Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Was Casting Lots Biblical and Is it for Today?

            In Scripture we read many times of those who cast lots to seek and know the will of God in a particular matter.  In fact, both God’s people and the world practiced casting lots for decision-making.  Examples of the world would be the sailors on Jonah's ship (Jonah 1:7) who cast lots to determine who had brought God's wrath upon them and their ship.  We also know of the Roman soldiers casting lots for Jesus’ garments (Matthew 27:35) at the foot of the cross.  Casting lots eventually became a game for wagering.  The practice of casting lots is actually mentioned some 70 times in the Old Testament and 7 times in the New Testament. 

The tradition of casting lots occurs most often in connection with the division of the land under Joshua (Joshua chapters 14-21).  Casting lots was a procedure that God instructed the Israelites to do several times in the book of Numbers (Num. 26:55; 34:13; 36:2).   On a couple of occasions God allowed the Israelites to cast lots in order to determine His will in a given situation (Josh. 18:6-10; 1 Chronicles 24:5).  Although it may not sound very sacred, lots were even cast for determining various offices and functions in the temple. (1 Chron. 24:5, 31; 25:8-9; 26:13-14).  In the New Testament we read of the eleven apostles casting lots to determine who would replace Judas (Acts 1:26).

We are uncertain exactly what this looked like at the time although historically it would appear that a short stick in the mix of longer sticks was one way.  Some used stones with one being marked differently from the rest.  Even the rolling of dice was used as a means of making decisions or casting lots.  A simplified version today in making a decision is to flip a coin. 

Christians are nowhere instructed to use this practice in determining the will of God today.  Some things to consider would be the fact that we have the complete Word of God.  God has given us His complete revelation in order to know His will for our lives.  God has also given believers the indwelling of His Holy Spirit to lead and guide them each and every day.  Life does not have to be determined today by casting lots or flipping a coin.  In Scripture, at one time, God chose to make His will clear to those that he wanted by utilizing this method of casting lots.  It was a Biblical method that God chose at one time and it was also a method used outside of God by the world for decision-making and entertainment purposes.  God has also gifted believers with the privilege of prayer in which believers can go directly to God and converse with Him in knowing His Will. 

My summation is that it was indeed Biblical in its day and yet it is not for today since we have the completed Word of God, God’s indwelling Spirit, and the ministry of prayer to converse with God.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Why are we here as a Church?

         I suppose that if we were to ask several people this same question we would get many different answers.  At times our answers may even need to be explained, even though they may all sound Biblical.  The church is comprised of believers who have put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ alone for their salvation.  God’s expectation is that believers come together and worship Him through song and the teaching of the Word (Acts 2:42-47; Hebrews 10:24-25).  Although God is the focus of this time together, we are privileged to take part in the blessings of fellowship as we labor together to bring Him glory.  As we gather and grow in the knowledge of the Word and the Lord Jesus Christ, we then know how to worship and serve Him more effectively. 

            Most of us only spend an hour or so at church each week so the question remains,  “what do we do with the rest of our time each week to worship and serve Him with our lives?”  Some of us have various ministries that we serve in on a weekly or monthly basis.  The job that Jesus Christ gave His church is called the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), which means taking the Gospel message and telling the world that Jesus Christ came to die for their sins and that He was raised according to Scripture in order that they might have the forgiveness of sins.  This is called the Good News (or the Gospel).  But when was the last time that we verbally shared the Gospel with another person if this is truly our daily job and objective in life as a Christian?

            As a church, our vision is to Become a People to Reach People for Christ.”  Our troops (our church family) must go into battle each week and build bridges to their community in order to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.  Paul asks this question in Romans 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?”  We, as an entire church family, have the Biblical responsibility to share Christ as our mission!  We have every reason to be proud of this life-changing message that turns hearts of stone to hearts of flesh.  God’s Word and His love are powerful and everyone needs to hear this Good News.   Maywood EFC is God’s church that He will use to glorify His name.  His blessings will rest upon us only as we are obedient to the calling that He has given us.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Are Adam & Eve in Heaven?

