Today’s millennials are on the frontline of a battlefield more daunting than any living generation before them.

I was more than a little amused to read one of the latest offerings at the offbeat online food site “Munchies” (munchies.vice.com).  While it seems to be having fun with the overkill-reporting of all movements millennial, they give hard data to support the idea that those in the age range of 18-34 are forsaking fast-food chains and sit-down restaurants in deference to convenience stores with their nachos, taquitos and slurpies.  This data is being interpreted as a reflection on their tendency to impulse buy or be lured in by novelty.

Having at least two children who would fit the broad definition of “millennials,” I am always trying to figure out how this demographic ticks.  It seems that every news story featuring them, as a generation, casts them as fickle, rebellious, self-serving, or disconnected from the rest of society.  While they have inherited some broken systems (educationally, economically, religiously, etc.) and, as such, may naturally feel some distrust and disdain for those responsible, stereotypes and broad brushes are usually faulty.

When I view Christian millennials, having spoken with a great many of them over the past few years, I see a group intent on doing great things for Christ.  They don’t want to hear plans for helping the poor and needy; they want to organize and supply manpower for doing it.  They want more than Bible classes and sermons on soul-winning; they want to see their “role models” doing it and involving them in it.  They don’t want to simply accept our word for it on why we do what we do in worship and doctrine; they want well-thought-out explanations and demonstrations of book, chapter, and verse.

Today’s millennials are on the frontline of a battlefield more daunting than any living generation before them.  The prince of this world has attempted to brainwash and indoctrinate them with his lies.  The institutions of our culture actively seek to redefine right and wrong for them.

So many of the Christian millennials I know are eager to serve as soldiers in the Lord’s Army.  They may disparage some of the “established” forms not founded upon the Rock, but the kind of faith they are developing and must grow will be anything but “convenient.”  They may have to pay a higher price for holding onto their faith than any of us did at their age.  May we have the wisdom and take the time to mentor, encourage, love, and assist them in influencing a world so rapidly changing.  They can do it, and we must help.  God certainly will (cf. Rom. 8:37-39)!

–Neal Pollard

Does THIS GUY worship with you?!

SUPPOSE THERE’S A man with a bad reputation in the community…

He’s impatient, unkind, and uncompassionate, and he takes advantage of people in business deals. He treats people poorly, disdaining those he considers beneath him.

He’s also a church member who holds conservative, orthodox convictions on matters of faith. In fact, he holds his convictions quite rigidly and will not tolerate anyone who deviates even slightly.

There’s an obvious problem here, right?

He seems to believe that the most important part of faith is what we do toward God, what might be called the vertical aspect. If our worship and doctrinal convictions are right, then we’re okay.

Or maybe not.

Jesus opposed that particular perspective frequently and vocally. Look at the second part of his response to a question he was asked, and notice how closely he aligns love for neighbor with love for God:

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).

What does it mean to be God’s child?

Love God, love people, Jesus says.

In fact, he links them so strongly as to make them inseparableIf you love God, you will love people.

It’s everywhere in Jesus’ teachings.

The hero of his most famous parable was a hated Samaritan—his theology wasn’t too good, but he was praised because he had a heart for hurting people.

The unnamed villain of another story was sent to hell for what? Bad theology?

Not so much.

He wasn’t even condemned for treating poor Lazarus terribly. He wasn’t mean or harsh. He didn’t throw the beggar off his property or spit on him as he walked by.

He just ignored him. He was indifferent, unconcerned. His great sin was doing nothing.

But through his teaching and living Jesus taught us that loving God means loving God’s people.

He was gentle with the adulterous woman brought to him in shame.

He forgave the “woman of the city” who let her hair down and cried on his feet.

He hung out with drunks, prostitutes, and tax collectors [see Mk. 2:16-17, BP].

In fact, you can’t read a page of the gospels without seeing his kindness toward people.

And that’s what he tells us to do. It comes through so clearly that we come to realize that we don’t really love God if we don’t.

None of this means God doesn’t care about our theology.

But it does mean we can have some pretty good theology and still not know God.  –Chuck Webster

And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?” Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:28-31).

Mike Benson

Solomon doesn’t beat around the bush. He identifies clearly the kind of people he wants his son to avoid:

Sometimes (many times?) change is hard. My wife tells me I don’t like change. This may be the way it is with most people.

Solomon knows that we may make choices in life that are hard to change. One area that is hard to change is the people with which we associate. It takes wisdom for a person to determine to no longer associate with unspiritual people. There comes a time when you have to honestly admit that they are influencing you more than you are influencing them.

Solomon doesn’t beat around the bush. He identifies clearly the kind of people he wants his son to avoid:

“…men who speak perverse things,
who leave the paths of uprightness
to walk in the ways of darkness;
Who delight in doing evil…
From the adulteress who flatters with her words…”
(Prov. 2:12-16)

These may all be, overall, nice people. They might be funny, entertaining, and even charismatic. Yet wisdom screams that we should get away from such. They all have the tendency to turn others into being like them: people who have no relationship with God.

If we are wise, we will find good people and make them our true friends. Solomon says to his son “So that you will walk in the way of good men, and keep to the paths of the righteous” (Prov. 2:20).

Maybe it’s time for a change; for you to say to your friends, “I’m out of here!” Or, related to this, maybe it is time to say: “I’m done watching that TV show,” or “I’m finished going to that type of movie,” or “I’m not going to read that kind of material any more.” Realizing that these people and/or activities are pulling us down should make us pull away. That would be a wise choice.

Denny Petrillo

The Sin of Murmuring

The word “murmur” is defined as “low, muttered complaints; grumbling.” (Webster). It is condemned by God as being sinful. We are commended to “do all things without murmuring and disputings.” (Philippians 2:16). The apostle Paul warned Christians against this sin in his letter to the Corinthians: “Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured and were destroyed of the destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10). The sinfulness of murmuring is vividly illustrated by God’s severity of punishment toward the guilty Jews, as shown in the following account.

Korah, Dathan, Ahiram, fifty princes of the congregation and others rebelled and murmured against God’s servants Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-11). “The earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up they, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation” (verses 32-33). “And there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense” (verse 35). When the Jews murmured that Moses and Aaron were responsible for the deaths. God killed fourteen thousand, seven hundred of them by a plague (verses 41-49). This is written for our admonition and should cause all murmurers in the church to repent and reform, lest they suffer a “sorer punishment” (Hebrews 10:28-29).

A murmurer can do great harm and irreparable damage in a congregation by creating discontent discouragement and apathy among members, by sowing discord among the brethren (which God hates – Proverbs 6:19), by undermining the work of preacher, teachers, deacons, and the rule of elders. This many times creates a general attitude of dissatisfaction and loss of interest, enthusiasm and zeal, resulting in decreased attendance, contribution and impairment of all work in general. The murmurer may then be the first to criticize the lack of growth, and may use the preacher or someone else as the scapegoat to bear the blame, not realizing or ignoring the fact that his own sin is responsible.

The murmurer does not truly love God and is not really interested in the welfare and growth of the church, but in his own selfish desires and opinions. He is either woefully ignorant of or willfully disregards God’s word regarding his sin, and is a dangerous threat to the cause of Christ. He can and does destroy or greatly lessen the influence and work of those who happen to be the object of his disgruntled attack. It is difficult to deal with such a situation because often times the murmurer does not have the courage or character to honorably discuss his complaints with the proper ones, but whispers them in secret to others. Christians should not lend receptive ears nor endorsement to murmuring, but exhort the guilty one to cease his sin. Remember, if one will murmur to you, he may murmur about you, because many times he is a pharisaical faultfinder, a chronic complainer with a hypercritical attitude who is usually never satisfied very long with any arrangement.

We earnestly exhort all murmurers everywhere in the name of Christ to repent of this sin, to cease and desist in tearing down the work of God, and to get busy in the kingdom to build it up. Those who truly love God and his church have no desire to be hypercritical faultfinders, wandering about murmuring to all who will listen. If anyone should persist in this sin after proper warnings and efforts to restore, then scriptural discipline should be brought about to protect the flock of God and its work. The work of our Lord is too important to allow murmurer to run and ruin the church.

– by Earl Fly

“But I thought”

The story is told of a lady who walked into a pharmacy and asked the pharmacist if he had a cure for the hiccups. The pharmacist said, “I sure do,” and immediately and unexpectedly yelled, “boo!” at the top of his lungs. Well, this nearly scared the lady half to death! She looked at the pharmacist and asked, “Why in the world did you do that?” The pharmacist said, “Because a good scare will rid a person of hiccups.” The lady then said, “But I don’t have the hiccups. My husband does and he’s out in the car!”

Oops! Now there’s an illustration of how assumptions can be costly. However, the greatest cost regarding assumptions occur in the spiritual realm. How many people assume they are believing and practicing the things that please God? How many people believe things that they have never bothered to read and study for themselves? How many times do you think God will hear someone say in the day of judgment, “But I thought.”

The Bible says to “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

Steve Higginbotham

It was Sunday evening, February 10th.

We had barely started the assembly when it was announced that a funnel cloud was some eight miles to our west and headed in our direction.

Our fellowship broke into two groups and we huddled into a couple of classrooms to wait for what would transpire. We sang hymns and prayed fervently for the Almighty’s protection.

Within minutes the EF4 tornado broke through the northwest edge of our parking lot breaking down power lines, exploding transformers, and scattering debris.

Somehow the dark tempest skirted our vehicles as well as the building itself and we escaped unscathed.  Unfortunately, hundreds of home in our area suffered extensive damage and hundreds more were totally destroyed.

When the tornado finally dissipated, it had left a 21- mile path of chaos in its wake.

Our shepherds cancelled the rest of the service, we closed with a prayer of thanksgiving, and then urged everyone to travel to their homes with caution.

A few minutes later, I started making my way home taking the usual trek down 40th Avenue towards Lincoln Avenue.

Barely a block away, I noticed a medium-sized tree on the right that had been toppled by storm. The tree was standing, actually lying, all by itself in a families’ front yard.

Ironically, no less than thirty yards away there was a long, tight line of much smaller trees which were perfectly erect. Not a single one of them had been damaged or uprooted.

The little scene struck me like a hard slap in the face. Even though the singular tree in the yard was much, much larger, and presumably stronger than the saplings nearby, it didn’t have the luxury of numerous other trees to buffer from the effects of the harsh winds.

The snapshot in time reminded me physically of what is true spiritually.

God never meant for any of us to go it alone. He never intended for us to be Lone Rangers and to try to survive life’s storms all by ourselves.

A strong tree left in seclusion can’t withstand 160+ mile an hour winds, but a cluster of tiny hardwoods can brave the same fury because they mutually protect each other by their very presence.

In Romans 1, Paul wrote:

“For I long to see you, that I may impart to

you some spiritual gift, so that you may be

established—that is, that I may be

encouraged together with you by the mutual

faith both of you and me” (Romans 1:11-12;

  1. 15:24).

It is intriguing to me that the apostle wanted to give the gift of his presence and fellowship so that both he and the Roman brethren would be strengthened and comforted. He was a giant—a spiritual Redwood, and yet he admitted his need for that which only fellow saints could provide.

THOUGHT: If the apostle Paul couldn’t make it in the world all by himself, if he couldn’t navigate the storms of adversity on his own, how can any of us manage to do so by ourselves today? Dear brother, dear sister—are you making regular contact with fellow Christians?

— by Mike Benson

 

“At hand” is the “Kingdom of God”

In his teaching, John the baptizer firmly stated that the “kingdom of heaven” was “at hand”.

The use of the phrase “at hand” established the understanding that the kingdom of heaven would soon be established. This coincides with the teachings of Daniel that the kingdom of God would be established in the time of the Roman Empire.

When an individual takes in context the entire teaching of God’s inspired word, it becomes evident that Jesus’ entire ministry centered on the establishment of his kingdom. The establishment of the long prophesied kingdom was a primary reason for him to spend some 30 years on earth.

With Jesus fulfilling all the Old Testament prophesies concerning the Messiah, it is evident within the word that he also fulfilled the establishment of God’s kingdom. As he traveled through Galilee he proclaimed the kingdom:

Jesus was going throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness among the people (Matthew 4:23).

Jesus proclaimed the same message as John, “the kingdom of God is at hand”:

Now after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15).

The phrase “at hand” used by Jesus is the same as the one used by John. Jesus is teaching that the kingdom will come soon. He also noted that some who were hearing his voice would live to see the establishment of his kingdom”:

Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28; See vs. 24-28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27).

In his discussion with the Pharisees concerning the coming of the kingdom, Jesus noted two important things. One, that the kingdom will not come with signs to be observed, and two, that it was in their midst.

Now having been questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21).

Jesus’ teaching concerning the coming kingdom was that it would be established in a short time. This coincides with the teaching of John, Daniel and the rest of the Prophets.

Why would anyone question the words of our Lord and Savior?

— by John E. Werhan

To possess a legitimate claim of Messiahship, Jesus needed to be the Son of David.

Step with me into the shoes of an educated first century Jew reading the Gospel of Matthew for the very first time. Immediately Matthew confronted him with converging lines of evidence from the cosmos, history, angels and prophecy proclaiming Jesus to be the long- awaited messianic King of Israel.

The wait was over.

Perhaps the year was about A.D. 60 when our ancient friend was handed either an Aramaic or Hebraic copy of Matthew. Did a smile of recognition creep over his face as his eyes ran down Jesus’ genealogy?

To possess a legitimate claim of Messiahship, Jesus needed to be the Son of David.

His mind could have eagerly raced through a string of familiar names, some of whom were kings. Then he came to the deportation to Babylon, where most likely the genealogy became new to him. If he was reading Matthew in Jerusalem, perhaps he looked out a window toward the Temple thinking, “”I’ll confirm these last few names with our records.”

Certainly Matthew’s final genealogical observation caught him by surprise. It is almost as if history itself had agreed to authenticate Jesus as the promised Son of David.

Since the Hebrew alphabet served double duty as letters and numbers, to read “dvd” signified both David and yielded the sum of fourteen. Amazingly, every fourteen generations from Abraham a significant event transpired with the line of David. Now the bounce of history’s fourteen generations had landed squarely in Jesus’ lap!

How does a coincidence like that happen?

Pushing forward into Jesus’ birth narrative, he heard Matthew describe how angels, the cosmos and even prophecy had all proclaimed Jesus to be much more than just another baby born in Bethlehem. The wise men were searching for “the one born king of  the Jews,” while a panicked Herod sought to eliminate the promised Messiah.

When the Gospel of Matthew finally closes, the one risen from the grave has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18). The wait is over.  The Lord reigns.

If he is Lord, are we his willing servants?

— by Barry Newton

Her name was Josephine

She showed up on our front door step last week.

Even though she was outside at the time, I could hear her distinctive “meow” throughout the house. We have a cat, but Lucky’s voice has a much lower tone and pitch, so I knew it wasn’t him.

I stepped outside to introduce myself to our new guest.  She made a couple of quick circles around my feet and I nearly tripped. She was thin, small, black and white, and had a light pink nose.

I’d studied feline dialect over the past twelve years so I could tell she was hungry. I walked back into the house, stole a cup of Meow Mix from Lucky’s bag, came back outside, and then poured her dinner in a small heap on the concrete. She devoured it as if she hadn’t eaten in days.

She stuck around our house for the next few days. I dutifully fed her–morning and evening, but couldn’t help wonder whom she belonged to. Surely her owners would be concerned as to her whereabouts. She didn’t have a collar, and I feared for her safety in light of our proximity to Old Highway 24.

On Friday as I was leaving for the office, I pulled up to the intersection in front of our house and noticed a homemade placard which had been duct-taped to the STOP sign. There was a photo of this very cat, and then the following information:

LOST CAT

“Josephine”

Small Black & White

No front claws

15 years old

601 818 _ _ _ _

Very Loved!

I instantly knew two things–1) the cat’s name and 2) her owner’s phone number. I picked up my cell and punched in the ten digits.

Oddly enough, I got an old man somewhere out in south Purvis. He seemed aggravated that I had even called and said that he had never owned a cat in his life. I confirmed the phone number with him; it was correct.  Apparently, Josephine’s owner has posted the wrong phone number on the sign. I apologized to the man and hung up.

Lanore and I talked about what we should do on Saturday. She suggested that I try punching in different combinations of the last four digits of the phone number. I switched the 2 and the 1 and pressed “call.” A lady immediately answered and said, “Hello.”  I said, “I’m calling about a cat…”

Before I could finish my sentence, she interrupted and announced, “Yes!!! That’s MY cat-that’s Josephine!”

I gave the lady directions to our house and within two minutes she was pulling up in our driveway. I carried Josephine over to the car.  Her owner literally ran up to me, snatched Josephine out of my arms, gave me a huge hug, and then began to weep. “I can’t believe it!” she sobbed. “I just knew something bad had happened to her.”

As it turned out, Josephine’s owner had let her outside late Tuesday evening, but she didn’t return as usual.  The old cat had wandered out of the neighborhood, crossed the highway, and then decided to camp out on our porch on Heritage Place.

This whole occasion got me to thinking. I wonder exactly what happens in heaven when folks repent and are restored to Christ? What kind of party does the spirit world hold when a wayward brother returns to his first love?

Jesus said, “Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15.10; cf. v. 7).

Think about it.

by Mike Benson

 

People have driven themselves into the deepest pits of misery

THE 2 CAUSES OF MISERY 

What causes people to be unhappy in this life?  Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein sought to answer this exact question.  Bernstein is a licensed psychologist and has worked with individuals, couples, and families for over twenty years.  It was from this vast experience that he came up with the two main reasons why people were miserable in this life (Psychologytoday.com).  Here were his 2 reasons.

  1. Overly Wanting What You Don’t Have.
  2. Overly NOT Wanting What You Do Have.

Even though these may not be the only two reasons, they certainly include most cause of misery.  If nothing else it, these two points should get us thinking about our own lives.  Every day people are being consumed by unhealthy thoughts about the things they have and desires for things they don’t.  Let’s look at a few common examples.

Overly Wanting…

  • Money.
  • Power.
  • Success.
  • Beauty.
  • Love.

Overly NOT Wanting…

  • Your marriage.
  • Your spouse.
  • Your children.
  • Your home.
  • Your job.

People have driven themselves into the deepest pits of misery by focusing on these aspects.  All of this can be summed up in the word “selfishness.”  All of these desires are self-centered.  It is all about what makes “me” happy, and what makes “me” better.  So, how can we combat these desires of ours?  It all comes down to being content with ourselves and what we have.

Paul put it best by saying, “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.  I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.  I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:11-13).

Overly seeking something we don’t have can lead to a very miserable life.  Learning to be content is one of the secrets to happiness.  No one is perfect and no life is perfect.  There is always something to improve, but we can’t let those desires consume us.  Let’s learn to look on the positive side.  Let’s learn to look at the good points, and learn to love the blessings God has placed in our lives.

Brett Petrillo

Every marriage needs a “Geneva Convention.”

ON JUNE 24, 1859, HENRI Dunant witnessed the Battle of Solferino in northern Italy…

 

Seeing the bloodshed, Dunant immediately began enlisting local peasants to carry the wounded from the battlefield and take them to local churches, where doctors tried to relieve their suffering.

 

Deeply troubled by the inhumane treatment of wounded soldiers, Dunant and four other men organized an international conference of thirteen nations in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss ways to make warfare more “humane.”  At the end of the conference on August 22, 1864, the representatives had signed the Geneva Convention.  This agreement provided for the neutrality of ambulances and military hospitals, the protection of people who helped the wounded, and the return of prisoners to their country.  It also adopted the use of a white flag with a red cross on hospitals, ambulances, and evacuation centers–whose neutrality would be recognized by this symbol.

 

Even though the Geneva Convention has gone through several revisions in the past 150 years–including the denunciation of chemical weapons in battle–it has stood like a sentry over hundreds of battles.  And tens of thousands of soldiers have been saved because of its protection.

 

Every marriage needs a “Geneva Convention.”  They are non-negotiable situations where we’d never mistreat the wounded or treat them with mustard gas:

 

1.  We will not criticize each other in public including in the presence of our kids.

 

2.  We will not address areas of disagreement when we’re at our worst.

 

3.  We will not resort to name-calling.

 

4.  We will not, in the heat of battle, bring up information shared in moments of sincere vulnerability.

 

5.  We will not use each other’s physical characteristics as ammunition when we’re arguing.  Robert Wolgemuth & Mark Devries, “Conflict: Only You Can Prevent Forrest Fires,” THE MOST IMPORTANT YEAR IN A MAN’S LIFE, 91-92

 

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your wrath.”  Ephesians 4:26

 

Mike Benson

Is homosexuality the only sin?

From 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, we note the following: There are sins mentioned other than homosexuality (just so you know that I know). But some are deceived (“Be not deceived”) into thinking that they can live these lifestyles and still attain the kingdom of heaven.

Apparently these ailments are not incurable (“Such were some of you”). Many Corinthians had once done these things, but they were doing so no longer–repentance had taken place.

Two things one often hears regarding the subject of homosexuality.

“Why are you making a special case of homosexuality?  Why do you not preach against other sins? You act as if homosexuality is the only sin there is!”

“In what way is speaking against homosexuality calculated to influence those who are homosexuals to become Christians?”

With regard to statement number one, I feel professionally and personally hurt. Homosexuality is distinctly not the only sin I have preached against. I have been preaching for a long time, and I have addressed many subjects in my messages.

I do indeed care about racism, poverty, theft and so on. If you do not believe this is so, you have simply not been listening.

Regarding the second concern, please note the following declaration: “To commit homosexuality is to break God’s law, and those who do so are called to repentance.”

How would this approach differ from that of an adulterer, a gossip, or a racist? How, for instance, should we approach the racist?

Shall we suggest it is a sinful lifestyle, or not?  Should we teach this from the pulpit and in private, or not? Shall we suggest the racist should repent, or not?

Should we suggest that for the penitent racist, there is forgiveness and grace, or not? It seems to me that it is not the Christian who makes a “special case” of homosexuality, it is the homosexual advocate. They want this sin to not be considered sinful. Gossip, racism and other acts are sinful, but this one is not.

When homosexuals win the legal right to marry, do you believe the “homosexual agenda” will be satisfied? Will their powerful lobby simply retire happy in the knowledge that they can now be considered married? You would be extremely naive if you thought so.

Already Christian-based orphanages are being pressured to give equal opportunity to homosexual couples for adoption. Already speaking against homosexuality is being couched as “hate speech.” The day will come when this very article will be considered hate talk.

Christianity, it seems, has become the “alternative lifestyle.”

Some Questions you might ask:

Is it sinful to be confused about your sexual preferences, or to feel tempted? Answer: Remember that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, yet did not sin.

Does God love the homosexual? Answer: Yes. Jesus died on the cross for the homosexual, just as much as he died for the arrogant, the murderer and the thief.

Remember, however, that the cross runs two ways: It expresses not only God’s love for the sinner, but the seriousness of the sin. The same cross that expresses the grandeur of God’s love also expresses the depths of our depravity.

Is it unkind to say that homosexuality is a sin?

Answer: No. It can be said in an unkind manner, I acknowledge, but how else is the church to know what is a sin? Mental telepathy? Osmosis?

Is homosexuality the civil rights issue of our era?

Answer: No. The Bible frequently states that God is no respecter of persons, racially speaking (Acts 10:34,35). If a preacher or Christian declares a person of color is not valued in God’s sight, then his statement is unscriptural and wrong! The Bible, however, does speak against homosexual sin.

Will homosexual marriage become the law of the land?

Answer: Yes, I believe it will. Hasn’t the shift in public opinion the last 10 years shocked you? This is sad, considering America’s Christian background, but when did God’s people ever decide biblical doctrine based on a nation’s legislation?

The bigger question is how the church will respond. I think the most depressing factor in this matter is the large number of people in Christian circles who have already compromised on this issue. In the face of clear biblical teaching, they have walked away from the Bible.

Here is the issue, in a word: Will we take the Bible as our guide, or will we conform to the world. A generation of faithful Christianity is at stake here.

God bless us all!

by Stan Mitchell

Is Jesus deity?

The Watchtower Society makes some startling claims about Jesus.

Go to their official website and you will discover that they urge readers to “consider what the Bible really teaches about Jesus Christ,” and then informs them:

He was God’s first creation and therefore had a beginning. He is not equal to God and “never even considered trying to be equal” to God.

It doesn’t take exceptional insight to see where this is going. Clearly, Jehovah Witness doctrine wants people to believe Jesus is not deity.

Does the evidence of Scripture confirm this idea? Open your Bible and then study the following:

Jesus is recognized as deity. He was to be called “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (Matthew 1:23).

When Thomas saw the resurrected Christ he said, “My Lord and My God” (John 20:28).

Paul said explicitly, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9).

As Stephen stood on the threshold of death, Luke records that he called on “God saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit” (Acts 7:59).

Jesus possesses the attributes of deity. He knows all things (John 2:25; 6:64). He is all powerful (Isaiah 9:6; Hebrews 1:3). He is eternal (Micah 5:2).

Jesus’ works are those of deity. He has power to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7; Ephesians 1:7). He gives eternal life (John 10:28; 17:2). He will judge the world (John 5:22, 27). He controlled nature (Matthew 8:26). Jesus is worshipped as deity.

He is worshipped by angels (Hebrews 1:6) as well as by man (Matthew 2:1, 2; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 18:26; 28:9, 17; John 9:38; Philippians 2:10), and yet only God is to receive such homage (Exodus 34:14; Matthew 4:10). No, the Bible does not support Watchtower dogma. Jesus is deity; He is God.

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son

is given; and the government will be upon

His shoulder. And His name will be called

Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah

9:6).

— by Mike Benson

While we will witness violence, hatred, gross immorality, an anything goes mentality, and the like, lost sinners are not the enemy.

Terrorist madmen shoot up a school in Pakistan and kill over 100 people, mostly children.  A politically correct society is close to forbidding biblical teaching on matters that violates its bombastic code.  Pluralism (all religious paths are equally valid) and syncretism (blending two or more religious belief systems into a new system) seem to grow more popular in the religious philosophy of a great many.  An erosion of morality and ethics seems to daily redefine acceptable norms and boundaries so that things not long ago thought outrageous are now not just tolerated but celebrated.  The culture of unbelief and agnosticism spreads while the spirit of humble dependency upon God seems to shrink.  When we pause to consider all of this, our head can spin and we can begin to question how this happened and so quickly.

Paul often writes that we are engaged in spiritual warfare (Eph. 6:10-13; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; 1 Tim. 1:18; 1 Tim. 6:12). While we will witness violence, hatred, gross immorality, an anything goes mentality, and the like, lost sinners are not the enemy.  They embrace the thinking and values of the enemy, but Paul says such people are ensnared and held captive by the enemy (1 Tim. 6:9; 2 Tim. 2:26), “caught” (Gal. 6:1), and “subject to slavery” (Heb. 2:15).  New Testament writers pinpoint the source of this enormous problem as:

  • The ruler of this world (John 12:31; 16:11).
  • The god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).
  • The prince of the power of the air (Eph. 2:2).
  • World forces and spiritual forces (Eph. 6:12).
  • The whole world lies in the power of the evil one (1 Jn. 5:19).

Peter simply calls him our adversary (1 Pet. 5:8).  In the gospel, Jesus often alludes to him as the enemy.  From Christ’s temptations in Matthew 4, we learn that he has been given the power over “all the kingdoms of the world and their glory” (8).  They are his to dispense and disperse (9).  New Testament writers pinpoint this domain with its unrighteous thinking simply as “the world” (Jas. 4:4; 1 John 2:15-17).  All who submit to living according to the thinking and values of this world are submitting to this ruler, god, prince, force, and evil one. They are pledging allegiance to his way and being guided by his leadership.

We can see the devastating effect this is having on the peace and the practice of the masses.  Yet, we must resist it in our individual lives.  Perhaps Paul said it most concisely when he wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:2). Many of the spiritual problems in our lives can be pinpointed to our following the wrong leader.  May God give us the wisdom and discernment to see through his destructive schemes!

— Neal Pollard

 

Idols Aplenty [Note: written while on my recent mission trip to India]

I think I know how Paul must have felt when he happened to find himself in the city of Athens, Greece almost two centuries ago. Due to the riots that erupted in Thessalonica, the “brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea” (Acts 17:10). When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching in Berea, they came there also and stirred up the multitude so much so that the brethren thought it necessary to send Paul away while Timothy and Silas, Paul’s traveling companions remained behind in Berea. Paul ended up in Athens and Luke tells us that “Paul’s spirit was provoked in him when he saw that the city was given over to idols” (Acts 17:16). While reasoning with the Jews in the synagogue, and with the Gentiles in the marketplace daily, certain of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers confronted Paul and wanted to know more of what this “babbler” had to say. The door was now opened for Paul to preach to the idol worshippers of his day. “And Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus, and said, Ye men of Athens, in all things, I perceive that ye are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. What therefore ye worship in ignorance, this I set forth unto you” (Acts 17:22-23).

This past week found us in Gunter, India. Gunter has a population of more than 1 million souls, the most of whom are Hindus. Their worship consists of singing, dancing, burning of incense, and loud music and merrymaking. There are idols aplenty and it would appear that the crowds are never lacking as men and woman bow at the shrines of this false god. The grotesque combination of animal and man that make up the images of the god of the Hindus, and the fact that they bow before a god who cannot see, cannot hear, and cannot speak all attest to the vanity of this man-made religion. This week is Hindu festival week, and unfortunately for those who desire to get a good night’s sleep in a hotel room that faces main street, the marching bands are accustomed to playing well into the night, as they go throughout the city calling on the worshippers to come bow before their god. Young and old alike have believed a lie and fallen prey to the deceitful tactics of the “god of this world.”

While Hinduism represents, by far, the largest percentage of this country’s population, “Christianity” is embraced by a small fraction of the population. Of course a large portion are members of some denomination. When one considers the small number of New Testament Christians who truly worship in spirit and truth, the percentage of the people in India who are pleasing in the sight of God drops to a very, very small percentage of the total population. After we checked into our hotel I was pleased that I had gotten a room that did not face main street, and was grateful that my ears would not have to endure the sounds of those Hindu parades and loud speakers blaring into the night. Outside my window, and just across the hotel parking and driveway, crowds were gathering in great numbers in what appeared to be a general assembly area. Chairs had been set up, a stage erected, and a loud speaker system put in place, suggesting that some kind of public activity was about to take place. Then the music started, followed by loud singing, dancing, clapping of hands, the incessant noise of someone screaming into the microphone telling the worshippers to come. Seats had been set up, enough to accommodate at least 500 people, and it appeared there were no empty chairs. No, this was not a Hindu service, but a Pentecostal healing service.

As an onlooker of both the Pentecostal service, and a Hindu service taking place just a few blocks down the road, I could not discern any difference between the two, seeing the speakers for both the Hindu services and the Pentecostal services spoke in a foreign tongue. From my viewpoint there was not an ounce of difference between the two services. From a Biblical standpoint as well, there was no difference between the two services, so far at spiritual benefit of the worshippers was concerned. Both were loud and obnoxious to those who appreciate the simple worship set forth in the New Testament.

We arrived back to the hotel about 10:00 pm that evening. The streets were quiet (at least for the moment), the bands at both locations stood silent, and the worshippers had either gone home or about their business. In the lot across from my hotel widow the stage was now bare, the loud speakers taken away, and the seats were empty. As I observed those stacked chairs it dawned upon me that those empty seats were a fitting representation of the emptiness of both idolatry and false so-called Christian worship. Like scarecrows in a cucumber patch, the idols provided nothing of lasting value for their worshippers. The futility of their religion keeps them alienated from their Father in heaven. Its makes no difference what false god one may worship, they are all the same, be it Hinduism or blatant rejection of the God given pattern in the Bible. Whether in India, America, or any other one of dozens of countries, there are idols aplenty.

by Tom Wacaster

 

What a difference one person can make!

Samantha Smith made worldwide news in the early 1980s when she wrote the Soviet president, Yuri Andropov, pleading with him to end the “Cold War.”  Her letter was reprinted with Russia, Andropov replied and invited her to his country, she and her parents visited the communist country, and she was an instant celebrity there.  She became a peace activist, calling for the United States and Soviet Union to end the threat of nuclear war.  In 1985, at the height of her very public campaign, she and her father were among eight people to die in a plane crash in her home state of Maine.  She was an optimistic and enthusiastic advocate.  She reached millions in life and was remembered by millions more in death.  The Soviets posthumously issued a postage stamp in her honor and named a mountain after her.  Her mother, Jane Smith, started The Samantha Smith Foundation, “dedicated to fostering international understanding,” to reach out to especially children from the Soviet region and participate in various exchange program activities.  Jane wrote, “Each generation contributes a building block for the next generation.  As individuals, we are particles of earth from which the blocks are formed.  I hope Samantha and Arthur have helped us realize how important each one of us can be.  Samantha couldn’t accept people’s inhumanity to one another.  She stood fast in the belief that peace can be achieved and maintained by humankind. Our Foundation named in her honor will work in that spirit” (www.samanthasmith.info).

What a difference one person can make!  Samantha was only 13 when she died, but she was a factor in reconciling to warring nations.  Christ came to this earth to bring peace between God and man (Eph. 2:14-17).  Having brought us together, He expects us to reconcile the world to God (2 Cor. 5:19-20).  Perhaps you think you cannot make much of a difference in this world as only a single Christian with whatever your perceived limitations.  Just remember how much one person can do!  There was the apostle from Tarsus.  There was Alexander Campbell, Marshall Keeble, Gus Nichols, and many others.  There is you and there is me.  Who knows the good we can accomplish as ambassadors of Christ?  Let’s work our hardest to find out!

–Neal Pollard

TWENTY QUESTIONS CONCERNING BAPTISM

Baptism is an old, familiar, and often discussed topic.  It has long been a theological battleground and the subject of numerous religious debates.  Nearly every church has an “official position” on baptism.  What does the Bible say about baptism?  By asking and answering the following questions, one can know the will of God regarding this important matter.  (For those not familiar with the content of the cited Bible texts, I would kindly urge them to turn to those passages, read them, and let God’s word speak for itself.)

  1. Is baptism a Bible subject? (Matthew 3:1-6).

 

  1. Was Christ Himself baptized? (Matthew 3:13-17).

 

  1. Why was Christ baptized? (Matthew 3:15).

 

  1. Did Christ teach that others should be baptized? (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).

 

  1. How many valid baptisms are there? (Ephesians 4:5)

 

  1. What is baptism as to its form or action (what some refer to as the “mode” of baptism)?  (Acts 8:35-39; Romans 6:4).

 

  1. What is the element in which one is to be baptized?  (Acts 8:36-38; 10:47).

 

  1. Is baptism a command?  (Acts 10:48).

 

  1. Must one be baptized in order to be saved? (Mark 16:15-16; 1 Peter 3:21).

 

  1. Is baptism necessary to receiving the remission of sins? (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

 

  1. Is baptism necessary to being in Christ where all spiritual blessings (including salvation) are found? (Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 1:3; 2 Timothy 2:10).

 

  1. Will baptism alone save a person? (Hebrews 11:6; John 8:24; Luke 13:3; Revelation 2:10).

 

  1. In order for baptism to be valid, must one first be taught the things of Christ?  (Matthew 28:18-20).

 

  1. Must one believe the gospel before his/her baptism would be valid?  (Mark 16:15-16; I Corinthians 15:1-5).

 

  1. Is baptism for babies or young children who have not come to a personal faith in Christ, who have not developed a consciousness of sins to be repented of, and who are not capable of acknowledging their faith in Christ as the Son of God?  (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 8:36-38).

 

  1. In the light of question # 6 and its answer, if one has only been sprinkled with water or had water poured on him/her, has that person been biblically baptized?

 

  1. In the light of question # 14 and its answer, if one did not personally believe in Christ, repent of sins, and confess faith in Christ, has that person been biblically baptized?

 

  1. Do we have any example of people being baptized again who had received an invalid baptism?  (Acts 19:1-5).

 

  1. Is baptism the end or merely the beginning of the Christian life?  (Romans 6:4-14; 2 Peter 1:5-11).

 

  1. Have you heard the gospel of Christ (been taught the way of Christ), believed in Him, repented of your sins, confessed your faith in Christ as the Son of God, and been buried with Him in baptism for the remission of your sins?

 

“And now why are you waiting?  Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

 

Hugh Fulford

Forgive and forget

JUST BECAUSE YOU have forgiven another person — and given up a desire to harm that person in return — doesn’t mean you have forgotten the event ever happened. . .

 

Fortunately, when people say “forgive and forget,” they usually mean that it’s necessary to put the infraction in the past.  There’s value in that, but forgiveness should not be measured in this way.  If putting the incident in the past means that you’ve given up holding it over your partner’s head, that’s right on. 

 

Another misconception related to “forgive and forget” is the belief that if a person still feels pain about what happened, he or she hasn’t really forgiven the one who caused the pain.  You can still feel pain about being hurt in some way, yet have fully forgiven the one who harmed you.  Howard Markman, Scott Stanley, Susan L. Blumberg, “Forgiveness and Restoration of Intimacy,” Fighting for Your Marriage, 219

 

“Take heed to yourselves. If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him.”  Luke 17:3

 

Mike Benson

How many ways could you apply this story?

“In a certain city of the Southwest, two men owned adjoining houses in an attractive subdivision, and the driveways were adjacent with a small strip of turf, about a foot wide, between the driveways. They quarreled over this trifling strip. One planted onions in it; the other pulled them up and set out tomatoes! After many words, each stepped to the back door of his residence, took a shotgun, stepped out on the back steps, and shot the other dead while their respective families were at church!”

–http://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/matthew-5.html

Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened

There is a passage penned by Paul in the 1st chapter of Ephesians that I found intriguing.  Paul is giving thanks for their faith and love and that “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you…..” (Vs. 17-18)

The particular phrase that I find interesting is “having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.”  In other words, having your mind open.  For what reason?  So that we “know what is the hope in which we were called.”

That engenders a question – how did it get there?  Solomon, in Prov. 10: 8 says that the “wise in heart will receive commandments.”  Then when we turn to Heb. 1:1-2 we read that, before this current dispensation, God gave man His commandments in “various” ways and through His “prophets.”  But is now speaking to us “by His Son” and when we have our hearts “enlightened”(opened) we’ll receive Christ’s words.  And then Col. 3:16 tells us that this is where those words “dwell richly.”

Then the next part of our equation is, if Christ’s words are allowed in, and they “dwell richly” they make us “just.”  In that condition, our “hearts” become the source of the spreading of God’s commandments given by “His Son.”  Back to Prov. 10, verse 21 says that “the lips of the just feed many.”  IE, we’re able to pass on the teachings of Christ and when they encounter other “enlightened” or receptive hearts, the spreading continues on.  That’s quite a system put in place by God, isn’t it?  But, it only works if our “hearts” are first “enlightened

Well, that gets us through the first part of my lesson today – the getting of “The Word” into our “hearts.”  Now we need to look and talk about a serious problem that can, and sometimes arises.  We get it into our “hearts” but then we can let it escape.  Or maybe better said, we give it up.  And how we do that is simply by letting sin in and taking its place.

In other words: We allow Satan’s words to crowd out God’s Words.  That is a situation that we must always guard against.  Satan didn’t want God’s commandments in our heart to begin with and will use every effort he can to get them out.

For the last portion of our lesson I’m going to tell you a small portion of a sermon delivered by the greatest (if you can refer to a preacher in that way) preacher I ever heard speak.  I’s referring to Bro. Marshall Keeble.  I was a 19 year old airman stationed in Mississippi when I had the pleasure of hearing him.  He was in his 80’s at that time, but was still powerful in his delivery.

Anyway, here’s something that he once said that caused me to think about presenting this lesson for you to consider today.  I love the illustration that he used here.

He said that he really liked some of the “new-fangled” inventions we have now.  The one he liked especially well was the “puncture-proof” tire.  He said, “If you are driving along with ordinary tires and a nail goes through one of them, “PSSSSS” and you lose all the air.”

“But, a puncture-proof tire is different.  If a nail goes through, there is some stuff inside that runs through and stops up the hole and the air stays in.”  He then made his point in using this illustration.

He said, “the heart of a Christian is like a puncture-proof tire.  An ordinary heart may be filled with love, but when someone does something to puncture that heart, all the love runs out and hatred and hard feelings take its place.”

“But a puncture-proof heart is different.  It is filled with the spirit of Christ and when someone, through their words or deeds, puncture that heart, immediately the heart is stopped up tight and the love stays in.”

He closed his little parable lesson with these words: “And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love.  (1 Cor. 13:13) Wouldn’t it be grand if we all had puncture-proof hearts.”

And my closing thought is to add – may we all have “enlightened” and “puncture-proof” hearts.

Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey