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Are your in the darkness or in the light?

The world is brimming with filth, disease and disaster.
We cannot walk through it without becoming tainted because it’s not within our nature to do so. That requires a greater power.

God’s Word provides the cleansing agent so we can become fresh and clean again. We might counter that it’s the blood of Christ that cleanses us from our sins.

Of course that would be correct (1 John 1:7). Yet, how would we know that without God’s Word?

The world began with darkness. However, God saw that darkness and overpowered it with light (Genesis 1:1).
Nevertheless, darkness grew jealous, piercing the fabric and spreading sin throughout this world (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 3:23).

God, who is pure light (1 John 1:5), became the chief focus of the purveyor of darkness and man has been pulled away from the light ever since (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan is the father of lies and will do anything possible to deceive (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14- 15). God’s answer was the Christ, who would defeat Satan and save the souls of men (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:26).

The inspired Word spreads salvation and we must pay attention (Romans 10:17). Faith in God’s Son is essential (Hebrews 11:6), because to shun his Son is to declare the Word of God a lie and that cannot be (Titus 1:2).

The Word is the greatest blessing because it shows the enduring gift of salvation. Through the pages of the Bible, we find the throne room of heaven (Revelation 4-
5) and how it can be our home (Romans 5:6-11).

John astounded our simple brains with Jesus being the Word, both creator and son, simultaneously (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus became a man in the flesh while also being divine. Thankfully, he uses that duality to save us (John 14:6).

The Word and the way will save us because “No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6, NKJV). All that is left is the will of man to make it so in their hearts.

Jesus came to save all, of but for most, it will never happen (Matthew 7:13-14). They will instead walk away into the fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

The greatest opportunity ever offered to man will be rejected and darkness will reign. For the lost, the world comes full circle; from darkness to darkness eternally.

For those who accept the gospel, however, God will say, “let there be light” and it will be very good.

by Richard Mansel

The Shout of Ipiranga: “Independence or Death!”

On 7 September 1822 Prince Pedro was returning to Rio de Janeiro from São Paulo. On the banks of the Ipiranga River, he received correspondence from the royal court in Portugal, recently returned after having fled Napoleon in Europe, summoning the prince to leave Brazil and go to the seat of government.

There, Prince Pedro gave what would be later called the Shout of Ipiranga: “Independence or Death!”

Months later, he was proclaimed Dom Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil, leader of an independent nation.

The 7th of September is to this day a national holiday in recognition of Brazil’s independence from Portugal.
On the site of the shout was built the Monument to Independence, now located within the city limits of São Paulo.

At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus of Nazareth stood in the holy city of Jerusalem, after many showed themselves unwilling to believe or to confess their belief in him for fear of the authorities, and “shouted out” the truth about his word and eternal life (John 12.44-50 NET).

The Shout of Jerusalem served as the culmination of a selfless ministry that would soon result in his innocent death. Just as the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew served to launch his ministry, so in the Gospel of John the Shout of Jerusalem crowns his time among men.

His shout was not political, like that of Prince Pedro, or like that of the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (John 12.13), but the shout of a spiritual reign, not of this world, a reign where truth prevails (John 18.36-37).

Jesus’ shout was not to draw attention to himself, but to his Father and the vision of the divine glory. “The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me” (John 12.44-45).

Jesus’ shout was not one of anger or condemnation, but of the urgency of salvation. “For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12.47b).
From now on, he would talk in private to his disciples (John 13-16). This is his last sermon to the people.
Will they hear?

Jesus’ shout served to call attention to a future when the choice of salvation would no longer be an option.
“The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day” (John 12.48). The time to hear the word was now, when it would save, rather than later, when it would condemn (compare Hebrews 4.12).

Jesus’ shout echoed the command of the Father, obedience to which is the source of eternal life. “And I know that his commandment is eternal life. Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told me” (John 12.50). He starts his sermon talking about belief; he ends it talking about obedience to God’s commandment.

And he associates the commandment and eternal life with the powerful connecting verb: IS. This way, no one can separate the necessity of obedience for salvation.

His shout, in the shadow of the cross, was backed by action. The cross put power in his words. So the shout calls for faith to leave its closed-lipped silence and stand with him in the midst of the square to give echo to forgiveness of sins for the undeserving.

No matter what our volume level, our words must be his words, for his are the words of the Father. His shout reverberates and invites us die with him, follow his lead, and share in his ministry to save.

The shout of Jerusalem cannot be contained within the confines of the city. His followers carry it to the ends of the earth. For not only a nation must be freed, but mankind itself.

J. Randal Matheny

Criticism

THE VALUE OF CRITICISM

Winston Churchill exemplified integrity and respect in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill.” “They say he is getting senile.” “They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.”

When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf!”

Criticism. Nobody enjoys being criticized, even if it’s done in a kind, loving way. But it’s even more difficult to accept when the criticism is harsh or unfair. The fact is, however, that we all find ourselves from time to time in a position of being unfairly criticized.

Criticism — even destructive criticism — may serve a useful purpose. We need to listen to it and, if possible, profit by it. We ought to be humble enough to recognize that some criticisms are justly deserved. Even when critics are unkind and when they exaggerate our failures, there may still be some truth in what they say.

So, when faced with criticism, we need to look at the situation honestly and ask these questions: Is it true? If so, how can I overcome the condition that caused it? If not, is there something I can do to eliminate future criti­cism of the same type?

It was reported to Abraham Lincoln once that one of his cabinet members had called him a fool. Having verified the fact that Mr. Stanton had indeed referred to him in this manner, Lincoln said, “Mr Stanton is a wise man. If he said I am a fool, then I had better look into the matter.”

It has been said, “We learn much from the disagreeable things people say, for they make us think, whereas the good things only make us glad.”

For Christians, criticism should be a stepping stone to spiritual growth! It’s an opportunity to learn what we’re doing wrong and what we need to correct. It provides us with the motivation we need to change and mature.

“If you listen to correction to improve your life, you will live among the wise. Those who refuse correction hate themselves, but those who accept correction gain understanding.” (Proverbs 15:31-32, NCV)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Friday or Monday?

It was on Friday when:

. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.

. Was betrayed by Judas.

. Jewish officials conspired to arrest Jesus under the cover of
darkness.

. He was abandoned by his disciples.

. He was denied by Peter.

. When he was mocked beaten, stripped of his clothing, and crucified.

. He was buried in a borrowed tomb.

If one were to stop there, he could conclude defeat. But Friday wasn’t the end of the story. Sunday came. And on Sunday.

. Jesus rose from the dead.

. Appeared to his disciples.

. There was great joy.

But that was Sunday. I can understand the great joy the disciples must have felt. Utter amazement to be standing in his presence once again. What could possibly stop them?

But now, here’s my question. What did those disciples do when they woke up on Monday? The answer is they pursued the kingdom agenda with reckless abandon. They sold their possessions, the spoke of Jesus in the marketplace, and they willingly laid down their lives for him.

Friends, we live in “Monday.” Friday and Sunday have come and gone, and here we are in Monday. Will we allow the events of “Friday” and “Sunday” to shape our “Monday?” Will we with the same reckless abandon serve the Lord
at any cost? The hope the resurrection gives us today is the same hope it gave those early disciples, so should we not live our “Monday” with the same excitement and jubilance as did they? Give it some thought.

Steve Higginbotham

What was so important at 9:30 was trivial by 9:45.

One phone call

It was Tuesday morning, October 17, 1995.

I had just gotten off of the phone with Mom. She started out the conversation with, “I’m not quite sure how to tell you this, but…”

“But” sounded pretty ominous to me, and as it turned it, it was—or so I thought at the moment. Following a recent MRI scan, her surgeon discovered what he described as another “spot” on her brain. I say “another” because scarcely two years earlier, Mom had undergone brain surgery in order to remove a golf-ball size tumor.

I’m happy to announce that now, some sixteen years later, she’s doing fine. That spot was just a false alarm. But at that precise moment, when she first called me, I don’t know that either of us could have been described as “fine.”

That episode, and more specifically, that phone call really made an impact on me. It changed everything that day. What was so important at 9:30 was trivial by 9:45. What my Day-Timer deemed important earlier in the day as being urgent, was summarily crossed off that day’s to-do list all together. One phone call put life in perspective.

Sickness has a way of doing that to us, doesn’t it? By that I mean that cancer and tumors and malignancies and the such like have a way of grabbing our attention and reminding us of what really counts.

It is so easy for us to become side-tracked and pursue those things which are clamorous and pressing. Then we get one of those phone calls that begins with, “I don’t quite know how to tell you this…”

The truth of the matter is, those kinds of phone calls come all-too frequently, don’t they (Psalm 39:4,5; Proverbs 27:1; Isaiah 40:6-7; James 4:14)? They shout in our consciousness as to what really deserves our time, energy, and interest.

May I ask a personal question, good reader? What will be the next item on your agenda after you finish reading this message? Is it really important?

Please don’t fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent.
Evaluate how you use your time, look through your schedule, and then pursue the real priorities in your life.

Do you need to make an apology? Do you need to stop procrastinating and put on Christ? Do you need to tell someone, “I love you”? Do you need to delve into the Word?

Take care of the most important thing (Luke 10:41,42;). Right now. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil”(Ephesians 5:16).

by Mike Benson

Overcoming Disabilities

One year ago today, one of the scariest moments of my life occurred. I was in the church office writing and I stood up and realized that I could not walk. I stumbled home to lie on the bed, scared and hurting. Soon it spread to my arms and hands.

Several doctor’s appointments and tests followed. I eventually went to the Mayo Clinic and spent five weeks at a Pain Rehabilitation Center.

I suffer from a neurological condition called Functional Movement Disorder. My doctors do not know why this happened or how to treat it.

At the Pain Rehabilitation Center, I learned to walk again and use my arms and hands better. I still have pain, occasional problems walking and my arms and hands have issues.

Thankfully, my condition is not debilitating. I simply have limitations and must pattern my new life around them. I have not missed any local preaching/teaching assignments and I continue my writing.

I write this today to encourage and teach. Chronic pain and disabilities strike millions and working through them is very challenging. I also want to help others who are struggling.

First, God never leaves us nor forsakes us ( Hebrews 13:5). God reigns supreme and can help us through anything (Romans 12:1-2).

Faith is our sustainer through difficult times. God offers a peace that transcends anything we will face (Philippians 4:7). Because of Christ, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV).

We must remember that our disabilities do not change the nature of God. He is still good and loves us more than we realize. However, disease and disabilities exist in our world.

Second, God’s people are the best in the world. They have prayed for me and been there for me whenever I needed them. In many places, they have prayed and helped me. I appreciate my physical and spiritual family very much.

Third, a neurological disease gives me a greater understanding of Satan. At any moment, it can attack.
It becomes like a stalker, waiting to pounce at any moment and steal my joy. It has no concern for my life or responsibilities (Job 1-2). The endgame is all that matters (1 Peter 5:8).

