Unity Like Precious Oil

 Unity Like Precious Oil

Even among Bible believers, who attend and support churches that affirm the complete accuracy and truthfulness of the Bible, there is a danger of ignoring some passages in the Bible.  I am calling that tendency “reductionism” even though my dictionary does not include that word.  A derogatory label might be “partial Christianity.”  The most respectable source of the error may be a desire for Christian unity.  Early on there is a decision to “major on the majors,” and ignore “minors.”  The tendency is to shrink the majors category by transferring content into the minors category.  Any doctrine, conviction, or lifestyle standard that lacks uniform support becomes a minor, an obstacle to unity, and fit only for very narrow thinkers.

I’m unsure about the remedy for “reductionism.”  Unity among His disciples is a priority for Jesus.  “I …pray …that they all may be one ….” (John 17:20-21).  “… that they may be made perfect in one …(John 17:23).  I don’t believe ignoring numerous portions of Scripture is the solution.  So, lacking a simple prescription, my best hope is that the most heaven-like condition available on earth emerges from an assortment of behaviors and convictions.

“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”   Psalm 133:1

The apostle Paul said, “note those who cause divisions … and avoid them.”  (Romans 16:17)

Christian unity does not require an absence of persuasions. (Romans 14:5).

Christian unity may require inconvenience.  (Romans 14:15,21).

If someone is on good terms with God, he can be on good terms with me. (Romans 14: 4)

“All Scripture is…profitable ….” (II Timothy 3:16)  Parts need not be ignored.  (Acts 20:27)

As with Paul and Barnabas, separate but parallel teams are permitted.  (Acts 15: 39-40)  I suspect both missionaries were correct.   Mark was not  a good helper to Paul; to Barnabas he was.

Rapture Timing

When Does the Rapture Occur?

Old Testament references to a Day of the Lord indicate that a Day of the Lord is a day of God’s wrath.  There have been Days of the Lord aimed at Egypt, Ethiopia, Babylon, Edom, and Israel.  There remains a climatic Day of the Lord against all nations.  The mere statement that Church saints are not appointed to wrath (I Thessalonians 5:19) suggests that either (1) the Church is removed prior to the Day of the Lord, (2) or church saints are protected during that Day.

Acts 2: 9-20 reveals that an unprecedented stellar disturbance will occur “before” the “great and notable day of the Lord.”

I Thessalonians. 4:15-17 describes the rapture without indicating when it occurs; however, 5:1 does (it seems to me) concern “the times and the seasons” of the rapture.  Verse 2 equates or associates the rapture with the Day of the Lord.  The Thessalonians already knew about the “times and seasons” of the rapture/Day of the Lord.

Because unbelievers are “in darkness,” the Day of the Lord will surprise them like a thief in the night.  The Day should not catch believers by surprise.  The instruction to watch (vs 6) indicates that believers will see that day.  Perhaps the breastplate and helmet (vs 8) will protect them from the battle. Somehow they will be protected as the 144,000 will be.

In II Thessalonians 1:7 New Testament believers are promised “rest.”  When?  “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed …in flaming fire taking vengeance ….”  That seems like the Day of the Lord.

II Thessalonians 2:1 is a clear reference to the rapture (“the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him”).  The most obvious assumption is that “His coming” in verse 1 is the same as “His coming” in verse 8.  That “coming” is when He consumes/destroys the “lawless one,”  i.e. at the Day of the Lord.  There is no reference in the New Testament to two stages in the second coming of Jesus.

Suppose it is late 1944.  Throughout Germany the news is cried out: “the Allies are coming, the Allies are coming.”  Is that good news or bad?  It depends on which side one is on.  Likewise, “The Day of the Lord is soon” is good news to the saints and bad news for the wicked.

Suppose your family is eager for guests to arrive.  Perhaps grandparents who live far away are coming or perhaps a friend you have not seen in thirty years.  As the predicted arrival time nears, you watch out the window.  Then a car pulls into your driveway.  Where do the hugs take place?  At the door or on the driveway?  Probably you run out to the driveway to greet them, then escort them into the house.  This picture may be like  I Thessalonians 4: 14-17.

Verse 14  God will bring believers up from the grave, even as He did Jesus.  Thus, (verses 14-17) I take it that both believers “who are alive” and “those who are asleep” will meet Jesus, in the air, and escort Him to the earth.  The Day of the Lord arrives when the Lord arrives.  Will we participate in the war of wrath or will we be front row spectators as Jesus suddenly destroys His enemies and establishes His kingdom?  Of this I am confident:  we will be wherever Jesus is (4:17, John 14:3).   The analogy of Malachi 4:1-3 may suggest that we will join the battle.

A sequence of events indicated by Matthew 24.

Beginning of sorrows, then tribulation  24:8- 9

Abomination of Desolation, then Great Tribulation 24:15,21

Tribulation (most likely a continuation of “great” tribulation vs.21,29), then immediately the cosmic chaos (24:29), followed by the sign of the Son of Man. (24:30)

(During tribulation and until the “end” [the 2nd coming] the gospel of the kingdom is preached.)

It is unclear whether there is tribulation less than “great” tribulation.

Integrating the Book of Revelation

It is unclear when the first seal begins relative to tribulation.

The sixth seal brings the reader to the threshold of the Day of the Lord.  So it seems the seventh seal is the Day of the Lord.  The seventh trumpet (including the seven bowls) delivers the reader to the same time as the seventh seal.  So the seven trumpets and the seven bowls must elaborate on the seventh seal.

Integrating the Book of Daniel

Daniel chapter 9 introduces seventy “weeks” “determined” for [Daniel’s] people and their holy city.  I stand convinced that the passage means seventy sets of seven years (483) and that the crucifixion of Jesus marked the completion of sixty-nine weeks.  So I look for a remaining, distinguished seven years.  It is plausible that “he” (“the lawless one,” the one foreshadowed by Antiochus Epiphanes in 164 B.C. and foreshadowed again in A.D 70 by Roman soldiers in the Jewish temple offering worship to their god, Caesar) will promise a seven year commitment. Then three and a half years later, perform some kind of religious “abomination of desolation.”  (Matt. 24:15, Dan. 9:27,11:31)  The Book of  Revelation never mentions a seven year period, but repeatedly refers to three and one-half years.  Proposing a link of any two of those to yield seven is easy.  Discerning the first half from the second half is less obvious.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.   Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.   Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ABC Religion

There is another religious sect now growing in the United States. The number of its adherents is growing. Its number of intense practitioners is multiplying. The number of its low key sympathizers is growing. I am calling it the ABC religion. ABC stands for Anything But Christianity. Prominent tenets of ABC doctrine include public support for abortion, normalization of deviant sexuality, public indoctrination of youth in evolutionary myth, freedom for violence in entertainment, acceptance of vulgar speech, intolerance for Christian sentiment and practice and evangelism, freedom for sexual immorality (except for when even ABC people are embarrassed), and popularity of pagan entertainment in various forms. Is Islamic persecution of Christians, in Africa and Asia, fair? Obviously not. Do the People’s Republic of China or North Korea treat Christians fairly? No way. Is persecution of Christians within Hindu-majority populations fair? Is the treatment of non-Russian Orthodox citizens within the Russian orbit fair? No. Be ready: the mistreatment of U.S. Christians is not and will not be fair. But twisting or abandoning Christian values in hope of moderating the unfairness is not a good strategy or a successful defense. “Remember the prisoners as if chained with them ….” Hebrews 13:3

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ©1979,1980,1982 by Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Games How to Play

Games – How to Play

Make it fun for others.

Help others enjoy the game (win or lose).

Play fairly.

(Usually)Try to win, while giving others an opportunity to win.

“Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification.”   Romans 15:2

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”    Matthew 22: 39

“And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.”    Luke 6:31

“And be kind to one another ….”   Ephesians 4:32

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

Is It Fair?

Is God fair when He allows people with little exposure to the gospel to suffer the eternal consequences of sin?  My dictionary lists numerous definitions of “fair.”  Perhaps the most relevant definition is ”just.”  The Bible proclaims that God is just. He is just whether we understand all His activity or not.

I am impressed with the following line of thought.  Suppose the requirement for acceptance by God were passing a trigonometry test.  So you set about to teach me trigonometry.  Shortly you say, “Two plus two equals four.”  I say, “I won’t accept that.”  Is it fair if you end my lessons in trigonometry? I believe it would be.

Similarly, since God, by His creation, has clearly shown that He exists, and that He is eternally powerful; if a person rejects that truth, God has no just obligation to reveal more truth.  If a person rejects, ignores, or suppresses basic revelation, that person is “without excuse.”  (Romans 1: 20)

I am assured that if a person responds appropriately to the truth available to him, God will provide (any necessary) more.

I was reminded of this concept by Psalm 119:155.  “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Your statutes.”

One just obligation of every person is to seek truth and respond appropriately to any truth he has.

It is fair that all who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) are condemned for doing so. “For You, LORD, have not forsaken those who seek You.” (Psalm 9:10)

“The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God.” (Psalm 14:2)

“But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.”  (Psalm 34:10)

“Blessed are those …who seek Him with the whole heart!”  Psalm 119: 2

“Ask …seek and you will find….”  (Matthew 7:7)

“…he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

Redeeming Time

Colossians 4:5  “Walk in wisdom toward those whose are outside, redeeming the time.”

I think of redeem as meaning to set someone (or something) free by paying a price.  Examples are buying a slave in order to free him or paying ransom to free a captive.  Following that definition, I suggest that we are to set our time free from waste and frivolity by paying a price.  The price we pay is avoiding the cheap amusements so readily at hand.  We buy up moments well spent by trading away over-priced pleasures.  (Keeping in mind the true value of periodic rest.)

The scarcity of time that makes it so precious is especially relevant to wise interaction with those outside the body of Christ.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright 1979,1980,1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee.   Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

 

Husband Pastors

I Cor. 14:34-35  “Let your women keep silent in the churches …. but they are to be submissive….and if they want to learn something,  let them ask their own husbands at home ….”

If someone is earnest about living and thinking Biblically, he or she will listen to Bible teaching and have questions.   Some people rarely have questions because they have little interest in the topic.

To whom should a wife direct her questions?  Not to the class teacher, but to her husband.

Surely not every husband can answer as well as the class teacher.  So why the rule?  Perhaps it helps create and maintain spiritual unity in the home.  Perhaps because the wife’s questions motivate the husband to find answers.  Perhaps to foster Biblical dialogue in the home.  We can be sure a good reason or reasons exist.

Appetites and Worship

The most noticed appetite and the easiest to analyze is our desire for food.  It is good for an appetite to keep us faithful in eating.  If someone lacks that appetite for long, we conclude he is sick.  The appetite for food is not only good for us, it is good to us.  What could have been a tasteless, routine necessity was made into a frequent source of pleasure.  Equally obvious is that this appetite must be restrained.  Without restraint it causes damage along with benefit.  Such analysis fits other appetites.

The desire to be a material or financial provider is good.  In excess it turns into  greed.

Recognizing this pattern typical of appetites should cause us to ask:  at what point does this particular appetite become bad?  What are the negative forms for which I should be on guard?

What about the appetite to achieve in ministry? Initially good, this desire can become self-centered.  The desire of make a significant contribution can warp one’s decisions, cause self-exaltation, and be a detriment to harmony in the Christian body.

I am attracted to an old word:  temperance.   Where the old King James had “temperance,” the NKJV, the New International, and the English Standard Version have “self-control.”  Perhaps a combination of the two is helpful.   When I think of temperance I think of moderation and balance.  I think of a balance that fosters pursuit and then restraint.  Temperance is the opposite of lasciviousness (a lack of restraint on the appetites).

Is there any appetite that does not require restraint?   What about the seemingly in-born inclination to worship – that causes scattered peoples of the world, generation after generation to worship?  The problem here is not too much worship, but misdirected worship.  Given to the one true God, there can be no excess of worship.  When we catch ourselves over-indulging on food, in fun, in the pursuit of achievement and significance; let us return to worship.

 

 

 

 

Group Christianity

Some of God’s instructions require obedience by individuals.  “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is directed to individuals.  “Honor your father and your mother” needs to be fulfilled by individuals.  Being part of a group that obeys these instructions falls short of the intent.

“[L]et us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together ….” requires a group.  I cannot experience by myself all that God wants me to experience.

Worship should occur in individual hearts and in groups.  “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD” (Psalm 89:1) and “O come, let us sing to the LORD.” (Psalm 95:1)

“Sing to the LORD with the harp…with trumpets and the sound of a horn ….” (Psalm 98:5-6) I don’t think God intends that every Christian learn to play a harp and a trumpet.  But I think our church culture should produce someone who plays a harp and someone who can play a trumpet.  Our current church culture is producing numerous skilled athletes but few who can play a harp or trumpet.  Hmmm.

“Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet …the lute … stringed instruments and flutes …with loud cymbals ….” (Psalm 150: 3-5).  A few decades ago it was rare for a small church not to have one or two people who could play the piano.  Today, rare is a church without a drummer.

Perhaps the emergence of electronic reproduction acceptably reduces the call for in-house trumpeters and harpists.  Any congregation with a sound system can sing along with a band.

Come to think of it, we can download the finest Bible expositors and experienced counselors, and fellowship via Skype and Facebook.  We’re good to go!  Eventually we can be fed through a tube, breathe with a ventilator, and replace pondering with computer intelligence.

 

 

Scripture taken from the New King James Version.  Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.