Profanity and Using God’s Name in Vain

It’s amazing how some sins become so commonplace in society over time. Those who have given in to the curse of alcohol were once called “drunks” or “drunkards”. They gradually became alcoholics, and then over time they adopted the title of having a “social disease”. Homosexuality was once called by its Bible name of Sodomy. It too has changed overtime to being called “gay”, and eventually into how it is now referred to as an “alternative lifestyle”. The sin of profanity and using the Lord’s name in vain has also become all too commonplace and accepted in our society.
God has always been interested in how people speak, and the words they choose to say to one another. The third commandment given to Israel reads, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). God’s name was considered so holy that the Hebrew people where afraid to speak it. The Israelites had scribes who would hand copy the Torah, which were the first five books of the Bible. Each time they would write the name of God on the scrolls, they would stop and ritually purify themselves with water. Can you imagine how one of those scribes would feel today if he were to hear how God’s holy name is used in such trivial ways? More importantly than that, we should consider how God feels about it. The Psalmist once wrote, “holy and reverend is His name” (Psalm 111:9). Has that changed? Is God’s name no longer holy and reverend? Has something changed that leads people to believe they can use God’s holy name as a slang word to be thrown around in any conversation? No, God’s name is still the holiest and greatest name in the universe. It always will be. The problem, as always, is with man’s lack of fear and respect for the Creator.
This is another perfect example of how people become desensitized to sin over time. Just twenty or thirty years ago you would very seldom, if ever, hear the Lord’s name used in vain on network television. I was watching a television show on the “Disney Channel” with my daughter not long ago where I heard God’s name used in vain at least six times within ten minutes. This was a television show for kids, on a kid’s channel, and it was rated for all children of all ages!
God has commanded us to abstain from all forms of filthy language. Paul told the Ephesians to “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29). He also told them “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks” (Eph. 5:3,4). Paul told the Colossians to “put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8).
Profanity and using God’s name in vain are sins which can easily become habit forming over time. Profanity infects the brain like a disease when heard on a steady basis. When one begins to use it in their speech, it becomes more and more commonplace and is a difficult habit to break. The way a person speaks is often a good indication of what dwells in their heart and mind. Christians have God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in them (1 Cor. 6:19), so there is no reason why profanity or crude jokes should be coming out of them. -Ed

How to Make the Most of Bible Class

Bible classes are one of the greatest assets we have for studying and learning the Bible. We often take them for granted as they become commonplace over time, but when we do so, we neglect for ourselves a wealth of knowledge. A big problem among Christians these days is not that they do not study their Bible, but that they do not know how to study it properly. A well-taught Bible class can be a huge asset to one who desires to learn the Word of God.
Just consider how well we would all know the Scriptures if we spent as much time preparing for Bible classes as we do for a class at school or a project at work. Its ironic that we often spend more time on our secular education or employment when eternally speaking they are only temporal in nature. However, the things we learn in Bible classes are of the utmost spiritual importance for all eternity. Not only that, but those who dedicate themselves to intense Bible study soon discover that it makes dealing with school, employment, and all secular activities much easier. You see, when our faith in God becomes stronger, then everything else in life tends to become easier to deal with too. Paul told the Romans “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). He told Timothy that the Holy Scriptures had made him “wise unto salvation” (2 Tim. 3:15). We must always remember that all-important statement that Paul told Timothy next. He said, “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
So how do we get the most out of Bible classes? There are some things that we can all do before and after each class which will help us benefit tremendously. Give them a try and see how much your Bible knowledge increases. Remember, when Bible knowledge increases, then your faith becomes stronger as well.
1. If you have children, don’t let them miss class. It has been statistically proven that children who do not attend Bible classes regularly are more likely to fall away from the church later in life. We should also push our children to study and complete any assignments their Bible class teacher assigns them. What kind of message are we sending to our children if we push them to complete school work, but let Bible class work slide. Our children need to see what is most important in life.
2. Make sure you read the Bible text you will be studying in class at least one time before you go to the class. Keep a pen and paper nearby to write down any important items you would like to remember. Also write down any texts you do not understand or may have questions about so you can ask about them in class.
3. Take notes during class. It has been proven that we remember more of what we hear when we write it down. You can also use the notes to review later.
4. When you get home that night, read the material that was covered in class again. Read it, review what was discussed about it in class, and then meditate on it some. Review any notes you took on it as well. This will help you dedicate what you have learned to memory. You can actually do all this in only twenty or thirty minutes of time. When the material is in your mind then you can remember it when you need to apply it to a situation in your life. -Ed

