My story

I remember living in New Mexico, serving in the United States Air Force. I was somewhat moderately religious, but the moderation was because of heritage more than anything else. I did read the Bible and had some low-level knowledge, like knowing where the Ten Commandments could be found when someone asked me. I was also a member of the Nazarene Church, the church of which my parents were associated, but one to which my grandmother was loyal. My experience in the Nazarene Church was good, but my commitment to them was not as good.

As a member of the USAF, while in New Mexico, I was introduced to the “church of Christ” for the first time. To me, one church was a good as another and, by and large, they were all good. The churches I knew I had no real interest in would have been the Mormons and Catholics, but Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists – I had no real objections to these. Continue reading

#conversion-stories, #conversions, #my-story

Conviction

Hebrews 11:1 reads, “Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (ASV), and then in verse 6 it reads, “and without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.”

The other day some people came by the house to hand out literature on an upcoming (at that time) conference in Dayton. The people (women) were with the Jehovah Witnesses; Anne received them as she was tending to her flowers and garden. They invited her to the conference, but Anne declined. After a little while, the three spoke about the garden and flowers, then departed for wherever they were headed next.

As I reflect on that which these women from the Watchtower religious group did, I reflected on the idea of conviction. I asked myself, “exactly how convicted are we, as members of the Lord’s church, how convicted are we to tell people about Jesus, to speak aggressively about His holy name in a world of sin in which we live?”

False teaching is all around us, but we can hardly know what false teaching is being promoted around us if we don’t know the Lord and His way. How many of us are aware the very word of God that is made available to us, that is preached each Lord’s day is the measurement by which we will be judged? A good many of us know that already. Still, we have a hard time picking up the Bible and reading twenty minutes each day, while we have plenty of time to watch a favorite program or programs. “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my sayings, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I spake, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:38, ASV). Rejecting comes in different ways. It could be out-right rejection or simply neglect. “For if the word spoken through angels proved stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard” (Hebrews 2:2-3). Instead of putting in effort to understand the Lord’s way, we want to have programming put in effort to entertain us.

I don’t pose all of this to you, as much as I pose these questions and observations to us. I certainly am a person of conviction; I engage people in discussion as often as I can, regardless of location or venue. I do so aggressively. I have not, however, gone door-to-door in my evangelistic efforts. Some may say that is not needed or not as effective as it once was and, perhaps, this is so. Still, I have not done so of late. The Jehovah Witness ladies did. RT

#conviction #evangelism

Letter to editor: Secularism and theism on campus

There are some who think there is no God (Movement on the move, B-6, Dispatch, 7.21.2017), but the evidence for such is overwhelming. Nevertheless, they hold onto that belief because it gives liberty to hedonism. Hedonism is rejected by many atheists, but for no good reason. Bertrand Russell once wrote, “We feel that the man who brings widespread happiness at the expense of misery to himself is a better man than the man who brings unhappiness to others and happiness to himself. I do not know of any rational ground for this view…” (Katharine Tait, My Father Bertrand Russell, p. 182).

Russell was a secularist; what values did he hold and, for that matter, those values that he held, for what reason did he hold them? His daughter, Katharine, took these words from his autobiography, thus an accurate conveying of a despairing sentiment, suggesting the values of a secularist have no foundations and are fluid.

In the battle of ideas, especially on college campuses, secularism and theism should be made available to each student to choose on their own. Let the debates begin, and let not the campuses shut them down because one might be conservative and the other progressive/liberal.

Printed in the Columbus Dispatch on 7.24.2017. Unfortunately, the editorial board signed my name “The Rev. Ron Thomas, Sunrush Church of Christ.”

#theism #secularism #atheism

Reflect on holiness

The Scripture teaches that Jesus gave up His life for us individually. That is, He gave up His life for all those who love the Lord and call on His name (John 3:16; Acts 2:21). Paul wrote to those of Galatia, “who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father” (Galatians 1:4, ESV). Reflect on this for a moment: Jesus gave up His life, that we might have life. We should respect this gift of life given to us in such a way that our lives are changed, changed in the direction of holiness. “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy’” (1 Peter 1:15-16, ESV). RT

#holiness #life

Word to the Wise. Proverbs 10:2

Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. Why would someone seek wealth via wicked deeds or thinking? Because there is no real belief there will be a day of reckoning. While the thinking of great profit awaits, many hope, actually, it is the righteous who receive wealth, a wealth that is not of this world – which is of greater value. If the wicked thought as the righteous, the wicked would no longer be wicked, but righteous. Seems to be a truism; we also see another truism: the wicked far outnumber the righteous. The Lord’s way of educating the mind has a way of changing hearts that have no desire to live by this world’s standards, but those hearts need to want a wealth that is not of this world. RT

#wealth #truisms #Proverbs

See it through

An able man shows his spirit by gentle words and resolute actions (Chesterfield). He is able because he has been taught (or learned in some way). His words are gentle because he is secure in who he is, not threatened by others around him, thus no need to have harsh words. He has resolute actions because he knows what is right, will see it through to the end or be brought to an end trying to see it through. That which Chesterfield said, I am sure, came by experience and observation. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58, KJV). RT

#quotes #gentleness #action

A tweet with a clue?

