Proverbs 7:10-12

“Then a woman comes toward him, decked out like a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, and at every corner she lies in wait” (Proverbs 7:10-12). If you put yourself on the path to temptation, temptation will find you each and every time. Solomon now switches from describing the naive young man to the woman who is going to seduce him. She is dressed and behaving in a seductive way. She is dressed to be seen and wants to make sure she is seen. She is not where she ought to be. Instead, she is making herself available by hanging around at corners and the intersections of streets. It is not hard to find her.

Women of this caliber are admired today in movies, posters, ads, and on the internet. Today, many women take pride in being thought of as attractive and seductive. They want to be seen just like the woman described here. These are evil desires that invite sin. Women dressed in immodest ways should not be seen as beautiful by godly Christian men; they should be recognized for what they are: impure and inviting sin. Immodesty is directly related to immorality in this passage. We are to flee from such women, cf. 2 Timothy 2:22. This foolish man has chosen a different route and is going to pay the price for his poor choice.

Jeremy Sprouse

We don’t want to hear what anyone else has to say.

Tommy Bolt, winner of the 1958 US Open, tells the story of an incident he had during one of his golf tournaments.  Bolt arrived at the golf course for the tournament and was approached by a youngster, “Mr. Bolt, do you need a caddy, sir?”  Bolt went to the caddy master and asked about the youngster.  The man said, “He’s a real good caddy, knows the course, the greens, and the rules of the game. But he talks a lot.”

So Bolt went back to the youngster and said, “You can caddy for me on one condition: Don’t say a word.”  The young man accepted and carried Bolt’s bag.  The first three rounds went well, and Bolt was in contention in the fourth round, when an errant tee shot landed in the rough. The ball was sitting down in a bad patch of turf, with a difficult shot to the green which was well guarded by water on the right.

Bolt asked his caddy, “You think a five iron will do the trick?” The kid shook his head no, but never said a word.

“What, you want me to hit a six iron?”  Again, the kid shook his head no, but did not speak. Bolt grabbed a six iron and lashed the ball out of the rough and landed on the green, rolling to within three feet of the hole.

As they walked to the green, Bolt said, “Aren’t you going to say something now, after seeing a shot like that?”  His caddy then replied, “Mr. Bolt, that wasn’t your ball.”

Many of us go through life like that.  We don’t want to hear what anyone else has to say.  In fact, we don’t even want to hear what God has to say.  And when we become intent on doing things our way without listening to the voices of wisdom around us, we are headed for disaster.

Solomon advised us to, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He also encouraged us to:  “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge; For it is a pleasant thing if you keep them within you.” (Proverbs 22:17-18)

If you’re inclined to tell others, “I don’t want to hear anything that you have to say”, you may want to reconsider.  The time may come when you wish you had listened.

Alan Smith

If There’s A God…

Have you heard the story about a very militant, atheistic professor who made it a point in his class to belittle the faith of those who believed in God.  After spending nearly a semester of ridiculing Christianity, he felt rather confident to sarcastically ask, “Are there any believers in God in this class?”  He didn’t expect anyone to respond, but one young man did.  He said, “Yes, I’m a believer in God.”

The professor reveled in the thought of making a fool of this young man, so he stood before the class, looked up toward the ceiling with outstretched arms and said, “If there’s an all powerful God out there, I challenge you to strike me dead right now!”  A hush fell over the classroom for a moment, then the professor arrogantly smirked and said, “See, if your God exists why am I still standing here?  This is proof that your God doesn’t exist.”

Very calmly, the young man said, “No professor, this isn’t proof that my God doesn’t exist.  However it is proof of something.  It’s proof that the God I serve is a merciful God.”

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God…'” (Psalm 14:1).

Steve Higginbotham.

I saw a man wearing a pair of ladies maternity pants

We live in a world where change is a constant. No matter what area of life to which you look, you will see change, change is inevitable, you can’t stop it, but I would suggest that you can control how it affects your life to some degree.

The thing with change is that if it is going on around you, you often don’t notice it happening. Having lived in Africa for a number of years we were perhaps more aware of changes in America. These changes were more evident to us when we visited, than those who are living in the midst of them. For example: On one of our furlough trips we stopped at a restaurant while traveling. I went to pay our bill and in front of me were a family with teenage children. The daughter had thong underwear pulled up on her hips and shorts that were worn far too low. Somewhat embarrassed for them I thought, “This must be a poor family, they can’t afford clothes that fit their children.” Of course later I found that this was a “fashion statement”.

I realize that I am somewhat “older” than some of you, and maybe I am “behind the times” and an “old fogie,” but I don’t see this as a good change.

Not long after returning to live in America we attended a funeral (the first after returning). We dressed in a way we felt was appropriate, you know what they used to call “church clothes.” I wore dress slacks, a tie and jacket and my wife wore a dress. We walked in and were shocked because there were young women there wearing halter tops, short shorts and flip flops. Apparently the “dress with respect” aspect of our society had shifted even more. And again, I don’t see this change as a good thing.

Another change I noted is how folks dress in our Bible studies and worship assemblies. Now I realize that there are no “clothing guidelines” in the Bible, other than to behave decently and modestly and I certainly am not suggesting that we try and mandate any. But I am suggesting that modesty be considered regarding proper attire for those who claim to be in the presence of God. I thought to myself the other day, I wonder how folks would dress if they really thought that Jesus was going to be there when they arrived? Of course we know He is, isn’t he?

Now I realize that this is a very subjective and personal observation, because what I feel is modest or decent may not be the same thing you think it is. When we were in Africa I saw a man leading the song service wearing a woman’s, short, sheer negligee instead of a shirt. He didn’t know what it was, it came in a good will box from America and he thought it was better than the one tee shirt he had with holes in it. I saw a man wearing a pair of ladies maternity pants with the large elastic panel on the front, because again he didn’t know what they were and they were nice pants with no holes. I however know better and wouldn’t wear those things.

All of this is to suggest that perhaps the changes as to what is acceptable in our world may not always be good things. And, I would ask that you consider how your attire is perceived by those around you. Paul puts it this way, “We are free to do all things, but there are things which it is not wise to do. We are free to do all things, but not all things are for the common good. Let a man give attention not only to what is good for himself, but equally to his neighbor’s good.” (1 Corinthians 10:23-24 – BBE)

–Russ Lawson

Did you ever see a cat bring in a pair of slippers?

Do you remember that marvelous advertisement that had a bunch of cowboys herding cats? Thousands of cats ran helter skelter across the prairie, with those hapless men in chaps waving their hats and yelling, “Git along little kitties!”

The words “cats” and “orderly,” do not usually appear in the same sentence. Cats are independent, unwilling to be trained, taught or led.

Did you ever see a cat bring in a pair of slippers?  Have you ever heard of a “seeing eye cat,” a “sheep cat” or a “watch cat,” or one that would even acknowledge his name? A friend has the theory that all cats think their name is “Dinner time.”

Our cat, as empty-headed a ball of fluff as any, would survive in the wild exactly six minutes. She is uncoachable, uncontrollable, yet dependent on us for nourishment, protection and shelter.

Not that she would acknowledge any of it, or express gratitude of any kind. I notice that every time it rains, though, our little bundle of indifference saunters in again, making herself at home on the most freshly laundered clothing.

There is a book on leading the church entitled, “Herding Cats.” In churches, everyone wants to be nourished, pampered and allowed to sleep for days on end. No one wants to be directed, corrected or trained in righteousness.

We expect and never thank, we wander all over the neighborhood yet expect attention on demand, and if the food in the old kitty dish is not the finest cuisine, we “walk” next door, or down the street requesting neighbors to give us what we want.

All of which is to say that as members of the church, we should expect more of ourselves than the average tabby. We should make the job of our elders easier, the success of our church more assured.

“Obey your leaders, and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy, and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17, ESV).

— by Stan Mitchell

“Statistics show that only one in seven dwarfs was Happy.”

OK before anyone becomes upset with me, just read that statement a couple of more times. Need some help? Well, the other dwarfs were Doc, Sneezy, Dopey, etc. Remember the story of Snow White?

I wonder if it’s also true that one in seven Christians are happy? Now I mean happy in the sense of contented, pleasant to be around, with a smile on the face and a warm greeting on their lips. That kind of happy.

I am aware that people face heartbreak and difficulties. If you lost a loved one, or your job, or your health, I understand how you might not be entirely happy on this particular day.

But should a Christian’s life be characterized by unhappiness?

I’m sorry, I don’t understand how a Christian can come to worship, sit on the back pew, arms folded in defiance as if to say, “I’m mad at everyone! Just try to make me sing! Why is this church not serving my every whim?”

Recall that one of the fruits of the Spirit is joy:

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace …”

(Galatians 5:22, ESV). Recall that the Lord promised he would give us “life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Recall that Paul commanded, yes, commanded us to “rejoice in the Lord,” then repeated himself: “Again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

Happiness is not what happens to you; it’s who you are.

Recall that Paul’s statement is: “Rejoice in the Lord.”

Your relationship with God is the key to your happiness.

After all, there is another dwarf (if you remember the story). His name was Grumpy. Don’t be Grumpy, Christian. Be happy.

— by Stan Michell

So often, our complaints, angry words, unrestrained speech, and foul mood reveals far more about who we are than the object of our disgruntlement.

I was recently checking the customer reviews for an upcoming hotel stay.  The reviews were from verified members of the hotel club of that particular chain.  74% of the raters gave it the highest possible rating, but it was interesting to read the remarks of the smattering of people who ranked it poorly.  One said, “I’d rather drive an extra 30 miles than stay at this hotel. The staff is impossible to deal with.” Another put, “This hotel is nothing more than regular. Expect nothing great for a high price. Bad choice for the night of your wedding.”  A third wrote, “Very overpriced for quality of accommodations. Mold in bathroom, poor upkeep, poor bed quality. Would not recommend this hotel.”  Surrounding these aberrations are gushing reviews overflowing with superlative words like “by far the best,” “amazing,” “could not have asked for better,” “very happy,” “very clean,” etc.  My best guess is that somebody did something to upset the “exceptions” or, as experience has shown, the guests may not have handled themselves well and helped matters escalated.

 

Here is something that is certain.  So often, our complaints, angry words, unrestrained speech, and foul mood reveals far more about who we are than the object of our disgruntlement.  Two people could receive the same customer service and react completely differently.  Two aggravated people express themselves totally unlike one another.  The waitstaff may be lacking at a restaurant, and one encourages while another berates.  A teacher may have a bad day and one student might sympathize while another brutalizes. 

 

Paul urged Colosse, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:6).  This is said in the context of evangelism, though the principle prevails in all our interactions.  The late Wendell Winkler often said, “If you are not kind, you are the wrong kind.”  Are we cognizant of the power of our tongues to heal or kill (Pro. 18:21)?  Jesus says, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man” (Mat. 15:18).  More than once, my parents admonished me in my formidable years to “watch my mouth!” What sage advice for grown-ups, too! We might think we have good hearts, but our words reveal who we really are!

–Neal Pollard

Dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy

MATTIE, WHOSE FULL name was Matthew Joseph Thaddeus Stepanek, was born in Washington, D.C., on July 17, 1990…

He had a serious disability, dysautonomic mitochondrial myopathy.  His disability interrupted automatic functioning like breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and body temperature.  As a result, he needed a breathing tube and ventilator; a tube was inserted into the top of his heart to administer medicines and IV fluids.  Mattie was confined to wheelchair.  He died just weeks before his fourteenth birthday.

But that didn’t stop him from becoming a bestselling author and poet, an award-winning speaker, and a recognized advocate for disability and peacemaking.  All five of of Heart-songs series of poetry books were New York Times bestsellers.  Before he became confined to his wheelchair, he had earned a first-degree black belt in the martial art hapkido.

Despite the challenges of his situation, he was a practical joker who lived by the philosophy “Remember to play after every storm.”  Mattie’s enthusiasm for life was infectious, and people around the world were touched not just by the poetry he wrote and the words he spoke, but by the example of how he lived his life.

Mattie refused to allow circumstances to control his destiny.  Rather, he mastered his circumstances.

The fact is, all leadership begins with self-masteryYou can’t lead others until you can first lead yourself.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  To truly lead, and make a difference in the world, you must always start with yourself.”  Mark Sanborn, “The Six Principles of Leadership,” You Don’t Need A Title To Be A Leader, 27-28

“For a bishop must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, 8 but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, 9 holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict.”  Titus 1:7-9

— Mike Benson

 

What…happened…here…today?!

ONE AFTERNOON A man came home from work to find total mayhem in his house…

 

His three children were outside, still in their pajamas, playing in the mud, with empty food boxes and wrappers strewn all around the front yard.  The door of his wife’s care was open, as was the front door to the house.

 

Proceeding into the entry, he found an even bigger mess.  A lamp had knocked over, and the throw rug was wadded against one wall.  In the front room the TV was loudly blaring a cartoon channel, and the family room was strewn with toys and various items of clothing.  In the kitchen, dishes filled the sink, breakfast food was spilled on the counter, dog food was spilled on the floor, a broken glass lay under the table, and small pile of sand was spread by the back door.

 

He quickly headed upstairs, stepping over more toys and piles of clothes, looking for his wife.  He was worried she may be ill, or that something serious had happened.  He found her lounging in the bedroom, still curled up in the bed in her pajamas, reading a novel.  She looked up at him, smiled, and asked how his day went.

 

He looked at her in bewilderment and asked, “What…happened…here…today?!”