For those who suffer from chronic pain or neurological diseases, here are some pointers.
• We must develop realistic expectations in our new reality. We may not be physically capable of doing the things we once did. Be wise and do not overexert yourself. What happens is that we feel good one day, and we do too much and then we are miserable the next day. Be careful not to fall into that trap.

• Flashes of anger, frustration and guilt are normal to chronic pain sufferers. When you lose mobility and a measure of control over your life, you must grieve and emotions will escalate. However, we must rein them in, so they do not take over. I have seen people who have lost that battle and it is ugly.

• Be aware that some people have no empathy towards our disabilities. They think of everything in terms of themselves. They may think we are weak or lazy. Pray for them that they may grow and get out of themselves.

• Never settle for the status quo. Do not allow the disability to control your dreams and happiness. Live your life and be happy! Be joyous and victorious! It is YOUR life and you can live it!

–by Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Is our eternal spirit sick?

It is just the standard routine at the doctor’s office.
Stand on the scale. Extend your arm for blood pressure and pulse rate to be measured. At the end of all the poking, prodding and questions, we want to hear, “You are in good health.”

If we think of the New Testament letters functioning like a doctor’s evaluation, many of the early churches were not healthy. Among the notable exceptions was the church at Thessalonica when it received its first letter from Paul.

Repeatedly Paul commended their spiritual health. “You became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:7). “We ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received instruction from us about how you must live and please God (as you are in fact living) …” (1 Thessalonians 4:1).

What can be particularly beneficial for us involves discovering what had contributed to their healthy report. After all, when it comes to physical health we know that exercise and making healthy choices at meal times promotes fitness. Yet, what nurtures spiritual health?

While hardly exhaustive, part of the path toward spiritual health includes:

Their conversion had reoriented their lives. “You turned from idols to the living God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9).

Living our lives in pursuit of influence, the trappings of success, being accepted by others, financial security, fame and so forth is nothing new. While we might not consider these goals as being idolatrous, Paul denounced the organization of our lives around the drive to acquire more as being idolatry (Colossians 3:5).

Conversion had reoriented their whole way of life, thinking and goals. Whereas society had told them, devote yourself to pursuing the self-centered rewards our idols provide, they had responded, “we need to serve the living God.”

They overcame all obstacles to serve God. “We recall … your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ …. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord … despite great affliction” (1 Thessalonians 1:3,6).

When we reconstruct the early history of this church from 1 Thessalonians, it reveals a church determined to engage in service in spite of the barriers. Although they knew that following Christ could lead to hardship because of Paul’s personal history (2:2), they chose to serve God and suffer (2:14;3;3-4). Even through adversity their faith and love had remained strong (3:6).

Who wants to be sick physically or spiritually? Yet, how many times do people persistently insist upon ignoring good habits or making decisions that lead to health?

It would seem that if we wish to hear, “well done good and faithful servant” we ought to begin by ensuring we are serving the living God. Furthermore, in spite of any difficulty or barrier the enemy might construct, our devotion needs to burst beyond a quiet inner conviction to become outwardly evident as a “work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope.”

by Barry Newton

Don’ be a sissy

Wish to be perceived as credible? Advice readily arises from many quarters: Don’t overstate the evidence.
Qualify your statements with a tentative aspect. Speak with a mid-western accent. Don’t speak too fast, or too slow. The list goes on and on.

According to most scholars, Jewish religious teachers were regarded as reliable during the first century of this era if they cited previous recognized authorities.

In fact, to depend upon what prior teachers had affirmed was required unless the teacher happened to be an ordained rabbi. Have a question? Expect the answer to be dug up from within a rich and deeply rooted wisdom tradition.

Enter Jesus. “You have heard it was said … but I say unto you…” This unordained teacher broke their customary religious pedagogical conventions.

Jesus conveyed authority, not just by exercising power, but also through declaring his teaching to be the final word on a subject.

Upon concluding his Sermon on the Mount, “the crowds were amazed by his teaching, because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law” (Matthew 7:28,29).

Today, careful teachers couch their statements with a degree of tentativeness lest tomorrow’s discoveries invalidate today’s assertions thereby exposing their error. The language of “it seems,” “most likely” and so forth provide a safe retreat to “I spoke with the best information I had available to me at that moment.”

This is precisely how Jesus differs from teachers past and present. While some might pontificate but do so as limited and fallible humans, and while others might rely on either repeating accepted authoritative voices or preserving for themselves the escape hatch of being tentative, Jesus knew the truth.

He knew what was true and will always be true. And so, he spoke.

“I do nothing on my own initiative, but I
speak just what my Father has taught me”
(John 8:28).

“The word you hear is not mine, but the
Father’s who sent me.” (John 14:24).

“My teaching is not my own. It comes from
him who sent me” (John 7:16).

Through the voice of Jesus we hear a teacher unlike others. Just how significant is this?

“The one who rejects me and does not accept
my words has a judge, the word I have spoken
will judge him at the last day” (John
12:48).

While the post-modern chorus of conflicting, affirming and affronting messages continues unabated, there is a voice that stands apart. There is a teacher whose message is worthy of our closest attention.

Hear the word of the Lord.

–by Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

How to fix America’s problems

I love to sing: “Do you know my Jesus, Do you know my friend, Have your heard that He loves you, And will be with you to the end”. Being a friend of Jesus involves more than just saying we believe in him. We must be willing to deny self, take up our cross and follow him (Luke 9:23). This does not mean that we cannot seek to improve our lot in life or that we must deny ourselves those things that make life easier and more comfortable. It does mean that we must deny ourselves those fleshly appetites that would bring harm to our souls (James 4:4, 1 John 2:15-17, 1 Thess. 5:22). Taking up our cross daily does not mean that we make a wooden cross and place it on our shoulder, carrying it around everywhere we go. It simply means that we bear the burdens of life, patiently trusting in our Lord for the help we need (Heb. 4:16). It also means that we deny ourselves anything that stands between us and the Lord, be it family, friends or possessions (Matt. 10:37, Mark 8:37, Luke 12:15).

There is a big “if” attached to being a friend of Jesus. Hear the Lord as he says, “If ye keep”. This is a personal condition that must be met by any who would be a friend of Jesus. No one can do this for me. Hear the Lord as he continues by specifying what must be kept: “My commandments”. Keeping his commandments involves any and everything he commands. These cannot be just our favorite commands while others are tossed aside. There must be no division of his commandments into essential and non-essential, all must be kept to the best of our ability. I would have you also take notice that it is what he commands, not what some mortal human being, council or convention commands. It does not matter how well meaning or educated men may be, they have no authority to modify, substitute or change the Lord’s commands (Matt. 7:21, Matt. 15:9, Gal. 1:6-9, 2 John 9).

Incidentally, I believe with all my heart that most, if not all, of the problems consuming our great nation today would disappear if the people of America along with her leaders would become friends with Jesus (Proverbs 14:34, Psalms 9:17)

I am going to be a friend of Jesus. I am going to do what he says do. For me, the chorus of “I’ll Be A Friend to Jesus” says it best: “I’ll be a friend to Jesus, My life for Him I’ll spend; I’ll be a friend to Jesus, Until my years shall end”.

Charles Hicks

Almost every taxi in Nepal has Hindu religious decals and icons attached

“I hate, I despise your feast days, and I do not savor your sacred assemblies. Though you offer me burnt offerings and your grain offerings, I will not accept them, nor will I regard your fattened peace offerings … But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream” (Amos 5:21-24).

Almost every taxi in Nepal has Hindu religious decals and icons attached. Many contain battery-powered prayer wheels on the dash. In the Hindu and Buddhist religions, prayers are written on a cylinder or a cloth flag. When the cylinder revolves around its axle or the flag flutters in the breeze, the prayers are believed to go up to their many gods.

Traditionally, the prayer wheels are spun by worshipers who turn them with their hands. In modern times, electrical power has been used to make the task of praying even easier, hence the battery-powered wheels in automobiles.

There is a fine line between making worship accessible and making it so easy or habitual as to be meaningless.
In America, we have seen drive-in churches, televised worship services, and various other methods, which seek to bring religion to the people. If we are talking about handicapped persons, or perhaps even reaching those who would not come to more traditional venues, there may be some merit in at least a few of these methods.

But when ease and convenience becomes the dominant motive for our methods, Scripture is clear – God does not approve and will not accept our effortless rituals.
Automated worship has no place in the life of a true believer.

The problem in Amos’ day was the disparity between faith and life – between religion and ethics. The Israelites were offering sacrifices to God but were also ignoring all moral commandments of the Law.  Earlier, the prophet had condemned them for the following sins:

“For three transgressions of Israel, and for four, I will not turn away its punishment, because they sell the righteous for silver, and the poor for a pair of sandals. They pant after the dust of the earth which is on the head of the poor, and pervert the way of the humble. A man and his father go in to the same girl, to defile my holy name” (Amos 3:6-8).

Israel was guilty of injustice, immorality and idolatry, yet they continued to keep the Sabbath and offer burnt offerings, certain that God would accept their rituals and secure them as his chosen people.

Other prophets echo the same message (Cf Isaiah 1:10- 15; Micah 6:6-8). It is not rite (i.e., religious rituals) but righteousness which pleases God. This is not to deny the importance of religious actions, such as sacrifice in Old Testament times, or prayer, the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism in the Christian era. All of these reflect commands of God which were and are to be obeyed.

But one cannot select certain easy commands to obey, then trust that they will cancel out all of the other instructions given by God which are ignored and violated. As James said:

“For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For he who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not murder.’ Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11).

Isaiah prescribes the only solution to imperfect
service:

“Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before my eyes, cease to do evil, learn to do good” (Isaiah 1:16-17).

Easy, convenient, non-demanding rituals do not constitute genuine faith or service. Total submission to God is required of everyone.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

by Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

There is no other way (John 14:6).

“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the
gate and broad is the way that leads to
destruction, and there are many who go in by
it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult
is the way which leads to life, and there
are few who find it”(Matthew 7:13-14 NKJV).
The road to Silinge, Nepal is a narrow rocky track that sometimes follows a boulder-strewn river bed, and at other times straddles high narrow ridges with drop-offs of hundreds of feet. As it climbs the hills it is often steep and very curvy.

The only way a car can make the climb is to push hard, using accumulated momentum to overcome the grade, trusting the driver’s skill to handle any slides or skids on the curves and rough surface. It is not a ride for the faint-hearted.

One person who made that trip came back with the determination to never ride up that road in a car again. That of course is a rational choice and one that should not be questioned.

However, the fact is that in making that choice the person is also determining not to visit Silinge again, or at least not until a different route is established or the road is substantially improved.

Yes, theoretically one could walk, but it is a very long way. Practically speaking, if you want to go to Silinge, you are presently limited to that road only.

Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount make a spiritual application of this same concept. If one desires to reach the destination called “life,” he is limited to the one road which leads there. There is no other way (John 14:6).

Modern religions offer easy short-cuts to salvation.
Faith only, free grace, emphasis only upon God’s love and mercy–all of these and others appeal to our desire to reach Heaven with minimum effort or sacrifice.

In stark contrast, Jesus’ statement continues to echo through the ages, “Narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life.”

These words cannot be explained away. We dare not overlook them. The Christian life is nowhere described as cheap or easy. Rather we are told to “count the cost” (Luke 14:26-29), to see if we are able to finish what we begin.

When one group of Christians complained about the suffering they had endured, the inspired writer of Hebrews rebuked them:

“You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons” (Hebrews 12:4-5).

In other words, what God had required of them was not unreasonable, nor had they suffered as much as others who had continued faithfully in Christ. They should stop complaining and prepare themselves to finish their course (Hebrews 12:1-2).

As Christians we are to love God “with all our hearts, with all our souls and with all our minds” (Matthew 22:37). We are to put him above everything else in our lives, including our families (Luke 14:26), our property (Matthew 19:21), our bodies (Romans 12:1), and even our lives (Matthew 16:24-26).

Jesus promised the apostles that they would be hated by ungodly humans, just as he himself was (John 15:19-20).
Paul stated without qualification, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).

The road to Heaven is steep, narrow, and difficult. It is not easy to travel. But there is no other way to our destination.

Only those willing to deny themselves and travel in the footsteps of Jesus will find an eternal home with him.
That is not a popular doctrine and the majority will refuse to accept it. Nevertheless, it is true.

by Michael E. Brooks

Batteries and the existence of God

If a scientist were to explain a battery’s functioning, he might say: “An oxidation reaction on the anode terminal releases electrons.”

Although physics and chemistry can explain how a common battery works, can these fields of study provide accurate information about its origin?

Through the scientific method, our understanding of physics and chemistry continues to amass deeper insight into how and why things work as they do.

Nevertheless, neither can explain a battery’s origin, since more than purposeless and undirected natural principles are needed for making AA batteries.

Where Batteries Come From

Commercial batteries are produced by engineers, who design both the manufacturing equipment as well as the fabrication process, and by workers who run that equipment.

We know that even eons of time combined with mere natural principles do not create AA batteries. AA batteries owe their existence to the ingenuity of the human mind to design and fabricate them.

A Scientist’s Explanation of Battery Origins

Imagine what would happen if scientists assumed that batteries were merely the result of natural forces.

(The notion is silly, because we know where AA batteries come from.)

In this case, there would have to be a naturalistic story explaining their origin. Human curiosity would demand discovering how a battery could form naturalistically, even if we did not get all of the story’s details right.

Perhaps excerpts from such a story might include:

“This molten metal composition under volcanic pressure could have been driven into thin rock fissures. … As the surrounding rock eroded over time, these tiny sheets of metal would then have been exposed. We are still far from a battery, but what would eventually become the casing had been formed.”

In spite of a naturalistic imagination, the undirected and purposeless forces of physics and chemistry could never accurately describe either the origin of AA batteries nor those objects that surround our lives:  electronics, furniture, buildings, roads, signs, and vehicles. All of these objects exist, not because of naturalistic forces, but because intelligent human beings designed and built them.

A Battery in Nature

While humans manufacture many types of batteries, another type exists in both the plant and animal world. We call these tiny packets of stored energy ATP, for adenosine triphosphate. Within living cells a whole host of tiny machines depends upon the energy within ATP in order to function.

While biochemistry and physics can tell us how kinetic mechanical energy is converted into potential chemical energy during ATP synthase to manufacture ATP, can these disciplines tell us how these marvelous, minute energy-manufacturing factories, often operating at

9000 RPM with near 100% efficiency, came into existence?

Just like its commercial counterpart, ATP is manufactured by a machine. Furthermore, just as human designed battery-making machines are constructed from many parts, so too the enzyme responsible for ATP synthase is itself composed of multiple smaller protein units, each of which are constructed from DNA instructions and then assembled.

We know that commercial batteries did not just happen.

What about ATP and its manufacturing process?

How It Works Doesn’t Explain Where It Came From

Some will insist that mere naturalistic principles are responsible for the origin of ATP synthase. Really?

How do they know this?

What evidence demands that undirected and blind naturalistic forces provide us correct insight into the origin of ATP synthase? After all, there is a categorical difference in describing how a process works and assuming that those same naturalistic principles can account for the origin of that entity.

Such an assumption abandons the realm of verifiable science to engage in philosophical speculation. The seeming plausibility of the story will be dependent more upon one’s own insight and ignorance than in actually reconstructing history.

The naturalistic imagination must create innumerable origin stories.

A More Ancient Story

There is another story, an ancient story, that proclaims, “In the beginning God created.”

When we use our intelligence to design and manufacture commercial batteries, our efforts are a poor imitation of the efficiency of what Someone has already done at the nanoscale to store usable energy.

by Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

The Bible and water

Water is one of, if not the most important necessity of life. As I look out upon one of our major lakes it is evident that this area is deficient of this needed element. For quite some time this area has suffered under extreme drought conditions.

Even though God has given rain, there has not been enough to refill many lakes and ponds. Without the necessary water, life cannot be sustained.

This same element is also of ultimate importance for the spiritual transition of individuals. For his own reasoning Jesus commanded that every person must be born again. Then he gave instruction as to how an individual is to be born again, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).

In this context Jesus teaches that for an individual to “enter into the kingdom of God” that they must be reborn spiritually in water. When Jesus gave Nicodemus these instructions, Nicodemus would have understood that being born of water constituted baptism. Ritual baptism in water was a common reality in first century Israel.

In Jesus’ Great Commission, he commanded the apostles to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The baptism in this context is the same as being “born of water” in John 3. Since the apostles could not baptize “in the Spirit” it can be understood that they were to baptize in water.

Paul wrote an explanation of this to the Christians in Rome.

“Or do you not know that all of us who have
been baptized into Christ Jesus have been
baptized into His death? Therefore we have
been buried with Him through baptism into
death, so that as Christ was raised from the
dead through the glory of the Father, so we
too might walk in newness of life” (Romans
6:3-4).

Paul is noting that to be “born of water” an individual must be baptized (immersed) as to being “raised from the dead.” When an individual is baptized in water to emulate the new birth, they die to their sins and arise “in newness of life.” It is in the waters of baptism that one comes in contact with the saving blood of Jesus (Hebrews 9:14).

Peter in his first letter makes it clear that baptism (immersion in water) is essential for an individual to have their sins washed and ultimately receive salvation.

“Corresponding to that, baptism now saves
you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh,
but an appeal to God for a good
conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus
Christ, who is at the right hand of God,
having gone into heaven, after angels and
authorities and powers had been subjected to
Him” (1 Peter 3:21-22).

In essence for one to be born again, they must be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38).

Without water there is no salvation for the physical or the spiritual. Water is one of the most important elements on this earth. The question we must ask ourselves is if we have been “born again of the water and the spirit”?

Have I been baptized for the forgiveness of my sins?
Have I been raised up to a “newness of life”? If not, why not? Without baptism there is no salvation (John 3:5).

by John E. Werhan @ www.forthright.net

The “Golden Years of Life”

“Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home and the mourners go about the street…..then shall the dust return to the earth as it was and the spirit unto God who gave it.”—Ecclesiastes 12:5-7

Those of us who are now in the “Golden Years of Life” know all too well that the days of old age are fraught with many difficulties. Our frail bodies are now more susceptible to physical problems. There are so many things we would like to do but cannot because our strength has faded considerably and our abilities have become somewhat limited. On the other hand, our courage and our faith and commitment to our God is stronger now than it has ever been, even in the days of youth. The difficulties of old age may sometimes be a burden but they are made bearable because through the eye of faith we can see that land on a far away strand where we will never grow old and one day we will fly away to God’s celestial shore. Just knowing that on the day when this earthly tabernacle is dissolved, we have a home waiting that is not made with human hands puts a gleam in our eyes and a smile on our face (2 Cor. 5:1-2, John 14:1-3).

Today, we just need to live the best life possible (Ephesians 5:14-17, Romans 13:11-14). We must be diligent in guarding our lives against all those things that will blemish our souls and prevent us from serving our Lord in a way that will be pleasing to him (1 John 2:15-17, Romans 12:2, Galatians 5:19-21, 1 Thessalonians 5:17). On the other hand, we should be diligent in doing that which will make it possible for us to one day say that we have fought a good fight, kept the faith and finished the course (2 Timothy 4:6-8, 2 Peter 3:18, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, 2 Peter 1:4-11).

Knowing that each step we take brings us closer to realizing that glorious hope of receiving the crown of righteousness Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 4:8 fills us with an excitement and anticipation that makes our hearts leap with joy. Of a truth, every step we take just brings us a little closer to the end of our journey. O how I love to sing: “Each step I take I know that He will guide me, To higher ground He ever leads me on. Until someday the last step will be taken. Each step I take just leads me closer home”.

Today, I am pressing toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14) knowing that the next step I take may very well be that last step that will take me home (1 Samuel 20:3). And so it is with all who now read these words.

Charles Hicks

The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges

Here are some signs of the times that probably communicated something that wasn’t intended:

Spotted in a Safari Park: “Elephants please stay in your car.”

Notice in a field: “The farmer allows walkers to cross the field for free, but the bull charges.”

Message on a leaflet: “If you cannot read, this leaflet will tell you how to get lessons.”

Outside a second hand shop: “We exchange anything — bicycles, washing machines, etc. Why not bring your wife?”

Outside a disco: “Smarts is the most exclusive disco in town. Everyone welcome!”

Some mixed messages are unintended and humorous. Others are involuntary and a little more unfortunate.

What message do we send to our children when we speak of the love of God, for instance, and “smoke” our brethren with unkind words and gossip? What kind of message do we send visitors to worship when we act as if our time in God’s presence is a matter of little consequence, an event which we are frequently late for, and which we ignore while we chat with our friends?

What message do we send to the Lord when we seek his help in a crisis, but forget our covenant responsibilities to him in the good times? All of these actions send out a mixed message.

“This people honors me with their lips,’ the Lord once declared, “but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8, ESV).

The reason for the mixed message in this case is the gap between expression and intention, words and actions. Bloopers on signs and notices are humorous, but in our Christian walk when our sentiments and lifestyles do not match, it is time for serious self- examination.

What makes this matter so urgent is the fact that we cannot help sending out a message, of one kind or another. Even failing to act sends a message of sorts.

The only solution to a mixed message is a pure heart.
Those who are “pure in heart” (Matthew 5:8), whose motives and desires match their words, will send out a consistent message. And they shall “see God.”

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Nikita Khrushchev, former Communist dictator

He was faithful in his attendance.

He was a top student—the kind every Bible school teacher longs for. He was a gifted and disciplined pupil. As a boy he managed to memorize all of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and could quote all four accounts, without a break, in one sitting.

Little Nikita regularly made his way to Sunday school in his home town of Kalonovka, Russia. The local priest offered him candy as an enticement to not only attend, but memorize.

Decades later, as the leader of his country, he continued to cite those very same passages he had once repeated in his youth, but this time from an entirely different context.

The once ardent Bible wiz-kid quoted the Scriptures out of avarice and with a spirit of atheistic reproach.

Sure, he quoted the Bible, but not because of his love for the mind of God, but because he needed fuel to attack anyone who espoused faith.

Yes, that pug-nosed, rambunctious little boy who learned the Word was none other than the former Communist dictator, Nikita Khrushchev.

THOUGHT: It is one thing to be able to quote the Scriptures—even Satan could do that (cf. Matthew 4).  It’s another thing entirely to have a strong desire for that which the Word teaches.

“Now all the people gathered together as one
man in the open square that was in front of
the Water Gate; and they told Ezra to bring
the Book of the Law of Moses, which the LORD
had commanded Israel… Then he read from it
in the open square that was in front of the
Water Gate from morning until midday, before
the men and women who could understand; and
the ears of all the people were attentive to
the Book of the Law” (Nehemiah 8:1, 3).

–by Mike Benson

Binding on heaven and earth

Whether on the basketball court or in the work place, knowing who wields authority provides clarity and prevents confusion. After all, we recognize a huge difference between a coach or boss barking orders versus the pontifications of a water boy or a messenger boy.

While we know whose statements are binding in those situations, there is another environment where confusion persists. Generally speaking, your average person will concede that people are supposed to do God’s bidding. However, because of Matthew 16:19 and 18:18, some believe heaven will follow Peter’s bidding as well as the determinations of two or more Christians. So, who is supposed to follow who?

At first glance, this unlikely conclusion seems correct, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Since these words were spoken to Peter and to Jesus’ disciples, it would appear that heaven is conceding to trot behind humanity’s wishes.

However, a closer and more technical look at these verses reveals a very different story. The critical Greek verbs in these sentences have often been mistranslated thereby lacking the future perfect passive force they actually deserve. As Greek Grammarians such as A.T. Robertson have noted, “will have been” is the proper translation for this particular verb construction.

Accordingly the translation should read in both Matthew
16:19 and Matthew 18:18, “Whatever you bind on earth will have been bound in heaven and whatever you loose on earth will have been loosed in heaven.” Thankfully, both the NASB and NET translations get this right.

Jesus’ message is clear. Peter and the disciples are to ratify on earth what heaven has already determined. We are to follow God’s voice to enforce heaven’s guidelines, not blaze our own self-determined trail.

Confusion can result whenever we do not know who is supposed to be following who.  –by Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

Some people get special treatment

“But he who does wrong will be repaid for what he has done, and there is no partiality”(Colossians 3:25, NJKV).

Late in the evening of June 1, 2001, ten members of the Royal Family of Nepal, including the reigning King and Queen, were brutally murdered in a shooting spree during a family dinner party.

The official investigation which followed determined that the Crown Prince, following a bitter quarrel with his mother over whom he was to marry, was the perpetrator, taking his own life after shooting the others.

It was found that the Royal bodyguards were in an adjacent building and were unable to respond in time to prevent any part of the tragedy. A spokesman for the guards was quoted as saying:

“Even if we had been present we would not
have been able to harm the Prince, even to
save the lives of the King and others – He
was to be the King, we could not do anything
against him.”

One of the facts of life in this imperfect world of ours is that there are people with privilege – and many others without. No matter what the politics or culture, some people get special treatment. Some can get away with crime. There is always partiality.

But that is true only in the human realm. Spiritually, there is no partiality. Each one will reap as he sows (Galatians 6:7). The time is coming when “We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad”(2 Corinthians 5:10).

Man is fallible and prone to sin. He is incapable of true justice because of his tendency to corruption and also because of imperfect knowledge and judgment. God, however, is perfectly wise and just, holy and righteous in all that he does (Deuteronomy 32:4).

“There is no partiality with God” (Romans 2:10), therefore all who do righteously will inherit eternal life, and “every soul of man who does evil” will perish forever(Romans 2:7, 12).

Injustice is one of the greatest of all evils. It is a source of untold suffering and tragedy.

Every human can recount numerous instances of being treated unfairly, of receiving that which was not deserved. When that is on the positive side (an unearned bonus) we are grateful. When it is negative (punishment for something we did not do) we complain.

Most of us feel there are many more negative instances of injustice than positive. We are embittered, discouraged and enraged at how life treats us. We seek vindication or even retribution for the wrongs done against us. How greatly we yearn for life to be fair.

God is perfectly just, sparing us from any undeserved punishment and rewarding all our righteous acts. In fact he is far more than fair, providing forgiveness, not punishment for our many sins. We can rest assured that no one, regardless of wealth, race, genealogy, or worldly accomplishments, will be treated any better (or
worse) than we.

There is no partiality. God is fair. We can trust him, always.

–by Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

I am weary with my groaning; all the night make I my bed to swim; I water my couch with my tears—Psalms 6:6

A little while ago I sat down and having nothing else to do began thinking about recent events in my life. I have lived for a little more than four score years. That is a long time yet as I sat thinking about it, it’s not so long after all. I have known the bitter grief and agony of heart as friends and loved ones have slipped silently out into eternity The strength of earlier years has faded yea for the most part is gone. This old physical body is afflicted with medical problems galore. Every day begins with aches and pains and every day ends with aches and pains. Yes, I must confess, I am a little weary and tears have become a part of my life. As I think this, the thought occurs that I am not alone in this because it is probably safe to say that most, if not all of you, from time to time, become a little weary under the weight of burdens and cares common to all who now walk this pathway of life. There are the times of physical illnesses and afflictions of various kinds that cause our heads to bow and our steps to become slow (2 Corinthians 5:4). With all these thoughts echoing in my mind, suddenly I hear the Psalmist as he says, “Lord, all my desire is before thee; and my groaning is not hid from thee” (Psalms 38:9). All things are open and naked before the eyes of our God (Heb. 4:13), He knows and understands the trials we must go through (Heb. 4:14-15) and our cries for deliverance will not go unheard (Heb. 4:16).

Making our journey through life we will encounter adversities that will cause us to cry out “why”. Why this burden? Why this illness? Why this hardship? Why this death? I cannot answer except to say that the God into whose hands we have entrusted our lives does know and so long as we serve and trust him faithfully he will safely guide us through each day (Psalms 23, Isa. 12:2-3). Yes, the journey has been long, often the way has been difficult and now as the shadows begin to lengthen, I am weary and do groan in this earthly tabernacle but with all my heart I believe the refrain of one of our grand old hymns says it best: “Be not dismayed what-e’er be-tide, God will take care of you; Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you. God will take care of you, Thro’ every day, O’er all the way; He will take care of you, God will take care of you”. I pray that God’s love will surround all of us and that he will bless each of us with the strength and courage that will sustain us each day of the rest of our lives on this side of eternity.

May each of you ever prosper and be in good health even as your soul prospers (3 John 1).

Charles Hicks

See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil

Well, we’re wrapping up our study of Ecclesiastes in our Sunday morning class and it’s been a great study as far as I’m concerned. I should say a “great sermon” presented by a great “Preacher,” Solomon, who was uniquely qualified to bring it.

First off, he was blessed by God with wisdom (1Kgs. 3:11-14 & 4:29-34) and also was the greatest king over the greatest nation on earth at the time (1Kgs. 4:21). As such, he had every advantage available to him to experience life on earth. He would not have been shorted in any capacity.

When you consider all that he had going for him, who better to teach us what is important about the “time” we spend here on earth. That, after all his experience, knowledge and wisdom, he boiled it down to the nitty-gritty, so to speak. To the most important. In Eccl. 12:13 he says: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”

And then he tells us why this conclusion was reached. Because (paraphrasing verse 14) we will be judged by all that we do during our earthly life so, regardless of whether “good or evil,” the best thing we can do is “Fear God and keep His commandments.” Because the eternal location of our souls (12:7) is in His hand.

Well, I provided that little synopsis of Solomon’s sermon in order to talk a bit about the usage of our earthly “time.” I was having coffee the other day with a fellow retiree and he mentioned that it seemed like the older we get, the faster the time seems to pass. Of course, it doesn’t change its rate of passage, but it sure seems that way, doesn’t it?

I think that it’s because, as we advance into the latter portion of our lives, we’re more aware of just how fleeting it is. Like Job of old put it, it’s going by “swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6). In today’s vernacular we’d probably say “faster than a speeding bullet.” My friend’s, and Job’s, comment caused me to recall an amusing little story that I feel is applicable to my thoughts today about “time.”

The story goes: “A snail crossing the road was run over by a turtle. Regaining consciousness in the emergency room, he was asked what caused the accident. “I really can’t remember,” the snail answered, “You see, it all happened so fast.”

Like my friend remarked about “time” seemingly going by at a faster rate, it all depends upon your perspective, doesn’t it? We look around and say, “Where did it all go? It wasn’t very long ago that I was serving in the military, getting married and having kids. Now those kids have kids.” We’re like the snail – “it all happened so fast.”

The point of my thoughts here today is to mirror the gist of Solomon’s sermon, the book of Ecclesiastes. I’ll start by saying that this earthly life is the only place where “time” matters to us.

And my first recommendation regarding it is to take stock of it and realize what’s really important. Realize that we don’t have “all the time in the world” to accomplish everything. So, we need to prioritize what “time” we have and I think our age causes us to realize just how valuable it is, plus how fleeting.

“Taking stock” of our time is another way of saying what Paul said in Eph. 5:16 where he said that we need to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” One of the definitions of the Greek word translated as “evil” is “grievous” and that certainly fits with the context of Paul’s words there.

And, speaking of the context, let’s take a quick look at that context and see if it doesn’t coincide with Solomon’s message about the importance of our time usage. Verse 16 gets quoted often in sermons and lessons, but really, verses 15 through 17 should be cited too. Let’s read them together.

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” Paul pretty much repeats his admonition on “time” usage in his letter to the Colossians (4:5) where he says that we should “walk wisely” as we “redeem (use) our time.”

In his sermon, Solomon listed a lot of activities and things that man can spend their “time” on, IE: work, education, gain of possessions and etc. That all of these things are part and parcel of earthly life. But, he concluded that, as far as an eternal benefit is concerned, all of those things are – “vanity.” With the meaning of “vanity” being “temporary or worthless.”

Solomon says, “Fear God and keep His commandments.” Paul says, “walk wisely …. understanding what the will of the Father is.”

As we arrive at the latter portion of our earthly lives, I think that we have a better grasp on the importance of how our time is to be used. The things we thought we’re so important in our younger years, suddenly don’t seem to be such now. What does have import on our time is how we use it for God, thus determining our soul’s eternal home.

Ron Covey

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