The Apple Of God's Eye

March 29, 2011

Trinitarians: False Teachers With False Doctrines

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The central doctrine of most Protestant and Catholic churches for many centuries has been that of the trinity. This doctrine is so important that the Catholic Encyclopedia states: “This [the trinity], the Church teaches, is the revelation regarding God’s nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to deliver to the world: and which she [the Catholic Church] proposes to man as the foundation of the whole dogmatic system.”

Both Catholic and Protestant theologians quote Theophilus of Antioch (circa 180 A.D.) as the first person to write about this most important doctrine. But isn’t it strange that such a major doctrine was avoided in religious writings for nearly two centuries? That is almost as long as the United States has been a nation!

Furthermore, Theophilus’ allusion to the traditional trinity — “the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” — is quite nebulous at best. Notice what Theophilus wrote in commenting about the fourth day of creation in the first chapter of Genesis: “And as the sun remains ever full, never becoming less, so does God always abide perfect, being full of all power, and understanding, and wisdom, and immortality, and all good. But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, “Theophilus to Autolycus).

Here is the first statement by a theologian that is supposed to teach the doctrine of the trinity. But does his statement really teach this?

Read it — simply. He does not say that God is a trinity of PERSONS, or that the Holy Spirit is a part of that trinity. He just refers to God, His Word and His wisdom.

Theologians have tried to imagine into this unusual statement “their trinity” — and yet even the editors of the Ante-Nicene Fathers state in a footnote that the word translated “wisdom” in English is the Greek word sophia which Theophilus elsewhere used in reference to the Son, not the Holy Spirit.

Theophilus could not possibly have gotten the idea of a trinity from the Bible — if he really did have a trinity of persons in mind, which appears unlikely from the preceding statement — as the Bible nowhere even alludes to God being a trinity.

From the time of Theophilus, it was several hundred years before this doctrine became a part of the Catholic dogma. It was in the last twenty-five years of the FOURTH century that “what might be called the definitive trinitarian dogma ‘one God in three persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Holy Trinity).

From this it is evident that this “central doctrine” of Catholicism and Protestantism was not a part of the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3) during or prior to the time of Jude, but was ADDED by later theologians.

The doctrine of the trinity was not what Jesus Christ “came upon the earth to deliver to the world.” He came to preach the Good News of His soon-coming Kingdom, to establish His true Church, to give His life as a sacrifice for all who repent, and to give God’s Holy Spirit to those who are baptized — the Spirit that empowers believers to be ONE with the Father and the Son!

Source: Tomorrow’s World, September/October 1970

February 7, 2011

The Mark of A Great Mind

The Plain Truth, October 1983

Do you know what the mark of greatness is?

Who hasn’t been insulted at some time? Or threatened or falsely accused?

Perhaps we experience situations where individuals are rude or abusive to us, lacking tact or consideration in what they say or do. Perhaps on crowded roads or highways inconsiderate persons suddenly swerve in front of us.

How do we respond to such irritating situations?

Many respond with an impulsive burst of rage or anger: “He can’t do that to me! I’ll show him … !” Then suddenly, a nasty verbal exchange, or worse, a serious accident or injury is generated.

The news media are filled with accounts of human tragedy caused by lack of emotional control under unpleasant situations. Many family and personal problems, costly work mishaps and even senseless killings result.

Harmful Emotional Habits

All of us from time to time face the need to learn control of our emotions under difficult circumstances. Such control is the mark of a great mind.

The Bible repeatedly admonishes us to be slow to anger. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, but a man of discretion is patient.” “He who is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” “He who rules his spirit [is better] than he who takes a city” (Prov. 14:17, 29; 16:32, RSV).

Slow to anger? Patient and controlling thoughts and emotions under duress? How do we achieve these qualities of character? What values, understanding and attitudes produce them?

The Bible reveals there is a right time and place for anger (Eph. 4:26). But how do we control our temper when confronted with someone’s insults or rudeness or lack of consideration? How can we control emotions under trying personal difficulties so we don’t descend into the pit of resentment, bitterness or depression’?

What we need is the right spiritual perspective, attitude and power of mind! What we need is a positive and loving perspective about today’s confused world and the people in it. We need a right perspective about personal problems and difficulties that will enable us to cope with them in a beneficial way. (more…)

January 30, 2011

Vanity: Our Greatest Weakness

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In the epic battle in the wilderness, after Christ had fasted for 40 days and forty nights, Satan thought he could get to Jesus through vanity (Matt. 4:3). Notice he said IF you REALLY are the Son of God, then you aught to at least be able to turn these rocks into bread. Why should you go hungry obeying God when you have the power to appease yourself?

The question was first one of vanity and second of fleshly appeasement. Sure Christ could have been indignant at being called something less than God’s very Son, but that would have been vain. And He could easily have turned the stones to bread to relieve His great hunger, but that would not have helped Him grow spiritually stronger in his battle with Satan. The very purpose of fasting is to draw close to God, for strength in the fight against our adversary. Christ answered by speaking the mind of God:

“….it is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4).

When Satan tempted Christ a second time by saying He could easily have His angels protect Him if he threw Himself  from the temple, he again resorted to vanity. Surely Christ had the protection of God at His disposal in any situation?

But ” Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Obviously, vanity does not put God first, and Christ set a sterling example of humble submission to His Father. (more…)

July 5, 2010

God Corrects The Emotionally Immature Christian!

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God doesn’t want us whining and moaning about things, so we have to watch what comes out of our mouths.”Murmurings” means grumbling or complaining (Phil. 2:14).

This type of attitude shows an emotional immaturity and anciently, the Israelites were punished for doing exactly that (Numb. 14:27-29, I Cor. 10:10). Be content with what you have, and if you have a request, make it politely.

What we say reveals a lot about ourselves, with the book of James describing our words as either sweet water or bitter (Jam. 3:8-12). Do we say nice things to some people and mean things to another? That’s not right (Matt. 12:34-35).

Our words reveal the state of our heart (or mind). If evil words come out, then it shows there is evil in your heart that you need to get rid of. A good conversation shows wisdom (Jam. 3:13-16).

Do you fight and argue? That also doesn’t come from God. Learn to recognize whether what you say is wrong and evil, or right and good (Jam. 3:17-18). Controlling our emotions and making peace with all men, despite what confronts us, produces the fruit of righteousness.

February 3, 2010

Christians: Get Facts To Avoid Foolish Decisions

God expects Christians do use wisdom and discernment in physical decision making. Spiritually, when we sin, we don’t get do-overs, only repentance. So in both cases, the basic message is, “Look before you leap.”

Not all Christians have inherent wisdom, and God says if we lack it, we are to ask for it:

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (Jam. 1:5).

Solomon was considered one of the most wise men that ever walked the face of the earth, yet he also was given his wisdom by God. Christians have to allow the living Christ, Head of the Church, to guide them. But even so, if our wisdom (aided by God) needs more input (Prov. 11:14) – seek qualified, wise counsel. Christians  go to God’s  ministry, the helpers of their joy, calling for counsel, advice and all the facts.

Some though do the opposite and go against wise advice, which is foolish indeed. Rehoboam found this out the hard way in I Kings 12.  He did not take the counsel of the elders, but instead listened to the young counselors. The result was that ten tribes of Israel revolted, making  Jeroboam king. This left Rehoboam as king only over the house of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin.

