Preachers and Lawyers

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Charlton Rhinehart
It often seems like no one likes a lawyer. Lawyers are known by their actions, that they lie, they cheat, they steal, they even get away with murder; all while staying within their legal rights that keep them safe. How many advertisements do we see daily where a lawyer is begging to use you to sue your employer, your doctor or neighbor so they can get their own portion of the money? How many murder cases do we see in the news were an individual has obvious guilt, yet they walk away free because of their lawyer. Lawyers are often the first to jump to using the race card, the first to cry sexist, the first to get the most important evidence dismissed. Lawyers comb through every detail and action of a police arrest looking for a legal error to provide an escape for their client’s guilt. Lawyers point out unrelated faults in the opposing party like the ultimate bully, anything they can do to undermine their opponent and build up their client they will do, and somehow it works. Sure everything they do is legal and well within the law, yet it doesn’t change our thoughts of them. Lawyers make us hate the law system, they take that which is supposed to help us and keep our society moral, and they twist it and misuse until it works simply for their dishonest gain. No wonder insurance cost are so high, no wonder businesses cannot survive in America, no wonder we are afraid to help someone in need, because there are so many legal traps we have to avoid because of swindling lawyers.

I do realize that not all lawyers are the scum of the earth. I do know a few that I admire and sincerely believe are good and honest individuals, but I think you already know how I feel about the majority of them. Only a politic would compare, but wait, most politics are lawyers!

What about preachers? Is there a way that they are just as vile as lawyers? Perhaps we could compare how some of them do go after the big money, or how some preachers are willing to slander another individual, but that’s not the applications I have in mind. Many preachers have a habit that compares far too well with the same trait as many lawyers, and while we often don’t think much about it, this habit does as much harm to the image and unity of the church as it does to the people’s respect of any conniving law firm. Just as lawyers often twist the law of the land to fit their need, too many preachers twist the law of God to fit what the crowd wants to hear. Consider these examples of preachers using our basic knowledge of God’s word but twisting it to fit our own desires.

A preacher tells us: “God will use anything, even nature to reveal what He wants for us”. The truth in this statement: creation does testify of God (Rom 1:20; Psl 19:1), God has used nature to carry out His will and to show His power: such as Egypt’s plagues or Rome’s warnings. The truth however that this preacher intends to deny: God instructs us only through His word today (Jude 3; II Tim 3:17), not by hidden signs and subtle messages (1 Cor 13:8-10). This preacher permits us to look beyond God’s word to find the answer we desire.

A preacher sums up a bible class saying: “It doesn’t matter what sin you are guilty of because they are all the same to God”. The truth in his statement, all sin does separate us from God (Jas 2:10). The intentional lie however in this preacher’s statement – is that God is not concerned which sins we commit. Sure all sins are wrong, but contrary to what this preacher implies there are many specific sins that God has little patience for compared to other sins. There are some sins which God calls an abomination, certain sins that have greater earthly consequences, certain sins which have a greater endangerment for eternal consequence (1 John 5:16-17). Perhaps this preacher is wanting to comfort some in the congregation living in a major sin, or perhaps he is wanting to tell some who condemn the sinful that their smallest sins mean that they cannot correct others. Whatever the preacher’s motive is, a simple twist of God’s word is all it takes.

A Community church preacher offers the invitation saying: “Jesus wants you to come as you are”. The truth in this statement, Jesus does extend His invitation to all people (1 Tim 2:4; Rom 2:11). Jesus was willing to speak to the woman at the well or even the known sinners of the time. The truth however that this preacher intends his statement to deny: Jesus demands repentance (Luke 13:3, Acts 17:30), Jesus requires change and obedience (Heb 5:9). Not only is there an initial repentance necessary, but that repentance must be retained until death no matter what temptations come our way (Matt 10:22). Jesus does not give a come as you are and stay as you are invitation, but this preacher intentionally does so even if he would deny it when asked.

