The Anti-Mask League

Ecclesiastes 1:9-10 – What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. (10) Is there a thing of which it is said, “See, this is new”? It has been already in the ages before us.

This post is not intended to make a political statement or to make an argument for “masks” or “no masks.” I’m just getting that out there from the beginning.

I was reading several articles this morning about the Influenza epidemic of 1918 and 1919, and it amazed me how things just don’t change. On one side the anti-mask league believed they were defending their liberties, while the other side called them “mask slackers.” Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes are so true when he wrote that “there is nothing new under the sun.”

Wherever we land in this debate, we must always remember that God’s glory must be sought above all things. Also we must not take some issue like masks and let it become another issue over which we as Christians wrangle. Let’s not press our liberties over our brother’s best interest, and may we not assign the wrong motives to someone who walks into a store without a mask.

Romans 14:7-8 – For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.

Galatians 5:13-15 – For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.

Here are some articles for your consideration that I found interesting on the intense debate a century ago about masks and the Spanish Flu.

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article244267462.html

https://www.charlotteobserver.com/news/coronavirus/article241614086.html

https://www.businessinsider.com/san-francisco-anti-mask-league-1918-spanish-flu-pandemic-2020-5

https://escholarship.org/uc/item/5q91q53r

God Bless You

“God bless you!” No, there’s nobody around who sneezed. It seems that one of rare occasions I hear someone say, “God bless you” is when someone sneezes. But are we actively wishing the blessings of heaven upon others? This is the expression of a Christian’s heart toward others, because this is God’s heart for others, too.

When I was growing up, I got the impression that we shouldn’t say, “God bless you” to someone unless we knew they were sound in doctrine and living right with God. People were afraid, I believe, of “bidding God speed” to people living in error (2 John 10).  I think we get two concepts confused. We confuse approving sinful behavior with wishing God’s goodness to come upon those in sin.

But we really need to think about this. Does God bless those living in error? Sure thing. Does the Lord bless your enemies? Yes. Does God bless those who are wicked? Absolutely. Does He bless the most wicked, heathen, nasty, disgusting sinner? He sure does (Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:27-28,35).

Why does God do that? Look at the following verse that shows what God’s goodness and blessings are designed to do for everyone.

Romans 2:4 – Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

Whether you wish someone God’s blessings, God is blessing them. If you choose not to say “God bless you” to someone, God is still blessing them. As long as any person is breathing air and living in this world, he or she is partaking of God’s rich blessings. And we should want that! Those blessings are intended to drive people to God!

Acts 14:17 – “Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.”

God is kind to the ungrateful and evil (Luke 6:35), so what is to be said of us as God’s children? Can we wish God’s blessings upon everyone? We should, God does.

The Holy Spirit and Me

When I was younger I heard folks around me talking down the idea that Jesus is your personal Savior. Don’t know why they wanted to make such a big deal about it, except that maybe they joined that concept of Jesus being a personal savior to some false denominational doctrine. We have to be careful about going so far to fight a false doctrine that we make the Bible say what it doesn’t say. We end up just as guilty or more than the people we are trying to correct.

But the reality is, Jesus did personally save you if you are a Christian. You have a personal, intimate relationship with the Father. The Holy Spirit was promised to you personally as a guarantee of your salvation. Paul’s conversion story is spread throughout Acts and his letters. You can see what the Lord did for him personally.

What I want to share with you today from the Word is that the Holy Spirit does save everyone the same way, through the blood of Jesus Christ. But He works on you as an individual.

  • The Spirit gives you unique gifts according to His will (1 Corinthians 12:8-11; Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:7-16; 1 Peter 4:10). The “grace” of God in this sense is varied, God gives His diverse gifts to a diversity of people. You have been uniquely blessed and gifted by God, believe it!
  • He places you distinctly and personally in the body just where He wants you (1 Corinthians 12). An example of this is the specific work in a specific location the Holy Spirit had for two people, Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:2).
  • The Holy Spirit knows your prayer life and the groanings of your heart. You have your own circumstances, level of faith and maturity, and unique needs. He knows you cannot pray as you ought, so He uniquely and personally connects your heart with the Father’s (Romans 8:26-27).
  • Your growth in the Spirit is individual. The fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc., Galatians 5:22-23) is not cookie-cutter, carbon-copy growth. Jesus told us that some produce 30 fold, others produce 60 fold and others produce 100 fold (Matthew 13:23).
  • He has begun a good work in you (Philippians 1:6) and He is creating in you both the desire and the action (Philippians 2:13).
  • Think of the 4 gospel accounts. The product from beginning to end was the work of the Holy Spirit, but each gospel account reflects the personality, background, language, experiences, and research of the author.

More could be said, but I write this to encourage you to be thankful and stand in awe of how the Holy Spirit works uniquely in each of us to transform us into Jesus’ image and to make us fit for the Lord’s service.

Learning to Hope

Romans 4:18-21
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 

25 years is a long time to wait, especially when you are already old and God promises you and your wife you will have a baby. Paul said after this period of time, Abraham hoped against hope and trusted God that He will deliver on His promise.

If you have been through great loss and sadness, it is hard to hope for good again, but we can learn to hope again just like Abraham and Sarah did. It takes time. But we are reminded that we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we do not stay there (Psalm 23). Take time to look at the Psalms to see the goodness of God and His wonderful works for you (Psalm 103). Remind yourself of passages in the Bible that give hope (Romans 15:4), like the story of Abraham and Sarah. Cry out to God in your pain, and He will in time heal your broken heart (Psalm 147:3). Surround yourself with encouraging people who will lift you up in your pain. I had a friend, Benjamin, who gave me an assignment to take a mason jar and fill it with accomplishments, positive things, and what God has done for me. It was an encouraging and hope-building exercise to see all the great things God has done. The jar is full. Your jar is full too. You can hope again.

Proverbs 13:12 – Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. 

He grew in faith

Abraham’s great unwavering faith did not happen overnight. He grew in faith.

Romans 4:16-25
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”–in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.
In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.”
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone,but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

We are told by Paul in Romans 4 that Abraham did not “weaken in faith” or “waver” at the promise, yet when you read Genesis you see a lot of wavering. But what we must see is what Paul pointed out about Abraham’s faith here in Romans 4. It grew! He grew in faith! Abraham became fully convinced over time. Abram (“father”) turned into Abraham (“father of a multitude”). As Abraham grew in his faith and continued to give glory to God, he became fully convinced that God was able to do whatever He promised.

You will see below the times Abraham and Sarah wavered as they “grew in faith.”

Genesis 12 – Abraham lied to project himself. There was no need to lie. If God had promised Abraham and Sarah that they would conceive and bear a child, nobody would have the power to kill Abraham.

Genesis 15 – Abraham asked God, “Where is the son you promised me?” God promised Abraham again, and he believed. Genesis 15:6 is often quoted in the New Testament. But notice what happens in the next chapter of Genesis.

Genesis 16 – Abraham and Sarah came up with an alternate plan to bring the promised son into the world. Sarah convinced Abraham to go into her servant girl, Hagar, and have a son. Ishmael was born.

Genesis 17 – Abraham fell on his face and laughed at God’s promise of him and Sarah having a son. He also begged God that Ishmael might be considered the promised son.

Genesis 18 – Sarah also laughed at God’s promise.

Genesis 20 – Abraham lied again to protect himself. See Genesis 12. It was unnecessary to lie. God’s promise of a “multitude of nations” through Abraham showed that Abraham was not going to be killed at that point.

Now, consider what happened after Isaac was born. God asked Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to Him. Look at where Abraham’s faith had come. He did not lie. He did not waver. He did not try to form an alternate plan. He did not fall on his face and laugh and ask for another way. Abraham just did what God said.

But what gave Abraham such strength to offer up Isaac? His strong faith. Look at what Hebrews says about what Abraham’s faith did for him.

Hebrews 11:17-19
By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

By this point, Abraham had such trust in God’s promises that he concluded by faith that if Isaac was killed on that altar, then God would raise him from the dead. That’s incredible faith!

But remember that Abraham did not get to that faith overnight. He grew in faith. Just like you and me. Growth is a process.

I would encourage you to go back over those chapters and take note of all of the great moments of Abraham’s faith. We can list out our failings or moments of weakness in faith, but can we also look back at the times we stood strong in faith? Abraham left everything to go to a strange land (Gen. 12). He showed great humility and generosity to his nephew Lot (Gen. 13). Abraham fought for and rescued Lot (Genesis 14). He trusted in God’s promises (Gen. 15). He obeyed God and was circumcised at 99 years old (Gen. 17)! Abraham showed generosity toward strangers which turned out to be angels (Gen. 18). He prayed for Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 18), and he also prayed for Lot (Genesis 19). As you think about Abraham, think about your own faith. You are growing. Don’t just focus on the failings, focus on the victories!

Hatched, Matched and Dispatched

Jase Robertson pointed out that 3 things happen at baptism: a birth, a funeral, and a wedding.

I am listening to the Unashamed Podcast by Phil Robertson. Today, Jase Robertson pointed out that 3 things happen at a person’s baptism: a funeral, a wedding, and a birth. That was a great point, and I wanted to share that with you today.

When we were baptized into Jesus Christ, we were baptized into his death.

Romans 6:3 – Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?

When we were baptized into Jesus Christ, we were married to Jesus.

Romans 7:4- Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

When we were baptized into Jesus Christ, we were born again.

John 3:5 – Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

What Is Vengeance?

Romans 12:19
Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Paul is quoting Deuteronomy 32:35)

We are told to not take vengeance upon people. Revenge is wrong. Vengeance is God’s place. To avenge ourselves, according to Paul, is to put ourselves in the place of God. Our Lord is the one who brings wrath, it isn’t our place.

As I was studying 1 Samuel 25 with someone last week, we were reading out of two versions of the Bible. When David was seeking to kill Nabal, Abigail told him that would be taking vengeance. She encouraged him not to avenge himself but let God take care of Nabal His way.

But I was reading the English Standard Version, and where the other person was reading “avenging,” my version was saying “working salvation with my own hand.” (See 1 Samuel 25:26,31,33 and compare various versions).

This helped me to see the words avenge and vengeance in a clearer perspective. Vengeance is not just “getting back at someone.” It’s more than that. When we take matters into our own hand and go about solving problems our way, what are we doing? We are working salvation with our own hands. The deliverance is now being done our way instead of God’s way.

So, when we seek to resolve problems our way, we are taking salvation into our own hands. That’s what vengeance is…we are spiritual vigilantes going about trying to deal with problems according to human wisdom, not God’s wisdom.

Some thoughts about hope

Romans 5:1-5
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 8:22-25
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

We rejoice in hope of the glory of God. God’s grace has granted us access by faith into the grace of God in which we base our lives now. That salvation and that relationship with Jesus leads to rejoicing in hope of the final glory that will be brought upon us as God’s children in heaven.

We rejoice in sufferings because they produce hope. Just as Paul said, suffering produces endurance. We learn to stay with God and depend upon Him through suffering. The endurance we develop transforms our character as we grow in Christ through trials. And as our character grows, our hope grows with it.

Hope does not put us to shame, because we have God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. We will not be disappointed, ever, when it comes to our hope in Christ. The Holy Spirit has been given into the heart of each Christian as the “guarantee” of our salvation. All of the other things we hope for in life can and most likely will disappoint, but never God’s Holy Spirit and never our hope in Him.

Our hope is the groaning inwardly for the redemption of our bodies and the completion of our adoption as sons into heaven with God. Can we even begin to imagine what it will be like to have God say to you and me, “Enter in…well done!”?

In this hope we are saved. Salvation in Christ and the hope of heaven why we became Christians. Hope for glory in heaven with God is what sustains us after we are saved.

Our hope is in what we do not see (our eternal redemption), but we patiently wait for it. This hope should calm our spirits and settle us into a patient waiting for being glorified with Christ. So no matter what may come or what we may endure, the hope we have in Christ is to be our focus so that we can endure the trials of today with a quiet confidence.

Daniel – My Reason Returned to Me

At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me. Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.
(Daniel 4:34-37)

Isn’t it fascinating that God allowed Nebuchadnezzar’s writings to be part of Scripture. Daniel 4 is the personal record of King Nebuchadnezzar and how he was humbled before Almighty God. Because of his arrogance, he was reduced to a dumb beast eating grass for seven periods of time. At the end of that period of time, his “reason returned to him.” He gave glory and honor to God instead of to himself.

I wander if ole King Neb knew his reasoning was gone during that time of eating grass in the pasture. A lot of times we don’t know that our reasoning is flawed, but when we actually begin to use reason we realize how poor our thinking process was before. There are tons of folks in our culture who think they have a lot of brains and are the smartest people on the block. Yet, their reasoning is so upside down and perverted. And they point fingers our way to criticize the Christian’s foundation for reasoning, saying we are leaning on a crutch of blind faith.

Paul was accused of being “insane” or “mad,” but in reality he was the one speaking words of truth and reason (Acts 26:24-25). Because his foundation was squarely on God and His word, Paul’s thoughts were sound and his conclusions were valid. When we leave God and take the glory and honor for ourselves, our reasoning is turned into madness (Romans 1:18-32; Ephesians 4:17-24). This is the story of our culture and of any culture that walks away from God. When we are lifted up in our own pride, our thoughts lead ourselves and others into total darkness and destruction.

However, when we humble ourselves before God, our thinking becomes clear and enlightened. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge, Proverbs teaches us (Proverbs 1:5). When your mind is set on God’s word, it doesn’t make you less intelligent. Being a believer in God doesn’t make you backward and stupid, it makes you the smartest guy in the room (don’t go around saying that, though).

Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.
(Psalm 119:98-100)

The apostle Paul was very concerned about the brethren in Colossae and Laodicea because they were being cheated by man’s philosophy. Here are two final passages for your encouragement. Man’s reasoning may seem smart at first, but when you come to the light of God’s word, your reasoning will return to you.

For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.
(Colossians 2:1-4)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.
(Colossians 2:6-8)