Roanoke Church of Christ

Month: March 2010


The question about what the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is has a long history. Most agree that it is a state of mind, rather than a few words or even a few sentences. If we look at the context we can see that.

In Matthew 12 Jesus had healed a man and was accused by the Pharisees of doing it by the power of Beelzebub, the prince of demons. Jesus says Satan can’t cast out Satan, and then said anyone who was not with him was against him. It was at this point, in this situation, that Jesus said, “And so (referring back to what had just happened) I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy of the Spirit will not be forgiven.: vs.31.

“Every sin and blasphemy”, except what? What had they criticized Jesus for doing? Keep in mind that Jesus said if it was against him it could be forgiven. If it wasn’t against Jesus, who, or what was it against? (Trinitarians would have a problem with this.) It was against the very nature of God. It was against who God is and what God does. Jesus is offended that they have witnessed a man set free from a terrible problem and they refuse to give the credit to the Spirit, the goodness, the essence, of who and what God is. Why have they done that? The only contextual reason is their refusal to see the act as meeting their requirements. They do not deny that it was a good thing. You will notice in the text that Jesus asked if he casts out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do they cast them out? vs. 27.

When Jesus said Satan can not cast out Satan, and that a house divided against itself can not stand, he was saying evil can not do what is against evil. Good is always against evil. Good is what evil isn’t. Good, when it is done, no matter who does it, always reflects the nature, the Spirit, of God. So to see a good work and then call it something other than good, and to attribute it, not so much to evil, but to something not like God, is essentially to blaspheme the nature of God, to blaspheme God’s Spirit.

As I said, it’s not a one time thing. It is not to be angry with God and say something foolish. It is an attitude of the heart. It is a teaching that refuses to recognize any good work accept that which meets that individual, or group’s criteria. To put it bluntly, anything not done by them and those like them is tainted, even when it shows the true nature of God.

Tragically, something of that attitude is taught in churches every day. “We can’t do anything for anybody, even if it is good, if others are helping with whom we don’t agree. If a hurricane destroys a place, we will only send money as long as it is to those we agree with on all points of doctrine. If a child’s family needs help with staggering medical bills, we will not give if there are others giving with whom we do not agree on points of doctrine.”

Sadly, the last sentence of the above paragraph happened in the case of the fund raiser for Isabelle Simmons, the little two-year old with leukemia. Two local congregations refused to have any participation because some other churches not like them were also involved. The elders of at least one of those congregations instructed their members not to be involved. Some women from that same church went so far as to go to a nursing home and tell the great-grandmother of the little girl that she could not give, nor attend the fund raiser. The grandfather and grandmother of Isabelle was with us last Sunday and told that story. He added that if his mother had been able she would have been there. He also added that as long as she was in the nursing home, when they visited her they would no longer darken the door of that congregation.

Remember, this is not about the individual’s right not to be involved. The issue is an attitude that condemns a good work done by the wrong people.

Am I saying those who refused to help because it didn’t meet their criteria of “sound” have blasphemed the Spirit? Well, I can’t help but see the very close proximity to the situation with Jesus and the Pharisees. A proximity that distorts the nature of God’s goodness and love.

Remember, Jesus said it was not about him. It was not about the deed itself. Even the Pharisees and their disciples cast out demons. So, what was it about? Fear and blindness. The Pharisees knew Jesus was not like them. He didn’t do the things they believed made a person righteous before God. If Jesus could do such things as casting out demons as they did, where did that leave them? Was all their hard work to be righteous in vain? He couldn’t be righteous, because they were, and he wasn’t like them. What to do? Discredit him. Say the Godlike things he did were not really Godlike because he didn’t belong to God, but to Satan. How could they say that? Because he didn’t meet their standards of what was acceptable to God, which meant God couldn’t be behind it. They were blinded by a legalistic doctrine based on a false idea of righteousness.

I know about those who Jesus said would speak of driving out demons and performing miracles in his name, and yet will be called by Jesus, “evil doers“.Now this is a slippery slope! But notice Jesus never denied that the casting out of demons by the Pharisees in Matt 12 was in itself, evil. Does the fact that they did good make them good? No. Does the fact that Jesus says he will call some who have done powerful works in his name, “evil doers”, make the good they did evil? No. Jesus said Satan can not cast out Satan. Some commentators say in Matt. 7, these were only “claims” and that the prophesy and miracles never happened. However, there are a number of places where the less than accepted by God did such things. Can an evil person do good for evil reasons? Yes. But the wrong reason does not erase the good that was done. It is all about the attitude of the heart.

What the attitude was of those in Matt 7 is anyone’s guess. All we know is that it was not the attitude of Jesus. In Matt 12 the attitude of the Pharisees is quite clear. It is an attitude that rejects anything good that does not meet their standards of righteousness. It is an attitude of blindness and fear that kills you spiritually.

CONCERNS: Martha Albert has been having trouble with what is residual effects of childhood polio. Melanie Almeder, (Melanie Beaver’s teacher) Ron Matney’s nephew, Mike Breeding, heart attack. Polly Altice and her son, James. Isabelle, who is being treated for leukemia, It’s been good to see Helen Niklas able to be out some. Evelyn Hammer, The Phlegar’s friend, Julie, in Texas. (stroke) Mrs. Kelly, a recent widow and neighbor of Alice Blessing’s. Teri Burks and Trixie Long. Roger Fisher’s nephew in Fla. Barbara McCauley, Chris Phlegar and Tim Elder. Those shut-in: Jewel Racer, Wilma and Jenni Cullum and those involved in helping those in need all around the world.

Monday: John 8:21-47
Tuesday: Luke 22:14-30
Wednesday: Luke 12:13-34
Thursday: Psalm 51:1-19
Friday: Acts 4:32-5:11
Saturday: Psalm 99:1-9:110:1-5
Monday: Hebrews 4:1-5:10
Tuesday Matthew 5:17-48
Wednesday: Genesis 1:1-31
Thursday: II Samuel 12:1-15
Friday: Ephesians 6:10-20
Saturday: Psalm 104:1-35

Last Sunday we welcomed the Bolin family as part of our church family. They have been with us for several months and have become deeply involved in the work here.

They consist of Dell, Leena, Nick and Jon, as well as Leena’s mother, Helen Niklas.

Dell is a physician, Leena is a busy mom, and Nick and Jon are teenaged students. We are thrilled to have them with us to share the gifts God has given them.

They live at 5933 Blackhorse Ln., Roanoke, 24018. Phone 769-5127

Our sympathy is extended to Martha Foy and her family in the sudden death of Martha’s nephew, who died of a heart attack last week.

Today, March 21, is Super Sunday. This is always a day of good food and fellowship. Be sure to plan to stay after the service and enjoy this time together.

The teenage class will have a lock-in here on Friday night and Saturday morning of April 9-10.

There will be a city-wide training session conducted here on Saturday, April 17. Erma Williams will be doing that and she always needs a few extra hands if you can help.

The women’s retreat, Sweet Life Cafe’, will be April 23&24. All activities will be at the building, starting on Friday evening, April 23, and conclude mid-afternoon on Saturday, April 24. An optional “sleep over” is at Leena Bolin’s home on Friday evening. Information and registration forms are on the table in the foyer. The cost is $25.

Erma Williams needs the names of any women beyond the congregation that might be interested so they can be sent a personal invitation.

The amount collected for Isabelle from the congregation was $500.00. This did not include tickets bought for the fund raiser and things purchased at the action, as well as other individual gifts. ALSO: $650 was the amount collected for Gideon Bibles.


Just about the time our granddaughter, Megan, was to get married, she and I were talking about wedding vows. I said (with tongue in cheek) sometimes I was tempted to have the couple about to be married take an oath of office. She said it might not be a bad idea.

Before going on, let me say, and I’ve probably said it before, the very act of marriage is something of a mystery. It has very few constants. It seems to be as much biological (hormones) as it is emotional (love). In some societies it can be an arranged marriage. In that case, love, whatever that means, can come later, if it does. In those situations duty is more important than feelings.

In “romantic” marriages it can be both of the mind and the heart. By “mind” I mean the two people get to know each other as well as they can over time, while also having emotional (hormonal) feelings toward each other. Both are important.

There is also the “blindness” of love, as in “Love is blind.” That’s when the emotional part of the relationship blinds one or both of the parties to the possible dangers ahead in the relationship.

There is also dependency, or maybe co-dependency. (I’m not an expert on marriage) I’m talking about the case that is something like adopting a dog from the pound. Once you get involved there is a sense of responsibility. The dog may bite you but you feel a sense of responsibility for its care since you brought it home. After all, if you don’t take care for it, it may be put down.

Or the dog may convince you that you deserve to be bit and that you’re lucky to have found a dog that would go home with you. While we’re at it, the dog may not even like you that much but you are offering it food, shelter and security. In a relationship that’s bad news.

There’s also unexpected surprises. There are things that can be so deeply hidden they don’t come out until after a number of months or years. That’s one of the reasons some folks say it’s better to live together before taking the final step. However, as far as the record goes, those marriages fail at the same rate as the others.

So there I am, looking at two people about to enter into marriage. All the bases may have been covered as far as I know, and yet I have no idea how it will work out. Of course, many do, and I’m happy about that. On the other hand I also know for some, the words are just words that have to be said in order to satisfy some tradition. They may be saying what they’d like to see happen, but don’t really care if it does or not. What to do?

That’s where the oath of office comes in. Would it make marriages work? Hardly, but it might make it more serious. So I humbly offer my “Oath of the Office of Marriage.”

“Irwin Chase Mason, place your hand on the Bible and repeat after me. (I’ll leave out the response, but you get the picture) I Irwin Chase Mason–do solemnly swear–that I will faithfully execute the office of husband–in the state of marriage–and that to the best of my ability–preserve, protect and defend–the vows, promises and principles of marriage–so help me God.”

“Virginia Mae Browning, place your hand on the Bible and repeat after me, I, Virginia Mae Browning–do solemnly swear–that I will faithfully execute the office of Bride–in the state of marriage–and that to the best of my ability, protect and defend–the vows, promises and principles of marriage– so help me God.” I thought about saying, “In the holy estate of marriage” but the Bible never calls it that.

Do I believe such an oath would make marriages better? I doubt it, but it might make me feel better. But it’s not about my feelings, it’s about what the couple feels about the union we call marriage.

I don’t have the figures, but I’ll bet that marital and relationship problems are the leading cause of death and violence in the United States. That being true, it shows the deep potential for both the good and the bad to happen in marriage.

In the traditional marriage ceremony there is a line that says about marriage, “It should not be entered into lightly or unadvisedly.” Not bad. But as far as I’m concerned, that needs to be taken care of well before the ceremony.

CONCERNS: Jenni Cullum’s cataract surgery has been postponed. Melanie Almeder, Melanie Beaver’s teacher, is being treated for cancer. Leena Bolin’s mother, Helen Niklas was able to be out Sunday. Isabelle the little girl who has leukemia. Ron Matney’s nephew, Mike Breeding had a heart attack. Julie, the Phlegar’s friend in Texas who has had a stroke. Also Polly Altice and her son, James, Evelyn Hammer, Chris Phlegar, Jo Wagner’s mother, Jewell Racer, Teri Burks, Trixi Long, Lureline Ferguson, Wilma and Jenni Cullum, Roger Fisher’s nephew (cancer) Tim Elder, those in Haiti and Chile who have endured earthquakes, Health Talents and Bread For A Hungry World.

Monday: Hosea 11:1-9
Tuesday: Matthew 10:24-39
Wednesday: Exodus 16:1-15
Thursday: Luke 7:36-50
Friday: John 13:31-38
Saturday: Psalm 103:1-22

Monday: Matthew 6:1-18
Tuesday: Psalm 96:1-13
Wednesday: Matthew 6:19-34
Thursday: Luke 23:26-43
Friday: James 1:5-18
Saturday: Romans 8:26-39

From Erma Williams: Sweet Life Cafe’: A retreat for ladies who want to retreat from it all. Sweet Life Cafe’ will begin Friday evening, April 23 and conclude mid afternoon on Saturday, April 24. All main activities will take place at the church annex. A “sleep over” is an optional activity to take place at Leena Bolin’s home on Friday Evening. Erma Williams needs email addresses of any ladies outside of the Roanoke family that might be interested in taking part in this activity, to ensure she receives a personal invitation. The cost is $25 for pre-registration by April.

If you’ve noticed that Erma Williams’ name is on for nursery duty each Sunday, it is because she is starting a new class for the nursery children during the worship service. The description is as follows. Play n Worship for Toddlers, Two’s and Preschool: They’ll toss bouncy balls in the air to make rain for Noah’s Ark. They’ll clang building blocks together to make thunder-and learn how God calms a storm. They’ll hug and hold baby dolls-and hear about God’s great care for them! Each Play -n-Worship lesson uses objects from toddlers and twos’ everyday world-plus play, fun, stories and songs. This will start right away.

On April 17th there will be a city-wide training seminar for Vacation Bible School. It will be here in the annex. See Erma about details.

If you like Gospel Music, Janet Paschal and The Collingsworth Family (both of which are artists with Gaither Homecoming) will perform at the Jefferson Center on March 26. A flyer is on the downstairs bulletin board.

The family and friends of little Isabelle, the two year old being treated for leukemia is having a fund raising spaghetti dinner at the Roanoke Moose Lodge on Catawba Road, March 13, at 5 PM. There will be a silent action, a Christian comedian, and Christian music. See the bulletin board.