 

She smiled and answered, “You know every day when you come home from work and ask me what in the world did you do today?”

 

“Yes,” he replied incredulously.

 

“Well, today I didn’t do it…” 

 

THOUGHT:  We may not always see or perceive the extent to which someone has contributed to our family, whether in the church or at home, but let us make sure we express and show appreciation where it is due.  Jesse Wagner

 

“Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.”  Romans 13.7

 Mike Benson

In times past, the only women who flaunted themselves were women of low morality

Elegance is rare today because too many women have forgotten what it really means to be a woman. She has majesty and power inherent in her being. Elegance is simply an extension of their worth as God’s creation and her walk in the Lord.

Elegance means, “Refinement, grace, and beauty in movement, appearance, or manners; gracefully refined and dignified”

Women today see elegance as a relic of a male dominated society, taking them back to where they were simply the property of men.

As women have gained liberation, they can choose to live in a way that will elevate them to the level they deserve. Whether they are demeaned by choice or force, matters little in the end. Women deserve better than what is admired in today’s world.

Elegance allows her femininity to blossom like never before. Her character, intelligence and grace are more important than her body and she gains value as a person by focusing on who she is inside.

She realizes that her femininity is a gift that should never be cheapened by debased living.

Coco Chanel said, “Elegance is refusal.” It is the refusal to demean her name with the squalid and the shameful. Elegant women are comfortable in who they are.

God’s woman should know how God has blessed them in beauty, salvation and peace. Elegance when combined with humility is a powerful force.

Sadly, the worldly woman is more interested in profanity and sex appeal. Instead of elegantly floating above the filth of the world, they dive in and wallow.

Elegant women are calm, focused and gracious. A woman of elegance does not need controversy or drama. Elegant women fill a room with their strength, beauty and joy.

Restraint enhances her beauty and image.

In times past, the only women who flaunted themselves were women of low morality while the ladies of better society carried themselves with elegance and pride. Now society says that a fully-clothed woman has little value.

An elegant woman is modest, strong, independent and respectable. Elegance sees beyond itself and is able to live without fear of those around them. Elegance elevates her value, rising above the shallow and wasteful.

If women of God strove for elegance, the Church would make a bigger impact in the world. Christian women should dress, live, speak and walk above the world rather than imitating them in their weaknesses.

Christian women should be examples rather than willing participants in the downward spiral.

Scripture tells us to “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1, NKJV). A godly woman looks to Scripture for what a woman should be, instead of the street or fashion magazines.

Her morality is pure because she has pride in herself and remembers that God deserves the glory, not her (Ephesians 3:20-21). She has no interest in showing off her body, only her character and spirituality because in a spiritual world, where Christ reigns, that is truly what matters (Romans 12:1-2).

—  by Richard Mansel

Giving in secret

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

“Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.

But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:1-4 ESV).

The traditional contribution basket, so familiar in the United States, is not so common in South Asian countries like Bangladesh and Nepal.

There the favored implement for collecting donations in worship assemblies is the offering bag. This is typically a long narrow tube-like cloth bag held open at the top by a metal band, to which is attached one or two wooden handles.

The usher extends the bag to each worshipper who usually plunges his or her hand, holding their contribution tightly, deeply into the bag, preserving privacy as to the amount of their donation.

Most of the time everyone present in the assembly will give, even the very small toddlers. The amount of their gifts is normally modest, but so is their income. Their commitment to giving at least a little however is to be commended.

When Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5- 7), his emphasis was to define acceptable religion before God. It was not, as was popularly believed in his day, the outward ritualistic performance of such leaders as the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 5:20).

Rather he demanded a complete submission to God, in spirit and in flesh (Matthew 5:48).

In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus points out the inadequacy of the hypocrites external religious actions — notably giving, prayer and fasting. He does not criticize them for doing such things. In fact he makes it plain that true worshippers will perform those (and other) outward rites.

In each case he condemns the hypocrites for their motives (and consequential methods). He then says, “When you give (or pray or fast).” He makes it plain that the faithful will give, pray and fast. There is nothing wrong with these activities and we are not to demean them.

Jesus’ emphasis is that the motive and attitude behind ones actions may validate or invalidate them. All prayers (even some “in the name of the Lord”) are not heard. All gifts do not honor God. The worshipper must examine himself (1 Corinthians 11:29) to ensure the worthiness of his actions.

Some have taken Jesus’ statement in Matthew 6:3 that one is to be so secretive that he hardly knows what he is doing himself, as an excuse for miserly giving. The Sermon on the Mount is filled with extravagant expressions (“cut off your hand, pluck out your eye,”

etc.). These give emphasis and importance to his instructions. Our gifts (and all religious activity) are to honor God, not ourselves. We are not the focus of our rituals — God is.

Unfortunately, some may take advantage of the privacy provided by the offering bag to conceal their stinginess, not to show modesty in their giving. God sees in secret, and knows our hearts.

Such grudging gifts do not please God, or bring him honor (2 Corinthians 9:7). Rewards will no doubt be withheld. But the generous sincere gifts of genuine believers will be rewarded publicly, both now and eternally.

— by Michael E. Brooks

Did Paul really exist?

Recently, Paul’s bold claim struck me afresh: “Paul, an apostle (not from men, nor by human agency, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father…)” (Galatians 1:1).  Within just a few words, Paul quickly dismissed any doubt regarding the authority behind his commission.  It rested solely upon Christ and God.

 Powerful statement! If true, he has prepared his readers to be confronted with a message bearing genuine apostolic authority, a message worthy of scrutinizing attention.

 Enter the skeptic. Did Paul even exist?

 A simple line of reasoning appears to not only be instructive, but also to lead us to Jesus himself. The method involves merely seeking the best explanation for the book of Acts.

 Whether composed within fifteen years of when Paul’s missionary activity, as described as having occurred, as some believe, or even around thirty years later, as others ascribe, imagine the ruckus that would have arisen when Acts began to circulate if Paul had not made those missionary journeys!

 In every congregation where I have been a member, the old timers knew not only the history of their congregation, but also what well-known speakers had passed through. If Paul the apostle had not made those missionary journeys, voices of dissent would have arisen from Rome and Corinth to Philippi, Ephesus, Lystra, and both Antiochs! A repeating chorus would have been, “Paul is claimed to have done what here?”  Acts would have been rejected.

 Similarly, as those same early Christians read Acts’ portrayal of Saul of Tarsus, they would have naturally compared it with what they knew of Paul’s personal history. If it did not ring true, the book of Acts would have been rejected. The best explanation for Acts would seem to be that its story of Paul fit with their own congregational knowledge of, and experiences with, Paul.

 If this is true, then what can account for the conversion of the powerful young Saul of Tarsus, who possessed even personal access to the Sanhedrin and whose convictions against Christ ran so deep that he persecuted the church, into the Christ-driven missionary Paul?

 In Paul’s own words as recorded in Acts, “I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ He said to me, “I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting'” (Acts 22:7,8).

 Nothing short of seeing the risen Lord adequately explains why Saul would have abandoned his position and convictions to become the persecuted apostle Paul. 

As many have pointed out, the stark transformation of Saul of Tarsus is indicative that Christ has indeed been raised from the grave.

 Returning full circle to Paul’s letter to the Galatians, we hear Paul prepare us for the message of one who was commission by Christ himself and by God.  The best explanation is that not only does Paul’s apostleship not have a human origin, neither does the gospel.

—  by Barry Newton

Worry is debilitating and can take God from our lives.

We can immerse ourselves in God’s Word and remain tethered to the Lord through prayer and combat the attacks of Satan.

However, there are other strategies available to us.

One is to learn a coping technique. When Fibromyalgia came into my life in May 2010, I suddenly lost the ability to walk, some of the motor skills and strength in my hands and arms and was left with a great deal of pain.

During my treatment I attended a pain clinic and received a lot of guidance about the effects of stress, worry and the pressures of life on our bodies.

In order to deal with the stress and worry in my life, I developed a strategy that works for me. It can be adapted to fit someone else’s context.

Worry was one of the hallmarks of my life until I realized that I must end the cycle. Learning to deal with the forces assaulting me and my family, I was better able to handle their attacks.

While studying biofeedback at the pain clinic, I began to construct a cabinet in my mind. This cabinet is in front of me, but not attached to me. It has plenty of room to facilitate my needs. I placed all of my worries and fears in that cabinet.

The contents of that cabinet are real and viable. The responsibilities still need attention and the stresses of life still exist. But their weight is no longer on my shoulders. I can look at them and attend to them whenever I need to but they are not in me, eating at me like acid.

By removing them from within me, I feel liberated.

Self-preservation can push us to do things we would not normally do. I now handle stress and worry better than ever. I am calmer, more loving and gentle than before.

My fibromyalgia is still real and painful. I still stumble around and have trouble with my arms and hands but I am freer from the viciousness of worry. In that respect, fibromyalgia has been one of the best things to enter my life because it finally pushed me to cast off the beast.

The worrier, the addict, the obese and the sinner all face the urgency to turn their lives around. In some areas, we succeed and in other areas we fail. However, God can lead us through the wars if we will allow him to have the throne of our lives (Philippians 4:4-9).

—  by Richard Mansel

Does He ever get weary of my redundancy?

I will speak for me. I probably need to spend more time thinking about what I’m actually saying in my private prayers.

“Father in heaven…”

If I am not very careful, the phrase may constitute little more than a thoughtless, repetitive habit.

Strangely enough, I don’t talk to my earthly father that way, but I tend to do so with my heavenly Father.

Does He ever get weary of my redundancy?

What am I really saying when I articulate the words, “Father in heaven…”?

First, “Father” means I am a member of God’s family.

“For you are all sons of God through faith

in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were

baptized into Christ have put on Christ”

(Galatians 3:27).

Just as a suit which I put on envelops me and identifies my appearance, my immersion in water (Romans 6:3-4; cf. 1 Peter 3:20-21) was the culminating act of faith by which God added me to his spiritual household (1 Timothy 3:15) and identified me as his kin.

Second, “Father” means I am a recipient of God’s special provision.

“Or what man is there among you who, if his

son asks for bread, will give him a stone?

Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a

serpent? If you then, being evil, know how

to give good gifts to your children, how

much more will your Father who is in heaven

give good things to those who ask Him”

(Matthew 7:9-11)?

If I, as an earthly father, endeavor to meet the dietary needs and requests of my child, how much more (cf. Ephesians 3:20) will my heavenly Father accommodate the requirements (cf. Philippians 4:19; James 1:17) of my life (cf. Psalm 37:25)?

Third, “Father” means I am the beneficiary of God’s loving discipline.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of

the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are

rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He

chastens, and scourges every son whom He

receives” (Hebrews 12:5-6; cf. Proverbs

3:11-12).

Because God is my Father in heaven, he, on occasion disciplines me for my long term good (cf. Hebrews 12:9- 11). He wields the rod (Psalm 89:32; Proverbs 22:15) of pain and corrects me as an expression of his special relationship (Hebrews 12:8) with  me.

“Father in heaven…”

The phrase ought to be more than some rote recital of words. It should be an indelible imprint on my heart–that I have a Father who…

takes me in as his own

gives me all that I need

chastens me to help me mature.

— by Mike Benson

 

Flaws in Creation?

I still remember the first time I read the allegation that our biological world was not merely clumsily cobbled together by evolutionary forces, but modern engineers could have designed better living systems.

The assertion struck at the heart of the worldview asserting, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good” (Genesis 1:31).

One such attack comes from Kenneth Miller and Richard Dawkins, who contend that the vertebrate eye contains a functional flaw.

Since the optic nerve in vertebrates extends over the retina instead of protruding out from the back of the eye, Miller has claimed that its “visual quality is degraded because light scatters as it passes through several layers of cellular wiring before reaching the retina.”/1 In Dawkin’s words, the retina is “wired in backwards” because light sensitive cells face away from incoming light thus revealing “the design of a complete idiot.”/2

In contrast to their derisive analysis, further examination of the eye’s organizational design reveals optimization for visual acuity. If retinal cells were turned around to aim directly at the incoming light as Miller and Dawkins propose, this design would interfere with the blood supply needed for high-quality vision. Solving this problem would then require capillaries to lie over these light sensitive cells resulting in even greater blockage of light than the optic nerve!

Sometimes it just takes time to discover our ignorance. As of 2010, it was discovered that special “glial cells” cover the retina. These cells channel light through the optic nerve wiring directly onto photoreceptor cells keeping images clear.

This is hardly a clumsy cobbled together biological system. Rather, the vertebrate eye produces the highest degree of vision quality revealing the work of a Master Craftsman.

1/ Kenneth Miller, “Life’s Grand Design,” Technology

Review (February/March 1994), pp. 25-32.

2/ Richard Dawkins, The Greatest Show on Earth: The

Evidence for Evolution (Free Press, 2009), p. 354.

by Barry Newton

 

2 wives and a bald head

THERE IS AN old tale, attributed to Aesop, concerning a man who had two wives…

One was old; one was young.

The man was getting gray.

His younger wife did not want to be confused for his daughter, so when he was with her, while he was sleeping, she would pluck out his gray hairs.

The older wife welcomed the gray hairs. She was tired of being confused for his mother, so when he was with her, while he was sleeping, she would pluck out the dark hairs.

Soon, he was completely bald.

THOUGHT: If you try to please everyone, you will please no one.

“Finally then, brethren, we urge and exhort in the Lord Jesus that you should abound more and more, just as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God.” 1 Thessalonians 4.1

Mike Benson

Just as “freedom” from worldly oppression wasn’t “free,” neither is “freedom” from sin.

