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written by Elder Mike Hosey.
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Please Excuse my Dear Aunt Sally!

One of the first algebraic concepts I learned in school was called the Order of Operations. If you don’t know this concept, then you cannot do simple algebra. I was taught a simple memory device so that I would never forget the order of operations, and I still use that device to this day, some 40 years later. That device was “Please Excuse MDear Aunt Sally.” Today, students simply refer to it as PEMDAS. It stands for Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication, Division, Addition, and Subtraction. If you try to solve any mathematical equation without going through that order you will get the answer completely wrong. If you try to subtract before you add, or you try to multiply before dealing with the exponent values, or before solving the stuff inside the parenthesis, then you will end up with a mangle jangle mess of an answer. Your building won’t stand up. Your Investment projections will fail. And you won’t understand the statistical garbage with which a bad insurance salesman, or a fraudulent expert tries to persuade you.

You will find the order of operations in many forms and in many places in life. For instance, try getting a good job as a surgeon before getting a medical degree. If you do, it won’t be long before you’re talking to someone with a law degree. Sometimes, people engage in intimate behaviors with the opposite sex before a marriage commitment. Far too often, this disregard for the order of operations leads to a mangle jangle mess of a life with someone that they must learn to love instead of lust after. Or consider expecting a child to follow your written chore list before he or she has learned to read. It simply won’t work.

The most important element in all of the orders of operation is to put God first. When you put God first, the rest of your life falls into place. It saves you heartache, it gives you purpose, and it keeps you in right standing with the one who provides all good things. This concept is found throughout the bible. It’s implied in places like Deuteronomy 6:5 where we’re told to love God with everything, or in places like Romans 12:2, where Paul tells us to be transformed by putting the will of God as a prime measuring stick for life. Jesus puts it more directly in Matthew 6:25-33 when he instructs us to seek the Kingdom of God first, and God will make sure that our lesser needs are met. So take an inventory of your world, and see if you have been correctly applying the order of operations in all the equations that make up your life.

The Importance of Evangelism

Evangelism has a bad rap. In secular culture, it means a T.V. preacher stealing people’s money to grow a very unholy kingdom under the guise of holiness. To some in the political arena, it means conservative Republicans who want to beat their morality into a secular culture by force of law. To some in Church World, it means getting out of your comfort zone and having people think of you as weird because of you’re going to try to sell them some Jesus — or some Jaayzusss. But it is none of those things.

Okay, okay, okay . . . you might have to get out of your comfort zone a bit, but it isn’t selling Jesus.

An evangelist is simply a bringer of good tidings. That’s it. He or she is someone who delivers the good news. In regards to Christianity, the good news is that Jesus saves people from a whole host of uglies. Uglies like sin, hell, and worldly chains. He rescues marriages, and careers, and families.

Evangelism doesn’t mean persuading someone to believe that stuff. It doesn’t mean convincing someone that they’re wrong. It doesn’t mean showing them that you’re right. Those certainly can be part of the evangelism process, but they’re not necessary for it. All that is necessary is to share the good news. The best way to share that good news is to tell others what God has done for you. After that, the Holy Spirit does the rest.

And the rest that he does is an incredible amount. Benefits to evangelism are significant, numerous, and huge. It deepens our faith by putting us close to the action so that we can see the supernatural power of God as he rescues people from despair. It sharpens our knowledge so that if someone asks us a question we have a good answer. It causes us to work in familial concert with our fellow Christians so that we can encourage one another in the work that God has given us. And it does so much more than I can write in this short blog. But one of the biggest benefits is how it impacts your church, or your local faith community. Listen to what Paul tells the church at Colossae (Colossians 1:5-6). He reminds them of how the good news changed their lives, made them into a church, and is now producing fruit wherever it is heard! The gospel, or the good news, grows churches! If you want your church to grow, then be sure to evangelize. If you want the kingdom of God to spread in this dark world, then evangelize. And all that means is telling people about what God has done for you!

Why I Don’t Think John 3:16 is the Most Important Verse in the Bible

If you ask any evangelical Christian what the most important verse in the bible is, you are likely to be met with an enthusiastic reply of, “John 3:16.” — For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son . . . This verse is so important to Christians that almost every person in Church World has memorized it. Famous football players paint it on their faces. Conservative, dedicated, bible thumping preachers put it in their tracts. Seminaries devote classes to it. Sunday School teachers make sure that the little ones in their charge not only learn it, but that they understand it. We are reminded of its gravity in bloody reenactments of the crucifixion.

It is, indeed, a very important verse. But I don’t think it is the most important verse. I have long taught that the most important verse is Hebrews 11:6. It teaches that without faith it is impossible to please God. It goes on to explain why. A person must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who seek him. A person who doesn’t believe such things won’t draw near to him. This is a simple truth, really. If you don’t trust that your company is going to keep paying you, then you won’t go to work. If the treasure hunter doesn’t believe there’s a chest at the bottom of the ocean, he won’t go on hunting. If a pastor no longer believes in his calling, he will no longer shepherd.

Some believers have glimpsed the importance of this verse, but have applied it improperly. They tend to focus on the rewards portion of the verse, and then apply that to earthly benefits. If you have faith, they argue, then you will be blessed with money, or health, or a spouse, or some worldly pleasure. Of course, it is true that God provides those things on earth. But he isn’t primarily interested in those things for your life. In fact, his greatest followers often suffered without earthly pleasures. Our greatest example was a suffering servant (Isaiah 53, 1 Peter 2:21-25). Notice that Hebrews 11:6 is nested squarely in the middle of a passage about how some of the bible’s greatest heroes obeyed God because of what they believed, and not about how they were rewarded. In fact, Hebrews 11:13points out that all of them died without receiving what was promised. Their reward was in heaven, and that reward is far, far greater than any prize they could enjoy on earth.

Read Hebrews 11:6 again. It is impossible to please God without faith. The verse is about pleasing God – not receiving rewards. If you don’t believe that God exists, then you won’t believe it when he tells you that you need a savior. You won’t believe his love for you, and John 3:16 will be meaningless. You certainly won’t love him back. Most importantly, if you don’t believe and trust God, then you won’t obey him when he tells you to do something in the service of his will.

An Apple Can’t Confess. But You Can.

I love apples. I especially love those that have been bred to be particularly sweet. They look so wonderful and appetizing on the outside. In fact, I eat one every day for lunch. The other day I took a big bite out of one. There was that initial sweet and crisp rush as my teeth broke it’s skin. But then there followed a bitterness, and a terrible aftertaste that lingered far longer than I liked. When I looked at my apple, I noticed that its meat was brown and mushy in spots instead of it’s normal white firmness. Although it looked perfectly fine on the outside, it was rotting on the inside. At some point in it’s development a fungus had gotten into the apple, and as the apple grew, so did the fungus in it’s core. It wasn’t detectable from the outside at all.

So much of your life can be just like that apple. Sin, shortcomings, and hurt invade your life, and if you don’t deal with them, then you begin to rot from the inside out. You may have a smile and a shiny glow, but your heart is slowly suffering, and dying — your spirit failing into mushy brown spots. And when it is time for you to serve God and your fellow man, you risk leaving everyone with a bad aftertaste. You may be reading this right now, knowing full well the danger that your heart and spirit are in.

This rot in the human heart affects the most those who never confess their sins or their problems. Consider the wisdom of the Psalmist who cried out that when he kept silent, his bones wasted away inside of him (Psalm 32:1-3). He realized that he, too, was just like that apple. But there’s good news. He also recognized that God can and does take care of the rot whenever we confess it (Psalm 32:5). Even more interesting is that when we confess our sins and problems to trusted fellow Christians there is healing power (James 5:16a)! James argues that we should confess our problems so that we can be healed. Healed from what? The rot that our hurts, sins, and earthly problems cause us. The truth is that you can’t fix a problem until you acknowledge it. And one way that you can acknowledge it is to share it with God, and with one of his children with whom you’ve built trust.

An apple doesn’t have the ability to ask someone to remove it’s rot. But you do! So take the opportunity to get it out of you before it hurts your heart any further.

What is the Sin that Leads to Death?

Among the most difficult passages in the bible is 1 John 5:16-17. The reason that it is difficult is that John doesn’t give us much clarity about what he actually means. In the passage John argues that there is a sin that does not lead to death, and if we see a fellow Christian committing that sin, then we are to pray for that person, and God will restore him or her. Then he argues that there is a sin that does lead to death. He does not command us to pray for that person. It seems kind of scary. Of course this passage has produced a lot of debate among Christians about what these sins are. The debate is rooted in many ideas, but the chief idea is that the bible seems to teach unequivocally that all sin leads to death (Genesis 2:17Romans 6:23James 1:15Romans 5:12 . . . ). So what are these sins and how can we interpret these verses? Well, here are some possibilities. None are perfect, but perhaps they can give us something to study and pray about.

1) Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit (
Mark 3:28-30). Disrespecting the Holy Spirit is a sin that cannot be forgiven, which certainly leads to a spiritualdeath in hell. However, in his difficult passage, John refers to the potential sinner as a brother or fellow believer. It seems very unlikely that a person who truly knows Jesus and has been truly saved would commit this particular sin.

2) Chronic or unrepentant sin. This seems to be a better candidate. No doubt, continuing to sin will lead to physical death. For instance, an alcoholic who remains in his sin of drunkeness will likely eventually succumb to liver disease, or death by bad decisions. But John tells us in chapter 3 that true believers don’t keep on sinning (1 John 3:9). And yet we know that even the best believers can struggle with sin in some way. Note the apostle Paul’s personal use of the present tense (Romans 7:19-20).

3) There is a difference between physical death and spiritual death (Matthew 10:28). It is possible that a person’s body can die, but his spirit be given a new body (1 Corinthians 15:42-44). In fact, this is true of every saved person (Philippians 3:21). We all will die, because our sins all lead to the death of our physical bodies. But some will also die a spiritual death in hell because they haven’t submitted their lives to Christ. The alcoholic who has submitted his life to Christ, but continues to struggle with his addiction is sinning unto physical death, but his spirit may be redeemed with a new body in Heaven because of his commitment to Christ. Then, of course, there are those sins for which God may proclaim immediate destruction of the individual body so that his church body can be kept healthy (Acts 5:1-111 Corinthians 5:1-5). Notice how in that Corinthians verse that the person is turned over to Satan so that his sinning body can be destroyed in order that his spirit be saved. It may be for this reason that John doesn’t ask us to pray for the restoration of that person. Perhaps such a person is so damaged by sin that God must deal with him drastically so that he can be protected eternally, and the community to which he belongs can be protected in the present.

In any event, we can all agree that John is making the case that all sin is serious, and must be dealt with.

Here’s Why You Have to Know the REAL Jesus

I know a guy in Mississippi, a family friend, who learned a costly lesson a few years ago. He’s an experienced man, old enough to have acquired plenty of wisdom. He is a man whose knowledge of farm and rural life had endowed him with powers of discernment. One day, he pulled into a gas station and bought some items from the convenience store, then filled up his new truck. For whatever reason, he had not taken the time to practice the discernment he already knew how to use. As he pulled away from the gas station, he was confident that all was well and that his day would end comfortably as it always did. But it didn’t. A few miles down the road his new truck met its fate. He had put gasoline in his diesel engine.

It’s not an uncommon mistake. Diesel and gasoline are pumped from machines that are very similar in appearance. Diesel looks like gasoline. In their unburned states, they smell somewhat similar. The nozzles that dispense the fuels, on first glance, appear identical. But all of this is only appearance and not reality. A diesel nozzle is larger than a gasoline nozzle so that you can’t fit it into a gasoline vehicle. On the other hand, because it is smaller, a gasoline nozzle fits far too easily into a diesel tank. Diesel is also a lubricant in addition to being a fuel, so it will often have a black oily residue on it’s pump and nozzle. A diesel pump is almost always painted green, and labeled with big letters that say DIESEL.

But none of those differences matter if you don’t take time to discriminate.

The world of bible teaching is similar to the diesel problem, with one big difference. Diesel is a good fuel that is meant for running certain kinds of cars. False bible teaching, is destructive fuel meant to damage any person interested in learning about Jesus or true spirituality. Unfortunately, the bad bible teaching often comes from a “pump” that looks, smells, and feels o.k. at first glance. But the apostle John knew better, and warned his students to test every spirit to see if it comes from God (1 John 4:1). He gave them a test to help make that discernment (1 John 4:2-3). John argued that a teacher who didn’t pass that test wasn’t from God, but was instead a kind of antichrist. So look carefully at the pumps where you get your spiritual fuel. If you don’t practice discernment, you’ll break your spiritual engine.

4 Ways to Honor Your Mother Everyday

One of the most important commands in the bible is to honor our mothers. It is one of the first direct commands the bible gives us, and it is repeated directly at least 8 times throughout scripture (Exodus 20:12Deuteronomy 5:16Matthew 15:4Matthew 19:19Mark 7:10Mark 10:19Luke 18:20Ephesians 6:2). It’s also repeated indirectly numerous times (Proverbs 1:8Proverbs 30:17). Jesus himself modeled the concept (Luke 2:43-51). The Hebrew word for those Old Testament verses means to make something weighty. The Greek word for those New Testament verses means to place value or esteem in something. So to honor your mother means to place weight or value in her positional relationship to you.

So how can you honor your mother? Well first, don’t limit your efforts to Mother’s Day!

1) Adopt a Proper Attitude: Monitor your thoughts about your mother. Are they resentful? Are they resistant? If so, is this resentfulness or resistance justifiable? Or is it because you just didn’t get your way? Enough thoughts will coalesce into an attitude, and your attitude will then shape your behavior, and your behavior will reflect your level of honor. If your having a problem with your attitude, take it to God in prayer. He specializes in helping you through such problems.

2) Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude: Be thankful for the things your mother has done for you. Remember that she is human, and raising another human is easily one of the world’s most difficult tasks. She birthed you. She took care of you when you could not take care of yourself. And she probably raised you in a world that did not have the tools and luxuries that you have. Gratitude will also shape your behaviors.

3) Honor Her With Your Words: Tell her that you love her. Tell her that she looks nice in her new clothes. Tell her that you enjoyed the meal. Tell her that you are thankful for her. Everyone likes to hear such things, even if they won’t admit it. Remind her of the good things that have shaped the good parts of you. She gets discouraged, and often thinks of the mistakes she made while raising you.

4) Honor Her With Your Actions: Be committed to her well being. Love her dearly with your behaviors. Carry the groceries in for her. Wash her car. Fix the pipe under the sink. Give her a day off regularly. Hug her. Kiss her on the cheek. Help her when she needs help. Do all of it without asking.

Doing these things comes with a promise from God (Ephesians 6:1-3).

What it Means to Keep on Sinning

Sometimes the bible presents us with disturbing truths. These truths serve as dire warnings of terrible things to come, and they should not be ignored. However, some teachers have relied too heavily on these dark truths as a means of scaring people into serving God, rather than inspiring them to serve God by illustrating his enormous love and overflowing grace. When this is the sole tactic used, people serve God because they don’t want to be punished, and not because they actually love him. This makes for fake service. Imagine a wife who supplies her husband with intimacy because she fears that if she doesn’t she’ll be beaten. Such intimacy is either cold, or fraudulent.

Because these ominous truths are so potentially terrible, they sometimes color how we read other parts of the bible. If we are not careful, we will misinterpret those other passages too darkly. One such place where that often happens is in 1 John 3. In that passage, the apostle whom Jesus loved tells us that “no one who lives in him keeps on sinning, and that no one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him (1 John 3:6).” A truly saved person gets a gut check after reading that. Most people freak a bit because they realize that even though they’ve honestly submitted their lives to Jesus, they continue to have moments of sin. In fact, they may even continue to battle sinful desires. Their fear comes because they have focused on the second part of the verse, and forgotten the first. It also serves as evidence of their salvation. Whenever we are living in Jesus — that is whenever we are placing him as the highest priority in our lives, and following in his footsteps, and adopting his attitudes — we won’t keep sinning. We won’t make a practice of sinning. Because we can’t. Our lives will have a different pattern and a different proclivity. If we are living in Jesus, we will feel remorse for sin, and try to correct it. It’s actually a very positive message. A person who lives in Jesus does not keep sinning as a practice and lifestyle, because his new nature supernaturally compels him or her to separate from sin. This may play out in long, painful and difficult battles against the former patterns in our lives, but it will play out. On the other hand, a person who has never really known, or never really seen Jesus, will continue in a lifestyle of sin, will have no remorse for transgression, and will fight no painful battles against his or her former patterns of behavior. In fact, his or her sin will compel him or her to avoid holiness. If sin doesn’t bother you, then you might not have actually submitted yourself to Jesus. And if you didn’t, you are missing out on a life that’s way better than any fleeting (and corrosive) pleasures your sins currently bring you.

How Healthy Are Your Food Sources

You’ve heard the old saying, “you are what you eat.” Obviously, this statement is not to be taken absolutely literally. Instead, its a figure of speech designed to help you remember to watch your eating habits. For instance, the statement doesn’t mean that if you eat carrots, you’ll turn into a root vegetable. And it doesn’t mean that if you eat twinkies that you’ll turn into a spongy, cream filled pastry. What the saying means is that if you put healthy food into you, then you’ll be healthy, but if you fill yourself with junk food then your body will pay the price of becoming unhealthy.

So much of the truth of that statement is to remind us to consider the source of what we intake. An interesting process occurs based on how we source our food. The more good food you eat, the more your body will crave good food. And the more junk food you eat, the more your body will crave junk food. If you drink sodas all of the time, then when you become thirsty, your body will crave soda. If you drink water all of the time, then when you are thirsty, your body will crave water. When you discipline your body’s sourcing, it takes on the attributes of that sourcing. A person who is healthy doesn’t regularly partake in unhealthy activities, because to do so would change him or her into something unhealthy.

John talks about this in 1 John 2:15-17. He reminds us that if we pursue the things of the world — things that are associated with lust, or pride, or freshly desires — then we don’t have the love of God in us. But if we pursue the things of God, then our love for God is evident. The more we pursue worldly things, the more worldly we become. The more we pursue spiritual things, the more we become spiritual.

Finally, he reminds us that spiritual things are superior because they last forever. Worldly things, are temporary. In other words, you can have the fleeting pleasures of junk food, or you can the everlasting well being of healthy food. So take some time this week with God to check your intake sources.

Living in a Faith Community

Every Christian must live his or her life under authority. We are to live under the authority of the Bible, and under the authority of Jesus, and his Holy Spirit, and under the authority of God the father.  We are instructed to live our church lives under the authority of our church elders and the wisdom that God flows through them. We are even to live our lives under the authority of secular governments as long as they don’t conflict with God’s authority (Romans 13:1-71 Peter 2:13-17).

This can be a difficult task because we don’t always like what God wants us to do. Further, our human authorities are human enough to be quite wrong every now and then.

John metes out some of that authority in 1 John 2:7-8 when tells his readers that he is giving them both an old commandment and new commandment. In other words, he tells them that there is a commandauthority they are to respect. Typical of John in this particular letter, he doesn’t immediately identify that commandment. Instead, he moves quickly into a discussion of how hating one’s brother is a form of walking in sinful darkness. But his reference to a new commandment echoes the words of Jesus in the gospel of John 13:34-35.  In that passage, Jesus gives his disciples the “new” commandment to love one another as he has loved them, and that this will show the world that they belong to him.  Interestingly, most of the chapter before that specific command has Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. He is loving them in a service capacity. He then tells them to love each other as he has loved them.

This sheds a great deal of light on John’s unnamed old/new commandment and his statements about hating one’s brothers and walking in darkness.  John is reminding his readers that they should be loving each other with works of service, and that if they are not doing so, but are instead actively neglecting them, then they are walking in darkness, and potentially showing the world that they may not belong to Jesus.

The larger point is that we are commanded to live in community with one another. This is a recurring theme throughout the New Testament. The act of feet washing that Jesus taught was symbolic of loving by serving one’s faith community.  So how do you follow that command to love others in your faith community? Do you serve in children’s ministry, or clean your church building, or invite others to worship, or freely give your tithe, or take meals to someone who is sick, or serve on workday, or greet new comers, or help at a small group?  There are plenty of great opportunities!