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Be sure your sins will find you out

Be Careful, You May Run Over Yourself

When I was sixteen and learning to drive, I had a 1970 Ford van, Seafoam Green with a white stripe down the side. Dad had to go with me while I had the learner’s permit. I mowed 25 yards from April to September and kept quite busy.

After inspection, we realized the carter key that kept the rod in place that led down from the gear stick had come out. We were at a yard, which we mowed, and were getting ready to leave. I sat in the driver’s seat and shifted gears. Nothing happened. I knew the rod had come out of place. So, I crawled under the van to put it into place.

The rod would not reach the hole, so I pulled on it. When I did, I knocked the van into neutral and it started rolling. I was perpendicular to the front wheel, which was headed for my pelvic bone. I yelled to Dad as I scrambled out from under the van. He jumped across the engine shroud as he put on the brake and I ripped a hole in my jeans and made a gash in my knee, a scar I carry to this day. I almost ran over myself.

A similar thing happened in Florida recently. In Gainesville, a 48-year-old man (drinking according to police reports), angry at the woman behind him, got out of his truck and started banging on her car window at a red light. She drove away but nothing was holding his truck in place and it rolled into him. It fractured his hand and foot for which he was treated at a hospital. He was charged with a DUI and property damage.

Be sure your sins will find you out. That is a biblical principle we see playing out all around us. That’s what Moses told the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh if they did not go fight with their fellow Israelite brothers: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numb. 32:23).

Solomon said, “The fool folds his hands and consumes his own flesh” (Ecc. 4:5). In Paul’s words, “For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap everlasting life” (Galatians 6:8).
Be careful. Think before you leap. Otherwise, you might run over yourself.

–Paul Holland

Nameless people on iTunes are better evangelists for a band than most Christians are for the church

As I was searching for music by my favorite band on iTunes a while back, I began to look at the comments by other fans. Out of all of the comments, one really stood out to me – “I try to tell someone new about this band every single day..” My first thought was “well, I’m not that zealous, but I can relate. I also try to tell people about that band any time I talk music.”

Then I thought of something else – all of these nameless people on iTunes are better evangelists for a band than most Christians are for the church. Consider all of the “evangelists” that we have around us in society: we have music evangelists (such as the guy I mentioned above), we have technological evangelists (Mac addicts come to mind), we have political evangelists, we have sports evangelists, and we have television show evangelists (proponents of the Office and Lost have been everywhere the last few years), just to name a few. Why is it that it’s so easy for people to “evangelize” about their favorite band or sports team but it’s so hard to spread the good news about God’s Word?

We are excited and enthusiastic about our favorite TV shows or sports teams, and that’s why we end up talking about them. It’s our job to be excited about our Christianity, and it’s our job to tell everyone about it. We need to be like the aforementioned music fan who makes it his goal to “convert” someone new every day. We need to be like Jeremiah in Jeremiah 20:9, where the Word was “fire in his bones” and he couldn’t help himself – he had to let it out. Finally, we need to be like the apostles in Acts 4:19-20. They were told not to speak of Christ anymore, but they said they had to speak on what they had seen and heard. We must have the same mindset of being so excited by what God has done in our lives that we have to speak about Him at all costs.

So what do we do to gain more enthusiasm for God’s Word?
1) Study it. Don’t just read it, really take time to dig into consistent study.
2) Share it. Talk about the things you learn in your studies with anyone – Christian or not.
3) Pray for God to build an excitement for His Word in our lives.

God has blessed us with so much. When we take the time to realize what He does in our lives, we can’t help but be enthusiastic about spreading His Word to those around us.

Jack Wilkie

I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself

Bringing Christ Closer

Some of the people I love the most live far away from me and I miss them terribly. I wish I could be with them, or they with me. However, we are human and burdened with the inherent limitations of time and space. We cannot be in more than one place at a time.

While this is true of humanity, these rules do not apply to God. He operates outside of time and can be wherever he wishes. He can be there for each one of us simultaneously. While we cannot adequately explain how that can be true, we can know it by faith (Hebrews 11:1).

We want to consider how we can bring God closer by looking at what it meant for Israel and what the New Testament offers to us as his children.

God made a covenant with Abraham that led to the creation of the nation of Israel (Genesis 12:1-2). From there, God provided for and blessed his people, despite their frequent spiritual infidelities.

God created a society for his children, where they would have complete security and organization through the Law of Moses. He says, “I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself” (Exodus 19:4, NKJV).

God calls them “a special treasure” and a “holy nation” set apart from all others (Exodus 19:5). God would do anything for Israel, as long as they remained faithful (Exodus 34:10-11).

God tells Israel that he wants to be a God that is “near at hand” (Jeremiah 23:23-24). Yet Israel had the responsibility to fulfill their side of the covenant.

Christ came to usher in a new covenant to bring God closer to humanity (Ephesians 2:14-16; Jeremiah 31:30-34). He was the fulfillment of prophecy to fill this role. “Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name, Immanuel,’ which is translated ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:23; cf. John 1:1-5,14,18).

We are baptized into his body, the church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 2:38, 41, 47; Ephesians 1:22-23), and we reside in his household (Ephesians 2:19). We are his children and he remains with us as long as we live (Hebrews 13:5).

No greater honor is available to sinful man than to be in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). In Christ, all spiritual blessings exist and are available to the faithful (Ephesians 1:3).

We exist today under a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13). We have the same commands to be faithful to Christ as Israel had in the previous covenant (John 14:15; Revelation 2:10).

Christ will be everything we need, if we will walk with him all of our lives (Matthew 6:25-34; Ephesians 3:30-4:1). He is consummate love, goodness, and mercy. Yet, he demands faithfulness (Hebrews 11:6).

If we want Christ near, he is already there, if we are in his body and walking in his paths. He will always be beside us in prayer and his Word carries us, renews, and strengthens us like nothing else in existence (1 Peter 2:9-10).

Why would we not avail ourselves of such an indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)? There is nowhere else to go but to Satan (1 Peter 5:8; Matthew 25:31-33,46). Jesus is the only one offering eternal joy in heaven (John 6:68). Satan offers nothing but nightmares (John 8:44).

I must coat myself in the spiritual armor of Christ (Ephesians 6:10-20) and enter into the joy of Christ on this earth, so I can bask in it for all eternity (Revelation 21:3). There is no other viable option.

– by Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree

Like a Palm Tree

“The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree” (Psalm 92:12 NKJV).

There are eight coconut palms on the campus of Khulna Bible College. Of these, three are perhaps 20 years old, four are 10 to 12 years old, and one is a new planting. The coconut is one of my favorite trees in south Asia, growing quickly, bearing wonderful nuts, and presenting a beautiful picture as it sways gently in the breeze. Other varieties of palm share some of these characteristics, but the coconut palm is particularly productive.

When I read the psalmist’s description of the righteous I am reminded of these trees in particular. How is a righteous person like a palm tree? I can think of several possible applications.

First is the vigor of the palm. It grows quickly, maturing into the bearing of fruit within well less than 10 years, at which time it may be 15 feet in trunk height, not counting the large leafy crown. Such vigor means that one may plant coconuts with expectation of enjoying their shade and nuts very soon. The righteous man has sources of strength denied to others. Even a new convert or young Christian may serve productively in the Lord’s Kingdom. As Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

Second, the coconut is a strong and stable tree, in spite of its long slender trunk and soft composition. Though their natural habitat includes such hurricane alleys as the Caribbean, the Florida coast, and South Asia, they typically reach full maturity and old age without being toppled. They are resilient, bending to the winds, but not breaking. In Psalm 1 the righteous are described as “like a tree planted by the rivers of waters” (verse 3). This stability is a result of the fact that “the Lord knows the way of the righteous.” In contrast, “the way of the ungodly will perish (verse 6).”

A third application is fruitfulness. The coconut tree is extremely productive with a year-round bearing season. I read some time ago that it is the only form of vegetation upon which one may find fruit throughout the year in all forms of development from bloom to mature nut, simultaneously. The owner of a coconut tree can go to it at almost any time with the expectation of receiving good fruit. He can also observe younger nuts that will be ready to harvest later.

A consistent theme of the New Testament is that followers of Christ must be fruitful. Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and my father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away” (John 15:1-2).

Titus was commanded to “Remind them (i.e. the churches) … to be ready for every good work.” In Colossians 1:10 Paul prayed “That you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing him, being fruitful in every good work.”

Each Christian has unique talents, resources, and opportunities. But each can bear fruit, at some rate and of some kind (Matthew 13:8). Like a good palm tree, that is what God expects of us.

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

Look at ME!

HOW TO LOVE IN AN AGE OF SELF-PROMOTION

From American Idol to reality shows to YouTube to Facebook, the culture has provided us so many opportunities to flaunt ourselves. We can work to earn our “big break” or we can tell everyone in our sphere of influence about the great things we are doing. This is a worldly tendency, but we can tend to do this with our Christian friends as quickly as we do those in the world. But, have we stopped to consider that such self-promotion is unloving?

Paul, defining love in 1 Corinthians 13, tells us three things love either is not or does not do. It does not brag, is not arrogant, and does not seek its own (4-5). Whether we may be tempted or driven by insecurity or feelings of inadequacy, narcissism, or a need for the praise and recognition of others, we fail to love when we try to turn the spotlight on ourselves. It may even be through vaunting our spouse, our children, or our parents. But, it often sounds like, “Look at me, look at us, who we are, what we’ve done, or how good, smart, talented, and better we are.” It may be craving credit for an idea or effort. Yet, these can easily become exercises in self-promotion.

Love tempers success with a realization that God is the One who gives us the resources to do anything. Love would prefer turning the spotlight on the good others do. Love has a well-balanced view of self, knowing that we have worth through Christ but that He is the One who deserves the glory. Love hesitates to read his or her own “press clippings.”

When we practice love as Paul defines it, this genuine humility will stand out in a world of people shouting, “Look at me!” This perspective allows one to step behind the cross, lift up Christ, and let the world see what He has done! It also has confidence that the Lord will reward us openly some day for serving Him without fanfare in humility (cf. 1 Tim. 5:25; Matt. 6:1ff).

–Neal Pollard

The Rapunzel Bible

It was a beautiful crisp Sunday morning in Cultureville as the Sunday school teacher headed to class. Confident that the lesson would connect with the hearts and minds of the students, thereby filling the room with a lively discussion involving practical application, the teacher thought, “I’ve got a real winner here.”

The plans for the class were straightforward. First, significant clips from the movie “Tangled” would be viewed before a comparison would be made with salient quotations from the classic Rapunzel. The class would then be guided into interacting with the material by sharing their personal opinions about moral principles and everyday life applications. The teacher felt poised to unleash a killer class!

Truly such a Bible class would be a killer, but not in the sense of a winner. Would anyone confuse this group exercise as a Bible class? Hopefully not.

If not, then why might some teachers be planning just such a class for this Sunday? Are we so naive as to believe that if we substitute a Biblical text in this exercise for Rapunzel that suddenly we are engaged in Bible study?

If a Bible class involves nothing more than one or many individuals using a text as a springboard for airing their own moralizing opinions, then the same goal can be achieved with a Rapunzel Bible or The Three Little Pigs Bible.

If on the other hand, after serious contextual study of the scriptures the voice of God is heard, an authoritative voice which may even challenge our notions of what is right or how things ought to be, then we have a Bible class.

We need Bible teachers. However, if the teacher places greater value upon a democratic discussion of what this text means to me or accommodating the viewpoints of those in class rather than upon discovering the message God intended to be heard, then maybe it would be good to read James 3:1 again.

“Not many of you should be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a more strict judgment.”

– by Barry Newton

Abandoning Reason

CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES

To see people abandon reason is amazing, but even more so when atheists, who pride themselves on logical argument, do it because they are tired of listening to the logical proof of God’s existence.

On the blog “Atheist Experience,” one writer said he was tired of hearing arguments for God’s existence because those arguments don’t have anything to do with the real world. He wrote,

“But basically the rise of science was based on a recognition of the fact that our model of the universe is always going to be tentative, so we should build up a system that recognizes facts as more or less likely to be true based on their support through observation. There is never, ever, going to be some kind of successful argument purely of the form ‘A is A, therefore Bigfoot exists / doesn’t exist.’ Proving things in the real world requires that you look at things in the real world.”/1

“Facts are more or less likely to be true,” is a fantastic admission. I’ve always believed a fact must always be true, and if it isn’t, then it was never a fact in the beginning. Yet, for those who do not believe in God, it somehow makes sense that their facts are not really facts, and that there will never, ever be a successful argument for the existence of God.

The apostle Peter well spoke of them when he wrote,

“But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:12 ESV).

_______

1/ http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/ by “kazim”

–by John Henson @ www.forthright.net

The Greek word tetelestai

Tetelestai – It is a Greek word that is packed with meaning and Good News for us – if we will accept it.

In the original Greek language of John 19:30 in the New Testament of the Bible is found one Greek word: “Tetelestai.” Tetelestai doesn’t translate simply, and so they had to make a phrase out of it. The phrase that was made is: “It is finished.”

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” (Gr. tetelestai) And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” – John 19:30

In the Greek it implies that something has come to an end; it has been completed, perfected, accomplished in the full, the effects of which will endure on and on.

“Tetelestai” is the most powerful single word of all of Jesus’ ministry. It was also his LAST word spoken from the cross. It was the word that turned this apparent tragedy into a scene of Victory that shook the earth, split rocks, changed history and tore away the temple curtain that separated us from God.

In the Greek, the word tetelestai is an artist’s word. It is the word an artist uses when he stands before one of his creations and says, “Tetelestai, it is finished; I cannot add anything more to it. It is complete.”

It is also a builder’s word. It is the word he uses when he hands over the keys of a new building and says, “Tetelestai, it is finished; I have done everything according to the plan. It is complete.”

But the word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times.

This one word has been found written across several ancient tax documents. The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this: “Receipts are often introduced by the phrase [sic] tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner.” (p. 630). But why would they write “It is finished” on a tax document or receipt?

It is because “Tetelestai” also means… “PAID IN FULL.”

The connection between receipts and what Christ accomplished would have been quite clear to John’s Greek-speaking audience; and it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins – and for ours.

“And He Himself is the propitiation [or 'atoning sacrifice'] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2

“After this, when Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, ‘I thirst.’ Then when He had received the sour wine Jesus said, “Tetelestai” [Paid in Full] – and He bowed His head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30).

On the cross, our sins were “Paid in Full” by Jesus, the Son of God!

His payment will cover OUR sins when we accept His gift on His terms by: placing our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ so that our sins can be washed away by His blood (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

Won’t YOU allow Him to release you from the debt of sin?

– David A. Sargent & Mike Eddlemon

* Information gleaned from Bill Versteeg, www.bible.org, and Preachers Magazine (2006)

 

Are you SICK or HEALTHY?

Sickness has taken up a good deal of my time the last two weeks. Thankfully, I haven’t been sick. My little girl and my wife have been though. They have had a very nasty bug which has lasted several days. Their symptoms have included fever, headache, vomiting, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and other things. When someone is sick, the symptoms make this fact very obvious.

Notice the discussion in Luke 5:30-32, “The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” Jesus was not talking about those who are physically sick, but spiritually. Just like with physical sickness, there are symptoms of spiritual sickness. Here are a few symptoms of spiritual sickness:

- Sin.

- Apathy towards God and spiritual aspects.

- Lack of hunger and thirst (for righteousness).

- Increased materialism.

- Filthy speech (words and subjects).

- Lowering moral standards.

- Not praying.

- Not Bible reading.

- Not coming to worship.

When these are consistently present in our lives, they could serve as symptoms of spiritual sickness. Let’s never become like the people in Isaiah who were “weighed down with iniquity” and had “abandoned the Lord” (Is 1:4-6). Physical sickness is dangerous, but spiritual sickness is infinitely more serious. If we do not take care of the physical sickness symptoms they could lead to death. If we do not take care of our spiritual sickness, it will lead to spiritual death (Romans 1:32; 6:16, 21-23).

John said in 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” I also hope that our physical and spiritual health prospers. Let’s make sure we address the spiritual sickness symptoms in our lives so they do not become eternal life threatening. There is no better life than a healthy, thriving relationship with the Lord.

–Brett Petrillo

What is the mission of the church?

ONE CHURCH CONSULTANT SAYS: “Most Christians don’t have a clue to what the mission of the church is…

Up to 80 percent of church members believe that the primary purpose of the church is to provide a place of fellowship where Christians can share God’s love with one another rather than reach out to those who are unchurched…”

…According to researcher George Barna, “Nine out of ten preachers call their church ‘evangelistic.’ However, less than one of of three church attenders has shared his or her faith in Christ with a non-Christian within the past twelve months…” Tom Clegg, Warren Bird, “Discovering What We All Have in Common,”Missing in America, 87

“How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” Acts 20.20

–Mike Benson

Why we often find ourselves in danger

Serving Christ Without Fear

A farmer had an old donkey who liked to explore. One day, the animal accidentally fell down an abandoned well. The farmer surveyed the scene, lamenting that he neglected closing up the well months ago. Additionally, he had little interest in keeping the donkey and frankly wanted to silence the loud beast.

The farmer called his workers over and they shoveled dirt into the well. The donkey brayed louder when he realized what was happening. They shoveled harder and soon the braying stopped. The farmer peeked over the side and realized that the resourceful animal had been throwing dirt off his back and climbing up. Eventually, he jumped out and ran away.

We often find ourselves in danger because we allow temptation to lead us into sinful situations (Proverbs 2:13-22).

In Exodus, the people of Israel asked Aaron to fashion a golden calf to worship when they gave up on God and Moses (Exodus 32:1-6). This led Aaron to lie to Moses and to God about what actually happened, to cover his sins (Exodus 32:20-24).

David was in the wrong place when he instigated the series of events that led to adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (2 Samuel 11).

Samson’s weakness for women led him to abandon his mission to judge the people of God and to lose his life, as a result (Judges 16).

We find ourselves in situations where the sinful can prey on us. Like the donkey, we have allowed temptation to lure us into a trap and Satan’s agents try to finish us off. The world hates us and will not miss an opportunity to destroy the faith of God’s people (John 15:18-19; 2 Timothy 3:12).

They shovel dirt on us, trying to bury us alive. Yet, we have to rise above the attacks of the world. We cannot let them stop us from serving God (Acts 5:29). We serve a higher calling (Romans 12:1-2). Like the old song, “We will not be moved!”

The donkey left his attackers behind and we can do the same because we have the mightiest force in the universe behind us. God says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NKJV).

We have nothing to fear because our enemies are powerless against God’s Children, who wear his armor (Isaiah 35:4; Ephesians 6:10-18). He is always at our side! (Hebrews 13:5).

Hallelujah!

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Vision in the church

AUBREY MALPHURS DESCRIBES a leader without a clear vision to that of a person trying to drive blindfolded…

If this is the case, then according to research, the majority of church leaders are driving congregations blindly. In these cases, there is a mixture of “no vision” and “unclear vision.” This is to say that there are a number of times that as church leaders we believe that a vision is clear when in reality it is not.

A vision cannot be clearly communicated to others until God’s vision has been articulated within a congregation’s leadership. Clarity yields clarity while uncertainty yields doubt and uncertainty. Kenny Norris

“Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” Nehemiah 2.17; cf. Luke 6.39

–Mike Benson

 

 

 

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics!

BACK TO THE BASICS

One of the world’s most famous merchant captains died, having long been admired by his crew and fellow officers.

They remained puzzled, however, over a strange ritual he performed daily. While at sea he would lock himself in his cabin and open a small safe, take out an envelope with a note inside and read it. After locking the paper back in the safe, he would return to his duties.

For years this went on, and his crew became very curious. Was it a treasure map? Was it a letter from a long lost love? Everyone speculated about the contents of the strange envelope.

After laying the captain’s body to rest, the first mate led the entire crew back to the ship and into the captain’s quarters. He opened the safe, got the envelope and read the words aloud to an astonished crew:

“Port: Left, Starboard: Right.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics! That’s true of those of us who are Christians as well. We would all do well to lock away the basics of Christianity in a safe and get away to ourselves daily and go over them once again. So that we never forget. So that we don’t get so caught up doing a million different things that we forget the most important and the most basic rules of life.

What belongs in the safe? We don’t have to wonder. Jesus himself told us:

“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

That’s what’s in the safe — “Love God. Love others.” Don’t ever forget. If you need to, put those words in a secret place and go to that spot daily.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Why have prayer meetings?

PRAYER MEETINGS

On August 30, 1868, Charles H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon entitled, “Prayer Meetings.” It contains a lot of good information and ideas, as he begins with the “apostolic history” of such meetings. He shows at least six purposes of prayer meetings in the New Testament: (1) Encourage the discouraged (Acts 1), (2) Receive power (Acts 2), (3) A Resource for the persecuted (Acts 4:35ff), (4) Individual deliverance (Acts 12:4ff), (5) Guidance regarding mission work (Acts 13:2-3), and (6) The First Step of a new work for Christ (Acts 16). He follows that up by citing three important results of such a meeting: (1) Draws us closer in a special kind of fellowship, (2) It generates devotion, and (3) God has promised extraordinary and special blessings to those who do it. He goes on to say some other useful things, but he makes the powerful case that prayer meetings were a fixture of the New Testament church (Prayer-Meetings, Capoccia, 1-2).

In more modern times, especially following the “Great Awakening” in this country back in the 19th Century, most religious groups met regularly as a church to pray. During this same period of time, there were men and women dedicated to restoring the New Testament church and eradicating denominationalism whose custom it was to meet frequently to pray. And, they believed in prayer. Alexander Campbell called it “the holy of holies, the inmost temple of religion” and Barton Stone said it was “the offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his will” (Enclyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, Foster, et al, ed., 600-601).

While “prayer meetings” are not frequent or common anymore, and that may reveal a lot about the church-wide challenge to evangelize and grow, they still will serve the purposes and produce the benefits asserted by Spurgeon 150 years ago. When we meet in the sweet communion of prayer, as a church, we will be closer, more devoted to God and one another, and blessed by answered prayer. A former elder, very funny man, and dear friend of mine in Mississippi, upon reading of our Saturday Night Prayer Session for “Think Souls,” wrote, “Well, first of all, who would ever have thought of having a prayer meeting on Saturday evening at 6:00 P.M. to pray for opportunities to reach souls? Who would have thunk it? We’re still working on getting folks to attend worship.” Well, we are, too, brother. But, I cannot wait to see a house full of saints, drawn together to petition “The Great I Am” to help us think, find, reach, and teach the souls all around us! Oh, the thrill of summoning the One with unlimited power, resources, and knowledge to help us do the thing His Son left for us to do right before He stepped on that cloud (cf. Acts 1:9). Before we “go” (Matt. 28:19), let us “come” boldly before His throne as a church and ask His help (cf. Heb. 4:16).

–Neal Pollard

“SAFE SEX”

For many years, “Safe Sex” has been a term synonymous with an education program targeting youth and purporting to teach them about contraception, avoiding disease and violence, and similar concepts. The assumption is that teenagers and late preteens are unable to exert self-control and will inevitably fall prey to their desire to commit sexual immorality. The term itself seems so benign and is misleading to young people.

In his book Moral Choices: an Introduction to Ethics, Scott B. Rae includes a very profound statement made by writer Kari Jenson Gold. She says,

Consider the notion of ‘safe sex.’ Surely, the two
words are ludicrously contradictory. Sex can be
many things: dark, mysterious, passionate, wild,
gentle, even reassuring, but it is not safe. If it is,
it is not very likely to be sexy. How to abandon
oneself to another, how to give your body into
someone else’s care and control, and remain safe?
Sex is dangerous. It’s supposed to be (211).

The lie in this misnamed term and slogan, whether an intentional or unintentional lie, has scarred and damaged an infinite number of people since time began. When people change any of God’s rules and make their own, there will be devastation and destruction. That is certainly true of God’s plan for sexuality.

Most in this world are more concerned about disease than doctrine and feelings over faith. But, the Bible makes clear what, spiritually, safe sex is. It is sexual relations between a man and woman in a marriage recognized, ordained, and approved by God (cf. Matt. 19:1-9; 5:27-32). When it comes to our souls, sex is not safe between the unmarried, between those of the same sex, or between a married person and one not his or her marriage partner.

That which is safe is only that which is within the bounds of God’s will. It does not matter if society gives a pass to those who are “in love” or who “intend” to some day marry. It does not matter if the culture gives the nod to those whose marriage is deemed “loveless,” “boring,” or “strained.” On any subject, the only safe ground is that which is built upon the foundation of Christ (cf. Matt. 7:24-27). The world’s view of sexuality is built upon the shifting sand. Let us be safe in the arms of Christ, and we will be safe in every relationship.

Neal Pollard

Be prepared (not just a Boy Scout Motto)

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” –Mark 1:3 NET

Preparation. Doing things ahead of time, so that when the time comes, you’re ready.

The Lord sent John the Immersor to prepare Israel for the Messiah’s arrival. His coming required preparation: repentance and faith in the man whose ways would be stranger, in one sense, than John’s.

Although Christ’s coming would be a unique moment, the principle of preparation still applies. Some moments in life require preparation ahead of time.

We must prepare for the moment of temptation, with prayer and with a knowledge of God’s word. Because the unprepared will give in to the attractions and pressures of Satan.

We need to prepare for the moment of conflict, with patience and with love to do what is best for the other person. Otherwise, we’ll worsen the clash, rather than creating a climate for peace.

We ought to prepare for the arrival of a new year, with plans and concrete objectives, taking advantage of a God-given marker of time to re-evaluate and re-energize. Otherwise, we’ll keep on doing what we’re doing, and perhaps institutionalize our low efficiency and lack of effectiveness.

We need to prepare for the encounter with the non-Christian, knowledgeable about the gospel and about the modern mentality, ready to give an answer, to offer to study, to open the Bible to the right passage. Without that, we’ll let that pagan continue on the path to perdition.

We must prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ, when he comes to scoop up his people, with vigilance and obedience to the will of God. If we sleep, we will lose out. Big time. Big eternity.

In spite of the many Old Testament prophecies and in spite of John’s preaching, few people welcomed Jesus as the Messiah. And few today are prepared spiritually.

Are you among that few?

– J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

Instruments of Music and the New Testament

Instrumental music and the New Testament

 1)      For about the first 600 years after the church was established, numerous writers condemned instrumental music in worship.

2)      Writers from about 38 AD all the way to 458 AD are on record as opposing instrumental music.

3)      Finally it was introduced, likely in 670 A.D. by a Catholic Pope.

a)      Beginning about 1320, men saw the need to “reform” things about Christian worship.

b)      From about 1300 to 1800 we find renewed efforts to teach people inst. music is not part of NT worship.

c)      It is only within the last 200 years that men and various denominations have again tried to bring in instrumental  music for NT worship.
John Price, a Baptist, has an insightful book on how many have never been told instrumental music in worship is not part of God’s plan for Christian worship.  Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/Old-Light-New-Worship-Psychological/dp/1881095010

d)     Let’s see what the Bible says in Matthew-Revelation about instrumental music.

e)      In Mt. 9:23 (prior to the institution of the new covenant), we read about some “flutes.”

f)       Lk. 15:25.

g)      Mt. 6:2 is where Jesus told people to not “sound a trumpet” before helping people who need aid.

h)      In Mt. 11:16-17 Jesus contrasted His work and approach to reaching people to that of John the Baptist.

i)        The word “piped” in Mt. 11:17 and Lk. 7:32 is used to describe Jesus’ evangelistic approach.

4)      1 Cor. 13:1 – “sounding brass” or a “clanging symbol” (musical instruments).

5)      1 Cor. 14:7-8.

6)      Four other NT verses about instrumental music – Mt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; Heb. 12:19; 1 Thess. 4:16.

a)      Mt. 24:31 uses the word “trumpet” to describe heaven’s destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

b)      1 Cor. 15:52 refers to Jesus’ next and final coming; Paul compared Jesus’ return to the sound of a trumpet.

c)      Heb. 12:19 refers back to Israel and the mountain around which they camped.

d)     In describing Jesus’ next and final coming we read about the “trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16).

I BELIEVE YOU HAVE JUST HEARD OR READ EVERY PASSAGE IN MATTHEW-JUDE THAT MENTIONS INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC.

IN CONTRAST TO THE OLD TESTAMENT WHICH DESCRIBES ALMOST 20 INSTRUMENTS AND OFTEN ASSOCIATES INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC WITH WORSHIP (2 CHRON. 29:25; PS. 150), HOW MANY NEW TESTAMENT VERSES ASSOCIATE INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC WITH NEW TESTAMENT WORSHIP?

a)      Not one verse in Matthew-Jude associates instrumental music with Christian worship.

b)      We have Jesus talking about instrumental music, but NOT in conjunction with praising God.

c)      We have Paul speaking about instrumental music, but NOT in conjunction with NT worship.

2)      In Matthew-Jude, we cannot find even one verse that is like 2 Chron. 29:25 and Ps. 150 in the Old Testament.  Why is this case?  We now live under a New Testament and God has changed some things.  Instead of Saturday being a special day, it is now Sunday. Instead of select people being priests, all are priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).  Instead of tithing, the New Testament teaches giving as we have been prospered (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  Instead of praising God with instruments, the saved are to sing as will be demonstrated shortly.

3)       “Well, just look at the book of Revelation.  We read about instrumental music there.”

4)      First, the only instrument we read about in the book of Revelation regarding the saved is a harp.

5)      There are just four verses that refer to harps or harpers.

6)      The first of these is found in Rev. 5:8 – READ

7)      John said the “golden bowls of incense” are a symbol – they represent the prayers of the saints.

8)      If the golden bowls of incense represent something, might not the harp also represent something?

a)      All were playing harps but today other instruments are okay and not everyone needs to play today.

b)      This type of interpretation is an example of twisting or wresting the Scriptures, something God condemns.

c)      Rev. 14:2 – READ  Notice the comparison word “as.”  This comparison also seen in Rev. 15:2.

d)     In Rev. 18:22, John described multiple instruments associated with Babylon (false religion).

9)      The New Testament speaks of music, but it does not speak about instrumental music in worship.

a)      Several times in the New Testament we find the word “sing” or “singing.”

b)      Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Heb. 2:12; Jas. 5:13; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16

10)  If someone wants to justify instrumental music for NT worship, they must go to the Old Testament (a system which has been removed by Jesus–Rom. 7:1-4; 10:4).

11)  The “best defense” for instrumental music in New Testament worship is this:  It is not specifically forbidden (prohibited).

12) If this line of argument is valid, it also authorize popes, Mary worship, Noah using cedar for the ark, etc.

13) God requires man to worship in “spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24).

14) The New Testament says “sing” and “make melody with the heart” instead of “make music” (Eph. 5:19).  Will we add instrumental music to our worship (2 Jn. 9; Rev. 22:18-19)?

(15) Are we worshiping in accordance with what Jesus said?

 

Richard Dawkins’ 2006 best-selling book, “The God Delusion”

Dawkins “Delusion” Deluded

Spending the holidays reading Richard Dawkins’ 2006 best-selling book, “The God Delusion” is an odious endeavor, but the book announces the rise of atheistic fundamentalism.

What is that, you say? Good question. I’ve never been happy with the title of “Christian fundamentalist,” when it means “militantly anti-modernist Protestant evangelicalism” as George Marsden defined it. I don’t consider myself a “protestant” because I am a New Testament Christian.

The word “militant,” however, does apply to me and, it seems, to Dawkins. The rise of atheistic fundamentalism means militantly atheistic.

Dawkins leaves no doubt that that is the case from the beginning salvos in the first chapter, which include the sentence, “What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect?”

However, Dawkins makes fundamental mistakes about his concept of biblical faith. He defines faith as “a persistently false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.”/1

The Bible defines faith differently. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is evidence. It is conviction from the evidence.

It is evidence that produces faith. The Apostle Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17 ESV). The word of Christ is the evidence that produces faith and conviction in the heart of a believer.

Dawkins introduces us to atheistic fundamentalism through a pen dipped in anger and vitriol. He decries violence visited upon the world through “religion,” but is more than ready to insult and degrade anyone who believes in God. He even claims parents teaching children biblical truth is tantamount to child abuse./2

We should certainly hope that this academic know-it-all is a variant of atheistic thought, but since atheists have been losing ground to the truth for more than 50 years, we should prepare ourselves for continued examples of poor penmanship.

In Dr. Antony Flew’s review of Dawson’s book, the former atheist and current “believer in a Supreme Being” wrote, “This whole business makes all too clear that Dawkins is not interested in the truth as such, but is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means.”/3 This may be the true definition of atheistic fundamentalism.

_______

1/ Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion” (New York: Mariner Books, 2006), 5.

2/ Ibid, Chapter 9.

3/ “Flew Speaks Out,” www.bethinking.org

–by John Henson @ www.forthright.net

When you think you are having a bad day …

It was Christmas Eve, 2007, when 77-year-old Robert Schoff decided to find the source of a clog in his septic system.  He dug a hole, lost his balance, and became stuck in the opening of his septic tank. The Des Moines, Iowa, man was sure that he was going to die.  He yelled for his wife for an hour, but she did not hear him.  However, she did walk by a window and see his feet sticking up in the air.  Two Polk County sheriff’s deputies pulled him out of the mire.  It will not be a top ten holiday fond memory, for sure (AP report via Fox News, 12/26/07).

Probably none of us have fallen headfirst into the same bad situation that Schoff did, but all of us have moments in life that just stink!  Job, the great sufferer, said that life was “full of turmoil” (Job 14:1).  James, by inspiration, dubbed them “various trials” (Jas. 1:2).  These tumultuous trials range from irritations and inconveniences to full-blown, five alarm burdens.  It may be mistreatment.  It could be physical or financial.  It might be emotional or spiritual.  Eventually, it will be all of these for most of us.  What do you do when you fall head first into the unpleasant?

Watch your attitude and speech!  Trials and troubles can turn you bitter.  This will boil over into your speech.  You will sound negative and you will become focused, even obsessed, with complaining about your problems.  You do not want others to associate you with bitter complaints and angry tirades.  Paul writes, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).  This is a sin-problem that otherwise, basically good people fight, grumbling and growling about those septic tank situations of their lives.

Use it as an opportunity to glorify God!  Such runs contrary to worldly wisdom.  The world preaches that we cry foul, that we howl long and loud for everyone else to hear, that we play the victim, or that we obsess about the matter.  The Christian, realizing the vastness of his or her influence, instead follows the great examples of the faithful in scripture like Job (Job 1:21), Paul (Phil. 4:10-12), and the prophets (Jas. 5:10).  Peter tells us to glorify God if we suffer in our Christian lives (1 Pet. 4:16).  How hard that might be, yet how much more effective that makes us as His light and salt in this dark, unsavory world!

Count your blessings, not your crosses!  Really, isn’t it a matter of upon what we choose to focus?  In every life, rainstorms fall.  In every life!  So, why are some cloud-watchers and others silver-lining-finders?  We decide how trials effect us.  That is somewhat frightening.  Habits are formed by repetitious decisions!  Each trial that comes, we react.  The way we reacted to the last trial sets the trend for how we are more likely to react the next time.  The old poem, in part, goes, “Count your blessings, not your crosses; count your gains and not your losses; count your joys and not your woes; count your friends and not your foes.”  No matter who we are, our negatives cannot outweigh our positives–especially if we are “in Christ” (cf. Eph. 1:3).

I am not minimizing the presence, pain, and perplexity of your problems or mine.  I am suggesting a proper perspective.  Cast an eye to Calvary, whereupon the perfect Man hung.  Peer into the prison, where Paul sat waiting for Nero to behead him.  Watch, listen, and learn!  You will find yourself in some foul places in life.  Don’t let them infect you.  Let them improve you!

Neal Pollard

Do most people tell the truth?

The Small Tongue

Do you think most people tell the truth? Can you really take what they say at face value? Perhaps they are like the ancient Cretans: “Cretans are liars, evil beasts, lazy, gluttons” (Titus 1:12).

It is through the tongue that all lies are communicated. That small part of the human body can make a huge impact. It can ruin one’s reputation. It can destroy a friendship. It can cause never-ending heartache.  On the other hand, the tongue has the ability to give comfort and hope in time of sorrow. It can shine the bright light of saving truth into the life of someone wandering in spiritual darkness. It can glorify God and lift up praise to Him.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Scripture repeatedly urges us to exercise great wisdom and care in how we use this small part of the body. Proverbs 18:21 is not exaggerating when it warns us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” James said that the tongue can be as destructive as a fire (Jas. 3:1-12).

So how should this effect us? Let us use our tongues to speak good to others, build up one another, and glorify our Creator in prayer and praise.  How are you using your tongue?

- by Shane Williams

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