Why Did The Crowd Choose Jesus Instead of Barabbas?

Patricia L. Dickson

Matthew 27:19-23

19 While he was seated on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous and innocent Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him.” 20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. 21 The governor said to them, “Which of the two do you wish me to set free for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22 Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all replied, “Let Him be crucified!” 23 And he said, “Why, what has He done that is evil?” But they continued shouting all the louder, “Let Him be crucified!”

There are four accounts of the life of Christ (the son of God) recorded in the New Testament books: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Each gospel tells the same story through four different perspectives. The four gospels follow Jesus’ ministry from its beginning at age thirty, to His death on the cross at age thirty-three. Throughout Christ’s ministry, the gospels recount the many miracles that He performed. Jesus is always described as being full of compassion as He performs such miracles as opening blind eyes, healing leprosy, feeding the multitudes or forgiving a woman caught in the act of adultery. Yet, after performing hundreds of miracles (so many that they could not be recorded John 21:25) it was Jesus whom the crowd chose to condemn to death rather than the murderer Barabbas. In fact, they chose to outright free Barabbas.

Surely there were people in the crowd that had benefited in some way from Jesus’ ministry. Was one of the ten former lepers whom Jesus healed amongst that crowd? What about the lame man that Jesus healed in Matthew 9:6-7, was he in the crowd? Could the woman with the issue of blood for twelve years (Luke 8:43-48) or the Centurion soldier (whom Jesus healed his servant in Luke 7:6-10) have been in that crowd shouting let Him be crucified? How could the crowd be so easily persuaded by the chief priest and elders (who from all accounts had really done nothing for them) to choose to condemn Jesus, who even Governor Pilate said was innocent of any crime, and in turn free a murderer? This is a question that I have often pondered.

Perhaps they feared the chief priest and elders more than they feared Barabbas. Why else would they be willing to free a murderer back into the community? However; that does not answer the question of why when asked by Pilate of what to do with Jesus, the crowd shouted crucify Him. Not only did they wish to have Jesus condemned to death, they were willing to let the responsibility of His innocent blood fall on them and their children:

Matthew 27:24-26

24 So when Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but rather that a riot was breaking out, he took water and washed his hands [to ceremonially cleanse himself of guilt] in the presence of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this [righteous] Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people answered, “Let [the responsibility for] His blood be on us and on our children!” 26 So he set Barabbas free for them; but after having Jesus severely whipped (scourged), he handed Him over to be crucified.

It appears that the crowd harbored a hatred for Jesus more than anything else. But how could they hate someone who had only done good? My mother used to always say that the way to make an enemy is to help someone. I thought she was crazy until I experienced it myself. To explain the crowds hatred for Jesus requires stating the truth. Jesus was a sinless man walking amongst sinful men. Scriptures teaches us that Jesus is the light of the world:

John 8:1

12 Once more Jesus addressed the crowd. He said, “[a]I am the Light of the world. He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Light will always expose darkness. Although Jesus may have healed members of the crowd’s physical ailments, their hearts were still dark (by choice). When given the choice of (what they thought) would eliminate the light walking amongst them that exposed their darkness, they chose to have Jesus killed. They felt more comfortable with Barabbas freely walking amongst them because he could not expose their darkness. Although they may not have been murderers, they were guilty of sin. All sin darkens man’s heart. People would rather associate with someone who will engage in the same sins as them. As the old saying goes, misery loves company. Birds of a feather, flock together. This saying is true regardless of the type of relationship of the people. One of my colleagues and his wife are big drinkers. So much so that they even try to force their teenage daughter to drink (she complained to me about it). While attending a party at another of our colleague’s home last summer, I met their college aged son who was home for the summer (he noticed that I was the only adult not drinking). He told me that he didn’t drink alcohol (that alone is commendable and unheard of for most college kids) and that his parents kept trying to force him to. I asked his parents why they were insistent that their son drink alcohol when he clearly did not want to. Instead of being proud of their son who probably faced peer pressure all the time at college, their response was that he (their son) was too good and he needed to be like them. He probably makes them feel uncomfortable at home when they are drinking.

The crowd that condemned Jesus to death were looking for a way to rid themselves of the constant bright light shining on their sins. However, they did not recognize that He was the only one that could free them of their sins. It is natural for men to seek ways to heal what physically ails them and yet ignore his or her spiritual ailments. Jesus Christ is able to heal us and cleanse us from all unrighteous. When Jesus comes to live inside of us, we become the light of the world. And there is nothing that can put out our light except sin.

 

 

Evangelical Pastors Chastise Christians for Supporting Donald Trump

Patricia L. Dickson

Some Evangelical Pastors and Christian leaders have recently decided to publicly chastise Christians for supporting presidential candidate Donald Trump. These Christian leaders cite Bible verses to support their rationale in an attempt to shame members of the Christian community to not support Trump. According to these good shepherds, Trump is an immoral and indecent man. To support his characterization, Bryan Fischer, a compassionate man of God and host of “Focal Point”   cited all of Trump’s past and present moral failures:

This is a candidate who has openly and unapologetically boasted of his many sexual conquests and who famously cheated on wife number one by ensconcing the woman who became wife number two in a penthouse apartment at one of his casinos in Atlantic City.

He told Howard Stern in 1997 that sleeping around was “my personal Vietnam,” where he routinely and repeatedly dodged the bullets of sexually transmitted diseases. But, he proudly proclaimed, “I feel like a great and very brave soldier” who courageously faced that risk without flinching.

