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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Did Christ build only one church?

The way the economy is today, people are always looking for the best
bargain. We look for discounts, sales, freebees, and products at the best
value. We look for deals on clothes, groceries, furniture, and just about
everything else. It isn't surprising then for people to look for
Christianity at a bargain as well.

What do we mean by "bargain Christianity"? Think of it this way, every
denomination claims to be able to show how to get to heaven, but nearly
every one of them has a different way to get there. As a result, many people
end up settling for the brand of Christianity that requires the least amount
of effort to get to heaven and seems to fits them the best.

Let's say there are two form of Christianity we are considering. One follows
Scripture very closely and puts incredible effort into following every
command found in the New Testament. People following this form will strive
their entire lives to sin less, to be closer with God, and could even miss
the heavenly reward if not followed. The other form simply asks that we have
faith in Jesus and make him our personal savior, thereby saving us and
making it impossible to ever fall away from grace, no matter what we do.
People following this form can literally never be lost in sin ever again, no
matter how bad or sinful the rest of their lives are. If both of these
brands of Christianity were going to get you to heaven, which would you
choose? Obviously we would choose the second option because it's much easier
and seems to be a better bargain. The problem is, this doesn't fit with the
Christianity in Scripture (Galatians 5:4; Revelation 2:10; Matthew 7:21-23;
etc).

Even though denominations seem like a steal, they are actually gimmicks and
knockoffs of true Christianity. Scripture has always made it clear that
there is a very specific and limited way to reach heaven. Jesus said in the
singular tense, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to
the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). To make it even clearer, Jesus
talked about one, and only one, road that leads to life, and the other road
that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). The inspired apostle Paul
reinforced this idea by saying, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as
also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one
baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in
all" (Ephesians 4:4-6).

In reality, there is no such thing as "bargain Christianity." According to
Scripture, either we are a part of the one and only church found in
Scripture (Acts 2), or we are being deceived by Satan and those who are
"disguised as servants of righteousness" (2 Corinthians 11:14-15; 4:3-4;
Matthew 7:21-23). The only way to know the truth is to follow the Bible's
commands.

The Christianity God offers to all people could not come at any better price
as it is! There is only one true form of Christianity; all other brands are
gimmicks and knockoffs. Thankfully, Scripture gives very specific guidelines
for salvation, worship, and the organization of the church to make true
Christianity easier to identify.

Are you part of the one church found in Scripture? Would you like to know
more about the Christianity found in the Bible? Do you have questions? If
so, please let us know so we can study and find the truth together.

--Brett Petrillo

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Snakes In The Grass

We only have three days left to get in on the contest. The top prizes are
$1,500 and $1,000. But this is certainly one contest I'm going to go out of
my
way to avoid, even if the prizes were ten times that.

I'm speaking of the "2013 Python Challenge", an attempt by the Florida Fish
and
Wildlife Conservation Commission to get a handle on the exploding population
of
Burmese pythons in the Everglades. The Everglades, known as "the river of
grass", is not the native habitat of these large snakes. But since 1979
they
have been found there, and it is estimated that there are tens of thousands
that
now call south Florida home.

I've visited Everglades National Park, but didn't see any pythons. The
alligators we spotted on that trip had already convinced me not to do any
solo
hikes there. With the proliferation of these serpents, I'm more resolved
than
ever. The largest one found in Florida, according to a recent CNN article,
was
over 17 feet long and weighed 164 pounds. Talk about a snake in the grass!

The contest opened on January 12 and will end February 10. Only about 50
pythons have been bagged so far. Does that qualify as a dent in the overall
population of these creatures?

One reason many of us feel shivers whenever we merely think of snakes may be
due
to mankind's first encounter with a serpent. There is no record of this
serpent
biting Adam or Eve, but the lie he convinced them to believe was fatal.
Though
God had warned them not to eat the fruit on that one tree, the serpent
(Satan in
disguise) countered by saying, "You will not surely die" (Genesis 3:4).
Soon
after their transgression they were driven from the Garden of Eden and began
to
feel, for the first time, their mortality. What a loss they experienced,
all
due to the deceit of the serpent!

Many generations later the Israelites did suffer from bites from deadly
snakes.
As punishment for their unbelief and blasphemies, "the Lord sent fiery
serpents
among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel
died" (Numbers 21:6). Ironically, God also provided the antidote to the
deadly
venom of these snakes: A bronze serpent was cast and mounted on a pole.
Anyone
who had been bitten had only to look on this serpent to be healed.

Today the serpent of old (see Revelation 12:9) still slithers about, seeking
to
deceive and poison the souls of God's people. If only we would look with
eyes
of faith! We would see that many have been inflicted with his deadly venom.
Without help, they will perish eternally (Romans 6:23).

But help has again been provided. Hear what Jesus said: "And as Moses
lifted up
the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,
that
whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life" (John
3:14,15).
Looking to Jesus with faith in His power to heal is vital.

This means, however, heeding everything the Lord has said. Jesus
acknowledge
that the faith of some does not lead them far enough: "But why do you call
Me
'Lord, Lord,' and not do the things which I say?" (Luke 6:46). A devoted
and
submissive faith must be our objective.

There is a dangerous snake in the grass lurking nearby. But, thank God,
there
is also help for us!

Come to the light God offers! Study His word, the Bible. Worship Him in
spirit
and truth (John 4:24). Get in touch with us if you'd like to discuss these
ideas further.

Timothy D. Hall

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