Archives for : November2012

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses

“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12, ESV).

Watergate. Whitewater. Iran-Contra. The Abu Ghraib tortures. All of these terms elicit the smell of a cover-up, the attempt of powerful men to hide their misdeeds.

This desire to cover up is a basic instinct. Immoral, but basic, nonetheless! We sense that it is wrong to cover up actions that were done in secret! In a democracy, the people have a right to know!

A couple of years ago I wrote a letter to someone expressing sorrow that his wife had died. The impulse was a good one, but I had misidentified him. It was his brother whose wife had died. He phoned me first — before contacting other people — and with gentle humor quoted Mark Twain’s classic statement: “The rumors of my wife’s demise,” he said, “are greatly exaggerated!”

I appreciated the way he covered over my wrong. It took a big man to contact me, and not, in his offence, expose my mistake to dozens of friends and family members.

Of course most of us have been covering up wrongs all our life — our own wrongs, that is. On the one hand, we find alibis, extenuating circumstances for our “mere” moment of weakness. On the other hand we like to expose wrongdoing — other people’s wrongdoing. We highlight others’ faults, and disguise our own.

The book of Proverbs suggests we do it the other way around. When your friend makes a mistake, don’t shout it from the rooftops. Don’t announce it on “Channel 7.” Lovingly, gently, cover for him.

This week, cover for a friend or a colleague. Those kinds of cover-ups are good!

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Ugly Black Friday secret

The leftovers are eaten and Thanksgiving is a memory now. I pray we remember it fondly and that we took advantage of the holiday.

Thanksgiving is a hallowed day in the pantheon of holidays. Sadly, though, it is being forgotten.

Retail rules the landscape and in their world, Thanksgiving is a non-profit enterprise.

The repugnant “Black Friday” is now trampling Thanksgiving by beginning a day earlier. People lose all evidence of sanity and become wild animals, attacking one another just to get a new phone or toy.

Americans are a hypocritical people. We criticize the government for spending money they don’t have and endangering the existence of our nation. Yet, Americans live on credit cards and refuse to save money in their insatiable hunger for materialism.

Speaking of hypocrisy, too often God’s people complain that sinners ignore God when we often do the very same thing.

God’s people should have 365 Thanksgiving days a year.

“Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name” (Psalm 100:4, NKJV).

Our entire existence in Christ is brimming with blessings (Ephesians 1:3). God’s people should be exuberant with praise for our blessed Lord. Everywhere we look, we see God’s glory.

Nevertheless, we are like the lepers who did not come back to thank God for their healing (Luke 17:12-19).

* God gives us everything (Matthew 6:25-34), and we complain that we have nothing. * God never leaves us (Hebrews 13:5), but we sigh that God is nowhere to be found. * God provides all the answers (2 Timothy 3:16-17), but we lament that God doesn’t help us.

We need to shed the materialism of the world and return to the Word before we forget what Thanksgiving really means. Thank God daily and he will bless us constantly.

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

“What’s the Use?”

If you read Ecclesiastes 3:1-11, you will find a very negative passage.  Just before these verses, in the last part of 2:26, Solomon notes that “All is vanity and striving after the wind.” He then summarizes the first 8 verses of chapter 3 by writing in verse 9, “What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?!” In light of the truths expressed in verses 1-8, there seems to be no profit or value in laboring at all, because everything a man does eventually comes undone!

I see two things these verses are teaching us: (1) Life is frustrating, and (2) Life is frustrating for a purpose.

Just as there are seasons in nature, so are there seasons in our lives. There is a season of laughter, but it won’t last long – it will be followed ay a season of tears, but then, that won’t last long either, it will be followed by another season of happiness!

We fought WW1, — then peace;  then came WW2, followed by peace;  then came the Korean War, followed by peace; then theVietnam War, etc., etc.  Things just keep on turning, turning, turning.

