God was far from frugal in His efforts to save us.

FRUGAL ME?

Mary’s fourth grade homework assignment was to make sentences using the words in her spelling list, along with the definition. Coming across the word “frugal” in the list, she asked her father what it meant. He explained that being frugal meant you saved something.

Her paper read:

Frugal: to save

Sentence:  Maid Marion fell into a pit when she went walking in the woods so she yelled for someone to come get her out.  She yelled “Frugal me, Frugal me!”

It’s easy see how a fourth grader could confuse the words, but while the word “frugal” and the idea of saving are closely related, they are miles apart when it comes to Christianity.  The New Testament speaks often of our reconciliation with God as “salvation”.  Jesus himself said:

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”

(Luke 19:10)

But God was far from frugal in His efforts to save us.  Centuries of preparation, the sacrifice of His only Son, the heartache of being rejected, God’s patience in waiting for us to respond — there was nothing frugal in any of it.  Quite the contrary, God lavishly poured out all that He had in the hopes of saving us.  “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15)

Praise be to God both for His willingness to save us and His unwillingness to be frugal about it!

Alan Smith

“Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

PULL UP A couple of chairs, look each other in the eyes, and sincerely say what you love, admire, and appreciate about your spouse…

Then allow your spouse to do the same for you.

But what do you say?  Here are some ideas:

.  “I love you.”

.  “Wow, you look great!”

.  Wink across the room.

.  Give a hug in the morning.

.  “You have beautiful eyes.”

.  Call in the middle of the day, just to say, “I’m thinking about you.”

.  Leave a love note on her pillow.

.  “I’m really glad I married you.”

.  “Thank you for praying for me.”

.  “I really appreciate how you manage our money.”

.  “I like that you help out so much around the house.”

.  “That was a great meal.”

.  Meet him at the door with a kiss.

.  “I missed you today.”

.  “I love the way you take time to read to the kids.”

.  “I really enjoy spending time with you.”

.  Run your fingers through his hair.

.  “I love that you have such a giving heart.”

.  “You are a wonderful cook.”

.  “I really like it when you encourage me.”

.  Set aside time alone, just to talk.

.  “I am so proud of you.”

.  “Thank you for standing up for me.”

.  “You are a great organizer.”

.  “I like that you hold my hand when we are in public.”

.  “I feel safe and protected when I’m with you.”

.  “I love the way you kiss.”

.  “You are a great lover.”

.  “You make me feel important to you.”

.  “I love that you remember special occasions and make sure we celebrate them.”

.  “I think it’s great that you are willing to say you’re sorry when you mess up.”

.  Turn off the TV when she says she needs to talk to you.

.  “You really are my best friend.”

.  “I appreciate that you take time sexually to be sure I’m pleased.”

.  “I like that you take time to appreciate the little things in life.”

.  “You are a great organizer.”  (Debbie L. Cherry, “Warm Fuzzies and Cold Pricklies”–The Key to Staying in Love, Discovering the Treasure of Marriage, 45-46) 

 “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”  Proverbs 12:18

 –Mike Benson

Daddy, if I died, would you be sad for me?

ON TUESDAY OF last week an electrical storm passed over Vicksburg…

Lightning struck and peeled the bark off an oak tree in the side yard.  The charge went down and killed our basset hound, Samson.  Our children took it as you might expect.

Hannah had asked to see Samson before I buried him.  I decided that seeing him would help her deal with the loss, and it did.  As I was covering him, she placed a clod of dirt over his body and asked if doing so would hurt him.  I told her that he no longer felt any pain.  Then, she turned her attention from the dog to me and asked, “Daddy, if I died, would you be sad for me?”

Oh, how easy it is to pull on Daddy’s heartstrings.  I didn’t have to think hard for the reason for that question.  She wanted and needed the assurance that Daddy still truly loves his little girl.

The Bible teaches in Ephesians 6:4, “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.”  As a father, I cannot imagine giving my children everything there is to give in this life — food, clothing, shelter, love, affection, discipline, laughter, and fun — but then, in turn, neglect to teach them how much God loves them and how much they should love God.  How could I not teach them everything we do as a family is centered on God and His Son Jesus Christ?  How could I not teach them about God the Father and Son, who are revealed to us in the Bible, and how that we ought to attend to worship instead of going to a ballgame?  How could I not teach them about burying the family pet?  And how could I not teach them about how to react when life throws them a curve ball?

Dad, will your reassure your children that you love them?  Will you rededicate your life to being the example for them as you follow YOUR Heavenly Father?

“Daddy, would you be sad for me?”  The answer is beyond expression.

“A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal…”  Proverbs 12:10a

Mike Benson

He calls you by name (Isaiah 43.1)

THE KEY WORD is through

 

God promises you will get through the waters of grief, the river of sorrow, the furnace of pain.  Somehow you will get through.  What you experience today will not last forever.

 

One encouragement here is God knows who you are.  He is your Creator, and he calls you by name (Isaiah 43.1).  You are His, and He will take care of His own.  In time of sorrow you feel unimportant and unknown.  God knows you, and you are important to him.

 

God also knows where you are.  He knows when you’re fighting the current of the river of sorrow, when you’re walking through the fiery furnace of suffering.  Others may not know what you’re experiencing.  One the outside you may have everyone believing you’re fine.  But inside you’re about to drown.  God knows — and He is there for you.

 

When Daniel’s three friends were thrown into the furnace, the king watched (Daniel 3.22-26).  And what he saw amazed him: the men were not harmed, and a fourth person was with them in the furnace.

 

God knows how you feel: alone, afraid, uncertain about the future, isolated, maybe rejected.  God made you with your emotions, and he knows how they can overwhelm and control you.  God will never condemn you for the way you feel.  Tell him how it feels — He will listen.

 

God knows what you need.  You need someone to share the pain, to walk through this long valley with you.  He promises His presence.  He also promises His love.  God gave you His Son to conquer death and give hope.

 

Live on promises, not on explanations.  Even if God explained by your loved one died, the answer wouldn’t end the heartbreak or quench the questions.  Instead of explanations, God gives promises, which keep you moving ahead, giving hope and new strength.

 

You’ll get through your grief.  It won’t end today or next month.  But there is an end.  Just face today.  Tomorrow will take care of itself.  Don’t burn today’s energies on tomorrow’s problems that aren’t here yet.