He was the first casino owner in American history to put a strip club in a casino. And he did this not in the distant past but in 2013.

Over the last several decades, he has over-leveraged four different business enterprises into bankruptcy and yet wants us to believe he’s just the man to do something about our $19 trillion federal debt.

All the things that Mr. Fischer cited about Mr. Trump are factual, however; I am wondering if he warned his readers about President Obama during the 2008 and 2012 campaign. To be fair, I did google other writings by Mr. Fischer where he has been critical of President Obama since he’s been in office. However; I could not find any articles where Christian leaders publicly warned Christians not to support Obama during both of his campaigns. Mr. Fischer says that informed, educated, and discerning evangelicals are the only demographic group with enough numbers to knock the Trump Train off the tracks. If that is the case, why didn’t the evangelicals knock the Obama train off its tracks and keep him out of the White House? Could it be that these same discerning evangelicals voted for Obama twice? Where was this large group of evangelicals when homosexual and lesbian marriage was shoved down our throats? Where was the concerted outcry from the evangelicals when the undercover videos of Planned Parenthood negotiating the sale of baby parts surfaced? Could these leaders not find any Bible verses to cite?

After nearly eight years of the Obama Presidency, the majority of the Christian leaders have been silent. Now, all of a sudden the sheepish Christian leader Max Lucado wants to flex his evangelical muscles. Max Lucado claims he usually stays out of politics but decided to break his silence because of Trump (he remains silent on Obama). He says that people don’t attend church to hear his views on a presidential candidate, however in the case of Trump he states the following:

In this case, it’s not so much a question about particular policies or strategies about government or even particular opinions. It’s a case of public derision of people. It’s belittling people publicly. It would be none of my business, I would have absolutely no right to speak up except that he repeatedly brandishes the Bible and calls himself a Christian.

It’s a high stakes thing from my perspective because people make decisions about Christ on the basis of Christians and how we behave. If he’s going to call himself a Christian one day and call someone a bimbo the next or make fun of somebody’s menstrual cycle, it’s just beyond reason to me.

Where is Mr. Lucado when President Obama calls republicans names (at least the majority of Trumps insults are via twitter)? Obama supports abortion and homosexual marriage and yet he claims to be a Christian. Mr. Lucado does not seem to have a problem with that. Senator Ted Cruz holds up a bible also. He gave God the glory for winning in Iowa after his campaign circulated an (untrue) message that Ben Carson had dropped out of the race and told his supporters to caucus with Cruz (not to mention all the other questionable campaign tactics). In addition, Mr. Lucado supports open borders under the guise of Evangelical Immigration.

As for Mr. Trump’s sins, are these men of God not supposed to pray for him? Where is their compassion for the lost? Does the Bible not tell us to pray for others? In fact, I pray every day (sometimes more than once) for our country and especially Mr. Trump. Donald Trump is the only candidate that has received death threats. His campaign reported that he wears a bullet proof vest every day. He is the only candidate that the leaders of China and Mexico, as well as the Pope, have commented on. That alone tells me (even if he is not the most moral man) that he is doing something right and he needs our prayers. The Black Pastors that met with Trump at his Trump Towers in New York said that he was very humble and receptive of their concerns about some of his antics. They also said the Trump was not at all like he appears in public.

Our Country is literally going to hell. While some political pundits and writers are worried that it might be too late for the Republican establishment to stop Trump, I am more concerned that it might be too late for the Church to save our country. If our country is to be saved, it will be Christians that will save it. If the church had been doing its job, the country would not be in this condition. Now all of a sudden evangelicals want to complain about Donald Trump. Trump is not the cause of the current state of America or the world. I lay all the fault at the feet of the Church. It is the cowardly Pastors that refused to preach about the sins of homosexuality, abortion, adultery and fornication (all lead to the breakdown of the family) out of fear of offending someone and losing money that are to blame for this country’s condition. Until Christians repent and turn from our wicked ways, there is no hope for the world.

2 Chronicles

and My people, who are called by My Name, humble themselves, and pray and seek (crave, require as a necessity) My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear [them] from heaven, and forgive their sin and heal their land.

The Bible says that judgement must start in the house of God:

1 Peter 4:17

For it is the time [destined] for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not respect or believe or obey the gospel of God?

It is time for the Church to start doing its job.

 

 

 

 

A Dying World In Need Of a Living God

Patricia L. Dickson

1 Peter 2:12

Conduct yourselves properly (honorably, righteously) among the Gentiles, so that, although they may slander you as evildoers, [yet] they may by witnessing your good deeds [come to] glorify God in the day of inspection [[e]when God shall look upon you wanderers as a pastor or shepherd looks over his flock].

In the past 50 years, we have experienced an explosion in technology. In fact, in just over a century we have gone from the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell  to the worldwide web (internet). Today we are able to connect and communicate with someone a world away in a matter of seconds. These inventions have enabled people to communicate with family, friends and business associates at any time with little or no cost. It is God that has endowed men with superior intellect (men are more intelligent than animals) that has enabled individuals to create and invent the technology that we have today. However, because of man’s superior intellect, it opens the door for arrogance and pride to take hold of the human heart. Once the heart is filled with arrogance and pride, one is easily deceived into believing that he or she does not need God (or that there is no God). In fact, many highly intelligent people (especially scientists) rely on their own intelligence and shun religion as something for the weak and ignorant.