A skillful lawyer can easily lead a jury away from the law’s intention all while using the law of the land to do so. In the same way, a simple phrase skillfully spoken by a preacher can lead souls away from the truth all while using God’s word also. Paul said of false teachers to the Romans,”…by their smooth talk and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Rom 16:18), and telling the Corinthians, “… I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom…” (1 Cor 12:1). Paul didn’t depend on such forms of preaching to persuade, but instead he spoke the gospel unashamed of how it was (Rom 1:16). Just because something sounds nice and in accordance with God’s word on the surface we cannot be so easily deceived, the scriptures warn greatly for us to be on guard, even towards our own brethren (Acts 20:29; Matt 7:15).

Preachers are no one to hate and despise, for by their word men are saved (Rom 10:15), our Lord was a preacher Himself, yet also by many false preachers many are lost. The subtle differences however that a false preacher conveys are far more perverse than the most dishonest lawyer of today.

The Ugly Side of the Beautiful Bride

Charlton Rhinehart

The church is described as a beautiful bride (Rev 21:9-11), holy and sanctified, washed with water (Eph 5:26). She is pure, clothed in fine linen that is bright and clean, which are her deeds (Rev 19:8). “that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she should be holy and blameless (Eph 5:27 NASB). If we are not in the church, we have no hope of being acceptable to God; how beautiful the church must be to Christ as she is set apart from the filth of the world! The great preparation a bride will go to just to impress her groom with her beauty, yet there are none more perfect and beautiful than the church, the beautiful bride of Christ. But how do we make sense of this when we see the ugly side of the church? When she who is so beautiful appalls us with disgust!?

The majority of the world has seen this ugly side of the beautiful bride; from the disagreements because some ignore the word, the hatred and poor attitudes, the sin she indulges in and tolerates, to the adultery of her leaders, very few would call her beautiful. While the denominations are what the majority have seen, we would be fools to say that the church belonging to Christ is free from these same afflictions. A good friend of mine and brother in Christ often tells me, “Hollywood and politics have nothing on the drama and backstabbing in the church.” The more I learn and experience, the closer I come to believing his slightly exaggerated quote.

So what do we do? Is God wrong with His description of the church? We know that God cannot be wrong. Scripture shows that even while these statements of the church and her perfection were being written by inspiration, that there was also an ugly side at that time. The church at Corinth indulged in error, the churches of Galatia sought to return to Judaism, Paul and John warned of brothers like Hymenaeus, Alexander and Diotrephes. Christ Himself speaks to the seven churches of Asia, of which only two He called acceptable without further repentance, and many other ugly attributes can be found. The scriptures do not turn a blind eye to this ugly error, they warn and call for change; nor do I call us to ignore this ugly side of the bride today, that isn’t a solution. We must change, we must repent (Rev 2:5), we must cleanse (1 Cor 5:13), and we must warn our brethren (2 Tim 4:15).

So again, how do we reconcile these two extreme sides of the church present in both the first century and present today? How can we have a positive attitude about the church when that which is supposed to build us up and encourage us, so often tears us down emotionally? First we have to realize that not everyone in the church is part of it. The church in most assemblies has those present who have never obeyed the plan of salvation. To the visitor of the church this especially is not apparent, who is a part and who is just a regular attendee. Even with those who have been immersed into Christ, many of them have not been faithful in attendance as they should. There has to be some understanding and patience with those who are still learning, there also has to be some prayer and correction for those not being faithful as God desires. We cannot allow the error of some to cause us to mislabel the true portion of the church.

Christians who have been faithful in attendance and to the works of the church, even for these individuals, not all are part of God’s body. As Christ spoke through the writings of John to the church at Sardis, He told the congregation they were dead spiritually, yet He said for those there who have not soiled themselves in sin, that they are worthy (Rev 3:2,4). Here is a congregation where the majority was lost, but a few were not. Should it cause us today to give up if the congregation we are near has a few who might be lost, some who are not acting correctly, yet they wear the name of Christ and His church? Yes, such a situation is nothing to just brush aside, the church should be striving to correct or even disfelowship those individuals to bring them to repentance, but also no such situation should cause us to ever give up on the Lord’s church. Even if the majority of the congregation is lacking in deeds such as Sardis, we should seek the best congregation we can, but we never give up completely on the Lord’s church, we never forsake the assembly of the saints!

