Archives for : February2013

Access to God

Sometimes on the Internet we encounter the message, “Access denied.” Signs populate doors, “Authorized Personnel Only.” Yesterday, on the highway we passed a country club sign with the warning, “Members Only.”
Many places are closed to us. We can’t enter because we don’t have the right.
The halls of power allow few to enter their doors. Abraham Lincoln allowed the public to roam the White House and seek an audience with the U.S. president, but those days are long gone. Most of us will never have the opportunity to talk to a president, prime minister, king or even a congressional representative or parliament member.
Through the death of Christ, we have free and confident access to God. Paul said God’s eternal purpose was accomplished in Christ Jesus, our Lord, “in whom we have access to God in boldness and confidence through faith in him” (Ephesians 3:12 NRSV).
This access, or approach (NIV), allows us to have fellowship (friendship) with God, to submit to him our requests and intercessions, to share his mission in the world as a part of the church of his Son (verse 10).
Such a free approach to God is amazing, considering the rich and powerful do everything to restrict access to their presence. He offers it because, first of all, he loves and desires a relationship with us.
Second, as the Sovereign Lord he is not threatened by any attempt at rebellion or assassination, constant worries of human figures.
Also, he is able to receive all who come in submission and obedience and relate equally and fully with each individual. His time and energies are not limited.
Only when we are “in Christ” is this access offered to us. See Ephesians 3:12 again.
So the great question is, how do I get into Christ?
The New Testament offers clear answers. It tells us that immersion in water puts us into Christ (Romans 6:3; Galatians 3:27). We must understand what is happening during immersion, because it is not a sacrament, effective without the faith, repentance or awareness of the person being immersed. Our decision to come to God must be informed, intelligent, obedient.
With that informed decision, we can approach him boldly, knowing that we will be accepted, for he has made us holy, as he is holy.
No greater privilege has been granted mankind than this access to God. Let us make every effort to enter and remain in his presence. Therein lies our blessing, our life, our future.
“As for me, you uphold me because of my integrity; you allow me permanent access to your presence” (Psalm 41:12 NET).
–by J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

TIME TO HEED THE WARNING!

Have you ever heard someone say, “What do you want me to do, draw you a picture?” The phrase is usually used to indicate someone is having a hard time understanding something. That’s nothing new is it, it’s been happening for as long as people can remember and it probably always will.

Someone shared the following story with me and after reading it; I can believe that it’s real. The storyteller says, “They’ve closed a road near where I live in order to repair a collapsed sewer-pipe. The construction workers have put up a sign saying: ROAD CLOSED. But, since the actual road closure is not apparent until you go around a bend, a lot of drivers go just to see if the road is REALLY closed.

After they see that the road really is closed, they start making their way back. Their embarrassment is made worse by another sign right behind the ROAD CLOSED sign, but facing them on their return. The new sign reads: TOLD YOU SO!

I think that must be part of the human make up to want some kind of proof for everything in our lives. In the Old Testament in Numbers 14:11, God was upset with the Israelites because of that problem. It tells us, “The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?”

In the New Testament, Paul tells us, “Seeing that the Jews make request for signs, and the Greeks are looking for knowledge: But we give the good news of Christ on the cross, a hard thing to the Jews, and a foolish thing to the Gentiles.” (1 Corinthians 1:22-23) Everyone wants proof, yet it is faith without seeing that will get us to heaven. Remember the disciple Thomas who doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead? Look again at the words of Jesus from John 20:27-29 “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'” (NLT)

I pray that someday you don’t turn around and read the sign from God, “I told you so!” Because you see we are told in Revelation 20:12 of what will eventually happen. John says of the future, “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books.”

So, which side of the sign are you going to believe?

Russ Lawson

How to be satisfied with life

AN ANCIENT LEGEND tells of Al Haffed, a wealthy man who owned a large farm…

One evening a visitor related to him tales of diamonds that could be found in other parts of the world.  The vision of all this wealth made him feel poor by comparison.  So he sold his prosperous farm and set out to find treasure.  The search proved fruitless.  Finally, penniless and in despair, he committed suicide by jumping into the sea.

Meanwhile, the man who had purchased his farm one day noticed the glint of an unusual stone in a shallow stream on the property.  To his amazement he pulled out a huge diamond.  Later, when working in his garden, he uncovered more valuable gems.  Poor Al Haffed had spent his life traveling to distant lands, seeking for jewels he could have found on the farm he had left behind.

