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Prayer and Fasting

Saturday, January 29, 2022

Prayer And Fasting

Wade Webster

Prayer is one of the prescribed acts of our worship. It should be noted that prayer is not more important or less important than any other act of worship. The five acts of worship are equal in importance, just as the five steps of salvation are equal in importance. Baptism is not more important than faith and faith is not more important than baptism. In like manner, prayer is not more important than the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s Supper is not more important than prayer. Faith and baptism are equally essential in salvation and prayer and the Lord’s Supper are equally important in adoration. Our focus in this lesson is simply going to be on prayer.  Specifically, we will be looking at prayer and fasting.

The Bible repeatedly connects prayer and fasting. They are linked in both testaments. They were practiced by both the children of Israel and the church (Neh. 1:4; Acts 14:23; 1 Cor. 7:5). Sadly, we rarely connect them in our culture today. We likely think of fasting as a relic of the past or a Jewish custom. Fasting is strange to us in the States. Yet, it is still practiced by many of our brethren around the world. In this area (fasting), and in perhaps other areas (hospitality), brethren in other countries are miles ahead of us, even though we have had the gospel longer than they have. As much as fasting (skipping meals) would do most of us some good physically, and all of us some good spiritually, I am suggesting a different kind of fasting. Rather than foregoing meals, I am suggesting foregoing media. Most of us spend too much time on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) and too much time in front of the television (Netflix, Prime, Disney, ESPN, etc.). Giving up media, or greatly reducing it, will free up hours for prayer and allow us to focus more clearly on it. For sure, it won’t be easy. Habits are hard to break. I suggest starting small. Take a day off. Take a night off. Take an hour off. Redeem or buy back some time (Eph. 5:16). Use the time that you free up, or a portion of it, for prayer. Less screen time and more prayer time will bless all our lives tremendously.

As we get ready to worship this week, let’s fast and pray. I believe that we will find that this combination will make our week and our worship better

You'd Better Watch Your Mouth - God is!

Saturday, January 22, 2022

You’d Better Watch Your Mouth--God Is!

David Sproule

Words are just words.  Right?  How is it that some words can be classified as “acceptable” to speak and other words are “unacceptable” to speak?  How can most words in the English language be normal, ordinary words but a select few be pulled out and deemed “vulgar” or “profane”?  If God does not specify which words are appropriate and which ones are not, how can I know the difference?

Obviously, with words having different meanings in different languages around the world and in different cultures throughout the centuries, the Bible could not possibly list all profane words for all languages in all cultures for all time.  But, God does categorize, in principle, words that He deems unacceptable, and with careful and honest study, “The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable” (Prov. 10:32).  You know words that fit the following.

God condemns “corrupt” words (Eph. 4:29). These are words that are rotten, “bad, evil, unwholesome, in a moral sense.”  You know words like this.

God condemns “foolish talking” (Eph. 5:4). These are words that are “foolish, dull, stupid.”

God condemns “coarse jesting” (Eph. 5:4). This denotes a “risqué wit” that utters vulgar or off-color jokes.

God condemns “filthy language” (Col. 3:8). “Filthiness” is condemned in Ephesians 5:4 as a “behavior that flouts social and moral standards, shamefulness, obscenity.”  In Colossians 3:8, the focus is on “speech of a kind that is generally considered in poor taste, obscene speech, dirty talk” that is considered shameful.

God condemns words that “allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness” (2 Pet. 2:18). These are words that paint pictures and lead to thoughts of “unbridled lust, indecency, wantonness” and illicit sexual desires and conduct.

God condemns “malicious words” (3 John 10). These are words that are “morally or socially worthless, wicked, evil, bad, base, vicious, degenerate.”

Knowing that God is aware of every syllable that proceeds from my tongue and that I will be judged for every word I speak (Matt. 12:36), my prayer should be, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psa. 19:14).  God can and will help you!

But Baptism Isn’t Mentioned in John 3:16

Saturday, January 15, 2022

But Baptism Isn’t Mentioned in John 3:16

David Sproule

How many friends have I had over the years who denied the essentiality of baptism for salvation by claiming that whoever “believes” has “everlasting life” in John 3:16, and baptism is not even mentioned?  Numerous.  And, on the one hand, such an argument may seem legitimate, as the verse certain says, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life,” and baptism isn’t there.  But, does that really prove that baptism is not essential?

If such an interpretative strategy was sound, then one cannot deny the conclusions demanded by that approach.  If baptism is not essential for salvation because it is not mentioned in John 3:16, then anything else not mentioned in John 3:16 would also not be essential.  Loving God is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (1 John 4:7; Gal. 5:6).  Repenting is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  Confessing one’s faith is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Rom. 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32-33).  Calling on the name of the Lord is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13).  Obeying the Lord is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Heb. 5:9; Matt. 7:21).  Hope is not mentioned, so it must not be necessary either (Rom. 8:24).  Do you see the point?  Sound hermeneutics must be applied consistently to be sound!

Now, take that same reasoning and apply it in reverse to see if it applies.   What about a verse that says repentance leads to salvation (Acts 2:38; 11:18) but does not mention believing at all?  Is believing not necessary?  What about a verse that says baptism leads to salvation (Acts 22:16; 1 Pet. 3:21) but does not mention believing at all?  Is believing not necessary?  It is obvious that belief is not excluded just because it is not specifically mentioned in a verse that teaches about salvation.  Thus, Scripture obviously is not excluding baptism in John 3:16, simply because it is not mentioned.

The only way to know what the Bible teaches on a subject is faithfully gathering “the sum” of what the Bible teaches (Psa. 119:160) and “handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Failing to do this can make the Bible mean anything you want (including even, if someone desired, to teach that faith is not necessary to salvation).

