Archives for : September2014

Does truth exist?

“That,” someone says sweetly, “is just your interpretation of scripture. There are,” they add knowingly, “many other interpretations.”

“You know,” someone else says during a religious discussion, “that’s not what that passage means to me.”

There is in our society today only one absolute truth:
There is no absolute truth! There was a time when we admired a man for standing on conviction, expressing his beliefs even if they were unpopular. Today we call such a man a bigot.

“These truths we hold, well, uh, to be unreliable …”

You know, it’s funny, when we talk about morals and doctrine, there seem to be no truths that we can know for certain, but that’s not the way we behave in any other walk of life!

When a policeman pulls you over for speeding, you were either guilty of speeding, or you were not. It’s possible of course that the policeman’s mechanism was faulty. But in that case the truth is that you were not speeding.

Nashville is either the capital of Tennessee or it is not. You might wish it were not — you might prefer that the capital be Pinson. You’re allowed to have your opinion about which town should be the capital, but until some change is made, your opinion does not change the truth one whit. The state capital is still the Music City.

Truth frees us. “You shall know the truth,” Jesus declares, “and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

“Sanctify them by the truth,” he declares elsewhere, “your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Without truth, there are a lot of people still in bondage. There are a lot of people who have not been sanctified.

I’m sorry — that’s the truth!

by Stan Mitchell

What will we do with scripture?

When would you be willing to abandon your intended goal in order to allow scripture to carry you on its ebb and flow? The Christian knee-jerk response is predictable.
I’m always ready to follow scripture! Really?

Whether preacher, non-Christian or Christian, we all face this question in practical ways.

Consider the plight of the preacher who wants his sermon to bless the congregation with a particular message. He selects a Biblical text. However, as he digs into that passage of scripture he confronts an unwelcome discovery.

Perhaps the biblical message does not fit his theological outlook. Perhaps the message within this portion of scripture is running in a slightly different direction than where he wants to go.

Will he force a parable or snippet from Paul to bend his knee to his will and great ideas? Or will he cut anchor to allow the deep current of scripture to carry him where it wants to go?

Think this is a hypothetical situation? As one who has stood before a congregation on a weekly basis, it is not.

In fact, this question of whether to follow scripture or insist upon what we deem is good, confronts anyone who listens to God’s word.

Whether someone is a follower of Christ or not, each of us will discover at one time or another an uncomfortable message within God’s Word. Perhaps the clear biblical message about lifestyles or salvation does not fit into what we value and like.

Maybe our Christian outlook is so shaped by obedience that we feel compelled to reign in what it teaches about grace. Or perhaps we are so stepped in grace, that we desire to pummel into submission any voice about obedience within the text.

What will we do with scripture?

From within Ecclesiastes we hear that there is an appropriate time for every type of activity (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time to rip and a time to sew (Ecclesiastes 3:7).

When we encounter that time when what we want the text to proclaim differs from its actual voice, it is the time to tear ourselves away from what we might be confident is a great idea in order to hear God’s message.

I have lost track of how many times the lesson I have presented was not the sermon I had set out to preach. I guess that is good. Hopefully, the congregation heard God’s word and not my thinking.

–by Barry Newton @ www.forthright.net

The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death

“Let’s Kill Lazarus…”

It is impossible to read the sentence without some incredulity. John records, “…The chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death…” (John 12:10).

Think about that word–”priests.” It’s plural.

One spiritual leader didn’t scheme to murder Lazarus; many spiritual leaders schemed to murder Lazarus. And these guys were supposed to be the religious right–the moral elite of ancient Jewish society!

The ESV says, “…The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well.” “As well…” In truth, they didn’t want to murder just one man, but two. They wanted to kill Jesus (cf. 11:53) and Lazarus.

“Why?” you may ask. Re-read John 12:9-11. A great many Jews believed in Jesus. And why did a great many believe in Jesus? Because Lazarus had been raised from the dead.

Remember that the Sadducees taught that there was no resurrection (cf. Matt. 22:23-28). Unfortunately for them, Lazarus illustrated that their dogma was at obvious variance with the Biblical data. He was a living, breathing entity despite the fact that he had been entombed for four days (11:39).

Lazarus was concrete evidence to the contrary; he was the doctrinal deathblow to their misguided, man-made tradition.

It was impossible for the chief priests to argue with or against him. Any sane, thoughtful, sincere individual wouldn’t even attempt to debate with Lazarus. He was absolute proof that Jesus could perform miracles. He was the undeniable corroboration of the divinity of Christ (cf. John 20:30-31).

And that’s why the chief priests wanted to kill Lazarus and Jesus.

A few thoughts rattle around in my neocortex as I ponder this curious incident:

If Jesus could resurrect a dead man, why did the chief priests entertain the idea of killing Lazarus in the first place? Couldn’t Jesus resurrect Lazarus again, if he so desired? What this teaches me is that you can’t expect coherent thinking and behavior from people who insist on upholding their agenda over truth. If Jesus could, and obviously did, bring a dead man back to life–as Jesus had also done on previous occasions–e.g., the son of the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17) and the daughter of Jairus (Luke 8:40-56)–wouldn’t that serve as affirmation of his divine power? Had the chief priests really thought about the futility of trifling with the miracle Man of God? The chief priests in John’s story remind me of a critical point: unbelief is not due to a lack of evidence; unbelief is due to a lack of conviction. People don’t reject the truth because there are no facts; they reject the truth despite the facts.

Even when there is incontrovertible testimony, some folks simply choose not to believe. If their hearts are hard and their motives are impure, you can expect them to be antagonist towards truth and to engage in sinful, destructive behavior.

On the other hand, if their hearts are soft and their motives are pure, you can expect them to investigate, believe in, and follow the Lord.

Was the world created in six literal days? Is there life beyond this transient walk? Is immersion necessary in order to be saved from sin? Is it possible to live in adultery? Is homosexual behavior sinful? It depends.  It depends on whether or not a person wants the truth and is willing to follow it to its inevitable conclusion.

The chief priests weren’t willing to do that. Dear reader, are you (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:10)?

–by Mike Benson

Christians and non-Christians

“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2 NKJV).

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak
the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10).

It is generally accepted that there is a distinctive difference between the eastern and western mind.

Certainly there are no significant organic differences, nor is that is what is meant by the distinction. Rather the observation has to do with differences in the way people of different cultures think, reason, and learn.

Processes of thought which seem perfectly logical and undisputable in one culture may make little or no sense to people of another. A given set of facts may lead two groups to completely differing conclusions.

Peter noted that Christians are a distinctive culture with different rules of logic and different goals and attitudes.

“In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you” (1 Peter 4:4).

In other words, unbelievers just don’t understand Christians.

It is in part that change of thinking which results from becoming a Christian.

“If indeed you have heard Him and have been taught by Him, as the truth is in Jesus: that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:22-24).

We are Christians because we have learned Christ and therefore desire to be like him. We continue to change our thinking (i.e., renew our mind) in order to continue to apply those things which we have learned, that we may become even more like him.

This idea of a new mind–a different way of thinking–is given an additional application in Scripture. Since Jesus taught one truth (John 8:32; 17:17), its effect on everyone should be the same. All Christian’s minds have been renewed from the same source, modified for the same purpose.

That means simply that Christians should think alike.
The distinction between Christian thought and worldly thought is just one side of the story. The other is the like-mindedness that each Christian is to share with all others.

This does not apply only to doctrinal interpretations (though it certainly does apply to those). It also means that two quarreling sisters in Christ should settle their dispute amicably and get along in peace and love (Philippians 4:2).

It means that rival factions in a congregation must maintain unity and come to an agreement, not only on matters of faith, but also those of judgment (1 Corinthians 1:10).

How can humans come to such similarity of thinking? The New Testament gives us the answer:

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

That is precisely what the world (whether east or west) will not do. Only if we truly submit to Jesus Christ and his love can we achieve this likeness of mind.

by Michael E. Brooks
d.

Why our youth are leaving the Lord & church

Young people leave the Lord for a host of reasons including flawed parenting, ineffective ministries, poor decisions, disenchantment and the attitudes of Church members. Every aspect of a congregation should be examined, so we can retain them and help them grow closer to the Lord.

Often, older Christians forget their own youth and fail to identify the challenges young people face. Christians who did not grow up in the internet age do not understand the extraordinary obstacles our youth face today.

The moral dilemmas of our culture, in some ways, dwarf those of previous eras. Accordingly, these young people need our prayers and support.

Two facts come into play to empower Satan in pulling these young people away from God and their parents.

First, many young people do not have any concept of mortality. It never occurs to them that they can die. Even if they have had friends that died, it does not seem to penetrate their version of reality.

Young people will take chances with sex, drugs, alcohol, driving and stupid stunts because they feel indestructible. They know they will be safe in the end, so all they risk is a little discomfort. Moreover, they often believe that they have all knowledge and their omniscience will be a safety net.

Second, social status is the single important force in the universe to most young people. Being embarrassed in front of their peers is more terrifying than anything a horror movie can create. Accordingly, their peers become their moral barometer and lead them to destruction (Proverbs 4:14-17; 5:1-5; 6:24-29).

These two facts intersect to endanger our young people. If they do not feel a sense of mortality and they are horrified at displeasing their peers, they will be likely to go against their upbringing morally and rationalize their behavior, so as to maintain inner harmony.

They will live dual lives while they are under the roofs of their parents. Yet, when they are free, their moral decisions will lead them down different paths.

A middle-aged person will face ridicule from a few people at work and ignore it. A young teen will think their world is over and contemplate suicide. Young brains work differently and we must be aware of that.

We must do what we can so that our young Christians have healthier peer groups that will encourage and strengthen them. Likewise, they need to see us making right decisions and turning to God’s Word as the answer to life’s challenges, rather than friends or the world.

Knowledge is a lot of the battle and we can use these facts to help salvage the spiritual lives of our youth, before it is too late. Love, patience, prayer and empathy are of inestimable value in this war. Utilize them today.

Richard Mansel

Self-control is a Christian Virtue

A man visited a psychiatrist. He explained, “I’ve been doing wrong, Doctor, and my conscience is bothering me.” The psychiatrist asked, “So you want something that will strengthen your will?” The fellow replied, “Oh, no. I’d rather have something that would weaken my conscience.”

Konrad Heiden said, “Those who wish to transform the world must be able to transform themselves.”

WE NEED TO MASTER SELF-CONTROL
The wise man said in Proverbs 25:28, “a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”
Self-mastery is mentioned as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23) and a Christian grace (2 Peter 1:6). Peter calls on us to “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

It will serve as a part of judgment: In Act 24:25, Paul “reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment” in front of Felix. In view of the end, again Peter says, “be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers” (1 Peter 4:7).

WE MUST EMULATE JESUS CHRIST
“If you would learn self-mastery, begin by yielding yourself to the One Great Master” – Johann Friedrich Lobstein
Jesus – remember – never sinned. Therefore, everything He did, He did at the right time, in the right way, for the right reason. Everything was right. How?  How did Jesus exercise such great self-control?
1.    Jesus was committed to what was true and right (Matthew 3:15).
2.    He submitted Himself always to the will of God the Father (Matthew 4).
3.    Jesus did not give in to temporary impulses like the disciples did during the storm of Galilee in Matthew 8:23-27.
4.    Jesus did not seek revenge (Matthew 9:10-13).
5.    Jesus did not react (Matt. 9:24).
6.    Jesus did not control other men’s behavior but He always controlled the situation because He always controlled Himself (Matthew 12).
7.    Sometimes Jesus secluded Himself for a brief period of prayer (Matt. 14:13).
8.    Jesus always calmly, lovingly but firmly spoke the truth even to His closest friends (Matt. 16:23).
9.    Self-control is entrusting yourself into the hands of God, regardless of what that might entail.  That’s how Jesus was able to endure and experience the suffering He did during His trial and crucifixion without reacting. He did that all of His life, from the beginning (Luke 2:49) to the end (Luke 23:46).

Lydia Huntley Sigourney said: “Self-control is promoted by humility. Pride is a fruitful source of uneasiness.” Similarly, the apostle Paul challenges us: “For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned” (Rom. 12:3).

Exercise self-control and the fight against sin will be much easier.

Your fellow-servant in Christ,
Paul
Veritas non verba magistri
Maranatha! (1 Cor. 16:22)

Am I a righteous person?

****This will be the last article till 9/23*****

“A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge,”(Proverbs 29:7), ESV.

The man walked into his home, and sat down to think.
The news that his fiancée was pregnant had stunned him.
He knew he was not the father, for they had not had sexual relations. Who then?

He was hurt, and angry. He was a man with a reputation for being righteous. So what would he do? Condemn an obvious betrayal? Show this woman up for the wanton and immoral person she apparently was? After all, that’s what righteous people do!

Matthew records that “because he was a righteous man,”
Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public disgrace, and resolved to put her away “quietly” (Matthew 1:19).

There is always an element of mercy in a righteous person. Now for the self-righteous person, that’s another matter. The self-righteous love to expose others’ mistakes, and succumb to acute amnesia with regard to their own!

The self-righteous condemns the poor as lazy and dishonest; they expose the sinful as evil and malevolent. The truly righteous, however, care about the poor, and seek to restore the sinful.

After all, the most righteous person who ever lived
declared: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” ( Matthew 5:7).

by Stan Mitchell

A note on the table

“Her children rise and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her. ‘Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all’”(Proverbs 31:28, ESV).

The note was on the table when Bob found it. He should have known better. He maintained his car constantly, adjusting the timing like a symphony hall conductor, changing the oil regularly, doing all the work with his own hands. His car purred more softly than their Persian cat.

But a man who understood cars so well should have understood his wife better. He was a good man, provided well for his family, and would have given his shirt off his back to a stranger. He loved Stacy, in his strong, quiet way. But he never praised her, rarely thanked her.

A man who checked his car daily, who understood that a car doesn’t run smoothly, had no idea what kind of lubricant smoothed over the most important relationship in his life. He had taken her for granted.

The note read: “Bob, I’ve moved out. Try as I might, I can’t do anything that makes you happy. If only you had told me once that you appreciated what I did. Perhaps now you will learn that meals don’t cook themselves, and clothes don’t wash themselves.”

The hard part was that he had. He just hadn’t said so. He just thought that she understood. “Guess I thought she had mental telepathy,” he muttered to himself.

He sat down on the couch and began, belatedly, to plan how to do a complete service on the marriage.

–Stan Mitchell – www.forthright.net

The Refuse Gate

Katmandu’s streets are regularly lined with garbage as the people pile the trash from their homes there to be shoveled into trucks and hauled away. Those pickups are irregular and often infrequent, so that the piles of refuse appear constant. They impede traffic and pedestrians since there are limited sidewalks and little room in the streets.

The sights and smells produced by this system are offensive to those unaccustomed to such.

Landfills, garbage dumps, and other means of disposal are matters of distaste, but also of great importance.
Doing something with our abundant waste is a practical necessity, but no one enjoys dealing with it, or seeing and smelling it in close proximity.

Get rid of it–move it out of sight and consciousness –that is our desire.

The prophets of Israel and Judah were often given odd and difficult assignments. Hosea was commanded to marry an adulterous woman (Hosea 1:2). Ezekiel had to lay on his left side on the ground without rising for 390 days, then on his right side for another 40 days (Ezekiel 4:4, 6).

God once gave a command to Jeremiah that does not at first appear unusual or particularly demanding (Jeremiah 19:1-2). He was simply told to go to a certain part of Jerusalem and preach. However, when one examines the geography of ancient Jerusalem, the instructions take on a different light.

The Potsherd Gate in the southern wall of the city was also known as the “Refuse Gate” (see Nehemiah 12:31).
Gates were often named for their geographical location, or for their primary function.

The name “Refuse Gate” suggests that it was the route used by the inhabitants of Jerusalem to dump their garbage outside the city. Its location on the south side fits the tradition that the valley of Hinnom served as the garbage dump for Jerusalem.

Jeremiah was assigned to preach at the town dump. That doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable, nor does it seem likely to be very productive. How often do we reason that the Church needs a nice, impressive building so that worshippers will be comfortable and visitors will enjoy their experience?

When we plan evangelistic activity we spruce things up, put on a good front, and make things as attractive as possible. After all, “God wants our best,” and “first impressions are all important.”

Jeremiah reminds us that there is a grim and unpleasant side of our mission. Sin is ugly. Sinners have declared themselves to be God’s enemies (Romans 8:7). There is garbage in our lives that must be eradicated.

Years ago there was a cartoon strip which featured a character whose stated mission was to “minister to the rich and famous.” There is great appeal in going to the pretty, comfortable places of the world to preach the gospel. Yet it is often in the garbage heaps that our witness is most needed, and it is there that our work may be most productive.

The fact is that the stinking streets of Katmandu are probably a much more fertile field for evangelism than the beautiful beaches of Hawaii. The ghettos and slums of our cities produce more sincere listeners (most of the time at least) than the country club neighborhoods.

Jeremiah’s chosen location probably had more to do with the symbolism which gave weight to his message than to the willingness of his audience, but the application is still valid.

We must not shy away from the garbage heaps when we go out to do the work of God. Sin is not pretty. Sinners live in filth, metaphorically, but often literally as well. We must go where they are if we hope to reach them with the saving Gospel.

Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

Am I rich?

The Census Bureau’s definition of poverty is far different than the one most of us would use.

“When the Census Bureau defines ‘poverty,’ though, it winds up painting more than 40 million Americans — one in seven — as “poor.”/1

One commentator noted:

“Most news stories on poverty feature homeless families, people living in crumbling shacks, or lines of the downtrodden eating in soup kitchens. The actual living conditions of America’s poor are far different from these images.”/2

When we look at the definition of the Census Bureau, the portrait of the poor looks dramatically different than we would expect.

Data from the Department of Energy and other agencies show that the average poor family, as defined by Census officials:/3

Lives in a home that is in good repair, not crowded, and equipped with air conditioning, clothes washer and dryer, and cable or satellite TV service.

Prepares meals in a kitchen with a refrigerator, coffee maker and microwave as well as oven and stove.

Enjoys two color TVs, a DVD player, VCR and — if children are there — an Xbox, PlayStation, or other video game system.

Had enough money in the past year to meet essential needs, including adequate food and medical care.

Someone who has all of these things would be living like a king in most places on earth. Wealth in one area, is poverty in another. The cost of living makes a huge impact and people move around the world to find manageable economies.

The wonderful thing about the Lord is that the definition of spiritual wealth never changes. God is always dependable (Hebrews 13:5). We can always know where we stand with the Lord (Romans 8:1). If we are immersed into Christ, and serve him faithfully, we will never be lost and will be spiritually wealthy (Acts 2:37,47; Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:1).

When we gather around the Lord’s table, we need to remember that we were in spiritual poverty before Christ died for us (Romans 5:6-11). Because of his death, we are rich in blessings. The body and blood of Jesus are our ticket out of spiritual poverty and into the glories of heaven.

Let us never forget the price our Lord paid for these blessings.

___________

1/ http://tinyurl.com/3lwr57q

2/ Ibid

3/ Ibid

–Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

 

THEY WOULD NOT BOW, THEY WOULD NOT BEND, THEY WOULD NOT BURN

A decree went forth from the king. All in the kingdom must worship the great image he had created or be killed. The time of worship would be announced with the playing of several musical instruments. Everyone was to fall down to the image!

Three individuals, slaves, refused to bow down. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, Jewish slaves taken in the captivity, would not worship the image of the king. They remained stedfast in their service to God regardless of the consequences. When they were brought before the king for their failure to bow down, they were given an opportunity to bow down or else be punished. Faced with this threat, they still refused to bow to the image. The king had them tossed into the fiery furnace, but they did not die. They came forth from the furnace unscathed (Daniel 3)

THEY WOULD NOT BOW. God had instructed his people that he was God and that they should not build graven images and worship them (Exodus 20:1-3). These men were faithful to God and refused to obey the desires of worldly people.

THEY WOULD NOT BEND. Unlike many today, when the pressure to yield to the world’s desire was upon them they would not bend. They were going to be faithful to God regardless of any personal consequences (Daniel 3:16-18). God had warned his people that they should not follow a multitude to do evil (Exodus 23:2). Unlike Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, too many today fold in their allegiance to God when the world exerts even the slightest pressure. Children of God must remain stedfast in their allegiance to God (I Corinthians 15:58).

THEY WOULD NOT BURN. When cast into the fiery furnace, they did not burn, nor were they singed (Daniel 3:27). Today, if we remain faithful to God, we will not “burn”, i.e., we will not have a part in the lake of fire and brimstone. The unfaithful will be punished forever (Revelation 21:8; Matthew 25:46).

–Charles Coats (deceased)

I’LL KEEP ON TILL THEY QUIT

There once was an older man who went out jogging. He was running around a track that circled the high school football field while the team was conducting their practice. When the football players began running their sprints up and down the field, the man said to himself, “I’ll just keep run­ning until they quit.” So they ran. And he ran. And they kept on running. So he kept on running.

Finally, in total exhaustion the man had to stop. When he stopped, an equally exhausted football player walked over to him and said, “Boy, I’m glad you finally stopped, Mister. Our coach told us that we had to keep running wind sprints as long as the old guy was jogging!”

It seems to me that we can sometimes find ourselves in a similar kind of situation when it comes to anger and conflict. We have a disagreement with someone and get into an argument. Voices get raised. Neither side wants to be the first to give in, to stop speaking in anger. Everyone has the attitude, “I’ll just keep on till they quit.” So the other party stays mad. So we stay mad. And on we go, eventually finding ourselves emotionally and even physically exhausted by the ongoing animosity.

Let me challenge you to do something very difficult. The next time you get in an argument, be the first to give in. Be the first to stop the yelling and the name-calling. Be the first to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s the quickest way to stop the vicious cycle.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” (Proverbs 15:1)

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

The Happiness of Pursuit

The more I learn, the more I am amazed how God has adapted Christianity to the needs of mankind. Let’s begin by citing Paul’s words from Philippians 3:10-14, wherein he writes that he wants to know Christ “the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

God has designed man in such a way that we cannot attain perfection here on earth but He challenges us to grow and strive for perfection with it being ultimately available on the other side of death. Learn. Grow. Mature. Strive. Reach forward. Don’t be content with who you are right now. Jesus is the standard of perfection.

Author and psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky writes in The Myths of Happiness, that we are happier in our pursuit. She writes, “if we enjoy the struggle along the way, we will derive pleasure and satisfaction by simply pursuing or working on our goal. We will ideally stretch our skills, discover novel opportunities, grow, strive, learn, and become more capable and expert. …Furthermore, goal pursuit in and of itself imparts structure and meaning to our daily lives, creating obligations, deadlines, and timetables, as well as opportunities for mastering new skills and for interacting with others” (137).

Now, think about how God has designed this world. Think about the challenges you have in your own life – the challenges to grow and mature.

Before he wrote those words in Philippians 3, Paul wrote these words in chapter 2: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (vss 3-4). Had Paul reached perfection in just these few virtues? No. He tells us himself that he had not reached spiritual perfection.

But the joy is in the striving, the pursuit. In Lyubomirsky’s words, it is the “deadlines and timetables, as well as opportunities for mastering new skills and for interacting with others.” If we obtained moral perfection the moment we were baptized into Christ, what else would there be to do, spiritually speaking?

God designed the human mind and the human heart to desire growth and maturity. Contests, sports, games, other challenges show that the human spirit was designed to seek after victory, to challenge ourselves even as we challenge others. We want to win. We want to stretch ourselves, to see how far we can go.

Ultimately, God set that urge in our hearts in spiritual matters. To conquer our own egos, our desire for revenge, our desire for self. He challenges us to control our tongues, our attitudes, our behavior. That all implies growth. And it all involves pursuit – the happy pursuit of holiness (cf. Heb. 12:14).

Christianity, as it is, is adapted to man, as he is.

– Paul Holland

 

Reasons to praise God

NOTE:  A revised Greek word study app for Android devices is now available (for free) at http://bit.ly/1tMqlAW

“O praise the Lord, all ye nations: praise him all ye people. For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Praise ye the Lord”—Psalms 117:1-2

Our praise to God equates to an expression of gratitude on our part for his loving kindness seen in his mercy, grace and deliverance (1 John 3:1, Col. 1:14-16). Praise him because he gives and sustains life. Praise him because his love is one that cannot be measured by human standards (Rom. 5:8, Heb. 5:7-8). Praise him because his truth endures forever and what he has promised to do, he will do (1 Pet. 1:25, Heb. 6:17-19). Hear the Psalmist as he says, “Praise ye the Lord. I will praise the Lord with my whole heart….” (Ps. 111:1). Our praise to God should come from hearts filled with a love for him that will let nothing interfere with a full, complete surrender to his will. Lovingly trusting him, we turn our lives over to him, take his hand in ours and with praises on our lips for his goodness and mercy we make our way down the pathway of life (Micah 6:8, Luke 2:20, Acts 2:47). Paul tells us to be thankful in everything for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:18). Being thankful for the blessings, temporal as well as spiritual, that God has blessed us with should cause us to praise him not only in our worship assemblies but also in our walk with him each day (Ps. 18:49, Rom. 15:9-11). During the course of my 80 years of life on this earth, I have experienced moments of joy beyond measure and I have also walked through one of the deepest, most agonizing moments that can ever be experienced by a mortal human being and undoubtedly the same is true with each of you. But I tell you in this hour, I am convinced today that we can always find something to be thankful for that will cause us to lift up our voice in praise to our God (Rom. 8:28,31). As a faithful child of God, we never take one step in this life alone (Heb. 13:5).

We live in a time in which America needs to hear and heed the Psalmist cry to praise God. Too often we apply this principle only to temporal affairs of our lives overlooking the fact that it also applies not only to our spiritual lives but also to the spiritual life of our nation. When a nation of people make God an integral part of their lives, praising and honoring him, they will become an exalted nation. On the other hand when a nation of people become steeped in sin, when they begin to embrace those things that are abominable in the sight of God, when immorality permeates its society, when a nation of people begin to call evil good and good evil, then that nation will become despicable in God’s sight (Rom. 1:18-32, Gal. 5:19-21). Today, in America, the words of Proverbs 14:34 need to be shouted from the rooftops: “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people”.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow, praise him all ye people here below—Psalms 22:23, 148:7.

Charles Hicks

Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed

Flailing & Failing

Keith Wishum recently recalled an atypical athlete of the 2000 Summer Olympics…

Eric Moussambani made a big splash at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, becoming an instant CNN celebrity for his performance in the 100-meter freestyle swimming. No, Eric didn’t win a medal. The only record he might have set would be for the slowest time ever. His 1:52 swim took over twice as long as the fastest time.

Wishum reports that Eric literally made a splash in the pool upon his entry into the water. He thrashed wildly. He swam with his head out of the water, with his arms flailing, and with his civilian style swim trunks billowing like a parachute in the pool. When he finished, he was completely exhausted; it was the first time he ever swam 100 meters without stopping!

What was Eric doing swimming in the Olympics with the best-trained athletes of the world?

Wishum answers: Eric was representing his tiny, impoverished country of Equatorial Guinea in West Africa as part of a special program designed to encourage participation from countries without previous Olympic experience. Eric just started swimming eight months before the Games and had trained only in a twenty-meter hotel pool. He was allowed in only when guests weren’t using the pool.

Compared to the other Olympic athletes, Eric’s efforts in the pool were laughable. But 17,000 spectators, identifying with an unknown, unqualified swimmer struggling to proudly represent his tiny homeland, did not laugh. Instead, they rose to their feet. They cheered. They applauded thunderously, encouraging the awkward hero to finish his race. They loved him, not for his speed or style, but for his heart. *

Compared with the sinless perfection of Christ, our best efforts are laughable. We flail and fail; we sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)

But God loves us so much that He gave His sinlessly perfect Son to take our sins upon Himself and suffer the punishment for them so that we might have forgiveness and receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7). Christ “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness; by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). Then, as we seek to follow in the steps of the Savior and walk in the light of His Word, He will applaud our flawed but faithful efforts and – by His grace – continue to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7).

Keith Wishum observed, “the most important thing Eric found was not fame, but GRACE” …. and that’s what we ALL need!

Won’t YOU submit to the Savior so that you may receive His saving grace?

David A. Sargent