You can’t legislate morality?

DURING ALMOST ANY discussion of issues such as abortion, homosexuality, pornography, gambling, or beverage alcohol, someone is virtually certain to say that ought not to be any laws against such things because “you can’t legislate morality…”

Even Christians may become convinced that it is futile to seek legal protection for unborn children, for example.  They might say we should concentrate on changing people’s hearts instead of changing the law.  Although we agree that ultimately the battle will be won or lost in the hearts of people, we also uphold the Biblical truth that civil government has a sacred duty to protect us from those who have no heart (or whose hearts have become hard).

Part of the problem is that the cliché, “You can’t legislate morality,” is interpreted differently today that it was several decades ago.  When the saying was first used, people simply meant that passing a law was not going to eliminate moral evil.  A law against gambling, for example, would not automatically end all gambling.  There would still be those who would violate the law rather than stop gambling.  You cannot legislate someone into moral behavior.  Now, however, when someone says, “You can’t legislate morality,” he usually means there ought not to be laws pertaining to moral issues.  Everyone is supposed to have the right to formulate his own private moral code without any interference from the government.

Obviously, passing laws will not guarantee that every citizen will become a paragon of virtue; in that sense, it is true that we cannot legislate morality.  But does it follow that we should have no laws pertaining to moral issues at all?

If the truth be known, all law is based upon morality.  Even the speed limit has a moral basis.  Driving over the speed limit endangers lives and property; were is not for this moral problem, there would be no reason to limit the speed at which one may travel in an automobile.  Likewise, “truth in advertising” laws are based upon the moral principle of honesty.  Without morality there would be no basis for any law at all.

Few, if any, of those who claim, “You can’t legislate morality,” would want to live in a society that did not legislate morality.  For example, we have laws against rape.  Why?  Because rape is immoral.  Have the laws cause everyone to behave morally, thus ending all incidences of rape?  Of course not!  Legislation will not cause everyone to become moral.  Should we then repeal all the laws against rape?  Who would support such an absurd conclusion?  Yet this would be logical result of the current mania against “legislating morality”!  Anyone knows that if the laws were repealed, even more rapes would occur.

We also have laws against stealing.  Why?  Because stealing is immoral.  Did all theft end when the laws were passed?  Obviously not!  Entirely too many people violate the law, stealing in spite of the legislation against it.  Does this mean we should repeal all laws against stealing?  How utterly foolish that would be!  Even more stealing would take place if we did that.

The same principle can be applied to other moral issues.  Suppose elective abortions were made illegal again.  Would the abortion rate plummet to zero?  Of course not.  There will always be desperate mothers who seek to solve their problems through the destruction of their children.  Beyond question, though, far fewer abortions would occur if they were illegal.

Can we legislate morality?  Of course we can.  We’ve done it for thousands of year, and we’re still doing it today.  The real question is, “Whose morality will we legislate?”  Will we legislate the morality of the humanists, which says man is the highest authority in the world, that right and wrong are relative, and that killing unborn babies is simply an act of “reproductive freedom”?  Or will be legislate Biblical morality, which holds that God is the supreme authority, and that human life, in His image, is sacred?  Joe Slater

“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”  Acts 5:29

— Mike Benson

Lead out of rest and allow your soul to catch up with you.

A MAN WENT on Safari in an exotic country, hiring some local guides to manage his procession…

 

Because he had arrived late, he was already three days behind schedule, and the original safari had left without him.  So the hired men sprinted to catch up.

 

After the first day of running in the jungle heat, the men fell exhausted at the evening campfire.  Early the next morning, the visitor blew his whistle:  “Come on!  Let’s go!  Let’s catch that safari!”  The men jumped up, strapped on the bags, and started running.

 

Long after the sun had set, they finally stopped, once again falling in sheer exhaustion.  The foreigner was well-pleased, saying, “If we keep up this pace, we may catch the others!”  So the next morning, they got up in a hurry and ran again — all day long.

 

On the fourth day, the eager visitor sprung to his feet and exclaimed, “Today we shall surely catch them!  Let’s go!”

 

But the hired men just sat around the dying fire, poking the embers with sticks.  “Get moving right now!” urged the man.

 

The leader of the men replied, “We’re not moving.”

 

Indignant, the foreigner insisted, “I paid you to help me catch up with the safari!”

 

“Sir,” said the leader with a firm calmness, “we are not going to move all day.  You have pushed us so hard these first three days.  Now we will have to wait a whole day . . . to let our souls catch up!” 

 

Lead out of rest and allow your soul to catch up with you.  Only then will you be able to put your heart into everything God asks of you.  Without rest, you are leading on empty.  Wayne Cordeiro, “Seven Lessons Hard Learned,” Leading on Empty, 127-128

 

Mike Benson

If You Go To Hell

Going to hell? – not far fetched!  Many are headed to hell.  Ask Jesus!  “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”(Mt.7:13ff).  Likely many reading this – some sitting on church pews saying “amen” are going to hell!  Even you!  Hell is real; the threat is not imaginary.

But if you go to hell, it is no accident. It is your choice.  I know you do not want hell’s miseries; you do not deliberately pick that “lake that burns with fire and brimstone.”  Yet, when you choose the road, you also, necessarily include its destination.  Choose booze – choose fornication – choose the “pleasures of this world” – choose to “just live as you please,” and you choose hell! – at the end of that road  Your choice! Plain and simple!  In the words of Joshua, “Choose for yourselves this day.”

If you go to hell, it will be in spite of God.  Do not blame God!!  “The Lord is … not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).  God never forces you,   overwhelms you, or makes you a robot.  Yet He “works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12). He tries to get you to do right – to listen – to choose the road to heaven.  To go to hell, you must reject all God’s efforts to the contrary.

If you go to hell, it will be in spite of God’s love for you.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (Jno. 3:16ff).  To go to hell you have to refuse such love; you must “despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering.”  Otherwise, the “goodness of God leads you to repentance?”(Rom. 2:4) – and eventually to heaven.

If you go to hell, it will be in spite of Jesus.  You, as a sinner, have no sacrifice for sin.  There is nothing you can do to free yourself from the guilt and consequence of your sin.  It is a hopeless case!  Hell looms on the horizon inescapably.  Until – until Jesus enters the picture!  He volunteers to be that sacrifice for sins.  He volunteers to accept your punishment deserved as a sinner.

For you, Jesus was scourged as a criminal. For you, Jesus died on the cross as a criminal.  For you, his blood was poured out as a sin sacrifice.  He changed your prospects from hopeless despair – from inevitable hell – to an open door into God’s favor, blessings, and heaven.  To go to hell, you have to ignore such a sacrifice on your behalf.

If you go to hell, it will be in spite of Christians.  They are the ones who pester you trying to persuade you to change your life and turn to God.  They just will not leave you alone to go quietly off to hell.  To go to hell you have to turn a deaf ear to all their warnings and all their appeals.

Christians are the ones who will not give up on you even when you try and fail miserably.  They are there to pick you up and encourage you to try again.  To go to hell you have to ignore people who care that much about you – or you may have to get angry with them and then refuse their help and concern.

Christians are the ones who pray for you – even when you quit praying.  They pray about your difficulties and your trials in life.  They pray about your spiritual weaknesses and your sins.  To go to hell, you must fight their prayers to God for you.

Christians are the ones who know what you can be – a son of God reflecting His image.  They are not satisfied for you to fail to become all that God can make of you.  Christians are patient because they were once where you are – and still have problems with spiritual weaknesses.  To go to hell, you will have to close the door on these people who love you – who love your soul.

Are you not finding it hard to keep on going to hell with such obstacles in your way?  In Jesus’ words to Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 9:5).  Why not just quit trying to go to hell – quit lashing out against those who try to help you – quit turning your back on God who wants to forgive you?  Serving God and going to heaven is a tremendous alternative!

– by Joe Fitch

My name is Mary

There is an old story of a census taker who was making his rounds in the lower East side of New York, who interviewed an Irish woman bending over her washtub. “Lady, I am taking the census.  What’s your name?  How many children do you have?”

She replied, “Well, let me see.  My name is Mary.  And then there’s Marcia, and Duggie, and Amy, and Patrick, and…”

“Never mind the names,” he broke in, “just give me the numbers.”

She straightened up, hands on hips, and with a twinkle in her eye, said, “I’ll have ye know, sir, we ain’t got into numberin’ them yet.  We ain’t run out of names!”

In a world filled with so many people, we sometimes feel insignificant.  Nobody wants to know our name — they just need our Social Security number, or identification number.  It can be an impersonal world that leaves us feeling very lonely, even when we are surrounded by a large crowd of people.

But in the eyes of God, we are viewed personally.  God knows each of us by name.  We matter to Him.

God said to Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5)

Take comfort in knowing you’re not just a number to God; you’re one of His precious children!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

As a Christian, we have something more valuable than words to offer others.

A couple of years ago I was walking through the parking lot at a Lowe’s in north Denver. There was a kid with Down’s syndrome working there collecting the carts as I was on my way in. I was having an ok day, not paying much attention and minding my own business, when he said something to me that I will never forget. Three words. I know that Lowe’s probably wants their employees to greet customers on their way into the store, but I was completely taken by surprise by the 3 words he chose. After the shock wore off, I felt a little embarrassed, a little flattered, but now was smiling,  and what had only moments before been an ok day, had now become a great day that I will always remember.

Occasionally when I drive by one of the billboards posting the current lottery jackpots, I let myself imagine what it would be like to have that much money. I would be able to do so much good. I could help so many people and could give so much away to people who need it. But then I realized one day that I had been deceiving myself. I probably would not be the generous giver that I imagine myself to be.

I came to this conclusion one day recalling the story of the kid in the parking lot. Had he simply given me $3 that day instead of the 3 words, I would probably not even be able to tell you what I spent it on. I’d have nothing to show for it, and my life would not be any better off.  So, those 3 words have more value than $3.

He gave me something of value. He gave me something that I didn’t deserve. He gave of himself to make my day better.

I have been stingy with my words. And if I cannot be generous with my speech, an endless supply that costs me nothing, why would I think that I would be more generous with a lot of money?  I would like to use the crutch of being an introvert, but that is only an excuse, and the fact is that I have the ability to speak, the ability to give of myself, to make someone’s day better, but I don’t.

So let me encourage you, if you are anything like me, to come out of your shell and engage in the practice of using a few words to change someone’s day and maybe their life. Try saying something like, “you look great!”, “I appreciate you”, “thank you”, “I’m glad you’re my friend”, “you’re a great friend”, “I look up to you”, “great hair day!”, or “let’s have lunch”. And if you really want to change someone’s day, you can even use the 3 words spoken to me by the kid in the parking lot……”MOVIE STAR LOOK!”

As a Christian, we have something more valuable than words to offer others. We have salvation and the good news of Jesus Christ. The world needs to hear the words that we have, but we’ve been taught not to talk to strangers, that people that we don’t know should somehow be feared. The reality is that even the boogie man needs Jesus. As far as I can tell, “Strangers” are exactly who we’ve been instructed to talk to in Matthew 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations……”

So let’s see if we can make a difference with a few words. Like “come to services”, or “Jesus loves you”. Or you can use my Uncle Emmett’s favorite ice breaker “where are you from originally?” He was able to start many conversations which led to many bible studies which led to many conversions with those few words. Jesus made a big difference in the lives of Peter and Andrew when he simply said to them “Follow me”.

So let’s be generous with others in the words that we speak. Let’s give of ourselves.  Otherwise they may forever remain strangers, not knowing the love of God.

Scott Phillips

 

We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago.

STEPHEN COVEY TELLS of an experience he had one Sunday morning while riding a subway in New York…

People were sitting quietly–some reading their newspapers, some lost in thought, some resting with their eyes closed.  It was a calm, peaceful scene.  Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car.  Then suddenly, a man and his children entered the subway car.  The children were so loud and rambunctious that instantly the whole climate changed.

The man sat down next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to the situation.  The children were yelling back and forth, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers.  It was very disturbing.  And yet, the man sitting next to me did NOTHING.

It was difficult not to feel irritated.  I could not believe that he could be so insensitive as to let his children run wild like that and do nothing about it, taking no responsibility at all.  It was easy to see that everyone else on the subway felt irritated, too.  So finally, with what I felt was unusual patience and restraint, I turned to him and said, “Sir, your children are really disturbing a lot of people.  I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if to come to a consciousness of the situation for the first time and said softly, “Oh, you’re right.  I guess I should do something about it.  We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago.  I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Suddenly, I saw things differently, and because I saw differently, I thought differently, I thought differently, I felt differently, I behaved differently.  My irritation vanished.  I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior; my heart was filled with the man’s pain.  Feelings of sympathy and compassion flowed freely…  Everything changed in an instant.

THOUGHT:  Has this ever happened to you?  It’s easy to make a snap judgment without knowing all of the facts.  You can’t always tell what’s going on inside a person or know why of what they’re doing unless you ask.  Listen with your eyes as well as your ears and refrain from thinking the worst.  H. Norman Wright, “Love Gives the Benefit of the Doubt,” Before You Say “I Do” Devotional, 19-20

“He who answers a matter before he hears it, It is folly and shame to him.”  Proverbs 18.13

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow…” Philippians 2.10

Mike Benson

 

Be aware that showing your underwear is a serious problem.

Legions of articles and sermons have been delivered to the Lord’s church about the dangers of immodest women.  It is true that many women need to hear them.

However, a glaring oversight has occurred and we must take steps to rectify this mistake. It is time that we honestly discuss the problem of male immodesty. We have ignored this for far too long while men tempt women spiritually, causing problems with their Christian walk.

It is true that men are generally visual and women are largely emotional. Yet, women are also visual and lust is a serious temptation to them (Matthew 5:27-28). God gave them sexual desires just as he did men. Do their brothers in Christ care?

Women love the sight of the opposite gender just as men do. While it is true that men and women’s bodies are vastly different, this issue is still important to women.

Partial male nudity has been accepted for so long that few men give it any thought. Like no time in American history, our culture is consumed with sex. It is everywhere and touches all of us, including women.  Society is pushing women to be more aggressive sexually and many are giving in to the temptation.

When men do not have on a shirt, it is very tempting to women. In the Twilight movies, generations of females sit together to lust over young men without their shirts on. When a TV show or movie has their male stars take off their shirts, women are eager to watch.

Men need to do their best to cover their bodies so they can help their sisters in Christ. Tight, revealing clothing is not suitable for Christian men or women.  Male nudity needs to be addressed in pulpits in the Church.

Be aware that showing your underwear is a serious problem. Do not wear sexually suggestive messages on your clothes. Think of something larger than yourself and be gracious to the godly women in the Lord’s Church.

Men, give thought to what you wear because modesty is a two-way street (Ephesians 4:1; Romans 12:1-2). How can we expect women to correct their problems if we refuse to admit that we have them? Do we care for their souls like we insist they be concerned for ours?

Step up and be men of God, not of the culture.

by Richard Mansel

A lion in the streets?

Pro 22:13 The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.

A lion in the streets? That’s ridiculous! Lions live in the savannahs of Africa and in the zoos. Unless you live near a zoo, perhaps there is a chance that a lion may escape from the zoo and is roaming on your street. Otherwise, have no fear; there will not be a lion outside your house.

Solomon did not write: “The coward man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” Well, that is the sensible thing to do if indeed there is a lion in the street; that’s not cowardice. But Solomon wrote: “The slothful man saith, There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.” He was talking about a lazy man. The lazy man will go to great lengths, even to the point of concocting the most ridiculous excuses in order to avoid work and fulfilling responsibility. The lion outside the lazy man’s house in this proverb is not real; rather, it is an image or picture that has been fabricated. It is the lazy man’s excuse not to work.

The chances of seeing a lion outside my house or anywhere in the town where I live are extremely remote. Many years ago, a black panther escaped from the zoo. The whole nation panicked. Many stayed at home. Some began to imagine things: even a black cat looked like the fugitive panther and they called the police.

Yet, how often do we create imaginary lions to avoid fulfilling our responsibilities? Oftentimes, we are the lazy man that Solomon is talking about. We imagine lions roaming outside our houses because we don’t want to go to a church service, or attend the mid-week bible class, or attend a fellowship or personal work session. We allow imaginary lions prowling outside our doors? We don’t say, “There’s a lion outside”, we say:

1. I have no time.
2. I have a headache.
3. I’m busy.
4. My children have homework.
5. Lack of talent.

Time, work, sickness, and children are the common excuses we make for not able to serve or attend any church services, bible classes, fellowship, gospel meetings, bringing a foreign guest out for a meal and etc. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor 5:10).

Children – As parents, we can easily turn our children into excuses to avoid fulfilling responsibilities. “The kids are too tired to attend Bible study, or they have too much homework.” “My children cannot sit still; they will disrupt the worship and bible class.” “My children slept very late last night; they can’t wake up.” “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4).

Talents – Exodus 3 and 4 record the attempt by Moses to evade his responsibility to free the Israelites by exaggerating his vocal impediment. “And Moses said unto the Lord, O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exo 4:10). Did Moses think God didn’t know about his speech impediment? But in an effort to avoid the responsibility God was putting on his shoulders, Moses exaggerated a kitten-sized problem into a lion-sized issue. Even men and women who are physically challenged can play sports and win Olympic gold medals; what excuses do you have? “Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees” (Isa 35:3).

Sickness – Is a light cough or headache contagious? Did you go to work with your cough and headache? Epaphroditus, a fellow worker of Paul, was very sick to the point of nearing death. Yet, it did not stop him from working and showing concern for the brethren at Philippi (Phil 2:25-30). “Because for the work of Christ he came nigh unto death, hazarding his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me” (Phil 2:30). What a faithful worker of God!

Time – We are all busy but we all have the same amount of time. How is it that some of our busy executives, doctors, managers and businessmen can attend most of the church activities and serve God? They manage their priorities! When you manage your priority, you know what to do first and you schedule time for it and fit the rest in with the other time left. But when your priority is not on mid-week bible class or church activities, you will not allocate time for them. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” (Psa 90:12).

The lazy man creates imaginary circumstances to justify not doing his work. The man who was given one talent had excuses for not doing anything with it. God wants commitment and not excuses. God said he was slothful (lazy) (Matt 25:24-27).

Think seriously about God’s judgment on that servant: Will God accept your excuses? Is the lion still in your street.

Jimmy Lau
Psa 119:97 Oh how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day.

Cursing Authority

 

            Preparing for the Creek War, Major General Andrew Jackson was having a difficult challenge keeping the men engaged. Hungry, tired and disappointed for lack of fighting, many quit and went home. Jackson commanded them to stay. Most did. Many did not.

 

            John Wood was one who refused to obey the order. He had had trouble with obeying orders. Eventually he was found guilty of insubordination by a court-martial and sent before a firing squad. It was a heart-breaker for General Jackson. He lost sleep the night before. But he must die to put the fear of God into the others.

 

            Paul Wellman writes of that event in Magnificent Destiny (page 64): “He [Jackson] and only He could save the life of the condemned man, and the man who was to die hardly comprehended why he was doomed, which was the pity of it. He was ignorant, the unlettered ways of the backwoods were his. He had cursed an officer it was true, but he scarcely realized it was Authority he was cursing and not a mere man whom he considered officious.”

