Tag Archives: faith

Addressing Society’s Problems — Adam Carlson

Editor’s Note:  Brother Carlson’s article on recent societal problems mentions the tragedies in Dallas, TX, in July, 2016.  Since the completion and submission of his article for publication, other similar tragic events have taken place and made national news in Baton Rouge, LA, Tulsa, OK, and Charlotte, NC.  These calamities and the similar afflictions which have taken place repeatedly in recent times show the relevancy of brother Carlson’s thoughts from scripture as expressed in this article.  May we take these words to heart, and pray for our nation, the friends and families of all those tragically affected by these violent acts, and each other.

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There are many sad and heavy hearts in light of the recent shooting deaths of two civilians at the hands of law enforcement and the murder of five police officers in Dallas, Texas.  When these tragedies happen there is much debate as to whether anger at law enforcement or abuse of authority by law enforcement is justified.  During these trying times, Christians must be proactive rather than reactive so we can bring about the positive change so many in the world desire.  The following six points for consideration will now be proposed so that each of us as followers of Christ may live in a godly manner in this ungodly society in which we find ourselves.  My prayer is that this may be of benefit to everyone who reads this article.

First, we must pray.  Prayer is a given…but when one finds themselves in afflictions such as the Dallas shootings, for what are we to pray?  We should pray that God comfort the loved ones of the victims (2 Co. 1:3-4).  We should also pray for those who perpetrate these acts because God’s desire as stated by Paul is that “all people…be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Ti. 2:4).

These acts of violence sadden and anger us but we must not let our anger blind us to God’s love (Ep. 4:26-27, 31-32).  It is easy to resort to calls for justice in these situations; certainly there does need to be consequences for those who commit acts of violence.  Yet we must not let that blind us to the fact that Christ died even for these individuals (Mk. 2:17).  We must remember that even we, before our conversion, were ungodly (Co. 3:5-7; Ti. 3:3-7).  God’s grace is for all (T. 2:11-14).  We must also remember the commandment of Jesus to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:43-45).  These are not optional matters.  How can one proclaim the gospel but have animosity in their heart towards perpetrators of evil deeds?

Second, we must take action in a positive way.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (Ja. 1:23-25).

James calls Christians to put faith into action.  Listening is a good thing but one can listen to a sermon on loving our enemies and even agree with it…but it’s more challenging to put it into practice.  This is what must be done.  It goes beyond shouting slogans, hashtags, and updating profile pictures on social media.  This is a call to put our beliefs into practice by helping our fellow man.

Third, remember the real issue.  Violence against law enforcement or anyone for that matter is symptomatic of a larger issue.  It is easy to treat outward symptoms of a disease, but more difficult to treat the disease itself, said disease being how societal issues are manifested in the public arena.  Race or any issue which divides is used by Satan to his advantage.

We must heed Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Ephesus:  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12).  How sad it is that these matters may be used even to divide brethren!  This is why it is imperative that we must be on guard and remember that Christ died for all…including the ungodly (Ro. 5:6).  Remember that it is because of our own selfish desires that strife arises among the body.  “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?”  (Ja. 4:1)

Fourth, remember that the world needs the blood of Christ.  We are redeemed by His blood (Ep. 1:7).  If one wants society to change for the better, this is the message which needs to be proclaimed.  Catchy slogans, demonstrations in the streets, politicians’ legislations and proposals…none of these will solve these issues.

Only the message of redemption through Christ will solve these problems.  As the song we commonly sing with children says:  Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight.  Regardless of our outward appearances, His blood covers all.  It is only through that avenue that true peace and equality will be achieved.  Only when we all realize that everyone has value in God’s eyes and it’s only by Christ that this is made possible (Ga. 3:26-28).

Fifth, take note of your conduct while you react.  There already has been and for the foreseeable future there will continue to be much debate regarding these matters.  Emotions and tempers will be running high.  This is why Christians who choose to engage in discussion on these matters must continually examine themselves and their conduct.  If one chooses to participate in debate, regardless of which side of the issue you may fall into, God expects you to conduct yourself in a way which glorifies Him (Co. 4:6).

We can expect ungodly behavior from those in the world.  It is for that reason we must be cautious to set a good example for them.  Hateful, divisive rhetoric is no excuse for a Christian to stoop to that level; we’re called to put away things such as that (Ep. 4:29, 31; Co. 3:8; 1 Pe. 2:1, 21-23).  It’s easy for one to be carried away by inflammatory statements made by others, but Christians should be careful that we don’t do the same thing.

Apply the “Philippians 4:8 Test” before speaking, especially on the Internet, and ask before one verbalizes or writes for the world to see if what you are about to say is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise.  If there is any doubt, then simply find another way to say it or discard it completely.  There’s a reason we’ve been given two ears and only one tongue (Pr. 14:29; 15:1; Ja. 1:19-20).  There is a right way and a wrong way to speak, and at times it is even best to be silent altogether (Ec. 3:7).

Sixth, learn to listen.  Another problem which arises is the refusal to open our ears and listen to others.  This is due to either pride or the stubborn desire to be right in what we believe.  Paul gives Timothy attributes which the Christian must possess:  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Ti. 2:24-26).

We’re not always going to agree with thoughts or ideas put forth, but we must take the time to listen to other viewpoints.  This is not to say we must accept everything that’s said, but we should also not be quick to dismiss opposing viewpoints.

It’s easy to become angry and disillusioned when we see our society crumble before our very eyes at the sight of evil.  The prophet Habakkuk struggled with this very scenario as he questioned God about how ungodly Babylon could seem to get away with what they were doing:  “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise” (Hab. 1:2-3, emp. added).

