Friday, April 04, 2014

PONDERINGS AFTER READING “THE AUSCHWITZ ESCAPE”

Satan’s attack on the people of God has taken many turns throughout history.  Beginning there in the garden shortly after creation, it continues even until this very hour.  The natural man does not see the hand of the prince of this world system at work in the Pharoahs’ genocidal harshness, or the Moabites desire to keep them from passing through their land.  The continual Philistine attacks and subjugation of God’s people is considered a natural progression of barbarism of those early days of civilization. 
Tiglath Pilesor IV and Sargon II are merely kingdom builders with highly advanced political and military skills in the eyes of anthropologists and historians.  Babylon’s unsurpassed cruelty, Persia’s military acumen, and Alexander the Great’s visionary boldness are viewed as progressions in the development of an evolving cultural awareness with absolutely no consideration of the possibility of a hand behind those great movements always moving with one though, to destroy the people of God through whom would come the promised Messiah whose heel would bruise the head of the prince of this world system.

Then as mighty Rome enveloped the civilized world, the Messiah was brought forth and Rome became the tool first to prevent His birth, then to wipe out the Jewish nation which birthed Him, and finally to discredit, discourage, and annihilate those who became joint heirs with Christ.   Unable to destroy the teachings of The Christ, this latest instrument of this world’s prince, developed a highly technical substitute for simple faith in Christ, which held a large portion of the world’s population in dark bondage for more than a millennium.  The twentieth century brought about a change in this Roman system and it moved from a quasi military system to a totally religious system, continuing to offer a substitute of religious activity for genuine faith based conversion.

The prince of this world system did not place all his hopes on victory in basket, he stirred the sons of Ishmael to develop a virulently anti Jewish faith whose primary purpose has always been the suppression of Jews, and since 1947 the extermination of them. 

Throughout Europe two competing systems, Communism and Nazism, have tried to destroy both the natural and spiritual Jews.   While Nazism was squashed, Communism continues to spread its poison through Asia and South America and seems to be making a comeback in Eastern Europe. 

The last six decades have seen a new and different attack upon the spiritual children of promise as the evil one has attacked them with the conscious numbing tactic of materialism.   Such an approach just might be the most insidious and effective tactic yet employed by the powers of darkness.  Both cultural and genuine Believers seem to have fallen under this pervasive spell even while seemingly unaware that it is robbing them of the discernment necessary to employ the power to live victoriously in this age.

That the prince of darkness operates behind translucent curtains design to obfuscate and misdirect is his greatest continuing victory.  Hitler’s evil genius is decried and bemoaned, but he had far too much influence to have drawn it from his own mind and energy.  His life epitomized one who had fallen under the spell of the prince of darkness without even realizing it.  

Today political leaders rise unaccountably to positions of prominence without experience or expertise due to their ability to influence the masses to follow them on their destructive and illogical policy paths.  These leaders are as closely aligned with the forces of evil as were those of the inquisition or the holocaust.  Yet cultural and genuine Believers are unwilling to risk the comfort of contemporary materialism to expose these people and warn the masses.

Reading the book, “The Auschwitz Escape,” has reminded me that evil triumphs when holiness is silent.   I pray God will raise up a band of people willing to risk everything in order to prevent another Auschwitz.  

©       2014               Mike Rasberry

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Westboro Folks Are Wrong

The Westboro Folks are definitely WRONG in their approach to opposing homosexuality.  No one should be called names and attacked like the Westboro folks do.  What they do is degrading. 

Let me say that I believe the Bible teaches that homosexuality is gross sin, and that the open acceptance and promotion of it is the judgement of God upon a land prior to destruction of that land.  But we ought reach a hand out to those caught in the grip of this dread sin.  Certainly we ought not appear to celebrate them, but we ought also not appear to hate them.

Rather than attack individuals, Westboro would better serve the cause of Christ to use the system God has provided to change the government leadership which facilitates and empowers this sinful lifestyle.  

Conversely those professing Believers who give the impression of support of the Homosexual lifestyle by proclaiming that God loves seem also to miss the point.  The prime attribute of God is His holiness and His love is a natural outflow of that holiness.  Because He is holy and loves, He gave His only Son that men need not be enslaved by such things as homosexuality.  He loves so much that he condemns the sin all the while offering to the offender a path whereby he might not only find deliverance, but the power to overcome those tendencies in his life.

When one rejects God's proffered salvation, which by the way is offered ONLY on God's terms, and there is not negotiation; that one will suffer the consequences of that rejection.  That is why we cease not to warn in spoken and written word continually, and do not fear the lament of the populace as they decry our supposed intolerance.

So, one might ask, "Just what is this salvation which is a path to deliverance from homosexuality?"  Simply stated, it is making Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior of one's life.   Well how is that accomplished?  I believe Scripture teaches that God offers to every human being the opportunity to turn to Him and the wherewithal to accomplish that turn. (1) First one must be convicted that he, himself, is a sinner and the enemy of God.  This is not a natural thing and is accomplished through the work of God's Holy Spirit.  You can be sure, I believe, that if you see yourself in such a light it is the work of God in your life.

(2)  After recognition of one's condition, he is broken hearted over that condition.  Not because of potential consequences but because of what sin does to Holy God.  Sin caused Jesus Christ to leave the glory of heaven and suffer the indignities of the cross while paying with His totally innocent life the penalty for sin which you and I deserve.

(3)  One must, having recognized that condition and experienced contrition for sin; confess to God in prayer.  Prayer is talking with God and requires no particular formula or pattern.  It is the genuine outpouring of one's heart to God with the belief that He cares and hears.  Confession is simply saying to God that you know your unworthy sinfulness and acknowledge your inability to cure yourself, and your need of an intercessor.  By faith you confess that you believe and trust in Jesus Christ as the only way and accept Him as LORD.

(4)  These first three steps might happen in a moment and be hardly distinguishable one from the other, but the fourth step takes a life time.  It involves conversion from Sin.  At the time of salvation God has been doing a mighty work in the life of the individual.   He gives one a new heart that is bent toward Him rather than toward the world.  However, God does not destroy the pull of the world in the individual's life.  He is given a new purpose, a new direction, a new name, and a new eternal home.  He is also given a new companion, the Holy Spirit, who indwells him and provides strength, direction, companionship, comfort, courage, and whatever else is needed to accomplish God's plan for that life.   The Holy Spirit will warn the genuine Believer when he is tempted to stray from God's purposes, and He will provide the strength to turn from evil.  Should the Believer fail to listen to the warning and become caught up in sin, the Holy Spirit will continue to call to him to repent of the sin and return to God in confession. 

God allows each Believer to make choices continually, with each carrying rewards and consequences.  That is why it is a life long process of turning from sin.  

A word of caution--No one can come to the Father except the Spirit draw him.  Therefore, it is extremely important that one respond to Him when He calls because that may be the only call which comes. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

God's Judgement On America

In light of recent events, I believe Christian people need to understand what homosexuality means in light of God's Word.  At the most recent meeting between the University of Tennessee and University of Missouri basketball teams, Michael Sams, the extraordinarily talented football player who is expected to be a high NFL draft choice was honored with a standing ovation when he entered the basketball arena.  The event which precipitated the ovation was his recent public "coming out" as he proclaimed himself to be a homosexual.

That the people would applaud him rather than hang their heads in shame is testimony that the Judgement of God already rests upon America.  Homosexuality, you see, does not lead to judgement, it is judgement.  The fact that Americans in such large numbers are sympathetic to his position and that governmental leadership at the national and state level are working diligently to facilitate an environment which accommodates him and others like him who shamelessly proclaim their abominable lifestyles is proof that God has turned us over to our own devices.

How long God refrains from wreaking upon our nation the same fate he unleashed upon Sodom seems to depend upon the number of genuine Believers who continue to stand for truth and justice in our day.   The following message, "God's Judgement On America," can be accessed by clicking the link.   I pray you choose to stand for God in these days.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Learning To Lean On Jesus

This past Sunday during the AM Service I preached from Hebrews 11:21 "By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshiped, leaning on the top of his staff."  The message was entitled Learning To Lean On Jesus.  It is a short history of Jacob's life in which we discovered the events which shaped his life and brought him to a place where he began to lean on Jesus for his provision, protection, and protection.  
Click on this link :Learning to Lean on Jesus to listen to the message.

The study on Colossians will be put up here soon.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

An Introduction to Colossians


COLOSSIANS: ANTIDOTE TO GNOSTICISM, RITUALISM, AND LEGALISM IN ANY AGE
An Introduction

Gnosticism did not fully develop until the second century of the Church Age.  However, Gnostic type beliefs were evident during the Apostolic Age, and Paul was quick to deal with it in the Colossian Church, lest it become accepted belief.  Paul recognized that a little seemingly innocuous  error, not corrected, would blossom into full blown heresy thereby consigning generations to a false message without a path to genuine salvation in Jesus Christ alone.  