Rehoboam’s friends were not tapped into the source (God) and Rehoboam was left with the advice of those who told him only what he wanted to hear. This coloured the truth to Rehoboam’s desires (Prov. 18:17), rather than giving all the facts. Had he made a list of pros and cons, instead of having a conclusion already in mind, he would have looked more objectively at the possible outcome.

So in conclusion practice making wise decision all the time, by plugging into the Holy Spirit:

“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy” (Jam. 3:17)

The wisdom from above helps us to avoid getting caught in disastrous consequences which should easily be avoided.

December 14, 2009

The Virgin Birth: Fact Or Myth?

Liberal theologians have long denied the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection story and other tenets of traditional doctrine.

It’s easy enough for traditionalists to assign blame to two or three outspoken theologians. But what the theologians really represent is a surfacing of deeply felt, usually unexpressed, doubts in the hearts of the clergy. Increasingly the so-called poetic nature of the nativity stories is stressed in the media. A strict interpretation of the Bible text is summarily dismissed.

Perhaps a little historical perspective on this problem will clarify the controversy.

Brief Modern History

Adolf Harnack was a German liberal scholar. In 1892 he remarked to his students that he did not believe the virgin birth. In his view Jesus of Nazareth was no more than a very capable teacher. Harnack touched off a heated controversy that has ebbed and flowed ever since.

Then Emil Brunner wrote a book about Jesus Christ in 1927 in which he questioned the virgin birth.

After World War II Rudolf Bultmann began his now famous approach of “demythologizing” the Bible. To him New Testament myth had to be separated from New Testament fact. Miracles were indeed statements of faith — but not factual stories.

Students training for the priesthood and ministry have read the published works of these theologians as a regular part of their educational routine. Many have absorbed such teachings, however unconsciously. They have become unsure. They do not understand who or what Jesus Christ really was and is. Their disbelief now extends to the virgin birth.

Thinking men and women are now examining the New Testament documents for themselves. They have no option but to test what they hear, as did the Bereans, who searched “the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).

Can one honestly believe the virgin birth? Two accounts of Jesus’ birth appear in the gospels — one by Luke and the other by Matthew. Space only allows for an analysis of Luke’s version.

Luke as Gospel Writer

Luke was a physician who conducted himself like the professional he was. His gospel was written for a prominent Roman official. He chose his sources carefully. He talked to eyewitnesses. He recorded truth.

It is unthinkable that Luke would produce a careless assemblage of half-truths. Notice Luke’s prologue: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the truth concerning the things of what you have been informed” (Luke 1:1-4, Revised Standard Version throughout remainder of article).

Luke’s sober intention was to convey truth — not myths or half-truths. This Greek-speaking physician was nobody’s fool. He was a well-educated man.

Here is the thoughtful conclusion of Professor A. Plummer about Luke the physician and gospel writer and the apostle Paul: “It is not improbable that it was at Tarsus, where there was a school of philosophy and literature rivalling those of Alexandria and Athens, that they first met. Luke may have studied medicine at Tarsus. Nowhere else in Asia Minor could he obtain so good an education” (St. Luke, pp. 20-21, T.&T. Clark, 1896).

Luke is one of the most versatile and prolific of all the New Testament writers. He uses 800 Greek words not employed elsewhere in the New Testament. He spent valuable time with another prolific writer — the apostle Paul who, like Moses, was not only educated in biblical doctrine, but in this world’s secular and legal knowledge as well.

Only Luke sets the birth and ministry of Christ in the wider context of the Roman Empire. Considerable historical and chronological data are used in his account. He is conscious of the impact of Christ’s teaching in the whole of the civilized world. He realizes the gospel goes far beyond Palestinian borders.

The point is, here is a man uniquely equipped to write an account of the life and teaching of Jesus Christ to one in high office. Luke understands the Graeco-Roman world. He possesses literary gifts and historical awareness. He has professional experience.

Luke’s Birth Accounts

The birth stories of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ are set in the days of Herod (Luke 1:5). The account begins with Zechariah, who is approached in the Temple by the archangel Gabriel while Zechariah is performing his priestly duties. Gabriel predicts the birth of John. Not unnaturally, Zechariah protests his and his wife’s advanced age. Nevertheless Elizabeth conceives (verse 24).

This crucial account follows: “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary” (verses 26-27).

God is director of this entire scenario. Gabriel was sent by the Creator. The archangel said to the betrothed virgin Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (verse 30).

What is to happen to Mary as a result of God’s favor? “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (verse 31).

Tripartite Testimony

Notice the account carefully. Notice how Scripture affirms Mary’s virginity. In verse 27 Luke says that Mary was a virgin. In verse 34 Mary herself states she was a virgin. In verses 35 through 37 the archangel Gabriel affirms her virginity.

But what was Mary’s reaction to the angelic greeting? Just what you’d expect in a real life situation. Luke records that “she was greatly troubled at the saying, and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be” (verse 29).

And when Gabriel tells her of the coming birth, her reaction is very human. “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” (verse 34). Mary was betrothed, but not yet living with a husband. She presents the natural difficulties. Then Gabriel proceeds to strengthen her faith. Notice how.

He focuses her attention on Elizabeth’s miraculous experience. “And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible” (verses 36-37).

A Miracle-working God

Such is the crux of the whole matter. God is a miracle-working God. Miraculous biblical incidents are recorded from Genesis to Revelation. Of course, God did create natural law. But the Creator is superior to the created and can transcend natural law.

Birth is not normally possible after menopause. It occurred twice in biblical history. The first occurrence involved the patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah. Again the reaction was typically human. Abraham said: “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” (Gen. 17:17). Sarah said: “Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?” (Gen. 18:13).

Notice how God answered these questions. “Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, in the spring, and Sarah shall have a son” (verse 14).

“Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Each must answer this question for himself or herself.

Must we reject miracles because they are not the norm in secular human experience? Notice the wisdom of Winston Churchill: “The idea that nothing is true except what we comprehend is silly, and that ideas which our minds cannot reconcile are mutually destructive, sillier still” (My Early Life, page 126, 1930, MacMillan & Co.).

Which Is the Greater Miracle?

It is foolish to view the virgin birth in isolation. The virgin birth is not inherently less plausible than the physical resurrection of Jesus.

The virgin birth is no harder for God than resurrecting Jesus Christ — and certainly no harder than creating the first man from the dust of the ground — or fashioning Eve from Adam’s rib. Which miracle is harder for God?

Let’s put it another way. God created the heavens and the earth “out of things which do not appear” (Heb. 11:3). Visible matter is therefore not eternal in nature. God created Adam out of dust, without any father or mother. God created Eve out of a rib, without any father or mother. Was it then impossible for God to be the Father of Jesus without benefit of a human father? Which is the greater miracle?

But what was the archangel Gabriel telling Mary? Simply this. If God could make it possible for Elizabeth and Zechariah to have a son John in their old age, Mary could bear a child as a virgin. “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Questions on the Virgin Birth

Why does John Mark, the writer of the gospel of Mark, fail to report a virgin birth?

Mark is the briefest of the four gospels. He simply omits the first 30 years of Jesus’ life — beginning his gospel with Jesus’ ministry. Says Mark 1:1: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God’ (Revised Standard Version throughout). Even here a virgin birth is inferred.

What about the silence of the apostle Paul?

