Please! Don’t Take Me With You!

I am deeply disturbed by the recent rash of murder-suicides happening all around the country with couples. I am trying to wrap my head around it. The whole situation is senseless!

I mean, if you kill that person in a fit of jealous rage, that only proves that you really didn’t love them in the first place and that the relationship was all about you, because real love doesn’t hurt!

So, you kill them, cause untold grief and despair for everyone involved, ruin your life and then go to jail, just to prove you are not to be played? That doesn’t seem very smart to me! Especially when you consider how many other people there are in the world; surely there is someone else you could find happiness with.

And then there are those who kill their lover and then turn around and kill themselves! I mean; what’s the point? If you killed them because you couldn’t stand the idea of them being with someone else, why not just kill yourself first? That would serve the same purpose.

Now before anybody thinks that I am suggesting murder or that people should commit suicide before they murder someone, I am not! I’m just thinking out loud, trying to make sense out of a senseless situation.

But, I will say this: If you are troubled and contemplating such irrational actions as I have just described, find someone to talk to! I can assure you that murder and suicide are never viable options! If you are angry and upset that they left you or cheated on you, your best revenge is to go on with your life and be happy! Whatever you’re going through, remember that you’re just going through; it won’t last! It’s only temporary! That is why murder and suicide are so tragic; murder and suicide are permanent solutions to temporary problems

In times like these, we need to be there for one another! If someone comes to you with a situation, most of the time, they already know what they need to do, they just need someone to listen. Please be a good listener and a good friend. Don’t betray their trust in you and don’t abuse their confidence in you.

Let’s look out for one another! Murder and suicide are never viable options; but love always is! 

 

Daddy! Daddy! There Are Butts In My Face!

I recently attended a revival service at the Bethlehem Baptist Church in Covington, Ga. The Evangelist was Pastor Charles E. Nesbitt, Jr., of the Providence Baptist Church of College Park, Ga.

During his sermon, Pastor Nesbitt shared this illustration about worship. He told the story about how he was invited to preach at a service for a friend in Ohio and his hotel room was on the 10th floor. When his ride arrived downstairs to pick him up for the service, he got on the elevator to go downstairs. Whereas, it was only he and another family on the elevator when he initially got on, on the 10th floor, the elevator stopped at nearly every floor so that by the time he reached the lobby, the elevator was packed.

In the midst of all those people getting on the elevator, the family, along with him, were forced to the back of the elevator as more people got on. In this family was a little girl about 3 or 4 years old. Because of her small size and short statue, by the time the elevator was full, all she could see was people’s butts in her face! That was a view she didn’t like very well. So, she pulled on her father’s coat-tail and raised up her arms for her father to pick her up. The father looked down at her, smiled, but ignored her gesture and continued his conversation with her mother. The girl tugged again, but got the same results. Finally, for the third time, the child tugged more vigorously than ever at her father’s coat-tails. This time, he stopped, looked down at her and her raised out-stretched arms and finally picked her up! He finally realized that her view; facing all those butts, must not have been a good experience for her. So, he picked her up into his arms and the girl was happy because, 1) she was in her father’s arms and 2) in her father’s arm, she had a nicer view and a better perspective.

Pastor Nesbitt said, that is the function of worship! When we go to church to worship and praise God, the experience lifts us up into the Father’s arms and enables us to see the world from God’s perspective, thereby, giving us a better perspective and a nicer view! Without the elevating experience of worship, without the Father lifting us up into His arms, all we have is the depressing view of all the “butts” in the world.

Thank you Pastor Nesbitt, for such a profound illustration and prolific sermon!

I posted this for all those who feel depressed and intimidated by all that is going on in the world today. Worship will not change the world, but it will change you! It will give you a different and higher perspective. It will enable you to see the world from God’s point of view! And when we look at the world from God’s point of view, we can rest in the knowledge that all things are working together for the good to them that love the Lord; the called according to His purpose. Although it looks out of control from our limited perspective, worship elevates us to the realization that God is still in control.

Oh! Father, I stretch my hands to Thee, no other help I know! Lord, lift me up, and I shall stand, by faith on heaven’s table land. A higher plane than I have found, Lord, plant my feet on higher ground!

The Way, the Truth, and the Life

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6 ESV)

“Wow, Jesus! Why did you have to say those words? Now, following you puts me in a pickle! It puts me at odds with my coworkers and friends because your statement is just not politically correct or socially sensitive!” If we are to be honest with ourselves, that’s the statement that many Christians today would like to tell our Lord! In a world that insists upon moral inclusiveness and religious plurality, Jesus calls us to exclusiveness and singularity! He didn’t say he was ‘a’ way! He didn’t say he was ‘a’ truth! And he didn’t say he was ‘a’ life! The articles are not indefinite; they are definite! Jesus made the claim and if we are to truly follow him, we must echo the claim of his exclusive and unique status.

Now logically speaking, if Jesus is indeed, just a way and there are indeed other ways to get to the Father, then his suffering on the Cross was not necessary! If there are indeed, other ways, then his life, suffering, death, and resurrection were pointless! When I was young and one of my siblings would try to exercise parental authority over the rest of us, we would ask them: “Who died and left you in charge?” That’s the question the world is asking of Jesus! As the Pharisees asked him: “Who gave you this authority?” Well, the Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 2:6-11: “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (KJV) On the day of Pentecost, the Apostle Peter preached in Acts 2:36: “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (KJV) It’s uncomfortable and it puts us at odds with the current consciousness, but if we are to be true to our Lord, then we must be willing to, as the Hebrew writer says, “. . . go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” (Heb. 13:13 KJV) We must remember, Jesus said: “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:38 KJV) If we are ashamed of him now before the world, he will be ashamed of us before the Heavenly Father.

Now there is another aspect of this statement of Jesus that I don’t think many of us have really thought about! Look at the metaphors Jesus used. First of all, he said “I am the way!” What is the way? The way is the means of access! The way is the route, road, or the pathway! The way is not the destination; the way is the means to get to the destination! Many of us have made Jesus the destination, but in his owns words, Jesus said: “I’m not the destination you’re trying to reach! I am the means. I am the access. I am the way to get you to your destination!” And what is the destination? The Father God! Jesus came, lived, died, and was resurrected so that we might have a means of access to God!  

When we really look at this, the meaning is profound! Jesus was saying to us: “Don’t stop at me! Keep going! I’m just the way! I’m just the access!” He said to his disciples in John 16:23, “In that day (the day when the Holy Spirit comes to take permanent residence within you) you will ask me nothing, but whatsoever you ask the Father in my name and He will give it to you!” Now that is profound! Jesus was saying that, through me, you have the same access to God the Father that I have!

That is, I believe, one of the greatest statements in all of Scripture! Jesus didn’t come to bring men a new religion; men already had plenty of religion! Jesus came to renew the way, the means, the access, the truth and the life that leads to the Father that had been broken and destroyed by sin at the Fall in the Garden of Eden! We look at the life of Jesus as a means of salvation; and it is! But more importantly, the life of Jesus was and is a model for us to study and imitate! Everything he did was an example for us! Most theologians and commentators say that when Jesus calmed the storm, by saying; “Peace be still,” he was using his divine power. That might have been so, but I believe that when Jesus was on earth in the flesh, he didn’t function primarily as Son of God, but rather as son of man! In other words, I believe that when Jesus was on earth, he did not use any of his Divine prerogatives or attributes, but rather functioned as a man fully empowered and led by the Holy Spirit! For if Jesus functioned on earth as Son of God, then the statement recorded in John 14:12 makes no sense. There, he said; “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.” (KJV) Therefore, I believe that when Jesus calmed the stormed, he wasn’t displaying his divinity, but rather he was showing his disciples and us, through parabolic action, how to calm the storms in our lives!

The bottom line is that when Jesus made the statement: “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes unto the Father but by me.” Not only was he saying that he was the only way to the Father, he was encouraging us to see him, not as the end, but rather as the means to the end! He did not come to glorify himself; he came to glorify the Father! Therefore, by looking at and using his life as example, a model, or a blueprint and by being empowered by the same Spirit that was in him and having the mind of Christ, we can also fulfill the specific purpose for which we were created. Most people, even so-called Christians, think that life is all about them, but it’s not! Humanity was created to be the physical, visible and practical expression of the Spiritual God in the material world! Whatever God does in this world, God does it through human agency! Man was created to glorify God! And how do we glorify God? Perhaps the answer is found in high priestly prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of his passion. Jesus said: “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4 ESV) We bring glory to God by completing our assignment! Our assignment is our life’s purpose; our reason for being! Jesus had a specific assignment and so do you and I and every person in the world! Whether it’s preaching the Gospel, or helping people discover their talents, gifts, and potential, or working at the bank, every work is a divine endeavor! Every work is a means by which God seeks expression through our human personality!

Yes! In the statement, Jesus was saying he was the only way to get to the Father, but he was also saying that he was the way, his teaching was the truth, and his life was the example of how we might truly live the abundant life here and now on earth!

There Is A “King” In All of Us!

Every year, during the month of February, we pause to celebrate Black History Month. It is a time in which we focus on the accomplishments and achievements of noted Black historical individuals and Black people in general who sacrificed much for the advancement of African-Americans and people in general. One such individual who paid the ultimate sacrifice at the hand of an assassin’s bullet was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Therefore, no Black History program is complete without a rendition of Dr. King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and the giving of the “Martin Luther King, Jr., Life-time Achievement Award” to some worthy contemporary person who has dedicated their life to Civil Rights and seeking justice and equality for all people.

Now before I go any further, I am not against celebrating Black History Month! I am not advocating that we quit remembering Dr. King and other historical figures who sacrificed so much for the advancement of civil rights in this country and the world. That’s not my point at all! What I am suggesting is that we stop being so infatuated with their accomplishments that we forget that each one of us has also been called to do something significant in our own generation! They did what they were called to do then, we must do what we are called to do now!

We live in a different world than that of Dr. King and the Civil Rights era, therefore, it seems highly unlikely that there will be or even can be “one” individual who can be “the leader” of a movement. This is unsettling to some people because they are looking and waiting for a savior or a superman to save them and the race: They are looking for another Malcolm X or Dr. King! But actually, we don’t need another Dr. King because there is already a “king” in all of us! 

In Genesis 1:26-28, we read: “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (KJV) We were created to have and exercise dominion; that’s kingdom authority, over the earth! There is a “king” in all of us! We keep waiting and looking for help to come from an outside source, when God has already placed all the help we will ever need within each of us! But we will never exercise our dominion until we seize control. And how do we seize control? One of the ways we can seize control by letting go of the “victim mentality” and by accepting and taking responsibility for our own lives!

Now this is not to accept, excuse, or even deny the existence of overt oppressive racism in America by blaming the victim! No! Racism in America is still very much alive and well today! If you don’t think so, just read the media reports of some of the emboldened racist actions within the last couple of years! To those sympathetic White people who insist they shouldn’t be blamed for the past and that racism is history and that Black people should just “get over it,” You are right! You should not be blamed for the sins of your fore-fathers. But it’s really hard for Black people to “get over it” when some of your “cousins” are keeping the sins of your fore-fathers alive this very hour by displaying nooses, spray-painting the “n-word” on LeBron James’ gate and practicing racially bias policing and unjust sentencing toward Black defendants in the justice system and in the courts every day! You are mistaken, racism is not history; it’s current events! Even today, for some White people, it doesn’t matter how much money a Black person may have or how educated, famous, or cultured they may be, at the end of the day; they are still Black! Still Black? Yes! Still Black, as if that’s a sin or a mark of inferiority! As if that’s something that a Black person could or would want to change, even if such a change was possible! 

But I’m digressing now, so let me get back to my point: There is a “king” in all of us! We cited Genesis1:26-28, where God gave man dominion over all the earth and over all the creatures of the earth. But if you look at the text closely, you might note that God never gave man dominion over other men! (That’s why racist theologians and others tried to suggest Black people were not human!) There is a “king” in each and all of us, but the kingship is not to be exercised over other “kings” but rather over one’s environment and circumstances of life.

The racial problem in America would come a long way toward being solved if the White “kings” would understand and accept the fact that the color of their skin does not make them any better than others! Skin color doesn’t make us any better or worse; it just makes us different! The racial problem would also come a long way toward being solved if those White kings who accepted and understood this would be determined to educate rather than just passively tolerate those who didn’t! This is especially true of White Americans who profess to be Christians! Racism would dissipate to a much greater degree if those “White Christians” were truer to their biblical calling than to the standards and cultures of some of their social and country clubs!

And in the meantime, the Black “kings” must realize and adopt the mantra: “If it is to be; it is up to me!” Quit looking for another “Dr. King, Malcolm X, or even the government for salvation! The best way to resist the victimizer is to refuse to play the role of the victim! It’s simply not fair, nor is it an accurate assessment of the truth to blame the “White folks” for all of our problems! Sure, racism does play a significant role in some of our ills, but there are some ills that are maladies of our own making! No! The best way to collectively lift the race is to not expect “one” man or woman to do it, nor to spend an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to fix the blame on other folks. No! The best way to elevate a race is for each individual to do his or her part in accepting their responsibility to elevate their own social and spiritual consciousness. The best thing you can do for me is to be the best “you” that you can be! The best thing I can do for you is to be the best “me” that I can be! All the while, realizing that my being my best me doesn’t make me better than you; it just makes me a better me than the me I used to be! And our being the best “us” involves being all that God created us to be!

