NEITHER POVERTY NOR RICHES

Linda was on vacation, playing the slot machines.  It was her first time in a casino, and she wasn’t sure how the machines operated.

“Excuse me,” she said to a casino employee.  “How does this work?”  The worker showed her how to insert a bill, hit the spin button, and operate the release handle.

“And where does the money come out?” she asked.

He smiled and motioned to a far wall before saying, “Usually at the ATM.”

That’s the trouble with gambling and other “get rich quick” schemes. There’s only one person getting rich, and it’s not you!  The lure is strong, though.  The temptation to come away with that big jackpot, to go home with your pockets full without putting forth much effort.  It’s easy to see that Paul was right when he said, “Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare….” (I Tim. 6:9a)

Considering the constant temptation of money, it’s not surprising that Jesus had much to say about the subject.  It is significant, though, that Jesus didn’t talk as much about what to do with our money as he talked about the right kind of attitude we ought to have toward it.

Solomon, in his pearls of wisdom contained in Proverbs, also had much to say about our attitude toward wealth.  One of my favorite verses on the subject is this one:

“Give me neither poverty nor riches — Feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, “Who is the LORD?”  Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.” (Prov. 30:8b-9)

May you be sufficiently blessed.  But may your riches (or your desire for them) never diminish your sense of need for God.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

There’s a vast difference between attending services and being the church.

THE CHRISTIAN LIFE is something we do together…

 

In Ephesians 4.29, God tells us to build each other up with our words, and later He instructs us to “speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs” (5.19).

 

We need other Christians to speak, sing, and sometimes shout the truths of God’s Word to us.  We need others to pray for us when we’re in the midst of temptation.  We need friends who will hold on to us when we’re ready to give up.  We need friends who will challenge and even rebuke us when we’re indulging in sin.

 

Are you connected to others in the church?  Many people today have lost their vision for the Lord’s church.  I used to be one of those people.  I thought of “church” as merely a building or a place to go for social interaction.  I always went to services, but my lifestyle revealed what a low priority it was for me.  The church was something on the outskirts of my life.  Joshua Harris, “Lone Rangers are Dead Rangers,” Not Even A Hint, 134

 

THOUGHT:   There’s a vast difference between attending services and being the church.  

Mike Benson

 

“And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.”  Ephesians 1.22-23

What can members do for their elders?

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will 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).

This passage expresses a kind of enlightened self- interest on the part of church members. If you maintain an automobile, change its oil and filters occasionally, it might run well for you; if you thank teachers they might be encouraged and redouble their efforts to teach your children. If you treat elders in a certain manner, they will be able to shepherd your congregation better. So, what can members do for their elders?

* They can come to worship without being bribed, begged and cajoled. They can come just because it’s the right thing to do.

* They can support the church’s programs because they know the way to kill a program is to simply be absent.

* They can volunteer to participate in the church’s program, removing the awkward moment of wearily asking yet another member to help the world’s most important organization, the church.

* They can see the congregation’s needs as a whole, not just that of their demographic group or clique. After all, that’s what an elder has to do, consider all the parts of the congregation.

* They can understand that some decisions will be made with information not available to members.

Sometimes elders become privy to member problems that are private and do not need to be “aired on Channel 7.”

* They can assume good faith on the part of their elders, that these men love the Lord, love the church, and love the flock they serve.

What can members expect from elders?

* They can expect more than decision-making, but actual shepherding.

* They can expect more than decision-making, they can expect to be taught God’s word.

* Having said that, they should expect decision- making to occur. Being an elder is a leadership position; some members don’t want to be led, they want, without sufficient qualifications or maturity, to make unilateral decisions.

* They can expect transparency in those areas that require transparency; the church budget, for instance, is not a national secret. They can expect to be included, for instance, in the process of selecting new elders and deacons.

* They can expect that elders lead Christian lifestyles. The elder is an example to the flock (1 Peter 5:1,2).

* They can expect decisions to be thought over and prayed for. How many times have we heard people say, “We wish the elders would make decisions more quickly”? I have a counter question: Do you want them to make decisions hastily?

Remember this: The elders are not here to decide doctrine and teaching; the Bible has already done that. They are here to make discerning, wise decisions in matters of judgment. How often and when to worship? Who to hire as minister? What kind of outreach program? What missions do we support (note, not “Will we support missions?” but “Which missions should we support?”). What methods do we use to develop local leaders?

Note that when the Bible speaks of spiritual leadership it turns most often not to the world of politics or the military, but to the world of the pasture; shepherd and sheep. As usual, the Bible is in this regard apt and accurate.

–Stan Mitchell

Marriage, divorce and remarriage

“And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery” (Mark 10:12).  If a woman herself divorces her husband, and marries another, she commits adultery.”

