Archives for : August2013

A clever idea!

A CERTAIN YOUNG man worked in a factory where heavy machinery rattled the entire building…

Not liking the jarring, he brought a rubber mat to the factory and stood on it.  The vibrations no longer bothered him as they once had.  However, after several days, someone stole his mat.  He responded by getting two pieces of rubber and nailing them to his heels.  He now had two little rubber mats that no one could steal and that went with him everywhere.  The name of the young man was O’Sullivan, the original inventor of rubber heels.

THOUGHT: Like this young man, we as Christians have that which protects us against the jarring of the world.  It is called prayer, and it goes with us everywhere.  (Wade Webster, cf., Stephen R. Covey, Everyday Greatness, p. 220)

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7

–Mike Benson

Why Am I Afraid of Truth?

 Martha and Mary urged the Lord to check on their brother’s welfare (John 11:3). Instead, Jesus tarried for two more days before leaving for Bethany (11:6) to check on his ailing friend.


When He finally did arrive on the scene, Lazarus had been “grave-yard dead” for four days (11:39).

 

 The Lord made His way to the tomb where Lazarus had been buried. He asked that the stone be rolled aside and then shouted, “Lazarus, come forth!” (11:43).


Scripture records wondrously, “And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth…” (11:44).

 

 Some of those who witnessed this awesome scene reported the event to the Pharisees (11:46). What is striking to me is that even the avowed enemies of Jesus admitted His miraculous works. They pondered, “…What shall we do? For this Man works many signs” (11:47).


Did you catch that? The truth of the resurrection was so self-evident and undeniable that even those who hated Him couldn’t deny what He had done.

 

 What is especially telling to me is the fear and concern that the Pharisees experienced. They said, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” (11:48), so they conspired to murder Him (11:53).


Let that rattle around in your brain for a while. Why would folks want to kill a Man with the ability to raise the dead?! Why were the Pharisees afraid of Jesus–the embodiment of truth? The answer to these questions also explains why many people fear truth today.


1. Truth threatened their POWER base. The Pharisees said, “If we let him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him…” These men realized that if folks kept seeing what Jesus could do and hear His message then they would forsake their oversight and follow the Lord.

 

 2. Truth exposed their ERROR and SIN. “…From that day on they plotted to put Him to death” (11:53). If there had been no corruption within the Jewish leadership of the day, they would have welcomed Jesus as the Promised One. One of the reasons the Pharisees rejected the Truth was because they were living in a state of unrepentant sin. These “religious” men had murder in their hearts! Had they been living within the will of God they would have had no reason to fight against what the Lord taught and practiced.

 

 3. Truth threatened the STATUS QUO. “…The Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” The Jews were afraid that the excitement from the news of Lazarus’ resurrection would incur Rome’s heavy hand down upon them and lead to the loss of what national life still remained in their possession. They weren’t ready or willing to change. Note the phrase, “…Our place…”


Good reader, how do you feel when truth of Jesus Christ is taught and practiced? When the preacher urges you to die to self and “walk in newness of life” (e.g., resurrection– Rom. 6:3-4), do you get upset? Do you feel threatened? Are you worried that your sin may be discovered? Do you feel the need to fight and keep things “as they are”?


Give it some thought.


–by Mike Benson

MIRACLES, SIGNS AND WONDERS

There’s an old story about a skeptic who continually harassed the local preacher.  His one delight in life seemed to be making the preacher appear inadequate intellectually. The preacher bore those challenges to his theology and faith with great restraint.

One day the skeptic was heckling the preacher about his views on miracles.  “Give me one concrete example of a miracle,” the skeptic taunted.  “One concrete example.”  This preacher hauled off and kicked the skeptic in the shin as hard as he could.

The skeptic couldn’t believe it!  “What did you do that for?”

The preacher asked, “Did you feel that?”

“Yes,” the man said as he nursed his sore leg.

“Well, if you hadn’t,” said the preacher, “it would have been a miracle!”

I’m not sure that was the best way to get a point across regarding miracles, but it is certainly true that miracles are important to those of us who have faith in God!