Today is America’s celebration of our independence from Great Britain.  It’s designed to be celebrated with merriment and joy.  With the idea of it being a happy occasion.  That’s all well and good, but I sometimes wonder if our “pursuit of happiness” takes precedence over remembering the cost of that independence.  We’re going to talk for a few moments today about “remembering” and the cost of “freedom.”

Just as “freedom” from worldly oppression wasn’t “free,” neither is “freedom” from sin.  Perhaps I should say from “slavery to sin.”  No, the price paid for that “freedom” was the death of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.  Another way to look at it is in parable form.

All of us are familiar with paying for something and sometimes the cost is dear for that “something.”  We don’t like to pay out our money and then not use the item we bought, do we?  Basically, that’s just a waste of the product that was so dearly paid for.

Yet, isn’t that exactly what we’re doing when we ignore the price God paid for man to have salvation?  To have “freedom” from sin?  In Luke 4:18 we read the  opening statement of Jesus’ ministry.  In it He tells us His purpose for coming to earth as a man. “He (God) hath anointed (given me my mission) to preach the gospel…..to preach deliverance to the captives (slaves to sin)…..to set at liberty them that are bruised.”

The Greek word for “bruised” means to be “broken down” or “oppressed.”  In Gal. 5:1 we find Paul describing it as the “yoke of bondage.”  And we understand that the term “yoke” always portrays the picture of being “captive” or of being indentured to something.  But especially, it gives us a picture of not being free.

America’s and the Christian’s “freedom” from oppression can also be seen parabolically, however, the main difference between America’s and our “freedom” from “oppression” is simply this.  America fought a war for our “freedom,” our “independence” and here is why I mention that and it takes us to this point of the lesson that I wish all to remember.

Israel’s “freedom” from slavery in Egypt is often used as a “type” for visualizing our “freedom” from sin.  And that’s okay to use that analogy, but when doing so, remember this: Israel did not gain their “freedom” because of anything they did.  They received their “freedom” because of what God did.  Our “freedom from sin” is just the same.  It’s not something we did to earn it, we only have it because of what God did.

Well, let’s start wrapping this lesson up with the rest of my thoughts today.  Let’s return to Christ’s opening statement that we read in Luke 4:18.  Recall, He said that He came “to preach the gospel.”   That this “gospel” would “deliver the captives” and “set at liberty” the oppressed (“bruised”).

Now, open your Bibles to the 6th chapter of Romans and we’ll see there this equation.  In verse 3 we read where “those who are baptized into Jesus, were baptized into His death.”  Then we go on down to verse 7 and there we read that if we’re “baptized” (dead in Christ) we are “freed from sin.”

But that’s not the end of the equation.  Just like we shouldn’t celebrate our country’s independence one day out of the year and then forget the cost that was paid for that “freedom,” parabolically speaking, we can spiritually do the same thing.

We can’t just be “baptized” and say “that’s it” can we?  Let’s go back to Gal. 5:1 and look at the entirety of that verse.  Paul tells us there to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.”

The celebration of our “freedom from sin” is not memorable just one day a year as is America’s remembrance of its liberty.  No, Christians have a day of “remembrance” set aside every first day of the week.  (Acts 20:7).  And a reading of 1 Cor. 11:23-29 gives us the details of this ceremony, this celebration.

That we “do this in remembrance of me.”  And that we always “stand fast” and never forget the sacrifice made for our “eternal freedom.

Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey

 

“Evangelism,” D.T. Niles once said, “is just one beggar telling another beggar where to get food.”

I have always been fascinated with David’s state of mind when he committed adultery with Bathsheba and tried to hide his actions by murdering her husband, Uriah the Hittite. It’s not as if David, brought up in Jesse’s godly household, the man “after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14), was unaware that adultery and murder were wrong.

Yet right up to the day of Nathan the prophet’s message, and that memorable ending to the sermon: “Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7), David seems to have maintained the fiction that he had been living uprightly.

How could he do that? What mental trick had he been playing on himself to hide the obvious, that he had done things that were profoundly wrong in God’s sight?

There was some pretty stunning self-deception going on here! If only this self-deception were all that unusual.

Yet when he writes Psalm 51, his attitude seems to have turned around completely. The man once in denial now expresses remorse in a confession as beautiful as it is unusual in human history. It’s hard, after all, for humans to admit fault.

The broken and contrite David, in the midst of his profoundly heartfelt outpouring of grief over his sin says something extraordinary:

“Then [that is, after God forgives him], I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you” (Psalm 51:13).

Which raises a great question: Is it a really good idea to have a sinner like David be an evangelist, the one to proclaim God’s message to others?

And this question leads naturally to another: What other kind of evangelist is there?

The only gospel proclaimers I know of are ones who have made mistakes. This is, by the way, not a bad thing. An evangelist who knows he too has made mistakes will be patient and compassionate, not judgmental and harsh to those he seeks to save.

“Evangelism,” D.T. Niles once said, “is just one beggar telling another beggar where to get food.”

David was not a perfect evangelist. No one is. But he would from now on be humble and contrite in his proclamation, as he was in his living. Men who have sinned, preach to men who have sinned.  You don’t have to be perfect to preach a perfect savior; you have a perfect savior so you can preach!

— by Stan Mitchell

A Fallstreak Hole

The older we become the more amazing things we see.  We’ve stood in awe of waterfalls, mountains, and canyons.  We’ve trembled before tornados, tsunamis, and volcanoes.  With the accessibility of social media, it can feel like we’ve pretty much seen it all, and then God shows us something new and incredible.  The rare phenomenon pictured above is called a Fallstreak Hole.  It was recently seen in Victoria, Australia (Grind TV).

A Fallstreak Hole only occurs under some specific conditions.  First of all, it almost only occurs in certain cloud formations (cirrocumulus and altocumulus).  Second, the water temperature in the clouds has to be below the freezing point but not yet frozen (known as “supercooling”).  Third, ice crystals need to form within these conditions and then set off a chain reaction where all the other surrounding water partials start freezing and then falling.  The end result is a hole in the sky.  In the picture above, when the sun hit the falling particles just right, it also produced a rainbow.

Only through God’s power that we have clouds at all, not to mention all of the other amazing things that come from clouds.  Jeremiah 10:12-13 says, “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens. When He utters His voice, there is a tumult of waters in the heavens, and He causes the clouds to ascend from the end of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, and brings out the wind from His storehouses.”

In His wisdom, God thought out, planned, and added special features into the creation so that we can stand in awe of His glory and power.  He has built in so many little wonders into the universe.  There is no telling what other mysteries God has incorporated into creation that we are yet to see.  When we come across them, let’s give God the praise and honor He deserves!

“Stumbling” or “falling” in the Bible

“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4 NKJV).

On several occasions I have had the privilege of trekking into the mountainous Himalayan districts of Nepal to visit congregations of believers and teach the Bible. I reflect back upon those hikes with wonder at how many times I slipped or stumbled and was literally upon the very edge of falling.

I actually did stumble and fall twice on my most recent such trip, but stayed on the trail and caught myself on my hands and knees without injury.  One of my companions also had a similar fall with the same results.

Most of the time, however, had I fallen, it would have been much more serious. Those circumstances involved steep up or down rock steps where a misstep would have resulted in a hard tumble for considerable distance, or a narrow trail on an almost sheer mountain-side. A fall from that might send one down hundreds or even thousands of feet.

Some readers might remember the old country song, “Please help me I’m falling.” Whether that is an emergency plea or a simple request for a hand back up depends to a very great degree upon where or in what circumstances the fall occurs. A slip on a soft surface may result in a slight bruise; a fall from the side of a mountain usually means broken bones or death.

Spiritually, any fall is of the most serious nature.

The Galatian Christians (see the verse quoted above) were on the point of rejecting salvation by grace through obedient faith in favor of a righteousness obtained by meritorious works of the Law of Moses (cf. Romans 9:31-10:4). Paul said such a decision would result in their fall from grace. Imagine losing all of the blessings and gifts which God has prepared for us, while doing what we think will acquire those same benefits. What a tragedy.

Other spiritual falls described in the Bible include:

Falling “short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Falling “into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition” (1 Timothy 6:9).

Falling “away” into apostasy or false teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:3).

Falling “into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

Falling “into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:7).

Falling “into disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).

Falling “away (from God)” (Hebrews 6:6).

Falling “into judgment” (James 5:12; compare also falling “into the hands of the living God, Hebrews 10:31).

Falling “from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Peter 3:17).

Falling “from your first works” (Revelation 2:5).

The consequence of any of these falls is, potentially, eternal destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9). Only obedient trust in Jesus can spare any human from the inevitable fall from God’s glory into sin. Only confession of and repentance from sins can spare the erring Christian from guilt and punishment (1 John 1:8- 9; 2:1-2).

One is prudent when walking on steep mountains to watch his step and avoid falls. One is much wiser who carefully avoids temptation, resisting the attempts of Satan to ensnare and condemn.

— by Michael E. Brooks