Don’t overlook what you have!  Contrast what you are with what you might have been but for the grace of God.  (Allen Webster)

“Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”  Philippians 4:11

–Mike Benson

Mission Accomplished

It’s the story of a friendship forged during one of the worst battles of World War II, and a promise made almost 60 years earlier, a promise that was finally kept.

Harold Huggins, a U.S. veteran of 10 major campaigns in World War II and the last survivor of his battalion, traveled halfway across the United States by train on one last mission in memory of his best buddy.

“I’ve had this on my mind for 57 years, trying to locate his sister and loved ones out there in California ,” says Huggins. “Part of him lives in me.”

Huggins, from Albany , IL, and Mack McClain from Marysville, CA, were best friends in the army. They wound up together at Anzio Beach , Italy , the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Mack told Harold that he didn’t think he was going to make it out of there alive, so he gave Harold some mementos, a belt, some photos, and said: “’Give this to my sister, tell her that I love her,’ Huggins recalls. ’You can even give her a kiss.’”

Harold promised that if anything happened to Mack he would do what was asked. One day later, Mack was killed in an artillery barrage.

After the war, Harold looked for Mack’s sister but he never found her until Harold’s daughter sent out e-mails to various veterans groups inquiring about Mack’s relatives. Some California veterans found Mack’s sister, Grace, whose last name had changed because she married.

“We have always hoped and prayed that we would meet somebody that would tell us about Mack,” says Grace.

On Thursday, August 2, 2001, at the place where his buddy’s name is engraved in marble at the Veterans Memorial in Marysville , CA , Harold Huggins kept that promise he made 57 years earlier. He met Mack’s sister for the very first time, gave her the kiss that Mack asked Harold to deliver, and entrusted to her the mementos from his fallen friend.

For an old soldier who wouldn’t give up his search for a buddy’s long lost sister, there was a feeling of mission accomplished.

Friend, I want you to know about another Friend who died for you. In fact, He voluntarily gave His life so that you and I might live (1 Thessalonians 5:10). “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13). Jesus Christ demonstrated this great love and died for our sins so that you and I might live with Him forever in heaven.

God’s mission of salvation was accomplished when Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross (Ephesians 1:7). Through Jesus, we can have forgiveness and eternal life! We must accept His gift by believing in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38). Then, if we will live faithfully to Him (1 John 1:7), one day He will take us to live with Him forever (John 14:1-3).

Won’t YOU allow His Mission to be accomplished in you?

David A. Sargent

“He Took Their Children”

Not too far from where I live is the headquarters for the International Storytelling Association. The telling of stories is nothing new but the appreciation of this art has seen a rebirth in recent years. A good story can be entertaining, but it can also be a means of conveying historical events. In such cases it may be hard to separate fact from fiction.

One famous example is the story of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. This tale is found in the collection of stories by the Brothers Grimm and traces back at least to the 13th century. The plot is simple: The town of Hamelin, Germany was suffering from an overabundance of rats. A man mysteriously appeared, offering to take care of the problem. The townspeople agreed, promising to pay him generously if he would only get rid of those pests.

The man, dressed in pied (multicolored) clothing, began playing a flute. Rats began appearing from everywhere, following the flutist as he led them to the river. The tune kept playing as the rats leaped into the river to their deaths. When the townspeople reneged on their promise to pay the piper he began playing his flute again. This time it was their children he led out of their lives.

There may be fact behind this fiction. Records have been found lamenting the loss of 130 children from Hamelin. An entry into the town’s records of 1284 says, “It is 10 years since our children left.” Theories abound regarding what may have happened to those children. Was it disease, with death portrayed in pied clothing? Was it a Crusade that lured the children from their homes? No one knows for sure, but the theories cast a shadow over what has otherwise been a nice little fairy tale.

There’s plenty of facts over which to be concerned in our modern world. You likely won’t spot a man in pied clothing playing a flute with children following. But will you have any difficulty finding others whose influence is leading young ones away from where they need to be?

The book of Proverbs begins with this urgent warning: “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent” (Proverbs 1:10). The first psalm also recognizes the tendency of young ones to follow others into sin: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalm 1:1). Was the psalmist writing about the dangers of television, video games or the Internet? He might have been.

