Diogenes of Sinope (404-323 B.C.) was a Greek philosopher who is still somewhat famous to this day. He advocated for truth over nice manners, which is still a difficult balance in friendly circles, “Does my new hairdo look good, sweetheart?” There’s a challenge for any man! But Diogenes is most famous for walking about at night with a lantern, holding close to people’s faces saying he was looking for an honest man. A serious search for honesty must include two things, finding truth, then finding those who will hold fast to the truth. It is such a controversial issue that many professors teach that man cannot know truth. I would submit that man is literally afraid to find and defend truth for fear they will become an outcast in their own circle of friends and family (or be electronically canceled by big tech!). One grave problem is that established media outlets quite often hide or spin truth to suit their own agendas, political or social. Media outlets who do that become, by default, part of cabal seeking to either advance or defend an agreed upon mantra, rather than do the hard and often dangerous work of literally reporting truth and letting the proverbial chips fall where they may. Through either obfuscation or biased mistake, the truth is subdued. I see a strong parallel in the religious world wherein truth (God’s truth, not some human version of it) is not sought from God’s written word, but rather a pre-determined, man-made doctrine is defended, even if it flies in the face of God’s written truth. In John 17:17, Jesus, praying to Father, said of the disciples, “Sanctify them in truth, Thy word is truth.” Let’s be frank, two churches cannot teach directly opposing things and both be right; e.g., one church teaches that Jesus is deity and another that He is not deity. They cannot both be right, no matter how loudly modern (anti-logical) thought claims that they can! I submit that every thinking person alive must, if he wishes to find truth, be brutally logical and practically careful in his or her search for truth. Truth matters, whether in a court of law or the court of public opinion. All too often people are so afraid of public opinion that they capitulate by either agreeing with error or simply remaining quiet for fear of ostracism. When, oh when, will people, in general, seek the maturity that only comes from a restless, energetic, logical search for truth? In Colossians 2, God settles the debate about the deity of Jesus in verse 9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity dwells in bodily form….” But notice verse 8, “See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ.” Most people severely underestimate the depth and power of earthly influence, and when they do, the principles of the world become the basis of their thoughts, ideas and assessments of what they choose to call “truth,” (or their denial of it). Let us be gravely careful to grow the courage to see, understand, be dedicated to and then proclaim God’s truth, from His written word, no matter what religions gurus try to tell us! Buy truth, and do not sell it, get wisdom and instruction and understanding. Prov. 23:23.
Don’t Equate Difficulty with Evil
When you were a child, there were times when you faced some difficulty or perhaps discipline and it felt like something bad. You may have even perceived it as evil. I certainly had plenty of those moments. As we grow older, we begin to see reality in a brighter light. I speed, I get a ticket. I stay in the parking space too long and I get a parking ticket. Some cause and effect events are fairly clear and obvious.
Some events in life are not so obvious. Often things in the spiritual realm are not so easily sorted out, particularly if we are not soaking daily life in God’s word. When that happens and life seems to get sideways, we are unsure of what is happening. Job is a perfect example of confusing the struggles of normal life on earth with discipline from God. Job was suffering, indeed, but the sources of his suffering were first, Satan’s bringing actual maladies and second, the verbal attacks from his friends who had misconstrued what was happening (Job 42:7).
We, like Job’s friends, can easily mistake normal life challenges for discipline from God, and vice versa!Americans today are fairly insulated from second and third world problems if we live a proper disciplined life. For instance, very few who work hard with a good attitude will become homeless, etc.), but it’s still easy to mistake God’s loving discipline for evil… Satan loves to deceive us in this earthly realm (Rev. 12:9).
We see a principle at work in Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
People love to appeal to that verse in troubled times, but it was not written to us! The verse was written to people whom God, Himself, had driven from their homes and their nation because of abject sin. God’s own people had allowed violence, immorality and idolatry to flood into their nation and their own lives. Verse 11 is given to speak of their future 70 years later! Notice the previous verse: “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. And verse 12: Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
They are in the midst of God’s discipline, and it isn’t going to end anytime soon! The principle of verse 11 still applies: after God has disciplined a sinner, he can seek God in prayer and God will listen. The principle is just as clear in Hebrews 12:3-11, which ends with this wisdom: All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. When we allow God’s discipline to train us, we then enter the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” stage we love. POINT: be gravely careful that you do not misinterpret the loving discipline of God to be evil. AND be gravely careful not to misinterpret actual evil as if it were an expression of God’s love. How do know the difference? My only answer is to soak life’s sores in the wisdom and healing of God’s word. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Ps. 119:105).
Forget Me Not
For the gardeners among us, the Forget Me Not is joyous little half inch flower, usually sky blue, that grows in dense clumps of simple beauty. I’ve always marveled at the name, almost an admonition not to forget the beauty these little gems impart to those who gaze upon them.
The same term is often a love thought that passes between loved ones as they temporarily part ways for some distant journey. “Forget me not” at its root is a term of endearment that is both gentle and a bit of a request based on love’s longing to be in the other’s thoughts and dreams.
Virtually every true Christian is aware of the reality that 1 Corinthians 13 is nicknamed, “The Love Chapter.” Yet virtually every conflict among God’s children is, in one way or another, a lapse in the memory, a sort of forgetting of the precious description of love itself.”Oh, that we might learn to use the term and the application of “forget me not” to request not merely a thought from a person but a memory of the passage!
We all know the call: Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends…. (English Standard Version).
Countless sermons and classes have been taught from this passage and the personal applications are endless. But in reality, it is so very easy to forget the actual specifics of the call to apply these qualities in our personal relationships!
I have an idea: open your Bible and get a pen. In the margin write “Forget Me Not” as bold as your pen will allow. Then put a star beside it. Then put a circle around it. Then draw a little 5 petaled blossom of the Forget Me Not flower beside it, then color it blue, then put a check mark at the top outside corner of the page, the dog ear the page, then put a bookmark there, then… well, you get the idea - forget it not!
From childhood sweethearts to life-long marriages, from dearly beloved Christian brothers and sisters, from head-to-head and heart-to-heart, agape the highest, least selfish form of love binds heart and lives to one another, and binds our souls to the Son of God. Indeed… Forget Me Not must apply to the passage as well as the person. “Let all that you do be done in love,” 1 Corinthians 16:14. When we live the love, the flowers of our faith will brighten the path of all we meet. Don’t forget!
Thought for the Day
The apostle Paul had been arrested, imprisoned and confined without cause for well over two years because he preached “the resurrection of the dead” (Act 23:6; 24:21; 28:20). When he finally stood on trial before King Agrippa, Paul asked the question to the king and the multitude that was gathered, “Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8). Think about that question.
If God is truly God, what is there that is “impossible” (Mark 10:27) for Him? What is there that He is not “able to do” (Eph. 3:20)? As the Almighty God “who made the world and everything in it” (Acts 17:24) and “who made you and formed you from the womb” (Isa. 44:2), why should it be thought incredible that God raises the dead or does any other mighty work? Child of God, do not limit your God! Do not make Him fit your expectations! Do not demote Him or doubt His might! Why should it be incredible to you that He can make a difference in your life? David Sproule Palm Beach Lakes church of Christ, Palm Beach Gardens, FL
In the blockbuster movie series, Back to the Future, we see many interesting things, but one important lesson even children easily notice is that decisions and actions based on those decisions can completely change long term outcomes in life! Through the application of self-discipline (Galatians 5:23) decisions become actions which change the courses of our lives. Self-discipline is certainly a key ingredient in life’s recipe, but without good, proper decisions, self-discipline could actually be used to pursue an evil goal. So let us focus for a moment on the decision side of life’s equation. Eighty-two times we see some form of “decide” or “decision” in the New America Standard Bible. Obviously, this is a major concept in a Christian’s walk with God. If we also consider forms of the word “choose” we see 233 occurrences of those words in the NASB! Decisions happen in the head, then choosingis usually logical and practical application of our decisions. Example: on a playground, kids decide who they want on their team, then they actively choose those persons. It would be hard to over-estimate the number of decisions and choices every person makes daily. Food choices, purchase choices, reading choices, time and activity choices, word choices, TV choices, movie choices, etc. for virtually every thought we have and action we take. One famous passage shows the importance of our choices: “…choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served, which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” - Joshua 24:15 The choice made “…as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord,” had the outcome of great blessings and even national success for the nation. The challenge issued by Joshua can and should be applied today. We must make a decision in our heads, then make the practical choice which results in serving the Lord. Like Back to the Future, we can and do change our futures when we make decisions and then choose courses of action. Be gravely careful that you do not make important life decisions based on comfort or pleasure. Be gravely careful that you do not make important life decisions sub-consciously but consciously, looking to your future, on earth and in eternity. Joy in this life and unspeakable joy in the next are inextricably linked to your decisions and choices today. You CAN and DO change your future with your choices today. Choose well.
Seeing the Unseen
Sounds a bit impossible. But God calls us to see the unseen and He never gives us a command which He does not empower us to accomplish. Example: God never commanded me to jump over the Grand Canyon. I wish He would, then He would empower me to be able to do it, and it would be so much fun! And I would hold the long jump record forever!
Back to the topic: seeing the unseen. There are two ways we do that. First through what we often call the “eye of faith.” After all, the very definition of “faith” found in Hebrews 11:1 is, “Now faith is the certainty of things hoped for, a proof of things not seen.” Did you catch it, “… not seen.” In verse 8, Abraham left not knowing where he was going, he couldn’t even see the next pit stop in his journey. But he obeyed God and followed the daily instructions of the journey.
We must do the same. Although we cannot see God’s plan for tomorrow, we follow “in His steps” as Peter says in 1 Peter 2:21. The only way we can follow Jesus is to put our feet in His footsteps day by day. “But I can’t see His footsteps!” you say? Ah… that is the point… you follow even though you cannot see. “But that’s nonsense,” you say? It is nonsense only if you cannot see with the eye of faith!
“OK, where do I get this faith? How do I develop it?” I’m glad you asked. God answers through Paul’s pen in Romans 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” As you read, you can not only understand (Ephesians 3:4), but you also “see” because reading and understanding give you the ability to see, through the eye of faith, exactly where to walk, “not as unwise but as wise,” (Ephesians 5:15).
In the great hall of faith, Hebrews chapter 11, we are called to see not only the footsteps forward, but the memory backward. It is not our own personal memory, but through faith in God’s word we “see” the great faith giants of the past, how they walked in faith in deeply challenging times. The call, through that walk down memory lane, is to build our faith to the point where we can see, understand, and walk in the same faith that created courage and discipline in those men and women of Hebrews 11.
By faith, we see the past, the great men of old, the birth of Jesus, the strength of the apostles, the faithfulness of the average Christians in spreading the good news, Acts 8:4. As we read, we understand, we see, we share the memories of the first century and we then see the future, the “unseen” of tomorrow, next year and, by the grace of God, our eternity with Him.
Be Not Deceived
Deception is one of the most common things we see in human interactions. From personal interaction to national discourse to international intrigue, deception is almost the norm! Deception is rampant for many reasons, including the pursuit of power, money, control, domination, and the fact that it often works! If deception seldom worked, only the naive would attempt it. But deception is, indeed, often successful for the simple reason that deception, by its very nature, seeks to hide the real agenda behind the attempt. To state the obvious, deception deceives. Some attempts are more effective than others but being deceived by every whim of others is not inevitable. God has a lot to say about deception, in both event and warning. God tells us through Paul’s pen, “Do not be deceived…” in serval passages. The entire Bible has nearly 100 passages about deception (depending on which English translation is being used. “Be not deceived” is actually in the imperative mood, meaning it is a command. Knowing that God never commands what we cannot achieve, we should know deeply in our hearts that we can live a godly life that, more often than not, we can avoid being deceived. From the beginning of time, God’s people have had to deal with deception. Eve was deceived by Satan, 1 Timothy 2:14. Laban deceived Jacob, Genesis 31. Wine and strong drink are deceivers, Proverbs 20:1, and on and on. And we must remember the ever-present deception that is common in our culture – simply being with those of bad morals, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals,” 1 Corinthians 15:33. King Saul was corrupted when he listened to the people and feared their voice, “I have sinned, for I have violated the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice,” 1 Samuel 15:24. In today’s world it is a challenge to avoid people of bad morals! But we must, as much as possible. Yes, we must associate with people void of faith (1 Corinthians 5:9-11). But each of us can mitigate the time we spend with “bad company.” It might be embarrassing at times. It might even cause loss of former friendships, especially when a friend is in the process of becoming bad. Many I know have had to sever former relationships when their friend ignored what is right. We must be on guard because our hearts can be deceived from deep within. Deuteronomy 11:16, “Beware that your hearts are not easily deceived, and that you do not turn away and serve other gods and worship them.” Once a heart is deceived, it often deceives others: Isaiah 44:20, “…a deceived heart has misled him. Deception does not need an outside source, “The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, “Obadiah 1:3.” Likewise, 1 Corinthians 3:18 warns, “Take care that no one deceives himself.” Perhaps the most egregious deception is precisely that, self-deception,” which is usually born of the desire to ignore God’s word in one’s personal life. From outside influences to internal desires, each of us must take great care not to be deceived, consciously or subconsciously and thus begin a trek that leads away from God.
Discerning Empty Philosophies
Some passages of scripture are umbrella verses that can cover a lot of ground. For example, in Luke 6:27 Jesus said, “…do good to those who hate you.” That’s an umbrella verse that covers a lot of life. “Do good” might be a thousand different things. Herein the focus will be on an umbrella verse that calls for a lot of wisdom and understanding, Colossians 2:8: See to it that there is no one who takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception in accordance with human tradition, in accordance with the elementary principles of the world, rather than in accordance with Christ.
The challenge is for the faithful follower of Christ to both recognize and avoid the philosophies and empty deceptions of his or her generations. In Ephesians 4:14 Paul refers to the problem as, “the trickery of people, by craftiness in deceitful scheming….” Similarly, in Ephesians 6:11 he warns that, “We must not be ignorant of the devil’s schemes. His schemes come in a plethora of ways that deceive many people in every generation.
One of Satan’s schemes that often goes unnoticed is the slow creep of what we could call “normalization.” That happens when the culture, as a whole, slowly begins to accept a sin and define it as good. God has warned us about that problem for over 1700 years, Isaiah 5:20: Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Like the proverbial frog being slowly boiled without jumping out of the pan, many in society and sadly, even some Christians, begin to slowly but surely accept abject sins that previous generations recognized and rejected. The heinousness of the sin is of little consequence. From “little white lies” to abortion and same sex marriage, slow acceptance of sin is common when Christians pay more attention to culture than to scripture. One of the dangers comes for the slow nature of the societal change. The ungodly change, even at its slow pace, must be recognized and confronted by faithful Christians in every generation.
Today, some philosophies and empty deceptions seem to be more deceptive than ever, but in reality, every generation of God’s people have had to be biblically educated and practically aware to be able to overcome the schemes of the devil. We must, each one of us, make it a personal and individual goal to live life by the gospel, the power of salvation to everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). Satan’s schemes can be extremely deceptive. Our spiritual wisdom must be profoundly deep. If we fall short of this goal, we will normalize sin without realizing our failure.
Author Melody Beattie wrote, “Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” True, indeed. That’s what gratitude does, but what is gratitude? National Medal of Arts winner, Lionel Hampton, a multi-award-winning jazz musician in the 20th century, defined it in a very practical way, “Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart, not the mind.” That’s a lovely thought with which I agree. But that only works if one’s heart is in the right place.
As our nation recently celebrated Thanksgiving Day, we must not let it escape our notice that the deepest giving of thanks must be accompanied by genuine gratitude. Being grateful is actually a prerequisite for thankfulness. Once we are genuinely grateful, we must recognize the source of that for which we are grateful. We must recognize that the vast majority of what we have, life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, food, family, friends, fun, shelter and clothing and joy, God is the giver, for He has created the raw materials from which we build those things. Gratitude is the fertile soil of the soul from which true thanksgiving grows.
If we don’t recognize Jehovah God as the great creator, builder, giver of life and source of all blessings, we will most likely live in frustration, feeling under the thumb of mindless circumstance, or we will begin to credit ourselves with whatever we have and become smug, feeling superior to those who have less, and inferior to those who have more.
To the contrary, when we live in genuine gratitude which flows into thanksgiving to God, we begin to know we are loved by Him, and blessed by Him, and the attitude those two create becomes a life lived in a positive place, even if the world is falling apart. No wonder Paul commands us to let our mind dwell on positive things (Philippians 4:4-8).
In this often dark and foreboding world we must, as the famous author Anonymous one wrote, “Put some gratitude in your attitude. There’s always something to be grateful for.” He also gives us the practical process of getting there, “Spend the day appreciating every little thing that comes your way and you’ll end the day feeling deeply grateful for your life!”
Yes, I know the world is coming apart at the seams. But remember Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
And on that day you will say, “Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.” Isaiah 12:4
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; For His faithfulness is everlasting. 1 Chronicles 16:34, Psalm 136:1
That I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving And declare all Your wonders. Psalm 26:7
A completely dark room is hard to navigate. A dimly lit room is only a little better. Have you noticed that the best lighting in a room is when it is hanging from the ceiling, so that the whole room benefits from it? That’s exactly what Jesus said that Christians are to be! We are to be “the light of the world” (Matt. 5:14), but where are we? Are we a “light” that is kept down low near the ground, where we are less visible? No! Are we a “light” that is shaded to keep from being too obvious or bright? No! Christians are to be a light that is put “on a lampstand” (5:15). The lampstand would be in a prominent place in the home. It was elevated to provide maximum coverage for “all who are in the house.” Do we want our faith to be prominent in our lives, or do we hold it back? Do we seek to provide maximum coverage for all people, or are we selective about who we want to see our faith? True Christians are unshaded lamps of the gospel of Christ (2 Cor. 4:3-7).
David Sproule Palm Beach Lakes Church of Christ, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida We Are a Bit Different As Christians, we are certainly different from the world - we all know that. But we are not very different from Christians in the first century. We are saved by the blood of Jesus, we are despised by some in the world (the darkness hates the light John 3:19-21) and we have peace that surpasses all comprehension of those who don’t have it (Philippians 4:4-13). But in one way we are very different. In the first century, in most of the Mediterranean countries, all people were under the thumb of the Roman Empire. They had been conquered, militarily, and were subjects of the whims of the emperor. They had no say in governmental affairs. In America today, we are greatly blessed by God to live in the nation where all citizens, including Christians, are actually the sovereign. We the people, are the final word, the kings in command, the final arbiter of the entire government. (Yes, I know some want to change that, but so far it is still in effect.) We the people decide who rules, by vote and appointment of those we elected. We the people gained the responsibility of this contract on June 21, 1788, when New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the Constitution. Ever since then, we became different. The principles that apply to government, in the scriptures, now, necessarily, apply to us… we the people, who control our nation. In essence and in law, we the people are now responsible to our nation and to God for the governing laws we create. As God held King David responsible for Uriah’s death (not Joab), God holds responsible those who have the final power and authority. (See 2 Samuel 11-12 for that story). Today, that sovereign authority is squarely in the hands of we the people, as a group. Certainly, we don’t always get what we vote for, but the majority does. The majority may vote in people who go against God’s word (and often do). But that does not negate every Christian’s personal responsibility to do all they can to vote for people who will support what is good and right. This responsibility weighs heavily on me, personally, and we should all take it very seriously. A dear personal friend once taught that ability plus opportunity equals responsibility. When we have an ability and also the opportunity, we have, thereby, responsibility. If I have the ability and the opportunity to save someone from a burning house, the I also have the responsibility. If I have been granted by God and our founding fathers the ability and the opportunity to shape our nation toward good and away from evil, the I also have the responsibility to do what I can to affect that outcome. This Tuesday, Americans, including Christians, will make choices as the sovereigns of our nation. On every ballot will be choices between good and evil. Please, please, as in all other endeavors, make sure your choices are as godly as you know how. The choices of sovereigns make or break nations.
Think on These Things Over the years it has been interesting to see how often culture aligns with scripture... not very often. But when it does, it is noteworthy. Obviously, our culture is becoming increasingly evil. Crime, immortality and even idolatry are on the rise. Without God, these cultural crashes inevitably bring frustration and despair in our society. But individually, it is not so inevitable. Back in the 1960s, Bob Luman recorded a song written by Boudleaux Bryant entitled, Let’s Think About Living.” The opening lyrics are quite honest about songs reflecting violent crime and despair, but move quickly into the chorus with, “Let’s think about living, let’s think about loving... let’s forget about the whining and the lying and the shooting and the dying and the fellow with the switchblade knife, let’s think about living, let’s think about life.” God’s plan is for His faithful people to respond to His word and this song parallels that plan. Frustration is natural, normal, and often the right response, but despair is not. Paul covers some very important bases in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 He is very open and honest as he recognizes negative things in life, but he quickly moves to the antidote: 7 But we have this treasure in earthen containers, so that the extraordinary greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; 8 we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying around in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being handed over to death because of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you. Then, after reminding us of our own coming resurrection and the grace of God in verses 14 and 15, Paul seals the passage with this encouragement: 16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day. 17 For our momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. We are, indeed, “perplexed but not despairing” (v. 8) if and when we focus not on things temporal, but on the eternal (v. 18). Maybe Paul was serious when he taught us to rejoice, pray and to let our minds dwell on the positive things in Philippians 4:4-9. Ray Wallace
Listening For God’s Voice
A Native American and his friend were in downtown New York City, walking near Times Square. It was during the noon lunch hour and the streets were filled with people. Cars were honking their horns, taxicabs were squealing around corners, sirens were wailing, and the sounds of the city were almost deafening. Suddenly, the Native American said, “I hear a cricket.” His friend said, “What? You must be crazy. You couldn’t possibly hear a cricket in all this noise!” “No, I’m sure of it,” the Native American said, “I heard a cricket.” “That’s crazy,” said the friend. The Native American listened carefully for a moment, and then walked across the street to a big cement planter where some shrubs were growing. He looked into the bushes beneath the branches, and sure enough, there was a small cricket. His friend was utterly amazed. “That’s incredible,” said his friend. “You must have super-human ears!” “No,” said the Native American. “My ears are no different from yours. It all depends on what you’re listening for.” “But that can’t be,” said the friend. “I could never hear a cricket in all this noise.” “Yes, you can,” came the reply. “Here, let me show you.” He reached into his pocket, pulled out a few coins, and discreetly dropped them on the sidewalk. And then, with the noise of the crowded street still blaring in their ears, they noticed that every person’s head within twenty feet turned and looked to see if the money that tinkled on the pavement was theirs. “See what I mean?” asked the Native American. “It all depends on what’s important to you, and what you’re listening for.” What’s important to us? What do we listen for? Are there times that we fail to listen to God, because we are focused on other things that are more important to us? Regarding the Jews, Jesus said, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear.” (Matthew 13:15-16; cf. Isaiah 6:9-10; Acts 28:26-27). Brethren, amid the distractions of the world all around us, may our ears always be open, not only ready to listen for, but to hear and be obedient to God’s voice as He speaks to us through His word (1 Samuel 3:9-10; cf. John 8:47; John 10:4; John 10:27; 1 John 4:6).
Some folks may ask me, some folks may say, “Who is this Jesus you talk about every day?” He is my Savior, He set me free, Now listen while I tell you what He means to me.
This is far more than a kids’ camp song. It is a reminder to all who call on the name of Jesus as the only begotten Son of God. All too often Christians can unintentionally allow our religion to become a set of rules and regulations void of relationship.
The church that Jesus built does, indeed, have rules and regulations. To deny that is to deny Christian love itself. Why? Because Jesus, Himself, said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments,” - John 14:15. Without commandments to keep, we cannot fully love Him as He commanded.
The problem comes if Christians either, A. Deny there are rules and regulations to obey (“Just fell the love!”), or B. Begin to believe that rules and regulations are the only things in Christianity.
I agree with James Dobson’s comment, “Rules without relationship create rebellion.” I’ve spent my 43 years preaching career seeing some people reject the rules because they do not have love for Jesus, nor recognize Jesus’ love for them. Far too may forget the powerful reality found in 1 John 4:19, “We love because He first loved us.” We can love, simply because He first loved us! Since it is virtually impossible to express love without some sort of sacrifice, it makes sense when we read, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son….” Love gives. Love sacrifices. Love often gives up something.
In our case today, love gives up sin to “keep His commandments.” The more we love, the more we talk about the object of our love. The more we talk about the object of our love, in this case, Jesus, Himself, the more people hear us talking. The more they hear us talking, the more likely they are to ask, “Who is this Jesus you talk about every day?” Then we can answer the question as an expression of our love for Him and for them:
He is my everything, He is my all He is my everything, both great and small He gave His life for me, made everything new, He is my everything, now how about you?
Pessimism and Optimism, Personal and National
Optimism vs Pessimism has been debated since the time of the great Greek philosophers. Aristotle was known for his optimism, but he connected it to positive actions, not merely thoughts or moods: He wrote “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Modern counselors have also recognized the link between actions and mental health. It is now widely understood that good, disciplined actions in heart and in hand, are basic parts of good attitudes and good moods. But optimism is a growing challenge when daily life is growing tougher. Inflation has some families deciding between heat and eats. Political arguments are dominating the news tempting us to give up hope. Personal friends are attacking personal friends for perceived social infractions and even families are drawing battle lines and rejecting one another for social or political offenses. There truly are many things in our nation that are currently challenging our pursuit of love, joy, peace and patience. The international scene is not any better, with active wars, pipeline sabotage, sky-rocketing crime rates and supply chain problems, including food. We should never deny the realities of those things. Denial of reality is never God’s plan for your peace. But optimism should never be the result of circumstances you do not control personally. Again the Greeks recognized the pursuit of optimism as a basic reality of life - a reality many have missed today. Democritus wrote, “Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” Keep in mind that these were secular philosophers who, somehow, somewhere, stumbled on these timeless truths that things and situations do not control or deliver optimism or pessimism. So, what does? In reality, you do. Optimism vs pessimism is a personal choice - it is now and always has been. All my life I have seen individuals who are in the same place in the same circumstances, yet one is happy and optimistic and the other is unhappy and pessimistic. Optimism is simply not a result of ignorance or denial of bad circumstances. It is a result of an individual’s response to the circumstances! Never forget that. Write it on your bathroom mirror in eyebrow pencil (that works very well, ask me how I know). Frame it in fancy calligraphy on your dining room wall. And write it on the tablet of your heart. And remember that the concept applies to national and international situations as much as personal ones. No matter what is happening outside our minds, we still control our personal, inner responses. I’m not saying a positive response is always easy, but Paul tells us it is possible, as God inspired him to encourage the church at Philippi to combine positive thoughts, with positive actions:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Did you catch it? We must allow our minds to dwell on positive things! Control your thoughts and practice the things Paul has taught! When you actually live in that reality, “the God of peace will be with you.”
Seeing the World Through Your Own Headlines
Sometimes I just want it to stop. Talk of Covid, protests, looting, brutality. I lose my way. Become convinced that that this “new normal” is real life.
But then, I meet an 87 year old who talks of living through Polio diptheria, Vietnam, protests and yet is still enchanted with life. He seemed surprised when I said that 2020 must be especially challenging for him. “No,” he said slowly looking me straight in the eyes, “I learned a long time ago to not see the world through the printed headlines. I see the world through the people that surround me. I see the world with the realization that we love big. Therefore, I just choose to write my own headlines. “Husband loves wife today.” “Family drops everything to come to Grandma’s bedside.” He patted my hand. “Old man makes new friend.”
His words collide with my worries, freeing them from the tether I had been holding tight. They float away. I am left with a renewed spirit. My headline now reads, “Woman overwhelmed by the spirit of kindness and the reminder that our capacity to love is never ending.”