Paul’s epistles were all what theologians term “occasional” letters. That is, they were written to either inform or correct a specific congregation or an individual because of problems that arose during the course of his apostolic duties. None is a catalog of Christian doctrine.

Certainly nothing in Paul’s epistles contradicts a virgin birth. Notice Galatians 4:4: “But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman…. ” At the outset of every one of Paul’s 14 letters, there is a reference to the Father-Son relationship in the God family. Note an excerpt from the salutation in II Corinthians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Also in Colossians 1:3: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Draw your own conclusions.

What about Matthew’s quotation of Isaiah 7:14 in the Old Testament? Is not the word virgin a mistranslation? Does not the Hebrew word almah mean “young woman”?

The Hebrew word almah can be translated “young woman,” “girl” or “maiden,” as well as “virgin.” As The New Bible Commentary Revised puts it: “It presumes rather than states virginity” (page 596). Almah is used to describe Rebekah as a “young woman” before her marriage to Isaac (Gen. 24:43). She was a virgin (verse 16).

Almah is never used to describe a married woman. Says The New Bible Dictionary: “In using the word alma, however, Isaiah employs the one word which is never applied (either in the Bible or in other Near Eastern sources) to anyone but an unmarried woman” (page 557).

This is not true of btula — the other term that may be translated “virgin.” Continues The New Bible Dictionary, “The word btula may designate a virgin, but when it does the explanatory phrase ‘and a man had not known her’ is often added… the word btula may also indicate a married woman.”

Moses uses both Hebrew words to describe the virgin Rebekah (see Genesis 24:16, 43). But why did Isaiah use almah to describe the one who would bear Immanuel (meaning “God with us”)? Simply stated, the prophet had to choose one of the two terms. Neither always means virgin. There is no precise word in Hebrew that always means virgin. Since almah never means a young married woman, one living with a husband, it is the better term for Isaiah 7:14.

It is interesting to note that the Septuagint — the most important Greek translation of the Old Testament — translates the Hebrew word almah (Isa. 7:14) into the Greek parthenos. This particular Greek word always means “virgin.” This was the judgment of some 70 Jewish scholars who translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek about 250 B.C.

All that aside, remember that here the Greek New Testament interprets the Hebrew. The angel explained to Joseph: ” ‘Do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit… “All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matt. 1:20-23).

Just before his ascension, Christ told his apostles: ” ‘These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets [including Isaiah] and the psalms must be fulfilled.’ Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures” (Luke 24:44-45). That last sentence is the key. The apostles — including Matthew — received an inspired understanding of the correct sense of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Many times the Hebrew prophets did not fully comprehend the exact nature of what they were writing (Dan. 12:8-9).

Matthew was given inspired understanding of many Hebrew scriptures concerning Jesus Christ. Isaiah 7:14 was just one.

Matthew’s genealogy begins with the genealogy of Joseph. What is the point of a genealogy of a stepfather?

This genealogy shows something vital about Jesus — as well as about his legal father. Matthew 1:1 simply states: “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

King David was founder of the Jewish royal family. Matthew’s genealogy follows the Davidic royal line to Jesus’ legal father. Here are Jesus’ regal credentials.

Why do you think King Herod slaughtered all the male children in Bethlehem age 2 and under (Matt. 2:16)? Herod thought Jesus, as heir to David’s throne, might usurp his kingdom.

It was left to Luke to explain the actual Davidic bloodline through Jesus’ mother Mary.

Source: The Plain Truth, 1985

August 21, 2009

How To Remember Scriptures!

Many have suffered needless frustration because of fruitless efforts to retain certain passages of Scripture in their memory. Perhaps you have tried and repeatedly failed to commit to memory important verses from our Maker’s Instruction Book.

On the other hand, the ability to remember chapter and verse and to dazzle others with this skill becomes a fetish with some! There are those who delight in “showing off” their capacity to quote from memory long sections of Scripture or even whole books of the Bible. Some might claim to have “the fastest Bible in the West” (or the East as the case may be!). On a moment’s notice these individuals will fire a rapid series of scriptural verses at their helpless victims, hoping to impress them with their spirituality.

Is this a proof of spiritual mindedness? Or is it rather merely evidence of great, toadishly swollen vanity?

Is Memorizing Word for Word Necessary?

Let’s be balanced! Let’s understand that salvation does not depend on one’s ability to quote chapter and verse from the Bible! If it did, it is conceivable that none of the original apostles and authors of the New Testament would ever have qualified for the Kingdom of God!

Why? Because in the days of the twelve apostles and the writers of the New Testament, the Old Testament writings had not yet been divided into chapters and verses. In fact, it was not done until long after those men were all dead!

The sole exception to this was the Book of Psalms. The Psalms are actually songs. They were composed by a number of authors and originally intended to be set to music. Therefore it was necessary to divide them into chapters and verses for musical and poetical expediency. And as songs, of course, they were intended to be memorized. For ease of memorization the verses were sometimes arranged acrostically (alphabetically).

Now consider this fact: The New Testament authors quoted directly from the Psalms 116 times — yet in only one instance did they mention the chapter from which they were quoting! This one case is Acts 13:33: “…as it is also written in the second psalm…” The remaining quotes from the Psalms make no mention of either the chapter or the verse.

Other than those from the Psalms, the New Testament contains 167 more direct quotations from the Old Testament and, of course, no chapter or verse is referred to in a single instance. In some cases, when quoting from the Old Testament, the speaker or writer did not even mention the name of the person or the book he was citing. Take, for example, the time when Jesus Christ was being tempted by the devil. Jesus quoted directly from the Book of Deuteronomy, which was written by Moses, yet he did not even mention the author or the name of the book! Check that for yourself in Matthew 4:4, 7 and 10.

In other instances where the prophets of old are referred to, they are simply mentioned by name, but, of course, no verses or chapters are given. For some examples, read Matthew 2:17; 8:17; Luke 4:17.

The Bible was not divided into chapters until about 1250 A.D. when Cardinal Hugo composed a Latin concordance or index of the Scriptures. Over 300 years later, in 1560 A.D., the first Bible translation wholly divided into chapters and verses was produced in Geneva, Switzerland. It was known as The Geneva Bible.

It should be apparent, then, that the ability to quote chapter and verse from the Bible like a human computer is not necessary, and is in some cases nothing more than sheer vanity! If, however, a person is gifted with an exceptional memory for scriptures, it is certainly to his advantage if he exercises his ability in right humility and for an honorable purpose. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an excellent memory!

It IS Important to Retain Knowledge

We are told to “grow in grace and in knowledge” (II Peter 3:18). As Christians, we should be continually increasing our knowledge of God’s Word. Peter also instructs us, “… be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Pet. 3:15).

Memory is therefore one of the important attributes that God has given to humans. For most people, however, remembering does not come easy. It seems many have difficulty retaining even the simplest things! Perhaps you have that difficulty.

If so, then you can take heart from this fact. Even though most of the Bible was not originally written with chapters and verses, the Bibles we use today are! And since they are, we can certainly take advantage of this valuable aspect of modern translations.

The present chapter and verse divisions do make it easier to locate the scriptures we need, and to do it in a systematic way without having to wade through whole books and sections of the Bible to find them. By increasing our memory of scripture locations, we can improve our overall knowledge of God’s Word and be better able to “rightly divide the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15).

We should stand in awe of the authority of the scriptures inspired by the great Creator of mankind! We should tremble before the Word of the living God! (Isa: 66:2.) We should fear to misuse, twist, or misquote the Bible! A fast, flippant answer, hastily given to “save face,” is often inaccurate and wrong! Therefore it is important that we come to really know our Bibles and develop the ability to use them correctly as Peter said.

Understanding More Important Than Rote Knowledge

It may be impressive to be able to “rattle off” dozens of scriptures from the Bible. But it is more impressive and vastly more profitable to have a good understanding of the Scriptures!

Of what value (spiritually speaking) is a man who has the capacity to cite from memory a large number of scriptures without understanding? An inexpensive concordance may be purchased for about eight dollars and likely contains a far greater list of scriptures than any man could normally memorize.

Solomon, in his God-given wisdom, recognized the transcendant importance of gaining understanding. He said, “… lift up your voice [pray] for understanding….” “… Happy is the man that findeth wisdom and the man that getteth understanding.” He said we should “… get understanding” (Prov. 2:3; 3:13; and 4:5). There is a tremendous joy and a sense of exhilaration in realizing you have grasped and understood a spiritual principle for the first time!

Why is it so much more important to have understanding of the Scriptures than merely to be expert in locating and quoting them? Simply because the ability to cite verses and chapters from the Bible is merely a mechanical operation. But comprehending their meaning is a spiritual accomplishment! Read Romans 7:14 and I Corinthians 2:14 in connection with this.

Surely you can see that the important thing is to study for understanding, and not merely to memorize by rote!

Of course, it is also fine to want to increase your skill and ability in rapidly locating and citing scripture verses. And since it is, here are some pointers that will help you — if you practice them habitually — not only to understand, but also to be better able to recall verses of the Bible.

Get the Overview of the Bible

Many have failed to recall the location of certain scriptures because they have thought of God’s Word as a disjointed and disconnected collection of thousands of unrelated verses. Therefore, you should strive to see the Bible as an organized whole. Get the big picture! Learn the books of the Bible first and try to have a general idea of what they are about. Become familiar with the basic divisions of the Bible, the types of books, and the general subject of each book.

In order to get the overview of the Bible, you should at your earliest opportunity quickly read through the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Studying just bits and pieces, here and there, will never enable you to grasp the broad picture — the panorama of the Bible.

To read the whole Bible through, you need to set up a program of Bible study. You should set aside a certain period of time each day to read perhaps five chapters. In order to be sure you don’t bog down, read rapidly to get the general idea of what each chapter is about. Don’t worry about little details. Skim more rapidly over genealogies and those areas where you may be tempted to lose interest.

As you read you’ll find the Bible coming alive with fascinating stories about the lives of godly men of old, gripping true exploits of Biblical heroes, and containing encouragement, exhortation, and valuable instruction in every part!

Study by Subject or Chapter

Many chapters in the Bible were made chapters because of a natural subject content. For example, I Corinthians 13 has been called the “love chapter” because it primarily deals with that subject. Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy 5 both discuss the Ten Commandments. Revelation 20, I Corinthians 15 and I Thessalonians 4 are concerned with the resurrection.

Hebrews 11 is known as the “faith” chapter. Psalm 51 is David’s psalm of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. Psalm 119 deals extensively with the Law of God. Isaiah 11 speaks in detail of the millennial reign of Christ. On and on I could go.

It is easier to remember the subject of an entire chapter than individual verses. But to really remember what is in entire chapters, you need to familiarize yourself with them by studying and poring over them. Doing this will help your overall ability to retain Bible knowledge! And when you do learn the overall content of some of these basic chapters, you will begin to more rapidly locate individual scriptures on the subjects covered in them.

Be Impressed With the Verses You Are Studying

If you were driving a nail into a board and you tapped very lightly on it with the hammer, it would not penetrate the wood very deeply. Your mind is the same way.

Our minds adequately retain for instant recall only those things that have left a deep impression on them. Unless you are sufficiently impressed with something the first time you hear or study it, chances are it will soon fade from memory. Therefore, you must allow the verses you are studying to make a deep mental impression!

If you merely read superficially over verses, simply skimming them, they will leave little or no impression! There is a proverbial saying to the effect that if you eat Chinese food, half an hour later you will wonder what you ate. If you study superficially, half an hour later you will wonder what you read!

It is imperative, therefore, that you dwell on and concentrate intensely on what you are studying! Let the words of the Creator sink deeply into the innermost recesses of your mind.

Associate What You Study with Real-Life Situations

Do not allow your Bible study to be merely academic or impractical. Relate what you are studying in the Bible to actual situations in this life. Relate it to history or future events in world affairs.

When you study prophecy (about one third of the Bible deals with prophecy) ask yourself, “Has this ever happened? Is it happening now? Or is it yet future?” Then, as you read the daily newspaper, and as things happen on the world scene, certain verses from the Bible will spring to mind!

When you study a section in the Book dealing with a law or some aspect of Christian conduct, ask yourself, “Am I obeying this? How can I perform this?” Then when you come up against a situation in daily life which involves that principle, the verse will come to mind.

If in your mind the Bible is relevant to life, both past and present, its verses will spring to LIFE! They will become living oracles which have a definite BEARING on human life in general — and yours in particular! This will make them much easier to retain and recall.

Meditate and Think on the Verses You Have Studied

The old cliché “out of sight, out of mind” applies here. After you have closed the Book, unless you continue to mentally digest its words, they will tend to fade from conscious thought. They will be crowded out by other things.

The example of King David of Israel applies in this case. He said, “Oh how love I thy law! It is my MEDITATION ALL THE DAY” (Psalm 119:97). David’s mind was perpetually on the things of God. Not to the exclusion of his responsibilities as administrator of the kingdom, but including those principles in his rulership as well.

God’s Word is truth (John 17:17). We are admonished by the Apostle Paul to think on (meditate on) the truth. (Phil. 4:8.) The more you do this, the more the verses and chapters of our Maker’s Instruction Book will become real “mind stickers”!

Drill Yourself in the Scriptures

To “drill” is to indulge in mental exercise aimed at perfecting facility and skill by regular practice.

Drilling yourself in the verses of the Bible is one of the finest ways of committing them to memory. Many have found the use of “flash cards” helpful in this respect. These can be made very simply by purchasing a supply of 3×5 index cards and writing or typing the scripture out in full on one side, and then the chapter and verse location on the other side. Use these cards for key scriptures you wish to recall.

Go through the cards regularly by reading the quote and then trying to recall its location by chapter and verse. Then turn the card over and check on yourself. You could reverse this process by reading the chapter and verse first and then trying to recall its wording. Since every translation varies, don’t necessarily try to memorize word for word, but just the key thought, subject, or point of the verse. This method will provide you with a helpful review of the scriptures and is a valuable means of aiding your memory.

Drill yourself also on the subjects of basic chapters such as those mentioned earlier in this article. You’ll find that repetition is indeed the best form of emphasis!

Ask God For Help

Jesus Christ promised His disciples: “But the Comforter (Greek paracletos — “one called alongside to help”) which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you” (John 14:26).

God’s Spirit is intended to help and assist you in both understanding and recalling to mind the words of Jesus Christ. Utilize that help! ASK God to help you apply the principles in this article daily. Practice them and work on them faithfully. Develop right study habits and stand in awe of the words of the living God. As you continue to submit to God and respect His Word, He will help you in your efforts to study and retain scriptures.

But don’t become discouraged if you don’t become a “walking concordance.” Remember the ability to understand Scripture is vastly more valuable than the ability to merely quote it!

Source: The Good News, January-April 1971

May 24, 2009

The First "Christian" Trinitarian

The central doctrine of most Protestant and Catholic churches for many centuries has been that of the trinity. This doctrine is so important that the Catholic Encyclopedia states:

“This [the trinity], the Church teaches, is the revelation regarding God’s nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to deliver to the world: and which she [the Catholic Church] proposes to man as the foundation of the whole dogmatic system.”

Both Catholic and Protestant theologians quote Theophilus of Antioch (circa 180 A.D.) as the first person to write about this most important doctrine. But isn’t it strange that such a major doctrine was avoided in religious writings for nearly two centuries?

Furthermore, Theophilus’ allusion to the traditional trinity — “the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost” — is quite nebulous at best. Notice what Theophilus wrote in commenting about the fourth day of creation in the first chapter of Genesis:

“And as the sun remains ever full, never becoming less, so does God always abide perfect, being full of all power, and understanding, and wisdom, and immortality, and all good. But the moon wanes monthly, and in a manner dies, being a type of man; then it is born again, and is crescent, for a pattern of the future resurrection. In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the trinity, of God, and His Word, and His wisdom” (Ante-Nicene Fathers, “Theophilus to Autolycus”).

Here is the first statement by a theologian that is supposed to teach the doctrine of the trinity. But does his statement really teach this? Read it — simply. He does not say that God is a trinity of PERSONS, or that the Holy Spirit is a part of that trinity. He just refers to God, His Word and His wisdom. Theologians have tried to imagine into this unusual statement “their trinity” — and yet even the editors of the Ante-Nicene Fathers state in a footnote that the word translated “wisdom” in English is the Greek word sophia which Theophilus elsewhere used in reference to the Son, not the Holy Spirit. Theophilus could not possibly have gotten the idea of a trinity from the Bible — if he really did have a trinity of persons in mind, which appears unlikely from the preceding statement — as the Bible nowhere even alludes to God being a trinity.

From the time of Theophilus, it was several hundred years before this doctrine became a part of the Catholic dogma. It was in the last twenty-five years of the FOURTH century that “what might be called the definitive trinitarian dogma ‘one God in three persons’ became thoroughly assimilated INTO Christian life and thought” (New Catholic Encyclopedia, “Holy Trinity”).

From this it is evident that this “central doctrine” of Catholicism and Protestantism was not a part of the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3) during or prior to the time of Jude, but was ADDED by later theologians. The doctrine of the trinity was not what Jesus Christ “came upon the earth to deliver to the world.” He came to preach the Good News of His soon-coming Kingdom, to establish His true Church, to give His life as a sacrifice for all who repent, and to give God’s Holy Spirit to those who are baptized — the Spirit that empowers believers to be ONE with the Father and the Son!

Source: Tomorrow’s World, September/October 1970

Arguments: Teach Your Mouth!

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True Christians must learn to control what comes out of their mouth. Proverbs 16:23 says:

“The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.”

Educate yourself in good things, so you will have good, upbuilding things to say:

“The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.”

So don’t speak hastily. The things you say are very important; and many people aren’t careful about that. But God is highly concerned! (Ps. 37:30-31).

Sometimes what we say results in arguments. The root cause is usually pride (Luke 22:24) – a result of someone thinking too highly of himself. Lust is also a huge factor in division among people (Jam. 4:1). God says He resists the proud and give grace to the humble – not to the loudest, the most powerful, or the quickest of wit. Remember, if we’re looking out for the other person instead, that will eliminate a lot of arguing.

March 28, 2009

Pagan Holidays Or God’s Holy Days – Which?

Editors Note: This article is the introduction to the above mentioned booklet. I will keep sections short, for brevity, and include other parts of the booklet in different articles and subjects.

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From The Booklet: Pagan Holidays or God’s Holy Days— Which?
by Herbert W. Armstrong

Does it make any difference which days we observe or whether we keep them? Does the Bible establish whether we are to keep certain days holy to God? Were these days given to ancient Israel only? Are they binding today only on the Jewish people, while Christians are commanded to keep holidays such as Christmas?

In the seventh chapter of the book of Daniel is an amazing prophecy picturing, for twenty-five hundred years into future, from the day it was written, the course of the Gentile kingdoms. Starting with the ancient Chaldean Empire of Nebuchadnezzar, this prophecy foretells the successive world rule of the Persian Empire, Alexander’s Greco-Macedonian kingdom with its four divisions, and finally, of the mighty Roman Empire.

Out of the original Roman Empire, symbolized by “horns” growing out of the head of a “beast,” are pictured the ten resurrections of the Roman Empire that have continued since its fall to the present, and are scheduled to continue until the coming of Christ.

Among these ten kingdoms, which have ruled in the Western world since the fall of Rome to the present, appeared another “little horn,” whose “look was more stout than fellows.” In other words, another government, actually smaller, yet dominating over all the others. Students of prophecy recognize this “little horn” as a great religious hierarchy. And in the 25th verse of this prophecy, it is stated that this hierarchy shall “think to change times and laws.”

How Time Was Changed

This same power is mentioned again in the 17th chapter of Revelation, here pictured as ruling over the kings and kingdoms of the earth, persecuting the true saints.

In every possible manner, this power has changed TIME.

  1. God begins the days at sunset, but “the little horn” has changed it so the world now begins the day in the middle of the night by a man-made watch.
  2. God begins the week with the ending of the true Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, but the world begins the working week in the middle of the night, the second day of the week.
  3. God begins the months with the new moons, but this “little horn” has induced the world to begin the months according to a clumsy man-made calendar of heathen origin.
  4. God begins the year in the early spring, when new life is budding in nature everywhere, but ancient heathen Rome caused the world to begin the year in the middle of dead winter.
  5. God gave His children a true rest day, designed to keep them continually in the knowledge and true worship of the true God, a memorial of God’s Creation, the seventh day of the week. But the “little horn” has fastened upon a deluded world the observance of the days on which the pagans worshipped the Sun, the first day of the week, called SUNday.

Pagan Origins

Ancient Rome’s pagan holidays have been chained upon a heedless and deceived world. These include certain annual holidays Christmas, New Year’s, Easter, as well as many more, every one a pagan day, every one used to stimulate the sale of merchandise in the commercial markets. Upon honest investigation, the earnest seeker-after-truth learns that these days are all of heathen origin and pagan significance. He learns that he can have no part in them.

But is the Christian of today left without any annual holy days? Did God never give to His people annual holy days, as well as the weekly Sabbath? Are not ancient Rome’s annual holidays mere counterfeits of God’s true holy days, exactly as Sunday is a counterfeit of the true Sabbath?

Banishing Prejudice

We are told to study, not argue, not to refute, but to show ourselves approved unto God to learn God’s will. We are commanded, as Christians, to grow in knowledge as well as in grace (II Peter 3:18). All Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable to correct and to reprove us, where we have, through assumption, false teaching, or prejudice, been in error.

Most people have supposed that all the annual Sabbaths and feast days of Israel were done away. And yet Church history shows that the early true Church did, for more than four hundred long years at least, perhaps much longer after Christ’s resurrection, continued to keep and observe these annual holy days given by God!

And just as the Sunday observer is inclined to look, at first, upon any argument for the weekly Sabbath with prejudice, as a heresy, and to examine every argument only in an attitude of attempting to refute it— so it will be only human, only natural for us, if we are not on our guard against it, to look upon any presentation of these annual Sabbaths in the same spirit of prejudice. But remember that, “he that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13).

Study This Twice

Certain objections will be sure to come to the mind all of which, will be dealt with and explained later on. But unless the reader is careful to guard against it, the mere presence of this objection in his mind will, to him, overthrow each point as it’s presented— and then, when the objections are later explained, the points made will not come back to the mind, unless the whole exposition of the subject is carefully studied again from the first.

And in each case, the objection will be one of the very arguments used by Sunday preachers in attempting to overthrow the truth of the weekly Sabbath! For the weekly Sabbath and the annual Sabbaths stand or fall together. The arguments used against the annual Sabbaths will be the identical arguments used to overthrow the Sabbath and if these arguments could hold, then they would abolish the weekly Sabbath!

Such arguments as “the annual Sabbaths are part of the law of Moses,” or “they offered sacrifices on the annual Sabbaths,” or “Colossians 2:16 does away with the annual Sabbaths,” are not scriptural.

For the annual Sabbaths were not part of the law of Moses, but were observed before the ritualistic ordinances contained in the law of Moses were given. Sacrifices were offered on the weekly Sabbath, but this does not do away with the Sabbath. In fact, sacrifices were offered on every day of the year (Numbers 28:3).

Colossians 2:16 refers, not alone to the annual Sabbaths, but to the annual days, the monthly new moons, and the weekly Sabbath. Whenever the Bible uses the expression “Sabbath days,” with new moons and holy days, it is referring to the weekly Sabbath days, the new moons and the annual holy days or feast days. The “Sabbath days” of Colossians 2:16 refers to the weekly Sabbath. Compare I Chronicles 23:31 with II Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezra 3:5; Nehemiah 10:33; Ezekiel 46:3. If Colossians does away with the one, it also abolishes the other.

The Old Testament Church

When did the true Church begin? In Acts 7:38 we learn that the congregation of Israel was called the church in the wilderness, in the days of Moses. The English word “congregation” used throughout the Old Testament is only another rendering, having the same identical meaning, as the word “church” in the New Testament. The word translated “congregation” in the Old Testament is ekklesia in the Septuagint the same identical Greek word that is always translated CHURCH in the New Testament.

Israel was both church and state. As a kingdom, it was for years ruled by a system of judges, over 50s, 100s, thousands, etc., later having a king. But as a congregation, or church, Israel was organized with a leader Moses, Joshua, etc. and the priests of the tribe of Levi. The law of Moses contained those ritualistic or ceremonial laws which were ADDED, because of transgressions, to the Old Covenant— added until Christ— to teach and instill into them the habit of obedience. These consisted of meat and drink offerings, various washings, and physical ordinances. Also they had the sacrifices, as a substitute for the sacrifice of Christ.

Prior to the Law of Moses

In the 12th chapter of Exodus, while the Children of Israel were still in Egypt, long before any of the Law of Moses had been given, prior to the time when God revealed to Moses and the Israelites He would make the Old Covenant with them, we find God’s annual holy days being observed. And in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus we find a summary of these annual holy days or set feasts.

Now when God made the Sabbath for man, He gave man a rest day carrying great significance and purpose. To His Church in the wilderness, God said that the Sabbath was a covenant sign between Him and His people. A sign is a supernatural proof of identity. It is the sign by which we know that He is God. How does it prove that to us? “For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested.” It is a memorial of creation.

And creation is the proof of the existence of God. Creation identifies God. The Sabbath is a weekly memorial of creation. A weekly reminder of God’s power to create. Therefore it identifies God to us, keeps us in the true memory and true worship of the true God. No other day, but the seventh day of the week, could have that great significance and meaning. It was designed to keep us in the true worship of God.

The Purpose of Holy Days

Now in like manner, when God gave His Church seven annual Sabbaths, God, in His wisdom, had a great purpose. These days, too, were given to keep God’s children in the true memory and worship of God, by keeping us constantly in the understanding of God’s great plan of redemption. For these annual days picture the different epochs in the plan of spiritual creation, mark the dispensations, and picture their meaning.

The whole story of spiritual regeneration was, in these feast days, to be reenacted year after year continually. They have vitally important symbolism and meaning.

It is an historic fact that any nation which ever profaned God’s holy Sabbath (weekly), has lost contact with and knowledge of the true God, and gone into idolatry. The only nation which ever did keep God’s Sabbath is the only one that was kept in the true memory and worship of the true God— and only when they kept the Sabbath. When ancient Israel began to profane God’s Sabbath, they began to worship idols!

And in the same way, when in these New Testament times we have failed to observe God’s annual Sabbaths we, as a nation and people, are without knowledge of God’s true plan of reproducing Himself.

The so-called Christian churches today do not understand or teach what sin is— they do not teach that sin must be put away— they do not understand what man is, the purpose of life, the meaning of being born again, and of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit— they do not understand that God’s Church, today, is not to convert the world, but to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom as a witness— to live a life of overcoming sin, enduring unto the end, and that the over-comers shall reign with Christ, being kings, and priests, in His Kingdom.

They do not understand that Christ is coming again, and those who preach the second coming fail to understand its meaning and purpose. They have no knowledge or conception of the good news of the coming Kingdom of God— the only true New Testament Bible gospel.

Not understanding these vital steps in the true plan of regeneration, the Christian churches teach that the Law is abolished. They teach the pagan doctrine of the immortality of the soul, going immediately to heaven or hell at death and they teach that death is only life.

And all is confusion!

God’s feasts, or holy days, or Sabbaths, were commanded to be kept year after year, and forever! Thus God purposed to impress the truths these “high” Sabbaths picture upon all the minds of His children through all time, keeping His Church in the true understanding of His plan!

February 28, 2009

Does I Peter 4:6 Say The Gospel Was Preached To The Dead?

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The key to understanding I Pet. 4:6 is in knowing the identity of the “dead” spoken of by Peter. At the time Peter wrote this epistle (about A.D. 67 to 69), multiple thousands of Christians had already been living according to the way of life that was preached by the apostles. In the span of time after the apostles’ preaching began, some had lived a Christian life and had died. Many had suffered martyrdom at the hands of unscrupulous religionists or pagan civil leaders.

When did these dead have the Gospel preached to them? Obviously, they had the Gospel preached to them while they were yet alive. The Bible shows that “the dead know not any thing” and that “there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave” (Eccl. 9:5, 10). Clearly, the dead cannot receive any communication whatsoever. Preaching is for the living, not the dead.

There is one other sense in which the Gospel is preached to those who are “dead.” In this case, the term “dead” is used in reference to people who have not repented, and thus have not been forgiven by God. They are still “dead” in their trespasses — they have not yet received God’s Spirit, which is the down payment of eternal life. Jesus mentions such people in Luke 9:60. Paul explains further in Ephesians 2:1 by saying that such people are “dead in trespasses and sins.” Some who exist physically are dead spiritually because they have not yet heeded the Gospel of the Kingdom.

The Church of God has been commissioned to preach the Gospel as a witness to the world (Matt. 24:14). Yet, most people have not yet been called by God and do not heed that message. They remain both in ignorance and in sin. They continue to live and be judged by the standards men devise, rather than “according to God in the spirit.”Each of these individuals will ultimately be given an opportunity to receive salvation.

February 23, 2009

Seven Rules To Right Decisions

by Albert J. Portune

Tomorrow’s World, June 1969

How many times has your life, your happiness, your self-respect been upset and disturbed because you’ve made a wrong choice, or an unwise decision? Looking back on our past all of us can remember choices we had or opportunities that presented themselves – and we wish we could go back and CHANGE what we did.

How would you like to be able to make the right choice – EVERY TIME? You can, you know, if you apply the right principles EVERY TIME! The principles for making right and wise decisions are available to you. If you are willing to diligently apply them each time, YOUR LIFE can become a series of successes in the decisions you have to make. Are you willing to learn these principles?

Life Is Choice

Life is a series of decisions. You can’t begin a day without making choices. What time to rise, what clothing to wear, what to have for breakfast, what course of action for the responsibilities of the day, etc., etc. The majority of our decisions are routine and dictated by routine and preset requirements of job, school, weather and environment. Most of us do well enough in these routine decisions. It is the bigger, more unusual decisions that affect our lives where we become vulnerable and need to make the RIGHT decision. Decisions like: Whether to buy a new car and which kind – whether to quit your job and move to another area – whether to go into business for yourself – whether to add a room to your house or buy new furniture – whether to go to college, or take a trip to a distant place.

Sadly enough, many have faced major decisions in life, chosen unwisely and found their lives in a shambles which took time and tears to remedy. Making wise decisions is not a matter of chance. Some people are not just “lucky” while others are unlucky. Success in choices depends on basic factors. Those who are “lucky” have their luck in accidentally or intentionally using the right principles in making their choices. If you KNOW the right principles and apply them, you eliminate most of the elements of chance. Success is assured because you have eliminated the risks.

The Right Source

Most people, faced with important decisions make the same fundamental ERROR! This error is common to man because man is basically a self-centered creature. He usually depends on himself for the inherent ability to arrive at a conclusion. The Word of God – the Bible – which is the book about man, but inspired by man’s Creator – God who knows man intimately, most accurately describes this basic fault in man.

“Oh Lord, I know that the way of man is NOT IN HIMSELF: it is NOT IN MAN that walketh to direct his steps.” These words were written, under the inspiration of God by His prophet Jeremiah, chapter 10 verse 23. The fundamental, underlying basis for making right decisions lies OUTSIDE the pole of the man making the decision. This seems remarkable, but it is nonetheless true.

Whenever we have a decision to make, the first thing we usually do is to ASSUME WE have the basic ability to come to that decision. In reality, God’s Word makes clear we ought NOT to rely upon our own abilities alone. True, we may have to use the abilities God has given us, but directed by God – not ourselves.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto thine OWN understanding” (Prov. 3:5). Wisdom is truly realizing the basic nature in man. Few people have discovered this basic nature. Most people feel they are benign creatures, basically good, gentle, having outgoing concern for others, generous, kind, considerate. Hence, being all this, they certainly could be relied upon to make a decision which would take all factors into consideration. But, unless God’s spirit has opened their minds most people don’t know they are inherently by nature selfish, covetous, greedy, full of vanity, deceitful, proud and wicked. It is true, you know.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked:” and “the carnal mind is enmity AGAINST GOD: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be” (Jer. 17:9 and Rom. 8:7). Those who have come to know God have learned this about themselves and have come to the first point of wisdom which is NOT to depend on this source for a decision.

Leaning to this source for a decision will ALWAYS tend to lead us to a wrong decision. This source of wisdom will always tend to a decision or a choice that flatters self, looks good to others, makes the “big splash,” satisfies lust or exacts revenge. Truly the Proverbs describe this end: “There is a way that seemeth right to a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12 and 16:25).

Rule One: Ask God FIRST For His Wisdom

So, the first rule in the SEVEN RULES to wise decisions is to GO OUTSIDE of self to God to get the wisdom. Any other first step would be foolish. God alone knows just the right course of action you should take ! No one else does! He should be the first source.

You will have other steps to follow, but unless they are guided by God they may avail you nothing. In fact following all six other rules could lead you to ruin without God directing them.

“…. the Lord is a God of knowledge and by HIM actions are weighed” (I Sam. 2:3).

When you are confronted with an important decision in your life, go to a private place and pray to your Father in heaven. Tell him about your decision – how it affects you, what are the alternatives that lie before you. Admit to him in prayer that you LACK the ability and wisdom you need and want His omniscient help and wisdom.

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it [wisdom] shall be given him” (James 1:5). Admit in your prayer that without God’s help you would tend to choose the course of vanity, lust, pride, envy and retribution. Tell Him you want His mind and attitude – an attitude of service, concern for others, love, patience and mercy. If the decision is profound enough, add fasting to your prayers so God sees that you truly care and want to be guided by Him.

Solomon an Example

When Solomon became King of Israel after his father David, he knew he was faced with many momentous decisions. The responsibility of ruling a mighty nation and making all the decisions that are part of being a monarch weighed heavily upon him.

What was the first thing Solomon did? His actions are an EXAMPLE for us – recorded in the Word of God. “And Solomon said unto God, Thou has shewed great mercy unto David my father, and hast made me to reign in his stead … for thou hast made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Give me now WISDOM and KNOWLEDGE, that I may go out and come in before this people: for who can JUDGE [decide for] this thy people, that is so GREAT?” (II Chron. 1:8-10). Because Solomon sought God FIRST and acknowledged Him as the source of RIGHT DIRECTION, God granted him wisdom and knowledge to make right decisions and choices. God blessed him and the nation Israel over which he ruled (verses 11:17).

No matter how large or small a decision we have to make, we should always go to God FIRST and acknowledge Him as the source of direction, wisdom and knowledge to make the right choice. Even if we must make a quick – rapid-fire – decision, we always have time – even if it is only an instant – to pray within ourselves, “Father, help me to see Your will.”

Rule Two: Get Examples From the Bible

“Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in His LAW [the Bible] doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of waters, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and WHATSOEVER HE DOETH SHALL PROSPER” (Psalm 1:1-3) .

The Bible — God’s Word – is an instruction book for man and a history of man’s mistakes, successes, rewards and punishments. It runs the full gamut of human experience. In the Old Testament, when God was bringing Israel out of Egypt, the people had to make many decisions. Some were right – many were wrong! These examples are priceless in helping us avoid making similar mistakes in decisions we must reach.

Some of the wrong decisions which led to disaster for the people are recorded a second time in I Corinthians in the 10th chapter. Notice what the apostle Paul says about these occurrences: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for OUR ADMONITION, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (verse 11).

By a deep knowledge of God’s Word – through constant study and meditation – we have a backlog of experience to draw upon. We certainly can profit by the mistakes others have made, and also from their wise decisions. Seek in your knowledge of God’s Word, or by meditating further on it, to find a basic principle that relates clearly to your choice or decision. Try to determine how your reasoning may be similar to a specific example in God’s Word.

Jesus’s Example

Jesus, under severe temptation from Satan to make a wrong decision, knew this principle well. When the Tempter sought to entice Jesus to choose immediate world rule – showed him alluring world kingdoms to tempt Him – Jesus said: “IT IS WRITTEN, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Jesus also said twice more “IT IS WRITTEN !”

We should follow His example! Jesus knew God’s Word. He drew heavily upon it to make His choices. The unjust judges of this world follow this principle even if their choices may be wrong. No judge presiding over a court case ever comes to a decision without knowing the decisions that have been rendered previously in similar cases. Lawyers always rehearse previous court cases for what has happened in the past.

We have literally hundreds of “court cases” upon which God has rendered His verdict – IN THE BIBLE. Yet far too many of us neglect to seek that knowledge from God’s Word and apply it to our decisions. Far too many of us just do not know God’s Word well enough.’ Therefore we make wrong decisions on points for which there are direct examples in the Word of God.Your best insurance to guiding your steps through your changing pattern of life is a deep and profound knowledge of God’s Word. “Thy Word is a LAMP unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Rule Three: Get all the Pertinent Facts

In most decisions you will have time to carefully consider all the factors. Too many times when a decision needs to be made we “leap before we look.” This is another universal error most people make – they don’t take enough time to consider all the facts!

Basic “high-pressure” salesmanship is designed around this human weakness and natural human lust. Ninety percent of purchases made are “impulse buying.” People go “shopping” without a factual study of the type, quality, price, performance and need factors already clearly defined. Therefore they are prime targets for the fast talking line of the high-pressure salesman – and in HIS backyard – where his glittering gadgets have you spellbound.

Not that we’re specifically talking about decisions on buying, but it is an excellent thing to remember that the item you are tempted to buy will still be there tomorrow or the next day or next week. Only your desire to HAVE IT makes you feel like you must get it NOW. The salesman knows that too.

One key which will save you many headaches and pocketbook pains is learning to “wait 24 hours” especially in reference to impulse buying. Every salesman knows a person is most apt to buy on the spur of the moment after he has been pushed “off balance” by his basic desire to possess plus the strong “pitch” he has just been given. But if you will say, “I’ll think it over” – leave the store – go home and wait until tomorrow – most likely many factors will come to you which you were unable to consider under the pressure of the moment.

This key also applies to any choice you have to make. We are always “off balance” until we have carefully weighed ALL the facts. Whatever time you have before you must decide, use it to weigh carefully all the alternatives that lie before you and the costs or actions they demand. It is always good to accumulate a written list of all the pros and cons. It will serve two purposes. One: you won’t forget the unpleasant aspects which we are so often prone to nullify or treat lightly. Two. it will force you to take the time to consider the factors in detail, which, again, we are usually reluctant to do. Be sure you get the FACTS. Don’t be satisfied with guesses and assumptions. If there are FACTS to get, get them. It’s your life!

Rule Four: Seek Wise and Abundant Counsel

In getting the facts, we should again remember not always to lean to our own knowledge of the subject. We should seek those who have the most accurate information relative to our choice. Let us suppose you are considering a change from one area of the country to another. This involves a change of job – change of home – change of school for children – change of climate – change of cost of living – and many, many other things. A wise decision cannot be reached without learning what these factors are like in the new area. One way to learn these facts is to ask or counsel with someone who is an AUTHORITY on these factors in the new area.

In every case seek wise counsel from a reputable authority or sources you can rely on. Don’t rely on backyard advice or “water-cooler wisdom” for a decision in your life. Don’t be satisfied with one opinion only! A primary principle from God’s Word shows us to seek wise counsel: “WHERE NO COUNSEL is, the people fall: but in the MULTITUDE OF COUNSELLORS THERE IS SAFETY” (Prov. 11:14).

Many times we feel it is a sign of weakness to ask for help and opinions. This is again vanity and self-centeredness. Even in the largest corporations the wisest executives seek out advisors and counsellors to help them make wise decisions.

Rule Five: Make a Definite Decision

In applying the preceding rules, we will have come to the place where we are ready to make a definite decision: Now is the time! We have asked God for wisdom and direction; we have searched His Word for examples and lessons. We have gathered and weighed all the facts and eventualities. We have sought authorities, wise and abundant counsellors. The choice or decision should now be CLEAR. Make that decision DECISIVELY – POSITIVELY! Don’t vacillate! Don’t waver!

Again God’s Word gives us the example. “For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed … A double minded man is UNSTABLE in all his ways” (James 1:6, 8). This brings us to the sixth rule.

Rule Six: Have Faith in the Decision

Faith is one of the most powerful forces we can employ to cause circumstances to turn out right. Once we have come to a decision based on God’s principles we can have FAITH it will work out correctly. We should EXPECT our choice – to turn out RIGHT and GOOD. We can have ABSOLUTE FAITH that it will!

“Faith is the substance of things [or conclusions] HOPED FOR, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

Believing is now our part! The whole eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a testimony of those who made choices and decisions in their lives toward an ultimate goal and they attained them THROUGH FAITH! Jesus said, “If thou canst believe, ALL THINGS are possible to him that BELIEVETH”! (Mark 9:23). Trust your decision. Trust the God who led you to it. Believe it will turn out as planned. Expect it to! HAVE FAITH.

Rule Seven: Work Diligently for the Desired End

The last rule is where many fall down. The right conclusion to a decision is NOT AUTOMATIC! We must go all out to bring the desired end to reality. In the course of obtaining all the facts and getting wise and abundant counsel we will have discovered many things to DO !

Now that we have made our choice and have faith that it will work out, we need to roll up our sleeves and GET TO WORK! Another basic principle from God’s Word will help. Wise Solomon learned from God: “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Eccl. 9:10).

Here is where many of us fail. We do not diligently and systematically go step-by-step through every phase of effort toward the desired goal! Resolve, in every choice or decision, to thoroughly and judiciously do your part.

There is never a time in your life when you can afford to NEGLECT these principles. Write them down on a card and carry them with you. Learn them – make them a part of you. Put them into practice in your life.

February 22, 2009

Does The Bible Give Guidelines On Clothing Standards?

Christians should always use the Bible as a guideline for how they represent themselves. Scriptures tell us God’s true Christians are the light of the world (Math. 5:14), and as such are ambassadors for God in conduct and appearance.

Looking to scripture, there are three principles which can applied when selecting clothing:

1) Is it modest apparel? (1 Timothy 2:9). Christian women should never wear clothing that might be arousing to the opposite sex. This includes miniskirts, overly revealing bathing suits, and dresses that expose cleavage or are too tight. These are not appropriate — their intent is to cause arousal, which does not express good taste or wisdom.

Modest apparel should also not reflect extremes in fashion. Tongue and nose rings, excessively high heels, an inordinate amount of jewelry, overly baggy pants and outlandish hairstyles all reveal an attitude of immodesty. On the other hand, clothing which goes against all conventions of style would also be a wrong extreme. The Christians’ life should be one of balance and moderation, never (Philippians 4:5).

2) Is the clothing of good quality? Being modest does not mean we have to dress in a drab fashion. Rather, we should maintain high standards by buying the highest-quality clothing within the limits of what we can afford. Being a light to the world means setting an example for others to follow. Therefore, our clothing should be sharp, reflect balance and good taste.

3) Is it appropriate for the occasion? A formal dinner requires a different outfit than a more casual event, to avoid standing out. In addition, many denominations allow people to attend services dressed any way they want. So one will come in shorts, while another wears jeans or coverall. Casual clothing is never the standard God expects from His true adherents at Church services — after all, they are appearing before the God of the universe.

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