Archives for : October2011

Unrealistic expectations of women's appearance and behavior

IN RECENT YEARS, a number of psychologists and sociologists have joined the chorus of religious and political opponents in warning about the impact of pervasive pornography…

They argue that porn is transforming sexuality and relationships — for the worse. Experts say men who frequently view porn may develop unrealistic expectations of women’s appearance and behavior, and have difficulty forming and sustaining relationships and feeling sexually satisfied. Fueled by a combination of access, anonymity and affordability, online porn has catapulted overall pornography consumption — bringing in new viewers, encouraging more use from existing fans and escalating consumers from soft-core to harder-core material. Cyberporn is even giving rise to a new form of sexual compulsiveness. According to Alvin Cooper, who conducts seminars on cybersex addiction, 15% of online-porn habitues develop sexual behavior that disrupts their lives. “The internet is the crack cocaine of sexual addiction,” says Jennifer Schneider, co-author of Cybersex Exposed: Simple Fantasy or Obsession? (Tim McLaughlin)

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8; cf. 2 Tim. 2:2).

–Mike Benson

Threatened by a ten foot monster

“And be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (Philippians 3:9).

There is an old African legend about a ten year-old boy named Fungai who was threatened by a ten foot monster with a lion’s body and a human head. The monster declared that he would eat Fungai, his two little sisters, and his mother. Because he was the man of the house (his father had died several years before), it was up to him to protect his family.

That evening as the sun set, he gathered up his father’s assegai (or spear), and walked out into the bush to face the monster, trying mightily to control his shaking hands and quavering voice.

He could hear the terrifying growls of the monster in the undergrowth coming toward him when suddenly he heard a grunt of surprise, then the sound of a rapid retreat, the crashing and snapping of branches and twigs as the great monster fled the little boy!

What had happened? Who had come to rescue Fungai in his dire straights? He looked around to see who his benefactor was. Then his eyes fell on the ground in front of him. The late afternoon sun had cast a giant shadow before him, making a slightly built ten year-old appear to be a huge man! The monster had run from Fungai’s shadow, believing the shadow represented an uncommonly big man carrying a spear as long as a tree trunk!

When we face life with its problems, we don’t have to face it alone. We can do it with the help of God. We do so with a “righteousness” that is “not our own”. If we will allow him, Christ will stand in our place.

And he casts a very big shadow!

Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Over five hundred people died

One of the worst train disasters in history occurred in the El Toro Tunnel in Leon, Spain, on January 3, 1944. Over five hundred people died.

The train was a long passenger train with an engine on both ends. As the train entered the El Toro Tunnel, the engine on the front end stalled. When the front engine stopped, the engineer on the back engine started up his engine to back the train out of the tunnel. As he proceeded, however, the front engineer managed to get the front engine started again and attempted to continue the journey in the opposing direction. Neither engineer had any way of communicating with the other. Both engineers thought they simply needed more power. They continued to pull in opposite directions for several minutes. Hundreds of passengers on the train in the tunnel died of carbon monoxide poisoning because the train was stuck in the tunnel because it was being pulled in two different directions! *

This tragic incident illustrates what can happen in our lives when we are pulled in different directions, following the lead of different “engineers”…

Many of US struggle as to which way to go with our lives. We often give in to different “engineers” like our friends, our society, our families, and our selves, even though they may be pulling in opposite directions!

Long ago, the inspired prophet Jeremiah said, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). In other words, we need direction – we need a wise engineer – to help direct our steps.

In short, we need Jesus to be our Savior AND our Lord (Master, Ruler, “Engineer”). In fact, Jesus cannot be our SAVIOR unless He is our LORD!

Hank Hanegraaff has written: “Christ died to be our Savior and lives to be our Lord.”

Christ died on the cross to pay the price for our sins (Ephesians 1:7). We are saved from our past sins when we believe and trust Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). We continue to be cleansed from our sins as we continue to acknowledge Him as the Lord of our lives through our trusting obedience to His Word (1 John 1:7). Jesus asked, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).

There are MANY engineers in the world that desire to control our lives, but there is only ONE Loving Lord.

Won’t YOU submit your life to Him so He can lead you to an eternal home?

David A. Sargent, Minister

Whose name do you wear?

Several months ago the church I serve began urging members to wear name tags. Each time we gather I’m careful to pin my name tag onto my jacket so others will be able to identify me. But I’ve been wearing that name since shortly after my birth. I’m glad to tell others that the meaning of Timothy is “honoring God”.

We don’t often consider the meaning of the names we give our children. Perhaps we should. A story carried by Reuters on November 17, 2009 tells about a company in London, England that will help parents-to-be avoid hanging undesirable monikers on their children. One example given was the name Suri, given by a celebrity couple to their newborn daughter. Would they have named her that if they had known it means “pickpocket” in Japanese, or “turned sour” in French? (For a hefty price, the company will give you the meaning of a name in 100 languages.)

