October 24, 2016
For those of us who are bewildered about the actions and words of those who belong to the Church of Christ, and for those, as well, within that denomination who wish to understand better why they are ostracizing themselves from others who uphold God’s Word, there is an excellent pdf book, written by insightful men within the CoC itself, which we can study. I have been reading through it this month and it is quite enlightening. It confirms what I have experienced in the past as well as recently, for instead of accepting that friends will, and can, differ in their interpretations of some passages of Scripture, there seems to be an insistence that others come to see their beliefs as being undeniably right. To this end many CoC people work, oblivious, or maybe just unconcerned, as to their combative, insensitive style, and to the betrayal others may feel when they realize that the CoC adherent’s main goal is making a convert rather than that of maintaining a friendship.
Should we not try to persuade others to believe what we are convinced is the Truth? Yes and no. Yes, when we are making a clear declaration that that is our main goal and are leaving it open for others to choose to listen or not, to share with us their beliefs and why they have those beliefs, and when we can drop those matters which cannot be agreed upon. However, if methods are employed such as condescension, intimidation, coercion, or deception, then the one “evangelizing” is not operating in the Holy Spirit, but rather in the sinful nature.
Gal. 5:19-21 makes that clear. There it tells us that the acts of the sinful nature are obvious and that along with such sins as sexual immorality, witchcraft, and fits of rage, the sins of discord, dissensions, and factions are also those sins which will keep a person from inheriting the Kingdom of God. In the pdf book I’ve mentioned that I’m reading, it is admitted that the CoC has many factions, that this is due to much infighting, argument, and contention, and that the majority perpetuate this behavior as if it is admirable to do so. This is largely discussed from chapters 14 on to the end, all of which I’ve read.
Now I am reading through the previous chapters, which I earlier skimmed. Letting their readers know that unity, not divisiveness, was the goal of the CoC founders, these authors lament that the exact opposite has come about. Here are three excerpts and I encourage everyone to read these carefully, noting how off course the CoC denomination has since gone:
~~From p. 31: It is ironic that a Movement that began as an effort to unite the Christians in all the sects should itself become the most divisive of any persuasion in Christendom. It would be like Quakers evolving into bitter warmongers or like Pentecostals becoming apathetic to the call to holiness. Not only did our pioneers preach unity, they also practiced it. The union effected at Lexington could only have occurred among people who were prepared to accept each other despite differences and to honor the right of private judgment.
~~From p. 37: It was here that Stone showed his magnanimity. Realizing that he had been too speculative in his handling of scripture, he resolved to cool it. He went on record as agreeing that there is but one thing necessary insofar as faith is concerned, for union in Christ, and that is believing that Jesus is the Son of God. And there is but one act that is required for entrance into the fellowship of the church, and that is immersion. Campbell had long stressed this believing the one fact, obeying the one act as the basis of fellowship, and Stone accepted it. Stone, however, never really believed in baptism as “essential to salvation,” the view that eventually emerged among the Campbellites, though Campbell himself avoided stating the idea that strongly. Stone’s definition of a Christian will interest you: “Whoever acknowledges the leading truths of Christianity, and conforms his life to that acknowledgement, we esteem a Christian.”
~~From p. 41: Then there are some that will draw the line on a sister or brother for taking a drink. I do not take drinks and I suppose I do not approve, but in the light of scripture do I have the right to impose my view upon others, demanding that they see it my way or be thrust from the fellowship? The scriptures clearly make drunkenness a sin, and I know of no one that disputes that. Here we can agree. But to deduce that one cannot therefore take a cocktail with his meals without sinning is to go beyond what the Bible says. The teetotaler may be right, but as Thomas Campbell liked to put it, he cannot impose his deduction upon others until they see it the way he does.
Where Scripture does not give a clear-cut command, we should never think we have the right to infringe upon others what we believe concerning those debatable issues. In the first four chapters of 1 Cor. we are warned about factions that tout one teacher over another. No, we are to follow Christ alone (3:21-23), for He is our only Master and Teacher (Mt. 23:8-10), our only Spiritual Authority (20:25,26), and the only Mediator between us and God. (1 Tim. 2:5) Moreover, the Lord alone is our Judge (1 Cor. 4:4), and we are not to judge the conscience or motives, nor the debatable beliefs and actions, of another one of Christ’s servants. (v. 5 // Rom. 14:1-4) “Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil.” (Rom. 14:16) And so that “you will not take pride in one man [and his doctrines] over against another” (1 Cor. 4:6), definitely “Do not go beyond what is written [in Scripture]” –!!! (Same verse) In spite of these warnings, the CoC continues to invent strict rules that are not stated in the Word of God. In the future I will address some of them.
Here is the link to the very helpful pdf book:
Again, I want to point out that this pdf book is written by those within the CoC but who see where their churches are erring and how they are hindering the furtherance of the Gospel. Those who are in the CoC should find it helpful and freeing, and so should anyone else who is being intimidated to believe as that denomination says we must.
October 21, 2016
I thought it was quite interesting that again today while downtown evangelizing, a stranger, after talking with me about God’s Word, asked if he could pray for me. It was at the end of my three hours at the bus and train stops and it was as I was walking the several blocks back to my car. In my last post I wrote about the security cops praying for me and this time it was a cab driver! What a precious prayer he prayed for me, just as the others had. May the Lord bless him, and since he quoted Jer. 29:11, may the Lord indeed give him hope and a good future.
Earlier, after I’d handed a tract to a woman who smiled at me as she passed, she came back a few minutes later and asked me if I would pray for her about some things she confided to me. I did and then told her I would ask my mom to also be praying about her request. When I hugged her, she hugged me like she didn’t want to let me go. May the Lord work miracles in her life!
Within the first few minutes of arriving at the train track, I saw one of my long-time friends. I was very happy that he seemed to have grown spiritually and in concern for his family members’ salvation. He said he very much wished some of them and I could meet. I felt honored that he desired that. May the Lord answer all his righteous prayers, including that of the salvation of his grandchildren and his five year old great-grandchild!
One guy who I’d witnessed to years ago and who I see every once in a while, I saw again today. He is a soft-spoken man, but I was sad to realize that though he used to consider himself a Christian, he now leans more toward Islam. I reminded him of the difference between the man Mohammed who was perverse and a murderer and Jesus who was sinless. I said that if Jesus was not who He claimed to be (God), He had to have then been a liar or a lunatic, not the “good man” Islam claimed Jesus was. This friend said the messenger wasn’t as important as the message. I responded that the Bible was written by many people –righteous people, not like the Quran which was written by just one man whose life revealed he was not worthy of our trust! He responded that he had come to believe that the Bible couldn’t be fully trusted and he said he was doing research about it all. As I drove home later, I kept thinking, “That is what it means to be lost. It means to be confused, to really not know the Truth or who is teaching the Truth, and to be rejecting the Truth out of blindness and because of listening to men’s philosophies and doctrines.” May the Lord reveal the Truth to this friend and may he listen, believe, and turn from falsehoods!
Later I saw a guy I’d conversed with sometime earlier this Fall, the one who had sung so sweetly for me songs unto the Lord. He told me of a recent deep hurt he had received from a preacher and I felt so sad to hear of it and to think of all the calloused crushing that goes on in the name of Christ. May the Lord open doors for this man to use his beautiful voice, his love for Jesus, and his humble preaching ability to spread the Truth far and wide, including on his friend’s radio program. May he always live out that song he sang for me again today, “Oh, how I love Jesus”, and may many people encourage him in his spiritual gifts.
When I was just about to leave, I decided to make one last “lap” around the corners. When I approached a guy leaning against a wall by the track, he said, “You would have to come over here, wouldn’t you?” He said it while smiling and let me know he’d been watching me and that my signs had him under conviction, particularly the one that reads, “A companion of fools suffers harm. (Pr. 13:20)” He took a tract and we talked a while. When I asked him where he was at spiritually, he said that he believes the Word but has a big problem with wanting women. I reminded him that in Mt. 5:28-30 Jesus taught that lust, if it is not repented of (as in rooting it out completely and thoroughly), will send a person to Hell. The guy said he understood that and didn’t know what to do about it. I said that beside prayer and praise to God and reading the Word which feeds our spirit and renews our mind, he should daily take every thought captive to be obedient to Christ, as 2 Cor. 10:5 says to do. I said that he should flee sin and the places and people that bring temptation. May the Lord yank that guy out of the pit he has been sliding ever deeper into!
There were many other people I talked with, others who just took a tract, and others who only stopped to read whatever sign I had showing at the time. Some scowled, some smiled, some remained poker-faced. Some people in cars honked and waved and others gave me the thumbs-up. May the Lord remind every one of them of His Word, His commands, His love, His Truth, and His coming Judgement. May they read the Scriptures, repent and follow Jesus, and share Him with others. And may the Lord give all of them, particularly those people I spoke with today, righteous friends who will encourage them to renounce sin and follow Jesus trustingly, with full commitment, all the rest of their lives.
October 13, 2016
Today at the bus and train stops it seemed like almost everyone was extra receptive and many came over to me and asked for a tract or even initiated a conversation. I believe the main reason for the exceptionally good afternoon of evangelism was this: Prayer. I had texted and emailed more people than I normally do to be praying for me and those I’d meet, and I believe they really were praying.
Speaking of prayer, the Lord arranged a prayer meeting right there at one of the main four corners and it was initiated by one of the transit security cops! There were about six of them on bicycles talking with one another (and with others who were standing there), and two of them started talking to me and thanking me for what I do down there. I was kind of surprised but then I thanked them for their service to the community too. One wanted to see all five of the signs I was wearing and the other asked if he could pray for me right then. I said, “Sure! Thank you.” But then I added, “In the name of Jesus, right?” He said, “Definitely,” and so I again affirmed that that would be great. Both he and the other guy put their hands on my shoulders and prayed for me so wonderfully, with many listening in! It was such a sweet blessing! I’ve been witnessing down there since January of 1996 and I don’t think any law enforcement person has ever done that for me! I felt very edified by seeing their boldness in Christ, as well as their thoughtfulness toward me.
There were many, many excellent encounters today (like with a husband and wife who were from England, and like with a woman who had a huge black eye, bruised face, and mangled ear), but just one other that was a bit unusual was that a guy came out of the McDonalds, handed me a bag and said, “I bought you two hamburgers.” I thought that was so kind of him and I told him so, and being I’d been talking with him about God’s Word a half hour or so before, I didn’t want to refuse his gift. So even though I didn’t actually want the hamburgers, I took the bag, and telling him how thoughtful that was of him, I put it in my tract bag. A bit later when I was headed back to my car, I realized I hadn’t given the hamburgers away to any homeless-looking person, which I had planned to do. I quickly prayed that someone would come by that I could give them to, but being I was already at my car, no homeless-looking person was around. But then! –out of nowhere almost, a tattered-clothed man jay-walked across to my side of the street, and so holding up the bag, I called out to him, “Do you want two McDonalds hamburgers?” He came over to me and asked, “You’re not trying to kill me, are you?”
I knew what the guy meant. It’s the same thought that keeps me from eating anything a stranger gives me –it could be laced with a drug, or anything. I told him the person who gave it to me had just come out of McDonalds and that since the guy was trying to be nice I’d accepted it even though I had other plans for dinner. The guy apparently believed me, for he took the bag and crossed the street toward the spot from where he’d initially emerged from, chomping happily away. As I drove off, he smiled and waved a half-finished hamburger at me.
I tell of these experiences because they distinctly revealed to me that the Lord was answering my prayers that people be friendly, positive, and receptive to me and my message. Several of those partnering in prayer for me said they were praying for the same things, so I know it came about because the Lord was causing it. Truly prayer makes a gigantic difference! Obedience in going out and putting forth the effort is necessary, of course, but even that must be accompanied with prayer.
The Lord works through prayer. Let’s believe it and act according to that faith.
October 7, 2016
A friend and I were talking yesterday about the Lord, about suffering and death, about injustice propagated by this world’s present evil ruler, and about the age to come. During this discussion she asked me what I thought was the reason why so many people who don’t seem deserving have easy and prosperous lives while others who seem kind and good struggle and often suffer. I said that Scripture tells us that God uses hardships to test us in order to see if we will remain faithfully trusting Him, and so that we will draw nearer to Him, know Him and obey Him better, and this so that we will be loving Him and others more fully and correctly.
I said that Jesus taught that life is about overcoming –that we must overcome the temptations to give in or give up, and that we not allow trials to turn us from our Lord. I told her that if God does find us to be faithful overcomers, He will grant us huge rewards, including honor and rulership positions, when He comes (in person literally) to rule the earth (from the physical Jerusalem in Israel) with a rod of iron, with perfect justice, and with perfect righteousness.
I explained to my friend that our mortal lifespans are like one blade of grass, or one speck of dust, compared to our eternal, immortal life to come, and that it will definitely be worth it if we take our trials graciously and seek to do and become what God desires.
Here is a video sermon my brother gave at church back in July and it should be a great encouragement for anyone who would like a reminder of how to think and behave during hard times.
My brother is a very interesting speaker, so I want to also give the new link where anyone can listen to the sermons he gives to the college group at UTA. (Once you click on a sermon, it does take a minute to download.) Here is that link:
One of the verses I told my friend yesterday was John 12:26b. Jesus says there, “He who serves Me, him will My Father honor.” (Yes, we should definitely look forward to being honored by our King!) I described for her the Mt. 25:14-30 passage about the servants’ investments of their talents and about how we should do what is necessary so that we, along with some of them, will hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your Master’s happiness!” (v. 21, and again in v. 23) I told her about Jesus’ promise in Rev. 2:26: “To him who overcomes and does My will to the end, I will give authority over the nations.” And in 3:21: “To him who overcomes I will give the right to sit with Me on My throne.”
There are many other verses I could’ve mentioned to my friend. Like Mt. 24:13: “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” And 2 Tim. 2:12a: “If we endure, we will also reign with Him.” And of course 2 Cor. 4:17: “Indeed, our light afflictions, which are but for a moment, are producing for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” And certainly Heb. 11:35, for it confirms that obtaining “a better resurrection” comes from having endured suffering faithfully.
Truly our hardships are not wasted. If we respond to them as God wills.