When you stop to think about it, life is pretty frustrating. You get something nailed down, but the nails eventually come loose or rust away. Nothing that man does will stay done forever.  You may plant a perennial plant that blooms year after year, but eventually you’ll have to replace it. You can put a new roof on a house and it may last 40 years, but eventually you’ll have to replace it.  I’m sure housewives could add a couple hundred things along this line:  Wash dishes, but they don’t stay clean;  make beds, but they don’t stay made;  labor for two house in a hot kitchen to prepare a meal that’s devoured in ten minutes, and the family expects you to begin doing it all over again!

What’s the use of bringing a new life into the world when that little one will eventually grow, suffer and die?  Doctors could conclude, “What’s the use of healing people, they will eventually die anyway!”  Why labor and sacrifice for our children who will just grow up, leave home, and eventually forget all the sacrifices we made for them?  Why give yourself totally to one man or one woman when the odds are 50/50 that your spouse will turn against you? Even preachers are tempted to say, “Why work so hard studying and preparing sermons when the majority will ignore them and their lives never change?”

When we look at life like this, everything does seem pretty pointless, doesn’t it? But the REASON it seems pointless is because such a view is only *two dimensional,* that is, we are looking at ourselves in lieu of this world, and God is no where in the picture! Without God in our lives, life will always seem like a mass of contradictions – and that’s exactly what the whole book of Ecclesiastes is trying to teach us!

In verses 1-9, God is not mentioned even once.  But when we get to verses 10 & 11, we are told that the hand of God is in *everything* that happens; everything is overseen by Him; and in all these things, God has a purpose; and that purpose is “That we can be exercised in them!”

Now think about this. In every season of life: birth/death — healing/killing – weeping/laughing – war/peace, there is a purpose! And that purpose is so we can be *exercised in it.*

Finally, in verse 11, we read that God has also set eternity in their heart (NKJV, ESV, ASV).  God allows all these frustrations of life so that we will seek  something *permanent.* In this life, things just keep on turning, turning, and turning. We want off this merry-go-round, but every road we travel comes to a dead end!  How do we “put on the brakes?” We get out of the two dimensional arena, and step into the three dimensional arena – the one that includes God! The purpose for your good times and bad is to make you realize that this world is not your final home. That should ignite that “sense of eternity” which will cause you to seek God. That’s the first purpose of this life. And amid all the dead end streets, there is still one way out, and only One Way. “I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” (John 14:6).

–Toby Miller

10 Ways How to Think and Act Like a Pagan

#10. Make good use of excuses. Stay out of church because of hypocrites. For every Ananias and Sapphira who get zapped, a hundred other false Christians are hiding in the pews. Hurt feelings are always a good out. Remember: it’s never your fault.

#9. Stay busy running after the necessities of life, instead of putting first the Kingdom of God. After all, that’s what pagans do, heap up material things. Matthew 6:32-33.

#8. Be friends only with your little group. Everybody else is a bit weird. Matthew 5:47.

#7. Go in for ritual. Don’t worry with the heart, if you get the motions down right, that’s what the gods are looking for. Matthew 6:7.

#6. Power is the name of the game. Get as many people under your thumb as possible. Religion is a great venue for control and manipulation. All the while, make yourself out to be the great Benefactor. Mark 10:42; Luke 22:25.

#5. If it feels good, do it. Passion is good, let desire have rein. Otherwise, you’ll be repressed! 1 Thessalonians 4:5.

#4. Make the do-gooders look bad. Accuse them of legalism, self-righteousness, hypocrisy, inconsistency. Maybe nobody will notice that your criticisms have no basis. 1 Peter 2:12.

#3. Modernize. Keep up with the latest developments and trends. Restorationism is for old fogeys. You’ll never win a world with ancient ideas. Acts 17:21.

#2. Make your idol into god, because he’ll be mute, and you can make him say what you want. That way, your opinion becomes the word of god. 1 Corinthians 12:2.

#1. Deny the existence of God. Just do away with the whole god-problem with a single whack. Decide it’s all a hoax designed to keep people in line. When we’re dead, we’re done. And keep your fingers crossed that you’re right. Psalm 14:1.

–J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective

A royal couple marry. A terrorist mastermind dies by the sword. Floods and storms take lives and leave destruction behind. Some of us are affected directly by such events. Others watch or read about them from afar.

Headlines register the big happenings that supposedly affect or interest the greatest number of people. The big news sources tell stories that make the greatest difference in the quality of life, the security of our possessions, or the promise of a future for our children.

But seldom heard and almost never headlined are some of the most powerful influences in the world.

These influences often occur in dark corners, or sometimes in small groups, where television cameras do not go, where reporters never think to investigate.

You’ll not hear about these influences in doctors’ offices or down at the local cafe.

You’ll not see children pointing at them on the street nor read about them as the subject of the pundits and commentators.

Some people sleep while these influences are at work, others yawn, while many daydream.

They are not traded on Wall Street, nor are they the coin of nations, or the pursuit of tyrants and politicians.

What are these influences that never make the headlines?

The prayers of the righteous.

“The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5: 16b ISV).

In heaven, such a prayer is a headline event.

J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

I remember him sitting in a wheelchair in the front of the church building

The View by Paula Harrington

Joseph had a lot of problems. It started with family turmoil, and then problems at work which led to him having to serve prison time unjustly. However, throughout all his bad times he never lost sight of God. When Potiphar’s wife had eyes for Joseph, his eyes were on the Lord (Genesis 39:9).

When he was asked by Pharaoh to interpret a dream, he gave God the glory (Genesis 41:16) and when he rose to power in Egypt, he spoke of God’s providence (Genesis 50:20). Joseph had a great view of life.

Joseph’s story reminds me of another faithful child of God who had a godly view in difficult times. My father was a gospel preacher from central Arkansas who was diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 1976 at the age of twenty-seven. I remember him sitting in a wheelchair in the front of the church building, preaching his final sermon.

His speech was slow and slurred yet he spoke with resolve and hope. He said that we were all going to die, but he was blessed to know that his time was coming very soon. My father didn’t let a terminal illness keep him from God. In fact, he took a diagnosis that many would call a curse and proclaimed it as a blessing. What a view!

Christians must keep a positive view of our situations. May we always see that our God is bigger than our problems and keeping him in sight will give us peace and comfort in times of trouble and heartache.

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen” (2 Peter 3:18).

www.forthright.net

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit

ARISTOTLE SAID, “WE are what we repeatedly do…

Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”  We are creatures of habit.  Habits–overeating, thumb-sucking, breath-holding, nail-biting, smoking, and the like–run the gambit from unpleasant to unhealthy.  Other habits, like reading, healthy eating, exercise, money management, and getting adequate rest, greatly improve our quality of life.

Our lives are all composed of habits from the time we wake up all the way up to bedtime.  If a habit is negative, a cycle that includes triggers, feelings, and impulses can be broken anywhere along the way.  If the habit is positive and needed, we can nurture that cycle by continuing in it.

Think about certain spiritual matters that are matters of habit–faithful attendance, daily Bible study and prayer, pure speech, visitation, welcoming visitors at church services, involvement in church works, controlling the tongue, and any number of personal growth matters.

Aristotle was right.  Excellence does not consist in doing something once.  it is not even found in sporadic, occasional engagement.  We cultivate excellence by focusing on certain areas with repeated, persistent effort.

Paul urged the church at Thessalonica to “abound more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1).  That consisted in knowing how “to walk and to please God.”  Peter told the Christians dispersed abroad to keep their “behavior seemly among the Gentiles” (1 Peter 2:12).  In the second letter, he included excellence–virtue–as a Christian grace (2 Peter 1:5).

Excellence is not something we are born with or just wake up possessing.  It is, as Aristotle said, a matter of our habits!  (Neal Pollard)

 

If I hadn’t looked back, I would have won!

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man in history to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months, John Landy eclipsed the record by 1.4 seconds. On August 7, 1954, the two met together for a historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he would win, but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question, “Where is Bannister?” As he turned to look, Bannister took the lead. Landy later told a Time magazine reporter, “If I hadn’t looked back, I would have won!” *

Each of us can “look back” – and we don’t have to look far! – to mistakes
we have made in the past.  “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  The mistakes of the past, however, need not determine our destiny.

