JREnsey blog for December 2018.

Welcome! Get something hot to drink, prop your feet up and let’s visit.

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The Word for Today

“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail” (Luke 1:26-37 NLT).

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Digging for doctrine in the Gospels?

If going to the Gospels alone for salvation and Christian living directives is your way, you may be on shaky ground. Can’t truth be found in the Gospels? Sure, whatever is there is truth…but what truth and for whom?

I just read a popular Internet blog that featured an article about the non-essentiality of baptism. Now that is a doctrinal issue. So what did he base his conclusion on that proves it is an optional rite? He went to the Gospels and found a couple of stories that settled the issue for him. The beggar in Luke 16 did not have to be baptized before he was ushered directly into Abraham’s bosom at death. And the old standby—the thief on the cross could not be baptized at that point, but Jesus saved him anyway.

Wow. Deep exegesis, huh? Evidently the poor theologian, which he passes himself off as, has never read past the Gospels, and perhaps not all of them. He apparently doesn’t know that just because the stories were found in the NT, doesn’t mean that they comprise the body of doctrinal truth that redeems us Gentiles in the present church age. But he is not alone; it is a common position. I am submitting the following theory for discussion. Check it out and let me know if I am on solid theological ground or out in left field. Your comments or alternative views are welcome.

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Let’s discuss:

Jesus and social justice in the Gospels

Many nominal Christians feel that the four Gospels are all we need to follow as Christians. If people live by the original words of Jesus only, will they not be saved? Do the books of the Bible that precede and follow the Gospels contain information essential for our eternal salvation?

The importance of the Gospels

We need the Gospels to unpack the eternal plan and the purposes of God. Without them, Christians would not have a foundation for our faith. They inform us of the identity of Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity. They tell us the most important things He said and did, and why He came.

Matthew’s Gospel was primarily directed toward the Jews. Mark introduced us to a miraculous Christ, and leaned his pen in the direction of the Romans. Luke seemed to aim his words primarily at the Gentiles and John peered through the gates of Heaven to give us an up-close view of the One who came to save us.

In general, Christ’s hearers were instructed to place their faith in Him as Messiah, God’s anointed Son (Matthew 17:5). The narratives of the Gospels inform us of God’s love for the world (John 3:16) and that God wants all men everywhere—not merely Jews—to know how to be saved (Luke 24:45-47). His disciples were sent into all the world to preach the Gospel (tell the “good news”) of Christ’s substitutionary death for them (Matthew 28:19,20).

What the Gospels don’t tell us

In the Gospels, we are informed of the sinless blood Jesus shed for all people on Calvary, but the substitutionary aspect is not fully fleshed out. Faith and obedience will allow it to wash away our sins—if we know how to exercise our faith and what directives we are to obey. That is not spelled out in the clearest way in the four Gospels. The narratives end with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, followed by His visits with and instructions to the apostles before His ascension to Heaven. Now what?

One disciple had been told personally that he must be born again (John 3:3-7). He was left with only a vague idea of how to assimilate that experience. How does it happen?

Perhaps we need to cease searching in the Gospels alone for the plan of salvation. It is a frustrating search for specifics of personal redemption. We have the story of Him who died to provide that salvation, but the details of how we Gentiles get grafted into the tree of salvation are not found there. Jesus is basically teaching in the context of eliciting repentance and reformation from the Jews and motivating them to accept Him as their Messiah. Having said that, it is obvious that there are some good moral and ethical principles expressed in the Gospels. But if one is looking for how to be saved and live an overcoming lifestyle in this age, it won’t be found in a fully developed measure in the Gospels.

That is why He told the disciples to go to Jerusalem and wait for “the promise of my Father” (Luke 24:49). Joining the light that comes with the baptism of the Spirit to the opening of their minds to the prophetic meaning of the Old Testament (Luke 24:45), it became crystal clear what Christianity was all about. Now we could get it directly from those who had been on both sides of the issues—the seekers and the finders.

Social aspects of the Gospels

The social message of the Gospels was aimed at those to whom Christ came—the Jews (John 1:11). It was part and parcel of their theocratic government, not just their religion. Christianity, however, is not a social construct. It is not entwined with…. ….to continue reading this article, click here

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A Christmas thought

Nature Abhors A Vacuum

J. R. Ensey

We all know that in nature there is an aversion to empty spaces. When space is vacated, something—seen or unseen—invariably moves in. About 2,365 years ago, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said it like this: “Nature abhors a vacuum.” Vacuum is Latin for “empty.” Emptiness begs filling.

To illustrate, merely blow air into a paper bag and watch it expand. Suck the air out and it collapses. In my Jr. High science class, we learned that air has weight and pressure. If you remove the air from a thin metal can, it

will collapse because the external air pressure is stronger than the metal can is able to withstand without the same air being on the inside. Water pumps operate the vacuum principle—remove the air above the water level and it rises.

In the oceans of the world, there are billions of sea creatures and many of them are looking for a home, a protected place to which they can retreat when predators are around. When a mollusk or other sea animal that builds a shell around itself dies, leaving the shell empty, another creature such as a hermit crab is likely to move in and make it his home.

Nature indeed abhors a vacuum, even in politicians’ heads. When common sense moves out, fatuity and corruption move in. Remove God and the Bible from public institutions and secular humanism steps right in.

Jesus added a spiritual dimension to the theory, explaining the principle this way: “When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first” (Luke 11:24-26).

The last two hundred years of Old Testament prophetic ministry—from Daniel to Malachi—were marked by dramatic nation-changing predictions. Each would come to pass as foretold, and some are yet unfolding as this is being written.

After Malachi’s final words, silence fell upon the Hebrew nation, forming a huge hole in their history. No voice from God or prophet would be heard for 400 years.

Even when God is silent, men are not. Into this vacuum rode Alexander the Great, the Macedonian conqueror who by war would subdue a string of nations from Greece to Africa and India. History sides with the Genesis record to reveal that without the consciousness of God, men are innately violent. It was the consistent expression of this violence that motivated God to cleanse the earth by the Flood of Noah.

While Alexander was out conquering the rest of the world that was known to him, back home the age of the great philosophers had eased into this vacuum of history. Socrates had set the stage for Plato and Aristotle to expound both their sense and nonsense. It was then that Aristotle observed the truism horror vacui—“nature abhors a vacuum.” Without God in the equation, pagan minds will sit as judges in the high courts of men. You can look for Caesars and Herods to rise up when the prophets are gone.

Among the Hebrews, it was not much different. Wars were fought, won and lost, during the Maccabbean era. Didn’t Plato intone that sad connotation of the human family that “only the dead have seen the end of war”? The prophetic vacuum had sucked the life out of the last vestige of Jewish unity. They fractured into parties—Pharisees, Sadducees, and Essenes. Zealots, terrorists who bedeviled the Romans, formed yet another faction. After a fashion, they together substituted for prophets. Rabbis and synagogues largely replaced the old customs of the Temple and priesthood. Leaderless, the vulnerable Jews had been overrun and were under the Roman heel.

When the Daniels are no longer praying at their windows, and young men who won’t bow to idols, even in the face of fire, are no longer prominent, we can expect warmongers, violent men, and philosophers to replace them. When monotheism and the worship of Yahweh wanes, Hellenization and idolatry will fill the vacuum. Substitutes will be everywhere for the real. When traditional activities ordained by God are suppressed, something else shifts into their place. Carnality replaces godliness. Homogeneity succumbs to diversity. Holiness is reconstituted as moderation. True spirituality devolves into superstition or secular psychology. When Bible reading and devotions in the home are discontinued, Hollywood marches in.

The apostle Paul, with one eye on history and another on the future, said this: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world…” (Colossians 2:8). He knew these elements would move right into the vacuum in the believer’s life made by the exit of truth and righteousness. This was the sad story of the Hebrew nation.

But suddenly there appeared a star in the East, a sign in the heavens seen by those who were watching and waiting. Almost simultaneously in Israel, a young Jewess had a heavenly visitor who broke the silence from heaven with an unusual message: “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:30-31). Mary, this young woman who had never known a man, suddenly realized that she was expecting a baby. Months later, above a humble setting near Bethlehem, a host of angels appeared as a choir, singing a welcome to a baby on that first Christmas, a newborn who was destined to become the Prophet of prophets, a King of kings, and Lord of lords—Jesus the Christ, God in human form.

In Jerusalem, the devout and aged Simeon who had been waiting for many years for the Messiah to appear (Luke 2:25), felt a stirring in his soul. His excitement bore tears when he saw Mary and Joseph step into the Temple with Jesus. As he graciously performed the duties of the priest, he said, “Lord, I can now depart in peace for mine eyes have seen your salvation” (Luke 2:30). At that moment an elderly prophetess, Anna by name, came in and seeing Jesus, began to give thanks to God for sending “the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38) into the world. She knew.

Silence no more. The song of the angels, the first cry of Mary’s babe, and the wise words of Simeon and Anna had begun to fill the vacuum. A Savior, Jesus—the Lord from Heaven—had come on the scene. He would be introduced by His cousin, John, as “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He would heal sick folk, lift the poor and needy, speak of eternal life, and ultimately give His life on Calvary that Gentiles like you and me could be ushered into His salvation covenant and kingdom.

Someday, the knowledge of Him “who is God over all” (Romans 9:5 ESV) will fill the earth, the sea and sky. It is said of Him who “filleth all in all” (Ephesians 1:23) and leaves no vacuum, that “of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:33).

Let it come soon, Lord.

Amen.

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Finger pointing can be self-immolating

Some wise guy, likely a 90-day wonder fresh out of one of the many universities in the northeast, posted an attack on Franklin Graham (Billy’s son) and his ministry called the Samaritan’s Purse. He condemned him for spending so much money and time in Africa and other places while overlooking some social issues here in America. Here’s part of what he said:

Brother Franklin: you need to read your Bible better. The sooner you do, the more and better work you can do in Africa and elsewhere with Samaritan’s Purse. We need your time focused not only on poverty but in addressing America’s original sin of racism. We need all you got for those fights. It’s time to end the culture wars and fully focus on the war against poverty, racism and injustice in our world.

Now FG and I are not on the same page theologically, but he has poured a lot of money and man hours into helping others lift themselves out of a pit of squalor and debauchery overseas. It is the shallowness of thought and their ignorance of history that is so appalling about the current generation.

“America’s original sin?” He is probably proud of that line, doubtless regurgitated from a classroom lecture on slavery. He called it racism, the “in” word at this point in time, and likely thought he had struck a vein of rhetorical gold. Without denying the reality that some individuals of all races may show residual signs of that evil, why can’t he and his ilk move toward social healing and admit that “America” corporately has indeed addressed that practice—outlawing it 156 years ago and legislating against it many times since then.

His words make me wonder if the transgressions he committed in his youth—that all kids and teens have—should still be held against him. Should his mother disown him now for the cookies he took from the jar without permission when he was five? Or the soft drink he snitched from the convenience store at eleven? Or the lie he told his middle school teacher about the dog eating his homework? Or the time he snuck into the circus without paying? I say until he has publicly paid for his “original sins” by making public confessions to his parents for the cookies, paying Barnum and Bailey back for the circus ticket, finding the teacher to whom he lied and offering an apology, and performing 90 hours of public service, he should drop the “original” line. But since he called himself a preacher and references the Bible, I will assume he has at some point in time found forgiveness for such peccadilloes. If so, let America enjoy that same freedom of forgiveness without painting the entire nation with a broad brush of guilt.

And before we accuse everyone else of racism, perhaps we ought to identify it more carefully and see who are the worst offenders. We might be surprised. As Pogo said long ago, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” And if the writer thinks he is going to eliminate poverty and injustice in this fallen world while condemning everyone around him as guilty for their existence, he missed the lecture on Realities at college.

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An answer for Obama

In response to Trump’s claim that he would get the economy moving ahead and bring jobs back from overseas, former president Obama asked, “What’s he gonna do? What magic wand does he have?” Not a wand, sir, it is called a backbone, something you never had.

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One liners seen on signs

Turning vegan would be a big missed steak.

For chemists, alcohol is not a problem, it’s a solution.

Despite the high cost of living, it remains popular.

Breaking: Cow stumbles into pot field; the steaks have never been higher.

Crushing pop cans is soda pressing.

He who laughs last didn’t get it.

Big shout out to my fingers! I can always count on them.

Irony: the opposite of wrinkly.

I tried to grab the fog but I mist.

I’m friends with 25 letters of the alphabet; I don’t know Y.

Well, to be Frank, I’d have to change my name.

Dogs can’t operate MRI scanners, but catscan.

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It’s OK to laugh…or cry.

Advice from S. Florida: Try to be late counting this week’s offering at church. You may wind up with more money.

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Next month:

“A plea to the aspiring sons of pastors”

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Thanks for visiting today. Feel free to leave your comments.
Have a wonderful Christmas enjoying your family and perhaps some special fixin’s. May the peace of God rule in your heart and home this Christmas season.

JREnsey

Published in: on December 1, 2018 at 1:19 AM  Leave a Comment  

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