Monthly Archives: October 2012

Do You Love Ignorance?

“Ignorance is bliss.”

“What I don’t know can’t hurt me.”

“If I don’t know it by now it must not be important.”

These statements and others like them are often used by individuals when they do not want to confront a particular topic or discussion. They will profess a desire for, and even joy in, their ignorance. They will proclaim it makes life simpler and keeps them from having so much about which to worry. But is ignorance something to be loved or relished? Should it be the desire of anyone to be ignorant?

The term “ignorance” is defined as “a lack of knowledge; unawareness of something important.” Therefore, when discussing ignorance, the intent is not to argue the necessity of knowing everything about every topic; nevertheless, it does require delving into whether or not it is acceptable for me to not know, or desire to find out, things of importance.

When individuals are ignorant, it falls into one of two categories: willful or unwitting. One who is unwittingly ignorant is not intentionally so, but is one who does not even know wherein their ignorance lies because they have never been confronted with the topic under consideration. One who is willfully ignorant knows they do not understand or are lacking knowledge in a certain area, but does not care to take the time and effort to find out the truth; or when the truth is presented and accessible before them, they close their ears so as to continue in their ignorance. This individual is not just one who is lacking knowledge, but is intellectually dishonest because he intentionally refuses knowledge at his fingertips. The one who is unwittingly ignorant will take advantage of the opportunities to increase knowledge and understanding wherever possible, the one who is willfully ignorant will look for ways to avoid any knowledge that would be dangerous to current beliefs or practices.

Consider the three statements at the beginning of this article; all of them are signs of one who is willfully ignorant. Ignorance is bliss. This statement is one of the most often used evidences of willful ignorance. The principle behind the statement is: the less I know, the happier I am. Generally, this attitude is taken toward matters of authority and responsibility. The individual feels that if he does not know what it is he is not supposed to do, he can live however he chooses, be happy while doing so and never be held responsible because he “did not know” what he was doing was wrong. This statement fails to take into account one vital factor: lack of knowledge does not negate responsibility. If I am caught breaking the laws of the land, my lack of knowledge about those laws does not in any way alleviate the illegality of my actions. I am still responsible for what I have done. The same holds true spiritually. The Scriptures often discuss sins committed in ignorance (Lev. 4; 1 Tim. 1:13). Ignorance may be bliss for the moment, but in the end ignorance always winds up causing pain and sorrow.

What I don’t know can’t hurt me. Very much akin to the previous statement, this form of willful ignorance cries out that it is safer to not know something than to know and be found responsible. Though many will use this form of burying their heads in the sand to try to absolve them of responsibility, this mentality only condemns one in the long run. It is common for us to hold politicians and leaders to a standard of, not just what they knew in a particular situation, but what they should have known. Many individuals in leadership positions have been sacked because of their ignorance in matters about which they should have been informed. The same holds true with mankind religiously. God has revealed himself and his will to man through his words and deeds (Rom. 1:20-21), but when man ignores God’s revelation, it does not mean he will not be held accountable to it (2 The. 1:7-9). Many of Paul’s statements to the churches are prefaced with a phrase similar to, “I would not have you to be ignorant,” because the things that were being presented were necessary for their understanding and salvation; ignorance of them would not make life easier; it would only make judgment worse.

If I don’t know it by now it must not be important. This brand of willful ignorance may not always be audibly presented but by action or reaction be readily portrayed. This statement of willful ignorance is used by the individual who is highly confident in his own knowledge, one who believes that he knows and has mastered all that he considers important. It is also used by the individual who has been around for many years and does not want to consider something he has not previously believed; nor does he want to be thought wrong or incorrect in his prior applications. Unfortunately, this is a form of ignorance that is often found, not just in the world, but in the church as well. It is submitted when individuals are confronted with biblical truths or applications they have not heard before and would be just as happy if they never heard again. It often rears its ugly head in discussions of dancing, modesty, societal issues, faithfulness, submission, biblical interpretations of passages that “everyone knows” mean something that they never said, and any discussion that goes against what mom and dad or one’s favorite preacher says. This form of ignorance is so dangerous because it states that the individual is willing to rely on personal knowledge and will reject anything that does not already fit into the category of something he/she wants to believe. Paul talked about such an attitude when he states concerning the Jews in Romans 10:3: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.”