At the end of the day, Dr. King was right! “We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools!” And for those who believe in an after-life in Heaven or Hell: What kind of Heaven is reasonable if we mistreat our brothers and sisters down here and then expect to live in harmony with them in Heaven? And talk about Hell! It sure enough will be Hell, to hate and mistreat someone on earth and then have to spend an eternity with them in Hell!

 

The Cart Before the Horse

Have you ever heard of the proverbial expression that speaks of putting the cart before the horse? To put the cart before the horse is to have things out of order. It is the failure to put first things first! It is the act of trying to pull what should be pulling! To literally put the cart before the horse is an act that will only breed frustration and failure; for the cart has no power of its own! The cart cannot even pull itself! Therefore, the idea of putting the cart before the horse is absurd indeed!

Nevertheless, that is how many people are living today! They are living their lives, filled with frustration and failure because they are pursuing riches, fame, wealth, and prosperity, not realizing or understanding that those things are not ‘horses’ but rather, they are ‘carts.’ In Matthew 6:31-33, Jesus is recorded as saying: “Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (ESV) Now, just prior to this statement, Jesus had emphasized the point that if God takes care of and has made provisions for the lesser (the birds and the plants) things of creation, how much more will God take care of and make provisions for the greatest of His creation: humanity?

Let’s take a moment to analyze the text. In this section of the discourse, the KJV translation has Jesus discouraging the idea of “taking thought” in verses 27, 28, 31 and 34. The Greek word behind the translation has the connotation of worry, anxiety, or being anxious. Therefore, Jesus was not saying; don’t even think about those things, but rather he was saying; don’t be anxious, worried, or filled with anxiety about them! Isn’t it ironic that this is the very thing that most people are doing today? Doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies are getting rich because of people immobilized by anxiety, depression, diseases, and psychological disorders that can all be traced back to the fact that they are constantly worried and anxious about what they are going to eat, drink, and wear!

In verse 32, Jesus says: “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” The reference to the ‘gentiles’ was a reference to people who were outside of the covenant that God had with His people. In other words, Jesus was saying to his followers: “When you constantly worry and are anxious about these things; you are acting like people who are strangers to the covenant! You are acting like people who are heathens! You are acting like people who don’t know God! You are acting like orphans who don’t have a father to take care of them!” In view of that statement, it is interesting to note that much of what is being heard in some church-circles these days is really just worldly talk in religious dress! People in the world are anxiously pursuing wealth and riches while many people in the church are ‘faithfully’ (I say this with tongue in cheek!) pursuing Divine favor and prosperity! But Jesus said to his followers in this text: “If you are anxious and worried about your survival; you are acting like unbelievers!” 

Then he said, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” Now, here’s an interesting point: Jesus said that your heavenly Father knows that you need them all, but he didn’t say you should ask your heavenly Father for them! Instead he said: “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The ‘but’ served as a contrasting conjunction. Jesus was saying that instead of anxiously pursuing the things that the people who don’t know God pursue, his followers were to pursue or seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. He was saying that the believer should seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness with the same intensity that people who don’t know God seek food, shelter, and clothing! 

Seeking or pursuing the Kingdom of God and His righteousness should be the believer or the follower of Jesus’ first and far-most priority! Now, Jesus was not talking about seeking to get the Heaven! The term; ‘Kingdom of God’ in the context of the passage is not a reference to Heaven, but rather it is a reference to the authority, rule, and reign of God in a person’s life! It is a reference to the government of God. The term ‘righteousness’ refers to the state of a person being as he ought to be, in right-standing. Jesus was saying that our first and far-most priority should be to seek, that is, find and experience the rule and authority of God; the government of God in our lives and to be in right-standing with that government or authority. We’ve made it so ‘religious’ but actually, Jesus is talking about government! To be ‘righteous’ is to be in right-standing with the Kingdom (Government) of God. To be ‘righteous’ with the government of the United States, means to pay taxes and obey the law of the land. Therefore, Jesus said, our main pursuit and priority should be to seek the rule and authority of God in our lives and to seek to be in a state of right-standing with that rule and authority. When we do that, ‘all these things will be added.’ All what things? The things that the people who don’t know God are seeking and pursuing! 

Now this is where we have really placed the cart before the horse! Jesus said that if we would seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, all the things needful for life would be added unto us! According to the Bible, all the things that many people in the world today are seeking and pursuing, should actually be seeking and pursuing them! Instead of us seeking and chasing after blessings; blessings should be seeking and chasing after us! Deuteronomy 28:1-2, Moses said to the people: “And if you faithfully obey the voice of the LORD your God, being careful to do all his commandments that I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God.” (ESV) Do you see that? He told them that if they faithfully obeyed the voice of the LORD (If they sought the Kingdom of God first) and were careful to do all his commandments (sought to be in right-standing; His righteousness) …. then all those blessings would come. . . and overtake them! If the blessings were to come upon and overtake them, it would not be because they were pursuing the blessings, but rather because the blessings were pursuing them! We’ve got it all wrong! We’re putting the cart before the horse, because what most of us are chasing is supposed to be chasing us!

Another case in point is found in Psalm 23:6, where David said: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.” (ESV) We normally think of the word ‘follow’ in this verse as a passive shadowing or tagging along. But the Hebrew word for follow; ‘radaph,’ in this text is an aggressive word! It means; to be behind, to follow after, pursue, chase, persecute, run after. This is not a picture of goodness and mercy following after David all the days of his life like innocent little puppies wagging their tails. No! This is a picture of goodness and mercy, pursuing and chasing after David like two ferocious dogs trying to catch their prey! Again! We are not supposed to be chasing after the blessings; the blessings are supposed to be chasing after us!

So then, it is because we are out of order, it is because we have placed the cart before the horse, that our lives are filled with frustrations, anxieties, worries. For just as the cart was designed to be behind and pulled by the horse and not in front of the horse, so were the necessities and the abundance of life designed to be added unto us as we seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness first and far-most in our lives.

The “Latter-Day” Saints

This, my 200th post, is a combination of a two-sermon-series preached at the New Hope Baptist Church in Covington, GA several years ago. Your comments are welcomed.

“The Latter-Day Saints” (part 1)

“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away. For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts, Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Now as Jannes and Jambres withstood Moses, so do these also resist the truth: men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further: for their folly shall be manifest unto all men, as theirs also was.”  II Timothy 3:1-9 KJV

          Let me begin by saying that this sermon does not and will not have anything to do with nor will it in any way intentionally speak about the Mormon Church, which is officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. No, I am not talking about nor am I referring to “those” latter-day saints. But, of all the times that I had previously looked at this text, it wasn’t until I was browsing through this neighborhood of the scriptures the other day that I made, what was for me, an alarming discovery! You see, all the other times that I read this text and heard it preached and expounded upon, I just assumed that this was a listing of the character traits of people in general in the last days. I mean after all, when you go through this list, it looks pretty grim and hopeless, therefore I assumed that it must be describing people, who obviously know nothing about God! But, the other day, when I looked at this text more closely, I was shocked to discover that Paul was not describing how the people of the world would be in the last days! No! This is a description of the people who will claim to know God in the last days! This is a description of church folks in the last days! Hence, this is how I arrived at my subject, for this is a listing of the character traits of the latter-day saints! It’s right there in the text in verse 5! Paul said that they would have a form of godliness. In other words, they will go through the motions of having church! They will be in regular attendance at the Divine Order of Service and Bible Class. They will claim and proudly wear the name: Christian! But Paul says that although they will have a form of godliness, they will deny the power thereof. In other words, they will pray prayers without believing in the power of prayer! They will be hearers of the word but will not be doers of the word. They will go to church and even support the church, but they will deny the power and purpose of the church. That is why Paul said that the times would be perilous! In the last days, the majority of those who will claim to be Christian will be Christian in name only!

          Now, it is interesting to note that the Greek word that is the basis of the English word “perilous” is the same word that is used to describe the two men possessed with demons in Matthew 8:28. The word means, “dangerous, difficult the deal with.” In the last days, the times will be difficult to deal with and here’s the reason why! First, it will be difficult times because men will have misplaced affections. In this listing, the first two characteristics in verse 2 and the last two characteristics in verse 4 deal with what men will be loving. Jesus said of those days; “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Bobby Blue Bland said some years ago: “Ain’t no love in the heart of the city! Ain’t no love in the heart of town! Ain’t no love, and you know it’s a pity! Ain’t no love cause you ain’t around! Yes! The last days will be fierce, dangerous and perilous because even those who will claim to be Christians will have mis-placed affections.

          The first trait listed in the list of the characteristics of these latter-days saints is that they will be “self-lovers!” In the last days, there will be an obsessive preoccupation with the self! Although the greatest commandment is; to love LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. The worship of the Holy Trinity: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost will be usurped with the worship of the unholy trinity of “Me, Myself and I!” In the last days, the affection and devotion due to God will be given to self. Therefore, “self” will be the “god” of those who will be lovers of self. Well, I think I ought to pause here and tell you that I believe the last days are upon us! Most of the problems that occur in the church today are rooted in selfishness! Everybody insists upon having their own way! Instead of praying and reasoning with one another for the good of the body, people try to tear up the church when they can’t get their own way! The root of most marital problems, problems in professional and personal relationships can be traced back to the domineering demands of self; the ego! That’s why the first requirement of true discipleship is the denial of self! When God is not properly worshiped, honored and given his rightful place in a person’s life, he is usually replaced with the self!

          Now, in the KJV, the second characteristic on the list is “covetous.” However, this is really an incorrect translation of the word Greek behind the text. The Greek word is “philarguros” which literally means “silver-lover.” This is not the same word that is normally used for “covetous.” One can actually be covetous without loving money, they do not mean the exact same thing. Friberg defines the term as, “having a greedy disposition loving money, wanting to be rich.” The term is found in the NT, only in this text and in Luke 16:14. The latter-day saints will be “lovers of themselves,” and “lovers of money!” All one has to do is just flick though the channels of so-called Christian television or browse through the bookshelves of any secular or for that matter, Christian bookstore today and one will find that “self-development, “self-realization,” “money,” “wealth,” “prosperity,” and “financial blessings” are the buzz words of the day! In the last days, the latter-day saints will be obsessed with pleasing themselves and obtaining money and material wealth!

          The next trait is that they will be “boasters.” The word literally means “empty pretender.” It is one whose mouth is bigger than his body. One who talks a big game, but is unable to back up his talk with supporting action. This is one who arrogantly presumes too much about himself. Akin to this is the next character trait. They will be proud with an overwhelming estimate of one’s means and merits, despising others or even treating them with contempt. Don’t you see this trait among the so called latter-day saints today? The spirit of humility is almost non-existent! Many church folks today are not bragging on Christ, but rather they are bragging on themselves! There are Pastors who are bragging about how many members they have and about how big their budgets and buildings are! However, while the emphasis is on building budgets and buildings, the ultimate calling of building people has been neglected and ignored! There is really no time and energy left to lift up Jesus because they are too busy lifting up themselves!

          Well, I’m just about to run out of time, so I guess I will have to break this sermon up into parts and try to finish the list the next time! So, let me close today with the blasphemers. Please note that according to the Bible, to blaspheme is not just speaking against God, but to blaspheme is to speak against God, Jesus, and the things and/or the people of God! So, when church folks talk slanderously about one another that’s actually blasphemy! How can you speak against of the people and/or things of God and not be guilty of speaking against God? The Lord has always identified himself with his own! The Bible says that the king shall say in that day: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

          Well, I really need to leave you alone now, I’ll pick up here next time! But, you need to check yourself to see if you are one of these latter-day saints! As for me, I believe I’ll be like the song the old folks used to sing! Just give me that old time religion! It was good enough for the Hebrew children! It was good enough for old man Daniel! It was good enough for Paul and Silas! It was good enough for my mother and my father and it is good enough for me!

“The Latter-Day Saints” (part 2)  II Timothy 3:1-9 KJV 

          Again, I would like to say that this sermon is, in no way, meant to cast any kind of negative light upon The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, also known as the Mormons. No! We’re not talking about those latter-day saints! But, as we look at this text, we discover that Paul is not listing the characteristics of the world, but rather of people who will claim to be saved! People who will be associated with the church and will wear the label; Christian! People who will have a form of godliness but will deny the power thereof. So, with that being said, let’s continue with the list. 

          We left off last time in the middle of verse 2 with blasphemers, so let’s begin today with the next characteristic. The text says that these latter-day saints will be disobedient to parents. In ancient society, respect for parental authority was extremely important, disrespect and disobedience to parents was not tolerated. Listen to how disobedient children were handled according to the Law in ancient Israel, “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place;  And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.” (Deut.  21:18-21 KJV). In ancient times, there was zero tolerance for parental disrespect and disobedience, but these latter-day saints will be continually non-compliant and rebellious to parental authority. The next characteristic is that they will be unthankful! They will be ungrateful, unpleasing and ungracious. No matter what they received they will never be thankful. Next, it says that they will be unholy. According to the Analytical Lexicon of the NT, this speaks of those who reject religious obligations, having no regard of duty to God or man. The Greek word used here is only used here and in I Tim. 1:9 in the NT. Hence, in context, the verse speaks of the time when those who are supposedly Christian will make no distinction between that which is holy and that which is not. They will make no separation of holy things and will treat holy thing as common. Then the text says that they will be without natural affection. The NASB says that they will be unloving, the NRSV says that they will be inhuman. According to Louw-Nida, this word pertains to a lack of love and affection for close associates or family. They will be without family love! For the latter-days saints, blood will not be thicker than water! The KJV translation of the next term is really a bad translation. The word truce-breaker means one who makes a treaty and then breaks it. But the Greek term that is behind this translation denotes not those who make a truce or treaty and then break it, but rather those who refuse to make a treaty period! The modern translations render it as, irreconcilable, unforgiving, implacable. The Greek word literally means, “without libation or drink offering.” Hence, it is indicative of one who is strictly unwilling to make a treaty, hence irreconcilable and unforgiving. The absolutely irreconcilable person, who, being at war, refuses to lay aside his enmity or to listen to terms of reconciliation. This person is unwilling to be at peace with others. The latter-day saints will be false accusers or slanderers! The root of the Greek word is the same as the term for the devil. The term is used to describe those who are given to malicious gossip. They will be incontinent, which means they will be without self-control, lacking in moral restraint. They will be fierce, untamed, not gentle, brutal and salvage. And then they will be despisers of those that are good. Not only will they not want to do right, but they will hate those who will want to do right! I’m talking about the latter-days saints! They will be traitors, meaning they will deliver without justification a person into the control of someone else. They will be betrayers and will abandon in times of danger. They will be heady, which means that they will be rash, reckless and thoughtless. They will be high-minded, which means that they will be conceited, thinking of themselves more highly than they ought. And then the text says they will be lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Their main pursuit will be entertainment and relaxation, things that comfort and pleases the flesh, to the neglectful detriment of the spiritual and the things of God. The Louw-Nida Lexicon renders the definition as, “pertaining to being fond of pleasure and enjoyment – given over to pleasure.”  

          At this point in the text, the main list of the characteristics concludes. Note that the list began with the characteristic of being lovers of themselves and lovers of money and ends with the characteristic of them being lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God! Yes! The main problem with the latter-days saints will be that of misplaced affection! They will have a love for self, money and pleasures but have no love for family, others or God! Now, all the while they are doing this, Paul says that they will have a form of godliness! In other words, they will not quit coming to church! They will not stop offering up praises to God! They will go through the motions and the rituals of godliness. They will have a form of godliness, but it will just be a show! They will perform the rituals of the faith, but they will deny the power of the faith. Now, Paul warns Timothy to disassociate, to turn away, avoid, having nothing to do with such people. Those who are sincere are to withdraw themselves, as much as possible, from those who are hypocrites! 

          Now, I’m not going to deal with verses 6 and 8 because I really need to finish this today! So, let me comment on verse 7 and then I will conclude with verse 9. In reference to the women mentioned in verse 6, Paul describes them as, “Ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” I believe that this is a description of the latter-day saints also! The latter-days saints will run from conference to conference, from workshop to workshop, from church to church, from this class to that class, always learning.  But, because they will be determined to remain in their sins, they will not be able to come to a full, saving, knowledge of the truth. People often erroneous apply John 8:32 which says, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But when you really look at that verse, the very first word is “And.” That means that it is connected and predicated on what precedes it. The quote is only part of what Jesus said. The whole of what Jesus said is this, he said: “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” You can only be free unless the truth makes you free! The truth will only make you free if you know the truth! And you will only know the truth if you continue (remain, abide and dwell) in his word, thereby proving yourself to really be his disciple! 

          Paul concludes by saying that these latter-days saints will only go so far because their folly will be exposed for all to see! It will not be difficult to tell who is saved and who is not because the Bible says that a tree is known by the fruit it bears! Jesus said, “By their fruits ye shall know them!” Now, we don’t need to know them for the sake of judging them, we need to know them for the sake of knowing the real from the fake, the sheep from the wolves, the real saints from the latter-day saints!

The Baby with the Bathwater

Most have heard the proverbial warning: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” The meaning of the expression is that one should be careful not to throw out or get rid of something good in an attempt to get rid of something bad. But that is exactly what I have been observing lately as I am reading more and more of people who are rejecting Christianity and the church because of the state of the church today.

