Monthly Archives: June 2014

Darkness Which May Be Felt

Have you ever been to Mammoth Cave? Have you been to the large “room” when they turn off the lights? The darkness is so thick you cannot see your own hand in front of your face, you can’t see the person sitting next to you and you cannot even see a pinpoint of light anywhere. It really does give you a feeling of total helplessness because you would be completely lost without some source of light. It is not that your eyes stop working, it’s just that there is no light to reflect off of any object there for your eyes to receive.

The world must have been something like that before God created this world’s light (Gen. 1:3). At that time, before God spoke those powerful words, “Let there be light,” the world was without form and it was void and complete darkness engulfed the created cosmos (Gen. 1:2). But God could not leave the world that way because He is light and in Him is no darkness at all (I John 1:5). Thus, He brought light into the world, even before there were stars (Gen. 1:14-19).

Egypt knew this kind of darkness. God had smitten Egypt with plague after plague because Pharaoh hardened his heart against the Lord, not letting the children of Israel go worship Jehovah. Just before the final plague and the blackest night in Egyptian history–the death of the Egyptian first born–God sent a darkness upon the land that was palpable, it was a darkness over the land of Egypt that could even be felt (Ex. 10:21). It was so dark that they could not even see one another (much like the Mammoth Cave experience) and so they did not dare move from their place for three days (Ex. 10:23). This was a removal of God’s light from their presence. But the children of Israel had light in all their dwellings (Ex. 10:23).

When men live their lives in sin, they are in a darkness which may be felt. If the eye of a man is evil, the whole body is full of darkness, and how great is that darkness (Matt. 6:23)! Those that walk in darkness have no direction in life for they cannot know where they are going (John 12:35). The way of the wicked is darkness (Prov. 4:19). The works of darkness are unfruitful (Eph. 5:11) and lead to a rejection of the God of Light (Rom. 1:21) and alienation from Him (Eph. 4:18). Unfortunately, we often love darkness rather than light (John 3:19).

But, the “people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). While the world lay in darkness, the darkness and blackness of sin, God once again said “Let there be Light,” and there was, indeed, true Light. Jesus said “I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12). He has delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son, a kingdom of marvelous light (Col. 1:13; I Pet. 2:9). “For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (II Cor. 4:6).

So let your eyes be opened, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of satan unto God, that you may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Christ (Acts 26:18). Walk as children of Light (Eph. 5:8)! Put on the armor of Light (Rom. 13:12)! Have no communion with darkness (II Cor. 6:14). Walk in the Light even as He is in the Light (I John 1:7)!

If we do not, then shall the king say to His servants, “Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13). “Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14).

Eric L. Padgett

There Arose Another Generation

“And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which He had done for Israel” (Judges 2:10).

Between January 8 through February 5, 2014, the Barna Group conducted a telephone and online State of the Bible Survey of 2,034 adults in the continental United States regarding the views of Americans on such subjects as perceptions of the Bible, Bible penetration, Bible engagement, Bible literacy, moral decline and social impact and giving to nonprofit organizations. This study was commissioned by the American Bible Society. There was some encouraging news as well as some discouraging news coming from this study.

The one consolation is that the Bible is still highly regarded in America. “When asked to name the books that come to mind when they consider sacred literature or holy books, Americans overwhelmingly name the Bible (79%). This proportion is more than seven times the popularity of the next most frequently mentioned holy book, the Koran (12%).” However, over the last four years, 7% fewer Americans have regarded the Bible as sacred and 4% more Americans regarded the Koran as sacred.

What the study reveals, however, is that those who are identified as “Millennials” (those who are aged 18-29 according to this study) are the ones who are driving this decline in respect for the Bible. While 50% of all Americans believe the Bible has too little influence on society, only 30% of Millennials hold this view. Only 16% of all Americans believe the Bible has too much influence. Furthermore, while 88% of American households own a Bible, this number is down from 92% in 1993. While the number of Bibles owned per household is 4.7–and this is up slightly from 4 years ago–only 15% say they read the Bible daily. Fifty-three percent read the Bible only 3 to 4 times a year. Again, only 40% of Millennials read the Bible while 66% of those who are 68 years and older read the Bible.

Another disturbing trend is that the readership of the venerated King James Version has decreased from 45% in 2011 to 34% in 2014. But the good news is the Kings James Version is still the preferred Bible translation in America. “Far fewer say they prefer the New International Version (13%) or the New King James Version (10%). The English Standard version is read by 6% of Bible readers, while the New Living Translation is read by 4%. All other translations were mentioned by 3% or fewer Bible readers.” But, again, it is the Millennials who prefer the Kings James Version less than other age groups.

