Archives for : June2014

A sermon: SAVED or LOST?

God’s people are easily identified

 

1)      Ex. 11:7 – READ

2)      There was a “distinction” between God’s people (the saved) and the Egyptians (the lost).

3)      Let’s study the distinction between Christians and non-Christians from the book of Revelation.

4)      Rev. 1:3– READ

a)      Saved people want to “hear” the Bible and “read the Bible.”

b)      Unsaved people often have little interest in Scripture or their interest is not all that deep.

5)      Verse 10 in this chapter– READ

a)      On the “Lord’s Day” (this seems to be Sunday), John was “in the spirit.”

b)      When it comes to the unsaved, they might be in many places when Sunday comes.

6)      Rev. 2:2 – READ

a)      Unsaved people often have very little interest in correct doctrine.

b)      The saved are concerned about doctrine.  Saved people do not want or accept false doctrine.

c)      Verse 3 – READ

d)     Verse 19 in this chapter also helps distinguish between Christians and the unsaved – READ

7)      In addition to works, love, faith, ministry, and patience, Rev. 2:19 reveals a desire to improve.

a)      Rev. 3:4 – READ     Saved people want to “walk with Christ and wear white.”

8)      Saved people (looking now at Rev. 3:16) are distinct from the unsaved because they refuse to be lukewarm.

9)      Skipping Rev. 4, let’s find Rev. 5 and the 8th & 9th verses.  Here John says God’s people pray.

10)  Rev. 7:14 – READ

11)  Rev. 7:13 describes the saved throughout the Christian era as “clothed in white.”

12)  Revelation 7:15 – the saved and lost serving God day and night.

a)      Rev. 9:20-21.  The saved are people who willing to repent and actually do so; John said the unsaved do not repent.

b)      The idea that Christians and non-Christians are basically the same is completely wrong.

 

13)  When a person truly repents and become a Christian, he or she has a new attitude towards the Bible.

14)  Rev. 10:9 – READ

15)  In Rev. 11 we read about a measuring stick; this image seems to say God “measures” (examines) people.

a)      At the present time the idea of God “measuring” (evaluating each one).

b)      As the unsaved are measured they fail, flunk, and they are part of the reject pile

16)   Rev. 11:6 tells us those who are measured and acceptable to God have access to God; their prayers can be answered.

17)  Saved people can pray and accomplish great and powerful things through their appeals to God.

18)  Those outside of Christ have no positive reward, but the righteous do (Rev. 11:18).

19)  Rev. 12:10 speaks of the saved being accused day & night by Satan.

20)  Rev. 13:3 tells us the unsaved are the majority; John spoke of the “whole world” following evil.

21)  The book of life (Rev. 13:8).

22)  The saved are in this book because they reject things like false / unauthorized worship (Rev. 13:15).

23)  The saved seek God’s righteousness to the point where God describes them as virgins (Rev. 14:4).

24)  Saved people seek to tell the truth instead of tell lies (Rev. 14:5).

25)  Because of how God’s people live, they get to “rest” after death (Rev. 14:13); the unsaved do not.

26)  Rev. 16:11 – men who “curse God.”

27)  The unsaved are so far removed from Christians they are compared to a naked person Rev. 16:15.

28)  In Rev. 17:4 the unsaved are pictured as wearing purple, gold, and decked out with things like pearls.

29)  Some of the best dressed people in human history will spend eternity in hell.

30)  Sexual sin (Rev. 18:3) is the way of the unsaved; God’s people stay away from it to keep their robes white.

31)  Saved people know and believe God reigns over the world (Rev. 19:6); God is in charge of our world.

32)  The unsaved are willing to be “deceived” about spiritual things (Rev. 20:3); the righteous are observant.

33)  Saved people participate in the “first resurrection” (baptism), Rev. 20:6; the unsaved do not.

34)  Unsaved people participate in things like sorcery, witchcraft, idolatry (Rev. 21:8); the saved do not.

35)  The righteous do not try to alter some part of God’s message (Rev. 22:18-19); the unsaved do.

Who was Tychicus ?

A study that has always fascinated me is the “minor” characters whose names appear in sacred writ.  The Holy Spirit saw fit to include these individuals in written revelation, and in some instances we know little or nothing about them.  Some of those with brief mention were enemies of Christ, while others were contributors to His cause.  Tychicus, who appears in five New Testament books, is one of the latter.  A combined study of the verses about this brother yields the facts that he was a beloved brother, faithful servant, and fellow bond-servant of Paul (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7).  He was trustworthy enough for Paul to send him to perform spiritual tasks (2 Tim. 4:12; Ti. 3:12).  Consider three important qualities that, albeit brief, reveal the character of Tychicus.

He was beloved.  What is required of one to be regarded as beloved?  Consider the kind of attitude, type of speech, and specific actions necessary to be loved by other people.  All of us know those we consider easy to love.  Others we know are prickly and standoffish. How will you be remembered by those who knew you best or by those with whom you worked and worshipped?  Much of what else we see of Tychicus no doubt contributed to how beloved a brother he was, but with the emphasis the New Testament gives to proper attitude surely that must have shone through in his life.

He was faithful.  Along with being a beloved brother, Tychicus was a faithful servant.  Barclay surmises from Acts 20 that Tychicus was likely the representative to carry the contribution to the poor saints in Jerusalem, and he goes so far as to call Tychicus the personal envoy of Paul (169). Given the timeline of Tychicus’ appearances, nearer the end of Paul’s life, this disciple played a prominent and visible role at a time that many abandoned him (cf. 2 Tim. 4:6).  Some, as Curtis Vaughan points out, translate “faithful servant” as “trusted assistant” (Gaebelein, ed., 223).  Clearly, Tychicus appears to have been supremely trustworthy, one that could be entrusted with tasks however great or small.  What a great legacy for us, if we can leave behind the memory of a Christian who could be counted on to help in the cause of Christ!
He was a servant.  Paul uses the word “doulos” (According to Zodhiates, “A slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other”; The complete word study dictionary, elec. ed.) to describe Tychicus.  He was one who served the Lord along with Paul and the others.  “Church work,” whatever it was at the moment, was never beneath this brother.  He saw it as his duty and place, to spend himself serving the Lord.  Is that how others think of us?

Melick gives a great summary of Paul’s description of Tychicus in Colossians 4:7, writing, “These qualities represent the best in Christian growth. All three descriptions occur with one article before them all, and they are joined by ‘and.’ This is an emphatic way to indicate that all belong together in this one man” (Vol. 32, elec. ed.).  Oh, to be thought of as beloved, faithful, and servant-minded!  When we see our place in the body of Christ as an active rather than a passive one, we are well down the road to being a Christian like Tychicus.

–Neal Pollard

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6

There used to be a saying that there really aren’t any “delinquent adolescents,” only “delinquent parents.” Children didn’t ask to come into this world; they arrived on our planet at the will of adults, vulnerable and helpless, needing someone to prepare them for life in a tough world.

It’s one thing to father a child; it’s quite another to be a father!

“Training” implies constant, daily direction. Children must have instructions repeated. “In the way he should go” implies that there is a way in which he should not go.

Children, when left to their own devices, will take the path of least resistance. They will be selfish and indulgent, lazy and lawless.

This is not because children are particularly evil, but because they are human. That little boy whose defiance remains regularly uncorrected one day will become a broad shouldered man, violent and prepared to harm his wife, his children, and his neighbors.

That little girl who receives nothing but neglect and apathy from her parents will one day fail to be a mother who nurtures her own children.

Some children grow up; others are brought up, with the gentle but firm hand of parents who care what their children will become. As a parent, are you delinquent, or dependable?

by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Why attend every service?

It is my view that every member who can should always be there when the doors are open.  That has nothing to do with Hebrews 10:25.  It has more to do with the idea that the shepherds are charged with feeding the flock (Acts 20:28), that each service we assemble helps accomplish that, and none of us should feel free to miss feeding time.  It also has something to do with an easy, logical way we can encourage and build up one another (1 Th. 5:11) and stir up each other to love and good works (Heb. 10:24).  It further has to do with how since kingdom matters have first place in my heart and life (Matt. 6:33) the meeting times of His saints should be at the top of my priorities.

But, my sentiments at the moment have less to do with that and more to do with selfish reasons.  As I look back on the life God has blessed me with to this point, I have collected so many wonderful memories.  A significant number of them have occurred on Wednesday nights.  As I survey my Wednesday nights, in the recent and long distant pasts, I call to mind:

•    An 11 year old Christian brother lighting my fire with his motivational devotional talk.
•    A father and husband putting Christ on in baptism.
•    Bible class lessons that built my faith and flared my passion for further study.
•    Seeing and hearing my own sons speak, lead singing, and pray.
•    Seeing and hearing our teens do those same things.
•    Being met at just the right time by a brother or sister who lifted my spirits with a timely word “fitly spoken.”
•    Seeing a man confined to a wheel chair who will let nearly nothing keep him from being here, despite personal pain, discomfort, and sacrifice (and seeing others like him through the years).
•    Many other public responses made by Christians confessing sins or asking for prayers or others who chose on Wednesday night to become Christians.
•    Enjoying a weekly family reunion with my spiritual siblings, a lift above the mundane matters of life.
•    Seeing brethren from other congregations, whether I had never met them or have known them well in the past, who “popped in” on Wednesday nights.
•    Spiritual uplifts from congregational singing or heartfelt prayers on Wednesday nights.
•    New Christians, taking their first spiritual steps which include coming to Wednesday night Bible study.
•    Week after week that helped build a closeness and relationship with the Lord that is built not just on my personal feelings and estimation but on study and worship.

Though those may be mostly or entirely selfish reasons, I am thankful for the good Wednesday nights have done and are doing my family and me.  The church is my spiritual family.  How else would I want to spend my Wednesday nights?

–Neal Pollard

A Turtle On A Fencepost

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”  Phil. 4:13

Last Sunday morning in Bible class we were studying the first part of chapter 6 of Ecclesiastes which basically talks about using what God has blessed us with in our earthly lives.  We had a good discussion going about this subject and I thought that I’d continue on with it for our lesson today.

To sort of paraphrase “The Preacher” in this part of his sermon in Ecclesiastes, he’s telling us that whatever we’ve been blessed with in our earthly life is to be used here.  That it’s only good for life on this earth and cannot be saved up and carried over.  In discussing the various “blessings” we receive one of those mentioned was our “talents” or “abilities.”  That’s the portion of our discussion that I’m going to add some thoughts to here.

I believe that God has a use for every one of us and that we’ve each been given the talents or abilities needed to fill that purpose.   I also think that many of us, if not a majority of us, don’t fully recognize all the abilities that we possess.  Have been blessed with.  This lack of recognition isn’t something rare or unheard of, is it?  We’ve got some great examples of what I’m talking about right there in our Bibles.  In a moment I’ll remind you of a few.

But first, I want to remind you that we have to inspect ourselves with an honest appraisal and see just what talents and abilities we’ve been given and remind ourselves of the source of those talents/abilities – God.  I once owned a little book (I’ve since moved and I’m not sure whether I still own it or not) entitled “A Turtle On A Fencepost.”  As to how he arrived at the title for his book, the author explained it this way: as a young boy he would sometimes see a turtle on top of a fencepost.  He knew that the turtle didn’t get there by himself.  Someone had to put him there.

When we honestly inspect ourselves as to what we’re able to do we should come to the conclusion that we didn’t “get there” by ourselves.  Someone put us there.  Someone gave us the talent and ability to do whatever it is that we’re able to do.  Now lets look at those Bible examples of which I spoke earlier.

I suppose as good a place to start as any would be our boy Joseph.  A son beloved by his father and hated by his brothers who sold him into slavery to some Ishmaelites who in turn sold him in Egypt.  He rose to a high position in Potiphar’s house only to be thrown into prison because of a false accusation by Potiphar’s wife.  I believe it was a poet by the name of William Congreve who said “…nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.”

But, because of his imprisonment, he was noticed for his ability to interpret dreams and went from being a prisoner to second-in-command in Egypt.  It was through all of this that he was able to save his family, thus save all of God’s people.  Did Joseph take credit for all of this.  No, he didn’t.

If you recall, after Jacob died, his brothers were afraid that Joseph would seek revenge against them for what they had done to him.  He relieved their anxiety by telling them this:  “But as for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good…”  (Gen. 50:20)

Then we’ve got Moses to look at for an example.  Could he be another “turtle on a fencepost?”  I think so.  We know from all our studies of that era that he accomplished many, many great things for God’s cause.  So much so that he’s seen as a type of Christ.  But notice what he said when first approached by God to be the savior of his people.  “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  (Ex. 3:11)

Or, how about Gideon and his response when the angel of the Lord came to him and told him the Lord wanted him to “go in this might of yours” and save Israel from the Midianites.  And Gideon’s reply: “Please Lord, how can I save Israel.  Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my father’s house.”  (Jud. 6:14-15)

Even David, as great as he was had to be reminded by the Lord how he had gotten to the position he was in.  “I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler of my people, over Israel.”  (2Sam. 7:8)

Another good example to note is the great prophet Jeremiah.  I particularly like what God said when he “called” him to be a prophet.  “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.  I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  Now look at Jeremiah’s answer to God’s calling: “Ah Lord God!  Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” Whereupon God replied to his excuse:   “Do not say I am only a youth; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go and whatever I command you, you shall speak.  Do not be afraid of them for I am with you to deliver you….”  (Jer.1:5-8)

When we move to the New Testament we can look at the apostle Paul, arguably the most effective spreader of the Gospel ever.  But look at how he saw himself: as “the least of the apostles” (1Cor. 15:9) and in Eph. 3:8 as “the least of all saints.”  He even once referred to himself as the chief of sinners.  (1Tim. 1:15) But, we know what all he was able to accomplish and, moreover, we know how he was able to do it.  “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”   (Phil. 4:13)

Think about it.  None of those examples cited were able to do the things they did on their own.  They were given their abilities by God to be used for His honor and glory.  And, having been given talents and abilities and been put in the place where they could be used, they did exactly that.

They were just like us.  They were “turtles on a fencepost,” put there by God and they used what they had been given.  I go back to the premise I started with, that each of us has been given some ability by God and put in a position to use it.  If we don’t do an honest inspection of ourselves as to the abilities we’ve been blessed with and we don’t use them we’re not just limiting ourselves, we’re limiting God.

I’m going to leave you with some thoughts written by an anonymous Confederate soldier during the Civil War that I feel are relative to these thoughts here today.  He penned these beautiful and appropriate words:

“I asked God for strength that I might achieve, and I was made weak that I might humbly learn to obey.  And I asked for help that I might do greater things, and I was given infirmity that I might do … greater things.  And I asked for riches that I might be happy, and I was given poverty that I might be wise.  I asked for all things that I might enjoy life, and I was given a beautiful life that I might enjoy all things.  I received nothing that I asked for, but I got everything that I had ever hoped for.  Despite myself, all my prayers were answered.  I am, among all men, most richly blessed.”

Respectfully submitted,
Ron Covey

Is my boy alive or is he dead?

How Deep the Father’s Love

It’s a fascinating story that comes out of the 1989 earthquake which almost flattened Armenia. This deadly tremor killed over 30,000 people in less than four minutes. In the midst of all the confusion of the earthquake, a father rushed to his son’s school. When he arrived there he discovered the building was flat as a pancake.

Standing there looking at what was left of the school, the father remembered a promise he made to his son, “No matter what, I’ll always be there for you!” Tears began to fill his eyes. It looked like a hopeless situation, but he could not take his mind off his promise.

Remembering that his son’s classroom was in the back right corner of the building, the father rushed there and started digging through the rubble. As he was digging other grieving parents arrived, clutching their hearts, saying: “My son!” “My daughter!” They tried to pull him off of what was left of the school saying: “It’s too late!” “They’re dead!” “You can’t help!” “Go home!” Even a police officer and a fire-fighter told him he should go home. To everyone who tried to stop him he said,
“Are you going to help me now?” They did not answer him and he continued digging for his son stone by stone.

He needed to know for himself: “Is my boy alive or is he dead?” This man dug for eight hours and then twelve and then twenty-four and then thirty-six. Finally in the thirty-eighth hour, as he pulled back a boulder, he heard his son’s voice. He screamed his son’s name, “ARMAND!” and a voice answered him, “Dad? It’s me, Dad!”

Then the boy added these priceless words, “I told the other kids not to worry. I told ’em that if you were alive, you’d save me and when you saved me, they’d be saved. You promised that, Dad. ‘No matter what,’ you said, ‘I’ll always be there for you!’ And here you are, Dad. You kept your promise!” *

Our SIN leaves us in a seemingly hopeless situation…, but God loves us so much that He sent His Son to rescue and redeem us (Ephesians 1:7). Jesus, God’s Son, died on the cross to pay the price for our sins and to give us the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).

In order to receive the forgiveness of our sins and the gift of eternal life, we must place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ (Acts 2:38). Then, as we continue to walk in the light of His Word, the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us from all sin (1 John 1:7).

Stuart Townend has written a song entitled, “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us” that contains these words:

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Even though WE were in the depths of sin, God reached down to us through His Son Jesus to save us – if only we’ll accept His offer on His terms.

Won’t YOU?

David A. Sargent

What is the purpose of the church?

Too many congregations have forgotten the reason they exist.  Maybe you have heard Thomas Wedel’s parable of the crude lifesaving station that was just a hut and one small boat with a few dedicated members who constantly looked for shipwreck victims lost on the storm-tossed sea.  In time, their success attracted new members, and they were able to buy several new boats and train large crews.  Eventually, as they swelled in numbers and affluence, they became a social club that talked about the value and importance of lifesaving.  Yet, gradually, they had stopped saving those in actual danger (Heaven Bound Living, 99-101).

Are there churches filled with people who study about, preach about, and talk about our mission, but are not saving many?  Perhaps, in too many cases, we are not being true to our reason for existence.  It is like the story about a man who sees a sign in a store window in a small European town.  The sign said, “Pants Pressed Here.” The man goes in and starts to remove his trousers, but he is stopped by a clerk who asks him what he’s doing.  The man said, “I saw your sign and want my pants pressed.”  The clerk replies, “We don’t press pants here.  We just paint signs” (source unknown).  Are we serving Him and the lost, or have we just painted a sign?

Forgetting or betraying our reason for existing may be a matter of failing to realize why we are here.  The age in which we live has given us astounding opportunities and tools to grow, but a failure to realize the need to grow may be behind the fact that the church is not growing throughout the brotherhood.  A lot of congregations and individual Christians have forgotten that the world is really lost.  Second, our pluralistic culture has caused many to lose a clear picture of who is saved and who is lost, and as a result many hesitate to talk to others about their lost condition.  Third, we have become too internally focused on felt needs and personal satisfaction rather than on the eternal salvation of souls around us.  Finally, too many churches question the absolute authority and truth of scripture, seeing it as spiritual suggestions and not Divine directives.  In essence, Jesus says, “Look around you and take off the blinders.  People are dying eternally lost and need the gospel!”

We must remain true to our original purpose.  We must remain true to what the sign in front of the building says.  Only then will we keep reminded of exactly what we are doing here!

–Neal Pollard

Life is transitory and can end at any moment

We all face an uncertain future. Days unspool before us and we can only aspire to some modicum of control. In fact, our future is the most elusive thing we possess because we have no guarantee of its existence.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit, whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14, NKJV).

We can hope for tomorrow, but we have no assurance that it will come. So, does that mean that we cannot make plans for the future?

In Genesis 12:1-3, Abraham receives the land promise about the future of his family and its impact on the world. In chapter fifteen, Abraham learns that he will produce an heir despite his age. Yet, decades pass before this prophecy comes to fruition.

Prophecy, by its very nature, depends on tomorrow. Sometimes there were thousands of years between prophecy and fulfillment.

Jesus sent his disciples out on the great commission (Matthew 28:18-10), knowing that it would last until the end of time.

Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 6:25-34 that they are not guaranteed anything past today, and then sends some of them out on the limited commission in chapter ten. Though it may appear as a contradiction, there is an explanation.

We know that life is transitory and can end at any moment. No one is free from death (Hebrews 9:27) and we must live with this knowledge every day and make the most of each of them.

The point is that only today is within our grasp and we cannot allow procrastination to prevent us from doing God’s will. Our faith in time cannot supplant that which should exist in Christ. He is our Savior, our provider and our Messiah. Time withers before his face.

Knowing that today is the only thing of which we can rely, we fill this day with service to God and aspire to more days. We cannot put off salvation or spiritual growth because we think we might have more time. We work until our last minute on this earth, knowing that the next breath could be our last.

We can confidently plan our next year with spiritual projects and goals because of this knowledge. We can start today and mine the wealth of spiritual vision we have in Christ our Savior (Proverbs 3:5-6).

What are we waiting on?

Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

Failing to offer acceptable worship

DRIVING AWAY THE VULTURES WHEN YOU WORSHIP

In Genesis 15, Abraham is offering a heifer, goat, ram, turtledove, and pigeon on an altar.  This was the way you worshipped in Abraham’s day.  As a matter of course, Abraham was cutting all but the birds in half in preparation to worship when the buzzards buzzed the sacrifices.  Almost as a footnote, Moses writes, “The birds of prey came down upon the carcasses, and Abram drove them away” (Gen. 15:11).

Have you ever had to do that when you worshipped?  Maybe, you’ve prepared for worship and are actively engaged in it when the vultures try to descend.  That bird of prey might be a noise in the auditorium, an uninvited thought, an action by another worshipper or a worship leader, the room temperature, some type of visual distraction, or almost any other sort of external or internal intrusion.  But, these things can become the predators that pick at, sabotage, or consume our worship.  Our thoughts and attitudes can be adversely affected to the point that we fail to offer God acceptable worship.

Sometimes, you have to shoo away those birds of prey.  Swoop into action.  Pray.  Redouble your concentration.  Give yourself a mental pep talk, reminding yourself why you are assembled.  Do not let the vultures violate your veneration!  Fight off the distractions, annoyances, and aggravations!  You will be the better for that effort, and God will be pleased with what you offer.

–Neal Pollard

Why we need rules

A blogger from Australia, who seems at least quasi-religious, wrote an article entitled, “Why I Hate Rules.” He gave three reasons. (1) Rules are for “twonks” (British slang for “a stupid person.” (2) Rules are for others (rule makers are notorious for ignoring the rules). (3) Rules don’t inspire me. Here, he cites among others Jesus’ healing on the sabbath and eating with tax-collectors and sinners.

This man, to some degree, seems a casualty of pop culture. Nobody likes rules. It is more noteworthy to find someone who does. It goes against our nature to be subjected to rules. You hear, “Rules are made to be broken.” Sometimes, those who do not say it live it.

While some may unevenly apply rules or abuse rules, like the Pharisees, priests, lawyers, and scribes too often did, to disdain and disavow rules because some misuse them is like asking for a ban on automobiles because some are reckless drivers. Certainly, there is the sense in which the Bible itself is a book containing several rules. We are not saved by rule-keeping, but that does not nullify the importance of rules in our lives. Rules serve several roles.

Rules create accountability. I am accountable to others and, most of all, to God (Rom. 14:12; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:5). His expectations and instructions are designed to help me see my accountability and to be accountable to Him. If I live to myself and die to myself (cf. Rom. 14:17), I can do just as I please. Gravity is a natural law, but it implies certain rules that cannot be defied and which hold us accountable. How much more is it true that the Bible contains spiritual laws that include with them accountability measured either by obedience or disobedience.

Rules foster consistency. “What’s right for me may not be right for you” only works in fairy tales and fantasies. God is an impartial judge (Acts 10:34; Rom. 2:11; etc.). Thus, it is fair for the perfectly fair God to have all His rules apply evenly to everyone. With but two eternal destinies and two roads to get there, there needs to be objective directions given. Consistency and fairness are complementary.

Rules encourage submission. Jeremiah wrote, “I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps” (10:23). Most of us wrestle with trying to be our own boss, but rules stubbornly stand in the way of that philosophy. I am not my own man. I am God’s man. He tells me, “Submit therefore to God” (Jas. 4:7a). How do I do that apart from obedience and submission of my will to His.

The limitation of the rules rest with us. When we fail to obey the rules or obey them disingenuously, they do little if any good. It is like the old story of the girl, sternly warned by her mother to sit down, who replied, “I’m sitting on the outside but standing on the inside!” But, our consistent failure to apply these rules to our lives, while such may hurt a great many, other people, ultimately hurts us most of all. Paul said, “For neither is circumcision anything, or uncircumcision, but a new creation. And those who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16). The new creation that we become through Christ by getting into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27) is one in which Christ lives within us (Gal. 2:20). That means He rules! When He rules over me, the rules I am under are bearable and doable.

Thank God for His righteous rules!

–Neal Pollard

He always ordered cheeseburgers

The Secret

“Tom Harken had a secret,” writes Keith Wishum. “An embarrassing one that he’d kept hidden for decades – even from his own children.”

By almost anyone’s standards, Harken was successful. Happily married with a family, a millionaire by age 50, respected in the community – Harken was doing well when he was awarded the prestigious Horatio Alger Award.  (This award is given each year to individuals who have overcome tremendous adversity to achieve greatness in their fields.) It was at the award ceremony in Washington, D.C. in 1992 that Harken revealed his secret to the public for the first time: He could not read.

Successful at many things, Harken had also been successful at keeping his illiteracy hidden. To avoid menus, he always ordered a cheeseburger at restaurants, assuming they all had one. When his children asked him to read a story, his wife covered for him saying he was too busy. And, she did all his paperwork for him.

So, why reveal the secret after hiding it so well for so long? Harken wanted to change. To do that he had to admit that he needed help, and he had to believe that he could learn to read. Years later, Harken reads stories to his grandchildren and champions efforts to eliminate illiteracy. Harken believes if he can change, so can others. *

Each of us has an “embarrassing deficiency” that really is no secret.  It is not because of a lack of opportunity to learn some skill, but because of our choosing to seize the wrong opportunities to sin against God.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  The tragic thing about this condition is that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Yet, because of God’s grace, we can be forgiven, and we can change.  God loved us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (Ephesians 1:7).  When we submit our lives to Him through trusting faith (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27), then our sins are washed away and we are added to the family of God!  Through Jesus we also have the help that we need to change and to grow more and more into His likeness (Hebrews 4:14-16; 2 Corinthians 3:18).

The secret is out: we are doomed sinners.  But the Mystery has also been revealed through the Scriptures: that all men may be saved through Jesus (see Ephesians 3).

Won’t YOU trust and obey Him today?

David A. Sargent

Differences between men and women

THE BLESSING OF A MATE

Someone has compiled the following list of observations about married
life:

*  A successful man is one who makes more money than his wife can
spend.  A successful woman is one who can find such a man.

*  Men wake up as good-looking as they went to bed.  Women somehow
deteriorate during the night.

*  A man is a person who will pay two dollars for a one-dollar item he
wants.  A woman will pay one dollar for a two-dollar item that she
doesn’t want.

*  To be happy with a man you must understand him a lot and love him a
little.  To be happy with a woman you must love her a lot and not
try to understand her at all.

*  When women are depressed, they either eat or go shopping.  Men
invade another country.

*  A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn’t.  A
man marries a woman expecting that she won’t change and she does.

*  A woman worries about the future until she gets a husband.  A man
never worries about the future until he gets a wife.

*  There are two times when a man doesn’t understand a woman – before
marriage and after marriage.

*  Only two things are necessary to keep one’s wife happy.  One is to
let her think she is having her own way.  The other is to let her
have it.

*  Any married man should forget his mistakes – there’s no use in two
people remembering the same thing.

*  A man has six items in his bathroom – a toothbrush, shaving cream,
razor, a bar of soap, deodorant and a towel. The average number of
items in the typical woman’s bathroom is 437.  A man would not be
able to identify most of these items.

*  A woman always has the last word in any argument.  Anything a man
says after that is the beginning of a new argument.

Although I am sometimes accused of being personally responsible for the deterioration of relations between men and women in this country, my wife and I can joke about such things because, deep down, we realize how much we mean to each other.

Allow me to share some personal thoughts with you.  God has truly blessed me with the most wonderful woman on the face of this earth.  We have shared our lives together for over 33 years.  We thought when we first got married that it couldn’t get any better, but it has (and it continues to do so!).

I hold my wife personally responsibility for anything I may achieve in this life.  She is my source of strength and my encouragement when things are rough.  She is the one who knows me best, with all my shortcomings and failures, and yet still loves me.  She always sees the best in me, and always manages to bring out the best in me.  She is one I most enjoy talking to and spending time with.  She is my best friend.  How blessed I am!

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the LORD.” (Prov. 18:22).

“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth.” (Prov. 5:18).

Those of you who are married, I encourage you to give thanks to God for the blessing He has given you.  Those who are not married (but hope to be), I pray that God will bless you with a mate as wonderful as mine.

Alan Smith

Tonatiuh, the fifth sun god

The ancient Aztecs told the story about Tonatiuh, the fifth sun god. Their tale illustrates how powerfully story can shape culture and behavior. The Aztecs believed the earth had passed through four eras with four different suns, each of which suffered a cataclysmic destruction.

According to their tradition, this fifth sun god, Tonatiuh, required daily assistance or a new catastrophe would wipe out humanity. To ensure sunrise, Tonatiuh’s daily birth, and the sun traversing the sky, human hearts had to be cut from their bodies.

It is not hard to imagine their intensity in guaranteeing a steady supply of human sacrifice to Tonatiuh. This story influenced their culture and thinking. It seems even the Aztec’s sporting events involved competing for the privilege to be sacrificed!

Americans can easily perceive how this tale dominated their society. But how adept are we in recognizing how our society’s official origin’s story shapes our culture?

As students return to school this fall, they will be taught a sanctioned story something like this.

A very, very, very long time ago the ingredients necessary for life began to be synthesized and concentrated upon the earth. Finally, the right chemical combination occurred, and life sprang into existence.

Through natural selection and other completely physical processes some of these early life forms adopted advantages over their sibling rivalries. Eventually, this process produced various new life forms. Humanity owes its existence to a long line of successful, but gradual, evolutionary steps.

What happens when a society embraces such a story? This narrative of the survival of the fittest will shape science, government, business, education, religion, and so forth.

Furthermore, unless an irrational sentimentality inhabits someone’s mind, it will be obvious that if animals are not subject to morality neither is the human animal. Just as the Aztec’s myth shaped their daily lives, so too the consequences of this naturalist story will ripple through beliefs, values and behavior.

All of this is quite straightforward. However, it is ironic that some of the same Americans who readily identify the Tonatiuh story as myth, since it fails the test of verification, will nevertheless embrace the unverified story of evolution.

In view of the growing body of knowledge challenging the plausibility of a naturalistic origin for life and species, this becomes especially ironic. Reject Tonatiuh, but accept evolution?

Stories provide direction and shape human life. We need them. But how sensible is it to embrace a story that requires naturalistic principles incapable of producing the final product?

It would seem much more reasonable to accept a story, where the Source is capable of producing the world in which we live.

Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

God requires more than meaningless words

Real Worship

“To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice,” (Proverbs 21:3, ESV).

When we were kids we played a game, where one of us would pretend to be “the King of Siam.” We would gather some unsuspecting friends, and instruct them to bow and say the following slogan, slowly at first, then faster and faster:

“Owa Tagu Siam.”

The faster you say those supposedly Siamese words the more it dawns on you that you are saying something else:

“Oh what a goose I am.”

Try it. You’ll see. Though I suggest you not do it in company. They might wonder how many fries were in that happy meal.

It’s so easy to take meaningful worship of God and turn it into nothing more than meaningless words, mere ritual. Words mean something only if you mean them.

Ancient Israelites apparently made the mistake of offering sacrifices while living in an unjust and unrighteous manner.

But, God requires more than meaningless words, uttered like a mantra; he requires a heart, and a mind, and a life.

We bow before someone far greater than the king of Siam. And when we do so thoughtlessly, we are in more danger than simply making ourselves look foolish. This Sunday when you worship him, make sure that your words and your living coincide. Otherwise, the goose might be overdone.

God requires more than meaningless words.

Stan Mitchell – www.forthright.net

God’s principles of justice, grace and forgiveness will never change

 Years ago in anticipation of that sweet rich taste of freshly squeezed tree-ripened oranges, I purchased a citrus juicer. Eagerly I set up my workstation in the shade of the back patio. The orange tree beckoned as I selected the most premium ripe oranges.

Suddenly, crisis blocked my path. After collecting a mere half gallon of sweet nectar, the acrid smell of burning electronics confirmed the nature of the wispy smoke rising up from my new juicer.

Fear did not replace my previous joy. I knew what would happen. I would walk into the department store with my receipt, a defective juicer and recount my experience. I knew their guarantee. I would be exiting their store with a new juicer in tow.

These life events unfolded as expected. I just love guarantees.

When Jesus exhaled his last breath from the cross, a divine guarantee punched into human history. God forever solidified with permanent ink one way in which he would respond to humanity.

God’s principles of justice, grace and forgiveness will never change. Regardless of how future generations may think or act toward God, God will not rescind his promises. We can live and die with confidence in our future.

Although sin has corrupted our very being demanding God’s justice be poured out upon us, Jesus’ death unleashed a new variable into the equation capable of changing our destiny. Jesus’ blood can blot out our sins. Because of him, God can promise to forgive and to adopt into his family those who will rely upon Jesus.

Not only do I look forward to continuing to serve my Lord with the rest of my life. I know the end of the story as someone who will serve Christ. God’s promises will not change. I can live today in the certain shadow of tomorrow. I just love guarantees.

Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

You can fool all of the people some of the time

Who’s Fooling Who

“Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart,” ( Proverbs 21:2, ESV).

It was Abraham Lincoln who said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

But there is one person you can fool pretty readily, whenever you like. He is gullible, swallow it hook- line-and-sinker naive. He will buy that bridge in Brooklyn, if you tell him it’s for sale; he will believe in flying saucers; he’ll even accept that World Federation Wrestling is real … if you will just tell him.

And who is this unsuspecting, uh, unvarnished person whom you can get to believe anything you say?

It’s you!

You can fool yourself.

Humans seem to have an infinite capacity for self- deception. How easy it is for us to convince ourselves that our actions were taken with the best of intentions. Blinded by our own pride, we accept the most ridiculous explanations for our motives… if we are the ones explaining them away.

“The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick,” our Maker reminds us. ‘Who can understand it?'” ( Jeremiah 17:9).

Heard any whoppers lately from a vacuum cleaner salesman…speaking to you from the mirror?

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Value is often in the eye of the beholder

How Valuable?

Value is often in the eye of the beholder.

A writer reflected an occasion when he learned the truthfulness of this lesson.

“Several years ago I used to heat our house with wood.  In addition to cutting wood I used to get the wood scraps from a store called ‘The Wooden Bird.’  They make beautiful hand-carved bird and animal decoys out of wood. Each decoy costs between 50 and 250 dollars, and they are really nice decorative pieces to place on fireplace mantles.  Every couple of weeks I would stop in and pick up their leftover wood scraps to burn in my wood burner.

“Right before Thanksgiving one year, I stopped in to pick up a load of scraps.  As usual, a man wheeled out two bins to the loading doors and helped me load them in the truck. Usually the donated wood consisted of scraps of pine, but this time it was a bunch of the wooden decoys. I asked him if he was sure that he was giving me the right wood. The man insisted that I had the right stuff and waved goodbye.

I noticed the decoys had a few cracks in them so I figured they were throwing them away because of their imperfections. I took my load of wood and promised that I would bring his carts back soon. I went home and unloaded the decoys in a big pile in the basement. The wood burner was low so I grabbed a handful of decoys and threw them in the furnace. The dry pine burned nice and hot so I threw in a few more to ward off the cold.

“Later that evening after reloading the furnace with more decoys, I took the carts back to the Wooden Bird before the long weekend. When I pulled up in my truck, two men ran out of the building and demanded that I bring back the decoys. I asked why, and with urgency in his voice, the manager told me that I had taken their entire inventory of Christmas decoys – worth tens of thousands of dollars –  by mistake!

He went on and on about calling the police and driving around for the last three hours in a panic looking for me. I pointed at the man who gave them to me, and the man, seeking to avoid the accusing spotlight, quickly walked back into the building. The manager asked if I still had the decoys.  He explained that they were extremely valuable. Rather stunned I told them that I had burned a few of them but would bring the rest back. I went home and carefully loaded the remaining decoys – several hundred of them – into the bins and brought them back to the Wooden Bird.

The “decoy burner” made this observation: “Value is often in the eye of the beholder. The decoys had no value to me other than a little heat. But to the Wooden Bird, the decoys were worth tens of thousands of dollars.” *

Consider: “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field” (Matthew 13:44).

The exact value of the treasure is not given, but the man considered it so valuable that he sold all that he had in order to obtain it.

The value of the Kingdom (the church) is seen in the price that was paid for it!  Jesus, the Son of God, purchased it with His own blood (Acts 20:28).  His blood, shed on the cross, purchased the redemption from sin of those who accept His invitation to be a part of His kingdom (see Ephesians 1:7).

And, it is worth any sacrifice on our part to be a part of His kingdom!  Yet, all that we must do is accept His invitation on His terms:  We are instructed to place our faith and trust in Christ (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) in His name for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).

Won’t YOU accept the King’s invitation to become a part of His eternal kingdom?

David A. Sargent

The seed of the Alsomitra Vine

FLIGHT – EVOLVED OR CREATED?

When I was a kid, I often thought about how awesome it would be to fly.  Certainly many others have dreamed of this exact phenomenon in one way or another.  The problem is, flight is remarkably complex.  For thousands of years people have tried to break free from the hold of gravity and soar through the air.  However, they have struggled with design, weight, aerodynamics, and a host of other difficulties.  God has never been limited by such “problems.”  He has always known the correct design and solutions.  This is what makes the seed of the Alsomitra Vine so incredible.

The Alsomitra Vine grows from the forest floor and up the surrounding trees to the highest point it can reach.  Once it is high above the forest floor, it begins developing a football-sized pod.   In this pod there are around four hundred seeds.  The problem is, if all of these seeds just feel to the forest floor, all of these vines would have to complete for soil nutrients and sunlight.  So, it is vital for this vine to send these seeds off as far as possible.  The way this issue is overcome is by flight.  Each seed is encased in a clear, lightweight, perfectly designed glider.  Once the vine’s seedpod is opened, these seeds are able to travel hundreds of feet, or more, depending on the wind.

In the early 1900s, inventers such as Igo Etrich and the Horton brothers used this seed to help create gliders and aircrafts.  About 20 years ago, two Japanese engineers studied this seed and realized its design was absolutely incredible.  In fact, this seeds shape has led to the design of some of our modern day “flying wing” aircrafts like the stealth bomber.  Ok, wait a minute, people have struggled with flight for thousands of years, and yet there has been a seed that has conquered all of these issues this entire time?  Yep.

There are so many problems this seed creates for evolution.  How did the vine know it needed to get its seeds away?  How did it know to use flight to get the seeds away?  How did it know what material to use for the wings?  How did it develop the perfect flight design, weight, material, etc?  How did it know it needed to get high in order to use the wind for flight?  Every time this plant would have attempted to achieve some of these feats, it would have ended in disaster.  Either the Alsomitra Vine is a genius, or the all-knowing, all-powerful being in this universe just simply designed it this way.

So, did flight evolve over millions of years, or was it created by God?  There is simply no factual evidence that anything has evolved to achieve flight.  There is no proof of it in plant life, and beyond this, there are not even any “transitional fossils” of birds.  All of the facts say that flight was created, not evolved.

Psalm 104:24 says, “O LORD, how many are Your works!  In wisdom You have made them all; The earth is full of Your possessions.”  God is unfathomably wise.  It was in this wisdom that he made the Alsomitra Vine.  Clearly flight was something God created.  It has taken people thousands of years to figure out how to fly.  Yet all of these flight “problems” were conquered when God made plants on the third day of creation (Genesis 1:11-13).  The Alsomitra Vine’s seed is yet one more unsolvable problem for evolution.  The earth is truly “full of his possessions,” and this seed is just another proof of that fact.

–Brett Petrillo

She carried a dead body in her car for 10 months

A 57-year-old California woman carried a dead body in her car for 10 months. The body belonged to a homeless woman she had befriended and let sleep in her car. But the homeless woman died unexpectedly, so, not knowing what to do, and fearing the police, she drove the body around for months along with a box of baking soda to hide the smell.

How many of us are driving around carrying cadavers of fear and failure?

How many of us are hanging deodorant trees on our rearview mirrors to hide the smell of the guilt of our sins and shame from our transgressions?

How many of us stick smiles on our faces and drape new clothes on our bodies to conceal the deep sense of unworthiness that we can’t seem to get rid of?

On the outside, people see only happy faces and normal lives. Inside, however, we hide the hulls of shipwrecked hearts and ancient hurts.

If we’ll but turn it all in to the Master, rather than lock us up, he’ll set us free. Free from ourselves and our limitations.

Then the surface calm can be true depth of peace.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry” (Matthew 11:28-30 NET).

J. Randal Matheny @ www.forthright.net

Tears

THE ANIMAL THAT WEEPS
Neal Pollard

Drs. Cardoso and Sabbatini consider emotional tear-shedding to be the simple product of evolution, as “all animals with mobile eyes have nictitating membranes, or inner eyelids, and tears aid in opening, closing, washing, lubricating, and protecting the eye’s delicate, transparent, adaptive lenses” (www.cerebromente.org).  But, they cannot tell us when, how, or why such an evolution occurred.  Science can identify the individual parts of the tear ducts, the orbital and palpebral parts, the superior and inferior lacrimal papilla and puncta, the lacrimal canaliculi, the plica semilunaris, and the rest, but they cannot tell us why these are triggered when humans are sad, afraid, euphoric, or otherwise emotionally touched.  Science can reveal mechanisms and functions, but is at a loss to connect it to the moral, psychological, emotional, and spiritual facets of human beings.

In the Bible, which presupposes and asserts not only God’s existence but also His will, feelings, expectations, and nature, God acknowledges and cares about the emotions that move us to tears as well as to laughter.  The psalmist says God has a bottle, as it were, in which to store our tears (Ps. 56:8).  God Himself, in human flesh, wept (John 11:35; Luke 19:41; Heb. 5:7).  David expresses the vital role tears played in his repentance (Ps. 51), and Paul calls for as much in 2 Corinthians 7:7-11.  The sinful woman washed Jesus’ feet with her tears (Lk. 7:38ff).
Why is it that movies, books, or news stories move us to tears?

When we experience a relationship breakup, are hurt or betrayed, or are righteously indignant, why do we sometimes weep and cry?  How is it that the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper, a convicting, moving sermon, a touching spiritual song or hymn, or particularly heartfelt prayer can drive us to shed tears?  If we can separate ourselves from humanistic, godless explanations, we see what is most logical.  We are not simply “the animal that weeps.”  No, as one made in God’s image, we are uniquely able to feel and respond to such feelings with a depth of emotion unmatched in the rest of creation.  God designed us to experience and express the movements of a feeling heart and soul.  Neither evolution nor mere science can supply another, adequate answer.