I suppose if you were a member of the Jesus Seminar, or at least cut from a similar cloth, this is one of the sayings of Jesus you would certainly eliminate from the gospels. Think about it.

First, from a legal point of view, it’s entirely counter-cultural. In Matthew’s account – generally speaking, the more heavily favored one among those who discuss this subject – the focus is entirely on a husband putting away his wife. That is natural. In most cultures, and ancient Judaism was no exception, men enjoy legal preeminence. However, in Mark’s record, Jesus indicates that the law works both ways (Mark 10:11-12). Surely, the real Jesus wouldn’t have said this.

Second, even if we could get over the counter-cultural element, from a moral point of view, there is no way Jesus would ever say such a thing. You mean to tell me that the loving, merciful Jesus would condemn someone who divorced their spouse and married someone else? God forbid it. (By the way, Jesus did offer one exception clause to allow for divorce, see Matthew 19:9).

Don’t get lost in the King James vernacular, folks. It’s actually quite helpful. The –eth suffix on committeth simply indicates the verb tense in the Greek, which is still preferable, in my opinion, to the modern rendering, “commits.” The Greek tense indicates something continual. The literal translation would be, “keeps on committing adultery.”

In this way, Jesus essentially defines adultery as both a specific sin, and categorizes the relationship that harbors it, as a sinful way of living. Since so many people practice this (by imagining more exceptions, or by simply ignoring the whole topic), it seems highly unlikely that the real Jesus would have said it. I mean seriously, think of how many people’s lives would be terribly uncomfortable if he did!

I read a written debate some years ago where a preacher argued that he couldn’t accept Jesus’ teaching on divorce and adultery because it didn’t give him enough opportunities to offer people grace in their chosen way of life. I guess that settles it. If the limits of Jesus’ grace don’t appeal to you, you know what to do: just pretend like he didn’t say what he said. Live however you want and make up a Jesus that approves of it.

Many more will be saved if we ignore or dismiss Jesus’ words, so let’s ignore them and claim that the real Jesus didn’t say them. We’ll call it a fabrication from a later editor of the gospels.

There. We just saved millions of people from eternal torment, and made Jesus much more appealing to the masses. See? Saving souls is easier than you think.

Rick Kelley

It was this man who stepped forward and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus following the crucifixion

He was a member of the Jewish council, the Sanhedrin (cf. Luke 23:50a). Think of the Sanhedrin as the Supreme Court of the Jews. It was the authoritative body to which all questions of Hebrew law were finally addressed.

Scripture tells us he wasn’t just a member of the mighty council, but he was a prominent member of this judicial body (cf. Mark 15:43). Think upper crust.

Ironically, it was this man who stepped forward and asked Pilate for the body of Jesus following the crucifixion. I find that fascinating. As far as we know, Jesus’ own family didn’t request his body, nor did those closest to him, the twelve.

“Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who himself was waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus” (Mark 15:43).

Take special note of the phrase, “and taking courage…” Let that simmer in your skillet for a few moments.

All four gospel accounts mention Joseph’s request for the corpse of the Lord, but Mark’s account alone employs the words “and taking courage…” Joseph was a secret disciple of Jesus (cf. John 19:38), but he took courage.

Think about the enormous courage it must have taken to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body. Pilate probably already had a bad taste in his mouth with reference to the Sanhedrin. The Jewish council had brought Jesus to his court on trumped up charges, insisted that he find the Lord guilty, and then have him put to death.

When Pilate resisted the council’s will, the Sanhedrin threatened to go to the Romans. “From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, ‘If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar’s friend…'” (John 19:12a). “You are not Caesar’s friend…” was the council’s way of political intimidation.

I’m inclined to think that probably didn’t help Joseph’s cause. And yet, he—a prominent member of the Sanhedrin, went to Pilate (who didn’t exactly have close, warm associations with the Sanhedrin), and asked for the dead body of the very man the Sanhedrin at large (cf. Luke 23:51) wanted to kill!

That took courage.

Dear friend, the next time you’re tempted to not take a stand for Christ, the next time you’re inclined to remain in the shadows and not do a good work for fear of others, remember Joseph of Arimathea. He was a secret, fearful disciple, but he took courage.

–Mike Benson

The Drunk “Lifestyle”

They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me but I do not feel it! When shall I awake? I must have another drink!” (Proverbs 23:35, ESV).

Solomon wisely chooses to make gentle fun of the drunk. For some unaccountable reason, young people, wannabe “he-men,” and some empty-headed young women associate getting drunk with being smooth and debonair.

Yes, and World Federation Wrestling is real, too!

So how do you puncture this perception? Solomon does it by imagining a drunk rolling with the punches, getting into bar room brawls, substituting booze for bravery, fumes for fearlessness. But as he’s bounced around the room, marveling at the fact that he’s not hurt, the reader senses that tomorrow he will know, the bruises and black eyes will remind him.

