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Who Is The Factious Man?

A FACTIOUS MAN – Neal Pollard

Titus had a challenging “local work.” He had to preach and minister on Crete, renowned for its “many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers” (1:10) in a culture renowned for its “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (1:12). They paid “attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men” and turned “away from the truth” (1:14). Their deeds denied Him, they were detestable, disobedient, and derelict (1:16).
What do you say to a guy who has such a lot in life? Besides expressing sympathy to him, how can you help a man in such conditions? You will notice Paul did not tell him to move on to a new work. He guided Titus in how to appoint the right kind of leaders (1:5-11), how to equip the right kind of members (2:1-10), how to focus on the right things (like grace, godliness, hope, sanctification, the second coming, etc., 2:11-15), and how to restore and maintain the right focus (3:1-15).

Among the troubling and difficult personalities about which Paul writes to warn Titus, there is the “factious man.” Paul has strong, stern words of warning about him. When we explore Paul’s words about him in Titus 3:9-11, we come to appreciate what our relationship with such a man ought to be.

Who Is The Factious Man? Given the context, he must be the man described in verse nine. He is a man embroiled in “foolish controversies,” “genealogies,” and “unprofitable and worthless disputes.” The literal meaning of “factious” here is “heretical.” He is a heretic, and he is such because of foolish controversies and worthless disputes. What are those? Those are matters a man will not give up fighting about but which cannot be proven to be right or wrong. He may think them right or wrong, but he lacks scriptural support.

What Do You Do With Him? To me, this is the most startling response. Paul says, “Reject him.” Literally, you dismiss him. Why? Because he has proven himself to be an argument-monger. At some point, engaging with such a person is counter-intuitive and counter-productive.

When Do You Do It? Paul lays out a specific plan of action, “after a first and second warning.” Notice that even factious men deserve our patience and forbearance. But, that is not to be indefinite or limitless. Paul’s patience had its limits (cf. Gal. 2:5). Did you know even God’s patience can be exhausted (cf. 1 Pet. 3:20)? There comes a point when one’s efforts with a person is likened to “pearls before swine” (Mt. 7:6).
Why Do You Do It? You do it because of knowledge. Paul says, “Knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned” (11). Such a man will not listen or accept admonition. The inspired analysis of such a man is frighteningly judgmental. With three terms, Paul concludes such a man to be lost!

The man here was hung up about the Law of Moses, but certainly such a man (or woman) can exist today. Scripture is timeless and boundless. Anything without rational, scriptural support that becomes one’s hobby horse and becomes divisive must be avoided. We are to reject it. The factious one must cease or continue at his or her own peril.

Night, With Ebon Pinion

Another song we often sing prior to the Lord’s Supper is “Night, With Ebon Pinion.” Written in 1854, when Schumann and Liszt were composing, Dickens and Thoreau were writing, and Nightingale was nursing, Love Jameson wrote this beautiful hymn. However, its wording has puzzled many a thoughtful singer. Filled with beautiful poetry, it is nonetheless enigmatic at points.

The first verse begins, “Night, with ebon pinion.” The Praise for the Lord songbook has notations for difficult words and phrases. Thus, at the bottom of the song is an explanation. “Ebon pinion” means “wings of darkness.” So, the complicated beginning can hamper our comprehension of the next phrase (“brooded o’er the vale”). Though the word “brood” has several meanings, including those related to birds, the thought here seems to be that dark night hovered closely over the place (which context suggests is the Garden of Gethsemane). The verse paints the picture of darkness and silence, except for the sound of the wind. In that lonely setting, Jesus, in profound sorrow, intensely prayed, completely overcome with emotion and exhaustion (“prostrate”). Jameson appeals to Luke’s record of events in this verse (Lk. 22:44).

The second verse begins with an allusion to Isaiah 53, blending together several ideas from that prophetic chapter which foretells the events of the crucifixion. It also bears resemblance to Romans 4:25. But, then Jameson returns to the lonely scenes of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed while Peter, James and John slept (cf. Mark 14:33-37).

The last verse begins by again alluding to Mark 14, where Jesus, in deep sorrow, pleads to God, “Abba, Father” (36). This is a special, Aramaic word. It is the language of a child to his father, but its meaning is also of one who is an heir. The songwriter seems to be drawing on the intimate, personal aspect of the relationship between Son and Father. The rest of the verse alludes back to Jesus’ prayer (Mat. 26:39 and Luke 22:42).

Taken together, this song is meant to lift a single facet of Jesus’ diverse suffering, His time in agonizing prayer in prospect of His arrest, trial, scourging, mockery, hanging, and all else that He endured. It helps us remember the anxiety our Savior, all-man as well as all-God (Heb. 5:7). If we comprehend and contemplate its meaning, it can aid our mental preparation for the Lord’s Supper as well as remind us of God’s great love for each of us!

–Neal Pollard

I know of a preacher who inadvertently agreed to preach two revivals at the same time.

Are You Too Committed?

Have you ever over committed yourself? Or been too committed? I know of a preacher who inadvertently agreed to preach two revivals at the same time. On his way to one location, he passed the other and saw his own name on the church marquee advertising that he was beginning a revival with them on that very day. How embarrassing!

From time-to-time, we take on so many commitments that we become frustrated and irritable–I know, it happens to me.

I recently read about a fellow who did just that. He said, “I was snapping at my wife and our children, choking down my food at mealtimes, and feeling irritated at those unexpected interruptions through the day.” He went on to say, “Before long, things around our home started reflecting the pattern of my hurry-up style.” He described how he remembered a particular supper one evening when his daughter needed to discuss something with him that happened at school. Here’s how it went:

She began hurriedly, “Daddy, I wanna tell you somethin’ and I’ll tell you really fast.” Suddenly realizing her frustration, I answered, “Honey, you can tell me–and you don’t have to tell me really fast. Say it slowly.” I’ll never forget her answer: “Then listen slowly.”

Kids really have a way of hitting us right where we live don’t they?

Sometimes, one of the most difficult words to say is “no.”

Listen, Jesus teaches a valuable lesson about overextending ourselves. He says, sometimes you need to pause and take time for yourself–a time for renewal. Remember these words? “Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest awhile: for there were many coming and going, and they had no leisure so much as to eat” (Mk. 6:31).

Perhaps you need to find your “desert place,” and go there to regroup.

Don’t be like one guy I know, who says if I’m relaxing I feel guilty–like I’m wasting time. Rather, take to heart the fact that Jesus says a little alone time is a good thing.

I hope you have a terrific day!

–Neil Richey

We take a mini trip every day

We all hate the “I know I’m forgetting something” feeling. Yet it comes back up at almost every vacation and trip. This is where a packing list comes in handy.

We may not realize it, but we take a mini trip every day. When we wake up, we have to travel through the influences of our world and culture. Too often Christians have inadequately packed for this trip. For this reason, here is an everyday spiritual packing list:

  • Shoes – To help us stand up for what is right (1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 6:13)
  • Nice Clothes – To ensure we present ourselves well to others (1 Peter 2:11-12; Colossians 4:5).
  • Watch – To remind us our time here is limited (Matthew 24:42).
  • Phone – To stay in contact with the most important person in the universe (Philippians 4:6; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
  • Glasses – To clearly see the world for the sinful and temporary place it is (1 John 2:15-17).
  • Blinders – To keep us focused on what is good, and block out what is not (Philippians 4:8).
  • Umbrella – To keep us more comfortable on life’s rainy days (2 Corinthians 1:3-7).
  • Mirror – To help fix flaws we see in ourselves (James 1:22-25).
  • Toothbrush – To ensure clean speech (Colossians 4:6; James 3:1-12).
  • Deodorant and Cologne/Perfume – To ensure we are a sweet fragrance of Christ to those who do not know God (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
  • Vitamins – To keep us healthy (Deuteronomy 5:33).
  • Compass – To keep us traveling in the right direction (2 Peter 1:3).
  • GPS – To navigate through life’s roadblocks and obstacles (Psalm 119:105; Jeremiah 10:23).
  • Sword – To slay false doctrine (Hebrews 4:12; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Armor – To protect us from the Devil’s attacks (Ephesians 6:10-18).
  • Seeds – To place into the hearts of the unbelieving (Matthew 13:1-23).

Navigating through this life can be hard. Let’s make sure we pack well!

–Brett Petrillo

Solomon describes a worthless person as one who spreads strife

Who couldn’t use more of any number of things–money, time, opportunities, friends, etc. Our families would be blessed with an increase of precious memories, traditions, vacations, and even those glorious, ordinary moments together? The nation could use more politicians with courage, public figures with proper, moral convictions, and ordinary citizens whose believe in and love for the God of the Bible were strong enough to turn the tide. The church could use more volunteers, more holiness, more qualified elders, more preachers with backbone and compassion, more programs to accomplish God’s purpose on earth, and that list could go on for a while. But, the church does not need more “strife spreaders.”