Finally, even though we know we must be faithful to the church, it still doesn’t change the discouragement an erring brother or sister can cause as we see them ravage the church, when they try to tear us down, or when they try to oppose the very things we are working for. A simple solution I have found is to focus not on the ones opposing what is right, but to focus on the ones in the church who are faithful and true. There seems to always be someone in the church we look up to or are encouraged by no matter how bad things might be. Focus on their faithfulness, their works, their love of the truth and the word. Realize that your faithfulness might be the very thing helping hold them up also. By so doing, we are seeing the same beauty in the church that Christ sees. Error will always be a threat we must combat in the church, but the beauty of the bride is her righteous deeds done by those few that love the truth. When we see this we can see the true beauty of the church, the true purity and holiness of the church, the bride that has been washed in water with the word.

The church is made up of people, it at times will fail us and let us down in ways that words cannot even describe; but there is something there. There is something in that bride that is far too valuable to walk away from, for she is the most valuable and beautiful treasure to God, so also should she always be to us.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:45-46

Public School, Home School, & Sex Education

Charlton Rhinehart

As my wife and I approach the day we will have to make the choice for our children between home school or public school, I simply wanted to write some of the thoughts we have discussed as we near that day. As it turns out, sex education is a major part of that decision.

As I think about public school and the threats it may hold for a Christian child, there are a few subjects that arise. One of those subjects of course, is the teaching of evolution and the age of the earth, another would be how other school kids might treat a Christian child standing for what is right. The third item that comes to my mind is sex education. Just what are they going to teach my child that is right and wrong when it comes to sex, or as I have always known it, “Family Life Class?”

My wife and I were both raised in public schools. We hold no favoritism toward home schooling, nevertheless we have made some friends over the years that have chosen the home school route, and we can see the value in it. As we think about the above listed threats, we have discussed that we do not want to hide our children from the world. Christians are to be in the world, but not of the world. We cannot hide ourselves like the Amish from society, but we must let our lights shine before men (Matt 5:16). At the same time however, we know a Christian must avoid temptation. You don’t send a recovering alcoholic for a repair in a wine cellar, you don’t leave piles of money around someone repenting of past theft, and we cannot drop our children off in a school that constantly will teach and tempt them with many things we know are wrong! As you can see, there are several considerations.

Of all the threats that public schools hold, one stands out to my wife and I above the rest, sex education. The way science is taught often depends on the science teacher, who often might even be a believer himself. The way other children treat a Christian child often depends on your location and circumstances, but the way sex education is taught is hard to imagine holding any of God’s principals in public school; in fact, I know it doesn’t.

I remember when I was younger one very bored night going through my dad’s books, I happened across a 1986 Freed Hardeman Lectureship book. As I flipped through the book I landed on the introduction which spoke about the city of Memphis threatening to teach these “Family Life Classes.” I read on in amusement as it spoke about just how horrible these sex education courses would be for our children. The editor said, “They intend to expose students in Memphis to their liberal, humanistic view of human sexuality.”¹ Having just completed some Family Life classes at the time, I marveled at their ignorance of how harmless and helpful the classes really were. Now years later, I marvel at my own ignorance, the subtle teachings that contained so many lies that altered my thinking for years.

First and foremost, the Family Life course in public school teaches “Safe Sex.” My first sex education course was when I was in the fifth grade, 1995. I do remember marriage being taught as the ideal place for safe sex, but even in that day, the priority of the class was to teach “safe sex” to those of us who would need to know it long before marriage. This is one of the biggest problems of the course, it is instituted with the wrong motives. The class teachings may acknowledge that marriage is the ultimate solution, but the course has given up on the idea that we will be waiting until then. You might be saying, “is that not a good thing to teach, being that the majority of teens do not wait until marriage?” While I can see that argument, especially from the world’s view, I also have to think how different things would be if we didn’t teach our youth how to do what we are telling them not to do! When we teach our youth the way to have “safe sex” without marriage, how can we be surprised when they have sex before marriage? By the way, is there any “safe sex” outside of a marriage recognized by God? No practice can be taught to keep us from God’s judgment, regardless of other consequences we may dodge (Rom 1:27). There is no safe sex outside of God’s instruction, but Family Life teaches your child that there is.

