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Postponed…due to weather

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******This will be the last post till 9/2******

A certain group of teens wanted to “raise awareness” about the plight of the homeless. They decided that for a week they would live like homeless people live. However, the activity was postponed…due to weather! Isn’t that ironic? They said they wanted to live like the homeless, but don’t the homeless get rained on when it rains?

Most of us are real bargain hunters, aren’t we? Once, after a run-in a lady literally had with me that totaled my beautiful 1992 Dodge Dakota, that I bought for an amazingly low price, I had to spend State Farm’s money to buy a replacement vehicle. I had pretty big expectations. I wanted a pick-up truck, only 4 or 6 cylinders, with good gas mileage, seating for five, and all for the piddling amount allotted me. Eventually, I revised my expectations. I wanted good value, but I was also cost-conscious.

As gas prices go up, with all our economic uncertainties, we all do well to think about how much things cost. As good stewards of our finances, we never want to be wasteful (cf. Luke 16:1). In the spiritual realm, we are faced with a price to pay in order to become a Christian, and then to live the Christian life. Luke records Jesus’ teaching about this in Luke 14:26-35. He says, in essence, that when it comes to following Him there is a cost in terms of our earthly relationships (26), personal sacrifices (27), moral and spiritual endurance (28-32), financial resources (33), and spiritual choices and example (34-35).

You cannot become a Christian until you count the cost and make the decision to obey the Lord. So many choose family, comfort, compromise, material things, or conformation over the One who gave everything for them. In what shape is your spiritual life? One way to measure that is by asking, “What does it cost you?”

–Neal Pollard

Looting in Ferguson Missouri

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I had all the confidence in the world the violence and looting over Michael Brown’s death was going to end, especially when Captain Ronald S. Johnson took over security (See My Most Recent Article). Sadly, when cooler heads do not prevail, the anger fueled ones do. So now the current situation continues to spawn tension and hatred. More arrests, injuries, and protests continue to happen with no clear end in sight. Now even the National Guard has been called in. This situation is a mess.

However, when we take a step back, there is really only one problem here. That’s right, there is only one major problem which not only started this controversy but continues to fuel it. The problem isn’t racism or police brutality. The issue isn’t a lack of justice or bias opinion. So, what’s the main problem? It’s people breaking the law.

Either the police officer broke the law by murdering Michael Brown, or Brown broke the law by attacking the police officer and forced him to shoot in self-defense. There is no clear evidence to support either side yet, but someone broke the law. The same problem applies to the protests. Either the people are breaking the law through looting, violence, and improper protesting, or the police are violating the people’s civil rights laws. No matter the specific details, this entire controversy started with, and continues to be made worse by, people breaking the law. If people would stop breaking the law, everything would resolve much quicker.

As Christians we are commanded by God to obey the governing authorities. Consider Romans 13:1-5, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.”

We must obey our nation’s laws (unless they contradict God’s laws – Acts 5:29). Everything about this controversy is horrible, but it is made worse through the continual violation of our nation’s laws, and thus, a violation of God’s laws. Just because someone else violated the law doesn’t mean we have the right do the same. Two wrongs don’t make a right. This situation will continue to progress and even escalate until people stop breaking the law.

–Brett Petrillo

 

Let’s learn from the mistakes being made in Ferguson. Let’s come to realize how terrible a situation can become when people continue breaking the law. Then, let’s dedicate ourselves as Christians to be people who obey serve God in the confines of our nation’s laws.

The Seed Is the Word of God

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“The seed is the word of God,” explained Jesus to the disciples, who had asked about the meaning of the parable of the sower (Luke 8:11). Every seed, given proper conditions, reproduces after its kind (Genesis 1:11). The proper conditions for the word of God are “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:15). As the spiritual seed which brings life to dead souls, its primary quality — its “kind,” if you will — is “imperishable” (1 Peter 1:23). When an animal dies, it is dead forever. When a soul lives because the seed is implanted in it, it lives forever, because the seed is the “living and enduring word of God.”

Our Lord spoke his words about the seed to a large crowd that was gathering, as people came from town after town to see him and to seek some benefit. The parable was a divider, to separate the curiosity seekers and the selfish from the pursuers of God. The gospel is not a spear that forces its way into the heart, but a seed that must be received in order to bear fruit. The parable contained the truth for those who wanted to find it.

As he explained the parable, its truth served the disciples, also. It warned them against attempting to judge soils, but reminded them to spread the word to all, for only in the sowing would the honest and good heart appear. When they might be tempted to give in to discouragement, after rejection, the parable would also remind them that, somewhere out there, good soil is waiting for the seed.

In another critical moment, Peter takes the word of God as the seed. He remembers the parable when Jesus spoke it that day, and how some of the seed fell on the rock. When the time of testing came, those who had initially received the message with joy fell away. Now, years later, Christians he knows and loves are being tested and are on the verge of chunking the faith to save themselves. He writes and reminds them of the type of seed that caused them to be “born anew” (1 Peter 1:23).

If this seed is imperishable, and if this word is living and enduring, how is it then that they can consider extinguishing their zeal for God? A key thought for Peter is value (see 1 Peter 2:7, NET), what is precious. These faltering saints need to go to the balance sheet and consider how much their faith is really worth. The nature of the word of God as the powerful, imperishable seed increases the value of their confession.

The seed is the word of God. From a small seed, to great and eternal fruit.

J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

The cycle never ends

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Spring, 1954

Eileen was in a rage. It was the most important high school party of the year and her Mother, Mary, would not let her go. She was yelling and pounding on the wall when Mary came to the door, only to hear, “I can’t believe you won’t let me go to that party! I’m sixteen. Why can’t you just trust me? You’ve ruined my life!”

Spring, 1985

Jessica was in a rage. It was the most important high school party of the year and her Mother, Eileen, would not let her go. She was yelling and pounding on the wall when Eileen came to the door, only to hear, “I can’t believe you won’t let me go to that party! I’m sixteen. Why can’t you just trust me? You’ve ruined my life!”

Spring, 2011

Selena was in a rage. It was the most important high school party of the year and her Mother, Jessica, would not let her go. She was yelling and pounding on the wall when Jessica came to the door, only to hear, “I can’t believe you won’t let me go to that party! I’m sixteen. Why can’t you just trust me? You’ve ruined my life!”

The cycle never ends.

From the beginning of time, man has wandered down the same paths, each of them thinking they are charting unexplored lands. We think our ideas are new, when they are already antiquated. We praise our foresight in new fashions and trends, despite the fact that they are already tattered with use.

Thousands of years ago, Solomon, by inspiration said, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9, NKJV). Obviously, nothing has changed in the meantime.

During all of these human cycles of “originality,” God has been there, watching and listening. Every problem of the human condition is ancient to God. He has heard every excuse, rationalization and denial man can create. So, why do we keep trying them? (Luke 14:16- 24).

We perceive our problems are worse than that of anyone else when God plops down a thick volume of those who have overcome all of them.

If God has seen and heard everything, then he has the knowledge, experience and wisdom to handle anything that we face. So, why do we not put our complete faith in him?

We will turn to companies with vast experience but ignore God when he knows everything (1 John 3:20). Scripture says, “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

Faith says that we realize we are helpless without God and we have put ourselves completely in his hands. The lack of faith says he is untrustworthy and ineffective. On judgment, that cannot go well (Revelation 20:11-13).

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Things change, but God does not

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My wife and I decided (OK, it was mostly my decision) to buy a car.

We needed a car that would last us several years. Our family at the time was small and so I bought a subcompact. Since the car was almost brand new, I was sure it was the right choice.

But, things began to happen. There were several problems with the motor. We were sure those problems had been solved. However, soon, the car was damaged beyond repair when a drunk driver ran a red light and slammed into it while it carried my wife and son. They were not injured, but our long-term transportation solution unraveled.

Things change. What is true with human beings one year is not true the next. We elect presidents and then, four or eight years later, we boot them from office.

Our God, however, does not change. Ever. The Attribute of God’s unchanging nature is called immutability. Charnock, in his wonderful work, “The Existence and Attributes of God, wrote, “Unchangeableness doth necessarily pertain to the nature of God. It is of the same necessity with the rectitude of his nature; he can no more be changeable in his essence than he can be unrighteous in his actions.”/1

For the purposes of this study, we will assume the scriptures are the inerrant, inspired word of the Almighty God as described in 2 Timothy 3:16f. The word of God alone is sufficient to prove this, and any other, attribute of God.

God does not change. In 1 Samuel 15, King Saul was ordered by God to destroy all of the Amalekites. Saul disobeyed God by not destroying all of the enemy. In an attempt to urge the Prophet Samuel to ask God to change his mind about taking the kingdom away from Saul, Samuel said, “The Preeminent One of Israel does not go back on his word or change his mind, for he is not a human being who changes his mind,” ( 1Samuel 15:29, NET).

