Archives for : January2014

For many bore false witness against Him

This will be the last post till 2/10.  Thank you for your understanding.

ACCORDING TO JEWISH law, witnesses were to be sequestered…

The practice of separating witnesses is still often used today in criminal cases.  This helps prevent conspiracies to defraud the court.  As this was essential to Jesus’ defense, and the Gospel writers assert that the chief priest had obtained false witnesses, it seems obvious that the judicial body did not take proper precautions to prevent witness tampering.

After the first false witnesses presented their accusations, Mark says, “And some rose up and bore witness against Him, saying, ‘We heard Him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands'” (Mark 14:57-58).  In other words, the second group of witnesses had been allowed to overhear the first group.  You can feel irony in Mark’s tone when he adds: “But not even did their testimony agree” (v. 59).  Dale Foreman in “Crucify Him,”–A lawyer looks at the trial of Jesus, 117-118

“For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimony did not agree.”  Mark 14:56

–Mike Benson

We will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do

…SOMEDAY YOU MAY have to confront someone you love who is caught in sin…

That’s something we don’t talk much about–confronting in love the person who is caught in a sin.  But the Bible is clear that we have a responsibility to hold one another accountable, to correct and rebuke one another, to confront in love, and to restore people from sin.  If you see a brother caught in a sin and you say, “It’s none of my business,” you don’t really care about your brother, and you’re ignoring Christ’s command (See Luke 17:3; 2 Timothy 4:2; Galatians 6:1).

So one of the applications to the sermon on Nathan and David is that there will be times when you have to confront someone you love.  But a good sermon will take that application a step further and give examples.  I tried to think of times when people might have to confront someone they see committing sin, and I began to write down ideas in my manuscript.  “If you know that your friend is having an affair, or you discover that someone is embezzling money from his business, or you’re a student and you see someone cheating on a test, what do you do?”  Then I remembered visiting the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.  Etched on the wall is their slogan, “We will not lie, cheat, or steal, or tolerate those who do.”  That’s a great illustration of how even people outside the church realize the need to confront those who have done wrong.

Then I remembered that a young man in our church is attending the Air Force Academy.  His father once told me a story about his son taking tests there.  He once told his dad that whenever they’re taking a test, they all keep their heads down and nobody ever looks up.  Ken said, “Why is that, son?  Are they afraid they’ll be tempted to cheat?”  “No, Dad,” Josh answered, “We’re afraid we will see someone else cheating and have to turn him in.”

That’s a great story, and it made a good illustration in the sermon because it helped me bring to light situations that might arise in every-day life when we are called upon to confront someone who has sinned.  We don’t go looking for people’s faults.  In fact, we prefer not to find any.  But sometimes we can’t ignore them, and we must lovingly confront.  Bob Russell, “When GOD Builds a CHURCH, 34-35

“Then Nathan said to David, ‘You are the man!  Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.  I gave you your master’s house and your master’s wives into your keeping, and gave you the house of Israel and Judah.  And if that had been too little, I also would have given you much more!  Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight?  You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon.  Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.”  2 Samuel 12:7-10

–Mike Benson

Is John 15:5 talking about denominations?

SOME HAVE SAID all the various denominations are part of Christ’s “one church,” but this belief cannot be harmonized with the Bible…

In John 15:5, Jesus said He is the vine and His people are the branches.  Since a single vine does not produce different fruits, the one church built by Christ cannot consist of different beliefs and practices.  This point is also demonstrated by the parable of the sower (Mark 4:3-20).  When the seed (the word of God) is sown, it cannot produce a variety of religious plants (i.e., denominations).

A principle from the earliest of time (Genesis 1:25) is “everything brings forth after its kind” (KJV).  If truth and only truth is sown, the church of the New Testament will always be the result.  If some truth and some error are sown, the result will not be a local congregation that models the church Jesus built.  When some truth and human tradition or make-made councils or earthy headquarters are combined, we will have the result that is now throughout the world:  thousands of different denominations.

If the modern concept of denominationalism is right (God accepts nearly any religious group designated as Christian), why did Paul dedicate so much energy to correcting the division at Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:2, 13)?  If religious division is good (and this is what modern denominationalism says), Paul should have left the Corinthians alone in this regard.  He should have congratulated them on their diversity and encouraged it.  Paul refused to leave the problem of religious division alone.  He also promised to address the lack of unity, if the Corinthians refused to correct this problem themselves (2 Corinthians 10:1-6, 8-11).

There is only “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5), and this faith is practiced in every congregation of Christ’s church.  When we become a Christian as the Bible describes, we are members of “the church of the Lord” (Acts 20:28) and the “temple of God” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).  The church consists of those who are “in Christ Jesus” (1 Corinthians 1:2).  People enter into Christ through baptism (Galatians 3:27).  Brad Price

Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.”  1 Corinthians 1:10; cf. 1:11-17; 3:1-4

–Mike Benson

Becoming desensitized

LEADERSHIP MAGAZINE RELATES the following story…

A young Englishman was in Germany when the Nazis degrade the Jews in the streets.  At first he was sick at the sight and rushed down a side street.  The next time he felt he could look and stopped for a full minute.  The third time he watched.  The fourth time, as he stood with the jeering crowd, the sight seemed less revolting.  He was becoming, he told himself, “objective.”  And with this came the realization of his peril.  This was not a part of life, a social phenomenon for study,  It was the breath of hell (E.M. Blaiklock, Leadership, Winter, 1983).

THOUGHT:  How can can one reach such depths that he becomes desensitized?  How sad that so many have become callused to the things that go on around us:

.  An unborn child is killed every 20 seconds.

.  There were over 1,750,000 last year.

.  God and the mention of Jesus have become a matter of abhorrence and have replaced in schools trumpted with condoms, safe sex, and godless humanism.

.  Our society glorifies murder, rape, adultery, homosexuality, nudity, profanity, and fornication through movies and television.

.  Churches have reached out to those in immoral relationships and accepted them.

Many have become desensitized to sin.  Mark S. Aites, “Indifference,” Life’s Daily Struggles, The 31st Annual Lectureship–ETSOPM, 256-257

“‘Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination?  No!  They were no ashamed; nor did they blush.  Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time I punish them, they shall be cast down,” says the LORD.”  Jeremiah 6:14

Mike Benson

Living in a war zone

EACH OF US lives some of our days in the war zone…

Weekly we face battles, challenges, and shock.  When we see the missiles whizzing by overhead, we need someone who will encourage us.  Encouragement is transfusing some of your courage into another life.  The Bible says, “In the last days perilous times will come” (2 Timothy 3:1).  The book of Hebrews says we ought to be more and more involved in encouragement as those days approach.  When the perilous times increase and the battles intensify, we will need encouragement more than ever.

One of the motivations behind Paul’s letters to the New Testament churches was his desire to encourage his friends.  These early believers were members of churches scattered throughout the ancient Roman Empire, a time ruled by cruelty and persecution.  These persecuted, isolated followers of Christ, trying to make their way in the world, often met in caves and catacombs of Rome for mutual encouragement.  They faced life-threatening challenges every day.  Paul, who founded most of these churches, wrote to communicate his heart to them.  In the beginning verses of almost every one of his letters, Paul labors to deliver a word of hope and affirmation:

“First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the world world.  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers” (Romans 1:8-9).

If you received a letter like that from Paul, wouldn’t you be encouraged?  To know that he put you on his prayer list and prayed for you every day and night?  David Jeremiah in The Joy of Encouragement

“Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:25

Mike Benson

The mosquito truck

AS WE SAT at the supper table, it was The Maiden who first heard the ominous hum from the next street over…

She sat at attention, caught ours, and about the moment we all heard it, she pronounced, “The mosquito truck!” Up we jumped, all three of us, to close windows and The Missus, in the voice of General Patton, sent me running to rescue items off the clothesline in the back yard.

Not that we weren’t glad to hear it and let the truck spray its cloud of poison to free us of pests. Just last week a health official from the city knocked on our door to warn us that an unconfirmed case of dengue had occurred in our quadrant. She also wormed her way in to check for possible breeding spots in standing water.

But we didn’t want the foul-smelling, mosquito-killing mist in our house and on clothing.

Our defensive operation of clockwork skill comes from long experience of trucks that regularly spray the area.

Would to God our response was as prompt and energetic when the clouds of immorality and doctrinal departures waft our way.

But we prefer last-minute swerves and faith in contrary winds to avoid the inevitable visit that temptation regularly makes up our street.

After all, we persuade ourselves, it’s impossible to avoid everything. A little bit of tolerance shows we’re not radicals. And, you never know, the individuals showing bad signs may straighten up.

But when sin is seeping its way toward them, people don’t often straighten up by themselves. They succumb.

And the creeping of immorality and lessening standards doesn’t find an automatic correction, as if they were airplanes drifting off course. They slide into ditches of ruin.

Departures of doctrine and morals must be met with prompt, energetic responses. When prevention doesn’t knock them in the head, every doctor knows that the earlier the signs are treated, the better the chance of saving the soul.

Every mechanic knows that the knocking sounds in a car won’t go away by themselves. The longer it’s left, the higher the bill.

In the church, these departures are everybody’s business. The New Testament doesn’t leave it to elders or preachers. The order is for every saint, “you who are spiritual” (Galatians 6:1 NET). Here, “spiritual” is a synonym for “Christian.”

It’s everybody’s business because departures of doctrine and morals are never restricted to a single person. They spread. They cause direct hits and collateral damage.

The old saw that we’re either part of the solution or part of the problem applies here.

So next time you hear the faraway hum of the mosquito truck, jump up and run for the windows.

J. Randal Matheny

“Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call ona the Lord out of a pure heart.”  1 Timothy 2:22

Mike Benson

William Lane Craig debate with a national spokesman for American Atheists

LEE STROBEL (The Case for Christ, p. 277) TOLD of how he moderated a debate between William Lane Craig and a national spokesman for American Atheists, Inc…

He spoke of how he watched “the faces of people as they discovered–many for the first time–that Christianity can stand up to rational analysis and rugged scrutiny.”  His comments about the conclusion of this debate are also interesting.  “In the end it was no contest.  Among those who had entered the auditorium that evening as avowed atheists, agnostics, or skeptics, an overwhelming 82 percent walked out concluding that the case for Christianity had been the most compelling.”  Then he said, “Incidentally, nobody became an atheist.”

When people begin to consider the evidence for Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible, they soon learn who the true fools are.  Brad Price, www.abiblecommentary.com

“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”  Psalm 53:1

–Mike Benson

THE WHITE (AND BLACK) TUPELO TREE

The white tupelo tree grows in abundance only in the wetlands of the Florida panhandle and south Georgia (“tupelo” is a Creek Indian word meaning “swamp”). But, in the hands of the right beekeeper, those trees wed with honey bees to make some of the finest honey in the world.  It is “prized for its mild floral flavor, high fructose content and light amber color” (Stuart Englert, American Profile, April 7-13, 2013, p. 14ff). Bees are drawn to these trees that bloom in April and May.  Famed “tupelo honey” comes from the white tupelo tree.

But do you know about the black tupelo tree? Floridatupelohoney.com gives it almost footnote level notice on their website.  They say, “Black Tupelo, Nyssa Biflora, blooms in advance of white tupelo and is used to build up bee colony strength and stores. Black tupelo produces a less desirable honey which will granulate and is typically sold as bakery-grade honey.”

Now, honestly, if you are a honey lover, which would you prefer?  A honey compared by some to “fine wine” that will not granulate or a bakery grade, less desirable honey?  It seems clear-cut.

But, do not miss the fact that without the black tupelo tree, there is no premium honey from the white tupelo.  The black tupelo is vital to the survival of the bee colony which eventually yields the more delicious kind.  Black tupelo bloom first and fortify the bees for the task of gleaning nectar from the white tupelo and generating that expensive, prized honey.

Consider a very specific analogy from this example out of nature.  In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul makes the point that God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired” (18). He says “weaker members” are necessary (22) and those deemed less honorable and less presentable are still given special treatment (23).  Each part is dependent upon the other.  No member can say, “I don’t need you.”

Some members are more visible, more audible, and seemingly more honored.  Yet, they are not one whit above those members less so. In fact, no one in the body can survive without the rest of the body.  God made it that way. Nothing worthwhile can be accomplished without the beautiful cooperation stemming from everyone’s contribution. The world cannot benefit from the salvation of Christ without all of us doing our part.  The church cannot thrive without each of us producing according to our abilities. God cannot be honored without every foot, hand, eye, and ear playing his or her part.  May we never forget that!

–Neal Pollard

Hanuman langur

Getting Along With Others

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” ( Philippians 2:3-4 NKJV).

While visiting a congregation in Kishabpur sub-district (in Bangladesh) I was told of a local point of interest. Even though this is a heavily populated agricultural area, it is also the habitat of a rather large population of gray langurs, also known as the Hanuman langur.

This is an attractive black faced, long tailed monkey, with long gray hair that lives in moderate sized groups. They feed on leaves, fruits and other vegetable matter.

I asked the local residents, “Do the monkeys not cause great damage to the crops here?” Their answer was interesting. “We feed them. So long as we give them something, they will leave our crops alone. If they come for food and we refuse, they will raid during the night and destroy the fields and fruits.”

Upon further discussion I found that the farmers have learned the monkeys will be satisfied with far less if it is given to them willingly. If they come and take it from the fields they will take much more, even more than they need.

I left with the distinct impression that both monkeys and humans were satisfied with their relationship. The monkeys are quite tame and obviously feel safe. The local residents are proud of their possession of a unique natural resource.

Most interesting to me is the fact that these two different species have learned to get along together better than many humans do. Their secret is that at least one party to the relationship is willing to live by the principle of seeking the well being of the other.

Humans realize that they are better off helping the monkeys out than selfishly trying to keep everything for themselves. The monkeys have learned to accept what humans willingly give them. Neither acts selfishly or greedily.

Is that not the principle of brotherly love, put to practical application? No, I am not claiming kinship between human and animal. I am saying that this symbiotic relationship illustrates what the Holy Spirit is teaching.

If I genuinely seek your well-being even before my own, I achieve contentment for both of us. On the other hand, if I selfishly ignore your needs and seek only my own, I most often contribute to both our unhappiness.

Is it not strange that this principle is frequently proven, imminently logical, yet one of the most difficult for people to accept as true. Evidence that it works is abundant. The rationale behind it is plain and clear. But we just cannot let go of our own selfishness and greed.

We demand that we come first, that all our possessions be used for our own pleasures. And we wonder why relationships are strained and we become embittered and unhappy.

Jesus said it plainly, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15).

Things do not and cannot make us happy, unless we use them for the good of others. In the parable of the rich fool Jesus’ moral is simply, “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

Greed and selfishness can never build relationships, secure our destiny, or provide happiness. They doom us to failure. Caring for others, however, brings great reward. We can even get along with those far different from ourselves, if we will just consider their needs along with our own.

by Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

The power of one

WATCH THE POWER of one…

One good Samaritan rescued a wounded man on the Jericho Road.  cf., Luke 10

One aged man (Noah) was instrumental in saving mankind from extinction.  cf., Genesis 6; Hebrews 11:7

One man (Moses) who felt unqualified confronted a Pharaoh and led the Exodus.  cf., Exodus 3

One woman (Esther) broke longstanding tradition, walked into the king’s throne room, and saved an entire nation from genocide.  cf., Esther 4

One boy (David) faced a nine-foot giant and saved the Israelites from slavery.  cf., 1 Samuel 17

One boy’s lunch of five loaves and two fish fed thousands. cf., John 6

One slave girl was instrumental in healing a world military leader.  cf., 2 Kings 5

One vote gave Oliver Cromwell control of England in 1645.

One vote gave America the English instead of German language in 1776.

One vote saved Andrew Jackson from impeachment in 1868.

One vote gave Adolf Hitler control of the Nazi party in 1941.

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  Exodus 3:11

–Mike Benson

33.8 million iPhones

Apple sold a staggering 33.8 million iPhones in just the last fiscal quarter (Apple.com). However, this is just a drop in the bucket compared to the 455.6 million cell phones sold in the last quarter (TechCrunch.com). That’s right, in one quarter!

Everyone wants a cell phone, and why not? They are incredibly handy and helpful. We use them all the time. Life is much more convenient with them. But this spawns an interesting thought: What would our world be like if we treated our Bibles like we do our cell phones?

  • Imagine if everyone was desperate to have one.
  • Imagine if people waited in long lines just to get the newest, updated version.
  • Imagine if so many people wanted one, there was often a massive back-order.
  • Imagine if people were willing to pay hundreds of dollars just to have one.
  • Imagine if people bought insurance for it, just in case the unthinkable happened.
  • Imagine if we enthusiastically wanted to show it off to others and tell them about it.
  • Imagine if we never left home without it.
  • Imagine if we were willing to turn back home when we forgot it.
  • Imagine if we always carried it with us in our pockets and purses.
  • Imagine if we frantically searched for it when we lost it.
  • Imagine if we used it when we traveled.
  • Imagine if we used it while waiting in line at the groceries store, the DMV, and the bank.
  • Imagine if we used it at the game, at work, at the gym, and at home.
  • Imagine if we always wanted it around in case of an emergency.
  • Imagine if we felt very uncomfortable without it.
  • Imagine if our children constantly begged to use it.
  • Imagine if it was almost always able to keep our kids occupied so mom could cook and clean, or so dad could fix things around the house.
  • Imagine if it was the #1 item on our teens’ Christmas lists.
  • Imagine if we were always spending time with it.
  • Imagine if we constantly used it to search for answers and information.

If people treated their Bibles like they do their cell phones, this world would be a much, much better place (Psalm 119:11). This isn’t a knock on cell phones; it’s a reminder to spend time with the most important item in our possession. Our Bibles are a precious gift from God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Let’s treasure them!

–Brett Petrillo

***Idea was inspired by an unknown author

Would you be this kind?

WHEN DAN CLARK was a teenager, he and his father once stood in line to buy tickets for the circus…

As they waited, they noticed the family immediately in front of them.  The parents were holding hands, and they had eight children in tow, all behaved well and all probably under the age of twelve.  Based on their clean but simple clothing, he suspected they didn’t have a lot of money.  The kids jabbered about the exciting things they expected to see, and he could tell that the circus was going to be a new adventure for them.

As the couple approached the counter, the attendant asked how many tickets they wanted.  The man proudly responded, “Please let me buy eight children’s tickets and two adults tickets so I can take my family to the circus.”

When the attendant quoted the price, the man’s wife let go of his hand, and her head dropped.  The man leaned a little closer and asked, “How much did you say?”  The attendant again quoted the price.  The man obviously didn’t have enough money.  He looked crushed.

Clark says his father watched all of this, put his hand in his pocket, pulled out a twenty-dollar bill, and dropped it on the ground.  His father then reached down, picked up the bill, tapped the man on the shoulder, and said, “Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket…”

The man knew exactly what was going on.  He looked straight into Clark’s father’s eyes, took his hand, shook it, and with a tear streaming down his cheek, replied, “Thank you, thank you, sir.  This really means a lot to me and my family.”

Clark and his father went back to their car and drove home.  They didn’t have enough money to go to the circus that night, but it didn’t matter.  They had encouraged a whole family.  And it was something neither family would ever forget.  John Maxwell in Winning with People

“When he came and had seen the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all that with purpose of heart they should continue with the Lord.”  Acts 11:23

Mike Benson

Hard things in the word of God…

ANYONE WHO KNOWS anything about the Bible will agree that there are easy and hard things in the word of God…

Peter specifically said this in his second letter (2 Peter 3:16).  Sometimes things are hard because we make them hard.  We may not want to follow a command of God so it is classified as “difficult information.”  In many places God’s word is very explicit, but the information is hard to accept.  When one considers what Jesus said about money (Matthew 19:23), not fearing man (Matthew 10:28), dedication (Matthew 12:30), loving God supremely (Matthew 10:37), loving one’s enemies (Matthew 5:44), marriage and divorce (Matthew 19:9), forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-22), making whatever sacrifice is necessary to enter into the kingdom of God (Mark 9:43), the first shall be last (Mark 10:31), God rejects improper worship (Matthew 15:8-9), and God will destroy all religious groups He has not authorized (Matthew 15:13), it quickly becomes clear that there are many hard teachings just from Jesus’ life.

It is certainly easier to stay a spiritual baby, but God commands His people to increase to the point where they can teach others (Matthew 28:20).  This requires a commitments to personal Christian growth and perseverance.  Local congregations should give careful consideration to how they can help Christians learn as much as they can and reach their full potential.  Brad Price

“And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.  I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal.  For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?  For when one says, ‘I am of Paul,’ and another, ‘I am of Apollos,’ are you not carnal?”  1 Corinthians 3:1-4

Mike Benson

A mini commentary for Acts 2:38

Sermon outline for Acts 2:38 (source unknown):

And Peter (said) unto them, Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Who?  Every one of you.  What?  Repent and be baptized.  How?  In the name of Jesus Christ.  Why?  Remission of sins.  Reward?  Gift of Holy Spirit and remission of sins.

Have YOU been baptized for the forgiveness of your sins?!

Man’s spiritual quest for God

“On A Spiritual Journey”

The lady sitting next to me on the plane engaged me in conversation, and soon it came out that I was a preacher.  She then informed me of something I have heard with some frequency lately from people out in the world.  She said that she was on a spiritual journey.  It began in 2004.  She was in city government in a northern state, but left that job to move with her husband and son to the deep south where she now works as a civil engineer.  She is well educated and well-to-do, from what I could gather.  She grew up Lutheran and her husband grew up a Methodist.  Both were disenchanted with hypocrisy and liturgy in their particular congregations.  But, with the move and the fact that their only son was now in High School, she was searching.

Her “journey” took her in spiritual, mystical directions.  In the process, she has taken up tai chi–she now embraces the physical aspects but rejects the spiritual part.  She had investigated Buddhism, but found it unsatisfactory.  She has discovered the gnostic gospels, and especially is drawn to Pistis Sophia (the gnostic tradition of Mary Magdalene).  More recently, she has become absorbed with Michael Newton, a former atheist who has come to believe in reincarnation and helps his patients “discover their past lives” through hypnosis.

She was truly open and while I listened at length, I tried to gently guide her to biblical truth found in passages like Hebrews 9:27, 1 Corinthians 15:35-58, and 2 Peter 3:11ff.  We found common ground and she is very open to the possibility she is not on the “right path.”  It was difficult, however, to get her firmly convinced that God’s sole means of communicating was through scripture.  I ended our discussion by telling her that if she remains honest in her quest, she will find the answers for which she seeks.

That interchange made me think of Paul’s visit to Mars Hill in Acts 17, though this woman grew up in a church teaching belief in Christ.  She represents a world of people in our culture searching for something spiritual to fill the hole in their souls.  While the result of our impromptu, two hour Bible study ended inconclusively, I am certain that there are people in search of God all around us.  Our job is to guide them toward the Way, the truth and the life (cf. John 14:6).  No one will find what they seek apart from Him.  No one and nothing else can fill that “hole” in the soul that is Christ-shaped.  Let us be ready to guide whoever God puts in our path that may be on their own spiritual quest!

–Neal Pollard

It “is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God”

You Are the Burden by J. Randal Matheny, editor

Prophecies, or inspired messages, given to the prophets in the Old Testament were sometimes called “burdens.” These messages burdened the heart of God and of the prophet, for they were given in times of moral laxity and religious infidelity. They were unpopular messages, calling people to the hardest action of all, that of repentance. They held forth a threat./1

The prophet Jeremiah received a burden about the way the people used the word “burden.” The passage is a bit longer than what we generally quote, but well worth our time. Don’t go away. Read this:

The Lord said to me, “Jeremiah, when one of these people, or a prophet, or a priest asks you, ‘What burdensome message do you have from the Lord?’ Tell them, ‘You are the burden, and I will cast you away. I, the Lord, affirm it! I will punish any prophet, priest, or other person who says “The Lord’s message is burdensome.” I will punish both that person and his whole family.'”

So I, Jeremiah, tell you, “Each of you people should say to his friend or his relative, ‘How did the Lord answer? Or what did the Lord say?’ You must no longer say that the Lord’s message is burdensome. For what is ‘burdensome’ really pertains to what a person himself says. You are misrepresenting the words of our God, the living God, the Lord who rules over all. Each of you should merely ask the prophet, ‘What answer did the Lord give you? Or what did the Lord say?’ But just suppose you continue to say, ‘The message of the Lord is burdensome.’ Here is what the Lord says will happen: ‘I sent word to you that you must not say, “The Lord’s message is burdensome.” But you used the words “The Lord’s message is burdensome” anyway. So I will carry you far off and throw you away. I will send both you and the city I gave to you and to your ancestors out of my sight. I will bring on you lasting shame and lasting disgrace which will never be forgotten!'” (23:33-40 NET).

The Lord called the false prophets and those who followed them a burden. They took lightly the meaning of the term “burden,” made a mockery of it, so that the Lord forbid them to use the word.

This is, first, a warning to call Bible things by Bible words with Bible meanings and not to use terms lightly.

It is, second, a condemnation of irreverence in spiritual things.

And, third, it calls attention to the need for repentance among a people who disregard the message of God and his will.

Such a burden will crush those who misuse God’s words. People who disrespect him will be thrown off and discarded.

One need not go far to see the misuse and abuse of words like grace, church, praise and faith. What foolishness to twist God’s words! Such people are “are misrepresenting the words of our God, the living God, the Lord who rules over all” (v. 36).

They willfully forget that it “is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).

It is a truth that God’s faithful people must never forget either. __________ 1/ See R.L. Harris, et. al., Theological Wordbook of the OT, 1421e.

A $14 million Bible

The Bay Psalm book was the first book printed (in 1640) in North America. As you would guess from the name, it is a translation of the book of Psalms into English, in meter. The book was used for over a century but is not currently in use. There are eleven known copies still in existence.

One of those copies sold back in November for $14.2 million. It was purchased by a David Rubenstein. Rubenstein, according to Forbes, has a net worth of $2.6 billion – thus his ability to spend $14.2 million on a three-hundred-year-old book of psalms. He said that he would loan the book to libraries across the country.

How valuable is your Bible to you? The author of most of the psalms in Rubenstein’s Bay Psalm book said that God’s word is more important that money. “The rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:9-10).

“The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces” (Psalm 119:72). In verse 127 of Psalm 119, it is also written: “Therefore I love your commandments above gold, above fine gold.”

We should treat the Bible – its message of salvation through Jesus Christ to the glory of God – with deeper respect and with more value than Rubenstein’s $14 million Bible. Gold will not get us to heaven. The Bible will.

–Paul Holland

Microwave Religion

  Undoubtedly today’s world has many “conveniences”: cell phones, instant pudding, remote controls, drive-through restaurants, and microwave ovens. There’s nothing inherently evil about conveniences, but living in such a world can lead us to develop unhealthy spiritual attitudes. Below are some examples that, if practiced, lead to “microwave religion.”


1) Salvation without sacrifice. Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Lk. 9:23) But about the only thing that differentiates most “Christians” from people of the world is that their name is on a church roll somewhere and they show up once in awhile for a worship service (maybe!). You can’t have salvation without sacrifice! Jesus asks for our sacrifice, not occasionally, but “daily”!


2) Remission without repentance. Repentance is perhaps God’s hardest command. Repentance is more than saying you’re sorry (2 Cor. 7:10). It requires us to change our mind and our behavior (Matt. 3:8). Repentance is an absolute requirement! “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Lk. 13:3; cf. Acts 17:30). “God…now commands all men everywhere to repent,” – that’s you, that’s me, that’s everyone! (Acts 17:30)


3) Righteousness without obedience. Many people excuse themselves of obeying God, “I’m just human!” they cry. But the Bible says, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jn. 2:3) Claiming to know God without keeping His commands makes us a liar! (1 Jn. 2:4) Jesus is “the author of eternal salvation” to “all who obey Him” (Heb. 5:9) and His commands are not “burdensome”! (1 Jn. 5:3)


4) Morality without self denial. We live in a society without self-denial. But it is impossible to live a moral life without self-denial (Titus 2:11-12). Even Paul said he had to “discipline” his “body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (1 Cor. 9:27) Are we greater than the humble apostle? Nay, we must practice the same!


5) Growth without diligence. Unfortunately most Christians remain spiritual “babies” (Heb. 5:12-14). Peter said we must “give all diligence” to “add” certain things to our faith (see 2 Pet. 1:5-7). If we fail to do so, he said we are “shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins.” (2 Pet. 1:9) Are you growing or forgetting?


6) Knowledge without study. The amount of Bible knowledge possessed by most Christians is truly pitiful! Evidently they don’t realize God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hos. 4:6) We need to be diligent students of God’s word (2 Tim. 2:15). Otherwise we’ll fall too! (Eph. 4:11-14) How are your Bible study habits?


7) Truth without controversy. By its very nature truth is controversial. But in our “politically correct” world few are willing to “earnestly contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Does the truth make you squeamish? Remember, “Good preaching sounds reveille, not taps.” What about your religion? Is it true to God’s book? Is it the religion taught by Jesus and the apostles? Is it sacrificial, obedient, and self-denying? Or, is it a religion of convenience, a “microwave religion”?

 

Starting the new year off right

RESTORING OUR MEMORY

A new doctor had arrived in town. He could cure anything and anybody. Everyone was amazed with what he could do – everyone except for Mr. Thompson, the town skeptic.

Grumpy old Mr. Thompson went to visit this ‘miracle doctor’ to prove that he wasn’t anybody special. When it was time for his appointment he told the doctor, “Hey, doc, I’ve lost my sense of taste. I can’t taste nothin’, so what are ya goin’ to do?”

The doctor scratched his head and mumbled to himself a little, then told Mr. Thompson, “What you need is jar number 47.”

So the doctor brought the jar out, opened it, and told Mr. Thompson to taste it. He tasted it and immediately spit it out, “This is gross!” he yelled.

“Looks like I just restored your sense of taste Mr. Thompson,” said the doctor. So Mr. Thompson went home…. very mad.

One month later, Mr. Thompson decides to go back to the doctor and try once again to expose him as a fake, by complaining of a new problem. “Doc,” he started, “I can’t remember anything!”  Thinking he had the doctor stumped now, he waited as the doctor scratched his head, mumbled to himself a little, and told Mr. Thompson, “What you need is jar number 47, it’s……”

But before the doctor could finish his sentence, Mr. Thompson was cured and fled the room!

As we begin a new year, we come to the “Great Physician” for healing — healing not so much in the form of physical ailments (though many of us have those) but spiritual ailments.  We come with regret, with guilt, with disappointment over mistakes made in the past year.  We are tempted to want to put those negative things out of our mind altogether, but as we find healing and forgiveness at the hands of Jesus Christ, one of the things that needs to be restored is our memory.

George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”  Wisdom teaches us to learn from our mistakes, so that we don’t continue to make them.  The challenge for us is to remember the past and to learn from our past without living in the past.

Jesus said to the church of Ephesus, “Remember how far you have fallen. Return to me and change the way you think and act, and do what you did at first.” (Revelation 2:5)

At this, the beginning of 2014, may God help you to remember your failures of the past year, but don’t dwell on them.  Find forgiveness and move forward with the wisdom gained from your mistakes to live more faithfully for God this year.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith