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Binding on heaven and earth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some people get special treatment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Hicks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ron Covey

Under three things the earth trembles, under four it cannot bear up

“Under three things the earth trembles, under four it
cannot bear up. A slave when he becomes king, and a
fool who is full of food; an unloved woman when she
gets a husband, and a maidservant when she displaces
her mistress” (Proverbs 30:21-23, ESV).

It was Barry Goldwater who said: “The United States is
a wonderful country where anyone can grow up to be
president…except me.”

We like the idea that in America, anyone who works hard
will get ahead. But it doesn’t always work like that.

Josh had worked hard in his firm for twenty years. His
first job was right out of high school doing errands.
He didn’t have the college training some of the others
had, but he made up for it in long hours and effort.

When his boss offered him the plant manager job, no one
was surprised; he had earned the chance. Here was a
rags-to-riches story that should have warmed the heart.

But he surprised his colleagues by becoming dictatorial
and unreasonable. The people he managed began to
fiercely resent his high-handed manner. He began to
wear eight hundred dollar suits and drive fancy cars.

Clearly the promotion had gone to his head. It
shouldn’t have, because he of all people should have
known what it was like for the ordinary folk, the ones
who sweated on the workshop floors, the ones who were
just starting out with families at the bottom end of
the rung.

Within a year management realized their mistake, and
Josh was transferred to a branch in North Dakota, the
business’ version of the Siberian salt mines.

Like a servant who becomes king, then takes on “airs,”
or an old maid who suddenly becomes a bride, then
treats her new husband with disdain, Josh had allowed
his good fortune to go to his head. He had forgotten
where he came from.

As Will Rogers once said, even a president is nothing
more than “our hired help.”

by Stan Mitchell

Do we look like Jesus because we too spend time with those outside of Christ?

Questions can reveal so much. Luke records that on one occasion the religious leaders complained to Jesus’

disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

Their attitude behind this question unmasks how repugnant this behavior seemed to them. Apparently, these religious leaders could not comprehend why anyone would rub shoulders and enter into the fellowship time of eating a meal with the sinfully stained. Their question exposed their value system.

Evidently, even before the disciples could defend their actions, Jesus explained why he spent time with the despised tax collectors and those with sullied reputations. He was on a mission to call sinners to repentance.

Values had clashed. Jesus promoted an active mindset where people mattered, not defensively protecting oneself through isolation.

However, this still leaves the question ringing in the air.

Why were the disciples spending time with people possessing reproachable reputations? Were they just guilty by association as those tagging along behind Jesus? Did they identify more with sinners than with saints? Were they actively learning how to live like Jesus? Or had they already captured something of Jesus’ sense of mission to the lost?

Answers can also reveal so much. Do we look like Jesus because we too spend time with those outside of Christ? Even more to the point, if we eat and drink with non-Christians what is our motive and purpose?

by Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

The power of women

I often hear one of my co-workers speak of “women power” at my home congregation.

He points out that much of what is accomplished in the Lord’s service is due to the efforts of so many godly ladies who work and worship in our congregation.

He’s spot on. Our women move mountains in their homes, in the congregation, in the community, as well as abroad (e.g., Tanzania).

The past couple of weeks I’ve been reading through Exodus 2, in preparation for an upcoming sermon. And the more I’ve poured over the text, the more I can’t help but notice a certain feminine prowess at work:

Jochebed, in direct defiance of Pharaoh’s orders, hid her precious son for three months (v. 2).

When she could no longer hide him, she prepared an ark- basket, placed her son (and heart) within, and left him at the edge of the Nile among the reeds (v. 3).

Pharaoh’s own daughter, in the providence of God, showed up at the exact right time, at the exact right place, found baby Moses, and rather than killing him, took him in (vv. 5- 6). Eventually she adopted the boy as her son and raised him, of all place, in Pharaoh’s palace (v. 10).

Miriam, Moses’ babysitter, kept special watch on her brother.

When Pharaoh’s daughter found Moses, she quickly intervened and offered to secure a wet nurse for the child-who just happened to be his very own mother (vv.
7-9).

I can’t help but stifle a chuckle when I read how hard Pharaoh was working to murder all of the Hebrew boys (cf. 1:16, 22).

He was concerned about Hebrew man power. Little Hebrew boys would eventually grow up into formable soldiers.

Pharaoh probably should been equally concerned about Hebrew women power–exhibited by the likes of Jochebed and Miriam.

These ladies had power because they exhibited incredible faith (cf. Hebrews 11:23; James 2:14-26)!

As I think about it, raising a child in this old wicked world today is not unlike it was thousands of years ago in Egypt. Children are obviously at risk; their lives- spiritually and physically are, at times, in peril.

Godly Christian mother’s exhibit special care and try to raise and protect their offspring from the evil one (cf. 1 Timothy 3:12; Titus 2:4).

They try to shield their children from all that that will harm their lives and souls.

They cover their children’s eyes when sin is openly advanced in on TV and the internet.

They cover their children’s ears when illicit behavior is applauded in popular music.

They cover their children’s bodies when immodesty is pushed upon them by their peers.

I was richly blessed by such a lady. Many of you were too.

Take a moment today to thank heaven for her. You’re probably here today because she had some power (Proverbs 31:29-31).

by Mike Benson

Preachers meeting people at the door

There is a time-honored tradition of the preacher meeting people at the door as they exit the building after worship. Few Christians give any thought to how fragile and weighty that moment can be.

As soon as the last amen is uttered, the race begins.
Attendees who don’t want to talk nearly run out the door. The preacher is outnumbered and barely gets a chance to shake a few hands as the wave moves past him.

Various threads are possibly running through his head.

* He wishes he could make more of an impact on those fleeing attendees.

* He’s wishing he could have been more effective in his sermon.

* He’s wondering how many were in attendance.

* He’s hoping people were edified and affected by the sermon.

Those in attendance leave; children rushing, parents chasing, brethren chatting. As they file past the preacher they may share a greeting, handshake or hug and maybe a perfunctory “good sermon” or “enjoyed your lesson.”

A kind word is always appreciated but when it’s uttered out of habit or compulsion, it doesn’t carry the same weight. The preacher is looking at people’s faces wondering how they were impacted by the sermon.

If no one says anything about the lesson, the preacher is left wondering. Satan may seek an inroads to discouragement (1 Peter 5:8). Preachers are susceptible like anyone else (Romans 3:23).

Many preachers are passionate about God’s Word and they spend many hours preparing their sermons. He puts all he has into the lesson and would probably enjoy discussing the sermon to get some feedback.

Sound preachers are special people and deserve our respect (Romans 10:15). The least we can do is support them.

* Offer genuine comments about the sermon.

* Let him know what parts touched you.

* Engage and edify.

* Ask constructive questions.

* Inspire him to keep going.

* Show appreciation.

It’s easy to take the commonplace for granted. We must make a conscious effort to be better. A great place to start is helping preachers grow in confidence and resolve. While sometimes silence is golden, it is often deadly and dispiriting.

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

God and the Bible have been forgotten in contemporary worship

It is obvious that many Christians and religious people have forgotten the purpose of worship. They think men are the audience and separating people from their money is their ultimate goal.

Their version of worship is resplendent with the brightest lights, singers, equipment, technologies and talent available. These Hollywood-type productions will spare no expense to keep people and their checkbooks coming to their productions.

Simply stated, God and the Bible have been forgotten in contemporary worship. We can be assured that God has noticed and is none too pleased (Leviticus 10:1-2).

Instead of being nauseated by the behavior of church- businesses, we can become envious of their money and crowds. We begin to rationalize and ignore God’s will until we have found a way to get the traffic into our pews and pockets.

For those who have dollar signs in their eyes, let me ask a few questions:

* Where did God say that humanity is the intended audience for our worship?
* How much money has to be spent on worship before God is pleased?
* Where is the criterion for how exciting our worship must be?
* How good must we perform before God accepts our worship?

God has simple goals for our worship (John 4:24). We must always remember that God is our audience (Matthew 4:9-10), and we must connect with him spiritually and in truth as God has commanded in Scripture (1 Corinthians 4:6).

