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Abandoning Reason

CHRISTIAN EVIDENCES

To see people abandon reason is amazing, but even more so when atheists, who pride themselves on logical argument, do it because they are tired of listening to the logical proof of God’s existence.

On the blog “Atheist Experience,” one writer said he was tired of hearing arguments for God’s existence because those arguments don’t have anything to do with the real world. He wrote,

“But basically the rise of science was based on a recognition of the fact that our model of the universe is always going to be tentative, so we should build up a system that recognizes facts as more or less likely to be true based on their support through observation. There is never, ever, going to be some kind of successful argument purely of the form ‘A is A, therefore Bigfoot exists / doesn’t exist.’ Proving things in the real world requires that you look at things in the real world.”/1

“Facts are more or less likely to be true,” is a fantastic admission. I’ve always believed a fact must always be true, and if it isn’t, then it was never a fact in the beginning. Yet, for those who do not believe in God, it somehow makes sense that their facts are not really facts, and that there will never, ever be a successful argument for the existence of God.

The apostle Peter well spoke of them when he wrote,

“But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction, suffering wrong as the wage for their wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:12 ESV).

_______

1/ http://atheistexperience.blogspot.com/ by “kazim”

–by John Henson @ www.forthright.net

The Greek word tetelestai

Tetelestai – It is a Greek word that is packed with meaning and Good News for us – if we will accept it.

In the original Greek language of John 19:30 in the New Testament of the Bible is found one Greek word: “Tetelestai.” Tetelestai doesn’t translate simply, and so they had to make a phrase out of it. The phrase that was made is: “It is finished.”

“So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” (Gr. tetelestai) And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.” – John 19:30

In the Greek it implies that something has come to an end; it has been completed, perfected, accomplished in the full, the effects of which will endure on and on.

“Tetelestai” is the most powerful single word of all of Jesus’ ministry. It was also his LAST word spoken from the cross. It was the word that turned this apparent tragedy into a scene of Victory that shook the earth, split rocks, changed history and tore away the temple curtain that separated us from God.

In the Greek, the word tetelestai is an artist’s word. It is the word an artist uses when he stands before one of his creations and says, “Tetelestai, it is finished; I cannot add anything more to it. It is complete.”

It is also a builder’s word. It is the word he uses when he hands over the keys of a new building and says, “Tetelestai, it is finished; I have done everything according to the plan. It is complete.”

But the word tetelestai was also written on business documents or receipts in New Testament times.

This one word has been found written across several ancient tax documents. The Greek-English lexicon by Moulton and Milligan says this: “Receipts are often introduced by the phrase [sic] tetelestai, usually written in an abbreviated manner.” (p. 630). But why would they write “It is finished” on a tax document or receipt?

It is because “Tetelestai” also means… “PAID IN FULL.”

The connection between receipts and what Christ accomplished would have been quite clear to John’s Greek-speaking audience; and it would be unmistakable that Jesus Christ had died to pay for their sins – and for ours.

“And He Himself is the propitiation [or 'atoning sacrifice'] for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.” – 1 John 2:2

“After this, when Jesus knew that all things were now completed, in order that the Scripture might be fulfilled, He said, ‘I thirst.’ Then when He had received the sour wine Jesus said, “Tetelestai” [Paid in Full] – and He bowed His head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30).

On the cross, our sins were “Paid in Full” by Jesus, the Son of God!

His payment will cover OUR sins when we accept His gift on His terms by: placing our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ so that our sins can be washed away by His blood (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

Won’t YOU allow Him to release you from the debt of sin?

– David A. Sargent & Mike Eddlemon

* Information gleaned from Bill Versteeg, www.bible.org, and Preachers Magazine (2006)

 

Are you SICK or HEALTHY?

Sickness has taken up a good deal of my time the last two weeks. Thankfully, I haven’t been sick. My little girl and my wife have been though. They have had a very nasty bug which has lasted several days. Their symptoms have included fever, headache, vomiting, upset stomach, loss of appetite, and other things. When someone is sick, the symptoms make this fact very obvious.

Notice the discussion in Luke 5:30-32, “The Pharisees and their scribes began grumbling at His disciples, saying, ‘Why do you eat and drink with the tax collectors and sinners?’ And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.’” Jesus was not talking about those who are physically sick, but spiritually. Just like with physical sickness, there are symptoms of spiritual sickness. Here are a few symptoms of spiritual sickness:

- Sin.

- Apathy towards God and spiritual aspects.

- Lack of hunger and thirst (for righteousness).

- Increased materialism.

- Filthy speech (words and subjects).

- Lowering moral standards.

- Not praying.

- Not Bible reading.

- Not coming to worship.

When these are consistently present in our lives, they could serve as symptoms of spiritual sickness. Let’s never become like the people in Isaiah who were “weighed down with iniquity” and had “abandoned the Lord” (Is 1:4-6). Physical sickness is dangerous, but spiritual sickness is infinitely more serious. If we do not take care of the physical sickness symptoms they could lead to death. If we do not take care of our spiritual sickness, it will lead to spiritual death (Romans 1:32; 6:16, 21-23).