To an extent we already avoid giving our children names that stir up negative images. When was the last time you heard of a girl being named Jezebel, or of a son named Judas? There are many such names that most people would never dream of calling their little ones. We also tend to avoid names that point to the opposite gender. Johnny Cash’s popular song, “A Boy Named Sue”, reminded us that such names can lead to unfortunate consequences.

In the Bible we commonly find names being given because of some quality seen in that child. Esau, the older twin born to Isaac and Rebekah, was so named because he was hairy (Genesis 25:25). God chose the names for each of the prophet Hosea’s three children, with each name saying something about the future of God’s people (Hosea 1:3-11).

Another prophet, Isaiah, spoke of a new name that God would bestow upon His people: “The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name” (Isaiah 62:2). The immediate application of that promise was to Israel. God would restore the fortunes of His people after a time of punishment. But was there another meaning, a more enduring one, behind that prophecy?

Many point to Acts 11:26 as the ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy: “… And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” It may be, as some suggest, that “Christian” was first meant as a slur by the enemies of Christ’s followers. Nonetheless, the name certainly caught on. Years later Peter would acknowledge the nobility of this name: “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter” (1 Peter 4:16).

I’m glad to have been given the name Timothy. But I’m far more joyful for the privilege of being called “Christian”. No one lived a more compassionate, powerful and victorious life than Jesus Christ. By wearing His name, I and millions of others have dedicated ourselves to being more like the Master. More than just wearing the name, it is incentive to rise above what we have been to become a blessing as He is.

The Preacher long ago observed that “A good name is better than precious ointment.” You’ll find no better name than that of Christ. Will you take His name as your own and become a blessing to others?

–Timothy D. Hall

Dear IRS:

The story is told of a man who computed his taxes for 1998 and discovered that he owed $3407. He packaged up his payment and included this letter:

Dear IRS:

Enclosed is my 1998 Tax Return & payment. Please take note of the attached article from the USA Today newspaper. In the article, you will see that the Pentagon is paying $171.50 for hammers and NASA has paid $600.00 for a toilet seat.

Please find enclosed four toilet seats (value $2400) and six hammers (value $1029). This brings my total payment to $3429.00. Please note the overpayment of $22.00 and apply it to the “Presidential Election Fund,” as noted on my return. Might I suggest you send the above mentioned fund a “1.5 inch screw.” (See attached article…HUD paid $22.00 for a 1.5 inch Phillips Head Screw.)

It has been a pleasure to pay my tax bill this year, and I look forward to paying it again next year.

Sincerely,
A satisfied taxpayer

I don’t recommend trying this at home without adult supervision! 🙂 Is a toilet seat worth $600? Not to me! (and I suspect not to the IRS either). Ultimately, though, what determines the “worth” of a toilet seat, or anything else, is how much someone is willing to pay for it.

How much is a Beanie Baby worth? In terms of the material involved, only a few cents. But, if someone is willing to pay several hundred dollars for it, that’s what it’s worth!

Several years ago, someone calculated the “worth” of a human being by figuring out how much it would cost to buy the elements that compose our body and came up with an amount of several dollars. But our true worth is determined by how much someone was willing to pay for us.

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

If you’re questioning your “worth,” consider that Jesus Christ regarded you as valuable enough to die on the cross for you. You’re priceless!

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Common faith, common salvation, common good

The word “common” has become a bad word among us. We speak of a common criminal, probably one of those dumb kind who writes his bank threat on the back of his checkbook deposit slip, with his name and address.

The elites speak of the common man with a sneer. And the ESV, NKJV and NASB translate Ezekiel’s phrase describing the lustful drunkards as “men of the common sort” (23:42).

The common soldier has no rank. The common woman has no virtue.

We even want our cookies to be “uncommonly good.”

In the Old Testament, common was not good either. The word served as the opposite of holy. “You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” (Leviticus 10:10 ESV). When faced with a sheet full of animals, Peter, you’ll remember, objected to the Lord that he had never eaten anything “common or unclean” (Acts 10:14).

In the New Testament, however, that which is common gets its due.

Paul writes to Titus as his “true child in a common faith” (Titus 1:4). This commonality makes the faith superior and attractive. It is common because the Christian faith is for all and accessible to all. All draw upon the same powerful grace. The heavenly Father hears all as he inclines from his throne to see his family upon earth. Be he an apostle, a new convert or a co-laborer, the faith is common to all, shared among the obedient.

It’s a common faith, also, because it is the one faith. To God, faith has no name brand nor grades of quality; the faith that is not common to all is no faith at all, because God rejects it as his.

Then there is the “common salvation” which Jude so wanted to write about (v. 3). What a wonderful treatise that subject would have made!

Much of what was said about the common faith can be said about the common salvation. No one has special privileges or knowledge. Conditioned upon obedience, all can know the Lord as Savior, for he is “Savior of all people, especially of those who believe” (1 Timothy 4:10).

This common salvation is why saints are sent into the world, so that all may share in its blessings (cp. 1 Corinthians 9:23). Just as the salvation is common, or for all, so also the mission is common, for every disciple.

And let’s not miss the “common good” which Paul insists on as he appeals to the selfish Corinthians (1 Corinthians 12:7). Though the word “common” doesn’t actually appear in the text, the larger context requires the idea, since Paul had written in chapter 10 that what really profited spiritually was helping and edifying others.

In 10:23 he wrote: “‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful,’ but not all things build up.” In this parallel phrasing, what is helpful (or profitable, from the verb “sumphero”, also in 1 Corinthians 12:7), is equated with what builds others up.

In verse 33, the profit or benefit for others is even clearer when Paul declared, “I do not seek my own benefit, but the benefit of many, so that they may be saved” (NET).

So when Paul declares in 12:7 that the Spirit gives gifts “for benefiting,” he means “for benefiting others.” For the common good.

That idea, then, throws out Kingdom work for self- benefit or self-promotion. As Maclaren wrote,

You get the life, not in order that you may plume yourself on its possession, nor in order that you may ostentatiously display it, still less in order that you may shut it up and do nothing with it; but you get the life in order that it may spread through you to others.

Common faith, common salvation, common good.

All in all, the gospel is, to adapt Keebler’s phrase, commonly good.

J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

A 106 year old light bulb

Hanging from the ceiling of a firehouse in Livermore, California is a light bulb.  This light bulb has become very popular recently, and it has stirred up much attention.  It even has its own web-site.  From this web-site you can read all sorts of information about the light bulb, and you can actually watch it 24 hours a day.

So why has this light bulb been given so much attention?  It is because this particular light bulb has been functioning for over 106 years.  I do not think I have to tell you, but that is a long time for a light bulb to be functioning.  This makes me wonder how many people this particular light bulb has effected.  How many people would have been lost in a dark room if it were not for this light bulb showing them the way?

This makes me think of what Jesus once said when He told His disciples, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).  How many people have you effected in your life?  How many people would be lost in a dark world if not for your light showing them the way to the Father?  I will probably never live to be 106 years old.  Most (if not all) of you will never live to see 106 years, but while you are here, let your light shine.

–Source unknown

What are you willing to commit?

The story is told of a man in a fancy restaurant who started to choke on a bone.  A doctor rushed over, identified himself as a doctor, and reassured the man that he was going to be all right.  He performed the Heimlich maneuver and the bone popped out.

As the man’s breath and voice returned he said, “I’m ever so grateful, doctor, how can I ever repay you?”

The doctor smiled and said, “I’ll settle for one-tenth of what you were willing to pay while you were choking.”

It’s true, isn’t it, that when you’re facing a crisis (especially a life-threatening crisis), you would give everything you have to get through it.  Money is no object!

We do the same thing on a spiritual level.  How many times have you faced hardship and prayed, “Lord, if you’ll just see me through this, I’ll serve you faithfully the rest of my life!” or something similar?  But what happens when the crisis passes?  Those feelings of urgency about serving God pass as well.  If we could commit ourselves to doing one-tenth of what we’re willing to do in those moments, most of us would ascend to a new level of commitment.

Paul wrote, “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

Father, there are moments in my life when I am reminded of how much I need you and how urgent it is that I commit my life to you.  All too often, though, those feelings disappear, and I quickly revert back to a less-than-satisfactory level of commitment.  Please forgive me and strengthen me in my resolve to reach the point where I can say with the apostle Paul, “To me, to live is Christ.”  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Alan Smith

A phone without a cord

I once heard of a mother who was very frustrated one day as she was hunting all over the house for her cordless phone. After several minutes of searching, her little ten-year-old son said, “You know Mom, I’ve got an idea. We should invent a phone that stays connected to its base so it never gets lost.”

Friends, sometimes the answers to today’s problems aren’t found in the cutting-edge of tomorrow, but rather in the old solutions of yesterday. Sometimes in order to go forward, we must go backward.

That is never more true than when we are dealing with Christianity and our relationship with God. The prophet Jeremiah put it this way, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

The way to Heaven is not found by blazing new paths never before trod, but by returning to the old paths and walking in them. “New” doesn’t always mean “better” and “right,” nor does “Old” always mean “worn out” and “wrong.” Give it some thought.

Steve Higginbotham

A nation (and church?) of whiners

If ever there was a nation of whiners, it was Israel in the desert. Because of their grumbling, says the apostle Paul, they “were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10 ESV).

Nothing suited the Israelites. They tired of the manna raining down from heaven to feed them and wanted meat. They tired of marching behind Moses. They tired of a benevolent and patient God.

Will the church, as God’s people, be a nation of whiners?

Not if they eat from the Lord’s table, which reminds them of the price that was paid for their souls. Not if they drink the cup and remember the precious blood that gives them life. Not if they eat and drink until he comes, for gratitude will be infused into their hearts so deeply that suffering will be counted joy for the kingdom.

The remedy to whining is gratitude. And the Supper is an exercise in thanksgiving that expands that feeling toward the sacrifice of Christ.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Rather than a nation of whiners, we will be, gathered around the Table, singers of thanksgiving with mouths full of praise to the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

J. Randal Matheny @ forthright.net

Nation of Whiners by J. Randal Matheny

If ever there was a nation of whiners, it was Israel in the desert. Because of their grumbling, says the apostle Paul, they “were destroyed by the Destroyer” (1 Corinthians 10:10 ESV).

Nothing suited the Israelites. They tired of the manna raining down from heaven to feed them and wanted meat. They tired of marching behind Moses. They tired of a benevolent and patient God.

Will the church, as God’s people, be a nation of whiners?

Not if they eat from the Lord’s table, which reminds them of the price that was paid for their souls. Not if they drink the cup and remember the precious blood that gives them life. Not if they eat and drink until he comes, for gratitude will be infused into their hearts so deeply that suffering will be counted joy for the kingdom.

The remedy to whining is gratitude. And the Supper is an exercise in thanksgiving that expands that feeling toward the sacrifice of Christ.

“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).

Rather than a nation of whiners, we will be, gathered around the Table, singers of thanksgiving with mouths full of praise to the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe.

God Will Keep Thy Soul

In times of uncertainty the child of God has a refuge in his heavenly Father.  Indeed, the promises that God gives to His children are so abundant that the saint could read one promise a day for the entire year and not have touched the hem of the garment.  Psalms 121:7 contains just such a promise:

The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Having grown up during the tense days of the cold war, I have finally reached retirement age. One thing I have learned is that the uncertainties of the early to mid 60’s have not diminished; they have only changed form.   Things are as perilous today as they were in those innocent years of the 50’s and 60’s.  Life remains uncertain, riches take wings, and the earthly wisdom continues to prove itself to be devilish and from beneath.   Random killings remain a mystery and politicians continue to mystify, whether for the good or bad.  There have been two crazed killers in as many days that have, once again, shocked our senses and reminded us that life is not certain.  And, again, the pundits and prognosticators are seeking “clues” as to what motivated these two men, in two separate incidents, to take the lives of slightly more than a dozen people.  Such random killings are designed to generate fear in the minds of society.  Were it not for the fact that God has promised to watch over His children, the crazed mad men of our unstable society might be successful in producing that fear even in the hearts of God’s children.

In contrast, consider the promise set forth by the Psalmist.  “The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil.”  To a certain degree God does protect us and shield us from the woes of this world, if for no other reason than the fact that seeds of godliness keep us aloof from the troubles that plague most men.  I know of no Christian who has been the victim of random shootings. I am not saying no Christian has ever fallen prey to senseless killings; I am just saying I know of none. But the promise that “the Lord shall preserve thee from all evil” finds its fullest application when it comes to preservation of the soul.  Regardless of what might happen in this world, the Christian has his hope set on what happens after this life.  While God is concerned about our well being this side of eternity, He is more concerned about the soul, and has promised to keep us from all evil.  When traveling, when going home and coming back, everywhere and at all times, God will watch over us.  What great comfort there is for the troubled soul in knowing that God cares for us.     As one poet put it:

In foreign realms, and lands remote,
Supported by thy care,
Through burning climes they pass unhurt,
And breath in tainted air.

When by the dreadful tempest borne,
High on the broken wave,
They know thou art not slow to hear,
Nor impotent to save.
The storm is laid – the winds retire,
Obedient to thy will;
The seas that roars at thy command,
At thy command is still.
In midst of dangers, fears, and death,
Thy goodness we’ll adore;
We’ll praise thee for thy mercies past,
And humbly hope for more.
Our life, while thou preserv’st that life,
Thy sacrifice shall be;
And death, when death shall be our lot,
Shall join our souls to thee”

There is no doubt that troublesome times will remain as long as the earth remains; that is just part of life, and part of curse of sin and evil. But let come what may, the child of God rests in the promise that “God will keep thy soul.”

–by Tom Wacaster

Worried about something?

I heard about a patient in a mental hospital who was holding his ear close to the wall, listening intently.  The attendant finally approached.  “Shh!” whispered the patient, beckoning him over.  The attendant pressed his ear to the wall for a long time.  “I can’t hear a thing,” he said.  “I know,” replied the patient, “it’s been like that all day!”

Have you ever worried so much about things going wrong that you begin to worry when everything goes right?  Worry probably does more than anything else to keep us from having peace of mind.

Psychologists (with nothing better to do) have come up with some statistics about our worries.  They say that 40% of the things we worry about never happen,  30% of the things we worry about have already happened (and thus can’t be changed), 12% of our worries focus on health concerns, and 10% of our worries are over insignificant things.

That means that over 80% of our worries are about things which are unimportant, or that we have absolutely no control over.

So, what have you been worrying about lately?

“Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 4:6-7, NCV)

–Alan Smith

It is not sinful to be single

THE BLESSING OF BEING SINGLE

Sophie and Shirley, two elderly widows in a Florida adult community, are curious about the latest arrival in their building — a quiet, nice looking gentleman who keeps to himself.

Shirley says,” Sophie, you know I’m shy. Why don’t you go over to him at the pool and find out a little about him. He looks so lonely.”

Sophie agrees, and later that day at the pool, she walks up to him and says, “Excuse me, mister. I hope I’m not prying, but my friend and I were wondering why you looked so lonely.”

“Of course I’m lonely, he says, “I’ve spent the past 20 years in prison.”

“You’re kidding! What for?”

“For killing my third wife. I strangled her.”

“What happened to your second wife?”

“I shot her.”

“And, if I may ask, your first wife?”

“We had a fight and she fell off a building.”

“Oh my,” says Sophie. Then turning to her friend on the other side of the pool, she yells, “Yoo hoo, Shirley. He’s single!”

It worries me when I see single people overly anxious to find a mate. Perhaps, though, we have contributed to the situation by treating singleness like it’s some sort of disease. Singles often comment that they feel out of place at church (activities tend to be family-oriented) and feel they are sometimes regarded as less important than married people. While marriage is a God-ordained institution, I think we do a disservice by suggesting that singles are somehow “incomplete” until they find that “certain someone.”

The truth is, while Paul held marriage in high regard (Eph. 5), he preferred being single and recommended it to Christians at Corinth in the difficult situation they were facing (I Cor. 7). Single Christians have the opportunity to serve God in ways that married Christians would have difficulty doing. Of course, the opposite is also true.

So what is the lesson to be learned? Whatever situation you find yourself in, seek to serve God with all your heart. If you are single, use your singleness to serve God as best as you can. And if you’re married, use your married status to do the same.

“But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord has called each one, so let him walk…..keeping the commandments of God is what matters.” (I Cor. 7:17,19b)

Alan Smith

Buy the Widow’s Mite for just $39.95*

You may have seen the advertisement which says: “Now you too can own a Genuine Coin From The Time of Jesus: The Widow’s Mite. It’s a minor miracle that this coin has survived and now people of faith can study, cherish, and protect it for future generations. It’s yet another miracle that they’re so affordable.”

This ad goes on to say: “While our limited supplies last, you may order the 2,000 year old Widow’s Mite for only $39.95 plus shipping and handling. Remember this is the genuine coin mentioned in the Holy Bible and it makes a perfect gift for your child, grandchild, or favorite clergyman.”

The advertisement makes it sound like your buying the actual coin the widow dropped into the receptacle, but this is not true.  What is really are is this widow’s generous attitude.

Sadly, this ad reminds us of how there has always been the “wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.”

Brad Price
www.abiblecommentary.com

*This post has been adopted from Brett Blair / www.eSermons.com

 

Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love

SINGER, SONGWRITER FIONA Apple writes piercing words about relationships…

While I do not endorse all she writes/does, her song, “Paper Bag,” carries a profound lesson.

In her song, she discusses a man who holds a powerful attraction for her. At the outset, she is exhilarated because she thinks the dove of hope is about to alight upon her. Then, she realizes it was only a paper bag and the jarring image awakens her from her stupor.

She carries the image into her analysis of the doomed relationship. Her lover was a man who had failed to grow up and was not ready for an adult relationship. She knew she had to leave before she was in too far.

Fiona writes, “Hunger hurts, but starving works, when it costs too much to love.” These words are stunning when we carefully meditate upon their implications.

Millions are in toxic dating relationships that are almost certainly doomed to fail. Sadly, in many cases, they will marry and complete the nightmare that will end in tragedy, spiritually and emotionally. Millions more have already wed and their misery is very real. Their pain and heartaches take too many years from their lives. The price is too high.

Emotions often blind the human heart and we fail to see our situation for what it is. We must step out of our emotions and listen to the rational. We must be fearless as we see the bigger picture.

Loved ones try to open our eyes to the dangers we face but our emotions close our ears. We refuse to listen and we lash out at our loved ones until we hit bottom and see what we had refused to see.

In our Christian walks, these words are equally profound.

We place our pleasure ahead of our souls and turn against God. We satisfy our hunger for sin when we would be better off starving. Solomon writes, “Better is a dry morsel with quietness, Than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1, NKJV) We must see the bigger picture and say no to our appetites when they place us at odds with God.

Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), places lies strategically ahead of us where we are most vulnerable (1 John 2:15-16). We pick them up, place them in our pockets, they creep into our hearts and lead us away from Christ (Luke 15:11-32).

Sin is too dangerous. The price is too steep. “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15).There is too much at stake.

An eternity in hell is never worth the momentary pleasure of Satan’s lies. Yet, we persevere each day, paying Satan’s impossible price. We accept sin’s call while the voice of God’s Word speaks rationally and clearly through Scripture.

God calls us to a higher calling (Romans 12:1-2). Our sinful appetites yearn to be satisfied. However, Satan’s food is poison (1 Peter 5:8). We may hunger for it but starving is better. The food of the Lord is far more satisfying (John 6:26-35).

Jesus says, I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly (John 10:10) “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). The challenges are serious but the consequences are eternal. Now, we have to choose. Be wise.  (Richard Mansel @ forthright.net)

For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it” (Luke 14:28). — Mike Benson

Giving God His turn

Haggai’s message was not meant to be comfortable. When he arrived in Jerusalem in 520 B.C., the temple of God was still not constructed.

Eighteen years had passed since King Cyrus of Persia had released the Jews from their exile. The king even provided them with materials and money to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:1-4).

But 18 years later the construction was not complete.

“Is it time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, and this temple to lie in ruins?” Haggai asked the people (Haggai 1:4, NKJV).

His point was obvious: The people had plenty of time and energy, but seemed to have difficulty making time for the Lord — the one who had released them from their captivity!

What was Haggai seeking? “‘Go up to the mountains and bring wood and build the temple, that I may take pleasure in it and be glorified,’ says the Lord” (Haggai 1:8).

When they made time to do the will of God, they would find their lives blessed more richly than was presently the case.

Things have changed since Haggai’s time. God’s people live under a different covenant, and there is no central location for worship as there was then. We can worship God as effectively in Kalamazoo as we might in Jerusalem.

But does that mean there is no temple to be constructed? Do we still have trouble finding time for the Lord?

Peter’s words apply to us: “You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:5).

There is deliberate effort involved in building up the temple today, just as there was in Haggai’s day. But when God’s people are distracted by other things, the work does not progress.

A little boy watches his friends play a game. “When is my turn?” he asks, anxious to get into the action. The others act as if they don’t hear him. In our illustration the Lord is the one watching as we go about our busy lives. “When is my turn?” he asks.

Do we have time to hear what Jesus said? “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

“All these things” refers to the things we all work to obtain: clothes, food, etc. God promises to take care of our needs if we’ll put him first.

The question sounds like a no-brainer: Why aren’t more people giving God his turn?

–Tim Hall

Where to find true safety

“Hasn’t this been a wonderful pasture?” noted Charlie to one of the other sheep with him. “Yes, it has been excellent,” answered Ralph, “but it’s getting pretty bare. It’s hard to find a mouthful after being here so long.” “Well, I’m not leaving this spot,” responded Charlie. “You never know what you’re going to run into out there. We might run into a pack of wolves, or there might not be any grass at all. No, I’ll stay right here.”

Before you question this writer’s sanity for personifying sheep, remember that God’s people are often compared to these animals. A more apt comparison would be hard to find. Sheep are not known for looking into the distance. As their attention focuses on the tufts of grass before them, they lose sight of where they are. Soon they become separated from the flock and from the shepherd. They’re not smart enough to find their way back home.

One of the great heroes of faith is Abraham. This description of him is classic: “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going”(Hebrews 11:8, NKJV).

Was it easy for Abraham to obey this command? God was asking him to leave behind everything that was familiar and journey toward an unknown destination. Had he acted as many do, choosing to cling to familiar surroundings and routines, he would never have enjoyed the thrill of knowing God and receiving rich promises.

The church faces a similar challenge. The name alerts us to this reality: “church” means “those who have been called out”. Christ calls us to leave much that is familiar about our old lives and venture into new territory. Yes, wolves lurk in that lonely terrain and pastures are concealed in the darkness. Many who hear the call decide that it’s not worth the risk. They remain just as they are as Jesus disappears over the horizon.

Where is our faith? Do we not believe the words of the good shepherd? “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of my hand” (John 10:27,28). Jesus gives the promise that those who leave behind the familiar to follow him “… will go in and out and find pasture”(John 10:9).

There is no safer place to be than in the flock of the Lord! No, we can’t see the path ahead; we don’t know the dangers that await us. But the shepherd does. As long as we stay close to him, we’ll do quite well.

Loosen your grip on the familiar. Pay attention to the calling of the shepherd. Be assured that wherever he leads you will be better than where you are now.

–Tim Hall

Death hurts, but Jesus helps*

  1. Death hurts (John 11)
    1. We see this in Mary’s tears.
    2. We hear it in Martha’s urgent words.
  2. When someone we love gets sick we do two things – we call the doctor and the preacher.
    1. The two sisters called the Lord (Vs. 2).
    2. Jesus knew the ultimate outcome of this illness (Vs. 3).
    3. When Jesus did arrive the sisters were aggravated and disturbed that he did not get there sooner to prevent a funeral.
  3. When the Lord arrived he did not find a party.
    1. He found tear-blurred eyes, faces red with crying and emotions on edge.
    2. Death had done what it always does in a family.
  4. DEATH HURTS BECAUSE OF THE INITIAL SHOCK.
    1. The shock is the same no matter how death comes:
      1. If it’s sudden and unexpected – result of an accident.
      2. If it’s after a short or extended illness (Vs. 3).
    2. We never know when death will come (Heb. 9:27).
      1. We are never ready to give up the people we love.
      2. That is the way it should be.
    3. Jesus arrived to find the two sisters grieving (Vs. 19).
      1. Trust in Christ can keep trouble from the heart (Jn. 14:1).
      2. Not from the house (Job 14:1).
  5. DEATH HURTS BECAUSE OF THE EMPTINESS IT LEAVES.
    1. It leaves an empty chair at the kitchen table.
    2. It leaves an empty side of the bed.
    3. It leaves an empty place at worship services.
    4. It leaves us lonely.
    5. Is there anything to be done about it?
      1. Some would blame God (Vs. 21).
      2. Better to let him help (1 Pet. 5:7).
    6. Death hurts, but Jesus helps. How?
  6. JESUS HELPS US THROUGH THE TRAGEDY ITSELF.
    1. Any tragic event will test us to see the metal of which we are made [death, sickness, divorce, job loss].
    2. We don’t welcome it, but we can learn from it:
      1. Tragedy is therapeutic (Jas. 1:2).
      2. Tragedy brings patience (Jas. 1:3-4).
      3. Tragedy purges (1 Pet. 1:7).
    3. Funerals are no fun, but they are instructive:
      1. They teach us that life is never long enough (Jas. 4:4).
      2. They teach us that this life is a training ground for the next (Jn. 11:9-10).
      3. They teach us that we must prepare and live faithfully (Jn. 3:3, 5; 1 Cor. 15:58; Rev. 2:10).

JESUS HELPS US THROUGH HIS PEOPLE.

    1. This is illustrated by the mourners at Lazarus’ funeral (Vs. 19).
      1. The Jewish mourning period lasted 30 days.
      2. This allowed them to get it out of their system.
    2. Christians today help those who have suffered loss (Rom. 12:15-16).
    3. No one does this better than those who love and obey the Lord.
  1. JESUS HELPS US BY NEVER LEAVING US.
    1. The Lord was late arriving at the funeral of Lazarus (Vss. 14-17).
      1. There may be times for us when it seem to us the Lord is not there.
      2. We feel unfulfilled, and that our prayers go unanswered.
      3. It may seem that the Lord arrived late in our lives if he arrived at all.

B.        The truth is that he is always where he is needed (Vss. 44-46).

*Credit for this article’s title and some of the thoughts in the preceding outline go to Allen Webster and his “house to house” work.

Dennis Gulledge
Mabelvale, Arkansas

How to *run on water*

I am a big fan of a show called Mythbusters (maybe you are too).  Essentially this show takes common urban myths and scientifically tests them out to see if they are true or false.  One very interesting myth they tested was about if ancient ninjas were able to walk on water with various flotation devices on their feet.  Through many failed attempts, the Mythbusters decided to make a concoction of water and corn starch.  The interesting thing about this was that they were actually able to run on this “liquid” surface.  However, if at any point there were to stop their movement they would sink down (Mythbusters).  As I was thinking about this subject, I realized walking on this “liquid surface” is like a Christian walking towards the goal of heaven, and the bad influences are things which cause us to slow down or stop.  While we may be alright as long as we are running, when we slow it to a walk, it becomes harder to move; once we stop walking we begin to sink; and if we ever decided to sit, it becomes incredibly difficult to get out and get going again.

Psalm 1 is a great psalm contrasting righteousness and wickedness, but the first verse gives a great model about bad influences.  See, people do not usually wake up one morning and find themselves living deep in sin.  There is much more of a process and Psalm 1:1 identifies this for us.  What we will notice here is an increased level of involvement  in the negative influence.  Here are 3 steps a person approved by God does not do:

(1) “Does not WALK in the counsel of the wicked.”  A person who is only walking is not fully committed, but this person is committed at least to some degree because of the involvement and participation given, even if silently.  What we see here is a person who is just kind of going with the crowd (even if he or she does not agree with the crowd).  This person may not be “participating,” but the fact that this person is even there is a “step” in the wrong direction.  Walking is a moving motion.  So, it is still fairly easy to shift the motion towards a better goal.  This person is not in too deep yet.

(2) “Does not STAND in the path of sinners.”  Standing seems to show participation and support of the people and actions.  This person is no longer moving towards the goal at all.  The level of involvement is now increased.  Suddenly the people or things being done do not seem as bad as they once did, and maybe it is even fun now.  This person is no longer moving, but is now stationary.  It will now take more effort to get moving, and then to move away, but it is still within reach.

(3) “Does not SIT in the seat of scoffers.”  Sitting shows full commitment, involvement, and even comfortableness with the whole situation.  This person is now in deep and is not very concerned about pressing towards any other goal.  It seems like this person is fully involved in the bad influence and the moral conscience has been placed aside.  This person has settled down in these bad influences and now it will now be very difficult to get up, get moving, and get away.

Have you ever walked in the mall for a long time?  How nice and comfortable do those big soft massage chairs look after hours of walking?  As time goes by and we get more tired and our feet begin to hurt, we start off by just passing by the chairs, then we stop and look at them, and eventually we find ourselves sitting in the chairs instead of accomplishing the purpose we originally came for.  Bad influences are like those big comfy chairs.  Every decision we make, everything we do, everyone we walk with, every person we “hang out with,” and anyone we sit down with has the ability to influence our lives.  We must be very careful.  1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be deceived: ‘bad company corrupts good morals.'”  This can and does happen to everyone.  No one is immune.  We must be careful not to ever slow down our Christianity.  We must have our eyes fixed on the goal and run towards it with increasing effort.  May we never slow down for bad influences and ever begin to “walk in the counsel of the wicked.”  Let us end with the powerful words found in Hebrews 12:1, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”

 

–Brett Petrillo

10 Ways to Get Customers to Buy Now

When was the last time you saw some type of commercial that was trying to sell you something?  I saw several this morning, and I bet it has not been long for you either.  It is funny to me how they always want us to “Act Now!”  They use phrases like “Huge Investment Opportunity! Must Act Now!”  “We will throw 2 of these in, but you must call now!”  Have you ever wondered why they are always trying to get people to do it at that very moment?  I found an interesting article listing “10 Ways to Get Customers to Buy Now” by April Duncan (Click Here to Read Article).  Listen to the 10 ways they try to draw us in.  I am sure you will recognize most of them:

1.    Give a Deadline for Ordering.
2.    Advise of a Price Increase.
3.    Establish a Trial/Introductory Period.
4.    Free gift.
5.    “No Risk” Trial.
6.    “Not Available in Stores.”
7.    Offer an Upgrade
8.    Free supplies/accessories.
9.    Use Action Phrases (Call Now.  Toll Free.  24 Hours a Day).
10.    Avoid Passive Phrases (Call us when your ready to order).

These are the types of tactics they use to get people to think and feel like they need to make a move immediately or they will miss out on one of the greatest opportunities of their life!  But why do they want people to act immediately?  It is because they do not want us to think out our decisions.  They want us to do it right away without careful consideration about our finances, if we really need it, and if this is really a quality product.

In a similar way as the commercials, Satan wants us to make hasty decisions and not carefully think about our situation or the consequences.  It is interesting that there are many passages about being sensible (Titus 1:8; 2:2, 5-6; Proverbs 14:8, 15, 18; etc).  One of the best ones is Titus 2:11-12, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age…”  Sensibility is about thinking things through and being rational about our decisions.  If we do not think things through then we will be much more likely to fall into sin.  The reason the Lord has told us to be sensible is so we will realize that righteousness is always the correct decision.

Whether it is in regards to a silly commercial, our finances, sin, or anything else, let’s make sure we are thinking about the decisions we make.  The choices we make today may very well influence ourselves, our family, our friends, and many other people down the road.  Let’s be sensible and realize the best choice is always to obey the Lord.

— Brett Petrillo