Go back to John 3:16.  It certainly teaches that one who “believes” can have “everlasting life.”  But is it teaching faith alone saves?  Did you know that baptism is mentioned in verses 3-5 of this chapter (but faith is not)?  Did you know that believing is paralleled with obedience in verse 36 of this chapter?  You see, Jesus gave the entire picture, even in this chapter.  Salvation requires faith, baptism and full obedience.  Put it all together and you have the fullness of truth.

Greater Than

Saturday, January 08, 2022

Greater Than

Wade Webster

Do you remember greater than and less than problems in math? You remember how it goes. Four is greater than two. Two plus two is greater than three. Three times three is greater than four times two. Throughout the gospels we have the concept of greater than/less than. Sadly, some really struggled with it. They repeatedly saw Moses, Abraham, Jacob, and others as greater than Jesus. You might say that they were really bad at math. However, John the Baptist got it. He declared, “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). Above all is another way of saying greater than. John understood that when Jesus was on one side of the equation and some other man was on the other side of the equation, Jesus was always greater. First, John realized this about himself. He knew that the bridegroom (Jesus) was greater than the best man (him - John 3:29). He knew that Christ must increase and he must decrease (John 3:30). He knew that he wasn’t worthy to remove Jesus’ shoes (Mat. 3:11). John was a great man, the greatest prophet until that time (Mat. 11:11), but he got it. Let’s make sure that we do too. Let’s make some comparisons:

Jesus Was A Greater Provider Than Jacob: The Samaritan woman asked, “Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?” (John 4:12). Jaco was a great provider. He dug a lot of wells, including the one where they were talking. It has blessed people for thousands of years. However, Jesus was a greater provider. He could provide water that would quench man’s thirst forever. We read, “Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life” (John 4:13-14; cf. 6:35).
Jesus Was A Greater Friend Than Abraham: The Pharisees asked, “Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” (John 8:53). They clearly thought that Abraham was greater than Jesus. Abraham didn’t agree with them. Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). He saw the ram caught in the thicket that was provided by God and that took the place of his son (Gen. 22:13-14). Abraham was a great man -a great friend. As you recall, he was called the friend of God for his obedience (Jam. 2:23). He offered his only son. However, Jesus is a greater friend, he offered Himself (Heb. 9:14).

Jesus Was A Greater Lawgiver Than Moses: The Jews certainly thought a lot of Moses. They chose to be his disciples, rather than Jesus’ disciples. Consider their answer when the blind man who had been healed asked them if they wanted to also be Jesus’ disciples. “Then they reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples” (John 9:28). Moses was a great man - a great lawgiver. He went up into the mount and came down with the commands carved in stone (Exod. 20). However, Jesus was a greater lawgiver and gave a greater law(Heb. 3:1-6; 7:22; 8:6; 12:24).

Jesus Was A Greater Preacher Than Jonah: The Jews esteemed the prophets, even though their fathers killed them. They were certain that if they had been back there, they wouldn’t have done so. No doubt, they also thought that the prophets were greater than Jesus. However, they weren’t. Jesus declared, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Mat. 12:41). Jonah was a great preacher. With a short message he brought a bloody city to repentance (Jon. 3:1-10). Jesus was greater. For one thing, he spoke with greater love (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 23:34). Jonah wanted Nineveh destroyed and pouted when they weren’t (Jon. 4:1-4). Jesus came to seek and save the lost (Lk. 19:10).

Jesus Was A Greater Sage Than Solomon: Every Jew knew of Solomon’s wisdom. It was legendary. Yet, Jesus was greater than him. Jesus declared, “The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Mat. 12:42). Solomon was given great wisdom (1 Kings 3). He could answer hard questions (1 Kings 10:1-7). However, Jesus could tell men everything they had done (John 4:29) and what they were going to do (Mat. 26:34).

Jesus Was A Greater King Than David: David was a hero of the Jews. He seemingly could do no wrong. Jesus disciples couldn’t pick a sheaf of wheat as they walked, without drawing criticism, but David could eat the shewbread without judgment (Mat. 12:1-8). David conquered enemy after enemy. He slew Goliath. Yet, even he acknowledged that Jesus was greater. Jesus was His lord (Mt. 22:41-46: Acts 2:29-36). Of course, Jesus conquered the greatest enemy of all - Satan (Heb. 2:14-15; 1 John 3:8). He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15; Rev. 19:16).

Perhaps, the greatest thought of all is that the one who is greater than all of these is in you and me. John wrote, “You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 4:4-5; cf. 3:20).

A New Year, A New Appreciation

Saturday, January 01, 2022

A New Year, A New Appreciation

 Wade Webster

As a new year dawns, we should thank God for allowing us to live on the earth at this time. We truly are a blessed people. Please consider three new things for which we should be especially thankful.

The New Covenant

God promised a new covenant through Jeremiah. We read, “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer. 31:31-34). We are blessed to be living under this new covenant. It was purchased with better blood and contains better promises (Heb. 8:6; cf. 7:19, 22).

The New Birth

Jesus told Nicodemus about a new birth. We read, “Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:3-8). We are blessed to be able to be born again or anew. We have the opportunity to have our sins taken away and to walk in newness of life. We read, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). We have the opportunity to be a new creation. Paul wrote, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). In baptism, the old man is put off and the new man is put on. Again, Paul wrote, “But you have not so learned Christ, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24).

The New Heavens and the New Earth

When Jesus was about to leave the earth, He spoke of going to prepare a place for us. He said, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-3). Peter later spoke of this new dwelling place as the new heavens and the new earth. We read, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:10-13).

A new year should bring a new appreciation for the blessings that we enjoy as Christians today. Let’s thank God for the new covenant, the new birth, and the new heavens and the new earth.

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