What is the “Restoration Movement”

We in the churches of Christ have been referred to as being part of the “restoration movement”. Many people are not even aware that there ever was such a movement, even though it is still on-going all over the world. The movement’s goal is to restore Christianity back to exactly what it was in the first century when the church was first established on Pentecost.
Many things have happened to Christianity over the past two thousand years. History saw the original New Testament church fall away (apostatize) into the Catholic church just as Paul predicted would happen in second Thessalonians chapter two. The Catholic church grew more and more corrupt over the next one thousand years until its corruption finally led to the Protestant reformation. The reformers broke away from the traditions of Catholicism in an effort to reform or fix it. It was out of the reformation that we see the birth of the many denominations we have today. All of the present denominations were formed in an effort to reform Catholicism or break away from another denomination that had tried to do the same thing. This eventually led to the religious chaos and confusion we now have in the world. The problem with the reformation movement is that they were trying to reform something that was terribly corrupt (the Catholic church), when they should have been trying to restore the church back to its original state before it had apostatized into Catholicism. To reform means to attempt to fix or improve on something, where to restore means to take something back to its original state.
God gave us the inspired New Testament as our standard, rule, pattern, and blueprint for all things concerning the church. We can go back in time before denominationalism and Catholicism to exactly where the church began on the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter two. We can then establish our congregations based on the same blueprint and pattern for the church that they used, the Word of God. When people do this you cannot go wrong. You can know that you are part of Christ’s church (the real church of Christ), when you do everything exactly like they did then. When we follow the pattern and examples recorded in the New Testament instead of the man made creeds of denominations, then we know we are doing it God’s way and not man’s. When we do that, then we are restoring the New Testament church.
You may be asking if there is anything in the Bible regarding the principle of restoration? Well, actually the Old Testament is full of it. Every time an evil king of Judah would take the nation into idolatry, the next good king that came along would have to attempt to restore it. But, the best description of restoration in the Bible is the account of the Jews return from Babylonian captivity. King Cyrus of the Media Persian empire released the Jews to go back to Jerusalem and restore their worship to God. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah record their efforts to restore the nation and worship of Israel back to its original state. Men like Ezra, Nehemiah, Joshua the high priest, and Zerubbabel led this restoration movement. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are often referred to as the restoration books of the Bible. The only way to know if a church is the true church of Christ, is to measure and compare it next to the one we read about being established in the New Testament. -Ed

What’s Love Got to do With it?

The answer to that question is easy, everything! The Christian religion is based on love. God loved the world (us) so much, that He sent His son to die for us (John 3:16). Jesus loved us enough to live a perfect obedient life and then sacrifice Himself to save us from our sin (Rom. 5:8). The apostle John wrote that God is love (1 John 4:8), and then later told us that when we love one another, and are obedient to God, we are showing our love for Him (1 John 5:2,3). Love is the bond that ties it all together.
The apostle Paul emphasized the importance of love in 1 Corinthians 13. The Corinthians were having “issues” concerning the importance of spiritual gifts. Paul points out that the gifts were important, but there was something greater which would outlive them all. It was love. Paul said, “and now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor. 13:13).
But what kind of love are we talking about here? Is it the kind of love that we commonly see on television and in the movies? Is it the highly emotional spur of the moment love that makes one want to throw caution to the wind because of that warm feeling in their heart? Or is it the love someone speaks of when they say things like, “I just love ice cream”? Our society today does not use the word love in the same sense that it was commonly used in the Bible.
There are many different types of love. Unfortunately, the English language only provides us with the word “love” as a generic word for all the different types and meanings. This is part of the reason why the word has lost much of it’s power in our culture. The word love can be used to refer to both something important, and something extremely insignificant (i.e., a parent’s love for a child versus a person who “loves” a certain flavor ice cream).
We are fortunate that the New Testament was written in a certain type of Greek language. The language was much more specific in it’s definition of words than our English language is, and those definitions have been locked in time because of the death of the language shortly after the New Testament was completed. The Greeks interpreted love in four ways, and used four different words to describe which kind of love was meant.
1. Eros, which is an intimate love arising from passionate desires.
2. Storge, which is the type of love between a parent and a child.
3. Phileo, which is the type of love between close friends.
4. Agape, which is a self sacrificing love of affection and benevolence towards all.
The two most common Greek words for love in the New Testament are phileo and agape, but agape is the more prevalent of the two. When Paul gave his discourse on love in 1 Corinthians 13, he used the word agape. The King James Version translates it with the word charity. Agape love is not a description of love that can be used lightly, like the word love is used today in our society. Agape describes a love for souls, a love for what is righteous, and a self sacrificing love. The apostle John stated that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). The word John used in that verse is agape. God is agape love, and it is that same type of love that He expects each of us to have toward Him and one another. -Ed

One Nation Under God?

The year 2007 is now over and permanently sealed in history along with every year past before it. When we look back at the many things which happened this past year in our country, it’s easy to see what the “world” is really interested in and considers to be important. I do not watch much television anymore, but when I do its usually the FOX news channel. It’s really discouraging when I look back over the past year and consider the “major” news stories of 2007. Almost every time I turned on the News channel, all I heard about were the exploits of Britney Spears and the many possible fathers of Anna Nichol Smith’s baby. Its unfortunate that more people these days are interested in what celebrity is getting married for the sixth time, or who’s coming out of the closet and proudly proclaiming their freedom from the world’s oppression of their homosexual desires. Whatever happened to the news reporting facts that were actually important and relevant to what was going on in the world. Unfortunately we live in a consumer driven world, and it seems like most of the consumers these days are more interested in smut than soldiers fighting terrorism in Iraq or the millions suffering around the world.
I know this article does not have a very upbeat or positive ring to it, but when we consider the state our nation has lowered itself to, is it any surprise things are getting the way they are? When a nation seeks to take God out of it’s mainstream culture, you can expect it to decline ethically and morally as the days go by. The United States of America has been a light to the world for freedom and Christian beliefs for the last two hundred years, but that is quickly changing. Why? The nation is removing God from the center of it’s ideology. History can be a scary thing to consider. When you investigate all the major empires or nations of the past, you can see that there were always common denominators which contributed to their downfall. They were the lack of fear and respect for God, and progressively weakening moral values (i.e., divorce, sexual immorality, abortion, homosexuality). History has always proven that a nation without God ,or the principles set forth in the Bible, will exist as a weak nation or eventually cease to exist altogether!
Does the Bible have anything to say about what is happening to our country? Most of the Bible is history, and we can see the same thing that is happening in America repeated over and over again in the pages of It. We see how all the major world empires fell because of their rebellion against God. We also see many examples in the Bible of nations which crumbled from within because of immorality and their desire to live by the “way that seemeth right unto a man” (Prov. 16:25). I would ask you to read Romans 1:20-32, and consider the frightening similarities between what Paul described there and what we see going on around us today. Then review the Prophecy Paul made in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, and compare it to the society our media daily portrays this country as embracing. As negative as all this sounds, not all is lost. We as Christians are the ones that have the ability to turn things around. We do it by teaching our children to obey God. We teach the Bible to others, live right, and pray earnestly that our nation will realize that “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). The answer to any person or nations problems always has been, and always will be, humbly submitting to God. -Ed

Tough Texts Matthew 12: 1-6

There are those who read these two scriptures and make some pretty wild accusations. Some say that Jesus was condoning sin. Others have said that Jesus believed the Law of Moses did not apply to him. There are many who use this text to support what is called “situational ethics”. All of these points are obviously incorrect, as a proper study of the text will show. Jesus never approved of sin, because that would mean that he sinned. The New Testament clearly teaches that He never did (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus also obviously believed the law of Moses applied to him, because He was the only one who ever lived by it perfectly, and by doing so fulfilled it (Gal. 4:1-9, Heb. 9:15-17). But what about the question of “situational ethics”? Is Jesus teaching us in these two texts that it is sometimes acceptable to sin?
Those who support the idea of “situational ethics” use these texts to say it is ok to sin if something good comes out of it (i.e. – the idea that it is justifiable for a poor person to steal food or lie in order to feed his family). In both accounts we see Jesus and His disciples walking through a grain field on the Sabbath. His disciples pluck heads of grain, rub them between their hands, and eat them. Some Pharisees in the area see this and accuse Jesus of letting His disciples violate the Sabbath. Jesus reminds them of how David entered the temple and ate of the showbread, “which was not lawful for him to eat” (Matt. 12:4). Many read this text and claim that Jesus was saying that it was ok for David to eat of the showbread so it must be ok for His disciples to sin by plucking the grain on the Sabbath. But that was not what Jesus was saying at all, and He was definitely not supporting the idea of situational ethics.
We must first consider what Jesus meant by His statement about David. David had truly sinned by what he did. We all know that David was not perfect. Jesus pointed out how they would justify David committing sin for his well being, but not His disciples who also hungered. In 1 Samuel 21:1-7, David had eaten the Bread which was only lawful for priest to eat. The Pharisees would readily justify David (King and prophet) for doing such, but would not allow the disciples to pluck heads of grain on the Sabbath. One thing most students take for granted in this text is that the Pharisees were right in accusing them of violating the Sabbath. The disciples had not violated any of the laws of Moses. Jesus knew that Deuteronomy 23:25 and Exodus 12:16 gave them the lawful right to pluck the heads of grain. They may have been guilty of violating the Pharisee’s Sabbath tradition, but not the law. Jesus was rebuking them for their hypocrisy and binding of unlawful traditions.
Supporters of situational ethics will claim that Jesus was giving His approval to David when he sinned by eating the shewbread. That is completely opposite of what Jesus was doing. Sin is a transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). David sinned by doing what he did. The Pharisees were hypocritical. Jesus pointed out that priest could work in the temple (profane it) on the Sabbath, but according to their vain traditions a Jew walking in a field on the Sabbath could not pluck a head of grain to feed himself. Jesus used the Pharisee’s own hypocrisy to point out their guilt in not following the law of Moses. These can be tricky texts to understand, and many have differing opinions about them. Spend some time reading all the related scriptures and study for yourself. Let me know what you think. -Ed

Can We Know God by Hugging a Tree?

How can someone know God? There are many these days that claim they do, but the ways they claim to know Him do not harmonize with what the Bible teaches on the subject. I have met people in the past who claim they know who God is by going out into nature. Can a person role in the grass and hug a tree to really know God? Will frolicking through the woods enter us into a saving relationship with the Heavenly Father? When they leave the woods and brush the grass and tree bark off their clothes, can they say they really know God any better than before? The Bible teaches that we can know that God exist from nature (Rom. 1:20), but it does not say we can know anything about his personality, characteristics, or will for mankind from nature alone. I have also met people who claim to know God based on an emotional experience they had. They usually claim to know God by the feelings they have deep down in their hearts. The Bible teaches us the many dangers of trusting those inner most feelings and emotions as a spiritual guide in life. Many a good sincere person has been led down the wrong path by trusting the feelings of his or her own heart (Prov. 16:25, Jer. 10:23).
Lets ask ourselves a question that will help us understand this. How do you know that you have a soul and spirit? Stop reading for a moment and really think about that question. The only way that anyone knows they have a spirit is because God told us that we do in the Bible. If it weren’t for God revealing to us that we have a spirit, none of us would have ever known that we do. God is a spirit (John 4:24), and the only way we can know anything about him is through the reading and study of the Bible. Faith is believing that something exist in which we cannot see with our own eyes. If we want to have faith in God, we must read the divine revelation He gave to us about Himself. Paul said, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). God chose to reveal himself to us through His Word. We may be able to look at the wonders of nature and realize there must be a creator, but we must have divine revelation to really know anything about Him or His will.
The apostle Paul elaborated on this subject in 1st Corinthians chapter two. Paul said, “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual” (1 Cor. 2:11-13). Paul is stating that God has revealed to man what He wants us to know about Him by the giving of the Holy Spirit. God gave of His spirit to the apostles and inspired men of the 1st century so they could write down and record what God wanted us to know about Him. It is through these divinely inspired writings that we now have the Bible. God revealed to mankind what He wanted us to know about Him, His nature, and His will. The only way to know who God is, is to know His inspired Word. John said we can know that we know God when we keep his commandments (1 John 2:3). I guess we could try get to know God better by hugging a tree, but it would be much more productive to study the Bible, not to mention less embarrassing. -Ed

Learning to Pray Like Jesus

Jesus probably spent more time in prayer than any human who has ever lived. So fervent was His prayer life that the disciples (who already knew a thing or two about prayer) once begged, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Far more insightful and fascinating than the amount of time Jesus spent in prayer is the content of Jesus’ prayers and petitions. In an effort to be more like Him, we should ask, “What would Jesus pray for?”

He would pray about God’s will — “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Jesus subjected His will to the Father’s (Jn 17:4), and thus became our perfect example. Our prayer life ought also to focus on God and His will. Prayers are many times concerned too much with our own will and too little with God’s. James rebukes this attitude in us: “You ought to say, if the Lord wills we will live and also do this or that” (James 4:15). The Lord wants us to be concerned with His will being accomplished in our hearts, in our lives, and in the lives of others!

He would pray for His enemies — One of the most heart-wrenching prayers in the entire Bible was uttered on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus prayed for those who were guilty of putting Him to death. While God will not forgive an impenitent sinner, Jesus realized how desperately these men needed the salvation He was providing. How much more should Christians be willing to forbear persecutions in bringing others to the Lord? We should bless our enemies by praying on their behalf (Matt 5:44-45).

He would pray for unity in the church — Before His death, Jesus uttered a magnificent prayer on our behalf in John 17: “that they may be one, as You, Father are in Me, and as I am in You, that they may be one in us” (John 17:21). Jesus was not praying for unity at the expense of truth, but make no mistake, He was praying that Christians be united in God’s cause. Around our brotherhood today there are churches that have been splintered and fractured by personality disputes, sin in the church, and the continual turmoil of brethren trying to be, “Greatest in the kingdom.” Mark these words: Jesus prayed for the kind of unity that only comes with a firm commitment to the truth and a humble spirit displayed on the part of all. Let’s pray for more churches like that!

He would pray for those who are struggling in faith — As He prayed on a mountaintop, Jesus witnessed His disciples struggling in the midst of a storm (Mk 6:47-48). Jesus knew this storm was testing their faith in Him, and we should have no doubt that He prayed for them. How often are we concerned for those we see who are struggling? Many of us have daily opportunities to minister to people that need our love and encouragement, but we do well to remember Jesus’ example: He prayed for His disciples before He walked out to them on the sea. Let’s remember those who are struggling with storms of their own when we pray.

He would pray with gratitude — When Jesus rejoiced, it was because He was grateful to God (Luke 10:21-22). The Bible inseparably links the characteristics of real, lasting joy and gratitude toward God (cf. Phil 4:6-7). Our prayers ought to reflect a genuine sense of thankfulness for God’s abundant blessings (James 1:17). One of the greatest sins we can commit is to fail to be thankful (cf. Rom. 1:21). Learning to pray like Jesus means that we should spend more time, “counting our many blessings” as we pray. How’s your prayer life? Do you pray like Jesus? — John Baker

Tough Text – Psalms 51 & 58

There are passages in the Bible which are sometimes used as “proof texts” to support the many false doctrines that have infected the Christian faith. Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3 are probably two of the most well known of these passages. David wrote the fifty first psalm after being confronted and rebuked by the prophet Nathan for the sin that he had committed with Bathsheba. David wrote “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). David also wrote the fifty eighth Psalm where he was speaking of the wicked of the world. He wrote, “the wicked are estranged from the womb, they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3). Both of these passages are often used as “proof” that all people are born totally depraved sinners, and are in a lost spiritual condition from the moment they leave their mothers womb.
This false belief is part of the foundational teaching of John Calvin and his “TULIP” doctrine. Calvin believed that all men inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin and are thereby totally depraved from the moment of their birth. The actual name of the doctrine is “total hereditary depravity”. Proponents of Calvinism often refer to the two above passages in support of their belief.
If these two verses teach what the supporters of Calvinism state they teach, then we have a huge problem. That would mean the Bible contradicts itself. The Bible clearly teaches that a person does not inherit the sin (or the guilt of sin) from their father or mother (Deut. 24:16). The Bible teaches, “The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself” (Eze. 18:20). We inherited the consequences of Adam’s sin, but not the guilt of it. So what do the two verses in Psalms refer too?
In Psalm 51:5, David was stating that he was born into an environment or atmosphere of sin. He was not saying that he was born guilty of sin. That again would contradict other scriptures. Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3). Consider what the Jews said on Pentecost. They said, “and how is it we hear, each in our own language in which we were born” (Acts 2:8). Those Jews were born in a certain area where a certain language was spoken, but that does not mean they were able to speak that language the very minute they were born does it? In the same sense we can see how David was conceived and then born into an environment of sin, but not that he was born a sinner.
To understand Psalm 58:3, one must simply dig deep into the verse and common sense will bring forth the true meaning. The verse says the “wicked are estranged from the womb”, but it then says they go astray as soon as they are born. Well they have to be in a safe condition to begin with before they can “go astray”. A person cannot go astray unless they are in an upright condition to go astray from. Also notice that David says “they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies”. We must ask how a newborn baby could “speak” a lie and also how a newborn baby would even know what a lie is? All babies are born in a safe saved position, and are not accountable until they sin while understanding what sin is (Deut. 1:39). -Ed