As so many people today, Saul thought God would change his mind about sin. Saul readily confessed his sin, but wanted the consequences of his actions averted. God forgives sin, but has never prevented its consequences from the sinner. In this, the Lord is not like a man that can change.

The inspired writer of James tells us, “All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change,” ( James 1:17).

A college professor of mine used a metaphor to describe what the phrase, “shadow of turning,” in the King James rendition of this verse meant. He compared the position of the sun to a sundial. The sundial’s shadow continued to change every hour of the day. Evidently, the sun was not in the same place.

But, God doesn’t change like a shadow’s turning. He remains the same always. One of the great consolations God’s people have is they can always expect that God will be the same way every day, every year and every age. His promises are always true and will be kept. The proof of this is in the history of Israel and the church.

More to come. ________ 1/”Discourses upon the Existence and Attributes of God,” by Stephen Charnock, B.D., p. 318 Baker Book One House.

–by John Henson @ www.forthright.net

A bleak view of life

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“ALL IS VANITY!”

When Solomon penned these words, he was describing a condition of life in which there was no substance or essence; nothing of lasting or redeeming value. This is certainly a bleak view of life. Is there nothing that we have or do that is not vain? The point Solomon is making teaches two eternal truths:

First there is much in this world that is vain. Our priorities can get out of kilter. We major in minors. We “strain the gnat and swallow the camel” (Matt. 23:24). How hard it is for men to discover what is really important! They have spent lifetimes building empires, amassing great fortunes, receiving the praise of men. “Vanity!” replies Solomon. “It is all vanity!” But why? Isn’t all that hard work worth something? Isn’t the accumulated wealth a testimony to one’s greatness? No, says the wise man. They are merely an example of misplaced priorities.

Second, only God can define and determine what is valuable. We have to remember that God sees the eternal. He knows that earthly priorities can often distract us from the eternal. He knows that wealth (Luke 12:13-21), family (Matt. 10:37) lusts and pride (1 Jn. 2:15) can keep us from salvation. Men, therefore, are not able to distinguish between the valuable and vain without divine guidance. So what did God declare as valuable? The ending of Ecclesiastes gives it to us: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13-14). Out of all of the works a man can do, these two, fearing God and keeping His commandments, are the pentacle of one’s existence.

No one wants to feel like a failure. Therefore it is crucial that each one of us determine to prioritize our lives, loves and interests. We must “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33). If we do not do this then Solomon will summarize our lives as “vanity.” But if we put God first, He will summarize our lives with these words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

–Denny Petrillo

The lure of alcohol is undeniable.

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“Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder” (Proverbs 23:31,32 ESV).

The lure of alcohol is undeniable. It “sparkles in the cup” and “goes down smoothly.” It would be foolish to pretend that there aren’t pleasures associated with drinking it, so the Wise Man of Proverbs uses another tactic. Though there are pleasures to drinking, there is a sudden reality check, too. “In the end it bites like a snake,” he points out, “and poisons like a viper.”

“Your eyes will see strange things” (like pink elephants, perhaps?). “You will be like one sleeping on the high seas, on top of the rigging.”

The writer uses humor to dispel the notion (ancient and modern) that the drunk is sophisticated and cool. Instead, he points out the indignities of this supposedly suave hero in his drunken, sodden state.

This is pretty shrewd psychology; tell a young person that alcohol is forbidden, and you may heighten his curiosity to try the forbidden fruit; explain how silly the drunk looks, and most young people will avoid looking foolish at all costs!

Young people, if you’re looking for a mentor and a wise influence in your life, it’s most unlikely that he will be sitting at a bar with a Bud Lite in his hand!

Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Why did Jesus speak in parables?

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THE PARABLE OF TWO DEBTORS

Why did Jesus speak in parables? The disciples wondered just that (Matthew 13:10). The Holy Spirit records four answers. First, Jesus used parables because not all would receive the mysteries of the Kingdom by direct revelation (13:11). Further, He did so because many hearts were dull and eyes and ears were closed (13:13-16). Those with faith would accept His teaching, but unbelievers would not understand. Then, He used parables because the prophets foretold that He would (13:34, 35). Finally, He did because there were things hidden from the foundation of the world that He must reveal (13:35).
What relevance, then, do the parables have for the modern Bible reader? Now, the parables exist as part of that written revelation. Through them, one can see prophecy fulfilled. The mystery that has been kept secret for long ages past (cf. Romans 16:25) can now be known. Thus, the parables are of paramount importance as practical instruction today.
Jesus’ parables come out of many settings. He spoke them during private talks with the disciples, in public sermons, and on the occasion of miracles and healings, but maybe the most effective parables were borne out of situations where His enemies tested him. The parable in Luke 7:41-42 is such a one. Consider four key words that aid one to better understand the so-called “Parable of Two Debtors.”

Content

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

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

Context

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contrast

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

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

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

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

Conclusions

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

No one is worthy of forgiveness.

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

Not all sinners grasp the seriousness of their sinfulness.

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

No one can repay his debt.

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

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

Jesus freely forgives those who seek it.

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

–Neal Pollard

Married for 91 years

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DANIEL AND SUSAN BAKEMAN (Neal Pollard)

In the annals of American history there is a remarkable story you may not know. Daniel Bakeman was born on October 9, 1759. He married Susan Brewer on August 29, 1772, though not yet a teenager. Soon thereafter, he joined the American army during the Revolutionary War. Not only did he survive the war, he lived almost another 100 years. When he died on April 5, 1869, he was most likely the last surviving veteran of the war that made us a country. He lived about four years after the end of the Civil War. As remarkable as that distinction is, he also was part of another world record that still stands to this day. His marriage to Susan lasted until September 10, 1863, when she passed away. That means the Bakemans were married for 91 years and 12 days!

I cannot find anything about the details of that marriage, though they left many descendants who carry, through various spellings of the family name, the names Bachman, Beckman, Bakeman, Bateman, and even Baker (genealogytrails.com). Various archives indicate that Mr. Bakeman was spry and humorous to the end and that Mrs. Bakeman exhibited needlework she had done without the aid of glasses when she was 102. They lived and died in a town called Freedom, and Mr. Wakeman holds the distinction of having voted in every election from Washington to Grant!

As remarkable as his military distinction is, his marriage distinction deserves higher honor. He fought in and survived a war that lasted less than ten years. He endured hardships, who knows how many ups and downs, and undoubtedly some trying marital moments en route to almost a century of marital bliss. They were together to the end, an exaggerated example of commitment and highest love.

You will almost certainly fail to break the Bakemans’ record for length of marriage, but you might exceed what they enjoyed for depth and breadth. What are you doing to build upon the highest love for your spouse? What daily investments are you making? Your marriage will be remembered by those who know you. How it will be remembered is something over which you exert full control. Make it a legacy of lasting love!

Positive preaching

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Be Positive Preacher – by Tom Wacaster

 

“Be positive preacher!” Now there is a good suggestion. The person who dwells wholly on the negative, and presents a message absent of joy and cheerfulness and optimism, should re-examine his Christianity. Certainly we preachers need to proclaim the “good news” of the Gospel, and hold forth the promise of hope that can be found in Christ. A steady diet of the consequences of sin, horrors of hell, or the wrath of God, would be quite discouraging to those who have to listen to us preach week after week. Faithful, dedicated, committed, and hard working brethren need to be reassured that they can obtain the crown of life, and that the battle against our adversary can be successfully fought and won (2 Timothy 4:7-8). Did not John tell us, “These things have I written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, even unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God” (1 John 5:13). So, let’s preach that message, and shout it from the roof tops.

But at the same time, let us not abuse the call for positive preaching. Let us make sure that our definition of “positive preaching” is true to Biblical principles. The general attitude toward a “positive ministry” has come to mean toleration, avoidance of judgmental statements, and ministering to the felt-needs of those with whom we come in contact. The end result is a “market based” message that appeals to the wishes of the masses rather than the demands of the Almighty God. The present emphasis upon those things noted above has produced a search for a church that is exciting, progressive, non-judgmental, and loving (to name only a few of the glowing “adjectives” which some think ought to characterize our preaching). Doubtless, most of us would say that our Lord conducted a “positive” ministry while upon this earth. Would any dare suggest that our Lord was “negative” and “hyper-critical”? Certainly not. But while Jesus held forth forgiveness and hope, He likewise dealt with sin in a most forceful manner (take a close look at Matthew 23). I have even heard that our approach to those lost in sin should be some sort of “back-door” strategy. “Let’s be careful lest we offend.” “Preaching of that nature will drive people away.” “Too much scripture will make people angry.” Sound familar? Now take a close look at God’s approach! When Israel was in decline, morality at an all time low, religion false and hypocritical from priest down to the people, it was then that God sent the fiery, outspoken prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos would not have lasted two weeks in some congregations now crying for positive, pleasing, and palatable preaching. God give us preachers like the prophets, men who are not afraid to convict us of our sins, and point the way to heaven, rather than coddle us and leave us drowning in our sin and separated from the Almighty.

In what little bit of mission work that I have been privileged to do, it seems that the plain preaching that is so neglected in our country, is welcomed elsewhere. Souls in Russia, starving for the Living Word, want a plain spoken message. Like two ships passing in the night, those who have lived in the darkness of Communism welcome the light, while those of us who have enjoyed more than 200 years of freedom and easy access to the Bible, run from the light. Is it not interesting that the Gospel is flourishing and the church growing in those areas where fundamental truth is forecefully preached, while “positive preaching” is filling our buildings with half-hearted, unconverted numbers? Let us listen to the words of Jesus: “And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, and cometh not to the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought of God” (John 3:19-21). Lets preach a positive message, but make sure it is positively Biblical.

My precious boy with the golden hair Came up one day beside my chair

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NO TIME TO PLAY – Brett Petrillo

I had to fight back the tears as I thought about this powerful poem. What a terribly sad reality this would be. It is worth reading. It’s called “No Time to Play” (author unknown).

My precious boy with the golden hair

Came up one day beside my chair

And fell upon his bended knee

And said, “Oh, Mommy, please play with me!”

 

I said, “Not now, go on and play;

I’ve got so much to do today.”

He smiled through tears in eyes so blue

When I said, “We’ll play when I get through.”

 

But the chores lasted all through the day

And I never did find time to play.

When supper was over and dishes done,

I was much too tired for my little son.

 

I tucked him in and kissed his cheek

And watched my angel fall asleep.

As I tossed and turned upon my bed,

Those words kept ringing in my head,

 

“Not now, son, go on and play,

I’ve got so much to do today.”

I fell asleep and in a minute’s span,

My little boy is a full-grown man.

 

No toys are there to clutter the floor;

No dirty fingerprints on the door;

No snacks to fix; no tears to dry;

The rooms just echo my lonely sigh.

 

And now I’ve got the time to play;

But my precious boy is gone away.

I awoke myself with a pitiful scream

And realized it was just a dream

 

For across the room in his little bed,

Lay my curly-haired boy, the sleepy-head.

My work will wait ’till another day

For now I must find some time to play.

We are a very busy people. Too busy. Our time and attention is taken and pulled in a million different directions. But what a sad reality it would be to wake up and realize we have not taken time for our kids. Children grow up way too fast and unfortunately our work never ends. In reality, most work can wait, but spending the limited time we with our children cannot.

Come home early from work. Turn off the phones. Put the dirty dishes on hold for an hour or two. Set your homework aside for a bit. Close up the report that is due this week. Let’s not come to our senses in ten years and realize the opportunity with our children is now gone. Moms and Dads, whatever way we decide to do it, let’s make sure we take some time and spend it with our children and family.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom

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How Long Have You Got?

The Galapagos land tortoise can live, under optimal conditions, up to 193 years, the bowhead whale, up to 200. The hardy carp can reach 100. Then, some lowly bugs and insects count their lifespans in days.

Man was meant to be eternal. After the Fall, his lifespan began falling, from what the biblical record tells us. Methusalah made it the furtherest, but it was all downhill from there. So much that Moses tells us the average is 70, at most 80 (Psalm 90:10), this from a man who reached 120.

Today, Japan has the longest life expectancy at 82.6 years. But in much of the world, people live, on average, 39-40 years. In the U.S., it’s 78; in Brazil, 72.

Man has always searched for the fountain of youth. Prolonging one’s time on earth is considered a boon, and even Scripture provides motivation for it (see, for example, Deuteronomy 6:2; Proverbs 10:27).

We often think of eternal life in terms of quantity, although Scripture defines it as knowing God and his Son (John 17:3). Hell will also be eternal (Matthew 25:46), so it’s not merely the eternality but the nature of that life that makes the difference.

Hezekiah discovered that adding years to your life wasn’t necessarily a blessing. In the extra time he’d been granted, he lost the kingdom for his descendants.

So what can we conclude from a life expectancy of 70 to 80 years?

* Life expectancies are averages. Nobody’s guaranteed any time at all. * Porn publisher Hugh Hefner has beat the odds, but that doesn’t mean he’s had a good life. A man’s life does not consist in number of years he’s able to live. * Planning for the future is good, but planning for eternity is better. * Christians live best in the present because they live in the knowledge of the brevity of life.

“Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom” (Psalm 90:12, NLT).

by J. Randal Matheny,

Anti-scientifism

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In Defense of Science?

An article at the online home of National Public Radio (paid for by you and me) says that “anti-scientifism,” the idea that science is opposed to religion, is ruining the United States./1

The central statement of the article is this: “While many countries are working hard to educate their young about the values of science and of scientific research, in the U.S. countless people are teaching them to mistrust science and scientists, taking every opportunity to politicize and theologize the scientific discourse in ways completely incompatible with the goals and modus operandi of the scientific enterprise.”

There are two problems with this proposition. First, the theology of the Bible does not teach people to mistrust science or scientists. It is impossible to mistrust an inanimate object. Science makes no statements of its own, nor does it have the capacity to lie. Strictly speaking, science deals with measurements and observations in the empirical world.

Scientists, however, have earned our mistrust by making irresponsible statements that cannot be verified or proven. Whenever a scientist claims that some rock has been dated to have existed for millions of years, the very dating systems scientists use to make such a statement are built upon vast assumptions, not fact.

Look at the remainder of the article’s statement. “…taking every opportunity to politicize and theologize the scientific discourse in ways completely incompatible with the goals…” I won’t continue it, because the last part of it makes as little sense as the first.

But what goals and “modus operandi” of what scientific enterprise does the statement refer? Evidently, this is left up to us to suppose. Therefore, I suppose this means the modus operandi common to many scientists is to complain and bicker that religion somehow impinges upon their scientific fiefdom and has no business asking questions or requesting proof.

Since there is no objective definition of the “modus operandi,” the statement must mean that religion should be relegated to the dark ages where it belongs: “A country that distrusts science is condemned to move straight back to medieval obscurantism,” the article says.

Trust must be earned, my scientist friends. This you have not done.

___________ 1/ http://tinyurl.com/62hfgxx

–by John Henson @ www.forthright.net

We’re behind 14-0

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The story is told of a man who was driving home from work one day and he saw a Little League baseball game being played. Well, the sight of the little boys on the field brought back a lot of memories, so he decided to stop for a while and watch some of the action. As he sat down behind one of the team benches, he leaned up and asked one of the boys what the score was. “We’re behind 14-0″ the boy said with a pleasant smile. “Really,” the man said, “You don’t seem to be too discouraged.” The boy said, “Discouraged? Why should be we discouraged? We haven’t been up to bat yet.”

Friends, lest you become discouraged and think that this world is out of hand, remember that the Lord has yet to bat. Give it some thought.

Steve Higginbotham.

Protecting our children spiritually

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The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

People nowadays talk about God with such an arrogance. Like they’re the first person who is going to be able to come before God and question Him. That God is gonna go, “Wow, I never thought of that before.”

Many people, when they get to the fear aspect of God they want to qualify it with, “Now when I say ‘fear’ I don’t mean FEAR. It’s more of a respect. It’s more of an awe.”

But that’s not what I see in the Bible. It looks to me like people were terrified.

As parents, Tressa and I talk a lot about how to protect our children spiritually and intellectually in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Truthfully, when I think about Callie I have entertained a wide range of options. Everything from complete isolation with the Bedouin Monks in the deserts of the Middle East to homeschool with the reindeer people of Mongolia. Just kidding. In a way.

All of those thoughts have yielded isolation strategies that are not the best for our kids. Those thoughts were based in an unhealthy fear of the culture and not enough fear in God. Listen to the Scripture:

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have refuge. Proverbs 14:26

It turns out providing refuge for our children is more about our personal fear of the Lord than what school they attend or where they grow up.

Think about this. My biblical fear of the Lord causes me to follow Christ out of a deep sense of love and reverence for the King. It causes me to align my life with the Scripture and do life God’s way. When children have parents who love God and live out an authentic biblical faith in front of them, they will have refuge from the chaos of the culture.

As you think about how to protect your children, or grandchildren, or nieces, or nephews, remember the Scripture teaches we are to be part of this world, but to not let this world become a part of us. Consider Romans 12:2 where Paul writes,

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Our children need to learn to walk with Christ in the midst of the culture. They need the refuge of parents who fear God and love him deeply.

Meditate on Proverbs 14:26. The fear of the Lord is not just the beginning of wisdom, it is also a stable refuge for our children.

If you want to protect your children, the best thing you have to offer is your personal fear of the Lord.

Sean Ashberry @ www.forthright.net

Be sure your sins will find you out

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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

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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

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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

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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!

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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

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