Another hidden mistake of the class is the way that STD’s are portrayed. Again the truth is not totally ignored, there is the teaching and truly the education of what diseases can be spread through sex. I must say the course does educate well about the reality of those diseases, how they are treated, that there are other ways they can be caught, all things we need to understand. Here again however is some deception, and that is in the emphasis of the way STD’s are spread. The class admits sex is a way for STD’s to spread, but it obscures the fact that sex outside of marriage is the main reason for STD’s. There is a huge emphasis on the innocent who have caught a disease by some other means. Again in my youth I remember my uncle who was a bit random with his comments, telling my cousins and myself that the reason God sent aids was a consequence for homosexuals. We all busted out laughing at him, myself included, his ignorance to think that only gays could catch aids! Again, I now have to look back at my own ignorance instead. Yes, I know anyone can catch aids by any blood to blood contact, but we had been trained that most individuals who have aids got if from some means other than sex, a huge lie. They had taken a truth, and twisted it into a lie, a lie that made sex outside of God’s word look innocent. STD’s were no one’s fault, not the result of any sin, and we truly believed it.

A factor that is often unthought-of about sex education is the circumstance it creates in the family. The dreaded question of parents, “where do babies come from?” is now answered by the school. Not only is that question answered, but all those other questions that come along with it are answered there also. While this may seem like a huge relief to parents and a break from a difficult responsibility, there is a serious consequence to the family. When these difficult questions that every child has are answered by a third party, there is a part of parenting that is left undone creating a missing part of that relationship. One day your son or daughter knows nearly nothing about sex and the changes that lay ahead for their body, a few days later they know nearly as much as you do. There was never a discussion, never a point that you can both relate to made, never even an awkward word spoken, just one day they don’t know, and another day they do. This adds a huge awkward barrier to the parent child relationship, one you may have never even thought of. The best comparison I can think of is a marriage relationship silent about sex, can you imagine how strange that close relationship would be? While it may be different in many ways, there is a similar aspect in parenting, and that is that parents should be looked up to as guides to teach on these questions. When that is left un-discussed, there is something missing in that relationship and guidance, we are leaving out one of the “secret” bonds that cause our children to look to us. All we do is put up a wall of unspoken understanding that we both have that we dare not discuss, a wall that spreads to other aspects of our relation with them.

Finally as I consider the subject of sex education, especially as I think of my own children as they approach school age, there is the new aspect of homosexuality and transgender issues that have become common. My experience with Family Life or Sex Education began over 20 years ago, I can only imagine what is taught now. I honestly suspect homosexual methods of sex are explained and illustrated just like heterosexual sex was when I was in the course. I honestly suspect male and female bodies will be explained as choices rather than what we have been given. I can’t imagine the questions that would be asked in class, or the serious respectful way the teacher would be teaching on such issues that they seek to normalize, but I know they will be there. The government’s relationship with Planned Parenthood comes to my mind, and I have to wonder how related the belief system and teaching is between the two. There is a definite agenda in Family Life classes, and I should have never been part of it, I am certain I do not want my children to have any part of it either.

We are still up in the air on whether or not public school or home school is the best way for our children. We have a couple years left still to decide. One thing is for sure for us however, we will be opting our children out of “Family Life Class.” It may create some ridicule by other children, we may have to study some facts on STD’s and other things, it may cause us to have to teach on some difficult subjects and embarrass our kids and ourselves some, but there is no other choice for us. If you choose the public school route, I encourage you to look into making certain that opting out is going to be an option for you to choose for your children. Be alert when those classes are coming and stay one step ahead. Also, study your children’s classes to know what is taught in other classes. While most give the option to opt out of Family Life, some districts have began teaching these things in other classes that cannot be opted out of. When there is no option to opt my children out of select classes that teach these things, I know homeschooling will be my only consideration. Whatever route you choose, be aware of the deception that Family Life Classes teach, and keep your children from it.

¹ Claiborne, Winford. “Introduction,” Pages viii-x in Ethics for Daily Living Freed-Hardeman College 1986 Lectures. Edited by Winford Claiborne. Nashville:  Williams, 1986.

“We Cannot Stop Speaking” Acts 4:20 (a response to LGBT Day of Silence)

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Today, April the 17th 2015, is what many will refer to as this year’s “Day of Silence.” If you are wondering what the “Day of Silence” is, it is simply a day of the year that many have chosen to go throughout being silent or speaking as little as possible in order to stand together against the mistreatment of gay persons. According to the GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network) website, dayofsilence.org, says, “The Day of Silence is a student-led national event that brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment in schools.” Students across America and in many countries, from middle schools to colleges are participating in this event, many with the embracement of the school faculty. While I still consider myself a young adult, the rapid changes that have taken place in the last years since I was in school, such as the popularity of this event, are truly astounding, regardless of your views. 

I first want to say that I also am opposed to any name-calling, bullying or harassment of any LGBT individual or community. New Testament Christianity and the scriptures do not teach that we are to mock or injure anyone as a way to persuade them from sin. This does not however mean I support the “Day of Silence.” The way the homosexual community defines harassment has evolved beyond bounds, such as writing or sharing an article such as this one, simply reading certain scriptures, or answering someone’s question on what you believe is all it takes to be considered a bully. Despite religious freedom being a core right of our country, the laws of the land are quickly taking to the side of religious suppression. Young Christians, if you believe you can be part of this event because it is in part about bullying, you are making a sinful mistake! This day is defined as one that is for the LGBT community, events such as these are what have pushed the rapid acceptance of a sin on a Christian nation; do not take part in it! 

How else should we react to an event like this, should we be the ones keeping quiet? The inspired scriptures of God make it clear that we as Christians are to be anything but silent. In Acts chapter four Peter and John had been encircled by the authorities of their day for preaching. Though Jesus whom they preached was just killed days before, and much persecution awaited the church just ahead, when they were commanded by the Council not to speak or to teach in the name of Jesus, they replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19,20) NASB. Silence was nothing these apostles could keep, no matter who gave the orders then, or no matter who gives them now, we cannot be silent. Think of the great commission given by Christ, to go, to teach all nations everything He commanded (Matt 28: 19,20). Paul wrote to Timothy topreach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke and exhort…” (2 Tim 2:4, cf. Titus 2:1), that preaching, that teaching is a vital part of our Christianity. Jesus again taught us that we cannot be ashamed Him (Matt 10:33), and that it is “…by your words you shall be justified…” (Matt 12:37). Paul again as he began the inspired letter to the church at Rome said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation…” (Rom 1:16). Knowing the life of Paul, the persecutions he endured, we know he was not ashamed to speak that gospel, it is no wonder he also quoted the scripture “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel” (Rom 10:15) ESV, preaching through which he said man would be saved. We as Christians need to speak out, to preach and to teach the truth that can save man, and expose the sin that causes man to be lost, God has always used an individual to deliver His message to man. 

The homosexual community has worked together and has been very outspoken, and they are seeing the benefits of their labor. Homosexuals and their supporters have been so out spoken that on this day they are getting attention by simply being quiet. Sadly Christians on the other hand, have been silent all along. Even a handful of years ago, when those who claimed Christianity was the majority in agreement that homosexuality was sin, we too often kept quiet on the awkward sexual subject. We let groups like Westboro Baptist do the speaking, we let the rude graffiti on the bathroom stalls, written by the unchurched, do the speaking on our behalf, and now we wonder what went wrong. The fault is not only those who used such sinful methods to oppose homosexuality, the fault is also on us who knew the truth, who knew the way God wanted it spoken, but we didn’t speak it at all. We have failed to speak the oracles of God. 

So what, do we do now? Do we run out and scream “homosexuality is wrong”? No, we shouldn’t be ashamed to say that, but that’s not what we should scream at the top of our lungs. Instead we must preach the gospel, the whole counsel of God. By picking on homosexuality alone, we are the same hypocrites as the Westboro church, vulgar comedian or the bathroom artist, enwrapped in all sorts of sin while condemning one. But if we preach against all sin, not to minimize homosexuality, but instead to show true Christianity, it’s pureness in all aspects of life, then we are speaking the oracles of God. We have to preach and to teach and live by all that Jesus commanded, all His apostles showed us, all the word of God. This requires speaking out. 