It is rebellious to offer God what he has not dictated in the New Testament (Colossians 3:17; Hebrews 12:28).
Every definition of worship requires submission, reverence, awe and respectful fear.

God will never tolerate us putting a god in front of him, especially money (Exodus 20:1-5). Jesus was very clear on this matter when he overturned the tables of the moneychangers (Matthew 21:12-16; Mark 11:15-19).

“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a
house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den
of thieves'” (Matthew 21:13, NKJV).

Today, Jesus may not bring a whip into our buildings but these thieves will still meet the wrath of the Lord in the end unless they repent (Revelation 19:20-21; 20:11-15; Luke 13:3-5). Sadly, they will take a lot of deluded theater-goers with them.

–by Richard Mansel

Dining With the Devil (a good quote)

To hear some people speak, you would think that all it takes to make a church grow is to advertise, let people know about “product benefits,” and be nice to newcomers. Now the latest church growth study on the effective use of parking lots has its place, but this should never take the place of an examination of the church’s earliest church growth study, the Bible.

Os Guinness recalls a Japanese businessman visiting Australia who made this observation: “Whenever I meet a Buddhist leader, I meet a holy man. Whenever I meet a Christian leader, I meet a manager” (Dining With the Devil, page 49).

The poor man didn’t know the half of it. In Modern Christianity, ministers pose as coaches, entertainers, counselors and corporate CEO’s. Church growth gurus are obsessed with statistics and data, often at the expense of eternal truth. Churches exalt numbers, and fall down before methods in a manner that verge on idolatry.

I like the way the Apostles referred to their particular ministry. “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God…but we will devote ourselves to prayer and the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:2, 3 ESV). In its desire to meet a market or build good self-images, the church is in danger of forgetting its major function, to know God’s word and to proclaim it.

Susanna Wesley, the mother of John and Charles, told her boys: “Either this book (the Bible) will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from this book.” It is the church’s peculiar function to spend time in examination of God’s word, and in presenting it to the community.

If the church does not take the time and effort to study the word of God, then who will? If the church does not proclaim God’s word, then who will?

by Stan Mitchell

A “friendship pact”

Closer Than a Brother

B.H. McDaniel was a very successful orthodontist with a thriving practice. He also loved to fly his plane for a hobby. One day, he was flying from El Paso, TX to Lufkin, TX, when the engine stalled, and he couldn’t start it again. He was over the Davy Crockett National Forest, so an emergency landing was going to be almost impossible. But God was with him every step of the way. He looked down and saw an opening among the trees. He tried to set the plane down in the little spot, but it was too short for landing. His plane hit hard, skidded into the trees on the other side of the field and broke into flames. B.H. broke his back in the crash and lay helpless as the fire began to burn.

By the providence of the Lord, a farmer saw the plane go down and hurried to the wreckage. He pulled the Doctor to safety just in time, as the aircraft was engulfed in flames.

B.H. was taken to a local hospital. That started the long journey of healing, then therapy. It was going to take over two years to get even limited use of his legs back. Naturally that was to wreak havoc on his orthodontic practice.

Enter Dr. Stephen Kerr. Stephen had attended dental college in the early days with B.H. and they had become fast friends. One school day without really thinking about it, the two men made a “friendship pact” (much like David and Jonathan in the Bible) that they would take care of the other’s family in case something happened. Then they went on without ever really thinking about it.

Now something had happened! There was B.H. lying paralyzed in a hospital bed. He opened his eyes to see Stephen standing in the room. It was good of him to come to B.H. and give support in his darkest hour. But he did more than that. Stephen was there to stay. He was an orthodontist also. He immediately went home to Houston and shut down his own practice. He sold his home; then, he and the entire Kerr family moved to El Paso to run the clinic for B.H. He purchased a portion of B.H.’s practice (to give him cash) and then shared the profits with him to give B.H. an income.

That kindness lasted 12 years! That’s right! He did the work and shared the income with B.H. until the injured man could get around — first on crutches, then canes, and when he could sit to do his work. Only then did Stephen sell his interest in the business back to B.H. and go home.

“How do you thank a friend like that?” Asked B.H. “You couldn’t if you tried 100 years” *

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24

Because of our sin, you and I were facing the “plane wreck” of eternal destruction (cf. Matthew 7:13-14), but Jesus came to us (see John 1:14). But He did more than that. He died on the cross to pay the price for our sins (Ephesians 1:7) so that we might live eternally with Him in heaven.

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13. Jesus demonstrated this kind of love for us. He is a Friend that sticks closer than a brother.

How do you thank a friend like that? You can’t, even if you tried 1,000 years! But you CAN be grateful, and you CAN accept His offer of salvation by placing your faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

Won’t YOU?

David A. Sargent

Fifty Shades of Grey

It was very disappointing. I wish the information I discovered was false, but it wasn’t. Some might not care at all about this person; others may have a vested interest. The problem is that I, along with many others, have been a fan of this person for several years now. In fact, he was one of the most influential reasons why I rooted for Seattle over New England in this year’s super bowl. I suppose it actually isn’t all that surprising considering this person’s profession, but he is known to be a religious person and often seems to hold high moral standards. In fact, he posts a Scripture every day on his twitter account. The person I’m referring to is Russell Wilson.

Recently, Russell Wilson went to see Fifty Shades of Grey, a movie that has been very well documented for its blatant immoral content. He tweeted out, “Thanks for the early showing of #50ShadesOfGrey late last night…great movie” (Bleacher Report). Several fans responded with shock and disapproval. One person said, “I’m more than a little confused, Russell. I thought you professed to be a Christian….” This response was echoed several times over by others. What was most disappointing was Wilson’s response to these people, “Saw a movie filmed in the town I call home. Provocative/disturbing no doubt but that does not make me less Faithful. Have a blessed day!” (ibid). How disappointing.

There is huge disconnect in our world and Wilson’s statement further pinpoints the problem. Supporting and exposing ourselves to sin most definitely makes us less faithful! It’s puzzling how anyone can claim to be faithful and support clearly identified filth. Our world doesn’t really know what it means to be faithful. Let’s go to Scripture to help understand what being faithful really means.

Being faithful means fleeing from sin (2 Timothy 2:22)
Being faithful means denying fleshly desires (Matthew 16:24).
Being faithful means living in purity (1 Thess. 4:3-5).
Being faithful means hating what is wicked and evil (Proverbs 8:13).
Being faithful means putting God first (Matthew 6:33).
Being faithful means loving God with heart, soul, mind, and strength (Luke 10:27).
Being faithful means being true to God for life (Revelation 2:10).
Being faithful means becoming a true Christian in the first place (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:26-27; 1 Peter 3:21).

Certainly we could fill pages and pages with similar Scriptures, but all of these communicate what it really means to be faithful. If there is even the tiniest sliver of faithfulness displayed in Fifty Shades of Grey, it’s extremely well hidden by barefaced sin. It makes no sense how anyone can claim to be faithful and at the same time support such cinematic filth. Let’s not forget that faithfulness is not a permanent state, it can be lost (Galatians 5:4; 2 Peter 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.

What we do, say, and support says a great deal about our true faithfulness to God. All of our actions will be brought to judgment (Matthew 12:36; Ecclesiastes 12:14). Let’s strive for true faithfulness, one that is comprised of unwavering love and dedication to the Lord!

–Brett Petrillo

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven

All people in the world are watching our words and deeds. Jesus teaches, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). Jesus is calling for a “walking confession,” a life which is an open book.

The Christian’s life is a manual, revealing what a Christian talks and acts like (Matt. 5:16). It is a cookbook, showing the necessary ingredients which combine for a rich, full life (2 Pet. 1:5-11). It is a code book, the reading of which will safely point others to the place of God’s acceptance (1 Tim. 4:12; Rom. 12:1-2). It is a thriller in that it is bound by all the spiritual blessings that are to be had (Eph. 1:3). It is a medical book in that it reveals the evidences of the Great Physician (Mark 2:17; Jer. 8:22). It is a suspense because the best is yet to be for the Christian as “it does not yet appear what we shall be…” (1 John 3:2). The Christian is read very carefully by “all men” (2 Cor. 3:2). As our lives are read, what notes do the readers place in the margin? If they were to label the book of our lives, what would they say? “Couldn’t put it down!” (Titus 2:8)? “This book contains error” (1 John 4:6)? “Easy to follow” (1 Tim. 2:2)? “Discard” (Rev. 3:14-19)? “Pages missing” (2 Pet. 1:9)?

Peter found it very easy to confess the Lord before the other disciples. He vowed, “Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33). Before the next morning’s light hit his face, Peter had denied his Lord three times before men (Luke 22:54ff). The camaraderie of other believers put Peter to no test, but out there in the world Peter failed the test. Perhaps arrogance contributed to his denial. Obviously, fear was involved. The prospect of ostracism and rejection led to his cowardice.

If an apostle would stumble at confessing Christ before men, what about you and I? Separated from the pull and pressures of the world when in the assemblies, we have no difficulty preaching (or hearing), singing, and praying our devout faith in Jesus. But, when the support group disbands to address life’s daily affairs and the group becomes individuals scattered into different jobs, neighborhoods, schools, and homes, do our lives confess Him? Do we tell others by our actions that Christ is our Lord? Do we show them that He is first (Matt. 6:33)? Out there (in the world) is where Jesus’ conditional statement in Matthew 10:32-33 applies. If we “stick up” for Christ in the daily tests, then He will reward our triumph over temptation. Out there is where Christ needs others to see our confession and read our lives.

–Neal Pollard

Man’s thoughts are futile

Don’t we preach mind over heart, the thought process superior to the emotions? And we’re right to do so.
Except that the mind needs regeneration as much as any other part of us.

Man’s thoughts are futile. “The Lord does indeed know human thoughts, knows that they are nothing but a puff of air” (Psalm 94:11 CEB; Ephesians 4:17).

Man’s thoughts often miss the mind of God, like Naaman’s, when he said, “I thought” (2 Kings 5:11).

Man’s thoughts are selfish, like Hezekiah’s, when he was relieved that God’s punishment would not fall upon him, but upon his children (2 Kings 20:19).

Man’s thoughts are abhorrent to God. “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord, but gracious words are pure” (Psalm 15:26 ESV).

Man’s thoughts must be abandoned, because God’s thoughts are so far above and beyond them (Isaiah 55:7-9).

Man’s thoughts focus on the present and on what is material, because they give “no thought of [the] future” (Lamentations 1:9 ESV).

Man’s thoughts are evil, from which spring all sorts of sin and perversity (Matthew 15:19).

Man’s thoughts conclude that money can buy everything, even leading him to try to buy God’s gifts with money (Acts 8:20).

Man’s thoughts are conflicting, always a bad sign (Romans 2:15).

Man’s thoughts belong to the realm of the prince of the powers of the air, “carrying out the inclinations of [his] flesh and thoughts” (Ephesians 2.1-3 HCSB).

So man’s thoughts must be changed by the work of God.
We must “let God change the way [we] think” (Romans
12:2 CEV).

Man’s thoughts must be taken “captive to make [them] obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NET).

Then, and only then, will we have “Christ’s way of thinking” (1 Corinthians 2:16 ERV).

by J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

What’s the cure to peer pressure?

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe” (Proverbs 29:25, ESV).

Ben walked in on the basketball team by surprise, and found them smoking marijuana. With startling swiftness they surrounded him making their demand. He stretched out his hand and took the smoldering joint.

Ranged round him like a wolf pack were his teammates, every eye locked on to him. The pressure was more intense than a Vick’s Vapor rub, clogging his chest. He couldn’t refuse the marijuana because he had seen all the others inhaling the drug.

They wanted him – needed him — to be similarly compromised. The only way to ensure that he did not tell Coach was to have him inhale the pungent smoke.

There was a light in their eyes, shining with the fierceness of the predator. “Come on, take it Ben! Be one of the guys,” one said, but it sounded more like a threat than an invitation.

