Archives for : March2013

Barry Abernathy’s Banjo Playing

Barry Abernathy is the banjo player for the “New Grass” group Mountain Heart.  He won the 1997 Banjo Player of the Year from the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America.  What sets him apart from so many other musicians?  Abernathy was born without fingers on his left hand.  As the group’s web site puts it, the way he can play banjo “defies logic.”  I guess so.  Being one with all ten digits currently in perfect working order and unable to play a single note on any stringed instrument, I am amazed.  My banjo playing friends no doubt share my awe of such determination and talent.Do you face disadvantages in life?  Do you have problems?  If you are human, your answer to both questions is “yes.”  There is nothing unique about that.  It goes along with life on this earth in these bodies of ours.  Do you want a special pass or to be excused because you struggle?  Think about the Barry Abernathys of this world.  He apparently asked no one for sympathy, handouts, or pity.  Of all people who should have the ability to overcome, shouldn’t those of us in Christ have tenacity and the ability to endure?  Whenever difficulty strikes–and it will!–what will you do?  Will you whimper and whine?  Or will you find within yourself the strength to overcome?  Our faith (1 John 5:4) and Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:57) should make all the difference in whether or not we ultimately succeed!  Don’t let life’s hardships defeat you.  Draw on His strength (Phil. 4:13) and show others the difference He makes in how you face life’s challenges.

Neal Pollard

Only to here!

Hershel Dyer tells the story of a boy from a family of seven who lived in poverty.  For them hunger was a daily reality.  “Even a glass of milk, when such could be afforded, had to be shared by at least two or more.  A finger would be placed on a certain spot and the child who was about to drink would be cautioned, “Only to here!””
When the boy suffered a broken leg he was taken to the nearest hospital emergency room.  An attentive nurse brought the waiting child a large glass of milk.  As the glass was handed to the child he asked, “How deep can I drink?  Brother Dyer concludes, “With tears welling up in her eyes, the nurse replied, “As deeply as you desire!””
Jesus, who offered to the woman at the well “living water” (John 4:14), died thirsty (John 19:28).  Because of what He did, the redeemed can drink deeply into the manifold wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10).  Because Jesus makes His disciple “citizens” (Eph. 3:19), they can plumb the bottomless wells of God’s love (Eph. 3:19).
The ultimate blessing embraced by the faithful child of God is the one they will enjoy the longest, an eternal, heavenly home (John 14:1-4).
David Bragg

Do you have a “faith account”?

SOME YEARS AGO, I picked up one of those plastic water cooler containers at a nearby yard and converted it into a piggy bank of sorts…
And each time that my family and I returned from the store, we would always drop our loose pocket change into the container.  It seemed like an effective way of saving for a rainy day.
Recently I took that container down to the bank, and to my surprise, the four of us had saved a rather considerable sum of money.  We had done so by simply saving the dimes, quarters, nickels and pennies that had come from our pockets.  Of course, the money was only available because my family had been making regular deposits for quite some time.
It occurs to me that the same can be said of our faith.  Unless you and I make regular deposits into our “faith account,’ then no funds will be available when the storms of life appear on the horizon.
What about you, dear Christian?  How much faith will you put into your account today?  (Mike Benson)
“So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  Rom. 10:17

Wash Me!

Wash Me! It has been said, “Faults are like the headlights of a car: those of others seem more glaring than your own….”

How often we overlook our own failures and sins while criticizing the faults in others! In fact, our judgment may reflect our own flaws, which usually are more serious than those we see in someone else.

Jesus asked, “Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the plank that is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:41-42).

A woman named Ruth Knowlton told how she came to see this truth. The building across the alley was only a few feet away, and she could easily look into her neighbor’s apartment. Ruth had never met the woman who lived there, but she could see her as she sewed and read each afternoon. After several months, she noticed that the figure by the window had become indistinct. She couldn’t understand why the woman didn’t wash her windows!

One sunny day Ruth decided to do some housecleaning, including washing her own windows. Later that day, she sat down to rest by the window. To her amazement, she could clearly and distinctly see her neighbor sitting by her window. Ruth said to herself, “Well, finally! She washed her windows!”

Actually, it was Ruth’s OWN windows that needed washing!

We need not look beyond ourselves to find those who need to be “washed.” “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So before we busy ourselves pointing out the faults of others, we need to “wash our own windows”!

The TRUTH is, only Jesus can wash away the stain of sin from our souls. As a beloved song states: “What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.” Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sins (Eph 1:7; Revelation 1:5).

God WILL wash away our sins when we: by faith in His Son (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Christ before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38).

Ananias asked a penitent and believing Saul, “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).

Now, why are YOU waiting? As a penitent believer, won’t YOU arise and be baptized so that your sins may be washed away? THEN, you, with the love of Christ in your heart, can go and tell others how they may also have their sins washed away by the blood of Jesus.

Won’t YOU?

David A. Sargent

The gospel cannot be stopped.

Some of the Jews came together with only one thing in mind — to stop Paul. They took him to court. Acts 18:12b PEB

I find this version’s rendering of the verse almost humorous. Often, the mere threat of suing someone is enough to stop the person from pursuing a course of action.

Though the Jews took Paul to court, they lost their case. Gallio threw out their complaint and them with it.

Earlier, Paul had been guaranteed success by the Lord himself. At times, he used a court appearance to preach the gospel. This time, he never got the chance; the governor didn’t want to be bothered with trivial Jewish arguments.

Nor did it bother him that the Jews beat Sosthenes, ruler of the synagogue, right in front of his tribunal. As long as his agenda wasn’t delayed by their shenanigans.

But the gospel progressed, Paul went on his journeys, the church was strengthened.

Once, Paul was in chains, but “the word of God is not bound,” he declared (2 Timothy 2:9 ESV).

The gospel cannot be stopped.

But sometimes we can. We let inconvenient situations, political instability, economic crises, keep us from sharing the gospel.

At the hint of a lawsuit, we’re ready to pack it in.

The issue is not if the gospel will get into the world. The question is whether or not we will accompany it — whether we will be its bearers, or attempt its burial.

Can you be cowed?

J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

The importance of Genesis 1

IF WE ESSENTIALLY “gut” the first chapter of the Bible and teach that the word “day” really doesn’t mean day–but vast eons of time, how can we trust anything else we read in Scripture…?

The starting point for Christianity is not Matthew 1:1, but Genesis 1:1.  Tamper with the Book of Genesis and you undermine the very foundation of Christianity.  You cannot treat Genesis 1 as a fable or a mere poetic saga without severe implications to the rest of Scripture.  The creation account is where God starts His account of history.  It impossible to alter the beginning without impacting the rest of the story–not to mention the ending.  If Genesis 1 is not accurate, then there’s no way to be certain that the rest of Scripture tells the truth.  If the starting point is wrong, then the Bible itself is built on a foundation of falsehood.  In other words, if you reject the creation account in Genesis, you have no basis for believing the Bible at all.

If you doubt or explain away the Bible’s account of the six days of creation, where do you put the reins on your skepticism?  Do you start with Genesis 3, which explains the origin of sin, and believe everything from chapter 3 on?  Or maybe you don’t sign on until sometime after chapter 6, because the Flood is invariably questioned by scientists, too.  Or perhaps you find the Tower of Babel too hard to reconcile with the linguist’s theories about how languages originated and evolved.  So maybe you start taking the Bible as literal history beginning with the life of Abraham.  But when you get to Moses’ plagues against Egypt, you deny those, too?  What about the miracles of the New Testament?  Is there any reason to regard any of the supernatural elements of biblical history anything other than poetic symbolism?  (John MacArthur)

“For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them…”  Exodus 20:11

–Mike Benson

Ethical Dilemmas

Annie Green, acting director of Laradon, a nonprofit program that works with developmentally disabled adults, was puzzled. John Francis Beech, a Denver businessman, had dropped off an envelope for Green while she was away. When she received the envelope four days later, she read the message on the front: “Wait untill [sic] you hear from coroner”. A second message was written below: “Please don’t call everything is OK [sic]”.

Green was intrigued enough to open the envelope anyway. Inside she found a copy of Beech’s will, bestowing $100,000 and other items from his estate to Laradon. Green later claimed that she twice tried to call Beech about the matter, but he never returned her calls.

A few days later Beech’s body was found near his home. He had taken his own life, a week after Green read his message.

A headline in “Westword,” a Denver newspaper, posed the ethical challenge clearly: “Where would you take a $100,000 check that is also a suicide note — to the cops or to the bank?” The implication is that Green should have notified authorities after reading the suspicious message. Instead, some claim, she didn’t want to jeopardize the windfall for the organization she serves.

If that was indeed Ms. Green’s motive, then most would agree that she failed her test. Even though the large gift might have been lost, saving the life of another human being should have taken precedence. But judgment must be reserved until more is known.

In 1991 James Patterson and Peter Kim published “The Day America Told The Truth”. Among the many interesting items found in the book is this one: “What are you honestly willing to do for $10 million?” Disturbingly, 25% said they would abandon their entire family, the same percentage that said they would abandon their church. Three percent said they would put their children up for adoption. The values of some are obviously up for the highest bidder.

One commodity that should never be for sale is truth. “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding,” wrote the wise man (Proverbs 23:23). He’s referring, of course, to the truth found in God’s word. If we begin there, we’ll find ourselves on the right path throughout life.

Here’s something else that should never be negotiable: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). A few years of material prosperity will be forgotten the moment we enter into an eternity of torment (see Luke 16:22-24). The only thing we carry with us out of this life is the soul God gave us.

People above things — always. That’s the simple message God teaches to those who listen.

–by Tim Hall

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places

…I HAVE NO alternative but to bluntly call it a war…

The prize is the inner spirit of my children, and the stakes are high.  Arrayed against me are those who wish to extract money, loyalty, and the strong creative energy my son or daughter may have to give.  In the eternal dimension, the prize is the soul of my children.  I am not prepared to compromise or negotiate.  Until my children are old and wise enough to distinguish their enemies from their friends, I hold the responsibility to conduct both a defense and an offense on their behalf, demonstrating all the time how and why it is done for their benefit.

It is not a phony war the effective father faces.  It is often a jungle conflict fought with the stealth of a modern day “guerrilla” who appears in the day as an innocent friend, only to return in the night as a bitter and exploitative foe.  My eyes return to the war photo of the squad’s leader, mine detector in hand, leading the way.  Behind him are men; they follow because he has the capacity to discern the safe path.  There are no careless steps; mistakes are fatal.  Gordon MacDonald

“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  Ephesians 6:12

Mike Benson

There is no competition among light houses

“YOU’LL HAVE A hard time topping him…!”

This was the comment made by a well-intentioned Christian lady to the next speaker on the lectureship.  He responded to this sister, “I don’t want to top him.  We’re on the same side.”  Though I’m sure this sweet Christian lady meant nothing negative, it reminds me of the old saying, “There is no competition among light houses.”  We would do well to remember that sentiment on a regular basis.

There seems to be an infatuation with some Christians that they “get credit” for their work.  Some preachers have even warned, “If you use my material, be sure to give me credit.”  In the secular world there is surely understandable, but in the Lord’s church the obsession with getting credit seems a bit out of place.  My goal as a Gospel preacher is not about “getting credit.”  My “credit” is not on this earth.  My goal is to save souls, and if I produce something that will help others more effectively accomplish this goal, then please use it.

The Pharisees were very concerned with getting credit and with being seen of men.  When they gave alms, they wanted credit among men.  When they prayed, they wanted credit among men.  But the Lord said, “Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward” (Matthew 6:2).  May our righteousness exceed that of the Pharisees!

One is also reminded of Herod in Acts 12 who evidently had given a very eloquent verbal presentation.  Though the praise of the people was certainly excessive, Herod enjoyed it nonetheless.  The text however says that “an angel the Lord struck him, because he did not give glory to God…”  Without a doubt this is where all credit should be directed.  Though we may have been blessed with great ability, it must be remembered that it was given to us by God.

In the business world, employees who work for the same company labor together to produce a product that will benefit the business.  And ultimately, the credit goes to the company, not the individual.  In fact, under the U.S. copyright law’s work-made-for-hire-doctrine, the owner of an intellectual creation is not the employee who originated the idea, but rather the company for whom he works.

In the Lord’s church, well all work for the same “company” if you will.  Though the Lord’s church is not a company, it is a team of people all working together to accomplish the same goal — save souls and to give God the glory.  Let’s let the credit remain with the Owner of the church.  (Don Blackwell)

“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be above all the earth.”  Psalm 57:5

–Mike Benson

Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids

THERE WAS A big, overgrown cow poke named Tall Cotton, whose specialty was going to sleep during duty hours, leaving the rest of the crew to do his share of the work…

The boys took it for a time, but they finally decided that something had to be done about the matter.

Then came the day they found Cotton curled up in a haystack, boots off, sound asleep.  They opportunity was golden.  The boys rounded up a huge tarantula, killed it, and laid it close to Cotton’s leg.  Then they tied a pin on the end of a stick and jabbed the sleeping cowboy a couple of times.  Cotton came awake like a wild Comanche doing the snake dance and, at the same time, a cowboy rushed up and smashed the tarantula with his boot heel.

Cotton took one look at the dead tarantula and turned white.  He began to get sick, even though the other cowboys did their best to console him with stories of horrible deaths they had seen as a result of tarantula bites.  Finally, one of the crew, who laid claim to having read Ten Thousand Things Worth Knowing, as well as Dr. Chase’s Recipe Book, offered to try to save Cotton, even though he admitted it seemed hopeless.

First, the cowboy poured a pint of Castor oil down Cotton.  Then he followed it up with a glass of soda, a cup of vinegar, and finally a quart of water in which a plug of tobacco had been soaking.  For a while it seemed almost certain that Cotton was going to die from the tarantula bite, but the medicine was potent and, eventually, he was saved.

After that, the crew had very little trouble with him lying down on the job, especially in haystacks!  (Stan Hoig, The Humor of the American Cowboy, 26, 27)

“Give no sleep to your eyes, nor slumber to your eyelids.”  Proverbs 6:4; cf. 6:9-10, 24:33

Mike Benson

Magic tricks and faith

It’s Magic!

Many years ago, I learned a few “magic” tricks so that I could entertain the young people. On one occasion, I was “magically” pushing a pencil through my ear, and pulling it back out. Well, the kids were impressed. Their eyes opened wide, their mouth’s dropped open, and I could even hear a few gasps. Mission accomplished.

However, after church that morning, I saw a little boy with a pencil in his ear, grimacing in pain, as he was trying to push that pencil in his ear. Ouch! It was at that point I decided not to do that trick anymore. I can just hear it now…The emergency room doctor talking to the parents of this boy saying, “He said he preacher told him to do it.”

Something else I learned that day is that “Faith is only as safe as the object in which it is placed.” Blind faith is not only useless, but it can be dangerous. Friends, consider the things that you believe. In what have you placed your faith? We certainly don’t want to find ourselves pushing pencils through our ears because of a misplaced faith. Open your Bible and study it, for faith comes by hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17).

— Steve Higginbotham

Disposable Guilt Bag

IT’S A NEW product called “Disposable Guilt Bags. . .”

Really.

It consists of a set of ten ordinary brown paper bags on which are printed the following instructions:  “Place the bag securely over your mouth, take a deep breath and blow all your guilt out, then dispose of the bag immediately.”

The Associated Press reports that over 2500 sets of bags were quickly sold at $2.50 per set.

THOUGHT:  Would that we could dispose of our guilt so easily.  There is nothing on earth powerful enough to remove our guilt.  We cannot fix ourselves, which is what many attempt to do.  IT IS POSSIBLE to be forgiven, cleansed, and healed spiritually through Christ.  Grady Scott

“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly placesin Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4-7

Mike Benson

Why me, God?

Why Me?

That’s a tough question many struggle with on a day to day basis. Why did I lose my health, my job, my spouse, or my home? Why do I have to go through this? Why me God? All of us have been faced with moments when those words were said or thought; moments that caught us off guard and like a spoiled child, we allowed ourselves to become overwhelmed in self-pity instead of overcome with God’s love.

Many ‘why me’ questions don’t have an obvious answer but there are some that do and only when we accept these answers, will we have what we need to get through the times of tragedy and despair.
I’d like to take a few moments and offer my own ‘why me’ questions then I invite you to write some of your own:
Why me God?

Why do I always have enough to food to eat?

Why do I have a loving husband and healthy children?

Why do I have a nice place to call home?

Why do I have plenty of clothes to wear?

Why do I have church family who truly loves and cares for me?

Why am I able to worship you without fear of persecution?

Why did you promise to never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5)?

Why am I promised a home in Heaven (2 Peter 3:13)?

Why did your Son die for me (John 3:16, Romans 5:8)?

Why me God?

Don’t wait to ask God the ‘why me’ questions when you are faced with pain, suffering, and adversity. Ask him ‘why me’ now and let his answer comfort you and give you strength for the good times and the bad.

–Paula Harrington @ www.forthright.net

The World Will Never Understand Christians

Many Christians spend an inordinate amount of time being concerned with what the sinful world thinks about how we live.

We seek to please and appease the world so they will like us. We adapt to their language, dress, entertainment and methods, so they will not mock us.

Accordingly, we have lost our focus.

Paul become “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22, NKJV). However, he did not mean that we should place the things of the world above God. When we emulate the world, and model their lives, we stand in stark contrast to God’s will.

We enter Christ when we are baptized into his body, the Church (Acts 2:38,47; Ephesians 1:22-23; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Galatians 3:27). When we are in Christ, we have left the world behind and live in a new kingdom, where our daily goal is to bring glory to Christ (Ephesians 3:20-4:1).

The world hates Christ and put him to death (John 15:18-25). It is completely antithetical to the goodness of God. In fact, we are not even to be in fellowship with darkness (Ephesians 5:11; cf. Galatians 1:8-10).

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him [Christ], and walk in darkness [Satan] we lie and not practice the truth” ( 1 John 1:6). God is light and “in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). We are to be “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27).

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 1:15). The things of the world have no place in the kingdom.

Christians are saved out of the world, so why would we want to go back there and be a lite-version of what we were prior to salvation? If we are a little less profane, immodest and promiscuous than the world, it does not make us godly, it makes us pretenders (Romans 12:1-2).

We must seek to please God more than anything else and always walk in the light, where Christ resides.

The world will hate us, mock us and do anything it can to pull us away from God. They will never understand why we live as we do. Therefore, we have no reason to place the things of the world above Christ. Be what God desires and the rest will take care of itself.

–by Richard Mansel

Ruffled feathers

A FELLOW GOSPEL preacher relates the following story…

“The first year of our marriage was spent on a farm.  My wife, though reared on a farm, always allowed her parents to take care of killing as well as preparing frying chickens for the dinner table.  Her father would put a chicken over a block and chop its head off.  While I, on the other hand, was accustomed to catching a chicken and wringing it neck.  After we had been married a while, we had some chickens ready for eating.  I picked up a nice plump fryer, handed it to my wife, and told her to wring its neck.  (After all, to be a good farm wife, she would need to learn these things.)  She took the chicken by the neck and began spinning him around and around.  She then dropped him on the ground, where he lay stunned and confused for a moment.  Suddenly, the chicken hopped up on his legs and ran out of sight.  After 45 years of marriage, the two of us still laugh when we remember that incident!”

THOUGHT: If we’re not careful, we can treat sin like this preacher’s wife treated that chicken many years ago.  She didn’t kill it; she only disturbed it and ruffled its feathers a bit.  The Bible tells us that we must mortify (e.g., put to death) the sin that is in our lives.

If you want fried chicken, somebody must kill the chicken.  Likewise, if you want to go to heaven, you must put to death the sin in your life.  (Mike Benson)

“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.  Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience.”  Colossians 3:5-6

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW once got a letter addressed to George Bernard Shawm…

In a beard-tossing fury, Shaw roared to his wife that his correspondent could not even spell the name of the world’s greatest man.  Moreover, fumed G. B. S., there was no such word as “shawm.”

Shaw’s wife, one of the world’s most martyred women, quietly disagreed, led Shaw to a dictionary and pointed to “shawm…an old-fashioned wind instrument.”

“A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor.”  Proverbs 29:23

Mike Benson

You can’t EARN it

Earning My Place

In September of 2005, on the first day of school, Martha Cothren, a social studies schoolteacher at Joe T. Robinson High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, did something not to be forgotten. On the first day of school, with permission of the school superintendent, the principal and the building supervisor, she took all of the desks out of the classroom.

The kids came into first period, they walked in; there were no desks. They looked around and said, “Ms. Cothren, where are our desks?”

Ms. Cothren replied, “You can’t have a desk until you tell me how you earn them.”

They thought, “Well, maybe it’s our grades.”
“No,” she said.
“Maybe it’s our behavior.”
And she told them, “No, it’s not even your behavior.”

First period ended, and still there were no desks in the classroom. Second period, same thing. Third period, no desks. By early afternoon television news crews had gathered in Ms. Cothren’s class to find out about this crazy teacher who had taken all the desks out of the classroom.

The last period of the day, Martha Cothren gathered her class. They were at this time sitting on the floor around the sides of the room. And she says, “Throughout the day no one has really understood how you earn the desks that sit in this classroom ordinarily.” She said, “Now I’m going to tell you.”

Martha Cothren went over to the door of her classroom and opened it, and as she did 27 U.S. veterans, wearing their uniforms, walked into that classroom, each one carrying a school desk. The veterans placed the school desks in rows, and then they stood along the wall. By the time they had finished placing the desks, the children perhaps for the first time in their lives understood how they earned those desks.

Ms. Cothren said, “You don’t have to earn those desks. These guys did it for you! They put them out there for you, but it’s up to you to sit here responsibly to learn, to be good students and good citizens.  They paid a price for you to have that desk.  Don’t ever forget it.” *

Similarly, there is a place for YOU at the Lord’s table.  It is a place of honor and blessing, wonderful blessings like peace, grace, sonship, and life!

“What must I do to take MY seat at the Lord’s table?” you ask.

You can’t EARN it.  Someone paid the price for you to have a place at the Table.  Jesus Christ, God’s Son, died on the cross for you so that you might have the forgiveness of sins and a place at His table as a child of God (Ephesians 1:7; Galatians 4:4-6).

You must ACCEPT it.  You can accept the Lord’s gracious offer by believing Him (Acts 16:30-31), turning from sin 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 sins (Acts 2:38).  You must also commit to following Him, for the rest of your life.

Jesus paid a HIGH price for you to have a place at His table.  Don’t ever forget it.  But please, accept it on His terms – and enjoy the eternal feast!

Won’t YOU?

David A. Sargent

… But you were thrown out into the open field

I occasionally receive a report by e-mail from Southeast Asia. The one who sends it has been working in that region for the past few years as a missionary. Such activity is technically illegal unless a church is registered with the government, but this man’s work is well known to local authorities and they have seen many good things come from his efforts.

The last report had a picture of a four-year-old girl in his arms. He told of how this girl had been abandoned at birth and left on the doorstep of the building where the church meets. This man did not turn away from the infant as others obviously had. He made sure she was given a good home and would be raised properly. Today she looks healthy and happy, thanks to the love of strangers.

I had a similar experience nearly 30 years ago. It happened one morning when a lady who cleaned the church building began screaming. A newborn had been placed in a basket and left on the church doorstep. Authorities were immediately called and the child was taken into the state’s custody. I have no idea what happened to that child, but attempts were made to provide care and nurture.

Such stories are not uncommon (unfortunately), and they provoke differing emotions. On the one hand we wonder how any parent could simply abandon their child. Did they not care? Or were they in such hard straits that the only way they could adequately care for their child was to give it to others? On the other hand we are warmed by stories of those who take children as their own, even though they’re not. Such compassion is a bright light in an otherwise dark world.

God used such a scenario to describe His love for His people. In Ezekiel 16 the Israelites were compared to a baby who had been abandoned: “… but you were thrown out into the open field, when you yourself were loathed on the day you were born. And when I passed by you and saw you struggling in your own blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ Yes, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!'” (Ezekiel 16:5,6) God then told of the care He provided for this child for several years, only to be rejected later for other lovers.

The same illustration could describe our situation. Paul stated what it means to be lost in our sins: “That at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). But a very different situation appears when Christ enters our lives: “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19).

How does a person move from being “aliens” to being members of God’s family? In a nutshell here it is: “To redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5). God offers to adopt those who have been abandoned by the world. Instead of living among the garbage heaps of life, fending for ourselves as best we’re able, we can move into God’s house and eat from the King’s table!

A message given to John in his visions of heaven pertains to you and me: “Then he said to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!”‘” (Revelation 19:9). We’ve been invited become part of the family of God. Are you really going to decline that invitation?

Timothy D. Hall.

Yes, Christianity offends some people!

In John 6:66, though matter-of-factly written, a nonetheless devastating statement is made.  John records, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.”  Fellowship was broken.  Backsliding occurred.  Apostasy resulted.  Divinity was disturbed (cf. 67).  What was so drastic about this circumstance in John six that repelled so many disciples?

JESUS’ TEACHING WAS DIFFICULT TO ACCEPT (6:60).  The Greek word, “skandalizo,” is where we get our English “scandal.”  Most versions translate “offend,” “take offense,” “stumble,” or “bother.”  Simply, they complained and bristled at His teaching.

We are prone to mold Jesus into our image.  We want Him, but on our terms.  We make His doctrine fit our preferences, traditions, and commitment level.  Accepting Jesus as He is simply seems scandalous to so many of us.  Faced with that, it can be so tempting to just go away.

JESUS’ TEACHING WAS OFFENSIVE (6:61).  His disciples grumbled at what He was saying.  His spiritual lessons rubbed them the wrong way.  He turned out to be a disappointment when measured against their materialistic and self-centered expectations.
I suspect that Jesus has offended all of us and probably more than once.  He tells us to get off the couch, the pew, and the bed, taking the gospel to the lost and retrieving erring brethren who have fallen from grace.  He tells us to deny self and follow Him, excising each cancerous thought, attitude, and deed not in harmony with His will.  We do not want anyone to tell us what to do.  Confronted with the offensive Jesus, the majority simply follow Him no more.

JESUS’ TEACHING WAS CHALLENGING (6:64).
It was challenging in its depth.  Jesus speaks figuratively and symbolically throughout this portion of scripture, saying, “the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven,” “I am the bread of life,” “the bread is my flesh,” and particularly “he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life for my flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.”  Were they disgusted? Befuddled? Hard-hearted? Unbelieving?  Which ever term describes them, they were unequal to the challenge of accepting who Jesus really was and what He wanted them to do and believe.

It was challenging in its demand.  Jesus calls belief in Him as the promised Messiah “work” (6:29).  It called for being taught His doctrine (6:45).

It was challenging in its denunciation.  Christ outrightly accuses many of them, armed with perfect knowledge of their hearts, for following Him only for what they could get from Him in this life (6:26).  He decries their unbelieving nature (6:36).

The New Testament contains many challenging concepts, principles, and commands.  It outlines an exclusive institution, the unique church of Christ.  It calls for specific things in worship, excluding any additions or subtractions done without His authority.  It demands a certain lifestyle, one of high ethics and morality, generous compassion, and unselfish commitment.  Sadly, many are not up to the challenge.

Many have physically gone away and followed Him no more.  Yet, before their bodies left, something inside of them left Jesus.  That means that there are brothers and sisters, now involved in the work of the church and filling a pew, who may be in the process of going away.  Jesus spoke of some who still have their lips moving in the assembly whose hearts are gone.  Jesus is fully aware of that.  Though inaudibly, surely Jesus still speaks to us from heaven today and asks us whenever a disciple falls away, “You do not want to go away also, do you?”  How are we answering that with our lives?

–Neal Pollard

Lost a million dollars

JERUSALEM —  An Israeli woman mistakenly threw out a mattress with $1 million inside, setting off a frantic search through tons of garbage at a number of landfill sites, Israeli media reported.

The woman told Army Radio that she bought her elderly mother a new mattress as a surprise on Monday and threw out the old one, only to discover that her mother had hidden her life savings inside. She was identified only as Anat, a resident of Tel Aviv.

When she went to look for the mattress it had already been taken by garbage men, she said. Subsequent searches at three different landfill sites turned up nothing.

The Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot published a picture of the woman searching through garbage at a dump in southern Israel.

Yitzhak Borba, the dump manager, told the radio station that his staff was helping the woman, saying she appeared “totally desperate.” He said the mattress was hard to find among the 2,500 tons of garbage arriving at the site every day.

He said he increased security at the site to keep would-be treasure hunters at bay.

For her part, Anat said it could be worse. “People have to take everything in proportion and thank God for the good and the bad,” she said.

THOUGHT: Loosing a $1m would be bad; loosing your soul would be a lot worse.

“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul?” Mark 8:36

Mike Benson