Archives for : July2013

WHEN YOUR TROUBLES ARE “ELEVATED”

When the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai opened, I admit to having thought how cool it would be to go to the top of it. The observation deck sits 124 stories and 2717 feet above the ground. The Burj Khalifa is now the tallest building in the world. Apparently, a good number of tourists share my fascination. However, a little over a month after opening to the public, 15 people got an experience of a lifetime. They were stranded in the elevator for 45 minutes due to what has been speculated to be electrical problems. Those stuck in the lift spoke of hearing a small explosion. Tower staff dropped a ladder into the shaft and helped them climb back onto the observation deck (information gleaned from www.thetimesonline.uk/) .

Acrophobia, the fear of heights, can cause your heart to race, your breathing to get heavy, profuse sweating, and claustrophobic feelings. You can feel trapped. But, even if you don’t suffer from acrophobia, you would have been a bit nervous dangling nearly 3000 feet above the ground in a wounded elevator.

Do you ever feel that loss of control and helplessness in circumstances of your own life? You might not trade places with those stranded Dubai tourists, but maybe you can relate to how they must have felt. Maybe you feel hung out to dry, stranded, and alone. You may wonder where God is in the midst of your hurt. You desire rescue, but you are unsure whether help will arrive. If you hung onto your faith through those trials, you know the relief that follows your elevated troubles. What can you do when your troubles are elevated?

Pray! Talk to God about your fears and worries. Trust in God’s providence. Make a plan of action. Seek aid from resources that can help you relieve the issue (whether books, professionals, friends, etc.). Find someone to serve.

Research passages of scripture that relate to our troubles. Quit behaviors or habits that contribute to the troubles.

Find the peace that comes in depending on God’s help and fight worry. Those suggestions are not a panacea or cure-all. They can, however, work like that ladder thrown to those stranded riders. Once back on the deck where all is much clearer, relief can return. Sometimes it simply requires taking some needed steps. I hope you are never stuck in a situation like those poor souls in Dubai, but you will meet trouble. Make us of all that God gives to help in times of trouble and enjoy the rescue He provides.

-Neal Pollard

Raising small children

How to raise children (Mark Reynolds)

Proverbs 18:24

“A man of too many friends comes to ruin, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24 NASB).

People often seek popularity, but it brings more trouble than blessings into one’s life. It is better to have one good friend than hundreds of bad ones. A true, genuine friendship creates a relationship that will endure trials, misunderstandings, and mistakes. It creates a loyalty and bond that is not easily undone. Such a relationship can become stronger than even blood ties.

Jeremy Sprouse

Psalm 139

A couple of months ago, I walked into my daughter’s bedroom and I noticed that she had placed towels on top of all her American Girl baby dolls. So I asked her, “Anne Marie, why do all your dolls have towels over their heads?” She said, “Because of their eyes…they’re all watching me.” Well, I had to laugh because I remember being afraid of a snowman that used to sit in my sister’s room when I was a little boy, and it too had eyes that “watched me.”

But did you know that Psalm 139 teaches us that we cannot escape the “all-seeing” eyes of God? He sees everything. He is always present. And that truth leads me to this question. Do God’s “all-seeing eyes” give you comfort or fear?

For the child of God who is seeking to become more and more like Jesus, the presence and oversight of God in one’s daily walk should be comforting and reassuring; like a child learning to ride a bike as that child’s father runs along side for protection and safety.

But for the one who is carelessly living his life, unconcerned about the will of God, the presence and “all-seeing eyes” of God should be a terrifying proposition.

So which is it for you? Does the fact that God sees everything give you comfort and reassurance, or does this fact make you want to reach for a towel?

–Steve Higginbotham

Nice set of ears you’ve got!

WE DON’T ORDINARILY think of ears as beautiful parts of the body…

They never get featured on the covers of magazines. There are not many songs or poems about ears. No one seems to compliment them. When did anyone come to you and say, “Nice set of ears you’ve got!” In fact, ears take lots of abuse. They get twisted by parents, punctured by metal shafts, invaded by gnats, clogged by wax, burned by the sun, frozen by the cold, and assaulted by a variety of loud noises. Some even get nibbled on now and then.

The truth is that ears are the marvelous creation of God. They are beautiful and the ability to hear is one of God’s most precious gifts. Lindsey Garmon

. “He who answers a matter before he hears it, it is folly and shame to him.” Proverbs 18:13

. “The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Proverbs 18:15

. “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” James 1:19

“He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Matthew 11:15

Mike Benson

Marriage is a commitment

SHE LOOKED HIM right in the eyes and said, “I want a divorce, the romance is gone out of our marriage…

The terms “romance” and “love” are so nebulous to the average person, the court dockets are loaded with divorce evil. Divorce is seldom considered in some Asian cultures. A young man in Hong Kong told some preachers that he did not see his bride until he met her at the altar. Their parents had contracted the marriage when they were children. When asked, what about “falling in love” and “romance” he said, “That is your problem in America. Americans look upon marriage as a romance–we look upon it as a commitment.”

Our generation has been fed a steady diet of romance. In the movies and on TV we are told that a happy marriage is predicated on falling in love. When couples wake up some morning and find marriage has commitments and responsibilities they are disgusted and disillusioned. They find out that marriage is made up of carrying out the garbage, changing diapers, trying to make house payments, and dealing with inlaws and outlaws.

Marriage is a commitment. Falling in love and romance are great if they are understood and practiced in the right context. Movies and TV are a mighty poor place to learn to about life-long marriage. Ward Hargland

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:25-33

–Mike Benson

Afraid of being bitten?

Several years ago, I had a dog that was hit by a car. Her leg and hip were broken in the accident. Obviously, she was in a lot of pain. So when I picked her up to take her to the vet, do you know what she did? She bit me! I was only trying to be kind and help, but she bit me.

Same song, second verse… Have you ever tried to reach out to someone who was obviously in pain in an effort to help them? When you have done so, have you ever been “bitten” by those you’re trying to help? If so, I wouldn’t be at all surprised. You see, I’ve come to realize that hurt people hurt people.

So here are two challenges. 1) Don’t let your fear of being “bitten” keep you from doing good for others. Seldom does doing good and helping another come without cost. And 2) when you’re hurting, and someone tries to reach out to you and offer you help, resist the urge to “bite” and graciously accept their help, understanding that they are seeking your good.

Steve Higginbotham.

Comfort in being able to anticipate the future

I CANNOT OVERSTATE how frightening it is to lose a sense of control or influence…

People will even choose to stay in familiar situations that they know are not working rather than face the ambiguity of the unknown. Many times a battered wife will remain for years, even a lifetime, with a physically violent husband. Women have reported that, among other reasons, they have stayed with brutal husbands because breaking out of the relationship was even more frightening than the beatings. Even though the situation may be physically and emotionally abusive, such women have at least learned what to expect, and there is an odd comfort in being able to anticipate the future–even a negative future. Daryl Conner

“By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place which he would afterward receive as an inheritance. And He went out, not knowing where he was going.” Hebrews 11:8

–Mike Benson

Closed pockets!

A PREACHER TRAVELED across the country for a week of meetings…

The only problem was, his baggage didn’t make it. He needed a couple of suits so he went down to the local thrift shop. When he told the salesman, “I’d like to get a couple of suits,” the man smiled, led him to a whole rack of them and said, “Good, we’ve got several. But you need to know they came from the local mortuary. They’ve all been cleaned and pressed, but they were used on men who had passed away. Not a thing wrong with ’em. I just didn’t want that to bother you.”

The preacher said, “No, that’s fine.” He tried a few of the suits on and finally bought two of them for about $25 dollars each. When he got back to this his room, he began to get dressed for the evening’s meetings. As he put one on, he tried to put his hands in the pockets, but couldn’t. Both sides were all sewn up! The suits looked as if they had pockets, but they were just flaps on the coat. He thought about that for a second. “Of course! Deceased people don’t carry stuff with ’em when they die.” He later admitted: “I spent all week trying to stick my hands in my pockets. Had to hang my keys on my belt.” Charles R. Swindoll

“For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.” 1 Timothy 6:7

Mike Benson

Are you ready to quit?

“STAND STILL, AND see the salvation of the LORD…” Exodus 14:13

These words contain God’s command to the Christian when he is reduced to great straits and brought into extraordinary difficulties. He cannot retreat; he cannot go forward; he is shut upon the right hand and on the left. What is he to do now?

The Master’s word to him is “stand still.” It will be well for him if, at such times, he listens only to his Master’s word, for other and evil advisors come with their suggestions.

Despair whispers, “Lie down and die; give it all up.”

Cowardice says, “Retreat; go back to the world’s way of action; you cannot play the Christian’s part; it is too difficult. Relinquish your principles.”

