These posts will resume on 2/15 – Saved By The Blood,

Not The Bell – Neal Pollard:

There is no better New Testament chapter for showing us the power of forgiveness than Romans 5. One of the concepts Paul uses to teach forgiveness is “justification” (5:1,9, 16, 18; see also “reconciled,” “saved,” and “made righteous” in this chapter). One source illustrates justification by referencing a supposedly true story centering around the ringing of the bell in London’s St. Paul Cathedral. It is said this bell saved a sentinel soldier’s life. The man was on duty at distant Windsor Castle and accused by the guard who relieved him of sleeping at his post. He was tried by court martial and condemned to death. The man denied his guilt, saying that on the night in question he heard the bells of St. Paul ring 13 times at midnight. The court did not believe he could hear the bells from so far away, but eventually the testimony of many people supported the claim of this condemned man. The mechanism on the bell malfunctioned that night. The king pardoned the soldier, who supposedly lived to be 100 years old. He was justified after he was condemned.

The word translated “justified” in Romans 5:1 means “acquitted, put right with, and set free” (Louw & Nida, Vol. 2, Gk.-Eng. Lex. of the NT, 64). It means to be declared righteous with God (Friberg & Miller, Vol. 4: Anal. Lex. of the Gk. NT, 117). Paul mentions three things we get to enjoy, being justified by Jesus’ blood, death, and life (5:9-10).

Because we are justified by Jesus’ blood, we have peace with God (5:1), we get to stand in this grace (5:2), and we get to boast in hope (5:2), in our tribulations (5:3), and in God (5:11). In the end, because of Jesus, we shall be saved (5:9-10).

We deserve the wrath of God (5:9), spiritual death (5:12), and condemnation (5:16). Unlike the fortunate soldier, we could not claim innocence (5:12,19). Our pardon is the result of Jesus’ innocence, but because of that we can lay claim to “eternal life” (5:21). Thank God for the saving blood of His Son.

I’m not going to write him any paperwork for a ticket or even a warning

Just What He Needed

Rodney Gibson was speeding down a busy highway in Bloomington, Indiana in his truck earlier this month, but he didn’t realize it. His mind was focused on something else.

Indiana State Police Sgt.T odd Durnil saw that Gibson was speeding, so he pulled him over. It didn’t take Officer Durnil long to see that Gibson was very upset – not about the traffic stop, but about some other thing going on in his life.

Gibson explained with tears in his eyes that his daughter was recently told the breast cancer she’d been battling for six years had metastasized and that she likely wasn’t going to make it. He had been agonizing over that news and didn’t realize how fast he was driving.

On his way back to his patrol car, Durnil said his first thought was that Gibson really needed prayers. He planned to tell his family and church to pray for Gibson.

“I also thought, this man already has enough. I’m not going to write him any paperwork for a ticket or even a warning,” he said. “When I walked back to his truck, I explained everything. He still seemed agitated, but not as bad, and he apologized, saying, ‘I’m sorry. I usually don’t act this way; I’ve just been going through a lot.’”

Durnil then asked Gibson if there was anything else if he could do for him and Gibson asked, “Do you know how to pray?”

“Here I was thinking this man needs prayer, and now he’s asking me for a prayer,” Durnil said. “The good Lord put us together for a purpose.”

Durnil then went over to the right side of the semi, took his hat off, knelt down, took Gibson’s hand and said a prayer. Both the men had tears in their eyes, Durnil said. *

Gibson deserved a ticket for speeding. But what he needed was someone with compassion who would pray with him. Sgt. Durnil gave him what he needed, not what he deserved.

Having transgressed the law of God, each of us DESERVES the punishment for sin: death. “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

But what we NEED is forgiveness and hope. What we NEED is the grace of God.

God loves us so much that despite the fact that we sin and continue to fall short of His glory (Romans 3:23), He gave His One and Only Son to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16). Through His atoning sacrifice, we can be forgiven of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

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

Because of His great love for us, God longs to give us what we need (GRACE) instead of what we deserve (PUNISHMENT).