 

            Flaunting authority is nothing new to 21st century America. Punishing disobedience is nothing new either. When one flaunts authority – beginning with parents and school teachers – it sets a horrific precedent for flaunting the authority of God and His Word. Flaunting the Sovereign God of the universe is worst of all.

 

          “Although he [Jesus] was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Hebrews 5:8-9).  Who is going to heaven? Those who humbly submit to the authority of the Son in all His particulars.

  – Paul Holland

I will give you thirty thousand dollars if you will come to America and minister to my little girl who cannot walk

  1. Ogden Armour was a wealthy and successful businessman in Chicago, IL, in the early 1900s.  He and his wife had a daughter, Lolita, who was crippled in her feet and could not walk.  The Armours took their daughter to see many doctors, none of whom could help her.  Armour heard about a doctor in Vienna, Austria – Dr. Adolf Lorenz – whom, he believed, might be able to help his daughter.  He sent word to him: “Dr. Lorenz, I will give you thirty thousand dollars if you will come to America and minister to my little girl who cannot walk, and see if you can … make it possible for her to walk.”

W.A. Criswell stated that it was “the greatest medical fee that the world had ever heard of at that time.”

Dr. Lorenz came to Chicago and he treated that little girl and, with time, she was able to walk.

As we consider the tremendous price this father was willing to pay to see his little girl restored to health, we recognize that there was something fearfully wrong with her.  We also see how much he loved her.

You and I also have a serious malady: it is SIN, and it is serious and deadly!  But Someone loves us so much that He paid a great price in order that we might be “healed” of this condition and have eternal life!

The Apostle Peter wrote to Christians, reminding them of the price of their redemption from sin: “You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

The tremendous price that was paid for OUR redemption from sin – the blood of the sinless Son of God – reveals the seriousness of our condition (see Romans 6:23).  It also demonstrates the great love of God.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

God has promised to redeem those who will place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

Our condition in sin is serious and fatal, but because of His great love for us, God has provided a priceless remedy: the blood of JESUS.

Won’t YOU accept His offer of salvation on His terms?

David A. Sargent

Johannine irony

JESUS HAD NOT been through rabbinic training, and it would not be expected that he could sustain a continuing argument from Scripture…

It was this that seems to have astonished his hearers.  They would not have expected a man who came from a carpenter’s home in Nazareth to have been able to teach like Jesus taught.

This is a fine piece of Johannine irony.  He made it clear at the beginning of the Gospel that Jesus is the divine Logos, the Word of God.  Now he sees the Jews confronted by the Logos incarnate and calling him “this uneducated fellow.”  They could not recognize the divine wisdom when they heard it.  Leon Morris, “Reflections on the Gospel of John,” 261

“Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught.  And the Jews marveled, saying, ‘How does this Man know letters, having never studied?’  Jesus answered them and said, ‘My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.'”  John 7:14-16

Mike Benson

 

God loves everyone. That doesn’t mean God approves of everyone.

There are “those that are his,” ones who “depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19); and there are those who “refuse” and “reject” him (Hebrews 12:25).

Those who submit to God’s will are called his “friends” (James 2:23; cf. John 15:14). Those who seek friendship with the world are called his “enemies” (James 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).

Being friends with God is not difficult (1 John 5:3; Proverbs 10:29)–- especially when compared to the difficulty of being his enemy (Proverbs 13:15b). Being friends with God pays richly (Romans 8:17; Titus 3:7), while being an enemy of God is costly (Matthew 16:26).

So does God really love everyone? Indeed. He sent his Son to die for us all (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:9). Is God friends with everyone? No.

God’s enemies outnumber is friends (Matthew 7:13-14).

Friend, or enemy? Which are you? _______

by Rick Kelley

BLIND TO OUR SIN

The following is a true story (though there are some questions about a few of the details).  Back in 1893, there was a group of four sisters in Iowa.  They called themselves the Cherry Sisters and made their stage debut in Cedar Rapids in a skit they wrote themselves.  It was terrible.  But, for three years, the Cherry Sisters performed to packed theaters throughout the Midwest.  People came to see them to find out if they were as bad as they had heard!  Their unbelievably atrocious acting enraged critics and provoked the audience to throw vegetables at the would-be actresses. Wisely, the sisters thought it best to travel with an iron screen which they would erect in front of the stage in self-defense.

Amazingly, in 1896 the girls were offered a thousand dollars a week to perform on Broadway — not because they were so good, but because they were so unbelievably bad.  Seven years later, after the Cherry Sisters had earned what in that day was a respectable fortune of $200,000, they retired from the stage for the peaceful life back on the farm.  Oddly enough, these successful Broadway “stars” remained convinced to the end that they were truly the most talented actresses ever to grace the American stage.  They never had a clue as to how bad they truly were!  They naively believed that the tossed vegetables were either unrestrained tributes to their talent or acts of jealousy by less talented people.

How could they be so blind?  I find it all too easy to understand.  The truth is, like everyone else, I am blind to many of my shortcomings.  I fail to recognize that I have a problem with impatience or lack of compassion or pride.  Don’t get me wrong — I have no trouble seeing those faults (and many more as well!) in the lives of people around me.  I can readily see how sinful everyone else is.  But even when people “toss vegetables” at me, I still insist there’s no problem with me.

Jesus had something to say about this to the Pharisees (and of course it’s easy for me to sin how sinful THEY were!):

“Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye?  Hypocrite!  First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3-4)

God, please open my eyes to those things in my life which displease You and keep me from being close to You and others around me.  In my times of blindness, help me to see.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Mission work is often high maintenance

“Where no oxen are, the trough is clean; but

much increase comes by the strength of an

ox” (Proverbs 14:4, NJKB).

Mission work is often high maintenance. That is, it takes a lot of effort and often requires a lot of financial support.

Travel is expensive and tiring. Printed materials, meeting facilities, necessary workers and other expenses add up very quickly. Many individuals and congregations alike seriously ask, “Is it really worth it? Are we getting sufficient bang for our bucks?”

Modern Christians who ask these questions should review Paul’s list of costs for his mission trips.

Second Corinthians 11:22-29 contains one such list. In addition to multiple imprisonments, shipwrecks, beatings, and one stoning, he lists weariness, toil, sleeplessness, hunger, thirst, cold, nakedness, and “my deep concern for all the churches.”

Such sacrificial expenditure makes our quibbles over meeting the budget seem a little inappropriate does it not?

When we consider the cost of doing business in any field, including missions, one element to be included is efficiency, or the rate of return compared to expenditure.

When that comes into play, one cardinal principle must be remembered-nothing in life is free (yes, even “salvation by grace” comes at a price; the difference is that Christ paid that price for us–Ephesians 2:8-9).

In order to gain positive results, there must be expense.

This is the principle we are reminded of in Proverbs 14:4. It is easy to keep a clean barn and to reduce one’s feed bill – just get rid of the ox.

But then the question arises, how is the field to be plowed, the crop planted, and the harvest obtained?

Solomon’s point is that a good ox is worthy of his keep. One may resent the effort of cleaning out the manger, or of refilling it with hay, but when the crop is gathered the worth of all that labor is plain.

Familiar modern proverbs express this truth. “You get what you pay for.” “No pain (i.e., cost), no gain.”

These and other such sayings remind us that if we spend nothing we receive nothing. And that includes our service in the Kingdom of God.

The elders’ responsibility is not to save the Church’s money, but rather to ensure that it is used efficiently.

If the ox is strong, and plows faithfully, he is worthy of his keep. This applies to all aspects of the work of the church, whether it is local evangelism, edification, benevolence, or foreign missions.

“You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain” (1 Corinthians 9:9).

Let us pray that the Lord gives us many strong oxen to plow his field (the world, Matthew 13:38). And let us ensure they are well fed.

by Michael E. Brooks

His Name Meant “Comfort”

Whose name meant “comfort”?  Noah’s! Lamech says as much.  When Noah was born, Lamech proclaimed, “This one shall give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the Lord has cursed” (Gen. 5:29). The NIV and KJV, among others, puts the word “comfort” for “rest,” Lamech was optimistic that Noah, would help alleviate the labor pains of farming in cursed ground.

 

Have you stopped to think about the meaning of Noah’s name and the mission of Noah’s life? What was his task? He was to build the ark, but he also preached (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5). Now, as to how many people Noah preached to, the Bible is silent. One might assume that he preached as far and as widely as a man engaged in such an enormous building project could. Or, one might say that he preached by the example of his righteous life (cf. Gen. 6:9).  The best understanding of 1 Peter 3:18-21 may be that Christ preached to the disobedient ones through Noah’s efforts prior to the flood.

 

If Noah did preach to the disobedient, and/or admonished and exhorted onlookers and scornful neighbors to get on board the ark, he still was seeking to provide comfort. The thing to understand about giving comfort is that it does not always mean speaking soothing words, placating people, or telling them what they want to hear. That is, at times, a very appropriate and needed response–especially when people are suffering or trying to stay faithful. Yet, comfort can also be the fruit that only comes after a warning or rebuke. When a person is on a self-destructive course, they are destined for something inconceivably awful! What can a compassionate Christian do but try with tremendous effort to steer them back on course? That may be the only way that wayward sinner comes to the place where eternal comfort is once more a possibility. 

 

Remember Jude’s teaching. He said, “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). Sometimes, comfort is in the product and not in the raw material or the manufacturing. Always being loving, let us risk offending now so that eternal comfort can be had later! The Christian’s name, nature, and business centers around that real, spiritual comfort, both for the Christian and those whose lives he or she touches (cf. 1 Tim. 4:16).

Neal Pollard

Sermon outline for September 11th

This Sunday, September 11, 2016 is the 15th Anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on our country.  In reflection of that tragic day in American history, what have we learned? As a nation? As a family? As a church? Consider but just a few:

  1. Life is precious. In a world filled with racism, abortion, murder and hatred, we need to stress the sanctity of life.
  2. Time is fleeting. Every moment is important! May the cares of this world never cloud our vision and steal the simple moments that bring about the bigger picture.
  3. Faith is powerful. Faith makes things possible! Strong faith in Jesus Christ is the ROCK upon which to build a happy, successful and peaceful existence.
  4. Love is needed. The world is starving for love. Since, “God is Love,” the truth is—The World is Starving for God. Remember, love is the “greatest” and love never fails!
  5. Hope is strong. Hope is strong enough to anchor our soul in rough seas and calm waters. Hope is the greatest of all things.

May we remember the night of 9/11/01 as we gathered as families in our church buildings shedding tears in prayer, pleading with a just God to carry our nation through the pain and healing! May we never forget that total reliance on His power and strength that we experienced that terrible day!

Mark N. Posey

Decatur, AL

THE IMPACT OF PAUL ON THE WORLD

Few men have ever lived who made the kind of impact upon humanity and history, as did Paul the apostle. Converted in early adulthood, this former enemy of the cross became the most ardent supporter and defender of Christianity. One of the best, if not the best uninspired work on Paul the Apostle was written by Conybeare and Howson, entitled The Life And Epistles of Saint Paul. If you have never had the opportunity to read this classic work on Paul, you owe it to yourself to obtain a copy and study its contents. You will not regret having done so.

With the exception of Christ, Paul did more to advance the cause of Christ than any other human being. One astonishing feature of Paul’s life is what he accomplished in the amount of time allotted him as apostle and preacher. The public ministry of Paul, from the third year after his conversion to his martyrdom, spanned only a quarter of a century. In those 25 years Paul made three great missionary campaigns with a number of minor expeditions, five visits to Jerusalem, and at least four years of captivity in Caesarea and Rome. Even if we allow the date of Paul’s death to be as late as 68 A.D., that is still less than three decades to accomplish what few men accomplish in a life time.

Following his conversion he returned to Damascus where he began in earnest the task of saving souls. His love for the lost and his devotion to the Lord took him to the far reaches of the Roman Empire, and eventually even to Rome. He suffered mercilessly at the hands of the Jews who remained loyal to the tradition of their fathers. Yet he never lost his love for his kinsmen in the flesh. His heart ached for their conversion as a people, but he knew that would never happen. His love for both Jew and Gentile motivated him to turn his back on the things of the world, and march ever onward toward that “city which hath foundation whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). His love for Jesus Christ took him to distant lands, into hostile environment, and brought upon him some of the most severe trials imaginable. After his third missionary journey he returned to Jerusalem for the fifth and final time, where he would be rescued from an angry mob and arrested by dutiful soldiers of the Roman army. The next five years would find Paul appealing to Caesar for a fair trial, a long and treacherous journey to Rome, and an opportunity to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the single most influential metropolis in the Empire – Rome. His work took him into the household of Caesar, where the apostle was instrumental in converting even some of the family members of the ruler of the known world. He would be released for a short period of time, and then arrested a second time only to be martyred because of his faith, thus ending his earthly sojourn.

Volumes have been written on the life and work of Paul the apostle. His life has convinced untold millions of the authenticity of Christ and Christianity. His words, revealed and recorded by divine inspiration, still speak to men today. His works are some of the earliest Christian documents that we have. Thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament were written by him, and he is the prominent character in the Book of Acts.

And though he is dead, he still speaks! Phillip Schaff offered this notable tribute to Paul. I’ll close this week’s article with his words:

It was the heroic career of a spiritual conqueror of immortal souls for Christ, converting them from the service of sin and Satan to the service of the living God, from the bondage of the law to the freedom of the gospel, and leading them to the fountain of life eternal. He labored more abundantly than all the other apostles; and yet, in sincere humility, he considered himself “the least of the apostles,” and “not meet to be called an apostle,” because he persecuted the church of God; a few years later he confessed: “I am less than the least of all saints,” and shortly before his death: “I am the chief of sinners.” His humility grew as he experienced God’s mercy and ripened for heaven. Paul passed a stranger and pilgrim through this world, hardly observed by the mighty and the wise of his age. And yet how infinitely more noble, beneficial, and enduring was his life and work than the dazzling march of military conquerors, who, prompted by ambitions absorbed millions of treasure and myriads of lives, only to die at last in a drunken fit at Babylon, or of a broken heart on the rocks of St. Helena! Their empires have long since crumbled into dust, but St. Paul still remains one of the foremost benefactors of the human race, and the pulses of his mighty heart are beating with stronger force than ever throughout the Christian world (Phillip Schaff, History of the Christian Church).

by Tom Wacaster

So what’s wrong with the world?

When a London newspaper asked its readers to respond to the question, “What is wrong with the world,” the editor received a reply from philosopher G.K.

Chesterton. It read: “Dear sir, I am.”

Just because it is a cliche doesn’t make it any less true; a better world does begin with me. As does a better community, a better marriage, and a better church.

It is so much easier to complain and criticize than it is to build and strengthen. They don’t build monuments for critics. Critics don’t write great literature, or create art, or even good government. They simply jeer at the sincere, best efforts of those who build.

So what’s wrong with the world? Probably not G.K. Chesterton, or at least it wasn’t entirely his fault.  Yet he realized that for the world to improve, for it to change, he must act himself to make it so.

We used to sing a song as children — “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.”

“Let your light shine before men that they

may see your good works and glorify your

father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

There’s a lot of darkness out there. Are you adding to the light, or dampening the fire of others? This much is true: there are two kinds of people in the world, or the church: The givers and the takers.

It’s OK to be a taker if you are a child. But even children grow to make their contribution.

So what’s wrong with the world? Any suggestions?

by Stan Mitchell

When we are together, either as a family or a church, we provide this same support.

THE SEQUOIA TREES of California, known as Redwoods, are spectacular – towering as much as 300 feet above the ground…

Strangely, these towering trees have unusually shallow root systems that spread out just under the surface of the ground to catch as much of the surface moisture they can. And this is their vulnerability. Storms with heavy winds would almost always bring these giants crashing to the ground but this rarely happens because they grow in clusters and their intertwining roots provide support for one another against the storms.

When we are together, either as a family or a church, we provide this same support. Pain and suffering come to all of us.  But, just like those giant Sequoia trees, we can be supported in those difficult times by the touch of one another’s lives. The knowledge we have someone; that we are not alone; that there is someone who is willing to touch us, hold us – keeps us from being destroyed.

The apostle Paul said we are “many members, yet one body” (1 Cor. 12:20), and he goes on in that context to tell us every member is vital to the whole (1 Cor. 12:22-27). As the body of Christ we are built up by one another. “From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16). To stand alone will bring destruction – we need one another. Tell your brethren this week how much you need them and appreciate them. And be the support for your brethren they need.  Tom Moore, Hamilton, Texas

“That there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”  1 Corinthians 12.25

Mike Benson

 

There are situations when running is absolutely necessary

I am a fan of the show Mythbusters. If you’ve never seen it, this show takes common urban myths and scientifically tests them out to see if they are true or false. One interesting myth they tested a while back was if ancient ninjas were able to walk on water with various flotation devices on their feet. Through many failed attempts, the Mythbusters decided to make a concoction of water and cornstarch. Amazingly, this “liquid” surface was hard enough to run on. However, if at any point they stopped their movement, they would begin to sink (Watch It Here).

The Christian life has some awesome parallels to this idea. Not all situations in life require for us to run towards heaven, though it’s a common concept in Scripture (Hebrews 12:1-2). However, there are situations when running is absolutely necessary (see Joseph in Genesis 39:12). Slowing down and taking in sinful situations with bad influences can have dire consequences.

Psalm 1 is a great psalm contrasting righteousness and wickedness. The first few verse gives a sobering model about bad influences. See, people do not usually wake up one morning and find themselves living deep in sin. There is much more of a process and Psalm 1:1 identifies this for us. What we will notice here is an increased level of involvement of the negative influence as we sink deeper in.

(1) A righteous person “Does not WALK in the counsel of the wicked.” A person who is only walking is not fully committed. However, this person is committed at least to some degree. What we see here is a person who is just kind of going with the crowd (even if he or she does not agree with the crowd). This person may not be “participating,” but the fact that this person is even there is a step in the wrong direction. Walking is a moving motion. So, it is still fairly easy to shift the motion towards a better goal. This person is not sinking in too deep yet.

(2) A righteous person “Does not STAND in the path of sinners.” Standing seems to show participation and support of the people and actions. This person is no longer moving towards the goal at all. The level of sinful involvement is now increased. Suddenly the people or things being done do not seem as bad as they once did. This person is no longer moving but is now stationary and sinking in deeper. It will now take more effort to get moving and then to move away, but it is still within reach.

(3) A Righteous Person “Does not SIT in the seat of scoffers.” Sitting shows full commitment, involvement, and even a comfortableness with the whole situation. This person is now in deep and is not very concerned about pressing towards any other goal. This person has sunk in these bad influences and now it will now be very difficult to get up, get moving, and get away.

The more we sink into our world and negative influences, the more it will grab onto us. Or as Romans 12:2 puts it, the more we will end up “conforming” to our world. Every decision we make, everything we do, everyone we walk with, every person we “hang out with,” and anyone we sit down with has the ability to influence our lives. We must be very careful. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘bad company corrupts good morals.'” This can and does happen to everyone. No one is immune. We must be as careful as ever to never slow down our Christianity. Let’s keep pressing towards that prize (Hebrews 12:1-2).

–Brett Petrillo