Archives for : November2011

Do You Have Rabies?

I’m sure you’ve heard the story about the man who was bitten by a dog. He went to the doctor to be checked over, and sure enough, the doctor returned with the news that the man had indeed been infected with rabies.

The man then asked the doctor for a piece of paper and a pen, and he began writing. The doctor was taken back by this request and finally assumed that this man was writing out his will, so the doctor said, “Sir, I know being told you have rabies is something you never want to hear, but be assured, medicine has advanced through the years, and this is no longer fatal. Therefore, there’s no need to make out your will. You’ll be fine in just a few weeks.” Upon hearing this, the man looked at the doctor and said, “My will? I’m not making out my will. I’m making a list of people I’m going to bite before I’m cured!”

We probably all know people who are like this man, and if we’re perfectly honest without ourselves, we may sometimes succumb to this attitude too. However, the apostle Paul said, “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

If you were infected with rabies, would you be asking your doctor for a pen and piece of paper? Give it some thought.

by Steve Higginbotham

Having An *Empty Nest*

Thanksgiving break is over for my youngest child. She will drive off into the sunset today, back to Freed-Hardeman University. She is enjoying her freshman year, and for that I am glad. My husband and I treasure the few moments when we see her these days. Parents who share the bittersweet times when the children leave the nest know what I mean.

It’s always a source of wonderment to me at this time of year to notice the empty nests in the branches of our dozen or so trees on our property. It’s a sort of forlorn feeling as I imagine the baby birds with their mouths wide open, waiting to be fed by Momma and Daddy birds. Where are they now? Did they make it? Do they ever see their siblings or their parents? When did they leave that nest? I remember with a smile the furtive way the adult birds would look around, worm in beak, right before they flew to that exact spot, nest unseen.

One thing is for certain now that the sheltering screen of leaves is gone, the nest is most definitely deserted. The one in my hedge up against the front porch sits half-skewed and a little broken on one side. Its bit of red string dangling off of it is reminiscent of Rahab’s signal to the Israelites. But no one remains in the nest to be rescued. The fates of my melodious little friends are sealed, for good or for ill, for their short lives. This little home has served its purpose. It will be put into the trash can after this gardener takes off the Christmas lights that now adorn the trees and shrubs.

Another thing that is certain is that the mother and father bird are no longer in the nest. In my fascination with the baby birds’ flights, I never contemplated before now that the parents also move on. They don’t sit in the nest pining for their young. They leave also. While their lives are not over, they are most definitely not stuck in the past, nor in those shabby old nests.

This newly realized fact must have some meaning in my life, now that I am a new empty-nester. I never did picture myself playing bingo or sitting in a rocker and pining for the good times gone by. There is so much to do! God has a new plan for me that does not necessarily involve child-rearing.

Our children’s births were spread out over an unusually long span of time, and that is probably why I can also see the value in the empty nest. This week has been wonderful having some of our children back in the nest for a little mothering! Conversely, I will also enjoy the peace of the coming solitude. The quietness is also sweet, after 34 years of children in the home. My husband and I get a little alone-time at last!

Isn’t it wonderful how our lives can have different phases, and that we can move to new good works time after time? I do miss my children, but I choose to embrace this stage in life.

“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me,” says the old song. Jesus highlights God’s knowledge of these little events in a sparrow’s life to illustrate God’s tender care for us (Matthew 10:29–31). Just as He never stops caring for us, we don’t ever want to stop serving Him and increasing our talents for service.

Mommy and Daddy birds have wings, too. Look, I’m flying!

–Christine Berglund http://wp.me/p1HIjv-1Xo

I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table

TWO MEN WERE walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull…

Instantly they darted toward the nearest fence.  The storming bull followed in hot pursuit, and it was soon apparent they wouldn’t make it.  Terrified, the one shouted to the other, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in for it!”  John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never made a public prayer in my life.”  “But you must!” implored his companion.  “The bull is catching up to us.”  “All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I know, the one my father used to repeat at the table: ’O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful…’”

If there is one sin that most prevalent today, it is the sin of ingratitude.  God does so much for us.  Our indebtedness to him is enormous and yet we rarely or at least infrequently offer thanks for what he has done.  In fact, many Christians fail offer thanks over their meals much less offer thanks over all that God does in their lives.  We are much like the little boy who was given an orange by a man. The boy’s mother asked, “What do you say to the nice man?”  The little boy thought and handed the orange back and said, “Peel it.”

For a child of God thankfulness is not confined to a day or a season, it is an attitude that we should have everyday and every hour.  Michael Belcher

11 Now it happened as He went to Jerusalem that He passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. 12 Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. 13 And they lifted up their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” 14 So when He saw them, He said to them, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed. 15 And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, 16 and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan. 17 So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? 18 Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” 19 And He said to him, “Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.”  Luke 17:11-19

–Mike Benson

What one factor destroys many marriages?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3).

Sadly the elderly minister showed the young couple to the door, and returned to his desk. You could still smell the gun smoke of rancor and accusation in the room. He feared for these kids.

He had been in ministry for almost fifty years, and in that time had counseled with literally hundreds of couples. He leaned back in his chair, laced his fingers behind his head, and reflected. What one factor, he thought, most commonly destroyed marriages? Was it adultery? Physical abuse? Money?

The pretty young woman had complained that her husband did not make enough money, and compared him to her brother, a stockbroker, who made hundreds of thousands a year, and kept his wife in new cars, new clothes, and a beautiful house. The young man, broad in the shoulders and in the prime of his life, accused her of complaining whenever he spent time fishing with his buddies.

There was no headline material in this session, no steamy stories of betrayal discovered, or passion.

Just plain selfishness.

Neither person was willing to offer himself completely to the other; neither was willing to consider his partner’s needs first.

It was she who had put it into words: “I thought the point of our marriage was for him to make me happy.” Well, when life is all about what you get, and not what you give, he thought, then this is the result. It was so sad, the solution so simple, and it was so hard to make them see.

Long before the affair, or the big blowout fight, or the breakup of the marriage, there was always selfishness.

–Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

A panicked bride

The day after a young couple had returned from their honeymoon, the bride called her mother in a panic.

“What’s the matter, dear? Was the honeymoon dreadful?”

“No, but oh, Mama! As soon as we got home, he started using the most horrible language! Horrible four-letter words!”

“Darling, shh,” said her mother. “Calm down and tell me what he said that was so awful.”

“Oh, Mama, it’s so embarrassing,” cried the still sobbing bride. “He said words like COOK, IRON, WASH, DUST!”

A cheerful heart is good medicine… (Prov 17:22a)

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A cheerful heart is good medicine… (Prov 17:22a)
Mail address: GCFL, Box 100, Harvest, AL 35749, USA

I'll see you on Easter

There are some things that I’m sure run through the minds of every preacher, but they are suppressed by our better judgment before they are ever spoken. For me, one of those unspoken thoughts occurs every Sunday prior to Christmas. I always find myself suppressing the urge to say, “Good to see everyone today. I hope to see some of you again next Sunday, and for the rest of you, I’ll see you on Easter.” – (See why those thoughts need suppressing?)

While the problem of only attending church twice a year is a problem that should not be addressed in the above fashion, it is a problem that does need to be addressed. The “twice-a-year church goer” is so common place in our society that today’s Urban Dictionary has given such people a name. They’re called “CEO’s” (Christmas & Easter Only).

Don’t misunderstand, I’m thankful when people think of Jesus, even if it is only twice a year. They need to think of him more, but twice is a starting point. I don’t want to criticize their movement in the right direction, but I don’t want them to think that such shallow commitment is equivalent to discipleship and sufficient to please God.

Being a Christian is so much more than attending church services twice a year. It is total commitment. It is self-denial. It is sacrifice. It is a pattern to be lived so others may follow. It is a life lived in response to the death of an innocent caused by our negligence. It is a sacred trust of one’s life into the hands of God.

Upon reflection, how could anyone seriously think that “twice-a-year” is an appropriate response to the eternal redemptive working of God which culminated in the horrific death of His Son? How could anything less than our entire lives – all we have to offer – be an acceptable response to God?

Next Sunday, our churches will be filled with CEO’s. What will we do with this opportunity? Certainly we must use “tact,” but not to the exclusion of “contact.” God’s word gives us the solution, “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

–Steve Higginbotham, MercEmail

It won't happen to me

Some time ago, Cliff May started his article, “Future Shockwave,” this way:

“If you don’t live in Washington, New York, or another big city, you may think: ‘Even if the terrorists do strike again on American soil, my hometown and my family probably aren’t in danger.'”/1

Won’t happen to me. I’ll let New York go down the tubes, but I’ll be OK.

Human nature thinks it will happen to the other guy, or it will happen sometime down the road, so I don’t have to worry about it.

People get killed, maimed and mangled on the streets and highways every day, but plenty of souls refuse to wear seat belts and drive carelessly because they tell themselves, “It won’t happen to me.”

Drugs burn out users’ brains, and alcohol robs life from millions, but people keep drugging and drinking, because they tell themselves, “It won’t happen to me.”

Singles and marrieds have sex with multiple partners and never dream of getting a disease from their immorality, because they tell themselves, “It won’t happen to me.”

Good king Hezekiah got his life extended by 15 years and bungled when he showed the Babylonians all his treasures. When Isaiah told him his wealth would be carried away to Babylon and his descendants would be made eunuchs, he thought, “At least there will be peace and stability during my lifetime” (2 Kings 20:19 NET).

Even good guys can think it won’t happen to them.

Israel had suffered from Babylon’s incursions, exiles lived far from their homes and Ezekiel still spoke of more judgment to come from God’s hand. But they thought, “Ah, this is too far ahead to think about.”

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Take note, son of man, the house of Israel is saying, “The vision that he sees is for distant days; he is prophesying about the far future.” Therefore say to them, “This is what the sovereign Lord says: None of my words will be delayed any longer! The word I speak will come to pass, declares the sovereign Lord”‘” (Ezekiel 12:26-28).

A rich man had his portfolio stuffed with stocks and futures, so he decided to retire and live the good life. Death? Won’t happen to me!

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded back from you, but who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ So it is with the one who stores up riches for himself, but is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:20-21).

I mustn’t tell myself it won’t happen to me. If the Israelites of Ezekiel’s day and the rich fool are any indication, the Lord may MAKE it happen to me for payback for my foolishness and arrogance.

The worst spot to think this is about my soul.

I can lose it before I blink. So I must be prepared. Every minute. Every place.

Here’s my paraphrase of an apostle.

“Don’t let your salvation slip between your fingers. God said, ‘I heard you in the nick of time, I helped you when it really mattered. Salvation Day.’ When is that day for you? It’s right now. Today. This very minute. Act now. Get right with God.”

Now go read 2 Corinthians 6:1-2.

— J. Randal Matheny via www.forthright.net

Don't tell people about the cross, it doesn't work

A WELL-KNOWN preacher once gave the following advice to a group of churches concerning their approach to evangelism:

“Don’t tell people about the cross, it doesn’t work.  Too many evangelistic efforts fail because they focus too much on the cross.  Just tell them God loves them and has a plan for them.”  He continued, “The message of a crucified Jew is ridiculous to the modern mind.  So move onto something better.  A crucified Messiah is stupid, but promise them prosperity, give them emotional experiences, provide them with self-esteem and then you’ll fill the pews.”

THOUGHTS: Avoiding the cross and catering to people’s external needs might “fill the pews,” but they will be pews filled with people still dying in their sins.  Without the cross, the Bible is just another neat story book.  Without the cross, Christianity is no more than a self-help seminar.  It was the cross that God displayed His wisdom and power.  (Mitchell Skelton)

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).

–Mike Benson

Do you have a *slave card*?

Should we be amazed that Americans willingly sell their freedom for a measly price? Yet, many Americans eagerly swipe their slave card simply because they are impatient, to impress others or to make themselves feel good. Even Hebrew slaves gained more when forfeiting their liberty.

With red, white and blue flapping in the breeze above our heads while echoes about this being the land of opportunity still ringing in our ears, we often might wonder why any ancient Hebrew slave would have willingly rejected his right to go free. Scripture offered a powerful reason.

If the slave had been given a wife and she had bore him children, after the seventh year he could go free but his wife and children could not. However, this newly emancipated individual could chose, out of love for his family, to perpetually sacrifice his independence in order to remain with them (Exodus 21:2-6).

What is more difficult to fathom involves Americans willingly selling their independence merely to stimulate temporary feelings of self-worth or because they are too impatient to wait. Yet, according to the principle in Proverbs 22:7 (“the borrower is slave to the lender”), that is the price for swiping your credit card when you can not pay the bill in full.

During this holiday season, liberty will once again be undervalued as modern slavery thrives. For an embarrassingly small value, Americans will make a Faustian bargain trading their future time and work in order to satisfy an immediate desire. Long after the borrowed amount has been repaid, they will continue to toil enabling their masters to reap their own dreams at the expense of slave sweat.

–Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

Extra Terrestrial Commission *welcome wagon*

Faith In The Far-Fetched While Skeptical Of The Sure

“Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an initiated
Ordinance to require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission
to help ensure the health, safety, and cultural awareness of Denver
residents and visitors in relation to potential encounters or interactions
with extraterrestrial intelligent beings or their vehicles, and fund such
commissions from grants, gifts, and donations?”  Yes___ No ___

Jeff Peckman, a Denver resident, was able to secure ten thousand signatures and get this ballot title drawn for next year’s elections. Peckman created the Extra Terrestrial Commission to be a “welcome wagon” when the aliens show up in the Mile High city.

This is not a joke.  At least, I am not joking with you.

This raises a question that is intriguing.  How many people in this nation believe there are extraterrestrial beings out there and/or down here?  What is the basis for their faith? We have seen TV specials or magazines or photos of alleged space ships or aliens.  People claim to have been abducted or to have had close encounters with them.  Some even suggest that aliens are responsible for the creation and design of this planet and its inhabitants (dodging, though not artfully, the tough question of how the aliens came into being).  Some, though I dearly hope a scant minority, earnestly believe there are “extraterrestrial intelligent beings” out there.

A growing number seem strident in their denial of what the Bible proposes.  The Word of God gives a simple, logical explanation for our origins.  It explains the purpose of mankind on this earth.  It speaks of a God in heaven and an eternal future either with Him or separated from Him.  People scoff away such a possibility, ridiculing the intelligence and sanity of those who trust this to be true.  They can be the butt of jokes.

The proposed alternative to special creation by an uncaused, eternal, and intelligent being is uncaused, eternal matter giving rise to design, intelligence, morality, procreative abilities, and much more.  How did that dust get here?  How did it grow more complicated?  How did some of it gradually become a fern or a hippopotamus or a barnacle or a rock or a human being? How did an octillion more things happen to get us from that power-packed, uncaused mass of stuff to the boundless, ordered universe in which we now live, breathe, and comprehend?

The most reasonable explanation involves a loving God who created man in His own image, who created for mankind a world fit to be inhabited–complete with food and water and the other essentials to make life perpetuated from generation to generation.  Not only does it best explain design, the cosmos, morality, intelligence, and the like, it makes reasonable the idea that such a Being, God, could communicate His thoughts, intentions, and will through scripture and superintend the process of revelation that gives us, even today, precisely what He wanted us to know.
Mindless chance, aliens, or a loving, limitless God.  What seems most reasonable?

=-Neal Pollard

We ought to live holy and godly lives

A tiny but dignified old lady was among a group looking at an art exhibition in a newly opened gallery.  Suddenly one contemporary painting caught her eye.

“What on earth,” she inquired of the artist standing nearby, “is that?”

He smiled condescendingly. “That, my dear lady, is supposed to be a mother and her child.”

“Well, then,” snapped the little old lady, “why isn’t it?”

I’ve seen some of that “modern art”, so I can relate.  But it makes me stop and wonder:  Does the same thing ever happen spiritually in my life?  I’m “supposed” to be a Christian, a child of God, a person whose life dedicated to serving God.

Peter reminds me:  “You ought to live holy and godly lives.” (2 Peter 3:11)

But is there anyone who looks at my life and says, “I know what he’s supposed to be, so why isn’t he?”

“Father, please forgive me for those times I have let you down, those times I have not set an example of holiness that You intend for me to.  Please strengthen me in my desire to live in such a way that others around me will have no doubt that You come first in my life.”

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

You're dressed like a prostitute!

In his book about forgiveness, Brazilian author Hernandes Dias Lopes tells about a bride who made detailed preparations for her honeymoon. On that special night, she presented herself to her husband, dressed all in silk.

Instead of the endearing terms and gesture of tenderness she expected, he said, “You’re dressed like a prostitute!”

For 20 years that wife carried the wound of those words. She never felt pleasure in her relationship with her husband. Her bitterness led her into adultery.

The lack of forgiveness produces resentment and bitterness. In the fertile ground of forgiveness, love grows.

“The one who forgives an offense seeks love, but whoever repeats a matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9 NET).

Besides indicating, by its inclusion, the difficulty of forgiveness, the Lord’s prayer shows the interdependence of our forgiveness and God’s.

“and forgive us our debts, as we ourselves have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Luke’s rendering makes it clear that debts refer to sins (Luke 11:4).

The more we understand the enormity of God’s forgiveness, the easier we will be able to forgive.

And God’s continuing forgiveness of his people depends upon their imitation of his disposition to forgive.

The love of God explodes any attempt to limit or extend forgiveness on a human basis (Matthew 18:21- 22). While Peter thought seven pardons was a merciful and gracious number, Jesus shows us that the forgiving heart stops counting altogether.

Forgiveness trumps health (Matthew 9:2). Extended to others, it must come “from the heart” (Matthew 18:35).

Forgiveness is the key to restoring and cultivating relationships. The experience of God’s salvation comes “through the forgiveness of … sins” (Luke 1:77). Redemption is summed up as the forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14). This is true in our relationship to God, and to one another.

Failure to forgive, then, destroys relationships. Only when we refuse to hold others’ failings against them will we be able to build lasting and intimate relationships in the home, in the church and in the world.

Because honeymoons end, sometimes, before they begin.

–J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

Is Jesus showing up in dental x-rays?

There has been a rash of “sightings” lately with which unbelievers have been having a field day.  I refer to “Jesus sightings” people are claiming in such things as clouds, Cheetos, dental X-rays, cooking utensils, windows, walls, and trees. Wikipedia even has an entry for it (“Perceptions of religious imagery in natural phenomena”). People vehemently defend the idea that these are intentional, divinely sent images. Meanwhile, secular and agnostic witnesses to such claims gather up baby and bathwater together, using such superstitiousness to show how deluded those in Christendom really are. Yet, while responding to superstition in religion would be a fitting use of time, another thing comes to mind when hearing these sad stories.  It is a reminder that people are looking for Jesus in all the wrong places.

They want some heavenly sign, some overwhelming feeling, some sensory sensation, and some sort of religious fireworks to create or validate their faith.  While God has embedded plenty of these in the marvels of nature and creation, through the product of answered prayer that defies logic or explanation, and by the amazing process of transformation that occurs when people follow Christ, He calls on us to seek for Him in a much less electrifying and cataclysmic place.

When we pick up God’s Word and regularly, intently read, meditate, and study (cf. Psalm 1) it, we see Jesus come alive in powerful, sustaining ways!  When we walk with the Lord each day, the resulting relationship built on His character and our trust in Him is powerful!  When we actively serve Him and others and put into practice what He teaches us through the Bible, we see Jesus in a vivid way.  Daily Christian living, the longer we practice it, brings Jesus into unmistakable, clear focus.  Maybe that is what these “seers” truly desire, and what they need is our help to truly find Him.  Let us take that as a challenge and help people really “see Jesus” (cf. John 12:21; Heb. 2:9).

Neal Pollard

A drop of Pope John II's blood

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, Poland, presented a drop of the late Pope John II’s blood to the St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Greeley, Colorado, last month.  The Associated Press reported that this is a highly-prized relic for the church, especially in light of rumors that the Vatican will soon name the late pontiff a “saint.”  Father Pawel Zborowski, of the Greeley church, said that Dziwisz “presented the drop of blood on a cloth encased in a decorated gold cross last month in Poland” (via Colorado Springs Gazette online).

The discerning Bible student will find much in the above paragraph to deconstruct, but focus for a moment on the value some have attached to the blood of a man venerated by a sizable percentage of people around the globe.  They carefully encase it, preserve it, and desire to display it.  They call it a “relic” (i.e., a part of a deceased holy person’s body or belongings kept as an object of reverence). It is a rarity to be prized and treasured.

My purpose is not to debate the good and bad qualities of John Paul II.  He will stand before “the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (1 Tim. 6:15), the same as you and me.  It is amazing, though, that much ado is made over inefficacious, ordinary blood, while the vast majority reject the only blood that can save.  His blood redeems (Eph. 1:7), washes away sins (Rev. 1:5-6), acquits (Rom. 5:9), makes holy (Heb. 10:29), brings near (Eph. 2:13), cleanses (1 Jn. 1:7), cancels our sin debt (Mt. 26:28), clears our conscience (Heb. 9:14), and purchased the church (Ac. 20:28).  I cannot literally contact that blood.  Jesus died 2,000 years ago, 8,000 miles from here.  In four different ways, God ties the blood of Christ to baptism (see John 19:34 + Romans 6:3; Matthew 26:28 + Acts 2:38; Revelation 1:5 + Acts 22:16; Hebrews 13:12 + Ephesians 5:25-27).  Christ’s is the only blood that matters!

–Neal Pollard

The cross

A young Christian rationalizes his cursing, expressing his “need” to fit in with his peers.  Someone habitually falls asleep during Bible study or worship.  A Christian woman tends to talk bad to her friend about their mutual companion.  A middle-aged couple forms the habit of missing evening assemblies to be with friends or pursue others interests.  Several Christians silently fret over their inability to focus while partaking of the Lord’s Supper.  Some of the brethren seem indifferent to the work of the church.  What is happening with these precious children of God?

Several scenarios have been portrayed, but there is in them but a single issue.  Why do people, even Christians, slip away from the Lord?  The first several words of George Bennard’s famous hymn are, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame.”  So, what does one do when it seems that Christ died on a hill too far away?

The most dangerous thing that can happen to anyone is for the cross of Christ to lose its meaning.  It CAN lose its meaning for people.  Paul said, “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect” (1 Cor. 1:17).

Does the cross have much meaning for the Christian’s friends and colleagues whose words and actions assault that for which the cross stands?  Willful sin is against the cross (cf. Heb. 6:4-6).  People hurt Christ all over again because the cross means, if their actions accurately reflect their hearts, little more to them than does a fairy tale or ancient history.  Because of a desire to please the world, the Christian can develop such an attitude toward the cross.  In this moral quandary, he can choose to be close to the enemies of the cross instead of the One who died there.  But, when one chooses the world over Christ, HE becomes God’s enemy, too (cf. Ecc. 8:11; Js. 4:4).

Perhaps a few brief facts will help children of God, especially when the hill far away seems too far away.

REMEMBER THAT THE CROSS IS REAL.  Paul taught this without equivocation (cf. 1 Cor. 15:1-4).  Contemporaries of the cross attest to its historicity.  Atheists and skeptics only have blind eyes for the plain facts because they know that acceptance of them means they must obey the doctrine of Christ (cf. Rom. 6:17).  But the fact, according to Paul, are simple; namely, Christ really died, He was buried, and He arose!  What the Bible teaches that Christ did for humanity as a whole and the individual in particular is true!  The cross is real!

REMEMBER THAT THE CROSS IS REALLY IMPORTANT!

–Christ died for everyone’s sins on the cross (Rom. 8:8).  He died for the seemingly insignificant, seemingly minor sins.  He also died for the big, ugly, embarrassing, shameful sins!

–Christ died to bring man back to God on the cross (Rom. 8:34).  Because of his sins, man was rejected by God.  God wanted nothing to do with any vile person (note: Rom. 3:23).  But, because of Christ, anyone can come back to God who obeys Him.

–Christ died to be the ruler of the human heart on the cross (Rom. 14:19; Gal. 2:20).

–Christ died to show the individual how much He loves him on the cross (2 Cor. 5:14-15; John 14:23).

–Christ died to open the door to heaven, shut by the separating power of sin, on the cross (1 Thes. 4:14; Isa. 59:1-2).  Thus, in its importance the cross exceeds all else!

REMEMBER THAT THE CROSS IS REALLY SPECIAL.  Only Christ could have hung there.  No one else was qualified.  Only the blood of Christ was right in God’s sight for cleansing man from his ugly sins.  Only His love, as shown by the cross, is strong enough to bring one’s love of this world.

REMEMBER THAT THE CROSS WAS REALLY NECESSARY.  Christ had to die to satisfy God’s perfect justice.  Though all sin, no sinner, of himself, has anything to offer God to satisfy His just requirements.  Everyone needs what Christ gave on that hill far away (cf. Eph. 2:8-9).  There’s no good news to obey without the cross (cf. Rom. 1:16; 5:5-9).  If no cross, then no hope, no joy and no heaven!!

What can we do when the cross seems so distant from us in our spiritual lives?  Understanding the reality, the importance, the uniqueness and the necessity thereof, we will be prompted to renew our zeal and dedication to the suffering servant who died there for us (Heb. 5:8-9).  Matchless love led God to Calvary.  It is love that leads us back to Calvary!

–Neal Pollard

Displaying the Bible is not enough!

For many years the Bible has been the best selling book, not only in America, but in every country where God’s word is allowed to have free run. Non-profit organizations such as the American Bible Society have devoted untold man hours, and millions of dollars to see to it that the Bible is made available to anyone and everyone who desires to feed on the Book of books. The fact is, the Bible is the most widely printed, the most sought after, and the most influential book the world has ever had the blessed privilege of reading. The Bible is, without doubt, the greatest book ever written.

Consisting of 66 books, it stands as a monumental representation of heaven’s love for mankind. From the moment that God’s word has gone forth to man, Satan has scrutinized, criticized, de-emphasized and sought to minimize the Holy word. Critics have assailed its “contradictions” and “inconsistencies.” But the honest seeker knows that all such attempts to find fault with Scripture are mere subterfuge, and a whistling in the wind. The Bible has survived the onslaught of critics, and the more scrutiny and examination the Bible receives, the more it shines. It has withstood the hammers of infidelity, and weathered the howling winds of higher criticism. While history books become outdated, and science books re-edited, the Bible remains as fresh today as when it was written and needs no addition, subtraction, or rewriting. So long as men hunger and thirst after righteousness, the Bible will find a place in their hearts.

Have you ever thought of the amazing availability of Scripture in our modern age? We have ready access to God’s word, in print, and on the internet. Software is available for those who prefer studying at the keyboard of a computer that provides dozens of translations, dictionaries, commentaries, maps, illustrations, and study helps. I have on my personal laptop four Bible software programs, two of which are absolutely free. At the click of a button I can look up words, search the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words, consult the wisdom of brethren who blazed the trail in our country in order to restore the church of the New Testament and provide generations to follow a sound and solid footing in the word, and scour the internet for literally thousands of websites and blogs by faithful brethren. What an amazing age we live in! And yet, sadly, far too many saints still neglect their sacred responsibility and privilege of studying the word. In a time when our world needs a strong church to counteract the onslaught of the devil, it seems that we are the weakest we have been in decades; all because of negligence and apathy on the part of members of the Lord’s body. Some years ago I came across the following poem that addresses the problem of which I speak:

“UNREAD”
by Cleah Boaz

I am a Bible proudly displayed
for all the world to see.
With my leather cover and gilded pages
I am open at Psalm 23.

But no one ever picks me up
and lovingly turns a page,
And the place that is open at Psalm 23
is growing brittle with age.

I am a Bible proudly displayed
On a beautifully carved teak stand.
But no one ever reads the words
that were penned by an inspired hand.

My owner thinks my presence
is his ticket to Paradise,
But he has never consulted me
or heeded my advice.

I am a Bible proudly displayed
open but never read.

My owner’s soul will starve to death
for lack of its daily bread.

–by Tom Wacaster

Do you remember Captain Kangaroo?

A small child waits with impatience the arrival home of a parent. She wishes to relate some sandbox experience. She is excited to share the thrill that she has known that day. The time comes; the parent arrives. Beaten down by the stresses of the workplace the parent often replies: “Not know, honey, I’m busy, go watch television.”

The most often spoken words in the American household today are the words: go watch television. If not now, when? Later. But later never comes for many and the parent fails to communicate at the very earliest of ages.

We give her designer clothes and computer toys, but we do not give her what she wants the most, which is our time. Now, she is fifteen and has a glassy look in her eyes. Honey, do we need to sit down and talk? Too late. Love has passed by.

The person who wrote these words was Robert Keeshan, better known to America as Captain Kangaroo.

–Author unknown

Three things to think at holiday time

May I suggest two things for your consideration this holiday season?  (1) Consider what you have, not what you lack.  Most of us enjoy material possessions far and above that of the average world. Be grateful for God’s provisions, and even more thankful for those little “extras” that make life enjoyable.  (2) Spend some time this week to meditate upon God’s goodness to you. Get off by yourself and say a little prayer to Him from Whom all blessings flow, and that in rich abundance. (3) Finally, realize that with increased blessings come increased responsibility.  Read Luke 16:19-27, Matthew 25 and Luke 12:45-48.  Then ask yourself if you are properly sharing what you have with those who have not.

I’ll close with this thought provoking analysis of how blessed many of us truly are:

If you own just one Bible, you are abundantly blessed. 1/3 of the world does not have access to even one.

If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the million who will not survive the week.

If you have never experienced the danger of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 500 million people around the world.

If you attend a church meeting without fear of harassment, arrest or torture of death, you are more blessed that almost three billion people in the world.

If you have food in your refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof over your head and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of this world.

If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish someplace, you are among the top 8% of the worlds wealthy.

If your parents are still married and alive, you are very rare, even in the United States.

If you hold up your head with a smile on your face and are truly thankful, you are blessed because the majority can, but most do not.

If you can hold someone’s hand, hug them or even touch them on the shoulder, you are blessed because you can offer God’s healing touch.

If you prayed yesterday and today, you are in the minority because you believe in God’s willingness to hear and answer prayer.

If you can read this message, you are more blessed than over two billion people in the world that cannot read anything at all.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

–by Tom Wacaster

A "failed" judgment day

A little over five months ago, Harold Camping and his followers combed through the countryside telling everyone that the Judgment Day was going to happen on May 21st, 2011.  When the morning of May 22nd rolled around, everyone raised an eyebrow toward Camping.  In response, the doomsayers then claimed that God have given a brief period of grace, but both the Judgment Day and the destruction of the world would happen five months later on October 21st, 2011.  Well, obviously that date, too, has passed by without incident.  Now folks are raising both eyebrows toward Camping.  Harold Camping and his followers have since removed any doomsday predictions off of their radio show website (familyradio.com) and have basically left well enough alone.  Once again a Judgment Day prediction has proven to be nothing but empty chatter.

It seems people need another reminder of at least three Scriptures:

“Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3).
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives” (1 Peter 3:10-11).

“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36).

Do people think the Lord is joking in these passages?  I couldn’t help but think about God’s reaction would be when people found out that Camping’s predictions were wrong.  I imagined God standing and saying, “See, I told you so.”  God has made it very clear in the Bible that we will not know when Judgment Day will be.  It’s sad that people try to get around this.  The problem is, people constantly try to get around many of God’s other commands and not just this one.

The Lord isn’t kidding when He gives us a command, whether it is about Judgment Day, baptism (Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 3:21; etc.), or any other command (Matthew 7:21-27).  Our role is not to question or to look for a detour, but to obey.  After all, when Judgment Day does finally occur, we will be judged by Jesus’ words and if we followed them or not (John 12:48).  It’s time we stop trying to get around God’s commands and just do them.

Brett Petrillo

Being thankful before Thanksgiving

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote,

For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, for love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.

We have so much to be thankful for that it staggers the imagination. To be alive and breathing is reason enough to shout to the heavens. Our health, even if failing, still has us above ground in a world of extraordinary beauty.

To contemplate Thanksgivings past is to languish in a mound of warm blankets, to sip tea with our remembrances and rejoice in their reverie. Scenes of childhood flash across the canvas and smells and sounds permeate our minds.

I remember Thanksgivings of days past and family members whose seats are now empty. They still linger in our minds as we thank God for memories. We walk with them as we age and seek to be the best people we can be. We hope that we make them proud, as we carry their names forward in time.

The physical blessings of our lives are stupendous. We have received more blessings than we can enumerate and yet we complain and seek after more opulence. Wealth hijacks our minds and points us to the wrong goals in life. A return to simplicity would reclaim our innocence and appreciation for what we have ( Matthew 6:25-34).

People who cannot be satisfied will never find fulfillment. It will always be elusive, as nothing that is in the hands will satisfy. Dreamers never settle on a treasure. There will always be new hills to climb and verdant valleys to possess.

Israel was hungry after leaving Egypt. God provided them with manna, but they soon began to complain and wanted something new (Numbers 11). God blessed them with Quail, only to see them gorging themselves in excess. He then made them sick with a plaque.

How is our gratitude? Do we need a plague to wake us up?

May we all renew our commitment to simplicity, godliness and thankfulness. In the process, our regenerated spirits will soar, the flowers will bloom and the sun will shine. In the end, we will finally realize the glorious world our God has given us!

Thanks be to God for his marvelous love!

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net