(From Facebook 2022)
Nature and Nature’s God
I love the forest. I grew up hunting, hiking and camping. In my mid teen years I would camp with other teens for days, and “live off the land” as we imagined ourselves modern versions of Daniel Boone, eating rabbits, bull frogs, and fish. I find the forest a place of solitude and reflection, rest and rejuvenation. But I’ve never found my soul there! Since the hippie movement of the 1960s, many Americans have looked to nature rather than nature’s God for everything from folly to philosophy. In reality, when humans supplant the true God with physical nature, they are merely rejecting the Creator of nature and allowing their own desires to become their personal god. In Romans 1:22-25, Paul warned true followers of Jesus about this very thing (they worshipped created things rather than the Creator). Likewise, the founding fathers of our country would refer to nature and Nature’s God. I don’t know how many times I have heard some say (Christian or not), “I can be closer to God camping on a mountain top than I can in church.” That comment reveals a deep, but often unrecognized reality within that person’s mind: My religion is one of personal emotions and enjoyment of pleasing self, rather than one of seeking to please the almighty God who created me and gave His Son to die on the cross to redeem me from my own sin. Every true Christian should desire to show his or her love for God in the way God, Himself, has given us in scripture, “If you love Me you will keep my commandments,” - John 14:15. It is quite easy, even for faithful Christians, to supplant God’s will with their own version of His will, without recognizing it. The peace of the woods (which is very real) can be easily mistaken for the “peace that passes understanding,” - Philippians 4:7. John Muir’s famous quote reflects that mistake: “And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul.” – John Muir Muir was a great naturalist and I enjoy reading his work. But scripture has taught me to recognize the difference between the allure of simple, emotional peace and the deep, true peace the comes from knowing and pleasing Him. Let us all imbibe deeply of this wonderful natural world that our loving Father has created for our enjoyment and sustenance, while remembering who He is and His loving call to be closer to him than anything in this world. Perhaps our mantra would better read, “Into His worship I go, to lose my anxiety and find my soul.”
Being Agreeable? I have seen an evil developing and increasing. The evil casts unwarranted doubt on others, destroys friendships and wrecks reputations. The evil is wrong agreement! We love to have an agreeable disposition. It just feels Christian. Being agreeable also avoids argument, buys a peaceable reputation and makes it easier to be around our friends - they know we are agreeable! To be sure, we should not be trouble-makers, in general... most of the time... when we can.. but not at the expense of truth, not at the expense of another’s reputation and not at the expense of our own Christianity. But isn’t it “Christian” to be agreeable? Sure, mostly, when we can, when it is merely social. But in today’s world it has become unfashionable and even considered gauche almost anytime one is disagreeable. Consider this, you are standing around the water cooler at work and someone berates a co-worker. Several agree on what a jerk he or she is and they all look at you waiting for the personal affirmation of your agreement! You’re on the spot, you can feel the hot seat. Agree or be an outcast. Agree or you’re no longer in the in crowd! Agree or you get “cancelled,” if not by Facebook, at least by friends. You must choose: friendship or personal integrity... cool factor or cancellation! You are convinced the subject of the gossip is actually a very nice person. You know that person better than any of the gossipers and you know they are simply wrong and judgmental. Do you agree to be sociable? Do you go along to get along? You know the right thing to do but you also understand the consequences. In the closing chapter of 1 Corinthians, Paul gives a sobering command to Jesus’ followers: Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love. (1 Corinthians 16:13, 14.) “Act like men, be strong.” To follow Jesus’ command of treating others like you would want to be treated, (Matthew 7:12), you simply must step up to the plate. We can be and must learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Try these: “Truthfully, I’ve never seen that person be unfriendly.” “Maybe he was not feeling well this morning, let’s not be judgmental.” “You know... all of us are out of sorts at times. Let’s be supportive.” “Have you actually confirmed this negative story? I’m not sure it’s true.” “Let’s be more friendly to him/her. Maybe they’re having a tough time at home.” (You can think of more.) Reputations are tough things to earn and they can easily be damaged by a lying tongue, a hateful word or malicious gossip. “You shall not bear a false report; do not join your hand with a wicked man to be a malicious witness.” Exodus 23:1. (Psalm 35:19 and 1 Timothy 3:1-5 will add understanding to the challenge. Don’t let fear control you Be kind. Let all that you do be done in love.
Spirit of Confusion Part 2 Kyle Click To say there is a misunderstanding about the Holy Spirit would be an understatement. The issue in the churches of Christ today stems from a reaction to the extreme views of the Pentecostals and miraculous healing. This has caused brethren to view the Holy Spirit to be detached and uninvolved. In our last article, we discussed the idea of who the Holy Spirit is and what He does, past, present, and future as described in the Bible. Now that we understand who the third person of the godhead is, let’s break down the two most common views of the Holy Spirit’s operation in us today that are found in the Lord’s church. These two views reflect on what does the “gift of the Holy Spirit” mean? This question is based on Acts 2:38, “Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The first view is commonly held in Bible Belt congregations and explains that the “gift” is the Holy Spirit which is miraculous in nature and is given by the laying of the apostle's hands. This argument says Acts 1 & 2 are only talking to the apostles and the Christians who were there at Pentecost. Because of this understanding of Scripture, the Holy Spirit does not literally indwell us today but is in the Word only. This argument uses Acts 2:1-4 as evidence that this is speaking only to apostles. The brethren who hold this view make sure that it gives no room for Pentecostalism. If this position is true, then it is saying that Acts 2:38 is only three-quarters applicable: repentance, baptism, and forgiveness, omitting the gift of the Holy Spirit for Christians today. The other common view is the personal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This view believes that the Holy Spirit indwells Christians today. The “gift of the Holy Spirit” is the Holy Spirit Himself and is a seal or a pledge for the one who obeys the gospel, (2 Corinthians 5:5, Ephesians 1:14). To sum up this idea nicely brother Mike Vestal puts it this way “We become Christians by lovingly obeying the truth in repentance and baptism at which point He forgives us of our sins and gives us the non-miraculous Holy Spirit in a non-supernatural way as an assurance that God will give us the inheritance.” In conclusion, the Holy Spirit is a subject where many brethren have differing views. Whether Biblical or not, it can be a heated topic in the brotherhood. However, the gift of the Holy Spirit is a promise of God and promises have nothing to do with salvation. We don't have to fully understand a promise of God to receive it and not understanding does not make a Christian not right with God. We cannot let this divide the brotherhood and become a fellowship issue. We are all baptized into Christ and members of His one church for which Jesus died. We must not divide over promises God has made because if one is a true New Testament Christian, one will receive the promise whether they understand it or not. “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” 1 Corinthians 1:10.
Spirit of Confusion? Part 1 Kyle Click In today's religious world there are many different ideas about what the Bible says on things like faith, salvation, and church organization. With so many differing views on such things, people who are searching for God can easily get lost in the weeds of religious dogma. The most confusing of these doctrinal topics in the “Christianity” culture today is the Holy Spirit. It seems nearly every manmade denomination has a different idea of who the Holy Spirit is and how He works in our lives today. In this first article, we will discuss who the Holy Spirit is and how He works in the book of Acts. Part 2 will discuss the various views of how the Holy Spirit works in our lives today that are found in the churches of Christ. Before we jump into Acts let’s introduce the idea of the “measure of the Holy Spirit” found in the gospel of John. In John 3:34 it says, "For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure.” In other words, Jesus got the full measure of the Holy Spirit. Now let’s let this Biblical term help us understand the different “measures” of the Holy Spirit’s power that are illustrated in Acts and how different people got different measures. First, there is the measure of the “Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” This was given only to the apostles in Acts 2:1-4 and Cornelius and his household in Acts 10:1-11:18. In Acts 2, the apostles were given the Holy Spirit to give them the power to confirm the word through miracles to the ones they were preaching to (Mark 16:20). The purpose of Cornelius being baptized was to prove to the Jews that Gentiles could be saved (Acts 10:44). The second measure of the Holy Spirit is the “laying on of hands measure.” This was when an apostle laid hands on a person to impart a miraculous gift. This could only be transferred from an apostle to an individual and the individual could not pass that gift on. Once the apostles and the ones who had the laying on of hands measure had died, the source of the miracles died with them. There are five examples of laying on of hands in Scripture, Stephen, Philip, and others in Acts 6:6-8; disciples in Acts 8:18; Acts 19:5, 6; Romans 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:6. The third and final measure is the indwelling of the Spirit. This is the measure the author believes New Testament Christians have today. In Acts 2:47, Peter gives two promises, forgiveness and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 5:32 says those who obey God have the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 1:13, 14 as well as 2 Corinthians 1:21, 22 mention that the Holy Spirit is a seal and a pledge. A down payment or earnest for what is to come in our reward. How do baptized Christians know they have the indwelling Holy Spirit? In the same way we know we have forgiveness of sin, through faith (Ephesians 3:16-19). In a world of religious confusion, it’s easy to get misled about something like the Holy Spirit, especially when there are so many opinions and ideas floating around. However, if we get back to the Bible and understand the context of these important verses that mention the Holy Spirit, we can have an understanding of this amazing promise that our Almighty God has given us.
Returning to God’s Word
Thomas Campbell has been regarded as “the architect of the Restoration Movement.” He was the one who really got the ball rolling for this movement to begin. Thomas is best known for his work among The Christian Association of Washington. This group was not a church but was a group of church reform advocates. Thomas Campbell wrote a document called The Declaration and Address to identify the purpose of this association. That document became the single most influential document of the entire Restoration Movement. Thomas Campbell said some of the most famous words in describing the basic principle of this group. Here’s what he said: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where the Bible is silent, we are silent.” This principle was one of the most earth shattering statements of the Restoration Movement. In fact, it was so shocking that one man responded by saying, “Mr. Campbell, if we adopt that as a basis, then there is an end to infant baptism.” Thomas Campbell’s reply was, “if infant baptism be not found in Scripture, we can have nothing to do with it.” Too many people who wear the name “Christian” today aren’t speaking where the Bible speaks and are speaking loudly where the Bible is completely silent. If we want to be true biblical Christians, we must base everything we do on the Bible. We must take the Bible as our only guide, and speak where it speaks, and be silent where it is silent. Thomas Campbell was one of the most influential preachers of the Restoration Movement because he based everything he did on this principle. We need more people today like Thomas Campbell who will speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.
“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.”
What is Heaven Like?
What a great question. Like planning for an extended vacation, we all want to know what it will be like before we go. What heaven will be like is addressed in scripture so that’s where our answers should be found. For millennia mankind has asked and answered the question with varying degrees of accuracy. It is common for people to wax eloquent with their own imaginations, and we could all do that easily. One might say, “If it’s going to be heaven then they must have golf courses and permanently excellent weather,“ etc. But we, like Paul wrote to the church in Rome, should ask, “What saith the scriptures?” Romans 4:3. So… what is heaven like? The full answer exceeds the space we have here, but let’s address it briefly from a few verses. But recognize that the term, “kingdom of heaven” is also used to describe the Lord’s church, but those in that kingdom are the ones bound for heaven itself (Matt. 3:2; 4:17). First, Jesus describes the kingdom of heaven several times in the beatitudes, but He does not, therein, tell what eternal heaven is like. Jesus does describe the “kingdom of heaven” as a hidden treasure that brings so much joy that it is worth all we have, Matt. 13:44. (That would apply to the earthly kingdom, the church, as well as the heavenly kingdom. Likewise, it is like a pearl of great price, etc. (several times in Matt. 13 parables). In Matthew, Jesus refers to heaven with “enter into the joy of your master.” (vv. 21, 23). But still, those are comparisons which do not include descriptions of what God’s eternal heaven is like. For that we first look at Acts 7:56, wherein Stephen, as he is being stoned to death by unbelievers, says, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” So, God the Father and Jesus the Son are reigning there. But what is it like? Some think I Corinthians 2:9 say that man can’t imagine what God has prepared for us! Most likely, in context, Paul is describing the unspeakable wisdom God has prepared for us, but heaven may very well be implicated, generally, as one of the things God has prepared for us. “Preacher… you still have not described heaven for us!” True. Let me say that God has given humans some introductory material, but we are limited to what the human mind can imagine, even with God’s own descriptions! John 14:2, “In My Father’s house are many mansions,” KJV. Rev. 7:9, 10 Multitudes from every nation praising God. Rev. 7:17, eternal joy, "God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (OK, now the good stuff…_ Rev. 21:10-21, every kind of precious stone, jasper, sapphire, chalcedony, emerald, sardonyx, huge pearls etc. Basically, more beauty than the mind of man can imagine. And Jesus, Himself, the Father and Son are the temple (v. 22). What about streets of gold, Rev. 21:21? imagine taking some gold treasure to heaven with you. God lets you in and He asks, “Why did you bring some pavement with you? Beauty beyond imagination, but the real treasure is simply to be with Him for all eternity!
“Racoon” John Smith Kolton Ballance
During the American Restoration Movement, there were a number of prominent preachers that made an impact in restoring the New Testament church. Of those preachers, there were perhaps none as colorful and quirky as a man named “Raccoon” John Smith. He earned the name “Raccoon” when he explained who he was in a sermon by saying that he grew up “among the coons”.
John Smith was best known for his humorous way of converting people's way of thinking. He once drug a Methodist preacher down to the water to be baptized against his will to show him that baptizing babies against their will was an invalid baptism. There are numerous stories like these that make up John Smith’s colorful preaching career.
However, one of the highlights of his preaching career was in the meeting between Alexander Campbell’s restoration movement and Barton Stone’s restoration movement. At this meeting John Smith is attributed as the force that united these two movements into one group under the same plea: unity under the Divine Standard of Scripture. Here are the famous words of “Raccoon” John Smith on that day:
“Let us then, my brethren, be no longer Campbellites or Stoneites, New Lights or Old Lights, or any other kind of lights, but let us all come to the only Book in the world that can give us all the light we need.”
This plea for unity under God’s inspired scriptures was one of the highlights of the American Restoration Movement. This same plea for unity under God’s words is what the religious world needs today. When you look around the religious world there are Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, etc. that are all separated because they all follow different teachings. But Biblical unity cannot be achieved as long as we all follow different beliefs! We must get back to the Bible alone as our only statement of faith. We must do as John Smith said and be no longer separated under different beliefs, but be united under God’s word. What our world needs is more “Raccoon” John Smiths to preach the simple truths of the Bible in pursuit of unity, love, and restoration of the Biblical pattern.
I Stand and Look... Michael Hite
I stand and look at the storm and the wind and waves declare Your majesty. The lightning flashes and the earth trembles; the winds roar along their course and the trees bow down and worship. We, on the earth seek shelter from its relentless hurrying. We stand in awe of the power displayed. Our vision in the storm is obscured by the raging. We strain to see clearly, what is dimmed by our struggles, but even in the midst of the storm You bring calm to Your children. For this we know, the great storm will pass. Unending days of cloudless skies await us. By faith our eyes seek to see it. Yet You see it all. The storm speaks of Your greatness and my heart has heard it.
Who am I, so small in this storm, that You are mindful of me? With your glory before me I cannot help but fall to my knees. I am so small, just one voice among billions, but I know the Creator and He knows me. I am unique in this vastness. I am Your special possession. I am Your child. I am loved.
I stand and look at the sea and the oceans declare your majesty. The storm that was once so great now appears small in comparison. The expanse of the waters and the depths of its canyons express Your power. With a word You spoke it into existence; with a word You carved its fathoms. The grains of sand under my feet are inadequate to number the creatures You placed under its waves. Swarms of fish dart through its currents; giants prowl its depths. Life teems even in the darkness, yet You see it all. The seas speak of Your greatness and my heart has heard them.
Who am I, so small on this shore, that You are mindful of me? With Your glory before me I cannot help but fall to my knees. I am so small, just one voice among billions, but I know the Creator and He knows me. I am unique in this vastness. I am Your special possession. I am Your child. I am loved.
I stand and look to the skies, and the universe declares Your majesty. The expanse of galaxies and the brightness of stardust express Your glory. The oceans shrink to a speck from distances measured only by speed and time. With a word You set light on its journey to my eyes. The stars in the heavens are inadequate to number the miles above me. You set me among this vast Creation. Clouds of gas fly through its emptiness; giants collide in its depths. Places yet unseen exist in its darkness, yet You see it all. The heavens speak of Your greatness and my heart has heard them.
Who am I, so small in this universe, that You are mindful of me? With your glory before me I cannot help but fall to my knees, I am so small, just one voice among billions, but I know the Creator and He knows me. I am unique in this vastness. I am Your special possession. I am Your child. I am loved. (Editor’s Note: Reformatted from original for space)
Who IS this Jesus? Many years ago a wonderful Christian taught our church family a pivotal song: Some folks may ask me, some folks may, Who is the Jesus, you talk about every day? He is my Savior, He set me free, Now listen while I tell you, what He mean to me. Chorus: He is my everything, He is my all. He is my everything, both great and small. He gave his life for me, made everything new. He is my everything, Now how about you? (There are more verses, but you get the idea.) Who IS this Jesus? The true answer to that question is quite commonly corrupted by believers and non-believers alike. Most often, people seeking Jesus remake Him in their own image (consciously or subconsciously). In Asia you will often see Asian looking paintings of Jesus. In South America, the paintings look South American. In the US you might see white European, blond paintings of Jesus. Those are outward, visual representations, almost always wrong. Herein, let’s focus on the real person, Emanuel, God with us. Who IS He, what are the characteristics that define Him? We can say, God in the flesh, Son of God, Savior, etc., and those are correct, but those terms say little about His personality. Some imagine Jesus as an old softie that just loves us as we are and is too kind to call us to change, to repentance. Some imagine Jesus as Judge, frowning and condemning people and gruffly tossing them into Hell. Both extremes bear little resemblance to reality. Jesus is a loving Savior who loves us so much He died for our sins. He is also the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He was a suffering servant 2000 years ago in the gospels, and He will return as a triumphant conqueror in the book of Revelation (see also 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18 and 2 Thessalonians 5:5-10). Picture an older brother who loves his siblings deeply and, when necessary, corrects them, then on occasion protects them from the wolves, four legged and two legged! Picture the Master Shepherd leading the flock lovingly to new green pastures and to fresh, clear water (Psalm 23). Picture that shepherd with a thick wooden staff beating back a lion or bear (2 Samuel 17:34-37). Whenever you contemplate the question, “Who IS this Jesus?” remember the wonderfully diverse and deeply complex roles Jesus fulfills in the lives of every individual on earth, either positive or negative, depending on who WE are! Then ask yourself openly, honestly, “Who is this (insert your name here): . Then you can more stringently examine yourself to see if you are in the faith (2 Cor. 13:5) and how well you are imitating Paul as he imitates Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Are you walking in His steps (1 Peter 2:21)? Ray Wallace
Philosophy, Tradition, Deception and Elementary Principles of the World
The culture in the first century city of Colossae was deep and broad. It was well developed, but not in a good way. Colossae was in Asia Minor, not far from the cities Laodicea, Philadelphia and Aphrodisias (the latter being known for having one of the temples of and a statue of Aphrodite, the goddess of love who was worshipped by visiting temple prostitutes). Yes, you could find anything you wanted in Colossae, good, bad and everything in between. While most believe that Epaphras actually founded the church at Colossae, Paul’s letter to them is deeply personal as he warns them of the dangers of worldly traditions and philosophies. Listen carefully to Paul’s warnings in Colossians 2:8: See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. The Holy Spirit was directing Paul to address some of the major temptations that could easily draw Christians away from Christ. The same is true today. Christians must certainly avoid the physical temptations so common in the pagan religions of the day, but there were, and are, more subtle influences that can wreak just as much havoc on one’s spiritual life. Notice the four categories Paul mentions: 1. Philosophy 2. Empty deception 3. Tradition of men 4. Elementary principles of the world. These are not as readily recognized as sexual temptations are, but they are just as deadly. Because of the stealthy nature of these things, the careless Christian might accidentally and unknowingly adopt some of the world’s beliefs and attitudes without realizing what is happening. “Philosophy” is a love of wisdom, but very often becomes a love of earthly wisdom rather than godly wisdom. “Empty deception” is just that, deception (that which deceives), thus is not recognized for what it is. “Tradition of men” is not complicated but is very attractive because it both allows us to partake of the forbidden and also brings with it earthly acceptance and approval of those who are not God’s children. And “elementary principles of the world” are simply the base elements of society and culture that appeal to those, whether erudite or elementary, who have no desire for the spiritual maturities to which God has called us in Ephesians 4;14-16. In 1 Peter 5:8 we are warned: Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. In today’s world, as in Colossae, Satan seeks to devour us through philosophy, empty deception, tradition of men and elementary principles of the world. Stay alert, stay strong. Love Him with all your heart, mind, soul and strength!
Fear Not, Stand Still, Be Quiet And Watch Donnie Bates
Sometimes when we're walking down the straight and narrow path, just when it seems things are getting really good in life, suddenly all the wheels come off at once. You immediately think of James 1:2,3 and you say, "Lord, I know I'm supposed to be joyful right now, but I just don't see how this time," or "I know You said You'd provide a way of escape, but I don't see any way out of this." It always seems that these things happen at the worst of times. That's because there are no good times for disaster. A great lesson can be learned by listening to Moses' words to the children of Israel when they were convinced that the Egyptian army was about to kill them all (Exodus 14:13, 14): But Moses said to the people, "Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever. The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent." When God says, "Fear not!" He usually has something big in mind. Moses knew ahead of time that Og, king of Bashan, would not destroy the Israelites (Numbers 21:33-35). This is how it would be in every battle (Deuteronomy 20:1-3). However, like so much of God's law, this was conditional (Joshua 7:2-5,8-12). The same is true today. We already know Who is going to win (Romans 8:31-37), but it's still conditional (2 Corinthians 13:5). When God says, "Stand still!" we must do things His way. Impatience will get us into trouble every time. Just look at Abraham and Ishmael (Genesis 16). God's priests were to stand patiently and wait on God to stop a flooding Jordan River (Joshua 3:8). Receiving strength from God depends on waiting patiently on Him (Isaiah 40:31). Patience is necessary to receive the promise (Hebrews 10:36). It's also important not to sound your own horn! He says, "Be quiet!" God says not to worry about our enemies or the things that threaten us; He is the Victor (Isaiah 7:1-6). Moses, who was more humble than anyone else (Numbers 12:3) was not interested in glory; only in serving his God (Exodus 32:9-14). Now "Watch!" "Behold the power and majesty of God!!" The goodness of God is visible today (Psalm 27:13); we see answered prayers, the awesome evidence of creation, etc. We are invited to see His works (Psalm 66:5). It has all been plainly visible for quite some time (Romans 1:20). Read 2 Kings 6:8-18. When we enter into life's battles they can quite often be pretty scary (2 Chronicles 20:1-7). Whenever we do battle in this world we must make sure whose side we're on. If we find ourselves against the Lord, we must change sides quickly. If we find ourselves on the Lord's side, read what will happen in 2 Chronicles 20:14-17, 20-24: Then in the midst of the assembly the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel the son of Zechariah, the son of Benaiah, the son of Jeiel, the son of Mattaniah, the Levite of the sons of Asaph; and he said, "Listen, all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: thus says the Lord to you, 'Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's. Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the valley in front of the wilderness of Jeruel. You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the Lord is with you." ...They rose early in the morning and went out to the wilderness of Tekoa; and when they went out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, "Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed." When he had consulted with the people, he appointed those who sang to the Lord and those who praised Him in holy attire, as they went out before the army and said, "Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting." When they began singing and praising, the Lord set ambushes against the sons of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; so they were routed. For the sons of Ammon and Moab rose up against the inhabitants of Mount Seir destroying them completely; and when they had finished with the inhabitants of Seir, they helped to destroy one another. When Judah came to the lookout of the wilderness, they looked toward the multitude, and behold, they were corpses lying on the ground, and no one had escaped. There will be times when you come out the winner and you have no idea how it happened that way. Just give thanks to God Almighty. Have a wonderful week.
Teaching Faithful Men God’s plan is precious, and it works when we follow it. Usually, we think of His plan in terms of initial conversion or church structure or even personal holiness, but it goes much further. God’s plan for life on earth as well as His church has more facets than a Cartier diamond. One we often forget is from 2 Timothy 2:2: The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Churches who forget this command fail to prepare the next generation for faithful teachers to help Christians stay on track with faithful, biblical service to God and others. Since knowing the truth (God’s truth) is what sets us free and keeps us free (John 8:32), we absolutely must have faithful, educated men who have been taught in such a way that they can teach others also. That is the fulfillment we must seek to obey God’s command in 2 Timothy 2:2. There are various ways Christians can fulfill this command, personally and congregationally. One of those ways we help teach others is parallel to the way Paul was helped financially by the church in Macedonia (2 Corinthians 11:9; Philippians 4:15). That way is simple: as we teach at home, we also financially support the teaching of faithful men in faithful biblical schools. This congregation has astounded me in how beautifully and generously you have supported faithful men who are teaching others as well as the others they are teaching. Today, we are blessed with the opportunity hear teaching and preaching from a student (currently a senior) at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver, Kyle Click (son of our members Scott and Kim Click). This congregation has helped make it financially possible for Kyle (and his wife Lyndsay) to learn to teach others also. Next week we will be blessed to hear teaching and preaching from Donnie Bates, instructor and academic dean at the same school. Once a year this congregation has a special contribution to help financially support Donnie and his wife Noma to be able to perform godly service in their roles there. (Remember to bring your special contribution check for Donnie next week!) May we continue to do our part to obey God’s command to teach faithful men who will be able teach others also. And may God continue to bless these two families as they present themselves to Him for service in His kingdom. Ray Wallace
What will man risk for freedom? That’s an easy question to answer. Life and limb! Consider all the wars that have been fought to procure or protect freedom, even in our own nation’s history. Our forefathers pledged their, “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” in their quest for freedom. Freedom is one of man’s greatest battles and carries one of our greatest rewards. As Samuel Adams attempted to call men to fight for freedom, he chided the timid with these immortal words: If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen. - Samuel Adams, 1776. The same is true for spiritual freedom. There is a fight to be fought, a war to be won. Paul calls us to “fight the good fight” (I Tim. 6:12; II Tim. 4:7). And he teaches us how to prepare for that battle in Ephesians 6:10-19. Peter warns us not to be surprised with the fiery ordeal comes during that battle, (I Peter 4:12-14). Make no mistake, it is a battle, and the enemy is powerful. But his power pales compared to God’s power working through His faithful soldiers. Patrick Henry recognized the battlegrounds, physically and spiritually. He famously wrote: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Henry also knew the immutable bond between religious freedom, both political freedom of religion and an individual’s spiritual freedom from sin. A less famous but perhaps even more important quote from Henry is this: “It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.” In other words, when we lose freedom from sin, we lose political freedom. As with Samuel Adams’ physical call to physical arms, we must heed God’s call to spiritual arms. If you fall from fear or fail from weakness, “may you crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your (spiritual) chains rest lightly upon you and (to further paraphrase Adams) God will forget that you were our (spiritual) countrymen.” This Independence Day let us all remember the importance of religious freedom from sin as well as political freedom from king George! That said, let us always remember Patrick Henry’s words, “It is when a people forget God that tyrants forge their chains.”
Who is Supreme?
There IS a high court, but it’s not the U.S. Supreme Court. It might be ahighcourt, but it is not the high court. Americans have been duped into believing that the U.S Supreme Court is the highest court in existence. It might be the highest human court in the America but God, Himself, reigns supreme over all of mankind, including the United States of America.
That said, we rejoice that abortion (the killing of unborn human babies) no longer is protected by the federal government. The reversal of Roe v. Wade (originally ruled on January 22, 1973) does not make abortion in the US illegal. It merely rules, and properly so, that there is no Constitutional right to abortion found in the U. S. Constitution. The Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade this week merely turns the decision back to the individual states, as it has been since the Constitution was ratified June 1, 1788 (effective March 4, 1789).
We stand firmly against abortion at any stage, anytime (unless the mother’s life is truly, medically, physically in eminent danger). Researchers the world over know that an unborn child feels pain after 15 - 20 weeks of gestation. But that is not the point.Whether an unborn child feels pain or not, abortion still stops a beating heart and thus takes the life of an innocent human being. No wonder killing an unborn child was a punishable offense in the Old Testament. Consider this verse: “Now if people struggle with each other and strike a pregnant woman so that she gives birth prematurely, but there is no injury, the guilty person shall certainly be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. (Exodus 21:22).
That is for an accidental death, but it shows that God regards the unborn child as having humanity and human value. Abortion is an intentional death and therefore is the intentional taking of a human life.
We, as God’s people seeking to follow His word in our lives and condemn the intentional taking of innocent human life, including abortion. As His children, we applaud the courage, wisdom of the Justices and concur with their Constitutional decision. But there is more work to do at the state level to protect the lives of innocent human babies.
We must remember that God forms our inward parts before we are born (Psalm 139:13-14). God and His laws reign supreme. We must obey God rather than men, (Acts 5:29). Pray hard!
Honor, God’s Way
Jack was a bright young man with a challenging life ahead. His mother died when he was only three and his only memories of here were those of her illness shortly before she passed. His father remarried and Jack had two step-brothers. He was very close to his grandmother, but she died when young Jack was away at the war. Jack married and had children but his 20-year marriage ended in divorce and Jack was broken-hearted. Eventually he remarried his sweetheart, but they divorced again. Amazingly, 20 years after the second divorce, Jack married his sweetheart a third time and they remained married until Jack died after the turn of the century. Why do I relate this story? Because after all the challenges life had thrown at Jack and Katherine, they gave their lives to Jesus, Katherine near retirement and Jack at age 79. “A lot of water under bridge,” as Jack would often say, eventually lead to the waters of baptism. This and every Father’s Day I am reminded of this love story which took many turns before arriving at heaven’s door, simply because Jack and Katherine were my parents. They taught me to love Jesus when I was a child, long before either of them really knew Him. In 1975 I baptized Mom into Christ and in 2001 I baptized Dad. They took their conversions seriously, and began to read God’s word in earnest and learn of the great love He has for them. “Honor your father and mother, which is the first commandment with a promise,” Deuteronomy 5 and Ephesians 6. My mom and dad were far from perfect, but they were caring parents who loved and provided for us preciously. Some of you didn’t have loving parents. Some of you never knew one or perhaps both of your parents, but God provided a path for you to arrive on planet earth. Perhaps your parents were not worthy of honor, some aren’t. Perhaps your early years were more of a challenge than a blessing. But one thing is for sure: our heavenly Father is worth of more honor than humans can even give. On this Father’s Day, another thing is for sure: somewhere, perhaps in the present, perhaps in the past, perhaps in heaven there is an earthly father or a heavenly Father whom we can honor for all the blessings we have in life, practical and spiritual. It is a wise person who gives honor where honor is due (Romans 13:7), and a happy person who takes that command seriously. Let’s honor fathers where that honor is due and remember that honor to our heavenly Father is always due, for He is not only a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:5), but also a Father to us all.
Who Rules Your Heart?
“There is nothing wrong with entertainment. As some psychiatrist once put it, we all build castles in the air. The problems come when we try to live in them.” The words above were penned by Neal Postman, a prolific writer who published 20 books, including the now famous, Amusing Ourselves to Death. Postman was a fairly early pioneer in recognizing what electronic media does to the culture and the individual. He saw the negative effects of electronic media on the brains of young and old alike (TV, movies, computers, etc). Jesus warned us that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of the heart (Matthew 12:34). The “heart” as used in scripture usually refers to the inner man; what psychologists call the “subconscious.” (Yes, I know that is a debated topic, but let’s use that for the purposes of this article.) That “inner man” is shaped and sculpted by that to which we expose ourselves. Many social researchers in numerous countries see this inner self (psyche, subconscious, heart) being malformed by exposure to electronic entertainment media (even small amounts can affect the very young). In one study, college students claimed electronic media has no effect on them, while believing that it does affect almost all others around them. We speak here of entertainment media, NOT serious electronic dialogue. I’m aware of the irony of this article, as I type it on a computer, but the focus here is not on word processing but entertainment media that forms far too much of our beliefs about the world and its inhabitants. Study after study has found that those surrounded by electronic media have their belief systems morphed, primarily unconsciously, by the media they see. That should not be surprising since God, Himself, formed our brains to become like the audio/visual images we see/hear in life. No wonder Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good morals,” 1 Corinthians 15:33. In our modern scenario the audio/visual “bad company” is the electronic entertainment media. In calling us to re-evaluate how entertainment media affects our inner selves, Postman wrote, “Everything in our background has prepared us to know and resist a prison when the gates begin to close around us . . . But what if there are no cries of anguish to be heard? Who is prepared to take arms against a sea of amusements? To whom do we complain, and when, and in what tone of voice, when serious discourse dissolves into giggles? What is the antidote to a culture’s being drained by laughter?” Is it any wonder that even elected officials in our nation’s capital cannot seem to get a serious grasp on the problems we face and “dissolve into giggles” when asked serious questions? They are, after all, products of this same entertainment driven, amusement formed culture affecting us all. The antidote is: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.” Romans 10:17. “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32 “My word is truth.” John 17:17 What is shaping YOUR heart?
Count Your Many Blessings It is often said that it would be difficult to write down all of the ways we have been blessed. Following are a few examples of various ways we are encouraged to be thankful:
Giving thanks for ______ _________ (1 Tim. 2:1)
Giving thanks to ______ ___________ (Heb. 13:15)
Giving thanks to ________ the __________(Col. 3:17)
Giving thanks for the __________ thru ___________ (1 Cor, 15:57)
Giving thanks for our ___________ (1 Tim 4:3-4)
Giving thanks through our ________________ (Col. 4:2)
Giving thanks for our establishment in the __________ (Col. 2:7)
Giving thanks for all _____________ from God (2 Cor. 9:11)
Giving thanks to having been called in ______________ (Col. 3:15)
Giving thanks to ________ ________our __________ (1 Tim. 1:12)
Jay Launius, Maud church of Christ, Maud, TX
God Is Waiting
How long do you wait? You are at a traffic light. It goes from red to green. The person in front of you is clearly distracted, and your lane is the only one not moving. How long do you wait before you take action? You are seated at a restaurant. Ten minutes pass, and no one has taken your drink order. It is busy but not slammed. They should’ve come to the table by now. How long do you wait before you leave or talk to the manager? While in some cultures time is viewed very differently, for us, we are a very fast-paced society. Our expectations of timely results and actions are very high. So, when we are forced to wait, as in the scenes afore mentioned, we are put to the test. How long will we wait? I bring this up to reflect on the patience of God. Peter, in his second letter, brings to our attention that in the latter days there would be mockers saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). These that Peter mentioned were mocking God and using it as evidence to His contrary. However, it is still a question we might ask. How long, O Lord? Peter reminds us of some facts to help keep things in perspective. The first is that the world has been destroyed once already. “For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water. But by His word the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” (2 Pet. 3:5-7). We know from genealogies in the book of Genesis that the time from creation to the flood was roughly 1,656 years. How much of that was God’s patience tested? The second fact is that God does not reckon time as we do. “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day” (2 Pet. 3:8). We must remember that time is a created construct that He is not bound by. It was hundreds of years from the promises given to Abraham until they were brought to fruition. It was thousands of years before the messianic prophecies were fulfilled. We need to remember God is playing the long game. Finally, Peter reminds us that we serve a patient God. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). God is waiting for us. He hasn’t blown the horn yet. Knowing that He will, Peter reminds us how we should live in holiness for a day that will come (3:11).
“GO” For some reason or another Christians have changed the commission of spreading the Good News of Jesus from “go” to “come”. We build nice, fancy church buildings and meeting halls then say to the world, “Come and hear about Jesus!” It’s a noteworthy invitation no doubt but how does it compare to the biblical instruction? • “Go” tell what great things the Lord has done – Mark 5:19 • “Go” and tell these thing to the brethren – Acts 12:17 • “Go”, I sent you out as lambs among wolves – Luke 10:3 • “Go” and bring forth fruit – John 15:16 • “Go” and do as the Good Samaritan – Luke 10:37 • “Go” in to all the world and preach the gospel – Mark 16:15 • “Go” and make disciples and baptize them – Matthew 28:19
It’s easy to see that we are to “go” and take the message to the people rather than expecting them to come to us. - Jay Launius, Maud church of Christ Maud, Texas
Faith Should Provide Peace
By Michael Hite (Bear Valley Bible Institute)
Turn on the news or plug into your favorite flavor of social media and within seconds you will hear about suffering all around us. There are countries tragically at war. We face a looming recession and economic struggles. The political divide and race relations continue to rage. There was another school shooting in Texas. All of these situations certainly can and do bring suffering into our lives. It seems that everyone wants us to be wound up and stressed out. I read one brother in Christ recently post, “prepare for the coming chaos.” Now I’m not going to suggest that there aren’t problems and that times are tough - they are. They may get worse. Only time will tell. But as Christians, we have a great opportunity to show people around us what faith does for us in difficult times. FAITH SHOULD PROVIDE PEACE.
At the end of Peter’s first letter to the early church, he encouraged them to remember who they are and what that provides. “Peace be to all who are in Christ” (1 Peter 5:14). Peace is a sometimes misunderstood quality. Some would define peace as the “lack of conflict.” The idea is that we will have peace when there is no strife or struggling. While that is a common way of looking at the word peace, God never promises a “lack of conflict.” We live in a fallen and sinful world. Man’s push to put himself first and satisfy his own desires often give rise to conflict and suffering. But the word “peace” in Scripture is more often talking about a calmness of heart in the face of conflict rather than a lack of conflict. It expresses “a state of tranquility” even as the struggles swirl around us. Peter addresses persecution and great suffering in his letter and yet he says that we are to “seek peace and pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11). The question becomes, are we feeding the chaos and panic in people’s lives by echoing the chaos or are we seeking and pursuing peace by showing others the calmness that comes from trusting God to see us through anything that comes? Are we contributing to the “worries of the world,” choking the word of God out of the lives of our brethren by echoing the doom and gloom around us? Or are we showing the tranquility and peace that comes from a saving relationship with the Master of the Universe? If we have “entrusted our souls to a Faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19) there should be a marked calmness and peace that surrounds us.
May we be lights in the world that brings peace (a calmness in the face of conflict) to those around us. May our behavior be so different in difficult times that people will ask us to explain the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15). But more than that, may we be those who show the world that “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard OUR hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7). Truly, may “peace be to you all who are in Christ.”
Once upon a time, two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side-by-side, sharing machinery and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then, the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference and finally, it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I 'm looking for a few days' work," he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there I could help with? Could I help you?" "Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor. In fact, it's my younger brother! Last week there was a meadow between us. He recently took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll do him one better. See that pile of lumber by the barn? I want you to build me a fence an 8-foot fence – so I won't need to see his place or his face anymore."
The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you." The older brother had to go to town, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day – measuring, sawing and nailing.
About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped. There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge, a bridge that stretched from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all! And the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming toward them, his hand outstretched.
"You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done." The two brothers stood at each end of the bridge, and then they met in middle, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox onto his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother. "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but I have many more bridges to build." ********************* Moral of the Story: Show kindness, forgiveness and humility to one another. Read Ephesians 4:32; Philippians 2:3.
Sentence Sermon Give us grace and strength to persevere. Give us courage and gaiety and the quiet mind. Spare to us our friends and soften to us our enemies. Give us the strength to encounter that which is to come, that we may be brave in peril, constant in tribulation, temperate in wrath and in all changes of fortune, and down to the gates of death loyal and loving to one another. -Robert Louis Stevenson Scripture Says Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:16. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. - Rev. 2:10
Instructions from Above
Last month my son-in-law and I took a wonderful journey across parts of five states. That wouldn’t be unusual, except for the fact that we were on dirt bike type motorcycles (racing bikes converted to be street legal), and the trip was on unpaved back roads (some of which had no road signs), and we had no road map in our possession, and we encountered terrible winds that tried to literally blow us off that road, and blowing dust that limited visibility in some places (not to mention a surprise encounter with a five and a half foot diamondback rattle snake!). But before you label us as “crazy” we did have guide, sort of. It wasn’t a human guide, but an electronic one. It was expensive ($400) Garmin GPS unit that told us every turn to make and showed us where every gas station and every hotel is along our route. HOWEVER, to make it to our destination we had to first open the unit, then followed the actual directions it gave us. The thing actually took us on a very circuitous route through 5 days of wilderness, often no houses (cows, but no houses. Who tends these animals?) One man we met on the way lives so far “out” that he drives 3 hours each way to buy groceries! So, what’s my point? To get to our destination, we had to follow the route on the screen, which was provided to us from satellites thousands of miles away, far up in the sky. We only got to our destination after 5 days of following the sky-born instructions. And that is a perfect metaphor for life! We start our life’s journey with no roadmap… that is until we are old enough to read! We have an ink road map from above the gives us directions for how to get to our destination, heaven! Yes, we will encounter winds that try to blow us off the road (Ephesians 4:14), and we will encounter limited visibility (God can see the future, we can’t), and we will have surprise encounters with a snake (serpent – Genesis 3:1-19), and we really need the written directions from our GPS, God’s Positioning System, to tell us which way to turn at each decision intersection! When we follow the written system, we know where we are along the journey, we know our destination, we can judge whether or not we are on the right road, and we, by the grace of God and the blood of Christ, get to our proper destination! Expensive? Yes, very expensive; it cost not silver or gold, but the blood of Christ to both ratify the direction book (Hebrews 9:15-19) and purchase our immortal souls (I Peter 1:18, 19). Life’s road might lead us to the wilderness with few road signs and the journey beset with high winds, dust, serpents and fatigue, but praise God for His precious map to heaven!
HOW OLD AM I?
Let’s do the math. Ray Wallace has lived through 3822 Easters. One Easter per year. I would 3822 years old! (No wonder my knees hurt!) And no… I didn’t know Abraham!
Oops! I made a mistake in my math or in my Easter’s per year! Let’s try again. I lived through 3822 Easters. 52 Easters per year. 3822 divided by 52 = 73.5
That’s more like it. I am, indeed 73.5 years old. The math works but why would anyone say that there are 52 Easters per year. And if there are, I want more Peeps and Cadbury Eggs! It’s actually simple: the early Christians did not celebrate Easter as we know it today, once per year. On the first day of the week (each week) the early Christians came together to break bread and worship. Why the first day of each week? That was, and IS resurrection day… celebrated each and every first day of the week.
The modern term “Easter” comes to us from the Dutch ooster and the German Ostern. Some churches borrowed the term and the celebration from those non-Christian (and in some cases, pagan) celebrations.
I realize that Christendom in general has a different view, but as an independent, non-denominational, “restoration” church, we seek to “restore” what God has given us in print. We seek to, as Paul wrote, “not go beyond what is written,” 1 Corinthian’s 4:6. Since scripture and history tell us what the early Christians did, as they followed the written word (2 Peter 1:3) we understand what we need to do to please God rather than man.
But the real importance is not a debate about history, it must be our realization of the reality that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and was raised on the third day to show us his deity and what will happen to those who make Him the Lord of their lives!
So, today, as every week, “Happy Resurrection Day!” (So where are my Peeps?)
Giving a Blessing, Being a Blessing
It is intriguing to contemplate blessings, their sources and the specifics of how they come to us. But first let us see a definition from Webster. Blessing: 1. the act or words of one that blesses approval, encouragement 2. a thing conducive to happiness or welfare 3. grace said at a meal. True biblical blessings go far beyond such simple definitions. Blessings from God are seen abundantly in scripture, but God also calls on us to bless one another. The early Christians used the Greek word eulogia to mean a blessing of words or an act of encouragement; it is the source of our English word “eulogy” given at a funeral. (There is another Greek word for “blessing” used in the New Testament: “makarios - giving happiness and being the source of joy. It is seen in the beatitudes, in Matthew 5:3-11. Most English translations render the word “blessed” but some say “happy.” One of our finest Greek Lexicons (referred to as BDAG, for Bauer, Danker, Arndt & Gingrich), says this word means, "pertaining to being fortunate or happy because of circumstances, fortunate, happy.” God blesses us in many ways, but He also calls on us to bless one another. In a world of chaos, violence and grief, true blessings are precious, indeed. Whether we share blessings of words (eulogia) or blessings by arranging circumstances, (makarios), blessings are more precious than many realize. After giving some specific directions about ways to treat one another in I Peter 3, Peter writes, “8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit; 9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing, (NASB, emphasis supplied). God is calling on each of us to be giving blessings to one another, in word and in circumstances. All of that said, it would be hard to describe the depth and the breadth of the blessings (in both words and circumstances) that this congregation, the Pine Valley church family has been and continues to be for Sandy and me. Rare indeed, are the church / preacher / secretary blessings that rise to the high calling of walking in the beautiful path of blessings that Jesus has shown us. But Sandy and I live in these blessings, because of you. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all the blessings you share. You not only give us blessings, you are a blessing in our lives.
Silly Sheep! Joel Stephen Williams
On a cold day one winter, Joe was sliding on a frozen pond when the ice broke. Luckily he was able to get out of the water and crawl to safety. He went home in his wet clothes almost frozen. His aunt asked him why he was sliding on the ice. "Because all the other boys did," he answered. She gave him dry clothes and something warm to drink. Then she told him a story. When I was a little girl, Joe, my father had a great flock of sheep. One day a big ram jumped through a gap in the fence. He was followed by the other sheep. When the ram tumbled into the bottom of an old well where father used to throw rubbish, the next sheep never stopped to see what had become of him. He jumped in right after the ram, and so did the next one and the next. The sheep kept jumping into the well until it was full. Then father pulled them out as best he could. The sheep at the bottom of the well were almost smothered to death. "What silly sheep!" exclaimed Joe. Then suddenly a look of discernment came over his face, and he smiled at his aunt. He had gotten the point of the story. If we simply follow others without watching where we are going, we may land in trouble. The book of Psalms opens with some timeless wisdom on this subject (Ps. 1:1-3; cf. Prov. 1:15-16; 4:14). Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or take the path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season, and their leaves do not wither. In all that they do, they prosper.
The Eyes of Your Heart
In our daily conversation we use various terms to describe seeing what we can really see - an eye to the future, the eye of faith, etc. Usually we are discussing an attempt to ascertain something in the future, or perhaps a trust in God when we simply don’t know what will happen. The Hebrew writer calls on us to be, “…fixing our eyes on Jesus,” and in Acts 26:18 God tells Paul, I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.’ (NASB; emphasis supplied.) As we consider the spiritual side of our sight, we see a precious concept in Ephesians 1:17, 18, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. Did you catch it? Paul is praying that the eyes of our heart may be enlightened! He is not praying for us to see future events here on earth. He is not praying for us have faith in God, nor in one another. Paul’s prayer for the eyes of our heart to see: the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance (heaven), and the surprising greatness of His power toward us who believe! What an incredible ability God has given us to be able to have the eyes of our heart enlightened! It is not some type of divine intervention. It is not something we think up, imagine or feel. It is the process of uploading God’s word into our heads then allowing it to enlighten the eyes of our hearts! We simply must be about the joyous task of letting God’s word enter the deepest parts of our being that we might, “walk in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21), and in so doing get to where we are going!
God is "omnipotent", which literally means that He is "all powerful." Sometimes we express this idea by saying that "there is nothing God cannot do." That statement can lead to certain difficulties. For example: - Hebrews 6: 18 says that " ... it was impossible for God to lie." Here we have something that God CANNOT do. - Hebrews 13:5 gives God's promise to his faithful children: " ... for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. " Again, this is a thing that God CANNOT do - He cannot desert His own. - James 1 :13 tells us that " ... God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt any man." To tempt or be tempted is contrary to the very nature of God. With these things in mind, we can be more specific in describing God's "omnipotence." God has the power to do everything that is in harmony with His basic nature and His expressed will. But, He can never do anything that would contradict His promises or violate His holy and just character. Often when discussing the subject of miracles we reference certain Scriptures which show that no miracles are being performed today (e.g. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13). Sometimes someone will object by saying that such a view "limits God" and that "God can do anything." These statements expose a misunderstanding of God's power. He IS limited. There are some things that He CANNOT do (such as perform miracles today). But, we are not the ones who limit God. He has limited Himself. He has taught us in His word that He will not do these things in our time. Let us praise and honor our God. He has the power to do ALL things that are according to His will.
Rejoice in the Lord Always
The world seems to falling apart - very violent Spring Break in Miami, double digit increases in violent crime in many American cities, thousands of deaths per month from illegal drugs, and now a major war in southeast Europe. But dedicated Christians must pursue a clear spiritual reality: we are not happy or sad because of what happens to us, but because of how we respond to what happens to us! Occasionally we run across someone who has the great gift of spreading joy, whatever the circumstance. In 1998, Robin Williams played a real life doctor named Hunter “Patch” Adams. The doctor actually approached his patients with genuine medical treatment but it was administered often with humor and yet deep care. His patients and some of his fellow doctors saw in Adams a heart that cared about the patients’ spirit as much as their bodies. Sandy and I experienced one such personality in a registered nurse after Sandy had hernia surgery in the 1970s. She was a hard-working professional who also had a knack for seeing just the right time for applying her joy-filled spirit. On one occasion an elderly patient in the next room caused a small, multi-room flood when he stopped up the drain trying to dispose of his dinner. The “joy-nurse” showed up with a mop and a huge bucket. She burst into the room shouting like a mad woman, “Man the life boats! We’re sinking, we’re sinking!” She continued with the craziness while everyone present was laughing uncontrollably - even Sandy, as she clutched a pillow to her tummy in futile efforts to ease the pain of laughing after surgery! We laugh to this day about her zany antics. Seriously good RN? Absolutely! Serious boost to her patients’ morale? Totally. Somewhere along the way, some Christians got the mistaken idea that serious religion calls for an almost sullen attitude. God tells us a different reality. As we read deeply and widely in God’s word, we see not only the serious nature of spiritual living and the realities of heaven and hell, but also a call to joy that rings like the village bell, “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice,” Philippians 4:4. When? “Always.” Are you sure? “… Again I say rejoice!” In your daily walk, smile. In your daily walk, rejoice. In your daily walk, don’t seek to be comedian, but seek to share and elicit from others, the great, true, deep joy that God has put in your heart that the world tries to squelch. In fact, “Rejoice in the Lord always!”
The Power of our Silent Influence Mike Riley
On a recent beautiful warm Saturday morning, a Christian friend and I were having breakfast at a local restaurant. At a nearby table, we noticed a young woman sitting quietly reading her Bible. She was absorbed in the text, occasionally looking up to consider what she had read. She never said a word, but her heart and priorities were visible to everyone in that restaurant. It was a gentle, positive, and silent influence. She was not ashamed of Christ nor of His New Testament (Hebrews 9:11-15 KJV). She neither preached a sermon nor sang a song. She was willing to be identified with the Savior, yet she did not need to announce that allegiance. In our attempts to share the message of Jesus, we must eventually use words, because ultimately words are needed to present the gospel (John 14:23; Acts 2:14 KJV; Acts 11:11-14 KJV; Acts 16:14 ESV; 2 Peter 3:1-2 KJV; Jude 1:17 KJV). But we can also learn from the example of this woman. There are times when the quietness of our everyday actions speak louder than our words, revealing our love for the Lord (Philippians 1:21-27). In our desire to share Christ with a sinful world, let’s not ignore the power of our silent influence (cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:5-8).
"And He will be the Stability of Your Times" Neal Pollard
In a world facing ever-changing circumstances, we need to be reminded of some truths about God. A great text that can help us do this is found in the writings of the Messianic prophet, Isaiah. He tells us some exciting facts about God in Isaiah 33:5-6. In brief, Isaiah reminds us of God’s transcendence (“exalted…on high”), His trustworthiness (“has filled Zion with justice and righteousness”), and His treasure (“a wealth of salvation, wisdom and knowledge; The fear of the Lord is his treasure”). In the midst of upholding God’s perfect character, the prophet makes this reassuring statement: “And He will be the stability of your times.”
In part, here is what that means to us today…
There is no minimum distance we have to keep from Him under any circumstance (Jas. 4:8).
There is no restriction or limit on our access to Him and His blessings, on prayer or His Word (Phil. 4:19).
There is no chance that you will look for Him and He will not be there (Psa. 50:15).
There is no possibility that you will learn that what was true of Him yesterday is not true of Him today (or tomorrow)(Heb. 13:8)
There is no cancellation policy at the throne of grace for the child of God (Heb. 4:16).
There is no threat or danger that can keep you from the love of God (Rom. 8:38-39).
There is no earthly thing to nullify the truth that “the Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid” (Heb. 13:6).
The more we expose ourselves to Him, the healthier we will be.
There is zero chance that you will go to Him for healing and have it fail (Jer. 8:22; Luke 5:31).
Scripture calls Him the Rock (Deut. 32:4), the shield (2 Sam. 22:31), my protection (Isa. 27:5), my shield, stronghold, and protection (2 Sam. 22:3), and a strong tower (Prov. 18:10). As Nebuchadnezzar understood, “all His works are true and His ways just” (Dan. 4:37).
Take heart. Take on the day. Take comfort and refuge. “And He will be the stability of your times.”
After being warned by the prophet Daniel about his sinful pride (Proverbs 6:16-17; Psalm 101:5; cf. Proverbs 16:18), the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar was struck with insanity. The Lord restored his mind, but only after he spent a long period of time in a field thinking he was a wild animal (Daniel 4:28-37).
Nebuchadnezzar went from boasting, “Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for …. the glory of my majesty?” (Daniel 4:30 ESV), to a humble prayer: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven” (Daniel 4:37). He had repented of prideful empire building.
There should be concern about empire building in the church today. Instead of focusing on large church buildings, one Christian evangelist encourages Christians to “build into the lives of people” and leave the results to God (1 Corinthians 3:6-7). When a congregation devotes undue energy to statistics, buildings, and programs, pride can enter in and the spiritual needs of God’s people can be forgotten (cf. Hosea 4:6).
Jesus never forgot the value of people. He invested His time in 12 appointed men (Mark 3:14 ESV). Paul taught Timothy who in turn taught others (2 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 2:2).
Brethren, God’s kingdom grows when we invest in people! (cf. Acts 2:37-47; Acts 4:1-4; Acts 6:7; Acts 12:24; Acts 19:20; Colossians 1:5-6).
Much of life’s joy is not about things or events or even relationships. Before you throw me under the bus, let’s consider how we think about the things we own, the events we experience and even the relationships we have. Each generation has certain situations in which we grow. Consider Adam and Eve: they had no cell phones, not electronics, no 3 bedroom home, no mode of transportation (other than legs) and not even any fancy clothes from Neiman Marcus! Yet they were happy in their idyllic setting - until, of course, they broke God’s law! Then they had more things but were far less happy! Down through the ages various centuries presented more technology, from horseback to wheeled buggies, from buggies to open horseless carriages, to enclosed model T's and on to Cadillacs and now Tesla electric cars. Add countless items you can see all around you as you read this article - refrigerators, cook stoves, indoor plumbing, cell phones, TVs, every electric appliance known to man, and, last but not least my new recliner that has a motor to lean back, and heat and back message… is this heaven? Curiously, as technology serves us keeps us in touch with grandma, why do we have an increase in depression and even suicide? Obviously it is not for lack of things, or electronic communication or transportation or any physical thing! And why on earth are some people in poor countries far more happy and peaceful and even satisfied than those in advanced, first world nations who “have everything? “ Let’s consider perspective. Happiness is often the comparison between what we expect and what we have. If I expect Tesla Plaid (yes, it’s a car - the fastest accelerating production street car on earth) but I have a Toyota, I’m going to be quite frustrated. But if I have a beat up Studebaker (like the one I had in high school) and then I get a nice F150 4x4, joy will overflow all the way to my remote mountain campground! The apostle Paul had not only learned, but mastered the secret, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” (Philippians 4:10-13). Having deep, genuine contentment means I’m happy just like things are for me right now. It’s a bit like golf. Golf is exceedingly simple - hit the ball into the hole. Simple in concept but challenging to do. Happiness, contentment, joy, peace - all are fairly simple in concept, but challenging in daily life. So we must remember that the not so secret, secret is keep my perspective God’s perspective. I can only do things through Him who strengthens me if and when I master Paul’s (God’s) approach to life, to be content with what I have rather that being stressed about what I don’t. We can, indeed learn, “the secret” as Paul called it in verse 12. We can truly do all things through Him who strengthens us, if we keep God’s perspectives!
My father was of the opinion that truth was a difficult thing to find. I agree, most of time. Epistemology, according to Merriam Webster, is, “the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity.” Oxford Languages renders the definition, “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from opinion.” In other words, how do we arrive at the knowledge that something is truth rather than opinion? If one gives serious thought and analysis to the subject, the difficulty is rather obvious. Hearing the same thing from a lot of sources, actually has zero to do with knowing whether or not it is true. Hearing something from one source who is denigrated by many others has zero to do with whether or not it is false. Certainly, many truths can be easily known. For example, if someone’s head is severed, he will die. If you step in to mid air, on earth, with no support, you will fall. If someone drags a normal carbon pencil on normal paper, it will leave a mark. It is easy to think of thousands of scenarios, which everyone agrees, under normal circumstances, constitutes truth. Some have been led to believe that science itself is truth. Genuine, honest scientists deny that vehemently, but ideologies will still use that ruse for political or personal gain. Science is a methodology of investigation. The current Covid pandemic has taught us, if nothing else, that “scientists” are quite often at odds over what is true. And social media has become so self-absorbed as to think it is the arbiter of truth. All of this is vanity! As men argue whether or not humans can even know truth at all, Jesus calls us to a much more logical plane, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32, NASB). Men can argue about truth, its limits and its specifics, but true Christians can and do know the truth that sets men free from the curse of sin and death (Genesis 2:16, 17; Romans 8:2). It is logical nonsense to maintain that humans cannot know truth. Our entire legal system is predicted on the reality that we can know truth, so much so that prison time or even capitol punishment hangs in the balance. Humans of even average intelligence know that we can know truth - not always in every circumstance, but we can indeed know truth. The only eternal application of the question is whether or not you, personally know the truth that Jesus said can make you free. Let’s talk!
They Shall Be Satisfied Have you ever noticed how a dog is always hungry? Even if we fed our dogs only an hour ago, they are ready for more food if we will offer it. But there is a limit beyond which a dog is satisfied. My father used to have a rather large dog which stayed in our back yard. On this dog's birthday, daddy bought several cans of dog food. The first can was inhaled in about five seconds. The second can was offered to the dog about five minutes later. It disappeared quite rapidly. Five minutes later the third can was opened. It took a little longer, but it was eaten. The fourth can was eaten rather slowly. Finally, when my father opened the fifth can and called, the dog simply laid in the back yard and wagged his tail. He did not bother to try to eat any more. He was satisfied. Jesus said: "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied" (Mt. 5:6). Hunger and thirst are two of the strongest drives known to mankind. What you have an appetite for will be the determining factor deciding with what you will be filled. If you are extremely thirsty, you will probably fill yourself with water. If you have an overpowering desire for chocolate candy, you will probably eat some. It is significant that Jesus uses hunger and thirst to illustrate how much we ought to strive for righteousness. If you really want to be a righteous person who obeys God and lives a life of godliness and purity, that will be the result. You will be able to overcome temptation. You will not be distracted by inferior goals. If you want your life filled with spiritual goodness, God will not hold back what you need. Just as my father was able to give his dog all the food he could want, God can satisfy our spiritual longing. God is able. The only question is: "Do we long for God?" (Ps. 42:1-2).
Joel Stephen Williams
Seeking a Clean Slate
One of God’s great gifts to man is the renewal of time. Each moment each hour, each day and each year is, in essence, a new slice of time. J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us,” (The fellowship of the Ring, pp. 48-51). One of our most challenging choices is to use some of that time forgiving others. As we seek from God a clean slate for 2022, we must give the same to others. In Matthew 6:15, Jesus said, “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions,” (NASB). To keep our focus on that task (and that mandate), let’s consider a few steps that will help us create that reality.
One: Forgive like Jesus forgave. • Jesus forgives when we don’t deserve it. We accept the free gift as He has commanded, but we don’t deserve it. • Jesus also forgave completely, without holding back. • Jesus forgave from a motive of love, not merely because it was a good spiritual idea. • Jesus also asked our heavenly Father to forgive. When our hearts and our motives are pure, we will seek to forgive in like manner.
Two: Forgive the ones that Jesus forgave. • Those who persecute you, Matthew 5:42-4 • Those who curse you and mistreat you, Luke 6:27, 28 “Bless the who persecute you, bless and curse not,” Romans 12:14 • Recognize that the very basis of prayer for forgiveness is that we have already forgiven others.
We must remember that one of Satan’s ploys is to tempt us to think that if the other person is not remorseful that we are excused from following God’s word. Once we truly understand that the gift of forgiveness is more precious than perishable things like silver and gold, (1 Peter 1:18, 19) we will be drawn to forgiveness as our greatest treasure. Once we realize that, we will be inexorably drawn to forgive others. When all of this becomes realty in our daily lives we will be set free by following God’s truth (John 8:32). Forgive, be forgiven, and live freely in this new year that God has given us!
If Ever There Was A Time, It Is Now
The Bible is called the Word of Truth. This has stood through the ages as an undeniable fact. It possesses the unique, unrivaled, and solitary ability to speak to the hearts of people and the circumstances of life as does no other book in the world. "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." So wrote Charles E. Weller in 1867 as a simple exercise in warming up his fingers for using a newfangled invention call the typewriter. Little could he have known how perpetually relevant the spontaneous and unadorned sentence would be through the decades. As we look at this particular period of time in our history, certainly no one can fail to see its timeliness for us today. If ever there was a time for those of us who profess faith in Christ, who are by His own pronouncement "the salt of the earth, the light of the world, a city set on a hill" – if ever there was a time to let our light so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven, it is now. If ever there was a time to do all things without murmuring and disputing, so that we might be blameless and harmless, the sons of God without rebuke in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation, it is now. If ever there was a time for the redeemed of the Lord to say so, it is now. If ever there was a time to stir up the gift that is in us, no longer ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor drawing back for fear of rejection and ridicule, it is now. If ever there was a time to hold fast the pattern of sound words, standing in the grace of Christ and enduring hardships as good soldiers, it is now. If ever there was a time to shun profane and vain babblings and to flee youthful lusts, it is now. If ever there was a time for diligence in presenting our case for Christ with dignity, it is now. If ever there was a time for private piety to become public virtue, it is now. In the front of an old family Bible, I found these words years ago, and if ever there was a time in which they bear repeating, it is now:
This Book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrines are holy, it's precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decisions are immutable.
Read it to be wise believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here Paradise is restored, Heaven opened and the Gates of Hell disclosed. Christ is its Grand Subject, our good its design, and the Glory of God its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. Read it slowly, frequently, and prayerfully. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, and a river of pleasure. It is given you in life, will be opened at the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, rewards the greatest labor and condemns all who trifle with its holy contents. This volume is the Word of God.
There are great blessings that abound in the lives of those who love and follow the Word of God. And those who reject it do so to their own harm. That is true of individuals as well as nations. If ever there was a time that was true, it is most assuredly now. May you cherish the Bible, and let the Spirit of God write its words upon the tablets of your heart. May your feet be found walking in its ways, your hands engaged in labor according to its high standards. May it frame the content of your speech and hold the harness of your desires. May your dreams be enkindled by its precepts and your ambitions steered by its unerring compass. The apostle Paul, while in prison for preaching the Gospel, wrote, "but the word of God is not imprisoned" (2 Timothy 2:9). There is great irony in the fact that when the powers of darkness orchestrated the imprisonment of Paul through the efforts of religious fanatics, his imprisonment became the occasion for the unleashing of the Word of God. Had Paul not been locked up, there is good evidence to conclude that we would not have much of the New Testament as we know it today. Though Paul was bound in chains when he wrote it, there are no prison bars strong enough to hold back God's Word from anyone anywhere. Thus, you hold it in your hands even now. If ever there was a time for the Word of God to be freshly unleashed... it is now!
(From the Introduction to the Founder's Bible)
Let Not Your Be Troubled Donnie Bates
“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also on Me” (John 14:1). I really do not know of a more encouraging verse than this one. Jesus Himself tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. Don’t worry…about anything! Jesus was preparing His disciples for His departure; His return to heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, to rule over His eternal kingdom. But look at it from the apostles’ perspective. It is a terrifying feeling to know that a comfortable time or relationship is changing or ending. We know when a loved one who is faithful to God dies, we will see him/her again if we ourselves live a faithful life. Still we don’t like that separation. When a young couple has their first child and prepares to leave the hospital, there can be a feeling of panic that comes with the realization that there is no little button at the side of the bed at home that will bring a nurse when you press it. That must have been the kind of emotions that the apostles were experiencing when Jesus would talk of going away. Yet, go away He must. They didn’t quite understand the concept that He would still be with them, but He was. And He is! Still with us, that is. Listen to the rest of what Jesus had to say in that context: “In My Father’s house there are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going” (John 14:2-4). Those men who were terrified that Jesus was leaving them alone in this world needed to know that He was coming back to get them; He wasn’t leaving them all alone. And when you feel as though He has left you all alone, you need to know that He is away now, preparing a place for you and He is coming back to get you if you belong to Him. And here is what may be the most important part of what He said: “…you know the way where I am going.” Jesus didn’t leave us in the dark. He told us where He was going and how we could follow Him. He left us an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21-24). He intended (and intends) for us to follow His example so that we can be with Him in heaven forever. He may not be here in a form where I can cry on His shoulder, hold His hand, or hug His neck, but He is here, nevertheless! He has not gone away and left me alone. And He has told me how to get where He is and that if I will do those things in faith, He will come again and get me to take me home with Him. We find ourselves right now in an unprecedented time of fear and uncertainty. The whole world seems to have lost its mind. And when it comes to the day-to-day decisions about what is the best thing to do, I don’t have any more answers than anyone else. I find myself, like many others find themselves…pulled in the varied and disparate directions that the “experts” tell us we should be going. Through all this discouragement, here is the encouragement that I find: Jesus is coming back to get me and all of us who are faithfully serving Him, even through times as difficult as this.
Giving Thanks I love Thanksgiving Day... for a lot of reasons. We all love the wonderful meals - turkey, dressing, ham, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and who knows how many side trimmings and other desserts. But I also love the fact that most people also remember it is a time to give thanks to God for all of his blessed provisions He showers down upon us. Most people I know do, indeed remember the spiritual aspect of Thanksgiving Day (even as we watched the Cowboys loose this year! Ugh!) Amidst all the hustle and bustle of food and football, we find time to remember to give thanks to, “...the God of all grace who called you to His eternal glory in Christ....” Grace itself is a precious gift, given by God by which He, “...will perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish” us, 1 Peter 5:10. What does concern me is that even God’s own people often forget that “thanksgiving” is not a day... it is a lifestyle, day in and day out, all year long. I wonder if just perhaps... we might have been better served by calling this particular Thursday, “Giving of Thanks” day... and then remember, teach, remind, and practice the giving of thanks as a lifestyle rather than one specific 24 hour holiday! Of vital importance is that we are in the process of giving thanks and not merely in the process of celebrating a day to think about giving thanks. Get it? Giving thanks is an active, year long lifestyle, not merely a celebration of harvest time. Giving thanks recognizes who is the Giver and who is the receiver. Giving thanks is a life long process of the heart, not merely a day long celebration of the harvest. As one author wrote, “Thanksgiving is not a day, it is the lifestyle of happy people." Ray Wallace
Knowledge, Discernment and Wisdom
Through Hosea’s pen, God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge...” Hosea 4:6. While that is totally true, we need more than just knowledge. We need discernment and wisdom. Knowledge is the simple possession of facts. Discernment is the ability to understand knowledge and how it should be applied to daily living. For example, in 1 Chronicles 12:32 we learn this reality, “From the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times, with knowledge of what Israel should do.” They had knowledge of their culture (the times) and knew from God’s word how to respond with proper action. However, knowledge and discernment still don’t lead us to the goal. They are road signs to lead, but we still need something else: wisdom. Wisdom is the actual use of knowledge and discernment. Think about it, when someone does something really dumb, we say, “Well that wasn’t wise!” Wisdom is the actual application of knowledge and discernment as it they are put into action. James teaches us that even demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). They have the knowledge that Jesus is God’s only begotten Son. But they do not act with wisdom. Paul, in Romans 7, confessed that sometimes he did not live up to what he knew. We might say that knowledge is simply seeing the facts clearly, discernment is knowing how to use the facts, and wisdom is that actual using of those facts by living life in light of God’s word. All three are vitally important and interdependent. But all three need one last powerful motivation to become lasting reality. That last motivation: love! Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep my commandments,” (John 14:15). Without knowledge we are destroyed (Hos. 4:6). Without discernment we fail to see the proper choices. Without wisdom we fail to actually apply knowledge and discernment. And without love we will fail to keep His commandments and ultimately, if I “…do not have love, I am nothing,” (1 Corinthians 13:2).
Faith and Character
The brother of Jesus wrote by inspiration, “Faith without works is dead,” (see the whole context in James 2:14-26). Yes, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:10) but saving faith is a faith that moves us to walk “in His steps,” I Peter 2:21. In Hebrews 11 we see what many call “the hall of faith” because each of the Bible characters we find there accomplished their feats by faith. By faith in God and His word and His promises and His truths and His own faithfulness, these men and women became something they were not before they had biblical faith in God. As we consider what faith does for us, one thing we must recognize is the reality that faith produces certain character traits needed to actually accomplish things for God and His kingdom. For instance, in Hebrews 11:27 we read of Moses, “by faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king….” Not fearing the wrath of a powerful king must have taken courage. That character trait was not temporary. It served him throughout his life, even while leading a stubborn, fearful people for 40 years. We read of others in verses 32-38 who accomplished marvelous things for God and His people… conquered kingdoms… shut the mouths of lions… from weakness were made strong…experienced mockings, scourgings, chains and imprisonment… were put to death… were destitute, afflicted, ill-treated… and lived in caves and holes in the ground. It is easy to see the character traits their faith produced in them, courage, patience, persistence, humility, dedication, suffering, etc. As we think about having faith (which we should, Hebrews 11:6), we must also realize that only a working faith can produce in us the character trait of a stern constitution that can brave the challenges of life that bring affliction which, “…is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far behind all comprehension,” (2 Cor. 4:17). Merely having faith reside in you is not enough. It is when that faith rises up to produce courage, persistence, dedication, humility, long-suffering and other character traits, it actually accomplishes good for God; that inner faith becomes a working faith. Praise God that we have these examples of God’s men and women to encourage us and spur us on to accomplish greater goals for God.
Searching for Truth
My father believed that finding truth could often be a difficult task. I agree. Even when one thinks he or she has found the truth, it is often hard to confirm it. We live in a world where many believe that humans cannot know truth and sometimes it seems that way. We struggle with a modern problem of what I call, “dueling experts.” The problem has also been referred to as the “white coat syndrome"… that being our modern propensity to believe someone wearing a white lab coat who seems to speak with authority. Some psychological studies have shown that propensity can even lead us to do things the “expert” directs us to do which would normally be repulsive. But, hey… the “expert” said to do it! The study of truth, finding it and confirming it is called epistemology and is defined by Webster as: the study or a theory of the nature and grounds of knowledge especially with reference to its limits and validity. Philosophers can play with the word “truth” but often, everyday people understand it better than celebrated (so-called) “thinkers.” “Can mankind know truth?” they ask. “How do we know that we know truth?” they challenge. It all gets quite cerebral in their hypothetical illustrations. Most often those types of arguments are designed to stop debates and silence opponents of whatever is being discussed in some university discourse. But let’s challenge the challengers! We know thousands of truths! If my heart stops out on a mountain hike, I die. If my eyes are removed, I cannot physically see. If my brain does not get oxygen, I die. If my arm nerves are severed, my arm becomes paralyzed. If I jump off a bridge with nothing attached, I fall. If I jump into the sea wearing only street clothes, I get wet. I cannot physically jump over the Grand Canyon. Normal cats have four legs. Normal cow's milk comes from cows. If bridges are too weak they fail. If the wings fall off, the airplane comes down. If the engine quits, it will eventually go down. It begins to get absurd to claim that man cannot know truth! Philosophical arguments are interesting in philosophy class, but don’t try them on your engineering professor! Man can know truth! We can argue its limits and debate its applications, but man can, indeed, know truth. (Yes, I know that man has often been mistaken about what is truth, but it gets sorted out with time, engineering, math, etc.). Now that we understand the simple reality that man can know truth, we turn to Jesus’ words, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” John 8:32. Free from what? Free from sin and spiritual slavery. Free from the second death (Rev. 21:8). Free from the fear of death that enslaves us (Hebrews 2:15). Looking for truth? Check out Jesus’ words in His prayer to the Father in John 17, “Sanctify them in truth, Your word is truth,” (verse 17). I’m grateful to all the mechanical, electrical, aeronautical engineers, pilots (and many others) every time I fly. They help get me there safely. And I’m thankful for God’s truths that help me navigate life to God’s eternal heaven. We know truth and we can know His truth!
The Hope of His Calling
In Ephesians 1:18, Paul says, “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints…” What a prayer! This is exactly the message that the downtrodden and discouraged need to hear.
Many people have lost (or are losing) hope these days, and with the attitudes of some people, it’s not hard to see why. The core of the gospel message the apostle Paul preached was the resurrection. In his greatest defense of the resurrection in Scripture, Paul said “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied” (1 Corinthians 15:19.) He was right!
However, we do not just hope in this life, do we? I know it’s hard when you consider going in to work today with the thought that it might be your last because you are going to be fired, laid off, or the plant is going to close. It is also hard to go work or school when you know (or feel) that your boss or teacher has it in for you. Maybe a co-worker makes your life miserable. Perhaps there is trouble in your family that threatens to destroy not just the family’s happiness but even your health. These are painful afflictions, but they can be overcome.
Remember Paul’s prayer. He prayed for you that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened (opened); that you would see the hope you can have. There is a hope associated with the calling of Jesus Christ. If you are a Christian, you have hope. You might not realize it and it may not feel like it, but that is the essence of the prayer; that you will realize it! And something else you can hang your hat (I mean, hope) on is the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints. Do you realize that as a faithful Christian, God considers having you on His team as riches for Him?
Christians have a good life, do we not? No, it might not all be peaches and cream, but it doesn’t have to be. What makes our life so good is that there is a better one on the way! We do not just hope in Christ in this life only. Many people do pity us, but it is misplaced pity. They don’t need to worry about us because we have hope. So many do not. In giving words of comfort to the Thessalonian church about their dear departed loved ones, Paul said he didn’t want them to grieve as those who don’t have the hope we have will grieve (1 Thessalonians 4:13). We do have hope. Praise Jehovah God!!
I want you to take this hope with you. As you head out into the world, no matter your destination, there is nothing that can separate you from the love of God if you will remain faithful to Him (Romans 8:38, 39). He is yours if you are His.
Donnie Bates, via Daily Bread
Sentence Sermon A man’s spiritual health is exactly proportional to his love for God. C. S. Lewis
Scripture Says Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3 John 2
Today We Remember Ray Wallace “Not to know what has been transacted in former times is to continue always a child,” wrote Cicero about 50 years before Jesus was born. In 1905 the famed Spanish philosopher George Santayana paraphrased Ciscero as, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill in 1948 gave his version in a speech to the House of Commons, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” Numerous times Jesus, Himself, challenged His disciples to remember Old Testament history as they contemplated how to live their daily lives. The Hebrew writer goads us to remember the valiant warriors and other heroes who, by faith, accomplished wonderful things for God. One modern application today would be to remember those who sacrifice to bless and/or to save others. We know that children learn to whom they should give honor by observing the adults in their lives. We also know that Paul, after giving directions to obey the government, told the Roman church to give honor to whom honor is due (Romans 13:7). This weekend I hope you will join me in giving honor to the first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001 (as well as their family members who also sacrificed so much). David and his mighty men of valor (1 Chronicles 12:16-22) fought against foreign raiders. As verse 21 states, “They helped David against the band of raiders, for they were all mighty men of valor....” As we remember the fallen, we must be ever vigilant spiritually as well. As physical highjackers invaded the cockpits of our airliners, so the spiritual emissaries of Satan seek to invade the pilot’s seats of our hearts, our minds and our spirits. Peter warns us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Perhaps you will remember the touching actions of some workers who removed a steel beam cross from the wreckage of the fallen towers and erected it on site. It is yet another reminder to pray for the victims and to remember, lest we, as Churchill said, “fail to learn from history.”
Good Sin Lists!
What? “Good sin lists?” Certainly! Oh, wait, not that! Every sin list in the Bible is a good list of bad sins (of course all sins are bad). The lists are great lists, given by God Himself! Without those lists we wouldn’t know what God rejects. Without those lists we would not know how to please our heavenly Father in the aspect of staying away from evil. God, in His precious mercy, gives us marvelous lists of good things, the fruit of the spirit for instance, and lists of bad things. Life’s joys will be defined by how well we keep the good and reject the bad. “Love, joy, peace and patience,” in Galatians 5:22, are set in opposition to the “deeds of the flesh,” in Galatians 5:19, and therein God is shining a bright light that we might see where the two paths lead – one to paradise, one to perdition. We should not fear sin lists themselves, they are God’s gifts to us that we might avoid the headaches and heartaches those sins bring into our lives. Likewise, as we love God's lists of good deeds and clear directions, they become the palette from which we paint a life of love and joy. The colors are kindness, goodness, gentleness and many others. Therefore we simply must recognize that God’s lists of things to avoid are given as unspeakably wonderful gifts to help us in all the journeys of life, the tough and the easy. Some of the New Testament sin lists are short, some are longer. Which ones might be labeled as “major” or “minor” could be debated, but we can list at least a few here: Matthew 25:41-46 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 Galatians 5:19-22 (vv. 22-23 give the opposite) Ephesians 5:3-6 2 Timothy 3:1-9 Revelation 21:8 Revelation 22:12-16 That should be enough for a week’s worth of study. Remember, these lists, though lists of negative things are to help us know what to avoid, so that we may bask in the blessings God showers down on those who love Him and keep His commandments (John 14:15).
Count Your Many Blessings It is often said that it would be difficult to write down all of the ways we have been blessed. Following are a few examples of various ways we are encouraged to be thankful: • Giving thanks for ______ _________ (1 Tim. 2:1) • Giving thanks to ______ ___________ (Heb. 13:15) • Giving thanks to ________ the __________(Col. 3:17) • Giving thanks for the __________ thru ___________ (1 Cor. 15:57) • Giving thanks for our ___________(1 Tim. 4:3-4) • Giving thanks through our ________________(Col. 4:2) • Giving thanks for our establishment in the __________ (Col. 2:7) • Giving thanks for all _____________ from God (2 Cor. 9:11) • Giving thanks to having been called in ______________ (Col. 3:15) • Giving thanks to ________ ________our __________ (1 Tim. 1:12) Jay Launius, Maud church of Christ Maud, Texas
“Meet in the Middle”
In 1991 Diamond Rio recorded a great song, “Meet in the Middle.” The chorus says: I’d start walking your way, You’d start walking mine, We’d meet in the middle, ‘Neath that old Georgia pine. We’d gain a lot of ground, ‘Cause we’d both give a little, And there ain’t no road too long, When you meet in the middle. The Christian family is quite similar. There are many things in the life of a local congregation where, for the love of one another, we “meet in the middle." Let’s be perfectly clear, in doctrinal matters we do not meet in the middle, not with one another and not with God! We simply do whatever necessary to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, (1 Peter 2:21). But in matters of opinion, we have as our goal to meet in the middle, or even walk to the other end of the line for a brother or sister in Christ. The classic passage in this regard is Romans 14, wherein God’s commands to His kids are quite clear, “in matters of opinion.” Verse one, “Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions,” (NASB). Yes, it’s quite clear! We are so blessed here at Pine Valley to be in a church family where that is not an issue. But in some congregations and brotherhood wide, it is often an issue. Check the wording again, “Now accept the one who is weak in the faith….” The command is to accept him! The command includes not, “passing judgment on his opinions.” The matter of judging opinions is, in context, discussed in verses 4-13 and the outcome is shown in verses 14-23 (the possible destruction of a brother simply because of opinions!) Not judging opinions is usually tougher than it seems at first. Weak or insecure people feel often feel dis-respected or even rejected if someone disagrees with their opinions. That is part of the weakness. Love, acceptance, affirmation and encouragement must bridge the gap. Those processes are the very ways each of us walk to meet in the middle! From the context, some eat certain things, some don’t. Maybe you are a vegan and I eat meat at every meal. Maybe you don’t eat pork and I do. Maybe you don’t attend a Diamond Rio concert and I do. Maybe you don’t get the vaccine and I do. I’ve even seen disagreements about what kind of unleavened bread to use in communion. Years ago one congregation in Texas had a major problem over whether or not it is a sin to not have a tablecloth on the communion table! Again, to be clear, this is about matters of opinion, not immutable doctrines. We are commanded to judge in matters of doctrine (read John 7:24). But we must accept others if the matter is one of opinions (Romans 14). Satan will always tempt Christians to argue about opinions and ignore doctrines. He loves it when he can use his lies to separate Christians from one another because he knows a fellowship, “… of three strands is not quickly torn apart,” Ecclesiastes 4:12. Blessed be the tie that binds, and that glue pours from the bottle of Romans 14.
Sentence Sermons “It is better to walk alone than with a crowd going the wrong direction.” Diane Grant
“What we go after here determines where we go in the hereafter.” Anonymous
Hardest Decisions “One of the hardest decisions, you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.” Anonymous
Scripture Says Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17
Who is God to You?
For a number of years I’ve told people, “If you think you want to come to God, there is an important reality you must accept first. That reality is that ‘He is God and I’m not.’” So many today define God on their own terms. They see Him in whatever light they, themselves, create. They forget that God created them in His image and in doing so, they mentally and/or emotionally attempt to create Him in their own image. That problem never really solves any of life’s challenges. In fact, it magnifies and compounds them because in reality we are seeking our own selfish desires and cloaking them in religious feelings or jargon. It seems so religious. It feels so spiritual. But the truth is that people with that approach are merely seeking to use God as a magic talisman, a genie in a bottle if you will, to have their desires granted. “If I go to church three times, do I get three wishes granted?” That whole approach to Christianity creates the response, “Well, I tried church, it didn’t work for me!” No, actually that person tried to put God in a genie lamp and that didn’t work for them. There is a precious and beautiful answer to this (not so modern) dilemma, but only one that I know: open His book and read! Start with Genesis chapters one through three to see His unspeakable power to create. Open Psalms and let king David (and others) lead your head and your heart into a deeper understanding of who He is and how He blesses us with His blessings and not our own concept of blessing. Open Matthew and see Him come to earth to teach us how to live and how to live forever. See therein His eternal sacrifice for your own personal sins. Open Acts and see His specific plan to bring you home to live with Him forever. But please, for the sake of truth and your personal eternity, weed out from life’s garden every hint of manipulating God for your own earthly desires. When godly blessings come and righteous prayers are answered, thank Him from the bottom your heart, remembering that, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights,” James 1:17 (NASB), When tough times overwhelm daily life, remember, “ Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him,” James 1:12 (NASB). And in all times, remember, “He is God and I am not. He is God and I am blessed to be His servant. He is the loving Father and I am His beloved child to who He gives great gifts (read Matthew 7:7-11), not merely trivial trinkets of daily desire. Then the question ceases to be a selfish, “Who is God to me?” and becomes simply, “Who is God?” The answers in His book are the real road to blessings in this life and the next.
Sentence Sermon Resolved, to live with all my might while I do live. Resolved, never to do anything which I should despise or think meanly of in another. Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge. Resolved, never to do anything which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life. Jonathan Edwards Scripture Says Oh, how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Psalm 31:19
In light of our recent studies, I thought this article would be good, concise advice. (Ephesians 3:4, " ...when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ." So let's read!) -Ray Wallace
9 Tips for Better Bible Study Tyler King
(From instructors at the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver)
This past week I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to help counsel at a Preacher Training Camp. Throughout the week, I taught a class on Advanced Bible Study and I wanted to start the days with pieces of advice from some of the men I respect. Here are those pieces of advice:
Think in terms of a whole book first! You gotta see the forest before looking at the trees. Read it in one sitting (a few times at least, more if possible). And notice the themes, words, ideas that repeat.
Do not use commentaries or concordances. The former you can use AFTER you’ve first thoroughly studied the text if you’d like. But the latter should only be used as an index to find a verse you’re looking for. Different writers use different words differently. So don’t start running all over scripture looking at a word.
Ask questions of the text. Go slow. Why did he say that? Why did he say that here? Why did he say this before that? Why did he say this after that? Why did he use that word? Where else in this book/letter has he used that word?
— Corey Sawyers
Know Key Words
Know Overall Context
Identify Main Point
— Denny Petrillo
Know the Bible story and where the book fits into that story
Study books first and passages second
Ask how this passage helps the writer get from where he started to where he is going
— Dan Owen
Rebel Without a Cause
All across the human spectrum, people look for meaning in life, a cause to support, a meaningful movement to join. By “human spectrum” I simply mean people of all personality types and motivations. Some are rebels, some are strait-laced; some are non-conformists and some are OCD rule keepers. But virtually everyone wants to be a part of something that matters. James Dean’s 1955 movie Rebel Without a Cause, could serve as Exhibit A. In his now famous book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl (the Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor) explains that the human mind yearns for something meaningful. While I’m not a fan of most psychiatry, I do find it very interesting when those who study the human mind seem to stumble upon God-given principles from His book. Frankl was quite perceptive when he wrote, “Ever more people today have the means to live, but no meaning to live for.” People in every culture long for and search for meaning, “Why am I here? That search renders many answers, most of which, today, are self-centered and self-serving. But the best answers are found in God’s word, “Serve one another, love one another, consider others more important than yourself, love God, love your neighbor.” As Christians we must never allow our “search for meaning” in life to devolve into the self-focus that plagues the world and delivers only temporary and insufficient satisfaction. To a world which seeks to save the whales, sea turtles, snail darters and spotted owls, I say “Congratulations, those are nice endeavors with worth-while goals.” God did, indeed, give man the mission of caring for His creation (Genesis 1:26: 2:15; 9:1, 2). But to that same world I caution, “Be careful that your worthy earthly goals do not supplant your deep human need to make a difference in the lives and eternities of others. “Save the human souls” is the mission that gives life its deepest meaning. “Love one another as I have loved you,” is life’s deepest call. No earthly cause, whether it is “save the seals” or “save our planet” can deliver to the human heart the peace that passes understanding! In fact, many of those I see in various environmental movements are some of the least content people I know. In fact, the “peace that surpasses all comprehension” comes only after we focus our minds on the positive things God mentions (see Philippians 4:4-13). Frankl certainly understood this concept when he wrote, “Religion is the search for ultimate meaning,” and “Faith is trust in the ultimate meaning.” After surviving several Nazi death camps, he deeply understood that the search is not without cost when he penned, “What is to give light must endure the burning.” From the cross of Christ to the whippings of Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-29), God teaches us that for our own personal search for meaning He has the answers, but we must endure the struggle of the search and often the rejection of those who seek comfort over Christ. What gives your life meaning? What are you searching for? Does your “inner rebel” have a godly cause?
Further study: Matt. 7:7; Deut. 4:29: Jer. 29:13; Luke 10:27
Does Design Demand a Designer? Ray Wallace
The new rage in cosmology is the search for a convincing argument to “prove” that design does not demand a designer! Why has it become such an issue? Because the effectiveness of the argument is making some longtime atheistic evolutionists look a bit silly. An illustration: You find a Rolex watch in the woods. It keeps perfect time. Your friend is convinced that its existence is an accident of nature... lightening striking millions of times per year over a billion years has accidentally created the Rolex. You protest that such a fine chronometer could not be a result of random chance because of its evidence of intelligent design. Your friend will not budge, so to convince you of his “truth” he must search for a workable model to “prove” that design does not demand a designer. Mostly he waxes philosophical, but still he lacks evidence. Such is the state of affairs with the intelligent design (ID) debate. Let’s suppose the Rolex you found is 100 feet in diameter. Could you believe it is an accident? No. Suppose it is 100 miles in diameter and still keeps perfect time (although the neighbors complain about the loud ticking!). Could you believe the massive Rolex is an accident of nature? No. Suppose the watch is 100 light years in diameter and still keeps perfect time. Nope... still can’t believe such massive and intricate design is an accident! Guess what... the universe is a wonderful watch. You can actually set your Rolex by the movement of the heavenly bodies observed from earth. In fact a ship’s longitudinal position on earth can be found by the observation of the heavens (discerned by the time of local sunset, for instance). Some of the world’s top scientists agree about ID. Sir Fred Hoyle (world famous astronomer) wrote, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question." In his book, Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature, Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies wrote of the intelligent design in the universe, “...how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance?" (1984, pp. 235-236). For further quotes from scientists in their fields, go to: http://www.apologeticspress.org/inthenews/2003/itn-03-06.htm. For information from John Clayton, whose videos we are watching in Sunday morning class, go to: https://www.doesgodexist.org/index.html God has evidence. We must learn to recognize it. (See Romans 1:18-22.)
What Kind Does God Want? Ray Wallace
Let’s start with a powerful concept: Why did the presence of the Father continue to be with Jesus? Answer (from Jesus, Himself, in John 8:29), “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him,” (emphasis supplied). Simple, but powerful. Paul understood this same concept. The Holy Spirit inspired him to pen 2 Corinthians 5:9, 10 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Notice that Paul also understood this is an eternal issue! Paul understood that if he were still trying to please man he would not be a bondservant of Christ (Gal. 1:10). The same reality is true today. Who are we trying to please, self, others or God? If we are truly trying to please God (as Jesus and Paul were) then life, choices, daily life and even our worship become far easier to understand and choose. One vital, yet misunderstood, subject is, “What does God want in worship?” What kind of bread does God want in worship? Simple - unleavened bread. What kind of liquid does God want in worship? Simple – fruit of the vine. What kind of decency does God want in worship? Simple – in a decent and orderly manner (1 Cor. 14:40). When we ask, “What kind of music does God want?” the answer is simple (though some try to complicate it by adding to God’s word). Singing! That’s the answer, “Singing!” Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 are clear enough. The New Testament church followed the New Testament pattern for over 600 years, but then a few churches decided to add musical instruments to worship. It was resoundingly rejected my most until the 15thcentury!!! And instrumental music in worship did not become commonplace until the 18th century! Yes, instrumental music in worship has only been in popular use for less than 400 years of the last 2,000! But instrumental music in worship is never found in the New Testament. Like animal sacrifice and burning of incense, we leave Old Testament things to the past and follow the New Testament (Romans 7:1-4, et al). When we ask, “What kind of bread does God want?” we stick with a biblical answer. When we ask, “What kind of liquid does God want in our communion cups?” we stick with a biblical answer. When we ask, “What kind of music does God want?” we, at this church, will stick with an actual, biblical answer: …speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord. Scriptural command, biblical example and even secular history all confirm this reality: the early churches all sang a capella, that is without any instrumental music! May we have the wisdom and courage to follow what God wants!
Eternal Vigilance Ray Wallace
Andrew Jackson authored the now famous quote, "But you must remember, my fellow citizens, that eternal vigilance of the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing." He goes one to warn that the America's greatest enemies are from within, greed, power, etc., and not from foreign nations. Jackson continues: "Providence has showered on the favored land blessings without number, and has chosen you as guardians of freedom, to preserve it for the benefit of the human race. May He who holds in His hands the destinies of nations make you worthy of the favors He has bestowed and enable you with pure hearts and pure hands and sleepless vigilance to guard and defend to the end of time the great charge He has committed to your keeping. While quite true on our national stage, the concept is equally true on God's stage we call earth. Jackson both recognized that God is the giver of blessings (not man) and that man's faithful response is vital to the keeping of those blessings. I am here reminded of the myriad of conditional promises found in scripture with that fateful word, "If." If we life righteously, God will bless us. I fear that too many in America today (and perhaps too many in God's church) have forgotten that His blessings are dependent on our faithfulness to following His word. More specifically, in the Lord's church we must remember several key passages if we are to continue to receive His blessings, regardless of what happens on the national stage. 1. We can, indeed, read and understand God's word, Ephesians 3:4 2. If we keep God's commandments, He will bless us in many ways, Lev. 26:1-13; John 14:15; John 14:21; 15:10 3. Even our eternity depends on following God's word, John 8:51, 52; 4. The presence of God is with us IF we keep His word, John 14:23, 24, Rev. 3:10
As individuals, and as local congregations, we must understand the importance of keeping and teaching these concepts if we are to enjoy (as Jackson recognized) "...the great charge God He has committed to your keeping." Jesus was very clear in Rev. 2:1-5 that when a local congregation strays from God's plan, they must, "... remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place—unless you repent." I praise God that our congregation earnestly and lovingly seeks to follow, "in His steps" (I Peter 2:21) and to, "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus," (2 Timothy 1:13). May His loving hand keep us strong in the seeking of His will and not ours - after all, that is the very essence of true faithfulness!
People Skills From God Dale Pollard
Some people just seem to be born with great people skills. Perhaps their personality type just naturally draws others to them. While natural ability may give some a leg up, the great news is that anyone can learn to work well with others and you can develop better interpersonal skills. In fact, it’s really a biblical command! The church is made up of all kinds of people and that being the case, we must all be in the people business. Thankfully, our Lord doesn’t leave us high and dry to try and figure these things out on our own.
Dispersed throughout the Bible we find several sections of scripture that teach us how to communicate, empathize, and get along with others effectively. God’s interpersonal skills cannot be matched. As the Creator, He understands exactly how humans think and behave. Here are twelve insights on interpersonal skills sent to us from above.
Speak evil of no one (I Thess. 5:14)
A soft answer turns away wrath, but harsh words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1)
The wise of heart is called perceptive, and pleasant speech increases persuasiveness (Proverbs 16:21)
Be gentle and show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:2)
Do good to everyone (Gal. 6:10)
Bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
As you wish that others would do to you, do so to them (Luke 6:31)
Discern your own thoughts, identify your intentions (Heb. 4:12)
Treat others like you would treat Jesus. How would you interact with Him? (Matthew 25:40)
Season your speech with grace. It’s the saviors All-Spice for every relationship building goal (Col. 4:5-6)
Praise God and be joyful, it attracts people (Psalm 100:1-5)
Be ready for every good work, speak evil of no one, avoid quarreling, be gentle, show courtesy to all people (Titus 3:1-15)
Notice how many passages in the Bible command us to speak differently than everyone else? All of these insights can be simply summed up in just one sentence. Talk, walk, and live more like Jesus. He was perfect in every way and that includes how he interacted with others. Modeling ourselves after the Savior will not only improve our relationship skills with others, but also with Him. Jesus also teaches us that no matter how gentle and loving we are, we’ll still make some people upset. That’s alright! As long as we’re acting like the Lord in all things.
Always Believe Your Instruments Dick Brant
I can still remember my flight instructor telling me to "believe your instruments." Always. Oh, for sure when the weather is beautiful, you can look out the window. But when you can't look out, well, that's right, "trust your instruments." That is the reason you have them; it takes the guesswork out of things. As we live the Christian life, we need to believe the Words of God at all times. Are there some things hard to understand? Of course. Are there some things that you think could be or should be worded differently? Of course. I think it is a natural thing with: 66 Books, 1189 Chapters, 31,173, Verses, and 807,361 Words. But the fact remains, God has given us all that is needed and in terms that He knew we could understand. Note with me the two verses below. The first verse makes it clear that God has given us everything, and the second that some will turn away from the teachings of God. 2 Peter 2:2-3, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence." 2 Timothy 4:3, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths." Do we need to study? Of course. Are there some things that are hard to understand? Of course. But here is some good newswe are told by inspiration through the words of Paul in Eph. 3:3-4, "That by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ." As we consider the Word of God, note further with me, the words of Paul to the church at Corinth. 1 Cor. 14:37-38, "If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized." Make no mistake; we need to hold fast to His teaching. So the point is this. Just like flying, you must trust your instruments, or you will find yourself in danger and put others in danger. The same is true of God's word. We must believe His words, as recorded in the Bible. If not, we will find ourselves in great danger. That is a danger not only in this life but the next. While over the centuries, the Bible has been under attack, by many individuals and groups, but when the truth was fully known, the Bible has always been proven to be correct, right and true. As in believing your instruments, believe THE BOOK.
What Happened??? Ray Wallace I bought the plans, a beautiful model glider. I've always loved flying model airplanes and even designed a few in my younger days. It's really not hard so long as the designer makes the craft balance about a third of the way back from the leading edge of the wing and use enough engine. But this was a glider and the whole airplane had to be more carefully fabricated. Step one: cut out the tissue paper pattern. Step two: carefully pin the pattern pieces to the eighth inch balsa wood planks. Step three: cut the pieces with a sharp X-Acto knife. Step four: sand the pieces to make aerodynamic edges. Step five: sand the wings to have an airfoil shape (for lift). Step six: pin the pieces to the other tissue paper pattern and glue pieces together. Step seven: weight the nose for proper balance. Step eight: launch at a 45 degree angle and enjoy the flight!
But that is all so boring and takes so much time. Besides that, I had my own ideas about design and aesthetics. About half way through the building process I decided that I knew as much about things as the designer, so I made an amazing original! I put both wings on the same side of the fuselage and the tail at the front. It was an amazing idea. I was the only one who had such a modern design. (Modern art is all the rage, you know!) All my friends and neighbors praised my ingenuity. The human mind is so creative and almost anyone could recognize newness of my work. But there was one problem: my beautiful creation wouldn't fly! I re-shaped the airfoils. I adjusted the nose weight. I even painted it sky blue! Nothing helped. For all its beauty, it would not do the one thing it was designed to do - FLY! I even enlisted the help of my famous brother, surely if I get some agreement it will work. We both agreed about the excellence of the design, but we still couldn't get it to fly! We consulted the pattern, but it was just to limiting to my creative imagination. We called the designer and left a message about my plight. We weren't home when he returned the call, so he left a simple, but useless message, "Just follow the pattern." He obviously did not recognize our creative genius! We still have my treasured glider with two left wings. We visit it every Sunday morning and enjoy the design of our own creation. We hold it lovingly, we stroke it gently, we even talk to it in tender tones and repeat the poems we have written about it. We just love this creation of our own thoughts. It pleases us. It stands as a monument to our own prowess. Few things give us as much pleasure in life as this magnificent piece of art – a true homage to the discipline of aircraft design and our understanding of aeronautics. But alas, it just won't fly! Maybe we should have followed the pattern!
Wilbur and Orville Wrong
For further reading: Aircraft Design, by John P. Fielding 2 Tim. 1:13; Ex. 25:9, 40; Acts 7:44; Phil. 3:17; Heb. 8:4, 5
Following the Pattern God Gave Us Ray Wallace
Many churches today have decided to simply ignore clear scriptures that God gave us. The subjects are varied, but the outcome is the same – just ignore what God says. Maybe it’s homosexuality, maybe it’s the value of unborn human life, maybe it’s church organization and worship, but it’s still the same, simply put culture over scripture. God directed Paul to leave a young preacher named Timothy to remain at Ephesus to accomplish certain things for God. Notice the clarity of the mission in 1 Timothy 1:3-6: As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. (English Standard Version) It doesn’t take a Bible degree to understand that the young preacher, Timothy, would face a plethora of problems from within the church that were spawned by those who promoted things not found in scripture. Note that their “confident assertions” apparently sounded quite good to some, but had nothing to do with God’s written word (beyond which true Christians were not to go, 1 Corinthians 4:6). To solidify the concept, God gave us 2 Timothy 1:13, Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you. The word “pattern” here means literally that. A first century Greek speaking woman would use the same word for a clothing pattern. Every time she cut out material using the same pattern it would be exactly the same! Likewise, every time we use scripture for our pattern we will create the same thing God planned. This makes it quite easy to understand God’s statement through Paul’s pen in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment,” (ESV). That obviously cannot happen if and when we don’t actually follow the pattern of sound words….” In coming weeks our lessons will endeavor to understand and apply God’s word on what it means to “follow the pattern of sound words.” God has great plans for His people, and we can get to the right place, here and hereafter, if we follow the right plan – His plan, to get us there.
Drs. Carl Brecheen and Paul Faulkner were masters at teaching a biblical approach to life. Part of their teaching included something that seems a bit upside down. For years they taught, “You don’t sing because you’re happy, you’re happy because you sing.” At first I thought I’d mis-heard or that they had mis-spoken. But they went on to explain and I became convinced they are right! Sometimes even strong Christians get up tired, spent, burned out, etc. Think about it… you get out of bed a bit “bummed,” mope around half an hour, get a second cup of coffee and nothing seems to help. Then your favorite song comes on the radio, you sing along, you get a spring in your step, begin to sing a little louder, and before you recognize what’s happening, you are literally happier! I’m still OK with the old hymn, I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free, His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me. We can certainly sing because we are happy, but the question on the table is, “What do I do when I’m not happy?” That is the challenge here. Humanly speaking, it might seem odd that anyone would simply command another to rejoice. We respond, “You don’t know my sorrow; you don’t understand my pain,” which is often true, but not germane to the point. God, through Paul’s pen gives us an imperative command in Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Remember, God never gives us a command that He has not empowered us to accomplish! If He commands it, then it is possible! The imperative includes three sections: the what - “rejoice,” the where, “in the Lord,” and the when, “always” – then he repeats for emphasis. Dr. Breechen and Dr. Faulkner simply reminded us of Philippians 4:4-13 when they said, “We don't sing because we’re happy, we’re happy because we sing.” Can you do it? Read verse 13, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Try it, you’ll like it!
He's Not In the Book Cory Waddell
As a child, my favorite Disney movie was Winnie the Pooh, the adventures of the cuddly bear "stuffed with fluff," based on the classic books by A.A Milne. One of the stories in the film tells of the time Pooh gets stuck in the entrance to Rabbit's burrow because he's had too much to eat. As they try to figure out what to do, a new critter appears - Gopher. Gopher has a habit of whistling out his consonants and seeks to solve digging problems with extreme tools like dynamite.
There is one witty line, though, which Gopher consistently utters. Whenever the chatty mammal leaves the scene his parting words are, "Remember, I'm not in the book." As a kid, I always took this to mean he's not in the phonebook (yes those were still around then) and you could only get in touch with him if he gave you a business card. It wasn't until many years later that I realized the pun. Gopher is NOT one of A.A. Milne's characters, and therefore, is not in the book. His existence in the story of Winnie the Pooh only happens because someone with creative authority chose to put him there.
The Bible tells the story of God's interaction with mankind. In its pages we follow, specifically, the narrative of his redemptive work through Jesus to rescue lost humanity from condemning sin. These words were composed within the limited scope of roughly 1,500 years of human history. Like Gopher, you and I are not technically "in the book," and thus one might think, not a part of the story. However, the story of Christ's redemptive work did not stop with the completion of Scripture.
The Bible has been preserved to show people in all eras that God's plan is for this salvation story to continue to the end of time. Jesus prayed in John 17:20-21, "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me."
When we submit to the Lordship of Jesus through our obedient faith, something wonderful happens. We are added to the story! Paul describes it in Colossians 1:13-14, "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins."
Walt Disney added Gopher to A.A. Milne's characters because he had been given the creative license to do so. We can be added to the salvation story of Jesus because God has the authority as the author to do so. What a joy it is to know when you read your Bible, the book may be finished, but the story is not over.
Joy and Time In the wonderful world we call America, we have been physically blessed beyond all people before us. Modern medicine has relieved more suffering than ever before. Modern production methods have delivered to us luxuries and amenities unknown to the kings of history. Trains, planes and automobiles transcend time as we flit to and fro in minutes across the miles that used to take months to travel. However, not all days are filled with pleasure. This is earth and not heaven. Tough times come and seem to overstay their welcome. Challenges knock on life’s door, then enter unbidden. We are tempted to wonder, “When will joy come home to live in the depths of our hearts?” God helps us through the difficult times. He is still close, still present and His word is still there, alive, living, more than ink on a page, it is peace between leather covers. His word is a “lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). And from that “light” we see more clearly that, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning,” (Psalm 30:5). We see Jesus, Who “for the joy set before Him, endured the cross,” (Hebrews 12:2). When your heart is at low tide, Jesus is still with you (Matthew 29:20). When you wonder whether life itself is worth the effort, remember Jesus’ words in John 15:11, “Theses things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be made full,” (John 15:11). When tough times come, remember this wonderful pronouncement Jesus made after the cross, after His resurrection - Jesus appeared to the disciples and said, “Peace be with you,” (John 20:26). Life got you down? Jesus is close. Does it seem that the night is just too dark and too long? Remember, “Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.” I think I can see first light in the east. It won’t be long till the day dawns. “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings,” Malachi 4:2. Ray Wallace
Real Joy For many, life seems dull at best, and at worst, filled with anxiety and turmoil. Our nation’s constitution guarantees the pursuit of happiness as a right, but it does not guarantee our ability to find it. It often appears people are in need of a JOY transfusion. However, they may not know where to get one. I am persuaded that no method or program would attract unbelievers to the church like the message that real happiness can be pursued and gained in Jesus Christ, the Lord. Here comes the irony: most nonbelievers do not associate the concept of joy with church or Christianity. I have asked myself, do they have a reason to think that way. Haven’t we been to church services where the assembly looked like they had gathered to mourn a defeat rather than a victory? Too many Christians look like they were baptized in freshly squeezed lemon juice. God intends Christians to live a joy-filled life. The Psalms are full of invitations to come before the Lord with a spirit of gladness (Psalm 100:1-2). Brothers and sisters, we must remember that real joy does not come from things, nor is it found in some package. Real joy only springs forth from a close relationship with the Savior, Jesus. Clark Tatum
Looking Forward - Pressing On
It's the first Lord's Day of the New Year! That is always an exciting time. Our culture uses the images of an old man often called "Father Time" to represent the outgoing year and that of a baby to signify the incoming new year. What great images for us to consider as we start yet another trip around the sun! To the church at Philippi, Paul taught a very similar concept, but it didn't start with a new calendar year, it started with today - whatever the day may have been. His words speak of a great divider, not numbers that change on a bank check, but lives that change on our knees. In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul shows us this "past vs. future" scenario: 12 Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Notice how clearly Paul states the dividing line we call, "the present," ...but the one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead...."
As those who strive to walk "in His steps, we see our marching orders! In fact, Paul goes on in verse 15 to teach us to have this same attitude! Wow, God, through Paul's pen, beautifully teaches us to draw a line in the sand concerning yesterday and tomorrow, then forget yesterday and press on toward what lies ahead! As usual, God's plan delivers what we really seek, "...the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." May the new year, and each new day bless you with the peace that only God can deliver!
Live Every Day Successfully Christianity is the religion of today. Live every day wisely.
1. Acknowledge that today is the gift of God, Psalm 118:24. You are a steward of today, James 4:1-17.
2. Do more than is required today. Go the second mile, Matthew 5:42.
3. Cast all your burdens on the Lord, 1 Pet. 5:7, Matthew 6:34.
4. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, Ephesians 4:26.
5. Take a step today toward your goal, Philippians 3:13-14.
6. Lift up your eyes to the heights today, Psalm 123:1-2, Colossians 3:1-2.
7. Count all things as joy, James 1:2-4.
8. Take time to meditate on God’s word today, Psalm 119:97.
9. Renew your mind today, Romans 12:2. Study God’s word, 2 Tim. 2:15.
10. Remember today that God loves you and that you are created in His image, Genesis 1:27, John 3:16.
11. Place God first in everything you do, Matthew 6:33, and do all to His glory, Colossians 1:17.
12. Serve someone today, Matthew 25:31-46. Give. It is more blessed to give than to receive, Acts 20:35.
What will you do today?
Adapted from a sermon by Ronnie Morrison, Lincoln, Arkansas
Who is Jesus, Anyway?
“Who is this Jesus guy?” We shouldn’t be troubled by the question, but welcome it with open arms. If the question comes from an honest heart, it should excite us, but we should have a deep and reasoned answer. Some of the problems we face are based on cultural assumptions about the answer to questions. Perhaps we should have a better grasp on the assumptions that are commonly made by people who are more cultural than scriptural. To many, Jesus was merely a man who had some good ideas about how people should treat each other so they can get along better. To others, Jesus was a master psychologist who understood people and gave them a good view of the psychology of themselves and family and friends. To yet others, Jesus was a “divine” human (a cut above regular human) but not deity (God in the flesh). Sadly, to some, Jesus was a mean-spirited, judgmental man who was a self-righteous bigot! Those who believe that, see Jesus as simply a man who made too many rules that rob others of their fun and pleasure. After all, who does he (or “He”) think he (or "He") is to tell others how to live their lives? Who gave him or (“Him”) the right to make rules for others? The crux of the matter is rather simple – either Jesus is deity or He is not! That is the question of the ages. If Jesus was merely a man, and not the only begotten Son of God, then He was a usurper who had no right to make rules for others. Josh McDowell’s point comes rushing to the forefront, “Jesus is a LIAR, or a LUNATIC, or He is LORD!” If Jesus was not the actual Son of God, and Emmanuel (which means “God with us”), then He was a LIAR for claiming to be so. If Jesus thought He was the Son of God, but really wasn’t, then He was a lunatic. OR… Jesus was Lord, deity, the Son of God, God with us, Savior and King of Kings. And if He is deity, then He actually did die on the cross, for every man and woman alive – to take the guilt of their sins upon Himself! Thousands of former non-believers are now believers, including scientists, philosophers, historians, archeologists and biologists. Paul tells us that God has given us ample evidence of His own existence through the things He made (Romans 1:18-23). And Luke tells us that God has given us evidence that Jesus is who He said He was by the miracles He performed and by His resurrection from the dead (Acts 2:22-36). Many of us personally know men of science who are also men of faith. The primary questions that linger are simply, “Do you accept the evidence that Jesus really is deity, God in the flesh, King of kings, Lord of lords and God with us?” and "Are you able to explain who He is, when someone asks you that important question?" As 1 Peter 3:15 states, "but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence."
Power Vs. Power Have you ever considered how the Bible views where Christians were before they were Christians? Notice Colossians 1:13: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Those outside of Christ are under the “power” of darkness.
The word “power” here is the same in the original as the word Jesus used in Matthew 28:18 (“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth”). That Word always carries the idea of “authority.” In other words, while we were outside of Christ, we were living under the authority of darkness (shadiness, i.e., evil). We were under its “domain” (NASB). Whether knowingly or not, everyone outside of Christ is under the authority of darkness (sin). We all have owed the wages of sin. Paul declared, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Because We all have sinned, we all have been under this authority (Romans 3:23).
We also are unable to leave the authority of darkness on our own; we have to be delivered (rescued, NASB). Yes, it is a choice we make, but it is an action that requires Divine assistance. Paul said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16). The only way to escape the power, guilt and condemnation of sin is to obey the gospel.
J. Brooks Boyd, Jr., Livingston church of Christ, Livingston, TN Bulletin Digest
One at a Time The story is told of a businessman who was overworked and decided to take some time off. While vacationing on the coast, a terrible storm hit. When it died down, he decided to take a walk down the cost to see what damage had been done. As he walked along the shore, he noticed thousands of starfish which had washed upon the shore. He knew that in a few hours the sun would come out and the starfish would dry out and die. As he thought about the starfish, he noticed a young boy who was throwing the starfish back one by one. The man was amazed by the youth’s diligence and shocked by his feeble attempts to make a difference. As he looked up the long beach, he saw thousands of starfish. When he caught up with the young man, he informed the boy that he could not possible save them all and said to the little boy, “You’ll never be able to make a difference to the starfish population.” The boy bent down, picked up a starfish, looked at it, then threw it back into the safety of the ocean. Then he said, “I sure made a difference to that one.”
We cannot personally make a difference in the lives of everyone that fills this world, but we can make a difference to a few of them. It is interesting that when Jesus spoke of those on His right hand on the Day of Judgment, he described them as having made a difference in the life of one person. He said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40). I sincerely believe that each of us can make a difference in the life of someone. This is how Jesus worked—one at a time. Sure, He preached to thousands, but He visited with families, and helped individuals.
Wade L. Webster, via Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ, Rock Hill, SC, Bulletin Digest
Rejoicing, Praying and God's Will
We should assume that a Christian has a deep desire to seek the will of God (if not, we should assume that the moniker “Christian” needs some serious investigation). Once a follower of Christ is developing a maturing desire to follow God's will in his or her daily life, something precious happens: fulfilling that desire to please God becomes wonderfully pleasing to the Christian’s soul! When the Holy Spirit gave Paul the words of the first Thessalonian letter, He chose to end with some amazing words – three verses that are very short yet are all-encompassing, 16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. v. 16 - Rejoice when and how often? “Always!” v. 17 - Pray when and how often? “Always!” v. 18 - In how many things give thanks? “In everything!”
I find it truly amazing how all-encompassing this triplet truly is. But we should all recognize the marvelous connection interwoven herein. Don’t miss that depth of the interplay between giving thanks, praying and rejoicing! “But my lot in life if not very conducive to praying,” one might assert. But that is part of the point here – “in everything give thanks!” When we give thanks only in the wonderful times, we are ignoring that call. When we give thanks in everything and pray without ceasing, then and only then do we experience the rejoicing! When, and only when, life is marked by giving thanks, and daily life is steeped in prayer do we partake of the type and the depth of rejoicing that God has planned for those who follow Him in this whole process. Paul then finishes the letter with a few other admonitions that put the finishing touches on our sanctification and Christians' interaction. Step up to the plate and find the depth of rejoicing that God has planned for you!
One of my favorite things about this time of the year is experiencing the beauty of Christmas lights. Ordinarily only dimly lit by dull street lamps, towns are now awash in brilliant displays of holiday cheer. So much more joyful than the rest of the year! Eventually, however, those lights will be taken down, packed up, and put away again until next December. One of my least favorite times of the year is when those lights—and the accompanying joyful attitudes—are hidden for 11 months. Too bad! Wouldn’t it be great if they stuck around all year long! Even more sadly, some Christians only let their lights shine during special occasions. Currently there is a surging wave of good will toward our fellowman as we all seek to do something good for those in need. But what if we didn’t just drag our Christian lights out only for holidays? Jesus told His disciples that they were the light of the world (Matt. 5:14). Accordingly, He told them, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Certainly we should do all the good we can during the holiday season, but let’s refrain from packing up our Christian lights and putting them away for the rest of the year. The world needs the light of the church and God’s word shining in the darkness! Will you be a light for Christ 365 days in the coming year? Matt Clifton, Judsonia church of Christ, Judsonia, AR (Via Bulletin Digest)
Thanksgiving Proclamation “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
“Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us. “And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.”
George Washington, President of the United States, October 3, 1789
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100:4-5
Another Face in the Crowd Thom Vaught
Proverbs 20:12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made both of them.
Tyra Winters is a Senior at Rockwall High School in Texas. As she was riding on a float in her homecoming parade last month she heard cries for help from the crowd. As she looked out upon the crowd she noticed the cries were coming from a mother holding up her child. Then Tyra noticed the child's face was red and he was beginning to turn blue. Tyra sprang into action jumping from the float, running up to the mother, and telling her "I've got this". Tyra performed the Heimlich maneuver for a toddler as her mom had taught her. In doing so, she was able to clear the toddler's breathing passage and she made sure the child was breathing. Instead of hanging around for praise, Tyra ran and leapt back onto the float joining her classmates and finishing the parade. What can we learn spiritually from the brave and level-headed young woman from Texas?
First, Tyra was listening. In spite of being surrounded by her friends making noise along with the noise of the crowd, Tyra was listening for cries of those in need. Cries from help at church are often not as obvious as the cries of a mother for her choking child. It takes work on our part as listeners to hear one another's needs. We must move beyond the foyer conversation of "Hi, how are you doing?" and "Fine, how are you?" to actively listening and asking questions. We will never hear the cries for help from our spiritual family unless we listen and pursue a deeper conversation. We must get to the heart of each family member's struggles and needs in order to help them.
Second, Tyra was looking. Certainly Tyra saw both familiar and unfamiliar faces along the parade route. However, once she knew that someone was in trouble then she began looking for signs of trouble in their faces. What do you see when you look across the auditorium at a brother or sister? Do you just see just another face in the crowd? When you focus upon their face are you looking for signs of trouble? Do you see grief in their eyes or worry on their face? Only after we hear and see the struggles of a brother or sister can we spring into action and help them back on their way.
Each member of our family will experience trouble in their lives. The struggles of this world and draw of sin can choke out their lives unless we are there to help. We must be vigilant. We must be listening for their cries of help. Also, we must be looking for ways in which we can help. Remember, the person you see across the auditorium is not just another face in the crowd. They are your family.
On Honoring our Veterans
On Veteran's Day, I get up early and put my flag out and remember the veterans and fighting men and women in prayer. We owe a great debt of gratitude as a nation to those who have fought for freedom at the price of death, disabilities, imprisonment, and continuing psychological casualties. We encourage them, pray for them and express our gratitude to them and for them.
We have much to be thankful for at this holiday season. I recently read an article by Jay Lockhart that mentioned another set of veterans – veterans in the faith. We in the church stand on the shoulders of many who have preceded us in faith. We may not sing the song often, but ours is indeed a "Faith of Our Fathers," ever new and ever renewed in each generation. The church has multiplied veterans of faith. We today benefit from the sacrifice and vision of those who planted churches, purchased buildings, established colleges and universities, began a host of benevolent efforts, and pioneered mission work in places where few were (and are) willing to go. We are recipients of the generosity of many who made it possible for us to be where we are today. They preached sermons, taught Bible classes, evangelized their communities, and passed on faith to their families.
I encourage you to make your own personal list of veterans – whether in the military or in the faith – and give thanks for them at this season. We can honor them most by making sure that the sacrifices they made will not be in vain--that we will continue to carry the torches of freedom and faith.
Adapted from an article by Robert J. Young
The Greatest of These…
There are many wonderful things in our world, but we often fail to see and experience them because the worries of life block our vision. God knows how He put this world together and He knows how He put our hearts together. When we lose sight of those two things, life gets tough and it can do so very quickly. Every single thing we really want in life falls under one of nine categories listed in Ephesians 5:22, 23 – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” In daily life, in our marriages, our families, and every other worthwhile endeavor, those nine items lie at the heart of everything else we seek. Notice that the list starts with “love.” It’s not surprising, that is the hope of the human heart. As God’s word says in 1 Corinthians 13, no matter what we may have or do, if we have not love, it profits us nothing! Faith is critical, without it, we cannot please God, (Hebrews 11:6). Hope is vital, without it disappointment will rule our lives, (“hope does not disappoint,” Romans 5:5, NASB). Paul mentions faith, hope and love at the end of 1 Corinthians 13 and He teaches us, “the greatest of these is love.” Why? Because love is the greatest motivator in our existence. Love changes us. Love guides us. Love creates self-discipline by which we keep ourselves straight! Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments,” John 14:15. In the next few weeks we will dig deep into God’s word to mine the riches of His truths on this precious subject of love – love of God, love of others, and a biblical view of love of self. (Yes, that’s in the Book!) Let us open our hearts and minds to His truths, His love, and His plan for our lives!
"If there is a God..." Steve Higginbotham
Have you heard the story about a very militant, atheistic professor who made it a point in his class to belittle the faith of those who believed in God. After spending nearly a semester of ridiculing Christianity, he felt rather confident to sarcastically ask, "Are there any believers in God in this class?" He didn't expect anyone to respond, but one young man did. He said, "Yes, I'm a believer in God." The professor reveled in the thought of making a fool of this young man, so he stood before the class, looked up toward the ceiling with outstretched arms and said, "If there's an all powerful God out there, I challenge you to strike me dead right now!" A hush fell over the classroom for a moment, then the professor arrogantly smirked and said, "See, if your God exists why am I still standing here? This is proof that your God doesn't exist." Very calmly, the young man said, "No professor, this isn't proof that my God doesn't exist. However it is proof of something. It's proof that the God I serve is a merciful God." "The fool has said in his heart, 'There is no God...'" (Psalm 14:1).
There is No Excuse Mike Riley
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903, British philosopher, sociologist, and evolutionist, announced before his death that there are only five “manifestations of the unknowable” in existence — time, force, action, space, and matter. This was hailed as a great announcement and discovery at that time. However, it’s interesting to note that when the Holy Spirit directed Moses to pen Genesis 1:1 (2 Peter 1:20-21; cf. Acts 1:16), he put the same elements in it long before Mr. Spencer announced them. Moses wrote: “In the beginning” (time); “God” (force); “created” (action); “the heavens” (space); “and the earth” (matter). Paul states in Romans 1:18-20, that men will have no excuse in not believing in the God of creation: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heavenagainst all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (cf. Psalm 19:1-6).
God’s Plan for Emotions We live in an age where emotions rule and logic takes a back seat to feelings. In some venues that situation can be fairly harmless, but in the vast majority of human endeavors, life is negatively affected when emotions reign over logic. Emotions are not bad, they are a gift from God. But they have some specific purposes designed by God, Himself. Emotions help keep us close, connected to our loved ones. Emotions can be a great joy and even negative emotions, like grief, can be healing. As Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted. Research shows that even the shedding of tears can be cathartic. In July, 2018, the website Psychcentral.com published an article entitled 7 Good Reasons to Cry: The Healing Property of Tears. But there is a dark side to our emotions, as noted in James Dobson’s book, Emotions, Can You Trust Them. The short answer is, “No!” God outlines one of the primary purposes for emotions in Roman 6: 17, 18
But thanks be to God that [l]though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. Notice that the Roman Christians had a commitment to what they knew, but Paul was commending them for becoming obedient “from the heart” to that commitment. They had discovered truth with their logic (mind) and had a deep-hearted commitment (emotion) to that teaching. Undoubtedly, the mind (logic) is used to discern truth from error, God’s teachings from made-made dogma. But once that teaching us understood by the mind, the heart is then used to bolster that commitment! The trouble comes when humans try to discern the teachings of Christ with their emotions. When emotion prevails over logic in matters of teaching, the mind of man almost always defaults to whatever he wishes were the case. In other words, when emotion prevails over logic, we tend to decide that truth is whatever makes us more comfortable, more relaxed, or more pleasured.
Revel in the precious and proper emotions God gave you. Rejoice from deep within your heart when God’s will is both understood with the mind and followed with the heart. But never, ever try to decide doctrine with your emotions! That's Satan’s recipe for disaster in logic and in life.
God's Loving Holiness "Who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds" (Titus 2:14).
What comes to your mind when you think of God' holiness? Do you gloss over it as a characteristic of God? Or like Isaiah and others, are you afraid? Or perhaps like C.S. Lewis, who said, "No I'm not afraid -- I am afraid." Our sinfulness doesn't make God holy by contrast. Rather, God's holiness reveals our sinfulness. We aren't worthy to come before the holy God. However, the holy God doesn't seek to destroy the sinner. The holy God seeks to destroy sin within us. He seeks to restore us to life with Him.
God desires us to have life with us. He desires this more than we desire to have life with Him. The Father God sent God the Son to redeem us from our bondage in sin. God doesn't stop there. He is determined to purify us. God's loving holiness causes Him to pursue us to make us clean, strong, and pure.
God seeks the destruction of everything that is opposed to His holiness. What we forget is that God rages against un-holiness on our behalf. He does not rage against the sinner. He wants every single person to come to Him (I Timothy 2:4). God calls us to be holy like He is (I Peter 1:15-16).
Look at Jesus. Examine His dealing with sinners and see His loving, gentle work of redemption and His uncompromising dealing with sin. Jesus called people to follow Him and let Him change them to be like Him. God works to purify or clean us up so we will be holy as He is holy. He wants us to live with Him. We need to make His word a part of us. He means us no harm.
The Mystery of Christ Tyler King
Growing up in the church, Jesus has never been a mystery; or at least that's what I thought. Passages such as Colossians 4:3 that mention "the mystery of Christ" have always been glossed over in my personal studies. I figured I already knew the premise behind the Messiah, why should I then continue to use such mystic terminology? In the ancient language, the word mystery literally means "secret" or "that which transcends normal understanding." So then, what is the secret of God that is now revealed? If you remember the dialogue between Daniel and God, you'd remember when God told him, "go your way, Daniel, for the words are shut up and sealed until the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9). God was keeping a secret from Daniel and the readers of the scroll. We as 21st century Christians have a more complete picture though. The vision Daniel experienced was referring to the events that would take place at the end times. One of those events was the coming of a king and a kingdom (Daniel 2:44). Christ's coming was affirmative but He came in a manner far more glorious than the "normal understanding" of the people's perception. The Jews expected an earthly war-lord who'd come and lay waste to the nations that were oppressing them. This, however, was not the will of God. The will of God was to raise up a King who'd express love and care toward His creation by teaching the gospel before He returned to claim His own (Rev. 19:11-16). Prior to Colossians 4:3, Paul brings up the mystery of Christ as that which has been "hidden from ages and generations" (Col. 1:26). To the outsider, God's plan is weak, incomplete, and non-effective; life continues to move in a stagnant manner. On the contrary, to the believer, God's plan is nothing but victorious. Notice how a single verse later, Paul states the glory of the mystery is "Christ in you" (Col. 1:27). This mystery is what put Paul in prison (Col. 4:3), and was the basis of his preaching (Col. 4:4). To summarize, the mystery of God encompasses a variety of aspects concerning His plan. First, it was a secret for over 4,000 years; since man sinned in the garden and needed a savior. Second, it was a secret that was alluded to for at least 600 years with prophecies from men such as Isaiah and Daniel - Certainly Paul's words can echo this reality as he states "hidden for ages and generations." Third, God's secret was Christ. Jesus, even among all of His teachings, had somewhat of a secrecy to what He was doing while on earth (Mark 1:43-45; 4:11; 8:27-30). God had a plan from the very beginning to send a Son in order to make atonement for sinful man. This all leads us to Paul's request for the church in Colossae to pray that a door might be opened for him to declare the mystery of Christ (Col. 4:2). The world may know the name, Jesus, but do they know the mystery of His saving power? Do they know the depth and magnitude of who He is as God's glory? Read Colossians 1:15-20 and see if "transcending normal understanding" is an accurate way to encompass that section of scripture. Jesus truly is mysterious, in that, no man can fully grasp how incredible He and His message is.
Isaiah and His Two Big “Eyes!”
We often forget the value of the Old Testament, but Paul reminds us in Romans 15:4 that it is of great value to our perseverance and encouragement. The O.T. prophets give us great insight into what is necessary for a nation to pleasing to, and thus blessed by, God. Isaiah is a prime example. Besides being the most Messianic of the prophets, Isaiah has two big “eyes” to see the two big “I’s” of Israel's problems: Idolatry and Immorality. These two have always gone hand in hand when nations leave Jehovah God. Even a cursory reading of Isaiah will clearly reveal both God’s will for nations and, sadly, Israel’s failure to understand and follow the paths to blessings. In Isaiah chapter five we see a very basic challenge to any family, church culture or nation: deciding what is truly valuable and what is not! He who manages to place value (or lack of it) on the things of life will ultimately determine the direction of that family, church, etc. Exquisitely stated in verses 20-22 is the reality of the value of properly labeling good and evil: 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! 21 Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight! 22 Woe to those who are heroes at drinking wine, and valiant men in mixing strong drink, 23 who acquit the guilty for a bribe, and deprive the innocent of his right!
In verse 20 the root cause of much of the rampant evil that tore their nation apart was the reversal of what is good and what is bad; what is light and what is darkness. The two big “I’s” of Idolatry and Immorality had been labeled as bad by God, but good by the nations of Israel. Because it was never corrected, Israel (the ten northern tribes) were conquered and taken into captivity by the Assyrian army in 722 B.C. Those tribes never returned and are called, “the lost tribes of Israel” to this day. Ten of the twelve tribes descended from Jacob (renamed “Israel” by God in Genesis 35:10) went into oblivion simply because the people had lost the discernment to recognize and properly label good and bad, darkness and light. For the 2700 years since then, we see nation after nation going down the same path to perdition for the same reason. We, as God’s children, must do our best to help others see which things are genuinely good and genuinely bad, then help our nation do the same, lest we suffer the same fate as others.
“It’s Greek to Me!”
“It’s Greek to me!” is a phrase meaning something hard to understand. For centuries the Bible was available in very few languages - Hebrew, Greek and Latin to the European world. Indeed Greek is a difficult language! If we count grammatical cases (nominative, objective, etc.) genders (male, female, dual, neuter), number (singular or plural) and mood (indicative, interrogative, etc.) the possibilities of verb conjugations and noun declensions become rather dizzying! In fact, there are 24 ways to spell the near demonstrative pronoun, “this” and 24 ways to spell the far demonstrative pronoun, “that!” Whew! After a few weeks of Greek, the student begins to wonder if this is a language or a bad joke on history! However, God gave us the New Testament in KOINE Greek (“common” Greek), the language of the marketplace. In today’s world we might call it “newspaper Greek” or “personal letter” Greek. Once scholars thought the style of New Testament Greek was specific to the scriptures. But discoveries in the last 150 years have brought new light to our understanding of biblical Greek. In his book, Light from the Ancient East,by Adolf Deissmann (originally published in 1927 and now back in print again) shows conclusively that the New Testament is notwritten in “Holy Spirit” Greek, as formerly assumed, but is written in the language of the people. Drawing from letters to and from family members, commerce in the market place, etc., Deissmann concludes that the greatest book ever written is in the language of the people - not “high brow” Greek like Homer’s Iliad or Odyssey, but rather the language people would speak over the back fence. What a master work of the Holy Spirit – to give us the book for God’s word and wisdom in the language of everyday life. “So what?” you say? So - don’t be afraid to read the Bible. It is to you, not merely scholars. Yes, a fewverses are hard to understand (II Peter 3:14-16), but personal time with God, in His love letter to you, is a vast treasure awaiting those who open the Book. Read, you can understand. Ponder, you will grow. Meditate, you will thrive like a tree planted near the water (Psalm 1). Why not have lunch with Jesus today or read a little over your dinner or ponder a bit of scripture before you turn out the lights tonight. He’s waiting, just for you, just inside that leather cover!
Dare to be a Daniel!
Daniel was an extraordinary man, not because he was different from other men, but because he knew God and trusted that God was in control. He knew that by serving Him, rather than seeking the approval of man, he could stand strong in the midst of incredible loss and vital threat.
Victor Frankl, in his celebrated book, Man’s Search for Meaning, maintained that man cannot avoid suffering but can, indeed, cope with it. Frankl was a Jewish prisoner in four different Nazi concentration camps while his wife and other close relatives were killed. Frankl was convinced that it is not our circumstances that make or break us, but how we respond to those circumstances. (Highly recommended reading – over 10 million copies sold in four languages.)
Daniel was such a man. He trusted God and on the basis of that, survived the defeat of his homeland and his enslavement in a foreign nation. His strongest keys: a. he kept trusting God when he could not see the outcome b. he did not fear death, even imminent death, at the hands of his captors.
Daniel, and his three friends trusted God, NOT merely for life and deliverance, but whether the events lead to life or death – Daniel 3:17, 18: "If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (NASB) There are many things that can enslave a person, but fear of death is the one that has enslaved more people than any other single factor. The author of Hebrews focuses on that specific issue in Hebrews 2:14, 15, "Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death weresubject to slavery all their lives."(NASB, emphasis supplied).
Daniel’s circumstances did not create his faith and courage, they simply revealed them. Daniel was a man of God from the beginning. His courage was based on his trust of God and his faith that God is in control. Daniel simply continued to live a life of faiththat had begun in his native Jerusalem and continued into his captivity. Daniel knew a deep reality: We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience – we are spiritual beings having a temporary physical experience here on earth!
In what is your trust? What (or whom) do your fear? Is there any fear that has enslaved you, personally? Stand up. Stand strong. Have the courage to be a Daniel, no matter what!
The Power of Prayer The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something, and enter God's realm where everything is possible. He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love. Corrie Ten Boom
What’s It All About?
Religion! Cursed by some, embraced by some but misunderstood by almost everyone! Christianity is not about finding comfort in this life, but comfort is a common by-product of following Jesus. Christianity is not about finding a life of prosperity, but many who live a life of self-control (Ephesians 5:23) do earn a good income. Christianity is not a philosophy of life, but a relationship with a Savior. Christianity is not a psychology of life, love or politics, but those who read scripture will, indeed, gain insights into the study of the psyche (Greek psuche). Christianity is not merely an educational system of behavior and interpersonal relationships, but those who walk in Jesus’ steps gain understandings of humanity few ever find. Long life and security and safety are not the goals of Christianity. Power, personality, popularity and peace are not even the goals of Christianity. In fact, faithful Christians often face increased persecution, not increased peace (Matthew 10:31-40). The one main goal of Christianity is not even about church or worship or benevolence or holiness. All of those things actually comprise the methodologieswhich seek the goal, but they, in and of themselves, are not the goal. The goal is heaven.Jesus did not die so we could be comfortable. He died to take the punishment for our sins, so we could be forgiven and live with Him forever. The goal is heaven.Jesus did not die so we could learn to be kinder and gentler in this life, although He has called us to that lifestyle. He died to buy us back (“redeem” us) from Satan, to whom we sold ourselves by our own sin. The goal is heaven.Jesus did not go to prepare a syllabus for a social agenda to be delivered at the second coming. He went (John 14:1-6) to prepare a place for us in heaven that where He is we may be also, and He will come again and we will meet Him in the air, and thus we shall ever be with the Lord (I Thessalonians 4:13-17). The goal is heaven.It will be worth every tough discipline. It will be worth each insult or attack the world throws at us. It will be worth every sacrifice, every pain, every slander Satan will ever coordinate against us. The goal? You know now. We sing the truth, “Heaven willsurely be worth it all!”
Something to Think About
Evil is the absence of God, as… Dark is the absence of light; Cold is the absence of heat; Injustice is the absence of justice; Death is the absence of life; Immorality is the absence of morality; Lies are the absence of truth.
The atheist argument is that since God created everything, He is responsible for the creation of evil. However, "evil" is a word that we use to describe certain things that happen to us (most of which are caused by other people). In reality, it is not a physically created thing at all and, therefore, does not fall within the realm of something createdby God. So, the argument is fundamentally flawed. Evil is allowedby God so that free will beings can choose between good (i.e., God) or evil (absence of God). Without evil, it is not possible to choose between good and evil, and the universe would have no ultimate purpose.
A young man approached the foreman of a logging crew and asked for a job. "That depends," replied the foreman. "Let's see you fell this tree." The young man stepped forward and skillfully felled a great tree. Impressed, the foreman exclaimed, "You can start Monday!"
Several days rolled by. On Thursday afternoon the foreman approached the young man and said, "You can pick up your paycheck on the way out today." Startled, he replied, "I thought you paid on Friday." "Normally we do," answered the foreman, "but we're letting you go today because you've fallen behind. Our daily felling charts show that you've dropped from first place on Monday to last on Wednesday."
"But I'm a hard worker," the young man objected. "I arrive first, leave last, and even have worked through my coffee breaks!" The foreman, sensing the boy's integrity, thought for a minute and then asked, "Have you been sharpening your axe?" The young man replied, "I've been working too hard to take the time" (William D. Boyd, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome).
There is great value in keeping our tools sharp. In his wisdom, Solomon talked about the futility of working with a dulled tool: "If the axe is dull and he does not sharpen its edge, then he must exert more strength. Wisdom has the advantage of giving success" (Ecclesiastes 10:10).
At some point, we need to take time for ourselves to sharpen, strengthen, and improve. Sometimes in the church, we can get so focused on just being busy, that we've forgotten to keep ourselves sharp. We do many things, but few make a significant impact. Let's not forget to take time to continue to learn, read, listen, and soak in spiritual knowledge.
It's so important to sharpen our spiritual axes. The impact will always be greater than before.
Thought for the Day
Do not go where dark thoughts dwell; leave behind your self-made hell. Look to God who lives on high, sees each tear and hears each sigh. He will lead as you follow, o’re the hill, through the hollow. Think on Him and trust His grace; look upon His lovely face. Dwell on things of truth and beauty, good and right, as is your duty. Your heart rests in His deep peace; he’s the One who gives release. Fret and worry are no more; love and mercy are His store.
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, [dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Courage and Confidence
Courage is a rare commodity in today’s world. I’m convinced that a large part of that is the general lack of confidence, but not the kind of confidence we usually think. “Self-confidence” is not a bad thing, unless it is accompanied with arrogance and pride. Yet God speaks of confidence 46 times in scripture. In 2 Kings 18, 19 we see Assyria thinkingthat Hezekiah, king of Judah had confidence in their ally, Egypt. In reality, Hezekiah had confidence in God. (See 2 Kings 18:19-25.) And that confidence led to both trust in God, (2 Kings 19:8-11) and ultimately to victory for the people of God (2 Kings 19:32-17). Hezekiah had confidence in God, in His message from the prophet Isaiah (chapter 19) and subsequently saw victory through the power of God! Confidence is found throughout the Book! The enemies of God’s people losttheir confidence when they realized that the Israelites had the help of God (Nehemiah 6:16). Eliphaz recognized that Job’s confidence was in God (Neh. 4:6). Asaph, recognized as a deeply wise man, wrote in Psalm 78:5-7, That they should teach them to their children, That the generation to come might know, even the children yet to be born, That they may arise and tell them to their children, That they should put their confidencein God And not forgetthe works of God, But keep His commandments…. We should remember that our confidence must include the admonition “not forget the works of God” and “keep His commandments.
Keep Your Flame Lit Brett Petrillo
The Olympics has a very long and illustrious history. For thousands of years, some of the most talented people in the world have displayed their abilities. Over such time, several events have come and gone. One such event was a Greek race with a strange objective. Each person was given a torch, but the goal wasn't to win. The goal was to simply finish the entire race with your torch still lit (J. Stowell, Fan The Flame, Moody, 1986, p. 32).
The Christian life is often compared to a race (Hebrews 12:1; Galatians 5:7; 2 Timothy 4:7). It's not a sprint. The point isn't to get to heaven the fastest. The goal is simply to make it to the finish with our spiritual torches still aflame.
Satan would like nothing more than to see us fail this race. Far too many storms and difficulties threaten to blow out our spiritual flames. We must endure (James 1:12; Romans 5:3-4; Hebrews 10:36).
So keep going. Keep pressing on. Keep your eye on the prize. Don't give up. Let's assist each other. Let's support each other. Let's help each other get to heaven. Then, at long last, we will be rewarded with that prize, the crown of life, for finishing the race (Revelation 2:10).
No matter what, keep your spiritual flame going and finish this race!
"I just can't" Tyler King
In the summer of 2018, there was an incredible ordeal concerning the Thai soccer team fiasco. On June 23rd, 12 young men and their coach went on a cave exploration in celebration of one of the kid's birthday. Unfortunately, heavy floods blocked off their escape, leaving them stranded and isolated. I can't begin to try and imagine what kind of stress and anxiety was experienced in this moment of trial. Perhaps the feeling of inability was one of the most frustrating and antagonizing realities this team faced while trapped in the cave. They knew that they, by themselves, could never escape. If you're like me, frustration becomes a product when you know you can't solve a problem. The first seven chapters of the book of Daniel offer a great solution to our conundrum. There is a certain Hebrew word ("ykl" or "to be able") that occurs over and over, all within significant events of the book. Follow this thread with me:
Daniel 2:10 "There is not a man on earth who can meet the king's demand"
Daniel 2:27 "No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show the king the mystery"
Daniel 2:47 "You have been able to reveal this mystery"
Daniel 3:17 "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us"
Daniel 3:29 "There is no other God who is able to rescue in this way"
Daniel 4:18 "But you are able for the spirit of the holy God is in you"
Daniel 4:37 "Those who walk in pride He is able to humble"
Daniel 5:16 "But I have heard that you can give interpretations"
Daniel 5:16 "Now if you can read the writing and make known to me"
Daniel 6:4 "They could find no ground for complaint or any fault"
Daniel 6:20 "Has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to deliver you from the lions?"
Daniel 7:21 "The saints prevailed over them"
The main point pertaining these verses is the fact that man has a great inability and disadvantage when God is not involved. Add God to the equation and you can expect great things. It may not be on your timetable, and it's probably not how you would expect, but the fact still remains that God is able. I do not know what your hypothetical cave is, but the feeling of entrapment is certainly familiar to many. In order to seek a path of escape, God must always be included. If you have thought to yourself, "I just can't," then you may be right. But you couldn't be more wrong in saying "God can't."
(Today's bulletin features articles by Tyler King. He is the youngest man on staff at the Bear Valley Bible Institute - 23 years old - and doing excellent work there.)
A Common Hallelujah The word "hallelujah" is pronounced almost the same exact way in languages such as Slovakian, Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, Chinese, Czech, French, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Khmer, Russian, Swedish, Welsh, and Swahili. I first noticed this while I was in Cambodia. During worship, they were singing in Khmer with English words projected on the screen for us Americans. At one particular point in the song, both the English and Khmer lined up perfectly for us to communally sing, "hallelujah." The word has its roots in the ancient languages of the biblical text, and is a transliteration of "praise Yahweh." The phrase gets condensed into one word and is then pronounced "Hallelujah." It is merely a reverent way for the soul to remember God's worthiness to be praised. Exclamations of hallelujah come only when one recognizes the Almighty's power, and can be seen in the book of Revelation. In Revelation 19, "hallelujah" is used four times. Each of them are aimed directly at God for His salvation, glory, power, and reign. In both, the heavenly realm and the earthly realm, God's creation can't help but praise Him for who He is, what He does, and how He does it. Not only does the word "hallelujah" exceed the border of countries and languages, but it even goes beyond the physical realm, on into the spiritual world. This simple fact has triggered a number of thoughts in my mind, but there is one that stands out more than the rest. Am I living a life of Hallelujah? Because no matter where I go in the world, people can understand it. Hallelujah has become the universal way of praising God in almost any part of the globe. Therefore, my intentionality in praising God should not just be seen in Sunday worship, but everywhere I go. "Hallelujah" is an opportunity to reach a commonality between man and spirit. Tyler King
PRAY FOR PEACE
After some opening comments in I Timothy 1, Paul begins with an interesting plan, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity,” (I Timothy 2:1,2 NASB).
“Kings and all who are in authority” have a great influence on tranquility in our world. As citizens of our nation and of God’s kingdom, we desire a “tranquil and quiet life” and are instructed to pray for such. We all want peace, here and abroad. We all desire resolution to conflicts, military and domestic.
Question: How much time have you spent in “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings” in recent weeks? God, Himself, is urgingus through Paul’s pen. “Urge” is a form of the well-known Greek word “parakaleo” meaning to urge, exhort, entreat, comfort, encourage, appeal, beseech or beg. God is not merely invitingus to askHim, He is beseechingus to begHim for peace!
War is not and never has been a glorious affair. Yes, victories are wonderful, but mainly because it means that the horrors of war, tyranny, etc., are over. There is a grave difference between the way young men see going to warand the way front line battle veterans see actually being in war.
Peace is a blessing from God and war is a punishment from God (against one side or the other!). But war is always horrible, even when necessary... and sometimes it isnecessary to arrest the progress of the violent.
Pray for peace, urgently. Pray for kings and all who are in authority. Pray for the warriors who so valiantly serve our country, as well as their families.
Some who die will be remembered for having possessed profound skill, such as Babe Ruth’s ability to hit 60 home runs in a single season. Virtuous leaders of countries are mourned universally when they pass from this life – they are missed because of the good influence they had on the lives of millions of people. But looking from an eternal perspective, is any of that really important? Would it not be far better to say of one who lives no more, “He walked with God?”
The prophet Amos said, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3). He was not talking about man walking with man but our walking with God. If I don’t agree with God, my attempts to walk with Him will not be joyful. It makes men miserable when they try to walk with God but do not agree with Him. It is not God who must agree with how I want things to go or what I like in religion, it is I who must agree with God in order to walk with Him.
“Walking” As God “Walks” Most of us feel that our walking with Him could be closer — sometimes we feel close, other times we feel separated. That is usually true, because we have not spent time with Him in worship, prayer or letting Him speak to us through His Word. Closeness is identifiable in our lives with how much He lives in our thoughts and character. Walking with God means walking where He walks(cf. 1 John 1:5-6; 1 John 2:5-6). It also means that we walk in the same manner as He walks which involves a transformation of character to become like Him (Romans 12:2; cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 4:23; Colossians 1:9-10; Colossians 3:1-10; 1 John 4:7-8). Have you ever noticed how much husbands and wives become very much like each other after 50 years of marriage?
The Implication Of “Walking” Walking with Him in light does not mean that we are perfect, nor that we never stumble. God still walks with us, if we turn our feet back again to the pathway of righteousness (1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:1-2). “Walking” implies a direction, a consistency, not perfection. Building a closer walk with Him begins with an intimate knowledge of His character and will and is finalized in becoming like Him — Jesus is that perfect example that we are to emulate (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21).
Conclusion: The briefest but most praiseworthy epitaph of a man’s life is recorded in Gen. 5:22:“Enoch walked with God….“ When this writer crosses that river of death, all I really want to hear is, “He walked with God.”Nothing else really matters.
Courage and Belief
“Courage!” The word itself inspires visions of history’s heroes. From battlefield generals to soldiers on the front lines, from firemen and policemen at work to astronauts in space, courage defines who we are and what we can become. The courage of others builds courage in ourselves. The events that call for courage and acts of the courageous that meet those challenges work in symphony with each other to call forth the best in us. But some are courageous and some are not. Some answer the call and some just let the phone ring when the caller ID says, “Courage Calling.” Where does courage actually come from? Are some just born with courage and others not? Is there some DNA component that spurs some to courage while others rock back in the recliner? I’m convinced that courage has many sources, but most of them come from our family of origin and company we choose to keep as we mature. But one of the roots of courage is often unrecognized and/or overlooked, even as we search for sources. As we realize that courage grows exponentially when we are with the right people, we must recognize that deep and abiding courage becomes profound when the one we are with is Jesus! When Peter was literally with Jesus, he courageously drew his sword to fight a band or Roman soldiers (Matt 26:47-55). A few hours later, Peter was still with some of the disciples, but he was not with Jesus. His courage evaporated like a mist. He denied Jesus three times before morning! A few weeks later, Peter stood courageously for Jesus. What made the difference? One thing: the presence of Jesus with Peter. In the Garden of Gethsemene, Jesus was there with him. When he denied he even knew Jesus, he was alone. When he preached the first gospel sermon on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) the presence of Jesus was with him. WHAT? How could Jesus be with Peter in Acts 2? Jesus ascended back to heaven in Acts 1! But Peter remembered, and lived by, the reality of Matthew 28:19-20. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Peter knew Jesus was with him, “even to the end of the age.” Peter’s realization of the presence of Jesus gave him the power. Peter’s realization of that current reality gave him courage! Jesus was with him, even after His ascension but to put the power to work, Peter had to believe that reality. We are reminded of Acts 27:25, “Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told.” Paul inspired his shipmates to keep up their courage because he believed the promises of God! Where is your courage? How deeply do you connect the realization of the presence of God with you to your ability to “be strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:7) just as Joshua was, when he knew that God was with him (1:9)?
A WORD FITLY SPOKEN
We are all familiar with the beautiful analogy in Proverbs 25:11. Here, the "apples of gold in pictures of silver" are the right words spoken at the right time and in the right way. Maybe a situation calls for words of teaching. Just the right words can bring someone to obedience. Maybe the situation demands words of encouragement. Words fitly spoken can cheer a depressed person, or a sick brother or sister. Some of us are so wrapped up in our own situations that we cannot see that others need those precious words from us that would mean the world to them at that moment. Perhaps a call to a shut-in would bring joy to their heart. Perhaps a visit to an erring Christian would bring about their restoration. Perhaps a word to a faithful worker in the church would elevate them to greater heights of service. We all have this power to say that "fitly spoken word".
John Wright (Woodbine church of Christ, Nashville, TN)
"I'll Carry It For You"
A preacher back in the 1800s was feeling extremely stressed and loaded down with the troubles and pressures that came through his ministry. One day he came home and was greeted by his young daughter, Minnie, whose legs were paralyzed. He was about to carry a package from the mail upstairs when Minnie said, "Daddy, I will carry that package upstairs for you." The preacher replied, "Minnie dear, how can you carry the package?" With a smile on her face, Minnie said, "If you will give me the package, I will hold it while you carry me." This sweet gesture from his daughter reminded him of the way God wants to help us with our own burdens. God is fully aware of the stresses and burdens we bare. He also wants to help us with them. In the book of Isaiah, God gave Israel a reminder, "Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you" (46:3-4). The stresses of life can become extremely heavy and burdensome. We don't have to bear all of this alone. He cares when we are stressed out. Let's remember that God is willing to take the load for us (Matthew 11:28-30; 1 Peter 5:7). What a loving God we serve!
True Desire – John 5
It started as an average day. Healthy people walked to and fro while the sick and crippled begged. Most were ignored by the busy hustle and bustle of everyday life. The healthy were seeking relief from the pressures of the daily grind, the search for a job, the need for money for food, the concern of the occupying Roman army. Others were pretty satisfied with their lot in life. The lame and the sick were much the same. Some were content to beg – not too bad a life to visit with friends and not be expected to work. Enter Jesus! He is Jesus. He knows the man’s plight. He knows the man’s heart but He asks a probing question, “Do you wish to get well?” Is it an unfeeling question? It seems so, but the One asking is our loving Lord. Is it a challenge to the man’s own man’s own view of his life? Absolutely. The story is simple. The outcome is astounding. “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” And he does! In verse 14 they meet again and Jesus says, “Behold you have become well; do not sin anymore so that nothing worse happens to you.” Jesus knew his heart, yet he asked, “Do you wish to get well?” Perhaps God wanted all of us to see the interchange. Many today are hurting, confused and emotionally ill. But that question rings in our ears today, “Do you wish to get well?” In our “please accept me” society, sometimes we don’t wish to get well. It is easier to be accepted, to go along with the crowd, to not risk rejection. It’s not an unfeeling question. In fact, each on one of us must ask the one in the mirror, “Do you wish to get well?” (John 5:1-14). He was transformed by the renewing of his body. We must get well by the renewing of our minds. “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our minds, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect,” Romans 12:1-2. Jesus called to the lame man about his body. He calls to us about our mind, our heart and our spirit. Is today your average day? His blessings await. Love calls and love must answer.
Encouragement! Life gets real. Reality sometimes steals your rejoicing and circumstances creep in to chip away at your peace. Worries about war and concern for church or community wrinkle your brow and bump your blood pressure. The list of what you can’t control expands and your faith shrinks. What now? Where to go? What to do? Withdrawal is a natural response. Hiding is a common temptation. And shrinking back from the daily delirium seems the only sensible choice to save your sanity. Even Paul said he worried about the churches (2 Corinthians 11:28). You need an antidote for the serpent’s venom of worry. God gave us several personal items, but there is one that others can actually administer: ENCOURAGEMENT! We can actually inject this antivenin for worry into one another’s hearts by the means of encouragement. Consider the partial list of commands to encourage: `“Encourage one another day after day....” Hebrews 3:13
“Encourage one another, build up one another....” I Thess. 5:11
“Encourage the fainthearted....” I Thess. 5:14
“Encourage the exhausted and strengthen the feeble.” Isa. 35:3
“Encourage them in the work of the house of God....” Ezra 6:22 Our God is an awesome God (Neh. 9:32). He knows how to overcome worry and depression. The answer? Encouragement. It is more than a nice gesture; it is the specific antidote to Satan’s venom of anxiety. It is the tool we use to lift up others even when life’s circumstances cannot be changed. It is the anvil that wears out the hammers of evil that try to beat us into submission. Encourage someone today. It is strong medicine. Take it seriously. In fact, take two, and call the Great Physician in the morning. Ray Wallace
If You Don't Know, It Could Be Dangerous!
While in the military service in the early '70s, there was a man in the squadron that owned several single-engine planes. And from time to time, we would get together and take a few short trips. On one occasion, I was to fly the 1938 Luscombe. Now it was beautiful and well cared for, good electronics, (for the day) and good Cleveland heel brakes, well, it was just nice all the way around, even though you had to hand prop it to get it started. Howey propped it, I got it started, taxied out, took off and was back on the ground in less than five minutes. The reason? The engine quit as soon as I was off the ground. Next, I banked left back over the grass, lined-up, and as I was about to put it on the ground, the engine started. That was a shock. You can imagine I was a bit concerned. When I taxied back to the line, shut it down, got out, and said to Howey, "That was exciting." He said, "Oh, I forgot to tell you it doesn't have a fuel pump. So don't put the nose above the horizon. It is gravity fed. " With the new information, I was back in the air, with no other problems. Now the point is this; the fact that I didn't know it didn't have a fuel pump didn't make any difference. Truth is truth; rather, you realize it or not. And the result is the same; rather, you know the truth or not. In the case with the little Luscombe, it didn't matter if I knew it or not, it still didn't have a fuel pump. When the word of God is considered, it is the same. There are consequences for not knowing the truth just as if you know the truth and chose not to obey. Note two verses with me. 2 Thes. 1:6-8, "For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted and to us as well when the Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus." Luke 12: 47, "And that slave who knew his master's will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more." The point is: rather we KNOW the truth and fail to put it into action, or we DON'Tknow the truth and can't put it into action, the consequence is the same. So let us be learners, and teacher, that all may be doers of God's Word.
If Only I Could
Sometimes we convince ourselves I just can't do "it." And of course, that "it" would include anything that we think we can't do, and yes, sometimes things we don't want to do. We all know events from history where there was a victory because of an individual or a group did what they knew they couldn't do. But they did. Maybe it was a sports team that won against all the odds. It could be on the job, meeting a deadline that no one thought was possible. But not only was the deadline met, but it was met with time to spare. Many, many times the key to success is thinking we can, and never when we feel we can't. As a child, I remember the story of "The Little Engine That Could." And of course, the line that fits so well with the thought of this article is, "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can," and sure enough, the little engine made it. Our life can be like that in many areas, and you know it is true; we can do many things we never thought we could if we will give it a try. Now, it is also true that as time goes by, our true abilities change. I don't think many can do the things at 60 or 70 they did in their 20's and 30's. Still, there is a work and a place for all in His service. Of course, some of the best news is, He never leaves us to do it on our own He is always with us. Consider these thoughts: Hebrews 13:5-6, "Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," so that we confidently say, "THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?" Mat 28:19-20, "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Philippians 4:12-13, "I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction." Philippians 4:6-7, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." So again, the good news is we are never alone. God is always with us and wants us to be successful in our work for Him. He wants all peoples to be saved, and His plan is for those that know the truth to teach the truth. When the verse in Mark 16:15, is considered, And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation." If we are not careful, we can get the impression we need to travel far away. It could be we just need to go next door. Indeed, our thoughts should NOT be, "if only I could," but, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
God's Grace Is Free But Not Cheap
In John 1:14-17, John records the following about our Lord: And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
The word “grace” simply means “unmerited favor” — favor that one receives which is undeserved and unearned. The idea of grace being “free” means that it became available to us without cost to us (Ephesians 2:8). However, it does not mean it was without cost at all, for it cost God plenty to offer it to us without charge (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9). Grace is indeed priceless, but Someone else paid the price because we couldn’t afford it. With these thoughts in mind, let us look at some aspects of what grace costs:
1. Grace is Costly Because It Cost God The Life of His Son. The church was purchased with the blood of God’s Son (Acts 20:28). We “have been bought with a price.” (1 Corinthians 6:20) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ”Romans 5:8)
2. Grace is Costly Because It Calls Us To Follow Jesus. We are permitted the privilege of choosing the way of grace and become disciples of Jesus. To be a disciple means to follow after the Teacher. To follow Jesus means to put His kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6:33). The cost of discipleship means that we must put other things second, third, etc. Another cost associated with discipleship is picking up and bearing a cross of self-denial (Matthew 16:24).
3. Grace is Costly Because It Condemns Sin. Grace justifies sinners — not their sins! Grace does not make lying, adultery, or greediness any less sinful. What it does freely offer is conditional forgiveness. All have sinned (Romans 3:23) and the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). While grace brings the potential for forgiveness to those under this sentence of death, we must continue in the grace of God (Acts 13:43; cf. Acts 14:22), “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts” (Titus 2:11-13).
Grace is indeed free, but it is not unconditional. If it were, then everyone would be saved. But it is conditioned upon our response to it. In the Bible, our response to God’s grace is called “faith” (Romans 10:17). This is why we are said to be “saved by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Let us praise God each day for the gift of His wonderful grace, and let us properly respond to it by being obedient to His will (Matthew 7:21; cf. Luke 6:46; James 1:22).
A beautiful and popular Christian song asks a haunting question, “Some folks may ask me, some folks may say, Who is this Jesus you talk about every day?”
When was the last time a friend or coworker asked you about Jesus? When was the last time you realized that you talk about Jesus everyday? Is your work place hostile to religion? What about lunchtime? What about inviting work partners over for dinner? What about neighbors?
Some will be friendly toward Christianity, some will not. But you will never know until you try. In Acts 17 Paul lovingly but clearly proclaimed Jesus and the resurrection. The response of the hearers (v.32) is still typical, Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some began to sneer, but others said, “We shall hear you again concerning this.”
Paul didn’t “weed out” potential disciples by whom he thought might listen or not. I have been amazed over the years by the response of people whom I thought would listen but wouldn’t, but ever far more amazed by the response of foul-mouthed, immoral weirdoes who listened, learned and are now deeply committed disciples living a sanctified life of dedication.
When the Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write 2 Pet. 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance,” He obviously intended for us to share the good news of salvation through Jesus with “all.”
Perhaps it’s time for you, as an individual, to figure out what to say and how to say it so that that you are “teaching the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
One approach is to write a friend’s name on the top of a tract about salvation. Simply hand it to him or her and say, “I read this last week and I thought of you. Let me know what you think of it. I care about your eternity.”
I love Psalm 107:2, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so...” And indeed, King David was willing to say so. As he receives forgiveness in Psalm 51, he addresses the marvelous work of joy in the lives of those forgiven (verses 13-14): Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, And sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Thy ways, And sinners will be converted to Thee.
Are you saved? Are you reveling in the joy of salvation? Are you allowing God to sustain you with a willing spirit? Are you teaching transgressors God’s ways? Are sinners being converted to Him because of you? Let’s talk.
Oh, the song: “He is my Savior, He set me free, Now listen while I tell you what he means to me.”
Ray Wallace (For further study: Acts 4:20; Ps. 119:46)
Freedom Isn’t Free!
The ghostly, gray figures ascend the small hill, ever vigilant, ever brave. Some carry rifles, some carry radios, but none ever move. I slowly climb the hill to the right, study their faces, forever frozen in time, and I contemplate my own freedom. Then I notice the wall - mirror-polished granite with figures that seem to be deep in the three dimensional scene, some flying, some fighting, some doctoring – men and women of all nationalities - all engaged in the efforts of war. And I, like others beside me, see my own reflection, half dim, half clear, suspended among the soldiers as if I were actually in the granite scene… with the life-sized ghost-soldiers reflecting behind me and the granite wall soldiers in front of me. As I top the hill I read the words, “Freedom Is Not Free” carved deeply in the granite. Such were my first few minutes at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. The meaning is painfully obvious. Those figures represent the spirits of those who fought and those who died in that conflict and many others to keep America free! They died so I, (yes, I personally) can be free from the harness of tyrants. “Freedom Is Not Free” – the phrase sticks in my mind the rest of the trip back to Virginia and all week. I cannot help but remember Jesus’ words from John 8:32, “And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” “The truth.” What truth? “The truth.” The truth that Jesus died, voluntarily, in my place on the cross, so I can be free from the curse of sin and death. Jesus, the Soldier on the cross is now calling me to be a soldier of the cross. Jesus, the sinless One, took my sin – all our sins – and bore them on His own back, on His own cross, so we can live free from the harness of that eternal tyrant, Satan! I was impressed by the stately Washington monument. I was in awe of the Lincoln Memorial. I was deeply moved by the World War II Memorial and shed tears at the Viet Nam Wall, but I was and am haunted by parallels of the Korean War Memorial and John chapter eight. We all climb the hill of life – at the top, the cross – at the top, the crown – at the top the Savior constantly reminding us “Freedom Is Not Free.” It cost Jesus His life on earth to buy our eternity in heaven. Victory is at hand! Fall in, soldiers!
A new meme is circulating that says a lot about humanity, “If your god allows you to do anything you want, your god is really yourself.” I totally agree. But most people seldom think about genuine, or ultimate authority. Most simply go through their day making decisions, large and small, that merely seek ease, practicality, efficiency or pleasure as they see it. But analyze that approach to life for a moment – an approach that merely seeks self and any freedom that seems to supply temporary pleasure or satisfaction. The result is actually revealed in the Bible, “ In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). Did you catch it? Each individual simply created his or her own reality about what was right or wrong. For a few sweet, magnanimous individuals, that might create a safe and comfortable culture. But, as we see in virtually all places on earth, many others use that approach to life to decide, “I want what you have” and satisfaction of self is the only true goal and thus self becomes the only true source of authority. Crime and chaos are the inevitable result. The human will answer, “But our creed is do anything you want so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.” The man on the street answers, “That’s fine for you, but I have the same freedom to decide my own creed, and that shall be crime!” The humanist answers, “But we have cops that have guns, and they will stop you!” Then the criminals answer, “Only if you catch us!” And thus our modern inner cities are born! Why? Because without a wide-spread acceptance of God’s authority, mankind will always degenerate into ungodly chaos and unchecked brutality. From the 19thcentury gangs of New York to the 20thcentury dictators who spread war across the globe, the result is the same – kick God out of the country and the resulting chaos will bring unspeakable human misery, sooner or later. From ancient dynasties to modern nations, when the true source of all authority, God, Himself, is ignored, mankind will assert himself as final authority, and the (again inevitable) result will be armed conflict, whether in the inner city or between nations, large and small. God told Ezekiel quite plainly and succinctly, that if the people followed God with all their hearts, blessings would ensue. But since they didn’t, endless wars would result. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars. (II Chronicles 16:9) The choices are simple and the outcome clear, follow God with all our hearts or suffer grave consequences. And that is true nationally and personally. Make God your source of authority or get ready for never-ending, and heart-braking conflict. No wonder Joshua said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Think about it!
The Mind of Christ
The daily schedule grinds you down, the kids’ noise winds you up and finances stress you out! What a challenge, this thing we call “modern life.” Where is all the free time promised by kitchen conveniences and power tools? Shouldn’t 40 hour work weeks and gigahertz computers bring more peace to life?
Good news: peace doesn’t come from prosperity and joy is not found in conveniences. It is much more simple. We often forget that the “peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:4-7) comes from a right relationship with God.
Read the passage, “...rejoice... have a gentle spirit... overcome anxiety... pray. Then, and only then, will you have the peace that comes from God and guards your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.
Why? Because as you develop that relationship with Jesus and apply His peace in your life, you are developing the mind of Christ... His attitudes, His priorities, His trust in the heavenly Father.
“For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). Indeed the apostles had the “mind of Christ,” but can we, today, have the mind of Christ? Of course... two ways.
One: we have the “mind of Christ” between two leather covers... the Bible, the revealed, written word of God. In it we have “everything pertaining to life and godliness,” 2 Peter 1:3.
Two: we have being created in our minds, the mind of Christ. As we live and learn and grow we have Christ formed in us (Colossians 1:27). We learn to think like He thinks, love like He loves. In short, we are not merely taught the facts, we are discipled to become like Him (1 Corinthians 11:1). Rejoice to be like Jesus and have the mind of Christ.
Make it a Momentous Monday Neal Pollard
Pick out a local church leader and pray for him and his family for several minutes, being very specific in your petitions on their behalf.
Email a missionary to encourage them and get an update on how their work is going.
Buy a gift card and try to give it anonymously to a young or struggling family you know.
Thoughtfully select several people to compliment and encourage by writing on their Facebook wall or other social media platform.
Briefly visit a brother or sister in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
Ask a co-worker, classmate, or neighbor what you can be praying for them about.
Listen to a book of the Bible in its entirety on your commute.
Let go of a grudge or deep-seated resentment.
Do an unexpected deed of kindness for a random stranger.
Speak to someone you see regularly about your faith-what God is doing in your life, what's going on at church, etc.
Spend some one-on-one time with one of your children (playing a game they enjoy, going for a walk, taking them out to eat, etc.).
Show love to your mate in some tangible way you know he/she enjoys (speak their "love language").
Practice pleasantness with everyone you meet today, being mindful of your facial expressions and body language.
Carve out some time for meaningful, personal devotion (including Bible reading, singing, and prayer)-make worship more than a Sunday matter!
None of these are overly time-consuming. Pick as many as you can. If you cannot get to them all today, then pick up where you left off tomorrow. Grow your list. Use your imagination and creativity. Find yourself looking and acting more like Jesus! See yourself in Matthew 5:13-16.
Everything Depends on the Resurrection – Everything!
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time… (1 Corinthians 15:3-6). But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. (1Corinthians 15:20).
If Jesus was not resurrected from the dead, then the Apostles who died for Him, died for what they knew was a hoax! But it wasn’t.
If Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, then all 500 people who saw Him alive afterHe was crucified were lying. But they weren’t .
If Jesus was not dead and just fainted on the cross, then the Roman soldiers who were professional executioners, and those who handled His body after the cross would have handled a warm, limp body, not a cold stiff one. But they didn’t.
Pilate was worried that Jesus might not be dead and called the Centurian in charge of the execution to make sure He was dead before he granted Joseph’s request to take the body, (Mark 15:44, 45).
Eye witness testimony from the Jews, eyewitness testimony from the Roman soldiers, eyewitness testimony from His followers, all agreed Jesus was dead, really dead. Then He was alive!
And Jesus promised His followers that He would be preparing a place in heaven for us to live with Him eternally, in precious joy and happy fellowship. Without a resurrected Jesus, Christians are just another group of deluded philosophers. With the real resurrection of Jesus, we are heaven-bound believers walking “in His steps,” (1 Peter 2:21) so that, as He, Himself said, “that where I am, there you may be also, (John 14:3). Jesus loves us so much that He died on the cross to take our punishment for our sins, just so He could have us living with Him forever in His heaven!
Do you believe the evidence? Because we do, we celebrate His resurrection every first day of the week, just as the Christians did in the first century. In God’s plan, every Sunday is what the world calls “Easter Sunday.”
The Way of the Righteous The first thing one must do in order to understand the Psalms is to start at the beginning. That may seem the obvious first step for any book, but it is especially true when it comes to this collection of songs and prayers. In Psalm 1 and 2, we have a great double door that must be passed through before entering the study of the Psalms. These two Psalms aptly begin the book with the idea that one must honor the word of God and the Anointed of God if he or she is to be approved of God (blessed). Lord willing, we will look at the latter of those next week, and the former today.
In Psalm 1, great contrasts are seen. On one hand is the way of the righteous, and on the other is the way of the wicked. Each of us come to this great fork in the road of life and must determine which path we will take. After that, we must daily choose whether we are to stay on the path on which we travel, or abandon it for the other. When we look at the contrasts within this Psalm, the choice should seem simple.
THE BLESSED MAN: He is not... A. Following the advice of the world (1a). B. Following the actions of the world (1b). C. Following the associations of the world(1c). He is... A. Delighting in the word of God (2). B. Dwelling on the word of God (2b). C. Digging into the word of God (3a). Note that the "rivers" or "streams" comes from a Hebrew word meaning "channel" or "irrigation ditch." The enriching water of God's word does not come to us naturally, we have to dig! D. Displaying the word of God by yielding fruit (3b). E. Developing by the word of God (3c). He isn't withering, he is growing! All of this makes his a prosperous life and able to stand before God (3d, 6a)! THE WICKED MAN He is not: A. Saturating his life with God's word as the righteous man (4a). B. Standing among the righteous (5b). He is: A. Useless like chaff (4b). B. Unstable like chaff (4b). All of this makes his a perishing life and unable to stand before God (5b, 6b)!
So, when you look at the two paths, the choice should be clear. Choose the way of God. Choose the way of His word. Choose the Way of the Righteous!
One of the Christian’s Biggest Mistakes!
Since the early beginnings of the church, Christians have faced many challenges, mostly from outside attacks, but we face inner challenges also. When contemplating this we usually think of various types of temptations and their attendant struggles. But there is another, usually unrecognized (and thus unaddressed struggle) that many Christians have. That struggle is to think, “It’s all about me!” (Or perhaps, “It’s mostlyabout me.”) It is a very easy, perhaps natural, mistake to make. After all, Jesus came to seek and save the lost (that's us), Luke 19:10. And the cross was about saving us! And God’s blessings and provision are about providing for us. All of that is true. Jesus came to earth and died for us,for our salvation, for our eternal home in heaven with Him. He loves us, each and every one. But we often forget what Jesus planned for us while we are still on earth. When we focus on self, and getting what we want instead of what God wants for usin our daily life, we are simply notbeing like Jesus! How do we know? -Jesus considered others more important than Himself, Phil. 2:1-5 -Jesus gave Himself up for us, John 3:16, Romans 10:1-10; 1 Tim. 2:6 -Jesus took our punishment for us, 1 Peter 2:21-25; Eph. 5:2, 25; 1 Tim. 2:6. To be like Jesus, we have to focus on blessing other people. Satan wants us to feel cheated. He wants us to believe that God is holding outon us, not blessing us as He promised. When we believe that somehow God is not holding up His end of the bargain (giving me what I want because I was converted), then Satan has a heyday with our daily life. Conversely, when we bless God, when we praise Him daily and live in continual thanks (I Thess. 5:18), live a lifestyle of blessing others (Luke 6:28; Rom. 12:14), take the focus off of ourselves and consider others more important than ourselves (Phil. 2:3), something wonderful happens. We learn the precious, almost unspeakable wonder of this truth: Happiness (joy, peace, etc.) are a byproductof being a blessing to others. Happiness simply cannot be obtained by focusing on and serving self. (Caring for widows and orphans would be prime example, James 1:27). If a Christian does these things just to get a reward,it doesn’t work – that actually constitutes an attempt to manipulate God! But when we stop focusing on pleasing self and decide to please Jesus by blessing others, the buds of life blossom into greater joy than serving self ever could. Who do you focus on? How do you bless God and His people? Think about it.
Self-Esteem Bill Flatt’s book. Restoring My Soulhas some interesting and helpful information about “self-esteem.” He defines it by saying, “It is how you feel about being you, how you feel about being alive. It results from an evaluation of your self-image, how you feel about the way you see yourself. It is influenced by the distance of the gap between your self-image and your ideal image,” p. 106. It’s unfortunate that so many in our society determine self-esteem by good looks, intelligence, money, position, and athleticism. Often when one does not measure-up in those areas, one’s self-esteem drops. The standard for good self-esteem according to the world is far different from God’s standard for self-esteem. We ought to have good self-esteem because we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). That is the greatest reason for each to have good self-esteem. Good self-esteem is not determined by the color of our skin, nor where we live, nor how much money we have in the bank, nor those other standards set by the world. Even though all were made in the image of God, many people still struggle with low self-esteem. Often it manifests itself by feeling guilty, or being overly sensitive, or being hypercritical. Often one covers his low self-esteem by being shy, or being the-class-clown, or the opposite extreme of manifesting an arrogant attitude. It may manifest itself by failing to take responsibility for one’s actions, but always blaming others. It even manifests itself through various kinds of addictions. Flatt says that it is often connected with distress, depression, preoccupation with self, fatigue, chronic health problems, and negative attitudes toward self and others, page 106.
Good Self-Esteem Versus Pride Even though God expects us to have confidence through our self-esteem, there is just a fine line between good self-esteem and manifesting arrogance and pride. The apostle Paul wrote in several passages about the attitude one ought to have about himself. “For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith” Romans 12:3. “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” Philippians 2:3-4. “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” Galatians 6:3. It seems that the difference between having good self-esteem and being arrogant is where one’s confidence lies. If confidence is thought to be through the person’s own ability, that is arrogance; if one’s confidence is in God, it is good self-esteem. When Paul was talking about his financial condition he said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” Philippians 4:13. Even though it was brethren who furnished his material goods, he recognized that it was God who enabled him to do all things. When he spoke about our battle against opposition he said, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?” Romans 8:31-32. Again, he stresses that it is God who enables us to win the victory. Good self-esteem realizes that God is the source of one’s confidence, not one’s own abilities.
Humility and Low Self-Esteem When is giving in to another person humility and when is it a sign of low self-esteem? God expects us to be humble and to acknowledge the greatness of the other person (Philippians 2:3-4). Often those who have low self-esteem will not accept a challenge and will always give in to the other person. As we have seen above, good self-esteem is when one has confidence that God can use him to accomplish a task. Poor self-esteem is when one does not have the confidence that God can accomplish a task through him. When one will not accept a challenge, but always giving in to the other person does not reflect humility, but poor self-esteem. Biblical humility is not low self-esteem, but rather it is a willingness to submit to another person, even though the one submitting realizes he/she has the ability to accomplish the task at hand.
Too Much Emphasis on Good Self-Esteem Although each of us needs to have good self-esteem many in society have taken that too far, to the point that we should not do anything to damage anyone’s self-esteem. We see this in youth sports programs. Everyone gets a trophy whether his team won all their games or lost all their games. I’ve read that some school districts do not allow teachers to use red ink to make corrections on students’ papers because it may damage their self-esteem. We have seen it in the school districts passing students to the next grade even though the student really did not do the work required to be promoted. The Bible does not teach that concept. Strength can come from failure. One may learn by failing than by winning, especially in the realm of sports events.
Conclusion God wants us to have good self-esteem, but that simply means that one has confidence that he/she can accomplish a task. Let’s remember that good self-esteem is confidence in God, not confidence in self. Let’s realize that we are valuable, not because of what we can accomplish, but because we are made in the image of God and He loved us enough to send Jesus to die for us. We are valuable and because we are valuable, we should think highly of ourselves. That is the proper kind of good self-esteem.
The Foolish Owners and their Donkey
Once a father and a son were coming back from a village fair, where they had purchased a donkey. They overheard a man saying, "See those fools, they have a donkey but are still walking on their feet." Both of them thought it was a good idea and they sat on the donkey. On their way, another villager saw and spoke, "Look, look at the poor donkey. He can hardly walk with two people on him." The kind-hearted father felt sorry for the donkey and he got off and let his small son ride. While crossing the fields a woman remarked, the son is young and healthy he should walk and let his father sit on the donkey. The son said to his father, “I’m sorry, Dad, please come and sit on the donkey.” So they changed places. As they were about to reach their village, a passerby said, “Hey, look at the selfish man, his poor son is walking and he is enjoying the ride." Both of them without another thought tied the donkey upside down to a long bamboo stick and carried him through the village. By the time they reached home, all were laughing at them. A village elder came forward and asked, “Why are you carrying your donkey like this? Can’t it walk?" The father explained what happened on the way home from the fair. The old man said, “Everyone is laughing at you because instead of using your own sense you kept on doing what other people said.” Moral: 1. You can’t please everyone. 2. Any person with a normal IQ and a negative demeanor can always find something to criticize, be it right or wrong. 3. Decide carefully and intelligently what is right, proceed confidently. One of the major problems in the world today is that people are not deciding intelligently what is right, and, for fear of disapproval, they decide that everything is “right” and nothing is “wrong” - it is called “political correctness” and is ruining all we hold dear! Several states have judges who have ruled that other judges may use sharia lawin deciding cases. In reality, elected officials and judges have take an oath to support and defend the constitution and the laws of the united states and their individual states! We will be as foolish as the owners of the donkey if we listen to the world and ignore our God and our laws! Hosea 4:6 still says: My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being My priest. Since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children. Ray Wallace
Does Design Demand a Designer?
The new rage in cosmology is the search for a convincing argument to “prove” that design does not demand a designer! Why has it become such an issue? Because the effectiveness of the argument is making some longtime atheistic evolutionists look a bit silly. An illustration: You find a Rolex watch in the woods. It keeps perfect time. Your friend is convinced that its existence is an accident of nature... lightening striking millions of times per year over a billion years has accidentally created the Rolex. You protest that such a fine chronometer could not be a result of random chance because of its evidence of intelligent design. Your friend will not budge, so to convince you of his “truth” he must search for a workable model to “prove” that design does not demand a designer. Mostly he waxes philosophical, but still he lacks evidence. Such is the state of affairs with the intelligent design (ID) debate. Let’s suppose the Rolex you found is 100 feet in diameter. Could you believe it is an accident? No. Suppose it is 100 miles in diameter and still keeps perfect time (although the neighbors complain about the loud ticking!). Could you believe the massive Rolex is an accident of nature? No. Suppose the watch is 100 light years in diameter and still keeps perfect time. Nope... still can’t believe such massive and intricate design is an accident! Guess what... the universe is a wonderful watch. You can actually set your Rolex by the movement of the heavenly bodies observed from earth. In fact a ship’s longitudinal position on earth can be found by the observation of the heavens (discerned by the time of local sunset, for instance). Some of the world’s top scientists agree about ID. Sir Fred Hoyle (world famous astronomer) wrote, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature. The numbers one calculates from the facts seem to me so overwhelming as to put this conclusion almost beyond question." In his book, Superforce: The Search for a Grand Unified Theory of Nature, Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies wrote of the intelligent design in the universe, “...how could it be supposed that those workings are merely a mindless accident, a product of blind chance?" (1984, pp. 235-236). For further quotes from scientists in their fields, go to: http://www.apologeticspress.org/inthenews/2003/itn-03-06.htm. God has evidence. We must learn to recognize it. (See Romans 1:18-22.)
WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM APOLLOS The Bible is not just a Book of Teachings, it also contains the stories of people, and their reactions to those teachings. As the old saying goes “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This is very true. And a life is one of the best kinds of “pictures” we can have. One of the most interesting characters in the New Testament is a man named Apollos. He is first introduced in Acts 18:24: “Now a Jew named Apollos, an Alexandrian by birth, an eloquent man, came to Ephesus; and he was mighty in the Scriptures.” Notice what we see here: 1) He was a Jew who was born in Alexandria. Alexandria was in Egypt, and it was one of the greatest centers of learning of its day. There was a vast library there, and it contained, among other treasures, the Septuagint—the Greek translation of the Old Testament. There was an amazing amount of other material in the library at Alexandria, much of which has been discovered in recent years. There were also great teachers at Alexandria, and Apollos had apparently sat at their feet and been trained. 2) He was an “eloquent” man. This means that he had an ability to speak and to teach others what he had learned. Not everyone has this gift, but Apollos did. It also seems that he had been impressed with the importance of sharing his knowledge with others. That may have been one of the main reasons he was at Ephesus. 3) He was “mighty in the Scriptures.” Not only was Apollos eloquent, he had learning in the Scriptures behind that eloquence. He knew what he was talking about—he had “put in the time” to learn God’s Word, and he was willing to teach others what he knew. We see that there was a void in Apollos’ education, though, for Acts 18:25 says: “This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he was speaking and teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus, being acquainted only with the baptism of John...” So, here is a well-educated Jew who is teaching in the synagogues, but he’s not teaching Judaism, he’s teaching Christianity! He understood what many Jews of his day did not—that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Law of Moses; that He was truly the Messiah! So, he is “teaching accurately the things concerning Jesus,” but there was a problem, he was acquainted only with the baptism of John. His information about Jesus was a bit outdated. Apollos knew a lot, and he was not afraid to teach what he knew. The problem was that he didn’t know everything he needed to know. Next we see Aquila and Priscilla entering the picture. They have been introduced earlier in Acts 18. Paul first met them at Corinth, and has now brought them to Ephesus. They realize that there is a gap in Apollos’ understanding, so they take him aside and “explain to him the way of God more accurately” (Vs. 26). What we need to see about Apollos though, is that he was not too proud to accept teaching from someone else. He realized that there was more he needed to know, and was willing to be the student, as well as the teacher. Apollos is a powerful example to all of us. Are we willing to imitate him? Ken Dawdy, Dahlia St. church of Christ, Denver, CO
Loving Your Time with God John Newton was a rough, violent slave ship captain that eventually left that evil profession and decided to seek Jesus. We know him today because he penned the words of the magnificent song, Amazing Grace. Newton well remembered his days running from God and chasing his dream of more and more British pound sterling – he had made cash his god. But after his decision and repentance, Newton sought solace in serving others and spending time in God’s word and in prayer. It was during this period of his life that Newton’s memories of his former life and his realization of the unspeakable grace of God, that he wrote that now world famous song. A personal realization of his and other’s relationship with God brought Newton to his knees, but also to his pen. One of my favorite quotes from this incredible soul points to differing responses we often seen in those who wish to follow God: The religion of some people is constrained, like the cold bath when used, not for pleasure, but from necessity for health, into which one goes with reluctance and is glad when able to get out. But religion to the true believer is like water to a fish; it is his element; he lives in it and could not live out of it. - John Newton We do well to ask ourselves if our worship, our reading or our time with God is more like the cold bath or more like the element in which we live, body, mind and spirit. Personally, I often go home spent after teaching and preaching – but there is a certain peace and joy in that tiredness. There is a personal happiness and deep satisfaction that comes from spending time with the Father who loved us enough to let His only begotten Son die on the cross for our sins. What precious solace it is to live and love in Christ with our brothers and sisters who share that treasure. I am reminded of 2 Corinthians 1:3, 4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. What does time with God mean to you, a cold, uncomfortable bath just to get clean, or a warm, quiet repose of the soul with your creator? Ray Wallace
Add to Your Faith by Gene Taylor When one becomes a child of God, he is born again spiritually (John 3:1-5) becoming a spiritual babe who is to grow (1 Pet. 2:1-2; 2 Pet. 3:18). One grows spiritually by feeding upon the word of God (Acts 20:32), developing a spiritual appetite in order to hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matt. 5:6). 2 Peter 1:5-11 tells of the necessity and nature of such growth. "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ." "Virtue" is the determination to do right. "Knowledge" is knowledge of God's word because it is the only source which tells what is right. "Self control" is the application of that knowledge in your life using it to govern your thoughts and actions. "Perseverance" is remaining steadfast to the Lord and His cause. "Godliness" is being like God, as He would have you to be. "Brotherly kindness" is tender affection toward brethren in Christ. "Love" is devotion to God, Christ, and your fellowman which is expressed in obedience to God and service to man. If you are to be fruitful in your service to Christ, these things must abound in your life. If you lack them, you are blind as to what your life in Christ should be.
via Centerville Road church of Christ, Tallahassee, Fl
Sir Walter Raleigh was continually submitting requests to Queen Elizabeth on behalf of convicts. Once the Queen said to him, “Sir Walter, when will you stop being a beggar?”
“When Your Majesty ceases to be a giver,” was the wise answer.
Oh, how wonderful it is to know that God is the inexhaustible source of blessings! “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
via Opp church of Christ, Opp, AL Bulletin Digest
It is in the field of prayer that life’s critical battles are lost or won. In prayer we bring our spiritual enemies into the presence of God and we fight them there. J. H. Jowett
Day of Mourning
At various times in scriptural history we see God’s people, and sometimes other nations such as Nineveh, repent from their sins and even sit in sackcloth and ashes as they seek to turn from sin and more closely follow God’s plans for life. Those calls for repentance are clearly seen in the book of Jonah and in many places in the Minor Prophets (the last 12 books of the Old Testament). Calls for repentance are seen regularly in the New Testament also (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; et al) Repentance is usually a personal process, but as in the case of Nineveh in the book of Jonah, it can very well be a national process, which, of course, happens when individuals in a nation, as a population, repent in large numbers. While I seldom follow national trends in America, thousands, perhaps millions, are planning a “Day of Mourning” to mourn about and pray for the abortion plague that is infecting our nation. Sandy and I do, indeed, plan to observe this plan which I outline herein. The “Day of Mourning,” for those who choose to participate, will be on Saturday, February 23, two weeks from now. The plan is to: a. Wear black b. Not shop (send no sales tax to our increasingly corrupt governments) c. Close business you might own and post signs as to why you are closed. d. Pray for all the unborn and for all mothers who have had or are considering abortion Jesus forgives and He forgives completely. He forgave Peter for denying Him three times in one night. He even forgave the apostle Paul who bore the guilt of having Christians imprisoned and killed. God can and will heal and restore nations who follow His word. America is seeing a growing number of people, especially young people who are both recognizing and rejecting abortion for what it really is, the killing of young humans made in the image of God (Genesis 1:29; 9:6). The unborn John recognized the unborn Jesus and rejoiced in the womb (Luke 1:39-45). David recognized that, “…it is God who has made us and not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3), and that He knits us together in our mother’s womb (Psalm 119:13-16). It is a personal choice, but we ask you to join us in observing what has now become a National Day of Mourning, for our nation, for the unborn and for the sorrows of those touched by this sad situation.
EAGER. You’ll run across people who are eager to do all sorts of things this week... Eager to comment. Eager to critique. Eager to criticize. Eager to argue. Eager to tear down. Eager to gossip. Eager to slander. In Ephesians 4, disciples of Jesus are told exactly what we ought to be zealous for and eager to do: "…walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." (Ephesians 4:1-3) In person, online, with brethren, strangers, and even those who are determined to be our enemies for now, may we walk worthy of that calling and continue to pray for hearts that are EAGER to do so. http://www.ingodsimage.com/2019/01/eager/
Bless the Beasts and the Children
In 1971 the Carpenters song Bless the Beasts and the Childrenbecame famous as the theme song from Stanley Kramer film by the same name. The film saw moderate success, but the song lingered on for years, partly as an unofficial theme song or the hippie set of the day. Today, the sentiment of that song is lost on modernity as our culture sinks in to the unfathomable abyss of blessing the beasts but killing the children. Several states in the US now have abortion on demand, for any reason (or no reason at all) up to the day of delivery. Abortion was illegal in the various states of the U.S. until nine justices on the Supreme Court decided that they found some new federal law in the Constitution that somehow overrode existing state laws. (Keep in mind that this new rendering had never before been seen in our Constitution!) Contrast sickening reality with the fact that stealing an eagle’s egg from a nest will garner 1 to 5 years in prison and $5,000 to $25,000 in combined federal and state penalties for any person evil enough to steal one! As always, we must ask either, “What pleaseth the community?” or “What saith the scriptures?” (Romans 4:3). We must ask that second question in every endeavor of life, if we to be pleasing to God (2 Corinthians 5:9; Galatians 1:10)! It is the only question that will keep us from egregious error. Always remember Jesus' words from Matthew 22:29, “You do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God.” In an effort to know the scriptures, consider the following (in relationship to killing unborn children): Jeremiah 1:5“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you….” Psalm 139:13-16 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. Proverbs 6:16, 17 There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood…. And one last question, “Who was the first person on earth to rejoice at the coming of baby Jesus?” The answer is John, Jesus’ cousin. Mary and Elizabeth were sisters. Elizabeth was pregnant with John, Mary with Jesus. When Mary walked into the room, John,in the womb, lept for Joy in the presence of the unborn Jesus! (Please read Luke 1:39-45.) Yes, we can understand it very well, but will America heed the truth! Pray for the beasts and the children, born and unborn!
Ray Wallace Pine Valley church of Christ, Bayfield, Colorado
How Strong is Satan? Tyler King
If we were to hypothesize some sort spiritual hierarchy, where would Satan be on that list? For whatever reason, we have the tendency of making him inferior only to the Godhead and no one else. A popular train of thought might put Satan second to God, then angels, and humans as last. What this ideology accomplishes is a handicapped perception of our ability to fight back against the devil and break free. A false illusion of power can create a real submission by the subject.
Revelation 12:8 reveals an angel that gives us a glimmer of hope. The angel's name is Michael and he has some sort of army. The following verse notes that the dragon was defeated by Michael's militant force and the later text reveals the dragon to be Satan. This angel is never given the title of deity, yet he was strong enough to defeat Satan. Rev. 20:1-3 is another scene where Satan is being bound up by an angel and thrown into a pit. This further indicates that angels can have strength over Satan.
The book of Job reveals a man who is able to overcome Satan's tactics. In the first two chapters of the book, Satan is given permission by God to test Job. Satan's energy and focus was entirely on Job at that point. Literally every aspect of Job's life fell to pieces. Yet, when you fast forward to chapter 42, Job is seen as triumphant and is further blessed by God. Many lessons can be gleaned from Job, but perhaps one of the greatest of all is the reality of victory over Satan.
Matthew 4:1-11 reveals a Savior who is stronger than Satan. In this popular scene of Jesus vs. Satan, Satan tries every form of deceit (lust of flesh, lust of eyes, lust of pride; cf. 1Jn 2:15-17). Yet, the Messiah was able to come back with arguments against Satan and further resist him. This eventually caused the devil to flee (James 4:7). One might think that this example is a no-brainer since Christ is God. However, keep in mind that He emptied himself and took on the form of man (Ph. 2:5-8). This meant that He was tempted and tried just as we are (Heb. 2:18).
So then. If angels can have strength over Satan, and man can have strength over him, and the Savior can too, what's preventing us? I want to encourage you -- though Satan may be adequately equipped to make our lives miserable, he is not omniscient, omnipresent, nor is he omnipotent. His energy and abilities are limited. But I know a God without limits, and a God who yearns to help us. I don't know what temptation you're dealing with and I don't know your situation, but remember that you have the opportunity to be stronger.
Seven Abominations Proverbs 6:16-19 There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that run rapidly to evil, A false witness who utters lies, And one who spreads strife among brothers.
Conquering The Anger of Man
Anger! The very word sounds evil. Anger is the bane of man and follows the failure of negotiation. Anger is often the root cause of breakdowns in relationships – far more than the situation over which someone is angry. Expression of anger is an outpouring of frustration that often roadblocks the very answers for which we search. Anger exacerbates the actual problem and exasperates both people involved. Anger vexes the spirit and can even kill the desire to solve the problem being discussed. In fact, anger encourages the opposite – rather than solve the problem, anger goads normal people to become combatants and that leads to revenge and counter-attacks rather than forgiveness and resolution. No wonder God has a lot to say about anger. James, the brother of Jesus, was inspired to write: This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20). The next verse defines anger as a type of “filthiness” and “wickedness” that must be dealt with through personal humility in receiving “the word implanted which is able to save your souls.” Obviously there is a lot at stake when anger reigns. Proverbs 19:19 speaks to the very personal aspect of handling anger. The control must come from the person beset by the anger. Others cannot somehow reach into his or her psyche and yank out anger. Solomon wrote: A man of great anger will bear the penalty, For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again. (Proverbs 19:19) When we remember that God never gave man any commandment that he cannot accomplish, we must realize that the ability to conquer anger is, indeed within our grasp. The nine items of the fruit of the spirit are, I believe, the quintessential tools that give us that power. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). When we abide in God’s word (John 15:7) our prayers become part and parcel of the power to overcome anger. We rely on God for strength and wisdom, then dig deep inside ourselves to make personal use of those two things. When abiding in God’s word is accompanied with strength, wisdom and the fruit which the spirit supplies, you are equipped to conquer anger like conquering a military enemy. Remember to use the spiritual/military equipment of Ephesians 6:10-20 and you will be well on your way to conquering the anger of man!
“Fear” – the very word brings an icy grip that has unimaginable power. For some people fearis the one thing the controls them most of the time. Fear of death, fear of losing a loved one, fear of failure, fear of physical attack, fear of emotional rejection, etc. Some fears are indeed legitimate, such as fear of falling when near a tall precipice, fear of failing a test when you haven’t studied, fear of crashing when you were driving too fast on ice, etc. Fear can be a wonderful tool to keep us from nonsensical and dangerous behaviors. Fear is a healthy friend when it adds to our drive to succeed through vigorous work and wise self-discipline. But far too many fears are unhealthy, dangerous and can even lead to slavery! Yes, slavery.Consider Hebrews 2:14, 15, Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. Did you catch it? Jesus sets free “those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.” They never overcame their fear of death! Obviously that means they lived in fear until they died! What a terrible life sentence! In the face of imprisonment for their faith and even possible death, Jesus gives great encouragement in Rev. 2:10, Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. While on earth we must focus on the eternal “crown of life,” Jesus has for us in heaven with Him forever. Anything less and we will be lifetime slaves through a fear of death. In Proverbs 3, Solomon shares the confident way to live without fear, Then you will walk in your way securely And your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden fear Nor of the [onslaught of the wicked when it comes; For the Lord will be your confidence And will keep your foot from being caught. On the cross, Jesus won! Three days later, at the resurrection Jesus won. And on the final day, through the blood of Jesus, we will win! Fear not!
Cheerful Givers I learned more from my children as they were growing up than from anyone else other than my father. I'm not sure why but I have a suspicion it's because they were not really trying to teach me anything. They just went about their busy little lives totally unaware that anyone might be watching. I watched our children on Sunday mornings for several years. Like most parents, we made sure our three children had some money in their hands whenever the collection plate came by. We wanted to teach our kids to give. It seems rather humbling that my children would wind up giving me a lesson on giving. Have you ever noticed how fast the collection plate moves.?We're very slow and deliberate with the Lord's Supper, but when we reach the collection it's amazing how fast we can move those trays. The only thing that slows down the collection plate is kids. I would drop in my check, put the plate in front of the kids and each one would drop their money in at an agonizing pace. I had to resist the urge to reach over and pry the money out of their little hands so we could get on with it. I finally asked my self one Sunday why are the kids so slow and the adults so fast? I could only come up with one answer — my kids enjoy giving more than I do. Putting that money in the plate is something that they only get to do once a week: They wanted to take their time and enjoy it. They wanted to make sure that they got the maximum pleasure out of giving that money. They weren't worried about where the money came from or where it's going or even how much it is. All they know is that they got to give some money to God! The more money we put in their hands, the more they give and the more they enjoyed it! God loves a cheerful giver!!
Tim Woodward, Smithville, TN
What Are You Looking For This Morning?
Scott Scrooge went to worship one Sunday morning. He heard the song leader miss a note during the singing and he cringed. He saw a teenager talking when everybody was supposed to be silent in prayer. He felt like the man passing the offering plate was watching to see what he put in, and that made his blood boil. He caught six grammatical errors in the sermon by actual count. As he slipped out the door during the closing song, he muttered to himself, "Never again! What a bunch of clods and hypocrites!"
Joy Jones went to worship one Sunday morning. She heard them sing an arrangement of "A Mighty Fortress" and she thrilled to the majesty of it. She was glad to see that there was a special collection being taken for a work being done in a foreign country. She especially appreciated the sermon that Sunday — it answered a question that had bothered her for a long time. She thought, as she walked out the doors of the church building, "How can anyone be here and not feel the presence of God in this place?"
Both went to the same worship service on the same Sunday morning. Each found what he/she was looking for. We have all come this Sunday looking for something and it is almost certain that we will find it. WHAT WILL YOU FIND THIS MORNING?
Every Day is "New" With God Neal Pollard We sing a new song (Ps. 40:3; Isa. 42:10; Rev. 5:9). We gain new strength (Isa. 40:31). We have a new name (Isa. 62:2; Rev. 2:17). We have a new covenant (Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8-9). We have God's compassions which are new every morning (Lam. 3:23). We have a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek. 36:26). We observe a new commandment with each other (John 13:34). We walk a new life (Rom. 6:4). We are new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17). We are part of that new man, united with all children of God (Eph. 2:15). We have put on the new self (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). We have been given a new and living way (Heb. 10:20). We are looking for new heavens and a new earth (2 Pet. 3:13). We anticipate the day when Christ makes all things new (Rev. 21:5). Some of those promises were made thousands of years ago, but they are as fresh and bright today as they have ever been. Some help us overcome the guilt of our past. Others give us strength for the present. All of them give us hope for the future. We don't need "new truth," but so many of the truths of Scripture deserve our renewed dedication and attention. As a New Year descends, try and put your arms around all the daily renewal our great God makes available to us on January 1st and every other day of the year! " Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).