Do you love ignorance? Are you willing to place your own pride, ego, desire, and knowledge above truth and obedience to God? It is not healthy, it is not safe, and it does not make for a happy ending. Remember always what Peter wrote: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy'” (1 Pet. 1:14-16 ESV).

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Having the Answer for Everything

Have you ever met that individual who thinks they know everything? It does not matter the topic of discussion or the issue at hand they will always be the first one to insert their opinion and they have full confidence their opinion is the end of the matter. Although on some occasions one actually does seem to have such a wide knowledge base that they can speak authoritatively on many matters without stretching the bounds of reason, most individuals who present themselves thus are no more than blowhards who feel the need to have a say in everything.

Nevertheless, a question persists that encourages an answer: Is it possible to have the answer for everything? With such a question, I am not endeavoring to go into every field of academia to delve into the deepest mysteries of knowledge; but is it possible to have the answer for everything of importance in life? Is it possible for me to know the answer to every situation I face and every choice that must be made?

If the question requires me to rely upon my own knowledge and understanding, the answer will always be no. I do not have the capacity to know the answer to every situation or to comprehend the dynamics of response and repercussion for every decision. Relying on my own understanding it is impossible for me to have the answer for everything.

Thankfully, I do not have to rely solely upon my own intelligence and ingenuity. In order for me to have the answer, it is not required for me to be the origin of the answer. Therefore, I can turn to the full and final authority on everything: God. Peter wrote that God has given us, “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). This means that God has given us everything that is necessary to guide our physical lives (life) and our spiritual lives (godliness). We recognize that God’s thoughts and ways are far superior to our own (Isa. 55:8-9) and as such bear a level of authority that far surpasses our own abilities.

We need to recognize that, though we do not have the ability to create the answer to every problem, we have access to the knowledge that makes it possible to know the answer. Over the last year, I have been working diligently in my own mind to focus attention on allowing and using the Bible to answer the questions and difficulties that arise. This is not to say I did not consider Scripture previously, but oftentimes I would not formulate the answer around the statements of the Word. When my children ask me questions: whether it is why daddy goes to work every day, or why we say prayer before we eat; I try to answer first with Scripture, then with any additional explanation. When my wife and I are discussing decisions for our family, I try to make sure I am not just thinking about Scripture, but mentioning it in our conversations as well.

The difference this has brought about on a personal level has been highly noticeable. Decisions have been made easier, because I can readily answer with confidence what God wants out of the situation. Pressure and stress have been reduced because I know that I do not have to rely on myself and my abilities for things to work out successfully. Confidence has been gained, because I am not leaning on my own understanding but putting my trust in God (Pro. 3:5). It has changed the way I interact with my family, it has changed the way I approach the questions of my brethren, and it has changed the way I think, on a daily basis, about the Bible. Though I have not been perfect in applying this, I have found that the times where I have made mistakes are the occasions where I failed to follow this procedure.

It is possible to have the answers to every situation, but only if we do not rely on our own wisdom. It does not mean that all of the answers will be simple, nor does it imply that every answer will be the one for which we were looking. Nevertheless, the answer is there; it is available for all who will seek it.

Have you ever tried letting God answer the questions instead of you? If you do, you will find the answers are much simpler than you thought; you will also find that the decisions you make will be far better and more beneficial to your life, because you have allowed the ultimate Guide to direct your path (Pro. 3:6); you will also find yourself spending more time in God’s Word so that you can have the answers you are needing.

Do you have the answer for everything?

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Poem – When I Made the Mistake

“I just tell it like it is” I would oft say with pride,
When others around me started to slide.
I was always the first to level the blame
And lay before others the story of shame.

I remember the time where a fellow servant of mine
At a time of great stress, in anger crossed the line.
I told everyone the flaws he had shown,
How he could not be trusted for his stack he had blown.

Then there was the time where a new sister slipped,
Committing a sin as over a stumbling-block she tripped.
It was not that she did not love her God,
But only through ignorance that path she had trod.

But I with great bombast proclaimed before all
The shame and indiscretion that brought forth her fall.
I brought her to shame before all that did count
And showed her we all knew she would give account.

However, the day came when it was my turn.
I made the mistake and I knew it would burn.
I knew how others would respond to my plight,
Because I had done the same and it left me in fright.

I never would have thought to receive the reaction
That my brothers and sisters returned for my actions.
Instead of returning my own spite to me,
With love and compassion they set me free.

Their reaction to me caused more shame than the error,
For I had so often rebuked them with furor.
When I made the mistake I forevermore found
That life is incomplete until mercy and truth abound.

Let us always remember the values of right,
To show love and compassion, whatever the fight.
Our job is not to show ourselves better than others,
But with mercy and truth to lift up our brothers.

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.(Galatians 6:1-2)

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Have You Been Transfigured?

The apostle Paul wrote to the church at Rome: “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). The word in this text translated “transformed” comes from the Greek word metamorphoo (from which we get the word “metamorphosis”), it means “to change into another form, to transform, to transfigure” (Thayer).

The import of the use of this word in this context is quite interesting. As Christians, we are to be those who are not conformed to, or cut out of the pattern of, the world. We have come out of the world through obedience to the Gospel; consequently, our lives are to be transfigured into something else.

Certainly the greatest example of transfiguration was given by the Lord himself. This same word is used in Matthew 17 and Mark 9 concerning Jesus’ transfiguration before Peter, James, and John. As one notices that account, it is evident that Jesus did not just appear to be different, but he was actually changed during this event. The same is expected of our transfiguration, it is not to simply be a supposed transformation, but an actual one.

Additionally, this metamorphosis has an originating point: the mind. Paul says one becomes transfigured “by the renewing of your mind.” The word “renewing” comes from the Greek word anakainosis which means “to renovate.” As Christians, the first thing that must change is our mind-set. When the standard is the world, anything goes. One can think whatever he wants, believe whatever he wants, and practice whatever he wants because there are no hard and fast rules. However, the Christian has to change that mind-set. The renovation of the mind comes with the recognition that God makes the rules and I must conform my life to those rules. As my mind is renovated, my focus changed, and my understanding increased there will begin to be a metamorphosis in my lifestyle. Nevertheless, as with all things, the change starts on the inside.

When a Christian begins renovation of the mind, it is evidenced in transfiguration of the person. He/she acts and reacts differently toward others; the things that he/she finds important in life changes; the places he/she is willing to go and the things he/she is willing to do are directly affected; the way that he/she dresses and talks is altered; the way that he/she approaches work changes; the way that he/she approaches God changes and these changes are open and apparent to everyone around him/her.

When an individual is transfigured friends, family, and co-workers still out in the world will notice the difference because they are still living in conformation to the world’s pattern. Peter talks about that difference in 1 Peter 4:1-4 when he writes: “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. For the time past of our life may suffice us to have wrought the will of the Gentiles, when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries: Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you.” The Christian does not hold the same appeal to the worldly person once transfiguration has occurred.

However, there is one other matter of emphasis that must be conferred upon our thinking. If I have become a Christian, but nobody sees any change in me, have I been transfigured? The answer is no. If my life has not changed, if my decision-making has no new standards, if my life is still equally filled with the worldliness and selfishness that presented itself before I became a Christian: there has been no transformation; and there has been no transformation because there has been no renovation of the mind. We see an example of this in Acts 8:9-24 when Simon the Sorcerer is converted, but at the time Peter and John visit that town he has not been transformed. He offers the apostles money for their ability and is rebuked and told to repent because he had not adequately renovated his mind.

Have you been transfigured? Have you renovated your mind and gone through the metamorphosis of the Christian life? It will not happen all at once. One does not come up out of the water with everything magically changed. It is a process of focus, study, understanding and application that works to completely transform the self-serving man into a servant of God. If you have not undertaken the process of transfiguration it is never too late to begin, and the start is only a determination of mind and a change of heart away. Will you start today?

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Why do We Serve God?

This morning, my two oldest sons (ages 5 and 3) began having a tiff. It had not yet translated into a full-blown war, and I wanted to squelch it while it was still in its primary stages. My boys love the computer and are enamored with every facet of it. So on top of the rebuke they received was a warning that if this back and forth continued there would be no computer privileges offered today.

Though that warning seemed to sink in rather quickly, what happened a short time later set another thought whirling into my mind. A little while after my rebuke, I was preparing to leave for the office. As I left I admonished my sons to be good and helpful for their mother today (as I do almost every morning), then my oldest son piped up with a statement akin to: “Because otherwise we will not get any computer time today.”

That statement stopped me in my tracks. I sat down for a few moments and spoke to my boys about the reasons we do things. I do not want my boys to be good so they can have privileges; I want my sons to do what is right because it is the right thing to do, because they love their mother, and because they love God; regardless of whether any reward comes of it.

As I was talking to my sons about this, the impact of my statements was drawing my mind into another train of thought. In the same manner that I do not want my sons’ actions to be based upon the rewards of good conduct, so also in a spiritual sense should my actions not be based upon what God is going to give me.

Many times we use as bait the rewards of God in our desire to see people obey him. However, even though God has promised the offered rewards to the faithful, it should not be our greed for those rewards that determines our actions. We (and with that I include myself) often make the choice of discipleship a question of which “rewards” one desires, the physical ones that last for a time or the spiritual ones that last for eternity.

My service to God should not be based upon who is offering the most goodies. It should not be determined by whether or not God is going to bless me with riches or poverty, whether he offers me recognition with physical honor or dishonor, whether he blesses me with health or hardship. My service to God should be predicated upon one question: “Is it the right thing to do?”

Jesus told his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). When I understand all that God through Jesus has done for me (Phi. 2:5-11); when I comprehend the lengths to which God has gone from the foundations of the world to see to it I have the opportunity to remove my sins and be pure and holy (Eph. 3:7-11); when I recognize the truth and goodness extended to me by God through his word for my benefit (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Then the decision before me should not be based upon the rewards for obedience, but on whether I love God enough to put my trust in him; whether serving God is the right and just response for all that has been done on my behalf; whether God has earned my service and loyalty, not through his offered rewards, but by his wondrous deeds.

Sometimes we get too caught up in the greed-based observations of what the rewards will be for service to God. It does not mean that we should not look forward to those rewards, nor should we show a lack of appreciation for their proffering by the Creator. Nevertheless, the rewards received should be a by-product of faithful service, not the motivator for it.

As we live our lives in service to him, let us always keep our motivations in perspective. We serve him because we love him, because he has earned our service and loyalty with his actions, and because it is good and right in every respect. Additionally, let us be thankful for the rewards he has offered to his children; for though their offering is not the main thing, it is yet another example of the love and care that God has for his children and with thanksgiving we find pleasure and peace in those promises.

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The Other Obadiah

For those who are familiar with the Old Testament, the name Obadiah automatically reminds us of the single-chapter book associated with the prophet of the same name that declared the downfall of the Edomites. However, there is another Obadiah mentioned in the Old Testament that is worthy of our acknowledgement.

In First Kings 18, we are introduced to Israel during the days of Elijah. The Northern Kingdom is ruled by that “wonderful” duo of Ahab and Jezebel; and the ungodly queen has done everything she can to stamp out the worship of God from among the people. She has even gone to the extent of making the prophets of God outlaws and has them put to death wherever they are found. It is under these conditions that God sends Elijah back to Samaria from his exile in Sidon to come before Ahab and, eventually, have the contest with the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

When Elijah comes back into the land he finds a man named Obadiah. The Biblical record states: And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly, and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.) And Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.” So they divided the land between them to pass through it. Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

And as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him. And Obadiah recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?” And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.'” And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would give your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would take an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you. And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here.”‘ And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you I know not where. And so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water? And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here”‘; and he will kill me.” And Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.” So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah. (1 Kin. 18:3-16 ESV)

Obadiah is the servant over Ahab’s household, but of greater importance he is a servant of God. Obadiah shows his courage by saving 100 prophets of God from certain death. Not only does he hide them, he sees to it they have food, water, and shelter. He watches over them, indications are, for a long period of time; keeping them safe from the wrath of the queen.

But Obadiah is also fearful. When Elijah tells him to go and relay the message of his return to the king, Obadiah wonders what he has done to deserve such a death sentence. Elijah will promise Obadiah that God will take care of him and protect him from Ahab, but Obadiah is still fearful of the repercussions of being the messenger proclaiming the return of a prophet so highly disdained before the king. Nevertheless, Obadiah does what is asked of him, and God does as Elijah said he would in protecting him.

Obadiah is an excellent example of courage and conviction. He was willing to help and protect God’s people even though it put his own life at risk. He was faithful to God, even while serving a king that had no concern for God’s laws or his people. Though fearful at what he was asked to do, Obadiah fulfilled his mission and announced Elijah’s return to the king. As Bible students we should remember in our own lives, and instruct others as the opportunity arises, the courage and virtues of “the other Obadiah.”

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Reacting to Restorations

We have seen it happen many times. The invitation song is sung and during that last verse a struggling or wayward Christian comes forward. In some instances it is because of sins they have committed for which they are ashamed and repentant; other times it is the fact that they have been out of duty for a period of time, doing nothing to serve the Lord and they want to rededicate their lives to God and his service. How do we react to those individuals?

You see, when it comes to an individual obeying the Gospel and being immersed in water, the response is unanimous – there is joy and happiness and thanksgiving. Unfortunately, sometimes the reaction is not the same when an individual comes forward seeking forgiveness and restoration. Sometimes it is because there have been problems and sins committed within the congregation and among individuals; and injured feelings are still present. Sometimes there is the feeling of judgment as to the sincerity of the individual who is seeking restoration: are they serious, or will this be occurring again in a few weeks or months? So people go up, shake their hand or give them a quick hug, exchange some pleasantries and that is the end of it. Brethren, such a response ignores the tenor of Scripture as to the magnitude of what occurs when one seeks restoration to God. Consider the Scriptures.

James wrote, “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins” (Jam. 5:20-21). James says that the erring member who is brought back is a soul saved from death. That individual was one who was on the way to eternal condemnation if corrections were not made, but there is now reunion with God because of repentance.

Jesus gave the account of the lost sheep in Matthew 18:11-13 when he said, “For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.” When combined with the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15 the imagery is clear: God rejoices just as much with the restoration of a lost sheep of the flock as he does when a new sheep is added to the fold.

The question for us is: do we react like God? Do we, with joy and thanksgiving, embrace that brother or sister and let them know the prayers that have been answered and the joy that is felt at seeing them return to Christ? Do we publish their names in the church bulletin with the same zeal and joy that we would a new member of the flock? Do we send them cards of encouragement thanking them for their courage and desire to do what is right? Do we make special efforts to strengthen them for the work after the same type as we would a new convert? We should be doing all of these things. There should never be any doubt as to how we feel when the erring come home, and it should never be shown to be the reactions of the older brother (Luke 15:25-32). Instead, it should be with the love, mercy, and exuberance exhibited by the father at the saving of a lost soul.

Let us ever monitor our reactions to restorations, for they say a great deal about our priorities, our spiritual focus, and our own relationship with God; and may our love for God and our brethren give us the compassion and forgiveness necessary to always respond appropriately.

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