Presumption boasts, “If the sea is before you, march into it.” (L. B. Cowman)

THOUGHT: Are you ready to quit? Have you turned backward? Have you started moving ahead before it’s time to do so? Think about it.

And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. Exodus 14:13

Mike Benson

It’s time to get ready for Wednesday night Bible study

Imagine the scene…It’s been a very difficult week at work. You’ve been given more to do than you can possibly get done. Your superiors don’t seem to care that you’re overloaded, they just want results. You’re stressed out and frazzled. Supper is over and it’s Wednesday night, and your spouse says, “It’s time to get ready for Wednesday night Bible study.” Question: What are you thinking at this point?

Some might answer that question with an answer similar to the following, “Oh great! It’s Wednesday night and we have Bible study. I’ve had a rough week, I’m just not up for it tonight.”

Others might answer that question with an answer similar to this, “Oh great! It’s Wednesday night and we have Bible study. I’ve had a rough week, and I need something to lift my spirits.”

Same scenario, different responses. Which would you give? Friends, if our response would be more in line with the first answer, then at least one of two things are wrong. 1) Our assemblies aren’t offering the fellowship and encouragement they should be offering, or 2) We have lost perspective of what a privilege and blessing it is to be able to open God’s word, learn more of Him, and fellowship with the saints.

Have you had a hard week? It’s Wednesday, and most places will have Bible study tonight. What will your decision be?

“I was glad when they said to me, ‘let us go to the house of the Lord!'” (Psalm 122:1).

–Steve Higginbotham

A faithful Christian wife

CONSIDER THAT A faithful Christian wife doesn’t submit to her husband because he is stronger…

She does so because of her conviction that this is God’s will. Most women have within their power to control and manipulate their husband if they chose to do so, and the women of the world wield their emotional, sexual, and sometimes physical control over their husbands. A Christian woman chooses to obey God and submit to her husband’s authority. She submits to her husband because she has submitted to God. (Glenn Colley)

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:22

–Mike Benson

Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him

ANTHILLS ARE MADE when a bunch of insignificant creatures get together…

If you ever mistakenly step on an anthill without shoes, their fellowship will make an impact on you. One ant bite might sting a little. Most folks can handle that. But if a person messes with the whole family in an anthill, those ants will gather around your foot and serve notice that you are unwelcome in their house…

One ant can’t create that kind of impact by itself. Gathered together, their combined effect is much greater. Not only do they ward off intruders together, they will also work together to rebuild in a day and a half what was destroyed. (Tony Evans)

“Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” Ecclesiastes 4:12

Mike Benson/

Beware of the man who can’t laugh at himself

WHICH OF US is not guilty of cutting other people down just for the laughs…?

We enjoy our biting sarcasm and our abilities to ridicule, our stinging quips, our sharp put-downs. The best humor, of course, is joking at our own expense. But we pass up this healthful humor to be thought witty in our daily give-and-take banter. We miss opportunities to encourage others so we can build up our reputations for cleverness.

In an ironic and cynical age, all of us fall into patterns of insult and derision. Mocking the mighty above us or the miserable beneath us becomes a popular sport. With a wisecrack, we betray. Only a thorough sense of our own sinfulness keeps us from taking others too lightly and ourselves too seriously. Beware of the man who can’t laugh at himself. Howard E. Butt, Jr.

“Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather give thanks.” Ephesians 5:4

–Mike Benson

Don’t let your eyes adjust to the dark

A GOOD FRIEND of mine posted a personal statement on Facebook that says, “Don’t let your eyes adjust to the dark…”

He gives no explanation or elaboration, and for his friends who are unfamiliar with the Bible, the message probably makes no sense.  When I first read it, I assumed it was some inside joke between him and another friend.  But knowing the kind of person he is, it occurred to me that he was talking about spiritual, not physical, darkness.  In fact, his words effectively summarize what Jesus said in Matthew 6:22-23.

God created our physical eyes to easily adjust to dark surroundings, but He never intended for our souls to adapt to the darkness of sin and its effects.  To His dismay, however, too many of His children find spiritual darkness normal, and some even find it quite comfortable.  Is this true of you or me?  Have our spiritual eyes adjusted to darkness when:

Sin saturates the shows or movies we watch, the things we read, or the websites we visit?

We see others hurting or suffering and yet feel no compassion for them?

We misuse our mouths with bad language, gossip, harsh criticism, or other cruelty?

The world is often a dark place, and its shadows can easily creep into our lives and overwhelm us.  But God’s light will always eliminate the darkness of sin and as His lights, we can even make this world a brighter place.  “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8).  Blaine Kelly

“The eye is the lamp of the body.  So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness.  If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”  Matthew 6:22-23 ESV

Mike Benson

The lungi

Ready to Work

“Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13 NKJV).

The lungi is a traditional item of clothing for Asian men. It is a simple piece of fabric wrapped around the waist to make what we in the west would consider a skirt. It is typically worn full length, waist to ankles, and is a popular lounging garment for the upper classes.

The poor however often wear the lungi to work and as their normal everyday clothing.

When a man wearing a lungi prepares to engage in heavy labor or athletic activity the loose length of the garment is a hindrance, interfering with his movement and provided potential hazards of tripping or entanglement with tools.

Therefore he will often wrap and tuck the extra length of fabric up around his waist and hips until he can move freely.

This is exactly the literal meaning of the Biblical expression “gird up your loins.” It describes one who tightens his robe or other dress and prepares for work. In the text quoted above, Peter uses it metaphorically to describe a spiritual and intellectual tightening.

He directs us to “gird up the loins of [our] mind.” In other words, to discipline our thinking and our attitudes.

Such girding up he says is necessary to the full realization of our hope in the grace of Jesus. Loose thinking hinders our trust in Christ, and our desire for eternal life with him.

Loose thinking distracts us from the task of serving God and from the necessity of purity in our lives. Our goals are confused. Our way becomes crooked. We are entangled in unnecessary material which may easily lead us to harm.

The sloppy, unnecessary thoughts which so hinder us include such things as worldly desires and pleasures (James 4:1-4), envy or jealousy (Galatians 5:20-21), malice (Ephesians 4:31), and hatred (Titus 3:3).

When our minds are filled with these things we cannot possibly “set our minds on things above” (Colossians 3:2) or “walk according to the Spirit [minding] the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:1,5).

In order to discipline our minds so that we can more effectively put our trust in Jesus, Peter exhorts us to “be sober.” Though the Bible often warns against drunkenness and requires sobriety in the physical sense, that is not the meaning here.

Rather Peter is still discussing the mind, so that he is urging us to think soberly. In this context “soberly” has the primary meaning of seriousness. We are to choose what we spend time thinking about, and direct our minds to things worthy of consideration.

Paul makes the same point in Philippians 4:8:

“Whatsoever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”

Time is valuable, even time spent just thinking. More than that, our thoughts themselves are important.

They may cause us to be defiled (Mark 7:21). They define our nature (Proverbs 23:7). One may sin by just thinking evil (Matthew 5:22, 28). One may also praise and glorify God with pure and wholesome thought (Psalms 1:1-2).

In the western world we might admonish, “roll up your sleeves and get to work.” The principle is the same. Remove or restrain anything that gets in the way of service to God. Let us get serious about our Christian walk. Let us apply this principle not just to our bodies, but also to our minds.

Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

Do not envy a man of violence …

From knights in shining armor to gunslingers in westerns, we have always held a fascination with a violent man. Our children are brought up with these as heroes.

How many Marvel Comics would sell, do you suppose, if Superman was constantly sitting down and negotiating with Lex Luther? And how many viewers would feel cheated if Clint Eastwood walked up to a bad guy and said, “Go ahead, make my day. Let’s talk about our differences.”?

There is no young person who is in such grave peril as the one who idealizes a violent man, and there is no society in as grave a position as the one that makes heroes out of its most violent members.

“Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways,for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence” (Proverbs 3:31,32, ESV).

These days rap singers hammer their resentment towards women and authority by promising to hurt them. Tough guys like Arnold and Sylvester (Rambo, not the cat!) are admired precisely because they can violently deal with their antagonists.

It is well to remember that outrages will be dealt with, if not in a human court of law, then duly noted in another, superior court. So who are your heroes?

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

God’s timing

SOMETIMES GOD SEEMS to take forever…

You wait and wait and wait.  But when He finally moves, He does more in one hour and you could accomplish in a lifetime.  So it’s your choice: be busily consumed with your paltry attempts or wait on God until He moves in the fulness of His glory and purposes.  God’s sense of timing is like this: He waits forever and then moves suddenly and instantaneously.  There’s only one way to even begin to tune into God’s sense of timing, and that is through waiting.  Waiting transports us out of the temporal, out of our time-zone, and into His time-zone.

God can out-wait anybody.  He just waits and waits, while the crisis looms larger and larger, and He waits some more.  He waits until the crisis becomes an impossible predicament.  And then He waits some more!  Finally, when the remotest chance of escape is completely gone, God intervenes suddenly.  A good example of this is Abraham.

God promised Abraham a son when he was 75 years old, even though Sarah was barren.  And then God waits five years, ten years, fifteen years, twenty years.  By now it’s too late.  Even if Sarah were not barren, she is now too old, and so is Abraham.  Twenty-five years.  Count them.  Twenty-five interminable years.  Finally, when all natural hope was exhausted, God provided and Sarah became pregnant!  God is the king of wait.  (Bob Sorge)

“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.”  Proverbs 37:7

–Mike Benson

The work of pastors

Godly Pastors

Years ago, I was with a group doing mission work in New Zealand. One day we visited a seal colony on the beach. That was extraordinary and something to remember forever.

However, another notable event occurred that bears a lot of consideration as we try to understand discipleship and church leadership. Two men on horseback passed in front of our group driving about two dozen sheep through a gate.

In the western world, we drive sheep while shepherds in other parts of the world lead sheep. “And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4, NKJV).

There is a profound difference between driving sheep and leading them. If we will take the time to ponder it, we can see a spiritual challenge and a possible obstacle placed before us.

Prideful, stubborn, selfish people see everything in terms of themselves. Through this lens, we see things in a distorted manner. When we hear submission, we equate it with slavery and inferiority.

However, the word carries no such meaning in Scripture. It simply means to place ourselves under something or someone. When we place ourselves under them, it does not mean we are inferior or that we will be abused or mistreated. It is a matter of roles and responsibilities.

Submission is imperative to salvation (James 4:10).

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:22-23).

Christ loves and gives support to his church, so husbands should do the same for their wives. We must treat our wives as treasures given from God (Genesis 2:18-25).

Similar principles are applied to serving under elders.

The author of Hebrews says,

“Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:17).

Many bristle at the thought of someone ruling over them. However, shepherds submit to God and are to be gentle and loving, just as a godly husband would. He will elevate the sheep and provide for them in any way that he can.

These pastors should be men that saints will follow and listen to, if they are men of God, following the Savior to heaven. A pastor does not rule with a whip but instructs and leads with gentleness and meekness of heart (1 Corinthians 11:1).

We will say that no one will tell us what to do. Yet, we will follow a firefighter out of a fire, a doctor who seeks a cure for our cancer and a police officer out of a gunfight.

When it suits us, we will follow. However, when our pride consumes us, we refuse. Satan exploits our weaknesses and vanities to draw us away from God.

Why are mortal dangers more important than spiritual dangers?

Pastors watch out for our souls. God will hold them responsible if they do not. Yet, if they do and we refuse to listen, the burden is on our shoulders (Ezekiel 33:1-11).

Jesus is the Savior and we must give him complete obedience (John 14:15). His plan is that we will have leadership in our congregations so that we will have guidance and instruction (Acts 20:28).

Let us trust God’s plan! The omnipotent, omniscient God deserves it.

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

I just climbed up on her lap and cried with her

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Charles Swindoll in his book “Killing Giants, Pulling Thorns,” tells of a little child who lost a playmate to death. One day the child announced to her family that she had gone to comfort the sorrowing mother.

Surprised, and a little alarmed, her family wondered what had happened.

“What did you say?” asked her father.

“Oh nothing,” the little girl responded, “I just climbed up on her lap and cried with her.”

I doubt that the most eloquent preacher in town could have communicated better. When someone loses a loved one we are afraid to speak to the bereaved. “I won’t know what to say,” we declare, “What if I say the wrong thing?” we fret.

These fears are natural. But remember in your anxiety that their sorrow is much greater than your discomfort.

I have learned that it is better to try to do something than to leave the bereaved without a word at all, without the touch of a caring friend. Even if you do nothing more than “weep with those who weep,” your very caring has communicated something important.

Most people who are experiencing this don’t expect you to say something that is historically profound. Your words of wisdom won’t dispel the cloud of hurt they are under, and they understand that. What they do want is to know if someone cares.

Hold a hand. Write a card. Pull a thorn out of a throbbing foot. Shed a tear with them.

Those actions will say more than your words can, anyway.

by Stan Mitchell http://tinyurl.com/nmc3l4r