In Colossians 3:8 Paul identified blasphemy as one of the sinful behaviors that Christians are to “put off.” It is identified in a list that included anger, wrath, malice, and filthy language. These latter behaviors are familiar to us, but blasphemy is a behavior that is somewhat foreign to our twenty-first century culture since the term is rarely used. So, what is blasphemy and how might we commit it?
Detours are frustrating. Detours are stressful. Detours are burdensome. When you are traveling in unfamiliar or unfrequented territory and you come across a detour it feels like a tremendous setback. It interrupts your direction, it interrupts your schedule, and, if you’re like me, it interrupts your blood pressure. But detours are often necessary. For example, detours are utilized when dangerous conditions are present. You may be forced to detour because a bridge is washed away or debris is obstructing the roadway. Detours are utilized when improvements are underway. You may be forced to detour because construction crews are working to repair or build better transportation systems. Detours may interfere with your life but they typically exist for a reason.
What is hope? The way the world tends to use the word “hope,” it comes across as if it is just a “wish” or a “desire,” something you want but lack certainty of whether or not it will come to fruition.
For example, a student might say, “I hope that I pass my Calculus class.” What that student is really saying is that he wants to receive a passing grade, but he is not certain that he did well enough to achieve a passing grade. Or, a child, like Micah, might say, “I hope that I get a Minnie Mouse car for Christmas.” What that child is really saying is that she wants to receive a $300 miniature, drivable car as a gift at Christmas, but she is not certain that Santa will fulfill her request.
All such hope-oriented statements demonstrate a fear that the final outcome may not match the desired outcome. As a result, such statements reveal that the world’s definition of hope lacks certainty and security.
On July 4, 1776 the thirteen American colonies formally announced their independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain when the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. That was the last day that the United States of America was under the rule of a king. As a result, the concept of a “kingdom” is lost on our society because most of us do not know what is like to serve a king or live under a monarchial reign.
There are wonderful blessings that come from living under a democratic government but one of the unfortunate consequences is a diminished appreciation for the concept of a kingdom. And the only reason this is worth noting is because kingdom terminology permeated the teaching of Jesus. No fewer than twelve of His parables were used to describe the “kingdom.” No fewer than 87 verses among the four Gospels quote Him as using the term “kingdom.” In fact, when Jesus began His preaching ministry, He proclaimed, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17; cf. 4:23; 9:35; Mark 1:15 Luke 4:43; 8:1), and then He commissioned His disciples to proclaim this same message (Luke 9:2, 60).
Early last week, news surfaced of the discovery of sunken treasure off the coast of the South American country of Columbia. It is believed that the wreckage is that of the Spanish galleon ship, the San Jose, which was carrying 600 passengers and eleven million dollars in gold that disappeared in 1708. For over 300 years the search has been on to find the treasure that many believe now to be worth between four and seventeen billion dollars in gold coins and jewelry. If true, this would be one of the greatest recoveries of sunken treasures in all of history. Ownership of the contents of the find is being highly contested by the Columbian government, the salvage company, the Spanish, and several other “interested” parties.
Over the last few weeks it has been my pleasure to spend more time with some of my grandchildren. They love their granddaddy! And, you better bet he loves those two little boys very much, too. Within reason, there is not a thing in the world I would want to deny them, especially if it is sweet and yummie. One of the things I have been reminded of late has been how much children rely on adults. Those little guys are as sweet as they can be, but they can do very little for themselves. They are learning to pick up their toys, and to be nice to each other, but they depend so much on their mom and dad for so much.
What does God look like? Imagine being able to look into the eyes of the Most High God! A number of years ago while working as a missionary in New Zealand, the little church our family was working with were meeting in a school hall. I received a call one Friday from the school saying that over the weekend the floors in the hall were going to be redone. We were told we could use the hall, but everyone had to take their shoes off if they had hard soles; otherwise, they could keep them on when we gathered Sunday morning. So, I reached out to all the members and made them aware of the plan. It just so happened that I had a pair of dress shoes that were soft soled, and I wore them that morning. As I was standing near the door to remind those who may have forgotten, one family arrived and began removing their shoes at the door. The mother told her little five-year-old boy to take his shoes off, but he did not want to do it. A quarrel between them ensued. It was then I heard the boy make what he thought was the perfect argument. He looked at me, pointed to my shoes and said, “Well, god doesn’t have to take his shoes off!” Hmmm!
What does entering the military, getting a loan, becoming an American president, going to school, buying new clothes, graduating from high school, flying to Argentina, checking out a book at the library, getting a prescription filled at the pharmacy, enjoying a clean house, grocery shopping, and becoming a Christian have in common with one another? Yes, they are all things people do; but even more, they represent things that in order to be experienced must meet certain requirements. The fact is, everything we do in life requires something. Even moving a muscle requires that the brain engages the muscle to move. And, even the brain requires certain things to function. Life and everything in it is filled with requirements.
One of my earliest and continuous memories is watching my parents do things. It seemed as if my mom was so busy with all she did for my brothers and me. She fixed our breakfast, washed our clothes and kept us dressed with them. She sorted out our disagreements, made our school lunches, and seemed to be able to stay on top of everything. As I recollect, my dad was gone more, but I always knew when he was away that he was working. I recall thinking that it was a shamed he could not be with us kids while we are at play. Many were the times I remember him sitting on the edge of the couch working with a shoebox in his hands. He seemed to always be looking at a checkbook. I bet your dad did some of that too! When I was a teenager, there were some things that scared me about being grown up. The idea of going through an airport on my own was scary. The idea of filling out government forms to file income tax returns was scary too. Come to think of it, filling those forms out is still a bit scary! It just seemed as a kid that my dad and mom really had it together, maybe, because it made me somewhat fearful of the day when I would be called upon to do the same.
Christian education has certainly come a long way. Through the last few generations, the investment toward a deeper knowledge of the Scriptures have come from admonitions from the pulpit, bulletin articles, and certainly our Sunday and Wednesday Bible School programs.
Some have chosen to commit to attending Christian Colleges, spending thousands of dollars in order to advance their knowledge of the Scriptures. Several years ago, the elders here introduced a way that education could be more easily accessed through the Georgia School of Preaching and Biblical Studies program. This has been a highly successful approach to deeper Bible study and understanding. It has been my pleasure to teach some of these classes. Others, like Gene Cloer, Jim Whitmire, Lyle Owens, Mike Gifford, Billy Simmons, and perhaps others have taken time out of their personal lives to teach these classes. The leadership of this congregation believe strongly in this work, and plan to continue these classes. Incidentally, Billy Simmons is now scheduled to start a course on World Religions beginning the 21st of September. All should plan to attend this class. Go to bufordcoc.com now to register.