Growing In Godliness Blog
Author: Larry Coffey
By Larry Coffey
If you google the word “angels”, you will receive a lot of information about the Los Angles Angels baseball team. This may not have happened in the late 20th century when television shows and many books and articles were about angels. I have no research available to support it, but my impression is that angels have fallen out of favor in our present society.
One who reads the Bible will be aware of angels since the NKJV Exhaustive Concordance states the words “angel” or “angels” appears 361 times in the Bible. Like many others, as I read the Bible, I noted angels mentioned a lot but I didn’t know much about angels until I taught a class on the subject about 10 years ago. Other DH members showed a lot of interest, so I repeated the class two more times.
Who are angels and what do they do? W.E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words has this to say in part:
“An angel is a messenger sent whether by God or by man or by Satan, and is also used of a guardian or representative in Rev. 1:20, Mt. 18:10, but most frequently of an order of created beings superior to man, Heb. 2:7, belonging to heaven, Mt. 24:36, and to God, Lk. 12:8, and engaged in His service, Psa. 103:20.”
Michael Hardin in his class book on angels lists the following functions they perform:
--Angels are helpers and protectors to God’s people in need, Psa. 34:7.
--Angels come to give God’s people guidance and direction, Gal. 3:19.
--Angels come to call men to special missions, Ex. 3:2.
--Angels come to rescue people from great danger, Gen. 19.
There are many more things which could be listed that angels have done.
The Preceptor Magazine, October 2003 edition had an article on thoughts and questions about angels. It listed some things angels and men have in common:
--Both angels and men are alive. Both have the ability to move about, speak and worship God.
--Neither is deity. Both are of a lower order than God. Men are yet a little lower than angels.
--Both can choose to obey or disobey God. Each is held responsible for their choice. Their final state will depend on the choice they make, Rom. 6:16, Jude 6.
--Both have feelings or emotions. The angels shouted for joy when God laid the foundation of the earth, Job 38:4-6.
--Men marry and are given in marriage, and by procreation populate the earth and continue the race, Lk. 20:34, Gen. 1:28. Angels do not marry and procreate, Mt. 22:30, Neh. 9:6. This implied that angels are sexless beings. As a result, there are no baby angels, no cupids with bows and no teen angels.
--Men are visible to one another while alive. Angels, as spirit beings, are invisible to men. There are occasions when the eyes of the beholder have been opened so that he has the ability to see angels, Gen. 18 and 19, Lk. 24:4.
--Men are mortal and subject to death, Heb. 9:27. Angels are immortal, not subject to death, Lk. 20:34-38.
--Men have a Savior, Jesus Christ. Angels that sin are kept in Tartarus in chains of darkness until their judgment, Jude 6, 2 Pet. 2:4.
To me, one of the greatest things about angels is that they are sent here to help Christians. We read in Hebrews 1:13-14: “And to which of the angels has he ever said, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet? Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”
Someone may ask, do we have a guardian angel? I don’t believe the Bible teaches we have a specific angel to help us. Why would we want one angel when we could have many? I will take the many and be thankful for God’s grace in providing angels to help and serve us.
By Larry Coffey
Ed Byers, my father-in-law, was a charter member of the Douglass Hills church. He served as an elder of this church for 26 years. I know of no one who was more devoted and worked harder for this church than he did. Also, I have never known anyone who attributed more importance of attending our worship periods than he did.
Of course, he knew and taught there was more to being a Christian than attending the worship services. His view was like that of long-time preacher, Roy E. Cogdill, who wrote in the Expressway church bulletin in 1977 the following: “Attendance at the services of the church is the best index of interest in one’s own spiritual growth, and is a certain indication of one’s own interest in the Lord’s church.”
When encouraging members to attend our worship periods we often quote Hebrews 10:24-25 which reads: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Bobby Graham does a Q. A. column in Truth Magazine each month and in the April, 2022 edition, writes the following regarding Hebrews 10: 24-25: “In my judgment, the Holy Spirit was appealing to the Hebrew Christians to rescue them from drifting away from Christ in their disastrous return to the Law of Moses. One should get the point here: their assembling with each other, and the beneficial effects noted in verses 24 and 25, was one divine provision for their spiritual strength/stamina, so that they remain faithful to Christ. They needed such assemblies for their spiritual survival.”
Here is a story that appeared in church bulletins several years ago relating to the importance of attendance: “Paul Harvey once reported news of a 73-year-old man who was pinned beneath his farm tractor for four days and nights in rain and a terrible storm. Concerned friends went to see about him just in time. He lived after his ordeal but lost a leg. Several newspapers picked up on the story and centered upon the amazing fact that a 73-year-old man could live after being pinned beneath a tractor for four days. That is amazing, but what is more amazing is what caused his friends to go see about him. One friend said the reason was that he missed prayer meeting on Wednesday night. That’s all? He just missed one service and his friends went to check on him. This man was so faithful and regular in his church attendance that everyone knew if he was not there, something had to be seriously wrong. A question. What if you had been the one pinned under the tractor? Would your absence have been noticed? Or would you have died under the wheel?”
Brother Ed knew there were times when members could not attend services, such as sickness, disabled, etc. But he also knew people gave all kinds of excuses for not attending when they were perfectly capable of doing so. People claim they can’t come to the worship periods, but they can go lots of other places, such as restaurants, shopping, vacations, doctor check-ups, etc.
He was concerned for the souls of his brethren and did not hesitate to try to encourage them often to demonstrate their love for the Lord by attending every worship period available. He knew their spiritual health was far more important than their physical health.
I agree with my father-in-law. I love and miss you brother Ed.
Giving First to the Lord (Part 2)
By Larry Coffey
Giving in the Christian Age
Since we are no longer living under the Law of Moses, today I hear people say we don’t have to give 10% anymore which is code for we can give less than 10% and still be pleasing to God. We will briefly look at what the New Testament teaches concerning giving.
In the beginning of the New Testament, we hear this from Jesus in His sermon on the mount. “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Mt. 6:19-21)
A summary of Jesus’ teachings on the subject of material possessions is quite revealing. About one half of His parables deal with money such as the parable of the rich fool in Luke 12:13-21. One out of every six verses in the gospels concerns man and his possessions. There is 16 times more about stewardship than about baptism, and 32 times as much about stewardship as about the Lord’s Supper.
Paul wrote much about possessions in his epistles. He wrote to Timothy about the love of money and how he should instruct the rich. “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (I Tim. 6:10) “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.” (I Tim. 6:17-19)
One of the greatest hindrances to being liberal in our giving is covetousness. God thought it was such a problem He included it as one of the “thou shalt nots” in the 10 commandments. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines covetous as “marked by inordinate desire for wealth or possessions or for another’s possessions.” Covetousness is mentioned numerous times in both the Old and New Testaments. (Ex. 18:21; Ps. 119:36; Is. 57:17; Mk. 7:22; Lk. 12:15; Rom. 1:29; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; Heb. 13:5; II Pet. 2:3.)
How should the Christian give? I have heard it said the only person who can get into one’s pocketbook is the Lord. Thus, before one will give as the Lord expects he must first give himself to the Lord. When Paul was encouraging the Corinthians to give for the poor saints, he used the churches of Macedonia as examples and said about them in II Cor. 8:5, “And this they did, not as we had hoped, but first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.”
We read in II Corinthians that our giving should be willingly, purposely, cheerfully and liberally. Note the following scriptures. “For if there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” (II Cor. 8:12) “But this I say: He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (II Cor. 9:6-7) “while, through the proof of this ministry, they glorify God for the obedience of your confession to the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal sharing with them and all men.” (II Cor. 9:13)
When should a Christian give? The church should be a Christian’s first consideration when giving. The only statement we have in the New Testament as to when they were told to give into the church treasury is recorded in I Corinthians 16:2, “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.”
Of course, Christians are taught to give on other occasions. We are taught to give to and take care of our family members. “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Tim.5:8) “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows." (I Tim. 5:16)
Christians are to also help fellow Christians in need as well as other people whenever the need arises. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10) "Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep one-self unspotted from the world." (James 1:27) “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need." (Eph. 4:28)
Now to the final question which is the big one. How much should a Christian give? My concern is that most people want to know the absolute minimum one can give and still please the Lord. The New Testament does not give a percent. It says to give as one prospers. “On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.” (I Cor. 16:2) “If there is first a willing mind, it is accepted according to what one has, and not according to what he does not have.” (II Cor. 8:12)
So, the Lord has left it up to us based on our evaluation of how well we have prospered and the kind of heart we have. When we consider that the ancients gave 10%, the devout Jews gave up to as much as one third, and we have the greatest blessings of those in any age, it would be hard to conclude that we could give less than 10% and be pleasing to the Lord. How much we may give that exceeds 10% would depend on our situation and the needs that exist in our realm of knowledge. Those who love the Lord with all their heart, soul and mind (Mt. 22:37), will be generous in their giving.
Remember what Jesus said. “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35)
Giving First to the Lord (Part 1)
By Larry Coffey
My experience has been that the subject of giving is not discussed as much today as in the past. That may not be the case in all churches, but it seems preachers are more reluctant to preach on this subject. It may be because they do not want people to feel they are seeking more funds personally, or it may be because they know people are uncomfortable hearing this subject discussed. Surveys do show that the percent people gave of their income did decline in the last half of the 20th century. There are a number of issues involved in this subject that will be addressed in this article.
V. P. Black wrote a booklet entitled “My God and My Money” in 1964 in which he shows the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks and Romans gave 10% of their income. It appears their reasons for doing so was to avert or appease the divine anger, or to secure the divine favor. The question is why did they choose 10% rather than some other percent? It probably goes all the way back to the family of Adam. We read in Genesis 4:3-4, “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the Lord. Abel also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of their fat. And the Lord respected Abel and his offering.”
While we don’t have a percent mentioned in Cain and Abel’s case, we do have 10% mentioned as early as Genesis 14:20 where Abraham gave to Melchizedek a tenth of the spoils he received when he rescued Lot from the five kings who had taken him captive. See also Hebrews 7:4, “Now consider how great this man was, to whom even the patriarch Abraham gave a tenth of the spoils.”
Then we read concerning Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, that he made a vow to give a tenth back to God of all he received, Genesis 28:20-22, “Then Jacob made a vow, saying, ‘If God will be with me, and keep me in this way that I am going, and give me bread to eat and clothing to put on, so that I come back to my father’s house in peace, then the Lord shall be my God. And this stone which I have set as a pillar shall be God’s house, and of all that You give me I will surely give a tenth to You’.”
Giving in the Jewish Age
We often hear the Jews were to tithe and thus we conclude they were to give 10% of their income. A closer look at the Law of Moses indicates the faithful Jew gave well more than 10%. They were to give to the poor and needy.
“When you reap the harvest of your land you shall not wholly reap the corners of your field, nor shall you gather the gleanings of your harvest. And you shall not glean your vineyard, nor shall you gather every grape of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the stranger; I am the Lord your God.” (Lev. 19:9-10)
“When you reap your harvest in your field, and forget a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow, that the Lord your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the stranger, the fatherless, and the widow.” (Deut. 24:19-20)
We read of other annual giving requirements placed upon the children of Israel. “You shall not delay to offer the first of your ripe produce and your juices. The first-born of your sons you shall give to Me.” (Ex. 22:29)
“ that you set apart to the Lord all that open the womb, that is, every firstling that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the Lord’s.” (Ex. 13:12)
From these verses we learn they were to give—
1. First of the fruits
2. First of the cattle
3. First born of their children—redeemed money payment (Num. 3:46-48).
Then there were freewill offerings where the amount was not specified such as the Feast of Weeks in Deut. 16:10-11, “Then you shall keep the Feast of Weeks to the Lord your God with the tribute of a freewill offering from your hand, which you shall give as the Lord your God blesses you. You shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your son and your daughter, your manservant and your maidservant, the Levite who is within your gates, the stranger and the fatherless and the widow who are among you, at the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide.”
Israel had three tithes, two annual and one every third year. The first tithe was for the priests and is recorded in Lev. 27:30-33, “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s. It is holy to the Lord. If a man wants at all to redeem any of his tithes, he shall add one-fifth to it. And concerning the tithe of the herd or the flock, of whatever passes under the rod, the tenth one shall be holy to the Lord. He shall not inquire whether it is good or bad, nor shall he exchange it; and if he exchanges it at all, then both it and the one exchanged for it shall be holy; it shall not be redeemed.”
The second annual tithe recorded in Deut. 14:22-27 consisted of the yearly increase of the Lord. It was to be eaten by the offerer, his household and the Levite with the firstlings of the herd and the flock in the place the Lord would choose. This tithe might be converted into money at home to be expended at the place for sacrifice and feasting. It involved a stay of at least a week each at the Passover and the Feast of Tabernacles, as well as a shorter period at the Feast of Weeks.
The third tithe required every three years is recorded in Deut. 14:28-29. One tenth of every third year’s increase was to be laid up at home and was to be shared by the local Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow.
V. P. Black estimates that a devout Jew gave at least one third of his total earnings to God. This is far greater than the 10% we always hear about.
The Power of the Mind
By Larry Coffey
I have just finished reading a 600+ page book called “Life Force” written by Tony Robbins. Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, #1 New York Times bestselling author, and philanthropist honored by Accenture as one of the top 50 business intellectuals in the world. This book covers new breakthroughs in precision medicine. It deals with things like new medical technology, regenerative medicine, stem cells, gene therapy, etc. The last two chapters are about the power of mindset and decision. This is a medical book written from a secular viewpoint, but I believe Christians can benefit from some of what is taught.
He contends the mind has the power to heal the body in certain instances, and provides some examples where this has happened. He mentions the use of placebos can have tremendous power over pain. Placebos are harmless “medicines” or procedures that are used to test a therapy’s effectiveness. In a migraine pain study at Harvard Medical School, the placebo was found to be nearly as effective as the actual drug.
He mentions another Harvard study, in which one hundred medical students were enlisted to test two drugs: a “super stimulant” red pill and a “super tranquilizer” blue one. Unbeknownst to the students, the drugs were purposely switched—the red was actually a barbiturate, and the blue an amphetamine. Even so, the subjects who were given a downer experienced stimulation because of their expectations, while those who took the upper felt tired. Talk about the power of the mind!
Several pages dealt with the subject of stress of which there are several levels. Suppose your mail was not delivered for several days in a row and you were expecting to receive something you needed. That could cause some stress. Then you receive a letter telling you a company in which you had a significant investment had gone bankrupt. That would be a higher level of stress. Another few days pass and you receives results of a recent wellness test and you are asked to return because a tumor was detected. The stress increases further.
Robbins says, “extreme stress is going to be a given in your life. So, the real key to have an extraordinary quality of life….is not to hope you get lucky and that nothing happens, but to develop the kind of psychological and emotional strength that makes you resilient enough to use whatever life brings you to create something even greater.”
Now what do Jesus and the apostle Paul have to say about the power of the mind and stress. Jesus deals with these two things in Mt. 6:25-34. Jesus says do not be anxious about your life, don’t be anxious about clothing, don’t be anxious about what you are going to eat. He adds, which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? Therefore, don’t be anxious about tomorrow. How does Jesus expect us to use the power of our minds? We are to focus our minds on seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all the things we need will be added to us.
Paul says in Phil. 4:11, whatever state he was in he was to be content. He further addresses this in I Tim. 6:6 & 8, by saying there is great gain in godliness with contentment, and if he had food and clothing, with these he would be content. In Col. 3: 1-2, Paul says to seek the things that above where Christ is, SET YOUR MINDS on things that are above, not on things on earth.
Robbins tries to help us have better lives on earth. Christians are to focus our minds which God has given us on things above. And our minds have the power through Christ to truly achieve an extraordinary life in heaven.