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 Well, by the help of the Lord, I did it.

I hit “Send”.

What sailed off just then was a book — the culmination of three years’ work and thirty years’ preparation — and all the things the publisher requests with manuscripts submitted for publication.

Now it’s in the hands of some dedicated editors who’ll decide if it’s a good fit for their publishing house.  I, for my part, have placed it in the hands of the Lord.

So what’s it all about?

In 1986, I was single, 26, living in a small apartment, working a state job. Though outwardly little was going on, God was using events in my life to bring me to a place of searching for Him, and allowing His search for my heart to come to fruition.

I’ve written about those events elsewhere, but the memory is still precious of how He cleared the slate of anything else that mattered in life and created a willingness to consider what I had overlooked in His Word for the bulk of my years.  I was warming to the idea of taking a chance on obeying it, because He was showing me it was the path to more of Him, and more of Him is what I had begun to realize I was so hungry for.

When by His mercy and grace my eyes were opened to the simplicity of the Gospel, I abandoned any past ideas of what was right or wrong in serving Him, and simply repented, was baptized in the name that is above every name — Jesus Christ — and was soon filled with the powerful gift of the Holy Ghost. Oh, what unspeakable joy began to flow!

There are many who experience this awesome power.  Some who seemingly come in from off the street and are moved by the preaching and the power of God to the point of responding.  God is faithful to do as He promised, and many are filled with the Holy Ghost.  Oh, that all who do so would be still serving Him years down the road!

In my own case, I was blessed to be in the company of women who were obedient to His call to “come alongside” and help me learn the ways of this new life.  I vividly recall being seated between two of them after a Tuesday night prayer meeting we’d had before going on visitation in the community.  It was as if the Lord impressed on my spirit the words, “Here are your examples.  Go to!”

It was clear He was showing me that there was work to be done for the Kingdom, and work to be done in my newly minted heart to become effective in doing it.  The lives and words of these women would help to guide me down the right path.

That time in my life, though actually rather brief on the larger scale of things, cemented concepts in my heart: of the necessity of faithfulness to the house of God, to daily prayer, to Bible study; the nature of submission to the leadership God places in our lives; the power of intercessory prayer and the beauty of holiness. Allowing these truths to be birthed in my heart, and guarding them through life’s ups and downs, has renewed the tender love of my Savior in my soul day by day.

A lot has changed in thirty years, not with God or how He relates to us, but in how we relate to one another.  Though the value of personal relationships in mentoring new Christians has not diminished, lifestyles have become busier. The rise of social media has brought the temptation to give its connections a larger share of our relationship time, threatening to overshadow in-person interactions to an increasing degree. Are young believers getting enough of the hands-on investment that made such a difference in my early days?

A stirring began to develop in my heart a few years back to document some of the wisdom shared with me early on, along with some acquired along the way, as another voice for those just becoming established in the faith to understand the depth of what God has blessed them with, and how to preserve it. In short, I believed the ideas of how we start walking with God affect how we finish, and I wanted to share what has worked for me.

Anyone who’s attempted to write or be published can tell you it’s certainly not a simple straight-line series of events. What I didn’t know five years ago, when I seriously began to pursue writing upon retirement from that state job, was how complex and even tedious the writing process can be (probably best I didn’t know all I know now at that time).

It’s been a long time since January of 2014, when the plans actually  came together on my radar to write Start to Finish. But since then the manuscript has come together, been revised, put out to beta readers, revised again, and by the help of the Lord, sent off to a publisher for consideration.

Mind you, submitting to a publisher in no way guarantees publication, but it does signify something has been written, worked, and reworked, to the point that one is ready to take a deep breath and say, “OK, here we go!”

What happens in the months it takes for the publisher’s consideration to be brought to a conclusion? You guessed it: more writing. Blog posts are always on the table of course, but the pencil (and eraser)  will continue be put to the next project: a collection of previous posts and new thoughts I hope you’ll enjoy. The working title is That’s What You Get. We’ll see how it goes.

What are your thoughts on strengthening believers? On writing? On pursuing your passion for what God has given you to do?

I’d love to hear from you!

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“It may actually get into our house this time.”

Our house”  is a place I have visited since childhood,  home of a beloved cousin just far enough ahead in age to marry while I was a young girl, and to have never failed to provide adventures when we’ve gotten together.

Memories flowed in, from the small shed she and her husband lived in on the land they’d saved up to buy while they worked along on their house. I spent a week with them in what seems like about a 6′ X 8′ space in my mind, just as happy as could be. I could almost trace every inch of the original floor plan in the 1800 square foot cozy home. Over the years it seemed nearly every time we’d visit something had been added or updated or developed a little further.  Not sure how many square feet it had come to. They didn’t brag, and I didn’t ask. Every change had a plan, a reason to be included: a space for family get-together’s, plenty of room for the grandchildren,  little touches that together created an atmosphere many family members grew to consider a second home, even those of us several hours away. There are roots that have gone down there over the years.

Multitudes of memories. . .

“Well, keep me posted.”

I hadn’t even called about flooding. I had no idea any was expected. I was calling to let her know results on my daughter’s medical test. She was concerned about that. I was calling to see if she and her husband wanted to drive two hours to celebrate her aunt’s (my mother’s) 80th birthday over lunch the next weekend.  They’d do that sort of thing in a heartbeat. Drive a couple of hours to meet us. Eat, visit, and then drive back home.  Have done it for years, pretty much spoiling all of us with how easy they make sacrificing for their extended family to appear.

Our conversation was interrupted by a somewhat frantic call from their daughter whose home is next to theirs. She was there alone as they returned to Denham Springs from New Orleans.

Roads and streets leading their home had been abruptly closed. I heard snippets of the conversation taking place on her husband’s cellphone. She said someone was at their window — as they sat stuck in traffic — telling them the interstate ahead of them was having some routes diverted.  This was Friday morning.

When we resumed talking, it was with her assurances they’d get to their daughter if they had to get a boat to do it, and that it would all be OK.  After all, “God’s got this,” she confidently affirmed.

She rehearsed their plans for moving business-related equipment to her brother-in-law’s house on higher ground so they’d be in position to respond to the needs of their gas customers once the water receded.  They would be fine to stay in their homes: she and her husband in the second story they’d added a few years back; their daughter in her house built four feet off the ground.  These are people who — if anyone does — know how to prepare for just about anything, neither foolish nor over-confident.

After we hung up I began, as I often do when unusual weather’s pending, to scan my app for updates in that area. I came across this:

Flood forecast screenshot

That upgrade from “minor to record severity” alarmed me a bit, but they are people who’ve handled almost everything already in their life-times, and I had no doubt they’d know how to stay safe in this.  Still, I was praying and checking, following their updates on Facebook.

The mood was what I would describe in our area — over two hours up from the Gulf Coast — when there’s a hurricane approaching: check the supply of candles, get some bottled water, buy some Spam if you really must, but otherwise, it’ll be OK when the wind stops blowing.  That had worked well for us most of the time. But then there was Katrina.

When I went to bed that night I was confident they’d be able to recover quickly from whatever damage might be done with the water they were told to expect.

I woke the next morning to this picture from their daughter’s front door — the one four feet off the ground:

Front door view of flood.jpg

I sent a text to her mom. They had indeed slept upstairs just to be on the safe side, but awakened to find the refrigerator floating in the kitchen, water pouring in at the doors, and wooden floors buckling.

“The doors won’t open. I’m about to wade to a window and try to get out.”

No more illusions about this being just another water event common in south Louisiana. No more hopes for a few inches of water that would be a pain to clean up.

Clearly it was time for them to go, in my view. But I knew it was not what they’d do. I knew one more boat would be hitting the water in a few minutes, and somebody else was about to be pulled to safety.

I tried to be patient, watching Facebook, knowing there was little time to chat.  When I could stand it no longer, I checked back with their daughter.

“Are ya’ll OK?”

“I’m turning in circles in my living room.  Dad told me I need to get out, but I can’t even think what on earth I should try to take.”

Decisions she’d never conceived of having to make now had to be reached in a few minutes’ time.

“What about my great aunt’s chairs she left me? The little special things? Do I take clothes? I absolutely have no idea! This is just crazy!:

I tried to be consoling, but acknowledged I couldn’t imagine what she was going through.

“A dog just jumped out of his owner’s boat in front of my house and there was no way he could go back for him with the current. He’s just out there barking and pitiful but I can’t get to him. I can’t do anything! So, no, we are NOT OK!”

When all I could think to say began to sound hollow in my own ears,  I was about to let her get back to her crisis, when it occurred to me there was one more thing I could offer.

“Let’s take a minute to pray before we go.”

As we prayed over the phone Heaven’s touch came down and I felt some peace at least come into my heart, and believed some dawned in hers as well.

I won’t post the image of her mom wading through water to her armpits to get back into a boat (she’d gotten out to rescue a cat) leaving the only home her children had known growing up, the refuge for any who needed a place to stay, the recovery site for multiple extended family members who’d suffered horrific accidents or life-altering illnesses over the years (because they have always been willing to stretch themselves for those they loved and opening their home was only natural). In short, she was leaving the central hub of our family’s memories, and a haven we knew would be there for us, too, if we needed it.

I didn’t breathe any easier until 1:00 p.m. when the text came that they’d been picked up by the brother-in-law whose house was safely above the flood, the one where the equipment had been moved. At least they could pass the night comfortably before seeing what had become of their homes.

“I’ve got a little baby in here: please just take my wife and kids.”

Only one of the stories they related when we talked later that afternoon as shocked residents of their neighborhood had called out for rescue by their boat and many others. The sharp “No!” in reply had not been understood to mean that the father wouldn’t be left behind. He only heard a refusal to help, and immediately cried, “At least take the baby!” The National Guard had them safely out a few minutes later.

I tried to picture the sheer force of the raging water as she talked of muscles she’d pulled getting through it, and no way to imagine less hearty people managing to do so.

There was only a hint of concern in that conversation mid-afternoon that the water was continuing to behave unexpectedly and a suspicion evolving that it could potentially continue to rise.

“Do you have a boat where you’re staying big enough to hold all six of you if it does?”

“No, there’s only a small boat here.”

Still mostly confident they were safe, I did begin to pray harder that all would go well.

By 7:30 that evening they were trying to find a way out. Facebook began to light up with questions about what roads were open near them, and comments exploded with family and friends in the area who were still unaffected trying to find a route for them to drive out.

There was none.

Was there someone who could reach them by boat? These folks had rescued others all day.  Couldn’t someone help them?

I remained confident that would happen shortly.  These people are survivors.  They have a strong network of family and friends: people who would scale tall buildings or swim deep oceans if  necessary to help them. Rescue teams like the one they had been a part of earlier, locals with boats and big hearts, had been out all day plucking people from danger.

Someone would be helping them soon.

Only they couldn’t.  Night was falling.  A terrible time for water and uncertainty to be rising.  Those Good Samaritans’ boats weren’t equipped with the kind of lighting to navigate waters that rendered streets all but invisible in the daylight, held multiple barely-submerged hazards, and raged with a current almost impossible to fight.

Post after post, share after share, desperate comment after desperate comment from friends and family near and far pleaded on their behalf. It felt absolutely incredible to embrace the idea that these people who’d give their lives for any of the people out there weren’t going to be pulled from this danger.

Officials had to order those who would love to help out of the water til daylight.

When the only remaining option was to access the emergency management system, the next Facebook  post was

“911 busy.”

Livingston Parish Emergency Operations Center had been relocated when their offices flooded, but numbers were circulating to directly request rescue by the National Guard, Sheriff’s Office, and Homeland Security, along with the private individuals operating when they could.  Over 15 numbers were on the list.

8:10 “I have no idea what to do.  No one is answering the phone.” Could a network that large be getting overwhelmed?

8:19 “I finally got in touch with the Sheriff’s office.  They put us on a list to rescue. They said there are hundreds ahead of us.”

Posts of friends and family on dry ground, near and far, intensified trying to find a way themselves, and tagging other individuals to try and help. It still seemed that one of those options must be the one that would save the day. But lead after lead turned into dead ends. Fear began to knot up in my stomach.

Thus began a night none of us will forget.  Family who would have given a kidney for them had to just wait and watch the posts about the water rising:

“Sitting on the kitchen table with feet in the chairs,  water now two inches over the chairs.”

“Still waiting. Water waist-deep and continuing to rise.”

“Power’s out. You wouldn’t believe the spiders, roaches and other bugs, frogs, and snakes in this water.” Still, there was that sense of humor:

“…At least we are all OK and making some really funny memories.”

But these were people who weren’t spring chickens for the most part, several of them in their sixties, a couple with heart conditions, one with asthma and a history of pneumonia, all having exhausted themselves during the previous day. The fatigue and pain were real enemies. How long could they stand this?

It was easy to feel frustration that nothing was being done.  Come daylight, we’d learn how many thousands of rescues took place that night.  It’s hard for that to even sink in. Tens of thousands of lives were being saved by local authorities, National Guard, and Coast Guard personnel.

It was a waiting list one couldn’t track, as the water continued to rise.

I lay there (in my warm, dry bed) praying.  Again. And again. And again.  Nothing changed. In the wee morning hours my prayer became “God, You could fix this.”

I’ve been blessed by some amazing answers over the years.  I began to feel the line had gone dead.

“A couple of us have gotten into the little boat.  When you think it can’t get any worse, it can.”  It had started to rain again.

The tone of posts from family members too far away to do any good became desperate.

“Someone please help them! They don’t deserve this!” Of course no one deserved it, but that was a testament to the utter incredulity of family having to simply hold our hands and wait.

The conviction grew that we truly stood to lose them while we watched from our perches in Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi, as helpless as anyone could be.

The families of thirteen people, as of this posting, did experience that ultimate tragedy.  My heart goes out to them.   I can only imagine their vigil of hoping to receive better news than what eventually, tragically came.  I learned this weekend that one was an elderly lady next door to where my family passed the night who, once she made it to safety, lay down on a couch to go to sleep, but never woke up. We continue to pray for all affected.

I expected a number astronomically higher than what it has been.  (But for the nature of the people in the area, their sense of connection to each other before this began, the abundant waterways that had many owning boats they were more than happy to put into service, the nation would be reeling at the death toll.) I struggled to not picture  my loved ones among that number.

Day broke.  The flotilla of locals returned to the water.  By 8:00 a.m., that phase of the weekend that changed so much forever was over.

They’ve been back to survey the damage.

The place I’ve known as a peaceful refuge since childhood, that had seen water to the steps during the last record flood but not a drop inside in the 45 years they’d been there, received a full eight feet of water.

It will very possibly have to come down. The weight of the upper floor may be buckling the compromised lower walls.  Even if that doesn’t happen, the memories of early morning quiet times in the little breakfast nook, or of the quiet strolls through a spacious garden built up over the years for themselves and their guests to enjoy, the couch where we sat to have the last heart-to-heart will have to suffice. There are specific memories for virtually every room, that are now themselves only a memories. We were going there for Thanksgiving again this year.

We never could have imagined our next trip would be to join the help quickly pouring in that is, just as quickly, being swallowed up in a sea of need. People who would gladly help anyone are struggling to find someone who can spare a few hours to give them assistance, as family after family after family salvages what they can and tries to prevent deeper damage from mold setting in.

It’s funny how the outsides of homes so often look the same.  You know which have been flooded only by the piles of treasures mingled with torn-out Sheetrock, insulation, and flooring by the road. I learned today there are some simply living in the mud, sleeping on wet mattresses, as the mold grows. Elderly and single mom have few options.

We spent a day and a half building onto our loved ones’ pile, and shaking our heads, and adding sweaty hugs to whatever words of consolation we could find.

They’re deciding what to do.  When all is wiped away, recreating just what had been — at this point in life — isn’t the most practical scenario.  There will be plenty of time for talking about what we’ve learned from this, or why we feel it could have happened, or what God is doing in it. If there’s an immediate takeaway, it would be to live every moment with those you love as though it is not only your last one with them, but your last one with the life you have known with them.  And trust God with them, when you see Him moving as you’d like to, and when you don’t see.

 

 

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What did Jesus have to say about salvation? What did His followers do in response to what they heard? What does that mean for us today?

Please enjoy this Bible study in the way that works best for you: as is in the written format or by clicking on the blue video links to hear an audio version, with some further explanation included.  Your device may allow the video and written versions to run in separate tabs, allowing you to hear a narrated version as you study the printed version.

Your comments, feedback, and questions are welcome!

ONE – INTRODUCTION

Apostolic Section 1 of 7

POINT:  HOW TO USE THIS STUDY

The most effective way to use this type of Bible study is to sit down with someone who loves this doctrine, and who lives and teaches it themselves, looking into the scriptures together. Though there is really no substitute for that, this study was written with more detailed information for times when that option is impractical because of distance.  Please pray about an opportunity for an in-person Bible study, in addition to using this one.

How this was written and how to navigate it:

Each part is numbered, so that if it is viewed on social media, it will be easier to keep the sections straight.  There are seven parts in all.  Also, because of the different ways printed text shows up on certain devices — computers, tablets, cell phones, etc. — as opposed to a printed version of the study, CAPITALIZED WORDS along with bold and/or italics, and changes in the size (font) of the text, are used to highlight key words in the scripture being focused on, or to show emphasis. (My apologies in advance if this gives the impression of “shouting”, or otherwise appears to be in poor form.)

A King James Bible will be a great help to you in this study: seeing the Word for yourself, in your own hands, is very powerful. Many other translations or versions are available, and you are welcome to use any you like, but the scriptures printed in this study are in KJV, so using that, if available, will potentially make the study flow more smoothly.

Pray about your involvement in the study: because we are more likely to hear and receive truth — not opinion — from the Word of God into hearts prepared by prayer.

 

TWO – LET’S BEGIN

Apostolic Bible Study section 2 of 7

POINT:  THERE IS A PROPER WAY TO STUDY SCRIPTURE

To effectively study God’s word, we should be careful to insure that we do the following:

* HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING that we are NOT ENTITLED to our OWN INTERPRETATION that we’re comfortable with. The Bible is truly an “open book”, available to anyone who wishes to find truth, as well as to anyone who wishes to pick and choose scripture to fit their own personal viewpoint.  The choice is ours, but to find truth, we must approach God’s word with the understanding that it is God-inspired, and seek to know what he wants to show us.

“Knowing this first, THAT NO PROPHECY OF THE SCRIPTURE IS OF ANY PRIVATE INTERPRETATION. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man, but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”  2 Peter 1:20-21

* HAVE A WILLINGNESS TO “RIGHTLY DIVIDE THE TRUTH” — to study the Word so that we understand how it fits together the way God intended, approaching it with a heart to understand what God wants, rather than to see what we’re used to seeing. God didn’t send his Word to be a source of division, but to show us the way to come to Him, to know Him, and to be saved. If our heart is seeking Truth in God’s word, sincerely, that is what we will find.  If our heart is set to pick apart the word of God, we will find opportunities to pick it apart, and Truth will go past us without our even noticing. When we can honestly ask God to show us His Truth, and with all our hearts assure Him that what He shows us we will obey —  that we want all of Him we can have — then we are fully on our way to rightly dividing the truth.

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD OF TRUTH.” 2 Tim 2:15

* DESIRE TO HAVE GOD REVEAL HIS TRUTH TO US – TO ENLIGHTEN US. IT TOOK THE LORD OPENING THE UNDERSTANDING OF THE DISCIPLES, who had walked with him over 3 years, for them to know what He truly wanted them to see and understand. 

“Then OPENED HE THEIR UNDERSTANDING, that they might understand the scripture…” Luke 24:45

“The EYES OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING BEING ENLIGHTENED, that you may know what is the hope of his calling”…Ephesians 1:18

* NOTICE THE DIVISIONS OF THE WORD IN THE NEW TESTAMENT:

GOSPELS (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) tell the life, works, and teachings of Jesus.

ACTS OF THE APOSTLES recorded what the twelve Apostles who Jesus had chosen (those who had followed him as his disciples in the time of the Gospels) did to obey Jesus, what they preached to get people saved, how people responded, and what happened for those who obeyed.

EPISTLES (Romans through Jude) are letters written to churches that were started by the Apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts, further instructing them in how to live in the salvation they had received by obeying the preaching of the Apostles.

REVELATION is the prophecy to the churches of the end of all things, and how to live in preparation for it.

(Note that all the accounts of people being saved after Jesus ascended are recorded in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.)

Let’s stop and pray at this point, asking God to open our understanding to see the truth of His word as He wants us to see it.

Here’s what’s coming next:

In Section Three we’ll examine what Jesus said in the Gospels about what it takes to be saved.

Section Four will cover what Jesus’ disciples (who became his Apostles after the events of Acts Chapter 2) did in response to what Jesus told them to do to get people into the Kingdom of God.

In Section Five we’ll look at whether their response was appropriate – did they do what Jesus commanded them to do or not?

Section Six will focus in on how their response could be obedience to Jesus’ commandments.

Section Seven will ask what the actions and teachings of Jesus and His Apostles left for us to obey.

Ready? Let’s begin.

 

THREE – IN JESUS’ OWN WORDS

Apostolic Bible Study section 3 of 7

POINT: WHAT DID JESUS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT SALVATION?

While some quote only certain scriptures about how to be saved, such as the one from John 3:16, when we zoom out to see the whole setting and what else was being said — side by side with what was said in the other Gospels — we get more complete information on what Jesus said to people about how to get into the Kingdom of God (be saved). Please read these scriptures in your own Bible (KJV):

John 3:5-8 – “Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.  The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” SALVATION REQUIRES BEING BORN AGAIN OF WATER AND SPIRIT; THERE IS A SOUND THAT WILL BE HEARD WHEN ANYONE IS BORN OF THE SPIRIT.

Luke 24:46-49Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations beginning at Jerusalem.  And ye are witnesses of these things.  And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until be endued with power from on high.”   *Note: in Acts 1:4-5, Jesus plainly states that the “promise of the Father” is the Holy Ghost. REPENTANCE AND REMISSION OF SINS MUST BE PREACHED IN JESUS’ NAME; THE PROMISE OF THE FATHER (THE HOLY GHOST*) WOULD BE SENT.

Mark 16:15-17 – “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. And these signs shall follow them that believe… they shall speak with new tongues…”BELIEVING AND BEING BAPTIZED ARE REQUIRED FOR SALVATION; BELIEVERS WILL SPEAK WITH NEW TONGUES.

Matthew 28:19-20 – “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsovever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.” DISCIPLES ARE TO TEACH AND MAKE DISCIPLES, BAPTIZING THEM IN THE NAME – WHAT NAME?

 

POINT: JESUS COMMITTED THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL TO HIS DISCIPLES, WHOM HE LATER NAMED APOSTLES.

      Matthew 16: 15-19 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.  And I say unto thee that thou art Peter.  And upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom. And whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.” Because of his revelation of who Jesus was, before the other disciples received it, Jesus gave to Peter the keys to His kingdom, and the authority to bind and loose on earth.  Should we not pay special attention to anything preached by the Apostle Peter?

      John 17:20 – “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word…” Jesus was in the presence of his 12 disciples, whom he later named Apostles, when he prayed this prayer.  Jesus prayed for His original disciples, but included all future generations of believers by referring to them as those who would believe on Him through the word of the disciples. This is the hand-off of the Gospel from the mouth of Jesus to the mouth of His disciples.  He trusted them to represent what He wanted the world to hear. Shouldn’t we trust them as well?

 

FOUR: THE APOSTLES’ RESPONSE

Apostolic Bible Study section 4 of 7

POINT: WHAT DID THE APOSTLES DO IN RESPONSE TO WHAT JESUS SAID ABOUT SALVATION?

The Book of Acts, as noted in Section Two of this study, contains the Acts and teaching of the Apostles, how that teaching was responded to by the people who heard them, and what happened to those who willingly obeyed. Acts Chapter 1 overlaps somewhat with the ending of the Gospels. It was written by Luke, and is a continuation of his account of what happened after Jesus’ resurrection.  Luke explains how Jesus spent time with the Apostles, “being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:” (Acts 1:3) then gives an account of Jesus’ instructions to 500 followers, which of course included the 11 disciples at His ascension, to ”wait for the promise of the Father…” (Acts 1:4), and that “ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come…” (Acts 1:8)

      Acts Chapter 2 records the fulfillment of what Jesus had promised for the 120 remaining in prayer in the Upper Room by the day of Pentecost: “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting…And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4). This is when the church of Jesus Christ was born: notice that there was a sound.

When the crowd heard them, and saw their joy and worship, under the power of the Holy Ghost, they assumed they were drunk.  Never had such a thing happened in the earth, and they didn’t understand it.  Peter preached to the crowd, detailing Who it was they had slain on the cross, and they were “pricked in their hearts” (Acts 2:37), and convicted that they were sinners. Perhaps more than any group in history, they realized they were hopeless without God’s mercy, and knew they didn’t deserve mercy at all.  They did have enough faith, though, to ask the question to Peter and the rest of the Apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) Let’s look at what happened next that day, and the days following. Please note also, that the essence of the question these men asked is the same question we must all ask today, “How can a sinner find hope and obtain mercy to be saved?”, and if the question has not changed, there is no reason to believe the answer has changed.

Acts 2:38-41 – Peter gave the answer: “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38-39) SALVATION WAS PREACHED AS REPENTANCE, BAPTISM IN JESUS’ NAME, AND RECEIVING THE HOLY GHOST. 3000 who gladly received Peter’s word were baptized and added to the church.

Acts 8:5, 12-18 – Philip preached at Samaria; those who received the word were “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16); when Peter and John laid hands on them, “they received the Holy Ghost” (Acts 8:17). BELIEVING (WHICH PRODUCES REPENTANCE), BAPTISM IN JESUS’ NAME, AND RECEIVING THE HOLY GHOST IS WHAT WAS PREACHED AND OBEYED IN SAMARIA.

Acts 9:1-18 – Paul (formerly Saul) encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, was struck blind for 3 days until he was prayed for by Ananias, and then was baptized by him, as Ananias said, to “wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (as detailed from Paul’s account to the Jews of his conversion, in Acts 22:3-21). Paul immediately began preaching the same message Peter preached (see Acts 9:20-29; 19:1-6; Galatians 1:6 – 2:10). PAUL REPENTED, WAS BAPTIZED IN JESUS’ NAME, AND RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST.

Acts 10:44-48 – Peter preached the first message of Jesus specifically to the Gentiles, including Cornelius and his household; “while Peter yet preached, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word.” (Acts 10:44), those witnessing heard them “speak with tongues” (Acts 10:46), and Peter commanded that they “be baptized in the name of the Lord.” (Acts 10:48) The Jews hearing Peter’s account concluded that God had granted the Gentiles “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18) THE GENTILES REPENTED, WERE BAPTIZED IN JESUS’ NAME, AND RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST.

Acts 19:1-8 – Paul found some disciples who had not yet received the Holy Ghost.  He asked them, “Unto what then were you baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism.” Acts 19:3 Then, when Paul explained that what they had experienced was a baptism unto repentance, “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied.” (Acts 19:5-6) PRACTICING BELIEVERS WHO HAD REPENTED, AND THOUGHT THEY WERE SERVING GOD FULLY, WHEN THEY ENCOUNTERED THE REST OF THE GOSPEL, WERE BAPTIZED IN JESUS’ NAME AND RECEIVED THE HOLY GHOST.

THE APOSTLES PREACHED AND FOLLOWED THE SALVATION FORMULA OF: REPENTANCE, WATER BAPTISM IN JESUS’ NAME FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS, AND RECEIVING THE HOLY GHOST. (NOTE THAT NO BAPTISM OCCURRED USING THE TITLES “FATHER, SON, AND HOLY GHOST”. BAPTISM WAS ONLY IN THE NAME OF JESUS.)

 

FIVE: DID THE APOSTLES DO WHAT JESUS COMMANDED?

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POINT: THE BIRTH OF WATER AND SPIRIT THAT JESUS COMMANDED CONSISTS OF WATER BAPTISM IN JESUS’ NAME AND THE INFILLING OF THE HOLY GHOST.

Jesus commanded a birth of water and SpiritPeter preached baptism in Jesus name as a birth of water, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost as a birth of the Spirit.

Jesus said that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name and He would send the promise of the Father Peter’s first message was that repentance was necessary and that baptism in Jesus name was for the remission of sins, and obeying this would bring the Holy Ghost (In Acts 2:33 Peter confirms the promise of the Father is the Holy Ghost.)

Jesus said he that believes and is baptized shall be savedPeter, Philip, Paul and the others baptized those who believed in the name of Jesus.

Jesus said to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost. The Apostles all baptized in the name of Jesus. Why?

Acts 4:12 – “neither is there salvation in any other, for there is none other name under heaven . . . whereby ye must be saved.”

Colossians 3:17 – “whether then you eat or drink or whatever ye do, do all in the name of . . . Jesus.”

Ephesians 4:4-6 – “The is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

 

SIX: WHY IS BAPTISM IN JESUS’ NAME — THE ONLY BAPTISM PRACTICED BY THE APOSTLES — OBEDIENCE TO WHAT JESUS COMMANDED THEM TO DO IN MATTHEW 28:19-20?

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POINT: THE ANSWER IS IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER, AND OF THE SON, AND OF THE HOLY GHOST, ACCORDING TO SCRIPTURE.

What is the name of the Father?

Though several names are used by God in the Old Testament to reveal himself to His people (Jehovah, Elohim, Adonai, El Shaddai, El Shalom…), God points to the day when the Father will reveal Himself by His only saving name:

Isaiah 9:6 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” To acknowledge that this verse prophesies the birth of Jesus is to also acknowledge that this Jesus is the THE MIGHTY GOD and THE EVERLASTING FATHER, come to earth in the flesh. (See John 1:14)

Isaiah 7:14 – “The Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” The Messiah is foretold by the prophet Isaiah to be Immanuel and the angel who quoted this prophecy to Joseph said, “Which being interpreted is, God with us”. (Matthew 1:23)  The only God known to His people Israel was embodied in the baby born in Bethlehem:  Jesus. The name Jesus means The LORD has become our salvation.

John 5:43 – “I am come in my Father’s name…” Jesus came in the name of the Father. What name? The only name he ever used was Jesus.

John 8:58 – “Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM.” Jesus claimed to be the “I AM” who spoke to Moses out of the burning bush.  The Jews knew he was claiming to be God, the Father, and took up stones to stone him.  There was no mistake about his claim.

John 14:7, 9 – “If you had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him…He that hath seen me hath seen the Father…” Jesus plainly told his disciples they were looking at the Father when they looked at Him. He said in the prayer of John 17 “Father…I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me…I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it…” (John 17:1, 6, 26)  How could there be any doubt in the understanding of the Apostles as to the name of the Father that Jesus referred to in Matthew 28:19?

Zechariah 14:9 – “And the LORD shall be king over all the earth:  in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one.” The prophet paved the way for understanding that God, the Father, would be revealed by his saving name in the New Testament:  Jesus.

                        The name of the Father in the New Testament is Jesus.

What is the name of the Son?

Matthew 1:21 – “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Philippians 2:10 – “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, things in earth, and things under the earth.”

1 John 3:23 – “And this is his commandment, that we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ…”

The name of the Son is Jesus.

What is the name of the Holy Ghost?

John 14: 16-18 “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter…Even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him, but ye know him, for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.  I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” Jesus spoke of himself and the Comforter, the Spirit of truth, interchangeably.

John 14: 26 – “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name…” The Holy Ghost was to be sent in the name of Jesus.

Acts 2: 32-33 – “This Jesus hath God raised up…therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear…” Jesus sent the Holy Ghost. The word again speaks interchangeably of both the Father and Jesus sending the Holy Ghost.

II Cor. 3:17 – “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” Jesus is the Lord.  The Lord is that Spirit.  Jesus is that Spirit.

The name of the Holy Ghost is Jesus.

The Apostles, who had walked with Jesus for three-and-a-half years, and whose understanding He had opened before he ascended, knew exactly what name fulfilled Jesus’ commandment in Acts 28:19-20.  They only baptized in the name of Jesus.

 

SEVEN: WHAT DID THEY LEAVE FOR US TO OBEY?

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POINT: THIS GOSPEL PREACHED BY THE APOSTLES WAS INTENDED TO CONTINUE TO BE PREACHED AND OBEYED THROUGHOUT ALL GENERATIONS, INCLUDING OURS.

Acts 2:39 – And this promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call…” An unending promise that Acts 2:38 would be the gospel.

Galatians 1:6-9 “I marvel that you are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel:  which is not another, but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.  But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.  As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you, than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” Paul’s preaching is well-documented.  He knew some would come and say that the gospel he and Peter and the rest of the Apostles preached was changed, but those preachers would be accursed, as they had only perverted the gospel: no man has the power to change it.

Jude 3-4 “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.  For there are certain men crept in unawares … denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude spoke of the “common salvation” – they had all received salvation the same way; and of the “faith which was once delivered to the saints”: it was not intended to be changed. Jude did warn, however, as did Paul, that men would be working to try to change it.

Colossians 1:21-23 – “And you…yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreproveable in his sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister…” Paul again states that believers must not be moved away from the gospel preached by him and the other Apostles.

Having heard what Jesus left for us, through the word of the Apostles, to be added to the church, what will be our response?

“Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38-39)

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Humbled

You’ll notice many of my posts giving credit to a sermon and the man of God who preached it as the source of inspiration. Usually the post is a mixture of what was preached and how it’s affecting my life, with maybe other scriptures that come to mind as I turn that over in my heart. God’s Word fits together perfectly and when it is rightly divided, every truth reflects every other truth in the Word. Digging deeper after a message helps plant it more solidly in my heart and creates fresh excitement for how amazing the Word of God truly is.

Pastor John Bowen, Jr.’s message Sunday morning was on our humbling ourselves, or else being humbled by God. You can pretty well guess which one we’d rather have happen, right? We will be humble either way (if not now, then at the Judgment, where “…every knee shall bow and every tongue confess…”). If we humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God (2 Peter 5:6…), we will in fact be exalted. Many scriptures support this idea, including Proverbs 18:12, stating that “before honor is humility”.

Daniel 5:26 shows a very different picture, that of a pagan king who acted as though he was above the judgment of God Almighty, and called for the vessels taken from God’s holy temple in Jerusalem when the city was captured by the Babylonians to be brought into his drunken feast. He actually used them to drink wine from, and gave them to his lords, his wives, and his concubines, as together they praised the gods of silver, and gold, and brass, iron, wood, and stone, “…which see not, nor hear, nor know…” But, as Daniel told Belshazzar, “…the God in whose hand thy breath is, and whose are all thy ways, thou hast not honored.” Belshazzar’s judgment was pronounced quickly by a hand writing on the wall, MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN, interpreted by the prophet Daniel as, in part, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.” The scriptures tell that Belshazzar was killed that very night.

What is probably more amazing than this story, though, is the one Daniel referred to in his rebuke of Belshazzar. For a pagan king to exalt himself was not all that unusual. The mighty king Nebuchadnezzer, Belshazzar’s father, actually became like a beast and was driven from men, eating grass in the field like an ox after standing and surveying the kingdom God had elevated him to build and taking all the credit to himself. Not until he acknowledged God’s power and majesty did his reason return to him and he resumed his throne. Belshazzar had seen enough to know that God was all-powerful, but seeing it wasn’t enough to keep him humble.

God isn’t always so immediate in his judgment. He is, after all, merciful, and not willing that any should perish. His greatest desire is that we hear preaching and repent, addressing what we hear at an altar, and taking care of it once and for all by His help. My last post, Are you out of control? referenced Job’s trial, and how his efforts to raise his children to live for God were not immediately rewarded by seeing them outlive him in the fear of the LORD, nor the assurance that all was well when they left this earth. Job was not in control in that aspect, or in any other.

At the end of the message I heard on Sunday, as I was praying in the altar and searching my heart about any areas where I was less than humble, one unexpected picture came to mind. It had to do with my feelings over some things in life that haven’t gone as I expected them to. Realizing that I can’t make anything happen by trying to force it has been a revelation that has freed me. But, as God knows the thoughts and the intents of the heart, He showed me through the preaching of His word what I had not realized until that service: my believing that if I do “my part” then He is obligated do His was actually an act of pride.

In fact, for me to believe that I could do anything to make another person truly choose the right path was pride as well, even for someone who I could influence greatly. Nor is there any room for me to feel I deserved something from God because I had obeyed Him. We don’t hear much about Luke 17:7-10, but the attitude of a master toward a servant who has labored all day in the field is described. Will that master tell the servant, “Come sit down and let me get you something to drink and eat?” Hardly. Rather it’s more like, “You fix my supper and when I’m through eating, you can go take care of yourself.” A side of Jesus we don’t think of very often, but these are His very words: “So likewise ye, when ye have done all these things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10).

For example, teaching our children the ways of God, and reaching out to others with the message of the Gospel is our reasonable service, not something for which we deserve praise or even reward. I had to let that concept sink it. It’s still not about me. At the end of Job’s trial, God addressed Job much the same way: “Where was thou when I laid the foundation of the earth?…Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened?…Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee. Here we are?” Though Job had not sinned — according to the Word of God — he was told where he stood, and reminded in a sense that “…every man at his best state is altogether vanity.” Psalm 39:5

The truth is, God has his way in the affairs of men. We, and our loved ones, live unto the LORD and die unto the LORD, and whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (some through relationship with Him, but we are all in His hands to do with as He will). So in my case, where my hopes are hung on loved ones desiring the things of God with passion and seeking them with all their hearts, if it should be that the happy spiritual endings I have given myself to strive for do not come to pass when I would like to see them, can I say God didn’t pay up after I did my part? Of course not. Striving for those things is not optional, but an obedience in itself to the Word of God. But that is where my ability to affect anything stops. I can support, encourage, and expect. But only He can do the work.

Humbling ourselves in prayer and fasting to acknowledge that we and our loved ones are in His hand sets things to right in our hearts. Retreating to wonder why God isn’t working for us just wastes time we can’t afford to lose. There’s an enemy who is trying to cut off the supply line of support for struggling souls who are in the midst of a battle for their eternity, those who may not have fully given up yet, but may be fighting with less and less strength against opposition that will never give up. It’s not time to take a pity party break. It’s time to come out with guns blazing and bombard Heaven for the help of the only Power that can redeem: the blood of Jesus.

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I haven’t been actively blogging for some time now, but I realize it’s the best way to share thoughts that have a little more “meat” to them. Facebook is a bit awkward for sharing ideas of any substance. You know, once you’ve scrolled past something you really, really wanted to read, it’s maddening trying to find it again. With blog posts, the material is easily available on my WordPress site, should you need to wait for another pot of coffee to brew to make it to the end (not that I’m “long-winded” or anything…)
Pastor John Bowen, Jr., preached yesterday morning about God being in control. On the surface that sounds like a pretty basic idea – not too hard to get it into our minds and hearts: we’re like the dust of the earth and he’s the King of all kings. Obviously he’s the one in control.
But at what level do we know how much “in control” he really is? Our startle reflex kicks in when we encounter trouble and we clutch things we thought we were holding together by our own strength. We grasp at the familiar and keep it close, even as we watch it fall apart in our hands. Because holding open, empty hands is way too scary.
I’m in the process of becoming an empty-nester. You talk about wanting to grasp and let go at the same time! It’s like learning to walk again to let someone go, let them try and do and make choices that aren’t always “healthy” from the perspective of a parent, who, by the way, has had the chance to make my own choices over my lifetime, learning from the good ones as well as those that weren’t so good. Advising versus telling what to do or even demanding that it be done the way I say is a tough balance to maintain. Riding this bicycle takes a whole new set of training wheels.
It goes far deeper than even the control of this moment that we’d like to be able to influence. It goes back to letting our kids sit on the floor playing with a rattle in an environment made as wholesome and godly as possible. Or rocking them in our arms while singing a brand-new song we made up about Jesus keeping them while they sleep. There’s something in us that desires to make things work out well for our kids, and so we start when they are babies with their education and training and putting the right things into their lives. I remember when I decided it wasn’t too early to pray and read the Bible with my baby. By the time she was three she would remind me if I seemed to forget. 
 I’m not bragging – it was by the grace of God that anything was done well – but the point is, what do we expect to get out of living right and bringing up our kids in the fear and admonition of the Lord? I’ll tell you what we expect. Results, that’s what we expect. A child who comes to know the Lord in truth, and responds heartily, and who God fills with His Spirit, and then when they hit adulthood they live happily for God ever after. That’s what we expect. WE put the right things in, so God will do his part. Right? …Right???

Let’s pause to look at one of our least favorite Bible characters in terms of those we love to identify with: poor Job. We all like to think we’d have the fortitude and faith to take the trial he took the way he did it, but we sure don’t want to find out. The thing that’s struck me lately in reading his story is the detail I noticed about his children. They were rich, of course, because Job was rich. They had a practice of feasting in one another’s homes. The Bible doesn’t indicate they were lazy or shiftless or misusing Dad’s money, but they were well-off enough to be able to share some of the bounty, and they did so by feasting together. In the description of Job’s life before the trouble came, it was said in Job 1:5 that when their feasting was “come about” each time — which I take to mean “completed” — Job would offer sacrifice for them, in case they had sinned. I’m sure he felt better about them each time after that.
No matter the age of our children, I believe we will always bear concern for their wellbeing and will especially be concerned about their spiritual welfare. Job felt, no doubt, that he had it covered. He would do the right things, and they would be OK.

But of course, horrible, unspeakable, tragedy fell: in the same day that Job lost all his possessions, a great wind came and “smote the four corners of the house” where they were and it fell and killed all his children. What were they doing when they died? Feasting. What had Job not had the chance to do for them? Offer the sacrifices that he trusted would cover them spiritually. He didn’t get to do what had helped him feel safer about his children’s eternity. He had to let them go without knowing if they were OK. All those sacrifices. All that teaching. All the work to make sure they were ready to meet God. He had to let them go without knowing. I believe it wasn’t just their loss that had to be overcome for Job to turn and worship God. It was the sense that, “having done all that, this is what I get in return” — not seeing the reward for his labor in the one area that mattered the most to him.
You see, we feel it is one of the things we get for teaching our children, molding them almost as clay with our hands, from the day they are born, changing our own behavior and level of commitment to make sure our children get the chance to get more from God than we did, making sure they have the best of everything when it comes to living for God. We scrape up the money to pay for youth camp, hoping they’ll get an extra blessing and be more resolved to love God for themselves. We ride to youth meetings with them, knowing we may not get to bed until 3:00 the next morning. But it’s nothing to us, because anything that can help firm up their love for truth is a great investment.  
We know somewhere in our hearts, and even say with our mouths that “kids don’t come with guarantees”, and they may not always make the choices we like. We say that, but in our hearts, we really believe that if we do all the right things, say the right things, and “hold our mouth right” when we say them, that we will be the exception to the 85/15 statistic of how many kids pull away from church as adults vs. those who stay. Don’t think you’re expecting that from God as the reward for your efforts? Try this: what’s the first think that comes to your mind — whether you say it or not — when dear saints of God have children who clearly backslide from God? Don’t you wonder what their parents possibly could have have done differently to have kept that from happening??? 
I know I did. It’s a lot like the way we want the details of an auto accident, which I once thought meant we were just inherently nosy, but now I take to be a sort of self-preservation at work: “If I know what caused that one, I can try to avoid that happening to me.” I worked hard to avoid judging parents whose kids had gotten out on their own and had seemed to leave what they were raised with. I knew that such judging (condemning someone without the facts or for doing something I may secretly have been doing myself),beyond being unfair and out-of-bounds in God’s eyes, was a sure way to reap something I didn’t want to sign up for. I knew of too many kids whose upbringing seemed to have been done to the best of the ability of faithful, godly parents, who just chose other paths at some point in their adulthood. I can honestly say, though that this was a club I never wanted to join.  
Let me pause here to say, I have a beautiful daughter who has not left the principles she was raised with. Do I agree with all her choices in this first phase of her adulthood? No, but that would be no great revelation to her. Have I freaked out when I saw things that I felt were trending in a less than positive direction? Oh, yeah. She could tell you some stories, for sure. And to be honest, she hasn’t seen half of the freaking out I’ve done in private. Only God gets to be the audience for those. So what is the point of this wandering tale?
Control. We were talking about control. In the midst of wondering what I should be doing to help, where I should be “taking a stand” or when I should be just listening, or what in the world I might be doing “wrong” in the situation, along comes a message from my pastor reminding me I am not in control anyway, only God is.  
You see, God didn’t cause Job’s trial or even allow it because of any sin in Job’s life — the Word is very clear on that. But God didn’t waste the trial either, rather using it to help perfect Job’s view of his Maker and himself. Does God reward faithful people with the desires of their heart? Usually, but God is sovereign, and can do what he pleases and what works best for his purposes in the bigger picture. Do the good and just suffer some things, even though they’ve served him? Yes, sometimes, (anyone remember the Cross?) but always for a reason which may only be apparent later. 
I fully believe great things are ahead for my daughter, and that her walk with God and service to God will exceed mine in days to come. But that can only happen if I can make myself get out of the way and allow God to work in her life as he would do. I realize that will involve choices, mistakes, triumphs, failures, and “trying on” this faith in her own way at her own time. I cannot make the pieces go together, I can only break them by insisting on trying to do so.
To wrap this up, on the way to church last night, I heard a radio spot describing a “hydraulic”, a phenomenon that occurs in some rapids. A hydraulic is otherwise known as a vertical whirlpool, and is extremely difficult to survive for anyone ejected from their boat. A jet of water actually pushes the person up a waterfall, then shoots them back down, only to pick them up again, and so forth. In a hydraulic, the only way to survive is to do the last thing anyone would want to do in other dangerous circumstances: remove the life vest. The thing designed to save them in other emergencies keeps the would-be swimmer buoyed above water, and unable to dive below the turbulence and swim out — the only method for successfully leaving a hydraulic. 
In a similar vein, the message last night at church, from Bro. Josh Settlemire, was on keeping our eyes on Jesus in the midst of a storm. In the message, he spoke of Peter’s opportunity to step out of the boat once he heard Jesus say that it was him who was walking on the boisterous waves toward them (not a ghost). “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come.” (Matthew 14:28-29a) Remember, the boat was the thing the frightened disciples believed had been keeping them somewhat safe in the storm. They were trying desperately to row, to bail water, to labor to get out of this on their own, to somehow just make it through the storm. Jesus — walking on the very thing that was about to take them down — bid Peter to step out of the safety of the boat and walk where no man but Jesus had ever walked before. And he did. By the power of the one who parted the Red Sea and rolled back the Jordan River three times (for Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha), Peter walked on water.
The take-away? Trials cause us to walk where we’ve never walked before. We can cling to what we know — trying to control every thing in our world, including the choices of others around us — or we can step out of the boat and realize, as Job had to, that we are simply Not.In.Control.  
Oh, there is freedom in reaching for his hand when it doesn’t make sense to leave the boat behind.

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9/11 is our modern “day that will live in infamy”.  Like the first day to be so designated, it probably didn’t have to happen.  in-depth research by the 9/11 Commission revealed gaps in communication among agencies, lack of immigration enforcement, and failure to heed warnings that certain individuals posed a threat, among many other factors. In our wildest collective national dreams, no one could picture illegal immigrants, trained as pilots on our soil, wreaking total havoc on businessmen and women, simply “guilty” of going to work, and on grandparents travelling to see their grandkids. To a deadly degree, we underestimated our enemy.

And we haven’t stopped.

We expect of our government a level of excellence in detecting and immobilizing threats to both national and local security. If a Boston Marathon Bombing or a Shoe Bomber incident occurs, we demand answers as to why they couldn’t prevent such an attack or near-attack, and rightfully so. But I warrant there is an Enemy many are still underestimating, perhaps even some who read this.

A new way to die

I remember quite clearly on Tuesday evening, 9/11/2001, after our church’s specially called prayer meeting, turning to a fellow church member  and stating,”We learned a new way to die today…Go to work and sit at your desk until a plane-load of innocent people crash through your building.” Why did I say that? Because we had never thought of that being a way to die before that date, but we can never think the same about security at work, or anywhere else, again.

Notwithstanding the political implications of failing to learn from the past, I certify you that many people seem unsuspecting that the Enemy of our souls could still be using weapons of mass deception, which he introduced in ancient times, even on us. Consider this:

All the same

When Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh, and Aaron cast down his rod, as God had directed Moses in the wilderness as a sign that God was with him, the rod became a serpent. Pharaoh’s magicians  immediately threw down their rods, which also became serpents. How? By God’s power? Of course not. By Satan’s power?  Well, there are only two options, and we’ve ruled out the other one, don’t you agree?

So are God’s power and Hell’s power equal? Absolutely not! The rod of Aaron ate up the rods of the magicians — a demonstration of superiority that the pharaoh-worshipping, God-hating, heathen magicians could not mimic.  Would the demonstration of two powers have appeared to be equal, initially, to the untrained observer? Absolutely!   

Now, consider who we’re talking about here: The sworn Enemy of God Almighty, and the sworn Enemy of your soul. Yet so many live life as if this Enemy would never use such a trick again. He would never allow some doctrine or religious system that is not of God, but claims to believe in all the tenants of Christianity, to produce signs and wonders and good feelings and good works, again. If people are basically good and they do good works and they feel something they believe with all their heart is God, then to many, it becomes vicious, self-righteous, judgement to suggest that they are not truly following God according to His Word.

They underestimate our Enemy.

The origin of what appear to be options

The root theology of many religious groups today, including the Catholic Church and all mainline denominations that branched off during the Protestant Reformation (this includes Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, etc.), is to insist that the Godhead is best understood as a trinity, and that failing to stand on this idea is heresy. What is not taught is where and when the doctrine emerged.  

For the period of history covered by the Book of Acts,  through around 64 A.D.,  the primary teaching of the church was that the true implementation of Jesus’ charge to the disciples to go into all the world, making “disciples of all men, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost”, was to baptize in the one name that encompasses all of these: Jesus (see Acts 2:38, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:47-48, Acts 19:5). A wealth of scriptures explain how they knew the “name of Jesus” had to be what Jesus meant by what He said.

Yet, over time, the exact thing that Jesus and the Apostles warned believers  would happen after their time on earth not only began to happen, but multiplied:  “Beware of false prophets…” (Jesus – Matthew 7:15), “After my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you…speaking perverse things…” (Paul – Acts 20:29-30), “…there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies…” (Peter – 2 Peter 2:1), “For there are certain men crept in unawares…denying…our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Jude – Jude 4), “For many deceivers are entered into the world…” (John – 2 John 7).   By the second century, the voices that clamored for a shift from baptism in Jesus’ name to a formula that incorporated the titles Father, Son and Holy Ghost, no doubt insisted that nothing was to be lost, but rather gained, for the Early Church by making this change. (Note that the Book of Acts records no baptisms being performed where these titles were used in place of the name of Jesus for baptizing believers). By the third century, the new doctrine was becoming law, and the original doctrine was beginning to be excluded from the official debate.  Didn’t Jesus warn his disciples: “Ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake?” (Matthew 10:22, 24:9,Mark 13:13, Luke 21:17)

Though it is impossible for both ideas to be right (i.e., baptizing exclusively in the name of Jesus vs. baptizing in the titles Father, Son, and Holy Ghost), they were put forth to believers, first perhaps as being equal, then as the trinitarian formula being superior, somehow, to the “only name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved”, Jesus (Acts 4:11-12).  Though there is much to be said on the formula for baptism and the understanding of God as One, notice what happened in history around the time the relatively new doctrine was adopted as the official one at the First Council of Nicaea, in 325 A.D. The Great Persecution of the church, under the Roman Empire, ceased around that time. The Council had been convened by the Roman Emperor Constantine, with the stated intention of bringing “unity” to the church.  The doctrine of One God whose name is Jesus, (called “modalism” by theologians) was outlawed, and documents supporting it destroyed. It continued to be reported on from time to time by opponents continuing to work to stamp it out. 

Is it uncomfortable to think that banning baptism in the name of Jesus, in favor of one that leaves out the only saving Name, was the price paid by the powerful Early Church and its descendents, for being relieved of persecution?  Not all of them took this option, of course, but the records of their history is sparse, as noted above. Is it odd at all to you to believe that the actions of the Apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts were supposed to be overridden by later theologians? Does it seem most likely that what God really meant by the Great Commission was not truly discovered until 200-300 years after Calvary? Or does it seem possible that this is a duplicated “rod-serpent”, put forth to distract from the original?

Does the idea that the basic theology of your church, if it does not insist on baptism in Jesus’ name exclusively, and the teaching of God as One, and not a trinity, descended from this act (which essentially instituted the Catholic church as we know it)? It is incredible for you to believe that your Enemy could have pulled off an illusion of this proportion on modern society, to the point that good people fight against the original doctrine of the Apostles (or at least bristle at the suggestion that it should now be taught and followed exclusively)? If so, then you have seriously, and perhaps tragically, underestimated your Enemy.

So your basis for being sure you are right, and this is wrong, is the fact that you feel so strongly about what you’re doing, and are surrounded by others who are the same.  Is that a safe basis for being sure the doctrine of the Apostles is no longer the only doctrine safe to base your eternity on?  Can I share with you that I have friends and former co-workers who are just as adamant about their conversions to Mormon theology and the Jehovah’s Witnesses as I am to what I say and as you are to what you say?  They are faithful to what they believe and recount with excitement their conversions to what most readers of this blog — whether they share its theology or not — would consider false doctrine. I realize they teach a different view of Jesus and hell and other things than mainline denominations, but they are sincere and are good people, the same argument many use to justify their unwillingness to change or investigate the scriptures behind the One God theology.

An ever-evolving threat

Shortly after the birth of my daughter, the fear of potential harm caused me to pack a bag and leave the home I’d rented for a number years in the hands of the husband who had joined me there, just three years before.  Most of the possessions that meant anything to me were necessarily left behind.  As the separation became prolonged, and legal options for protection led to the unsavory process of divorce, several people questioned the safety of my things still quartered where an angry and unpredictable man was dwelling.  I confidently replied that what I knew of him was that he of all things was not a thief, and I truly believed with his other considerable deeds and potential ones that his pride would not lead him to taking what was not his.  You learn a lot about someone during a divorce.  Once a court decree finally restored those things to me, some of them that I treasured most were marred permanently from being hid in a location somewhere that exposed them to moisture. I had grievously underestimated one who should not have been, but had become, my enemy.

People often cling to a belief that is being challenged, because of their not being sure of the alternative.  They are somewhat comfortable with what they know, even when it does not fully fit the facts presented. Often, someone becomes interested in seeking a change, or more truth, for a time, but are unsure of where to safely inquire about it. That is a real concern.  Every flavor of “Pentecost” that Satan can dream up and is still dreaming up, has been evolving for nearly two thousand years: those who seem to worship as Pentecostals, but still teach a trinitarian form of baptism; those who teach Baptism in Jesus name, though not exclusively, and with no standard of separation from the world; and those who teach the doctrine and a standard of separation, but have no true balance, no joy, or have been affected by the tares Jesus spoke of, to the point that people are made merchandise of, and those who associate with their churches are left bitter toward even the real, true church, should they find one. But there are still those that have the power of the Holy Ghost flowing in them, with sincere and unpretentious worship, and  alignment with the commandments of the Apostles to baptize in the name of the One who bought our salvation with His blood.

Know the real

You know –if you’ve read the Book of Acts–that teachings of the Early Church are different from your own, if you’re part of a religious group that insists on the trinitarian formula for baptism.  Two thousand years’ worth of theologians’ reasons why this shouldn’t bother you have been thrown at you up to this point. But make no mistake: day after day, someone is being taught a Bible study about the foundations of the Apostles’ doctrine and why it applies today, and is seeing that they were misled by their denominational teaching up to that point. If you feel any curiosity at all about what you’ve read, and if you’ve never had someone who believes that baptism in Jesus’ Name is the only saving message, and who lives a life that you could point to as being separated from the world, and possessing the power that God intended for the church to have, to sit down with scriptures and show you what they base that belief on, you owe it to yourself to seek that out. 

You may contact me through the Comments section of this blog, the Contact tab of this website, email me at SusanJenkinsMS@gmail.com, or visit our church, First Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ in Bay Springs, (www.fpcbaysprings.com)  if you’re in this local area.  I challenge you to size up your Enemy, and make sure he hasn’t pulled you in with one of the oldest tricks in his book.

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THE MAGI AND THE GIFT

The journey…
We traveled far — led by a Star — from a land hungry for light,
To find the infant Hebrew King, whose glory rose so bright.
Gifts we’d chosen just for him – treasures of our land.
How could we think to see his face with only empty hands?
We’d brought him gold and frankincense – gifts of noble worth.
But the question gnawing in my heart was, “Why did we bring myrrh?”

“The gold I bring is fit for a king who’d reign o’er all the earth.
A sacrifice with frankincense proclaims his royal worth.
But myrrh is death’s anointing oil, though we’ve come to welcome new life.
How could sorrow’s pain be felt, this blessed joyous night?”

The meeting…
One look into the young child’s eyes – I knew three gifts would not suffice.
There’d have to be a sacrifice, for a wretched heart like mine…

“The gold we bring is fit for the King who’ll reign o’er all the earth!
A sacrifice with frankincense proclaims His Holy birth.
Still, myrrh is death’s anointing oil – such a gift, to welcome this child!
Yet is it sorrow’s pain I see, shining through his smile?”

The outcome…
But all of that was long ago, and now I have grown frail and old.
I’ve wondered often how the story’d go, and what the end would be.
Then today a man preached in our land how Jesus lived, and died, and rose again;
Ascended high to send to men, the Holy Ghost so free.
How a cruel cross once raised, became a symbol of men’s faith,
And myrrh on clothes left in a grave, said we can all go free!
Then I repented of my sins, washed in His name I’m cleansed within.
I lift my hands to welcome in, this Gift He sent to me!

The glory…
My praise I bring to worship the King, who reigns o’er all the earth!
The sacrifices of my lips – proclaim His Holy worth!
Death to myself was the only way, my soul could welcome new life!
Sorrow’s pain has turned to joy, like darkness in to light!
My darkness into light…
Our darkness into LIGHT!

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