John said in 3 John 2, “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” I also hope that our physical and spiritual health prospers. Let’s make sure we address the spiritual sickness symptoms in our lives so they do not become eternal life threatening. There is no better life than a healthy, thriving relationship with the Lord.

–Brett Petrillo

What is the mission of the church?

ONE CHURCH CONSULTANT SAYS: “Most Christians don’t have a clue to what the mission of the church is…

Up to 80 percent of church members believe that the primary purpose of the church is to provide a place of fellowship where Christians can share God’s love with one another rather than reach out to those who are unchurched…”

…According to researcher George Barna, “Nine out of ten preachers call their church ‘evangelistic.’ However, less than one of of three church attenders has shared his or her faith in Christ with a non-Christian within the past twelve months…” Tom Clegg, Warren Bird, “Discovering What We All Have in Common,”Missing in America, 87

“How I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house.” Acts 20.20

–Mike Benson

Why we often find ourselves in danger

Serving Christ Without Fear

A farmer had an old donkey who liked to explore. One day, the animal accidentally fell down an abandoned well. The farmer surveyed the scene, lamenting that he neglected closing up the well months ago. Additionally, he had little interest in keeping the donkey and frankly wanted to silence the loud beast.

The farmer called his workers over and they shoveled dirt into the well. The donkey brayed louder when he realized what was happening. They shoveled harder and soon the braying stopped. The farmer peeked over the side and realized that the resourceful animal had been throwing dirt off his back and climbing up. Eventually, he jumped out and ran away.

We often find ourselves in danger because we allow temptation to lead us into sinful situations (Proverbs 2:13-22).

In Exodus, the people of Israel asked Aaron to fashion a golden calf to worship when they gave up on God and Moses (Exodus 32:1-6). This led Aaron to lie to Moses and to God about what actually happened, to cover his sins (Exodus 32:20-24).

David was in the wrong place when he instigated the series of events that led to adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband (2 Samuel 11).

Samson’s weakness for women led him to abandon his mission to judge the people of God and to lose his life, as a result (Judges 16).

We find ourselves in situations where the sinful can prey on us. Like the donkey, we have allowed temptation to lure us into a trap and Satan’s agents try to finish us off. The world hates us and will not miss an opportunity to destroy the faith of God’s people (John 15:18-19; 2 Timothy 3:12).

They shovel dirt on us, trying to bury us alive. Yet, we have to rise above the attacks of the world. We cannot let them stop us from serving God (Acts 5:29). We serve a higher calling (Romans 12:1-2). Like the old song, “We will not be moved!”

The donkey left his attackers behind and we can do the same because we have the mightiest force in the universe behind us. God says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1, NKJV).

We have nothing to fear because our enemies are powerless against God’s Children, who wear his armor (Isaiah 35:4; Ephesians 6:10-18). He is always at our side! (Hebrews 13:5).

Hallelujah!

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Vision in the church

AUBREY MALPHURS DESCRIBES a leader without a clear vision to that of a person trying to drive blindfolded…

If this is the case, then according to research, the majority of church leaders are driving congregations blindly. In these cases, there is a mixture of “no vision” and “unclear vision.” This is to say that there are a number of times that as church leaders we believe that a vision is clear when in reality it is not.

A vision cannot be clearly communicated to others until God’s vision has been articulated within a congregation’s leadership. Clarity yields clarity while uncertainty yields doubt and uncertainty. Kenny Norris

“Then I said to them, “You see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lies waste, and its gates are burned with fire. Come and let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer be a reproach.” Nehemiah 2.17; cf. Luke 6.39

–Mike Benson

 

 

 

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics!

BACK TO THE BASICS

One of the world’s most famous merchant captains died, having long been admired by his crew and fellow officers.

They remained puzzled, however, over a strange ritual he performed daily. While at sea he would lock himself in his cabin and open a small safe, take out an envelope with a note inside and read it. After locking the paper back in the safe, he would return to his duties.

For years this went on, and his crew became very curious. Was it a treasure map? Was it a letter from a long lost love? Everyone speculated about the contents of the strange envelope.

After laying the captain’s body to rest, the first mate led the entire crew back to the ship and into the captain’s quarters. He opened the safe, got the envelope and read the words aloud to an astonished crew:

“Port: Left, Starboard: Right.”

Sometimes we need to be reminded of the basics! That’s true of those of us who are Christians as well. We would all do well to lock away the basics of Christianity in a safe and get away to ourselves daily and go over them once again. So that we never forget. So that we don’t get so caught up doing a million different things that we forget the most important and the most basic rules of life.

What belongs in the safe? We don’t have to wonder. Jesus himself told us:

“‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)

That’s what’s in the safe — “Love God. Love others.” Don’t ever forget. If you need to, put those words in a secret place and go to that spot daily.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Why have prayer meetings?

PRAYER MEETINGS

On August 30, 1868, Charles H. Spurgeon delivered a sermon entitled, “Prayer Meetings.” It contains a lot of good information and ideas, as he begins with the “apostolic history” of such meetings. He shows at least six purposes of prayer meetings in the New Testament: (1) Encourage the discouraged (Acts 1), (2) Receive power (Acts 2), (3) A Resource for the persecuted (Acts 4:35ff), (4) Individual deliverance (Acts 12:4ff), (5) Guidance regarding mission work (Acts 13:2-3), and (6) The First Step of a new work for Christ (Acts 16). He follows that up by citing three important results of such a meeting: (1) Draws us closer in a special kind of fellowship, (2) It generates devotion, and (3) God has promised extraordinary and special blessings to those who do it. He goes on to say some other useful things, but he makes the powerful case that prayer meetings were a fixture of the New Testament church (Prayer-Meetings, Capoccia, 1-2).

In more modern times, especially following the “Great Awakening” in this country back in the 19th Century, most religious groups met regularly as a church to pray. During this same period of time, there were men and women dedicated to restoring the New Testament church and eradicating denominationalism whose custom it was to meet frequently to pray. And, they believed in prayer. Alexander Campbell called it “the holy of holies, the inmost temple of religion” and Barton Stone said it was “the offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his will” (Enclyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement, Foster, et al, ed., 600-601).

While “prayer meetings” are not frequent or common anymore, and that may reveal a lot about the church-wide challenge to evangelize and grow, they still will serve the purposes and produce the benefits asserted by Spurgeon 150 years ago. When we meet in the sweet communion of prayer, as a church, we will be closer, more devoted to God and one another, and blessed by answered prayer. A former elder, very funny man, and dear friend of mine in Mississippi, upon reading of our Saturday Night Prayer Session for “Think Souls,” wrote, “Well, first of all, who would ever have thought of having a prayer meeting on Saturday evening at 6:00 P.M. to pray for opportunities to reach souls? Who would have thunk it? We’re still working on getting folks to attend worship.” Well, we are, too, brother. But, I cannot wait to see a house full of saints, drawn together to petition “The Great I Am” to help us think, find, reach, and teach the souls all around us! Oh, the thrill of summoning the One with unlimited power, resources, and knowledge to help us do the thing His Son left for us to do right before He stepped on that cloud (cf. Acts 1:9). Before we “go” (Matt. 28:19), let us “come” boldly before His throne as a church and ask His help (cf. Heb. 4:16).

–Neal Pollard

“SAFE SEX”

For many years, “Safe Sex” has been a term synonymous with an education program targeting youth and purporting to teach them about contraception, avoiding disease and violence, and similar concepts. The assumption is that teenagers and late preteens are unable to exert self-control and will inevitably fall prey to their desire to commit sexual immorality. The term itself seems so benign and is misleading to young people.

In his book Moral Choices: an Introduction to Ethics, Scott B. Rae includes a very profound statement made by writer Kari Jenson Gold. She says,

Consider the notion of ‘safe sex.’ Surely, the two
words are ludicrously contradictory. Sex can be
many things: dark, mysterious, passionate, wild,
gentle, even reassuring, but it is not safe. If it is,
it is not very likely to be sexy. How to abandon
oneself to another, how to give your body into
someone else’s care and control, and remain safe?
Sex is dangerous. It’s supposed to be (211).

The lie in this misnamed term and slogan, whether an intentional or unintentional lie, has scarred and damaged an infinite number of people since time began. When people change any of God’s rules and make their own, there will be devastation and destruction. That is certainly true of God’s plan for sexuality.

Most in this world are more concerned about disease than doctrine and feelings over faith. But, the Bible makes clear what, spiritually, safe sex is. It is sexual relations between a man and woman in a marriage recognized, ordained, and approved by God (cf. Matt. 19:1-9; 5:27-32). When it comes to our souls, sex is not safe between the unmarried, between those of the same sex, or between a married person and one not his or her marriage partner.

That which is safe is only that which is within the bounds of God’s will. It does not matter if society gives a pass to those who are “in love” or who “intend” to some day marry. It does not matter if the culture gives the nod to those whose marriage is deemed “loveless,” “boring,” or “strained.” On any subject, the only safe ground is that which is built upon the foundation of Christ (cf. Matt. 7:24-27). The world’s view of sexuality is built upon the shifting sand. Let us be safe in the arms of Christ, and we will be safe in every relationship.

Neal Pollard

Be prepared (not just a Boy Scout Motto)

“Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” –Mark 1:3 NET

Preparation. Doing things ahead of time, so that when the time comes, you’re ready.

The Lord sent John the Immersor to prepare Israel for the Messiah’s arrival. His coming required preparation: repentance and faith in the man whose ways would be stranger, in one sense, than John’s.

Although Christ’s coming would be a unique moment, the principle of preparation still applies. Some moments in life require preparation ahead of time.

We must prepare for the moment of temptation, with prayer and with a knowledge of God’s word. Because the unprepared will give in to the attractions and pressures of Satan.

We need to prepare for the moment of conflict, with patience and with love to do what is best for the other person. Otherwise, we’ll worsen the clash, rather than creating a climate for peace.

We ought to prepare for the arrival of a new year, with plans and concrete objectives, taking advantage of a God-given marker of time to re-evaluate and re-energize. Otherwise, we’ll keep on doing what we’re doing, and perhaps institutionalize our low efficiency and lack of effectiveness.

We need to prepare for the encounter with the non-Christian, knowledgeable about the gospel and about the modern mentality, ready to give an answer, to offer to study, to open the Bible to the right passage. Without that, we’ll let that pagan continue on the path to perdition.

We must prepare ourselves for the second coming of Christ, when he comes to scoop up his people, with vigilance and obedience to the will of God. If we sleep, we will lose out. Big time. Big eternity.

In spite of the many Old Testament prophecies and in spite of John’s preaching, few people welcomed Jesus as the Messiah. And few today are prepared spiritually.

Are you among that few?

– J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

Instruments of Music and the New Testament

Instrumental music and the New Testament

 1)      For about the first 600 years after the church was established, numerous writers condemned instrumental music in worship.

2)      Writers from about 38 AD all the way to 458 AD are on record as opposing instrumental music.

3)      Finally it was introduced, likely in 670 A.D. by a Catholic Pope.

a)      Beginning about 1320, men saw the need to “reform” things about Christian worship.

b)      From about 1300 to 1800 we find renewed efforts to teach people inst. music is not part of NT worship.

c)      It is only within the last 200 years that men and various denominations have again tried to bring in instrumental  music for NT worship.
John Price, a Baptist, has an insightful book on how many have never been told instrumental music in worship is not part of God’s plan for Christian worship.  Amazon link:  http://www.amazon.com/Old-Light-New-Worship-Psychological/dp/1881095010

d)     Let’s see what the Bible says in Matthew-Revelation about instrumental music.

e)      In Mt. 9:23 (prior to the institution of the new covenant), we read about some “flutes.”

f)       Lk. 15:25.

g)      Mt. 6:2 is where Jesus told people to not “sound a trumpet” before helping people who need aid.

h)      In Mt. 11:16-17 Jesus contrasted His work and approach to reaching people to that of John the Baptist.

i)        The word “piped” in Mt. 11:17 and Lk. 7:32 is used to describe Jesus’ evangelistic approach.

4)      1 Cor. 13:1 – “sounding brass” or a “clanging symbol” (musical instruments).

5)      1 Cor. 14:7-8.

6)      Four other NT verses about instrumental music – Mt. 24:31; 1 Cor. 15:52; Heb. 12:19; 1 Thess. 4:16.

a)      Mt. 24:31 uses the word “trumpet” to describe heaven’s destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

b)      1 Cor. 15:52 refers to Jesus’ next and final coming; Paul compared Jesus’ return to the sound of a trumpet.

c)      Heb. 12:19 refers back to Israel and the mountain around which they camped.

d)     In describing Jesus’ next and final coming we read about the “trump of God” (1 Thess. 4:16).

I BELIEVE YOU HAVE JUST HEARD OR READ EVERY PASSAGE IN MATTHEW-JUDE THAT MENTIONS INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC.

IN CONTRAST TO THE OLD TESTAMENT WHICH DESCRIBES ALMOST 20 INSTRUMENTS AND OFTEN ASSOCIATES INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC WITH WORSHIP (2 CHRON. 29:25; PS. 150), HOW MANY NEW TESTAMENT VERSES ASSOCIATE INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC WITH NEW TESTAMENT WORSHIP?

a)      Not one verse in Matthew-Jude associates instrumental music with Christian worship.

b)      We have Jesus talking about instrumental music, but NOT in conjunction with praising God.

c)      We have Paul speaking about instrumental music, but NOT in conjunction with NT worship.

2)      In Matthew-Jude, we cannot find even one verse that is like 2 Chron. 29:25 and Ps. 150 in the Old Testament.  Why is this case?  We now live under a New Testament and God has changed some things.  Instead of Saturday being a special day, it is now Sunday. Instead of select people being priests, all are priests (1 Pet. 2:5, 9).  Instead of tithing, the New Testament teaches giving as we have been prospered (1 Cor. 16:1-2).  Instead of praising God with instruments, the saved are to sing as will be demonstrated shortly.

3)       “Well, just look at the book of Revelation.  We read about instrumental music there.”

4)      First, the only instrument we read about in the book of Revelation regarding the saved is a harp.

5)      There are just four verses that refer to harps or harpers.

6)      The first of these is found in Rev. 5:8 – READ

7)      John said the “golden bowls of incense” are a symbol – they represent the prayers of the saints.

8)      If the golden bowls of incense represent something, might not the harp also represent something?

a)      All were playing harps but today other instruments are okay and not everyone needs to play today.

b)      This type of interpretation is an example of twisting or wresting the Scriptures, something God condemns.

c)      Rev. 14:2 – READ  Notice the comparison word “as.”  This comparison also seen in Rev. 15:2.

d)     In Rev. 18:22, John described multiple instruments associated with Babylon (false religion).

9)      The New Testament speaks of music, but it does not speak about instrumental music in worship.

a)      Several times in the New Testament we find the word “sing” or “singing.”

b)      Acts 16:25; Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Heb. 2:12; Jas. 5:13; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16

10)  If someone wants to justify instrumental music for NT worship, they must go to the Old Testament (a system which has been removed by Jesus–Rom. 7:1-4; 10:4).

11)  The “best defense” for instrumental music in New Testament worship is this:  It is not specifically forbidden (prohibited).

12) If this line of argument is valid, it also authorize popes, Mary worship, Noah using cedar for the ark, etc.

13) God requires man to worship in “spirit and truth” (Jn. 4:24).

14) The New Testament says “sing” and “make melody with the heart” instead of “make music” (Eph. 5:19).  Will we add instrumental music to our worship (2 Jn. 9; Rev. 22:18-19)?

(15) Are we worshiping in accordance with what Jesus said?

 

Richard Dawkins’ 2006 best-selling book, “The God Delusion”

Dawkins “Delusion” Deluded

Spending the holidays reading Richard Dawkins’ 2006 best-selling book, “The God Delusion” is an odious endeavor, but the book announces the rise of atheistic fundamentalism.

What is that, you say? Good question. I’ve never been happy with the title of “Christian fundamentalist,” when it means “militantly anti-modernist Protestant evangelicalism” as George Marsden defined it. I don’t consider myself a “protestant” because I am a New Testament Christian.

The word “militant,” however, does apply to me and, it seems, to Dawkins. The rise of atheistic fundamentalism means militantly atheistic.

Dawkins leaves no doubt that that is the case from the beginning salvos in the first chapter, which include the sentence, “What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect?”

However, Dawkins makes fundamental mistakes about his concept of biblical faith. He defines faith as “a persistently false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence.”/1

The Bible defines faith differently. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen,” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is evidence. It is conviction from the evidence.

It is evidence that produces faith. The Apostle Paul wrote, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ,” (Romans 10:17 ESV). The word of Christ is the evidence that produces faith and conviction in the heart of a believer.

Dawkins introduces us to atheistic fundamentalism through a pen dipped in anger and vitriol. He decries violence visited upon the world through “religion,” but is more than ready to insult and degrade anyone who believes in God. He even claims parents teaching children biblical truth is tantamount to child abuse./2

We should certainly hope that this academic know-it-all is a variant of atheistic thought, but since atheists have been losing ground to the truth for more than 50 years, we should prepare ourselves for continued examples of poor penmanship.

In Dr. Antony Flew’s review of Dawson’s book, the former atheist and current “believer in a Supreme Being” wrote, “This whole business makes all too clear that Dawkins is not interested in the truth as such, but is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means.”/3 This may be the true definition of atheistic fundamentalism.

_______

1/ Richard Dawkins, “The God Delusion” (New York: Mariner Books, 2006), 5.

2/ Ibid, Chapter 9.

3/ “Flew Speaks Out,” www.bethinking.org

–by John Henson @ www.forthright.net

When you think you are having a bad day …

It was Christmas Eve, 2007, when 77-year-old Robert Schoff decided to find the source of a clog in his septic system.  He dug a hole, lost his balance, and became stuck in the opening of his septic tank. The Des Moines, Iowa, man was sure that he was going to die.  He yelled for his wife for an hour, but she did not hear him.  However, she did walk by a window and see his feet sticking up in the air.  Two Polk County sheriff’s deputies pulled him out of the mire.  It will not be a top ten holiday fond memory, for sure (AP report via Fox News, 12/26/07).

Probably none of us have fallen headfirst into the same bad situation that Schoff did, but all of us have moments in life that just stink!  Job, the great sufferer, said that life was “full of turmoil” (Job 14:1).  James, by inspiration, dubbed them “various trials” (Jas. 1:2).  These tumultuous trials range from irritations and inconveniences to full-blown, five alarm burdens.  It may be mistreatment.  It could be physical or financial.  It might be emotional or spiritual.  Eventually, it will be all of these for most of us.  What do you do when you fall head first into the unpleasant?

Watch your attitude and speech!  Trials and troubles can turn you bitter.  This will boil over into your speech.  You will sound negative and you will become focused, even obsessed, with complaining about your problems.  You do not want others to associate you with bitter complaints and angry tirades.  Paul writes, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).  This is a sin-problem that otherwise, basically good people fight, grumbling and growling about those septic tank situations of their lives.

Use it as an opportunity to glorify God!  Such runs contrary to worldly wisdom.  The world preaches that we cry foul, that we howl long and loud for everyone else to hear, that we play the victim, or that we obsess about the matter.  The Christian, realizing the vastness of his or her influence, instead follows the great examples of the faithful in scripture like Job (Job 1:21), Paul (Phil. 4:10-12), and the prophets (Jas. 5:10).  Peter tells us to glorify God if we suffer in our Christian lives (1 Pet. 4:16).  How hard that might be, yet how much more effective that makes us as His light and salt in this dark, unsavory world!

Count your blessings, not your crosses!  Really, isn’t it a matter of upon what we choose to focus?  In every life, rainstorms fall.  In every life!  So, why are some cloud-watchers and others silver-lining-finders?  We decide how trials effect us.  That is somewhat frightening.  Habits are formed by repetitious decisions!  Each trial that comes, we react.  The way we reacted to the last trial sets the trend for how we are more likely to react the next time.  The old poem, in part, goes, “Count your blessings, not your crosses; count your gains and not your losses; count your joys and not your woes; count your friends and not your foes.”  No matter who we are, our negatives cannot outweigh our positives–especially if we are “in Christ” (cf. Eph. 1:3).

I am not minimizing the presence, pain, and perplexity of your problems or mine.  I am suggesting a proper perspective.  Cast an eye to Calvary, whereupon the perfect Man hung.  Peer into the prison, where Paul sat waiting for Nero to behead him.  Watch, listen, and learn!  You will find yourself in some foul places in life.  Don’t let them infect you.  Let them improve you!

Neal Pollard

Do most people tell the truth?

The Small Tongue

Do you think most people tell the truth? Can you really take what they say at face value? Perhaps they are like the ancient Cretans: “Cretans are liars, evil beasts, lazy, gluttons” (Titus 1:12).

It is through the tongue that all lies are communicated. That small part of the human body can make a huge impact. It can ruin one’s reputation. It can destroy a friendship. It can cause never-ending heartache.  On the other hand, the tongue has the ability to give comfort and hope in time of sorrow. It can shine the bright light of saving truth into the life of someone wandering in spiritual darkness. It can glorify God and lift up praise to Him.

We shouldn’t be surprised, then, that Scripture repeatedly urges us to exercise great wisdom and care in how we use this small part of the body. Proverbs 18:21 is not exaggerating when it warns us that “death and life are in the power of the tongue.” James said that the tongue can be as destructive as a fire (Jas. 3:1-12).

So how should this effect us? Let us use our tongues to speak good to others, build up one another, and glorify our Creator in prayer and praise.  How are you using your tongue?

- by Shane Williams

Two VERY different women!

To Display or Not to Display?

They both were women. They both were royalty. They both were fair to look upon. They both were called upon to display themselves before reveling men on feast days. But, that’s where the similarities end.

One woman refused to display herself and lost her position as queen. The other danced and. “pleased” the king, causing him to cut off the head of a righteous man. One woman has served through the centuries as an example of purity and modesty; the other as an example of lasciviousness.

Queen Vashti, wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus, was commanded to show off her beauty in front of the nobles and princes of the Medo-Persian Empire – all of which were drunken. She refused to come and was deposed from her throne (Esther 1:9-12,19).

The daughter of Herodias danced before King Herod, his lords, the high captains, and the chief men of Galilee. Herod was so “pleased” with her lasciviousness, he swore that she could have anything she wanted, up to half the kingdom. After a conference with her mother, she asked
for the head of John the Baptist on a platter. Herod reluctantly and sorrowfully kept his oath (Mk. 6:21-29).

Today, all women have the same choice – to display or not to display. “Daughters of Herodias” are all around us in the world – especially now that it’s summertime. More than tans are being flashed. Bodies are being placed on public display! Where are the “Vashti’s”? Surely they
can be found among those professing to be God’s children.  But, alas, so many times, this is not the case!

Christians, both women and men, should dress “modestly, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (1 Tim. 2:9). Ask yourself just one question, “If in a pinch, with no time to change clothes, would I be ashamed to wear the clothes that I wear in other public places to worship services?”  If the answer is yes – soul searching is in order. To display or not to display? To be a “Vashti” or “Daughter of Herodias”? Only YOU can decide!

by Alan Jones

We cannot stop speaking about” Jesus

Peter and John had been through quite the transformation over the past few years.  They were, by all evidence, average, ordinary fishermen when Jesus called them to be fishers of men (Mt. 4:19).  The renowned impetuosity of Peter and irascibility of John were tamed and gradually these two great gospel teachers and preachers began to emerge.  Peter had preached the first and second recorded gospel sermons (Acts 2-3), and now they had enjoyed remarkable success as 5,000 people became Christians as the result of their proclamation (Acts 4:4).  This drew pressure from the opposition, who wanted Peter and John to be quiet and disappear.  But these were changed men!  They could not help themselves.  Peter and John spoke up and told them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20).  True, they had literally walked with the Lord for three years.  They were witnesses of His resurrection.  They saw, spoke with, and touched the risen Christ.  Certainly, this influenced their passion and conviction, but what sustained them?  It was faith that this Lord that changed them would continue to be with them.

Baptism (Gal. 3:27) constitutes a change for those of us who have submitted to it.  It is a change of condition (from lost to saved), of relationship (from stranger to child of God), of state (from out of Christ to in Christ), of direction (from the broad way to the narrow way), and so much more.  Coming into Christ means continual, if gradual, transformation (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).  Part of this transformation should show itself in a bold, passionate conviction that makes it hard to keep quiet about the difference Christ has made in us.  There will always be opposition, forces at work to keep us quiet.  What will we do?  Will we be bullied and intimidated into silence?  Or will we say with those great apostles, “We cannot stop speaking about” Jesus?

–Neal Pollard

A sermon: SAVED or LOST?

God’s people are easily identified

 

1)      Ex. 11:7 – READ

2)      There was a “distinction” between God’s people (the saved) and the Egyptians (the lost).

3)      Let’s study the distinction between Christians and non-Christians from the book of Revelation.

4)      Rev. 1:3– READ

a)      Saved people want to “hear” the Bible and “read the Bible.”

b)      Unsaved people often have little interest in Scripture or their interest is not all that deep.

5)      Verse 10 in this chapter– READ

a)      On the “Lord’s Day” (this seems to be Sunday), John was “in the spirit.”

b)      When it comes to the unsaved, they might be in many places when Sunday comes.

6)      Rev. 2:2 – READ

a)      Unsaved people often have very little interest in correct doctrine.

b)      The saved are concerned about doctrine.  Saved people do not want or accept false doctrine.

c)      Verse 3 – READ

d)     Verse 19 in this chapter also helps distinguish between Christians and the unsaved – READ

7)      In addition to works, love, faith, ministry, and patience, Rev. 2:19 reveals a desire to improve.

a)      Rev. 3:4 – READ     Saved people want to “walk with Christ and wear white.”

8)      Saved people (looking now at Rev. 3:16) are distinct from the unsaved because they refuse to be lukewarm.

9)      Skipping Rev. 4, let’s find Rev. 5 and the 8th & 9th verses.  Here John says God’s people pray.

10)  Rev. 7:14 – READ

11)  Rev. 7:13 describes the saved throughout the Christian era as “clothed in white.”

12)  Revelation 7:15 – the saved and lost serving God day and night.

a)      Rev. 9:20-21.  The saved are people who willing to repent and actually do so; John said the unsaved do not repent.

b)      The idea that Christians and non-Christians are basically the same is completely wrong.

 

13)  When a person truly repents and become a Christian, he or she has a new attitude towards the Bible.

14)  Rev. 10:9 – READ

15)  In Rev. 11 we read about a measuring stick; this image seems to say God “measures” (examines) people.

a)      At the present time the idea of God “measuring” (evaluating each one).

b)      As the unsaved are measured they fail, flunk, and they are part of the reject pile

16)   Rev. 11:6 tells us those who are measured and acceptable to God have access to God; their prayers can be answered.

17)  Saved people can pray and accomplish great and powerful things through their appeals to God.

18)  Those outside of Christ have no positive reward, but the righteous do (Rev. 11:18).

19)  Rev. 12:10 speaks of the saved being accused day & night by Satan.

20)  Rev. 13:3 tells us the unsaved are the majority; John spoke of the “whole world” following evil.

21)  The book of life (Rev. 13:8).

22)  The saved are in this book because they reject things like false / unauthorized worship (Rev. 13:15).

23)  The saved seek God’s righteousness to the point where God describes them as virgins (Rev. 14:4).

24)  Saved people seek to tell the truth instead of tell lies (Rev. 14:5).

25)  Because of how God’s people live, they get to “rest” after death (Rev. 14:13); the unsaved do not.

26)  Rev. 16:11 – men who “curse God.”

27)  The unsaved are so far removed from Christians they are compared to a naked person Rev. 16:15.

28)  In Rev. 17:4 the unsaved are pictured as wearing purple, gold, and decked out with things like pearls.

29)  Some of the best dressed people in human history will spend eternity in hell.

30)  Sexual sin (Rev. 18:3) is the way of the unsaved; God’s people stay away from it to keep their robes white.

31)  Saved people know and believe God reigns over the world (Rev. 19:6); God is in charge of our world.

32)  The unsaved are willing to be “deceived” about spiritual things (Rev. 20:3); the righteous are observant.

33)  Saved people participate in the “first resurrection” (baptism), Rev. 20:6; the unsaved do not.

34)  Unsaved people participate in things like sorcery, witchcraft, idolatry (Rev. 21:8); the saved do not.

35)  The righteous do not try to alter some part of God’s message (Rev. 22:18-19); the unsaved do.

Who was Tychicus ?

A study that has always fascinated me is the “minor” characters whose names appear in sacred writ.  The Holy Spirit saw fit to include these individuals in written revelation, and in some instances we know little or nothing about them.  Some of those with brief mention were enemies of Christ, while others were contributors to His cause.  Tychicus, who appears in five New Testament books, is one of the latter.  A combined study of the verses about this brother yields the facts that he was a beloved brother, faithful servant, and fellow bond-servant of Paul (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7).  He was trustworthy enough for Paul to send him to perform spiritual tasks (2 Tim. 4:12; Ti. 3:12).  Consider three important qualities that, albeit brief, reveal the character of Tychicus.

He was beloved.  What is required of one to be regarded as beloved?  Consider the kind of attitude, type of speech, and specific actions necessary to be loved by other people.  All of us know those we consider easy to love.  Others we know are prickly and standoffish. How will you be remembered by those who knew you best or by those with whom you worked and worshipped?  Much of what else we see of Tychicus no doubt contributed to how beloved a brother he was, but with the emphasis the New Testament gives to proper attitude surely that must have shone through in his life.

He was faithful.  Along with being a beloved brother, Tychicus was a faithful servant.  Barclay surmises from Acts 20 that Tychicus was likely the representative to carry the contribution to the poor saints in Jerusalem, and he goes so far as to call Tychicus the personal envoy of Paul (169). Given the timeline of Tychicus’ appearances, nearer the end of Paul’s life, this disciple played a prominent and visible role at a time that many abandoned him (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6).  Some, as Curtis Vaughan points out, translate “faithful servant” as “trusted assistant” (Gaebelein, ed., 223).  Clearly, Tychicus appears to have been supremely trustworthy, one that could be entrusted with tasks however great or small.  What a great legacy for us, if we can leave behind the memory of a Christian who could be counted on to help in the cause of Christ!
He was a servant.  Paul uses the word “doulos” (According to Zodhiates, “A slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other”; The complete word study dictionary, elec. ed.) to describe Tychicus.  He was one who served the Lord along with Paul and the others.  “Church work,” whatever it was at the moment, was never beneath this brother.  He saw it as his duty and place, to spend himself serving the Lord.  Is that how others think of us?

Melick gives a great summary of Paul’s description of Tychicus in Colossians 4:7, writing, “These qualities represent the best in Christian growth. All three descriptions occur with one article before them all, and they are joined by ‘and.’ This is an emphatic way to indicate that all belong together in this one man” (Vol. 32, elec. ed.).  Oh, to be thought of as beloved, faithful, and servant-minded!  When we see our place in the body of Christ as an active rather than a passive one, we are well down the road to being a Christian like Tychicus.

–Neal Pollard

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6

There used to be a saying that there really aren’t any “delinquent adolescents,” only “delinquent parents.” Children didn’t ask to come into this world; they arrived on our planet at the will of adults, vulnerable and helpless, needing someone to prepare them for life in a tough world.

It’s one thing to father a child; it’s quite another to be a father!

“Training” implies constant, daily direction. Children must have instructions repeated. “In the way he should go” implies that there is a way in which he should not go.

Children, when left to their own devices, will take the path of least resistance. They will be selfish and indulgent, lazy and lawless.

This is not because children are particularly evil, but because they are human. That little boy whose defiance remains regularly uncorrected one day will become a broad shouldered man, violent and prepared to harm his wife, his children, and his neighbors.

That little girl who receives nothing but neglect and apathy from her parents will one day fail to be a mother who nurtures her own children.

Some children grow up; others are brought up, with the gentle but firm hand of parents who care what their children will become. As a parent, are you delinquent, or dependable?

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Why attend every service?

It is my view that every member who can should always be there when the doors are open.  That has nothing to do with Hebrews 10:25.  It has more to do with the idea that the shepherds are charged with feeding the flock (Acts 20:28), that each service we assemble helps accomplish that, and none of us should feel free to miss feeding time.  It also has something to do with an easy, logical way we can encourage and build up one another (1 Th. 5:11) and stir up each other to love and good works (Heb. 10:24).  It further has to do with how since kingdom matters have first place in my heart and life (Matt. 6:33) the meeting times of His saints should be at the top of my priorities.

But, my sentiments at the moment have less to do with that and more to do with selfish reasons.  As I look back on the life God has blessed me with to this point, I have collected so many wonderful memories.  A significant number of them have occurred on Wednesday nights.  As I survey my Wednesday nights, in the recent and long distant pasts, I call to mind:

•    An 11 year old Christian brother lighting my fire with his motivational devotional talk.
•    A father and husband putting Christ on in baptism.
•    Bible class lessons that built my faith and flared my passion for further study.
•    Seeing and hearing my own sons speak, lead singing, and pray.
•    Seeing and hearing our teens do those same things.
•    Being met at just the right time by a brother or sister who lifted my spirits with a timely word “fitly spoken.”
•    Seeing a man confined to a wheel chair who will let nearly nothing keep him from being here, despite personal pain, discomfort, and sacrifice (and seeing others like him through the years).
•    Many other public responses made by Christians confessing sins or asking for prayers or others who chose on Wednesday night to become Christians.
•    Enjoying a weekly family reunion with my spiritual siblings, a lift above the mundane matters of life.
•    Seeing brethren from other congregations, whether I had never met them or have known them well in the past, who “popped in” on Wednesday nights.
•    Spiritual uplifts from congregational singing or heartfelt prayers on Wednesday nights.
•    New Christians, taking their first spiritual steps which include coming to Wednesday night Bible study.
•    Week after week that helped build a closeness and relationship with the Lord that is built not just on my personal feelings and estimation but on study and worship.

Though those may be mostly or entirely selfish reasons, I am thankful for the good Wednesday nights have done and are doing my family and me.  The church is my spiritual family.  How else would I want to spend my Wednesday nights?

–Neal Pollard

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