 

You’re going to make it through.  David W. Wiersbe, “Going Through,” Gone But Not Lost, 77-78

 

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;  and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you.  When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.”  Isaiah 43.2

 

Mike Benson

In our world there is an unfair amount of pressure on people.

HANDLING THE PRESSURE

The ocean is an incredible part of our world.  It is beautiful and essential for life.  Yet, it is also vast and mysterious.  For ages people have wondered what was on the ocean floor.  On August 15, 1934, Otis Barton and William Beebe came closer than ever before.  On that day they descended to a depth of 3,028 feet into the dark ocean, a record which remained unbroken for 15 years.

The way they achieved this was through a spherical deep-sea submersible called a bathysphere.  This submersible was made with very thick cast steel in order to handle the remarkable pressure at such depths.  The water pressure is so great that no person can survive without protection.

The most amazing part of this journey was when they went down and then turned on the lights.  What did they see?  Fish!  These fish were just roaming around as free and careless as ever.  How could the fish do this?  They simply compensate for the pressure outside by having equal pressure on the inside.  These fish did not need thick cast steel to swim around; they were just made that way by God.

In our world there is an unfair amount of pressure on people.  This pressure comes in all forms from almost every angle.  Sometimes the pressure of this life is truly enough to break someone.  So, how can we handle such pressure?  The answer is not to become thick-skinned.  It’s not to become cold and unfeeling.  The way to handle the pressure of this life is to compensate with the right power on the inside.

Psalm 27:1 says, “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?”

Isaiah 41:10 states, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God, I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

There are countless Scriptures that talk about the strength we have when God is in our life.  Truly there is no greater way to handle the outside pressure than to have God’s great power working within us.

–Brett Petrillo

You can come to the place where the circumstance itself is less painful than the commitment not to give up.

I PLAYED A lot of basketball back in the day…

 

I sprained my ankles many times and I learned too late that the best way to handle all that black-and-blue is to fill a wastebasket with ice, and top it off with water.  Then, while the injury is fresh, put your wounded foot deep into that cold water and leave it there.

 

If you can last for one minute, it’s just crazy painful.  But if you can keep it in there for two minutes, the injury and its recovery time will be cut in half.  (The problem is that after two minutes the pain is so excruciating that you will be saying words your mother didn’t know you knew.)

 

If you can hang on for two and a half minutes, you can be playing basketball again by Thursday, but the pain of holding your foot in that arctic water will have you crying out for someone to bring you a sharp object.  Even with my worst injuries I seldom made it two and a half minutes.  

 

But here is the incredible thing a bout “remaining under the pain” of having your foot in that cold bucket.  If you can hang on for three minutes, you’ll be walking on it tomorrow.  The pain will be consuming those last thirty seconds, worse by far than the injury itself now.  But you will walk tomorrow.

 

It is just that way with trials.  You can come to the place where the circumstance itself is less painful than the commitment not to give up.  If staying put was easy, if submitting to what God allows and not giving up was simple…everyone would be doing it.  The fact is, many folks are going round and round with God about the very same things because they change the scenery or marriage or job or congregation rather than remaining under the trial and letting God change them.  James MacDonald, “Why Trials?”, When Life is Hard, 63, 64

 

“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1.4

 

Mike Benson

It is illogical and inconsistent to argue that God raised Jesus from the dead but is unwilling or unable to raise deceased Christians.

Now if Christ is preached that he has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?” (1 Corinthians 15:12).

In preaching to non-Christian audiences and teaching young churches, there are many questions of application that arise. It is one thing to accept that the Bible teaches a particular doctrine (e.g., the resurrection of Jesus from the dead).

It is sometimes far different to show how that doctrine is carried over into life for the Christian (the hope of one’s own bodily resurrection). But it is critical for us to recognize that God is consistent in his nature and in his will. Each doctrine of our faith is tied to every other doctrine in a logically consistent way.

In the example above Paul makes it clear that it is illogical and inconsistent to argue that God raised Jesus from the dead but is unwilling or unable to raise deceased Christians. The Father of Jesus has the same nature, the same will, and the same power as the Father of all other humans. He promised to raise Jesus and did. He also has promised to raise us, therefore he certainly will.

It is common in all parts of the world for modern people to have wildly incompatible beliefs. They profess faith in the Bible as the inspired word of God, but refuse to accept that unrepentant sinners will face eternal punishment in Hell, regardless of the many plain Scriptures which teach that exact doctrine.

In South Asia we teach the unity and oneness of the church which Jesus built, based on Matthew 16:18, 1 Corinthians 1:10; John 17:20-22; and Ephesians 4:1-6, among many other Scriptures. Some audiences say they understand and believe those teachings, yet continue to practice denominationalism, without seeming to understand the illogic of that practice.

It is clear that the Bible teaches one Gospel, one God, one Savior, and one Church. There is one “faith, once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Every doctrine and command fits logically within one system of religion. There are no contradictions nor inconsistencies. Our challenge is to understand God’s will and to apply it logically and consistently to our lives

—- Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

THE PARABLE OF TWO DEBTORS

Why did Jesus speak in parables?  The disciples wondered just that (Matthew 13:10).  The Holy Spirit records four answers.  First, Jesus used parables because not all would receive the mysteries of the Kingdom by direct revelation (13:11).  Further, He did so because many hearts were dull and eyes and ears were closed (13:13-16).  Those with faith would accept His teaching, but unbelievers would not understand.  Then, He used parables because the prophets foretold that He would (13:34, 35).   Finally, He did because there were things hidden from the foundation of the world that He must reveal (13:35).

What relevance, then, do the parables have for the modern Bible reader?  Now, the parables exist as part of that written revelation.  Through them, one can see prophecy fulfilled.  The mystery that has been kept secret for long ages past (cf. Romans 16:25) can now be known.  Thus, the parables are of paramount importance as practical instruction today.

Jesus’ parables come out of many settings.  He spoke them during private talks with the disciples, in public sermons, and on the occasion of miracles and healings, but maybe the most effective parables were borne out of situations where His enemies tested him.  The parable in Luke 7:41-42 is such a one.  Consider four key words that aid one to better understand the so-called “Parable of Two Debtors.”

Content

The actual parable is two verses in length, as man has divided scripture.  Jesus expended a total of thirty Greek words (43-NIV; 40-KJV; 34-NAS).  The parable is filled with simple images that are easily comprehended.  He presents the characters, a moneylender and two debtors.  He presents the situation, that one owes about 500 days wages while another owes 50.  He presents the predicament, namely that neither had the ability to repay their debt.  He presents the lender’s response, who graciously forgives both of them.  He presents the debtors’ reactions, which is left for the hearers to interpret but is easily discerned.

Two men in debt needed help beyond their ability to resolve.  The lender is also the forgiver.  Jesus uses financial problems to illustrate spiritual problems.  How appropriate, since most people, regardless of time or geography, have suffered financial reverses.  One national survey found that seventy percent of all worries involve money (Collins, Christian Counseling, 531).  Suppose a person owed a single creditor $100,000 and the creditor called in the entire debt at once.  The debtor is unable to pay, and the creditor sends back news that the entire debt is totally expunged from the record.  How would that person feel toward the creditor, compared, say, with one who owed $1000 but whose debt was also forgiven.  The parable teaches the principle of greater debt, greater appreciation, and lesser debt, lesser appreciation.

Context

The setting of the parable gives it its meaning.  Jesus uses the parable to illustrate two very different people before His eyes.  Consider them.

The first person is a Pharisee named Simon.  One scholar points out that:

The Pharisees were the largest sect of the Jews.  They grew out of an older party, the Chasidim, the Pious ones, and became the “Separatists” of ancient times.  They took the name “Pharisee” probably during the rule of John Hyrcanus, BC 135-110.  They favored a narrow religio-political policy, in distinction to the Sadducees who wished to see the Jews a nation among the Nations (Robertson, na).

If the Jews labeled themselves “conservatives” and “liberals,” it could be commonly agreed that the Pharisees were the former and the Sadducees the latter.  While Jesus had no quarrel with their strict interpretation of the Law (cf. Matthew 23:3), He often rebuked their heart and attitude (Matthew 23:3-5).  Simon the Pharisee apparently had no glaring, outward sin problems, but was guilty in Luke seven of some severe heart problems.

The second person is a woman of the city and a known sinner.  Some have theorized that she was a prostitute, but nonetheless not likely to have been on Simon’s “A” List.  She brings an alabaster vial of perfume, a long neck bottle Jewish women wore as an accessory around the neck and broken when festive occasions called for its use.  Simon had invited Jesus for a meal, but she had “crashed” the party.  It took a lot of courage for her to come where she was obviously not welcome.

When Jews ate their meals at dinner parties, they would have reclined on low couches.  They leaned on their left arm with the head toward the table and the body stretched out away from it.  They removed their sandals before taking this position.  This is the way the woman would have found Jesus.  Her emotions seemingly overcome her and her tears fall on His feet.  She wiped His feet with her hair, which means she would have had to unbind her hair.  This was a social taboo for Jewish women.  By this point, one sees that she cared more about honoring Jesus than pleasing the crowd.  She performs a slave’s task, tending to His feet.

After the parable, Jesus asks a remarkable question:  “Do you see this woman?”  Obviously, Simon knew she was there, but he did not see her properly.  G. Campbell Morgan writes, “Simon could not see the woman as she then was, for looking at her as she had been.”  There are a lot of Simons in the world who refuse to let those who become Christians forget what they once were (cf. 1 Pet. 4:4).  Yet, the worst Simons can be in the church, refusing to let penitent, forgiven brothers and sisters forget their past.

The story ends with Jesus informing Simon that He had forgiven the woman’s sins.  In Matthew 9:3, when He forgave the paralytic’s sins, the scribes thought Jesus a blasphemer.  Yet, He does not gloss over the woman’s apparent immorality.  He calls them her “many sins” (Luke 7:47).  In this, He rebukes Simon for “loving little” and implies that He stood unforgiven.

Contrast

One owed much and one owed less.  Both of them, however, are sinners and are in a greater debt than they can repay.  Such has always been the case, as it is today (cf. Ecclesiastes 7:10; Romans 3:10,23; 1 John 5:19).  Yet, the difference between the two debts is obvious.

One was forgiven much and one was forgiven less.  The word “forgave” (Luke 7:42) is different from “forgiven” in verse forty-eight.  “Forgave” (7:42) is from the same word family as the word translated “grace” throughout the New Testament.  The word “forgiven” means “let go” or “release,” and when used in legal terms meant to be freed from an office, marriage, debt or obligation.  The forgiveness Jesus offered was an act rather than a nebulous concept.  It was a conditional gift she could enjoy eternally.  She sought forgiveness, while Simon did not.  She received it, but he did not.

One was humble and one was proud.  Jesus praises the sinner and condemns the religious leader.  Why?  In a word, “Attitude.”  The parable in Luke eighteen illustrates this well, verse fourteen pronouncing the sinful tax collector justified and the pompous Pharisee not justified.  Jesus saw great potential in a “Big S” sinner who knew it than in a “little s” sinner who did not.

One loved much and one loved little.  Jesus implies this in the parable and makes Simon explicitly admit it.  The natural response of every forgiven person should be “much love” (cf. 1 John 4:19).

Conclusions

Consider some practical lessons one can glean from that parable for today.

No one is worthy of forgiveness. 

Both debtors in the parable did nothing to merit forgiveness.  No one today is worthy (cf. Titus 3:5).  To understand God’s grace, one must see himself as a sinner in need of it.

Not all sinners grasp the seriousness of their sinfulness.

Simon was no less a sinner, but he acted like he was.  Likewise, some of the hardest people to win to Christ are good, moral, but unsaved people (cf. Matthew 7:21-23).

No one can repay his debt.

Not just the two fictional characters in the parable.  Not just Simon and the woman.  Everybody needs Jesus (Micah 6:7).

Sins of attitude are as deadly as sins of action.  Ask the elder brother in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15).  Among the lusts of the flesh, wherein is listed murder, adultery, and fornication, one also finds outbursts of anger, disputes, and envy.  Sins of attitude will keep one out of heaven as surely as will sins of action (cf. Romans 6:23).

Jesus freely forgives those who seek it.

That is the good news and bottom line of this parable.  Jesus’ forgiveness is available to everyone (Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:6).  Yet, one must seek it like the sinful woman did!