This danger of modern Pied Pipers means that good people have to be proactive. Rather than watching passively as sinful melodies lure our children from wholesome teachings, we must work hard to ground them. Paul gave a solution: “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). Doing that will require deliberate effort and the investment of quality time. But it must be done.

A Pied Piper must have been at work in the generation after Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land. Judges 2:10 says that “… another generation arose after them who did not know the Lord …” No wonder that book reveals a nation in chaos.

Our children’s souls are at stake. We have work to do before they are led away from us.

-Timothy D. Hall

Stop Dating The Church

I recently read a book by Joshua Harris by the above title. In this book Harris affirmed that there are many people who “date” the church, but who are unwilling to fall in love with and be committed to the church. And you know, I think he’s right. How many people do you know who are “believers” but they’re not “belongers.” They believe in Jesus, but don’t want to be tied down. They “date” the church, but want to remain independent and free of commitment and responsibility.

Friends, instead of seeing the church for all its flaws and foibles, why not see it as the wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:9-11), and the beautiful bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-32). Committing to the church doesn’t tie one down, rather it anchors one through the storms of life. And it’s flaws? It’s flaws provide us with an opportunity to love, serve, practice patience, and grow more like our Savior.

Listen friends, don’t allow yourself to use the excuse that the church is too messed up to commit to it. Jesus is the only one who has the right to disown or give up on the church, but he never has and never will.

Therefore, let me leave you with this challenge. Many people are fond of saying that we need to develop a heart for the poor or a heart for the lost, and these are good desires. But may I challenge you to also develop a heart for the church? Get involved. Get committed. Take on responsibility. Invest yourself. After all, if Jesus loves the church, shouldn’t we?

Steve Higginbotham

CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD by Neale Walsch

The above is a title of a book series that author wrote. What are these books about? It is essentially a series of answers written from “God’s point of view.” Or in other words, if you were to walk up to God and directly ask Him a question, here are the answers He would give you. Walsch claims these are not just his thoughts and ideas but they came directly from God Himself. In an interview with Larry King, Walsch said:

“It started in the darkest moment of my life, Larry, when everything was going wrong in my life. My career was reaching a dead end…So I called out in the middle of the night…I really began screaming out silently inside myself, what does it take to make life work? Somebody tell me. What are these rules?…And, Larry, I heard a voice clearly as I am hearing now, right over my right shoulder, so clearly, I turned around and thought someone had come into the room. It was 4:30 in the morning, and the voice said, Neale, do you really want answers to all of these questions or are you just venting, and I can recall my response after I got over the shock of not finding anyone there, I thought, well, I am venting, but if you’ve got answers, I’d like know what they are. And with that, I received the answers to most of the most astonishing questions and the most extraordinary answers, and as they began coming to me and literally filling my mind, I thought I’ve got to write this down…” (Larry King Live, April 7th, 2000).

And with that Walsch began writing “Conversations With God” and giving God’s “answers” to many of life’s tough questions. But before we look at some of “God’s answers,” let’s be reminded of a few of points about these books. First, this series of his was on the “New York Times” best-sellers list for over 130 weeks. Second, Oprah largely supports this book and even had Walsch on her show. Third, his books are being sold and distributed in schools through the Scholastic Book Club and probably other means as well. So, why is this book so terrible and sickening? Here are some of Walsch’s questions and answers from “God.”

A girl is wondering why she is a lesbian? “God’s” answer is that she was “born this way” because of genetics. Then “God” tells her to go out and celebrate her differences. Another girl asks, “I am living with my boyfriend. My parents say I should marry him because I am living in sin. Should I marry him?” “God” answers, “Who are you sinning against? Not Me, because you have done nothing wrong.” Another question is about the forgiveness of sins and how God handles this. “God” answers this question by saying, “I do not forgive anyone because there is nothing to forgive…there is no such thing as right or wrong and that is what I have been trying to tell everyone, do not judge people.” If you are anything like me, this is about a profane and irreverent as a person can get. His book series is jam packed with question and answer sessions just like these. And to make matters worse, everyone from 10-year-old kids all the way to 90-year-olds are thanking him and being influenced by his works. To be honest, there is so much wrong with this entire book that it seems ridiculous to even give it the time of day. The problem is, there are several honest and sincere people, including children, who are being deceived by false teachers like Neale Walsch.