According to another study by Pew Research, 68% of Millennials support “same-sex marriage.” “Millennials are easily the most godless generation of Americans, with 29 percent saying they are not affiliated with any religion and 11 percent saying they do not believe in any god at all, as compared to Gen Xers who are 6 percent atheist. As faith goes, only 58 percent of Millennials are sure of their beliefs, compared to 69 pecent of Gen Xers.” (“Millenials Most Godless and Politically Independent  Generation“)

What these studies reveal is that it is imperative that we start working on instilling a different attitude toward the word of God in our young people. One generation is all it takes for complete apostasy to occur. The only way to account for the current decline in the younger generation is that, unfortunately, parents are no longer rearing their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Parents are no longer teaching diligently unto their children the words that the Lord has spoken (Deut. 6:5,6). Neither are congregations preaching the word of God and emphasizing doctrinal soundness from the pulpit or the Bible classes but are instead teaching a “be happy, don’t worry” philosophy. Press too much doctrine and you are accused of being divisive.

I am sorry to say this, but I believe the church of the Lord in America is in bad shape. (America, itself, is in bad shape and no one can seem to stop the decline.) The traditional, biblical answers to traditional criticisms of the Word of God have been forgotten or, even worse, discarded by many. Whereas the Lord’s church used to be the place to go for Bible answers, too few today in the Lord’s church know the Bible well enough to provide those answers.

We must renew our commitment to studying and preaching and living the Word of God. We must teach them diligently to our own children with a renewed sense of urgency lest they forget the works He has done for Israel.

Eric L. Padgett

As a Father Doth His Children

As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children (I Thes. 2:11)

What makes a good father? It is easy for a man to bring a child into the world but it takes special effort to be good father. What the world expects of a father has changed over the years. One website observed that in 1900, if a father put a roof over his family’s head, he was a success. Today, it takes a roof, deck, pool, and a 4-car garage. And that’s just the vacation home. In 1900, fathers and sons would have heart-to-heart conversations while fishing in a stream. Today, fathers pluck the headphones off their sons’ ears and shout, “When do you have a minute?” In 1900, fathers passed on clothing to their sons. Today, kids wouldn’t be caught dead in dad’s clothes. While the world’s conception of a good father has changed, God’s has not!

According to Paul’s statement, a good father “exhorts” his children. The word “exhort” here is translated from the Greek word parakaleo and it means to call near, i.e. invite, invoke. It is sometimes translated “beseech” (I Pet. 2:11) and sometimes “desire” (Acts 8:31), among other words. The idea it carries in this context seems to be a strong urging of these brethren to greater faithfulness.

A good father will likewise urge his children and implore them as he rears them. He can do this by first of all being a good example himself. Paul urged Christians to “be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1). Luke gave us a record of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach (Acts 1:1). Note that our Lord first lived as He wanted us to live and then taught us to do so. Very few are willing to follow those who “say and do not,” binding heavy burdens on others that they, themselves would not lift one finger to do (Matt. 23:3,4). It is especially important that fathers live a good example for their children to follow. Children are hungry to learn at a very early and impressionable age and will follow the example of the father willingly and instinctively if offered it.

Because of this intrinsic desire to learn, a good father will also seek out opportunities to teach his children the important lessons in life. The Lord said of Abraham, “For I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the Lord, to do justice and judgment; that the Lord may bring upon Abraham that which he hath spoken of him (Gen. 18:19). Abraham taught his son Isaac that obedience to God, the worship of God and trusting in God was very important, even more important than life itself (Gen. 22:1-19). A good father should always be cognizant that he is his children’s best and most important teacher (Deut. 6:1-9).

A good father also “comforts” his children. The word used here means to encourage or console. One of the great roles that a parent must fill in the life of his children is that of comforting them when things go wrong and encourage them during difficult times. An important ingredient in this task requires the father to listen carefully to his child. So many times we think we know what may be the problem, but we may not. In fact, many times we are completely wrong. This is a problem not only between parents and children but also between adults as well. So often we don’t listen to one another or we instead hear what we want to hear. In another context James said we should be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath (James 1:19). This is just as important in our approach to our children and one another as it is in our approach to God. It is only when the problem is truly understood that a father can then encourage and comfort.