Neal Pollard

CONSIDER THE EYE…

Look out the window.  Your field of view catches a vista perhaps a mile wide.  It all appears projected onto half of a sphere a the very back of your eye, the retina, less than three centimeters in diameter.  Yet your brain sees within those three centimeters of information a world a mile wide and knows it is no Disney cartoon the size of a postage stamp.  Light from the outside world has reached your retina with only slight distortion.  That’s because somehow those clever genes in your body produced crystal clear, transparent cells for the eyes’ outer casing, the cornea and the lens just behind the cornea, and the thick fluid that fills the globe of the eye between the lens and the retina.  Amazing.  All those totally clear cells and fluid even though most of our body is opaque or translucent.  Some cells of your eyes are yours for life.  As you age, more are added, but the ones you were born with are still with you as well.

 

The iris, which is controlled by an array of muscles, regulates the amount of light entering based on feedback from the retina.  Behind the retina is a heavily pigmented layer that absorbs light not captured by the retina.  A second array of muscles changes the shape of the lens, bending the light more or less as per the extent of the lens’s curvature, focusing the incoming images sharply on the retina.  (All land vertebrates use the system to sharpen the image.  A fish lens acts in a manner similar to a camera, focusing by moving the lens backward or forward.)  Of course, the concept of focusing assumes the brain makes some decision as to what a “sharp” image means.  Might the world really be blurry and we just see it as sharp?

 

All those muscles working in unison with no conscious thought on your part, and all in the blink of an eye, and all originally stored in one fertilized cell.  Gerald L. Schroeder, The Hidden Face of God, “Meiosis and the Making of a Human,” 82-83

 

“By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”  Psalm 33.6

 

Mike Benson

You just found out you’re getting an unexpected, yet significant tax refund from the IRS.

You just found out that you’re going to be a grandparent for the very first time-and it’s twins.

You just received a big, overdue promotion on your job.

You finally finished that grueling term paper for one of your toughest classes and the professor gave you an “A.”

You just found out you’re getting an unexpected, yet significant tax refund from the IRS.

Your son is coming home in a couple of weeks after an extended tour in Afghanistan.

Your daughter just got engaged to a faithful Christian young man and their wedding is in three months.

That worrisome tumor on your arm turned out to be benign and the doctor will excise it next week.

That dangerous storm front which forecasters said was headed your way has moved off to the north and dissipated.

You just caught a massive redfish down on the coast, or you shot that big whitetail you’ve been after for a couple of years.

You just got a hole-in-one at the local golf club.

Good news!

We love good news. We love telling good news.

I’ve come to the conclusion that one of the main reasons we derive so much pleasure from sharing good news is not only because it gives us yet another personal occasion to re-live all of the joy over again, but because we get to see how our friends and loved ones react when they initially hear the announcement.

They respond, often times, with the same excitement and fervor we did.

Which leads me to a couple, hopefully, sobering questions.

If we’re so anxious to tell others about things like babies and bucks, why aren’t we just as anxious to share the best news of all?

Why are we hesitant, maybe even resistant, brethren, about telling people about God’s great love for them through his precious Son, Jesus Christ? That’s really good news (Luke 2:8ff; Isaiah 52:7)!

People keep secrets, but they share good news.

Here’s my point: Good news, if you think about it, really isn’t good news until we share it. Evangelism really isn’t evangelism until we say something.

Brother-sister, when was the last time you shared The Good News with another?

— by Mike Benson

I’m going to call the White House!

A Call for Help

David Urey was desperate. His wife lay critically injured from an automobile accident in West Virginia. Doctors said she needed immediate attention from a neurosurgeon if she were to survive. Urey tried to charter a helicopter to fly her to Washington, D.C., where the nearest adequate medical care was available. He was unsuccessful.

Finally he declared, “I’m going to call the White House!” It was a bold and desperate act, but somehow Urey got through.  As a result, President Nixon’s private helicopter was immediately dispatched to Urey’s aid. *

Due to our sin, WE are in desperate need of salvation, “for the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).  Our own attempts to save ourselves are futile.  Unless we receive outside help, we are doomed.

God invites us to “call” to Him for salvation.  Although He is Lord of heaven and earth, it is not an imposition for us to call upon Him.  We need not feel hesitant or unworthy to approach Him, for He WANTS to save us!  He “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

Peter was preaching to a large audience who had assembled in Jerusalem for the Jewish feast of Pentecost (see Acts 2).  He told them of the man called Jesus who had been crucified in that very city just fifty days earlier.  He pointed out the ones who were responsible for His crucifixion: “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, YOU have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death” (Acts 2:23).

YOU and I share the blame for placing Jesus on the cross, for He died for the sins of the whole world: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:2).

But Peter had GOOD NEWS for his audience – and for US!  He said that the things that had happened that day were in fulfillment of a prophecy made by the prophet Joel many years before (see Acts 2:16-21).  The conclusion of the prophecy contains these hopeful words: “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the LORD Shall be saved” (Acts 2:21; from Joel 2:32).

How do WE “call on the name of the Lord”?  How can WE be saved?

In response to the question, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36) asked by those who realized that the Man that they had crucified, “God had made both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:37), Peter responded:

“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will CALL” (Acts 2:38-39).

God was already “calling” them – and now US – through the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus (see 2 Thessalonians 2:14).

And we can “call upon Him” for salvation in the same way they did on that Day of Pentecost by: placing our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing His name before men (see Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

God is waiting for your call.  In fact, He’s already answered it through the GIFT of His Son!

Won’t YOU call upon Him for salvation through your trusting obedience?

David A. Sargent

Jesus considered the way to penetrate the world was with light and salt.

AS CONGREGATIONS, WE have tried about everything…

 

…meetings, lectures, Vacation Bible Schools, “Operation Doorbell,” city-wide campaigns, television and radio programs, bus ministries, building buildings, and hiring preachers with sex-appeal.  Some have even followed cultic schemes of “discipling” and instituted unscriptural tactics of evangelism.  Many have thought that growth comes naturally, or that, through the employment of slick media methods or “get if for you wholesale” tactics, the noble purpose of the Lord could be realized.  Now the time has come, having tried every modern method known to man and having imitated the “numbers-mad” denominations, to read the Lord’s instructions!  “When all else fails,” they said, “read the instructions!”

 

Here comes our Lord giving us the very specific and powerful means to penetrate the world: 13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.13-16).

 

Jesus considered the way to penetrate the world was with light and salt.  These two avenues, He says, are a demonstration of the most powerful and overwhelming arguments for Truth: a good life, a life full of good works.  Good Christians, living a good life and doing good works before men, penetrate the world!  Along with this, someone has said that there are five powerful things in the world.  The fifth most powerful thing is an idea.  The fourth most powerful thing is an idea that is true.  The third most powerful thing is the truth of God’s Word.  The second most powerful thing is the truth of God believed.  But the most powerful thing in the world is the truth of the Living God believed and put into practice!

 

For too long, we have been salting ourselves.  We have been lighting the church.  The Lord says salt and light are no good unless they get out into society, into the world, where lost men and women live and die.  Salt penetrates the food, preserves the food.  Light penetrates the darkness.  Leaven penetrates the bread to make it rise and good to eat.

 

This is our Lord’s way of telling us that every member of the body of Christ is to be involved in soul-winning, penetrating the world.  We can all live good lives.  We can all do good works before men so that they can glorify and know our Father in heaven.  He calls us all, not only to be busy doing something, but to be busy being something.  Mac Layton, “Jesus’ Supreme Goal: Great Outreach,” How to Build a Great Church, 113-114

 

Mike Benson

Reducing the Name of God (or the Great I Am)

Text — 1 Sam 4-6; Exod 20:7

  1. The Israelites have engaged in battle against the mighty Philistine army. (1 Sam 4)
    1. The superior-equipped Philistines on this particular day soundly defeat the army of Israel4000 Israelites are killed in that battle. The elders of Israel are very upset and begin to ask what can be done to turn the tide of battle against them.  Someone gets the idea to go up to Shiloh and bring back the Ark of the Covenant — then they would surely begin to win battles.
    2. The Ark — is a small box made of acacia wood. It is 3 3/4′ in length, 2 1/4′ in height, and 2 1/4′ in width — and it is over laid with pure gold.  The lid is spectacular because it is solid gold.  On the lid you have the mercy seat which has these golden cherubim on both sides.  Inside the ark is Aaron’s rod, some manna, and the tablets of stone the Ten Commandments are written on.
    3. The ark represents God’s presence and God’s power — it also represents the name of God in heaven. The Israelites are thinking if they can get the ark down there to them— they will have God’s presence, power, and the might of His NAME with them — and will surely win the battle.
    4. They send for the ark of the covenant — it is escorted by Eli and his two wicked sons — Hophni and Phinehas.  There is an excitement of joy in the air as the Israelites see ark of God approaching.  They begin to shout and sing with joy — it says “the earth resounded.”  The Philistines hear their great shouts and begin to be afraid, and feel that perhaps the Israelites will win the battle, for they said, “A god has come into the camp” of Israel — “Woe to us!”
    5. The Philistine commanders encourage their men — So much so — the Philistine soldiers decide to go and fight believing they can win. In that next battle there are 30,000 Israelites who die — along with Hophni and Phinehas (just as Samuel had preciously prophesied).
  1. The Philistines have an overwhelming defeat. (1 Sam 5)
    1. Not only do they kill so many Israelite soldiers — but they take the Ark of the Covenant and take it down into their land where it is taken to the city of Ashdod. There in that city there is a temple to their false god, Dagon.  Then they take the ark which represents the power, presence, and the mighty NAME of God — and put it at the feet of the statue of Dagon.  If you can imagine, they have reduced God to sit at the feet of this false god.
    2. The next morning the Philistines find the statue of Dagon fallen to the ground. They put it back in its place.  And the next morning that statue has fallen over again — only this time the head and hands have broken off.
    3. About that same time — the people of Ashdod are terribly afflicted. Verse 6 tells us — “The hand of the Lord was heavy on the people of Ashdod, and he terrified (“ravaged”) and afflicted them with tumors.” (6)  Someone decides that the ark of God cannot stay in their city, and they want to be rid of it.  So the ark is sent to the city of Gath where tumors broke out on the people of that city as well.  So the next place was Ekron — but the same thing happens to them as in Ashdod and Gath.
    4. So they gathered all the lords of the Philistines and decide the best thing to do is to get rid of the ark once and for all — and to send it back to Israel.
  1. The ark of God is returned to Israel. (1 Sam 6-7:2)
    1. They build a cart that is pulled by two milk cows who have never worn a yoke. They load the cart with the ark and a guilt offering (golden image).  They send the cart back to Israel which goes to Beth-Shemesh — which is at the border of the Israel and Philistine countries.
    2. When Dale Manor — who is an archaeologist — leaves us for a number of weeks in the summer to go dig in the ground in Israel — he is the Field Director of the dig at Beth-Shemesh.
    3. The people of Beth-Shemesh were harvesting their wheat when they looked up and see the ark of the Lord approaching. They broke up the cart for burning — and they took the two cows as a burnt sacrifice to God.  But in their excitement — 70 men some of the men of Beth-Shemesh take off the lid to the ark and peer down inside of it.  And the anger of the Lord now burned against that city and — and most Hebrew manuscripts will say 50,070 men were struck down.
    4. When the men of Beth-Shemesh saw what had happened — they also send the ark away to Kirjath Jearim to the house of Abinadab — the house on the hill. It will stay there for 20 years until David becomes king of all Israel.
  1. We are talking about the NAME of God this morning — or we TREAT the name of God.
  2. Illus — In March, 2013 — A professor at Florida Atlantic U. asked students to write the name “Jesus” on a piece of paper — place the paper on the floor — and then stomp on it. Most blindly complied — but some refused — and one student even went to school administrators to complain.  Ryan Rotela — then a junior at FAU  told local media that he went to school officials to protest the assignment — “Anytime you stomp on something it shows you believe that something has NO VALUE… So if you were to stomp on the word Jesus, it says that the word has NO VALUE.”  To their credit — the school posted a public apology on their website.1
    1. What do we do with things that no longer have any value to us? We throw them away.
    2. When we take the NAME of God — and treat it as though there is little or no value to His name — we are taking the holy name of God — putting it in a trash can — and taking it out to the curb.
  1. God and His Name are to be REVERED.
  1. God’s anger burned against the Philistines because His name is to be reverenced.
    1. How would you feel if someone borrowed something of yours? Maybe your car, tools, or clothes.  And the person who borrowed it did not treat it with respect.  When it was eventually returned it and it was obvious that not much care was taken because the item is dirty or scratched up or broken.  You would feel like they don’t respect you.
    2. How would you feel if someone began to take your family name and to disparage that name? How would you feel if someone took the name your grandfather and father handed down to you and began to mock, ridicule, or belittle your name — and throw it in the trash?
    3. Knowing how you would feel in those circumstances, you can understand what God must have felt when He saw the ark sitting beside a false god of stone — and God held every person ACCOUNTABLE for treating Him that way.
  1. We remember the Ten Commandments in Exod 20.
    1. I suspect all of us remember the Third Commandment in Exod 20:7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain. (ESV)
    2. What does it mean to take the name of God in vain? It means “to reduce to rubble; or to make inferior.”  It is to treat it as meaningless and useless — something to be thrown away.
    3. Exod 3 — Do you remember the time Moses was out in the wilderness? He looked up to the side of the mountain and saw that bush that was burning with fire — but was not being consumed.  In Moses’ curiosity, he climbs the side of the mountain and approaches the bush.  God told Moses to take off his sandals because the place where he was standing was holy ground — because God’s presence was there.
    4. God made and announcement to Moses — He wanted Moses to return to Egypt and to free His people from their bondage. Moses wasn’t sure about the announcement.  He didn’t want to go back to Egypt, and offered up different excuses for not going.  But one excuse was, “When I go back to Egypt and the people ask, ‘Who sent you?’ what am I going to say?”  God spoke those famous words to Moses, “Moses, tell them — I Am Who I Am.”
    5. Moses was to tell them the “I Am” sent him. I guess that means God is everything — He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-places.  He is perfect in justicemercylove… and salvation.  He is THE GREAT I AM!

And what a tragic MISTAKE it is for any of us to take the name of the great “I Am” — and reduce it to the garbage heap… or to relegate it to a place of inferiority.

  1. Three Common Ways We Reduce the Great I Am to Rubble?
  1. By our profanity.
  2. Every time we talk about the third commandment — someone talks about profanity or obscenity. But I’m not going to talk about profanity as such.  Oh, I know you experience profane or obscene talk out in the world.  You can hardly go anywhere these days without hearing someone using a string of cuss words.
  1. Someone defined profanity as an inability to utilize the English language. I think he is right.  Profanity and vulgar speech doesn’t enhance one’s ability to communicate.
  2. I think profanity is the use of strong language by weak people.
  3. I want to talk about when people use profanity and embed the name of God with that profanity.
  4. Take this test — Listen all this week to the amount of times you hear the name of God used with some vulgar word. Count how many time you hear profanity and God’s name used together from co-workers, people you come in contact with, on the television, and maybe even in your own life.  It will surprise you how common this practice is.
  5. People can control their language — I have played golf with countless people who have used vulgar language. But the moment they learn that I am a preacher — they are able to clean it up immediately.
  6. Illus: I was at the Bison football game last night. Usually our seats are on row L in the reserved section.  But Lael was not with me and I saw Mike Wood and Al Frazier sitting up about 5 or 6 rows higher — so I went up to sit with them.  Early in the game I had my iPhone 6s out and it slipped out of my hand and bounced at my feet and went through the crack in the bleacher.  It fell 2 stories and landed on the sidewalk.  I immediately went down to retrieve it — but in my heart I knew the screen would be shattered.  I found the case lying on the sidewalk — and the phone came out of the case and was about 4 or 5 feet away.  I picked it up and there was not a scratch on it and the screen was undamaged.  Don’t tell me you can’t control your language. For 30 seconds that’s all I was doing!
  7. How does God feel when people — people who can control their tongue — DESECRATE His holy name with profanity and shove into the gutter with foul language? Maybe the same way He felt when the Philistines took His great name and placed it at the feet of Dagon.  God says He will not hold that person guiltless.
  1. By our FRIVOLOUS SPEECH.
  2. Frivolous talk are words that come out of our mouth without even thinking — they are words we say out of habit. We may not mean anything by them — it’s just how we talk.
  3. Slangs — We don’t hear these as much — but I grew up hearing older folks say — “Laud, Laud,” “Gosh,” “Golly,” “Geez,” or “Gee whiz.” Slang for the name of Jesus.  I was so accustomed to these expressions and slangs I didn’t realize I picked up a few of them along the way.
  4. One you hear constantly today is — “O my God!” We don’t like hearing that in here — but we hear it all the time out there.  Or some will text OMG for short.
  5. People will even refer to God and flippantly say — “The Man upstairs,” or the “Big Guy in the sky.” Don’t these expressions reduce our great God and His great name to rubble?

Maybe this is the one we are most guilty of… We can reduce God to rubble…

  1. By our own SILENCE.
    1. Maybe it is when we do not protect the name of God.
      1. We hear someone using the name of God in a profane or frivolous way, and we do not stop that person and ask them not to use language like that around you.
      2. We hear a joke where God or Jesus is the butt of the joke — or where “Jesus and Moses go out to play golf one day” — and we do nothing to protect the awesome name of God.
    2. Maybe it is when we do not lift high the name of God.
    3. When a church is growing it’s easy for the preacher to say — “Look at all that we have done” — and never speak the name of the great I Am and give Him all the glory for what He is doing in our lives and in this church. We get so involved in listing our accomplishments and achievements that we never get around to lifting up the name of God.
      1. Maybe we are putting God at our feet by our silence of lifting up His holy name.
      2. Characteristic of the early church: (Acts 2:42-47)
        1. Verse 43— They kept feeling a sense of “AWE.” I guess that means they would see many who were being baptized.  They would see one Christian helping and sharing with another Christian so that no one was in need.  They would see the apostles doing miraculous works and they were filled with a sense of awe as they saw God working.
        2. Verse 47 — they were PRAISING For in this sense of awe — they looked to the heavens and said that is God who is doing all these great things.
  • Acts 3Peter and John enter the temple through the gate called Beautiful. It is the hour of prayer.  They encounter a man who has been lame from his mother’s womb.  Like so many others like him — his only sustenance comes through begging.  Peter and John walk by and the man asks for alms.  Peter told him in verse 6 — “I have no silver and gold, I do not have, but what I do have I give you.  In the NAME of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!”  He reached out and took him by the hand, and immediately his feet and ankles were strengthened.  He began to walk, and to jump about, and shout.  All the people were asking how this man could now walk and jump about.  They come to Peter and John with a sense of awe and amazement.  Peter and John tell these people, “Men of Israel, who do you marvel at this?  Or why do you look at us so intently as though we made this man walk by our power or godliness.  No, it was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, the One who glorified His Servant Jesus.”  Then they said in verse 16 — And His NAME — by faith in His NAME — has made this man strong…”
  1. Maybe when we fail to give God all the credit and all the glory in our lives and in this church, we reduce His name to rubble.

