Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Bad Seed :: by Grant Phillips

I apologize for posting late but I was gone this past week and when I returned found that living in a small town does have its drawbacks.  Would you believe one mistake by an inattentive backhoe operator could take out the internet for an entire community?  Fortunately it has finally been repaired and I can post this article for you to read and consider.  It is from the website which I highly recommend.

The Bad Seed

Well, it’s that time of year again. Spring is here, and guess what else is here? You got it. Weeds. Thanks Adam. By the sweat of our brow is right.

As soon as the rain stops here and the ground dries up, I need to address the weed situation that has already started. Many of you will be doing the same. The weed eaters will be running at top speed, spewing weed clippings in every direction. I don’t like to weed eat. I used to work with a fellow who absolutely loved to weed eat. Not me. So a few years ago I chose another way to get around that little problem.

My weed eater comes in a jug. It’s called Roundup. I run it down the fence line, the driveway, sidewalk, and a few other spots. Yes, I also kill the grass that is on the edge of these areas, but I don’t have to weed eat either, so it works for me. I’ve noticed some of our neighbors are now doing this. Sure beats weed eating and it last about four to six months.
As far as weeds that may be out in the lawn itself, they will have to be dealt with individually by pulling them up.

I have no idea how many different weeds there are, but here are just a few you may have heard of.

Crabgrass, Pigweed, Chickweed, Quackgrass, Lamb’s Quarters, Morning Glory, Purslane, Buckhorn Plantain, Cannabis, Dandelion, Sumac, Ragweed, Dead Nettle, Speedwell (Veronica), Goosegrass, Wild Onion or Wild Garlic, Indian Strawberry, White Clover, Ground Ivy (Weeping Charlie). Sheep or Red Sorrel, Mouse-ear Chickweed, Carpetweed, Shepherd’s purse

The time is now upon us that many of you, and I, will prepare a small garden spot in the back yard just for the fun of it. I will till the ground up, mix in some cow manure, garden soil, a little lime, and some peat moss. Then I’ll cultivate this until the ground is ready for planting.
Much time will be spent, enjoyable time though, laying the rows and planting the plants. When the tomato plants, for example, get high enough, I’ll stake each one. Then … I’ll spend the rest of the Summer keeping it weeded. No Roundup here. Gotta use a hoe. Isn’t it amazing that you don’t have to do anything to get weeds to grow?

Jesus also had something to say about weeds in the following passage.

“Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. “The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ “ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ “ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”” (Matthew 13:24-30 NIV)

Apparently the zizania of this parable is the darnel weed. Before it ears, it will have an appearance of wheat. Now we can understand why the owner told his servants to wait until the harvest to separate the wheat from the tares. Sure don’t want to pull up the wheat along with the weeds.

Jesus explains this parable in verses 36-43. We see from these verses that Jesus is the Sower (v.37). The good seed are believers (v.38). The tares (bad seed or weeds) are the unbelievers (v.38). The enemy who sowed the tares is the Devil (v.39). The harvest is the end of the age (v.39). The reapers are the angels (v.39).

Jesus said that this parable is an example of the kingdom of Heaven. The kingdom of Heaven, at this point, consists of those who are believers and those who are unbelievers, or wheat and tares (weeds).

The kingdom of Heaven has many tares growing alongside the wheat until the end of the age. However, the day is coming, perhaps very soon, that the harvest will separate true believers from those who are just believers in name only. At the harvest the wheat will be gathered and taken into the barn (go into the Millennium), and the tares will be gathered, judged and burned (thrown into the lake of fire).

Since part of the harvest refers to when Jesus judges the world in the Tribulation (Revelation 14:14-16), remember that the Church will be in Heaven. It was harvested at the Rapture. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

We’ve gone this far, we might as well take a short look at the two parables that follow the wheat and the tares. They are all about the kingdom of heaven.
“He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32 NIV)

The Church started out very, very small, but as the mustard seed, it has grown from just a few original followers of Christ to millions and millions of true followers along with those who merely profess Christ but do not know Him. Unfortunately, the “birds” have come and are perching in its branches. To understand who the birds are read Matthew 13: 4, 19. They are Satan and his minions.

Just as the tares have become mixed in with the wheat, so this parable is saying, for example, that many in the Church are not the true Church. They are Christians in name only. Jesus told the disciples to go into the world (Matthew 28:19), but since Constantine of Rome, the world has come into the Church. Only Jesus can separate true believers from those who are false, and this He will do.

He told them still another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33 NIV)
Since yeast always represents sin in the Bible, this parable of Jesus is saying that false doctrine leading to apostasy has infiltrated the church.

Jesus said of the last days before His return, “… when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

The apostle Paul warned his protégé Timothy, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NKJV)

From the pews and the pulpits, the tares stand along with the wheat. Who can tell them apart?
The birds of prey have brought the world into the church while they nest in the rafters of the souls of men.

The leaven of false doctrine rises forth and appeases itching ears.

Laodicea, the church that has come forth at the end of the church age, is eaten up with apostasy (Revelation 3:14-19). The Lord knows who are His and who are not. He will separate them at the harvest and put an end to the bad seed.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

First Love

"I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars; "and you have persevered and have patience, and have labored for My name's sake and have not become weary." Nevertheless I have [this] against you, that you have left your first love.”
Revelation 2:2-4 NKJV

The seven letters to the seven churches of the book of Revelation are often called the “report cards” to the churches by Jesus Christ.  I’m sure most of us can recall a time where the arrival of a report card produced feelings of anxiety and sometimes trepidation because we were unsure of what it would reveal.  It has occurred to me in the past few years that although Jesus makes it clear in these letters what He expects from the Church, very few churches today examine, or even care whether or not they are following the blueprint Jesus laid out.

One of the things I learned early on in pursuing a career in coaching is the importance of not only identifying, but prioritizing faults that need correction in order to tackle the most important problems first.  It is with that in mind that I truly believe Jesus does the exact same thing in these letters. If so, the very first mistake, as well as the most important fundamental necessity of the Church, is covered in the letter to Ephesus.  Although Jesus has some very nice things to say to the church about their efforts, it is tempered by the words, “Nevertheless I have [this] against you”.  Those words alone should strike fear into anyone reading them, and I am certain that the church today should take note for many would agree this is the same mistake all too many churches are making;  “you have left your first love.”

What was their “first love”? Virtually every commentator or teacher I have ever read or heard speak interprets this to mean that they had forgotten the excitement which resulted in making sharing the gospel with an unbelieving world their primary goal. They were busy doing everything else that makes for a healthy body, yet they had lost the initial excitement of first love that made them want to share the Gospel of Christ with others. Do you remember what it was like when you first became a believer? Didn't we all want to shout out and share the joy with everyone we met? That is our “first love”, and one we should never forget.

Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition,                         2 Thessalonians 2:3  NKJV

I am sure many of us are familiar with this verse, especially at this point in time when many are saying the end of the age is upon us and the return of Christ for His Church is imminent.  It is used often to describe what will occur within the body of Christ as many believers turn away from what the Bible teaches and follow a false gospel created and engineered by Satan himself.  As hard as this might be to believe, it might help us to better understand why believers could be so easily led astray by identifying the real culprit in this deception. By that I mean, although we tend to focus on the individuals themselves, who or what is leading them astray?  Sadly and unfortunately, my conclusion was; the Church itself.

If we look at the definition of falling away as used in this passage, this is what we find; apostasia; a falling away or defection from the truth.  Of course, this leads us to the question we have all heard at one time or another, especially if like me, you took a philosophy class in college.  That question is; “what is truth”? 

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.              John 14:6  NKJV

Personally, I love the simple answers in life.  This is certainly not the answer many people I have encountered wanted to hear, but it is, nonetheless, an answer straight from the God of the universe.  So my first question of any church is this; do you teach this truth?  Unfortunately today in many churches, especially those who lean towards the emergent church model, this is something you will never hear from the pulpit.  The focus is all about service and works and being involved, but nothing about first acknowledging your need for salvation and accepting the sacrifice Jesus Christ made for your sins.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  Romans 1:16  NKJV

Sadly, the vast majority of churches today teach what I have termed the “gospel of the moment”.  That is, they teach whatever they feel the congregation wants to hear in order to fill the seats with happy, contented people.  Sadly, it is not as if God did not warn us in advance that this would happen.  In his second letter to Timothy, Paul warned of this problem in advance and explained that people would turn away from the truth of the Gospel and instead embrace the lies of the evil one.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.                                        2 Timothy 4:3-4  NKJV

In all of his letters, Paul makes it plain that the truth of which he is speaking is the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Greek word for gospel is euaggelion”, which translates as; gospel, the glad tidings of salvation through Christ”.  The truth is, there is only one way for mankind to be saved from eternity in Hell and spend it with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in Heaven above, and that is by accepting the salvation offered by His sacrifice on the cross for our sin. On the day of Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit had come upon the disciples, Peter makes it very clear when talking to the High Priest and his advisors that there is only one true Gospel, and that is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”     Acts 4:12  NKJV

The power of the gospel of Christ was so powerful that even these who had crucified Him were forced to admit that something they could not explain had indeed occurred.

But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, “What shall we do to these men? For, indeed, that a notable miracle has been done through them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it.    Acts 4:15-16  NKJV

When Paul and Silas were put into prison in Philippi, a miracle occurred when God produced an earthquake which caused the doors to open and their chains to fall off.  When the jailer was about to kill himself, he was stopped by Paul and responded by asking this question;

And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.”    Acts 16:30-31  NKJV

Notice that Paul’s answer to him was the gospel of Jesus Christ, and not some of what you might hear in many churches today which teach a different “gospel”.  When Jesus was explaining the gospel to Nicodemus He said this;

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”    John 3:3  NKJV

Jesus went on to tell him that to be born again is to be born of the Spirit, which is what happens when we choose to believe the gospel of Jesus Christ.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.    John 3:16  NKJV

What is the truth of the Gospel of Christ?  That God loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die on a cross for our sins.  What is required of us is to simply admit we are sinners, and believe that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin when He died on the cross.  This is what it means to be born again, and it is a gift given to us free of charge, the only requirement being we must receive and accept it.

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.  Ephesians 2:8-9  NKJV

What is truth?  Simply the gospel of Jesus Christ!  My question for you today is, are you fighting for the truth?  Does your church teach the gospel of Christ?  Does your pastor teach, just as Jesus did, that we must be born again?  Do you hear the message that mankind are sinners in need of salvation?  Have you heard lately the words, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved”?  If not, I would suggest that in order to fight for the truth, ask these questions of your church.  Copy this study and give it to your pastor or the elders with the question, “why not”?

If you are reading this today and have never made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior, I encourage you to do it right now.  Simply ask God to forgive you of your sin, and believe that His Son Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sin, and you will be “born again” and “have everlasting life” just as Jesus said.  This is the truth of the gospel.  Do you fight for it?

Keep watching.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Do You Believe?

Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men. But the angel answered and said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you." So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word. And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, "Rejoice!" So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. Matthew 28:1-9 NKJV

Rejoice indeed. Because of the resurrection, we all have the opportunity to share in His power over death. It is a gift, freely given to anyone who chooses to believe. Have you ever considered the fact that as a believer in Christ, you are immortal? Death has no hold over us for we have the promise of eternal life, and to prove it, Jesus rose from the dead to show us He alone has the power.

Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. "And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?"
John 11:25-26 NKJV

“Persistent unbelief in light of contrary evidence is willful ignorance!”

Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.  Mark 16:9-11  NKJV

After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either  Mark 16:12-13  NKJV

In the above passage from Mark we find that the disciples were presented with the testimony of at least three witnesses to the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead in Mary, and then two of their own.  Yet for some reason they still chose not to believe what was being told to them.  Now maybe, just maybe I could understand how difficult the fact of the resurrection might be to believe if it were not for the fact that Jesus Himself had told them that this was exactly what was going to occur before it ever happened!

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.”                         Luke 9:20-22  NKJV

So what would your reaction be to someone who refused to believe even though the evidence presented to support a position met all the criteria necessary by established legal principles?  I daresay your thoughts would be less than kind, and truthfully mine would refer back to all of the passages in Proverbs which describe fools.  Does that seem harsh?  Maybe it would help to look at Jesus’ reaction to the disciples and their stubborn refusal to believe the evidence.

Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  Mark 16:14  NKJV

Do you believe?  This is the most important question that anyone will ever be asked.  If you can answer yes, your place in eternity in the presence of our Lord and Savior is guaranteed.   We can know this because God has promised us that all who believe will have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 NKJV

And it shall come to pass [That] whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved.' Acts 2:21 NKJV

And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." Acts 16:30-31 NKJV

I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture. John 10:9 NKJV

My prayer is that if you have never made the decision to believe that Jesus Christ died and rose again for you, you would decide to do it today. Invite Jesus to come into your life and forgive your sins, and begin to experience the joy that comes from having a relationship with a living God, and the knowledge that He has promised us eternal life with Him in Heaven if we only believe.

Have you made the decision in your own life to know the power of His resurrection? If not, you can right now by praying this prayer and accepting the gift of eternal life God has offered you by the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner and I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

He lives!

Keep watching.