Get it on Google Play Get it on Google Play


The plagues on Egypt

EFFORTS HAVE SOMETIMES been made to explain away the plagues as natural phenomena in Egypt…

It is quite true that unusual quantities of frogs and lice, unexpected darkness and the other serious heightenings of natural phenomena have been known in Egypt. An examination of the plagues shows, however, that they were miraculous in at least five ways:

1) Intensification — frogs, insects, plagues on cattle, hail, and darkness were all known in Egypt, but now they are intensified far beyond the ordinary occurence.

2) Prediction — the time was set for the comings of the flies (“tomorrow,” 8:23), the death of cattle (9:5), the hail (9:18), and the locusts (10:4). The removal time was also set: e.g., frogs (8:10) and thunder (9:29). Modern science cannot accurately predict the cessation of natural phenomena such as hail.

3) Discrimination — in Goshen there were no flies (8:22), no death of cattle (9:4), no hail (9:26), and so forth.

4) Orderliness — the severity of the plagues increased until they ended with the death of Pharaoh’s firstborn.

5) Moral purpose — the plagues were not just freaks of nature, but carried a moral purpose in these ways:

a) The gods of Egypt were discredited, a purpose indicated in Exodus 12:12; the Nile-god, frog-god, and sun-god were all shown to be
powerless before God.
b) Pharaoh was made to know that the Lord is God, and to acknowledge Him (9:27; 10:16).
c) God was revealed as Savior, in rescuing Israel from the hands of the Egyptians (14:30). Joseph Free, Archaeology and Bible History

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the LORD.” Exodus 12:12

Mike Benson

Did you know the Bible says that certain things ought to be forgotten?

Forgetfulness is usually not considered a virtuous characteristic. Think about the frustration that comes from not remembering:

An important bill that you were supposed to mail.

An appointment that you promised to keep.

A phone call that you should have returned.

A name that you suddenly couldn’t bring to mind.

An answer that you were supposed to know for a big test.

But did you know that the Bible says that certain things ought to be forgotten? Things like:

An unkindness leveled against you.

A harsh word spoken in derision.

An unjust criticism rendered by a thoughtless individual.

An occasion when a close friend let you down.

Paul wrote, “…But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

Good reader, what do you need to forget today?

Think about it.

–by Mike Benson

WHERE IS GOD?

How are you getting along in the world today? Many of us struggle with the seemingly constant negative input from the world around us. Things like the cost of living, the government, crime, illness, relationship problems, problems in our homes, problems at our work, and problems in our churches. All of these things cause us to wonder from time to time if life is really worth living, is God still there, does he still care, or has he abandoned us to our misery.

A friend wrote me these words in a recent note: “God is just not working in my life anymore; in fact, I am not really sure where he IS.” I believe that many people have asked this same question through the years, some have discovered the answer, some have not.

If you are struggling with this question, let me suggest that God is just where he has always been. James makes this point in James 1:17, “Every good and true thing is given to us from heaven, coming from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change or any shade made by turning”.  The point of this verse is that God never changes, he remains the same, and he is constant in his love for us and his requirements to have a relationship with us and his willingness to be there for us!

I would suggest that if there is a change in the relationship, in the satisfaction or feelings of security we have with God, then it is not he that has changed. There is an old story about a husband and wife that are driving down the road in an automobile, each seated on “their side” of the front seat. The wife looks at the husband behind the steering wheel and says, “You know when we were first married we used to sit next to each other.” To which the husband replied, “I never moved.”

Now there are any number of reasons which seem valid, to move from the center of the seat to the side of the seat and put some distance between you and your husband. In the same way, there are many reasons which seem valid for the changes that take place between where you once were and where you now are in your relationship to God. No matter how valid those reasons may seem, the fact remains that it is you who have moved and not God!

I’ve tried to think of a nicer, kinder, a more gentle way to say it, but I just can’t seem to find one. If there has been a change in your relationship and you are asking, “Where is God when I need him?” I’ll tell you where he is, God is exactly where he has always been, where you left him; waiting for you to move back over beside him.

Satan is good at what he does. He knows how to drive wedges between us and those we love or some time slip dividers in a little at a time which separate us from the one we really would like to be with. He stops communication, he breaks down relationships, and he puts up barriers to keep us from trusting and believing that God is there for us and wants only the best for us. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 13:5b, “for He (God) has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you”.

There are people who “drop out of church”, just stop attending with the Saints. They stop worshipping God, stop praying to God, stop singing his praises, because they feel hopeless or they feel abandoned. The question I need for you to think about today is, “if you are getting nothing out of your relationship to God, nothing out of your local church, who changed? If it’s you then perhaps it is time for you to move back. God said it this way through his Apostle John in Revelation 2:4-5, “But I have this against you, that you are turned away from your first love. So keep in mind where you were at first, and be changed in heart and do the first works; or I will come to you, and will take away your light from its place, if your hearts are not changed.”

Russ Lawson

Let us learn to recycle, as God does.

“For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them” (2 Peter 2:20-21 NKJV).

People in undeveloped countries are frugal from necessity. They never purchase a thing new if they can find a serviceable substitute at less cost, or even better, for free.

Students at Khulna Bible College like to keep filtered water in their rooms for personal use. They can get water free from our filtration system downstairs. But they need containers. Whenever anyone is off campus and forced to purchase bottles of water, they are carefully kept for refilling. It is an understood rule here: you just don’t throw away a good bottle.

Satan also recycles. Just because a person comes to faith in Jesus and obeys the Gospel, having his or her sins removed, does not mean that the Devil will give them up as un-claimable. Paul warned Christians to keep their guard up against his darts (Ephesians 6:16).  Peter compares him to “a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Sin will reclaim us as it did Ananias and Saphira (Acts 5:1-10) and Simon of Samaria (Acts 8:13,18-23). He is clever, persistent, and powerful. We must always be watchful against his deceptions.

But Satan is also not alone in recycling. God practices it too. He calls it forgiveness. After listing a number of sins that will keep souls from heaven Paul proclaimed, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

What a glorious thought. Just because a person has been used by sin, that does not mean his fruitfulness is ended. God can redeem him. He can create him again as a new creature “in righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24). He operates the world’s only perfect recycling center.

People may also recycle their relationships. It is done exactly like God does it, through the practice of forgiveness. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

None of us has failed to hurt or offend someone for whom we care. Sometimes that has meant the end of trust and therefore closeness. Marriages, friendships, parent-child relationships and many others are tragically marred or ended by our blunders.

Rarely is such separation intended or desired, but it happens. And all too often pride, stubbornness, and plain hurt feelings prevent either party from seeking to heal the breach or to make restitution for the wrong done.

The late beloved Marshall Keeble once said something like this, “Marriages often fail because neither party will back up; I wouldn’t buy a car without a back-up gear.” That was his folksy wise way of saying we must learn to apologize and ask for forgiveness.

No one stays married happily, nor does any other relationship last, without an “I’m sorry” and “You are forgiven” being exchanged from time to time.

If water bottles are too precious to throw away after only one use, how much more true is that of souls, and of precious and rare relationships? Let us learn to recycle, as God does.

–by Michael E. Brooks

 

Many husbands are going to have to answer to God for how they have treated their wives

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” (Proverbs 18:22 NASB).

Many husbands are going to have to answer to God for how they have treated their wives (cf. 1 Peter 3:7). It is sad how many husbands do not recognize the precious gift they were given and end up demeaning and criticizing their wives in their homes and in the public.

Wives are a gift from God (cf. Proverbs 19:14) and should be treated accordingly. A prudent woman of good, honorable character greatly blesses a man’s life and becomes the crown of his life (Proverbs 12:4). Her greatest value does not come from her beauty or even her personality, but from her service to God.

Notice how the Book of Proverbs ends: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. Give her the product of her hands, And let her works praise her in the gates” (Proverbs 31:30-31). Instead of criticizing and talking down to his wife, a husband needs to praise her and show her how much he appreciates her.

–Jeremy Sprouse

Give me your arm, preacher man. I’m chaining you up

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ”(Philippians 1:12,13, ESV).

I remember a man who smuggled Bibles into the Soviet Union describing what happened when the authorities questioned him. He would be in one of those rooms with a glass window, rather like the police interrogation room depicted on police shows on television.

Realizing that there were probably several of the interrogator’s superiors on the other side of the glass window, he decided to preach the Gospel. Thus he neatly turned the tables, changing them from captors to captive audience.

I can just picture Paul, chained to a grim Roman soldier. He would have been a member of the Praetorian Guard, a sort of Green Beret division of the Roman army. Every day, while Paul consulted with Christian brethren who visited, he was forced to listen.

When Paul offered Biblical solutions to church problems, he overheard. He couldn’t help it! When one of Paul’s antagonists entered, he would observe Paul use scripture and Christ-like love to win him over.

So what could Roman authorities do? Replace an increasingly sympathetic soldier with another? Sure! And Paul would influence him, too! And the next, and the next, until the whole “palace guard” had heard the Gospel!

I can almost detect the twinkle in Paul’s eye when a new guard – the evening shift – would come in and growl: “Give me your arm, preacher man. I’m chaining you up.”

Soldiers changed from physical to spiritual warfare. Captors became captive to Christ. Iron chains became bonds of God’s love. What hordes of Barbarians had failed to do in a frontal attack on the Imperial Palace …the prisoner-preacher had done with his message.

Stan Mitchell

 

Providence worked for Paul

Providence happens in a messy world

God is all-powerful, all-knowing and continually active in this world (Jeremiah 32:17,27; Psalm 103:19; 1 John 3:20; Psalm 139:7-12). He accomplishes his will by acting through providence.

“Providence is the continuous activity of God in His creation by which He guides and governs it for His people’s good and His own ultimate glory.”

Faith in God means that we trust him completely. We allow him to work through and for us because of his divinity and goodness (Hebrews 11:6; Romans 11:33).

Despite God’s power and wisdom, he has limits because he’s given us freewill (1 John 3:4; Romans 1:20-21; John 8:28-29). We can choose to do good or evil (Hebrews 6:4-6). God offers us righteousness, but we must accept his gift.

One of Satan’s greatest weapons is suffering and pain.  Even Christians succumb to his lies (John 8:44). Satan tells us that a loving God (Titus 1:2), will not allow evil to happen to us.

On the contrary, Jesus said, “sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34, NKJV).

Faith tells us that God is always working and cannot fail. Yet, we must remember that he works in a sinful world.

Providence worked for Paul. Yet, he was arrested, beaten and executed (Acts 21-28).

Providence worked for David. Yet, he was on the run for his life (1 Samuel 18-31)

Providence worked for Esther. Yet, she was taken from her home and sent to the King’s bed (Esther 2).

Providence worked for Daniel and Joseph. Yet, they languished in prison (Genesis 39-40; Daniel).

All these men and women found good at the end of their difficult journey and so will we. We just have to trust God’s Word (Romans 8:28). He will accomplish his work and promises despite the choices and failures of men.

As Christians, we just have to keep walking through the mud to get to the fountain of life. But when we are finally clean and saved, all the heartache will melt away (Revelation 21:1-6).

Richard Mansel

Other people’s affairs are nothing to us to intermeddle in; we must quietly work, and mind our own business

While they were getting the fish onto shore, Jesus prepared a meal for them. Peter joined the men in getting the fish onshore so they could be counted and divided. Once again, John’s eyewitness details add texture to the narrative.

We compare this passage to an earlier one found in Luke 5:1-11. There, Jesus directed them to cast their nets and they drew up a bountiful catch of fish that was breaking their nets.  In John 21, they pulled in 153 fish and the nets did not break.

Jesus trained these men to become something better than they could ever be on their own. In Luke 5, the nets were breaking and here, they do not. Jesus has a new mission for them. Now, he had been crucified and was about to leave them to return home (Acts 1:9-11).

The apostles would have to go into a hostile world alone. Jesus assured them that they would have the Holy Spirit and his full support from heaven (John 14-17).

They could go out and do amazing work because he would never leave them (Hebrews 13:5).

No matter how many people they brought to the Lord, the net would not break. The kingdom was for all (2 Peter 3:9) and since he had overcome death, they could be fearless (1 Peter 5:6-11). Peter needed this message and he certainly took it to heart.

The triple denial of Peter is here answered by the triple query of Jesus. The Savior has a purpose for Peter and has to restore him in his own sight and in the eyes of the others.

Jesus calls Peter, Simon, a name given to him by Jesus in Matthew 16:18. By calling him Simon, Jesus has taken Peter back to a time before he even knew Jesus (John 1:40-42). This had to cut Peter deeply.

Jesus asks, “…do you love me more than these?” (John 21:15, NKJV). No matter how many commentators speculate otherwise, we simply do not know to whom “these” refers. We just know that Peter’s heart and emotions are being laid bare.

Peter replies to the first question, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You” (John 21:15).

Peter pleads with the Lord to give him a reprieve on the scouring of his soul. He is being knocked down from his plateau, so humility can take hold of him. In addition to the triple query, Jesus is probing deep into Peter’s heart to re-ignite his fire.

“Jesus said to him, ‘feed my lambs,’ and ‘feed my sheep,’ thus both classes, the old and the young, the mature and the immature.”/1 Jesus needed Peter to return to his place, with a sober mind, renewed purpose, framed with confidence and humility.

Finally, Jesus prophesies the final sacrifice of Peter as a martyr for the faith. It appears that Peter and Jesus had been walking together apparently followed from a distance by John. It is difficult to grasp where everyone is from the information we are given.

After Peter is told about his coming martyrdom, he wonders about his good friend, John. He asks literally, “Lord, and this man, what?”/2

Jesus’ reply: “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to you? Follow thou me” (John 21:22).

Peter needed to be concerned about himself rather than John.

“Other people’s affairs are nothing to us to intermeddle in; we must quietly work, and mind our own business.”/3

Peter, great warrior for the faith, is restored and commissioned for service. Will we be able to overcome our failures and walk again in the light?

_____________

1/ Guy N. Woods, “A Commentary on the Gospel According to John” (Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1984), 442-443.

2/ B.F. Westcott, Westcott, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1973), 305.

3/ Matthew Henry, http://tinyurl.com/cwvaf9w

Richard Mansel

Proverbs 19:3

“The foolishness of man ruins his way, and his heart rages against the Lord” (Proverbs 19:3 NASB).

God has been blamed, cursed; and denied because of pain and suffering in this world that is mankind’s fault. The Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, and Salem Witch Trials didn’t come from God’s Word but from mankind’s foolishness.

God’s Word tells us to love our enemies, pray for them and to strive to be at peace with all men… not fight with and burn them (Matthew 5:44-48, Romans 12:17-21).

A chain smoking father who suffers and dies of lung cancer did so because of the choices he made. A drunk driver who kills a family caused suffering by the decisions he made–God’s Word forbids drunkenness.

Murder and violence come from the pride and unbridled desires of man (cf. James 4:1-3). God has loved us enough to give us free will and let us choose our paths; we are not forced to do anything.

Mankind as a whole, unfortunately, has chosen to do evil and pain and suffering results from it. Mankind in general and us as individuals need to stop blaming and start taking responsibility for our mistakes.

We need to be strong enough and wise enough to admit our mistakes and learn from them.

–by Jeremy Sprouse

Which would you rather be, the rich man or Lazarus?

By way of introducing my subject of study today, let me tell you a cute little story from which we’ll draw what I hope will be an interesting and thought-provoking lesson.

A little boy listened to his Sunday School teacher tell the story of the rich man and Lazarus. After telling the story, the teacher asked the class, “Which would you rather be, the rich man or Lazarus?” This particular little boy, being very honest, replied, “I would rather be the rich man while I live and then be Lazarus when I die.”

To echo some words of Jesus, “out of the mouth of babes….” (Mt. 21:16 citing Psalm 8:2) we can learn some great lessons and I believe that will be the case today as we look at the situation of trying to please the world and God at the same time and here is how we’ll go about it.

If we open our Bibles to the 16th chapter of Luke we’ll find the story Jesus told about the rich man and Lazarus and I think that we should be able to see some interesting thoughts in and around the story. Notice that I cited the 13th verse as an intro into this lesson and I’d point out to you that Christ said this to the Pharisees who were continually around trying to expose Jesus as some sort of charlatan.

Our study of this story will show us that Jesus was spiritually debunking a popular principle, one advocated by the Pharisees, that wealth is God’s blessing for being “righteous.” Of being very religious. A principle popularly espoused that said that those who were rich are those whom God loves.

Also, along with that notion, was that the poor not only suffered from want, they were not worthy of God’s blessing. This idea of wealth being a sign of God’s approval and the poor somehow out of God’s favor was pretty much accepted by society back then. Remember when Jesus healed the blind man (John 9) He was asked “What sin” he or his parents had committed to cause his condition?

Today is really no different than back then. People are still following that same false principle. That if you’re blessed with having riches, then God loves you. He’s smiling on you. However, if you’re poor, then somehow you’re not religious enough, therefore not being blessed by God. (This is the principle behind the inducement used by many radio & television evangelists in their pleas to followers to “send us more money” and you’ll be blessed, too.)

To show how pervasive this idea was in Christ’s day, even his disciples were astonished at what he told the Pharisees as they asked, if this is true, “Who then can be saved?” (Mt. 19:23) And, since this was a doctrine advocated by the Pharisees of Christ’s day, then I can only surmise that they are still flourishing and operating today.

Before I leave that point, notice how Christ spoke to them regarding that doctrine in Luke 16:15: “You try to justify yourselves before men. But God knows your hearts. For that which is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” Following that came the story of the rich man and Lazarus.

Another point seen in this story is this: that death makes it impossible to change the state of a soul. In other words, we die as we have lived. Thus, it’s the condition of one’s heart at the time of death that determines the eternal living conditions of the soul.

The final point I’m going to make from the story, basically, is the crux of the matter. Rich or poor is not the determining factor in the condition of the soul – it’s the condition of the heart.

Which, when you think about it, is why Jesus talked about the “camel and the eye of the needle.” Explaining why the rich have a harder time “entering the kingdom of God.” (Mt. 19:23-24) And why is that? Because their heart is set more on obtaining the riches than on being obedient to God. Yes, it’s really that simple.

But, just as in Jesus’ day, people are still trying to make earthly gain more important that spiritual gain. They’re still trying to be worldly and appear righteous at the same time. Figuratively, they are still trying to hold hands with the world and God at the same time. To make a succinct point and reference Matt. 25:33 at the same time let me just say it this way: you can’t live like a goat and die a sheep.

Just as Jesus told the Pharisees (and us) you “can’t serve God and mammon at the same time.” One will have rule over the other. A similar picture is seen in the account where Christ said to a man who wanted to take care of some earthly business before following Him: “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)

Basically, Christ by His teachings on this subject, is talking about an impossible and an unworkable situation. That situation being – God will not share a person’s soul with the world. That’s why “luke-warm” Christianity is condemned. (Rev. 3:16)

In fact, since we’re already there in Revelation 3, let’s just close this lesson with the reading of verse 17.

“For you say, I am rich. I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.”

Respectfully submitted,
Ron Covey

I have a not-so-private confession.

I don’t know that I’ve ever said a good thing about the Pharisees.

Pharisees have always been easy prey. From my rather one-sided perspective, they–in totality–were the religious bottom-feeders of ancient Jewish sects. They were constantly peering over Jesus’ shoulder trying to find fault with his teachings and practices.

They claimed Jesus ate with the wrong people (Matthew 9:11); that his power could be attributed to demonic forces (9:34;12:24); that his disciples, and he by extension, were guilty of breaking sacred tradition (15:2); that he endorsed withholding income taxes from the Roman IRS (Luke 23:2); that he violated the Sabbath (John 9:16); and that, perhaps worst of all, he was not from God.

Jesus, the most loving man who ever walked the earth, called them “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “white-washed tombs,” and “serpents” (cf. Matthew 23).

If he could denounce them with such bold and unpalatable metaphors, then surely I could do the same in my sermons and Bible classes. And so I admit it, Pharisees have always been my first choice as go-to verbal punching bags.

The problem is–not all Pharisee’s were the wicked men I’ve always portrayed them to be (see David Chadwell’s, “Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees,” published by Quality).

Despite my enthusiastic willingness to stereotype all Pharisees as religious charlatans, not all of them could or should be so characterized.

Take the curious example of Nicodemus:

John 3 records a very respectful home Bible study between our Lord and a notable Pharisee (John 3:1ff).

There was no acidic rancor, no deceptive or misleading questions, and no obvious condescension–in fact, quite the opposite. Nicodemus began his lesson with the Lord in a very respectful, honorable fashion. He said, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2). Don’t miss that–Nicodemus admitted, at the very least, that Jesus’ power came from above. Granted, he didn’t fully recognize the Lord’s identity, nor did he initially catch on to what was being said about the new birth, but his questions (John 3:4, 9) didn’t bear the obvious marks of Pharisaic hostility.

John 7 chronicles how the Pharisees at large sought to arrest Jesus because of his Messianic claims and the fact that many had believed on him (John 7:10ff). On this occasion, Nicodemus not only intervened on the Lord’s behalf, but he pointed out that his peers were about to break the very Law which they claimed to uphold. John writes in John 7:50, “Nicodemus (he who came to Jesus by night, being one of them) said to them, ‘Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?'” While Nicodemus may have displayed a certain caution on this occasion, the fact remains that he did defend Jesus.

John 19 recounts how two men were involved in preparing Jesus’ dead body for burial (John 19:38ff; cf. Acts 9:37; Mark 15:46; John 20:7). One of those men, not surprisingly, was Nicodemus. Unlike the twelve who ran for their lives when the events of the crucifixion began to unfold (Matthew 26:56), this once seemingly discreet Pharisee came right out into the open and took part in this benevolent endeavor.

It’s a safe interpretation to say that many, perhaps even the majority of Pharisees, were closed-minded about the Lord. But it is not accurate to say that all Pharisees were so inclined. Nicodemus was a precious exception.

–by Mike Benson

Toddler rules of ownership

You might have seen this recently by Kevin McHugh:

Toddler Rules of Ownership and Sharing 1. If I like it, it’s mine. 2. If it’s in my hand, it’s mine. 3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine. 4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine. 5. If it’s mine, it must never appear to be yours in any way. 6. If I’m doing or building something, all the pieces are mine. 7. If it looks just like mine, it’s mine. 8. If I saw it first, It’s mine. 9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, automatically it becomes mine. 10. If it’s broken, it’s yours. 11. If it is broken, but you are having fun playing with the pieces, it’s mine again. 12. If there is any doubt, it’s mine.

We smile indulgently because these are, after all, toddlers, as oblivious of their surroundings as a puppy playing with his tail.

It’s sad, however, when an adult exhibits this sort of selfishness.

I suppose that almost every human relationship that disintegrates does so because either one or both was selfish. I suspect a high proportion of church problems, too, stem from selfishness.

As a matter of fact, how many sins can you think of that do not begin with the sin of selfishness? Someone walks out of a marriage because he would not consider the other’s feeling. Someone walked away from a church because it did not meet his expectations.

Note that the “Golden Rule” depends on our ability to see the other person, his needs, her fears, his point of view, how an action encourages her.

“So whatever that you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12, ESV).

Oh, and why should a Christian differ from a toddler? “If it’s mine, it’s mine.” Actually, we all belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16). “We were bought at a price.” None of this is mine, it belongs to God.

Stan Mitchell

We are not formed or influenced by our experiences, but by our interpretation of them.

Twins grew up with an abusive alcoholic father. One of them became an alcoholic. The other refused to touch drink and maintained a respectable lifestyle.

The two were asked why they turned out the way they did. They both gave the same answer. “With the father I had, how else could I turn out?”

Although they gave the same answer in words, they meant very different things by them. One made it his excuse; the other, his reason.

We are not formed or influenced by our experiences, but by our interpretation of them. It is not what happens to us, but how we frame events in our minds that determines how they will affect us. Perspective is everything.

This is not a new insight. But we are tempted to blame events for what we become.

Scripture provides us the framework for life events and experiences. The Bible gives us a context to fit it all into a big picture.

The mind works within the framework we give it. This is why we must take utmost care to what we expose our minds. Scripture must be a constant feed for our brains.

The great reality is the divine project to redeem and sanctify man for a heavenly habitation. God works to move us forward toward eternity.

The materialistic mindset sees only the visible. The eye of faith knows there is more than can be seen. Invisible forces are at work, pulling toward opposite ends. No matter how peaceful the scenery, the world and the ground we walk on are subject to the fiercest contest of wills and weapons.

If we ignore the battle, we will fall on the field.

Satan will convince us that we can be gods in our own right.

He will slip into our consciousness resentment at the success of the wicked.

His success will be complete when he convinces us that the immoral have all the fun.

He knows he’s won when we believe that this one time won’t hurt anyone.

When we classify other people’s sins as major and ours as venial, it leaves him laughing all the way to hell.

God has given us a history to work with. Failures and successes, both, provide us with powerful frames for our own walk.

* A couple who saw desirable fruit and thought they could be gods. * A man who rushes into the sanctuary of God to understand the destiny of the wicked. * A king lounging on the rooftop when he should have been leading his army during the season for war. * A people marching in circles in the desert and getting nowhere as they rant and rave about their menu. * A suspicious ruler who mistakes good will for an evil plot and loses it all.

Scripture is perspective, and it is more. It is power to save and transform. It is revelation to draw the ponderer near to its author. It is the mind of God enveloping the willing into his sphere of influence of love and goodness. It is the spiritual ark of the covenant where divine glory is witnessed and from which a mission of shining lights is launched.

We can never overemphasize the need for the Word of God. For when we come to know the heavenly Father, we will be like him, for how else could we turn out?

“So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls” James 1.21 NLT.

–J. Randal Matheny

Pornography dehumanizes in three ways

Richard Mansel goes to the Bible to answer … “The
Most Important Question.” Great for classes, groups,
evang

God created us as sexual beings (Genesis 1:31).
However, sex is a gift to be enjoyed only within the
confines of marriage (Hebrews 13:4; Matthew 5:27-28).

God wants husbands and wives to enjoy the sexual union
within the one-flesh marriage (Song of Solomon; 1
Corinthians 7:1-5; Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-29).

Naturally, Satan took the beautiful creation of God and
turned it into something evil and enslaving. Thus,
pornography was born.

Pornography dehumanizes in three ways:

1. Porn turns people into appliances

It teaches that desirable men and women are animate
bodies available only for our pleasure. In other words,
vibrant human beings, created in God’s image (Genesis
1:26), are to be used and discarded as so much garbage.

Countless people have degraded themselves based on this
lie. The psychological wounds from pornography are
inestimable.

2. Porn distorts reality

Pornography is founded on lies and deception and
presents a false ideal that cannot be attained beyond
the camera’s eye.

Porn makes promises that cannot be fulfilled. Fantasies
are often nothing more than elaborate hoaxes that lead
to frustration and hopelessness. It sends us after an
ideal that does not exist.

Porn is a drug where we become obsessed with the next
hit only to find that it never satisfies.

3. Porn destroys pleasure and intimacy

Since it chases a manufactured ideal, real human
spouses cannot compete. In time, sexual satisfaction in
marriage becomes impossible. Satan takes sex out of the
bedroom and into the pits of depravity.

Lies and deception have no place in marriage, but they
are the lifeblood of porn.

Sex, as created by God is beautiful but the version
conjured by Satan will take away everything we have.

Moments of pleasure cannot match a lifetime of joy
together within the bond of matrimony. If we will trust
God’s plan, we will find the true power of pleasure and
we will forever be grateful.

–by Richard Mansel

Killed by a cave

Trapped

On January 30, 1925, Floyd Collins climbed into a huge system of interconnected caves in Kentucky. He was trying to discover a new entrance into the cave system when he became trapped. In his attempt to get free, he accidentally knocked over his lamp, smothering his only source of light. As he continued to get himself free, he dislodged a rock which fell and pinned his left leg. Now Collins was lost, trapped, alone, and in darkness.

Amazingly, some of his friends found him the next day. It turns out he was only 150 feet from the entrance to the cave, but he was still in trouble. They brought him food and water but they could not get him free. Collins remained trapped for over a week. Sadly, the cave passage that was used to reach Collins collapsed. After a total of about 14 days trapped in the cave, Collins tragically died from thirst and hunger.

Like Collins, many in this world are trapped in darkness. In fact, you and I were also at one time trapped in darkness. We were trapped by our sins and on our way to spiritual death. Then, God stepped in. He freed us from the sin that trapped us (Hebrews 12:1). He rescued us from the domain of darkness (Colossians 1:13). We were called out of this terrible darkness and into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9). God then became a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).

It’s so much sweeter to be free to walk in spiritual light. Let’s be mirrors for God and shine His wonderful light (Matthew 5:14-16). Let’s also make sure that we never again become trapped in sin’s darkness (1 John 1:5-7).

Brett Petrillo

 

Listen to the mother of Jesus

Surely all of us have received, or maybe even given, this piece of advice at some time or another. The reason that this advice is noteworthy is because most mothers desire the very best for their children, and the advice they give, generally speaking, is advice that if followed, will benefit their child.

Well, if it’s a wise thing to “listen to your mother,” how much more so might it be to “listen to the mother of Jesus?” Today, most of what is said about Mary, the mother of Jesus, is fictional, rooted in the imagination of men. But there is trustworthy information about Mary, and that is contained in Scripture. In fact, Scripture records a piece of advice given by Mary, that I think is noteworthy. With reference to her Son, she said, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

I don’t know of any better “motherly advice” you’ll ever hear. Though given roughly 2000 years ago, that motherly advice is just as relevant and wise today as it was when it was first spoken.

So do yourself a favor and “listen to your mother.” But beyond that, you would do well if you would “listen to His mother” as well!

Steve Higginbotham.

Time to replace the preacher?

The elders were at a loss. After a congregational meeting, a retreat, sermons and several meetings with the deacons, the congregation still was not growing.

Their latest meeting was getting testy. One of the elders wanted to fire the preacher. Another touted a new book that claimed to have just the right program.  The final elder just wanted to stay quiet and keep the peace. Disgusted, they just went home and grumbled to their wives.

Congregations are constantly running after the perfect preacher, program and publicity campaign to help them grow. However, most of them overlook the most successful plan available to them.

The New Testament provides a plan that will work. Yet, it requires more than many brethren are willing to give. It asks for a sacrifice more personal than money and a commitment more tangible than a surrogate.

Church growth must be organic, emanating from the inside of a congregation. If a congregation is cold, comfortable, lifeless and bored, church growth is impossible no matter how much money is spent on preachers and programs. No one wants to be with the dead.

As God’s people, we live in Christ through his blood (Acts 2:38,47; Galatians 3:27). We enjoy all the spiritual blessings available to us (Ephesians 1:3) as we glorify Christ (Ephesians 3:20-21) and walk in him daily (Ephesians 4:1).

United in the Spirit, we learn from Scripture how to bond together in unity and peace (Ephesians 4:3). We build a church family and community that loves being together and we depend on one another in everything (Colossians 3:12-15). Worship and Bible study become spiritual feasts.

Our love for the Word and each other (Colossians 3:16) will naturally spill over into all of our lives and we will share that with others. Accordingly, people will be intrigued by such joy and want to come and see whether they can be part of a special harvest of blessings.

Can we not see why evangelism must emanate from within?
Please, allow the light of Christ to shine into a dark and sinful world and people will flock to its warmth!

Richard Mansel

WHY ARE YOUR CO-WORKERS UNHAPPY?

Have you noticed that your co-workers are unhappy?  Maybe there is the guy (or gal) whose lips are loose and who lets you and everyone else know why.  Yet, statistics indicate that a great many workers are unhappy, staying in their current position only because of economic uncertainty and high unemployment rates.

Matthew Wong of Inc.com reports that site’s findings about the source of dissatisfaction.  It is not their co-workers, boss, or amount of vacation time.  It is, in order, “on-the-job stress,” “health benefits,” and “salary.”  The study goes on to say men most want more money and a promotion, while women want reduced and flexible hours. Gen X-ers want a higher job title, but millennials ask for more training.  Asked about what perks they want in addition to basic benefits, they said, “free beverages,” “a tablet or smartphone for personal use,” and “free massages.”  Author and Harvard professor, Teresa Amabile, says, however, that one thing matters to many people more than either benefits and perks, and that is “real job satisfaction” (via infographic on ragan.com).

There is quite a bit to mull over in that release.  Instead of bemoaning the obvious spoiled attitude, materialism, and greed reflected in these answers, consider what at least one expert (and many others besides her) believe make us happier.  That is job satisfaction.

That is more than being thankful for employment.  It means doing something you feel like is making a viable contribution, that is as fulfilling as it is enjoyable. All of us want to feel like we have made a difference in the world during our time in it.

But, whether you are a street sweeper or CEO, a sacker of groceries or supervisor, you can find profound purpose in your “real” profession.  The King James Version refers to the Christian life as a “profession” four times (1 Tim. 6:12; Heb. 3:1; 4:14; 10:23). In each instance, the word used is some form of the Greek word meaning to “say the same thing as another.” But, as used in each verse, the idea is of recognizing ourselves and showing others than Jesus reigns in our lives.  That is a lifelong process, something we carry with us wherever we go-including our job.  We see our occupation as a means to an end.  Our true profession is Christianity.  The perks, promotions, and profit are yet to be realized, but they will be!  Let us ever be faithful in His employ!

Neal Pollard

What about you?

Consider the following truth: “Jesus went more readily to the cross of Calvary than we do to the throne of grace in prayer.” But why is that so?

Is it because of a lack of faith? A spirit of independence? Carelessness?  Yes, yes, and yes.

Friends, when I meditate upon that opening statement, I am put to shame.  What about you? Well, if you’re like me, you have a choice to make. Will you go your own way and act as though you were never confronted by this truth, or will you decide to do better?

If my Lord could willingly face the horrors of the cross, then surely I can with more consistency approach the gracious throne of God with my petitions and intercessions. What about you? Give it some thought.

Steve Higginbotham

 

When Woodpeckers Say “Ahh”

The woodpecker is the perfect wood drilling machine. In the previous article, we detailed out all the parts needed to allow the woodpecker to drill holes and also to keep it from going blind and killing itself with the 1000g of force it sustains when pecking. This just touched the surface of the problems the woodpecker poses for evolution. Namely, the woodpecker is equipped with one of the world’s most perplexing body parts, its tongue.

To start, the woodpecker has a very long and sensitive tongue (some are around 6 inches). This is extremely useful to find and reach bugs buried deep inside a tree (i.e. wood-boring beetle larvae). With most animals, the tongue simply runs back into the throat, not the woodpecker. The woodpecker has two little tubes that start at the back of the throat, circle around the back and top of the head, and then end together in the right nostril. The woodpeckers tongue forks back in its throat where it enters these two tubes (See Picture). This incredibly unique design give the woodpecker the proper equipment to reach bugs burrowed way down in their holes. A long tongue is great for reaching bugs, but these little bugs don’t usually come out willingly. A long tongue by itself can’t pull bugs out who are holding on for dear life.

The woodpeckers tongue functions somewhat like a harpoon or a fishing hook. At the end of the woodpecker’s tongue are many little barbs facing backwards (See Picture). This is perfect for hooking bugs and pulling out even the most stubborn ones. There is more though. For extra bug catching insurance, the woodpecker produces sticky saliva. If the barbs don’t get the bug, then the sticky saliva most likely will. Amazingly though, this saliva is composed in a certain way where it sticks to bugs but it won’t stick to the woodpecker’s beak or cause it to choke or swallow its own tongue. The woodpecker will simply use its sticky tongue to catch a bug, bring it back into its mouth where the bug will release and this bird gets a tasty meal.

In order for the woodpeckers’ abilities to make sense, nearly all of them had to be fully functioning and completely formed. It’s tail, feet, eyes, beak, neck muscles, skull, and specialized tongue all had to be in full working order just for a woodpecker to make a little hole and eat a bug. There are so many complex features working together in the woodpecker that this puts evolution in an impossible situation. Evolution simply cannot prove nor demonstrate with evidence how features so unique and dependent on each other could have come from time and chance.

Once again, God is the answer to this amazing bird’s existence. God has displayed one more example of a perfectly designed and created animal. In 1 Chronicles 29:11 David spoke these beautiful words, “Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all.” This world belongs to God, and His power is shown through the complexity and awesomeness of His creation. He deserves to be praised for what He is, “the Head over all.”

Sources:

Hilton Pond.

–Brett Petrillo

For the best free Bible study tools visit www.abiblecommentary.com today!