I saw a cartoon in the “Columbus Dispatch” (6.5.201) that represents a “tweet” (mocking President Trump’s tweets on his Twitter account); it reads: “Children, I gave you life – you gave me climate change and a world leader who wants to bring me death. Is this how you treat your mother? Very upset bigly. Signed ‘Mother Earth.’” The hash-tag to this political cartoon is DJTHasnotAClue.

The cartoon is a mockery of the president (one’s thinking about the president is not the point of this article), but I want to suggest there is a mockery of One that is far more serious.

The mocking cartoon with the climate change message is part and parcel of paganism! Paganism is defined as a polytheistic way of thinking, a religion of sensuality, delight in material goods. Polytheistic ways of thinking that is a collection of various spiritual and materialistic ideas wrapped into one wherein a person chooses to live by its influences.

Is it truly the case “mother earth” gave life? Who is mother earth? Continue reading

#evolution, #mother-earth

Is one church as good as another?

This question is fraught with danger. To begin, the word “church” is understood by some to mean a denomination of one sort or another. For others, the word “church” refers to the building.

The English word “church” can mean building, but in a New Testament context it does not mean that at all. For instance, in Acts 11:22 (ASV) the Scripture reads, “And the report concerning them came to the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas as far as Antioch.” A building does not have ears!

Again, notice in Acts 15:22, “Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men out of their company, and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren.” The word church in this context is not Paul, Barnabas having chosen to work alongside the “brick and mortar,” but certain members of the local church to travel with them. Continue reading

Do I have to be a member?

Have you heard that question before? It is likely you have, or some variation of it. How do you answer? Here is a conversation that is not that far from something that might actually take place.

“Do I have to be a member of your church to go to heaven?”

“I don’t have a church.”

“You know what I mean! I am talking about the church where you attend.” Continue reading

The Reformed doctrine of faith alone

The Reformed Doctrine of “faith alone” is a cornerstone of protestant theology. This cornerstone, however, is put in place by inserting into Scripture a term that does not exist, building on it a man-made theology, such as the sinners prayer, God’s sovereign choice of salvation apart from one’s free-will and interpreting the word “works” to refer to either God’s commands or to anything that a person might do (otherwise).

One advocate of faith alone theology wrote, “I won’t defend the truth of justification by faith alone in detail, but it’s clearly taught, for example, in Romans 3:28: ‘A person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law.’ Or, as Paul teaches in Romans 4:5, ‘God justifies the ungodly.’ Both Abraham and David were justified by faith and not by works (Rom. 4:1–8; Gal. 3:6–9).” [1]

It is my intent, in this article and the next, to address these passages, noticing the context and how it does not support to teaching “faith alone” and, finally, give some attention to James 2.

This is no small matter. Continue reading

#doctrine, #faith-alone

What good is it?

What good is it to call oneself a Christian and yet find reasons to not attend the service of the Lord’s church wherein saints gather together to worship the Lord? The many who identify themselves as Christians and fail in this area are Christian in name only, not in heart. They think they will be received by the Lord because of some semblance of attendance and some semblance of “the Lord knows my heart.” Surely, they think, “I am in better position than you might think I am.” Really?

Compare what you think with what the Lord said (as in the Charles B. Williams translation).

“Let us continue so to consider one another as to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Let us stop neglecting our meeting together, as some do, but let us continue to encourage one another, and all the more because you see that the great day is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Those who love the Lord consider one another in their attendance, desiring to stimulate others toward faithful service and good works, glorifying the Lord. Those who love the Lord do not neglect their attendance.

The word “neglect” is an interesting word. The dictionary defines it to mean to give little attention to, to give little respect, to leave undone or unattended. Those who fail to regularly attend the services of the Lord’s church are guilty of exactly this, the words of denial not withstanding!

What good is it to be called a Christian and fail to meet with the saints because the kids have activities “to which I have to get them!”? What good is it?

It is only good in one’s mind, but not certainly the Lord’s mind. Those who love the Lord memorialize Him in the life lived. RT

#attendance, #priorities, #worship

A difficulty that needs to be addressed

Reflect on Proverbs 18:19 for a moment or two. As you look at the three translations below, it is easy to see that each version conveys the same idea. To separate oneself from another by thought, words and/or actions makes for a difficulty that must be addressed.

The KJV read, A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle. The ESV reads, A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle. The NET reads, A relative offended is harder to reach than a strong city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a fortified citadel.

What does the word “offended” mean? We are not to understand the word to mean “What she said offended me!”  Instead, what is in view is something much different. One Hebrew scholar used the word “wounded” in this context. A wounded person is one who had been attacked. Another scholar gave this sense, “The proverb is talking about changing a friend into an enemy by abuse” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary-Revised). Continue reading

#offense, #sin, #unity

The Righteous Requirement of the Law

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:3-4, ESV)

1. What could the Law of Moses not do? It could not save; it was not designed by God to save (Acts 13:39). The Law of Moses was not designed by God to bridge the gap between man and God. The Law of Moses was designed by God to show the nature of sin (Rom. 3:20) and those guilty of sin will be punished (4:15).

2. However, it is not God’s desire that any perish (2 Peter 3:9)

3. God bridged the gap with His gift to man, His Son (John 3:16); His Son (Jesus) condemned sin in the flesh (Hebrews 2:17-18; 2 Corinthians 5:21).

4. It is my view the righteous requirement of the law is best understood in relation to John 6:44-45 and Galatians 3:24-25, tied in with Paul’s earlier words in Romans 1:17, justification by faith.

5. Justification by faith means one walks in accordance with faith (Romans 10:17; 2 Cor. 5:7) because there is a clear realization of man’s nature, a nature that cannot bridge the gap between himself and God (cf. Romans 7:24-8:1).

#justification, #law, #romans

Have you been to Jesus?

In Acts 4, we read of the account of two men standing before the religious leaders of the day, an occasion that was not taken lightly by any that were involved when such a thing like this occurred. The religious leaders not only had moral force, but they could apply a heavy dose of peer pressure, even criminal indictment when the situation demanded it. Acts 4, from their perspective, was such an occasion.

There was some murmuring going on amongst the people, and when they learned about it, those in charge arrested those guilty of causing this disturbance (that is, Peter and John). The disturbance was only in relation to the healing of a man lame since his birth, but the troubling aspect of this disturbance was in direct relation to Jesus, God’s anointed (chosen) one, one who was actually rejected by many of the Jewish people. Rejected as he was, they killed an innocent man.

Still fresh on their minds, the man Jesus and that which He taught, they resolved: “This has to stop!”

After having been arrested, the Lord’s servants were standing before those in judicial authority, being called to give an account of what they did and why. Peter and John stood tall. They gave a direct answer, and then a pertinent application for them (those in authority and the whole community): the authority by which they operated was the same authority they rejected and killed. One day they were going to stand before Him and be judged. This was impressive and insulting to those making inquiry (Acts 4:13). Continue reading

#courage, #life-in-christ

Can one give up salvation?

A doctrine of man known as the impossibility of apostasy is a doctrine that closely clings to other doctrines of man known as unconditional election and limited atonement. Unconditional election is a teaching that God’s choice of a person is in accordance with His sovereign will, and the person chosen has nothing at all to do with this matter. In other words, God choice “was not based upon any merit [including one’s personal response] shown by the object of his grace.” Limited atonement is the teaching that Jesus died only for some, not all. “Christ died indeed, for many people, but not all.” If unconditional election and limited atonement are actual Bible teachings, then the question “Can one lose his salvation?” has to be answered in the negative. God’s choice can’t be overcome by any action or desire of man. In other words, one is saved no matter what.

Are those two doctrines taught in Scripture? The answer is no. Consider the following: Unconditional election is wrong because Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; he who believes not shall be damned.” Note the conditions before salvation is attained: belief and baptism. Thus, unconditional election is not taught. Limited atonement is wrong because Jesus died to atone for the whole world; 1 John 2:2 speaks of Jesus as being the propitiation (atonement) for the sins “for the whole world.” Note also that it is God’s desire that ALL come to the knowledge of the truth, that none be lost (1 Timothy 2:4; 2 Peter 3:9). Thus, limited atonement is not a teaching of the New Testament.

Since these two man-made doctrines are not taught in Scripture, what about the question, “Can one lose his salvation?” The Hebrews writer said, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt” (Hebrews 6:4-6, ESV).

As all three are tied together, unconditional election, limited atonement and impossibility of apostasy, they all fall together also. RT 

#calvinism, #salvation