Then, most damaging of all is his addiction. Far from learning from his mistake, he wonders: “When can I wake up” so I can begin another round of drinking? When will he wake up, indeed.

Of course, addiction is not funny. The maimed bodies at the crash site, the beaten children when Dad returns home reeling and resentful, the money that should have gone to food and clothes burned up in an alcoholic haze.

But if one young person can see this “hero” for who he really is, then perhaps he can avoid the lifestyle. Because it’s hardly “life,” and it’s certainly not any sort of “style.”

–by Stan Mitchell

You old Heifer!

The story is told of a man who was returning home from work one day and as he neared his home, a neighbor lady approached him in an oncoming car, stretched her head out the driver’s window, looked him square in the eyes, and yelled, “pig!” Taken back by this woman’s rude comment, and having a bad day, this man instinctively replied, but yelling back at her, “You old Heifer!” Feeling a sense of satisfaction, he rounded the corner, and there in the middle of the road was standing a large pig.

Rather than hurling an insult at him, this man’s neighbor was trying to warn him of impending danger. But he was guilty of thinking the worse; speaking before thinking. Consequently he found himself in a rather embarrassing position for which he later had to apologize.

Friends, have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Have you ever incorrectly judged another person’s actions, words, or thoughts? Each day we live, we ought to appreciate even more the inspired words of James who said, “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19).

Steve Higginbotham

Spiritually immature Christians are deadly to the work of the Church

The one thing needed by most congregations of the Lord’s Church doesn’t cost a penny. We can put millions into new buildings, exciting entertainment and comedians in the pulpit.

However, the problems are internal and they are causing great damage among God’s people. The importance of spiritual maturity in our Christian lives cannot be overestimated.

Without it, we can destroy the Lord’s work in the communities we serve. Spiritually immature Christians are deadly to the work of the Church. They bring the sins of the flesh into the Lord’s body and we fight, argue, divide and misrepresent Christ to the world.

The job of God’s people is to glorify Christ through teaching, serving and helping others (Ephesians 3:20- 21). How can we do that unless we become the kind of people God desires?

The writer of Hebrews criticizes his readers for being “dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11), which means that they were sluggish and lazy mentally. They needed to invigorate their minds with the gospel (Hebrews 5:12- 13).

God’s people must become hungry, eager students of Scripture so they can make proper decisions on a daily basis (Hebrews 5:14). Christians that are transformed no longer live as the world and must be wiser in their choices (Romans 12:1-2; Ephesians 4:17).

Spiritual maturity will yield fruit that will make a profound impact in our communities. If an entire congregation is growing spiritually, powerful things can happen.

* Unity and peace will transform our spiritual atmosphere (Ephesians 4:12).

* Grace, trust, kindness and gentleness will change our relationships (1 John 4:7-19).

* Courage, patience and love will transform evangelism (Matthew 28:18-20).

* Teamwork will transform service and benevolence (Philippians 2:1-4).

* Godly lives will create new opportunities (Ephesians 4:15).

* Christ will have a throne in our midst (Acts 2:41-47).

Spiritual maturity is desperately needed today. The Church needs everyone on task and involved spiritually if we will change the world. Souls are dying while our immaturity allows Satan to ravage our congregations.

* When will we awaken and take a stand?

* When will we take Bible study seriously?

* When will we finally become what God wants us to be?

“For you were bought at a price; therefore

glorify God in your body and in your spirit,

which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20, NKJV).

Richard Mansel

Christ The Sinless One

“For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Three words in that verse define the humanity of Jesus that makes Him qualified to serve as our Redeemer: “Yet without sin.” Everything about Jesus’ earthly sojourn culminates in this one amazing statement. William Moorehead is credited with having made the following observation about the manhood of Jesus: “At every stage of His development, in every relation of life, in every part of His service He is absolutely perfect. To no part of His life does a mistake attach, over no part of it does a cloud rest, nowhere is there defect” (The Fundamentals, Volume 2, page 61). One reason why Jesus lived such an extraordinary life is seen His humility. Jesus came to do the Father’s will, and He never lost sight of that supreme goal. Paul tells us that He “emptied himself, taking upon himself the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7a). The gospels paint a picture of Someone Who never drew attention to Himself, never demanded His “rights,” or desired fame or fortune.  Again from the words of Moorehead:

He receives ministry from the lowly and the lofty; He is sometimes hungry, yet feeds the multitudes in desert places; He has no money, yet He never begs, and He provides the coin for tribute to the government from a fish’s mouth. He may ask for a cup of water at the well, but it is that He may save a soul. He never flies from enemies; He quietly withdraws or passes by unseen. Hostility neither excites nor exasperates Him. He is always calm, serene. He seems to care little for Himself, for His own ease or comfort or safety, but everything for the honor and the glory of the Father.

The very character of Jesus declares His divinity. Even if the word of God never declared in so many words the deity of Jesus, His life would stand as a testimony to that undeniable truth. Consider the words of the Hebrews writer for a moment.

First, “one that hath in all points been tempted like as we are.” Temptation is not sin; if it were then it could not be said that Jesus was “without sin.” The devil attacked the woman in the Garden using the “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life” (2 John 2:16b). “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [“lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [“lust of the eyes”], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [“the vainglory of life”], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (Gen. 3:6). I dare not minimize the sin of Adam and Eve, but it should be pointed out that the devil threw all he had at her; unfortunately she caved in, “and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6b). All men since have been tempted in one of those three ways, and in every case the outcome was that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Fast forward some 4,000 years. The devil again uses the same avenues in an attempt of seduce Jesus to sin: “If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matt. 4:3) – the “lust of the flesh.” “If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down” (Matt. 4:6) – the “vainglory of life.” “Again, the devil taketh him unto an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Matt. 4:8) – “lust of the eyes.”  Don’t tell me that Jesus was not tempted. Don’t tell me that He did not face what we have to face in our everyday, rat-race world. Don’t tell me He never felt what we have felt when it comes to the power of temptation.

Now focus on those three words that sets Jesus apart from all men: “yet without sin.” Those words could not have been written had Jesus not demonstrated that sinless nature throughout His life. The gospels bear witness to one unique fact of Jesus’ life, and that is that He lived a sinless life. Consider the following evidence.

First, there is the testimony of His enemies. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry the Pharisees were watching His every move. If there were any “skeletons in the closet” they would surely have dug them up. Someone once pointed out: “There was the Pharisee mingling in every crowd, hiding behind every tree. They examined His disciples, they cross-questioned all around Him. They looked into His ministerial life, into His domestic privacy, into His hours of retirement. They came forward with the sole accusation they could muster – that He had shown disrespect to Caesar. The Roman judge who ought to know, pronounced it void.” To that list of enemies we could add Judas, who after betraying Jesus to the Jewish and Roman authorities, confessed that he had betrayed innocent blood.

Second, there is the testimony of the friends of Jesus. Do we think for a moment that had they found some flaw, some sin in the life of Jesus that they would have dedicated their life to following Him? They would have turned away in utter disgust, seeing in this person nothing more than a charlatan, fraud, and hypocrite. Even John the Baptist, perhaps one of the purest of men, realized that when compared to Jesus, he paled in comparison.

Third, there is the very life of Jesus, recorded in the Gospels, and, like an open book, ready for examination. Jesus never prayed for forgiveness. In fact He never asks His disciples to pray for Him in any fashion whatsoever. Once more from the pen of Moorehead:

There is about Him an air of superior holiness, of aloofness from the world and its ways, a separation from evil in every form and of every grade, such as no other that has ever lived has displayed. Although descended from an impure ancestry, He brought no taint of sin into the world with Him; and though He mingled with sinful men and was assailed by fierce temptations, He contracted no guilt, he was touched by no stain. He was not merely undefiled, but He was undefilable. He was like a ray of light which parting from the fountain of light can pass through the foulest medium and still be unstained and untouched. He came down into all the circumstances of actual humanity in its sin and misery, and yet He kept the infinite purity of heaven with Him. In the annals of our race there is none next to or like Him.

I once observed that when God created this universe He created it perfect. Even after the fall of man, and the universal flood, the beauties of creation astound the imagination. One example will suffice here. Have you ever seen any of the colors of a mountain side, or a setting sun clash? The colors of the rainbow blend in exquisite beauty. Now apply that same principle to the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In every way, and in every situation, our Lord lived a balanced life. Moorhead picked up on this wonderful aspect of our Lord: “In Jesus there is the most perfect balance, the most amazing equipoise of every faculty and grace and duty and power. In His whole life one day’s walk never contradicts another, one hour’s service never clashes with another. While He shows he is master of nature’s tremendous forces, and the Lord of the unseen world, He turns aside and lays His glory by to take little children in His arms and to bless them. While He must walk amid the snares His foes have privily spread for His feet, He is equal to every occasion, is in harmony with the requirements of every moment. He never speaks where it would be better to keep silence, He never keeps silence where it would be better to speak; and He always leaves the arena of controversy a victor. His unaffected majesty, so wonderfully depicted in the Gospels, runs through His whole life, and is as manifest in the midst of poverty and scorn, at Gethsemane and Calvary, as on the Mount Of Transfiguration and in the resurrection from the grave” (Moorehead, The Fundamentals, Volume 2, page 69).

How blessed is mankind that Jesus lived the life He lived, “tempted in all points…yet without sin.” May we never take that for granted, but praise our Father for sending His Son, “Christ the sinless One!”