“Strife spreaders” are those who spread strife. They may do so openly or clandestinely. They may do so directly or even through innuendo and insinuation. They may do so by peddling their side of a two-sided story. They may do so by stirring up the discontent or dissatisfaction of other members. They may do so through gossip or lying. They may do so through assassinating the character of others, whether elders, deacons, preachers, teachers, or other members.
But, they that do so, do so at a tremendous price! Solomon describes a worthless person as one who spreads strife (Prov. 6:14). Then, he follows that up by speaking of “the seven deadly sins,” things done by man that are hated by God. Last in the list is “one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov. 6:19). Solomon strikes hard at “strife spreaders.” It is fueled by hatred (Prov. 10:12). It is fed by pride and arrogance (Prov. 13:10; 28:25). It is fired by a hot-temper (Prov. 15:18). It is a feature of perversity (Prov. 16:28). It flies from a fool’s lips (Prov. 18:6; 20:3 says, “Any fool will quarrel”). It is a feature of sinful anger (Prov. 29:22; 30:33). None of those verses mentions adultery, fornication, murder, theft, or false teaching, but strife will have done much harm to the souls of men when all is said and done. It is easy enough to spread strife, but it is exceedingly and eternally unwise. Paul warns that those who practice the spreading of strife will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (Gal. 5:20-21). That should be enough warning for all of us to continually be on guard against spreading strife, instead choosing to be those who sow the seed of peace and produce the fruit of righteousness (Jas. 3:18).

–Neal Pollard

Do you know what King David did?

Namesake

It’s difficult to receive correction, isn’t it? It’s easy when being corrected to fall into judging the person’s motives for correcting us, taking offense at the way they corrected us, and searching out inconsistencies and errors in the life of the one correcting us.

But I guess that’s why David was said to be a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14). You see, David faced the stinging rebuke by the prophet, Nathan. In fact, Nathan set him up in such a way that David had to have been humiliated and embarrassed. But what did King David do? Did he criticize Nathan for the way he rebuked him? No. Did he make excuses for his conduct? No. Did he seek out a way to discredit Nathan? No.

Do you know what King David did? He named a son after Nathan! Check it out (1 Chronicles 3:5). Not only did David not take offense at what Nathan did to him, he later named one of his son’s “Nathan.” That’s true humility and reflects a genuine desire to be right with God. David didn’t hate Nathan for his rebuke, he loved him for it.

Friends, those who have the courage to confront you for your own good aren’t worthy of our hatred or vengeance. In fact, in David’s case, his confronter was worthy of “namesake.” Give it some thought.

By Steve Higginbotham

It’s OK to enjoy life’s pleasures

“If you have found honey, eat only enough
for you, lest you have your fill of it and
vomit it. Let your foot be seldom in your
neighbors’ house, lest he have his fill of
you will hate you” (Proverbs 25:16,17, ESV).

A modern proverb has it that after three days, both fish and relatives begin to smell bad. It’s one thing to have one’s relatives for a weekend, and quite another to put up with them, waiting for the shower, eating your food, for months!

The Wise Man suggests that pleasures such as honey and the friendship of neighbors are things we should enjoy, but only in moderation. Too much honey makes you sick, and too much visiting, even with a good friend, makes you unwelcome.

The principle here is that we should have moderation in all things. Is this a timely reminder in our age of overindulgence and greed? “Buy more clothes! Get more toys! Collect more gadgets! Supersize that, will you?”  Our society must be the most self indulgent, undisciplined in history.

It’s OK to enjoy life’s pleasures. It’s not OK to saturate ourselves in them.

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

I don’t like organized religion

Organized Religion

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another”
(Proverbs 27:17, ESV).

“I don’t like organized religion,” the man declared. “I can grow just as close to God watching a sunset as I can singing songs and praying in a church building.”

There are those who feel that they can live their Christianity in isolation from others, that in fact their Christianity might be better for living away from “organized religion” (by this term do they mean “other Christians”?).

I always smile when I hear the term “organized”
religion. Have you ever seen how a church committee functions? It would get done a lot quicker if you just gave the job to the church secretary.

Most churches I know get things done more in spite of their “organization” than because of it! Yet when Christians gather for worship and Bible study, when they talk about good things, wholesome things, and spiritual things, they are helping each other to see God’s will more clearly.

It seems to me that what the speaker was really trying to do was to avoid his responsibilities to others. Is there really such a thing as a Christianity where one lives on a deserted beach, communing in a pure fashion with the Creator, yet never reaching out to help or influence his creation?

The only thing that sharpens iron is iron, and the only thing that sharpens people is people!

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Are WE like Jesus?

. We take pride in birth and rank, but Jesus was simply a carpenter’s son.

