Archives for : September2011

What is the very worst thing you have suffered as a result of your faith in God?

“Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14:19-20 NKJV).

What is the very worst thing you have suffered as a result of your faith in God? That question is something of an embarrassment to most Christians, including I freely admit, myself.

The truth is that I have a very difficult time thinking of any experience in my life related to Christianity that I could describe as suffering (boring, hours long sermons not excluded).

I have had conversations with many non-Christians and indifferent Christians (there’s an oxymoron for you) over the years in which they discussed the difficulty of living the Christian life.

“I would have to give up too much” is a frequent excuse for disobedience. When it comes to difficult decisions, like remaining faithful in a no longer exciting marriage, they claim, “I know God wants me to be happy.” I always respond, “I cannot find that in the Bible.”

God wants us to be righteous. If so, he will provide happiness for us (Philippians 4:4-7).

But many Christians have and do suffer.

Real, martyrdom type suffering. Paul was stoned in Lystra, his attackers intending to kill him and believing they had done so. But God spared his life. What did he do in response? He got up and went back into the city where his attackers were. Then he went on to the next city and continued to preach the Gospel.

Did he reason, “God would surely not want me to risk my life any further.” Did he believe he had done enough, suffered enough? Not Paul.

“For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “… Woe is me if I preach not the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16).

Years ago in a South American country, I studied with a woman whose livelihood, and that of her mother, depended upon her Muslim brother. She said she wanted to become a Christian but if she did her brother would cut off their support and they would be in the street with nothing to eat. That is suffering in the name of Christ.

Another woman was being blackmailed into an adulterous affair and would be exposed to her husband if she stopped. Conversion depends upon repentance and turning from sin. Had she obeyed the gospel (sadly she did not at that time at least), she likely would have suffered greatly.

One has some understanding and sympathy for those in such difficult situations. But the truth is not changed. Outside of Christ, they are lost eternally (Acts 4:12; John 14:6; 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Compared to these examples, and innumerable others exist, giving up one’s only day to rest and do what one pleases in order to serve the Lord is hardly a sacrifice. Working until 5:00, then rushing to get the family fed and to Bible study on Wednesday night does not constitute suffering.

by Michael E. Brooks via forthright.net

The Town of Liberal, Missouri

About a century ago, a group of atheists decided to show the world what a fine civilization could be built if only the superstitions of Christianity were excluded. They founded the little community of Liberal, Missouri, and boastingly advertised  that it was the only town of its kind in the United States.  It was without a preacher, priests, church, God, Christ, hell or the devil.  Some months later the St. Louis Post Dispatch carried a lengthy story about the town of Liberal, in which it was pictured as the seat of the Devil and a den of iniquity.  Its hotels were brothels, and vice had become a virtue.  Gambling, stealing, drunkenness and brawls were the usual occurrence of the day. The story was so frightening that the men of Liberal had Clark Braken, author of the story, arrested for criminal libel and sued the Post Dispatch for $25,000.  In the trial, the evidence of wickedness was so overwhelming that the jury took but a few seconds to render a verdict in favor of the  defendants.  The suit was dismissed and the town of Liberal paid all the court costs.  The town of Liberal was an absolute failure. It wasn’t long until lifelong atheists, who had moved into the town to enjoy its advantages, left in complete disgust.  They found living in an atheistic town intolerable.  One of their number confessed that “An infidel surrounded by Christians may spout his infidelity and be able to endure it, but a whole town of atheists was too horrible to contemplate.”

No wonder the Psalmist wrote, “The fool has said in his heart, There is no God.”

–by Tom Wacaster

What is true love?

Love is one of the most misunderstood and abused words in the English language.  Some of the more unloving things are done in its name.  It is confused with lust, neglect, abuse, ignorance, and encouragement of evil.  Even in religion, love is the banner of everything from hatred and terrorism to gross immorality and perversion.  It is helpful to remind ourselves what constitutes love.

LOVE DOES NOT ENABLE WEAKNESS.  Pretending that a loved one does not have a sin problem or character flaw is not loving.  Protecting someone in a compulsive, addictive behavior from the consequences of their sin is extremely unloving.  This is nurturing negative behavior.

LOVE DOES NOT EXCUSE SIN.  Giving someone an out for sinful lifestyles may seem like the warm and fuzzy way to go, but God strongly condemns such validating (Rom. 1:32).  We can go to incredible lengths to legitimize what transgresses God’s law.

LOVE DOES NOT ENCOURAGE PERVERSION.  Jesus condemns sexual relationships that fall outside the original marriage grid (Matt. 19:4-5).  Whether we are speaking of “shacking up,” “open marriages,” “gay marriages,” “alternative lifestyles,” or the like, we are referencing things which condemn the soul.  That some would even push and promote such things in the name of love certainly disgusts our God (Hab. 1:13).

LOVE DOES NOT ENDORSE A LIE.  Lies are of Satan (John 8:44).  God is love (1 John 4:8).  Therefore, lying and love are incongruous.  They are from opposite sources.  Telling someone who is not right with God that they are is a lie rather than an act of love.  Leaving the impression that moral decadence is acceptable is disingenuous and thus unloving.

LOVE DOES NOT EXPECT PERFECTION.  In fact, Paul says that love “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (1 Cor. 13:5).  It “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).  In other words, love is not something we offer only on stringent conditions and unrealistic expectations.  That is manipulation and not love.  Thankfully, our loving God does not expect perfection from us.  He knows we are incapable of it.  If we, imperfect beings, cannot give a perfect God perfection, how could imperfect human beings give us, imperfect human beings, perfection?  Think about it!

LOVE DOES NOT END RESPONSIBILITY.  Love is not a substitute for performance.  The abuser hopes that profuse profession of love will make his wife forget that he has beaten her.  The liar hopes that verbal affirmation of love is enough to negate the hurt and anger of the one harmed by his or her dishonesty.  The person who has yet to obey the gospel will freely confess, “I love the Lord.”  That may well be, but it is an inadequate love that does not respond to God’s great love in humble obedience.

The world will never get love “right.”  It is up to us to demonstrate it to them.  We do this by loving one another (John 13:34-35).  We do this by loving God enough to do His will (John 14:15).  We do this by loving the world enough to show them the Light (Matt. 5:46; 28:19).

–Neal Pollard

Greek word study app for droid phones

If you would like to know a little more about the more than 5,400 original words in the New Testament but have never studied New Testament Greek, this FREE droid smartphone app may interest you.  This Bible study app offers a very basic overview of all the words used in the Greek New Testament.

I am no Greek scholar, Bible professor, or language expert.  I do, however, allow others to share in some of the fruits of my daily Bible study through things like this new app.

If you search the app market for *Greek word studies* this app should be the first one to appear.  You may also send an e-mail to your phone with this link – https://market.android.com/details?id=com.new.testament.greek.word.studies – to download this app directly from the market.

May God richly bless your study of His Word!

Brad Price
www.abiblecommentary.com

 


Stealing 7 cents made someone a felon!

“For 7 cents, now you’re making someone a felon for the rest of his life,” Anthony Stewart’s lawyer exclaimed after the sentencing was passed.  Anthony, a 15-year-old, was going to be facing 2-6 years in juvenile detention for stealing a whopping 7 cents.  Stewart’s lawyer pleaded for the judge to treat her client as a youthful offender so he wouldn’t have this felony hanging over his head the rest of his life.  The judge was not willing to make such a compromise.

Like Anthony Stewart’s lawyer, this sentencing seemed to make several people upset.  However, here is the full story.  Anthony Stewart and his friend took BB guns that looked like real pistols for the sole purpose of robbery.  These two young men later came upon a 73-year-old man.  They knocked him to the ground and Anthony proceeded to punch the old man in the face.  Then they stole every solitary cent the man had on him, a staggering 7 cents.  While some might be upset with Anthony’s punishment over such an insignificant amount, an important question must be asked.  What if the old man had been carrying three thousand dollars or more?  There is no doubt that the young teen boys would have taken all of it.  The felony has nothing to do with the amount the boys stole.  It has to do with the crime itself and their malicious intent.

This story reminds me of a very common mindset in our culture.  Christians and non-Christians alike are constantly trying to justify sins by labeling them as “little” and “insignificant.”  We talk about “little white lies,” “small mistakes,” and tag certain failings as “no big deal.”  The problem is, Scripture makes no such distinction.  The Bible condemns all lying (Colossians 3:9; Leviticus 19:11; Jeremiah 9:3; etc), all stealing (Exodus 20:15; Leviticus 19:11; Matthew 19:18; Romans 13:9; etc), and all sins (Isaiah 59:1-3; 1 John 3:4; Romans 3:23; etc).

While we may label some sin as a “small” and “trivial,” the Lord doesn’t.  The consequences of sin can be significantly different, but all sins can separate us from the Lord, even the “little” ones.  Let’s not get caught up in the flawed mindset about “little sins.”  All sins are serious.  All sins need to be addressed in our lives.

–Brett Petrillo

s your service to God motivated by Law or Love?

The story is told of a woman who lived with a perfectionist husband who always criticized her.  She never kept the house clean enough nor did she dress up to his unrealistic expectations.  He even gave her a list of rules to be obeyed if she was to keep him happy.  When she failed in any area, he quickly responded with verbal abuse.  Eventually, he died and as time went by she fell in love with another man who was kind and loving.  Her heart’s desire was to please him in any way she could.  His patience and encouragement restored her self esteem and enriched her life.