[Note: I borrowed and adapted many of the thoughts presented by Moorehead in his chapter in The Fundamentals, Volume 2. If you have never read that chapter you owe it to yourself to do so.  TW]

by Tom Wacaster

ARE YOU WILLING TO BE A SPOON?

Recently, Pa was being irritable, especially regarding food. At a nearby restaurant, he stopped for a quick meal and the waiter provided a bowl of soup.

As the waiter turned away to return to the kitchen, Pa stopped him, calling: “Waiter!”

“Yes, sir, is there something wrong?”

“The soup. Taste it,” replied Pa.

“I beg your pardon, Sir?”

“Taste it.”

“But, Sir, I can assure you that the soup is excellent.”

“Taste it,” Pa persisted.

“Sir, the soup was made this morning of the finest ingredients.”

“Taste it!”

The exasperated waiter finally relented. “All right, Sir, I’ll taste it.” Then after a pause he said,  “Where is the spoon?”

To which Pa replied triumphantly, “Ah ha … ”

It doesn’t matter how good soup is, if I have no way to get the soup to my mouth, I will never be able to enjoy it.  In a similar way, it doesn’t matter how wonderful the gospel message is, if it doesn’t get to those who need it, it will never do them any good.  The Bible uses several metaphors to describe this process.  We are the “hands and feet” of Jesus.  Also, Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:7 that we are “earthen vessels” of little value that carry the far more valuable message about Jesus.  Allow me to add one more image to the list — we are God’s “spoons”!

Think about this.  Nobody eats a meal at a fine restaurant, then later raves about how nice the spoon was!  No, they may rave about how good the soup was, but no one pays much attention to the spoon.  The purpose of the spoon is merely to allow you to enjoy the soup.  In fact, you hardly even notice the spoon…..unless you don’t have one!

Our job is not to get people to notice us.  Rather, our purpose is merely to get the gospel message to as many people as possible.

“How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14).

There are people around you who will never know the beauty of the story of Jesus Christ unless you’re willing to be a “spoon”!  Will you share that message with someone today?

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Maybe that means God simply doesn’t have anything to say to us tonight.

This will be the last post till on or about 2/13.

SOME YEARS AGO I sat near the front in a worship service and watched the guest speaker pace back and forth across the stage…

He was a popular speaker in our area, and crowds had come to hear what he had to say.  My first clue that something wasn’t right was when he started saying, “I forgot my Bible tonight.”

But that didn’t deter him.  He explained that for days he had prayed about what God wanted him to say to us.  He told stories about how he had taken walks in the neighborhood, sat at coffee shops, and reclined in his study.  He was funny, witty, and engaging, and he kept the crowd entertained.

When he came to the conclusion, these were his exact words: “I tried to do everything I could to figure out what God wanted to say to us, but nothing ever came to my mind.  So maybe that means God simply doesn’t have anything to say to us tonight.”  With that, he prayed and walked off the stage.

I sat there with my Bible in my hands, dumbfounded.  God didn’t have anything to say to us tonight?  There I was, holding a library of sixty-six books that are decidedly and definitively the Word of God, and this guy had just said that God doesn’t have a word for us?  In my mind I said to this guy, “Just open this book anywhere–to Leviticus, for all I care–and read it, and you’ve got a word from God.  Save yourself the walk around the neighborhood and the cost of your mocha.  Just read the book, and God is saying something to us.”  David Platt, “God is Saying Something,” RADICAL Together, 39-40
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  2 Timothy 3:16-17; cf. 2 Peter 1:3

Mike Benson

WHAT DOES JESUS say about tradition…?

The Pharisees referred to it as “the tradition of the elders” (Mark 7.3, 5).  But Jesus called it “the precepts of men” (v. 7), and “the tradition of men” (v. 8).

Now this immediately cut the ground from under the Pharisees’ feet.  They believed Scripture and tradition were equally ancient, equally Mosaic, equally divine.  Christ did not share their view.  On the contrary, He drew a sharp distinction between the two.  One the one hand there was what “Moses said” (v. 10), and on the other what “you say” (v. 11).  At first sight one might suppose that this was simply to set two Jewish teachers or schools of thought in opposition to each other, Moses and the elders.  But this is not at all how Jesus saw the disagreement.  To Him Moses and the elders were not comparable, for the elders were fallible men with human traditions, while Moses was the spokesman of God.  So what “you say” is equivalent to “your tradition” (vv. 9, 13) or “the tradition of men” (v. 8), whereas what “Moses said” is “the commandment of God” (vv. 8-9) and “the word of God” (v. 13).  To put this beyond question we may observe that the phrase “Moses said” in verse 10 is rendered in Matthew 15:4 “God said”, and this was the consistent custom of Jesus and His apostles.  For them, “Scripture says” and “God says” were synonymous.

Thus we have our Lord’s own authority for distinguishing between Scripture and tradition as between God’s Word written and all human interpretations and accretions.