The Apostle Paul could “look back” upon a life full of rebellious sin.  He wrote: “I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man” (1 Timothy 1:13).  Yet Paul chose not to dwell on his mistakes; he refused to “look back”: “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).

How was Paul able to get past those horrible mistakes?

Observe the context of his recollection of his past sins: “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown MERCY because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:13).

Paul was able to look forward instead of looking back because of the mercy and grace that he received from Christ.  Christ appeared to Paul (then known as “Saul”) on the road to Damascus as he was intent on destroying Christianity.  But Paul became very penitent when confronted by the resurrected Christ and became submissive to His will.  Christ sent him into the city where he would be told what he must do (Acts 9:6).  He was told by the Lord’s messenger, Ananias, what he “must do.”  His message included instructions concerning how he could find forgiveness for his past sins: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).  When Paul complied, he experienced the mercy and grace of Jesus.

So can WE – IF we will respond in trusting obedience to Christ through:
faith (Acts 16:30-31) and repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus before
men (Romans 10:9-10) and being baptized (immersed) into Christ (Acts 2:38).

Don’t look back….  Look to JESUS! Let us “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2), for He gives us grace for our past and hope for our future.

Won’t YOU?

– David A. Sargent,

The power of baptism

The following true story comes from Verna Chambers in “Kids of the
Kingdom”:

Little Betsy had faithfully attended baptism classes. Her mother, wanting to be sure her daughter understood its significance, asked, “Honey, what does baptism mean?”

“Well, it isn’t the water that makes you clean . ” she began.

Smiling, Mother thought, Yes, she understands.

” . it’s the soap.”

Well, Betsy was at least half right.  Baptism is indeed the point at which the sins of a penitent sinner are washed away (Acts 22:16), but it’s not the water itself that makes you clean.  Paul makes reference to the cleansing that comes in “the washing of water by the word.” (Eph. 5:26). Jesus, himself, spoke of the new birth as being “born of the water and the Spirit” (John 3:3,5).  But there is no regenerational power in the water
itself.

No, the power of baptism is the blood of Jesus Christ.  As John acknowledged in the opening of his Revelation:  “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood.” (Rev. 1:5).

Does that detract from the value of baptism?  Not at all.  Baptism is no less important.  It just means that the power of baptism is found not in the water, but in the blood of Jesus Christ.  That’s why Paul connects the two so closely in Romans 6:

“Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death  Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death…” (Romans 6:3-4).  Separating baptism from the blood of Jesus Christ is like separating the chassis of a car from its motor.  A car is useless without a motor — that’s where the power is!  And baptism is worthless without the blood of Jesus — that’s where the power
is!

What a beautiful symbol baptism is of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (Rom. 6:4-5).  Thanks be to God for the cleansing that comes at the point of baptism, but greater thanks indeed for the blood of Jesus Christ which provides the power for that cleansing!

Alan Smith

Father always had to be the center of attention

THEODORE ROOSEVELT’S CHILD once jabbed, “Father always had to be the center of attention…

When he went to a wedding, he wanted to be the bride.  When he went to a funeral, he was sorry that he couldn’t be the corpse.”

Although we may find humor in this illustration, it reflect a harmful “me-first” philosophy.  This philosophy can best be defined by the motto, “Look out for number one.”  Self is enthroned as king; people, circumstances, and life are subjects that must bow down.

Embracing this philosophy, self becomes the epicenter of the world.  But according to God’s Word, self is not to be the focal point of our lives.  God’s plan is for us to focus our thoughts, time, and energy on loving Him and others (Matthew 22:36-39)..

THOUGHT: If you were to write your life motto, what would it say?  Look out for number one?  Or look out for the needs of others?  (David Jeremiah)

“Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).

Mike Benson

Don’t forget to pray

“…Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps” (1Peter 2:21).

Considering the subject of prayer, one cannot be said to be following in the steps of Jesus if prayer is not a personal priority in his life. For example:

*      After healing the multitudes at Capernaum, before daybreak Jesus went to a solitary place and prayed (Mark 1:35).