Ironically, we don’t need to have a “conversation with God” to know that Neale Walsch is wrong. Scripture, the authentic “conversation with God,” warns us about people like Walsch (Galatians 1:6-10; 1 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15; 2 John 7-10; etc). So, let’s boil this down; what should we do about this? Let me concluded with 2 suggestions. (1) Let’s spread the word about this false teacher and the trash his books are endorsing. (2) Let’s keep watching out and guarding our children and ourselves from such repulsive teachings.

–Brett Petrillo

Unreturned Calls

Last week I placed a phone call to someone I hadn’t seen recently. They didn’t answer, so I left a voice message asking them to return my call. I’ve not heard from them yet and it makes me wonder why. Did they not get the message? Do they not want to talk to me? Regardless, I may try to call once more, but probably no more than that.

A woman in Holland doesn’t have the same view of unreturned calls. The Associated Press is reporting today that this 42-year-old was recently arrested on charges of stalking. The 62-year-old man who was the focus of her attention filed charges after she wouldn’t stop calling his number. How many times did she try? According to police who investigated, she placed 65,000 calls in the last year! She claims they were in a relationship; he denies the claim.

I’ve been the object of incessant calls. I’m thinking of telemarketers who seem to always call about the time I’m enjoying my evening meal. I’m rarely interested in the product or services they hawk, but they just don’t seem to get the message. Caller ID has helped me somewhat; if I see a call from a 1-800 number, I usually don’t answer it. They continue to call, but I doubt it has been 65,000 times.

How does the Lord feel about the “calls” people make to Him? Prayer is the idea I have in mind now; there are no published phone numbers for heaven. Most people attempt to make such a call to the Lord, if only in dire circumstances. Sometimes it seems He didn’t get the call; or maybe He just doesn’t want to hear from us. Is that how we should look at the issue of unanswered prayers?

Jesus told a parable in Luke 18 that addresses the question of whether God wants to hear from His children. He told of a widow who approached “a judge who did not fear God nor regard man” (v. 2). The grumpy judge seemed to pay no attention at all to this widow’s plea, but that didn’t stop her. She continued to visit his court, day after day.

In exasperation the judge finally declared, “Yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me” (v. 5). The Lord seems to affirm the old adage, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Because she did not stop “calling”, the widow got what she desired.

What does Jesus’ parable say about God? Is He like the grumpy judge who would rather not be bothered, but will finally relent when it becomes clear the person praying won’t stop?

No, Jesus was stating just the opposite. After showing how people often behave, Jesus pointed to God: “And shall not God avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?” (v. 7). We’re not bothering God when we call upon Him. But we must realize that sometimes He “bears long” with us. Our timetable may not be God’s timetable.

That is, in fact, why Jesus spoke this parable, Luke says: “Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart” (v. 1). If you are a child of God, know that God wants to hear from you! And if He delays in His answer, don’t interpret that as a sign that He doesn’t care. He absolutely does care.

No, we can’t wear God out with our frequent prayers. Such cries to the Lord actually strengthen our faith – if we don’t lose heart.

Timothy D. Hall

Which view is your view?

THREE PEOPLE WERE visiting the Grand Canyon — a painter, a preacher, and a cowboy…

Looking over the massive canyon, each one verbalized his observation:

“Incredible!” the painter said.  “I’d love to paint a picture of this!”

The preacher waved his arms and cried, “Glory!  Look what God has done!”

The cowboy exclaimed, “I’d sure hate to lose a cow down there!”

THOUGHT: What do you see when you look at your situation?  An illustration of God’s handiwork, or just someplace to lose a cow?  (Stan Towler)

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things re 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

Mike Benson

It Could Be Worse

Sometimes in life it is easy to focus on all the bad things that are happening.  Far too often we tend to think things could not get worse.  On Thursday of last week I had a pretty bad day.  My daughter was born three weeks pre-mature on Monday.  So she is now in the NICU at the hospital where she has been for the past two weeks (almost).  It is obviously hard leaving her at the hospital while I have to come home.

To make matters worse, the car that I recently bought broke down on the way home from the hospital.  I had not slept much that week and I was completely exhausted. I had thought that things could not get much worse. However, over the next few days I was given somewhat of a wake up call.  I met two families that had it much worse than I did.  One family had their son in the NICU just like I did. They had six other children at home so they obviously had other responsibilities.  The worse part is that the child’s mother also had breast cancer.  She found this out soon after she became pregnant.

The other family that I spoke with had twins in the NICU.  Sadly, one of them had already died.  I could see the mother fighting back her tears when she told Alicia and me the story. She had been in the NICU for five weeks already and would probably be there another five or six weeks.

When I heard these two families tell me about their situations it humbled me.  I began to reconsider my situation, my daughter is in the NICU but she is doing great and will probably be released soon. The car that broke down is under warranty and will be covered by the warranty company (or most of it anyway).

I have had to deal with some inconveniences, but when I step back and look at the big picture it is not that bad. I have not had to deal with the death of a child nor have I had to deal with my wife suffering from breast cancer. God has looked after me and taken care of my family in such a way that I should be eternally grateful. However, the fact remains that sometimes in life good people suffer. Sadly, this causes many to turn their backs on God.

In times of struggle many will deny God, who is the only chance they have at comfort.  When tough times come we need to draw close to God. Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28, 29).

God is the only one who can give our souls rest.  He is the only one who can comfort us.  Many want to turn their backs on God when the going gets tough; sadly, for those who do so the hard times are just beginning. For those who turn to God and do His will (which is “light”) we know that at some point are burdens will be lifted away and our souls shall find rest.

–Garrett Bookout @ www.forthright.net

He Was No Diplomat

“Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4, ESV).

He spoke with the sound of the river as a backdrop, its waters rushing over the smooth stones. He stood on the river bank, his eyes as fiery as a flame, his words as clear and unadorned as the Jordan river itself. There was usually no mistaking what he was getting at, as refreshing as a baptismal plunge in the river.

He was no smooth operator with seminary training. He demonstrated the diplomacy of a wounded buffalo, looking straight into the eye of politicians and demanding that they, too, repent. Addressing religious leaders as “You brood of vipers” is not usually followed with the words, “OK, everybody, group hug!”

John the Baptist was homespun, rugged, and invariably, right. He spoke with the conviction of one who represented God himself, the certainty of one who understood the urgency of saying what was right and true. Brutal he may have been, but he must have seemed like a breath of fresh air, too. Crowds flocked to hear his messages, clear-eyed demands and all.

And his message is as true today as it was then. “Change your way of life! The rule of God is near!”

Are you ready?

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

The *Pope* resigns

The Pope Resigns Brett Petrillo It has been almost 600 years since a Pope has resigned from the papacy. At 85 years old, Pope Benedict XVI said he no longer has the mental or physical strength to carry on his responsibilities. He went on to say, “Strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me” (CNN). The Pope is expected to step down on February 28th.

According to the Roman Catholic religion, the Pope is the worldwide leader of the church and the successor of the apostle Peter. The problem is, the Bible doesn’t support this. For one, the word “Pope” is not found in the Bible. The first Pope didn’t come until several hundred years after the time of Christ. While some say Peter was the first Pope, the facts don’t support this. First of all, Peter never claimed supremacy but instead claimed he was just “an apostle” and a “fellow elder” (1 Peter 1:1; 5:1-2). Beyond all of this, Peter was married (Matthew 8:14), which is contrary to the Roman Catholic Church’s requirement of their clergymen. Also, the Bible never says Peter was the Pope, or that he was more significant than any other apostle, or that he ever even went to Rome.

Scripture simply doesn’t support the Pope, or Peter, as the leader of the church. So, if the Pope isn’t the head of the church then who is? Scripture makes it clear that Christ is the only head of the church (Ephesians 1:22-23; 5:22-23; Colossians 1:15-20; Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 3:11; etc). Christ is the true head and true leader of the church. Notice what a contrast He is to the Pope.

Christ will never grow old.

Christ will never get tired.

Christ’s physical strength is unlimited.

Christ’s mental prowess is without limits and beyond comprehension.

Christ is eternal.

Christ is God.

Christ will never resign, nor will He ever need to.

Let’s keep in mind who the true, and vastly superior, leader of the church is. The head of the church is Jesus Christ. There could not be a leader greater than He. Let’s follow Him and no other. Recent Audio Content From B.V. LATEST UPDATE: Neal Pollard, Four Elements Of Ministry, 2/10/13, AM Denny Petrillo, Using Big Words: Fellowship, 2/10/13, PM Worship Times Sunday Bible Class – 9:00 A.M. Worship – 10:15 A.M. Worship – 6:00 P.M. Wednesday Bible Class – 7:00 P.M.

An unusual Valentine’s Day gift

Anugrah Kumar, a Christian Post contributor, shares a strange offer from a Southfield, Michigan, attorney. Perhaps Walter Bentley is seeking publicity, but the law professor and Detroit-area lawyer is offering his services for free to the “lucky” couple with the best break up story.  He adds his twist of irony by providing this “gift” on Valentine’s Day, a day so many in our nation use to demonstrate their love for their mate in a special way.  Bentley claims to have had dozens of takers for his offer, and he believes he is providing a big help to some couple.  According to the article, a divorce costs $3,000.  The article ends with this shameful quote from Bentley, who says, “We’re really looking for the most heartwarming, that person who truly deserves it” (read at http://bit.ly/1274Iic).

How much do you value your marriage and the relationship you have with your spouse?  What are you doing to invest in it and make it better?  Certainly, a nation saturated with sin cannot help but dishonor divine institutions like marriage.  Marriage, God’s way, is about faithfulness, commitment, unselfishness, sacrificial giving, and an active desire to serve and please the other person. Pleasure and satisfaction are produced in the wake of such an approach.  Marriage, man’s way, is disposable and disdained, discardable and destitute of the happiness that only comes in living for Christ and others above self.   Despite a desperate pursuit for fulfillment while remaining self-centered and self-sighted, the one so jealously guarding self’s wants, wishes, and feelings is doomed to misery and unhappiness.

Bible books like Song of Solomon proclaim the utter bliss of marital love.  You will find it lauded in the Proverbs, too.  New Testament passages lift high this heavenly institution (Eph. 5:23; Ti. 2:4-5; Heb. 13:4).  God knows what makes us tick, and so He has provided the means to our happiness. This includes our basic needs of companionship, affection, and intimacy.  How much better off might we be filled with fewer people looking for free divorce and more people willing to invest the time, effort, energy, and money is building a better marriage?

Neal Pollard

What will you leave when you die?

WHAT SHOULD WE leave behind when we die…?

A faithful family.

We will leave a mourning family behind on that sad day, but will we leave a faithful one?  Will each be on his or her way to heaven?  We are not able to make decisions for them, but we will have a great influence on each, especially our children (Proverbs 22:6).

Sarah left a godly man to mourn (Genesis 23:2).  Abraham left faithful sons behind (Genesis 18:19; 25:8).  Zebedee and Salome gave the world James and John.  Lois taught Eunice, who molded Timothy (2 Timothy 1:5; 3:15).

If we would leave such a family, we must start NOW, because the years may come when they will not listen (Ecclesiastes 12:2).  No greater legacy can be left than faith in God and faithfulness to His church.  (Allen Webster)

“You are the light of the world…”  Matthew 5:14a
–Mike Benson

A special golf ball

A golfer, playing a round by himself, is about to tee off, and a greasy little salesman runs up to him, and yells, “Wait! Before you tee off, I have something really amazing to show you!”

The golfer, annoyed, says, “What is it?”

“It’s a special golf ball,” says the salesman. “You can never lose it!”

“Whattaya mean,” scoffs the golfer, “you can never lose it? What if you hit it into the water?”

“No problem,” says the salesman. “It floats, and it detects where the shore is, and spins towards it.”

“Well, what if you hit it into the woods?”

“Easy,” says the salesman. “It emits a beeping sound, and you can find it with your eyes closed.”

“Okay,” says the golfer, impressed. “But what if your round goes late and it gets dark?”

“No problem, sir, this golf ball glows in the dark! I’m telling you, you can never lose this golf ball!”

The golfer buys it at once. “Just one question,” he says to the salesman. “Where did you get it?”

“I found it!”

Maybe someday someone will invent a golf ball that can never be lost, but until then we will all have to deal with losing things — golf balls, car keys, glasses, etc. We also have to deal with a lost humanity. I find it interesting that the one term Jesus used most often to describe those who are outside of Christ is the word “lost”.

In Luke 15, Jesus elaborated on this idea by telling three parables — the parable of the lost sheep, the parable of the lost coin, and the parable of the lost (prodigal) son. The point has often been made that those three parables demonstrate three different ways of being lost — through unintentional wandering (the sheep), through the negligence of someone else (the coin), or through willful disobedience (the son).