One day while going through some old papers, she came across the list of duties from her first husband.  To her amazement she was now choosing to do, out of love, the very things her former husband had demanded her to perform as a part of duty.  The rules had produced resentment on her part toward her former husband; the love she had for her present husband brought joyful submission.  In both cases the same duties were performed; but the motivation in each case was quite different.   Is your service to God motivated by Law or Love?

How Jesus is like the Old Testament *trespass offering*

Jesus is our trespass offering (Leviticus 5:14–6:7; 7:1–6) (satisfaction).

This was a mandatory atonement for intentional or unintentional sin requiring restitution. Its purpose was forgiveness of sin and the cleansing from defilement. It required a ram or lamb sacrifice, and for the sinner to make restitution to the one wronged.

The trespass (guilt, reparation) offering was given for violating the sanctity of property (either God’s or another person’s), usually by use of a false oath. The trespass offering included making atonement for sins knowingly committed (Leviticus 6:1–7). The blood of the trespass offering cleansed the conscience and sent the trespasser back to the one he had wronged, not only with the principal but with the fifth part added (Leviticus 6:5). The injurer was forgiven and the injured actually gained.

The Bible uses the word “remission,” a financial term, for forgiveness (Acts 2:38). With sin, man is in debt to God (Matthew 6:12). We owe Him more than we can pay (Matthew 18:23–35). In forgiveness, Jesus assumed the debt for our sins and paid it (Luke 7:36–50; Romans 3:25). Jesus’ blood remits the guilt of past sins and forwards a balance of zero (Matthew 26:28; Acts 3:19).

Write Christ everywhere in the book of the Old Law—for every sacrifice, for every priest, garment, and ceremony. He is all and in all in this book.

How does this apply to us? Sinners must obey the gospel to benefit from the five sacrifices of Christ. “Obeying the gospel” includes having faith in Christ as God’s Son (John 3:16; 8:24), repenting of the lifestyle of sin (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30), confessing Christ before men (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:9–10), and being baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:36–38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21). One must then remain faithful (Revelation 2:10).

It is a simple plan. It requires no doctor’s degree to come to the Great Physician. It does not require the strength of Samson, the wisdom of Solomon, or the courage of Daniel. It demands one to lean on the strength of the Savior, trust the wisdom of God, and fear the ravages of Satan. Come, come today!

–Allen Webster
Endnote

1 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Holy (16–19). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

How Jesus is like the Old Testament *sin offering*

One observed, “The heathen brings a sacrifice to his god; the Christian accepts a sacrifice from his God.”

Jesus is our sin offering (Leviticus 4:1–5:13; 8:14–17; 16:3–22) (substitute).

This was a mandatory atonement for specific unintentional sin and required a confession of sin. Its purpose was the forgiveness of sin and cleansing from defilement. It was employed to remove impurity from the sanctuary and those worshiping in it.

The required animal depended upon the station of the person or group making the sacrifice. For the high priest and congregation, a young bull was required; for a leader, a male goat; for a common person, a female goat or lamb; for the poor, a dove or pigeon; for the very poor, the tenth part of an ephah of fine flour.

In this offering we see an acknowledgment of sin. In the first three offerings, man came before God as a worshipper. In the last two, man comes before God as a sinner. The shedding of animal blood could not permanently take away sin (Hebrews 10:1–4), but God did promise that the sins of the worshiper were forgiven (Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31, 35; 5:10, 13, 16, 18; 6:7). He did this on the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross (Hebrews 10:5–14).1

These sacrifices were not burned upon the brazen altar in the courtyard; they were carried and burned outside the camp. The victim was charged with the sin of the offerer, and the life of the animal was taken instead of that of the sinner. Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3; cf. Numbers 21:9; John 3:14; Philippians 2:7) so He could be our sin-bearer and carry our sins outside the camp. The Spirit explained how this Old Testament ceremony was a preview (type) of God’s eternal plan of redemption:

For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without [outside] the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach (Hebrews 13:11–13).

These details might seem unimportant when reading through the Exodus and Leviticus. However, even the minor detail of taking the sin out of the camp prefigured Jesus dying outside the city of Jerusalem (Mark 15:20–24; John 19:17–18). The main point is that Jesus bore our guilt. He was made sin for us on the cross (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24). Jesus suffered for sin (in a collective sense) (2 Corinthians 5:21) and sins (of individuals) (1 Peter 3:18).

The sin offering taught man that God holds him accountable for sin. Sinners are spiritual criminals who have been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. We must not assume we are safe and right if we simply live up to our own conscience (cf. Acts 23:1). God has scales. He has standards. He has punishments assigned to violations of His law. Thus, to have any hope of heaven, a sacrifice is required.

Forgiveness is called “justification,” which is a judicial term (Romans 4:25). With sin, we are guilt-ridden (James 2:10). In forgiveness, Jesus’ blood removes our guilt and releases us from the penalty of sin (Romans 3:24, 26; 5:9; Hebrews 8:12; Ezekiel 18:20; Matthew 26:28). In the law’s eyes, the penalty has been paid.

–Allen Webster

How Jesus is like the Old Testament *peace offering*

Jesus is our peace offering (Leviticus 3; 7:11–34) (sacrifice).

The peace offering focused on God as benefactor and man as one seeking reconciliation. Any animal without defect from herd or flock was accepted, along with a variety of breads. It was a voluntary act of worship. Sometimes peace offerings were given in thanks for a blessing received; sometimes they were given in advance of a blessing desired.
When Jesus was born it was announced, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14). Jesus made peace between God and man, between Jew and Gentile, and between man and his conscience (Romans 5:1, 5–7). Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14, 17). He has “made peace through the blood of his cross” (Colossians 1:20).

The peace offering was a fellowship offering and had to do with communion with God. By contrast, the sin offering and the trespass offerings deal with cleansing from God. The peace offering was designed to provide expiation and permitted the one who made the offering to eat the meat of the sacrifice. It was often given on a joyous occasion. It foreshadowed the peace and restoration of communion that Christians have with God through our relationship as forgiven sinners (1 Corinthians 5:7–8; 10:16–18; 11:23–26). Like the prodigal of old, we have been welcomed back by the Father, seated with Him at His table, and restored as if we never sinned.

— Allen Webster

How Jesus is like the Old Testament *meal offering*

Christ is our meal offering (Leviticus 2:1–16; 6:14–23; 7:9–10) (service).

The meal sacrifice could be presented at the altar in one of five forms: fine flour, oven-baked cakes, cakes baked in a pan, cakes baked in a frying pan, or crushed roasted heads of new grain. These cakes would resemble our modern baked pie crust or pizza dough. The priest offered part of it to God and kept the rest for his own use.1

This offering represents Jesus Christ as the Bread of Life (John 6:48). He nourishes our souls as we worship Him and ponder His Word (Acts 20:32). Jesus compared Himself to a grain of wheat that had to die before it could live again in a better form (John 12:23–25). On the cross, Jesus was crushed as “fine flour;” at the tomb the grain of wheat was buried. On resurrection morning, He came forth in a more glorious form.

Since this sacrifice typified Jesus, we understand why God laid down such strict conditions for the offerer to meet before the meal offering would be accepted.

The offering had to be accompanied with oil (Leviticus 2:1–2, 4, 6, 15), a picture of the Holy Spirit of God, who was given to Christ without measure (John 3:34; Acts 10:38; 2 Corinthians 1:21–23; 1 John 2:20, 27). Through the eternal Spirit, He “offered himself without spot to God” (Hebrews 9:14).
The offering required salt (Leviticus 2:13), which speaks of our Lord’s purity of character (cf. Matthew 5:13).
Leaven (yeast) and honey were prohibited from the meal offering (Leviticus 2:11). The Jews associated leaven with evil because of the Passover rules (Exodus 12:19–20; cf. Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:8). There was no sin in Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:21–22). The fact that yeast and honey both ferment is likely the reason for the prohibition.2

This burning grain was “a sweet savour unto the Lord” (Leviticus 2:2, 9, 12). The Bible often associates God’s sense of smell with offerings (Genesis 8:21; Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17; 3:16; Amos 5:21). Jesus’ perfect character was always a sweet fragrance to God, and it gave His offering at Calvary a pleasant aroma to God. Paul wrote, “Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour” (Ephesians 5:2).

The meal offering focused on God’s goodness and provisions. It was a voluntary act of worship and was offered as thanks for blessing the fruits of one’s labor. This was the sacrifice of daily devotion. In application, we must come to God first with our whole burnt offering, and then we continue coming to Him with our continual meal offering. These actions are represented in Scripture as pleasing God’s sense of smell. Paul wrote, “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish” (2 Corinthians 2:15). He later mentioned that he “received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18).

The frankincense that was burned with the memorial portion represents prayer. David wrote, “Lord, I cry unto thee: make haste unto me; give ear unto my voice, when I cry unto thee. Let my prayer be set forth before thee as incense; and the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice” (Psalm 141:1–2; cf. Revelation 5:8). It serves as a reminder of the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11).

— Allen Webster

How Jesus is like the Old Testament *burnt offering*

When Jesus said, “It is finished” (John 19:30) on the cross, He used a merchant’s word that meant, “The debt is fully paid.” If one purchased something “on time,” when he made the last payment, the merchant would give him a receipt that read tetelestai. This meant, “The debt has been fully paid.”

Jesus fully paid the debt of sin during those six hours that Friday. We owed a debt we could not pay (Matthew 18:24–25); He paid a debt He did not owe. As the supreme sacrifice, “This man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Hebrews 10:12).

Jesus fulfilled the law (Matthew 5:17), which included all of its types and shadows (Hebrews 8:5; 9:9, 11; 10:1). The Levitical system was a picture gallery of the coming Savior. By saying, “It is finished,” Jesus was saying all the pictures of Him in the tabernacle furnishings, the priestly ministry, and the sacrificial system were completely fulfilled.

Of these, we focus on the sacrifices. Jesus was both the priest officiating and the sacrifice. The five primary offerings under Moses’ Law are explained in Leviticus 1–7, and should be studied in connection with the book of Hebrews. Each is a different pose of Jesus on the cross.

Christ is our burnt offering (Leviticus 1; 6:8–13; 8:18–21) (surrender).

This sacrifice focused on the perfection of God, and expressed adoration, devotion, commitment, and complete surrender to God. A bull, ram, or bird (dove or young pigeon) was accepted. It was a voluntary act of worship and served for atonement for unintentional sin in general (Leviticus 1:4).

The animal’s death typifies the death of Christ, the bloodshed points to the atonement, and the smoke ascending typifies the resurrection. (The burnt sacrifice is sometimes called “the ascending offering” because the word translated “burnt-offering” is holah, and means “that which ascends.”)

Jesus matched the qualifications.

Jesus fulfilled everything the burnt offering under Levi’s system was required to be:

He was a male (Leviticus 1:3; Matthew 1:21).
He was without blemish (Leviticus 1:3; 1 Peter 1:19, 22–23). In Jesus was “no sin” (1 John 3:5); He “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21); He “did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22); He “was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
He offered Himself voluntarily (Leviticus 1:3; John 10:18).
His offering was substitutionary. The worshipper was to “put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him” (Leviticus 1:4). He “leaned” (as the word signifies) upon its head as if to say, “I take this spotless victim to be my substitute; I lean my whole weight upon its merit.” Jesus’ death was substitutionary; we lean on Him (Romans 3:23–26).
He was killed “before the Lord” (Leviticus 1:5, 9, 13–14, 17; Matthew 27:46). Nothing short of death could satisfy the altar’s claims. Under Moses’ law, the offerer killed the animal (except with birds, Leviticus 1:15–17), and the priest caught the blood in a basin and sprinkled it on the sides of the altar (1:5, 11). The animal was dismembered, and its parts washed. Then all of it (except the skin1) was laid in order on the wood and burned. The transaction at the altar was not between the offerer and his conscience, the offerer and the nation, or even the offerer and the priest; it was between the offerer and the Lord.2 Today, as then, the wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23). Christ died “for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). He died before the Lord—He addressed God three times from the cross.
He was killed “northward” in respect to the altar. In the case of a sheep or goat, the animal had to be killed “northward before the Lord” (Leviticus 1:11). This means on the north side of the altar (cf. Leviticus 4:24, 29, 33; 7:2). While this was possibly just a matter of convenience since there was more room on that side of the altar, it is interesting that the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Gordon’s Calvary) was north of the city of Jerusalem and of the temple with its altar.
He had His blood sprinkled upon the altar (Leviticus 1:5; 1 Peter 1:2).

Jesus was wholly consumed.

The primary point of the burnt offering is that it was completely consumed. No part was given back to the worshipper, as with other sacrifices. It was therefore sometimes called a “whole burnt offering” (Deuteronomy 33:10; Psalm 51:19; Mark 12:33). While Jesus’ body was not burned on the cross, He fulfilled this type because He was completely consumed in suffering. He did not just give an eye or a limb for us. He did not just take a whipping or suffer the crown or the nails. He gave His all—His back to the smiters, His cheeks to those that plucked off the hair, His face to the shame and spitting (Isaiah 50:6), His hands and feet to the nails, His side to the spear, His face to the slaps, His brow to the thorns, His ears to the cruel jests of his enemies, His heart to the forsakenness of His Father.

Jesus wants us to give ourselves to Him as a “burnt” offering.

A burnt offering expressed commitment to God. In a culture where livestock was one’s livelihood, a person did not part with a bullock, a ram, or even a bird3 lightly. It was the equivalent of a working class person burning a week’s paycheck or giving his car away. The application is that we are to give our all to God. Paul wrote, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service” (Romans 12:1; cf. 1 Corinthians 15:31). This thought is expressed in song. We sing “Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord to Thee,” and

Consecrate me now to Thy service Lord,
By the power of grace divine;
Let my soul look up with a steadfast hope,
And my will be lost in Thine.

Burnt offerings were daily sacrifices and therefore were the most common sacrifices in the ancient temple. Jesus perfectly submitted to God on a daily basis (John 10:17; Romans 5:19; Hebrews 10:10), and so should we (Luke 9:23; Acts 2:46; 5:42; 17:11; 2 Corinthians 11:28; Hebrews 3:13). Daily service qualifies us to worship when we come before God (1 Peter 1:16).

–Allen Webster

Endnotes

1 The hide was given to the priest (Leviticus 7:8).
2 Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Holy (20). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.
3 Since only the poor could offer a bird, it was the equivalent of a bullock for them.

How can you bear to slaughter those cute little lambs?

NAMING THE SHEEP

The following story comes from Julie Helms in Christian Reader, “Lite
Fare”:

My husband and I, with our two daughters, operate a small sheep farm.  One day a non-farming friend asked, “How can you bear to slaughter those cute little lambs?”

My husband explained, “We don’t want to get emotionally attached to the ones we plan to eat, so we don’t give them names.”

Not satisfied, the friend probed, “What about your kids?”

Her husband quickly replied, “Oh, we name them!”

While very few of us are personally familiar with sheep and shepherds, the relationship between the two is one of the most powerful images in the Bible used to describe the relationship between Christ and his followers.  The loving care shown by shepherds to their flock, and the willingness of sheep to utterly depend on what the shepherd can provide offer a glimpse of our personal relationship with the good shepherd.   While it may seem to be a small thing, our name plays a significant role in that relationship.

“He who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:2-3)

“He calls his own sheep by name.”  Though there are many disciples of Christ around the world, we are not just “one of the masses”, not just a number.  We are intimately known and loved by the good shepherd.  He knows us by name.   It tells us not only that he cares about us, but that he plans
for his relationship with us to be a lasting one.

May the fact that your shepherd knows your name give you comfort this
day.

Alan Smith

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS

The following insightful piece appears in “Chicken Soup For the Kids’ Soul”:

My dad says I am ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS.  I wonder if I really am.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Sarah says you need to have beautiful long, curly hair like she has.  I don’t.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Justin says you must have perfectly straight white teeth like he has. I don’t.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Jessica says you can’t have any of those little brown dots on your face called freckles. I do.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Mark says you have to be the smartest kid in the seventh-grade class.  I’m not.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Stephen says you have to be able to tell the funniest jokes in the school. I don’t.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Lauren says you need to live in the nicest neighborhood in town and in the prettiest house.  I don’t.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Matthew says you can only wear the coolest clothes and the most popular shoes.  I don’t.

To be ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS…
Samantha says you need to come from a perfect family.  I don’t.

But every night at bedtime my dad gives me a big hug and says, “You are
ENORMOUSLY GORGEOUS, and I love you.”

My dad must know something my friends don’t.

–Carla O’Brien

We all need to be reminded from time to time of that which makes us beautiful.  We look for beauty in the clothes we wear or the make-up or the tan.  True beauty is found much deeper.

“Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.” (I Peter 3:3-4)

Alan Smith

DON'T SHOW UP EMPTY-HANDED

Joe and Mike had not seen each other in many years. After meeting, they had a long talk trying to fill in the gap of those years by telling about their lives. Finally, Joe invited Mike to visit him in his new apartment.

“I’ve got a wife and three kids and I’d love to have you visit us.”

“Great. Where do you live?”

“Here’s the address. And there’s plenty of parking behind the apartment. Park and come around to the front door, kick it open with your foot, go to the elevator and press the button with your left elbow, then enter! When you reach the sixth floor, go down the hall until you see my name on the door. Then press the doorbell with your right elbow and I’ll let you in.”

“Good. But tell me… what is all this business of kicking the front door open, then pressing buttons with my right, then my left elbow?”

“Surely, you’re not coming empty-handed!”

As we approach God, surely we do not attempt to come to Him empty-handed. Listen to these instructions given to the Jews in the Law of Moses:

“Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.” (Deut. 16:16-17)

God has blessed us richly in so many ways. He wants us — no, He expects us — to bring a gift when we come to Him. We should not appear before the Lord empty-handed. Are your hands full?

Alan Smith

People want to be appreciated

PSYCHOLOGISTS TELL US that one of the deepest urges in human nature is the craving to be appreciated…

Thus, we contribute immeasurably to the happiness and success of others when we express appreciation for their work and worth.

We are also advised that the giving of sincere praise brings out outstanding benefits to the one who gives it.  Thus, we contribute immeasurably to our own happiness and success when we express appreciation for others.

Observation teaches that the most successful people have mastered the art of giving praise.

Giving honest praise is like “saying grace” at the table…very difficult to start, if it hasn’t been our pattern.  Here are some guidelines to get one started.

1.  Look for little things for which you can express appreciation.  We tend to wait for colossal achievements before uttering one word of commendation or encouragement.  Rare and refreshing is the person who goes on a “treasure hunt” searching for little things to praise.

2.  Look for things close at hand for which you can express appreciation.  The human tendency is to see glamour in things at a distance and defects in things close at hand.  It doesn’t take much sense to find fault with things and people close by.  Conversely, it requires sensitive perception to detect the genuine worth of nearby treasures.

3.  Voice your appreciation.  It isn’t that we don’t appreciation others…it’s just that, for some unknown reason, we are hesitant to voice that feeling.  It is necessary to say nice things to have them do good…not merely think them.  By not acting quickly to praise one for his work the impulse often fades away.

THOUGHT: It may well be that one of the greatest duties you can perform this day will be speaking a word of appreciation.  (John Gipson)

“Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thess. 5:14).  — Mike Benson

God's goodness and severity

We accuse God of injustice when he does the same things that we all do. We find certain practices perfectly acceptable and wholesome for ourselves, but not for God. Suddenly, sound practices are cruel and unloving when committed by the hand of God. Our unfairness to him is palpable.

Everyone applauds goodness and severity, when applicable. Students who behave receive merits. The poorly behaved receive punishments. Parents reward good behavior and punish insolence. Good drivers receive insurance discounts while bad drivers receive demerits.

While these are not exactly equitable to God judging sin, it nonetheless proves the validity of the consequences of goodness and severity in the minds of men.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off” (Romans 11:22, NKJV).

Paul is continuing to develop an argument begun in the opening part of Romans. The Jewish Christians in Rome felt superior to the Gentile Christians because they were the “chosen people.” However, Paul is carefully building an argument illustrating that the Law of Moses no longer was in effect. They were under a new covenant where the saved were born spiritually, not physically.

The Jews rejected Christ as the Messiah (Matthew 27:21-26; Acts 13:40-47; Romans 11:1-25). Therefore, their days as the chosen people ended. Christ rejected them for being unbelievers, not for being Jews.

Paul never told them to stop being Jews or Gentiles but to understand that spiritually it played no part in their salvation (Galatians 3:26- 28). They were all sinners in need of grace and together in the family of God (Romans 3:23; Romans 5:6-11; Romans 8:1). Being in Christ was all that mattered.

“Goodness,” often translated kindness, refers to “God’s gracious attitude and acts toward sinners.”/1 “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Paul illustrates his message with the maintenance of olive trees. He excised unhealthy branches and grafted in healthy branches so the entire tree could prosper. The unhealthy branches were the unbelieving Jews and the new branches were the believing Gentiles.

Paul says that the unhealthy branches were “broken off,” which means they were “sharply cut” with “unrelenting severity.”/2 God had given them enough chances to become right spiritually. They chose to separate themselves and God merely complied with their wishes (Matthew 25:46).

His goodness is beyond the comprehension of man. The Psalms are full of examples of this truism. Likewise, the severity of God is also exceedingly powerful. Heaven will be as wonderful as hell will be terrible. The extremes will be intense.

The lessons for us are crucial.

First, if being a member of God’s chosen people under the old covenant did not prevent Jews from being unbelieving and rejected, why would the same thing not happen to Christians under the new covenant today (Hebrews 6:4-6; Hebrews 8,9; 10:26-31)?

Second, “In an age of political correctness men simply refuse to consider the ‘severity of God.’ But the goodness of God makes the severity of God necessary. If God failed to punish wickedness what impression would that leave with regard to God’s justice?” (Matthew 7:6-14, 21-23)./3

In Romans 11:22, the phrase “cut off” means literally “to strike out.” It referred to medical surgery./4 We will be cut off if we are not bearing fruit in the kingdom (John 15:1-8).

Do we wish to avoid this fate? Trust him implicitly and obey him completely (Ephesians 2:8,9;Acts 2:37,38; Acts 22:16).

Richard Mansel @ forthright.net

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That's not it!

I heard about a man who was drafted into the army.  While in the army he developed a very strange habit.  As he walked along each day he kept picking up pieces of paper, saying to himself aloud, “That’s not it!”  He would pick up one piece of paper after another and say, “That’s not it. That’s not it!”

This went on for about six months.  His bizarre behavior was finally brought to the attention of his superiors.  They ordered him to report to the base psychiatrist.  The psychiatrist asked, “What is wrong with you? What is the problem?”

The man had a baffled expression on his face as he said, “What problem?  I don’t have a problem.”

The psychiatrist said, “Well, there’s got to be something wrong with you. It has been reported to me that you keep going all over this base picking up pieces of paper and saying, ‘That’s not it, that’s not it!”  So, tell me, just what is it you are looking for?”

The man said, “I don’t know.  I just don’t seem to be able to find it.” The psychiatrist consulted some of his colleagues, then told the man, “I think your problem is serious, and I’m going to give you a medical discharge from the Army.”

When the psychiatrist handed him the discharge papers, the man jumped up and shouted excitedly, “This is it!  This is it!  This is what I’ve been looking for!”

This story reminds me of an incident in the gospel of John where two men were asked the same question.
“The next day John was there again with two of his followers.  When he saw Jesus walking by, he said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God!’  The two followers heard John say this, so they followed Jesus.  When Jesus turned and saw them following him, he asked, ‘What are you looking for?'” (John 1:35-38a, NCV)

It’s an important question for all of us.  What are you looking for?  On occasion, we may stumble across something we weren’t searching for, but most of the time we have no hope of finding something unless we’re looking for it.  For example, I understand that there is a lot of ginseng in the mountains of North Carolina.  When we lived in Boone, I knew a lot of people who found ginseng, but I never did, and I’m sure a big reason for that is that I never looked for it.

Spiritually speaking, what are you looking for?  So many people miss out on much that God has to offer simply because they don’t have hearts that are searching.  Are you searching for a right relationship with God?  Are you searching for a congregation of God’s people?  Are you searching to know God’s will in a difficult decision you’re facing?  What Jesus promised is true:  “Seek and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7)

By the way, those two disciples in John 1 found exactly what they were looking for.  “‘We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:41).

What are you looking for?  — Alan Smith

Things money cannot do

Sure, we all know what we can do with money.  We may dream about it, how to improve houses, that dream car, that dream vacation, and a thousand gadgets and “toys.”  Yet, times like these remind us how easily the dream can become a mirage.  Money is a favorite subject of God’s.  He covers the matter from cover to cover in His Word.  Of the many places in the Bible we might look, consider Psalm 49.  There, David says at least three significant things about the limitations of wealth and possessions.

Money cannot redeem a soul (6-9).  In fact, Jesus says as much by indicating that a single soul is more valuable than all the wealth of the entire world (cf. Matt. 16:26).  Silver and gold are not acceptable substitutes for the blood of Jesus (1 Pet. 1:18-19).  Whatever it might buy, it cannot purchase salvation.

Money cannot buy immortality (10-12).  However renowned and powerful one is on earth, he or she will leave a will and bequeath their fortunes–be they meager or massive.  They might think their houses will last forever (11), but they cannot add an infinite amount of longevity despite their net worth.

Money cannot cross the border (16-19).  It might be carried from one country to another, but it cannot be taken from time to eternity.  The old adage is poignant:  “You don’t see U-Hauls behind a hearse.”  You cannot take it with you.  God does not need it in heaven.  Satan cannot use it in hell.  We won’t be able to make use of it wherever we spend eternity.

Stock market crashes are disturbing.  Credit restrictions and decreased borrowing power may unsettle.  Putting our trust in money is vain and reveals a faith that is unhealthy and inadequate.  The God who owns us all and made this very world holds us in the hollow of His hand.  Let us trust that.  What is it that He cannot do?

Neal Pollard

Distractions from the world

We have two dogs. One is a three-year-old Pug named Chi and the other is a two-year-old German Shepherd mix named Butter.

When I walk them in the morning, they have a special place down the street where they want to go, but it is a long walk.  Pugs get tired very easily and they start wheezing and must go back home.

The problem is that they will not go directly to their special place, because they find so many other things to smell and see on the side of the road. Chi gets frustrated when we turn towards home. However, he fails to see that he brought this on himself.

As Christians, we sometimes do the same thing. We desire heaven but distractions pull us away from our goal. A classic blues song says, “Everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to die.” People do not do what they have to do to gain the reward.

Satan places obstacles in our way and life becomes like a carnival of sights, sounds and smells to tempt us away from the path.

Little Red Riding Hood wanted to go see her grandmother and take her some food. When Little Red Riding Hood meets the wolf, she tells him where she is going.

The wolf says that he will go to her house, as well. “The wolf ran as fast as he could, taking the shortest path, and the little girl took a roundabout way, entertaining herself by gathering nuts, running after butterflies, and gathering bouquets of little flowers. It was not long before the wolf arrived at the old woman’s house.”/1

The wolf tricks the grandmother and the girl and murders them.

Satan plays tricks and leads us to our death, as well (1 Peter 5:8). He uses our weaknesses to pull us away from God, and like a small child, we wander away.

Recently when I was walking my dogs, two strange dogs from down the road tried to chase us away from Chi and Butter’s favorite place. We stayed away and headed towards home.

Satan does the same thing. “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7). However, we may be bit in the process by a desperate and angry Devil. Run, anyway.

–Richard Mansel, forthright.net