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Every parent’s nightmare

A close friend of ours was in the supermarket a couple of weeks ago with his daughter of four. He pulled the shopping cart up to the checkout counter, picked his daughter up out of the cart and set her down beside him, then began unloading his items on the conveyor belt. When he finished, he turned to his daughter, but she was gone. Nowhere to be seen.

Rather than going into the store to look for her, perhaps by instinct he raced out to the sidewalk. Across the street, in the supermarket parking lot, she was being led away by the hand by a strange man.

This friend’s experience is every parent’s nightmare.

At the same time, many parents are handing their children over to others who will corrupt their souls, and consider it normal!

They deliver them over to teachers and administrators in public schools whose institutional mission is to inculcate in children concepts and beliefs contrary to the word of God.

Parents deliver their children up to media whose stated purpose is to persuade the viewer of a worldview against the life in Christ and the liberty of the Spirit given us by the grace of God.

Parents allow children to make friends with any kids their own age and influence them toward immorality, disrespect and rebellion.

They hand them off to babysitters, nursery schools, preschools, and child services, whose primary interest is pecuniary, so father and mother can pursue materialistic goals.

Parents are careful to protect their children from predators who would violate their bodies, but how diligent are we to keep our children out of the claws of those who would steal their souls?

Some parents even go so far as to say it is good to expose children, at a tender age when they have not developed discernment, to contrary opinions and diverse views. Those who say such have no idea of the harm they do to the little ones.

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but raise them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4 NET).

J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

Palimpsest

Palimpsest” is not a common word, but it has an interesting background and meaning. Merriam Webster defines it as “writing material (as a parchment or tablet) used one or more times after earlier writing has been erased.”

In ancient times the ink that was used to write did not have any acid in it, so it did not “eat down” into surfaces like papyrus or vellum on which things were written. The ink just lay on the surface. Since writing materials were hard to come by, a scribe would often scrape the ink off of old documents, then sponge them off to remove every trace of the ink.

Many ancient manuscripts, including manuscripts of the Bible, have been found on these reused documents. Such documents have a special name: They are called “palimpsest” which means “rubbed off.” *

Observe some lessons that can be applied to our lives from this interesting word:

Like the precious writing materials of old, each of us is valuable because of our Creator. Each of us was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27).

However, due to our wrong choices, each of us has become stained with the destructive pollution of sin (cf. James 1:27; 2 Peter 2:20).

But here is the GOOD NEWS: Because of His great love for us, God sent Jesus to die on the cross so that we might be cleansed of sin and be saved eternally (Eph 1:7)!

There is a word in Scripture that applies the idea of palimpsest to our own lives. The Greek word is translated “wipe away” and “blot out.” It describes what God will do to our sins when we submit our lives to Him.

For example, we find the words of the Apostle Peter in Acts 3:19 as he preached to others about Christ:

Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be WIPED OUT,
that times of refreshing may come from the Lord
.”

When we repent of our sins (Acts 17:30-31), and turn to God in trusting faith (Acts 16:30-31), confessing the name of Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) into Christ (Acts 2:38), God forgives — He “WIPES OUT” – our debt of sin!

What a beautiful illustration of forgiveness!

God wants to take the written record of our sin, scrape off the writing,  sponge it down and wipe it clean with the BLOOD of Jesus.

And He WILL-IF- we will trust and obey Him.

Won’t YOU?

–David A. Sargent

I Drive A Donkey

There is an obscure Bible character that holds a great deal of fascination for me. His name is Harbona(h) and his name only appears twice, both in connection with the account of Esther. He is introduced in Esther 1:10 and plays a key role in this divine story of providence in Esther 7:9. His name means “donkey driver.” Granted, his name means more than that. The Exhaustive Dictionary of Bible Names says his name means, “Warlike; martial; a destroyer. Ass driver; the anger of him who builds” (Cornwall and Smith 96). Harbonah was the eunuch in Ahaseurus’ court who informed the king of Haman’s treachery, saying, “Behold indeed, the gallows standing at Haman’s house fifty cubits high, which Hanan made for Mordecai who spoke good on behalf of the king!” Ahaseurus, true to form, wasted no time and said, “Hang him on it.” Thus, ended the life of the man who tried to end the life of the Jews, through whom the Messiah of the world would eventually be born. Thus, Harbonah has an important footnote in the beautiful unfolding of God’s providence in the life and book of Esther. His name is favorably included in only sacred volume God ever moved men to write. That’s a pretty good legacy for a man whose name means “donkey driver.”