Now I will admit, there are a lot of things that are amiss in the church today! There are charlatans in the pulpit and all sorts of shenanigans going on in the pew! It seems like there are more ‘profits’ than prophets and there are more pastors and church-people, trusting ‘in God we trust’ than trusting in God! But if you think this a new trend, you are mistaken! There has never been a time when there was nothing amiss in the religious realm! I’ve heard people longingly say that the church today needs to get back to the New Testament Church. Honestly? Have you actually read the Bible? The Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthian letters as a direct response to ‘church-mess!’ Jesus was rejected by the ‘church-leaders’ of his day and those same church leaders convinced a mob-crowd to petition for the freedom of a murderer and condemn Jesus to die on a cross! No! There never was a day when the church was perfect! So, for those people who are going from church to church, looking for the ‘perfect’ church; it doesn’t exist! It never has!

But just because the church or church-people are not perfect, that’s not a legitimate reason to reject what the church represents. Would you stop flying on planes just because some planes crash? Would you stop buying a certain brand of automobile just because some of your friends had a bad experience with the same make and model? In every barrel, there may be some bad apples, but does that mean you should stop eating apples?

There are some African-Americans today who suggest that Christianity is the ‘White man’s religion’ and that it was invented as a tool to control the slaves. They suggest Jesus did not really exist and that he was a fictional character invented as a tool of white supremacy. Seriously? Now, I don’t propose to be an expert historian, but I do know how to count! In the Bible, in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles; Chapter 8, there was an Ethiopian official (a Black man) who was visiting Jerusalem to worship. Now, why did this Black man from Ethiopia (Africa) go to Jerusalem to worship? And how did he know about the Hebrew God in Africa? Well, it was probably because his ancestors worshipped Yahweh; the God of the Hebrews, from the time of the Queen of Sheba (a Black sister), who learned about Israel’s God from her visit with King Solomon. By the way, there is a tradition that suggest Solomon gave the Queen of Sheba more than just silver and gold when he gave her “all that she desired,” in 1 Kings 10:13 and 2 Chronicles 9:12. (In case you can’t read between the lines; according to the tradition, the gift he gave her was opened nine months later!) So, this Ethiopian official already knew about the God of Israel, for he was reading from the book of Isaiah when Philip approached him. He was a little confused by what he was reading, so Philip explained to him that the prophecy he was reading was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, who had been crucified and raised from the dead. The Ethiopian believed in Jesus and was baptized! After which, he returned to Ethiopia and no doubt shared with his country the good news about Jesus. 

Now, I mentioned this story because it takes place, soon after the Day of Pentecost in Acts 8. Therefore, Christianity was probably introduced to the Africans, who were already familiar with Hebrew religion, at that point. That’s Acts chapter 8. Sometime later, in Acts chapter 16, the Apostle Paul has a vision of a man from Macedonia saying; “Come over into Macedonia and help us.” From that vision, Paul determined that it was God’s will for them to go to Macedonia and preach the Gospel. The significance of this is the fact that Macedonia was in Europe. When Paul went to Macedonia, it was the first time and the first place the Gospel was preached in Europe! Are you doing the math? The Africans, who already worshipped Yahweh, got the Gospel in Acts 8! The Europeans didn’t get the Gospel until Acts 16! Therefore, how can it be honestly said that Christianity is the ‘White man’s religion,’ when according to the Bible, the Black Africans heard and accepted Christianity long ‘before’ it was introduced to the White Europeans? 

Did the White slave masters and the White church use the Bible and Christianity to justify and perpetuate slavery? There’s no question about it; of course, they did! But the problem wasn’t with the Bible or Christianity! The problem was the White man’s interpretation of the Bible and the distortion of Christianity. The same Bible and Christianity Southern Whites used to justify and preserve slavery; Black preachers and sympathetic abolitionists used to fan the flames of freedom and equality! The difference wasn’t in the Bible or Christianity; the difference was in the use and interpretation!

And that’s the same difference today! You can make the Bible say anything you want it to say, if you don’t follow the proper rules of hermeneutics, exegesis, and plain common sense! So, don’t blame or reject God because of the unauthorized dealers or bad ambassadors who claim to represent Him! If you do that, you’re throwing out the baby with the bath water! The bath water might be dirty, but the baby is alright! Yes! There are pimps in the pulpit and prostitutes in the pews, but the baby is alright! There are preachers for profit; pushing prosperity for their pleasure, but the baby is alright!

As long as there has been a world inhabited by free-thinking, fragile and flawed human beings, there has always been a distortion of the truth. But just because the bath water of distortions, deceit, mistakes, misinterpretations, and malice is dirty, that doesn’t justify throwing the baby (the Truth of who and what God is and His plan for us) out! Pick the baby up, out of the dirty water, and see how beautiful and precious it really is! Please! Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater!