Friday, May 29, 2009

Division 101

Think about it. When was the very first denomination founded? Was it in the 2nd century, the 3rd, the 15th? Actually, the very first denomination, the very first false religion was founded in the Garden of Eden! Satan convinced Eve, and then Adam, to found the very first denomination! Satan convinced the two of them to become apostate from the true and living God and found their own religion based on a satanic lie! The lie that their new “religion” was founded upon was the Satan’s statement that “…thou shalt not surely die.” (See Genesis 3) Satan has been in the denominational and false religion mode since that day in the garden!

Today, Satan is more aggressive than ever in the “denomination creation” department. Once each Western nation had its own denomination. Greece, Russia, Syria and Serbia had their own brands of Orthodoxy, Germany had Lutheranism, England had Anglicanism, Scotland had Presbyterianism, etc., etc. With the advent of religious liberty in America, denominations began centering, not on one’s nation, but upon one’s favorite culture or doctrine. We had Irish Catholics, French Catholics, Italian Catholics, Puritans, Quakers, Shakers, Adventists, Mormons, Witnesses, Methodists, Baptists, etc., etc. Now in post-modern and post-Christian America, any man or woman so inclined is starting there own personal religion! The new denominations in American are likely to be called “Such and So Community Church” or “Church of the New Life” or perhaps…to borrow a phrase… “The Church of What’s Happening Now.” Freightingly, each person in America can now have their own “private” religion based on the premise that “if” there is a God, He is a “good” God interested only in making each of us happy, content and wealthy. This “god” will not send any of us to hell as long as we are “comparatively better” than someone else we knew. This “god” grades on a “scale” as long as one is “searching” or is “sincere.” Heaven will be theirs unless they become a serial killer or are a former Nazi concentration camp guard.

That sums up the American view of denominationalism, but what do others think? The Russians, for example, have a completely different view of American denominationalism than we do. Today in Pravda we read the following regarding American denominationalism:

…their (America’s) faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.[1]

Quite a different perspective. Even more important…what does GOD think of denominationalism? God, in fact, wrote down His perspective on this subject! He left it for us to read in the Holy Bible. Here it is:

• Jesus promised to build but one church – Matthew 16:18
• On the very day His church was established, God added the saved to only one church – Acts 2:47
• Paul denounced four denominations that had cropped up in Corinth – I Corinthians 1:10ff
• Paul called (twice) “accursed” anyone, including an angel from heaven, that taught “another gospel” other than the one he had preached – Galatians 1:6-10

What shall we do, America? Division and discord among God’s people is something that God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). Why not leave all of our preconceived notions at the door, open our Bibles and accept nothing more and nothing less than “thus saith the Lord?” Let’s believe what the infant church believed, practice what they practiced, live as they lived and become simply “Christians” as they were! Let’s hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Christ (John 6:47), repent of every sin (Luke 13:3), confess the Name of Christ before witnesses (Matthew 10:32), be baptized for the remission and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), live faithfully from that moment on (I John 1:7) and spread this same gospel (Acts 8:4)![2] God is calling America to restoration! “Let’s roll!”


[1]Stansilav Mishin, “American Capitalism, Gone With a Whimper,” as reprinted in Pravda, May 29, 2009
[2]For more information on Christ and His church, click on:

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Joy of Comforting (Others)

The book of Job teaches us many lessons. One of the most significant lessons is not found until the closing statements in the very last chapter. In Job 42, Job has repented of ever having challenged God as to “why” he suffered. God, in fact, never told Job why. Instead, when Job discovered who God REALLY is, his own questions regarding his circumstances paled in comparison with the glory and majesty of the Almighty. Though Job suffered much, he never gave up on his faith. In fact, God restored Job, not through “things” but through bringing comfort to others! Perhaps the most significant verse in the entire book is Job 42:10:

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.[1]

When Job finally took his eyes off of himself and his own physical distress and focused on the spiritual distress of his three friends…then God restored his good fortune that doubled his first situation! Job achieved JOY through COMFORTING others! So can we!

There is nothing in life more invigorating than comforting another person in their distress. Opportunities to comfort others will be remembered…with joy when they are done and with sorrow when they are not. Mark Twain put it this way:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you
didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away
from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.[2]

In the end, though, we must understand that true joy is elusive. Like happiness, it is a byproduct of the acts of one in total disregard of self. Joy cannot be obtained until it is given away. It can only be found when we quit seeking it. Joy is only received when we seek it, not for ourselves, but for others. Like Job, we must cease the focus upon circumstance and turn totally to the gratifying work of comforting others. There is an unlimited supply of people lacking in the much needed comfort of the gospel. C. S. Lewis reflects:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.[3]

Our Lord put it best;

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.[4]

Let us go and do likewise and we will “find JOY in the morning!”

[1]The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2000, 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA. All rights reserved. Job 42:10 [Emphasis added – RM]
[4]The Holy Bible – English Standard Version, op. cit. Luke 4:18-19

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Joy of Restoration

Two years ago, Italy’s Sienna University conducted a survey regarding the decline of happiness among Americans. Combing through data collected from 1975 – 2004, the researchers discovered that Americans are far less happy today than thirty years ago. Why is that?

…while the average American paycheck had risen over the past 30 years, its happiness-boosting benefits were more than offset by a drop in the quality of relationships over the period.
"The main cause is a decline in the so-called social capital -- increased loneliness, increased perception of others as untrustworthy and unfair," said Stefano Bartolini, one of the authors of the study.
"Social contacts have worsened, people have less and less relationships among neighbors, relatives and friends.(1)

We must agree, that on some level, these findings are correct. As Christians, though, we must ask the question, “Is there a deeper and more significant cause of unhappiness among Americans?” What changes in our lives would actually cause us to REJOICE in our circumstances? Our brother Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us the answer! In his concluding thoughts in II Corinthians 13, he tells us to “Finally, brothers, rejoice.” Rejoice in what, Paul?
1. “Aim for restoration”
2. “Comfort one another”
3. “Agree with one another”
4. “Live in peace” (2)

Over the next several weeks we will examine Paul’s prescription for a life of rejoicing. Today, we examine Paul’s request that we “aim for restoration.” Paul, among other things, was history’s very first restoration leader! Wait a minute Russ! Didn’t the Restoration Movement take place in the 18th and 19th century led by Stone, Campbell, Scott and others? Yes, these men did initiate “A” restoration, but they were far from the first! Paul, called for the “restoration of the ancient order” as early as ca. 49 a.d. in Galatians 1! Listen to his clarion call to “restore the gospel:”

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to another gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.(3)

Not long afterwards, Paul issued a similar appeal to restoration and unity to the Corinthian brethren in I Corinthians 1 when he taught against the dangers of denominationalism. In our quest for joy and happiness, we must begin by restoring the first principles of God’s will in our lives. We cannot dilute the gospel in anyway lest “we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1) We must remain dedicated to the fact that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17) that everyone who would come to God must repent of every sin, (Acts 2:38) that everyone who would come to God must confess before witnesses the Name of Christ (Acts 8:37) and that everyone who would come to God must be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1ff).

Those who would relegate “restoration” to some kind of singular historical event in the 18th and 19th century are in error. Those who would say that, instead of being simply Christians, we are just part of the “Stone-Campbell Movement” are in error. Those who would say that the early American Christians were just dupes and robots of John Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers are in error. Paul enjoins us all (EVERY Christian in EVERY age) to continual “restoration” as our “aim.” By doing so, we have much cause to rejoice! Every individual Christian and every Christian generation must engage in it’s own “restoration movement.” Let us all rejoice as we “aim for restoration” and share that good news with a lost and dying generation that are seeking true and lasting happiness. Thank you, bro. Paul.


(1)Deepa Babington, “Americans Less Happy Today than 30 Years Ago – Study,” Reuters, Friday, June 15, 2007
(2)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2000, 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA All rights reserved, II Corinthians 3:11
(3)Ibid., Galatians 1:6-7
(4)For more information on the history of the Lord’s church through the ages, these two sources are quite valuable:
Mattox, F. W., The Eternal Kingdom – A History of the church of Christ, (Gospel Light Publishing Company, Delight, AK, 1961)
Powell, J. M., The Cause We Plead – A Story of the Restoration Movement, (21st Century Christian Publishing Co., Nashville, TN, 1987)

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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Our First Family Reunion!

Remember those family reunions of summers gone by? Remember meeting your long lost aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces…not to mention those relatives “several times removed?” I always wondered who removed them and why? (I digress!) Keeping up with family members we rarely see can be challenging! What is NOT challenging is the fun, fellowship and love that we experience when we “all get together.” I remember the summer of 1977 when Nancy and I, married just 8 months, went to the Turnbull family reunion in Tacoma, WA. For the first time I understood the meaning of the word “slew,” as in, “a slew of relatives!” I also enjoyed for the first time fresh caught salmon cooked on a barbecue grill. What a feast! It was great! I’m sure you have had similar experiences. In many ways our families define who we are. More importantly, our spiritual family defines who we are, not only for now, but for all eternity!

We are, as Christians, all part of Abraham’s family as noted in Galatians 3:29: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Pretty impressive! We can trace our family tree back some 4,000 years! The family of Abraham is the greatest family ever! What a blessing to be part of THAT family! When the family of Abraham, in the 3rd generation, had but 70 people…they had a reunion! What a reunion it was!

Because of the sin of the brothers of Joseph, the family had experienced decades of hurt, heartache and misery. Finally, when Judah and his brothers repented of the wrongs they had done to their brother by selling him into slavery and then lying about it to their father Jacob, the family was reunited down in Egypt! Joseph and Pharaoh treated our family to the very best Egypt had to offer…up to and including the entire land of Goshen! Three important lessons were experienced by God’s family (our family!) on that occasion, that repentance and obedience lead to God’s blessing, that thanksgiving is the key to God’s blessing and that we have all been given a ministry of blessing for others. Let's examine further:

1) REPENTANCE & OBEDIENCE LEAD TO GOD'S BLESSING - In Genesis 46 we learn that when Judah and his brothers repented of their sins against Joseph and Jacob, the blessings of God that had been dammed up for decades came gushing forth like water pouring through a broken dike! God took the family from famine to plenty, from the desert to Goshen and from guilt to forgiveness!

2) THANKSGIVING IS THE KEY TO GOD'S BLESSING - In Genesis 47:29-31 we find that the broken hearted Jacob, now at the end of his days, was finally able to worship God with a thankful heart. For years he had grieved his losses and his faith was blinded by circumstances. Now, after the repentance of his sons he could clearly see God’s will in his life and worshiped God upon learning that Joseph would grant his fondest wish…to be buried with the family in Canaan. He died 17 years later a thankful man.

3) GOD GIVES US ALL A MINISTRY OF BLESSING TO OTHERS - Finally, the family learns that their odyssey winds up being a blessing to them, to Pharaoh, to Egypt, to the entire known world at that time…and to all nations for all time! (Genesis 47:7-12) By preserving Jacob’s family through the faithfulness of Joseph, God sponsored this most wonderful family reunion! Through the suffering of the family of God, the family was preserved through the famine, the Egyptian nation was preserved through the famine and other nations were preserved through the famine. Most importantly, Judah was preserved for Jesus Christ to come into the world! In a most fascinating and wonderful way, God was thinking of you and I…way back then in our very first family reunion! You may ask, "Just what is my ministry of blessing today?" Jesus clearly tells us what it is in Matthew 28:1-20 - "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (ASV) The greatest thing about our "family reunion" is that we can invite any and everyone! Won't you join us at our next "reunion" next Lord's Day at the church of Christ? We will be looking for you!

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Believing Prayer

In the very biblical mode of prayer where we approach our Holy God, here is a prayer that emulates just how Christ taught us to pray.  It i...