All of us are probably curious, if uninformed, about what our name means. I once learned that my middle name, by which as a “junior” I am called, Neal, means “champion.” Lest I should be exalted above measure, my first name, Gary, means “hunting dog.” My surname, Pollard, means “tree topper.” Thus, taken together, I can be proud to know that my full name means “champion hunting dog tree topper.” Solomon wrote about a good name, calling it better than it is more desired than great wealth (Prov. 22:1) and better than a good ointment (Ecc. 7:1). Regardless of what your given name means, what means most and how your name will be remembered on the lips of others, good or bad, is determined by what you do on this earth as is associated with that name. So even if your name is Rafe Bosephus McGillicutty, that name will be sweet on others’ lips if how you wear your name honors the Lord and promotes His cause.

–Neal Pollard

My Daddy fell into a deep well

Maybe you’ve heard the story about the little boy who went to school and his teacher asked, “So tell me class, what interesting event happened to you this week?” To why the little boy raised his hand and said, “My Daddy fell into a deep well.” “Oh my!” said the teacher, “Is he alright?” To which the little boy replied, “He must be because he quit crying for help yesterday.”

Friends, every day we find ourselves in the company of people who are hurting, in trouble, and in overt and covert ways are crying out for help. Therefore, I have two questions: 1. What have we done to answer those cries for help? 2. Have we incorrectly assumed that just because the cries have stopped that the problem has vanished?

Remember, being a Christian is much more than having the right answers to biblical questions. It’s also making oneself available to be used by Jesus to reach out to a hurting world with a healing message. Let’s be sure we share the love of Christ with our words and our deeds.

“By this shall all men know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

— Steve Higginbotham

Worthless Leaders

“Woe to the worthless shepherd, who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm and against his right eye; his arm shall completely wither, and his right eye shall be totally blinded” (Zechariah 11:17 NKJV).

On a recent trip to the northern districts of Bangladesh, several preachers, including myself, listened as members of a remote congregation accused us of neglecting them for an extended period of time.

Deaths had occurred, needs had gone unmet, and no one had come to inquire as to their condition or to minister to the grieving. Needless to say it was difficult to hear such complaints.

The fact is that we were not the locally appointed leaders of that congregation. Our authority and responsibility are limited at best, and perhaps altogether absent. Additionally, they had not communicated their situation to us, nor given us much opportunity for involvement.

Reality is, however, that there was at that time no official local leadership and their condition was such that someone needed to help. We could pass the buck, and make excuses, but when all was said and done, human needs had gone unmet and we had done nothing for them.

Whether I or others present at that meeting bear guilt for these things only God can judge. It was a needed lesson, however, in responsibility and communication. And it was a reminder that God is intolerant of irresponsible leaders.

Zechariah proclaims woe to “worthless shepherds, who leave the flock.” Their punishment is severe.

Obviously the prophet’s interest in this passage has little to do with literal shepherds and their sheep. These are allegories representing God’s people and their leaders. Those in positions of responsibility and authority are held accountable. If and when they ignore their duties they will be judged.

“Okay”, you say, “I will simply avoid all positions of leadership, then I can’t be accused of neglect.” It is not that easy. Are you a parent? That is God-given leadership (Ephesians 6:1-4). What kind of occupation do you have?

The chances are good that you have some degree of authority, even if it is limited. What about your influence over your friends, neighbors or other peers? The simple fact is that almost everyone is a leader, at some point, in some situations.

It is far better (and easier in the long run) to commit ourselves to faithful discharge of responsibility than to seek to avoid it. A good shepherd does not desert his flock. A faithful parent is not negligent towards his or her children.

In the political and religious arenas, good leaders are concerned for the needs of their constituents. We do not need God to tell us of these things. Our own experience and reason confirm them.

We demand conscientious service from those leaders we appoint. So does God. We must also expect no less from ourselves, in every relationship and situation where we have responsibility for or over others.

by Michael E. Brooks

A Proverb for the Day (30:27)

“The locusts have no king, Yet all of them go out in ranks” (Proverbs 30:27 NASB). As the third of the small, but wise creatures (Proverbs 20:24-28), the locus show organization and planning. They are not dependent on external forces like a king or manager to make them work. No one has to look over their shoulders. Yet, they advance in ranks with great numbers and zealously go about their job of eating everything they possible can (sometimes even furniture in houses). They advance in ranks. Think of what we could achieve with such motivation and discipline.

by Jeremy Sprouse

A Parable-like Story — Author Unknown

A young man applied for a job as a farmhand. When the farmer asked for his qualifications, he said, “I can sleep through a storm.”

This puzzled the farmer… but he liked the young man. So he hired him.

A few weeks later, the farmer and his wife were awakened in the night by a violent storm ripping through the valley. He leapt out of bed and called for his new hired hand, but the young man was sleeping soundly.

So they quickly began to check things to see if all was secure. They found that the shutters of the farmhouse had been securely fastened. A good supply of logs had been set next to the fireplace.

The farmer and his wife then inspected their property. They found that the farm tools had been placed in the storage shed, safe from the elements. He sees that the bales of wheat had been bound and wrapped in tarpaulins.

The tractor had been moved into its garage. The barn was properly locked tight. Even the animals were calm and had plenty of feed. All was well.

The farmer then understood the meaning of the young man’s words, “I can sleep through a storm.”

Because the farmhand did his work loyally and faithfully when the skies were clear, he was prepared for any storm. So when the storm did actually break, he was not concerned or afraid. He could sleep in peace.

The great Chinese famine – 1958-1961

THREE BITTER YEARS

Chinese officials call those years “three years of economic difficulty” and “three bitter years.” The years were 1958-1961, the years of the great Chinese famine. To tell you how bad it was, three out of seven people who died of famine in the 20th Century died in China during those three bitter years. Most observers believe the cause of the famine was the government’s attempt to set up Communism and communal farms. No one could grow private garden plots. The granaries of just two locations, Henan and Hebei, held enough grain to have saved each of the 30 million people who died in the Great Chinese famine.

Over eight centuries before Christ, God punished wicked Israel with a drought that led to severe famine (1 Kings 18:2). It was three and a half bitter years (cf. Luke 4:25-26; Jas. 5:17). According to 1 Kings 17, Elijah flees to a brook by Cherith and then on to Zarephath where God miraculously provides for him, a widow and her son until he is sent by God to end the drought and famine. While Israel suffered mightily, Elijah enjoyed Divine providence in the midst of the bitterness. The widow of Zarephath not only shared in receiving that provision, she apparently learned some things from it, too.

She learned it takes faith to obey the word of the Lord (1 Kings 17:10-13). She did not learn this faith from royalty like wicked Ahab, who married one of her fellow Sidonians. She did not learn it from her neighbors, who worshipped Ashtoreth (cf. 1 Kings 11:5; 16:31). She did not learn it from her Jewish neighbors in Palestine, who at this time could not themselves easily decide between Baal and Jehovah (1 Kings 18:21). She learned, as we must learn, that we must be faithful to God even when our leaders, neighbors, and spiritual brothers and sisters are not willing to do so.

She learned it takes faith to overcome fear (1 Kings 17:13). This was literally life and death for the widow. To obey God’s word meant making starvation a seeming certainty. No one should blame her for expressing her rational fear to Elijah, but ultimately she was willing to believe his word.

She learned it takes faith to enjoy the blessings of God (1 Kings 17:14-16). Was she tempted to turn down the offer? It’s very possible. Maybe she was so desperate and so aware of her plight that she felt she had nothing to lose by giving Elijah food. Whatever was the case, she was blessed by obeying God. He kept her and her son alive.

Famines strike children, the elderly, and men most acutely. It lowers fertility and, of course, causes plain old, awful starvation. But there is another, more serious, kind of famine described in Amos 8:11. It is spiritual starvation, but it does not strike the Christian who has Jesus for the “bread of life” (John 6:35). Those who follow Him are spared eternal hunger (Revelation 7:16). I read a report indicating that 10 million people in rich, industrialized nations go to bed hungry every night–in the midst of plenty. When we partake of the Bread, we will have plenty, like Elijah, in the midst of those spiritually bitter years.

–Neal Pollard

Look before you leap, think before you speak!

Think Before You Speak

Has this ever happened to you? Before your mind is in gear, your mouth is running? Me too! Look before you leap, think before you speak!

“The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things” (Proverbs 15:28, ESV).

In West Texas, by the late 1920’s the drills plunged into the earth with expectation more than hope. As the powerful bit chewed into the soil and tore the rocks and sand that lay beneath the surface, owners and foremen stood back and waited.

Sooner or later it would come. The drill would cut beyond the rock and dirt and plunge into the thick, rich crude oil and the next thing you knew, “black gold” would shoot into the air.

Then it would form an arch that fell back to the ground. “It’s a gusher!” the men would cry, and yet another fortune was assured on the windswept Texas plains.

The Wise Man of Proverbs uses a similar image to depict the words of one who thoughtlessly gushes out words without thinking. Can you imagine a person whose words are ill-considered and thoughtless, whose rash statements spew out without regard to other people’s feelings and reputations?

Can you see their black statements splattering indiscriminately on whomever was below? Such a man is contrasted with the one who “ponders,” or “weighs” his answers, thinking about the benefit they will bring, the healing they will cause.

This week, before you say something, think about it; because if you speak before thinking, you might have a “gusher” on your hands, and a gusher isn’t always a good thing!

–Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Competing for the privilege to be sacrificed

The ancient Aztecs told the story about Tonatiuh, the fifth sun god. Their tale illustrates how powerfully story can shape culture and behavior. The Aztecs believed the earth had passed through four eras with four different suns, each of which suffered a cataclysmic destruction.

According to their tradition, this fifth sun god, Tonatiuh, required daily assistance or a new catastrophe would wipe out humanity. To ensure sunrise, Tonatiuh’s daily birth, and the sun traversing the sky, human hearts had to be cut from their bodies.

It is not hard to imagine their intensity in guaranteeing a steady supply of human sacrifice to Tonatiuh. This story influenced their culture and thinking. It seems even the Aztec’s sporting events involved competing for the privilege to be sacrificed!

Americans can easily perceive how this tale dominated their society. But how adept are we in recognizing how our society’s official origin’s story shapes our culture?

As students return to school this fall, they will be taught a sanctioned story something like this.

A very, very, very long time ago the ingredients necessary for life began to be synthesized and concentrated upon the earth. Finally, the right chemical combination occurred, and life sprang into existence.

Through natural selection and other completely physical processes some of these early life forms adopted advantages over their sibling rivalries. Eventually, this process produced various new life forms. Humanity owes its existence to a long line of successful, but gradual, evolutionary steps.

What happens when a society embraces such a story? This narrative of the survival of the fittest will shape science, government, business, education, religion, and so forth.

Furthermore, unless an irrational sentimentality inhabits someone’s mind, it will be obvious that if animals are not subject to morality neither is the human animal. Just as the Aztec’s myth shaped their daily lives, so too the consequences of this naturalist story will ripple through beliefs, values and behavior.

All of this is quite straightforward. However, it is ironic that some of the same Americans who readily identify the Tonatiuh story as myth, since it fails the test of verification, will nevertheless embrace the unverified story of evolution.

In view of the growing body of knowledge challenging the plausibility of a naturalistic origin for life and species, this becomes especially ironic. Reject Tonatiuh, but accept evolution?

Stories provide direction and shape human life. We need them. But how sensible is it to embrace a story that requires naturalistic principles incapable of producing the final product?

It would seem much more reasonable to accept a story, where the Source is capable of producing the world in which we live.

Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

Female devotees promptly cut off their long, beautiful hair, and ropes were woven from their sacrificial contributions

The Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple in Kyoto, Japan is not only a temple but is also the mausoleum of Shinran Shonin (1173- 1262), founder of the Jodo-Shin branch of Buddhism. The Founder’s Hall part of this shrine is one of the largest wooden structures in the world. It has burned several times in its history, and the current building only dates back to 1895.

When the latest Founder’s Hall was being built, the workers could not find ropes strong enough to lift the heavy beams into place. The female devotees promptly cut off their long, beautiful hair, and ropes were woven from their sacrificial contributions. Fifty-three such ropes (called kezunas) were woven. The larg­est of the ropes was 360 feet long, with a cir­cumference of about 16 inches and weighed more than a ton.

One Buddhist devotee’s hair would not make much of a rope, but the hair from many women made this largest of the kezunas pos­sible, along with the 52 others. Tom Miller

How many spiritual lessons can you find in this article?

Apparently, I’m by no means the only one clinging to extra possessions

A neighbor called Keith Wishum to inform him that smoke was coming from his garage. Thankfully, when Keith checked his garage, the “smoke” was actually steam rising as the heat of the morning sun hit the frosted roof.

The incident did cause Keith to do some thinking. “The call did ignite some mixed feelings, though. The garage is dilapidated and needs to be replaced, and most of the contents need to be thrown away. Burning it down might not be so bad. On the other hand, I didn’t want to part with my accumulated junk and memorabilia.”

But Keith isn’t the only one that has accumulated a lot of stuff. He even informs us about how much stuff we in America have accumulated:

“Apparently, I’m by no means the only one clinging to extra possessions. About the time my garage didn’t burn down, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a report stating that from 1960 to 2000, 32,000 self-storage facilities were built in the U.S., with those facilities maintaining a 90% occupancy rate. During that same period, the median house size increased from 1,500 to 2,100 square feet while the number of occupants declined. With all that extra space we still face a constant battle against clutter. It seems that we Americans have more stuff than we know what to do with, but we don’t want to part with any of it.”

Keith appropriately recalls the words of Jesus: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). Keith asks, “Do we buy that? Or do we just buy a new storage building for the stuff we purchase?”

To drive His point home, Jesus told a story about a farmer who had a bumper crop (see Luke 12:16-21). What did he do with the abundance? Did he share it with others? Did he use it to try to help others in need? No, he built bigger barns in which to store it.

Jesus ends the story with these words: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’” (Luke 12:20). Jesus adds: “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

Being rich toward God is realizing that God is the Giver of all good things (James 1:17) and that we are to use the blessings He gives us to His glory by sharing them with others. Being rich toward God is recognizing that there is more to life than stuff! Being rich toward God is understanding that the spiritual blessings that we have in Christ are eternally greater than any temporal thing that this world has to offer.

As Keith astutely observes: “The Biblical perspective is that the garage is burning [see 2 Peter 3:10]. This world and all its contents will soon be gone. How we feel about the garage depends on how attached we are to the contents.” *

God sent His Son Jesus into the world to go to the cross to die for our sins so that we might have the greater, eternal blessings of salvation from sin and eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

It is the will of God that YOU accept His offer of salvation and life by placing your faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Then, follow Him all the way to heaven!

“And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:17

Won’t YOU do the will of God by accepting His offer on His terms?

– David A. Sargent

* Keith Wishum, “The Garage is On Fire!” in A Word from Williams Road.

The Greedy And The Gracious

Other than Jesus Christ, Solomon was the wisest man ever to live. This was due to God’s gracious gift granted to the young king who sought not money, or power, but divine guidance. Too bad he did not follow his own advice. In fact, there are dozen’s of passages in the Proverbs that are ‘out of character’ with Solomon’s overall life. This is why I think Solomon wrote these Proverbs in the early years of his life; before time and treasures had time to corrupt his thinking and corrode his trust in God. There are two verses in the eleventh chapter of Proverbs that captured my attention this morning; two verses that set forth a contrast between those who are greedy and those who are gracious.

11:24: “There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more; And there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth only to want.”
11:25: “The liberal soul shall be made fat; And he that watereth shall be watered also himself.”

If I were to give a subtitle to this article it would have to be, “How NOT to make more money!” The subtitle might well capture the attention faster than the contrasting words, “greedy” and “gracious.” If you are expecting to find the secret of how to become a millionaire in these two verses you likely will be disappointed. But if you are seeking wise advice as to how to best use your money, you will not be disappointed in the advice Solomon gives. Consider the wise advice of Solomon contained in these two verses:

My first preaching work was in a small farming and ranching community in south-central Oklahoma. Several of the men in that congregation were farmers, and they understood the need to invest money in seed in order to generate a great harvest come fall. The farmer who is stingy at the time of sowing will have a meager harvest at the time of reaping; but the farmer who invests the time and energy to scatter the seed far and wide will be more likely to reap a great harvest, and profit thereby. The same is true in the business arena. “Those who have the money are the ones who make the money” is a well known proverbial saying, is it not? I don’t think Solomon was all that concerned about teaching his son about the principles of farming, or even business for that matter; though there is sage advice throughout the Proverbs addressing both of those areas. Solomon wanted his readers to understand an important truth regarding how we should use our material blessings. The New Testament clearly teaches that we are to be generous with what God has given us. “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labor with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have whereof to give to him that hath need” (Eph. 4:28). Solomon was well aware that generosity is essential to pleasing God: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, When it is in the power of thy hand to do it” (Pro. 3:27). If I choose to be greedy rather than gracious, I face a real danger of losing what I have in this life, and losing my soul in eternity. Jesus once spoke a parable to this effect, as recorded in Luke 12:13-21. In the mid to late 1800’s a man by the name of George Muller decided he wanted to do what he could to help the orphans in Bristol, England. The amazing thing about Mr. Muller is that he never really had a lot of money. When he launched out in his endeavor to help orphans all he had was some small change. Nor did he own much with regard to material possessions. With what meager resources he had, he sought to feed, house, and cloth as many needy orphans as possible. He began his endeavor with one small house, and within twenty years he had built five building, housing a total of 1,722 orphans. Through all this, Müller never made requests for financial support, nor did he go into debt, even though the five homes cost over £100,000 to build. Many times, he received unsolicited food donations only hours before they were needed to feed the children, further strengthening his faith in God. For example, on one well-documented occasion, they gave thanks for breakfast when all the children were sitting at the table, even though there was nothing to eat in the house. As they finished praying, the baker knocked on the door with sufficient fresh bread to feed everyone, and the milkman gave them plenty of fresh milk because his cart broke down in front of the orphanage. Truly, the story of George Muller is an example of the Proverb from Solomon: “There is that scattereth, and increaseth yet more.”

Now let us look at the greedy; those who “withholdeth more than is meet.” I don’t think Solomon was discouraging the wisdom in setting aside a little for that inevitable “rainy day” that comes our way from time to time. Return to the parable Jesus told of the covetous rich man, as contained in Luke 12:16-21: “And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: and he reasoned within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have not where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, be merry. But God said unto him, Thou foolish one, this night is thy soul required of thee; and the things which thou hast prepared, whose shall they be? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Here was a man who “withholdeth more than is meet.” This imaginary (and no doubt true to life) man had what one preacher called “I Trouble.” His use of the personal pronouns “I,” “me,” and “my” speak volumes about the man’s heart. Literally, he withholds more than “what is right” (NKJV). He had taken that portion that should have rightfully been used to help others, and he hoarded it in order to build greater barns in which to gather his increase. God will not bless such a man, and such a one tends to find that the abundance that God gave to him ends up being squandered in reckless living. In the end, the man in the parable found himself losing what he sought so desperately to hold on to. Albert Barnes wrote: “Much that pertains to dress, to accomplishment, to living, to employment, to amusement, to conversation, will appear, when we come to die, to have been like the playthings of ‘children;’ and we shall feel that the immortal mind has been employed, and the time wasted, and the strength exhausted in that which was foolish and puerile” (Barnes, Commentary under 1 Cor. 14:20). I think that is a fitting summary of what Solomon wanted to convey to his readers.

–by Tom Wacaster

I just wish someone would have believed Dave back then…”

IN 1957, LIEUTENANT David Steeves walked out of the California Sierra Mountains 54 days after his Air Force trainer jet had disappeared…

He related an unbelievable take of survival after parachuting from his disabled plane. For almost three months he said he had eaten berries and dug snow tunnels to sleep in, had seen no one during the entire time and finally walked out on his own. By the time he showed up alive, he had already been declared officially dead.

His story was viewed with much skepticism because during that same time frame his assigned unit had been sent to the Korean War. When further search failed to turn up any wreckage, a hoax was suspected and Steeves was forced to resign under a cloud of doubt. He lived for two decades branded as a deserter and possible spy. One story had him selling the plane to the Russians; another shipping it piecemeal to Mexico. Steeves died in 1965.

In 1977 a troop of Boy Scouts hiking through Kings Canyon National Park discovered the wreckage of Steeve’s plane and his story was confirmed. His family was issued an apology from the military and was told that Lt. David Steeves’ name was reinstated with honor.

One of Steeves’ friends, Eugene Juneet, after the ceremony told the Associated Press, “This was nice,” but then he added, “I just wish someone would have believed Dave back then…”

“And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.” Mark 16:13

Mike Benson

Envy got into the way

V. P. BLACK MADE the following observation…

“When David went against the Philistines and defeated them he returned home. The women came out of the cities of Israel singing and dancing and saying, ‘Saul has slain his thousands, but David has slain his ten thousands.’ When Saul heard the first part of the song, his heart was lifted up with pride, for they were singing, ‘Saul has slain his thousands.’ But there was a second stanza. The first stanza was no doubt the sweetest music that Saul had ever heard. He got ready for the second stanza, and the second stanza went like this, ‘But David has slain his ten thousands.’ From that day forward Saul began to envy David.”

What a great team Saul and David could have been. However, envy got into the way.

THOUGHT: Let’s be sure that we don’t let the second stanza ruin our song. Wade L. Webster, “The Second Stanza,” Riches From My Reading — The Searcher, Sept. 19, 2010

“Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?” Proverbs 27:4

Mike Benson

Ever hear this from a woman?

“That’s So Mature!”

I will confess to having heard that more times than I can count, especially in my younger days and probably always from those of the female persuasion. It was, without exception, a statement dripping in sarcasm meant to point out the immaturity of what I said or did.

The Christian life should be marked by continual growth and development. That upward line is not strictly linear. We will take backward steps as we go forward. Yet, I have observed a pattern of spiritual immaturity from those capable of doing far better. Perhaps others have seen it in me, and the thought makes me cringe. There is a season in the Christian life to be a spiritual babe (1 Pet. 2:2), but eventually babes are supposed to grow up (1 Cor. 14:20; Eph. 4:13; Heb. 5:14; 6:1). I could not give an exhaustive list, but consider a few ways in which we fail to show spiritual maturity.

Hypersensitivity. Certainly, we all have different personalities, but is hypersensitivity to be explained solely as a fate of personality? If so, then that would make one unaccountable for bad behavior done as part of personality. Could it not instead be a matter of free will and choice, where people choose to respond to ill-treatment or perceived slights by overreacting, sulking, pouting, and withdrawing? When someone pushing our button keeps us from serving our crucified Lord, doing our Christian duty, or reflecting the image of Christ to others, we had better consider growing up spiritually! Jesus, “While being reviled (i.e., “criticized and insulted in an abusive manner”), He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats” (1 Pet. 2:23). In the same context, Peter says, “Follow in His steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). Jesus also taught that the religion of the spiritually mature was to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39).

Pressing Our Rights. A preacher, trying to make the point that scripture nowhere dictates that the preacher should wear a coat and tie, shows up to evening services in a Hawaiian shirt, bermuda shorts, and flip-flops. He really showed those uptight members! He really showed more than he intended. By running roughshod over the sensitivity of older or conservative members, he was a model of spiritual infancy. It is ironic that many who respond like this common senseless minister would boast of themselves as spiritually advanced, but they have missed a basic Christian principle about interacting with others and especially fellow-Christians. What about 1 Corinthians 8:13, 1 Corinthians 10:28, or Romans 14:21?

A Careless Example. We know nothing of the temperament of Thaddeus or even Philip, but we get clear impressions that the apostle Peter was impetuous and sometimes lacking in discretion (Mark 9:5-6; Matt. 14:28; Matt. 26:33-35 and Matt. 26:69ff; Gal. 2:11ff). Whether or not Peter realized the power of his example, he illustrates the harm done by one poorly representing the Lord. The same can happen today. We may sorely underestimate the influence we have on the spiritually weak or babes in Christ. A careless word or deed may not only cause another to stumble (cf. Luke 17:1-2), it reveals our spiritual immaturity.

In all things, from biblical comprehension to Christian behavior, “let us press on to maturity” (Heb. 6:1). It is the natural progression that should occur in our Christian lives! The alternative is neither pretty nor admirable.

Neal Pollard

It is so human not to listen to God.

Being Unrealistic

“The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor” (Proverbs 15:33, ESV).

I remember when Magic Johnson, the Los Angeles Laker star, announced he was HIV Positive. There was a great deal of discussion in the media on the subject of AIDS and its prevention.

“We must,” many film stars and experts said solemnly, “educate people about this subject.” Somehow their “education” always sounded like politically correct brain washing to me.

I was watching a talk show when the subject of abstinence versus, well, undertaking “protection” was discussed. The two speakers were emotional, the conversation heated.

One was a Christian, urging the wisdom of abstinence until marriage. The other quoted statistics demonstrating that young people in big bunches were engaging in multiple sex partners.

Then came the shocker. The second man declared, “Look at these statistics! Vast numbers of kids are having sex before marriage! You’ve got to be realistic!”

And I thought, “He’s hit the nail on the head, but not the way he thinks he has.” It is so human not to listen to God. We do everything we can to avoid heeding his call.

He warns us, commands us, he urges us to be sexually pure. But humans are so proud, so hard headed, so unrealistic that we won’t listen. The problem in our society is neither a lack of education, nor an excess of homophobia, but a lack of humility.

Wait till marriage. Stay true to your spouse. This is God’s way, and any alternatives are simply not realistic!

by Stan Mitchell

As he traveled back to Judah, a lion killed him

AT FIRST WE feel pity for the unnamed “man of God” described in 1 Kings 13…

After all, he accepted a potentially dangerous mission from God by confronting evil King Jeroboam about the unauthorized altar he had built in Bethel. This prophet was faithful and courageous in carrying out his assignment.

But he never made it home alive. As he traveled back to Judah, a lion killed him, and the obvious inference from the text is that God sent the lion. Why would God do such a thing to a man who had been faithful to His mission?

The man of God had not been completely faithful to his mission. One part of God’s orders was that he not eat or drink while in Bethel. At first, he was obedient and refused Jeroboam’s invitation to dine with him.

But an old prophet caught up with him on his way home, and told him that God had changed the orders. God now wanted the man of God to come dine in Bethel, according to the older prophet. The text tells us, however, that the old prophet “was lying to him” (1 Kings 13:18, NKJV).

In most respects, the man of God did well. As long as he listened only to the Lord and did His will, he would be blessed. But when he chose to believe a different message instead of the one God gave him, tragedy followed. He was sincere in what he did, but he was sincerely wrong.

Centuries later, Paul warned Christians about falling into the same trap: “And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness” (2 Thessalonians 2:11,12).

To put it simply, here is the choice we face: Will we believe God, or will we put our trust in what others tell us about God and His will? There are many religious people who speak things that are not found in the Bible. They sound so warm and sincere; how could we believe for a moment that they’re in error?

But if their message doesn’t match the message God has given us in His word, they are in error, and we would be foolish to follow their teachings instead of the Lord’s.

Why have we been given this account about the man of God who believed a lie? Because it’s a perennial problem, one that God’s people continually face.

Let us follow two simple admonitions: “Buy the truth, and do not sell it …” (Proverbs 23:23), and “… Your word is truth” (John 17:17). When we walk only in the light of God’s truth, we’ll be safe.

Tim Hall

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  John 8:32

Mike Benson

An Australian foundry near the banks of the Brisbane river

After graduating from High School, I spent my days in an Australian foundry near the banks of the Brisbane river. The raging heat from the electric furnace exceeding 2000 degrees Fahrenheit would cause us to perspire heavily, while ingots of brass and gunmetal within the cauldron would slough down into glowing molten metal.

Admittedly, we were not as close to the raw heat as the metal. Nevertheless, the same heat that dried us out would liquefy those heavy bricks. You might say, the heat revealed something about each of our natures.

In a similar way, Jesus knew his parables would affect people differently. Those already blind, because their hearts were calloused, would not be moved to turn toward God and receive healing. Conversely, these very same stories would lead those who were seeking to take further steps to inquire and draw nearer with ever greater understanding.

Jesus’ message to us in Matthew 13:10-17 is sobering.
It warns us that help comes, not through some external source that will force us to respond favorably, but by already being receptive and inquisitive.

May the words Jesus spoke to those early disciples, that is, to those who already demonstrated their openness to following after him, also be words he could use to commend us.

“Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear” (Matthew 13:16).

by Barry Newton

You have too much Bible training

WHEN I WAS considering completing a doctoral degree in theology, the representative of the graduate program at the college looked over my transcripts and concluded I had too much Bible and theology in my undergraduate work…

So he gave me a list of two hundred books of preparatory reading before I could be admitted to the program. I checked out the list with someone who know the various titles and learned that none of them contained anything but liberal theology and humanistic philosophy–they were full of profane old wives’ fables passed off as scholorship! The college also required me to take a course called “Jesus and Cinema.” That involved watching contemporary movies and evaluating them on whether they were antagonistic to or supportive of the Jesus ethic. The divine Jesus had been reduced to an ethic! I met with the representative again and said, “I just want to let you know that I have spent all my life to this point learning the truth, and I can’t see any value in spending the next couple of years learning error.” John MacArthur in Qualities of an Excellent Servant

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18; cf. Colossians 2:3

Mike Benson

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