Thursday, March 15, 2018

What About Life?
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Life That Never Ends

Life is contrasted with death. Death is the absence of life.  Sin produces death, and life is a gift from God.  In the beginning God gave us life.  My life began sometime in the fall of 1939, when I was conceived in my mother's womb. June 28, 1940, I was born, and given the name Randolph Oran Gonce, son of Ollie and Gretchen Gonce. The remains of the cabin where we lived is still there in Bass Hollow.

July 1952 I was born again, having announced my faith that Jesus is the Son of God, and repenting of my sins, I was buried with Jesus in Baptism in Little Crow Creek, and raised to walk in new life in Jesus. I was given eternal life. 

My temporal life has been great in many ways, and has provided a plethora of experiences both good and bad.  Now in my 77th year, I am beginning to understand what Solomon was talking about when he said 

Ecclesiastes 12 English Standard Version (ESV)

Remember Your Creator in Your Youth

12 Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return after the rain, in the day when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those who look through the windows are dimmed, and the doors on the street are shut—when the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low— they are afraid also of what is high, and terrors are in the way; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along, and desire fails, because man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped, or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher; all is vanity.

Now a days I have changed my answer to the greeting "How are you doing?"

Used to be I would reply "Great!" or "Better than I deserve!" 

Now I have added another response, "I am beginning to understand what Solomon was talking about when he talked about getting older."

I am quick to add, "But I am thankful!"

Compared to most people on earth, I am blessed beyond understanding. And the focus of my blessing is eternal life.  

As Paul wrote to the Romans, the trials of this temporary life are not worth comparing with our eternal destiny, for those of us who are faithful in Jesus Christ. Romans 8: 

Future Glory

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved.

So our temporal life is not our focus, but human life in our living bodies is important.  We all want to live successful lives. Paul tells us how to be successful.

Romans 12 English Standard Version (ESV)
A Living Sacrifice

12 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world,but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Regarding sacrifice, we are instructed in Leviticus that under the Law of Moses God did not want any leaven or honey on the grain offering.  

Leviticus 2:11 English Standard Version (ESV)
11 “No grain offering that you bring to the Lord shall be made with leaven, for you shall burn no leaven nor any honey as a food offering to the Lord.

Why did God not want honey or leaven in His grain offering?  Both are approved foods, and wasn't Canaan advertised as the land that flowed with milk and honey?

Jewish sages have proposed that the problem with honey and leaven may be how they are used in relationship to our lives. Honey may represent our craving for what tastes good,  the lust of the flesh. And leaven may represent how pride swells us up, like leaven puffs up bread. The pride of life. 

Anyhow, giving our lives as a living sacrifice involves putting God first in our life, and we do that by putting others first.  As Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

Acts 20:35 English Standard Version (ESV)

35 In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

So in the end it may be what we give up that gives us eternal life. That means we have to give up living our temporal lives selfishly, and learn to live for what we can give.  

As Jim Elliot said, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.  

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Take Up Your Cross and Follow Jesus

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay each person according to what he has done.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

See, Here Is Water

"What hinders me to be baptized?"

Philip Immerses the Ethiopian
Acts 8:
Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch

26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Rise and go toward the south[d] to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is a desert place. 27 And he rose and went. And there was an Ethiopian, a eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure. He had come to Jerusalem to worship 28 and was returning, seated in his chariot, and he was reading the prophet Isaiah. 29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.”30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter
and like a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opens not his mouth.
33 In his humiliation justice was denied him.
Who can describe his generation?
For his life is taken away from the earth.”

34 And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. 36 And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”[e] 38 And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him. 39 And when they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord carried Philip away, and the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

Philip preached to the Ethiopian about Jesus, beginning from Isaiah 53. What does it mean to preach Jesus? Of course he taught the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. He taught about sin and salvation. He taught that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, the Son of God. He taught that Jesus died on the cross so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life. And he taught about being immersed in water in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

It was Jesus who commanded this teaching, recorded in Matt 28:
The Great Commission

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17 And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[b] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

And it was this message that was preached by Peter and the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost following the resurrection of Jesus.

Acts 2 :16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.
19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;
20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.
21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus,[c]delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. 25 For David says concerning him,

“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
26 therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
27 For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
28 You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’

29 “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day.30 Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, 31 he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. 32 This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says,

“‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
35 until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” 40 And with many other words he bore witness and continued to exhort them, saying, “Save yourselves from this crooked generation.” 41 So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.

Cut to the heart, they asked "Brothers, what shall we do?"

"Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."

About 3000 baptized! What did that look like? This is what it looked like in Papau New Guinea, baptizing in the sea.
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Thousands baptized in the sea, Papua New Guinea

But at Jerusalem they would have baptized in a pool.

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Baptism is a complete immersion in water, following the pattern of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. A sinner who has repented, died to sin, is buried with Jesus in baptism, and raised to walk in newness of life. Why would anyone teach that a person is saved first, and baptized later? That destroys the pattern and the story. We bury dead people, and live people are raised from the watery grave. Why argue about how works are excluded by faith. Instead we should know that action validates faith. Without obedience, there is no faith. Faith is made real by obedience to the commands of Jesus and the Apostles.

As Paul taught the Roman believers, Rom 6:
Dead to Sin, Alive to God

6 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Eros or Agape?

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English is an incoherent language when it comes to love. We must first discover the context
before we know what meaning is intended.

Yesterday I overheard on TV a homosexual talking about his coming out of the closet, how he had been warned that his popularity and career would be negatively impacted by his revealing his sexual orientation. "But here I am!", he proudly boasted of his continuing popularity. "Love is love!" he opined. Obviously comparing love between same sex companions with love between a heterosexual couple.

Was he talking about eros or agape?

YHWH defined agape. ἠγάπησεν

For God so loved, that He gave His son.

So when God talks about love, He is talking about giving. When people talk about love, they are often talking about getting. They are talking about feelings, they are talking about sexual orientation. What makes me feel good?

There can be little honest debate regards what the Bible teaches about sexuality. YHWH planned for one man and one woman to be united as husband and wife, and to be loyal to each other for life. He wanted them to procreate and have godly offspring. The fact that mankind violated this principle in many ways never changed God's intention.

When I speak up for Biblical based morality, there are some who are quick to call me a hater, a person who does not respect the "other".  I must be homophobic or Islamophobic?

No, perfect love (Agape) casts out fear.  I am not afraid, not even of death.  But I want people to learn the blessing of giving, and to free themselves from slavery to sin.  With all the talk about the horrors of slavery, who is talking about slavery to sin?  That is a slavery many times worse than the slavery suffered by Africans who were sold as chattel.  When we are enslaved to our feelings, and cannot make righteous decisions in our lives, we are truly without hope, and need a savior.

I hate sin and love YHWH.  God so loved sinners that He gave His Son, so I love sinners.  I do not mean I enjoy running with sinners, but that I want them to have salvation.  Please do not misjudge me. There is no conflict between hating sin and loving sinners.  

Slaves to Righteousness

Romans 6:15 What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,[c] you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.

20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Image result for Elliot He is no fool, who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot loose

Thursday, November 30, 2017


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noun, plural liberties.
1. freedom from arbitrary or despotic government or control.
2. freedom from external or foreign rule; independence.
3. freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc.,according to choice.

The liberty in view when the Statue of Liberty was erected was number 1 and 2 definitions. But number 3 is a dangerous freedom.  The freedom to do as we please often leads to destruction, depending upon what we please to do.  Those who please to always do the right thing can be blessed by liberty, if they actually know and do the right things. But those who chose liberty to pursue human wisdom, to do as they please without moral restrictions, destroy society.
The secular humanist story is that mankind can make things glorious through human wisdom and caring for each other.  The present focus seems to be on equal distribution of wealth,, and casting off the Patriarchy of dominion by men.  The thinking may be that since men have made such a mess of things, it is time for the women to take over.

In fact, women have some advantages over men.  The Bible pictures Wisdom as a woman.  And Mary, mother of Jesus, has a unique role in human history. We all owe our lives and being to our mothers. And Israel is pictured in the Bible as the wife of YHWH.

Historically, Jewish and Christian culture has been respectful of women.  Men were commanded to lay down their lives for their wives, and to love their wife as Christ loves the Assembly of believers. And men were commanded to be loyal to their wives for life.

But mankind's rebellion against Biblical morality, and determination to do what is natural and what feels good, led to the so called Sexual Revolution of the sixties and seventies.

I was a teenager when Elvis came on the scene, and my father once threw a stick of stove wood at me for my failure to obey his command to stop singing "You Aint Nothin But a Hound Dog". My mother had died a few months earlier, and she would have not approved of my singing either.

Once mankind rejects Biblical morality, Pandora's box is opened, and celebration of diversity, celebration of perversity, and celebration of the human condition runs wild. But there comes a time of reckoning. Society is now intent on stamping out unwanted interaction between men and women.

Nothing much has been said about women on women, nor men on men, as it would be embarrassing to the perversity promotion, the LGBT movement. The big push is to put down the Patriarchal society, and to put women in charge. The feminist movement on steroids.

A crowd filling Independence Avenue during the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2017.

Women’s March, Washington, D.C.  
A crowd filling Independence Avenue during the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., January 21, 2017.

It is a good thing that sexual immorality has finally gotten a bad name among the liberals. It was them, along with L. B. Johnson, who promoted it (sexual immorality) in the sixties. They paid women to not be married, and pushed marriage to the back of the stage.  Finally there seems to be agreement that sexual impulses should be restrained. Maybe we can return to Biblical concepts of ethical behavior? Sexual immorality destroys society.

And wealth redistribution has found its way into the fray.  Put  women in charge, and they will take away money from the wealthy men and give it to the needy.. It seems like a good idea, on first impulse.  Jesus had plenty to say against the wealthy of His day, and even told the Rich Young Ruler to sell all that he had, and give to the poor. And the first century community of believers shared with each other, unselfish and caring. But the sharing was voluntary, not managed by the secular government.

Redistribution of wealth by the secular government has never worked out well in the history of the world.  Almost one hundred million people were killed by various methods including disease and famine by the communist governments of the twentieth century..

Individual liberty and economic freedom seem more aligned with prosperity and blessings. Putting secular government in charge of our lives is a sure kill of individual liberty.  Secular government is a very poor manager. And the idea that it is wrong for people to become wealthy by providing valuable services seems certainly misguided. 

Men have historically been the heads of families in the Bible tradition, and women have been the nurturers.  Wealthy men played prominent roles in the Bible history, men like Abraham, David, and Solomon.  Wealth is not a problem if wealth is used for good purposes. Patriarchy has a biblical basis.  Man was created first, and the woman was made as a suitable helper.  God's will was for man and woman to be united, and to be loyal to each other for life. 

The Holy Spirit gave Paul some instructions about the husband-wife relationship. 

Wives and Husbands

Eph 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.[a] 28 In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. 

This is the message from our Creator. He knows what is best for us. In the end, the discussion should be about the Bible vs human wisdom. Secular humanism led the sexual revolution, secular humanism leads the perversion parade, and now is leading the movement to reject Patriarchy. It is a Battle. Decide which side you are supporting, the Bible or human wisdom.

True liberty comes from being in Jesus.

Romans 8English Standard Version (ESV)

Life in the Spirit

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.[a] For the law of the Spirit of life has set you[b] free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ

12 So then, brothers,[e] we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons[f] of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
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Victory in Jesus