. We take pride in possessions, but Jesus said, “The Son of Man has no place to lay His head…”

. We take pride in respectability, but of Jesus it was said, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”

. We take pride in our appearance, but of Jesus it was said, “He has no form or comeliness and when we see
Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”

. We take pride in our reputation, but of Jesus it was said, “Behold, a gluttonous man and a winebibber.”

. We take pride in our friendships, but of Jesus it was said, “He was a friend of publicans and sinners.”

. We take pride in our position, but Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve.”

. We take pride in our success, but of Jesus it was said, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”

. We take pride in our abilities, but Jesus said, “The Son of Man can do nothing of Himself.”

. We take pride in our self-will, but Jesus said, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but
the will of Him who sent Me.

–Source unknown

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me

SOMEONE WHO KNOWS US

Right after World War II, a U.S. Army officer and his wife were stationed in Japan. That country had been devastated by the war. The post-war economy was in shambles. Unemployment approached 60%. People came to the Army wife’s door daily looking for work. One man said that he could do wonders for her garden if she would only give him a chance. So, for the first time in her life, this young Army wife hired a gardener. He spoke no English, but the wife, through sign language and pencil and paper gave him instructions about where to plant, prune, and pamper her garden. He listened politely and followed her instructions exactly. The garden emerged as the finest in the neighborhood.

When she finally realized that her new gardener knew far more about the matter than she, the wife stopped giving him directions and let him freely care for the garden. It was magnificent. Then one day the gardener came with an interpreter who expressed the appreciation but the regrets of the gardener. “He will no longer be able to care for your garden. He must leave.”

The wife expressed her regrets and thanked him through the interpreter for making hers such a fine garden. Out of politeness, she asked the interpreter, “Where is he going?”

The interpreter replied that the gardener was returning to his old job as the Professor of Horticulture at the University of Tokyo.

Can you imagine the look that must have been on that Army wife’s face when she discovered, that her gardener was the university professor of horticulture? No wonder he knew so much about gardening! Imagine having someone at your disposal with that amount of knowledge. What a beautiful lawn I could have!

And yet, we have something far greater that we often take for granted. We have someone who has that kind of intimate knowledge about everything in our lives — He knows our purpose, He knows what brings us joy, He knows what we need to do to be fulfilled in life. And He’s close enough to us that He’s willing to listen to us and communicate to us. Imagine taking advantage of having someone with that amount of knowledge. What a beautiful life I could have!

“O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways…Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” (Psalm 139:1-3,6)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Life without God is like trying to dribble with a football

Today I read the statement, “Life without God is like trying to dribble with a football.”  Have you ever tried to dribble a football?  Most of us would only get a bounce or two in before the ball would bounce off in a different direction.  Dribbling with a football is strange and awkward.  It’s simply not made for dribbling.  A basketball, on the other hand, is the perfect ball for dribbling.  It’s round and even.  It bounces back up into your hand.  It’s relatively easy and effortless to dribble with.  This is what it’s made for.

Everyday people go through their lives without God.  The problem is, these same people are fruitlessly searching for the meaning of life.  They turn to money, possessions, drugs, and sex before soon finding out it wasn’t the answer.  Can life be lived without following God?  Yes.  But that life will be empty, awkward, meaningless, and will result in eternal consequences (Matthew 7:21-23).

Solomon also experimented with all the pleasures life had to offer.  He had houses, vineyards, gardens, and other property.  He had flocks and herds.  He had many wives, concubines, and servants.  Not to mention, he had an absurd amount of gold, silver, and other precious materials.  He was extremely wealthy and prosperous.  But what was his response to all this?  “It’s all vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3).  It’s all pointless.

Everything we have is a moment closer to being destroyed by fire in the end (2 Peter 3:7, 10).  We can’t take any of it with us.  All that matters is our relationship with the Lord.  Life without the Lord is burdensome, hard, and awkward.  It takes terrible bounces without warning and leaves us feeling empty and exhausted.  Life without God is like trying to hammer in a screw.  It’s like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  It’s like trying to dribble with a football.  On the other hand, life with the Lord feels light and guilt free, it feels natural, and well, it just feels good!  God made us to serve Him.  This is what we were made for!

No one in their right mind wants to participate in pointless activities.  So why continue this life without the Lord?  There is nothing more awkward and unnatural than life without God.  Let’s quit battling in ourselves and resisting Him.  Because in the end, there is no better use of our time and effort, there is nothing more natural, and there is nothing more valuable than following the Lord (Matthew 16:24-26).

Brett Petrillo

Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people

 We Should Be Ashamed

“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 NKJV).

There are organizations who keep watch on governments throughout the world, tabulating evidence of dishonesty and corruption. Lists are published of “the most corrupt governments” each year.

For several years now one of the nations I visit regularly has been at or near the “top” of that list (or perhaps the most corrupt should be considered to be at the bottom).

I have noticed with interest that whenever I mention that fact among seasoned travelers, they almost invariably respond in ways similar to this: “If you think they are corrupt you ought to go to _______ (any number of countries might be named here). They are really crooked there.”

It is not only visitors who claim top ranking for a nation; often its own citizens are quick to make their claim to the title of most corrupt. One begins to wonder, are we proud of our dishonesty? Are bribe takers, perverters of justice, embezzlers, and other dishonest leaders our heroes?

Sometimes it would appear so. Not only do many seem to take a perverted pride in the dishonesty of their elected officials but they also aspire to some such office themselves, or at least to help their children achieve it, so they can participate in and benefit from the system.

We need to be reminded, “Sin is a reproach to any people.” There is nothing admirable nor beneficial about dishonesty. Corruption destroys society. No nation can long survive the continued abuse of justice and the deprivations of a dishonest leadership. It will become bankrupt not only of money, but of trust, productivity, and character.

What is true of nations is also true of churches, families, or any other social institution. Success depends upon trust among its members. One must be able to depend upon others to fulfill their roles and to serve the common interest of all; not just his own personal ambitions.

Recently I spoke with a businessman who lamented his advanced age and declining health, and described his difficulties with his business. He had just dismissed two employees for theft, and said it was almost impossible to find anyone to work whom he could trust.

His business could not continue under such conditions.

Small businesses are obviously vulnerable to the greed and dishonesty of only a few such employees. We may assume however that nations can absorb the occasional thief without much harm. That is simply not the case.

Sin is shameful. It is a cancer which eats away at the strength and health of any organization or person and will ultimately destroy it.

Let us learn once again this truth. Let us “abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9).

Righteousness exalts – sin shames. The choice is clear.

–by Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

Nepal Earthquakes: A Sign Of The End?

Just a few weeks ago Nepal was hit with a massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake. It devastated the nation, causing enormous damage, injuring more than 18,000 and killing more than 8,000. Today, they were struck with another 7.3 magnitude earthquake. 30 minutes later, a 6.3 hit as well. So far at least 1,200 have been injured and 68 killed. Without a doubt, we should pray diligently for these people.

Among the damage and devastation, there are some who believe these earthquakes are signs that the end of the world is near. They point to Matthew 24:7 and how it speaks of “famines and earthquakes.” Doomsayers claim all the warnings of Matthew 24 are signs that the end of the world is coming. Are they right? Are the earthquakes we see warnings of the end?

It’s very helpful to look at the context of Matthew 24. Jesus and His disciples are walking through Jerusalem looking at the buildings (vs. 1), when Jesus throws in a twist, “And He said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down'” (vs. 2).

Jesus just revealed that Jerusalem was going to be destroyed! This was obviously going to raise some questions. Notice verse 3, “As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?'” The disciples are asking three questions here: (1) When will these things [the destruction of Jerusalem] happen, (2) what will be the sign of your coming [in judgment against Jerusalem], and (3) what will be the sign of the end of the age [the end of the world].

In verses 4-35, Jesus answers the first two questions about the destruction of Jerusalem. He tells them they will see several signs that destruction is coming (vs. 4-14). One of which are earthquakes (vs. 7). These earthquakes have nothing to do with the end of the world, and everything to do with the destruction of Jerusalem. In fact, this is why He goes on to say, “woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days” (vs. 19). This is also why He says they should pray that it does not happen in the winter or on the Sabbath (vs. 20). If this is talking about the end of the world, why would it matter if someone was pregnant or nursing? If this is talking about the end of the world, why would it matter if it was in the winter? This make no sense for the end of the world, but perfect sense if the city is about to be destroyed and they need to flee for their lives. Doing so while pregnant, nursing, or during the winter would make things very challenging.

Verses 4-35 specifically address the destruction of Jerusalem, but then notice the major shift in vs. 36, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Jesus is clearly talking about something very different. He is now addressing the final question about the end of the world. Several times Jesus points out that there are no signs of this event and no one except God knows when it will occur (vs. 36-44). If verses 4-35 were talking about the end of the world as people claim, then they would directly contradict vs. 36-44. Obviously verses 4-35 address the Destruction of Jerusalem, and 36-44 addresses the Judgment Day.

To boil it down, the earthquakes Nepal is experiencing right now are terrible, but they have absolutely nothing to do with the end of the world. Let’s make no mistake, however, the judgment day is coming, we just don’t know exactly when and there will be no warning signs (vs. 36-44). So, let’s make sure we’re always spiritually ready (vs. 45-51).

Brett Petrillo

We often live for months, even years, in which we experience nothing but good things

Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither; the Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord—Job 1:20-21

Satan was given permission to use his powers to induce Job to curse God. His efforts to do so brought financial ruin to Job. That effort on the part of Satan also brought upon Job what must be the deepest, most agonizing pain and grief of heart known to man, the death of his sons and daughters. Yet even in the darkest hour of his life, Job held firm to his faith in God. Satan’s efforts to induce Job to curse God only led Job to bless the name of the Lord. Job was a man with an attitude of total submission to God’s will. He is a great example of a man with a sustaining faith and in this he becomes a great example for you and I.

We often live for months, even years, in which we experience nothing but good things. O, to be sure there are always those momentary aches, pains and burdens of life but nothing devastating. Then one day it happens, some horrific event comes crashing into our life. What will we do? How will we respond? It now becomes a question of how deeply we have been willing to submit ourselves to God’s will (Rom. 8:28, 31, 35-39, Psalms 23, James 4:6-10). When tragic events strike our human frame, they bring grief and pain and cause us to hurt. But for one who has submitted totally to God’s will it will never be a question of why did this happen. There are so many things that happen in this life that I do not understand why they happen but one thing I do know, so long as I love and serve my God with all my being he will take care of me and he will do the same for each of you (1 Pet. 5:7). The words of Isaiah 40:31 have come to mean a lot to me: “But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary and they shall walk and not faint”. Friends, it is not the tragic events of life that cause us to falter, it is how we handle those events that determines whether we fail or rise to greater heights of faith. The storms of life will not overcome us if we allow the power of God to lift us above them.

I am human, I am flawed, I am fragile—so are you. When everything seems to be chaos, when our hearts are pained so deeply it seems as if all is lost, I pray ours will be a sustaining faith just like Job of old. Don’t panic, pray (1 Thess. 5:17, Phil. 4:6-7, Heb. 4:16). Recognizing how great our God is will impart to us the strength and courage needed to sustain us all the way every day.

Charles Hicks

New York City has the highest numbered street in America

The fathers of New York City were trying to plan for growth.  They figured the city was going to grow, but they just weren’t sure how much.  So, they decided to go on the liberal side and give themselves more room than they thought they would need.  The city already had six or seven numbered streets, and so they expanded it all the way out to 19th Street.  The named 19th Street “Boundary Street,” because they were sure New York City would never get larger than that.  Today, New York City has the highest numbered street in America, numbering all the way to 271st Street.  Clearly New York grew much larger then they ever could have imagined.

It is interesting how we place hard boundaries and expectations on things.  We feel we have limitations we can’t exceed.  We do it in our own lives, we do it to others, and we do it in the church.  Too often I see people give up on growth and improvements because they have made up in their minds that they have reached their limits.  People seem to limit themselves long before their actual boundaries even come into sight.  As one man said, “Know your limits, but never accept them” (Anonymous).

Keep in mind that God works through faithful Christians and God is not bound by limitations.  There is no telling how much God will expand our congregations and our own abilities.  The last thing we should do is sabotage our own growth by limiting ourselves.

These powerful words of Ephesians 3:20-21 have never been more true: “Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.”

–Brett Petrillo

Rejection makes us vulnerable

Bikers Galore: Radical Grace from the Book of Romans (1:5)

After a hike up the turkey path, in Leonard Harrison State Park, Pennsylvania, I was approached by a woman on a motorbike. She was clothed like so many of the bikers in the region, in jeans and a leather jacket. As she took her helmet off her head, I noticed tattoos all over her arms.

She seemed eager to talk, and she told us she had visited Watkins Glenn, NY that same morning. She was now at Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon, and by evening she hoped to explore Pennsylvania Route 666. She had a goal, and was determined to achieve it.

She said that the night before she had been unable to find lodging, so she had spent the night in a cemetery. You and I might think this is creepy, but at least she was in the company of those who do not snore at night. She said it didn’t bother her, she slept well, and that’s all that was important to her.

I was surprised when I heard that although there was a bikers’ convention going on in the region, she indicated that the bikers ignored her. She was not part of their “group”, and was thus not welcome. I could see she felt lonely. Perhaps this is why she sought our company! When she left for her next destination, she waved at us with a big smile.

It’s amazing how people open up when they feel accepted. There is a hunger in each one of us to find acceptance. Rejection makes us vulnerable. Acceptance makes us bloom, it makes us feel good about ourselves.

I find it strange that the One who unconditionally accepts us is the One most people try to avoid. Would we be able to boldly say: “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37 NIV)?

We all have people in our lives who we try to avoid at all cost. There’s Aunt Augusta, for example, who constantly spits in your face when talking, or Uncle John who bickers about everything. There is also your school friend Henrietta who talks like a locomotive speeding through the prairies. And the list goes on. We always tend to reject others if they don’t quit fit our mold.

But not Jesus! He accepts anyone unconditionally. This is what God calls grace. His love for us goes way beyond accepting us with open arms. You see, we may at times accept people in our lives that may be annoying, but how willing would we be to take the punishment of the crimes that they committed?

Yet this is what Jesus did! And He did it without hesitation! That’s grace, real grace!

“Through him and for his name’s sake, we received grace.” (Rom 1:5 NIV)

“He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:2 NIV)

If we are feeling rejected by those around us, and discouragement roams the hallways of our minds, may we remember that there is One who will accept us unconditionally.

“Whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” (John 6:37 NIV)

“By the way, do you know of a good cemetery where I could sleep?”

How will we respond?

“I have another tent with me. Why don’t you join us at our campground?”

Rob Chaffart

The day of one’s death is better then the day of one’s birth

DEATH IS BETTER THAN BIRTH

I suppose that most of us would prize birth and abhor death. With a birth there is optimism and anticipation. Death is bleak, depressing and mysterious. So why does Solomon say that death is better than birth?

First, death brings an end to a life well lived. Solomon will note later (7:8) that the “end of a matter is better than its beginning.”

In the Parable of the Talents, when the master returned he noted with two of his slaves that they had done well (Matt. 25:21, 23). Paul looked over his life with satisfaction, knowing he had lived well (2 Tim. 4:8). Obviously death is not “better” if the wife was lived for self. But if it was lived for God, death is a “victory” (1 Cor. 15:57).

Second, death brings rest and the end of suffering. Solomon frequently bemoaned widespread oppression and injustice (3:16; 4:1; 5:8; 7:7). It is a sad state of affairs that men continue to mistreat others. With death one no longer has to deal with mistreatment. Solomon says, “better…is the one…who has never seen the evil activity that is done under the sun” (4:3). However, if one is evil, death will be no escape whatsoever (Matt. 10:28). But for the righteous, death brings rest (Heb. 4:1; Rev. 21:4).

Frequently at funerals there are many tears and much sorrow. Yet, considering Solomon’s words, this death is better than the day of birth.

–Denny Petrillo

13,000 stolen diapers

Diaper Thieves

I get it. Being the father of two young children who have filled diapers with the best of them, I understand the unending, insatiable need for diapers. The thought of stealing diapers, however, is about as petty as it gets. Nevertheless, last year the Diaper Bank of North Carolina had 13,000 diapers stolen. Apparently the thieves aren’t even planning to put them to “good” use on their own children (if they have any). The diapers are showing up at garage sales and on the streets for $4 per package, bringing a potential profit of $24,000 from the 6,000 stolen diaper packages (Fox News).

It’s sad to think about the petty sins people commit. If they weren’t already, these thieves’ souls are now in eternal jeopardy for stealing diapers! These crooks are apparently willing to throw heaven away just to make a few bucks and possibly cover a few baby bottoms (1 Corinthians 6:9-11).

Sometimes a little perspective is in order. Are stolen diapers worth eternal punishment? If this sounds completely and utterly ridiculous, then we get the point — no sin is worth going to hell for (Luke 16:19-31).

It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of a tempting moment (James 1:14-15). We can lie and convince ourselves the most silly and ridiculous sins are actually worth it. We can persuade ourselves into thinking the sin really isn’t all that bad. No matter what we tell ourselves, there is never, ever a sin that is worth risking the eternal reward of heaven (Revelation 21:10-27; 22:1-5).

Brett Petrillo

There was once a man who owned a general store

Brass Tacks

Mike Schneider writes: There was once a man who owned a general store. In this store was a wooden counter over which all merchandise passed. Nailed to the top of that counter were two brass tacks, supposedly 36 inches apart, which were used for years to measure everything sold by the yard. The man was a good, honest, and respectable citizen. He operated his business as uprightly as he knew how.

When the man died, his son took over the business, carrying on the honest traditions of his father. One day a salesman came into the store and pitched a yardstick onto the counter. When the yardstick slid across the surface and bumped into both of the tacks, that young man suddenly faced the greatest decision of his life. Though he was by no means looking for fault in his father, the reality gripped him that his father’s standard of measure had been one inch short for over 30 years! The knowledge of this truth now laid a heavy responsibility on the son.

If he corrected the error, moving one of the brass tacks to the proper distance, a mark would be left on the counter for all to see. By doing the honest thing, the young man stood in jeopardy of tarnishing his father’s honest reputation. But if he left the tacks as they were, he would be guilty of doing something his father never did – deliberately selling people short. You see, his father never knew he was in error, but the young man did! *

What do you think? Should the son move the tacks?

Many people find themselves in a similar circumstance when they consider obeying the Gospel. The Bible teaches that in order to have our sins washed away by the blood of Jesus and to receive the gift of eternal life, we must place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16).

Schneider points out that “By conceding that baptism is indeed a necessary step toward salvation, or by conceding some other doctrinal point, [some] feel that they may be condemning their parents who were in error on these issues. But, by trying to justify their departed parents, these people become guilty of a sin their parents would never have committed – intentionally refusing to obey the commands of the Lord! This is a case where two wrongs certainly do not make a right!”

“It is not ours to pass judgment upon those who have finished their course. It does not change present circumstances to believe they served the Lord to the best of their ability, even as we hope to do. As Paul said, ‘Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls’ (Romans 14:4). The eternal abode of our departed friends is beyond our control – they are in the hands of a faithful judge. But our lives are yet to be lived and our decisions are yet to be made on the basis of our knowledge, not theirs.”

Schneider concludes: “I hope the young man moved the tack – I think his father would be pleased!”

The Heavenly Father will also be pleased if WE place our trust in Him and act upon His instructions as to how to have our sins washed away by the blood of Jesus and to live for Him.

Won’t YOU?

David A. Sargent

Christianity Versus Other Religions

“I find it far more rational to regard the universe itself as the ultimate revelation of God and to agree with [Johannes] Kepler that in the most fundamental sense, science is theology and thereby serves as another method for the discovery of God” (399, emphasis in orig.). So ends Dr. Rodney Stark’s book Discovering God: The Origins of the Great Religions and the Evolution of Belief. Dr. Stark taught comparative religion for years, mainly at the University of Washington.

In his chapter on Christianity, Stark discusses four “unavoidable concerns” that deal with the New Testament Scriptures. Their historical reliability, the sources of the accounts, their falsifiability, and why some writings were excluded.

After briefly dealing with the New Testament’s critics, Stark writes: “…the major results of the many unrelenting scholarly attacks on the historical reliability of the New Testament has been to frustrate the attackers because again and again scripture has stood up to their challenges. For one thing, the New Testament provides a very accurate geography, not only of Israel, but of the Roman Empire” (296).

On the subject of the reliable transmission of the New Testament, Stark focuses on the Gospel accounts and the so-called “Q” source which, supposedly, is a source quoted and cited by anonymous men who called themselves “Matthew,” “Mark,” and “Luke.” “Q” is short of the German word Quelle which means “source.”

Stark concludes, referring to the Jesus Seminar: “their approved list [is] becoming shorter and more trivial. Fortunately, more objective scholars have begun to reject the whole Q enterprise as misguided and futile. In summary: there are no compelling reasons to believe that ‘problems’ of transmission distorted the Gospels. …Hence, the reliability of the Gospels really comes down to a question of truthfulness” (302).

So what about the Scriptures being fraudulent? Changed over the years? The oldest existing copy of Julius Caesar’s work The Gallic War dates to about 900 A. D. Caesar died in 44 B. C.! The Gallic War consists of seven volumes, each covering a year in his campaign in Gaul. Observe that the oldest dates to 900 years after his death! The same is true with the ancient historical work of Tacitus. But the New Testament? There are many papyri which date to the second or third century after the completion of the New Testament. One or two hundred years after its completion! Plus, many so-called “church fathers” quote much of the New Testament and some of them date very close to the time of the apostle John.

On why some writings – like the Gospel of Judas – were excluded by the early Christians, Stark writes, “the early Church fathers were correct to dismiss these texts as ill-conceived heresies. …it is closer to the truth to say that they were ignored and discarded. …the representative Gnostic works include almost no historical or geographical content and take place in an ‘enchanted’ setting typical of pagan ‘mythology’” (325/6).

So, Stark concludes: “at the very least, the New Testament provides a truthful and reliable account of what the first generation of Christians believed to have taken place” (305).

Clearly, Dr. Stark, himself, has given us reason to make a much stronger statement of faith than just that. The New Testament scriptures are absolutely reliable. There is no reason to believe they are “compilations” by second, third, or later century writers. Plus, our oldest manuscripts date to very close to the original authors.

Certainly, God has provided us with the right amount of evidence – quantitatively and qualitatively – to believe that the New Testament (and Old, for that matter) is inspired of God so that we might trust its message – to the saving of our souls.

–Paul Holland

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