Poverty Is Not Always Depressing

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines; though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock may be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls – yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NKJV).

A friend in the U.S. is of Korean descent. We were talking about going to Nepal and he remained silent for a moment, then said, “You know, my family lives all over Korea, some of them in rural undeveloped areas. I don’t really enjoy visiting them, sitting on the floor, sleeping on a hard surface, and seeing how little they have. It is depressing to me.”

We talked about that for a few minutes, and I finally said, “I have found that many of the poorest people who have the least ‘stuff’ seem as content and happy as anyone. I don’t always know what it takes to make one happy, but I am certain it is not simply things.” He quickly agreed.

Habakkuk had learned the same lesson. Early in the book he complained to God about how evil and injustice was prevailing and prospering in Judah. The wicked people had more things than the righteous (1:1-4). That just did not seem right to the prophet.

God’s reply was that justice would be done, and the wicked would receive punishment. A mighty nation from the north would invade and take all their possessions (1:5-11). But that also seemed unjust to Habakkuk.  Those Gentiles were even more wicked than the unfaithful of Israel. How could God allow the wicked to devour those more righteous than themselves (1:12-17)?

In all this argument the prophet seems to be defining righteousness and justice in terms of prosperity. It did not seem just for the unrighteous to oppress the righteous and to be more prosperous. How could God allow that kind of inequity?

Jesus gave the answer several hundred years after Habakkuk’s death. “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). But Habakkuk had already learned that lesson. The Lord had taught him that his ways were not always plain to humans. We must be patient and trust him (2:2-20). The prophet’s response was humble, “O Lord, I have heard your speech and was afraid” (3:2).

The final chapter of the book is Habakkuk’s prayer of repentance and acceptance. He submitted to God’s will and patiently waited until God revealed all his purposes. The final verses stand as one of the greatest professions of faith in all Scripture. He simply confessed, “Whatever I have or lack, I will rejoice in the Lord.”

Just as our happiness cannot depend only upon our possessions, so too our faith in God must not be based only upon material blessings. How many have we known who questioned, doubted, or even denied God because of sickness or death? How many turn away in times of economic hardship, feeling that God has failed them?

The truth is that our material circumstance is never a reliable indication of our relationship with God. Paul stated, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content”

(Philippians 4:11).

Do we prefer abundance of possessions? Most of us clearly do. Must we have them for life to be successful and happy? Certainly not! Life is more than just things. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

–by Michael E. Brooks

TELL ME WHOM YOU LOVE

The following fictitious story was written by S.I. Kishor.  I have shared it before but want to share it again.

“John Blanchard stood up from the bench, straightened his Army uniform, and studied the crowd of people making their way through Grand Central Station. He looked for the girl whose heart he knew, but whose face he didn’t, the girl with the rose.  His interest in her had begun thirteen months before in a Florida library.  Taking a book off the shelf he found  himself intrigued, not with the words of the book, but with the notes penciled in the margin. The soft handwriting reflected a thoughtful soul and insightful mind.  In the front of the book, he discovered the previous owner’s name, Miss Hollis Maynell.  With time and effort he located her address.  She lived in New York City.  He wrote her a letter introducing himself and inviting her to correspond.

“The next day he was shipped overseas for service in World War II. During the next year and one month the two grew to know each other through the mail.  Each letter was a seed falling on a fertile heart.  A romance was budding.  Blanchard requested a photograph, but she refused. She felt that if he really cared, it wouldn’t matter what she looked like.

“When the day finally came for him to return from Europe, they scheduled their first meeting – 7:00 PM at the Grand Central Station in New York. ‘You’ll recognize me,’ she wrote, ‘by the red rose I’ll be wearing on my lapel.’  So at 7:00 he was in the station looking for a girl whose heart he loved, but whose face he’d never seen.

“I’ll let Mr. Blanchard tell you what happened:  A young woman was coming toward me, her figure long and slim.  Her blonde hair lay back in curls from her delicate ears; her eyes were blue as flowers.  Her lips and chin had a gentle firmness, and in her pale green suit she was like springtime come alive.  I started toward her, entirely forgetting to notice that she was not wearing a rose.  As I moved, a small, provocative smile curved her lips. ‘Going my way, sailor?’ she murmured.

“Almost uncontrollably I made one step closer to her, and then I saw Hollis Maynell.  She was standing almost directly behind the girl.  A woman well past 40, she had graying hair tucked under a worn hat..  She was more than plump, her thick-ankled feet thrust into low-heeled shoes.

“The girl in the green suit was walking quickly away. I felt as though I was split in two, so keen was my desire to follow her, and yet so deep was my longing for the woman whose spirit had truly companioned me and upheld my own.  And there she stood.  Her pale, plump face was gentle and sensible, her gray eyes had a warm and kindly twinkle. I did not hesitate.  My fingers gripped the small worn blue leather copy of the book that was to identify me to her.

“This would not be love, but it would be something precious, something perhaps even better than love, a friendship for which I had been and must ever be grateful.  I squared my shoulders and saluted and held out the book to the woman, even though while I spoke I felt choked by the bitterness of my disappointment.  ‘I’m Lieutenant John Blanchard, and you must be Miss Maynell.  I am so glad you could meet me; may I take you to dinner?’

“The woman’s face broadened into a tolerant smile.  ‘I don’t know what this is about, son,’ she answered, ‘but the young lady in the green suit who just went by, she begged me to wear this rose on my coat.  And she said if you were to ask me out to dinner, I should tell you that she is waiting for you in the big restaurant across the street.  She said it was some kind of test!’

“It’s not difficult to understand and admire Miss Maynell’s wisdom.  The true nature of a heart is seen in its response to the unattractive.  ‘Tell me whom you love,’ Houssaye wrote, ‘And I will tell you who you are.'”

Thanks be to God that He doesn’t choose to love only those who are attractive.  As Paul said, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8).  God loved us when we were unattractive (to say the least).

And he calls us to do the same:  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34).  Loving only those who are attractive (or pleasant or loving) is easy.  Are we willing, like God, to love the unattractive, the unpleasant, and those who don’t love us in return?  Tell me whom you love, and I will tell you who you are!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Imagine a warm little pond filled with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts giving rise to the first life.

The naturalistic Imagination

Imagine rice turning into mice. For Jan Baptist van Helmont, who lived from 1580 to 1644 A.D., this seemed reasonable. In fact, he proposed a recipe for making mice from rice.

Today it seems incredible that anyone could be so gullible and ignorant of the ongoing processes in biology. Herein lies both the fundamental flaw and the raw power of the naturalistic imagination.

At any given time a ceiling of scientific understanding limits our understanding of life’s true complexities.
Our ignorance fuels our ability to imagine the impossible and the absurd.

Imagine a warm little pond filled with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts giving rise to the first life. About a hundred and fifty years ago Charles Darwin dreamed of just such an event. He could imagine this being a possible scenario because he assumed a simple living cell to be little more than a simplistic protoplasm.

While some of Darwin’s aficionados still believe life could arise through such a simple process and for lack of a better explanation some biology textbooks still muse that maybe life began in a manner similar to this, scientists involved in origin of life studies have moved beyond rice producing mice and warm prebiotic soups creating the first living cell.

Imagine a small incremental change to an organism that is passed on to its descendants. Imagine these changes accumulating over vast periods of time to eventually produce an entirely new species.

Research is now revealing that there are limits to how much an organism can change, in spite of our ability to imagine an unending progression.

Today’s naturalistic imagination of how life arose or how species came to be will always seem feasible given our current level of ignorance. Without fail, all such nature-based stories regarding origins eventually lie abandoned on the pile of an outdated era’s curious speculation.

While naturalistic stories flare then wane, the plausibility of another story simply continues to grow.
With the discovery that functional information defying naturalistic explanation exists at the very heart of all life, the best explanation for life rests with the ancient witness – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

— by Barry Newton

God does not hold lions responsible for their deadly deeds

A hungry lion is stalking a herd of wilder beasts.  It notices a newborn  limping behind its mother struggling to keep up with the movement of the herd.  The lion’s instincts jump into stalking mode.  It follows the herd for over a day waiting for the right moment to attack.  Finally, the young wilder beast falls behind the herd; the lion attacks, kills and eats the young animal.