*      After the miracle of feeding the 5,000, Jesus ascended a nearby mountain and prayed (Matthew 14:23)

*      At His baptism, Jesus prayed (Luke 3:21)

*      Before his first confrontation with the Jewish leaders, Jesus prayed (Luke 5:16)

*      Before choosing the 12 disciples, Jesus prayed (Luke 6:12).

*      Before the first prophecy of His death, Jesus prayed (Luke 9:18).

*      At the transfiguration site, Jesus prayed (Luke 9:29).

*      Jesus was praying when His disciples came and asked Him to “teach us how to pray” (Luke 11:1).

*      In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed (Matthew 26:39).

*      While hanging on the Cross, Jesus prayed (Luke 23:34 & 36)

Furthermore, Jesus admonished His disciples to pray: “Pray that ye enter not into temptation” (Luke 22:40).  Jesus encouraged His followers to “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Luke 11:9). Jesus even told three parables, the major emphasis of which was prayer: Luke 11:5-13;  Luke 18:1-8;  Luke 18:11-13.

The point is this: Since the Son of God felt such a keen need of prayer, how much more ought we to feel this need?!  Would Jesus spend so much time in His brief stay on this earth in prayer if it availed nothing?!  Would Jesus encourage His disciples to pray if it was really just a waste of time?

How much power in the individual Christian’s life, as well as in the church, is voided because of a lack of fervent prayer?  “Power belongs to God” (Psalm 62:11);  God will give power to His faithful children (2 Timothy 1:7) — however, “You have not, because you ask not” (James 4:2).

Toby Miller

Running 152 miles in 2 days

IN 490 BC, THE Persians landed at a place called Marathon with the hope of capturing Athens…
Greatly outnumbers, the Athenians dispatched Pheidippides to Sparta for help.  Pheidippides is reported to have run one hundred and fifty miles in two days.  Then, when he returned and learned that the Athenians had already defeated the Persians, he ran another twenty-two miles to Athens.  There, he shouted, “Rejoice…  We conquer,” and collapsed to his death in exhaustion. 
The first Olympics (1896 AD), retraced Pheidippides’ steps with a twenty six mile race in his honor.  Today, “marathons” are still run and every step of every race pays silent tribute to a hero that was faithful to the very end of his life.  In keeping with that same spirit, Hebrews chapter three challenges us to “hold fast” [literally, “stay the course”]…firm to the end (3:6, 14; cf. 4:14; 6:18; 10:23).  (Dan Winkler)
“But Christ as a Son over His own house, who house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end” (Heb. 3:6). 
–Mike Benson

How Big Are Your Ears?

There is story told of Franklin Roosevelt.  He often endured long receiving lines at the White House. He complained that no one really paid any attention to what was said. One day, during a reception, he decided to try an experiment. To each person who passed down the line and shook his hand, he murmured, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. We are proud of you. God bless you, sir.” It was not till the end of the line, while greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

It really is shocking how much and how well people actually listen.  Unfortunately, listening is rarely a top priority.  However, when we are going through some very difficult times and we really need someone to talk to, who is the person typically contacted?  Most of the time, it is the one person who we know is a good listener (whether we realize we think about them in this way or not).  Listening is truly an important skill.  Here are 3 specific levels of listening we should focus and improve on.

Level 1: Listen for Yourself.  Listening is probably the most fundamental way of gaining knowledge and bettering ourselves.  Proverbs 13:1 says, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. ”  Proverbs 15:32 explains, “He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.”  If we do not take the time to listen to instruction and take the advice people give us (within reason), we could be equal to the “scoffer who does not listen.”  Every significant leader in the church did not become great by ignoring advice but by listening to wise men and instruction.  There is so much valuable information out there but sometimes we have to close our “noise maker” and humble ourselves to hear it.  We will improve ourselves if we listen for the purpose of improvement.

