What Does Your Future Hold?

There are a number of scripture passages that show the eternal impact on the future of man.  Many of them deal with the love of God and what He was willing to do, but they also include a number of references on what God’s expectations are of us.  There are those who believe that man’s actions are minimal to nonexistent yet we have a passage that demands we consider our faith and what it consists of.  Paul tells us, through inspiration of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Thessalonians that the church Jesus died for would not be gathered home until after several things occurred. (2 Thessalonians 2:3ff.)  One of those things includes what the Greek language calls the apostasia, and is known in English as the apostasy, or the falling away from the faith.  Yes, the blood bought church of our Savior was going to succumb to man’s influence and become something foreign to God.  Did you know that?

You might think that I am making a bit much of this but I believe New Testament scripture covers this situation at length.  In his return trip to Jerusalem, where he would be arrested for his faith, Paul wept with the elders of the church at Ephesus because he knew that from within the leaders of the church this apostasy would form. (Acts 20:28-30)   You can read of Jesus saying “not everyone who says unto me Lord, Lord will enter in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 7:21)  He goes on to refer to their claims of prophesying, casting out demons and performing many miracles in His name and then saying He never knew them.  In Luke 6:46, Jesus asked those in His presence why they called Him, Lord, Lord, yet did not do what He said.  In his letters to Timothy, Paul reminds him to be diligent in his duty of delivering sound doctrine to sound men in order to defeat what he also tells him is ahead.  Included was a falling away from the faith and following deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons; (1 Timothy 1:1ff.) and that a time will come when men will not endure sound doctrine, turning aside from truth to myths and accumulating teachers to themselves according to their own desires.  I believe this has happened and some who recognized it attempted corrective measures by way of either reformation of the distorted body while others strived to restore the body which Christ and His disciples formed.  Because we each will stand before God individually, it is up to us to know for ourselves and not rely on others.  Are we in the body of Christ or part of the apostasy?

Copyright © 2011, Nolan P. Rutter

The Gospel, or Something Like it?

Last week we reviewed what Paul addressed as the events necessary prior to the return of Christ as He gathered His Bride to be presented to God the Father.  This is found in his second letter to the church at Thessalonica and dealt with the coming apostasy, which he states at that time had already begun.  This week we examine another section of scripture that is related, yet directed to another group of Christians who were living in the region of Galatia.

Paul was amazed (Galatians 1:6) that those he had taught were so quickly deserting Christ for what they saw as a different Gospel.  Paul tells us this was being instigated by those wishing to distort the message.  He went on to say if anyone brought a message contrary to what he and those who traveled with him had taught, they were to be accursed.  In this statement he includes any man, angel from heaven, or even himself!  Do you hear what he said?  He acknowledged the possibility even he could return with a message contrary to what he initially taught and if he did, they were to ignore it!  We do need to remember though that Paul wasn’t interested in what pleased men but rather that which was pleasing to God (vs.10).  That is the question we must ask ourselves today.  Are we interested in what it is God would have us to do as indicated in His word or are we more inclined to listen to what men have decided to teach and to practice?

The thing about forgeries is that they are fabricated to look as much like the original that it is nearly impossible to detect the flaws that give them away.  The only way to be certain is to be intimately knowledgeable of the ‘real thing’.  No one has the right to deliver a message that is different than the one offered by the men who were commissioned by Christ to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you…” (Matt 28:19-20) 

How would you stand under the scrutiny of Paul and the message he delivered, a message that he received not from men but from Christ, Himself (Galatians 1:12)?  Would he be amazed at our desertion or would he be encouraged by our faithfulness that comes from hearing the word of Christ? (Romans 10:17)

Copyright © 2011, Nolan P. Rutter

Are You an Underdog?

I believe we all have a bit of compassion for the underdog… an inherent desire to see them succeed against overwhelming odds.  Even the local NFL Kansas City Chiefs benefited by the unlikely victory of Cincinnati’s Bengal’s over San Diego’s Chargers late in the season allowing the Chiefs to win their conference division.  I’ve long held the idea that on any given Sunday any team can beat any other team, if all the right things fall in place.

This is what I reflected on recently when I read in Genesis 14:9, “four kings against five”.  This is not what any reasonable thinking individual would consider a “fair fight”.  Yet as I continued to read, I saw that not only did they go up against superior numbers but that they soundly defeated them, putting them on the run and taking plunder from their conquered cities.  It was unfortunate that they included in their spoils the family of Lot and all his flocks and goods.  Had they known what lie ahead for them, they might have reconsidered that particular decision.  In the fray, one individual was able to flee, found his way to Abram and let him know what had happened to his kinsman. 

What began with one apparent upset is now followed by yet another.  Abram, intent on rescuing his nephew, puts together a force of 318 men and immediately begins pursuit.  When he catches up to them he divides his own forces and then under the cover of night, successfully liberates those taken captive, along with their goods.  We see again, a seemingly smaller force taking on a larger force, overpowering them and pursuing them an additional forty miles before returning to their own homes. 

In the case of the king of Elam and three other king’s victory we can only presume how it was possible, unlike the case of Abram.   What kind of person was Abram with regard to his relationship with God?  He believed God and it was considered to him as righteousness. (Galatians 3:6)  His belief included a successful test of faith in which God called for Him to offer up his son, his only son.  He has been called the “friend of God”.  What a great compliment!  For great insight to our relationship with God as defined by our relationship with the world see James 4:4.  Earlier we read “if all the right things fall into place,” and I believe that can be summed up in one passage… meaning “If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8: 31)  If God is ‘for you’, you’re no underdog!

Copyright © 2011, Nolan P. Rutter

A Zeal for the Word

It was simply inspiring!  A video link in an email I received this past week shows the impact of a bible reading program on a 9-year old boy name Davis in the Little Rock, Arkansas area.  This young man, in the span of eight and a half minutes did what I consider equivalent in some ways to that which was done by Stephen in Acts 7.  Stephen had been accused of speaking against the Law and as a result gave a brief lesson on the Law’s inception and purpose.  In the case of Davis, he simply wanted to share what he had learned in his reading through the Bible in a year.  He shared his knowledge of the basic elements of each of the dispensations that God has used to deal with mankind.  He expounded on a great number of major biblical events to include the fall of man, the destruction by flood, the exodus of Israel from Egypt, establishment of kings over Israel (both good and evil), the split of the nation of Israel, the coming of the Christ, His ministry, His death and His resurrection.  He closed out by covering the growth of the church by the apostles, including one ‘untimely born’, Paul of Tarsus.  In his closing remarks he tells of the value of the entirety of scripture and its effect on our overall understanding.  How we see the ‘big picture’ of God’s love, mercy and compassion in all aspects in dealing with man.  Davis gives us confidence that the future of God’s church is in good hands!  See it for yourself at YouTube, Nine Year Old Recaps the Bible.

Now, that’s how one young man values, appreciates and understands the word, but how would we do, if given the opportunity to share with others our knowledge of God’s word?  Could we pass on the basic fundamentals of scripture to those in need of hearing the Gospel?  If an individual’s soul hangs in the balance and you are the only “Bible” they will ever “hear” could you provide the message of hope to the degree that they could decide for themselves whether or not to follow God?   If not, do you have the zeal, the love, to encourage them to go to one who could tell them?   Give an ear to Davis on YouTube, it’ll change the way you think about your bible reading habits!

Copyright © 2011, Nolan P. Rutter

The Best Life for a New Year

A new year, a new life, both a result of a gracious and loving God!  What do you plan to do with your new year?  It is common for us to take this time of year to reflect on the past, evaluating the good and the ‘not so good’ events of the previous year.  Normally, at this time aspirations and goals are set with high hopes for the coming year.  In addition to setting aside bad habits or improving to a healthier lifestyle, why not also consider seeking the “ideal” Christian life?  After all, there is no better life!  What does this life look like, you ask?  Let’s look!  

First and foremost the life of a Christian is that of holiness.  In 1 Peter 1:16, we are reminded of Leviticus chapters 11 & 19 where God told Israel “…be holy for I am holy.”  The Greek word translated holy means “separated to God.”  When we are separated to God we will abstain from every form of evil (1Thess 5:22) which means all that is opposed to good will be shunned in a Christians life.  Are you involved in anything that is opposed to good or by God?

Another trait found in the life of a Christian is active involvement in prayer… as exhorted to by Paul in 1Thess 5:17 when he tells us to “pray without ceasing.”  This activity is our single lifeline to God.  It is a declaration to God our dependence on Him and an opportunity to express our thanks, our concerns and our appeals.  Are you “in tune” to God in your life? 

The trait of faith is also found in the Christian life.  We have scriptural evidence of people of faith in Hebrews, chapter eleven, but if we will only look at those around us we can find contemporaries living lives of faith.  The goal for us is to live in such a way to have others see in us the pattern of faithful living 

One last area we need to visit is a life of service.  Scripture clearly shows that service is called for to God (cf. Matthew 4:10) and to man (cf. Galatians 5:13) and a Christian life is devoted to serving each.  In reality, serving man is serving God, according to Jesus in Matthew 25.  Jesus said that by feeding, giving drink to, clothing and visiting even the least of His brothers it was done to Him.  Do you see it? Serving God and man simultaneously!  These things are the makings of a Christian life, the best life of all.  Put this on your list of aspirations for 2011.

Copyright © 2011, Nolan P. Rutter