Who are false brethren?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Now this matter arose because of the false brothers with false pretenses who slipped in unnoticed to spy on our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, to make us slaves. But we did not surrender to them even for a moment, in order that the truth of the gospel would remain with you. Galatians 2.4-5

Sometimes you have to take a stand. You have to defend the truth against people who come into the meeting either twisting the truth or with false intentions. Their desire is not to build up a congregation. It is to distort and divide.

Paul called such people false brethren. These do not enter a place speaking their falsehoods clearly. Most often they slip in without anyone knowing the damage that is about to be done. Their teachings come out a little at a time, many times in the form of doubts and questions. Paul said their aim was to make slaves. In the Galatian churches, it was the teaching that to be a good Christian, you have to also follow the law of Moses.

Truth is important. There is only one source of that truth, God’s word. We need to be diligent to know what it says and to understand what it means. Paul stood firm in his defense of the gospel. We need to do the same.

Do you know the word well enough to know when someone is teaching something that is contrary to truth? If not, why not? Peter said that we need to be prepared to give answers to questions about our hope, 1 Peter 3.15. That also applies to defending the truth.

#risingjoy #Galatians #truth

Jul. 5. Saul Begins to Preach

Acts 9:20-31; Gal. 1:11-19

Repentance, which is a change of heart along with a change of actions, is one of the requirements for salvation. One of the greatest examples of repentance ever recorded was found in Saul. Soon after his conversion, he went to Arabia for a period of time and received divine instructions through the revelation of Jesus regarding his mission to preach the gospel.

After being taught the gospel more fully, Saul returned to Damascus. His mission of binding followers of Christ and taking them to Jerusalem was reversed and he began to preach that the Christ is indeed the Son of God.

Saul’s change of life placed him in the same danger that he had imposed on the believers earlier. The Jews plotted to kill him, but when he found out about it, the disciples let him down the wall of the city in a basket by night and he escaped and returned to Jerusalem after an absence of more than three years.

After returning to Jerusalem, Saul attempted to join the disciples, but they were afraid of him. Barnabas, one of the early leaders of the church, took him to the apostles and explained his conversion to them.

Saul preached boldly in the temple for a few days, but his life was once again in danger. Jesus appeared to him in a trance and instructed him to leave and go preach to the Gentiles. After being in Jerusalem and with Peter only fifteen days, the disciples helped him escape to his hometown of Tarsus.

While away from Jerusalem, Saul did not remain idle. He went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia preaching and establishing churches during the next several years.


Where the Spirit is present

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. 2 Corinthians 3.17

The Jews did not accept Jesus. They still adhered to the Old Testament. There were men teaching that to be a Christian, you had to obey the old law as well.

Paul wrote comparing the two covenants. The old covenant was glorious. Moses covered his face, which shone, with a veil after coming from God’s presence. The old law, even though glorious, produced death, 3.7.

The new covenant under Christ is even more glorious because it produces righteousness, 3.9. God, Jesus and the Spirit are one. Where one is present, they are all present. When a person obeys Jesus, they receive the gift of the Spirit, Acts 2.38. That person also receives the presence of God and Jesus in their life, John 14.23.

At the same time that someone receives the Spirit, the Bible teaches that they are set free from the old law, Romans 8.1-2. You are set free from fear, 2 Timothy 1.7. You are set free from sin, Romans 6.18. You can proclaim with boldness the salvation that God has given to man.

Have you obeyed the Lord? Have you been set free?

#risingjoy #2-Corinthians #freedom

Jul. 4. Saul Converted

Acts 9:1-19

Saul was an intense persecutor of the church. He was a devout Pharisee who was born in the city of Tarsus, in Cilicia about four hundred fifty miles north of Jerusalem. The place of his birth was at a seat of Greek learning and it also made him a Roman citizen.

Jewish boys were taught a trade by their fathers. In Saul’s early training, he learned the trade of tent making, which he followed during his adult years. He was brought up as a youth in Jerusalem as a student of the great teacher, Gamaliel.

After about seven years had passed since the church was established, Saul was making life difficult for the believers. He went to Jerusalem and received authority from the high priest to go to Damascus and bind disciples and bring them back to Jerusalem. Damascus was about one hundred forty miles north of Jerusalem.

When Saul came near Damascus, a strange thing happened to him. A bright light shone from heaven and a voice called out to him and said, “Saul, Saul why are you persecuting Me?”

The men who were traveling with Saul heard the voice but didn’t understand or see anyone. During this encounter, Jesus told him to, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” He did not hesitate to obey the Lord’s command.

While Saul, being blinded by the light, was being led into Damascus, a disciple named Ananias had a vision. The Lord instructed him in this vision to go to a certain house where Saul of Tarsus was praying. Saul was also seeing Ananias in a vision restoring his sight.

At first, Ananias was afraid to meet with Saul because he had heard of the things that he had done in Jerusalem and that he was even going to bind those in Damascus who called on the Lord’s name. After being convinced of the importance of his mission, Ananias went to Saul and revealed the Lord’s plan for him.

Saul received his sight and immediately arose and was baptized and was filled with the Holy Spirit. Upon being told what he must do, Saul was baptized. Baptism was neither an option nor a choice, but a “must do.”


Nothing new

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a violator of the law. Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2.11-13

The sin of prejudice is nothing new. Perhaps the basis of it changes, but the end result is sin, James 2.9. God does not show favoritism. He welcomes all who will respect and obey him, Acts 10.34-35.

Jesus taught about our attitudes in the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5-7. He taught that both adultery and murder are sins that we are not to commit. If we commit one, but not the other, we are still guilty of breaking the law.

In comparison to the law of Moses, the law of Christ gives freedom and sets us free from the rituals that were a part of the Mosaical law. We have one sacrifice which is Christ Jesus. We have one observance that was given by Christ to be done in his memory, the Lord’s Supper. In Christ, we are all the same and we are all one. We are priests and a holy nation, 1 Peter 2.9, independent of race or economic status.

God showed his mercy to us by sending Jesus to die in our place, something that we did not deserve. Instead of judging others we need to show mercy.

#risingjoy #James #mercy

Jul. 3. Church Scattered, but Grows

Acts 8:1-40

After the death of Stephen, the church began to suffer great persecutions. The believers were scattered from Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria. However, the apostles stayed together and remained in Jerusalem. Saul was one of the chief persecutors of the church, dragging both men and women off to prison.

The church in Jerusalem may be compared to a campfire burning peacefully in a forest until a mighty wind (persecution) stirs it. With the scattering of the embers, a mighty forest fire breaks out and the fire spreads uncontrollably. The believers (embers) went everywhere preaching the word of the Lord.

Since the main body of the Jerusalem church was scattered, Philip went into Samaria and preached Christ to them. Many came to be healed and multitudes obeyed the teachings of Philip.

One of those new believers was a sorcerer named Simon. Simon was well known by the people because of his magic tricks and many had said that he was “the great power of God.” He was so impressed by the miracles performed by Philip that he continued to travel with him.

When the apostles heard in Jerusalem about the obedience of the Samaritans, they sent Peter and John to bestow the Holy Spirit upon these disciples. Even though Philip had the power of the Holy Spirit to perform miracles, only the apostles were permitted to pass this power to other people. After all of these people had died, there was no one left who could perform miracles.

These believers had been baptized and had received the gift of the Holy Spirit and were in a saved relationship with God, but had not yet received the Holy Spirit Himself.

The New Testament law had not been written at this time. It was important for the infant church to have a special measure of the Holy Spirit to help them remember the things that they had been taught. Through miracles, they would be able to impress upon others the truth of this new gospel.

After a person is saved, he is still subject to making mistakes. New converts are especially vulnerable to falling into their old habits. Simon was an example of one who sinned after being saved. He wanted to buy the power to pass the Holy Spirit on to others.

Peter pointed this sin out to Simon and instructed him to repent and pray to God for forgiveness. God gives second chances and even more if a person truly repents and prays.

Sometime after the apostles had returned to Jerusalem, an angel instructed Philip to go south of Jerusalem through an isolated area toward Gaza. As Philip traveled toward Gaza, he overtook a man going in the same direction.

This man was a eunuch, the treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia, a country of Africa. The capital of Ethiopia is approximately twelve hundred miles south of Jerusalem. He was a devout man and had been to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home.

Philip was instructed by the Holy Spirit to join the eunuch who was reading the prophet Isaiah. It is likely that the eunuch had heard about Christ while he was in Jerusalem and was trying to learn more from the prophets as he traveled toward home.

When Philip heard what the eunuch was reading, he began at the same Scripture and preached Jesus to him. As they came to some water, the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?” The Scripture does not record any of the text of Philip’s lesson, but obviously, the importance of baptism in one’s salvation was taught.

Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.”

Upon the eunuch’s confession, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” they both went down into the water and Philip baptized him. If baptism were not a burial, it would not have been necessary for both of them to go down into the water.

The eunuch went away rejoicing in his salvation and the Holy Spirit transported Philip to Azotus where he continued preaching from there to Caesarea.


What gets your attention?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

But the one who peers into the perfect law of liberty and fixes his attention there, and does not become a forgetful listener but one who lives it out – he will be blessed in what he does. James 1.25

What gets your attention? What do you focus on? We all have things that we consider important, things that we want to focus on in our lives. However, so often, that is not where we spend most of our time. We let the urgent things take over for they are the things screaming in our ear for attention. They may not be important at all, but the fact that they will not be silenced bumps them to the front of the line.

James wrote a very practical letter. He was writing to Jewish Christians who were living outside of Israel. He told them what they needed to do to be blessed in their actions.

James told his readers where to put their attention. First, one must peer into the perfect law of liberty. It is more than glancing at it. Time needs to be spent learning it. It is perfect in that it is complete and it will set us free from the urgent things and help us to value what is important. To fix your attention is not glancing at it occasionally, but to spend time reading and studying what is inside.

Secondly, listening is not enough. You need to practice what you have learned, live it out. Just as with other things, spiritual muscles need to be exercised. If you listen and then do nothing, it is of no benefit to you. Even worse many times you forget what you have learned. Practice is necessary!

Where is your attention focused? How well do you listen?

#risingjoy #James #attention

Jul. 2. Stephen, First Christian Martyr

Acts 6:8-7:60

Stephen, one of the seven began to preach and do many wonders and signs among the people. Some of those who had heard him vigorously opposed his teaching and started plotting to destroy him.

Blasphemy, under the Law of Moses was an offence punishable by death. These Jews accused Stephen of blasphemy and after having him arrested, they set up false witnesses to testify to the Sanhedrin in court that they had heard him speak blasphemous words about Moses, God and the law.

After hearing these charges, the high priest asked Stephen if these things were so. In presenting his defense, he told the story of Christ, the Son of God, beginning at the calling of Abraham.

Stephen proceeded to detail the history of the Jewish people. He started with their father, Abraham who was promised a great nation and was promised that all nations of the earth would be blessed in him.

God renewed this promise to Abraham’s son, Isaac and to Isaac’s son, Jacob.

Stephen recounted the events that led to the four hundred year slavery of the Israelites in Egypt and how Moses was called to lead them to freedom. It was after this release from Egypt that God instituted a law, which became known as the Law of Moses.

Even though the Israelites had seen the miracles God had performed through Moses, they were a complaining group of people. At times, they had refused the leadership of Moses and turned their backs on God and worshipped idols.

Stephen reminded the people that this was the same Moses who had prophesied that, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”

The temple had been the house of God, but Stephen pointed out that now God does not dwell in temples made with hands.

Stephen charged the Jews with the same behavior that their fathers had committed, but in addition, they had murdered the Just One.

The Sanhedrin was so outraged by the things that Stephen had said that they lost control of themselves. They cast him out of the city and contrary to Roman law, stoned him to death. Under the Roman law, Jews were not permitted to execute capital punishment.

Stephen had a forgiving heart. As he was dying, he prayed, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.”

One of the people present was a young man named Saul. He looked after the clothes of the ones who killed Stephen.


Is Jesus the Messiah?

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

The spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has chosen me. He has commissioned me to encourage the poor, to help the brokenhearted, to decree the release of captives, and the freeing of prisoners, … Isaiah 61.1

This is a passage that speaks of the Messiah, God’s chosen one. Since we know that Jesus is the Messiah, we understand that this passage is referring to Jesus.

In Luke 4.16-21, Jesus was in Nazareth, his hometown. It was the Sabbath Day and he went to the synagogue as he usually did. He stood up to read and he was given a scroll of the book of Isaiah. He read Isaiah 61.1-2a. He began to tell them, in verse 21, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read.” Jesus was proclaiming to be God’s Messiah.

In Matthew 11.2-6, John the Baptist was in prison. He sent some of his disciples to Jesus to ask him if he was the Messiah? In response to their question, Jesus made reference to Isaiah 61.1. He told them to tell John of all they had seen and heard.

Jesus is the only one who has the power and ability to set men free from their spiritual bondage to sin. It is through his sacrifice and death that we have forgiveness of our sins. Jesus said in John 8.31-32 that if we follow his teaching, we will know the truth. And the truth will set us free!

#risingjoy #Isaiah #Messiah

Jul. 1. Church Has Growing Pains

Acts 4:32-6:7

At this point in the beginning of the church, there was great unity of faith, spirit and purpose among the new disciples. Many were long distances from their homes and began to deplete their resources. Those who had possessions sold them in order to share with those who were needy. Among the ones sharing their wealth was a man named Barnabas, who sold his land and brought the money and gave it to the apostles.

Unfortunately, when good works are being performed, there are some who seek the praise of men. These sales of property were voluntary and no one was required to give any certain portion.

Ananias and his wife Sapphira conspired among themselves to sell a possession and keep back part of the price while reporting that they had given all of it to the apostles. They were each struck dead because they had lied to the Holy Spirit about their intentions. This example of the wrath of God brought great fear upon all the church.

The popularity of the church and the apostles continued to spread and many sick people were brought to be healed. Multitudes of believers, both men and women were being added to the Lord. People from surrounding cities also came to be healed.

This was too much for the high priest and the other Sadducees. They saw the vast number of people who believed in the resurrection of Jesus as taught by the apostles. At this time, they put not just Peter and John, but all of the apostles in prison because of their teaching.

The high priest called the council together the next morning and sent for the apostles to be brought to appear before them.

There was a big problem. They were not in the prison. Instead, the apostles were in the temple teaching the people. An angel of the Lord had opened the doors of the prison that night and had brought them out. The guards did not even know they had been released.

When the captain and officers had brought the apostles from the temple to the council, the high priest reminded them that they had been commanded not to teach in this name.

Peter and the other apostles reminded him that they were to obey God instead of men and that God had raised up Jesus from the dead, whom they had murdered.

Gamaliel, one of the council members and also a teacher of the law, called for a private meeting of the council. He mentioned men who had made great claims and had many followers who had been destroyed. Gamaliel reasoned that if these things were of men, they would also come to nothing, but if they were from God, they could not fight against God.

After beating and warning the apostles, the council released them instead of putting them to death. But, “Daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

First-century women were not respected very highly socially. They were greatly dependent upon the men in their lives for their care. Widows sometimes became very neglected and poor.

This became evident in the early church. A group of widows of Greek descent were being overlooked in the daily distribution of the common funds that had been raised through the selling of property.

When this was brought to the attention of the apostles, they realized that to oversee this problem and others like it would reduce the amount of time they had to preach the gospel.

As a remedy to this dilemma, the apostles instructed the church to select seven men to care for these material needs of the church. These men had a good reputation among the disciples and also among outsiders of the church. Their lives showed that they were full of the works of the Spirit and were men of wisdom.

The men chosen were Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas. The name deacon is not used here, but a careful study reveals the similarity of this work with the work of deacons recorded later in the church.

With this problem solved, the church continued to grow and flourish in Jerusalem and even many of the priests were obedient to the faith.

As we continue through Acts, the apostle Paul to be appointed later, with his writings and struggles will become the main emphasis of our study. Later, we shall study the writings of some of the other inspired authors.


Fiction or Non?

If you told a story meant to convey the truth on a matter, which would be easier to complete: fiction or non?

Perhaps for some people nothing would be easier than teaching through experience and reality.

Perhaps for some people nothing would be easier than teaching through possibility and imagination.

No matter the choice, the choice could say something about us … but even if it says nothing, what matters is whether or not it could say something to others.

Jesus knew how to tell stories of truth, to both those who thought with the mind and those who thought with the heart. Sometimes it only took one story to satisfy each version of the student!

The stories Jesus would tell still need to be told because he told stories like no other in mankind could ever tell.

Then the officers came to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why have you not brought Him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!”” (John 7:45-46 NKJV)

Hugh’s News & Views (A Christian, But . . .)


Is it possible for one to be a Christian (what some often speak of as a Christ follower), and not be a member of His spiritual body, the church? Most people would say no, if one is a Christian that person is also a part of the universal spiritual body of Christ. At the same time, many people would say that one can be a Christian without being a member of the church of Christ, or, as they would likely write it, the Church of Christ, or the Church of Christ church or the Church of Christ denomination. This indicates that in the minds of many people two different things are under consideration when one speaks of “the one universal spiritual body of Christ” and when one speaks of “the church of Christ.” In the case of the latter, they are thinking of and viewing the church of Christ as a denomination, only a part of the much larger universal spiritual body of Christ. But is this in fact the biblical concept of the church of Christ? Is this the view of biblically informed members of the church of Christ? Let us study and think together on this vital question. Please note that the title of our essay is not an affirmation, but a question. Continue reading


No greater joy

Rising Joy, by Vicki Matheny

I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth. 3 John 4

When you teach someone the gospel, you invest time and energy into that person. Many times you hear their struggles and their weaknesses as well as good things about them. As the person begins to read and study the Bible, you can almost see the challenges to their thinking. You watch as the person goes from knowing little of the Bible, to reading regularly. As the seed is planted, you can see it sprouting into faith and often blooming into something beautiful.

We moved to another city after living years where we had been. We had taught the gospel to many people. We had many spiritual children. The joy of returning some years later and seeing those who were still there faithfully continuing their walk in Christ brought such joy. Our work did not feel as if it had been in vain. Our efforts had been rewarded.

I have also had the opportunity to talk with unfortunately too many parents who have seen their own children leave the faith. The sadness is great and often brings tears of frustration and hopelessness.

We must do our best to see our children, grandchildren, and others we have taught stay faithful. That is best accomplished by instilling a strong love of God’s word and respect for its authority. There is no greater joy!

#risingjoy #3-John #joy

Jun. 30. Church Persecution Begins

Acts 4:1-31

As Peter preached about the resurrected Jesus Christ, the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection from the dead, were greatly disturbed. They, along with chief priests who were also Sadducees, arrested Peter and John and held them in jail until the next day. Peter took this as an opportunity to preach Christ to these Jews also.

Since they recognized the great miracle Peter and John had performed, they decided to release them, but to warn and forbid them from preaching any more in this Name. Peter and John answered, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard.”

When Peter and John returned to the other apostles, they prayed—not that the persecution would stop, but that they could speak and perform wonders through the name of Jesus with boldness. God did, in fact, give them the boldness they needed to preach His word in the face of the persecutions that they faced.


Sovereign Semantics

Perhaps it’s due to its birth, but Calvinism likes to play semantics with the sovereignty of God. One moment God is sovereignly controlling all things and the next moment he’s not in control of his own sovereignty.

You see, according to the doctrine of Calvinism, God’s sovereignty controls everything, including whether or not an individual is capable of being unconditionally saved. When God’s sovereign grace, according to the said doctrine, is gifted upon the unconditionally predestined individual by grace alone, only then is he or she capable of producing works of genuine repentance which evidences his or her reception of salvation from God. Therefore the logical end-result of Calvinism’s beginning says a person can only repent and be saved if it’s according to the sovereign will of God.

Continue reading

#calvinism, #repentance, #salvation