Level 2: Listen to Others.  The “Golden Rule” applies to listening just as much as any other subject (Matthew 7:12).  I think we all can name a situation when we had something very important to say and then in the middle of the sentence, the we are talking to person either walks away, talks to someone else, does not even acknowledging we are speaking (because they aren’t listening), or simply interrupts with something else.  On the flip end, I think most of us can say we have been on the opposite end and did not listen to someone else, whether it was intentional or not.  As Christians, listening is a vital part of our ministry and bringing others to Christ.  In chapel a few weeks ago, James Piffner made a great point: Even if we deliver the best lesson, sermon, Bible study, etc we have ever done, but we do not know who the target is because we did not listen to him/her, then we are going to miss the target completely, and definitely miss the part we are really aiming for…the heart.  We want others to listen to us, how much more so should we be willing to listen to others?  Whether it is to the lady in the grocery store, a potential convert, a sibling, a husband or wife, a struggling Christian, or whoever, listening to them is important.  We cannot possibly hope to be effective if we are not willing to listen to others.

Level 3: Listen to God.  This is easily the most important level of listening.  There are plenty of people in the world who listen for themselves, and are great listeners to others (probably better than many of us in some cases), but they do not listen to God and therefore are lost.  I do not think I would like to see God’s reaction if He was trying to tell me something important and I just walked off, talked to someone else, and completely ignore Him to His face (however, Sodom, Gomorrah, Ananias, Sapphira, Nadab, Abihu, and others begin flashing in my head).  The problem is, when we do not obey God’s commands in the Bible, we begin doing just that…we begin ignoring God.  It is impossible to ignore God and still find favor in His sight at the end of time.  No matter how good listeners we have become to God, there is always room for improvement.  Above all, we must be good listeners to God’s Word.

We all know and love the childhood story of Dumbo.  Dumbo is known for having very large ears, but great thing about them was that he was able to use them to fly.  Listening (1) for ourselves, (2) to others, and (3) to God (aka – how big our ears are) could play a major role in achieving our final flight into heaven.  Let’s focus on being better listeners in order to improve ourselves, improve our connection and influence with others, as well as improve our relationship with the Lord.  So, when it comes to listening for yourself, listening to other, and listening to God, how big are your ears?

–Brett Petrillo

MARY KAY ASH

MARY KAY ASH encouraged her employees at Mary Kay with a an attitude of celebration and blessing…

She signed hundreds of birthday cards offering free lunch and a free movie.  She commemorated employees’ “blessed events” such as weddings and babies with personal gifts.  She put flowers and white tablecloths in the company cafeteria, and perfume and makeup (Mary Kay brand, of course) in the rest rooms.  A sign outside her office read “Department of Sunshine and Rainbows.”  Her credo was “Appreciation is the oil that makes things run.”  Ash realized that constant verbal and physical demonstrations of encouragement are necessary for the achievement of ambitious goals and to make employees feel truly valued.

THOUGHT: Moses knew the encouraging power of encouragement.  When the desert sands seemed unending, when food became scarce, and when internal dissidents threatened to undermine the organization’s purpose (“Let’s return to Egypt!), Moses reminded the Israelites of their goal, a “land of milk and honey” that truly existed, even if they had never seen it.  (Lorin Wolfe)

“…Encourage one another daily…” (Hebrews 3:13; cf. 10:24).

–Mike Benson

Almost is not close enough

I ALMOST CLEANED out my attic today… It is such a mess. I’ve been putting it off until warmer weather. I almost started sorting out the stuff that needs to be thrown away from the stuff I need to keep. I almost moved it around to get some of it ready for a garage sale in the spring.

While I was almost cleaning out my attic, I thought about some of the people I have not talked to in a long time. I almost got out my address book to call them. But they may not be home or perhaps are busy. Maybe it would be better to write them a letter. So I almost wrote them a letter instead.

While I was almost cleaning out my attic and almost writing letters, I thought that there are several folks at church that are sick. I wondered if they would like some cookies or a cake, or maybe just someone to stop by and say “hello.” So I almost went to the kitchen to fix them something and I almost went to visit them. It made me feel so good inside to think about their faces smiling as I walked in their door with a plate of goodies. In fact, I almost smiled just thinking about it.

While I was almost doing those things, I looked out my window and saw a neighbor who does not go to church and needs the gospel. He seems like a really nice guy. I almost called him to invite him to go with me to church this weekend.

While I was almost doing those things, I almost sat down and read my Bible. I had to move it off the kitchen counter where it was sitting. As I carried it to the other room I almost just sat right down that minute to spend time in the word of God.

When I got to the church building the other day I noticed the weeds that have grown up during the cold weather months. We need to clean up so that others get a good impression when they come to worship. I almost called a couple of friends to see if they would like to spend a couple of hours cleaning up a little. It almost looks better already. Well, not really.

There are a lot of good things that we almost do in life. It does not matter what we plan, intend or almost do. What matters is what we actually do, not almost do. King Agrippa was almost convinced to be a Christian (Acts 26:28).

I wonder how many believers are almost faithful and will be almost saved? The immortal words of Philip P. Bliss sing on: “Almost persuaded,” harvest is past! “Almost persuaded,” doom comes at last! “Almost” cannot avail; “Almost” is but to fail! Sad, sad, that bitter wail—“Almost,” but lost. (Tim Orbison) Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.” Acts 26:28

–Mike Benson

Keepig toilet paper handy

Okay, I confess. Back in ’97, I used to keep a roll of toilet paper in my old, Ford pickup truck. Whenever I would go hunting or fishing I kept it underneath the driver’s seat in case there was a need.

One day I had driven over to the local post office to gather same mail for the church. And as I stepped out of the pickup I felt something around the cuff of my trousers. My assumption was that the wind was blowing so hard that it had wrapped the cuff around my leg. I walked several steps forward when a gentleman coming out of the post office stopped in front of me, pointed to the ground and announced, “Uh, young man…you’re losing your toilet paper!” I looked down and to my chagrin (my face is red just thinking back on that occasion) there was this tangle of toilet paper around the bottom of my pant leg!

To make matters worse, as I turned around to see where the roll started, I discovered forty-plus feet of paper trailing behind me across the parking lot and up to the driver’s side door of the truck! Virtually everybody coming out of or going into the post office got a big laugh at my expense. (Stop laughing)!

Yes, that was an embarrassing moment. But you know, I can think of something far more embarrassing than toilet paper around the leg of my trousers. And that would be to stand in the Judgment unprepared to meet my God (Matthew 22:9-14). That would REALLY be embarrassing.

Dear reader, are YOU ready for the Judgment Day (2 Corinthians 5:10)?

–by Mike Benson

The value of turbulence

Air, fluid, and similar turbulence are characterized by unpredictability and uncontrolled change. Air turbulence disrupts the flow of the wind.

The Mississippi River, when it contacts a tributary like the Ohio River, comes together and the hydraulic propulsion creates violent turbulence at the point where it converges. The water smooths out and becomes less turbulent as it gets farther from the point where it united.

While there are circumstances like flying and boat riding where we come to expect that turbulence is quite possible, it can still catch us off guard and be unpleasant. For those who are married, think back to your wedding day. The bride was beautiful in her white gown, made-up hair, and that general sparkle and shine that made her seem almost angelic. The groom seemed handsome, strong, and full of vitality. This was the culmination of true love. Life and your outlook on it were bright and sunny. This was the beginning of something wonderful. But, as these two mighty forces converged, turbulence was inevitable.

Coming together and being united is not done smoothly and without waves. Two people from different backgrounds, viewpoints, and histories do not automatically make things work out without adjusting to the turbulence. God did not make us weak people. You cannot collapse and fold when things get rough and choppy. You cannot get off the plane during the turbulence. It is not smart to get out of the boat when the waves and the turbulence are stirred.

Your best hope is to stay put and ride out the bumps and bounces. But, oh the reward and blessing of enduring whatever unrest and uproar you encounter in marriage. Think of how pleasant the ride of marriage is, and help make it so! Just do not be a wimp and give up at the first sign of marital turbulence. The unpredictability can be so much a part of the excitement!

Neal Pollard

Elvis Presley’s Bible

A Bible that was given to Elvis Presley in 1957 by his aunt and uncle was auctioned off. It is clear that Elvis actually read and used this Bible, for it contained several marginal notes written in his own handwriting. One such note is found in the margin of Luke 9. It says, “For what is a man advantaged if he should gain the whole world and lose himself or be castaway.” Interesting insight from a man who had so much of what this world values.

But to the real point of this article. The Bible sold for $97,000.00. What I find of particular interest is that the value of this Bible was determined by the person who owned it. Oh, I understand how the whole “celebrity thing” works, but I just thought it was ironic that (from the world’s point of view) the owner of this Bible brought value to the Bible. However, the Bible is “priceless” no matter who owns it, and frankly, the value of a Bible is not increased by its owner, rather the Bible brings value to its owner. Give it some thought.

Steve Higginbotham

The genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes

LAST YEAR WHILE hiking in the mountains of North Georgia, I came across a very large unusually shaped brick…

The brick was almost completely covered in green, fur-like vegetation.  After I scraped the green goop away, I carefully inspected the brick and discovered that it was a brownish-yellow color instead of the traditional red.  I also discovered some unusual markings and identification numbers on the brick.  When I returned home, I was able to do some research and found that this particular type of brick was used in the early-to-mid eighteen hundreds to construct smelting ovens.  These ovens melted and purified gold after it was mined from the mountains of North Georgia and Carolina.  The purpose of the melting process was to remove any impurities that were attached to the gold.

THOUGHTS: God compares the difficulties and trials that each of us must experience in our lives to the purification or smelting process that gold goes through in order to become valuable.  It is kind of like the refining process that the old yellow brick had been a part of over a hundred years ago.  The brick had actually facilitated the fire’s ability to remove impurities from the gold after melting, and thereby increased its value.  And more than likely some of the very gold which was purified in that particular type of brick smelting oven is still around today, possibly in the form of antique jewelry that has been passed from one generation to another.  (Mitch Temple)

“The genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  1 Peter 1:7

Mike Benson

Sunday’s A Comin’

Tony Campolo tells the story of a black minister who preached a sermon Tony says he’ll never forget. Tony preached first. He was “hot,” so “hot” he says, that he even stopped and listened to himself. He sat down and said to his minister: “Now see if you can top that one!”

“Son,” said the black evangelist, “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.” For an hour and a half the preacher repeated these words over and over again: “It’s Friday, but Sunday’s a comin’.”

“I’ve never heard anything like it,” Tony said. “He just kept saying it. The congregation was spellbound by the power of it.”

“It’s Friday. Mary, Jesus’ mother is crying her eyes out. That’s her son up there on the cross. He’s dying the agonizing death of crucifixion as a criminal. But it’s only Friday,” the preacher said. “Sunday’s a comin’.

“The apostles were really down and out. Jesus, their leader, was being killed by evil men. But it was only Friday. Sunday is a comin’.

“The Devil thought he had won. ‘You thought you could outwit me,’ he said, ‘but I’ve got you now.’ But it was only Friday. Sunday is a comin’.”

“He went on like that for 30 minutes, 40 minutes, an hour. Each time he said, ‘It’s Friday,’ the crowd began to respond, ‘but Sunday’s comin’. An hour and 15 minutes.

“It’s Friday and evil has triumphed over good. Jesus is dying up there on the cross. The world is turned upside down. This shouldn’t happen. But it’s only Friday. Sunday’s a comin’.

“It’s Friday. But Sunday is comin’. Mary Magdalene was out of her mind with grief. Her Lord was being killed. Jesus had turned her life from sin to grace. Now he was dead. But it’s only Friday. Sunday is a comin’.”

The place was rocking. For an hour and a half. “Friday! But Sunday is a comin’. Friday. But Sunday is a comin’.

“The sisters and the brothers are suffering. It just isn’t fair…all they have to go through, but it’s only Friday. Sunday is comin’.”

“I was exhausted,” Tony said. “It was the best sermon I’ve ever heard. The old preacher was saying it and the people were with him. ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday is a comin’. It was powerful,” Tony said. “It was personal.”

Ronald J. Lavin, I Am the Resurrection and the Life