However, the point of those three parables is not so much about our lostness as they are about the fact that our God is willing to search for us and bring us back into a relationship with Him. If we will truly see the world around us as “lost”, it will change our perspective as well. Think about the last time you knew of a child that was missing. When a child is lost, we don’t ask what race the child is. It doesn’t matter — the child is lost! We don’t ask the child’s economic status. It doesn’t matter — the child is lost! We don’t ask what the child may or may not have done wrong. It doesn’t matter — the child is lost! All that matters is that we find that child and bring him/her home safely.

Seeing a world around us as “lost” will change the way we see them. The scribes and Pharisees looked at the tax collectors and sinners and saw terrible, ugly people. Jesus saw people who were lost. All that mattered to him was that he bring them home safely.

“For the Son of man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

Father, thank you for diligently searching for me and for bringing me home to you. Fill me with your love so that I may care enough to seek out those around me who are lost. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Alan Smith

Criticism

I recently heard the following quotes. The first person said, “I live around the corner from a Kroger but I rarely ever go in there.” The second replied, “Almost none of the Kroger brands are worth buying.”

Was I listening to disgruntled shoppers or a competitor of Kroger? No. I was listening to two Kroger employees criticizing their company to a customer in the middle of a busy store.

What were they telling the people who were hearing them? They should be shopping elsewhere. If we enter a restaurant and an employee meets us at the door and says, “You shouldn’t eat here. The food is lousy.” What would we do? Most likely, we would leave.

If it were our names on the sign and these were our employees, how we would feel? We were likely spending a lot of money on advertising that we could hardly afford and they were chasing hard-earned customers away.

A negative public perception of a business can destroy it very quickly. People usually have options of where they can shop, so we must be careful not to alienate them.

If this were true in terms of business, why would it not also be true of the Lord’s church?

If we are criticizing the Lord’s church in front of other people, why would those who hear us, ever want to attend the Church?

If retail stores do not get enough business, they may close and people will lose their jobs and all that that entails. Yet, if the same thing happens to the Church, souls are lost!

Almost all of us have been guilty of criticizing the church in front of non-Christians. We need to repent and never do so again.

God has ways of dealing with problems between Christians (Matthew 18:15-17; 1 Corinthians 6:1-11). We must remember that and stop dragging these problems into the streets. A discussion of doctrine is another matter but we must keep it on the doctrine rather than on person. We must be careful not to be bring shame on the Lord and his church in our diatribe.

Maybe we need to renew our understanding of what the Church is and to whom it belongs. The Church is Christ’s body, purchased with his blood (Ephesians 1:22-23; Acts 20:28). It bears his name and must be delivered in its purity back to God in the end (1 Corinthians 15:24). The Church is the “bride of Christ” (Revelation 21:2,9).

A man who was insulting the local congregation would likely be ready to fight if someone insulted their wife. Yet, they see no problem insulting the Bride of Christ in front of Jesus?

We need to remember that we are all ambassadors for Christ (Matthew 5:14; Ephesians 4:1). God depends on us to take the gospel to the world (Matthew 28:20).

Let us always be respectful of the Church. People are listening very carefully to what we are saying. Let us praise the Lord rather than impugn his body.

by Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Hey, preacher, your prayer worked!

I teach a weekly Bible class to prisoners in a work release program.  Before each class begins I offer a prayer that makes mention of the men and women in this facility who are searching for employment, struggling with family issues, etc.

About a month ago a man who was in need of employment came to one of these Bible studies.  The prayer that night included a request for employment and the next morning this fellow was hired at a local business.

This man did not show up for the next few studies, but he did come out for tonight’s class.  He said he had been laid off from the job he received and he would appreciate another prayer.

I do not know why this man missed the last couple of studies at the work release center.  I do know that some treat prayer as little more than a giant wish list.  Many wait till they have a problem or emergency and then hope prayer will provide immediate relief from their crisis.

God is interested in our needs and problems, but He expects us to pray during the good times as well as the bad (Lk. 18:1; Rom. 12:12; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17).

Be regular in prayer and make your prayers effective by being a righteous person (Jas. 5:16).

Brad Price
www.abiblecommentary.com

Are you ready?!

THE JUDGMENT WILL not be for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence…

A man commits a crime against the peace and dignity of the state; he is arrested by duly constituted authority, brought to court and tried before a jury of his peers.  What is the function of the jury?  To listen to the evidence and to render a verdict.  What is the verdict?  It is a determination of the innocence or guilt of the accused.  After the verdict is in, the prisoner is brought to the bar, and the judge pronounces judgment upon him.  What does the judge do?  Does he ascertain innocence or guilt?  No.  That has already been determined by the jury.  What does the judge do?  He makes formal pronouncement of sentence.  (Guy N. Woods)

“I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing…”  2 Timothy 4:1a

Mike Benson

I Demand an Explanation!

“A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more,” (Matthew 2:18, ESV).

Julie woke up when a cloud obscured the sun through the window and chilled her as she sat on the chair provided by the hospital. She knew her dad would not make it through the week, and she recalled her brother Tony’s angry response that morning.

“I want an explanation,” he yelled. “Why would God allow this to happen? Why our dad? Why now?”

Bad things happened in this sad, sad world, she reflected. Children are orphaned, good people are hurt, her dad was dying, unfairly young at sixty-eight. She thought about the children who had perished by the cruelty of Herod, and she understood how inconsolable the mothers must have been.

Of course people grieve over a betrayal, the loss of health, or the loss of a loved one. But she and Tony had just been reminded that these things don’t always happen to anonymous “other people.” Dad’s passing was happening to them!

At some level she understood that her dad would die some day. It was just going to happen sooner than she had thought. It was natural to hurt; it was natural to ask why.

But an explanation? Had God promised them explanations, or his love and comfort? The cloud left, and the warm sun began to filter through the window again, warming her, mind and soul.

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Satan: Hiding in Plain Sight

The Barna group did a survey among “Christians” in America and discovered that almost seven out of ten do not believe affirmatively that Satan is real.

By clouding man’s vision with deception, he has been hiding in plain sight and becoming increasingly dangerous, thanks to advancing technologies.

Satan has been blinding the eyes of mankind for a very long time. Possibly the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing men that he does not exist. We often facilitate his deception by not holding him responsible for his evil behavior.

Insurance companies have “Acts of God.” Why not have “Acts of Satan?”

We know that God is actively working in our world providentially (Psalm 37) and that he tests us so we can grow (John 15:1-8). However more we could say about how God acts in our world today, Satan is still wreaking havoc on the world, destroying souls and lives. He is relentless and without any hint of goodness.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV).

He devours people and fights against God in every way imaginable. Yet, Christians do not give the Devil the blame he deserves. Instead, we absolve Satan by blaming God for everything. We all hate being falsely accused, yet we do it to God all the time. Satan tears our loved ones apart and we turn and blame God.

We hold congressional hearings and demand accountability if a product on the market injures a handful of people. Yet, sin kills billions and the disinterest is deafening.

Satan eclipses all of the evil Hollywood can ever conceive. The evils that men do pale in comparison to what Satan does to humankind. He devours people’s souls, using them at will against God and his children and brings them to the eternal fires in hell (Matthew 25:46).

Millions claim that they hate Satan, yet do whatever he tells them to do. His voice perfectly mimics their own and convinces them that they are doing their own will, while controlling them like a puppet. They aspire to great heights but instead wallow in Satan’s filth.

He stands in crack dens, whorehouses, governmental offices, abortion mills and places of worship, leading his hideous chorus. He is thrilled as we disobey God and eagerly give our children to him.

Pagans promote Satan as real while Christians pretend he does not exist. The absurdity is astounding!

We must return to God’s Word with the realization that Satan is real and study anew who he is. Satan will quote Scripture and appear righteous (Matthew 4:5-6; 2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Therefore, we must become knowledgeable of his tricks (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11). Jesus must become the breath of our existence.

God has given us everything we need to repel Satan’s attacks. We can resist Satan and he will flee from us (James 4:7). Cling to Christ and Satan will have no power over us anymore. We must walk worthy of being in Christ (Ephesians 4:1) and give no place to evil (Romans 12:1-2).

We can develop a greater hatred of sin and do a better job of filling our time. Our companions must be wholesome and our minds focused.

Finally, we must not allow public shame to overshadow the pleasing of God. We must be courageous and follow God no matter what the price.

Satan is real. Do we care?

–by Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net