Paul uses the term “fulness” (pleroma) in 1:19 to refute gnostic belief and show that Jesus Christ was the “fulness” of God, that in Christ no other intermediaries are necessary.  The Greek word “pleroma” was a word closely associated with the embryonic gnostics of that era, and Paul used it only twice in his writings.  Here and in his letter to the church at Ephesus (Eph 1:22,23) he shows that Christ is all in all and that neither angels, nor other spirit beings are necessary for the fullness Christ offers.

Docetic Gnosticism held that Jesus was a divine being who only appeared to be human.  Ignatius early in the first century battled this heresy.  It propounded the idea that everything created is tainted, or evil, and every spiritual is good.  So, since Jesus belongs to the spiritual world, He could not have actually been truly human.  Many scholars believe John was combating this heresy when he proclaimed in John 1:14, “...the Word was made flesh...”  These Docetic Gnostics believed that Jesus did not leave footprints in the dust of Palestine, because He could not touch the created world.  Whether or not this form of Gnosticism had reached full bloom during the time of Paul, there is little doubt that he foresaw where these beginnings could lead.

The very word “Gnostic” relates to knowledge and the Gnostics believed they had fuller knowledge of spiritual things and the mysteries of life than Scripture and the Apostles doctrine provided.  Gnostics distrusted the world to such an extent that they promoted an extreme asceticism and self-abasement along with the worship of angels.  Paul seems to combat both these errors in 2:18.  Some scholars take the 2:16-18 passage to argue that Paul was primarily concerned with Jewish heresy because they had their special days and venerated angels.  These Jewish half-believers were not devoted to Christ and believed the Law remained the path to salvation.

I believe Paul was dealing with both heresies in this letter.  He commonly dealt with a multiplicity of problems when he wrote in his apostolic authority.  One thing is certain, many were offended by his teachings and warnings.   In 4:11 Paul mentions how few support him. 

Some debate has developed over the authorship of the book as scholars have looked at syntax and noted the long sentences, and the absence of many words like “so” and “but.” Some also claim that because the author did not call attention to the soon return of Christ, Paul might not be the author.   I believe those to be spurious arguments which neglect the purpose of the letter and fail to account for The Holy Spirit’s leading in the formulation of Paul’s writings.  Thereby subtly making them of little more authority than those of inspired secular writers, such as Shakespeare, Tennyson, Poe, et al.

The fact that the book begins with a salutation from Paul and was accepted by the early church as being a missive from him, is enough for me.  However, his inclusion of Timothy in the salutation and his mention of Onesimus, on whose behalf he wrote a letter to Philemon should convince the most recalcitrant skeptic.  Add to this Paul’s allusions to Christ’s return and the end times in 3:4 and 3:24, and you find a Pauline like epistle, I believe.

The theme of the missive is that Jesus Christ is unique.  It is through Him, and in Him that Genuine Believers come to rest in the assurance of salvation.  He is the fullness of the God.  Just as much God as if He were no part man, yet fully man at the same time.  Paul makes no attempt to prove the humanity of Christ because this was not an issue for these Believers.  Rather, they seemed much like the followers of Islam and the Jehovah’s Witnesses of this age in that they accepted Christ’s humanity but couldn’t accept His deity. Therefore, Paul emphasizes Christ’s sonship very early. (1:3) He continues that theme by showing Him to be a sufficient sacrifice so that sinful man could be justified before Holy God.  Christ is all one needs, and will satisfy every need of one’s existence.  Therefore, Paul argues, one might be “...filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power...” (1:9-11)

Paul wants them to understand that the worthy walk which pleases the Lord can only be accomplished by the power of Christ.  No amount of mysticism, legalism, or ritualistic ceremonies can substitute for the indwelling power of Christ in whom “...dwells all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”  (2:9) Such a worthy walk involves relationships, and Paul gives some practical applications of the interaction of the one who walks worthily within those relationships.

If the epistle was written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, which I believe to be the case, its date would be between 60 and 64.  J.B. Lightfoot (1828-1889) make a very strong case for this traditional position, and I’ve seen no solid evidence to the contrary.

The occasion for the writing of Colossians was the visit of Epaphroditus to Rome to see the Apostle Paul, who was then a prisoner.  Perhaps his purpose was to seek Paul’s help in dealing with the error beginning to gain a foothold in the churches there.  Epaphroditus was probably the Pastor of the church in Colossae and possibly Laodicea as well.  Many commentators believe that Philemon lived in Colossae and it was there that he had his house church.

Colossae was located 120 miles east of Ephesus in the Lycus River Valley in ancient Phrygia, part of the Roman territory of Asia Minor.  It was one of three cities at the foot of Mount Cadmus, the others were Laodicea  and Hierapolis.  Paul had never visited the city and most speculate that Epaphroditus was the founder of the church there.  Some suggest that in Colossae’s proximity to Ephesus one might deduce it’s beginnings during the time Paul preached in Ephesus for two years on his third missionary journey (Acts 19:10).  Both the church at Laodicea and Colossae could have been founded by the same person during those days, but both were obviously closely connected (4:16).  It is conceivable that both Philemon and Epaphroditus were saved through the preaching and teaching of Paul during his ministry in Ephesus.  However, there is no concrete information to validate that, and one does well not to speculate too much where Scripture is silent.

This introduction is necessarily a compilation of information I have gleaned from gifted scholars I trust.  I make no claim that I have the knowledge to provide such background information apart from my gleanings of those works.  A professor of preaching at what was then Baptist Bible Institute in Graceville, Florida, Dr. Leroy Benefield, was wont to say, “Read widely and preach from the overflow.”  That is also my practice in writing and teaching.  Should you discover that something I’ve included was originally yours, remember, you got it somewhere.   I do affirm that the compilation is my work alone, and feel certain that others will not want to claim it.

I am...
Mike Rasberry
Because Christ Still Reigns!

COLOSSIANS: ANTIDOTE TO GNOSTICISM, RITUALISM, AND LEGALISM IN ANY AGE


We are studying Colossians for our January Bible Study at BSBC on Sunday and Wednesday Evenings during the month of January.  This is the outline for that study.  I pray it serves as a helpful tool for your study of God's Word.   I'm grateful for many whose works I've gleaned from during the course of preparing this work.


I.     Salutation (1:1-2)

A. Validation of Authority for Writing (1:1)

B. Basis of Interpersonal Relationships (1:2)

II.      Christ’s Fullness Explained  (1:3–2:7)

A. Thanksgiving and Prayer for the Colossians (1:3-14)

1. Thanksgiving  for the Colossians’ Faith (1:3-8)

2. Prayer for the Colossians’ Knowledge and Growth (1:9-14)

B. Hymn to Christ the Lord (1:15-20)

C. Affirmation of Christ the Reconciler (1:21-23)

D. Paul’s Stewardship of His Calling, and the Hidden Mystery(1:24–2:7)

1. The Purpose of Paul’s Sufferings (1:24,25)

2. The Mystery Revealed (1:26,27)

3. The End to which Paul Aspired (1:28,29)

4. Paul’s Concern about their Vulnerability to Deception (2:1-4)

5. Paul’s Admonishment to Stand Fast in The Faith (2:5-7)

III.     Denying Christ’s Fullness (2:8–3:4)

A. The Fullness of Christ More Completely Explained (2:8-15)

1. Statement against Heretics (2:8)

2. Christ’s Fullness is All One Needs  (2:9-15)

a. Christ completes us (2:9-10)

b. Christ delivered us from our Sins (2:11)

c. Christ gave us Life (2:12)

d. Christ has Vanquished Death’s Dread Hold (2:13)

e. Christ has Fulfilled our Obligations (2:14)

f. Christ Defeated our Enemy (2:15)

B. The Colossians Demonstrate Their Lack of Belief (2:16-19)

C. The Colossians Demonstrate Their Hypocrisy  (2:20–3:4)

1. Death with Christ Means Death to Human Regulations (2:20-23)

2. Resurrection with Christ Means New Perspective (3:1-4)

IV.     The Fullness of Christ Demonstrated (3:5–4:6)

A. Demonstrated Individually (3:5-17)

1. Negative: Putting off the Old Man (3:5-11)

2. Positive: Putting on the New Man (3:12-17)

B. Demonstrated in the Home (3:18–4:1)

1. Wives and Husbands (3:18-19)

2. Children and Parents (3:20-21)

3. Slaves and Masters (3:22–4:1)

C. Demonstrated in Relation to Others (4:2-6)

1. In Relation to Believers and Spiritual Leaders (4:2-4)

2. In Relation to Unbelievers (4:5-6)

V.     Final Greetings and Exhortations (4:7-18)

A. Commendation of Tychicus (4:7-9)

B. Greetings from Paul’s Co-Workers (4:10-14)

C. Greetings from Paul (4:15)

D. Exhortations (4:16-18)

©         Mike Rasberry   2014

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Death of a Great Statesman

It was on this date that George Washington, one of the greatest statesmen, this world has ever known died at his home at Mount Vernon.  He died of pneumonia at age sixty-seven. 

Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee in his eulogy proclaimed these famous words about his fellow Virginian: “First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen, he was second to none in the humble and endearing scenes of private life. Pious, just, humane, temperate and sincere—uniform, dignified and commanding—his example was as edifying to all around him as were the effects of that example lasting. . . . Correct throughout, vice shuddered in his presence and virtue always felt his fostering hand. The purity of his private character gave effulgence to his public virtues. . . . Such was the man for whom our nation mourns.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote: “Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed; refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed.  His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known....It my truly be said that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a great man.”

I’m afraid an entire generation is growing up without reading those words.  Revisionist history has so denigrated the nation’s founders that children don’t look upon them as larger than life heroes, rather often they see them as despots who cheated and schemed to gain power and position while establishing an unjust government.  Is it little wonder that men of character deign to offer themselves for service in this age?

Washington could have been a king, but he would not.  He could have been president for life, but he would not.  He committed all his worldly possessions, his family, and his friends to the quest for a free United States of America.  Today’s toxic political environment is filled with “Me-Firsters.”  Men and women who have enriched themselves dramatically by nefarious deal making, and refuse to step down from the towers of power, even when they physically and mentally can no longer function effectively, now occupy those seats as mere shadows of the great statesmen who went before.

Certainly there have always been charlatans, those for whom personal gain trumped character, and certainly each of the founders had warts aplenty.  However, there were enough men of character to overcome the effects of those self-indulgent personages.  Space does not allow one to elaborate on all those who stood tall during those tumultuous years.  That is what the government education system ought be doing.   We ought be having our children and grandchildren coming home with tales of wonder about the exploits of those who risked everything to give us a land of freedom.  Sadly, I fear, they learn more about the warts than the heroic. 

Lest you think, I’m fatalistic, let me say that as long as God waits to send His greatly longed for Son to bring this age to an end, those who are true Believers in Jesus Christ, and have made Him Lord of their lives have hope.  Our hope is not in the council halls of government, the ivy walls of education, or the churning machine of economic development.  Our hope rests in a sense of illogical peace to the natural mind, our hope rests in the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate this month.

I am endebted to Bill Bennett's American Patriot's Almanac for reminding me of the quotes about Washington included above.


©              2013           Mike Rasberry

Thursday, December 12, 2013

I Love Christmas, but...

I love Christmas.  I love everything about it.  I remember going to downtown Meridian, Mississippi as a child through the brightly lit streets from the Kress store, to Woolworth's, and on.  Each store was decorated and Christmas music wafted on the night air.  My Dad held my hand tightly, and my Mom had my two sisters, as we enjoyed the fairy tale like atmosphere.  I shall never forget the sweet smell of cashews roasting at that delightful candy counter in Woolworth's.    I fear the magic of those sights, sounds, and smells are gone forever, and I believe we are the worse for it.  But I still love Christmas.  I enjoy listening to carols and the songs of my childhood during this bit of nostalgic remembrance.

Yes, I love Christmas, but few people get the joy today from Christmas that my wife, Diane, does.  Few people invest as much of themselves in others as she does in her Grandchildren, our Mothers, and in me.  She spends hours preparing gifts, not expensive, but gifts over which she agonizes while trying to find just the right thing for each one.  She individually wraps about 170, or so, gifts and dates them to be opened on the twelve days of Christmas.  Then, to know that each has received some semblance of joy from the gift lifts her spirit immensely.


Yes, I love Christmas, and Christmas rightly has a place of prominence in Christ's Church, however, it is important to remember that Christmas for the Genuine Believer is the celebration of a birthday.  I'm afraid that even Christ's Church sometimes places far more emphasis upon His birth than we ought.  Let me share with you some facts I've received which might just shock you.

The birthday of the Christ is emphasized more in the Old Testament than in the New Testament, and even those are often shrouded in highly symbolic language.  While two of the four gospels do not even record the events of His birth, The Book of Acts does not refer to it at all.  When Paul summarizes the gospel in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, he doesn't refer to the birth event there either.


I've learned that of the 89 chapters in the four Gospels, only 4 1/2 chapters deal with the first thirty years of Christ's life, while 30 cover what has come to be know as Passion Week and the time following the resurrection to His ascension.  That leaves 54 1/2 chapters of the Gospels which cover His earthly ministry before Passion Week.  

Certainly the birth of Christ is important.  However, we do need to keep it in perspective with the rest of Scripture.  It is common in contemporary churches for a full month to be devoted to the celebration of the Christmas event, and while I'm not saying that is bad, I wonder if the cultural celebration of Christmas has not impacted Christ's Church to the extent that other Biblical truths receive less emphasis.   

Christ's Church should celebrate Christmas, but remember the New Testament emphasis is upon the Lamb who is worthy to be slain for the atonement of man's sin.  He is the Sacrifice sufficient to satisfy the demands of Holy God, and thereby become the propitiation for our sin.