Let me remind you of the time…

  1. The children of Israel were ready to cross over into the Promised Land — they had waited for it all the lives. Joshua was going lead them across.  But the tired old leader of God — Moses — spent some time instructing the people before they crossed over the Jordan.
  2. One of his instructions is found in Deut 28:58-59 — “If you are not careful to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that you may FEAR THIS GLORIOUS AND AWESOME NAME, the Lord your God, 59 then the Lord will bring on you and your offspring extraordinary afflictions, afflictions severe and lasting, and sicknesses grievous and lasting.”
  3. Did you catch that? Moses told them to be very careful to obey God’s commands — and… AND… to revere His glorious and awesome name.
  4. Those statements are just as relevant for God’s people today as they were in the days of Moses. Our objective is to obey God, and to lift up His great and glorious name.

This world needs to hear what God is doing in the lives of His people.

  1. Lift high the name of God — as high as it can be lifted…
  2. In prayer, songs, and in our sermons…
  3. And in our everyday speech.

So I lift high for you the NAME of JESUS!

  1. Because “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other NAME under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
  2. And the NAME “above EVERY NAME, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 29-11).

Do you have a spiritual need we can pray about this morning?  If you will make it known to us — and through the NAME of Jesus it will be our privilege to go to the Father in prayer for you.

If you are not a child of God this morning — would you “Repent and be baptized… in the NAME of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” — and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit?

1   Source: “University Apologizes for ‘Stomp on Jesus’ Lesson” By Michael Gryboski , Christian Post Reporter, published Christian Post, March 25, 2013

Noel Whitlock

A Pharisee came along and said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”

A MAN FELL into a pit and couldn’t get himself out…

 

A subjective person came along and said, “I feel for you down there.”

 

An objective person came along and said, “It’s logical that someone would fall down there.”

 

A Pharisee came along and said, “Only bad people fall into pits.”

 

A mathematician came along and calculated how deep the pit was.

 

A news reporter came along and asked for the exclusive story on the pit.

 

An IRS agent came along and asked if the man was paying taxes on the pit.

 

A self-pitying person came along and said, “You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit.”

 

A Christian Scientist came along and said, “The pit is just in your mind.”

 

A psychologist came along and said, “Your mother and father are to blame for your being in the pit.”

 

A self-esteem therapist came along and said, “Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit.”

 

An optimist came along and said, “Things could be worse.”

 

A pessimist came along and said, “Things couldn’t be worse.”

 

A spiritual man came along, took the man by the hand, and lifted him out of the pit.  Source unknown

 

“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.”  Galatians 6.1

 

Mike Benson

 

GOD’S COMPASS

Once there was an old sailor who always got lost at sea.  So, his friends gave him a compass and insisted that he use it.  The next time he went out in his boat he took the compass with him.  Unfortunately, he still became hopelessly lost and couldn’t find land.  After a while, his friends rescued him again.  They were upset and frustrated.  They asked him, “Why didn’t you use the compass we gave you?  It could have saved both of us a lot of trouble!”  The old sailor replied, “I couldn’t use it!  I wanted to go north, but as hard as I tried to make the needle aim in that direction, it just kept on pointing southeast.”

See, the old sailor was so certain he knew which direction was north that he tried to force his own stubborn ways on his compass.  Since he wasn’t able to do this, he tossed it aside, chalked it up as worthless, and couldn’t benefit from the guidance it offered.

Too often people view the Bible the same way.  If they can’t make the Bible say what they want it to say, they discard it.  The problem is, it doesn’t work this way.  The Bible is the ultimate compass.  It is God’s compass to heaven.  It is the only way we can know the right way to go and live.

Let’s not be stubborn and try to make the Bible say what we want it to say.  And may we never discard the Bible when it challenges what we thought was true.  Just like the old man, if we follow our own sense of morals, our own sense of direction, we are sure to get lost spiritually.  Even if we think we know the right way, let’s make SURE we know it by following God’s compass.

Brett Petrillo

Commitment is written across its pages from Genesis 1.1 through Revelation 22.21

THE BIBLE IS not a book for our convenience…

 

It speaks about commitment and sacrifice and going the second mile, leaving all to follow Jesus.  It talks about putting on the armor of a soldier and “enduring hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”  Commitment is written across its pages from Genesis 1.1 through Revelation 22.21.  Charles Stanley, “Commitment,” Confronting Casual Christianity, 41

 

When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  Mark 8.34

 

Mike Benson

I’m from the government, and I’m here to help

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help'”

(Ronald Reagan, August 1986).

There is an old African joke where the Tanzanians, who are socialist, accuse Kenyans, who are capitalists, of being a “dog eat dog society.” The Kenyans have an answer, however. They say that Tanzanians are a “dog eat nothing society.” Which makes me think of Churchill’s apt definition of socialism: “Socialism is an economic system where everybody is equally miserable!”

I think a lot of people think of Christianity as the ultimate self-help system. They search the scriptures for better techniques for making money, having better marriages, and becoming more self-confident. It fascinates me to see purportedly Christian books with titles such as “Christian Assertiveness,” or, “Ten Easy Techniques to Make Your Church Grow.”

Christianity is not a system of independence; it’s one of dependence. We rely on God, not better technique!

Don’t look for Christian material on the “Self- Help”

bookshelf. God, himself wishes to help us! The Christian life is not about self-confidence; it’s about God confidence. It’s not about self-help; it’s about God’s help. It’s not about methodology; it’s about mercy!

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6 ESV).

It’s true. The Lord really is here to help!

— by Stan Mitchell

How can the dreamer know if his vision is big enough?

HENRY FORD HAD an incredibly large dream…

He envisioned an affordable automobile for every family at a time when automobiles were only luxurious novelties.  The average person traveled by foot, horse, train, or boat.  People in his day were at first skeptical of his dream, but Ford’s development of the assembly line and mass production of automobiles changed forever world manufacturing and the American way of life.

How can the dreamer know if his vision is big enough?

Several factors can help in assessing the size of the vision.  First, the vision has to be bigger than the envisioner in the sense that it goes far beyond him and his abilities to accomplish it.  If he or she feels that it is within his or her grasp to accomplish the vision, then it is probably too small and limits God.  When Christians develop visions that go beyond their abilities, they are forced to bring God into the picture and begin to trust him to play the major role in realizing the vision.  When this happens, in a sense, the sky becomes the limit…  Aubrey Malphurs, The Vision Process, Developing a Vision for Ministry, 66-67

5 Now Joseph had a dream, and he told it to his brothers; and they hated him even more. 6 So he said to them, “Please hear this dream which I have dreamed: 7 There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Then behold, my sheaf arose and also stood upright; and indeed your sheaves stood all around and bowed down to my sheaf.” 8 And his brothers said to him, “Shall you indeed reign over us? Or shall you indeed have dominion over us?” So they hated him even more for his dreams and for his words. 9 Then he dreamed still another dream and told it to his brothers, and said, “Look, I have dreamed another dream. And this time, the sun, the moon, and the eleven stars bowed down to me.” 10 So he told it to his father and his brothers; and his father rebuked him and said to him, “What is this dream that you have dreamed? Shall your mother and I and your brothers indeed come to bow down to the earth before you?” 11 And his brothers envied him, but his father kept the matter in mind.  Genesis 37.5-11

Mike Benson

“BOUNDARIES OF FELLOWSHIP”

Seeds found bottled and sealed in the tomb of an Egyptian monarch of the 14th century BC, when planted after the tomb was found in 1922, produced lovely plants despite being bottled-up for over three thousand years, sprouting into the same plants they would have produced if planted three millennia ago. In a similar way, the seed of God’s word (Luke 8:11) will produce Christians only no matter in what age it is preached and taught, if it is taught without adulteration.

There must not be any adulteration of, nor tempering with, the seed. There is to be neither addition nor subtraction from scripture (Deuteronomy 4:2). Tampering with God’s word has serious consequences, as shown in the case of Adam and Eve, the first couple, who were driven out of Eden because they believed Satan’s insistence that they would not die although God said they would (Genesis 2). When Eve related that God had said something that He actually did not (about not touching the fruit (verse 3:3) when only eating it was forbidden), it gave room for Satan to engage Eve with another lie (“… thou shalt not surely die…” (Genesis 3:5). Such is the serious consequence of sin, in this case, lying and not keeping within boundaries of truth.

The Bible is sufficient and no other creed is needed. The boundaries of fellowship have to do with the question of where does fellowship begin and where does it end. According to 2 John 9, It begins and ends with the doctrine of Christ, the scripturally-true teaching about who Jesus was as well as everything which He taught. We do not fellowship with any who are outside the church of Christ, who are unfaithful to the Lord and those who do not continue steadfastly in the doctrines of Christ.

Also, we are not to fellowship unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14-15), those in the world (Ephesians 5:11; James 4:4) nor false teachers (Matthew 7: 15; 1 John 4: 1). Those who are in fellowship with God are those within His Son’s church (Acts 2:41-42). There is no room for “unity in diversity”, as the Great Commission makes Jesus’ disciples responsible for teaching everything that He taught, nothing less, nothing more and nothing different. Christians are to be of one mind, in complete agreement (1 Corinthians 1:10, a consequence of Ephesians 4:4-6)).

Having fellowship requires agreement (Amos 3:3), without giving ground to teachers of error (Galatians 2:4-5). As we do God’s work, we are to be wary of false teachers who seek to distract us (Nehemiah 6:1-4). We are warned, “Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13 13).

A good teacher is one who teaches the truth, as did Jesus, who taught with authority so that many were astonished at his teachings (Luke 4: 32), and was bold in his teachings, never apologizing for what he taught (Luke 4: 16-19).

When truth is preached, it is still truth whether the listener agrees or disagrees. When one rejects the truth, the truth does not suffer, but the one who rejects suffers spiritually now and eternally.

On matters of fellowship, God means what He says in His word: “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

PowerPoint file for use with this lesson

–by Leong Yu Kong

“We believe. We believe you can do it.”

Texts such as Hebrews 11 nudge us towards becoming more biblical in how we view faith. That we need the nudge is surprising.

For decades a popular campus movement has illustrated the difference between faith and belief with the story of a wheel barrow and Niagara Falls. Whether fictitious or not, they tell of a man, who pushed his wheel barrow across a tightrope over Niagara Falls and returned.

Upon asking the cheering crowds if they believed he could do it with a person in his wheel barrow, they roared, “We believe. We believe you can do it.”

To such an enthusiastic response, the man said, “May I have a volunteer.” The crowd fell silent. No one was willing to trust in him. While they fully believed he could do it, none would put their faith in him. To have faith in the tightrope walker required climbing into his wheel barrow.

Similarly, opportunities abound in every day life revealing that faith, in some circumstances, must break through the ceiling of mere but genuine belief.

Consider the licensed teen holding out his or her hands. Until we are willing to drop the car keys, we have not put our faith in our teen, regardless of what we might believe about his or her driving ability and maturity.

Actually, there are two English words which are used to translate the idea of pistis in the Greek New Testament. They are faith and trust. To trust often requires going beyond simply believing by taking action.

We should not be surprised then that Hebrews 11, along with a host of other biblical texts challenge the simplistic identification of faith with genuine but mere belief. In this faith hall of fame, many heroes obtained faith because they engaged in an appropriate and necessary action.

“By faith Abel offered…

by faith Noah…built…

by faith Abraham…obeyed and went…” (Hebrews 11:4,7,17)

Given all of the available evidence, why do people simplistically read into the biblical text “just believe,” when they see the word faith? The answer lies in how people have been trained to think about faith, in spite of the evidence.

It is well past time for students of the Bible to read scripture with a healthier understanding of faith.

Context determines what is required to possess faith.

Unconditional promises only require belief (e.g. Romans 4:3), while other situations demand belief in action (e.g. Galatians 3:26-27).

To read the word “faith” within scripture and assume that only genuine belief is being referenced involves reading into the text, not listening to its message.

Context is necessary for an accurate understanding.

by Barry Newton