It may surprise you to know that while there are many miracles recorded in the Bible, the word “miracle” rarely appears in the Old Testament, at least in most translations (only 3 times in the NKJV).  In fact, the word “miracle” rarely even appears in the gospels (only in Mark 9:39 and Luke 23:8).  The more common words that are used for miracles throughout the Bible are the words “signs” and “wonders”.

Miracles have the ability to create a sense of “wonder” or awe.  And then, their purpose was to serve as a “sign”.  A miracle is a sign that God uses to point to Himself, the same way that we follow signs to find a museum or an airport.  As John reported, “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.” (John 20:30-31).

Despite the skeptics, those of us who are Christians believe that our God is a God of great power.  We believe that He created this world.  We believe that He led the Israelites through the Red Sea.  And we believe that He raised Jesus from the grave.  Repeatedly, He has demonstrated His power and we take comfort knowing that we have that kind of a Father watching over us.

“Seek the Lord and His strength; Seek His face evermore!  Remember His marvelous works which He has done, His wonders, and the judgments of His mouth!  O seed of Israel His servant, you children of Jacob, His chosen ones!” (I Chronicles 16:11-13)

Alan Smith

Sosthenes, 1 Corthians 1:1

SOSTHENES (1 Corthians 1:1) was a common first-century name…

This name also appears in Acts 18:17.  There Luke describes how someone with this name was beaten by a Jewish mob because he failed to make a case against Paul.

If the Sosthenes in Acts 18 is identical with the Sosthenes in 1 Corinthians 1:1, a remarkable conversion took place.  Paul’s companion was the very man who had previously tried to prosecute him because of Christianity.  If the two names refer to the same man, Sosthenes’ opposition to the gospel had been replaced by his active promotion of the gospel.  The fact that only this man’s first name is mentioned indicates the Corinthians were very familiar with him.  It is not too unrealistic to believe Luke and Paul described the same man.  Brad Price, “First Corinthians,” p. 8.

“Then all the Greeks took Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat.  But Gallio took no notice of these things”  (Acts 18:17). “Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother”  (1 Corinthians 1:1).

–Mike Benson

Red words in the Bible

WHILE MILLIONS READ their Bibles, few know why some Bible publishers print the words of Christ in red…

Words in red are neither more nor less important than the words in black.  Jesus said to the seventy, “He who hears you hears Me…” (Luke 10:16).  Jesus meant that every divinely inspired writer or speaker was equally important, since the message originated with God’s Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The idea of a red-letter Bible originated with Louis Klopsch, the first editor for the Christian Herald.  Its November 1901 issue ran an advertisement offering a red-letter Bible to readers.  Dr. Klopsch based this on Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you,” spoken by Jesus as He instituted the Lord’s Supper.  Reasoning that blood was red, he asked himself, “Why not a red-letter Bible with the red words to be those of our Lord?”  He asked Bible scholars in America and Europe to submit passages they regarded as spoken by Christ while on earth.

The first publishing of a red-letter Bible (copyright 1899 by Louse Klossch) numbered 6,000 copies.  They sold quickly.  Presses were soon running day and night to supply the demand.  The King of Sweden sent a congratulatory cablegram, but the message that thrilled Klopsch the most came from President Theodore Roosevelt.  He was even invited to dine with the chief executive at the White House.

Dr. Klopsch died March 28,  1910, and was buried at Mont Lawn near Tonawanda, New York, where he had established an orphanage.  At the time The New York Tribune said, “He will not be easily replaced.  He lived and died by his own motto: ‘Do all the good you can for all the people you can.’  This, he truly did.”  Mark N. Posey

“How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him” (Acts 10:38).

Mike Benson

The Savior of the Undesirables

I once preached for a congregation with a shameful past. In previous years, one of the men would stand in the door and not allow anyone of a different skin color to enter.

Decades later, I was blessed to not only welcome an undesirable, but to baptize him into Christ. Thankfully, Christ welcomes those man’s bigotry rejects.

“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7, NKJV).

Man divides while God unites. God loves, while man hates and rejects.

Even in the Lord’s church, we find brethren who build walls that they have no right to build. Even Peter, who should have known better than anyone, built racial walls by looking down on the Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-21).

Peter had heard specifically from God that he should see all men as equal, yet his sinful nature shone through (Acts 10:9-16,34). We must stand above the evils of men.

In Mark 2:14-17, Jesus calls Matthew to be a disciple and dines in his house with Matthew’s tax collector friends. The Pharisees, of course, are there to mock him for eating with sinners.

“When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17).

The Pharisees saw those at the table as scum and wanted nothing to do with them. If the Lord thought as man did, would he allow any of us to be in the Church? Would our skin color, looks, financial status or nationality meet the criterion of the narrow-minded?

Jesus, however, is the Savior of the undesirables. He welcomes those whom man sees as worthless. Those we tolerate, Jesus embraces. The Lord knows that all men are made in his image and posses inherent value (Genesis 1:27).

The Gospel call is blind to prejudice. It rings through all nations and hearts (Matthew 28:18-20). His plea is for all who will come (Matthew 11:28-30). Accordingly, we must carry the message to all men and accept them with open arms into the family (Acts 2:37-47; Ephesians 2:19).

If we wish to be pleasing to God, we have no other choice. We must allow Christ’s blood to warm our frozen hearts before it is too late (1 John 1:7).

by Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

If you love Me, keep My commandments

A small, dusty Old West town lived its life under the thumb of a powerful rancher named Hawkins. The old man was surly and wealthy. His cowboys began to grow rowdy as time passed and the town’s people lived in fear.

Finally, the town council decided to grow a backbone and take a stand against the lawlessness.

They hired a sheriff and deputy from another territory to bring law and order to the town. When they arrived, they posted the new laws and demanded obedience. The men from Hawkins’ ranch began to cause problems and several died, as a result.

The new lawmen cleaned up the town and brought peace to the streets. People walked the sidewalks and went to school, without fear of being murdered. The good people of the town relaxed, while the criminals fled.

Citizen today relish a high police presence in their city, while the lawless disdain them. This is typical human behavior.

In our postmodern age, when men wish to overthrow all institutions and ideas, we see rebellion growing in prominence. The children raised on the rebellion of the 1960’s are leaders today and we see the fruits of their dreams.

If we have a rebellious spirit, we will not find solace in the Church of our Lord. Christ asks us to submit to him and to humble ourselves before his Lordship (Matthew 11:28-30; James 4:10).

Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). Christ demands that we be broken, so he can reform us into a new creation (John 3:3-5; Romans 12:1-2). Christ will be the only Lord in the church (Matthew 17:1-5).

When the rebellious cannot submit to Scripture, they seek to reshape Biblical authority, until they feel comfortable again. With the unpalatable passages rationalized away or discarded entirely, they feel an acceptable level of control return to their hearts.

Instead of fighting against God, we should instead feel safe in his leadership. Laws and commandments are boundaries. When we are rebellious, and no one will tell us what to do, we see these boundaries as oppressive.

Yet, no one feels the same way when laws keep children out of the busy street.

Like the citizens of the city above, laws created comfort and peace. We can relax in God’s arms, knowing he will protect and guide us. He covers us with love and peace (Isaiah 4:5-6; Psalm 4:8; Psalm 142:5).

Our hearts should desire the structure and order of discipleship.

Obedience does not save us, in itself (Ephesians 2:8- 9). Yet, good works are the coin of the realm and we cheerfully do whatever we can to bring glory to Christ (Ephesians 2:10; Ephesians 3:20-21). We are ultimately saved by the shed blood of Christ (1 John 1:7).

Grace does not obviate the necessity of obedience. Rather, it allows it. Coming to Christ means that we have the privilege of serving him and having a loving Father who establishes boundaries to protect us from Satan and facilitate peace among us.

Boundaries are not to annoy us or keep us from having fun. They empower us in a world where serving Christ is the greatest joy.

We need to lay our rebellious spirits down and immerse ourselves in his gentleness and peace. In doing so, we use all of our energy against Satan, rather than fighting against God’s authority. Let us make peace with Biblical authority today and stop fighting against it.

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

A sign from God

MANY PEOPLE ARE looking for a sign from God…

They want to know for certain that God is there, that he really is who the Bible says he is.  They are willing to  believe in Him, but first they demand some sort of sign.  They say, “God, if you’re really there, show yourself to me!  Then I will believe in you!”

The truth is that God has given a sign.  It is a miraculous sign — the sign of the empty tomb.  Jesus of Nazareth, also called Christ, claimed to be God’s Son.  His earthly life ended on a wooden cross outside Jerusalem.  The Bible says His death paid the penalty for our sin.  Then Jesus was buried.  If he had remained in the tomb, there would be no sign that Jesus really is the Christ.  But in order to prove that sin is forgiven through the cross and that we can have fellowship with God forever, Jesus was raised from the dead.  His resurrection is the sign that Christianity is true — a sign recorded in Scripture and confirmed in historical accounts from many reliable eyewitnesses.  Philip Graham Ryken

“And while the crowds were thickly gathered together, He began to say, ‘This is an evil generation.  It seeks a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah the prophet.”  Luke 11:29

Mike Benson

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me

“With his mouth, the godless one would destroy his neighbor” (Proverbs 11:9 ESV).

“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered” (Proverbs 11:13, ESV).

I know you remember this: You were with a bunch of other kids, probably in the school playground and a disagreement erupted. The kids begin to call each other names – “Fat boy,” or “Stupid,” “Dummy” – or worse!

Tears began to sting eyes, vulnerable little hearts were broken, when someone stood, and full of bravado quoted the following proverb:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never harm me.”

Making that statement was courageous, and reinforcing, but you know the truth now that you are an adult; it was pure bravado. As that child made his or her way home, the tears of heartbreak spoke to the real truth.

Cruel words do hurt. Name calling bruises. Words cut and shred just as surely as the sticks and stones might. That phrase may be a proverb, but it is not from the book of Proverbs, and is untrue as it can be.

The wise man of Proverbs knew better. He understood the power of words.

Give me the sticks and stones any day. Breaks and bruises on the body can be cleaned and healed; cutting remarks, put downs and gossip will fester and hurt a psyche for a lifetime.

Deep down, we understand the destructive — or uplifting — power of words.

Let’s use them wisely and lovingly!

–Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Is This the Church that Helps People?

Several years ago, the phone rang in my office at the church building and a very timid voice asked, “Is this the church that helps people?”

It startled me a bit at first, but I was glad that I could confidently say, “Yes, it is!” The young lady needed some food, and yes, we helped her with that need.

However, there are so many ways that the church helps people. And we would like to help you.

It helps people know the love of Christ. Paul said, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8).

How much do you know about the love of Christ? You can learn about it in his church.

It helps people learn about the salvation from sin that God offers. In Acts 2, there were thousands gathered who heard Peter and the other apostles teach the truth about Jesus being the Messiah. These same people had crucified Jesus. They were distraught over their sin.

Peter helped them to believe in Christ and showed them how to come to him by repenting of their sins and being baptized (Acts 2:38). Many of these sinful men complied with his teaching for the remission of their sins.

Did you know that the church could help you become free from guilt?

It helps people learn a way that will lead to a better life here and in eternity. While so many struggle with a selfish, materialistic way of life, drunkenness, drug addiction, etc.,

God’s word teaches a way that leads to eternal life with God. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6). It was Him who said, “I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.”

It helps people find the way to deal with frustrating problems. No, becoming a member of the church does not remove all of our problems, but it helps us endure them.

Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.”(Philippians 4:11). Are you weak? The church can help.

It helps people to help each other. Life has lost any meaning for many people. God’s family has a mutual concern for one another. Do you want to go to a place where people genuinely care for one another? We can help as we “love one another” as He loved us (John 13:34).

It helps people who are discouraged. Yes, we are living in discouraging and frustrating times. The church exhorts and encourages one another. (Hebrews 10:24-25).

If you need a good dose of encouragement, come here for a visit.

These are troubling times and we always want to help. However, the church is really only able to help those who are willing to be helped. How can we help you?

by David Courington – www.forthright.net

 

The coming judgment day

2 Tim. 1:18 “The Lord grant unto him that he may find mercy of the Lord in that day…….”

These words are part of a prayer from the lips of Paul regarding a man named Onesiphorus.

It is right and it is good for us to pray for the physical health and for the spiritual health of each other (3 John 2). Over the course of my 79 years of life I know that many prayers have been raised in my behalf as it regards my physical well being and I deeply appreciate all of them. But, you know, the greatest prayer that can ever be uttered for any of us is the one that Paul prayed for Onesiphorus, namely, that we find mercy in that day. The fruit of mercy is eternal life (Jude 6). Understand, we seek and ask for the help and mercy of the Lord today. How much more is that mercy needed in that day appointed when he will judge us (Acts 17:31). Now, know this, if we are to have mercy in that day, we must seek it today as well (Heb. 4:16).

All of history moves toward that final day of Judgment (Heb. 9:27, Acts 17:30-31). If we learn to properly respect and fear that one hour of the Judgment and point our lives toward that one day, then our life on this side of eternity will be a successful one (Phil. 3:13-14, Phil. 2:12, Rom. 2:5-6, Rom. 14:12, Heb. 10:31).

On that day all races, all nationalities, all nations will be gathered together (Matt. 25:31-46, Rev. 20:11-15). On that day the books will be opened (Rev. 20:12). On that day judgment will be rendered by the great judge—Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 4:1) and he will judge according to his word (John 12:48). Heaven’s record of the lives of all mankind will be opened and every man will stand on his own record (2 Cor. 5:10).  The Lamb’s Book of Life containing the names of the redeemed will be opened and if a man’s name is not written there, he is lost forever (Phil. 4:3, Rev. 20:15).  I must pause here for a moment and ask, how do I stand, how do you stand today? Is our name written in the Lamb’s book of life? Where will we be in eternity. One day we will stand before the great judge and he will either say to us, come ye blessed inherit the kingdom or he will say, depart from me ye cursed. Which will it be, come or depart?

In reality, all of us are facing the sentence of life or death in that day. The life we live today will determine the answer in that day (2 Tim. 4:6-8, Phil. 1:21, Gal. 2:20).

Charles Hicks

Running From Authority

In 1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover the car.

Why do people run from authority? There are several possible reasons: (1) They know they are guilty. (2) They want to escape punishment. (3) They think they can get away. You might be able to think of a few other reasons, but whatever the reason why people flee authority, it will always comes back to bite them. Whether by the authorities on this earth or by the Lord later. In reality, running from the authorities is a lost cause since God always wins.

How can people actually run from an omnipresent God anyway? While we can never physically run from God, we run from God when resist Him through sin and are not repentant. Jonah is one of the most well known examples of a person running from the Lord (Jonah 1:3). He did everything he could to get away but ended up getting swallowed by a great fish (Jonah 1:17) and doing what the Lord wanted him to do anyway (Jonah 3:1f).

It is interesting in the above illustration about the stolen car that the authorities wanted to find the man more to save his life than to apprehend him. So often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape punishment from Him or something similar. However, in the end, all we are actually doing is eluding His rescue. Running from the Lord is never the answer. While we may have to face some form of punishment for our actions, is it not better to face temporary and relatively minor punishment here on earth than face the most intense and severe punishment for the rest of eternity? God simply wants to rescue us from our sin and eternal punishment. Let’s remember to never run from authority, but instead to run toward it in repentance.

–Brett Petrillo

Christianity is a journey

“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Depart and go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, “To your descendants I will give it.” And I will send my Angel before you, and I will drive out the Canaanite and the Amorite and the Hittite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite. Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, lest I consume you on the way, for you are a stiff-necked people'” (Exodus 33:1-3 NKJV).

Whenever I prepare to return to South Asia, I have to deal again with the issue of packing.

Why must I always have to take so much stuff? Why must every trip involve so many details, so much planning and advance work? Can’t I just buy tickets, jump on the plane, and go?

After Moses and the Children of Israel had spent about three months or so on Mount Sinai, the people sinned by having Aaron make them an idol. In his anger, God commanded, “Leave, get away from my holy mountain – go now!”

As the text continues through succeeding chapters, Moses pleaded with God and secured forgiveness for the people, including God’s promise to go with them and bring them safely to their destination.

The remainder of Exodus and all of Leviticus are filled with details of the building of the Tabernacle and the giving of the Law. In Numbers 10:11 we finally see God’s command to Moses to depart Sinai.

Their departure did not take place until at least 10 or 11 months after God had first told them to leave. Why the delay? What took so long?

Part of the answer might lie in the fact that when they finally left, God went with them. For that to be possible preparation had to take place. God’s House (the Tabernacle) must be built.

Rules for worshiping him must be delivered. Laws providing for holiness and purity among the people had to be enacted.

Whether it is travel, work, worship or any other human activity, the degree of preparation required is directly related to the purpose of the activity and to the seriousness with which we regard it. It does not require much packing to go to the beach for a week.

But to travel for mission work involving visits to different places, teaching, preaching, etc. demands much more advance effort. The more we are going to do, and the more important such activities are, the more preparation we engage in.

The Israelites could have departed Sinai in a matter of hours or days. After all, they left Egypt in the middle of the night, after hundreds of years of occupation of their territory. But to leave with God in their midst was an entirely different thing.

When we travel, or engage in recreation, or just plan an evening’s enjoyment, do we make plans for God’s presence? If we were to begin to do so would it make a difference in how we prepared? Would it involve extra pains in packing? Paul taught, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Colossians 3:17).

Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

Early thoughts for 2014

Instead of making hollow spiritual goals for the New Year, why not actually do something about them? Actions speak louder than words and God is waiting for us to get off our comfy chairs.

“And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11, NKJV).

We must change dramatically if we will see pronounced change in the New Year.

* We recline and whine and that the church is not growing.
* We give less and grouse that the church is broke.
* We attend less and complain about the numbers.
* We stop inviting people and complain that no one is evangelizing.
* We don’t study our Bibles and scream about Biblical ignorance.

In this New Year, let us finally throw off the shackles and work to make this the best year for our congregation. We must stop whining, grousing, complaining, blaming and screaming and put our hands in the dirt and work.

We must repent that we have talked more than we have served the Lord. The transformation process has stopped and we must return to the Lord (Romans 12:1-2).

How can we accomplish all of this? We can invest in prayer in 2014 and become stronger and more devoted in the process.

When we make prayer a priority, we give God the keys and allow him to lead. As a result, our entire worldview changes from fleshly to spiritual. We see souls as priorities and we grow smaller as God grows larger in our hearts.

Prayer connects us with God and we give all of our lives to him. How can we do that and not be changed?

Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Romantic ideas

IT IS IMPORTANT for husband and wife to have fun together…

What do you do for “play time”?  Do you spend your recreational time together or doing your own thing?  There is nothing wrong with having some activities that you do separately; however, there is something wrong with doing nothing fun together.  You need to develop a list of activities that both of you would enjoy doing together.  Once this is completed, sit down (knee-to-knee) and go over the lists.  Then develop a final list of the things both of you have agreed to try together.

Date ideas:

1.  Put on some of your favorite music and work a jigsaw puzzle together.
2.  Rent a movie and pop popcorn.
3.  Take a walk hand-in-hand.
4.  Recreate your first date or when your proposed.
5.  Go to a local high school sporting event.

Romantic ideas:

1.  Pull out old love letters and read them to each other.
2.  Sit by the fire.
3.  Leave a chocolate kiss on his or her pillow.
4.  Kiss for a full minute.
5.  Give her a hug, and don’t let go.  (For more ideas, look for Debbie L. Cherry’s book, “Discovering the Treasure of Marriage”).

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Luke 12:34

Mike Benson

Satan does not quit!

Satan is a dogged pursuer with tireless energy. He comes at us when we are weak or strong. His opportunism knows no bounds and his viciousness, no limits.

Satan is a spiritual being so he does not require sleep or rest. He has tools available to him that we do not have. Human wisdom, wealth or wiles cannot defeat Satan. His powers of deception are too strong (John 8:44).

We must be constantly prepared if we will survive his onslaught. God is our only hope (Revelation 20:11-15). Without the proper weaponry and defenses, Satan will ravage us like a defenseless child (1 Peter 5:8-9; Ephesians 6:14-18).

Joseph was a handsome and virile young man far away from home (Genesis 39:1-6). Although he was a slave, Potiphar had put everything except his family under his authority. As he went about his work, a temptation arose.

Potiphar’s wife began to desire Joseph and pursued him. Joseph refused to succumb (Genesis 39:7-9). So she became relentless in her pleadings to wear down his defenses (Genesis 39:10).

While he stayed strong morally, he may have also been battling his own human passions as a young single man.

Satan attacks where we are vulnerable. Jesus went without food for forty days and Satan appeared offering him bread (Matthew 4:1-3). Spiritually, Jesus refused his offer. However, his body passionately craved the bread.

When we leave a door open, Satan runs in. He saw something in Joseph that gave him hope that this temptation would destroy him.

In the realm of morality, lust has destroyed countless spiritual lives. We must be resolute, so we can withstand the attacks (Ephesians 6:10-12).

“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13, NKJV).

Satan’s arrows will continue to fly so we must remain close to God and armed for battle at all times (James 4:7-8). We can never grow smug or overconfident or we will soon find defeat.

Temptation is like water torture, the drops are relentless and maddening. However, we all have weaknesses that we struggle with. This energy contributes to Satan’s power.

We must be fiercely honest if we will close all the doors we have open for Satan. God’s Word will help us every day so we can stand fast in our faith (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Where has the romance gone?

REMEMBER WHEN YOU were dating and romance seemed to be everywhere…?

Whatever happened to that?  For most  couples romance takes a nose dive shortly after marriage.  The focus moves away from wining and dining to eating and sleeping.  We are confident that we have “caught” him or her and proven to him or her that we care.  Then we slack off.  How is our spouse to take that feeling of being treasured from dating into marriage if we don’t continue the behavior that made him or her feel that way?  And even if you weren’t a “Casanova” during dating, why not learn to be one now?  Treasuring your spouse includes being romantic.

Romance involves proving you think about your spouse when you are not together and showing it when you are together.  It involves taking time out of busy schedules to make each other feel loved, cared about, important, and special.  It means taking the ordinary (dinner or walk) and making it extraordinary (candlelit dinner or walk in the moonlight).  Through romantic gestures you tell your spouse that he or she is the one and only one for you and worth the extra effort.

Never forget the importance of dating your spouse.  This may seem elementary, but you might be surprised (or maybe not) how many couples don’t date anymore.  Or, if they do, it is only once or twice a year for special occasions.  If you want your relationship to thrive and your spouse to feel treasured, you must spend quality couple time together.  Debbie L. Cherry

“My lover is mine and I am his.”  Song of Solomon 2:16

–Mike Benson

Buyers Beware!

“Boy I pulled a fast one over him,” the voice said.

I looked up from my meal. The speaker was several tables down from me in the restaurant.

“He didn’t know what hit him,” he continued, deep satisfaction in his voice. “He’ll only know I had him when it’s too late, and that useless junk will be on his hands.”

I gazed at him in dismay. The speaker was a member of my congregation, a businessman known in the community as a church leader. And here he was, boasting about the sharp (or would that be “dishonest”) deal he had just brought off.

“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight,” (Proverbs 11:1, ESV).

The image of scales reflects the ancient method of weighing grain or some other product on one scale with a weight on the other. An image that is similar to our picture of Madame Justice, blind-folded and holding even scales before her.

It would be fairly simple for a dishonest businessman to fix the weight in order to increase profits, especially when doing business with those members of society who were unable to protest – the poor, for instance, or the widow.

The Christian businessman does not offer a defective product; he does not charge an extortionate price; he does not take advantage of either his competitors or his customers. Not if the “Christian” part of “Christian businessman” is genuine.

“Come-back” customers are the result of fair and honest business dealing. You only cheat a customer once. He won’t come back to be cheated again!

I always wondered what would have happened if that cheated customer came to church one Sunday and saw my Christian business friend leading in worship. There’s a businessman that would have lost far more than a customer. He would have lost his influence, too!

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Protecting Our Spouse

God’s plan for marriage will lead to a beautiful, fulfilling relationship. Scripture teaches us how to find happiness in our marriages (Genesis 2:18-25; Ephesians 5:22-25).

One-flesh marriages create a powerful bond that will withstand the challenges that arise. We will be glued and cemented together for all-time in joy (Genesis 2:24).

In a one-flesh marriage, we treat our spouse, as we would expect to be treated. We do all that we can to bring joy into their lives. They are a part of our very souls and we cherish and nourish them daily (Ephesians 5:29).

Sadly, many Christian couples live ostensibly as roommates. Their passion has cooled into a form of playing house. The years have robbed the union of the bonds it once rejoiced in. Their arms become lonely and their connection frays.

In 1 Corinthians 7:4-5, we see a very important aspect of marriage that may be framed only in selfish terms for many spouses. However, in a one-flesh bond, this passage is vitally important.

Living in a sex-saturated society, we must do all that we can to protect our spouse from temptation. Spouses know if their mate is susceptible to temptation in this area. They need to do what they can to help their spouse remain pure.

Their body now belongs to their spouse and it must be treated with the same love, respect and gentleness that Christ demands (Ephesians 5:25).

Paul writes:

“Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).

“We are told in this passage that the husband and wife are actually robbing one another if there is not mutual pleasure in the sexual relationship.”/1

In fact, “physical sex in marriage serves to reinforce spiritual fidelity by inoculating the mind against temptation.”/2

We have a responsibility to our spouse in this area. It may require special planning to accomplish these goals with a family and a hectic lifestyle. However, we need to do this in order to maintain a healthy marriage.

Our bodies belong to our spouses. Accordingly, we must keep them free from lust, pornography and adultery. Sanctify them to our spouse and our love.

We need to take care of our bodies so they will remain presentable. Letting ourselves go physically is unfair to our lover.

We need to have a big picture attitude toward marriage. When we do, we will make time for one another and realize that minor disputes pale in comparison with a lifetime together.

We will jealously guard our intimacy and nurture it, becoming educated in ways to thrive.

There are two areas where we must protect our spouse and far too many are failing to do so. First, we must do our part to keep our spouse from temptation, as we have discussed.

Second, we must protect their reputation by speaking well of them in public and with our friends.

If we will do these things, build strong communicative bonds, we will find ourselves in a special place where the one-flesh bond can blossom.

Our children and those around us will see us modeling God’s plan for marriage and Christ will be praised (Ephesians 3:20-21).

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

____________
1/ Ed Wheat and Gaye Wheat, Intended for Pleasure (Fleming H. Revell: Grand Rapids, 1977), 30.

2/ Daniel R. Heimbach, True Sexual Morality (Crossway Books: Wheaton, 2004), 168.

US porn revenue

DURING WORLD WAR II, Nazi Germany dropped pornographic pamphlets from the sky over enemy territory…

The reason for this was to distract the soldiers minds with fascinations causing them to ignore the front line.  This has been the strategy of porn from its inception; while we fight the diversionary tactic of pornography, the enemy rolls in behind our backs and destroys our homes.

Imagine conquering an entire nation in less than sixty years by simply planting destructive seed in the minds of a few men and watching it spread to the masses.  That is what Satan did through the likes of Hugh Heffner and Bob Guccione in the 50s when Playboy and Penthouse became nationally distributed magazines.  Over the years, images of undressed women and men engaged in illicit activity have jumped from the pages of embarrassed to purchase magazines to the privacy of our own personal computer screens.  Today, US porn revenue exceeds the revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC combined and contrary to its previous consumer group of mostly adult males; its largest demography today is 12 – 17 year old males and females.

Jesus knew that something as small as gazing at the bait would lead to total entrapment. +– –Paul Kendall

You have heard that it was said to those of  old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  Matthew 5:27-28

Mike Benson