Won’t YOU accept His offer on His terms?

* From “Indiana Cop Brings Speeding Driver to Tears With Prayer Rather Than Ticket” by AVIANNE TAN, January 7, 2016, Good Morning America and “The Policeman Who Offered Prayer Instead of Punishment” by Brett Petrillo in Daily Bread (1/18/16).

David A. Sargent

It is all about me

“I have taken off my robe; how can I put it on again? I have washed my feet; how can I defile them?” (Song of Solomon 5:3 NKJV).

I am continually impressed with the concern of Christian brothers and sisters for my welfare while I am with them in Bangladesh and Nepal. It is normal for them to give me their best room and furniture for my stay, to feed me at a higher standard than that to which their family is accustomed, and to show every kindness and courtesy in providing whatever it may seem that I need. They do this without being asked, and even sometimes when I have requested that they not do so much.

I remember one occasion when I stumbled and fell stepping off a porch onto an unsteady and uneven set of rock steps. Almost before I could get back on my feet a brother was taking apart the steps and rebuilding them so I would not fall again. It was not even his house.

Unfortunately, that is not the norm everywhere in our relations with one another. The experience cited above from the Song of Solomon is perhaps more typical. The heroine of the story (called in the NKJV “The Shulamite”) tells of a night when her new husband came in late. She had already retired and resented having her sleep interrupted. “I have already washed my feet and dressed for the evening – why must I get up and undo all of that?” Doesn’t that sound familiar?  Predictably, her reluctance to greet him created a strain in the marriage.

So often it is only our own need or convenience that we consider important. “It is all about me.” Not only is this un-Christian and un-Biblical, it is counter- productive. It is precisely this attitude which Jesus targeted when he promised, “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25).

It is not only by dying that one may lose his life. It is also by renouncing personal selfishness in favor of doing for others first (see Philippians 2:2-4). The more we seek to gain for ourselves at the expense or to the neglect of others, the less we will have. That is what the Bible teaches, unequivocally, for everyone.

In the days of Haggai, the people of Judah had put their own affairs first, building houses for themselves while neglecting the rebuilding of the Temple, which was their stated purpose for returning from Babylon (Haggai 1:4). As a result the Lord spoke:

“You have sown much, and bring in little; you eat, but do not have enough; you drink, but you are not filled with drink; you clothe yourselves, but no one is warm; and he who earns wages, earns wages to put into a bag with holes” (Haggai 1:6).

By seeking only what was important to themselves and neglecting those things for which God had sent them back from captivity, they had become impoverished.

“You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away” (Haggai 1:9).

The solution to their need was simple. Trust the Lord and put him first, and he would assure them of blessing. “Consider now from this day forward . . .
from this day I will bless you” (Haggai 2:18-19). Once they had resumed work on the temple, God removed the famine and drought and gave them prosperity.

So Jesus taught, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

The path to blessing and prosperity is not selfishness, it is service, accompanied by faith.

by Michael E. Brooks

Folks do not need to be “talked into baptism.”

HOW MANY OF us have heard folks say, “They just won’t be baptized…?”

“What can we do to persuade them to be baptized?” These statements seem to overlook the greatest challenge of salvation for most folks. Have you ever seen one who believed in the Lord (John 8:24), was not ashamed, but willing to confess Him before others, (Matthew 10:32-22; John 12:42-43) had repented of their sins (Luke 13:3, Acts 26:20, 2 Corinthians 7:10) and not be baptized? I’m sure there are exceptions, but the general rule in Acts is that penitent believers asked to be baptized.

