warning about walking in the way of Balaam lest our end be like his.

How to Know When God is Giving You a Sign?

 

How to Know When God is Giving You a Sign?

​This morning I was scheduled to get a Hep A vaccination. The vaccine was in preparation for future travel plans to Africa. The appointment was at 9 am, but something happened that kept me from getting the vaccine. At 6:30 am I started running a fever and shaking uncontrollably as a result. For a whole hour I didn’t know what was wrong with me. It was during this time that I prayed to God, and I understood clearly that He was giving me a sign. Everyone knows that you should not get a vaccine if you are running a fever. No doubt, God was telling me that I shouldn’t go to Africa. As if this were not enough, my plans to travel to Africa had already been cancelled twice within a year’s time period due to varying circumstances. This was God’s sign that I should focus my evangelistic efforts on the mainland of the U.S.
​While the bare facts of this story are true, the assumptions drawn from the events are purely speculative. Was God really sending me a sign? How do I know if God wants me to go to Africa or not? There are many sincere souls in the evangelical world very quick to assign such events to the working of God’s hand in their lives. Nonetheless, the answer for interpreting signs and knowing God’s determined purpose for your life is found in God’s written word. Just before delivering the freshly penned Book of the Law to the Levites in Deuteronomy 31:9, Moses said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law,” (Deut. 29:29). God’s determined purpose for the lives of His people has been a faithful process throughout time: God speaks to His prophet through a dream, vision, or face to face (i.e. Moses), the prophet speaks to the people, and finally, the words of the prophet are recorded in writing so that future generations can know God’s will. This was the process in Deuteronomy and remains faithful through the book of Revelation.
​The written word of God is the Christian guide for life and decision making. Does God want me to go to Africa? The answer lies in, “What does God’s written word say on the matter?” Does God want me to move to Texas? The answer lies in, “What does God’s written word say on the matter?” Does God desire that I marry this woman? Again, “What does God’s written word say on the matter?” If there were a modern day prophet like Samuel to reveal God’s will that the eighth and unlikeliest son of Jesse would be the leader of God’s people (1 Samuel 16), then things would be different. As it is, Samuel, Nathan, Elijah, Hosea, John, and Paul are all dead. What is not dead is the living word of God in written form (Hebrews 4:12).
​The written word of God is powerful and all encompassing. Psalm 119 speaks to the truth of this statement in all 176 verses. Read what the written word has to say about the written word-

“How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word.” (v. 9)
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You.” (v. 11)
“I will delight myself in Your statutes; I will not forget Your word.” (v. 16)
“My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to Your word.” (v. 25)
“Let Your mercies come also to me, O Lord- Your salvation according to Your word.” (v. 41)
“So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me, for I trust in Your word.” (v. 42)
“Those who fear You will be glad when they see me, because I have hoped in Your word.” (v. 74)
“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (v. 105)
“Direct my steps by Your word, and let no iniquity have dominion over me.” (v. 133)
“My eyes are awake through the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” (v. 148)

These few quotes from Psalm 119 are only a sample tasting of what the song says about God’s word. The last two verses in particular indicate the answer to knowing God’s will for your life: read the written word and meditate on it.
​The view that God’s written word is the only lamp for the Christian’s feet today is quite unpopular. Why? Perhaps it is because such a view of God’s word is too taxing. Such a view requires meditating on the written word constantly, even in the night watches. Surely God rather intends His people to get a quicky inspirational Bible verse from their phone app and proceed to interpret travel plans to Africa based on intuition. Or maybe God simply permits things to happen on a daily basis, some good, some bad, and these daily occurrences are not to be interpreted as signs from God. Maybe when God gave the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20, this was His sign to everyone from 30 A.D. to 2018 to spread the gospel all over the earth, including Africa. Perhaps God’s written word is what I should put my trust in (Psalm 119:42) and make daily decisions with it as the foundation. Start hiding the written word of God in your heart today. Allow God’s living words to direct your path.
Aaron Battey

 

 

Have I Examined Myself Today?

 

Have I Examined Myself Today?
​My brothers eye might have a spec, and I might be the right person to talk to him. But, before I go so far as to help my brother, I am to consider my own spiritual life first (Mt. 7.1-5). Human beings are professional critics of others, we analyze, criticize, and ostracize. While there is a place for “righteous judgment” (Jn. 7.24), critical examination should began in the mirror. This is why our Lord in His wisdom has commanded us to self-examine, to test ourselves, and determine whether we are in fact walking in The Faith (2 Cor. 13.5; Gal. 6.4). In fact, part of the Communion which we partake in on the first day of every week is to be set aside for self-examination (1Cor. 11.28). So, have I examined myself today?
​To accomplish this God pleasing task of self-examination one must have three things. First, an honest heart, self-examination demands the ability to honestly evaluate and acknowledge what is found. In the case of many, what is found is sin. With the ugly revelation one must then choose not to ignore this sin, but God calls everyone to repent (Acts 17.30). Secondly, an objective standard, something to measure ones conduct by. This is not a standard set by sinful man but by God himself, Who’s words purpose is for teaching, reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness (2Tim. 3.16-17). Divine approval comes only from looking at oneself, rightly dividing God’s word and conforming to God’s inspired word, in doing so we present ourselves approved to God (2Tim. 2.15). Thirdly, one must have a purpose. To self-examine without a purpose is futile. It is the Christians responsibility to refrain from being “fashioned according to the world” and instead to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom. 12:1-2). When we look into the mirror of self-reflection our one purpose must be to mold our life to the mind of Christ (Phil. 2.5; 1Cor. 11.1).
​Finally, in order to accomplish these things, in 2 Corinthians 13.5 Paul tells every Christian to “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith”. This phrase is delivered in the present tense, suggesting sustained examination. When Jesus told the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector who went to the temple to pray (Luke 18) He spoke of one who boasted in himself that he was greater than other men. In contrast, a tax collector stood “afar off”, not even willing to lift his eyes to heaven praying for mercy upon himself, “a sinner”, this man went home justified. Notice Christ teaches it was the one who was “courages enough to examine himself and take careful notes” that pleased his Creator. Therefore we as Christians, as Paul and Christ taught, are to have sustained examination, that is honest, objective and purposeful, as to not fall into an illusion of false security.

Aaron Boone

Support Your Local Preacher

 

Support Your Local Preacher
by Aaron Battey

​There are many thankless jobs awaiting applicants. Medical and non-profit organizations are proper examples of industries that offer irreplaceable services; yet, they receive little praise. Being a preacher is no less a thankless service. I am not a preacher, but having been raised by one, worked with one, and looked up to one, I can testify to the truthfulness of that statement. This being true, please ponder some evidences for this claim, and consider a few ways by which you can support your local preacher.
The apostle Paul sacrificed as a preacher and apostle only to be constantly ridiculed and have his intentions questioned. Paul implied no less when writing 1 Thessalonians. This great preacher was treated spitefully in Philippi for teaching the gospel (1 Thess. 2:2), and even though he had spoken to those in Thessalonica with no deceit (2:3), without flattering words (2:5), and being as gentle as a mother to her children (2:7), there was apparently some criticism of Paul in his absence that warranted the apostle to justify himself in this first letter to the church. Similar circumstances prompted the same preacher to defend himself to the Corinthians in his absence; read 1 Corinthians 4 and 2 Corinthians 10 for proof. These and a host of like experiences are most likely why Paul encouraged his young protégé Timothy to, “Endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ,” (2 Timothy 2:3). Likewise, after warning the elders at Ephesus that they would have to stop the mouths of wolves (false teachers) who would sneak into the church, Paul gives example of just how much energy this would require: “Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears,” (Acts 20:31). The job of a preacher is physically draining, mentally exhausting, faith challenging, and sometimes soul wrenching. Just because you shake the preacher’s hand on Sunday morning and he says, “I’m doing alright,” doesn’t mean he is calm on the inside. Indeed, dealing with the problems that accompany the job can very well make the preacher sick and require a prescription (1 Timothy 5:23).
With a preacher’s job being what it is, contemplate avenues by which you can lighten his load. There are a host of simple tasks any individual can carry out that will motivate the preacher and make his work for God a little easier. First, do not aimlessly complain about the preacher behind his back. Paul warns against backbiting in 2 Cor. 12:20, not to overshadow bitterness and evil speaking in Ephesians 4:29. The golden rule, “love your neighbor as yourself,” will help guard against this. Ask the question, “Am I any better than the preacher in the thing I am complaining about?” Furthermore, “Will complaining about this detail do any good?” One unknown author distinguished between constructive criticism and complaining similar to this: pointing out flaws in someone or something without offering a solution is complaining. Constructive criticism offers resolution and edification. Second, offer the preacher your time and service. Many times, preachers are burdened with tasks that do not require a preacher. Paul commended Phoebe of the congregation in Rome because, “She has been a helper of many and of myself also.” John Maxwell in his book The 21 Irrefutable Law of Leadership speaks to the importance of leaders empowering followers and delegating to them appropriately. Unfortunately, there is often a shortage of Phoebe’s who are willing to offer their time and pick up delegation. Third, give the preacher a token of appreciation. Paul spoke of Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus in this manner, “What was lacking on your part they supplied. For they refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore acknowledge such men,” (Romans 16:17-18). Many subconsciously believe the preacher is such a confident individual, secure in his faith, so much so that he never grows weary and should never need someone giving him affirmation. Recall the burden that accompanies the work of preaching. A thank you card will suffice. Whatever the case, encourage the preacher in the work of God.
There are many preaching jobs awaiting applicants. There are many congregations starving for an evangelist to establish them. People wonder why there are not more young men chomping at the bit to preach. There are many factors that contribute to this present-day dilemma, but one factor has a simple resolution. Support your local preacher.