So, how do Christians convince a dying sinful corrupt world comprised of some individuals with superior intellect that first, there is a God and secondly, everyone needs Him? We start by pointing out the truth of the current condition of humankind. To begin with, although we have all of these technological inventions readily available, our families are still broken. It is reported that between 40-50% of first marriages end in divorce and upward to 60% of second marriages. There has been a 400% increase in antidepressant use in America over the last two decades (antidepressant use does not vary by income status). According to the BBC, nearly 50 million people in England are taking antidepressant drugs. Around 28% of American adults drink at levels that put them at risk for alcohol dependence and alcohol-related problems. Alcoholism is not restricted to any specific socioeconomic group or class. Family members commit approximately 13.6% of murders against other members of their family. If ever there was a time that the world needed to witness the supernatural power of God, it is the present. The world should be able to examine our lives and see a stark difference in our conduct compared to the way they live their lives. This is certainly not the time for Christians to compromise our behavior to fit in with the world. I ran across an article in Charisma Magazine titled Christians Drinking Beer: Freedom or Folly? The author talked about a specific incident where a female recovering from alcohol addiction attended a supposedly Christian party and witnessed members of the church drinking beer. This individual was turned off by what she witnessed. The author seemed to imply that the lady was looking for an excuse not to follow God:

One time a friend who was visiting a church I use to attend in Florida went to a party on a boat. She was appalled that the people who went to church were drinking beer. She was a recovering alcoholic who struggled in this area and was so turned off that she didn’t come back.

This article isn’t about whether Christians should or should not drink beer. I spent hours trying to explain to my friend that Christians had different standards when it came to drinking alcohol. She didn’t care. She had an excuse to not follow God.

Their freedom turned into their folly.

The article’s main topic is whether a Christian’s freedom should cause a spiritually weaker believer or a nonbeliever to stumble based on (1 Cor. 8:9, NLT). “But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble”. Instead of questioning whether or not a Christian drinking alcohol is freedom or folly, a better question is why a Christian would drink alcohol to begin with? I know some people will say that I am being legalistic by implying that Christians should abstain from alcohol. However; my issue is how else will the world distinguish that we are different from them if we engage in the same behavior as them? Besides, as I noted above, alcohol dependence is on the rise. When does social drinking cross the line to actual dependence? If Christians need a drink every once in a while, how are we any different than the unbeliever? Is Christ not enough?

The carnal things of the world will never satisfy man. God created man so that we would have a void that only He can fill or satisfy. Worldly pleasures will only satisfy for the moment. After a short while, worldly pleasures will no longer satisfy. In fact, they will eventually destroy us. Rev Franklin Graham made the following comments about the recent tragic events that almost destroyed former NBA athlete Lamar Odom:

“Listen up, young men. I’m a father and a grandfather, and I want to give you some advice. Former NBA star Lamar Odom was looking for something at a brothel in Nevada, something to ease the pain and void deep inside his heart. Instead, it has devastated his life. The truth is-the only One that can heal the pain in a human heart is Jesus Christ. Drugs can’t do it, sex can’t do it, money can’t do it, nothing or no one else can do it. I want you to know that God made you and He loves you,” he continued. “He wants to give you life, peace, and hope-and the only way is through trusting in His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s Word warns, “Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her (a prostitute’s) ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng” (Proverbs 7:24-26).”

It is time for Christians to stand up and boldly declare (with our lives and mouths) that Jesus is the answer to all that ails humankind. The world is in need of a powerful living God.

Movie Review: Woodlawn

Woodlawn

Patricia L. Dickson

 

The movie Woodlawn is an Erwin Brothers Film that depicts real life events that took place in Alabama during the early 1970s at the height of desegregation. Historical footage from Governor George Wallace’s impassioned segregation forever speech played during the first minutes of the movie as well as parts of speeches from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The movie is based on the struggles of the newly desegregated football team of Woodlawn High School in Alabama. The coach, played by Nic Bishop (ABC’s “Body of Proof”), is task with trying to turn a losing team into a winning team while struggling to calm the racial tension between the white and black players.

After witnessing the constant fighting between the black and white players, a Chaplain, played by Sean Astin (“Rudy” and “The Lord of the Rings”), asked the coach if he could speak to the team. Reluctantly the coach agreed. The Chaplain straight out preached the Gospel with no holds barred and invited the players to accept Jesus Christ as an alternative to the hate that dwelt in their hearts towards each other. Several of the players went forward and professed their faith at the end of his sermon. The coach was astounded at the change that he began to witness in his players, yet he did not immediately grasp the Christian faith that warranted such a drastic change.

The main character in the movie was a black running back named Tony Nathan played by Caleb Castille (feature film debut). As he began to become a popular player on the once segregated football team, he and his family were constantly harassed by local white men in town who did not like the fact the he (a black kid) was getting more play time than their sons. The climax of the movie was when Paul “Bear” Bryant played by Jon Voight (no introduction needed), took an interest in Tony Nathan and began attempting to recruit him to play for the University of Alabama, coupled with the 1974 historical football game between Woodlawn and Banks played at Legion Field in Birmingham.

The movie’s main theme is the team deciding to change their focus from winning games to playing for a higher cause (depicted in the movie poster with the index finger pointing upward) of Jesus Christ. It was when their focus and commitment (collectively as a team) turned to Christ, that they started to win. The coach eventually attended Tony Nathan’s (his star player’s) church and got baptized and began praying with his team before games. He was reprimanded by the school’s superintendent and told not to pray anymore before the games. He disobeyed. Tony Nathan went on to play for the University of Alabama and nine NFL seasons with The Dolphins.

If you like history and desire to see a faith based good family movie, Woodlawn will truly warm your heart. This is a movie for everyone.

Will The Church Let The World Go To Hell?

Patricia L. Dickson

America has witnessed our Supreme Court make same-sex marriage the law of the land with a 5-4 decision that changed the definition of marriage. After the decision was announced, one would think that churches all over America would have been protesting and marching in the streets. Instead, on the Sunday following the decision, only a few pastors and ministers addressed the decision with what I would call righteous indignation. On the other hand, many pastors addressed the subject by tip toeing around it and refusing to even say the word same-sex marriage during their morning sermons. Bishop T. D. Jakes, a popular pastor of a mega church with thousands of members, addressed the decision by downplaying it:

I’m not really as concerned about this as a lot of people are. I’m really not as concerned about it. I think that we should not lose our mind about the world being the world and the Church being the Church. This is not a news flash. The world is gonna be the world and the Church is gonna be the Church, and you have to understand the difference.”

Is it not the church’s job (mission) to reach the world with the message of salvation? This supposedly man of God is saying that he is not concerned about the Supreme Court changing the definition of marriage which allows homosexual men and lesbian women to marry their partners, and neither should the church be concerned. If the church is not concerned about the world’s immorality, then who is? The bible teachers the following in Matthew 5:13-16:

13You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.

15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

What if Jesus had said that He was not concerned about the world being the world? Jesus would not have gone to the cross if He was not concerned about the world. Bishop Jakes speaks as though the church’s mission has nothing to do with saving the world. If that is the case, what is the church’s mission? Although later in his comments, he told his members that they needed to start reaching out to all types of people and preaching, ministering and sharing their faith with them, his opening comments about the world is going to be the world, made it seem like there is no need for the church to try to reach the lost sinners. That stance is clearly contrary to what Jesus said the role of church is. In addition, while addressing the Supreme Court’s decision, Bishop Jakes never stated whether he believed that the homosexual lifestyle and same-sex marriage is a sin according to scripture. Jesus commission the disciples to go into all world and preach the gospel.

Mark 16:15

15 And He said to them, Go into all the world and preach and publish openly the good news (the Gospel) to every creature [of the whole [e]human race].

Its hands off approach on the same-sex marriage decision reveal the church’s true condition. Not only did the church stand on the sidelines while the gay rights movement steamrolled through just about every American institution, it has been silent concerning the undercover Plan Parenthood videos showing clinic workers discussing selling the body parts of aborted babies. Is the church so weak and cowed that it has replaced the word of God with political correctness? Or has the church become so corrupt that its main goal is the protect its tax exempt status that allows it to rake in millions of dollars for fancy buildings while ignoring the very souls that it is supposed to be reaching? Will the church sit back between its four walls and just let the world go to hell?

The First & Second Commandment

Patricia L. Dickson

Exodus 20:3 Thou shalt have no other gods before me

The First Commandment sets the tone for the nine commandments that follow. In fact, the ability to obey the other nine commandments will depend on one’s decision to obey the first one. Some people may say for God to command that His people (at that time the Israelites) not have any other gods before Him is selfish. God even went a step further and declared that He is a jealous God. Some individuals have questioned how God can command humans not to harbor jealously in our hearts and yet He Himself declares that He is jealous. We must remember that God had just miraculously delivered the Israelites out from under Egyptians slavery all by Himself. No human can or is able to accomplish such a feat. In other words, God has every right to command that we have or put no other gods before Him because there is no other god that has the power to do what He has done and can do for humankind. In other words, God has bragging rights. God also knew that the Israelites were accustomed to bowing down to the Egyptian’s false gods.

I have been refuted by a few Christians who say that God was speaking specifically to the Jews when He gave the Ten Commandments. They have argued that since Jesus came on the scene, we are no longer under the Law of Moses and therefore we no longer have to obey certain commandments (mainly the third and fourth one). My question to those individuals is how do we decide which commandments to do away with? Where is it written in scripture that because the Ten Commandments were given under the Law of Moses, Jesus’ arrival made them null? In fact, Jesus said in Matthew 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.”

Having no other gods before God simply means not to put other things (not just pagan gods) before or in place of Him. When I was a young Christian, I would often say that there are no pagan gods in our generation, therefore, how was it possible for me to bow down and worship or put another god before God. For years, I thought I had the First Commandment in the bag. I later learned that there are all sorts of things that we put before God (sometimes unknowingly). We are sometimes so full of pride that we put ourselves in the place of God. How can we put ourselves in place of God? One way is to rely on our own (God given) intelligence and abilities rather than depending on God. We have progressed so much over the last century with science and technology until it is easy for humans to become puffed up with pride and think that we do not need God. In fact, some scientists have boasted that they can create life in a laboratory therefore; they put themselves in place of God. Smart and talented individuals are accustomed to receiving much praise and adoration from others (especially professional athletes) that it is easy to see how these individuals can began to rely own their own intelligence and abilities rather than God (they become their own god).