Peer pressure is not the sole preserve of the teenager, of course. Consider the preacher who compromises God’s message for the sake of popularity, or the businessman who deceives his clients because his competitors are “way ahead” of him.

So what’s the cure to peer pressure? Solomon tells us it’s the willingness to “trust in the Lord.” You will fear men a little less if you fear God a little more!

–by Stan Mitchell

Boro Sap!

“If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a
perfect man, able also to bridle the whole
body. Indeed, we put bits in horses’ mouths
that they may obey us, and we turn their
whole body. . . . Even so the tongue is a
little member and boasts great things”
(James 3:2-5 NKJV).

The intercom at Khulna Bible College rang in my apartment and I picked up to hear the cook, Shova, say only “boro sap” (big snake).

She has almost no English, and I have only a little Bangla, but we can communicate that message at least.
All the personnel know that I enjoy seeing the animals, birds and plants that come onto the campus, and they try to inform me when something new is seen.

It is normal for us to have snakes on campus occasionally. Most are harmless and even helpful in that they eat rodents and other pests. Sometimes though dangerous snakes can also appear.

Not long ago we had a small cobra, only about 2 feet long, but still very deadly to anyone who was careless or caught unawares.

This cobra caused much more concern than the two Checkered Keelbacks (non-poisonous) we found at about the same time which were more than double its size.

When it comes to snakes, size means little. Their inherent nature is everything. A tiny snake full of venom is far more dangerous than a huge non-poisonous one.

James reminds us that sin is like that. One does not have to be a mass murderer or serial child molester to be guilty and condemned in the eyes of God.

“Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).

All sin is rebellion and all rebellion separates from God and results in death(Romans 3:23; 6:23).

The tongue is an excellent example. Though it is small, it has influence and power far beyond its size. Like the tiny spark that kindles a great fire (James 3:5), the tongue may incite rebellions, destroy reputations, or cause the loss of innumerable souls.

Many historians credit Adolf Hitler’s rise to power partly to his abilities as an orator. He won the people of Germany to himself and to his evil policies through his popular speeches.

No one can number the lives ruined by malicious lies and rumors. And only God will know the number of souls that will ultimately be lost because they believed and followed “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Even many Christians today however minimize the importance of their speech. “It was only a little white lie,” they say. Gossip, slander, rumors, and half- truths are spread energetically to all that will listen.

Modern communications make the matter even worse. What the grapevine took days to spread now may Twitter around the world in seconds. Our tongues have more power for both good and evil than ever. How are we using them?

Paul’s command is very timely:

“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your
mouth, but what is good for necessary
edification, that it may impart grace to the
hearers” (Ephesians 4:29).

It is just as easy to say a profitable word as it is one that is harmful. And it is far better.

James agrees, and notes that the Christian’s tongue must not be divided, speaking both good and evil.

“Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and
cursing. My brethren, such things ought not
to be so” (James 3:10).

Little snakes can kill. Little words can destroy. Let us control our tongues and strive to be perfect.

by Michael E. Brooks

$10 billion on beauty aids every year

Growing Older
(originally written in 2009, and adapted here)

A news item a few years ago pointed out that Americans spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $10 billion on beauty aids every year. A large portion of these beauty aids are designed to specifically target signs of aging.

Unfortunately, our modern society glorifies youth and age is something you try to hide. A separate item pointed out that female Hollywood actors can pretty well expect to be out of a job at about age 40. Hollywood is not the only industry that ignores the talents and skills of the elderly.

I once read that when Ty Cobb was 70, a reporter asked him, “What do you think you’d hit if you were playing these days?” Cobb, who was a life-time .367 hitter, said, “About .290, maybe .300.” The reporter said, “That’s because of the travel, the night games, the artificial turf, and all the new pitches like the slider, right?” “No,” said Cobb, “it’s because I’m 70.” There is a certain fearful expectation of growing old. It frightens us. Perhaps that is why David prayed, “Do not cast me off in the time of old age; Do not forsake me when my strength fails” (Psa. 71:9). Jonathan Swift put it like this: “Every man desires to live long, but no man wants to be old.” With old age comes a number of infirmities. Heath fails, the mind becomes forgetful, and our life in general slows down, either voluntarily or of necessity. How should the Christian view the aging process? And what should be our attitude toward those who have attained unto three-score years of age and beyond? When God gave Israel her law, one of the things the Almighty stressed was respect for the aged: “Thou shalt rise up before the hoary head, and honor the face of the old man” (Lev. 19:32). “The hoary head is a crown of glory; It shall be found in the way of righteousness.” (Pro. 16:32). “The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head.” (Pro. 20:29, KJV). Seeing that I originally wrote this article while doing mission work in Kathmandu, Nepal, I found the following item somewhat interesting:

When ABC’s 20/20 cohost, Hugh Downs visited Nepal, he discovered it is “polite” to ask a person’s age and to call someone old is a compliment in Nepal. Someone in their mid fifties typically seems embarrassed about their immature age, but they are usually comforted if the inquirer encouragingly says, “Don’t feel bad, you’re getting there.” In Nepal they take heed to Proverbs 16:31, “Gray hair is a crown of splendor.”

In January 2014 I made my first trip to the Philippines to preach God’s word. Like their neighbor across the Indian Ocean, the Philippines have great respect for those who have reached the point in their life where there are more years behind them than before them. There are certain social benefits that go with getting older. But most of all, there seems to be a deep respect on the part those who are younger for the older people in their society.

As we grow older there is the great danger that we consider ourselves no longer useful to the church or society. Let us never forget that Noah was six hundred years old before God called him to be the preserver of the human race. Moses was eighty before he returned to Egypt to lead Israel out of bondage. History has shown us that many an artist, poet, or composer was just reaching their apex in life in their sixties, seventies, and even their eighties or nineties. There are too many godly men and women who, upon retirement from their lifelong careers, retire from the Lord’s work as well. God did not tell us to remain faithful until we retire, but “unto death” (Rev. 2:10).

We need you now more than ever. Your energy may not be what it used to be, and your thinking process may be a little slower. But, as one aptly stated, “It is true that youth is faster, but it is also true that age is more accurate.” Please, do not become idle. Do not give in to the “rocking chair syndrome.” My generation needs your wisdom to help us through many of the same struggles you faced when you were our age. Meanwhile, “Thank You” for showing us the way. Only eternity will reveal the good that so many of you have done in the sunset years of your life. For those who keep on keeping on in spite of your aches and pains; for those who have set an example for us in faithful attendance and godly living; for those who continue to tell others the sweet, sweet story of Jesus even if those to whom you speak think your words are the ranting of an old man or old woman. To you we express our thanksgiving. May your number increase!

In connection with this week’s article, brother Hugh Fulford sent me this essay, author unknown:

AND THEN IT IS WINTER

I wonder where all the years went! I know that I lived them all. You know, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. Yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams. But here it is, the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise.

How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my youth go? I remember through the years seeing older people and thinking that they were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like.

But here it is! My friends are retired and getting gray. They move slower and I see in them an older person. Some are in better shape and some are in worse shape than am I, but I see the great change-they no longer are like the ones I remember who were young and vibrant-but like me, their age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we would be. Each day now I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore-it is mandatory!-because if I don’t on my own freewill I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things that I wish I had done but never did. But, at least I know that though the winter has come, and I’m not sure how long it will last, that when it’s over on this earth it’s over. A new adventure will begin!

Yes, I have regrets. There are things I wish I hadn’t done and things I should have done. But there are many things I am happy to have done. It’s all in a lifetime.

If you are not yet in your winter let me remind you that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life, please do it quickly! Don’t put things off too long! Life goes by so quickly. Do what you can today, as you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not. You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of life. Live for today and say all the things that you want your friends and loved ones to remember. And hope that they appreciate and love you for all the things that you have done for them in all the years past (and that they will forgive you for the things you should have done but didn’t).

Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who come after. Make it a fantastic one.

Proverbs 24:27

“Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field; and after that build your house”
(Proverbs 24:27, ESV).

Every chance I got I would go into that store and gaze at the display case. There they were, four Matchbox cars, replicas of vintage cars, a perfect set. Every time I entered the dark interior of the store, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the indoor light, I was fearful. Had somebody already bought the set?

In the meantime, I was saving my allowance money as fast as I could, astonishing parents and neighbors with offers to do jobs for a little extra. It took months to save up enough money. The wait was excruciating.

Today we live in a world of instant gratification. Lay a credit card down! Don’t wait until you can afford the item you dream of, get it instantly, pay for it eternally!

When do you pay it back? Anybody with a credit card debt knows that monthly payments are like lightly salting the ocean — it takes forever, and cripples the family finances in the meantime.

The wise man understood this. Ensure the source of your income first, before paying for a luxurious house. Live within your means. Save up to buy the objects of your desire.

By the way, I bought those Matchbox cars eventually.
They were worth the wait!

–by Stan Mitchell

The 25th chapter of Numbers

This will be the last post till 2/10

The 25th chapter of Numbers reveals to us a very sordid chapter in the history of Israel. The men of Israel are drawn into committing fornication with the women of Moab and are then enticed to worship and sacrifice to the their Gods. It is a picture of great numbers of the children of God giving themselves over to complete wickedness. Numbers 31:13-16 supports the premise that this was the result of Balaam advising Balak that this was the way to gain a victory over Israel even if it would only be for a short period of time. The doctrine of Balaam said, “Entice with the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh” and it worked. It is a doctrine founded on the desire to do whatever we want to do even when we know it is wrong and is forbidden by God.

My thoughts run in two directions as I think about this doctrine of Balaam. First, I think of this great nation in which we live. America seems bent on destruction at this hour. God and his word are being cast aside and he is no longer given the glory and honor that belongs to him. When I think about what took place with Israel in the long ago, I look at the America in which I live and I see her wallowing in a cesspool of sexual immorality. One in which homosexuality and lesbianism are being elevated to the level of absolute acceptance advancing to the point in which same sex marriage is being accepted (Rom. 1:22-32, 2 Tim. 3:1-5, Prov. 14:34). Sometimes I wonder, where will it all end? I think I know the answer as well as you. Secondly, my thoughts turn to the church and her members for you see the doctrine of Balaam is alive, well and thriving among us today. It says to us that God wants us to be happy so we can have Christ, we can be saved, we can inherit eternal life and at the same time engage ourselves in any activity we desire, the works of the flesh mean nothing (Gal. 5:19-21). We can gamble, dance, drink alcoholic beverages, enjoy all the worldly amusements and recreations we want to. We can engage in adultery, covetousness, all manner of lascivious living. We can bow down to the false God of our choosing be it homes, possessions, family, money, entertainment, recreation and the list goes on and on. After all, God does not mean what he says and he loves us too much to punish us (Rom. 11:22, 1 Cor. 10:6-12). My friends, I for one, do not believe that God has ever winked at any of this nor has he ever closed his eyes to it or looked the other way and I don’t believe he ever will.

We preachers love to preach on doctrine and that is needed but it is for the most part safe ground on which to tread. We so badly need preaching and teaching on purity of life, honesty, truthfulness, marriage, divorce, remarriage, abstaining from the appearance of evil and all those things it takes to be an example of the believer (1 Tim. 4:12). We need lots of teaching on those things that will help us to know how to behave ourselves in the house of God (1Tim. 3:15).

Charles Hicks

“Everyone Else Is Doing It”

Sometimes people attempt to justify their sinful conduct on the basis of “well everyone else is doing it.” If “everyone else” is dressing immodestly, what are we going to do? If “everyone else” is going to a “must see” R-rated movie, what are we going to do? If “everyone else” is lying, stealing, or cheating what are we going to do?

In the days of King Nebuchadnezzar, “everyone else” was bowing down and worshiping his golden image (see Dan. 3:1-7). But what did Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego do? They said “let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods…” (Dan. 3: 18). These men loved the Lord and courageously served him regardless of what everyone else was doing.

May we too have the courage to be different. Brethren, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2). God’s children are not to follow in the sins of others, but are to lead others out of darkness and into the light.

– by David McPherson

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