NOTHING WRONG WITH THE SEED

NOTHING WRONG WITH THE SEED                                                                                         Andy Hollifield 2-19-18

Mark 4:8 And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

Thirty, sixty, or a hundred. Think about that for a minute. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe in gambling and believe the bible speaks against it in numerous places. But I want you to think about this; if you were a gambler and placed a bet on something that had 30 to 1 odds, if I am correct, your one dollar bet would win you thirty dollars if you won. At 60 to 1 you would get 60 dollars for a win and at 100-1 your dollar would get you a hundred. Now think about this; if it was a guaranteed payout at one of those odds and you couldn’t lose but were assured of winning one of those payouts, we would all wager all we could on the 100 to 1 payout. Of course, if it was a guaranteed win it wouldn’t be gambling. Now, in light of that example, think about this: We have been guaranteed a payout and the worst we can do is 30 to 1. That means we will make back 30 times as much as we wagered. In this case we will call it invested. To gamble means there is a chance you could lose what you wager. To invest means to put money, time, talent, towards something with the hopes of achieving something, accomplishing a purpose, or accumulating gain of some kind. Now look at this one. The word “guarantee” means something that assures a particular outcome or condition.

Look back up at the verse from Mark 4. Starting in verse 4 we find seed that fell by the wayside and was devoured. In verse 5 we find seed that fell on stony ground and without much soil, it sprang up too fast and was scorched because it’s roots hadn’t developed yet. In verse 7 the seed fell among thorns and was choked out by the thorns. Now for the good part. Verse 8 says that some seed fell on good ground. It sprang up and increased, meaning that it produced more seed. Some of it wound up being 30 times as much as what had fallen on the good ground and some was 60 times as much and some even 100 times as much. For those that are farmers let me put it this way: if you planted 500 pounds of beans and only harvested 500 pounds of beans, you would consider it a terrible waste and would never use that brand of seed again. It just wouldn’t be worth all the labor, much less the cost of seed and fuel and fertilizer. Now think about this; if you had a guarantee that the seed you used would bring forth 100 fold, you would use it. For 500 pounds of seed, that would yield 50,000 pounds of beans. Do you know what else a good farmer would do? He would make sure that ground was perfect. It would be plowed and disked to just the right texture, it would be irrigated to provide the right amount of moisture, and the field you chose to use would have adequate light but not too much. If you had that much at stake, you would do everything in your power to get the maximum yield that you had been guaranteed.

Before we get too far, we need to look at the seed. If you go back and read that parable that Jesus used, there was only one seed being sowed. There wasn’t a different one based on the type of ground. The seed didn’t change based on the ground but the ground had to be changed to get the most out of the seed. That means; the better the ground is, the more fruitful the seed will be. I know that may seem like the long way around to say something so simple but it is of utmost importance. If you read the explanation of this parable that Jesus gave, his word was always the seed. His word doesn’t change for me or you or to keep up with the times or the latest fad. His word and his will and purpose don’t change based on our mood or how we feel. That word is infallible, unfailing, perfect, and sufficient. To get the most out of it we have to change our ground. We can’t change the seed but we can change the ground where it is planted.

The bible says in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” Studying his word means that you are learning more about the seed and rightly dividing means you are learning more about the conditions needed for it to be fruitful. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 the bible says for us to “Pray without ceasing.” That means what it says; always praying. Hosea 10:12 says “Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.” To “sow to yourselves” means that you are reaping the benefits of what is produced. What you reap is the continuing mercy of God. The fallow ground means that part of your life that has been plowed up but has been left inactive and not being used. Just knowing that we will be reaping mercy by our prayers and the seed we sow and it could be to the benefit of those we are praying for. That should make every one of us plow up every inch of our field in our lives so that when the sower comes through, that good seed of his will fall onto the fallow ground and become fruitful producing life in those that will be the increase of our seed.

We aren’t seeing folks give their heart to the Lord and lives be changed, not because of the seed, but because we haven’t prepared the ground to receive the good seed. We can’t prepare someone else’s ground. We have to prepare and plow up our own fields and when we start bringing forth light, then we can see the fruit being produced wherever the Lord’s seed has been sown. Jesus said that if he be lifted up he will draw all men unto him. We just have to do the plowing because we have the guarantee that if the seed of his word falls on good ground, it will bring forth fruit. Plowing is hard work but the end result is plenty of fruit. Just plow your field and get the ground ready. He will do the sowing. There ain’t nothing wrong with the seed. It’s as good as it ever was. Keep plowing! Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

ARE YOU WALKING ON THE PREMISES OR STANDING ON THE PROMISES?

ARE YOU WALKING ON THE PREMISES OR STANDING ON THE PROMISES?                   Andy Hollifield 2-19-19

2 Peter 1:4 Whereby are given unto us great and precious promises:…

I am glad to report that not only am I blessed to be able to walk on the premises where God walks, but am also standing on the promises that he has given to all who will accept him. As is quite often the case, someone with a better mind than me made this statement except they said, “Walking in the promises.” I am thankful that I have promises to walk in that I can stand on. Absolute truths! I know that is an outdated concept in our modern world of gray areas. The bible does mention a few gray areas though. One was prior to the flood it probably got gray before the rain started. Also, when Elijah was on the mountain with Ahab and the servant saw the cloud the size of a man’s hand. It probably turned gray just as the skies darkened and the rains let loose. Every time a drought ended in scripture, there was probably a space of time there was a gray area just before the skies turned black and it started pouring. But, as far as the precepts, principles, and promises of God are concerned; there are no gray areas, there is only absolute truth.

Since we have defined gray areas, lets look at some of those absolute truths. Some of those great and precious promises that God has given to those that repent and accept him as their Savior. But first, let me say that not all of the promises in the bible are for us as Christians. There is the promise of eternal separation from God in hell for those that never accept him. There are the promises of “The worm dieth not” and the fire is not quenched” (Matthew 9:44,46,48). Matthew 25:28 promises that the unprofitable servant will be cast into outer darkness where there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. You may be thinking this is supposed to be an encouraging post. Oh, it is. Look at what you get to miss if you are a born again child of God, having accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior by repenting of your sins! That ought to encourage you to hit another lick for the Lord.

Now for some “great and precious promises.” First, did you know the word “promises” is only in the bible 13 times? The word “promise” is used 53 times and the word “promised” is used 47 times. The word “promising” is only used once. My guess is because God has already made the promises to his people. By the way, according to one persons count, there are 3573 promises in the bible. I don’t know all of them but I want to share a few I do know. First is Matthew 11:28, “Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Aren’t you glad that he promised rest to us? Who was that promise to? John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” I am glad I am a “whosoever.” How did I become one? “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Here’s one for you; “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7). While we are talking about grace, here is another promise:”My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” (2 Corinthians 12:9). I can’t even think about covering all of his promises. If you want to read all of them, just open his word. He said it better than I ever could anyway. But, before I go, see how you like this one. “…I go to prepare a place for you. (3) And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:2-3). All right. We can’t quit there. “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: (17) Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (18) Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18). I hope this has been a comfort to you. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

CRISIS CHRISTIANS

CRISIS CHRISTIANS                                                                                                                    Andy Hollifield 2-19-17

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” That very familiar scripture is Galatians 6:7. I have had this conversation before with some folks I know. In a critical time in their life, they were super religious and wanted to know all about various things God’s word said. At the time, many commitments were made pertaining to prayer and church attendance and so on. I understand the need for the comfort of the Lord in times of trial, sickness, or emotional distress for whatever reason. Ecclesiastes 5:4 says “When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. (5) Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.” A vow is simply a solemn promise, pledge, or personal commitment. It doesn’t have to be a big production or anything like that. If you have ever said for example “I would be more active in church if I could do anything that was needed.” If you can carry water, you are needed in your church. I know a lady in a church I have gone to visiting for years that always carries a cup of water to the pulpit right when the preacher gets into the pulpit. It doesn’t matter to her whether it is a visiting preacher or the pastor she is faithful to her job. I have even heard folks say “if I didn’t have to sit with my parent all the time and take care of them, I would be more faithful in church.” Yet when the parent dies, you still don’t see them. I have even heard folks say “when our baby gets here we are going to get in church as a family.” Yet when the baby is in school, they still haven’t made it to church. There are a lot of excuses for not doing what you promise to the Lord but none that are acceptable to him. When I was a kid back in the early ’70’s, the Kingsmen quartet had a song called “Excuses”. It was a comical song that was factual and very thought-provoking. I have seen folk use the excuse of ” by the time we got all of their homework done we just can’t make church on school nights and I can’t keep them up late on Sunday nights.” But they have time to run all of their kids to different ball games and if they do make church on Sunday night they can be found going somewhere to eat afterwards. My point is that we make time for what is important to us. If we don’t have time to go to church it may just be because it isn’t really that important to us. But let trouble come in the family, or sickness, or loss of a job, or some kind of turmoil in our lives and all of a sudden we are faithful and need the prayers of God’s people at least till we get used to our crisis. I don’t mean to sound mean but it is a serious thing to lie to God. Here’s a pretty common one “I would give anything for God to intervene in this situation”. Anything? That is what God heard. You better not make those statements lightly. God will hold you to your word.

The history of the children of Israel was much the same pattern as what I have mentioned. They would serve faithfully for a little while. Then they would begin to let things slide a little. Then they would pretty much forget how God had blessed them. Then he would send the prophets to warn them and compel them to turn back to God. They would get mad at the prophet and refuse to make any changes and say they were all right and he just didn’t understand. Then God would let an enemy take them into bondage or just annihilate them in battle. Then they would start crying out and wondering where God was and how he could let this happen. Then they would say they didn’t see how this could happen to them because they were pretty good people. All the while forgetting that they had turned their back on God and not kept the vows they had made the last time. If you look throughout the bible it is a cycle that they have repeated all throughout their history. God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11). If he didn’t let them by with it, he won’t let us by with it either as a nation or as individuals. Psalms 9:17 says “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all nations that forget God.” It doesn’t sound like God has any intention of letting anyone by.

We live in a nation that has forgotten God. One thing that Barrack Obama said that greatly angered me but that I later had to agree with was when he made the statement that “America is no longer a Christian nation”. Our reasons differ but I have come to the conclusion that he had that right. Christian means to be Christ-like. There is no way that we can be accused of being a Christian nation when we not only allow but condone some of the behaviors we do in our country. Every civilization and empire throughout history has crumbled when they embraced many of the same sins that we are currently embracing and promoting as a nation. I have heard it said in times past; “as the home goes, so goes the country.” I believe that to be true. With our homes in turmoil and disarray, with parents hating children and vice versa, over fifty percent of all marriages ending in divorce, sexual sins running rampant and celebrated, alcohol use increasing and celebrated, drug use by kids on the rise, how can we expect anything more of our country? Could it be that over the 240 year history of our country that we as a nation have made vows to God and broken them? I can remember events in the last forty years that would make me believe that is the case. The first Gulf war is one example. Churches were holding special prayer meetings just to pray that God would deliver our troops. Against all odds he did. I know I mentioned this in a recent article but it bothers me that we don’t seem to remember how distressed we were then until God delivered us. September 11, 2001 is another case. The president and both houses of congress called on the nation to pray. On the 12th, they stood on the capital steps in unity asking the country to pray. Yet now, look where we are. I still remember as a kid the end of the cold war and the breaking down of the Berlin wall. Before that I remember hearing in school how dangerous Russia was. I remember hearing about how Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and before that about how Hitler and the Germans moved across Europe. God preserved us through all of those times and we have forgotten him. I am in no way intending for this article to be a political endorsement of any kind. I am just pointing out the fact that God has answered a lot of prayers in the last one hundred years or so that there were no doubt a lot of vows made for. I wonder how many have been kept?

Genesis 6:3 says “And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh…” It won’t always strive but right now it is. Right now, God in his mercy is calling on us to repent. I am not talking about as a nation, I am talking about as individuals. I am talking about folks that have made and forgotten or intentionally deferred to keep the promises they made to God. There is a lot of things in our nation that we can’t do much about. But we can keep the commitments we made in crisis. We can honor our vows to a holy God. We need to not be a crisis Christian but just be a Christian. Not just when we are in crisis but at all times. Forty-one times the bible says “his mercy endureth for ever.” The phrase appears in the book of Psalms 33 times. Eleven times the bible speaks of God’s tender mercies. Ten times in Psalms and once in Proverbs. Psalms 40:11 says “Withhold not thou thy tender mercies from me…” Psalms 51:1 says “…Have mercy upon me O God, according to thy loving kindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” How many times has he done that for you? Psalms 79:8 “O remember not against us former iniquities: let thy tender mercies speedily prevent us: for we are brought very low.” Psalms 103:4 “Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies.” My life many times seemed headed for destruction but God… But God. What a statement; But God. That is what changed everything. Then each time he crowned me with his lovingkindness and his tender mercies.

I have covered extensively the judgment coming for crisis Christians but now that brings up a question. Why would anyone want to only be a Christian during times of crisis when you have a God that will love us like that ALL the time, not just in crisis. I can’t figure that one out. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

NEVER OUT OF SIGHT

NEVER OUT OF SIGHT                                                                                                               Andy Hollifield 2-18-19

Genesis 21:17 And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee Hagar? fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is.

There are several titles I could have given this post because there is so much to take from this scripture. So lets look at some of them for a minute and maybe it will help someone. I first thought about “Water In The Wilderness.” In verse 19 the bible says “And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well, and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink.” Ishmael was fourteen years older than Isaac and Isaac was probably between three and five years old when he was weaned. It was at the celebration of Isaac being weaned that Ishmael was seen by Sarah mocking Isaac. Nothing specific is mentioned as far as what was done but it resulted in Abraham being told by Sarah and also by God to send them away.

You kind of want to picture Ishmael at this time as a little baby but according to the scriptures he was probably between 17 and 19 years old. When Hagar cast him under that bush, she had no way of knowing that God was consenting for Abraham to send them away. Had she known that, she would have been assured that the Lord would take care of them. She went on probably 30-40 yards from the bush and sat down and wept. She was on the verge of watching her son die of thirst and nothing she could do about it. I am sure as a parent, that before she had given up, she searched under every rock she could for water. But when her efforts proved futile, the water ran out, and she had lost all hope, she lifted up her voice and wept. Let me stop long enough to say when you find yourself in that place in your wilderness; you are right in the position to hear from God and get relief. She was already planning for the death of her child and had resigned herself to the fact that was how it was going to be. Can you see the picture of hopelessness? It was when she got to that place that the angel called to her from heaven. The angel asked what we might consider a stupid question but from the angels point of view, knowing and seeing the goodness of God firsthand, it probably seemed strange that Hagar would have any concern. Let me summarize the rest of verse 17 for you: What’s bothering you, don’t worry about it, because God has heard. That’s pretty good isn’t it? When you are in that place in your life, it is comforting that we can know the same thing the angel told Hagar. In verse 18 God gave promise of deliverance and in 19 he opened her eyes and showed her a well. Now I am confident that she had searched high and low and if I had to say, I would say that God put that well where there hadn’t been one. How many times has he done that in your life? How many times have you found in your wilderness, a well of water?

That brings us to another title I thought about. “The Cry Of The Innocent.” Even though Ishmael had been mocking Isaac, he was in the position he was in because of the decisions his parents had made. He had nothing to do with how he was conceived or to whom or any of the family drama that followed. All of those decisions were made for him and he just had to suffer for them.  But it was his cry, and not that of his mom, that touched the heart of God.  It would pay us to be mindful of the fact that the decisions we make will affect others that have nothing to do with them. Sometimes it may be in a good way and sometimes it may cause pain as it did in this case. You could also make the case that Abraham was solely responsible because he listened to his wife and got ahead of God. Abraham already had the covenant and all he had to do was wait on the Lord. How many times have we suffered pain and loss because we didn’t wait upon the Lord? Isaiah 30:18 says “Blessed are all they that wait for him.” He will bring mercy if you wait on him.

Then the title we chose, “Never Out Of Sight.” If you look back in chapter 16 you will find that Hagar had been in the wilderness before when she fled from Sarai. The interesting thing is that God’s angel found Hagar that time by a fountain of water in the wilderness of Shur. Just a play on words; You can be Shur God knows where you are in your wilderness and you are never out of sight for him. The second time she was found in the wilderness of Beersheba which means “well of an oath.” God made promises to Hagar there in her wilderness. She lived in the wilderness for a lot of years but God kept his promise and blessed her there. God knows right where you are and he can keep his promises even in the midst of your wilderness. He is not limited by what we see as obstacles. He sees them as opportunities for our spiritual growth. Hagar and Ishmael wouldn’t have been near as blessed if God had taken them out of their wilderness because it wasn’t pleasant. Sometimes God wants to bless us in our wilderness and teach us to be dependant on him.

If you notice, Hagar had no personal relationship with God until she was in the wilderness. It is better to be in the wilderness with God than to never be in it and be without him. Twice in her life, Hagar, a little Egyptian maid, a Gentile and stranger to God, was found because God had his angel to speak to her in her wilderness. Let that sink in. Even though she wasn’t one of his chosen people, God still showed mercy to her in her wilderness. She didn’t have to wait until she was doing better or in a better place in her life but God showed her mercy and grace right where she was. Even though she thought she was in a wilderness without any hope, she was never out of sight of the Lord and neither are we. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

ARE YOU A GOOD STEWARD?

ARE YOU A GOOD STEWARD?                                                                                                 Andy Hollifield 2-18-18

1 Corinthians 1:9 God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

1 Corinthians 4:2 Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful.

1 Thessalonians 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who will also do it.

2 Thessalonians 3:3 But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil.

Sometimes there are questions that come up in scripture that you don’t really want to ask yourself. Often we don’t like our own answers because these questions are a measuring stick by which some of us prove ourselves to be coming up short. This is definitely one of those questions. But, the Christian life is a lot like going to the doctor. As part of the examination you have to answer questions so it can be determined if anything is wrong and if it is, how serious is it, and is it something that can be fixed? Examining yourself can be even worse because we know both inside and out. Here is a verse not just for preachers but for all of us: “Let a man so account of us, as the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” (1 Corinthians 4:1). Here is another one: “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). Did you catch what those two verses actually said? The first one said that we are “stewards of the mysteries of God” while the second one said “as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” God has put his mysteries and his many different kinds of grace in our hands for us to be responsible for. A steward is defined as a person that all of the affairs and assets and responsibilities belonging to a particular person, has been entrusted too. Today we would call them managers or chief of staff. Let that ring up on you! God has placed us in charge of handling his affairs on this earth until he sends his Son to get us. That means that we should know more about him, and be better acquainted with him, and have his interests at heart, more than anyone else in the world. In so many words, Jesus said that when he was gone we would have his job. In John 9:5 he said “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” In Matthew 5:14-16 he said “Ye are the light of the world. A city set on a hill that cannot be hid. (15) Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick: and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” He gave us his job! That is an awesome responsibility and one that we shouldn’t take lightly. If we want to know exactly how to do it, we should do it exactly like he done it.

Jesus spoke a lot about the poor, and the fatherless, and widows, and little children. If we could just emulate him with just those four groups of people, think how much better our world would be. We could really call ourselves good stewards if we just lived up to the term ascribed to the followers of Christ in Acts 11:26 “….And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” They weren’t called Christians because they traveled with Christ because he was already gone before the title was ever given to them. Although it was most likely a title of scorn and mockery from those that said it meaning “like Christ,” it was probably considered a badge of honor by those that were called by that term.

Keep something else in mind too. When Jesus first was born in Bethlehem, although the prophets had spoken hundreds of years before about his birth, this whole concept of a Son of God and worshipping without going to the priests was a brand new idea at least outside of the realm of the saints. Men had always gone through the priests and made sacrifices in order to obtain atonement for their sins. Now here was a man who preached that all you had to do was to believe in him and you would be forgiven of your sins and inherit eternal life. That was a radical change from the system of sacrifices to believing in one man that was walking among them whose family they all knew. Nevertheless and regardless of the rocky start, he never did waiver from anything he ever said and by the time he had been crucified, buried, resurrected, and ascended, there were a lot that had no trouble believing that Jesus was who he said he was. Then, after the crucifixion and the occurences of that day and after the day of Pentecost during which the Holy Ghost descended and 3000 souls were added to the church in one day, this new doctrine that Jesus taught had taken on a life of its own perpetuated by the faithfulness of those that believed it.

Now, fast forward over 2000 years, and here we are. We are living in a day when the world, or at least our country, has outgrown any tolerance of God. During tragedies like those of the past week, you don’t hear too many asking for prayer for our nation anymore. As a matter of fact, I have heard repeatedly on the news in the last few days that it will take more than “thoughts and prayers” to fix whats wrong with our country. These outcries, whether started by our school aged generation or just coached to them by adults with an agenda of their own, used to never be heard. Actually, good thoughts may not do a bit of good but as long as there is a God in heaven, prayers will always be enough. Some situations need prayer and fasting. The ironic thing about all of the comments about thoughts and prayers are coming from the same age generation that is responsible for the school shooting this week. Rather than listening to a bunch of young folks that have seen and suffered far more than what a child should ever have to, we should be listening to God and turning to him as we have in the past in this country. God has brought service men and women home from foreign battlefields time after time, preserved health of our kids repeatedly, provided for our families when we didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, and given us his “manifold grace” to deal with things in our lives that we can’t understand. If he was ever good enough to call on in prayer and believe and see change, then he is still good enough now. God said in Malachi 3:6 “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” If he hasn’t changed, that only leaves you and I. Those of us that are born again are supposed to be lighting the way for the rest of the world. Are we being good stewards of the grace and mysteries of God and being a light like Jesus said we should be? Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

 

 

BEWARE

BEWARE                                                                                                                                         Andy Hollifield 2-18-17

Beware! It is a word that anytime you see it makes you stop and take a close look at the content surrounding it. That is exactly the reaction that the word is supposed to bring out of anyone reading it. It is a word that by definition is usually used imperatively as indicating a strong urgent warning. It means to be wary, cautious, or careful of something. Probably the most common warning we have all seen is “Beware of the dog.” I don’t believe there has ever been anyone that has read that sign and completely ignored it. Did you realize that the warning on those signs is actually scriptural? Philippians 3:2 says “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” As a matter of fact, the bible uses the word beware 28 times in 26 verses. The interesting thing about that is that almost a third, nine of the twenty-eight, are warnings about religious people. Five times, all in the New Testament, Jesus himself told those he was talking to ” beware of the leaven of the Pharisees.” Three times he included the Sadducees and twice even the scribes. The Pharisees were a religious sect that were legalistic in their beliefs and traditions but Jesus also said their belief was “hypocrisy”. In other words they didn’t practice what they preached. The Sadducees were pretty much the same but differed in the fact that they didn’t believe in the resurrection. The way I remember the difference is this; “I would be sadd u cee, if I didn’t believe in the ressurection.” Just a little humor that might help you remember the difference between them and the Pharisees. The scribes were the copyists of the scriptures. As the scrolls which were made of goat or sheep skins begin to fade or wear out, scribes were used to copy the scriptures on new skins. Doing this made them very familiar with the Mosaic law and they had a tendency to think very highly of themselves as a result. We have a lot of Pharisees today in the respect that they believe anyone that believes different from them is wrong. I believe I am right in my doctrine and beliefs but if someone believes different than me, that is their choice but I will not disassociate myself with them because of it. We are going to share heaven with a lot of people who believe different than we do on a lot of things. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: (9) Not of works, lest any man should boast.” It is belief in Christ’ sacrifice on the cross and his ressurection and ascension and his soon return that we have to accept for salvation. We can even disagree on when he is returning and still be saved by his grace. But Jesus said “…Ye Must be born again.” (John 3:7). That is what it takes to go to heaven. Accepting his gift and repenting of your sins and accepting him as your personal Savior. He IS the ONLY way to heaven and that we all have to believe if we are going. Anything else, we can differ on.

Now back to Beware. A couple of times in the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 6:12 and 8:11, Israel was warned to beware that they forget not the Lord that brought them out of bondage and also not to forget to keep his statutes and commandments and judgments. We would do well to not forget the God that brought us out of the bondage of sin and to not forget to keep his statutes and commandments and judgments as well. By the way, I know that we are not supposed to be judgmental but, God has some standards that aren’t debatable that we are supposed to judge with a righteous judgment. For example, if I am traveling and I stop to eat, am I not supposed to judge whether a particular place is somewhere I need to be? Just because you can go somewhere or do something doesn’t mean you should. You can take your family into a biker bar to eat but that don’t mean you should. If we are not supposed to be judgmental then let your teenage daughter go out with whatever little heathen walks up to your door. See the point, we are all judgmental in some respects as we should be. Judges 7:24 says “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” The term righteous judgment is used three times in scripture and this one instance instructs us how to judge. The word righteous is an adjective meaning “characterized by uprightness or morality.” That is the standard by which we are to judge. That is why you can scripturally judge the little heathen trying to date your daughter based on his uprightness or morality. We judge what food we want , what clothes we wear, what kind of car we drive, what we watch on TV, but somehow we aren’t supposed to judge reprobate behavior but are supposed to accept it as normal? That is a whole nother subject for a different day. And yes, nother is in the dictionary.

In Exodus 23:20, God told Israel to beware of his angel and to obey his voice because he (the angel) would not pardon their transgressions. He also went on to tell them how he would drive out the inhabitants of Canaan using hornets and that he would do it within a year so the land didn’t become desolate and the beast didn’t multiply against them. They would have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had of used a little good judgment. In Deuteronomy 15:9 he even told them to beware of a wicked thought against God. In Judges 13:4 and 13, he warned Samson’s parents against strong drink and repeated the warning throughout the chapter. It would serve us well to beware of wicked thoughts and strong drink in our lives. There were multiple warnings against or to individuals and in the New Testament. Jesus warned against false prophets (Matthew 7:15) and men (16:6) and then the warnings I have mentioned previously. In Luke 12:15 he warns of covetousness and that is definitely one we, even as Christians, have a problem with today. In Luke 20:46 he warns again of the scribes but goes on to warn of their arrogance. We definitely have a church world that is eat up with that one. The scripture I mentioned earlier in Philippians 3:2 warns of dogs which were simply impure men without morals. Also of evil workers which means those deliberately doing anything against God. But the warning against the “concision” means the believers in circumcision. The problem wasn’t with their belief in circumcision but their belief that it was essential to salvation. We still have that crowd today that try to make water baptism, for example, essential to salvation. It is not. That would leave out the thief on the cross as well as folks that accept the Lord while dying of an illness they never recover from. In short he is warning against the teaching of legalistic regiments that are said to be essential to salvation. You can be baptized nine times a day if you want to but if you never accept Christ all it will get you is wet. If you accept Christ, as the thief did, and never get baptized, you will still be saved. With that said, the bible does teach that we should follow Jesus in believer’s baptism. It is to signify publicly our acceptance of his salvation and the putting away of our old nature. Paul also warns in Colossians 2:8 to beware of philosophy and vain deceit and traditions of men and rudiments of the world and not after Christ. We still have a lot of folk that hold to tradition and follow it and will break fellowship with you over it but refuse to follow the Spirit of God if it differs from what they have always believed. It is possible for us to believe wrong, but it is impossible for the Spirit of God to ever be wrong. The last warning is in 2 Peter 3:17 he warns against falling for false teachings and also getting so wrapped up in trying to understand “hard things” that you be led away with the error of the wicked. The next verse teaches that we should grow in grace and in knowledge. A good example of “hard things” is the modern-day thought that “God won’t send anyone to hell.” That is correct. But where they err in their way of thinking is that God has done everything possible to keep anyone from going there. He gave his son to be our sacrifice for our sin and all we have to do is accept his free gift. If you die and go to hell, you will go trampling over the very blood that Christ shed for you. You will go completely ignoring every warning you have heard and every invitation ever given to you. You will go refusing every time the Holy Ghost has dealt with your heart. You will go against the very will of God. 2 Peter 3:9 says in part that the Lord is “…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Although God isn’t willing for you to go to hell, he is also not willing to force you to accept something you don’t want. If you don’t want his free gift, you don’t have to accept it. But, if you want to go to heaven, you do have to accept it. Beware! He is the ONLY way. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!

CALL ON HIM

CALL ON HIM                                                                                                                              Andy Hollifield 2-17-18

Isaiah 55:6 Seek the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

Romans 10:12-13 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. (13) For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

Psalms 27:5 For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock.

Psalms 37:39 But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in time of trouble.

1 Peter 5:10 But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 41:10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

Where do I start? I know that I have included a lot of scripture but if you read it again nice and slow, I believe that you can’t help but to be blessed and comforted. We are living in a time of turmoil in our country, and in the whole world for that matter, when evil is rampant and people live in a constant state of fear. According to a website called Psych Central, in a report released on October 19th, antidepressant drug use has increased 400 percent over the last two decades. The CDC, who released the report, found that 11 percent of people over age 12 takes an antidepressant with about 14 percent of those taking the drugs for over 10 years. With those kinds of statistics, it seems it would be almost impossible to keep up.

I mention those statistics because it seems we have gotten to the place where men and women of all ages can no longer cope with the stress of living in the society that we have created. With church attendance dropping in some studies to as little as 17.2 % of Americans on a given weekend instead of the 40% that Gallup reports, it is evident regardless of which number you believe, that commitment to the local church is not what it used to be. There was a time in the early to mid seventies, that Christians were committed to the Lord and living pleasing to him. The church was the center of your life back then and the center of most small communities. Now, we have so many activities and distractions that not only do we not have time for the Lord, but we don’t even see the importance of it until tragedy strikes. I can even remember when there wasn’t ball practice on Wednesday nights much less a game. We have allowed so much of the world to become a part of our services, that we have in a lot of cases, driven out the Spirit of God. We have done so much to “quench” the spirit for so long, we have become a church like that one in 2 Timothy 3:5 “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.” We talk the talk because we have learned the language and the mannerisms of being in church almost all of our lives. That is the best way to see the loss of power is to go in the church and get too modern or too busy to have time for the moving of the Holy Ghost. The worst thing is to not even be able to recognize when God’s Spirit is present.

I didn’t write this to state the obvious but I wrote it to declare that I know the entire secret, five steps for having a dynamic Christ honoring church. First off, our obligation is to preach, pray, study, repent, and worship. I am afraid we are raising a generation that knows nothing about the moving of the Holy Ghost. We like to talk about how spiritual our churches are but if we do lead anybody to the Lord, it may prove to be next to impossible to keep them in long enough for them to grow to maturity in the Lord. but I do have good news; there is a remedy!

It doesn’t really take a five step program but just a one step action: turn back to him. If we will just turn, he will see us afar off, just like the father of the prodigal, and will come running to meet us and fall on our neck and kiss us to welcome us back. It is true that you can be sitting in a church and be a million miles away in your heart. The verses I listed above are just a few that I could find to illustrate the love that the Lord has for us. He made it easy on us. All we have to do is to look for him and call on him while he is near. Don’t wait until the storms hit your life to call on the Lord. We have a world of people doing that now and it pays to make plans to be close enough to call on him when we wind up in a pinch. Romans 10 promises that he is rich to those that call on him. He also promises that when the father calls us that he is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance(2 Peter 3:9). The first part of the verse also talks about how longsuffering he is to us and how that he is not slack concerning his promises. Psalms 27 talks about how that in times of trouble, he will carry us. Psalms 37 promises that in troubled times, he will be our strength. The 10th verse of 1 Peter 5 is one that I really love for several reasons. He says that he has called us and that we will still have to suffer for a while. After you have suffered for a while, he will work on making you perfect, and then it says he will strengthen us, get us established in what he wants us doing, and give us strength to do it and finally he will just settle us down. I am thankful for the settling hand when we just get uptight. I am glad that in this tumultuous age, I haven’t yet had to worry about keeping my mind and my heart because those are in God’s hands and he always gives peace that we can’t understand. In our work though, fear takes many different forms but according to Isaiah 41:10, we don’t have to fear because he is with us. We don’t have to be troubled because he will strengthen us, help us, and hold us up when we can’t stand. He don’t ask where we have been or what we have done, he just takes us in and loves us as only a father can. I am thankful that we just have to learn to lean upon his righteousness. Just call on him. Have a blessed day in the Lord!!!