A good father will also provide for the needs of his child. Paul stated the father needs to lay up for the children (II Cor. 12:14). Those who do not do so, Paul says, have denied the faith and are worse than infidels (I Tim. 5:8). One of the greatest needs children have is to know that they are loved. God created people to be loved and things to be used. But so often today we love things and use people. Love your children! It is the greatest gift you could give your child. Tell them you love them and let them know by the way you treat them. If your children know you love them then it makes it much easier to apply the next quality.

Finally, Paul says good fathers “charge” their children. This is a powerful word even though it is used only three times in the New Testament. The first time it is used, it is used of the scourging of Jesus (John 19:1). The last time it is used it is used of God scourging “every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). Obviously, no father should scourge his children in the sense in which Jesus was, but good fathers should visit proper discipline upon their children at appropriate times. Too many parents today are more afraid of alienating their children if they discipline them than they are of allowing their children to go astray. They seek to be more of a friend than a father. The wise man said it best: “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell” (Prov. 23:13,14).

The best example we have of a good father is, of course, God. The more earthly fathers are like the heavenly Father, the better fathers they’ll be.

Eric L. Padgett

The Perfect Tool for Conversion!

How many Christians seek for just the right program, just the right method of reaching the lost? How many discussions have taken place in business meetings to find out why the congregation is not growing or why members are leaving? How many congregations now engage in “outreach” programs so that they can “reach” the “unchurched” in the community? Let me introduce you to the perfect tool and the best program for converting the lost. Interested? Read on.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul (Psalm 19:7).

Though some want to deny it, the Bible clearly teaches that God’s will is a law. A law is a binding or enforceable rule by some authority. God’s will is legally, morally, ethically, and spiritually binding in every way on all accountable human beings (Rev. 20:11,12). The Old Testament was a law (e.g., I Kings 2:3) that was binding upon the children of Israel alone (Ex. 34:27). The New Covenant is also a law (Gal. 6:2), but it is binding upon everyone (Matt. 28:18-20). Since God is the authority behind this law and it is universal, no man will be able to escape the accountability it brings.

The New Testament is not a “love letter” as some like to describe it (though love is central to it’s message –John 3:16), but it is a pattern to be followed. It contains laws to be obeyed, rules to be followed, precepts to be mastered. Paul said “If any man teach otherwise…withdraw thyself” (I Tim. 6:3-5). He further said, “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us” (II Thes. 3:6). We will be judged by the things written in God’s word (John 12:48). These passages and many, many others clearly demonstrate that the New Covenant is a pattern to be followed, a law to be obeyed.

God’s law is also perfect. We human beings are fallible and the laws we make are also fallible. The Constitution of the United States is as great a document as any man could ever hope to produce, but it is fallible. The founders recognized this when they made provision in the law to amend it over time if necessary. But God’s word is perfect. The word here translated “perfect” is variously translated as “without blemish,” “upright,” “whole” and “complete.” Because it is without spot and without blemish, it is pure: “The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times” (Psalm 12:6). And it is true (John 17:17). God’s word doesn’t ever need amending or changing because it is perfect truth.

It is this aspect, perfect truth, that gives it it’s power to convert. If the pure word of God is not taught, then the soul cannot be saved (Rom. 10:13-15)! I simply cannot understand those who want to water down the word of God in order to attract people who would otherwise be offended by the truth. If you water it down and change it, then it cannot save because it ceases to be the perfect truth of God! I do not understand the need by many to offer something in addition to the simple truth of the Gospel of Christ–things like games, entertainment, food, plays, etc.,–in order to attract people to God.

The best way to grow any kind of plant is not to set up entertainment, not to put on plays, not to draw other plants with fun and games, but to plant the seed of the plant you want to grow. In my small garden there is growing lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and corn. The way I was able to get them to grow was to plant lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and corn seed. Spiritually, the seed is the word of God (Luke 8:11). If we want to grow Christians, we will plant the law of the Lord because it is perfect, converting the soul.

The Truth and the Truth alone has the power to save the soul, but lies have the power to damn it eternally. But many would rather believe a comforting lie than know the saving truth. Watering down the word of God is like dirtying the mirror you look into each morning. If you dirty the mirror, then you cannot know if you need to wash or not, but you will not feel bad about the way you look. That, unfortunately, is the condition of many souls today because too many want to dilute the truth. Too many want to dull the sword of the Spirit so that it cannot cut as deep.

No soul will ever be saved by any doctrine originated in the heart or head of any man. No soul will ever be saved by any program devised by any man or group of men. No soul was ever or will ever be saved by games, entertainment or secular enticements. It is only the perfect truth of God, the Law of the Lord, that converts the soul. Why change it?

Eric L. Padgett