November 23, 2003


Mark tells us that after He had miraculously fed the 4,000 and sent them away, Jesus "immediately got into the boat with His disciples, and came to the region of Dalmanutha. Then the Pharisees came out and began to dispute with Him, seeking from Him a sign from heaven, testing Him. But He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said, 'Why does this generation seek a sign? Assuredly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.' And He left them, and getting into the boat again, departed to the other side." (Mark 8:10-13).

From Matthew, we learn that Dalmanutha is another name for Magdala. Matthew also gives a fuller account of Jesus' dispute with His detractors. We learn that some Sadducees had also come with the Pharisees to take issue with Jesus, Matt. 16:1. Jesus rebuked them because they had seen His miracles, His signs from heaven, and had ignored them, yet they carefully observed lesser messages from heaven. "When it is evening you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red'; and in the morning 'It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening ' Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times (Matt. 16:2-3). Had they observed Jesus' feeding of the 4,000, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, etc., as they observed the weather conditions, they would not be asking for a sign from heaven.

Matthew also informs us that before Jesus got back in the boat and departed from the Pharisees and Sadducees, He indicated that though He had no intentions of performing miracles to cater to them, there would be one sign given -- the sign of the prophet Jonah, Matt. 16:4.

On an earlier occasion, in Matt. 12:40, Jesus had explained what He meant by the phrase, "sign of the prophet Jonah." "For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth." On that earlier occasion, Jesus had showed how the pagan population of Nineveh were more righteous than the Israelites of His own generation: "The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and indeed a greater than Jonah is here (Matt. 12:41).

Notice the indication of Jesus' frustration with the Pharisees and Sadducees for asking for a sign after multitudes of signs had already been given: "He sighed deeply in His spirit, and said 'Why...'" (Mark 8:12). The sadness was not for His own loss in their disbelief, but for their great loss.

--Clarence R. Johnson


Do we care about children? Well, except for championing abortion. Columnist Steve Chapman wondered what the response would be "if the U.S. House of Representatives had voted last week to forbid veterinarians from putting animals to death by...jamming scissors through their skull and then suctioning out their brains." He thought no one would object. Yet there are those who insist this be allowed to happen to children. And all the "right" people politically support that. Hypocrisy? Or maybe just an example of how perverted the nation has become. 

Paradoxically, a so called pro child stance requires the destruction of many parental rights. Under aged girls must have the right to an abortion without parental consent. Judge Priscilla Owens is having her Court of Appeals nomination filibustered because she ruled that the state of Texas could require notification of the parents of under aged girls before the girl had an abortion, unless it could be shown that such would endanger the girl. Anyone who thinks a 13 year old girl has the right to choose to have an abortion and hide it from her parents is, well, morally insane. 

But apart from these murky situations, children's needs activate multiplied billions of dollars in taxation yearly. Who would oppose spending to provide for these most vulnerable in our society? The answer is, well, no one. But the fact is, there is a better way to solve most of that problem. Better for society, and better for the child. And that is for parenthood to take place only in marriage, and for the parents to behave responsibly toward one another and toward their children, and stay married. That is, if we are truly concerned about children. 

If we really cared for children beyond paying some agency to carry out some program, congratulating ourselves on how caring we are, we would make out of wedlock births a crime. We would quit encouraging easy divorce. We would not be enticing through public entertainment, 48% of our teen agers to have sex before leaving high school. Babies result from that. Now the girl at least, has a monumental problem, or perhaps her grandmother, who after having put in her years, has another child to raise, and often little income to do it with. 

In the 1960's the illegitimacy rate was 6%. Today 33% of all births are to a girl or woman not married to the child's father. Those children are more likely to bear children out of wedlock, to drop out of school and to live in poverty. If we really cared about children we would be doing all we could to discourage illegitimacy. Research shows restoring marriage to 1960 levels would rescue more than 3 million children from poverty. 

But the marriages must be lasting ones. Children of intact two-parent families are rarely aborted, earn more and learn more, are far less likely to go to prison or become addicted to drugs, and are far likelier to lead happier, healthier and longer lives. Do we really care about children? Do we see something we can do about it? Will we? Of course not. The privacy law the Supreme Court has "penumbraed" (imagined) into the Constitution has given free sex advocates an advantage from which they will not turn back, however tragic it might be for children. And toleration cheers it. 

As for marriage, it is so fragile, with parents so bent on their individual "happiness," only 28% of all children conceived will reach their 18th birthday with their parents still married and living together. And if parents mess up their children's lives by divorce and illegitimacy, they are not likely to find any lasting happiness themselves. Besides, Jesus said, "Whoever shall cause one of these little ones... to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone by hanged around his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea" (Mt. 18:6). That may not happen here, but Jesus makes it clear later in the passage, they shall be cast into hell. (Statistics from Patrick Fagan of the Heritage Foundation, distributed by Scripps Howard)

--Dale Smelser, Wildercroft bulletin, Riverdale, Maryland


The preacher who tries to show you that your hope is in the gospel, and that in disobeying the gospel you are cutting yourself loose from the only hope men can have, is your friend. I would rather have thousands say to me at the judgment, "We heard you preach and, you hurt our feelings," than have just one lost soul say, "I heard you preach, but you did not tell me the truth."

Paul said to the elders of the church at Ephesus, "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." (Acts 20:26-27). That means if he had not "declared all the counsel of God" he would not have been free from their blood. 

"And when Silas and Timothy were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ. And when they opposed themselves, and blasphemed, he shook his raiment, and said unto them, Your blood be upon your own heads; I am clean: from henceforth I will go unto the Gentiles." (Acts 18:5-6).

Yes, those Jews got mad at Paul because he told them the truth, but he left their blood upon their own heads. I hope and pray that I may come to the end of my earthly pilgrimage just as free from the blood of my fellow travelers as Paul was. I cannot do that if I handle the word of God deceitfully. It makes no difference how good you are.

You either obey the gospel, or you will perish (2 Thess. 1:7-9). So if you want to know what is going to become of all these good people who have not obeyed the gospel, the Lord has told you. Therefore, the only sensible thing to do is to try to show all responsible beings - good and bad alike - the folly in thinking they can be saved without obedience to the gospel.

--John T. Lewis, Gospel Preceptor, Oct. 2003


I have asked this question before, but I want to ask it again. Did Jesus' resurrection occur before He was buried? Before you think I have completely lost all sense of sanity, you need to understand that millions of people, maybe even you, appear to believe that is what happened. Let me explain. 

Romans 6:4 says, "Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life." Note the comparison between Christ and us. "That just as Christ...even so we also." What happened to Christ? "Raised from the dead." What parallels that for us? "Walk in newness of life." What events preceded those? For Christ, His burial. For us, baptism. Now if we can have "newness of life" BEFORE baptism, as many teach and believe, then, to maintain the parallel, you must believe Christ was raised before He was buried. "Absurd," you say. I know! That is why I teach baptism is essential to be saved, to become a Christian. 

--Ronny E. Hinds



Nov. 21-23, 2003

Bethlehem, PA

Doug Focht


Clarence R. Johnson
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