Archives for : November2014

ARE YOU A BREAD SQUEEZER?

Samuel Feldman is the world’s most famous bread vandal.

He did $8,000 worth of damage to bread and cookies throughout the Yardley, Pennsylvania, area. He was going around “squeezing, smashing and poking” bags of bread and packages of cookies. Finally, one store, suspecting Feldman, put him under surveillance and caught him three times in the act. He is charged with one count of criminal mischief. Three years of aggravation and loss, caused by an idle person with a mean streak.

There is always at least one bread-squeezer in any group. The church may even sometimes harbor a few bread-squeezers, too. These are the sore tails, nitpickers, storm clouds who live to rain on others’ parades, those who seem to enjoy causing friction and irritating others, those who hold petty grudges, and general pot-stirrers. They are the busybodies (2 Thessalonians 3:11; 12 Thessalonians 3:11; 1
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11 For we hear of some that walk among you disorderly, that work not at all, but are busybodies. The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Thessalonians 1 1 Paul, and Silvanus, and Timothy, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ; 2 Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 We are bound to give thanks to God always to you, brethren, even as it is meet, for that your faith growth exceedingly, and the love of each one of you all toward one another aboundeth; 4 so that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and in the afflictions which ye endure; 5  which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God; to the end that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer: 6 if so be that it is a righteous thing with God to recompense affliction to them that afflict you, 7 and to you that are afflicted rest with us, at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, 8 rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus: 9 who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord and from the glory of his might, 10 when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be marvelled at in all them that believed in that day. 11 To which end we also pray always for you, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfil every desire of goodness and every work of faith, with power; 12 that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

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Timothy 5:13). Solomon calls one a worthless and wicked person “who spreads strife” (Proverbs 6:14Proverbs 6:14
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14 In whose heart is perverseness, Who deviseth evil continually, Who soweth discord.

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; cf. 19– “who spreads strife among brothers”). Paul laments lovers of controversy because they provoke “envy, strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction” (1 Timothy 6:4-51 Timothy 6:4-5
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4 he is puffed up, knowing nothing, but doting about questionings and disputes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, 5 wranglings of men corrupted in mind and bereft of the truth, supposing that godliness is a way of gain.

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).

These bread-squeezers flatten a congregation’s morale, squeeze the worst side out of others, and pick and poke at everyone from the church’s leaders to any other Christian whose name passes between their cross-hairs. They taint the productivity, good will, good deeds, attitude, and joy of a congregation. They brighten entire rooms just by making an exit.

Are you a bread-squeezer? How do you reply when asked, “How are you?” How well do you speak of other Christians? Are you moody? Do you lash out at others when you feel you have been wronged? Do you give the cold shoulder? Do you not speak to others, only to complain that others are unfriendly because they don’t approach you first? Do you wear your feelings on your sleeve? Are you the type that prefers the role of critic, since there are plenty of others to be the “cheerleader”? If so, then you are a bread-squeezer!

A bread-squeezer is as needed in a congregation as Feldman was needed in Yardley! He was entirely destructive and he caused others to pay for his bad habit. Barnabus wasn’t a bread-squeezer (Acts 4:36Acts 4:36
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36 And Joseph, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas , a Levite, a man of Cyprus by race,

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). Neither were Judas and Silas (Acts 15:32Acts 15:32
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32 And Judas and Silas, being themselves also prophets, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them.

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). Certainly, Jesus wasn’t! The church is always in need of more encouraging, uplifting, positive, happy, and contented members. Don’t squeeze the bread!

–Neal Pollard

 

Let’s constantly remember to give our Heavenly Father the praise and thanks He so rightly deserves

Sometimes a discouraging part of parenthood is dealing with ingratitude. Sure, we have trained our children to say, “please” and “thank you,” but true gratitude is something they may not really understand yet. Small children simply don’t know everything parents do for them. They don’t realize that every meal, every drink, and every piece of clothing has been paid for. They don’t realize that the home they live in, the furniture they sleep in, the heater that keeps them warm, and the air conditioner that keeps them cool have all come out of their parents pocketbooks. They don’t realize the long hours of thought, care, and prayer that have been devoted on their behalf.

I did not really come to grips with how much my parents did for me until I was married and had children of my own. When all of the bills and responsibility came pouring down on me, I quickly realized how much I had taken my parents for granted. Despite times of ungratefulness and ingratitude, parents are happy to provide for their children because of their love.

While we may remember to thank our physical parents, rarely do people stop to consider just how much the Heavenly Father has done for us. He has literally given us everything we have. Best of all, He has given us spiritual blessings, something no one else can give us, not even our parents (Ephesians 1:3Ephesians 1:3
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3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ:

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).

As 1 Thessalonians 5:16-181 Thessalonians 5:16-18
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16 Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward.

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instructs us, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Let’s remember to be grateful to our parents, but more importantly, let’s constantly remember to give our Heavenly Father the praise and thanks He so rightly deserves.

–Brett Petrillo

Storms are coming

“Let every soul be subject to the governing
authorities. For there is no authority
except from God, and the authorities that
exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1Romans 13:1
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13 1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God.

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NKJV).

Southern Bangladesh was under threat of a major cyclone when a friend there emailed me to please remember all of the people there in my prayers.

He warned that communications might be interrupted, and I might not hear from him for a few days. After an anxious time, I got word that all there were safe and there was minimum damage from the storm.

His email contained a phrase one does not often hear from citizens of Bangladesh: “Government took very good pre caution and that is why it was not devastating like before (sic).”

Several times over the past few decades the national government of Bangladesh has been rated by surveying organizations as “the most corrupt government in the world.”

Bangladeshi people are very cynical about the treatment they are likely to receive and the services which are provided. Compliments to the government are rare.

That is why my friend’s comment took me a little by surprise. He essentially said, “Our government did very well.” This prompted several personal applications.

First, governments are human, but they are divinely authorized (Romans 13:1Romans 13:1
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13 1 Let every soul be in subjection to the higher powers: for there is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God.

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). One is serving and obeying God when he submits to the rulers of his nation.

Second, we must “give honor to whom honor is due”
(Romans 13:7Romans 13:7
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7 Render to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

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, summarized). It is normal for us to be critical of the government when it acts in ways we do not approve of, or when it fails in a time of crisis.

If we do that, however, is it not right and just for us to applaud that same government when it rises to the occasion?

Almost any government, no matter how vile or corrupt, will sometimes do something right. Similarly, almost any government, no matter how wise and beneficent, will occasionally make mistakes.

A third application is the reflection that government action never replaces individual responsibility. In this case, the government provided early warning that enabled people to make adequate preparations.

But it was the individual citizen’s responsibility to make those preparations. If anyone suffered loss because preparations were not made, he had only himself to blame.

This is a point which we all should take to heart. God, through his word, has clearly given us warnings and instructions which will protect us from spiritual storms.

One who reads and obeys the Bible will find it far easier to avoid and resist temptations. When he does, he will find healing and salvation. Preparation will be made for death and judgment. Satan’s lies will be exposed and his threat diminished.

But only if the reader heeds the warnings and obeys the instructions. God’s word points the way to salvation; it does not save apart from our involvement.

Storms are coming. In this world there will always be tornadoes, hurricanes and cyclones. There will also be temptation and sin. Ultimately all will die, and face God in judgment (Hebrews 9:27Hebrews 9:27
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27 And inasmuch as it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this cometh judgment;

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). We can be prepared, but only if we listen to the warnings.

by Michael E. Brooks

Can God save me?

Someone will say they can’t become a Christian because God won’t accept them because of their terrible sins.  God will be so appalled by their heinous nature that he will recoil and banish them forever.

We must let the world know the fallacy of this idea.  God does accept sinners. If he didn’t, no one would be saved (Romans 3:23Romans 3:23
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23 for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God;

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). God developed grace for that very reason. He will never turn us away, no matter how firm a hold evil has on our lives.

The world must be told that God is eager to accept the world’s worst sinners (Matthew 21:31Matthew 21:31
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31 Which of the two did the will of his father? They say, The first. Jesus saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that the publicans and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

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). Anyone, no matter what, can come to Christ for salvation.

Do we realize the people God has already accepted?

The great Apostle Paul, one of the greatest men of the Bible, was a mass murderer (Acts 9:1-2Acts 9:1-2
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9 1 But Saul, yet breathing threatening and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 and asked of him letters to Damascus unto the synagogues, that if he found any that were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

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; Acts 22:3-5Acts 22:3-5
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3 I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city, at the feet of Gamaliel, instructed according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, even as ye all are this day: 4 and I persecuted this Way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. 5 As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and journeyed to Damascus to bring them also that were there unto Jerusalem in bonds to be punished.

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; Acts 26:10-11Acts 26:10-11
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10 And this I also did in Jerusalem: and I both shut up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, and when they were put to death I gave my vote against them. 11 And punishing them oftentimes in all the synagogues, I strove to make them blaspheme; and being exceedingly mad against them, I persecuted them even unto foreign cities.

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). Paul said he was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:12-161 Timothy 1:12-16
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12 I thank him that enabled me, even Christ Jesus our Lord, for that he counted me faithful, appointing me to his service; 13 though I was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: howbeit I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief; 14 and the grace of our Lord abounded exceedingly with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15 Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: 16 howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me as chief might Jesus Christ show forth all his longsuffering, for an ensample of them that should thereafter believe on him unto eternal life.

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). Yet, he was one of the greatest preachers and missionaries who ever lived.

Moses, the leader of the Jewish nation and the recipient of the Law of Moses (Exodus 20), was also a murderer (Exodus 2:11-15Exodus 2:11-15
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11 And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown up, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he saw an Egyptian smiting a Hebrew, one of his brethren. 12 And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he smote the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand. 13 And he went out the second day, and, behold, two men of the Hebrews were striving together: and he said to him that did the wrong, Wherefore smitest thou thy fellow? 14 And he said, Who made thee a prince and a judge over us? Thinkest thou to kill me, as thou killedst the Egyptian? And Moses feared, and said, Surely the thing is known. 15 Now when Pharaoh heard this thing, he sought to slay Moses. But Moses fled from the face of Pharaoh, and dwelt in the land of Midian: and he sat down by a well.

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).

Peter was called upon to preach the first gospel sermon and the first to take the gospel to the Gentiles, despite being a violent bigot (Acts 2; Acts 10; John 18:10-11John 18:10-11
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10 Simon Peter therefore having a sword drew it, and struck the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. Now the servant's name was Malchus. 11 Jesus therefore said unto Peter, Put up the sword into the sheath: the cup which the Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?

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; Galatians 2:6-16Galatians 2:6-16
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6 But from those who were reputed to be somewhat —they, I say, who were of repute imparted nothing to me: 7 but contrariwise, when they saw that I had been intrusted with the gospel of the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the gospel of the circumcision 8 ; 9 and when they perceived the grace that was given unto me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship, that we should go unto the Gentiles, and they unto the circumcision; 10 only they would that we should remember the poor; which very thing I was also zealous to do. 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. 14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? 15 We being Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, 16 yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed on Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

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).

Look who is in the lineage of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-6Matthew 1:1-6
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The Gospel According to St. Matthew 1 1 The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham begat Isaac; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat Judah and his brethren; 3 and Judah begat Perez and Zerah of Tamar; and Perez begat Hezron; and Hezron begat Ram; 4 and Ram begat Amminadab; and Amminadab begat Nahshon; and Nahshon begat Salmon; 5 and Salmon begat Boaz of Rahab; and Boaz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse; 6 and Jesse begat David the king. And David begat Solomon of her that had been the wife of Uriah;

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):

* Rahab, a harlot (Joshua 2).

* Bathsheba, who committed adultery with King David (2 Samuel 11).

* Tamar, who disguised herself as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law (Genesis 38).

God loves us and will forgive our sins if we will humbly come to him (Hebrews 4:16Hebrews 4:16
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16 Let us therefore draw near with boldness unto the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy, and may find grace to help us in time of need.

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). The blood of Christ is stronger than our sins (1 John 1:71 John 1:7
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7 but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.

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). We are not saved because of our good so we cannot be denied heaven because of our bad (Ephesians 2:8-9Ephesians 2:8-9
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8 for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not of works, that no man should glory.

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).

If we believe Jesus is the Savior (Hebrews 11:6Hebrews 11:6
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6 And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.

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), will repent of our sins (Luke 13:3-5Luke 13:3-5
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3 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all in like manner perish. 4 Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, think ye that they were offenders above all the men that dwell in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.

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), confess Christ as Lord (Matthew 10:32Matthew 10:32
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32 Every one therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven.

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) and be immersed for the remission of our sins (Acts 22:16Acts 22:16
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16 And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on his name.

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), we can be saved no matter what kind of sins we have committed.

Finally, we can join the other forgiven sinners in heaven forever (John 14:1-6John 14:1-6
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14 1 Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. 2 In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. 4 And whither I go, ye know the way. 5 Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; how know we the way? 6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.

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). Christ is waiting for our imperfect lives to come to him today!

Richard Mansel

Saying no may be the kindest, most loving thing we can do

“Standing like an enemy, he has bent his bow; with his right hand, like an adversary, he has slain all who were pleasing to his eye; on the tent of the daughter of Zion, he has poured out his fury like fire”
(Lamentations 2:4Lamentations 2:4
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4 He hath bent his bow like an enemy, he hath stood with his right hand as an adversary, And hath slain all that were pleasant to the eye: In the tent of the daughter of Zion he hath poured out his wrath like fire.

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NKJV).

While traveling throughout the world I often find myself having to refuse someone’s request. It may be for medical help, to assist in evangelism, or simply a personal loan for some private business. Some of these are legitimate needs, but I have limited funds; no one can do everything. Others seem less valid and are turned down for lack of merit. Rarely is there anything “personal” in the decision.

In spite of this, any refusal will often create tension in our relationship. It is a very human tendency to take any negative as an attack. Whether it be a no to a request, or a criticism of some word or deed, we don’t like to be disagreed with. Those are the acts of enemies, not friends. At least that is the thinking of many.

The writer of Lamentations (believed by many to be the prophet Jeremiah) speaks of God “standing like an enemy” against Zion (Jerusalem). Lamentations is the prophet’s poetic mourning over the city and its people.
Writing just after Babylon’s mighty army had invaded and destroyed the nation of Judah and taken its people hostage, he acknowledges the justice of God and the righteousness of this punishment for sin.

In the next verse he repeats his description. There “The Lord is like an enemy.” That is to say, he treated Judah as an enemy might, but that does not mean he hated the nation or its people or was against them.

Rather God’s love for his chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, is attested throughout the Old Testament (Hosea 11:1Hosea 11:1
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11 1 When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.

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; 1 Kings 10:91 Kings 10:9
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9 Blessed be Jehovah thy God, who delighted in thee, to set thee on the throne of Israel: because Jehovah loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king, to do justice and righteousness.

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). Far from being an enemy, God had chosen Israel (including Judah), freed her from bondage, established a covenant with her, and put her into a fertile land. His love was manifest.

Yet many generations of the Israelites strayed from faith in God and turned to idolatry and many abominations. After centuries of appealing with them through prophets and occasional righteous kings, God proclaimed that it was enough. He judged the land and brought Babylon against it.

As Jeremiah recognized, God’s actions were justified and necessary. Their purpose was to bring Judah to repentance, allowing God to eventually reestablish them in the land and fulfill his eternal purpose for them in Jesus Christ.

Most readers of the Bible understand that while God did things apparently against his people, he never ceased to love them or call them his own. Why can we not then recognize that sometimes others may offer constructive criticism, or refuse a request from us, without being against us?

A long running campaign against drunk driving once stated, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”

Saying no may be the kindest, most loving thing we can do. Parents need to realize this. No child should be granted every whim or desire. Withholding some things does not indicate a lack of love.

Whichever position we are in, the giving or receiving end of negative responses, we must seek to understand the nature of true biblical love. That is, to seek and pursue the best interest of others. Sometimes that means dealing positively and generously to help in their needs. At other times however, it may mean saying no.

“Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11Hebrews 12:11
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11 All chastening seemeth for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yieldeth peaceable fruit unto them that have been exercised thereby, even the fruit of righteousness.

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by Michael E. Brooks

The Bible and frustration

“Now I do not want you to be unaware,
brethren, that I often planned to come to
you (but was hindered until now), that I
might have some fruit among you also, just
as among the other Gentiles” (Romans 1:13Romans 1:13
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13 And I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you , that I might have some fruit in you also, even as in the rest of the Gentiles.

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NKJV).

“Therefore we wanted to come to you — even
I, Paul, time and again–but Satan hindered
us” (1 Thessalonians 2:181 Thessalonians 2:18
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18 because we would fain have come unto you, I Paul once and again; and Satan hindered us.

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).

“Therefore when I was planning this, did I
do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I
plan according to the flesh, that with me
there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No?” (2
Corinthians 1:17).

The noun “frustration” does not appear in the New King James Version of the Bible. Its verb form occurs 4 times:

Once referring to the actions of Israel’s enemies to prevent the rebuilding of the temple (Ezra 4:5Ezra 4:5
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5 and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.

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Twice describing God’s defeating the intents of the unrighteous (Job 5:12Job 5:12
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12 He frustrateth the devices of the crafty, So that their hands cannot perform their enterprise.

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; Isaiah 44:25Isaiah 44:25
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25 that frustrateth the signs of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;

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)

Once of the Jewish trio defeating the effort of Nebuchadnezzar to kill them for refusing to bow down before his image (Daniel 3:28Daniel 3:28
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28 Nebuchadnezzar spake and said, Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king's word, and have yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.

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It is apparent however that righteous people in Biblical times faced frustration. Paul’s missionary plans, made with the best of intentions, were not always carried out, usually through no fault of his own.

Jesus himself wept with apparent frustration over the hard hearts of the residents of Jerusalem (Matthew 23:37-38Matthew 23:37-38
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37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.

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).

This has been a frustrating period for me personally.
Due to civil unrest and violence in Bangladesh I was strongly urged to cancel my spring visit there this year. I spent extra time in Nepal, and had a very productive period there, but it too was interrupted several times by strikes and other issues.

Such events are part of life, and are not unique to any individual or occupation. No one looks forward to them.  Sometimes they disrupt our plans and cause genuine difficulties.

How should we as Christians react? The temptation is to be irritated or even angry. That is hardly productive, however. There is a better way.

First we must understand the nature of these events, from God’s perspective. They are included as part of the “tribulations” (Romans 5:3Romans 5:3
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3 And not only so, but we also rejoice in our tribulations: knowing that tribulation worketh stedfastness;

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), which seem to trouble us, but may be turned into occasions of joy. By overcoming the impulse towards anger and defeatism we develop patience and character, which are blessings which God desires for us.

Secondly, we may find that hindrances which prevent one planned activity provide opportunities for even better things. This was Paul’s experience on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:6-10Acts 16:6-10
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6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia; 7 and when they were come over against Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia; and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not; 8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: There was a man of Macedonia standing, beseeching him, and saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us. 10 And when he had seen the vision, straightway we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

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He intended first to preach in Asia, then in Bithynia, but was not permitted to do either. The result was that he went to Europe (Macedonia and Achaia) and established the first churches of record on that continent.

Finally, we recognize that our patient acceptance of frustration stands as an example to others. It is not Christ-like to “rant and rave” over inconveniences. Far better that we should show patience with a calm and peaceful demeanor, overcoming discouragement.

No one enjoys disruptions. But even these events may be turned into blessings, when handled as God intends.

–by Michael E. Brooks @ www.forthright.net

What will we leave our children?

Parenting becomes more important to me as I get older.
I want my daughters to find happiness and good health in life. While I am unable to leave them wealth, there are four things that I, and all Christian parents, can leave behind for our children.

1. To be in Christ.

There is nothing more important than being in Christ (Ephesians 1:3Ephesians 1:3
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3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ:

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6 And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.

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12 So then, my beloved, even as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

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2. To shun materialism.

They must learn simplicity and that true wealth does not come in material things. Their god should never be the next gadget or big thing. They can enjoy peace, joy and happiness in what they have (Philippians 4:11Philippians 4:11
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11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.

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6 Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity, Than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich.

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3. To shun prejudice and hate.

Racism and hate are not inherent, they are taught. We must instead teach love and tolerance. God abhors prejudice and so should we (Acts 10:34Acts 10:34
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34 And Peter opened his mouth and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

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Štetje svetopisemskih vrstic se za?ne z 1! Vrstica 0 ne obstaja!

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26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

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4. To desire a godly home.

Children must see a home that is filled with love, affection, respect and boundaries. They should learn responsibility and the ability to act independently.  Through observation, they must see how to raise strong, godly children (Ephesians 6:1-4Ephesians 6:1-4
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

6 1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honor thy father and mother , 3 that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. 4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but nurture them in the chastening and admonition of the Lord.

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6 And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be upon thy heart; 7 and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. 8 And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thy hand, and they shall be for frontlets between thine eyes. 9 And thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house, and upon thy gates.

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Children must see love, respect and affection in their parents. They should never hear us mocking or insulting each other. We are the home they will build one day (Genesis 2:18-24Genesis 2:18-24
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18 And Jehovah God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground Jehovah God formed every beast of the field, and every bird of the heavens; and brought them unto the man to see what he would call them: and whatsoever the man called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And the man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the heavens, and to every beast of the field; but for man there was not found a help meet for him. 21 And Jehovah God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof: 22 and the rib, which Jehovah God had taken from the man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 23 And the man said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. 24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

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22 Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. 24 But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it; 26 that he might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: 29 for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church;

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6 So that they are no more two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

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Adults cannot be healthy emotionally unless they have felt unconditional love. To know that someone will love and accept us no matter what, is empowering. We may not approve of their life choices but we will always love them without reservation (1 Corinthians 13:4-81 Corinthians 13:4-8
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4 Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, 5 doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not its own, is not provoked, taketh not account of evil; 6 rejoiceth not in unrighteousness, but rejoiceth with the truth; 7 beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 8 Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall be done away; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall be done away.

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If all children came from healthy, happy homes, the world would become safer and stronger.

When we have children it becomes our absolute responsibility to teach, train, nurture and prepare them for the future.

We cannot shun this responsibility without unleashing on the world another poorly equipped and troubled adult. It is non-negotiable and a requirement from God (Proverbs 22:6Proverbs 22:6
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

6 Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.

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Wealth is temporal but true values can last into eternity. God’s people must do a better job training their children so the homes of the future will be resilient and godly.

by Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

When did God quit caring about his people?

“For surely I know the plans I have for you,
says the Lord, plans for your welfare and
not for harm, to give you a future with
hope” (Jeremiah 29:11Jeremiah 29:11
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11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith Jehovah, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope in your latter end.

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There are a lot of young ladies with these words written on a chain around their necks, given by their parents. My daughter has one of her own, from exactly that source. There are many more who have sustained themselves through tough times by reading this passage and assuming that God does indeed have a plan, if they will only trust him.

There’s a rumor going around that this verse has “nothing” to do with us. Apparently somebody “discovered” that this was a promise given to Judah as she faced the terrors of Babylonian captivity. God assures them that even in these desperate circumstances, he still had a plan for them, and his intentions were for their good, not their harm. So that is the context of the passage.

But does that mean it has “nothing” to offer us?

When did God quit caring about his people? 589 BC? 33 AD? 1966? The Lord promised Israelite readers that if they trusted in the Lord “with all their hearts he would make their paths straight” (Proverbs 3:6Proverbs 3:6
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6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, And he will direct thy paths.

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The Lord promised Roman Christians that “in all things God worked for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28Romans 8:28
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28 And we know that to them that love God all things work together for good, even to them that are called according to his purpose.

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5 Be ye free from the love of money; content with such things as ye have: for himself hath said, I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee.

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The Lord promised the church in Smyrna that if they remained “faithful till death” he would give them a “crown of life” (Revelation 2:10Revelation 2:10
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10 Fear not the things which thou art about to suffer: behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days. Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life.

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

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Yet we readily (and correctly) draw courage from these and so many other promises. If I may say it as kindly as I can, to rob other Christians of these promises not only exhibits a lack of thoughtfulness toward others in dire straits, it also exhibits a lack of faith in God.

This is our God we’re speaking of; our God who plans for our “welfare,” who “makes our paths straight,” who “will never leave us nor forsake us,” who forgives us of our sins, who gives the faithful a “crown of life.”

Of course Bible passages always have an immediate context (Judah, Israel, the church at Smyrna). It also applies to us. Keep context in mind, but remember this is a God whose nature never changes, who cares about us profoundly, and who plans for our good, not our harm.
He loves us forever!

–by Stan Mitchell

What a Friend We Have in Jesus

A friend of mine tells of the day he went with a group of people to an old age home, to the ward that cares for those suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Most of the residents were, to put it as kindly as possible, no longer there. Their stares were vacant, their memory as empty as a Montana prairie. They remembered nothing, knew no one, not even themselves.
It was a heartbreaking experience.

What could the visitors do? What could they say?
Because they didn’t know what to talk about, they sang hymns— “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” and “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.”

And something astonishing happened. These elderly people began to sing along!

Silver heads perked up, feathery thin voices were raised in song. Apparently the earliest childhood memories are the very last to go, and these poor victims of this dreadful disease remembered the songs they sang in Sunday school.

Their oldest memories, dating to before the Fireside Chats, before the Waffen SS, before that street in New York crashed — these memories still lit these otherwise dark minds!

And they say that children don’t learn anything!

Of course “they” must have never had a child. Children are high fidelity microphones, picking up every breath, every inflection, every tone they hear.

When parents quarrel, they know; when ladies use language that once made sailors blush, they hear; when voices are raised in honor of an incomparable God, the sound and the words lodge deeply in the memory.

Tell an adult that God is right here, in our midst, and he will scoff. Tell a child, and he will say, “OK.”
Tell an adult that he should forgive his brother, and he will set his face in stone and intone, “Never!” Tell a child to forgive his brother, and in moments they will be lost in their play again. The Teacher said it
best:

“Let the little children come to me, and do
not hinder them, for to such belongs the
kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 19:14Matthew 19:14
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

14 But Jesus said, Suffer the little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for to such belongeth the kingdom of heaven.

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We behave as if children are a barrier to worship, that their squirming and shuffling gets in the way of our time with God. Contrast this attitude with that of Jesus, who drew them into the very center of his activities. The disciples said, “send them away.” Jesus said, “bring them to me!”

Will you bring your children?

All of which makes me determined that we will put in our children’s memories things of substance, pieces of our spiritual heritage that have stood the test of time.

You see, the real tragedy is not when an Alzheimer’s victim forgets his childhood, but when a sick society forgets its conscience.

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

Reading the Bible is a learned art

“And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation – as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:15-162 Peter 3:15-16
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15 And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

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I enjoy maps. I am not much of a GPS person.
Electronic navigation tools may be fine for young folks who cut their teeth on computer games, but I like a good old paper map. Part of that is simply familiarity based on long time use. However a lot of it is that I enjoy the visualization of a good map. I can judge distance, gain perspectives, and get a feel for an area that I just don’t derive from hearing “Tom” talk me through the turns.

I realized long ago, however, that many people don’t use maps well. I have frequently asked preachers from Nepal or Bangladesh to locate their home area for me on a map. Most of the time they squint, look all over the sheet, and seem confused. Sometimes they place their area far away from where it actually is. In most cases this is the result of lack of familiarity with maps in general. Once they have been instructed as to how to interpret its symbols, they become much more proficient.

Reading the Bible is a learned art, just like reading a map. And it has been that way from the beginning of God’s word. Peter comments on the difficulty of understanding Paul’s epistles. If the inspired Peter had trouble, why are we so surprised that we do too? (I have always wondered if he was specifically referring to Romans).

At the beginning of the New Year, 2015, many will have made a resolution to read the Bible daily. Some will persist, while others no doubt will be distracted and perhaps discouraged and let this practice fall by the wayside. One reason often expressed for giving up is the difficulty of understanding. Some thoughts at the beginning of the process might be helpful.

First, though there are certainly difficult passages to understand in Scripture, there is much that is clear and plain to virtually anyone who will read with concentration and an open mind. The Bible was written by a variety of individuals, some of whom were “uneducated and untrained” (Acts 4:13Acts 4:13
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13 Now when they beheld the boldness of Peter and John, and had perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

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God’s word was recorded in ordinary language of common people, not a special “heavenly tongue” nor in technical academic jargon. The subject matter of certain parts ensures a depth that requires more study.
Other subjects, however, are simple enough for children.

Inexperienced readers should focus on simpler thoughts and ideas and reserve the obscure and difficult for later times, when they may be more capable of understanding.

Second, the Bible should be studied specifically. One does not normally open a map and attempt to memorize every road or town on it. Usually we focus upon a route or destination which we intend to use. A frequent traveler may eventually learn an entire state or region well, but it is not done in one trip or by one look at a map. Reading the Bible completely through will give us a general familiarity; in-depth study of doctrine should be attempted one subject or text at a time.

Finally, reading the Bible should be given greater importance than any map. A map contains essential data to the traveler seeking directions. The Bible’s information is even more important. Consulting it is not optional for those who intend to travel towards Heaven. There is only one Way (John 14:6John 14:6
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6 Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.

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–by Michael E. Brooks

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save

A TRUSTWORTHY GOD

A defense attorney was cross-examining a police officer during a felony trial. It went like this:

Q: Officer, did you see my client fleeing the scene?
A: No sir, but I subsequently observed a person matching the description of the offender running several blocks away.

Q: Officer, who provided this description?
A: The officer who responded to the scene.

Q: A fellow officer provided the description of this so-called offender. Do you trust your fellow officers?
A: Yes sir, with my life.

Q: WITH YOUR LIFE? Let me ask you this, then, officer — do you have a locker room in the police station — a room where you change your clothes in preparation for your daily duties?
A: Yes sir, we do.

Q: And do you have a locker in that room?
A: Yes sir, I do.

Q: And do you have a lock on your locker?
A: Yes sir.

Q: Now why is it, officer, IF YOU TRUST YOUR FELLOW OFFICERS WITH YOUR LIFE, that you find it necessary to lock your locker in a room you share with those officers?
A: You see, sir, we share the building with a court complex, and sometimes defense attorneys have been known to walk through that room.

Sometimes it’s best not to pursue a particular line of questioning!

But it’s true that there are some people we can’t trust at all and there are others we can trust with our very lives. Our level of trust is based upon how someone has proven themselves to be faithful in the past. As you probably know from personal experience, it takes months and years to establish a high level of trust, but only a moment to destroy it. Because people do let us down, we are sometimes made to feel that there is no one we can trust. But fortunately, there is always someone.

“Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. When their spirit departs, they return to the ground; on that very day their plans come to nothing. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God, the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them — the LORD, who remains faithful forever.” (Psa. 146:3-6Psa. 146:3-6
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3 Put not your trust in princes, Nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. 4 His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; In that very day his thoughts perish. 5 Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in Jehovah his God: 6 Who made heaven and earth, The sea, and all that in them is; Who keepeth truth for ever;

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Father, thank you for being faithful, for proving over and over that you are indeed a God we can trust with our very lives. While there are others who have let us down, you never have. For that we praise you! May our trust in you be reflected in our willingness to allow you to guide us this day. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Have a great day!

Alan Smith

Evangelistic talk (ET)

Christians must always be sensitive to what they say.  Scripture says that the tongue can set our world on fire (James 3:5James 3:5
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5 So the tongue also is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how much wood is kindled by how small a fire!

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26 For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?

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In a sense, everything Christians do involves evangelism. Our words and deeds must all be focused on glorifying God (Ephesians 3:20-21Ephesians 3:20-21
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20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen.

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When we are talking to Christians and non-Christians, what we say and how we phrase it will speak for or against God. Accordingly, we must very aware of our speech and demeanor.

Evangelistic talk (ET) means that we see all of life as evangelism and we utilize wisdom at all times. Each time we engage someone, we can do harm or good for their souls.

For example, an unfaithful Christian walks into the building for worship on Sunday morning. With negative evangelistic talk we would say something like, “Where have you been?” We have likely destroyed any chance at their repentance. We should have expressed how thrilled we were to see them and asked them to sit with us.

From the pulpit (in announcements, classes and sermons) we must be careful what we say. Berating the congregation in front of visitors is disastrous. They will have every excuse not to return.

Reproving and rebuking can be done in love and gentleness, if we are wise.

Do we give this any thought when we talk to other Christians? Do we insult weak Christians without realizing it and then wonder why they leave? Are we condescending when we should be gracious?

It is like a marriage. No one in the history of the world has ever become a better husband or wife as a result of nagging. Yet, we think that nagging will improve people’s giving and attendance. On the other hand, positive ET would give them a reason to want to be better and to grow.

“And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long” (Psalm 35:28Psalm 35:28
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28 And my tongue shall talk of thy righteousness And of thy praise all the day long.

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If this would constitute all of our evangelistic talk, the Lord’s church would thrive and unity would have a better chance.

Love, grace and mercy should saturate our speech as Christians. We can still stand strong for the Word while using positive ET with the world and our brethren. Souls depend on it.

by Richard Mansel @ www.forthright.net

We’re called to be completely selfless

Well-meaning but misguided comments hurt people in unintended ways. Hope is a fragile thing. We try to be funny or lighthearted when we should be receptive and open. They extend their hearts to us and we slap it away.

Let’s consider some examples of conversations that happen far too often.

Us: “I can’t believe I’m turning 30…”
Others: “Well, wait until you turn 60…”

Us: I’m struggling going through…”
Others: “Well, wait until you go through…”

Us: “I’m having such a difficult time having lost my Mother…”
Others: “Wait until you lose both your parents.”

We could give a thousand different variations but it would be too painful. People do mean well but their words are cruel and heartless. Good words don’t make a good heart, action does.

The deepest human problem is pride and with it comes self-absorption. We are focused on ourselves and our needs and desires. Moreover, many people cannot see a world outside of their own experiences.

As God’s people, we must have a different focus. We’re called to be completely selfless (Matthew 5-7), being transformed by his Word (Romans 12:1-2Romans 12:1-2
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

12 1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. 2 And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, and ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

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7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is begotten of God, and knoweth God. 8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 9 Herein was the love of God manifested in us, that God hath sent his only begotten Son into the world that we might live through him. 10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

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To accomplish that, we must listen and focus our attention on our brother or sister in Christ. We must mute the running narrative in our minds so we can really listen.

When they come to us to share pain, suffering or a struggle and we disregard their difficulties as frivolous, we push them away. If that happens often enough, they’ll seek solace elsewhere. And once we leave Christ, Satan is the only alternative left.

And friends, when we’re partly responsible, there will always be a price.

–by Richard Mansel

Ever meet anyone famous?

A Brush With Fame

Have you ever had a brush with fame? I had a professor in college who used to tell, in great detail, how he once sat next to Elizabeth Taylor on a flight. A Christian lady whom I once knew liked to tell how Tex Ritter came to her door after having an automobile accident, wanting to use her phone. Even my wife likes to tell of once sharing a bathroom mirror with Dr. Joyce Brothers. Many of you have similar accounts. I know, I’ve seen your pictures on Facebook! 🙂

There’s just something about having a close encounter with a notable person. Those brief encounters remain with us for a lifetime, and we tell our story over and over again to all who will listen.

But now, here’s the thought. For those of you who are Christians, the Creator of this universe is your Heavenly Father. He’s not just your Master, he’s your Father (Galatians 4:6Galatians 4:6
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6 And because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, Abba, Father.

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3 1 Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are. For this cause the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.

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Imagine that! Let that soak in! In God, you’ve had more than a “brush with fame,” you’re actually his child! Let that story be a lifelong story that you tell over and over to all who will listen!

–Steve Higginbotham

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 53:1, ESV)

An atheist complained to a Christian friend:

“Christians have their holidays such as Christmas and Easter, Jews have their holidays such as Passover and Yom Kippur, and Muslims have their holidays. Every religion has its holiday, but atheists don’t have any.
It’s discrimination!” The Christian replied: “But atheists do have a holiday.”

“They do?” cried the atheist. When is it?”

“Well, the Christian answered…”

(What do you think he said?)

Early in April the bulbs begin to burst into color around here. I know that seems like a long time from now, but to enjoy a mass of buttery daffodils, or grape blue hyacinth, you need to plant them in the fall.

Consider the lowly bulb. It looks like an onion, its skin is dry and peeling. It’s nature’s way to help a plant survive hard times. Bulbs in Africa’s Namaqua desert wait for years for the rain.

When the soft showers fall on the desert sands, they burst into the pastels colors of the “African Daisy.”

The crocus bulb is designed to rest in the bitter northern winters, buried in the icy crush of snow, before becoming the first flower to bloom in the spring, usually some time before April.

Bulbs are a miracle (not the one Phillips manufactures). Within that homely brown ball is the potential for a show that no artist could duplicate, no computer create, no designer imagine. But in April…

I feel sorry for atheists. An atheist cannot find God for the same reason that a thief cannot find a policeman. When he feels grateful, who does he thank?
And when he enjoyed a great meal, does he believe there is no cook?

And when the lowly bulb transforms the starkest countryside, does he see a murky pool with single cell creatures?

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 53:1Psalm 53:1
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

For the Chief Musician; set to Mahalath. Maschil of David. 53 1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none that doeth good.

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, ESV)

by Stan Mitchell @www.forthright.net

Psalm 53:1Psalm 53:1
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

For the Chief Musician; set to Mahalath. Maschil of David. 53 1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none that doeth good.

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American Evangelical religion is a thousand miles wide and an inch deep

“The English, not being a particularly religious people, were given the game of cricket to provide them with a concept of eternity.”

Now you don’t have to understand the particulars of this unique English game to see what the saying means.
A hundred thousand spectators will watch in hushed silence in Sydney, Australia, or London (yes, the one in England) to watch five days of a “test” match between England Australia.

Perhaps God gave churches sermons for the same reason – to give them a concept of eternity! Is the term “long winded preacher” redundant? Or, perhaps the term “short sermon” an oxymoron?

Society has changed, there is no doubt. In college we had to read Jonathan Edward’s sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” It took me an hour and twenty minutes! In contrast, in our day, we are impatient with any explanation that takes longer than a Pepsi Cola advert. “Get to the point!” is the primeval scream of the modern listener.

I have heard preachers who had imposed on their audience; they hadn’t studied, and their speech was as aimless as a puppy dog on a walk. But I fear that our understanding has become shallow. One theologian said, “American Evangelical religion is a thousand miles wide and an inch deep.” I think we can attribute it to our sheet cake thin Bible classes, our “Thought for the Day” sermons, and our non-existent private Bible reading.

“Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight” (Acts 20:7Acts 20:7
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

7 And upon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul discoursed with them, intending to depart on the morrow; and prolonged his speech until midnight.

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, ESV).

Professional football games, including half time festivities, will last more than four hours. The same goes for a baseball game. Is your time better used there than when you hear God’s word preached?

Don’t worry; this Sunday, if I preach till midnight, it will be because the song leader got me up there at
11:35 p.m.! But I can assure you that eternity will seem a lot longer in hell than it does in heaven!

by Stan Michell @ www.forthright.net

A Minister’s Heart by Dale Jenkins

I picked up a book written by Dale Jenkins recently entitled “A Minister’s Heart.” It is packed with wise, heartbreaking, encouraging (and sometimes funny) advice. I’m glad he wrote it, and I intend to buy several copies and give them to some young preachers I know.

But I have a question.

Would you “ordinary” Christians like to hear some of these items? Would you like to know how the church looks to a preacher? Any preacher of at least two years experience knows exactly what brother Jenkins means when he says:

At least three times, you’re going to wince when a guest speaker comes in and your arch enemy says clearly so that you can hear it, ‘Now that’s the kind of preaching we need!'”

“You are going to bury your best friend and mentor.”

“You are going to wonder who counsels the counselor.”

“You will be scolded for not visiting someone when they were in the hospital, even though they never told anyone they were going to be in the hospital.”

“You will have at least two people say that they hate you. You will have to preach a message of ‘truth in love’ to those same people.”

“You are going to have to defend your kids for doing something that if any other church member’s kid did, it would be overlooked.”

“You are never going to make as much money in ministry as you could have using your skill set in the corporate world.”

“You will study 20 hours for a deep, meaningful, inspiring sermon only to be told that it was a ‘nice little talk.'”

“You will be told in every church where you preach that the ever elusive ‘they’ are not happy with your work.”

“You will have every aspect of your work and personality critiqued and criticized. And you will wonder, ‘Should I just quit for the good of the kingdom?’ Don’t quit.”

Beloved brethren, I have allowed you to look over the shoulder of a more experienced preacher as he counsels a younger preacher. Perhaps you have seen by eavesdropping this way how the world looks to the gospel preacher.

I know there are false teachers. I know there are preacher “head cases.” I know young men make young men’s mistakes. But a young man with a good heart is worth preserving.

Could you do this for me, please: Be conscious of the effect your words and actions have on a young man.
Understand that if he survives his young years as a preacher, he might become a massively important servant of the Lord in the mission field, in the US, or in a place that trains young men.

Satan wants these young people to quit the church in large numbers. Would you please do everything you can to disappoint him?

“Therefore be alert, remembering that for
three years I did not cease, night or day to
admonish everyone with tears” (Acts 20:31Acts 20:31
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31 Wherefore watch ye, remembering that by the space of three years I ceased not to admonish every one night and day with tears.

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ESV).

Preachers are responsible for the congregations they serve; congregations are responsible for the preachers who serve them.

–by Stan Mitchell @ www.forthright.net

When sin takes control of our lives, we think we control it

Has this happened to you?

There’s three inches of snow on the ground. You drive your car out into the road as gingerly as a cat on a hot tin roof. You settle into a slow but steady speed, nervous and alert.

Suddenly there is a big vehicle right behind you, headlights seemingly in your back seat.

He seems to be thinking: “There’s three inches of snow on the ground yet I can still drive 55 mph!”

He’s also saying to you, “Speed up or get out of the way!”

Which raises two issues:

“Yes, you can drive 55 mph in your wonderful big vehicle; but can you stop?”

And also, “Perhaps you have the right to risk your life (you might ask your wife and children if they feel the same way, however), but you do not have the right to risk mine, and that of my family.”

When sin takes control of our lives, we think we control it. We drive along life’s highway convinced we can stop at any time. But horrific things happen when we try to stop. We spin out of control, we slam into other people, we cause dismay and fear to all those around us.

Paul suggested it was like being “enslaved” to sin (Romans 6:16-19Romans 6:16-19
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

16 Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; 18 and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness. 19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye presented your members as servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity, even so now present your members as servants to righteousness unto sanctification.

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). Slaves are not in control of their lives. They can’t come and go as they like. They can’t even quit!

But our sin is more serious than that. We endanger others with our reckless behavior. We careen, out of control. We have convinced ourselves that our actions are our own affair, but mark this, it never is! What we do affects others, whether you are a teenager who has broken your parents’ hearts by your behavior, a husband who has decided he has the right to abandon his wife and children, or a church leader who wants out.

In the snow and ice, it’s hard to stop. And when living lives of sin we become thoughtless of those whom we affect.

Long ago Cain asked, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
(Genesis 4:9Genesis 4:9
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9 And Jehovah said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: am I my brother's keeper?

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). Yes, O first son of Adam, you are.

by Stan Mitchell – www.forthright.net

Have you died to self?

Go back into your history file.

Remember, Philippi, Macedonia sometime between 51 and 54 A.D.

Around midnight (Acts 16:25Acts 16:25
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25 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God, and the prisoners were listening to them;

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), an earthquake shook the foundations of the local, Roman prison so violently that all of its doors flew open and the chains of all the prisoners were unfastened (Acts 16:26Acts 16:26
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26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison-house were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed.

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According to the inspired account, only a jailer and his family died as a result.

Don’t remember that? Look again.

Immediately after the quake the jailer realized his spiritual plight and his need for salvation. So he asked two of the inmates (Paul and Silas), “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30Acts 16:30
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30 and brought them out and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?

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.) The following verses reveal that this man and his loved ones, after having been taught by these two men, died to themselves and put on Christ in baptism.

That’s Bible.

“For he who has died has been freed from sin” (Romans
6:7.)

What about you, dear reader?

Have you died to self? Will it take an earthquake of sorts to make you realize your need for Christ and the forgiveness he offers?

Please don’t wait until then to obey him. By that time, it may be too late (2 Corinthians 6:22 Corinthians 6:2
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

2 (for he saith, At an acceptable time I hearkened unto thee, And in a day of salvation did I succor thee: behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation):

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; James 4:14James 4:14
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14 whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

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; 1 Peter 1:241 Peter 1:24
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24 For, All flesh is as grass, And all the glory thereof as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower falleth:

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; Job 9:25-26; 14:1-2Job 9:25-26; 14:1-2
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25 Now my days are swifter than a post: They flee away, they see no good, 26 They are passed away as the swift ships; As the eagle that swoopeth on the prey. 14 1 Man, that is born of a woman, Is of few days, and full of trouble. 2 He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: He fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.

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–by Mike Benson

God isn’t in a hurry

Ours is the age of instant. We consume instant potatoes, instant coffee, and instant oatmeal.

Ours is the society of the drive thru. We can remain in the quiet comforts of our vehicle and still pick up our laundry, carry out our banking, grab our lunch, and buy our over-priced latte.

Ours is the environment of speed. We wield on-demand cable TV, 4G wireless service, and high performance internet access.

Hurry has become our most revered deity; waiting has become the cardinal sin–an abomination of the worst order. The devil is no longer a spirit entity who attacks our faith, but anything that causes us delay.
To be left in the waiting room is anathema.

These shifts in our cultural thinking and practice have impacted, not only our lives, but our views of the Almighty (Psalm 50:21Psalm 50:21
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; Thou thoughtest that I was altogether such a one as thyself: But I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

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). He too must hustle and rush at the same frantic pace of humanity. Since he transcends time, he ought to match his blessings to the gait of our hasty requests.

When a loved one is ill, God ought to bring instantaneous recovery. When we’ve lost our job, he ought to step into the time-continuum and open an immediate door of providential opportunity. When we wrestle with habitual defeating sin, God ought to bring about prompt delivery.

In essence, God ought to be instant, Someone we can pick up at the drive through, and faster than a speeding bullet.

The problem is–God isn’t in a hurry (2 Peter 3:82 Peter 3:8
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8 But forget not this one thing, beloved, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.

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Ever. You could say he cooks like Grandma used to–without the luxury of a modern microwave.

Jehovah often allows his children to simmer in the crockpot of patient endurance (James 1:3-4James 1:3-4
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3 Knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience. 4 And let patience have its perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, lacking in nothing.

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). His divine recipe for our spiritual maturity includes nothing more dramatic than letting us wait (2 Corinthians 6:42 Corinthians 6:4
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4 but in everything commending ourselves, as ministers of God, in much patience, in afflictions, in necessities, in distresses,

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; Colossians 1:11Colossians 1:11
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11 strengthened with all power, according to the might of his glory, unto all patience and longsuffering with joy;

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) for his perfect will to unfold.

You see, he knows real faith is refined in the oven of days, months, and years, not in the popcorn setting of a digital oven.

Think about it.

When Abram and Sarai were sure it was far too late to start a family, God allowed the couple to sauté yet another 25 years before blessing them with Isaac.

When Isaac and Rebekah wanted children to grace their home, God let husband and wife swelter the heat of perseverance for 20 years before answering their prayer.

When Joseph was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, God allowed 22 years elapse before the siblings were finally brought together and reconciled.

When Moses was ready to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt, God left the future deliverer in the oven of Midian for 40 years.

These Bible heroes grace the sacred pages of Hebrews eleven because they waited on God (Psalm 27:14; 37:9, 34Psalm 27:14; 37:9, 34
English: American Standard Version (1901) - ASV

14 Wait for Jehovah: Be strong, and let thy heart take courage; Yea, wait thou for Jehovah. 9 For evil-doers shall be cut off; But those that wait for Jehovah, they shall inherit the land.

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; Isaiah 40:31Isaiah 40:31
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31 but they that wait for Jehovah shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

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) and learned to submit to his protracted plan. In so doing, they not only increased their faith, but gave Jehovah glory.

Dear reader, are you ever impatient with God? Are you tired of waiting? It is quite possible that you are in the crockpot–right where the Almighty wants you to be.

–by Mike Benson