105Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:)
Those who walk ahead, who learn as they walk, will find their journey one of education. A person who refuses to walk, who settles on what they already consider to be ultimate truth, will believe the one who seeks understanding to be walking in darkness.
This has never been so clearly illustrated as it was in the life of Jesus.
When a parent sends their child to school, do they tell that child to only learn the very basics, just enough to get by, and to not worry about learning those things that seem uninteresting or unimportant to them? I've yet to meet such a parent, not in regards to school I haven't.
When I was a child attending church, as was the custom of the times (as I suppose it is today), I spent a goodly amount of time in Sunday School. What was being taught in the "big people's church," meaning the pastor's sermon, was beyond me, and held no interest to me whatever. I neither understood what was said, nor was I interested in what was being preached. This attitude stayed with me all through my young adult life, at which time I turned my back on the faith and studied other philosophies that made more sense to me, and that held my attention. Though I did nothing Christian, I remained a Christian. After all, that was the thing to be. Everybody was Christian in those day, even the outlaws.
In Sunday School I was taught the "important" things, like the illustrated story of David and Goliath, Samson and Delilah, and other such stories (minus the moral) that captured my imagination, much in the way the comic books I read, the movies I watched, and the mythological stories that were so popular at the time held me sway.
On the church wall hung a chart with silver, blue, gold and red stars, these affixed behind the names of each of the students in the class. My name was the easiest to spot, being the one void of stars. Stars were awarded for such things as attendance, not chewing gum in class, and other such important behaviors unnatural to a growing boy. I knew what being a good Christian was: A good Christian is one who does not smoke, who does not drink, and who attends Sunday School sans chewing gum. Beyond this, I knew very little. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was a "good Christian" because I attended church, I was baptized, and I didn't let them catch me chewing gum in church, even though there happened to be a lot of dried gum under the pew I frequented.
Besides gold stars behind one's name we children were awarded little slips of paper the size of a miniature dollar bill called "talents." With these talents we could, upon collecting a sufficient number, "purchase" little goodies out of a display cabinet that nestled against the wall of the classroom. Just what was needed to acquire these talents I can't remember, but I can assure you it had nothing to do with Bible reading because I made plenty of purchases, but I knew no more about the Bible than that David was good with a sling shot, giants were pushovers, and men with long hair were strong, as long as they didn't let a woman shave them. Oh, and there were two other things I learned in my many years of being churched. I learned that talents were pieces of paper, and that Jesus was a nice man who went around telling stories and doing nice things. And if I believed in this man (which I guess I did because my Sunday School teacher and my pastor told me I did), that I was going to Heaven some day. What "believe" means I never really understood, nor did I care, just as long as whatever it was, I had it, and it got me to Heaven and allowed me to miss that other place everyone else was going.
Beyond this, I learned that reading the Bible was something grownups did so they could stand behind a big box and preach at people. For the rest of us the Bible was something grandmas read while rocking themselves to sleep because they had nothing else to do.
At the age of 19, after a good ten years of Spiritual education, I joined the Army. During my stint of serving my country, I found I had time to read. And of all the reading material at my disposal, my choices ranged from novels, biographies, right on through the philosophers. There was only one book obvious by its absence: The Holy Bible.
Why was the Bible missing from my library? I had never learned to appreciate the Word, nor to understand the Word, nor to realize any importance in regards to the Word. Bible reading to me was merely a minor obligation, of which all such things I escaped when I left the educational system in my wake.
No longer under the thumb of a Sunday School teacher and pastor, I fell to doing what was customary for soldiers in the defense of their county, I smoked like a chimney, and I drank like a fish. Having been "saved," I knew I needn't concern myself with the wrongness of what I was doing, because salvation, once had, can not be lost.
I did not take up chewing gum in public however, this deadly crime could bring great consequences upon me, even though all things immoral were allowed. Drill sergeants have a way of making sure gum chewing is not practiced in the ranks. It no longer carried with it the threat of eternal damnation, but it did bring about something almost as severe, that being a day spent peeling potatoes or cleaning latrines.
10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? 11Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. (John 3:)
Cults are notorious for their teaching what they don't know. How many times have you heard of the ignorant Mormon or Jehovah's Witness who comes to the door carrying a Bible with well-worn pages amidst a pristine Bible? I suspect you've heard of nothing but in regards to such people.
Let me tell you a little story of my experience with these ignorant people posing as knowledgeable teachers of the Word.
In the town in which I live there is a man who stands outside the library handing out literature called the Watchtower. Of course you know such people, and you know that beyond what is written in that magazine they offer, they know nothing about the Bible. As you can imagine, in the many years I've been around this planet, I've seen a few things, and I've seen a few people. During that time I've seen almost no one reading the Bible outside of church, and in many of the churches I've attended Bibles aren't even read or carried, but rather a piece of paper is handed to each attendee from which a passage or two, assumed to be Scripture, is read in unison.
Guess who I see reading the Bible at the lunch counter of the local store. Right, that ignorant Jehovah's Witness, reading his Bible out in front of God and everybody.
On another occasion I was perusing the books in a local book store (thrift store to be exact) and I saw a young man reading one of the Bibles he had taken from the shelf. He seemed to know how to read the book since he wasn't holding it upside down, so I asked him a question regarding an obscure verse I had been searching for in one of the prophets. The man said he wasn't sure, so he turned to his wife who was holding a baby and had a small child standing at her side. This young girl said what I was looking for was in such and such a book, and it was such and such a verse. I looked up such and such, and low and behold, there it was, my missing verse.
This ignorant couple just so happened to be Jehovah's Witnesses.
So much for worn pages in pristine Bibles.
Mormons of course know nothing about the Bible. This we can know for sure. My father was a grunt mechanic, uneducated, and not interested in reading at all. When I was in the Army (avoiding the Bible or anything to do with Christianity) my unchurched father and mother became Mormons. When I returned home from the service, I discovered a father very unlike the one I left three years earlier. My father no longer swore, he no longer drank, and he no longer smoked. And he was a regular church attender.
Foolish man he was my father. Here he was going through all this change of life, and for what? Now me, I knew better. I was a "saved" chain-smoking lush who in all my years never cracked the pages of a Bible. But I was baptized in the "right" church, which assured my redemption.
In my father's later years he was essentially wheelchair bound and going blind. He would sit in the living room in front of the TV where everyone in the room was watching what the tube had to present. My father however, was paying no attention to the TV. Instead he wore ear phones through which he listened to a tape playing the Bible in tape. By this time my father never attended church, even though he had attained the position of high priest in the church. In other words, he was not learning for the sake of showing off what he knew.
My brother was an ordained minister. Of what church I don't know other than it was Protestant, even though I was living in the same house with him for four years. He did a lot of studying and listening to tapes also. The books and tapes he surrounded himself with were those of the oriental persuasion. When he died his memorial was conducted, not at the church he attended, but in a Buddhist temple.
By the way, seeing as how my brother was a Christian, he, unlike my father, was "saved."
sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Have you ever been on one of those treasure hunts where you find clues that lead you to the next clue? When you find one clue, it gives you instruction that you have to follow, and an activity you have to perform, before the next clue will do you any good.
Although the Word will lead you to the next place the Lord wants you to go, in order for the light to do you any good you must be willing, and to do what that light has exposed. From the very beginning of the Bible until the very end we see that God warns us not to be readers ("hearers") of the Word only, but doers of the Word. Most Christians don't worry about these warnings because they're too busy pointing the finger of condemnation at others not of their persuasion to spend the time reading the Bible or listening to sermons.
is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth
in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
How many Christians do you know with an open Bible on their coffee table rather than a TV blaring in the living room? I can't think of one person I know. (No fair naming someone who belongs to one of those "ungodly cults.")
I've known one or two Fundamental ministers of the Word at who's house I have visited. Other than a Bible study group they might have held in their home, the topic of conversation was no different than in the home of a nonbeliever.
In my early years of seeking knowledge of the Word (I was unaware at that time that there is a huge difference between knowledge and understanding the Word) I was in the home of a minister (highly educated in the doctrines of the church) for some length of time. He had a large library of Bible reference books in his study that I was chomping at the bit to peruse. Along with this thirst I hungered to pick his brain and learn about the Bible. In all those weeks of being in his home I was never allowed to view the books, nor can I recall him sharing one word that related to the Lord or of his knowledge of the Bible. It appears that ministers reserve their Spirituality for Sundays as do the rest of the congregation.
When I became acquainted with the Lord I sought every bit of knowledge I could obtain. Fortunately for me there was one lady who understood and exhibited what a Christian is and should be. Through her and her example I learned the physical aspects of Christianity. And by her openness I had a sounding board upon which to express my discoveries, and to measure my growth.