Many today join him in struggling with this question.  In time the prophet learned to trust God and learned that God was using Babylon for His purpose:  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab. 3:17-19, emp. added).

As mere men we won’t always fully understand…yet we must trust.  Faith must be learned.  We must remember that God can and will use all things, regardless of how evil it is, for the purpose of His will.  Everything we do is to be done according to His will (Co. 3:17).  May everything which we do be done in a scriptural manner!

adamcarlson130@hotmail.com

Adam preaches at the Valley Church of Christ in Kingsport, TN. 

Building On One’s Faith — Gantt Carter

Are you growing as a child of God? How much have you grown spiritually since you first obeyed the good news of the kingdom? In 2 Peter 1:5-7, the apostle Peter sets forth a list of eight qualities for the Christian to acquire. The qualities listed are faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. He goes on to reveal that, “if these qualities are yours and are increasing (growing, abounding), they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the full knowledge of our Master Jesus, the Messiah” (2 Pe. 1:8). Who wants to be ineffective or unfruitful in their walk with the Master of heaven and earth? Do you?

The first of the eight traits Peter encourages us to use as the building blocks of our growth in the Messiah is that of “faith” (2 Pe. 1:5). One is hard pressed to find any aspect of godly growth and living that does not in some way fit into one of these eight categories of thought and behavior. I suggest that Peter places each of these qualities in the order that he does for a reason. Each of the eight is a prerequisite for the one that follows it, but it is not that we move from one quality to another. Even after we have reached the final “step” of love, we must continue to grow in all eight characteristics listed.

A good working definition of faith is that of taking God at His word. Luke records Paul explaining to the sailors, “I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (Ac. 27:25). Paul had been given an inspired message about the results of the journey, and he fully believed in God and in the words of God. Many individuals believe in God (in His existence), but how many actually believe God? Trust is a good synonym for faith. I may believe in God and in certain facts about Him, but I am I willing to take refuge in Him?

In the eleventh chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, we are given a wonderful list of examples of faith in the past. It is important to note that the writer emphasizes how each of these saints of faith acted without physical sight of the promises. They obeyed God out of their faith in Him and in His words (cf. Ja. 2:14-26). The chapter opens with this powerful description of faith’s strength: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of matters not seen” (He. 11:1). Faith is looking at the evidence that exists, and then believing and obeying God without having to see Him or the promises. As Paul observed to the Corinthians, “we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Co. 5:7). The power of our faith allows us to see the invisible (He. 11:3, 27). The living faith of the child of God is looking to the reward of God Himself (He. 11:26-27).

How important should faith be in our lives? To begin answering that question, we need to also ask ourselves, “How important is pleasing God?” The Hebrew writer reveals that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (He. 11:6). Please note again the way proper faith is more than just being a theist; true faith in God’s sight is a faith that possesses a deep confidence in Him and in His revealed will.

Faith is listed first in Peter’s list because it is so foundational to every part of the life of a Christian. Faith, along with hope and love (see 1 Corinthians 13:13), is an immense motivator and manifestation of God in our hearts and lives. We repented of our sins initially because of our faith in God’s word (cf. Ac. 17:30-31). By faith we responded properly to the good news of King Jesus by being immersed into Him and into His death (cf. Ro. 6:3-6). Faith is what will continue to cause us to serve God and to show His love and spread His reign in this world.

Since faith is important to pleasing God, we need to find out how to increase our faith. What is the source of faith? How do we cause our faith to grow stronger and deeper? In discussing the rejection of the Messiah and the need for spreading the good news about Him, Paul explains, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Ro. 10:17). The word of God is the source of our faith in God. If faith is taking God at His word, then it should not surprise us to learn that faith originates from the word of God.

If you want a faith that is alive and vibrantly growing, then spend time reading, studying, and meditating on the words of the mind of God in the Bible. One cannot skip time in God’s holy word and expect to grow in their faith. Soon His words will dwell in us richly and our hearts will be so full of His grace, that we will be teaching and admonishing one another with thankfulness in our hearts to Him (cf. Co. 3:16).

Peter starts this letter by referring to the great amount of treasured promises God has made to us (2 Pe. 1:3-4). These promises give us the privilege of partaking of the divine nature and fleeing from this corrupt world of sin and death. It is upon the foundation of these promises and privileges that Peter exhorts us to grow in our faith and the other seven characteristics.

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more energetic to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.  For in this way there will be richly granted to you an entrance into the unending kingdom of our Master and Savior Jesus, the Messiah” (2 Pe. 1:10-11).

koinewords@gmail.com

Gantt currently resides with his wife and two children in Elk City, OK.  He has been preaching in some form since 2007, and is currently the preaching minister for the 2nd & Adams congregation in Elk City.

 

A Shipwrecked Faith — Curtis Kimbrell

Our faith is one of the most cherished assets which we possess.  Yet there are many times in our lives when our faith is stronger than at other times.  When I am truly honest with myself and do some real “soul searching,” I may ask myself, “How can I really make myself more faithful?”  Or I may ask myself, “What can I do as a Christian to improve my faith and make it stronger?”

To answer these questions, I could easily revert to the well-known verse:  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God” (2 Ti. 2:15).  I may think of improving my prayer life as is stated by Paul to the Thessalonians:  “Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Th. 5:17-18).  When we take our Christianity seriously and it becomes more than just showing up at the church building on Sundays and Wednesday nights, it will greatly impact our lives and the lives of others.