Repentance is a change which begins in the mind which changes lives. In Acts 19 the city of Ephesus, the home of the Temple of Diana and capitol of worship to this goddess, was presented with the Gospel of Jesus. For the pagans to become Christians, what changes did “repentance” demand? In verse 19 they brought their books of magic into one pile and burned them. The value was 50,000 pieces of silver. This was a considerably large sum of money. Books were valuable passions and very expensive in those days. Remember Jesus was betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15), which brings their sacrifice of burning their books into perspective. Instead of selling them and advocating false doctrine, the repentance of the Ephesians led them to suffer financial loss. A second sign of their repentance was the fear their actions brought upon Demetrius the silversmith. He was in the business of selling shrines of the goddess Diana. He realized penitent Christians changed their behavior. Their change in behavior would mean they would no longer buy his shrines. The more Christianity spread (the more people repented) the less business he would have! He started a riot, hoping to defeat Christianity. Some are never willing to repent, others give up all!

Jonathan Winchester is a fine young missionary we worked with in El Salvador. He wrote me this note:

“We had some good and sad results. The area where we worked was one of the poorest and most dangerous in Ica, Peru. One woman had decided to be baptized, and had changed into the baptismal robe, but then decided that she could not. She knew that repentance was necessary. She told us that her only way of providing for her children was to go out and steal people’s wallets, and she knew that she was not going to stop.”

Should she have been advised to be baptized anyway? What would God say? “Repent or perish” (Luke 13:3). Folks do not need to be “talked into baptism.” What folks need is to be taught the doctrine of Christ and see if they are ready to repent! Penitent believers have always responded by saying, “What hinders me from being baptized?” (Acts 8:36). David Shannon

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” Acts 2:38

Mike Benson

How compassionate are we with the afflicted?

WHY DOES GOD permit imperfection in His world…?

Why are babies allowed to be born handicapped? Why do limbs not move, eyes not see, mouths not speak, and ears not hear? Skeptics and Christians alike struggle with the answers to such questions. How can a perfect God allow such imperfection in His creation?

I don’t pretend to have all the answers to human suffering, but I do know there are some things that help me deal with such difficult questions. One such aid comes from a change in perspective. What if the perfection God is looking for is in us, not the imperfect bodies of people? What if the greater perfection God desires is in our reaction to people who are imperfect?

How compassionate are we with the afflicted? How patient and understanding are we with their trials? Do they have too many troubles to make getting involved with them worthwhile? Are we inconvenienced and resentful of their demands on our time and lifestyle? Are we annoyed at their presence or even worse, embarrassed by them?

Just maybe the perfection God is looking for is in our Christ-like response to imperfect people. Instead of allowing people born with physical disabilities to shake our faith in God, should we not rather allow them to challenge us to reach toward Christ-like perfection in our response to these people?

While Jesus walked this earth, He was God in the flesh (John 1:1,14). He came in contact with people who were burdened by imperfect bodies. In fact, multitudes of people with physical disabilities flocked to Him because they knew He was one who had compassion upon them. On one occasion, a leper came to Jesus for help (Mark 1:41). The text says that Jesus had compassion on him and healed him. But not only did Jesus heal him; He also reached out and touched him! I wonder how long it had been since anyone had touched this leper? This passage gives us a glimpse into the heart of Jesus. He wasn’t one who stood at arm’s distance from the suffering, but rather touched their lives.

Friends, from God’s perspective, the imperfection in this world may not be in the physically and mentally disabled, but in a healthy person’s uncompassionate response to these individuals. Steve Higginbotham

“And Jesus, moved with compassion, put out His Hand and touched him, and said to him, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.'” Mark 1:41

Mike Benson

Explosions of anger

DURING OUR WAR on terror in Afghanistan, we saw the effectiveness of some incredibly sophisticated weapons…

It never ceases to amaze me that we can launch a missile from many miles away and stick it right through our enemy’s office window. Yet we still hear reports of collateral damage. Innocent civilians standing nearby may be wounded or killed. Or, in some cases, the wrong building may be targeted. There’s simply no getting around the fact that anytime in explosion happens, you run the risk of doing more damage than you intended.

The same is true with explosions of anger.

Not long ago I was in a department store and witnessed a confrontation that ended with a husband calling his wife and ugly name and storming off. The heartbreaking thing was that their little boy, who appeared to be about four, heard every word. My guess is that someday, twenty or so years from now, he’ll be talking to his wife the same way.

