John T. Willis

Friday, July 24, 2015

Majoring in Minors--VIII

Throughout history, God's people have focused on specific issues and lost the big picture of God's work in the world and God's plan for human beings. Here are only a few reminders of this spiritual myopia.

1. Baptism.
    a. When I first became a Christian at the age of 14, the preacher emphasized the necessity of being baptized by immersion for the forgiveness of sins. He stressed the importance of Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4. It is true that God wants all people to be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins. But there is much more to Christian living than being baptized.
    b. 1 Corinthians 1:14-17 troubles many Christian people. Here Paul said:
            "I thank God that I baptized non of you except Crispus and Gaius,
              so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name.
              (I did baptized also the household of Stephanas;
              beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.)
              For Christ did not sent me to baptize
              and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power."
    c. Obviously, many early Christians focused on their baptism rather than focusing on the cross of Christ. It is very easy for each one of us to turn in on ourselves rather than keep our hearts and minds on Christ--his incarnation, his life, his death, his burial, his resurrection, and his continuing work in the lives of human beings throughout eternity.

2. Conversion from sin.
     a. When a person was not raised in a Christian family and in time realized that he or she was a sinner, that person need to be converted from sin to God. Texts like 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10;
1 Timothy 1:12-17; and related passages show the importance of conversion from sin. At the same time, Christian living is much more than being converted.
     b. Most of life has to do with being formed in the image of Christ, which takes a lifetime to occur. Paul writes to Christians who were already converted from sin to God in Galatians 4:19: "My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth UNTIL CHRIST IS FORMED IN YOU." Roman 12:1-2 contains the same thought: "DO NOT BE CONFORMED TO THIS WORLD, BUT BE TRANSFORMED BY THE RENEWING OF YOUR MINDS."
     c. The history of the Church of Christ denomonation has been plagued by denying what they have called "social religion." As a result of this, numerous Church of Christ churches have denounced the importance of working to help needy people. They have refused to help needy people UNLESS they listen to their message and be baptized by immersion for the remission of sins. It is clear that Jesus would NEVER entertain such an idea. God through Jesus Christ is PRIMARILY concerned with the needs of people. The ONLY TASK of God's people on earth is to try to help and support and encourage people in distress, in hardship, in severe disease, in setbacks, in needs of all kind.

3. The Lord's Supper.
    a. Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper shortly before he was arrested and crucified. He told God's people to commemorate this until he returns in his Second Coming. So keeping the Lord's Supper, the Eucharist, is very important. See Matthew 26:26-29; Luke 22:14-23; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. At the same time, observing the Lord's Supper is ONLY a small aspect of Christian living.
     b. One can partake of the Lord's Supper physically without having a true heart. How does a person live during the week? How does one treat a "foreigner," a "rejected individual," like the so-called "Good Samaritan." The Jews denounced Samaritans. They were not acceptable to them. Luke
     c. One can USE the Lord's Supper to condemn others. A classic example of this is John Calvin. He opposed the understanding of a fellow-Christian named Servetus, and Calvin was so powerful at that time in Geneva, he had Servetus executed because of his understanding of the Lord's Supper. It is very difficult for me to accept the idea of DEBATING over the Lord's Supper. What an oxymoron!!!

Share YOUR concepts and reversals and insights and fears and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Thursday, July 23, 2015

God Changes Mourning into Dancing--Psalm 30

The poet of Psalm 30 is confronted with enemies who attempt to destroy him (verse 1) and with a threatening disease (verses 2, 9). He prays to Yahweh to deliver him from his afflictions, and God rescues him. When this happens, the psalmist goes to an assembly of God's people and summons them to praise God for what he had done for him (verse 4). He is full of thanksgiving for God's gracious intervention. Psalm 30 naturally falls into four small paragraphs.

I. The composer extols Yahweh for delivering him. Psalm 30:1-3.
    a. At the very beginning, the speaker addresses Yahweh as "O Lord" and as "O Lord my God." Because of his enemies and his severe disease, the psalmist felt that he was drowning. But God the great spiritual SAFEGUARD "drew the poet up" from drowning and "brought up his soul [him] from Sheol," the grave, the Pit. What a graphic picture of God saving people in danger! 30:1, 3.
    b. When the psalmist was in deep trouble, he did not seek help from other people. Instead, he "cried to the Lord for help." Yahweh is a very dependable resource when we are in great distress. It is always best to turn to God for help and deliverance. 30:2.

II. The poet encourages his fellow worshippers to praise Yahweh. Psalm 30:4-5.
     a. After addressing Yahweh directly, the writer turn to his fellow worshippers, Yahweh's "faithful ones." While we depend on Yahweh, it is always helpful to turn to reliable faithful followers of God to support and encourage us. The psalmist admonishes his fellow worshippers to praise and thank Yahweh for what he has already done for him. 30:4.
    b. Like all people, the psalmist committed sins, and Yahweh punished him demonstrated by his anger. But God's anger is "but for a moment," while God's steadfast love is "for a lifetime." A loving parent chastises his or her son or daughter in order to refine that person's heart and life. Hence, weeping is often necessary for a brief period of time, but in time joy comes in the morning. 30:5.

III. The psalmist gives a brief testimony of his own experience with God. Psalm 30:6-10.
       a. The psalmist explains that for a long time in his life, he experienced great prosperity under God's guidance. At that time, he concluded, "I shall never be moved." Because of God's favor, God had established him as "a strong mountain." It appeared that he was invincible. 30:6-7b.
       b. But because of his pride and attendant sins, the psalmist sinned, and thus God hid his face and the psalmist was dismayed. In this dark period of his life, the psalmist besought Yahweh, reasoning that there would be no profit in his death. So he prays fervently that God will be gracious to him and help him through this difficult situation. 30:7c-10.

IV. The poet praises Yahweh for delivering him from his troubles. Psalm 30:11-12.
       a. When Yahweh rescued him from his afflictions, the psalmist addresses Yahweh directly:
             "You have turned my mourning into dancing;
                    you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy." God is so powerful that he can change hearts and lives from bad to good. Often, people go through challenging setbacks, and miraculously and surprisingly God intervenes and gets us through. 30:11.
      b. Because Yahweh has been so gracious, the psalmist concludes by praising him for what he has done and to give him thanks for all his great works. 30:12.
This psalm is a great encouragement for everyone who encounters reversals, serious problems of all kinds, losses, fears, and setbacks.

Share YOUR inclinations and concerns and beliefs and insights and responses with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Majoring in Minors--VII

All human beings have the capacity of deceiving others. When Samuel assumed the next king of Israel is the oldest son of Jesse, Eliab, God essentially told Samuel that he was deceived. He said: "Do not look on his [Eliab's] appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; THEY LOOK ON THE OUTWARD APPEARANCE, BUT THE LORD LOOK ON THE HEART." 1 Samuel 16:7.

The composer of Psalm 55 struggled with close friends who attempted to deceive him. For example, in verses 20-21 he explains:
    My companion laid hands on a friend
         and violated a covenant with me;
    with speech smoother than butter,
         but with a heart set on war;
    with words that were softer than oil,
         but in fact were drawn swords.

Like most people, I have had close friends who took the opportunity of stabbing me in the back to get what they desired to gain and to attempt to hurt or demean me. Other people may TRUST such people, but SORRY, I cannot. When people lie through their teeth, they are obviously untrustworthy. One striking example of this is when Joab "took Abner aside in the gateway to speak with him privately, and there he stabbed him in stomach. So he died for shedding the blood of Asahel."
2 Samuel 3:27. Another striking example is when Judas Iscariot came to Jesus and kissed him to indicate to the Roman soldiers who Jesus was so he would be crucified. Matthew 26:48-50; Mark 14:44-46; Luke 22:47-48. No true Christian should be surprised that a "trusted friend" might betray him or her for his own gain and to demean or hurt that person.

Most of the Judean people around Jeremiah CLAIMED that they were faithful followers of God, but their hearts and daily lives contradicted their claim. Jeremiah 12:1b-2 contains one of Jeremiah's complaints about this situation:
    Why does the way of the guilty prosper?
       Why do all who are treacherous thrive?
    You plant the, and they take root;
        they grow and bring forth fruit;

Paul says to Titus in Titus 1:15-16:
    To the pure all things are pure,
    but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure.
    Their very minds and consciences are corrupted.
    They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

In the present culture in the United States, the emphasis is on digital works and expressions of all kinds, impressive buildings, great highways, unrealistic movies, and all types of politics. What God desires is true hearts and pure lives. When this does not happen, history has shown that such a nation, a community, a church, a family, is doomed.

Share YOUR concerns and shortcomings and concepts and fears and hopes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis