Archives for : February2014

Same-sex marriages and related sins

WHEN JOHN SAID, “It is not lawful (or “permitted”) for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18Mark 6:18
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18 For John said unto Herod, It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife.

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), he surely made reference not to the laws of the land, but rather to the law of God…

Herod was sleeping with his brother’s wife, and the wedding ceremony failed to change the adulterous nature of their relationship.

Same-gender marriages, legalized for the first time in U.S. history on May 17, 2004, offer an unhappy illustration of this point. The Bible strongly denounces homosexuality. Moses’ law condemns the offender to death by stoning. The New Testament writer, Paul, calls the sin a perversion and warns that those guilty of it will miss the eternal kingdom (Romans 1:26-27Romans 1:26-27
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26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: 27 and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due.

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; 1 Corinthians 6:9-101 Corinthians 6:9-10
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9 Or know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with men, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.

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). From God’s perspective, legalizing same-sex marriage has no cleansing effect on the perverted behavior. Married or not, two men or two women sleeping together will be under judgment.

The parallel is striking. Moses’ law condemns adulterers to death by stoning. The New Testament writer, Paul, warns that people guilty of this sin will be excluded from God’s eternal kingdom. If legalizing same-sex relationships fails to legitimize them in the sight of God, why would legalizing an adulterous relationship sanctify it?

Heather is in a terribly difficult situation. She loves Don and knows that terminating her relationship with him would be extremely painful for everyone involved, especially the children. How could a loving God expect her to do such a thing? Two vital truths demand attention here. First, God is not to blame for Heather’s predicament. Jesus clearly states that sexual immorality is the only legitimate reason for ending the sacred bond of marriage. Heather’s own sinful and disobedient choices have created the dilemma she now finds herself in.

Second, obeying God, though sometimes very difficult, is always ultimately best for the obedient person. According to Paul, “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24Galatians 5:24
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24 And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof.

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). “Crucified” suggests pain. Dying to self hurt, but the reward of living a pure, God-pleasing life more than compensates for any loss of worldly pleasure. David Wright, “The Samaritan’s Immoral Lifestyle,” Real Women–Real Problems, 134-135

“Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” Colossians 3:5Colossians 3:5
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5 Put to death therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry;

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–Mike Benson

Federal Express (FedEx)

Fred Smith was a man with an ordinary name but an extraordinary idea. He was a student at Yale when he wrote a research paper on the need for a national delivery company that could move goods as far as from coast to coast quickly. The paper earned a “C,” but Smith held onto the dream. He graduated, served a tour in the Marines, and soon bought an aviation company. In 1971, he pooled his resources with that of investors to try and realize his dream. He began in Little Rock, Arkansas, with full-page newspaper ads and TV commercials. The business nearly failed several times but by 1980 was realizing a substantial profit. Today, Federal Express (FedEx) is the industry leader, but it began in the 1960s as a college kid’s dream (some facts gleaned from http://www.achievement.org/autodoc/page/smi0bio-1).

When you look at others, what do you see? Do you see what they are or what they might be? What can you say and do to help them see the potential within themselves? When God looks at you, He sees the you that you might become. You should do the same, and you should do the same when you look at others.

When you have an idea, what can you see? Can you only see the downside, the negative, and the roadblocks? Or can you see past the impediments to the importance and the impact of the idea? God saw His idea of redemption and the church from eternity. His people through the ages saw that with God’s help even the most ambitious ideas could succeed. When you conceive an idea for the glory of God, do you see “I do’s” or “I don’ts”?

When you look at the church, what can you see? Can you see only what it has done in the past? Can you see its flaws and failures with ease, but fail when looking for its potential and possibilities? What do you see when you look at the elders, deacons, preachers, and members? Most importantly, when you look at yourself (you cannot spell church without “u”) what do you see? Someone powerless and pitiful, or someone with purpose and passion?

The Lord cannot use those who only dream, but He does need the dreamers. Caleb had a hope, a dream, and a vision. Now, Smith did not keep his vision a pipe dream. He invested. He risked. He struggled. But, he had to see it before he could do it. May I suggest that the same is true of us. What can you see?

Start Believing in Satan Again

Christians are sinking too deeply into the scientific age in which we live. Accordingly, everything must be tangible and explainable scientifically. This leads to skepticism and a disdain of the spiritual and miraculous.

As a result, we lose focus of the war raging around us and Satan moves into the realm of myth, while God assumes the mantle of villain.

Strangely, in our age, people vilify God as powerless, until they need someone to blame and the Father suddenly becomes real again. There is nothing like tornadoes and floods to activate the faith of atheists.

Studies show that “Nearly six out of ten Christians [in a broadest sense] either strongly agreed or somewhat agreed with the statement that Satan ‘is not a living being but is a symbol of evil,’ the survey found.” /1

God’s people must resist this trend and start believing in Satan again. We must take him seriously and realize the danger of his venom. He stands against God’s people in every situation and he is tireless in his villainy.

His fingerprints have been on every evil thing since the beginning of time. God, however, is consummate goodness. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:51 John 1:5
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5 And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

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, NKJV).

The contrast could not be any clearer.

Christians need to be looking for Satan’s fingerprints on every tainted surface. He will do anything to destroy us spiritually (1 Peter 5:81 Peter 5:8
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8 Be sober, be watchful: your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,

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). His goal is to decimate your marriage and enslave your children.

The drug dens and porn shoots are under his careful supervision. He cheers on the abuser and whets the thirst of the drunkard. He empties a woman’s heart and leads her to the street corner to give away her last possession.

His breath is in the false teacher’s mouth as he spews lies and deceives the people. No arena is safe from his disease.

When will we call his hand? How much longer will we blame God for Satan’s handiwork? Can we imagine the level of evil in this deed?

Satan is somewhere plotting your downfall and aligning himself against your children to steal their bodies and souls. Do we care? If so, fight back with the Word (Matthew 4) and be sanctified (Romans 12:1-2Romans 12:1-2
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12 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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).

_________________

1/ http://tinyurl.com/c97d6e

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Dismantling Evolution, Ralphy O. Munchaster

WHEN DARWIN’S MODEL of natural selection became popular after 1859, evolutionists combined it with Linnaeus’ system and developed evolutionary trees to define the “real path of evolution…”

Unfortunately, it was all conjecture — speculation based on the assumption that creatures with common body parts had a common ancestor. And it remains speculation today.

Think logically for a minute. Just because bats, chickens, dogs, and men all have elbows — does that truly imply we came from the same ancestor? Isn’t it more likely that a designer decided, so to speak, that “elbows works”? Might not such a designer decide to apply them to several basic types of mechanisms? For instance, a human design engineer might say something like, “Let’s apply wheels to roller skates, bicycles, and cars — that system works for all those things.” Sometime we try to make simple things too complex. Ralphy O. Munchaster, Dismantling Evolution, 66-67

“I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.” Psalm 139:14Psalm 139:14
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14 I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: Wonderful are thy works; And that my soul knoweth right well.

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Mike Benson

Mote hunters

ALTHOUGH THERE IS time and place for caring intervention between Christians, no one has the right or duty to “mote hunt” (Matthew 7:1-5Matthew 7:1-5
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7 1 Judge not, that ye be not judged. 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you. 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me cast out the mote out of thine eye; and lo, the beam is in thine own eye? 5 Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

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)…

Christians are to look at others through caring eyes. Traits first perceived as negative may be positive when examined in the light of love. Without being naive, encouragers should make it a habit to put the best possible construction on any situation. The discourager sees John as stubborn, but the encourager considers him persistent and determined. The critic sees Jane as bossy, but the consoler sees her as an assertive person who gets results. The faultfinder says Bob talks too much, bu the the positive person says he is outgoing and friendly, a real people person.

A discourager is like a doctor with a poor bedside manner. Rather than seeing a patient, he sees a diagnosis or a source of income. Impersonal physicians can heal sick bodies, but they fail miserably in treating the fear, anxiety and loneliness that ails their clientele. In contrast, a good doctor sees each patient as a friend and treats the whole person. Encouragers see people while complainers only see problems. Aubrey Johnson in The Barnabas Factor, 70

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:172 Corinthians 5:17
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17 Wherefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new.

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Mike Benson

The day of a typical American young person

I WAKE UP, grab my iPhone, turn off the alarm, and update my Facebook status…

On the way to school I scroll through my friends’ status updates, updating mine with the song on my iPod.

At lunch, I take a picture of me and my friends and upload it to Facebook.

Now, I am chatting with my best friend in Tennessee. Status update: “Good night all. I’ll text you in the morning.” Such is the day of a typical American young person.

Facebook has taken the cyber world by storm and our social lives forever in a different direction. Compete.com ranked Facebook as the most used social network in the world.

According to Facebook’s own stats page, there are currently more than 350 million active users, and 65 million people are accessing Facebook through their phones/mobile devices. They say that the average user has 130 Facebook friends and spends more than 55 minutes a day on their site.

What if Jesus were on Facebook and he sent you a friend request. We know that such is not possible, but for the sake of illustration pretend.

Would you have to stop and think before you accepted it? Would you have to look through your pictures to be sure that you don’t have any immodest pictures or anything tasteless?

Maybe make sure that you don’t have any pictures taken in inappropriate places? Would you go back over your postings to be sure that you haven’t said anything crude or inappropriate?

Would you scan through your list of favorite movies and music, perhaps deleting a few before you let Jesus on your site? What about the games you play? Quizzes you take?

Is there anything that would make you stop and say to yourself, “I think I’ll delete that before I let Jesus on my site?” If the answer is “Yes,” then why not go ahead and take it off? The fact of the matter is the Lord does look at our Facebook pages!

Proverbs 15:3Proverbs 15:3
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3 The eyes of Jehovah are in every place, Keeping watch upon the evil and the good.

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says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

Not only God is watching me on Facebook, but other people are watching. What they see on my Facebook site affects what they think about me, and the church, and Christianity.

What if I have my “religious preference” listed as “church of Christ,” and then I have pictures posted of me at a nightclub, or dancing, or at the beach immodestly dressed, or with an alcoholic beverage?

Or what if my status update has immoral lyrics? Or maybe I’m venting, and running someone else down. We ask, “What effect is it going to have on my non-Christian friend who looks at my site?”

He might say to himself, “I do better than that, and I don’t even pretend to be a Christian!” Or he might think, “What a hypocrite!”

Imagine that you are surfing Facebook, and you see that Jesus has his own site. You are excited, so you send him a friend request. Would he accept it?

Most of us when we receive a friend request have some sort of criteria before we indiscriminately accept someone as our friend.

We want to know if we know the person. We glance at his information, his friend list, where he lives, etc. Does Jesus have criteria for friend requests? Sure he does!

He said, “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:14John 15:14
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14 Ye are my friends, if ye do the things which I command you.

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). Therefore, to be a friend of Jesus, you have to obey him. In light of this,

Christian friend, ask yourself “Would Jesus accept my friend request?”

Before you answer, consider your faithfulness in attending worship, your Bible study habits, your efforts to teach others, your giving, the way you treat other people, etc. Now, with your answers in mind, “Would Jesus accept your friend request?”

Don Blackwell

Mike Benson

Only one individual who can read the heart

You no doubt remember that beautiful Spiritual, “Nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus.”

The inner chambers of the FBI and CIA are not as secretive and private as the human heart!

“The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (Proverbs 14:10Proverbs 14:10
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10 The heart knoweth its own bitterness; And a stranger doth not intermeddle with its joy.

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, ESV).

A loving and understanding friend is an undeniable blessing, but even the most intuitive friend is limited by human frailties. He cannot know our deepest sorrow, nor can he share our greatest joys.

There is only one individual who can read the heart, and his blessing is to be sought beyond all else.

“Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord; how much more the hearts of the children of man!” (Proverbs 15:11Proverbs 15:11
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11 Sheol and Abaddon are before Jehovah: How much more then the hearts of the children of men!

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).

There are times when it’s as well that others can’t read our heart’s deepest feelings; those fragile feelings aren’t safe in their hands. But the one who does see even our deepest longings and fears would have us know that they are safe in his hands.

Somebody knows; it’s Jesus!

Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Snake handling preacher Jamie Coots dies

Just yesterday, I learned of the death of Jamie Coots.  Jamie died after being bitten by a poisonous snake during a “snake handling church service.”  Coots could have received medical treatment, but he refused it based on his religious convictions and died.

Coots became a celebrity of sorts by appearing in the National Geographic television series, “Snake Salvation.”  This television show documented the beliefs and practices of a Pentecostal church in southeast Kentucky that “handles poisonous snakes.”

Members of this religious sect believe that Mark 16:17-18Mark 16:17-18
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17 And these signs shall accompany them that believe: in my name shall they cast out demons; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 they shall take up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall in no wise hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

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commands them to engage in this practice. However, a more careful study of the Bible will reveal that Jesus wasn’t commanding Christians to be involved in a “side show” involving snakes.  He was stating that his followers would be given miraculous abilities that would assist them in confirming the message they preached.  An example of what Jesus was talking about is found in Acts 28:1-6Acts 28:1-6
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28 1 And when we were escaped, then we knew that the island was called Melita. 2 And the barbarians showed us no common kindness; for they kindled a fire, and received us all, because of the present rain, and because of the cold. 3 But when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks and laid them on the fire, a viper came out by reason of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous creature hanging from his hand, they said one to another, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped from the sea, yet Justice hath not suffered to live. 5 Howbeit he shook off the creature into the fire, and took no harm. 6 But they expected that he would have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but when they were long in expectation and beheld nothing amiss came to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.

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when the apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous viper on the Island of Malta.  Instead of dying as the natives surely thought he would, Paul simply shook the snake from his hand, and he was alright.  Furthermore, these miraculous gifts were temporary (1 Corinthians 13:8-101 Corinthians 13:8-10
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8 Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part; 10 but when that which is perfect is come, that which is in part shall be done away.

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; Ephesians 4:8-13Ephesians 4:8-13
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8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, And gave gifts unto men. 9 (Now this, He ascended, what is it but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth? 10 He that descended is the same also that ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.) 11 And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 for the perfecting of the saints, unto the work of ministering, unto the building up of the body of Christ: 13 till we all attain unto the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a fullgrown man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:

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) and were never intended to last for all time.

Sadly, Mr. Coots’ misguided faith and interpretation of the Bible cost him his life.  While, most of us reading this will not make the same mistake that Mr. Coots did, we may make other mistakes that could be just as harmful to our spiritual health?  If we don’t give great care and attention to reading and studying the word of God, we too can be hurt.

You see, in spite of what you’ve heard some people say, it does matter what you believe.

–Steve Higginbotham

Would you eat your tractor?

Forward Planning

I love the expression “forward planning,” or “planning for the future.” What other kind of planning could there be?

“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (Proverbs 14:4Proverbs 14:4
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4 Where no oxen are, the crib is clean; But much increase is by the strength of the ox.

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, ESV).

Once a missionary decided to speak to an African friend about the number of cattle he had on his land. He explained that the overgrazed land was a direct result of his running too many cattle on too little land.

He pointed to a couple of oxen and declared: “You could slaughter those oxen over there and have many meals from them.”

The African farmer looked him straight in the eye and asked: “Would you eat your tractor?”

It might seem that getting rid of oxen would save money, but this was a false economy. The strength of the ox would provide many more meals alive than he would dead.

In a day of easy credit and instant gratification, it’s as well to remember that planning, management and living within one’s means is still the best way to provide for your loved ones. An “abundant harvest” comes from attentive planning.

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Preacher, you gave him a better funeral than he deserved

It was the early 1990s, and I, as a green, inexperienced preacher, was asked to do a funeral for a man from the community with no real religious roots.  It was my first funeral for a non-Christian and I went, armed with the knowledge gained from Wendell Winkler’s Preacher And His Work class, prepared to preach to the living neither giving false hope nor crushing the hearts of people I was trying to reach.  I remember standing nervously in the back of this old denominational church building out in the country.  A group of men gathered there, who I later learned were the pall bearers, were talking caustically about someone.  One said he had made a pass at his wife. Another said he had stolen two of his cows the previous week.  He was a good-for-nothing snake in the grass. Honestly, I was now listening very closely.  I was shocked when one said, “If he hadn’t died, I might have killed him.”  They were talking about the deceased, the man whose funeral I was about to preach.  Needless to say, I felt no pressure to “preach him into heaven.”  Five minutes before the funeral, I wrestled with whether or not my words were too plain or off-putting. Five minutes after it, one of those pallbearers told me, “Preacher, you gave him a better funeral than he deserved.”

If you are prone to read obituaries or as you reflect on every funeral you have attended, everyone speaks of every dead person as if they are the most wonderful, saintly individual who has ever lived.  Some, considering the circumstances of the deceased’s lifestyle, brashly speak of them being in heaven even if the one never made mention or preparation to go there.  It is a significantly disgusting thing to hear people blithely pronouncing people saved in death who were disobedient to God’s saving plan in life.

A few months ago, the children of Marianne Theresa Johnson-Reddick defied this common trend upon her death. They literally celebrated her passing by publishing a “scathing” obituary in their local Nevada newspaper. The obituary, published in September, 2013, begins, “”On behalf of her children who she abrasively exposed to her evil and violent life, we celebrate her passing from this earth and hope she lives in the after-life reliving each gesture of violence, cruelty and shame that she delivered on her children” (via Newsmax.com).  The article gives details of her horrific abuse of the six children, which abuse she regularly inflicted before she lost custody of them to a Nevada Children’s Home.   While they gave no speculation about her eternal destiny, neither did they sugar-coat or white-wash her life.

Who knows what will be said about us when we die?  However naughty or nice it is matters little next to what our Lord knows and sees. He will “judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:12 Tim. 4:1
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4 1 I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

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).  He will be the “righteous Judge” (2 Tim. 4:82 Tim. 4:8
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8 henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day; and not to me only, but also to all them that have loved his appearing.

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; Acts 17:31Acts 17:31
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31 inasmuch as he hath appointed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.

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).  He will tell it like it is concerning each of us as we are gathered with all the nations (Mat. 25:31Mat. 25:31
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31 But when the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit on the throne of his glory:

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ff).  Heaven keeps, if you will, a perfect, accurate obituary on file for each of us when we die.  The Bible calls it “the Book of Life” and the dead will be “judged according to their works, by the things which [are] written in the books” (Rev. 20:12Rev. 20:12
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12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne; and books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of the things which were written in the books, according to their works.

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b).  Let us live so we are not ashamed for that record to be revealed.

–Neal Pollard

Protecting Our Marriage

Jake and Lesa labored to build their fortress. The blankets stretched over the chairs, until the kindergartners could crawl underneath, without any light showing through. They turned on their flashlights, rejoicing in their safety.

Years passed, Jake and Lesa were sweethearts in college. They had ostensibly been together since birth, growing up on the same street. Their love for one another was tender and sweet. They had friends and a lot of success academically and were happy together.

However, not all was well, as time progressed. One day, with broken hearts, they sat before their preacher, seeking advice. The scared young couple sat apart, unable to get near each other.

Through a series of exploratory questions, he determined that Jake and Lesa were facing opposition to their relationship. Both of them had friends who were pressuring them to break up.

They had always been together and they needed to play the field, their friends argued. Additionally, they were always together and their friends were jealous. The tension was palpable, despite their families’ support.

The young couple watched movies and TV and saw rampant infidelity. The thrill of new conquests faced them everywhere they went. Their confused minds wondered if they were being delusional in their goals.

The preacher cared for these young people, having watched them grow. His concern for them deepened and he contemplated his words carefully.

They needed to realize some things, he said. If they would survive as a couple, they must stubbornly remain together and refuse to break up.

Their relationship did not belong to anyone else. People will try to break them apart for jealousy and for the thrill of the conquest. No matter what, they must remain focused on their goals.

They must understand that Hollywood does not know anything about a good marriage. The world offers adultery, heartache, divorce and pain. If Jake and Lesa were to succeed, it will be because they refused to listen to these supreme failures.

“How,” Lesa asked in a quiet voice, “do we stay together, when so many marriages go bad? We aren’t even married. Already we are having problems.”

“Fifty years is a long time! How do you do it?” Jake exclaimed in a nervous laugh.

“You don’t have to do fifty years. You only have to do one day.”

Puzzled looks flashed across their faces.

“Every day you decide to make your marriage great. Today, you choose to create something wonderful for your spouse. The next day, you do it again. You make every single day wonderful and fifty years will show up soon enough.”

“It is like athletes who refuse to lose a game. They give it everything they have to win. They leave everything on the field or the court. Nothing else matters. God has given you all that you need to be a success in your marriage. Use it. Immerse yourselves in God’s Word and in prayer. You can do it. What’s more, God believes in you. What else do you need?”

The young couple’s body language began to change, as they relaxed. Their fingers moved towards their loved one’s hand. They began to scoot closer together. They could do this.

The preacher read them a passage that would forever reverberate in their heads. “God is their refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1Psalm 46:1
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46 For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah; set to Alamoth. A Song. 1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.

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, NKJV).

Suddenly, they were six again, safely ensconced under their fortress tent; their refuge, where their light, the Lord of their lives (John 8:12John 8:12
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12 Again therefore Jesus spake unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life.

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), illuminated the path to a happy marriage, free from the wicked darkness (1 John 1:51 John 1:5
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5 And this is the message which we have heard from him and announce unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.

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).

They could do nothing but smile.

Richard Mansel, www.forthright.net

Christ’s Blueprint for the Church – “Preaches the Gospel”

Paul writes in Ephesians 3:8-11Ephesians 3:8-11
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8 Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, was this grace given, to preach unto the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; 9 and to make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery which for ages hath been hid in God who created all things; 10 to the intent that now unto the principalities and the powers in the heavenly places might be made known through the church the manifold wisdom of God, 11 according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:

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: “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The church was in the eternal plans of God. During the Old Testament times, it was a mystery, hidden for ages. But, God chose Paul, among others, to share His grace with mankind. Notice that Paul was given grace: 1.) to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and 2.) to bring to light for everyone what is the plan.

Those two purposes of God giving grace to Paul highlight for us the importance of preaching in God’s plan of salvation. He was called to “preach” and to “bring to light.”

The church picks up where Jesus left off in His teaching. Let’s turn to the book of Acts. As we seek to follow the blueprint Jesus left for the church, we observe that our preaching and teaching…

NEEDS TO BE FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT:

When the church of Christ begins in Acts 2, the Holy Spirit guided Peter and the rest of the apostles to preach, to teach the Gospel.

The first thing Peter does is quote from the Old Testament – from Joel 2:28-32Joel 2:28-32
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28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: 29 and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my Spirit. 30 And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. 31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of Jehovah cometh. 32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of Jehovah shall be delivered; for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those that escape, as Jehovah hath said, and among the remnant those whom Jehovah doth call.

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. In verse 25, Peter quotes David in Psalm 16. In verse 30, he quotes 2 Samuel 7. In verse 34, he quotes Psalm 110. There are some 36 explicit citations of the Old Testament in the book of Acts. That’s more than one per chapter. Clearly the Old Testament was an important source of authority and teaching for the apostles and they believed that their audience needed to know the Old Testament.

NEEDS TO BE ABOUT THE LIFE OF JESUS:

Peter taught about the life of Jesus – “a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst” (2:22). See also Acts 10:38Acts 10:38
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38  even Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.

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.

You can’t build your life on jokes or anecdotes or history or warm-fuzzy stories. The only foundation that is sure and stable is Jesus Christ. That’s why we’ve got to study and preach and teach the life of Jesus.

NEEDS TO BE ABOUT THE CRUCIFIXION:

Peter moves from the life of Jesus to the crucifixion in Acts 2:23Acts 2:23
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23 him, being delivered up by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay:

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– “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

But, before we can understand the significance of the crucifixion, we’ve got to understand the significance of sin. This is the part of preaching and teaching that so many people do not like. We do not like to be corrected. We do not like to be rebuked. We want to think that whatever we are doing is fine. So, the preaching of the church of Christ must preach on sin.

NEEDS TO BE ABOUT THE RESURRECTION:

The bad news is the crucifixion. The good news is in verse 24 – “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

The resurrection. What does it mean that the resurrection is a central part of our preaching? It means death to sin. Death to temptation. Death to the very process of dying.

NEEDS TO TELL US ABOUT SALVATION:

When Peter had grounded his preaching in the Old Testament, and told about the life of Jesus, His crucifixion, and His resurrection, he draws his lesson to a conclusion in verse 36: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

The Jews then understood that they needed to respond. Faith demands a response. If you don’t obey, then you don’t really believe. So, they asked Peter what to do to be saved. And Peter told them (2:38).

So, preaching has to do with more than just preaching the crucifixion and resurrection. It also involves answering the question “What must I do to be Saved?”

–Paul Holland

Fake Walmart Employee

The 17-year-old kid certainly looked like a Walmart employee. He had all the right attire and even knew how the corporation worked, since at one time he was an employee. He traveled from store to store posing as “a manager from another branch” and the real Walmart employees bought his story. This teen guy successfully conned three different Walmart stores, achieving access to back offices and cash registers. Before he was caught, he had compiled almost $30,000 (Channel 4 News).

Some of the most dangerous people are those who seem like they belong when, in reality, they have sinister intentions. This is especially true in spiritual matters. Deceptive people like these have been responsible for ripping apart congregations, pulling people away from the church, and introducing false teachings. The damage they cause is devastating and, in some cases, is irreversible.

Scripture warns, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves. Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned; and in their greed they will exploit you with false words…” (1 Peter 2:1-31 Peter 2:1-3
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2 1 Putting away therefore all wickedness, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, 2 as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation; 3 if ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious:

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While a Christian should always carry an attitude of love and kindness towards everyone, let’s also keep a watchful eye for those who may have bad intentions. Let’s test what is being taught and make sure it checks out with what Scripture says (1 John 4:1-61 John 4:1-6
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4 1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already. 4 Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. 5 They are of the world: therefore speak they as of the world, and the world heareth them. 6 We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.

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; Revelation 2:2Revelation 2:2
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2 I know thy works, and thy toil and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil men, and didst try them that call themselves apostles, and they are not, and didst find them false;

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–Brett Petrillo

The Right to Choose Death

Euthanasia has not been in the news much lately. “Eu,” from Greek, means “good” while “thanasia” from thanatos means “death.”  Thus, euthanasia means “good death” or choosing when and how to die.

Advocates of euthanasia argue it is simply a medical procedure, not unlike having a benign tumor removed. They also argue that it is only used for terminal patients. Third, they insist there are strict legal guidelines in place to assure the first two “rules” are not violated. Reality proves all three to be a farce.

In Scotland, for example, there is a bill pending legalization that allows euthanasia for “life-shortening” conditions. That is as broad a definition as you could have. What serious illness does not have a “life-shortening” impact on our heath? In fact, it is in the nature of humanity to die (Hebrews 9:27Hebrews 9:27
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27 And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment;

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Worse than that, this Scottish bill creates a “licensed suicide facilitator.” This position will be authorized by the state to help individuals kill themselves. Maybe they’ll raise it to a cabinet-level position – “Secretary of Death.” (Of course, we actually have a secretary of death, operating clandestinely under the designation Secretary of Health and Human Services which pushes for abortion – the antithesis of health.)

Frighteningly, individuals as young as 16 – under the Scottish bill – would be eligible to be licensed as a “suicide facilitator.” Combine that with the fact that a 16-year-old can legally end his/her own life and you have one teenager legally allowed to help another teenager kill him/herself!

In Belgium, there are already liberal euthanasia laws. Here are some examples of what they have done. A transsexual, mortified at the results of the sex-change operation, committed euthanasia. A depressed anorexia person, sexually exploited by her psychiatrist, committed euthanasia. Deaf twins, both going blind, committed euthanasia so they would die at the same time. Several elderly couples committed euthanasia so they could also die together.

Is that a culture that values life? There is a bill pending in Belgium that would allow doctors to euthanize children. It passed the Senate by a vote of 50-17. The politicians argued that it was happening anyway so they legalized it.

The Netherlands have allowed broad euthanasia for the past 40 years. Now, the psychiatry profession is advocating euthanasia for mentally ill people. Quebec is on the verge of passing a very broad-based euthanasia law – in fact, requiring all doctors to euthanize certain patients, or refer them to other doctors who would be willing!

I don’t mind importing the good from Europe. Not all they do is leftist. But the liberals in our country want to import the bad things they do too. Thankfully, most Americans are still reticent about actively taking the life of someone else. In deep blue Massachusetts, last year, voters rejected legalizing euthanasia. But the tide is slowly turning as our culture ever more towards the easy – entertainment saturated – life.

Vermont (Motto: “Freedom and Unity”) passed a euthanasia law with a number of restrictions but they expire in four years. Beginning in 2016, there will be no state oversight. Everything will be left up to the doctor. As Wesley Smith, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism summarizes in The Weekly Standard (Dec. 30, 2013ec. 30, 2013
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Izbrano poglavje ne obstaja!

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/Jan. 6, 2014Jan. 6, 2014
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; pg. 18): “[D]octors in Vermont will assist patient suicides under what amounts to an honor system, no questions asked. What could go wrong?”

Indeed. Paul told the pagans of his generation: God “himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25Acts 17:25
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25 neither is he served by men's hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he himself giveth to all life, and breath, and all things;

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). What God gives, only God can take away. May that be our same message today as we fight for the sanctity of life on both ends of the spectrum.

–Paul Holland

Be Long-Nosed

W. S. Gilbert wrote the words. Arthur Sullivan wrote the music. In the late nineteenth century, they worked together to produce fourteen operas. Many of these operas – The Pirates of Penzance and the Mikado are examples – are well-known internationally. They continue to be performed even today. They have also found their way into literature, film, and television.

But all was not rosy in the relationship. Gilbert is said to have been confrontational and had a thin skin. Sullivan swallowed and internalized his anger and frustrations. The partnership almost ended at one point.

Matters came to a head in 1890. The owner of the theater charged the cost of new carpet for the Savoy Theater to the two. Gilbert thought the owner should have absorbed the cost. To make a long story short, Sullivan took the owner’s side (there were several matters in dispute). The court eventually sided with Gilbert but one historian notes that they never spoke to each other again.

They did two more operas together. Sullivan wrote the music and mailed it to Gilbert. Gilbert wrote the words and mailed them back to Sullivan. During one curtain call, they stood on opposite sides of the stage and even bowed in opposite directions so they would not see each other.

“They knew how to make beautiful music, but they knew nothing about harmony” (Robert J. Morgan, Preacher’s Sourcebook of Creative Sermon Illustrations, pg. 31).

When God first identifies Himself in Scriptures, He says He is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6Exodus 34:6
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6 And Jehovah passed by before him, and proclaimed, Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth,

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). “Slow to anger” in the ESV is translated “longsuffering” in other translations, notably KJV. The Hebrew is actually two words: ‘arek (long) and ‘p (nose, nostrils).

This idiom – “long nosed” – in Hebrew means to be “patient” or “tolerable.” It describes God again in Numbers 14:18Numbers 14:18
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18 Jehovah is slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression; and that will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation.

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& Psalms 86:15Psalms 86:15
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15 But thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.

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. In Jeremiah 15:15Jeremiah 15:15
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15 O Jehovah, thou knowest; remember me, and visit me, and avenge me of my persecutors; take me not away in thy longsuffering: know that for thy sake I have suffered reproach.

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, the prophet says, “O Lord, you know; remember me and visit me, and take vengeance for me on my persecutors. In your forbearance take me not away; know that for your sake I bear reproach.” Forbearance is our words – long nosed.

God also calls on us to be “long-nosed:” “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (Proverbs 14:29Proverbs 14:29
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29 He that is slow to anger is of great understanding; But he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.

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). On the other hand, a “short-nosed” person (qsr ‘arek) is a menace to society and a danger to himself. “A man of quick temper acts foolishly, and a man of evil devices is hated” (Prov. 14:17Prov. 14:17
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17 He that is soon angry will deal foolishly; And a man of wicked devices is hated.

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The New Testament also enjoins us to be long nosed or “longsuffering:” 2 Corinthians 6:62 Corinthians 6:6
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6 in pureness, in knowledge, in long suffering, in kindness, in the Holy Spirit, in love unfeigned,

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; Galatians 5:22Galatians 5:22
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22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

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; Ephesians 4:2Ephesians 4:2
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2 with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;

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; Colossians 1:11; 3:12; 2Colossians 1:11; 3:12; 2
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11 strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and longsuffering with joy; 12 Put on therefore, as God's elect, holy and beloved, a heart of compassion, kindness, lowliness, meekness, longsuffering; 2 1 For I would have you know how greatly I strive for you, and for them at Laodicea, and for as many as have not seen my face in the flesh; 2 that their hearts may be comforted, they being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, that they may know the mystery of God, even Christ, 3 in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge hidden. 4 This I say, that no one may delude you with persuasiveness of speech. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet am I with you in the spirit, joying and beholding your order, and the stedfastness of your faith in Christ. 6 As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. 8 Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ: 9 for in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, 10 and in him ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power: 11 in whom ye were also circumcised with a circumcision not made with hands, in the putting off of the body of the flesh, in the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with him in baptism, wherein ye were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, being dead through your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, you, I say, did he make alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses; 14 having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us: and he hath taken it out of the way, nailing it to the cross; 15 having despoiled the principalities and the powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. 16 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day or a new moon or a sabbath day: 17 which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ's. 18 Let no man rob you of your prize by a voluntary humility and worshipping of the angels, dwelling in the things which he hath seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, 19 and not holding fast the Head, from whom all the body, being supplied and knit together through the joints and bands, increasing with the increase of God. 20 If ye died with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, do ye subject yourselves to ordinances, 21 Handle not, nor taste, nor touch 22 , after the precepts and doctrines of men? 23 Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.

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Timothy 3:10; 4:2.

So, before you destroy a good relationship (or a good opera), remind yourself: 1.) You are not perfect and people have to be patient with you; 2.) You need to relax and be patient with others; 3.) God has been patient with you more than you deserve; 4.) Therefore, you need to be patient with others more than they deserve.

–Paul Holland