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Am I a righteous person?

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****This will be the last article till 9/23*****

“A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge,”(Proverbs 29:7), ESV.

The man walked into his home, and sat down to think.
The news that his fiancée was pregnant had stunned him.
He knew he was not the father, for they had not had sexual relations. Who then?

He was hurt, and angry. He was a man with a reputation for being righteous. So what would he do? Condemn an obvious betrayal? Show this woman up for the wanton and immoral person she apparently was? After all, that’s what righteous people do!

Matthew records that “because he was a righteous man,”
Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, and resolved to put her away “quietly” (Matthew 1:19).

There is always an element of mercy in a righteous person. Now for the self-righteous person, that’s another matter. The self-righteous love to expose others’ mistakes, and succumb to acute amnesia with regard to their own!

The self-righteous condemns the poor as lazy and dishonest; they expose the sinful as evil and malevolent. The truly righteous, however, care about the poor, and seek to restore the sinful.

After all, the most righteous person who ever lived
declared: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” ( Matthew 5:7).

by Stan Mitchell

A note on the table

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“Her children rise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her. ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’”(Proverbs 31:28, ESV).

The note was on the table when Bob found it. He should have known better. He maintained his car constantly, adjusting the timing like a symphony hall conductor, changing the oil regularly, doing all the work with his own hands. His car purred more softly than their Persian cat.

But a man who understood cars so well should have understood his wife better. He was a good man, provided well for his family, and would have given his shirt off his back to a stranger. He loved Stacy, in his strong, quiet way. But he never praised her, rarely thanked her.

A man who checked his car daily, who understood that a car doesn’t run smoothly, had no idea what kind of lubricant smoothed over the most important relationship in his life. He had taken her for granted.

The note read: “Bob, I’ve moved out. Try as I might, I can’t do anything that makes you happy. If only you had told me once that you appreciated what I did. Perhaps now you will learn that meals don’t cook themselves, and clothes don’t wash themselves.”

The hard part was that he had. He just hadn’t said so. He just thought that she understood. “Guess I thought she had mental telepathy,” he muttered to himself.

He sat down on the couch and began, belatedly, to plan how to do a complete service on the marriage.

–Stan Mitchell - www.forthright.net

The Refuse Gate

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Katmandu’s streets are regularly lined with garbage as the people pile the trash from their homes there to be shoveled into trucks and hauled away. Those pickups are irregular and often infrequent, so that the piles of refuse appear constant. They impede traffic and pedestrians since there are limited sidewalks and little room in the streets.

The sights and smells produced by this system are offensive to those unaccustomed to such.

Landfills, garbage dumps, and other means of disposal are matters of distaste, but also of great importance.
Doing something with our abundant waste is a practical necessity, but no one enjoys dealing with it, or seeing and smelling it in close proximity.

Get rid of it–move it out of sight and consciousness –that is our desire.

The prophets of Israel and Judah were often given odd and difficult assignments. Hosea was commanded to marry an adulterous woman (Hosea 1:2). Ezekiel had to lay on his left side on the ground without rising for 390 days, then on his right side for another 40 days (Ezekiel 4:4, 6).

God once gave a command to Jeremiah that does not at first appear unusual or particularly demanding (Jeremiah 19:1-2). He was simply told to go to a certain part of Jerusalem and preach. However, when one examines the geography of ancient Jerusalem, the instructions take on a different light.

The Potsherd Gate in the southern wall of the city was also known as the “Refuse Gate” (see Nehemiah 12:31).
Gates were often named for their geographical location, or for their primary function.

The name “Refuse Gate” suggests that it was the route used by the inhabitants of Jerusalem to dump their garbage outside the city. Its location on the south side fits the tradition that the valley of Hinnom served as the garbage dump for Jerusalem.

Jeremiah was assigned to preach at the town dump. That doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable, nor does it seem likely to be very productive. How often do we reason that the Church needs a nice, impressive building so that worshippers will be comfortable and visitors will enjoy their experience?

When we plan evangelistic activity we spruce things up, put on a good front, and make things as attractive as possible. After all, “God wants our best,” and “first impressions are all important.”

Jeremiah reminds us that there is a grim and unpleasant side of our mission. Sin is ugly. Sinners have declared themselves to be God’s enemies (Romans 8:7). There is garbage in our lives that must be eradicated.

Years ago there was a cartoon strip which featured a character whose stated mission was to “minister to the rich and famous.” There is great appeal in going to the pretty, comfortable places of the world to preach the gospel. Yet it is often in the garbage heaps that our witness is most needed, and it is there that our work may be most productive.

The fact is that the stinking streets of Katmandu are probably a much more fertile field for evangelism than the beautiful beaches of Hawaii. The ghettos and slums of our cities produce more sincere listeners (most of the time at least) than the country club neighborhoods.

Jeremiah’s chosen location probably had more to do with the symbolism which gave weight to his message than to the willingness of his audience, but the application is still valid.

We must not shy away from the garbage heaps when we go out to do the work of God. Sin is not pretty. Sinners live in filth, metaphorically, but often literally as well. We must go where they are if we hope to reach them with the saving Gospel.

Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

Am I rich?

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The Census Bureau’s definition of poverty is far different than the one most of us would use.

“When the Census Bureau defines ‘poverty,’ though, it winds up painting more than 40 million Americans — one in seven — as “poor.”/1

One commentator noted:

“Most news stories on poverty feature homeless families, people living in crumbling shacks, or lines of the downtrodden eating in soup kitchens. The actual living conditions of America’s poor are far different from these images.”/2

When we look at the definition of the Census Bureau, the portrait of the poor looks dramatically different than we would expect.

Data from the Department of Energy and other agencies show that the average poor family, as defined by Census officials:/3

Lives in a home that is in good repair, not crowded, and equipped with air conditioning, clothes washer and dryer, and cable or satellite TV service.

Prepares meals in a kitchen with a refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave as well as oven and stove.

Enjoys two color TVs, a DVD player, VCR and — if children are there — an Xbox, PlayStation, or other video game system.

Had enough money in the past year to meet essential needs, including adequate food and medical care.

Someone who has all of these things would be living like a king in most places on earth. Wealth in one area, is poverty in another. The cost of living makes a huge impact and people move around the world to find manageable economies.

The wonderful thing about the Lord is that the definition of spiritual wealth never changes. God is always dependable (Hebrews 13:5). We can always know where we stand with the Lord (Romans 8:1). If we are immersed into Christ, and serve him faithfully, we will never be lost and will be spiritually wealthy (Acts 2:37,47; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:1).

When we gather around the Lord’s table, we need to remember that we were in spiritual poverty before Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-11). Because of his death, we are rich in blessings. The body and blood of Jesus are our ticket out of spiritual poverty and into the glories of heaven.

Let us never forget the price our Lord paid for these blessings.

___________

1/ http://tinyurl.com/3lwr57q

2/ Ibid

3/ Ibid

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

 

THEY WOULD NOT BOW, THEY WOULD NOT BEND, THEY WOULD NOT BURN

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A decree went forth from the king. All in the kingdom must worship the great image he had created or be killed. The time of worship would be announced with the playing of several musical instruments. Everyone was to fall down to the image!

Three individuals, slaves, refused to bow down. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Jewish slaves taken in the captivity, would not worship the image of the king. They remained stedfast in their service to God regardless of the consequences. When they were brought before the king for their failure to bow down, they were given an opportunity to bow down or else be punished. Faced with this threat, they still refused to bow to the image. The king had them tossed into the fiery furnace, but they did not die. They came forth from the furnace unscathed (Daniel 3)

THEY WOULD NOT BOW. God had instructed his people that he was God and that they should not build graven images and worship them (Exodus 20:1-3). These men were faithful to God and refused to obey the desires of worldly people.

THEY WOULD NOT BEND. Unlike many today, when the pressure to yield to the world’s desire was upon them they would not bend. They were going to be faithful to God regardless of any personal consequences (Daniel 3:16-18). God had warned his people that they should not follow a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2). Unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, too many today fold in their allegiance to God when the world exerts even the slightest pressure. Children of God must remain stedfast in their allegiance to God (I Corinthians 15:58).

THEY WOULD NOT BURN. When cast into the fiery furnace, they did not burn, nor were they singed (Daniel 3:27). Today, if we remain faithful to God, we will not “burn”, i.e., we will not have a part in the lake of fire and brimstone. The unfaithful will be punished forever (Revelation 21:8; Matthew 25:46).

–Charles Coats (deceased)

I’LL KEEP ON TILL THEY QUIT

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There once was an older man who went out jogging. He was running around a track that circled the high school football field while the team was conducting their practice. When the football players began running their sprints up and down the field, the man said to himself, “I’ll just keep run­ning until they quit.” So they ran. And he ran. And they kept on running. So he kept on running.

Finally, in total exhaustion the man had to stop. When he stopped, an equally exhausted football player walked over to him and said, “Boy, I’m glad you finally stopped, Mister. Our coach told us that we had to keep running wind sprints as long as the old guy was jogging!”

It seems to me that we can sometimes find ourselves in a similar kind of situation when it comes to anger and conflict. We have a disagreement with someone and get into an argument. Voices get raised. Neither side wants to be the first to give in, to stop speaking in anger. Everyone has the attitude, “I’ll just keep on till they quit.” So the other party stays mad. So we stay mad. And on we go, eventually finding ourselves emotionally and even physically exhausted by the ongoing animosity.

Let me challenge you to do something very difficult. The next time you get in an argument, be the first to give in. Be the first to stop the yelling and the name-calling. Be the first to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s the quickest way to stop the vicious cycle.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

The Happiness of Pursuit

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The more I learn, the more I am amazed how God has adapted Christianity to the needs of mankind. Let’s begin by citing Paul’s words from Philippians 3:10-14, wherein he writes that he wants to know Christ “the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

God has designed man in such a way that we cannot attain perfection here on earth but He challenges us to grow and strive for perfection with it being ultimately available on the other side of death. Learn. Grow. Mature. Strive. Reach forward. Don’t be content with who you are right now. Jesus is the standard of perfection.

Author and psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky writes in The Myths of Happiness, that we are happier in our pursuit. She writes, “if we enjoy the struggle along the way, we will derive pleasure and satisfaction by simply pursuing or working on our goal. We will ideally stretch our skills, discover novel opportunities, grow, strive, learn, and become more capable and expert. …Furthermore, goal pursuit in and of itself imparts structure and meaning to our daily lives, creating obligations, deadlines, and timetables, as well as opportunities for mastering new skills and for interacting with others” (137).

Now, think about how God has designed this world. Think about the challenges you have in your own life – the challenges to grow and mature.

Before he wrote those words in Philippians 3, Paul wrote these words in chapter 2: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (vss 3-4). Had Paul reached perfection in just these few virtues? No. He tells us himself that he had not reached spiritual perfection.

But the joy is in the striving, the pursuit. In Lyubomirsky’s words, it is the “deadlines and timetables, as well as opportunities for mastering new skills and for interacting with others.” If we obtained moral perfection the moment we were baptized into Christ, what else would there be to do, spiritually speaking?

God designed the human mind and the human heart to desire growth and maturity. Contests, sports, games, other challenges show that the human spirit was designed to seek after victory, to challenge ourselves even as we challenge others. We want to win. We want to stretch ourselves, to see how far we can go.

Ultimately, God set that urge in our hearts in spiritual matters. To conquer our own egos, our desire for revenge, our desire for self. He challenges us to control our tongues, our attitudes, our behavior. That all implies growth. And it all involves pursuit – the happy pursuit of holiness (cf. Heb. 12:14).

Christianity, as it is, is adapted to man, as he is.

– Paul Holland

 

Reasons to praise God

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NOTE:  A revised Greek word study app for Android devices is now available (for free) at http://bit.ly/1tMqlAW

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord”—Psalms 117:1-2

Our praise to God equates to an expression of gratitude on our part for his loving kindness seen in his mercy, grace and deliverance (1 John 3:1, Col. 1:14-16). Praise him because he gives and sustains life. Praise him because his love is one that cannot be measured by human standards (Rom. 5:8, Heb. 5:7-8). Praise him because his truth endures forever and what he has promised to do, he will do (1 Pet. 1:25, Heb. 6:17-19). Hear the Psalmist as he says, “Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart….” (Ps. 111:1). Our praise to God should come from hearts filled with a love for him that will let nothing interfere with a full, complete surrender to his will. Lovingly trusting him, we turn our lives over to him, take his hand in ours and with praises on our lips for his goodness and mercy we make our way down the pathway of life (Micah 6:8, Luke 2:20, Acts 2:47). Paul tells us to be thankful in everything for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18). Being thankful for the blessings, temporal as well as spiritual, that God has blessed us with should cause us to praise him not only in our worship assemblies but also in our walk with him each day (Ps. 18:49, Rom. 15:9-11). During the course of my 80 years of life on this earth, I have experienced moments of joy beyond measure and I have also walked through one of the deepest, most agonizing moments that can ever be experienced by a mortal human being and undoubtedly the same is true with each of you. But I tell you in this hour, I am convinced today that we can always find something to be thankful for that will cause us to lift up our voice in praise to our God (Rom. 8:28,31). As a faithful child of God, we never take one step in this life alone (Heb. 13:5).

We live in a time in which America needs to hear and heed the Psalmist cry to praise God. Too often we apply this principle only to temporal affairs of our lives overlooking the fact that it also applies not only to our spiritual lives but also to the spiritual life of our nation. When a nation of people make God an integral part of their lives, praising and honoring him, they will become an exalted nation. On the other hand when a nation of people become steeped in sin, when they begin to embrace those things that are abominable in the sight of God, when immorality permeates its society, when a nation of people begin to call evil good and good evil, then that nation will become despicable in God’s sight (Rom. 1:18-32, Gal. 5:19-21). Today, in America, the words of Proverbs 14:34 need to be shouted from the rooftops: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all ye people here below—Psalms 22:23, 148:7.

Charles Hicks

Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed

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Flailing & Failing

Keith Wishum recently recalled an atypical athlete of the 2000 Summer Olympics…

Eric Moussambani made a big splash at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, becoming an instant CNN celebrity for his performance in the 100-meter freestyle swimming. No, Eric didn’t win a medal. The only record he might have set would be for the slowest time ever. His 1:52 swim took over twice as long as the fastest time.

Wishum reports that Eric literally made a splash in the pool upon his entry into the water. He thrashed wildly. He swam with his head out of the water, with his arms flailing, and with his civilian style swim trunks billowing like a parachute in the pool. When he finished, he was completely exhausted; it was the first time he ever swam 100 meters without stopping!

What was Eric doing swimming in the Olympics with the best-trained athletes of the world?

Wishum answers: Eric was representing his tiny, impoverished country of Equatorial Guinea in West Africa as part of a special program designed to encourage participation from countries without previous Olympic experience. Eric just started swimming eight months before the Games and had trained only in a twenty-meter hotel pool. He was allowed in only when guests weren’t using the pool.

Compared to the other Olympic athletes, Eric’s efforts in the pool were laughable. But 17,000 spectators, identifying with an unknown, unqualified swimmer struggling to proudly represent his tiny homeland, did not laugh. Instead, they rose to their feet. They cheered. They applauded thunderously, encouraging the awkward hero to finish his race. They loved him, not for his speed or style, but for his heart. *

Compared with the sinless perfection of Christ, our best efforts are laughable. We flail and fail; we sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

But God loves us so much that He gave His sinlessly perfect Son to take our sins upon Himself and suffer the punishment for them so that we might have forgiveness and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7). Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Then, as we seek to follow in the steps of the Savior and walk in the light of His Word, He will applaud our flawed but faithful efforts and – by His grace – continue to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7).

Keith Wishum observed, “the most important thing Eric found was not fame, but GRACE” …. and that’s what we ALL need!

Won’t YOU submit to the Savior so that you may receive His saving grace?

David A. Sargent

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.

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