One final passage in conclusion you might recall, from the prophet Jeremiah, he had a tough message to proclaim, he knew the word of God, but the people did not want to hear it. As Jeremiah says he attempted to hold the message in, he says, “…then in my heart it became like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; and I am weary of holding it in…” (Jer 20:9). We also know the word, and we also have a very tough audience, maybe we have been holding the word of God in. Have we held the word of God in so long that that the fire has burned out? Speaking God’s word caused Jeremiah great suffering and lamenting, but he spoke it. Paul rejoiced in that same suffering (Col 1:24), but he also spoke the word, because he knew the reward. We have to speak the message of God, let’s speak it today. “We cannot stop speaking what we have seen and heard.”

Christian Blood

Charlton Rhinehart

Terrorism is something that worries us all. Even if we are in a location where we do not feel threatened by terrorism, just the knowledge of what has recently happened bothers us, and it should. Disturbing the world seems to be the route that the Islamic terrorist organization, ISIS, has found as their newest niche. By murdering someone, filming the event, and using the internet to spread the video gives this evil religious group worldwide recognition, which is what any terrorist act begs for.

Seemingly anyone who is not part of ISIS is fair game of their terrorism. Their latest famous videos have included murdering news reporters, travelers, and more. The most recent however was the beheading of 21 Egyptians who claimed Christianity. The video of this gruesome act was posted on Twitter titled “A Message Signed with Blood to the Nation of the Cross”, clearly the targets of this murder and video were Christians. Despite our nation’s president avoiding the term “Christians” that he dare not portray as innocent, we still managed to receive the message from ISIS, and it certainly is disturbing to say the least.

There is something that ISIS is ignorant of however, something that totally backfires on them the harder they try. While their videos do disturb us, while many of us do feel the intended brush of fear that they may one day capture ourselves some way, they are forgetting that we Christians have been persecuted and killed before. We have been persecuted every since the murder of the one we follow, Christ, and it only makes us more faithful.

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Persecution is something we are promised as Christians, II Tim 3:12 tells us “And Indeed, all who desire to live Godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (NASB). What is remarkable is the number of examples we have of those killed for their faith in Christ, yet just as Christ promised, the kingdom of God, the church has not been defeated (Matt 16:18). Jesus before His own death at the hands of terrorist of His day, told the Pharisees bluntly they were guilty of the blood of the prophets and righteous ones murdered leading up to Him. He said they were guilty, “…from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar” (Matt 23:35). Abel from the beginning of the Bible, who was murdered from jealousy for his acceptable worship, to Zechariah, a man we know little of, there was a long list of previous blood that was spilled just to prepare the way for Christ, yet He still came.

The book of Hebrews also describes these martyrs of the Old Testament, “They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword … men of whom the world was unworthy, wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground” (Heb 11:37-38). Speaking of men who hang around in the desert, John the baptizer was no exception to murder. The prophet John was beheaded (just like the 21 Egyptians), for telling Herod it was against God’s word to have a wife who was not scripturally his (Mark 6). After Christ was crucified on the cross, God’s people now called Christian’s were not treated any better. Reliable history tells us that all of the Apostles with the exception of John, were killed for their Christianity.  Some were stoned, some crucified, some were beheaded or stabbed, just about any terrible way to die was applied, yet they are our example, and Christianity grew.

The book of Revelation is mostly written to those first century Christians who were about to undergo a great persecution (Rev 1:1, 9). As the destruction of Jerusalem and Rome took place, the Christians were truly put to the test, and their lives were often taken. The latter portion of Revelation 2 verse 10, “…you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death and I will give you a crown of life” , these words of Christ are an absolute warning that a Christian must be always faithful to Him, and even at the point of death for the faith, there is no option to back down. While I don’t know the life of these 21 individuals who died, their death of beheading however does compare with Revelation Chapter 20, which I am not the first to make the application. John writes, “…And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of the testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast … and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years” (Rev 20:4). Again the early saints were no stranger to death of a sword, yet we see Christianity growing at that difficult time as much as ever.

So much more could be said about those who died for the faith, church history of the next centuries is full of stories of martyrs. Several Bible passages such as Stephen’s and James’ death could be included, but the point is the same, Christianity is no stranger to unjust bloody death. The very man we follow, Christ, part of the God head died as our example and for our past sins. Yes, there are those who will not be able to stand firm to the end, and because of that they will be eternally lost. Yes, we will also still fear a painful death, just as Christ prayed for another way if possible in the garden. However, throughout all this history of Christian death, all this blood that was spilled, Christianity was never made weaker. These deaths are what remind us of the word, these deaths are what remind us of the necessity of faithfulness. As the scripture says of Christ our savior, “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends” John 15:13. This is our example, this is our teacher, this is our God. Spilling Christian blood doesn’t make us weaker, it only makes us stronger!

