They Were Willing To Do The Impossible

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So all the men of Judah and Benjamin gathered at Jerusalem within three days. It was the ninth month, on the twentieth of the month; and all the people sat in the open square of the house of God, trembling because of this matter and because of heavy rain. Then Ezra the priest stood up and said to them, “You have transgressed and have taken pagan wives, adding to the guilt of Israel. Now therefore, make confession to the Lord God of your fathers, and do His will; separate yourselves from the peoples of the land, and from the pagan wives.” Then all the assembly answered and said with a loud voice, “Yes! As you have said, so we must do.” (Ezra 10:9-12)

They Were Willing To Do The Impossible

The bond of marriage is one of the most intense relationships known to man. Men and women are drawn to one another in a union of marital harmony for many reasons. In many countries, marriages are arranged by parents while in other places individuals make choices based on personal tastes or prerogatives. Generally speaking, marriage is an honorable occasion for two people to enjoy their lives together with happiness and contentment. Tragically, because of sin, God ordained various laws that impact the marriage. The intent of God from the beginning was one man and one woman for life. Sin defiled that purity. Under the Law of Moses, the people were forbidden to marry foreign wives that would take their hearts away from the Lord. Like so many laws given to the Israelite’s, in time this prohibition would be ignored and the land would be polluted with the intermarriages of the Jews and pagan women. After the seventy-year bondage of Israel to Babylon, the people returned to the land rebuilding the Temple first and eventually the walls of Jerusalem. During the days of Ezra, there was a remarkable revival that took place in the hearts of the people when they came to the scribe of God and confessed they were in unlawful marriages. The people of Israel and the priests and the Levites had taken for wives among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Ammonites, the Moabites, the Egyptians, and the Amorites. It was noted by the people the leaders and rulers had been foremost in this trespass. As a result of this sin the people were fearful and they came to confess their sin to Ezra. The scribe did not instruct the multitudes to remain in their marriages and allow God to forgive them as they were. It was the voice of the people who confessed they had taken pagan wives in disobedience to the will of God and they recognized they must put away all those wives and those who had been born to them. Three days later the people gathered in heavy rain in the open square of the house of God, trembling for fear of God’s wrath and the pounding rain confessing their sin. One by one they all confessed their sin and they put away their pagan wives. Sacrifices were made and appeasement from the Lord graced the nation as the heart of the people turned to the Lord.

Marriage is a relationship that men find has deep roots and deeper feelings of companionship. It would seem impossible to tell a man married to a woman that in order to please the Lord they must remove themselves from their marital relationship. There are many reasons given why this could not happen. The love of the man and woman toward one another, financial considerations, family involvement and a host of logical reasons stand in stark contrast why two people married to one another must leave each other. In almost all cases this would be considered impossible. What made the heart of the people so determined to put away their foreign wives? They favored the blessing of God more than the carnal blessings of an unlawful marriage. There is no higher love than shown toward the Creator of the world and His word. They put away their pagan wives and did something that would be viewed as impossible. Later Jesus Christ would tell His disciples that with men a thing like this would be impossible but with God anything is possible. The key to the story is the faith of the people in the grace of God and His mercy. From a worlds viewpoint putting away their wives was nonsense. In light of God’s word that prohibited the marriage of the Jews to foreign women, the action by the people was an expression of their deep faith in the will of the Father.  They believed in the impossible.

Marriage has always been under attack since the day the devil deceived the woman. The law of marriage is not an institution of the church but a law established before sin entered into the world. Many people do not believe in such a thing as an unlawful marriage but this is determined by the mind of God. He ordained a man to be married to a woman for life and anything short of that has consequences. Jesus explained that what God had joined together men should not seek to put apart because He is the author of the marriage law. Today there is a law of marriage that joins a man to be married to a woman for life and any other arrangement will suffer eternal consequences. Divorce is not in the mind of God and He hates it. There is one exception to the marriage law and that was given by Jesus alone. If a marriage is ended for any reason other than sexual immorality there can be no cause for another marriage. Like the Jews of old, a man will be in an unlawful marriage requiring repentance and change if they refuse to honor the word of God. After the Jews tried to trap Jesus in His teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, a rich man came to the Lord seeking salvation. Being told to sell all he had and give to the poor he walked away sorrowful. He was unwilling to do the impossible. So many today are unwilling to walk away from the treasure of their unlawful marriage. The Jews of Ezra’s day were willing to stand in driving rain to make confession and sacrifice to God for their unlawful marriages. They did the impossible; with God’s help.

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The Joy Of The Assembly

Empty Pews

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:23-25)

The Joy Of The Assembly

One of the most basic needs of man is the need for companionship. Adam could not be happy in Paradise without Eve. Family is the root of all civilizations and the home is the barometer of the moral conscience of the world. When Jesus built His church He intended His people to share in their fellowship of grace, work of ministry and joy of exhorting one another to grow together. This can only be accomplished when the saints spend time with one another. There is a divine reason God ordained that His people gather together on the first day of the week. He gave His only begotten Son to die for men who hated and killed Christ. The remembrance of that great sacrifice is a focal point of the assembly. Taking the supper of the Lord reminds the saved of the grace of God and His incredible love. Another reason God wants His people to assemble together is found in the relationships that are created when common hearts join together in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs lifting up hands in prayer to worship the Lord. There is a special bond that is found when the disciples of Christ spend time with one another. As in the beginning when it was not good for man to be alone, it does not serve the purpose of the Lord’s design for the church to exist apart from one another. This becomes especially true in the modern world that no longer is defined by the nuclear community where everyone knows everyone and commonality is the bread of life. There was a time that most people who attended the worship services would see one another often during the week due to the limited scope of travel, work, and life. In the modern world of mass transportation and ease of travel, few families interact with one another on a daily basis during the week. There will be some interactions as families spend time together but on the whole, a congregation will find it difficult to fellowship with others. This is where the design of the local assembly fuels the spirit of brotherly love and exhortation.

In the letter to Hebrew Christians, the writer was concerned about the failing of many who did not assemble with the saints. This was sinful as the Lord commanded His people to remember the sacrifice of His Son in the Lord’s Supper and to deny this memorial insulted the Holy Spirit and displeased the Father and Son. Apart from the command to meet on the first day of the week, the Lord knew the needs of the saints for one another. Hope is a difficult measure to maintain in a world that is constantly trying to dissuade the soul from faithfulness. Love for one another can grow cold when time and distance keep one apart from one another. It is difficult to be exhorted to good works without the spirit of the encourager to admonish and hold up the hands of the weak. The language of the Hebrew writer instructs the early saints not to forsake the assembly because when they miss the assembly they fail to find the strength to exhort one another to greater hope, deeper love and multiplying of good works. Not gathering with fellow Christians harms the work of the church. On the one hand, the saint desires to go to Heaven but demonstrates his unwillingness to spend time with the same people while on earth. Holding fast the confession of hope is done with greater power when two or more are gathered as one. It is impossible to consider one another to love and good works staying home. Yet, many Christians make it clear they have no desire to consider others when they neglect the services of the Lord. It becomes a burden to participate in a Bible class or to attend a Sunday evening service with the saints and Wednesday night Bible class is never considered a purposeful exercise. Doing the bare minimum when more can be done does not help the congregation grow.

In the modern world of technology, saints have found a soothing answer to their conscience believing watching services on Facebook accounts for attending or assembling for services. This makes as much sense as trying to tell others that marriage can be fulfilling through watching one another long distance via Facebook. Companionship is the exhortation of the Hebrew writer for the saints to assemble with one other to confess their hope for one another, consider one another in order to stir up love and good work – requiring people of the flesh to be with people of the flesh. Let’s be clear. When a disciple decides not to assemble with the saints (for example on Sunday night, Wednesday night or gospel meetings) they are declaring that they have no abiding interest in helping the church grow in spirit and number. They may have Bible studies in their homes on Sunday night but they will not be advantageous to the assembly. Did God have a purpose in His people coming together in the assembly? Have we dismissed the design of the church to gratify our carnal desires to spend our lives fruitlessly? There are many saints who cannot make it to services for physical reasons, age and sickness. They number among those who spirits long to assemble with God’s people to sing together, pray together and fellowship one another – but they are unable. For many of the Lord’s church assembling more than an hour on Sunday is asking too much. By their actions, they do not help others hold fast the confession of their hope without wavering and they by their absence fail to consider their brother and sister in order to stir up love and good works. There will come a day when those same hearts will wish they had just one more opportunity to assemble and they cannot. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together as is the practices of so many but rather exhort one another by showing your faith.

 

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What God Joins Together

TFH Pentacost

Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:6)

What God Joins Together

When the world was created, it was a time of incredible power as the Creator spoke the world into existence establishing the land, seas, sky and infinite universe of stars, suns, and moons. The word of the Lord formed everything setting the created world in perfect order. Finishing His handiwork, God saw that everything was good. All things continue as they were from the beginning. On the fourth day the sun, moon and stars were placed in the sky and today those same heavenly bodies embrace the heavens as sure as the day they were created. The earth is covered by 71% water with a total volume of all the water equal to about 332.5 million cubic miles and yet it remains constant in its place. On the second day of creation, the Lord divided the firmament in the midst of the waters. The third day the waters under the heavens were gathered together into one place and the dry land appeared. Earth and seas have remained in their place by the power of God because the Creator separated the two in the creative plan to remain in their place. On the final day of creation, a compassionate God saw his creation of man was lonely and would not be able to function by himself so He took a rib from Adam and created the woman. Bringing her to the man Adam recognized the union that he would share with Eve as bone of bone and flesh of flesh and they two would be joined as one. What God had brought together was a beautiful creation established for the joy and prosperity of the divine power of the Creator. All things remained as God intended until the serpent deceived the woman to believe a lie and sin came into the world.

The penalty of sin was grievous and God had to separate Himself from man. Driving him from the garden, the Lord chose to forbid man from the garden and tree of life. His will remained that man and woman be joined together but in time the wickedness of sinful man changed the glory of God into the corruptible nature of the flesh and the union of one man with one woman degraded into debauchery, sexual immorality and destruction of marriage. A flood would temporarily stay the course of evil in the world but soon men returned to profane the holy nature of the marital institution. The hardness of the hearts of the Hebrews would allow for changes in the divine pattern of the Lord but the Son of God came among men declaring that from the beginning God wanted a man to remain with the woman for life. Over the centuries the laws of men had allowed for divorce and remarriage for every reason under the heavens. Among the Jews, there were allowances that profaned the word of God. Jesus reminded men of the sanctity of God’s law that what His Father had joined together should not be separated. What men did not realize is that changing the law in the eyes of men did not change the law in the mind of God. What God joined together was still joined. In creation, the Creator separated land and sea and earth and sky and while man has to power to temporarily overcome those powers ultimately it remains as God created. Marriage is the same way. All the laws of the land can change the definition of marriage and redefine divorce in ways that suit men but what God has joined together will not be put asunder by a man.

The principle Jesus is reminding the Jewish leaders of the day is that God’s laws are immutable. They will not change for the whims of carnal desire. If God intends the land and sea to be separated they will remain so until He changes creation. The law of marriage is from the beginning. It defines marriage as a man and a woman and the will of God is that marriage is for life. What God has joined together no man should seek to change. The joining is brought about in the mind of God and any releasing of that union can only come from the mind of God. A court of law can annul or declare a marriage ended but unless the Lord God Himself accepts the precepts of the action it does not exist. The word of God is clear and true and unchanging in its nature. Long are the arguments to declare marriage to be anything but what God intended from the beginning. Acceptance to the will of Jesus Christ demands an acceptance of the law of marriage without any deviation. What God has joined together remains together until He decides to bring about a change in that union.

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A Mother’s Advice About Women, Wine, And Wives

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The words of King Lemuel, the utterance which his mother taught him. (Proverbs 31:1)

A Mother’s Advice About Women, Wine, And Wives

One of the most familiar passages in scripture is the striking prose of the virtues of a godly woman whose worthy was placed far above rubies and whose character is described as excelling above all others. The final setting of the Proverbs is aptly concluded with the aged advice of a mother to her son who is ruling as king. It is remarkable that kings must listen to their mothers if they are to be wise. The mother of Lemuel instructs her son not to be carried away by the folly of women which makes one think of Solomon whose heart was turned away from the Lord because he allowed his many wives to seduce his heart to evil. There is a place for the wedded bed in the home but allowing the pleasures of the flesh to conquer the spirit will destroy the soul. Lemuel’s mother was giving her son sage advice concerning the wiles of women who sought the power of the king. Allowing the seductive woman to rule his heart would bring his kingdom to destruction. Secondly, the mother of Lemuel warned her son against the dangers of alcohol. She reminds him that imbibing in wine and intoxicating drink will make for poor decisions and a vast array of bad decisions. The king’s mother was not unaware of how the effects of alcohol can destroy lives and she was very concerned to warn her son to stay away from those things that would corrupt his judgment. Drinking impacts the mind. She was not the head of the local MADD group or a doctor with degrees in chemical analysis of what alcohol does to the body. This woman was a mother with a cause to keep her son from making bad choices and staying away from alcohol was the only way to make it clear to him. There was not a suggestion to drink responsibly. Lemuel’s mother made it very clear and very plain: stay away from wine and intoxicating drink – period.

Mothers have a sense of things that sons should listen and take heed. Lemuel’s mother was happy that her son was king but that did not keep her from reminding him (the king) of the importance of his work. His voice would carry over the needs of the people and should include all of the people including the poor and needy. It would be easy for a ruler to become self-absorbed in his own world of royalty and prestige forgetting the common man and his needs. The king’s mother reminds her son the speechless need a voice, the accused need defense, and the poor and needy need benevolence. What greater love can a mother teach her son but to show him his responsibility to care for and be concerned for others? His laws will give the voice to the disenfranchised. It may be by his just hand that innocents are saved from death. If his judgments are just there will be peace and prosperity in the land. No king should ever forget the plight of the poor and those in need. As their ruler, he should do everything within his power to supply their needs to lessen the burdens they must bear. Any king who had a mother like Lemuel and who listened to the wisdom of this godly woman would find their kingdoms glowing with the richness of spirit, soul, and mind. It is clear the heart of King Lemuel’s mother was rooted in a deep conviction for the Lord God and His way.

The final advice from mother was how to find a wife. Her advice for her son was not to choose any woman. As the king, he could have his pick of any who came courting and could fill his houses full of all the desirable woman of his kingdom. Lemuel’s mother wanted her son to follow the pattern established by the divine Creator in the beginning that one man and one woman are united in the love of God and His laws. If the king was looking for a wife, his mother was giving her best advice on what to look for in a wife. As a parent, she understood the importance of helping her son find a mate that will help him in this life and the life to come. The character of the worthy woman is one of industry, faithfulness, fidelity, and courage. She was smart, willing to work hard, benevolent to others and beautiful in presence and character. This woman who would become his wife would no doubt have a mother much like king Lemuel who taught her daughter the same virtues to abstain from drink and to make wise judgments. Choosing a mate is the most serious decision. The king should take careful consideration of the kind of woman he marries. In the same vein, the worthy woman should take particular care in finding a man who is not given to wine and who is a fair and just person. A mother’s greatest gift to her son or daughter is to instruct them in finding a godly mate that will take them to heaven. She knows that charm is deceitful and beauty is passing but a woman who fears the Lord shall be praised. Mothers must guide their sons to be kings in the home as rulers of the righteous character of God. Thank God for all the mothers who teach the sons who are kings to love God above all else.

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Consider Your Ways

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Now therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes.” Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Consider your ways! Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,” says the Lord. (Haggai 1:5-8)

Consider Your Ways

The captivity of Israel had been completed and the remnant of God’s people returned to Jerusalem finding the city in ruins. Everywhere the impact of seventy years abandonment following the destruction by the Babylonians was evident in broken walls, burned gates and the once glorious temple of Solomon completely destroyed. Spirits were low and the heart of the people filled with despair. An attempt to rebuild the temple had begun but facing persecution the project had been on hold for eighteen years. The Lord sent Haggai the prophet to induce the people to resume their work of rebuilding the temple. Under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Joshua son of Josedech, the temple would be finished and worship restored to the house of God. Haggai delivered his message to the Jews in the year 520 B.C. urging them to build reproving their unfaithfulness and apathy. The temple was finished four years later in 516 B.C.

Haggai’s task was a monumental effort to reprove the people for their sinful disregard for the glory of God and His house. Twice in the opening refrain of his message, the prophet tells the people to consider their ways. They needed to see how much God had blessed them. He had brought them out of captivity a second time. His wrath had subsided and a remnant was brought back to the promised land to dwell in the place of the Lord. Why should they live in comfortable homes when the house of God lay in ruin and because of neglect remain unmoved for eighteen years? The Law of Moses had told the people that if they would obey the Lord He would bless their crops, their lands, their family and the nation. Returning to the impoverished land they had worked hard but had little to show for it. All the work they did brings back little gain. Did they not stop and consider why they were suffering and why the Lord’s hand had not been blessing them? Again the prophet tells them to consider their ways. The house of the Lord was in ruin and they lived in secure places of comfort. This was bringing shame on the name of God and failing to give Him the glory due to His name. Haggai exhorts them to rise up and build. The admonition of the prophet is a timeless message for men to consider.

The greatest need a man has is to stop and consider his way, his walk of life, his place in the scheme of God’s plan and most importantly his eternal soul. This requires a reflection that is often not an easy image to look upon. Self-examination is the purging of the soul of self and allowing the true character of the spirit of man to come forth. Haggai was telling the people to look around and see what value their efforts brought them while the glory of God was being despised. Regardless of the pursuits of carnality when a man neglects the spiritual part of life – he is empty. Anything that conflicts with the word of God will come to nothing. Man was created to glorify God and failing to do so will leave a man empty, hollow and miserable. Everyone should seriously consider their ways but sadly most men do not. The real tragedy of life is when years are spent in the pursuit of wealth, power, pleasure, and influence realizing at the end of life what really mattered was a relationship with the Creator of all things. Indifference to God is seen daily. Thoughtlessness about eternity does not change the reality of the unending nature of a world without time and distance.

Twice the Lord admonished the people to consider their ways. His word should resonate with the clarity of His divine will. If a doctor warns of a medical concern a man will take note and when a legal expert advises a certain course wise men follow the counsel. Why is it that when God tells me to consider the heart that men neglect and fail to heed the warning? He is urging men to take a look at their lives and give attention to where they find themselves. In the days of Haggai, the people had turned apathetic and lethargic in their feelings toward the building of the temple. This reflected their view of God also. No greater warning can the Lord give than to tell men to consider their ways. It is easy to become so comfortable in religion that worship to the Lord becomes drudgery and weariness. Going through the motions is only motion going nowhere. It was time for the people to arise and build. Thankfully they heeded the word of the Lord and the temple was finished four years later. This same message of exhortation is needed for the people of God to rise up and build the kingdom of God as purposed in the New Testament. It is time to rise from laurels of apathy and contentment, consider our ways and get busy building the spiritual temple of God. Let the glory of the Lord rise from the ashes of neglect so the world can see the glory of the church Jesus bought with His own blood. Consider your ways.

 

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The Faithfulness Of Israel To Every Detail

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Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families and kill the Passover lamb. And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning. For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you. And you shall observe this thing as an ordinance for you and your sons forever. It will come to pass when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, just as He promised, that you shall keep this service. And it shall be, when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ that you shall say, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice of the Lord, who passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He struck the Egyptians and delivered our households.’” So the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Then the children of Israel went away and did so; just as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. (Exodus 12:21-28)

The Faithfulness Of Israel To Every Detail

There is much said about the character of Israel as a rebellious, murmuring and unfaithful people. The Old Testament is filled with stories of Israel at Mt. Sinai and the golden calf, the rebellion of Korah, murmuring at the waters of Meribah, unfaithfulness of the people at Kadesh-Barnea and the punishment of forty years wandering the wilderness. Not all of the Israelites were ungrateful to God and there was a time when the Hebrew people were united under one banner of hope and faced with the certainty of death, did exactly what God told them to. Deliverance had come in the form of Moses and Aaron petitioning Pharaoh to allow the Hebrews to leave. By the power of God great signs were brought upon the Egyptian nation bringing the powerful empire to its knees. One final plague awaited the stubborn heart of Pharaoh and it would be the final exercise of God’s wrath upon the ungodly nation. The Hebrews were told to take a lamb without blemish, a male of the first year (sheep or goat) and kill it at twilight on the fourteenth day. Blood from the lamb was to be sprinkled on the doorposts and the lintel using a bunch of hyssop (a plant) and no one was to go out of the door of his house until morning. During the night the family was to eat the flesh roasted in fire, with unleavened bread and with bitter herbs with none remaining until morning. They were to eat the flesh with a belt on their waist, sandals on their feet and a staff in the hand eating the meal in haste. It would be called the Lord’s Passover. During the night the Lord would pass through the land to strike the Egyptians and when He saw the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the Lord would pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to take the lives of the Hebrew firstborn child. When Moses told the people what God expected and how the plan of salvation was clearly defined as what needed to be done, the people bowed their heads and worshiped. Each family went away and did exactly what the law required just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did.

It is fair to say that there would have been severe consequences if any of the Hebrews would have failed in keeping the commandments of the Lord. When midnight came and the Lord came through the land, the destroyer struck all the firstborn of the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of livestock. There was not a house where there was not one dead with the exception of the houses of the Hebrews. There were no deaths in the houses where the blood was on the lintel and doorposts. Faith moved the hearts of the Hebrews to believe in the impossible and the unimaginable. Salvation did not come because they believed the word of the Lord but because they believed in the word of the Lord and acted on that belief. A lamb had to be found and he had to be killed on the right day of the month at the right time. The flesh could not be eaten unless it was roasted and the people did exactly what God said to do. They ate the flesh with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. That night the Hebrews were not sleeping but eating roasted lamb with their belts girded, feet shod and staffs in hand. More importantly, they had put blood from the sacrificed lamb on the doorposts and lintel. Salvation came when God saw the blood from the sacrificed lamb given to him by a people that obeyed every part of His command. If the lamb was blemished the Hebrew firstborn would have died in that house. Had the father decided not to gird the belt or shod the feet his firstborn would have died. If the mother had refused to fix unleavened bread and bitter herbs death would have invaded her home. When God came to the home of the Hebrew family that refused to sprinkle blood on the doorposts they would have lost their firstborn. Is there any power in blood painted on the doorposts that saves a man’s life? Only if it is the will of the Lord. The people obeyed that night and they did everything God told them to do.

The shadows of Old Testament imagery are found in the realities of the New Testament doctrines that are the commandments of the Lord. If the many faiths of religious people calling themselves Christians lived in Egypt during the time of deliverance, most of them would have suffered the death of the firstborn or even more tragic events. Faith only is a prevalent doctrine that many believe brings salvation and eternal life. Could a Hebrew have been saved by faith only when the Lord passed through at midnight? The majority of Protestant faiths reject the idea of baptism for the remission of sins failing to realize that blood is found in the waters of immersion. According to the modern view of baptism, few Hebrew houses would have put blood on the doorposts and lintel because that would be a work and no work could save man. There would have been a lot of firstborn dying in the homes of the Hebrews like many souls are lost today because they do not believe in the power of immersion. What separates the Hebrew people during the Passover and the religious world today is just as the Lord commanded Moses and Aaron, so they did. No one tried to argue the fine points of law whether hyssop sprinkled blood on wood would save a man or not. There were no families that told God they hated roasted lamb and would not eat bitter herbs. All the people did exactly what the Lord told them to do and they found the joy of life when the destroyer came. When God sends back His Son with His mighty angels He will be looking for hearts that are clothed in the blood of Jesus Christ. This will come from individuals who follow every command of God and believe with great faith in the overwhelming power of God to do the impossible. When God sees the blood He will pass over. Sadly, the majority of people – including many religious people – will not be spared because they did not believe in the will of the Lord. There will be no blood in their hearts. God will not pass over. If only …

 

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Assembling For The Worse

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But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. (1 Corinthians 11:17)

Assembling For The Worse

There is no doubt the church at Corinth was ripe with conflict, division, false doctrine and abuse of the simple pattern given by Jesus to remember His death. Paul used strong language in his first letter to the Corinthians to charge them of the seriousness of their attitudes, actions and obvious lack of focus to the real purpose of why they were a church of God. Satan had produced division among the ranks and a party spirit prevailed among the brethren. Concerning the supper of the Lord, the saints at Corinth had made it be a festive occasion of eating a common meal neglecting one another bringing shame on the less fortunate. The result was the church of God was despised because of their insolence toward the word of God and one another. Finding the root of the problem, the apostle writes the brethren did not come together for the better purpose but for the worse. Their reasons for gathering together as a body of Christ were for every reason but the right reason. They assembled in accordance with the law of God but like the Israelites of old, it was vain worship. The prophet Malachi wrote of how the Jews had made worship to be such a weariness offering profane sacrifices to a God that was weary of their disrespect for Him. Now in the New Testament church, the attitudes of complacency had filled the hearts of the disciples to where they came together because they had to but it was not with a heart of love for God. The Lord’s Supper was corrupted. Women refused to keep their place in the assembly. Party spirit’s ruled the hearts of those who sought allegiance to Peter, Apollos, and Paul. The worship service was filled with chaos. In general, the church at Corinth had degraded into a place where God was not honored, respected and revered for the Holy God that He was as the people came together for every purpose but the worship in spirit and truth.

One of the greatest maladies among the people of God has always been the corruption of worship. With all the providence and benevolence of a loving God caring for them throughout their time from Egyptian bondage, Israel struggled to honor the Lord with respect. They murmured, complained, rebelled and refused to acknowledge the power of God in their lives. Following the captivity, the remnant gave the Lord broken sacrifices condemned by men like Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. When the New Testament church was established, attitudes of complacency quickly entered the hearts of worshipers as they went through the motions, fulfilled the required commandments and gave a half-hearted effort to praise the Lord. The seed of vain worship continues to plague the church of Christ as many come together not for the better but for the worse. Worship can become a drudgery of fulfilling commandments, dotting the ‘I’s” and crossing the legal “T’s” of what is expected without the true nature of communing with the Almighty. Corinth struggled with the reasons they came together and it became a time of confusion degrading to worship that was without spirit and lacking truth. Worship is an individual response in a collective atmosphere as the church comes together on the first day of the week to honor the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The focus of redemption is found in the blood of Christ and the Father expects with a demanding presence honor given to His Son. Ignoring the command to assemble on the first day of the week dishonors the gift of God and brings judgment against the soul of the uncaring, insensitive and unresponsive disciple.

There is a growing tendency among God’s people to view the first day of the week as a time to fill their lives with all of the trappings of a carnal world. Assembling is not for the purpose of giving honor to God but to quickly fill the time and then hurry back to the hectic pursuits of the world. It is easy for things to come in conflict with the assembly. Ball games fill the first day of the week taking precedence over God. Plans fill the schedule on the first day of the week much like the other six days of the week. Sunday is far from being a day devoted to God because the purpose of assembling has lost its luster. If a person ekes out the time to come to church the heart is far from why worship was ordained by the Lord. There is little heartfelt worship as the mind dwells on the things to do for lunch, where to go after lunch, swimming parties, shopping trips, projects to fill, places to go, movies to watch and hosts of carnal pursuits in the rat race world of a material world. When the invitation song is sung families frantically hurry out the door with little heed to the gospel call. Spiritually weakened soul’s burden through the day with no purpose of why the Lord commanded His people to assemble. They do not come together for the better but for the worse and their lives reflect the same. Sadly, there will come a day when the most important thing on their mind is worship to God but it will be too late. Worship is a way of life that is found in this world as we make our way to an eternal abode. Waiting to worship God with purpose in judgment will be too late. Why do you come together? Examine your life and peer into your soul and find the reasons why you come to worship the Lord. Let your heart find a place with God. Take time to be holy.

 

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