Why would God be so adamant about us putting Him first? He said in Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” It is for our benefit to love God and put Him first. God knows the traps that are waiting to trip us up. He knows that all other gods will fail us. Whether our gods be our jobs, sports, money, hobbies, significant others, or even food, all of these false gods will eventually fail us. When we seek God first, we are putting our faith in Him. Finally, how can we know if we are putting other things before God (making them our god)? The bible says in Matthew 6:21: “For where your treasure is, your heart will be also.” As painful as it may be for some of us to admit (especially those of us that profess Christianity), if we do some soul searching, we will discover where our heart and treasure is. What is the first thing that we think about when we wake up in the morning? What do we spend the majority of our time doing? What is constantly on our minds?   Where do we spend the majority of our money (discretionary income)? If the answer to these questions is not the things that would magnify or point to the goodness of God, perhaps we might be disobeying the First Commandments.

Exodus 20:4-6 Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image

During ancient times, it was a common thing for people to bow before (prostrate themselves) man made images (idolatry). This is what God forbids. Daniel disobeyed King Nebuchadnezzar when he commanded that everyone bow down and worship the graven image that he built (Daniel 3:12). Moses was only gone up the mountain for forty days and the Israelites made Aaron make a golden calf for them to worship. Why would they want to build a golden calf and proclaim that it was the god that brought them out of Egypt? They had just witnessed God miraculously rescuing them from under Egyptian bondage by ways of parting the red sea. Habit. The Israelites fell back into the same old habits that they were accustomed to while living in Egypt. How many times have we gotten impatient with waiting for God to work out our problems and fallen back to whatever (failed) habits we were used to in order to try to fix our problems ourselves? Why would God make the worship of graven images as one of the commandments? He knew that the Israelites had grown accustomed to worshiping graven images while living with the Egyptians. God also new that the graven images were false gods that would fail them. When God brought them out of Egypt, He had to reeducate and remold them both spiritually and mentally (they had lived in bondage in Egypt for 400 years) in order for them to accomplish what He had in store for them (to enter into the promise land). However, like many new believers, they fought against Moses and God to the point that God called them a stiff-necked people. Because of their rebellion and disobedience, it took them forty years to enter the land that God promised them.

Can we be guilty of worshiping graven images (idolatry) today? The difference between ancient idolatry and today is what we choose to idolize. The practice of Idolatry has not changed, the objects of our idolatry have. Today we idolize ourselves, careers, celebrities, cars, houses and many other things. One may ask how a person can become guilty of idolizing things. When we put anything before God, we are guilty of idolatry. We may not physically bow before our careers or our automobile. One does not have to always bow before something in order to worship it. We worship when we become consumed with a thing or person. When we worship God, He consumes us. We become so consumed by Him that we rely on Him and Him alone in every situation we encounter. Only God is able to take care of us whatever situation befalls us. That is why He and He alone is worthy of our worship.

The Third Commandment

Patricia L. Dickson

Exodus 20:7

You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.”

God gave The Ten Commandments to Moses after He had delivered the Israelites from under the bondage of their Egyptian slave owners. During their exodus, the children of Israel witnessed God’s countless miraculous provisions and protection. Because God showed His love for the stiff-necked Israelites, it is only natural that He would demand that they honor and respect His name. The third commandment focuses on showing respect for God’s name. God commanded that His people (Christians) not take His name in vain.

The Hebrew meaning of the word take is to lift up, bear, carry, use or appropriate. The word name in Hebrew is an outstanding mark, sign, or reputation. The Hebrew word for vain is lashav, an empty or thoughtless manner. The Greek word for vain is mataios, useless or without purpose. To use God’s name in a thoughtless careless manner is to show dishonor for Him. What are the ways that we can dishonor God’s name? When most people hear or quote “You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain”, the first thing that often comes to mind is using God’s name with profanity. However, the most common but often not thought of, way of dishonoring God is when a believer (Christians) conducts his or her life in a way that is contrary to God’s teachings. In other words, a Christian will dishonor God’s name in the presence of unbelievers if his or her (Christian’s) conduct does not align with God’s teaching. Moses knew that in order for the other nations to honor God, it was imperative that the Israelites (whom God had delivered from slavery) conduct their lives in a way that would honor God. Christians are responsible for revealing and teaching unbelievers who God is. Living a hypocritical life blasphemes His name.

Romans 2:21-24

Well then, you who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you teach against stealing, do you steal (take what does not really belong to you)?

You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery [are you unchaste in action or in thought]? You who abhor and loathe idols, do you rob temples [do you appropriate to your own use what is consecrated to God, thus robbing the sanctuary and [h]doing sacrilege]?

You who boast in the Law, do you dishonor God by breaking the Law [by stealthily infringing upon or carelessly neglecting or openly breaking it]?

For, as it is written, The name of God is maligned and blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you! [The words to this effect are from your own Scriptures.]

We often think that anyone can take God’s name in vain. It is true that unbelievers carelessly use God’s name in conversation and often in connection with profanity. However, Christians are the ones that can truly take God’s name in vain because we are the ones that are in a relationship with Him. The world cannot honor God because it does not know Him (has no relationship with Him). Respect is the foundation of a good relationship. When unbelievers witness Christians showing reverence for God, that and only that will cause him or her to be convicted and refrain from profaning His name. However, no one that takes God’s name in vain will be found guiltless (free, clear, or unpunished).

Why is God’s name worthy of such respect? If we pose this question in reference to the Israelites, the obvious answer is that God brought them out of slavery. However; God not only brought them out of bondage, he protected them and provided for their every need. God showed them His love and faithfulness time and time again (even when they rebelled against Him). God does the same for believers today. His name is worthy of respect because of who He is and what He has done. No other name deserves the same honor and respect as God because no one has done what He has done. No one is able (regardless of claims) to do what God can do. There is no politician, minister, husband, wife, boss, father, mother or friend that can do for anyone what God can do. That is why His name is worthy of respect and should never be taken in vain.

 

 

The Fourth Commandment

Patricia L. Dickson

Exodus 20:8 Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

It was quite easy to obey this commandment growing up in the “Bible Belt” South because most of the establishments were closed on Sundays. Because the majority of the counties were dry, there was no way anyone could legally buy alcohol. My mother and aunts prepared Sunday’s dinner (except for the bread) on Saturday nights so that all they would have to do was warm it in the oven after church. We were not allowed to do laundry or any other household chores (other than wash the dinner dishes) on Sundays. My parents would not even allow me to clip my fingernails or toenails on the Sabbath. In fact, remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy was my father’s grace that he prayed before every meal until the day he died.

After moving away from the South and living in large cities like New York and Los Angeles, I found myself easily breaking this commandment without much thought or conviction. With stores and restaurants open 24/7 in most large cities; it is easy for Christian patrons to be lured away from obeying this commandment. Christian employees are also compelled to work on Sundays if their employer requires them to do so.

Why is the Sabbath so important to God? The Sabbath is tied to our relationship with God; therefore, it is one of the most important commandments out of the Ten. God Himself, in Genesis 2:2-3 declared a day of rest from His work:

And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done; and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done.

And God blessed (spoke good of) the seventh day, set it apart as His own, and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all His work which He had created and done.

The important words in this commandment are “remember and keep it holy”. Obedience to the commandment is centered on both the word and the phrase. Remember simply means no to forget. We must not forget the Sabbath day. Why should we not forget the Sabbath? We must remember it in order to keep it holy. When something is holy it is set aside for God. Christians are a people set aside for God’s purpose. As Christians we are commanded to live holy which includes our conduct, resources, talents, body and speech. The fourth commandment deals specifically with our time. Keep it holy means to set aside this day and time for God. Observing the Sabbath is a form of worship to God. Yes, many believers attend church services on Sundays; however, our worship should not end once we leave our place of worship. God is commanding that the entire Sabbath be a day of worship.

Why would God command us to not do any work on the Sabbath? Work and outside activities will interfere with and distract from our worship. Attention is to be directed to God in a way that is more concentrated and steady on the Sabbath than on the other six days. Worship is a state (an attitude) of spirit. The Hebrew word and definition of worship is Shachah – to prostrate, bow, do (make) obeisance or do reverence. The Greek words and definitions are Proskuneo -kiss toward, Sebomai (my favorite) – hold in awe, and Latreuo-to render religious service of homage.

Many today say that the scriptures, in particularly this commandment, are antiquated because the times have changed. Some have asked how is it that God could expect us to refrain from working on the Sabbath when He knows that some Christians have jobs and are required by employers to work. My response to them is: God in his infinite wisdom knew that times were going to change and become more commercialized and modern (nothing takes God by surprise). We must always remember that God is not some barbarian God who does not understand the needs of His people. He understands that many have to work on Sundays to provide for themselves and their families. Therefore, the focus on the Sabbath should not only be on what we cannot do. The purpose of the Sabbath is to also focus on what we can do. We should spend the Sabbath thanking God for how He has blessed us with a job to be able to provide for our families and for having the health, strength and mental ability to be able to get out of bed and perform on the job. We as Christians should use the opportunity to spend time with family reflecting on the events of the prior week and remembering how blessed we are to live in a country where we have the freedom to worship God without the fear of having our heads chopped off.

I believe that God wants us to obey the fourth commandment whenever circumstances will allow us. However, other than having to work on Sundays, there is no other reason that we should not be able to obey this commandment.

 

The Christian Faith: Protestant vs Catholicism

Patricia L. Dickson

The first time that I had to differentiate my Christian faith as either Protestant or Catholic was while I was serving in the military. While filling out my personnel file on the computer, I came to the question about my religious faith. I typed Christian in the space provided, however that triggered the choice of either Protestant or Catholic. That was the first time in my life that I had to choose a Christian affiliation. My supervisor explained to me that I was a Protestant since I did not identify as a Catholic whom she said were Christians too.

While stationed in Utah, I would engage in conversations with Mormons who would attempt to assure me that they were Christians too. When I would begin to discuss the Bible, they would refer to the Book of Mormons. The Catholic Church also uses other teachings besides the Bible. In fact, the Catholic Church added the following books to the Bible: books of Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus (Sirach), Baruch, 1 and 2 Maccabees, as well as some additional stories and verses in the books of Daniel and Esther. Catholics refer to these seven books as the deuterocanonical” books, meaning the “second” standard books. The Mormons use the Book of Mormons as an additional book that goes along with the Bible (another testament). The problem with these books is that they contradict the 66 books of the Bible that Protestants use as the sole source for God’s divinely inspired word. My question to these religious organizations who claim to be a form of the Christian faith is how come each one of you feel the need to write (use), add another or additional books to (as they claim) go along with or is an extension of the Bible?

I believe that there are two answers to this question. First, The Bible removes man from power and proclaims that God is all-powerful (omnipotent). Man has always desired to judge and control other men regardless of his own weak and sinful nature. These additional books (written and inspired by men) places a man (a Priest, Joseph Smith) in the position of power to confer blessing or to require one to confess his or her sins to them. These church leaders are taking on the role of Jesus the Christ (although no one will admit it). The Bible levels the playing field by stating that all have sinned therefore rendering every human not worthy of judging another. Secondly, man’s sinful pride desires to earn his or her own salvation. In other words, man would rather go to God and say that he or she is good enough to enter heaven because he or she earned it by his or her own merit (through good works). The Bible forces men to humble themselves with the knowledge that there is nothing he or she can do to earn eternal salvation except to accept the gift of salvation through faith in His son Jesus. The imputed and imparted righteousness of CHRIST are both offered at the same time to those who accept GOD’S offer and provision of salvation.

Romans 3:22-24

Namely, the righteousness of God which comes by believing with personal trust and confident reliance on Jesus Christ (the Messiah). [And it is meant] for all who believe. For there is no distinction,

Since all have sinned and are falling short of the honor and glory [b]which God bestows and receives.

[All] are justified and made upright and in right standing with God, freely and gratuitously by His grace (His unmerited favor and mercy), through the redemption which is [provided] in Christ Jesus,

All religions are aware that the Bible is considered the only book that is believed to be the divinely inspired word of God. Therefore other religions that claim to be another form of Christianity will use a few scriptures from the Bible out of context because they know that most people (including professed Christians) know little about the Bible and are not equipped to spot misquotes. It is a damning indictment that supposedly Bible believing Christians can be so easily stumped (by biblical misquotes) by religions that claim to be another form of Christianity. In fact, most religions often start talking about the Bible in the beginning. They know that if they were to admit from the beginning that they do not rely on the Bible as the sole source for the word of God that people would not listen to their teachings. Misquoting God’s words as a means to deceive is not new; it began in the Garden of Eden with the serpent and Eve. Eve; however at least had an excuse because she did not have the written word readily available (as we do) to compare the words that Satan attributed to God to God’s actual words.

My interest in learning the fundamental doctrines that separates Protestants and Catholics peaked during my recent Christmas vacation to Rome, Italy. The tour group that I was part of was present at St. Peter’s square on Christmas day and witnessed Pope Francis’ Christmas message. Since the Pope delivered his message in Latin, the tour guide translated it in English after the service ended. The tour guide said that at the end of his message, the Pope forgave our indulgence and we were then free to continue to indulge (in his case, excessive wine consumption). I immediately told him that Jesus had already forgiven our sins when He died on the cross and that no man has the power to forgive sin. Furthermore, Jesus would never tell someone that he or she was free to continue in sin. In fact, after Jesus healed someone he would warn him or her to sin no more. God does not command us not to sin because He does not want us to have fun. Sin destroys the body and the soul.

John 5:14-15

Afterward, when Jesus found him in the temple, He said to him, See, you are well! Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus Who had made him well.

The day after Christmas, we toured St. Peter’s Church. During the tour, I was struck by how Jesus was portrayed in statues and paintings. Jesus was always portrayed as weak and powerless whereas, the Catholic Priests and Mary (the mother of Jesus) were portrayed as strong and powerful. Jesus was either portrayed as a baby, suffering on the cross or lying dead in Mary’s (His mother’s) arms. Jesus is not some weak dead savior. He rose from the dead with all power in His hand. He ascended to heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus is in heaven interceding on our behalf. The tour guide that took us through St. Peter’s Church informed us that the Pope blessed the baby Jesus before it was placed in the manager at the large Nativity Scene display in St. Peter’s square. There are two problems with the Pope’s blessing the baby Jesus. First, there is no baby Jesus to bless. Jesus died and rose again at the age of 33. Secondly, sinful man cannot confer blessing over a holy God. Jesus was Lord at birth and Lord when He died and rose from the dead.

Three fundamental doctrines separate Protestants and Catholics. The Protestant relies solely on the word of God for instructions, and goes to the throne of grace in his or her devotion; while the Roman Catholic consults the teachings of his or her church, and offer prayers through the mediums of the Virgin Mary and Saints (dead humans). Mary, the mother of Jesus is elevated to a position of power in the Catholic Church that contradicts how she is portrayed in Biblical teachings. The Bible never says that Mary was anyone but an ordinary human whom God chose to use in an extraordinary way. Catholics take the term “highly favored” in Luke 1:28 out of context. The phrase “highly favored” comes from a single Greek word, which essentially means “much grace.” Mary received God’s grace. Grace is “unmerited favor,” meaning something we receive despite the fact that we do not deserve it. Mary needed grace from God just as the rest of us do.

In Catholic teachings, salvation is dispensed by the church, especially through the sacramental system. The church has the authority to grant partial or plenary (full) remission of the temporal punishment of sin by selling memorial masses and indulgences. These can alleviate, shorten, and even eliminate the time spent in the purging fires of purgatory.

“If any one shall say that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy pardoning sins for Christ’s sake, or that it is that confidence alone by which we are justified… let him be accursed,” (Canon 12, Council of Trent).

“If any one saith, that man is truly absolved from his sins and justified, because he assuredly believed himself absolved and justified; or, that no one is truly justified but he who believes himself justified; and that, by this faith alone, absolution and justification are effected; let him be anathema,” (Canon 14, Council of Trent).

No one can MERIT the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can MERIT for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods,” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2027).

By contrast, the Bible teaches salvation is a divine gift of grace, not a human achievement. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all of our sins. We cannot earn justification or merit justification in any way. If we could, there would have been no need for Jesus to go to the cross.

Romans 3:28

For we hold that a man is justified and made upright by faith independent of and distinctly apart from good deeds (works of the Law). [The observance of the Law has nothing to do with justification.]

Galatians 2:21

[Therefore, I do not treat God’s gracious gift as something of minor importance and defeat its very purpose]; I do not set aside and invalidate and frustrate and nullify the grace (unmerited favor) of God. For if justification (righteousness, acquittal from guilt) comes through [observing the ritual of] the Law, then Christ (the Messiah) died groundlessly and to no purpose and in vain. [His death was then wholly superfluous.]

Rom 5:8-9

But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.

Therefore, since we are now justified ([f]acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.

Is 53:5

But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our guilt and iniquities; the chastisement [needful to obtain] peace and well-being for us was upon Him, and with the stripes [that wounded] Him we are healed and made whole.

Which are we to believe? The Roman Catholic Church or God’s word? Any Bible believing Christian should be able to discern that we are living in the last days. We are witnessing what is prophesied in the Bible (2 Timothy 3) every day. Millions of souls are being deceived and led astray by false doctrines and false prophets. We who have been saved are mandated by God to teach the unadulterated whole counsel of God to a dying world. If we do not reach the world, who will?

 

The Fifth Commandment

Patricia L. Dickson

Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

Growing up in the south, my parents (and everyone else’s parents) repeated the verse it seemed on a daily basis. I am not sure if they were trying to teach us or scare us. In the wake of the events in Ferguson that has played out before the world, the discussion of this commandment is appropriate. In the case of both Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, you have teenagers physically attacking adults and authority figures without hesitation. It was reported that Trayvon Martin frequently found himself in trouble with authority figures and once bragged in a tweet that he physically assaulted a bus driver. Video footage captured Michael Brown grabbing a much older man by the throat while leaving the store with stolen cigars. Another video has surfaced on youtube of Michael Brown beating and stomping another older man. This kind of disrespectful behavior from these teenagers did not just pop up once they reached age seventeen and eighteen. In both cases, it was evident that neither had been taught to respect authority. There is no wonder both Martin and Brown lost their lives at such a young age. Poor black teenagers are not alone in showing disrespect for authority figures. Some spoiled rich white teenagers behave in a manner that shows disrespect for authority figures as well. Respect for authority is taught and learned in the home by and from parents (the child’s first authority figures).

Does this scripture still apply if a child does not receive proper parenting from his or her parents? With over 70 percent of black children in the US born to single mothers as well as a divorce rate of over 50 percent of all marriages, is it even possible for children to learn to honor his or her parents? Parents have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a manner to be worthy of honor:

Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not irritate and provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to resentment], but rear them [tenderly] in the training and discipline and the counsel and admonition of the Lord.

So, what was God’s purpose for giving Moses this commandment? First, I must acknowledge that God intended for every child to be raised in a home with both a mother and father. He instructed Joseph not to put away Mary when he (Joseph) learned that she was pregnant before the two of them had been officially married. God made sure that Jesus, His only son, was born into a household with both a father and mother. As believers, we are part of the family of God. I believe that it was God’s intent that parents teach their children to respect and honor them so that it would lead to children honoring Him. God’s purpose for this commandment is spiritual just as all of His commandments. God is our ultimate parent. Every commandment preceding this one emphasize the importance of man’s relationship with God (our creator and spiritual father).

Honor is a powerful word that means to revere, venerate, regard with deep respect or reverence. The Hebrew word for honor is kabad or kabed: to be heavy or weighty. We use honor in our military when addressing noncommissioned and commissioned officers. While serving in the military, I witnessed the difference in how kids readily adjust to respecting authority. The difference is both regional and cultural. In other words, kids from southern states were more likely to automatically (without being told or trained) to address their leaders with sir or ma’am. However, kids from the north and northeast had to be disciplined regularly for disrespect until it was programmed into them. Culturally, kids from two parent homes were quick to fall in line and obey commands from leadership. On the other hand, kids from one-parent homes were often defiant, would question authority, and showed more distrust.

I have also witnessed a difference in individuals when attempting to win people to the Christian faith. Individuals raised in homes without a father (especially males) have a difficult time trusting God as their heavenly father because he or she cannot relate to a father figure. Fatherless individuals often are hung up when it comes to believing that God, our heavenly father, loves them. How can these individuals leap to believing that God is their heavenly father and loves them when he or she has never experienced a father’s love? How can one honor God when he or she has not had the opportunity to learn to honor his or her mother and father?

Parents are ultimately to blame for children’s refusal to show respect for authority and in turn not honoring God, our heavenly father. God commanded parents to bring up children in the fear and respect of the Lord:

Deuteronomy 6:5-7

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your [mind and] heart and with your entire being and with all your might.

And these words which I am commanding you this day shall be [first] in your [own] minds and hearts; [then]

You shall whet and sharpen them so as to make them penetrate, and teach and impress them diligently upon the [minds and] hearts of your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise up.

The world is at a breaking point. The breakdown of the family is the root cause of all the mayhem that we are witnessing daily. God’s original plan for man and woman to first marry, (stay married) and then be fruitful and multiply has been supplanted by feminist and every other demonic entity (including the US government). Until this ungodly world turns to God, we will continue to see this commandment along with all the other commandments broken. We will also continue to see young lives lost because of disobedience and disrespect for authority.

 

 

 

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