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I was a stranger, and ye took me NOT in

Being a local preacher, I do not get to “fill the role” of unknown guest at a congregation very often. Last night, I did. I attended what appeared to be an average congregation, with a mix of ages and of apparent middle-class status. The quality of the Bible class was very good, and there was considerable participation from the members. I was a couple of minutes late, and I chose a random seat. After the class and before a brief devotional, a middle-aged woman asked if I was visiting. She was pleasant, and the conversation went until the devotional began. After the last amen, the lady thanked me for coming. I reached out my hand to greet a couple of others, and a young man near the rear of the building greeted me, asking if I was a visitor. The man who taught the class, who appeared to be the local preacher, asked if I was a visitor. I said yes, and he told me to come again.

By personality, I am considered an extrovert. While the weariness of a long day of travel may have affected my outlook, I believe my assessment is not too inaccurate. Despite the refreshing friendliness of a couple of members, the vast majority of those present passed by me. They did not inquire about me, try to find out about me, and none tried to ascertain whether or not I was a member of the church. Had I been of a mind, I could have easily slipped in and out without notice.

This is not an indictment of a single congregation in one area of the county. In the last few years, the same thing has occurred in other states. My perspective is not one of hypersensitivity, as my feelings were not at all hurt. My concern is for legitimate “strangers” at our assemblies. In most congregations, especially in urban areas, “drop ins” from our community are common, if not weekly, occurrences. Each one has an eternal soul for which Jesus died and which should intensely matter to each of us. It concerns me that on the Great Day, before our Just Judge, our Lord will have taken note of our stewardship of these precious opportunities only to say, “I was a stranger, and ye took me not in.” May it never be!

Neal Pollard

Bible study on godliness In 1 Timothy

• We are to be godly in relationship to the world (2:1-7)

• We are to be godly in relationship to our roles in the church, men and then women (2:8-15)

• We are to be godly in relationship to the church by leadership (3:1-13)

• We are to be godly in relationship to Christ (3:13-16)

• We are to be godly in relationship to doctrine (4:1-6)

• We are to be godly in relationship to priorities (4:7-16)

• We are to be godly in relationship to family matters (5:1-16)–specific here is widow care and her need to be godly

• We are to be godly in relationship to leaders by members (5:17-26)

• We are to be godly in relationship to financial matters (6:1-19)

• We are to be godly in relationship to self (6:20-21)

–Neal Pollard

Bad things happen when we are not paying attention

Pay Attention

A man was killed on the local freeway recently. Police report that he first got his car entangled in the cable barrier in the median. He managed to get out safely, but he then walked into oncoming traffic – all the while talking on his cell phone!

This article is not about how distracting and dangerous cell phones are to drivers. It is about allowing ourselves to be distracted on the journey through life. Bad things happen when we are not paying attention, among them…

Sin. “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Satan is subtle. He tries to catch us off guard. If we are not careful, sin is the result, with all its ugly consequences. 1 Corinthians 10:12 sounds a warning to overconfident brethren who think they can toy with temptation and not be affected: “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall.”

Lost Opportunities. “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). What if we are not looking for those opportunities? What if we are focused mostly on self? We will be goats in Jesus’ shepherd picture of judgment: “Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?” (Matt. 25:44). The goats went to eternal punishment (v. 46).

False Teaching. Paul warned the Ephesian elders, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert…” (Acts 20:29-31).

Our shepherds must be watchful, yet each of us is responsible to avoid the wolves. John wrote, “For many deceivers have gone out into the world… Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward” (2 John 7-8).

Lack of Readiness. “Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42). May God help us all not to be distracted by the scenery or “fall asleep at the wheel” in His service.

– by Frank Himmel

When the Devil begins to pick on some Christians …

We’ll See You After School!

When I was in third grade, I had two boys threaten to beat me up after school one day. They were the Ciccarelli twins – tough guys (it still sends a cold chill down my spine even when I type their name!) I couldn’t understand it. Why did these boys want to beat up a charming, precious little third-grader (according to my mother)? It didn’t make sense to me; I barely knew them. But one thing I knew was that they were going to be waiting for me after school.

And sure enough, after school there they stood waiting. However, I had all day to think about their threat and I took action. I rounded up all my friends, and we all walked home from school together. In fact, we walked right past the Ciccarelli brothers, and they didn’t say a word.

Now, to the point of this story. Why is it that a third-grader may know how to deal with bullying and opposition better than grown Christians? What do I mean? Well, when the Devil begins to pick on some Christians, and make their lives difficult, what’s one of the first things that some Christians do? They stop attending church services. They withdraw from everyone. Instead of drawing on the strength of their brothers and sisters in Christ, they choose to face their enemy all alone.

As a third-grader, I knew that I was going to get “beat up” if I was found all by myself. So I surrounded myself with friends, and avoided the beating. Seems there’s a lesson in there for us.

By Steve Higginbotham

karma and the Bible

I don’t know what has been in the water the last year or two, but it seems like more and more people are beginning to believe in karma. What is karma? It is the belief that a deed we do will directly affect our future. In other words, if I do something bad, then bad things will happen to me, if I do something good, then good things will happen to me. For example, a person told the story about her friend who decided to help a blind man cross the street. Later that day the friend bought a lottery ticket and won a nice chunk of cash. The claim is that this lady brought “good karma” on herself by helping the blind man.

For whatever reason, people are buying into this mindset. There are thousands of testimonies online of people telling about karma in their lives. It’s even been seen in the sports world lately as well. The question is, does the Bible support the idea of karma?

There certainly are similarities to the karma mindset in Scripture. Here are just a few:
– “…Those who plow iniquity and those who sow trouble harvest it” (Job 4:8).
– “…Whatever a man sows, this he will also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
– “…Treat people the same way you want them to treat you…” (Matthew 7:12).

Clearly Scripture has similar concepts to karma, but by no means does this show that Scripture supports karma. First of all, there are tons of passages about bad things happening to good people and vise-avers (Job 21:6-7; Psalm 73; Jeremiah 12:1-4; Habakkuk 1:13; etc). This is a direct contradiction of karma. Secondly, we can look at men like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, and the Apostles and see the difficulties they had to endure even though they were righteous. Not to mention the most righteous and holy person, Jesus Christ, endured more suffering and pain than we can fathom. Third, karma is directly associated with Buddhism, Hinduism, and Sikhism. These aren’t biblical teachings. People who support the idea of karma, knowingly or unknowingly, are supporting these religious philosophies. Fourth, karma is similar to our culture’s mindset. Our society is very accepting and tolerant. Karma goes along with our flawed culture’s mindset of, “if I’m a good person, I will go to heaven.” This isn’t what Scripture teaches (Matthew 7:21).

Karma is really just a “feel-good” philosophy that only works in a perfect, “cookie-cutter” type world. We do not live in such a world. This life is much more than “being a good person” or “doing good deeds,” as karma and our culture suggest. In some ways karma is just the newest excuse for people to live according to their own standards. While we should strive to be a good person and do good things, above everything else we must strive to be obedient to God and live by His standards (1 John 2:3-6).

Brett Petrillo

Toxic food will cause more than heartburn

We’ve all done this: Eat a really good meal at a restaurant, note that “this chicken may have a little garlic in it,” and feel the garlic pour out of our pores for the next twenty-four hours.

We are what we eat.

More serious effects come from long-time eating habits, too. A steady diet of Hostess Cupcake Twinkies apparently is not good for you. Nor is a regular diet of deep-fried everything. Balance is important, as are fresh fruit and vegetables.

Nutrition for the mind is also important:

“Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of
life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger,
and whoever believes on me shall never
thirst'” (John 6:35).

Bread is essential for life. We must have it to live.

Even in modern speech this language is used:

We devour a book. We drink in a television program (a good one, any way). We swallow a story hook-line-and sinker. We chew over a difficult saying. We can (or cannot) stomach what someone says We must eat our own words.

All of these statements indicate that what we dwell on —our mental nutrition– is important. What we read, what we hear, these things affect us, perhaps for an eternity. Beware of a diet of spiritual junk food.

Though some reading may be sweet to the taste, it might also be as insubstantial as Hostess Ding Dongs and insufficient to build good, healthy Christian character.

Conversations, too, can be either healthy, or not.
Negative people may be worse than junk food; they may be toxic.

So what do you read?
What kind of television programming do you watch?
What do you read on the internet?
Is it healthy?

Do you listen admiringly to a negative, critical person as if he is some spiritual guru with all the answers for the church (they frequently have criticisms; rarely helpful suggestions)? Is yours a spiritual diet of continual criticism of the church, its leaders, and its endeavors to serve God?

Beware. This toxic food will cause more than heartburn; it may affect your eternal life.

by Stan Mitchell

A fine of $1,500 and 120 days of house arrest

The Costliness of Shortcuts

William Ray writes the following:

You may have heard about the man who, in September of 2003, decided to ship himself from New York City to Dallas—in a wooden crate! He somehow packed himself in the crate. The crate journeyed by truck, plane, and delivery van—until it finally arrived at his parents’ house. Then he began to break out of the box. When the authorities caught up to him, he explained that he was homesick. He thought it would be cheaper to get home by crate, rather than buy a ticket like everybody else.

What did he get for his troubles? A fine of $1,500 and 120 days of house arrest. At the cost of the fine, he could have purchased four roundtrip tickets to see his parents. How much simpler, and cheaper, it would have been to do the right thing in the first place.

We’re always looking for shortcuts. We want a shortcut to financial success. We’ll cut corners on home improvements to save a dollar or two. Let’s face it, we’re in an eBay, Amazon, Craigslist world where it’s becoming increasingly less of an ordeal to save money and time to get/do what we want.

However, this just won’t work when it comes to our salvation. Instead, if we try to cut corners to get to heaven, then we’ll have an eternal house arrest to think about how it would have been much easier to just do what God said to do.

God’s way is not always simple, but it’s the only way! Are you following his way? Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6).

–Neil Richey

What is wrong with the world?

When a London newspaper asked its readers to respond to the question, “What is wrong with the world,” the editor received a reply from philosopher G.K.
Chesterton. It read: “Dear sir, I am.”

Just because it is a cliche doesn’t make it any less true; a better world does begin with me. As does a better community, a better marriage, and a better church.

It is so much easier to complain and criticize than it is to build and strengthen. They don’t build monuments for critics. Critics don’t write great literature, or create art, or even good government. They simply jeer at the sincere, best efforts of those who build.

So what’s wrong with the world? Probably not G.K.
Chesterton, or at least it wasn’t entirely his fault.
Yet he realized that for the world to improve, for it to change, he must act himself to make it so.

We used to sing a song as children — “Brighten the Corner Where You Are.”

“Let your light shine before men that they
may see your good works and glorify your
father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

There’s a lot of darkness out there. Are you adding to the light, or dampening the fire of others? This much is true: there are two kinds of people in the world, or the church: The givers and the takers.

It’s OK to be a taker if you are a child. But even children grow to make their contribution.

So what’s wrong with the world? Any suggestions?

by Stan Mitchell

How quickly the time has gone!

THE FLEETING YEARS

I read two humorous stories lately with a similar theme:

A 5-five-year-old boy was discussing with his father some of the differences between their childhoods. The father pointed out that when he was young, he didn’t have things such as Nintendo, cellphones, computers or digital cameras.

He realized just how huge the generation gap was when his son asked him, “Did you have fruit?”

—————————————-

A 12-year-old girl asked her mother, “Mom, do you have a baby picture of yourself? I need it for a school project.” Her mother gave her one without thinking to ask what the project was.

A few days later she was in the classroom for a parent-teacher meeting when she noticed her face pinned to a mural the students had created. The title of their project was “The oldest thing in my house.”

—————————————–

I am always amazed at how young people view those who are older. I can remember when I was in my early 20’s (35 years ago!) thinking of a couple at church as being very old, almost ancient. That couple is in their 80’s today, which means that 35 years ago…….they were a lot younger than I am now! I can’t help but wonder, is that how young people view me? Do they think that I am very old, almost ancient? Needless to say, my perspective of what constitutes “really old” has changed through the years.

I’m also amazed at how our perspective on the passing of time changes as we get older. Looking ahead as a young man, it seemed as if being in my 50’s was an eternity away. Now, looking back, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was in my 20’s. How quickly the time has gone! And every year seems to pass with even more speed.

Peter was so right when he said, “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away…” (I Peter 1:24). Job put it this way: “We grow up like flowers and then dry up and die. We are like a passing shadow that does not last.” (Job 14:2, NCV).

The glories of this life are indeed fading and before we know it, they will be gone. Which would be depressing if it were not for the realization that those who are in Christ have an inheritance waiting for us “that does not fade away” (I Peter 1:4).

So, while you are on this earth, make good use of your time (as short as it may be). It will be gone before you know it. But make sure you live your life in a way that gives you something to look forward to when this life is over.

Have a great day! (especially you “really old” people in your 80’s!) :)

Alan Smith

And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgment

Are we prepared for the end of the world? If Jesus were to return today would we be ready? Where would we end up if we died today? Reader, would we spend an eternity in Abraham’s bosom or in torment (Luke 16:19-31)?

These questions should be on the minds of every person in this world. It is a reality that either we will face the returning Messiah or we will die and make the transition from this realm into the next.

“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to
die once and after this comes the judgment,”
(Hebrews 9:27).

The key is where we want to spend eternity. This is a personal choice that each and every person must make for themselves. There are only two choices: heaven or the abyss.

Are we prepared to live eternally with our choice?

Individuals who choose to spend eternity in the heavenly abode with our Lord must accept God’s grace.
It is the offer of salvation through the blood of Christ that was shed on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 5:8-9).

God has prepared a way for the sinner to receive forgiveness of their sins and that is through the blood of Jesus (Colossians 1:13-14; Hebrews 9:22). It is imperative that we seek God’s way of salvation from his inspired word (Romans 10:17; Matthew 7:24-25).

This knowledge from God’s word should lead the individual to not only a belief in the Lord but in an active faith (Hebrews 11:6; John 20:30-31). From our faith there should come the desire to change our life (repentance) and to conform it to God’s will (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).

This change should lead us to the declaration
(confession) that Jesus is the LORD of their lives (Matthew 10:32-33; Romans 10:9-10). From this we must come in contact with the saving blood of Jesus by being baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21).

But it does not end there. We have the imperative that we live a faithful life to God (Revelation 2:10; Matthew 10:22; 1 Corinthians 15:58). It is there that we will spend an eternity in the heavenly abode (Revelation 22:14).

Those who chose to spend eternity with Satan and his minions in the abyss are those who reject God’s way of salvation.

The apostle Paul gives several listings of activities chosen by those who desire to spend eternity away from God (Galatians 5:19-21).

Sadly, some people have been tricked into believing they are living God’s way.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’
will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who
does the will of My Father who is in heaven
will enter. “Many will say to Me on that
day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in
Your name, and in Your name cast out demons,
and in Your name perform many miracles?’
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never
knew you; depart from me, you who practice
lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23).

The answer to the question can only be answered on an individual basis. Where do we want to spend eternity?
The choice is ours.

When we stand before the judgment seat of God will we be pleased with our choice?

by John E. Werhan @ www.forthright.net

The pleasure and thrill of sin

“You erected your shrine at the head of every road, and built your high place in every street. Yet you were not like a harlot, because you scorned payment” (Ezekiel
16:31 NKJV).

The world continues to be filled with sin and evil.
Murders, wars, corruption, and all manner of perversions fill our news and our entertainment media.
In many cases one may see motive and some element of logic in immoral actions. In others we shake our heads and wonder, “What were they thinking? Why would anyone do that?”

The prophet Ezekiel relates God’s wonderment at Israel’s rebellion. She had become unfaithful to him, like a wife committing adultery against her husband. He compares her to a harlot (prostitute) which many in “respectable society” would consider the epitome of immorality. But they were even more immoral because their actions were not for any logical or material benefit. They did evil simply because they enjoyed it.

Sin promises pleasure. Whenever we see it depicted in commercials, movies, or other media it is presented with gaiety, fun, and alluring circumstances. We are enticed to enjoy ourselves and forget about any consequences.

Philosophers and anthropologists continue to debate whether humans have an innate moral sense, or whether all behavioral patterns are learned. Whatever the truth is regarding that, there is undoubtedly a natural tendency towards irresponsibility to which many submit.

Paul described dangerous times which would come: “For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:2-5).

This may be a prophecy of a distinct period of human history, and if so, it may have already been fulfilled.
Undeniably, however, it also describes some people who live or have lived at any particular time. Some are just like that, living only for themselves and for immediate sensual gratification. Wickedness, if you will, just for its own sake.

The Bible calls us to a better understanding of life.
There is more to it than physical pleasures or selfish indulgence. We are, and can be, much more than that.
Man has both body and spirit (Genesis 2:7, Romans 8:10). When life is lived only in regard to our material nature the result is tragic loss of that which is most important (Romans 8:5-11).

As spiritual , humans have the potential for communion with God and an eternal relationship. Jesus came “. . .
that [we] might have life, and that [we] might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). He taught, “One’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). That statement may be further applied to say, “Life does not consist only of the physical experiences which one has.”

The fact is that sin’s promises are never fulfilled, and wickedness for its own pleasure will always disappoint and fail. Sin leaves us empty and broken.
Those who reject godliness in favor of selfish temporal pleasure will always perish “in outer darkness”
(Matthew 25:30). Christ offers us a better way (John 14:6). Let us live with him and for him.

–by Michael E. Brooks

REAL men love Jesus

Do you remember the bumper sticker that says, “Real men love Jesus”? I like it.

It counters the perception that Christian dedication is for women, children and wimps. Real men–those who work hard and can look you in the eye–don’t take Christianity seriously.

After all, there’s the image of that long-haired, rouged-cheeked Jesus to overcome. Could you follow a man like that?

And speaking of cheeks, what about that business of “turning the other” one? That’s not for real men!

So let me remind you that Jesus was a carpenter, with work-callused hands and labor hardened muscles.

Did you think he went down to ACE Lumber to get his wood? Not for this real man! He climbed a nearby hill and cut his own timber! When’s the last time you cut down a tree with an ax? It’s hard work!

And look at those whom he commanded. Fishermen and Simon the mercenary; army veterans (“centurions”) and flint-eyed hermits like John the Baptist.

Here was a man whom other men respected and followed.
Here was a man of integrity and conviction, one who possessed the correct blend of strength and gentleness.

“Follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” And do you want to know the most amazing thing about this story? They did! “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:19,20, ESV).

Real men once followed Jesus. Real men still do.

by Stan Mitchell

Abram made his home under the terebinth trees of Mamre

“Then Abram moved his tent, and went and
dwelt by the terebinth trees of Mamre, which
are in Hebron, and built an alter there to
the Lord” (Genesis 13:18 NKJV).

As one treks into the remote villages of Dhading district in Nepal he must travel through several forested areas of the Himalaya Mountains. In some of those areas there are huge evergreen trees which four or five men could not reach around with their arms linked together.

Throughout South Asia there are numerous “holy” banyan trees which are often encircled with protective concrete rings. Locals sit under these trees visiting together or simply relaxing and resting. Some religious practitioners meditate there. Many of these trees are of huge size and obviously of great antiquity.

In the U.S. attention was recently given to one of the giant sequoias which fell. The upper surface of its trunk, parallel to the ground, was reportedly 17 feet above the earth. Some estimated its age to be as much as 3,000 years.

It is fascinating to consider that a living thing can be large enough and old enough to attain the status of a landmark. Perhaps nothing alive does this as regularly as do trees.

Abram made his home under the terebinth trees of Mamre.
The text of Genesis 13 suggests that when Moses wrote this record (more than 400 years after Abram’s death) the trees of Mamre were still living and known to the people of Canaan.

A casual reading of the Old Testament shows that trees were often considered sacred by pagan peoples and used as sites of worship, and sometimes even as a type of idol.

In other cases, idols were carved from wooden poles and erected before altars. Isaiah ridicules the people for cutting down a tree, using it for firewood or lumber, then making an idol of the residue and calling it “god”
(Isaiah 44:9-20).

Though such idolatrous associations are obviously condemned in Scripture, the Bible does recognize trees as having positive spiritual significance.

The righteous man is said to endure and prosper “like a tree planted by the rivers of water” (Psalm 1:3).  Heaven is endowed with the tree of life, bearing its twelve fruits throughout the year (i.e., perpetually).  Trees were created by God and serve as symbols of his love and bountifulness.

The popular poem declares, “Only God can make a tree.”
To that we add, only God can truly create any living thing. As we recognize the autumnal beauty of the forests around us, and the majesty of each large oak or pine, let us be thankful for the power, wisdom and goodness of God who made them. And let us see his hand in all the wonders of this world in which we live.

by Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

Some thoughts about elders

ELDERS WHO ARE A BLESSING

Not every man can be an elder in the Lord’s church.  This is true because there are certain qualifications one “must” meet before he can be legitimately appointed to this “fine work” (1 Tim 3:1-7; Titus 1:6-10).  God has also been very specific regarding the work overseers are called on to do (Titus 1:9-11; 1 Peter 5:1-4).  Thus, one qualified, must be willing to do the work God has specified, else he cannot serve.

It is clear, then, that it takes a certain kind of man to be a bishop.  How blessed are churches who recognize this and act accordingly.

Elders must be good examples.  One man rightly observed that the work of an elder involves being “a pattern (i.e. a blueprint to the congregation).”  Being “examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:3) means exemplifying a life-style of godliness and spirituality.  Being the right example gives an elder the credibility he needs to do his work well.

Being the right example leads to credibility with others as they observe the integrity and sincerity in the life of one who serves as a pastor.  Elders need to make sure their personal choices and habits will enhance and not damage their credibility.  While credibility doesn’t mean perfection, it does require consistency and putting spiritual things first.  People know their elders are actually men of God when they can see that their shepherds are for real.  Elders must have credibility (cf. 1 Tim 3:2-7).  Without it, what they profess is meaningless.

Elders, whose service is authentic, have credibility.  People must be able to observe that their elders serve, not from a desire for power, recognition, or self-advancement, but from a desire to please the Lord Jesus Christ.  These kinds of men show a love for the truth as well as for people-the sheep the shepherd.  Brethren can respect these men because their genuineness is clearly seen.  Credibility gives power to the instruction shepherds must give the brethren.

Elders are to illustrate with their lives what they teach others to do.  They must demonstrate to the spiritual flock-the church-how to live for God.  Credibility is a powerful ally when shepherds must deal with spiritual problems in a church or lead a church through difficult tasks such as discipline of recalcitrant members.  Brethren support and trust leaders they respect, convinced that their shepherds are putting God’s will first.

In “considering the issue of their life” brethren can truly “imitate [the] faith” (Heb 13:7) of elders like this.  They are legitimate examples.  They are a blessing to the church, “among which the Holy Spirit has made [them] overseers” (Acts 20:28).

–Mark Hanstein

True peace

From the garden of Eden, God has desired all humanity to be unified. He made Adam and Eve to live and take care of the garden provided for their substance (Genesis 1-2).

The problem of division arose when Satan lead Adam and Eve to sin against God (Genesis 3). Because of Satan, the unity of humanity was jeopardized.

This became evident with the division between Cain and Abel, which resulted in the first murder. Even today God desires humanity be unified but Satan’s influence is evident in the division that plagues our society.

Satan is active today in the division of humanity.  Peter warned,

“Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

Paul writing to the Galatian Christians noted the actions that promote such division, “…enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying…” (Galatians 5:20-21).

These eight actions are truly manifest in those who are currently promoting division in our own society. It seems that they either do not know or do not understand the outcome of their actions. Paul makes it clear in the Galatian letter,

“…that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).

God does not want division of humanity. This is why He sent His only Son to die for the sins of humanity. When one puts aside the actions of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21) division will become unity. Paul wrote concerning the true Christian,

“For you are all sons of God through faith
in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were
baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves
with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek,
there is neither slave nor free man, there
is neither male nor female; for you are all
one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to
Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants,
heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:26-
29).

If there is to be peace in our society, all humanity must turn from living for Satan to living for God. As long as individuals live for Satan and manifest the deeds of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21), we will have the destructive division that is plaguing out society.

Where has “agape” (Love) [the desire for the very best for others] gone? If “agape” (Love) was manifest by everyone in our society, we would not have all the troubles we are currently having.

May we all seek the true peace that comes from truly loving one another as taught in God’s inspired word.

–by John E. Werhan

Are your in the darkness or in the light?

The world is brimming with filth, disease and disaster.
We cannot walk through it without becoming tainted because it’s not within our nature to do so. That requires a greater power.

God’s Word provides the cleansing agent so we can become fresh and clean again. We might counter that it’s the blood of Christ that cleanses us from our sins.

Of course that would be correct (1 John 1:7). Yet, how would we know that without God’s Word?

The world began with darkness. However, God saw that darkness and overpowered it with light (Genesis 1:1).
Nevertheless, darkness grew jealous, piercing the fabric and spreading sin throughout this world (Genesis 3:1-6; Romans 3:23).

God, who is pure light (1 John 1:5), became the chief focus of the purveyor of darkness and man has been pulled away from the light ever since (1 Peter 5:8).

Satan is the father of lies and will do anything possible to deceive (John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 11:14- 15). God’s answer was the Christ, who would defeat Satan and save the souls of men (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:26).

The inspired Word spreads salvation and we must pay attention (Romans 10:17). Faith in God’s Son is essential (Hebrews 11:6), because to shun his Son is to declare the Word of God a lie and that cannot be (Titus 1:2).

The Word is the greatest blessing because it shows the enduring gift of salvation. Through the pages of the Bible, we find the throne room of heaven (Revelation 4-
5) and how it can be our home (Romans 5:6-11).

John astounded our simple brains with Jesus being the Word, both creator and son, simultaneously (John 1:1-5, 14). Jesus became a man in the flesh while also being divine. Thankfully, he uses that duality to save us (John 14:6).

The Word and the way will save us because “No one comes to the Father except by Me” (John 14:6, NKJV). All that is left is the will of man to make it so in their hearts.

Jesus came to save all, of but for most, it will never happen (Matthew 7:13-14). They will instead walk away into the fire (Revelation 20:11-15).

The greatest opportunity ever offered to man will be rejected and darkness will reign. For the lost, the world comes full circle; from darkness to darkness eternally.

For those who accept the gospel, however, God will say, “let there be light” and it will be very good.

by Richard Mansel

The Shout of Ipiranga: “Independence or Death!”

On 7 September 1822 Prince Pedro was returning to Rio de Janeiro from São Paulo. On the banks of the Ipiranga River, he received correspondence from the royal court in Portugal, recently returned after having fled Napoleon in Europe, summoning the prince to leave Brazil and go to the seat of government.

There, Prince Pedro gave what would be later called the Shout of Ipiranga: “Independence or Death!”

Months later, he was proclaimed Dom Pedro I, Emperor of Brazil, leader of an independent nation.

The 7th of September is to this day a national holiday in recognition of Brazil’s independence from Portugal.
On the site of the shout was built the Monument to Independence, now located within the city limits of São Paulo.

At the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus of Nazareth stood in the holy city of Jerusalem, after many showed themselves unwilling to believe or to confess their belief in him for fear of the authorities, and “shouted out” the truth about his word and eternal life (John 12.44-50 NET).

The Shout of Jerusalem served as the culmination of a selfless ministry that would soon result in his innocent death. Just as the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel of Matthew served to launch his ministry, so in the Gospel of John the Shout of Jerusalem crowns his time among men.

His shout was not political, like that of Prince Pedro, or like that of the crowd when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (John 12.13), but the shout of a spiritual reign, not of this world, a reign where truth prevails (John 18.36-37).

Jesus’ shout was not to draw attention to himself, but to his Father and the vision of the divine glory. “The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me” (John 12.44-45).

Jesus’ shout was not one of anger or condemnation, but of the urgency of salvation. “For I have not come to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12.47b).
From now on, he would talk in private to his disciples (John 13-16). This is his last sermon to the people.
Will they hear?

Jesus’ shout served to call attention to a future when the choice of salvation would no longer be an option.
“The one who rejects me and does not accept my words has a judge; the word I have spoken will judge him at the last day” (John 12.48). The time to hear the word was now, when it would save, rather than later, when it would condemn (compare Hebrews 4.12).

Jesus’ shout echoed the command of the Father, obedience to which is the source of eternal life. “And I know that his commandment is eternal life. Thus the things I say, I say just as the Father has told me” (John 12.50). He starts his sermon talking about belief; he ends it talking about obedience to God’s commandment.

And he associates the commandment and eternal life with the powerful connecting verb: IS. This way, no one can separate the necessity of obedience for salvation.

His shout, in the shadow of the cross, was backed by action. The cross put power in his words. So the shout calls for faith to leave its closed-lipped silence and stand with him in the midst of the square to give echo to forgiveness of sins for the undeserving.

No matter what our volume level, our words must be his words, for his are the words of the Father. His shout reverberates and invites us die with him, follow his lead, and share in his ministry to save.

The shout of Jerusalem cannot be contained within the confines of the city. His followers carry it to the ends of the earth. For not only a nation must be freed, but mankind itself.

J. Randal Matheny

Criticism

THE VALUE OF CRITICISM

Winston Churchill exemplified integrity and respect in the face of opposition. During his last year in office, he attended an official ceremony. Several rows behind him two gentlemen began whispering. “That’s Winston Churchill.” “They say he is getting senile.” “They say he should step aside and leave the running of the nation to more dynamic and capable men.”

When the ceremony was over, Churchill turned to the men and said, “Gentlemen, they also say he is deaf!”

Criticism. Nobody enjoys being criticized, even if it’s done in a kind, loving way. But it’s even more difficult to accept when the criticism is harsh or unfair. The fact is, however, that we all find ourselves from time to time in a position of being unfairly criticized.

Criticism — even destructive criticism — may serve a useful purpose. We need to listen to it and, if possible, profit by it. We ought to be humble enough to recognize that some criticisms are justly deserved. Even when critics are unkind and when they exaggerate our failures, there may still be some truth in what they say.

So, when faced with criticism, we need to look at the situation honestly and ask these questions: Is it true? If so, how can I overcome the condition that caused it? If not, is there something I can do to eliminate future criti­cism of the same type?

It was reported to Abraham Lincoln once that one of his cabinet members had called him a fool. Having verified the fact that Mr. Stanton had indeed referred to him in this manner, Lincoln said, “Mr Stanton is a wise man. If he said I am a fool, then I had better look into the matter.”

It has been said, “We learn much from the disagreeable things people say, for they make us think, whereas the good things only make us glad.”

For Christians, criticism should be a stepping stone to spiritual growth! It’s an opportunity to learn what we’re doing wrong and what we need to correct. It provides us with the motivation we need to change and mature.

“If you listen to correction to improve your life, you will live among the wise. Those who refuse correction hate themselves, but those who accept correction gain understanding.” (Proverbs 15:31-32, NCV)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Friday or Monday?

It was on Friday when:

. Jesus prayed in Gethsemane.

. Was betrayed by Judas.

. Jewish officials conspired to arrest Jesus under the cover of
darkness.

. He was abandoned by his disciples.

. He was denied by Peter.

. When he was mocked beaten, stripped of his clothing, and crucified.

. He was buried in a borrowed tomb.

If one were to stop there, he could conclude defeat. But Friday wasn’t the end of the story. Sunday came. And on Sunday.

. Jesus rose from the dead.

. Appeared to his disciples.

. There was great joy.

But that was Sunday. I can understand the great joy the disciples must have felt. Utter amazement to be standing in his presence once again. What could possibly stop them?

But now, here’s my question. What did those disciples do when they woke up on Monday? The answer is they pursued the kingdom agenda with reckless abandon. They sold their possessions, the spoke of Jesus in the marketplace, and they willingly laid down their lives for him.

Friends, we live in “Monday.” Friday and Sunday have come and gone, and here we are in Monday. Will we allow the events of “Friday” and “Sunday” to shape our “Monday?” Will we with the same reckless abandon serve the Lord
at any cost? The hope the resurrection gives us today is the same hope it gave those early disciples, so should we not live our “Monday” with the same excitement and jubilance as did they? Give it some thought.

Steve Higginbotham

What was so important at 9:30 was trivial by 9:45.

One phone call

It was Tuesday morning, October 17, 1995.

I had just gotten off of the phone with Mom. She started out the conversation with, “I’m not quite sure how to tell you this, but…”

“But” sounded pretty ominous to me, and as it turned it, it was—or so I thought at the moment. Following a recent MRI scan, her surgeon discovered what he described as another “spot” on her brain. I say “another” because scarcely two years earlier, Mom had undergone brain surgery in order to remove a golf-ball size tumor.

I’m happy to announce that now, some sixteen years later, she’s doing fine. That spot was just a false alarm. But at that precise moment, when she first called me, I don’t know that either of us could have been described as “fine.”

That episode, and more specifically, that phone call really made an impact on me. It changed everything that day. What was so important at 9:30 was trivial by 9:45. What my Day-Timer deemed important earlier in the day as being urgent, was summarily crossed off that day’s to-do list all together. One phone call put life in perspective.

Sickness has a way of doing that to us, doesn’t it? By that I mean that cancer and tumors and malignancies and the such like have a way of grabbing our attention and reminding us of what really counts.

It is so easy for us to become side-tracked and pursue those things which are clamorous and pressing. Then we get one of those phone calls that begins with, “I don’t quite know how to tell you this…”

The truth of the matter is, those kinds of phone calls come all-too frequently, don’t they (Psalm 39:4,5; Proverbs 27:1; Isaiah 40:6-7; James 4:14)? They shout in our consciousness as to what really deserves our time, energy, and interest.

May I ask a personal question, good reader? What will be the next item on your agenda after you finish reading this message? Is it really important?

Please don’t fall victim to the tyranny of the urgent.
Evaluate how you use your time, look through your schedule, and then pursue the real priorities in your life.

Do you need to make an apology? Do you need to stop procrastinating and put on Christ? Do you need to tell someone, “I love you”? Do you need to delve into the Word?

Take care of the most important thing (Luke 10:41,42;). Right now. “Redeeming the time, because the days are evil”(Ephesians 5:16).

by Mike Benson

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