At this time (during my later thirties) I had the opportunity to receive (free to those without funds) over 50 taped sermons and a stack of books from a minister who preached outside the Mainline way of thinking (these free to those without funds). Unlike the universal view of Christian responsibility, that being that all "acceptable" roads lead to Heaven, even if all you're doing is sitting on the curb on the side of the road, he taught the need to strive for perfection. Because of this Pauline style of teaching, he and his organization were castigated by the Fundamental denomination from which he sprang, and in which he had been a well-known preacher.
Also, during this same period I was studying the Bible on my own, listening to many sermons and teachings from Mainline churches, attempting to learn Greek and Hebrew, and finishing a Bible correspondence course.
Ignorant person I am, even with all that intensive study, I remained in the dark, still believing that all theologians and preachers (thereby their teachings) were essentially the same, inspired by God, and therefore suitable for personal application.
I now (and have for some time) attend a Mainline, Fundamental church. I read material available from such organizations, but I no longer take what they say as gospel.
2Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (1Tim 4:)
The next generation:
The tapes I received from the minister who strove for perfection I continue to listen to, thus far for over 35 years. Every time I hear them I catch something else he said that I had missed. This is certainly true with the Bible readings themselves, and the Bible on Tape that I listen to much of most days.
God reveals Himself in segments. This we see from the Bible itself, from history, and from our own experience. We can read the same passage hundreds of times, and each time make a new connection, with a new understanding, that was not present with previous readings.
When something isn't moving, it loses strength and withers away. If we don't use one of our body parts, it atrophies, that is, it withers. If an object isn't moved, it falls apart, it rusts away, or it rots as does a piece of wood. Jesus tells us that those who have will receive more, and those who have not will lose even what they have. God designed this world, and we're part of that world, so everything returns back to what it is composed of. Those of us who are made of dust will by nature return to the dust from which we're made. Those of us who strive to develop the Spiritual side of our nature (if we have in fact taken on a Spiritual nature and not just accept that we have such a nature without exploring the reality of such a statement) will return to....... .
What does not move forward, moves backwards. If we throw a rock into the air it goes up. But when it loses its momentum, it returns to the place from which it was thrown. God designed it this way. A person who does not develop their good nature, will return to their faulted Adamic nature. This is the way God designed us.
28Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. 29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:)
Anyone who has paid any attention at all has seen the long established churches falling away to its lowest level, all the while proclaiming its desire to fulfill the will of God. In your own church, if you are of any age at all, you have seen this happen before your eyes. The movement is so gradual, so innocent in appearances, that those who would never stand for such a jolting change have stood by and applauded the effort. The frog in the pot of boiling water.
Recently I investigated the web site of the man who's tapes I listen to, the ones designed to drive me to do my very best. His life was dedicated to spreading the Word. And as could be expected, his children were a part of his ministry, followeing him through his trials, and even preaching his messages. I found the web site of this man, who has long ago passed away. The name of his organization is still the same, the address is still the same. I can use one of my old brochures, send for tapes or books from that address, and receive tapes with him speaking, and books with his writings. But although the words are identical, and its his children publishing and disseminating his material, the message being presented has been completely turned upside- down.
The church is still where it was, and the name is the same, but instead of striving with every effort to direct man to God, it now honors a man who has died (not Jesus), and expects him to return to them. As far as I can see the children of the man who has basically led me to learn more about the Lord have now begun to direct those who purchase the tapes and books that drove one to perfection, to web sites teaching the universal view, that is, that everyone will ultimately be saved, so there is no need to worry about striving to do our best.
21Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. 22But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. 25But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. (James 1:)
As a child we learn to turn our understandings and our trust over to someone who has declared themself the one who knows what's best for us. As a child we have no choice but to oblige. This person in the beginning will most likely be our parent. Most parents (I should hope) will have some knowledge and experience that can be used to instruct the child in what would be in their best interest. Later in life we find others who take on that role, such as other children, the media, the government, the school, and.... the churches. One parent is not like another. One parent will say we should go to the right, another will say we should go to the left, and another will tell us it's best to just remain still. This is true in the churches as well. Every one of us who attends a church has heard that there are churches we must beware of because they will lead a person into corruption. I might be taught that yours is such a church, and you of course would hear that I belong to such a church. Which is right? Is it possible that both are wrong and neither of us is being taught false doctrine? Or is it possible that both churches are right, and we all are going straight to hell?
I should think that such an important issue would be given more thought than would buying a pair of shoes, or using the eeny, meeny, miney, moe system of making an important choice. Yet this is all the attention we give to our choice. Ask anyone why they attend the church they do. Consider the logic behind their choice. We might hear that they go to that church because it's the church their parents went to, or because it's close by, or because they like the building, or because they like the buffet and the coffee served, or because it has a good band or preacher. The reasons are varied, but they almost invariably have nothing to do with God, Jesus, or one's Spiritual growth. How do I know this? Because I've been to all those churches, and more to the point, I've been exactly that person myself, choosing a church for my own convenience sake.
When we join or attend a church we are told we should read the Bible. And to assist us in reading the Bible, they hand us (or tell us where we can obtain) papers and booklets telling us what the Bible says, and what we're to believe. If we don't believe what the paper says, we are considered a heretic, and doomed to hell. In some of the churches referred to as cults, those books may be much larger than is the Bible. These books are to be believed (and read) more than the Bible. These books explain the Bible, because they know perfectly well that we in the pews are incapable of understanding the deep things of God. And of course, they are right.
Those in the Mainline churches often are not as inclined to hand out or prescribe additional books, stating that the Bible is all that's needed. But they too know that we commoners are incapable of understanding what God wants us to know, so they recommend, along with the paper and the missals they prescribe, reading commentaries that are published and written by "approved" theologians and preachers. Reading anything outside these tomes is risking being sent to the pit as a reprobate. We know, as do everyone else, the only way to make sure you are right is to agree with everyone else who thinks they're right, even though we know for certain they are dead wrong.
6He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. 7Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. 8For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. (Mark 7:)
Whichever side of the tracks we're on, we're on the wrong side as far as others are concerned. Where then do we stand? Who do we trust if everyone has differing opinions as to what is right, and it appears that everyone is wrong?
Long ago there lived a nation of people who were dedicated to knowing and understanding the Bible. These people, the entire nation, were called "The People of the Book" because they knew the Bible so well. They were instructed to live and breathe the Word of God. They followed this exhortation to the degree that the mother of an unborn child quoted the Bible to their child while he or she was still in the womb. Bibles were very rare and very expensive in those days. But they didn't need a book because they knew the Bible from memory.
When Jesus came to this earth to gather the people of God to Him in order to bring them to the land of promise, these people, the most knowledgeable of the knowledgeable, the preachers of righteousness, did not recognize their Messiah. Why is it they didn't recognize the One they had been waiting for for a thousand years? Didn't they know the Word of God? Yes, but there was something they knew, and believed, even more than the Word of God: They knew, and believed, their doctrines and traditions that explained the Word of God. Because of this failure to see only God's Word, they faced the wrong way when their awaited One came for them.
28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Mat 11:)
Long ago in this country Bibles were very expensive, and very rare. Yet every family that could possibly afford a Bible made sure they had one. They read the Bible religiously, and they had reading periods where they would read the Bible to the children. Children grew up having at least a fair knowledge of the Bible.
Children worked in those days, and the family depended on the labor supplied by their children. Yet they knew an education was an important thing to acquire if at all possible. The school the child would attend was often a great distance from their home, the weather was often harsh, and the only means of travel was by foot.
Why did people bother to send their child to school considering such adverse conditions when what they would learn wouldn't benefit them or the family seeing that they were destined to remain farmers, tillers of the soil? Education to them often consisted of the primary grades, and the primary grades (the "3 R's) was all that was needed in order to read the Bible, and it was the Bible these people were concerned with. Few people could read in those days, so someone with a sixth grade education was considered educated indeed.
When the pioneers came across this great land of ours heading west, they found the journey to be much more than the animals they had for mobility could handle. When things got rough, things had to go. First they began walking in order to lighten the load for the animals pulling their wagon. As the terrain became more rugged, other items of importance were left along the trail to be scavenged by the local inhabitants. Those who were able to make it to their destination often did so with just the barest of necessities, the item they most treasured. And that precious item was their family Bible.
In the early settlement days of this nation many people were scattered hither and yon, often not seeing a gathering of people for years on end. Because of this lack of connection churches were unheard of. To provide a Spiritual education for these lost in space souls, the churches (particularly the Methodist church) established what were called "Circuit rides." These men often had nothing but a mule and the clothes on their back as they rode from town to town, or from farm house to ranch spreading the precious Word of God. These men were rugged souls, and as we can well imagine, they were determined people, desiring to let those without obtain what they sorely needed.
Today a Bible is a dime a dozen. Bibles can be obtained in any library, thrift store, or often even trash cans. We can have the Bible in our ear through the medium of tapes or CD's. The Bible and every form of reference is available by means of the computer. Yet the Word of God is now considered less valuable than the cartoons and the daily soaps.
7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: 8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. (Mat 7:)
Obviously not everyone sees Christianity as a fire escape, crutch, a garden party, a social club, or a means by which to gain a sense of superiority. There are some who seek to please the Lord and to learn about Him and His will for us, His creation. Many of these seekers, having no other means by which to reach beyond the available, seek to serve the Lord by doing good works such as feeding the poor, or volunteering their services, or serving the church establishment, or becoming missionaries. All these are fine endeavors, and they certainly fulfill God's desire for us to love one another. But when we see that even the unsaved heathens are doing these very things, and often to a higher degree than we ourselves are, it tends to diminish our role. After all, the purpose of Humanism is the serving of the people of the world and to make the world a better more peaceful place to live.
There must be something beyond the humanitarian efforts and church as an establishment God desires of us. There is the admonishment to learn of God, and to learn His Word, and this we feel we are doing in our reading the missals put out by the church we attend, by attending Sunday School, by hearing the sermons, and in our daily Bible study.
But is there more? Are we missing something? Is there a way to be certain we're actually hearing from the Lord and not merely absorbing and accepting the words handed to us by those who have placed themselves as standing authorities? Many people of the past listened to their authorities, such as the Pharisees, the rabbis of the day, to their spiritual guides in other religions, to Jim Jones, and other such leader who have stood up and declared themselves authorities of God's Word. How can we be sure we're not blindly accepting the words of another such blind leader? Is there a way of knowing?
25These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. 26But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:)
When Moses was leading God's people through the wilderness out of Egypt he had to bear the load of the people on his own shoulders. After a time Moses said the burden was too great for him, so God took the spirit of Moses, who was as God to the people, and placed it upon 70 men who would help as leaders of the people.
Jesus, who serves as the Word of God took His Spirit and placed it upon 70 men and sent them out two by two into the people of God, the nation of Israel. Later God put His Spirit into thousands, and ultimately made His Spirit available to us, giving us the means by which to serve Him and to understand His ways, and to understand His Word. This gift is available to all of us, every one who is born again and willing to listen to the words of the Shepherd. Why, then, don't more of us listen when we have such a high authority right at our heart's door?
There are men who stand before us and declare themselves the authority, and for us to understand the will of God, we must listen to and believe what they tell us. We're told that if we listen towhat we read in the Bible, or hear from any other means such as through our heart, we are amiss and doomed to be led astray by the devil. Because of this, any voice that leads us out of, or beyond the doctrines of our church we refuse to listen to, believing, it's the voice of the devil. We believe we already have truth, so truth is not sought after (See Luke 11:52).
This is the problem the Pharisees had, as did those who followed and listened to what the Pharisees taught them.
If we realize that with the thousands of doctrines, views of the Bible available, that the chances are that we might very easily be wrong, at least in some important aspects, then we might seek to listen to our heart in spite of the supposed consequences.
What consequences might we face by seeking understanding outside church doctrine?
The Pharisees were so entrenched in the church of the day that if a person didn't agree with them they had the authority to put that person out of the church, the synagogue. The man who's sight was restored is an example of just such an occurrence.
During the ultimate power days of the Catholic church anyone who stood up and refused to accept the doctrines of the church was either put out of the church, or he was killed. Many such martyrs have lost their lives in order to give us the opportunity to choose which of the thousands of denominations we wish to accept and attend. If it hadn't been for these who ventured outside the established views, we would all be Catholic today.
There was a small group of men during Jesus' day who stood out from the crowd and declared a new truth not accepted by the church of the day. Where did these men get their knowledge and understanding of God's Word? We might say they received it from Jesus. But what we read in the Epistles is not what Jesus taught them during His stay here on earth.
In days of old there were people who spoke the Words of God. Where did these people we call prophets get their Words?
Jesus told the Apostles that they would receive the Holy Spirit, and it's through Him they would understand the will of God, and that they would know what to do and teach. They didn't receive God's Word from each other, nor from a book. In fact we find that one of the greatest Apostles, with the greatest amount of influence, certainly on us Gentiles, never followed Jesus a step, unless he was one of those seeking to persecute and entrap Him in His Words.
We are given two choices today as Christians. We can either continue to pay close attention to the one who declares himself a messenger and authority on God's Word; Or we can listen to God Himself and allow Him to guide us through His Word.
Which choice have you made?
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