The Blessing of a Christian Spouse

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Charlton Rhinehart

Myself along with many others have been challenged to write on the benefits of a Christian life by the website, The Preacher’s Favorite Passage, www.thepfp.net. As I thought through the many blessings I wanted to write about, the blessing of a Christian life that I am choosing to write on is the blessing of a Christian spouse.

I first want to say that while a Christian spouse is huge factor in a Christian’s life, I realize that it is something not everyone has. Paul was one who was thankful he was not married or obligated to care for a family so that he could devote more time in work to the Lord (1 Cor 7:7), shame on any eldership today that sets the requirement that a minister be married. I also realize that many Christians are already married to someone who is not a Christian, to such Paul gives commands from the Lord, and challenges them to be the right example (1 Cor 7:10-16). There are also those who because of unscriptural divorce, are not permitted to remarry (Matt 19:9), to them I give some of my greatest respect. Brothers and sisters, be cautious who you choose to marry.

That being said, I truly believe that one of the greatest blessings of a Christian life is having a Christian spouse. The spouse you choose is someone you shape the majority of your life around. That person by their input and your agreement with one another will likely affect where you live, what future jobs you choose, what you do for fun, even what you eat will be a regular compromise with that individual. A person’s character who is this involved in your life is important; here are three traits that make a Christian spouse such a blessing.

A Christian spouse is one you can trust. With such a huge commitment of your own life devoted to one person, trust is mandatory. The Christian character is built around honesty, faithfulness and trust, just as God has been towards us. A secular marriage is also built on these things, but as we know, these attributes in a person often fail. While the same failure can happen in a Christian, just knowing that a person has a commitment to God that they have been faithful to, gives the promise of these aspects so much more meaning. To know that there is a commitment not only toward you from your spouse, but also an obligation they hold sacred before God to be faithful to you. To know that there is not merely a promise to be faithful to you, but that person strives to keep Christ’ command to not even let their heart stray from you alone. To know your spouse stands for the New Covenant’s teaching, that divorce and remarriage is not an option, but only for one reason. While the occurrence of divorce in the church has long been said to be the same as the world, several articles lately have been published  revealing that the divorce rate inside churches are actually much lower than the world. I dare say that divorce of faithful members in the Lord’s true church is very uncommon.  What a blessing to trust your spouse is not only faithful to their vows, but also in every word and to God.

A Christian spouse is an encouragement to your walk with Christ. A Christian’s life is built around service and labor for the Lord, love of His church and the treasure where our heart is, in the Lord. Our joy, our passion, our hope is invested in the kingdom of God, which is the church. You know the feeling that we have when a person we know begins showing interest in the gospel, things such as this is our purpose and joy. I cannot imagine being married to someone I could not share those feelings of hope with when I get home each day! A spouse more than anything is someone you relate to, someone you share feelings with, the one who knows you and you pour your heart out before them.  What a blessing it is to be able share this huge portion of your life: your labors, your hope, even your disappointments of your Christian life with a person holding the same goals. This is the difference in hoping your spouse will allow you to spare some money or time to give to God, or the spouse who is there by your side making a sacrifice along with you in the kingdom. Perhaps this is part of the reason why the most important role in the church, that of an elder, requires a faithful wife (1 Tim 3:2, 11; Titus 1:6). A Christian spouse is a huge blessing of encouragement.

A Christian spouse is a friend forever. We have deep love for the one we marry, even when the beauty of youth fades, often the friendship and bond in a marriage becomes far more valuable with time. It is only natural that someone so close to us would be the one who we are most concerned for their eternal home. As the earthly wedding vows many of us quoted tell us, “until death do we part,” a Christian couple has the assurance they will meet again. Jesus plainly tells us that, “…in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage…” (Matt 22:30 NASB). While our relationship there may be much different, better in ways our human minds cannot yet comprehend, what a blessing it is to know your husband or wife will be there in eternity with you. A Christian spouse is a blessing to know of the assurance you have for the one you love so much.

When God created man, He said “…it is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him,” (Gen 2:18). A spouse is a helper, a helper in the challenges of life, and the greatest blessing of a spouse is a Christian spouse, a Christian helper. Christ chose this Holy relationship to compare His church to, the church which is made up of those He saved. Obviously this relationship is a blessing, and a Christian spouse is a fulfillment of that blessing.  I thank God for my Christian wife, God’s design for marriage and family.

America’s Serious Problem with Idolatry

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Charlton Rhinehart

America has a serious problem with idolatry, there are idols all around us, and I am NOT referring to worldly riches!  We have all been in a church bible class at one point in time when one of the many scriptures that refer to idolatry was read, of course what comes to mind for us is some tribe of half naked people on an island dancing around a big painted wooden head. Because this seems so distant from anything we can relate to in our culture, we quickly tie any passage that mentions idols to the comparison of our desire for the physical riches around us. While materialism, selfish ambition, greed or the love of the world can and will cost many their souls, these bible terms are truly sins that take our time and hearts away from God, but they are not idolatry. We do not bow down to the car of our dreams, we do not say a prayer to that one house in that certain neighborhood, and we would never tell someone a name brand of clothes is our God. Don’t take me wrong, these things are serious sins often times, and there are a lot of comparisons that do relate, but at the same time we have to admit these are not the false gods that we know scripture is referring to when a passage mentions an idol.

Many cultures have real idols, India is a prime example of such a culture today. We  also remember Paul walking through the city of Athens observing all the gods there (Acts 17:23), we know there are physical false gods that people really worship. While we grow more diverse in culture every day and I suspect it will one day be common here, we still do not see these images around us being worshiped regularly. However there is one idol that Americans really do worship, there are temples built all around us for worshiping this false god in, there is a complete structure with thousands of priest and literally billions of dollars are given by Americans to these gods every year. So what is this false god that we have such a problem with? What image does he have or who is this large group of people that worship it? Who is this idol that I say America has such a problem with? – It is the god that those who identify themselves as Christians worship, most of them identify this idol as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Before you string me up for blasphemy, let me say plainly what I am talking about. When people make God into whoever they want Him to be, when they change His teachings, they extend His grace beyond what it is, when they write off His commands as not applying to today, they make the one true God into their own personal idol, and they worship that idol how they please. This is something America has a very serious problem with!!! This is a god that might wear the one true name of God, but this god is false. His words teach something the true God has never taught, his character is not a match to God, the sermons taught of him do not describe Him, and the promises he makes are not His. How many thousands of churches across America have preachers and leaders that describe God not only in a different way from each other, but also different from the plain teachings of scripture? The even greater trend of today is to be part of no church at all but to hold your own personal views of God apart from any church. If we put ourselves into this trend of thought for a moment, to say there is no true church, that each individual can find God in their own personal way, what does this change? To enter this state of mind and religion causes us to admit that God has no right and wrong, that maybe only one or two principles are important and the rest is simply meant to be overlooked. This is who we have made our god out to be, and this is not the God of the Bible!

Paul tells us through inspired scripture to “Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 1:13). Notice that there is a “standard of sound words” that we are to hold to, that he does not tell us to do so just by faith and love, but rather by THE faith, revealing that there is only one standard, one religious faith that saves. He speaks also of this standard or pattern in Philippians, “Brethren, Join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ,” (Phil 3:17-18). Notice again “the pattern” we are to walk in and observe, there is only one pattern, but those who twist and distort that pattern making different patterns are enemies of the cross of Christ. Peter also warned of these who distort the scriptures to their own destruction (2 Pet 3:16). There is a standard, a pattern, plain teachings given by scripture that we can understand alike, but this is not what we observe around us. America has a serious problem with idolatry, we all have the same idol that wears the same name, but that idol has a different standard we each have created. We worship, we pray, we sing to and teach about this false god, our personal idol we have created. Worst of all we have fallen for the thought that if we just claim the name of Christ we all will be saved. What idol have you created Christ to be? Maybe you can identify some parts of your idol that matches scripture, but does He match all of scripture?  Let us heed the words of the apostle John as he ended his first letter, “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).