Put another way, we may say that the only “tradition” which Scripture recognizes is Scripture.  For “tradition” (Greek – paradosis) is what is handed down, and God’s purpose has been that His Word, His unique revelation given to prophets and apostles, should be transmitted from generation to generation.  John R. W. Stott, “Authority: Tradition or Scripture?”, Christ the Controversialist, 70

“And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”  2 Timothy 2.2

Mike Benson

 

Rent-A-Friend

In Japan, they have an organization which has become very successful.  It is a company through which one can hire a “friend.”  The number of Rent-a-Friend agencies in Japan has doubled to about 10 in the past eight years.  It seems the lonely are willing to pay money to spend time with others.

They’re glad to be in the company of another person – even if it is a random “actor” – for a few hours.

Although it’s difficult to measure the exact extent of the problem, loneliness seems to be on the increase.  “Young people today are immersed in a world where they can live entirely separated from others,” says psychiatrist Rika Kamaya – who traces the root of the problem to the development of smart phones, social media and gaming consoles – which breed isolation.  This phenomenon is set to increase.  “It’s happening right before our eyes,” says Kamaya.

There is also a degree of acceptance and security in the anonymity that cyber-space affords, especially among the socially awkward or physically unattractive.  Some say that they feel “lonely, even in the middle of a crowd,” and “consider establishing a real relationship with another person as an effort.”

“I don’t go out of my way to make friends,” one person says.  “It just leads to disappointment.”

Some of the lonely are seeking out the services of Rent-a-Friend agencies. For a few precious moments, they can chat and get worries off their chest, go shopping, or watch a movie with a real person who appears to care for them.

Single mothers can rent a husband to help their children with homework or solve minor problems with neighbors.  It’s also possible to rent a mother or father in which to confide when in need of advice or facing difficulties. *

The Bible speaks of the value of friendship:  “Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 NIV).

“…But there IS a Friend Who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24).

The Greatest Friend that one can have – and that all desperately need – is Jesus Christ.

Our sin creates the greatest loneliness: separation from God (Isaiah 59:1-2) and a “dead end” (Romans 6:23).  Jesus is the only Friend that can save us.

God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins so that we can be reconciled to Him, become a part of His family, and live eternally with Him (John 3:16; Ephesians 2:19; Romans 6:23).  And Jesus willingly “laid down His life for His friends” (John 15:13).

God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to “walk in the light” of His Word (1 John 1:7).

You can HAVE-A-FRIEND in Jesus.

Won’t YOU accept His offer of a redeeming and abiding friendship by trusting and obeying Him?

— Mike Eddlemon and David A. Sargent

 

* “Rent-A-Friend: A Solution for the Lonely People of Japan” by Philippe Mesmer as reported in www.worldcrunch.com

The Right Word at the Right Time

“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver” (Proverbs 25:11,   ESV).

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me,” is often a child’s mantra, but adults will recognize it as mere bravado. Angry words, snide remarks, gossip — all these things knock and ding our reputation and our well-being until we are destroyed completely, broken by their cruelty and thoughtlessness.

We know this, or should. But have you ever considered the potential your words have to build and strengthen, teach and develop? Is there a young person you know who needs a gentle word of guidance? A discouraged church leader who could use an expression of gratitude? A shy individual who needs your inclusion?

A lonely elderly person who needs some company?

An elderly friend would invariably have exactly the right thing to say. I could see him work his way across a room, producing smiles and gratitude every time he spoke. I asked him one day how he did it.

“You always have exactly the right thing to say.

That’s amazing!”

He said, “It’s simple. Before I arrive, I give some thought to each person I will see, and plan to say something encouraging.”

“Plan to say something encouraging.” Is it so simple as that? Usually when words harm, shred and destroy its because we didn’t plan what we would say. We just blurted it out, like a gusher in an oil field shooting out the filthy black stuff. Usually it’s the unplanned words that harm! Think about it.

By Stan Mitchell

How deeply held are your Christian convictions?

What would cause you to leave Christ and his church? What would be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back? How deeply held are your Christian convictions?

I am stunned by the shallowness with which some hold their convictions. If the preacher’s wife doesn’t greet me, I’m “so outta here,” someone says. “If they move the back three pews out of the auditorium, I’ll leave the church.”

Really?

Think about the early Christians. They were burned at the stake, dismembered, thrown to the gladiators, yet remained faithful to God.

How pathetic we must look to these early believers when we surrender our convictions for a pittance! To us the color of the carpet would force us to leave the Lord, to early Christians nothing, not peril or persecution or death would separate them from their Lord.

It was the early church father Tertullian (160-225) who observed: “The more we are cut down by you, the more in number we grow; the blood of Christians is the seed by which the church grows” (Apology, 50)

Every drop of blood spilt by the martyrs was the seed of another Christian. The Roman Empire could not squelch the early church. Knock one down, and twenty took their place!

This spirit of courage and commitment is reflected in John’s cry of triumph:

“And they have conquered him by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death” (Revelation 12:10, ESV).

They were willing to die for their faith. We complain when we have to sit through half an hour of biblical instruction; we quit the church when it doesn’t serve us to our specifications; we shun our brethren on a whim; when a well-meaning preacher or elder comes to our house and enquires whether we are OK we dump a load of resentments and criticisms on their shoulders.

We could walk away from the church if it was no more than a hobby. We could walk away if its members were not individuals with an eternal destiny, a destiny whose end we might affect by our defection. We could walk away from the church if Christ had not spilt history’s most precious commodity for its purchase.

But we know this is not true. Christianity is no pastime, Christians are discouraged by defections, and Jesus paid the ultimate price for the church. We dare not quit on it.

Stan Mitchell

The Time of My Departure is at Hand

Read carefully what the apostle Paul wrote when he realized the time of his departure from this life was at hand.  He said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

That’s what Paul said when he realized the time of his departure was at hand.  Now, what might we say if we learned the time of our departure is at hand?  Would we say things like…

  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better get my house in order.
  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better go mend some relationships.
  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better repent of some sin I’ve been committing.
  • The time of my departure is at hand…I had better start going to services again.

You get the idea.  When Paul realized his time of departure was at hand, he confidently affirmed he had fought a good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, therefore he had a reward awaiting him.  May we so live our lives that when our time of departure comes, we’re not found scrambling, trying to receive the reward for a race we were unwilling to run.  Give it some thought.

— Steve Higginbotham

One Way to God?

The Baha’i Temple in Chicago focuses on unity – the oneness of God, the oneness of religion, and the oneness of the human race. Baha’is believe there is only one God, the Creator of the universe. Although God may be called by different names in different languages – Yahweh, Allah, Brahmin, God – all these names refer to the same singular force and being.

Baha’is believe that all religions are actually one “ever-folding religion from a single source.” They refer to this concept of “oneness of religion” as “Progressive Revelation.” Do Baha’is have something? Are they on to something? It seems that whether they have tried hard or not, they have been very successful in their evangelism efforts.

If you were to ask Noah if there is only one way to God, what would Noah have answered? Should Noah’s Aunt Bertha have been asked if there is only one way to God, what would she have answered?

How has God defined His nature? “forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation” (Exodus 34:6-7).

Following the creation of the golden calf, Moses tried to intercede for the people. The day following the implementation of justice on those 3,000, Moses told the people –Exodus 32:30: “You have sinned a great sin. And now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” Then Moses went to God and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin. They have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will forgive their sin–but if not, please blot me out of your book that you have written.”

Moses tried to be the mediator between God and man. He offered Himself as the sacrifice for Israel’s sin but God refused – verse 33. Moses was a sinner. Moses could not be the Mediator because he himself needed reconciliation with God.

Man needs a Mediator. Man needs help to stay away from golden calves. “The way of man is not in himself. It is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Man needs God’s holiness to make us holy. As Moses says, so we plead, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” (33:15-16).

We need God’s presence. We need God to dwell among us so that we can dwell with God.

Is there only one way to God – Yes or No? If you answer “No” – as the Baha’is have done, you not only obliterate truth, which should be objective and unchanging, but you also must redefine every major religion on earth. The Qur’an with its permission to exterminate infidels versus the NT with its teaching on blessing and praying for your enemies (in the words of the Baha’i faith – which is the progressive religion?); the OT with its teaching on physical circumcision versus the NT and its teaching on spiritual circumcision. The God of the Bible tells us there is only one way to come into His presence. There is only one way by which sins can be atoned.

Is there only one way to God? The resurrection of Christ answers with a resounding, “YES!”

–Paul Holland

The Church of Tomorrow

I was about eight years old when I heard the proverb for the first time: “Young people are not the church of tomorrow.” The speaker declared, “They are the church of today!”

I guess I was glad to be included. And I take the point. Young people in churches should not begin a life time habit of non-participation in the Lord’s work. “Get involved now,” the speaker was trying to say.

But I like the original proverb better. “Young people are the church of tomorrow.” I like it because it reminds me of the need to train and develop our youth, or there will be no church tomorrow. It reminds me that preachers, elders, leaders in the church do not develop by accident.

Moses spent 40 years learning leadership as a prince of Egypt. He spent another 40 in the desert, learning its dangers. Finally he spent 40 years leading the children of Israel. God prepared him 80 years for 40 years of service! Usually we see it the other way around. Preparation should be slip shod and hurried.

Young people should be thrust into leadership regardless of their readiness!

This weekend I saw a motel called the “It’ll Do Motel.” I didn’t stay there that night! Any motel with that attitude was not good enough for my custom!

Neither should an attitude of “It’s good enough for the folks we’re with” do for the church. We’re not doing this for the “folks we’re with.” We’re doing it for the Lord!

Young people are indeed the church of tomorrow. We won’t be around for the church tomorrow, they will. We won’t be shepherding the church tomorrow, they will.

We won’t be in the pulpits and the classrooms tomorrow, they will. Will they be ready? Will we have developed their knowledge of the scriptures, their character, their determination to stand for truth?

“And the things you have heard me say in the

presence of many witnesses entrust to

reliable men who will also be qualified to

teach others” (2 Timothy 2:2).

The reason this occurs to me is that when I first heard the statement, I was young. I was the church’s future. That doesn’t seem so long ago! Now I am the church of today. If it survives into the next generation, part of that burden falls on me.

—  by Stan Mitchell

Failure hurts

WHEN I WAS 16, I was an accomplished junior golfer…

 

I had played in many tournaments throughout my home state as well as in the United States Junior Amateur.  My goal in life was to play professional golf.

 

At one point, I participated in a state-level tournament and was favored to win.  However, although I played well early on, I choked in the last round and ended up well behind the leaders.  I was devastated.

 

I came home and broke down in from of my mother.  She consoled me, which is what mothers do.  I realize now that I didn’t really need a mother’s tender consolation.  I needed a hard-nosed coach to yank me out of my trough of self-pity and say, “Every competitor goes through failure!  Learn a lesson from it and keep going!”

 

Because I didn’t have that kind of coaching, I didn’t know that getting nervous and tense during a competition was a common affliction in competitive sports.  I didn’t know I could overcome it.  Instead, that one failure made me see myself as a failure–someone who couldn’t handle the heat of competition.  

 

I played in other tournaments and often jumped out to an early lead, only to tighten up and fall back in the pack as the pressure mounted.  My self-esteem was based on my performance–and I was performing terribly!  I went on to land a scholarship and become a club professional for three years, but I never fulfilled my potential as a golfer.

 

Years later, I learned to loosen up, have fun and let go of the tension–and I won a local club championship.  If I had learned that lesson earlier in life, who knows how far I might have gone as a golfer.

 

THOUGHT:  Failure hurts.  Whether you fail in marriage, business or golf, failure undermines your self-esteem as few other experiences can.  But failure isn’t the final word on your life.  It’s just one of the raw ingredients God uses to manufacture success.  Os Hillman, “Confronting the Fear of Failure,” The Upside of Adversity, 194-195

 

“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3.13-14 

Mike Benson

ENJOY THE GRAPE

I read a parable recently that bothered me when I read it the first time.  It is a story that was reportedly told by Buddha:

A traveler, fleeing a tiger who was chasing him, ran till he came to the edge of a cliff.  There he caught hold of a thick vine, and swung himself over the edge.

Above him the tiger snarled.  Below him he heard another snarl, and behold, there was another tiger, peering up at him.  The vine suspended him midway between two tigers.

Two mice, a white mouse and a black mouse, began to gnaw at the vine.  He could see they were quickly eating it through.  Then in front of him on the cliff side he saw a luscious bunch of grapes.  Holding onto the vine with one hand, he reached and picked a grape with the other.  How delicious!

That’s the end of the parable.  That’s it???  If you’re like me, you want to know how the story ends.  Does the man get eaten by one of the tigers?  Does he manage to find a way of escape?  We don’t know.  And how can a man possibly stop to enjoy eating a grape while in the midst of such a crisis???

I can’t tell you for sure what the parable was intended to teach, but after giving it considerable thought, here’s the lesson that I gained from it.  We are sometimes so focused on wanting to know what’s going to happen in the future that we fail to enjoy what we have right here, right now.

What is the doctor going to find when I go in for these tests?  How can I possibly meet the deadline my boss has given me since I have more work to do than I can possibly get done?  How will my wife react when I talk to her about the need to go see a counselor to deal with the deep-rooted problems we’re having?  How am I going to pay the bills that are due next week when there’s not enough money in the bank to cover them?  How should I react to the racial prejudice that’s causing students to say ugly things to me at school?

None of those things are unimportant (nor are the countless other trials and difficulties you could add to that list from your own experience); some may even be life-threatening  But today, all day long, I am surrounded by countless blessings from God — a beautiful sunrise, the changing autumn leaves, a child’s kiss, a bunch of grapes, a warm bed, hot water, and the list goes on and on.  Is it possible to focus on the blessings at hand even when we are surrounded by difficulties and we don’t know how the story will turn out?  For a child of God, it is not only possible, it is essential that we learn to do so.

“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” (Philippians 4:11-12)

Are you surrounded by tigers today?  Take a moment to enjoy the grape that God has placed right in front of you.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith