Sorry for the lack of blogs lately. I have been dealing with the aftermath of the church fire, extra people in my house, and a barrage of other stuff that has had me a bit distracted. Through it all, God has been in touch with me, mainly through Twitter and Facebook, but sometimes right in my face. I thought that I could share a few things that He showed me.
He is in the stuff that I find irritating. I know that this may sound as if I am saying that God is irritating, and I am not. I do get rather flustered with Him from time to time because He refuses to let me be in charge or He lets me and everything gets all messed up. But, God is in the stuff that has been irritating me in some really cool ways.
I love my grandkids and I love the kids in my church. But kids irritate me. Unlike my wife who is a kid addict, I can only tolerate kids in small amounts and in short bursts. So with the fire at our church rendering our children’s area unusable, the kids have been coming into the adult worship area while I am preaching. The result; several of them have accepted Jesus as their Savior and I got to baptize 5 of them in the last two weeks. Many of them have come up to me and told me with all the excitement of a little child about how cool it was and thanked me for it. WOW! God is all in that irritation.
Lately I have been trying to do more with my grandkids, especially my oldest grandson who is 7. He lives with his dad and mom and a bunch of girls, and girls are trouble, we all know that. His dad works rotating shifts and does not get to take part in things like scouts and a lot of weekend stuff, so I am trying to fill in. In the past few months I have been to three camping events with him and slept in a tent and gone without a shower and fed him more junk food than he should have ever been allowed to eat.
I also took him to a Gamecock football game this weekend. There is about an hour drive to the stadium from my house and to help keep him entertained, I took the wife’s tablet so he could play games. I find it hard to have meaningful conversation with a 7-year-old for more than a couple of minutes, much less for an hour. Guess what? The tablet was not charged. So for an hour, we talked. Did you know that a 7-year-old can talk continuously for 15 minutes without stopping or even breathing? And I learned that I could throw a Chees-it and hit him in the mouth while I was driving but can’t catch one when he throws it. I also learned that if you slowed down beside the semi truck while he pumped his fist, that after several miles, even the toughest truck driver will eventually blow his horn.
I love to watch the Gamecocks play. Having a 7-year-old with you limits that ability. But when it is really cold and the wind is blowing hard and you told the kid to leave his jacket in the truck because you were not taking yours, kids can be an excellent heat source. So he sat in my lap most of the game and that was a great way to talk about the game, and eat pizza at the same time. And because it was military appreciation day, I got to tell him how God allowed us to be free to do what we are doing because of their service. Then to hear him say, ” God wanted us to be here today” was the icing on the cake.
I came home that night to find my 1-year-old grandson there. He will be staying with us for a few days. I don’t get to see him that often because his parents live a couple of hours away. But when I walked in, he ran to me. I tried to run away, but God wanted him to hug me and kiss me. I get really irritated when slobbery little kids try to kiss me, especially when I am not ready and they kiss me in the mouth. (gag). I am not sure why I felt the overwhelming presence of God at that time, but I did.
And finally, the fire at the church. What a pain. But I have met some really awesome people who are working to clean up the mess. I have talked to them about our church, invited them to attend, and had several tell me that they will come. My church folks have been amazingly understanding about the inconvenience and have stepped up in more ways than I can count to make this really irritating circumstance more than bearable.
God has really been in the middle of this most irritating time. He has been the peace when things are hectic. He has been the wisdom when things are crazy. He has been the love when I felt like I did not want to love or be loved. But I don’t know why I am surprised. He promised that He would never leave me or forsake me. He never lies and never disappoints. He gives me so many reasons to be thankful and just in time for Thanksgiving. What an awesome God I serve!
Sorry for the lack of blogs lately. I have been dealing with the aftermath of the church fire, extra people in my house, and a barrage of other stuff that has had me a bit distracted. Through it all, God has been in touch with me, mainly through Twitter and Facebook, but sometimes right in my face. I thought that I could share a few things that He showed me.
The first lady had some guilt to lay on Olympic gold medalist, Gabby Douglas for eating at McD’s after winning gold in England. Gabby is the picture of health and while Ms. Obama is no cow, she certainly doesn’t look like she has avoided Big Macs all her life either. But I am not gonna talk about that. I want to talk about the gold.
This year’s Olympic gold medal is composed of 92.5 percent silver, just 1.34 percent gold, and the remainder 6.16 percent is made up of copper and is worth about $650.00. I was disappointed when I learned this. I thought it was pure gold. Sure, if it were it would be worth a lot more and there would be a greater risk of theft, but wow, only 1.34% gold? Currently gold is going for about $1600.00 per ounce, so weighing about 400 grams or, 14 ounces, that would be a lot of money, about $22,000.00 or so if it were solid gold.
I would think that an Olympic medal of any sort would be worth more than anyone could pay me if I had won it. It would be like winning the Superbowl and getting one of those rings. I don’t know if you have ever seen one, but wow, they are a lot of bling! But did you know that many people who have one these things have sold them? I know because I watch Pawn Stars and they have stuff like that come in all the time.
I like money. I would like to have more of it and will gladly take any extra that you may not want. You can contact me via my church website, http://www.thebodylive.com if you would like to send me money. But I have grown to know that money, as nice to have as it is, does not make you truly happy. Family, friends, and faith work best for that. Faith in Jesus Christ as Savior is a great source of happiness and more specifically, joy. Jesus said that we should not spend all of our time on earth storing up treasure here, but that we should store up things in heaven that really make a difference for eternity.
Jesus was and is not anti money. He did say that people who love money had a problem. They tend to rely more on their riches than on Jesus. Jesus knew that money was not important in heaven but was very useful on earth when we keep things in the proper perspective. But once we leave this world, money and gold and rings and stuff like that stay here and are absolutely worthless to those who die.
There is a joke I heard long ago about gold and its value in heaven. A rich man died and asked if he could take a bag of his gold to heaven. When he got permission to take it and was walking around the streets of heaven, he noticed that all the angels were laughing at him. When he asked his friend who had been there a while, why the angels were laughing at him, his friend told him that they thought it was funny that he was carrying a bag of pavement around like it was something valuable.
What is valuable in heaven? YOU are! Your soul and the souls of every human being are so valuable to God that He allowed Jesus to die for us on a cross so that we may live with Him in heaven. When we forget that things of this world are only temporary and focus on riches here, it is then possible that we miss out on what God has in store for us. Our eternal life is that important to God. He loves us. He made a way for all who believe and ask for forgiveness to receive eternal life and a place in heaven.
I don’t know if the streets in heaven are really made of gold. I think it is far more valuable than we can imagine and it will not be our focus when we get there. I know that here on earth how we treat others with what we have is far more valuable than the stuff we have. If we put stuff above the lives of others, we miss out on true happiness and become self-centered and ultimately self-condemned. Love is something to give away, not to waste on one’s self. Marriages don’t work unless you love your spouse at least as much as you love yourself. Giving love to your child is far more important than teaching a child to love himself. God loves us so much that He gave so that we may have eternal life. God’s love is given to us so that we can give it away to others.
As for Gabby Douglas, she knows that value of a gold medal. She also knows that there is something far more valuable, and that is knowing Jesus and God’s love. And something in me says that after training for the Olympics for as long as she did, that the Big Mac she ate after it was over was pretty valuable too. Winning gold can only sustain you for little while, after that, you need something more.
I love, absolutely love, being a pastor. I get to see people grow and change and learn to be servants. I get to share God’s love with people and see the fruits of my labor. I have been blessed to have a church full of people who are passionate about what has happened to them and are sharing it with others. Even when I think that I want to pull my hair out, and for those who know me, that means things are really stressful and weird, I still love what I do.
This past few weeks has been both stressful and weird. On top of funerals, surgeries, and the other everyday stuff a pastor can deal with, I have been dealing with getting use to having an international student in my house. He is a great kid, so far, and I will get used to having a teenager in my house again, I hope, but this is quite an adjustment for me. I am a creature of habit and don’t mind having a routine that rarely changes. When it does, I have to think that God is trying to teach me something, or, He has decided to show me a sick sense of humor.
In the last couple of weeks I have had a few people tell me the they think that God wants them to leave our church. Before some of you panic, this is not uncommon. I think about leaving at least three of four times a week, and that is in a good week. The reason people tell me that God may want them to leave our church is because they feel like they are not getting along with someone or that things are changing and they don’t like it. I want to address those two reasons for a minute.
First, if there are people who you are not getting along with, consider that God may want you to change something about you, like patience, instead of changing churches, after all, love is patient. Sure I know that most of you are perfect and have no need for change in your own lives, but there are a few who need to learn that God often puts us around people who are different to get us to love those who we don’t like. Luke 6:27, But I tell everyone who is listening: Love your enemies. Be kind to those who hate you. If you are attending a church in hopes of liking everyone you are going to be disappointed. Our command is to love people, not like them. Being the new kid on the block only lasts for a while and then reality sets in. You will find people who disagree and maybe even disappoint you. Those are the ones who challenge you to be more like Jesus, who by the way, does not like everything we do either, yet still loves us. We are not put into the church to be liked or to like everyone. We are put here to serve God and bring Him glory. I am sure glad Jesus did not walk away when He found out someone did not like Him.
Second, is the change thing. Change is always going to make some people uncomfortable. But think about this; if nothing ever changes in church, people are not getting to know Jesus. I would like to offer this suggestion. Rather than getting upset about change, get upset about the status quo. Get upset when you do the same thing week in and week out and never get comfortable with the way things are. The Pharisees got upset because Jesus changed the way they had always done things. Those were the religious guys and the ones who the church way to often resembles. Yet it was their lack of change that had Jesus nailed to the cross. I am very glad that Jesus changed things or I would still be headed to hell. Change is a good thing. Perhaps instead of leaving to find a church that stays the same, you should look and see if it is you that needs to change. I know that I have to evaluate how to change on a daily basis.
Changing the church you attend is often needed. I am not so naive as to think that everyone should stay in the same place all the time. I have changed churches a few times myself. I did know that there was a specific purpose for my change and that it was God that wanted me to go elsewhere and not my own pride or selfishness. But to change churches for the two reasons above is often just that, prideful and selfish. Solving problems instead of running from them helps us to grow and to understand the heart of God better.
If you need to go, I give you my blessing. You will know it is God when you have complete peace about it and can tell anyone who asks the reason without fear or confusion. Fear and confusion are not from God. The very best servants of God, like Paul and Barnabas, left churches to serve elsewhere. Sometimes the best are needed somewhere else to help others grow. That is part of God’s plan and design and I am all for that.
Meanwhile, don’t let Satan cause you to leave where God is working, and He is working at our church. People are coming to know Jesus as Savior every week and others are growing and learning to serve others to help them be more like Christ. Satan is a liar and a punk. He loves complacent churches where nothing ever changes and people rarely get saved. He loves it when we get focused on ourselves and forget that we should be helping others. Jesus said that in this world we would have trouble. He said that people would dislike us and that we should never grow weary of doing what is right. Doing what is right is not always easy. Doing what is wrong often is. Think about it.
Four of us left out Saturday morning on our motorcycles for Washington DC to participate in the 25th Rolling Thunder, Memorial Day Parade of Motorcycles. This was my third time going and another guy’s 17th and the other two of them were going for the first time. It is impossible to describe what it is like to be in the Pentagon parking lot with one million motorcycles and their riders and passengers. We left out for our 410 mile ride to DC with anticipation of having some great fellowship and hopefully sharing Jesus with someone while we were there. At the end of our ride we were looking forward to a meal and a good night’s rest before the parade on Sunday.
Sunday morning we headed over to the Pentagon at 8am. When we arrived the lines of bikes stretched for what seemed like miles. We finally made it in to the parking area where over half of the parking lot was already full. It was barely 8:30am and the parade did not start until noon. So we got off our bikes and began taking pictures and talking to others who were parked beside and around us. We met people from all over the country and Canada and Australia. I don’t think the Australians rode their bikes there.
At twelve noon we hear the roar of motorcycles as the parade through the historic DC areas began. Bike after bike rolled out and the sound of the motors was like the name inferred, rolling thunder. After an hour and forty minutes of bikes leaving the parking lot, it was finally time to crank ours and head out through the parade route. Then another 20 minutes passed and the route came to an end. So we parked the bikes and did the tourist thing, looking at the different monuments and allowing the rich history of our country to sink in. After about two hours of sightseeing, the parade was about over. Motorcycles were finally ending the continuous flow from the Pentagon through the parade route. It was an incredible thing to be a part of.
All of this was incredible to see and hear and be a part of. The patriotism and fellowship with other veterans and the memories of those who sacrificed their lives for our freedom was worth it all. But that was not the most amazing thing that happened.
Out of the millions of people who were there that day, we met one fellow who seemed to be quite lonely. After an introduction and a short talk, he was asked about his thoughts on who Jesus Christ is. He did not know the answer but said he would be happy to hear anything that would offer him hope. He was told about the man who died for the freedom of humanity and the sins of the world. He appreciated the concept and related to what Jesus did. After a few more minutes of talking he asked to receive Jesus as his Savior.
Jesus was more than a one in a million. He is the only one who could do what He did on the cross. But He did it so that he could make a difference to anyone who would believe, even if you are the one in a million in the Pentagon parking lot for a parade on Memorial day.
This is another topic suggested by some of you when I asked for new blog ideas. What is that old saying? Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it. Any way, I got it and will try to enlighten. Can anyone sense a chance for controversy or maybe dry humor? The complete suggestion was about demon possession and oppression. Because those words are long and difficult for me to type, I will blog about what I think you need to know about demons.
I guess the first question to answer is do I believe in demons. The answer is yes. I raised three children and each one of them were evil. (Right about now, many are gasping at my cruelty…get over it) I believe in demons like most people do to one degree or another. I think more people believe in evil spirits than a God. Just look at stories through generations of humanity and how there has always been evil spirits in them. Most cultures have evil spirits that are blamed for what goes wrong. Ancient tribes in Africa and the Amazon, native American, and Island tribes all give place to evil spirits. Hollywood has always used evil spirits as plots to movies and today’s television programs are full of supernatural evil beings.
That is not why I believe in them. I believe in them because I believe in Jesus Christ and He believed in them. He did not just believe in them but He conquered them. He warned Christians against an ever-present battle between good and evil. What I find most funny is that when Christians start talking about evil spirits we are wacky but when someone says that they can speak to the dead, good and evil, they are deemed psychic and can even help solve crimes. People criticize Christians for believing in a Bible that claims the existence of good and evil but will flock to the theaters to see a movie about the same.
The Bible speaks clearly about demons being fallen angels and Satan being the leader. It talks about humans being overtaken by these demons and their every action controlled by them. It speaks of those who do not believe in God and Jesus being possessed to the point of their very souls being owned by them. It tells of people who are freed from this control but never totally surrendering to God and therefore being overtaken again. It tells us that Christians can yield their well-being to evil spirits and live in an oppressed state of being.
Possession has been glamorize by Hollywood. The Exorcism is a reminder of how enthralled we can be over such things. But it puts the emphasis on a man called a priest to free the girl from the demon and the emphasis should be on Jesus. Only He can free someone who is controlled by demons. Yes, He has given believers authority to cast out demons, but it is only under His power that we can do so and you don’t have to be a Catholic priest to do so.
Oppression is when a Christian does not yield to the Spirit of God and opens themselves up to control by evil spirits. I personally believe that once you are the child of God you can never be possessed by anyone other than God. But I also believe that God will allow us to be oppressed by evil if we are disobedient. (1 Corinthians 5:5- hand such a person over to Satan to destroy his corrupt nature so that his spiritual nature may be saved on the day of the Lord.) But I believe this oppression can be defeated by something as simple as repentance.
Either way you slice it, demons are not to be taken lightly. If you do not believe in God, they will twist your head around on your body and make you puke green stuff. If you do believe in God they will make you disobedient to God. Most importantly, they want to keep you from knowing Jesus Christ as your Savior. They want you to go to Hell. God does not.
I was reading through the Apostle Paul’s 2nd letter to the church in Corinth. This was an amazing dude. He was either absolutely a lunatic or he knew something very special. In his first few paragraphs he writes that he was not discouraged with all that was happening to him. In short, he was imprisoned, put in a dungeon, beaten, and given a death sentence all for preaching about Jesus. On top of that, many of his friends and church people who he helped, often turned against him. Many openly doubted that he was really an apostle and the Jews thought that he was a traitor. Through all of this, he maintained a positive attitude toward what he was doing and over and over told people who it was worth it.
What kept this man so motivated? Most normal people would have given up and changed their mind about this new-found faith. As a pastor, I see new believers forsake their faith when tough times hit far too often. I think people have confused a relationship with God and what the Bible tells us with a fairy tale that says, and they all lived happily ever after. No where in the Bible does it say being a Christian would be easy and that no more hard times would ever come our way after we prayed for forgiveness. In fact, it is quite the opposite and Paul wrote about this in most of his letters.
What motivated Paul was his belief that what was on the other side of death was worth it. He believed Jesus when He said that in this world we will have troubles, but what awaited us after we died was a reward that could not be imagined by the human mind because it was so great. He also knew that every person that he was able to convince of this would not spend eternity in Hell, a place the he and Jesus were convinced was real, but the Heaven that they both believed in was far greater than anything this life had to offer and therefore the struggles here were worth it.
Paul knew of the crucifixion that Christ suffered and how brutal it was and that Christ died that horrible death for sinners like him and like me. He knew that Jesus was falsely accused, wrongly sentence and beaten and put to death, as well as rejected by friends and the Jews. Paul often wrote that he considered it an honor to suffer for the cause of Christ.
Now don’t misunderstand me, Paul had some awesome times and he wrote about them too. But his idea of a great time differed from what we would often think of as a great time. He got the chance to preach to kings and governors. He got a chance to see new churches start and become thriving examples of Christianity in cities where immorality was rampant. He saw young men and women leave behind false gods and idolatry and become workers for the cause of Christ. He saw thousands of people change their direction from one that leads to Hell to one that leads to eternity with God. He saw hope given to hopeless and believed that Jesus Christ Himself would greet him one day and say, “Well done, my good faithful servant”.
Yep, things in this life can get you down. It can be hard to cope with losing jobs, seeing loved ones get sick and die, have friends turn on you and face the fact that one day our own lives will come to an end. But we can be encouraged by that hope that Paul had. This hope is that God loves us. He loves us so much that He allowed Jesus to take our death and gives us eternal life when we ask for forgiveness. After that, He allows us to tell as many people as we can about this same hope and the chance of one day hearing those words of “well done” from a Savior who thought it worth the price of His own life so that we could know Him personally.
I was glad I read about Paul and his encouraging message. I was feeling a bit down today, you know, the hassles of living that make you feel blah from time to time. But then I was reminded of the hope that the Bible gives and the fact that this world is not my home. I am only a traveler through it and one day, I will see Jesus face to face. Now, I am not discouraged.
In our men’s Bible study last night we finished the Courageous study based on the movie Courageous. I was not thrilled about teaching it because I have not seen the movie and probably will not see it. I don’t like movies, even if I see them with my wife. But the study was not really the movie, but the life of Joshua and the courage he had to stay true to God. I love his story and his faithfulness.
At the end of the study we were told to read this: 1 Peter 3:15 But dedicate your lives to Christ as Lord. Always be ready to defend your confidence in God when anyone asks you to explain it. However, make your defense with gentleness and respect.
The challenge was to be courageous enough to share what God was doing in our lives on a regular basis. I love this verse and was thrilled when it was part of our closing for this study. The first thing it tells us is to dedicate our lives to Christ as Lord. Not to a Savior, although He is, but to a Lord. That means a master or ruler. We rarely have a problem submitting to authority. Sure there are a few folks who do, but your average person has no problems following the rules. If a policeman tells us to do something we do it because they have authority over us in certain situations. We do what our boss at work says and expect to be rewarded for when we do a great job and for the consequences when we don’t. But for some reason when God says do something we find a million excuses why we shouldn’t. That is not faith and it certainly is not courageous faith.
Next we are told to be ready to defend our faith. It is hard to defend what you don’t put into practice.The sad reality is that most Christians like the Savior of Jesus but not the Lord. We would much rather do what feels right or good and leave the tough Christian stuff to the professionals. We argue that the Bible really doesn’t say what it says and listen to people who have no formal training in the Bible as if they were the experts. We don’t ask our pastor because He might tell us what we don’t want to hear. That leads to the next part of this verse which always makes me uneasy about my own obedience. It says that we should be defending our faith to those who ask. Are people asking you about your faith. Not your church, but how you are acting because you are acting on what God says even if you don’t understand it. I have faith in the chair I sit in. It never fails me, although it could. I don’t know how it was made, and could not make it myself, but I trust it will support me, not just based on what the manufacturer says, but on how people have sat in chairs for years and now me too. That is faith. An action base on real belief not a wish and a desire to go to heaven. If Christians did what the Bible said, and believed that the Bible was the words of our Lord, not just our Savior, we may have more people asking us about our faith in God not our opinion of what the preacher says or an opinion about a church.
It is also very hard to explain something that we don’t really believe or understand. That is usually because we have not tried to understand it. Years ago I began to learn how to scuba dive. Now I am very proficient at it and can explain about anything you want to know about it. I can tell you exactly what you need to do to become a diver and I believe in the training that I received to save my life and yours if you chose to follow me. But I did a lot of study and training before I actually dove and still refresh my mind in the basics every time I go diving. I ask lots of questions of my instructor and those who I dive with me who have more experience. I never go to someone who only tells me that diving is dangerous and never trust someone who tells me my instructor is wrong. That could get me killed. I want to know who and what I am putting trust for my life in to. Who are you trusting to learn the Bible? How much effort are you putting into learning it and living how God says to live and what God says to believe?
Finally it tells us to be gentle and respectful while defending our faith. This is hard when you don’t really know what you believe. But if you are confident and like Joshua, have trusted God time and time again and seen Him come through for you, you will be confident and be able to be gentle and respectful. There is a difference in being gentle and respectful and being pushed around because you aer weak in your faith. Jesus was a master at defending who He was and what He was teaching with amazing gentleness and respect. But He never let a religious nut mess with Him and teach something that was wrong. Jesus had courageous faith. Do you?
Christmas is a strange time of year. It is the time when most people are the most joyful, and at the same time it can be a time when they are at their lowest. It is a time of giving and receiving and spending time with family and friends. This is the time when we celebrate the birth of our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. I would like to share what I get to be a part of every year at my church and I will try to remain as humble as possible, but at the same time I am running over with pride.
We are a medium-sized church of about 150 people and this number changes, lately it has been increasing. We reach a unique group of people, mostly young families and people who do not fit the typical “churchy” crowd. Like their pastor, many of these have been turned off by religion at one time or another and even hurt by the politics that often ruins what church should be. But for whatever reason, God has seen fit to bring us together under the roof of a building and in a church family called The Body, A Church for Anybody.
With the economy being as bad as it is, we find ourselves in fellowship with several families that are struggling to make ends meet and because these are families with kids, it is a difficult time to celebrate Christmas when some may not be able to give gifts to their kids. Giving gifts is a custom of the season that allows us to escape the reality of hard times and focus on putting a smile on the face of children, but when you lose a job or income gets cut, it can be difficult to make this happen on your own. Without a second thought, the people in our church have taken to the spirit of giving and made sure that these kids smile on Christmas morning. There are 5 families that will be blessed by receiving, but probably 20 more that will be blessed by Christmas giving.
One family told me today that they sacrificed giving their adult children gifts, with those adult children’s blessings, in order to provide for another family with children who still live at home. They took the $100 that they would normally spend for those gifts and bought for someone else. Today I was told that they received an unexpected bonus from work that doubled that amount. You just can’t help but think that God was showing how much He likes Christmas giving too.
On Christmas day, we will gather for a morning worship and after church several of us are going out to a restaurant that is open to sing a Christmas Carol and give a gift to those who are working. As grateful as they must be to have a job, it has to be tough to work on Christmas day. So we have been collecting “tips” for about two months now for the purpose of giving to those who are waiting tables and serving others on Christmas day a bit of Christmas cheer that will hopefully make their Christmas sacrifice well worth it. We have chosen a restaurant that only has 5 or 6 people who are working that day and because of the generosity of the people in my church, each person who is working will receive a Christmas card with over $100 in it.
Again, it is hard to be humble when you talk about something that you are involved in, but I am blown away by the love of the people who I serve at this church and it does truly humble me to know them. They love others and show it through their actions and the biggest action this time of year is in their Christmas giving. I love it!!!
Quite often I will get questions about things that people read in the Bible that catch their eye, or perk their curiosity, and in some cases, even cause doubt. These are always great teaching opportunities and I always welcome these questions. Here is one I received the other day; When speaking of the crucifixion, I have heard songs that mention a tree, and others a cross and even the Bible uses these two terms. Why?
There are a couple of places that come to mind where the Bible uses the term tree for the crucifixion. Deuteronomy 21:22-23 (KJV)
22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:
23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the Lord thy God giveth thee for an inheritance.
Galatians 3:13 (KJV)
13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:
In both of these the word tree is translated from the Hebrew word in Deuteronomy, and the Greek word in Galatians, from a word that means timber, wood, or plank. That definition makes it pretty easy to clear up any confusions, seeing how the cross was definitely made of wood. Some modern translations use the word pole in place of tree. I think the confusion comes from what we know as a cross and a pole. Let me try to enlighten you.
There is some debate among biblical scholars about methods of crucifixion because of these words. Some think that people were hung on a single pole, with their hands directly overhead. There are some recorded instances of this method being used, but not so much in the area and time that Jesus was crucified in. But my opinion is that the traditional cross, with two pieces was used.
The crosses were stored unassembled. Just piles of wood or timber. Everyone knew they were there for the making of crosses, but until needed they were just poles or trees. No one in those times had any confusion about what was meant when a tree was mentioned in context with crucifixion. Much like today if I were talking about baseball and the batter put some wood on the ball, we would not think that he had a pine tree in his hand, but rather a baseball bat, even if the bat was aluminum.
Either way the crucifixion was a cruel and humiliating way to put someone to death. It was where our sins were put to death by our Savior Jesus Christ. He hung on the tree so that we didn’t have to. Have took our curse, and gave us forgiveness and eternal life. He was not left on the tree, He was put in a borrowed tomb and rose from the grave three days later. The tree or cross was only a way of displaying to the world that sin had been nailed to cross, left there when Christ’s body was taken away. I know you don’t see the sin when you see the cross, but that is because the blood of Jesus covered the sin of humanity.
And one last thing, the verse in Deuteronomy 21:23, that is listed above, is another reason that I say that believers should be buried and not cremated. It is part of the law and we were never told to stop obeying the law. God ahead, blast back at me if you want too.
If you have followed my blogs for any time you will know that I love baseball and college football. Specifically, my team in baseball is the Braves and in college football its the SC Gamecocks. This made for some tough times through that years because both teams had some really lousy years. But there have been some great years, like with the Braves making the play-offs for 13 years straight and the Gamecocks lately have at least been in the top 25 rankings. It is good to be able to say, “My team is winning!”.
This morning I was reading blog from Pastor Perry Noble of Newspring church in Anderson SC. It was about whether or not churches should keep track of numbers and even publicize them. He has been accused by many leaders in some mainstream denominations as being boastful. I think that they are just jealous.
You see last year, Newspring Church baptized more people than most of the largest 1st Baptist Churches in South Carolina combined. Now let me agree with something that Pastor Perry said, we need to celebrate even 1 person getting saved and following in believer’s baptism because heaven certainly does. But to be upset because a church is baptizing thousands is nothing but jealousy, in my opinion. I love Newspring church and what they are doing. It is fresh and alive and they are winning souls. Although my own church is still my favorite, I love to watch other churches kick the enemy’s butt!
The church needs to remain focused on what is important. That is not the fact that another church is larger than yours or reaching more people than yours, but rather that when any church reaches a person who accepts Christ as Savior, we all should rejoice. But because the local church is important to how Jesus told us to function as His Body, we need to have a deep passion for our own church and who we are reaching.
I think that we should be calling out the churches who are not reaching anybody for Christ instead of those who are reaching multitudes. Each year in my city alone there are churches who baptize no one. They don’t care and they mind the fact that they have not grown in years. This is not because there are no people around either, but a case of the old “us four and no more” mentality. These are the churches that if anyone should be upset, it should be them.
But every church has people in it who can make a difference. If you are in a church that is not or has not reached people in a while, that can all be changed by you. We have all seen the team that gets that one player who will not let the past losses stop them from playing to win. Even if the whole team refuses to play, you can win for Jesus. And when that happens you need to celebrate. If you give it your best and the church you attend continues to hold you back, leave and find a church that wants to keep score and wants to win.
I feel so blessed to be part of a local church who is playing to win. I want to be there every time that I can and wear its colors boldly. Yes, we have a church shirt designed that I wear like I wear my Gamecocks stuff. I proudly tell people of the great things that we are doing and that the reason we are doing them is because of Jesus. He gets the glory, the honor, the praise, because He gave us the victory. Whenever we lead another person to Jesus and they get baptized, I want Jesus to act like I act when the winning run is scored or points are put on the board. I want Jesus to say, “MY TEAM IS WINNING!”.