I was recently asked, “How can Adam and Eve be in Heaven since they died before Jesus Christ came and died for their sins.”  This is a very good question and can be applied to all Old Testament saints of God.  Scripture is very clear that all mankind are sinners and that they stand in condemnation for their sin.  We will all go to hell as the penalty for our sins unless we are cleansed by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ came as the only acceptable sacrifice that could wash away the sins of the world (Romans 5:12-21).
Prior to Jesus Christ, mankind was called to offer to God a blood sacrifice through animals as atonement for their sin (Heb. 9:22).  These sacrifices would be repeated over and over again until one day Jesus Christ would come and serve as the final sacrifice, “once and for all” (Heb. 10:10).  Although God’s people did not fully understand the full redemption story, they did act upon what God called them to do and they were promised a Messiah who would come and serve as their Redeemer.  Their obedience was credited to them as righteousness.  Christ’s blood provides forgiveness for all sins for all times (past, present, and future). 
In Hebrews 11 we are told that Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and many others had faith in God’s promises of what was to come—the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  Although they did not fully understand in detail about Jesus Christ, they understood that they had a Holy God that demanded their unrighteous deeds (their sin) be accounted for by a blood sacrifice.  Verses 39-40 of that chapter tells us that they were commended through their faith even though Christ had not yet come—He was on His way to the cross.  Their faith and obedience to what God asked of them was credited to them as righteousness.
Adam and Eve’s own son, Abel, must have understood about a blood sacrifice.  We are told in Hebrews 11:4, “By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.  And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”  We are not told specifically that Adam and Eve are in Heaven but I believe that the Bible shows that it is a good possibility based upon the fact that they understood the need for a blood sacrifice.  Abel was Adam and Eve’s son and it seems that the only way he could have learned about God was from his parents.  After all, they walked with God and talked with God. They were the first two humans ever created.  They were the first to sin and that sin started the practice of making sacrifices to God for the forgiveness of sins.
According to Scripture, Abel knew how to offer a sacrifice that was pleasing to God. He offered that sacrifice with a heart that believed in God through faith, and he probably learned that from his parents, Adam and Eve.  If all that is true, then it seems as though Adam and Eve knew the truth as well, and if they did, we will probably see them in Heaven.  Remember, not every man and woman of God are listed in Hebrews 11 but those that are, serve as great examples of trusting God by faith alone for their salvation.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Controlling Our Tongue

Too often our words leave our mouths faster than we can process the impact that they will have on others.  I can’t begin to count the number times my own words have caused more difficulty and heartache than I ever intended them to do.  Our words are capable of breathing life into other people as we speak the truth in love.  Our words are also capable of sucking the life out of others and even cause painful division for years as we speak lies, gossip, or unkind things about them.  The timeliness of our words can also bring about a great deal of heartache.  I believe one of the best ways to gain control of our speech is to read, pray, and memorize Scripture, as it will shape how we speak to others.  When Christians yield the control of their every word to the Holy Spirit of God they can then begin to see how God uses them in building and reaching others. 
Please read, reflect and pray these verses of Scripture concerning our words:
1.     Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.”
2.     Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
3.     Proverbs 12:18, “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”
4.     Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”
5.     Proverbs 26:20, “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.”
6.     Psalm 141:3, “Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!”
7.     James 1:26, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless.”
8.     James 3:10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Choosing to Honor Others

           Relationships that flourish demand a great deal of work.  Many people have never had the privilege of growing up in a home where parents fostered healthy vibrant relationships.  Some have never had the sweet closeness of a friend that they could pour their hearts out to.  Most desire good relationships but few have ever been taught how to be a friend or how to relate to other people in a way that cultivates a deep meaningful relationship.  Some are even afraid of being hurt if they become too vulnerable with another person.  God has made us to relate to one another in a positive productive way even though we are all different.  Our spouse, child, neighbors, and co-workers are not the enemy even though they think differently than we think~~Satan is!  We are truly capable of learning how to love and communicate in healthy ways with those that God has planted in our lives.  It will certainly be work but it will be most rewarding.

So where do we begin?  Whether relational improvement is needed with a spouse, child, co-worker, neighbor, or friend, I do believe that there is a key ingredient that must be included or the relationship will not thrive.  That often-missing ingredient is HONOR.  Too often we are guilty of going through the motions in a relationship but we really don’t engage our hearts.  At times, we may not really even be concerned with the heart of the other person.  When we intentionally choose to honor another individual we can’t attempt to measure their worth, base it off of how they have treated us, or measure the cost in order to honor them.  Christ is to serve as our standard for love and honor.  Many people work harder at not getting along than they do at trying to build a healthy relationship. 

Consider these characteristics of honor: 

1.     Honor does more than what is expected
2.     Honor hopes and believes the best about others
3.     Honor places others in a place of specialness
4.     Honor places others before ourselves.
5.     Honor focuses on our attitudes that accompany our actions.

Question:  Does our spouse, friend, or children know that we honor them?

Scripture provides a foundation in how we should relate to one another.  Consider praying this verse in Ephesians 4:29-32.

   “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving on e another, as God in Christ forgave you.”