But what do we do when something happens that threatens every thread of our faith?  When an event takes place in our lives that challenges us to even dare to ask God, “Why me?”  What if another person or Christian hurts us so badly that we feel like we are falling into a bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair?

Let’s briefly consider God’s servant Paul as we examine just one of his many hardships and how he dealt with it and overcame all odds with God’s help.  In the latter part of the book of Acts, we find that Paul was literally shipwrecked while sailing to Rome (27:13-44).  He was a prisoner sailing alongside many other prisoners and the ship’s crew when a wind known as the Northeaster hit them so badly that they eventually had to give into it (vs. 13-15).  They couldn’t fight what was coming at them.

In our lives, things are find at certain times…but sooner or later something beyond our control comes our way and there is absolutely nothing we can do.  Part of us says, “Give up!”  Another part tells us that God has a plan and we just need to hang in there a little longer.

Paul and his shipmates tried with difficulty to secure the boat.  They even threw over cargo in an effort to desperately save themselves (vs. 16-19).  In like manner, we try various ways to stay afloat through the storms that occur in our own lives.  It’s often difficult, even when others are there trying to help us.  Again, this goes back to the question:  How strong is my faith in the fact that God really will take care of me?

The others on Paul’s ship abandoned all hope (v. 20).  Each of us knows that we have felt like this in some way or another in our own lives.  No matter your age or experiences, it’s easy to think that giving up is the easiest and perhaps even the only way to handle things.  We forget that God’s timing and our timing do not always coincide.

While everyone was feeling hopeless on the ship and things were at their most critical, Paul began to encourage them.  He even told them that no life would be lost (vs. 21-24).  Do we encourage others when we feel hopeless?  Paul’s faith was at a stronger level than the others’ and he was reassured by the Angel of the Lord.  God’s Word reassures us that things will be okay in the darkest of times (Ro. 8:28).  Yet, so often we neglect to read it.

Paul had been told that he must stand before Caesar (v. 24).  God was not done with him, and he knew it.  He still had much work to do and a purpose to fulfill.  So as he continued to encourage these men, he told them to “take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (v. 25).  Yet, notice that he also gave them a warning that the journey wasn’t going to be easy because they would have to run the ship aground (v. 26).  The crew knew this would not be pleasant at all.  That’s why they were so fearful (vs. 29-30).  Yet, Paul cared enough to exhort them to not give up.  He told them to eat for strength, that “not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you,” and still managed to give thanks throughout all that was going on!  (vs. 33-35)

When we go through the worst times of our lives, do we have Christian friends who support us regardless of the cost or hardship?  Do we have that kind of support from our brothers and sisters even if we are fearful?  Are we ourselves willing to offer this needed support to others during their dark times?  It makes a world of difference in the outcome of our faith!

Paul gave the crew enough confidence to trust in God enough to throw the remaining food overboard (v. 38).  After that, they had to run the ship aground just as Paul had told them.  All 276 lives were spared thanks to Paul (vs. 39-44).  The apostle was leading and directing…but God was in control.  So many times control of the situation was out of the crews’ hands, but they continued to believe in God’s Word, spoken through Paul.

I truly believe there are times when we all feel that our faith is shipwrecked.  It could be a situation out of our control, a problem with another Christian, sickness, depression, or a host of other things which come up in this life.  If it becomes such an issue that we “quit church,” our faith was misplaced.  It was placed more in people than in God.

All of us need to read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11:25-28.  Being shipwrecked was only one of the vast amounts of hardships which this man endured for Christ, His church, and ultimately for God.  Since we do not endure anything close to these types of events, it should make our faith easier to sustain.  Our faith is something which no one can take away from us.  We are the ones who decide to grow spiritually, stay spiritually idle where we are, or fade away.  Our faith should describe who we are, how we live, and every aspect of our lives.  Don’t get me wrong.  We all fail.  Sometimes we fall flat on our faces in our spiritual walk.  This is where our faith is tested.  It helps us overcome, repent, and then lean on God’s grace and mercy to continue walking down the narrow path.

Friends, I do not even feel worthy to write these words to you.  Because of two loving brothers that encouraged me to do so, it has helped to edify me and build my own faith.  I hope and pray this has been helpful and encouraging to you, and that it will get you even more motivated about wanting to grow in your own personal faith.  God bless you all!

curtisk29374@yahoo.com

 

 

God Is Bigger Than Cancer — Caleb Sams

Part of all this trial is coming face to face with the man in the mirror, in God’s hands, by the trial, God is showing you what kind of man you are really and what kind of God he is really and what it really is he wants you to be.” –Mike Mobley 

My desperate prayer and hope for this story is that you read this and become enamored with the strength, faithfulness, and love of our God. Pause perhaps for a moment even now before you continue reading and praise Him for his marvelous works in your own life. May we know deeply that it is not any one of our stories that matters, yet his alone; it is not about my name, but all about exclaiming his wondrous name.

For the purposes of information let me explain my circumstances. In September of 2012 I began to experience pain in my left ankle, thinking I had re-injured a spot of tendinitis I thought nothing of it. I wouldn’t be able to rest my leg  (the required treatment for tendinitis) until mid-December, so I acted as if it was fine and continued life as normal as possible for the next few months. When I got home in December I stayed off of my leg for 3 weeks the pain and large amount of swelling that had already taken over my ankle only got worse. I went to a sports clinic fearing that I had pushed my leg to far and snapped a tendon in my ankle. They ran X-rays and found a large fracture in my tibia that was the source of the pain; it was the source of the fracture that caused the doctor to pause. I was told that they would need to have a radiologist examine the X-rays and I would hear from them within the next day. The radiologist called within the hour. It was January 3rd; I was home alone sitting on the couch when I was told about something called osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. It only took 4 short days for tests and other doctors and surgeons to confirm the radiologist’s fear. After they biopsied the tumor in my ankle and received a pathology report from it I was informed that it was stage four cancer. Based on the location of the tumor and the way that it had ruined my tendons and ligaments I would never walk again without amputating my leg. Within the next month I had already began aggressive chemo treatments almost weekly requiring hospital stays of up to five days. At the end of the treatment, about nine months away, there would be a chest surgery on my lungs to remove all of the tumors found within. Osteosarcoma isn’t a soft tissue cancer, the cells rapidly growing are bone cells, and the tumors in my lungs were calcifying and could not remain there.

I could continue, I could explain in detail each treatment or hospital stay. Or the side effects of chemo or about the nausea, but that’s not what’s important. In fact my story isn’t important. You have your own. Whether it’s cancer or not, your story can do one of two things: it can break you or it can create you.

My entire life I’ve been extremely good at knowing the right thing to say, I’ve been able to pass as a Christian for a very long time, I could live however I wanted, but look extremely pure. I’ve wasted a lot of God-given talents and opportunities throughout my entire life. I’m not trying to beat myself up, I’ve done good things but I’ve masked my life in many ways. For the last six months of 2012 I was praying that God would put something in my life that either completely broke me and ruined my faith or on the other end required me to lean wholly on him. This year he has blessed me with an opportunity to experience a situation in which I had no hope if I relied on my own strength and yet if I gave it to him I had all hope. You story, your trials or sufferings can either break you or create you.

I’ve had one prayer on my heart throughout this process, I’ve begged and pleaded with God that if I were going to have to go through this valley that it would have a purpose. My prayer was simple. That God would use my cancer to make his name great. I could care less of any other outcome, but it would mean something if my story caused people to praise God. Something that came to me early was a phrase, the title of this article actually, God is bigger than cancer. Anything I sent out from then on, any update or tweet or email or Facebook post was sure to have that hashtagged along with it. #Godisbiggerthancancer became something people could hold on to. It’s a cry for hope that no matter what lies ahead God is bigger than it. The thing I’ve learned though is that, sure God is bigger than cancer, but he’s also bigger than me. I’ve never had to stare death in the face before. One of our biggest concerns in life is control. I’ve learned that I have none. Even better still, I’ve learned that I want none.

Two verses seem to have oddly become coupled to me throughout this process.  1 Corinthians 13:13 and Hebrews 11:6. The first: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” The second: “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he is the rewards those who seek him.”

1 Corinthians 13:13 starts with faith. This remains, why? Because we must have it to please God, not just to please him, but because it is the foundation of everything God hopes for us to access in our lives. What does he hope for us? Listed more times than any other commandment all throughout scripture, listed even more times than the commandments to love God and love one another, is the commandment fear not. Why is that his greatest desire? Because someone who fears nothing this world or Satan tries to throw at them is someone who is fully invested in God; a God that forms mountains and breaths life. Base your faith on that principle: that God is bigger than anything.

When you fully believe and know that God is everything he says he is 1 Corinthians continues, that kind of faith breeds hope. Why? Because if you truly believe with all your heart, soul, and mind that God is able you will find that he is active. See he doesn’t just offer his proof, he offers his power, Hebrews 11:6 ends with him currently being described as the rewarder. Doesn’t that give you hope? Hosea is placed in constant turmoil in his life to be a direct example to Israel of their relationship to God. He describes a valley, the valley of Achor, which literally translates to the valley of trouble, in chapter 2.  In the beginning of chapter 1 God explains that he will put an end to the house of Israel and “on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley.” Hosea explains the trouble Israel will go through.  In chapter 2:14-15 there’s a turn, though.  He writes:  “Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. Egypt.” Their trouble became hope. God, who is able, was active.

Faith gives you the strength to get through trials. Hope, bred by faith, gives you the sight to see the end of trials. But love, why does love remain and why is love the greatest? It’s simple, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 3:18-19.) Notice the language of being perfected in love. Perfected how? “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (Jas 1:2-4). How do we know that he first loved us? Because instead of just existing, which was enough, he chose to reward us.

Therefore faith, which produces strength, gives birth to hope, which produces sight, which harvests love that proves our hope and invigorates our faith and eliminates our fear. In love we understand Paul’s writings “‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’ ‘O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:54-57).

We have a victory, because God is bigger.  “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps 107:1)!

cmo.sams@gmail.com

 

 

Editorial: Denying the Historicity of Genesis Does Not Uphold Biblical Christianity (January/February, 2016) – Jon Mitchell, Editor

 

A few years ago my wife’s employer, a professed believer and follower of Jesus Christ, informed Beth of her belief that the events of the book of Genesis (the creation of the world in six days, Adam and Eve, the global flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.) was fictional.  When Beth asked her why she believed this, she cited the genealogical timelines recorded in Genesis (Gen. 4:17-5:32) which, when taken into account alongside the historical fact that Jesus Christ lived about two thousand years ago and the biblical genealogical records tracing his lineage back to Abraham and Adam (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38), would promote the conclusion that this world is only around six thousand years old.  She then explained how this contradicted the scientific “facts” of evolution which promote a rather lengthy age of 4-6 billion years for this planet.  She also pointed out that the historical existence of Adam and Eve contradicts the “proven facts of evolution” which proclaim that mankind evolved over millions of years from animals.  As for the global flood, she dismissed it as an obvious fable and myth.

Sadly, this was not the first time (nor would it be the last) in which I had heard of a supposed Christian denying the authenticity of Genesis in favor of upholding the erroneous, unproven, and inconsistent man-made theories of evolution.  About fourteen years ago, I was involved from time to time in a college ministry.  On one occasion, the college minister had invited a brother in Christ who taught at a university to speak to these college students about how the six days in which Genesis says the world was created in reality were each symbolic of millions of years.   When asked by me and a few others why he believed this, he said that due to the “proven fact” that this world is millions and millions of years old, we should not take these six days in Genesis chapter one literally.  According to him and many others, the six days are obviously representative of much longer periods of time, which would then back up what science has supposedly proven to be true.

However, much scientific, archeological, and historical evidence exists which contradicts these notions.  My purpose in writing this editorial is not to directly present such evidence; therefore, I encourage the reader to examine the material published by Apologetics Press in order to see it for themselves.  I encourage any readers of this editorial who do not believe in Christianity and/or are atheists to examine the material at Apologetics Press with an open and honest heart.  To my Christian readers, I commend you to them in order for you to learn more and thus be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).  To further help us obey this scriptural command, this editorial will consider the biblical evidence which supports the historicity of Genesis so that we can see how logical consistency would force those professed followers of Christ who deny Genesis’ authenticity or try to change its message in favor of man’s evolutionary theories to also deny Jesus Christ and his teachings.

To begin with, let’s examine exactly why we believe in Jesus Christ.  Why are you a Christian?  What is the basis for your faith in Jesus?  Is it only because your parents were churchgoers and taught you to be the same?  Similarly, is it “because I’ve always believed”?  While both of these reasons are important and should not be discounted, our faith must be built on more.  Why?  Because both the skeptic and the honest seeker of truth will, legitimately, be dissatisfied when they ask you, “Why should I become a Christian?” and the only answer you give them is, “The reason I’m a Christian is because my parents brought me to church and taught me since childhood, and so I’ve always believed.”  “Fine,” they will say, “but WHY have you always believed?  Why did your parents believe?  Why did the Christians who taught them believe?  Why should I believe?”

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…” ( 1 Cor. 13:11).  I went to church because my parents wanted me to, and I believed in Jesus because they believed in Jesus.  That needed to change as the years passed, because when “I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).  My faith needed to be my own, and it needed to have concrete, thought out, scriptural, logical, and consistent reasons (Rom. 10:17; 1 Thess. 5:21).  Therefore, I as an adult believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Savior, and my Lord because God raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 15:12-19) after he lived a sinless life (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15) in order to die on the cross as the saving propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2; Rom. 5:6-11).

There are additional reasons for my faith in Jesus, but for the purpose of this editorial I want us to focus on the fact that our faith in Christ is meaningless if he wasn’t raised from the dead…after having died on that cross to save us from our sins…after having lived a sinless life.  If Jesus hadn’t lived a sinless life, then his death on the cross would not have been the propitiation for our sins.  Therefore, God would not have raised him from the dead to prove to us that he is our Savior.

The key to this which I want us to focus on is the necessity of Jesus having lived a sinless life.  Specifically, I want us to focus on the fact that no deceit was found in his mouth (1 Pet. 2:22).  Think about that for a minute.  If Christ had been dishonest in any way, he could not be the propitiation for our sins and God would not have resurrected him.  Therefore, he could not be our Savior, which means that our faith, the Christian religion, would be meaningless.

Bringing this back to the historicity of Genesis, we will see below how both Jesus and the apostles and prophets his Holy Spirit inspired (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15; Acts 2:1-4ff; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 14:37; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21) talked about the events recorded in Genesis as if they were factual, historical events.  This is significant because if they in fact were mistaken or lying, then Christ could never have been our Savior.  Therefore, Christianity as a whole would be completely false.  Those who deny Genesis while professing to be followers of Christ need to realize this.

For example, Jesus while describing how Judgment Day will occur compared it to the day when the Genesis flood came (Matt. 24:35-39; Luke 17:22-27; cf. Gen. 6-9).  Peter also used the flood to illustrate the importance of immersion (1 Pet. 3:18-21) and the importance of not being a false teacher (2 Pet. 2:1-5, 9-10).  Notice that they did not imply nor refer to the flood as a story or myth in any way.  If the global flood did not actually occur, then by talking about it as if it did occur Jesus and his apostles were being less than truthful, and therefore sinned.  If that was the case, why are we Christians?

Again, Jesus on several occasions referred to the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah during the days of Lot as illustrations of lessons or warnings he wanted to give to cities or people he or his apostles were teaching (Matt. 10:14-15; 11:23-24; Luke 10:10-12; 17:22-32; cf. Gen. 19:1-29).  Paul, Peter, Jude, and John also referred to Sodom to illustrate warnings God gave to Christians (Rom. 9:27-29; 2 Pet. 2:1-10; Jude 6-7; Rev. 11:7-8).  Again, notice that they talked about what happened to Lot and Sodom as if it was an actual historical event.  If in fact it wasn’t, then we’ve put our faith in liars and our religion is meaningless.

While teaching about divorce, our Lord quoted Genesis twice (1:27; 2:24), specifically referring to the marriage of Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-8).  By talking about Adam and Eve as if they were historical characters, Jesus himself confirmed their historicity.  The Holy Spirit-inspired Paul would later affirm this by referring to Adam as “the first man” (1 Cor. 15:45), also doing so as if he were referring to a historical figure.  Therefore, to call Adam and Eve mythological would be to imply that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Paul were at best mistaken and at worst liars.  And since the message of all three ultimately originated with God the Father (John 12:49-50; 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21), to say that Adam and Eve were not real or were not the first human beings would be to call God the Father either mistaken or untruthful as well.  While one would expect this from a militant atheist, the Christian who would do so is either ignorant of the Scriptures or rebelliously blasphemous, and in either case has exposed a serious flaw in his faith.

Furthermore, by stating in Matthew’s account, “Have you not read that he (God) who created them (Adam and Eve) from the beginning made them male and female,” and in Mark’s account, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them (Adam and Eve) male and female,” Jesus is placing Adam and Eve at the very beginning of the existence of this world.  The Genesis record does the same by stating that Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day along with the land-dwelling animals (Gen. 1:24-31).  Christians who state that the days in Genesis were in reality symbolic of millions of years each in their attempts to make the biblical account coincide with the flawed and unproven theories of Darwinistic evolution have Adam and Eve coming onto the scene millions of years after “the beginning.”  By doing so, they are disagreeing with their Lord and Savior who said the opposite.  If they choose to persist in doing so, even after “receiving the knowledge of the truth” (Heb. 10:26-31), they make their Christianity meaningless and put their soul in eternal peril.

I am continually amazed that some can apparently believe that God raised a Man from the dead after giving this same Man and his followers the ability to perform many miraculous signs which defy the laws of science…all while finding it hard to believe that God could also create the world, animals, and man in six literal days, and later decide to destroy that entire world with water and several cities with fire and sulfur.  I am even more amazed that these same folks proclaim to put their faith in this Man as their Lord and Savior…all while basically stating or implying that he, his followers, the Spirit who inspired them, and God the Father himself are wrong about their testimony as to the beginnings of our race.

Yet, perhaps we should not be amazed at this, because the same God who told us about the beginning of the world in Genesis also told us that false teachers would come, giving preference to empty human theories and philosophies over doctrine, and that many naive brethren who lack knowledge themselves would follow after them (Hos. 4:6; Matt. 7:15-27; Acts 20:28-32; Rom. 16:17-18; Gal. 1:6-10; Eph. 4:11-14; Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 1:3-7; 4:1-2; 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:1-5).

You can’t confess Christ while denying his Word, but that’s what you do when you do not take Genesis for what it says. May we all choose to have faith which trusts in our God over men! —Jon

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

What Abraham Has Taught Me – Michael Grooms

Editor’s Note:  Brother Grooms recently made a sermon in which he expounded upon the points made in this article.  He preached it at the Boiling Springs Church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC, on February 21, 2016.  We encourage you to listen to his lesson here.

By faith, Abraham obeyed…” (Heb. 11:8a). Thus begins the entry into the “Hall of Faith” found in Hebrews 11 concerning this great patriarch. To be eulogized in such manner would be a great honor; for such a eulogy would indicate a life of faithfulness to God. If one is to hope to be remembered in such a fashion as was Abraham, it would behoove one to heed the lessons learned from Abraham’s life. The scope of these lessons would far surpass the limited space available in this article, so it will suffice to reflect upon four events which tested the faith of Abraham and apply the lessons taught in his example.

Abraham stood the test of separation. He was called by God to leave home and go to an unknown place. Hebrews 11:8 tells us that “he went out, not knowing where he was going.” Though his destination was uncertain, his trust in the One who would guide him was not. He left that which was dear to him. He traded comfort for hardship, to an end that was unknown to him. He left home, and many of the relationships that went with it (Gen. 12:1). The child of God must also face the test of separation. For some, to obey God means to be cut off from family. For others, it may mean the loss of a job. For many, it will mean separation from friends. For all, it means separation from the sinfulness of the word. Moses chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, rather than the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). God has commanded His people, “Come out from among them, and be separate” (2 Cor. 6:17). Separation is often difficult. It requires self-denial. It may require of one a loss of things or relationships that are cherished. Abraham left home with an end in mind. He did not know where that end was, but He knew that God had promised, and God is faithful. God has promised that He will never leave nor forsake the faithful. He has promised to take us home.

Abraham withstood the temptation of power. In the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, the account is given of a great battle which ensued at the Valley of Siddim. Four kings with their armies defeated five kings, which included the armies of Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot, who dwelled in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah, was taken captive. When Abraham learned of Lot’s capture, he gathered his 318 trained servants and pursued the five kings. He defeated the kings, delivered Lot and the other captives, and recovered the goods that had been stolen from Sodom and Gomorrah. Upon his return, he was met by Melchizedek, who was king of Salem and a priest of God. In his blessing, Melchizedek pronounced two great truths: God is the possessor of Heaven and Earth, and it was God who had delivered Abraham’s enemies into his hand (Gen. 14:18-20). Was it mere coincidence that Abraham would be reminded of these two truths just before he would be offered wealth and power from the King of a wicked people? The king of Sodom asked of Abraham that he only give him back the people who had been taken captive, and offered Abraham all the spoils that had been taken. Gen. 14:11 states that this was all the goods of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all their provisions. This must have been an immense amount of wealth! Abraham refused, repeating in his reply that which Melchizedek had stated, that God is the possessor of Heaven and earth. Abraham had vowed to God that he would not take anything from the king of Sodom. He refused on the basis that the King of Sodom would have no claim to Abraham’s power or wealth. Abraham resisted receiving wealth and power from an evil king, because he belonged to God. From this event, the child of God is reminded that we belong to God. The world may allure and offer wealth and power, but God alone can give eternal life. When tempted by the allurement of the world, the child of God must remember who he or she is. We belong to God. Paul warns of the dangers of such allurement in 1 Timothy 6:6-12. He warns that such greed brings destruction, and eternal damnation (perdition). The child of God is warned to flee these things and lay hold on eternal life. There will be many times that the world will offer that which is appealing. At such times, look to Abraham’s example and choose rather to serve God and trust in His power.

Abraham proved faithful in the test of delay. In an age of instant gratification, the Christian would do well to learn a lesson from Abraham’s faith in delayed fulfillment. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, could not bear children. This meant that Abraham had no heir. This within itself was considered a calamity in the ancient world. To not have an heir meant that the generational inheritance pattern was broken, and there was no son to care for the couple in their older years. This is why Abraham was so intent on having an heir that he considered making his servant Eliezer his heir (Gen. 15:2). After God told him that Eliezer would not be his heir, but one who would come from his own body, Abraham took Sarah’s maid, Hagar, as his wife and bore Ishmael through her (Gen. 16:3). He was eighty-six years old at this time. For thirteen years Abraham believed that Ishmael would be his heir, but God appeared to him when he was ninety-nine years old and once more told him that he would have an heir, but it would be a child born to him through Sarah. Sarah later laughed at the idea that she could bear a child in her old age (Gen. 18:12). These events show just how real the struggle was for Abraham and Sarah. Abraham believed God, but he could not understand how God would fulfill His promise. This was a major challenge to his faith. How many people would have given up on God because He does not work according to human time limits? Many people do. Dear reader, trust God. His answer to your prayers may not come as soon as you would like. The answer may not be that which your heart desires. His answer is always the best, and it comes at the very best time…His. Abraham had to wait for twenty-five years from the time God first promised he would have descendants until the time that God gave him Isaac, his true heir through Sarah. He was one hundred years old when Isaac was born. Through it all, he trusted God. Yes, he struggled. Yes, he tried to help God along. Yes, his humanity showed in his mistakes. Through it all, he never lost faith.

All of the previous tests of Abraham’s faith pale in comparison with the test found in Genesis 22. The son of his old age, Isaac, was the hope that Abraham had longed for all of his life. He was the fulfillment of God’s promise that he would have an heir. Through Isaac, God had promised to make of Abraham a great nation. Now, after all of this, God told Abraham to do something that would make the strongest man break down into a mass of quivering flesh. He commands Abraham to take Isaac to the land of Moriah and offer him as a burnt offering. As they ascended the mountain to make the sacrifice, Isaac bore upon his back the wood which, unbeknownst to him, is marked for his death. Abraham carried the fire for the sacrifice, and the knife with which he intended to kill his son. How every step must have been a burden for this father! How that blade must have burned into his flesh! How his heart must have groaned in despair as he watched his son by his side! He loved his son, but he loved God more. When Isaac asked of him, “Where is a lamb for a burnt offering?” he replied in faith, “God will provide.” Hebrews 11:19 reveals that Abraham believed that God was able to raise Isaac from the dead. He was willing to offer his son, but his faith in God’s promise was so strong that he counted on God to raise him from the dead. In the end, God delivered Abraham from offering his son. It was not God’s intention for Abraham to kill his son. It was His intention to test his faith and prove that he was worthy. After all, this was the man who would father a nation, through which God would one day send His own Son to be a sacrifice for the sins of the world (John 3:16). Sometimes God’s will conflicts with ours. Sometimes it requires sacrifice of us. When all is said and done, will you be faithful?

gospelpreacher@charter.net

 

What Noah Has Taught Me – Ken Thomas

The great flood has been of great interest in the world. In ancient civilizations the “flood story” became the subject of myth and legend. There are some that deny the historicity of the flood or diminish it to localized events, while others believe that discoveries in archaeology and geology have verified flood layers around the world and evidence of a cataclysmic event that drastically changed the habitation of mankind. The Bible clearly describes the flood as an act of destruction by the Creator of heaven and earth, and the continued existence of humanity as the result of God’s favor to the family of Noah.

Noah and the ark have been favored subjects of Bible classes for little children. I recently met a craftsman who has made a business of his woodworking and design skills, making large “Noah’s Ark” play sets. He told me that several religious people who live near him do not allow their children to “play” on Sundays unless their toys are “Sunday toys” based on Bible stories. The Internet is filled with lists of “things I learned from Noah,” but the purpose of this article is not to offer whimsical and humorous statements such as “Noah should have swatted those flies.” It is to look at key thoughts from the example of Noah that might help us live lives that will find favor with God and also be lights to the world.

Only two men in scripture are noted as having walked with God. Enoch, father of Methuselah, walked with God for 300 years following the birth of his son, fathering other children also. He was taken by God, without death, from the earth (Gen. 5:22-24; Heb. 11:5). Methuselah’s son Lamech was the father of Noah, who also “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9).

Noah did more than to build an ark. Before he was given that responsibility and privilege, he was living a life that pleased God. He was a striking contrast to the rest of the people in the world. Noah found grace (favor) in the eyes of the Lord in the same world that had surrounded him with violence and unimaginable wickedness (Gen. 6:8).

The grief of God and the regret of His creating the world had made Him determine to destroy the world. The God who had declared His creation as “good” and the creation of man “very good” had seen good people corrupted by their evil companions. Word and deed, even every thought of man, was only evil . . . all the time. Yet, “Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.” (Gen. 6:9) “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).

The hope of the salvation of our own souls is based on the grace (favor) of God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him (Heb. 11:6). Believing that God exists and rewards the diligent seeker is illustrated for us by the example of Noah. Noah had never seen a flood brought on by constant rain and waters from beneath the earth’s surface; I am not sure he had even seen rain, since such is not mentioned in scripture from the passage that tells us that God watered the ground with a mist from the earth (Gen. 2:5-6).

Still, Noah believed God! He moved with fear, which would also be defined as proper caution and reverence for God. He prepared the ark as God had instructed. His faith in God moved him to righteous obedience. His righteousness is even more obvious when contrasted with the ungodly world around him. He became the heir of righteousness (Heb. 11:7), not only a practitioner and preacher of righteousness (2 Pet. 2:5). Eight souls were saved by water, which perhaps refers to being saved from increasing violence of the wicked against the righteous. Yet this happened only after long years of preparation and toil to build such a massive lifeboat and stock it with food to save the lives of the humans and the living creatures which would enter.

The details of the flood, the ark dimensions and structural details, and the loading and the landing are so well known as to be unnecessary for this article. However, the character of Noah is worthy of examination in more detail than is usual. Noah is listed with Job and Daniel as righteous men who could not deliver even a son or daughter by their own righteousness, and certainly not the nation of Israel even if they had been in it (Ezek. 14:14-20). What a triad of righteous men!

The ground had been cursed by God to require toil and sweat of man to bring forth its fruit. This must have been a real barrier to productivity. Yet there was hope for better days ahead, for the name Noah suggests “comfort.” Lamech “called his name Noah, saying, This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Gen. 5:29). Evil had multiplied, and God had made his decision to destroy all flesh. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. . . Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God” (Gen. 6:8-9).

Detailed instructions were given for construction of the ark, and for gathering food for man and beast. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he. And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation” (Gen. 6:22-7:1).

Noah was instructed to take in the animals, numbering them based on whether they were clean or unclean. “And Noah did according unto all that the Lord commanded him”…“There went in two and two unto Noah into the ark, the male and the female, as God had commanded Noah”…“And they that went in, went in male and female of all flesh, as God had commanded him: and the Lord shut him in” (Gen 7:5, 9, 16 ).

Even the departure from the ark was an act of obedience to the instruction of God (Gen. 8:15-19). Noah, the man who had been chosen to preserve the existence of mankind because of his righteousness, then made a burnt sacrifice from every clean beast and fowl upon an altar. In response to the sacrifice, God resolved never to curse the ground again nor to smite all living things. He also pronounced a continuation of seasons and time-markers for the duration of the earth (vs. 20-22). God now gave man permission to eat meat as well as the “green herb,” but not blood (Gen. 9:2-4).   He also commanded a penalty of blood for the shedding of mankind’s blood (vs. 5-6). The reproductive process of man was to begin again (vs. 1, 7), and man was given a covenant of promise, symbolized by the bow in the cloud, that universal destruction of the world by water would not occur again (vs. 8-17).

Hundreds of years later, a descendant of Noah according to the flesh would be born into the world (Luke 3:36). This One, like Noah, would be the source of salvation for the human race. However, He would not come to save us from a flood of water, but from the sin that floods the world. His sacrifice has been made, and He will return. His return will be like the flood of Noah in that men, though warned, will be continuing life as usual, and be taken away as if they had no warning (Lk.17:26-27; Mt. 24:37-39). Though some will scoff and declare He is not going to return, Peter warned that while God’s longsuffering is delaying the fiery dissolution of this world at the return of Christ, His coming is as sure as the flood (2 Pet. 3:3-14). In Noah’s day, it was the longsuffering of God which delayed the flood while the ark was being prepared . Others in addition to the eight could have been saved, but they did not heed the preaching of Noah (1 Pet 3:20-21; 2 Pet. 2:5).

I would appeal to the reader to make a personal list of things you have learned from Noah, as well as reading what others have said and written. Here are some items that stand out to me:

  • You never get too old to provide a haven for your children if they have no other place to go. (Noah was 600 when the flood came.)
  • If God tells us to do something, it is really smart to do it. “Thus Noah did; according to all that God had commanded him, so he did” (Gen. 6:22).
  • Walking with God involves more than just an occasional stroll.
  • When you come through a crisis safely, don’t let your guard down. Stay sober (Gen. 9:20-27).
  • When the rains come down and the floods come up, look forward to the rainbow when the storm is over.
  • It takes time to prepare for some crises of life, but thank God for the time if you have warning.
  • God warned Noah of things he had never before seen, but he prepared anyway. Good move.
  • Keep doing the will of God, even when the neighbors scoff and your warnings are ignored.
  • Just because everyone is thinking evil continually doesn’t give you an excuse to do likewise.
  • No matter how long you live, it is appointed for man to die. “And all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years: and he died” (Gen. 9:27).
  • Isaiah believed in the Noah story. “For this is as the waters of Noah unto me: for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee” (Is. 54:9).
  • Righteousness cannot be borrowed from others for ourselves. “Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord God…Though Noah, Daniel, and Job were in it, as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness” (Ezek. 14:14, 20).
  • The coming of the Son of Man is sure, just like the flood. “And as it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of Man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-27; cf. Matt. 24:37-39).
  • If you live right it will please God, but it will make others look bad. That’s okay. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).
  • As the water cleansed the world and separated Noah’s family from it, my sins are cleansed by Christ’s blood when I am baptized. Thank God for His longsuffering to lost mankind! “…the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God” (1 Pet. 3:20-22). Give praise “unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood” (Rev. 1:5).
  • The destruction of the earth will be by fire rather than water next time (2 Pet. 3:5-7). Since this will certainly happen, let us heed the inspired warning of Peter: “Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever. Amen” (2 Pet. 3:17-18).

ken@kennethlorin.com