Monday, September 26, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Guess Who Knocked on My Door This Morning

This morning a local COC group was in the neighborhood knocking on doors and leaving their literature regarding an upcoming Seminar that they will be holding beginning tomorrow. They left me two pieces of information. A flyer for the Seminar and a tract titled "The Safety Chain." The front of the tract depicts a family of four (man, woman, boy and a girl) with a literal chain going from the family to a bible. (See below).

I've seen this tract and image before. But now that I am no longer a member of the COC I see this image very differently. I suppose the average COC member sees a family protected by a "safety chain" that keeps them tethered to the Word of God. Much like a safety harness worn by a construction worker who is working several stories above the ground, the tether keeps him protected from falling to his death should he miss a step on the girder that he walks upon.

Now I see something very different.

A chain seems so counter-intuitive when considering the freedom we have in Christ and what He has accomplished for us (Romans 8:1,2). But when considering the COC's system of faith and work righteousness, a chain seems so appropriate. The COC claims to "speak where the Bible speaks", yet where in Scripture do we see the concept of a "safety chain." Salvation is in Christ, not a chain. Jesus describes himself as the Good Shepherd, the Vine, the Way, the Truth, the Light, but never as a chain. And if the chain connects us to the Word, what's the chain? It must be something other then the Word.

Inside the tract, on page three, the following appears:

"Please read the following chain of scriptures prayerfully. It will only take a few minutes and could save your soul!"

A few things come to mind.

We see that the "safety chain" is a chain composed of "links" of Scripture, fashioned together into a "safety chain." Who determined the pattern of this chain? Which Scriptures are worthy of link status?

Also notice that this chain "could save your soul." "Could" save your soul? Sounds a little noncommittal.

Of course the Scriptures in the tract deal heavily with the promotion of water baptism, weekly Lord's Supper observance, weekly contributing, assembling, and singing a capella only music in worshiping God.

This is work-righteousness in textbook form.

Forget about the salvation that we have in Christ. Forget about the one-time for all-time sacrifice of a perfect Lamb for the sins of the world (Please, please, please read Hebrews 10:11-18).

No, your salvation, they would have you to believe, is predicated on your ability to perform the aforementioned rites and present yourself righteous before God based on your spiritual accomplishments.

Of all of God's commandments I broke while a member of the COC I suppose I may have been guilty of breaking the 4th Commandment the most often; not remembering the Sabbath.

But not by working on Sunday or gathering sticks like the example we have in Numbers 15:32-36. My transgression was much worse.

Just like the other commandments that Christ expanded upon and placed the root of the sin in the heart (i.e., killing vs. hating in our heart, adultery vs. lusting in the heart; see Matt. 5:21ff) I neglected to keep the Sabbath by trying to work my way to heaven.

See, Jesus taught that He was the Lord of the Sabbath (Lk. 6:5) and that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath (Mk. 2:27). Christ also taught us to come to Him, all of us who are weak and heavy-laden, and we would find REST for our souls (Matt. 11:28, 29).

Do we keep the Sabbath today? Of course we do. That is, if we REST in the WORK that JESUS did for us to save us. His work, not ours. If we are trying to rest in OUR works, we are violating the Sabbath and storing up wrath for ourselves in the judgement to come.

Jesus Christ is our Sabbath. He is our Rest. Please stop running yourself ragged on the treadmill of religion, trying to make yourself worthy. You will never be worthy of God's majestic Grace. If you were, it wouldn't be Grace.

"For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken afterward about another day. Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. For the one who enters God's rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works." (Heb. 4:8-10)

"But God, being rich in mercy, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you are saved! - and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast." (Eph. 2:4-9)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas and the Christian

[For a very good and rather exhaustive but general article on Christmas check out this. My post will deal more specifically with the church of Christ and their reasoning for not celebrating it.]

It seems like an unlikely question: Should Christians observe Christmas? I mean, think about it: "Christians" and "Christmas"...both words derived from "Christ"...what's the problem, right?

Yet there are those who consider themselves Christians who do not celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. They refuse to sing religious Christmas songs, will not let their children participate in school Christmas plays, do not put angels on top of their Christmas trees, and teach their children that Christians are wrong (let's just say it, sinning) for celebrating the birth of Jesus in the month of December. I know this is true. It once described me.

Think of it this way: If you knew absolutely nothing about Christians, and knew nothing about the observance of the holiday called Christmas, and if you came to earth and learned about the two concepts you would be puzzled to say the least that there are actually those who identify themselves as Christians yet sincerely believe and teach against observing the holiday.

The church of Christ of which I was a member believed this way - and we were not in a theological-vacuum. All the other local churches that we fellowshipped believed the same way, and there were several. Unfortunately I raised my son to believe this way and he still adheres to this mindset today.

Here's the reasoning: the COC say that you need "book, chapter, and verse" to practice anything religiously. They have such a carefully constructed approach to interpreting, understanding, and applying the Bible that they've painted themselves in a hermeneutical-corner. They believe that since we do not read anywhere in the NT about the Apostles or disciples celebrating the birth of Jesus (what they call an "approved example") or no specific command to do so, nor any inferences to celebrate it, we would be "unscriptural" to celebrate the Christmas holiday religiously. They are also quick to mention that the only time we see birthday celebrations in the Bible are for non-believers, i.e. Genesis 40:20, Matt. 14:6.

What I find interesting is that I have never met a member of the COC that does not celebrate their own birthday, or the birthdays of their family members. I even know people who celebrate "birthdays" for their pets. So when it comes to celebrating the Savior's birth into this fallen world for the purpose of redeeming man from his sins and thus saving us from eternal torment and excommunication from God - that's a no-no because God never told us to do it.

The problem I have with this argument is that it just seems pretty ridiculous when I consider the emphasis that the Word of God puts on the birth of Christ.

Have you or your children ever been invited to another child's birthday party. How did you find out about it? Like us, you probably got a really cute, gender-appropriate invitation in the mail announcing the time and location of the event. You probably even received this notice well in advance of the party so that you could make arrangements to attend (and bring their kid a gift, of course). Well guess what God did. He sent out birthday invitations for His Son, too. God put a little more effort into His invitations. He sent His in the form of Old Testament prophecies uttered by the Holy Spirit through the mouths of His prophets thousands of years beforehand so that the people could get ready! Wow, Glory to God!!!!

God's invitations told us the Child would be born of the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15), a descendant of Abraham, (12:3), a descendant of Isaac (17:19), a descendant of Jacob (Numbers 24:17), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), an heir to the throne of David (Is. 9:7), born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), born of a virgin (Is. 7:4), born at a specific time (Dan. 9:24-27), the Child's birth would cause the slaughter of other children (Jer. 31:15), and the family would come out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). How's that for emphasis?

Mary did not have a copy of What to Expect When You Are Expecting, but she had something better. Mary's pregnancy was of the Holy Spirit and announced by the angel Gabriel who was sent by God (Luke 1:26-38). An angel also appeared to Joseph concerning the pregnancy (Matt. 1:18-25). At the time of the Birth, angels appeared to the shepherds in the field and praised God for the Birth (Luke 2:8-14). The shepherds glorified and praised God over the events (2:20). Also, to direct the Magi from the east God prepared a specific sign in our solar system to point the way. In verses 9-11 of Matthew Chapter 2 the Magi come to the child Jesus, presented Him gifts, and fell down and WORSHIPED him! I'm not too smart, but it sure seems to me that God is giving us lots of inferences and examples in these accounts. How can we share the story of redemption, the Gospel, without the story of Christ's Birth and the numerous prophecies that it fulfilled, thus proving the reliability of the Bible and the Faithfulness of God's Word? It's a part of the story of our salvation. Please do not rob the Gospel story of this beautiful chapter in God's plan for us.

Is it just me or does it seem a little hypocritical to not celebrate the Lord's Birth (at all) "because the Bible only records the birthday celebrations of pagans" but then celebrate your own birthday every year? Not just celebrate it, but fully expect attention, gifts, and praise on that day. How can we believe that there is "no authority" or no scriptural precedent to celebrate the Lord's Birth when the Gospels of Matthew and Luke go to such lengths to document and preserve the wonderful works of God woven throughout that account?

Please, do not waste another opportunity to take your family to a Christmas Eve candle-light service. Like God's people during the times of the OT (Ex. 13:8, 14) use these moments as opportunities to teach your children about spiritual things: sin, the unavoidable Judgement to come, the Atoning Sacrifice prepared by God, the humility and obedience of Jesus Christ, His life, His suffering, His death, and his Resurrection, and what that means for us today, everyday.

The real question is not whether or not we should be celebrating Christmas as Christ's Birth on December 25, but what day should we not be celebrating Christ's birth? Do not spurn the opportunity that Christmas gives you to preach the Gospel to your friends, your neighbors, your family, your wife, your children, and to your self.

Don't let the world turn Christmas into a fantasy about material gifts earned by a work-righteous reward system overseen by a false god called Santa. I'd hate to stand before God on Judgement Day with children at my side who believe in Santa but not the Creator of the Universe and the Author and Finisher of my faith.

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:6, 7

Merry Christmas!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

What About Christmas?

Since it's that time of year, let's think about Christmas and whether or not we should celebrate it as the birth of Christ. I'm working on a post that will discuss the COC and their view of Christmas. Keep checking back...

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Please check out the Way of the Master/LivingWaters ministry!

WOW! My spiritual life has been SO BLESSED as a result of finding the Way of the Master/Living Waters ministry. I'll give you some hyperlinks to click in a minute but I want you to keep reading for now. I always felt that the COC's approach to the Gospel was lacking. In fact, it was a type of religion that was almost devoid of the Gospel. Yes we held Gospel Meetings and attended the Gospel Meetings of others, but hardly ever was their a real emphasis placed on taking the Gospel OUTSIDE THE BUILDING to a lost and sinful world. Jesus said that his disciples would be "fishers of men" (Mark 1:17), but it seemed like we were waiting for the fish to jump into the boat. What did Jesus and the Apostles do? Is that how the Christians in the New Testament evangelized?

Furthermore, when I would share my faith I found myself spending more time talking about what made our group different from all the other groups as opposed to preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I used to joke that our preacher had one sermon and that he simply changed the introduction and closing each week. Why? Because we spent more time talking about ourselves and our uniqueness then Jesus and the Gospel. It was like the outdoor, open air, public square preaching of the Gospel was something that was meant for the NT days but really wasn't a part of Christendom today. Brethren if these words describe you, repent TODAY and let's get back to NT Christianity.

I know you don't know me, but I am sincerely concerned for you and your soul. Whether you are a new Christian, an Elder of a church, a pastor, or a Pope I beg you to listen to the audio messages that are linked to below. They will help you to cut through all the religious noise out there and will concisely and succinctly show you what the Gospel really is. You will understand the Scriptures in a whole new light and finally it will all make sense.

We must truly understand the Law-Gospel relationship. It is imperative for our own salvation and for our ability to share the true, Biblical Gospel with others. Please don't let anything prevent you from listening to the messages below.

I'll put these in a listening order that might help:

Start here: Hell's Best Kept Secret

Then go here and listen to the audio messages on this page by Ray Comfort.

Check out If you want more audio you can go to iTunes and search for Way of the Master Radio or simply do a Google search for Way of the Master Radio.

Whatever you do be sure to check out Todd Friel of Wretched Radio and Wretched TV here. It's a cross between Jay Leno and the 700 Club - but better theology all around!

God Bless!

Monday, July 5, 2010

They Forgot To Tell Me That

When I was a member of the COC I cannot tell you how many times I not only sung the hymn "Ivory Palaces", but also led it from the pulpit straight out of the congregation's Sacred Selections for the Church songbook (entry #70). I love the melody and the words to this song:

"My Lord has garments so wondrous fine,
And myrrh their texture fills;
Its fragrance reached to this heart of mine
With joy my being thrills.

Out of the ivory palaces,
Into a world of woe,
Only His great eternal love
Made my Savior go....

Shame on me for never looking at the top of the page where the Scriptural reference/basis for the song was noted. Look for yourself, it's Psalms 45:8. If I would have only taken the time to flip over to Psalms 45 I could have read for myself just what exactly the Scriptures say is coming out of the ivory palaces. Want to guess what it is? Let me quote the verse for you from the NASB:

"All Thy garments are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made Thee glad." Psalms 45:8 NASB

Hmmm. I guess they forgot to tell me that. Maybe that's why we're told to "Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately." 2 Timothy 2:15 NET

Are you being taught the message of truth accurately? If you're a teacher or preacher of the Gospel, are you teaching and preaching it accurately?

Is It "Scriptural?"

Here is a pet peeve of mine. Some will say that it is "unscriptural" for you to worship God with musical instruments. Many of the same people will also tell you that you should "speak as the Oracles of God" and use "Bible words in Bible ways." But what does the Word of God say? Is the use of instruments "unscriptural?"

On the contrary! Under the terms "Scripture" and "It Is Written" the New Testament quotes the book of Psalms as "Scripture" many times. Read these examples: Matthew 21:16, 42; John 2:17, 13:18, 19:36; Acts 1:20; Romans 3:4, 10-18; 4:17, 8:36; 15:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:19, 20; 2 Corinthians 4:13; 9:9.

So, is the use of instruments in worship to God "unscriptural?" Well, if (A) the Bible refers to quotes from Psalms as "Scripture" and (B) Psalms provides examples of worshiping God with the use of instruments, then who can say that the practice is "unscriptural?" Who is really "speaking as the Oracles of God?"