Is God angry with the lion for behaving in such a manner?  Is the lion guilty of murder?  Will God hold the lion accountable and judge it according to its actions?  No, of course not.  Why? Because the lion was simply acting according to its God-created instincts for self-survival.  It had no choice but to act in such a way.  Therefore, God does not hold the lion responsible for its deadly deed.

I think we all understand that.  I can’t think of a single incident where God has held an animal accountable for acting in a certain way, mainly because animals have NO CHOICE.

However, when we “flip that coin over,” from the very beginning of time, we see God holding human beings accountable for their actions.  That can only mean that we have a choice!  If, like the lion and other animals, we had no choice, then God would not hold us accountable for the way we live our lives.

God held Adam and Eve accountable for the sin of eating the forbidden fruit; therefore, they had a choice.  God held Cain accountable for committing the first homicide; therefore, Cain had a choice whether or not to commit murder.  God warned Jeroboam that if he would obey Him, he would prosper in the Northern kingdom of Israel.  Jeroboam had the choice whether to obey God or not.  However, he made the decision to do things his own way, and God held him responsible and overthrew the kingdom.

Literally hundreds of similar Biblical examples could be given.  The necessary conclusion is that we are responsible for the choices we make!  Animals have no choice how to act, *we do,* and we will be held accountable (Romans 14:12;  2Corinthians 5:10).  Whether or not you “strive to enter into the narrow way” (Luke 13:24), is your choice.  But, you will be held accountable for the choice you make because you are not an animal!  You are a precious soul created in God’s own image!  The only way you can know whether or not you are making the right choices in life is by studying your New Testament.  So,  STAY HUNGRY (Matt. 5:6) 

 –Toby Miller

God thought they needed to hear it a second time

Deut. 1:3: And it came to pass in the fortieth year, in the eleventh month, on the first day of the month, that Moses spake unto the children of Israel, according unto all that the LORD had given him in commandment unto them.

Deuteronomy means “second law”. It does not mean a second set of law as different from the first but a “Repetition of the Law.” It is mainly a record of Moses’s series of sermons in which he restated God’s commands originally given to the Israelites some forty years earlier in Exodus and Leviticus.

Forty years had passed since the Israelites came out of Egypt. Unfortunately, those who came out of Egypt perished in the wilderness because of their unbelief. The children who had left Egypt were now adults, ready to conquer and settle down in the Promised Land. But, before that could happen, the LORD reiterated through Moses His covenant to them. These new adults probably didn’t know what had happened forty years ago. They were children then and most were born in the wilderness. Hence, Moses had to remind them through a series of sermons and warnings so that history would not repeat itself.

The theme of the book is faith and obedience: “And now, Israel, what does the LORD your God require from you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the LORD’s commandments and His statutes which I am commanding you today for your good?” (Deuteronomy 10:12-13).

Deuteronomy teaches us that we must constantly remind our children to be faithful so that they would not fall into unbelief. The book reminds us that it is the responsibility of parents to bring up children to faithfulness: “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates,” (Deuteronomy 6:7-9).

Parenting is a most difficult task and spiritual growth is one area most neglected by today’s parents who are more concerned that their children do well in schools than in spiritual education. It requires much patience, much prudence, much judgment, and much piety in the parents, to enable them to do this good and most important work in the best and most effectual manner.

As Deuteronomy means “repetition of the Law”, it is reminding us to keep repeating the word of God to our children. Children must start from the very young age to know the stories of the bible and keep on repeating to them until they are firmly ingrained into their minds. And, by the time they are teenagers, they are ready for the doctrines taught in the bible and these doctrines must be taught to them over and over again so that they will know between truth and error when they reach young adults.

Indeed, repetition is the mother of learning and church leaders should not be embarrassed to repeat a curriculum just because it was taught three years ago. I have heard many sermons on the plan of salvation and I have not heard any two exactly alike.

Brethren, you need to tell the story of Jesus over and over again and not feel embarrassed about it. Young parents, start your family devotion early with your child. Cradle roll class should start in the family. You simply need to repeat and repeat and repeat those stories and teachings. I can assure you that by the time your child is in his late teens, he will have enough knowledge to teach others (2 Timothy 2:2).

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

How Men Act When They Repent

In Matthew 12:41, Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” According to Jesus, the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah.

You remember the story, don’t you? God had commanded Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Now Nineveh was not only a city filled with wickedness, it was also the capital of the Assyrians, hated enemies of the Israelites. Jonah didn’t want to go.  He fled from God’s presence. However, after being given some quality time in the belly of a fish to reflect and pray, Jonah decided to obey God.  Jonah walked through the city proclaiming the judgment of the Lord upon these pagan people: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4).

The people of Nineveh repented. They “proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). When word came to the king of Nineveh, “he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.” He decreed that “neither man nor beast, herd nor flock” were to eat or drink and that “everyone” was to “turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hand” (Jonah 3:7-8).

The text says that, “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them” (Jonah 3:10). God can read men’s hearts. He knows more about what is going on in our heads than we do ourselves. But He did not need to read the minds of the Ninevites to know that they had repented.  He “saw their works, that they turned away from evil”. When the men of Nineveh repented, nobody was left to wonder whether or not their repentance was genuine. Nobody was left guessing about their intention to stop committing evil. Nobody would have doubted they had actually repented of their sins.

We really need to learn this lesson from the men of Nineveh. We need to learn how to act when we repent.  Repentance isn’t just saying “excuse me,” “my bad,” or “forgive me,” and then going on with our lives as if nothing happened.  Repentance should produce real change in our actions.  We are to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). I am afraid that too many of us think that our repentance should go unnoticed. We are incognito repenters!  And while God hardly asks us to don sackcloth and ashes today, He does ask us to “do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).

Let’s resolve to turn away from sin in our lives, and make sure that we behave in such a way that folks can tell that’s what we’ve done!

– by Steve Klein

Defying mortality, he weds a flawless technique to a poetic style, rendering interpretations that evoke prolonged shouts of “Bravo!”

IN HIS BOOK, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made, Dr. Paul Brand Writes:

“A kindly looking old gentleman with a more-than-prominent nose and a face seamed with wrinkles crosses the stage.  His shoulders slump, and his eyes seem sunken and cloudy–he is over ninety years old.  He sits on a stark black bench, adjusting it slightly.  After a deep breath, he raises his hands.  Trembling slightly, they pose for a moment above a black and white keyboard.  And then the music begins.  All images of age and frailty slip quietly from the minds of the four thousand people gathered to hear Arthur Rubinstein.

His program tonight is simple:  Schubert’s Impromptus, several Rachmaninoff’s Preludes, and Beethoven’s familiar Moonlight Sonata, any of which could be heard at a music school recital.  But they could not be heard as played by Rubenstein.  Defying mortality, he weds a flawless technique to a poetic style, rendering interpretations that evoke prolonged shouts of “Bravo!” from the wildly cheering audience.  Rubinstein bows slightly, folds those marvelous nonagenarian hands, and pads offstage.

I must confess that a bravura performance such as that by Rubinstein engrosses my eyes as much as my ears.  Hands are my profession.  I have studied them all my life.  A piano performance is a ballet of fingers, a glorious flourish of ligaments and joints, tendons, nerves, and muscles.  From my own careful calculations, I know that some of the movements required, such as the powerful arpeggios in Moonlight’s third movement, are simply too fast for the body to accomplish consciously.  Nerve impulses do not travel with enough speed for the brain to sort out that the third finger has just lifted in time to order the fourth finger to strike the next key.  Months of practice must pattern the brain to treat the movements as subconscious reflex actions. . .finger memory, musicians call it.

I marvel too at the slow, lilting passages.  A good pianist controls his or her fingers independently, so that when striking a two-handed chord of eight notes, each of the fingers exerts a slightly different pressure for emphasis, with the melody note ringing loudest.  The effect of a few grams more or less pressure in a crucial pianissimo passage is so minuscule only a sophisticated laboratory could measure it.  But the human ear contains such a laboratory, and musicians like Rubinstein gain acclaim because discriminating listeners can savor their subtlest nuances of control.”

THOUGHT:  That’s the way we are.  We are Christ’s Arthur Rubinstein.  We are His body.  We might even say, we are Christ’s orchestra.  We each are musicians, and we each have a part to play…  …You are a musician.  You have a part to play.  You are part of something larger, greater, and grander than yourself.  We are creating a symphony of praise to the glory of God.  When the Great Maestro raises His baton and signals you to play, as He does now, then on the downbeat, play!  You have a part.  He has gifted you so that you can play it… Max Anders, Holman New Testament Commentary – Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians & Colossians, 157-158

“For the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.”  Ephesians 4.12

–Mike Benson

 

New tennis shoes for 29 cents!

I just purchased a brand new and very nice pair of tennis shoes for 29 cents.  These shoes rang up on a local store’s cash register with two special and unmarked discounts.  Then the cashier accepted a 15% off coupon which had been given to me by an employee and this dropped the price to less than 15 cents per shoe.  Great shoes, at a GREAT price, and a memorable shopping experience.

As great and as desirable as a new pair of 29 cent shoes may be, there is something far, far better.  John spoke of this in Rev 22:1-2:  “And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve (manner of) fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

The “healing of the nations” tells us John was speaking of this life and not eternity (there will be no “nations” in eternity).   John knew God offers life.  Everlasting life.  Fellowship with deity and all spiritual blessings in Christ are how Paul described it (Eph. 1:3).  Sadly, most will not accept God’s almost unbelievable offer.  Jesus said, “For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it” (Mt. 7:14).

Dear reader, let me ask one simple question.  Would you pounce on the opportunity to buy a new pair of shoes for just 29 cents while neglecting or rejecting the “free gift” of God (Rom. 6:23)?

Make wise choices in the spiritual realm for these will affect you for eternity.

Brad Price
www.abiblecommentary.com

Being a father

I love being a father.

If every bit of progress of my children isn’t imprinted on film or memory card, it is in my mind as fresh as the day it happened. Those memories include when each of our three children walked, when they learned to ride a bicycle, and graduated from college. Sure, there have been trials and difficulties but the joys outweigh them all.

Each child has repeatedly assured us of their love for their mother and me. I know their love is genuine because they show it often.

Jesus repeatedly showed his love for his heavenly father by obeying him (John 14:15). He spoke of his father lovingly and encouraged us to love him as well. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us how to please our heavenly father. He told us our righteousness must exceed that of the scribes (Matthew 5:20). And, he taught us how to give and pray in a way that pleased God.

He started by encouraging us to be careful when we give and pray (Matthew 6:1, 5). When we give and pray we are not to behave the same way others do. There are those who give and pray to impress others. Jesus told us his father doesn’t like that. We are not to be like those people (Matthew 6:2, 8).

Jesus wanted us to give showing our true love for him by not creating a scene designed to impress others (Matthew 6:2). When we pray, our requests should be made known without showy pretense as the hypocrites (Matthew 6:5-6). He said do not be like them.

God loves being a father. He gives his children every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). He always gives without giving us a sharp reprimand for how we use his gifts (James 1:5). He wants to be proud of us because he loves us just as any good father loves his children.

What our heavenly father asks is not so difficult. Let’s make him proud of us by being obedient children. We should want to love him because he first loved us (1 John 4:19). Do you love God enough to want to do what he asks?

I do not gauge myself and my actions by other people’s gifts

WHEN WE COMPARE ourselves with others, we actually inhibit ourselves from becoming who God wants us to be…

He gives gifts to us (Romans 11.29), and each of us has something to contribute.

I do not gauge myself and my actions by other people’s gifts, but by the gifts God has given to me.  Steve Prokopchak, Counseling Basics, 26

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”  Romans 12.3-8

Mike Benson

 

If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.

“Now if anyone builds on this foundation

with gold, silver, precious stones, wood,

hay, straw, each one’s work will become

clear; for the Day will declare it, because

it will be revealed by fire; and the fire

will test each one’s work, of what sort it

  1. If anyone’s work which he has built on

it endures, he will receive a reward. If

anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer

loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so

as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:12-14

NKJV).

One of my favorite church buildings in Bangladesh is the one used by the Bashara Church of Christ in Naogaon district. It is of mud walled construction with a tin roof. The walls are close to two feet thick, and about twelve feet high.

This keeps the inside of the building much cooler than most tin or brick walled structures. The members continually dress the outside of the building with fresh mud, using various colors and shades in decorative patterns to keep it looking almost new, though it is approaching twenty years old.

In almost any culture, plain dirt or mud is one of the cheapest and least regarded building materials. Yet here is an example of a very useful and even attractive and durable structure composed of a material that many would disdain.

One often hears of evangelistic efforts to reach the upper levels of society. “We need educated people, professional people, influential people in the Church,” it is said. “Just think how much we could accomplish if we were able to reach such persons in large numbers.  What great churches we could have.”

Perhaps we need to be reminded that it is not so much the materials used as the skill and effort of the builder that results in “great churches.” When Paul discussed the rewards received or lost by the builders in the text quoted above, he was not judging their work based on the materials they selected.

Preachers often have little choice as to who they address; they must speak to whoever will listen and give them opportunity. Paul is saying, regardless of the nature of the audience, one must build carefully and well, selecting only the foundation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ as his starting point.

With regard to the materials used, it is good to be reminded that God has chosen “the base things of the world and the things which are despised,” rather than that which is noble, mighty and wise as the world reckons such qualities (1 Corinthians 1:26-28).

What seems to be gold or silver to man may be considered much more common to God. Conversely that which we consider straw or mud may be of incomparable worth to him.

Rather than being so selective regarding the materials with which we build, let us use what is available and concentrate on doing the very best work we are able to perform. That way leads to reward.

— by Michael E. Brooks

LOOKING LIKE A CHRISTIAN

A little old Jewish lady is flying out of New York City on her way to Miami Beach. She looks at the businessman sitting next to her and asks him, “Excuse me sir, but are you Jewish?”

The man responds politely, “No, ma’am, I’m not Jewish.”

After a little while, she again asks him. “You’re really Jewish, aren’t you?”

Again he responds, “No, ma’am, I am not Jewish.”

Barely 10 minutes later, the little old lady asks him once more, “Are you sure you’re not Jewish?”

Finally, in exasperation and in a final effort to shut her up, he replies, “OK.  Yes, ma’am, I am Jewish.”

“Funny,” she says, looking puzzled. “You don’t look Jewish!”

Makes me wonder.  If anyone approached me and asked me, “Are you a Christian?” and I answered, “Yes”, would they be inclined to say, “Funny, you don’t look like a Christian”?

I’m not talking about looking like the world’s stereotype of a Christian — a sour-looking guy with a scowl on his face, not enjoying life at all.  I merely wonder if my Christianity is something that can be seen by the people who see me every day.  I know what I believe, but is that belief translating into action?  Can anyone tell?

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)

Do you look like a Christian?

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!

It was 30 years ago today that President Ronald Reagan gave a speech that perhaps, contained his most memorable quote as President of the United States.  While speaking in West Berlin, President Reagan said to the Soviet leader, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Of course, the wall to which he was referring was the “Berlin Wall” that divided communist East Berlin from democratic West Berlin. As history records it, two years after this speech, the Berlin Wall was torn down and the people of East and West Berlin were finally united after a 28-year-long separation.

Whatever your feelings are toward the presidency of Ronald Reagan, his call to “tear down this wall” begs to be allegorized. While the Berlin wall was torn down, there remains many walls, yet standing, which also need to be torn down.

  • Are you separated from a friend or family member because you refuse to accept an apology they offered? Tear down this wall!
  • Is your relationship strained with someone because he/she attempted to correct you in a spirit of brotherly love? Tear down this wall!
  • Do you privately or publicly have an adversarial position toward the bishops in your congregation because of a decision they made, or a direction they chose? Tear down this wall!
  • Are you tempted to marginalize certain truths because they stand in opposition to the way you live or believe?  Tear down this wall!
  • Are you ever envious of the success of neighboring congregations or fellow preachers? Tear down this wall!
  • Do you have prejudice towards people who are different from you in a multiplicity of ways (e.g. race, education, wealth, status, clothing, etc.)? Tear down this wall!

You see, there’s still work to be done; There are walls still standing that need to be torn down. While there is a time to build, the wise man said there is also a time to break down (Ecclesiastes 3:3). Accept the challenge, and “tear down this wall!”

by Steve Higginbotham

Ye are the salt of the earth

I love salt.  I use it on just about everything I eat from popcorn to apples.  However, before I can get the benefit from the salt, I must grab the salt shaker, turn it upside down, and shake it.  Sometimes God has to do the same.  Grab the church, turn it upside down, and shake it. “Ye are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13).

Are you “still in the shaker?!”

–Toby Miller

How Men Act When They Repent

In Matthew 12:41, Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” According to Jesus, the men of Nineveh repented at the preaching of Jonah.

You remember the story, don’t you? God had commanded Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me” (Jonah 1:2). Now Nineveh was not only a city filled with wickedness, it was also the capital of the Assyrians, hated enemies of the Israelites. Jonah didn’t want to go.  He fled from God’s presence. However, after being given some quality time in the belly of a fish to reflect and pray, Jonah decided to obey God.  Jonah walked through the city proclaiming the judgment of the Lord upon these pagan people: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4).

The people of Nineveh repented. They “proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest to the least of them” (Jonah 3:5). When word came to the king of Nineveh, “he arose from his throne and laid aside his robe, covered himself with sackcloth and sat in ashes.” He decreed that “neither man nor beast, herd nor flock” were to eat or drink and that “everyone” was to “turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hand” (Jonah 3:7-8).

The text says that, “God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them” (Jonah 3:10). God can read men’s hearts. He knows more about what is going on in our heads than we do ourselves. But He did not need to read the minds of the Ninevites to know that they had repented.  He “saw their works, that they turned away from evil”. When the men of Nineveh repented, nobody was left to wonder whether or not their repentance was genuine. Nobody was left guessing about their intention to stop committing evil. Nobody would have doubted they had actually repented of their sins.

We really need to learn this lesson from the men of Nineveh. We need to learn how to act when we repent.  Repentance isn’t just saying “excuse me,” “my bad,” or “forgive me,” and then going on with our lives as if nothing happened.  Repentance should produce real change in our actions.  We are to “bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). I am afraid that too many of us think that our repentance should go unnoticed. We are incognito repenters!  And while God hardly asks us to don sackcloth and ashes today, He does ask us to “do works befitting repentance” (Acts 26:20).

Let’s resolve to turn away from sin in our lives, and make sure that we behave in such a way that folks can tell that’s what we’ve done!

– by Steve Klein

Do something nice for Uncle Charlie and send me the bill

Unable to attend the funeral after his Uncle Charlie died, a man who lived far away called his brother and told him, “Do something nice for Uncle Charlie and send me the bill.”

Later, he got a bill for $200.00, which he paid.  The next month, he got another bill for $200.00, which he also paid, figuring it was some incidental expense.

But, when the bills for $200.00 kept arriving every month, he finally called his brother again to find out what was going on.

“Well,” said the other brother, “You said to do something nice for Uncle Charlie.  So I rented him a tuxedo.”

That’s not exactly the most appropriate gift for someone who has died!  But the story made me think about how we are often willing to give, even to sacrifice great amounts, and we are happy to do so once or twice.  But we don’t want it to become something we have to do for the rest of our lives.

For example, we’re happy to have friends or family stay in our homes for a short while, but we don’t want it to go on for years and years.  We’ll agree to teach a Bible class at church for a quarter or two, but we don’t want to be stuck in the class for the rest of our life.  We’ll take a mission trip and live in squalid conditions for a week or two, but would never dream of moving there permanently.

And our hesitancy in situations like those is perhaps understandable.  Unfortunately, we sometimes are tempted to have the same attitude when it comes to serving Christ.  We’re willing to give up everything for Christ — at least, for a while.  But for our whole lives?  Always seeking to put others first?  Always willing to forgive?  Always willing to suffer and sacrifice for the cause of Christ?

We need to be reminded that Christianity is not a sprint, it’s a long-distance marathon, and we must be willing to commit ourselves to run the race to the very end.  Be forewarned — it can be tiring.  But “let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.” (Gal. 6:9)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Superman don’t need no airplane, either

MUHAMMAD ALI IS considered the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time…

He won 56 out of his 61 professional fights and knocked out 37 opponents. His most famous catchphrase was, “I am the greatest!”

One day, Ali was seated in an airplane when the flight attendant came up the aisle to make sure that all the passengers had their seatbealts fastened. Reaching Ali’s seat, she asked him to buckle up.

“Hmph!” the champ sneered. “Superman don’t need no seatbelt!”

The flight attendant smiled sweetly and replied, “Superman don’t need no airplane, either.”

Ali fastened his seatbelt.

THOUGHT: The greater our success, the greater the risk of us thinking too highly of ourselves. Os Hillman, “The Success Test,” The Upside of Adversity, 109

“For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Romans 12.3

Mike Benson

We’re all cracked pots

A WATER BEARER in China had two large pots, each hung on the end of a pole that he carried across his neck…

One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.  At the end of a long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.  Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made.  But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.  “I am ashamed of myself, and because this crack is in my side, it causes water to leak out all the way to your house.”

The bearer said to the cracked pot, “Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side?  That’s because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path.  Every day when we walk back to my house, you’ve watered them.  For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate my table.  Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace my house.”

THOUGHT:  Each of us has our own flaws, cracks, and imperfections.  We’re all cracked pots.  The measure of our ability to lead others to Christ is not based upon our accomplishments or achievements, but on what the Lord has done, and can do, through the Word and us.  We are made perfect through our weaknesses.  God is capable of providing all of the resources we need to complete the task He asks us to do (Philippians 1.6).  Scott G. Wilkins, “New Beginnings to Some Old Endings,” REACH – A Team Approach to Evangelism and Assimilation, 99-100

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.”  1 Corinthians 3.6; cf. 2 Corinthians 4.7
Mike Benson

GETTING WHAT WE PRAY FOR

A mother sent her fifth grade boy to bed. After a few minutes, she went upstairs to make sure that he was getting ready for bed. When she stuck her head into his room, she saw that he was kneeling beside his bed in prayer. Pausing to listen to his prayers, she heard her son praying over and over again. “Let it be Tokyo!  Please dear God, let it be Tokyo!”

When he finished his prayers, she asked him, “What did you mean, ‘Let it be Tokyo’?”

“Oh,” the boy said with embarrassment, “we had our geography exam today and I was praying that God would make Tokyo the capital of France.”

Prayer is not a magical means by which we get God to do what we want.  While God desires that we brings our petitions to Him, He has not promised to give us everything that our heart desires.  In fact, if an earthly father were to do that to a child (“Oh, you want to touch the hot stove?  Go ahead!”), we would consider that father guilty of child abuse.  We realize that a godly father sorts through the needs and the wants of his child and ultimately decides to give his child what is in his best interest and what will bring that child the most happiness in the long run.

William Temple was right when he said, “”We do not pray in order to change his will, but to bring our own wills into harmony with his.”  As we make our requests to God, we remain open to the idea that God may have something better in mind for us.  His purpose may be fulfilled in our lives in a way we cannot even imagine.  So, if we pray we ought, we come away feeling blessed, knowing that God has received our petition, but confident that if God knows a better path for our lives, He will lead us in that direction.

“And he was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and he knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if it is your will, take this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:41-42)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

From now on I want you to know I am the man of this house and my word is law!

THE HEAD OF THE WIFE

A husband had just finished reading the book “Man Of The House” while making his commute home from work.

When he arrived home, he stormed into the house and walked directly up to his wife.  Pointing his finger in her face, he said, “From now on I want you to know that I am the man of this house and my word is law!  You are to prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I’m finished eating my meal, I expect a sumptuous dessert afterward. Then, after dinner, you’re going to draw my bath so I can relax.  And when I’m finished with my bath, guess who’s going to dress me and comb my hair?”

His wife thought for a moment and responded, “The Funeral Director is my guess.”

Unfortunately, many husbands have the mistaken idea that that’s what it means to be “the head of the wife” — give orders and sit back, ready to be waited on hand and foot.  Paul, though, gave a completely different picture:

“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior…. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Eph. 5:23,25)

What Paul is saying is that headship is not so much a position of privilege as it is a position of responsibility.  It is not the responsibility of the head to “lord it over” the wife, but rather to take a position of service and sacrifice.  Christ, our head, was willing to humble himself to meet our every need, even to the point of giving up his life.  He serves as the ultimate example to all of us who are husbands.

Just a few questions for you husbands to think about:  What have you given up lately for your wife?  What have you done lately that shows her how much you love her?  Are you more concerned with serving or being served?

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

Have a great day!

Alan Smith