You see, the husband aimed his verbal missile at his wife, but tiny bits of shrapnel pierced the soul of his son. And that’s how it always is with anger. Mark Atteberry, “Strong Men Tend To Use Anger As A Tool,” The Samson Syndrome, 78

“A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.” Proverbs 15:18

Mike Benson

BRAND NEW SHOES for just 29 cents!

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

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

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

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

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

Brad Price
www.abiblecommentary.com

 

 

A bird on Niagara Falls

Here is a thought provoking account told by Dr. George Sweeting in his book Special Sermons for Special Days). :  “Several years ago our family visited Niagara Falls.  It was spring, and ice was rushing down the river.  As I viewed the large blocks of ice flowing toward the falls, I could see that there were carcasses of dead fish embedded in the ice.  Gulls by the score were riding down the river feeding on the fish. As they came to the brink of the falls, their wings would go out, and they would escape from the falls.  I watched one gull which seemed to delay and wondered when it would leave.  It was engrossed in a fish, and when it finally came to the brink of the falls, out went its powerful wings.  The bird flapped and flapped and even lifted the ice out of the water, and I thought it would escape.  But it had delayed too long so that its claws had frozen into the ice.  The weight of the ice was too great, and the gull plunged into the abyss” (Special Sermons for Special Days).

This bird on Niagara Falls was certainly in a dire situation, but the problem was that he delayed until it was too late.  He literally delayed himself to death.  He might have been able to escape had he flown off earlier.

In Acts 22, Paul was speaking to the Jews about his conversion.  He tells the men about his previous life as a persecutor of Christianity.  He explains what he saw and heard from Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus.  He describes how he came to meet a man named Ananias, who taught him the truth.  Then, as Paul began to see the sinful life he had been living and the great need for a change, Ananias uttered those powerful words, “Now why do you delay?  Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (vs. 16).  In this chapter Ananias helped Paul realize the dire situation he was in and the urgency to change it.

Far too many people get stuck to sin because they do not turn away quickly; they delay.  As we know, we have the Bible to help keep us away from sin and its traps.  Sometimes even when we know of these enticing prisons, we still delay our escape.  No one knows when Christ is coming (1 Thess. 5:2-3; Matthew 24:36; 2 Peter 3:10); therefore, no one knows when it will be too late.

The bird obviously did not realize how much danger he was in until nothing else could be done.  Ananias wanted Paul to see the urgency of his situation and the dire need to change it.  Likewise, there may be sins in our lives that we know we need to escape from before it is too late.  If this is the case, then this begs the same question Ananias asked Paul, “Why do you delay?”

Brett Petrillo

 

Armed guards herded the Jews into the train cars.

A crowd of men, women, and children huddled together at the train station…

Dressed for a long journey and standing with their bags at their sides, they spoke in low tones. Armed men in the grim uniform of the SS, the feared wing of the Nazi army, surrounded the travelers.

The people shivering on the platform were not criminals. They were Jews, French Jews who had been hauled from their homes by the occupying solders and French Nazi sympathizers.

The non-Jewish French watched these events unfold with increasing concern. After all, these people were neighbors and friends. The group included the watchmaker and his family, the lad who sold newspapers, the old lady who made beautiful quilts. Now they were being “relocated.”

The plumes of smoke could be seen even before the train was heard. The townspeople cast a nervous eye toward the train platform as the black, soot-belching locomotive ground to a halt.

Armed guards herded the Jews into the train cars. They went cooperatively, putting up no resistance. Concerned observers wondered why this was taking place; but they told themselves that things would be find, that there was no need to worry about these friends and neighbors. They were in good hands.

How could they believe that? Because neatly printed in French on the door of every box car was the reassuring logo, “Charitable Transport Company…” Wayne Rice

THOUGHT: We can also be deceived today. Though a political ideology can seem harmless — even good — it can represent a value system that undermines the sanctity of marriage, the family, morality, the church, respect for life, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just another innocent looking boxcar…like those that took millions of Jews to the gas chambers.

“And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” 2 Corinthians 11.14

Mike Benson

Satan knocked on the door with smooth, flattering words

Adam and Eve found themselves in paradise, the likes of which we cannot imagine. They had everything they could possibly need.

God completed his work and deemed it “very good” (Genesis 1:31, NKJV). He then rested, leaving it up to man to enjoy or corrupt this extraordinary blessing.

Satan knocked on their door with smooth, flattering words and Adam and Eve fell for his lies, allowing evil to enter (Genesis 3:1-19). Instead of protecting their house, sin moved in and they were expelled from the Garden (Genesis 3:22-24).

In the 1980 film, “The God’s Must Be Crazy” a peaceful African tribe finds trouble when a Coke bottle falls from a plane. Initially astonished that the “gods” have given them this gift, they soon realize it is a curse as the bottle sparks fights, anger and pain.

The tribal leader throws the bottle away, only to see someone retrieve it. To protect his house, he takes the Coke bottle many miles away, so it will no longer threaten their peace.

Adam and Eve should have chosen the same path, instead of accepting Satan’s lies.

What will we do to protect our house, our spiritual abode? Will we accept the lies and bring evil into our midst? Paul wrote, “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints” (Ephesians 5:3). In other words, we say no to Satan’s sales pitch and slam the door in his sneering face.

We teach our children that sin is not welcome in our lives. We protect our hearts with the pure gospel of Christ. “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

We do not allow the sins of the flesh to enter our homes (Galatians 5:16-21). We do not slip them in and hide them in a corner so no one will see them (Ephesians 4:1).

How much sin is acceptable in our lives? A woman puts a glass in front of her beloved child. Someone asks her how much poison she will allow in her child’s glass. She will shout none!

“Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). God provides all that we need, so we must fill our homes with his bountiful blessings.

–by Richard Mansel

Knowing the cost

SUPPOSE I’M VISITING in your home and I notice a lovely vase on the coffee table…

I pick it up and admire it, but suddenly, it slips from my hand, falls to the floor, and breaks! “Oh, I’m so sorry,” I say, and I offer to pay for it. I know I have a fifty-dollar bill in my wallet, so I think I’m safe.

But you tell me there are only two such vases in the world, and the other one is valued at $2,000! Am I any sorrier now than I was a few moments ago? Yes. I am $2,000 sorrier! What made the difference? Knowing the cost.

THOUGHT: Many people look carelessly upon Christianity, thinking it’s just another of the world’s great religions. But when we look at the Cross of Calvary and realize what our salvation cost, suddenly Christianity and the One whose life it represents take on a whole new meaning.

So, then, what value do you place on Jesus? George Vandeman

18 “Knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19

Mike Benson

When we worry, we are not trusting in the providence of God.

DANIEL WAS A man of integrity with no weak spots, no scandals, and no sins that his enemies could identify…

And when King Darius came into power during Israel’s 70-year captivity, he relied on Daniel’s wise, insightful counsel. Yet there were others who didn’t like this Hebrew prophet.

Because Daniel had a habit of praying openly every day, his enemies convinced King Darius to foolishly sign a law that would prohibit prayer to anyone except the king. The penalty for breaking this law was being thrown into a den of lions. Sure enough, Daniel prayed as he always had, and it was reported to Darius. The frustration for the king was that as powerful as he was, he couldn’t change a law that he himself had set into motion. So Daniel was sent to die in a den of lions. Yet the Bible tells us that Daniel slept while the king was up all night. I find it interesting that the child of God in the den of lions slept peacefully, while the faithless man in the palace with all its luxuries was up and worried and stressed out. As Solomon wrote, “For God gives rest to his loved ones” (Psalm 127:2).

And so it is for the person who puts his or her trust in God. When we are worrying, we are really saying that God isn’t in control, that God is not paying attention. When we worry, we are not trusting in the providence of God.

And what is the providence of God? It is the belief that God is in control of the universe. Greg Laurie

“Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.” Psalm 56:3

Mike Benson

All Sin Is Not Equal!

We understand that there is not a ‘ranking system’ for sins. By this we mean that no sin is worse than another in regards to the damning effect on the soul. One sin, any sin, for which there is no repentance/forgiveness leads to eternal loss. So, in this sense, all sins are equal.

However, this view of things is too simplistic. Some sins are worse than others in regards to the progression that follows. Some types of sin are likely to lead to other sins, and – while noting the eternal consequences of all sins – there are immediate ‘this world’ costs associated with particular sins. For instance, theft often leads to the sin of lying to cover up the initial wrong. Or, for example, viewing pornography almost always results in an addiction that leads to more immorality. Horrible and devastating things can result from these sorts of sin.

We grow weary of some (including some of our own brethren) who attempt to make arguments of ‘moral equivalence’ relative to some sins. We’ve heard them say: “Drinking alcohol is no different than overeating.” Really!?! Have you known of anyone who abused or neglected their family, lost their job, or fell under the influence of evil people because they ate one too many donuts?

We offer no justification here for overeating. We understand that it is an issue that affects many of us. Certainly lots of Christians have health issues associated with this problem. But, seriously, if the best argument that can be offered in defense of drinking alcohol is: “I may drink a little, but you eat too much” – then we conclude that the drinking folks have no solid ground to stand on.

Bottom line, we should never try to justify one fault by pointing to a different fault in others. Paul said it this way: “We dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise” (2 Cor. 10:12). Think!

– by Greg Gwin

His sweet deal had turned into rocks!

Sweet to the Taste

“‘Bad, bad,’ says the buyer, but when he goes away then he boasts” (Proverbs 20:14 ESV).

“Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel” (Proverbs 20:17 ESV).

John had just pulled a fast deal over an unsuspecting customer. The other man seemed naive and new to the game, and John walked out with a contract that would net him a handsome profit. He was pleased with himself until, annoyingly, his wife pointed out the flaw in his dealing.

“But what if the customer brings the defective merchandise back?”

“Oh, that’s simple,” John answered. “Buyer, beware!”

She looked dubious as a member of the White House Press Corps, but said nothing.

“What a sweet deal,” he thought. “I haven’t lost my touch!”

The next day he went to church. Dressed in his best suit, and still feeling pleased with himself, he walked into the auditorium where one of the church elders called him over. “John,” the elder said, “I would like you to meet our new preacher.”

Standing next to him, in a Sunday suit, was the customer he had cheated the day before.

Gravel is not an ingredient in most gourmet meals, but John’s mouth was full of gravel now! His sweet deal had turned into rocks!

by Stan Mitchell

Amazing!

This one will test your memory.

Do you remember way back in 1984 that according to NASA scientists, a piece of Martian meteorite found in Antarctica exhibited telltale evidence of organic molecules? In essence, life.

Now, apart from the issue of life on other planets, consider this strange irony. Isn’t it interesting that scientists will believe that this organic compound found on a rock allegedly originating from Mars should be considered “proof of Life,” while a fully developed, heart-beating, thumb-sucking baby in a mother’s womb should not.

Amazing!

Steve Higginbotham

Old postal workers never die — they just lose their zip

“‘Truly, truly I say to you,’ the Teacher declared, ‘a time is coming…when the dead will hear the voice of the son of God and those who hear will live’” (John 5:25, ESV).

I have just one question for you: Since when do the dead hear anything? Go out to the cemetery sometime and make an unearthly racket. I can assure you, you won’t wake the dead. But there will come a day when deaf ears will hear the Lord!

Remember Douglas MacArthur’s remark that “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away?” Well, five-star generals aren’t the only ones who never die!

* Old plumbers never die — they just go down the drain.
* Old mediums never die — they just give up the ghost.
* Old postal workers never die — they just lose their zip.
* Old lawyers never die — they just lose their appeal.
* Old cartoonists never die — they just draw their last breath.
* Old ranchers never die — they just breed their last.
* Old Australians never die — they just end up down under.
* Old teachers never die — they just lose their class.
* Oh, and by the way, do you know who else doesn’t die?
We don’t.

“Just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). While we may die physically, the soul never dies!

Children of God never die–they live in paradise forever. While that’s not much of a pun, it is a dead- certain, count-on-it truth!

The opposite form of existence — for the soul that is lost, too, never dies — is such a forbidding, fearful place that the Bible refers to it as “death.”

You know the old song:

“To Canaan’s land I’m on my way
Where the soul of man never dies”?

In one sense, you will never die. The real question is, when you die, where will you live?

by Stan Mitchell

Not our son! Our son would never do a thing like this

Not So Quickly

“A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again,” (Proverbs 19:19, ESV).

When I lived in California, I knew of some teenagers who were caught in possession of drugs. It was, you can imagine, a traumatic time for their parents. How should they handle the situation?

Some parents were apt to defend their boys. One parent, in deep denial, kept repeating the words: “Not our son! Our son would never do a thing like this.” One parent turned to another with an accusation: “If he hadn’t been with your kid, he wouldn’t have done this!”

But one father made a difficult and memorable decision. He asked the police to hold his son in jail that night. It may have been the most difficult decision of that father’s life. However, what may have seemed a severe punishment, was in fact a valuable lesson for the young man. He never took drugs again.

Sometimes people have to “pay the penalty” for their mistakes; that’s the only way they will learn! Children — and adults — who never suffer the consequences of their actions will become convinced that they are entitled to do whatever they want, to break any rules, for they have never suffered for their mistakes.

Sometimes it’s best not to rescue them too quickly; you will only have to do it again.

–by Stan Mitchell

Marriage is an extraordinary blessing if we will do the work and make the proper choices.

When a couple gets married, they form a new person that enters the world fresh and vulnerable. It must be cared for, if it will survive. From the wobbly first steps to the sturdy paths of the mature, it must be nurtured and protected from predators.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and
mother and be joined to his wife, and they
shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24,
NKJV).

They unite to form a being that has never before existed. The cruel world will be determined to destroy it, as soon as possible. The couple must develop strategies to fortify the walls, so the attacks can be repelled.

“So then, they are no longer two but one
flesh. Therefore what God has joined
together, let not man separate” (Matthew
19:6).

Divorce is an act of violence that destroys the lives of everyone involved. The shrapnel of the bomb creates permanent scars (Malachi 2:16). The new creation can thrive and persevere. It will just require hard work and an indefatigable eye on the big picture of commitment.

How will they remain married for life?

First, be stubborn. Refusing to break up is a great start. When we resolve to stand firm, we find it easier to withstand attacks. We build our fortifications and man the walls together, not allowing anyone to come between us.

Second, be separate. Entering a place of their own design, they retreat there for safety and sanity.
United as one, they protect and cultivate their special place, so it will always be their haven of peace.

Third, be a student. We must learn as much as we can about one another, so we can strive to bring fulfillment and happiness into our lives. We cannot do this for our spouse, but we can sow the seed. We learn all we can because knowledge is power.

Fourth, be substantive. Spend quality time together in play, pleasure, communication and in service to God.
Don’t waste days. We must ensure that intimacy and affection are pervasive in our marriage.

Marriage is an extraordinary blessing if we will do the work and make the proper choices. If we do, we will have joy all of our days. If not, we will either break apart or live the remainder of our days stuck in a nightmare.

Sounds like an easy decision.

by Richard Mansel

GETTING RID OF CALLUSES

“A callus is an area of skin on the body that has become hard due to constant pressure or rubbing. The callus is formed over time as the skin begins to toughen up to handle the repeated irritation. Because calluses are toughened skin, they have no feeling and do not hurt” (ehow.com). It is interesting that some people are embarrassed of their calluses, while others are indifferent to them if not even proud of them.

The writer of Hebrews pleads with his readers not to be like the Israelites in the wilderness, to not “harden their hearts” (3:8). The word translated “do not harden” is from a compound Greek word, a medical or technical term, meaning to “harden, become thick” (Friberg, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek N.T., 351). In its figurative use, the word means to “act stubbornly, refuse to change one’s attitude” (as in Heb. 3:8) or “be or become stubborn, refuse to yield” (as in Heb. 3:13) (ibid.). It is possible, then, to become spiritually callused. The Hebrews writer says that sin is the culprit that causes spiritual calluses. Unlike calluses on the hands and feet, spiritual calluses on the heart are fatal! What can be done to treat and prevent a callused heart?

Protection. Gloves and proper foot wear can prevent blisters and calluses from forming on the body. Likewise, God has given us protection to prevent spiritual calluses from forming within us. The whole armor of God, mentioned in Ephesians 6, equips us with protection for the mind, the heart, and the soul. We must keep our hearts soft to the gospel, the will of God, our spiritual obligations, and the like.

Treatment. Creams, moisturizers, ointments, and such are often applied once a callus has formed. Sometimes a pumice stone may be used. In cases of severe and continuously painful calluses, one needs to see a physician. Just so, a callused heart must be treated by the Great Physician. He cannot help if we do not go to Him. He has the balm that can soften and transform our hearts, but we must go to Him for it.

Change Of Practice. If one’s goal is to be rid of calluses, one must stop doing what brings on the calluses in the first place. We cannot hope for the callus to disappear if we intend to keep doing what formed it. Certainly, this is true in the spiritual sense. Until one is through serving sin, the callusing process will persist. If anything, it will only get worse. It certainly will not get better. If one’s heart is hardened to stay away from the assemblies, the only hope is to begin assembling with the saints again. If one’s heart is hardened in being in a sinful relationship, the way to overcome that is to leave. Whatever sin hardens the heart, overcoming requires changing the practice.

Time. Calluses do not magically disappear the instant one treats them or changes the practice. It takes time, which implies patience and perseverance. That is certainly true with spiritually calluses! While the adage, “time heals all wounds,” is not always right, time is a necessary part of becoming spiritual whole. It takes time to form the right spiritual habits and to produce fruits of repentance.
Spiritual calluses are more than unattractive; they are a sign of grave danger. They are a warning sign of something deeper that has gone wrong. May we do whatever it takes to prevent them and may we have the humility to do what we need to do to treat them if they are already there!

Neal Pollard

IS SATAN ALL-KNOWING?

Omniscience, knowing all things, is something the Bible only attributes to God (1 Cor. 4:5; Heb. 4:13). Since the Bible says that all things that exist were created by God (Col. 1:16-17), it follows that Satan is a created being. God cannot sin or cause to sin, so it is implied that Satan was created good and chose to do evil. Many have defined evil as simply the absence or opposite of good.

The Bible says nothing specifically about how Satan became evil, but it must have happened at some point. Throughout the whole Bible, Satan is depicted as one who tempts man to sin. If Satan is not omniscient and cannot tell what we are thinking, how does he know how to operate in our individual lives?

Matthew four proves that he knows the Bible, and the Bible tells us the three major avenues of sin (1 John 2:15-17). He has had the advantage of thousands of years of observation of human behavior. He knows mankind’s basic weaknesses. He also has angels (Matt. 25:41; Rev. 12:9), and who knows what role they play in his having privy to our personal lives and in observing what we are each prone to do?

Yet, Satan does not ever make us sin, despite what the old comic, Flip Wilson, jokingly contended. We choose to sin based on our own fleshly desires (Jas. 1:13-15). We sin, not as the result of Satan manipulating the mind, but as the result of giving in to sinful lusts. Satan can no more make us do wrong than God will make us do right. We should simply remember that we never have to sin (1 Cor. 10:13).

Satan does not whisper in our ears or play with our minds. However, he is actively seeking souls to devour (1 Pet. 5:8). The good news is that he cannot do anything unless we allow him. James says we can make him flee from us by resisting him (Jas. 4:7). Satan can not read your mind. He cannot manipulate your mind. He can only see what you reveal. Let us be careful to reveal the right sorts of things and thereby protect ourselves from this roaring lion.

Neal Pollard