Dad's Response to My Previous Post

In light of your recent post on fb. I think you missed a point when you said David's case might indicate a time to break an approved example. But, David did not violate God's will.

When the disciples plucked ears of grain to eat on the Sabbath, Jesus answered the objections of the Pharisees by pointing out that David did that which is unlawful by eating the showbread. He further enjoined that they learn that mercy supercedes sacrifice (Mt 12:1-8, Mk 2:25, Lk 6:3). Immediately many commentaries and preachers conclude that mercy is more important than doing exactly what God said and begin long discussions of what methods one should use in determining when love/mercy is more important than exact obedience and what laws can be broken in the name of love/mercy.

In view of Jesus’ attitude about obedience to the Father in his own life and other statements such as, “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments” one should be surprised if this one text over-rules them by that interpretation. Maybe we should look at the whole thing more carefully.

David is fleeing Saul just after being warned by Jonathan in the famous incident with the little boy gathering the arrows Jonathan shot. He came to the priest, Ahimilech and asked for something to eat (1Sam 21:1-9). Ahimilech says there is no regular food, only the showbread that only priests can eat. Then he offers this bread on the condition that none of David’s few men had been with a woman recently. David so swears that none had sex in 3 days and they eat the bread. On the surface, it appears men made an exception to the law based solely on their evaluation of mercy and need.

But, turn the page of your Bible to find Ahimilech answering to Saul for having aided David (1 Sam 22:9-19). There, Doeg the Edomite witnesses that Ahimilech inquired of Jehovah on behalf of David. For this and for feeding David and for giving him a sword, Saul has Doeg kill the priests. But, note carefully that Ahimilech inquired of God on behalf of David. What did David want? Food! But he could not have the holy bread. Ahimilech inquired on his behalf and GOD made the exception of mercy. NO MAN took it upon himself to make exception to God’s law. [Lucas' note: The priests had the urim and thummim just for this reason, to be able to ask questions of God and get answers.]

A similar situation occurred when Hezekiah offered the first Passover in decades. Many were unclean. A provision had been made in the law for those to take the Passover the 2nd month and 14th day instead of the usual 1st month, 14th day. But, due to circumstances beyond control, this Passover was to be held the alternate day, the 2nd Month, 14th day. If these unclean ones did not eat now, there would be no alternate day. What to do? Well, they just had the Levites kill the Passover Lamb for them and they “ate otherwise than it is written” (2Chron 30:18). Who said this would be OK? Who said that they should not kill the lamb themselves but have the Levites do it? God did! See the next verse where it is noted that Hezekiah had prayed for them (before anything was done) and “Jehovah hearkened to Hezekiah.”

So, if no man has the right to make an exception of mercy but only God does and since God no longer answers directly from Heaven to make such exceptions, what is Jesus really saying by his appeal to the example of David?

Note first that Jesus says that if they had understood mercy, they would have not “condemned the GUILTLESS” Mt12:7). There you have Jesus’ pronouncement that the disciples had not broken any part of the Law of Moses by what they did. In fact, the Law of Moses did not condemn what they did. The traditions of the Pharisees condemned them. The Pharisees held these traditions to be the only right way to implement the Law and that to violate them was a sin.

So, what is Jesus saying by his allusion to mercy? Simply this, If God can look on an emergency situation and make an exception to His LAW in the name of mercy, then surely you should understand that in the name of mercy you are to make exceptions to your traditions.

Now consider that in Churches today, we have many traditions, ways we are used to doing things that cause a lot of upset if anyone does them differently. Yet, there is no Law of God that says they have to be done that way. Should we not be willing to “forgive” in mercy those who violate our customs? Should we not in the spirit of the Lord of the Sabbath, be looking for opportunity to find mercy to extend for anything except an overt and clear violation of GOD’s law?

The lesson from Jesus' appeal to Mercy does match your point in that he said you should look to mercy and not condemn the guiltless. The one who breaks C of C traditions is as guiltless of violating law as the disciples were. Yet, it seems to me that you have it right, brethren are quicker to forgive a sin than a breaking of tradition.
  • chickadee
    I have long wondered about this passage. I think I understand now.
    by chickadee at 02/21/18 7:20AM

Shall David Go Hungry?

This might incite knee jerk reactions. I plead with all that you stop and think and give reasoned responses if you wish to respond. I welcome all thoughts on this, but don't want fights.

I was raised in the conservative branch (if you will) of the Church of Christ. The more liberal side often calls us "antis" because we are anti-this and anti-that. In truth, we are careful to do God's things God's way and to carefully delineate our authority for everything we do. Sometimes I wonder, though, if we don't fall into the category of tithing "mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness." (Matt. 23:23) The Pharisees were also very careful to follow the Law of God, to the point of tithing the increase of their herb plants, and Jesus goes on to say they were right for doing that, but they got so caught up in the minutiae that they forgot to worry about the bigger things. Are we being so careful to only use God's money according to the Biblical pattern that we miss opportunities to help the needy that would be approved of? From things I hear and things I gather I wonder if some churches are "burying their talent" rather than using it for fear of making some mistake. We know what happened to the burying servant in the parable (Matt. 25). Doing nothing is not the safest way. Especially if there are Biblically-approved ways to use God's money to help others.

We also might want to consider that on rare occasions the right thing to do is to break with approved apostolic example. Before you hang me in effigy, consider what happened when David first went on the run from Saul. In 1 Samuel 21 he shows up at the worship place faint from hunger. The priests don't have anything to feed David and his men except the consecrated showbread. It was patently against the Law of Moses for David to eat that bread, but the priests gave it to him anyway because the need was so great and so obvious. Rather than being condemned, the Lord Himself praises these priests for their mercy. (Matt. 12) I fear that many of my brethren would have apologetically turned David away hungry, quoting scripture. Perhaps there are rare times when mercy is more important than strict keeping of scripture.

While it's very important to do things God's way -- "If you love me you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15) -- we aren't going to get to heaven by keeping a rule book. "By grace you have been saved thru faith". (Eph. 2:8) Jesus Himself said 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,' quoting God from the OT. We need to be careful to follow all of God's commandments as carefully as possible but we can't be so hidebound that we fail to recognize the rare occasions when mercy trumps strict observance.

God’s Peculiar People

The title of this essay comes from the KJV of Titus 2:14. Peculiar, as used here, doesn’t mean weird or unusual, but special. Most modern translations render this “a people for His own possession” or something similar. Of course, if Christians are to be a people especially His, this would mean that we are different from most everyone else. And that difference is what I want to discuss, in some very practical ways.

We often talk about what it means to be holy. This is good, since we are commanded by God through Peter to be holy. (1 Pet. 1:15-16) Being holy means being set apart. Holy things are used only for the purposes for which they have been set apart. They aren’t used for everyday, common purposes. Holy people, likewise, don’t just do whatever pops into our heads. We are set apart for God’s purposes. I’m reminded of Romans 6. In the first eleven verses we are reminded no less than six times that we have crucified the old man, buried him in baptism and we are now dead to sin. Instead we are living new lives to God (mentioned four times). Then verses 12-13 hammer the point home:

“Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

We are no longer to obey sin or to present ourselves to it as its instruments. Instead, we now are God’s and present ourselves to Him to do His will. This will, naturally, make us different from most and they won’t always like that:

1 Pet. 4:3-4 “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you”

Peter says that the past is where our sinning belongs. And we all have a past, don’t we? But when we decide to follow Christ and live as one of His people, our old friends will be surprised when we no longer join them in revelries. Not only surprised, but upset. “Malign you” is translated in other versions as “speak evil of you”. We will be accused of being holier-than-thou. Of judging them because we don’t participate. Of being hypocrites, and possibly worse. A word of encouragement for those times, straight from the Lord:

“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)

The ancients didn’t have much good to say about Elijah or Jeremiah or Ezekiel, did they? That’s some pretty good company to be in.

Of course, before our former running mates can berate us for being different, they have to notice that we are different. That is what I want to focus on now. Remember verse 3 of 1 Pet. 4: “For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.” These are the things that are supposed to be left in the past. Are they?

SENSUALITY & PASSIONS. I like the word sensuality better than the old word lasciviousness. Sensuality is easier to understand. Anything in which the senses are overindulged. People given to sensuality are chasing whatever feels good and is pleasurable. Not all these things are wrong in and of themselves, but these people put pleasure first in their lives and all else later. You might recall Philippians 3:19 in which Paul refers to some whose “god is their belly”. They’ve given themselves over to their appetites. While slavery to all passions is in view, illicit sexuality is what is commonly thought of regarding “sensuality and passions”. As a Christian, I’d never go out to the dance clubs and dance the grinding, sexual dances of today with whatever barely dressed women are also attending, but boy is it fun to watch Dancing With the Stars! With barely any exaggeration I can say there is only one reason any heterosexual man watches that show: the professional dancing women in their peekaboo gowns. That is why I watched it religiously for years; seeing those women and wishing I was the “star” who got to handle them during the dance. That is why all my male friends at work watched it. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t watch that show. That’s not my point. I am saying we are to be a special people, a people for God’s own possession and, as such, we need to consider what we are watching and why we are watching it.

DRUNKENNESS. Surely this isn’t a problem in the Church, is it? Three things about that: First, there are quite a few recovering addicts in the Church and we, as loving brothers willing to bear one another’s burdens, need to be aware, ready and willing to help them out in any way they need. Second, it is probably a bigger problem in the Church than many are aware of/willing to admit. So, yes, it needs to be addressed that one of God’s own people should not be getting drunk. And third, there are many Christians who believe that there is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine, or a beer, with a meal. My point is not to argue that right now, but rather to ask a question. Do your worldly friends know that you are the kind who only ever has one glass of wine with a meal or do they know that you are the kind who SAYS you only have one, but half the time you take a second glass followed by a third and sometimes even crack the second bottle? Or finish off the six-pack? Can your friends tell that you are different from them in your alcohol consumption?

ORGIES & DRINKING PARTIES. Now this is one we can cross off without any worry, right? None of us would ever participate in orgies or drinking parties, right? No, but they sure are fun to watch on Game of Thrones aren’t they? And that Spartacus remake is a lot of fun, too. I’d never have an orgy, but I've got to make sure I re-up my subscriptions to HBO and Showtime!

LAWLESS IDOLATRIES. Now, we don’t have anyone bowing down to Baal, but idolatry is more than worshipping idols. It is putting anything ahead of God or my service to Him. I was thinking about the rich young ruler to whom Jesus said that he only lacked one thing: to sell his possessions and follow Jesus. He went away sorrowful. I started wondering about my reaction if Jesus ever came to me and said I had to give up college football permanently. For you, maybe the challenge would come if He demanded you give up your fishing boat, or your golf clubs. Whatever our sticking point might be, we can’t allow anything to get between us and God. Otherwise, we are guilty of lawless idolatries.

Peter doesn’t mention all the ways we should be different from the world, of course. Paul, in Eph. 4:29, tells us to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths”. Corrupt, or corrupting, talk comes in many varieties. There is cursing and vulgarity, of course. One thought on that: there are no such things as words that are bad in and of themselves. The typical four letter words are generally considered bad because they are usually used for cursing and/or vulgar purposes, but I can express the exact same evil sentiments using other, more acceptable words. Are my evil sentiments less sinful because I changed my vocabulary? Can people tell we are different by the ideas we express in our speech?

Then there is taking the Lord’s Name in vain. Surely that is corrupt speech, and it is common in the world. Our Lord’s Name is now mostly used as a curse or expletive. “God” is mostly used now in sentences like “Oh my God, that restaurant was really good!” Can anyone tell that we never besmirch His Name and that we often wince when others do? Or do we talk like the world?

The final thing I’m going to bring up in reference to us being a people for God’s own possession is our life’s priorities. Have I ever denied myself something that was good and right to do because there were more urgent duties that God demanded? When I make career choices, do I consider what God would want me to do? Am I willing to part ways with worldly friends who are not good for my spiritual walk with God? Am I truly one of His people, or am I living in the world?

When thinking about these things, try to be as honest as possible with yourself. One of the hardest things to do is to objectively evaluate yourself. I once heard a preacher say that man is not a rational animal, he is a rationalizing animal. Part of being a Christian is testing ourselves, to see if we are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5). Try to view yourself as an outsider looking at a stranger. And then work to make the needed improvements.

We are to be God’s own people.

Can anyone tell?

Great Feats?

On my tenth birthday, my parents gave me The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales. I’ve always been a bookworm, you see. I can’t claim to have read every single tale in the book, but I did read a great deal. There is one that I vaguely recall, in which a king needed some great thing to be accomplished, the Roc’s Egg brought back to him or some such. He decreed that anyone who did this for him would be given his daughter’s hand in marriage. There was a peasant boy who had always dreamed of marrying the princess, and so he undertook the quest. He braved mystic forests and foreboding mountains, fought ogres and elves, and returned successful. He married the princess and was the hero of the kingdom.

Stories like this pervade most, if not all, cultures. Heracles went mad one night and killed his wife and children. Regaining his senses and overcome with grief, he undertook his famous 12 Labors to try to win redemption. Arthur and the knights of the round table spent their lives looking for the Holy Grail. The Asian cultures also have their stories of quests and epic feats in the search of riches or immortality or redemption. Our culture is not without such stories: to save Middle Earth, Frodo goes on a long quest to return the One Ring to Mount Doom. Again and again, great treasures require monumental feats to acquire.

This teaches us good things. Get rich quick schemes rarely, if ever, work. If we want to accomplish something in this life, we have to put in the work, the effort, and the time to achieve it. However, this reinforced belief does leave us suspicious of any easy answer and that sometimes is to our detriment.

There is a story about this in the Bible. The first half of II Kings 5 will be our text. The first verse:

“Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.”

Who was Naaman? He was the general of the Syrian armies. He was very well thought of by the king. He was a “mighty man of valor”. This was an important man, a proud man, a celebrity and hero in his country. He was SOMEBODY. But he had leprosy. Leprosy in the ancient Middle East was probably not the flesh rotting disease known in Middle Ages Europe. It was a skin disease that made the skin white and scaly. Often, it caused odors. Basically, it made the sufferer look, and even smell, like a corpse. Under the Law of Moses, lepers were to be quarantined away from the general population, but even in countries that did not follow the Mosaic Law lepers were generally shunned and became secluded. Naaman, a proud man in a public career, was looking at losing all he had because of this disease. Do you think he was desperate for a cure? I imagine that he had tried every potion offered by every quack in Syria. To no avail. Keep reading with me:

“Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy." So Naaman went in and told his lord, "Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel." And the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.” (vs 2-5)

Can you feel the desperation here? This small child, prattling on like small children do, mentions the prophet in Israel and his God-given abilities. Seizing on this last hope, Naaman goes to the king for permission to enter Israel and, receiving it, takes a huge gift with him to entice the prophet into helping him. The size of this gift is instructive. Ten talents of silver is 30,000 shekels of silver, which tells you nothing until I explain that the average ANNUAL salary of a laborer at that time was 10 shekels of silver. The silver alone that Naaman brought was the equivalent of 3,000 years pay for a common man! Or, another way to look at it, the silver would have weighed 750 lbs in modern measure, and the gold 150 lbs. I haven’t checked the spot price today, but one fairly recent book estimates the value at $750 million in modern buying power. Plus, ten really nice suits of clothes. How badly did Naaman want to be clean? Look at what he was willing to pay!

After some confusion as to where to go, Naaman arrives at Elisha’s house in verse 9:

“So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house. And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean." But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, "Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.” (vs 9-12)

Naaman, great man of Syria, mighty man of valor and general of the armies, comes to Elisha’s modest house and . . . Elisha doesn’t even bother to come out to see him. He sends a servant. That had to have punctured Naaman’s ego a bit and then the instructions given are just ridiculous. ‘If it was as easy as washing, don’t you think I’d have done that?!’ He had expected an impressive display, chanting and arm waving and hocus pocus. Instead he is told to wash in the Jordan. ‘Our Syrian rivers are better for washing than that muddy stream.’ He goes away angry precisely because the answer was too easy. If there is any doubt on that, read on:

“And his servants came near, and spoke unto him, and said, My father, if the prophet had bid you do some great thing, wouldn’t you have done it? how much rather then, when he says to you, Wash, and be clean? Then went he down, and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.” (vs 13-14)

The servant points out that if a great feat had been prescribed, Naaman would have been all in for that. Remember what he was willing to pay; would there be anything he wouldn’t do? Imagine if Elisha had said ‘Bring me the heads of 100 lions’ or ‘Climb to the top of the tallest mountain’ and he’d be clean. You know that Naaman, mighty man of valor, would have been on his way with zest to complete such a quest. That wouldn’t have upset him at all. But washing was too easy. His servant finally convinced him that if he were willing to undertake the difficult thing, he ought to do the easy as well, and he washed and was cleaned.

Many people today make the same mistake Naaman almost did. We, too, have a problem. He had leprosy, we are disfigured by sin. Leprosy affects the body, sin rots the soul. If Naaman was willing to pay hundreds of millions of dollars and go on exotic quests to be rid of leprosy, what should we be willing to do to be rid of sin? It can’t be something easy, right? That thought is why many modern denominations teach that forgiveness isn’t something that we can reach, but that it takes the direct working of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit must overcome you and lead you to forgiveness. How do we know that has happened? We begin babbling in “tongues” or fall into the aisles in religious fervor. Surely it takes big things like that to be rid of sin, right? Well, what does the Bible say?

Rom 10:9 “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Rom 10:14 “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Combining these verses, we must hear the word taught, believe in our hearts that Jesus was raised from the dead, and be willing to confess Him as Lord. What’s interesting is that we have an example of people just like that in Acts 2. They had heard the Gospel preached by Peter, including that Jesus had been raised from the dead – vs 32 “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses.” – and that He was Lord – vs. 36 “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” They believed, being pricked in the heart (vs 37) and asked Peter what they should do. His answer? “And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’” Understanding all of this, then, means that we must hear the word preached and believe it. Believe in our hearts the gospel of the resurrection and be willing to confess Him as Lord. Then we repent of our sins and are baptized for the remission of those sins and we will be saved, have our sins removed, and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. There is no mention of the Holy Spirit overwhelming us or of babbling in “tongues” or religious frenzies. It is much simpler than that. Too simple, in fact, for many people to believe in it. Like Naaman, they turn away.

But having achieved so great a salvation from so merciful and loving a God, how are we to worship Him? Surely so great a God demands extravagant, awe-inspiring worship. We need rock-and-roll bands combined with shouting, dancing, and rolling in the aisles, right? Or perhaps we need to build monumental temples to Him filled with statuary and decorated by beautiful artworks in which imposing priests in impressive robes conduct ancient rites in a dead language? Again, our great God deserves such impressive worship, right? Well, what does the Bible say?

Col. 3:16 We are to sing praises to Him and teaching to each other.
1 Tim. 4:13 We are to teach and preach God’s word.
Eph. 6:18, 1 Thess. 5:17 We are to pray.
1 Cor. 11:23-25, Acts 20:7, We are to partake in His supper on the first day of the week.
1 Cor. 16:1-2 On the first day of the week we are to take up a collection.

And that’s it. It is simple. Too simple for some to accept, but we don’t apologize for the simplicity of our worship to God because it is precisely what He asked us to do.

Paul warns us in 1 Cor. 1:21-23 that many will be turned away by the simplicity of the Gospel and the teaching of the New Testament. Like Naaman almost was, these will be turned off because it is just too easy. They can’t grasp that something so great can be achieved in such a simple manner. So they turn away.

Don’t be like them. For once, take the easy way out.

Father's Day

This is the sermon I preached on Father’s Day. I wanted to get all the “one another” sermons posted first and together which is why this is so far “past due”. It will start out sounding like a proud son bragging on his father, which it is, but there is a point, I promise.

In 1971 Dad left the Marine Corps after a four year enlistment. They didn’t want him to go. He worked as a computer programmer for the Corps on those old computers that filled an entire room and had less power than most modern smart phones. He was good at it, receiving official commendations for his efforts. After having made Sergeant (E-5) in less than three years, they offered him promotion to Staff Sergeant (E-6) if he would re-enlist. Those of you with military experience know that making E-6 in just over four years is unusual, to say the least, and shows how good at it Dad was, and how much the Corps wanted him to stay. Dad, however, had decided that he wanted to be a Gospel preacher. So, he left.

He went to Florida College and earned his certificate in Biblical Studies and began to preach in 1974, the same year he married Mom. The first “full-time” position he took was in Gibson City, IL. While there, he ran into another former Marine, this one an officer who had heard of Dad though they never served together. He was starting a computer business and urged Dad to get a computer science degree and join the computer business. In the 1970s. Dad thanked the man but decided against it. He was determined to serve the Lord as a preacher. (I still sometimes daydream about how rich I could have grown up if Dad had accepted that offer!) Dad’s next stop on the preaching tour was in South Carolina. He had some of his G.I. Bill benefit left and used it to get a General Studies degree focusing on education and communication. He wanted to be able to craft the best sermons and bible classes he could, and so he studied those topics in depth.

We wound up back in Florida when I was three (Dad was 33) and a few years later Dad’s full-time preaching career came to a close, for reasons to tedious to go into here. We began worshipping with the Northeast Church in Gainesville (now the Glenn Springs Road Church) and Dad was soon a deacon, a regular Bible Class teacher, and occasional preacher. He also was able to help small congregations in the rural areas around Gainesville by preaching for them once or twice a month. He was no longer a “full-time” preacher, but did what he could to use his abilities to serve the Lord. Perhaps the best work he did was in running the adult Bible class program at Glenn Springs. Working under the elders, he chose the topics, gave detailed goals and objectives to the teachers, and taught some of the classes. He did this for four classes each quarter of the year. Sixteen classes per year that he researched out almost as if he were to teach them himself, organized, presented to the elders, and handed over to the teachers who were free to ask him for guidance if needed. He also made sure the classes followed a sequence and that they worked together to build the Bible knowledge and general spirituality of the congregation as a whole. While a lot of people helped, he had as much to do with the spiritual growth of the congregation over a ten year period as anyone else. And almost no one at that congregation is aware of the long hours he spent working to get those classes ready, four of them, each quarter.

Like I said, though, during this time he wasn’t being paid for his efforts for the Lord, so he had to get a “real” job. He became probation officer for the Florida Department of Corrections. One night the guy he was checking up on just started shooting at him. Dad was hit five times, but thank God that none of the wounds were serious. There was a glancing blow to the head, another glancing blow to the chest and three wounds to his left arm and shoulder. At the time, though, Dad didn’t realize that the hits to the head and chest were glancing wounds. He had felt massive impacts to the head and chest and was bleeding freely and assumed he didn’t have long to live. I remember him saying that he thought to himself while lying in the ambulance and looking up at the track lights, “I’m not sure I’m ready to meet the Lord”.

And that’s the point of all of this. Here is this guy who twice gave up steady, solid careers to serve the Lord, who used his GI benefits to improve his preaching techniques, and who spent countless hours of his life teaching, studying, and helping run Bible class programs and HE wasn’t ready to meet the Lord? Well, what about me? What about you? Are you ready to stand before Him right now? Because we all know it could happen at any moment. One of the most common phrases used in the English language is “life is short”. The Bible agrees with this whole-heartedly.

James 4:14 “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.”

Life is short and we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Plenty of young, healthy people die every day. Car accidents, work accidents, crime . . . one never knows. Dad certainly didn’t expect to be shot that night. And, of course, plenty of healthy seeming people find out they have contracted some deadly illness, or even drop dead of various things. We can’t know, so we must be ready now. The Hebrews writer urges us to take care of things Today:

Heb. 3:13 “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “Today," that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

In the next several verses, the Hebrews writer uses “today” over and over, emphasizing the urgency needed in making sure we are right before God. We must do it Today, because we have no guarantee of tomorrow.

We don’t know how long our lives may be. We also don’t know when the Lord will return. This is how Paul said it to the Thessalonians:

1 Thess. 5:1-3 “Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, "There is peace and security," then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”

The Lord will come like thieves come, completely without warning. Think about it. If we knew when the thieves were going to break into our homes, wouldn’t we prepare and stop them? Be waiting for them? We wouldn’t need security systems and neighborhood crime watches. We’d just have the cops waiting when the thieves showed up. But we don’t know. In the same way, we don’t know when the Lord will come. So, we must constantly be ready.

This is reminiscent of the parable of the ten virgins from Matthew 25. Most of us have heard this parable many times. There were ten young women going to a wedding feast and they carried oil fired lamps with them to light the way. There was a delay, however. The bridegroom hadn’t made it yet. While they waited for him, the ladies fell asleep. The groom finally arrived at midnight. There was a new problem, though. The five wise ladies had brought enough oil for their lamps for the whole night, but the foolish hadn’t planned for the longer wait. They were running out of fuel for their lamps. Matt. 25:8 “And the foolish said to the wise, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’” The wise refused, since there wasn’t enough for both and advised the others to go buy more. Matt. 25:10-12 “And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, 'Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’” The major take away from this parable is that there won’t be time to get right with God when the Lord returns. When He comes, that’s it. There’s no more time to say one more prayer or to finally jump in the water. If we wait for that, we’ll find ourselves outside when the door is shut. Both of the next two parables in Matt. 25, also dealing with judgment scenes, mention what goes on outside that door. Matt. 25:30 “. . . into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 46 “And these will go away into eternal punishment” Darkness, weeping, gnashing of teeth, eternal punishment. We must be like the five wise virgins and be prepared for the coming of the Lord. Otherwise, it’ll be too late.

Notice, also, that Paul says in 1 Thess. 5 that some will be saying “Peace and security” when the Lord will return. This reminded me of the false prophets in Israel whom the Lord blasted in the books of Ezekiel and Jeremiah. Ezekiel 13, Jeremiah 6 & 8 all decry those false prophets who told the people, essentially, “Don’t worry, everything is fine. There’s no need to change. God is happy with you the way you are.” God wasn’t happy, though, and He was even less happy with the prophets who led His people astray and kept some from hearing the truth and having the chance to repent. Paul says the same will happen as the world comes to an end. False teachers will say ‘everything is fine’ and because of that many won’t be ready as the Lord returns and brings destruction upon the sinners. Peter also deals with this:

2 Pet. 3:3-4 “knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation."

They are right. It has been a long time since the promises were made. He hasn’t returned yet. To my mind, though, that just means we are 2,000 years closer to the appointed day. He is coming. His delay isn’t because He forgot about us either. To the contrary:

2 Pet. 3:9-10 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”

God doesn’t want anyone to have to face eternal punishment. He is giving all of us ample time to repent and turn to Him. But He will come “like a thief” It will happen quickly “in the twinkling of an eye” (1 Cor. 15:52). We won’t have time to “get ready” then. If we aren’t ready, we’ll find ourselves outside the door, weeping and gnashing our teeth in the darkness as we face eternal punishment for our stubborn resistance to God’s love. He wants us with Him. He sacrificed His Son to open the way. All we have to do is follow Him.

Are you right with God?

He is coming.

Are you ready?
  • iamyourfather
    Correction, there were six classes each half year, twelve per year. Three each on Sundays and Wednesdays for a quarter and then repeat, so the people got to pick two of three to go to. Then six new ones for the next two quarters, etc.
    by iamyourfather at 09/30/17 1:03AM
  • chickadee
    powerful! I usually see a sermon or a link to one and say " I must check that out later." I am glad I took the time now.
    by chickadee at 10/04/17 10:43PM
  • iamyourfather
    by iamyourfather at 10/05/17 11:05PM